Home > Blogs > Real Estate and *stuff*

Real Estate and *stuff*

A real person helping real people with real estate

By Amy Mullen | Agent in Marlborough, MA
  • Sneak Peak!!! California style ranch with view coming on market on Monday!

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Rutland, Curb Appeal in Rutland  |  May 3, 2014 4:42 AM  |  436 views  |  No comments

    Beautiful single level living can be found in this newer 3 bed, 3 bath ranch with so many bonuses!  Great views – great open layout – great yard for summer entertaining!  On the market Monday!

    Share this:

  • 5 Deck Makeover Projects Under $300

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Shrewsbury, Curb Appeal in Shrewsbury, Remodel & Renovate in Shrewsbury  |  May 1, 2014 8:30 AM  |  571 views  |  2 comments

    Want to upgrade your deck but watching your budget? Here are 5 easy deck makeover ideas, many well under $300.

    1. Add solar lighting

    If you’d like your wood deck to come alive when the sun goes down, add solar lighting. Solar lights don’t need an on/off switch -- they light up when it gets dark, then fade away 4-6 hours later.

    You won’t have to plug them in or wire anything, either. Their solar-charged batteries are renewed every day, and the lights are built to withstand all kinds of weather.

    Types and cost:

    • Paper lanterns (made from synthetic, weatherproof nylon; $20-$30) are made for hanging and come in all sorts of fun shapes, sizes, and colors.
    • Carriage lights can be fixed on top of a pillar or railing newel post. $45-$150.
    • Solar illuminated replicas of old-fashioned mason jars can be set on any flat surface, about $35.
    • Rope lights have small LED bulbs inside a flexible cord. A 25-foot-long rope with solar charger and stand is $25.

    What else: Suspend lanterns from overhead trellises, railings, and nearby trees, where they’ll shed a soft, colorful glow. Wind rope lights around rafters and railings.

    2. Install a stone landing at the foot of your deck stairs
    3. Put up a privacy screen

    4. Paint a faux floor rug on your decking
    5. Wash and refinish your wood decking

    2. Install a stone landing at the foot of your deck stairs

    Dress up the transition from your deck to your yard with a little hardscaping -- a stone landing at the bottom of your deck stairs. Stones are a natural compliment to wood decks, and they’ll help prevent mud from forming where there’s heavy foot traffic.

    Cost: Flagstone is priced by the pound; you’ll spend $60-$100 for enough stone for a 3-by-4-foot landing.

    How-to: Techniques for installing a landing are the same as putting in a patio, although you’ll have to temporarily support your existing stairway while you work around — and under — it.

    What else: You should be able to add a landing in less than a day. It’ll get done faster if you hire a pro, but it’ll cost you another $150-$200 in labor.

    3. Put up a privacy screen

    Whether you’re relaxing alone au naturel or entertaining friends, a little home privacy is always welcome. You can add some vertical supports and fill in a variety of cool screening materials that are as nice for your neighbors to look at as they are for you.

    Types and costs:

    • Bamboo fencing comes in a 6-by-16-foot roll for $20-$25.
    • Lattice panels are either wood or plastic, $15-$30 for a 4-by-8-foot panel.
    • Grow climbing plants on a trellis ($20-$100) to create a living privacy screen. Plant climbing vines in tall containers ($40-$120) to raise them above the deck surface and give them a head start filling in your screen.
    • Outdoor fabric resists moisture and fading; $12-$120 per yard. You’ll pay another $20 to have a seamstress cut and hem a 3-by-5-foot panel.

    How-to: Your privacy screen should integrate with your deck; make the framework using the same basic materials as your deck railing and structure.

    Add some flash by building a frame with 2-by-2- or 2-by-4-inch uprights spaced 1 foot apart, then weaving aluminum flashing between the uprights.

    What else: Make sure to position your privacy screen where you’ll get maximum benefit. Sit on your deck and check your lines of sight.

