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Best Neighborhoods to Live in Boston

January 17th, 2023 |

You can’t beat Boston neighborhoods for history, charm, and culture. Property investors, however, must consider many other factors when looking for the best neighborhoods to live in. What is the likely return on investment (ROI)? Are home prices and rents increasing year-over-year (YOY)? The following sections look at 6 investment-worthy Boston neighborhoods. 

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Tips for Working With a General Contractor for Home Renovations (and What Not to Do)

December 21st, 2022 |

You’re eager to begin that upgrade for your investment property. But it’s important to know what to do and what not to do when planning a renovation. Before you start, read these tips on working with a general contractor for home renovation. 

What to Do When Working with a General Contractor

The first step is to hire a licensed and insured general contractor. You can verify the license in Massachusetts with the Board of Building Regulations and Standards. Then you and your general contractor must agree on certain details of the project. 

Agree to a Timeline

A timeline is important for accountability and for completing the project on schedule. You and the general contractor make a list of deadlines for specific stages of the renovation and periodically check the list. List the deadlines in chronological order and post the timeline at the job site. 

Receive Regularly Scheduled Updates

Your general contractor must be willing to communicate with you on a regular basis. Find out how the contractor prefers to provide updates. Have them contact you at a specific time, such as daily emails or phone calls. Transparent communication helps the job run smoothly and cuts down on stress for everyone. 

Ask How They Work with Subcontractors

A general contractor for a home renovation will likely hire subcontractors, such as electricians or plumbers. Make sure you ask how the subcontractors will be managed and how your concerns will be communicated. Always verify that subcontractors have valid licenses and insurance.  

Get a Detailed Quote and Contract 

Before work begins, make sure you have an itemized quote and written contract. The quote should include specific materials and brands you have chosen. The contract should include the start and projected completion dates, items that are included and excluded and how funds will be spent.   

Prepare for Unexpected Issues 

Even the most carefully planned renovation can hit a snag. Examples include storm-related delays, backordered materials and foundation issues. To keep the project on track, it’s important to budget and plan for unexpected problems. 

What Not to Do When Working with a General Contractor

Knowing what not to do can mean the difference between a successful home renovation and a nightmare.

Hire Based on Cheapest Price

The lowest price is not always the best choice for home renovations. If a contractor quotes a below-average price, they may dramatically increase the price during the project. Also remember that part of the price covers a contractor’s license fees and insurance premiums. An unusually low bid may mean the contractor is not licensed or insured.

Pay Upfront 

Down payments are fine, but you should never pay the entire price upfront. You can also make scheduled payments as the renovation progresses. However, if a contractor insists on full payment upfront, you should find another contractor.  

Hire Without a Contract 

A signed contract is the only acceptable way to do business with a general contractor for home renovation. Get the details in writing to ensure the project is completed on time and as agreed. Never hire based on a verbal agreement. 

We’re proud of our skilled and dependable general contracting team at RH Blanchard. Contact us and get a free quote for your Boston-area renovation.

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6 Must-Do Updates for Your Apartment Investment Property

December 8th, 2022 |

You want your Boston-area apartment investment property to look its best for prospective tenants. The right update can save you money or allow you to charge a higher rent. The following upgrades can refresh your property and boost your return on investment (ROI).

1. Update the Kitchen

You don’t have to spend a fortune on a complete kitchen renovation. Instead, consider adding a few upgrades. For example, replace cabinet doors and hardware instead of installing new cabinets. Add a tile backsplash or replace an old faucet with a modern fixture. Replacing kitchen countertops can account for up to 11 percent of total rent increases, according to the National Apartment Association (NAA).

Granite countertops may be attractive, but you may not be able to recoup the cost in that neighborhood. Formica laminate is heat resistant, lasts up to 20 years, and is less expensive so it helps your ROI.

2. Replace Bathroom Vanity 

A vanity combines a mirror, sink, countertop, and a cabinet or drawers for storage. For a cost-effective upgrade, consider replacing an old, worn-out vanity with a dramatically different style or color. You can even spruce up the existing vanity by replacing the sink fixtures, hardware, or mirror frame. An upgraded vanity can improve the look of an entire bathroom.

3. Install New Flooring

Let’s face it, genuine hardwood flooring is expensive and you may not be able to recover the cost in your apartment investment property market. Laminate flooring is an attractive, cost-effective alternative. Unlike genuine hardwood, it’s moisture-proof and scratch-resistant. Small sections of laminate flooring can be replaced or repaired, and it’s easy to keep clean. 

4. Add Lighting

You can’t beat lighting for creating an appealing living space. Lighting is one of the first things a potential tenant will see when looking at your property. You can make a great first impression by upgrading the lighting. Options include

  • Ambient lighting for general illumination, such as ceiling lights and wall sconces.
  • Accent lighting that highlights certain areas, such as track lighting or a spotlight on artwork.
  • Task lighting for work areas, such as a kitchen counter.
  • Dimmers that adjust the brightness of lighting.

5. Switch to Energy-Efficient Appliances 

You can save yourself or your tenant’s money on utility bills if you opt for energy-efficient appliances. You will also increase the likelihood of finding a renter since green features are highly valued by prospective tenants. According to the National Apartment Association, up to 16 percent of total rent increases are attributable to energy-efficient appliances.

Look for Energy-Star-certified models when replacing a refrigerator, washer and dryer and other large appliances. Energy-Star products meet strict energy-efficiency standards set by the US Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

6. Upgrade Windows 

Another potential energy-saver is to upgrade the windows. If you’ve ever felt a draft near an old window, you can understand the importance of installing new windows. When cold or warm air seeps in from outdoors, heating and cooling bills go up. 

Double-pane windows are a great choice for an apartment upgrade. They help maintain a consistent indoor temperature and keep out noise, too.

RH Blanchard can provide expert general contracting services for your apartment investment property. Request a free quote today!

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6 Green Building Designs for a More Sustainable Property

November 17th, 2022 |

You can make your investment property more eco-friendly and energy-efficient when you opt for sustainable upgrades. We’ve listed six green building design ideas in the following sections, from solar panels to reclaimed building materials.

1. Solar Panels 

Solar panels can be a worthwhile investment when you consider energy savings, rebates, and tax incentives. The greater the roof area, the greater your return on investment (ROI). For example, solar panels on a 10,000-square-foot roof can save up to $44,000 in energy costs per year. The federal tax credit will be 30% for solar panel installations in 2022-2032, 26% in 2033, and 22% in 2034. It is scheduled to expire in 2035. Many solar panels come with a 10-year manufacturer warranty and a 25-year warranty against generation loss. 

2. Rainwater Harvesting

With the water supply dwindling in many regions, rainwater harvesting is an important green building design option. As rainwater runs off the roof, it flows through drain pipes and is filtered and collected in a tank. The water is suitable for various uses, from irrigation to washing clothes. It is best to avoid drinking, brushing your teeth or cooking with rainwater, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Besides lowering your water bill, rainwater harvesting can help prevent sewer spillage during storms.   

3. Tankless Water Heater 

Instead of storing and heating gallons of water in a tank, a tankless water heater heats only on demand. It can cost up to $5000 to purchase and install, but the energy savings add up to an attractive ROI. Your energy bills can drop by 20 to 50 percent after installation. Tankless water heaters can last up to 20 years and take up less space than a traditional water heater.  

4. Energy-Efficient Lighting 

Energy-efficient lighting can be a relatively simple green building design upgrade. Simply installing LED light bulbs can reduce home energy bills by an average of $225 per year. To increase natural light, you can make other changes, such as installing skylights, glass doors, or large windows. 

5. Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors

Besides increasing light, windows and doors can also help regulate interior temperatures. Energy-efficient windows keep cooled or heated air inside the home, reducing the work of heating and cooling systems. That’s a big help when you consider that poorly sealed windows and doors lose up to 30 percent of home energy.  

If you’d rather not replace your windows and doors, you can seal them to improve energy efficiency. Caulking, weatherstripping, and glaze are effective options. South-facing windows can help heat the home in the winter. During the summer months, cover the windows with shades or curtains to keep the room cool. 

6. Reclaimed Materials  

Why not reduce waste and save money during your next renovation project? You can use recycled or reclaimed flooring, wood beams, doors, and other building materials. Ask your design-build team about reclaimed materials that can be used for your project.

At RH Blanchard, our general contracting experts can help you add green design features to your Boston-area investment property. Contact us and get a free quote.

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7 Winter Maintenance Tips for New England Homeowners

November 9th, 2022 |

Is your New England home or investment property ready for winter? A winter home maintenance checklist can help keep your tenants comfortable and prevent costly repairs. Now that temperatures are falling, you’ll want to read the following tips. 

1. Finish Fall Cleanup

Now is the time to cross off any remaining tasks on your fall cleanup list. Finish pruning, raking, and disposing of leaves and dead branches. You’ll want to do this before snow covers those piles of plant debris and freezes solid. 

2. Check Fire and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Cold New England winters mean closed windows, a running furnace, and an oven baking all those holiday cookies. To protect the health and safety of your tenants, install or inspect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Change the batteries and make sure the alarms are working properly. If you haven’t installed them, you can buy smoke alarms and UL-listed carbon monoxide detectors at home improvement stores. 

While at it, ensure all fire extinguishers are in working order. Your tenants should be able to easily access extinguishers near stoves, fireplaces, or other fire-susceptible areas. 

3. Seal Windows and Other Leakage Points

From windows and doors to outlets and light switches, air leakage points can cause heat loss in a home. Check for air leaks or drafts around windows and doors. Replace cracked or worn caulking or weatherstripping. Gaps around electrical outlets and switches can be sealed with caulk and aerosol foam. 

4. Prepare Exterior Pipes

Frozen pipes will burst and cause flooding — a costly but preventable headache. Pipes in unheated areas, such as the garage or basement, should be insulated. Drain your outdoor sprinkler system, disconnect garden hoses and close and cover all outdoor faucets.   

5. Schedule Electrical and Heating System Tune-Ups 

Before the winter chill sets in, electrical and heating system tune-ups are critical items on your winter home maintenance checklist.  A licensed electrician can check and repair issues with power flow, sparking, and worn or damaged wires.  

A reputable HVAC technician can inspect your heating system, replace filters and make any needed tune-ups. For example, you should have a gas heating system cleaned every three years, and a boiler system cleaned every year.

6. Flush and Insulate Hot Water Tank 

Sediment builds up over time in a hot water tank. Flushing the tank should be a regular part of winter preparation. After flushing, you can keep the water heater warm by placing an insulated blanket around it. This step can help lower your energy bills during the cold weather. 

7. Inspect Roof and Gutters 

A damaged roof can cause serious problems during the winter months. Melting snow can leak into walls and cause structural damage to the building. A professional roofing contractor can inspect your roof and repair damaged shingles or other issues. You should also ensure gutters are cleaned to allow drainage and protect the roof from damage.  

The general contracting professionals at RH Blanchard can help you complete your winter home maintenance checklist. Get in touch today for a free quote.

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5 Energy-Efficient Home Improvements that Save You Money

October 19th, 2022 |

As an investment property owner, you may want to save money, “go green,” or both. The good news is homes with higher energy-efficient ratings sell for 3% to 5% more than lower-rated homes. Here are five ideas for energy-efficient home improvements, from window upgrades to Energy Star products.

1. Add Insulation 

All spaces in your home should be properly insulated, including your attic, crawlspace, and basement. Insulation is a cost-effective line of defense for reducing heating and cooling bills. For example, you can install 12 inches of insulation in a 500-square-foot attic for about $200. That’s a small investment in return for lower energy bills. The home interior will also be more comfortable with more consistent temperatures. 

2. Repair Your Roof

A roof takes a beating from seasonal temperature changes and harsh weather conditions. Traditional asphalt shingles absorb heat and force a home cooling system to work harder. Other materials, such as clay or sheet metal shingles or cool roof coating, reflect heat to keep your home cooler and reduce energy costs by up to 25%

If the roof is over 20 years old and there are cracked, curled, or missing shingles, it’s time for a new one. Consider replacing asphalt shingles with energy-efficient clay or sheet metal. Even if your roof is in good condition, you can add a cool roof coating to save up to 30% in cooling costs

3. Replace Windows 

Does your home interior feel drafty on a cold, windy day? Maybe it’s time to replace or seal your windows. According to the US Department of Energy, heat gain and loss account for 25% to 35% of home heating and cooling use. Windows older than 20 years can be replaced with newer, energy-efficient models. Look for double-pane windows with energy-efficient, low u-factors of 0.22 to 0.23. 

If you already have energy-efficient windows, consider installing storm windows. Depending on the brand, storm windows cost between $50 to $100. The indoor temperature will be more consistent and you’ll save money on heating and cooling costs in the long run. Installing Energy Star-certified windows can save up to $100 to $500 per year. 

