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Tips on Entertaining in Your Home This Holiday Season

Posted by Kate Oczypok on November 18, 2017  /  in Holidays In Pittsburgh, Tips  /  Comments off


Inviting the in-laws over this holiday season for the first time? Did you just move into a new home and want to have everyone for Thanksgiving dinner? Will you be celebrating at Christmastime with your large extended family? We put together some entertaining tips perfect to have on hand in your home this upcoming holiday season.

Be strategic about the menu

Do as much as possible ahead of time. In smaller homes with just one oven, it’s ideal to serve a salad or cold appetizer to help your guests stay full if you’re waiting for things to come out of the oven.

Figure out a place to keep coats and purses

Store winter weather items like coats, hats and gloves in a place out of the way, like a bedroom or a spare corner of your closet should you have one.

Serve upward

Here’s a great idea for those with smaller counter spaces—serve upward with tiered plates. Not only does it look fancier, it saves a ton of space in the long run allowing for more food and fun.

Make sure everyone knows where the trash is

Things can get dicey—and dirty—with everyone leaving cups, plates and napkins everywhere if they are unsure of where your trash can or recycling bin is. Leave it in plain sight and it’ll save you tons of cleanup afterward.

Use battery-powered candles

If you’re planning on having children and pets over for the holidays, battery-powered candles are your best friend. It eliminates and potential dangers and allows for lots of ambiance in the meantime.

Create a flow

If your home has a gorgeous living room and you want to show it off, consider setting up your appetizers and bar near or in there.

Serve dinner buffet style

Save lots of room by setting up a buffet perfect for grabbing dinner then sitting down at a large, clutter-free dining room table.




Home-buying regrets (and how to hopefully avoid them!)

Posted by Lauren Klein on March 13, 2017  /  in Buyers, Home Buying Tips, Pittsburgh, Tips  /  Comments off

Happy March, everyone! Here we are in the last month of the first quarter of 2017; can you even believe it?

TrAs we all chug along with our busy lives, I thought I’d take a moment to share some interesting research  that was recently conducted and published by NerdWallet regarding home buying — more specifically, the regrets some buyers feel and why. I thought this research was interesting because the results are broken out by the generations of survey respondents: Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. As my clientele spans all three generations, it was interesting to see how responses varied.

Of course I hate to hear of any homebuyer feeling regrets, but it does happen (although I hope not to any of my clients!). The most common regrets found in this survey center on the process of applying for and securing a mortgage. I know what a stressful beast this can be; but I believe with my whole heart that it doesn’t have to be, at least not horribly so. My two best pieces of advice for buyers before they start down the path of purchasing a home are:

  1. Know your financial picture. Understand your debt-to-income ratio, know where all your paperwork is (pay stubs, W-2s, etc.), and decide what your limits are when it comes to making a home purchase. Your limits will be based on your financial security and comfort, and they’re different for everyone. Stick to them.
  2. Find allies you trust. Buying and financing a home is a complex undertaking. Don’t do it alone. Hire a real estate agent that you trust to guide you through the process; one you know will be available to answer all your questions. In addition to a good agent, you’ll need a good mortgage broker, too. As they say, you don’t know what you don’t know. You should be able to rely on your agent and your mortgage broker to give you all the information you need to make a sound home-buying decision that you won’t regret. So do your research and surround yourself with people who will be your trusted allies.

As any of my current and former clients know, I’m on your side. I will work hard to answer all your questions, calm your worries and guide you through your home purchase. I will also work to connect you with more allies, including excellent mortgage brokers. My goal is always to help my clients feel confident and happy with their decision, from the beginning of the home search to the closing table. You don’t want regrets and I don’t want you to have them, either!

If you’re considering purchasing a home, whether it’s your first time or not, I’d recommend you read the NerdWallet report. It’s helpful to learn from others’ regrets. After all, what are mistakes for if not to learn from them! Arm yourself with as much information as you can from the beginning. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

And of course, if you need an ally in Pittsburgh…I’d love to help!



Year-end thoughts on real estate

Posted by Chris Klein on December 27, 2016  /  in Tips  /  Comments off


With the holidays upon us, you may not be in a frame of mind to think about end-of-year financial or tax matters. And if you ask me, that’s exactly how it should be. But when you do emerge from the joy and revelry of the holidays, I thought I’d offer you some food for thought.

I came across this article about tips for making savvy year-end money moves. This list is geared toward families, and I know that covers a great deal of Lauren’s past and current clients. If you have a moment, it’s worth the read.

There was one thing in particular on this list concerning capital gains that caught my attention from a real-estate perspective. If you sold real estate this year and made a profit, you may want to consult your tax advisor to see if you will be required to pay a capital gains tax on the proceeds. It doesn’t apply to all transactions, so it’s a good idea to check with your tax advisor on the specifics. At the very least, doing so now may save you some scrambling or surprises come tax time.

I know Lauren has thanked all of you for trusting her to guide you on your real-estate journeys this year, but I want to add my thanks, as well. It is our honor to work for you, and you made 2016 an amazing year. Lauren looks forward to sharing more about this in the early weeks of 2017.

In the meantime, I wish you all a beautiful and joyous holiday season!

How to Avoid Scary (and Pricey) Winter Home Repairs

Posted by Lauren Klein on October 31, 2016  /  in Pittsburgh, Sellers, Tips  /  Comments off

Happy Halloween! I hope you all are enjoying your day!

I thought I’d take this opportunity, as fall slips into its final weeks, to talk about some industry tips for winterizing your home. All of them are relatively simple, and keeping up on them can help you avoid some SCARY (as in potentially very expensive) house repairs.

I’ll just highlight a few things, but you can read a more detailed, complete list from HouseLogic  here.

OK, here we go:

  • Cover outdoor faucets. This is a super-easy and inexpensive (we’re talking $2 at the hardware store!) step that goes a long way in preventing your pipes from freezing. Frozen pipes can mean burst pipes, which can mean water, well, everywhere. And that’s never good. Take a few minutes and a few bucks to protect yourself from that situation.
  • Remove icicles immediately. Icicles on your roof or gutters can indicate ice dams — places where water backs up and isn’t able to flow and drain properly. Not removing ice dams, and not investigating the REASON they’re happening in the first place, can lead to spendy roof repairs.
  • Clean those gutters. If you’ve ever noticed water pouring over the side of a gutter, it’s a sign that the gutter is clogged and needs to be cleaned. Those ill-placed waterfalls can allow water to pool near the foundation and cause problems over time.
  • Seal the cracks that let cold air in. A good pro-tip is to look for visible cracks around windowsills, doorframes and dryer vents. You can do it yourself, or a handyman can help you out.
  • Service the furnace. Be sure you keep up on regular service dates, and also don’t forget to replace filters when they’re due. These little things can go a long way in extending the life of your furnace, which can cost around $4,000 to replace.

Please remember that I’m always here to help, and my network of home contractors in Pittsburgh is pretty extensive. Don’t hesitate to ask if you ever need help in that arena. Hopefully this advice I’ve shared is helpful, and perhaps it will make it so that the SCARIEST things you encounter at your home this fall/winter are the spooky Trick-or-Treaters at the door tonight!


The Seller’s Dilemna

Posted by Lauren Klein on October 11, 2016  /  in Sellers, Tips  /  Comments off

We’ve done it!  The home we’ve listed to sell has found a buyer!  Of course, your buyer’s lender wants an appraisal… fingers crossed?

The appraisal process can be confusing and stressful, but having your home priced according to market conditions, updates, square footage and over all property condition are a good start. When you are under agreement & the buyer makes application the appraisal will be ordered by the lender. The appraisal is ordered through a lottery system and is accepted and completed typically with 10 days to 2 weeks of the appraisal order. If there are any value issues or “conditions” to the appraisal we will be notified by the lender.




