Home for the Holidays


Potential home owners received the gift of (a little more) time when the Federal Reserve decided in September to keep interest rates low, but will likely enact a hike in December. Combined with the fact that it is cheaper to own than to rent in more than ¾ of the counties in the U.S., now is the time to buy.

Annual rent increases are rising at twice the rate of home listing prices, while mortgage rates remain at near record lows. (Good news for owners – home prices are rising, too!)

While home sales tend to dip dramatically in the fall and winter, this year may prove an exception given the current real estate climate. While many buyers historically wait until spring, buyers who act now will have more choices in available homes and less competition. Inventory is not expected to increase before summer of 2016 and buying now allows you to take advantage of the favorable mortgage rates that are not guaranteed into the New Year.

Consider doing more than window shopping this year. Act now while inventory is high and rates are nearing record lows. Waiting could cost up to a 50 point basis increase in rates (e.g., from 4.05% to 4.55%) which will affect both your monthly mortgage payment, as well as your ability to qualify for a loan.

If you need more reason to get moving on, well, moving, check out my blog from a few months ago about some attractive tax breaks for home owners, many of which are set to expire at the end of this year.

Do you plan on buying or selling before the year is up?




Powder Room Panache


The bathroom may not be the first room you think of when you consider design and décor, but it is one of the most often utilized places in your home – whether family, neighbor, or guest. Consider adding some personal touches to your bathroom and make a statement with it.


One of the first things to consider when decorating your bathroom is the color. From wall colors to decorative elements like curtains, linens, and wallpaper, you will have plenty of options to add your personal touch.

Because bathrooms are often small spaces, many homeowners choose to feature light colors in their bathroom decor, as these tend to expand a space, whereas darker colors can make a space feel cozier. White is a great choice because it keeps the look simple and clean. Light beiges, yellows and blues can all be great choices for a light and bright bathroom decor. Think about the atmosphere you want to create and choose colors that will achieve that goal.



Bathroom hardware is another big choice that will make a big difference. The styles of your sinks and faucets say something about you. There are so many types and styles to choose from but, like your outdoor hardware, don’t mix and match styles. Stick with one theme and make it work. The bathroom hardware also needs to be functional, so make sure to address safety considerations, especially if there are children or anyone with special needs in your home.

Keep it simple

A minimalist approach to decorating the bathroom is often wise, especially if the room is small. Decorating a bathroom can be challenging because the room is so small and its purpose so specific. A few items of decoration and a splash of color here and there can help make a room look bigger. It can also maintain the sense of tranquility that most people desire in their bathroom decor.

You may want to decorate the bathroom to reflect the same style as the rest of the home – making sure that your bathroom reflects your sense of style is important. Both house members and guests will notice and enjoy the bathroom more if it looks attractive and well thought out.

Lighten up

Lighting can go a long way towards creating the appearance of more space in a small bathroom. Decorative lighting can be strategically deployed to open up the bathroom, with the sink and shower areas illuminated specifically with task lights, and space over and below cabinets decoratively illuminated to create height and depth in the space.


Go green

Bring the outside in! Incorporating greenery into your bathroom design can be a great decorative option and serve as a natural air purifier. Plants can be featured on windowsills or shelving, and collections of rocks or driftwood can add to a natural decor theme.  If you don’t have a green thumb, don’t worry. Artificial plants create the same aesthetic feel.


It will take a bit of work and time, but decorating your bathroom is a worthwhile endeavor. Most importantly – make it your own!

What do you do to make your bathroom a decorative hit?

Beat the Winter Blues Before they Begin

Winter sad

As we turn the clocks back on summer and the days become shorter, darker, and colder, even the most cheerful among us can get a little down. The gloom caused by Mother Nature each winter is biologically felt to some degree by an estimated one in four of us -usually starting around October and ending by April with the spring thaw.

While those of us lucky enough to live in the Valley are enjoying 70 degree weather, winter is still on its way. Before we are in its throws, I thought I would share some scientifically-proven ways to prevent the winter blues before they begin!

winter happy

Make your environment brighter

When daylight is in short supply, just 30 minutes of light therapy per day can be as effective as antidepressant medication. Look for ‘light boxes’ or ‘winter’ light bulbs at any big box store or online. Open blinds and curtains, trim shrubs and tree branches, and sit closer to windows to get as much sunshine as possible.

Eat smarter

Certain foods, like chocolate, can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety. Though especially tempting in cold weather, foods like candy and carbohydrates provide temporary feelings of euphoria, but could ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression. 

Simulate dawn

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that usually begins in late fall or early winter and fades as the weather improves. Studies show that a dawn simulator, a device that causes the lights in your bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed.


