Keeping Current Matters

National Association of Realtors

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Planning to DIY Your Kitchen Floor? Here’s What You Need

By Meghan Belnap
Redoing your kitchen floor on your own is an ambitious undertaking that can be accomplished with the right supplies, tools and know-how. Whether you want to redo your floor by yourself to save money or simply for a sense of accomplishment, there are several ways to get the job done.
Here are several things that you will need in order to complete your DIY kitchen flooring project:

Exact Floor Measurements

Your entire project could wind up in chaos if your floor measurements aren’t correct. The floor measurements will determine the sizes and shapes of the tiles you’ll need, along with where they’re placed. If the shape of your floor is square or rectangular, you can get the correct measurements by taking the length and width measurements and multiplying them together. For a floor with a more unusual shape, you’ll need to divide each section into rectangular units with string or other markers, and then add the measurements of each unit to get the correct total.

Get the Right Tiles and Caulk

Next, choose the tiles that will go best in your kitchen. Tiles are available in different shapes, sizes, colors and materials, and making the right choice will depend on your specific requirements and personal taste. To set the tiles into place and hold them together, caulk that’s formulated to prevent cracks and loose pieces will be needed. Be sure to lay tiles down together before you add the caulk so that you can ensure that they'll fit in the given space.

Use the Proper Installation Equipment

Some of the tools you’ll need to complete your project include a notched trowel and a grout float made of rubber along with grout nippers. Masonry saws also work well when sawing tiles that don’t fit exactly into a particular space. When using a tile nipper or masonry saw, it’s always advisable to wear safety glasses and a mask to filter out the particles in the air. Stone or ceramic tiles should always be wet when cut to prevent sending dust everywhere that can get in your lungs and eyes. If you’re uncomfortable cutting the tiles yourself, many hardware stores offer that service for you.

Cleanup Supplies

You’ll likely have a big mess on your hands after you’ve completed your project, and you’ll want to have cleanup supplies handy. Sweeping with a broom or using a vacuum to clean up dirt, dust and other debris can eliminate a lot of the clutter. Having trash bags handy for removing spare pieces and supplies that aren’t needed will also be helpful. Going over your new tiles with a mop and coat of wax will make them look especially attractive. Also, disinfectant spray can be used for a more thorough sanitizing.
Going the DIY route to install a new kitchen floor can be both a challenging and rewarding experience. Getting everything that’s needed to complete the project beforehand can save you a lot of time and additional hassle.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Monday, July 29, 2019

(Really) Great Spaces: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s Martha’s Vineyard Estate

Red Gate Farm
by Zoe Eisenberg

Red Gate Farm, the formal name of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's Martha's Vineyard estate, recently hit the market for $65 million. Located in Aquinnah, Mass., the estate sits on 340 acres at the edge of Squibnocket Pond, and includes over a mile of Atlantic Ocean beachfront access. 
Kennedy Onassis purchased Red Gate Farm in 1979, when the acres of land—operating as a sheep farm—housed nothing more than a small cabin on its grounds.
The estate was built in 1981 and renovated in 2000, and has been treasured by the Kennedy Onassis family for over 41 years. Now, Jacqueline's daughter, Caroline Kennedy, seeks the next steward for this ecological haven.
The property includes a 6,456-square-foot, cedar-shingled main residence with five bedrooms and two large decks facing the beach's sandy dunes, as well as a two-story, four-bedroom guest house.
Outside, features include two freshwater ponds, a vegetable garden, blueberry patch, an outdoor pool, tennis court and a fairy treehouse built for the Kennedy Onassis grandchildren. The original cabin still remains on the property. Other structures include a three-bedroom caretaker's house, a barn, two garages (one with a two-bedroom apartment), a temperature-controlled storage building and a boathouse.

Red Gate Farm

Red Gate Farm

Red Gate Farm
Red Gate Farm

Red Gate Farm is being marketed globally by Christie's International Real Estate, which is represented locally by Tom LeClair and Gery Conover, agents of LandVest, the exclusive Affiliate of Christie's International Real Estate on Martha's Vineyard.
Listed for: $65,000,000
Listed byChristie's International Real Estate
Photos by: Christie's International Real Estate

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Friday, July 26, 2019

June 2019 Existing-Home Sales

  • By: Michael Hyman

  • NAR released a summary of existing-home sales data showing that housing market activity this June fell 1.7% from May 2019. June’s sales of existing homes fell 2.2% from June 2018. June’s existing home sales reached a 5.27 million seasonally adjusted annual rate. 
Existing Home Sales Volume Trend June 2019
  • The national median existing-home price for all housing types reached a high of $285,700 in June, up 4.3% from a year ago. This marks the 88th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
Regional Sales Prices of Estimated Home Sales for June 2019
  • Regionally, all four regions showed growth in prices from a year ago. The Midwest had largest gain of 6.7% followed by the South with a gain of 4.9%. The Northeast had an increase of 4.8% followed by the West with the smallest increase of 2.3 from June 2018. 
  • June’s inventory figures are up from last month 1.0% to 1.93 million homes for sale. Compared with June of 2018, inventory levels were flat, showing no change. It will take 4.4 months to move the current level of inventory at the current sales pace. It takes approximately 27 days for a home to go from listing to a contract in the current housing market; homes only stayed on the market 26 days last year as well.
Estimated Home Sales Inventory June 2019
  • From May 2019, all four regions showed inclines in sales. The Northeast had the biggest incline in sales at 4.7%. The Midwest rose 3.4% followed by the South and the West, both with a gain of sales of 1.8%. 
  • From a year ago, all the four regions showed declines in sales. The South had the smallest decline in sales at 0.4%. The Midwest fell 1.6% followed by the Northeast with the decline of 4.2%. The West had the biggest drop in sales of 5.2%. The South led all regions in percentage of national sales, accounting for 42.7% of the total, while the Northeast had the smallest share at 12.9%.
Estimated Home Sales Regional Sales June 2019
  • In June, single-family sales were up 1.5 % and condominiums sales were up 3.3 to last month. Single-family home sales fell 1.7 % and condominium sales were down 6.5 compared to a year ago. Single-family homes had an increase in price up 4.5 % at $288,900 and condominiums rose 2.8 % at $260,100 from June 2018. 


Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Saturday, July 20, 2019

8 Ways to Make Your Backyard a Summer Paradise

By Sage Singleton
Summer is the season to be outdoors. It’s the perfect time for backyard barbecues, neighborhood socials, and late-night evenings on the patio. You don’t need to travel to a luxurious and exotic location to enjoy spending time outdoors. Make your own backyard a summer paradise with these eight simple suggestions.
Inspect and update wooden decks
To make your backyard a summer haven, take some time to inspect and update your deck. Wooden patios and decks can be warped by cold weather, so you’ll want to replace loose or missing slats as needed. Sand, stain, and seal your deck once you’ve made sure it’s structurally sound. If you have a stone patio, check for missing pieces and update as needed. Once this is complete, you’ll have a shiny and appealing deck you can decorate with patio furniture—creating a relaxing sitting area for summertime.
Purchase patio furniture and essentials
Once you have a designated patio or deck space, you’ll want to add some patio furniture so you can sit down, mingle with friends and family, and relax. Consider purchasing weatherproof patio furniture that is both comfortable and durable. Patio furniture can be exposed to harsh, seasonal weather, so you’ll want to make sure it lasts for years.
Get the basics including some lounge chairs, an umbrella, a hammock, and an outdoor table so you can enjoy meals or games outside. In addition to patio furniture, you may want to buy or build an outdoor fire pit. It’s a simple feature that adds so much to your backyard. Sit around the fire and socialize, roast marshmallows or even cook dinner on your own backyard fire place.
Add colorful cushions and pillows
You’ll want to add a splash of color to your patio so it’s eye-catching and sings of summertime. Buy some bright-colored, and comfortable throw pillows and cushions to spice up the furniture. The bright colors and fun patterns will entice people to sit down, relax, and enjoy your backyard paradise.
Get a rug for the patio
Consider adding a rug to the patio or deck area to make the space feel cozier. Outdoor rugs vary in material, size, and shape and are generally made to last in all types of weather. They make a great addition to your space, and can also protect your deck.
Install outdoor lighting
Nothing is more magical than twinkling lights against a royal-blue evening sky. Add strands of tea lights or other innovative lights to create a fairy-tale effect in your backyard. In addition to the decorative lighting, you’ll want to consider adding sensor or smart lights to your backyard for added security. Smart lights are a great way to ensure the backyard is lit—you can even control smart lights with your smart phone.
Make the backyard private
You may love your neighbors, but that doesn’t mean you want them always peeking into your backyard. Be creative when thinking of ways to ensure better backyard privacy. One easy way to create a private, secluded backyard paradise is to install a fence. Not only does it ensure privacy, but it is an essential safety measure. Install a strong, secure fence to create a private and safe backyard.
Update your landscaping
Landscaping can make or break your backyard. It’s essential to take time to update your landscaping to create an outdoor paradise. You don’t need extravagant plants or trees to make your backyard grand. Take some time to cut back unruly trees and bushes, pull the weeds, water and trim the lawn, and plant flowers around the yard. These simple updates will make a world of difference. You’ll have your own secret garden in no time! 
Secure outdoor belongings
Once you’ve created a magical backyard space, you’ll want to take the necessary precautions to safeguard your belongings. Make sure your garden tools and supplies are in a locked shed—away from kids, pets, and burglars. Take time to assess the backyard for any security breaches. This will keep your family safe and protect your backyard, patio, and deck from major damages.
Summer is a wonderful time to relax and enjoy being outdoors. Update your own backyard and you’ll have access to a private paradise any time you want.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

4 Areas of Your Home That Likely Need a Touch-Up

By Anita Ginsburg
Regular maintenance is an ongoing process for every homeowner. Keeping up with smaller projects is essential if you want to avoid major problems down the road.
With a little bit of preventative maintenance, you can ensure that your home remains beautiful and efficient for years to come. Here are several areas of your home that are likely in need of some attention:


A well-constructed roof should last for at least 30 years, but some of the shingles will need to be replaced well before that. Replacing damaged tiles is immediately going to improve the appearance of your home, and that simple project could help you avoid serious water damage. As a general rule, tiles and shingles need to be replaced if they are curled, cracked or bent. You also need to replace any metal flashing that is bent or warped.

Exterior Walls

Putting a fresh coat of paint on your home can have a huge impact on its curb appeal. While you can paint your own home—there are many people who do—you may also want to hire a residential painting company. Trying to paint exterior walls without the proper tools and equipment is going to be exhausting, even dangerous, if you have a multiple-story home. An experienced team of painters should be able to paint your walls and trim in one or two days, and many contractors guarantee their work.

Front Door

Painting your front door is another simple project that shouldn't take more than a few hours—you won't need anything more than a few basic tools and a can of your desired paint. If you plan on selling your home in the near future, then you should pick a relatively neutral color that matches the exterior walls and trim. Also be sure to coat the door in some type of exterior sealant if you want the paint to last.


Modern windows usually last for decades, but older panes and sills are inefficient. After a few years, your windows might become warped, and that'll allow air to escape. You can continue to seal around the outside of your windows once every few years, but you should consider replacing them entirely if they are old and unsightly. Modern windows will improve the efficiency of your home while boosting its appearance.
Before you tackle any of these projects, make sure to research all local building codes. While most cosmetic renovations don't require any permits, there are strict regulations regarding major structural modifications, and you could face huge fines and fees if you don't adhere to those codes.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Monday, July 1, 2019

6 Questions to Ask Your Lender Before Getting a Mortgage

By Miron Lulic
Asking the right questions when shopping for a mortgage is crucial, and failing to do so could cost you thousands.
The first question you need to ask yourself is, "How many mortgage loan applications am I going to fill?" You can save a significant amount of money long-term by investing in mortgage comparison shopping. For instance, the spread in 2018 for the highest and lowest mortgage rates was approximately 1 percent (3.95 percent vs. 4.94 percent). That's a pretty narrow range, historically speaking. In 1981, the mortgage rate spread was nearly 3 percent (14.8 percent vs. 18.63 percent). Even a 0.5 percent difference on a $300,000, 30-year mortgage can save you enough money to buy a 2019 Subaru Legacy in cash and still have enough left over to keep the gas tank full for a year ($31,600).
Incidentally, interest rates can vary by more than half a percent, even for people with good credit, depending on which lender you choose. Here are some questions you should ask your lender:
Is there anything I can do to apply for a better rate? 
You may be surprised by the options available. Some lenders may offer a lower rate if you increase your down payment or reduce your debt-to-income ratio. Adding a well-qualified cosigner can also improve your rates considerably, although that can come with its own issues.
Do I need to buy points to get the advertised rate?
Most lenders will offer a better rate if you buy points. Points are a form of prepaid interest that allows you to buy a lower interest rate for the duration of the mortgage. To illustrate, let's say your credit score and income qualify you for a 5.27 percent APR on your mortgage. Your lender may offer you a 0.27 percent reduction of your APR if you pay $2,000 for two points. 
Is buying points a good investment? It all depends on how long you plan to stay in your home, your cash flow and what returns you could obtain from your money if you invested it somewhere else. How long would you have to make mortgage payments before the points pay for themselves? On a $100,000 mortgage with a 30-year term, you would have to stay in your home approximately seven years before you could recover the cost of your investment in points.
The details will change depending on your mortgage terms, so be sure to ask your lender what your breakeven time is before you choose to buy points. Lenders are required to make disclaimers clear and conspicuous, but it's easy to miss a footnote when comparing multiple loan offers. Check that all the rates you're comparing don't have strings attached.
Can I pick my own homeowners insurance? 
Lenders are only allowed to pick your home insurance for you when you choose not to buy a policy and your mortgage terms require it; however, some unscrupulous lenders do push borrowers to buy overpriced policies from their insurance subsidiaries.
What is the rate lock and what happens if we haven't closed by the time it runs out?
A rate lock is an agreement between you and the lender to guarantee a rate for a specified time period. This is useful because your interest could change during the application process for all types of reasons: Your credit score could drop, the appraisal of your home may not go as you expected, your lender’s method of calculating your income may be different, and, of course, the market interest rates could change at any time.
Some rate locks come with a float down option, which allows you to take advantage of a better APR if the rate drops. In both cases, lenders may charge a lock fee for the service. Make sure you understand the cost and the consequences when the lock expires. Ask how much it will cost to extend the lock if the closing process lasts longer than expected. Note that initial loan estimates will specify the terms and cost of the rate lock, but will not tell you how much extending it will cost. You need to ask this specifically to avoid surprises.
How long should I expect to wait for the mortgage to close and when can I expect my letter of commitment? 
This information is particularly important when you're buying in a seller's market and properties sell fast. Look for lenders with a fast underwriting process that provide preapproval letters. 
Can you give an estimate of the total closing costs? 
Closing costs are the part of the mortgage process borrowers are least familiar with. Only 49 percent of buyers reported being very familiar with closing costs and 14 percent described themselves as completely unfamiliar, according to a recent survey by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Again, the spread in costs from one lender to another is significant. The names of closing fees are often suspiciously vague. For example, origination fees can vary from 0 percent to 1.5 percent of the loan principal. Remember to be aware that lenders may also charge a document preparation fee (anything from $50 to $250) or charge "processing fees" that vary from $500 to $1,200.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate