Blog

Welcome to our blog! Here you will find posts about can't miss properties, local events, and more! Here at Maple and Main Realty we pride ourselves on our knowledge of the Northampton area. Feel free to leave a comment, we would love to hear from you! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us

A Case for Bold Colors

Generally speaking, when we realtors are called in to advise potential sellers about readying their homes for sale, we generally recommend neutral wall colors over bolder choices. However, as a homeowner, I am a big fan of rich colors. We recently hired local interior design team Workroom Design Studio to assist us in our color and decor choices for a house we are renovating. I would say that our design theme is historically relevant "jewel tones". Our WDS designer, Sally Staub, encouraged me along the way not to be afraid to use rich colors. With a mix of neutrals and jewel tones, the overall feel is welcoming, homey and playful. We couldn't be happier with the results! The following article from Apartment Therapy, also discusses the use of bold color combinations that work together beautifully. Enjoy!

6 Color Combos That Shouldn't Work But Totally Do

Adrienne Breaux
Feb 7, 2019

There are any number of color "rules" you can follow when you're picking out your home's palette. The classic 60-30-10 Rule is a place to start. You can lean on the smart suggestions of a color expert. Those looking to add dark colors in a small space might even want to consult some online guidance. But the six stunning homes in this post prove that you can play around with what some might consider "clashing" color combos and pull it off beautifully.

 
(Image credit: Susie Lowe)

Pink, green, and blue in Emily Murray's kitchen

A mossy green comprises a bold chevron pattern emblazoned with tiles on the kitchen backsplash. The cabinetry consists of a dusty blue reminiscent of a foggy sky. A perfectly hued pink makes up the tiles that hug the kitchen island base. How on earth are all of these colors working together in a way that doesn't resemble a baby's nursery? Well they're all quite balanced—each of the three colors show up in roughly the same percentage. But more importantly they all have the same medium, grayish-hued tone. It's not hot pink with an earthy blue and green. There's no neon green screaming the attention away from a pale blue and pink.

Three seating options, three strong colors in Holly Conrad's loft

It's not unusual to see one boldly colored sofa in a living room. Sometimes even two. But three different large-scale seating options... in the same room... all a different strong color? How is that working? Well, in this case, all the colors belong to an established, known color "family," called jewel tones. Jewel tones—likely modeled after the rich hues seen in actual jewels—all go together because we've decided as a society they do. Also helping here is the art piece that contains all three main colors, as well as a soft gray-and-white rug that seems to ground the room.

(Image credit: Sylvie Li)
 

Nine or more strong colors in one space, as seen in Cécile Gariépy's apartment 

I spy with my eye at least nine strong different colors in this room photo alone. How can so many disparate hues coexist so peacefully? In this illustrator's home, it's about using a lot of white or negative space, incorporating strong black and white graphic elements as the focal points, and then sprinkling little pops of strong color around the space. I know "pops of color" is a very cliche thing to say these days, but it's stuck around so long because it's a tried and true method of using a lot of different colors while not making your room feel out of control. Like a composition on paper or on the screen, Cécile's sprinkled pops of bold color throughout the room in a visually balanced way, crafting a room that feels calming yet colorful, at the same time.

Four strong colors in less than 300 square feet in Matt's tiny house

"Arsenic" lights up the living room, "India Yellow" is splashed in the kitchen, "Cook's Blue" emboldens the bathroom, and "Red Earth" adds a warm glow to the bedroom. Do you know what all the wall paint colors in Matt's tiny house have in common? They're from the same brand, Farrow and Ball. Does that mean that any time you pick four random colors from the same manufacturer they'll magically go together? I wish. But by going with a high-end, tightly curated company like Farrow and Ball, you decrease your chances of clashing simply since many of the colors flow together nicely. In fact, many paint brands today build their own "themed" color palettes of carefully chosen colors that all "go" together. Start there if you're unsure.

Just going for every color in Chad Burton and Burger Kim's Toronto apartment and Cherub Stewart's New Jersey home

 

 

Two different countries, two different styles, and two very different color schemes, yet these two homes have something very important in common—they are going all the way with color and not apologizing for it. I wish I could point to any one "reason" why these two homes—filled with color on the walls, the furnishings, even the floors—work. I think the idea of, "If you're going to go over the top, go way over the top" applies here. The inhabitants didn't dip their design toes into color... there's no small pop of bright color here or there. Every square inch of these spaces is dripping in bold hues, and that's why it works.

 

Renovating an Older Home

I came across this article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette today and thought it worth a repost. If you are looking for real estate in the Northampton area, you will quickly learn the most of the inventory is comprised of older homes. Housing stock might easily include homes that date 80 to 125 years old, or better. As the saying goes, they don't make 'em like they used to. Houses of that age were built to last. In looking more deeply into an older home, you might find hand hewn beams, wide plank floors, original clapboards, fieldstone foundations, handmade nails, beautiful moldings, etc. However, you may also come across damaged plaster walls, limited-to-no insulation (or horsehair!), lead paint, asbestos wrapped pipes and the like. Depending on the age, a home may have very shallow or limited closet space. Back in the day, people may have used wardrobes vs closets, and they had fewer clothes as well. If a house is very old, you may notice uneven floors due to settling over time. So, if you love the look and charm of an older home, you'll have to do some research and prioritize which elements to keep and/or preserve, and which elements to update.

