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Mary Mastroeni

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Preparing Your Pool for Home Showings: Look beyond the Water

July 8, 2016 3:13 pm

Having a beautiful pool can be a great selling point on a hot day when buyers are looking at your home, but having blue water is just the tip of the iceberg when preparing the pool area for a home showing.
 
While blue water is a must, caring for a pool while your home is on the market extends far beyond the color of the water. All pool owners know that you need to vacuum a pool and add chemicals, but it’s important that the right mixture is used, and that the pool is cleaned regularly. Whether your pool is in the ground or above the ground, balancing your water chemistry remains the same. Make sure you remove leaves and debris each day as well.
 
In addition to keeping the water clean and vacuumed, it’s a good idea to think about the landscaping surrounding the pool.
 
Many people prefer to go with some combination of mulch or stone to serve as a transition between the pool and the lawn. A quick trip to your local gardening store will get you all you need for this project. These materials can also provide drainage from water runoff so that your lawn or deck don’t become saturated with water. These areas can also be dressed up with statues, lawn ornaments and tolerant plants.
 
Adding wood or composite decking around a pool and utilizing non-slip protective coating on the surface is also a good idea. Incorporating non-stick mats near the pool will provide a little extra footing when people enter and exit the water.
 
Most states require a fence to surround the pool, and if yours is falling apart or looking worn-down, be sure to get it fixed. Prospective buyers will be paying close attention to all areas surrounding the pool, and a bad fence can stop a sale in its tracks.
 
Keep the pool colorful with the addition of some bright neon rafts or solar lights that float in the pool as decorative pieces. Don’t go overboard with pool toys and tubes, however, as a cluttered swimming pool can be just as off-putting as a cluttered living room.
 
Potential buyers may also wonder about the pool’s energy requirements—especially if it’s heated—so keep information handy about average energy and gas costs for the summer months in relation to the other months of the year.
 
When your house does sell, it’s always a nice gesture to leave instructions for operating the pool so that the new owner understands all the particulars of any valves and switches that must be turned on and off.
 
For more tips to keep your pool in tip-top shape, contact our office today.

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Tree Care Crucial as Prospective Buyers Embrace Wooded Lots

July 8, 2016 3:13 pm

A recent study by the National Association of REALTORS® found that many prospective homebuyers consider the amount of trees on a property as a major selling point. In fact, 18 percent of repeat buyers and 25 percent of new buyers said that being on a wooded lot—or one with numerous trees—was important to them.
 
That’s why it’s critical for sellers to make sure the trees on their property are in good shape, a task that can typically be handled without calling in the pros.
 
The first thing you’ll want to take care of is pruning. While the Arbor Day Foundation notes that healthy growth comes after pruning while dormant—suggesting that pruning is best done during the winter months—tackling the job during the summer can also be beneficial. Be sure to check the foundation’s website (www.arborday.org) to learn the best times to prune certain types of trees so that you don’t damage them or make them more vulnerable to fungus. 
 
Summer pruning is done to direct the growth of a tree, slowing the branches you don’t want or dwarfing the development of a tree or branch. The reason for the slowing effect is that you reduce the total leaf surface, thereby reducing the amount of food manufactured and sent to the roots. Another reason to prune in the summer is for corrective purposes. Defective limbs can be seen more easily, as can limbs that hang down too far under the weight of the leaves.
 
When removing branches, use sharp tools to minimize damage to the bark. Young trees are best pruned with one-hand pruning shears with curved blades, while a pole pruner is recommended for trees with high branches.
 
The Arbor Day Foundation advises homeowners to follow the one-third and a quarter rules of pruning, meaning no more than a quarter of a tree’s crown is removed in a single season, and main side branches are at least one-third smaller than the diameter of the trunk. You should also never prune up from the bottom more than one-third of the tree’s total height.
 
When simply shortening a small branch, make the cut at a lateral bud or another lateral branch. Favor a bud that will produce a branch that will grow in a desired direction (usually outward).
 
Once your trees are cared for, remember to take new photos of your yard and add them to your online marketing materials, giving buyers another reason to come and see your home.
 
For more information about caring for the trees on your property, contact our office today.

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Simple Tips to Get Rid of Stubborn Carpet Glue

July 8, 2016 3:13 pm

Moving into a new home is a great opportunity for homeowners to tackle a variety of projects to get the house looking like their own—with changes and renovations beginning almost immediately after taking ownership of a property. And more often than not, floors are job No. 1.
 
