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Loving Local Life: Concord

In the coming weeks, we’ll be doing a series focusing on the towns we serve and why we love them! Check back each Monday for a new town.

This week, we’ll start where we got our start! You guessed it – Concord, Massachusetts.

Whether you’re looking for an afternoon filled with history, nature, or literature, you can find it here! Minuteman National Historical Park brings history alive where the first battle of the Revolution began. The park has a rotating schedule of events, a Junior Ranger program that you can guide yourself through and earn a badge, as well as programs for parents and teachers alike.

If you’re interested in the nature aspect of Concord, the conservation land is abundant! The Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge with an entrance on Monson Road includes trails and both a wildlife observation tower and platform. Hapgood Wright Town Forest, or “Fairyland Pond,” is another option for trails and relaxation in the conservation land of Concord.

For more varied exercise in nature, the South Bridge Boat House is open for kayak and canoe rentals throughout the warmer weather.

Nature and literature collide here in many ways, as well. A local (and tourist!) favorite is Walden Pond. This gorgeous location is brought to life throughout the year with the warm and changing air, the fall colors, and the tranquil feeling that accompanies the winter months.

Many choose to continue their literature tour of Concord by paying tribute to our great authors at Author’s Ridge in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, leaving a pen in homage to their legacy. Coming full-circle, Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House welcomes visitors to appreciate the history that Concord offers in literature at the “Home of Little Women!”

Even if you’re not looking for a long tour of history, nature, or literature, Concord still has a lot to offer. The community we are a part of here welcomes small business ventures, with local favorites such as The Concord Cheese Shop, celebrating 50 years in Concord this July, and Nesting on Main for lunch and treasures to be found!

Weekend Events in Greater Boston: Memorial Day 2017

Still not sure what you’re doing this Memorial Day Weekend? The towns we serve, and Greater Boston, have a lot of opportunities for you! 

In Bedford, MA the Memorial Day Ceremony and Bedford Memorial Day Parade take place. The events are said to start at 11:15am on Monday, at the Old Burying Ground in Bedford. 

In Lincoln, MA there will be a Memorial Day Barbecue for Veterans. This will be held at Bemis Hall, 15 Bedford Road, Lincoln from 11:30am - 1pm. However, Veterans must RSVP (contact: 781.259.8811, as per the website).

In Lexington, MA the weekend starts off with the Annual Discovery Day in the Municipal Parking Lot on Muzzey Street/Waltham Street. This event will be held from 1am - 3pm, followed by a free concert by The Nowhere Men from 3:30pm - 5:30pm. The day awaits you with dancing, food, shopping, clowns, and tables from each Town Department. Free parking and Lexpress Rides will also be available throughout the day for your convenience. 

On Memorial Day, Lexington will have wreath-laying ceremonies starting at 8:45am. For a full schedule, visit the town website here

If you are looking for something further out, Boston also has various events this weekend. 

For a summer feel, the Boston Pops present Jaws in concert on Thursday and Friday evening starting at 8pm. The iconic movie will be coupled with live score for an evening to really start the warmer weather.

Throughout the weekend the Memorial Day Flag display will be on the Boston Common. 

While you are in the city, there will also be free admission to the Museum of Fine Arts on Monday, from 10am - 4:45pm.

With all of this in mind, you can plan ahead and enjoy the weekend! 

Weekend Events in Greater Boston: SoWa Open Market

Every Saturday and Sunday between April 29th and October 29th from 10am - 4pm, local vendors and artisans gather together to create the SoWa Open Market in Boston, MA. Locals and visitors alike are welcomed to the various venues along Harrison Avenue, predominantly between Paul Sullivan Way and Union Park Street. The goal? To build community and support small, local businesses. 

Visit the SoWa Arts Market at 460 Harrison Avenue to meet the artisans who set-up shop for the weekend, 75-100 at a time. Carefully curated, this event provides the perfect opportunity to select art for your home, daily life, and more. Every First Friday of the month galleries open to the public from 5pm - 9pm for a night of new culture.

The SoWa Farmers Market is located at 500 Harrison Avenue, providing the ability to do some light (or heavy) shopping in place of your weekly stop to the grocer's. 

Cap your time at the SoWa Open Market with the Food Truck Bazaar and the Beer Garden, both located at 540 Harrison Avenue. The Food Truck Bazaar hosts 10-15 of Boston's best food trucks, weekly. The Beer Garden is the first weekly, outdoor venue of it's kind in Boston, hosted by eatBoston. 

Countless restaurants, studios, and stores are open throughout the year - including the Vintage Market at 450 Harrison Avenue. Selling antiques, vintage items, and oddities, this store is open all Sundays 10am - 4pm and alongside the Open Market on Saturdays 11am - 4pm.  

