Home Watch

Storm Preparation on Cape Cod

With the 2019 hurricane season in full swing and the memory of the bizarre July Tornadoes still fresh in our minds, preparing for a storm should be a concern before winter hits.  Late summer and fall hurricanes do pose serious concerns for the Cape, winter Nor'easters are often just as damaging with the additional possibility of freezing temperatures.  To make sure you and your house are prepared to weather any storm here are some specific recommendations to consider.  

Landscaping

  Trees are a major threat to structures, cars, and people in storms.  In particular Cape Cod has a lot of pitch pines that tend to snap off large limbs or drop entire tops in large wind events.  If you have them, make sure they are far away from your house so that, if they do fall, they won't land on anything important (see right.  This was the 'Freaky Friday' storm in December 2005.  Luckily no one was hurt but the driver had only returned home ten minutes before).  Obviously it is important to take a good look at any tree that is close to a structure, not just pines.  Additionally limbs that overhang the roof cause more lichen to grow, shortening its life, and leaves and needles clog up gutters adding to drainage issues in heavy rains and ice issues in the winter.

Make a prep bag

  We are big fans of self reliance.  To that end preparing for the worst is a good way to make the best of a bad situation.  Have a grab bag ready in case you lose power for several days.  Here is the FEMA website with good instructions too. Crank flashlights and radios are great since they don't need batteries, also make sure you have some way to eat.  Your gas may work in a storm but your electric sparker won't so don't forget matches.  Also have enough canned food in the pantry for a few days in case cooking isn't an option.  Also if you don't want to live rugged at home without power, your bag should include what you need at a shelter, bedding, toiletries, medications and some personal items (games and books!) will make smart additions to a prep bag.  During major storms emergency services are already stretched to the max so make sure to get to a shelter before travel gets dangerous or you become an emergency yourself.  In winter this becomes a serious decision since power loss often means loss of heat as well.  If you have a working fireplace or wood stove stock up on plenty of good dry wood.  And get out all those ugly old wool sweaters and down comforters!  

Prepare your house

If you are planning on being out of town or leaving your home for a shelter, turn off the water.  This is true even in the summer but especially in the winter.  We can't stress this enough.  With no heat in your house there is nothing keeping your pipes from freezing and turning your house into a skating rink.  Even if your pipes do burst, with the water off, there is a limited amount of damage that can be done.  Boarding up windows is a good idea for people who leave for long periods of time.  We see it less and less these days since windows are more durable, but it won't hurt.  If you aren't boarding up and high winds are expected, consider taping your windows or drape sheets against the inside to reduce broken glass damage.  Mind you, those sheets will blow away if a window breaks but they'll also help keep the glass contained.  Here is a fun anecdote.  Off the coast of Maine, where many small private islands exist with seasonal cottages, many people intentionally leave their door unlocked.  Why you may ask?  This not-so-secret secret is well known among the fishing and maritime community as a means of survival.  Homeowners leave food and blankets on the kitchen table in case a stranded fisherman (or a wrecked one) needs some help.  Our favorite part of this story, no one betrays this trust and loots - ever.  The lesson here is don't forget to help your neighbors.

We hope you found these tips helpful.  If you need recommendations for good local landscapers or tree professionals please contact us

 

DIY Cape Cod Homeowner Tips to Sell Your House For More - Keep Your Roof Clean!

For this blog we delve into the wealth of knowledge accumulated by Ed over his (undisclosed) years spent working in the yard on Cape Cod.  With the cold wetness this spring in particular we wanted to share some pro-tips to keep lichens from taking over your roof and improve the curb appeal of your home.

Lichens and mosses hold water on your roof shortening its lifespan, lichens slowly dissolve the asphalt and other components in your roof shingles and tiles, and a roof that looks like a garden is unsightly and can turn off potential buyers - so managing these species is a worthwhile endeavor.

One very simple thing is to remove overhanging branches that shade your roof.  Sunlight is your best friend when it comes to keeping a roof clean, so trim those extra branches and try to keep organic material off of the roof (like pine needles and leaves) as this creates more opportunity for lichens and mosses to get a foothold.  In the photo below the roof has a mostly north facing aspect so shade is the reality no matter what.  In this case, products exist that use chemicals and herbicides to kill living things on your roof and specialty companies use high-pressure washers that blast these organisms off of your roof.  Since Ed isn't a fan of damage from power-washing and, with kids and dogs running around, tries to stay away from nasty chemicals, we asked for his safe and easy lichen-removing recipe.  Here it is with some photographic proof of its effectiveness

 

1 gallon white vinegar

1 cup epsom salt

1 squirt of dish soap or laundry detergent

 

This roof was a test case two years ago.  Notice the section on the left is significantly cleaner that the section on the right (there is a fairly obvious square on the left which was the only spot sprayed).  Ed used this mixture on the roof once when the forecast showed a stretch of hot dry days. He used a hand atomizer while standing on the ladder and got this much of the roof without a lot of trouble.  If you are doing this yourself we would recommend using a larger pump sprayer to maximize the surface you can reach from one spot. An added benefit of this mixture is that it can also be used for weeding in shell driveways, gravel walkways, and on patios.

For more pro-tips give Chatelain Real Estate a call to put two generations of tradition (and yard work) and three decades of experience in your pocket.  And to see a few houses that don't need this treatment take a look at some of our listings here.  Or for some more tips for homeowners check out our blogs tagged here.

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Spring Cleaning Tips

With Spring finally here we are ready to shake off our winter coats and enjoy longer days and better weather (soon).  But take a rainy day this April (like today!) and make your home clean and tidy with these easy and fun spring cleaning tips.

Dust and clean horizontal surfaces

This often gets overlooked but now is the perfect time to take care of it.  Here is a quick trick too: use a reusable microfiber cloth or rag on a Swiffer handle to wash and reuse without wasting a lot of single use cloths - it also keeps you from having to bend over for shoe-molding!  We also like using a dilute vinegar mixture (50:50 water vinegar) after the quick dusting to truly clean and refresh all of those surfaces.  Even consider putting in a few drops of your favorite essential oil to add a pleasant fragrance.

Wash and put away winter goodies

Spend a little time going through coat racks, car trunks and chair backs to collect heavy coats, scarves, sweaters etc....  Wash what you can and put it away.  If your house is small, consider packing these items away in plastic tubs in the attic or basement with a dryer sheet to keep them fresh until the fall.  This is also a great opportunity to go through those winter items that never got used and consider donating them.  There are a lot of Red Cross donation drop boxes around Cape Cod that accept clothing donations.  Also Goodwill and municipal transfer stations are collection points for these goods as well.

Clean your refrigerator and freezer

Nobody likes doing it but now is your chance.  The best thing to do here is to completely empty the contents.  It doesn't take too long and allows you to take a look at the expiration dates on jars and condiments (mustard from 2015! Shame on you).  Wipe the shelves and drawers and, once you put everything back, you are left with a better organized, emptier and cleaner fridge!  Here is a fun tip for smaller families that will save you energy as well: if you find that you don't use up all of your fridge's space, put gallons of water inside to fill up the empty area.  These will help retain the coldness when you open the door and your fridge won't have to work as hard getting things back to temperature once it is closed, saving electricity.

Make a plan and chip away at it

Don't mark off one whole day to do all of this at once.  Write down a checklist of what you want done and choose 15-30 minute projects to tackle over the next few weeks.  Remember the result is a nice clean home that you will love spending time in!

Ask Agnes: Cost Recovery and Home Improvements

Consider doing the garage door, but that's it!It's that time again, Spring.  The daffodils are starting to poke up through the ground, afternoons are getting warmer, and homeowners are starting to take a long hard look at the shambles of their yards and homes after the winter.  We decided to take a bit of time for another installment of "Ask Agnes" and focus on home improvements and how much value they add to a home. 

"Hi Agnes! It's been a while since we've had a chance to do this and we are excited to be back."

"Me too.  What can I do for you today?"