For many, there’s nothing better than ripping up a carpet and discovering beautiful wood flooring underneath. The problem is, removing carpets can be a painful process, one that leaves marks on the floor due to the glue that kept them in place over the years.
 
These problematic remnants are typically harder to remove than the actual carpet itself, but with a little elbow grease and some basic DIY instructions, homeowners will be enjoying their new hardwood floors before they know it.
 
The first step toward tackling stubborn carpet glue is to determine what type of glue you’re dealing with. Not all carpet glues are the same, requiring different solutions and steps depending on the type you’re working with. Therefore, before you can remove any adhesive from the floor, you must determine what type of glue you’re dealing with. Tar-based adhesives are dark brown or tan, while yellow-looking adhesives typically signify that a carpet was glued down with a more general adhesive.
 
Once you’ve determined which type of glue you’re dealing with, go to your local hardware store and buy the appropriate removal material. General adhesives are best removed with some basic adhesive remover, while tar-based glues need mineral spirits to get the job done. Both require a good deal of that elbow grease we spoke about earlier.
 
The process of removing the glue is simple. Start by scraping off any spots you can, but don’t dig in too deep, as you don’t want to damage the floor. Next, add the adhesive remover, spreading it out evenly. Read the instructions carefully to ensure you keep it on for the correct amount of time. Also, since many of these adhesive removers can be toxic, be sure to wear gloves and keep the windows open to allow proper ventilation.
 
Use a plastic putty knife to scrape the glue away as this won’t scratch or scuff the floor like a metal tool will. If the glue isn’t completely wiped away, follow the instructions again and add more remover to the spot. This time, use an old towel to wipe away the remaining glue.
 
Once all the glue is gone and the floor has dried, vacuum the area so no glue particles remain. Buy some floor cleaner and polish up the wood floor so it looks brand new, and enjoy.
 
For more tips on removing carpet glue, contact our office today.

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7 Websites House Hunters Should Visit before Getting Too Involved in the Process

July 8, 2016 3:13 pm

Thanks to the internet, there’s an endless supply of information available for those in the market for a new home, but sometimes, determining which sites are most beneficial can be overwhelming.
 
Here are seven websites that all homebuyers should keep an eye on as they make their way through the process.
 
Realtor.org. The official site of the National Association of REALTORS®, realtor.org provides MLS listings that are updated multiple times an hour. In addition to allowing prospective buyers to check a home’s value, realtor.org also offers research reports and housing statistics for different areas around the country. It also has a section full of tips for improving the house-hunting process from experts in the industry.
 
Homes.com. This site provides millions of homes for sale and rent throughout the U.S., with spot-on local information to make the buying process easier. It also offers a first-time homebuyer’s guide, an ask the experts section and plenty of blogs providing helpful information on topics such as insurance, mortgages and moving.
 
Zillow.com. Dedicated to empowering consumers with data, inspiration and knowledge around the place they call home, Zillow connects homebuyers with the best local professionals who can help. Offering a living database of more than 110 million U.S. homes, consisting of homes for sale, homes for rent and homes not currently on the market, zillow.com also offers its signature Zestimate home value to help prospective buyers better understand home pricing.
 
Trulia.com. This popular site provides comprehensive school and neighborhood information on homes for sale in neighborhoods all across the country. Trulia provides insight about the house, the neighborhood and the real estate process while connecting people with the right agents.
 
Quizzle.com. A website that offers a free credit score and a free Equifax credit report every six months, quizzle.com provides prospective buyers with a clear analysis of where they stand. If you’re interested in purchasing a home, it’s important to visit this site early in the process so that you can rectify any problems before it’s time to apply for a mortgage. 
 
Hud.com. This informative site, powered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has several valuable resources for those in the market to buy a home, including information about fair housing, predatory lending, RESPA and your rights as a borrower.
 
Crimereports.com. While it’s not something house hunters immediately think of, this site is an important one for those concerned about the safety of their neighborhood. Simply enter an address and it will list any recent incident reports, as well as notify you of any sex offenders living in the area.

For more information about online resources to help you through the process, contact our office today.

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Screened-in Porches a Hot Commodity during Summer Selling Season

July 8, 2016 3:13 pm

For those looking to purchase a home, screened-in porches are quickly becoming a feature that can’t be overlooked. Not only do they provide protection against insects, they also offer shade from the sun and shelter from the rain, while letting inhabitants feel as though they’re savoring the natural world outside. Even more appealing is the fact that screened-in porches decrease ground temperatures, saving homeowners from spending an arm and a leg on cooling costs during the hot summer months.
 
Screened-in porches also go a long way toward reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches adjacent interior rooms. Additional levels of comfort can easily be incorporated into the space by adding recessed lighting, pendant lights and ceiling fans.
 
For those getting ready to put their home on the market, adding screens to an existing porch can go a long way toward attracting a larger pool of prospective buyers. In addition to helping your home stand out from the competition, taking the time to add screens to an existing structure will more than likely pay off when the home is sold.
 
If your property doesn’t currently have a screened-in porch—or you recently bought a spot that lacks this alluring amenity—you may want to consider incorporating one into the space if you have the room. However you decide to proceed, keep in mind that adding a porch won’t do anything to increase the total square footage of the home. 
 
While there are numerous options to be considered when deciding which materials you’ll use to build a porch from the ground up—or add to an existing structure—experts suggest designing the porch in three phases: flooring, exterior materials and interior trim. Everything from pressure-treated Yellow Southern Pine to vinyl and up-cycled composites can be considered.
 
Before you get started, it’s important to carefully consider the positioning of the door so that it best suits your specific needs. For instance, you can build your screened-in porch with a door that leads directly into the house, or you can position the door to allow for easy entry from a pool or outside dining area. In most instances, aluminum doors are recommended because wood doors tend to warp over time.
 
You’ll also want to consider how you’d like the ceiling to look. Flat ceilings will provide an interior room feel, while vaulted or cathedral ceilings will allow for better ventilation.
 
If you’re not up to the task of building a screened-in porch with your own two hands, hiring a professional contractor will take the work out of the process. Not only will a contractor be up-to-date in regard to zoning laws, they can also deal with any issues that might pop up along the way.
 
To learn more about screened-in porches, contact our office today.

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In this Edition: Tree Care

July 8, 2016 3:13 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines the benefits associated with screened-in porches - and why they appeal to today's buyers. Other topics covered this month include seven websites house hunters should check out as they make their way through the purchase process and simple tips to keep your pool in tip-top shape this showing season. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is It Time to Evaluate Your Trees? Pt. 2

July 8, 2016 12:43 am


In our last segment (Is It Time to Evaluate Your Trees? Pt.1), we introduced risk assessment measures homeowners might consider taking for the trees on their property. In this segment, we’ll dig into the methods and qualifications needed to carry out an assessment.

An arborist certified by the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) (TreeCareTips.org) can be beneficial when determining the safety of the trees on your property. The arborist, guided by ANSI A300 standards, will systematically evaluate your trees for risk in three levels.

Level 1: The arborist will view the tree(s) in question, whether in person or through photographs.

Level 2: The arborist will complete a 360-degree, ground-level observation of the tree or trees in question, examining the roots, trunk and crown for structural defects.

Level 3: The arborist will perform advanced diagnostic procedures, which may include extracting samples for lab analysis.

The arborist’s risk assessment method may vary between the following:

1. International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Tree Hazard Evaluation Method
2. ISA Tree Risk Assessment Best Management Practice (BMP) Method
3. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service Community Tree Risk Evaluation Method

The first method is impractical when assessing one or a few trees on a residential property—in a recent study, it was determined the method “runs the risk of being misused by commercial or consulting arborists who inspect individual trees in a residential setting.”

The same study revealed the third method, though adequate, may sacrifice detail, especially with regard to the tree’s condition and site history.

The second method, according to the study, is most appropriate for residential properties. It develops a list of multiple targets for a single tree, generating a “flexible, yet standardized means of coping with multifaceted assessment scenarios.” The disadvantage to this method, however, is the time needed to complete the assessment, the study found.

Consult with your arborist to determine which method will be suitable to assess the trees on your property. He or she may combine facets of two or three to carry out a comprehensive evaluation.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Top 20 Cities for Retirees

July 8, 2016 12:43 am


Many homeowners are planning to relocate as they transition to retirement—for some, those plans involve moving to a new city, or even a new state.

Bankrate.com recently ranked the top cities for retirees, based on factors ranging from cost of living and walkability.

