Nov. 26, 2019

4 Don'ts When Putting Your House on the Market

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

4 Don'ts When Putting Your House on the Market

So you’ve decided to put your home on the market. Congratulations! Hopefully, you’ve brought a rockin’ real estate professional on board to help you list your spot, and together you’ve done your due diligence on what price to ask for. As you start checking things off your to-do list, it’s also important to pay mind of what not to do. Below are a handful of things to get you started.

Don’t over-improve.
As you ready your home for sale, you may realize you’ll get a great return on your investment if you make a couple of changes. Updating the appliances and replacing that cracked cabinet in the bathroom are great ideas. However, it’s important not to over-improve, or make improvements that are hyper-specific to your tastes. For example, not everyone wants a pimped-out finished basement equipped with a wet bar and lifted stage for their rock-and-roll buds to jam out on. What if your buyers are family oriented and want a basement space for their kids to play in? That rock-and-roll room may look to them like a huge project to un-do. Make any needed fixes to your space, but don’t go above and beyond—you may lose money doing so.

Don’t over-decorate.
Over-decorating is just as bad as over-improving. You may love the look of lace and lavender, but your potential buyer may enter your home and cringe. When prepping for sale, neutralize your decorating scheme so it’s more universally palatable.

Don’t hang around.
Your agent calls to let you know potential buyers will be coming by this afternoon. Great! You rally your whole family, Fluffy the dog included, to be waiting at the door with fresh-baked cookies and big smiles. Right? Wrong. Buyers want to imagine themselves in your space, not be confronted by you in your space. Truth be told, it’s awkward for them to go about judging your home while you stand in the corner. Get out of the house, take the kids with you, and if you can’t leave for whatever reason, at least go sit in the backyard.

Don’t take things personally.
Real estate is a business, but buying and selling homes is very emotional. However, when selling your home, try your best not to take things personally. When potential buyers lowball you or say they’ll need to replace your prized 1970s vintage shag carpet with something “more modern,” try not to raise your hackles.

Nov. 26, 2019

Fast and Easy Ways to Improve Your Credit Within Months

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

Fast and Easy Ways to Improve Your Credit Within Months

Improving your credit score can take a few months. So if you’re looking to get an auto or home loan, or want to apply for a new credit card, an early start can give you time to raise your credit score and then get a loan or new credit card at a better interest rate.

Here are some ways to improve your credit within a few months:

Pay your bills on time
Payment history is the most important factor in FICO scores, accounting for up to 35 percent of a credit score. Paying your bills on time — from credit cards to utility bills — can help a lot.

Late payments stay on a credit report for seven years. The longer ago they happened, the less they affect credit scores. If a bill goes unpaid long enough the debt can be sold to a collection agency, which will be reported to credit bureaus.

Set up online alerts when a bill is due, look at your balances online and set automatic payments for a credit card.

Low credit utilization rate
Keeping a low balance lowers your credit utilization rate, which is the amount of credit you’re using. Also called credit usage, it is the second most important factor in credit scores and accounts for 30 percent of a score.

It’s calculated by dividing the total of your balances by your total credit limits. Paying off the balances in full each month should keep the credit utilization rate low — preferably not more than 30 percent on any one card or in total.

Increase your credit limit
Another part of credit usage is how much your credit limit is. Increasing your credit limit just a little by getting a new credit card can lower your credit utilization rate by giving you more money to use.

However, using that higher credit card limit could increase your credit usage, so you may want to use it rarely and pay it off in full each month.

Keep those old credit cards
If you’re thinking about cutting up some old credit cards that you don’t use anymore so that they won’t be tempting to use, forget it.

Age of credit history has a 15 percent impact on a credit score. Creditors and lenders like to see an average account age of more than five years.

Few credit inquiries
Credit inquiries account for 10 percent of a credit score. To minimize the impact on your credit score, keep credit applications to within a one-month period when you need a new credit card or loan.

So, if you’re going to apply for a new and better credit card, apply for all of them in the same month.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Contact me today with your real estate questions!

