October 5th, 2011
Beat The Odds: Five Easy Tips For A Better-Showing House This Fall
Many people think the housing market shuts down Thanksgiving til December 31st.
The reality of school schedules, and the pressures of these falls holidays are the most common reasons behind the mindset. While activity levels might have a steep drop off, I do not belive people stop thinking about it, or that buyers stop looking, either. In our market, different cultures abound: not everyone has kids, or observes the Hallmark holidays.
There are several advantages to being ready to show in the fall. There are not as many properties on the market, so motivated sellers who have their house on the market-clean and ready to show will have the full attention of agents, and motivated buyers. I like the sound of that, don’t you?
Mortgage rates are still low, and the atmosphere is a little less super-charged. Again, this could bode well on many levels. But you have to be ready.
Staging should never be considered a silver bullet. There are too many things beyond a stagers’ control that would factor into getting your house sold (pricing, marketing, pricing, qualifying buyers, pricing, maintaining a showable house), but your house being ready counts for a lot.
While we still have some nice days in front of us, here are five quick, simple, easy and inexpensive things you can do now so your house will show well this fall:
1. Buy a simple, classic new welcome mat. Nothing cute, or overly personal. WELCOME works fine. Also-paint the front door. In this area, deep barn red is very popular. I may be prejudiced (I love purple) but I think it goes great in this photo-fresh and contemporary. ALWAYS work with what goes with the house. Look around your neighborhood, and when in doubt go classic.
2. New bulbs in fixtures. Especially outdoor. Up the wattage, make sure they are new, of matching wattage, and of the same type of light -i.e. just because you have them in the house, don’t have a mix of soft white and bright white.
3. Add seasonal color. Even the most amazing bunch of impatience is oddly inappropriate after Labor Day. Clear them out-brightly colored mums and ornamental cabbage is the way to go.
4. Keep yard maintained. Just because prime growing season is over, don’t slack off. Keep walkway clear, lawn mowed, beds edged and leaves raked. Have the house with the lush, emerald green lawn showing.
5. Remove all the detrius of summer: Cobwebs, sticks on the roof, things growing out of gutters. Make sure gutters are attached to roof securely, and clear.
Fall can turn into winter quickly in this area. Clogged, and badly attached gutters become heavy with wet leaves, then frozen solid when the temperature drops. “BEST” case they can pull away from the house, “WORST” case they can lead to the formation of ice dams, and cause internal leaks/damage. Either way, you do not want to mess with this in November.
TOMORROW: The other 5 things you can do…next weekend!
April 9th, 2011
While the springtime weather we all yearn for has been taking its sweet time to get here, you know we are two consecutive warm days away from breaking out the capri pants and flip flops…are you ready?
Whethere you are selling-or staying, this weekend Westchester’s weather will be clear and dry, so a great time to get started.
Here are some easy ways to get your outside space, and outside stuff up to speed, while adding real value to your property, and saving you both time and hassle.
Equipment: Clean your grill, and take the mower, tiller, and any other mechanical apparatus you will want immediately one day soon to the local shop for a check-up.
By having everything in good repair now, you will be ready when the good weather really hits-and not waiting, along with a few dozen other machines in need of service.
Take your patio furniture out and assess it. Maybe you’ll need to clean it first to see.
Generally a bucket of warm water with a mild detergent should do it for metal furniture..a soft cloth or sponge on the frame, a scrub brush on cushions or fabric ‘sling’ types of seating. Rinse, and let it dry thoroughly in the sunlight.
GTK: if your metal furniture is ok, but could use some refreshing or repair, you need to know about Patty’s Portico, on Highland Street in Port Chester 914.935.8839.
They breathe new life into old furniture because they weld, sand-blast and powder coat on-site. Again, you want to move on this now and be ready-not get caught in the seasonal rush. Green solution that will save you some green in the long run.
