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Bostons Holiday Tree Lightings

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The holiday look will officially be upon us starting December 1 with the lighting of the white lights along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. The lighting season begins in earnest however, with celebrations in Copley Square on December 2, and on the Common on December 4. All information courtesy of the Boston Discovery Guide (http://www.boston-discovery-guide.com/):

Copley Square Tree Lighting - Tuesday, December 2, 5:00pm-6:00pm - Wreaths with red bows decorate the square and the Old South Church bell tolls when the lights go on - look for appearances by Santa, the Boston Pops, and Rudolph! The Boston Public Library and Catered Affair host a story time and candy cane tea at the Fairmont Copley Plaza from 3:30-5pm (tea is free but you must make reservations - call 617-859-2282). More family fun begins at about 4:30pm with Jugglers, stilt walkers, and holiday music provided by Magic 106.7.

Boston Common Holiday Tree Lighting - Thursday, December 4, 2014 from 4pm-8pm (lights go on at about 7:55pm), with games, prizes, and more at the Frog Pond Skating Rink. This exciting event takes place near the Visitors Information Center on Tremont St and stars the special tree sent as a gift from Nova Scotia and 80+ other lighted trees throughout the Common and Boston Garden. When the Mayor turns on the lights, the Boston holiday season officially begins!

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Nationally, Home Flipping Drops to Five-Year Low in Q3...what about Boston?

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If you are anything like me you find yourself from time to time channel surfing and stopping on one of the seemingly, endless house flipping shows on HGTV or similar networks. Having flipped houses myself, I find these shows interesting. One thing that many of the shows have in common seems to be good contractors. This is a huge area of exposure in any flip, unless you happen to be an accomplished (and licensed) jack of all-trades. There is nothing worse than showing up at your flip and seeing that your contractor has packed up his tools and is on to the next job, before finishing your job. So for those of you inspired by all the success stories on HGTV, I would strongly recommend having a contractor that you have worked with before dipping your toes in and buying that fixer-upper. Assuming you have that contractor lined up and ready, how easy is it to find a potential flip? A few years back, opportunity seemed to be everywhere. Now, as the economy has improved, it seems that the Boston market is diverging from the much of the rest of the country. A recent article by DS News (see below) examined the market for flipping throughout the US, which confirmed that overall there is less flipping going on, but Boston is one of the top five cities with a 40% increase in flips, year-over-year.

This is interesting because foreclosures, (traditionally a good front-end source for flips), have dropped in the same period. Our own experience indicates that while there may be more flips in the Boston market, it is really being driven by the escalating prices and appreciation on the back end, as opposed to an abundance of inventory on the front end of the transaction.

Home Flipping Drops to Five-Year Low in Q3

Posted By Brian Honea On November 19, 2014 @ 11:31 pm In Daily Dose,Featured,Market Studies,News

Home flipping sales declined nationwide both quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year, hitting their lowest level since the second quarter of 2009, according to RealtyTrac's Q3 2014 U.S. Home Flipping Report released today. The number of home flipping sales, or those in which a home is purchased and sold within 12 months, represented 4 percent of all single-family home sales in the U.S. in the third quarter, down from 4.6 percent from Q2 2014 and from 5.6 percent in the third quarter of 2013, according to RealtyTrac. The average gross return on investment for flipped homes in Q3 was 36 percent, a slight increase from 35 percent in Q2 but a slight decline from 37 percent from the same quarter last year, according to RealtyTrac. The average gross profit per home flipped for investors was $75,990 in the third quarter, RealtyTrac reported.

"Flipping returned to its historic norm of 4 percent in the third quarter as home price appreciation cooled in many of the hot flipping markets across the country," said Daren Blomquist, VP of RealtyTrac. "Meanwhile, the record-high average profits per flip in the quarter demonstrate that flippers are still filling an important niche in an aging housing market with historically low levels of new homes being built. The most successful flippers are buying older, outdated homes in established neighborhoods and rehabbing them extensively to appeal to modern tastes." The top five metropolitan areas with the most home flips were Miami (1,190), Phoenix (1,147), New York (1,070), and Tampa (789) with Tampa being the only one of those five that saw a year-over-year increase in home flips in Q3, according to RealtyTrac. The top five metros that saw the highest year-over-year increase in home flips were Louisville, Kentucky (117 percent), Kansas City (66 percent), Boston (40 percent), New Orleans (38 percent), and Indianapolis (35 percent).

