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      Useful Information For Homeowners

      7 Essential Things Every New Homeowner Needs

      Becoming a homebuyer is exciting. But now that it's happening, you'll need a few things to get you from buyer to owner. You may think you only need the stamina to unpack, but that's only the beginning.

      1. A basic toolkit

      You don't want to be sitting at home without a wrench when your sink is leaking. Or without a Phillips screwdriver when nothing in the house will accept a flathead.

      2. A DIY spirit

      You're going to be testing the limits of your DIY skills as a homeowner... a lot. Painting your walls, fixing a clogged drain, pulling up old floors, laying tile - they can all expand your skills, teach you new things, and provide a real sense of pride and accomplishment.

      Read the Full List Here! If you have additional questions about the home-buyer process, contact us today.

      New Homeowner Essentials

      12 Ways Homeowners Can Avoid Home Improvement Rip-offs

      We've all heard the horror stories: contractors who took thousands of dollars and then disappeared, home renovations that dragged on for months or work so shoddy it had to be completely redone.

      These nightmare scenarios may frighten you, but if you do your homework, you can prevent yourself from being ripped off by a bad home improvement contractor.

      Avoid Home Improvement Rip Offs

      Before a contractor begins work on your home, draw up a detailed contract with the required materials, schedule of progress payments and a timeline for the job. Image from US News and World Report

      Here are 12 ways to avoid home improvement rip-offs:

      1. Beware of people who knock on your door. Good contractors rarely have to solicit business, and those who want more customers try advertising, not door-to-door solicitation. People who knock on your door are often thieves or scammers who will take your money and do a shoddy job, then disappear. Or they may even rob your house.
      2. Avoid contractors who seek a big payment upfront. A reputable contractor will ask for 10 to 25 percent of the contract price before the job starts, then ask for progress payments as the job is completed, with the schedule detailed in the contract. The only time a big upfront payment may be legitimate is if you need a large quantity of custom materials to start.
      3. Check licenses, references and insurance. Ask for references, proof of insurance and license documents, both contractor and business licenses. Then call to verify that everything is still current and valid. You may want to be named as an additional insured on the contractor's policy while he is working at your home. If you're interested, ask the contractor to add you to the policy and then bring you back the paperwork with you listed.
      4. Check courthouse records for litigation. In most municipalities, the basic information is online, though you may have to pay a few dollars to read it in some municipalities. If the contractor has been sued, read the lawsuit and, if possible, contact the complaining homeowner for details.

      Read the Full Story Here!

      Must-do's Before Your Replace Major Items in Your House

      Even if you plan on living in your house until you're carried out doesn't mean you'll never buy another house

      That is, live somewhere long enough, and you'll begin replacing certain parts of your house - the roof, the windows, the heating and cooling system or water heater, say. Eventually, you may start to feel like you've bought another house without actually moving.

      And each time you replace part of your house, it can be intimidating. You may not be shelling out what you would buy a home, but items like new roofs and windows aren't cheap. According to HomeAdvisor.com, the current cost of an average roof replacement is $6,570, and while it can run as low as $2,000, it can easily cost you $12,000 or more.

      Windows? You'll want to jump out one when you begin pricing them.

      According to paid-membership review service Angie's List, a standard-size, double-hung, double-pane, vinyl window will generally cost between $450 and $600, including installation. That may not sound too bad until you begin tallying the windows in your home. And if you have wood windows, you're talking $800 to $1,000 per window, including installation.

      Home Repairs and Replacements

      So if you're going to be sinking more money into your house, try the following to avoid being sunk.

      Shop around.

      Leslie Bryant, a health care communications professional in Los Angeles, says she and her husband replaced their roof a few years ago. They felt that they had little choice.

      "The roof looked awful. It was very old wood shingle and it had just run its course," she says. "Not leaking, but every time we had major winds, there were about 20 shingles on our front lawn."
      Bryant says you really need to ask for estimates - and stand your ground if you receive blowback.

      Do your research.

