Blog :: 02-2018

The Outside Matters: A Calendar to Serious Curb Appeal

CalendarIt’s no big deal ... just a bit of peeling trim, slightly tarnished door hinges or a few chipped paver stones on the walkway. Seeing them daily, it’s easy to stop noticing the little blemishes around your home. But an interested buyer is not only likely to notice the little things, but also to make the leap to presume that your home is not well maintained.

As well-documented on television shows like Property Brothers and Love It Or List It, readying your home to sell at a great price is a substantial endeavor. Cleanup, purging and staging efforts are not limited to the interior of the home.

Prospective buyers approaching your home from the street take in your property in a sweeping glance. And then? They judge it … promising or underwhelming, impressive or disappointing.

Over a series of posts, we’re providing a month’s worth of maintenance tasks to maximize your home’s exterior curb appeal. Check off one daily and your home will show beautifully.

First impressions are lasting (the street view)

As your home’s possible new owners emerge from their car and approach the front door, there are dozens of ways you can impress – or disappoint.

  1. Mailbox and post: Assess your mailbox with a critical eye: Does it need to be cleaned or replaced? Is the house number faded or worn? Would the post benefit from fresh paint or should it be upgraded?
  2. Driveway: Fill driveway cracks and re-seal the driveway.
  3. Front walkway: Is there moss or growth between your paver stones leading to the front door? Remedy with a power washing -- and keep moss from coming back with a product like Wet & Forget.
  4.  A well-lit view: If you have walkway lighting, is it in good working condition? Replace any burned-out bulbs or broken fixtures.
  5. Yard décor: Different strokes for different folks. Though you may be partial to garden gnomes, holiday flags and birdbaths, they’re a matter of personal taste. Best to pack these goodies away for your next home.
  6. Front steps: As the potential buyer grasps the railing, will he note that the paint is peeling? Check it yourself and take action before putting your home on the market.
  7. Storm door: If you have a glass storm door, make sure it sparkles with a weekly vinegar and water cleaning inside and out.
  8. Exterior entry: Lots of opportunities here! First, vacuum the exterior door and trim carefully to remove loose debris and cobwebs. Then wash both the glass and the surface of the door thoroughly.
  9. Front door: If your metal door has oxidized, restore the luster with a product like Everbrite
  10. Fixtures: Since they’re exposed to the elements, more than likely your door knob, door knocker and doorbell need some love. Exterior light fixtures can pit over time; replace if needed or spruce them up with a cleaning and some polish.
  11. Door mat: Yes, it’s just for wiping off snow, leaves and mud, but a new doormat is a must if yours isn’t in pristine condition. 
  12. Garage: If your home has a garage, make it an asset. Lubricate the door opening mechanisms so they operate smoothly and without excessive noise.

Up, up (but hopefully not away!)

Approaching your home on foot, cast a look upward for a bird’s eye view. Consider the following potential concerns from a prospective buyer.

  1. Roof: Snow-packed roofs in winter can melt to an ugly surprise in March. A moldy roof sets off alarm bells for buyers; quell their concerns with a pressure washing.
  2. Evidence of Christmas past: Remove and dispose of remnants of holiday lights, wreath hooks and faded decorations.  
  3. Gutters: The downside of our colorful autumn leaves in New England is that many end up in the gutters. A gutter cleanout takes a professional about 15 minutes – and helps maintain your home’s  condition. Banish debris-filled gutters with an annual cleanout.
  4. Overgrown trees: Remove any dead tree limbs and trim overgrown shrubbery.
  5. Shutters: Are yours in good condition? Repair, pressure wash or paint as needed.

Start chipping away and soon enough your home will start to display some serious curb appeal.  And stay tuned for more ... in Curb Appeal Part 2 we'll offer some great tips for tackling the side view and backyard. Check back often or follow us on Facebook to be sure you don't miss it. 

Selling a House to a Family Member: Tax Implications and Experts You Should Hire

House KeysIf you're thinking of selling your house to a family member, first, congratulations are in order. You've found a buyer! The most strenuous part of the home-selling process is already over. So now what? How do you actually sell a piece of real estate to a member of your family?

To hire — or not hire — a real estate agent

It's all in the family, right? It can be tempting to bypass the regular process of hiring a real estate agent to broker the deal. And indeed, this is one of the very few home sale circumstances when it could be an acceptable plan.

