Marcie Gingle & Roberta Lerman
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Marcie & Roberta

RE/MAX 360
Marcie Gingle: 617.838.3102
Roberta Lerman: 781.983.2882

12 Atlantic Ave
Marblehead, MA 01945

These Pandemic-Related Housing and Design Trends Aren't Going Away

Written by Ana Durrani for

Home trends come and go, but social distancing and staying at home have ushered in a new way of life—and some of those changes have spurred home trends that are likely to stick around well past the COVID-19 era.

“The idea of what is necessary is changing,” says Camille Thomas, a real estate matchmaker and lifestyle expert in Jackson Hole, WY. “The home has become more than a living space.”

This means a lot of people have started to evaluate how they live in their home and what matters most to them when buying.

Here are some of the real estate and design trends people have latched on to during the pandemic that will likely have staying power for years to come.


The Great Escape

Quarantine has caused more than a few people to pack up their lives and head out of crowded cities to the suburbs (or even the country) in search of more room to breathe. One in 5 U.S. adults says they either changed their residence due to the pandemic or know someone who did, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

In fact, as people buy homes in the suburbs, housing inventories in those areas are dwindling faster than in urban areas, according to®'s September Urban vs. Suburban Growth Report.

“People are not wanting to be in a city where it feels too crowded right now,” says Suzi Dailey, a Realtor, who's with Realty One International in California's Orange County. “They are leaving cities in favor of homes with more space, a backyard, or some type of view.”

Thomas says in the mountain town of Jackson Hole she is seeing buyers come in from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Houston, and Chicago.

"Some are purchasing sight-unseen,” she adds.

Also, with more companies allowing their workforce to work from home, many people are no longer tied to a specific city for employment. Most housing experts agree that this trend of increasing preferences for suburban homes will continue.


The Zoom Room

Regular videoconferencing from home—whether you're an employee or a student—is a new reality, and it’s become increasingly common to see agents and sellers including Zoom rooms in listings as part of a home’s features. But what is a Zoom room, anyway?

Essentially it's a dedicated room or corner of your home that features an aesthetically pleasing background for your videoconference calls. Zoom rooms are free of household clutter and typically removed from the high-traffic parts of the house. And experts predict the dedicated video room trend is likely to persist for buyers beyond COVID-19.

“Buyers are looking for extra space to create workspaces for students and working parents,” says Thomas. “Three bedrooms is no longer enough. Now it must be three bedrooms and an additional workspace, at least.”


Clean and Cozy Design

Photo by ME Design Group

Interior design trends are always changing. But throughout the pandemic we've seen homeowners doing everything they can to create a cozy, simple, clean, and comfortable vibe inside their homes.

“It’s a focus on an open floor plan, lighter wall colors, and no clutter," says Dailey. Elements that capture this aesthetic are comfortable sofas, throw blankets, candles, herb gardens in the kitchen, and houseplants that make a person feel at home.

"Especially with COVID-19, you do not want a home that feels dirty. That’s why clean, simplistic decor and decluttering have become very popular," says Dailey.

And that feeling of streamlined coziness is extending to the outdoor areas of the home, too.

"Sales of space heaters, such as the tall standing heaters for porches, patios, and outdoor spaces, are already going through the roof," says Dailey.


The Backyard Premium

It's little surprise that homebound owners—or would-be owners—are focusing more on backyard spaces. Some buyers are even willing to settle on a smaller house or a house in a less desirable area in order to have a large backyard where they can spend more time in the open air.

"For some, that means moving farther outside of town for the same-size house with more land. Others are moving into small townhouses so they can purchase a small farm outside of the city," says Mary Patton of Mary Patton Design.



The Biggest Myths About Moving to the Suburbs—Busted

Written by Ana Durrani for

For generations, people have been drawn to big-city life by the irresistible lure of career opportunities, cultural riches, and the sheer excitement of rubbing shoulders with hundreds of thousands—even millions—of people doing varied and interesting things.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, and suddenly, those tiny apartments, public transportation, and crowded public spaces lost their appeal. Many city dwellers fled their densely populated confines.

According to a study by that analyzed U.S. Postal Service data, during the first six months of the pandemic, big cities lost the most people.

New York City, with the country's largest population at more than 8.5 million, experienced the highest losses. More than 110,000 residents left the city from February to July of this year.

That's 487% more than the number of people who left New York during the same period in 2019. And where did many of these people relocating set their sights? Smaller towns and suburbs.

In fact, as people snap up homes in the suburbs, housing inventories in those areas are dwindling faster than in urban areas, according to®'s September Urban vs. Suburban Growth Report.

Currently, inventory is down 34.3% year over year in urban areas, while suburban inventory has declined 41.2%.

But despite all this, city dwellers are often hesitant to leave the hustle and bustle behind. Lifelong urbanites may feel that moving to the suburbs is accepting defeat, and they may have lingering assumptions about what they'll gain—and lose—by moving from a big city to a smaller town.

“People believe moving from the city is an isolating experience where neighbors are distant, nightlife is dull, and cultural experience is lacking,” says Lisa Collins, a licensed real estate salesperson for Julia B. Fee Sotheby's International Realty in New York.

But that's not always the case. Below, we bust some of the biggest myths about buying and owning a home in the suburbs.

Myth No. 1: Real estate is less expensive in the suburbs

Historically, the average listing price of an urban home has been higher than a suburban home. But these days, don't expect to hit the suburbs for a bargain.

During the pandemic, listing prices in the suburbs have actually grown at a faster rate than in cities, according to

Currently, the median listing price of suburban properties within the 10 largest metros is growing by 5.2% year over year. In urban areas, the growth rate is only 2.4%.

That's true in Fairfield County, CT, where prices have risen an average of 33% since September 2019, according to Debbie Rehr, a licensed real estate salesperson for Compass Westport in Westport, CT.

Rehr, who lives in Weston, CT, says this area is only an hour's drive from New York City and is attracting attorneys, financiers, entrepreneurs, and other affluent professionals looking for places to live, relax, and raise children.

Myth No. 2: The suburbs are boring

Moving to the suburbs means giving up all kinds of fun activities and resigning yourself to a boring, lonely existence in the middle of nowhere, right? Wrong!

In March 2020, Wendy Silverstein left New York City with her husband for Columbia County—about 120 miles to the north, closer to Albany—to stay in their cottage on a lake. She was wary that small-town life would be too slow, too quiet, and there would be a dearth of things to do.

Instead, she was pleasantly surprised by the activities available, and she's adjusted to the different pace of life. In her time there, she says she’s discovered delicious farm stand offerings and terrific markets.

“There are lots of interesting neighbors and opportunities to meet people,” says Silverstein. “I love the quiet, and you can drive into small towns and small cities for interaction.”

Collins, who lives about 20 miles north of New York City in Larchmont, says the pandemic has brought together many neighbors who are now working from home, for a new network of socializing and support.

“Our neighbors are gifted artists, musicians, writers, and teachers,” she says. “During the pandemic, our neighborhood created an outdoor movie night so that kids can socially distance and have fun.”

Also, being in the suburbs often means you're closer to the great outdoors.

“Just outside of town, you can go apple picking in orchards and wine tasting at vineyards,” says Collins. “Skiing at a small mountain can be as close as an hour away.”

Myth No. 3: There’s no culture

Leaving the big city means you're no longer down the street (or a short subway ride from) world-famous museums, Michelin-starred restaurants, and other great cultural resources. But it turns out, the suburbs give cities a run for their money.

“I think many transplants are surprised with how much good food, wine, public schools, health and wellness, shopping—even high-end fashion—is right in town,” says Rehr.

Collins says the reality is that the suburbs north of New York City are vibrant. The towns of Larchmont, Mamaroneck, and Rye, for example, have many restaurants, shopping, kids' activities, and cultural experiences within walking distance or within a short bike ride or drive away.

“There are hiking trails nearby, outdoor music on weekends, and our local colleges and high schools have educational and cultural programs to experience,” says Collins.

Even during a pandemic, Silverstein says there is an incredible amount of culture where she lives.

“Towns nearby are becoming more and more interesting, with bookstores, food stores, and art exhibits,” she says.

Myth No. 4: The commute will be a nightmare

Those thinking of moving to the suburbs but keeping their jobs based in the city might be apprehensive about a hellish commute. It might not be as much of a slog as you'd think, though.

