Mass Save Refrigerator Recycling Rebate to End

I just noticed so thought I would share with you that it appears the MassSave refrigerator and freezer recycling program is ending at the end of this year.   If you are not familiar with the program, you can have them pick up a working refrigerator or freezer for a $50 rebate.

If you are thinking of selling your home in the spring and know you have a spare refrigerator or freezer you will be getting rid of, give MassSave a call before Jan 1, 2019 so you can get the rebate.  And better to have it taken out now before we have heavy snows.  The program will still exist after tha date, just not with the rebate.

You can find more information and schedule your pickup here:

The following eligibility requirements apply:
  • You must be a valid residential electric account holder of one of the electric sponsors of Mass Save.
  • Refrigerators and freezers must be working, plugged in, clean, and empty at the time of pickup.
  • Refrigerators and freezers must have an inside measurement between 10 and 30 cubic feet, which is the standard size for most units.
  • You must call to sign up before January 1, 2019 to be eligible for the $50 rebate.
  • A maximum of two units per electric account per calendar year will be accepted.

Have your electric account number handy to avoid scheduling delays.

Michelle J. Lane
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Fall House Prep Checklist

The list below outlines all the important things you should do before winter sets in.  Many of you use landscapers and contractors to do much of this for you.  If so, contact them now.  The closer you get to the time that these things MUST be done, the less likely you will be able to get on their schedule so book ASAP.  If you need referrals to contractors, let me know.

The House – Outside

☐  Have Gutters Cleaned

☐  Draft-Proof the House – caulk around windows, check weather stripping and replace as necessary

☐  Check Your Roof  –look for tiles and flashing that are coming up.  If you don’t know what to look for, ask a roofer to look it over. Fix as necessary.

☐  Have Your Irrigation System Winterized – schedule this now!

☐  Drain Spigots – turn off the valve inside and then run the water to drain the water out.

☐  Check walkways for needed repairs – if stones are coming up or asphalt is split, it could wreck your snowblower or trip up people walking over snow and ice.

☐  Bring in Hoses and Flower Pots – the flower pots will freeze and crack if they have dirt in them or fill with water.  So, if you don’t want to bring them in, at least empty them and turn them over.

☐  Stow your Mower – it’s a good idea to take out the spark plug, put oil in the opening and run the mower for a couple of seconds to distribute the oil.  At the very least, drain the gasoline.  It will get stale over the winter.

☐  Check your Snowblower – make sure it runs! If not, have it serviced.

☐  Clean and Store your Patio Furniture – if you can’t store, at least store the cushions so they don’t get stained and moldy. Then cover the furniture, grill, etc.

☐  Check the House for wood rot and have replaced.

☐  Remove Screens and Put up Storms (or pull down)

☐ Weather strip your garage doormake sure critters cannot slip under the door

☐  Check Outside Lights and Replace Bulbsbetter now than in the freezing cold!

Seal cracks where mice can get inthey are going to be looking for a warm place soon.

☐  Remove Window A/C Units – if you cannot remove, cover them on the outside

Take Pictures! – if you are going to be listing your house in the early spring, you may not be able to get good picture if there is still snow on the ground.  If you are a client of mine, planning to sell in the spring, I will have my photographer do this for you.  Just let me know.

The House – Inside

☐  Turn on the Heat to make sure it works

☐  Change Furnace Filters 

☐  Have Furnace Servicedideally you should have it checked every year, but if it is making noise, then definitely.

☐  Check Chimney(s)birds and bats can nest up there, creatine can build up, bricks can come loose. If you don’t want to flash a light up there, call an expert.

☐  Check Smoke Detectors it’s a good idea to blow the dust out of the detectors and make sure they work.  If you will be selling in the spring, you likely will have to change them all as the rules for smoke detectors changed in December 2016

☐  Reverse direction of Ceiling Fans

The Yard

☐  Seed Bare Patches in your lawn now so they can take hold before winter.

☐  Plant Spring Bulbsnow is the time!

Plant Shrubs so they can root for next year.

☐  Fertilize the Lawn with a high phosphorous mix (12-25-12) to ensure good grass in the spring. 

Last Mowing to 1¼”end of Oct is good time for this.

Prune your Plants – this is somewhat complex, different plants must be pruned at different times of the year.  This article gives a great rundown

☐  Divide Crowded Perennialsshould be done every 3 years.

