homeowners

Selling Your Home in a Seller's Market

We are in the midst of an intense seller's market here in Northampton (and, apparently, throughout the country) - with limited inventory for sale, and numerous buyers vying for those few properties. While this situation can certainly be both stressful and disappointing to buyers, it can also be challenging to sellers for various reasons. To follow is a reposted article from the New York Times, which gives sound advice about navigating the seller's market from a seller's perspective. Another invaluable first step is to connect with a local realtor who knows the market well, to assist you with the process of selling your home.

Selling Your Home in a Seller’s Market

Sorting through multiple bids can be harder than it seems. Choosing the highest offer isn’t always the smart way to go.

Credit...The Heads of State

By Daniel Bortz

April 23, 2021

By the time they got the last offer, Quinn and Daryn Shapurji had received 54 bids on their four-bedroom, single-family house in Fishers, Ind., in just three days. Ms. Shapurji said they felt totally overwhelmed — and a bit melancholy.

“We felt bad that we had to say no to so many people, because we got a lot of beautiful letters from buyers saying how much they loved our house and why they wanted to live in the area,” said Ms. Shapurji, 32, a closing coordinator for a home builder. “Some buyers had already struck out on five or six homes.”

Chris Dossman, the couple’s real estate agent, suggested they take a cash offer that was $25,000 above their home’s list price of $220,000. “It wasn’t the highest offer they received, but the cash buyer waived the appraisal, so we knew that we weren’t going to have an issue with the home closing from a financing perspective,” said Ms. Dossman, an agent with Century 21 Scheetz based in Indianapolis.

“Fifty-four offers is by far the highest number of offers that I’ve ever received for a listing,” added Ms. Dossman, who has been an agent for 15 years.

The Shapurjis, who closed their deal in mid-March, are far from alone when it comes to getting flooded with offers in today’s supercharged real estate market. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of offers written by Redfin agents in March faced bidding wars, marking the 11th straight month where more than half of Redfin offers encountered competition, according to the online brokerage. Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, and Boise, Idaho, were the most competitive markets of the 24 metropolitan areas that the company analyzed.

Despite a recent uptick in mortgage rates, an acute shortage of homes for sale nationwide has created a home-buying frenzy. “Higher mortgage rates haven’t slowed down competition yet,” said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist. “In fact, the interest rate increase from 2.67 percent at the end of 2020 to 3.09 percent now is just enough to fuel more bidding wars as folks rush to buy while rates are still low,” she said, referring to the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage in mid-March. “It will take a bigger rate increase to really move the needle on bidding wars and cool things down.”

“We’re seeing an inventory crisis,” said Katie Wethman, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty. Indeed, total home supply at the end of March sat at only 1.07 million units, down 28.2 percent from a year ago, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors. The association’s data also found that homes typically sold in a record-low time of just 18 days in March, down from a 29-day average in March 2020.

“The market is completely lopsided right now in favor of sellers,” said Seth Lejeune, a real estate agent at RE/MAX Homepoint in Royersford, Pa. “Some homes are selling within hours and with multiple offers.”

Still, sellers face a challenge: “Getting inundated with offers can be overwhelming, and it can make it harder for sellers to choose the best offer,” said Alicia Stoughton, a real estate agent and designer at Keller Williams Advisors in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Why? Because “the highest offer isn’t always the best offer,” Ms. Stoughton said.

Here are the factors sellers should consider, in addition to purchase price, when evaluating multiple offers.

Payment Method

“Cash is king,” according to Nancy Newquist-Nolan, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker in Santa Barbara, Calif. “I often recommend sellers take a cash offer, even if it’s not the highest offer.”

Choosing a cash buyer has several benefits for sellers. A cash offer means the buyer won’t have to face any trouble getting approved for a mortgage; it enables the buyer to waive a potentially deal-breaking home appraisal; and cash transactions allow for shorter closings periods, Ms. Newquist-Nolan. (Cash sales can take as little as 14 days, while mortgage closings usually take 30 to 60 days.) That may explain why a cash offer quadruples a home buyer’s chances of winning a bidding war, a new Redfin report found.

“In some cases buyers are taking money out of their retirement plans or borrowing from family to make a cash offer,” said Gary Metchnek, a real estate agent at Edina Realty in Minneapolis-St. Paul, who recently sold a home that received 13 offers.

