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Real Estate and *stuff *

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How to Be a Savvy Open House Guest

April 27, 2019

Getting smart — about what to do, ask, and avoid — can move you ahead of the crowd.

Ah, the open house — a chance to wander through other people’s homes and imagine yourself knocking out walls and gut rehabbing their kitchens. This is what dreams are made of (or at least episodes of HGTV).

In all seriousness, going to open houses (and scheduled private showings) is one of the most exciting parts of the home-buying experience. Beyond the voyeuristic thrill, visiting houses allows you to assess things that you just can’t see online.

Anyone who has taken a super-posed selfie knows that a picture doesn’t always tell the whole truth. Professional listing photos can make small rooms look spacious, make dim rooms bright, and mask other flaws of a home — but you don’t know any of that until you actually see the house yourself.

You can tour houses at any point, but it can be helpful to first discuss your needs and wants with your partner (if you have one), do some online research, and talk with your agent and your lender. That way, you — and your agent — can take a targeted approach, which saves you time and can give you an edge over your buying competition.

So, before you start viewing, follow these tips to get prepared.

Make It Your Job to Know Which Houses Are “Open”

There are four ways to know when a house is available for viewing:

  • Ask your agent. He or she will have details on specific properties and can keep you informed of open houses that fit your criteria.
  • Use listing websites. A number of property sites let you search active listings for upcoming open houses. On realtor.com®, for instance, when searching for properties, scroll over the “Buy” tab and click the “Open Houses” link to see upcoming ones in your area.
  • Scroll social media. On Instagram, for example, you can search the hashtag #openhouse, or similar tags for your city (#openhousedallas, for example), to discover open houses. Many real estate agents and brokerages also post open house announcements on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter; find ones from your area and start following.
  • Drive around. Cruise through the neighborhoods you’re interested in — it’s a good way to get a sense of the area amenities — and look for open house signs.

And while you’re searching, be sure to jot down the location, time, and date for any open house that strikes your fancy. It will make it that much easier to plan times and routes for hitting as many homes as possible.

Get There Early (and Say Hi to the Neighbors)

If you’re seriously interested in a home, show up to the open house early. That way you’ll beat the rush, and the agent showing the house (AKA the host) will have time to focus on you and your questions.

And don’t be shy! Many home buyers hop from one open house to the next without talking to the listing agent. But chatting up the host can help you learn information that you wouldn’t get by only touring the premises.

If a house seems like a match, take a walk around the neighborhood. Strike up conversations with the neighbors to get an insider’s perspective on what life in that community is really like — families, singles, what the vibe on the block is like, and whether the homeowner’s or condo association (if there is one) is easy to work with.

Ask Lots of Questions, But Avoid TMI

To make the most of your open house visits, have a list of questions in mind for the host — and take notes while you’re there, so you can keep track of what you learned.

At the same time, remember this: Your interaction with the host could be the beginning of negotiations with them. If you end up making an offer, you’ll use the information you’ve gathered to inform your bid. (They’ll also remember that you were an engaged yet courteous person, which can’t hurt your cause.)

Equally important: Oversharing could hurt your negotiating power.

Be careful about what information you share with the agent hosting the event. This person works for the seller — not you. The host can and will use stats they’ve gleaned about you to counter, reject, or accept an offer.

Keeping that in mind, here are eight questions you can ask a host to help determine whether a house is a good fit for you:

    1. Have you received any offers? If there are already bids on the table, you’ll have to move quickly if you want to make an offer. Keep in mind: Listing agents can’t disclose the amount of any other offers, though — only whether they exist.
    2. When does the seller want to move? Find out the seller’s timeline. If the seller is in a hurry (say, for a new job), they may be willing to accept an offer that’s below list price.
    3. When is the seller looking to close? Price isn’t the only factor for many home sellers. One way to strengthen your offer is to propose a settlement date that’s ideal for them. For example, a 30- to 45-day closing is standard in many markets, but the seller may want more time if they haven’t purchased their next home yet.
    4. Is the seller flexible on price? Most listing agents won’t tip their hand when you ask this question, but there’s always a chance the agent says “yes.” And, in some instances, the seller has authorized their agent to tell interested buyers that the price is negotiable. In any case, you might as well ask. (It’s kind of like googling for a coupon code when you buy something online.)
    5. How many days has the home been on the market? You can find this information on the internet, but the seller’s agent can give you context, especially if the house has been sitting on the market for a while. Maybe the home was under contract but the buyer’s financing fell through, or the seller overshot the listing price and had to make a price reduction? Knowing the backstory can only help you.
    6. Has the price changed? You can see if there’s been a price reduction online, but talking to the listing agent is the only way to find out why the seller dropped the price.
    7. Are there any issues? Have there been any renovations or recent repairs made to the home? Some upgrades, like new kitchen appliances, are easy to spot, but some are harder to identify. Specifically ask about the roof, appliances, and HVAC system because they can be expensive to repair or replace. BTW, repairs like a leaky faucets aren’t things that need to be disclosed.
    8. What are the average utility costs? Many buyers don’t factor utility bills into their monthly housing expenses, and these costs can add up — particularly in drafty older homes. Ask the listing agent what a typical monthly utility bill is during the summer and during the winter, since heating and cooling costs can fluctuate seasonally. Be prepared for higher utility bills if you’re moving from an apartment to a single-family home.

