Blog :: 2011

Furniture Arranging Waits for No Man

Why does the "weaker" sex have the primordial urge to move heavy furniture? I know that I love it. It is the thrill of getting instant results. It is the thrill of getting something "new" for nothing. When I am in a shopping mood, the best way to overcome the buying bug is to go home and move my existing furniture. Home stagers know there is a lot of potential in shopping your own house.

Men hate moving furniture. My husband takes it one step further, he hates to see furniture moved. So I drag stuff around on my own, and he comes home from work and has a nervous breakdown. It is as if his retreat has been invaded by a warring clan. "Did you have Betty over?" he asks suspiciously. He knows two women moving furniture get really big results.

Often the furniture-moving urge comes on when I make a small home decorating purchase. Mike groans at the sight of a Home Goods bag at the door because he knows the pillow or lamp is an accurate predictor of a coming seismic shift in the living room or den. A new table lamp doesn't just fit into a room. It becomes the room's "inspiration." The room has to live up to the new lamp so everything must be rethought and reshuffled.

Did women have time to rearrange things in the old days? Maybe they were too tired after boiling lard into soap all day. But I think they did make the time. I can imagine my great-grandmother saying in a wheedling tone, "Stosh, can you just move the potbelly stove a little to the right? It will really open up the flow of the room."

My mother tells a story of being eight months pregnant and working on her hands and knees to unroll a huge new living room rug because she was tired of waiting for my father to do it. I see that this moving proclivity runs in the family.

Coming soon: Clever ways to single-handedly move an entire room of furniture

Ranch Dressing

The ranch home has a hard time in New England, primarily because it has no connection to the region's much-cherished Colonial past. But like the rest of the country, New England has its share of post-war ranch homes. Of the over 28,000 homes currently listed for sale in Massachusetts, 17% are identified as ranch style compared to 41% identified as Colonial style. Ranch homes were built in the late 1940s to the early 1970s. The style started in California, and by 1950 nine out of 10 newly built houses were "ranch-types."

Architectural historians have made jokes like, "I'll die if they start trying to preserve ranch-style homes." Well guess what? That day is here. Ranch homes are an American architectural form, and appreciation is growing. Check out Atomic Ranch magazine to see true fan enthusiasm.

The ranches generating negative reactions are likely the tiny post-war houses that many of us grew up in. Sometimes they are derogatively called Ranch Burgers. I was raised in a 980-square-foot, three-bedroom brick ranch in Michigan. Attention current real estate agents: try proposing that housing option to a family with four children. But our ranch-type house represented normal middle-class living in the 1960s. (My parents did add on in the 1970s, but just like many additions, the extra space was added after two kids had already left for college.)

So why the passions for and against the ranch? Like every other house style, ranches have good points and bad points but much of that depends on what you are used to and whether you are a first-time homebuyer or an empty nester.

A ranch is the perfect starter home for a young couple. Imagine coming from a city apartment and having your own beautiful, mature yard and efficient space to accommodate all of your activities, including a huge basement for hobbies or entertaining.

Older homebuyers, or those with disabilities, also appreciate ranches. First-floor bedrooms are essential for many people or simply sought after for their convenience. Affordability in a mature neighborhood has wonderful appeal to first-timer buyers as well as empty nesters.

The rambler is another name for a ranch and it connotes a sprawling custom ranch. The mid-century modern lovers like our California couple house hunting in the Boston area would gobble up a rambler. Because these ranches sprawl, they usually have a large lot to go with them. Lots of glass and retro features add modern appeal.

The large ranch or rambler is appealing to discerning buyers, if they either seek mid-century design or don't respond to "traditional" architecture. Many of these buyers would say that a Colonial is boring. And going up and down stairs is just a pain.

So give the ranch its due and take a fresh look. A open, airy rambler could be the answer to a family's dream. A neighborhood of small ranches could be just the thing for the cost-conscious buyer, proving the adage, "what's old is new again."

Do You See What I See?

My 87-year-old mom is a fan of HGTV. She has always followed the real-estate market and she loves home decorating. But she is hurt by the reactions of young home buyers on HGTV who complain that a house's decor is dated. Sometimes they even guffaw or scoff at a home's yellow printed wallpaper in the kitchen or the dark wood cabinets. To my mom these TV house hunters seem callous, unimaginative, and a bit spoiled. "I've lived my whole life without a walk-in closet," she sighs. "What do these newlyweds expect?"

Now admittedly, I myself would react poorly to seeing bathroom wallpaper done in foil sprinkled with 1970s-era lady bugs. On the other hand, once the world tears out every example of 1970s foil wallpaper, mark my words you will see its comeback featured in Architectural Digest as the latest in edgy sophistication.

So here is some advice for both older sellers and to younger buyers faced with a "dated" home decor:

Advice to sellers: Remember the choices you made when you first bought your home. It was exciting to pick out the furniture or decorate the front hall. Maybe twenty years later, you still enjoy those decisions. So accept that the next family will want to personalize their home too. That is why your real estate agent says to take down the family photos or artwork that is very specific to your taste. You may even be asked to remove or paint over wallpaper to neutralize it. You may be asked to take out wall-to-wall carpeting. You may think that this stripped down version of your house lacks warmth, but it leaves room for potential buyers to visualize their personal belongings in the space.

Buyers may be forgiving of older decor but they aren't forgiving of shabby elements. It makes the home appear uncared for. Even if your kitchen is old, make sure the cabinets and drawers work properly and that there is no peeling paint or obvious staining on walls or ceilings.

A special note for original owners of mid-century modern homes: The good news is that your style of home is extremely appealing to younger home buyers. They appreciate the open, airy spaces and strong architectural design. In fact, the style is so in vogue that these new enthusiasts may expect streamlined perfection in the decor. Your family's antique platform rocker in the living room could be jarring to their vision. If you own such a home, less really is more. Don't be offended if your agent suggests removing a lot of furniture, wall decorations, and rugs. The strength of your home is its architecture.

Advice to buyers: Don't fret about what is often a cosmetic spruce up. Look at the bones of the house, not the furniture. If you hate the paint colors or the wallpaper, just rationalize the work of changing it by telling yourself that you will get to know every square inch of your new home intimately through scraping and painting. If there are pricey elements that are out of date, such as the kitchen and baths, realize that the asking price likely reflects that fact. If you hate a pink bathroom, focus on the space itself, the potential for change, and the choices you will make. And don't decide to change things too quickly. You may actually come to respect those vintage pink fixtures. What goes around, comes around.

Advice to Listing Agents: Work with your older homeowner to explain that staging helps make the home appealing to the widest variety of buyers. For example, hotel decor is generally pleasant and not too specific in taste. Then it is up to the next owner to add their personality.

Lyn Spaeth, principal of Transformations, a staging company located in Lincoln, MA, also points out an important fact: Older homeowners don't realize that their home is often first viewed on photos on the internet. If the interior looks dark or cluttered, buyers won't even make an appointment for a viewing. The goals is to sell space, light, and architectural features and the photos need to highlight those three things.

Advice to Buyer Agents: Let the buyers experience the home but don't let them get hung up on criticizing things that can be easily updated. For example, point out that a dated bathroom may have good potential to be expanded or that its copper pipes are top quality and not easily replicated today. The truth is it is a buyer's market and what they want is what they can probably get. But don't misread all the young buyers. You may find that a home that reminds them of their happy childhood is exactly what they are yearning for.

Spruce Your House Up for Spring

The Spring market is in full swing and Barrett & Company agent Melanie Zwicker is also a home seller who recently put her own house on the market. Working with buyers and knowing what they are looking for when viewing homes helped her a lot when it came to deciding what work needed to be done before the house was listed. Melanie relied on professionals she trusts and has worked with in the past to help her tackle the list of projects. In a few cases, when she needed recommendations, she asked some of her fellow Barrett & Company agents for suggestions of contractors they have built relationships with.

She had wonderful experiences with the folks who did the painting, landscaping, gardening, electrical work and flooring and shared them with me to pass along to others who are getting spruced up for Spring!

Interior Painting

The whole interior of the 1,900 square foot home, including basement and cathedral ceiling, was painted by Peg Walker from Peg's Painting 978.777.4162 (recommended by Barrett agents Laura McKenna and Jeannine Taylor). Melanie said "Peg works hard, arrives early, paints fast and efficiently and is reasonably priced. She does beautiful work and it was nice to have a woman contractor in the house in the early a.m. for the past month."

Flooring

Winn from Chambers Flooring, 617.887 2338, was recommended by Bob Champey, another Barrett agent. Winn removed and disposed of ceramic tile and carpet, installed two rooms of hardwood floors and refinished one bedroom floor. According to Melanie, "The bedroom floor looks brand new and the newly installed floors are gorgeous. Winn works hard, does what he says he is going to do and is reasonably priced. He matched the finish on the new floor perfectly to the existing flooring in two adjoining rooms. It appear seamless, like it has always been hardwood."

Electrical

Billy Hutchinson, an electrician, 978.815.7014, was also recommended by Bob Champey. He has done basic electrical work for Melanie and several of her clients over the past 6 months. Melanie finds him, "...honest, reasonably priced and knowledgeable. He is also very accessible."

Exterior Painting

The entire exterior of the home was painted last summer by George Grow, 508.222.0864, who was recommended by Ann Trudeau. Melanie says "George is the calmest, most efficient contractor I have come across. He is reasonably priced with expert painting experience, is very knowledgeable and does beautiful work. He arrived every day at 7:00 a.m., was done by 3:00 and I barely noticed that he was on the property."

Trees and Lawn Maintenance

Tom Cullinane, of Cullinane Not Just Tree & Landscape, 978.833.0787, did tree work and lawn maintenance and "has done a tremendous job on my property. He is efficient, reasonably priced and a nice polite businessman. His crew is always polite as well. Tom trimmed a few very large trees this past summer to open up the appearance of my home from the street. Does great work!"

Garden Installs & Upkeep

For installation of gardens and upkeep, Melanie says her friend Fran Callahan, 978.395.1097, "cannot be beat. Fran prides herself on organic gardening. She has installed gardens on the entire perimeter of my home over the past 5 years. She can plan, install and upkeep gardens. She works hard, is reasonably priced and is as strong as most men. She can easily spread 7 yards of mulch in a day while maintaining a garden."

Melanie admires and appreciates these contractors because "they are are good at what they do and they are honest, hard working individuals." With their help, along with staging support from the Barrett & Company Designed to Sell team, the property is well on its way to a quick closing.

Colonial Style Homes of New England

When people say that "colonial homes" are their favorite housing style, they are probably picturing a two-story structure with a center entrance and a symmetrical arrangement of windows, often fondly summed up as "five-over-four-and-a-door." In New England, colonial homes, both old and new are generally built of wood.

The towns that Barrett & Company serves have many beautiful examples of Colonial homes, and a surprising number of these are the real McCoy, dating from between 1640 and 1776. These antique homes usually have been lovingly cared for and sensitively updated over the years. They offer their owners history and a homey warmth.

Some traits of Colonial-era homes:

  • Post and beam construction -- now a current trend in modern home-building, showing that what is old is new again.
  • True divided light windows.
  • Construction around a central chimney. This huge masonry chimney runs through the middle of the house and was originally the only heat source for the upper floor. Later, to gain more interior space, early American homes had a chimney on either end of the house.

The Colonial Revival

The Boston area also has a stunning collection of Colonial Revival homes, which were extremely popular at the turn of the 20th century through the 1930s.

Colonial Revival homes:

Were inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, which honored the craftsmanship of a bygone era.  Wallace Nutting, a famed collector of early American furniture, produced hand-colored photographs of Colonial interiors, helping spread interest in the revival.

Tend to have a bigger layout and larger windows than true Colonial-era homes because of course central heating was part of the original design. Glass-walled sunrooms and formal gardens set these homes apart from their homey, utilitarian forebears.

Usually have a fine level of workmanship in the moldings and mantels, many historically accurate but sometimes "pumped up" for added drama.

Can range from houses that would be considered estates to modest Dutch Colonials (to be discussed in a future blog).

May include Arts and Crafts elements in the interior, such as an inglenook or a built-in sideboard in the dining room.

Modern Classics

New England residential architects continue to draw on Colonial design traits when building new homes. A large, 5,000 square foot "Colonial" can have game rooms, large walk-in closets, and other high-end amenities but will still rely on classic Colonial details, such as dentil molding, side panels on either side of the front door, and an overall symmetry of design.

Built for the Landscape

Colonial homes of any time period function well in the New England climate. They have simple rooflines and a maximum of usable space for the footprint of the house, making them easier to heat than more "sprawling" styles.

Congratulations Madame President

Our very own Laurie Cadigan was joined by over 200 supporters including 30 fellow Barrett and Company agents and staff, family,and colleagues at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in honor of her installation as 2011 President of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors.

This is the most recent highlight of Laurie's distinguished career in real estate. Her life is that of a true American dream where anything is possible and her beautiful acceptance speech touched everyone in the audience. Laurie inspires us everyday and we couldn't be prouder!

Laurie's story is the feature article in this month's Bay State Realtor Magazine:

The Membership Connection 12/28/2010

MAR's incoming president, Laurie Cadigan, is hard to keep up with in every sense of the phrase. She's a diligent working REALTOR® and brokerowner whose passion for the business and the association is apparent in every move she makes. She's a dedicated volunteer, almost to a fault, who wants only to work hard on behalf of the association and represent, in her view, one of the best organizations in existence today.

Cadigan doesn't favor the leadership connotation of "president" and wants the membership to understand her role as something of an avatar, one who sees through another's eyes. "I take this oath to be your ambassador," she stated at her installation. She is eager to work on the members' behalf to improve the association, the industry, and homeownership rights.

Path to Success Cadigan, "a city kid" as she calls herself, was raised in Somerville. Her parents separated when she was a child, and her initial involvement in real estate began as a young girl experiencing the trials of rental housing in the city with her mom. "We lived in eight rental apartments in ten years," she explains, "and I witnessed discrimination at its finest watching my young, single-parent mother face a mountain of rejection trying to secure a rental on her own with a young daughter."

Her dad was also a strong influence when it came to the industry and entrepreneurialism. He opened his own welding shop in their home's garage. Cadigan explained that he also remodeled and renovated three-deckers, and she spent most of her life helping him.

But Cadigan's first career moves were not in real estate. She ventured to western Massachusetts to pursue a college degree from UMass Amherst and thereafter worked in marketing in high-tech. Although her career was thriving, she decided to move in a direction that would better accommodate her then young and growing family. Cadigan and her husband, John, have three children, and when the first was born, she thought she'd try her hand at real estate on a "part-time" basis so that she could spend more time at home.

The part-time only lasted for six months, but "I loved it," she exclaims, "and we all know there's no such thing as part-time real estate!" Cadigan had moved to Concord so that she could give her family a more suburban lifestyle, and she felt that her relocation helped her business in the early days of real estate. "I wasn't afraid to travel to the neighboring towns to sell a home, and I knew the neighborhoods," she stated.

Yet, given Cadigan's drive and ambition, part-time soon became more as she took the position of loan officer for DeWolfe and grew the department from five loan officers to 30 before leaving that department. By the time her third child arrived, she was manager of the Concord DeWolfe sales office and successfully ran that office for several years.

After years of management, Laurie hoped to return to sales and a little more flexibility to accommodate the family's schedule and eventually found herself at Barrett & Company in Concord. After a few years of selling for Barrett, company owner Jane Barrett presented Laurie with "an opportunity of a lifetime," she explains. Laurie was offered a partnership at the company. "Partnering affords you the free time you need for your family while following your career goals. Jane raised four kids as well. We found we could help each other through the partnership, and we made a good team," Cadigan explains.

In 2007, Barrett transferred full ownership of the firm to Cadigan after running the business for 30 years, although she still comes to the office daily to work in real estate. "I thank my mentor and friend Jane Barrett for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to become a broker-owner of a prominent independent real estate company."

The Common Goal Cadigan believes that part of being a successful company owner is one's community involvement and industry involvement. "When I left a large company, I felt like my finger was not on the pulse of the industry and that I needed to be more involved to know what was going on." She began her community involvement in the Concord Chamber of Commerce and in the schools while her children were young.

Then, when a fellow Greater Boston Association of REALTORS® member talked about needing someone on the Finance Committee, she dove headfirst into association volunteerism. Cadigan served two terms as resident of the Greater Boston Association of REALTORS® in 2005 and 2006; was involved on several committees throughout the years; and for her tremendous volunteerism was named GBAR REALTOR® of the Year in 2007. Furthermore, Cadigan's local volunteerism and her impressive resume of involvement on the state association level earned her the MAR REALTORS® of the Year honors that same year.

Throughout Cadigan's career in real estate, she's had "a passion for elevating the image of this profession." She's made it her full-time career to be involved in the association, and as she looks to her presidency in 2011, one of her main goals is to engage more members in the organization.

A Mission to Connect Cadigan has experienced the benefits of involvement in the association and will work in 2011 to elevate member participation to a higher level. "Through my 23 years in the business," she states, "my commitment with this association at all levels has been so incredibly rewarding. All of us have the opportunity to be successful, to have our own company if we choose -- there are no glass ceilings," she says.

She strongly believes that the education, resources, and motivation that members receive from the local, state, and national associations keep REALTORS® focused, profitable, and connected. The association leadership will continue to bring new programs and services to the state association level for the members and will seek help in spreading the word on these programs through its membership.

Cadigan will extend the work she began in 2010 to gain 100% participation in the Broker Involvement Program, a system for broker-owners to alert their agents to key REALTOR® issues through NAR Calls for Action. She traveled to many broker offices last year and will continue the outreach to inform brokers on the benefits of the program. One of the key attributes of the REALTOR® association is the lobbying efforts on behalf of the industry and private property rights. REALTOR® activism is essential to the success of those lobbying efforts.

Additionally, a key initiative of the association is to relay the value of membership and to communicate what members gain as a result of their membership. Membership at all three levels of the association reaps many benefits and discounts, such as free online continuing education courses and the soonto-be-launched free electronic forms platform. Membership to the REALTOR® association is integral to successfully doing business in real estate, and the association brings members services and products that will help them succeed.

Cadigan is looking for members to help spread the word on the many attributes of REALTOR® membership and to continue supporting the main priorities of the MAR leadership. "I understand my priority," Cadigan concludes, "it has always been this association's priority, and will continue to be -- it's all about the members."