Beyond Ikea – Thanks to Apartment Therapy!

Admittedly, I am an Ikea addict.  Whenever we travel to visit my in-laws, I make sure to leave enough room in our mini-SUV to accommodate a trip to the nearby Ikea, to stock up on all sorts of items that I may or may not need – but which give me great pleasure to shop for.  We recently sold our home in town, and moved to nearby Emerson Way in Northampton MA.  This move was about downsizing, to that end I spent months selling much of our furniture, and donating unwanted items to various charities and recycling events.  This allowed us to purchase some new furniture to go with the new house.  Since the house we bought is new construction, we also had the fun, if overwhelming, task of purchasing lighting fixtures, tile, paint, cabinet pulls, bathroom fixtures, kitchen appliances, etc.  As you can imagine, I clocked countless hours on various websites shopping for our new home – and posting ideas to Pinterest and Houzz (fantastic resources for seeking and organizing ideas).  Much of my time was spent in person or online at Ikea.  They have some great and inexpensive options (as long as you don’t go “full Ikea”).   But Ikea is only one resource for inexpensive and attractive furniture.  I was excited to find this blog post on the ever-informative and juicy Apartment Therapy website.  It includes some great resources for Ikea alternatives.

Beyond IKEA: 10 Other Cheap, Chic Furniture Stores

SHOPPING GUIDE

We know — you’re tired of seeing IKEA on every single affordable furniture list we pull together. It’s one of the biggest and best sources for modern furniture on a budget… but, yes, it can get old. So, to make up for the IKEA overkill, here’s a list of sources for cool furniture on the cheap. We tried to stick to non-obvious sources. Don’t worry — there’s no West Elm or CB2 here either.

East Coast

All stores listed below have e-commerce sites with online ordering.

5093f32edbd0cb0349000512. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop MUJI This Japanese store has multiple locations in New York City, as well as a US website for national orders. Their selection of sofas, beds, shelving, and tables is simple, stripped-down, and inexpensive.

5094410adbd0cb033a000762. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop White Furniture They have locations in New York and San Francisco, and they manufacture knockoffs of classic mid-century designs. The quality is much less solid than the real thing, but the prices are low.

5094410bd9127e2f06000725. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop The Grove Furniture Based out of New Jersey, the Grove sells solid wood unfinished furniture. Styles tend to be basic and traditional, but it’s a good source for cabinets and case goods that could be painted any color you like.

 

Midwest

All stores listed below have e-commerce sites or catalogs with phone/mail ordering.

5094410bdbd0cb034200072a. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Roy’s Home Furnishings Roy’s is a 30-year-old Chicago institution. They’re known for excellent prices on upholstered furniture and big pieces like dining tables and beds, and they recently launched an online catalog.

5094410cd9127e2f0a000689. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Dania They have stores scattered throughout suburban metro areas in Illinois, Minnesota, and the Pacific Northwest. Styles are a mix of contemporary and Scandinavian-modern, and prices are affordable.

5094410ddbd0cb0349000777. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Chiasso This Chicago store focuses on modern metal-frame furniture. Not all of it is cheap, but there are some very affordably priced sofas, tables, and shelving. They tend to carry small-scale pieces designed for apartment living.

5093f32ed9127e2f160004b2. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop McMaster-Carr Supply Company Headquartered out of suburban Chicagoland, this catalog retailer specializes in industrial equipment. They’ll happily sell to retail customers, and you can find sturdy shelves and stools at great prices.

West Coast

All stores listed below have e-commerce sites or catalogs with phone/mail ordering.

5093f32fd9127e2f21000480. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop TINI Store Perfectly suited to this list, TINI stands for This-Is-Not-IKEA. This LA-based vintage furniture store has great prices on mid-century modern stuff, and their website is updated frequently.

5094410ddbd0cb033a000763. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Hoot Judkins Serving the Northern California area, Hoot Judkins is an unfinished furniture store. They have a mix of modern and traditional solid wood pieces, from dining sets to beds.

5093f330d9127e2f21000481. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Stanford Surplus Property Sales Colleges and universities are rich furniture resources that are often overlooked. Many schools put used office and dorm furniture on sale at the end of the year, and Stanford even has a web catalog where you can search their inventory online.Top Photo:

Larsen Chair, $350 at White Furniture

via Beyond IKEA: 10 Other Cheap, Chic Furniture Stores — Shopping Guide | Apartment Therapy.

Real Estate Forecast Presented at Western NE University

 

In addition to the good news we received about mortgage rates once again dipping below 4%, we just caught wind of this interesting presentation to be sponsored by the Realtor Association of the Pioneer Valley.  If you’d like to find out more about current trends in the real estate market, this sounds like a great event to attend!

Economists to Present Real-estate and Economic Forecast on Oct. 23

SPRINGFIELD — Nationally recognized economists Dr. Lawrence Yun and Dr. Elliot Eisenberg will present a real-estate and economic forecast on Thursday, Oct. 23 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at Western New England University, 
Rivers Memorial Hall, 2105 Wilbraham Road, Springfield. Doors open at 8 a.m. for breakfast and registration. The event is sponsored by the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley and the Home Builders Assoc. of Western Mass.Topics will include recent developments in the housing market national, state, and local, the direction of home prices in the next 12 to 24 months, comparisons with past housing cycles, shadow inventory and foreclosure impact, new-home construction, economic backdrop, and a forecast of the economy and housing market. Yun is chief economist and senior vice president of the National Assoc. of Realtors, while Eisenberg is a former senior economist with the National Assoc. of Homebuilders. Tickets cost $20 per person, which includes breakfast.To register, contact Laura Herring, education coordinator for the Realtor Assoc. of Pioneer Valley, at 413 785-1328 or laura@rapv.com. Corporate support comes from Abide Inc., PeoplesBank, MLS Property Information Network, the Republican/MassLive, and United Bank.

via Economists to Present Real-estate and Economic Forecast on Oct. 23 | BusinessWest.

Leaf Peeping

The weather we have been blessed with in the past week reminds me why I love living in the Northeast, and, specifically, in Northampton.  Mild temperatures, clear skies, and insanely beautiful views of multicolored trees wherever you train your eyes.  I can’t imagine living somewhere without real seasonal changes – and I feel lucky to live here in the Pioneer Valley.

As a realtor and resident of New England, I suscribe to Yankee Magazine, which is a great resource for things to do in this part of the world.  They recently published a “Western Mass Foliage Drive” article which outlines a beautiful drive through the areas surrounding Northampton.  If you are looking for something fall-inspired to do this weekend (in addition to the Ashfield Fall Festival, that is) read on!

Western Massachusetts Foliage Drive

slowdrives-pathway-YK0914_102

Photo/Art by Krisin Teig

 

Housed in an 1842 grist mill, the Montague Bookmill offers a wide assortment of used books as well as a lively café.

From the source of Route 47 in South Hadley and on along quiet roads to Route 63 in Northfield, our journey is a sinuous, hypnotic drive, with the Connecticut River flashing in and out of the trees like a bright ribbon. It’s a day for farmstand hunting and lots of stops.

Starting out, you’ll want to grab provisions at South Hadley’s Village Commons, from Tailgate Picnic or the Thirsty Mind coffeehouse, both across from the storied beauty of the Mount Hol­yoke College campus. Then launch yourself north on this sumptuously winding road.

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In Hadley, pull over at Barstow’s Dairy Store & Bakery, which fronts Longview Farm, to watch cows grazing in the lower fields. Longview, designated a Massachusetts Century Farm, is actually a two-century farm, run by the same family since 1806, when Route 47 was a cart track. Drive through Skinner State Park to the summit of Mount Holyoke itself, where you’ll gaze upon the Oxbow of the Connecticut River as it winds through fertile fields and dense forests. The 19th-century Summit House hotel reminds you of those grand old society days at mountaintop resorts.

 

You’ll pass many good farmstands through Hadley: Try Becky Sadlow­ski’s, at the corner of her family’s ancestral farm, Rooted Acres, right next to a tobacco shed and corn crib. On Sundays, the Olde Hadley Flea Market offers the most breathtaking backdrop of fields and mountains of any open-air shopping venue on the planet.

A side tour on East Street will bring you to Hadley Common, where once villagers baited a witch, and where every fall they still hold a firemen’s muster. Pull over to allow yourself a close-up of the curve of the Connecticut from the Hadley Dike.

In season till mid-October, the Porter–Phelps–Huntington House Museum’s warm, aromatic corn barn and the fish pond in its sunken garden are sights to behold, and the North Hadley Sugar Shack is a must for maple gifts for family and friends. Thre’s one breathtaking view after another as you drive on through Sunderland; then detour left onto Route 116 to curve on up to the top of Mount Sugarloaf in South Deerfield, which ancient indigenous peoples said was the body of a giant beaver slain by a sky god. From the lookout tower, you can see the entire Holyoke Range in the distance, the silver flow of the Connecticut River, and the way the Pioneer Valley is held by the bowl of the surrounding mountains.

Now backtrack to Route 47 to an old burying ground, Riverside Cemetery, just past a cornfield in Sunderland, whose old slate gravestones display soul effigies and epitaphs in archaic letterforms—a peaceful resting place since 1714. About six miles farther along, stop at the Montague Bookmill to inhale the scent of nearly 30,000 used tomes, and refresh yourself with lunch at the mill’s café alongside a tributary of the Connecticut.Continue north to Turners Falls—home of the historic Shea Theater, funky stores, street gardens, and fish-shaped bike racks—a fine town to stretch your legs in; be sure to stop in for a drink at The Rendezvous or a snack at 2nd Street Baking Co. (which is actually on 4th Street). At the Great Falls Discovery Center, you can witness the churning energy of the old mill canal and learn more about this historic river you’re following.

Cross the river and Route 2, and head up Main Road into Gill; about a mile above the center you’ll see North Cemetery on a little ridge on your left, flanked by open, grassy fields, calling you in past an ancient red-maple sentry to visit graves so old that some of them are coated in lichen, their inscriptions all but worn away.

The light should be getting long by now, and you might need a jacket. Head right, over the river; then left on Route 63, ending your ride seven or eight miles north at the historic Northfield Drive-In (just over the line into Winchester, New Hampshire), its old car-radio pillars authentic testimony to its longevity. It closes after Labor Day, so there’s one more great reason to visit the Valley again come summer.

via Western Massachusetts Foliage Drive | Directions – Yankee Magazine.

Rising Energy Costs, and Renewable Energy Resources

Although the warmer temps seem to keep coming and going – the weather yesterday and today have me easing the temperature higher and higher on our thermostat.  We are eager to test out our new Tier 3 energy efficient home in Northampton, MA - to see whether our utility bills will be as low as promised, in the coming months.  To that end, I was both encouraged and upset to read the following editorial today in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.  Apparently, we can look forward to higher electricity bills this winter.  Although this news is not encouraging, the fact that a company called Hampshire Power will be supplying Lowell, MA with power largely from renewable energy sources, is encouraging.  This solution that will cost less money to the citizens of Lowell, and have a more positive environmental impact.  Apparently, Hampshire Power has signed up 11 communities in Berkshire County and one in Worcester County with a similarly beneficial program.  Here’s hoping that the local communities of Hampshire County /Pioneer Valley follow suit!

Editorial: Electricity costs pinch New England, but relief may be on horizon

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A recent drop in gasoline prices helps only a little to buffer news that electricity costs will rise sharply this winter, making it more expensive to keep lights on in the darkest season and delivering a blow to households that heat with electricity.

Given enough time, New England will be able to bring down electricity costs as new plants come online, experts in the field point out. But the picture in the months ahead is grim. Massachusetts and neighboring states must adjust to significant shifts in the energy markets.

Utilities that provide electricity in western Massachusetts warned last week that competition for a limited supply of natural gas is largely to blame for prices that will jump a third this winter compared to last year.

Natural gas is used to produce half of the electricity generated in New England. The growing need for that fuel source is what led six New England governors to embrace the idea of bringing in more natural gas — an appetite two major projects are eager to satisfy.

Even with a clear need for alternatives to coal-fired and nuclear plants, Gov. Deval Patrick hit the brakes in July by calling for a more detailed study of the state’s energy needs.

Kinder Morgan wants to build a 177-mile natural gas pipeline across the northern part of the state — and running through a small part of Hampshire County and nine Franklin County towns. The project, which must pass muster with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, faces determined local opposition.

More recently, Northeast Utilities, which owns the Western Massachusetts Electric Co., announced that it and a partner, Spectra Energy, propose to bring more natural gas into New England by expanding the capacity of existing pipelines.

While they would increase needed supplies of natural, these projects have yet to prove their worth and safety. Critics rightly question whether the gas will ease New England’s energy pinch or be routed to the export markets, doing little to benefit a state that endured a pipeline construction or expansion.

As for this winter’s sticker shock, National Grid says it will pass along a 37 percent cost increase compared to last winter. WMECO has not yet said how much rates will rise, but a spokeswoman noted, “We are all facing the same challenges.” For the average National Grid customer, electric bills will rise about $33 a month. Those who heat with electricity will pay a lot more.

While electricity customers may feel they are at the mercy of price jumps, they do not need to be utility captives. Just this week, Hampshire Power, a project run by the Hampshire Council of Governments, announced it won a competitive bid to supply power to the city of Lowell in a deal that significantly expands its operations and will lower prices for ratepayers in the state’s fourth-largest city. Instead of seeing prices rise a third, customers in Lowell will pay that much less.

And the rates will be locked in for three years. As an added benefit, the electricity Hampshire Power will supply 31,000 residential and 4,200 business customers in Lowell will come from renewable sources in New England. That is both a lean and clean deal for Lowell.

Hampshire Power has been pushing its option for years and has signed up 11 communities in Berkshire County and one in Worcester County. It hopes soon to secure state Department of Public Utilities permission to roll out a program that would enable it to buy power at lower rates on behalf of 160,000 residents and businesses in 35 cities and towns. Those customers want the power. Their municipal leaders have signed the papers. The state should stop fiddling around and allow them access to it.

In the short term, electricity customers can find themselves at the mercy of the market. In the long term, they have options worth pursuing.

via Editorial: Electricity costs pinch New England, but relief may be on horizon | GazetteNet.com.

As a First-Timer, How to Commit to Homeownership

 

 

I thought the following piece on realtor.com was an interesting follow up to our last week’s blog post about renting vs. home ownership.  When we realtors work with first time home buyer’s, we often talk them through some (if not all) of the following list of topics:  speak to a bank about your finances to gain clarity about what you can comfortably afford, explain why it is beneficial to work with a buyer’s agent vs. looking on one’s own (real time info, having a dedicated advocate), realize that there is a certain amount of inherent risk in any home purchase, understand what our local market in the Northampton, MA area has to offer – and work towards adjusting your wish list to jive with the real list of options, have your ducks in a row to be ready to make a bid, and, lastly, enjoy your new home!  Anne Miller and Melissa Paul sum these topics up nicely in the following blog post…

Trouble Pulling the Trigger? Here’s How to Commit to Homeownership

Trouble Pulling the Trigger? Heres How to Commit to Homeownership photo

You’ve saved for a down payment. You’ve pored over the local listings for months. Touring open houses has become part of your weekend ritual. But months, perhaps years, have passed and you are still in your rental.

For many first-time homebuyers, pulling the trigger on a purchase can be a frightening experience. Will you be happy there? Will you like your neighbors? Will you be tied down—house rich and cash poor? What if you lose your job? Will you hate your commute? In short, your fears stem from the unknown.Meanwhile, your current home is familiar. You’ve come to accept its shortcomings—the loud neighbors, the leaky ceiling, the scant street parking. It has few surprises.Take Paolo Forte, the eternal condo-shopper, who looked for years in Boston.“I have actually seen condos come on the market, sell, and then be resold a second time,” Forte said. “While I’ve been waiting, condo prices continue to rise, and I keep spending more money on rent.”In Betsy Townsend’s years as a REALTOR® in Boston’s pricey Beacon Hill, she’s seen everything.“I find that people often hesitate to make the ‘biggest purchase of their life’ because they fear they will make a ‘bad investment’ and pay too much,” Townsend said. “Sometimes people lose sight of the fact that they are looking for a place to live instead of just an investment.”Still, there’s hope. Your family, friends and co-workers took the leap and are reaping the benefits. Give these steps a try and you could be one of them:

Firm Up Your Finances

Anticipate the new costs that you will incur, such as taxes, homeowners insurance, utility bills and commuting. This will help determine the maximum price you can spend on a house. If your daily budget will change with a new home, consider a trial run living on that budget for a few weeks, to make sure you can. Enlisting the help of a financial expert will give you an objective view of your finances. Remember, the first year is the most difficult. After that you will begin receiving tax benefits.

Partner With an Agent

Even though the Internet gives you access to endless amounts of market information, don’t be tempted to go it alone. Instead, interview several real estate agents and find one you like who listens to you. He or she can line up properties to view, answer many of your questions and make connections for you in your new community. Agents often have the inside track on new properties just coming on the market.

Accept Some Risk

Realize that there is uncertainty in everything, but no matter what happens, you will deal with it. Ask family and friends about their experiences and learn from them. Be sure to keep some cash reserves in the bank as a safety net. And remember, you have homeowner’s insurance for a reason.

Fine Tune Your ‘Must-Haves’

Is there a community that you absolutely must live in? Are you adamant about a garage, a fireplace or a finished basement? Make your list of what’s vital. You may find that you are willing to sacrifice one feature if the rest are fabulous. If you are not crazy about the house, don’t bid. It’s important that you love it at the outset.

Be Ready to Bid

Regardless of the market, great houses do not stay available for long. One open house can lead to three offers. If you love it, be ready to make your best offer. If you are wavering, ask yourself, “How will I feel if I don’t get this house?” You might just get it, and if not, at least you will know you tried.

Reap the Reward

Owning a home can be one of the most exciting and satisfying things you will do in your life. It’s an investment that can pay you personal dividends as well as financial benefits.

Melissa Paul contributed to this article.

via As a First-Timer, How to Commit to Homeownership — realtor.com. By: Anne Miller

Net Worth of Homeowners vs. Renters

I recently found myself in a conversation with a new acquaintance, about the benefits of buying vs. renting a home.  The person I was speaking with, an adult in his mid-60’s, and a lifelong New Yorker, had never owned a home!  This is not unusual for a New Yorker, of course, where housing prices are astronomical.  But he now lives here in Northampton, MA, and in this part of the country, the financial benefits of owning vs. renting arguably weigh in favor of buying.  Loan interest rates are still low (in the 4% range, depending on the product) – so it is a great time to be a home buyer.  Of course, it is a personal choice.  Some people prefer not to have the responsibility of home ownership.  For me, purchasing our first home was a wonderful milestone – and lead me to my current career.

I happened upon this interesting tidbit on the NAR (National Association of Realtors) blog this morning – and wanted to share it.

Net Worth of Homeowners vs. Renters

Posted in Economic Updates, In the past 15 years, the net worth of the typical homeowner has ranged between 31 and 46 times that of the net worth of the typical renter.Homeowner equity is a substantial component of homeowner wealth. The Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, conducted once every three years, provides a snapshot of family income and net worth along with basic demographic details and more detailed information on where families keep the wealth they have accumulated.The most recent survey, conducted in 2013, offers a picture of the situation as home and equity prices normalized for most household balance sheets.Data shows that median homeowners had nearly $200,000 in net worth or 36 times that of the median renter who had just over $5,000. The median value of owners’ homes was $170,000.Many households own a primary residence 65.2 percent. It is the most commonly held non-financial assets after vehicles 86.3 percent.

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posted by Danielle Hale, Director of Housing Statistics on September 8, 2014 via Net Worth of Homeowners vs. Renters.

217 Prospect Street, Northampton MA

Northampton Home for Sale | MLS# 71740765

View from front of house

Nestled among an array of flowering and fruit trees sits this tidy and charming Craftsman-style home.  Enjoy an afternoon iced tea on the beautiful front porch or on the brick patio in the back, curl up with a good book in the cozy living room,  or cook up a gourmet meal for friends in the newly renovated kitchen.  The dining room is plenty spacious enough to accommodate a dinner party.  Although compact, this sweet home has a good deal of room inside.  On the second floor, there are 3 sizable bedrooms, a full bath with a claw foot tub, wainscoting and storage for toiletries.  In addition, there is a 4th room with a closet, and access to the attic.  At the moment, the 4th room is being used as a closet and dressing room – but could easily be transformed into a home office, nursery or place to do morning yoga and meditation.

 

On the third floor is a spacious bedroom, with additional storage, and ample room to add a full bath if you chose to turn this into a master suite.  The current owner has plans for an added powder room on the 1st floor, tucked away off the kitchen.  There are beautiful hardwood floors throughout the house, as well as a full basement with storage and laundry.  At the moment, a bit of water tends to pool in one corner of the basement during heavy rainstorms only.  It is likely an issue easily remedied by redirecting water from the gutter downspouts away from the house.  The boiler and hot water heater in good shape, and the electrical system has been updated to 200 AMPS of service.  There is some leftover active knob and tube wiring, but the current owner plans to have it removed before the sale of the house.

 

This house has been lovingly cared for, and updates throughout include a new kitchen, newer roof, updated electrical, recent interior and exterior paint and many replacement windows.  Located at 217 Prospect Street in Northampton, MA — it is very close to town, the bike path, the YMCA and shopping.  You may contact Julie Starr or Julie Held directly for a showing, after the first showings at the open house this Sunday, September 14th from 12-2 pm.  Offered at $329,000.

Porch of Northampton Home | MLS# 71740765

Back porch

Patio of Northampton Home | MLS# 71740765

Back patio off the driveway- 1 car garage at end of driveway

Kitchen of Northampton Home for Sale | MLS# 71740765

Newly renovated kitchen

Kitchen of Northampton Home | MLS# 71740765

Second view of kitchen

Living room of Northampton Home | MLS# 71740765

Living room with french doors to main entrance, dining room is off living room

Bathroom of Northampton Home | MLS# 71740765

Charming full bath w/ wainscoting and claw foot tub/shower

Room of Northampton Home with attic access | MLS# 71740765

4th room with attic access

Master Bedroom of Northampton Home | MLS# 71740765

Master Bedroom

 

 

Check out full listing details here.

 

 

Beautiful Oasis on Crooked Ledge Road in Southampton, MA

Tudor-style stunner with beautiful light and a contemporary feel, set on 10+ private acres in Southampton, MA.  Custom eat-in kitchen with gleaming hardwood floors, granite counters, full pantry and top-of-the line appliances.  Enjoy meals underneath the flower-covered pergola on the deck just off the kitchen, overlooking the beautifully landscaped grounds and above ground swimming pool.  On the first floor is the master suite complete with cozy window seat, walk-in closet, full bath with deep-set tub and separate a shower. There are two additional bedrooms on the second floor, one with a window seat, the other with a cozy sleeping loft. Bonus family/media room with custom tongue and groove woodwork, built-in cabinetry, skylights and additional office space. Mechanical updates though out the house include; Buderus boiler, central vac, security system, wiring for sound system, generator hookup, new roof, freshly paved driveway and basement workshop. Enjoy the peaceful setting of the back yard from the deck or screen porch while entertaining or just relaxing.  Both overlook the perennial gardens, koi pond and above-ground pool, with the woods beyond.  Listed for $499,900.  For more information, contact Kate Iles. To see full details and photos, click here.

 

Southampton MA Home for Sale | MLS #71691628

View from the front of the house

Southampton MA Kitchen Interior | MLS #71691628

Custom Kitchen off of deck with pergola

Southampton MA Sitting Room | MLS #71691628

Living room off of deck, with gas fireplace

Southampton MA Bedroom with Loft | MLS #71691628

Bedroom with sleeping loft

Southampton MA Master Suite | MLS #71691628

Master Suite with window seat overlooking grounds

Southampton MA Media Room | MLS #71691628

Bonus media/room – could be a second master or guest room

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Third bedroom with built in window seat

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Perennial gardens

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Koi Pond

Three County Fair Opens Today!

Today at 4 pm, the gates open at the county fairgrounds in Northampton for the annual Three County Fair.  This year, the fair features a great line up of live music, performed by many favorite local bands – in addition to the usual fanfare.  If you are feeling melancholy about summer coming to an end, the fair is a fun last hurrah.  Read on for the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s article outlining the many highlights of the historic event.

