Blog :: 2019

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

Median Home Sale Prices in MA in 2019

Happy Weekend, Northampton-area friends! For those of you thinking about selling your home, good news! Sales prices in Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties are up this year. For those of you looking to buy, it's a good time to connect with a realtor to help you navigate the competitive market. Attached are some recent real estate stats, courtesy of Masslive!

Got $400,000? That’s the median home sale price in 2019

Posted Oct 23, 2019 / MASSLIVE

By State House News Service

The median Massachusetts home sale price over the first nine months of 2019 clocked in at an even $400,000, bolstered by a record-setting month of September.

The Warren Group reported Wednesday that the year-to-date median home sale price rose 3.2 percent compared to the same nine-month period in 2018, but that home sales so far this year are down 1.6 percent. Sales are down this year in 10 of the state’s 13 counties, while prices are up across all counties.

Sale prices through September

Sale prices through September

Sales were up 1.4 percent in September and the median home sale price last month of $399,000 was up 5 percent over September 2018 and marked a record high.

"The gain in the median price last month was the biggest monthly gain since March and the gain in sales of single-family homes is the first time sales have actually increased since May," Tim Warren, CEO of The Warren Group, said in a statement. "Until the economy hits a bump in the road, the real estate market in Massachusetts should continue to inch its way upwards."

The median condo sale price in September of $375,000 shot up more than 14 percent over last September and also established an all-time high for the month. The higher prices did not discourage buyers as condo sales for the month were up 5.6 percent over September 2018.

"Condos have been a hot commodity in 2019, but a double-digit spike in the median sale price is quite remarkable," Warren said. "In fact, 14.3 percent marked the biggest year-over-year spike for the month of September in 17 years."

Year-to-date condo sales are down 2.3 percent. The median condo sale price this year is $385,000, a 4.3 percent bump compared to the same period in 2018.

The biggest year-to-date home sale declines in 2019 have occurred on the islands of Nantucket (24 percent), Martha's Vineyard (16 percent) and in Suffolk County, which includes Boston (6.5 percent).

The largest increases in median home sale prices so far this year have occurred on Nantucket (9.1 percent), Franklin County (7.8 percent), Bristol County (7.6 percent) and Berkshire County (7.6 percent).

The five counties where the median home sale price this year has registered below $300,000 are Worcester ($290,000), Hampshire ($282,250), Franklin ($220,000), Berkshire ($215,000), and Hampden ($205,000).

To FSBO or not to FSBO, that is the question!

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

Posted by Candy (media@latinospost.com) on Mar 26, 2015 07:09 PM EDT

FSBO tablet

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.

 
© 2017 Realty Today All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
 
 
 
 
 

The Benefits of a Native Pollinator Garden

One way to help support local ecosystems is to plant a native garden with plenty of pollinators. Having just planted garden beds in our yard, I was excited to see the following piece in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, touting the benefits planting a garden with native plants. Personally, we have opted to plant a small area of grass, with a good deal of ground cover, pollinators and native plants to round things out. Not only will this be a lower maintenance landscaping plan, but we will be providing food to local pollinators! Read on for more information below,

A caterpillar of the eastern black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes).  FOR THE GAZETTE/Katie Koerten

Earth Matters: A living, breathing yard with native plants

By KATIE KOERTEN 

For the Gazette 

 

After years of dabbling in gardening, I still don’t consider myself a gardener. I don’t have a lot of free time to devote to weeding and landscape design; I’ve never had a lot of extra money for big garden projects, and I’m not attentive enough to remember to water. But I do love plants, and I’m making my outdoor space a place where bees, songbirds, hummingbirds, caterpillars, butterflies and other creatures can thrive. Gardening can be less work if you choose native plants, and those are the best ones to plant to bring lots of life to your yard.

I learned this last year at a talk, “Native plants: What’s good for nature is easier on the gardener,” by Dan Jaffe. Dan was the main plant propagator for the Native Plant Trust (formerly the New England Wild Flower Society). His talk focused on how to create a low-maintenance garden made up of plants native to New England that would encourage not just pollinators, but many living things as part of a thriving, interdependent ecosystem. When I bought my house I inherited a garden filled with mostly non-natives, some prolific spreaders. I attended the talk because I was curious how to replace these plants with beautiful, low-maintenance native alternatives.

