Feng Shui – One Agent’s Perspective

A few weeks ago I was walking along Osborne Street near my home in Brookline. I looked up and noticed this large house facing me from the end of Osborne Street.

While the house itself looks great, I particularly noticed how amazing it felt to look down Osborne and see this magnificent house sitting handsomely at the end. It occurred to me that having one’s entrance looking down the street would be considered excellent Feng Shui. I remembered that the developers of the Mandarin Hotel and Residences in the Back Bay had, at great expense and at the last minute, situated the Hotel entrance to look down Fairfield Street in order to improve its Feng Shui.  They even had to move the street lights to make it all work. See this Boston.com article to read the full story.

Feng Shui, literally translated as “wind-water” is an ancient Chinese system of aesthetics  that uses various principles of energy, design, architecture, and other disciplines that work together to improve life. In the context of residential real estate, it is mostly an art related to improving design and function. It is not really about aesthetics (although aesthetics still play a role), but rather about energy and balance so that one’s life works better. In my experience selling homes, I have had clients with varying degrees of concern for and knowledge about how a potential home measures up according to Feng Shui principles. I have also had a couple of clients hire Feng Shui consultants to evaluate their potential home, and I hired one myself to suggest improvements to my last home. I have learned a few things in this process. These are NOT in any way any kind of basic principles but rather just some interesting odds and ends I have picked up.

  1. Real estate agents are generally not that happy when their clients want to evaluate a home’s Feng Shui. They often see it as just another obstacle that may have to be overcome. Fortunately, this is not my perspective.
  2. Rectangular construction is good.  Corners are good. Anything curvy can be problematic. The reasons for this are somewhat complicated and are related to energy and balance.
  3. When you are considering a condo or apartment on more than one floor you should be concerned if your upper floor is not situated entirely over your lower floor. A floor plan that falls into this category is known as the “Philly Duplex.”  These homes occupy half of one floor and then all of an adjacent floor.  The reason for this concern relates again to balance and also to healthy boundaries between your home and your neighbor’s.
  4. Bed placement is crucial. Make sure you place the bed so that you can see the entrance to the bedroom from the bed, but it is not directly in front of you. I did not adhere to this principle at one point and my bedroom always felt wrong – now I know why.
  5. Many, if not most, “problems” can be mitigated enough to alleviate major concerns without reconstruction or spending a great deal of money. You can vastly improve the Feng Shui of your home working with the right colors, proper furniture placement, plants, screens and mirrors, as well as just de-cluttering. There is also a huge amount of information out there and it is fairly easy to find and understand.

Do you have any good Feng Shui stories or principles you would like to share?
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Tub/Shower Combo vs. the Walk-in Shower

As with my last post, this question may not be of immediate concern to you, but it is likely to come up sometime in the future if you are a homeowner.

If your bathroom needs remodeling or you are putting in an entirely new bathroom where there wasn’t one before, should you go with a walk-in shower or the tub/shower combination? I think the answer is clear: get rid of the existing tub (in the case of a remodel) and go for the walk-in shower. If you already have a tub somewhere else in your home, this decision is a ‘slam-dunk’. Why would you ever need more than one tub in your home?  In my experience of over 16 years in residential real estate (I actually do talk to people about these things), adults don’t take that many baths. Unless you have several very young children in your home who all need baths at the same time, don’t hesitate to convert one tub/shower combo to a walk-in shower.

The tougher question is what to do if you are renovating the only bathroom in your home and there is not enough space for both a walk-in shower and a tub. Here again, I think the walk-in shower is the answer.  Many people’s biggest concern is about resale. “If I don’t have a tub, won’t that hurt resale?” The answer is ‘no, you will lose some buyers, but you will gain more.’ Those people who just have to have a bathtub won’t buy your place, but the “wow factor” that your walk-in shower creates will substantially help your resale. Even those who thought they had to have a bathtub, may easily change their minds when they see your beautiful walk-in shower.

Why a walk-in shower is just better:

  1. More room in the shower generally.  The sloped walls and thick sides of most tubs make the actual floor space of a tub relatively small compared with a walk-in shower that occupies the same floor space.  With more floor space in the shower it is easier to make room for two!
  2. Tiled walk-ins can be fit into oddly shaped areas or areas too small for a tub.  If you take out your tub, you might be able to make room for a small walk-in shower and a new linen closet.
  3. They are easier and safer to get in and out of – no side wall to step over.
  4. Not as dangerous.  Cast iron, porcelain, and fiberglass tubs are slippery. Most walk-ins have tiled floors which are generally less slippery.  Look for tiles made out of materials that are known to be less slippery.
  5. They can easily be made to look great with glass doors and good tile work.  You can put glass doors on a tub, and nice tile as your tub surround, but it never looks as good as it does without the tub.
  6. Less expensive and a wider choice of great looking fixtures than the tub/shower combination fixtures.  As I noted in my last post, there is a wider choice of fixtures when the fixture doesn’t have to divert the water between the tub and the shower (tub/shower diverters).
  7. No shower curtain.  I know they make pretty ones but there is a big downside.  They are highly susceptible to mold, they don’t stay in place easily, and they just always seem to be in the way.

Tell me what you think!
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Please Don’t Make These Mistakes…

Someday, somewhere, you will probably have to do some work in your home.  If you remember just a few brief words of advice, your home will be just that much nicer for both you and anyone else who may ever live there.

Early in my real estate career, a very wise and experienced real estate professional told me that when you are doing a renovation you ought to spend as much as you can on the parts of the house you physically interact with the most. He was referring to the things you actually touch like door handles, faucets and railings. However, much to my chagrin, many builders seem to subscribe to the opposite philosophy – put in the cheapest and ugliest fixtures you can find.

My number one pet peeve here is the Symmons brand ‘shower exchanger’. This is the device that diverts the water in your tub/shower combination to either the tub or the shower. I am sure you have seen it a thousand times. If you own one, please don’t be offended. I am the proud owner of several of these in my rental properties, although I didn’t install them.

Click image for product details

It is actually fairly solid and reliable. If you are renovating a rental property and you really don’t want to have to worry about having to replace it for a long time, it might not be a crime to put it in. At about $112 for the whole set (valve and trim kit) it is inexpensive. It is also, in my humble opinion, just plain ugly. For only a little bit more (about $130 – $150) you can get a high quality Kohler fixture that looks pretty good, for example:

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and

Click image for product details

You can find these and others at http://www.faucetdirect.com/shower-valve-trim/c241

If you are only shopping for the shower valve, you can do even better for about the same money because you won’t need a tub spout and an exchanger. This leads to my next subject – the walk-in shower versus the shower/tub combination.  I am sure my opinion on this will lead to lots of controversy and contentiousness.  You will, however, have to check back in two weeks to see what all the fuss is about.

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Do You Know Your Own Boundaries?

Transit Level – Surveying Device

I am referring to your property boundaries of course! As an owner of a single or multi-family home knowing your property lines with certainty is essential in several situations.  First, you may need them to obtain a building permit if you want to build a fence, repave your driveway, put in a driveway, add an extension to your house, or build a new structure, like a garage, on your property. Second, it is also possible that when you sell your house, a prospective buyer may harbor these future ideas and want to know the true property lines before negotiating a final deal. And last, if you suspect that your neighbor’s fence or garage etc. may be encroaching on your property, a survey can protect you from a future claim of ‘adverse possession,’ where your neighbor claims he owns your property because, essentially, you never objected.

If you own a recently built or developed house, you might be lucky enough to find some surveyor pins (small metal or wood posts) near the corners of your property. If you cannot find those, you probably have a “plot plan” with your mortgage documents. These can be helpful, but be careful because they are not definitive. Your town or city zoning maps (usually available on-line), or the maps kept by your city or town’s assessor’s office (also available on-line), can also have helpful boundary information

To know your property lines with legal certainty, you need to hire a surveyor. For relatively simple projects, you can expect to pay about $1500 in the Boston area. Be aware that you cannot hire a surveyor to figure out just one property line (e.g. your driveway boundary). Once you hire a surveyor, he or she has to do the whole property.

If you have had a good experience with a surveyor please let me know, I am always interested in adding to my list of recommended professionals in real-estate related fields so I can recommend them to others!

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