Berkshire County Realty Street Blog

Is there a home maintenance project that’s been lingering on your to-do list for too long because you’re dreading the trip to the hardware or craft store? There are some projects you can tackle with items that are almost certainly already in your home.

  1. Vinegar: There’s probably a jug of vinegar in your pantry right now. You can soak items in vinegar to remove mineral deposits (like in a clogged showerhead), and you can boil vinegar in your microwave to remove odors and make it easier to clean.

  2. Cola: A can of Coke or Pepsi can be used to clean many surfaces, including your glass windows, porcelain toilet, or chrome fixtures. Just do some research before using it on metal surfaces, as it can be corrosive.

  3. Baking soda: This item may actually be more useful for applications other than baking. A baking soda-vinegar paste is great for cleaning bathrooms and kitchens. Baking soda can also be used to absorb odors.

  4. Butter knife: Screwdrivers are easy to misplace. If can’t find a screwdriver when you need one, a butter knife—preferably an older one that you no longer need for table setting—is pretty effective for both Phillips- and flat-head screws.

  5. Toothpaste: Is there an unsightly scratch on your car or bike? The grit in tarter-control toothpastes makes for an effective scratch remover. Clean the scratch, apply some toothpaste, let it sit for a few minutes, and then buff it out with paper towel.

Posted in:General
Posted by Sherry Street on July 18th, 2018 11:55 AM

Going green is great for the environment, but that’s not the only benefit. When you make green upgrades in your home, it can also lead to some major savings.

  1. Solar panels: The upfront cost is big, but the long-term savings are huge. Solar panels will cost several thousand dollars to install, but ongoing maintenance costs are very low, and a typical system could save you hundreds of dollars per year. You can even sell your surplus electricity.
  2. Wood furnace: Wood-burning furnaces are relatively inexpensive, and though the yearly savings aren’t as dramatic (about 10% on heating bills), it adds up over the long run.
  3. Insulation: There’s a good chance your insulation isn’t very efficient, especially in older homes. Look into installing floor, cavity, wall, and loft insulation to reduce your heating bills.
  4. Rain barrels: Rain barrels are extremely inexpensive, and provide gallons of free water to use when you wash your car or water your garden.
  5. Geothermal system: OK, so the price tag is scary at first. A geothermal system uses the earth’s temperature to heat and cool your home, but can cost $30,000 to install. But tax credits allow you to get a lot of that money back, and the energy savings average about $1,900 per year. If you plan to be in your home for a decade or two, it’s a great investment.
Posted in:General
Posted by Sherry Street on July 9th, 2018 9:20 AM

An accent wall can totally transform a room, taking it from boring and drab to bold and exciting. Accent walls create a new focal point for your space, add liveliness and contrast, and are typically a very inexpensive DIY project.

The starter accent wall

You can easily add an accent wall to your room in one afternoon by applying a new paint color. Deep blues and bright oranges are common choices for accent walls, but choose a color that will complement your existing decor and overall design aesthetic.

Interesting textures

Bright, contrasting paint is a good starting point, but there are other options for accent walls that are even more eye-catching and distinct. Floor-to-ceiling wood planks can make your home seem both rustic and modern all at once and provide a natural, outdoors-inspired feel. It’s more work than simply painting a wall, but it’s still relatively inexpensive. You can source the wood from pallets on Craigslist and stain it yourself before attaching it to your wall. It takes a little extra elbow grease, but it’s worth the effort.


Patterns, murals, and more

Paint and wood are bold enough on their own to transform a room, but they’re still pretty subtle compared to other accent wall options. A chalk paint accent wall is a creative idea for any room and makes for some fun moments when you’re entertaining. There are also endless options for wallpaper and stenciling if you want some patterns or you can get really bold with a mural or oversized art print.


