Blog :: 2016

Dolly and Me Tea Party Benefit

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.

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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.

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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.

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."