“We found that smaller cities and suburbs fared the best,” said Bankrate.com Analyst Jill Cornfield in a statement. “Most seniors prefer to live in these types of communities because they offer access to big-city amenities without as much hustle, bustle and crime.”

The top 20 cities in the ranking:

1. Arlington, Va.
2. Alexandria, Va.
3. Franklin, Tenn.
4. Silver Spring, Md.
5. West Des Moines, Iowa
6. Nashville, Tenn.
7. Sarasota, Fla.
8. Rockville, Md.
9. Des Moines, Iowa
10. Murfreesboro, Tenn.
11. Scottsdale, Ariz.
12. Round Rock, Texas
13. Mesa, Ariz.
14. Bradenton, Fla.
15. Glendale, Calif.
16. Austin, Texas
17. Phoenix, Ariz.
18. Cape Coral, Fla.
19. North Port, Fla.
20. Charleston, S.C.

Bankrate.com’s ranking encompasses 196 cities in total. To see if your city made the cut, visit www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/ranking-best-worst-cities-to-retire-1.aspx.

Source: Bankrate.com
 

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Does Your HOA Have a Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan?

July 8, 2016 12:43 am


Wildfires can ignite anywhere, even beyond areas with drier climates. As a homeowner, understanding your risk is important.

Wildfire has become a topic of concern in homeowner community associations, a trend recently explored in the article “Where There’s Smoke” by the Community Associations Institute (CAI). In the article, CAI cites a record statistic: over 10 million acres were impacted by wildfire last year—more land than Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island combined.

What’s more, the article states over 3,000 homes in the wildland-urban interface—zones adjacent to unoccupied land and therefore at risk for wildfire—have been destroyed each year since 2000. Several factors are fanning the flames, including climate change and development.

To stave off the threat, community associations are leveraging risk mitigation programs. Your association may be following guidelines set forth by the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Firewise Communities program, which reduces undergrowth and tinder—fuel sources for wildfire—in residential developments. According to the article, mitigation steps may include:

• Clearing storm debris;
• Inhibiting landscape overgrowth; and
• Maintaining a fire break between residences and “native areas.”

Association policies, such as requiring water hoses or prohibiting charcoal grills, may also be imposed to reduce risk.

Obtaining sufficient insurance coverage—in addition to adhering to association policies—is crucial. The CAI article recommends you keep a digital inventory of your belongings in order to expedite the claims process should wildfire damage or destruction occur.

Seek out your association representative to learn more about your community’s wildfire risk mitigation plan. Discuss evacuation procedures and any other measures that may be enacted in the event of a wildfire.

For more information on wildfires, read the CAI article in full: http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/In_the_Line_of_Fire/2507995/310123/article.html.

Source: Community Associations Institute (CAI)
 

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5 Smart Things to Do with $1,000

July 7, 2016 12:43 am


It’s a great feeling: you received a hard-earned bonus at work, or an unexpected gift from a relative. The impulse to buy something you pine for is strong.

Before you spend that $1,000, think what it can help accomplish if you take one of these five steps, say investment advisors at the Motley Fool:

1. Create an Emergency Fund – Statistics say 62 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings—not nearly enough to pay for emergencies. If you’re one of them, take that $1,000 to the bank and crank up your emergency fund. You’ll feel a lot better when you find your car needs repair and you don’t have to haul out the plastic!

2. Pay Off Debt – Carrying credit card balances wastes money on interest payments, affording you less spend-able cash. Use that $1,000 to pay down debt, which may also improve your credit score—ideal if you need to borrow money or apply for a home loan down the line.

3. Save for Retirement – Add that $1,000 to your 401(k), IRA or savings account. Those in their 30s who invest it in stocks could generate an average annual return of 8 percent—or, if you put it into savings, could grow it to $15,000 by age 65.

4. Invest in Your Child’s Education – While student loans are an option, the less debt your kids take on, the better positioned they’ll be to start adulthood on financially solid ground. If you’re on track for retirement, have adequate emergency savings, and aren’t carrying credit card debt, put that $1,000 in a traditional brokerage account, a 529 or another type of college savings plan.

5. Invest in Yourself – If a degree or certification stands between you and a promotion and a raise—or if you plan to launch a side business or a new career—put that $1,000 windfall into making your dream a reality.
 

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