A Home Inspection is a “Must” when purchasing a Property!

We are many times asked whether a professional inspection is recommended when purchasing a home– our answer is always a resounding “Absolutely”!  A professional home inspection protects a home buyer against disappointment and unexpected expense after a home has been purchased. A pre-purchase inspection tells what major and minor flaws exist in a home, what difficulties are apt to occur later (the replacement of equipment, etc.), and what it will cost to eliminate problems. In general, an inspection covers:

  • Basic home structure, inside and out (testing for soundness and durability)
  • Plumbing, heating and electrical systems and equipment (including costs of operation)
  • Kitchen equipment (including life expectancy of appliances)
  • Insulation and other energy features
  • Detection of water problems and moisture-related flaws

To locate an inspector, consult the Yellow Pages, under “Building Inspection Services,” or call us. We have worked with highly reliable home inspectors and will be happy to recommend someone.

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Smooth Move!

Whether it’s a move across the country or across town, the whole process can either go smoothly or have the overtones of a major life crisis. We’ve been on hand during transferee moves for some time and have come to the conclusion the “little things” make the difference between a smooth move and chaotic one. The secret is in the details that go beyond the usual common-sense procedures of getting belongings from one place to another.
You’ll have a better chance of a trouble-free move if you become familiar with our 12 tips to a smooth move.

1. Expect stress.
First and foremost, you should expect a certain amount of stress and be as patient as possible — with yourself and everyone else. When a whole family remembers to listen carefully and respond thoughtfully, things are easier for all concerned.
2. Fix up and toss out.
When a home is up for sale, the chore of clearing out clutter (for showing the house) can be combined with sorting and packing. Even if professional packers are scheduled to do the big packing job, time is saved at the destination when you personally box many items (off-season clothes, for example).
3. Keep a moving book.
Having a personal moving book (a 3-ring binder plus pocket dividers) helps keep details in their place: checklists, daily reminders, mover information, and, especially, lists of what’s where. (One of the most frustrating aspects of moving is not being able to find things that have been shuffled from here to there.)
4. Plan for pets.
Pets need to be planned for as much as any other family members. Change is stressful for animals too. Traveling arrangements should be made early (including necessary shots, certificates, etc.), especially if the pet is to travel by public transportation.
5.Print change notices.
As soon as a home is sold, notices should be sent to alert utility and other services of cancellation dates, to transfer bank accounts and medical records, and to avoid annoying gaps in subscriptions.
6. Return and collect things.
Returning borrowed things (library books, friends’ belongings, etc.) should be on your move-out checklist, as well as a reminder to collect things — from safe deposit boxes, the cleaners, storage places, repair shops, friends’ homes.
7. Carry valuables.
It’s often safer to carry jewelry, birth certificates and other valuables personally rather than trust them to movers or the mail. School records and proof of vaccinations also have a better chance of prompt arrival if they are conveyed personally rather than left for transfer to busy school and medical offices.
8 .Do the phones early.
If possible, phone service should be installed before arrival, and floors and walls that need refurbishing in the new home should be attended to before moving in, avoiding having to move things around after getting semi-settled.
9. Pack a survival kit.
Packing a survival package takes care of all those small family needs at the new home on the first day: light bulbs, a flashlight, tissues, trash bags, children’s toys, pillows, blankets, saucepans, canned food, paper plates, powdered drinks, plastic cups, a radio, a telephone, a hammer and screwdriver, etc.
10. Make tags and licenses a priority.
Remembering to get car registrations helps avoid fines, and transferring drivers’ licenses on time saves having to take new road tests.
11. Schedule extra time.
It’s wise, if possible, to allow plenty of time to recover, to unpack and settle in. A few days of dining out helps. After all, a home isn’t built in a day.
12. Last word.
A prime reminder: Throughout the move, you can rely on your real estate and relocation specialists on each end of the move to help the relocation go smoothly.

Ten Ingenious Ways to Remodel With Beauty and the Best

What does your home need to bring out its beauty and its best value? Not mundane repair items, but those touches that showcase your home’s worth, enhance its beauty, improve its comfort and safety–things that carry enchantment far beyond one festive season.
Go over your home, room by room, with an eye to what’s best in aesthetic and practical value. Keep in mind how long you plan to keep your home and what might appeal to future buyers. Here are some of the latest trends you might consider to make the home you love even more lovable. Generally, luxurious details are in. Not only are they smart and practical, they’re also sure-fire investments for bringing you top dollar on resale.

1. Paint, panel or paper
Keep in mind, light colors make rooms look larger, dark colors smaller (cozier). If you like soft colors (pale pinks, greens, blues, yellows), they’re ideal for enlarging small rooms. Perk them up with accents in deeper tones or with interesting textures (such as sponging some walls or adding sisal). If you like a touch of the dramatic, paint a door in primary colors or add a “fool the eye” scene (such as a landscape that seems to be seen through glass). Don’t be afraid to put reds and pinks together, or blues and greens. For real drama, add white trim to deep colors. Remember, if you’re thinking of selling your home soon–neutral tones are “safer.” Splash color around using upholstery, throw pillows, artwork and other furnishings.

2. Give small rooms extra dimension
Put in floor-to-ceiling mirrors. Place one at right angles to a corner window to bring in the outdoors. Mirrors at different angles create a patchwork of repeated patterns that can be interesting, light reflecting and fun.