    4. Paint a faux floor rug on your decking

    Punch up a boring old deck with a faux rug. This is a fairly low-cost project with a big wow factor, and one you can share making with your (well-behaved) kids. It works best on a newly cleaned deck (see below.)

    Cost: Most of your cost will be deck stain or paint in various colors. Because you won’t be using that much stain per color, you can buy quarts. Figure $15-$20 per quart.
    How-to: Figure out a size, sketch out the design on your decking, and then all you have to do is paint or stain between the lines. You can use painter’s tape as a guide, but a little leakage is likely on a wood decking surface.

    What else: Keep a few basic cleaning supplies on hand for any drips or spills. After the stain is dry, coat the entire deck with a clear deck sealer.

    5. Wash and refinish your wood decking

    The ultimate deck makeover is none other than a good cleaning. Applying a coat of deck sealant afterwards ensures your wood decking looks great and will last for decades.

    Cost: There are many brands of deck cleaning and brightening solutions. Some require the deck to be wet; others need the decking to be dry. Some are harmful to plants and you’ll have to use plastic sheeting to protect your landscaping. Consult the instructions carefully.

    You’ll pay $15-$25 per gallon, enough to clean 300 sq. ft. of decking.

    How-to: Scrubbing with a good cleaning solution and rinsing with a garden hose is more foolproof than scouring your decking with a power washer that may damage the surface of the wood.

    What else: After you deck is cleaned, apply a coat of deck stain or clear finish. The sealer wards off dirt, wear, and UV rays, and helps prevent deck splinters. A gallon covers 250-350 sq. ft., $20-$35/gal.

    By: John Riha

    Published: July 2, 2012

    Looking for some great outdoor space in your new home or getting ready to list your home for your summer buyers?  Let's chat and figure out your next step.  Click HERE to get more information and a free market analysis.

  • 5 Awesomely Easy Landscaping Projects

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Massachusetts, Curb Appeal in Massachusetts, Going Green in Massachusetts  |  May 19, 2013 5:43 AM  |  1,107 views  |  No comments

    Ramp up your curb appeal with cool landscaping projects you can easily pull off in a weekend.

    Project #1: Install Rigid Flower Bed Edging

    garden-metal-edgingThe setup: A crisp edge where the lawn meets the flower beds looks great and eases mowing. Opt for rigid edging — the flexible plastic stuff looks amateurish from day one.

    Use a charged garden hose to lay out a smooth curve.

    Tip: A “charged” garden hose full of water makes for a smoother, kink-free curve; charge up by turning on the spigot but leaving the sprayer off.

    With the hose as your guide, use a lawn edger or spade to cut away excess sod and make an incision for the edging. Tap in the edging with a rubber mallet and add the stakes. Trim the edging with a hacksaw, using a speed square to mark for cuts.

    Specs and cost: Steel — $1.25 per lineal foot; aluminum — $2.25 plf; rigid plastic or fiberglass — $1.65 plf.

    Tools: Garden hose, flour or powdered chalk, lawn edger or spade, shovel, speed square, hacksaw, rubber mallet, hammer.

    Project #2: Add an Earth Berm

    berm-300x173The setup: Create an eye-catching front yard feature by shaping a few cubic yards of topsoil into an undulating berm. Topped off with mulch, groundcover, and bushes, a berm adds interest and buffers street noise.

    Use a charged hose to outline the berm. Remove sod a couple of feet in from the perimeter. Add a few mounds, but max out at 3 feet high.

    Specs and cost: Three cubic yards of soil is enough for a good-sized berm. Expect to pay $15-$20 per cubic yard and $15–$60 for delivery — a total of $60-$120.

    Tip: Don’t be tempted by those bags of topsoil at the home center: At $2.50 per cubic foot, a cubic yard (27 cubic feet) will end up costing you $67.50.

    Have a cubic yard of mulch dropped off as well ($15–$20). A dozen periwinkle starts, plus a few boxwood bushes and evergreens, will set you back another $140.

    Total for an 18-foot-long berm: $215–$280.

    Tools: Wheelbarrow, spade, shovel, garden rake, trowel.