Still, mortgage buyers aren’t completely out of the running, said Ms. Wethman. “If you’re confident in the buyer’s lender and their ability to get approved for a mortgage, there’s not a lot of risk taking an offer from a buyer who’s getting a loan,” she said. Her advice to sellers? “Do your due diligence on the lender who is providing the funds,” she recommends.

This is a step where sellers can lean on their listing agent, Ms. Newquist-Nolan said. “I call up the lender and ask how qualified the buyer is for their loan,” she said. Moreover, “some lenders are notorious for dragging their feet and missing key deadlines.”

(Many brokers prefer deals with buyers who work with a local lender like a regional credit union, instead of a big bank or a national website. This is because loan officers at local lenders are typically more accessible on nights and weekends, which can be important in this fast-moving market when a buyer might need a preapproval letter that lists a property’s address on short notice.)

Offers from conventional loan borrowers are also more attractive than loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Lejeune said. “F.H.A. and V.A. loans are pretty much dead on arrival right now, because their appraisals have more restrictions and they might require the seller to make home repairs before their home can be sold,” he said.

Pam and Richard O’Bryant can attest to that. The couple, who sold their three-bedroom, single-family house in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, in March after receiving nine offers, struggled to buy a home in Northern Virginia, using a V.A. loan.

They lost bids on four homes, despite bidding about 10 percent above the asking price on each of them, before finally purchasing a three-bedroom rowhouse in Alexandria, Va., an estate sale that will need about $125,000 to $150,000 in renovations.

“I’m not sure if I’m more relieved or excited to have finally gotten a house in today’s market,” Ms. O’Bryant said. “We really wanted to capitalize on today’s interest rates and are looking forward to creating a fabulous home.”

Ms. Stoughton said sellers who haven’t yet purchased their next home should strongly consider buyers who will offer a rent-back agreement. “Most buyers in our market right now are throwing in a free rent-back,” she said. “Usually sellers pay the buyer to rent back their home.”

Contingencies

“Right now, sellers are in the position where they can direct buyers to have as few contingencies as possible,” Ms. Newquist-Nolan, the California broker, said. That’s a smart move, she said, because fewer contingencies means fewer opportunities when a transaction might fall through.

Take home inspections for example. From September 2020 through February 2021, 13.2 percent of winning Redfin offers had waived the inspection contingency, up from 7.3 percent a year ago, the brokerage reports. (Such a contingency would allow buyers to pull out of a deal if an inspection uncovered unexpected repair issues.) “Most buyers are waiving home inspections right now in our area,” Ms. Wethman said. “Pre-offer inspections have become the norm.”

Most sellers are now open to allowing buyers to bring in a home inspector before they make an offer on a home. A pre-offer inspection that finds few problems could give a buyer the confidence to waive an inspection contingency, which subsequently might make the buyer’s offer a more appealing choice for the seller.

Buyers are also finding ways to waive home appraisal contingencies, in an effort to make their bid more attractive to a seller. (Appraisal contingencies allow buyers to terminate a contract if an appraisal comes in lower than their offer price.)

“Some buyers who are putting down 20 percent are agreeing to reduce their down payment to pay the difference if there’s an appraisal gap,” Ms. Wethman said. For example, in a deal where a buyer is offering $300,000 for a home, and has a 20 percent down payment, if the house is appraised at $270,000, the buyer could drop their down payment to 10 percent, and use that 10 percent in cash to make up the appraisal shortfall.

Comparing Apples to Apples

The best approach that sellers can take when weighing offers, Mr. Lejeune said, is to compare them side-by-side.

His strategy: “I present offers to my clients in an Excel spreadsheet that specifics the offer price, loan amount, type of loan, contingencies, and other important metrics,” he said. “It’s basically a cheat sheet for sellers.”

Ms. Dossman is also a fan of presenting offers in a spreadsheet. As she puts it, “You want to have all the information in front of you when you’re making a decision.”

Many buyers attach personal letters with their offers to try to sway the sellers in their favor. But some real estate agents don’t even show sellers these letters when they present offers to avoid the possibility of unlawful bias against a buyer. But Ms. Dossman said she will share letters after vetting them to make sure there isn’t any information that could raise the potential for fair housing violations.

For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.

A version of this article appears in print on April 25, 2021, Section RE, Page 7 of the New York edition with the headline: Selling Your Home in a Sellers’ Market.

DIY while Hunkering Down - Pandemic Activities for Homeowners

For my 16-year-old daughter's birthday last month, I turned two of her embroidery projects (new COVID hobby) into decor for her bedroom, as a present to her (a pillow and a wall hanging). She was thrilled! Both of us have been spending time, while hunkering down, working on crafts, bedroom redecorating (in her case) organizing and decluttering (in my case) and repainting (in my case). It isn't surprising that many of us, while stuck inside with only virtual social lives, have turned to DIY projects to improve our homes (and expend creative energy). This article in the New York Times by Ronda Kaysen describes some really interesting and impressive DIY projects completed in the greater New York area. So, whether you are a Northampton area homeowner interested in readying your home for the market, or someone who just wants to put some creative energy into making your home the most comfortable and functional place it can be - this article may be of interest. And, speaking of Northampton Area Homeowners - NOW is a GREAT time to have one of our agents come give you an opinion of market value for your home! It is a buzzing seller's market out there!

Extreme D.I.Y. for Home Decor

Since they have spent so much time at home in the last year, some homeowners have taken craft and design projects to a new level.

Jen Rondeau didn’t set out to turn her laundry room into a psychedelic disco lounge, but now that it looks like one, she’s very pleased with herself.

It all started in early January as demand for the homemade masks she had been selling since last spring dwindled and Ms. Rondeau, an artist and musician, found herself without a creative outlet. So she turned her attention to the gray utilitarian room in the basement of her West Orange, N.J. home.

Over three days, she painted an abstract midcentury design along one wall, a bold mix of red, blues, pinks and oranges. Smitten with the results, she extended the design on the opposite side, set an orange chair in the corner and set up a disco light machine that plays a flashing light sequence in time with whatever music she pumps through her Bluetooth speaker.

“I had a lot of energy that I needed to put into something,” said Ms. Rondeau, 43, who lives in the four-bedroom ranch-style house with her husband, Paul Rondeau, 42, a freelance cinematographer, and their two young sons. Now that the laundry room is painted, “I want to be in there,” she said. “It makes me happy.”

Miss going to the movies? There’s no time like the present to turn the basement into a home theater with a full concession stand. No room for a soaker tub in a tiny bathroom? No matter. Install one in the bedroom instead. Do the children have cabin fever? There’s no time like the present to bring an ice-skating rink to the front yard.

For these homeowners, pandemic do-it-yourself projects have been liberating, tapping unrealized artistic talents, or honing ones they’ve nurtured for years. Their homes have become not just a space they want to occupy, but one they can mold to their creative vision.

“I’m seeing a lot more color, a lot more of a sense of adventure in décor choices. People are like, ‘I don’t have anywhere else to go, I might as well look at something interesting while I’m home,’” said Ingrid Fetell Lee, a designer and the author of “Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness.”

Leanne Ford, an interior designer and a star of the HGTV show “Home Again with the Fords,” sees this as a moment for homeowners to relinquish some of their pre-pandemic expectations. What’s the point of a guest room if you have no guests? “We don’t need to decorate how we were living a year ago, we need to decorate for how we’re living now,” she said.

 

 

It's a SELLER'S MARKET out there!!!

IT'S A GREAT TIME TO SELL YOUR HOME!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has, among other things, created a backlog of home buyers, eager to move out of urban areas, and into more remote towns and cities. Northampton and it's environs is a highly desirable place to live in a *normal* year; but during a pandemic such as this, we are even more popular than ever! With people relegated to spending most of their time at home these days, there is a premium on home ownership in a small town or city such as Northampton, and it's neighboring communities

We realtors at Maple and Main Realty are seeing houses receive multiple offers, some of them with cash buyers, on houses not only in Northampton, Easthampton and Amherst - but also in Holyoke, the Hilltowns and even farther afield than that! If you have been contemplating listing your home (or land) for sale - we are happy to come give you our opinion of market value, and advise you about all manner of things related to listing your home. It doesn't cost anything to have the initial conversation. In fact, we don't receive any payment (commission) until your house has actually sold! So whether you choose to list your home right away, or you decide to wait until next year -- having the initial conversation with an experienced realtor is a great first step towards making the decision to sell your home. And, once it is listed, we take over to get your house sold! Contact us today to set up an appointment for a comparative market analysis and opinion of market value.

