Selling Your Home

Summer Projects Worth Doing!

Another Northampton summer is finally upon us. For many people this means, among other things, that new light may be shed upon various projects required to improve your home or property, which weren't apparent during the winter months. 

I love finding encouragement to support a hard won decision. We finally decided to green light our screened in porch construction after two years of hemming and hawing -- and we are super excited that we will have an outdoor space which keeps the bugs out! In addition, look at the words of wisdom I happened upon from the wonderful Apartment Therapy website below - this just happens to suggest that our decision was a good one!

Summer Projects That Will Give You Good Return on Investment

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

You don't have to do a total renovation to increase the value of your home. Simple home improvement projects — like landscaping, new doors or shutters, or just a new paint job — can do wonders, majorly transforming the look of your house and bumping up its value.

Landscaping

It's well-agreed that boosting your home's curb appeal will pay off when it's time to sell — though estimates range from 100 to 1,000 percent ROI. Regardless of the exact numbers, it's clear: You'll likely get out more than what you put in. Realtor.com has some ideas, ranging from weeding and maintenance to planting trees (which almost always add value).

Painting

A freshly painted home can get you a 5 to 10 percent premium when you go to sell. It's a no-brainer to paint over those rooms that are scuffed or really need it, but if you're looking to sell in the near future, you can also use paint to appeal to buyers and command a higher sale price for your home. For instance, a recent study from Zillow found that blue is a color likely to bump up the selling price of a space.

Decks and Patios

If you were thinking about getting a deck, patio or porch already, good news: It offers a 90.3 percent average return. You also get a good return if you revamp the deck you already have. You want to make sure all the boards, railings and stairs look sharp and are in safe working order. No one wants a deck that looks like a hazard to have their kids around. And adding things like lighting, planters and gates can up the value even more.

New Doors

Both garage door and entry door replacements have a high return on investment, at 80.7 percent and 98 percent, respectively. Spicing these up can increase the curb appeal over traditional, drab doors. It'll give your place something unique that other homes won't have.

by Sarah Landrum

Jun 23, 2017

What's with the Low Inventory of Homes for Sale in Northampton?

LOW INVENTORY OF SINGLE FAMILY HOMES FOR SALE

According the the MLSPIN (Pioneer Valley chapter of MLS), there were 61 single family homes listed for sale between March 1st and May 1st of 2016 alone. Here we are in mid April of 2017, and there are only 45 single family homes on the market in Northampton. Some of these are new construction opportunities, and some are already under agreement. 

Pictured Above, 32 Liberty Street in Northampton, MA

Agents within our office have anecdotes of packed open houses, with multiple offers being submitted and buyers being outbid on the few houses that have come on the market this spring. This article from realestate.boston.com confirms that housing inventory in Massachusetts is at an all-time low.

Whatever the factors are behind the dearth of new single-family listings - the fact is that now is a great time to sell! Buyers are eager to buy, interest rates are still low. So, if you are a seller thinking about possibly selling your home - the first step is to reach out to your agent to find out what our opinion of market value would be. There is no question that the demand is high, and many houses are selling for above asking price in this climate. Contact us today to set up your comparative market analysis!

Paint it Black!

As an admitted design junkie, those of you who have read my blog before know that I am a huge fan of the Apartment Therapy website and blog. A good friend of mine, who has an amazing eye for design, recently traveled to Amsterdam. When she came back, she told me she intended to paint all of the woodwork on her windows black, like many of the houses she saw during her travels. This is a woman who means business. When she has a vision, she makes it happen. I was curious about this trend, and whether it would appeal to me as well. I happened upon this story on Apartment Therapy which makes the use of black paint as an accent look extremely appealing! I think the key is to choose one element in a room, which will make the rest of the room "pop".

As realtors, we here at Maple + Main Realty see trends come and go with some frequency. Paint is a great way to update a space without commiting to a large, expensive renovation. In addition, paint can be painted over if you tire of the look! And a fun trend such as limited use of black paint can freshen up a space and make it look as if you have done more extensive work than you have. 

Check out the article from Apartment Therapy here:

 

7 Things to Paint Black Today

 

There's a reason black is a classic: it's dark, it's beautiful, it matches with almost everything. And it's a great way to add a little contrast, drama and depth to an interior that needs a little extra pizazz. Here are seven weekend painting projects that will add a little bit of black -- and a whole lot of style -- to your home.