      Now that you’ve got your answers, there’s one last thing to do: Thank the host before you go. You never know — you could be seeing them again at the negotiating table soon.

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Open House at 120 Holden Road Paxton, MA

April 26, 2019

This Saturday, April 27, and Sunday April 28 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM

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View this 4 bedroom and 2 bathroom oasis with an gorgeous yard in person!

Can’t make it? View this 3-D interactive tour and call me when you realize you can’t look away!

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Open House at 77 Central Tpke, Sutton, MA

April 26, 2019

This weekend on Saturday, April 27, 2019 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM and Sunday, April 28, 2019 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM

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Come view this 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom open concept home before it’s gone!

Can’t make it? View the 3-D interactive tour and give me a call when you fall in love

77 CT tour

99-Cent Store Solution: Scuffed Countertops

April 24, 2019

Here’s how to make short work of this common countertop ailment with finds from the dollar store.

 

If you’ve ever had a scuff mark on a colored countertop, you know that it sadly becomes the room’s focal point. But we found the right supplies to save you any embarrassment.

Easy Fix for your Scuffed Countertop

Supplies:

  • Crayons, 99 cents
  • Spatula knife, 99 cents
  • A microwave-safe bowl, 99 cents (If you have one you’re willing to sacrifice to melt crayons, you just saved another 99 cents.)

Total: $2.97. $3.96 if you throw in a weak lemonade-type drink.

What you do:

  1. Pick the Crayon whose color comes closest to matching your countertop. Peel off the paper and place it in the bowl.
  2. Pop the crayon and bowl in the microwave.
  3. Pour the hot, melted crayon onto the scuff mark and work it into the indentation with the spatula knife.
  4. Scrape off the excess with the spatula knife.

The Crayon mixture will harden and dry quickly, erasing your countertop flaw.

Open House-3 Carey Rd, Sturbridge, MA

April 23, 2019

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This Sunday, April 28, 2019 from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Come view this unique property on nearly 2 acres of land.

Can’t make the open house? View an interactive 3-D tour NOW!

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99-Cent Store Solution: Torn Window Screen

April 21, 2019

Get rid of one of life’s greatest annoyances for less than a buck.

Among the things that make us nuts:

  • An empty carton of milk in the fridge
  • A flat tire
  • A torn window screen. That tiny hole is just the invitation bugs need to break in.

No need for a handyman or a replacement screen.

You’ll find the right bug deterrent at the 99-cent store, if it’s not already on hand in your bathroom cabinet. But going to the dollar store is fun — you never know what you’ll find. Like cheap soda.

Supplies:

  • Clear nail polish, 99 cents
  • Two slightly dented cans of soda, 99 cents
  • Total: $1.98

What you do:

  • Apply the clear nail polish on both sides of the torn area. Slather it on so it builds up a nice barrier.
  • Watch it dry transparently.
  • Enjoy your soda.

 

Coming Soon in Paxton, MA

April 20, 2019

Take a 3-D Interactive Tour before it’s available!

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Contact me now to get dibs on this one!

Land Lot on Peach Tree Drive, Sutton MA

April 18, 2019

Welcome to Sutton!

Tired of not finding the right home?

Build your home oasis!

This 17.7 acre retreat lot is in Orchard Estates – one of Sutton’s best loved neighborhoods!

This scenic lot is located off of Leland Hill Road on the Grafton side of Sutton. Enjoy coming home to your new construction in the country! Quick access to Routes 146, 395, 290 and the Mass Pike. Commuter friendly to Worcester, Boston, Putnam and Providence. Convenient to the Blackstone Valley Shoppes and Restaurants. Sutton has a newer school system, new Police Department Building and newer shopping center with Market 32, Starbucks and more!

Buyer to perform all due diligence necessary for intended use with accepted offer.

Effects of Pyrrhotite on Home Concrete Foundations

April 17, 2019

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Division of Professional Licensure
Office of Public Safety & Inspections
This information is forwarded to provide guidance to home owners, building officials, engineers, architects and other interested parties who may be affected by or have experience in the reference subject. Please review contents of the message below. If questions remain after reviewing, please forward a message requesting further assistance to:
BACKGROUND
Pyrrhotite is an iron sulfide mineral that has been found in at least one quarry in northeastern Connecticut. Over the years, materials extracted from this quarry have been used in concrete mixtures and the concrete has been used in varied construction projects in\around Connecticut and central Massachusetts regions. Pyrrhotite that is exposed to oxygen and water may react and cause severe swelling and cracking. As the concrete continues to deteriorate, concrete foundations may become structurally unsound.
The cracking is not normal settling or shrinkage and it may take 15 – 20 years for the pyrrhotite damage to appear. Cracks are typically horizontal, on a 45° angle, or appear in a spider pattern. A white powdery substance may be noticeable in\around the cracks, brown stains or drips that resemble rust may also be evident.  (See Image 1 below.)
Image 1
 
Many Connecticut residents have experienced the effects of pyrrhotite damage to foundations.  (See Image 2 below.) Some Massachusetts residents are seeing or suspecting damage due to pyrrhotite as well. Concrete mix originating from a batching plant located in Stafford Connecticut used in structures circa 1983 through 2015 are of greatest concern. Concrete trucks may only travel about 20 miles beyond the plant location before the concrete begins to harden. Therefore, structures located in cities and towns identified below are where difficulties are likely to occur.  (See Image 3 below.)

 

Image 2
Damage caused by pyrrhotite is irreversible. The most effective repair is to replace the existing foundation with a new one that does not contain pyrrhotite. The cost to replace a foundation can vary greatly based on multiple factors, but estimates range between $150,000 and $250,000 per home.
What can be done?
The first thing to do is determine whether or not there is reason to be concerned. Concrete may and does crack for a number of reasons, settling, excess moisture content, so just because there are cracks in a foundations does not necessarily mean it is due to the presence of pyrrhotite. A few things should be considered:
  • Is the structure located in the region identified in Image 3?
  • Was the structure built between 1983 and 2015?
  • Is there visible cracking beyond the norm?
If the answer is yes to one or more of these questions, there may be reason for concern and further investigation should be done.
 Image 3
Visual Inspection and Core Sampling.
First, a visual inspection should be done by a qualified person and findings should be memorialized in a report. If the inspection concludes that there is no evidence of pyrrhotite damage, nothing further is required.  Continued cracking should be monitored since, as mentioned earlier, pyrrhotite damage may take years to become evident.
Next, if a visual inspection is inconclusive or the inspection reports evidence of pyyrhotite damage, a core sample should be taken and tested for more definite results.
Who is considered qualified to perform visual inspection
and report finding?    
A Massachusetts licensed:
  • Engineer;
  • Architect;
  • Construction Supervisor; or
  • Certified Building Code Enforcement Official are all considered qualified for such work.
Are engineers, architects, construction supervisor, or building officials licensed in Connecticut considered qualified
to perform inspections?
Certainly each of these individuals, by education and\or experience, may be consider qualified. However, Massachusetts law requires such individuals to be licensed in the Commonwealth.
Many engineers and\or architects (collectively referred to as Registered Design Professionals or RDPs) are licensed in multiple states. If you are interested in using an out-of-state RDP to perform an inspection, please be sure that they are appropriately licensed in the Commonwealth. Licenses may be checked @
Are reciprocal\comity or temporary licenses available through the Commonwealth to out-of-state RDPs?
Yes. Recognizing the unique situation related to the effects of pyrrhotite, the Commonwealth’s Division of Professional Licensure (DPL) has established an expedited approval process for applicants.
Out-of-state RDPs who wish to apply to the Commonwealth should start by emailing the Licensing Board directly at engineerboard@mass.gov or by calling the Board at (617) 727-9957.
Additionally, an applicant who submits a complete application to the Board will be granted a temporary permit.  This permit, which is valid as long as a complete application is pending before the Board, allows an applicant to legally work in Massachusetts using the seal of his/her home state of licensure. Please ask the Board for more information.
If preferred, an out of state RDP can also qualify by working under the license of a Massachusetts licensee without having to obtain a temporary permit.
Is assistance available for homeowners affected by this issue? 
Yes.  The Massachusetts legislature has established a reimbursement fund to help assist with visual inspection and\or core sampling costs.
How can I apply for assistance?
Download an application @
All applications must be accompanied by:
  • Proof of Home Ownership (For Condos: proof of foundation ownership – usually the association declaration – Examples of homeownership include mortgage statements, tax bills, copies of deeds, etc.).
  • Testing and\or Visual Inspection Report and Results.
  • Pictures of Foundation Damage (If not in Report).
  • Invoice or other Documentation of Costs (Such as a cancelled check).
  • Dated Records of House Addition (If applicable).
  • List of Other Units that Share Foundation (For Condos) .
Completed applications and support material shall be returned to:
Office of Public Safety & Inspections, Crumbling Foundations
1000 Washington Street, Suite 710, Boston, MA 02118
Questions directed to Cesar.Lastra@Mass.gov or call 617-826-5202.
Are there other eligibility requirements to be considered?
Yes. 
  • The home must have been constructed on or after 1983 up to 2015.If the home was built before 1983, but there is an addition that was built after 1983, the addition is eligible for consideration under the program. The homeowner must supply proof that the addition was built after 1983 (building permit, CO or other similar documentation).
  • The home must be located within a 20-mile radius of the 10 Meadow Lane in Stafford Springs, Connecticut.
How are applications approved and what benefits may I expect?
Applications are reviewed for completeness and eligibility.  If approved, applicants will be reimbursed at a rate of:
  • 100% for visual testing conducted by a licensed professional engineer up to $400 maximum; and
  • 75% for the testing of two core samples up to $5000 maximum.
Please remember, this is a reimbursement program, so monies have to be expended first and evidence of expenditures must be submitted with the applications. Applicants cannot prospectively request reimbursement for costs.
 
Who is considered eligible to draw core samples?
No specific license is required to draw concrete core samples from home foundations, but specialized tools and knowledge are essential. The best way to find qualified companies is to perform a web search of concrete core sampling in Massachusetts; numerous results will appear. Caution should be exercised to be sure that the company and its personnel are reputable and reliable.
Where can core samples be tested?  

Testing for the presence of pyrrhotite is specialized. Again, a web search for concrete testing laboratories in Massachusetts will reveal several results, but Massachusetts laboratories may not be equipped to perform necessary tests. Since no special license is required for pyrrhotite testing in Massachusetts, you may wish to consult a list of available vendors in Connecticut @

 
What about business owners who suspect that pyyrhotite may be causing damage to their commercial business buildings?
Are they eligible to apply for expended testing costs?  
No, not at this time.
What if I find out that there is significant damage to my foundation requiring replacement, is there additional monetary assistance available?
At this time, the answer is no. However, pyyrhotite damage to home foundations is a relatively new issue in Massachusetts. Depending on the extent of damage and number of homes involved, further assistance may be available in the future.
Robert Anderson

Division of Professional Licensure
Office of Public Safety and Inspections
Chief of Inspections – Building & Engineering

Best 6 (Secret) DIY Home Repair Tips

April 12, 2019

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Common problems. Genius solutions.

This article was contributed by Mandi Gubler, a DIYer and home decor blogger, who writes “Vintage Revivals” and believes “your house should look like you and no one else.”

As a DIY home repair junkie, I’ve learned lots of tricks … most of them the hard way. Here’s a compilation of my favorite tips to take your project to the next level.

#1 Pre-Painting Prep

Before you paint, use a floor duster to remove all the dust from your walls. Because of the long handle, you won’t even need to pull out a ladder, and your paint result will be a million times better.

#2 Perfect Paint Lines

I have a secret for you. Even if you have texture on your walls, you can achieve perfect paint lines! You can’t stop paint from bleeding, especially if you have heavy texture like popcorn walls. So the trick is to make the bleed invisible.

After you’ve painted your base color on the wall and taped off your pattern, use the same base wall color and paint along the edges of the tape. This will make the bleed invisible. Then after it’s dry, paint your accent color over the space. Perfect paint lines every time!

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#3 Smooth Caulk Repairs

Getting a smooth finish on caulk can be maddening. And since it’s one of the most common DIY home repairs, knowing to do it easily is key. The chunkiness and unevenness of the caulk can be quite the headache, but luckily, you’ve got everything you need in your house to resolve this problem, and it won’t cost you a thing.

Grab a disposable cup from your kitchen and fill it with water. After you’ve squeezed the caulk onto the seam, dip your finger in the water and run it along the caulk. The water creates a perfect lubricant for your finger. This will give you a smooth finish, and it’s virtually mess free. See how easy here:

#4 Easy Wood Refinishing

Let’s say you just came across the score of a lifetime at the thrift store: a wooden mid-century dresser that’s in great condition, but the finish isn’t up to your standards.

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Don’t worry about having to sand and restain it — just use a product called Danish oil. It’s a cross between a wood conditioner and a stain and will fill in and disguise the places where the color of your finish is all wrong.

#5 Paint Preserver

If you find yourself mid-paint project and have to take a break, roll your roller in the paint to get a nice thick coat and then wrap it in a garbage bag and put it in the fridge. This will keep the paint fresh for up to a week until you can start again.

#6 Art Straighteners

Do you have a problem with the art on your walls staying level? There’s nothing more distracting than having one or two crooked pictures in a gallery wall.

Buy a package of adhesive strips, cut them into small sections, and place them on the back of the frames. It will keep pictures straight and not damage the walls.

I hope that you’ll use these tips to make your DIY home repairs a little bit easier!