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What to Consider When Upsizing or Downsizing

As we discussed in our recent Q3 Market Report, the market is still very busy although we are seeing the “panic” situation of late 2020 receding a little. Homes that are in good condition and priced correctly are still seeing lots of interest, but it is not as frenzied as in previous months.

Our days on market and months of inventory continue at record lows and are a matter of concern given the number of buyers still looking to make the move to the suburbs. With in- office work returning, high crime in many urban areas, and stubbornly low interest rates, it behooves sellers looking to move to jump into the market.

Taking all of this into consideration, many people are currently thinking about upsizing or downsizing. Many families’ needs have changed and their current homes no longer serve their lifestyle appropriately. But figuring out the perfect size home for your family can be difficult. Often, we don’t know exactly how we’ll use a space until we’re in it (and then it could be too late!).

If you’re considering either upsizing or downsizing, we recommend you contemplate the following:

  • Think about your current home. Are there rooms you never use? Are there rooms that are packed to bursting? Do you have enough storage space? Are you bumping into family members when trying to get out the door at night or make dinner at night?
  • Think about the future. Do you have young kids who will only occupy more space as they grow? Or do you have kids who are about to leave the nest and free up a certain amount of square footage?
  • Think about your lifestyle. Do you wish you had more space to entertain and have overnight guests? You might want to upsize. Are you spending more time away from home and don’t want the maintenance that goes along with a larger home? You might be ready to downsize.
  • Think about your budget. Is a smaller mortgage payment one reason you’d like to downsize? Or has your financial outlook improved enough to take on more of a mortgage in exchange for the lifestyle that will go along with it?

As we move into the traditionally slower holiday season, prices are still up but we hope for a more balanced market as we head into 2022. So, if you have been reevaluating your lifestyle and think that making a move would be good for you, now is the time! We offer a complimentary market analysis and would be happy to provide you with a concrete analysis of what your home is worth. For buyers, our expertise in negotiating in a strong seller’s market means you will get unparalleled representation in a competitive marketplace. Contact us today at 203-856-5534 or karla@karlamurtaugh.com.

Antique Homes Are Amazing, But Do Your Homework

There are some beautiful antique homes in our area, and these can be some of our favorites to help clients buy and sell. The unique charm of older homes can be just the character your family is looking for, and there is nothing cookie-cutter about these properties! They are often located in well-established neighborhoods with mature landscaping.

Older homes can have amazing character traits and historical features that most new homes simply do not have, like huge wood-burning fireplaces, beautiful wood trim and moldings, and ceilings with rustic wood beams that can be harder to find in newer, more modern homes.

There can be some challenges however, and we created this list to help prepare you if you’re thinking of purchasing an antique home. Be sure to consider the following:

  • Enlist the help of a top realtor like us who has decades of experience in this area. We know what red flags to look for, and how to negotiate on your behalf to get the best deal especially when it comes to replacement expenses.
  • Most older homes contain items that eventually need to be replaced. Some examples with considerable price tags may include roofing, furnace, water heater, decks, windows and fencing. It is important to find out the age of each of these items when you’re considering an older property. Structural issues, older plumbing and outdated electrical may also need to be addressed depending on the age of the home.
  • Antique homes in the northeast especially can require updated weatherstripping and insulation to ensure you’re not wasting money on an unnecessarily high energy bill. Speaking of bills, it can be more costly to insure an older home than a modern home so you may want to check with your homeowners insurance company.
  • Depending on the needs of your family, the floor plan in an older home might require some renovation and remodeling. Smaller rooms might need to be opened up to create a more open floor plan and additional bathrooms might be needed if you have a larger family or frequent houseguests.
  • You may want to find out if there are any historical societies or neighborhood restrictions on remodeling. Some older homes and neighborhoods have restrictions in terms of the type and style of remodeling that can be done.
  • Fortunately, our team loves antique homes and would be honored to help you find yours, even if it means resolving some of these issues! Reach out to us today.

    How To Prep Your Home For Cooler Weather

    Fall is finally here, and whether you’ve just purchased your first home or are a veteran owner, you might be surprised at the quantity of odd jobs you should complete this time of year.

    1. Our recent experience with Hurricane Ida left some homeowners dealing with waterproofing issues. There are some basic steps to help prevent water penetration into your home such as cleaning out gutters so leaves don’t accumulate and the water is allowed to run freely. Checking that window wells are free of debris and the land slopes away from the house around the basement area also helps prevent penetration from melting snow. If persistent seepage of water occurs in the basement of the home, it is wise is to contact a specialist and see if the installation of a sump pump or water proofing would solve the issue.

    2. Landscaping is a huge job in the fall between leaf cleanup and prepping your plants for winter. Leaving leaves on the lawn can cause damage to the grass, so make sure to clear and/or mulch leaves. Moving them into a forested area also helps the native fauna overwinter. Some plants also benefit from being wrapped in burlap to protect from them frost. Hurricane Ida also made it clear how important it is to take down trees and large branches so they don’t fall during a storm. Contact an arborist to evaluate trees that require trimming, cableing or removal to keep your home safe.

    3. Now is a great time to paint the interior or exterior of your home thanks to mild temperatures and less humidity. This will reduce wear and tear on the clapboard or shingles. Take some time to caulk and seal around all exterior doors and window frames, including in your basement and garage. If you look for gaps where pipes or wiring enters your home and caulk those as well, you can cut down on the heat escaping from those openings. It may also prevent water, insects and maybe even mice from entering.

    4. It is wise to have your heating system, firebox and chimney professionally serviced sooner rather than later to ensure safe and reliable heat during the cooler months. With regular maintenance, you will also be extending the lives of these key appliances.

    We hope you enjoy the gorgeous fall foliage in our area this season and feel free to contact us if you need a place to start for vendors for these services!

    How To Prep Your Home To SELL

    With fall coming, it’s a fabulous time to list your home! If you’ve been on the fence about selling, we understand. It’s been a tumultuous eighteen months. But the real estate market shows no signs of slowing, and if you’d like to capitalize on this exciting market and earn a fabulous price for your home, we’d love to help.

    Here are a few great first steps to get you started:

    1. Declutter! This is a terrific opportunity to get rid of items you’re no longer using or enjoying. If you’re not ready to part with many of your things, consider a temporary storage unit.

    2. Deep clean! Set aside a significant amount of time or hire a pro, then keep it clean until you close so it’s in great shape for showings.

    3. Repair! Patch holes in the walls, replace broken appliances, change burnt out light bulbs.

    4. Paint! Many homeowners are surprised by how a new coat of neutral paint can refresh their home. We’re happy to recommend paint colors that will enhance the beauty of your home.

    5. Boost curb appeal! The first impression is most important, so consider improving outdoor light fixtures, replacing the mailbox, arranging patio furniture and/or sprucing up the landscaping. Even a few pots of colorful flowers can make a huge difference in welcoming potential buyers.

    In addition, research shows a staged home generally sells faster and for more money. The real estate market is highly competitive and staging will give you a leg up on the competition. When a potential buyer enters your home, you want to provide a backdrop for them to experience the home — a place where they can see how rooms function and how the home ‘feels’. Most importantly, staging lets you get an objective opinion as seen through a buyer’s eyes – it’s not a reflection on your personal style or taste, but about getting you the most bang for your buck and top dollar on your sale.

    For everything you need to know about selling your home, check out our Seller’s Guide. At Karla Murtaugh Homes, our team is committed to ensuring that each and every transaction is handled in the most effective manner possible, and with the trust and integrity you deserve.

    Be sure to reach out to us today for your complimentary consultation. We’ll walk you through every step!

    Mother Always Said “Eat Your Vegetables”… But How About Growing Them Too?

    With so many of us taking advantage of extra time at home last summer, as well as this summer to upgrade our outdoor living spaces, it’s only natural that those of us with green thumbs may have turned to a more sustainable way of obtaining our veggies!

    If you are one of the industrious individuals who is trying out this kind of gardening, mother nature has certainly helped out with all the July showers of late. If you haven’t planted much yet this season, don’t fret. There’s still time to plant a variety of vegetables to harvest this fall, which will be here before we know it.

    To get a great fall harvest, mid to late summer is the time to start sowing your fall garden plants if you’re looking to bring the fresh veggies to your table by the time the cool weather arrives. Crops like broccoli, green beans, beets, and radishes can be sown in late summer for a fall harvest. Time to maturity will vary by crop, so check seed packs or tags in seedling containers and plan backward to come up with a planting date.

    If you have a small gardening space, start thinking about how to create space for your fall garden by figuring out which of your spring and summer crops will finish first; when summer crops are ready to take out, be prepared with fall crops to replace them.

    Check out HGTV.com for more suggestions.

    Top Outdoor Living Trends, According to Google

    Summer is here! Even as the world reopens, homeowners and home buyers are putting more weight on outdoor spaces to enjoy at home. So, what’s trending in outdoor spaces? Living Spaces, a furniture retailer, recently spotlighted Google trends data to showcase what is seeing the highest uptick in interest as homeowners spruce up the outdoors.

    Indoor-outdoor spaces: “Cozy, private, and shaded space outdoors” is trending—all through comfy couches, ambient lighting, and multifunctional, weather-resistant furniture, according to Daniela Lopez, a Living Spaces designer. Indoor-outdoor spaces have posted one of the largest increases for 2021, jumping about 156% over the last year, according to Google searches.

    Backyard play sets: The kids are getting their own private spaces outside too, including backyard play sets, tree houses, and even giant sidewalk checkers games or outdoor reading nooks. The Google Trends report shows backyard play sets have risen about 7% over the past year.

    Gardening: Container gardening is gaining popularity, which has increased spots all around outdoor space for pots of flowers or fruits or vegetables. Edible gardens have seen a 20% increase in searches over the past year and sustainable gardens a 9% increase.

    Backyard basketball court: Sports and hobbies have gained popularity in the pandemic and half-court basketball courts don’t have to take up a ton of space. Google Trends notes “backyard basketball court” has seen a 42% interest over the past year.

    Front porch: The front porch has become an extension of the indoor space and a place during the pandemic for drive-up parties or socially distanced gatherings, Lopez notes.

    Hot tubs: In creating an entertainment getaway, hot tubs have grown in popularity too. Hot tub searches are up 4.11% over the past year.

    View more outdoor trends, according to Google, at LivingSpaces.com.

    It’s Time To Give Your Home Its Spring Tune-up

    Oftentimes, homeowners really only pay attention to the less obvious maintenance and upkeep at their homes if they are thinking of selling. We’re here to tell you that regular preventative maintenance is actually better for your home in the long run, and often helps head off expensive repairs that can come when a buyer conducts a home inspection.

    Regardless of your real estate intentions, after a long winter it’s great to have a checklist of things to look for and have serviced regularly.

    Inspect your HVAC system
    Schedule your yearly heating and air conditioning checkups as you emerge from winter to make sure you are covered for the upcoming year. This may prevent costly repairs that can creep up over time. By maintaining your systems, you are in a good position to prevent small repairs from becoming large headaches over time.

    Test your well water
    It’s easy to forget about this crucial item especially if there is no noticeable change in the taste, smell or color of the water. But just because you don’t see a change, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Many hardware stores offer basic at home test kits, but for a more comprehensive test including items like radon, arsenic and uranium, it’s important to contact a professional. Our bodies are 70% water and these compounds can build up in our systems over time, so testing your water every year or two is an easy way to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy.

    Pump your septic
    With average use it is recommended that you have your septic tank pumped every two years to keep it in tip-top condition. If you are planning on selling your home and your septic is on the older side, it may also be advisable to do a pre-inspection, especially if there are no records as to where the leaching fields and tank are located. This will help preempt any surprises later on.

    Clean the gutters and downspouts
    Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause the trim and eaves to rot resulting in costly repairs. If you don’t like heights, getting on a regular schedule with a reputable gutter cleaning service makes the job hassle free and ensures that the water keeps flowing freely throughout the year. The company will also alert you to any changes in your gutters that could compromise their efficiency and result in damage to your house or foundation.

    Inspect your roof
    Winter storms and high winds can take a toll on the roof. Look for loose shingles, metal pipes that are damaged or missing, or anything that doesn’t look right. If your roof has mossy build-up or discoloration, contact a roof and gutter professional to do a “soft wash” to protect the shingles and get the most life out of your current roof. If it’s time for a new one, there are many new choices, so talk to a professional about what kind of roof best suits your needs and budget.

    Check the exterior for wear and tear
    Ice and snow can wreak havoc on concrete patios and walkways, as well as asphalt driveways. Take a walk around and make note of any repairs that need to be patched, repaired, replaced or repointed. It’s also important to make small touch-ups to the exterior paint yearly where it may be chipped or peeling in order to avoid repeated weather related damage. Even if you don’t plan to repaint the whole exterior, keeping the trim and siding in good shape will go a long way towards ensuring the woodwork stays healthy for years to come.

    Karla’s Musings On A Snowy Day

    Happy New Year!

    And what a way to start 2018.

    While watching the “bomb–cyclone” bury us in inches of snow yesterday, I started to make lists in my head about regular maintenance issues that are often overlooked until they present an issue. Things like: what is the condition of the systems in my house? When did I last get the chimney cleaned? Are the gutters susceptible to ice damming? And so on, and so forth.

    It’s easy when we purchase a home to feel overwhelmed with all the maintenance and upkeep associated with it, and as such miss key milestones required to keep it in tip-top shape. And the same can be said for the complacency we project if we’ve been homeowners of the same property for quite some time without issue.

    As a quick reminder, here are a few items you might want to schedule now and put in your calendar in order to keep you cool in the summer, warm in the winter and healthy throughout the year.

    Furnace or Boiler
    Ideally scheduled for September or October, before you really need to depend on it, a routine check-up is key to keeping things running smoothly. Think of it as an investment in the health of your heating system, much like a yearly physical.

    Air Conditioning System
    While AC is pretty far from your mind while the temperature sits in the teens outside, yearly maintenance slots for AC units book up fast. Call your provider now to lock in an ideal slot in April or May and keep your cool as the temperature heats up.

    Septic System
    Unless you live in town and are fortunate enough have a town sewer, you will definitely want to get on a plan to inspect and pump your septic every two years. Septic systems can be costly to replace, so finding small problems early – such as invading tree roots or cracks in tank lids – and correcting them early, can save you in the end.

    Gutters
    Truly an integral part of home maintenance, clean gutters prevent ice damming in the winter, and foundation and basement flooding in the spring rains by making sure water is directed away from the house. Many landscapers make gutter cleaning a part of their spring and fall clean-up, as well as additionally handling excess leaves according to your property. It’s also easy enough to get on a four time-a-year gutter cleaning program if you don’t have a landscaping company. With most companies, you don’t even need to be home – they just come and take care of it and then give you a heads up!

    Chimney Clean Out or Gas Fireplace Servicing
    Don’t ignore this – it can literally kill you. Carbon monoxide is an issue with an improperly functioning gas fireplace, and chimney fires caused by a build-up of creosote can be deadly. If you haven’t already, put this on the list of must-do’s immediately!

    Stay safe and stay warm. Here’s to a great 2018!

    15 Features That Help Listings Sell Faster

    According to the National Association of Realtors, some renovations pay off more than others -both in the time a home takes to sell, and in the money you can recoup.

    “That means a quick transition into your dream home,” advises Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research at the National Association of REALTORS®. But which renovations are the best?

    Hardwood flooring remains the biggest draw among buyers of all generations according to an analysis of popular home features. Listings with hardwood floors have appreciated 14.8 percent since 2015.

    Realtor.com® looked at 40 of the most common home features and analyzed applicable listings to find which homes sold in the fewest number of days. For this study, researchers used days on market as an indication of demand for a home feature. The following were the top features uncovered in the survey:

    1. Smart-home features (smart thermostats, refrigerators, and locking systems)
    2. Finished basements
    3. Patios
    4. Walk-in closets
    5. Granite countertops
    6. Eat-in kitchens
    7. Hardwood floors
    8. Laundry rooms
    9. Open kitchens
    10. Front porches
    11. Dining rooms
    12. Energy Star appliances
    13. Two-car garages
    14. Fireplaces
    15. Security systems

    To see the full report and learn more about each of these features and why they’re great for resale, visit realtor.com