CENTURY 21 AA Realty Blog

CENTURY 21 AA Realty Blog

Fall into Home Maintenance

As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, the urge to lounge on the couch by the fireplace becomes powerful. But before you start your winter hibernation, it’s imperative to take care of certain fall maintenance projects around your home.
 
Start by checking the outside of your home for peeling or blistering paint, which can be a sign that the existing paint film is failing and can no longer protect the siding, says Carl Minchew of Benjamin Moore Paints. Take care of it now, or risk more expensive repairs come spring.
 
Check for drafts around windows and door frames and caulk as needed in order to keep your home properly heated as temperatures drop.
 
Call the chimney sweep and schedule an appointment to have your fireplace and chimney professionally cleaned. Fall is peak season for these professionals, so the sooner you can get on their calendar, the better. Cleaning the chimney will remove creosote buildup and reduce the risk of dangerous chimney fires.
 
Clean and replace filters in your heating system to ensure optimal performance.
 
If your driveway suffers cracks and potholes, now is the time to have it sealed. This will prevent further, more costly damage from ice and snow in the months to come.
 
Assess the current state of your yard and deck and take care of the following: Clean and properly store equipment you won’t be using, such as lawn mowers and weed whackers; clean and cover your grill and deck furniture; turn off outside hose valves to prevent pipes from freezing.
 
Follow this protocol in your garden: Empty soil from ceramic pots—otherwise the soil will freeze and crack them; plant your spring bulbs; divide and replant perennials; trim dead branches; rake and use leaves for mulch.
 
Your reward for taking care of your home now is a safe winter and an easy, less costly transition into spring.
 
For more information about fall maintenance projects you should add to your to-do list, contact our office today.

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

Increase Your Home’s Value with a Fresh Coat of Paint

Getting ready to sell your house or condo? One of the easiest home improvements to get buyers' attention is a fresh coat of paint. Plus it's a cost-effective fix that will make your home look updated—which can translate to increased value. Sara McLean, color expert and blogger for Dunn-Edwards Paints, offers tips on how to choose interior colors that appeal to most people.

  • First, she cautions on painting everything white or beige, because your home might end up looking more like an apartment, rather than upscale.
  • Stick to earth tones and nature-based colors. Warm browns and milky tans—think latte. Light greens and blues are classy, and even some reds and oranges.  Warm grays are popular now, rather than cool grays.
  • Take the flooring into consideration and lay your color chips on the floor to see how they pair.  Warm tones tend to look better with most hardwood, whereas tile, terrazzo or carpet may dictate other colors.
  • While neutrals are safe, don't make the entire home so neutral that it's boring. An occasional accent wall in a darker or complementary shade adds a designer look.
  • Give a room life without being personal. Many people have a visceral reaction to bold colors and buyers' first thought is that they will need to repaint.
  • Kitchens and baths work well with a little more color to brighten up and make them fresh, clean and inviting.
  • In the kitchen, soft buttery yellows with slight brown undertones are popular, happy colors. Olive and sage greens make it feel garden-y and fresh. If you don't have a tile backsplash, create one with an eggshell or semi-gloss paint—either a solid color or with a decorative stencil.
  • Baths, laundry rooms and powders can incorporate brighter colors because they're smaller—play with color a little bit. Oranges and reds are trending now and through next year, as well as teal and turquoise.

"Once you have chosen a color, pick up a few samples and paint a section of the wall near permanent structures like fireplaces, flooring and cabinetry," McLean recommends. "Live with the samples at least a full a day to see them in all light sources. What looks light and bright in the morning, may look dungeon-y at night."

Next step, she advises, is to choose the gloss level. Flat, velvet or eggshell are­ good for interior walls, while a higher sheen looks pretty on trim and in kitchens and bathrooms. The higher gloss levels are easier to clean, so they are ideal for high traffic areas. Look for trim paint that is water-based but with the upscale look of oil-based.

Source: www.dunnedwards.com

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

4 Tips to Consider When Moving to a New State

Relocating to a new state offers the opportunity to start fresh and experience a life you may not have otherwise planned. But, like anything new, moving can present its own unique challenges, from organizing what to bring and discard, to deciding where to enroll the kids in school, to ensuring everyone remains happy and positive. Truly, the devil is in the details.

But because deciding where to move is the easy part, it's wise to cobble together a moving checklist to ensure you're not excluding any items to make your new house a home. Check out these helpful tips that will make your out-of-state move as seamless as possible.

Create a Checklist and Budget
Getting organized is one of the keys to a successful move. The best way to start is by creating a checklist. For example, in addition to packing and arranging moving services, you will need to:

  • Change your address and phone number
  • Update your billing and credit card information
  • Update your insurance policies
  • Obtain a new driver's license and plates

After creating this checklist, organize it chronologically into a calendar. For instance, you might start sorting through your belongings and research moving companies two months before your move, order moving supplies six weeks ahead of your move, and start packing and scheduling moving services a month ahead of time. Real Simple provides a sample calendar checklist that you can modify.

As you develop your checklist and calendar, you should also start planning a budget for the items on your list. Moving out of state can be expensive — as much as $8,000 to $14,000 if you're moving across the country, according to Updater.com. Items to include in your budget include:

  • Moving company expenses
  • Costs for unpacking and assembling appliances
  • Vehicle transportation costs
  • Post-move costs for security deposits and furniture

Before Your Move
Your checklist should include a number of key items you need to complete before your move. These include researching the cost of living in your new state, scheduling moving services, conducting a home inventory in deciding what to keep or discard, and packing. You may also need to take care of arranging transportation for plants and pets, collecting important documents and paperwork (insurance and school records), and canceling utility services at your old home and activating them at your new home.

Finding the Right Movers
Choosing the right movers can make the difference between a smooth moving experience and a big hassle. Interstate moving companies are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which requires them to comply with regulations for registration, a unique Department of Transportation number and insurance. This information should be posted on their website. You can read moving company reviews and receive quotes at MovingCompanyReviews.com. When considering moving companies, find out if they will subcontract your move, which might mean some of your belongings arrive at different times than others.
 
Post-Move Follow-Up
After moving into your new home — surprise! — there are a few more items to check off your list. Some of the more high-priority items include getting acclimated and set up with your new job, finding new local healthcare providers and registering your car. DMV.org provides an online map to discover motor-vehicle registration and license plate requirements for any state. You should also make it a habit of become familiar with local traffic and safety laws in your new home state, which you can research on driving-tests.org.
 
Finally, start laying down some social roots by checking out community events and getting to know your neighbors. Soon, with any luck, your new house will start to feel like a home.
 
This post was originally published on RISMedia's blog, Housecall.

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

5 Stress Relieving Tips For First-time Homebuyers

By Meghan Belnap
Moving into a new place is both exciting and challenging, and that is especially true if it’s your first time as a homeowner. Instead of allowing the process to overwhelm you, keep some tips in mind to help navigate through this exciting journey in your life.

Don’t Proceed Alone
You don’t need to take on the process of searching for and buying a home without assistance. Maintain contact with a real estate agent throughout the process. A well-qualified agent can assist you in searching for the perfect property.

Open Your Mind
Right now, you may have a list of all the features that you want in a house. You may have decided that you will only live in the community with the lowest crime rate and the best schools. Keep in mind that all of these desires cost money and you probably do not have an unlimited budget. Instead of maintaining such a myopic view of your new home, open your mind to the possibility of making some concessions.

Define Your Financial Ability
Opting for a pre-approval is a good idea so you know how much of a loan you can receive approval for. Once you obtain that amount, you might decide to spend the maximum amount. Doing so will likely prove uncomfortable for your budget. If you or your partner lost your job, you might not have the ability to keep your house at all. Try to start small with your first house purchase and avoid spending money beyond your means.

Take Your Time
Once you decide that you are in the right place to buy a house, you might be so eager that you rush through the process. Weigh the pros and cons of each house you look at. If possible, plan an adequate amount of time around the buying process to ensure that you have considered all your best options.

Prepare for Other Expenses
You need to find out if you are expected to pay closing costs upfront or if you can roll them into your loan. In some areas, the sellers will agree to pay for the closing costs. Not only do you need money for these expenses, but you’ll also need to cover other costs that are associated with moving into a new house.

Buying your first home can be both terrifying and wonderful all at once. Be prepared to invest in a financial investment like this by hiring professionals and making smart decisions. If home is where the heart is, allow yourself the time and care in finding the best possible place for you and your family.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

8 Ways to Safeguard against Scams

Scammers have devised every possible scheme—and then some—in attempts to swindle millions out of their hard-earned money. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), more than 2.5 million consumers submitted complaints about scams in the last year alone. Knowing the signs of a con can help you avoid falling prey to these ploys, says Steve Trumble, president and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC), a nationally-recognized non-profit organization.

“Scammers often use the Internet, phone, email and pop-ups in an illegal attempt to defraud millions of consumers,” says Trumble. “Understanding all the different outlets and mechanisms used by scammers, and how to best guard against fraud, can help consumers avoid falling for common traps. In an effort to assist consumers, we have created a set of tips to help effectively avoid scams.”

These tips are:

1. Read all statements. Read through all of your bank and credit statements to check for charges you are unfamiliar with. Be sure to report unrecognizable transactions immediately.

2. Do not send money to strangers. Many scammers try to get consumers to wire money. If you are purchasing goods through an online auction, consider using a credit card that offers protection.

3. Do not reply to messages asking for information. Messages from unknown sources asking for financial or personal information are tricks to try to get consumers to unveil sensitive information, also known as phishing.

4. Be cautious when shopping via phone. Cell phones lack anti-virus software, which can leave consumers at risk when entering payment information. Shopping through retailers’ apps often provides more security.

5. Do not share Social Security numbers online. Legitimate websites and businesses rarely ask consumers to provide Social Security numbers.

6. Do not share personal identifying information over the phone. Never provide any personal information, including Social Security numbers or bank information, unless you have initiated the phone call and know who you are speaking with.

7. Choose credit over debit. Most credit cards come with fraud protection, which enables consumers to get their money back if they fall victim to fraud.

8. Use strong passwords. For secure accounts, create passwords that are hard to guess and include multiple numbers and characters.

And remember, Trumble says, that the most common forms of scams are fraud, identity theft, debt-in-collection and imposter schemes.

Source: ACCC

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

5 Hot Curb Appeal Trends for 2016

By John Egan

Curb appeal is in the eyes of the buyer. But as Texas Tech University researchers Emmett Elam and Andrea Stigarall point out, the precise factors that influence a homebuyer’s perceptions of curb appeal are debatable. What is not debatable is the lift that curb appeal gives to the value of a home. Improving the curb appeal of your home can boost its value by as much as 17 percent, the Texas Tech researchers found. They say curb appeal ranks second only to home size in weighing a home’s value.

While the notion of curb appeal has been around for decades, its appeal keeps rising. Mischel Schonberg, a spokeswoman for Mason, Ohio-based garage door manufacturer Clopay, says: “Home improvement shows and magazines have drilled the importance of curb appeal into the minds of homeowners looking to increase the value and appearance of their homes.”

Here are five top-of-mind trends for curb appeal in 2016.

1. Update the Front Door
A fresh coat of paint can spruce up a ho-hum front door and help make a better first impression when someone is eyeing your home.

Veronica Solomon, owner and lead designer at Casa Vilora Interiors in Katy, Texas, says: “Painting a front door a bold color is my favorite curb appeal trend. It creates interest and a focal point to the façade of the home. It gives the home personality. It is inexpensive to do, but has an immediate and big impact.”

Pat McGeehan, CEO of a real estate investment company in Spring Lake, N.J., suggests contrasting the color of your front door with the color palette of your front yard. He also recommends installing a new knob on the front door — one that’s shiny and ornamental.

If you replace the front door altogether, beware that you’ll need to pony up more money than if you just touch up the door with a fresh coat of paint. According to the Remodeling 2015 Cost vs. Value Report, the average cost of replacing a front door on a home is $1,230 (steel) or $2,926 (fiberglass), with an owner being able to recover 102 percent of the cost for the steel door or 72 percent of the cost for the fiberglass door.

2. Lighten Up the Exterior

Outdoor lighting can add a touch of elegance to your front of your home. Furthermore, it can enhance the safety of your house. Outdoor lighting should go beyond ordinary lampposts and wall-mounted lighting to make your landscaping really stand out. Try installing stylish and modern lighting on your front porch.

A 2012 survey by the National Association of Home Builders found that 90 percent of homebuyers rated exterior lighting as an “essential” or “desirable” feature.

3. Liven Up the Landscaping

Flowers and fertilizer can be your friends when it comes to bumping up the curb appeal of your home. A study by Alex X. Niemiera, a horticulture professor at Virginia Tech, shows that a well-landscaped home holds a higher value than a home without proper landscaping. The advantage ranges from 5.5 percent to 12.7 percent, translating into an extra $8,250 to $19,050 for a home worth $150,000.

Of course, landscaping goes beyond flowers and fertilizer. Trim any overgrowth and pull weeds to spiff up the front lawn, McGeehan says. “Neatness will make the yard look bigger and will make your plants look greener and more vibrant,” he says.

McGeehan also says you consider putting up a low-height fence around the front yard to create a “welcome boundary” and make the front yard look larger. While you’re installing that fence or planting those bushes and shrubs, don’t overlook the lawn itself. According to a 2015 survey by lawnmower manufacturer Briggs & Stratton, 62 percent of American homeowners say the lawn influenced their home-buying decision.

4. Put Furniture on the Porch

Placing a bistro table or a couple of chairs on your porch can cost an average of $800 to $1,200 but can yield a return on investment of 40 percent to 60 percent, according to Styleathome.com.

“Nothing is more inviting than a pair of matching rockers on a front porch that are visible from the street,” McGeehan says.

5. Upgrade the Garage Door

One of the easiest ways to improve your home’s curb appeal is upgrade your garage door. Schonberg says: “Garage doors can represent up to 40 percent of a home’s curb appeal, especially in markets where lot sizes are narrow and builders have no choice but to position the garage on the front of the house. That much real estate presents a huge opportunity to enhance or detract from a home’s appearance.”

According to the Remodeling 2015 Cost vs. Value Report, the average cost of replacing a garage door on a home is $1,595, with an owner being able to recoup 88 percent of that cost.

Schonberg says that 10 to 15 years ago, garage doors weren’t considered a key element of exterior design. Now, she says, replacing the garage door ranks among the top 5 home improvement projects.

“It’s no longer about just about getting a steel door in a different color or with windows. Homeowners can customize their door to fit their home style perfectly and make a statement,” Schonberg says.

John Egan is editor-in-chief at LawnStarter, an Austin, Texas-based startup that helps homeowners manage their lawn care and helps lawn care professionals manage their businesses.

This post was originally published on RISMedia's blog, Housecall. Check the blog daily for winning real estate news and trends.

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

7 Simple Food Swaps for a Healthier New Year

Even if weight loss is not your goal, nutritionists tell us that making some simple and healthy food swaps can give us more energy and focus.

Here are seven suggested swaps that are easy to incorporate into your menu plan and lifestyle:

  • Swap margarine for butter – Butter gets a bad rap for high fat content, so margarine was made in a lab as a “healthier alternative.” But margarine is a highly processed food full of emulsifiers, colorants and other artificial ingredients that can be toxic to our bodies and digestive tracts.
  • Swap sour cream for Greek yogurt – They have similar consistencies and taste, yet Greek yogurt is a far better option. It has 133 calories, one gram of fat, and 8 grams of carbohydrates, while 1 cup of reduced-fat sour cream has 416 calories, 32 grams of fat, and 16 grams of carbohydrates. Greek yogurt also has more B-12, higher protein, less sugar, and higher vitamin content.
  • Swap rice for quinoa – Even if you are eating brown rice, which is healthier than white, quinoa surpasses both in the fight for the healthiest grain. One cup of brown rice contains 14 grams of fiber, while quinoa has 21 – and quinoa is a complete protein with higher levels of B vitamins, iron, riboflavin, folate, and zinc.
  • Swap mayo for avocado – When making a sandwich, mashed avocado provides the same consistency as mayo but without the junk. Mayo is high in cholesterol, fats, and carbs. A tablespoon contains 115 calories, while one-fourth of an avocado contains 80 and has higher protein and potassium.
  • Swap iceberg lettuce for spinach or kale – Darker greens, including romaine or arugula, have the highest level of nutrients, with more antioxidants because darker leaves are able to absorb more light and synthesize more vitamins. 
  • Swap OJ for fruit-infused water – Slice up a favorite fruit (even lemon works great!) and drop it into a glass of water. You get an immense amount of flavor, but only half the calories and sugar of juice – plus fruit-infused water keeps you more hydrated. Squeeze the fruit into the water for added flavor.Swap beef for chicken – Red meats have bad cholesterol compared to lean meats like chicken and turkey. If you love red meat, eat it once a week instead of three.

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.

6 Kitchen Design Dilemmas and How to Solve Them

(BPT)—Kitchen design is an art form, one where function and beauty harmoniously co-exist. Achieving that balance, however, isn't always easy. When renovating a kitchen, homeowners can find themselves facing challenging design dilemmas. And they are not alone.

"When redesigning or refreshing a kitchen, the goal is to create a space that is hard-working, yet beautiful," says Nate Berkus, renowned designer and artistic advisor to LG Studio. "Look for items that really represent who you are and your design personality, and you'll create an area you and your family will love both now and 10 years from now."

Berkus points to six common kitchen design dilemmas and offers suggestions on how homeowners can remedy those issues:

1. Space Challenges – When you don't have enough room for the large table your family needs, get creative. Consider building an L-shaped bench around a farm table and adding extra chairs. It's a clever use of space and will create a cozy nook where your family can gather for meals or kids can do homework. Plus, the bench can double as storage space.

2. Last Year's (or Last Decade's) Cabinets – Cabinets are one of the first things you notice in any kitchen, and they're also one of the most important in terms of functionality. If your cabinets provide ample space but look dated, Berkus suggests giving them a facelift with varying materials and finishes, like a wood or paint color that's different from the rest of the kitchen.

"I always appreciate a simple, clean style, but with cabinets, I tell my clients they shouldn't be afraid to mix it up," Berkus says. “I recommend sticking with a neutral palette for cabinets, whether you're installing brand new ones or painting your existing cabinets. White, charcoal and gray will always be elegant, and you can't go wrong with black – it's absolutely one of my favorites. It makes a dramatic statement and looks fantastic paired with stainless steel appliances."

3. Small Budgets, Big Taste – When you long for that sleek, built-in look but don't want to break the bank, counter-depth appliances are a great design choice. They seamlessly integrate with cabinetry no matter what the material, supporting that clean look you ultimately want your kitchen to reflect.

4. Unattractive, Inefficient Lighting – Lighting is one of the most important design elements in any room, and it's the one thing people often overlook when re-designing their kitchens. "Lighting can instantly change the whole feel of a space," Berkus says. "I believe it is one of the most important decisions you can make in any room, especially the kitchen, which, let's be honest, is usually the hardest working room in your home."

