Thursday, March 29, 2012

Popcorn Ceiling Removal Made Easy

Do you have a textured popcorn ceiling in your Lexington MA home? When showing a home with a popcorn ceiling I am often asked if it can be removed.

A home inspector friend of mine shared the steps it takes to remove a textured popcorn ceiling. Before you begin, it’s important to note that if the home was built prior to 1978 or if the popcorn ceiling was sprayed prior to 1978 that it may contain asbestos fibers, which is a known health hazard and carcinogen. If you suspect that it was applied prior to 1978 or you just aren’t sure, have a sample taken and analyzed by an environmental testing lab before you begin. If the material contains asbestos fibers, it is recommended you leave the job to a professional asbestos abatement company.
Tools Needed:
1. A 6-inch putty or taping knife or 12-inch drywall taping knife. I prefer the 6-inch knife; there is less drag and resistance when scraping the textured popcorn ceiling material.
2. Dust mask and safety glasses.
3. A ladder.
4. Lots of plastic sheeting.
5. A spray bottle similar to those that hold cleaners or a larger, hand pumped garden sprayer.
Step 1: Prep Work:
1. Remove all furniture and personal belongings from the room
2. Cover walls and floor with plastic and tape to protect those surfaces

Step 2: Wet the Surface:
Using the garden sprayer (NOT a hose) or spray bottle wet the surface of the popcorn ceiling. Use several passes of lightly spritzing or wetting the surface. You don’t want to over-saturate the surface so that it damages the substrate or wallboard underneath. Allow 15-20 minutes to soak. The surface will turn a light, dull gray color

Step 3: Scrape:
After sufficient time has passed, start scraping. Be careful not to gouge the substrate material.
If you find the going tough, spray a little more water and wait a little longer, the material should scrape off fairly easily.
NOTE: If the popcorn ceiling had been previously painted, the job just got a lot tougher. You need to penetrate the paint coat so the texture material will absorb the water. One trick is to knock down the texture with the edge of a saw blade or scraper and then wet the surface.
When all the textured surface material has been removed, you are done. But, don’t be surprised if you will need to skim coat the surface with drywall compound to achieve that perfectly flat surface. Turn on a few fans and allow the room and surfaces to dry completely before skim coating or finishing with paint. I would roll up the plastic after all finish work has been completed.

Yes it sounds simple and generally it is, but it does take patience and a lot of elbow grease. If you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself, hire a professional. It is often worth the expense if you are considering selling your home in Lexington MA as it will immediately up date the look of your home.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

10 Spring Cleaning Tips

Spring in Lexington MA is the perfect time to update and rearrange your home so get busy cleaning. It is much more fun to decorate a clean house isn't it? Don't forget to have a yard sale or take donations to the thrift store.
Here are 10 great spring cleaning tips taken from My Blessed Life Blog.

1. Formulate A Plan & Set Reasonable Goals

Write down the areas of your home that you need to clean, come up with a plan and be sure to budget in time for distractions so you won’t get discouraged after just a few hours cleaning. In essence, create a reasonable plan of attack that has at least a 95% chance of being accomplished!

2. Evaluate Your Cleaning Supplies

There is nothing more frustrating than to start a project {or Spring cleaning} only to find that you’re out of supplies. I’m on a chemical reduction kick, so when we moved, I got rid of THREE boxes of chemically-laden cleaning supplies. White vinegar and baking soda are among my favorite household cleaning aids.

3. Involve Your Children

I loved having small tasks to accomplish when I was growing up. My Mom was really good at delegating age appropriate jobs for us. Ridley is three and he enjoys being my “g0-fer.” I’m also thankful that both sets of grandparents are close by, so I can send him to play with them, if I need to tackle a big project.

4. Tackle One Area At A Time

It’s exciting to get started cleaning and I sometimes tend to get distracted with various projects throughout the house. But, I’ve found that it’s incredibly helpful and sanity-saving to work on one area at a time. Inadvertently, piles of stuff will migrate to other rooms in your house, but those can be tackled when you get to them. One step at a time, yo!

5. De-clutter Before Cleaning

It is frustrating to be ready to dust an area only to realize that you have to move 15 knick-knacks, 10 pieces of junk mail, broken crayons and wadded up kleenexes before you can get started. Ask me how I know. Humph. Save yourself a headache and get rid of the garbage and extraneous clutter before cleaning!

6. Use Bins To Organize The “Get-Rid-Of” Stuff

Instead of just dividing up things into separate piles that will likely get knocked over or mixed up, use plastic bins to keep them organized. I like having a bin for garage sale items, items to donate, garbage and things that need to be returned to others. Are we the only family who has five different, un-matching forks in our silverware drawer? I think they reproduce while we sleep at night.

7. Open The Windows For Fresh Air

I love filling my lungs with fresh country air. I can do without the man-ur-e smell, but I love Spring air {minus the pollen, of course}. After being shut up inside for months, it is so refreshing to open the windows and have fresh air flowing through the house.

8. Clean Each Room From Top To Bottom

Let gravity make your job easier by working with it! Start at the ceiling by dusting the ceiling fan or light fixture then get all the “webbys” off the crown molding. Work your way down the walls, over the furniture, all the way to the baseboards and flooring.

9. Re-arrange Accessories For A New Look

I don’t know about you, but I like to change up my accessories a little bit for each season. I’m not talking about redecorating necessarily, but just freshening up things. Since it’s Spring, try switching out heavy, darker items out with lighter and brighter accessories!

10. Design A Daily Cleaning Schedule

After all your hard work is done and your house looks like a magazine cover {not really!}, make sure that you have a good cleaning schedule in place. Whether you need to make one from scratch or update the one you have, set small daily tasks that will help keep your house in order until next Spring…or until you decide to deep clean your house again!

Monday, March 19, 2012

9 Tax Mistakes to Avoid for Your Lexington Home!

For many of us, tax season is on our minds and April 15 seems to be quickly approaching! If you area a Lexington home owner for the first, you may be wondering about all that’s entailed with taxes for your new home. Or, for those of you who’ve enjoyed living in Lexington for some time; you will want to take a few moments to read on about getting the most from this years’ tax return and to prevent any of the common mistakes.

Owning a home in beautiful Lexington MA is a great experience and, as a Lexington Real Estate agent for a number of years, part of my goal is to help home owners get the most out of living in Lexington. With tax day looming you will want to review the following nine common mistakes, as pointed out by HouseLogic, that keep homeowners from getting their full refund or that may cause questions from the IRS.

Mistake #1: Deducting the wrong year for property taxes- You take a tax deduction for property taxes in the year you (or the holder of your escrow account) actually paid them. Some taxing authorities work a year behind—that is, you’re not billed for 2011 property taxes until 2012. But that’s irrelevant to the feds. Enter on your federal forms whatever amount you actually paid in 2011, no matter what the date is on your tax bill. Dave Hampton, CPA, tax manager at the Cincinnati accounting firm of Burke & Schindler, has seen home owners confuse payments for different years and claim the incorrect amount.

Mistake #2: Confusing escrow amount for actual taxes paid- If your lender escrows funds to pay your Lexington property taxes, don’t just deduct the amount escrowed, says Bob Meighan, CPA and vice president at TurboTax in San Diego. The regular amount you pay into your escrow account each month to cover property taxes is probably a little more or a little less than your property tax bill. Your lender will adjust the amount every year or so to realign the two.

Mistake #3: Deducting points paid to refinance- Deduct points you paid your lender to secure your mortgage in full for the year you bought your Lexington home. However, when you refinance, says Meighan, you must deduct points over the life of your new loan. If you paid $2,000 in points to refinance into a 15-year mortgage, your tax deduction is $133 per year.

Mistake #4: Failing to deduct private mortgage insurance- Lenders require home buyers with a down payment of less than 20% to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI). Avoid the common mistake of forgetting to deduct your PMI payments. However, note the deduction begins to phase out once your adjusted gross income reaches $100,000 and disappears entirely when your AGI surpasses $109,000.

Mistake #5: Misjudging the home office tax deduction- This deduction may not be as good as it seems. It often doesn’t amount to much of a deduction, has to be recaptured if you turn a profit when you sell your Lexington home, and can pique the IRS’s interest in your return. Hampton’s advice: Claim it only if it’s worth those drawbacks.

Mistake #6: Failing to track home-related expenses- If the IRS comes a-knockin’, don’t be scrambling to compile your records. Many people forget to track home office and home maintenance and repair expenses, says Meighan. File away documents as you go. For example, save each manufacturer's certification statement for energy tax credits, insurance company statements for PMI, and lender or government statements to confirm property taxes paid.

Mistake #7: Forgetting to keep track of capital gains- If you sold your main home last year, don’t forget to pay capital gains taxes on any profit. However, you can exclude $250,000 (or $500,000 if you’re a married couple) of any profits from taxes. So if you bought a home for $100,000 and sold it for $400,000, your capital gains are $300,000. If you’re single, you owe taxes on $50,000 of gains. However, there are minimum time limits for holding property to take advantage of the exclusions, and other details. Consult IRS Publication 523.

Mistake #8: Filing incorrectly for energy tax credits- If you made any eligible improvements, fill out Form 5695. Part I, which covers the 30%/$1,500 credit for such items as insulation and windows, is fairly straightforward. But Part II, which covers the 30%/no-limit items such as geothermal heat pumps, can be incredibly complex and involves crosschecking with half a dozen other IRS forms.

Mistake #9: Claiming too much for the mortgage interest tax deduction- You can deduct mortgage interest only up to $1 million of mortgage debt, says Meighan. If you have $1.2 million in mortgage debt, for example, deduct only the mortgage interest attributable to the first $1 million.

I hope that by seeing these common mistakes, you can avoid them! I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about living in Lexington, the Lexington Real Estate market or if you’re ready to begin searching for your next home!

Please feel free to contact me today to get started!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

10 Ways to Prepare for Home Ownership in Lexington MA

Buying a Home in Lexington MA can be very overwhelming but it doesn't have to be if you prepare properly. Below are 10 simple ways to get ready to become a home owner. If you want more information or are considering buying a home in Lexington, please give me a call.

  1. Decide what you can afford. Generally, you can afford a home equal in value to between two and three times your gross income.
  2. Develop your home wish list. Then, prioritize the features on your list.
  3. Select where you want to live. Compile a list of three or four neighborhoods you’d like to live in, taking into account items such as schools, recreational facilities, area expansion plans, and safety.
  4. Start saving. Do you have enough money saved to qualify for a mortgage and cover your down payment? Ideally, you should have 20 percent of the purchase price saved as a down payment. Also, don’t forget to factor in closing costs. Closing costs — including taxes, attorney’s fee, and transfer fees — average between 2 and 7 percent of the home price.
  5. Get your credit in order. Obtain a copy of your credit report to make sure it is accurate and to correct any errors immediately. A credit report provides a history of your credit, bad debts, and any late payments.
  6. Determine your mortgage qualifications. How large of mortgage do you qualify for? Also, explore different loan options — such as 30-year or 15-year fixed mortgages or ARMs — and decide what’s best for you.
  7. Get pre-approved. Organize all the documentation a lender will need to pre-approve you for a loan. You might need W-2 forms, copies of at least one pay stub, account numbers, and copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements.
  8. Weigh other sources of help with a down payment. Do you qualify for any special mortgage or down payment assistance programs? Check with your state and local government on down payment assistance programs for first-time buyers. Or, if you have an IRA account, you can use the money you've saved to buy your fist home without paying a penalty for early withdrawal.
  9. Calculate the costs of home ownership. This should include property taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities, and association fees, if applicable.
  10. Contact a REALTOR®. Find an experienced REALTOR® who can help guide you through the process. I am proud to say I am one!
Taken from Realtor Magazine

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lexington MA Recreation Spring and Summer Programs

The Lexington Recreation Department is where Lexington, MA residents can participate in year-round, unique, quality programs. Led by excellent, qualified instructors, these programs offer participants affordable opportunities for a wide variety of passive and active recreation. The goal of the Recreation Department is to provide recreational facilities and programs for Lexington residents. Please let us know about barriers that prevent participation. We are proud of our work with members of the community in creating exciting and successful programs. Please help us as we try to expand our ability to provide meaningful and accessible recreational opportunities for all. Your suggestions are welcomed.

Lexington Recreation Department