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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

Remodeling Seen As A Good Investment For 2018

As homeowners gain more equity, they are expected to continue heavily investing in home improvement projects and repairs through the third quarter of 2018, according to the latest Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity report released by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The LIRA index projects annual gains in home renovation and repair spending of 6.3 percent for the fourth quarter of 2017 and up to 7.7 percent by the third quarter of next year.

“Recent strengthening of the U.S. economy, tight for-sale housing inventories, and healthy home equity gains are all working to boost home improvement activity,” says Chris Herbert, managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies. “Over the coming year, owners are projected to spend in excess of $330 billion on home upgrades and replacements, as well as routine maintenance.”

For homeowners looking to remodel for resale, the National Association of REALTORS® publishes a report looking at the costs of some of the top remodeling projects. Take a look at the 2017 Remodeling Impact Report.

As Realtors, we see the impact of a good remodel all the time.  Painting the interior and exterior of your home in modern, transitional colors is a fairly quick and inexpensive way to make an immediate impact, as is removing heavy drapery and letting your windows shine.  Upgrading bathroom vanities, tile and shower doors, as well painting or replacing outdated kitchen cabinetry, backsplashes and countertops is also a big hit. Decluttering – although not a remodel – goes a long way towards making your home feel fresh and new. If you want to learn more about how to get your home ready for sale, contact us for a consultation.

Kitchen Remodels Offer Big Paybacks at Resale

According to Realtor.com, homeowners looking for a remodeling project may be smart to tackle a kitchen renovation if they’re looking for projects with the strongest buyer appeal and high returns on their investment at resale.

Kitchen renovations and upgrades are among the top remodeling projects most likely to add value to a home at resale and most likely to appeal to home shoppers, according to the 2017 Remodeling Impact Report, conducted by the National Association of REALTORS®. The report takes a look at the cost of the most common exterior and interior remodeling and replacement projects and gauges how much appeal they have to buyers at resale.

Fifty-four percent of REALTORS® surveyed reported suggesting to sellers that they complete a kitchen upgrade before attempting to sell. Twenty-three percent of real estate pros also said a kitchen renovation helped to close a sale.

The Remodeling Impact Report estimates that homeowners stand to recover 57 percent—or $20,000—of the $35,000 or so of the cost to take on a kitchen upgrade. The kitchen upgrade might include adding new energy-efficient appliances, sink, faucet, and vinyl flooring; repainting the walls and ceiling; and refacing cabinets with white paint/veneer and new hardware.

Kitchen upgrades don’t just offer the potential for some bang for your buck at resale but also have been found to make homeowners more happy. Eighty-one percent of remodeling consumers surveyed said they had a greater desire to be at home since completing their kitchen upgrade project, and 81 percent felt a major sense of accomplishment after the renovation.

The following interior projects REALTORS® ranked highest to lowest as remodeling projects that would appeal to home buyers (listed along with project estimate costs and the potential return on investment at resale):

1. Complete Kitchen Renovation
Cost estimate: $65,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $40,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 62%

2. Kitchen Upgrade
Cost estimate: $35,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $20,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 57%

3. Bathroom Renovation
Cost estimate: $30,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $15,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 50%

4. New Wood Flooring
Estimated cost: $5,500
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $5,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 91%

5. Add New Bathroom
Cost estimate of project: $59,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $29,750
Percent of value recovered from the project: 50%

6. Hardwood Flooring Refinish
Estimated cost: $3,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $3,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 100%

7. New Master Suite
Cost estimate: $125,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $65,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 52%

8. HVAC Replacement
Estimated cost: $7,475
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $5,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 67%

9. Basement Conversion To Living Area
Cost estimate: $40,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $25,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 63%

10. Closet Renovation
Estimated cost: $3,750
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $2,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 53%

11. Insulation Upgrade
Estimated cost: $2,100
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $1,600
Percent of value recovered from the project: 76%

12. Attic Conversion To Living Area
Estimated cost: $75,000
REALTORS® estimated cost recovered: $40,000
Percent of value recovered from the project: 53%

New Trend – Living Rooms Are Heading Upstairs

After years of hearing the buzzwords “open concept”, homes are starting to see a bit more compartmentalization with additional cozy places to retire becoming more common.

As such, upper-level living rooms are becoming a sought-after space among homeowners, The Wall Street Journal reports. Homeowners are finding these second-floor lounges can be more informal spaces than living areas on the first floor—and can offer more privacy, too.

The idea behind these spaces are nothing new. Historic homes often have included an upstairs “retiring room” for mothers nursing children or for resting midday, says T. Jeffrey Clarke, an architect in Philadelphia, and Karla Murtaugh Homes has a few homes on the market right now that embody these qualities.  You can check out 321 Main Street, 22 Oak Knoll Road, 285 West Lane and 258 Black Rock Turnpike, just to name a few.

Upper-level living rooms—sometimes labeled “pajama lounges”—are usually located right off bedrooms. They may include comfy sofas, a kitchenette, a television, and even a nook to work from. Architects are removing long hallway spaces upstairs to make room for these central living spaces upstairs.

The lounge area is intended for “the bedrooms [to] spill out, and the family can have a space to assemble,” says Kobi Karp, an architect in Miami who recently designed an upper-level living room in one of his projects. “It’s where you go on a Sunday morning and wait for the rest of the house to wake up.”

Upper-level living rooms tend to be more casual than their lower counterparts. They also tend to have recessed lighting instead of chandeliers and favor cozier seating areas over larger sectionals.

As families create new functions for classic spaces, it’s nice to see a trend recognizing the value that an antique home’s architecture and design brings to a modern world.

Source: “The Living Room Moves Upstairs,” The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 23, 2017)

Staging Your Home Is A Good Idea

According to the National Association of Realtors, sixty-two percent of listing agents say professional staging decreases the amount of time a home spends on the market, while 40 percent of buyer’s agents say their clients are more willing to walk through a home that has been staged, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2017 Profile of Home Staging.

Thirty-one percent of respondents to NAR’s survey say staging increased the dollar value of a home they sold by 1 percent to 5 percent; 13 percent of respondents say it increased a home’s dollar value by 6 percent to 10 percent. Agents on both the buying and selling side agree that the living room is the most important part of a home to stage, followed by the master bedroom, kitchen, and outdoor space.

While these results are self-reported and at the agent’s description, we would have to agree with the findings. Buyers have a lot of choice and we are still in a buyers market. It’s important for a seller to take advantage of every tool they can in order to entice buyers to take the next step. Sellers who staged are also more likely to get top-dollar for their home.

Just like the proliferation of professional and aerial photography, more and more agents are seeing the inherent value of staging and those Realtors who don’t stage will be left behind. The consumer is increasingly comparing apples to oranges online before they even make an appointment with a real estate agent, so a seller’s home needs to be enticing from the get-go.

See the Full Report to compare the buyer and seller perspectives or click to read about our Staging Services.