☐  Mulch New Bedsafter first frost but before ground freezes

☐  Get rid of Annuals as they Diesnails and slugs feed on these and breed.

☐  Trim Spent Perennial Foliage to the ground so energy goes to the roots.



☐  Snow Meltthere won’t be any once snow arrives

☐  Shrubs to Round out your Landscapingparticularly if you are selling in spring.

☐  Restock Emergency Kits for your Cars

Click the image to get this list in a printable PDF format

If you are going to be selling your house in the spring, feel free to contact me now to talk about what you can do now to have the house look great at the beginning of the season.

Michelle J. Lane
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

How much Should you Spend on Home Maintenance?

June 30, 2016 by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor®

As a Realtor who specializes in homes that are part of an estate, I have seen a great deal of deferred maintenance in my time.

The two main reasons are:

  • these are the homes of people who lived through the great depression and have the mindset that they will fix what needs fixing, but no more. They see no point in changing things out if they are not broken.
  • The other reason is these are homes of people on fixed incomes – usually one person who has outlived their spouse for a number of years. So the money to keep the place up is not available.

The area I sell in – Newton, MA and the surrounding area – is considered affluent for the most part.  For the purposes of this article, I am focusing on what would be considered the middle or working class who own homes.  The affluent can spend far more than the rule of thumb would suggest and often do.

The generally accepted rule of thumb is that a homeowner should spend roughly 1-3% of the value of the home to maintain and improve.  Of course, that would vary depending on home values in your area.  In Newton, home prices start at $500K.  Most people are not going to spend $15K per year on tiny bungalow.  So, in expensive areas, where a high-priced home is still small, the rule of thumb is closer to the 1%.

Of course, you are not going to spend this each and every year.  But you do need to put the money aside.  When the roof or any other major component goes, you will need to have that money available to replace it.

You may be tempted to spend it on the more fun things like décor and furnishings.  That’s a lot more enjoyable than replacing a furnace or a roof – what seem like invisible improvements.  But deferring the maintenance greatly reduces the value of the property and hurts its ability to sell quickly, even in a hot market.

You are probably hearing all the stories about bidding wars, especially in the hot markets like the Boston. And you might think that any house will sell.  But bidding wars are happening with the houses that are in move-in condition.  Not on houses that need a lot of repair.  Today’s buyers just don’t have the money to make the repairs after buying a home.  And they are not able to make the repairs themselves.  All the reasons for that will be in a follow on blog post, so stay tuned for that.  This one will be long enough!

When clients have deferred maintenance on their homes, I have to explain why their home is not worth as much as their neighbors that was in better condition when it sold.  I actually have people say they don’t understand why today’s buyers are so fussy.  What’s wrong with Formica countertops and linoleum floors?  The old appliances are built better, etc.  Aside from aesthetics of the home starting to look a bit beat and shabby, it matters because everything used to build your home has a set lifespan.  Sure, we agents call all tell stories of homes that are time capsules where everything put in the house 50 years ago is still there and working.  I even sold a 1912 home with its original furnace that was still running.  But those are the exceptions, not the rule.  Everything is going to go sooner or later.

To give you an idea of when that sooner or later is, the chart in this article breaks down the Average Life Span of Homes, Appliances and Mechanicals.  This will not only help you plan for replacement of these items in your house, but should help buyers know how much they are going to have to put into a house they are buying and when they can expect to spend that money.

The contents of this chart have come from several sources, mainly a This Old House article.,,216991-4,00.html    They even give a rough estimate of the cost to replace each item.

Average Life Span of Household Components

Appliance Items Lifespan
Kitchen Appliances 10-20 years
Central A/C 15 years
Electric Water Heater 11-14 ones that are SS lined can last longer
Furnace (Hot Air) 15
Hot Water Boiler 20-30
Thermostats 35


Roofing Lifespan
Asphalt / Rubber 10-25+
Wood Shingles 10-40
Metal 25-40
Clay Tile / Concrete Tile / Slate / Copper 50+


Flooring Lifespan
Carpeting 8-10 (I’ve seen it left unreplaced for 50+)
Linoleum / Vinyl / Laminae 25
Engineered Wood / Concrete 50
Bamboo / Hardwood / Tile / Marble / Slate 100+


Garages Lifespan
Garage Door 20-25
Garage Door Opener 10-15
Light inserts 20


Footing and Basement Lifespan
Poured Concrete / Fieldstone / Concrete Block 100+
Sump Pump 5-12
Bamboo / Hardwood / Tile / Marble / Slate 100+


Materials Lifespan
Wood – Floors / Doors / Cabinets / Windows / Millwork 100+
Cast Iron  – Tubs / Pipes 50+
PVC Pipe 50+
Fiberglass 10-15
Bamboo / Hardwood / Tile / Marble / Slate 100+
Porcelain – Sinks / Toilets 50
Engineered Trim 30
Insulation 100+
Hardboard / Flooring Underlayment / Softwood 30
Particleboard / Plywood 60


Electrical Lifespan
Accessories and Controls 10+
Copper wiring 100+


Exterior Lifespan
Brick / Stone / Engineered Wood / Fiber Cement 100+
Vinyl 20+
Engineered Wood / Concrete 50
Stucco 50-100
Paint 7
Mortar 25-50
Caulking 5-10
Decks 10-30
Aluminum Downspouts / Gutters 20-30
Galvanized Steel Downspouts / Gutters 20
Copper Downspouts 100+
Window Glazing 10+


Notice that natural materials – stone, brick, wood, cast iron, have a very long life span.  Which is why homes with these materials in abundance are worth more than homes with linoleum, carpets and fabricated materials.  There are exceptions – PVC lasts as do some engineered woods.  And this will improve over time.  But the difference is that natural materials develop a patina over time that gives them character.  Fabricated materials just get shabbier over time.  Not to discourage any one from using them.  There is not the same supply of natural materials that there once was so new construction has to move to these newer materials.  And some building codes require them.  But scarcity is another element that gives the natural materials value.

All of these life spans are averages – they will vary based on how well used items are and the climate.  And, of course, on how well you maintain the house.  A leaking roof will rapidly deteriorate interior components.  But this should serve as a good planning tool – for maintenance and for knowing what a buyer will mentally deduct to come up with the market value of your home at the time of sale.

Now there are always exceptions.  A good number of the estate homes I sell are more valuable to a builder for the land they sit on than they would be for a home buyer to live in.  So if you are thinking of selling your home and not sure where you fall, contact me before you do any work on your home and I will let you know the value of your home as it stands and with repairs and upgrades.

Michelle J. Lane
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904




What Sells a House Today?

House with HostasWhile the timeless key factors of location, lot and layout are still important, condition is rapidly rising higher in importance.  In decades past, buyers did not shy away from handyman specials, seeing homes that needed work as an opportunity to add sweat equity to their home’s value.  Well, not so much today.   Boomers were the product of parents and grandparents who lived through the austerity of the depression – knowing how to do everything yourself was a necessity for those generations. So they taught their children, the Boomers home repair skills.  But we didn’t pass them on to our children. Instead, we sent them to college.  So, for the most part, the new generation of home buyers does not want a house that needs work.   And frankly, neither do Boomers anymore.  If someone in their 50s or 60s is buying a house today, they typically have lived through fixing up a house or two, or three and are tired of it.  They want to enjoy their retirement years in a house that is not constantly in need of repair.   The trend for all generations is not to be weighed down by the demands of our houses and to enjoy the time we have on this planet.

Reason #2.  Buyers don’t have money left over after purchase to shell out for repairs.  It takes everything a home buyer has to buy the house.  There is no money left over to pay contractors.  With today’s interest rates, it is easier for a buyer to take on a larger mortgage than it is to gather enough cash for renovations.

Reason #3. Buyers don’t have the time or know-how to manage contractors.  Most couples are both working to pay that mortgage, so no one is home to manage the contractors.  And with the demographic of many greater Boston area buyers being international, you have a population of buyers who don’t know any contractors they can trust.

So I am seeing that buyers would rather get in a bidding war on a a house that is in excellent condition and pay a good deal more for it than they would for a house that is in fair or poor condition.  For example, I recently sold a house in Newton that was a 1,500sf 2-bedroom Cape for well over asking price.  Aside from having only 2 bedrooms, the house did not have all the amenities buyers expect today – master bath, granite counter tops, a children’s play room.  So you would think it would not sell so fast or for so much over asking.

But what it did have was absolutely immaculate condition.  Everything looked freshly painted, not a nick, scuff, or spot of lumpy paint anywhere.  The walls and trim were in the condition you would have imagined they were when the house was built in the 1930s.   Nothing was broken, cracked, loose or dingy.  The house gave the impression of being meticulously cared for.   And lastly, the house was so clean you could have eaten off of every surface.  Although it did not have the granite counter tops we all seem to love, it also did not have the dated elements that buyers seem to find most offensive – Hollywood lights in the bathroom, old wall-to-wall carpeting in non-neutral colors, tiles from the 70s – 90s that no one seems to like, brass fixtures in the bathroom ,etc.  if you have these things, work on getting them upgraded.

I have to say it was a joy to sell this home. All the buyers who came to the Open Houses commented on the condition and even the home inspector raved about the house. I am seeing more and more that the homes in excellent condition are selling fast while larger houses in the same price range in fair condition do not.

So, If you are thinking you may be selling your house in the next year or two, then you should have a game plan for getting your home in the condition necessary to have it sell for top dollar.  If you would like our Guide to Preparing Your Home for Sale  Contact Me for a copy.

Michelle J. Lane
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

2015 Remodeling Cost vs Value – Which Improvements Make Sense?

Realtor Magazine just did their assessment of this study and the best point they made is that First impressions are important. The replacements that offer the greatest payback are the ones that are most obvious to buyers when they first view a house in person or online, such as new door or garage door. Siding replacement also provides great value at resale


Damn Ice Dams

ice damA couple of months ago I posted information on my Facebook page about how to prepare your house to prevent ice dams. How clairvoyant of me.  Too bad I didn’t follow my own advice in time.  Here is a link to the This-Old-House article on that I referenced – Winter Upkeep   But if you are like me and you didn’t get all these things in place in time, you are now dealing with Ice Dams, icicles, snow on your roof and leaks.  So what to do?  At this point, the path is pretty straight forward.

  1. Take pictures of the ice dams, snow and icicles on the outside of your house and pictures of the damage to the inside.
  2.  Call someone to get the snow off your roof and knock the ice out of your gutters.
  3. Call your Homeowner’s insurance company and start a claim.
  4. Get receipts for the work you have done to get the ice and snow off your house.
  5. Follow your homeowner’s insurance adjusters instructions for getting reimbursed.


You will need these, not only to lament to your friends on Facebook about your woes, but to show your insurance company should you have it all removed before the insurance adjuster shows up.  Video clips would be even better, particularly if you are getting water dripping in.

Who to Call

Don’t get up on a ladder.  It is just too dangerous in this weather.  You need someone who is used to being up on a roof and who has the equipment to be up there and is insured, so construction or roofing companies make the most sense.  Of course, many are busy so you will have to do a lot of calling around.  While I cannot fully endorse anyone that I have not personally used, here are a few companies that were recommended by people in groups I manage on Facebook.   If you want to follow me on Facebook (and you should – lots of good info there!), the link is at the end of this post.

John Gaudet – someone on Facebook said he did a great job, so I am having him come by today (781) 241-7329.   He had a bit of trouble this week with someone rear-ending his truck, so he is referring the business to his brother-in-law.

A to Z Contracting – Owner is Noff  (781)-389-6482 – also got a good recommendation by someone who used him.

I also got an email from J. Murray and Sons advertising their services to remove ice dams and clear (781) 414-0605 

Fabrian Castillon – (781) 308-5022  He got a rave review from someone on Facebook who used him, but when I called he said he could not remove the ice dams, just the icicles and snow.  To be fair, my house is taller than average and it is scary to get up there on a ladder and start hatching away at ice..

Someone else said they used Mr. Handyman  1-888-449-3031 and they did a good job.

Tree Tech in Foxboro 508-543-5644 – very nice guys who were responsive but said they will do Capes and Ranches.  They said my house is too high.

East Coast Construction – 781 333-9889.  Came to my door looking asking if I wanted to have them remove my ice dams.  At the time, John was on the way, so I just took their card.   I recommended them to a few clients who are in dire straits and they are getting rave reviews so far.

Ryan McKernan. 617-970-1610 – recommended by someone in the Newton Yard Sale group by someone who used him.