When we took on the renovation of a 125+ year-old farmhouse, we decided to consult with (and ultimately hire) a local design/build firm to complete our renovations. There are local businesses that specialize in older homes, and there are local professionals who can assist with retrofitting older homes to make them more energy efficient. I can say from experience, that the more energy efficient you decide to make your older home, the less of the original charm it will retain. Luckily - you can choose elements that mimic the era during which the house was built. From moldings, to hardware, to tile, to fixtures, to paint colors -- everything old is new again. Read on for the article in the Gazette.

How to renovate an older home without compromising its charm

  •  

HomeAdvisor 
Published: 1/18/2019 9:05:38 AM

There’s a lot of talk these days about the many ways to bring historic homes into the modern era. But if you’ve purchased an older home — or watched enough of the TV shows featuring their renovations — you know that the original features can lend the most charm. Here are some things to consider as you work to maintain the integrity of a vintage home through updates, upgrades and renovations.

KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO 

Historic homes are popular for a reason. They exude charisma and character, and they typically have a lot to offer homeowners looking to personalize a home to make it their own. Of course, there are also other things to consider. Be aware of common issues like lead paint and asbestos in older homes, both of which will need to be addressed before you can safely move in. And also be sure to check the structural integrity of the home’s foundation. Hiring an inspector experienced in older homes will help to ensure that you find and address any non-cosmetic issues at the outset.

BECOME A HISTORIAN 

It’s important to figure out as much as you can about your home right off the bat. Knowing things like when it was built or how the crown molding was done can assist you when it comes time to renovate. Being aware of your home’s history can help you preserve the most important parts of the design, like transom windows, boot scrapers or Dutch doors. Not to mention, all of that historical knowledge will help you appreciate your space that much more. (Who knows? Maybe you’ll even find out about a resident ghost.) 

BE PATIENT AND GENTLE 

Don’t treat a vintage home like a new home — it was built differently; the materials are older and it requires more attention. A good rule of thumb is to be patient and gentle in all things when working on your older home. Take your time with upgrades or remodels — it’s always better to get the job done right than to throw something together in haste. And by using mild cleaners, protecting fragile design elements and touching up dings and scratches as they come, you’ll be giving your older home the care it needs and deserves.

MIX AND MATCH 

Despite superior craftsmanship in older homes, there will always be wear and tear. Paint chips and fades, mortar crumbles and appliances go out of style. When one of the home’s original features starts to deteriorate, it can seem like the end of the world. But you do have a few options. One is to match colors and styles as closely as possible during upgrades. Many people are able to pull this off with little trouble. But if you truly cannot replicate part of your vintage home, it’s OK to mix it up with modern styles. Many contemporary fixtures work surprisingly well in older homes, and it’s easy to make an old tile pattern new again with some creativity

 

FEELING OVERWHELMED? 

There is a lot to consider when it comes to taking care of a historic home. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out to the experts at your local historical society. They’ll be more than happy to equip you with tools and information you need to make this transition a breeze. Plus, they should also know of some local contractors who specialize in renovating and preserving older homes. 

 
 

Time to Declutter and "Spark Joy"

OK, I admit it, I've written about this topic a time or two in the past. The truth is that this is an ongoing issue in my own household. Many of us in the 21st find ourselves surrounded by too much stuff, at a loss for how it got there, and how to (responsibly) dispose of it. In addition, as a realtor and self proclaimed homebody, I know how important it is to me that my living space be a peaceful haven. When I have too much clutter, it makes me feel stressed! There are professionals right here in the Pioneer Valley whom you can hire to help you deal with your personal clutter (contact your Maple and Main Realtor for some recommendations if this is of interest). To that end, I direct your attention to the following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette. I admit, I'm a Marie Kondo fan. She is the "spark joy" woman from Japan who is referenced in the following article. I also admit that I, too, was bothered by how the show doesn't reference how to responsibly dispose or (or recycle) the items you choose to get rid of. Luckily, the following article makes many good local suggestions. Don't overlook the Hartsprings Foundation and Salvation Army who will come pick up your unwanted items! Also ThredUP. OK, I've got to go fold my clothes into tiny little squares now!

Declutter, donate or dispose? The trend of tidying up hits Northampton

  • Jean Pao-Wilson drops off donations at the Cancer Connection Thrift shop with Chris Hannon, a volunteer organizing donations. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Staff Writer

 
Published: 1/11/2019 12:15:52 AM

NORTHAMPTON — As more Americans turn to decluttering as a way to not only improve their living spaces, but to enrich their lives, some local thrift shops are seeing a spike in donations. 

Author-turned-Netflix star Marie Kondo’s “KonMari” method, which emphasizes only holding onto items that bring joy, is playing a role in increased donations, according to management at Cancer Connection Thrift Shop in Northampton. So is post-holidays winter cleaning.

“We do notice upticks in donations at certain time of the year, but I’ve heard a lot of people mention the tidying up thing, so that could be part of that,” said Christine Quinn, assistant manager at Cancer Connection, who has seen a few episodes of Kondo’s new Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” which premiered on Jan. 1 and applies many of the ideas from her bestselling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” 

Busy times of year include long weekends, holidays and the start of a new year, she said. “Generally, when people have time to sit at home and reflect on how much stuff they have.”

Nancy Case, manager at Cancer Connection, also noticed an uptick in donations, adding that the store hasn’t always been this busy in past years

“We used to have a downtime,” Case said. “We no longer do have a downtime.”

Susan Drzewianowski, manager at Hospice Shop thrift store in Northampton, has also noticed Kondo’s ideas catching on among her clientele. While Hospice Shop “normally sees a drop in traffic after Christmas,” donations have been going strong this month, she said.

Customers mention “a couple times a week” ideas commonly championed by Kondo, such as “I have too much... it brought me joy,” Drzewianowski said. “It’s something I’ve never heard here before.”

Case said she’s “not entirely convinced” surges in donations are only related to Kondo’s Netflix show, but noted that several patrons have mentioned the show as an inspiration for decluttering their lives.

But Case believes that the influx of donations seen at local thrift stores goes “beyond trendy.”

“People are just becoming more aware,” she said.

Jean Pao Wilson of Easthampton, a customer and donor at Cancer Connection, said that she has been making an effort to donate more often in general as a way to declutter her own life without being wasteful.

“A lot of us have a lot of stuff, and I like to simplify and donate rather than throw it in the trash,” Pao Wilson said.

“It’s like a muscle,” she added. “The more you use it, the easier it gets.”

Decluttering responsibly

Quinn said that she had read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and watched a few episodes of Kondo’s Netflix series in response to its recent buzz. She agrees with Kondo on many concepts. But simply tossing clutter in the trash doesn’t necessarily warrant a pat on the back, Quinn said, adding that Kondo’s book could use more emphasis on how to properly dispose of unwanted items.

“It’s simply focused on the people themselves clearing out their house,” Quinn said of the book. “They never address where things are going to, so it seems like people could be throwing things in the trash, which sort of bugs me, because people are throwing out things that could be going to good use.”

Susan Waite, waste reduction and recycling coordinator for the Northampton Department of Public Works, also stressed that “the greenest item is the one that already exists.”

“The whole popularity of decluttering is wonderful, but there are people that can use some of the material, so I wince when people say just get a dumpster and toss everything,” she said.

At the same time, people should be mindful of what can and can’t be donated, Quinn said, adding that some people will bring in items that are broken, moldy or otherwise unhealthy or unsafe to handle, believing they can be refurbished by the store. But especially with smaller organizations, such as Cancer Connection, this often isn’t the case.

Wendy Taylor-Jourdian, manager of The Parson’s Closet thrift store in Easthampton, said that her shop has also experienced issues with people dropping off items that the store can’t accept, which leads to the donations endingup in the dumpster.

The volume of donations is “cyclical” at Parsons, Taylor-Jourdian said, although the holiday season can sometimes see people donating unwanted gifts or decluttering in preparation of the giving season.

But while people should take care that they are donating appropriate items, thrift shops such as Cancer Connection are always depending on new donations from patrons, Case said.

“Just because (a donated item) doesn’t spark joy for them doesn’t mean it won’t spark joy for someone else,” she said.

 
 
Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.

Where to Look for Inexpensive and Attractive Home Decor!

As someone who is both a realtor (in and out of homes on a regular basis) and is working on a large home improvement project for the second time in 5 years, I can attest to the following list from apartmenttherapy.com as to where are the best places to find inexpensive and attractive home decor. I would add the following local to Northampton suggestions as well: The ReCenter Swap Shop off of Glendale Road in Florence, and EcoBuilding Bargains in Springfield, MA (more for the DIY set!). Target and Ikea should not be overlooked either!  

The Best Places to Find Cheap Home Decor, According to Interior Designers

 
Kelsey Mulvey
Nov 28, 2018
 
(Image credit: Aimée Mazzenga

Let's get one thing straight: You don't need a huge budget to have a great eye for design.

 

Sure, it would be nice to have the latest (and priciest) pieces from Paris or Milan; however, there's something satisfying about searching high and low for a great deal. Plus, how cool is it when all your friends are fawning over an ottoman or throw blanket when you know you got it for next to nothing.

Of course, we're not the only ones who love some cheap thrills. Turns out, interior designers love their share of reasonably priced furniture and accessories. So, the next time you're looking for a great design deal, check out these expert-approved stores. Happy shopping!