 

Your stairs.

Paint just the railing, or just the stairs, or both for a little extra impact.

 

 

Doors.
Add instant class to any space, without the trouble of painting a whole room.



 

 

The bathtub.
If you have an old cast iron tub, painting the outside is a great way to refresh your bathroom without remodeling. Ohmega Salvage has a great guide to this.



 

 

Kitchen cabinets.
Try just the upper cabinets, just the lower cabinets (the two-tone look is in) or go for broke and paint them all.



 

The fireplace.
Give the focal point of the room a little extra oomph.


 

The ceiling.

Painting your ceiling black is a bold choice that can make a large room seem cozier, and will make any room much more dramatic.





 

Bookcases.
If you love your bookcases, painting them black is a great way to set them off -- and draw attention to all those lovely volumes.





(Image credits: Design Sponge; SF Girl by Bay; Martha Stewart; My Domaine; Design Sponge; Apartment Therapy; Birgitta Drejer via Trendenser)

 

Low Inventory of Houses for sale in the Pioneer Valley?

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, our local Northampton, MA newspaper, ran an interesting article this week about the dearth of inventory of homes for sale in the Pioneer Valley. The article suggests that homeowners are staying put, vs. downsizing or retiring and moving, as a contributing factor to the low inventory of homes for sale. The article also points out that while there may be low inventory of houses on the market, it's a very good time to buy, as mortgage interest rates remain low. 

A quick check of the MLSPIN (Multiple Listing Service Property Information Network) - the MLS database for Western MA, today shows 69 homes for sale in the $200,000 to $500,000 range in Amherst, Northampton and Easthampton; and 29 listings in the $505,000 to $1,500,000 range in the same 3 communities. On a micro level, what we realtors at Maple and Main tend to see, is that the majority of buyers we work with are looking to buy in the under $500,000 range, but within walking distance to town. The problem is that houses which fit that description are few and far between. While you may find a house that is within the under $500K price range and close to town (whether it be Northampton, Florence or another local community), it will often need some TLC, have a small yard, be on a busy road - or have some other perceived negatives. Once the spring market becomes active, we do tend to see a great deal of foot traffic at our open houses -- as if buyers have been waiting in the wings for inventory to hit the market.

The article also states that it pays to be ready to go, so that you can take immediate action when the house you are looking for becomes available. This means being prequalified with a (local) bank so that you can make a competing offer right away. And to have a buyer agent with whom you are working, so that you can monitor the MLS together, and be ready to see houses as they become available.

65 Fairview Street in Northampton. Sold in 2015 by Maple and Main Realty, LLC

 

For the full article, read on below.

 

Inventory woes hit Valley’s housing market


By DAVE EISENSTADTER

Monday, February 22, 2016


NORTHAMPTON — The buzz words that have always made the Valley’s housing market attractive — stability and steady growth — remain the same in 2016, but experts are sounding an alarm over another phenomenon that is pulling the market down.

There simply aren’t enough homes for sale, said Rick Sawicki, owner/manager of Sawicki Real Estate in Amherst and 2016 president elect of the Real Estate Association of the Pioneer Valley.

“There’s a lack of inventory and that’s across the state,” Sawicki said in his office earlier this month. “That’s why sales haven’t bounced up as much as we’d like them.”

Sawicki believes the market has bounced back to where it was in 2007 and 2008 before the recession that slashed housing prices. But due to pent up demand, the houses that are going on the market are being quickly snatched up, he said.

This is good news for sellers looking to unload their homes quickly, though prices have yet to bounce back to pre-Recession levels. The good news for buyers is that interest rates remain at historic lows, but they’ll have to act fast to snare their dream home.


At the market’s peak in the spring of 2008, for example, there were about 130 houses for sale in the Amherst area. The average over the past several years has been 70 for sale. Now there are 38 houses on the market, he said.

In 2014, 1,062 houses were sold in Hampshire County and that number increased 17 percent in 2015 to 1,242, according to statistics compiled by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. The median price of homes sold in the county dropped slightly in 2015, to around $257,000 compared to $260,000 from the year before.

Hampshire County is lucky because it has the five colleges, Sawicki said. Unlike in other states where residents can depend on factories that might close or move overseas, the University of Massachusetts and the other institutes of higher learning are stable, he said.

The region has slow years when UMass has hiring freezes, but then will have great years when the university expands, he said.

“The plus side for us is that they are not going anywhere,” he said.

The new reality?

Sawicki said he and other Realtors are just now starting to figure out why there have not been as many homes for sale. People are staying in their homes longer rather than downsizing due to drops in housing prices. People are also working for more years rather than retiring, he said.

Additionally, would-be first-time owners are saddled with college debt, which has become a centerpiece of the presidential campaign on the Democratic side, he said. That means some live with their parents, giving further incentive for their parents to keep their larger home.

Sawicki hopes this isn’t the new reality.

“We don’t see as many first-time home buyers,” he said. In prior years before the recession, Sawicki said about a third of his customers were buying their first home. At the moment, he said he does not have any.


Stability continues

Craig Della Penna of Murphy Realtors said at his Florence office earlier this month that the key to the Valley’s stability in this market is its connection to walkable downtown areas.

“Places like Southern California and Arizona, places where there were huge tracts of cookie cutter locations, took it on the chin the worst,” he said. “That doesn’t fit the description here.”

According to Della Penna, historic neighborhoods featuring grid-pattern streets, sidewalks and porches are the ones that are resilient and popular.

“That is the location of the future,” he said. “That type of a layout held stronger and after the recession that is where people want to be.”

He said living in the communities of the Valley brings out civic engagement in people, and residents find themselves more invested in their neighborhoods.

“That means joining thankless long hours on boards and commissions here in the city as a volunteer, or they will participate in ways they probably didn’t where they used to live,” he said.

Della Penna’s specialty is selling houses near conservation land, particularly near bicycle trails that have been converted from old railroad tracks. He believes that such trails have the power to revitalize neighborhoods.

As for the recession, Della Penna said he knew the region had moved beyond it shortly after the 2012 election. Sixty prospective buyers came to an open house the following month in a Florence location.

“Realtors that were experienced around here, we knew we were out of the recession,” he said.

Della Penna had 25 sales in the past year, he said. At the same time, his business skews toward the higher end houses, meaning that he has not sold to as many first-time buyers. He described the market as a seller’s market, meaning that those selling homes have the upper hand over those buying them.

Interest rates

Though they have to act fast, buyers can still take advantage of historically low interest rates despite a recent rate hike approved by the Federal Reserve.

“We heard so much about the federal rate going up, but in actuality rates have come down,” Barbara-Jean DeLoria, senior vice president and director of mortgage lending at Florence Savings Bank, said in an interview this month. “The fed has lowered the interest rates over the past few weeks, which is really interesting.”

Florence Savings Bank offers a 3.75 percent 30-year mortgage.

“We really are at the bottom,” she said, referring to the rate. “In my 25 years of banking I have seen rates that have been at 12 percent, 7 percent and now as low as 3.5 percent.”

She said she does not expect rates to rapidly increase any time soon. “I don’t think the state of the economy can sustain that,” she said.

DeLoria said the bank determines a potential buyer’s debt-to-income ratio to decide what amount they can afford to borrow. By prequalifying a customer in this way, it gives that customer the knowledge of what they can afford and the power to negotiate, she said.

Mortgages are on the rise in the area. Florence Savings, for example, in 2014 approved 400 mortgages, and in 2015 the number was 523, according to DeLoria.

Countywide, the value of all mortgages rose about 17 percent — from $667 million to $782 million — keeping up with the increase in home sales, according to DeLoria.

Realtor Rachel Simpson of Goggins Real Estate based in Northampton is waiting for the spring.

In the winter of 2014, sales were down because of the cold and snowy weather, and then the market picked up in the spring, as it always does, she said.

Up until some recent snowstorms, the market remained active, but it is slow due to a lack of houses on the market.

“There’s a lot of buyers looking for inventory and there isn’t much inventory,” she said.

The hottest time of the market is the spring, and for that reason many prospective sellers and buyers wait until then to become active in the market.

At the same time, preparing to buy or sell can take time, so Simpson is advising sellers to start cleaning their house and preparing it for showings and buyers to go out and look at some homes.

Simpson said with online listings there is a lot of cursory information available, but that nothing replaces going to see a house in person.

“I encourage people to look and not to be afraid to go look at something even if they are not sure,” she said. “The more you know, the better off you are and the better informed you’re going to be to putting in an offer.”

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@gazettenet.com.

 

The Pioneer Valley has some of the hottest real estate markets in the Bay State!

Great news for homeowners in the Pioneer Valley! According to this article on the Boston.com website, home sales in the Bay State in 2015 indicate that of the 25 "hottest" cities, we are cornering the market! East Longmeadow, Westfield, Holyoke and Easthampton all make this list! This means that house sales have increased significantly in each of these four local communities, all within striking distance of Northampton, since 2014.

We Maple and Main realtors have certainly noticed this trend first-hand. Easthampton alone showed vigorous home sale activity during our busy Spring/Summer market of 2015. We look forward to a continuation of this trend in Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties in 2016 and beyond! 

 

These are the 25 ‘hottest’ cities and towns in Massachusetts:

Photo credit: Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe - Holyoke, MA



By Megan Turchi @meganturchi

February 5, 2016 

It was a big year for home sales in the Bay State.
The recent 2015 Massachusetts Housing Report from Waltham-based Lamacchia Realty points out that 83,961 homes sold in the state last year, a 9 percent increase from 2014. The average sale price of these homes also went up 3.6 percent.
Lamacchia Realty attributes this increase in sales to factors such as loosening mortage guidelines, low interest rates, increased home equity, and an overall stronger local economy.
But of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, some saw the number of home sales increase more than others.
As Anthony Lamacchia of Lamacchia Realty notes in his most recent report about the hottest housing markets of 2015, when a town or city sees a big jump in home sales from one year to another, it’s a strong indicator that it is “becoming a sought-after location for homeowners”—in other words, a “hot” market.
This could also be an indicator for what we can expect to see in these cities and towns throughout 2016.
Here is Lamacchia Realty’s list of the 25 hottest towns and cities in Massachusetts real estate for 2015:

 

Buying or Selling a Home In Today's Market

Local, Northampton MA, finance writer, Ilana Polyak, recently wrote the following article for CNBC.com, and interviewed our very own co-owner/manager of Maple and Main Realty LLCJulie Held for the article! Although real estate transactions are handled differently from region to region - this article has many salient points for local buyers and sellers alike. Read on for some solid advice on buying or selling a home!

Buying and selling a home: What you need to know

There have been rumblings for years from the Federal Reserve that interest rates are going to rise. But so far that hasn't quelled homebuying activity. Median existing single-family homes clocked in at $229,400 in the second quarter of 2015, up from $177,000 in 2012, a rise of more than 29 percent.


Phillip Spears | Getty Images

In some markets, such as New York and San Francisco, prices have climbed much faster than the national averages, due to a supply-and-demand imbalance. That means buyers must do their due diligence and be in good financial shape before showing up at an open house; otherwise, it's likely they'll lose out to others more prepared to make a solid offer.

To navigate this often complicated and stressful process, here's what both buyers and sellers need to know about homebuying.


For buyers ...

Are you mortgage-ready? Banks' willingness to lend money ebbs and flows with the economy, said Las Vegas Realtor Linda Rheinberger, regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors.

"The pendulum is swinging," she said.

To be sure, borrowers with a credit score of 760 or higher (850 is the highest score) get the best interest rates. On a $300,000 mortgage, top borrowers would pay about $100 less per month than those with a score between 660 and 679, according to Fair Isaac, a credit score company.

If your credit score isn't up to snuff, take some time to fix it before you start home shopping.

"You can turn your credit around in six months," said Linda Ferrari, a Los Angeles real estate broker and author of "The Big Score: Getting It and Keeping It." "If there are a lot of challenges," she added, "it might take a year."
Start by getting a copy of your credit report, Ferrari said. First, look for any errors and correct them. Second, pay down some debt. You can improve your score quickly by keeping the amount of money you owe to less than 25 percent of the credit you have available. That could boost your score by 25 points, Ferrari said.

Preapproval: a must-have. In a hot real estate market, a mortgage preapproval can make all the difference between winning a bid or not.

"If there are multiple buyers, you want the seller to know that you know what it takes to get this deal done," said Jeff Goodman, a New York-based real estate agent with Halstead Property.