Then again, even seemingly simple and straightforward real estate transactions can get contentious, and that's really ugly when the buyer is a family member. Hiring an agent as an informed third party to help navigate the negotiation process can actually make things easier -- and keep the family happier.

Although agents usually work on a commission basis, if you and your family member have already agreed on the price, you may be able to find one who will work for a flat fee to help you through the process. After all, the agent doesn't need to spend time marketing the property—you already have a buyer!

Hire an appraiser

Even if you've agreed upon a selling price, you'll need to have the home appraised if your buyer is seeking a mortgage. Lenders typically require appraisals to ensure the value of the home is high enough to match the value of the mortgage.

Michele Lerner, author of "Homebuying: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time," recommends getting the appraisal done before signing any paperwork, just in case you find out you're undervaluing your home.

Hiring a lawyer is highly recommended

Another person the experts say you must hire is a real estate attorney to help guide you through the selling process. A lawyer can provide clarity if any legal issues arise during the sale of the home. Typically, they also perform a title search to ensure there aren't any liens on the property and determine any zoning restrictions that prohibit your family member from making future improvements on the house.

What about gift tax?

You may want to give a family member a break on the price of the house, but don’t be too generous. There are tax consequences if you're selling a house to a family member at less than fair market value. Why? Because rules are put into place specifically to keep people from avoiding the federal estate tax by giving away their assets.

So that sweet deal you cut your family member is actually seen by the Internal Revenue Service as a gift, and any discount in price will be subject to a federal gift tax. In other words, if you sell your home to a family member for less than the fair market value, it's a gift.

The IRS allows anyone to give up to $14,000 per year to any number of people without having to pay gift taxes. So, if your the difference between your home's market value and the selling price is more than $14,000, you'll owe taxes on the sale.

Selling to a family member?  We’re happy to guide you through the selling process. Contact us to connect with one of our licensed real estate professionals.

 

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Think Big: 7 Home Staging Secrets to Make a Small Living Room Look Huge

Staging DesignWhen it comes to home staging, the golden rule is make your space look bigger to would-be buyers. And perhaps nowhere is that concept more vitally important than in the living room — the place where homeowners tend to spend most of their time entertaining and relaxing, and where potential buyers will be placing extra scrutiny.

But you don't have to knock down walls or spend a small fortune to make your space look big. Fortunately, there are a few quick and relatively affordable ways to maximize your living room's first impression, even when the square footage is lacking.

1) Don't leave your living room empty

It might seem counterintuitive, but an empty room gives buyers no point of Minimalist Stagingreference for size. Staging rooms helps establish a room's size and enable a buyer to visualize how they can arrange their own furniture.

But don't just shove some furniture in the living room and call it a day. There's actually a science to arranging your stuff in a way that makes the room feel bigger.

Most buyers scan a room from left to right upon entry. If you place the tallest piece of furniture in the far left corner, the room will appear larger than if that same piece of furniture is closer to the entry. When a large or tall piece of furniture is near an entryway or door, it tricks the eye into thinking a space is smaller than it is, so keep taller items in corners -- or eliminate them altogether.

2) Carefully consider your seating scheme

Choose a focal point—a fireplace or windows with a view are the common choices, but yours may be a great piece of art or a family heirloom — and position your seating arrangement around it. Keep in mind that you want prospective buyers to imagine themselves actually living in and using your space, so your seating concept should encourage relaxation and conversation.

Living in the space also means carefully considering the circulation flow of your rooms. Make sure there aren’t large pieces of furniture in walking paths.


3) Scale down your furniture

Even if it's high-end and tastefully decorated, you never want to fill your small space with a Scale down furnituretruckload of huge stuff; you'll dwarf the space.

Choose smaller scale furniture to leave more white space, which will make the room seem larger. Select light pieces in materials like wicker or rattan (both of which are typically in high supply at retailers such as HomeGoods and Marshalls).

Beware not to go overboard with the tiny pieces. Too many can make a room look cluttered and therefore -- smaller. Less is more here, folks.

4) Build around your largest piece — and edit ruthlessly

large piece of furnitureMaking the most of a small space can be difficult. Start by assessing the room for your largest piece (likely your sofa), and judge every other item in the room against it.

Ask yourself, "Does this item serve a purpose, either functional or decorative?" If you can’t come up with an answer immediately, it’s not worth keeping.

While you're at it, ditch bold, busy pieces of artwork for more neutral, unobtrusive prints, and get rid of the family photos on the mantel. Remember: The goal is for your space — not your stuff — to do the talking.

Pro stagers also nearly universally recommend ditching TV sets, which occupy a lot of visual real estate. The only exception? A wall-mounted, flat-screen TV that's appropriately sized to the room (that's the kicker).

5) Balance color

You don't need to slather your walls in an uninspiring, institution-evoking white. Red rug white couch designYou can have some fun with color. But you'll need to follow some basic rules to avoid overwhelming the space.

First, and perhaps the most obvious, you'll want to nix dark or bold paint colors, which make cramped spaces feel tighter. 

Brighter colors should be used in limited amounts and repeated for balance. If the rug is red and everything else in the room is various neutral shades, include red in the pillows or accessories.

For ceiling colors, choose a shade that's lighter than your walls to create the impression of openness. And for extra credit, match your wall color to larger (lighter-hued) pieces of furniture.

6) Choose the right materialsmetal and glass furnishings

Choose furnishings and accent pieces crafted of materials like glass and metal, which reflect light and feel more airy. They give a greater sense of space than dark and bulky wood pieces.

Replace heavy bookshelves with floating shelves instead (like these from Ikea). Then, declutter their contents by at least 60%.

 

 

7) Lighten upLiving Room With Natural Lighting

An abundance of natural light tricks the eye into thinking a space is larger. To maximize light, keep your window treatments minimal with a simple pleated shade for privacy. Choose lightweight, airy fabric curtains, such as voile or linen and mount the rod as close to the ceiling as possible to create the illusion of height.

If your rooms don't have a lot of natural light, hang mirrors to reflect the light you have.

When selling your home, first impressions are everything. Although staging can be tricky, when done right a small space can appear bigger and more appealing to prospective buyers.

Need help getting your home ready to sell? See our home selling tips or call us at 978 664-3700. We're happy to help.

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Pro Tips to Protect Your Home from Snow and Ice

Let’s face it, winter in New England can be brutal. With blizzards, nor’easters and freezing temperatures, this time of year is tough not only on you, but on your home too. Safeguard your home and property from snow, ice and cold temperatures by heeding these winter weather precautions.

Avoid Ice Dams – Tips from The Spruce

  • Keep gutters and downspouts free of dirt and debris.
  • Use a roof rake to remove the lower four feet of snow from the roof edge (rake carefully so you don’t damage the shingles).
  • Eliminate additional heat in the attic by ensuring that recessed lights and duct work are properly insulated.

Dodge Frozen Pipes – Tips from Bob Vila

  • First and foremost, never turn the heat off if you leave the house for an extended period of time. Bob Vila suggests leaving the temperature set to 55°F.
  • When temperatures are below freezing, relieve pressure and keep the water flowing by turning faucets on just enough to drip.
  • Pipes located near the garage are more vulnerable to colder temperatures, so be sure to keep garage doors closed.  

Protect Trees and Shrubs – Tips from Better Homes and Gardens

  • Resist the urge to shake snow and ice off tree branches – this can cause limbs to break. Instead, prop up branches with stakes to avoid breakage.
  • Consider wrapping shrubs and trees with burlap or canvas to serve as a wind barrier (and for those near paved areas, to protect from salt damage).
  • Use mulch to protect tree roots and soil from extreme temperatures.

Steer Clear of Damage to Your Driveway and Walkway – Tips from This Old House

  • Take it easy with the shovel. Aggressive shoveling can cause asphalt to chip.
  • Rock salt can cause damage to concrete; to avoid corrosion, use calcium chloride instead.
  • Gravel driveways and walkways are tricky. Keep shovels and snow blower blades at least one inch off the ground to avoid disturbing the stone.

More Snow and Ice Must-Do’s

  • Snow, mud and ice melt can really do a number on hardwood floors. Protect your floors with doormats both inside and outside, and use a waterproof tray for wet footwear.
  • Clearing outside vents of snow and ice after a big storm should be a top priority - and make sure carbon monoxide detectors are installed and working.  
  • Save your front yard from being torn up by the snow plow by installing snow markers along your property line before the ground freezes.

Unfortunately, New England winters can take a toll on your home, but taking the proper measures before, during and after a big snow storm or a deep freeze can help evade major damage.