"I'd like to sell and need to know which major home improvements I should do to maximize my sale price?  Should I finally renovate my bathroom"

"The short answer is don't do it."

"Truly? Even my bathroom?  Everyone loves new bathrooms right?"

"The cost recovered on most home improvements just don't pay back"

"Can you explain a little about this 'cost recovered' to start?"

"Sure.  Cost recovered is a way to measure how much value a home improvement adds to your home compared to what you spent to make the improvement .  Here is a quick example: you have a lemonade stand that is worth $10 and you spend $5 improving the sign and painting the stand.  You then sell the stand for $15.  We are interested in how much value that $5 improvement added to the property and in this case it is $5, so you recovered 100% of your investment.  This means you only broke even and the improvement, while it added value to the property, didn't net you any extra money."

"Wait, isn't a 100% return an amazing investment?"

"In the stock market it sure would be because they are considering a "Return on Investment' or ROI, which is a little different.  For home improvements we are interested in the cost recovered so anything less than 100% means you lost some money."

"Right, that makes sense now.  So to get back to the bathroom how do you know it isn't a good investment?"

"Well based on the report here a mid-range bathroom remodel in New England costs $21,891 and adds $15,777 in value to your home at resale.  That is a 72% cost recovery which means you lost $4,333.  The cost recovered is even worse nationwide at only 60%.  

"What are some other examples? What about kitchens or re-siding?"

"People do like new kitchens but a mid-range minor kitchen remodel in New England only returns about 81%, more extensive remodels closer to 60%.  Siding is about 89%, backyard patios are 57% and the list goes on and on."

"Is there anything I can do that will actually earn a profit"

"According to the report new garage doors are the only thing that does.  And in this case a $3629 improvement nets only $267."

"Yikes, forget home improvements then huh?"

"That thinking isn't quite right either for two reasons.  Sometimes an improvement is actually maintenance and deferred maintenance may reduce the value and marketability of your home. For example, a leaking roof will lessen the value of your home through water damage and should be repaired regardless of the cost. The important thing is to consult with your realtor before making improvements to sell your home.  They will advise you as to which projects are worthwhile and which are not. My final thought here is that you shouldn't be waiting to improve your home!  Enjoy it and make it work for you.  If you want to add a back deck by all means do it and enjoy an improvement in both your home and your quality of life.  Don't hold back from an improvement if it is something you will enjoy."

Well Agnes, as always we appreciate your sage advice and experience here in the Cape Cod real estate market.  Please contact us with questions about buying and selling on the Cape and stay tuned for our next installment of Ask Agnes.

Avoiding Unpleasant Fresh Paint Smells

Don't you love a fresh coat of paint?  What better way to freshen up a room or change the style and swagger of your home.  Unfortunately painting can come with the undesirable consequence of an overpowering odor.  But don't let that discourage you from changing to the palette of your dreams.  With these helpful tips from Nolan Painting you can paint with abandon and enjoy the new colors, without the smell.

 

As always, if you are thinking of buying or selling your home give the professionals at Chatelain Real Estate a call today.  Or for more tips on homeownership check out our blog homeowner categories or our page dedicated to living on Cape Cod.

MA Short Term Rental Tax

Massachusetts Governor Baker recently signed into law a change to the taxable nature of short term rentals.  This affects many of the property owners on Cape Cod who rent for less than 31 days in the summer months.  Some relevant information can be found on the Massachusetts Association of Realtors website here but a quick synopsis is as follows:

Highlights:

New Tax Changes:

  1. State: 5.7%
  2. Local: up to 6% (6.5 for Boston)
  3. Cape Cod & Islands: includes additional 2.75% to fund Cape Cod and Islands Water Protection Fund 
  4. A community impact fee of up to 3% may be assessed locally on professionally managed properties (Owners of two or more units in one town)
  5. Takes effect July 1, 2019.  Bookings made before January 1st, 2019 are exempt.
  6. Realtors who manage the rental bookings and collect the rent will likely be responsible for collecting the tax.
  7. Guidance and more details will follow from the IRS and state authorities.