Fine tuning: This year’s Three County Fair adds music festival

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Matt Jackewich, of Easthampton, who works in maintenance at Three-County Fairgrounds in Northampton, waters flowers near the main gate Wednesday.JERREY ROBERTS Matt Jackewich, of Easthampton, who works in maintenance at Three-County Fairgrounds in Northampton, waters flowers near the main gate Wednesday. Purchase photo reprints 

Among those setting up Wednesday in preparation for the fair’s opening day Friday was volunteer Janet Mollison. She was overseeing exhibitors as they set up their displays of fruits and vegetables. About 50 exhibitors from age 4 to 80 will compete this year, she said.

“The exhibit hall to me is a place where no matter your age or abilities, we can find something for you. There’s a place for the kid with a bouquet of wildflowers,” she gestured to where two girls were arranging vegetables on a table, centered around a giant cabbage. “These kids are setting up their vegetable displays, and they’ve been working on them all summer.”

While old standbys like the exhibit hall are ever popular, organizers have added something new this year that they hope will appeal to young adults, said Bruce Shallcross, general manager of the fair.

A music festival called Fair Fest will be held from 2 to 10 p.m. Monday on two stages. “It’s going to be awesome,” Shallcross said, adding that local and regional bands will take to the stage for performances throughout the fair’s four-day run, Friday through Labor Day.

Exhibits galore

In the exhibit hall Wednesday, Lou Chadwick of Second Chance Farm in Greenfield took red- and green-hued Gravenstein apples from a crate and carefully polished each one with a towel before arranging them in a diamond shape on the table.

“We’ve been doing this for probably 30 years at different fairs, and we’ve been here for a good 15 years,” said Chadwick, who also shows off his antique engine at the Antique Engine and Tractor Show at the fair.

Meanwhile, outside under the hot sun, workers for Rockwell Amusements set up some of the 20 rides on the midway off Bridge Street. The circular skeleton of the Ferris wheel rotated slowly, even though there were no seats yet attached.

Shallcross said the workers rolled into Northampton Sunday and have been setting up a variety of rides, including some for young children and many for the more adventurous fairgoers who enjoy adrenaline-inducing drops or being spun until they are green.

The oldest, continually run agricultural fair in the country, according to Three-County Fair officials, is a mix of traditions such as the exhibit hall and livestock judging, and more modern entertainment, such as the roaring monster truck shows, demolition derby and wine tastings.

Add the latest versions of food — think deep-fried Oreos and an ice cream filled doughnut called the Moo-nut — and you’ve got a fair.

“Hopefully, if the weather is good, we’ll have around 40,000 total attendance,” Shallcross said. “Last year with the bad weather we probably had 32,000 to 33,000.”

The holiday weekend forecast is for partly cloudy weather with temperatures ranging from the high 70s to the high 80s, and thunderstorms possible Sunday.

Shallcross said advance ticket sales have been good for fair entry as well as for the $5 grandstand tickets for demolition derbies scheduled for Friday and Sunday nights.

Music festival born

While busy staff and volunteers bustled around him with last minute preparations in the fair’s office Wednesday, Shallcross said the impetus for organizing a music festival for Labor Day was the fact that attendance has declined over the years on the fair’s last day.

“Usually school starts the next day, so people leave early,” he said. “So we said, ‘Who will come out on a school night?’ Young adults.” And young adults in the Northampton area like live music.

He hired Tom Schack, a musician who books bands at area bars, to set the lineup. On the outdoor stage, next to the Polish Kitchen booth, will be The Dire Honeys, The Sun Parade, Groove Shoes, The Mary Jane Jones, Fat Bradley and Bella’s Bartok. In the arena, the bands will include Gone by Daylight, Rhythm Incorporated, Lux Deluxe, Mammal Dap, The Alchemystics, Outer Stylie, and headliner Potty Mouth. For the full lineup, visit the Three County Fair Fest Facebook page.

Fair Fest entry is free with admission to the fair: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and veterans, and free for those 11 and younger.

Live music has long had a place at the fair with the clubhouse featuring bands nightly, Shallcross said. In recent years, the fair has added “Preachin’ the Blues,” a series of blues performers on Sundays, and a Battle of the Bands featuring many young musicians, on Saturdays.

“Over the past eight years, one thing we’ve developed is music,” Shallcross said. “We don’t have some of the more country stuff that other fairs have, but people in Northampton like music. That’s something we have that’s a little different.”

The Three County Fair, 54 Fair St., is open Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For a full schedule for the fair, visit www.threecountyfair.com.

