Homeowner Tips

Surviving and thriving during COVID lock-down: Part 1

We hope this finds you all hale and hearty in these trying times!  We are thankful to still be open for business and meeting the real estate needs of our clients, for a little more detail on how we are managing this please see our previous blog here.  Today we wanted to share the first of a few ideas for how to improve your home to add value (since you may have spare time these days), whether you are thinking of selling this year or in the future.

Quality of Life and Aesthetic Improvements

BeforeWAftere always recommend that you undertake upgrades that will make you enjoy your home more!  If you can afford it, don't wait 20 years to replace a bathroom you hate, improve and enjoy it now while you are living in your home.  Some sellers stress about doing these improvements just before selling and often don't reap monetary benefits as a results (see our blog about recouping investment on upgrades here).  You can even undertake very inexpensive projects that improve the overall look and livability of your home that - while mostly intended for you - also make your home more appealing when selling.  See the after and before photos (before has the mess of wires on the right) of a quick organization of home electronics.  This makes your home more livable for you and, by being tidy and neat, can improve buyers' first impressions.  A visibly clean and orderly home with very few 'punch-list' items implies that the owners are taking care of larger, invisible maintenance items -- this can have significant positive impacts by attracting higher and earlier offers when selling

If you are considering listing your home, please give us a call to put two generations of tradition and three decades of experience in your pocket.  For some more tips for homeowners check out our blogs tagged here.

 

Do this to get a higher offer on your home when selling

Buyers are looking for homes that sparkle.  Some homes for sale on Cape Cod have been recently renovated and benefit from fresh paint, new floors or carpets, and updated appliances in the kitchen, bath or both.  A home with newer updates is definitely more appealing to buyers (but worth it? Please see our thoughts here) and with our simple trick you too can make your home look its best without spending thousands of dollars.

Ready? Vinegar, warm water, elbow grease.  No kidding.  Too often we see homes that are, quite simply, dirty.  Many sellers do a decent job cleaning their homes by sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping floors.  What so many people miss are the walls!  Spend a little time with some diluted white vinegar and wash every surface in your home.  You will be amazed at how much grime can appear on a rag from, what you thought was, a 'clean' flat wall.  Spend a little extra time by beds, furniture, paintings, and anywhere that people touch (light switches, around door knobs etc...).  Haven't you noticed that light discoloration on the wall when you move the bureau?  When your home is empty and that bureau is gone, every potential buyer walking through will notice it as well.  Another great tip: use a 'Magic Eraser' or similar product for larger marks, but be careful, these can change the texture of paint which is very visible in certain light.  

If you are trying to squeeze every ounce of potential value out of your homes consider this inexpensive way to make it more appealing to buyers.  When someone walks in and can see everything that is wonderful about your home without the distraction of dirty walls, you give yourself a great shot at a higher sale price!

If you are considering listing your home, please give us a call to put two generations of tradition 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.

Winter Home Preparation 2020

It's that time of year again, winter.  After a fairly temperate holiday season, it is easy to get a little lackadaisical about preparing your home for the fury of winter.  For this edition we checked in with Ned, who heads up our home watch services, about some winter hazards and how to get your home ready.  The point he stresses more than any other is the benefit of having a neighbor or qualified and insured business keeping an eye on your home.

Freezing

Winter on Cape Cod is not kidding around.  At the time of writing it is the beginning of 2020 and approximately 40 degrees outside.  But ol' Jack Frost knows better than anyone how to lull homeowners into a false sense of security.  Ned's tip? Turn off your water and drain your pipes.  Ned is fanatical about this and will even shut off his water in the summer if he leaves for a few days.  Here is his explanation.

"With your water off at the main line, a freezing incident (or broken pipe) is never as catastrophic.  All that can happen is the amount of water sitting in the pipes leaks out of the break, but no more!  If you leave your water on and a pipe breaks on Friday, by Sunday this could be gallons of water pouring onto your wood floors and destroying your drywall.  With a well winterized home including drained pipes, a shut-off main, antifreeze in strategic locations, and human eyes walking through habitable spaces, you greatly reduce the possibility of damage as well as the amount of damage that does happen.  The horror story is a former sales client had, over several months, tens of thousands of gallons leak out of a broken pipe before anyone noticed.  Please have your house checked."

Pests

Cold outside is cold for everything, including animals that like to be warm and fed.  If you winterize your home we recommend removing all food items, even those in plastic packages and bags.  Mice will eat through bags of rice or popcorn and make a mess in your pantry.  Also chimneys are a consideration if you don't need them for venting a furnace since raccoons, opossums and plenty of other animals can make homes in them over the winter leading to messy cleanup come spring.  

Storm Damage

As always Nor'Easters are a very real threat to property here on Cape Cod.  With hurricane force winds battering trees and roofs, these storms can drop branches or entire trees on your home.  We recommend some simple things to get ready for any storm here, and particularly where landscaping is concerned.  The main idea, remove large trees and limbs from the area immediately surrounding your house.  Old pitch pines are particularly susceptible to breaking off near the top and dropping heavy and damaging tops on houses, so pay close attention to these when assessing your landscaping.

 

Be prepared this winter and add the peace of mind of having a person walk through and around your home by contacting Chatelain Real Estate today.  With our house watch service you don't need to wait until April to discover a problem that has been ongoing since January.

5 things to do before you list your home

The Cape Cod real estate market has heated back up this fall as many second home owners list their homes after the beach season.  Here is our list of 5 things to do before you list your home.

