Rachel Lutts - Marblehead, MA Real Estate, Swampscott, MA Real Estate, Salem, MA Real Estate


You've moved into your vintage home with grand plans to update it as you go. Some renovations must wait for your budget to improve. But here are some budget-wise ways to update the family room and move your home in the direction you want by giving your fireplace an update or upgrading your mantel.

Freshen the fireplace

Arguably the focal point of any living space, a complete fireplace renovation may be part of your overall plan, but meanwhile, give it a fresher look with one of these ideas.

  • Add a screen. Fireplace screens come in a plethora of styles, sizes, shapes, and metals. Dress up the room with a lattice-style or painted fan screen.
  • Change out the mantel. If you long for a more rustic look, replace your thinner mantel with a thick, rough-cut plank. Or, pick up a vintage mantel at your local antique store. For a truly updated look, go mantel-free and hang a substantial piece of art above.
  • Paint the brick and surround in contrasting colors. Make certain only to paint with heat-rated preparations near the firebox. Try gray walls, pewter on the brick with black on the surround. Or use various shades of warm taupe with bronze or copper. If the metal surround is removable, it’s easier to use spray paint for excellent results.
  • Resurface with tile. A fine herringbone or hexagon mosaic pattern adds interest, or hand-crafted or painted tiles create a distinctive focal point. For a very modern look, consider basket weave or vertical tiles. But, to give your home a historical aspect, consider narrow subway tiles with a subtle glaze.

Turn it into Art

If you don’t burn fires your fireplace, consider turning it into a display for your collection of brass candlesticks, a floral arrangement, or a grouping of urns and vases. Prepare the fireplace for non-use: To reduce heat loss, make sure to turn off the gas, then close the damper. Place a section of fiberglass or foam insulation the width and depth of the opening into the flue. Paint a piece of cardboard black and use it to wedge the insulation in place. Clean the firebricks with your favorite household cleaner and a stiff brush so that soot doesn’t damage your decorative items.If you’re thinking of removing your fireplace or permanently closing it up, take a moment to check with a local property professional to make certain it doesn’t reduce the value of your home.


How many times have you heard yourself say (or think) something very similar to this: "One of these days, I'm going to organize my closet(s)"? If not your closets, then it's your basement, attic, or garage that needs decluttering, organizing, and/or cleaning.

Question: Are you one of those homeowners (or apartment dwellers) who keeps saving things you don't need, and then finally gets around to sifting through it all when mountains of clutter have taken over your valuable storage space? If that sounds all-too-familiar, then don't worry; you're not alone! Unfortunately, the easiest thing about organizing your home is putting it off until another day.

There comes a point, though, at which clutter takes over your life. Symptoms you're moving in that direction include an inability to find things and the inexplicable disappearance of storage space (actually, there's a perfectly rational explanation for it)! So if the "clutter monster" has been rearing its ugly head in your home in recent months, here are some causes and possible solutions to the problem.

  • You know you have a lot of junk, but you're not sure what to do with it. Well, first of all, "one man's junk is another man's treasure," so things you no longer have any use for may be very useful to charitable groups, community fund drives, or homeless shelters. In addition to giving stuff away, you could also offer free or inexpensive things to people in your social media network, hold a yard sale, or offer gently used hand-me-downs to relatives and friends. If your unwanted stuff is actually junk (by anyone's standards), then it might be worth it to have a local junk hauling service pick it up at your house and properly dispose of it. An alternative is to rent a dumpster for a few days and fill it up at your convenience. The cost may be surprisingly affordable, and the amount of living and storage space you'll reclaim in your home will make it all worthwhile. You never know until you get a quote or two!
  • You just can't seem to motivate yourself to get started! Procrastination is one of the leading causes of household clutter, but there are solutions. One strategy is to announce to your significant other, best friend, or parents that you're going to devote two or three hours on Saturday (or Sunday) to straightening out your closets, basement, or garage. The value of telling someone else of your intentions is that it sort of puts you on the hook and makes you accountable. A similar approach is often used for dieting, exercising, or spending quality time with your kids. Even though two or three hours of work probably won't transform your home into a model of organization, you'll at least have gotten started and made a dent in the project. For most people, the biggest hurdle to getting organized is getting started!
Picking up a supply of inexpensive bins, storage compartments, and shelving at your local discount outlet, hardware store, or even neighborhood garage sale may also give you the nudge you need to get your decluttering plans moving forward!

Refinancing your home can have many benefits. First, you’ll be able to take out money to address immediate needs in your home like improvement projects. These things can only benefit your home’s value in the long term. Before you take the leap to refinance your home, you should be sure that you’re actually ready to take this step. Knowing what you’re in for allows the entire process to go more smoothly. Read on for tip to understand more about the refinancing process and what you’ll need.


Know Your Finances


Just like when you initially purchase a home, refinancing your home will require you to have your finances in order. Take a look at your budget and needs and determine if it makes sense for you to refinance your home. For example, your employment status or distance from life goals like retirement could have a factor on the term of the loan you’re willing to take out. A 15-year mortgage may make more sense than a 30-year mortgage, but your monthly payments will also be a bit higher. You need to take all of this into consideration before you refinance. 


Your credit score will also be a factor in refinancing your home just as it was when you initially bought your house. Check your score and see if any red flags pop up. Getting these corrected earlier rather than later can help you to get a better rate on the loan. There are plenty of free services that exist online that allow you to check your credit score.   


Know The Value Of Your Home


If you know the value of your home and understand how much equity you’ve built up in the house, it will give you a better idea of your refinancing options. You can’t get more than 70% of what your home is currently worth as a cash-out refinance. If you owe more than your home is worth, you might be in a tighter financial situation than you realize. You can do plenty of things to increase the value of your home; it will just take some time. You may even consider selling your house, making a move, and starting from scratch. Financially, this could be the best option, and you could also end up with a better interest rate.


Getting your finances in order and the simple act of preparing for a home refinance could give you some insight into your financial picture after being a homeowner for some time.


Stay out of debt. Don’t open new accounts. Pay down any debt you may have. That is the standard advice for people who are trying to get in good financial standing before buying a home or refinancing a home. 


Do some research and find the best home loan refinance rates around. Then, look into your own finances and decide what’s best for you regarding refinancing your home loan.      



As a home seller, it is important to make your house a must-have for buyers. Otherwise, your home may linger on the real estate market for an extended period of time. Worst of all, you may struggle to optimize your house sale earnings.

Ultimately, there are lots of things you can do to make your house an attractive option to dozens of prospective buyers, including:

1. Upgrade Your Home's Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is crucial, particularly for a seller who wants to stir up significant interest in his or her residence. If you allocate time and resources to upgrade your house's curb appeal, you could help your residence stand out from other available homes.

It generally won't take long to improve a house's curb appeal. In some instances, a seller can mow the lawn, trim the hedges and perform minor lawn care tasks to transform a house's exterior. Also, it may be beneficial to repair or replace any damaged home siding.

2. Eliminate Clutter

If your home is loaded with personal belongings, you may want to remove these items. That way, you can show off the full size of your home to buyers during showings and open house events.

To cut down on clutter, you can rent a storage unit and use it to hold various personal belongings until your residence sells. In addition, you can always donate any unwanted items to charity, give them to family members or friends or sell them as part of a yard sale.

3. Enhance Your Home's Interior

A neat, tidy home interior can make a world of difference in buyers' eyes. Thus, if you clean your residence from top to bottom, your house could impress buyers as soon as they walk through the front door.

Of course, if you need help with upgrading your house's interior, you can employ a home cleaning company. By shopping around for home cleaning companies in your city or town, you are sure to find a professional cleaning firm that offers the right combination of affordability and convenience.

As you get set to navigate the home selling journey, don't forget to hire a real estate agent, either. If you have a real estate agent at your side, you can receive plenty of support as you try to generate buyers' interest in your house.

A real estate agent understands what it takes to promote a house to the right groups of prospective buyers. As such, he or she will craft a custom home selling strategy designed to help you showcase your residence to potential buyers. Plus, a real estate agent will host house showings and keep you up to date with buyer feedback. And if you receive an offer to purchase your home, a real estate agent will help you weigh the pros and cons of accepting this proposal.

Ready to sell your house? Take advantage of the aforementioned tips, and you can seamlessly navigate the home selling journey.


Pursuing a house can be difficult, regardless of the current housing market's conditions. Thankfully, homebuyers who plan ahead may be better equipped than others to enjoy a quick, seamless and successful homebuying experience.

Ultimately, there are many reasons to prepare for buying a house, and these include:

1. You can determine where you want to live.

A homebuyer who knows where he or she wants to live can tailor a home search accordingly. As a result, this buyer can speed up the process of acquiring his or her dream residence.

When it comes to planning ahead to buy a home, it generally helps to know where you want to go. If you make a checklist of home must-haves and wants, you may be able to hone your home search to specific cities and towns. Then, you can pursue residences in these areas and find your dream house faster than ever before.

2. You can enter the housing market with a budget in hand.

You know that you want to buy a house, but you still have no idea how you will pay for a residence. Fortunately, if you plan ahead for the homebuying journey, you can get your finances in order and enter the real estate market with a budget at your disposal.

Generally, it is a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage prior to pursuing a residence. A mortgage provides you with a set limit that you can spend on a house. Thus, a mortgage can help you minimize the risk that you'll spend beyond your means to acquire your dream residence.

Obtaining a mortgage can be quick and easy too. Meet with banks and credit unions, and these financial institutions can teach you about a broad array of mortgage options. Next, you can choose a mortgage and kick off your home search.

3. You can find an expert real estate agent to help you along the homebuying journey.

If you plan to enter the housing market, you may want to hire an expert real estate agent sooner rather than later. With an expert real estate agent at your side, you can streamline the homebuying cycle.

A real estate agent knows exactly what it takes to purchase a superb residence at a price that fits your budget. He or she first will learn about your homebuying goals and provide insights into the local housing market. This housing market professional then can customize a home search to ensure that you can achieve your desired results.

Let's not forget about the comprehensive support that a real estate agent delivers throughout the homebuying journey, either. A real estate agent will set up home showings and offer homebuying recommendations at each stage of the homebuying journey. And if you discover your ideal residence, a real estate agent will help you put together a competitive offer.

There are many great reasons to plan ahead for the homebuying journey. And if you start planning today, you may be able to enjoy a stress-free homebuying experience.




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