1. Wayfair

 

(Image credit: Wayfair)

"Best places for me to find cheap home decor? Let me omit the word 'cheap,' and rephrase, the best place to find reasonably priced home decor. The Batts Chesterfield Sofa available at Wayfair, is luxurious and rich looking. You don't have to spend a fortune on home decor to make it look like you did!"  Vanessa Deleon, interior designer 

 

2. Antique Stores

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

 

"The best bang for your buck in home decor is going to be the Brimfield Antique Markets. There you will find unique one-of-a-kind pieces that you can bargain on and at least you will come home with a little piece of history and not something that everyone has." Sasha Bikoff, interior designer 

3. Etsy

 

(Image credit: Etsy/TweetHeartWallArt)

"So many hidden gems on Etsy. I recently purchased gold star decals from there and put them on a nursery ceiling for a high-end look on the cheap!" Michala Monroe, interior designer

 

4. Lamps Plus

 

(Image credit: Lamps Plus)

"When looking for high quality and affordable pricing for home decor, especially mirrors, my go to is Lamps Plus. They have mirrors for every style, from modern to traditional, and the variety has really improved several of my clients' projects." Erica Islas, interior designer

5. Unison

 

(Image credit: Unison Home)

"I love the brand Unison and they have some great, affordable finds! They have a number of small side tables under $100, the Tower Black Side Table is one of my favorites for its minimalist and sleek look." —Alessandra Wood, interior design expert and director of style at Modsy

6. Urban Outfitters

 

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

 

"Urban Outfitters is also a great place to find inexpensive yet unique items. This woven bench takes its cue from much more expensive pieces." —Alessandra Wood

"Urban Outfitters also has a ton of affordable and playful home decor items." —Caitlin Murray, interior designer and founder of Black Lacquer Design

7. Chairish

 

(Image credit: Chairish)

"I constantly look to Chairish for affordable throw pillows and vintage glassware." —Caitlin Murray

 
Apartment Therapy supports our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations to improve life at home. You support us through our independently chosen links, many of which earn us a commission.
 

Practical Gifts for The Kitchen!

It's that time of year again - time to spend/give/receive! If you are feeling bogged down at the idea of blind consumerism, it's a good idea to focus on practical and useful, yet also fun, gift ideas for your loved ones. As someone who loves to cook, I can attest to the fact that many of the products suggested in the following post from thekitcn.com are must haves for any cook's or baker's on your holiday gift list! I use my Wusthof knives, OXO locking tongs, OXO zester/grater, 10" cast iron skillet on a nearly daily basis! All the better if you can find a well seasoned cast iron skillet, measuring cups or vintage baking dish at a local thrift store!

15 Classic Gifts That'll Stand the Test of Time

 
Lisa Freedman
Nov 14, 2018
 

 

You don't want to see a loved one at Easter and find out that the [insert gift here] you got her for the holidays has since broken. That would be terrible, right? To keep that from happening, we've compiled this list of 15 classic gifts that will stand the test of time.

Every single of one of these items consistently rank among the best in reviews. They're also pretty essential for a well-rounded kitchen. And they're from top name brands. Buy something on this list and you can rest easy, knowing that almost nothing can go wrong with it. When the holiday season of 2045 rolls around, you'll still be hearing how great that gift from 2018 is holding up.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife, $150

This is as close to perfect as you can get when it comes to a good-quality chef's knife. Because it actually is perfect. It's balanced just right and the blade is well-rounded on the bottom to encourage the ideal rocking motion. The price is right in the middle of the road (not too cheap and not ridiculously expensive) and it's special enough to be a sweet gift.

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. OXO Good Grips 9-Inch Stainless Steel Locking Tongs, $12

A good pair of tongs become an extension of a home cook's hands. And these are good tongs. So good, in fact, that they'll give cooks more control than, say, a spatula or turner. They lock closed, have non-slip handles, boast sturdy scalloped grippers, and can go in the dishwasher. They also go in a stocking; get one for every stocking you need to stuff.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

3. Peugeot 7-Inch U'Select Pepper Mill, $45

Get this for your dad who always says yes to the waitress when she asks if anyone wants freshly ground pepper. Made in France, Peugeot is one of the best names in the pepper-grinding business. This model has easy-to-adjust settings to allow for all sorts of grinds (from fine to coarse), and a two-stage grinding process (the first step cracks the peppercorns and the second one grinds them) to result in the freshest and boldest flavor possible.