Property Take a good look at your property. While it’s too cool to do most planting, it’s perfect for spring clean up: Raking the twigs and leaves; filling in and re-seeding bare spots that were either torn up by snow plows, browned from salt run-off, or just never recovered from last year’s soccer practice in the backyard.
Edge the beds, and heap on fresh mulch. Did you know that applying 2-4″ of mulch around the base of trees, shrubs, and in beds keeps weeks at bay, saves water by retaining moisture, supports base of plants and encourages stronger root systems. Depending on what you apply, additional nutrients can also be supplied to the plants this way.
Pansies are an enthusiastic harbinger of warmer weather. A flat will cost you maybe $20.00, give great color while elevating the mood–plant them in oversize planters, and enjoy! Your well-deserved refreshing beverage of choice will taste even better!
January 22nd, 2011
Here in the lower Hudson Valley, we are snow-weary. That giddy “snow day!” excitement we all had is long gone. Instead we are re-calibrating our schedules everyday, and there is salt residue, clunky books and bulky outer garments everywhere.
What a great time to look at houses…and I mean really look AT them.
With most of the foliage gone, or buried under the white stuff, you have a clean palette. There is very little to distract the eye, you can see every detail…which, in the end, is a good thing.
If you are staying in your home and thinking about painting or updating, drive around and check out color combinations and trim, and other details. Shutters? New front door? Hmmm maybe that slate blue color you love isn’t the best choice for your southern-exposure house…
Less than 5% of the population can comfortably visualize anything other than what’s in front of them, and you’ll see things now that would not be as visible the rest of the year.
Some you’ll love, some maybe not so much, but guaranteed: you’ll develop your style, and your confidence to make decisions when the springtime rolls around.
If 2011 is the year you are going to sell your house, same principle, same idea, different focus. Take a long, hard look at your house, then drive around and look at other homes…which ones would you want to buy?
All this snow is a great filter that will help you see your house through the eyes of a buyer; very easy to see the difference between the houses that have been maintained, and those that have deferred the maintenance.
Dirt/mildew on any of the surfaces- missing spindles on decks- peeling, faded or outdated paint- gutters in need of repair-overgrown landscaping-even old mailboxes or undersize house numbers-buyers will see it all.
Talk it over with your Realtor, make a list, and start interviewing contractors-you want to be ready to roll when the weather permits. (And if you need further encouragement, have your accountant confirm how much of your list is a deductible expense!)
Again, same idea if you’ve decided to buy in 2011. Looking at lots of houses will develop your eye, and give you insight into what you like and why; excellent time to get a good sense of specific houses and the property; how it has been cared for, and what might need to be done.
For all of us, really ‘seeing’ something is a call to action. Whatever decision you might be contemplating, this is a good first step.
December 8th, 2010
It’s been a beautiful fall, but winter and the holiday season arrived in tandem on Thanksgiving Day, and actual snow flurries on Monday!
Ahhhh, Yes. Winter/Holidays-the season of so much to do, so little time….well, a very little bit of planning now in your home can save you loads of time, money and heartache down the line.
Charles Brown, a State Farm property and casualty agent in New Rochelle has seen first-hand the damage winter weather can cause. Helping prevent loss is his goal; here are some of his favorite tips on trouble-proofing your home this season.
Ice Dams form in your gutters when under-insulated attics let warm air up from the living space below. Warmer attic temps melt roof snow fast, and when the melted snow hits the colder eves, it re-freezes.
A few days of this builds up an ice sheet that traps other melting snow below, and with nowhere to go, it pushes water thru the roof covering into the house.
Same under-insulated attic, but now air coming into the attic is both warm and moist-cold temps condense the water vapor and can cause rot in the wood framework.
Remedy: Right now-before ‘real weather’ hits-clean out gutters/downspouts and install gutter screens. Also-insulate the attic, and insure there is good ventilation to keep interior and exterior temps closer.
Freezing water pipes that burst ruin about a quarter-million homes a year, and it can happen to both PVC and copper piping. A one-eighth inch crack can spray 250 gallons of water… a day.
