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How Is Remote Work Changing Homebuyer Needs?

Woman in Home Office

With more companies figuring out how to efficiently and effectively enable their employees to work remotely (and for longer than most of us initially expected), homeowners throughout the country are re-evaluating their needs. Do I still need to live close to my company’s office building? Do I need a larger home with more office space? Would making a move to the suburbs make more sense for my family? All of these questions are on the table for many Americans as we ride the wave of the current health crisis and consider evolving homeownership needs.

According to George RatiuSenior Economist for realtor.com:

“The ability to work remotely is expanding home shoppers’ geographic options and driving their motivation to buy, even if it means a longer commute, at least in the short term…Although it’s too early to tell what long-term impact the COVID-era of remote work will have on housing, it’s clear that the pandemic is shaping how people live and work under the same roof.” 

Working remotely is definitely changing how Americans spend their time at home, and also how they use their available square footage. Homeowners aren’t just looking for a room for a home office, either. The desire to have a home gym, an updated kitchen, and more space in general – indoor and outdoor – are all key factors motivating some buyers to change their home search parameters.

A recent realtor.com-HarrisX survey indicates:

“In a June poll of 2,000 potential home shoppers who indicated plans to make a purchase in the next year, 63% of those currently working from home stated their potential purchase was a result of their ability to work remotely, while nearly 40% [of] that number expected to purchase a home within four to six months and 13% said changes related to pandemic fueled their interest in buying a new home.

Clearly, Americans are thinking differently about homeownership today, and through a new lens. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) notes:

“New single-family home sales jumped in June, as housing demand was supported by low interest rates, a renewed consumer focus on the importance of housing, and rising demand in lower-density markets like suburbs and exurbs.”

Through these challenging times, you may have found your home becoming your office, your children’s classroom, your workout facility, and your family’s safe haven. This has quickly shifted what home truly means to many American families. More than ever, having a place to focus on professional productivity while many competing priorities (and distractions!) are knocking on your door is challenging homeowners to get creative, use space wisely, and ultimately find a place where all of these essential needs can realistically be met. In many cases, a new home is the best option.

In today’s real estate market, making a move while mortgage rates are hovering at historic lows may enable you to purchase more home for your money, just when you and your family need it most.

Bottom Line

If your personal and professional needs have changed and you’re ready to accommodate all of your family’s competing priorities, reach out to a local real estate professional today. Making a move into a larger home may be exactly what you need to set your family up for optimal long-term success.

(Reposted from KCM.)

Kid Stuff: Backyard camping and other fun stuff to do in quarantine

It’s “summer vacation,” yet many parents have already been at home with their kids for several months now, and ideas for activities may be running low. So here are some things you can do—either in your house, your own back yard, or in other outdoor spaces where social distancing is possible.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Plant something and watch it grow. Whether you have an established garden or room for a few pots on your front step, you and your kids can sow seeds, water them daily, and watch the transformation from tiny seedling to a flowering plant—or something edible like basil or tomatoes!

Go picking. It’s the height of blueberry season in New England, and many farms have made special accommodations so that you and your family can maintain social distancing while picking your own berries! (Just remember to bring your masks!)

Set up a water station. Splashing around will always be a fun choice for kids in summer—especially in hot summer weather. So why not set up a refreshing outdoor play station for your kids? Break out the garden hose, set up the sprinkler, or make a DIY water table from some old Rubbermaids (Pinterest is your friend!).

Take a nature walk. Explore local trails with your kids. Even just a 30-minute walk in nature can feel like a mini-vacation in quarantine times! Whether you opt for a long or a short jaunt, be sure to pack water and a snack. You will also want to bring masks for yourself and your kids. You probably won’t need them, but if you end up on a narrow trail with other hikers, it’s good to have them on hand.

Go backyard camping. Set up a tent, build a fire-pit, toast some marshmallows, and get ready for a fun family getaway right in your own back yard! This might not be the exact camping trip you’ve always envisioned, but there are some definite perks to the location… including the luxury of indoor bathrooms nearby!

Backyard Camping

THE GREAT INDOORS

Cook or bake something. Pick one of your kid’s favorite foods and whip it up together. From blueberry muffins to homemade pizza, there are plenty of fun and delicious things you can create—and eat—together!

Get an activity box subscription. Get kits and activities sent right to your doorstep on a regular basis! Subscription boxes are great for rainy (or very hot) days, when spending time outside isn’t really an option. From STEM- to arts-and-craft-themed boxes, these subscriptions will provide ready-made fun and learning for you and your kid(s)! Here are some popular services to choose from

Write a story together. Tired of reading that favorite children's book for the eleven-thousandth time? Sit down with your kid and cook up a new story! Whether you start with a prompt (Google “writing prompts for kids”) or inspiration from your kiddo’s own imagination, there is lots of fun to be had. Let your child take the lead, and you can be the scribe. Once the story is written down, you can even do some illustrations together!

Have movie night (or afternoon). Pop up some popcorn, pile up some pillows, and round up the whole family for a special viewing party. If you need some guidance choosing a flick that will work for the whole family, commonsensemedia.org is a great resource.

Family Movie Night

Build a fort. Whether it’s from blankets and chairs, cardboard boxes, or a giant stack of pillows—fort-building is a fun activity, and can result in a cozy spot for kids to sit and play or read afterwards.

Hold a living room yoga class. If you’ve taken a yoga class or two, then you probably know enough to hold an “intro” class for your kids. If you prefer more formal instruction, there are plenty of classes available online for kids of all ages. Check out some YouTube videos in advance, and find one that you think would be right for your family!

Build a truck ramp. Do you have a recycling bin full of cardboard? With some empty boxes, scissors, and some strong tape (think mailing or duct tape), you and your child can build tracks, ramps, or jumps and hold races for toy vehicles.

Check out a nature cam. Watching animals or marine life frolicking in their own habitat can be a fun, relaxing, and educational way to spend an afternoon. Here are some great animal livestreams to choose from.

Have a dance party. If your household has come down with a case of severe grumpiness, there’s nothing better than an impromptu dance party to lift the mood. Crank up some music and dance like a maniac! Your kids will either join you or laugh along with you. Either way, it’s a win!

Exploring Hawley: Part 3

This next location is not technically in the state forest but if you continue down the trails, you will enter the state forest. The Hawley Historical Society has done a wonderful job with a self-guided tour of what was Hawley center.

The location is on East Hawley road near the intersection of Forget Road. The trail head and parking are on the west side of the road across the street from a red cabin, that was built on the foundation of an old tavern. There are several foundations to see each with a history of what was there and asks some questions for further contemplation. There are nine sites on this rather short hike.

If you want to hike longer, you can either continue down the old roads that are now snowmobile trails or hike out to the Hawley Bog, which is owned by the Nature Conservancy.

The bog is beautiful with tons of bird life but it will be more interesting as we get further along into spring and summer. You will then be able to see more of the rare plant life blooming etc. This trail becomes a series of narrow boardwalk, so I would suggest bringing a mask to wear, in case you encounter other hikers. I have generally found when I have been there that I am the only vehicle so I have been alone on the trail. It is also not that dog friendly, if you do have a dog with you, the dog should be on a short leash and try to keep the dog on the boardwalk.

Hawley Bog

The Place of Art in Your Home

By Linda Aird

Art is such a personal thing. It does not need to be a painting. It's the stuff you put on your wall or place on your coffee table. It can take many forms. It can be a piece of memorabilia, reminding you of a past activity, somewhere you've been or someone you've known. It can be a painting, print or poster whose colors or subject matter speak to you.

PICTURED HERE:  My latest art installation, by Rachelle Miller, a potter from Wisconsin. The landing at the top of my steps needed something. I had been planning on a series of small photographs in sienna (those brown tones of old photographs), but hadn't gotten around to it. The walls in my house are neutral and I thought this would be a good choice. After a couple of years (yup, it took that long), I started to think that a pop of color would be nice, and saw these in a catalogue. 

For me, the environment I find myself in every day, my home, is so important.

It affects how I feel. I tell my clients when we are looking at possible homes to buy that, in addition to the number of bedrooms, etc., there will be the AHHH factor. They'll know it when they feel it. It's the feeling that conveys "I can see myself being here."

Well, that is the beginning of a house becoming a home to you.

Art is the finishing touch, the icing on the cake. It makes our homes distinctly us. I have quite a range. I am not an art snob. I have what I like, what gives me pleasure, from a framed card purchased at a gift shop in Italy to a sculpture handmade to hang on the fireplace. I have items that came to me from other generations and those newly gained. I really believe that, as has been said, art is in the eye of the beholder, and is an evolving process.

So as I move about my house, these various and varied items come into focus, and I experience a sense of peace and calm. 

During this time, when we are feeling unsettled and we are spending far more time in our homes, those feelings of peace and calm are even more imperative.  

I wish you well and look forward to chatting more!

--Linda Aird

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Exploring the Hawley State Forest, Part 2: Hallockville Pond

To continue on from my previous little article about the Hawley State Forest (Kenneth M. Dubuque), we will go to the other side of the forest to another of my favorite places, Hallockville Pond, which is right off of Route 8A near the Plainfield/Hawley town line.

Building at Hallockville Pond

The pond once fed an extensive mill site that can be reached off the Mill Site Trail. Park by the big buildings that you will see as you enter. A lot of people think the Hallockville Pond is a private camp because of the camp buildings there. It was once a camp but recently has housed Americorps volunteers and other similar conservation groups. 

Trail Sign

The Pond is lovely and it is a wonderful place to have a picnic on the lawn or on the dam. It is fun to look down the first sluice way. If you walk back towards the drive behind the small cabin, you will find the beginning of the trail. Remember what I said about seeing myrtle or periwinkle in the woods? It is also an indication there was a house or human activity here. 

Very soon you will come to the much older dam which may just look like a stone wall at first but you will see the sluice gate there is actually more than one but the other is much smaller.

As you go down the trail you will see the foundations of the big mill and where the water wheel that turned the gearing for the mill was. 

Many old early mills were for cutting timber but some milled grain etc. There is some great stone work here. You will also see an enormous metal drum. Some of the old water wheel mills later converted to steam power and I wonder if this dates from that time period in the late 1800s verses the early 1800s when water wheel power was king.This area is fun to explore, but please use caution and don’t climb around on the stone work; A lot of it is not very stable.

Wooden Bridge

If you continue down the trail (headed down stream), you will come to a lovely wooden bridge. If you look up from the bridge, you can see there was yet another mill site with at least one water wheel between the stone walls.

The mill sites end after this and the trail ahead crosses Route 8A. If you want to keep walking at this point, I suggest that you go back up to the pond and take the lovely pond loop trail. 

Pond View

 

 

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    Exploring the Hawley State Forest

    Looking for a fun, educational way to get some exercise--while practicing social distancing?

    It is easy to accomplish all of this in the Kenneth M. Dubuque state Forest, or as most people call it, the Hawley State Forest--and it is easy to keep social distance in its 7,882 acres with over 35 miles of trails. Hawley was once a bustling town, but now only has a little over 300 people. It is a great place to explore our New England woods and see relics of Old New England.

    For this walk, bike, ski, or snowmobile ride, park beside the East Hawley Fire Station on Plainfield Road (East Hawley Road) near the intersection of Ashfield Road (see map). You can see the church from there. (Did you know that to be an incorporated town in early Massachusetts, you had to have a church?) If you walk in the trail you will soon come to the charcoal kiln. This is a fabulous stone structure as you can see in the photos. It is a great place to take children to learn about how charcoal was made. Why was it so important to have a charcoal kiln? What was charcoal used for? Massachusetts has 80% more forests now than it was a century ago. By 1876, much of the timber had already been cut.

    If you want to keep hiking, continue up Kiln Road. You will cross at the base of a small beaver pond. (Beavers were were highly sought after by early trappers for their pelts and were nearly all killed by 1876. They started returning to Massachusetts in the 1920s and were also reintroduced. This is a whole other study you can do with your children.) When you get to the intersection of with Penobscot Road, turn left and shortly on the right you will find and old foundation. BE CAREFUL OF THE OLD WELL near the northeast corner of the foundation between two maples. What is the big structure in the middle of the foundation? It is the base of the old central chimney.

    Most early New England houses had a big chimney with a big fireplace for cooking, a beehive oven, and two additional fireplaces in the “fancy parlor” and the regular parlor. Sometimes they contained a smoking chamber too. Fancy houses often had fireplaces in the upstairs bedrooms. This how they heated the house. The fire going all day would heat that central core of stone or brick, which would help the house retain some heat over night. I have read that the average indoor temperature in winter was 45 °F. How long would you estimate since a house had been in this spot from the size of the trees growing in the basement?

    If you want to keep going, you can head to another old foundation near the corner of South Road and Middle Road on the Periwinkle Trail. It is about another mile farther. (I did an entire loop on my cross country skis, catching the last of the snow which is about 6 miles.) Why is it called the Periwinkle Trail? This is easy to answer in the spring; Myrtle or periwinkle plus day lilies and old lilacs are plants that tend to be long lived and if you see them in the woods there is a good chance there is a foundation nearby. Be very careful near old lilacs because there were commonly planted near wells. How does this foundation differ from the other? Which of the two foundations do you think is better sited and why? Other than the foundation pictured here there is more cool historic stuff up this trail but it is not a good ski trail, so I did not go there.

    I then continued down South Road so I could go around the block, down Middle Road, which has a lovely large beaver meadow beside it as you approach Hunt Road. It is one of many in the Hawley State Forest. There are also several old dams. The one pictured here is near the corner of Hunt Rd and Penobscot Rd. I hope to go to the other side of the Hawley State Forest near Hallockville Pond off of West Hawley Road for my next post on water power. Hawley has a very high altitude, hence lots of snow, but I doubt I’ll be on skis again this season. I took these photos on March 26th.

    If you're interested in further reading on life in early New England, I recommend Diary of an Early American Boy by Eric Sloane. It's great reading for readers in middle school and up!

    Yours Truly,

    Carla Ness of Delap Real Estate and her dog, Jack. (photo taken earlier in the season)

    New Practices in the Time of Covid-19

    Due to the spread of Covid-19, Delap Real Estate has cancelled office hours until further notice. During this time, our agents will be working remotely and will continue to provide a high level of service to our clients while staying committed to everyone’s health and safety. We have provided some basic information below, and encourage you to contact us with any questions. Our agents’ phone numbers and email addresses are available here.

    Open Houses

    In accordance with state and federal guidelines limiting group gatherings, we are not scheduling open houses at this time.

    Social DistancingShowings

    We are still showing properties both virtually (through FaceTime/video tours) and in person. For in-person showings, our agents will wash/sanitize their hands before and after entering the property, keep at least 6 feet of distance from others, and will ask prospective buyers do the same. Agents will open bathroom, closet, and other doors in advance, so that prospective buyers not need to touch anything as they move through the space.

    Appointments

    We will be happy to “meet” with you by video or phone conference, and spend as much time as necessary to develop a plan to find your dream home—or get your property on the market. We are also available to meet in person, using the same safety measures described above for showings.

    Everything Else

    Whether you are in the middle of a closing, just embarking on a house search, or looking to put your property on the market, we know that many questions are likely to arise. Please feel free to contact us about any aspect of your current or future real estate endeavors. We will do our best to supply the information and resources you need to move forward now or formulate a plan for later.

    As of today, everyone at Delap is healthy. We will continue to exercise an abundance of caution to preserve the health of our agents, clients, and the community at large. We are sending good wishes to all of you and your families in this difficult time. Please stay safe—and practice as much social distancing as you possibly can. We will do the same!

    Home Projects for Winter Weekends

    House projects can be tricky in winter. Other than snow removal, there isn’t a ton you can do to improve your home’s curb appeal this time of year. But that doesn’t mean you need to defer all projects until Spring. There is plenty of work you can do inside to breathe new life into your home. Much of it can be accomplished in a weekend and for under a hundred bucks!