We'll be keeping a sharp eye on this matter and updating you when we learn more information.  As always feel free to contact us with questions about how this will impact your rentals or your property management needs.

5 Things to Consider When Hiring a Contractor

Fall is a great time to consider more significant home improvements including bathroom and kitchen remodeling, exterior residing and shingling, and landscaping upgrades and improvements.  With the holidays still months away many projects can be completed before guests, turkeys, and trees begin occupying your time.  If your project is a more significant undertaking, you can at least begin a conversation so that improvements can be done next year.  With this in mind here are our top five considerations when hiring a contractor.

1. ASK AROUND

The most significant way to spare yourself a headache down the road is to ask your friends and neighbors about their experiences.  If you notice quality craftsmanship at a dinner party, ask about the responsible contractor; if exterior repairs and painting look stunning, check for signs in the yard; if landscaping is exquisite... well, you get the idea.  If someone comes highly recommended they more than likely do a great job.  The trim pictured at left should raise a red flag if newer construction; in this case, this is 30 years old and in an outdoor shower, we figure we'll cut the builder some slack.

2. GET REFERENCES AND EXAMPLES OF WORK

A good contractor will stand by their work so ask to see examples (particularly of older work to determine longevity).  If a contractor does a dynamite paint job that in two years is chipping away, consider going elsewhere; also be aware that interior work is difficult to see in occupied homes but you can always ask the contractor - as should be obvious, inviting yourself onto others' property is inappropriate.  If you don't like the work they do, don't use them.  We love the custom tile work at 9 Osborn Snow Drive in East Dennis, pictured at right, as well as so much more in this luxury home.

3. EXPECT A WRITTEN CONTRACT

While operating on a handshake is doable, writing down your specific agreement insures both you and the contractor know what is expected.  Written contracts can easily be appended in the event of changes so don't think they lock you into an immutable arrangement (also four months is a long time to remember whether the painter was responsible for trim on the dog house or not).  Our advice - make sure 'clean-up' is well defined and a part of any agreement.

4. GET MULTIPLE BIDS

Too often people go with the first offer without considering other bids - this is a mistake.  Furthermore asking for bids from multiple contractors informs one of the most important things about them, their timeliness.  Frequently we make four or five calls for a job and receive only two calls back.  No matter how highly recommended someone is they don't win points by being hard to reach, late with offers, or otherwise discourteous in any way.

5. BE REASONABLE AND PATIENT

Even excellent contractors can't make every deadline and there are plenty of legitimate reasons why something may not go as expected.  Good contractors are busy and may not be able to work with you for months, or even years.  In addition, when you are working with someone don't expect that they will be able to do everything today, be understanding with reasonable delays, and be kind.  If things aren't going as expected then you can always refer to your written contract about how to end the work.  In fact, the land at 196 Baxter Street, South Dennis - pictured at left - has been on a contractors docket for nearly 15 years, but we are constantly reassured a house will be built any day now (just kidding of course.  But give us a call if you are interested in this land...it is a lot to love.)

 

If you have any questions about how home improvements affect your property in the market feel free to contact us today, we are always happy to answer any questions you may have.

Add value to your home through exterior improvements

  As the days get shorter and the prospect of fall becomes ever more apparent, outdoor landscaping improvements seem less daunting.  Cooler weather makes outdoor projects more enjoyable and undertaking even simple jobs can add significantly to the curb appeal of your home.  The National Association of Realtors published a report relating to the benefits of outdoor remodeling projects that you can find here and while many of their suggestions are valid in the national market we pulled out the one we find most pertinent to Cape Cod.

