Prepping a Pristine Lawn

by c21commonweath_ldowling 13. May 2019 16:04

Now that spring is in full bloom, it’s time to take a good look at your lawn and start any necessary maintenance before the hot summer months arrive. Pick a pleasant day to examine your lawn, noting opportunities for improvement so it can stay well-kept and beautiful all year long. 

Lawn Maintenance 101

Performing routine mowing, irrigation, and feeding practices is the best way to prevent an overgrowth of weeds. If you keep a healthy lawn maintenance routine, you might not have to wrestle with any wild, unwanted plants. Use the following techniques to ensure weeds don’t become unmanageable and spread throughout your lawn:

  • Use herbicide to prevent weeds from sprouting in the warmer months—don’t even let them try to grow!
  • Remove weeds from nearby gardens to prevent them from traveling to your lawn.
  • Fill in your lawn’s bare spots with sod or seed to make sure weeds don’t take hold in these areas.

Weeds also develop in overgrown thatch (the layer of organic material that accumulates around the base of the grass). While a thin layer of thatch is healthy, thatch that reaches an inch in height creates room for weeds. Allowing for aeration in thickly developed thatch will help—mow or rake it to let more air reach the soil. Appropriate aeration fosters the development of organisms that work to break down excess thatch, helping you say goodbye to unruly weeds.

Check Your Machines

A well-maintained lawnmower runs much more smoothly than one that’s lived in your shed for the past four months without seeing the light of day. Perform routine maintenance on your engine to ensure it mows like a pro. Replace the oil and gas, spark plugs, and air filters, and sharpen the blades to make sure the grass cuts evenly. Thoroughly clean your mower to improve its performance and to prevent it from falling apart prematurely.

Stay on Track

A large part of good lawn maintenance is following a routine schedule. Plan out when you will water and fertilize your lawn throughout the week so you don’t forget to keep it nourished and healthy. Getting into a habit of mowing more often also helps you stay on track and prevents weeds from growing in thickets of unkept grass.

To help yourself stay on track, find ways to make springtime gardening and lawn maintenance a priority. Open windows and curtains to remind yourself of yard work while you’re lounging inside. You can also plan outdoor chores with the family and share tasks with your kiddos. After all, creating a beautiful yard is something the whole family should be proud of and enjoy doing together on warm, beautiful spring days.


Making Tiny Spaces Look Bigger

by c21commonweath_ldowling 8. May 2019 09:47

If you’re selling or moving into a home with small rooms, you’ll want to create the illusion of having more space. Why? Open and spacious rooms (especially closets) are more appealing to prospective buyers who may have a ton of belongings to bring with them. Making bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, bathrooms, and closets appear larger than they are is possible with easy DIY tips.

Declutter Everything

No matter how large your rooms are, they’ll look smaller and feel claustrophobic if items are scattered about everywhere. Declutter your home every six months to get rid of things you no longer need, use, or want. This is especially important if you’re putting your house on the market. Do a thorough sweep of every room before your showcase to help put the “open” in “open house.”

Using multi-purpose furniture is one strategic way to create less clutter year-round. For example, a window seat with built-in storage underneath could save you from needing another bulky bookcase or dresser. You can also maximize the space of particularly small closets with closet organizers to keep extra clothes from piling up or falling on the floor.  

The Essentials

Make small living rooms or bedrooms ”bigger” by painting them with light or dark colors. Medium shades make spaces feel more cramped and confined. Instead, opt for white or very dark colors to visually expand the space. Bedrooms are great places to experiment with color because they’re more private and tucked away. Why not paints the walls a bold version of your favorite color? The room will feel larger and reflect your unique style and taste.

You’ll want to be more intentional with the furniture you place in your rooms, too. Although it might seem counterintuitive to highlight open space with large furniture, drawing attention with statement pieces like big beds and dressers will prove that pieces of their size still fit comfortably in the room. Filling your rooms with too many small pieces of furniture can make them feel cluttered, even if the items themselves take up less space than something larger.

Also, select chairs and beds with exposed legs. Seeing the extra room beneath furniture creates a feeling of openness, unlike looking at beds and chairs with skirts that touch the ground.

Decorate Strategically

Use mirrors, lamps, and curtains to make your room feel and look bigger. Floor-to-ceiling curtains do a good job of drawing your attention to the length of the wall, ultimately making the room seem taller. You can also place mirrors in dark spaces to reflect light around the room. Placing several lamps around the room will have a similar effect.

Open-House Ready

Now that you've made your small rooms look bigger, you've got more space to relax and more opportunity to impress potential homeowners—a win-win for owners and buyers alike.


Hosting Mother's Day Brunch at Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 6. May 2019 16:27

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and you know what that means: It’s time for a delicious brunch! We recommend planning your party ahead of time to avoid feeling overwhelmed so you can focus on what matters most: telling Mom just how much you love her.

Get to the Planning

If you’re throwing a large brunch party, you’ll want to send out invitations, order flowers, and prepare all of Mom’s favorite recipes. Get a leg up on things by starting your prep the day or night before. Spend Saturday cooking and setting up decorations so you can thoroughly enjoy brunch with your mom and other family members. 

Before cooking any food, though, get a proper headcount for the brunch table. If you already know the number of people attending your Mother’s Day brunch, you can start planning your recipes and purhasing ingredients.

Delicious Food for Mom and Friends

Scrumptious treats, appetizers, and entrées will take your Mother’s Day brunch to the next level. It’s nice to start with a selection of tasty appetizers before more serving the main course, especially because guests will arrive at different times. Go with easy-to-eat, bite-sized appetizers to prevent unseemly messes. Deviled eggs, breakfast sausage meatballs, and cheese puffs with ham salad are all yummy appetizers you should consider adding your list.

Preparing your main dishes may take more thought. Make matters easy by letting Mom pick the menu: Ask her about her favorite brunch recipes. If she doesn’t have many requests, you can always resort to more traditional brunch items like flapjacks, brioche, donuts, mixed salad, eggs, and cucumber salads.

Lastly, let’s not forget about the cocktails. Get the party started with mimosas and fruity cocktails, and save enough to make a celebratory toast to Mom amongst friends and family around the table.

It’s Time to Decorate

Decorate the dining table with flowers, place settings, and special linens to showcase your love. Place flowers down the center of the table so everyone gets a glimpse of their pretty petals and leaves. You can also set the table with your favorite linens and special plates to make the scene come to life. For added emotional appeal, use Mom’s cutlery or china—a sentimental trick that’s bound to make her feel loved.

Explore Outside of the House

After you’ve satisfied Mom with her favorite food and good company, take her out! Boston is full of wonderful attractions she’ll love exploring with the family. Take a stroll through Piers Park or Boston Common, take a Boston Harbor Cruise, shop at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, or purchase some treats at Mike’s Pastry. The city’s full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy together.


Creating a Smart Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 1. May 2019 15:56

Creating a smart home, where technology controls everything from lighting to room temperature, used to be an expensive ordeal. Now, home automation systems are found in homes of all sizes around the world. If you’re considering upgrading your humble abode with the latest smart technology, use these strategies to make the tech-friendly transition easier.

Determine Your Needs

From playing music in every room to providing heightened security, smart devices are designed to accommodate a variety of needs. Before you buy a bunch of smart equipment, figure out exactly what you want it to accomplish so you can be sure the installation effort is worthwhile.

Lay the Foundation for Success

Smart products rely on strong Wi-Fi connections to properly communicate with the internet and smartphones, so before integrating any new systems, set up a Wi-Fi network that accommodates your needs. If you own a larger home, where smart products may be scattered throughout the property, Wi-Fi networks must cover a wider range.

Install a mesh Wi-Fi system to ensure that all products stay connected to the internet, and place several different Wi-Fi network devices throughout your home to create a single network that’s able to cover everything from your bedroom to the garage.

Start Small and Simple

Once you’ve determined your needs and installed a Wi-Fi network, you can integrate your smart products. Start with the basic items that are easy to set up and use right away. Some homeowners begin with a Smart Plug, which automates lighting, monitors energy usage, and more. With this handy product, you can schedule lights to turn on and off and track energy usage in devices placed throughout your home.

Other forms of smart lighting are popular too. Smart bulbs and dimmers, for example, require basic electrical work to install but allow you to control your home’s lighting from anywhere in the world—you can light up the whole house before you pull into the driveway or make sure everything’s turned off from across the country

Home Assistants

Virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant answer questions, play music, turn on lights, and even tell jokes. By listening to your commands, these devices can set up a call with a friend, order an Uber, or deliver a weather report.  If you have a fully decked out smart home, a virtual assistant can control numerous smart devices throughout the house so you don’t have to use two or three apps to initiate commands.

Enjoy Your New Home

High-tech features can make your day-to-day routines simpler—even fun. Integrating devices with your home may take time, but if you have a lot of needs and interests that technology can help with, you’ll enjoy living in a sophisticated home that operates with heightened efficiency.


