Things to do this Weekend: February 5th – February 7th: New York

Events this weekend in Westchester County New York. Westchester County, New York Event: Hudson River Eagle Fest Venue: Peekskill Riverfront Green in Peekshill, NY Date: February 6, 2016 Description: Join us as we watch bald eagles soar over the Hudson River, listen to tales from Hudson River Storyteller Jonathan Kruk, make an eagle mask, and learn about the reemergence of the eagles on the Hudson River from DEC Official Tom Lake.   Event: Valentine’s Day Pop Up Show  Venue: West Elm Scarsdale Yonkers in Scarsdale, NY Date: February 6-7, 2016 Description: West Elm Scarsdale is hosting the Northeast Etsy Artists Association, a team of local artists and crafters for a Valentine’s Day Pop Up Shop.  Twelve artists from the team will be on hand to connect and engage with shoppers to sell their handmade wares of jewelry, accessories, original artwork, soap, fabric creations and much more perfect for gift-giving and home decor. Event: Chappaqua Farmers Market Winter Season  Venue: First Congregational Church of Chappaqua in Chappaqua, NY Date: February 6, 2016 (every Saturday through April 16, 2016) Description: Chappaqua rFarmers Market heads indoors for the Winter Season. We also welcome new vendors to join our beautifully curated collection of local farmers and producers. Please come and enjoy the fruits of the season! Visit more events throughout the state of New...

Things to do this Weekend: February 5th – February 7th Connecticut & Rhode Island

Check out events going on this weekend in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Connecticut Event: Kids Fair  Venue: Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, CT Date: February 6-7, 2016 Description: One-stop-shopping for the latest products and services for growing families, including national, state and local companies offering product samples and valuable information. Plus, entertainment, celebrity appearances, and loads of activities for families with busy babies and toddlers. Event: “42nd Street” Venue: The Palace Theatre in Stamford, CT Date: February 5-6, 2016 Description: 42nd Street tells the story of starry-eyed young dancer named Peggy Sawyer who leaves her Allentown home and comes to New York to audition for the new Broadway musical “Pretty Lady.” When the star breaks her ankle, Peggy takes over and becomes a star. Event: Super Brew Saturday  Venue: Warsaw Park in Ansonia, CT Date: February 6, 2016 Description: Kick your Super Bowl weekend off with the ultimate tailgate party, and help draft Connecticut’s favorite beer by voting for the beers you like the best. Ticket purchasers will sample beer from local, regional and national brewers and home brewers too. Wear your favorite teams jersey, and get ready to vote for your favorite beers. Event: Painting in Four Takes Venue: The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT Date: Through April 3, 2016 Description: For the first time in over twenty years, The Aldrich will dedicate all of its galleries to painting. This series of solo exhibitions provide a window into the practices of four engaging artists, Steven DiBenedetto, Hayal Pozanti, Julia Rommel, and Ruth Root, who imbue painting with relevance and character.  Event: MacChiliFest  Venue: Bedford Middle School in Westport, CT Date: February 7, 2016 Description: Join...

4 VA Loan Myths That Hamper Veteran Home Buyers

Misconceptions about mortgage options can keep veterans from exploring their hard-earned home loan benefits.     Part of the original GI Bill of 1944, VA home loans — mortgage loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) — have soared since the housing crash. During a time of tight credit and tough lending, this long-cherished program backed a record 631,151 loans in fiscal year 2015. VA loans aren’t just grabbing market share — they’re snagging headlines, too, from talk of their industry-low interest rates to their surprising safety. But countless veterans and military families are still missing out, in part because of longstanding myths and misconceptions. A perception of red tape and bureaucracy is something Department of Veterans Affairs officials continue to combat. Mike Frueh, the head of the loan program, calls it the “myth of my father’s VA.” “It’s the myth that the loan takes too long to get, it’s too cumbersome, it’s difficult,” Frueh said. “We can counter that through education, and through constantly addressing our program to make it better.” To that end, let’s take a look at four pervasive VA loan myths that can keep veterans from exploring their hard-earned home loan benefits. Myth 1: You need perfect credit This one is almost laughably wrong. VA loans were created to help level the playing field for veterans and military members who’ve sacrificed for our country. More flexible and forgiving credit guidelines are a key part of the benefit. While the VA doesn’t require a certain credit score, the private lenders ultimately making these loans certainly will. The good news is, many are looking for a minimum...

Listing Photos: Your Home’s First Showing

A picture is worth a thousand words, and could be worth thousands of dollars when it comes to attracting the right buyers to your home.  Let’s face it, buyers form their first impression of your home based on the online listing. As they say, Web appeal is the new curb appeal. If you are serious about selling your home, you have to take your listing photo shoot very seriously. If your photos don’t excite buyers, they may not step foot inside. You should prepare for your photo shoot as much as you would for an open house or private showing. Work alongside an excellent local real estate agent, and follow these tips to make sure your home looks its best. Never list your home online without photos Today’s buyers get email and text alerts when a new home that matches their criteria hits the market. There is nothing more frustrating than to see the desired address come across as an alert, only for the listing to be incomplete. Buyers (and agents) will punish you for jumping the gun. Will they go back later and look again, once you have the photos up? Maybe — but maybe not. You’re adding an extra step for them, and it comes across like you don’t have your ducks in a row. That’s not a great way to start out with your future customer. Clean, declutter, organize and remove You should spend a good amount of time preparing for your photo shoot. This means that you fluff the pillows, put toilet seats down, put Fido’s bowl and toys away, and ensure the home  is in impeccable condition. People can zoom...

Featured Town of the Week – Simsbury, CT

Local Real Estate Office: Simsbury Office of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties    90 Hopmeadow St. Simsbury, CT 06070 860-658-1981 View Listings Population 24,000 Around Town: The town of Simsbury, Connecticut is a suburban town in Hartford County and lies in the northern end of the Farmington Valley. It has a population of over 24,000 people and is about 30 minute commute to Hartford. The town of Simsbury was named the 4th best town in Connecticut on Connecticut Magazines list of top places to live 2013. Simsbury includes Simsbury Center, Tariffville, Weatogue, and West Simsbury. It is a popular town for recreational activities–it is the home to several parks, forests and outdoors destinations including Talcott Mountain State Park, Heublein Tower, Farmington Valley Greenway, McLean Game Refuge and the Farmington River. Simsbury is also the home to two famous private schools, Ethel Walker School and Westminster School. The town also has a high-achieving public school system. Travel Times: Bradley Airport: 30 minutes Hartford: 25 minutes New Haven: 1 hour NYC: 2.5 hours Boston: 2 hours Transportation: CT Transit Commuter Bus Public Buses Available Schools Public: 5 Elementary, 1 Middle,  1 High School Private: Ethel Walker School, Westminster School, The Cobb School Montessori  Parks/Recreation: Talcott Mountain State Park Stratton Brook State Park  Farmington Valley Trail Greenway Farmington River Shopping Places to Visit: Rosedale Farms & Vineyard  Phelps Tavern Museum  Links: Town Website Real Estate Demographics...

Bank Or Broker? How To Pick The Right Mortgage

Ready to head to a lender and apply for your home loan? Going to your bank for your mortgage may feel like the obvious choice. After all, you’re already a customer and having all your financial services under one roof is convenient. But is it the best choice? For some borrowers, choosing to work with a mortgage broker is the right way to go when buying that Miami, FL, real estate. There are pros and cons to each option and reasons why one may end up being the more favorable choice for you. Here’s how to decide whether going the bank or broker route makes sense, and what you can do to pick the right mortgage. Why stick with your bank? The biggest benefit to using a bank to get a loan is that you already have an existing relationship with the institution. It may also be easier to manage your money and your monthly budget when all your financial accounts and products are consolidated in one place. But there are downsides to sticking with your bank when you take out a mortgage. Nannette Kamien of Inspiration Financial Planning in Illinois points out that by sticking with a bank, you may work with someone who doesn’t have expertise in home loans. Or your loan officer may be tied to using their bank’s products, even if there are better options for you elsewhere. Worst of all? The process could move more slowly — and potentially put your closing date at risk. “Their closing turnaround times can be longer because of the burden of complying with some of the new regulations,”...

Your Credit Scores Explained

Lenders want to give you a mortgage, but they also want to minimize their own risk. The easiest way to retard risk is by using your credit scores to make lending decisions. Credit scores are compiled separately by three consumer reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. These credit reporting bureaus calculate scores differently, and base their scores on information that may differ from other bureaus. Equifax Beacon 5.0 Facta: scores range from 334 to 818. Experian Fair Isaac V2: scores range from 320 to 844. Trans Union FICO Risk score Classic 04: scores range from 309 to 839. Your credit score is a number that reflects the information in your credit report, whether you pay your bills on time, how much you owe creditors, payoffs, and derogatory information such as liens. It also includes inquiries into your accounts from lenders, landlords, and employers. When you apply for a home loan, your application includes giving your lender permission to “pull your credit” and base the decision to lend to you and the rate of interest on the information contained in your credit scores. The higher the score, the better terms you’ll receive from the lender. Once your credit scores are reviewed by your mortgage lender, you’ll receive a computer-generated report of the findings in the mail, but it won’t have a copy of your entire credit report. It may include key factors that adversely affected your scores. Some examples might include: Too many inquiries in the last 12 months Time since most recent account opening is too short Proportion of loan balances to loan amounts is too high...

Things to do this Weekend: January 29th – January 31st: New York

Events this weekend in Westchester County New York. Westchester County, New York Event: Casino Night Fundraiser  Venue: Beth El Synagogue Center in New Rochelle, NY Date: January 30, 2016 Description: Come out for a night of gaming, fun and food! Bid on our Silent Auction! Event: Almost Queen  Venue: Paramount Hudson Valley Theater in Peekshill, NY Date: January 30, 2016 Description: Almost Queen Saturday, January 30th, 2016 8:00 p.m. Almost Queen succeeds in blending the vocal layering and studio precision that is a signature of the band with the energy and spectacle of a live stage production.  Event: Evil Dead Double Feature  Venue: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Yonkers, NY Date: January 30, 2016 Description: There are legendary cult films, and then there are counterculture movies so wildly popular that they define an entire genre. Enter Sam Raimi’s earth-shattering Evil Dead flicks, which introduced the world to the riotous wisecracks of Bruce Campbell amid a maelstrom of dangerous demons, hungry zombies, and possessed teens. Visit more events throughout the state of New...

3 So-Cute Ways to Make Over Big, Boring Closet Doors

Read full article on Good Housekeeping.  Is the first thing you see in your bedroom a set of plain closet doors? You’re in luck — those doors are actually big blank canvases that you can easily dress up as gorgeous room decor. Here, professional designers tell us how to do it. Add Architectural Detail Bring some Parisian charm with inexpensive ceiling medallions. Nail them on and paint, like One Kings Lane stylist Megan Pflug did here. For a step-by-step, visit OneKingsLane.com.   Create a “Mural”  Use a large-patterned wallpaper, like this chinoiserie-inspired style, as fashion designer Austyn Zung did in her New York City loft. For a major statement, cover the surrounding wall, too.   Mount Mirrors Dress up French doors by gluing on precut mirrors (found at craft and hardware stores), as seen in this Montreal apartment designed by Nicola Marc. Finish with a fresh coat of paint.   Read full article on Good...

Things to do this Weekend: January 29th – January 31st Connecticut & Rhode Island

Check out events going on this weekend in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Connecticut Event: Chocolate & Food Lovers Expo  Venue: Crowne Plaza Hotel in Southbury, CT Date: January 31, 2016 Description: This fun-filled event offers samplings of delicious chocolate, specialty and gourmet foods from well-respected businesses. Shop for unique gifts, products and services, from an array of exhibitors, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Enjoy live music, door prizes and demonstrations. Event: Sun Wine Fest  Venue: Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT Date: January 28 – 31, 2016 Description: On Friday, taste a variety of fine bourbons and pair them with delectable hors d’oeuvres and cigar sampling. On Saturday and Sunday, sample more than 1,000 wines and beer varieties and limited spirits along with celebrity chef demonstrations, wine 101 and local restaurants and vendors. Event: Nature Crafts: Paper Snowflakes Venue: Goodwin Forest Conservation Education Center in Hampton, CT  Date: January 31, 2016 Description: An afternoon of crafting paper snowflakes. Every snowflake is different and you can experiment with how to make very simple or very intricate designs during this program. For both children and adults. Registration required. Event: Dining in Downtown  Venue: Pequot Library in Southport, CT Date: January 29, 2016 Description: See Downton Abbey at Pequot Library before PBS airs it. Bring your own dinner or have our gourmet chef prepare a Downton-themed meal just for you with the fireplace ambiance. Event: Connecticut Real Ale Festival   Venue: Bru Rm @ Bar in New Haven, CT Date: January 31, 2016 Description: A Connecticut premiere cask ale event and expect great one of a kind ale’s from Connecticut and beyond. Tickets include...

It’s Official: 2015 Was a Banner Year in Housing, But What’s Next?

Article from Realtor.com. With the latest numbers on existing- and new-home sales from the National Association of Realtors®, we can now close the books on 2015. And quite a year it’s been! As we’d expected, 2015 produced major growth and some big-time milestones in housing’s recovery. How good was it? Total home sales grew 7% over 2014 for the best year since 2007, based on 6% growth in existing-home sales and 15% growth in new-home sales. The increase in 2015 was a stark contrast to the decline in total sales in 2014. And en route to housing’s definitive recovery in 2015, we hit plenty of landmarks—including a new nominal record for the median price of existing homes in June, a substantial decline in distressed sales, an uptick in the share of first-time buyers, and an increase in the share of new homes among total sales. What drove the market last year We estimate from monthly sales and survey data from NAR that sales to first-time buyers were up 12%. An improving economy, pent-up demand, and strong affordability brought more millennials and other first-time buyers into the market. Sales to buyers relocating or resulting from a job change were up 8% as the country saw close to 2.8 million jobs created and the unemployment rate fell to 5%. Demographics were a driving force behind strong demand for housing in 2015 as we returned to a more normal pace of household formation related to the healthy job market. The new-home market grew in part because of builders responding to stronger and more consistent demand from entry-level buyers. As a result of product starting to shift, the median...

Now’s the Time to Jumpstart the Spring Selling Season

Guest Contributor: Patti Stern, PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating The start of another year represents a new beginning and a fresh outlook. It also represents the kick-off to the early spring selling season — the ideal time to get a head start for listing your home before the market gets saturated in April and May. And with unseasonably warmer temperatures in some areas, relocating buyers are even more anxious to get their foot in the door and secure their new home. These photos along with the following tips will help you prepare your home now to sell quickly and for top dollar or to simply help update your existing home decor. Make The Best First Impression. Spruce up your curb appeal by adding welcoming touches to your front entry from a new light fixture to fresh paint on the front door. Repair walkway cracks, touch up peeling paint and fix broken doorbells. Clean up landscaping and remove dead shrubs. Living Room Staged By PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating Our staging team introduced a more simplified décor by updating accessories and de-cluttering to showcase the beautiful architectural details and provide a more engaging space for buyers. Simplify. De-clutter by removing anything that will distract buyers from seeing the unique features of your property. Depersonalize by packing up personal collections, family photos, newspapers, books and magazines, etc. Rearrange and put away excessive furniture pieces to make the room appear larger. Bedroom Staged By PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating We updated this feminine room and gave it universal appeal by repainting with a neutral color and adding bedding...

Quick HVAC Maintenance Tips And Tricks For Winter

Your HVAC system works overtime during the winter, so it’s important to take preventative maintenance measures to keep it running smoothly. Here are some tips to help you prevent outages and keep your HVAC system in top shape for the season: How to Maintain Your HVAC Avoid wasting money on various HVAC repairs and take these preventative steps to keep your system in order: Check vents and ducts for any debris or dust that may prevent hot air from moving into your rooms. Have a heating professional perform routine maintenance on a schedule. See how your thermostat is performing and increase efficiency by turning it down to 55 degrees at night. Inspect air filters to ensure they aren’t clogged and interfering with regular airflow. Potential Issues to Look For Keep an eye out for potential issues when inspecting your HVAC system: Unexpectedly high energy bills. If you’re spending a lot of money on heating bills despite regular maintenance, you may need to address air leaks within your home. Unusually dirty or dusty air filters. If your air filters are getting dirty after only one month of use, look for holes in vents and the ducts, as well as any external issues that may be affecting the system. Low levels of airflow from your ducts and vents. If you’re seeing low airflow after cleaning your ducts and vents, you may have a bigger problem on your hands. Check for holes and breaks. A particularly cold room in your well heated home. With the heat on, every room in your house should be warm. If one room is cold, there may...

How to Choose and Keep a Long-Lasting Roof

Needs tips on picking the best roof for your home and keeping it in tip-top condition? We’ve got you covered. Built to last from extremely durable materials, your home’s roof probably receives scant attention — until there’s a problem. It’s best not to wait until water pours through the ceiling to educate yourself about roofing essentials. For first-time and long-time homeowners alike, this guide is key to researching a roof replacement and extending its lifespan through proper maintenance. Material matters The right roofing material should be both complementary to your home’s architectural style and appropriately suited to your climate. Selecting the best material is the first step to ensuring a long life and sidestepping costly repairs down the road. Asphalt shingles are durable, easy to install, available in a variety of colors, the least-expensive roofing option — and, unsurprisingly, the most commonly used material in the U.S. Some even incorporate zinc or copper granules to prevent algae growth, which can be a problem in more humid climates. An asphalt roof typically will last about 25 years or more. Wood shingles and shakes remain a centuries-old popular choice in the Pacific Northwest and Western U.S. regions. While shingles are uniformly machine-sawed, handmade shakes offer a more rustic exterior. Although a factory-applied treatment can make the wood fire-resistant, some municipal fire codes still forbid use of this material. Twice as pricey as asphalt, a wood roof also has a life expectancy of 25 years. Tile, clay, and cement are extremely durable, fire-resistant roofing materials. Most often seen covering the tops of Spanish-style homes in the Southwest, they are also expensive —...

Things to do this Weekend: January 22nd – January 24th: New York

Events this weekend in Westchester County New York. Westchester County, New York Event: Three Day Hangover: Drunkle Vanya Venue: Molly Spillane’s in Mamaroneck, NY Date: January 21 – 23, 2016 Description: This event will take place at Molly Spillane’s in Mamaroneck. Must be 21+ to attend. Following up last year’s successful staging of R+J: Star Cross’d Deathmatch at Molly’s, Three Day Hangover is back. Event: Spa For the Soul  Venue: Double Tree in Tarrytown, NY Date: January 24, 2016 Description: Treat yourself to a day of nourishment for the body and soul! Choice of workshops, followed by an hour of mini spa treatments, culminating with a gourmet luncheon and keynote speaker.  Join us for the highlight event of the Chabad of the Rivertowns – Women’s Circle. Event: National Players “Julius Caesar” Venue: Academic Arts Theatre in Valhalla, NY Date: January 23, 2016 Description: Considered to be quite the political drama, this play bears relevance in today’s global arena. The Romans venerate their leader, but Brutus sees that Julius Caesar may be too powerful for the good of the nation. Shakespeare’s masterful examination of conspiracy, assassination, and the fallout remains hauntingly timeless. Visit more events throughout the state of New...

Things to do this Weekend: January 22nd – January 24th Connecticut & Rhode Island

Check out events going on this weekend in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Connecticut Event: Ladies Night Out  Venue: Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook, CT Date: January 22, 2016 Description: Expect to be pampered as you browse a selection of goods and services exclusively for women. Sip a glass of wine and samply savory treats as you sample a cornucopia of delights from massage and paraffin treatments to jewelry and clothes. For women 21 and older. Event: A Winter Walk  Venue: White Memorial Conservationist Center in Litchfield, CT Date: January 23, 2016 Description: This early winter walk to the Little Pond Boardwalk ( 3.5 miles) will get your juices flowing. If it doesn’t…the coffee and comestibles Gerri will offer beforehand should do the trick. Meet in the A. B. Ceder Room at 8 a.m. FREE. Donations will be accepted. Event: Taste of Middlesex County  Venue: Various locations Date: January 10, 2016 – March 13, 2016 Description: We want you to be part of our newest initiative, the “Taste of Middlesex County.” Join Baci Grill, Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, Mattabesett Canoe Club, Lan Chi’s Vietnamese Restaurant, Tuscany Grill and many more for this exciting opportunity! Our goal is to highlight the numerous and diverse dining experiences within the greater Middlesex region. Event: Sensory Friendly Day Venue: Connecticut Science Center in Hartford, CT Date: January 24, 2016 Description: The Science Center is an exciting place, bustling with loud sounds and bright lights, but we’re lowering the volume and dimming the lights for Sensory Friendly Day. Groups with special needs programs and families with children on the autism spectrum or with other...

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties Wins Gold in Two Categories For The Commercial Record Readers’ Poll

***News Release*** Wallingford, CT – Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties recently announced that the company placed first with a Gold Award in two categories in The Commercial Record 2015 Readers’ Poll.  Connecticut Home Mortgage, an affiliate Mortgage Company of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties, won Gold in three categories. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties: Residential Real Estate: Real Estate Company (Gold) Commercial Real Estate: Commercial Real Estate Firm (Gold) Connecticut Home Mortgage: Banking: Residential Lending (Gold) Residential Real Estate: Mortgage Company (Gold) Residential Real Estate: Lending (Gold) “We are thrilled to be recognized by the Commercial Record readers as being the best in the business,” said Candace Adams, President and CEO.  “Our commitment to providing the highest level of service and expertise to our clients has earned their trust and confidence.” The Commercial Record Readers’ Poll awards represent the readers’ choice for best providers of services and goods in the banking and real estate professions in Connecticut. The results are tallied from an online voting process. The Commercial Record is a publication that provides award-winning news coverage of the Connecticut real estate, banking and financial industries. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England and Westchester Properties is a leading real estate brokerage firm with over 1,600 REALTORS® in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Westchester County, NY.  Selectively chosen by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and HomeServices of America; the global reach, financial strength and fresh brand make Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England and Westchester Properties the premiere real estate firm in the Northeast.  Whether it be residential, commercial, corporate relocation, equestrian or waterfront living, our company and REALTORS® are local market experts committed to providing exceptional...

5 Tax Deductions Sellers Won’t Want To Miss

Learn which tax benefits you can take advantage of when selling your home. If you’re like me, you assume the IRS wants as much information about your financial life as possible. And that’s typically true — except when you sell that Atlanta, GA real estate and make a profit of less than $250,000 (or less than $500,000 when you file a joint return with your spouse). If you meet those qualifications, and if you have lived in that home for two of the five years before you sell, the IRS doesn’t want to hear about your home sale, because the profit you make is excluded from being taxed under U.S. Code Section 121. Tell your mom about the sale instead, because, thankfully, the IRS isn’t listening. As if that weren’t enough, there’s more good news you should know: The IRS grants some tax deductions for home sellers. Getting the deductions requires that you itemize your taxes, admittedly a tedious job, but one that is probably worth your while. Here are five tax deductions you should take this year. 1. Selling costs If you don’t qualify for the 121 exclusion, you will owe taxes on any profit, so make sure you deduct all your selling costs from your gain. You can deduct the following, according to Nolo: Your real estate agent’s commission Legal fees Title insurance Inspection fees Advertising costs Escrow fees Legal fees And there’s another consideration. Vanessa Borges, an enrolled agent and tax preparation supervisor with the Tax Defense Network, notes, “You might qualify for a partial exclusion if you sell your home due to circumstances involving divorce, change in...