      You may not be interested in roofs, windows or septic tanks, but if you're going to replace something sizable in your home, you'd be wise to get interested, fast. That doesn't necessarily meaning reading up on, say, roofs and septic tanks though it couldn't hurt - but at least, when you're getting estimates (you are getting estimates, plural, right?) ask a lot of questions of the people you're hiring to do work.

      David Feldberg, who owns a residential real estate brokerage in Newport Beach, California, says that he and wife recently bought a house built in 1958.

      "We are the second owners and I don't think the prior owners had done anything over the prior 25 to 30 years," he says.

      Feldberg says he and his wife had the roof replaced, walls removed and flooring and ceiling changed, among other things before moving in, and since then, they've purchased a new heating and air-conditioning system with brand new ducts. They've also replaced most of the windows. To pay for it all, they predominantly pulled from their savings; some of it, a home improvement loan with no interest for a year, "and we plan to pay it off before then," he says.

      Read the Full Story Here!

      Your Winter Home: Make it Warm and Cozy

      The weather is turning progressively cooler, more are leaves falling every day and we’ve even seen our first snow fall! As you consider the long New England winter ahead, know that there are some easy tricks to turn your home into a comfy haven that will keep you warm and happy and protect your health.

      Nothing ruins the feeling of a cozy home quicker than wrestling with unexpected water or structural damage. There are three jobs you can do or service calls you can schedule that will help ensure your home stays buttoned up this winter:

      1. Clear your rain gutters and downspouts after the last of your leaves have fallen to eliminate the chances of pooling or leaking water and ice build-up.

      2. Trim your trees to make sure that dead or unstable limbs don’t damage your house.

      3. Inspect your basement sump pump, if you have one, to protect your basement from flooding during the November and early spring rains.

      Stop drafts of cold air from killing the cozy atmosphere of your home. According to Energy Star sealing gaps and cracks in your home is “among the most cost-effective things you can do to increase comfort”. Statistics show that somewhere between 10% and 30% of energy costs are due to air leaks that could’ve been sealed. Identifying and closing air leaks with simple methods like caulking and weather stripping will make your home warmer before you even touch the thermostat. An additional trick is to run a humidifier during the winter months. Heating systems dry out air and a humidifier puts moisture back into the air, making your rooms feel warmer and more comfortable.

      The lack of natural light caused by winter’s short days and frequent clouds can cause serious doldrums. A little cleaning and effort can make your home significantly brighter and a happier place to spend time:

      • Clean your light fixtures and light bulbs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, dirty bulbs shed 30% less light than clean ones.
        Read about how to clean all types of lighting fixtures.

      • Remove and store your window screens.

      • Wash your windows to maximize the natural light coming into your home.

      Finally, a constant concern in winter is avoiding the flu. One way to boost your immunity is to reduce the dust in your closed-up home. Top of the list is to change your HVAC filter every other month to prevent dust from recirculating through the house. If you have pets, change it monthly. Another trick is to vacuum while your thermostat is toggled to “fan on.” This helps catch the dust that is kicked-up during cleaning. Let the fan run for about 15 minutes after you finish with the vacuum cleaner before switching the thermostat fan setting back to “auto”.

      Don’t let the dark days of winter diminish your happiness and sense of well-being. Use these tips and tactics to turn your home into welcomed retreat.

      First Impressions

      MAKE IT INVITINGrutledgeSoldThe first impression your home makes to potential buyers is critical. According to the National Association of Realtors, curb appeal sells 49% of all houses. Fresh mulch, seasonal porch containers, a groomed lawn, and a freshly washed walk do more than just welcome buyers, they set the tone for what a buyer can expect to see once inside. The impression a buyer gets inside is one you can make the most of by strategizing in four key areas with your realtor.

      Fix maintenance issues. You want your home to appear well-maintained. Walk through your home with your realtor and identify which repairs are critical for making a successful first impression. A leaking kitchen faucet, although inexpensive to fix, will stand out to a potential buy who will wonder what bigger maintenance issues you have ignored. Your realtor's professional knowledge and experience will be able to guide you on whether things like dings in the walls, or which dings, need to be fixed and whether carpets need to be professionally cleaned. Your realtor may also notice problems that you are in the habit of overlooking, but will make a difference in the appeal of your home.