Metro areas with the highest return on investment for home flips in Q3 were Baltimore (88 percent), Pittsburgh (79 percent), Detroit (61 percent), Richmond, Virginia (60 percent, and Mobile, Alabama (59 percent), according to RealtyTrac. San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Diego posted the highest average gross profit among metros per home flip, all with more than $125,000 per home flip.

"The markets with an increase in flipping tend to be those with older, distressed inventory still available that flippers can often buy at a discount and add value to," Blomquist said. "Those discounted distressed properties have become harder to find, but a recent jump in scheduled foreclosure auctions could provide more fodder for flippers in the next three to six months."

The national average amount of time it took to complete a home flip in the third quarter was 185 days, a slight decrease from 187 days in Q2 but an increase from 133 days from the third quarter of 2013, RealtyTrac reported.

If you are interested in finding a property to flip in the Greater Boston area, please contact our office. Wed love to help you flip a property that would make the HGTV jealous!

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Fall & Winter Seasonal Maintenance Guide

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For city dwellers living in condos or apartment buildings, the change of seasons dont necessarily require much additional maintenance on the homeowners part. For those of us living in stand-alone homes (or if you are lucky enough to own a vacation home), there are many tasks to be taken care of as we prepare for winter. Here are some Fall and Winter Maintenance tips courtesy of HouseLogic's Karin Beurlein.

If you live in the Northeast, here are maintenance jobs you should complete every fall and winter to prevent costly repairs and keep your home in top condition.

Certain home maintenance tasks should be completed each season to prevent structural damage, save energy, and keep all your home's systems running properly. These maintenance tasks are most important for the Northeast in fall and winter. For a comprehensive list of tasks, refer to the to-do list to the right of this article.

As cold weather approaches in the Northeast, its important to prepare your home for freezing temperatures, ice, and snow, says Steve Gladstone of Stonehollow Home Inspections in Stamford, Conn.

Key maintenance tasks to perform

Clean your gutters. Leaving debris in your gutters is an invitation for trouble. Not only can it freeze and damage the gutters themselves, but it also can force freezing water up under your shingles and damage the roof. Gladstone says that many homes in the Northeast now have covered gutter systems, which fools many homeowners into thinking gutter cleaning is unnecessary. Gutter covers keep leaves out, he says, but not fine organic material or grit from the roof. Its important to remove the covers and clean just as you would regular gutters.

Clean and put away lawn and garden equipment. Do a visual inspection of the yard to identify anything lying around garden tools, hoses and nozzles, patio furniture and accessories that might be damaged by snow and ice and should be brought in for the winter.

Run your lawn mower until the gas tank is empty; if you leave gas in the tank over the winter, it can degrade and lose some of its combustion ability. Worse, gas can react with the air in the tank and oxidize, forming deposits that affect the machines performance; worse still, moisture can condense inside the tank and cause rust that blocks the fuel lines.

If you know youre going to leave gas in the tank over the winter, add a stabilizer to the last gallon you put in (mix it in the gas can, not the mower tank, so that you get the mixing ratio correct).

Disconnect hoses and winterize lawn irrigation systems. Leaving water in any exterior hoses or pipes can cause them to freeze and burst. If your exterior faucets arent self-draining, be sure to turn off the water manually at the shutoff valve inside the house so water doesnt stand in the wall pipes.

If you have a lawn irrigation system, its important to make sure all the water has drained from the system before the first freeze. Depending on the type of system youve installed, this may require the assistance of a professional. A pro charges $50 to $150 to winterize an irrigation system.

Schedule a furnace tune-up. Follow your furnace professional as he works, and ask questions about what hes doing, says Gladstone. The technician should be working his way through a checklist of items such as inspecting filters, checking the chimney exhaust, and examining the blower and fuel connections. Expect to pay $50 to $100 for a furnace tune-up.

Replace wicks and air filters in your humidifier. If you use a portable humidifier in winter to mitigate the drying effects of heating, start the season with fresh wicksthe small filters that absorb moisture from the reservoir; a fan directed at the wick dispenses the moisture into the air. Also check air filters, if your unit contains them (consult your owners manual). Replace wicks again in two to three months for a cost of about $15. Its an absolute must to clean the humidifier every few weeks during winter to keep it free of mold, bacteria, and mineral deposits. Follow your manufacturers instructions.

However, Gladstone points out that most homes are too wet. Humidifiers may contribute to excess moisture that encourages the growth of mold and mildew. Use a humidifier only if necessary, and choose a single-room model so that you can check easily to see if the unit needs cleaning.

Protect your air conditioning unit. If your outdoor air conditioning unit is located under trees or under the drip line of the house where icicles and snow may fall, give it a little protection by placing a sheet of plywood over the top and draping a dropcloth over it. However, dont create a fully enclosed space, as that can trap moisture and offer winter protection for rodents.

Close your storm windows. Its a simple step, but an easy one to forget. Make sure the windows are shut properly so that the outer pane is up and the inner pane is down; this keeps rain and other forms of precipitation out.

Insulate pull-down staircases for attics. The openings that accommodate pull-down staircases can cause significant heat loss during winter. You can purchase an insulated cover for the opening, or for about $30 you can make a foam box yourself with duct tape, weatherstripping, and a piece of 2-inch-thick polystyrene foam; 2-inch foam has an insulating value of about R-10. This simple step will pay for itself many times over, Gladstone says.

Spending a weekend or two on maintenance can prevent costly repairs and alert you to developing problems. Visit the links listed below for more detailed information on completing tasks or repairs yourself.

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Sustainability and Functionality Key D�cor Trends in 2015

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If you are considering selling a property in 2015, whether it isa primary residence or an investment property, it is a good idea to start thinking aheadto whatleading designers are forecasting for the coming year. Dcor trends in 2015 favor functionality, with designers turning to self-renewing materials that are both stylish and environmentally friendly. Looking towards the new year, celebrity designer Vern Yip lists these six trends to watch.

1. View the floor as an extension of the living space. Opt for materials that are both stylish and comfortable, such as cork flooring. Warm, soft on the feet and eco-friendly, cork's natural ability to insulate against heat, cold, noise and vibration make it an ideal choice for "on-the-floor living.

2. In open concept homes, mix and match old with new, high with low or light with dark. Using timeless and resilient materials, or those that can be used and reused, allows homeowners to be eclectic and bold.

3. Geometrical and angular designs are making a comeback. Think of zigzag, herringbone or chevron patterns to bring mid century flair back into your home.

4. Living outdoors is a great way of maximizing living space. Make it cozy with pillow, tiki lights or a bonfire pit. In cold temperatures, use heat lamps positioned around the border of the patio.

5. Look at the floor, which is a home's largest surface area, as a canvas. It offers ample opportunities to add visual interest and achieve a unique look. Think about combining textures and colors. Create a pattern of alternating colors and grains.

6. Break away from a sea of neutrals. Replace old pillow covers, throws or lampshades to reflect the hues and tones of the season. Or, create an accent wall with a printed wallpaper or painted design. Do keep your larger items white or neutral, so that you can easily mix and match seasonal colors with permanent pieces.

"The variety of stylish product choices available to today's environmentally-conscious consumers is remarkable," says Yip. He points to the many color choices of no-VOC* paint, new agave plant and sisal fiber area rugs as great examples of the intersection between style, functionality and environmental responsibility.

*VOCvolatile organic compounds chemicals given off by paints that have been linked to respiratory illnesses

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Top 10 Things That Make Your House Spooky - and How to Fix Them

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The Plan Collection (TPC) notes that having a haunted-looking house might be just the look you want once a year, but what about once Halloween's over? The company shares their list of the top 10 elements of a house plan design that can make any home the scariest in the neighborhood along with advice on how to fix them.

1. Eerie Architectural Style. Remember the rather "unique" look of the home in The Addams Family? Norman Bates' house on the hill in Psycho? Certain architectural styles - such as Victorian and the Second Empire style with its mansard roofs - have a long history in spooky literature and horror films. Ironically, we often associate these same styles with some of the most cheerful and charming places in the country - just think Disney's Main Street USA.

2. Lifeless Color Scheme. Dark paint colors, when used as the primary exterior color, can make almost any home look dreary, uninviting. Lighter paint colors that complement the design of your house are often the better choice for the exterior of your home. Reserve your use of darker color to areas that emphasize special features such as the trim or windows.

3. Ghostly Lighting. No one wants to knock on the door of a house without exterior lighting, but lighting features that cause heavy shadows along walk-ways or at entry points - creating that fear that something or someone might be lurking just ahead -- can be even worse. Redirecting the light features or using lower wattage bulbs is often an easy way to chase the ghosts away. If investing in new lighting, consider lamps that emphasize the beauty of your home's exterior features.

4. Zombie Landscaping. Those trees and bushes might have looked perfectly sized to the house for perhaps the first five years after planted, but don't forget... they're alive. Alive! Neglected trees and shrubs keep growing and need constant tending. Without attention, they end up surrounding your house with an "undead" feel. In addition to detracting from the house design, older, large branches are also a risk to your home in storms. Take those pruners and cut off some heads or at least give everything a good trim.

5. Suspended Maintenance. Most everyone puts at least some repairs off, but rigorous home maintenance is essential. Spring and fall are the best time of year to start checking fix-it projects off your list. Fix that step before you have to fix the entire stairs! If the exterior is starting to look dull consider power washing it. Touch up paint before a small problem becomes a big one.

6. Scary Windows. Small windows or windows covered with heavy drapery create a more somber feel. For small windows, use brighter window treatments to lighten the mood. Take advantage of any larger windows to bring outdoor light into the home.

7. Creepy Front Door. Ever have second thoughts before knocking on a front door while trick-or-treating? Well, the size and color of the entry door play a big role in making first impressions. If the front door feels uninviting, think about using a bolder, friendlier color such as a bright red, or chase away the shadows by strategically using lighting.

8. Bone Chilling Floor Plan. Small rooms and narrow hallways make for a cramped, uninviting floor plan. Consider an open concept floor plan if buying or building a house. If renovating, be sure to consult a professional before removing walls in your current home, as they may be "load bearing" walls, and will have to be replaced with other supports or structures.

9. Mysterious Staircases. Narrow staircases with walls on both sides can be dark and creepy. Lowering a wall to open the staircase up to the room or hallway below can go a long way to dispelling some of the dark, scary mystery and making your stairs more inviting.

10. Horrifying Home Dcor. Dark, oversized furniture and heavy rugs can have a tendency to make a home feel less inviting. Stacks of stuff and excess clutter around the house? Not going to help the situation. Ask yourself if you really need all that stuff and if not, get rid of some of it.

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10 Inside Tips From a Designer Who Specializes in Small Baths

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By: Dona DeZube

A New York City designer shares secrets to making a small bath both functional and beautiful.

Got a small bathroom to renovate? Go wild with texture and colors if its a rarely used guest bath, but stick to clean and simple in a master bath. Thats the word from designer Jamie Gibbs, who transforms incredibly small New York City bathrooms into beautiful spaces. I liked being shocked by details in a little space, especially if its not going to be used much, Gibbs says.

His small-bath secrets:

1. Avoid textures in bathrooms that get daily use. In a heavily used bathroom, anything with texture becomes a collection spot for mold, mildew, and toothpaste. Say no to carved vessel sinks or floor tile with indentations.

2. Be careful with no-enclosure showers with drains right in the floor. These Euro showers allow for a feeling of openness, but the average American contractor doesnt know how to waterproof the floor for them, Gibbs says. The tile seals can be compromised if not installed correctly, causing the materials to decompose, and water to leak underneath.

3. Use opaque windows and skylights to let light filter into all parts of the bath. A long skinny window with frosted glass means you don't have to burn high-wattage light bulbs. Make sure water condensation will roll off the window into an appropriate place (i.e. not the framing or the wall) to avoid future maintenance issues.

4. Look for fixtures that have a single handle rather than separate hot and cold taps. Space-saving gearshift faucets are a very good choice in small bathrooms, says Gibbs. Youll also save money by not having to drill holes in the countertop for the hot and cold taps.

5. Save space with wall-mounted toilets and bidets, but be aware that the water tank goes into the wall. Thats fine if space is such a premium that you wont mind going into the wall to make any repairs. But if you share a wall with a neighbor, that's a different issue.

6. Use a wall-mount faucet to make a reduced-depth vanity work in a small space. I can get away with a 22 vanity instead of a 24 vanity with a wall mount faucet, Gibbs says.

7. Check the space between the handles and the faucet of any space-saving fixtures. If you can only get a toothbrush in it to clean, you'll save space, but its functionally stupid, Gibbs says. Make sure the sink is functional, too. If youre using a vessel sink, make sure its large enough and not too high. If its too high, you'll knock it so many times that the fittings will come loose, Gibbs says.

8. A pedestal sink is all form and no function. Its a great-looking sink, but theres no place to [set] anything, Gibbs says.

9. Wall-mounted vanities seem like theyre space savers, but they create dead space between the vanity and the floor a space that often accumulates junk and never gets cleaned.

10. If you're comfortable with it, go European and put up a glass walls between the bathroom and bedroom to create the illusion of space. Or put bathroom fixtures in the bedroom just outside the bath.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS.

Read more: http://members.houselogic.com/articles/small-bathroom-design-tips/preview/#ixzz3FhG5ksVe

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Common Myths about Appraisals in the Home-Buying Process

177533559 APPRAISAL With high demand, low supply, and real estate prices increasing in Boston, it is important for buyers and sellers to understand the role the appraiser plays in the transaction. Although generally paid by the buyer, the appraiser actually works for the lender. Their duty is to act as an objective third party to the transaction, and offer an unbiased opinion of value based on market conditions. The lender then uses their opinion of value as a factor in whether or not they will lend on the property. In order to come to an opinion of value, the appraiser generally will consider three approaches to value, and then decide which approach is most applicable. The three approaches are the cost, income and market approaches. The cost approach entails adding the value of the land to the cost of the improvements (i.e. the house) to come up with a value. The income approach is often favored for investment properties and takes into consideration the potential income stream that the property could generate. The sales comparison approach takes into consideration comparable sold, pending and active properties, and compares them to the subject property. Adjustments are made to the value of the properties based on whether or not they are superior or inferior, with the appraiser eventually coming up with an opinion of value. There is a good deal of subjectivity in all the methods, which is why knowledge of the market and the area are so important for an appraiser. Not understanding the different values between neighborhoods, or even streets, can have a devastating effect on a transaction.

As the market continues to improve, offers above the asking price of properties are again becoming more common. As a result, the potential for differences of opinion between buyers, sellers and appraisers is a very real possibility. In order to address some of the questions and misperceptions about the appraisal process, the Appraisal Foundation, a non-profit group operating with the goal of advancing professional valuation, drafted a short article addressing some common myths about Appraisals.

Common Myths about Appraisals in the Home-Buying Process By David S. Bunton

At The Appraisal Foundation, we often encounter misperceptions about the appraisal process in real estate transactions from how an appraisal is ordered and carried out, to the type of communication permitted with appraisers. As a result, we have compiled the most common myths that we hear from lenders, borrowers, real estate brokers, and homebuilders.

Whether youre a first-time homebuyer or a real estate professional with years of experience, you may be surprised.

Lenders:

Myth: A lender and an appraiser cannot communicate before, during, or after an appraisal is complete. Fact: Not only are lenders permitted to talk to appraisers, they must. Communication is essential for the exchange of appropriate information, including the intended use of the appraisal, the scope of the work necessary for credible assignment results, and more.

Myth: Nothing can be done if a lender has concerns or questions regarding a completed appraisal. Fact: If there are questions or concerns with an appraisal, there are concrete steps lenders can take, like submit additional comps for the appraiser to consider, request the appraiser correct errors in the appraisal report, and ask the appraiser to provide further detail to explain his/her conclusion.

Myth: Lenders must use an Appraisal Management Company (AMC) to order an appraisal. Fact: Lenders are entitled to engage an appraiser directly. However, to avoid any potential undue influence on the appraiser, certain safeguards are required (e.g. in most cases the person at the lending institution selecting the appraiser cannot be the same person approving the loan).

Myth: AMCs are necessary to ensure that appraisers arent influenced by lenders. Fact: Regardless of whether an AMC is used, lenders are not permitted to influence the value of a home, and licensed and certified appraisers are required by law to follow strict guidelines (i.e. the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) that guarantee an unbiased and meaningful analysis of value.

Borrowers:

Myth: An appraiser is hired by the borrower. Fact: Even though the borrower may be responsible for the cost of an appraisal, appraisers are hired by lenders. Appraisers provide an analysis of the collateral, so that lenders understand the value of a property when making the loan decision.

Myth: The money put into a home translates dollar-for-dollar into a higher appraisal. Fact: The cost put into a home improvement project may very well add value to a home; however, the value of any improvements are based on what the market is willing to pay for them, and may not necessarily correlate to the cost. Not all renovations positively impact property values.

Myth: Appraisers set the value of a home. Fact: Appraisers dont set the value of a home, nor do they confirm a homes sale price. Their role is to produce a credible opinion of value which reflects the current market.

Myth: Appraisers and home inspectors perform the same function. Fact: Though both provide crucial information, their roles are very different. An appraiser provides an objective, unbiased analysis so the lender can better understand the value of a property. An inspector is typically hired by the borrower and performs an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house to ensure the structural integrity of the property.

Real Estate Brokers:

Myth: Real estate brokers are prohibited from communicating with appraisers. Fact: Brokers are permitted to communicate with an appraiser and to provide them with additional information as long as the communication is not intended to unduly influence the outcome of the appraisal. The exchange of relevant information- including terms of the sale, relevant comps, and home improvements-can help an appraiser develop a more credible opinion of value.

Myth: Nothing can be done if a broker has concerns or questions regarding a completed appraisal. Fact: If there are questions or concerns with an appraisal, there are concrete steps brokers can take through the lender, like submit additional comps for the appraiser to consider, request the appraiser correct errors in the appraisal report, and ask the appraiser to provide further detail to explain his/her conclusion.

Myth: Appraisers request copies of the purchase agreement from brokers simply so theyll know how much to appraise the home for. Fact: Appraisers are required to review the purchase agreement (if available during the ordinary course of business) to fully understand the terms of the transaction. Appraisers dont simply look at a pending sale price and try to justify the transaction. The perform research and analysis to provide their own opinion of value.

Homebuilders:

Myth: Homebuilders are prohibited from communicating with appraisers. Fact: Builders are permitted to communicate with an appraiser and to provide them with additional information as long as the communication is not intended to unduly influence the outcome of the appraisal. The exchange of relevant information- including construction features, details, and upgrades, as well as relevant comps-can help an appraiser develop a more credible opinion of value.

Myths: Nothing can be done if a builder has concerns or questions regarding a completed appraisal. Fact: If there are questions or concerns with an appraisal, there are concrete steps builders can take through the lender, like submit additional comps for the appraiser to consider, request the appraiser correct errors in the apraisal report, and ask the appraiser to provide further detail to explain his/her conclusion.

Myth: Appraisers only rely on comparable sales and do not take into account the cost to build a home. Fact: Appraisers do need to consider the cost to build a home and, at times, must perform a cost approach to deliver a credible appraisal. However, because cost does not always equal value, appraisers cannot simply look at what it costs to build a home to provide an opinion of value. They must perform research and analysis to determine what the marketplace is willing to pay.

David S. Bunton is the President of The Appraisal Foundation.

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Get the Most Out of Your Trip to Bostons Farmer's Markets

FARMERS MARKET BERRIES

This time of year is about warm weather, vacations and relaxing afternoons. It also heralds the return of farmers markets. A trip to the market is a great opportunity to indulge in fresh, healthy produce and to expand your horizons by trying new items or preparing them in different ways. Fortunately, Boston has a number of farmers markets spread across the city in virtually all of its neighborhoods. Downtown, the Boston Public Market on the Greenway (previously on City Hall Plaza), is located in the plaza in front of 136 Blackstone Street. The Boston Public Market at Dewey Square is located at 600 Atlantic Avenue on the Greenway across from South Station, and the Copley Square Farmers Market is located in Copley Square at the corner of Dartmouth and Boylston Street.

Here are seven tips to make the most of your visit to the local farmers market:

Note the hours and dates of your local market on your calendar. Set reminders on your smartphone that will alert you when favorite items such as tomatoes, peas, beans and strawberries come into season.

Prepare your refrigerator and kitchen for the season's harvest. Clean out your fridge's produce drawer, and stock up on items that complement fresh produce, such as salad dressings and seasonings that can be used to turn basic veggies into delicious meals.

While farmers market vendors will almost certainly have plastic bags on hand, take your own reusable bags or baskets to carry your purchase - they're better for Mother Nature. If you'll be buying perishable items, consider packing a cooler as well. Remember to place heavier items (like melons) on the bottom of the bag and lighter ones (such as berries) on top.

You'll find the freshest produce and best selection early in the day. Setting your alarm to wake you a bit early could ensure you get the pick of the day's produce.

Leave the $20 and $50 bills at home. Smaller bills will provide you with greater buying flexibility, and vendors will appreciate the change.

Scope out the entire market before you begin making purchases. Certain popular items, such as tomatoes, cantaloupe, melons, peas and potatoes will be available from multiple vendors. Strolling through the market first will allow you to compare prices and taste samples to ensure you're picking the best and most delicious buys for your family.

Unpack bags as soon as you're home and store each item appropriately. Create a menu plan for the week that incorporates everything you've purchased to help ensure nothing goes to waste. Don't forget to incorporate snacks into your meal plan.

Last but not least, the seasons for fresh produce in New England are short, so enjoy it while you can!

For more information about farmers markets across Boston including lists of vendors, times and locations, please visit the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness Boston Farmers Market website at http://bostonfarmersmarkets.org/.

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7 Tips for Staging Your Home

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7 Tips for Staging Your Home Article From BuyAndSell.HouseLogic.com

By: G. M. Filisko

Make your home warm and inviting to boost your home's value and speed up the sale process.

The first step to getting buyers to make an offer on your home is to impress them with its appearance so they begin to envision themselves living there. Here are seven tips for making your home look bigger, brighter, and more desirable. The first step to getting buyers to make an offer on your home is to impress them with its appearance so they begin to envision themselves living there. Here are seven tips for making your home look bigger, brighter, and more desirable.

1. Start with a clean slate. Before you can worry about where to place furniture and which wall hanging should go where, each room in your home must be spotless. Do a thorough cleaning (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/maintenance-repair/home-cleaning-secrets/) right down to the nitpicky details like wiping down light switch covers. Deep clean and deodorize carpets and window coverings.

2. Stow away your clutter. (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/maintenance-repair/home-cleaning-secrets/) It's harder for buyers to picture themselves in your home when they're looking at your family photos, collectibles, and knickknacks. Pack up all your personal decorations. However, don't make spaces like mantles and coffee and end tables barren. Leave three items of varying heights on each surface, suggests Barb Schwarz of Staged Homes in Concord, Pa. For example, place a lamp, a small plant, and a book on an end table.

3. Scale back on your furniture. When a room is packed with furniture, it looks smaller, which will make buyers think your home is less valuable than it is. Make sure buyers appreciate the size of each room by removing one or two pieces of furniture. If you have an eat-in dining area, using a small table and chair set makes the area seem bigger.

4. Rethink your furniture placement. Highlight the flow of your rooms by arranging the furniture to guide buyers from one room to another. In each room, create a focal point on the farthest wall from the doorway and arrange the other pieces of furniture in a triangle around the focal point, advises Schwarz. In the bedroom, the bed should be the focal point. In the living room, it may be the fireplace, and your couch and sofa can form the triangle in front of it.

5. Add color to brighten your rooms. (http://www.houselogic.com/photos/painting/home-color-ideas/slide/plenty-of-upside/) Brush on a fresh coat of warm, neutral-color paint in each room. Ask your real estate agent for help choosing the right shade. Then accessorize. Adding a vibrant afghan, throw, or accent pillows for the couch will jazz up a muted living room, as will a healthy plant or a bright vase on your mantle. High-wattage bulbs in your light fixtures will also brighten up rooms and basements.

