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Mary Mastroeni

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Water Heater Replacements a Good Bet in Today's Energy-efficient Driven Market

June 10, 2016 2:49 pm

When considering purchasing a home, prospective buyers often have a long list of questions they’d like answered before making a final decision. And, with more buyers being energy-conscious today, they may be put off by large energy, heating and water bills that are a direct result of old systems and non energy-efficient offerings.
 
While savvy house hunters will most certainly ask about the age and condition of the basic systems and appliances in your home, it’s important to think carefully about which upgrades make the most sense before placing your home on the market. 
 
One change to strongly consider is the water heater. If your unit is anywhere between 10 - 15 years old, upgrading can be a big improvement, catching the attention of a prospective buyer. New models are up to 20 percent more efficient and can save up to $700 in energy costs over the life of the unit. Of course, it’s always a good idea to research your options before choosing a replacement.
 
The most popular water heaters today are electric, but those running on fuel, geothermal energy, propane, solar energy and gas are also available. Conventional water heaters have a large tank that stores hot water for future use, while tankless water heaters heat water directly when needed, reducing both storage and heating costs.
 
Currently, five categories of water heater are designated as Energy Star rated, including high-performance gas storage, whole-home gas tankless, advanced drop-in or integrated heat pump, solar and gas condensing. For each type of water heater, the Energy Star rating can help you determine just how energy efficient a model is.
 
According to Energy.gov, the type of water heater you choose may affect your water heating costs. For instance, an electric heat pump water heater is typically more energy efficient than an electric conventional storage water heater, however, an electric heat pump water heater might have lower energy costs than a gas-fired conventional storage water heater because of its higher efficiency.
 
Even if your water heater is currently working, if it’s an older, inefficient model, you could reap real cost benefits by replacing it with a more energy efficient one.
 
Adding an energy efficient water heater and maintaining it properly before you put your house on the market will help reduce energy bills significantly and attract more buyers. Keep yourself out of hot water and make a change that can only benefit your sale.
 
For more information about water heaters, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Outshine the Competition with a Good, Old-fashioned Power Wash

June 10, 2016 2:49 pm

Before placing your home on the market, it’s important to make sure it looks as polished as possible. While many sellers concern themselves greatly with the interior of the home, more often than not, the exterior elements are overlooked.
 
This is especially true for homes that have a deck or patio, which aside from brushing off some leaves and debris—and possibly cleaning the furniture that sits on it—most people who put their home on the market don’t do much in the way or preparing the deck for sale.
 
The best way to get your deck or patio looking brand new is by power washing it before your first showing.
 
Begin at the farthest corner of the deck or patio floor and start by spraying slow, even sweeps with the pressure wand, maintaining an equal distance from the tip to the work surface. This helps to ensure even cleaning, reducing the chance of streaks and overlapping of the pressure spray.
 
If you’ve never used a power washer before, know that it may take a little time to understand the nuances of the tool. The water comes out quickly and powerfully, and you’ll want to be sure the water stream is consistent. Spraying too heavily can do a lot more harm than good by causing damage to the structure.
 
When using a power washer, it’s recommended that you keep the pressure wand 10 - 12 inches from the surface that needs cleaning. It’s also a good idea to do small passes, eyeing each area and adjusting the pressure and stream accordingly as you go. As you grow accustomed to the power washer, adjust the nozzle to a wider angle and lower pressure setting and increase pressure as needed.
 
Most pressure washers do the job better when used in conjunction with a cleaning solution, such as bleach or other cleaning detergent. Not only will this help loosen dirt more easily, it’ll also require less pressure from the washer to get the job done. Pressure washers may also have cold or hot water supplies, the latter of which enables cleaning detergents to emulsify dirt faster and more effectively.
 
Before cleaning your deck or patio with a power washer, remove any furniture, grills or anything else that touches the ground. You want the deck to be completely clear so you don’t damage anything.
 
Remember, power washers spray water at very strong levels, so while it may look like fun to get sprayed, it’s easy to injure someone with the strong force. Therefore, do your best to keep kids away and make sure you wear goggles, ear buds and work boots while completing the job.
 
