For Home Sellers

Fall Home Staging Tips

Sold HomeThink less is more when it comes to staging your home this fall. You want buyers to focus on your home and its best features, so don’t use too many fall decorations. A couple vases of fall foliage or bowls of seasonal fruit will be enough. Here are some more tips!

Curb Appeal

Rake up leaves and patch any brown spots in the grass to entice buyers to want to look inside your home. Pressure wash the exterior and consider repainting the front door.

Warm Colors

Try adding a fresh coat of paint to your interior walls in warm neutral colors like caramel or cream. Use richer fall colors for any accent walls. Toss a couple of red or orange throw pillows on the couch.

Lighting

Open up your curtains and blinds to let in natural light. Since the fall days are shorter, add extra lamps to any dark rooms or corners to brighten them up.

Fireplace

If you have a fireplace, make sure it’s the focal point of the room. A warm and cozy fireplace is a great feature to highlight in the fall. Rearrange your furniture around the fireplace and accentuate the mantel with a few nice accessories.

If you’re thinking about selling your home in the Greater Boston area, contact Barrett Sotheby’s International Realty. We can help!

5 Home Improvements that Pay Off

Like many American’s, your biggest investment may be your home, so you want it to perform well when you put it on the market. Some home renovations can be costly, so you want to make sure the upgrades will make your home more attractive to potential buyers and give you the biggest bang for your buck. Here are some home improvements that pay off when it comes time to sell your home!

Energy Efficient UpgradesHome Improvements Kitchen

Improving your home’s energy efficiency may make a bigger difference and give you more bang for your buck than cosmetic upgrades. The number of energy efficient homes is on the rise, and many home buyers favor energy efficient homes because of potential long term savings. Think attic insulation, HVAC, water heaters, windows, and doors. These upgrades are less expensive than solar panels. It’s a great idea to provide potential buyers with copies of your utility bills to show them how much they can save.

Minor Kitchen Renovations

Renovating the kitchen is one of the key things you can do to improve your home’s value. The good news is you don’t need to do an expensive full kitchen renovation to make a big difference. Smaller things like painting your cabinets, getting new cabinet doors, or switching out cabinet hardware can make buyers happy. Upgrade your countertops and install new appliances, if needed. You don’t need to buy the most expensive appliances to make your kitchen fabulous.

Minor Bathroom Renovations

Updating your bathroom can also make a big impact on buyers. Think about regrouting tile, replacing caulk, updating the toilet, mirrors, and fixtures. These smaller projects can give your bathroom a nice facelift without breaking the bank.

Fresh PaintHome Improvements Paint & Flooring

One of the least expensive things you can do also gives you one of the best returns on investment. A nice, fresh coat of interior paint can really brighten up your home and make it shine. Color trends change over time, but it’s usually best to stay away from deep, dark colors and pure white. Always consider the impact the color will have on the buyer. Select colors that will make it easier for buyers to picture themselves living in your home.

Power wash your home’s exterior to decide if you need to freshen up the exterior paint. Sometimes power washing alone works enough magic. If your front door is older and you aren’t going to replace it, it’s a good idea to paint it!

Flooring Upgrades

Upgrading your flooring can make a huge difference and it makes your home look well maintained. Hardwood floors payoff and they are in high demand, but they are expensive to install. Replace tile and carpet if needed. At the very least, refinish your hardwood floors, wax tile areas, and get carpets professionally cleaned. If you’re on a budget, focus on the upgrading the flooring in the kitchen and living areas to get the biggest impact.

Thinking about selling your home in the Greater Boston area? Contact Barrett Sotheby's International Realty today and learn how we can help!

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."

It's Time to Prepare your Home for the Winter Ahead

As homeowners know there is always something around the house and yard that needs tending and maintenance. The fall and spring seasons are especially busy as you prepare your environment for the months ahead. I found this checklist helpful and thought you might as well.

Fall Maintenance Checklist fall-mainenance-checklistBy John Riha

You'll be ready for winter's worst and head off expensive repairs when you complete this checklist of 10 essential fall maintenance tasks.

