One challenge to being a realtor is negotiating commission for the sale of a property with a seller client. That percentage represents our livelihood. It is compensation for the hard work we do; work for which we are ONLY compensated if and when property actually sells. Realtors are always juggling numerous tasks simultaneously. We are scheduling appointments, canceling appointments, attending showings, fielding buyers, compiling information, scheduling photographers and inspections, chasing leads, chasing paperwork, hosting open houses, putting together marketing materials, attending inspections, negotiating deals, recommending attorneys and other practitioners, keeping our clients on track with deadlines, acting as sounding boards, advising and supporting our clients in many ways. We also play the role of go-between. This is a huge and important part of what we do. Buying and selling real estate is high stakes, and can be fraught with emotion. Having an experienced advocate to help you navigate the potential hiccups is important. For many clients, it is invaluable. Having just come off of a spring market in the Northampton area wherein there were numerous FSBO's, I thought this article from Realty Today was important to share with our readers.
Selling a Home Without a Realtor: Know These 4 Risks
An owner may consider selling a home without a realtor. It's called "for sale by owner" (FSBO) or "fizzbo." However, it's not always blue skies and butterflies when deciding to do this; the homeowner has to be cautious with this decision.
Know these 4 main risks in doing FSBO, before you proceed:
1. It May Take Too Much of Your Time
Selling a home is not as simple as it may look like. Yes, marketing can be simply posting your ads online or even asking your friends to promote it to their network of friends. However, you have to do most of the work by yourself like answering inquiries, setting-up appointments, meeting and touring your would-be buyers.
If you are working or you have your own business, you may need to clear some of your appointments to compromise with your client's free time. In essence, this may be quite tiring for you. You may even be risking opportunities in your own work or business by focusing on this.
If you find yourself complaining about too much work, then you might need to rethink if you are willing to do this all the way. This point is just the beginning.
2. Screening of Serious and Qualified Clients
You will have to do the screening of your potential buyers on your own, basing on their commitment and qualifications. Some prospects may appear too excited and committed to buy your home but then bail out in the last minute because of various reasons. They may also have not passed the loan requirements set by the banks. If you fail to assess them well, you risk losing the clients who are more serious and more qualified buyers.
Tip: You must be firm in accepting clients that are pre-approved by the banks, says a 2009 report by CNBC.
3. Not Knowing the Right Value For Your Home
A professional realtor is knowledgeable of the current asking prices and market values of the houses within your area. He could advise you if you are undervaluing your home or asking too much for it.
In 2014, the National Association of Realtor reported that the median price for a home sold with a broker was $215,000, while a house sold without a broker was $174,900, basing from a 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers study.
Imagine the difference of more thant $40,000! Most buyers think that they would be saving around 5-6 percent for broker's commission if they do it on their own. But basing from this report, if you do FSBO, you are actually not saving. You should be getting around 23 percent more of your asking price.
On the other hand, if you want to sell your house this spring season, asking too much could also increase the risk of not getting any sale at all, says Lynn Findlay, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Belmont, as reported in Bankrate.
Buyers have also surveyed 10-15 properties before buying, notes an NAR Study. This would mean, buyers are also knowledgeable of the prevailing market prices in your area.
4. Negotiation and Closing Problems
You have to close the sale on your own and with that, create a binding contract between you and the buyer. What if he asks for the furnishing to be included in the deal? What if he likes it in a rent to own style? What if he asks for a discount? A licensed realtor can help you by negotiating for you and he also makes sure that your contract is legally binding and complies with all local regulations, notes Realtor.
You may negotiate and draft your contract without any advice but must face risks of not being able to put important matters in the agreement or be shocked that the buyers find a loophole in your contract.
So, consider all these things first and decide if you will do the FSBO process.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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
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:
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
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.
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
Now that the sun in shining, the birds are singing and the flowers are blooming - the spring real estate market is upon us! I so enjoy seeing all the new "inventory" in the Northampton area with my buyer clients. Houses seem to double in size when you include the yard, and any outdoor living spaces, such as decks, patios, pools and the like. The flip side of this increased sense of space, is that outdoor areas actually require upkeep, and this can be time consuming and expensive. It's a good idea to take stock of all that needs doing, and decide which items/projects you are willing and able to pay for (yard clean up? gutter cleaning?), and which projects you prefer to do on your own (planting new perennials?, mulching your garden beds?).
In the past week, I've happened upon a number of houses with decks in need of TLC. My first impulse as a homeowner, would be to hire a professional to deal with a weathered deck. But, in reading this piece from todays' Daily Hampshire Gazette, it seems as if freshening up ones' deck is actually a manageable DIY project!
How to repair a splintering deck
Thursday, May 31, 201
Splintering decks are usually the result of neglect — occurring after a deck remains untreated and unsealed for a number of years. The lack of protection allows water to soak into the boards, eventually causing them to splinter and crack.
Fortunately, all is not lost. It may be hard to get that brand new look back completely, but following a few simple steps can help you bring your neglected decking back to life.
Your first order of business is the easiest. Mix up a solution of half bleach, half water and spray down your entire decking. If you see areas of deck mold (not unlikely if it's been a while since your deck's been treated), hit those especially hard and work at them with a scrub brush until the mold has been removed.
Finally, wait for the deck to dry before moving on to the next step.
