Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tips for Staying Cool in Lexington This Summer

With summer officially well under way in Lexington, we've put together a list of ways to keep your cool.

The little things
This set of ideas costs nothing to implement. Most are just a matter of thoughtful energy habits. Since none of these involve capital improvements, they're renter-friendly.

• Set your thermostat to 78. Go higher, if the humidity is low enough and you feel comfortable. Turning a thermostat down to cool a room quicker doesn't work, by the way — it makes the A/C run longer, not colder.
• Wear short-sleeved, loose clothing. You dress lightly to go out on a summer day. Do the same indoors. Absorbent, wickable cotton is the hot weather classic.
• Drink lots of water. This is good practice, anyway. Cold drinks lower your body's core temperature and cool you down quickly.
• Draw your drapes. Keeping your blinds, shades and curtains closed — particularly on the west side of the house — a practice that helps keeps heat from getting inside in the first place.
• Turn off unnecessary heat-producing devices. Incandescent light bulbs are a big heat generator. Shut down electronic gear when you're not using it.
• Use the microwave. Conventional cooking dumps heat in the house, but microwaves cook the food directly.
• Wash and dry clothes when the day is cool. Do laundry early in the day and late at night. Don't forget clotheslines: they generate no heat in the house.
• Skip your dishwasher's dry cycle. Rack your dishes and let them air dry instead.
• Open the bathroom window when showering. Vent heat and humidity outside, rather than back into the house. Obviously, you don't want to put on a show for the neighbors. If you have privacy concerns, open up the window after dressing. Keep the bathroom door closed.
• Run your air conditioner fan on low. This is particularly helpful in areas with high summer humidity. The low air volume helps your A/C dehumidify.
• Keep heat-producers away from your thermostat. Don't allow a closely located TV or water heater to convince your thermostat that it's hotter than it really is.
• Check your refrigerator settings. The fridge takes heat out of your food and transfers it to your kitchen, so be sure you're running it efficiently. The refrigerator works best when set between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the freezer around 5 degrees.
• Turn off your furnace pilot light. You can always re-light it next autumn.
• Close the fireplace damper. Don't send cool air up the chimney. If your fireplace has a glass door, shut it.

Small projects
These are all relatively inexpensive things you can do to keep your cooling costs and summertime energy use down. Most will pay off in savings from season to season.

• Install ceiling fans. If you're a mammal, you're surrounded by a small envelope of body heat. Fans move this heat away from you and provide evaporative cooling as you sweat. If you choose fans with lights, look for the kind with dedicated (pin-type) CFLs. It's also smart to have a few portable fans you can move around the house.
• Replace your air-conditioning filters. Clean filters in window units. You should do this every month, so keep a stock of filters on hand.
• Buy a dehumidifier. EnergyStar says a 40-pint unit will save up to $20 a year and last up to a decade. Moderating your home's humidity — in addition to making you feel cooler — will reduce musty smells and the growth of harmful molds.
• Shade your air conditioner. If your A/C is in full sun, it's working harder than it needs to. Don't obstruct the air flow.
• Have your air conditioner serviced. Coolant levels should be checked every year. A professional also will clean and lubricate the system. Without annual service, your air conditioner will lose about 5 percent efficiency each year — more if the coolant is low. Use Puron or some other non-CFC coolant, rather than environmentally harmful Freon.
• Check your weather stripping. Caulk leaky window frames, while you're at it. This also will suppress drafts in the winter. If you have a window-mounted air conditioner, be sure the accordion seal is tight. Add rubber gaskets to wall and light switches to make sure the wall is sealed.
• Insulate interior hot water pipes. There's no point in heating your room air along with the water. If it's indoors, wrap your electric hot water heater with an approved insulator. Gas heaters should be insulated by professionals.

The big stuff
Here are some big-ticket items appropriate for homeowners committed to long-term energy savings. The more you do, the more you save!

• Upgrade your attic insulation. Most experts recommend 10-17 inches of R38. You have a lot of options in this area, so it pays to consult with a professional.
• Improve attic ventilation. It can get up to 140 degrees in your attic during the summer. Adding an electric fan or wind turbines will move some of this unwanted heat away from your living space.
• Plant deciduous trees on the west side of your home. You're looking for fast-growing shade trees to keep the hottest part of your house cool during the summer months. They'll lose their leaves each autumn, letting sunshine through once it turns cool. Opt for lightweight trees in areas prone to hurricanes and winter ice storms.
• Replace gas appliances with efficient electric units. Pilot lights contribute to indoor heating, and electric prices are generally more stable than natural gas.
• Replace older windows with new, energy-efficient units. The U.S. Department of Energy says this is the best bet for improving year-round home energy efficiency. Modern units feature advanced coatings to keep cooling and heat where you want it. If you're on a tight budget, consider interior or exterior storm windows to beef-up your current installation.
• Upgrade older air conditioners. Another expensive item, but cooling can account for half of your summer energy bill. You're looking for a unit with a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration (SEER) of 13 or more. The best deals are obviously found off-season, but this is one investment that will immediately return savings.

Hope these tips help keep you and your Lexington home cool this summer.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What Do You Do If You Get Behind on Mortgage Payments?

When times are tough, we often have to think about where to cut back. If you are in the uncomfortable position of needing to select which bills to prioritize, you might wonder what happens if you skip your mortgage payment for just one month.
The consequences vary depending on how late you are. If you are simply a little late, perhaps a week or two, your credit will not be affected, as long as your lender gets your payment before the 30-day mark. If your payment is due on the 1st and you pay it after the 15th, you will need to pay a penalty, but the credit bureaus will not be informed.
If you are more than 30 days late, it’s important to talk to your lender. If you miss a payment or are more than 30 days late, your credit score may be impacted. Be honest with your lender about the situation and whether it was a temporary lapse or you are experiencing financial trouble that could lead to more missed payments. Life changes such as job loss or divorce can leave home owners overextended. Be sure to keep notes of your conversation with your lender and note down when you called.
Once you are facing mortgage trouble, you have a few different options, including deciding to put the home on the market. If you have enough equity in your home, you may be able to refinance to obtain a lower monthly payment. Another option is a home equity loan or HELOC (home-equity line of credit), but this may make the home harder to sell. For these options, you can’t wait until you have missed a payment.
If you decide to sell but want to avoid foreclosure, the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program may be able to help. HAFA provides two options for transitioning out of your mortgage: a short sale or a Deed-in-Lieu (DIL) of foreclosure. In a short sale, the mortgage company lets you sell your house for an amount that falls “short” of the amount you still owe. In a DIL, the mortgage company lets you give the title back, transferring ownership back to it. HAFA provides free advice from HUD-approved housing counselors and licensed real estate professionals. A HAFA short sale completely releases you from your mortgage debt after selling the property. This means you will no longer be responsible for the amount that falls “short” of the amount you still owe. HAFA has a less negative effect on your credit score than foreclosure or conventional short sales. Your lender can advise you about your eligibility for this program.
You may also attempt a loan modification. A loan modification changes the terms of your existing mortgage and can include lowering the interest rate, reducing the principal amount or extending the amortization period. Loan modifications are generally done only if the home owner can prove a hardship such as job loss, divorce, illness, relocation or other life-changing event. The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) may help lower your payments through a variety of programs with different eligibility requirements. If you are unemployed, the Home Affordable Unemployment Program (UP) may reduce your mortgage payments to 31 percent of your income or suspend them altogether for 12 months or more.
Although it can be tempting to just hope things will work themselves out, it’s vital to face the situation head on. By connecting with your lender early, you can resolve problems so that you get the outcome you desire and you can preserve your credit score and be better prepared for your future.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Lexington Nonprofit Provides Military Care Packages

Every month the Adley family meets at St. Bridget’s Church and packages bubblegum, beef jerky, newspapers, and hand wipes. These are just a few of the items that will make the 6,555-mile trip to Afghanistan, where appreciative servicemen and women will open their care packages.

The idea for the group FLAGS, which stands for Families of Lexington Are Grateful for their Service, began six years ago when the Adley family visited family friend Colonel Robert McLaughlin at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

"We were just so appreciative of the service that Bob and other members of the military were contributing. So in the days after we just kept thinking of ways we could give back," said 21-year-old Myles, the eldest of the Adley children and co-founder of FLAGS.

Since 2009, the Adley children have found out what military personnel needed while serving abroad, then learned the base addresses and sent the packages via the United States Postal Service. In the four years since FLAGS began, the Adley’s have sent more than 1,000 packages and said the feedback from both the recipients and the Lexington community has been tremendous.

Organizations around the community such as The Knights of Columbus, The Girl Scouts and Lexington Public Schools have found ways to contribute, whether it is through donations

Letters from the military consistently fill FLAG's post office box, as do pictures of the troops holding items from the care packages. On Sunday, Colo. McLaughlin presented the Adley family with an award on behalf of Major General Kenneth R. Dahl of the U.S. Army.

"It’s touching to know they start this because of their trip to Camp Lejeune," said McLaughlin, a Lexington native. "Military members don’t ask for anything, but when they receive something from people in the states it’s very much appreciative."

This wasn’t the first time the Adley’s were thanked personally for their efforts. Mary Ann Whalen received FLAGS care packages for months and decided to show her appreciation when she came to visit Lexington.

"Not only did she send a hard written letter, but she presented us with a framed flag that flew above one of the bases in Afghanistan," said FLAGS co-founder, 19-year-old Sheridan Adley.

Learning the trade

Like most startup nonprofits, research and learning through experience are all part of making an organization operate efficiently. For instance, learning the correct codes for each base was essential so the packages wouldn’t be returned in the mail. Finding out the ins and outs of the post office was something they eventually figure out over time.

"The people at the post office know us by name now, but we found out never to show up first thing in the morning with 60 boxes, traveling halfway around the world," said Sheridan who studies at UMASS Lowell. "Once we sat down and talked with them, they opened the post office early for us so we could get in before heavy traffic."

Then there was learning about the troops. Finding out what military members needed from abroad gave the Adley’s a true glimpse into every day life of abroad. While going out on long patrols, servicemen and women requested bubblegum so their mouths wouldn’t dry up. Beef jerky, which never spoils, is a popular item in many of the packages.

"It’s the things that we really take for granted over here that they appreciate the most over there," said 19-year-old and co-founder Keaghan Adley. "For us, we can walk around to the corner store. They don’t have that luxury."

"Anything is appreciated but I really liked the Crystal Lights [flavorings] for my battled waters," McLaughlin said with a laugh while describing his ideal care package.

Paying their tribute

The support of the community has become a large part of FLAGS survival.

The Adley family alone could not support the costs associated with sending packages to Afghanistan, but companies such as Cubist have helped with mailing, while Lexington High School has donation boxes for the care packages

"They believe in the service of American’s sons and daughters. It’s nice to see especially from our hometown,’ Col. McLaughlin said.

While people might associate war with politics, the Adley’s said the effort to support the military should not be decided based on partisan preference.

"Even if you don’t agree with why they are over there, they are over there for us," said Sheridan.

"The least we can do is proved them with a little bit of home," added Myles.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Outdoor Kitchen Ideas For Your Lexington Home

Giant fireplaces flanked by leather chairs, 35-foot counters, mosquito misters and outdoor air-cooling systems that rival the chilliest movie theater: Mike Logan 's clients have included "everything under the sun" in their upscale outdoor kitchen designs. But the builder says there are still plenty of possibilities for people with more modest budgets like your Lexington Home.
"You can get as basic as you want as long as you follow a few rules as you try to save money," says Mike, owner of Texas Pit Crafters in Tomball, Texas. "First, never build an outdoor island from combustible materials, including plywood countertops covered with tile. Second, when you're laying out your design, factor in some usable counter space no matter how small your outdoor space will be. You can't have grills and sinks butting up against each other with nowhere for you to work."
Third, says Mike, if your outdoor kitchen will be any significant distance from the indoor kitchen, allow at least a small budget for adequate storage space for frequently used items like grill brushes, forks, spices and paper towels. "You don't want to spend the whole time running back and forth," he says.
After you attend to those basics, there are plenty of areas to tackle for savings.
Pick Propane
"Running gas lines, electricity and water to an outdoor island is fairly expensive," says Mike. "If you're on a tight budget, you might want to consider using propane bottles to fuel your grill."
Buy a Hardy Grill
It's counterintuitive, but you have a better chance of sticking to a budget if you sink money into a high-quality grill. "I can't tell you how many times customers end up calling us back a year later to replace a low-quality grill," says Burt Stavinoha of Kooda Exteriors, an outdoor kitchen retailer and contractor in Garland, Texas. "They're going to burn out on you."
Mike strongly recommends a grill made from high-grade stainless steel. "Look for a model made from at least 304-grade stainless steel, interior and exterior, because if the inside rusts out there's nothing you can do to save the rest," he says. His favorite options include grills manufactured by his own company, Texas Pit Crafters, and also Fire Magic, Tec and some Viking models.
Try a Prefab Brick Oven
Even the quintessential luxury centerpiece for an outdoor kitchen, the brick oven, can cost less if you choose carefully. "The easiest and fastest way to build a wood-fired oven is to build a small foundation, three masonry walls and a support shelf and then install a good quality pre-fabricated oven kit," says Sergio de Paula, president of Fogazzo Wood Fired Ovens and Barbecues. "Then surround the oven with masonry, and add a chimney system and a simple roof."
According to Sergio, even the average do-it-yourselfer can finish an oven in about a week and professional masons or contractors can do it in just a few days using a prefabricated oven kit. However, having an oven built brick by brick can easily cost several times more. "That can take a do-it yourselfer up to one year and a professional mason several weeks," Sergio says. "Another factor to consider is that, brick by brick, ovens are typically larger than pre-cast oven kits and therefore need more wood to reach cooking temperatures, which makes them cost more to operate than the prefabricated models."
"One affordable option for bar-height seating is directors' chairs with slings that come off so you can throw them in the wash," says Linda Moran, owner of the Hill Company in Philadelphia, which carries residential and commercial outdoor furniture. "Since they're not super-durable in bad weather, you will want to bring them in for the winter or if you're going to have storms for several days; but that's not a problem since they fold up and you can just slip them under a counter or in a closet." One manufacturer she really likes is Telescope. "They've been in business 105 years and their directors' chairs are a sharp-looking option for counter stools."
As for a table and chairs, Linda recommends affordable wrought iron, but only if it's high quality like the models made by Meadowcraft. "Six chairs and a table should only run you about $800, but look for wrought iron with a good undercoat and a good powder coating, just like a car," she says. "That's not going to rust on you later."
Another option is aluminum dining sets. Just make sure to examine the pieces for superior welding and buy the heavyweight stuff.
If you're looking at seat cushions, the ones that last the longest and look the best are made from 100 percent acrylic, solution-dyed fabric. "They're the best buy for the money because they're mildew- and water-resistant and will last three or four times longer than canvas or other washable cushions," says Linda. "If they do get dirty, you can scrub them with a little bleach and hose them down and they'll look as good as new."
To save money in the long term, remember that outdoor furniture needs care and replacement parts. "Look for a 15-year warranty on metal furniture and buy from a good outdoor furniture store, not a 'big box' place," says Linda. "That way you can get the pieces repaired or replace the slings or strapping instead of having to buy all-new furniture every time something breaks."
Whether an awning, arbor, gazebo or standard roof, cover for an outdoor kitchen can be one of your greatest expenses. If you can get by covering only your counter space or dining area, consider doing that with an umbrella, at least until your budget allows for something more elaborate, says Linda. "There are cantilevered umbrellas available from companies like Treasure Garden in many patterns and price ranges that attach to the side of a counter or table surface, not a hole in the middle," she says. "Consider an umbrella with a cover that comes off so you can throw it in the wash and put it back on damp, which will take care of bird droppings and other dirt."
Sink the Sink
Building codes and plumbing costs can make a sink one of the most expensive outdoor kitchen propositions. Mike Logan of Texas Pit Crafters does install them, but he says more and more of his clients are opting for under-counter water heaters. "They run about $300 and take away the need to plumb hot water from the house," he says.
Plan for a More Luxurious Future
"Customers on a strict budget typically concentrate on getting the deck or arbor built first," says Kooda Exterior's Burt Stavinoha. "But even if you can't afford anything else right away, have the forethought to beef up the flooring slab where you might later put an island, or pour the foundation for a future fireplace when you pour the concrete for the deck. Also run the electricity and the gas for anything you might want down the road at the beginning. It's a big expense to rip up floors or walls to install that later."
Grills on rolling carts are another nice way to plan for an upgrade later, says Mike of Texas Pit Crafters. "Most grills and smokers can be installed with a grill on a rolling cart with an adequate number of side trays and some storage beneath and then removed later and reinstalled into a pit if your budget increases," he says. "The cart's a great idea if you want the feel of an outdoor kitchen on a tight budget."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Home Inspection Tips to Remember When Buying a Lexington Home!

As an experienced Lexington real estate agent, I can attest to the fantastic attributes that this community offers home buyers of all types. A family-friendly town steeped in American history, buying a Lexington home is an excellent choice for those seeking a safe, friendly community. Offering an excellent public school system and a variety of parks, monuments and bike paths, Lexington’s town center features a diverse range of restaurants, shops and art galleries. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder that the Lexington real estate market is booming! Buying a Lexington home can be an exciting but nerve-wracking process – Use my years of real estate experience and local expertise to ensure a seamless home buying experience from the initial search through closing. 

Perhaps one of the most uneasy aspects of home buying is the home inspection. You’ve fallen in love with one of the many beautifully maintained homes on the Lexington real estate market and you’re already picturing a life there. Many buyers fear the home inspection due to unforeseen issues that can arise with their dream property, but it is a necessary part of the process. Here are a few helpful home inspection tips to keep in mind when looking to buy a home in Lexington:

1.       Make Sure Your Inspector is Reputable. As with your real estate agent, you’ll want an inspector that is experienced and well-versed in their area of professional expertise. A good home inspector will offer references and have examples of inspection reports from previous jobs to show you. Ask friends, family and co-workers if they have a recommendation. You can also contact the National Association of Home Inspectors or the American Society of Home Inspectors for a local professional in the area.  

2.       Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions. Buying a home is a large, important decision and you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions throughout the inspection process. Asking what, where, how, why and how much are essential to understanding your new home, budgeting for upgrades or improvements that may be necessary and deciding what to ask the sellers to fix before your closing date.

3.       Leave No Area of the House Uninspected. Your home inspector should diligently examine every aspect of the house, from top to bottom and inside to outside. That means that they will check the foundation, siding, roof, decks, balconies, attics, basements, flashing, soffits, chimneys, fencing, the HVAC system, the electrical system, the hot water heater and more. Your home inspector will also check for obvious signs of mold, water and insect damage. While it can seem like a lot to take in at once, the benefit of a home inspection is that buyers will know exactly what they’re purchasing before the closing date. 

Should you have any questions about buying or selling a Lexington home, please contact me. I work with homeowners and home buyers throughout the Lexington real estate market and I look forward to using my professional experience and industry expertise to help you with your unique real estate needs. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lexington Annual 4th of July Carnival

The Carnival in Hastings Park will be open the following days and times (subject to final approval by the town)

TUESDAY, JULY 2           6:00 PM to 11:00 PM
WEDNESDAY, JULY 3    6:00 PM to 11:00 PM    
THURSDAY, JULY 4        1:00 PM to 11:00 PM 
FRIDAY, JULY 5               6:00 PM to 11:00 PM
SATURDAY, JULY 6        1:00 PM to 11:00 PM

Fireworks Wednesday July 3rd, after dusk     
Youth Games             10:00 AM July 4th
Money Saving Ride Discounts - "Pay one price wrist band" on Select days and times.  (Coupons will also be available in our local newspapers)


Hosted by the Lexington Lions Club

For more information about the Lexington 4th of July Carnival please visit: