Tina McManus | Beverly Real Estate, Salem Real Estate, Hamilton Real Estate, Danvers Real Estate


Smart lighting is available in many shades, colors, shapes and fixture sizes, which makes it easier to blend them into your day-to-day. With this technology, you can control multiple lights in a single room with bluetooth-enabled bulbs and experiment with various combinations.

What Is Ambient Lighting?

Ambient lighting refers to the first layer of light in the room, and it’s often referred to in a positive light. For instance, a dimmed room might be recognized as romantic or relaxing. However, it can also go the other direction too. Harsh fluorescent lighting can make a room very difficult to inhabit. People might feel uncomfortable without really being able to pinpoint why. 

When you think of different intensities and shades, consider what you’ll be doing in the room and who will be in it.

Set the Mood for Anything 

Brightness, color, temperature: smart lighting makes it possible to control it all. As you get ready to put on the feature for your movie night, dim the lights and add some atmosphere. If it’s a horror movie, maybe give it a deep, red tint to get everyone in the right frame of mind.

Control Lights With Your Voice 

A digital assistant makes it possible to control lights with the sound of your voice. So if you are busy doing something else, all you have to do is ask your digital assistant to set the stage. You can also pre-program the lights for standard activities (e.g., watching TV, eating dinner, etc.), and your digital assistant can change the lighting based on those activities. 

Lighting and Your Home 

Sometimes you host elegant dinner parties with soft, comforting lighting in the background. Other times you host a Super Bowl party where you want the colors bouncing off the walls at every play. Whatever it is, lighting is a key element in the home, and it’s often one of the most overlooked. In rooms where natural light is either limited or nonexistent, you can use smart lighting to increase the utility of the space. The best illumination usually comes from having multiple sources, including the sun, moon, table lighting, overhead lighting, task lighting, etc. 


Photo by Breadmaker via Shutterstock

You may be thinking that your best investments are inside the home: a snazzy new kitchen, a spa-like bathroom or new wood floors, but you can actually get a high return on investment (ROI) if you focus on your home's curb appeal.

The first impression potential buyers have of your home is the outside. If you had to guess, what's the best purchase? If you guessed a garage door, you'd be right! Studies show that the recouped cost of a new garage door is usually around 97%, which means you basically get the whole amount back in home value.

Fixing Up the Outside

Before you go investing $4,000 in a new garage door, though, start by fixing up the existing features of your home. That means repairing or replacing vinyl siding, powering washing the outside and giving it a new paint job if necessary. Make sure windows and shutters are clean and without cracks or dings. Most importantly, if your roof is nearing the end of its warranty, or if you have known problems like leaks, now is the time to fix it. While the ROI on a new roof is only about 60%, roof problems can be a huge turn off for buyers, causing your home to sit on the market for longer and costing you more in the long run.

Landscaping

Start on your landscaping plan by cleaning up your yard. Get rid of the trash and yard debris so the yard stays presentable. If you have a green lawn, now is the time to review it. If your grass is growing well and covering the dirt, great! Keep it mowed and you are good to go. If your lawn is having problems, you may want to consider mixing it with other ground covering like gravel, recycled rubber or wood pellets. They are all much easier to maintain, especially in dryer climates not as well suited for grass. If you have empty or dying flower beds, now is the time to fill them up with seasonal flowers and bushes. These give you great color and make your home seem more welcoming to buyers. 

Before you start shelling out big money for upgrades, have your real estate agent review your home. They can suggest the best options for your market and price range, as well as provide accurate feedback about your home’s curb appeal. They may even have ideas for professional help to get your home in perfect selling shape.


Owning a vacation home is a popular goal among homeowners. Whether the intent is to rent it out for additional income or to use it as your own private getaway, there are financial aspects of owning a vacation home that are important to consider. Vacation home purchases are expensive up front and can also incur large amounts in capital gains tax if you ever choose to sell the property. However, it is possible to defer taxes and save money by using a 1031 exchange in some cases.

1031 Exchange Basics

A 1031 exchange is a special transaction that allows you to sell one investment property in “exchange” for another. This works by using part or all of the proceeds from the sale in obtaining the new investment property. This is a way for investors and sellers to save money on their taxes by deferring capital gains tax on any profits from the sale. The process is already complex, but for vacation homes there are additional rules that apply.

Safe Harbor Rules

In order to be eligible for a 1031 exchange, you will need to make sure your vacation property follows all the IRS “safe harbor” rules. We can break those requirements down as:

  • You can only exchange “like-kind” properties. This is a requirement for all 1031 exchanges, regardless of the property type. It simply means that the property gained in the exchange must also be for investment long term.

  • The property must be used for “productive use” in business or for investment. This means the property generates income.

  • You have to own a property at least 2 years before exchanging it, or own the “replacement” property for at least 2 years after acquiring it.

  • In each of those two years, you must rent the property at fair market value for at least 14 days. Your personal use of the property must also be less than 14 days (or less than 10% of the time it was rented out, whichever is greater).

All of this means you will need to keep organized and detailed tax records for everything within that 2-year period. Make sure you can provide tax returns proving the income generated from the property and also record any time you spent personally in renovations, improvements, etc. Time spent working on the property does not count as your own “personal use” so carefully note the reasons for your visits.

If Your Property Doesn’t Qualify

If you mostly use your vacation home for personal use, it will probably not be eligible for a 1031 exchange. However, you might still save on taxes in other ways if you’re buying or selling. It all comes down to how long you own the home compared to the time you actually live in it. If you live in the property (“personal use”) for at least 2 of the previous 5 years, you can still exclude a fairly significant amount from your capital gains tax when you sell. If you purchased a property through a 1031 and later turned it into a personal residence, you can defer the exclusion as long as you live there for at least 5 years.

Timing is everything in determining whether you can buy or sell a vacation home through a 1031 exchange. Pursuing this kind of transaction takes lots of planning, organization and help from qualified professionals. If you’re unsure about whether your property or a property you want to buy will be eligible for a 1031, consult an expert.


When you stop and think about all the preparations involved in putting your house on the market and avoiding mistakes, it can feel overwhelming! The good news is that you don't have to go it alone.

An experienced real estate agent can provide you with invaluable guidance on everything from effectively staging your home to complying with seller disclosure requirements.

One aspect of selling your house in the shortest amount of time (and for the highest price) is doing everything you can to make a great first impression on prospective buyers. You've probably heard the old expression "Presentation is everything." While that might be a slight overstatement when it comes to selling your house, it is a concept that is well worth keeping in mind. The overall impression prospective buyers take away with them after they've viewed your property will have a powerful impact on whether they decide to include it on their "short list."

Let There Be Light!

Sometimes the simplest changes can produce the biggest results. One example is lighting. If a room is inadequately lit, then you're not going to be showing it to its best advantage. Spaces that are too dimly lit can come across as dreary, shadowy, and uninviting. If you have bedrooms or other living spaces that don't have a ceiling light, for example, it might be worth the expense of having an electrician come in and correct that. Otherwise, homebuyers may find it frustrating and off-putting when they flip a wall switch, and it only turns on a ceiling fan, a floor lamp, or nothing!

Dimmer switches are often an easy and inexpensive solution for rooms that seem either too bright or too dark. Prospective buyers like the feeling that they can adjust the lighting in any room to match their immediate needs and mood.

Letting in as much natural light from the outside is another way to create a bright, cheerful ambiance in your home. Using decorative curtain ties to pull back curtains as far as possible can add a nice finishing touch while allowing as much outside light to shine in as possible.

If you happen to notice that your curtains are wrinkled, faded, tattered, heavy looking, or noticeably dated, you might want to consider replacing them with newer, more cheerful versions. The appearance and age of your curtains can have a lasting effect on the impression house hunters get from your home.

While we're on the topic of windows, keeping them impeccably clean is a goal worth prioritizing. That can be a difficult thing to keep up with if you have young children and pets who are always leaving smudges on glass and mirrors, but the cleanliness of windows is a small but important detail that will be noticed by potential buyers.

Although there are dozens of things to keep in mind when trying to make a great impression on home buyers, your real estate agent will help you identify cost-effective strategies for putting your best foot forward.


Making an offer on a home you’d love to buy is arguably the most stressful part of the buying process. You’ll be worrying about making the right offer, whether you’ve presented yourself in the best possible light, and just how much competition you’re up against.

Today we’re going to help you alleviate that anxiety by giving you the most common real estate offer mistakes to avoid, and show you how you can increase your chances of getting the perfect home for you.

1. Do your research on the house

You have a lot of research to do before making an offer on a home. You’ll want to know the price the home formerly sold for and improvements that have been made and that will need to be made if you move in.

It also helps to know the seller’s situation. Are they on a deadline and moving out-of-state? If so, they might be tempted to take one of the earlier offers they receive.

2. Know your own financial limits

Before you ever make an offer you’ll need to know how much you can spend. This isn’t just a matter of offering the maximum amount you’re preapproved for. You’ll have to factor in moving expenses, final payments on your last rent or mortgage, changes in utility costs, and more.

3. Don’t offer your full preapproval amount

Sellers who know that you’ve offered your maximum preapproval amount may be wary of selling since they know you lack room to negotiate your budget and therefore might have a higher chance of backing out of the offer. They might favor other buyers who have room to negotiate and account for unexpected changes in their budget or of rising interest rates.

4. Avoid aggressive negotiation

We know the stakes are high for everyone involved in making a real estate deal. However, sellers are more likely to accept the offer of someone they trust and like over someone who seems to be trying to gain leverage.

Always be cordial with your offers and support them with numbers--explain to the seller why you chose the number you did, so that they can understand your reasoning.

5. Don’t attempt to gain leverage by waiving a home inspection

By law, you are allowed to have a home professionally inspected before purchase. Waiving this right is sometimes misconstrued as a way to tell a seller that you trust them and don’t want to cause them any unnecessary headaches.

The reality of the matter is that if you truly do want to own their home, sellers understand that you want to know what you’re buying.

6. This isn’t the only house you can be happy in

Hunting for a home is hard work. Once you find one that seems perfect for you or your family, it can seem like everything depends on your offer being accepted.

However, the fact is there are endless houses on the market, and next week a new one could be put up for sale that is even better than the home you’re hoping for now.

If your offer isn’t accepted and you don’t feel comfortable committing to a higher price, move on to the next house knowing that you made the best decision under the circumstances.




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