    Time: A day to form the berm, another half-day for planting and mulching.

    Project #3: Build a Wall for a Raised Bed

    flagstoneThe setup: A stacked flagstone wall for your raised beds has an old-world look that mellows any landscape. Best of all, you don’t have to be stonemason to build one.

    Begin by laying out the wall with stakes and mason’s line. Tamp a level bed of sand for the first course. As you add courses, stagger joints at least 3 inches. Set each course back ¼-inch so the wall leans backward slightly. Once finished, back the wall with landscaping fabric before filling with topsoil.

    Specs and cost: Choose a stone of consistent thickness. Flagstone might be limestone, sandstone, shale — any rock that splits into slabs. A ton of 2-inch-thick stone is enough for a wall 10 feet long and 12 inches high.

    Cost: About $300 for stones and sand.

    Tip: Permanent retaining walls should be backed by pea gravel for drainage. In some locations, walls taller than 3 feet high require a building permit.

    Tools: Stakes and mason’s line, spade, shovel, a 2-by-4 that’s 8 feet long, a 4-foot level, garden rake, tamper.

    Time: 1 day for a 10-foot-long wall that’s 12 inches high.
    Project #4: Install a Flagstone Path

    11930059-natural-flagstone-path-landscaping-in-home-gardenThe setup: For a welcoming addition to your yard, add a flagstone pathway. Use a charged garden hose to mark a meandering path about 3 feet wide. Arrange flagstones within the path so they are 2–4 inches apart and mark their location with sprinkled flour.

    Tip: Sprinkling flour over the stones creates a “shadow” outline on the ground. When you remove the stones, you’ll have perfect outlines for cutting away the sod.

    Cut away 3–4 inches of sod beneath each stone, add a layer of sand, and level the flagstones as you place them.

    Specs and cost: For a 40-foot path about 3 feet wide, plan on 2 tons of flagstones and about a cubic yard of coarse sand. Cost: About $550.

    Tools: Garden hose, flour, spade, trowel, level.

    Time: 1 day for a 40-foot path.

    Project #5: Add a Brick Tree Surround
    brick treeThe setup: Installing a masonry surround for a tree eases mowing and looks great. All it takes is digging a circular trench, adding some sand, and installing brick or stone.

    Tip: To create a nice, even circle around the base of your tree, tie a big loop of rope around your tree. Adjust the length of the loop so when you pull it taut, the free end is right where you’d like the outer edge of the surround to be. Set your spade inside the loop with the handle plumb — straight up and down. Now, as you move around the tree, the loop of rope keeps the spade exactly the same distance from the base of the tree, creating a nice circle.

    Use the spade to cut into the sod all the way around the tree. Remove the rope, and dig out a circular trench about 8 inches deep and 6 inches wide. Add a layer of sand. Set bricks at an angle for a pleasing saw-tooth effect or lay them end-to-end. Fill the surround with 2–4 inches of mulch.

    Curious what trees to plant? Our popular slideshow tells you which trees you should never plant in your yard.

    Specs and cost: This is an instance where buying small quantities of materials at the home center makes sense. Brick pavers cost $.50-$1 each — figure about 20 per tree. A bag of mulch, enough for one tree, costs $2.50.

    Tools: Rope, spade, trowel.

    Time: 3 hours per tree.

  • 2012-13 Cost vs. Value: Make the First Impression Count

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Massachusetts, Curb Appeal in Massachusetts, Remodel & Renovate in Massachusetts  |  February 11, 2013 6:07 AM  |  1,065 views  |  1 comment

    Updating the outside of a home pays off, according to this year’s Cost vs. Value Report. Real estate professionals ranked exterior improvement projects as winning the buyers’ eye and providing sellers with the most return on investment.

    If your clients are wondering what home improvement projects will give them the best return on the sale of their home, tell them to think “curb appeal.”

    When buyers are shopping for a home, the exterior can make (or break) the first impression. According to the 2013 Cost vs. Value Report, exterior replacement projects are among the most valuable home improvements that sellers can currently invest in, starting with the front door.