1. Stow the mower.

If you're not familiar with fuel stabilizer, you should be. If your mower sits for months with gas in its tank, the gas will slowly deteriorate, which can damage internal engine parts. Fuel stabilizer ($10 for a 10-ounce bottle) prevents gas from degrading.

Add stabilizer to your gasoline can to keep spare gas in good condition over the winter, and top off your mower tank with stabilized gas before you put it away for the winter. Run the mower for five minutes to make sure the stabilizer reaches the carburetor.

Another lawn mower care method is to run your mower dry before stowing it

1. When the mower is cool, remove the spark plug and pour a capful of engine oil into the spark plug hole. 2. Pull the starter cord a couple of times to distribute the oil, which keeps pistons lubricated and ensures an easy start come spring. 3. Turn the mower on its side and clean out accumulated grass and gunk from the mower deck

2. Don't be a drip.

Remove garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the plumbing pipes just inside your exterior walls. If freezing temps hit, that water could freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or pipes. Make this an early fall priority so a sudden cold snap doesn't sneak up and cause damage.

Turn off any shutoff valves on water supply lines that lead to exterior faucets. That way, you'll guard against minor leaks that may let water enter the faucet.

While you're at it, drain garden hoses and store them in a shed or garage.

3. Put your sprinkler system to sleep.

Time to drain your irrigation system. Even buried irrigation lines can freeze, leading to busted pipes and broken sprinkler heads.

1. Turn off the water to the system at the main valve.

2. Shut off the automatic controller.

3. Open drain valves to remove water from the system.

4. Remove any above-ground sprinkler heads and shake the water out of them, then replace.

If you don't have drain valves, then hire an irrigation pro to blow out the systems pipes with compressed air. A pro is worth the $75 to $150 charge to make sure the job is done right, and to ensure you don't have busted pipes and sprinkler head repairs to make in the spring 4. Seal the deal.

Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk ($5 for a 12-ounce tube) and make a journey around  your home's exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive -- and most important -- of your fall maintenance jobs. You'll also seal air leaks that waste energy. Pick a nice day when temps are above 50 degrees so caulk flows easily.

Sotheby's Inaugural Designer Showhouse in New York

Sotheby's auction house in New York recently presented an inaugural Designer Showhouse exhibition. The event, which is sponsored by Sotheby's International Realty, Inc., is an innovative approach to highlighting the treasure trove of fine art, furniture and decorative arts offered each season at Sotheby's.

A select group of talented interior designers were given exclusive access to the auction house's inventory and shopped the "stacks" to select a group of objects from which six distinctive interior spaces were devised. These objects include paintings, sculptures, prints, furniture and decorative arts which range in date from the 1st century A.D. through the end of the 20th century and encompass a range of artistic and architectural styles from around the world. Here is a peek at their masterful spaces the designers created.

ryan-korban-crop

RYAN KORBAN, known for his retail design including Alexander Wang's flagship store, Balenciaga's men's and women's flagship stores and Fivestory New York; ann-pyne-crop

ANN PYNE from McMillen Inc., the oldest full service interior design and decorating firm in America;daun-curry-1-crop

DAUN CURRY from Modern Declaration, named one of Vogue's hottest new designers; os-1-crop

New York design duo CATHERINE CASTEEL OLASKY and MAXIMILIAN P. SINSTEDEN from Olasky & Sinsteden whose collective background includes time working for renowned names including Bunny Williams, Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, David Easton Inc., Charlotte Moss;

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SHALER LADD of Shaler Ladd Design Corporation who has built his business by providing exceptional service and quality to a loyal client base for which he curates interiors tailored to the distinct lifestyle and tastes of each individual; and, rush-jenkins-1-crop

RUSH JENKINS and KLAUS BAER from WRJ Design Associates, who are renowned for curating and designing exhibits for such luminaries as Mrs. Nancy Reagan and Bill Blass.

These designers were given the freedom to create any type of space and impose any type of aesthetic that he or she desired. The hope is that these spaces will demonstrate how good pieces of fine and decorative art can transcend time and space and that the dialogue between these pieces within a contemporary context not only allows the viewer an opportunity to reflect upon the pieces' historical and artistic importance, but also gives the pieces new meaning and significance in the world of today.

Making a Splash on Pinterest

The meteorologists describe a "heat wave" as "a prolonged period of excessively hot weather, which may be accompanied by high humidity". Here in New England we are in the midst of our third heat wave of the summer.

HOT HOT HOT

And whether you love the heat or hate it, nothing sounds better than a cool, refreshing dip in a soothing aquamarine-colored swimming pool. Since we can't actually give you a pool to dive into to cool off, how about taking a look at some of the stunning images we have collected on one of our favorite Pinterest boards "Making a Splash" for a little imaginative plunge.

Porches Patios and Decks on Pinterest

"'A picture is worth a thousand words.' refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image. It also aptly characterizes one of the main goals of visualization, namely making it possible to absorb large amounts of data quickly," according to Wikipedia. The phrase, in various forms, first appeared in print beginning around 1911. Over 100 years later, Pinterest has become one of the most popular social media sites and it revolves around pictures, pinned every minute by the thousands. Pinterest.com's About Us page says it is "a tool for collecting and organizing things you love." The format of "pinning" pictures to a "board" allows you to gather images online that speak to you, however you'd like to categorize them and then share those pictures and boards with your friends, both real life and online ones.

Barrett Sotheby's International Realty has a collection of Pinterest boards with a variety of titles such as "Architecture", "Kitchen Inspirations", "A Room with a View" and many more. From time to time, we will share those boards here with you and invite you to follow along with us on Pinterest to see what's been catching our eye and perhaps find some inspiration for your own home and garden. As we head into summer here in New England, there is no better place to start than with Porches, Patios and Decks. Whether screened in or wraparound, flagstone or cedar, we hope you find these outdoor spaces to be inviting, lovely to look at and worthy of a second glance.

Septic Systems: A Personal Voyage of Discovery

I recently sat in on the seminar that Barrett & Company held for its agents on septic systems and Massachusetts Title 5 requirements. Knowledge is power, and as the septic professional said, "When you are selling your house, you are also selling its septic system." The session was informative and technical but it got me thinking of all the fond memories my family has about septic systems. Yes, I am experiencing "septic nostalgia".

You Never Know When Luck will Strike My husband likes to share a thrilling story from his childhood in New Hampshire. When he was eight years old, he entered a raffle at the local hardware store and he won! Imagine the thrill of winning a store raffle as a child. To this day, he says it is the only thing that he has ever won. The problem was that he won a free bottle of bacteria. It was an additive intended to enhance the health of a home septic system. What a bitter disappointment to a small boy. Who wants to brag about winning a bottle of bacteria? The added insult was that his family's house was on town sewer. Helpful Hint:  The presenter on septic systems said that most additives are unnecessary and can even be harmful to systems. In most cases, they should be avoided.

A Surprising Environmental Impact I had never lived in a house with a septic system until we moved out of the city. The first time I was home for a septic clean out/inspection, I was a little nervous. Would it be gross? Would we fail? The man arrived and pulled off the cover that led to the septic tank. I peered nervously in and saw...a second cover about three feet below the first one. That creates a sort of buffer chamber called a riser. But before he could remove the second metal cover, we saw the yellow-spotted salamander. It was just sitting in the riser.

"Oh, those are endangered," the man said. He shook his head. "We can't harm those."

We both marveled at why the salamander had set up housekeeping in the riser. But the man needed to get the second manhole cover off to actually peer into the septic tank. So I grabbed a bucket, and we carefully put Mr. Salamander in it. "Spotty" seemed calm.

The man removed the second cover and I finally got a full view of my household waste now layered as scum, waste water, and sludge. Actually it wasn't that bad. The man pointed out some frothy stuff floating around. "See those," he said. "Those are floating islands of bacteria. That is a sign of a very healthy system. You have terrific bacteria."