Before the temps nose-dive, insulate the exposed pipes in your attic, crawlspace and garages. The more insulation, the better. Seal any leaks around pipes or wiring that could let cold air in, and turn off the outside water from the interior shut off valve.
Inside, keep temps at 55 degrees or higher. Open cabinet doors that conceal pipes to let warmer air circulate around them, and let both cold and warm water trickle out of one faucet. Going out of town? Even if it’s one night, arrange for someone to come over and check.
If you turn on a faucet and nothing comes out, your pipes may have frozen. Keep faucets on, turn main water valve in house off and call a plumber. NEVER try to thaw out a pipe with any type of flame. Warm air from a hair drier may help-start close to the faucet and work towards the frozen section.
Unless you are uber-handy, consider licensed professionals to do these jobs easily, correctly, and safely.
Click here for more tips on how to keep you and your family safe this holday season. Just like anything else preventative, it’s best to know about these things before you have to.
November 14th, 2010
OK< house is ready-nice listing photos, everyone is remembering to keep the house neat, there are good showings.
YAY! There is an acceptable offer!!
DOUBLE YAY!! Buyer financials are looking good, and since your agent priced it accordingly (I know, sorry, that’s a whole other post), inspection and appraisal should go right through, right?
As a seller you may be thinking hoo-rah, but agents know better. Ownership of your property needs to be easily and readily transferrable.
Properties that have had work done without the proper permit and inspection process can get derailed in the blink of an eye. When caught by an appraiser, inspector or title company, everyone in the sale is notified, and no one is happy.
It comes up most often when houses have had one owner for a long time, but ownership means responsibility, so newer sellers can be on the hook for past owners’ oversights/misdeeds as well. Things that may have been missed/misfiled in in the busy/crazy markets past now have..shall we say… very dedicated…people looking at them.
Key is understanding the process so you are prepared. Architect Steven Secon AIA, friend, colleague and principle of Steven Secon Architect in Dobbs Ferry NY explains it best:
“Many home and builing improvements require building permits. Before a project begins, an application is submitted to the municipality that the property is located in. When issued, the permit indicates the project has been reviewed and approved for conformance with the building code and zoning regulations; this is when the work can actually start.
“There are inspections throughout the process, and when the project is complete, a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) is issued, and municipality records are updated. Having accurate and completed COs on file is a valuable asset; it tells appraisers, attorneys, title agents and buyers that all work was done in accordance with local regulations.
It is against the law to make most non-cosmetic improvements without these approvals or permits, period. Bringing work without prior, necessary permits/approvals into conformance is called legalization-it’s completing the approval process after the work is done.
No matter what you may think of the permit process (and yes, I do know) the bottom line is if you want to sell your property it needs to be compliant, or else it will cost you-time, money, and yes, even the deal. Often there are penalties, and perhaps some additional work will be needed to make it legal… NOT what buyers or lenders want to hear, especially when there are a lot of other properties out there.
Steve sums it up: “Moral of the story-whether you are re-financing or just doing some updates to get your property ready for sale- do your homework. Check with the municipality, take the time to get project approvals in order- or make sure the property is legalized before you get it on the market.”
November 10th, 2010
HEY-Pass it on! Hot Deal on Old Coolers…Con Edison Launches Refrigerator Recycling
Con Edison customers can cash in by recycling their old, energy-wasting “second” refrigerator, have it removed for free and get $30.
The new program is part of the company commitment to help customers save on their electric bills while helping the environment. Older refrigerators can cost twice as much to run as newer, more efficient models. “Old refrigerators account for nearly 20 percent of the energy used by the average New York household,” said Cristina Coltro, Manager for residential energy efficiency programs at Con Edison.
Con Edison residential electric customers in one-to-four family homes are eligible for the incentives. The company will remove regular-sized second, or extra, refrigerators, which are often kept in garages and basements, at no charge. Con Edison will arrange to safely dismantle and recycle the energy-guzzling appliance.