 

(Image credit: Amaozn)
 

4. Microplane Zester Grater, $13

The name Microplane has become synonymous with graters of all types because it really is the brand that matters the most. And this is one of their best, most important tools. It can turn hard cheeses into snow-like mountains, garlic into a paste, nutmeg into a powder, and more. Looking for a little host gift? Pair this with a wedge of Parm and you're all set.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

5. Emile Henry Rectangular Baking Dish, from $50

Also made in France (seriously, why is all the best kitchen stuff made in France?), this baker diffuses and retains heat better than most. Because it can withstand temps up to 520°F, it can go in the broiler and directly from the fridge or freezer to a hot oven.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

6. Lodge 10.25-Inch Cast Iron Skillet, $15

Okay, maybe we take that French thing back ... our all-time favorite cast iron skillet is made in the good ol' US of A. It comes pre-seasoned, which means it can be used as soon it's unwrapped, it cooks better than any other cast iron skillet out there, and it only gets better as it's used over time.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

7. OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Angled Measuring Cup Set, $20

The most ingenious measuring cups to have ever been invented, these are read from above instead of the side (although that is an option, too). This way, bakers can see how much they're pouring out while they're standing over the cup and they don't have to hunch over awkwardly. Get this set for anyone who bakes and maybe there will be some cookies in your future.

 

(Image credit: Williams Sonoma)

8. Staub Cast-Iron Round Cocotte, from $160 at Williams Sonoma

One more French thing! We've always recommended Staub Dutch Ovens, but a few months ago, we got to take a trip to the factory to see how these babies get made and now we're even more enamored of them. So much work and care goes into each pot! (It takes about a week to make each pot and more than 20 workers play a part in every one!) So while the price is a tad high, we totally understand why. Plus, Staub really does have some of the best cooking results compared to other enameled cast iron pieces.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

9. John Boos Maple Wood Edge Grain Reversible Cutting Board, $134

One of the things that separate beginner cooks from avid home cooks, we think, is their cutting board. Whereas, say, college students might be more likely to use a plastic one, serious home cooks have a substantial wooden cutting board that can sit out on the counter like a badge of honor. Get this 24- by 18-inch board for anyone who's hoping to feel more like an adult in 2019.

 

(Image credit: ThermoWorks)

10. ThermoPop, $34 at ThermoWorks

Nearly every professional chef will agree that a meat thermometer is one of the most crucial kitchen tools. And they'll almost always suggest the ThermoPop, too. Not only is it incredibly accurate, but it's also super responsive and easy to operate. Plus, it comes in nine fun colors, so you can make the gift feel a little more personal.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

11. Vollrath Wear-Ever Half-Size Sheet Pans, $27 for two

We can not say enough good things about these sheet pans. (So we're just going to keep writing about them.) They don't warp or discolor, and veggies roast just as well as chicken breasts on them. Chances are, the home cook in your life is annoyed by her sheet pans but she's never going to break down and buy herself some new ones. So that's where you come in.

Related: These Are Our Editors' Favorite Baking Sheets

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

12. Duralex Picardie Glasses, $20 for six

Maybe we should have retitled this gift guide All the Kitchen Things to Buy Your Francophile friends! These made-in-France glasses make the perfect juice, water, or wine glasses. Bonus: The price is right and they'll look great in any kind of kitchen.

 

(Image credit: Williams Sonoma)

13. Goldtouch Nonstick 4-Piece Bakeware Set, $80 at Williams Sonoma

For the baker in your life, this Williams Sonoma set includes four of the most key pieces. The pieces are made of commercial-grade aluminized steel, which distributes heat quickly and evenly, and have a ceramic-based coating to ensure easy release every single time.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

14. GIR 11-Inch Spatula, $13

It's hard to love a spatula (or any other inanimate object) more than we love this one. Unlike other spatulas, which have a scraper attached to a handle, the GIR is just one piece of silicone so there's no place for gunk to hide. It's perfectly bendy (read: not too bendy!) to scrape a bowl of every last bit of batter. And it comes in 13 bright colors. Gift it on its own or pair it with a cookbook or anything else on this list for a more substantial present.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

15. Cuisinart 6-Quart Multi-Cooker, $118

This small appliance consistently tops editors' lists of best slow cookers. (A few of us at Kitchn also have it and swear by it.) The Instant Pot may be super trendy, but this slow cooker has been a top seller for a while now. Translation: Your loved one will still want to use this even once America's moved on to the next new gadget.

 

Aging in Place, with Local Assistance!

Any realtor can tell you, whenever a spiffy, well-built and/or well-sited single-floor home ("ranch") comes on the market in the Pioneer Valley - there is a mad dash of buyers eager to look at it, and, potentially, make an offer to buy it. There is a growing awareness in our part of the country, at least, about the benefits of aging in place. Some homeowners may choose to renovate their spaces to allow them to do so. We also see buyers who choose downsize from larger homes, transitioning into a smaller or single-floor homes.

One concern for aging homeowners is how to remain independent, when certain activities or household responsibilities become more challenging with age. We've recently learned about a wonderful new volunteer organization in the Northampton Area. Northampton Neighbors is a nonprofit organization that provides volunteer services and programs to empower seniors to live independent, engaged lives at home. So, whether you are in personally need of their services, you know someone who is, or you wish to volunteer or donate to this important cause - check out the hotlink above to learn more.

Neighborhood Group

Questions for your Home Inspector

It's the beautiful fall season here in the Northampton area - and the real estate market is on an upswing! As Thanksgiving and the December holidays approach, there are buyers and sellers out there still looking, buying and selling before the quiet of winter descends. So, for buyers out there, even if the home you are considering is in tip top condition, the home inspection process is an important learning tool. Your realtor can help you to prioritize issues, and come up with a list of reasonable requests for the seller, once you have your inspection report in hand. Having personally attended home inspections with clients in recent weeks, I thought this article was timely.

Home Inspection's Complete? Here's What You Must Ask Afterward

By  | Oct 9, 2018
 
home-inspector-questions
fstop123/iStock

What are some questions to ask a home inspector after he's finished the inspection? Because, let's face it, just staring at that hefty report highlighting every flaw in your future dream home can send many buyers into a full-blown panic!

Know the right questions to ask a home inspector afterward, though, and this can help put that report into perspective. Here are the big ones to hit.
 

'I don't understand [such and such], what does it mean?'

Just so you know what to expect, here's how it will go down: A day or two after the inspection, you should receive the inspector's report. It will be a detailed list of every flaw in the house, often along with pictures of some of the problem areas and more elaboration.

Hopefully you also attended the actual inspection and could ask questions then; if so, the report should contain no surprises. It should contain what you talked about at the inspection, with pictures and perhaps a bit more detail. If there's anything major you don't remember from the inspection in the report, don't be afraid to ask about it.

'Is this a major or a minor problem?'

Keep in mind, most problems in the house will likely be minor and not outright deal breakers. Still, you'll want your home inspector to help you separate the wheat from the chaff and point out any doozies. So ask him if there are any problems serious enough to keep you from moving forward with the house.

Keep in mind that ultimately it's up to you and your real estate agent to determine how to address any issues.

"The inspector can't tell you, 'Make sure the seller pays for this,' so be sure you understand what needs to be done," says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

'Should I call in another expert for a follow-up inspection?'

Expect to have to call in other experts at this point to look over major issues and assign a dollar figure to fixing them. If your inspector flags your electrical box as looking iffy, for example, you may need to have an electrician come take a look and tell you what exactly is wrong and what the cost would be to fix it. The same goes for any apparent problems with the heating or air conditioning, roof, or foundation. An HVAC repair person, roofer, or engineer will need to examine your house and provide a bid to repair the problem.

Why is this so important? This bid is what your real estate agent will take to the seller if you decide to ask for a concession instead of having the seller do the fix for you. Your inspector can't give you these figures, but he can probably give you a sense of whether it's necessary to call somebody in.

'Is there anything I'll need to do once I move in?'

Wait, you're still not done! It's easy to forget the inspector's report in the whirlwind of closing and moving, but there are almost always suggestions for things that need doing in the first two to three months of occupancy.

Lesh says he sometimes gets panicked calls from homeowners whose houses he inspected three months after they've moved in. Although he'd noted certain issues in his report, the buyers neglected the report entirely—and paid for it later.

"I had a couple call and tell me they had seepage in the basement," Lesh says. "I pulled up their report and asked if they'd reconnected the downspout extension like I recommended. Nope. Well, there's your problem!"

Everything you didn't ask the seller to fix? That's your to-do list. Isn't owning a home fun?

 
Audrey Ference has written for The Billfold, The Hairpin, The Toast, Slate, Salon, and others. She lives in Austin, TX.
 

Natural Drain Cleaner, Yup!

Let's face it, we all have recurring themes of disagreement that arise when living in the same household with other people. For example, clogged drains have lead to repeated domestic arguments in my own household. I am impulsive, and I want the problem (any problem) addressed immediately. My partner is slow and methodical, and he needs to take his time when responding to problems. My impulsivity leads me to want to reach for the Drano, in the face of a clogged drain, and nip the problem in the bud. My partner historically puts his foot down (firmly) in response to this solution. And, in this case, I have learned that he is correct. The chemicals in liquid drain cleaners can eat away at one's pipes, and cause long term damage. Not to mention the fact that they are dangerous and toxic, and just not a good thing to leave lying around one's home. At this point, to be honest, I almost always reach for the white vinegar when it comes times to clean most anything in my house. As I was perusing Apartment Therapy this morning - which I tend to do on a regular basis, I came across this recipe for how to make non-toxic drain cleaner. I think that all home owners should bookmark this page and remember to use it the next time your pipes get clogged. Happy Housekeeping!

 You Should Know How to Make Your Own Drain Cleaner

Ayn-Monique Klahre

Sep 30, 2018

Dead skin cells, soap scum, random food scraps, human hair, pet hair, and just regular ol' dirt—these are all the things you regularly wash down your sink or tub's drain. And if they sound gross now, image how much worse they are once they've congealed into a stringy, slimy ball of gunk inside your pipes. Yuck!

 

You want to prevent any of this gunk buildup before it becomes a real problem—especially in homes with older pipes or large families. The first sign of a growing clog? A gray ring around your tub or sink from the water sloooooowlydraining, giving soap bubbles ample time to attach and dry to that formerly clean porcelain. Another sign is water pooling around the drain. If you can actually see the slow drainage, it's time to act!

