Blog :: 12-2020

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Happy New Year! Welcome 2021!

May the New Year bring you happiness, peace, and prosperity.  It is time to move forward from the past and celebrate a new start. Wishing you a joyous 2021!

Happy New Year from all of us at Melanson Real Estate!

 

New Year's Resolutions for Aspiring Homebuyers

This year, many of us have spent more time at home than ever before, and what we need from a home has changed. If you’re thinking about buying a home with a big backyard, a home office, or just a place where you can paint the walls and hang up all your favorite decorations, here are some new year's resolutions for you.

By Christopher Kelly, RE/MAX Bayside

Reduce your debt.

Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) will play an important part when lenders determine whether they want to issue you a loan. Your DTI is the sum of all your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income. You can improve your DTI by paying off some of your debt before you apply for a mortgage.

Improve your credit score.

Your credit history and credit score also play a big part in your mortgage approval. The better your score, the better the rate you’ll qualify for, which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your loan. Start monitoring your credit score now and look for ways to improve your credit score.

Save for a down payment and closing costs.

There are several low down payment options available, but even a small down payment is typically a few thousand dollars, depending on the cost of your new home. You’ll also have to pay closing costs when you purchase a home. These cover expenses such as title insurance, home inspections, appraisals, etc and could run around 5% of the home price. Start saving now to meet your home ownership[ goals!

After you lower your debt, improve your credit score, and save up your down payment and closing costs, you’re ready to get preapproved and find the home of your dreams!

 

Jupiter and Saturn Will Align to Create the First "Christmas Star" in Nearly 800 Years

As 2020 comes to a close, the solar system has decided to grace us with a cosmic Christmas miracle that hasn't been witnessed in nearly 800 years. On Dec. 21 (aka the December or Winter solstice), Jupiter and Saturn will align so closely in the night sky that they'll almost appear to collide from our vantage point here on Earth, creating a radiant point of light often referred to as the "Star of Bethlehem" or the "Christmas Star."

by Chanel Vargas, Dec 2, 2020

"Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to be to one another," said Patrick Hartigan, an astronomer at Rice University, according to Forbes. "You'd have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky."

The event, sometimes referred to as The Great Conjunction, occurs roughly every 19 to 20 years, but this is the closest the planets will line up in the night sky since the Middle Ages. Technically, Saturn will be 10 au (astronomical units) from Earth, and Jupiter will be 5 au away, but they will appear to be less than the diameter of a full moon apart. 

To catch a glimpse of the phenomenon for yourself, make sure you have a clear view to the southwest about 45 minutes after sunset. The planets will be at their closest on Dec. 21, but the "Christmas Star" will be visible from anywhere on Earth for about one hour after sunset in the northern hemisphere for the entire fourth week of December. If you're viewing with a telescope, you may also be able to see Jupiter and Saturn's largest moons orbiting them that week. The next Great Conjunction this close won't happen until March 15, 2080, so be sure to take a peek out your window later this month for a brilliant holiday treat.

Image Source: Getty / Vidmar Fernandes

6 Ways to Spark Joy This Holiday Season

This may not be the holiday season any of us had planned for. The pandemic has canceled our parties, our group baking extravaganzas and our annual trips to feast with our families. If you haven’t visited your loved ones in a year or have only hung out socially distanced, forgoing a large family gathering can feel like another entry on the list of “Things I missed out on in 2020.” 

But there is joy to be found in a scaled-down celebration, and you still can make your holiday season festive whether you’re spending it with your immediate household or flying solo. 

Compliments of Zillow, Life at Home

Here are six ways to make the most of the holidays this year — and ring in a very eager toast to 2021. 

Deck the heck out of the halls

Just because you’re not having a large holiday gathering doesn’t mean that you should skimp on the decorations. If anything, this is the year to go big. Ever fantasized about being that yard or balcony — you know, the Clark Griswold-level one that everyone stops and admires? Now is your chance to be the star of the neighborhood. 

And don’t let the cheery decorations stop on the outside. Adorn your space with twinkle lights, pompom garlands, illuminated elves or items that remind you of holidays at your parents’ house, or wherever you feel most at home. You’ll be feeling like you’re in the middle of a Hallmark movie before you know it. 

Create new traditions

You might be missing the usual fare — your mom’s homemade candy, your grandma’s elaborate roast, even that work holiday party that you used to loathe. But this year, instead of thinking about how much you wish things were different (and, oh, how we do), try to focus on creating your own traditions that can live on post-pandemic. 

Usually a couch potato on Christmas morning? Implement a brisk holiday walk before you open your presents. Has your family always celebrated holidays in a fairly traditional American way? Research how other countries spend the holiday season. For example, Icelanders gift each other books on Christmas Eve and spend the evening reading alone in bed (not a bad setup for a pandemic holiday). 

Embrace hygge

The Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) or a feeling of coziness and warmth — marries well with being stuck inside for the entirety of the holiday season. Although it’s easy to miss the “going out” opportunities of the season like holiday concerts, movies, cocktail parties, ice skating or neighborhood gatherings, try to embrace the feeling of comfort and security of your warm home. 

How exactly do you achieve hygge in your home? Although there’s no wrong way to accomplish feeling cozy, your best bet is candles (and lots of them), a fireplace, your favorite blanket and a freshly baked batch of cookies. 

Pamper yourself

Spending the holiday solo this year? Having an entire day of self-care planned for when you would normally get together with family or friends will make it something you look forward to (and maybe even make a new holiday tradition). 

Take a long, hot bath or shower, exfoliate, do a deep conditioning treatment, paint your toenails, try out a new aftershave or manscaping regimen, or whatever other form of pampering you like to engage in. Create a pampering schedule on your phone or write it down in a notebook so it feels like an official day at the spa. Or, if your idea of self-care looks more like a good book, a group Zoom with friends, a refreshing solo hike or a day of classic movies and popcorn, make a schedule that’s right for you.

Organize a cookie exchange

Sure, you can’t bake together, but that doesn’t mean you can’t organize a flow of sweet treats to your door (and everyone else’s in the neighborhood). Have a select few neighbors or local friends sign up to bake a batch of cookies and do a drop-off on the front porch. You can even take pictures of all the finished products and have an online vote to see which cookie had the best design or flavor. 

Donate to a cause

One thing 2020 has made clear: There’s more need than ever before. With millions of lost jobs and an economy in trouble, people are struggling to make ends meet — and nonprofits and trying to help fill in the gaps. If you are financially able, one of the best ways to cap off the year is to research a charity and donate what you can. 

5 Ways to Decorate for the Holidays on a Budget

Deck out your home for the holidays without breaking the bank with these creative ideas, crafts and upcycling projects.

By: Allie Holcomb King, HGTV 

Display Holiday Cards + Gifts

Instead of spending money on store-bought decor, work with two things you probably already have on hand — holiday cards and wrapped gifts. Not only will this help cheer up a dull spot in your home, but it will also keep your mail pile from overflowing and your Christmas tree base from overcrowding. Here, a tree-shaped cardholder is stacked on a gift-filled bar cart, adding holiday cheer to an otherwise basic foyer.

Get Creative With Gift Wrap Scraps

Don’t throw away those seemingly useless scraps of gift wrap! Put them to work to give everyday items, like basic serving plates, a holiday makeover. Cut the leftover paper to size, and use it to line serveware. For a display that will last all season long, fill the festive dishes with holiday knickknacks or long-lasting snacks, like whole nuts or individually wrapped candies.

Craft a Pinecone Garland

If you already have yarn or twine and white craft paint on hand, this DIY decoration only requires a quick trip to your backyard. Dip pinecones in white craft paint to create a dreamy, rustic garland perfect for your mantel, Christmas tree or dining table.

Bedazzle Backyard Finds

If glitter is more your style, try this pretty pinecone upgrade instead. Collect several pinecones, and clean them well under warm water. Roll each one in craft glue then glitter, and let them dry. Attach ribbon using hot glue or just tie them on and hang them from a chandelier or on your Christmas tree.

Make a Wood Slice Banner

If your decor leans more toward a rustic aesthetic, try this take instead. Cut your own wood slices to save some money. Customize them using permanent markers and transfer paper. Permanent markers and transfer paper make it easy to add a customized holiday greeting.

First, drill holes in wood slices by using a drill equipped with a 1/8” drill bit. Drill a hole at the top, center of each wood slice.

Next, transfer text and images to wood slices by printing them from a computer, sized to fit. Cut out each letter and image with scissors. Cut a piece of transfer paper to size as well. Note: One piece of transfer paper can be used for all wood slices. Place transfer paper directly on wood slice and top with printed letter or image (Images 1 and 2 below). Trace with a dull pencil or closed pen/pen cap. Repeat with other wood slices.

  

Color and Tie on Twine. Using fine-tipped permanent markers, color in traced lines. Tie each wood slice onto a piece of twine approximately 2-3” in length. Then, tie each wood slice onto a piece of twine 3-4’ in length to make a banner. 

Tip: These can be used as ornaments and gift tags as well.

 

Happy Holidays!  En-JOY!

 

 

7 Mistakes That Could Keep You From Selling Your Home This Winter

Selling a house during winter comes with its own unique challenges. Snow, for one, can bury your home's best features. Your normally lush landscaping may look drab and lifeless. And truth be told, all you want to do is cozy up at home rather than welcome buyers through your door.

Still, if you're game to sell during winter, it's essential that you put on your snow pants and put some effort into making your house shine. To help, here are some classic mistakes to avoid once the temperature drops, and why they can make such a difference. Just avoid making these all-too-common winter-selling fumbles in order to get top dollar.

  

By Jamie Wiebe, Realtor.com

Mistake No. 1: Setting down the shovel

You cleared off enough of the driveway for your car, but potential buyers won't be entering through the garage like you do.

"Blazing a path through 3 feet of virgin snow makes a lousy first impression," says John Engel, a Realtor® with Halstead Properties, in New Canaan, CT.

Don't put away your snow shovel until you've cleared a path to your front door. Or save your poor back by hiring a snow removal company to keep your paths walkable.

"Not only does it make it more inviting for buyers, but it avoids potential safety and liability concerns," says Massachusetts Realtor John Ternullo. 

Mistake No. 2: Giving in to the winter blahs

Gray skies and barren trees make winter a particularly depressing time to sell. But you don't have to let your home look as doleful as the weather.

"Pops of color by the entryway, like a seasonal wreath and topiaries, can add some interest to the front entrance as well as make it more inviting," Ternullo says.

And don't wait until buyers schedule showings to add some life: Colorful curb appeal transforms your listing photos from drab to dramatic.

Mistake No. 3: Not scrubbing your windows

Colder temps have robbed your trees of their leaves, leaving your home to look a bit sadder in winter's wake. But that's not the only problem. Those full trees previously shielded your home from direct sunlight. And now that it's pouring in your windows, potential buyers will be able to see everything. 

Scuffs, fingerprints, and streaks are "never more apparent" than in the wintertime, Engel says, so you should make sure you're vigilant about keeping windows clean. Alone, that grime might not be enough to turn off a potential buyer, but it might make them wonder what other details you've missed.

Mistake No. 4: Displaying outdated summer photos

Your Tudor looks particularly glorious in the summer, but if your only listing photos were taken in April, buyers will immediately suspect a problem.

"Nothing says 'old, tired listing' more than the photo you took nine months ago," Engel says. Talk to your Realtor about taking new photos that make your home look festive and seasonal. Feel free to keep older photos in the listing—your buyers might want to know what the home looks like when the gardens are in full bloom—but updated photos will make your listing seem fresh.

Mistake No. 5: Turning down the heat

"Frugality is great, but not when you're trying to sell real estate for top dollar," says Brian Davis, a real estate investor and co-founder of SparkRental.com.

Turn the heat up before you leave for showings, your utility bill be damned. Stick to 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit to keep everyone comfy.

"It will make the house feel homier and more welcoming," Davis says. "It also gives the impression that the house is energy-efficient and well-insulated."

Mistake No. 6: Denying access

It's New Year's Eve and a buyer wants to stop by. How dare they! Shouldn't they assume you have a fabulous party to prepare for?

Maybe. But if you want to sell your home in the off-season, the buyer has to come first. You'll need to work with your Realtor to devise a strategy for squeezing in showings, even in between all of winter's holiday events and family gatherings.

"While it may be inconvenient, it's crucial not to deny showings, as that could be a missed opportunity," Ternullo says. "There may be less buyers compared to spring, but winter buyers tend to be serious."

Mistake No. 7: Leaving out your draft stoppers

Your hand-knit draft stopper might look adorable snuggled against your door, but it "sends a clear message to buyers," Davis says. "This house is drafty and loses heat easily."

Not that you should lie. But every home has hidden problems, and it's best to let the buyers make their own assessments and discoveries during the inspection period. Don't leave out little things that could sway their decision.

 

 

Simple Pleasures: A Cozy Home in Cold Weather

Stock up on these treats and essentials to make even blustery days and snowed-in time feel special.

There is a certain squirrel-like pleasure in stocking up for cold weather — and potential power outages — from the regular essentials, like flashlights and warm socks, to the fun essentials, like bottles of wine and new board games. Knowing you have all you could possibly want tucked tidily away is a wonderful way to kick off a season of coziness.

By Laura Gaskill, Houzz Contributor

  

Firewood

If you have a woodstove or fireplace, stocking up on good, dry wood is essential before winter really kicks in. 

Although wood does look inviting all stacked up, it’s probably best to store the bulk of it outdoors to prevent little critters from entering your home. A covered porch can be a good transitional space for keeping a wood pile, and a neat stack of wood is a cozy thing to look at as you enter the home on blustery days.

Muck Boots and Barn Coats

Sure, we all have our nice boots and coats for going out, but it’s so handy to have a selection of sturdy muck boots and waxed coats to toss on when you need to take care of a quick outdoor chore. 

And there is something so charmingly British countryside about their being all lined up by the back door

Books

Piles of books provide an open invitation to toss out your plans and read all afternoon in the snug house instead. Here’s a tip for those of you, like me, who are attempting to pare down a book collection rather than accumulate more tomes: Visit your library or its website and check out a stack of fascinating books. I love being able to borrow big art and design books, literature, cookbooks and whatever else I am in the mood for. When you’re done, just return them and select another set.

Wine

If you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, it feels good to know you have some of your favorite varieties in reserve when the snow is flying. 

Just looking at a nice collection of wine in the cupboard or on the wine rack is comforting — if unexpected guests drop in, or you’re stuck in a storm and can’t use the car, you can rest assured there will be a good bottle to share.

Cozy Things in the Kitchen

Tea. Hot cocoa. Casseroles and soups in the freezer. A pantry filled with delectable goodies. Whether you are coming in from shoveling snow or a day running errands, there is something about winter that increases the appetite, so be sure to keep your kitchen well stocked!

Warm Socks

We all deserve warm new socks at the beginning of winter, don’t we? Plush, thick socks can stand in for slippers and make boots more comfortable, and they look far nicer in your drawer than regular ones. Try some in cashmere or washable wool.

Board Games, Puzzles and Other Playthings

Snow days call for old-school amusements. That said, you don’t need to stick with Monopoly and cards — pick out a stack of new games and puzzles to add to the collection. If you play an instrument, treat yourself to some new music to practice on long winter evenings.