August 31, 2012
According to Familycorner.com, September is National Baby Safety Month! In honor of this very important occasion, which starts in just one day, we wanted to create a post devoted to keeping your baby as safe as possible in your home. As any new parent knows, homes can be potential land mines for a curious little crawler. We decided to take a look at major parts of a home that could pose a problem to your childs safety, if youre not careful: The bathroom, doorways, windows, electric outlets and the kitchen.Bathroom
Dr. Kate Cronan, Chief of Pediatric Emergency Services at AI DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE, states the importance of baby proofing toilets. Babies are fascinated by water, she says. One of the best toilet locks out there is the Mommys Helper Toilet Seat Lid Lock pictured below. All you have to do is remember to put the seat down (which we all forget to do!) and Mommys Helper takes care of the rest.
Gosh, where do we even start with doors! There are some that kids can run into, and there are some that you may never even want them to open at all. Whatever the scenario, as a parent, you must baby-proof doors in your home. Door knob covers and safety gates are a good way to keep your little ones from wandering where they shouldnt. To keep your child from escaping home altogether, it is also a good idea to have childproof locks on doors leading outside. To prevent injured fingers, install finger guards on fast closing doors. We found an awesome one from IKEA, pictured here.
Windows pose a slew of problems for baby safety. To keep your little ones safe while they are viewing the outside world, try using cord protectors on blinds to prevent strangulation. And on second or third story windows, use sturdy window guards. You dont want to take any kind of risk on that one. Perhaps the best tip of all is to keep your child as far away from windows as possible by removing all nearby furniture.
Though life without electricity is pretty much unimaginable, take a moment and imagine some of the consequences electricity can have for your children. Now, do something about it. A first is to make sure you have outlet covers on all electric outlets. This is perhaps the most important preventative measure you can take against your baby enduring electric shock (according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 1,300 children are hospitalized for electric shock after sticking objects into uncovered outlets). Purchase protectors for power strips, as well. Electric appliances often leave a lengthy cord trail behind. To reduce the risk of strangulation, make sure you tightly wrap loose cords.
Kitchens are a veritable forest of baby hazards. For starters, the stove is an area of fascination for children. Make sure you use a stove guard, as well as stove knob guards to keep it completely off limits. Safely store sharp objects, such as cutlery, knives, china and all glass. Also to keep well out of reach are hazards such as dishwashing detergent, plastic bags, vitamins, and other small objects, such as magnets. You can use appliance locks on refrigerators, ovens and dishwashers.
Your child will be spending many years growing, learning and playing at home. Make sure these years can go by safely and with as little worry as possible by following the tips provided!
August 30, 2012
Credit score. Those two words can inspire dread in the hearts of many. Flippant credit practices on the behalf of consumers are one of the main reasons financial freedom is so elusive. Without that freedom, it is difficult to make one of lifes most important purchases: a first home. In this day in age, maintaining sound credit is a deciding first step towards homeownership. However, if the thought of revealing your credit score is more frightening than a 2 week vacation with your in-laws, we have some tips to allay your fears. Chris Pagli, a William Raveis associate in Westchester County, New York, provides 7 important tips below to to boost your credit score and your buying power. Take it away, Chris!
If your credit is shabby, youll need to shore up your score to convince a lender youre worthy. Heres how to boost your point total:
- Be on time. Before you worry about cleaning up what happened yesterday, get right with today and focus on your current bill-paying performance. Pay on time, and pay more than the required minimum payment each month on outstanding credit balances.
- Shrink your credit ratio. The credit-scoring process looks at the ratio of your debt to the total amount of available credit you have, so add up your credit limits to see where you stand. Your long-term goal is to get rid of all your debt, but a good, short-term target is to shrink your ratio to less than 50 percent. Then 40, then 30, and so on.
- Pay off a card, but dont close it. Because of the aforementioned credit ratios, reducing your available credit hurts your score. If you have a $3,000 balance on one card with a $5,000 maximum and no balance on a card with a $10,000 maximum, closing the unused card suddenly makes your credit ratio skyrocket from a benign 20 percent to a troubling 60 percent. Resist the urge to close an account when youve paid it off; lock the card in a drawer instead.
- Get current on any outstanding debts. Got collection agencies on your trail? Pay off your late accounts, but remember that paying off a delinquent account will not erase it from your history. You simply have to wait; the further the delinquency recedes into the past, the better off youll be. If you have a good explanation for falling behind, a lender may be sympathetic if youve paid off the debt.
- Take a magnifying glass to your credit report. Credit reports often contain score-dinging errors. Check yours viawww.annualcreditreport.com , and look for obvious mistakes like erroneous balances or accounts you dont recognize (which can be a sign of identity theft). Make sure lenders have reported your credit limits accurately, because they affect your credit ratio.
- Restrain yourself with new cards. Dont open up new accounts to increase your available credit. This strategy doesnt necessarily boost your score and can actually hurt it, according to MyFICO.com. If youd like to have a new card, apply for one, but dont open multiple accounts at the same time. This looks like risky behavior to a lender.
- Allow some time to pass. Following these tips will improve your credit score, but give them time to work their magic.
Heres a general timetable:
- Corrected errors on your credit report should boost your score immediately;
- Paying down balances takes a little longer to work (depending on how much you pay off and how often your lender reports to credit bureaus), so you may see results in a few weeks or a few months;
- Paying off delinquent accounts gives you some leverage with lenders, but improvement in your actual credit score will be slow, so be patient.
image via Quizzlewire
August 27, 2012
Aesop, the Greek fable writer, wrote: No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted. This is so true in real estate!
In a world where experts make a living helping others start anew, its the little things that count and are remembered. When all the Ts have been crossed and all the Is dotted at the end of a real estate transaction, more than just a simple thank you or congratulations is often in order.From paperweights to personalized stationary to fruit baskets and much, much more, closing gifts tokens of gratitude and good fortune have become a tradition in the home buying and selling game. While by no means mandatory, these housewarming gifts not only can help a new homeowner or home seller start off his or her new life on a happy note, but also can signify the budding relationship between client and real estate agent that in many cases turns into a friendship and better yet for the agent repeat business.
Whether its a specific bottle of wine for the wine collector client, a gift card to a home goods store for the client taking on a fixer-upper, or a gift certificate for dinner for a couple in desperate need of a night out, closing gifts can range in all shapes, sizes and prices. Even arranging for a home warranty during the home buying or selling process can help set a clients mind at ease, often making it the best gift to be given.
Other unique gifts can be found with just a few clicks on the computer. For example:
perfectclosinggift.com personalized cutting boards and coasters that can make any new home feel that way and can easily be used for a housewarming party
Bizboxinc.com personalized moving boxes for clients to either de-clutter before a sale or pack up in anticipation of a sale; the boxes have the real estate agents name, business logo and contact information on them
Houseportraitsonline.com agents can give their new homeowners or sellers a piece of art that reminds them of where theyve come and/or where theyre going
Housenumbersonly.com making each home unique with curb appeal in the form of specially designed house numbers
Other unique gifts include fruit bouquets like those from Edible Arrangements, or donating to a clients favorite charity.
Closing gifts are just part of the real estate process nowadays, but theyre the last impression an agent has to give until the next deal, so if theyre going to do it make it count!
Article source: http://blog.raveis.com/2012/08/27/always-be-closing-with-a-gift/
August 23, 2012
The word cool is certainly an overused term in daily vernacular. But, at the risk of sounding boring, Im going to have to say some of the homes you see below are way cool. We always like to keep things fresh here at William Raveis and researching the newest trends in homebuilding and architecture are on our to-do list. Check out some of these up-and-coming structural concepts, from a home that uses only 10% of the energy of typical homes, to a 330 square foot apartment that transforms into 24 rooms!
1st Retrofit Passive House in the Northeast and Perhaps the Nation
Passive homes, which require only 10 percent of the heat normally used to power a home, are all the rage in Europe. However, they are still a new concept in the US. Thats why we were really excited when a William Raveis buyer decided to partner with us and build the first retrofit passive house in the northeast and perhaps the country. In order to have a true passive house, strict standards need to be met from the PassivHaus Institute in Germany. A home must have proper solar orientation, be airtight, super insulate, have no thermal bridges and circulate fresh air through ventilation machines. These processes result in an extremely comfortable living environment, with temperatures remaining at 72 or 73 degrees Farenheit year-round. For more information, take a look at the press the home has received in RisMedia and the New York Times. Take a look at some of the pictures below:
A Home Powered by Spinach
The Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) homebuilding concept is based on William McDonoughs principle of transforming human industry through ecologically intelligent design. I bet none of us thought spinach would be a part of that design, however. Well, thats what makes the C2C home pictured here so unique. The home, created in Roanoke VA for a residential design open competition, obtains its electricity from spinach. Sounds like a stretch? We thought so, too. So here is the explanation from MIT researchers, who identified Photosystem I (PSI), derived from spinach: Derived from spinach chloroplasts, PSI is 10 to 20 nanometers wide. Around 100,000 of them would fit on the head of a pin. Researcher Marc A. Baldo, stated, They are the smallest electronic circuits I know of.
We think Popeye would be proud.
A Small Apartment that Transforms into 24 Rooms
Architect, Gary Chang knows all about brilliant use of space. And although this post is devoted to the coolest homes, we thought this incredible apartment that can be transformed in 24 different ways, was a must-see. In the already incredibly limited living space in bustling Hong Kong, Chang has managed to create the lap of luxury with less than 400 square feet of available space. Take a look at how his home can go from bedroom, to bathroom, to kitchen and even private theater, with just a few quick moves.
Wave-Shaped Home in Sydney
Beach-living has been redefined in this gorgeous property on Bondi Beach, Australia. What makes this home so unique is its form: the home is in the shape of a wave. What better way to pay homage to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world? The homes marvels dont end with its gently flowing exterior. Slim, super-tall windows, a rooftop garden and a roof top loft give this home the extra cool. We think the pictures speak for themselves.
What are some of the coolest concept homes youve seen?
Article source: http://blog.raveis.com/2012/08/23/coolest-concept-houses/
August 21, 2012
Summer is coming to an end and that signifies one surefire thing.the school year is upon us. If your family is getting ready to send a son or daughter to college, this can be an even busier and emotional time. However, by ensuring your children can experience the familiarity of home in a dorm room, this transition can be made a little more smoothly. Wendy Martinenas, an associate in our Fairfield, Connecticut office, provides some wonderful green tips to help students enjoy a healthy and productive next four years in their dorms! For more of Wendys savvy home-living tips, please visit her blog.
I blog about green living in the home and a dorm room is someones home too. Sustainability continues to be first and foremost on the minds of young people ranging from simple awareness to activism. So why not enable your college student to make their own contribution? Most college buildings are old and do notoffer the advantages that green buildings do. So when I went to visit colleges, I was happy to see that almost every school touted more than oneLEED certified Building. While we cannot control a universitys building practices we can make an impact simply by how we live in those buildings regardless of whether they are LEED certified or not.
The University of Virginia sets a great example by displaying green dorm rooms to inspire incoming freshman. In this case buildings were not identified as being energy efficient or health oriented in any way. Instead, rooms are staged with energy efficient and sustainable products.
When my daughter, Steph went to college she took eco-friendly cleaning products and laundry detergent. She opted for reusable plates and silverware in order to keep trash to a minimum. She took aBrita pitcher to filter water and has a collection of reusable cups and bottles for all kinds of situations. She has a regular water bottle, a water bottle with a built-in filter, a coffee cup, a thermos for coffee on-the-go and regular cups for use in the room. All of this was an extension of what she already did at home. These things are easy to buy. Its the change in behavior that may not be so easy. However, all it takes is persistence and the desire to make the change.
That was last year and in evidence that going green is a process, I find myself impressing on Steph the reason for unplugging appliances when not in use, with the iPhone charger being the biggest culprit. Why because every time you leave an appliance plugged in to the wall when it is not being used energy still flows to it and its pure waste. In factvampire energy accounts for up to 10% of a typical homes electric bill. So in a small dorm room, when its more than likely challenging to reach the outlet, consider plugging appliances into an easily accessible power strip that you can turn on and off. This could be great for TVs, printers, lamps and microwaves.
Being green also means paying attention to potential health consequences of our actions. So its a good idea to shield your self from the toxicity of not only traditional cleaning products but also electronic devices. That means instead of putting your laptop directly on your lap, put something like a pillow between it and your body. Also dont sleep with your phone right next to you in your bed. At least put it on your nightstand.
Project Green Dorm has a look-book of specific products you can buy ranging from cool organic cotton clothing to recycled lap top cases. They offer a green checklist with suggested brands, encourage the green lifestyle with tips and even inject some spirituality into it. They suggest 30 minutes of downtime per day by connecting with the natural world perhaps with some yoga. I love that!
So if you have a college bound student in your home, think about jumping on the bandwagon and enabling your child to outfit their room in a green fashion. So many Universities and students today tout the benefits of living an eco friendly way, they will be downright trendy. Steph goes to UCONN and I was happy to see that the Sierra Club Ranks UCONN AmongTop 10 Cool Schoolsfor Environmental Efforts. Remember that being green is making a contribution on any scale that makes sense in the situation and that is comfortable for you.
August 20, 2012
The famous green jackets provided to Augusta National Golf Club members now have brand new shoulders to rest on- those of 2 prominent females. Thats right. I said females. Augusta National Golf Club finally bid ironclad tradition adieu, welcoming its first women members-former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Caroline financier Darla Moore. This momentous occasion comes after years of controversy around archaic Club membership rules. Its wonderful to see the Club embrace individual love for the support, no matter who it may be!
I found this story to be particularly interesting as we are preparing for our 4th annual golf tournament on September 13th to help support the fight against breast cancer. On this special day, individuals throughout the northeast, male and female, join together on the golf course for some friendly competition for a serious cause. We believe Augustas move brings even more meaning to the tournament this year. The Club has recognized that love for golf is blind, just as are the debilitating effects of breast cancer William Raveis is helping fight against.
With our golf tournament as a huge contributor, we have raised over $1.6 million in funds for the American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Program in just 6 years. Help us raise the next $1.6 million by participating as a single player or foursome in our tournament, or making a donation to The William Raveis Charitable Fund. Thank you for your support and to Augusta National Golf Club for making the William Raveis Tournament even more important this year!
August 16, 2012
Housing affordability dipped slightly during the second quarter according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI), released today. Additionally, this past week, Freddie Mac released their U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook for the month of August, 2012 which revealed that their Price Index increased 4.8% from March to June, 2012 which was the largest quarterly increase in eight years.
So is this the end of the bargains for buyers?
With so many economic and political variables that impact housing prices and interest rates, it is difficult to be sure. The decline in housing affordability, however, is overall a positive development as it is evidence of a modest pick-up in consumer confidence, as they shed the reluctance to buy/sell homes. Perhaps driving this pick up is the historically low interest rates, and the prospect that rates may inch higher once the Fed stops their measures which are artificially keeping interest rates near historic lows. The Fed has committed to keeping interests rates low through 2013, and they have purchased $2.3 trillion in mortgage bonds in order to stimulate the economy and drive down unemployment, which hasnt dropped below 8% since the Fed began this program. The fear of homebuyers (and sellers), however, is what happens to interest rates when the FED stops flooding the economy of with new money. Most think that inflation and rising mortgage rates are inevitable the question is when.
What does this mean?
If you are in the market for home, it is still a great time to buy. The bargains that took place over the last couple of years, however, are becoming fewer, as the percentage of short sales and foreclosures that make up sales have decreased significantly. Interest rates remain at historic lows, as does home affordability.
Are you seeing bargain homes on the market in your neighborhood?
August 14, 2012
Homes dont sell by mistake. If they did, real estate brokerages would not exist. So if your agent is leaving your home selling up to chance, its time to question your hiring choice.Marketing a home for sale requires planning and action steps. But if you are sitting and waiting for your listing agent to call, wondering if anything was done in the past two months, well, it may be time for a shake up!
Here are the top three signs your listing agent may be lazy or clueless, and its time to do something about it.
- No plan of action. You should know what your listing agent is planning to do in order to market your home. The property has a target market, such as first time home buyers, downsizing homebuyers, young families, etc. What is the listing agent going to do to reach the target market?
Ask for copies of the marketing materials the listing agent prepared. Feel free to request links to where your homes listing appears and to be CCd on email marketing. For more details on what to expect from your agent, read my recent piece, The First Seven Steps Your Realtor Must Take.
- No Market Updates. Even if there is little activity in your home, something is going on somewhere. Your listing agent should be updated on everything going on in your propertys market. A good listing broker will not allow other homes to sell while yours linger without questioning either marketing or price.
Understanding the local markets dynamics answers the question of why a home does not sell. When similar properties are selling, the problems lay in the homes presentation, price or marketing. If nothing is selling, make decisions on how to react to the quiet market.
- No Feedback. I recently read a quote, Success can be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have. Agents unable to have uncomfortable conversations with clients will have lacking negotiation skills and compromise easily. Whatever the feedback, you should know.
Your listing agent doesnt need to convey every piece of nonsense people said in your house. But, if there are issues which buyers are pointing out, your listing agent should be able to have an uncomfortable conversation with you.
For whatever reason you find your agent is not working for you, your first step is to speak with the agent directly. Ask questions and request a thorough update. Sometimes agents assume clients dont want to be bothered, but are working hard behind the scenes. Start with the benefit of the doubt.
Remember, the listing agreement is with the Brokerage firm, (William Raveis Real Estate, for example), and the agent is hired to sign on its behalf. The agent has no authority to cancel a listing contract.
In cases of incurable dissatisfaction with your agent, speak with the office manager who will find a more suitable Realtor. Dont dismiss the whole company because of an agent. It will be to your advantage to honor the contract you signed and have a different agent, supervised by the manager, see you through the sale.
Expect more from your agent, speak-up, and be heard. Were listening!
August 7, 2012
Getting an offer on your home is an exhilarating and overwhelming experience, all at once. Whether your home has been on the market for 6 days or 6 months, an offer usually means you and your broker have been doing something (or many things) right, be it the brokers flawless marketing, an attractive price or a renovation that really paid off. However, just because you have an offer in hand, doesnt mean your home-selling experience has come to an end. On the contrary, an accepted offer is only the beginning of the sale. As William Tierney, a William Raveis associate on the Cape, wrote this wonderful guest post detailing a Post Accepted Offer Checklist. As youll see, there are several to-do items following the accepted offer you and your broker have been waiting for. For more awesome real estate tips from William Tierney, check out his blog.
So you have accepted and offer on your home, now what?
Having just accepted an offer on your home is a great and exciting feeling. You haveobviouslyworked hard to arrive at this point in the sales process. Without a doubt, you have put in some considerable effort to prepare your home for the market, and anxiously waited through numerous showings. Now you have an accepted offer. Congratulations.
I often tell both my buyers and sellers that once we have an accepted offer, we have only achieved a first down, and we have a lot of field to cover before we get the ball over the goal line. This sports analogy is a clear picture to help both my buyers and sellers focus on the next steps in the home purchase or sale process. Coming to terms on price is a great first step, but it just that, the first step. There are several hurdles to overcome before achieving the ultimate goal of closing on the purchase or sale of the home. Below I have assembled a Post Accepted Offer Check Listof items to address to help insure an orderly transaction process.
Engage a Real Estate Attorney
One of the first items I recommend both my buyers or sellers to do is to engage a Real Estate Attorney. This is close to a must do item on thePost Accepted Offer Check List. I do highlight that one hire an attorney who specializes in Real Estate transactions, as they are usually staffed for such transactions, and having done such transactions, they can do them in a timely manner.
Real estate transactions are completed in a two step contract process. First is the Offer To Purchase, and the second is the Purchase and Sale Agreement. Both are legally binding contracts. The Offer To Purchase simply states that a more formal contract to purchase will follow covering the transactions details in greater detail. With the variousnuancesof a real estate transaction, it is simply wise to seek qualified legal guidance to ensure your interests are protected fairly.
Start The Clean Out
My sellers hear me beg them to clear the clutter from my initial appointment that I have with them back when they are considering selling their home. I have often told sellers to clear as much clutter out of their home as possible prior to listing their home. But once a seller has accepted an offer, it really is time to begin the moving process. I remind all my sellers that a top item on my Post Accepted Offer Check List is that every home has more contents than the seller believes they have in their home. Once you have accepted and offer, start packing, and cleaning out your home to ready it for the closing. This process is usually, and almost always, underestimated in terms of time and effort. The sooner the seller starts this process, the better the process proceeds.
Schedule Your Fire Safety Inspection
One of the items on my Post Accepted Offer Check List is to remind sellers in that the law requires every home have working and functional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The actual nuances of this law vary depending on the size and age of the home being sold.
Since each towns fire prevention officermay have a different interperation of the requirements of the law, it can make good sense to have a pre-inspection by a member of the local fire department. This can assist the seller to know which types of detectors should be located at which locations in the home being sold. And thus, make for a simple inspection at some point later.
It is the sellersresponsibilityto comply with this law. Typically a certificate of inspection is required to be presented at the closing table by the seller. This certificate is usually good for 60 days, so it can make good sense to order this inspection well in advance of the anticipated closing date.
Order a Final Sewer and Water Reading
For those homes that have either town water or sewer, or both, there is a need to obtain a final sewer and water reading. The best time to schedule this reading is two or three weeks prior to the anticipated closing date. It is easy toreschedulesuch a reading should a reading need to be moved further in the calendar, but quite often it can be hard to get a reading done at the last minute. When it comes to cost, this is an item that is typically accounted for on the HUD settlement statement where the buyer is credited the amount of water and/or sewer charges that the seller may have used up to the closing date if the local municipality is between billing periods. This is often the forgotten item on thePost Accepted Offer Check List.
Order a Final Utility Reading
If your town has a municipal electrical system, a final utility reading may be required. Municipally owned utility systems can file a lien on the property serviced for unpaid utility bills. This can delay a closing. So if you have a property being sold in a town with a municipally owned electrical system, be sure to order a final reading and account for it on the HUD settlement statement or have the seller settle the final bill and bring a receipt to the closing.
If you can check off each of the above items on the Post Accepted Offer Check Listin a timely fashion, then your closing will most likely proceed much smoother and will less stress and last minute run around.
Article source: http://blog.raveis.com/2012/08/07/post-accepted-offer-checklist/
August 4, 2012
25 years ago, three people sat in a room and thought about how to build a great brand. At that time, we were about a 10 to 12 year old company, with deep roots and top sales in Connecticut. Those three people arrived at a concept that would add a new dimension to the real estate industry.
With Bill Raveis leading the effort ,the agent branding concept was born. Key agents within the company began creating their own logos, under the William Raveis umbrella.
This concept instilled an entirely new level of entrepreneurship in the company. Now, agents could create their own recognizable image, powered by William Raveis.
25 years and 7 states later, agent branding is one of the most important reasons agents choose to come and stay with William Raveis. Our Vice President of Marketing, Steven Csejka, Senior Graphic Artist, Lauren Strazzeri, Graphic Artist, Lisa Dickal and Advertising Manager, Elizabeth Martinez work with agents to create simple, smart, creative logos to help them market themselves within and beyond the communities they serve. Supriya Anand, Public Relations and Social Media Manager, helps agents take their branding viral, aiding them in social media management. Together, they have helped brand over 600 agents, after the branding program was officially implemented 7 years ago. And theyre just getting started.
Weve found plenty of inspiration along the way. Steve Csejka, a native of Connecticut, has talked about his desire to create simple, smart designs after seeing the logo of his beloved local hockey team, theHartford Whalers. The genius behind this logo lies in the negative, or white space, which is the letter H.
Take a look at some of the other logos that inspire us to create and innovate everyday.
Agent branding is a unique concept in the real estate industry, helping to inspire agents to rethink their marketing and customer service. We look forward to seeing where the next 600 logos will take us!