Real Estate Information Archive


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Unpack With a Plan


Once everything is unloaded, you may feel overwhelmed by the stacks of boxes surrounding you. Unpacking in an organized manner can make the transition to your new home less stressful and can save a lot of time. Try these unpacking tips, courtesy of Lowe’s.

1. Unpack Essentials First

You should have a few boxes of essentials marked to be unpacked first. These boxes should include items like toiletries, pet supplies, tools, a couple changes of clothes and so forth. Go ahead and unpack these boxes right away and distribute these essential items to their respective rooms.

2. Clean and Prep Your New Home

Though it's tempting to dive right in and start unloading boxes, it's a good idea to clean, prep and get organized. Here are some moving tips to help you prepare to unpack at your new home:

• It's easier to wipe down shelves, clean windows, and mop under appliances before your belongings are in place.

• Complete any prep work. Line kitchen and bathroom shelves with paper. Consider installing closet systems in bedroom closets, if necessary. Once these jobs are done, you'll be able to unpack more efficiently.

• Plan where to place certain items. For example, in the kitchen; put dishes and glassware in the cupboards above the dishwasher, coffee cups above the coffee pot, and so on. Deciding what goes where before unpacking will save you time in the long run.

3. Go Room by Room

Focus on one room at a time, and unpack essentials first. Though it can feel like an insurmountable task, rest assured: Your house is going to feel like home in no time!

Kitchen and Baths. In the kitchen, unpack most-used items first. Items that you won't use immediately can be set aside to unpack at a later time. In the bathrooms, hang shower curtains, unpack toiletries and put out toilet paper and soap.

Bedrooms. In your bedrooms, have the beds set up and made with clean sheets by the first night. Unpacking your clothing and bedroom accessories can wait. Again, now is a good time to install a closet organization system.

Living Room. Unpacking the living room should be a combined effort by everyone in the household. There will be a lot of items to be placed and electronics to hook up.

Garage. Having an organized garage is important. If you haven't set up shelves and hooks for placement of tools, yard supplies and sports equipment; do so now. Having organizational systems in place will help curb the tendency for making piles later.

4. Play Interior Designer

Place furniture so the room feels open and functional. Strive for balance by distributing heavier pieces of furniture around the room. Create a focal point or use a natural one like a fireplace.

When positioning furniture, it's a good idea to make a sketch of the room, including desired locations of items. Erasing an armoire, rather than lifting it, could save you a trip to the chiropractor.

It takes time get settled in, but here are some quick and easy tips for making your house feel like home:

• Hang shades, blinds or curtains for instant privacy and a homey feel.

• Consider painting rooms a different color, or stenciling around an archway.

• Brighten up a room with self-adhesive wallpaper borders.

• Refinish old cabinets or add new knobs.

• Hang family photographs, mirrors and framed artwork.

• Add potted plants for extra color or to fill empty corners.

Helpful Tips for Setting Up

• As boxes are unpacked, take an inventory of everything you have to make sure nothing has been lost. If you have any broken or damaged items, make sure to keep them as evidence for insurance claims. Claims usually need to be filed within a set number of days after the move.

• Use a surge protector when setting up a computer or stereo equipment.

• As you unpack boxes, collapse them for storage or recycling.

• Start a log of home repairs and maintenance that needs to be done.

• Create a shopping list to make sure you have everything you need.


Choose Materials Carefully and Plant Fences in the Right Place

by Susan Murphy Casey

Good fences cut clean lines through tangled boundaries, shepherd privacy and adorn homes with designer touches.

When choosing fencing, consider the age and style of your home. While ornamental metal and wood fences match most homes, vinyl and composite fences often look nice with new construction, some experts say. Also factor in the purposes of the fence: privacy, protection, beauty, functionality, even noise reduction.

And don't forget cost.

"People set low — budget marks for fencing," said Lea Bailes, president of Guier Fence in Blue Springs, Mo. "Often their budget is one-third of what's realistic."

Even do-it-yourself fencing requires careful attention to math, said Amy Funk, an interior designer who built her own fence in her Prairie Village, Kan., yard.

"Weigh the costs and get the best impact for the money," Funk said.


Aluminum and steel fencing that recalls the black wrought iron of years past is one of the hottest sellers now, said Jenna Schwarting of Tom Burge Fence & Iron in Overland Park, Kan. A popular variation is "puppy fencing," which is made of steel but maintains the wrought-iron look. Denser pickets along the bottom keeps small pets in and rabbits out.

Aluminum or steel fencing complements a century-old home as well as newly constructed ones. Maintenance is minimal on well-made ornamental fencing (check the warranty), but paint problems can result from lesser-grade products. If needed, clean with water, use anti-mold or mildew products and periodically check for rust.

To add charm to the property, mix old and new. Sue McCord-Belzer and Irv Belzer of Crestwood, Mo., moved the original wrought-iron front door from their early 1950s home and integrated it with black steel fencing from Guier around a garden in their backyard.

Chain-link fencing is familiar to us all, though today's incarnations are available in green, brown and black and are powder-coated for rust protection.

"Chain-link fences can look great if they're done right," said Michael Davis of Ace Fence Co. in Kansas City, Mo. They are the least expensive fencing option, are durable and require little maintenance (and replacement is relatively easy).

But some homeowners associations and local codes forbid them, and though they corral pets, most don't offer security or privacy.


Custom fences allow homeowners to match lamp posts, gates and outdoor lighting. They also can be made to match the slope of the yard.

Homeowners seeking artistic fences or an outdoor scheme often use metal or wood materials.

In high-end forged iron or silicon bronze fences, each joint is welded to a post for a strong structure, said Steve Austin of Austin Ironworks. Maintenance is minimal because of the hand-made processes and epoxy paint, but the cost can be prohibitive.

There's no need to rule out custom touches, however. Funk, inspired by a trip to Portland, crafted cedar fencing with horizontal slats. She likes the "zen-like" mood it sets in her backyard.

Funk can remove individual planks when they weather; if there's wood rot, it's an easy fix. She cleans her fence yearly and seals it every two years.


Traditional, prefabricated wood fencing can be cost-efficient, especially if you install it yourself. Avoid cedar posts because they rot quickly (cedar panels are fine). Split-rail or round-rail fences (common in rural areas) can add a decorative twist to a garden.

The lifetime of wood fences is only 10 to 15 years, and maintenance is high: Keep the wood clean, and plan to seal it every two or three years. You can extend the treatment time by using a stain with pigment.

Remove mold or moss with a power washer. If it re-grows, the wood needs to be cleaned — probably with a professional product — and resealed. To save time, apply products with a sprayer.

Contemporary bamboo fences are becoming more popular and are touted as an environmentally friendly option because bamboo easily regenerates.


Far from "cheap plastic fences," vinyl fencing is considerably costlier than prefabricated wood and most ornamental irons because of its low maintenance and long (sometimes lifetime) warranty, Bailes said. A bonus: Vinyl can deflect noise.

Color choices in vinyl have expanded recently into neutral colors, and some include a variegated texture, too.

Barbara Fegan of Weatherby Lake, Mo., recently replaced maintenance-intensive wood fencing surrounding her pool with tan vinyl fencing from Guier Fence. She likes the "smooth, tailored look."

Some vinyl fencing can crack in severe freezing weather or warp in the summer, so evaluate the product and warranty carefully. Maintenance is fairly simple, though — water alone or with a mild cleaner takes care of mold, Bailes said. Commercial products can prevent mold from re-forming.

Also, decking companies such as Trex are moving into the fencing domain. Composite fencing — made of wood and plastic fibers — can absorb and deflect sound. Composite materials also have the benefit of a wood look (without rotting or splintering) and can come in panels or be "stick built" to fit the grade of the ground. Maintenance is akin to vinyl fencing.

Like vinyl though, composite fencing is costly, and sometimes the color lightens beyond expectations.


An overlooked legal requirement or a wrongly placed fence can add a significant cost to an already pricey home project. So consider maintenance, warranty and style, but don't neglect these details.

Check for utilities:

"Anytime you move the soil in any manner, including to install a fence," state law on both sides of the line requires that you determine where utility lines are located, said Dave Jones of One Call in Jefferson City. You risk safety (electrocution) and severe monetary expense (sometimes several thousand dollars) if you hit a line.

The good news is that One Call, which will locate all of your utility lines (averaging six per household), is funded by the utility companies and is free. If you're installing the fence yourself, call beforehand. If a professional fencing company will install the fencing, then it is required to schedule the service, Jones said.


"Fences are costly," said Kate Hauber, a real estate attorney with Stinson Morrison Hecker. "Figure out whether there are any issues before you begin."

Hauber suggests starting with the covenants in the homeowners association and with city hall. Covenants should be in the title report when you buy a house, but if they are not, ask the title company for a declaration of restrictions. Some common covenants or municipal codes involve height restrictions, requirements that certain materials be used (or not used), set-back requirements (like distance from a curb), and obligations to keep the fence in good repair.

Hauber also suggests hiring a surveyor to verify the property line. Fences set in the wrong place can lead to claims of adverse possession. Ownership of property that your neighbor cares for because you have fenced yourself out might become the crux of a legal battle. One way to solve that issue is by having the neighbor sign a license so there's no claim by the neighbor or a successor, Hauber said.

"The cost of litigation is so high," Hauber said. "But it happens. Cases do arise where there is a fight over a few feet because of a misplaced fence."

For that reason, surveyor John Renner suggests placing the fence as close to the property line as practical.

Renner said too that many disputes arise after two neighbors have agreed informally where the property line is and split the cost of building a fence. When one or both sell, a new owner asserts the fence is in the wrong place and wants to replace it.

Renner said most residential surveys run about $375 in new subdivisions and $525 for older properties. The survey comes with permanent markers (iron bars in the ground) and a certified drawing — signed and sealed in accordance with state law.


Why does the pretty side of the fence face away from home that installed it?

Three reasons, Bailes said. Sometimes a local code or covenant will require it. Sometimes it's a safety issue: The smooth exterior is tougher to climb. And sometimes it's a simple matter of courtesy to neighbors.

FHA Mortgages are an Affordable Alternative for Home Buyers

by Greg Eckert, Ulster Savings


The Federal Housing Administration‘s (FHA) mission is to insure affordable mortgage loans to home buyers looking to purchase a 1-4 family home as a primary residence. They have been invaluable in helping plug the hole created when private insurance companies and conventional mortgages guidelines tightened after the housing crisis. While attractive to the first time buyer, being a first time buyer is not a requirement to obtain an FHA insured mortgage. The home must be the borrower’s primary residence, and there are maximum loan limits, which are set depending on the County in which the home is located. For example, the maximum mortgage limit for a single family home in Ulster County is currently $406,250.

An FHA loan is a popular mortgage option due to flexible guidelines that allow for down payments as low as 3.5%. The down payment can be a gift from a family member or a grant from a not-for-profit housing agency. FHA also allows borrowers to negotiate up to a 6% seller concession toward a purchaser’s closing costs and prepaid items. The net result is that FHA loans allow a borrower to buy a home with less money “out of pocket” – very important to today’s buyers!

The FHA has had a reputation for having very stringent appraisal guidelines. While the FHA certainly wants the house to be in good condition, they have relaxed some of the appraisal requirements to fall more in line with conventional loan standards. The FHA still does have some hot-button items. For example, wells and septic fields

should be at least 100 feet apart, although some exceptions apply. They also require certain safety issues to be corrected prior to closing. For example, hand rails near steps that are missing may need to be installed, and any peeling paint that might contain lead will need to be scraped and repainted.

Low down payments, generous loan limits, and flexible credit underwriting has made FHA mortgages an affordable alternative for many of today’s home buyers.

The key to a smooth FHA mortgage process is to work with a loan officer who is experienced in all aspects of the program. A knowledgeable loan officer will walk prospective home buyers through the FHA mortgage process and help determine if they qualify for this popular mortgage program.

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Contact Information

Photo of Laurel Sweeney Real Estate
Laurel Sweeney
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nutshell Realty
1209 State Route 213, PO Box 452
High Falls NY 12440
Office: 845-687-2200
Toll Free 877-468-5783
Fax: 845-687-4162

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