Prepare as if it were a showing for the first time. Organize the garage (doesn’t need to be spotless, just tidy); vacuum carpets, clean floors, wash the windows & have bathrooms & kitchen in tip top shape. Make the beds & put away miscellaneous clutter. On the exterior, have the lawn mowed or sidewalk shoveled; replace old mulch & trim the shrubs. The cleaner & fresher your home appears on the inside and out the more value it has to the appraiser. You’ll also want to make sure the appraiser has easy access to the electrical panel, attic & mechanicals – don’t hesitate to leave a note behind with any special instructions or information about your home.



Updating your home, even with a fresh coat of paint and some modern lighting go a long way. Hopefully, we’ve covered all of this during our listing appointment & by recommendations I’ve made to you along the way. New kitchens, appliances, bathrooms, flooring are more expensive but can really make an impact on the value of your home. These items are taken into consideration along with square footage, age & the area in which you live.



If you’ve noticed in the last weeks, months or years that something needs fixed or tuned up, please have it done before the appraisal. Leaky faucets, broken cabinetry, chipping paint, dirty furnace or rusty hot water tanks are just an example. If you get anything serviced or repaired prior to listing or appraisal, please hang on to those invoices – your buyers will appreciate it & so will the appraiser.



I’m always cautiously optimistic when it comes to appraisals. Despite the research and the improvements you’ve made to your home appraisals can be tough. I try my best to give you an accurate pricing forecast for your home, but the appraisers use formulas, comps and their own subjective opinion when it comes to the value of your home. If we are on the fence about value, ask me for an updated market analysis & we can review together.

As always, my goal is to provide you with the most up to date information on the market and make the home selling process as stress free as possible. By preparing you in advance and letting you know the market conditions & the expectations of the appraiser I’m hoping the process will be a little less frantic. I’m always available for any questions or concerns.

Changes to TRID: What it means for you

Posted by Chris Klein on September 05, 2016  /  in Buyers, News, Sellers, Tips, TRID  /  Comments off

Beneficial TRID Changes

I know how daunting and complicated the real estate world can seem to those who don’t live and breathe it every single day. My greatest focus as an agent is to provide clarity and guidance to all of my clients on their real estate journey. The last thing I want you to feel is overwhelmed or confused — or both!

As a buyer or seller, you don’t necessarily need to be up on all the latest changes in the real estate industry. That’s my job. But sometimes it can be helpful to have a cursory understanding of the rules and regulations that shape your experience as a real estate consumer. In that spirit, I want to let you know of some recent developments.

In June, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) sent a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in which they outlined three proposed changes to the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule, which is commonly known as TRID or “Know Before You Owe.” The intent of TRID is to protect and educate consumers before they borrow money to purchase a home. The CFPB enacted TRID in October, and in April announced that it would be drafting new language to clarify the rule.

If you’re interested in reading all the nitty-gritty details about the NAR’s letter, you can do so here. But for this blogpost, I just want to share with you how these changes would affect you as a buyer or seller.

One of the biggest impacts to come from TRID was a change in how (or if) real estate agents were given access to the Closing Disclosure form prior to their clients closing on a real estate transaction. In the past, agents were granted access to these forms and it allowed us to review them for accuracy and to explain them to our clients. Since TRID went into effect, the industry has seen an increased number of errors on these forms. Not to mention a decreased ability to help our clients understand the forms they sign when they sit at the closing table.

For me, this is a problem. I want to make sure the details of your real estate transaction are correctly reflected in your official documents, and I want to be able to answer any questions you might have about those documents. After all, a real estate transaction is a big deal!

On July 29, CFPB’s response to NAR’s letter implemented these beneficial changes. You can read more about this here. I’d be happy to discuss this — or any other real-estate-related question — with you. Just let me know. As always, I’m here to help.


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3865 Reed Boulevard
Murrysville, PA 15668
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