Western Massachusetts Real Estate and Community News

May 17, 2019

The Cost Of Renting Vs. Buying This Spring

The Cost of Renting vs. Buying This Spring [INFOGRAPHIC] | Keeping Current Matters

Some Highlights:

  • Historically, the choice between renting or buying a home has been a tough decision.
  • Looking at the percentage of income needed to rent a median-priced home today (27.7%) vs. the percentage needed to buy a median-priced home (17.5%), the choice becomes obvious.
  • Every market is different. Before you renew your lease again, find out if you can put your housing costs to work by buying this year!
May 15, 2019

Why Access Is One Of The Most Important Factors In Getting Your House Sold!

Why Access Is One of the Most Important Factors in Getting Your House Sold!

So, you’ve decided to sell your house. You’ve hired a real estate professional to help you through the entire process, and they have asked you what level of access you want to provide to your potential buyers.

There are four elements to a quality listing. At the top of the list is access, followed by conditionfinancing, and price. There are many levels of access that you can provide to your agent so that he or she can show your home.

Here are five levels of access that you can give to buyers, along with a brief description:

  1. Lockbox on the Door – this allows buyers the ability to see the home as soon as they are aware of the listing, or at their convenience.
  2. Providing a Key to the Home – although the buyer’s agent may need to stop by an office to pick up the key, there is little delay in being able to show the home.
  3. Open Access with a Phone Call – the seller allows showings with just a phone call’s notice.
  4. By Appointment Only (example: 48-Hour Notice) – Many buyers who are relocating for a new career or promotion start working in that area prior to purchasing their home. They often like to take advantage of free time during business hours (such as their lunch break) to view potential homes. Because of this, they may not be able to plan their availability far in advance or may be unable to wait 48 hours to see the house.
  5. Limited Access (example: the home is only available on Mondays or Tuesdays at 2 pm or for only a couple of hours a day) – This is the most difficult way to be able to show your house to potential buyers.

With more competition coming to the market this spring, access can make or break your ability to get the price you are looking for, or even sell your house at all.


May 13, 2019

10 Steps To Buying A Home

10 Steps to Buying a Home [INFOGRAPHIC] | Keeping Current Matters

May 10, 2019

Your Home’s Spring Maintenance Checklist

Your Home’s Spring Maintenance Checklist [INFOGRAPHIC] | Keeping Current Matters

May 8, 2019

Trapped in a Home Decor Rut? Try These 6 Tricks to Shake Things Up

That's no way to live! You can dig yourself out of a design rut with a few tricks from the pros.

1. Make changing your decor an urgent priority

Photo by Chris Snook 
How long have you been staring at your problem room, waiting for a solution to magically pop into your head?

Stop staring. Instead, "create urgency," says Stephanie Plymale, president and CEO of the Portland, OR-based Heritage School of Interior Design. "Nothing gets done until you make a decision."

That decision could be something, anything to force you to look at your room differently—for instance, getting rid of an enormous piece of furniture or painting a single wall a strange color.

Not sure where to start? Consider: What's causing you the most stress? Plymale suffered her most recent design rut in her bedroom.

"I realized that the anchor piece in my bedroom, a large bed with an imposing headboard, was dominating the room," she recalls. "It had to go."

She called a friend and asked her to take the headboard away.

"At that moment," Plymale says, "I became committed to change. Don't let fear stand in your way."

2. Identify your mental roadblocks

Now it's time to think about what's been holding you back from mixing things up.

"If you're in a rut, a limiting belief of some kind is keeping you there," Plymale says. "In my case, for some reason, I had a limiting vision of what a headboard was."

Think about the design beliefs you have that could be holding back your imagination. Maybe you've never strayed from a bohemian chic aesthetic, or perhaps you can't imagine anything but neutral gray on your walls. If so, take a look at midcentury modern design, or consider navy blue paint—anything to shake up your preconceptions.

"I finally found my inspiration—the piece that broke me out of my rut," Plymale says: a headboard built from a room divider, stretching from floor to ceiling. "It made the room feel twice as big. I knew I needed to find my version of that vision."

3. Empty the space

Photo by Mark English Architects, AIA 

If the deep-dive into your psyche isn't revealing any good reason for your home decor hangup, start from scratch.

"Completely empty the space," says Ola Swarn, an interior design blogger at J'adore le Décor. "Leave only the large-ticket items, like the sofa, coffee table, and chairs."

This has two benefits: First, you can better visualize alternate furniture arrangements. Maybe the couch really ought to live on the opposite wall—or your dining table should be rotated 90 degrees.

Second, removing all the small furniture lets you look carefully at your bigger pieces. If your decor tastes have changed dramatically, this might be causing your rut.

"Ask, 'Do I like the bones of this furniture? Am I still in love with the style of it?'" Swarn advises.

Once you've answered those questions, you can focus on either replacing your large furniture, or updating your smaller pieces to get you closer to a style you adore.

4. Go 'shopping'

Designer Justin Riordan of Spade & Archer has a brilliant strategy for climbing out of your design rut: While emptying the room, organize all your items into categories. Put all your art together, for instance, and set your chairs and side tables elsewhere. Accessories go on another table.

Take a break. Clear your head. And then, "go 'shopping' in the 'stores' you created," Riordan says. When looking at your belongings out of context, you might just come up with a brilliant idea for a new design.

This process works best when you're redesigning your whole house, Riordan admits. But if you're truly stuck in a single space, give this funky strategy a go.

5. Shift your design style ever so slightly

Photo by Carolyn Reyes 

If you outfitted your home when you were going through a farmhouse phase, figuring out new decor might get complicated. After all, you can't buy all new furniture. But everything looks so, well, farmhouse.

All is not lost! You can keep your farmhouse furniture and just change your accessories for an entirely new vibe.

"Many times a lateral shift to a different version of the same style is all that is needed to refresh a dull home," Swarn says.

For example. farmhouse has a dozen variations: rustic farmhouse, industrial farmhouse, modern farmhouse, farmhouse glam, and more.

"Most of the big-ticket furniture items in each of these versions will likely be very similar," she notes. "It's how the room is accessorized that swings the pendulum from one design aesthetic to another."

6. Find another set of eyes

Still can't figure out how to escape your design rut? Bring in a fresh pair of eyes. A friend or family member might be able to figure out what's missing. Maybe your living room demands a chandelier, or your kitchen's clamoring for some bright-red paint.

If that's a bust, it's time to bring in the big guns: a professional.

Yes, hiring interior designers can be pricey: You could easily pay in the thousands of dollars for their services. But if you're truly struggling with a room, their professional eyes can quickly pinpoint the problem. And cheaper solutions do exist for tighter budgets. E-design services like Modsy offer basic design services for less than $100.

Getting out of your rut requires pushing your comfort zone and trying new things. But that little bit of effort creates a room that's both surprising and delightful—and not boring at all.

Article by: realtor.com

May 6, 2019

6 Ways Your Bathroom Is Secretly Stressing You Out

In the best-case scenario, your bathroom is your own blissful retreat—a little slice of spa heaven where you can unwind without ever leaving the comfort of your own home.

In reality, your bathroom is probably not so idyllic. In fact, a grim water closet could actually be adding to your stress instead of subtracting from it.

Fortunately, there are plenty of simple, affordable ways to add some Zen to your lavatory. Learn what experts say are the biggest sources of anxiety and despair in the bathroom, and then use these tips to destress on any budget.

1. Lack of storage

We get it: In a tiny bathroom, the storage situation can feel hopeless. Without the proper storage, you'll find yourself facing a room full of clutter, which is a well-documented source of stress.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

“The best way to combat stress from lack of storage is to be smart with your space,” says Vian Abreu, senior interior designer at Interior Marketing Group. “Create special drawers or cabinets that fit your specific needs and uses.”

That means assigning a dedicated cabinet just for makeup if you’re a beauty junkie, or designating his-and-her drawers and inserting drawer organizers to keep odds and ends in place.