When finished, you’ll be amazed at how much better the area looks. To get the most bang for your buck, power wash the deck or patio before taking photos of your home. This will give house hunters one more reason to love your property.
 
For more power washing tips, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Listing Contracts 101: How to Determine Which Is Right for You

June 10, 2016 2:49 pm

Choosing a real estate professional you’re comfortable with is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to putting your home on the market, but anyone going through the buying or selling process needs to be aware of the different types of listing contracts available—and which suits them best.
 
Exclusive Right to Sell. Most commonly used, this type of listing gives the listing agent complete control of the transaction, no matter who finds the buyer. In this type of situation, even if you have a friend who wants to purchase the home, the listing agent will earn the sales commission. If a second cooperating agent is involved in the deal, the commission is normally divided between the two. A normal contract runs 90 or 120 days, but if the house doesn’t sell and you’re happy with your agent, you can always re-up for additional time.
 
Open Listing. Often used by sellers who are trying to sell the home themselves, an open listing allows a real estate professional to be involved in the showing process. Multiple agents can be involved, however, the real estate professional that brings the buyer gets the commission. An agent who accepts an open listing isn’t going to do much other than show the home. For instance, they won’t market it or put it in the MLS, but if the home fits the criteria for one of their clients, and it’s convenient, they may be willing to bring someone around.
 
One-Time Show. Very similar to an open listing, a one-time show is most often used by real estate agents who are showing a FSBO (for sale by owner) to one of their clients. The seller signs the agreement, which identifies the potential buyer and guarantees the agent a commission should that buyer purchase the home, preventing the buyer and seller from negotiating later and trying to avoid paying the agent’s commission. As with an open listing, agents will not be spending money marketing the home, and it will not be placed in the MLS.
 
Multiple Listing. A multiple listing service will send listing information and photos to members who are working with appropriate buyers, and many listings are available elsewhere on the internet, allowing prospective buyers to research what’s for sale on their own. MLS members can submit exclusive agency and exclusive right to sell listings to the local MLS.
 
Contact our office today to learn more about the various types of listing contracts available.

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Eco-friendly Kitchen Features That Won't Break the Bank

June 10, 2016 2:49 pm

Eco-friendly features are all the rage today as homeowners commit to living greener lives. But for those looking to reduce their carbon footprint, where do you begin?
 
For many, the answer is the kitchen. The central hub of the home, the kitchen offers a perfect foundation for incorporating green features and appliances.  
 
Getting started, you may want to consider adding an induction stove, a stove that utilizes magnetic energy to induce a current that heats the food. Not only do pans heat up quickly on this type of stove, but the amount of time needed to cook meals is greatly reduced. In addition to the energy savings and coolness factor, induction stoves tend to be much safer than traditional stoves since there’s no open flame or hot electric element involved. 
 
It’s also important to add energy-efficient appliances. If you’re trying to sell your home and an old dishwasher and refrigerator unit serve as the focal point of the room, it could be a major deterrent to a sale.
 
Changing up the lighting is another easy way to up the eco-friendly factor and make the kitchen appear fresh and new. Installing ceiling fans is another simple, inexpensive way toward making the space more eco-friendly. Ceiling fans will circulate warm air in the winter and will help keep the kitchen cool in the summer, keeping heating and cooling costs lower throughout the year.
 
When it comes to greening your home, remember that you don’t need to drain your bank account to find success. For example, adding a water filter to your sink (and saying goodbye to bottled water) is an inexpensive way to promote green living. Take this one step further by highlighting the fact that the water filter removes harmful contaminants, providing a fresh drink that can easily be enjoyed when relaxing at home or while out and about. 
 
While not every change will yield a payoff, data shows that kitchen improvements will reap the highest rewards in home value, offering the fastest way to get someone interested in buying your home.
 
For more tips on adding eco-friendly features to your kitchen, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Window Screens Top the List When Preparing Your Home for Summer

June 10, 2016 2:49 pm

Whether it’s your first summer in your new house—or even your 25th—preparing your home for the warm weather season is most likely at the top of your current to-do list. From simple home maintenance tasks to making sure the air conditioning unit is working, it’s also a good time to get the screens in the windows.
 
