ICON Realty Group Real Estate Services South Shore of Massachusetts


While home ownership can be a very satisfying and rewarding experience, it does bring with it a new set of responsibilities and demands. Whether you're buying a brand new home or a fixer-upper, several things will have a major impact on your lifestyle.

One of them is the need is to personally handle or manage your own repairs, decorating, and home improvements. In many cases, you can (and should) hire a professional to do the actual work, but there are a lot of projects you can do more cost-effectively on your own.

The first one that comes to mind is interior painting. If you want to keep your home looking fresh, well maintained, and visually appealing, repainting your walls and ceilings every few years is a necessity. How often you need to break out the paint brushes, rollers, and drop cloths depends on several factors. For example, some rooms are subjected to more wear and tear than others. Bedroom walls, hallways, and bathrooms often seem to need the most attention, but kitchens, family rooms, and other areas of the home are usually not far behind.

If you've been noticing that one or more of your rooms are starting to look scuffed, faded, or dull, then it may be time to roll up your sleeves and give those walls a fresh coat of paint! It always makes a dramatic difference in the look and feel of that room, and it typically can be completed in less than a day -- especially if you team up with an energetic spouse, friend, or family member. If you're focused and organized, a room-painting project can often be completed by lunchtime. (Depending on who's providing the help, however, you might be expected to provide lunch!)

When procrastination is a problem, taking small steps will often help you gather momentum and keep moving forward on your painting project. An easy, but necessary first step is to pick out and bring home an assortment of color samples from your local hardware or paint store. Holding them up to your walls and seeing whether they complement existing furniture, flooring, and decorating schemes will help you choose a color you'll be satisfied with.

If you're not ready to tackle the project right away, you can still purchase the paint, rollers, and other supplies. Assuming you're not going to postpone the project indefinitely, you'll be a lot more likely to get started in the near future if the supplies are already in the house. You'll be streamlining the process and nudging yourself to get the job done soon by purchasing the painting supplies and having them close at hand.

While motivating yourself to do projects around the house may sometimes seem to be the biggest hurdle to clear, starting small and gaining momentum as you go is often an effective way to keep your home looking its best at all times!


If you plan to buy a house, you'll want to apply for a mortgage before you launch your house search. That way, you'll have your finances in order and can narrow your home search accordingly.

Ultimately, there are several steps that you should take prior to applying for a mortgage, and these are:

1. Check Your Credit Score

A bank or credit union likely will analyze your credit score as it reviews your mortgage application. However, you can find out your credit score free of charge before you kick off the mortgage application process.

You are eligible to receive a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Submit a request for your credit report today, and you can receive comprehensive insights into your credit history.

2. Examine Your Earnings and Debt

How much you currently earn and your outstanding debt could play pivotal roles in your ability to acquire a favorable mortgage. Thus, you'll want to examine these factors closely so that you can better understand how lenders will view your mortgage application.

Also, if you have lots of outstanding debt, there is no need to worry. If you allocate the necessary time and resources to learn about your debt and pay it off, you can increase the likelihood of obtaining a favorable mortgage.

3. Establish a Budget

Although a mortgage may prove to be essential to buy a house, it is important to consider various homebuying expenses as well.

For example, you may need to pay closing costs, home inspection fees and other expenses throughout the homebuying process. If you're worried about having the necessary finances to cover these costs, you may want to start saving money for them as soon as possible.

It often helps to account for the costs associated with cable, electricity, internet and other home must-haves too. The aforementioned homeownership expenses can add up quickly, but those who plan ahead can ensure they have sufficient funds available to cover these costs.

As you prepare to search for a house, it usually is a great idea to hire a real estate agent. This housing market can help you prepare for each stage of the homebuying cycle and ensure you can achieve your homebuying goals.

Typically, a real estate agent will meet with you and find out what you want in a dream house. This housing market professional then can keep you up to date about residences that match or exceed your expectations.

Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent understands that no one should be forced to overspend to acquire their ideal residence. As such, this housing market professional will make it simple for you to discover a terrific house at a budget-friendly price.

Lastly, don't hesitate to reach out to a real estate agent for guidance before you apply for a mortgage. With a real estate agent at your side, you can learn about lenders in your area and find one that can provide you with the financing that you need to purchase your dream house.


Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay


When it comes to selecting a home, every situation is a little different. Do you purchase a house because of its size or is the location more important? Both factors play a crucial role in determining your choice, but the unique details in your life can help you decide which is more important. 

When realtors talk about a home, they often stress the importance of location. However, if you are newlyweds starting a family and you want to buy a home on a tight budget, you might favor the size of the house over the location. On the other hand, if your purchase is to build your portfolio or to be your forever home, location might matter more than size. When considering size versus location, let the steps below guide you.

Sacrificing Location for Size

While location is important, you may need more space for a home office, a workshop, or a large play area. If that is the case, consider size over location. If home size is your focus, the location doesn’t need to be trendy. Choose size over location for these reasons:

  • You Have Children: If you have children, it’s preferable to search for a bigger home. Looking for a larger house in many cities might mean you move to areas where you can get better value for your money. While these areas might not be your dream neighborhood, or ideal for your work commute, they may be a great place to begin a family. 

  • You Have A Large Household: If you have a large family or have multiple adults in the same household, you may be looking for additional space for everyone. A bigger house means you could add play space for your kids, a lawn for your pet, office space, more bathrooms, and outdoor space. 

  • You Need More Space for Guests: If you often have people coming to stay with you; your in-laws, friends, or family members — then having more space or guest room will improve your quality of life. Finding a larger home that meets your housing needs is important, and if having room for guests fills you with joy, then size is important.

Choosing Location over Size

  • You Plan to Rent Out Your House: If you are buying your home intending to rent it out either on a long-term lease or as a holiday rental, your choice of location plays a vital role. Proximity to points of interest and public transportation determine your rental’s demand and supply, and it will have a significant effect on your profit. 

  • You Have Kids That Are Still in School: If you have school-age children, you would want to consider the type of schools available in the area. If there is a specific standard of education you want for your children, ensure you inform your realtor about this before the house hunt process begins. 

  • You Plan to Sell Your House in the Near Future: If you intend selling your home sooner rather than later, you need to be strategic when picking your neighborhood. Location is the crucial factor that affects your resale value — if you are buying a house intending to sell in an abbreviated time, it’s essential you pick an area that will increase your home’s value in the short run. 

Both the location of your home and its size are vital things to look for when house hunting, but your decision on which is more important should be a factor of what you need now. Talk to your realtor about your motivation for buying a home and get their professional advice on what fits your needs the most.



 Photo by Monfocus via Pixabay

Homemade cleaning solutions aren't just effective. They're also free of irritating chemicals, gentle on delicate surfaces, and easy on the environment. Here are a few recipes for making your own cleaning solutions.

Natural Wood Polish

This is a classic mix:

  • In a small cup, mix one part olive oil to one part lemon juice.
  • Now, use a soft cloth to rub your homemade wood polish into your wood pieces.
  • Buff the wood to its rich, natural glow with a clean cloth. 

What a gentle, protective cleaner! Plus, it smells lemony fresh.

Drain Cleaner and Declogger

A baking soda and vinegar mix can clear out clogs at the first sign of slow draining, before the job gets impossibly hairy. Give these steps a whirl:

  • Boil a pot of water. 
  • Flush the drain with it. (Handle boiling water with care!)
  • Then pour a cup of baking soda and vinegar, in roughly equal parts, down the drain. You'll see the drain bubble up a bit.
  • Close your drain.
  • Wait a few minutes, while boiling a new pot of water. Then carefully pour the boiling water down the drain.

Done! If your clog is in the advanced stages, you might want to bring a plunger into the equation. You'll get there, with eco-friendly flair.

Safe Insect Repellent for Indoor Use

Let chemicals be the last resort. Keep the air fresh and fragrant by giving these ideas a go.

  • For ants on the counter: Try cream of tartar. Use a little of this white powder plus a little water to make a thin paste. Sponge it over kitchen surfaces. (It will be invisible when dry.) Wiping with vinegar can also work well.
  • For moths, spiders, silverfish and others in the corners, nooks, and crannies: Cedar chips or cedar sachets in closets and cupboards deter those rascals while making your closets smell wonderful.
  • To redirect them all, wherever they might be: Use cinnamon sticks! Or put a couple of drops of essential cinnamon oil in a spray bottle filled with water. A spritz here and there repels bugs from seams that the little critters regard as revolving doorways. 

Paste For Making Shiny Things Sparkle

Here's how it's done:

  • Sponge unpainted cabinet knobs and faucets, and other hardware, with lemon juice.
  • Leave on for a time, then gently rub salt over the surface.
  • Rinse, then wipe dry.

To polish brass or other metals that have a protective varnish, use a soft, moistened cloth. Avoid using household chemicals.

These are just a few ways to clean your house and keep it looking new without using chemicals. They're also great ways to get ready for your next open house without having to air out the rooms before your guests arrive.

Looking for more ways to prep your home for an open house or get it ready for the market? Feel free to reach out!


Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

Just about everyone loves cozying up to a roaring fire and kicking back to relax in the cool night’s air. Far too many, however, leave that for camping once or twice a year at most. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can build a firepit in five easy steps, beautifying your backyard and creating a comfy space for your guests. Here’s how to get started.  

Draw Up Your Design

Your first step is thinking about the design you want for your firepit. Although circular firepits are the most popular, you can build yours in any shape imaginable, including:

  • Square
  • Rectangle
  • Octagon
  • Teardrop
  • Draw up several designs using your preferred wall materials as a guide, ensuring they will snugly fit together. Make sure to note how large you want to make your firepit, so you can pick up the right amount of materials.

    Gather Your Tools & Materials

    You have many material options for the walls of your firepit. Concrete blocks are used most often, though pavers, bricks and natural stone work as well.

    Compare the size of your selected materials to your firepit design, and then calculate how many blocks, bricks or stones to buy. If you are building a 4 foot square firepit, for example, then you would need about 36 – 16 inch long concrete blocks to build the walls in three layers. No matter what materials you select, grab enough materials to make the walls at least 24 inches tall.

    Then, gather the rest of the supplies, including:

  • Leveling sand
  • Lava rocks
  • Spray marking chalk
  • Tape measure
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Level
  • Mallet
  • With those items on hand, you are ready to get to work.

    Create the Perfect Space

    As you look around your backyard for the perfect space for the firepit, confirm it is at least 25 feet away from all combustible structures and vegetation. Then, use the tape measure and spray marking chalk to outline the design. With the shovel, dig down six inches, starting about two inches out from the perimeter. Verify the ground is reasonably level, then pour in the bag of leveling sand and rake it flat.

    Stack Up Your Wall Materials

    Working from your sketch, arrange the first row of wall materials within the prepared area and verify they are level. You can add more leveling sand to bring up low spots or tap the edges with a mallet to even out high spots. Once the first row is level, add the additional layers to the wall using an offset pattern from the one below.

    Add Lava Rocks to the Center

    Once the walls of your firepit are complete, all that is left to do is add a bag of lava rocks to the center. Beyond looking nice, the lava rocks will help hold the wood steady as it burns and promote drainage when not in use.

    Upon completing this project, surround the firepit with Adirondack chairs, benches or other outdoor furniture pieces that fit your fancy. Then, light up your first fire and enjoy.




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