To create lighting that is both useful and beautiful, remember to light the room in layers – from above, under cabinets to illuminate work areas and all-around accent lighting to create ambiance.

5. Counter Space Confusion – Figuring out how much counter space you'll need is always tricky. Start by considering all the ways you'll be using your counters. You'll need food prep areas, of course, but will you also want a breakfast bar where your family can sit for meals and snacks? Will you need extra room for countertop appliances?

"My rule of thumb is, to always double the amount of counter space you think you'll need," Berkus says. "You can never have too much, especially if you like to cook and entertain."

6. A Too-Clean Slate – A large, open-concept kitchen can seem appealing, but it can also be daunting to design and decorate.

"Don't be afraid to do something unexpected in the kitchen to break up the space," Berkus says. "I love the idea of creating an unexpected seating area in your kitchen. Shop your weekend flea markets or online stores for a vintage sofa, coffee table and rug to set up an area for your family to relax in."

Ultimately, Berkus says, keep in mind that the kitchen truly is the heart of the home. "Kitchen design is about creating a space in your home that brings the whole family together, and is the best place to reflect your sense of personal style."

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Fall Maintenance: 10 Safety Tips for Ladders, Rakes

Here’s a statistic: In the last year alone, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported more than half a million fall home maintenance-related injuries – and 40,000-plus of those incidents were caused by raking!

“Never underestimate the task at hand while cleaning,” says Dr. Patrick Osborn, spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ (AAOS). “Even the most mundane or simple chores can cause strain, injury, or even a fall if not done correctly. For instance, when using a ladder, never stand on the top rung.”

Dr. Osborn and the AAOS strongly advise homeowners to keep safety in mind when tackling fall clean-up this year. Here are some tips.

1. Use a comfortable rake. Select a rake that is suitable for your height and strength.

2. Service equipment. Have equipment such as leaf blowers serviced before using for the first time this season.

3. Inspect the ladder. Check the ladder for any loose screws, hinges or rungs and clean off any mud or liquids that might have accumulated on the ladder.

4. Properly set up the ladder.
Every ladder should be placed on a firm, level surface. Never place a ladder on ground that is uneven and watch for soft, muddy spots. The same is true for uneven flooring. Remember to always engage the ladder locks or braces before climbing. If working outside, make sure the ladder — when extended — will not hit electrical wires, tree limbs or any other obstructions.

5. Remember the one-to-four rule. The bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall for every four feet that the ladder rises. For example, if the ladder touches the wall 16 feet above the ground, the base of the ladder should be four feet from the wall. If you are going to climb onto a roof, the ladder should extend at least three feet higher than the rooftop. And, the upper and lower sections of an extension ladder should overlap to provide stability.

6. Avoid using ladders in adverse weather conditions. It’s unsafe to use ladders outside if there is rain, wind, snow, ice or some other factor that can increase the risk of slipping and falling.

7. Select the right ladder for the job.
If you’re washing windows inside the home, choose a step stool or utility ladder, which are often used when working at low or medium heights. Extension ladders are ideal for use outdoors to reach high places, like when cleaning the gutters on the rooftop. The weight the ladder is supporting also should never exceed its maximum load capacity.

8. Move materials with caution when on the ladder. While cleaning the garage or closet, be careful when pushing or pulling items from shelves. It is easy to be thrown off-balance and fall.

9. Always position the ladder closer to the work. Over-reaching or leaning too far to one side can make you lose your balance and fall. Your belly button should not go beyond the sides of the ladder!

10. Wear proper footwear.
Make sure your shoelaces are tied and the soles of your shoes are free of any debris or greasy, oily or wet substances. Do not wear leather-soled shoes, as they are slippery. Pant legs shouldn’t be too wide or too long.

Most importantly, be safe and ask someone to hold the ladder while you climb. Stay in the center of the ladder as you ascend, and always hold the side rails with both hands.

Source: AAOS

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

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