Tips

Brrrr! It's time to get your fireplace serviced!

With temperatures and snow falling fast, there's no better place to be than nestled in front of a cozy fireplace. Before settling in, there are a few safety measures to take to ensure you can relax and enjoy the comfort of a crackling fire all winter long. 

According to Susan McKelvey, a spokesperson for the National Fire Protection Association, half of all US home heating fires take place between December and February. Follow the tips below to put your mind at ease and start enjoying your fireplace right away!

1. Regularly clean the interior

Burning wood in fireplaces can release pollutants in the air and leave a buildup of dust, ash, and creosote, which can cause fires. Also watch for any accumulation of soot, which is softer than creosote, is flammable, and must be regularly cleaned from the chimney.

The NFPA recommends chimneys be cleaned at least once a year, at the beginning of winter, to remove soot and debris. For homes who use their fireplace regularly a more regular cleaning schedule may be better. Contact a local chimney cleaner to get a professional opinion.

2. Cap it

Use a wire mesh cap to cover the top of the chimney to keep birds, squirrels, rain, and other debris from entering. Some critters can mistake chimneys for trees and build nests inside them to escape the cold. This is not only a danger to the animals, but a potential fire hazard. Capping your chimney is an inexpensive fix, usually running around $75-$80.

3. Check the damper

The damper is a movable plate meant to seal the fireplace when not in use. Be sure your damper is working properly and free of debris that would keep it from opening and closing properly.

While you're checking the damper, also take a look at other components such as door latches, handles and grates. Over time these items can break or warp and should be repaired/replaced.

4. Monitor for smoke

Excess smoke can be caused by animal nests (see Tip 2), an unclean chimney that has creosote, soot buildup, a closed or partly open damper, or wood that is not burning completely.

Check that your chimney is properly vented to the outside to minimize the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Be sure your smoke and CO alarms are functioning properly. 

5. Choose the right wood to burn

Hardwoods such as maple, oak, ash, and birch burn longer and hotter, have less pitch and sap, and will contribute less creosote buildup.

You can burn any type of untreated wood but to make sure it is properly seasoned. You'll know your wood is well-seasoned when it fades in color, is hard, sounds hollow when you knock on it, and has loose bark.The most effective way to dry out wood is to cut it, split it, and stack it.

6. Use heat-proof glass doors

Glass doors help protect against heat loss and keep embers, cinders, or logs from rolling out of the fireplace and causing damage. You can have doors installed on the frame of your fireplace or pick up a tempered glass screen. Of course, be sure to keep anything flammable well out of the way of the doors or grate. 

 

10 Fall Home Maintenance Tasks To Tackle This Weekend

 

Grab a pumpkin spice coffee, your favorite flannel and a pair of work gloves - it's time for fall home maintenance!

Why is seasonal maintenance important?

Sure, cleaning the gutters may not be your idea of a fun fall weekend, but taking the time to tackle seasonal maintenance will save you time and money in the long run. It's easier to prevent a problem than deal with the aftermath down the road. Here are 10 essentials to take care of before the snow flies...

1. Rake 'em Up

Oh how we wish the beautiful foliage would stay on the trees and off our lawns! Make raking a family affair and bag up your leaves to prevent them from killing the grass next spring.

2. Clean the gutters

Speaking of leaves, when they clog your gutters, rainwater can’t flow through and will eventually spill over. So what, right? This overflow can damage your home’s siding, roof and foundation.

It’s better to remove the leaves from your gutters than to chance the buildup turning into a costly problem.

3. Check the roof

While we’re on the subject of the roof, fall is a great time to check that all shingles are in place and in good shape before winter snowstorms pop up on your radar.

4. Conduct a walking inspection

Take a walk around the exterior of your home, keeping an eye open for damage along the pathways leading to your doors. Cracks could mean loose cement or gravel, increasing the likelihood that someone could trip or slip and fall.

To ensure the safety of visitors, seal any cracks you see. Be sure to inspect the siding and foundation while you’re at it, and tackle any repairs as soon as possible.

5. Cracks and gaps can cause problems indoors too

When you shut doors and windows, make sure there aren’t any spaces allowing air to escape. If there are, seal them before the real cold weather hits.

You may not think much of these little gaps right now, but you will when you open your heating bill and see how much you’re paying to keep the whole neighborhood warm, or when you find out that a mouse has made your cabinet his home for the winter.

6. Store summer staples

Patio furniture is susceptible to damage from winter weather. Since you probably won’t spend as much time outside, move patio furniture etc. into storage.

7. Sweep it up

Schedule a time to have your chimney and heating system cleaned and maintained, including swapping old filters for new ones. It’s important that everything is in good working condition to decrease the likelihood of house fires.

8. Pipe down

Shut off the water supply to exterior faucets and insulate your pipes before the weather dips below 32 degrees. This will help prevent pipes from freezing, bursting and flooding your home.

9. Take time to vent

Dryers are a leading cause of fires - make sure to have your dryer vent cleaned annually. Aside from safety issues, if your vent is clogged with lint, your machine will not be as energy efficient.

10. Testing … 1, 2, 3

Test safety devices, such as smoke alarms, and check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher. In case a fire ignites, it’s important to know that you and your family will be alerted and able to get out of the house quickly and safely, or able to extinguish smaller fires before significant damage is done.

Buyer Demand Far Outpaces Inventory...NOW Is The Time To Sell!

Inventory in our area is still very competitive for home sellers, and buyers are entering the market to take advantage of low interest rates. It is truly a great time to enter the real estate market no matter which end of the spectrum you're on!

The price of any item is determined by the supply of that item, as well as the market demand. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) surveys “over 50,000 real estate practitioners about their expectations for home sales, prices and market conditions” for their Realtors Confidence Index.

Their latest edition sheds some light on the relationship between Seller Traffic (supply) and Buyer Traffic (demand).

Buyer Demand

The map on the right was created after asking the question:

“How would you rate buyer traffic in your area?”

The darker the blue, the more buyers are looking for homes in that area. Only 3 states came in with a weak demand level.

 

 

Seller Supply

The Index also asked:

“How would you rate seller traffic in your area?”

As you can see from the map on the left, a good portion of the country has weak seller traffic, meaning there are far fewer homes on the market than what is needed to satisfy the buyers who are out looking for their dream homes.

Bottom Line

Looking at the maps above, it is not hard to see why prices are appreciating in many areas of the country. Until the supply of homes for sale starts to meet the buyer demand, prices will continue to increase. This is great news for homeowners thinking of selling their home. Buyers should not be discouraged; low interest rates allow for affordable options even when inventory is low. 

 

Tips To Sell Your Home Faster (And For More Money!)

When our clients ask for our assistance selling their home, their two main concerns are timeline and price. 

 

We've been in the Real Estate industry a long time, and have amassed countless tips and strategies to address both of those concerns. We decided to put together an online magazine to make our best advice available to the whole community!

Below you'll find a link to check out our magazine and learn some of our best home selling strategies. When the time comes to list your home, we'll be here to walk you through the process and make it not only quick and painless, but fun and profitable as well! Give us a call any time, we're always happy to help.

 

 

Improve the safety of your home drinking water

Your tap water is probably not as clean as you think. 

We all know that water is essential for survival and maintaining health, but if you're drinking straight out of the tap, there are some things you should be aware of. When you drink tap water, especially municipal water, there are loads of additives, including beneficial minerals (like magnesium), and harmful contaminants like lead, mercury, pesticides and trace amounts of prescription medications. It can be a witches' cauldron of potentially harmful unknowns. One common misconception is that boiling tap water will remove all trace substances; it will kill off any living organisms, but it won't actually remove any contaminants in the process. However, there are some options to mitigate your exposure. 

You may be wondering how the water from your tap could possibly be so dirty. Well, simply put, it has most likely traveled several miles, through pipes which can pass along lead, chlorine, ammonia etc. before finally arriving to your home. The problem is, we may not know exactly which contaminants are present in our water. The Environmental Working Group investigated the nation's drinking water supply over the course of 3 years and found that 85% of the population's water contained more than 300 contaminants, more than half of which are not regulated by the EPA. 

Now, you may be thinking bottled water is the holy grail at this point. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case. In fact, bottled water is also not regulated by the EPA and there are no studies proving that it's any safer than the water from your tap! Not to mention the resources that are used to produce and transport the water, and the contaminants leached from the plastic bottle itself into the water. 

Some of the most common water chemicals & contaminants...

1. Fluoride

Adding fluoride to drinking water is a process that began back in the 1940’s to help reduce tooth decay. It sounds like a noble cause but fluoride is a neurotoxin and an endocrine disruptor. It can harm the thyroid gland and calcify the pineal gland. Fluoride is toxic, and several countries have banned the practice of adding it to water. 

2. Chlorine

 Chlorine is known to be a sanitizing agent, and has been added to drinking water as a purification technique, despite not being completely safe. Chlorine  bonds with water, including the water in your gut, to produce poisonous hydrochloric acid. Long term effects include memory loss and impaired balance.

3. Lead

Corroded pipes can release up to ten times the allowable amount of lead into the water. Lead is extremely toxic, especially to children and can cause developmental issues, stunted growth and even brain damage.

4. Mercury

Mercury is a naturally occurring element, which does not mean that it's safe. It can find its way into our water supply as a byproduct of mining practices. Unfortunately, it is an extremely efficient traveler and transfers easily from wind to water. Mercury exposure can cause brain damage, blindness, nerve damage, muscle loss and a host of other conditions.

5. Prescription Medications

If you're drinking public water, you are ingesting trace amounts of hormones, antibiotics and other prescription medications. When wastewater is treated, most contaminants are cleared, but the process cannot remove all excreted substances. Although levels are low, the risk of ingesting trace prescriptions over the course of a lifetime are unknown.

Now that we've gone over the gloom and doom, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

If you don't already have a home water filtration system, you may want to look into one. There are several options depending on your budget and your level of concern. You can go as far as to install a whole-house filtration system, or you can go the more minimally invasive route and invest in an individual drinking water and shower filter unit. 

For drinking water, you have a few options:

You can choose an undercounter unit that will be tucked away and do a great job at filtering out contaminants. There is some installation required, and the initial cost may be slightly off putting, but there are other options.

- You could opt for a countertop filter which uses water pressure to force the filtration process and results in healthier, better tasting water. These require minimal installation, little space and are cost effective.

- Lastly, you could opt for a water pitcher filter which is great if you're low on counter space, and working within a budget. These fit easily in your refrigerator and are very simple to use. 

When it comes to showering, there are a few things to consider:

Your skin is incredibly absorbent, which means any of those nasty water chemicals can enter your bloodstream. Now, you could install a shower water filter which will help mitigate exposure. These are cost effective and simple to put into place. If that isn't an option, try to reduce the time spent in the shower and reduce the temperature of the water so that pores don't absorb as much. 

Your morning shower should not include daily exposure to chlorine, carcinogens and vaporized chemical contaminants being absorbed into your skin and breathed into your lungs. Without a shower filter, it does.

We hope this information is useful to you! Investing in a water filtration system of some sort is a good idea whether you live in an area with town water, or if you use well water. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips to maximize your small kitchen.

Not every home is equipped with a spacious kitchen, but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice style or function! We have some great tips to help maximize any small kitchen.

 

The ceiling is the limit. 

The extent to which you'll be able to expand your storage upward will depend upon the amount of cabinetry your kitchen has. That being said, nearly every kitchen can use some amount of wall space. If you have an older home with less cabinets, installing rows of shelves is an excellent way to get utensils, appliances, cutting boards cookbooks up off of the counters. If you don't have room for extra shelving, you will have to make the most of the space between the counter tops and the bottoms of the cabinets. This can be a great area to install a spice rack, or hang magnetic strips for knives. You can even set up metal rods to hang utensils from! Sometimes it just takes a little extra creativity to figure out what will work best. 

 

 

 

Under the sink storage.

If you're like most of us, the area under your kitchen sink has become a black hole filled with miscellaneous cleaning supplies. If that sounds like you, it's time to invest in some under the sink storage  to make the most of this space. You'll be shocked at how much room you have once you get everything up and organized! You might even find a lost "treasure" or two in the process. 

 

 

Upgrade your lighting.

You know what makes a small kitchen feel even smaller? Bad lighting. Upgrading your fixtures is a relatively simple and inexpensive project that'll not only make your space feel more open, but also give you a chance to show off your style! We're especially fond of pendant lights in a small kitchen. You can find some great ones here

 

 

 

Pops of color.

Last but not least, don't be afraid to add a few pops of color! Like we said earlier, having a small space doesn't mean you need to sacrifice style. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how far a well placed piece of art, a colorful dish towel or a vase of flowers will go toward adding interest. 

 

Do these things now if you want to sell your home this fall

We're not trying to wish away the last few weeks of summer, but if you're thinking of listing your home for sale this fall, now is the time to prepare. Fall and winter may not traditionally be the busiest times for real estate sales, but they do attract the most serious buyers. With inventory decreasing, you can bet more eyes will be on your home! These tips will help make it even more attractive.

 

 

The most important step you can take when you decide to sell your home is to find a trustworthy agent to assist you. According to the National Association of Realtors, 89% of home sellers choose to work with a realtor rather than attempting to sell their home themselves. There are many reasons home sellers seek out professional help, including a notable increase in selling price, a decreased amount of time spent on the market, and the peace of mind that comes with having a seasoned realtor on call. 

It's important to find a realtor that you feel comfortable and secure with. A home is usually the largest financial asset our clients own, and it deserves to be treated with care and respect. A great realtor will keep in contact, explain every detail of the sales process, market your home widely to qualified buyers, and most importantly, help you get the greatest return possible on your investment. 

If you're considering selling your home, one of our agents would be more than happy to hear your thoughts, and provide you with a report on your home's value!