At the time of your refrigerator pick-up, the company will also collect and recycle old, inefficient window or wall air conditioners. Con Edison customers will receive $30 for second refrigerators, $35 for window air conditioners and $100 for wall A/C units.
The program covers the removal of up to two appliances per type per household. Appliances must be in working condition in order to be picked-up and recycled. To schedule a pick-up or inquire about eligibility, visit http://www.coned.com/energyefficiency/residential_bounty_program.asp or call1-800-430-9505.
Con Edison has an energy efficiency program available for almost everyone. For more information, visit www.conEd.com/energyefficiency or call Con Edison’s “Green Team” at 1-877-870-6118.
October 24th, 2010
It has been a glorious start to fall…leaves in brilliant reds, oranges and golds. set against bright, clear blue skies. Days are comfortable, but nighttime is getting chilly, so we close the windows, maybe turn on the heat or if we are so fortunate, light a fire in the fireplace.
Two weeks from today Daylight Savings time will end, and in about 10 days the reminders are going to start-change the batteries in you smoke and CO detectors, I suggest not waiting.
Smoke detector laws in New York State have been on the book for some time, but CO detectors became law earlier this year.
CO-carbon monoxide-is produces when any flamable material does not burn completely-this is any type of flammable material: oil, coal, wood, natural gas; even kerosene, propane, charcoal and gasoline.
Colorless and mostly odorless, symptoms include disorientation, and often mimic those of the flu, and the more severe the exposure, the less likely someone is to be aware of their condition, or able to seek help.
Children, pregnant women and the elderly are at the highest risk. Most recent complete data shows there were 42,000 fire and rescue responses to CO poisoning in 2007.
No one is in more homes than real estate professionals, and no one better poised to help carry this message-dare I suggest year-round. We all have AA and AAA batteries on hand (heaven forbid the remotes don’t work!!) so I have started to keep a supply of fresh 9volt batteries in my car, to leave them with each new client consult, and include new detectors as part of my Staging and Decorating proposals.
Perhaps a new CO detector would make a great closing gift?
Local community laws vary and will trump state requirements-where I live in White Plains, part of getting ANY building permit closed is the installation of hard-wired detectors in the appropriate place. Office managers-how about scheduling an official from the local building department to speak of this at your next office meeting?
We all ‘know’ what fire can do, but seeing it first-hand is something else. Last year I was witness to 2 separate fire restorations. One, very close to home, in my own co-op complex; the other was a project I was called into. The former was a roof repair gone horribly wrong, the latter an electrical fire.
Photo on left is entry into apartment, hole in wall is where electric panel was; on right is in bedroom, looking up into bedroom of upstairs apartment.
If you look carefully, above 2nd beam on the left, you may be able to see outlet cover is melted, and soot stains coming out of it
October 17th, 2010
Every 3,000 miles, and change the filter too-were the hard and fast rules my dad taught me; it might have been more often than recommended in the owners manuals, but in my family, we tended to keep cars for a l-o-n-g time, so it was sort of an insurance policy, proactive maintenance.
Consumers are now being asked to re-think this marker, and not in the way you might expect.
Advances in manufacturing and technology, and lifestyle changes point to longer time between changes; consumer advocates ask we take a look at our driving style/needs, and follow the guidelines of the owner’s manual to ascertain the optimum time for our cars.
Owner’s manual?! I have driven the same brand of car since 1981, and it’s gotten so I look in the owner’s manual only to find out how to re-set the clock when the time changes… but I took a look, and their recommendations are in the 4500-7500 mile range, depending on your driving style.
Overly-frequent oil changes not only wast money, getting rid of oil before it’s time is a hit to the environment, too-synthetic or natural oil, it still has to ‘go’ somewhere.
Jiffy Lube has started a program recommending people make their own decisions, and Edmunds.com is a site all car people know about. Scroll down to the bottom of the home page and there are a whole host of consumer resources, but for those of us not so inclined to peruse it just for yuks, http://www.edmunds.com/ownership/maintenance/articles/164686/article.html will tell you most anything else you want to know.