 

Seeking an FHA Loan? You Have Options

With the warmer climes we have been experiencing, the spring real estate market won't be far off. Local housing prices being what they are, it can be challenging for first-time home buyers, and/or for buyers who don't have a large amount of money to use as a down-payment - to compete in this seller's market. Since you may be competing with other cash buyers, or buyers with more cash to put down -- now is a great time to connect with an experienced buyer's agent to help you navigate the process - including making introductions to experienced mortgage brokers and loan officers. The following article published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on 2/21/20, discusses the subtleties to seeking an FHA loan - which might be a great option for certain buyers.

 

Can’t find an affordable FHA-approved home? You have options

 

By KATE WOOD 

 

NerdWallet 

 

Americans took out nearly $150 billion in loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration to buy homes in 2018. Nearly 83% of those FHA borrowers were first-time home buyers, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

 

It’s unsurprising that FHA loans are especially popular with first-time home buyers, due to more lenient credit score and debt-to-income (DTI) requirements. But with scores of buyers searching for affordable entry-level housing, finding a place to call home can be a struggle.

 

In pricier markets, even the FHA’s 3.5% down payment option might bust your budget. Houses that have a low asking price but “need TLC” may not pass an FHA appraisal. And in highly competitive markets, it can be difficult to make an offer that gives you an edge on other home buyers.

 

What’s an FHA buyer to do? Here are three options.

 

Priced out? Look at FHA-approved condos 

 

If an FHA-approved single-family house would push your budget past its breaking point, consider making your starter home a condo.

 

As of October 2019, borrowers can get FHA loans for individual condo units without having to worry about whether the entire complex is FHA approved. John Graff, CEO of Los Angeles-based Ashby & Graff Real Estate, said via email that this change should increase the inventory of FHA-approved condos, offering a broader selection of affordable homes.

 

For example, in Denver, the 2020 FHA loan limit — the maximum loan amount the FHA will guarantee — is $575,000 for a single-family property across most of the metro area. Looking at 2019 data from the Denver Metro Association of Realtors, that’s enough to cover the steep average sale price of $515,149 for a single-family home. But buyers there could save substantially by looking at condos, which have an average sale price of $366,937.

 

You’ll want to budget for condo homeowner association fees as well as property taxes. But generally, opening up your search to include condos should bring you lower-priced options.

 

Found a fixer-upper? Get an FHA 203(k) loan 

 

In markets with older housing stock, passing an FHA appraisal could be a bigger obstacle than cost. Listing photos that make a low-priced house look like a charming fixer-upper can conceal major issues, Corning, New York, real estate agent Jennifer M. Baker noted in an email.

 

An appraiser’s key objective is ensuring the property is a sound investment for your lender. But an FHA appraisal isn’t just about value. To be eligible for an FHA loan, the home must also meet the FHA’s minimum property requirements by being “safe, sound and secure.” 

 

If you see potential in a house that won’t pass an FHA appraisal, an FHA 203(k) loan could help you afford the needed work. It has similar requirements to a regular FHA home loan, but the costs of renovating the property are rolled into the total mortgage amount, which is based on the “as is” appraisal and an estimate of the home’s value once the renovation is complete. Using a 203(k) might mean living in a rental a little bit longer — costs you can include in your new home loan — or in a construction zone. Either way, you’re turning a house into your home.

 

Facing stiff competition? Be flexible 

 

There are affordable homes out there, but with many buyers competing for them, it’s a seller’s market.

 

“When a home goes on the market up to about $250,000, we’ll see an actual race to get to that home,” says Michelle Sloan, broker and owner of Re/Max Time near Cincinnati. “We’ve seen up to 10 offers within 24 hours of a property being listed.” 

 

Though you can use strategies to make your offer more attractive — like being flexible on the closing date — you may also be able to find more options by changing your home search criteria.

 

A short commute may be a high priority, Sloan says, but allowing for a little added drive time could get you more potential properties. If you’re wedded to a particular location — for the schools, maybe — try to whittle down your wish list. Maybe three bedrooms will work instead of four.

 

An experienced buyer’s agent can help you weigh possible trade-offs, supply insight into your local market and encourage you throughout the process.

 

You may not get the first home you submit an offer for — or even the fifth — but “keep looking,” Sloan recommends. “There is a home out there for everyone!”

Time To Declutter!