Revamping Your Kitchen on a Budget

by c21commonweath_ldowling 29. April 2019 16:14

Remodeling a kitchen can be expensive. The average remodel costs $60,000—if that number is out of your budget, we’re here to tell you there is still hope. With a bit of research and work, you can revamp your kitchen to make it look new again without breaking the bank.

Make More Room

Reorganizing your kitchen can clear up space for more cooking and dining and make room to add colorful flair. Vertical bookshelves painted in your color of choice is a cheap way to add more storage space for dishes, pots and pans, and any miscellaneous items. Add hooks to the inside of your bookshelf to hang aprons and linens.

Getting hanging pot racks for your kitchen’s ceiling also creates more countertop space. If you’re in need of new countertops, look for bargains at discount granite stores or home improvement stores, or consider cheaper countertop materials like resin or wooden butcher’s block. Keep an open mind toward the materials you’re willing to use and a wide range of cost-effective countertops will be available to you.

Update Hardware

Changing out old kitchen hardware instantly revitalizes any kitchen space. Start by replacing outdated sinks and faucets with trendy alternatives like brushed brass or stainless steel. Take this opportunity to elevate your faucet, too, increasing the amount of sink space for washing dishes and bulky pots.

Complement your new sink with updated appliances from local hardware stores. By avoiding designer kitchen brands, you’ll save money that can be spent on other fun updates, like a new, fancy backsplash.

Lastly, make your kitchen cozy and welcoming with warm lighting that’s not overly dim. We suggest searching for lighting you love in magazines and finding similar fixtures for a discounted price in department and home improvement stores.

Add Personal Touches

Kitchens are joyful places. Families and friends gather in these spaces to celebrate good food and each other’s company. Adding simple finishing touches can make your kitchen appropriately lively and welcoming. Start by applying a fresh coat of paint, which can be done well for cheap if you handle the job yourself. Save that extra painting money for new curtains, which help eliminate smells from cooking and smoke.

Simple Upgrades You Can Afford

With these remodeling tips in mind, you’re well on your way to creating a new kitchen space that’s clean, organized, and attractive. Do your research to find great deals on appliances, and take care of the grunt work yourself. You’ll wake up to a kitchen you love without a bill that sets you back.


Planting the Perfect Spring Garden

by c21commonweath_ldowling 24. April 2019 15:23

It’s refreshing to get back to tending the garden after winter—getting your hands dirty in the flowerbeds and soaking up some sunshine. Whether you’re planting to improve your home’s curb appeal or gardening just for the fun of it, take special care to choose plants that can handle the local climate and look fabulous year-round.

A Look at Climate

Boston has a continental climate, with cold, snowy winters and warm summers. Due to the city’s coastal location between two colliding air masses (down from Canada and up from the Gulf), residents can expect unstable weather conditions. One day, skies are clear and sunny—the next, they’re dark and stormy.

To account for rapid changes in weather (with periodic freezing temperatures at night), we recommend investing in hardy plants that will last through cold days and nights. Pansies, which can be found blooming across New England this time of year, are a good example.  

Annual Springtime Flowers

For a colorful, fruitful garden, plant annuals that can withstand the area’s colder springtime temperatures.

Pansies: These purple, yellow, and white flowers don’t mind water or frost, making them a great option for Boston’s colder climate.  

Primrose: These flowers come in many bright colors and bloom late in the winter months so you can enjoy them through the beginning of spring.

Snapdragons: Saturated in color, these stalky flowers perk up in the cooler spring and fall seasons.

Nemesia:  Plant these beautiful annuals near pansies to complement your already colorful flowerbed. Nemesia comes in almost every color and does well in the cool weather.

Cold-Crop Vegetables

Maybe your garden is a source of delicious home-grown vegetables. Cold-crop veggies like parsley, lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and collards will do just fine in Boston’s continental climate. Planting and harvesting these vegetables are satisfying activities for novice and experienced gardeners alike.

Purchasing the Right Plants

If you’re unsure what flowers and plants to include in your garden, you can learn more about New-England-friendly plants here. You should also make a trip to your local nursery to see what kinds of plants are sold outside. If they’re doing well out in the elements, they’ll more than likely thrive in your garden. Paying closer attention to the local forecast gives you a leg up on selecting plants and flowers well-suited to your garden this time of year.

Watch Your Garden Come to Life

Tending to your garden is about more than upkeep for your property. It’s about taking care of yourself, too! Gardening is a great way to enjoy the fresh air and get a little exercise, and it’s even better with friends and family. Get your hands dirty with a bit of weekly landscaping to make your garden come to life and do some growing of your own.      