Nov. 11, 2019

8 Odd Things to Wash in the Dishwasher

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

8 Odd Things to Wash in the Dishwasher

Move over, dinner plates! The dishwasher can actually be used to wash a myriad of strange items. Below is a good rundown. A quick bit of common sense: if sudsing up something super greasy or grimy (like an old hubcap), don't mix your eatery into the same load.

Rubber boots and flip flops. Want to wash your favorite rubber footwear? Pop them in the dishwasher upside down.

Kitchen spongers. Toss them into the silverware tray for a speedy sanitize!

House keys. Ever wonder how filthy your house keys get over the years? So long as none of your keys have electric starters, pop the whole ring into the silverware tray.

Grill rack. Is your grill rack covered in grease? Place it on the top tray and set the heat to high to get it gleaming again.

Hubcaps. Crazy but true! Just add a cup of white vinegar to your detergent and hit start.

Nail clippers. Pop these in the silverware tray and they're good as new.

Tools. Get your favorite tools gleaming with a quick cycle in the washer.

Contact lens cases. The dishwasher is a great place to sanitize these every couple weeks or so.
Nov. 11, 2019

Public Library Resources You May Have Overlooked

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

Public Library Resources You May Have Overlooked

Whether you’re looking for reading material, free WiFi or even employment resources—your local public library has you covered.

If you haven’t set foot in your local library recently, make it a point to carve out some time for a visit. You’ll be surprised to learn about the plethora of resources at your disposal.

Here are some of the things you can find at your local library:

e-books and e-readers. OverDrive is one of the apps used by libraries to loan books to people with e-readers. Some libraries also loan e-readers for free, so be sure to check out this option to avoid lugging around a hefty stack of books.

WiFi. While you can get free internet access at many public places, libraries often provide much more than a simple WiFi signal. In fact, public libraries address disparities in income, geography, socioeconomics and other factors through digital inclusion. This includes free wireless internet service. Even if you don’t have a computer or printer, many libraries offer laptops for checkout.

Technology training. Nearly all public libraries offer technology training, so if you’re looking to brush up on your tech skills, get in touch with your local library to see what they offer. Many libraries offer education and learning programs that patrons can take advantage of, as well.

Employment resources. Libraries are a great place for those seeking employment resources, so if you’re looking for job application assistance, resume development and/or a place to practice your interview skills, check out your local library to see what’s offered. Patrons can also get a helping hand and learn how to use employment databases, as well as direct access to business information resources.

Civic engagement. Community, civic engagement or e-government programs are commonly offered at libraries. Need help completing an online government form? Your local library can likely offer assistance.

Digital entertainment. If sitting down with a good book isn’t your idea of a good time, don’t despair. Libraries offer a plethora of digital entertainment, including CDs, DVDs, audiobooks and even video games. There’s truly something for everyone.

Tools. If your to-do list is overflowing with projects—and you’re not interested in investing in a tool that won’t get much use—a tool lending library is just what you need. Patrons can borrow an assortment of tools, equipment and instruction manuals—returning the items when they’re no longer needed.

Toys. You’ve probably seen a play area full of toys and books for small children within your local library, but did you know that some libraries actually loan out toys? If your children have lost interest in the toys they have at home, a trip to the library could reinvigorate their sense of play.

Passes to local attractions. If you’re looking for something different to do with the family, look into whether your local library offers free or discounted passes to museums, zoos, science centers, botanical gardens and other local attractions. This is a great way to explore your city without breaking the bank.

Take a closer look around your local library the next time you visit. If you’re unsure about a service—and whether or not it’s available—ask a librarian for help. If they don’t offer the service you’re looking for, they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.

Nov. 11, 2019

Public Library Resources You May Have Overlooked

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

Public Library Resources You May Have Overlooked

Whether you’re looking for reading material, free WiFi or even employment resources—your local public library has you covered.

If you haven’t set foot in your local library recently, make it a point to carve out some time for a visit. You’ll be surprised to learn about the plethora of resources at your disposal.

Here are some of the things you can find at your local library:

e-books and e-readers. OverDrive is one of the apps used by libraries to loan books to people with e-readers. Some libraries also loan e-readers for free, so be sure to check out this option to avoid lugging around a hefty stack of books.

