Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ensuring Fireplace Safety


Source US Inspect January, 20 2015

In the cold of winter, many homeowners turn to their fireplaces for an alternate source of warmth and ambiance alike, but it's important to be sure you are operating your fireplace safely. Here's how:

In order to keep your family and home safe, it is important to always practice fireplace and chimney safety. Follow the three-foot rule. Combustible material too close to the fireplace, or to a wood stove, could easily catch fire so keep material at least 36" away from the hearth. Below, find more helpful information about fireplaces and chimneys.

How often should I have my chimney cleaned?

The quick simple answer is: The National Fire Protection Association standard 211 says, "Chimneys, fireplaces, and vents shall be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits and correct clearances. Cleaning, maintenance and repairs shall be done if necessary."

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends that open masonry fireplaces should be cleaned at 1/8" of sooty buildup, and sooner if there is any glaze present in the system. Factory-built fireplaces should be cleaned when any appreciable buildup occurs.

Wood Stove Emissions

Approximately 10 million wood stoves are currently in use in the United States, and 70 percent to 80 percent of them are older, inefficient, conventional stoves that pollute. - Source:EPA

Today, there are wood stoves certified by the EPA to be cleaner-burning, as well as stoves that burn gas, pellets, oil, corn and coal. These same stoves are also sold as fireplace inserts, and can be added to a fireplace to reduce the amount of
emissions.

A Surprising Fact

Water causes more damage to masonry chimneys than fire. Chimney caps, also called rain covers, are probably the most inexpensive preventive measure that a homeowner can employ to prevent water penetration and damage to the chimney. Chimneys have one or more large openings (flues) at the top that collect rain water and funnel it directly to the chimney interior. A strong, well designed cap not only keeps this water out, but will also prevent birds and animals from entering and nesting in the chimney.

Monday, January 19, 2015

5 Ways to Brighten Your Home and Beat the Winter Blues


Submitted by US Inspect January, 15 2015

Brighten your home (and your mood!) with these tricks for beating the winter-time blues!

After weeks and months of colder weather and reduced sunlight hours (especially in colder climates) it's not unusual to get a case of the winter blues. In fact, some of us get downright depressed! But fear not; though springtime is still a while off, we've got some easy ways to brighten your home and lift your spirits at the same time. So, hang in there, and meanwhile, give these ideas a try:

•Bring on the blossoms. Treat yourself to some fresh cut flowers or a flowering plant. Flowers remind us of freshness, beauty, nature, springtime, and new life. Not only do they make us happy, but they can infuse some much needed color into a dreary space. Choose your favorite flower varieties for looks, for fragrance, or, while you're at it, try choosing blooms in complimentary colors to your decor, which adds another dimension to the design of your space.

•Throw something new into the mix. Throw pillows and throw blankets are a great way to brighten a space or change the mood of a design. Pick fabrics with bright, vibrant prints and colors and layer them over your existing decor. The landscape ouside might be dreary and dull, but the inside of your home will be anything but!

•Let the light in. When the sun is shining (yes, it still does that!) open the shades and let the light in. Kick it up a notch by washing your windows so that the winter grime doesn't block those fantastic rays.

•Home is where the heart is. One of the best ways to lighten your mood and lift your spirits is to warm yourself from the inside out. And nothing warms the heart better than being around friends and family--or pictures of them! Go through the images on your digital camera or phone and finally print some of them out. Scatter them around your home so you can catch a glimpse of them throughout your day. Hint: This is the only idea on our list that we don't recommend for home sellers. Family photos in a home on the market (especially a lot of them) can make buyers feel uncomfortable and less able to picture themselves in your home. But don't worry- pictures of your favorite scenery, animals, or places around the world can work just as well. Rather than a family photo from your last beach vacation, try a postcard from that trip of a beach chair and flip flops. you'll be transported back to that trip each time you pass the picture, while buyers will start imagining their own happy memories in your home.

•Follow your nose. Sometimes the biggest changes in mood can be made with pleasant scents! With nothing else around us changing at all, we can lift our mood with familiar or pleasant aromas in our home. How about trying some candles or oil diffusers filled with familiar smells of spring like fresh laundry, berries or ther fruits, florals - or better yet, close your eyes and wish for summer with scents of the beach!

Whatever you choose to do for the rest of this winter, know that your home can be your haven. So grab a hot cocoa and a throw blanket and enjoy.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New England International Auto Show - One More Day!


Title: New England International Auto Show
Date: 1/15/2015 - 1/19/2015
Address: Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, 415 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02210
Location: Boston, MA
Hours: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Cost/Cover: $6-15
Web Page: http://www.bostonautoshow.com/
Contact Info: (781) 237-5533; (800) 258-8912

Details:
It’s the Biggest Auto Show in New England… and the perfect place to browse hundreds of the newest vehicles! Located at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in the Seaport District, the New England International Auto Show is the premier showcase of the newest model year imported and domestic vehicles — cars, vans, crossovers, hybrids, light trucks and sport utilities – cars to suit every budget and life style. Factory and dealer representatives are on hand to answer your questions in a no pressure environment, and with your favorite car lines all under one roof, it’s easy to compare prices and features, saving both time and money.

So come sit in the cars, pop the hoods, inspect the trunks, kick the tires. The New England International Auto Show is great entertainment for serious shoppers, car buffs and the entire family!

Adults $15.00
Children (6-12) $6.00
Children under 6 Free

Thursday, January 15, 2015

You Don't Need a 20% Down Payment

0% Down Payment

The Veterans Administration and US Department of Agriculture (USDA. Some Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also offer properties with as little as $100 down.

3.5% Down Payment

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan program can allow as little mas 3.5% down, and it is more lenient than most other programs on minimum credit scores and other factors.

5% Down Payment

Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac conventional loans are available with down payments as low as 5%! The minimum on these programs can change dependent on factors such as property type. credit score, occupancy, etc.

0-20% Down Payment


And there are many other options in between. I'll direct you to the right Bank or Mortgage Broker to get you into your "Dream House".

Your Wicked Good Realtor, Ed Hughes

Why Rent When You Can Buy.....Save Money and Build Equity!

If you are paying $1,200/month on rent today, in 3 Years you could build $43,000 in Equity.

If you are paying $1,500/month on rent today, in 3 years you could build $54,00 in Equity.

I can keep going on, but I think you got the message.

The Home Buying Process can seem complicated and intimidating. I believe you need experts on your side with knowledge and experience to assist you with making the most of your monthly mortgage payments. A team who truly cares can make all the difference. I am dedicated to helping you find the right home and mortgage financing that fits your individual needs. Let's start shopping for your home and start investing in your future.

Your Wicked Good Realtor, Ed Hughes

6 things millennials need from a Realtor


Millennials have grown up in a technology-fueled world, where personal computers are everywhere, smartphones are the norm and they’ve grown used to the ability to connect anywhere with their tablets. Facebook was originally created for them as college students. Reality television has shown them that anyone can make a million dollars. Millennials tend to have a tendency toward instant gratification; they believe life is full of unlimited opportunities and are more connected by technology than any previous generation.

Many millennials are not quick to rush into buying their first house, but when they do, as a Realtor, the way you must cater to them might be brand-new to you. They want information, and they want it now. They don’t want to be sold. They don’t commit easily, so it will take them time to find the house of their dreams.

How do you cater to millennials? Use their love of technology to impress them and make your life easier. Use technology to manage their expectations and to give them the information they are looking for before they buy a house.

Here are six tips to working with our technology-driven millennial generation:

1. Make your website work for you

Millennials want information; they crave it. They want to be educated about a process before they make the final decision. This is especially true when buying a house. They watched the housing market crash, and they have been gun-shy about entering the market. So how do you turn that around? You educate them until they can’t take in another piece of information.