The weekends of mid-spring to mid-fall allow the ability to host a variety of events, workshops, and shopping opportunities in the South End, but the festivity does not end there! This community continues various gatherings throughout the year. The Power Station, once the world's largest electric power generation plant, has been renovated and restored as a venue for events of all kinds. For more, the continually updated calendar can be found here.

"Dolly and Me" Benefit Tea Party

Many kids and adults alike can recall having tea parties with their favorite dolls and stuffed toys. On December 4th, a special tea party was held, where girls and their favorite adults brought their most cherished dolls to the Pierce House in Lincoln to attend a "Dolly and Me Tea Party" benefiting Horizons for Homeless Children ("Horizons").

The girls and their dolls decorated canvas totes, crowns, and bracelets. They feasted on mini croissant sandwiches, cookies and brownies, tea, and hot cocoa. Andrea Thodorakos of Glamorous Cupcakes and Specialty Cookies provided cookies with the American Doll logo, adding a special touch.

Those attending had the chance to receive door prizes of the 2017 American Girl Doll of the Year donated by Sofia's Angels, and Bruin's Tickets donated by Laurie Cadigan of Barrett Sotheby's International Realty.

Terese Surette and Anna Travias, Realtors® at Barrett Sotheby's International Realty, located in Bedford, Carlisle, Concord, Lexington, and Lincoln, planned and coordinated the event, with 100% of proceeds donated to Horizons.

Travias serves on the board of Sophia's Angels, a Massachusetts non-profit organization that works, "To inspire and practice kindness in ways both big and small, by helping others in need."

Surette said, "I personally volunteered at a Domestic Violence shelter with homeless children weekly for this organization [Horizons], and so it is near and dear to my heart."

The Playspace Program created by Horizons, which Surette volunteered through, is a yearlong commitment where PALs (Playspace Activity Leaders) spend two hours per week with kids 0-6 years of age. These time slots are often in conjunction with financial literacy courses, parenting classes, case management meetings, and other programming that parents need but would not otherwise be available for without the support of the PALs.

Monetary donations made to Horizons go towards programming and the necessary items to execute the scheduled and planned activities. To learn more, visit Horizons for Homeless Children online.

Local Family Spreads Holiday Cheer

Toys for Tots donationSylvester (Ziggy) Barbato grew up in Stoughton, Massachusetts, as a member of a first-generation Italian American family. One of nine children, he grew up knowing that Christmas mornings would be sparse, with no presents to open, and certainly no toys.

When he started a family of his own, he was determined to make Christmas merry for his kids. With five children to provide for, Mr. Barbato had to work multiple jobs to support his family and make sure they had toys to play with on Christmas morning. He shared his story with his children of a Christmas without the gifts, and taught them that there are always families in need "especially around the holidays."

His children heard his message and hoped to continue the same tradition and merriment that their father provided for them. Each year, the whole family gathers together to share their Christmas cheer with others. Mr. Barbato gives his children money to bring their children to the toy store where they all pick out gifts for Toys For Tots. On Christmas Day, the family shares in the happiness of knowing that kids, who otherwise may not have been able to open gifts on Christmas morning, are sharing in their joy, just as Mr. Barbato has always hoped.

As clients of Rosina Harlem, the Barbato family has donated annually to the Toys for Tots efforts at Barrett | Sotheby's International Realty, as organized by Ms. Harlem. On behalf of Barrett | Sotheby's International Realty, thank you to the Barbato family, for your generous donations.

To donate to Toys for Tots this holiday season, visit any of the five Barrett | Sotheby's International Realty locations by December, 15th, or visit Toys For Tots online.

2016 Residential Tax Rates Greater Boston Towns

The following are the 2016 tax rates for our Greater Boston communities. We are happy to provide this comparison as a real estate resource in Greater Boston for over 30 years. If you are considering a home purchase or rental in the area and would like assistance in comparing these towns on other important factors, please call us at 978-369-6453 or email us at info@barrettsothebysrealty.com. We look forward to assisting you.

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Real Life Tips for Downsizing

Once again Barrett Sotheby's International Realty will be conducting our increasingly popular seminars for downsizing. Here is an older post with some valuable information, to wet your appetite for the seminar. The sessions are held on four dates in February and you can sign up here.

Barrett Sotheby's International Realty's recent downsizing seminars were informative and inspiring -- and I'm not even planning to move any time soon. Laurie Cadigan, President of Barrett Sotheby's International Realty, offered personal anecdotes about her recent move from Concord to Boston and provided real estate expertise on planning, financing, decluttering, and staging. Marie LeBlanc, President of Transitions Liquidation Services Inc., was on hand to offer strategies for deciding what to keep and what to get rid of to help your move go smoothly.

Cadigan admitted that the whole process of deciding where to move, preparing your house for sale, and then actually making the move was "one of the hardest things I've done aside from childbirth." But she outlined the process, breaking it down into manageable steps:

  1. Where do you want to move? Downsizing means many different things to different people. People move for financial reasons, to pay for college, to simplify their lifestyle. And downsizing isn't just moving to a condo from a single-family home. Many people choose to stay in their community but elect to live in a smaller house. Once you decide on an area or neighborhood, get a feel for the housing stock and what you can get for your money. Barrett & Company offers a daily personalized email service where you can see all the new Massachusetts real estate listings that meet your specific criteria of house size, location, price, number of bedrooms, etc.
  2. Who are you bringing? Downsizing is not only for empty nesters. Cadigan and her husband are sharing their new condo with an adult child who is saving money for her own place. They also brought their Golden Retriever along. Cadigan advised, "Look into condo rules and restrictions about pets or even visitors. Some retirement communities limit the amount of time that visitors under age 55 can stay."
  3. What are your finances? It is critical to understand your finances and talk them over with a financial advisor. This is particularly true for people who may not have bought or sold a property in many years. The mortgage process has changed. For example, people remember bridge loans, which are no longer offered by banks. Some retirement communities also have requirements about the makeup of your financial portfolio.

Finding a place and financing a place are the big decisions. Then downsizers are faced with a million small decisions in order to actually make a move. Cadigan and her family faced a household made up of 30 years of accumulated stuff where every item's fate had to be decided upon. And that went for the kids' stuff too. "I applied tough love for my children," Cadigan said. Each child got to fill two plastic bins worth of possessions that she would store for them at her new condo. If they wanted to keep anything else, including furniture for future apartments or homes, they had to take it with them or pay to store it themselves.

Then she got to work staging her home for sale. "Staging is about making things look airy, clean, and neutral. A potential buyer wants to come in and imagine his or her possessions in the house, not be fixated on your decorating style," says Cadigan. Seminar attendees got to see some great before and after photos of Cadigan's home. Her before slides showed flowered wallpaper and custom draperies in the dining room. Personally, I thought it was charming but I saw her point that I wouldn't know if the person sitting next to me in the audience thought the same thing.

The after picture showed the dining room sans china cabinet, with walls painted a neutral off-white, and the windows bare but clean, with sunlight streaming in. "Believe me it broke my heart to strip down my home," said Cadigan. "No one lives like this. But that is not the point of staging. It's about stepping aside and letting the buyer imagine living there."

LeBlanc said the first thing that people who are downsizing should do is draw a floor plan of their new space. Then draw in the furniture that you think you want to bring. "People either think none of their furniture will fit or they think everything will fit,the floor plan doesn't lie," said LeBlanc. Having a real sense of what you will bring will also help when you get an estimate from the moving company.

Then it is time to sell, donate, or dispose of what you don't want to bring. LeBlanc offered great advice about disposing of trash. If you disciplined yourself to throw out two bags of trash each week for a year, you would have gotten rid of the equivalent of a 30-yard dumpster. She warned that dumpsters cost $1,800 to rent, fill and dispose of the contents. Most houses require two!

She also brought realistic expectations to people's ideas of selling their furniture. The bad news is that most furniture brings 10% of its original purchase price. For those who want to sell, she recommends consignment shops, which take 40-50% of the sale. She does not recommend Craigslist for older people because of the security risk of inviting the general public to where you live.

Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts (HGRM) in Acton was recommended as a great place to donate furniture, including mattresses and box springs in good condition. Charities that offer pickup services also are good but may not take everything. "The lesson is to plan ahead on your donations," LeBlanc said, "you don't want to have a driveway full of stuff that the charity refused to take the day before your closing."

Auction houses have become more accepting in the last few years as to what they will take into an auction. Don't put too high of a reserve on a piece. If it doesn't sell because the bidding did not make the reserve, you will be charged 10% of the reserve price and get the piece back -- and that is not the goal.

Antiques dealers want to get things for as little as they can so they can make a profit. On the other hand, by buying your piece outright, they are taking on all the costs associated with moving it, and storing it and the risk that it may never sell. If you want to sell to a dealer, invite three to bid and compare their offers.

My personal takeaway lessons from this seminar, even though I plan to stay in my home for many more years:

  • Declutter now or you will pay the piper later.
  • Furniture is not the investment that I thought it was. So I guess I won't feel so bad that my cat scratched my couch.
  • When it does come time to move, there are experts to help you. From experienced real-estate agents, to professional organizers, to financial advisors, no one has to handle this all alone.

Cadigan summed it up: "Downsizing is a massive undertaking that can feel uphill at times. But the result for many people is worth it. We love our new lifestyle. I love having only the things that really matter around me. I love having a closet with only the clothes that I really wear. Downsizing has made us feel freer and younger."

Which Kitchen Are You?

 

Upgrading your kitchen is a lot like buying a new car . . . we're not always in the market, but we're always looking.

A good kitchen can not only serve as a great tool to bring together a delicious meal, but perhaps more importantly it can bring your guests and parties to the whole next level!

Here are a few different layouts to explore for whatever type of home or lifestyle you're looking to build (or reimagine).

1) The One Wall Kitchen Motto: I like my kitchens how I like my chocolate -- hidden.

one-wall-kitchen-design

Commonly found in narrow houses, lofts and studio apartments, the one-wall kitchen is great for those of us not looking to make the kitchen the focal-point of the home. While counter-space can be a hot commodity in these layouts, the one wall kitchen can be useful for anyone looking to maintain an open floor plan and entertain as many as possible for a night in.

2) The Galley Kitchen Motto: Get the ****** out of my kitchen.

Galley-kitchen-design

This is a great layout for those of us who consider ourselves "efficient cookers." If you find yourself bouncing between oven, range, microwave etc. without missing a beat, the Galley Kitchen is perfect for you. With the two parallel walls, you can easily use both counter and appliance seemingly at the same time. One of the large downfalls however, is limited standing room and a closed off appearance. While they're great for efficiency they're not ideal for your social butterflies. The Galley is great for lone-wolf cooks who need their space.

3) The U Shape Kitchen
Motto: Feel free to look, but please keep your arms and legs outside the exhibit at all times.

U-shape-kitchen-design

The U-Shape kitchen is another single-cooker kitchen. Much like the One Wall and the Galley, it's design is suited for a cook who needs his/her own space rather than welcoming all the guests into their lair.

One downside to this layout is that depending on where you like your sink, it can be difficult to get it next to your dishwasher with the limited wall space. The nice benefit to The U-Shape, is the approachability it presents while allowing foot traffic to flow outside of the cooking area. You can move around and do your thing with a clear line in the sand. I like to call this layout The Lion's Den…hence the motto.

4) The U Shape Kitchen with Island Motto: Why don't I cook, clean and entertain . . . and you can take care of the dog.

U-shape-with-island-kitchen-design

For the social cookers who are also likely to freshen up the hors d'oeuvres selection every few minutes. This layout allows you to either put your stove on the island and use the perimeter as pure counter space, or to use the island as a seating area. Great for those chatty cooks who like to entertain while they cook and toss their guests some snacks.

5) The G Shape Kitchen Motto: I can rest when I'm dead . . . or when this party is over. I'll likely do both.

The U-Shape kitchen with a small dose of steroids, a lot like installing a turbo system on an award winning race-horse.

This layout is for those cooks who need to maximize every inch of kitchen space and entertain. Rather than having a gap in between your island and counter, this layout adjoins the two for that little bit more surface space. Very efficient and still allowing you to throw some food to the seals every once in a while.

G-shape-kitchen design
5) The L Shape Kitchen Motto: Keep going, I'm listening!

As traditional as it gets. The L-shape is good for multi-cook homes or for cooks willing to welcome guests into their domain for chatter or wine (likely the latter). The only downside to the L-shape is without the island, you will be facing away from the action while you cook/cut/drink begrudgingly by the sink.  You also lose a bit of counter space, for standing room. The L-shape is a versatile layout which will look best in your loft homes, but can easily be rocked in any style of home. But be prepared to be hovered over.

L-shape-kitchen-design.jpg
5) The L Shape Kitchen with Island Motto: Face to island: "Of course, please tell me about your son's gold medal!" Back to island: *restrained angry mumbling*

Take the L-Shape and give it a bit more accessibility, and you've got your L-Shape with Island. With the island, you're able to use a bit more counter space, and have some quicker access to the rest of the home. This layout is great for those of us cooks who want to engage with guests a bit more, while maintaining a safe-zone for any emotional escape you may need. You've got a decent amount of counter space and the ability to cook/entertain on the island. This is a good layout again for those of us who are in a multi-cook home.

L-shape-with-island-kitchen-design

Use this as a guide when choosing your next kitchen, and drop us a line for any hidden gems/tips/secrets you've found useful in your kitchen layout!

All kitchen layout images courtesy of kitchens.com, a great resource for design and product information. Check them out here: