Latest Blog Posts

6 Summer Home Improvement Projects

While sometimes the winter blues can make a person want to make home improvements, in many cases, summer is the best time for such projects. (Do you really want wet, dirty feet tracking through your house all winter?) While summertime is when attention moves outdoors, that doesn’t mean all summer home improvements need to be relegated to the patio. Here are a few home improvements perfect for summer that you may not have considered: 1. Don’t build the pool, but plan it “Summer is the best time for a self-analysis for big outdoor-area improvements,” says landscape designer and winner of the 2009 Oasis Award for outdoor kitchen design, Brian Griffith. “Ask yourself, `how do I use my outdoor space?’ Then ask yourself, `how do I wish I used my outdoor space?’ Summer is a really good time to take a good look at how you experience outdoor living.” And take note of Griffith’s rule of thumb: “The less comfortable it is, the less likely you are to use it.” 2. Focus on your windows When the dog days hit, the next best thing to being outside is looking outside. There’s nothing like a great summer storm through a big picture window. And there is no better time than summer to invest in new windows to keep out the cold in winter and minimize heat in the summer — or just expand your view all around. 3. Shade, shade, shade A super-hot summer can leave your patio and barbecue areas neglected. Consider using the summer months to plant new trees in strategic places that will afford you some great natural shade at some point down the road. In the meantime, look into other ways to get shade now. “Covered porches, umbrellas, and affordable pergolas really help make wonderful living spaces,” says Griffith. These days, shading devices come in so many shapes and colors, so you can embrace your own style and keep things cool. 4. Prepare for winter Any large-scale construction jobs are best done in the summer months for a lot of obvious reasons. (For one, as in Taylor’s case, no workmen will be trailing in heavy winter mud and slush to and from your indoors to outdoors.) But also, it’s ultimately less intrusive to you and your family if, say, to install new insulation, taking a wall down would otherwise freeze you out. So, whatever grievances you have — from the leaky roof at the last big spring rain to that room that you can’t live without — break ground on those improvements in the summer and take the kids to the pool. 5. Repaving “Summer is definitely the time to repave your driveway,” says Steven Mazur, a carpenter in New York City. “You will get a lot better adhering than when it’s cold. And it’s just a generally bad idea to repave when it’s raining or snowing.” Summer is also the time to do work to any walkways on your property. 6. Refinish outdoor surfaces A beautiful gloss to a wooden deck will not only protect it, but make it look like new. “Summer,” advises Mazur, “is definitely the time to re-oil wood, refinish the deck, or just scrape off old paint and repaint.” These are projects that are easy do-it-yourselfers, and are best accomplished, and then enjoyed, in the summer months.”

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5 Tips for Getting Your Home Ready for the Spring Market

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Even thought it’s still chilly out, before you know it, spring will be here. Historically in most real estate markets, the spring is when it really begins to heat up. The spring real estate market generally yields the highest prices for those selling their home. This is only possible though if the proper preparations are taken before spring is upon us! If you’re thinking of selling your home in the spring, you must know that even though you may receive top dollar for your home, the competition will also be the strongest. This means it’s absolutely critical that you’re prepared for the spring real estate market so you can knock out your competition. Check out these tips so that you’re prepared. Begin Interviewing Prospective REALTORS® It doesn’t matter what time of year you decide to sell your home, it’s critical that when selling a home, you know how to interview REALTORS® when selling a home. As spring continues to approach, the top producing REALTORS® will only continue to get busier. Make sure you start reaching out to the agents you think would be a great representative to sell your home sooner rather than later. (Hopefully you chose us!) Know What Your Plan Is One huge mistake sellers make is not knowing what their plan is once they sell their home. Are you planning on buying another home once your home sells? Do you have the option to move in with family? Can you rent, if need be? Can you buy non-contingent? These are things you should think about and know the answers to before the spring real estate market hits. It’s a great idea to discuss your financing options with a local lender before you list your home for sale. If you can get pre-approved to purchase a home non-contingent, if need be, it can give you a huge advantage over any seller who is selling their home subject to finding a suitable property to purchase. Consider Having a Pre-List Inspection One of the biggest reasons a home sale gets derailed is due to the home inspection. Most buyers will opt to have their offer contingent on an acceptable home inspection. Some buyers can even get alarmed and scared by the smallest home inspection finding. It can be easy to avoid this possibility and have your home inspected by a professional before listing it. Having a pre-list inspection is one of the top things to do before listing a home for sale. Know Your Local Spring Real Estate Market Every real estate community and market is different. Some spring real estate markets begin in late February/early March and others begin in the middle of April. It’s important that you truly understand your local real estate market. The best way to know your local real estate market is by hiring a top REALTOR®. Your REALTOR® should be able to advise you on current, past, and projected market conditions and also give you advice as to when you should list your home. The time you choose to list your home for sale is critical in the spring market. If you wait too long, it’s possible you can miss that prime selling time frame. There are some REALTORS® who will even suggest beating the spring market competition and that it can be beneficial to list a home now and not wait until spring. Clean & Organize I know it’s cliché but it’s imperative to give your home a thorough “spring cleaning.” This doesn’t mean wait until spring though. Be proactive and start cleaning now; you’ll be glad you didn’t wait. A huge turnoff for prospective buyers are foul odors. Things such as smoke odors and pet odors can kill home sales. Here are just a few things to make sure you clean before listing your home: Wash your windows Dust your blinds Dust baseboard trims Clean appliances Clean shower(s) & toilet(s) Clean inside cabinets When selling a home, it’s important that you de-clutter and organize your home, too. A great way to achieve this is by packing. It may sound silly seeing as you haven’t listed your home for sale yet, but you will need to pack at some point anyways, so why not do it now! Clean out closets and pack away anything that you don’t have a necessity for. It is incredible how much better a home will show and how much quicker it will sell if it’s organized and de-cluttered. Final Thoughts The spring real estate market is a great time to be selling a home. Just because your spring market doesn’t begin until mid-April doesn’t mean you should wait to prepare for the sale of your home. Be proactive and follow the above tips for getting ready for the spring real estate market. You will be glad you did when your home sells quickly and for a high price!

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Winter Storm Preparations

Once again we find ourselves in the path of a snow storm that has the potential to drop over a foot of snow in our area.  The National Weather Service has already issued a blizzard watch for Rhode Island.  This means that in addition to snow, our area will likely experience winds over 35mph and very low visibility. Yikes! With perhaps the biggest storm of the season on it’s way, if you haven’t prepared already, now is certainly the time to do so.  Here’s our advice to sure you are prepared for anything Winter Storm Stella has to throw at us. Have A Storm Supply ‘Kit’ Food and Water.  The Red Cross recommends a 3 day supply of easy-to-prepare, non-perishable food as well as one gallon of water, per person, per day. Medication. Have a 7 day supply of medicine on hand. Babies. Have a 7 day supply of diapers, wipes,  formula, baby food, etc. Flashlight. Preferably more than one! Radio. Preset to your local 24 hour weather station. Batteries. Get two sets of batteries for each flash light. Don’t forget the radio too! Candles and Matches. For obvious reasons. Mobile Devices Fully Charged! Designate one device for use in an emergency only. Blankets. Keep blankets in one spot to be found easily. Heavy Clothes. Dig out extra sweatshirts, hats, socks and mittens.  Eventually you’ll have to go outside, but you may not have power to dry your clothes after! Winter essentials. Shovels, rock salt, sand, etc. Also be sure to have extra fuel for generators and snowblowers!  

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Alltown Real Estate Smithfield RI

5 Reasons You Need A Real Estate Agent

Since technology has made finding your next home easier than ever, you may ask yourself “why do I even need a real estate agent?” Here are 5 reasons why you should choose a licensed agent as a partner through the process. ACCESSEveryone is looking for something different in a home and with low inventory, shopping the same way everyone else does won’t get you the house you want. Agents know exactly what is available and have insights on properties that haven’t gone on the market yet. Agents can save you time by customizing a list of homes that are a right fit for your budget, desired area and personal preferences. KNOWLEDGENo one wants to overpay for a home or make an offer that is too low and risk not getting the contract. The best agents go out of their way to fight hard for the best terms and conditions for their clients. This is what they are paid to do. Agents know how the asking price compares to market values. They have access to sales information and other valuable data to make sure you remain competitive. PROTECTIONThe job of an agent is to protect you. They will guide you through the process, negotiate terms and strategize the process. They represent you during home inspections and appraisals and fight to improve your bottom line. When they step in for you, it ensures your frustrations remain minimal. COMMUNICATIONYou need to know what is going on through the process of buying a home. From the start, an agent with help walk you through the financing process. They can connect you with recommended lenders and make sure you look at homes that you can afford. A good agent will make sure you are asking yourself the right questions. They take the time to explain legal contracts and keep you updated regularly on all events with the transaction. TRUSTMany buyers have a home they must sell before they can move into a new one. The sell and buy process can be complicated and you need to have an agent you trust to coordinate and execute it with your best interests in mind. There is no better partner to help you than the one who is also helping you buy. Since a purchase doesn’t usually occur without the sale, it is important that you have someone that linked with the timing and details and knows the importance of each side. When you are ready to buy a home, don’t go it alone. Make sure to contact an Alltown Real Estate partner to save you time, money and keep heartbreak away.

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January Home Improvement – Weekend Projects

January Home Improvement: Weekend ProjectsTips to get your home in tip top shape for the season The holidays are over and the New Year has begun. January is the time to get cracking on lots of little winter home improvement projects, avoiding big winter woes later on. Here’s where to start. WEEKEND #1: Put Away Holiday Decorations The holidays are officially over, so January’s first weekend is the perfect time for a home improvement project: putting away those sparkly decorations. Remove all of your holiday decorations and while you are taking them down, examine them for any damages. Check to make sure all the lights are working, replace any burned out bulbs and make certain the holiday season has not caused wires to fray. This January weekend is the best time to make sure your lights will be in good working order next season. Plus if any damage is found, you can replace them while they are still 50% off! To store your holiday lights, cut some cardboard into 12 by 9 pieces and wrap the lights around it to keep them tidy and at the ready for next year. Be sure to store decorative items in clear plastic bins so you know exactly what is in there, and to be sure moisture does not deteriorate any of the cheer. Place all stored items at the back of your storage area to allow the current seasonal items to be accessible.  WEEKEND #2: Fix Unsightly Wall or Ceiling Cracks By now you have spent some time indoors due to the wintry weather, and you have no doubt noticed a few cracks here and there. This January weekend is a good time to repair them. Here are a couple of tips to help. If you see cracks where your walls meet the ceiling, don’t worry.  While unsightly, they pose no structural risk. These cracks are just from the normal expansion and contraction of your house where two pieces of drywall meet. You might notice cracks in either ceiling or wall seams. This cracking can happen anywhere pieces of drywall meet and is normally caused by the joint compound over the seam drying out.  To fix these unsightly cracks, apply a thin layer of joint compound using a wide spackle knife and let dry. Continue to apply layers, allowing each to set before applying the next. You can apply three layers, and on your last layers, use a narrow spackle knife if you have one. Once the wall has dried, use a fine grade sand sponge or paper to smooth the texture of the wall or ceiling, and then repaint. If you see cracks along your crown moulding and the ceiling, you can easily fix those cracks with a latex paintable caulk. Be sure to smooth the bead of caulk with your finger. Once dry, you can paint the caulk to match the trim if necessary. WEEKEND #3: Clean Tile And Grout Whether it is used for floors, backsplashes or walls, grout is possibly everywhere in your home. Grout does not have to be darker than it was when first applied. Here are some home improvement tips to get dirty grout clean and bright once more and do a little something to help it stay that way.  The type of tile you have and the amount of discoloration on your grout is going to determine how you clean it. If you have an unglazed tile, you want to always use a natural cleanser; glazed tiles allow you to work with a stronger chemical cleanser. You can use a homemade solution of baking soda and a bit of water. Make a paste of the baking soda and water and apply with a toothbrush, working in small areas so the baking soda doesn’t dissolve and loose its abrasiveness. Rinse the area with water once you are done cleaning the grout.  For more stubborn stains on your grout, use diluted bleach before bringing in chemical stripper for the most difficult projects. Once the grout is clean and thoroughly dried, apply a grout sealer, epoxy or acrylic, which is going to help the grout to not absorb any dirt and stains. Do it once, do it right, and your grout will look as nice as your tile for the long haul. WEEKEND #4: Lubricate and Eliminate Squeaks and Creaks Does Old Man Winter have your joints aching this January? No doubt he has the joints of your home aching and creaking as well. If you notice any doors that are not opening as smoothly or sliding the way they used to, that is an easy fix. Grab some WD-40 and attack the working parts of those creaky doors. Lubricate the hinges and the sliding tracks to help smooth out the sticky situation. You can also lubricate the hinges on medicine cabinets and kitchen cabinets with WD-40. Also, every so often, place WD-40 on your key and slide it into the lock to keep those parts working. Once you start you will find yourself working to lubricate just about anything that opens. That’s okay, home improvement addictions are perfectly allowed!

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10 Tips For Saving Energy This Winter

Heating and cooling your home can be among the more expensive components of your utility bill, especially those in regions with extreme temperature shifts. Luckily, making some easy adjustments in your home can dramatically reduce how much you spend on energy. Here are several tips to reduce energy consumption and maintain comfortable temperatures in your home this winter: 1. Use the sun for free heat. That bright orb in the sky should be the focus of temperature control in your residence throughout the year. Open the curtains on your south-facing windows during winter days to bring free heat into your home. Close your window coverings when the sun goes down to keep the heat inside. 2. Bundle up with warm accessories. This is one of the easiest ways to save on your heating bill. Instead of turning the heat up, put on a cozy winter sweater and warm socks. Keep throw blankets on your couch, and add an area rug to insulate the floor. 3. Use ceiling fans to your advantage. Homes that have better ventilation and airflow can be more energy efficient in the summer and winter months. If you have ceiling fans in your apartment, you have more control over ventilation than you know. Ceiling fans can be used strategically to achieve better airflow: counter-clockwise will push hot air up in the summer and clockwise will trap heat inside to keep your rooms warmer during cooler months. Turn your ceiling fan on a low setting to gently push hot air back down. 4. Adjust the thermostat at night. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save about 10 percent per year on your heating bills by turning your thermostat down 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours. Consider investing in flannel sheets and a warm comforter for your bed and keeping your apartment cooler when you sleep. 5. Only heat the rooms you use. If you have rooms that you never use, like guest rooms or large storage areas, close and seal off the vents in those rooms to be more energy efficient and direct the flow of air to the rooms you use most. Energy bills run, on average, $183 per month. By using a space heater in the rooms where you need it and setting the thermostat to 62 degrees, you can save approximately $200 each year. 6. Keep your furnace clean and unblocked. Keeping your furnace and vents properly maintained will reduce energy consumption and help you save. Check your furnace filter monthly, and replace it when it gets dirty. 7. Get a humidifier to add moisture to the air. The air inside your home can become very dry. Moist air feels warmer and holds heat better, so a humidifier can help you feel comfortable when your thermostat is set at a lower temperature. You can also increase the humidity in your apartment with a collection of house plants. 8. Invest in insulation. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs are lost each year due to escaping heat and cold air in homes without proper insulation. Get some inexpensive insulation from your local home improvement store, and cover up all those areas where heat might escape. Start with foam weather stripping for your doors and windows; it’s cheap and is extremely easy to apply. 9. Decorate with LED lights for the holidays. Buy new LED holiday lights, which use at least 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than older, incandescent lighting. In addition to consuming less energy, LED lights don’t emit as much heat and are more resistant to breakage, making them a safer alternative. Bonus tip: Always unplug your holiday lights before going to bed or leaving the house. As with all appliances and electronics, your holiday lights will continue to draw power even when not in use, which adds unnecessary expense to utility bills. 10. Only use exhaust fans when necessary. Exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom pull the hot air that rises to the ceiling out of your apartment. Use exhaust fans sparingly, and shut them off when you are done with them.

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Getting Pre-Qualfied or Pre-Approved

Getting Pre-Qualfied or Pre-Approved Consulting with a lender before you start the home buying process can save a lot of heartache later. If you are considering buying a home, especially for the first time, your first step should be to research lenders in your area. After you have chosen one, your next step should be making an appointment with them to discuss loan options and budgeting, as well as get pre-qualified or pre-approved. Whats the difference? We will tell you, along with 5 things you need to complete the process. Pre-qualification Vs. Pre-approval A mortgage pre-qualification can be useful as an estimate of how much you can afford to spend on your home, but a pre-approval is much more valuable because this means the lender has actually checked your credit and verified your documentation to approve a specific loan amount (usually for a particular time period such as 90 days). Final loan approval occurs when you have an appraisal done and the loan is applied to a particular property. 1. Proof of Income “No verification” or “no documentation” loans are a thing of the past, so all borrowers need to be prepared with W-2 statements from the past two years, recent pay stubs that show income as well as year-to-date income, proof of any additional income such as alimony or bonuses and your two most recent years of tax returns. 2. Proof of Assets You will need to present bank statements and investment account statements to prove that you have funds for the down payment and closing costs, as well as cash reserves. An FHA loan requires a down payment of as low as 3.5% of the cost of the home, while conventional home loans require 10 to 20%, depending on the loan program. If you receive money from a friend or relative to assist with the down payment, you will need a gift letter to prove that this is not a loan. 3. Good Credit Most lenders today reserve the lowest interest rates for customers with a credit score of 740 or above. Below that, borrowers may have to pay a little more in interest or pay additional discount points to lower the rate. FHA loan guidelines have tightened in recent months, too, so that borrowers with a credit score below 580 are required to make a larger down payment. Most lenders require a credit score of 620 or above in order to approve an FHA loan. Lenders will often work with borrowers with a low or moderately low credit score and suggest ways they can improve their score. (For more on credit scores, see Can You Hit A Perfect Credit Score?) 4. Employment Verification Your lender will not only want to see your pay stubs, but is also likely to call your employer to verify that you are still employed and to check on your salary. If you have recently changed jobs, a lender may want to contact your previous employer. Lenders today want to make sure they are loaning only to borrowers with a stable employment. Self-employed borrowers will need to provide significant additional paperwork concerning their business and income. 5. Documentation Your lender will need to copy your driver’s license and will need your Social Security number and your signature allowing the lender to pull a credit report. Be prepared at the pre-approval session and later to provide (as quickly as possible) any additional paperwork requested by the lender. The more cooperative you are, the smoother the mortgage process will be.

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