Archive for October, 2012

Hurricane Preparedness Tips from FEMA

It is almost eerie to think that two years in a row around Hallowe’en we would have a storm threat with major impact.  Last year was the first and one of only a few snow storms that we had all year and this year it is a hurricane that we are watching and hearing how it could impact millions along the east coast.

So most important now is preparing for it to protect our families and our homes as best we can.  Here are some tips from FEMA……

Here are tips and resources from the Federal Emergency Management Agency:

Be aware of the latest weather forecast.

Make sure you have plenty of cash on hand in case your area loses power, causing ATM machines and banks to close down as well.

Make a plan for your family, business and property.

Assemble a disaster preparedness kit stocked with critical supplies, including important documents and medications. Click HERE to see a list of the items you should put in your kit.

Purchase flood insurance in advance of the storm.

Visit for the latest hurricane news and preparedness tips from FEMA.

The National Weather Service suggests you have a plan for your beloved family pets, and determine safe areas inside your home, as well as escape routes if flooding turns dangerous.

Learn more about creating a family disaster plan.

Here’s a list of some of the available apps. Click on the links for download information.

FEMA’s mobile Web site provides answers to the agency’s most-often asked questions, and includes a graphic showing the flood risk in the specific area where you live.

Hurricane HD: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch. $2.99

Hurricane HD lets you track storms, with moving radar and satellite imagery from the National Hurricane center. It provides tropical bulletins, forecasts, and advisories for the Atlantic and Pacific Basins.

You can watch video updates for storms currently underway or forming, and find data on major storms of the past, such as hurricanes Andrew, Hugo and Katrina.

The Weather Channel: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, Android. Free

The Weather Channel has fully customizable weather maps, animated radar maps, detailed weather conditions and forecasts, severe weather alerts, and a notification bar with the current temperature and severe weather alert indicator.

It allows you to get weather forecasts for your location or search by city, ZIP code, street address or landmark.  The app also includes interactive maps that are fully customizable and feature the functionality of Google Maps. Customers can decide to display layers such as radar, clouds, UV index, rainfall and more.

Global Alert Network: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android BlackBerry. Free

The Global Alert Network delivers hands-free national traffic and weather alerts.  See iTunes for Apple devices, or go to BlackBerry for a download.

The Global Alert Network is a location-aware network platform that automatically broadcasts audible hands-free alerts to mobile devices. You choose to subscribe to weather or traffic alerts, which are geo-targeted to your location.

Stay safe……Joan Parcewski   Woods Real Estate   978-376-3978

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Setting Your Offer Price – Tara@trulia

These tips come from a California real estate agent who writes for Trulia.  The points apply no matter where you are buying your home:

1. How close/recent/similar are the comps – and what story do they tell?…..But once it’s time to pin down a precise offer dollar amount, it behooves you to look beyond the sales prices of the comparables and to work with your agent to suss out the story they have to tell – and what implications that story has for your own offer price.

In particular, you’ll want to look at the listing details and even the photos of the comparable properties to understand which ones are truly similar – or dissimilar – to the property you’ve targeted, beyond the basic specs………….

Also, look for the bigger picture story that the comps are telling you……

I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is to collaborate with your agent when it comes to gathering this fuller picture and story from the data on recently sold nearby properties and applying it in the course of setting your own offer price.

2.  What kind of shape is the place in?  Fixer-upper homes may not qualify for low-down payment FHA financing…………It’s also essential to include your mortgage broker in the offer-price setting conversation, as condition issues might impact the loan programs available to you and, thus, the down payment, closing cost and monthly payment required at a given offer/purchase price point…………..

3.  What’s the competition like?………………..How will you know what your competition is like?  Ask your agent – and they’ll likely give the listing agent a ring, let them know you’re serious about making an offer and feel out whether there is competition or not, and how fierce it is.

4.  How much do you want it? Your personal desire and motivation level to get a particular property is an absolute must to factor into the offer price decision-making mix, especially when you get close to putting a final number of dollars and cents on the table…………..

The need to tweak your offer priced based on your motivation level (within the range of what you can afford, of course) is particularly true when it comes to multiple offer situations…………………

5.  What can you truly afford? No, really.  It’s not that you haven’t asked yourself this question, worked through your monthly financials, pored over the numbers with your mate, your financial planner and your mortgage broker ad nauseam………

Interest rates might have changed. ·        You might have decided you need to move your price range up, because you can’t find anything that works in a lower range. ·        You might have realized you need to offer more than the asking price, due to the competition. ·        Your expenses might have changed, because you had to put a kid in daycare or start some new service up. ·        Your cash cushion might have changed, because you had to repair your car or fix something at your existing house. ·        Your cash needs might even have changed, as you realize the home you are trying to buy needs a lot of work that will take a lot of cash.

And so, throughout the course of a house hunt, it’s not at all bizarre to experience price range creep. The best practice is to walk through the comps with your agent, determine their story, get as much information as you can about your competition and the home’s condition and get clear about how much you want the place then, just before you finalize your offer price, touch based with your mortgage broker or banker and tell them what you’re planning to offer. Ask them to give you an updated set of numbers, including what your down payment, monthly payment and cash to close would look like at that price, based on today’s interest rate…………………….

Read the full post here —-

Realty Times – Kitchen Trends 2012

If you are considering updating your kitchen take a look at this.  You want to be certain that you are making updates that have value if you should decide to sell your home. 

“The kitchen is the center of activity for families,” said Janice Jones, vice president of merchandizing for national homebuilder PulteGroup. With the popularity of open floor plan designs, Jones said the kitchen – more than ever before – has evolved into the most important part of the family’s communal space. “In the past, home design was driven by practicality, but now homeowners want function and design to meet – and it starts in the kitchen.”

Read the full article at Realty Times – Kitchen Trends 2012.

3.8% Tax: What’s True, What’s Not – by Robert Freedman

There has been press that there will be a tax on real estate transactions in the new year.  Here is the real story as told by NAR as to whom this really could affect.  

Ever since health care reform was enacted into law more than two years ago, rumors have been circulating on the Internet and in e-mails that the law contains a 3.8 percent tax on real estate. NAR quickly released material to show that the tax doesn’t target real estate and will in fact affect very few home sales, because it’s a tax that will only affect high-income households that realize a substantial gain on an asset sale, including on a home sale, once other factors are taken into account. Maybe 2-3 percent of home sellers will be affected.

Read more on this topic at 3.8% Tax: What’s True, What’s Not.

A Brooklyn Bathroom – exclusive guest post by Megan Gates


Brooklyn‘s design trends of 2012 are unique and fun. There are numerous cool new fashion trends that have emerged and some do not even require an interior designer to implement. Let’s take a look at how these two design trends can give Brooklyn homes a fresh new look.


Bathroom areas must be clean, fresh, appealing and inviting to keep a homebuyer interested. Some designers are adding uniquely designed bathtubs to bathrooms to tempt even the most die-hard shower fans into the tub.


For instance, one designer added a stone-based bathtub to a New York home that weighs nearly a ton. The free-standing bathtub is a work of art as it sits, stately, in the bathroom. Many people cannot help but marvel at its beauty and give the bathtub a try. Most people fall in love with one soak. This is yet another way that New Yorkers can heal and enjoy their homes without ever leaving.


Glass vessel sinks are popular in 2012. These vessel sinks are like modern works of art. An ordinary bathroom is transformed with a simple replacement of a sink. The cost is small compared to the value that it could add to a home. Every homeowner should consider updating the bath with a vessel sink to remain up-to-date with the latest trends.



Most designs are made of all natural stone materials. The decorative accents include glass or ceramic tile, metals, hardwood, marble and bamboo. The freestanding tubs emerge from the floor similar to how vessel sinks sit atop the basin. When the tubs are freestanding, they are often the focal point of the room. Many Brooklyn homes feature black stone instead of the traditional white porcelain tubs. Black is making quite a statement. When paired with lime green, baby blue or ruby red tile, the tub can make quite the statement.


Adding the latest design trends can update the home and make the home feel fresh and new. Some changes may even improve a home’s value. Whether shopping for a new home or updating an existing home, consider some of these popular designs.

Megan Gates is from Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate Company (NYC)




Don’t Forget Your Gutters This Fall – guest blogger Dave Cobosco

Don’t forget your gutters this Fall

As the leaves fall most of us clean our yards, but many of us forget to clean our gutters.  Clean gutters are critical in controlling the water around your house.  Properly functioning gutters and downspouts direct water away from the house and preventing many of the following problems:

ñ  Water in the basement

ñ  Rotting wood trim

ñ  Roof leaking due to ice dams

ñ  Slippery sidewalks

ñ  Washed out landscaping

ñ  Wood Destroying Insects

To avoid these potentially serious and costly problems, make sure you have your gutters cleaned every Fall when you clean the leaves from your yard.  If you are not comfortable with heights or don’t use tall ladders regularly, cleaning gutters is not a job for you.  Consider hiring a handyman to help. If you decide to do the gutter cleaning job yourself, watch out for hidden hazards like electric lines and bee’s nests.

Once the gutter system is cleaned, consider installing gutter guards to avoid a repeat performance in the future.  There are many types of gutter guards available. Screens can be effective in the short run but eventually allow debris to get through.  Clogs will reoccur and can be even harder to clear since the screens will need to be removed first.  Leaf blocking guards, which look like metal covers that are installed above the gutter, are a more costly but more effective option at keeping leaves out of gutters.  The slotted covers allow water to leak into the gutter while washing leaves over the side.

No matter what gutter product you choose, it is important that you check gutters periodically as well as be mindful of signs of clogging like over-flowing in a rainstorm.

