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By Paul A. DiSegna | Real Estate Pro in Rhode Island
  • Seal Your Home's Envelope for Savings

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Rhode Island, Remodel & Renovate in Rhode Island, How To... in Rhode Island  |  December 22, 2011 11:29 AM  |  2,849 views  |  No comments
    Frank Hopton
    11 West Park Street
    Telephone: (401) 635-2242Providence, Rhode Island 02908
    Email: fhopton@HearthStoneInspections.comwww.HearthStoneInspections.com

     

  • The Future of Home Improvement; Staying Organized and Tackling To-Do Lists with Lowe's

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in Rhode Island, Design & Decor in Rhode Island, How To... in Rhode Island  |  December 20, 2011 6:12 AM  |  2,992 views  |  No comments

    RISMEDIA, Tuesday, December 20, 2011—

    For sellers with homes on the market or for newly moved-in buyers, fixing up your home can be a worthwhile and satisfying process. Needless to say, the home improvement process can potentially be daunting when trying to keep track of room sizes, paint swatches, project information and more. With Lowe’s new MyLowe’s initiative, consumers have a revolutionary new way to maintain, manage and track all things relating to the home, making home improvement that much more simple.

    By registering for a MyLowe’s card, consumers can keep track of all purchases made online and in Lowe’s stores. From the shade of deck stain used on the garage last spring to the paint color used in a particular room, logging in to a MyLowe’s account will display a customer’s entire purchase history.

    For future projects, homeowners can create folders and lists right from their MyLowe’s account to help keep ideas organized and handy. Wish lists, to-do lists or any other list can be created, saving links, products and ideas for later implementation. With this added organization, homeowners can be sure to tackle their well thought-out plans when the time is right.

    By creating and managing a home profile with MyLowe’s, homeowners can create a virtual version of their home, adding and collecting important info, such as home specs, room dimensions or project information, all organized by room or broken down by project. Not only can the account serve as a quick reference for specs and sizes, but it can also be a go-to source for manuals and warranty information for all of your products and appliances.

    For sellers currently on the market, this one-stop-shop of information can be vital to the sale of the home. When working in conjunction with a real estate professional, sellers have easy access to all of the pertinent information they need to provide to their agent in order to successfully pitch the home to prospective buyers.

    In addition, agents who are members of the National Association of REALTORS®, can help both buyers and sellers prep their home by taking advantage of the free Lowe’s Program for REALTORS®. REALTORS® can sign up to send direct mail or email to their clients that includes a special savings in the form of a 10%-off coupon for use in Lowe’s stores. By joining forces with a REALTOR® taking advantage of Lowe’s partnership in NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program, consumers have even more assistance completing projects and renovations that will either help their home sell or aid them in completing their dream home.

    With these resources, consumers and their agents have a mutually beneficial set-up that will help them continue to drive toward success. Whether renovating to sell or improving the home to satisfy personal taste, Lowe’s has the solutions to satisfy home selling and home improvement needs.

    The Lowe’s Program for REALTORS® is free for NAR members and offers personal marketing tools from Lowe’s through its partnership in NAR’s REALTOR Benefits® Program.

    For more information, visit www.lowes.com orwww.lowesrealtorbenefits.com.

  • Remodeling Activity Reaches Record Levels

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in Rhode Island  |  November 19, 2011 6:04 PM  |  487 views  |  No comments

    RISMEDIA, Saturday, November 19, 2011—

    As the weather started to cool and kids went back to school, remodeling activity continued to soar in 2011. Recently, BuildFax unveiled its BuildFax Remodeling Index (BFRI) for September 2011, which shows that remodeling activity reached a record high during the month. BuildFax also released data stating the most popular types of remodeling projects over the past five years.

    The latest BFRI showed that September 2011 became the month with the highest level of remodeling activity since the Index was introduced in 2004 and represented the 23rd consecutive month of increases. In addition, BuildFax data revealed the most popular permitted residential remodeling jobs since 2006 have been roof remodels/replacements, followed by deck and bathroom remodels. The top eight types of remodels classified by BuildFax are:

    1. Roof (21.4%)
    2. Deck (7.9%)
    3. Bathroom (6.9%)
    4. Garage (6.1%)
    5. Kitchen (4.8%)
    6. Basement (2.9%)
    7. Office (1.7%)
    8. Sunroom (0.7%)

    "Mortgage rates continue to be near record lows, and as homeowners from coast to coast refinance, they are continuing to update their current home and invest in their properties," says Joe Emison, Vice President of Research and Development at BuildFax. "The data from BuildFax show that homeowners are not only doing important 'maintenance' projects, such as fixing their roof, but also taking on projects that add to the ‘livability’ of their homes by adding decks, remodeling their bathrooms and updating their kitchens. These are immediate fixes they will enjoy and that potential buyers look for."