Selling a Fixer-Upper to a Prospective Buyer

by c21commonweath_ldowling 17. April 2019 14:31

When selling a fixer-upper, you’ll first need to decide who you’re selling it to: traditional buyers or investors. Homes that require simple to moderate repairs might be attractive to eager buyers willing to do some remodeling themselves. Contrarily, homes with major issues can be sold to investors if traditional buyers are intimidated by daunting repair work. Whomever you sell your home to ultimately depends on the current state of the property and the amount of work you’re willing to put into renovations.   

Selling to Investors

Homeowners sell dilapidated homes to investors instead of traditional buyers for several reasons. Firstly, financing may not be possible if the home doesn’t meet safety standards. Repairs may also be too much of a burden for homeowners and traditional buyers to take on themselves (which is to say your home needs more than just a little TLC).

In these cases, selling to a buy-and-hold or wholesale investor can take a huge load off your shoulders. Instead of making expensive and time-guzzling repairs yourself, you can count on an investor to do the prep work for you. Additionally, the escrow period usually takes less than a month because inspections, appraisals, and mortgage issues no longer determine your sale. Selling run-down homes to investors as-is encourages cash offers and flexible closing dates, making the transaction simple.

Selling to Traditional Buyers

Traditional buyers are the families, friends, and individuals looking to make your house their home, and they likely come with a set of requirements. Your home doesn’t have to be perfect to sell to this demographic, but you should put in a bit of grunt work to receive reasonable offers without drastically decreasing your asking price.

Start by tackling safety issues to avoid problems with inspectors or financers. Take a good look at your roof, electrical panel, water heater, pipes, and septic and HVAC systems, and check for damage from water, mold, or termites. After these major issues have been addressed, you can move on to easy cosmetic fixes, like painting rooms, caulking bathrooms and kitchens, fixing lighting fixtures, and cleaning carpets.

Marketing Your Fixer-Upper

You’ll still need to market your home appropriately, no matter whom you’re selling it to. For investors, market your home on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or sites like Zillow and Trulia with photos of the place, and know that you’ll likely still need to hold showings and inspections.

For traditional buyers, market your home by focusing on the positives. Highlight the property’s size, location, and floor plan to distract from the less seemly features. Using descriptive keywords like “landscaped,” “remodeled,” or “historic” will also give you a leg up. Lastly, price your house appropriately by researching the market and prices of homes selling in the area.



Should You Invest in a Guesthouse?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 15. April 2019 14:59

Building a cottage in your backyard could be a fun and fruitful project, but you’ll want to think twice about investing large sums of money into an additional property. While convenient for family, friends, and renting to tenants, guesthouses require a lot of planning and maintenance to become worthwhile investments. If managed properly, your new guesthouse will make tenants happy and be a source of extra money.

Planning Properly

Begin by investigating local building codes and real estate laws. Hiding an unpermitted building behind your home will cause more harm than good if insurance companies consider your property risky or illegal. Even if your guesthouse properly meets construction standards, ADU (accessory dwelling unit) laws may prohibit building in your neighborhood. Many counties have relaxed regulations, so check local laws to ensure your guesthouse can be built in the first place.

Consider Financials

Mortgage programs determine if you can own a property with multiple residencies (and how you can use each property). Research conventional, Federal Housing Administration, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loans for a better understanding of their impact on housing regulations. Consider, too, that a lender may calculate your rental income to determine how much money you’re allowed to borrow from financial institutions.

Local housing markets also impact earnings. Research the demand in your area, and look up guesthouses in your neighborhood that are similar in size and style to estimate the value of your planned project.

Lastly, you’ll want to think about managing utilities to increase your cash flow. Certain companies can set up utilities for guesthouses separately, requiring tenants to handle their own gas and energy usage. If this isn’t an option with your provider, determine your own energy usage beforehand to accurately charge renters for their own usage once they move in.

Welcoming Guests

A guesthouse is a great source of extra cash as a rental property (if managed properly), but there can be other perks, like welcoming friends and family into your home. If you’re prepared to host friends or strangers for a night or longer, you’ll likely enjoy the experience. If you’re not prepared to live in a communal environment, owning a guesthouse can quickly become a stressful ordeal. Consider how much you value privacy before welcoming others onto your property.  

Keeping Things in Tip-Top Shape

Owning a guesthouse also means maintain the property to keep tenants happy. If you’re not willing to make repairs and tend to the landscape, investing in a guesthouse may not be the best idea. Contrarily, if maintaining a clean and beautiful space excites you, renting out your little home can be very profitable.

Increase Your Property Value

Investing in a guesthouse increases your property value. After you’re through with all the research and building, you can rest assured knowing you’ll see a larger return on your investments if you ever decide to sell the place—perhaps one of the best reasons for adding a cute little cottage to the back of your home. 


Owning a Rental Property for the First Time

by c21commonweath_ldowling 10. April 2019 15:22

There are many things to consider before purchasing a rental property, including financials, location, and logistics. Before signing the deal on your new property, go over the following steps to ensure you make a worthwhile investment. 

Where Will You Buy?

You want your rental property to be occupied, so make sure it’s nestled in a city or town bustling with activity and tourists. Before purchasing, know the major employers and the area’s economic outlook. This ensures you don’t buy in a neighborhood that’s on the way out. By doing a deep dive into potential buying markets, you’ll have a better idea of which locations are most lucrative.

First-time buyers also benefit from buying in their own neighborhood because they already have a feel for the area, local attractions, and buyer behavior. If you don’t have to buy a destination rental property, make things easy on yourself by beginning your rental business in your own neck of the woods.

Think About Your Financial Future

Owning a rental property can be a great source of extra income if you’re thinking about your financial future. Make sure you’re not only taking into consideration your own personal preferences while investing in a property—save those desires for your own home. Figure out what you need to secure a nice rental property for temporary residents, and save the fancy flourishes for your own residence.

There are other important financial factors to consider too. HOA fees, taxes, repairs, property management fees, and utilities should all be considered to determine how much money you'll save. Determining the capitalization rate allows you to compare different deals you're considering. Be prepared by doing your financial research to save the big bucks.

Lastly, think about how the addition of a new mortgage will impact you. Investment properties commonly require at least 20% down, so make sure you have enough saved up to make payments alongside unreliable tenants, repairs, and other unforeseeable expenses.

Becoming a Landlord

Congratulations, you’ve purchased a rental property! Now, who’s going to manage it? Will you play the role of the landlord or hire a third party to do the work for you? Payments must be collected, repairs need to be made, and tenants might have to be evicted. Whoever takes over must be prepared to successfully complete these tasks.

With a bit of preparation and work, you’re well on your way to owning a rental property your guests love and that provides you with a bit of extra cash.


Renovations Worth Investing In

by c21commonweath_ldowling 8. April 2019 12:38

Boosting your property value partially depends on the number of home improvements you’re willing to make. Some renovations are more valuable than others, so we recommend investing in work that pays off in the future. Depending on the improvements you make, you can increase your home’s value by 10% to 12%.

Interior Walls

New paint raises the value of your home and appeals to buyers as they walk into a clean and airy space. Choose light, neutral colors over bold, dark ones to make the room feel bigger. Painting with these colors allows visitors to more easily envision a life in your home when they’re not overwhelmed by intense hues of purple, green, or any other color you may personally love.  

Expect to pay $200 or less to do the painting yourself and around $400 for a professional to do the heavy lifting for you. Whether you rely on a professional or not, shoveling out a couple of hundred bucks up front will pay off in the future with a faster, more lucrative sale.

Installing crown molding costs a bit more ($300 to $500 per room) but has a similar effect. By adding it to the top edges of walls, door frames, and cabinets, rooms appear clean and finished with the addition of classic flourishes. Not every home in the neighborhood will incorporate these details, and installing crown molding helps set your home apart from the rest.

Bathroom Renovations

The bathroom used to be a room that didn’t’ draw much attention. Now, homeowners want a large enough space to relax and unwind in. Soaking tubs, whirlpools, heated floors, and natural light are desirable in bathroom spaces but can easily add up to a small fortune to install. Consider your budget and the other homes you’re competing against in the neighborhood to decide how much money you’ll invest in creating a luxurious bathroom. Expect to pay between $35,000 to $65,000 for fancy bathroom renovations. If that amount isn’t in your budget, you can still replace old floors with tiles, paint vanities, and install new bathroom hardware for a cleaner, more attractive look. 

Kitchen Improvements

The kitchen is now one of the main focal points of the home. Open floorplans have living rooms leading to kitchens, a common place for friends and families to gather around tasty appetizers and drinks. The kitchen is, for many, a celebratory place and should look clean and attractive. Consider installing high-end appliances, marble countertops, and wine racks to impress buyers. While these renovations can cost upwards of $75,000, sellers usually recoup around 65% of costs.

Renovate Wisely

Investing in the right home improvements raises your property value and contributes to a faster sale. Renovate with your buyers in mind so you can spend your well-deserved money on renovations for your new place.