Steve Zippin, ABR, CRS, M.Ed.
Keller Williams Realty Boston Northwest | 978-580-9140 | team@stevezippin.com


Posted by Steve Zippin, ABR, CRS, M.Ed. on 6/21/2016

 



    If you've read the news in the last few years you've likely heard about the alarming decline of the bee population. In our daily lives, most of us think of bees only when they're buzzing uncomfortably close to our picnic table. What we don't often realize is the vital role that bees play in pollenating our food supply.

    Large farms throughout the country (and throughout the world) hire beekeepers to bring in their colonies for pollination. Without those bees there would be a drastic drop in food production. While drops in bee populations are naturally occurring and fluctuate from year to year, recent years have seen some of the worst declines to date.

Starting to feel bad about swatting at the bees in your backyard?

    First you should understand that these declines aren't your fault because you've killed a few bees in your life. Among the stresses that the bee population faces are viruses, mites, climate change, and habitat reduction. It would take a massive culture shift to address all of those issues. But, there are a few things you can do right in your backyard that will lend a small hand in helping out your local bee population.

Know your bees (and what's not a bee)

    Many people treat bees, wasps and hornets as interchangeable:

  • Bees are fuzzy pollinators that can sting only once. Common bees include honey bees, bumble bees, and carpenter bees.
  • Wasps are not fuzzy, and therefore not as effective as pollinators. They prey on insects and can be more aggressive than bees. The only wasps that sting are females, but they can sting multiple times.
  • Hornets are a sub-species of wasp native to North America. They too can sting multiple times and are known for being the most aggressive of the three. Again, they are not the most effective pollinators.

Bees, wasps, and your backyard

   If you've noticed an uptick in the number of bees or wasps on you property it's not necessarily a bad thing. If their numbers are low and you're not concerned about anyone's safety you may decide to leave them be. The bees and wasps will help you by pollinating your flowers, eating surplus insects, and leaving you well alone.

   Some ways you can keep your backyard bees healthy include not using pesticides on your lawn or garden. You could also plant more flowers and let your wildflowers grow freely to provide an extra nectar source for the local bees.

Too much of a good thing

   If the bees in your yard have grown high in number, are becoming aggressive, or you are worried for the safety of your family (bee sting allergies can be life-threatening) then it might be time to take action.

   To avoid becoming part of the problem of declining populations, call in a professional. Some pest control companies still use killing the bees as a solution. But there are companies that are more proactive and attempt to coax away bees and relocate them. Seek out no-kill pest control companies for help.

   Your local beekeeper is also an unexpendable resource when it comes to learning what to do about bees. Many beekeepers will even relocate the bees to commercial honey-making hives.

   With a bit of research and careful behavior, cohabiting with bees can be beneficial for us and for the little bugs that make our honey.





Posted by Steve Zippin, ABR, CRS, M.Ed. on 5/31/2016

 





    
Consider planting a living fence as an alternative to manufactured fences. There are benefits and disadvantages for both. Often vines, shrubs, small trees, and perennials are placed around manufactured fences anyway. So, why not go nature all the way! 
   A living fence can give you privacy and security, as well as seasonal change. For example, a living fence made of shrubbery can bloom in the spring, be leafy lush in the summer, produce berries and hips in late summer, brilliant colors in the fall, and reveal pleasant branch structure in the winter. 
   A living fence can be grown short (under 4-feet) or tall (30 feet or more) or any height in between. You can determine the width using your imagination or taste in plant material. You can tailor this living structure to your yard.Usually, a living fence needs no building permit as some manufactured fences do. You need not worry about height or width or color limits. Of course, a call to Dig Safe 811 is necessary. Digging into neighborhood power cables is a big no-no. You can plant shrubbery, small trees, ornamental grasses, perennials, and even vegetables and fruits or a combination of all to accomplish your desired effect. And you can do this with your neighbor, benefiting both sides of the fence! Robert Frost said it best with his Mending Wall. Living fences tend to outlive manufactured fences by decades. Of course, living fences need water until established, a bit of annual feeding, and the odd pruning depending on plant material selected. Europeans have been enjoying living fences for hundreds of years, calling them hedgerows. They have served as property line demarcations, windbreaks, shelter for birds and small animals for centuries. Establishing a living fence can be labor intensive, but need not be planted all at once. A slower pace would let the fence mature while the planter considers further options. Nursery plants can be used as well as seeds and root cuttings. The desired privacy would, of course, dictate the closeness of the plantings. 

There are multitude of plant choices to make a New England living fence, but the following are easy options:

  1. Pyramidal arborvitae are most often used in neighborhoods. They are hardy, can be pruned and sheared, and need very little maintenance. They can be grown as screens and windbreaks, but as evergreens they do not provide multi-season interest. They relatively inexpensive and can be planted in any configuration.
  2. Rugosa and Hansen roses have been used in beach plantings but will adapt very well to living fences. They are both extremely low maintenance and can be trimmed from a maximum height of 6 feet. They flower most of the summer, product red hips in the fall as well as yellow and red foliage. In the winter they are a thorney tangle of cover for birds. Depending on the species or cultivar, they bloom red, pink, yellow or white.
  3. Fragrant shrub honeysuckle is also easily maintained to a maximum of 10 feet and provides yellow and white spring flowers, then summer red berries cherished by birds, and yellow and red fall foliage. Winter shows interesting branch structure.
  4. Privet hedges are old standby's but easily maintained and sheered to your liking. Small white flowers and occasional purple berries.
  5. Russia olive trees with their strong late spring aroma and slender gray foliage are also easily sheered to any height or just allowed to grow to 25 feet.
  6. Rose of Sharon bloom in late summer in shades of purple and blue and are easily maintained to any height or width desired.
There are many more species of plants that can be used in your fence. You can certainly mix and match, but have fun with the process. You'll create something beautiful as well as practical.





Posted by Steve Zippin, ABR, CRS, M.Ed. on 5/24/2016

 




     Closet space can serve as a key differentiator for home sellers, particularly in a highly competitive real estate market. Fortunately, there are many quick, easy ways to revamp your closets, and ultimately, make them appear much larger.


Here are five tips to help you transform ordinary closets into spacious ones instantly:

  1. Install a pegboard.Hang your belts, sunglasses and other accessories in your bedroom closet thanks to a pegboard. With a high-quality pegboard in place, you'll be able to organize many items and access them without delay. After you list your home and begin showcasing it to prospective buyers, your self-installed pegboard is sure to make your bedroom closet stand out during any home tour.
  1. Take advantage of shoe shelves. For those who want to organize their footwear, there may be no better option than shoe shelves. When it comes to selling your home, you'll want to do everything possible to make a distinct impression on prospective home buyers. Thanks to shoe shelves, you'll be able to show interested parties exactly how much closet storage space they can enjoy if they purchase your home.
  1. Set up a mirror. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? Setting up a stunning mirror in your walk-in closet enables you to maximize your storage space and make a bold décor statement as well.Any fashionista is sure to appreciate a walk-in closet mirror. And for those who want to set their home apart from others, installing a mirror in a walk-in closet may make a world of difference in the eyes of home buyers.
  1. Use shelf dividers Keep your blankets, clothing and other closet items organized thanks to top-of-the-line shelf dividers.Using shelf dividers ensures that every item in your closet has its own home and can be organized accordingly. Furthermore, these dividers guarantee you won't have to sacrifice closet space and can optimize the amount of storage space at your disposal consistently.Shelf dividers serve as great options to show others exactly what they can do with all of the closet space that is available in your home. As a result, shelf dividers may help you differentiate your home from others on the real estate market.
  1. Get rid of clutter. Clutter is a major problem for homeowners across the country, but those who gain control over their clutter can eliminate this problem.Try to clean out your closets every few months. This enables you to reduce the risk of clutter accumulating over an extended period of time.Also, focus on dividing your closet items into things you need and things you want. By doing so, you can put yourself in a better position to get rid of non-essential items regularly.

    By devoting the necessary time to maximize your closet space, you may be able to accelerate the process of selling your home. Remember, even minor features can help your residence stand out in a competitive real estate market, and those who are committed to distinguishing their home from others should evaluate the closet space available throughout their house.


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Posted by Steve Zippin, ABR, CRS, M.Ed. on 5/20/2016

 



Owning a home is a dream come true for most people. To them, it is living the ideal life, for others, it is the worst decision they will ever make as far as their finances are concerned. The reason for this is that there was no proper in-depth analysis before they made the purchase. Many questions come to mind when it comes to owning a home, questions like, do I really need a home? Will I stay in this home long enough to reap the benefits of owning it? Am I ready for the financial responsibilities associated with owning this home? Owning a home is a major financial investment and should not be done without a proper understanding of all aspects of ownership. 


Below is a  look at the pros and cons of owning a home, this should help prospective home owners determine if owning a home is in their favor.


Pros and Cons of Owning a Home

There is the need to consider the financial impact owning a home will have on you. Would being a home owner have a positive effect on your financial position? Let us look at the advantages and disadvantages from a balanced point of view before arriving at a conclusion.


The Pros
  • As a home owner, you have greater privacy.
  • There is a great possibility that your home will increase in value.
  • You tend to have a stable cost as compared to renting because most mortgage rates are fixed.
  • Interest and property tax portion of your mortgage is tax deductible.
  • There is pride and a healthy self-esteem associated with owning a home.
The Cons
  • The financial commitment associated with owning a home is long term.
  • All maintenance related expenses associated with your home is your responsibility.
  • When you own a home, you are more likely tied to your community making it more difficult to suddenly relocate.
  • When buying a home, there is a down payment, mortgage payment and closing cost.
  • If you do not make the mortgage payment, your home can be taken by the bank.
  • There is no guarantee that the value of your home will increase.



Pros and Cons of Renting a Home

Depending on your financial standing, renting a home might be a preferred option. Here are a few pros and cons associated with the renting.


The Pros

  • It may be a cheaper option than buying a home with comparable size. Your rent might also cover the monthly utilities.
  • It affords more flexibility especially when you have a job that requires you to move from place to place.
  • Maintenance expenses are not on you. The landlord is responsible for all maintenance from plumbing to electricity as well as other expenses associated with household repairs.
The Cons
  • You are not entitled to a tax break. When you file for a tax return, you cannot claim deduction for property tax and mortgage.
  • Your rent is not fixed and there is the possibility that it would increase from year to year.


   In summary, there are several factors to consider when deciding whether or not to buy a home as ownership is not for everyone. This important decision should be based on your present financial status, the nature of your job and what plans you have for the future.











Posted by Steve Zippin, ABR, CRS, M.Ed. on 5/11/2016

 Puppy and kitten and guinea pig
  Did you know that pets can significantly reduce your home's value?  We love our pets too; but, home buyers are hesitant to buy a home with pets because they are weary of odors and damage. If you are a pet owner here are some tips to ensure you get the highest final sale price for your home:

   1. Start outside. The outside of your home is the first impression, it is the first thing a potential buyer sees. Fill and holes in the yard that have been dug by pets. Make sure to walk the yard and pick up any pet waste.

   2. Check the woodwork. Pets have a habit of chewing. Go through your home and look for any damage. Check the floor trim, the threshold of your doors, and the corners of doors and cabinets. Also don't forget to check carpet, window ledges and screens, especially if you have cats. Hardwood floors can also get scratched by pets too. You may need refinish your floors if they have pet scratches.

   3. Check the carpet. Carpets are usually best replaced rather than repaired. It is almost impossible to remove pet odor from carpet. If the carpet has been chewed or frayed from scratching it can likely be stretched and re-tacked by a professional.

   4. Look for stains. There can be stains on carpet, flooring, drywall, and trim. Make sure to repair or replace any items that are stained before a buyer sees them.

   5. Address odors. You may not even notice pet odors in your home but they will be very obvious to buyers. Ask someone else to give you an honest opinion of pet odors in your home.  Make sure to vacuum daily and open windows if you can. It's not just accidents that cause bad odors. Your pet's hair, dander and sweat also create odors.

   6. Clean your furniture. Even though the buyer is looking at the house, if your furniture is stained or ruined buyers will still devalue your home.

   7. Keep the pets away. If possible remove pets from your home when showing it. You could board them, or have a friend keep your pets while you're showing your home. If that is not possible make sure to buy pet crates to keep them locked up and out of the way.









Steve Zippin, ABR, CRS, M.Ed.