He said this with such excitement that I actually puffed up with pride. No bacteria additives needed here! The words "very healthy" and "terrific" kept repeating in my brain. It was as if I had won a contest. It was the same feeling as hearing great news from a doctor. I wondered if I should call my mom to tell her. I came back to reality and decided to go inside the house while he and his crew did the real work (which my dad who grew up in western Pennsylvania quaintly referred to as "honey dipping.")

But what about the salamander? When the cleanout was complete, we put him back in the riser chamber. I hoped we did the right thing environmentally.

Four years later, when we sold our house and moved, we did our Title 5 inspection. A different company came out (just because we'd forgotten the name of the first company). The man again removed the cover to the riser, and there was the spotted salamander, alive and well -- four years later. The lesson I learned between the bacteria islands and the salamander habitat is that a well-functioning septic system is definitely a world unto itself.

Move That Furniture...By Hook or By Crook

I recently saw a TV commercial for EZ Moves® that hit home. EZ Moves® are little plastic cups that fit under furniture legs so a woman can single-handedly move an entire room of furniture on her own. A fast-action scene showed the woman gazing thoughtfully at a couch. She uses EZ Moves® to swiftly slide the couch across the room and once again places her hand under her chin for that thoughtful look. You have the sense that she is just beginning her furniture rearranging project.

"That's you!" my husband laughed.

It made sense to me, but actually buying the product would mean admitting that I spend entirely too much time pushing furniture around. Besides, it would also be admitting that I have no able-bodied person in my family willing to help me. And that is just wrong.

I've developed a few of my own maneuvers over the years to single-handedly move furniture. Some have been passed down through the female line in my family. My mother swears by blankets. You simply lift the corner of, say, a bookcase onto an old blanket and then pull the blanket so that the bookcase surfs across the room without scratching the floor.

Wall-to-wall carpeting can be your friend or foe. Sometimes the smooth, soft surface makes for easy dragging of pieces. It becomes the devil when moving anything with legs.

My personal favorite technique for shoving really heavy furniture is to sit down on the floor and push against the piece with both legs. As an added bonus, no need to go to the gym.

Often I do meet my match and wonder why I don't just draw out the new arrangement first. I become quite professional and whip out my tape measure and graph paper. I sharpen my pencil and perch in the corner of the room ready to act like a true interior designer.

I measure the couch and line up the ruler along the graph paper lines. Invariably, my rectangle representing the sofa goes crooked no matter how hard I try. I erase the pencil mark, discovering that the eraser only leaves black smudges. I throw the paper aside and go back to the fanny-and-leg push method once again. I just have to see the arrangement in real life.

There was one time I did successfully "visualize." That was when I decided that the living room needed a baby grand piano to be stylistically complete (even though no one in my family played the piano). I knew I couldn't have a piano delivered, push it around the room and then decide it looked bad. So I made a mock piano. I took a round table and piled miscellaneous chairs around it to create the approximate diameter of a big, hulking piano. I covered the whole pile with a brown tablecloth and then squinted at it for a long time. I lived with the "piano pile" for a few days and periodically stopped to stare and squint. Thankfully, my husband simply refused to acknowledge what was going on. I finally decided that a piano would look nice in that corner. When the real piano arrived, it looked great!

Now my son is old enough and kind enough to help me move stuff. Recently I got him to rearrange the entire family room. A perfect case for using graph paper since my goal was to make the ping-pong table, air hockey table, fish aquarium, huge leather sectional sofa, and a prehistoric rear-projection TV all become a harmonious arrangement worthy of being featured in Architectural Digest. After three hours of moving, shifting, and sweeping up weird stuff found under the furniture, the resulting new arrangement was hideous and I moved everything back. My skilled mother gave wise counsel: "You are trying to make this room into a cozy den. You have a cozy den already. Let the kids' room be a kids' room." I admitted defeat and forced my son to help me put everything back. At least the floors got cleaned.