4. Seal Leaky Heating and Cooling Ducts

When you have leaky ducts, up to 40 percent of the warm or cool air is lost before it reaches the home interior. An HVAC technician can use an injection process to seal leaky ducts at an average cost of $750. The result is a more comfortable and consistent interior temperature. The injection process can pay for itself within one or two years.

5. Install New Water and HVAC Systems

Upgrading your water heater or heating and cooling (HVAC) systems can greatly affect energy efficiency. For example, you can replace a 60% efficiency standard water heater with a 200% to 350% efficiency electric heat pump water heater. Is your HVAC system more than 10 years old or not heating or cooling consistently? Consider upgrading to an Energy Star-certified unit that can save up to $100 or more annually.

In the Boston area, RH Blanchard provides expert general contracting services for energy-efficient home improvements. Contact us today for a free quote! 

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Interior vs. Exterior Home Renovations

October 6th, 2022 |

A home renovation project involves many decisions and considerations. For example, does your investment property need interior or exterior home renovations? The following sections will help you decide which renovations your property needs.

Why Do You Want to Renovate?

Before you commit to a project, ask yourself why you want to renovate. Are you planning to sell the property soon and want to increase the resale value? Does the property need structural repairs? Maybe you just want to make the home more functional or energy efficient. Understanding your reasons for renovating will help you decide whether to choose interior or exterior home renovations.

Interior Home Renovations

Property owners often renovate the interior because that’s where people will spend most of their time. From kitchen remodeling to new lighting, interior renovations result in changes that can improve our everyday lives.

Kitchen Remodel 

One of the more popular interior renovations is the kitchen remodel. This renovation will likely add value to your property, but the cost may be more than the increased value. Kitchen cabinets alone can cost $20,000. An entire kitchen remodel may give you a return on investment (ROI) of 60 percent, with an average cost ranging from $25,000 to more than $100,000

Bathroom Remodel 

A bathroom remodel can really spruce up a home interior. The average cost of a bathroom remodel ranges from $6600 to more than $28,000, with an average ROI of 60 to 67 percent after resale. Materials and the project’s complexity are major factors in determining the cost. 

Exterior Home Renovations

Besides adding curb appeal, exterior renovations can improve energy efficiency and save money. Examples include new siding, patios or decks, and structural upgrades. Here are some of the more popular types of exterior renovations: 

Window Replacement  

New windows will quickly improve your property’s curb appeal. More importantly, they can end energy waste from drafty windows. New windows can make it easier for your heating and cooling system to maintain a comfortable temperature. An upgrade to energy-efficient windows can reduce heating and cooling costs by an average of 12 percent. That can mean annual savings of $500 or more. 

Door Replacement  

Door replacement is another way to improve energy efficiency and curb appeal. Old, worn-out doors can be as drafty as old windows and easier to break into. Door replacement can make a dramatic improvement in the appearance of a home. If you’re replacing your front door, consider a style or color that will refresh your property’s exterior.  

Small Repairs  

Even small, relatively simple repairs can significantly affect a property’s appearance. If you’d rather not pay for an entire kitchen remodel, try replacing the faucets or installing new lighting for an updated look. The small repairs may even give you ideas for more extensive future projects.

An experienced general contracting professional is essential when it’s time for interior or exterior home renovations on your Boston-area investment property. Contact RH Blanchard today for a free quote.

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How to Avoid Home Improvement Fraud (and What to Look For)

September 19th, 2022 |

When renovating or updating your investment property, you want to hire trustworthy, skilled contractors. But how do you know which housing contractors are legitimate? The following blog post explains how to avoid home improvement fraud.

Warning Signs of Potential Fraud

If you know the warning signs, you can spot a potential scammer. Here are some common tactics to watch out for: 

  • Door-to-door solicitation — the contractor knocks on your door or leaves a flyer, claiming they are in the area.
  • High-pressure sales — the contractor pressures you into making a fast decision
  • Offers of a lower price due to “surplus material” — could mean that they never finished a previous job
  • No verifiable credentials — the contractor will not provide references, business address or proof of license and insurance
  • Contractor asks you to obtain required permits — a legitimate contractor will apply for necessary building permits.
  • Contractor requires full payment upfront and in cash — payment should be by traceable check or credit card after agreed-upon project milestones are met.
  • Contractor refers you to a lender they know — you could end up paying high Interest rates while the contractor has little incentive to finish your project.