How to Win the Bidding War on the Home You Want to Buy

Have you ever noticed how things that are going on for you in work or in your personal life often seem to pop up in the media at that exact moment?  I have been assisting a buyer over the past 24 hours, in making an offer on a desirable property in Northampton.  We are in a bidding war, about to submit our “highest and best offer”, along with the other buyers who submitted an offer on the same property.  A bidding war is essentially a blind auction.  We use the tools at our disposal, but we never know what the strength is of the competing offer.  My client and I have pored over the comparable properties which have sold recently, and discussed the pros/cons and projected resale value for the property.  However, at the end of the day. he can only offer an amount at which he won’t be disappointed that he didn’t offer more if he doesn’t get it; or that he didn’t offer less if he does get it.  Negotiating offers is not black and white.  To that end, I happened upon this informative piece on realtor.com today.

How to Win the Bidding War on the Home You Want to Buy

By: Michele Lerner  How to Win the Bidding War on the Home You Want photo

If you are buying a home at the height of a citywide seller’s market or simply want a sought-after house

Competing against faceless prospective buyers may bring out the warrior in you, but before you decide to go all out in your battle, you need to step back and decide how much you really want that particular home.in a neighborhood with limited turnover, you may find yourself in the midst of a real estate bidding war.

Should You Compete in a Bidding War?

In the thick of competition you may forget your end goal is a home you love and can afford to own. If your offers have been turned down by several sellers because of competing buyers, then you may feel pushed to make an aggressive offer for the next home you like.

You should stop yourself from competing just because you think the time is right to become a homeowner or to move up into a new place. Instead, think about whether you really want the particular house enough to fight for it.

To guard against making an emotion-fueled offer for a house, take a hard look at your finances. While it may feel good at first to beat out other buyers and to purchase a property, it won’t feel so great in a year or two when you are struggling to make the payments on a house beyond your means. Know your limits before you begin to bid.

Prep for Battle

Your first step before entering a bidding war should be to consult with a lender to understand the maximum amount you can borrow, to evaluate how much cash you have to spend while keeping enough money in a reserve fund.

Next, make sure you hire an experienced REALTOR® who can share information about local market conditions and communicate with the seller’s agent. You should rely on your REALTOR® for advice about how to handle a bidding war, but be sure to do your own research: visit a lot of homes in the area where you want to buy so you understand the value of various properties before you make an offer.

Bidding War Strategies

Your REALTOR® should work with you to craft an attractive offer based on the list price for the home, a comparative market analysis of similar homes, and knowledge gained from the sellers’ agent about the sellers’ motivations and preferences.

In a bidding war, it’s important to work with a REALTOR® who will move quickly to present your offer and any counteroffer, one who is easy to communicate with during the transaction.

While you may assume money is the motivator that steers sellers to one buyer over another, there are other ways to make your offer attractive, such as these ideas:

Solid financing: You may be competing against cash buyers, so make sure your loan pre-approval is in place and you have completed all required documentation other than identifying a specific property.

Eliminate contingencies—carefully: If you own a home now, you may want to offer to buy another home without making your contract contingent on the sale of your current home. You take the risk of carrying two mortgages for a while, so make sure you can safely handle the payments. You can also decide to have an “information only” home inspection rather than making your offer contingent on the outcome of the inspection.

Make the settlement date convenient for the sellers: Rather than negotiating on a closing date convenient to all sides, you can tell the sellers you will work with their schedule or rent back the property to them after the closing.

Offer to pay all closing costs: You can reduce the sellers’ out-of-pocket expenses by offering to pay their share of the settlement fees, but before you do this get an accurate estimate of what those costs will be and make sure you have the funds available to pay them.

Personalize the transaction: Sometimes the tipping point for sellers who receive multiple offers is something emotional rather than financial. A personal letter describing your love of their home may tilt the scale in your favor.

Try an escalation clause: Money talks, too, so you can add an escalation clause to your offer that increases your bid by a certain amount above other offers. Just make sure you set a limit on how high your offer will go.

Control yourself: Remember that any offer is subject to an appraisal (unless you waive that contingency, but that’s not recommended unless you have plenty of cash), so be careful not to bid above the market value of any property.

via How to Win the Bidding War on the Home You Want – Buy – realtor.com.