We all know that regular exercise is good for bodies as well as our minds, but it is more important than ever during the winter months. Exercising under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression: One recent study found that exercise under bright light improved general mental health, social functioning, depressive symptoms, and vitality, while exercise in ordinary light improved vitality only.

winter exercise

Crank up the cheerful tunes

In a 2013 study, researchers showed that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improved participant’s mood in both the short and long term.

Plan a vacation

Research shows that the simple act of planning a vacation causes a significant increase in overall happiness. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you like, just plan something that involves the outdoors and lots of sunlight.

Help others

Volunteer your time to help others. In addition to being a wonderful way to give back, it is also proven to improve mental health and overall life satisfaction.  A true win-win!

winter heart

Get outside

While not always easy or evening enticing with frigid temperatures and ice on the ground, getting outside and moving has big benefits – it can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels. 

How do you keep your spirits up during the winter months?

Forget the Pro – Do it Yourself!


Last week we talked about when to call in a pro to help with home repair projects. This week I am featuring some DIY home repair and maintenance projects for pesky problems that you can handle yourself. Some of these have surprisingly simple, and sometimes unusual, solutions.

Listless Toilet

If your toilet seems to be flushing with less oomph than normal, don’t automatically assume it is the water pressure. Ninety percent of the time the problem is that the holes under the rim are clogged with calcium and sediment. Get a small brush with stiff bristles and clean them out. The flushing power of the toilet will improved significantly.

Gross Grout

If you want to replace the grout, you have two options: Dig it out by hand or use a grout-removal attachment on a rotary tool. Let’s go with the latter. Allow a strong grim cleaner (Formula 409 also works just fine) to soak in for several hours, not just a few minutes. Grab a small brush (a toothbrush with firm bristles works well) and vigorously scrub. Your bathroom will look so much cleaner!

Torn Vinyl

Use a silicone-base seam sealer to fill the tear and wipe off the excess with a dry cloth. Or try this easy fix: If it’s a no-wax floor and the tear is small, take a bar of soap and rub it sideways along the cut until it is filled. Unless you soak the vinyl in water and use a brush to scrub, the soap will stay in place during routine cleaning.

Broken Tile

This handy DIY project can make a dramatic difference in your bathroom or kitchen. Remove the grout around the tile with a grout saw (available for less than $5 at paint hardware stores). If a tile has already started to chip, continue to break off little pieces and remove the entire damaged tile. If not, make a hole in the center with a masonry drill, which will break the tile, and remove the pieces from the center outward. Glue the new tile in place with an adhesive such as Liquid Nails, then apply fresh grout around the edges

Woodwork Scratches

Hardware stores sell a number of scratch fillers that look like brown pencils or crayons. Find the shade that most closely matches your cabinet and rub it into the scratch. Hide marks in furniture, trim, and floors using Minwax markers (about $5 each, in nine colors; at hardware stores). They provide pinpoint stain application

You can hide a damaged finish on antique furniture or any fine woodwork by applying a coat of pigmented wax, such as Briwax, or a pigmented polishing fluid, also known as scratch cover, which will make fine scratches barely noticeable.

Frozen Icemaker

Remove the ice bin and find the tray where the water freezes into ice cubes. Open the tray and look for a little piece of plastic pipe where the water flows into the ice-cube tray. The end of that pipe can freeze up. You can thaw it out by aiming a hair dryer at the pipe. It should thaw within five minutes.

Drippy Faucet

First things first – stop the flow of water to the faucet by turning off the stop valves under the sink. If it’s an old faucet, remove the handle by unscrewing it. (The screw may be hidden under a plastic piece that you can flip off with a pocketknife.) Once the handle is off, remove the chrome cylinder underneath, then remove the nut that holds the stem in place. Pull out the stem and replace the washer. New faucets have “seats” that serve the same purpose as a washer, but you need to buy one that’s specifically for the brand and model of your faucet. Disassemble the faucet and take it to a hardware or plumbing store if you need help identifying the model.

Bumpy Plaster Walls

Brush on a matte paint rather than the usual eggshell. The ultra-flat sheen helps hide imperfections in the surface; any amount of glossiness reflects light and highlights unevenness.

Unclog a Sink

The surest solution is to remove the P-trap, flush out the clog, and reinstall the trap. You can also try clearing the clog from above. Just unscrew the ball-and-socket connection that holds the assembly together in the back of the sink, slide out the rod, and remove the pop-up stopper. The offending glob—or at least enough of it to get the drain flowing again—is likely to come out on the end of the stopper. Clean it off, replace and hand-tighten the its ball-and-socket nut.

Quiet a Bathroom Fan

That noisy vent fan may just be the rattle of a loose cover. For a simple fix, remove the cover and bend the spring-loaded attachment brackets slightly so that they grip a little tighter against the ceiling. While you’re at it, switch off the circuit breaker and vacuum the unit’s insides to quiet the fan blades and take the strain off the motor.

Wobbly Toilet

First, check the closet bolts holding the bowl to the floor. If they’re loose, hand-tighten them, then give an additional quarter-turn with a wrench. If they’re already tight, steady the toilet by slipping some plastic plumbers’ shims into the gap where the bowl meets the floor. You’ll find these useful wedges in plumbing-supply stores, as well as home improvement stores.

Loose Laminate Countertop

Use a heat gun, or even a hair dryer, to gently heat the laminate and soften the old glue underneath. Whack it with a rubber mallet or a hammer cushioned by a block of wood. Weigh it down for about an hour with a stack of heavy blocks while the laminate cools and readheres to the substrate.

Weak Showerhead Flow

Your showerhead could be clogged with mineral deposits. Gently unscrew it from the pipe and soak it overnight in vinegar. (If you don’t have that much time, a 50-50 mixture of hot water and CLR, a powerful calcium dissolver, will do the job in a few minutes.) Then wrap new Teflon tape clockwise around the pipe threads and turn the head back into place.

What handy DIY techniques do you use to keep your home in tip-top shape?

Do it Yourself or Hire a Professional?


Upgrading and maintaining homes ourselves can be a very satisfying undertaking – appealing to our America roots of self-reliance. Many home improvement and maintenance jobs are easy Do-It-Yourself projects; others, not so much. Below are a few projects that I would suggest you turn over to a professional.


For extensive wall repairs caused by structural or water damage, call a pro. You may have to demolish the existing wall, replace or repair framing, then install new drywall. It’s usually a two-person job, and requires a professional.


Consider hiring a professional to install and finish hardwood flooring. Pre-finished flooring doesn’t require sanding and staining, but lining up planks perfectly to baseboards is a task best left to pros.


For any job that requires direct contact with electricity — such as rewiring, adding power to places where there was none, or installing chandeliers or other heavy fixtures — call a licensed and bonded electrician.


Special skills and tools are required for moving or installing plumbing pipes and fixtures. Other jobs for a plumber to handle include frozen/broken pipes, replacing or removing your tub or shower, and replacing a water heater.


For big tiling jobs on the walls or floors, hire someone. Laying out, spacing and attaching tile to floors and walls is harder than it looks, especially when cutting tiles to fit small or unusual spaces.


Hire a professional to fabricate and install stone, composite, stainless steel, and wood counters. This is exacting and heavy work. One error can ruin the counter and cost you a lot of money.

Tree Removal

While it may seem like a good DIY project to take a chainsaw to a tree, there are many factors to consider for safe removal. For example, trees can come down on roofs, fences or power lines. There is also the possibility that you or your pets can get hurt by fallen limbs. Tree removal is an extensive process that includes culling branches and stump removal. It’s best to hire a local tree service rather than trying to axe it on your own.

Roof Repair

Besides the fact that working on top of a roof is both difficult and dangerous, it can also be detrimental to your home’s structure if you don’t know the proper way to install or repair roofing.

Stay tuned for my next blog about home improvement projects that are truly (and safely) DIY-worthy.

“Every morning I wake up…with a blank canvas and endless possibilities.”


Beyond being an amazing artist and public speaker, Erik Wahl is a renowned philanthropist and an encouraging example that though our lives don’t always stay the course we envision, we may just end up better off than we ever imagined.

“I spent a full decade in that traditional corporate job that never came close to fulfilling my passions,” said Wahl. “But through a series of life-changing events including losing my job, losing all my money, and losing my carefully manufactured ego, I realized I was now left with my final option: to dig deep and rediscover that exciting, innovative person I always knew lived inside me.”

After graduating from University of San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in business, Wahl became a partner at a corporate firm. When he lost his lucrative job of eight years in the dot.com bubble of the early 2000’s, Wahl took the opportunity to change his focus to art. He took what could have easily been a devastating career blow and used his talents to inspire untold numbers of people.

An acknowledged success, Wahl began working as a motivational speaker and graffiti artist rather than returning to the corporate world. After a few years of painting and selling his work to buyers, Wahl decided instead to donate his paintings to benefit charities. His art is done for public speaking conferences and charitable events where they are auctioned off.

In 2012, Wahl painted a portrait of Marilyn Monroe in three minutes at a graffiti art auction in front of an audience. His painting was bought by Pink and her husband Carey Hart for $10,000. The proceeds were donated to Linda’s Voice, a non-profit that raises awareness for ending domestic abuse globally.Similarly, Wahl presented at the Influence Affair event thrown by Ian Somerhalder in 2012 for environmental awareness.

In May 2013, he donated his painting of Lady Liberty in a live auction to benefit One Fund Boston, an organization founded by Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Tom Menino for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

At the launch event of his book in West Hollywood in 2013, he created a painting of Albert Einstein in front of the audience. The painting was auctioned at Charitybuzz and the proceeds of the painting were donated to After-School All-Stars. In 2014, Wahl donated three paintings to the Miracle-Ear Foundation and raised $21,000.

As a public speaker, Wahl has performed his speed-art presentation called “The Art of Vision” for audiences including schools and universities, conferences, and large companies. He has consulted with many of America’s top corporations such as Fedex, Microsoft, and Disney, as well as guest lectured for the Department of Defense and London’s School of Business. His acclaimed and sought-after artwork has raised over a million dollars for charity and can be seen hanging prominently in executive offices all over the world.

What inspires you?

wahl 3


A Little Prevention Can Go a Long Way this Fall


Fall is the perfect time to take care of the little things around your home that can make a big difference. Take advantage of the temperate weather to repair any damages before the first frost hits. Here are some tips that will keep your home in good running condition throughout the winter.


Check foundation for cracks and caulk around the areas where masonry meets siding, where pipes or wires enter the house, and around the windows and door frames to prevent heat from escaping. Openings in the structure can cause water to get in and freeze, resulting in cracks and mold build up. A careful check of the outside structure combined with inexpensive maintenance can save you money in the long run.


Inspect exterior walls to see if any paint is peeling or blistering on the house or outbuildings. Peeling or chipping paint is a sign that the existing paint film is no longer protecting the siding of the building. Left uncorrected, the siding itself will deteriorate, leading to expensive repairs in the future.


Make sure the roof is in good shape. Inspect for missing and loose shingles. Ice, rain, snow and wind combined with rapidly changing temperatures and humidity wreak havoc on roofs. Inspect your roof from top to bottom, using binoculars if necessary. Check ridge shingles for cracks and wind damage. Look for damage to metal flashing in valleys and around vents and chimneys. Scan the entire roof for missing, curled, or damaged shingles. Look in your gutters for large accumulations of granules, a sign that your roof is losing its coating; expect problems soon.


After leaves have fallen, clean out the gutters and downspouts, flush them with water, inspect joints, and tighten brackets if necessary. Replace old or damaged gutters with new ones that have built-in leaf guards. Clogged gutters can lead to damaged exterior surfaces and to water in your basement. They are also more prone to rust and corrosion.


Weather-strip your garage door. Make sure the seal between your garage door and the ground is tight to prevent drafts. Inspect your driveway for cracks. Clean out and repair any damage with driveway filler, then coat with a commercial sealer.



Heating and cooling amount to 47% of the energy costs in your home. Proper sealing and insulation can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs, or up to 10% on your total annual energy bill. Air leaks from windows and doors are easy to find by moving your hand around the frame. Applying weather-stripping and caulk to these areas will help cut down on drafts. Gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can account for a 10% of your heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Have your heating system checked by a licensed heating contractor. Heating systems will use fuel more efficiently, last longer, and have fewer problems if properly serviced. 

Check basement windows for drafts, loose frames or cracked panes.

Change the direction of your ceiling fan to create an upward draft that redistributes warm air from the ceiling.


A clogged chimney is a fire hazard. Get your woodstove and fireplace in working order. Clean and inspect the glass door for cracks and have the chimney cleaned by a licensed chimney sweep. Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue; a chimney cap can prevent this from happening.

Test the batteries in your smoke and carbon dioxide detectors and keep extra household batteries on hand. Replace the batteries in each smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector, then vacuum them with a soft brush attachment. Test the detectors by pressing the test button or holding a smoke source (like a blown-out candle) near the unit. If you haven’t already, install a smoke detector on every floor of your home, including the basement.


Vacuum internal parts of air conditioners. Remove units from windows or wrap outside box with an approved tarp or plastic air conditioner cover in order to prevent rusting of vital parts.  

Clean humidifiers regularly during the heating season. Bacteria and spores can develop in a dirty water tank resulting in unclean moisture misting out into your room.


Pile of fall leaves with fan rake on lawn

Clear leaves from lawn, reseed patchy areas, and plant spring flowering bulbs. If deer are a problem, start deer-proofing by covering plants with netting and chicken wire.  Fertilize your lawn with a high phosphorous mix to ensure healthy grass in the spring.

Prepare your yard equipment for storage. This includes draining fuel from all gas-operated equipment such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and chain saws. Drain garden hoses and store them inside.

Inspect and fill bird feeders. Keep in mind that once you start feeding birds you should continue on a regular basis throughout the winter months.


Check the supports, stairs, and railings on porches and decks. Make sure the handrails can support someone slipping on snow or ice. Cover and store outdoor furniture and barbecues in a protected area.

Make sure all soil is emptied from pots and planters. Dirt left in clay pots will freeze and cause the pots to crack if left outside

Please share your tips for winter preparation!