Remember, these tips are only general guidelines. Since each situation is different, contact a professional if you have questions about a specific issue. More home safety and maintenance information is available online at Or contact:


Dave Cobosco


409 Middlesex Turnpike

Billerica, MA  01821

C:  508-479-1773

O:  866-313-7732



Celebrate Harvest Time – by guest blogger Annette Presseau

Recently we here in New England had a frost which lets us know that winter is not far away the air is crisp and refreshing and it is a great time of year to work outside in the yard removing your dead plants, falling leaves and planting bulbs.  The trees are so pretty with all the colors of fall take time to look at them and see the beauty around you also the leaves make great mulch.  I don’t feel ready for the cold weather yet and would love to have the warm weather last just a little longer but October weather can be very enjoyable too so get out and enjoy before it is too cold.


Brighten up spots with color.  Do you see spots in your yard that don’t have any color left then consider adding Mums or Chrysanthemums to brighten up your garden and you can also add Ornamental Kale and what about adding pumpkins or a scarecrow to liven up your garden?  Do you know the difference between mums or Chrysanthemums?  I have often wondered what is the difference between them?   The name Chrysanthemum creates further confusion because it does not differentiate between the two type commonly available.  Garden mums produce underground shoots or stolons which enable these mums to survive from year to year. Florist mums produce few or no stolons and are easily winter-killed. They are available nearly year round in floral shops, department stores, and grocery stores.  Both types are “photoperiodic,” meaning they bloom in response to short days and long nights.  They require a specific amount of time under short day growing conditions in order to set flower buds.  Typically, many garden varieties require 5 to 7 weeks to flower after the start of short days and can withstand several light frosts. Florist mums require 8 to 14 weeks of short days.


Apples, apples and more apples.  I just love apples and enjoy eating them and having apple pie, apple sauce, apple crisp anything with apples and one of my favorites is apple pancakes so whatever you like to have this time of year apples are a great fruit that is in season.  There is quite a variety of apples to choose from look for your local apple farm and go and have a great time picking apples or just pick up a bag of apples.


Pansies, Mums, Asters and Kale.  Now is the perfect time to plant Pansies, Mums and Kale which will bring great color to your yard and you can remove some of your summer flowers that are starting to look pretty bad.  Pansies can be planted in a pumpkin and all you do is scoop out the middle, make some holes in the bottom and take your plant add some soil and put in the pumpkin.  Pansies are the perfect autumn flower and they seem to just smile back at you and they also love this cool weather.  The more faded flowers you pick off the Pansies the more they will bloom.  Mums are really beautiful this time of year and flowering or ornamental Kale really gives a different color to the garden.  Asters are absolutely beautiful and all of these plants would really look great in your garden.


Garden cleanup.  Now is a good time to divide perennials and replant them and keep in mind that cleaning up your garden will help prevent pest problems in the coming year.  Fall plowing or tilling works wonders for any garden you can mix in organic matter to improve your soil and keep in mind that you do not apply any fertilizer to your plants in the fall.  One of the best ways to a successful spring garden is a thorough fall cleanup.  Make sure you completely clear the garden of weeds before they drop their seeds and create a problem for next year.


Garden Care.  You can spread compost or manure in the garden now to enrich your soil for next spring.  Bring plants indoors that you would like to keep over the winder.  Fall is also a good time to clean up foliage from roses, peonies, and any other plant with diseased foliage.


Bird Food Feeders and Other Things.  Avoid the temptation of cutting back all of the dead stalks in your flower gardens. Let purple coneflower, Black-eyed Susans, Sunflowers, and other plants with seeds and berries stand.  They’ll provide hours of enjoyment as you watch birds feed from them in the winter. Especially leave any local, native plants standing, since they’re the most likely to be edible for local wildlife.  Now is a great time to clean off birdfeeders; clean out and put away birdbaths for the winter.  Plant garlic for harvest next summer and sow wildflower seed for bloom next spring.  At this time you can harvest herbs, grasses and flowers for drying.


Thoughts for next Spring.  As winter sets in, you don’t have to abandon your garden—just move into the planning stage for spring planting. With a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate in hand, you can map out what you want to plant next growing season. And make sure you order your favorite seed catalog (we like Seed Savers Exchange and Seeds of Change) to peruse during the colder months.  I just love perusing through a flower catalog during the winter months it gives me great inspiration for next Spring!


Fall FoliageThis is a great time of year to go out and check out the fall foliage the colors of the leaves in New England are absolutely beautiful this time of year.  There are also a lot of fall fairs that are great to visit.


Fall Festivals.  It isn’t fall with a fall festival so check out the one’s in your area weather it is a arts and craft show or maybe a pumpkin festival or even an Octoberfest celebration whatever the festival is now is the time to get out and enjoy it.


Bulbs and more bulbs.  Autumn is a great time to plant bulbs for next spring like tulips and daffodils they come in all colors, styles and sizes and they look awesome in the spring.  Crocuses are the first to show up in the spring then Daffodils then Tulips so when you want to get a good flow of color when it is still cold outside then consider planting in bunches for a full dazzling display. 


Well I’m off to rake leaves, plant tulips and enjoy the beautiful foliage!


Annette Presseau      Billerica Garden Club




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