      Declutter. You want to make your house seem as big as possible. Remove stuff from your home, don't just store it away in cabinets and closets. Remember that home buyers will open every door and cabinet in your house in order to check that the house has enough room for their "stuff". Move your off-season clothing, sports equipment, holiday decorations to a storage unit. Also, move or remove any items that block the view of your furnace, boiler and air-conditioning units.

      Clean. You want buyers to feel like they can move right in. Make an appointment to have your home professionally cleaned. The kitchen and bathrooms deserve special attention because those rooms, in particular, set an impression of how well a house is maintained. Windows, window sills and baseboards are other areas that should get extra cleaning attention. Have your windows washed to let in the most light possible.

      Depersonalize. You want prospective buyers to see themselves living in your house and you want your realtor to focus on selling your house, not ensuring the safety of your personal items. Have a shoebox for each bathroom to put away all shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, prescriptions and other personal care items anytime an open house is held. Put checkbooks, kids' piggybanks, jewelry and other valuables in your safe or in the trunk of your car.

      Partner with your realtor to plan how to address these four steps efficiently and effectively. An inviting first impression can make your home stand out from the other homes for sale and put your home on buyer's short lists.

      Comments

      1. Agoes on

        I have been to Costa Rica on a cruise two years ago. We came into port at Limon and took a tour with a cuople Kids running a Off Road Adventure into the upper rain forests and banana plantations. It was by far the best excursion we have had ever in the 11 cruises we have been on. I was just operated on so I was looking for a light book to read while recouperating and yours struck me to be the one. Love the book and can identify with a lot of the different places you have seen there. We love Costa Rica and are going to Belize this year on a cruise to check that island out. Great book and would love to hear more from you on your experiences.

        Tax Time Documents

        Tax day may seem far away but if you want to cash in on the real estate-related tax perks of buying this year, you'll need to be sure you've got these five documents in hand:

        2013taxes1Mortgage Interest Statement IRS Form 1098 The meatiest real estate tax deduction on the books today allows you to deduct 100% of the mortgage interest you paid during the tax year. To get this deduction, keep any eye on your mail for Form 1098 from your mortgage lender.  This reports how much of that interest you paid. Check your lender's on-line account management service (likely where you make payments on-line).  Many post 1098s digitally before they send paper copies.

        Uniform Settlement Statement (HUD-1) If you purchased recently, right after closing you should have received your HUD-1 Settlement Statement.  The data on this form is invaluable during tax time.  It details prepaid interest, prorated property taxes, and other potentially deductible fees.  The HUD-1 is usually printed on legal-sized paper and shows the credits and debits for buyers or sellers.  Your broker may have a copy if you can't put your hands on your file!

        d80b8c4f181f6b92d3abda00d218f4bfMoving expense receipts Moving expenses are tax deductible if your move is closely related to the start of a new job.  The rule of thumb: if you moved more than 50 miles to be closer to your new workplace, you could be eligible.  Consult your tax pro for details on this credit and be sure to bring your moving receipts.

        Receipts from energy efficient home appliances and improvements Under the Non-business Energy Tax Credit, homeowners who make qualifying energy efficient upgrades can claim tax credits.  If you've recently installed energy efficient improvements such as insulation, new windows or other energy savers, you may be able to deduct 10% of their cost.

        Tax-Time-What-Paperwork-to-Gather-as-a-First-Time-Home-BuyerMortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) Homeowners who've purchased in the last few years using a Mortgage Credit Certificate may be entitled to a pretty hefty tax credit.  MCCs apply as long as you live in the home and pay a mortgage on it.  But, they only apply to defray taxes you actually owe--you can't use them to get a refund.  If you have one, the MCC is a must-have as you start your tax prep.

        Compiled by Betsy Kessler; portions reprinted from Trulia, 1/13

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