6. Set the scene. Lay logs in the fireplace, and set your dining room table with dishes and a centerpiece of fresh fruit or flowers. Create other vignettes throughout the home - such as a chess game in progress - to help buyers envision living there. Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones that let in more light. Make your bathrooms feel luxurious by adding a new shower curtain, towels, and fancy guest soaps (after you put all your personal toiletry items are out of sight). Judiciously add subtle potpourri, scented candles, or boil water with a bit of vanilla mixed in. If you have pets (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/pet-odor-can-chase-away-buyers/), clean bedding frequently and spray an odor remover before each showing.

7. Make the entrance grand. Mow your lawn and trim your hedges, and turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes before showings to make your lawn sparkle. If flowers or plants don't surround your home's entrance, add a pot of bright flowers. Top it all off by buying a new doormat and adding a seasonal wreath to your front door.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS."

More from HouseLogic Spring Cleaning Guide (http://www.houselogic.com/guide/spring-cleaning-101/) 11 Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Entrance for Under $100 (http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/home-improvement/front-door-entry-ideas/) Fragrant Plants that Will Keep Your Home Smelling Good (http://www.houselogic.com/blog/air-quality/fragrant-plants-will-keep-your-home-smelling-good/)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who occasionally rearranges her furniture to find the best placement-and keep her dog on his toes. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

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Top Kitchen Design Tips

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Kitchens remain a top remodeling project in 2014, according to the Member Profile Study done by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). Eighty-two percent of NARI members identify kitchens as its No. 1 service. This year, the associations 2014 CotY Awards program, which recognizes top projects in 25 categories, totaled nearly $73 million worth of remodeling projects and identified national trends emerging, especially in the areas of kitchen updates. Consumers want practical, comfortable kitchens that are efficient to use and easy to live in. says Tom OGrady, CR, CKBR, chairman of NARIs Strategic Planning. Bigger isnt better, but homeowners still want a feeling of space, and open concept and islands are still part of kitchen trends in 2014. Improving the overall look and feel of the kitchen was most often cited as the main motivating factor by homeowners for remodeling, followed by improving function on the CotY entries. Whether you are updating for resale or for your own use and enjoyment, some trends to consider:

Lighting: The continuing trend of fewer upper cabinets in the kitchen creates more space for decorative task lighting, often on adjustable arms that gives the option to have the light directed where it is needed most. Decorative task fixtures in black, iron and aged brass finishes make a statement. Other trends include: Pendant lights over kitchen islands continue to be a great opportunity to bring style into the mix. Chandeliers in kitchens add a pretty and an unexpected sparkle and can soften up the hard lines and smooth surfaces of appliances and countertops below. An oversized lightening fixture becomes a focal point in an otherwise plain room. Under cabinet lights, controlled by a dimmer, provide ambiance.

Built-in cabinetry that looks like furniture Mixing and layering finishes and woods to create a custom look is another key trend, as is built-in accent cabinets that act as framework for the rest of the cabinetry. These cabinets, often designed tall and narrow with glass fronts provide the look of a built-in china cabinet to showcase collectables. In general, upper cabinets are less popular because they stop the line of sight, especially to backyard garden views. Appliances are subtly hidden behind the cabinetry for a clean, streamlined appearance. Colorful kitchen cabinetry has made a big comeback. Palettes using and mixing blues, orange, browns or greens countering neutral white, wood or dark finishes are providing kitchen flair. Dramatic contrasts of light cabinets and dark countertops provide visual impact.

Wine storage With the explosion in the wine market over the past few decades, wine is becoming more of a lifestyle choice and factoring into kitchen designs. Dedicated butler areas for entertaining, sampling and sharing wine with guests are very popular, allowing the cook the opportunity to socialize while doing food prep. Integrated wine coolers, an answer to tight kitchen spaces, are nestled into cabinetry along with wine racks to showcase a homeowners collection. If you're planning a home renovation project this year, consider incorporating some of these trends to update your kitchen. Before construction gets under way, consult with a professional remodeler about the renovation projects you have planned.

Source: www.NARI.org

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