    September Signifies 23 Consecutive Months of Industry Growth

    The Residential BuildFax Remodeling Index rose 34 percent year-over-year—and for the twenty-third straight month—in September to 141.4, a new high number in the index. Residential remodels in September were up month-over-month 2.8 points (2 percent) from the August value of 138.6, and up year-over-year 36.3 points from the September 2010 value of 105.1.

    The BFRI is the only source directly reporting residential remodeling activity across the nation with monthly information derived through related building permit activity filed with local building departments across the country. This monthly report provides month-over-month and year-over-year comparisons on trends in remodeling activity for the entire United States, as well as for the four major regions of the country: Northeast, South, Midwest, and West.

    Half of Country See Month-over-Month Gains

    In September 2011, the West (6.4 points; 4.6 percent) and the Midwest (5.73 points; 4.9 percent), all had month-over-month gains, while the Northeast (1.1 points; 1.5 percent) and the South (2.9 points; 2.9 percent) saw a decline. Regions up in year-over-year gains from September of 2010: the West (44.4 points; 43.5 percent), the Midwest (16.8 points; 15.9 percent) and the South (8 points; 9 percent). The Northeast dropped 3.7 points (4.7 percent).

    For more information, visit www.buildfax.com.

    RISMedia welcomes your questions and comments. Send your e-mail to: realestatemagazinefeedback@rismedia.com.

  • Virtual Remolding and Decorating

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in Providence, Design & Decor in Providence, How To... in Providence  |  June 7, 2011 5:48 AM  |  765 views  |  No comments

    Frank Hopton
    11 West Park Street
    Telephone: (401) 635-2242Providence, Rhode Island 02908
    Email: fhopton@HearthStoneInspections.comwww.HearthStoneInspections.com















  • Your Place: Replacing Cabinets or Refacing Old Ones

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in Rhode Island, Design & Decor in Rhode Island, Property Q&A in Rhode Island  |  May 13, 2011 5:20 AM  |  812 views  |  No comments


    By Al HeavensPrint Article Print Article

    RISMEDIA, May 13, 2011—(MCT)—Q: You recently wrote about reglazing instead of replacing ceramic tile. My oak kitchen cabinets are about 23 years old and are structurally sound, but are outdated and showing wear. I am wondering if the idea of reglazing rather than replacing might apply to cabinets, too. I would also add new doors and handles.

    A: I’d first go to a couple of showrooms for ideas to spruce up the cabinets or even, perhaps, look at replacements. I realize that times are tough, but sometimes you have to let go.

    If you are shopping, look for ads from outlets that offer deals or closeouts on cabinets. People I’ve talked to have found bargains on brand-name cabinets at half their retail price.

    Builders may have stocked cabinets for houses they haven’t been able to build and might be willing to sell you some at a discount to get the expense off their books.

    Are the boxes and frames in good shape? New doors and hardware may be all you really need. Look at refacing by a professional.

    Refacing uses veneer to cover the exposed faces of frames, and new plywood or door panels to cover end panels. New doors, drawer fronts, and moldings are added, as well as new hardware.

    The cost of refacing tends to be all over the map, depending on the job, although some consumers have been complaining lately that refacing can cost as much as buying new cabinets. As with any project, the price for a cabinet refacing will be determined, in part, by the quality of materials selected.

    Q: For years, I’ve had trouble with the paint adhering to the plaster walls in my bathroom. I’ve tried acrylic, and that’s not good at all, so I’ve tried to stick with oil-based products, which are getting more difficult to find.

    The walls in the bathroom are half tile, half plaster over lath. The ceiling is plaster over diamond mesh. The area beyond the ceiling is attic with some insulation. And, because it’s a bathroom, there is moisture, but there’s also an exhaust fan. It still is moist.

    A fresh coat of paint with an oil primer may last six to eight months but then begins to peel. I’ve done this repeatedly, but I’m starting to believe that’s crazy. Maybe a marine paint would be better?

    A: I wouldn’t use marine paint in a bathroom. From my own experience, making sure those plaster walls are free of grease, soap scum, and hair-spray residue and using a top-quality paint are the keys to keeping the paint from peeling off bathroom walls—with or without exhaust fans.

    The experts I’ve spoken with say high gloss holds up better the closer you are to the source of a lot of moisture, but I’ve never found it to matter much. Speaking of paint, I finally had the opportunity to use a no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) primer and paint in our dining room to accommodate a change in furniture styles.

    I’ve never had a problem with VOCs, but a family member is sensitive to the paint odor related to them, so rather than delay the work until the next long business trip, we decided to go with water-based Zinsser’s Bulls Eye Zero primer and Benjamin Moore’s Natura no-VOC brand in New London Burgundy.

    I had been wary of the performance of both primer and topcoat, only because I remember that the first generation of low-flow toilets never flushed properly and wasted more water than what they were replacing. Would no-VOC products cover as well as their less environmentally friendly predecessors? Would they live up to their claims to seal tannin and graffiti?

    The primer did indeed seal tannin and covered the walls well, especially a bright red under the chair rail. The Natura went on easily, and two coats did the trick. (We used slightly less than a gallon on perhaps 300 square feet.)

    Price was a shocker. Zinsser’s Zero cost $24. The Natura was $49 a gallon. But it did the job to my satisfaction.

    For more information visit http://www.philly.com/

    RISMedia welcomes your questions and comments. Send your e-mail to:realestatemagazinefeedback@rismedia.com.

    Have you heard about RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN)? RREIN is an elite network of leading real estate companies dedicated to providing consumers and their agents with leading real estate information, and committed to the belief that Information Share Equals Market Share. Having only launched this past June 2010, the RREIN network is already comprised of 40 leading brokerages, which make up 575 offices, 30,000 agents, 167,000 closings and represents over $41 billion in transactions. How can RREIN help your recruiting efforts and differentiate your company today? For more information, email rrein@rismedia.com.

  • Home Buyers Shun ‘Fixer-Uppers’

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Providence, Home Selling in Providence, Remodel & Renovate in Providence  |  May 2, 2011 6:32 AM  |  547 views  |  No comments


    By Kathleen LynnPrint Article Print Article

    RISMEDIA, May 2, 2011—(MCT)—In the overheated housing market of five years ago, buyers often felt they had to accept homes in woeful condition. But these days, most look at “as-is” properties and say, “No thanks.” “I try to stay away from things that need a lot of work,” says Michael Lisa of Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., who is searching for a home in northern Bergen County, N.J.

    “Buyers will tolerate nothing,” says Maria Rini, a Re/Max agent in Oradell, N.J. A recent Coldwell banker survey found that 87 percent of first-time buyers said a move-in-ready home is important to them.

    “This is absolutely the story of this market. It seems buyers will pay a premium, engage in a bidding war and even overpay just to avoid buying a ‘project’ house,” said Beth Freed of Terrie O’Connor Realtors in Ridgewood, N.J.

    As a result, real estate agents strongly advise sellers to fix up their homes for quicker and more profitable sales.

    For example, when Kate Conover recently listed a Franklin Lakes, N.J., colonial, she encouraged the seller to replace the roof and driveway, repair ceilings, rip up carpets and paint interiors.

    Paying contractors to do the work cost almost $40,000, but Conover estimated it added well over $100,000 to the asking price.

    “There is no question homes that have been spruced up for the market sell quicker,” says Conover, a Re/Max agent in Saddle River, N.J.

    But she recommended against major renovations—such as replacing the kitchen and baths—in the Franklin Lakes home. Most agents agree with that philosophy, saying sellers shouldn’t risk spending more than they’ll get back in the sale price. That’s especially true with major kitchen and bath renovations because they’re so much a matter of taste.

    “No matter what you do, it may not be the buyer’s choice anyway,” says Antoinette Gangi, a Re/Max agent in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

    On the other hand, agents say that major maintenance and safety issues—such as underground oil tanks and leaky roofs—must be dealt with before the home goes on the market, because buyers are unwilling to take them on.

    Beyond those kinds of headaches, sellers can make a big difference with simple and relatively inexpensive fixes: painting the walls, getting rid of clutter and pulling up carpets to show the hardwood floors that buyers crave.

    And spruce up the front yard and entryway to make a good first impression, recommends Pat Sudal, a Weichert agent in Ramsey. “Freshen the flowerpots, trim the bushes and mulch,” she suggests. In the same vein, Gangi recommends painting the front door if it’s looking tired.

    “Curb appeal is very important, and the front door is the first thing you see,” Gangi says.

    Getting rid of clutter (as part of an overall deep cleaning) is probably the most cost-effective step, agents say. When sellers resist this advice, Rini reminds them they’ll have to pack up their stuff when they move anyway.

    “You’ve got to clean it out sometime; if you do it now, it’s going to benefit you financially,” she says.

    Marie Ferraro, an Oakland, N.J. decorator who works with sellers, calls this “pre-packing.”

    “You want to depersonalize the home so that prospective buyers can see their lifestyle happening there,” says Ferraro. Buyers may not even consciously notice that a room is cluttered or crowded with awkwardly arranged furniture, she said, “but they experience it nonetheless.”

    “Get everything off the floor,” advises Cynthia Harkins, an agent with Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in Franklin Lakes.

    Harkins, who self-published a book called “The Savvy Seller,” says sellers can make rooms (and closets) seem more spacious by clearing the floor of boots, magazines, gym bags and backpacks.

    Anne Landesman, who is moving to Austin, Texas, packed up books and artwork before putting her family’s Park Ridge, N.J., home on the market recently. She and her husband, Roy, also put a lot of furniture —including three sofas —into storage.

    “I think it made a huge difference,” Landesman says. “People could get a good idea of the size of the rooms.”

    Dawn Cox, a Weichert agent in Wayne, N.J., often counsels sellers to go beyond decluttering, by replacing outdated kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures and installing granite countertops.

    Alan and Mary Chris Bassman did a bathroom upgrade rather than a complete renovation by replacing the vanity and toilet and repairing a cracked shower door.

    In all, the family spent about $5,000 to spruce up the home, following the advice of Ferraro, the decorator, who works with the Bassmans’ agent, Kathleen Falco of Re/Max of Franklin Lakes.

    “We sold the house in a couple of days, which I was shocked at,” Alan Bassman says.

    Not all sellers have the energy to spruce up. In those cases, agents sometimes pitch in themselves to help declutter and stage the home and hire painters, cleaning crews and handymen. Homeowner Jennifer Glusman was pleasantly surprised when agents Lois Fein and John Schwartz of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty helped her prepare her family’s Edgewater condo for sale.

    “John came in and helped stage items on our bookshelf and in the kids’ room and our room,” Glusman says. “He also lent us one of his own paintings.”

    If sellers can’t or won’t prepare their homes for market, agents say, they have to lower their expectations on price.

    This, in turn, can offer an opportunity for buyers who are willing to give up the search for HGTV-ready homes and look at properties that need “some love,” in the words of Tom Mikalouskas, a Re/Max agent in Montvale, N.J.

    “I tell my buyers to look for the best bones or the best bang for your buck,” he says. “Basically, if you are able to get the worst home in a great neighborhood, you can only improve on your investment. You simply have to focus on potential in a down market like this.”

    “Buyers who can look beyond the cosmetic issues usually can find treasures in this market,” Falco agrees.

    For more information visit www.northjersey.com.

    RISMedia welcomes your questions and comments. Send your e-mail to:realestatemagazinefeedback@rismedia.com.

    Have you heard about RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN)? RREIN is an elite network of leading real estate companies dedicated to providing consumers and their agents with leading real estate information, and committed to the belief that Information Share Equals Market Share. Having only launched this past June 2010, the RREIN network is already comprised of 40 leading brokerages, which make up 575 offices, 30,000 agents, 167,000 closings and represents over $41 billion in transactions. How can RREIN help your recruiting efforts and differentiate your company today? For more information, email rrein@rismedia.com.

  • Home Inspections an Essential Tool for Buyers

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Philadelphia County, Remodel & Renovate in Philadelphia County, How To... in Philadelphia County  |  April 3, 2011 5:13 PM  |  843 views  |  No comments


    By Al HeavensPrint Article Print Article

    RISMEDIA, April 4, 2011—(MCT)—A home inspection often means the difference between a sale and no sale, even if the deal that results isn’t exactly what the owner expected. Buyers and sellers typically recognize the need for a home inspection. Still, it may put both sides of a sale on edge. Sellers fear the inspector will find something amiss that slashes the price. Buyers fear the house they want will have problems. Today, with so many houses for sale, inspections have become the chief tool for haggling over price.

    “We are a coupon-clipping society,” with people trying to save every penny they can, says Noelle M. Barbone, manager of Weichert Realtors’ Media, Pa., office. “Real estate is no different.” Though he isn’t always aware how the negotiations proceed after his work is done, Harris Gross of Engineers for Home Inspection in Cherry Hill, N.J., says buyers were more apt to use an inspection report as leverage in this lean housing market than in the boom.

    The buyer’s goal is to get the seller to pay for repairs or cut the price to reflect their cost. “The result depends on the financial position of the seller and the comfort zone of the buyer,” Barbone explains. Which means a lot is riding on the accuracy of the inspection and the quality of the inspector.

    Home inspections are not intended to point out every small defect, though they can highlight the good points of a house, be sources of information, and educate buyers and sellers. Nor are they appraisals, which are used to determine a property’s market value.

    The American Society of Home Inspectors emphasizes that an inspector “will not pass or fail a house,” but rather will describe its condition and indicate which components and systems may need major repair or replacement. That is especially important with older houses, where systems may not be up to the most modern standards.

    The standard report covers the condition of the heating system; central air-conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; roof, attic, and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows, and doors; and foundation, basement, and structural components.

    Trade groups such as the National Association of Home Inspectors (www.nahi.org) and the American Society of Home Inspectors (www.ashi.org/customers) offer virtual inspection tours on their websites so prospective buyers know what to expect.

    Some larger inspection companies offer what Barbone calls “complete packages,” adding termite inspection and radon testing to the typical checklist. Although the cost varies by region, the standard inspection runs about $350 to $400 in the Philadelphia area, she says, with termite and radon testing pushing the total to $550 to $600. Add more to the price for larger houses.

    Under the profession’s standards, the inspector is not required to advise whether you should buy the house. That’s a decision you must make based on factors including the inspection.

    If a buyer has concerns about issues raised in the report—for example, a wet basement that has a “moldy” smell—the inspector typically suggests further testing by an expert. Buyers and sellers are generally aware of the parameters, Gross says, but at the start of an inspection, “I like to explain to the buyers what a home inspection is, what we will be doing, and what to expect.”

    A prospective buyer should accompany the inspector on the house visit, taking a notebook or voice recorder and a camera for future reference, Weichert Realtors agent Diane Williams suggests.

    Other criteria for what a home inspector cannot, or should not, say or do are spelled out in the codes of ethics and performance standards of such groups as the American Society of Home Inspectors, the National Association of Home Inspectors, the American Institute of Inspectors, and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

    Professional organizations can provide contact information for their members. Althoughreal estate agents cannot steer you to an inspector, they often provide lists of several prospects for you to consider in addition to looking on your own.

    Once the inspection is done, buyers, sellers, and their agents want to see the write-up as soon as possible. “I always complete the inspection reports the same day because the sooner you write it, the fresher it is in your mind,” Gross said. Plus, “I’m not thinking of the inspection report I have to write the next day, when I have other inspections.”

    WHAT GETS INSPECTED: The standard inspection report covers the following:
    • Heating system
    • Central air-conditioning system (temperature permitting)
    • Interior plumbing and electrical systems
    • Roof, attic, and visible insulation
    • Walls, ceilings, floors, windows, and doors
    • Foundation, basement, and structural components.

    HOME INSPECTOR 411:
    Some things to consider before choosing an inspector:
    • Credentials. Know whether your state requires that inspectors be licensed or affiliated with an association.
    • Experience. Any prospect should have made enough inspections “to make you feel comfortable,” cautions Ronald J. Passaro of Danbury, Conn., a founder of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Has the inspector been in business long enough that you know he or she will still be there in a year, or five years, if you have questions or problems?
    • Professional affiliations. These require adherence to codes of ethics and standards.
    • Staff. If you have a problem or question, can you get in touch with someone when you call or email?
    • Sample report. Is it concise, readable, and in layman’s terms, or is it a vague checklist that’s not tailored to your home?
    • Other services. Does the prospect offer more than just the standard inspection, including radon and water testing?

    (c) 2011, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

    For more information visit www.philly.com.

    RISMedia welcomes your questions and comments. Send your e-mail to:realestatemagazinefeedback@rismedia.com.

    Have you heard about RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN)? RREIN is an elite network of leading real estate companies dedicated to providing consumers and their agents with leading real estate information, and committed to the belief that Information Share Equals Market Share. Having only launched this past June 2010, the RREIN network is already comprised of 40 leading brokerages, which make up 575 offices, 30,000 agents, 167,000 closings and represents over $41 billion in transactions. How can RREIN help your recruiting efforts and differentiate your company today? For more information, email rrein@rismedia.com

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