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Mary Mastroeni

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What Not to Buy at Home Improvement Stores

July 12, 2016 12:46 am


Many shoppers assume large home improvement stores have the best prices—and they often do, on some products. But not on everything, says Brent Shelton of FatWallet.com.

According to Shelton, stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s will net you savings on big-ticket items like kitchen appliances, lawn and garden equipment, and home repair or remodeling products. A one-stop shopping trip to these stores, however, can do the opposite, Shelton says.

Better buys are available at stores like Costco, Target, Walmart—or online—in these five categories:

Batteries – The proof is in the savings. FatWallet.com data show Costco was selling a 40-battery, 2-pack of AA Duracells for $14.99 (less than 38 cents per battery), while Home Depot’s offering was limited to a 10-pack selling at $7.98 (nearly 80 cents per battery), and Lowe’s a 24-pack for $12.47 (nearly 52 cents per battery).

Cleaning Supplies – It’s tempting to pick up cleaning supplies along with paint and nails at a home improvement store, but products like Clorox wipes or floor cleaner are almost always cheaper at the regular big-box stores. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner, for instance, was $10 at Home Depot and Lowe’s, compared to $8.50 at Walmart. Big-box stores also often carry generic alternatives that cost even less, Shelton adds.

Home Décor – If you’re looking for rugs, picture frames, wall art or other décor items, make the trip to stores like Home Goods, TJ Maxx, or Ross. Case in point: Shelton found the same framed piece of art for $31 at Home Depot, $22 at Home Goods.

Small Appliances – Unless they’re on sale at a home improvement store, small appliances like food processors or microwaves are a better buy at any of the warehouse stores or online, where the selection is often bigger. Shelton recommends Amazon.com for these purchases.

Grilling Accessories – Online retailers are your best bet for grilling accessories. A Chef Buddy 20-Piece Stainless Steel Grill Toolset, for example, came in at $35.22 at Home Depot and $24.95 on Amazon.com, according to FatWallet.com data.

For more savvy shopper secrets for homeowners, visit FatWallet.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Buying a Home for the First Time? What You Should Know About Warranties

July 12, 2016 12:46 am


Home service contracts, or home warranties, are an important consideration in the home-buying process, especially for new homeowners.

“Homes are a major financial investment, and repairs and replacements on appliances and major systems can cost anywhere from $700 to more than $3,500,” explains Tim Meenan, CEO and executive director of the Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC). “While new homeowners face numerous expenses, a home service contract can guard against these unexpected pricey repairs and replacements.”

Generally, a home service contract covers repair or replacement costs of major systems or appliances that fail within the contract period—often one year. This may include coverage of the home’s electrical system, HVAC unit and plumbing system. Typically, the contract can be renewed annually. Most contracts come with a nominal service fee, paid at the time of the incident.

Aside from monetary coverage, the home service contract provider will refer the buyer to a vetted contractor who can perform repair or replacement work—a boon to buyers new to an area.

Most homeowners with home service contracts call upon the contract provider two times or more each year.

The SCIC strongly recommends first-time homebuyers negotiate a home service contract before committing to a home. If you’re new to home-buying, discuss your options with your real estate professional—he or she can offer counsel for your circumstances.

The peace of mind, Meenan says, is worth it.

Source: Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Dips, Sips and Spills: The Secret Lives of Partygoers

July 12, 2016 12:46 am


Every partygoer’s broken the rules of party-dom at one time or another. Turns out, a lot of us have secretly committed a party no-no at gatherings with our families and friends:

• One in four people in a recent poll by Boxed Wholesale admitted to double-dipping chips and crudités at a party. I dip, you dip, we all dip!

• More than one-fifth of people in that same poll admitted to spilling a drink on the floor at a party and not cleaning it up. Classic spill-and-run.

• Forty percent of people in the poll admitted to wiping their hands on something other than a napkin at a party. Caught orange-handed!

• Close to one-third of people in the poll admitted to drinking out of a cup they weren’t sure was their own. Let’s…raise our glasses?

Thankfully, these faux pas haven’t broken us of habits like bringing the host a gift, helping clean up and sending a thank-you note, according to the poll. Courtesies still exist!

Source: Boxed Wholesale
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Living Comfortably in These Cities Will Cost You

July 12, 2016 12:46 am


Hankering to wing off to Worcester, or relocate to Rochester? Wherever you’re considering moving, it’s important to know whether your income can sustain a “comfortable” life there.

Finder.com recently crunched the numbers to determine just that in close to 80 cities around the country.

Among the key findings of Finder.com’s analysis—and shocking no one—is San Francisco, Calif. at No. 1, requiring the highest salary of all the cities analyzed, and Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose in the top 10. In these cities, the salary required to obtain a mortgage for the average home is higher than the salary required for mortgage payments, average debt and average expenditures.

The salary needed to live comfortably in San Francisco, according to the analysis, is $180,600—the average home in the Golden Gate City costs $1,119,500. In Los Angeles, the salary needed to live comfortably is $90,244; in San Jose, $129,864.

The city with the lowest salary requirement is Jackson, Miss., where residents can live comfortably for $43,265.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports the average salary was $52,250 in 2013. In the Finder.com analysis, this figure is sufficient income to live in 36 of the 78 cities analyzed.

For its analysis, Finder.com defined living “comfortably” as:

• Having the ability to purchase an average home (with a 20 percent down payment);
• Having the ability to cover average per-person expenditures; and
• Having the ability to pay off annual non-mortgage related household debt.

Using those controls, Finder.com analyzed factors such as the state’s median home price, average interest rate for a 30-year, 20-percent-down mortgage, and average non-housing expenditure.

