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


Image by David Papazian from Shutterstock

Porch lighting is an essential part of a home's curb appeal. It offers much more than help navigating in the dark or a pretty accent for your front door. A brightly lit porch can enhance security and also save you money on your energy bill.

Where will you place it?

The location of your porch light helps you choose the right fixture. When updating an existing light, your choices may be limited if you don’t want to relocate your electricity or create additional patching or painting tasks. If your project is bigger or you are starting from scratch, your options are unlimited. In addition to the traditional placement on either side of the door, porch lights can be hung from above or be installed on posts.

What is the style of your home?

The architecture of your home also dictates the kind of fixture you should choose. If your home does not have any defining characteristics, your style is all you need. Porchlights can be found in several styles and designs with modern, casual and traditional options widely available. Consider a traditional style for a colonial home or a rustic fixture for a log cabin.

What is the size of your entry door?

The size of your porch light should balance with the size of your door. For example, if you have a standard-size door of six-feet eight-inches, it is recommended that your porch light be between 5 and 9 inches wide. A porch light that is 10 to 12 inches wide will balance with an eight-foot door. Choose the same or similar widths when installing multiple fixtures.

What are the features?

Motion sensitive porch lights feature a built-in sensor that turns on the light when a person or pet moves into the range of the sensor. A daylight sensitive light has a timer that automatically turns on the lights at dusk. Most decorative porch lights feature built-in dusk to dawn photoelectric eyes, which means you won't need to think about turning on the porch light. 

If you want a bright porch light, check the wattage recommendations for the fixture you’re considering. Do not exceed the fixture's wattage as this could cause damage. Replace your incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs or outdoor-rated compact fluorescent bulbs.

Installing the right porch light can add charm to your home and significantly boost your curb appeal. If you need guidance or installation assistance, ask your realtor for recommended lighting professionals or contractors to help with your project.


Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

Have you always wanted to design your dream home at a location of your choosing? If so, buying a plot of land to build your customized home on is probably your best option. Before getting started, you'll want to do your due diligence to ensure you're making a smart investment.

Find a Property to Build on

The concept of customizing your home is an ideal one, but the reality of finding the perfect plot isn’t so simple. You can check listings, but there are several other ways to find ready-to-build-on land.

  • Ask locals about available land in the community you’re considering.
  • Look at expired and withdrawn land listings.
  • Ask your real estate agent about land purchased by previous clients but never built on.
  • Investigate classified ads to find sellers listing property independently.
  • Check realestatesales.gov to see if the government is selling off repossessed land.
  • If you find land approved but not yet suitable for build, you’ll also want to take clearing and grading the land into consideration.

    Understand Local Zoning Laws

    Some municipalities are stringent about how land can be used. Before you buy, it’s critically important to understand local building restrictions and zoning criteria. Any number of scenarios might prevent you from building your home. Here are just a few.

  • Property is zoned for agricultural or commercial use.
  • Size of the house you plan to build exceeds the maximum size septic tank allowed to be built.
  • Parcel of land is designated an environmentally-protected parcel (i.e. wetland).
  • Someone other than landowner owns mineral or timber rights.
  • Easement or access rights are attached to the land.
  • Be certain to understand every possible building restriction or zoning requirement before you purchase land. It would be disastrous to discover you can’t build your dream home the way you planned.

    Utility Hookups

    Does the land meet local criteria or have the right terrain for these necessities to be installed? Utility hookups are a detail you don't want to overlook—ensure you'll have access to water, sewer, electricity, natural gas and Internet. If no public water or sewer lines exist, you’ll need to learn about wells and septic tanks.

    Understanding the Financials of Buying Land

    Obtaining funding to buy land is a little different than taking out a mortgage to buy an already existing home. You’ll typically have a few options including paying in cash or getting a loan. Types of loans include land or lot loans, construction loans and seller-backed loans.

    These loans are usually short-term and involve high-interest rates because lenders generally perceive land purchases a riskier gamble than home purchases. As with any major purchase, carefully evaluate your financial situation and consider future expenses and other contingencies before committing to a loan to purchase land.

    Building your home on a plot of land takes additional planning because there are numerous details to explore before you can even begin to get started. While building a home is a more complicated process than buying an existing one, customizing a new home is a far more fulfilling investment for many people.


    Photo by: Sebastien Gabriel via Unsplash

    You have a great trip planned, but you want to bring all your friends and family along with you. Well, let technology help. You don’t have to be a celebrity or a tech genius to enjoy documenting your travels. You can preserve your travel memories as they happen and keep everyone up-to-date back at home with videos, pictures and journal entries. Utilize your social media accounts or keep it a private, closed group. No matter the destination or mode of transportation, applications on your cell phone make sharing and saving your travel experiences simple.


    Choose the One for You

    How do you choose which app is right for you? Do you know anyone who has experience documenting their travels? Ask around and see who in your circle of influence can make recommendations. Get online and do some research of your own. Your phone app store is a great place to start. Be sure to read the reviews that pertain to each particular app. When traveling internationally, make sure that you will have access to the internet to post anything you want to share. Also, watch for ease-of-use from the reviewers.