WiFi. While you can get free internet access at many public places, libraries often provide much more than a simple WiFi signal. In fact, public libraries address disparities in income, geography, socioeconomics and other factors through digital inclusion. This includes free wireless internet service. Even if you don’t have a computer or printer, many libraries offer laptops for checkout.

Technology training. Nearly all public libraries offer technology training, so if you’re looking to brush up on your tech skills, get in touch with your local library to see what they offer. Many libraries offer education and learning programs that patrons can take advantage of, as well.

Employment resources. Libraries are a great place for those seeking employment resources, so if you’re looking for job application assistance, resume development and/or a place to practice your interview skills, check out your local library to see what’s offered. Patrons can also get a helping hand and learn how to use employment databases, as well as direct access to business information resources.

Civic engagement. Community, civic engagement or e-government programs are commonly offered at libraries. Need help completing an online government form? Your local library can likely offer assistance.

Digital entertainment. If sitting down with a good book isn’t your idea of a good time, don’t despair. Libraries offer a plethora of digital entertainment, including CDs, DVDs, audiobooks and even video games. There’s truly something for everyone.

Tools. If your to-do list is overflowing with projects—and you’re not interested in investing in a tool that won’t get much use—a tool lending library is just what you need. Patrons can borrow an assortment of tools, equipment and instruction manuals—returning the items when they’re no longer needed.

Toys. You’ve probably seen a play area full of toys and books for small children within your local library, but did you know that some libraries actually loan out toys? If your children have lost interest in the toys they have at home, a trip to the library could reinvigorate their sense of play.

Passes to local attractions. If you’re looking for something different to do with the family, look into whether your local library offers free or discounted passes to museums, zoos, science centers, botanical gardens and other local attractions. This is a great way to explore your city without breaking the bank.

Take a closer look around your local library the next time you visit. If you’re unsure about a service—and whether or not it’s available—ask a librarian for help. If they don’t offer the service you’re looking for, they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.

Nov. 9, 2019

5 Weekend Projects That Can Up Your Home's Resale Value

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

5 Weekend Projects That Can Up Your Home's Resale Value

You love your home, but you might choose to sell it later on. And when that time comes, you’ll want to get as much money as you can for your property so you can move onward—and upward.

In order to increase your abode’s value, you might think you have to put in a ton of time, effort and money, but that’s not entirely true. Instead, you can take on weekend projects to gradually spruce up the place so that, when you decide to move, you’ll have an updated property that’ll end up selling itself.

Repaint Kitchen Cabinets

Homebuyers expect kitchens to be updated and will likely pay more if you’ve taken the time to update yours. Stone countertops, stainless steel appliances and sleek flooring all make a space feel modern. Obviously, these changes require a lot of money and time and, occasionally, professional help. That’s why you should tackle the kitchen in bits and start with your cabinets.

Old wooden cabinets with equally dated hardware—think oak doors with shiny brass handles—don’t require a complete gut job. Instead, spend a weekend repainting them a more neutral hue. Finish the project off with new metallic knobs and pulls to complete the modernized look.

Install Crown Molding

Most homes have roughly the same ceiling heights, but there’s a little trick to make yours look bigger—crown molding. Yes, that white line at the top of your painted walls will draw eyes upward, which will make the room appear airier than it may very well be and add a luxurious detail that could increase the bottom line.

This project isn’t for everyone, but it’s easy enough if you’re handy with tools and measurements. You might not be able to install molding throughout your entire home over a single weekend, but you can certainly complete the project on a room-by-room basis.

Boost Curb Appeal
The first impression of a home can make or break a prospective buyer’s interest. Boost your curb appeal by completing a landscape overhaul of your front yard. It can be something as simple as sprucing up your flowerbeds with colorful blooms or adding a paver walkway. All of this will catch the eye of potential buyers—and fatten up the offers they make.

Beautify the Bathrooms
Bathrooms have a big effect on buyers. They expect clean, modern updates, just like in the kitchen. Overhauling your powder room is an easy weekend task that might require small swaps, such as a new modern light fixture over the vanity or a new vanity altogether.

Your full bathrooms will require a bit more attention if you want them to be up to snuff. You’ll likely want to update the lighting fixtures, cabinets, hardware and countertops. If you have the patience to re-tile a wall or backsplash in your bathroom yourself, you won’t have to shell out a ton of money to have someone else do it.

Out With the Outdated
Some accents once considered fresh and fashionable might now give your home a dated appearance. You probably already know what in your home screams ’70s, ’80s or ’90s. Whatever it is, it should go in due course.

The list of outdated design elements is truly endless, but some of the biggest offenders are old-school wallpaper, the floor-to-ceiling wood paneling that may or may not be actual wood, and, of course, popcorn ceilings. By removing these three offenders alone–a popcorn ceiling doesn’t take much effort, but make sure you test for asbestos first–you’ll transport your old home into the present.

Nov. 9, 2019

How Not to Sell Your Home

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

How Not to Sell Your Home

While the fundamentals of home staging, like decluttering and removing family photos, are critical when it comes to getting your home sold, it’s just as important to focus on what not to do as certain factors can act as immediate deal-breakers to would-be buyers. Make sure your for-sale home doesn’t include any of the following turn-offs:

Odors. Whether it’s pet odors, last night’s stir fry or that musty basement, any type of strong odor can be an immediate deterrent to a buyer, no matter how beautifully your home is decorated or staged. We usually get accustomed to our home’s unique scent, so have a professional cleaner do the necessary work to make the environment odor-free.

Artwork. While all art is certainly subjective, keep in mind that not everyone will appreciate artwork with severe subject matter or nudity. Stick to subtle landscapes and still life subject matter, or remove artwork altogether. Sparsely decorated walls will make your home appear more spacious.

Collections. Your shelves of antique dolls or Norman Rockwell plates might be your most prized possession, but for prospective homebuyers who don’t share the same affinity, collections can skew their opinion of your home - not to mention, make it appear very cluttered. Pack away your beloved collectibles in preparation for their new home.

People. Sometimes, being present during showings can be a plus - you can provide buyers with certain details about your home and what you love most about the neighborhood. But most people don’t want the owners present when they tour a home. So clear out and give them the freedom to pour over every detail of your home and make honest comments to the REALTORS.

Weeds. Curb appeal really is everything, so if your yard isn’t up to snuff, buyers may turn around before they ever step foot inside. There’s no need to break the bank - just make sure the basics are covered: mow the lawn, weed borders and beds, trim bushes and trees, and remove all sticks, leaves and debris.
Nov. 9, 2019

Creating Kitchen Designs to Serve a 'Mature Market'

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

Creating Kitchen Designs to Serve a 'Mature Market'

According to a report from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) authored by Doris Pearlman—founder of Denver's Possibilities For Design—those aging into the "mature market" will require a new way of thinking about the kitchen, arguably the most important room in the home.

Pearlman has identified the following trends to consider when designing kitchens for today’s mature market:

- Rethink the double oven. Why not install them in two separate locations—splitting, not stacking them—and eliminate that awkward oven on the bottom?

- Realize that the over-the-range microwave might not only be difficult, but also dangerous for the average consumer.

- Raise the dishwasher with separate drawers installed at counter height.

- Most over 55 households may have more than one cook in the kitchen, so how about two sinks? A prep sink, in addition to the main sink, will create a separate work zone.

Pearlman says that today's working sinks are often two to three inches deeper, accommodating larger pots and pans and keeping splashing to a minimum. Stylish options range from apron sinks (also known as farm sinks) to sleek, contemporary stainless steel designs.

According to kitchen and bath designer Mary Jo Peterson, CKD, CBD, CAPS, when dedicating space to a built-in refrigerator, make sure that the space allotted never extends beyond the countertop. That means when installing a free-standing fridge, a 24-inch depth is a good rule of thumb.

Pearlman suggests creating a kitchen island niche or fold-up extension that accommodates sitting while preparing food for the less mobile resident—or for those who have trouble standing.

You could even situate the microwave at the end of an island, making it more reachable for the mobility-challenged user, or even the grandkids.

Don’t forget to include a tech nook with a docking station to recharge all of today’s gadgets. Pearlman believes the over-50 crowd is quite comfortable with the internet, email and social networking, so a computer desk in the kitchen will allow them to browse for recipes on cooking sites and Pinterest, while being able to monitor the front door at the same time.
Oct. 15, 2019

7 Signs It's Time for You to Downsize

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

7 Signs It's Time for You to Downsize

As they get older or circumstances change, some homeowners realize what was once the perfect home for them might now be too big, impractical or expensive. Moving into a smaller home typically means less maintenance and lower bills. Is it time for you to downsize? Here are seven signs that it might be:

  1. Retirement. Retirement is among the most common reasons homeowners downsize. If you’ve retired or plan on doing so soon, moving into a smaller place could help decrease your annual expenses and stretch out your retirement savings.
  1. Unused Space. Despite what they might say, bigger isn’t always better. If your children have moved out or you have an office or guest rooms collecting dust, you’re likely wasting money by heating and cooling that unused space.
  1. Maintenance. All homes need maintenance, but if the cost, time and physical demands of maintaining your property have grown too overwhelming for you, downsizing to a home with a smaller yard or a rental whose landlord takes care of upkeep could alleviate the burden.
  1. You’re Hardly Home. Wasting money on an unused room can be bad enough, but what if your entire home goes unused while you’re constantly traveling for business or pleasure? Regardless of where you are in the world, you’ll still have bills and property taxes to pay, so getting a smaller place or relocating could be more cost-effective.
  1. Difficulty Getting Around. A home you bought in your 30s might not be the most suitable place for you later in life. If you have trouble climbing stairs due to age or medical issues, it might be time to move to a smaller, one-story home.
  1. Financial Struggles. Maybe your household earns less income than before, or maybe your expenses have skyrocketed for some reason. If you find yourself struggling to make house payments every month, paying for a smaller home may be more sustainable.
  1. You Could Cash In. Market conditions fluctuate, but if similar homes in your neighborhood are selling for top dollar during a long-term upswing, you might want to consider getting in on the action while you can and sell your home. By switching to a smaller home, you could save the extra cash for retirement, or use it to start checking off items on your bucket list.
Oct. 15, 2019

How to Do a Home Detox

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Street Realty Group

How to Do a Home Detox

While you may have tried a juice cleanse or a gluten-free diet to rid your body of unhealthy substances, have you ever considered what harmful elements might be inhabiting your home?

According to the home experts at Martha Stewart Living, giving your home a detox is a great way to purge chemicals and toxins that can lead to health hazards like allergies, asthma and more serious issues such as cancer. While going completely chemical-free may be impossible, here are six things you can do to improve your home’s health, and more importantly, yours:

1. Household cleaners are one of the biggest sources of toxins in the home, so opt for natural cleaners such as baking soda, white vinegar, water and castile soap - a soap made only from vegetable oils that is both biodegradable and nontoxic. And don’t forget good, old-fashioned elbow grease.

Before you throw away your old cleaning products, check with your city’s sanitation department to find out how to safely dispose of hazardous household waste. Never pour them down the drain as they could contaminate water supply.

2. If you still want to buy cleaners, look for those that don’t contain phosphates, chlorine or artificial fragrances. For scented products, choose those that use essential oils for their fragrance.

3. Remove toxins from your indoor air by eliminating volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are often found in scented air fresheners and disinfectants, as well as paints, carpeting and flooring. Increase ventilation by cracking a window or using an exhaust fan while cleaning. A good air filter will also do the trick; just be sure to change the HVAC filters regularly.

4. Test your water for lead, heavy metals and PH levels, and buy a water filter if necessary.

5. Read ingredient labels on skin care products, and familiarize yourself with common ingredients that may be harmful to your health, such as parabens  (a preservative) and triclosan (an antibacterial agent).

6. Incorporate essential oils into your household routine, both in terms of your cleaning and personal care. Anytime “fragrance” is listed as an ingredient on a product, it may be hiding up to 3,000 ingredients that manufacturers are not required to disclose. Remember, essential oils are highly concentrated, so diffuse them accordingly.