3. Light up the house
Consider creative lighting, including:
Spotlights to point up art work
Track lights to illuminate bookshelves
Indirect lights or decorative wall sconces wherever shadows are too deep
Under-counter lights in kitchens and workshops
Using incandescent or halogen lighting, which is warmer than fluorescent

4. Transform your floors
Look under foot to refinish, recarpet or retile. Wood floors can be bleached, pickled, stained, painted almost any color or made unique by installing ceramic tiles in the kitchen, or a block of patterned wood (inside a wood border) in the center of a dining room or bedroom.

5. Open spaces and clear surfaces
Go with the trend of fewer furnishings and belongings in view. For things you want handy but not displayed, create storage places:
A window seat
Narrow shelves inside closet and cabinet doors
A tip-down triangular tray (for brushes, sponges, etc.) built into the cabinet at the front of the kitchen sink
A wall system with cubes of different sizes, some with shelves, some with drawers
A “Murphy” bed that folds into the wall

6. Large family kitchens
Top-grade is the trend in appliances, including microwave ovens, disposals and compactors, work islands that sport stainless steel double sinks or a down-vented stove, plus side bookshelves or lift-up table top. The dining end of the kitchen might be equipped with comfortable chairs, a desk, or book shelves. A fireplace turns the kitchen into a homey family room where everyone lingers.

7. Luxurious bathrooms
Make your privacy a pleasure. You might install light dimmers and thermostatically controlled mixer taps, extra mirrors, a solarium window, or create a sunken bath set in a raised floor that houses the plumbing.

8. Year-round comfort
Utility bills can be lower when windows are installed with low-emissity glass (gas filling between panes) that can be twice as efficient as double-glazed windows. They reflect heat, keeping your home cooler in summer and warmer in winter. An invisible coating also blocks ultraviolet light and protects furnishings.

9. Makeover the garage
The car park may not be the most beautiful part of your home, but it may be the most useful space you have–if it’s soundly built, clean, well organized and uncluttered. A garage can double as a workshop, garden house or playground. An automatic door opener is the warmest welcome in wet or cold weather.

10. Consider safety and convenience
Whatever alarm system you add to your basic smoke detector contributes to your peace and security. Electronic “smart” devices can be installed to turn lights, appliances and heating/air conditioning off and on at pre-set times, to warn of intrusion or announce a visitor, to remind you (in a synthesized voice) when you’re due at an appointment or when you’re using too much electricity. Home improvement possibilities are endless. But if your home can’t accommodate your dreams–with neither love nor money–remember there are homes in the area that will. When you’re ready to explore the possibilities, we’re here to help make your dreams come true.

Is it time to Refinance your home?

There are plenty of reasons for a homeowner to refinance a current mortgage. Lowering a monthly payment is probably the most popular reason, but there are others. Do you want to pay off your loan more quickly? Has your credit rating improved since you bought your home, allowing you to now get a better rate? Do you want to put some of your equity to work in other ways? Each reason leads to a different way of thinking about refinancing.
Many homeowners start thinking about refinancing when the current interest rate is lower than their mortgage-loan rate. Traditionally, homeowners have been advised to follow the “2-2-2 rule” when considering refinancing. This rule of thumb says your new interest rate should be at least 2 percentage points below your current rate. You should have lived in the home at least 2 years. And, you should be planning to stay at least 2 more years.

Although the “2-2-2 rule” is good advice in many cases, you should decide for yourself (with some professional advice!) what’s best in your situation. If the market doesn’t allow you to refinance into a lower-rate mortgage, you may still have a reason to change loans.

Some homeowners want to extend a 15-year loan into a 30-year plan to lower their monthly costs. Other homeowners who don’t plan to move for 5 years or more may benefit from a new mortgage even if it is only 1 percentage point lower than the old one.

Imagine you had a $200,000 mortgage at 8% over 30 years with a payment of $1,467 per month. If the loan amount is down to $175,500 (after making payments for about 10 years), you could use one of these strategies to lower your payment:

1. Lower Rate.
One method is to seek out a lower interest rate for the balance of $175,500. By lowering the interest rate to 7%, but maintaining the current payment schedule (20 more years of payments in the above example) your payment would drop to about $1,361 and the loan would still be retired at the original 30-year mark.
2. Longer Term.
Another way to lower your payment would be to prolong the length of the amortization. For instance, by getting a new 30-year mortgage for $175,500 at the 10-year mark, your payment would drop to $1,167 (at 7%).
3. Cash Out.
Some homeowners pull equity out of their properties for home improvement, vacation, college costs, big-ticket purchases or to consolidate debt. Especially when interest rates are rising or stable, cashing-out is often the primary reason for refinancing.
4. Change Loan Type.
Other folks refinance in order to change the type of loan they are paying off. Some homeowners grow uncomfortable with the variability of adjustable-rate mortgages and would rather have a fixed-rate loan. Others need to reduce monthly expenses and choose an adjustable-rate loan to lower their payment.
5. Shorter Term.
Sharpen Your Pencils!
Determining how much you can afford to finance in today’s market requires careful consideration and a bit of math. If you are thinking about refinancing an existing mortgage or buying a home, use these charts to help you plan. Then call us, so we can answer your questions and help you take the next step!

Separate your “wants,” “needs,” and “must-haves.”

We all have our wish lists. Making that list is one of the best first exercises in buying a home. Go for it. Write down everything under the sun that appeals to you in a home. Check out open houses. Read home and decorating magazines. Visit home design centers. Now refine your list. Separate your “needs” from the “wants.” Ask yourself what is a “must-have,” and what is a “nice to have.” As you go about home shopping, keep the list handy. Often we find our first-time buyers are continually editing their wish list as they learn more about homes for sale in today’s market. When you find the right home for you, you may not even have to consult the list. You’ll know. This is the first home that’s right for you. Happy home finding!