Work with Licensed Contractors Only 

Before hiring housing contractors, ensure they have the required license and insurance. Your state or county government has a list of licensed housing contractors. In Massachusetts, for example, you can verify a contractor’s license online with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.  

Get Bids From at Least Three Contractors 

Don’t sign on the dotted line until you’ve received bids from at least three contractors. Take your time, and do not let anyone pressure you into making a quick decision. Get written estimates that show a description of the project, materials, anticipated completion date, and price. Remember that the lowest bid is not necessarily the best option. Ask for an explanation if one estimate is much lower or higher than the others. 

Get Recommendations From People You Trust 

When looking for a reliable home improvement contractor, get recommendations from people you know and trust. Ask the contractors themselves for references and photographs of past projects. A legitimate contractor will be happy to provide references and their contact information. Contact the references and ask if you can see their completed projects.  

Have a Written Contract — and Read it!

Once you have found the contractor you want to hire, ensure you have a written contract. You should receive a copy of the contract to keep for your records. Besides the contractor’s name, address, and contact information, the contract should include at least the following information  

  • Contractor’s license number
  • Estimated start and finish dates
  • Description of work to be completed 
  • Cost of labor 
  • Cost of materials
  • Payment schedule
  • Warranty information
  • Your right to cancel if the contract is not signed at the contractor’s permanent place of business

At RH Blanchard, we provide reliable, transparent general contracting services to Boston-area property investors. Get in touch today and ask for a free quote.

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A Pocket Guide: Buying and Remodeling a Fixer-Upper Home

September 8th, 2022 |

Do you dream of buying a fixer-upper and turning it into a valuable investment? The following article provides tips on buying and remodeling a fixer-upper, from permits to budgets and beyond.

Weigh Benefits and Drawbacks

Before you buy that charming fixer-upper, step back and make a list of pros and cons. Is it the type of project you want to take on? Does the property need cosmetic repairs, such as installing a new carpet or replacing kitchen cabinets? Do you want to invest in adding a garage or replacing a plumbing system?

When you ask these difficult questions, you may decide not to buy a property. But you’ll be prepared when the right fixer-upper comes along.  

Set a Realistic Budget and Timeline

When buying a fixer-upper, a realistic budget and timeline are essential. A budget ensures you will not take on a more complex project than you can pay for. If you take on a project you can afford, you’ll be able to include quality materials and workmanship in the budget. Ensure you include permit fees and a 10 percent cushion for surprise expenses.  

A complex project, such as an entire kitchen remodel, can run into unforeseen delays. An experienced general contractor can develop a realistic timetable for your fixer-upper renovation. 

Invest in Quality Materials  

When renovating a fixer-upper, quality materials are worth the investment. Be willing to pay mid-range or higher for flooring, insulation, or trim materials. Premium quality siding, for example, may cost more upfront, but it usually lasts longer and can save you money on repairs.  

Financing Your Fixer-Upper Remodel

There are several options for financing your fixer-upper. You can probably pay for the property with a conventional home loan if it just needs cosmetic repairs. For more complex projects, you may need a renovation loan, such as an FHA 203(k) renovation loan or a FannieMae Homestyle Renovation Loan. Veterans can apply for VA renovation loans.  

Inspections and Permits

Inspections, permits, and approvals are a fact of life when remodeling a fixer-upper. Multiple home inspections will give you an accurate picture of repairs and upgrades you’ll have to make. Other worthwhile inspections include pest, sewer line, and roof inspections. 

Make sure you research zoning laws and permit requirements, too. Certain renovations may not be allowed or require a special permit in your neighborhood. A general contractor usually takes care of the paperwork for construction permits and approvals.  

Considerations for Rental Property  

If you plan to turn your fixer-upper into a rental property, renovations should appeal to the tastes of a wide range of potential tenants. When choosing paint colors or floor stains, choose classic neutrals rather than trendy or unusual colors. Think durability. Hardwood floors, for example, should be thick enough to tolerate wear and tear and multiple refinishing.   

Hire a Reputable General Contractor

A general contractor will oversee the fixer-upper remodel, set schedules, and ensure work is properly completed. Before hiring a general contractor, check online reviews and get referrals. Ask contractors for photographs of past projects and always check references. 

If you’re a Boston-area property investor, you can depend on the experienced general contracting team at RH Blanchard. Contact us and get a free quote for your fixer-upper remodel.

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