This guy advertised on Facebook that he could help with ice dams – A.J (617)-372-7761 ANGELO6686@GMAIL.COM.  I can’t vouch for him as I don’t have references, but you can ask him for references.

As I get more good recommendations, I will update this post and my Realtor Facebook page.

Make sure you get a detailed bill and receipt.  You will need this for your insurance company.


Call your Homeowner’s Insurance company now.  It will take a while for an adjuster to come out.  I called on Friday and they have yet to come out.  I will also update you on how that turns out.  I know you may be reluctant to use your insurance figuring the cost will go up, but trust me, to remove the dams and fix the damage will be more than your deductible.  We are talking $1,000 and up just to knock out all the ice dams and icicles.

I am in the throes of this myself right now so stay tuned for updates on how it goes with the ice removal and getting reimbursed by the insurance company.

Michelle J. Lane
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Preparing Your Home for Sale – Which Home Improvements Make the Most Sense?

With the prime selling season right around the corner, this is the time to fix things and make the improvements required to get top dollar for your home when you put it on the market.  Factors to consider when deciding how much to do to your home:

  • Is it a buyer’s market or a seller’s market?
  • Is the house in a great location or a challenged location?
  • How does your house stack up against the competition?
  • What can you afford to spend to improve the house?

Every home benefits from getting spruced up before putting it on the market, but which home repairs make the most sense?  If you look at most Cost vs Return studies on renovations, the return is almost always less than 100%.  It doesn’t make sense to lose money on getting your home ready for sale, so best to stick to changes that will make the home more salable – take care of things that are dated, broken, or dirty and worn looking.


Everyone wants hardwood flooring, so if you have it under your wall-to-wall carpeting, take the carpeting up and have the floors refinished.  I have heard sellers ask – “can’t you just tell them there is hardwood under there?”  Sure, I could, but there are 3 factors that will cause this strategy to bring you less money.

  1. The buyer has no way of knowing the condition of the hardwood under the carpets. They don’t feel comfortable taking on the unknown.
  2. While you might think it would be easier for them to take care of it before they move in than it would be for you to move all your furniture and do the floors, the buyer may not have the time or money to do the work before they move in.
  3. Most important, buying a house is an emotional decision. Your aim should always be to show the house in its best possible light so buyers will fall in love with it and be able to imagine their life in the house.  You are asking them to imagine what the house will look like when all fixed up and most buyers don’t want to put that effort in on your behalf.

If you don’t have hardwood, get the carpets cleaned.  If they are really bad, you should consider replacing them with a neutral color carpet.

Whatever you do, DO NOT put in laminate floor on any level of your home except the basement.  One of the most offensive “updates” in the eyes of buyers is laminate flooring. Without exception, every buyer immediately says “we’ll have to take that up” when they see it.  If you can’t afford hardwood for those rooms, put in carpeting.

Ceilings & Walls

  • Paint is one of the best returns on investment you can make in your home. Get cracks filled and put on a fresh coat of neutral paint.  For suggestions check out my Paint Inspiration board on Pintrest.
  • In the process, remove wallpaper. The likelihood the new buyer likes wallpaper is slim to none.
  • Paint or remove wood paneling. It absolutely dates the house.
  • I have never met a buyer who likes textured ceilings. If you can have them smoothed, do it.  But I will say this – if the house is on point in every other way and the buyer loves it, they may accept the textured ceilings – reluctantly.

Kitchen and Baths

Kitchens and baths sell a house.  And updating them is the biggest pain for buyers to address.  It means having contractors in the house and possibly doing without a kitchen or bath for extended periods of time.  Not to mention, most buyers don’t have the cash on hand for major renovations after buying a house.  So it is worth getting the kitchen and baths to at least decent, if not excellent, condition.

Oddly enough, anything up to the 1940s is usually aesthetically acceptable to buyers.  Anything from the 1950s to the 1990s is not – it just seems dated.

SO if your kitchens and baths are from the older period, you can probably get by with paint and updating old appliances and counter tops, sinks and fixtures.

If your cabinets are solid wood (which they typically are in older houses) I believe it is worth having them painted.  New wood cabinets are insanely expensive.  If not, you can consider having them refaced, but even this will cost several thousand dollars, so be sure the cabinets are decent otherwise.

If your appliances are ancient, replace them – with Stainless Steel appliances.  I am seeing design suggestions that charcoal, gold and copper appliances are on trend, but those are too new to be universally accepted.

If your counters are Formica, replace them.  You don’t need granite, but you do need something more up-to-date – butcher block, quartz, soapstone.  The right choice depends on the price point of your house.  You don’t want to overdo it for your neighborhood.

The most on trend high-end kitchens are now white cabinets with grey stain and marble (or marble look-alike) back splash and counters that are grey and white.


If your bathroom tile is dated, have it painted white or replace it – you can replace with waterproof bead board to save money and make it look more timeless.

Think long and hard before you take tubs out of older bathrooms.  Cast iron tubs are insanely expensive and preferable to the plastic insert tubs.  Consider having the tub painted.  I had it done to one of my claw foot tubs and it came out great.

No Hollywood lights!

No big unframed mirrors!


No Brass

Shiny brass is out and really dates your house.  Matte black finishes are what is on trend.  Brushed nickel runs a close second.   If you can’t afford to replace your home’s hardware, paint it!


Curb Appeal

This is one of the changes you can make that will actually have a higher than 100% ROI.  People make their decision about how much care and maintenance you put into the house by how it looks when they pull up.  This means – have grass, have plantings, take care of chipping paint, replace banged up doors – front and garage.



Take down dated curtains.  If you are in doubt, examples are – anything that is swag or draped over a curtain rod, anything lace, anything flowered.  Today’s buyers don’t even go for curtains at all and lean towards simple shades.

Take down all your family photos.  No one wants to see them but you and you are leaving so you can hold off and put them back up in your new house.

Strip out all the clutter.  Your house should look like a room in a furniture show room  They don’t have kids toys stored anywhere in those rooms, don’t have remotes lying on the tables, etc.

If it is broken, loose, chipped, fix it!

Major Structural and Mechanical

You might believe that putting in a new furnace, new roof, new electrical panel, new windows, air conditioning, etc. will make your house more valuable, but I believe you should only replace these things if they are at end of life and about to die.  Why is that?  Because if a buyer is going to fall in love with the house, it will be when they drive up and when they come in and look around.  If they don’t like the house, they will pick at those things.  If they love the house, they will then start figuring out what it will cost to replace those things.  But they have already decided that those are maintenance things they will need to take care of to get this house they love.   Taking care of those things also does not mean that they have to stall moving in or be displaced from the house.

However, if you have signs of issues – cracks in the foundation or joists, signs of pest damage, signs of water damage, etc. take care of it. These things will scare off buyers.

Final Thoughts

Spend according to what you can afford and what makes sense for your price point.  It would make no sense to put a $100,000 kitchen into a $300,000 house.

If you can’t afford the money or time to do most or any of this, then you must price your home accordingly. You can’t have ignored upkeep for 20 years and expect to get the same price as a house in your neighborhood that is in mint condition.  That just defies logic.  Find out what your house would sell for “as-is”, what it would sell for if fixed and updated, what that would cost you to achieve, then make your fix-up and pricing decisions accordingly.  That is where I come in.  If you are selling this spring, we need to talk now so you have time to make updates in time.  It might seem like spring will never come, but it will be here in one month.  Are you ready?

Michelle J. Lane
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

If you need help, call me.  I’d be glad to go through the house with you and make suggestions.

My MassSave Experience (So Far)


by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor



Since several of my clients have called MassSave after moving into their homes, I thought it would be a good idea for me to do the same so I can fill you in on what it is all about and try to get my house to be a bit more cozy and warm before the next polar vortex hits.

First, I must say it is worth the call to MassSave, regardless of what you decide to do moving forward.  In the initial visit they changed out 34 light bulbs in my house to LED.  And they gave me a Smart Power Strip – Value of all that $450!  Can’t beat that.  That was the maximum of LED lights they are allocated to give out.   They would have changed out the rest of my 30+ light bulbs in the house to the compact fluorescent bulbs, but I made it clear I hate those light bulbs.  I try to do my best for the environment, but I have my limits.   If you don’t mind CFLs you can get all your light bulbs changed out!  They left me all the old bulbs, so I have a whole lot of emergency spares too.  They estimate that my savings from changing out the bulbs is $200/year.

I found out, much to my surprise,  that my house DOES have insulation in the walls.  Last winter, I felt like I was living in an Igloo.  The issue is more with the original windows on my house and the sheer size of my house combined with the polar vortex.  More on the windows in a bit.

However I do not have insulation in the walls of the third floor and not much in the attic.  SO they will come back and:

  • Install Door Sweeps on my 7 exterior doors (they don’t do French doors though)
  • Install Weather Stripping around those same 7 doors
  • Perform Air Sealing where there are gaps in the attic
  • Insulate the attic walls
  • Blow cellulose in the attic
  • Install two vents in the attic of my new addition that I thought existed but do not!

The total for all of this would be $3,883. – after incentives, my cost will be $1,021.  Not bad.  They even have 0% loan program your costs wind up being higher and you cannot pay them outright.  Or if you decide to do a big ticket item like the furnace.

Because of the age of my house, I first have to get my electrician to come and certify that I have no live knob and tube wiring in my house.  They tell me it is dangerous to blow insulation around live knob and tube – it will catch fire.  But they will give me a $250 credit for the electrician if I produce and invoice from him.

I am going to hold off on the furnace.  At $400, the incentive on that is a drop in the bucket of the overall cost and I don’t want to have to make rush decisions to save $400.  Plus they told me the incentives are better if you do it in the summer.  I may do the hot water heater as mine is 10 years old and the incentive on that is $500.

My money this winter will be better spent focusing on the windows.  I am determined to keep my original windows.  They are made of the same wood as the trim in each room and that ranges from Brazilian Oak to Mahogany.   Even if I could get new, matching, double-pane windows – which is highly unlikely, it would be prohibitively expensive.    What I need to do is insulate the channels where the ropes and weights are as all the cold air blows in through the holes allocated to those.  I saw a video on YouTube on how to do that.  I will dig that up and blog on how that went when I get to that.   I also need to buy new storm windows.   All that is not covered under MassSave so I will be doing that on my own.

So for the most part, MassSave’s focus is on Heating Equipment, Insulation, Light Bulbs and energy efficient appliances.  They even gave me a handy spin chart to see Appliance Energy Costs.

I asked why the utility companies would want to help me save money on my utilities – seems counter-intuitive.  The Rep told me that the utility companies need to keep usage in check so that they do not exceed capacity of the equipment they have in place.  And then he pointed out to me on my electric bill that I get charged roughly $3/month for energy conservation.  So we are all paying for this program, whether or not you make use of it!

I have heard stories from clients of insulation getting all over the house when they blew it into the walls and it found its way out through holes.  I’ll let you know what my experience is like – look for future posts on all this!

All-in-all though, I would say well worth the call.  And if it something you want to do, call soon as they are booked well in advance.

I do believe it is a great thing to do after you have bought a home.  But even better to do before you sell.  If your home needs insulation, a new hot water heater, or if your furnace is on its last legs and you want to take care of those things before you sell, getting some rebates from MassSave is not a bad way to go.  You can do it with a no interest loan.

If you are not in a position to spend the money on new furnace, given the rebates are not substantial, you could consider a Home Warranty – for about $600/ year these policies cover the heating system, plumbing, electrical and appliances should they break.

If you are thinking of selling next year and want some tips on which improvements to make and how to save, contact me and I will fill you in.

Michelle J. Lane
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Is Home Renovation for You?

My clients bought a home in Wellesley that was once grand, but by the  time they bought it, not so grand.  It was an Estate sale that had every member of the extended family crammed into any free space and it was clear that it had been a long time since any money had been put into the house.   But, for them, it was a great move.  The house is large enough that it can be a lifetime home, not a starter home.  My clients definitely have a knack for orchestrating a home renovation and they had the patience to live through it.   Check out these kitchen photos for an example of the work in progress.  The full blog can be found at   Feel free to follow the blog and ask how they made such a dramatic change on a realistic budget.

Kitchen BeforeKitchen After












So what does it take to turn a “diamond-in-the-rough” into a diamond?

  1. The Vision
  2. The Money
  3. The Ability to Manage the Project
  4. The Patience to Live Through a Renovation

The Vision

Can you see past the clutter, ugly wall paper, dated cabinets, etc to envision the house at its full potential?  Can you be realistic about the best improvements to make so that the house is done over tastefully, yet not over improved?  Not everyone can – so be honest with yourself.  Beyond that, ask yourself:

  • Is the house worth the renovation?  You have to be able to look at everything that needs to be done, add up what that would cost, add that to the price you pay for the house and then determine if the house could sell for at least that much when you go to sell.   Factors to consider are location, size of the house, layout of the house, and size of the lot.
  • Can the location support the price I would have to sell the house for in order to not take a loss?
  • If the house is small and the lot is small, the next buyer may not want the improved house because they will be paying top dollar for a house that cannot be further improved in size or condition.
  • If you want to make additions, you will need to make sure zoning laws allow for that.
  • If the house is chopped up, rooms are too small, plumbing is too far away to add bathrooms, etc. then to turn the house into what you want it to be may be cost prohibitive.

This is where your Realtor can help you.  Not only by recommending good contractors and tradesmen, but also by working with you to look at values of homes in the neighborhood that are already in good condition to see what the value of your improved home could potentially be and to help you make an offer accordingly. Your Realtor should also be familiar with local zoning laws to tell you whether or not what you want to do can be done.

The Money

This is the main factor that could make it impossible to buy a home in need of renovation.  Most buyers will have the income level to qualify for a mortgage and may have the down payment saved up, but few would have tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars left over to renovate a home.  If you do not have the extra money, there are few options in today’s mortgage market.   You have probably heard of FHA Rehab (203K) loans.  While this is a good way to get a loan that can cover the cost of buying and fixing up a home, they are complicated loans with some disadvantages.  Contact me if you want to better understand Rehab loans.

Another option is to borrow from family, fix up the house, then refinance at the higher value to pull out equity to pay them back.  Of course, you would have to be able to afford the higher mortgage and the house would have to appraise for enough to pull the money out.

And, of course, it is important to keep in mind that renovation budgets almost always go over what you planned.

The Ability to Manage the Project

  • Can you be around to manage the contractors?
  • Are you skilled at Project Management?
  • Are you capable of being firm with contractors who may not keep to schedule or budget?

The Patience to Live Through the Renovation

Your home will be in a state of chaos, there will be dust everywhere, it will feel like the contractors are living with you, and you will be working with a makeshift kitchen or bathroom if you are remodeling those rooms.   Often people move out of the home during the renovation, but then you have to be able to afford the temporary housing in addition to the renovation.

These clients did it right.  They had the vision to see what the house could be, they chose a house that already had good bones, the products and finishes they chose kept them to budget but also fit the character of the house, and they were great at managing the project.  I am impressed with the results so far!

Search Homes for Sale in MA

Want to talk about selling your home? Feel free to contact me.

Michelle J. Lane

Michelle J. Lane
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Getting Your Yard Ready for Winter

<div style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;width:485px!important; padding:0 40px!important; font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;”> <ul style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;list-style:none!important;margin:0 0 30px!important;padding-left:0;float:left;width:485px;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;”> <li style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;display:block;vertical-align:baseline!important;padding:30px 0!important; border-bottom:1px solid #ebf0f2!important; color:#777!important; font-size:12px!important; line-height:20px!important;float:left;width:485px;”> <div style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;position:relative!important; float:left!important; width:100px!important; padding:0 12px 0 0!important;”> <a href=”” style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;”> <img style=”border:0 none;” src=”” alt=”Mulching fall leaves using a lawn mower” title=”fall-lawn-care-tips-leaves” /> </a> </div> <h3 style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;float:left;width:373px;margin:0; font-size:16px!important; font-weight:bold!important;”><a style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=”” target=”_blank”>Fall Lawn Care: 4 Ways to Say G’Night For The Winter</a></h3> <p style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;margin:0;float:left;width:373px;”>Labor Day through Halloween is your window for preparing lawns for a lush spring. <a target=”_blank” style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=””>Read</a></p> <div style=”clear:both;”></div> </li> </ul> <div style=”float:left;width:485px;”> <p style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;margin:0 0 12px!important; color:#000!important; font-size:12px!important;”>Visit <a style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=””></a> for more articles like this.</p> <p style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;margin:0 0 12px!important; color:#000!important; font-size:11px!important;”> Copyright 2013 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®</p> </div> </div>