Centers And Squares
Archive for the 'Everything Else' Category
Hurrah! Happy day! It finally rained in Cambridge and nearby towns today.
It’s been a good long time coming. After a wonderfully rainy June (enough rain in fact to beat Seattle by mid-month) we’ve been in a drought in Centers and Squares territory for the entire month of July. Towns to the north and south of us have had plenty of rain and even flash flooding. But here in Cambridge the ground was parched. You know you’re in trouble when the ground cover starts to wilt.
The weathermen and women failed to remark on our localized drought, instead coming up with inane comments about “can we escape the showers” (answer – yes, can we ever) and the like. Meanwhile, the grass is brown, there are dead street trees all over town, and even when rain was forecast none would fall.
It seems like once we’re in a pattern of no rain it’s very difficult for any rain to fall. Wild thunderstorms were forecast on the weekend and despite the severe weather warning none arrived. Yesterday the pump was finally primed when it drizzled as the sun shone. To wake up to downpours today was wonderful.
Let’s hope this new pattern takes hold. In the meantime I’m keeping my pail handy for the thirsty street trees on my block.
I loved this page posted on a fusebox – ok, it’s a circuit breaker box really – so much that I had to snap its photo. I came across it one day when showing a house for sale in Waltham.
What’s so special about this fusebox? It may be difficult to see in the photo which shows just a portion of the list, but it’s the beautifully detailed, carefully written guide to which circuit breaker covers which appliance, outlet, etc. Taped inside the box and printed in very neat block letters on graph paper, the guide is a sure sign that a careful homeowner lived here – someone who took pride in his house and cared enough to do it right.
This is the way it’s done.
This carefully printed page must have helped the homeowners repeatedly over the years when a breaker tripped or a fixture needed to be replaced. I could just picture the homeowner – I bet he had a well stocked workbench in the cellar and that he liked to putter and to work on projects around the house in his spare time. He reminds me of my grandfather who kept records that looked very much like this. These guys came from the “greatest generation” of homeowners – people who knew how their house worked, how it was built, and how to keep it up.
This is way it’s done – but unfortunately it’s not done all that often nowadays. We’re too busy, too scattered, too quick to rely on somebody else to do the job for us. There aren’t as many workbenches in cellars nowadays. My own bookshelves are full of homeowner how-to books but I’m all too quick to hire someone to do a job for me.
Something as simple as labeling circuit breakers can begin to get you better acquainted with the workings of your house. This simple piece of paper set a new standard for me. I want a fusebox guide that looks like this one.
Usually Easter is quiet on the real estate front with few open houses.
This year, however, there are a dozen open houses in Cambridge and Somerville today. Half of these are for listings new to the market this week.
That’s still just a handful so watch for a bump in new listings over the next week or two as sellers who waited until after the holiday put their homes on the market.
I couldn’t resist including the Easter clip art at right since it combines several of my favorite themes – vintage images, houses, and animals wearing clothes. Turns out that egg-shaped houses can often be found on vintage Easter postcards – perfect for a house-loving real estate agent like me.
If you’re celebrating today – enjoy!
Recently I made a point to vist an open house for brokers in Arlington Heights. The house was a beautiful Greek Revival, one of my favorite architectural styles, and I looked forward to seeing it.
I wasn’t disappointed. The house was filled with well preserved architectural details and a real treat to see. On the dining room table the agent had put out a number of pieces about the house’s history to share with buyers.
My favorite by far was a packet of letters that the homeowner had received from a member of the family that moved into the house more than a century ago. The letters were rich in detail about how the house looked decades ago and filled with stories about the author’s memories of her family and life over the years in the house.
The letters were mesmerizing – filled with tidbits that evoked the sights, sounds and smells of the early 1900s. I brought my mother a copy, knowing she would enjoy them as much as I did. “We’ve got to buy this house!” she exclaimed. “Let’s sell this one and move.”
That was not to be – the house sold that weekend to a someone more prepared than we were. But it was an example of how powerful sharing the stories of your house can be when it’s time to sell and pass the house on to new owners.
I love old houses and confess to sometimes feeling like an adopted member of the families that have lived in them before me. When it was time to sell my first house, a sweet little house circa 1865, I wrote a piece about what I had learned about the family that had owned it before me – just one family since it was new. My packet for buyers included vintage photos of the house that dated from the 1880s through the 1930s. It was important, I thought, to pass on that history, so the stories could be preserved for new owners. Several years later, when the house again exchanged hands, the vignette about the house was handed over to the next owners once again.
Chances are your house has stories to tell too. Whether you’re fortunate enough to have a former owner share memories with you, or you do the fun work of discovery through your own house history research, the stories your house has to tell can make you feel more connected to your old house.
When it’s time to move, make sure you pass on your house’s stories. You’ll be preserving history and may just hook a buyer at the same time.
It looks like the snow might not live up to the projections made earlier this week – at least around Cambridge. The open houses will go on!
Here’s one guy who looks like he’s hoping for more snow….
In October, after 12 years at 171 Huron Ave – first at DeWolfe and then Coldwell Banker – I moved across Cambridge to ReMax Destiny.
I’m thrilled by the move – and now that I’ve finally unpacked I thought I’d introduce you to my new office.
Over the years many of my favorite agents had moved to ReMax and I’m delighted to join them. Coincidentally, all four of us in my room were formerly at DeWolfe. The admin and marketing staff at ReMax Destiny is top notch and such a pleasure to work with. The office has all the real estate bases covered with a property management division, commercial real estate agents, a super rental department, and close to 50 residential real estate agents.
My new office address is 907 Massachusetts Ave. It’s a very different feel than Huron Ave with lots of foot traffic well into the evening and easy access to the Red Line at Central or Harvard. The convenience of being just down the street from City Hall and the post office can’t be beat and I love walking around Mid-Cambridge when I leave the office. I’ve yet to find a nearby place for a slice of pizza (where’s my new Armando’s?) but there are plenty of restaurants to explore. Come join me for lunch when you’re in the neighborhood!
Before I packed up I made sure to photograph my old desk:
And here’s my new space. It’s really sweet – you can’t see the wide board floors or the wall of windows overlooking Hancock Street and Mass Ave.
If you’re in the neighborhood stop by ReMax at 907 Mass Ave and say hi!
This bitingly cold weather is one more reminder to pay close attention to your heating system. If you have steam heat you may need to add water to the boiler (and yes – it’s a boiler, not a furnace, if your heating system uses water).
During our last cold snap I spent two hours in an unheated foreclosure. It took me all day to thaw. The first thing I did when I left that frigid house was to return to mine to check on my boiler.
I love steam heat. I had it in my first house and it’s in my current house too. Neither boiler had an automatic feed so it’s up to me to make sure the water level is sufficient. You would think I would know how to add water to a steam boiler by now.
But when I arrived home that day I wasn’t sure. Could I add water to the boiler if the heat was on? Would it hurt the boiler if I added water when it was hot? Could I break the furnace?
Turns out when adding water to a steam boiler you want to turn off the heat and let the boiler cool. Adding cold water to a hot boiler can crack the boiler – which will then require replacement – or worse, according to at least one article I read, cause the boiler to explode – eek!
Best practice I guess is to not wait until the coldest day of the week to check the water level in your steam boiler. And if you want more help with your steam heating system the very best resource is Dan Holohan’s The Lost Art of Steam Heating – it’s really the bible for homeowners with steam heat.
From my house to yours –
Wishing you the very merriest of Christmases.