The bleach does two things: It kills deck mold and mildew, and it bleaches the wood to a uniform color, preparing it for treatment. If you treat a deck that's at the point of splintering without applying bleach, you'll end up with dark, unattractive decking. Using bleach will bring out the natural wood look you're trying to recover.
Once the bleach solution has dried off the deck (it's a good idea to give it about 24 hours, just to be sure), you can move on to sanding. Since splintering decks mean lots of painful slivers for bare feet, it's important that you sand down your deck so that you're once again working with a smooth surface. Renting a large floor sander will certainly speed up the job, though the railings, banisters, steps and other hard-to-reach places will probably need to be done with a hand sander or sandpaper. Finally, rent a power washer and clean off the deck. It's going to be covered in a fine layer of dust from the sanding, and you'll need to get rid of that if you want your sealer to take properly.
Once the deck has dried out a second time, you're ready to treat the deck. Using a power sprayer drastically reduces the time it takes to treat a deck, though it can be done with paint rollers and brushes if you've got the patience. Just be sure to watch out for drips and runs, and to brush them up quickly. Waiting until after the deck is dry to try to get rid of them is almost impossible. Finally, remember to treat your deck on a regular basis (at least every few years). It's the only sure-fire way to prevent problems like splintering, cracking, rot and mold.
While it's possible to repair decking yourself, it's a time-consuming and laborious job — especially if you don't have the right tools. A decking contractor is experienced enough to repair decking of all sorts, and they will also have the supplies and know-how to get it done right in a fraction of the time. For this reason, many homeowners find hiring a decking pro to be worth the extra cost.
I was recently visiting with a friend who lives in a fairly typical for Northampton MA, late 1800's farmhouse. She is a master collector of curiosities, used-yet-hip furniture, artwork, tchotchkes, etc. She manages to pack a lot of stuff into her small home - and make it look artful, cozy and inviting. In addition, everything is functional! An antique sink (not attached to a drain) decorates the mud/laundry room, and also serves as place to stack clean laundry for her children to collect and put away. Each room has a it's own color palette, giving it a separate feel to the adjoining room. Handmade plywood painted bookcases are arranged according to color family, creating an attractive backdrop to a beloved collection of Snoopy paraphernalia, etc. I immediately thought of her while reading the following article from Apartment Therapy, which is chock full of great ideas about how to create a beautiful and functional space in a small or challenging living room. It's interesting to think about the many ways we have to recreate our spaces as we live in them. Enjoy!
30 Absolutely Brilliant Ideas & Solutions for Your Small Living Room
by Cara Gibbs
Jan 17, 2018
Tour: A NYC Couple's Minimalist Retreat from Hectic City Life
(Image credit: Mackenzie Schieck)
Those pesky small living rooms always have us stumbling and second guessing what we should do to make the most of the floor plan. If you've ever struggled with how to arrange your furniture, how to fit in more seating, how to get in more light and beyond, here are 30 rooms—from genius teeny spaces full of inspiration to larger living rooms with plenty of ideas to borrow—showcasing the best ways to expand your square footage without any demolition.
Get your reflection on
Mirrors are one of the best ways to make your tiny space feel open and airy. This space from West Elm shows off the dramatic impact multiple mirrors can play, plus they reflect any and all light available in the room.
In a tiny space, you might be afraid of overwhelming things with too-large furniture, but oftentimes, if you go full throttle with a large sectional that hugs the walls, you'll get a room that #1 seats a ton of people and #2 feels super welcoming and cozy. Take notes from this home we toured in the UK that fits a family of four.
(Image credit: One Kings Lane)
Go for the wow factor
Sometimes the best way to visually increase the square footage in a space is to keep the eye constantly in motion (so you don't notice how small it is). Take a cue from entertaining expert Lulu Powers in her LA bungalow seen on One Kings Lane: pattern on pattern, bold color next to bold color—cozy perfection!
(Image credit: Design*Sponge)
Keep things linear
Try implementing varying geometric and linear prints, as seen on Design*Sponge. This gives a small space a sense of structure while also providing the illusion of additional length and width.
(Image credit: Livet Hemma)
Lose the legs
If you're looking to add storage/display surfaces to your living room, consider going leg-free and attaching units directly to the wall (like this Besta unit from IKEA in a room via Livet Hemma). Floating large pieces like this tricks the eye into thinking less space has been taken up because the floor area is still free (plus, you can use that newly found space for even more storage should you feel the need).
(Image credit: Alvhem)
Make the best of strange angles
A feature wall is a great way to properly weigh and focus a room with awkward angles, like in this room from Alvhem, that uses a bold floral wallpaper to pull the attention to the seating area.
(Image credit: Domino)
Invite tiny keepsakes & treasures into your space
In this charming living room via Domino, your attention is occupied and delighted by all the personal accents and accessories that draw you into each area of the little space.
(Image credit: Minette Hand)
A wall of books
To turn a small, sort of sad living space into your favorite room, consider taking an empty wall and turning it into a top-to-bottom mini library. It'll provide plenty of storage opportunities, but also makes such a statement and gives a luxe built-in effect. For an even more stylish push, pick a rich color, like the hunter green of this room, and add molding to polish off the custom look.
(Image credit: Josh Gruetzmacher for Style Me Pretty Living )
The power of the tuck
The main goal of any small living space is always to use every area as efficiently as possible. So that area under the coffee table (considering yours doesn't have shelving) can often feel a bit wasted, unless you mimic this clever space from Style Me Pretty Living that tucks additional poufs under for more usage.
(Image credit: House Beautiful)
Keep your space alive
It's no secret that plants add so much value to any room in the home, but you can really get creative with them in your living area. In a tour of her home via House Beautiful, Justina Blakeney shows off just that in her compact living room, and is smart about hanging greenery as to not take up any precious floor space.
(Image credit: The Apartment St. Kilda via Instagram)
Keep things monochromatic
In this space by The Apartment St Kilda via Instagram, the crisp white walls serve as the perfect canvas for the oversize jet black lighting fixture and delightfully worn-in furnishings and accents—you hardly notice the room's tiny footprint amidst the cohesive palette.
(Image credit: Suzy Hoodless)
Floor to ceiling draperies
Draperies are the quickest way to add instant height to any space. The trick is to hang them from right around where your wall meets your ceiling and let them slightly puddle on the ground, as seen in this Notting Hill townhouse via Suzy Hoodless.
(Image credit: SFGirlbyBay)
Behold the power of threes
Grouping items into threes like in this space on SFGirlbyBay is a great way to make a living room feel a bit bigger by adding more pieces to a space without taking up more real estate. (Not to mention you can move smaller furnishings like these around as needed.)
(Image credit: House Beautiful)
Keep it simple, sweetie! When you don't have a ton of room to play with but you want to inject some color, it's best to keep it simple if you're a newbie. Start with a foundation of neutrals and add in one feature color and one metallic and run with it, like this space via House Beautiful which invites varying textures and finishes to add depth while remaining light and airy on the eyes.
(Image credit: Homepolish)
Fit it all in
Packing your teeny space with lots of purpose is another way to trick yourself into thinking things are bigger than they appear. In this apartment on Homepolish, the living room seamlessly connects to an office area, feeling cohesive and interesting.
(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)
Layer your lighting
This living room feels big and spacious due in large part to tall ceilings and big windows, but also of note is the layered lighting. Keeping light at multiple levels (via floor lamps, chandeliers, and task lights) creates a moody yet well-lit room.
An Industrial-Modern Apartment in Brooklyn
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)
Don't overlook underused spots
If you have some windows in your tiny living room, put those window sills to work holding books, plants and other decorative objects.
(Image credit: VT Wonen)
Opt for floating shelves
When floor space is at a premium but you've got tons of books and whatsits to store, you'll want to consider floating shelves. Keep them the same color as your wall for an even sleeker look (and don't be afraid to get creative with sizes, like these scattered smaller shelves in a room from VT Wonen).
(Image credit: Sherrie and Oliver )
With a rug that is. A large rug like this one in the West Village apartment of Lee Lenox makes a tiny space feel much bigger than it actually is.
(Image credit: Architectural Digest)
Go bold (but neutral!)
Designers Cloth & Kind opted for an impressive statement wall when it came to this petite space featured on Architectural Digest, and the mix of patterns is fresh and lively, while a subtle, neutral palette keeps things from feeling overdone. This is a genius way to inject serious personality into a small space.
(Image credit: Marie Claire Maison)
Spotted on Marie Claire Maison, this non-traditional "sofa" is perched atop vintage storage bins—chic and smart!
(Image credit: IKEA via Domino)
Forego traditional pieces
We're so conditioned by the living room formula sofa + coffee table, but what if you focused on doing what works for you and how you live instead? In this space from IKEA via Domino, a quarter of slipper chairs sit where a sofa might be (how modular!) while a coffee table is absent in place of a rolling cart off to the side and cushy floor rugs.
(Image credit: Domino)
Design on a tilt
The best way to shake up a space is to give it a fresh furniture layout. If you're bored of your little living room, consider angling a few key pieces to keep things interesting like this room on Domino (via Airbnb).
(Image credit: Sigmar)
Get creative with storage
Okay, so this one is reserved for homeowners who can invest in custom solutions, but how enviable is this media center designed by London-based firm Sigmar?
(Image credit: New Darlings)
Blankets are a must for a cozy living room experience but when you're short on space to store said blankets, you don't have many options. Sure, you can stash them in a basket, but that takes but valuable floor space. A better option? The leading ladder (as seen here in the home of shelter bloggers New Darlings).
(Image credit: Alpha Smoot for Cup of Jo)
Skip the coffee table in place of an ottoman or pouf
This space from Cup of Jo is by no means a small living room, but let's pretend for a second that it is to learn a thing or two from it. See those two poufs on the other side of the coffee table? Those could easily swap in for the actual coffee table itself in a tighter space, which gives the room's user flexibility in surfaces. Opting for ottomans or poufs over larger furnishings is a smart way to still have a spot to place a drink or remote, but be able to move things easily around as you please (and even maybe create more seating).
Heart & Soul in a Jewelry Designer's Providence Condo
(Image credit: Anna Spaller)
Acrylic or glass furniture has long been a designer trick for small spaces. They serve a purpose (i.e., holding drinks, etc.) while basically disappearing into the space. The result is a room with all the function you need, but without all the visual clutter.
(Image credit: One Kings Lane)
Similar to the above trick, choosing accent furniture with delicate frames is another way to keep down the visual noise. This tiny seating living room (the home of content strategist Cole Wilson via One Kings Lane) feels full sized thanks to the delicate gold base and glass top coffee table, thin framed accent chairs and floor lamp.
(Image credit: Better Homes & Gardens)
While some might tell you that all-white rooms are the key to stretching a small space, we're here to tell you that no matter what paint you go with, the effect of color is a lot more nuanced than that. A trick that always works, though, no matter what's on your wall? Matching your drapes (bonus points if they're a sheer material) to your wall. Here, from Better Homes & Gardens, off-white walls seem to go on forever as the visual line is not interrupted by different colored curtains. If you flip this and decide to go dark and moody, stick to draperies in equally dramatic tones for a super cohesive, polished look perfect for a small living room.
(Image credit: Domino)
Trompe l'oeil, FTW
Featured in Domino, the home of denim darling Nicole Najafi (founder of Industry Standard) showcases many talents, but the biggest takeaway here was her tip on a trick every small space needs to follow: "My apartment is full of eye tricks to make it look larger than it actually is. The shades, for example, are mounted a few feet above the windows to make them look taller. There's actually just wall behind them."
Yes, it's that time of year again when your friendly neighborhood realtors remind you to make sure your home is properly winterized. Although we haven't yet seen snow in the Northampton area, history suggests we can count on it's arrival at some point in the not-too-distant future. It makes sense to have your ducks in a row before the first big snow storm and low temperatures descend upon us. To that end, I include the following article from the Realtor Association of the Pioneer Valley website. It provides a thorough laundry list of how to prepare your home for winter.
Avoid Costly Repairs With These Winter Maintenance Must-Dos
Failure to prepare your home for the upcoming winter months can have dire consequences on your wallet, as well as pose a safety hazard for others. Even those in warmer climates will want to be careful this time of year: Everyone can benefit from an annual maintenance tune-up, and even in the South a winter frost can come as a nasty surprise.
Fortunately, there are some relatively easy preventative measures you can implement in the fall months to help ensure a smooth winter. The list below provides a few of the low-cost measures you can take now that will save you from the hassles of repairs and from the cost of winter issues.
Winterize pipes and outdoor spigots. As the temperatures start to dip below freezing, any water that is exposed to the lower temperatures will freeze. When water freezes, it expands; water left in a hose has nowhere to expand to. The copper piping that feeds the water to the hose will eventually split because of this expansion.
The easy fix here is to remove all the hoses and make sure that there is no water left in them. Also, for more protection, you can place a foam box over the spigot.
Additionally, if you live in a place where the temperatures drop dramatically or stay cold for an extended period of time, you need to make sure the pipes inside the home are protected. This is very important if your home has a crawl space underneath the house with exposed pipes. Simple and inexpensive foam pipe covers can accomplish this.
Clean roof gutters. If your home has gutters you need to make sure that you inspect how they are attached to the roof and that they are clear of debris. You want to make sure no dams or clogs are created. The best time to check is after all the fall leaves have dropped and then again during the spring thaw. Cleaning the drains will help ensure that the drains do not get ripped off from the roof and that water will not back up, which can cause a leaky roof.
Remove foliage and potential tree hazards. Trees and foliage provide great shade for your home in the summer and help keep the heat at bay. However, you want to make sure that you do not have branches and other foliage over your roof or potentially covering electric lines, cable, gas or any other cables you may have running to your home. It is easiest to trim back or remove any potential problems in the fall. Snow on branches can weigh them down and potentially cause utility problems or even roof damage.
Inspect your furnace. Winter typically requires the use of a heater. Schedule an inspection of your furnace to make sure it is venting properly and will not be obstructed by winter weather. Check and/or replace your carbon monoxide alarms, which is a low-cost fix that may just save your life.
Dryer exhaust. Much like your furnace, inspect your dryer vent. Make sure no lint is backing up the exhaust and that winter weather will not cause any issues. A backed-up exhaust can lead to house fires.
These few safety precautions will help ensure that the winter months pass safely and that your home is protected. Take a few minutes and make your home as safe as possible for you and your family.
As a realtor, I see many houses throughout the course of my work days. I always know when a design element, or room configuration, appeals to me. I don't, however, always know how to put together a space on my own, in a way that feels beautiful, functional, and/or satisfying. Thankfully, rarely does a day go by where great ideas from sites such as Apartment Therapy don't pop into my inbox. The following article from does just that, providing great ideas about room arrangement.
Design Master Class: 6 Pro Tricks to Know When Arranging Your Room
One-click online shopping and free shipping has made the whole furniture buying process seem super easy and accessible. But what happens when you start unboxing pieces and realize you have absolutely no idea where to put them—or worse, whether they'll even work with the rest of what's in your room? Arranging furniture is really an art form, but the good news is there are several guidelines you can follow to help you figure out the process. Let these six expert tips be your starting point in setting up your ideal space, whether you're working with hand-me-downs or starting from scratch.
Identify the functionality of your space and the focal point
For Christine Markatos Lowe of Christine Markatos Design, furniture planning starts with setting expectations for how you want to use a room and what feature, architectural or otherwise, you want to highlight. So basically, figure out what you're working with and try not to go against the architecture in your space. "Things like entertaining, TV watching or a great view all dictate the design and layout of a room in order to best serve those needs," says Markatos. Generally speaking, you want to arrange a room so that all occupants can sit down and see the focal point, whatever it may be, and be close enough to a hard surface (a coffee table, an end table) for setting down a drink.
For example, if there's a fireplace in a room, furniture should be arranged around it so that people can see the fire and feel its warmth. That usually means a sectional facing the fire, or two sofas facing each other in close proximity to the fire, which makes for easy conversation between the seated. Additional chairs or benches in the area should capitalize on whatever the focal point offers. If a room doesn't have a natural focal point, make one with a large piece of art, a media cabinet with your TV (plus art!) or a big shelving unit. If your focal point is on the diagonal, try orienting furniture that way.
You'll also want to consider how many people you need to comfortably accommodate, which will influence the kinds of, sizes and number of seating options you need. You may also want multiple seating areas to anchor a really large room.
In social spaces, move furniture away from the walls
It may sound counterintuitive, but the more breathing room your furniture has from the walls, the cozier your home will feel. Yes, you need to have the space to float pieces, says Donna Mondi of Donna Mondi Interior Design, but even a few inches can make a room feel more intimate.
Keep traffic flow in mind, however, when setting up your layout. You can angle furniture and cheat if off the wall but only if people can move around freely in the space.
Don't be afraid to break the rules a bit in private spaces
Generally, Mondi advises against putting furniture taller than the window sill in front of windows because this awkwardly cuts off a room in a weird way and obstructs the view. But often in bedrooms, particularly when there isn't a designated bed wall because there are lot of windows, it's okay to get creative.
"Sometimes the best solution is to have the window act as a feature wall and put the furniture against it," says Birgit Klein of Birgit Klein Interiors. "When dressed with a great curtain and a tailored bed, the furniture placement becomes intentional." Case in point, Emily Henderson's own master bedroom is anchored around a gorgeous set of inset windows, framed by draperies.
When picking a piece of furniture, factor in finish, shape and how it will relate to the rest of the room
Look at all your furniture pieces together to make sure they complement each other yet the silhouettes and finishes are varied. "You can find the perfect sofa, end tables and cocktail table, but if they all are a bit leggy, it will look awkward," says Mondi. Same is true if you have a room full of just wood or just upholstered items. That's why this dining room from Design*Sponge works so well. You have the white built-in playing off the dark table, another wood tone for the bentwood dining chairs and the Eames-style end chair that introduces yet another finish and material to the space while visually referencing the white of the built-in. Of course, there are exceptions to this breadth of variety, but if your intent isn't to be purposefully matching, then don't go there.
According to Markatos, furniture should ideally be the right proportion for a room, in terms of length, width and ceiling height (if you have a long room, a long casegood—like this extended console seen in a room by 2LG Studio—works beautifully, for example). That said, she will always skew towards fewer over-scaled pieces rather than overcrowding a room with smaller furnishings. "Another trick is to have pieces of varying heights as it creates a much more interesting visual," says Markatos.
Plan out placement before you buy pieces, if possible
When shopping for furniture in stores or online, designers never leave home without a tape measure, and they always reference measurements when considering a space. Most also use CAD programs to completely diagram out the rooms they're creating, though most laypeople don't have access to these types of resources.
If you don't have access to fancy software, there are several apps that you can use for spatial planning instead. Lisa Adams of LA Closet Design likes SketchUpbecause it's intuitive. You could even create a paper drawing as long as it is to scale. Then you can start "dropping" items in to see if they'll work together. Adams also likes to take pictures in a space—even selfies against the walls—so you can reference the walls (and scale) when you are out shopping.
One of the benefits of being a realtor, is the satisfaction you gain in selling a home to friends, so that you can watch the transformation of their new home over time. Super handy friends of mine bought a house that needed a lot of elbow grease in Florence center a few years ago. It has been so much fun to watch them transform this diamond in the rough into a sparkling gem, one room and one project at at time. Their most recent project has been to finish the spacious basement. They decided to save some money by GC-ing the project themselves. They hired contractors to do some of the work - hang the ceiling, rebuild the staircase, install lighting and outlets, etc. The rest of the work they did on their own, and the results are beautiful!
To me, the standout of this space has been their choice of flooring (well, that and the sleek and modern cable stair rail). They decided on a floating laminate floor - and it is beautiful! "Beautiful", you may ask yourself - "but that's not possible with a laminate floor!". Well, that is what I would have thought too, once upon a time. But the laminate "floorboards" they used are just that, beautiful! The photo below (though not a basement space) mimics the floor in question quite accurately. A rustic-looking "wood" floor in medium browns and tans. The fact is, laminate ain't what it used to be. Read on for a recent New York Times article about laminate flooring.
Under Your Feet, the Floor Show
By JAY ROMANOAUG. 6, 2008
SOMETIMES neither wood, tile nor carpeting seems like the right choice for a floor. An alternative worth considering is laminate.
“Laminates are probably the most exciting change the flooring industry has seen in the last decade,” said Tom Kraeutler, who is a host of The Money Pit, a radio show, and with his co-host, Leslie Segrete, author of “My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure” (Globe Pequot Press, 2008).
Bill Dearing, president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association in Washington, said laminates account for 18 to 21 percent of the retail flooring market for residential remodeling. And since 1993, he said, sales of laminates have increased by more than 10 percent nearly every year.
