Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Have You Taken The Survey Yet?

The Lexington 2020 Vision  Committee town-wide survey is continuing to receive responses online. Alternative printed survey forms are available at the Council on Aging offices, Cary Memorial Library
and the Town Office Building. The deadline for both means of responding to the survey has been extended until March 6, 2013.

The Board of Selectmen, the School Committee, and the Planning Board expect to use information from this survey to help them better understand community perspectives. The 20/20 Vision Committee will identify areas deserving further review and encourages all Lexington residents to participate.  Broad citizen input will help assure a shared community vision for Lexington’s future.

The Lexington 2020 Vision process:
  • Promotes broad community participation;
  • Provides a framework for thinking about Lexington's future;
  • Seeks ongoing community input on the goals originally developed in 2001; and
  • Invites community groups and organizations, committees and boards, businesses, and individuals to take ownership for bringing these goals to fruition by the year 2020.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Climate Change: How Can We Make a Difference in Lexington?
Thriving in the Face of Challenging Weather

WHEN: Tuesday February 26, 2013
TIME: 6:45 PM until 9:00 PM
WHERE: Keilty Hall, St. Brigid’s Church, 2001 Massachusetts Avenue

Where are you in the climate change conversation? Come join the Lexington League of Women Voters at our second annual Community Conversation, where we will explore Lexington’s readiness to adapt to the challenges of a changing climate. Join neighbors, town staff and local business owners to learn how other towns are preparing for potential problems and share your thoughts about this issue. Deborah Brown, the Lexington Town Moderator, will be the facilitator for the evening. The goal of the evening discussions is to produce a realistic set of next steps to help the town better prepare for climate change. This could include, among other things, town-wide education programs and activities, a capital project, proposed zoning and/or by-law changes.

The planning committee for this second annual Community Conversation includes members of the following Lexington groups: the League of Women Voters; the Global Warming Action Committee; Citizens for Lexington Conservation; Sustainable Lexington; LexFarm; the Planning Board, and the Town Manager’s office.
All are welcome. Pre-registration is not required. For more information please visit

Monday, February 18, 2013

4 Tips to Prepare for Buying a Lexington Home!

If you’re considering buying a Lexington home this year, now is a great time to begin the home buying process!  While the past few years have leaned heavily in favor of buyers, 2013 is continually showing signs of real estate recovery and home prices are on the rise.

According to a report from Trulia’s Housing Barometer, existing home sales showed a rise in November 2012 of 6% and many cities across the nation are seeing an increase in the double digits.  NAR Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun, noted that the rise in home prices is due to the increase in jobs available and rising rent costs.

Not only are rising home prices reason enough to begin your Lexington home search, but the currently low mortgage rates will not stay this low forever.  Economists are also wondering about the issue of supply and demand.  If there aren’t enough sellers coming to the market, bidding wars will ensue between buyers.

So, what can you do to prepare now to buy a Lexington home?  Here are a few things you’ll want to start doing now in order to jump into the market once you find the home of your dreams in Lexington.

1. Saving & Paying off Debt- This seems like a very basic point, but a very essential one.  The days of “no money down mortgages” are gone and most lenders require at 5% down.  You will also make sure that you have additional money for things like closing costs, as well as money in the bank when all is said and done.  Lenders are becoming more strict and want to know you can back up the purchase of a home.  You’ll want to be sure to have as little debt as possible since lenders will take this into consideration as well. 

2. Building Good Credit- Credit scores are moving to the forefront of being approved for a home loan.  Most lenders are expecting a credit score of 600+ even for FHA loans.  A good credit score will not only help you qualify for a home loan, but can lower your interest rate, which can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

3. Creating a Home-Buying Budget- If you’ve taken the time to create a home-buying budget chances are you’re serious about buying a home and want to go about it in the best way possible. It’s imperative to establish your budget prior to talking with lenders.  Just because you are approved for a certain amount on the loan, does not mean that’s what you can actually afford.  Lenders don’t take your extended finances into consideration, but will look at your income.  Be sure to stick within your budget to avoid foreclosure and heartache in the future. 

4. Researching Mortgage Options- It’s important to research which type of mortgage is best for your financial situation.  Getting a fixed or adjustable-rate mortgage will depend a lot of your long term goals.  Your Lexington Real Estate agent will also be able to help you determine which option is better for you and can walk you through the pros and cons of both.

5. Getting Pre-Approved for a Mortgage- Getting pre-approved before you meet with a lender can save you time and will be a good indicator of any financial issues that need to be addressed.  Things such as credit or income problems are items you want to take care of before trying to get approved for a home loan. Sellers will also take you more seriously if you have your financials in order.  

If you’re ready to get started in your Lexington home search, or have further questions about the Lexington Real Estate market; please contact me today!

I look forward to helping you find your next home!

Theresa D'Antuono
Visit our Lexington MA Resources Facebook Page for Updates and Events

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

7 Step to Avoid DIY Disaster in Your Lexington Home

Some of us figure out our talents early in life; others take longer. But for the majority of us, those talents have nothing whatsoever to do with the construction sciences, so to speak. Nonetheless, tight budgets and hours of home improvement television watching, shelter magazine perusing and Pinterest board-fixating have stirred up the jones to do-it-yourself in many a homeowner.The widespread perceptions that contractors charge exorbitant amounts and are difficult to manage have only increased the sense that doing home improvement projects ourselves seem like the way to go.

The fact is, there are many home project that are fun and smart for a home owner to try their hand at. But DIY project veterans (myself included) can attest: DIY is by no means the no-brainer way to get every type of home project checked off your to-do list. In fact, a bad project can turn your experience of your home from an exciting project to a mortifying money-pit in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, whether your home improvement project goes swimmingly or scarily is well within your control from the very beginning - and hinges largely on making the right decision for a given project about whether to hire a contractor or go it on your own.

Here are seven questions to ask yourself as part of that decision-making process, in order to avoid a DIY disaster:

1.  What's the project?  Define the project, in writing, as completely as possible. This will equip you from the very start to outsource some or all of a project that is beyond your skill set, rather than running to a contractor in a panic in the middle of a project (when you’d certainly be charged a panic premium price). Depending on your aptitude level and the time you have, what seems at first glance to be a highly DIY-able room refresh with paint and new wood floors can snowball beyond the realm of reasonable DIY-dom if you add in a lighting or plumbing project.

To do this, sit with your project, your magazines or your Pinboards for a few days, weeks or even months, keeping a running list of the things you want included in your project as you live in your house and your desired post-project lifestyle changes come to mind.

2.  Does it require permits?  Generally speaking, electrical, plumbing, major renovations, erecting new walls and structures and adding square footage are all projects highly likely to require permits. Hint: if you use the word “gut” when describing what you’re planning to your friends and relatives, chances are good you’ll need a permit. If you’re not sure, a quick website visit or phone call to your City’s Building Services or Building Permits Division should clear things up.

Building code requirements can be exceedingly arcane, and the process of applying for and obtaining permits if you’re not well versed in them can be tedious, stressful and time-consuming. It can also be full of unsuspected pitfalls, like doing one home improvement that triggers a City requirement to add a slew of new outlets or a new sewer line.

Call the city and/or talk to a couple of licensed contractors as soon as you’ve fully defined your project - but before you’ve started any work - and get a good sense for whether it will require permits to stay in good graces with the City.

Cities are required to grant permits to homeowners, but the more complicated the permitting process gets for a given project, the more sensible it becomes to have a professional contractor or at least a professional permit expediter involved to avoid running afoul of the city, incurring penalties for unpermitted work and to maximize your
ability to get an increased resale value for your home as a result of the upgrades.

3.  Are there health and safety issues?  I’m a big believer that high decks (i.e., decks, balconies and similar structures that are tall enough that a collapse would cause injuries to those standing on it), additions and gas/electrical work are things home owners should rarely do on their own. Now, I’m not saying you can’t install track lights or change a light switch to a dimmer. Rather, I’m cautioning that that if you’re doing work in these categories beyond that level, calling a contractor can avoid a disastrous outcome.

4.  What are the relative hard costs? “ANYONE can paint a room,” I’ve heard time and time again. I’ve done it, so I know this to be true. But I also know that from the first time I got actual paint bids from my trusty neighborhood handyman, I have never painted a room since! In my humble opinion, the money I’ve spent was well worth the time and other resources I saved (see #5, below), and I’m certain they’ve done a better job than I could or would have. Just because you can do a project DIY, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the smart thing to do. It also doesn't mean that the hard, financial costs of doing it yourself are necessarily much cheaper than hiring a professional.

Don’t automatically assume that doing a job yourself is the cheap route to go, or that it will save you scads of cash. Until you’ve actually gotten 3 bids from reputable contractors or vendors, based on the full scope of the job, and have compared that with the cash you’d spend to DIY, you cannot know for certain which is the less expensive way to go. They might qualify for bulk discounts on materials that you can’t get, and you might have to rent a truck, equipment or tools that they already own. In any event, calling contractors out can be educational in terms of understanding every element of the job and troubleshooting things you might not otherwise have anticipated.  

So, unless you’re uber-handy and just love to do projects, or know for certain the project will be uber-cheap for you to do, I’d strongly urge you to get a few pros to come out and give you real bids for what it would cost (including supplies, labor, any subcontracting, permits - soup-to-nuts), and compare that to your own DIY cost estimate.  (Hint: I’d also encourage you to add a little buffer on the top of all the estimates - theirs and yours - for unforeseen costs that might arise.)

5.  What are the relative soft costs? Cash is just the beginning of the resources required to get a home improvement project done. They also take time - which some might see as opportunity costs. Ask yourself the question: what could I do with the time I’ll have to spend on this project?  

There are also the energetic and emotional resources involved.  Some people simply have sharp mechanical and logistical aptitudes, have the spare time and love to use it bettering their homes and have infinite patience for figuring out workarounds when the project doesn’t go as planned.  And then there are people like me! So, if you’re like me, you should definitely account for that when you’re deciding whether to do-it-yourself or whether to hire your home improvement projects out.

6.  Is it really DIY-able? Remember, the ‘Y’ in DIY stands for YOURself.  The decision whether to DIY or call a contractor in for a job is not based on whether your Dad, your neighbor down the street or Bob Vila made a similar project look simple. Rather, it needs to be made based on your own, personal:

  • skill and experience level
  • aptitude for whatever sort of work you’re completing
  • patience level
  • frustrate-ability
  • spare time available for the job, etc.

If you're not excited about the prospect of doing the project, and you can afford to have someone else do it, don't let the wanna-be handypeople in your life talk you into biting off more than you can chew.

7. What could go wrong?  If your project is uber-simple, like replacing a toilet or painting a wall, there are a limited number of worst-case scenarios which might be annoying and inconvenient, but are far from the end of the world. The kitty-cat wallpaper might be harder to get off than you thought - that sort of thing. But as the project grows larger in scope or more complex, the more potentially disastrous your worst-case scenarios are - and the more costly calling someone in to fix a DIY-gone-wrong will be.

Generally speaking, I’m not one to advocate worst-case scenario thinking. But when it comes to home improvement projects, the many moving pieces and relative inexperience of the average home owner suggest that an abundance of caution is just plain old smart. If your project’s DIY worst-case scenarios conjure up visions of bodily harm to your family members, buckets catching the rain or virtually anything caving in think long and hard before you take it on yourself, versus calling in a pro.

Article by Trulia

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Is Insulation Upgrade a Good Investment?

We often talk about the importance of energy upgrades for your Lexington home. But if you're thinking about an upgrade this winter, such as adding more insulation to your attic, you may be wondering exactly how to calculate whether that's a wise financial investment.

There are a variety of formulas available for making this calculation, such as the one from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).|

It's not a terribly difficult formula to use, and I've modified it here to make it a little more understandable.

You'll need to do a little research to track down some basic information to fill in the blanks, all of which you can get off the Internet or with a couple of phone calls. Then it's just a couple of minutes with a tablet and a calculator.

Incidentally, this formula also works for upgrades to wall insulation.
The formula and definitions
The DOE's formula is as follows: (Ci x R1 x R2 x E) ÷ (Ce x [R2 - R1] x HDD x 24)
OK now, don't let your eyes glaze over, or have terrifying flashbacks to high school algebra class. Here's what all those variables stand for:

·        Ci: This is the cost of the insulation you're considering, in dollars per square foot. If you're doing the work yourself, it's the cost of the materials, supplies and any rental equipment you need. If you're having the work done, it's the estimated cost from the contractor.
R1: This is the R-value of the insulation you currently have in the attic.

·        R2: This is the R-value you want to upgrade to.

·        E: Efficiency rating of your heating system. How well your heating system heats your home plays a major role in how much you're going to save with an insulation upgrade; the less efficient your heating system is, the more energy dollars the additional insulation will save you each year. You may know the specific energy efficiency rating of your particular heating system, or you may be able to get it from your utility company or HVAC contractor. If not, the DOE offers the following general suggestions: oil and propane furnaces, 0.6 to 0.88; natural gas furnaces, 0.7 to 0.95; electric, 1.0; heat pump 2.1 to 2.5.

·        Ce: This is what you're paying for the energy you use, converted to dollars per British thermal unit (Btu). To arrive at this number, you'll need to divide the actual price you pay for the fuel you use (electricity, gas, etc.) by the Btu content of that fuel. You can find the price you're paying on your utility bill or by calling your utility company.

The Btu content of various fuels is as follows:
No. 2 fuel oil = 140,000 Btu/gallon
Electricity = 3,413 Btu/kilowatt-hour
Propane = 91,600 Btu/gallon
Natural gas = 103,000 Btu/cubic feet or 100,000 Btu/therm

·        HDD: This stands for heating degree days, which is a standard method for determining how cold a specific geographic location is, and how much demand there will be for heating. It's determined by the statistical average of the number of degrees that a day's temperature falls below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which is considered the temperature at which a building needs to be heated. The higher the number of heating degree days in an area, the more demand there is for heat, so the greater the savings will be from an insulation upgrade. You can get your area's HDD number from your utility company or off the Internet.

·        24: Hours in a day, used in this formula to convert HDD from days to hours.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Citizens for Lexington Conservation Outing

Event: Tracks and Signs of Animals at Parker Meadow
When: Thursday, February 7th
Time: 2:00-3:00

Join us to explore footprints, food stashes, and other signs that critters leave behind in the winter snow.  Who is prowling around Parker Meadow this time of year, and what have they been up to?  We will learn the basics of looking at tracks and explore a beautiful conservation area on a winter day.

This event is geared to elementary school children and their parents; children must be accompanied by an adult.  Dress warmly!! If there is no snow on the ground, the event will be cancelled.

Meet at the Revere St. entrance to Parker Meadow. Limited parking is there; additional parking is available on neighborhood streets across Revere St.

Maps of conservation lands can be found at

Contact: Walk Leader: Emily Schadler    781-862-0500 X 240