To learn income requirements for a comfortable life in your desired city, visit Finder.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What's Behind the Gates? Higher-Priced Homes

July 12, 2016 12:46 am


Homeowners behind gates can expect an average $30,000 more for their home come sale—a premium, however, that can be offset by costly community amenities, according to research from the American Real Estate Society (ARES). The premium is due to actual and perceived benefits, such as privacy and safety, on the part of the buyer.

“This [research] provides clear evidence that homes in gated communities sell at a premium relative to comparable homes in non-gated communities,” said ARES Publication Director Ken Johnson in a release. Johnson is a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University's College of Business.

The premium may be less in gated communities where amenities like a clubhouse, pool or tennis court drive up maintenance costs for residents, ARES researchers found. Examining a sample of gated communities, researchers discovered a $19,500 decrease in sale price in communities with these types of amenities.

“Additional maintenance costs associated with these amenities often outweigh their benefits, and it appears that while a gate has value, additional neighborhood amenities do not always provide additional value,” explained Mark A. Sunderman, one of the ARES researchers.

“From the perspective of both the buyer and the seller, this information should help each to better price property,” Sunderman continued. “A good understanding of what adds value and what does not should help create increased marketability of gated homes.”

“The long-held belief that gates add value is supported by the data, as long as the impact of the amenities is properly factored in,” Johnson added. "This should set buyers' minds to rest as to whether or not they are actually receiving a boost in value when they purchase inside a gated community.” 

Source: Florida Atlantic University (FAU)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Out There: Rent…or Live on a Cruise Ship?

July 9, 2016 12:43 am


Rents in the U.S. are on the rise, limiting housing options for many. While the industry is working to address affordability concerns, one search engine has developed an alternative solution.

According to a report by CruiseWatch, a cruise search engine, renters in some cities are better off cruising on a ship continuously for a year than paying rent for the same period.

“To go on non-stop cruises and save some money is an impressive proposition,” said Britta Bernhard, co-founder of CruiseWatch, in a statement.

We’ll let that, ahem, sink in.

Using Census Bureau data and their own cruise statistics, the search engine compared cost-of-living expenses to cruise prices.

The average rental household in New York City, for instance, spends approximately $637 a week on living expenses, compared to the $313.25 per-week average for a cruise—a savings of over $16,500 a year.

The average household in Honolulu, on the other hand, would save over $7,500 a year cruising instead of renting. Those in Los Angeles would save $2,058 a year; those in San Francisco would save $7,154 a year; those in Stamford, Conn. would save $3,878 a year.

Cruisers can expect the most savings starting their year-long cruise in winter, when prices are at their lowest, according to the report.

Cruising for an entire year is enticing. Would you pay for a cruise instead of paying for rent?

Source: CruiseWatch
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Aging-in-Place Primer: Lots of Risks Lurking

July 9, 2016 12:43 am


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) 2013 report, “Consumer Product-Related Injuries to Persons 65 Years of Age and Older,” shed light on the aging-in-place risks facing those who remain in their homes as they age. The report, which assessed the products most associated with injuries and fatalities, revealed most incidents involved falls.

The CPSC recently developed a companion report evaluating incidents unrelated to falls. According to the report, nearly 30 percent of product-related fatalities reported to the CPSC were not as a result of a fall. The most fatal non-fall hazards include:

• ‘Swimming Activity, Pools, Equipment’ (379 incidents)
• ‘Clothing, All’ (Fire-Related) (293 incidents)
• ‘Bathtub and Shower Structures’ (253 incidents)
• ‘Cigarettes, etc., Lighters, Fuel’ (252 incidents)
• ‘Home Fires/CO/Gas Vapors with Unknown Product’ (244 incidents)
• ‘ATVs, Mopeds, Minibikes, etc.’ (174 incidents)
• ‘Cooking Ranges, Ovens, etc.’ (165 incidents)

Non-fall fatalities were reported more by adults age 65 to 69 than those older, the report found. (In contrast, fall-related fatalities peak between the ages of 84 and 89.)

With the life expectancy of the average American rising from 70.8 years in 1970 to close to 80 today, it is important for homeowners aging-in-place to understand the risks associated with products in their homes.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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America's Best Bargain Beach Towns

July 9, 2016 12:43 am


Looking to settle seaside? Beachfront property can be a sound investment for vacation- and profit-seekers, but it comes at a premium in most coastal markets.

All is not lost! Some beach towns are within reach—if you know where to look. Housing data source RealtyTrac® recently ranked the best bargain beach towns in the country, based on factors such as median home price and average summer temperature. The top 15 are:

1. Keansburg, N.J.
2. Mastic Beach, N.Y.
3. Crisfield, Md.
4. Riverside, R.I.
5. Palm Beach, Fla.
6. Emerald Isle, N.C.
7. Dauphin Island, Ala.
8. Madison, Conn.
9. Florence, Ore.
10. Bethany Beach, Del.
11. Fort Bragg, Calif.
12. Vashon, Wash.
13. Kihei, Hawaii
14. Pawleys Island, S.C.
15. Port Aransas, Texas

“Buying a second home or investment property in a beach town can help families save on summer vacations for years to come and also potentially generate vacation rental income,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, in a statement. “While real estate close to the ocean tends to be pricier, bargains are still available, particularly in smaller towns off the beaten path where home prices have been slower to bounce back from the housing downturn.”

The RealtyTrac analysis examined more than 1,000 cities in coastal counties across the nation, compiling the ranking based on the top 15 states that met “bargain” criteria.

Source: RealtyTrac®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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