Am I a Luddite?

By: Victor Normand

ludditeA recent Time Magazine article by Lisa Eadicicco and Matt Vella exposed the struggles of smart home technologies to capture consumer interest. Devices to control air conditioning, lighting, pantry and refrigerator inventories, home security and the like using internet connectivity seemed like the next big innovation. But it has not happened. Various technical reasons were cited, but mostly the failure to establish a basic rationale for having such technology in the minds of consumers seems to be the problem. It will no doubt come about in the fullness of time, but for now I find myself cheering for the consumers who just said “no thanks.”

So now I began to wonder have I reached the point in my life where new technologies need to be stopped or at least slowed down? Is there a movement out there that I should join as a modern day Luddite? The Luddites belonged to a protest movement opposed to the advancing machine age in England, early in the nineteenth century. General Ludd, as he was known, inspired the movement that saw weaving equipment smashed and factories burned in protest to jobs being lost to technology. Though Ludd himself apparently never existed, his name if not his actual cause carries on.

For some reason, the rejection of smart home technologies made me feel good. Even though I’ve known since the third grade that you cannot stop progress and most often change is good, if not inevitable. My third grade experience came to me in the form of a story told by Miss O’Leary to her class about an elderly aunt who passed up an opportunity to trade in her stocks in a Westfield buggy whip company for stock in a mostly unknown company called “International Business Machines.” Her aunt reasoned it was anyone’s guess who knew what business machines were all about, but surely there would always be a need for buggy whips!

Miss O’Leary’s story may have been apocryphal, but of the 40 buggy whip companies then in Westfield (still known today as “Whip City”) only one exists. This shows of course, that despite the decimation of an industry by technology, it is possible for the old ways to carry on, in a fashion. Nonetheless, the story obviously made an impression on me. And the truth is, the Luddites were not wholly against weaving machines. Their protest was against manufacturers who used machines in a “fraudulent and deceitful manner” to circumvent standard labor practices. They too recognized that technological change was unstoppable.

So, my rant against technology is in fact using technology to make the point. Also, it has been suggested that the ultimate intent of the Luddite movement was to make a machine to destroy other machines.  When you think about it, mashing a weaving machine is a much easier concept than attacking the “cloud,” or is it? Protest is good and technology has its place, prominent as it is, but I for one have no problem maintaining a paper grocery list.

Feng Shui My House

By: Victor Normand

FlowersFeng Shui (pronounced Fung Shway) literally means wind-water. It’s origin in China goes back thousands of years and it is the study of how environments and objects affect people, wind and water being two of nature’s most sustaining forces. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Chinese culture and Chinese goods were much admired in the West and minds were open to Feng Shui, though Feng Shui Masters needed to mold the tenets to fit the evidence based mindset of the American public. And today, practices like acupuncture and alternative medicine using Chinese herbs are becoming more widely accepted, so how can the real estate profession ignore the purported benefits of Feng Shui?

There can be no denying that we all strive for peace and tranquility in our lives in general and more particularly in where we live and work. Concepts like good light, balance and being uncluttered, resonate and appeal to people. We have all experienced joy when entering certain homes, even if we cannot articulate exactly why we feel good in those places. All of our senses are calibrated to like or dislike every presented stimuli in varying degree, whether it is a pleasant smell, a loud noise, a soft touch, bitter cold or a sunrise over a meadow; we feel a certain, predictable way and we share those emotions with all of humanity.

Feng Shui Masters will tell you that all objects have energy, called chi and this chi can be directed to improve luck and opportunity. The concepts like arranging homes and rooms to take advantage of good light, clearing clutter, furniture placement, using big plants and water features to enhance the environment and make spaces more pleasant even if you are not conscious of how these objects alter the flow of energy. Call it chi if you must, whatever is happening, is happening for the good.

Feng Shui practitioners may not even know they are Feng Shui Practitioners. They may be home stagers or kitchen designers who use their intuitive skills and by their designs, they are causing energy in objects to bring wealth and other forms of good luck. Sometime there are conflicts with this ancient practice. Water features have good Chi while toilet areas do not which was not a problem for centuries when toilets were not inside houses.  Today’s advice: always keep the lid down on your toilet.

Birth dates are important to your personal Feng Shui. Your birthday determines your Kua (pronounced kwah) number which leads to your auspicious direction. Placing yourself in this direction is recommended for sleeping, eating, and working among some of the more mentionable things we do every day. My auspicious number is 6. One Feng Shui advisor recommends that I create a wealth bowl out of porcelain and add gold-colored objects, semi-precious stones, and dirt from a wealthy person’s home, and faux diamonds to boost my success. I think I will stick with de-cluttering.

Even if you have trouble dealing with auspicious directions, you can benefit by Feng Shui. Why not hear what the Masters have to say about our houses and the places in them.  The interpretations of the best intuitions may be obtuse, but the results could be profound. By the way, The Resident Expertssm know something about Wind and Water, check out some tips from them.

 

“If your front door leads straight to the back of the house to a window or door, hang a round crystal in the hallway to disperse the good energy round the house – otherwise it marches straight out the back!” ~Frances Anderton

“If you hang a mirror in a foyer directly in front of the front door, all the good luck coming into the house will reflect right back out. So not a good decorating idea…​” ~Leslie Hogan

 

Adding Real Value to Your Home

By: Victor Normand
Published: October 2014

Last month I encouraged home sellers to think outside of the box and list their properties in the fall instead of waiting until the spring. I charted statistics that showed higher final sale prices and fewer days on market in certain towns for homes sold last year in the fall in contrast to home that sold in the spring. Some of you took my advice; some did not or could not because their homes were not prepared for listing which is a common condition.

If your home doesn’t look like new inside and out, which is probably the case since the median age of a home sold in New England is 40 years, there are things to be done that will help you sell at the best price in the shortest amount of time. The typical list includes kitchens with granite counter tops, stainless appliances, updated baths, re-finished hardwood floors and a fresh coat of paint inside and out. You might want to do more, but not every “improvement” will add value to your home.

Even if it will be years before you will be selling your house, be aware that not all home improvements are created equal in the eyes of the buyer. If you have always wanted a swimming pool, have one built for your own enjoyment knowing that today’s homebuyers in this part of the country don’t always want the care and maintenance of one particularly with such a short season. Some neighborhood developments have a pool membership included or perhaps you get to know your neighbor who welcomes people over on hot days.

Wallpaper is another improvement with almost universal negative appeal because of its very personal nature. Another mostly problematic improvement are solar panels. While good for the earth and generally viewed positively, their appeal to home buyers is limited, particularly so for solar panels that are leased and not owned outright. According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 90% of those surveyed said that solar panels installed on a home were not important enough to encourage a sale.

october blogNational Association of Realtors® 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

Home buyers identified exhaust fans in bathrooms and exterior lighting as either essential, must have or desirable by 90% of respondents in a report prepared by the National Association of Home Builders in May of last year. Another low cost improvement that home buyers now have in their homes and expect in the next home purchase are programmable thermostats.

Outdoor living is big so money spent on improving or adding decks and patios tends to payoff well. On the other hand, unconventional features like wine cellars, hot tubs, and media centers can actually take away value from a home because they may not be wanted and removing will be at a cost. Even adding land to your parcel may not be desirable but rather seen as just more property to be taxed and more land to care for. The middle of the road is where you want to be when contemplating upgrades and enhancements to your property.

So, if home improvements with the intent to appeal to home buyers in the near future are under consideration, moderation is good advice. Upgrading a kitchen with high end appliances and finishes may make the rest of your house look not so nice. Keeping home improvements consistent with the character of the home is advised. It is possible to over upgrade a property. You do not want to be the owner of a $350,000 home in a $250,000 neighborhood.

It is good to plan ahead and take the advice of a Resident Expertsm in this changing housing market.