The advantages of screens are numerous. For one, they reduce sunlight and heat gain, which in warm weather is welcome, as they lessen sun damage to furniture and floors, plus keep cooling costs at bay. Screens also allow plenty of fresh air to come into the home, while at the same time keeping bugs and debris out. Plus, an open window with a screen will allow far less water into the home during a downpour than a window not equipped with a screen.
 
Before you begin placing screens in the windows throughout your home, you’ll want to make sure they’re clean. This can be done by spraying them down with a hose. For screens that are really dirty, laundry cleaner can be used to get rid of built-up dirt that’s been collecting during the off season.
 
It’s also important to make sure your screens are in good shape before placing them. If you notice a small tear, a quick trip to your local hardware store for a screen patch kit may be all you need. Mending a small tear is as simple as adhering the screen patch to the problem area. For really small holes, use clear-drying glue.
 
Once the screens are in for the season, use a duster to remove any dirt that accumulates, or lightly go over the surface with your vacuum’s brush attachment.
 
If you do need to invest in new screens, there are plenty of options to choose from. Window screens can be made of aluminum, fiberglass, metal wire, nylon or polyester, and depending on where you’ll be adding them, different options work best for different rooms. Generally speaking, fiberglass is typically recommended for the main rooms of the house.
 
You can also choose solar screens, popular in really hot climates, which are made of special window screen mesh, often a polyester weave and sometimes the added durability of PVC coating. One downside associated with solar screens is that they basically blacken the window, a look many homeowners don’t like. While they block a majority of the light coming into the home, they also offer a sense of privacy. And last but not least, they’re cheaper than most screens on the market, and will keep the home cooler during the hot summer months.
 
To keep the process running smoothly, when removing screens at the end of the season, place a piece of masking tape (or any other type of label) on each screen to identify which window it goes in. This will save you a lot of time and frustration next year.
 
For more information about preparing your home for summer, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Listing Contracts

June 10, 2016 2:49 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines the importance of taking the time to prepare your home for the hot summer season. Other topics covered this month include eco-friendly features you can incorporate into the kitchen without breaking the bank and how power washing will help your home outshine the competition. 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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Hurricane Headed Your Way? 3 Preparedness Steps

June 10, 2016 12:43 am

Hurricanes may appear to only impact coastal regions, but they can be just as devastating farther inland if homeowners are not prepared.

“A hurricane is a serious threat to residents in coastal areas as well as hundreds of miles inland,” says Brad Kieserman, vice president of Disaster Services Operations and Logistics for the American Red Cross. “We're ready and we want people to know it's important for them to get prepared, too.”

To do that, Kieserman and the Red Cross advise homeowners to:

Assemble an emergency kit* that includes:

• Battery-Powered Radio
• Copies of Personal or Sensitive Documents
• Emergency Contact Information
• First-Aid Kit
• Flashlight
• Medication
• Non-Perishable Food
• Water (One gallon per person per day)

*Several of the items listed above are available for purchase at RedCrossStore.org.

Keep your kit up-to-date. Ensure documents in your kit are current, and replace any food or water that may be unsafe to consume as soon as possible.

Develop—and practice—your evacuation plan. Discuss the plan with your loved ones and perform drills regularly.

Remember: If a hurricane is in the forecast in your area, stay informed. Every community is different. Find out how your area responds to disasters, and determine where shelters will be located before the storm hits.

For more hurricane and other disaster safety tips, visit RedCross.org.

Source: American Red Cross

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Beat the Heat: Tips to Cut Cooling Costs

June 10, 2016 12:43 am

Cooling your home is costly—even more so if your system is inefficient. There are several, inexpensive ways to cut back on energy consumption and costs.

The first step is to have the air conditioning unit serviced—preferably before temperatures rise to uncomfortable levels. According to the experts at New Jersey-based Gold Medal Service, the technician will clean the unit’s coils, filters and fins so that the system operates at peak performance throughout the season.

“Temperatures are finally starting to heat up, and we want to help homeowners stay comfortable this summer and avoid steep increases in their utility bills,” says Mike Agugliaro, co-owner of Gold Medal Service. “We also want to make sure homeowners have their A/C ready to go when they need it. Now is the best time to schedule your annual air conditioning unit tune-up to ensure fast service and a cool house all summer.”

Another way to keeping cooling costs under control is to invest in a programmable thermostat, Gold Medal Service experts say. This prevents unnecessary cooling when you’re not home—and keeps more money in your pocket each month.

A ductless mini-split air conditioner is another consideration, particularly for those who do not have an air conditioning system. The experts at Gold Medal Service say these devices can be more energy-efficient than their counterpart due to the absence of ducts.

Ceiling fans can save energy, as well, for those with and those without an air conditioning system. Simply turn the thermostat up a few degrees and turn on the fans, Gold Medal Service experts say, to keep your home cool for less.

By using these tips to reduce energy consumption, you can beat the heat this summer and save on cooling costs. A win-win!

Source: Gold Medal Service

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Remodeling Your Kitchen? Types, Layouts and More

June 10, 2016 12:43 am

Renovating your kitchen is one of the most valuable improvements you can make to your home—if done within a budget that fits the circumstances.

Generally, the price of a cost-effective kitchen remodel will be 10 to 15 percent of the overall value of the home, say the experts at Cornerstone Design and Remodel, a San Diego, Calif.-based firm. Most kitchen remodels, according to Cornerstone, fall into one of three categories:

Minor (Costing less than $15,000)
Intermediate (Costing around $40,000)
Luxury (Unlimited budget)

Minor remodels involve installing new appliances or countertops or giving the cabinets a cosmetic update. The expected return on investment, Cornerstone’s experts say, can be up to 98 percent.

Intermediate remodels fetch slightly less at resale than minor ones—up to 91 percent of the cost of the project, the experts at Cornerstone say. Intermediate projects might include installing brand new cabinetry and flooring.

Luxury remodeling projects tend to exceed their initial budget, in part due to the cost of high-end finishes, products and technology. While the final result will be appreciated by the current homeowner, a buyer may not be willing to pay for it come resale, so exercise caution, the Cornerstone experts say.

Some kitchen remodels, luxury or otherwise, also involve changing the structure or layout of the room. In this case, it is best to scale the expansion to match the rest of the house, according to Cornerstone. The most common layouts for kitchens are L-shape, U-shape and galley. L-shaped kitchens generally include an island in the design; U-shaped and galley kitchens are efficient workspaces, but galley kitchens can become congested if the flow of traffic through it is heavy.

However you decide to renovate your kitchen, keep in mind the next owner will want to enjoy as much as you will, the experts at Cornerstone add. Efficiency in the design will achieve just that.

Source: Cornerstone Design and Remodel

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Are You Ready for the Summer? Choosing a Camp for Your Children

June 9, 2016 12:43 am

Summer camp is a lot more than cookouts, crafts and sing-alongs. For many children, it’s a first taste of independence and an opportunity to learn new skills, expand social horizons and gain self-confidence.

Day camps are a great way to get your child ready for a longer, sleep-away experience—but when that time comes, it may be challenging for you to determine the best camp to send your child to.

Hundreds of summer camps are listed on the American Camp Association (ACA) website (acacamps.org), which offers these suggestions for narrowing your choice:

Start with Your Child’s Interests – Include your child in the search. If he or she likes performing, or has an interest in science or a particular sport, consider a camp with that focus. Consider, too, that he or she may prefer a camp that offers traditional programming with a variety of activities.

Consider Special Needs – Be sure the camp you choose can meet your child’s dietary or physical needs. If your child is 10 years old or younger, you may want to start with a one-week experience.

Choose the Right Locale – This can be especially important if you will be driving your child to and from camp or visiting during on Parents Day.

Do a Background Check – How long has the camp been operating? What percent of campers return to the camp each summer? Are references available from other parents? Is there an open house or information night you and your child can attend?

Remember the Budget… – …but don’t count your child out of desired but pricey options, because many camps offer financial aid.

Once you have narrowed your list of choices, camp personnel should be willing and available to answer questions you may have about transportation, insurance, physical exam requirements, optional expenses and more.

You can also call the ACA at 800-428-CAMP for additional information or recommendations.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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