The easiest way to do that is to let your website do the work for you. Create a page on your website that exclusively caters to first-time homebuyers. Include a list of frequently asked questions, useful infographics and links to articles written by you that will feed first-time homebuyers information. Include a free report about the homebuying process that they can download after providing an email address. This not only gives you a list of potential leads, but it gives the prospect all the information they want in one place. Give them the information they are looking for, and you will pave the way to becoming their trusted real estate adviser.

2. Connect on social media

The millennial generation is all about connecting on social media, and they love to share what is going on in their lives. When you first meet a new client, find out which social media platform is important to them and connect with them there. (It may not be Facebook!) If it’s possible to do within their favorite social media site, add them to a custom list so you can easily find out what they are talking about. The goal here is to clue into what they are talking about during the homebuying process, the struggles, the issues and the questions. This will help you anticipate their needs, which will make you look like a super star agent.

3. Custom email campaigns

Email is still king when it comes to marketing to prospects. When millennials gives you an email address, dazzle them with an automated email drip campaign. Send important homebuying tips, but don’t make it all about real estate. Other ideas that are useful to millennial homebuyers include information about the schools, good restaurants in the area or local interest groups they can join. Millennials don’t compartmentalize areas of their lives when they are searching for a home. They are going to want to know whether the area will fit their overall lifestyle, so show them that it will by providing them with useful information about the area.

4. Give millennials tools

This is the generation that uses an app for everything. When you meet with them, give them a list of apps they can use during the homebuying process, and they will feel like you really understand what they need during this time in their lives.

Ideas for apps include: realtor.com (unless you have your own branded app), Homesnap, My Nest, DocuSign, Crime Mapping and Mortgage Calculator.

If there is a cost to purchasing the apps, then buy the app for them. Millennials like to feel special, and this small gesture will go a long way.

In addition to apps, provide them with spreadsheets and checklists that will help them during the homebuying process. By giving them these tools, it will show millennials that you understand their needs, which will make you look like the expert real estate agent!

5. Set communication expectations

Millennials are so connected to technology, whether through email, social media or texting, that it seems like they always have a phone or tablet in their hands. It is important for you as the agent to set communication expectations upfront when you first meet with millennials. Ask them how they like to communicate and whether they prefer a phone call, email or text. Let them know your hours and your turn time for responding.

I know that real estate agents work all of the time, but some millennials may send you texts or emails at midnight asking about a particular listing! If you don’t want to be expected to answer at midnight, set that expectation upfront. Let them know if they text or email at a late hour, you will respond first thing in the morning. By setting these expectations upfront, they won’t feel disappointed by your communication, and you won’t feel irritated by those late-night texts or emails!

6. Create webinars

Remember in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when first-time homebuyer seminars were all the rage and would drive real estate leads? The seminars fell off as the information became more readily available on the Internet.

Go where your millennial clients are and offer first-time homebuyer webinars. This will give prospects the opportunity to get to know you and will help build trust in choosing you as their real estate agent. Millennials want to be educated, and they turn to the Internet to get that education. Impress them from the beginning by offering them a webinar that caters to their needs!

Millennials are the current first-time homebuyer demographic that help to drive the real estate market. We need them in the market to keep it moving forward. Millennials can be seen as a challenging group to work with, but I think it is because they are misunderstood. Get to know their generation, what they like and don’t like, their purchasing behavior and how they operate. Most importantly, cater to their love of technology and their need for information. Doing this will earn their trust, and you will be known in your area as the Realtor for the millennial generation!

Jennifer Snyder is a real estate marketing consultant, speaker and blogger at Marketing Ideas for Agents.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Interesting Laundry Room Ideas

The laundry room is one of those spaces that, if you’re lucky enough to have one, is always in use. If you have a large family, your laundry machines are likely running every day — sometimes even every night. With so much time being spent in these hardworking spaces, it’s worth taking the time to make them as functional and efficient as possible. Pullout drying racks, expansive folding counters and plenty of storage are sure to help you get the job done, but don’t overlook pet-washing stations or wine refrigerators. As you prepare for your laundry room remodel or new build in 2015, consider these most popular laundry rooms on Houzz in 2014 for inspiration and design tips.