This time of year, we tend to spend more time inside of our homes than out. It's harder to avoid noticing the clutter that inevitably builds up when we are looking at it day in and day out. For many people, figuring out how to lessen the clutter (and maintain systems of organization) is an overwhelming concept. Luckily, there are a number of talented people in the Northampton area who specialize in helping people let go of unnecessary clutter, and create organizational household systems. A recent article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette addresses the issue, and suggests local help. Read on!

Photo Courtesy Jill Bromberg

Clearing out the clutter: Valley home organizers help clients find some peace of mind 

Staff Writer
Published: 12/31/2019 12:25:06 PM

It seems to be a universal problem: Americans have too much stuff.

Take just a quick cruise around the web, and you can find references to article that cite some alarming and depressing statistics, such as that the average U.S. home contains 300,000 separate items; that about 10 percent of Americans rent offsite storage units, despite the typical house size tripling in the last 50-plus years; that the average American family spends over $1,700 a year on clothes.

Don’t believe what you read on the internet? Well, consider what Kira Coopersmith, a professional organizer in Greenfield, says about the issue. She has worked with hundreds of clients in the last several years to declutter their homes and apartments or helped them downsize for a move.

“A lot of us are drowning in stuff,” says Coopersmith. “People can’t deal with it, and it causes a lot of stress ... We’re a consumer society, and, in some cases, our things start taking over our lives.”

As Coopersmith sees it, many people may want to simplify their lives and get rid of a lot of excess possessions — clothes, toys, kitchenware, books, computer equipment, memorabilia and keepsakes — but lack the time and energy to do it.

“In so many families, both parents are working, and they can make the bed, maybe vacuum the house once a week, and that’s about it,” she says. “They’re overwhelmed.”

That’s one of the reasons Coopersmith — who previously lived in Belchertown and has also worked in the hotel business and in health insurance service and sales — likes her job. She enjoys helping people declutter their homes and find a little peace of mind.

“This job really is about helping people make those decisions that will make their lives a little easier,” she says.

Coopersmith and another professional organizer, Jill Bromberg of Montague, say they’ve worked with a variety of clients over the years. Some are older people or couples who are looking to move to a smaller place, but others come from many walks of life and have different problems they’re trying to solve.

“That’s one of the things that’s most interesting about the job,” says Bromberg, who used to work with people with special needs and started her organizing business in 2012. “I think what we [organizers] can give is an objective perspective. I can guide people to making decisions on what they want to keep and what they can let go of. And I get a lot of satisfaction on making their lives a little more manageable.”

‘One in, one out’

One big headache for a lot of people, Bromberg says, is clothing.

“It has become so easy to shop online, and then you have these cheap fashion trends that are constantly changing, so things tend to pile up and just get added to the closet,” says Bromberg, whose business is called Serenity Home Organizing and Move Management. “It’s easy to find yourself with too much.”

That’s especially true this time of year, Bromberg notes, with clothing a popular gift idea for many people. She recommends that people practice a “one in, one out” rule: If you get, say, a new sweater for Christmas or Hanukkah (or on some other occasion), think about giving an older one away to charity, or to a friend or work colleague.

One could take the same approach for books. If you’re adding to your collection, take a bunch of older titles that you haven’t read in a long time (or maybe ever) and take them to a used book store for sale, or donate them to a book drop or “Free Little Library” in your neighborhood.

“I always tell people to take pictures of some of these things they’re giving away, so they have a reference if they maybe want to find that book or item again,” says Bromberg.

For professional organizers like Bromberg and Coopersmith, each decluttering or organizing job begins with an initial meeting with clients to assess their needs, get to know them a bit, and figure out a plan for action. Sometimes a job can take place over a long period. Coopersmith, for instance, says she has been working off and on for several months with a couple who have run a farm and business in Conway for many years and now have begun to downsize their affairs.

On the other hand, Alex Milne — an independent scientist and researcher in Northampton who works with a variety of clients in bioacoustics, physical acoustics, wireless spectrum management and other technical fields — got in touch with Coopersmith to help organize his equipment. They met just twice, he says, but Coopersmith not only helped him get better organized: She showed considerable sensitivity and understanding in grasping the basics of what he did and what equipment he needed to keep, he adds.

“I really found Kira to be an exceptionally compassionate human being,” says Milne. “I felt like I was becoming trapped with all these work items that were kind of overwhelming my home life … she learned about [the equipment], which she hadn’t seen before, and made good recommendations about handling it.”

Coopersmith helped Milne organize his equipment by application: storing tools together that would be used for similar operations. For instance, Milne later stored together in one drawer all the items he needs to measure, form, cut or shape small thin metals into structures or components (with some exceptions).

“She brought a level of sophistication to this that was really impressive,” said Milne. “This wasn’t something I’d been able to do on my own, but now I feel I’m in a better position for managing my stuff in the future.”

For her part, Coopersmith says a big part of her job is to figure out which items her clients are emotionally attached to — a family heirloom, say — and which they might be persuaded to part with. “It’s not up to me to tell people what they should or shouldn’t keep, though I’ll clearly make recommendations,” she says. “If someone is super-attached to something — clothing or something they inherited from a parent — we’ll talk that through.”

Other tricks of the trade

Another bugaboo for many people is paper. “I’m amazed at how many people don’t have a basic filing system,” says Coopersmith, who works primarily with residential clients but has also helped small businesses improve their filing systems and overall paper management.

“It is so easy to get buried by paper,” she says. “That’s something a fair number of people need help with — keeping and filing the important stuff in an organized way and learning to get rid of the junk quickly.”

Wendy Sibbison of Greenfield, a retired lawyer, wanted a space in her home where she could write a book. She had a room in mind on her top floor, but, unfortunately, that spot “had become a dumping ground for years for paper and old files and who knows what else,” she says. “I just couldn’t deal with cleaning it out myself.”

Sibbison previously had paid her adult daughter, who lives in Philadelphia, to help her declutter her home about four years ago and felt she couldn’t ask her for help again. So through the internet, she found Coopersmith’s business, called “Sensible Sort,” and hired her to tackle the mess in the third-floor room.

“It was perfect,” says Sibbison. “I never felt rushed or upset [in getting rid of things], I had fun chatting with her, and, in the end, she took away 12 boxes of paper and other stuff.”

That’s another service organizers such as Coopersmith and Bromberg provide: physically transporting excess material to a recycling center, a charity or some other destination of a client’s choice. Bromberg says she’ll always do that for elderly clients or those with physical limitations, but it’s also helpful for others.

“It can be easy to put things in the back of your car and then somehow not get around to actually getting rid of something,” says Bromberg. “Clutter is often postponed decision-making, so if I can help people take that final step, I’ll do it.”

And though this year’s big gift-giving season may already be past, Bromberg notes that in giving gifts in general, a future plan to reduce clutter — or at least keep it in check — is to rely less on physical items. Give someone a gift certificate to a restaurant or a concert, she suggests, or arrange for airline tickets for a vacation.

“We can all use less stuff and less clutter in our lives,” she adds. “It’s just another way to simplify things and make life less stressful.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

 

 

The Oldest House in Conway, 53 Main Street, Now For Sale!

 

You're driving through Conway, MA and you notice a charming cottage farmhouse with a chartreuse front door and cozy front porch, tucked next to the South River. A plaque near the front door reads "Oldest Home on Main Street", built in 1830. You may feel compelled to honk the bike horn-cum-doorbell announcing your arrival. You will be intrigued by the exterior charm and whimsy - what does the inside look like? Welcome to this incredibly adorable home in Conway. The oldest home, yes, but also fantastically maintained and updated. The current owner has painstakingly cared for this piece of history...Pella windows, kitchen & bath remodeled, Quadra-Fire wood stove (and forced air heat too), metal roof and a new 300 foot well are just some of the updates that have been integrated into this home, while keeping the wide plank wood floors on the main floor and chestnut beams in the second floor family room. A fantastic wood deck overlooks the 1/4 acre lot. This is perfect spot to enjoy the bounty of the gardens, pollinator friendly flower beds and relax to the sounds of the South River. Welcome to 53 Main Street in Conway, Massachusetts. Offered at $275,000. Contact Scott Rebmann or Lisa Darragh for a private showing of this unique and wonderful home

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Green Cleaning Your Home

I've always thought it interesting that even once I had graduated from college, I was still attuned to the school calendar, combined with the seasons, in informing my perspective on the day to day. For those of us with school-aged children -- having the house back to ourselves when the kids are off certainly has it's benefits. For those of us who don't, even the change of season leads us to start focusing more on the interior vs. exterior of our homes, I would venture to say. Homeowners (and residents alike) in Northampton who prefer to use clean, green, non-toxic products in our homes are in good company! To that end, I was recently perusing my daily Apartment Therapy email and came upon this article about cleaning your washer with vinegar. Let's not focus on the fact that I am at a point in my life where this information is EXCITING to me! Instead, let me say that I followed the steps below and my Energy Star, front-loading workhorse of a washing machine was gleaming and odor free after doing so. The moral of the story is, keep a large container of white vinegar, and some clean household rags on each floor of your home to keep things clean and sparkly!

You Should Pour Vinegar into Your Washing Machine—Here’s Why

by DANA MCMAHAN

(Image Credit: Brittany Purlee)

Is there anything you can’t handle with vinegar? Really, I wonder why I bother buying so many assorted cleaners when vinegar is basically the magic sauce that does everything. (Have you tried the trick with setting a saucer full of vinegar out to get rid of stink in a room? It totally works!) Here’s another fun thing is does: It cleans your washing machine.

Yes, your washing machine needs cleaning. Out of sight, out of mind, maybe, and it’s getting cleaned every time you use it, right? Well, no. Just like your sink and shower need cleaning, so too does the hard-working washing machine. 

And it turns out you don’t need any fancy, special “washing machine cleaner” (seriously, that’s up there with an avocado slicer as a uni-tasker). My Maytag wants me to use a branded products so badly it slaps the brand name of the recommended cleaner right on the dial! The cleaner is two bucks a pop (not a box, each!). No thanks. According to the internet, all you need is good ol’ vinegar. 

But just because you read something on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true, so I checked with an expert. And Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company, gave me the lowdown. 

“It might seem counter-intuitive to have to clean a machine that does the cleaning, but over time soap scum and detergent buildup can start causing problems,” he says. “Your washing machine—and your clothing—will benefit from a periodic cleaning.”

So why should vinegar be your go-to? Well for starters, we all probably have a jug of it in the kitchen anyway. And “instead of using a bunch of harsh chemicals to force your washing machine into cleanliness, vinegar is recommended as a more natural and inexpensive way to clean your appliances,” Shimek said. 

Here’s his step-by-step guide to cleaning your washer with vinegar. 

First, spray vinegar around the rubber gasket and use a rag or toothbrush to remove soap scum, mildew, and detergent buildup. Make sure to scrub all the nooks and crannies, and take out and soak any removable parts such as soap and fabric softener dispensers. 

Next, start an empty wash cycle using the largest load size and hottest water. Add two cups of white vinegar and let the cycle run. (If you have a front load washer, pour the vinegar into the detergent dispenser.) For an extra-clean washing machine, repeat the cycle with a half-cup of baking soda. You’ll also need to hand-wash the top portion of the agitator and basin above the water line.

Finally, spray the front or top with vinegar and wipe it down. 

Confession: I only did the second step, and my very heavily used washing machine (you do a LOT of laundry when you run a full time Airbnb) looked brand new and shiny inside when the wash cycle finished, so I didn’t do the rest. But when I’m in a real cleaning fever kind of mood, I’ll come back to it. Shimek said this is something you should do every six months to keep things clean and running smoothly, which is totally manageable.

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.
 

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

Thinking Ahead - Landscape Design and Climate Change

During the summer, Northampton area residents are often banned from watering their lawns between 9 am and 5 pm due to drought conditions. The recent/current rains were much needed. I'm happy not to be spending countless hours watering my lawn in the sweltering heat. But it is also noticeably still humid and hot, despite the rains we have been experiencing. One can't help but think of climate change with the strange weather patterns happening around us.

It pays to think ahead when it comes to climate change and your landscaping choices. This recent article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette discusses some choices an Amherst landscape design firm has made when designing an eco-friendly garden for the Amherst Historical Society. The points made in the following article could easily be applied to homeowners as well.

Amherst designer suggests cooling gardens to prepare for climate changes

  •  

  • By ANDY CASTILLO
@AndyCCastillo
Thursday, July 19, 2018

It’s sweltering under the bright sun beating down on the lawn of the Amherst Historical Society’s Strong House on Amity Street, but take a walk down a narrow stone path into a shaded garden area in the back and the temperature noticeably drops by a few degrees.

Over the next 30 years, New England’s climate will become hotter, making the shaded areas in the Strong House’s 1800s garden an important design element, says Andrew Kilduff, ecological designer and co-founder of TK.designlab in Amherst. His firm was hired by the Historical Society to create a conceptual eco-friendly design for the garden that takes into account projected changes to New England’s climate.

