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Mary Byrnes

Realtor for Life

My Blog

Spring is Here: Get Your Home Ready!


After a long, hard winter, spring is finally, hopefully, maybe even desperately, expected to arrive. Here are some home maintenance tips to help welcome the new season.


The Department of Energy (DOE) says weatherstripping the windows on your home is an easy and effective way to help save money on your energy bill. Weatherstripping is a material you can apply around your window and door frames to help ensure there’s a good seal. During the harsh winter months, it can help keep the warm air inside the house, and the cold drafts out. In the spring and summer, weatherstripping works the opposite way, helping to keep the cool air inside and the warm air out.

If you didn’t install weatherstripping before the winter cold set in, you may want to take this opportunity to seal your windows before you have to turn on the air conditioner. In the summer, if the cool air is contained inside, then the AC will not have to work as hard, and that may help you save money on your energy bill. The same can be true of your furnace when winter rolls back around.

Thinking about installing weatherstripping? The DOE recommends that you apply weatherstripping to clean, dry surfaces in temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Indoor Maintenance

Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition, an opportunity to sweep the cobwebs from your home, clear out the dust that accumulated during the winter and let the sunshine in. While you’re up to your elbows in soap, washing the windows, defrosting the refrigerator and tackling what seems to be a never-ending list of spring cleaning chores, you might as well make a maintenance checklist, too. On those warmer days, you may want to do the following:

Test and clean ceiling fans. According to the the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an efficient ceiling fan in each room can help allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees Fahrenheit without reducing your comfort level. Ceiling fans can be a good way to air out the house and generate a cross-breeze. So, now might be a good time to make sure your fans are clean and ready to start cooling you off this spring.

Replace your AC filter. While the warm weather is still technically several weeks away, you want to make sure your air conditioner is prepared and ready to go. The National Center for Healthy Housing recommends you replace the filters in the air conditioner in the spring. A new filter will likely optimize the efficiency of the unit.

Replace torn or damage window screens. If you don’t have an air conditioner, or if you simply like to keep the windows open in the spring and summer, it’s a good idea to make sure your screens are in good shape — you don’t want to let flies in with all that fresh air! Winter storms and wind can damage window screens, so it may be a good idea to assess any damage and replace what needs to be fixed.

Exterior Upkeep

Your window screens aren’t the only parts of your home that can fall victim to nasty winter weather, so you may want to take stock of your home’s condition. The National Center for Healthy Housing suggests that in the springtime, you may want to consider these outdoor maintenance projects:

Check your roof shingles. This should be done by a professional, as working on the roof can be dangerous without the proper training. You should ask the professional to make sure the shingles are not curling or clawing. If they are, they may be susceptible to leaks and should be replaced, says BobVila.com.

Replace rotten siding or trim. Make sure your home’s siding and trim aren’t damaged from windy, icy conditions. If your home is made of brick or stucco, look for any crumbling or deteriorated mortar. If you find a problem, contact a professional for help with repairing or replacing the damaged materials.

Clean gutters and downspouts. You’re making sure the inside of your home is clean; why not make sure your gutters are, as well? Get rid of any leaves or other debris that accumulated during the winter to make sure your gutters and downspouts are ready to take on those April showers. This job, too, is best left to a professional, as climbing on a ladder is required.

So, now’s the time to get those spring maintenance projects under way. By the time those May flowers start to bloom, you will be able to enjoy them with peace of mind knowing your home maintenance is up to date.


***This blog is brought to you by Jen Kincaid

Important Things to “Fix Up” before Selling


When you’re preparing your home for sale, it’s not unusual to need to fix up a few things around the property. After all, you want your home to look its best to buyers, so that you get good offers, quickly. What do you need to fix? Here are three categories that will help you create and prioritize your list.

1. Anything that squeaks or creaks. Is there something in your home that makes a noise it shouldn’t be making? Perhaps it’s a rattling closet door or a creaking floor board? You may be so used to it you no longer notice the sound. But buyers will. Be sure to get those items fixed.

2. Anything that’s unsightly. You don’t have to make your home look perfect. However, things that are unsightly will likely get buyers’ attention. You want them to focus on the terrific features of your property, not the scuff on the wall. Take a walk through your property, including the yard. Pretend you’re the buyer. Do you notice anything that doesn’t look good? If so, tidy it up, fix it up or replace it.

3. Anything that’s broken. If there’s anything that needs repair — an outside tap that’s not working, or a sliding door that regularly careens off its runner — call the contractor or fix it yourself. Getting these items fixed will go a long way toward making your home appealing to buyers.


***This article is brought to you by Realtor Gabriela Agostinelli
***Article published on www.activerain.com

What Does Home Mean To You?


No matter what shape or size your living space is, the concept and feeling of home can mean different things to different people. Whether it's a certain scent or a favorite chair, the emotional reasons why we choose to buy our own home are, more often than not, the more powerful or compelling ones.

Every year, The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University conducts a survey to find driving factors behind why Americans decide to  buy a home.

The top 4 reasons to own a home cited by participants of the survey were not financial.
1. It means having a good place to raise children & provide them with a good education
From the best neighborhoods to the best school districts, even those without children at the time of purchase may have this in the back of their mind as a major reason for choosing the location of the home that they purchase. I know that we chose Irvine in part because of the  terrific school districtswhich my children both loved.
2. You have a physical structure where you & your family feel safe
It is no surprise that having a place to call home with the means for comfort and security is the number two reason. Did you know that Irvine is consistently one of the safest cities in the country?
3. It allows you to have more space for your family
Whether your family is expanding, or an older family member is moving in, having a home that fits your needs is a close third on the list.
4. It gives you control over what you do with your living space, like renovations and updates
Looking to actually try one of those complicated wall treatments that you saw on Pinterest? Tired of paying an additional pet deposit for your apartment building, or do you want to finally adopt that puppy or kitten you've seen online 100 times? Who's to say that you can't in your own home?
The 5th reason on the list, is the #1 financial reason to buy a home as seen by respondents:
5. Owning a home is a good way to build up wealth that can be passed along to my family
Either way you are paying a mortgage. Why not lock in your housing expense now with an investment that will build equity that you can borrow against in the future?

Bottom Line
Whether you are a first time homebuyer or a move-up buyer who wants to start a new chapter in your life, now is a great time to reflect on the intangible factors that make a house a home. Get in touch so we can discuss what home means to you.


***This article is brought to you by Realtor Debbie Sagorin
***Article published on www.activerain.com

The Go To Guide for Downsizing Your Home


Downsizing your home can provide you and your loves ones with some amazing benefits over the years. In addition to lower energy bills, keeping a smaller home clean and tidy takes just a fraction of the time. If you are planning on moving to a smaller place in the near future, then read ahead for some tips that will make the transition as smooth as possible.

Assess Your Needs
Before you begin packing, you need to sit down with your loved ones and write down some of the necessities that must be in and around your new home. Many people do not realize just how different it is to live in a smaller home and making sure your new place has a few key features will lessen the shock. This might include an enclosed garage or nearby parks for the kids. 

Give Yourself Time
Trying to move into a new home under a strict schedule will almost always result in unnecessary stress. Even if you are not ready to begin packing your personal items, you can still collect moving supplies and start going through unused rooms. Many moving companies suggest that families should start packing three or four months in advance. Starting early will also give you plenty of time to sell or give away anything you do not plan on bringing with you. 

Start Creating Piles
Unfortunately those who plan on downsizing their home will have to make some tough decisions. If you are having a difficult time getting rid of any items, then you might want to start creating three or four separate piles in each room. One pile should contain all of the items that you absolutely must keep. The other piles should include possessions that you are still on the fence about. Some of the items in the "maybe" pile can even be put in storage for a few months to give you time to think about it. 

Finding Affordable Storage
Just because you are downsizing your home doesn't mean you need to sell or donate all of your belongings. Renting out a storage unit will give you more time to go through all of your possessions and decide what must be kept and what can be tossed. Storage units are also an excellent option for any seasonal supplies that you do not need throughout the year. You can use a local storage unit to safely house items such as holiday decorations and old tools. 

Ask for a Loved One's Opinion
No matter how objective you try to be, there may come a time when you simply cannot make a decision. Going through a lifetime of belongings can be extremely difficult, and you might want to have a loved one help you through this process. When you come across any possessions that you can't decide on, the experts at a Texas self-storage facility recommend calling a friend or a loved one and have them take a look. At the very least, they might need the item themselves. 

Donate Your Extras
Seeing a trashcan full of your family's possessions is gong to be heartbreaking. By donating the items instead, you can rest assured that they will be going to those who need them the most. Many non-profits offer free curbside pickups for families that are getting ready to move. As an added bonus, you might be able to claim the donations as a charitable deduction on your taxes. 

Downsizing can be incredibly therapeutic, but many families find moves to be quite stressful. Taking some time to plan out your move well before the day arrives will allow your to avoid any number of common mistake that could cost you time and money. 

*posted on www.activerain.com



Happy Labor Day


I Hear America Singing
By: Walt Whitman


I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, 
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, 
The carpenter singing as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, 
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The woodcutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, 
The day what belongs to the day-at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, 
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs. 

Small Space? Storage Doesn't Have to be a Problem!!


How did I accumulate this much stuff?? We all asked ourselves that question at least once in our lives, right? And sometimes, even after we clean and scrub and get rid of everything we think we can live without, we're still left with more items than storage space. Son't fret! With the current trend towards smaller space living, there are many useful storage solutions we can all benefit from, no matter out home's square footage!

  1. Take stock of your space. 
    First, look around your living area and identify any space that isn't being used effectively. Is there a door that opens outwards and prevents you from using a whole corner? Do you have tons of things on the floor, but nothing hanging on your walls? How about that dark spot under the bed? Make a mental note of every nook and cranny, and we'll explore how to maximize it's usefulness!
    I can't stress enough the importance of good shelf space! By sacrificing a mere 12 to 18 inches around the perimeter of a room, you can build an entire wall of shelving, right up to the ceiling! Measure carefully and install good quality, durable shelving units. Make sure there are a variety of cubby holes, closed cabinet areas, and open shelves so that you can display the things you want seen, and hide the things you don't. 
  3. BASKETS!!
    Almost as important as shelves, invest in baskets, bins, and boxes. You can place groups of like items, like magazines or winter gloves, into a basket, place it up on a shelf, and your clutter is instantly out of sight. As an added bonus, you won't have to search through the closets when you need to dins something, since everything will have it's own special place. Decorative baskets are great for display, and can even be changed out seasonally to match your decor. Longer, flatter bins and boxes fir perfectly under the bed or couch, making them a good place to store seasonal decorations or clothing items. I guarantee, if you have an empty space, someone makes a basket or box that will fit in it!
  4. Dual Purpose Furniture. 
    There are SO many options for this in stores today. Ottomans that open up and hide your living room clutter. Bathroom vanities that can also hold all the linens. Coffee tables that lift up and make a desk. Use existing doors and cabinets, and add over the door organizers or easy to install cleaning supply holders. Get out there to your local department store and check out all the great possibilities!
  5. Get Creative!
    If an awkwardly placed door is in the way of where you want to put some furniture, take that thing off the hinges and replace it with a nice curtain instead! Hand up a corkboard in the kitchen and use it yo hang up your pots and pans! If you have a spare room, but only have company occasionally, think of putting in a Murphy Bed that will fold up unto a nice shelving area when not in use. Place your plants in hanging baskets instead of taking up valuable counter space. Place items in mason jars, hang magnets from the undersides of your kitchen cabinets, and hang the jars up and out of the way! 

Of course, when all else fails, you could always go and rent a storage unit, but I'm sure that with a little creative thinking and some minor redecorating, you'll find that you have much more space than you ever imagined!

* posted from www.activerain.com

Upgrade Your Outdoor Space For Summer!


It's summer time, the weather is gorgeous, and the outdoors is calling your name!  Read on for some tips on how to upgrade your outdoor space, so you can get out and enjoy our beautiful summer nights right in your own backyard!

If you already have a patio set, upgrading it can be simple!  There are many different spray on paint products that are great for outdoor usage.  Pick out the color that you love the best and make that old furniture look new again.  After the paint has dried, head to the store and pick up some indoor/outdoor accent pillows!  You can change these as often as you like, so your outdoor seating area will always look fresh and inviting.

Tired of looking at the same old concrete slab?  Try picking out some new paving stones!  These come in dozens of shapes, sizes, and materials, so you can choose the ones that match your homes outdoor decor.  You can lay these small tiles or bricks out in any pattern you like, or create a nice walkway around the yard!

Get crafty!  There are so many project ideas available online for people of every skill level to spruce up your outdoor area, the only problem will be picking out just a couple.  Make your own citronella candles to ward off those nasty Florida mosquitoes, or put together a beautiful wind chime with objects you found walking our beautiful beaches.  The possibilities are endless, and you're only limited by your own imagination!

For those of you with a green thumb, now is the time to go crazy in the garden!  Plant some sun-loving flowers, or arrange some potted plants.  There are different varieties of vegetables that have been bred to withstand our Florida heat, so feel free to plant some tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, and you'll be snacking on the fruits of your labor in no time.  And, if you're like me and seem to have more of a brown thumb than a green one, a succulent garden is nearly fool proof!  

What's better than sitting around the fire in the evening, roasting hot dogs or making s'mores?  A premade fire pit can be found relatively inexpensively at any hardware or outdoor department store.  Or, you could use the leftover paving stones from your paving project and build your own! Make sure you place the fire far enough from the home to prevent any unfortunate mishaps, pull up your newly redone chairs, and relax!

* posted from www.activerain.com

5 Things to Look for in a Neighborhood


If you’re like most people, then you know exactly what you want in a house, from its roof right down to its (hopefully finished) basement.  But can you say the same about your potential neighborhood?
Probably not, but you definitely should. No matter how perfect your new house is, you’re going to have to leave it eventually.  Of course, neighborhoods aren’t one size fits all. Whether or not one works for you depends heavily on your needs and personality, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few good questions to ask.