LAWN CARE AND MAINTENANCE is by far the most important and cost effective thing you can do to add value to your home. We can not stress enough the importance of keeping your landscaping neat.  You needn't spend a fortune to re-sod your lawn, install irrigation, repave your driveway and invest in mature plantings in order to reap gains on the sale price of your home.  For the cost of a used lawn mower (often free) and an hour once or twice a week you can add value to your property and enjoy a more pleasing atmosphere in the mean time. One of the most important aspects of cost-effective landscape care is matching it to the condition of your home.  On Cape Cod a lot of small cottages have 'Cape Cod lawns' - which is a nice way of saying mostly pine needles and some tenacious tufts of grass here and there - and, if paired with a clean, weed-free shell driveway and well pruned shrubs, requires minimum  investment in landscaping improvement.  However, newer homes with poorly maintained landscaping (spots on the lawn, overgrowth, rotting fences) significantly detract from the curb appeal and, ultimately, sale price of your home.  If it is in the budget, having trusted and professional landscapers on a yearly maintenance schedule is a great way to be sure your landscaping looks its best as they can take care of fall cleanup, spring planting, regular pruning, trimming and mowing and much more.  Let's see a few examples:

429 Bragg's Lane in Barnstable, is an updated home with appropriately matched and maintained landscaping.  The plantings in front are below the windows and the lawn is well maintained, which is appropriate for the condition of the home.   Also shown is a cute patio in the backyard.  While not always needed or fitting, adding tasteful exterior living space can definitely add value to your home, and this simple patio is a great example of that.  Unfortunately this home just sold for $480K but if you are interested in other Barnstable homes check this out.

5 Sebastian Way in South Yarmouth, is an example of a house with appropriate and simple landscaping.  The minimal plantings in front are still growing into their spaces , the hydrangeas are well pruned and blooming, and the lawn (a good example of a Cape Cod lawn), is trimmed with the flower beds neatly mulched and ringed in front.  As a cute summer getaway or year-round residence, this home also benefits from a simple fire-pit ringed with bricks.  Well matched and well maintained beats neglected every time.  Yarmouth is a beautiful town and there are plenty of other Yarmouth listing to be seen here.

As a final point regarding soft-scaping, the late summer and early fall is a great time to reseed your lawn on Cape Cod.  The ground is warm and yet the scorching summer sun is in the past so seedlings have a chance to get established before the winter.  Believe it or not, many grasses will survive a winter covered in snow more easily than a summer baked in sun - so time to reseed ladies and gentlemen.

If you need help contacting trusted local landscapers or have questions about buying or selling a home please give us a call today.

Airbnb, Mountain Towns and Cape Cod

    We think this article by Tom Vanderbilt at Outsideonline is particularly poignant.  While it characterizes a mountain town in Colorado the parallels to Cape Cod are astounding.  Vanderbilt describes how the growing trend in short term rentals through companies like Airbnb is slowly eliminating potential housing for residents.  The problem is one of economics: if you can own a home in a desirable area, why would you rent it on a long term basis - yearly for example - when you can rent it on a short-term basis, through a company like Airbnb, and generate more income?  Vanderbilt follows a local father struggling to make ends meet, working multiple jobs, and worrying about where he will live when the tourist season starts...sound familiar?  What makes the Cape such a great place to live also makes it a great place to vacation and it is difficult to dissuade a homeowner from the extra income potential.

    On Cape Cod we are finding that more and more homes are being rented just for the summer, making them unavailable for long term lease seekers.  In fact, in response to the decreasing supply of affordable housing on Cape Cod, CCYP is holding a design competition for architects (see the brochure here).  The contest encourages a repeatable homes design balancing 'affordability, utility, adaptability, durability and suitability for the target demographic (young professionals, working families, year round residents).'  Other initiatives on Cape Cod seek to remove restrictions on building and renting accessory dwelling units (more commonly known as in-law apartments) to increase the amount of available housing.  This link comes from the local MLS on Cape Cod and describes the problem well.

    While the economy plays a large roll in housing trends on Cape Cod we are curious to see where the future will lead.  On one side of the coin locals will be increasingly priced out of the market and the Cape will be a resort where service personnel commute from less expensive housing elsewhere.  On the other side of the coin the development of Cape Cod will find a balance between the tourist economy that sustains the region and more permanent solutions.

If you are interested in learning more about housing on Cape Cod and buying or selling property please contact us today with your questions.