    A steel entry door topped this year’s survey with an estimated 85.6 percent of the costs recouped at resale. The steel door replacement is also the least expensive of the 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects included in the survey, costing $1,137 on average.

    This is the 15th year that Remodeling magazine — in cooperation with REALTOR® Magazine — has released the Cost vs. Value Report. This year’s survey included more than 3,900 appraisers, sales agents, and brokers across the country who provided their opinions and estimates.

    Exterior projects dominated the list with six of the top 10 most cost-effective midrange projects and eight of the top 10 upscale projects.

    Top 10 Midrange Projects

    1. Entry Door Replacement (steel)
    Job Cost: $1,137
    Resale Value: $974
    Cost Recouped: 85.6 percent

    2. Deck Addition (wood)
    Job Cost: $9,327
    Resale Value: $7,213
    Cost Recouped: 77.3 percent

    3. Garage Door Replacement
    Job Cost: $1,496
    Resale Value: $1,132
    Cost Recouped: 75.7 percent

    4. Minor Kitchen Remodel
    Job Cost: $18,527
    Resale Value: $13,977
    Cost Recouped: 75.4 percent

    5. Window Replacement (wood)
    Job Cost: $10,708
    Resale Value: $7,852
    Cost Recouped: 73.3 percent

    (tie) 6. Attic Bedroom Addition
    Job Cost: $47,919
    Resale Value: $34,916
    Cost Recouped: 72.9 percent

    (tie) 6. Siding Replacement (vinyl)
    Job Cost: $11,192
    Resale Value: $8,154
    Cost Recouped: 72.9 percent

    7. Window Replacement (vinyl)
    Job Cost: $9,770
    Resale Value: $6,961
    Cost Recouped: 71.2 percent

    8. Basement Remodel
    Job Cost: $61,303
    Resale Value: $43,095
    Cost Recouped: 70.3 percent

    9. Major Kitchen Remodel
    Job Cost: $53,931
    Resale Value: $37,139
    Cost Recouped: 68.9 percent

    10. Deck Addition (composite)
    Job Cost: $15,084
    Resale Value: $10,184
    Cost Recouped: 67.5 percent

    Top 10 Upscale Projects

    1. Siding Replacement (fiber-cement)
    Job Cost: $13,083
    Resale Value: $10,379
    Cost Recouped: 79.3 percent

    2. Garage Door Replacement
    Job Cost: $2,720
    Resale Value: $2,046
    Cost Recouped: 75.2 percent

    3. Siding Replacement (foam-backed vinyl)
    Job Cost: $13,818
    Resale Value: $9,926
    Cost Recouped: 71.8 percent

    4. Window Replacement (vinyl)
    Job Cost: $13,055
    Resale Value: $9,295
    Cost Recouped: 71.2 percent

    5. Window Replacement (wood)
    Job Cost: $16,361
    Resale Value: $11,194
    Cost Recouped: 68.4 percent

    6. Grand Entrance (fiberglass)
    Job Cost: $7,088
    Resale Value: $4,528
    Cost Recouped: 63.9 percent

    7. Deck Addition (composite)
    Job Cost: $34,403
    Resale Value: $20,532
    Cost Recouped: 59.7 percent

    8. Major Kitchen Remodel
    Job Cost: $107,406
    Resale Value: $64,113
    Cost Recouped: 59.7 percent

    9. Bathroom Remodel
    Job Cost: $50,007
    Resale Value: $29,162
    Cost Recouped: 58.3 percent

    10. Roofing Replacement
    Job Cost: $33,880
    Resale Value: $19,194
    Cost Recouped: 56.7 percent

    Ending a six-year cost-value ratio decline, this year’s Cost vs. Value Report is good news for remodeling industry with a rise in the ratio by three percentage points to 60.6 percent. According to the report, lower construction costs and stabilizing house prices were the principal factors for the upturn.

    While every region improved over last year’s survey, the Pacific region — Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington — had the highest average cost-to-value ratio overall at 71.2 percent, despite having the highest construction costs in the country.

    Visit www.costvsvalue.com to find information from the 81 cities included in the survey and download free PDFs that include specific market data. Site registration is required. Also visit HouseLogic.com for a slideshow of the report’s results.

    Construction cost estimates were generated by RemodelMAX. Cost vs. Value is a registered trademark of Hanley Wood, LLC.

  • Yes, You Can Recycle Those Campaign Lawn Signs

    Posted Under: General Area in Massachusetts, Curb Appeal in Massachusetts, Property Q&A in Massachusetts  |  November 8, 2012 2:52 AM  |  842 views  |  1 comment

    campaign_signsYou’ve seen them sprouting like weeds across lawns, or maybe you’ve sported one or two in your yard: those political signs that don’t do much for curb appeal, but are a benefit to our political process. After the election, don’t throw away those eyesores. They are made of corrugated polypropylene plastic and metal, which are recyclable. Separate the metal stakes from the plastic signs, and either add them to your recycle bin or drop them off at your town’s recycling center.

    And it’s an opportunity to be a good neighbor. If you see some old signs still dotting the landscape, offer to recycle them, too.  Does anyone have some creative ideas for them?

  • Trees You Should Never Plant in Your Yard

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Massachusetts, Curb Appeal in Massachusetts, Going Green in Massachusetts  |  October 18, 2012 4:38 AM  |  652 views  |  1 comment

    Cool weather is the best time to plant trees — low temps ease the stress on young trees and give them time to root in before the onset of growing season. But beware! You don’t want to be planting a long-term problem. What to avoid?  Before you head to a nursery, check out these trees that are more trouble than they’re worth.

    1. Silver maple (Acer saccharinum)

    Silver Maple

    Credit: A Corner Garden

    Big, fast-growing, and a dandy shade tree, silver maple is widespread in eastern states and the Midwest. Unfortunately, the speed at which the tree grows makes for weak, brittle wood that may break during severe storms. The shallow root system invades sewage pipes and drain fields, and is notorious for cracking driveways and walkways.

    2. Ash (Fraxinus)

    Credit: ©2011 Melissa WILLIAMS / LEAF

    3. Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)

    Sturdy and tough, the many varieties of ash that populate North America are some of our most beloved trees. Professional baseball bats are made from its wood — how American is that? But the venerable ash is threatened by the emerald ash borer, a tiny beetle that’s on track to wipe out the species. If you’re looking for a long-term tree for your yard, look elsewhere.

    Credit: David Wilson

    4. Hybrid Poplars (Populus)

    The aspen is found in northern climes and higher elevations. Its white bark and gently vibrating leaves are attractive, but its root system is insidious, sending up dozens of suckers that relentlessly try to turn into new trees. Once established, it’s war. In fact, the largest living organism in the world is a Colorado aspen root system called Pando. It weighs 6,600 tons and is thought to be 80,000 years old. Try digging that out!

    Canadian Forest Service

    5. Willow (Salix)

    Hybrid poplars are created by cross-pollinating two or more poplar species together. The result can be a fast-growing tree that looks good in your yard — for a while. Hybrid poplars are especially susceptible to diseases, and most won’t last more than 15 years. This poor fellow is dying … quickly.

    Credit: EV Grieve

    6. Eucalyptus

    With its long, slender branches that hang down like Rapunzel’s tresses, the willow is one of the most recognizable of all trees. Beautiful on the outside, yes, but the willow has an aggressive, water-hungry root system that terrorizes drain fields, sewer lines, and irrigation pipes. The wood is weak and prone to cracking, and the tree is relatively short-lived, lasting only about 30 years.

    Credit: Isolino Ferriera and zulufriend/iStockphoto

    7. Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana)

    Imported from Australia and popularized for their speedy growth — some varieties will shoot up 10 feet in a year — the eucalyptus has a bad rap for suddenly and unexpectedly dropping big, heavy, resin-filled branches. In some areas of Australia, campers are warned not to pitch tents under eucalyptus trees. Its showy bark peels off annually and adds to seasonal maintenance chores.

    Credit: Casey Trees

    8. Mountain cedar (Juniperus ashei)

    The Bradford pear was imported to the U.S. from China in the early 1900s as replacement for orchard trees that were dying. With its compact shape and profusion of spring blossoms, the Bradford pear became a suburban favorite — until folks realized that it was highly prone to splitting and cracking when it reached maturity. And those blossoms? They’re on the stinky side of the fragrance scale.

    Credit: Andy Heatwole

    9. Mulberry (Morus)

    Stay away from the mountain cedar in late winter. This bushy tree, native to the south central U.S., releases massive amounts of pollen during the cooler months, causing severe allergic reactions in many people. Even if you don’t have allergies, planting one in your yard may affect your neighbors.

    Credit: Remodeling This Life

    10. Black walnut (Juglans nigra)

    Big surface roots, lots of pollen, messy fruit, and shade so dense that grass refuses to grow underneath. What’s to like about the mulberry? If you’re a silkworm, the answer is: Plenty! The mulberry is the silkworm’s only source of food. Silkworm farmers should plant away! Otherwise, you’ll be happier with a different kind of tree in your yard.

    Credit: Jeffrey Beall/Wikipedia

    11. Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii)

    Native to North America, this well-known shade tree produces prized cabinet- and furniture-making wood. It also produces pollen and plenty of fruit that’ll drive you, well, nuts when you have to clean it all up in the fall. It’s true sinister side, however, is that it secretes growth-inhibiting toxins that kill nearby plants, wreaking havoc on flower beds and vegetable gardens.


    Credit: Hugh Conlon/What Grows There

    These fast-growing evergreen trees are favored for their ability to quickly create a living privacy screen. However, they require constant upkeep and trimming to keep them healthy, and as they get taller they’re increasingly likely to uproot during storms. The center of the tree forms a mass of dried twigs and branches that are considered such a fire hazard that many communities officially caution residents against planting them.

    Share this:

  • Stink Bug Invasion! It’s as Bad as You Think

    Posted Under: Curb Appeal in Massachusetts, Going Green in Massachusetts, In My Neighborhood in Massachusetts  |  September 27, 2012 7:23 AM  |  638 views  |  1 comment

    stink bugs_homes for sale in west boylstonStink bugs are coming (again)! In fact, they’re already here, and the government is searching for ways to wipe out the little stinkers.

    An army of stink bugs has marched into 38 states, and the federal government is scrambling to find ammunition to take them down.

    Brown marmorated stink bugs, a Chinese import, are invading homes, orchards, and vineyards; eating fruit, buzzing overhead, and staying warm until they can emerge and lay eggs in spring.

    If last year’s stink bug invasion wasn’t bad enough, this fall’s invasion is the second one this year — which presages an even bigger onslaught in 2013, says Tracy Leskey, an Agriculture Department entomologist.

    “This has been a very good year for the stink bug,” Leskey told the The Examiner in Washington, D.C.

    Entomologists are deep into R&D to find ways to wipe out the stink bug. Front-runners include baited traps and natural stink bug enemies, such as the wheel bug, a bug assassin that injects a paralyzing enzyme that turns stink bug innards into porridge, which the wheel bug sucks up.

    The best way you can keep stink bugs at bay is to seal your home up tight, like you do in winter to lower your heating costs.

    • Close doors and windows
    • Fill cracks in siding, window screens, and HVAC vents
    • Install weather stripping
    • Plug outdoor outlets

    If stink bugs already have invaded your home, grab them with toilet paper and flush them down the toilet. Or, drown them in a jar of soapy water.

    Do not squish them, which will release the stink that inspired its name, or vacuum them up, which will make the machine smell.

    I gun down stink bugs in my house with my trusty Bugzooka.

    Have stink bugs invaded your home? How do you get rid of them?

« Read older posts
Copyright © 2014 Trulia, Inc. All rights reserved.   |  
Have a question? Visit our Help Center to find the answer