And if yours is the only offer on the table, a preapproval might help you snag a property for less than asking price, Goodman said. It signals that you've done most of the legwork already and there aren't likely to be delays.

"In real estate, time kills deals," he said.

What's more, preapproval tells you how much you can borrow, explained Julie Held, co-owner and broker of Maple and Main Realty in Northampton, Mass.. "Otherwise, you may be looking at completely the wrong price range," she said.
It's important to know the difference between preapproval and prequalification, which people often use interchangeably. They're different. Prequalification is an estimate of how much you can borrow. A prequalification may or may not affect your credit. It all depends on whether a lender checks credit reports during this stage and how often you apply.

Preapproval goes a step further and analyzes your creditworthiness. After that, all that's left for the lender is to evaluate the property you wish to buy.

Down payments and closing costs. How much to put down for a down payment varies by market and by property type.

"Twenty percent is ideal in order to avoid private mortgage insurance," Held said. Private mortgage insurance, which runs about 1 percent to 2 percent of your loan amount, will be tacked on to your monthly mortgage if you have less than 20 percent equity in your home.

First-time homebuyers under certain income thresholds can get a loan through the Federal Housing Authority for as little as 3.5 percent down. FHA will insure mortgages made through FHA-approved lenders.

FHA loan limits vary based by region. In the Bay Area and New York City, for example, the limit is $625,000 for single-family homes. Meanwhile, it is $271,050 for most counties in Alabama.

However, not all sellers will want to accept an FHA offer, because they worry that the appraisal might take longer and the inspections will be more rigorous. "The truth is, if you go in with 20 percent down and a preapproval, you're going to get the home instead of someone with 3.5 percent down and FHA financing," Ferrari said.

After the down payment, you'll still need to have cash on hand for closing costs, which typically run 1 percent to 3 percent of the purchase price. In addition to fees paid to the bank, you'll also need to pay for an inspection, property taxes and title insurance. Some lenders may roll up closing costs into your mortgage.

Remember to budget for your move, too. Along with direct moving costs, you'll probably be running out to a hardware store every few days for something new to feather your nest with.

For sellers ...

Watch the taxes. The federal allowance for how much profit you can get without paying capital gains tax is pretty high — $250,000 for singles and $500,000 for couples. To walk away without paying the capital gains tax, you must have lived in the home two out of the last five years.

But that doesn't mean you won't pay taxes on the sale of your home. Most states and municipalities also levy a transfer tax.

In some parts of Nevada, where Rheinberger of the National Association of Realtors works, that amounts to just a few dollars per $1,000 of the sale price. But in the Bay Area, where Linnette Edwards is an associate broker with Better Homes & Gardens, it runs to $15 per $1,000.

"On a million-dollar home, you're talking about $15,000," Edwards said.

In New York City, there's also a mansion tax — 1 percent of the sale price of properties that sell over $1 million.

Depending on the market, sellers might be able to negotiate this tax and get the buyer to shoulder some of this responsibility, said Edwards. But most of the time, this is the seller's responsibility.

Timing is everything — hopefully. Then there are those times when you're both a buyer and a seller. Sometimes you get the timing down just right. But if not, you could end up owning two properties at once or having a gap between selling and buying.

Contingency. If you're a seller in a hot market, you might have some leverage to push the closing date of the property you're selling to one that makes it convenient for you.
 

Goodman, the New York City broker, tells of a Harlem townhouse whose owner needed six months to clear out a lifetime of papers and mementos.

"The buyers weren't thrilled," he said. "But they got the property, even though they bid $40,000 less than someone because they were willing to wait."
Bridge loan. When you have children and pets, not to mention piles of laundry lying around, it can be nearly impossible to make your home ready for showings at a moment's notice. Families, said Goodman, often prefer to sell their home after they've moved out.

In this case, if you don't have the income to pay two mortgages at once, a bridge loan may be the answer. A bridge loan, also known as gap financing or interim financing, is a short-term loan — usually up to one year — that is backed by some form of real estate. Most borrowers take the bridge loan against their current property to finance the purchase of the new property.

Interest rates are high, however. Expect to pay about two percentage points more for a bridge loan than a conventional mortgage.

