Homeowner Tips

3 Tips on Downsizing in Retirement

House in Greater BostonAre you planning on downsizing your home for retirement? If so, you may some mixed feelings about it. Moving into a smaller home can be an exciting and emotional process. Here are a few tips to make things a little easier.

1. Stay positive. Look forward to all of the good things to come! You’ll be improving your lifestyle and your finances. You won’t have as much home maintenance or housework to do and your utility bills will be lower. You’ll have more time to enjoy the things you want to do, places you want to go, and people you want to see.   

2. Plan ahead. Take the time to carefully assess how much downsizing you really need to do. Visualize your new home, the floor plan, and the amount of space in it. Consider your budget, healthcare needs, and location. Where do you really want to live? Closer to attractions, amenities, family, friends, or all of the above? Planning ahead will make the transition easier for you and your loved ones.

3. Don’t rush. If you try to declutter or get rid of things too quickly, it can be overwhelming. Take your time and go through your home room by room and separate the items you want to keep. If there are things you haven’t worn or used for years, do you really need to keep them? Are you going to have room for these things in your new home? Now, it’s time to purge everything else. You can give the remaining things to family, friends, or charity, have a yard sale, or throw away.

If you would like to learn more about real estate opportunities in the Greater Boston area, contact Barrett Sotheby’s International Realty. We can help you find the right property for your needs.

New Year's Resolutions for Any Home!

Whether you’re looking to enjoy the home you’re in or invest in a new one, these New Year’s resolutions for your home are a great way to start the New Year!

Minimize the Clutter

  • Start your year off by giving everything in your home a place to live. Designate space and stick to it! If it does not have a home, evaluate if it’s really needed in your house and proceed accordingly!
  • Label when necessary. This is especially helpful for kids once you set a designated area for each item. Shoes? We know where those go! Jackets? They’re in the coat closet. Laundry? You get the idea.
  • While shopping in bulk may often be a time and money saver, if you don’t have the space for the item, save the peace of mind and keep only what you need on hand.

Maintain the Clean

  • Spend 15 minutes each day speed cleaning! Take a break from social media or spend your commercial breaks wiping down the counters.
  • Set daily, weekly, and monthly rules for yourself and others in your home. Daily tasks might include filling the dishwasher right after eating or wiping down the bathroom counter. Weekly rules might include vacuuming the carpets and changing the linens, while monthly cleaning might include checking the pantry for expired items.

Maximize the Safety

  • Sometimes a New Year’s resolution doesn’t have to be an overarching goal. Making a to do list of all the items that have been piled up and making a goal to complete them all over the next year is a great resolution to set! This can span from fixing the squeaky hinges in your home to more safety-oriented things like cleaning out the vents and ducts behind your dryer.
  • If you’re planning a renovation of any kind, be sure to do research into what new safety measures may apply to the job. For instance, adding ventilation to your bathrooms and attic can help prevent mold spores from developing.
  • Doing a check for radon and confirming the carbon monoxide and fire detectors are working are also great things to do at the turn of the year for added safety.

Invest in Expertise

  • If these tasks sound overwhelming, it’s always a great idea to invest in professionals to help you complete your goals.
  • Looking to keep a squeaky-clean house? Invest in cleaning services.
  • Adding, expanding, or repairing your home? Not everything needs to be DIY, so reach out to a professional.
  • Looking to sell your home or buy a new one? We might be able to help with that!

Hungry for Inspiration and Insight? Recipes for any dietary restriction or preference this holiday!

There are so many things to look forward to throughout the last few months of the year. Holidays galore, time with friends and family, and often tremendous meals to gather around.

For some, these meals pose difficulty as they navigate traditions that do not match their eating habits. You may find yourself in this situation, or on the other end cooking for diets you do not have much experience with. No matter if it's a dietary restriction for health, religious reasons, or simply a lifestyle you (or your guests) adhere to, accommodating everyone around the holiday table is an important element to plan for and can really make your house feel like home.

We've asked our agents' what their favorites for the holidays are and sprinkled in a few links to resources that might help you plan your meals!

For those following a low-fiber or low-residue diet, Anna Travias has a beautiful go-to meal that will leave your taste buds wanting more and your stomach happy as can be. Travias says, “My holiday tried and true favorite is lemon-garlic roasted leg of lamb with potatoes, a genuine Greek salad which (shocker) contains no lettuce, and tzatziki dipping sauce.”

After hearing about the meal Travias offers, we looked into additional gastro-friendly Thanksgiving sides.

Laura McKenna offers vegetarian and vegan options at her holidays. McKenna shared, "My husband makes a simple black beans and rice with salsa on the side for our vegetarian guests. It's real yummy, and the meat eaters gravitate to it as well!" 

Plant-based options are a great addition to any meal, as well. Not only do they offer choices for your guests who may want them, but they also often accommodate many other health-related diets as well. Martha Stewart has a whole plan for Vegan Thanksgiving, with lots of sides, and Minimalist Baker has some great "mains" that won't leave you asking where the Turkey is! 

For desert, Sheena Santos has a go-to, "an amazing chocolate torte that is gluten free but everyone (gluten free or not) loves."

For those who need (or want!) to eat gluten free, these options are simple and sound delicious, too.

Of course, these suggestions are not an exhaustive list. There are many other restrictions your guests may have in their diets. When it comes down to it, the real ingredients for the holidays are understanding, compassion, and openness to discuss what others may need and enjoy! 

Autumn Holiday Decor Tips

Decorating as the weather gets cooler is all about seeping in the warmth that remains. New colors emerge, nature presents new elements for us to enjoy, the warmth of our friends and family become even more prevalent, and a throw blanket always helps too! Here are the trends we’re observing this autumn that might help bring some festivity to your daily life.

Elements from Nature

As the leaves change colors, we often get the urge to change things, too. Think warm red, orange, and brown around your home. If you’re not DIY inclined, these are easy to incorporate in accent features.  

Looking forward to Thanksgiving, pulling natural elements into your dining room table brings the feel of autumn directly to you. Acorns, pinecones, and even scattered branches can draw a rustic element into your décor. Just be sure to do your research first and preserve your materials so you don’t also add some pests to your home!

Pumpkins

When it comes to fall, pumpkins are everywhere! We can’t emphasize their influence enough… glass pumpkins, painted pumpkins, pumpkins covered in fabric or washi tape, natural pumpkins, the list goes on in the décor category. Not only is this a simple add in to your space, but it also leaves opportunity for you to engage in the creation of your aesthetic. As a bonus for those who like to mix it up each year, if you purchase the right kind, these decorative pieces are even compostable!

Farmhouse

Taking a note from the farmhouse style dried stalks, hay, and wreathes are a great addition to fall decorations that bring the outdoors in yet again. Antiques and rustic pieces are great swaps for daily use or as accent pieces and provide a nice day trip to second hand, consignment, and antique shops to discover your own personal style. Incorporate some marigolds and mums and you’re ready for a fall festival in your own home!

A local favorite for décor and gifts in Concord, MA, called Nestings is featured in the image above.

For more, visit our Fall Decorations board on Pinterest.

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!

Five Quick Back to School Tips

Back to school is a time full of excitement and anticipation! As with any new season, there is also a lot of adjustment. Here are some quick tips to make your back to school season a breeze. 

Create a Homework Caddy

We’re all familiar with the idea of a cut-out space designated for homework and task completion. For those with kids who like to mix it up, a homework caddy provides the perfect middle ground. The materials are the same, but the location can change to add new focus and light to the subject matter. Fill a basket with this year’s requirements and get to work!

Plan Go-To Lunches

We know it’s great to mix it up but having some go-to lunches to pack in a snap helps on those days when time seems to get away from us! Healthy non-perishables that can be quickly added to your reusable containers are perfect. Humus, crackers, cut up veggies, some boiled eggs, and grab-and-go fruit are all quick and easy solutions, too.

Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

Life gets busy fast! To make sure everyone is on the same page, work together and plan how you’ll keep a schedule maintained. There are so many solutions to get this done that you’re sure to find one that works for you, from online calendars, to white boards, to good old physical calendars, there’s a planner for us all.

Take Care of You

Setting a small ritual for yourself can help get each day off to a great start. Quick face mask? Walk the dog before the kids get up? Even a short breathing exercise if you have a couple of minutes can help ease tension and re-focus for the day ahead.

Outsource

When things pile up and you need a second set of hands, you can always outsource! There are automated systems for so much, delivery for everything under the sun, sitters for your kids and pets, and professionals for maintenance and advice on your home.

No matter the task, you’ve got this back to school season covered!

Bringing Your Interests Home: Finding the Right Space is Key

Heading for the home stretch of summer can mean a lot of things, but it should never mean the end of the fun! For car aficionados the summer and fall months are golden, filled with car events all over.

This coming weekend alone there are Chevelle and El Caminos to see in Westford, the Sons of Italy Car Show in Wilmington, the New Marlborough Classic Car Show, the Whitinsville Cars in The Park, and the Road Devils Boston Massacre in East Bridgewater!