    Rearrange

    Whatever you want to call it—feng shui, space flow, reconfiguration—getting your furniture into just the right spots can make a huge difference to the impact of a room. If things feel off and you just can’t figure out why, ask a friend (or your realtor!) too look at the space with you. Sometimes all it takes is a set of fresh eyes to see the true potential of a space.

    Do a Deep Clean

    Once you’ve done the routine work of tidying, dusting, and vacuuming, try going a bit deeper. From washing windows and wiping down doorframes, to scrubbing bathroom grout and cleaning light fixtures, there is a lot you can do to make your home feel sparkly and new with just a little elbow grease.

    Style Your Bookshelves

    Tidy up your reading materials and make some space on the shelf for one or two non-book items (a plant, or a nice piece of pottery, for instance). This will add style and draw the eye to this otherwise utilitarian area of your home.

    Do a Sofa Makeover

    If your couch is starting to show some wear, dress it up with a new slipcover, some accent pillows, or a cozy throw.

    Winter Home Project IdeasOrganize Your Kitchen

    Kitchen clutter can be a real drag. If you have stacks of pots and pans living on top of your stove for instance, consider a pot rack. Whether it’s hanging, wall-mounted, or free-standing, an item like this can add visual appeal as well as providing storage space.

    Paint

    A fresh coat of paint on walls, trim, or doors can go a long way to making your home feel fresh and cared for.

    Update Fixtures

    From the pulls on your kitchen cabinets to the knobs on your interior doors, updating hardware can make a big difference for not a lot of bucks.

    Event Listings in the Pioneer Valley

    Looking for something to do this weekend?

    Here are some some great resources to help you find out what's going on in the region on any given day.

    Pioneer Valley, Western MAValley Advocate Events

    If you’re a local, you probably already have this site bookmarked. But it’s still worth mentioning for its comprehensive Western MA events calendar. 

    MassLive Events

    Searchable by location, category, and keyword, this is a great way to look for specific types of entertainment for you or your family members.

    Explore Western Mass

    With tabs such as “Things to Do,” “Food & Drink,” “Lodging,” and “Events,” this site is a great resource for both locals and visitors to the area.

    Hampshire County: The Other Side of Massachusetts

    In addition to categories such as “Explore,” “Eat,” and “Shop,” this site will also show you events with discount tickets available. Handy!

    Hilltown Families

    From food tours to art classes to preschool open houses, this site showcases events for adults, kids, and everything in between.

    Western MA Junction

    With categories such as Music, Arts & Entertainment, and Family fun, this site lists a great variety of events, with a special focus on music.

    Thinking Outside of the Box

    Holiday Giving TipsLooking for new ways to give—or give back—this holiday season?

    Here are three of our favorite ways to help others and bring new meaning to the holidays.

    Pass along things you no longer need.

    Does your home feel cluttered? Has your child outgrown a bunch of clothes this year? Is your linen closet overflowing with extra towels or blankets? Take a pass through your home and round up the things you no longer need. If the items are in good condition and fall into any of the following categories, they are very likely needed at your local homeless shelter:

    • Clothing (especially warm socks, gloves, coats, hats, and any item that can be worn as a layer)
    • Toiletries (such as shampoo, soap, lotion, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, new toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and razors)
    • Blankets and towels
    • Diapers and baby wipes

    Make a financial donation in someone’s honor.

    Need a thoughtful gift for a friend or loved one who already has everything? Instead of a physical object, make a donation in their name. Whether it’s Heifer International, the ASPCA, or the Red Cross, there are numerous organizations out there that will do something useful with your donation. If you want to check into an organization before giving money, you can look them up on Give.org.

    Give a few hours of your time.

    There are plenty of ways to help people out, just by showing up and spending some time. Here are some ways to do that:

    • Serve food at a soup kitchen.
    • Bring some treats or cards to a local nursing home and visit with residents who may not get other visitors over the holidays. (Remember to call ahead to schedule your visit.)
    • Bring a warm meal to an elderly neighbor.
    • Lend an ear to someone who is having a hard time. Whether it’s a close friend, a neighbor, or a colleague, there is probably someone in your life who is going grieving a loss or going through something else difficult. Invite that person over for coffee or a meal, and let them know you are there for them if they would like to talk.

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