If you’re up for a DIY project, recessed shelves are a great way to add storage without taking up more room in a tight space. An over-the-toilet storage shelf also creates space without the commitment of a project.

If you don’t already have built-in storage shelves in your shower, pick up a bath caddy that fits over the shower head or in a corner to add extra space for shampoo, soap, razors, and loofahs.

Ultimately, opt for function over fashion when it comes to making your space stress-free.

"One of the worst mistakes is to choose a vanity with faux drawers for its appearance, because ultimately the lack of storage creates stress and clutter," Abreu says.

2. The lighting

Bad lighting in the bathroom—whether it's too dark or too harsh—can put a damper on your mood.

“Be sure there's lighting for all of your daily routines so that you can experience a seamless morning,” says Jean Brownhill, CEO of Sweeten, a renovation matchmaker for homeowners and contractors. “Nothing is more stressful than feeling like you don’t know what you look like during the day.”

Add a dimmer so you can adjust the light depending on the time of day. You may also want to call in an electrician to put each source of light—shower, toilet area, vanity, etc.—on its own switch, allowing you to mix and match the light to fit your mood and your needs.

3. The color of your walls

Photo by Clay Squared to Infinity 

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: A fresh coat of paint is one of the cheapest ways to make a dramatic difference in any space. Studies have shown a connection between red and an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, so if your bathroom is painted a bold shade of crimson (really?), you might want to consider switching to a calming blue.

“The right color choice can really create a spalike and calming state,” says Dawn Chapnick, principal designer at Dawn Chapnick Designs, in Toronto.

But that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to muted neutrals or pale pastels.

“We see plenty of white-on-white bathrooms, but we also see graphic wallpaper and dark colors such as deep forest green tile in a high gloss, or a black-painted ceiling, which makes the space feel like a cocoon,” Brownhill says.

If you’ve had your eye on trendy wallpaper or you’ve long pined for an accent wall, your bathroom is the ideal space to try out the trend. You can always swap it out later, especially if you opt for a low-commitment option like removable wallpaper, which comes down easily without damaging your walls.

4. Your towels and linens

You know those ratty, threadbare towels you’ve been using since college? Unless you genuinely love the feeling of drying off with a Brillo pad, it’s time to upgrade your bath linens. Not only will your skin thank you, but a fresh set of towels also gives you an opportunity to sneak in a fun pop of color or a bold pattern.

“The texture and color can really up your look and give you that luxury feel,” Chapnick says.

While you’re at it, swap out your old bath mat and robe for something new. Stepping out of the shower onto a fluffy rug and wrapping yourself in a cozy robe are two surefire ways to melt away stress.

5. Your wall hardware

Photo by bathstore 

If the towel bar is 10 feet from your shower and hanging on the back of the bathroom door, you're setting yourself up for stress the second you step out of the shower.

Chapnick suggests making small, functional improvements to your space that will make your bathroom routine more relaxing, like hanging bath towels within arm’s length of the shower—no more running to the other end of the room while soaking wet to grab a towel. Try installing a hook right next to the tub or shower stall.

If you’re always reaching awkwardly for toilet paper, move the holder to the other side of the toilet, or try using a free-standing toilet paper holder. Also make sure hand towels are easily within reach of the sink. Small changes can go a long way toward putting you at ease in your space.

6. The temperature

Chances are, your bathroom isn’t the most well-ventilated room in your house, especially if you have an older home. The feel of frigid tile on a cold winter morning is an undeniably unpleasant way to start the day.

“Consider floor heating and towel warmers to ensure you won’t be cold getting out of the shower,” Chapnick says.

For an ambitious homeowner, under-floor heating is a doable DIY project when you’re already planning to install new tile. Otherwise, bring it up to your contractor. Nothing transforms a bathroom from blah to spa quite like toasty toes after a steamy shower.


Article by: realtor.com

May 3, 2019

How Quickly Can You Save Your Down Payment?

How Quickly Can You Save Your Down Payment?

Saving for a down payment is often the biggest hurdle for a first-time homebuyer. Depending on where you live, median income, median rents, and home prices all vary. So, we set out to find out how long it would take to save for a down payment in each state.

Using data from HUDCensus and Apartment List, we determined how long it would take, nationwide, for a first-time buyer to save enough money for a down payment on their dream home. There is a long-standing ‘rule’ that a household should not pay more than 28% of their income on their monthly housing expense.

By determining the percentage of income spent renting in each state, and the amount needed for a 10% down payment, we were able to establish how long (in years) it would take for an average resident to save enough money to buy a home of their own.

According to the data, residents in Kansas can save for a down payment the quickest, doing so in just over 1 year (1.12). Below is a map that was created using the data for each state:

How Quickly Can You Save Your Down Payment? | Keeping Current Matters

What if you only needed to save 3%?

What if you were able to take advantage of one of Freddie Mac’s or Fannie Mae’s 3%-down programs? Suddenly, saving for a down payment no longer takes 2 to 5 years, but becomes possible in less than a year in most states, as shown on the map below.

How Quickly Can You Save Your Down Payment? | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

Whether you have just begun to save for a down payment or have been saving for years, you may be closer to your dream home than you think! 

May 1, 2019

Existing Home Sales Slow To Start Spring

Existing Home Sales Slow to Start Spring [INFOGRAPHIC] | Keeping Current Matters

April 29, 2019

Our Basement Flooded 4 Times! Why It Could Happen to You, Too

When we bought a house in 2012, we were excited to give our children the playroom of their dreams in the basement. Since we'd never owned a house with a basement before, we had one question for the sellers: Had it ever flooded?

Prior to making an offer, we were assured up and down that the sellers had never had a basement flood. And not just one, but two home inspectors both agreed that the basement had never taken on water. We were sold.

When we moved in, the 200-square-foot basement had a lush rug on the floor, and walls covered in tree decals. We lined the walls with shelves of bins for the children's toys and spent hours organizing every tiny Barbie outfit, Lego piece, and plastic fruit so that their playroom looked perfect.

The basement was my kids' paradise ... for two days. On Day Three, we woke up early in the morning to a strange sound.

"It sounds like running water," said my husband, Rob. He headed to the basement to investigate. Within seconds, he was screaming, "Get down here!"

And when I did, I could not believe what I saw: The entire floor of our beloved basement was covered in water that was inching higher by the second. We spent the rest of the day calling our insurance company, dealing with water remediation companies, and crying. Because when your basement floods, there is a lot of crying involved.

As if that weren't bad enough, that wasn't our only flood; we endured fourover the next four years, almost like clockwork. And each time, we learned valuable lessons. Here they are, in case they help you avoid the same fate.

Always insulate your pipes

One of our very first lessons? Pipes burst when they get cold. We'd removed the insulation around the pipes prior to moving in, since it contained asbestos. Only we hadn't replaced it, so as soon as it got below freezing, the pipes froze and cracked. Our bad. The $10,000 cleanup was annoying, but thorough—and luckily, was almost entirely covered by insurance. We insulated the pipes and breathed a sigh of relief.

Enter flood No. 2. Almost a year (to the day) later, the same thing happened. The temperature fell below 10 degrees and a pipe froze. The non-asbestos insulation was simply not enough to combat the frigid temperatures. We caught this one earlier, so staved off major damage, but we still had to rip up the carpet. Again. And had to hire a water remediation company. Again. And invoke our home insurance.


Take care when installing new appliances

After our second flood, we installed a fancy system to keep our pipes heated all winter long that included copper wires running over the pipes and gentle heating designed to keep the water flowing. In hindsight, we wished we'd gone for this expensive fix the first time, so we could have avoided the second flood.

After this system was installed, we figured we'd solved the problem ... but another one was brewing.

The following January, our daughter was having her ninth-birthday slumber party in the basement, when one of the girls noticed water dripping from one of the pipes in the corner of our basement. After getting 10 sugar-hyped 9-year-olds upstairs, Rob and I assessed the damage. Another call to insurance. Another remediation.