    Take it for a Spin

    Once you have decided which application you are going to use, download it and give it a test run. Before you travel, recruit a few friends or family members to help you out as a test audience. Now, document your daily routine for a few days and see if you like how this app displays or functions, and determine its ease of use.
    Does it have all the features that you would like? For example, do you want to live-stream some of your trip? Do you want to upload several pictures at once? Does it have a journaling area where you can document your thoughts and feelings about your trip? Then as you use it, ask your friends and family to give you feedback. Do they find it easy to get the updates and see your pictures and comments? Or do they find that they get too many notices when you post? This allows you to see whether the app is a good fit.
    Sharing your travels with those back at home is a wonderful way to bring them along on the adventure.

    Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

    Looking for a soup for all seasons? Let Zucchini Potato Soup fill the bill. It's low-fat and light yet filling. It's power-packed with nutritious goodness, and enhanced with the perfect blend of spices and herbs.

    This recipe serves a party of 6 or more. If you have a food processor or a blender, you can make it. Here's how.

    Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients

    To create a robust soup base, you will need:

  • 5 medium-sized zucchini squashes
  • 4 large carrots
  • 2 white or yellow onions
  • 5 medium-sized potatoes
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh basil, torn or chopped 
  • 2 Tbsp. tarragon and a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Organic, cold-pressed olive oil
  • A clove of garlic, chopped
  • Pepper and salt
  • Step 2. Prepare the Vegetable Broth 

    Wash and coarsely chop your zucchini squashes, potatoes, carrots and onions. There is no need to peel the potatoes unless you prefer doing so. Sauté these vegetables together with a generous dash of your best olive oil, or heat them up in a non-stick pot if you'd prefer to go oil-free. As your vegetables become just slightly browned, add the parsley, pepper and salt.

    Add enough water to cover these ingredients and create a savory broth.

    Cover the pot.

    Allow broth to simmer for 25 minutes. 

    Drain, while reserving the broth.

    Step 3. Prepare the Hearty Soup

    Sauté the chopped clove of garlic in a pan lightly lined with olive oil until the garlic is golden brown. Add the zucchini-carrot-potato mix. Toss in the chopped basil and tarragon.

    Add a pinch of cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. 

    Stir well.

    Blend reserved vegetable broth into the soup.

    Step 3. Simmer and Cool

    Allow soup to simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. 

    Let the soup cool down. Pour just over half of the cooled soup into a food processor and purée the mix.

    Pro tip: Why cool the soup before pouring it into a food processor or blender? Steam can quickly rise out of hot mixes and fill up the machine, splatter out and cause burns. Plus, pouring anything super hot into machines with plastic parts just isn't an appealing idea, even if the machine parts are all food-safe. So, if you want to speed the cooling process, use ice and a large spaghetti strainer and pour the mix through it.

    Step 4. Heat and Serve

    Add the puréed part of the mix back into the pot with the rest of the soup.

    Heat and stir for 3 minutes.

    Serve hot. This soup goes well with a fluffy bowl of couscous, rustic rolls or homemade bread.


    Photo by Max Vakhtbovych from Pexels

    Whether you’re a minimalist or a maximalist, you need storage. Designing your home with spectacular, well-designed storage nooks in mind can make your life so much easier. Consider building these storage solutions into your new home. 

    1. In-Wall Storage Solutions

    Utilizing the space between studs to create built-in shelves or storage nooks is a brilliant option. 

    • In-wall nooks beside a sitting area may eliminate the need for an end table.

    • In-wall niche shelves in a kitchen can offer a lovely way to display organized canisters, spices and other sundries worthy of keeping out in the open. 

    • In-wall medicine cabinets and/or cleaning supply nooks in the bathroom take up less space, blend seamlessly into your decor and offer just that little extra space for necessities.

    2. Under-Stair Storage 

    If you have a traditional staircase, you might just have plenty of space for storage underneath. This type of storage is perfect for larger bins of seasonal items you want tucked away, but easier to access and better-protected than the basement or attic. 

    3. Dormer/Attic Space Storage

    In an attic space with steeply pitched walls, cabinets built along the lower edges of the room make it possible to capitalize on what would otherwise be awkward, unused space. And homes with architectural features like dormers offer another tremendous opportunity. Drawers can be built into the insides of many dormers, and window seats offer an aesthetically pleasing, cozy spot to relax with a generous amount of storage space underneath. 

    4. Harness the Power of the Built-In 

    Built-in shelves surrounding a fireplace, adorning a living area wall or encapsulating a TV/entertainment area can add incredible versatility. Consider cabinets across the bottom and open shelving at higher levels. The downside? You’ll need a fairly good idea of your furniture arrangement options before settling on a built-in design. But built-ins tend to add value and style to a home, whether they’re built into a sleek contemporary space or a more traditional one. 

    5. Pay Attention to Your Closets

    Take the time to look up closet design and storage ideas. This will help you determine what type of storage solution would work best for your wardrobe and storage needs. Building shelving, appropriate-height rods and other storage features into your closets greatly increases your storage efficiency. 

    6. Make the Most of Your Garage/Outdoor Storage Space 

    Think beyond the vehicles you’ll need to park as you plan your outdoor storage space. An attached shed, built-in garage shelving and cabinets might be the solution for storing your yard tools and outdoor recreational supplies. Look into slat-wall garage storage options or ceiling-mounted storage accessories to make the most of your garage space. 

    7. Consider Fold-Up Furniture 

    In some homes, a fold-down desk or work surface can transform a space into a multi-use area that eliminates the need for extra furniture and streamlining storage needs. Many Murphy beds and folding desks incorporate attractive shelves on either side for storage. It might be nontraditional, but it’s a solid option when you’re trying to capitalize on space.




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