Massachusetts Real Estate and Community News

May 25, 2016

Metallic Wallpapers Make Your Home Shine

In 2015, silver and gold have shimmied out of the jewel box and onto the wall — and whether subtle silver or bold gold, wallpapers with hints of metallic are hardly wallflowers.

“As the economy begins to look up, consumers are having more fun with fashion, and that attitude translates to home design, too,” says Gina Shaw, vice president of product development at York Wallcoverings. “Metallic home accessories are making a comeback because of the fashion influence of metallic shoes, bags and clothing.”

Metallics add interest and dimension many rooms in your home. “They work well with any style, modern to traditional and come in a range of styles from solid backgrounds to just a hint of shimmer,” Shaw says.

Try out the trend with mica, sand and glass bead patterns that whisper with subtle shimmer, or go full-out with designs that incorporate mylar for a gleaming mirror-like look.

Five tips for decorating with metallic wallpapers:

  1. Create a grand entrance with metallics in an entryway.
  2. A powder room is another small space where metallics can make a big statement.
  3. Use metallic wallpapers to complement bronze, copper or pewter decorative hardware or stainless steel finishes in kitchen appliances.
  4. A soft, shimmery metallic in a bedroom can create a cozy environment conducive to sleep.
  5. Don’t forget the “fifth wall” – try a shimmery metallic overall texture on the ceiling.

Like the idea of metallic wallpaper but not up for doing it yourself? Contact me for a referral to a home improvement contractor who can install wallpaper for you. I can also put you in touch with a designer who can help you envision ways to incorporate the metallic trend in your home.

Image source: York Wallcoverings

Posted in Real Estate News
May 25, 2016

Specialty Consumer Reports Track Your Employment, Insurance, Prescriptions and More

Your ability to write a check, buy insurance and get a job can all be influenced by "specialty" consumer reports that track your behavior, according to a new report from Consumer Action, a nonprofit group that advocates for consumer rights.

CA's new Insider's Guide to Specialty Consumer Reports explains:

  • What information companies collect about you.
  • How to check what's in your specialty reports.
  • How to correct errors in your specialty reports.
  • Your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

What Do They Know About You?

CA says specialty consumer reports were created so companies could check to see if you’re being truthful about things like your employment history or if you’re hiding health information from insurance companies.

The most common types of specialty reports are:

  • Alternative credit history
  • Check writing and bank account history
  • Background and employment screening
  • Insurance claims
  • Medical and prescription history
  • Residential tenant history
  • Utilities payment history

Knowing what’s in your specialty consumer reports is important because companies use the information to make decisions about your finances and employment. Checking your reports and correcting errors ensures you’re treated fairly by the companies that use specialty reports to make decisions about you.

Posted in Real Estate News
May 25, 2016

6 Questions To Help You Choose The Right Paint

Most paint retailers sell a dizzying array of coatings, and that can make it difficult for anyone to pick the right paint.

Even so, there is a way to streamline your paint selection. Answer these six questions from the Paint Quality Institute. They’ll help guide you through the maze and make clear which interior paint is best for you.

1. How sensitive are you to paint smell?

If you dislike the smell of paint, you should focus on water-based latex paints, which have little or no odor compared to oil-based coatings.

Latex paints also make cleanup easy and they perform well on all interior surfaces. These advantages help explain why latex paints are overwhelmingly favored by do-it-yourselfers and professional painters alike.

2. Will there be much activity in the space you are painting?

Walls and woodwork can easily become soiled if there is a lot of activity in a room. In that case, it’s best to use a high gloss or semi-gloss paint, which will resist stains and be much easier to clean.

However, if your room will see little activity, you should feel free to use any level of sheen – from flat paint to a high gloss finish.

3. What atmosphere do you want to create in the room?

If your hope is to make the space cozy, then consider using a “warm” hue, like yellow, orange or red; if you want the room to have a cool feel, then choose a blue or green paint.

4. Do you wish the dimensions of the room were bigger or smaller?

If you think the space seems cramped, you can alter the perception by selecting the right color of paint. Light paint colors make a room seem larger; darker colors make it feel more intimate.

5. How often do you typically repaint?

If you paint only infrequently, you’ll want to be sure to apply a very durable paint that will continue to look good over time. In that respect, the best option is to use a top quality 100% acrylic latex interior paint.

6. How much time do you want to spend on this project?

If you have limited time, or simply want to complete the painting quickly, then consider using a “paint and primer” product that works like two coatings in one. You’ll very likely need to apply fewer coats, which will greatly speed up the job.

Want to repaint your home but have no time to do it yourself? Contact me and I’ll refer you to some great home improvement folks who will do it for you.

Posted in Real Estate News
May 25, 2016

Do You Have These Dangerous Products In Your Home?Home Products Kenmore Electrolux Range The heating element can fail to properly adhere to the cooktop Model 790.90152, posing an electrical shock ha

Home Products

Kenmore Electrolux Range

The heating element can fail to properly adhere to the cooktop Model 790.90152, posing an electrical shock hazard to consumers.

This recall involves Sears Kenmore 24-inch wide freestanding electric ranges with model number 790.90152 with serial numbers from NF408 through NF424 and model number 790.90153 with serial numbers from NF408 through NF427.


Safe Step Walk-In Tubs

The tub's heated seat can get stuck in the "on" position. If a towel or other item is covering the seat of an empty tub, the seat can overheat, posing a burn hazard to consumers.

This recall involves Safe Step walk-in, hydro-massage bath tubs with heated seats.  The recalled tubs have model numbers LP2848, LP2851, LP2853, LP3153 or LP3255 and serial numbers 124423 through 131569 containing the prefix HS, HSHY, HSHS, HSMB or MBHS. 


Fanimation Brewmaster Ceiling Fan

The ceiling fan hub holding the blades can separate from the shaft when operating in reverse. If this happens, the fan blades and hub can fall and pose a risk of injury to bystanders. The recall includes Brewmaster belt-driven fans powered by a remote motor.

The fans were sold in antique brass, pewter and black hardware. 


Kiddie Disposable Fire Extinguishers

A faulty valve component can cause the disposable fire extinguishers not to fully discharge when the lever is repeatedly pressed and released during a fire emergency, posing a risk of injury.This recall involves 31 models of Kidde disposable fire extinguishers with Zytel® black plastic valves.

The recalled extinguishers are red, white or silver and are either ABC or BC rated. The ratings can be found to the right of the nameplate. Manufacture dates included in the recall are July 23, 2013 through October 15, 2014



Mean Green Cleaner and Degreaser

The products are labeled "Does not contain Ammonia". The products may contain ammonia. The mislabeling of the bottles can pose a chemical hazard to consumers. If ammonia is mixed with bleach or other household chemicals, irritating or toxic gases could be produced.


Small Home Appliances

Dirt Devil Scorpion® Turbo Quick Flip Hand Vac Turbo Tool Accessory

The interior fan of Turbo Tool accessory can break and eject from the tool housing, posing a laceration hazard to the user or bystanders. The recalled Dirt Devil Turbo Tool attachment was sold as a vacuum accessory with the corded Dirt Devil Scorpion Turbo Quick Flip Hand Vac.

The accessory tool is a plastic, clear yellowish green attachment with a black turbine fan and black brush roll with white bristles. “Royal,” model number “08225” and a five-digit manufacture date code ending in 12A U, 13A U, 13B U or 14B U are printed on a label on the bottom of the hand vacuum.


Keurig MINI Plus Brewing Systems

Water can overheat during brewing, spray out and burn consumers. This recall involves Keurig® MINI Plus Brewing System with model number K10 (previously identified as model number B31).

Recalled brewers have an identification number starting with "31" followed by a range of numbers printed on a white sticker on the bottom of the brewer.



Chandeliers Sold At Lowe's and HomeDepot

This recall involves seven collections of Sea Gull Lighting chandeliers including: Brandywine, Laurel Leaf, New Verona, Newport, Parkview, Roslyn and Somerton.

The screw collar that holds the chandeliers to the ceiling mount can break causing the chandelier to fall and injure bystanders. They are metal with various finishes and two or three tiers of glass shades.



Furniture/Home Decor

Vinyl Bean Bag Chairs

The zippers on the bean bag chairs can be opened by children who can then crawl inside, become entrapped, suffocate or choke on the bean bag chair's foam beads. Colors and patterns included in the recall are black, hot pink, lime, purple, royal blue, ruby red and baseball, basketball, football and soccer ball. A tag sewn into the bean bag chair's cover seam reads "Made By Comfort Research" and "100% Polystyrene".

Sunbeam Oil-Filled Heaters

The oil-filled heaters can spray heated oil, posing a scalding hazard. This recall involves Holmes brand oil-filled heaters that are black or white.

The heaters included in the recall are about 23 inches tall, 6 inches deep and 12 inches wide and have model number HOH3000 or HOH3000B printed on a label on the bottom of the product.


La-Z-Boy Lift Chair Control Wands

The wand that controls the chair's movements can overheat, posing a burn hazard. The recalled control wands were sold with the La-Z-Boy Silver Luxury Lift model chairs only.

The rectangular-shaped black plastic wands have a large round circle on the top of the wand with two circle-shaped graphics that read “LIFT” and “RECLINE” and the La-Z-Boy logo printed in white lettering at the bottom of the wand. The words “La-Z-Boy,” “REV: 0” and S/N number 37205143800005310 are printed on a label on the back of the wand. The Silver Luxury Lift model chairs were sold in a variety of sizes, colors and fabrics including leather.


IKEA VYSSA Crib Mattress

The crib mattresses could create a gap between the mattress and crib ends larger than allowed by federal regulations, posing an entrapment hazard to infants.

This recall involves IKEA VYSSA style crib mattresses with the following five model names: VACKERT, VINKA, SPELEVINK, SLÖA and SLUMMER. The  mattresses were manufactured on May 4, 2014 or earlier.

An identification label attached to the mattress cover has the date of manufacture in Month-DD-YYYY format and the VYSSA model name. A gap between the mattress and crib ends larger than two finger width is an indication of the defective mattress.


Ethan Allen Floor Lamps

A defect in the line cord insulation poses a risk of electrical shock. The floor lamp is made of bronze-plated steel with a bronze finish.

The lamp sits on a square metal base that is about 8" x 8" and has an adjustable bronze-plated metal post that goes up to 60 inches high. A second pole adjusts the tilt of the lamp. At the end of this second pole is a six-sided metal lamp shade about 6 inches in diameter and about 4 inches tall. On the underside of the base is a label with the name Ethan Allen, the item number 09-2562 and the date code 12/2013.


Dream On Me 2-1 Bassinet

The wire supports on the sides of the bassinet can disconnect causing fabric sides to lower; posing a risk that infants can fall out or become entrapped and suffocate. This recall involves the 2-in-1 Bassinet to Cradle, sold in pink, blue, green, and white.

The recalled model numbers are 439-A, 439-B, 439-G, 439-P and 439-W and can be found on a tag which is located under the mattress pad of the bassinet. This tag is a removable tag you see in the store but is removed prior to use.


DD Brand Candles Sold At Hobby Lobby

The candle's high flame can ignite the surface of the wax, posing a fire hazard.

This recall involves four types of DD branded single-wick candles: Mason jars in 5- and 12-ounce sizes, decorative jars in 10- and 20-ounce sizes, 13-ounces coffee tins and 13-ounce jars with a holiday theme.

The candles were sold in a variety of fragrances and colors.


Posted in Real Estate News
May 25, 2016

Window Replacement Firms Mislead On Energy Savings

If you’re in the market to buy new windows, you’ll hear a lot of claims about how much energy you could save. Be skeptical of anything you hear because the Federal Trade Commission has repeatedly fined window companies for false claims. The FTC’s window-buying advice is worth reading before you shop.

As it turns out, new windows aren't nearly the most cost-effective or energy-effective means of making your house more energy efficient. Energy experts, like Brandon Theil of Chicago Energy Consultants, say that the best bang for a homeowners buck is sealing leaks and increasing insulation throughout the home.

Other energy solutions include:

  • Use weather stripping around your windows.
  • Seal up holes with caulk or other materials.
  • Apply plastic to cover drafty windows.
  • Insulate the attic space.

Eventually your windows will have to be replaced, but if these other issues aren't addressed first your home won’t be any more energy efficient than it was before. Start with ensuring that there are no places where air is escaping your home.

For example, this may be at areas in your basement where plumbing work emerges from the walls. If this isn't sealed properly it may cause a huge reduction in energy efficiency.

If you’re serious about improving your home’s energy efficiency, start with an energy audit. That’s a home inspection followed by recommendations for which tasks to do first and estimated savings. Contact me if you need a referral to an energy auditor.

Posted in Real Estate News
May 25, 2016

Careful With That Power Washer!

A power washer, also called a pressure washer, is a powerful tool. So powerful, in fact, that it can cause damage quickly before you even realize what you’re doing isn't washing at all. How can you make sure that you’re not causing unnecessary damage to your home, drive or deck?

Here are some ways a power washer can damage your property and what you can do to avoid it.

  • Concrete erosion. According to the experts it doesn't take much pressure to begin the concrete eroding process. Concrete isn't entirely solid. The porous surface allows water to seep into the minute structure and expand it, causing cracks and worse.
  • Extreme damage to decking. Similarly, high pressure water can also damage the wood on decks causing it to expand, splinter and crack. It's recommended to wash and seal the deck with the right product for your climate to prevent any unnecessary damage.
  • Damage to siding. Whether or not pressure washing your house will damage your siding will largely depend on what kind of material is used on the exterior of you home. Pressure washing can damage vinyl siding, wood siding and stone for many of the same reasons listed above.

To avoid any issues you should use the right power washer. Many have attachments that are designed for different materials. If you’re concerned about your ability to use the pressure washer correctly contact a local professional pressure washing business to help you out

Image source: jariceiii via Flickr

Posted in Real Estate News
May 25, 2016

How to Cut Your Bills in Response to New Rules for Hot Water Heaters

Starting this month, when you buy a hot water heater, you’re going to run into new federal energy efficiency rules if your unit is bigger than 55 gallons. One result of those rules may be new lines of highly efficient units. For example, consider hybrid water heaters, which use electric heat pump and gas condensing technology and can cut your water heater-related energy bills.

Heat pump water heaters save at least 50 percent and condensing gas units about 25 percent compared to today’s conventional water heaters, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Not ready to upgrade your water heater yet? Get tips on saving water heating costs from the U.S. Energy Department.

“Heat pump water heaters (also known as hybrid water heaters) transfer heat from the surrounding air to the water,” ACEEE explains. “When hot water demand is very high or the ambient air temperature drops below a threshold level, the hybrids switch from heat pump mode to electric resistance mode.

“While the upfront cost to purchase and install these products is higher, consumers will recoup the added cost in about six years on average through lower electricity bills. Consumer Reports tested heat pump water heaters and found that ‘Those we tested provided annual savings of about 60 percent over electric-only models.’”

The more efficient water heaters can be an inch or two wider and/or higher, which can be a problem if your water heater is in a tight location and there’s no room to expand. If that’s the case at your house, ACEEE recommends shopping around since sizes vary among manufacturers.

Posted in Real Estate News
May 25, 2016

Easy Upgrades Make Your Home Senior-Friendly

As you, your parents and your loved ones age, your homes may not age so well along with them. The editors and experts at The Family Handyman recommend these cost-effective DIY upgrades to make your homes safer and more senior-friendly.

Widen doorways with offset hinges

Often, folks find that they need to widen their doorframes as they get older and start to use a cane, walker or wheelchair. It’s an expensive and complicated job, but consider expandable offset door hinges to help find spaces easier to maneuver. 

Replace toggle switches with rocker switches

Rocker-style switches are easier for arthritis hands to press flat than toggle switches. The big on/off plate can be operated with a simple finger, knuckle or even an elbow and they’re easier to find day or night. 

A showerhead grab bar is a big help

Say “grab bar” and most people picture round, institutional looking bathroom aids. But bathroom fixture manufacturers are responding to a surge in the number of seniors by offering many very fashionable options that look elegant and natural. A grab bar can be a lifesaver for those with limited mobility or who prefer to shower while seated.

Add keyhole lights

This quick solution can prevent a lot of frustration, and many come with solar power so you don’t even need batteries. No more fumbling in the cold looking for your keys.

Extend stair rails

One in three seniors will fall this year and 20 percent of those falls will contribute to their deaths. Help them out by putting a bench near steps or extending crucial stair rails.

Get LED lightbulbs

The average home has 40 lightbulbs. Changing a burnt-out bulb often involves climbing a ladder or step stool and risking a fall. Replace lightbulbs with CFLs or LEDs to cut down the need for the homeowner to change the lightbulb

Posted in Real Estate News
May 25, 2016

What Kind of Spring Will It Be for Home Sales?

If you’re thinking of putting your home on the market, there’s good news from Freddie Mac. The mortgage market giant is predicting 2015 will be a terrific year for home sales.

“Between now and the end of June, we'll see about 40 percent of all home sales for the year,” said Freddie Mac Deputy Chief Economist Len Kiefer. “Overall, we're feeling good about housing and we expect this year to be the best year for home sales and new home construction since 2007 when we saw total home sales about 5.8 million for the year."

Improved job prospects have started to drive those aged 25-34 back to the labor force, with 76.8 percent employed as of last month, up from 75.9 percent last year. That means more Americans have income available to purchase homes or save a downpayment.

As rents rise, young people will pay at or above inflation in 2015; therefore, more renters will see homeownership as a better option. Nationally, rents increased an average of 3.6 percent in 2014 and nearly 11 percent over the last three years.

Those who decide to buy will likely find mortgage interest rates remain reasonable by historic standards. Freddie Mac is predicting the average 30 year fixed rate mortgage will be 4 percent for the year.

Posted in Real Estate News
May 25, 2016

Who Are the Dominant Players Among Today's Buyers?

Despite the economic and financial challenges young adults braved since the recession, Millennials want to become homeowners, according to the 2015 National Association of Realtors® Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study, which evaluates the generational differences of recent homebuyers and sellers.

“Over 80 percent of millennial and Gen X buyers consider their home purchase a good financial investment, and the desire to own a home of their own was the top reason given by millennials for their purchase,” reports NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Fixed monthly payments and the long-term financial stability homeownership can provide are attractive to young adults despite them witnessing the housing downturn and subsequent slow recovery in the early years of their adulthood.”

For the second consecutive year, NAR’s study found that the largest group of recent buyers was the millennial generation, those 34 and younger, who composed 32 percent of all buyers (31 percent in 2013). 

Generation X, ages 35-49, was closely behind with a 27 percent share.

Millennial buyers represented more than double the amount of younger boomer (ages 50-59) and older boomer (60-68) buyers (at 31 percent). 

The Silent Generation (ages 69-89) made up 10 percent of buyers in the past year.

Yun says the survey uncovered the untapped demand for homeownership that exists among young adults. With millennials entering the peak buying period and expected to soon surpass boomers in total population, Yun believes the share of millennial purchases would be higher if not for the numerous obstacles that have slowed their journey to homeownership. 

“Many millennials have endured underemployment and subpar wage growth, and rising rents and repaying student debt have made it very difficult to save for a downpayment,” he explained. “For some, even forming households of their own has been a challenge.”

Multigenerational Buyers

According to the survey, 13 percent of all home purchases were by a multigenerational household, consisting of adult siblings, adult children, parents and/or grandparents.

The biggest reasons for a multigenerational purchase were cost savings (24 percent) and adult children moving back into the house (23 percent). 

Younger boomers represented the largest share of multigenerational buyers at 21 percent, with 37 percent of those saying the primary reason for their purchase was due to adult children moving back into their house.

“Even though the share of first-time buyers has fallen to its lowest level since 1987, young adults in general are more mobile than older households,” adds Yun. “The return of first-time buyers to normal levels will eventually take place in upcoming years as those living with their parents are likely to form households of their own, first as renters, and then eventually as homeowners.”

Where They’re Buying Homes

Although most purchases by all generations were in a suburban area, the share of millennials buying in an urban or central city area increased to 21 percent in the past year (19 percent a year ago), compared with only 12 percent of older boomers (unchanged from a year ago).

Older boomers and the Silent Generation were more likely to buy in a rural area (18 percent each). Buyers’ median distance from their previous residence was 12 miles, with older boomers moving the furthest at a median distance of 30 miles.

The majority of all buyers (79 percent) purchased a detached single-family home. Gen X buyers represented the largest share of single-family homebuyers (85 percent), and the Silent Generation was the most likely to purchase a townhouse or row house (10 percent). A combined 7 percent of millennial buyers bought an apartment, condo or duplex in a building with two or more units.

Among the biggest factors influencing neighborhood choice, millennials were most influenced by the quality of the neighborhood (75 percent) and convenience to jobs (74 percent). 

Convenience to schools was most desired by Gen X buyers and proximity to health facilities by the Silent Generation.

Millennials plan to stay in their home for 10 years, while the baby boom generation as a whole plans to stay for a median of 18 years.

Posted in Real Estate News