This time, flood No. 3 was caused by the cleaning chemicals our plumbers had used when they installed our new hot water heater. They'd failed to flush them out, thus clogging the pipes to the point of bursting. Had we been more on top of the process and done our homework, we might have checked that they'd flushed the pipes before bailing. Instead, we put all of our trust in the company and what they failed to tell us, we failed to know. From now on, any major home repair we make is well researched, and we always get at least two opinions.

We solved the problem, kicked ourselves for again not knowing, and breathed a sigh of relief, assuming this, at last, was our last flood. If only.

Watch what you flush

The following year, we made it all the way to March (March!) without a flood. But, like clockwork, flood No. 4 arrived anyway. This time, it was the basement half bath, where a year's worth of flushed tampons—which claimed on the packaging that they're "flushable"—had swamped the main sewage drain and forced the water back up into our laundry room. It was a mess, and by now, we both had a bit of PTSD from dealing with this same issue again and again.

Another lesson learned: Don't flush tampons. Even if it claims they are flushable.

Act quickly

Waiting can mean the difference between a $10,000 remediation and a $2,000 one. Turn off the water, get the plumber out immediately, spring for the premium cleanup. Time is of the essence when you are dealing with water damage. Our first flood was so far gone by the time we got to it, the damage was extensive. The next three we caught before the floor was covered in an inch of water. Once there is standing water, the damage is bad. Which leads to our next point...

Get a shop vac

With our fourth and final flood, we decided to spring for a shop vac, which allowed my husband to get the water out of the laundry room within five minutes of shutting off the water. That time meant the difference between a $1,000 repair (carpet cleaning and some anti-mold treatment) and a $10,000 repair (ripping out the carpet, installing new carpet, and cutting out and replacing the baseboards). For $100, we learned you can have quick access to water cleanup. It's so worth it. Even if you never use it (and pray you don't).

Spring for tile in the basement

Due to these floods, we have ripped up our carpet four times. For the price of that, we could have installed tile in the first place. We haven't installed tile yet (we keep hope alive!) but the next time, we will bite the bullet and do what we should have done four floods ago.

Don't report a minor flood to insurance

We learned this last lesson the hard way after being dropped by our insurance company after flood No. 3. Getting new home insurance was a huge headache, and now it costs us four times our original insurance cost to stay insured. Before, we were paying about $1,100 per year; now we pay $4,000. We are not eligible for that reduced rate again for at least seven years (the date when it will be taken off the record), so over time, we are paying $21,000 more because we reported all our floods. The first was worth it to report (the damage was close to $10,000), but the next two were around $2,000 each. Had we paid out of pocket, it would have been better for us in the long run.

April 29, 2019

With Inventory Low: Will Your Dream Home Need Some TLC?

With Inventory Low: Will Your Dream Home Need Some TLC?

According to a new survey from Move.com, the wave of first-time homebuyers hitting the market this summer has resulted in an interesting statistic. Nearly 60% of buyers searching for a home this spring are willing to consider buying a fixer-upper, with 95% believing that the projects needed will increase their new home’s value!

Realtor.com’s Chief Economist, Danielle Hale, pointed to low-inventory at the entry-level price range for the increase in willingness to renovate.

“The combination of rising home prices and limited entry-level homes for sale is prompting many home shoppers to consider homes that need renovating.

Replete with inspiration at their fingertips – like Pinterest, Instagram, and various home renovation TV shows – some home shoppers are comfortable tackling home renovation jobs to find a home that balances their needs with their budget.”

Just over half of all respondents who said they would be willing to buy a home in need of some TLC, would also spend more $20,000 to make the home fit their needs.

The most common ‘expected’ renovation is a kitchen remodel which can run anywhere from $22,000 for a minor remodel to $66,000 for a major remodel.

This isn’t a new trend by any means. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University,home improvement project spending reached a new high in 2018.

“Americans spent $336.9 billion on remodeling projects, up 7.4% from the $313.6 billion a year earlier.”

Home renovation television shows have given many buyers hope that they could renovate a home they can afford into their dream home!