 

 

Our second tip is to start a home maintenance "to do" list and start checking things off. Take care of any obvious repairs and maintenance that you can in advance so your home is ready to be shown when it hits the market.

Below are a few commonly forgotten items that really make a difference to prospective buyers:

Inside:

- touch up paint 

- replace burned out light bulbs

- be sure doors and windows are jam-free

- shampoo carpets

- replace any broken screens

- deodorize areas exposed to pets or smoke

- pack up any superfluous belongings to make the home show-ready

Outside:

- keep grass and landscaping tidy

- rake excess leaves - especially important this time of year!

- be sure any outdoor lights are working properly

- clean garage/barn

- touch up paint if necessary

- clean gutters and windows

- be sure walkways are clear of debris

 

 

Fall in Vermont is one of the most beautiful times of year! As the daylight hours become fewer, it's important to add a few extra lights to your home before you list it. If you don't already have a porch light, it would be a very nice, welcoming touch - be sure to leave it on before showings, too! Inside you may want to add a few lamps here and there to brighten your space.

If your home has a fireplace, now is the time to emphasize it! With chilly days ahead, making your home feel cozy and warm will be especially attractive to buyers.

 

 

Curb appeal is essential for home sellers regardless of season, but it's especially important in the fall. Summer spoils us with lush greenery and beautiful flowers, and can make late fall feel dreary in comparison. Add a few potted plants or pumpkins by your front door or mailbox, remember the front porch light, and keep landscaping tidy. All of these things will help your home to stand out when it comes time to sell!

Grill marinades to make your BBQ the talk of the neighborhood

There's still plenty of summer left, and that means there will more barbecues and fun gatherings to be had this season! We have 2 delicious marinade recipes to take your upcoming cookout to the next level. Enjoy!

 

 

Ingredients: 

- 1 Cup crushed pineapple

- 1/3 Cup soy sauce or coconut aminos

- 1/3 Cup honey

- 1/4 Cup apple cider vinegar

- 1-2 Cloves crushed garlic

- 1 Tablespoon fresh crushed ginger

- 1/2 Teaspon crushed cloves

- 1/2 Teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional - adjust to taste)

Directions: 

Mix honey, cider vinegar and pineapple juice together thoroughly. Add other ingredients individually making sure that each spice is well combined and thoroughly dissolved. 

For chicken or pork: thoroughly coat meat and refrigerate for 6-8 hours in marinade. Bake or grill and enjoy!

For fish or vegetables: Coat in marinade and allow to sit for no longer than 30 minutes before baking, grilling or sauteing. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients: 

- 1 Cup red wine vinegar

- 1/2 Cup olive oil

- 1/4 Cup worcestershire sauce

- 1/4 Cup brown sugar

- 4 Cloves crushed garlic

- 2 Tablespoons paprika

- 1 Tablespoon sea salt

- 2 Teaspoons ground black pepper

- 1 Teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (Optional - adjust to taste)

 

Directions: 

Mix all ingredients, combining thoroughly. Place brisket in plastic bag or tupperwear container and coat with marinade. Refrigerate for up to 14 hours (the longer the better!) before grilling. Feel free to add any of the dry ingredients directly to the meat before grilling. Prepare to allow the brisket around 5 hours to cook (internal temperature should reach at least 195 degrees). The less you flip the meat, the better. Cook it on slow heat and let it be. Enjoy!

5 Tips to take your patio to the next level

Is there anything better than relaxing outside during the warm, sunny summer months? We've put together 5 tips to make your outdoor space the perfect place to unwind and entertain. You may even increase your home's value in the process!

 

 

 A few well placed pops of color can really tie a room together and make it look expensive. You don't have to spend a fortune, or overhaul your existing furniture to achieve a more cohesive look. Pick up a few outdoor throw pillows , a fun rug and a coordinating umbrella  and your patio will be instantly refreshed! Think of your potted plants as accessories and display them around the area for added interest. 

 

 

No need to head inside once the sun sets! Add some festive lighting to your patio and we're sure you'll find yourself hanging out there long into the evening. You can find tons of fun string lights, lanterns and even outdoor lamps at any hardware store these days. You can even add in a few citronella candles and torches to keep the bugs at bay. 

 

 

Add a stylish outdoor rug to your patio to make the area feel more cozy and pulled together. It's amazing how an area rug can make the space feel like an extension of your home! There are tons of inexpensive options available online

 

 

Turn your patio into a real retreat by adding a privacy fence and some tall landscaping around the perimeter. These plants are great for creating natural screens for your yard. 

 

 

Add a fire pit, hammock, outdoor bar or lawn games to your patio for added entertainment and fun! You may find yourself spending more time outside than inside this summer!