Posted in:General
Posted by Sherry Street on July 6th, 2018 11:45 AM

Negotiation is a subtle art in real estate, but skilled negotiators can usually find some common ground that satisfies all parties. On the other hand, using the wrong negotiation tactics can sink a deal pretty quickly. Here are some negotiation tactics buyers (and real estate professionals) should avoid:

  1. Lowball offers: Going far below market value when you make an offer damages your credibility as a buyer and can be insulting to the seller. The seller has a range in mind that they’ll accept, and if you’re not even approaching the low end of that range, they won’t even consider the offer.
  2. Incremental negotiations: Don’t continue to go back to the seller with small increases in your offer ($1,000 or less). The constant back-and-forth can grow tiresome and lead the seller to consider other opportunities.
  3. “Take it or leave it”: Try not to draw a line in the sand with your initial offer. The seller can get defensive and consider other offers if you immediately show that you’re unwilling to budge. Even if it’s true, don’t make a show of it.
  4. Nitpicking after inspection: Obviously if inspection reveals a major issue, it should be factored into the final sale price. But insisting on a lower price for every minor repair can put negotiations in a stalemate.
  5. Asking for more, more, more: Some buyers will request that the sellers throw in add-ons like furniture or appliances that weren’t included in the listing. Try to avoid giving the seller a reason to build up resentment and think that you’re being greedy.
Posted in:General
Posted by Sherry Street on July 2nd, 2018 11:01 AM

How Do I Know the Market Value of a Home?

Home prices in the U.S. have risen more or less steadily over the last few years. In many cities, home values are now at their highest point in history -- even higher than the last housing boom. 

But what determines the "market value" of a home? How do sellers determine their list prices, and how can buyers evaluate a listing based on current market conditions. Here's a crash course in determining market value, for sellers and buyers alike.

The Definition of 'Market Value'

Let's start off with a quick definition. In a real estate context, the "market value" is the most likely price a home will sell for within a reasonable amount of time. It is based on local housing market conditions and recent sales activity. 

You'll notice this definition does not mention the original price paid by the homeowner. Unless they bought the home a month ago, the original purchase price is likely irrelevant to the current market. Likewise, the market value of a home has nothing to do with the homeowner's current mortgage balance. Some sellers list their homes for the amount needed to pay off their mortgage loans. But that doesn't always line up with the current market value of the property.

How to Determine Market Value

So, with that introduction out of the way, let's get to the heart of the matter. How do you know the market value of a home you're thinking about buying? Or the value of your own property, when listing it for sale?

The first thing you'd want to do is track home sales in the area. The longer you do this, the better. It gives you a good base of knowledge with regard to asking prices versus selling prices (hint: it's the latter of these two that determines market value).

Next, you'll want to review sales data on homes that are similar to the one you're considering. This is what real estate agents refer to as comparable sales, or comps. The more alike the two properties are, the more accurate the pricing comparison. 

Try to find as many comparable home sales as possible. This will help you support your offer amount, by showing the seller you're using actual market data from recent sales in the area. Remember, home prices can change over time. So recent comps will give you a better idea of what's happening now, in the current real estate market.

When you determine the market value of a home, you also need to take any unique features into account. For example, let's say I've found sales data for two colonial-style homes that are 2,000 square feet. The home I'm considering is also a colonial with 2,000 square feet. But it has a completely renovated kitchen, a pool, and sits on a more spacious corner lot with a great view. The other houses lack these qualities. So the house I'm considering will likely sell for more than the two comps, despite the fact that the homes are similar in size and style.

Here's a good "formula" to keep in mind when considering the market value of a home in a particular area:

Comparable sale prices + unique features = a good asking price

An Easier Way: Work With a Real Estate Agent

This is just a basic overview of market value within the context of real estate sales. There's more work involved to properly evaluate the value of a particular property, especially when the market is changing constantly. And that's where real estate agents come into the picture.

Real estate agents undergo extensive training in this area. Much of their education has to do with real estate market cycles, home prices and values, and related topics. So whether you're buying or selling a home, you could save yourself a lot of time and energy by having an agent on your side!
Posted in:General
Posted by Sherry Street on May 23rd, 2018 9:32 AM