“Work in midtown Manhattan? In Larchmont, you can take a quick drive or walk to the train station. The Metro-North train gets you to Grand Central Station in 35 minutes,” says Collins.

There’s also faster job growth in the suburbs, so you might end up finding work closer to home. Some32% of U.S. jobs are in the suburbs of large metropolitan areas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

In addition, remote work is likely to be here to stay even after COVID-19.

A study by the research and advisory company Gartner found that 82% of business leaders say their organizations plan to let employees continue to work from home at least some of the time, while 47% plan to allow employees to do so permanently.

Your Essential Fall Maintenance Checklist: 8 Things You Really Should Do Before the First Frost

Written by Lauren Sieben for


Ah, fall: The nip of the first chill in the air. The colorful foliage. The pumpkin spice lattes. The pumpkin spice everything.

Oh yeah, and the long list of home maintenance tasks awaiting you at the start of the season.

We hate to intrude on your fall bliss, but the postsummer months are a critical time for knocking out routine home maintenance to keep your household running smoothly into winter. Luckily, many of these tasks are easy DIY projects, with options to call in the pros if you prefer.

We asked home experts which items should be at the top of your to-do list this fall. Here are the musts to tackle before the falling leaves turn to ice and snow.


1. Check windows and doors for air leaks

Lower temperatures mean higher thermostat settings, and anyone in a cold climate knows the pain of opening a gas bill in the dead of winter.

To keep cold air out and utility bills in check, Mike Bidwell, president and CEO of Neighborly, suggests checking all of your windows and doors for air leaks.

DIY: If your issues are minor, a few low-budget options to fix leaky doors and windows include caulking around gaps, adding or updating the weatherstripping, and using foam sealant.

Call in the pros: If you have major gaps or just want peace of mind that leaks are sealed properly, call an expert.

“Depending on the size of the leak and the number of leaks identified, the cost will vary from a minimum-charge service call to something more if more extensive work is called for,” Bidwell says.

Window seal repairs can run between $70 and $120—still a bargain compared with the cost of replacing an entire window or door.


2. Clean the chimney

If you have a fireplace, fall is a great time to give it a thorough cleaning and inspection, says Craig Gjelsten, vice president of Rainbow International Restoration.

Maintaining a clean fireplace is the simplest and best way to remove creosote, a byproduct of wood combustion that contains tar and toxins.

“Eliminating this from the chimney liner and the smoke box reduces the risk of a fire,” he says.

DIY: If you’ve been keeping up with cleaning your chimney on a yearly basis, you can handle this task on your own, “as long as [you] feel capable of using an extension ladder to get to the roof and scrub the chimney,” Gjelsten says.

Call in the pros: “If you haven’t cleaned the chimney in a long time, it is recommended that you call an expert to do a thorough clean,” Gjelsten says.

You can expect to spend anywhere from the low $100s to upward of $300, depending on where you live (and how fouled the chimney has become).


3. Schedule a furnace tuneup

Don’t wait until the first bitterly cold day to finally turn on your furnace. If you have any issues, you’ll want to know before the mercury drops and you find yourself shivering indoors.

“Homeowners should listen for strange noises, such as booming, clicking, and squealing, when they turn on their furnace for the fall season,” Bidwell adds. “They should also pay attention to odd odors coming from the furnace.”

If you notice anything unusual, call an HVAC professional right away.

DIY: Change your filter regularly and often.

“Every season, homeowners should replace the furnace filter,” Bidwell says. “They can also vacuum dust and debris from and around the furnace to help it operate like new.”

Call in the pros: Even if you change your filter regularly, it’s a good idea to schedule a furnace tuneup, Bidwell says.

HVAC pros can inspect and clean the air ducts, check and adjust the pilot light, lubricate the furnace bearings, and inspect and tighten fan belts and pulleys.

“The typical price for fall heating tuneups ranges from $89 to $159, but prices can vary by services needed and by region,” Bidwell says.


4. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

It’s easy to forget about smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (unless a cooking disaster sets off the alarm—we’ve all been there).

“That’s why as we approach this time of year, it’s important to test these alarms and detectors, as well as replace those that are 10 or more years old,” Gjelsten says.

DIY: This is a quick and easy project most homeowners can handle on their own. Simply press and hold down the “test” button for a few seconds on each of your detectors.

“If working properly, these detectors will emit a loud ping or siren,” Gjelsten says. “Should the sound be weak or not there at all, you should replace the batteries and test the detector once more to ensure it’s working properly.”


5. Run ceiling fans in reverse

The hot, humid days of summer are officially in the rear-view mirror (in most parts of the country, at least).

“That’s why now is the perfect time to start thinking about reversing the direction [of] fans in the home to make the space warmer,” Gjelsten says.

Reversing the direction of your ceiling fans helps circulate warm air near the ceiling back into your living space. (Heat rises, remember!) This can cut your heating costs by as much as 10%, Gjelsten says.

DIY: All you need is a ladder or stool for this task—and make sure the fan is off. Then simply flip the switch that is commonly found on the side of the motor to change the fan’s direction.


6. Winterize your sprinkler system

It’s a good idea to winterize your outdoor irrigation system to prevent damage from freezing water. This process clears leftover water from the pipes in your irrigation system.

DIY: “Due to the need for high pressure to clear water out of the lines, winterizing sprinkler systems is not a typical DIY project,” Bidwell says.

But if you’re handy and you have the right equipment—including an air compressor—it’s possible to tackle this project on your own.

Call in the pros: In warmer climates, sprinkler winterization service averages between $50 and $70, Bidwell says. In areas where temperatures dip below freezing, the process is more intensive, so you can expect to pay more—generally between $70 and $140.


7. Disconnect and empty your garden hoses

Speaking of freezing water, “a frozen hose can cause the water inside the wall to freeze and burst,” Bidwell says.

Don't let this happen to you, homeowner!

DIY: Disconnect your hose and let it drain on an angle. Once the hose is empty, coil it up and pack it away for the season.


8. Clean the gutters

Throughout the year, your gutters fill up with leaves, sticks, and other debris. Failing to clear this gunk from your gutters can mean rain and melting snow won't be able to drain easily—potentially causing seepage and leaks into your home.

DIY: If you’re comfortable climbing on a ladder to clean your gutters, this is a DIY-friendly task,

“Using a bucket, gutter scoop, and heavy-duty gloves, you can remove any debris found in your gutters,” Gjelsten says.

Use a hose to wash away any remaining debris and to make sure the downspouts are working properly.

Call in the pros: If you’re not keen on climbing, you can call in a professional. The national average cost for gutter cleaning is around $157.



Germs, Be Gone! 7 Simple Renovations To Coronavirus-Proof Your Home

Written by Lauren Sieben for

As much as we all wish we could go back to a time when social distancing was a foreign concept and masks were just something you wore with a Halloween costume, it’s clear by now that COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere. At least, not anytime soon.

One consequence of the pandemic is that our collective concern over cleanliness remains at an all-time high.

A recent survey found that 47% of Americans are pining to upgrade their bathrooms during the pandemic, and 44% want to redesign the kitchen.

The study was conducted by the New York City–based Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, and according to Adrianne Russell, its showroom manager, the kitchen and bathroom are “two rooms where a lot can be done for hygiene.”

view of hand washing under touchless faucet


Fortunately, there are lots of simple swaps and upgrades that can make your home into a sanctuary and provide peace of mind.

Here are a few ideas on how to enhance your home and reduce the transfer of germs during the era of COVID-19.

1. Install touchless faucets

This isn’t just a feature for public bathrooms anymore. Installing a touchless faucet is a quick and easy project that you can take on in your own home.

“No handles or knobs means less surfaces touched and less of a chance of cross-contamination occurring after hand-washing or handling messy foods,” Russell says.

Touchless faucets aren’t just for the bathroom: You can install one in the kitchen—or even a utility sink.

2. Switch to automatic soap dispensers

After you've upgraded to a new contact-free faucet, why not take the cleanliness to the next level?

“Since the best way to fight germs is hand-washing, homeowners may also want to consider installing sensor-operated soap dispensers,” Russell says.

“Like touchless faucets, touchless dispensers also help eliminate most surface contact during the hand-washing process,” she says.

You can opt for a sleek, commercial-grade dispenser that requires some installation, or choose a battery-operated stand-alone model if you’re on a budget.

3. Upgrade to a bidet or touchless toilet

Worried about another toilet paper shortage? Install a bidet in your bathroom. No toilet paper, no problem!

“During the pandemic, toilets with integrated bidet functionality soared in popularity,” Russell says. “They are a hygienic alternative to toilet paper, using water-jet cleaning.”

You can purchase a stand-alone bidet or a bidet toilet-seat attachment that works with your current toilet. You can also purchase a smart toilet with or without a built-in bidet.

Many smart toilets come fully equipped with digital controls, touchless flushing, and Bluetooth connectivity, plus self-cleaning features to relieve you of your toilet-scrubbing duties.

“Some options may also include special cleaning solutions, hydrophobic or hydrophilic glazes, advanced flushing technology, and specially designed rims,” Russell says.

4. Use smart lighting for touchless illumination

Think of how often you touch the light switches around your house—then think of how many germs could be lurking there.

“One of the dirtiest surfaces in a home are light switches, with homeowners having to touch them multiple times a day, every day,” Russell says.

Switching to a smart lighting system can help reduce the transmission of germs. You control the lights from your phone, and with a smart system, you can control the lighting even when you’re away. This not only helps with home security, but also cuts down on your energy costs.

5. Eliminate contact with smart door locks

Just like light switches, door locks can be a breeding ground for germs as people go in and out of the house.

Digital keypad and smart door locks (e.g., the Google Nest Smart Lock with Nest Connect) can help reduce human surface contact, Russell says. Their features often include keyless options, voice activation, and biometric identifiers.

6. Take it outside year-round with space heaters

In some parts of the country, outdoor hangouts have traditionally been limited to the summer months. But keeping your activities outside doesn’t have to be out of reach, even on cooler days—and it can help minimize the risk of transmitting the virus. The solution? Pick up an outdoor patio heater, for as little as $100.

“Heaters are great if you want to have guests on your patio,” says Suzi Dailey, a Realtor® with One Luxe by Realty One Group International. “I think heater sales are going to go through the roof.”

7. Try a sanitizing closet on for size

These days, it’s not just the Roomba that’s helping us keep our homes clean. From hands-free trash cans to refrigerators with sensors for touchless opening, tech tools and gadgets are making it easier than ever to keep our homes clean.

One product that has exploded in popularity in recent months, according to John Romito, founder and licensed real estate agent at Heart & Home Real Estate, is sanitizing closets, which use ultraviolet light to sanitize garments.

“The technology has been very popular among retail clothing stores, to minimize the spread of pathogens after people try on or return apparel,” he says. “It’s now being purchased for home use.”

You can even recruit help from robots to turn your mudroom into a disinfection station where you and your guests can thoroughly sanitize each time you enter.



During this difficult time due to Covid 19, many people have lost their jobs, have been unable to work and/or have food insecurities. We have chosen to work with My Brothers Table to try to do our part in helping. We are asking for donations for this great local organization which serves the greater Lynn area and last month served over 86,000 meals. That is triple what they normally do!

Won’t you join us in helping this wonderful organization either in food donations, money donations or to donate your time?

These are some of the items they are in need of at this time:

  • Gift cards to grocery stores, Target, Walmart, BJ’s, Costco, dollar stores, gas stations, and drug stores
  • Small individual containers of shelf stable juice & shelf stable milk
  • Individual serving packets of mayonnaise, ketchup & mustard
  • Cheese sticks (individually wrapped)
  • Salt & pepper individual packets
  • Sugar and artificial sweetener packets
  • Shelf stable fruit cups
  • Individually portioned snacks
  • Cookies, especially individually portioned packages
  • Shelf stable pudding cups
  • Meal replacement bars
  • Single serve shelf stable coffee creamers
  • Bars of soap
  • Travel size shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, toothpaste, lotion, and sunscreen
  • Women’s hygiene products
  • Toothbrushes, razors, and deodorant
  • Socks (adult sizes)

Please use the link below to learn more about how you can help and to view a complete list of items to donate.

THANK YOU - Roberta & Marcie

The Surprising Reason Why the Homeownership Rate Surged in the Middle of a Pandemic

Written by for

In the middle of a recession and the worst public health crisis in a century, the U.S. homeownership rate surged to its highest point since the Great Recession.

The homeownership rate reached 67.9% in the second quarter of 2020, according to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau. That's up from 65.3% of Americans owning their residences in the first quarter of the year and 64.1% in the second quarter of last year.

While on the surface the housing market appears to have recovered from the housing crash of more than a decade ago, the rate is a bit deceiving. The Census' data collection efforts were affected by the novel coronavirus and ensuing shutdowns.

"Part of the increase we're seeing is likely due to changes in the way the U.S. Census Bureau collected data," says® Chief Economist Danielle Hale. "The housing market is doing really well. It's likely the homeownership rose, but I don't think it's likely that it rose that much."

After a pause during stay-at-home orders, the housing market has rebounded—and then some. The lack of homes on the market hasn't discouraged the hordes of buyers from descending en masse, seeking to escape small, city apartments and cramped starter homes while taking advantage of record-low mortgage interest rates. (Rates dipped just below 3% for the first time ever earlier this month.)

"People still want to own homes, and with mortgage rates low, a lot of people are taking advantage of that even though there are lots of scary things going on in the economy," says Hale.

This has led median home prices to shoot up 9.1% year over year in the week ending July 18. That's despite a recession and the most widespread unemployment since the Great Depression. Meanwhile, the number of homes for sale is down 33% compared with the previous year, when the nation was already experiencing a housing shortage.

Homeownership also increased for all ages and races. The Black homeownership rate jumped to 47%, up from 40.6% a year earlier. However, those rates are still lower than those of other groups: About 51.4% of Hispanics, 61.4% of Asians, and 76% of whites were homeowners.

"It's not a new phenomenon that homeownership rates for Black and Hispanic Americans have lagged behind," says Hale. "We did see their homeownership rates improve, but it's not enough to close the gap."



7 Summer Maintenance Musts: Your Essential Seasonal Checklist

Written by Larissa Runkle for

Taking care of your home this season isn’t just about getting in on all those trending summer looks and beautifying the backyard. It’s also about getting all those dreaded seasonal maintenance tasks done and out of the way before cold weather arrives.

We know, we know—in the thick, sweltering heat of July it’s hard to imagine another fall and winter ahead. But knocking out your to-do list now will ensure you can space things out and still enjoy some lazy days off.

In order to help you organize your summer maintenance schedule, we’ve compiled this list with input from the experts—including details on which tasks to do yourself and which are best left to the professionals. Here are seven summer maintenance musts for you to start checking off this season.

1. Inspect your AC units

We spend so much time washing our hands and cleaning our homes, but what about the air quality? Having a clean and dust-free AC unit is an often overlooked summer maintenance must, and definitely one to take on early in the season.

“Keeping a HVAC system clean and tuned up will not only save homeowners money on their electric bill, but also allow the unit to perform at its best capacity,” says Marla Mock of Aire Serv.

At a minimum, air-conditioning condenser coils should be cleaned at least twice a year. It’s best to clean them before starting the system for the season and again when the weather starts to get hot for prolonged periods of time—that is, right now.

Call in the pros: While you might be tempted to break out your scrub brush, this job is best left to the professionals. Expect to pay $70 to $195, depending on just how much maintenance your AC unit needs.

2. Clean your outdoor cooking space

Whether you have a Big Green Egg or a gas-powered outdoor cooktop, you’ll want to plan on giving that space a scrub-down before guests start arriving for your next (socially distanced) barbecue.

“The easiest way to clean your grill and outdoor cooking space is with a pressure washer,” says Cory Paul of Pressurist. “Of course you can wipe your grill down and scrub your patio by hand, but when you're dealing with heavy grease, it's much faster to use a pressure washer to break it down and wash it away.”

DIY: Rent a pressure washer from your local Home Depot, then check out this tutorial to get started.

3. Check your deck for damage

Winter and spring can be harsh on our outdoor spaces—particularly wooden decks and surfaces. The long, bright days of summer are a good time to scope out whether they need any repairs.

“Checking whether a deck needs repair usually involves three tests: stability, rust, and rot,” says Paul.

DIY: To properly inspect your deck, Paul recommends walking up and down each board, and grabbing each post to see if anything is loose. Next, check the metal fasteners and connectors for rust.

While surface rust can be removed, you’ll want to replace anything that looks like it’s been compromised. Finally, use a screwdriver to gently poke various boards and posts. If the wood is soft and doesn't splinter, that's usually an indicator of rot—and it should be replaced.

Call in the pros: If you’re not comfortable tearing apart the deck on your own, be prepared for the cost of hiring a pro. According to Fixr, basic hardware replacements cost around $150, with jobs involving board replacements starting at about $700 and running to several thousand dollars.

4. Protect your home against pests

While bringing the outdoors in remains a popular seasonal trend, there are some parts of the outdoors that are better left outside. One of the best maintenance tasks you can do (for your sanity) this season is protecting your home from pests.

“Taking pest control into your own hands is an incredible cost-saving measure any homeowner can tackle this summer,” says Derek Gaughan, owner of Bug Lord. “All of the products are available for purchase, and with some basic safety knowledge, it's incredibly easy to do.”

DIY: If you want to save your cash and tackle pest control yourself, start by sealing up cracks, placing glue trap boards in places you find pests, and consider even getting your hands on some professional-grade pest deterrent. Still not sure where to begin? Check out our pest control guide. 

Call in the pros: Rather not be bugged with this task? (Sorry, we had to.) A one-time visit by pest control will cost you $300 to $550.

5. Dust hard-to-reach places

If you or your family have dust allergies, don’t wait till midsummer to start cleaning those hard-to-reach places we tend to neglect.

“Dust that builds up is bad for air quality and can also put extra weight on appliances, causing them to not operate properly,” says Elizabeth Dodson of HomeZada. “If your appliances don’t operate properly, then your energy bill increases.”

DIY: As long as you’re comfortable standing on your tiptoes, grab a Swiffer duster (or follow this cleaning hack) to start dusting off the ceiling fan blades, cabinet tops, and other hard-to-reach places that are gathering dust.

Call in the pros: A cleaning crew will tackle all your nooks and crannies, but expect to pay for the convenience—on average $150 to $300 an hour for walls and ceilings.

6. Deep-clean mattresses, pillows, and rugs

With all the warm, sunny days ahead, it’s the perfect time of year to give your mattresses, pillows, and even rugs the deep cleaning they need.

“Sunlight kills dust mites, so pillows, rugs, and mattresses can all be brought outside and placed in direct sunlight,” says Eugene Sokol of Plasticine House. “Just be mindful of the weather and pollen in the air so you aren’t trading one allergen for another.”

DIY: Hand- or machine-wash your pillows, vacuum those carpets, and deep-clean your mattress—then take them all outside to dry in the sun.

7. Get your landscaping under control


“Trimming and pruning plants and trees on time is very important so they don’t get out of control,” says Elle Meager of Outdoor Happens.

Trimming hedges and pruning trees regularly will guarantee you grow thick hedges (rather than tall, thin ones) and trees that produce more flowers and fruit.

And here's a pro hack for keeping your outdoor space a happy one this summer: Plant the right things like herbs that naturally repel pests and flowers that attract honey bees.

“Rue, for example, helps in repelling fleas, flies, and many other pests around the yard,” says Meager. “Plant it near compost piles, rubbish bins, and in containers near doorways. And bees are instrumental in pollinating your vegetables and fruit trees—so be sure to plant a few flowers they’re attracted to.”



6 Ergonomic Mistakes to Avoid in Your Home Office, Now That We're Working Remotely for the Long Haul

By now, you may have spent months working in a makeshift home office after the COVID-19 pandemic required many employees to take their work home and shelter in place. And even as states allow restaurants, bars, and retail stores to reopen, many employees are planning to keep working from home for the foreseeable future.

Those who may initially have expected their slapdash home office to be a short-term solution may be starting to notice some discomfort from sitting in an unsupportive chair or hunching over a laptop all day.

If you’re making any of these mistakes, you’re not alone—but you’re also not out of luck.

We asked the experts what you can do to improve your home office setup and stave off aches and pains, and here's the good news: You don’t need to invest thousands of dollars on new office furniture to give your workspace an ergonomic upgrade.

Mistake No. 1: Staying in the same spot for hours at a time

If your calendar is stacked with Zoom meetings all day, you probably aren’t moving much from your workspace.

“From a health standpoint, sitting too long, standing too long, and even walking too long are all bad,” says Ron Wiener, CEO of iMovR, a company that sells sit-stand desks, treadmill desks, and other office furniture. “What you want to do is spend 30 to 90 minutes in one mode, and not more than that.”

Use an ergonomic sit-stand workstation so you can easily switch between sitting and standing, Wiener recommends. But if you don’t have the budget or space for that kind of setup, simply getting up and moving—or switching up your work location—can help.

“It might be that you’re at your kitchen table for a period of time, then maybe you take your laptop and put it on a higher surface and stand for a little bit, then maybe you go sit in your recliner,” says Gary Allread, ergonomics program director at Ohio State University’s Spine Research Institute.

“In each of those situations, you’re positioning yourself in different ways and allowing the body to get a little bit of recovery.”

Mistake No. 2: Sitting in a crummy chair

Back at the office, your employer might provide you with a chair that has an adjustable height and lumbar support. But that folding chair you found in your basement? Probably not so supportive.

“You’ve got to be comfortable, and you’ve got to have support for your body,” Allread says.

If an expensive office chair isn’t in the budget, think about how you can work with what you already have and improve your current chair’s support.

“Take a small bath towel, roll it up, secure it, and put that in the small of your back,” Allread says.

“As you lean against the seat back, that helps reduce pressure in the lumbar spine.”

Mistake No. 3: Using only your laptop

Laptops are great for portability, but not for long-term use, Allread says. At the start of the pandemic, many people rushed into the office to grab their laptops, but didn’t think to take home all their office accessories.

“Like a lot of people, I didn’t bring my external keyboard or my monitor or my external mouse, so it really limits how you can set up your work, if you only have access to a laptop,” he says.

Leaning over your laptop can be a literal pain in the neck. If you don’t have an external monitor, try propping your laptop up on a small box to keep your neck and spine aligned in a neutral position.

If you’ll be working home for the long haul, you might want to go back to the office and pick up your workstation accessories or purchase your own external keyboard, mouse, and monitor.

On a tight budget? Prioritize the accessories that will help you do your job.

“If you’re a designer and you want to optimize accuracy, maybe you need to invest in a mouse or trackball,” Allread says. “If you do a lot of typing, maybe an external keyboard that provides support.”

Mistake No. 4: Putting your desk in front of a window

You might want some natural light in your home office, but don’t put your workstation right in front of a window: The backlighting can cause a distracting glare on your screen.

“That can reduce the contrast on your monitor and may cause you to squint more or have eye fatigue, and may cause you to lean forward because you can’t read the screen,” Allread says.

Luckily, there’s an easy (and free) fix: Rearrange your work area.

Mistake No. 5: Sitting on an exercise ball

Every office has at least one person who swears by their exercise ball chair, but sitting on an inflatable ball all day can do more harm than good, Allread says.

“The reason people use exercise balls in a gym is to try to stabilize the core and put you off balance,” he says.

“That’s great for five or 10 minutes, but you don’t want to activate your core for eight hours. That activation puts more pressure on your back.”

Save your exercise ball for the gym and opt for a chair with a back during the workday.

Mistake No. 6: Shoddy DIY solutions

You have a treadmill. You have a desk. And now, you have a bright idea: Why not make your own treadmill desk?

“A mistake people make is trying to convert an existing running treadmill [into a desk],” Wiener says.

“That will burn out. I built a treadmill desk 12 years ago, not realizing the ergonomics involved with standing and walking are very different from the ergonomics of sitting.”

In addition, “The research isn’t very good on those,” Allread says.

Treadmill desks, he says, throw you off in a number of different ways.

"Productivity goes down, errors go up, and discomfort goes up in many cases.”

However, a treadmill desk could be a good option for someone who spends most of the day on the phone rather than on the computer, Allread says.

But it’s not a good solution for everyone—and it’s not something you should attempt to DIY.

Is WFH your new normal? Ask your employer for support

“There’s been a lot of rumblings that there’s going to be people who end up working from home for a long period of time,” Allread says. “Then it’s going to call for the company to provide better equipment.”

If working from home is likely to become your new normal for months to come, ask if your company offers a subsidy or reimbursement for employees to purchase office furniture.

Wiener at iMovR says he’s noticed an uptick in customers receiving financial assistance from their employers.

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