Here are 5 things you should keep in mind when picking a neighborhood.

Does your potential neighborhood have nearby parks and shops? How about the sidewalks to get to them? Preferences vary widely for walkability—some prefer quieter neighborhoods farther away from the hustle and bustle—but regardless of what you want, you should definitely know how you feel going in.

New vs. old
It’s hard to deny that new and old neighborhoods each have pluses and minuses, as well as a drastically different feel. New developments are often better planned, and new homes are free of many of the problems that come with aging construction. However, older neighborhoods tend to have more charm, not to mention an established community.

The school system
Don’t forget that your neighborhood comes attached to a specific school system. Even if you don’t plan on having children (or if yours are already out of the house) a good school system will help ensure a higher resale price later down the road.

Noise and traffic
What seems like a quiet neighborhood in the middle of winter can actually turn out to be the opposite once school’s out for the summer. Make sure to tour the neighborhood at multiple times of the day and, if possible, talk to someone who lives in the area. It may turn out that noise peaks on certain days, or that regular happenings make parking difficult to find.

Access to the essentials
You can find the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood, but if it’s 45 minutes from your job and the nearest grocery store, hospital, and bank, then you’re going to run into problems before you’re finished unpacking.

The bottom line? Research your neighborhood thoroughly before you buy, and know exactly what you want before you start looking.


*A good read article found on http://www.totalmortgage.com/ by Taryne Leahy

Looking for the Right Neighborhood


Each and every potential buyer has particular requests for where and what they want to buy. When a buyer begins their search, usually it is for a price and beds/baths. After the list appears with properties in their price range, then the search is narrowed to certain neighborhoods. How close to schools, shopping, restaurants, hospitals, walk score, parks, bike paths, etc.

Here are some options to consider when picking a neighborhood:

  The time of day when you first lay eyes on a prospective house can affect your impression of the neighborhood, so if you are interested, drive through various times of day. A neighborhood can change once the sun goes down, and weekday evenings could be different than weekend evenings. Check out the traffic congestion, during rush hours.  

2.  Neighborhood choices affect your pocketbook, not only house prices and taxes, but also including commuting costs (time and money). With gas prices, living closer to where you work is generally the request, but if you want land, your commute could be substantial. Saving $50 per month on the price of a home may cost you $100 more per month for car expenses. All these factors need to be reviewed.
3.   Have questions, ask the neighbors!   The neighbors always want to know WHO is interested in being their new neighbors, and will be helpful in questions you have. They freely offer information on safety, noise, school information, demographics, other neighbors, etc. If there are questions on the HOA, it is best to call them directly.
4.  The Internet offers so much information!    Need more info? The Internet can be a great source to research the details. NeighborhoodScout.com is a subscription service that offers an in-depth look at crime stats, school stats, and quarterly price-appreciation for the area. This site can take the characteristics of a neighborhood that is familiar and give you a neighborhood in the new city that would be a good match. In the works with this site - "build your neighborhood", putting characteristics in such as home prices, crime levels, preferred school scores, etc, and it will suggest neighborhoods!


* www.activerain.com - article by Joan Cox, Realtor in the Denver area

First Impressions - Don't Forget The Front Door


When preparing your home for sale curb appeal is an important part of the process. The yard, flowers, garage, driveway, and gutters are all regularly spruced up to make sure they’re putting their best foot forward. What about the front door? It often gets overlooked yet, it’s frequently the first place potential buyers enter to view the home. 
Take time to look at your front door prior to going on the market and make sure it’s inviting and well kept. Replacement can be pricey but, is sometimes necessary. Before making that decision consider the below options to make your front door sparkle. 

Ease of Opening – make sure the door is easy to open, from using the key to the actual process of opening the door there should be no sticking or squeaking. Doorjamb, threshold, or hinge adjustment may be needed if it’s difficult to open. 
Paint - if the paint is chipping off or non-existent in places it’s time for a fresh coat. It’s a very inexpensive way to give the door a fresh new look. Be sure not to get paint on any door windows or the handle. 

Glass – replace any cracked glass and make sure all the glass is cleaned regularly while you’re on the market. No fingerprints or pollen build up allowed. 
Screens – if you have a screen door make sure there are no tears in the screen and that it fits tightly in the door frame. Consider replacing the screen if necessary. 

The area leading up to the front door is important as well, place some potted flowers in front of the door or a wreath on the door itself. The goal is to make your front door say welcome to our home not enter at your own risk. Home maintenance and curb appeal are always noticed by buyers, make sure your home leaves a positive lasting impression. If you're considering selling your home and would like to know more about how to properly prepare it to go on the market contact us. We welcome the opportunity to put our expertise to work for you. 


blog used from www.activerain.com: http://activerain.com/blogsview/4877956/first-impressions---don-t-forget-the-front-door

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