There are strong chemical cleaners designed to tackle truly clogged drains (and boy, do they smell like they're working!), but for prevention and regular maintenance, a DIY unclogger (a professional term!) will do. This method combines a couple products—with surprising cleaning powers—that you already have in your cabinets.

 
 
1/5 Run the hot water: Turn your sink or shower on at full-blast hot and run it for a few minutes, then allow it to drain. If your water doesn't get super hot (which it might not, because the EPA recommends you keep it at 120 degrees for both energy efficiency and safety), boil a big pot of water on the stove, then pour it down the drain. Wait for the water to drain; this is the first step in loosening the gunk.
Image credit: Christine Han

How To Make Your Own Drain Cleaner

Ingredients

  • Boiling-hot water
  • Baking soda (about a cup)
  • Fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about a cup)

Equipment

  • Spoon or funnel (optional)
  • Tub stopper or rag
 

Instructions

  1. Run the hot water: Turn your sink or shower on at full-blast hot and run it for a few minutes, then allow it to drain. If your water doesn't get super hot (which it might not, because the EPA recommends you keep it at 120 degrees for both energy efficiency and safety), boil a big pot of water on the stove, then pour it down the drain. Wait for the water to drain; this is the first step in loosening the gunk.
  2. Pour in the baking soda: Slowly send about a cup of baking soda down the drain, using a spoon or funnel as necessary. Do it little by little so it's not all jammed at the top of the drain.
  3. Add the lemon juice: Slowly pour the lemon juice on top of the baking soda. Brace yourself for some action: This will cause a fizzy, bubbly chemical reaction. 
  4. Cover and wait: Use your tub stopper or a rag to cover the drain, and wait. Give the mixture enough time to work, about a half hour, and keep it covered the whole time. 
  5. Run water again: Uncover the drain and send piping-hot water down it (again, either from the faucet or heated on the stovetop), letting it run for a few minutes. Wait for it all to drain. Is it draining faster than before? If not…
  6. Repeat as necessary: If your drain is super clogged, it may take a few rounds before it clears up. But with proper maintenance (repeat this process two to four times a year, depending on your household) you can prevent those big clogs from building up again.

 

What NOT To Do When Decluttering!

I'm amazed that no matter how big the space is in which we live, we always manage to fill it with stuff! Even though we are conscientious about waste and trying not to consume too much stuff - we manage to acquire a LOT!. Also - because we are conscientious about how we dispose of every item that leaves our house (reduce, reuse, recycle), getting rid of things is often a multi-step process. Rinse or clean out containers before disposal or recycling, keep TO GO bins or boxes in anticipation of upcoming recycling events (electronics, plastics, etc), compost everything biodegradable, etc, etc.

I love reading articles such as the following one from Apartment Therapy, with smart and helpful tips about how to approach decluttering one's home. As realtors, we are always advising seller clients to "declutter" in order to ready a property for sale. It's good to have to go-to PRO tips on hand to share with clients about how to approach a decluttering project.

Pro Organizer Tips: What NOT To Do When Decluttering Your Home

Catrin Morris Sep 14, 201

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)
 

Do you need the help of an organizing professional...without the professional price? We asked Washington DC's organizing and de-cluttering guru Nicole Anzia of Neatnik for some words of organizing wisdom. Instead of giving us additional organizing and decluttering tips and strategies, Nicole though it would most helpful to tell us what NOT to do when trying to harness the chaos in your home.Nicole says these five missteps are the most common in her line of work — and most likely to derail even the best efforts to conquer clutter:

Organize First; Buy Second

Do not go out and buy a ton of storage pieces and supplies before you sort through your home. All of those pretty bins, boxes and baskets at The Container Store are very enticing, but they won't do you any good unless they fit the space (on the shelf, under the bed, in the closet); hold what you need them to hold, and function properly for your particular space.

I recommend cleaning out first, assessing what containers you REALLY need, and then buying a few bins to start. You can always add later, but you don't want a bunch of empty containers cluttering up your home while you figure out where you might use them.

 

Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Che

Do not set aside an ENTIRE day to organize your WHOLE house. Very few people have the energy and/or focus to spend 8 hours organizing. You'll likely become frustrated and less efficient as the day progresses. It's much better to spend a few hours — 2 or 3 — on one project or space. This way you'll feel motivated to do more, not be burned out by the process
(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

Complete Each Task — Completely

Of course you will need to sort things into categories (e.g., toss, recycle, donate, give to friend, put in deep storage). But here's the crucial part: Once you have decided where something is going to go — take it there. Never keep bags for charity or boxes for friends in your home to deliver later. Do it now. Finish the process. Take the bags and boxes out to the trash or recycling immediately. If you're donating something or giving something to a friend or family member, put the items in your car or make arrangements for dropping them off. You've done so much work getting this stuff ready to take out, complete the deal!

Rome Wasn't Built In A Day

Do not think that once you've organized your space, that you are done. You'll feel like a failure when you have to clean it up again in a month. Realize that while you have created a new, efficient, and logical system for processing and managing incoming and outgoing items, you are not done. There is no autopilot. You should expect regular upkeep, but just be glad that the new system is far more efficient than the old one.

Good Enough is Enough

Very few people have closets and drawers that resemble those in catalogues. Trust me. I've been in a lot of houses and apartments and even after we've totally reorganized a space, it doesn't look like an ad for The Container Store. It looks great and works properly, but it is a space that is used by an actual human being, not one that has been carefully staged by a team of stylists and marketers for a non-existent resident. You will ultimately be disappointed if perfection is your goal. The goal is to set up a space that works well for your needs. That is success.

- Re-edited from a post originally published 8.5.2014 - CM

33 Ways To Save Energy in your Home!

As we head into this holiday weekend, the last hurrah before summer ends (although, since Northampton area public schools started this past Thursday, to those of us with school-aged children, it feels as if summer is already over!) we thought we'd share the following link from Apartment Therapy. Since selling houses is what we do, we like to send out occasional reminders about how to save energy in your households, and make better choices for the environment as well. We hope you enjoy the link, and maybe learn a trick or two!

33 Small, Mindful Home Habits That'll Save You Money in the Long Run

 
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)
 
Little money-saving habits don't ever feel like they're doing much in the moment, but in the long run they can add up to significant savings. And, no, we're not talking about the same well-worn advice to brew your own coffee or bring your lunch to work. These are at-home habits, most of which involve a minor change in your routine and might only take a few seconds each.
 

Small habits that cost us money—or save us money, as the case may be—add up to pennies earned that compound day after day, month after month, year after to year into significant dollars.

Here are some money-saving habits to put into practice around the house. If you're not doing these yet, you should be:

How to Save on Air Conditioning Costs

  1. Turn off the lights when you leave the room. 
  2. Use ceiling fans to help cool rooms. 
  3. Set the thermostat a few degrees higher to shave money off your bill. 
  4. Close blinds and curtains to keep the sun out of rooms during the day to help keep temperatures inside cool. 
  5. Don't leave outside doors open when the A/C is running. 
  6. Try to put off heat-generating activities to the evening hours, when outdoor temperatures are cooler. This includes cooking on the stove (make salads or use the grill outside when it's hot out), running the dryer, etc. 
  7. Properly maintain your HVAC unit so it runs efficiently. 
  8. Change filters according to the season, usage, and the manufacturer's recommended timetable. 
  9. Switch to CFL bulbs, which generate significantly less heat. 
  10. Get a programmable thermostat (or better yet, a smart one) if you don't have one and set it to be a few degrees warmer when you're not home. 
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

How to Save on Electricity

  1. Turn off lights when you leave the room. 
  2. Keep cooled or heated air in the house by remembering to close doors and seal gaps (such as with a door snake). 
  3. Dress for the weather. Especially when it's cold, put on a sweater or use a blanket before you crank up the heat. 
  4. Choose energy efficient appliances when you're buying new ones. 
  5. Choose the cold water wash on your laundry whenever possible. 
  6. Air dry clothes whenever you can. 
  7. Unplug "energy vampires," items that are plugged in even when you're not using them. These include phone chargers, computers, and countertop appliances like the coffee maker or stand mixer. 
  8. Check your utility company for special rates. For example, some companies offer discounts for energy consumption that occurs during "off-peak" hours. 
  9. If you like to run your refrigerator cool, consider adjusting your fridge and freezer temperatures up to 40 and 0 degrees respectively, the top temperatures recommended by the FDA.
  10. Never forget to clean the lint trap in the dryer so that it can run most efficiently. 
  11. Try the air-dry rather than the heat-dry setting on your dishwasher. 
  12. Use a toaster oven rather than your full-size oven whenever possible. 
  13. Stop opening your oven to check on your cooking food; turn on the oven light and peek through the window instead. 
  14. Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees (it's safer, too). (This applies to electric water heaters, but for gas water heaters, lowering the temperature will also save money.) 
  15. Never run the dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer unless they're at capacity.
 
(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

How to Save Money on Your Water Bill

  1. Fix leaky faucets. And toilets. (Try the food coloring trick!) 
  2. Stop pre-rinsing your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher. 
  3. Take shorter showers. Try a shower timer.
  4. Replace your shower heads with low flow ones. 
  5. Turn off the water while you are brushing your teeth, washing dishes, or soaping up in the shower. 
  6. Use water from washing produce or boiling pasta to water plants. You could also collect water while you shower to water plants with. 
  7. Collect rain water for watering plants. (Your plants will love it!)
  8. Look for special rates with your water provider. Like with electricity, some off-peak times of the day have lower usage rates. Check to see if your utility company offers a water discount during these times and run your appliances and take showers within these parameters, when possible. 

 

 
 
 
Apartment Therapy supports our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations to improve life at home. You support us through our independently chosen links, many of which earn us a commission.