Mr. Kraeutler explained that earlier versions of laminate flooring were difficult to install because as each strip of flooring was laid, the tongue and groove connection required gluing and clamping of the joints.
Laminate flooring available now, he said, is much easier to use. Glue is no longer needed as the adjoining boards snap into place, and it is also more visually appealing, with hundreds of patterns to choose from. “A laminate floor can look like any kind of wood, stone, tile, vinyl, or just about any other flooring material available,” he said. Paul Murfin, vice president of sales for Armstrong Floor Products in Lancaster, Pa., said the flooring can be anywhere from 7 to 12 millimeters thick and can have a smooth or textured finish. With laminate that looks like stone, the surface can have a stone-like texture; laminate that looks like wood could have a raised grain. Early laminates had a tendency to produce a hollow “clippity-clop” sound when walked on with shoes. Newer laminates, particularly thicker ones, eliminate that sound. In addition, Mr. Murfin said, laminates are free-floating surfaces. They are not glued to the subfloor but rest on foam.
Amberlee Virgili, a customer service representative for FloorOne.com, an online retailer of laminate flooring products, said her company sells about 16 brands of laminate flooring, with prices from less than $1 a square foot to about $5 a square foot.
Bob Middleton, technical and installation manager at Lumber Liquidators, a nationwide retailer of flooring products based in Toano, Va., said consumers should look at a product’s warranty. Laminate floors can carry warranties of 10, 20 or 30 years, he said.
Mr. Dearing of Nalfa said, “The best thing to do is to try to look at a display floor.” That is particularly helpful, he added, when a homeowner is considering a laminate floor with a textured finish. Another thing a homeowner can do is visit the organization’s Web site at www.nalfa.orgcom. The organization has established a set of voluntary standards for laminate manufacturers. Manufacturers then submit their products to the organization and can obtain a certificate, usually depicted on the packaging, that indicates that the product in the box meets Nalfa standards.
One final question that many homeowners may ask is whether laminates are right for do-it-yourselfers.
“Absolutely,” said Bob Markovich, home and yard editor for Consumer Reports in Yonkers. Mr. Markovich said his organization tested and reviewed 41 flooring products for its August issue, including a large number of laminates. “If you’re looking for flooring that’s reasonably priced, tough and realistic-looking, and you want to install it yourself, laminates are the way to go,” he said.
This time of year, many of us find ourselves homebound on our days off (some of us choose to be homebound on our days off :)). Winter is a great time to attack our indoor homeowner to do list - since we certainly can't do any landscaping in the cold, wet, windy winter months of the Pioneer Valley. This recent article by Jolie Kerr makes great suggestions for indoor cleaning/organizing projects, best done when you don't feel like being outside!
Quick, Not Dirty: Four Projects You Can Do in 45 Minutes
By Jolie Kerr
Welcome to “Quick, Not Dirty,” cleaning and organizing projects from expert Jolie Kerr. These discrete jobs are easy to pick off and will earn you the satisfaction of seeing a task to completion without an enormous amount of effort. (Read previous columns here.)
Do you ever have a day where you don’t feel like leaving the house, not out of laziness but because the weather is frightful or because the thought of having to interact with another human being is more than you can bear? I don’t mind admitting that I do! On those days, I like to survey my domain to identify a task in need of doing that will help me justify a day spent indoors. These are the kinds of projects that may not be high on your psyched-to-do list but that are well worth the time investment to make your life and your home less chaotic and more lovely.
It’s tempting to fool ourselves into thinking that in this, our golden digital age, piles of bills, magazines, and catalogs are no longer a thing that plague humanity.
Not so. Lennys, may I level? This one is so personal for me. I’m drowning in catalogs. Dear Scully & Scully catalog, you are so lovely, but from whence did you come? And would it be possible to get buyer data on the Sleek Black Walking Sticks? I must know who is buying these beauties.
Instead of suffering under the yoke of unwanted mailings and a recycling bin in constant need of emptying, I finally sat down one day with a pile of catalogs that I’d been setting aside for just this purpose, and set about unsubscribing myself from them. Should you feel moved to do the same, here are some tips to get you on your way.
Bills: You know that one stray bill you’ve been meaning to convert from paper to electronic? Go ahead and do it now. I’ll wait.
Catalogs:Catalog Choice can unsubscribe you from even the most insidious mailers (I’m looking at you, Pottery Barn). Are you more of an app kind of gal? PaperKarma allows you to snap a photo of the offending junk-mail label and will contact the mailer to remove you from its list.
Magazines: Head straight to the magazine’s website, where you’ll find instructions for canceling subscriptions in the customer-service or frequently-asked-questions section of the site.
Credit-Card Offers: Use OptOutPrescreen to remove yourself from unsolicited preapproved credit-card-offer lists.
Personal Mail: It’s nice to get personal mail, but it’s also worth acknowledging that there’s a cap on how long you should allow it to linger willy-nilly in your home. Thank-you notes, holiday cards, birthday wishes — they’re all lovely, but unless they’re especially sentimental, give yourself a time limit for how long you’ll hold on to them. A day? A week? A month? All are fair. Just pick a window that seems reasonable to you and be diligent about purging (or filing, if you plan to keep it) personal mail before it becomes clutter.
Deep Clean the Fridge
You know those fake holidays like National Pet Your Dog Day and National Eat a Pound of Bacon Day? They’re fun and all — who doesn’t love petting a dog, or eating a pound of bacon?! (Cat lovers and vegans, I suppose.) But they’re made-up and, often, are just marketing schemes created by brands like Iams or IHOP. There is, however, one very real “national holiday” that occurs on a specific day, for a specific, if terribly United States–centric, reason: November 15 is National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day, falling as it does just before Thanksgiving to account for the demands the holidays make of your icebox.
Now, you don’t have to wait until November 15! Regardless of when you decide to tackle the fridge, here are a few tips that will help you on your way.
1. Take everything out. Everything. All of it. Nope, don’t leave the bottle of ketchup in the door, or the box of baking soda on the bottom shelf in the back. Everything comes out. Highly perishable items can be stashed in the freezer or a cooler while you scrub.
2. The choice of cleaning product, whether it’s a commercial all-purpose cleaner, a white-vinegar solution, or diluted bleach, is entirely up to you and what you feel comfortable using in a place where you keep food.
3. You should, however, get yourself a Dobie Pad, which is super handy for scrubbing dried-on splatters and spills without scratching the plastic interior of your fridge.
4. You can (and should!) wash removable shelves and crisper drawers the same way you would dishes, using dish soap and hot water. If your kitchen sink isn’t big enough to accommodate such an operation, the bathtub is a good alternative. If you have outdoor space that allows for it, shelves and drawers can also be hosed off.
5. For spills that have congealed egregiously, make a compress of sorts by wetting a rag, sponge, or thick stack of paper towels with very hot water, wringing it out, and pressing it on the sticky substance. Repeat as needed until the spill begins to loosen, then wipe it up.
6. Before putting condiments back, wipe off the exterior of bottles and tighten the caps (you may also want to open infrequently used jars to check for mold!)
If you feel so inclined, we would be tickled if you’d share before and after photos with us, like this set that a reader who wishes to remain anonymous granted us permission to share with you. If you’d like to share your own set, email me at email@example.com, tweet photos to me @joliekerr, or tag me on Insta @joliekerr. We may even feature the fruits of your fridge-cleaning endeavors on Lenny’s Instagram account!
God, isn’t that so satisfying?!
Clean and Style a Bookshelf
Now that it’s winter, many of us look forward to getting back in touch with our inner indoor kid. You know, the one who much prefers to have her nose stuck in a book while the other kids are outside making mud pies? Sure you do, and if you identify with that description so hard, have I got a project for you!
Cleaning and styling a bookshelf is a straightforward endeavor, but it’s still a process — and a dirty one, at that. Books, and the shelving in which we store them, are dust magnets, so be prepared for this to be a grimy job. And because the shelves themselves get so dirty, like scrubbing out a refrigerator, doing a thorough cleaning of a bookshelf requires that you remove everything from its place, rather than trying to clean around things.
Other than that one piece of advice, there’s not much to a shelf-cleaning project. But here’s a list of what the order of operations may look like:
â— Gather your supplies, such as rags or dusting cloths, dusting spray (if using), and a vacuum.
â— Take a photo of the current arrangement if you plan to re-create it.
â— Remove all books and knickknacks from shelves.
â— If it’s a freestanding unit, move shelves away from the wall so that you can dust from the top down and vacuum the floor underneath and behind the unit.
â— If you need or want to pare down your collection, assess what you’ve got by first grouping like items together, then systematically deciding what stays and what goes.
â— Wipe dusty books with a rag or dusting cloth.
Now comes the fun part, because once your shelves are clean and bare, you can begin putting everything back in a way that pleases you. How you style your bookshelf is entirely up to you, and one of the great joys of this kind of project is getting to spend some time with your beloved books and the collection of shiny dimes that makes no sense but brings you joy nonetheless and those decorative geodes that remind you of your great-aunt Linda’s house, with its conversation pit and creeping spider plants.
Deep Clean the Tub, Shower, and Grout
Now that you’ve spent so much time with your book collection, remembering old favorites and digging out titles you always meant to get around to, wouldn’t it be nice to grab one of those tomes and settle into a lovely bubble bath with some reading? Sure! Except maybe your tub isn’t looking so inviting? I can help with that.
Doing a deep clean of your tub, shower, and surrounding grout isn’t complicated, but let me be really straight with you and tell you that it is hard work. You will sweat, is what I’m trying to warn you of. You’ll also get a pretty righteous shoulder and back workout, so that’s nice.
For this endeavor, you should invest in a good scrub brush (Casabella and Rubbermaidare brands that offer a variety of scrub brushes for bathroom cleaning) and a heavy-duty cleaning product — save the tea-tree oil for regular cleaning, and opt for a more powerful product, like X-14 or Zep, that will do a lot of the work for you. Not all bathrooms have the same needs, so instead of going into super detailed instructions on how to clean grout, or glass shower doors, or a porcelain tub versus a fiberglass one, I’m going to leave you this link, in which you will hopefully find answers to every bath-cleaning quandary you may encounter, and some you hopefully never will.
Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. Her weekly column “Ask a Clean Person” appears on esquire.com, and its companion podcast is available on Acast, iTunes, and Stitcher.
When we pulled up the old linoleum kitchen floor in our last house in Northampton - we were excited to see fir floors beneath, just waiting to be brought back to life. I had my heart set on red floors - somewhere between the color of cherries and blood. I went to many paint and hardware stores in the Pioneer Valley to look for the right color stain, but all I could find were barn reds, mahogany reds and auburns. I consulted woodworker friends and was pointed in the direction of aniline dyes. I purchased red and black dye from a local woodworking store, and then set about mixing up just the right hue before staining our floors. I won't go into the gory details, it was a messy process with a lot of room for human error. I did wind up with the perfect color red stain, which also allowed the wood grain to show through.
I have always been a fan of painted wood floors. The right paint job on a floor can give a room so much personality, as well as a fresh new look - without spending a great deal of money. Whether you are interested in creating a pattern on the floor, adding a pop of color, or going with a lighter neutral, a painted floor can be a wonderful way to change up the look of your space.
The following article from the Associated Press provides food for thought about how to go about painting a hardwood floor.
Painting the hardwood: A creative Solution for Worn Floors
by Melissa Rayworth, Associated Press
(Photo: Karina Kaliwoda/Houzz.com/AP Photo)
Worn and faded hardwood floors can drag down the look of a room. But having scuffed floors sanded down and re-stained can be expensive and messy.
One alternative that's gaining popularity: painting older hardwood floors. You can add solid color, stripes, or any imaginable stenciled or hand-drawn patterns to a floor.
There's actually a long tradition of painted wooden floors in American homes, says Tom Silva, general contractor on the long-running PBS television series "This Old House." One hundred years ago, paint was considered a practical way to protect floors and add some beauty in the process.
In a survey done this month of more than 1,200 users on the home-improvement website Houzz.com, 15 percent said they're ready to make the leap to painting while 85 percent were still more comfortable with stained wood floors. But Houzz editor Sheila Schmitz says some of the site's members who have embraced painted floors have done so with real creativity.
"We've seen homeowners reinvent their floors with glossy white paint, oversize stripes, checkerboards with alternating natural and painted finishes, and even more fanciful shapes," Schmitz says.
It's a DIY project that requires effort but little experience.
So how do you do it, and what are some of the boldest, most interesting approaches you can take?
Fans of painted floors point out that the process is less labor-intensive than staining because you don't have to sand away every old scratch or stain. But that doesn't mean you can skip the step of prepping your floors.
Clean the floor well, says Silva, then scuff it with sandpaper just enough to create a slightly rough surface. That prep work is the key to making sure the first layer of paint or primer will adhere. Primer isn't required if the floor already has some finish on it. But putting down a few thin, clear coats of primer can make it easier if you decide years from now to remove the paint.
If you do prime the floor, use sandpaper to lightly scuff that clear coat after it dries to help subsequent painted coats adhere well.
Rich red paint on the hardwood floor brings warmth and color to this stylish, gender-neutral nursery. Painting hardwood floors can be an inexpensive and easy solution, especially in rooms where the floors has become worn and scuffed after many years of use. ()(Photo: Holly Marder/Houzz.com/AP Photo)
Bold floor, neutral walls
Interior designer Camila Pavone was ahead of the trend in painting her kitchen floor in 2010. The room previously had green walls and a stained wood floor. Pavone switched the walls to a creamy white (she used Martha Stewart's "Glass of Milk") and covered the wood floor with jade green paint. She considered using marine paint but chose a formula called Break-Through!, which dries quickly and creates a harder surface than many other types of paint.
Five years later, Pavone is still thrilled with the result. The floors "always get a 'Wow' when new people come to my house," she says. "The only thing I didn't take into account was the wear and tear of two dogs and now two kids. The claws on the dogs do scratch the floors up a bit. But I try to pretend that if I saw that in a store display in Anthropologie, I would think it was fabulous. So I don't stress."
Because the kitchen is a high-traffic area, Pavone has repainted the floors once every two years to keep them looking shiny and scratch-free. But that work is relatively easy.
"It's a really fast project and normally only takes around two hours," she says. "I would totally do it again!"
Pick any pattern
Paint can also be perfect for entryways. Thick stripes, diamond or chevron patterns can make a small foyer seem bigger, drawing attention to an otherwise ignored space. Once the floor is cleaned and prepared, simply lay out your design with painters' tape. Be careful to measure the width of stripes or the angles of diamonds or chevrons to make sure you've laid the tape in the proper places.
Consider using large stencils to add a pattern to the floor of a larger space, like an enclosed porch. Or paint a brightly colored "rug" in the center of a room by first painting a solid rectangle, then adding a pattern once that solid coat is completely dry.
Another option: Coat the floor with a semi-transparent stain or paint that allows the grain of the wood to show through. Once it's dry, use painters' tape to create a border around the room that you'll fill with a contrasting or complementary color or pattern.
Take time for topcoats
Once you've finished your painted masterpiece, add one or several clear coats on top for protection. Patience between layers is the key: You may be tempted to paint again as soon as one thin coat feels dry to the touch, but you'll get a much stronger and more attractive result if you leave extra time.
Silva points out that oil-based topcoats "may add a little bit of a goldish color to it, because of the oil. Water-based will give you the true color of the paint."
And, obvious as it may sound, remember: "Know where to start and where to end," says Schmitz, "so you don't literally paint yourself into a corner."