As many of us find ourselves working from home, you may realize the temporary work space you had set up in the corner of the kitchen was fine in the first few days of quarantine but just isn’t cutting it now. Or maybe you’ve always worked from home and you’re ready to give your work space a few updates to improve your productivity and mood. Below are a few tips to creating a home office that suits your needs.
1. Designate Your Work Space
The most important aspect to a home office is choosing the space you will designate for work and only work. Ideally, your office would be its own room but having a room pull double duty can certainly work with proper boundaries. Keep work in your designated area and resist temptation to bring paperwork or your laptop to places you eat or lounge. This will ultimately help maintain a work/life balance so that when you finish with work, you can feel rewarded by relaxing in your living room or baking in your kitchen. It will also help you focus and stay on task when you enter your work area.
2. Have Ample Lighting
Make sure your home office is very well lit. The last thing you want is to strain your eyes for 8 hours of the day. You may need to play around with the lighting to avoid a glare on your computer screen and make sure your face is clearly visible for video calls. A small desk lamp can help with task lighting and reading.
3. Check Your Posture
Along the same lines as lighting, checking your posture and investing in a good office chair are key to your health and comfort. Some things to keep in mind regarding your posture:
4. Declutter and Organize
Physical clutter can instantly make your mind feel cluttered as well. Keep your work surfaces as tidy as possible to help you stay focused and reduce stress. Organize both horizontally and vertically; most homes don’t offer large office areas (or a specified office at all) so utilizing shelves can be a great way to keep important files and tools close at hand without infringing on your actual desk. For more information on decluttering and organizing, check out this blog post.
5. Check The Background
Since face-to-face meetings have largely been avoided in favor of social distancing, video calls have made a huge jump in popularity among companies. Something to keep in mind is what your coworkers or clients may see behind you when you have these video calls. Keep your background clean and throw in a bit of your own style with a piece of artwork or a shelf sparsely decorated with beloved trinkets. Perhaps you still have a few in-person meetings with clients or coworkers; it’s important that you keep any areas of the house a visitor may walk past on the way to your office cleaned up as well.
6. Add Color and Personality
Choose a color palette that encourages your work-flow. For some, this is a bright, poppy color. For others, a cool and calming color may do the trick. Then you want to pick accessories that make the area feel more homey and set the mood. Finally, give yourself a view or create an inspiration board to make the space inviting and engaging.
Now is a great time to curate the perfect work area whether you’ve been working from home for years or are new to working remote because of COVID-19. If you are still struggling to stay on task, think of places where you feel most productive and try to duplicate those elements. If you like the music at a local coffee shop you can play similar music at home. Perhaps the outdoors help to keep you focused, you can incorporate more plants and be sure to choose an area with a window. Something else to keep in mind is that you may be able to deduct your home office expenses from your taxes. Be sure to check the IRS website to determine if you would be eligible to do so and check out this article for more information.
Space. Do we ever have enough of it? Whether your home is a studio apartment or a mega-mansion, somehow stuff seems to multiply to fill any amount of space. Fortunately, there’s no end to human ingenuity, and there are a plethora of ideas out there for maximizing space. Here are some options that can work for any size home.
1. Make Your Furniture Do Double-Duty
Try to acquire furniture with built-in storage. You can find beds and benches with built-in drawers or shelves, coffee tables or ottomans that are also bins, and many other innovative combinations. The more you can turn your furniture into storage space, the more spacious your home will feel.
2. Sleep On It
Virtually any bed can be used for storage space. Simply tuck your things away neatly in bins under the bed. If your bed is low to the ground, you can lift it up with some wooden blocks. This creates a great deal of storage space that’s out of sight
3. Maximize Your Hangers
Use cascading hangers in your closet to increase the amount of clothing you can hang in the space. Shirts and pants are particularly well-suited to storage on cascading hangers and will create quite a bit of space in your closet.
4. Hang Your Shoes Up
Over-the-door shoe organizers can also help you maximize your closet space. They typically hold 12 or more pairs of shoes, and can also accommodate other small clothing items or accessories. They make your items easy to locate and put away.
5. Shrink Your Stuff
Use vacuum storage bags to compress and puffy or fluffy items and make them easier to store in a small space. This works with comforters, sheets, towels, etc. Simply place your items in the bag and use your vacuum cleaner to suck the excess air out of them.
6. Make It Float
Install hooks or dowels in the wall to hang various items. You can hang light weight things like pots and pans in the kitchen, or heavy items like a bike. If you are hanging something heavy, make sure the hook or dowel is installed in a stud so it can support the weight. If you have many small items you want to hang, consider using a pegboard.
7. Elevate It
Shelves are a great storage tool, whether you have items you want on display, or out of the way. Shelves can be integrated into any room in the home for books, artworks, or keepsakes. If you have items that you only need on occasion, like holiday decorations, you can install shelving in a closet above or behind other items.
8. Compartmentalize It
Almost any shelf, drawer or cabinet can be further compartmentalized to increase organization and maximize space. Stack boxes or bins on shelves, put dividers in drawers, and install pull-out drawers in cabinets.
Even in the face of COVID-19, the real estate market in Shenandoah Valley remains active. Funkhouser Group has put several precautions in place so potential buyers and sellers can continue to purchase or sell homes while social distancing. At this time, buyers should do the following before scheduling a tour:
These guidelines are listed on a yard sign that is available to all sellers working with Funkhouser Group. Additionally, there are safety measures listed for property tours as well. These include:
Mortgages for purchase have now surpassed 2019! This is a great indication for the market. More information on this in the video below.
DIY projects can save money, increase the value of your home, and make you feel good about what you’ve accomplished. A kitchen remodel is a significant project that can add a great deal of value to a home. However, DIY projects can be risky, especially if you are new to them, as mistakes are inevitable. It’s important to learn which mistakes to avoid. According to Bill Gassett of Maximum Real Estate Exposure, "Poor-quality workmanship . . . can easily decrease a home's value." Here are 10 common DIY mistakes people make during a kitchen remodel that are easy to avoid.
1. Not Asking For Help
Before you start planning your remodel, talk to someone with expertise in kitchen remodeling.Show them your plans and ask for advice.They will think of things that you would not have come up with on your own. They can guide you in the right direction on details like which materials and appliance brands to use. They can also help you ensure that your design fits your actual needs for the space.
2. Gaps Between Walls and Cabinetry
No home is perfectly level, however, you try to make cabinets level when you hang them. But because of this, gaps occur next to the wall. To fix this problem, use a wood shim to fill the gap. It’s the same principle as putting something under the leg of a table to stop it from rocking back and forth. Then, you can use the same molding that covers the rest of the room to hide the shim.
3. Poorly Placed Lighting Fixtures
People who aren’t experienced with remodeling often don't think about lighting fixtures and don’t budget for them. Instead, they just keep the old lighting, but it may not match the new kitchen design. Lighting fixtures should line up over the sink, countertops or kitchen island.To avoid this problem integrate lighting fixtures into the overall kitchen design from the beginning. Budget to hire an electrician (get multiple bids). One thing you can do yourself is to repair the ceiling after the electrician has installed the lightning. For safety, you should let the electrician handle the wiring.
4. Badly Laid Floor Tiles
According to Gassett, if the subfloor is uneven or there is something wrong with the underlayment, tiles laid on the floor can crack or shift. First, do a test to see if the subfloor is even. Then secure the subfloor to the floor joists. Use the appropriate type of underlayment for the type of tile you’re using. For example, use liquid underlayment for porcelain or concrete tile. If this sounds unfamiliar, don’t worry, the tile supplier you work with can explain how to do this. The underlayment will compensate for any unevenness in the floor and prevent the tiles from cracking.
5. Painting Without Prepping
If you try to cut corners and do your paint job as quickly as possible it will show in the results.Telltale signs of an amatuer paint job include, paint on light switches and imperfections in the wall that are poorly covered, like cracks and dents. To avoid these mistakes, spend the time to prep and clean your surfaces properly.
Before you start painting, be sure to do the following:
6. Not Protecting the Rest of Your Home
During your remodel, you will need to take measures to keep the rest of your home clean and free from dust and paint. This way you will avoid a major clean-up job when the renovation is finished. You can use plastic sheeting and tape to seal off the kitchen area from the rest of the house. You can even add an adhesive backed zipper to create an entryway into the work space. Take steps to protect your new kitchen as you go, for example, cover your countertops with cardboard secured in place by painter’s tape to protect them until the remodel is finished.
7. Poorly Planned Tiling
Common problems with poorly planned tile work are large gaps filled with grout and pieces that don’t fit together well. For a professional look, use grid-paper to make a “map” of the area you’re going to tile. Put electrical outlets, door frames, and other obstacles on the map. Then lay out your tile on the map, starting in the center. Test out your calculations by laying some tile in a non-conspicuous area first.
8. Leaving a Space Between the Wall and Floor
If the baseboard or shoe molding wasn’t removed before laying a new floor, a gap between the floor and the wall will result. Before putting down new flooring, remove any existing molding first. Then put down the new flooring. You should use the manufacturers recommendations to determine how close the flooring should be to the walls or cabinets in your kitchen. After that, you can lay a baseboard or shoe molding to cover the area where the floor and wall meets.
9. Forgetting about Workflow
Your new kitchen may look great, but if you forget to organize the space to fit the way you work in it, or your workflow, you will be missing out. The three busiest areas of a kitchen are the stove, sink, and refrigerator. This is referred to as the kitchen “work triangle”. Make sure to place these areas close together in a way that enables you to move efficiently between them.
10. Not Looking at the Big Picture
Don’t forget to think about how all the elements of your new kitchen fit together. Key elements to include as you plan your grand kitchen design include paint colors, appliances, cabinetry, hardware, and flooring. If you take the time to consider each of these elements in relation to each other, you’ll end up with a much more cohesive and appealing design.
As I discuss in the video below, we are seeing the 30 year mortgage application rate almost fully recover to where it was last year. This is encouraging news!
Weekly Statistics Updates
If you are closing on a house as a purchaser or seller, you may be wondering what that process looks like during the COVID-19 outbreak. Settlement agencies have been in operation during the pandemic as they are an essential business but many of them have had to readjust their typical settlement procedures to ensure the safety of their staff and clients.
New Practices Under Virginia's Stay-at-Home Order
Certain procedures will vary between title agencies as each company decides what is best for their office. West View Title Agency has temporarily closed the office to the public and is handling closings over the phone while the seller or purchaser signs the documents from their car or a table in the parking lot, still within sight of a processor who can notarize the documents. According to Stewart Title’s website, they are limiting who attends closings, disinfecting between all clients, and maintaining 6 feet of distance (in addition to other safety precautions). Other agencies may require you wear a mask at closing or email photocopies of your driver’s license prior to settlement. If you aren’t sure what your own settlement agency’s policies are, a quick call can help you prepare for a contact-less/ limited-contact closing.
Closing in the Future as the State Slowly Re-opens
While the new practices for closing are not ideal, they are in place to prevent coronavirus from spreading. Setting aside the health ramifications, it’s important to keep in mind that if one employee gets sick at a title agency (particularly a smaller agency where the employees work closely together), it could require several people in the office to quarantine for two weeks which would slow down transactions. In the case of West View Title Agency, future closings will likely be handled differently than they were pre-pandemic. Buyers and sellers will close separately and only those who are signing documents would be allowed in so social distancing is still observed. Masks will probably be required as well. Regardless of how a title agency decides to operate, preventing the spread of COVID-19 is still up to every individual and we should all continue to follow recommendations from the WHO and CDC.
Overall, the year to date sales are still up when comparing to 2019. We will continue to keep an eye on how this progresses on a weekly basis until we have a more normal house buying environment.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has forced most of us to shelter-in-place, some of us may find it necessary to move to a new shelter. A move could be something that’s been in the works for months, or something that’s come up unexpectedly. If you find yourself in either scenario, don’t worry. There is plenty of good advice available to make your move more doable, even under trying circumstances.
First, if you are at a high risk of illness due of Covid-19, consider postponing your move. According to Coronavirus.gov, those who are over 65, those who have pre-existing medical conditions, and those who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities are at greater risk of developing severe illness if they contract the coronavirus.
If you find it necessary to move now, whether you are in the high-risk population or not, be sure to read the following tips to make your move as safe and low-stress as possible. Moving services have been deemed essential by the federal government, so moving professionals are still operating in all states. This includes movers, storage facilities, and rental truck companies. The following tips are applicable whether you choose to employ professional services for your move, or take a D.I.Y. approach.
1. Research Before You Move
Determine If You Are Allowed to Move
Moving is considered “essential” by the federal government, however, some localities may have temporarily restricted moving because of Covid-19. For example, some buildings in NYC do not permit moving because of the shelter-in-place order. Check with your local and state government before you plan to move to make sure there are no restrictions in your case. If you are part of an HOA or condo board, also check with them to see if there are any temporary restrictions on moving.
Research Moving Services
Conduct research into all the different services you are planning to use during your move.
If you want to hire a moving company, interview them about their sanitary practices, how they clean and disinfect their equipment, and how they determine that their workers are in good health. Find out what kind of protective gear the company uses, like masks, gloves, and booties. Check to see if they have a cancellation policy in case you need to change plans last minute. Usually, contracts with moving companies are non-binding, so you have a window of time in which you can cancel the move without having to pay for it.
If you are going to use a storage facility, call ahead to see what their current hours and policies are due to Covid-19. Storage facilities may have made changes to their operation such as limited hours of access or a limit to the number of customers allowed in the storage facility at one time. You will also want to make sure the company you use is sanitizing their storage units and common areas properly. Similarly, if you are going to rent a truck or trailer, find out about current company policies on operations and sanitation.
2. Plan the Timing of Your Move
Strategically Space Packing and Unpacking
Now more than ever it’s important to make a detailed plan of the timing of your move, to avoid any possible contamination of your belongings. First, because Covid-19 can last up to 24 hours on cardboard boxes and other surfaces, it’s best to pack everything up, and then wait 24 hours before you begin the moving process. Even if everyone wears gloves and masks, it’s better to take this extra precaution to protect your moving team.Then, you should wait 72 hours from the time your belongings are moved to your new home until the time you actually start living in the space. This way you can ensure that there is much less of a chance that a virus will survive on any of the surfaces.
If you are not able to postpone occupying your new home, be strategic in the way you unpack. Pack one box that you will open first, containing all your cleaning supplies and any essential items for the first few days, then keep it separate from the other boxes and let them sit for 72 hours. Take the time to clean and disinfect your new home before unpacking everything. Then, as you unpack, disinfect furniture, boxes, and anything else that was touched by your moving team before using it.
Plan Well in Advance for Setting Up Services
At this time, it’s likely to be harder to schedule an appointment with a technician to set up cable or internet services. It’s best to start looking for a technician well in advance so you can get an appointment at the time you need one.
3. Keep Open Communication With Others
Maintaining open communication with everyone who will be affected by your move is key to a smooth moving process. Tell your neighbors about your move and include specific details about the date and time of your move so they can maintain social distancing during your move. Ask neighbors if the timing of your move will be ok or if it could be problematic for them.
If you are working with a moving company, confirm your reservation and talk about how you will use safety precautions during the move. If you need to cancel the move, contact your moving company or anyone else who will be affected, immediately. If you rent, communicate with your landlord about how to return your keys and pick up your security deposit with proper social distancing. Also talk to your new landlord about how you can move in safely.
4.Take Sensible Safety Precautions
Reduce Personal Contact
Do as much planning as possible by phone or email, this includes scheduling the move and getting quotes from any professional services for the move. Many larger moving companies are already equipped to perform contactless moving. They can do virtual surveys using video chat technology instead of in-home surveys to give an accurate quote for the move. Video chat technology is also used by the crew during the move, allowing the customer to be away from the home while the move is taking place. For example, Bellhops, a national moving company, uses Facetime to communicate with customers remotely while they perform their moving services.
If you have friends or family helping you move, keep your moving crew as small as possible. If you need a lot of help, consider having helpers come in staggered shifts. Assign one person to manage the moving process and make sure all safety measures are followed and safe social distance is maintained.
Don’t shake hands with any one or hug to show appreciation to those helping you move. An alternative is to give a tip to show appreciation, there are now many virtual ways to pay for services, like Venmo or Paypal. For friends and family, consider gift cards instead of hosting a meal or party.
Be Prepared For Cleaning and Sanitizing
Before the move, stock up on items you’ll need for cleaning and sanitation purposes. Make a list of everything you need and try to get it in one trip to the store. Be sure to have masks, gloves, and booties for everyone helping with the move. If you are working with professional movers, find out if these are supplied by the company, or if you will need to supply them. Also purchase enough hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, disinfectant spray or wipe, and paper towels for everyone helping to use.
Use Clean Boxes
It is safer to do your own packing in order to minimize contact with others. Since Covid-19 can live on cardboard surfaces for up to 24 hours, you should get new boxes or use boxes you already have at home. Do not collect used cardboard boxes from elsewhere. Cardboard boxes are preferable to plastic bins because the coronavirus can live for up to 3 days on plastic surfaces.
Clean and Sanitize as You Go
Before your move, sanitize items as you pack them. You can use a commercial sanitizing product, or make your own by mixing one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water.
During your move, make sure there are soap and paper towels by sinks and hand sanitizers by the door. Before and after the move out, use disinfectant on any surface or object that is touched often, such as door knobs and handles. Clean and disinfect the common areas in your home. You will also want to do the same in your new home after the movers leave. In an apartment or condo building, be sure to disinfect commonly touched surfaces, such as elevator buttons.
5. Consider Making Donations
Rather than moving all the non-perishable food you’ve accumulated, consider donating it during this time of increased need for many people. Even before the pandemic began, about 40 million Americans struggled to pay for groceries. Covid-19 has caused closures of schools and soup kitchens as well as massive layoffs, meaning that more people than ever are in need of food.
You can donate to a local food bank or to Move for Hunger, an organization that makes it easy to donate extra food when moving. Also consider donating household items. Call around to different charities in your area to see if they are accepting donations at this time. Some charities are still in operation and open to receiving donations.
6. Postpone Your Move if Anyone Gets Sick
If anyone in your household comes down with an illness or shows symptoms related to Covid-19, it’s best to postpone the move until a health professional gives you the green light.
Make sure to communicate with your moving company about their cancellation policy. Under the circumstances, it’s reasonable to expect most companies to be flexible and not charge anything for cancellation due to illness.
As you plan your move, it’s a good idea to check out online resources that will keep you updated on health and safety guidelines. The following resources may be helpful: