April 1, 2021

Easy & Healthy Side Dish

Roasted Asparagus Salad - Recipe from the 80 Thoreau Restaurant in Concord, MA

Perfect for a holiday side dish or a summer gathering!

1 bunch standard asparagus, stems snapped off
1 lemon
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
4-6 ounces baby arugula
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
2 ounces Parmesan Reggiano
Salt and pepper

    • Set broiler to high.
    • Take the zest off the lemon with a microplane or other zester and then place in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and the Dijon mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste and whisk together thoroughly. Slowly drizzle in 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil while whisking to emulsify the dressing.
    • Reserve 2 stalks of asparagus and place the rest of the bunch on a sheet pan. Coat with the remaining 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook the asparagus under the broiler for 4 minutes.
    • While the asparagus is cooking, use a vegetable peeler to shave the reserved 2 stalks into thin ribbons. Put these in a bowl with the arugula and toss with the lemon dressing.
    •  When the asparagus has cooked, it should be starting to char in a few spots. Place it on a platter or individual salad plates. Top with the arugula salad and sprinkle with the capers.
    • Use a vegetable peeler to shave long thin strips of Parmesan over the top.

Makes 4 servings.

Posted in General Info
March 16, 2021

Make Your Home Seem Larger

Until you can head out with us to find your new bigger home, or if you’re preparing to sell, here are some ways you can make your home seem larger.

 

1. LET THERE BE LIGHT

Darker spaces feel smaller, and lighter spaces feel larger so consider using more lamps (with energy-efficient LEDs of course), paint your walls in light colors, replace dark rugs with lighter ones and maybe even install a skylight or two.  Remove those heavy, ornate old drapes and use light filtering blinds or shutters instead, or full length lightweight semi-sheer curtains that give the illusion of added height by drawing the eye upward.

2. FURNITURE

Smaller furniture will make a space not only easier to navigate, but also feel bigger.  That big sectional sofa you had in your last home may not fit the space you’re in now (maybe it didn’t fit your last space either, but you wanted it anyway).  Consider using just a couple of the sections to create a new and smaller configuration, or use a loveseat and one or two smaller scale chairs instead.  Pulling furniture a few inches away from walls will help create the illusion of spaciousness, too.

Seeing underneath furniture with exposed legs helps a room feel bigger because of the space (and light) between the floor and the furniture.  Choose furniture with exposed legs rather than legs that are covered up or furniture that sits directly on the ground (dressers, bed frames, cabinets, etc.).  Use a simpler headboard and skip the footboard, or use a low profile headboard and footboard.  This will help the bed to not dominate the room, and will give extra space for moving around it.

Dining room feeling a bit tight?  Remove a couple chairs and take any leaves out of the table.  A round table makes a room feel bigger, as it’s easier to walk around, and squared-off tables create a feeling of filling the room.

3. MIRROR, MIRROR, ON THE WALL

Not your grandmother’s fussy mirror on a stand, but a mirror on the wall.  It can give the feeling of more space because when you see its reflection, it shows another whole room and reflects light back into the room.  The larger the mirror, the more dramatic the effect.  But don’t use one that’s too large or it will overwhelm the room and look like it’s waiting to go into storage on a movie set!

4. STORAGE

Keep more things hidden away.  Do you really need to display all those shot glasses you collected 30 years ago?  To make your home feel larger, keep more things inside drawers, closets, in storage, wherever they won’t be just one more item taking up space.  The more things that you leave visible in your home — particularly smaller items like books, DVDs, knickknacks, cords, etc. — the more cluttered it will look and feel.

Posted in General Info
Feb. 16, 2021

Conserve Energy This Winter

Winter is here in full force – and winter weather means your heating system will be working harder to keep you warm.  Check out these simple ways to conserve energy around the home and make sure your heating system is operating efficiently.

Clean or replace furnace filters as recommended.  A dirty air filter makes a heating system work harder, which uses more energy.

Set your thermostat as low as comfortable in the winter.  Programmable thermostats are a big help, and if you invest in a smart thermostat like Nest or Ecobee you can turn your heat setting down even if you forget to do so before leaving the house thanks to their phone apps!  You may also qualify for a free thermostat, a rebate or a bill credit from your electric provider when using one of these thermostats.

LED lights are energy efficient and last longer than traditional bulbs. Replace traditional incandescent bulbs with energy efficient LED lights.

Clean air registers and baseboard heaters and make sure they are not blocked by furniture or drapes.  There’s no sense in keeping the back of your couch warm instead of the room!

Speaking of drapes, open drapes and shades on south-facing windows during the day to allow the sunlight to enter and close at night to reduce the cold coming in.

Seal air leaks to keep the heat in and the cold out. Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows; seal air leaks around chimneys, plumbing, ducts or wiring around walls, floors, and ceilings.  This will also help keep rodents from sneaking into your house to keep warm.

Operate ceiling fans in a clockwise direction, which pushes warm air down into the room.

Wash clothes with cold water. Ninety percent of the energy used by washing machines goes into heating the water, but most clothes don’t require hot water to get clean.

Following these tips will not only save energy, you’ll also save money!

 

Posted in General Info
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