When you’re looking to bring your interests home however, finding the right space is key.

If you or a loved one are a tinkerer or a well-skilled craftsman, you are surely aware that not all hobbies are odorless or quiet. That’s where the builder of 15 Charles Street, Bedford, MA one of our recently listed new construction properties, says his garage stands out from the competition. In fact, he highlights this as a selling-point for the garages he built there, “For the car community, a big advantage is having the garage detached from the house.”

For the car community, a big advantage is having the garage detached from the house.

The garage at 15 Charles Street not only allows for car enthusiasts to enjoy their interests, but also provide space that could be used for snowmobiles, boats, or tools for tradesmen. Ample loft space allows for storage of additional tools and items that are necessary for winter or summer hobbies such as skis, snowboards, beach gear, and more. The epoxy floor allows durability for all types of work, and the heated office space just off the garage adds an opportunity for tranquility when the problem just won’t be fixed!

To search all of our listings with garage space click here. For more details on this weekend’s events click here.

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!

Tips for a Brighter Winter

Settled in New England, we are no strangers to the winter months! As autumn begins and fades, so do the hours of light that we experience. While there are countless things to look forward to in the winter, there are also symptoms of fatigue and dreariness that many Massachusetts natives, and transplants, experience.

We can enjoy the crisp air, apple cider, snow days, added exercise, layered clothing, and holidays, but when the excitement settles, some New England residents are left feeling less than joyous about the season change.

This leaves us to wonder… how do we combat the wintertime blues? With the end of daylight saving, we thought we’d look into some ways to brighten our days.

Along with the recommend daily exercise, time outdoors (even in the snow and cold!), and maintaining your typical routine, there are also things you can do in your home to bring more light and energy in the darker months.

Of course, if you’re experiencing more than just a bit of wintertime dreariness, you may also want to seek a doctor’s professional opinion. But, if you’re just looking to brighten up your home, or try some natural remedies first, look no further! We’ve broken down our tips into three main categories. You will find one main theme: visual and sensory cues.

 

Windows:

  • Clean your windows.
    • This task may even have the added bonus of an upper-body work-out depending on how many windows you have. Once you’ve finished, you’ll feel like you’ve achieved something and your home will be full of bright, uplifting light.
  • Remove the mesh screens. This added layer obstructs the view to the outside.
  • Maximize the daylight in your home, especially in the morning, by opening the blinds.
  • Make the windows of a room the focal point during the winter months.
  • While we’re on the topic of blinds, change out your heavy drapes with light colored window treatments.
    • By mounting treatments outside of the window frame, you can also create a visual cue that the windows are larger. As a bonus, when open, this will allow for the maximum amount of sunlight to come through.
  • Trim any shrubbery near the windows that would obstruct your view of the daylight. This is another chore that will add some exercise and an outdoor experience.
  • Open the windows.
    • It may seem counter-intuitive in the colder months, but even twenty minutes of fresh air and sunlight in your home can do wonders for your moods. Not to mention the fresh feeling and renewed scent your space will have once they’re closed.

 

Interior Design:

  • Remove dark rugs and textiles.
  • Add bright, light, and textured designs to your floor coverings, slips, and pillows.
  • Add reflective surfaces to your home.
    • Even a simple statement mirror can add a tremendous amount of light when placed mindfully.
  • Add full-spectrum or daylight toned bulbs to your home.
  • Light boxes, dawn simulators, and circadian rhythm simulators are all added light elements, as well – but you may want to discuss with a doctor if this is a good choice, first.
  • Add new pieces to your home.
    • Even small changes like one added piece of art, or a few bright photos, can add excitement to a space. This is especially helpful to make your home feel new, and get you excited to spend some quality time there.
  • Plants! Adding natural elements to your home helps to bring the outside in, adding natural air filtration, another indoor task, and a nurturing sensibility during months where self-care is especially important.
  • Aromatherapy is another added piece of interior design that we often overlook.
    • Having a signature scent for your home is something lots of designers recommend, but adding natural essential oils like lavender for calming, or orange for invigorating the senses, to your home can help various ailments. 

Schedule:

  • Maintain your typical routine.
    • See the people you normally would. Participate in a winter activity that you enjoy, or find a new one to try, adding enthusiasm to the time of year.
  • Make your bed daily.
    • This indicates your day is starting and you’re ready for what is ahead. The simple shift, if not already implemented, helps to prepare you for a good day.
  • Exercise.
    • Walking outside helps to get you light, air, and endorphins. If you are able, hiking also brings you into a new atmosphere that is said to help brighten your moods, as well.

 

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."