— By Ilana Polyak, special to CNBC.com

 

Keeping Up with the Needs of your Home

It's hard to pinpoint the moment at which your newly renovated kitchen or bath starts to feel and look dated. As the months and years go by, something shifts. Is it that the paint has faded? Is it that the white square tile just isn't as timeless a choice as white subway tile would have been? Are you wishing you had chosen oil-rubbed bronze fixtures vs. chrome? Whatever the case may be, time does take it's toll on our homes - both stylistically and actually. As realtors, we are often pointing out to sellers, that when faced with what to focus on with regard to house updates for resale, it's the systems that should come first. Roofs, windows and trim, HVAC systems, gutter cleaning, moisture management in basements -- all of these items may be less compelling than a gorgeous bathroom renovation - but aesthetic choices are subjective. For instance, If you spend a lot of money on a kitchen renovation in lieu of replacing an aging roof or aging HVAC system - buyers may not like your design choices; they would therefore be less likely to buy your home than a home with a slightly dated kitchen but a new roof and updated HVAC system.  Giving a house or room a fresh coat of paint can liven up the space without spending a lot of money.

The following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette gives sound advice about the "whens" and "whys" to start taking on home improvement projects in an aging home.

 

 

Living Smart: Projects for your home’s difficult teen years



As your house approaches 20 years old, consider steps to improve window efficiency. (Summer Galyan/Angie's List/TNS)

By Michele Dawson Angie’s List (TNS)
Thursday, November 5, 2015


When it comes to home improvement projects on your house that’s coming of age, there’s no denying that your roof, windows and air conditioning and heating units might be getting moody, temperamental or give you the silent treatment altogether.

As your home ages, it will require more upkeep and improvements. It’s especially important to stay on top of some of the more potentially troublesome elements of your home — ones that can cause you massive headaches and put a huge dent in your wallet.

Many changes both small and large can increase energy efficiency and cut down on electricity or gas bills, as well as increase home value if and when you plan to sell your house.

If your home’s age is in the double-digits, some of the home improvement projects on your to-do list will include:

Roof repairs, shingles and gutters


While staying on top of roof maintenance should take place regardless of the age of your home, it becomes even more important in the teen years. The National Roofing Contractors Association says you should examine the condition of the shingles. Any sign of blistering, buckling or curling means it’s time to replace them. You should also check the chimneys and pipes for wear or anything that seems to be coming apart. Also, check your gutters for any shingle granules. If you’re finding healthy amounts in the gutter, that means they’re not on the shingles and your roof is missing out on ultraviolet ray protection. If you find any of these problems, consider a roof repair by a licensed roofing contractor.

Gutter cleaning plays an important role in protecting your gutters, downspouts and foundation. Keep a clean gutter by regularly hiring a gutter cleaning company, and consider adding gutter guards to further protect them.

Window replacement and repair

As your windows age, they’re bound to lose the battle with draftiness or become stubborn and stick to their frames, and you’ll likely see your energy bill increase. Checking your windows for drafts and caulking is an easy solution that can be completed in a weekend and with minimal expense. Or you might consider new replacement windows with high energy efficiency. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says you’ll save 7 to 15 percent on your energy bill, and your home’s temperature will be consistent. No more drafts if you’re sitting by the window or rooms that feel too hot in the summer. A vinyl window overhaul can cost you upwards of $10,000 to $15,000. But the good news is that you’ll recover about 78 percent of that when you sell your home, according to Hanley Wood’s 2014 Cost vs. Value Report.

Heating and cooling

Life expectancy in HVAC units is typically 10 to 15 years. Units produced today are much more energy-efficient than the models just a decade ago. If you’re constantly calling an HVAC contractor, your unit is noisy, it’s humid inside your house, your energy bills are rising, or your unit’s SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is less than 13, then it’s time to consider replacing your heating and cooling unit with a model that boasts higher energy efficiency. A licensed HVAC contractor can perform a load calculation that gets the most efficient model for your money.

Landscaping, tree service

When your house was new, the trees and landscape were so young and nonthreatening. As the years pass, the trees have matured and provide shade and beautiful aesthetics. But your gutters are getting clogged with leaves and you start to notice bumps and bulges in the path of tree roots, heading straight to your block patio. You’ll need to start cleaning those gutters more frequently. And if your tree roots are presenting problems, you can consider installing a barrier to the roots or dig and place pack material to discourage the roots.

A tree service professional can help ensure the best health for your trees by careful pruning and maintenance.

Painting and home décor


An easy way to help your home decor retain a youthful appearance is by livening it up with a new paint job. For both the interior and exterior, a fresh coat of paint can bring a crisp, clean, bold appearance. As walls get dingy and dirty, painting a room can do wonders. And introducing new colors can make a room or exterior of your house feel new again.

Staying in tune with your house during its tumultuous teen years is especially important if you plan on selling in the near future. Buyers tend to navigate toward homes that have been properly maintained and sport newer, more energy-efficient features. And exterior work such as regular tree service and fresh paint can increase curb appeal for a better home value.

 

Clean That Roof!

As realtors, we can all confirm that condition of the roof of a house is a hot bed issue for home buyers. Maintaining the life of your roof is important for protecting your investment, whether you plan to stay put in your house for good, or whether you intend to sell at some point in the future. Living in the Northampton MA area, our homes go through many types of wear and tear with the changes in season. From the potential for ice dams in winter (and roof leaks), to the potential for algae growth in humid weather, or on shaded areas of your roof.

The following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, written by Angie Hicks of "Angie's List" - addresses the issue of algae growth on your roof, and how to remove it. Good stuff!

 

By ANGIE HICKS


You may have the most attractive landscaping, beautiful windows and charming mailbox, but black streaks running down your roof can ruin your home’s curb appeal.

What causes those dark marks, and what can be done to eradicate them?

Roof experts who are highly rated by members of Angie’s List say the source is an algae called Gloeocapsa magma. And depending on the age and condition of your roof, cleaning may be the most cost-effective solution, since it’s about 5 to 10 percent of the price of a roof replacement, which can be as much as $10,000.

Algae-caused marking isn’t preventable but can be removed, though not always permanently. The algae survive through photosynthesis and by feeding on limestone filler used in asphalt shingles.

Black marks became a problem about 20 years ago, when manufacturers began adding limestone granules to add weight to material used to coat shingles.

Roof experts tell our researchers that though other components are being added to shingles to hinder algae growth, they still get calls to deal with black marks on relatively new roofs. They say that while shingle manufacturers offer products treated with copper or zinc to inhibit algae growth, their effect wears down over time.

Most black streaks form on the northern slopes of roofs, where it’s darker and wetter - ideal for algae growth. 

Areas of the country with low humidity have fewer instances of roof streaks, while the problem is relatively common in the Southeast, where it’s more humid and warm. 

The algae appear blue-green when the organisms form an outer coating to protect themselves from ultraviolet rays. Algae turn black when it decays.

While the dark streaks are unsightly, experts tell our team that the greatest danger to the roof is from moisture retention or root damage that algae and other life forms can cause. Also, algae and fungus can grow together to form lichen, the roots of which can wrap around and feed on the granules covering the shingles. Once established, lichen is not easily removed. Even if it dries out, it can come back to life with the next rain. Scrubbing or power washing lichen will only cause more damage.

Before determining whether having your roof cleaned is the right option, be sure you have a sense of your roof’s age and condition, and compare costs accordingly. 

A cleaning can cost around $200 to $1,500, depending on the size of the roof, its pitch and height.

When hiring a company to clean your roof, consider this advice, gathered by our research team, which talked to multiple highly rated roofing experts:

? Make sure the cleaners don’t use high-pressure washing systems, which can remove granules coating shingles, and lower their life expectancy.

? Ask what kind of cleaning solution the company uses. One highly rated roofing expert said he uses a chlorine-based chemical wash with a soaping agent. Also, make sure the company has a plan for preventing possible damage to your home or landscaping from runoff. That same roofing expert said he has one worker apply the cleaner while another saturates nearby areas with water to prevent damage.

? Ask how long the cleaning method should keep the roof algae-free. A range of two to five years is normal.

As with hiring any contractor, ask family and friends for references or check online consumer reviews from a trusted source, get several bids, seek and contact references, and confirm liability and workers’ compensation insurance.

And then, prepare to once again enjoy how your home looks without those dark ugly roof streaks.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care.

 

Real Estate Forecast Presented at Western NE University

In addition to the good news we received about mortgage rates once again dipping below 4%, we just caught wind of this interesting presentation to be sponsored by the Realtor Association of the Pioneer Valley.  If you'd like to find out more about current trends in the real estate market, this sounds like a great event to attend!

Economists to Present Real-estate and Economic Forecast on Oct. 23

SPRINGFIELD -- Nationally recognized economists Dr. Lawrence Yun and Dr. Elliot Eisenberg will present a real-estate and economic forecast on Thursday, Oct. 23 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at Western New England University, ?Rivers Memorial Hall, 2105 Wilbraham Road, Springfield. Doors open at 8 a.m. for breakfast and registration. The event is sponsored by the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley and the Home Builders Assoc. of Western Mass.Topics will include recent developments in the housing market national, state, and local, the direction of home prices in the next 12 to 24 months, comparisons with past housing cycles, shadow inventory and foreclosure impact, new-home construction, economic backdrop, and a forecast of the economy and housing market. Yun is chief economist and senior vice president of the National Assoc. of Realtors, while Eisenberg is a former senior economist with the National Assoc. of Homebuilders. Tickets cost $20 per person, which includes breakfast.To register, contact Laura Herring, education coordinator for the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley, at 413 785-1328 or laura@rapv.com. Corporate support comes from Abide Inc., PeoplesBank, MLS Property Information Network, the Republican/MassLive, and United Bank.

For more information. any real estate needs, or to schedule a showing, contact us today! Discover recent real estate listings in the Northampton, MA area here.

via Economists to Present Real-estate and Economic Forecast on Oct. 23 | BusinessWest.

Tips for Choosing Paint Colors

One of the pieces of advice we often give our seller clients as listing agents, is that a fresh coat of paint goes a long way towards making a home (or an individual room) look better.  In addition, it is a relatively small investment to make when thinking about how to improve the look of your home.  I found this relevant blog post on Apartment Therapy which gives concise tips about choosing paint colors.  Of course, you can always speak to your realtor about local painters who also specialize in help with color choices.  Whether you are more into the DIY approach or not, this information may be of interest.

Tips for Choosing Paint Colors

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We think Marilyn and Peter got it just right when they chose this shade of gray-green for their accent wall, but as winners of the 2006 Fall Colors Contest, they've got a natural knack for color. Not everyone is so adept at picking out paint, so we've listed a few tips below for choosing paint colors...

Just to kick off the conversation, these are ideas we've collected (especially over the last couple weeks, as we've been choosing paint colors for all the rooms in our new apartment). Add your tips and tricks in the comments below.

5-12-08painting4.jpgFlickr Finds: Dior Gray Accent Wall

o Choose a color that works with your furniture. It's much easier to change your walls than buy a new living room set, so use what you already own to guide your choices.

o Consider a room's natural light when choosing whether to go dark or pale. Generally, rooms with lot of natural light can handle dark colors better than a poorly lit room. Pale shades will usually reflect natural light.

o Choosing the right color is all about balance. If you have colorful furnishings or accent pieces in your home, try balancing them with more neutral walls. If your all-neutral furniture feels bland, use a bold color to give the room some kick.

5-12-08painting5.jpgColorTherapy: Coastal Fog

o If you see a color you like in a photograph, try to match it to a color chip. Although colors aren't reliable online, a photograph of a whole room gives you a better idea of a color than a swatch on your screen. For rooms that list color sources from AT, see NY's Color Therapy posts.

o Collect chips in a range of colors and look at them against any upholstery, rugs, and wood tones in the room.

o Pair wall colors with a complimentary trim, or paint trim and baseboards the same color as the walls for a modern look. When choosing trim, remember that colors change in relation to one another. Collect chips and samples for both your main and accent colors.

5-12-08painting3.jpgColor Combo: Gray and Blue

o In our experience, paint almost always looks darker on the wall than it does on the chip. If you're working off a chip, choose the color you want, then consider going a shade lighter.

o Choose the type of finish you want for your room. Flat finishes hide imperfections, while glossy finishes reflect light. Flat finishes are harder to keep clean (so they're not ideal for a kitchen or bathroom), but glossy finishes can look cheap if the walls aren't in top form.

o Even if you have to pay a little, invest in a small sample pot and paint a few swatches in your room, near the windows and in dark corners.

o Although painting can be stressful, it's one of the least expensive changes you can make in a room, so don't get too upset if you make a mistake. You can always change it later.

via Tips for Choosing Paint Colors | Apartment Therapy.