Since native plants evolved here, they can live here with little attention from gardeners. Dan said that after planting, he waters and cares for his new native plants for a year when they’re herbaceous, and for two or three years if they’re shrubs or trees. But otherwise, he does very little maintenance after planting because native plants are relatively resilient, provided they are planted in the right soil and sunlight conditions. Dan began by talking about mulch. Having started in conventional landscaping, he had an interesting perspective. He noticed that mulch was a huge part of landscaping, used to keep soil moist, temperature stable and weeds down. But it didn’t work very well. Landscapers needed to keep coming back all summer long to maintain mulched gardens, at great expense to the homeowner. Why not mulch the way the forest does, with a low herbaceous layer that does these functions just as well, and is arguably much more beautiful? Dan suggested the native mulch alternatives Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) and creeping phlox (such as Phlox divaricata). Since then, I have added foamflower and creeping phlox to my garden beds in the hope that they will slowly form a ground cover that keeps unwanted volunteers down and keep the soil stable. Not to mention it will create an interesting texture, produce more microhabitat for living things, and attract insects with the beautiful blooms. 

Attracting insects is a major goal of my garden. It gives me something exciting to do with my three-year-old. This summer my daughter and I were delighted to discover our first-ever eastern black swallowtail caterpillars munching on our garden dill. Gorgeously patterned with green and black stripes and spots, swallowtail caterpillars can be found munching most members of the parsley family. As a parent and environmental educator, one of my greatest pleasures is to share the cycles of the natural world, like the life stages of a butterfly, with children. Finding tiny living creatures with their own sets of survival needs lays a beautiful foundation for empathy and wonder for the natural world. Furthermore, insects are a vital part of any backyard garden ecosystem. Many are responsible for the perpetuation of plants via pollination; others make up the diet of bats, birds and other insects; still others keep aphids and other so-called pests in check. In other words, if you have a diversity of insects in your garden, you’re doing something right to support life.

 Dill and parsley are great, but they’re annuals; native perennials are better, especially from a low maintenance perspective. In his talk Dan pointed out that our gardens should support pollinators at all stages of life, not just adult; in other words, we should provide not just brightly colored nectar-rich flowers for butterflies, but plants with yummy foliage for caterpillars as well. The milkweed group, Asclepias, is the only plant on which monarch butterflies will lay their eggs, and the only food for monarch caterpillars. Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is relatively easy to grow and propagate by seed, though it is an enthusiastic spreader. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is another beautiful milkweed option. A number of unique caterpillars love green and gold (Chrysognum virginianum), Dan said. Solidago, the goldenrod group, is also extraordinarily supportive to pollinators, and there are many to choose from (some more prone to spreading than others). 

Dan’s talk spoke to what a lot of us are wanting: to help our planet and to start in our own yards. The idea that I can do something in my own yard to counter the deleterious effects that insects are suffering due to pesticides and habitat degradation — while not doing all that much work — gives me so much joy and hope. I may not have the greenest thumb but I am motivated by a love for the natural world and a desire to create a haven for living things in a world full of serious threats to life. My goal is to add a few native plants every year that support insects and other life. 

Katie Koerten is an environmental educator at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. Dan Jaffe is co-author of “Native Plants for New England Gardens,” a New England Wild Flower Society book published by Globe Pequot Press in 2018. It is available at numerous public libraries in this area.

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.

Great New Downtown Northampton Listing!

Come check out 21 Hooker Avenue in downtown Northampton, MA! This beautifully updated, move-in ready home with historic charm and modern amenities is set on a quiet cul-de-sac within walking distance to downtown Northampton and one block from the bike trail. The house features a brand-new custom kitchen with energy efficient stainless-steel appliances and large island; a remodeled upstairs bathroom with clawfoot tub and heated tile floor; a first-floor half-bath with laundry; three-season enclosed sun porch; and hardwood floors throughout. The private backyard with brick patio backs up to a city park and features a detached 1-car garage and a bonus space that can be used as a studio, workshop or fitness room. Other updates include insulation, 200 amp electrical, boiler and hot water heater. Zoned for Jackson St. School.

Offered at $399,000. Contact Julie Starr for a private showing, or come to the open house this Saturday, August 24th, from 11-1 pm!

 

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Is An Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) Right For You?

Are you seeking a mortgage and wondering whether an Adjustable Rate Mortage (ARM) might be right for you? The following article from Apartment Therapy outlines three cases wherein an ARM might just make sense, and save you money. If you are seeking a mortgage, that likely means you are working with a local realtor. Any good realtor, such as our group at Maple and Main Realty in Northampton, MA, will be able to direct you to local banks and/or mortgage brokers. A lender or mortgage broker will be able to speak to about which products are best for you, given your particular situation - both financial and otherwise. Read on to see if, perhaps, an ARM might be right for you. However, please be sure to speak with an expert who knows your local market before making any decisions to do so!

3 Times Experts Say Adjustable-Rate Mortgages Make Financial Sense

by BRITTANY ANAS

An overwhelming majority of homebuyers opt for fixed-rate mortgages. The terms of these loans offer all the warm and fuzzy feelings that come with a long-term, stable relationship. Go with a 30-year fixed rate and your mortgage payment next month will be the same as it will be in 2049, which makes budgeting super-duper predictable.

Already popular with many first-time homebuyers, fixed-rate mortgages solidified themselves as the darling of the mortgage industry following the housing crisis. Most people thought adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were just a bad idea. Borrowers turned away from ARMs, fearing that once the rates reset, it could be difficult to keep up with housing payments, and thus put them at risk of foreclosures.

But adjustable-rate mortgages seem to be making a comeback. While they still are risky for a long-term investment, they have more safeguards in place than they did prior to the housing market crash, like how much and how fast a mortgage rate can adjust.

Here’s what the numbers tell us: In May 2019, adjustable-rate mortgages only made up 6.7 percent of new home loans, according to Ellie Mae, a software company that processes more than a third of the mortgages in the United States. But in December 2018, ARMs seemed to be mounting a comeback, making up 9.2 percent of new mortgages—the highest since Ellie Mae began tracking the data in 2011.

The biggest misconception about ARMs? That they should never, ever be used. In fact, there are circumstances when finance and mortgage experts say adjustable-rate mortgages actually make more sense a fixed-rate. 

“People should not be afraid of an adjustable-rate loan,” says Melissa Cohn, executive vice president at Family First Funding LLC, based in New York City, who favors seven-year ARMs and has one on her own home. “Historically adjustable rates have always been lower than a 30-year fixed rate and can be a great money saver.”

Recognizing that homebuyers have unique financial situations, we asked mortgage lenders when it makes sense to go with an adjustable-rate mortgage. Here, three situations in which they’d recommend an ARM. 

But just a reminder before we delve into the scenarios : It’s a good idea to talk all this over with a home lending advisor, says Shelby McDaniels, channel director for corporate home lending with Chase Home Lending.

“Everyone’s situation is different and there is not a one-size-fits-all loan,” McDaniels says.

1. You’ll move soon 

First, an explainer on how ARMs work: The title of the loan lets you know when the interest rate can reset. So, if you get a 5/1 ARM, that 5/1 means the loan’s lower introductory rate will last for five years, and, after that, it’s subject to adjusting on an annual basis, Holden Lewis, NerdWallet‘s home expert explains. 

It’s best to get an adjustable-rate mortgage when you feel confident that you will sell the home during the introductory period, or within a year or two of the end of the introductory period, Lewis says. 

“So if you get a 5/1 ARM, the safest course is to do so if you expect to sell the home within seven years or so.” 

If you’re buying your forever home, you could be subject to ever-increasing interest rates after the introductory period ends—unless you refinance, Lewis says.

Piggybacking on this, if you are buying a starter home and will want to upgrade within five years, an ARM may be a good fit. 

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Many people don’t consider their actual circumstances and take a fixed rate without giving thought to an ARM, Cohn says. “If you are a first-time homebuyer, newly married, growing a family—those are all reasons in my eyes to take an ARM as your housing needs will change as you go through life.”

Another great reason? You’re starting your career in an expensive city where rent is consistently going up, but you don’t plan on living there in your next chapter of life. In fact, the mortgage are more popular in high cost metro areas like San Jose, California.

“An interest-only option can make ARMs even more attractive for those who are in higher cost-of-living cities on a temporary basis,” says Lauren Anastasio, Certified Financial Planner at SoFi, a personal finance company. “An interest-only ARM typically results in the lowest possible monthly payment during the fixed-rate period and can be a great way for someone to lock-in their monthly housing cost in a location where rental costs tend to increase each year.”

2. Interest rates are low

Adjustable-rate mortgages are a great option in a low or declining interest rate environment, explains Riley Adams, a CPA and senior financial analyst who runs the personal finance blog Young and the Invested. Typically, ARMs anchor to some publicly-available interest rate benchmark (such as LIBOR, Fed Funds rate, prime rate, etc.) and add a defined number of basis points to the overall rate offered to you under the ARM. If your ARM adjusts way higher than what you were paying, you can refinance to another ARM or a fixed-rate mortgage—whichever option saves you the most money. (Though sometimes refinancing can be out of the question if housing prices drop greatly—one of the problems that happened during the 2008 housing crisis) 

“Because we have been in a low-rate environment for an extended period of time and this looks likely to continue, going after this lower interest rate would make economic sense due to the interest cost savings,” Adams says. 

On his previous mortgage, which he took out in July 2011, he went with a 30-year fixed rate and regrets the decision. 

“Had I opted for the 5/1 ARM, I would have paid considerably less in interest and ended up with a lower rate were I to refinance,” he says.

3. You plan on paying off your mortgage quickly

An ARM could be a good fit if you plan on paying off the mortgage before the rate adjusts, says Kristopher Barros, marketing strategist at Embrace Home Loans in Middleton, Rhode Island. 

“That is a less common scenario for a typical homeowner, but still a good reason to take advantage of the lower rates typically associated with an ARM,” Barros says.

A final note: If you are considering an ARM, be sure to comb over the terms of the fixed period. Most common are 3, 5, 7, and 10 year fixed-period ARMs, says Andy Harris, president of Vantage Mortgage Group, Inc. and member of the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME). Three-year ARMs are less common and more risky with the unknowns, making the longer-term initial fixed-rate period more attractive, he explains. But, the longer the fixed period, the higher the interest rate generally. 

Decisions, decisions! (But, again, before deciding, talk to a home lending advisor about your situation, as McDaniels recommends.)

Workroom Design Studio Comes to Town!

Just a wee plug for this wonderful local interior design business, Workroom Design Studio. Full disclosure, we (my husband and I) hired these talented women to help us design our remodeled 1890's farmhouse in Florence Center, and we couldn't be happier with the results. Thanks to them, the star and pineapple wallpapers below, grace our walls. Local interior designer and upholsterers of Workroom Design Studio, Sally Staub and Hannah Ray, were featured in the Daily Hampshire Gazette this week. Read on for more information.

This is not your mother’s wallpaper

A new business in Florence is helping people design happy homes — with color, pattern and ridiculously great wallpaper

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For the Gazette
Published: 6/28/2019 10:15:22 AM
Modified: 6/28/2019 10:15:11 AM

If you’re looking for a dose of happy, just open the door to Workroom Design Studio, a new interior design studio in Florence. If the wallpaper with monkeys holding fuchsia pomegranates doesn’t make you smile, then step into the gallery with cherry red walls and explosively colorful art — and if you still haven’t felt a gentle lift of spirits (are you even awake?!), then amble over to the long table with a giant, 42-inch-wide, red pendant work light above it. That should do it! And that’s the idea — the studio’s owners, Sally Staub and Hannah Ray, are preachers and practitioners of creating joyful spaces. “If people walk in and say, ‘Oh, this feels good, this is a happy space,’ then it’s a happy thing,” said Staub.Joining design dreams 

For nearly a decade both women chugged along with their own businesses — Staub ran her interior design company, Sally Staub Design, from her home, and Ray ran Tack Upholstery Studio, often giving interior design advice with her furniture.

But they itched to do more — yet had no employees or extra time. “We were both working our tails off on our own,” said Staub, “and we both had larger visions of what we wanted to be doing.” A mutual friend had introduced them seven years before and they had a friendly relationship, sending each other clients. Then one day last summer they started talking more, and over some margaritas at Homestead in Northampton, they had a “what if we had a design studio?” conversation. “Our aesthetics were lined up, our vision lined up, our energy too,” said Staub. “It was like falling in love — OK, let’s do this!” And, added Ray, “The impressive part was we did it!”

They started looking for a space. They also began merging companies. “We asked each other, ‘How do you spend your days?’ We made lists: ‘When you meet a client what do you do?” said Ray. They also got invaluable help from a local management consultant, Karen Carswell, who said that these days a business plan was less important than a website, which they got in the works. “When you’re working on that one paragraph about who you are — it’s really informative,” said Ray. 

Carswell also told them communication was key. “Call each other every single day,” Staub recalls hearing. “Ask: What are your stumbling blocks? Tell each other.”

At first, all this communication was awkward, but: “Now you should see how many times a day we talk,” said Ray. “Our husbands keep asking if we’re leaving them.”

Finally, they found a dreamy space in Florence, entering into an agreement with the landlord. For nine weeks they stockpiled stuff in Staub’s garage: furniture, wallpaper, and art, collaborating on their first big project together—the showroom that would feature Ray’s custom upholstery, the art of local creators, and one of their shared loves: incredible wallpaper. “Wallpaper elevates walls into visually charged places,” said Staub. They had palm paper planned for their space. Then, just before the 2018 holiday season, the landlord bailed, deciding a design shop wasn’t for him. Staub and Ray were devastated. “It was a financial blow and a time blow,” said Staub.

“We were so keyed up and working so hard,” said Ray. They scrambled to return and cancel all the items they could.

But the loss ended up revealing that they could rely on each other in rougher times: “It was great because we held each other up,” said Staub. “When one of us was feeling down emotionally, the other one would rise up.”

 

A launch pad for interior joy 

Then, on January 1st, 2019, a painter friend alerted them to a space in his studio’s building — a full floor across the parking lot from Café Evolution. They started from scratch — scrapping every design idea from the previous space — and got to work, adding drywall, fixing brick walls, re-doing the floors, painting the walls. And of course, they added carefully selected wallpaper — the monkey and more. The studio opened in April. “What’s nice about having the studio is that people can see it in place,” said Staub. “If a client had just seen a sample of the monkeys, they might be like, What is this and why would you put in on a wall? But here they can see impact.” They can also see (and buy) Ray’s upholstered furniture, flip through sample books of fabric and wallpaper, and peruse and purchase art in their Red Light Gallery.

Now they have one employee who helps with the upholsery, and they meet with clients under the giant red light fixture — which matches their company logo. A demi-wall on casters has a presentation board on one side and blue, white-patterned wallpaper on the other — meant to be spun around for a dramatic mood board reveal for clients. They’re working with homeowners locally, in Boston and as far as Washington D.C. using FaceTime to assess faraway spaces. When working with clients, they try to strike a balance between respecting their comfort zones and nudging them into new, more colorful pastures. “I like to push people a little bit, but be respectful. If someone is all neutral and they want to stay all neutral, OK, we’ll do that, of course,” Staub said. “But sometimes we’ll push a little bit and they’ll push back a little bit. And they’ll come back and say — it’s OK to push me.”

 

Offering a design education 

They presented one such client with the idea of adding wallpaper with a pattern of silkscreened clouds to a vaulted stairwell. “Our pitch was: Look, here’s a rather unnoticed, mundane space that you can elevate to a beautiful focal point,” Staub said. But the client said no. “We don’t often pout over things,” said Ray, “but on that one, we were pouting.” Yet a few days later, the client told them, “’I can’t get the clouds out of my head,” said Ray. The client was so gung-ho she asked if they could extend the paper to the ceiling. “That’s exciting for us when we see the happiness,” said Staub.

The designers also feel that they’re educators — a bridge between the sometimes obscure world of design and people who don’t spend their time flipping through wallpaper samples for fun. “A lot of clients will come back and say, ‘Now that we’ve talked about the lights, I went down this road and suddenly see all these beautiful lamps that have those arcs that you showed me that I’d never noticed,’” said Ray. “Our job is to introduce concepts.” They do this in every décor style — from modern to French Country and everything in between.

They design rooms or whole houses or offices. And what they aim to offer is the same dose of happiness that’s in their studio. “It’s good for your emotional wellbeing to be happy in your surroundings. There’s lots of research on that,” Staub said. “We think that color and pattern and contrasting elements create energy, happiness, and all those things are important for our emotional existence.”

 

Laundry Hacks, Whoop!

I don't know about you, but I have a love/hate relationship with laundry. I love when it's clean, and I don't actually mind "doing" it. But I hate folding it and putting it away. With a household of 4 people and one dog - there is always laundry to be done. This time of year, I like to take advantage of the sunny Northampton skies (when they comply) and air dry most of our clothes on drying racks outside. I'm also a sucker for home remedies for stain removal, wrinkle reduction, whitening whites, etc. I found this Laundry Hack "fun fact" list on Apartment Therapy to share. Read on if you are so inclined!

The 27 Greatest Laundry Hacks of All Time

by TARYN WILLIFORD

There’s really something for everyone to hate about laundry. Impatient people hate the waiting. Easily-distracted people hate the folding. And there’s not a soul on Earth that enjoys the part where you leave piles of folded clothes in your living room for five to seven business days before reluctantly carrying them upstairs.

While we can’t come do your laundry for you, we can try to make it easier by rounding up a big list of our very favorite hacks, tricks, and techniques for making laundry day go a little bit easier. 

1. Soften Sheets with Vinegar

Run a cycle with your bed sheets and a half-cup of distilled white vinegar to give them a quick boost of softness and brightness, and to remove lingering odors.

2. Sort unconventionally, like by soil level or details.

There’s no laundry police to tell you you must sort your laundry by color. If a different sorting solution works better for your family, try it instead. For instance, large families might like to sort their laundry by person, or you can save detergent and energy by sorting by soil level—keeping filthy gym clothes or diapers separate from once-worn tee shirts and optimizing each load.

3. Throw your detergent cap in with the laundry to wash it.

You know those messy drips and sticky spots that decorate the lid of your laundry detergent bottle before too long? Don’t waste time wiping them away. Just toss the detergent lid right into the wash with your clothes (avoid delicates) to get it clean. Just make sure you remove it before it enters the heat of the dryer.

 
 

4. Keep chalk in the kitchen to treat grease stains.

Grease stains be gone! Because chalk is ultra-absorbent, you can rub a bit on any oily kitchen stains as they happen, to absorb grease and hold you over until you can throw the garment in the wash.

5. Dry clothes fast with a clean towel in the dryer.

You can speed up the machine-dry process by adding a clean, dry towel to the mix. Toss it into the dryer with your wet clothes to dry everything faster.

6. Make your own wrinkle releaser in a pinch.

Wrinkled clothes? No time to wash or iron? You probably have everything you need to make a DIY wrinkle releaser in your bathroom and kitchen cabinets. Take a spray bottle and fill it with 2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of hair conditioner and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Spray the mist onto your wrinkled clothes until they’re lightly damp, then stretch and pull the fabric until the wrinkles release.

7. Fake-iron your clothes with ice cubes.

If you have a dryer in your apartment, you can quickly “iron” your clothes with an ice cube. Just toss the wrinkled clothes in the dryer with an ice cube or two, on the warmest possible setting, and let the ice cube create steam in the dryer to leave your clothes looking smooth.

 
(Image Credit: Joe Lingeman

8. Collect dryer lint in a tissue box.

If you don’t have room for a trash can in your laundry room, try repurposing a tissue box to collect your dryer lint. When the box is full, you can toss the entire thing out or — even better — compost it! Both the cardboard tissue box and the dryer lint itself is likely compostable.

9. Use shaving cream as a stain remover on the go.

Shaving cream contains similar active ingredients to many household soaps, and the foamy nature works great at lifting stains, especially in a pinch or on the go. Work some cream into the stain, let it sit, then blot it up.

10. Spray clothes with vodka.

Vodka is a natural deodorizer. Keep a spray bottle full of cheap vodka on hand and use it to freshen up your smelly clothes for a re-wear before washing.

11. Master a laundry folder.

One quick upgrade to your laundry routine is getting yourself a laundry folder. It’ll turn folding into somewhat of a game—and you’ll get through that pile of clothes faster than ever. Plus the uniformity of your folded clothes is enough to put a forever-pep in your step.

(Image Credit: Joe Lingeman

12. Lift sticky stains with ice cubes.

If you notice a stubborn, sticky mess on your clothes (like gum!) try this: Leave some ice cubes on top of the mess for a few minutes, then easily peel the gunk away once it feels like it’s hardened.

13. Put your clothes in the freezer.

It won’t kill bacteria, but an overnight stay in the freezer will help to de-stink your clothes enough to, say, wear that smokey top or pair of jeans one more time before washing them.

14. Keep socks paired in a mesh laundry bag.

Those mesh bags meant for delicates? They’re also great at keeping small items from getting lost to… wherever it is all those odd socks go. Get a big one (like one from this set), hang it near your hamper, and toss pairs of socks in there as you take them off. When it’s laundry day, zip it up and throw the whole bag in the wash. 

15. Trade your dryer sheets for dryer balls.

ICYMI, dryer sheets are not that great. Instead, opt for a set of wool dryer balls. They’ll keep air moving, smoothing out wrinkles and speeding up your drying time. And if you like to scent your laundry, you can drip a few drops of essential oils onto your dryer balls every 10 or so loads.

16. Hang your dirty clothes back up—but mark them.

Instead of piling your still-sorta-clean, wear-again clothes in a pile on the bedroom chair (where you can assure yourself they’ll be too wrinkled to actually wear again), hang them back up. If they’re clean enough to wear again, they’re clean enough to go back in the closet. To make sure you know which clothes to grab from the closet next time it’s laundry day, mark already-worn clothes with a special signifier. Some ideas? A special-colored hanger, a bread tag, safety pins, or just turn the hangers around to face the other way.

17. Hand-wash your clothes in a salad spinner.

Those hand-wash-only items can be a chore to clean. Throw them into an inexpensive salad spinner with a bit of soap (laundry detergent, baby shampoo, castile soap—whatever you prefer) to give them a wash that’ll be more powerful than hand-massaging but gentler than the laundry machine. You can also use the spinner to dry them off afterwards!

18. Use a dry erase marker to keep track of items between the washer and dryer.

There’s a simple answer to your “line dry only” forgetfulness: A dry erase marker. When you put a load of clothes in the washer, keep track of which items should be sorted out before the dryer, and write them down right on the metal surface of your machine with a dry erase marker.

19. Use a pool noodle to keep from creasing while drying.

If you’ve ever draped your freshly washed clothes over a drying rack only to have them come up with a big crease, try this: Cut a pool noodle to the length of your drying rack rods, then cut along one side lengthways to open up the noodle to the center. You’ll be able to slip the noodle around the rod of your drying rack and avoid any harsh lines on your clothes.

(Image Credit: Joe Lingema

20. Make a mega lint roller.

If you have large areas that need de-linting, or just have misplaced your lint roller, you can hack one together with duct tape and a paint roller. Just wrap the tape sticky-side out around the roller and start spinning it over your clothes or furniture.

21. Pre-soak your gym clothes in vinegar.

For an especially foul-smelling load of gym clothes, soak your clothes in a half a cup of white vinegar mixed with cold water for at least an hour before washing. This will help remove unpleasant odors and break down sweat stains and buildup. And don’t machine dry them.

22. Iron clothes with a hair flat iron.

A hair straightener is great for getting in between buttons on a shirt or straightening out a bendy hem. Just make sure the hair iron is totally clean and dry (and not caked with product) before you clamp it down on your clothes.

23. Use white bread on stains, in a pinch.

If you’re, say, out to lunch and get a big ol’ barbecue sauce stain on your shirt, reach for a slice of plain white bread and use it to gently blot up as much of the stain as you can from the fabric to tide you over until you can get to the Tide. 

 

24. Pre-treat sweat stains with baby shampoo.

Dab a bit of baby shampoo on your sweat-soiled shirt collars and underarm areas and let it soak in for half an hour before throwing them in the washer to say goodbye to those unsightly pit stains once and for all.

25. You can un-shrink sweaters with baby shampoo, too.

Fill up a bucket with lukewarm water and two tablespoons of baby shampoo, then let your shrunken sweater soak for twenty minutes. When time’s up, drain, flatten, and lay it out as taut as possible to dry to stretch your shrunken sweater back to its original shape.

26. Try “bluing solution” to battle yellowing.

If you notice your whites growing a little warmer (a.k.a. they’re looking more “buttercream” than “icy white”), you can add something called liquid bluing solution to your wash to impart a subtle blue tint to bring your whites back into balance.

27. When you get back from vacation, dump the whole suitcase in the wash.

It seems dramatic, and there might be clean clothes in there, but dumping your vacation suitcase in the wash is a power move for anyone who struggles with their vacation re-entry moment (i.e. living out of a suitcase for a week or more).

 

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The Ellery in Northampton

When we were planning our move to Northampton in 2006, hotel options included The Autumn Inn, The Hotel Northampton, or a chain hotel out on Route 9 in Hadley. The Hotel Northampton was expensive, the Autumn Inn was dark and depressing, and we didn't want to stay on Route 9. That was 13 years ago, and the options haven't increased by much. There are more chain hotels on Conz St, but, until now, there were no cozy, clean, attractive and affordable options right in Northampton. Enter The Ellery! The Autumn Inn has received a low key makeover, and the results are fantastic! Check out the following piece from the Daily Hampshire Gazette. 

A new season for the Autumn Inn: The Ellery

The owners, both preservationists, updated the lobby without touching the room’s massive hearth. 

By Valerie Reiss

For the Gazette
Published: 5/16/2019 2:58:25 PM

In recent years, the Autumn Inn on Elm Street, a Northampton visitor staple since it opened in 1967, had started to look its age. Online reviewers of the inn had noticed, saying things like “seen better days,” “sad,” and “tired,” and “smells of… feet.” 

Enter Bob Thomas and Dierdre Savage, owners of Saltaire Properties, who purchased the inn in 2018 from Atwood Drive LLC, an affiliate of the Hampshire Hospitality Group for $2.25 million. Atwood Drive had held the property since 2001. 

Developers of mid-sized, independent New England hotels and inns, the Saltaire team had wanted to buy a property in Northampton for a while, admiring its history and culture. The team’s tagline is “Bringing new life to forgotten hotels,” which means, essentially: keeping the good while updating the old — and making everything a bit more delightful and modern for guests. Thomas holds a master’s degree in historic preservation and Savage has one in architectural preservation. “We’re always interested in the ugly and the unloved buildings,” said Thomas. “The idea of historic preservation is, fundamentally: Don’t think it’s obsolete, there’s actually a use for that building. Save stuff. It’s not just an architecture thing, it’s also an environmental thing, not to throw a building away.”

Moderate makeover, hotel edition

This meant a deep, but not structural, makeover of the Dutch colonial hotel, which is now called The Ellery, named for William Ellery Channing, a transcendentalist poet who went to school in Northampton. The renovation spanned the 32 guest rooms, a lobby, lounge area, small commercial kitchen, and the exterior. “We always want the design to start with the architecture,” said Thomas. “It’s got to inhabit the building appropriately. This is a neo-colonial building. So it should be kind of colonial, but also modern.”

Interestingly, the original owners also intended a mix. A 1967 Gazette article stated, “…plans for the inn call for an exterior resembling a fine old residence, but the interior will be ultra-modern, including color television in every unit and wall-to-wall carpeting.” 

A different 1967 Gazette article, written after the opening, said the inn was “decorated throughout in tones of coppery orange, gold and leaf green.” Those hues had long since faded, though, so the Saltaire team replaced worn red carpeting with soft, mid-tone gray carpet; painted dingy walls with fresh grays and whites; transformed the lobby floor with durable, wood-look planks; swapped out lighting fixtures; and created a design scheme that carried through the rooms. 

Plus, the HVAC system was completely overhauled, which meant being able to remove bulky air conditioners from the windows and lowering astronomical heating bills generated by the old baseboard heaters. The building was brought up to current fire code, and the kitchen was brought up to code, too. 

This work was done with the help of their contractor, plus Carrie Thomas, an interior designer married to Bob Thomas, who designs for Saltaire projects and private clients. The aim was to have the rooms feel “serene, dignified, and peaceful,” said Bob Thomas. Each has a single, large piece of art — framed block prints by designer John Robshaw, Turkish throw pillows, crisp white bedding, and black wood beds. The mattresses have been selected for comfort. “We sell sleep, at the end of the day,” said Thomas. Two items salvaged from the past were the wood framed mirrors and cast iron tubs in each room. They also didn’t touch the massive, 1967 hearth in the lobby’s lounge area, which still exudes cozy warmth. 

Outside got plenty of sprucing too. Though they had planned to keep the pool, they soon learned it “leaked like a sieve,” and also haunted Thomas as a potential danger for neighborhood kids. They filled it in and now have a rolling lawn, perfect for special events and warm weather lounging. “I’m going to get the best croquet set I can find,” said Thomas. 

Connecting to the past and to place

Devoted to the original intention of the building, they replaced plastic shutters with “architecturally correct shutters,” said Thomas. Real gas lanterns will flicker outside. Copper gutters are soon to be installed. “The idea was to take what the building aspired to be originally and make it more authentically that,” said Thomas.

There was also a commitment to keeping the hotel firmly grounded in a sense of place. “We love giving people an experience that allows them to truly feel they’re in the community that they’re visiting,” said Savage. To that end, the first thing they wanted to add was a replica of Thomas Cole’s 1836 painting of the Connecticut River, called “View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm — The Oxbow.”

“It tells you about your surroundings,” said Thomas. There are also framed posters from shows at The Calvin, a photo gallery of famous Smith College alumna, and a bookshelf that Thomas stocked with books by Smith authors — think: “Orange is the New Black” and “Gifts from the Sea” — plus other writers who had a connection to Northampton.

The desire to connect the hotel to the city carried through to their business. “We really like community partnerships,” said Thomas. Woodstar’s bakery will provide the batter for their morning scones. And Florence Savings Bank helped fund the venture. “They’ve been awesome,” said Savage. “We work with community lenders so that we, hand-in-hand, are investing in the community. No Bank of America for me.” She also said that various city departments and boards in Northampton were notably supportive of the project. “It was actually a pleasant experience,” she said. “We are very grateful for that.”

Back in 1967, city board had, in fact, opposed the creation of an inn at 259 Elm Street in the first place — four years after striking down a bid to create an 80-unit high-rise on the lot. From a May 1967 Gazette: “The Northampton Board of Appeals will have a public hearing in the city council rooms tonight on the appeal of William H. Ormond Jr., objecting to construction of a 32-unit Autumn Inn on Elm St. Ormond contends the facility is a motel, not an inn, and that it would be in violation of the city’s Residence C zoning ordinance.” Regardless, the inn opened in October of that year. 

Building ahead

Savage and Thomas have been business partners for more than 10 years — starting their career in housing and then gravitating toward hotels because it was more about people and didn’t have a finite end. “It’s not like it’s just built and it’s over, said Thomas. “It kind of evolves over time.” Properties they’ve developed include The Shire Woodstock and The Stowehof, both in Vermont, and the Harbor Hotel in Provincetown. The two developers share all aspects of the business — though Savage, who has a background in commercial real estate finance, handles the banks. “I’m not just sitting there with a green visor on, though,” said Savage.

“We really both enjoy the design part, the relationship part and the operations part,” said Thomas. “What does it feel like to be a guest here? What’s the music? How are you greeted? We share those things.”

Savage lives in Gloucester and Thomas outside of Boston, but they plan to stay involved with the big picture. A management company hired by Saltaire will operate the hotel day-to-day, checking people in, hiring the employees, dealing with laundry, etc. The company also sets the rates — which vary by day and date. A quick search shows that a weekend in mid-June costs anywhere from $215-$279 a night, depending on the room.

As for the future, the team plans to thoughtfully buy and restore more hand-selected properties. “There’s no recipe for what we do, but we’re pretty good at identifying what we see as terrific opportunities,” said Savage. Their goals beyond The Ellery are twofold: “To put together a portfolio of properties that would offer people a tour of New England — and build a healthy business,” Savage said. “We’re in this for the long term.” Also, she adds, laughing: “I love new deals. It’s fun, it’s exciting.”

Visitors to The Ellery might say the same thing about that new croquet set, as they click balls across the hotel’s lawn in the New England sun.