August 1st, 2010
We’ve all got stuff we need to get rid of-old stuff, stuff that is broken or otherwise unserviceable, stuff we don’t want or need anymore. Growing up, this stuff just got put out at the curb and was whisked away-out of sight, out of mind.
Ahh, the bliss of childhood. Now as grownups we not only have to deal our over-abundance of stuff, but how to responsibly deal with it. Enter Junkluggers.
Chances are you’ve seen the bright lime green trucks, or maybe you’ve heard the catchy name. Yes, these guys come and take what you don’t want. But-channeling Paul Harvey now-here’s the rest of the story.
They have developed a network of local charitable organizations, and will sort thru your stuff, taking what is serviceable to the appropriate agency, on your behalf, and get you a receipt from these organizations for your taxes.
SO-you not only reclaim some real estate in your home, but anything usable goes to people who could use it, you get a tax-deduction, stuff stays out of landfills…and all you have to do is pick up the phone.
I first met Asher Fink almost 2 years ago, when he was visiting my BNI group. Regular readers know that after the refreshed home, Furniture Sharehouse, Westchester’s non-profit furniture bank- is my #2 passion.
Heard what he did and persuaded him to follow me to the warehouse right after the meeting, and they have since become one of our strongest community partners and most ardent supporters. Here’s a recent segment from CBS news where they so graciously shared the spotlight.
July 11th, 2010
We’re busy people, we live our lives; and human nature, when a space becomes familiar, we just don’t ‘see’ the things that we actually pass by every day. A a result, little things add up to big things and one day we wake up and wonder just what the heck happened
Sellers often rebel, those staying usually head to Home Goods. Neither is particularly productive.
A clean, maintained and detailed exterior does more than keep the in-laws happy, and provides more than curb appeal: Staying- it’s comfort and peace of mind; selling-it is your cheapest and most effective marketing tool: 24/7, it demonstrates to the rest of the world how you care for your entire property.
the refreshed home believes that when you are in charge of your space, you are in charge of your life. Also, that changing one’s circumstances often begins by changing one’s attitudes. Staying or selling, here are my favorite easy ways to show your house some love, in zero to $50.00.
Wash your windows, inside and out. Depending on the kind of detritus that is on your screens-vacuum or use the garden hose to clean out the cobwebs/dead bugs/etc out from the sill and screen.
Clean out the gutters. Sticks, seedlings, etc all need to go. Get a broom and walk around the house/garage and knock down all the cobwebs/etc.
Turn over the dirt in garden bed and make sure roots and base of plants are covered. Better than just weeding, it aerates the dirt and looks good, and offers better supprot for plants.
Clean all the exterior light fixtures, removing bugs and washing any glass. Make sure all bulbs work and are as bright as can be (creates ambiance for evening drive-bys)
$15.00 or Less
If you have a dog who has the run of the property, make the rounds with a pooper scooper every single day. Besides being unpleasant and unhealthy, acid from urine and feces can kill the grass. Hose down any ‘very favorite’ spots, and re-seed.
Give your older white porcelain tub a lift using Mr. Clean’s magic sponge. Freshen sink and tub drains by pouring 2/3 cup of baking soda down there, then follow with 2 cups of white vinegar…drains will run faster, too.
Using Qtips, detail your kitchen and bath. Around the faucets, around the drains, around the rubber gaskets in the fridge and dishwasher.
Buy a new Welcome mat. Simple and classic will elevate your home. If selling, stay away from images, as well as cute, political, or otherwise personal messages. Paint your front door.
$15.00 +, but Priceless
Color draws people in. Cheap annuals like marigolds, impatience, coleus, petunias and wax begonias are fairly low maintenance, produce a lot of look for the money, and will last til the first hard frost.
Hit the garden shop, buy and plant lavishly where you want to engage people-make a small grouping by the curb/walkway, a big pot by the front/back doors, corners of the deck or patio.
BONUS-July is considered past the peak of the planting season, you should see lots of SALE signs.
April 21st, 2010
SURPRISE! There’s A New Lead Paint Law
In less than an hour, the EPA’s new RRP law officially goes into effect.
RRP stands for Renovation, Repair and Painting, and sets pretty stringent guidelines for lead containment by contractors who work on homes built before 1978, when lead was a common ingredient in paint.
Michael Murphy, Directory of New Project Development for Murphy Brothers Contracting in Mamaroneck explains that any contractors who perform work that could disturb old lead paint , like painters, carpenters, HVAC installers, as well as professionals who indirectly refer them-like decorators and architects, are all responsible for compliance, with some pretty hefty fines, up to $32K per violation, per day.
Lead from old paint can be absorbed several ways…most of us remember hearing about young children eating paint chips that have peeled away from old walls. Those chips were appealing not because of the child’s hunger, but because they had an unfortunately sweet taste. Children younger than 3 have an especially vulnerable system, and ingestion of lead was found to cause serious and permanent damage, primarily to the brain and nervous system. That’s why real estate transactions-even rentals-require a lead paint disclosure form.
It’s since been found that adults, and even pets -who’ve been exposed to lead particles in dust that is released when a surface that’s been painted with lead paint is cut, or otherwise disturbed- have developed some of the same conditions and ailments children who’ve eaten paint chips.
It seems to be a fair observation that this law has kind of snuck up on a lot of people, but nevertheless, it is still about to become law, and compliance is expected. Contractors must take an 8 hour course to become certified, use specific equipment, and present the homeowner with a booklet explaining the process, which the homeowner must sign a receipt for, saying they received it. Last fall, Murphy Brothers became one of the first contractors in the area to become certified in this process, but it remains to be seen how-and how quickly-the others can be accommodated.
Here in Westchester, where so many homes are built before 1978, this law will be a very big deal; whether you are a homeowner or a contractor, know the law and protect yourself, you can download the pamphlet, www.epa.gov/lead
March 18th, 2010
Water, Water Everywhere…Don’t Let It Lead To Mold
As I am writing this, several local schools have just opened for the first time this week, power is still out for almost 9,000 Westchester residents, and so far over 300 TONS of tree debris has been removed from Scarsdale streets alone, (with an estimated 600-700 MORE tons still to be removed)…wow!
Many of us found ourselves reminded of the power of the elements in a most abrupt and unpleasant way. While the damage of last weeks’ storm can’t be undone, mitigation, and preventative action for the future are center stage for most of us now.
If you were unfortunate enough to have water infiltrate your home, of course extracting it is of the first order. But just because a surface is dry does not automatically mean all is well. Mold is not just unsightly, it destroys property, can sicken, and even kill you.
Mold is tricky; it only needs 2 things to grow: water and cellulosic material (paper, wood) and contrary to some claims, one-size-fits-all solutions like washing with bleach, or using a mildew-resistant primer will not do the trick. Of the over 100K species of mold, roughly 10K of them are known to exist here in the northeast, and it is virtually impossible to know how harmful it might be just by looking at it.
According to Frank Petrullo,owner and President of Envirocare Air Quality Restoration in Jefferson Valley NY, after water extraction there are 4 steps to genuinely assure mold will be kept at bay: Containment, to prevent airborne spores from migrating to other parts of the house; Dehumidification; Treatment with targeted mold-retardant products and/or systems, and lastly Implementing recommended corrective actions.
And even if your home escaped the storm unscathed, you may be surprised to know how ripe conditions are for mold to grow under everyday circumstances…are you sitting down?
In a year, the average 2000 sf home can produce/develop enough moisture to fill 2 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Yes. As Joel Schachter PE, professional engineer and owner of Precise Home Inspections explains- a number of factors like cooking, showers/baths, and weather and overall ventilation combine and can play real havoc with a home, even one that appears to be in good repair.
More on preventitives at another time, but meanwhile wishing a speedy rebound to all those affected by the storm