Fix Those Long Overdue Punch-list Items

 We always come back to this because it can't be emphasized enough.  Little repairs go a long way.  Replace sprung window sashes, plane doors that are sticking, fix locks that don't quite work correctly (here is a lock mid-adjustment in a settling home).  There is a reason why you haven't done these things yourself (that reminds me, I need to fix that sticking door!) so imagine how nice it would be as a buyer to walk into a potential home with minimal punch-list items!  These small repairs can often payback in dividends and ease of negotiation further down the road.

Have your Septic Inspected and Serviced

It has to happen to convey a property so getting it done up front is a big help.  Also buyers are keen on hearing the words "Title V in hand" when walking in to see your home. Besides, it is best to be prepared and address an issue with the septic prior to being a hitch during negotiations.

Have Your Chimney Cleaned and Gas Fireplaces Serviced

We could tell you horror stories about sellers waiting until the final walk-through to light a pilot or test a gas insert.  Needless to say it all end with more anxiety and cost for the seller than needed.  Even if you never use a wood-fire chimney you should get it inspected (and cleaned if needed) to reassure potential buyers of the status of this potentially costly feature.

Get a Pest Inspection

Just because you have never seen anything yourself doesn't mean that a home inspector won't find evidence of termites, mice or other pests.  By having an inspection done before listing property the savvy seller will be able to address any problems before they become a negotiating hangup further down the road.

Service the Heating and Air Conditioning Systems

Too often we overlook little problems in these systems in our own homes, but buyers are enticed when major components like heating and cooling just work, full stop.  An older system with a recent inspection can reassure a buyer enough to make an offer and demonstrates that other parts of the home are likely in good order too.

So what are you waiting for?  Go and get your home ready to sell, or, do these things anyway and rest easy in the knowledge that your home is in excellent working order and you'll be able to enjoy it for many years to come.  If you are thinking of selling contact us today for a conversation about how your home may perform in today's market and for help finding excellent local vendors who can help you with these five items.

 

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

 

Cape Cod Market Update August 2019

July Review:

   Compared to this time last year, July saw only slight variation in four of the six metrics we investigate for this blog (pictured at right).  Days on market was up significantly compared to this time last year; however it was down compared to June.  Additionally the number of new listings was down nearly 15% compared to last year and lost about 9% compared to June this year.  With all of this in mind we are seeing a normal decline in market activity due to the seasonality of our area.  Nationally, mortgage interest rates are exceptionally low yet affordability continues to be a serious concern.

 

 

Recent Market Summary

  May June   July  
    Closed Sales   441  361   341  
   Inventory    2,032  2,067   2,044  
   Median Sales Price   $427K     $450K     $435K  
   Avg Days on Market   101  106   101  
   Avg % of Original Price   95%  95%   94%  

 

Check out these two blogs for more valuable insight into real estate on Cape Cod

 

   Our Take: Are sharks really taking a bite out of the Cod Cod Summer Rental Market?

    Owning a Septic System on Cape Cod

      

Owning a Septic System on Cape Cod, Ins and Outs

Owning a septic system can be a new experience for many homeowners.  Here are the ins and outs of owning a septic system on Cape Cod including helpful information and links.

What is a Septic System

Put simply it is an engineered system that, along with your modern plumbing, safely removes waste water from the home.  In their simplest form these systems include a tank which captures solids and a leaching field (called a drainfield in this diagram by the EPA) wherein the liquid waste is distributed over a large area and allowed to percolate back into the ground, thereby removing pathogens.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Septic Systems on Cape Cod

Living on Cape Cod so close to the water is wonderful but, from your septic system's perspective, can come with a few downsides.  If you live in an area close to groundwater you may have or need an 'above grade' septic system (what the EPA shows here as a 'mound' system).  These are visible throughout the Cape in low-lying areas and resemble hills, mounds or, short concrete retaining walls.  Believe it or not what you are seeing is often not the tank that holds solids (which is water tight) but the leaching field that has been raised a minimum distance from the aquifer.  In these systems an electric pump is used to pump water uphill so it can be drained through the sand filter in the leaching field.

 

Maintenance

Luckily modern septic systems are low maintenance.  Once every three years (for average use and if you don't have a garbage disposal) your system should be pumped out.  This recommendation can change though as seasonal home use can affect the helpful bacteria that breakdown much of the solid material in your tank.  In this case more or less frequent pumping may be required.  Always choose a licensed septic pumper, a list of which can be found at many municipal health departments. For more information on caring for your septic system here is a useful article from the MA DEP and another from the EPA.

 

 

For more expert advice regarding homeownership and real estate on Cape Cod, contact us.  Also check out our listings here.

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Cape Cod Market Update May 2019

April Review:

We are glad to see inventory building up in 2019.  With approximately 5.8 months of inventory of single-family homes the market is reaching sustainability (particularly favoring neither buyers nor sellers).  It is also worth noting that the year-over-year comparisons of month's supply has been up since July 2018 which could indicate that we have passed the minimum supply level in this market cycle.  However ever increasing median sales prices led to a 2% drop in affordability in April (down to 85), a point of growing concern for the long-term health of the Cape Cod real estate market.  While single-family homes continue to be below 100 on the affordability index the condominium market has essentially been increasing its affordability since October 2018.  Condominium affordability is at 144 on the index, which means Barnstable County's median household income is 144% of what is necessary to qualify for the median priced condominium.

Recent Market Summary

  Feb Mar Apr
    Closed Sales   201   291   331 
   Inventory    1,693   1,837   1,982 
   Median Sales Price   $408K     $421.5K    $425K 
   Avg Days on Market   130   120   120 
    Avg % of Original Price   91%   93%   94% 

 

    Ask Agnes: Best Freshwater Beaches on Cape Cod          

    DIY Cape Cod Homeowner Tips to

    Sell Your House For More - Keep Your Roof Clean!

      

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!