Jan. 15, 2021

Take Care of Your Car This Winter

Take Care of Your Car This Winter!

Here are some tips for keeping your car in good shape and properly fitted out for the winter, so you will be prepared for both the weather and for emergencies!

In addition to putting some antifreeze in your car, be sure to keep your gas tank at least ¼ full to avoid a gas line freeze, be sure to keep an emergency supply kit ready, too, and not just for the winter.

Emergency kit items:

-        Jumper cables

-        First aid kit

-        Car charger for your cell phone

-        Properly inflated spare tire, a tire wrench and a tripod jack

-        Reflective triangles and a red, orange or yellow cloth to tie to your antenna, mirror or raised trunk to make your vehicle more visible when pulled off the road.  An extra bit of caution is to also pack a reflective vest in case you need to walk for help.

-        Flashlight - and don’t forget extra batteries!  There are also flashlights that work by winding, so you don’t have to worry about batteries

-        Snow brush, snow shovel, ice scraper

-        Windshield washer fluid

-        A blanket

-        High energy snack foods and a bottle of water

Posted in General Info
Jan. 6, 2021

Why Selling Your Home on Your Own is a Mistake

 

There are many benefits to working with a real estate professional when selling your house. During challenging times, like what we face today, it becomes even more important to have an expert you trust to help guide you through the process. If you’re considering selling on your own, known in the industry as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO), it’s critical to consider the following items.

1. Your Safety Is a Priority

Your safety should always come first, and that’s more crucial than ever given the current health situation in our country. When you FSBO, it is incredibly difficult to control entry into your home. A real estate professional will have the proper protocols in place to protect not only your belongings but your health and well-being too. From regulating the number of people in your home at one time to ensuring proper sanitization during and after a showing, and even facilitating virtual tours, real estate professionals are equipped to follow the latest industry standards recommended by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to help protect you and your potential buyers.

2. A Powerful Online Strategy Is a Must to Attract a Buyer

Recent studies from NAR have shown that, even before COVID-19, the first step 43% of all buyers took when looking for a home was to search online. Throughout the process, that number jumps to 97%. Today, those numbers have grown exponentially. Most real estate agents have developed a strong Internet and social media strategy to promote the sale of your house.

3. There Are Too Many Negotiations

Here are just a few of the people you’ll need to negotiate with if you decide to FSBO:

  • The buyer, who wants the best deal possible
  • The buyer's agent, who solely represents the best interest of the buyer
  • The inspection company, which works for the buyer and will almost always find challenges with the house
  • The appraiser, if there is a question of value

As part of their training, agents are taught how to negotiate every aspect of the real estate transaction and how to mediate the emotions felt by buyers looking to make what is probably the largest purchase of their lives.

4. You Won’t Know if Your Purchaser Is Qualified for a Mortgage

Having a buyer who wants to purchase your house is the first step. Making sure they can afford to buy it is just as important. As a FSBO, it’s almost impossible to be involved in the mortgage process of your buyer. A real estate professional is trained to ask the appropriate questions and, in most cases, will be intimately aware of the progress being made toward a purchaser’s mortgage commitment. You need someone who’s working with lenders every day to guarantee your buyer makes it to the closing table.

5. FSBOing Is Becoming More Difficult from a Legal Standpoint

The documentation involved in the selling process is growing dramatically as more and more disclosures and regulations become mandatory. In an increasingly litigious society, the agent acts as a third-party to help the seller avoid legal jeopardy. This is one of the major reasons why the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 8% over the last 20+ years.

6. You Net More Money When Using an Agent

Many homeowners think they’ll save the real estate commission by selling on their own. Realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real estate agent’s commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save on the commission.

study by Collateral Analytics revealed that FSBOs don’t actually save anything by forgoing the help of an agent. In some cases, the seller may even net less money from the sale. The study found the difference in price between a FSBO and an agent-listed home was an average of 6%. One of the main reasons for the price difference is effective exposure:

"Properties listed with a broker that is a member of the local MLS will be listed online with all other participating broker websites, marketing the home to a much larger buyer population.  And those MLS properties generally offer compensation to agents who represent buyers, incentivizing them to show and sell the property and again potentially enlarging the buyer pool."


The more buyers that view a home, the greater the chance a bidding war will take place, potentially driving the price higher, too.

Bottom Line

Listing on your own leaves you to manage the entire transaction by yourself. Why do that when you can hire an agent and still net the same amount of money? Before you decide to take on the challenge of selling your house alone, let’s connect to discuss your options.

 

Posted in Home Seller
Dec. 28, 2020

Choosing the Right Lightbulb

Lightbulb Guide

       

 

We all know that today’s newer types of bulbs use significantly less energy.  But did you know that more lumens equal brighter light?  Selecting the right lightbulb is all about where that bulb is going and what you want it to do – and it all comes down to bulb temperature.  Bulb temperature is measured on the Kelvin scale. 

Here’s a quick guide to what bulb to use where, keeping in mind that the brightness for some spaces is an individual preference, so there is some overlap.

 

SOFT WHITE

Warm and cozy atmosphere

TEMP: 2,700 to 3,000 Kelvin

LOCATIONS:

Living room

Dining room

Bedrooms

WARM WHITE

Yellowish to white tones

TEMP: 3,000 to 4,000 Kelvin

LOCATIONS:

Kitchen

Bathroom

Living room

BRIGHT WHITE

White to bluish tones

TEMP: 4,000 to 5,000 Kelvin

LOCATIONS:

Kitchen

Bathroom

Work spaces

Home office

Garage

DAYLIGHT

Cool bluish tones

TEMP: 5,000 to 6,500 Kelvin

LOCATIONS:

Work spaces

Task lighting for reading

Vanity lights

 

The type of bulb you choose is also based on your preference.  All the bulbs below produce 800 lumens of light, so pick the one you feel is best based on cost, length of life, the look you prefer and where it will be used.

LED

12 Watts = 800 Lumens 

CFL

15 Watts = 800 Lumens

Halogen

43 Watts = 800 Lumens

Incandescent

60 Watts = 800 Lumens

 

So when you buy bulbs look for lumens not watts, as watts are no longer a reliable way to gauge the right level of brightness. 

 

Posted in General Info
Dec. 11, 2020

Holiday Fire Safety

With winter and the holiday season in full swing, it’s the perfect time to take some simple steps to help protect your family and property from fire.  Here are some tips:                  

– Never run electrical wires, including extension cords, under carpets or rugs as this creates a fire hazard (as well as a tripping hazard)!

– Check holiday lights for fraying or broken wires and plugs.  Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines as to how many strands can be joined together, so you won’t create an overload on the circuit, creating a fire hazard.  Also check lamps, appliances and other electronics for frayed cords, loose or broken plugs and exposed wiring.

– Never leave burning candles unattended, even for a short time. A safer option is to use battery operated candles, which these days look very much like real candles!  Be sure to turn off all candles and holiday lights prior to leaving the house or going to bed.

– Keep live Christmas trees in a water-filled stand and check daily for dehydration. Brown or lots of fallen needles indicate a dangerously dried-out tree that could catch on fire easily and quickly.  If your tree is in this condition it should be discarded immediately.

– Have your fireplace checked by a professional chimney sweep each year and cleaned if necessary, to prevent a dangerous buildup of creosote, which can cause a flash fire in the chimney.

– Keep space heaters away from beds, bedding, curtains, paper and anything else that is flammable. Space heaters should not be left unattended while in use or where a child or pet could knock them over.  Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and cautions for use.

– Put fresh batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

– Be prepared and aware while cooking.  Cooking is the leading cause of house fires.  Grease spills, items left unattended on the stove or in the oven, and food left in toasters or toaster ovens can catch fire quickly. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher, as well as an extinguisher specifically made for grease and cooking fires within easy reach.

– Have an escape plan and make sure all family members know it, and know how to dial 911 in case of a fire or other emergency.

 

Posted in General Info
Nov. 19, 2020

What is a FICO Score?

What is a FICO Score?

A FICO score is not the same as a credit score.  The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) created FICO Scores about thirty years ago in order to provide an industry-standard for scoring creditworthiness that was fair to both lenders and consumers.  A FICO Score, like a credit score, is a three-digit number that is basically a summary of your credit report.  It measures how long you've had credit, how much credit you have, how much of your available credit is being used and if you've paid on time.  It provides a tool to help lenders decide who to lend money to, and it helps people get fair and fast access to credit when you need it.  You can influence your FICO score in the same ways you can influence your credit scores with the 3 major credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax) – that is, by paying bills on time, not carrying too much debt and making smart credit choices. 

FICO scores range from 300 to 850.  Every lender determines individually what is a good FICO Score and how they will use that FICO Score and other information in the loan approval process.  Typically, the higher your score, the lower the risk and the more likely creditors are to lend to you.  In general, most lenders find scores above 670 as indicating good creditworthiness.  

A good FICO Score can save you thousands of dollars in interest and fees, as lenders are more likely to extend lower rates if you represent less risk for them.  Over 90% of lenders use FICO scores when evaluating consumer credit worthiness. 

For more information on FICO scores, reach out to a mortgage lender (we are happy to recommend some lenders we frequently work with) or check out myfico.com

Posted in Homebuyer
Nov. 17, 2020

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

'Tis the season for all things pumpkin, and whoopie pies are no exception!

  

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
In a large bowl mix 2 cups brown sugar and 1 cup vegetable oil. Mix in 2 cups pumpkin puree. Add 2 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and mix until combined. Inn a separate bowl mix 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger, ½ teaspoon cloves and ½ teaspoon nutmeg together and incorporate into pumpkin mixture.
Use a medium ice cream scoop and drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto prepared sheets, about 1 inch apart. Cook for about 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in cookie comes out clean. Cool cookies and make cream cheese frosting …
Beat 1 stick of softened butter until smooth. add an 8 oz package of softened cream cheese and beat until combined. Add 3 cups confectionary sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon grated orange zest and beat until smooth.
Assemble by spreading a large dollop of the cream cheese frosting on one cookie and top with another cookie. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Enjoy!!
Posted in General Info
Nov. 11, 2020

Personalize a Holiday Ornament for a Cause!

There's no place like home for the holidays!  Especially if you have "designed" your home yourself!

Please join with us as we participate in the Holiday Stroll & Parade of Trees at The Stevens-Coolidge Place in North Andover.  This beautiful Trustees of Reservations property will be lit up for the holidays and dozens of trees will be decorated in all their finery.  The Carroll Group is happy to be sponsoring a tree.  Our tree will be decorated with ornaments shaped like various houses, and we invite you, your children, your grandchildren, your friends, your neighbors...you get the point...to decorate an ornament for us to include on our tree!  Attendees at the event will vote for their favorite tree by placing a canned good beneath it.  All canned goods will be donated to Neighbors in Need.  For event information and ticket purchase, please go to Info & Tickets

So please consider breaking out your crayons, paint, markers and other craft supplies to create the home of your dreams!  Ornaments can be picked up in our office lobby at 44 Park Street in Andover on Monday-Friday between 9:30-5:30 or by arrangement at another time and/or place.  All decorated ornaments must be returned by 10 am on November 23rd.

Thank you for your support!

Posted in General Info
Oct. 27, 2020

Halloween Fun This Weekend

Trick or Treat at Ironstone Farm in Andover - Saturday from 4-7 pm.  There will be pony rides and photos and of course, candy!  Wear your costumes and you may win a prize. Sign Up Here

 

In a Murderous mood?  Murder By Moonlight at the Stevens Estate in North Andover is a murder mystery dinner (in a heated tent, with dining restrictions/Covid spacing) with a vintage theme.  Both children and adults are welcome, adults only at the second seating.  There will also be haunted gardens and a spooky mansion. Limited tickets, limited seating.   Get Tickets Here

 

The ACE Scarecrow Festival in Downtown Andover.  Take a walk through town and check out all the unique scarecrows, take part in a fun scavenger hunt and patronize our local small businesses while supporting the Andover Coalition for Education.  Through Saturday. For More Info Click Here

 

Boston Lights - A Lantern Experience at the Franklin Park Zoo through Nov 1, advance are tickets required with limited admissions.  Additional Information

 

Cookies, free cookies!  Celebrate with the Cookie Monstah food truck.  Kids who go in costume get a free cookie.  The trucks will be parked at 75 Newbury Street (Rte. 1 North) in Danvers from 12-6 and from 12-10 pm at the Burlington Mall, 76 Mall Road.

 

Halloween Story Walk, Lexington.  A COVID-conscious and stroller-friendly Halloween Story Walk! This free walk requires no tickets and takes place every day through 10/31 from 12 – 5 pm.  Pages of "Room on the Broom" will be set up on a 0.4 mile loop. Enter from Worthen Road, across from Lexington High.

 

Bubble's Mobile Halloween Parade in Andover at The Learning Experience, 161 River Road.  Get your Halloween costumes on and stop by for a special Halloween treat from the safety of your own vehicle. From 10-12 on Saturday.

 

Sunday from 5-6 pm take part in the All Saints Lantern Walk around West Parish Cemetery.  Bring your own lantern or will be provided.  All ages are welcome to enjoy the beautiful cemetery in the dark of the spooky season!  Register Here

 

Take a ride to see several houses lit up like crazy on Old Coach Road in Salem NH.  Enjoy some scary and not-so-scary decorations from the safety of your car!

 

Trick or Treating in Andover and North Andover on Saturday from 5-7 pm

 

Posted in Weekend Fun
Oct. 21, 2020

Fall Home Maintenance Tips

Take Some Time to Be Sure Your Home is Ready for the Coming Months

 

Schedule an HVAC call

Don’t wait until the first bitterly cold day to finally turn on your furnace. If you have any issues, you’ll want to know before the bitter cold weather appears.  Pay attention to any strange odors or unusual noises coming from your furnace, so you can let the service technician know.  And be sure to replace your furnace filter every 3 months.

Check for air leaks

Lower temperatures mean higher thermostat settings, and we all have felt the pain of opening a heating bill in the dead of winter!  Check all of your windows and doors for air leaks.  It’s pretty easy to fix leaky doors and windows by caulking around gaps, adding or updating the weather-stripping, and using foam sealant.  Local utility companies also offer free energy audits and provide free or low cost materials and installation.

Have the chimney cleaned

If you have a fireplace, fall is a great time to give it a thorough cleaning and inspection – before you start using it frequently throughout the cold weather and holidays.  A professional chimney sweep will remove creosote (which contains tar and toxins) and will reduce the risk of a fire.

Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

We’ve all seen the news stories each winter about a tragic death due to carbon monoxide detectors not working.  It’s easy to forget about smoke and carbon monoxide detectors with everything else going on in your life - but they will save your life!  Be sure to test all of your detectors, and replace any that are more than 10 years old. 

Run ceiling fans in reverse

Did you know you can reverse the direction of ceiling fans?  Reversing the direction of your ceiling fans helps circulate warm air near the ceiling back into your living space, helping to reduce heating costs.

Clean gutters and downspouts

Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from your gutters and downspouts (or call in a pro to do it).  If gutters aren’t clear it can result in rain and melting snow not being able to drain easily, which can cause seepage and leaks into your home. 

Disconnect and empty garden hoses

Disconnect hoses and let them drain on an angle.  Once the hose is empty, coil it up and pack it away for the season.  A frozen hose can cause the water inside the wall to freeze and burst, or cause ice to build on a garage floor, causing a slipping hazard.

Put away summer garden equipment

If you won’t use it until spring, then don’t leave equipment outside.  Not only might items rust or rot, they might also become buried in snow and become an unseen hazard.  While you’re at it, be sure your snow blower is ready to work.  The snow could start flying at any time!

 

Posted in General Info
Oct. 8, 2020

Getting Rid of Cigarette Odors in a Home

“Eeeeew, it smells like smoke in here!”  Or maybe, “Why is there such a strong air freshener smell, what are they trying to cover up?”  

Those are NOT the words you want to say when you are looking for a house, or the words you want to hear when you’re selling your house!  So what can you do to rid a house of lingering tobacco odors?  It won’t necessarily be easy, depending upon how badly the odors have seeped into HVAC systems, fabrics, walls and ceilings.  But you CAN eliminate the odors, much of them by yourself.

Wash walls and ceilings.  Use a 3:1 vinegar-water mixture or trisodium phosphate (TSP).  Ceilings are often the place that gets the worst smoke smell, since cigarette smoke travels upward and collects on the surface of the ceiling.  TSP is a strong general purpose cleaning product that is good at removing smoke smells and stains.

Paint.  If washing doesn't eliminate the smell from walls and ceilings, then your next best bet is to repaint them.  Use a product like Kilz, which is an odor-neutralizing primer that seals in the smell.  Without such a primer, the smell will eventually seep back through the paint.

Change lightbulbs.  Sometimes we don’t think to dust lightbulbs!   Odor-laden dust can stick to lightbulbs as they get hot, resulting in dispersal of odor.  

Clean windows and blinds. Windows and blinds can retain a smoky film that emits odor when they're warmed by sun, so give them a thorough washing.  Blinds can also be washed with vinegar or TSP.  Consider replacing blinds if they are not custom made.

Wash curtains and drapes.  Fabric tends to hold onto the smoke smell, so you'll probably need to clean all the window treatments. Depending on the fabric, some can be washed in the washing machine, while others have to be steam cleaned or dry-cleaned.  You can also hire a professional cleaner. 

Clean floors and carpets.  Deodorizing carpet cleaning products with baking soda will often get rid of odors. If that doesn't work, hire a professional to steam clean them.  For wood or tile, a normal cleaning with the recommended cleaner should do the trick.

HVAC system. Have a professional air duct and evaporator coil cleaning, as the odor can permeate the coil and then send the smell through the ductwork.   Change the filter on your HVAC unit every 30-45 days (normally you would change the filter every 6 months).  You may also want to consider getting an indoor air filter with a HEPA filter and charcoal odor pre-filter. A dehumidifier can reduce smoke smell in humid weather.  A bonus if your heating system is in a basement – a dehumidifier reduces humidity levels and reduces chances of mold growth.

 

Posted in General Info