"In many respects, shrubs that grow between five, 10, and 15-feet-tall create a different environment," he said, while looking over the shady area from the front lawn one recent afternoon.

The garden features plants like globe thistles, trilliums, peach-leaved bellflowers, dictamnus plants and garden phlox, according to Denise Gagnon, a member of the Amherst Garden Club, which takes care of the public garden. Another member, Meredith Michaels said the flowers were selected based on what would have grown natively in the region when the garden was created 150 years ago.

Keeping in mind what would have been available in the 18th century, and in addition to perennials already there, she said, “We add a few annuals in spaces that have become denuded of whatever was supposed to be there.”

The area is a cut-through for commuters passing from Amity Street into the center of town, and connects to the garden at the nearby Jones Library. And, so, because the garden is such a visible spot, Kilduff and his firm say many different plant species should be included with adequate irrigation to showcase practical ways home gardeners, too, can prepare for climate change.

"As landscape designers, we thought what might be an interesting way to re-conceptualize the garden, and to play around with some ideas as to best honor the history here, and create a space that's reflective of the changing conditions, not only in the town, but in the region and the world as a whole," Kilduff said.

Hot, dry, stormy

Kilduff, who has a master’s degree in ecological design and planning from the Conway School of Landscape Design, notes the difference in temperature between the sunny spots and the garden’s shady areas is as much as 10 to 15 degrees, which will be particularly significant when the climate heats up.

He points out a stone patio connected to the house where rain barrels and catch basins can be placed. The collected rainwater could be redirected to irrigate the flower beds to reduce the amount of water and physical labor needed during prolonged dry spells, he says.

When the climate is warmer, the growing season will be longer, Kilduff says, and there will be more intense storms. Because of those changes, plant species that thrive in the area now might not be able to survive anymore, and others will become more suited to the climate.

As an example of one species that’s being affected as temperatures warm, Kilduff noted research by Smith College Biologist Jesse Bellemare that shows a steady migration of umbrella magnolia trees into New England.

And, he said, "The vegetables here will be more proliferous. You'll be able to start seeds earlier. Farmers will be able to, hypothetically, instead of reaping one or two mows a year for hay, do three, four, or perhaps even more."

While the design is intended to show what a garden in the year 2050 might look like, he noted that some elements his firm proposed already appear in contemporary gardens, such as the rain barrels and long depressions, called swales. In the Strong House Garden design, he says, a swale could be dug at the back of the property to drain rainwater from the flower beds in the event of a heavy storm.

Existing plants, such as the thistle globes and trilliums, would be bolstered by the other species that could survive in hotter conditions, with ferns like Ostrich or Cinnamon ferns planted near the house, flora that thrives in wet conditions such as Red Columbine, Blue Flag Iris and switchgrass in the swale, and hardy flowers that can withstand intense heat like umbrella magnolia in areas exposed to the sun. Kilduff said that because the designs are so preliminary, his firm hasn’t yet fully researched the exact kinds of flora that would be best adapted to future climate changes.

Another proposal included in the design is space for community gardens, and a suggestion to shade areas of the garden currently exposed to direct sunlight.

Think ahead

"Plant a tree, because it pulls up water out of the ground, it shades, and reduces the heat stress of you and your pets and the plants around you," Kilduff said, noting that, if a tree is planted now, it will become mature by the time changes have taken place.

In planning for the future, he recommends that gardeners study their plots and think about ways to efficiently maintain them in a hotter environment.

"If you're watering often, it's possible that you could have a small rain barrel, and that alone may offset those one or two trips," he said. Connecting a hose to the barrel to create a drip irrigation system would make the watering job easier.

In addition to shade trees and shrubs, add a few ground-covers in the garden, Kilduff says. “They're attractive, and have a functional purpose. They reduce the soil loss, allow other plants to be able to suck up water more easily, and you'll find yourself weeding less."

Change is coming, he said, and gardens will either suffer or thrive depending on how area gardeners prepare and adapt.

“Land is something that we interact with virtually at every waking movement of our lives,” he said. “Even when we're in our homes and offices, we're subject to the conditions present outside the envelope of the building. "

A summer heat wave in 2050 could last for weeks, he says, and shade trees outside of a house, go a long way in providing some comfort for those inside.

"If you find yourself boiling the moment you walk in the door, perhaps add shade trees or some shrubs along the side of the house," he said. The time to plan for coming changes is now, he says. “It's worth further investigation.”

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@gazettenet.com.