Designed To Sell

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.

The Allure of the Amble

"I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements." Henry David Thoreau, Walking

Concord, Massachusetts is known for many things, most notably for being at the heart of the American Revolution, but there is more to the quaint New England town than just that. Concord is also home to American Bloomsbury, a group of writers, philosophers, and revolutionists; two members of which were the Fathers of the Transcendental movement of the 19th century: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

Emerson Thoreau Amble2

Both authors, spanning their writing careers, produced some of the most influential American Literature that is still studied in university courses today. In Emerson's famous essay "Nature" he proclaims "a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society" and that "When I behold a rich landscape, it is less to my purpose to recite correctly the order and superposition of the strata, than to know why all thought of multitude is lost in a tranquil sense of unity." Much like many of his essays, as with Thoreau's, the focal point lies in reconnecting the human spirit with nature. To do this, both Emerson and Thoreau would spend hours wandering the uncharted woods of Concord forging their own paths. Thanks to a recent project undertaken by the Town of Concord, the Trails Committee, the Emerson family, the Mill Brook Task Force, and many volunteers, one known path has been restored for all to enjoy.

On Friday, June 14, 2013, a grand opening was held for the newly finished Emerson-Thoreau Amble that begins at Heywood Meadow and stretches to the location where Thoreau's cabin was sited at Walden Pond. Curving and cutting through woods, wetlands, and fields, the Amble follows the same path both famous authors frequented, sometimes together, with notable points of interest along the way, including the recently refurbished Gun House, Emerson's House, and the Concord Museum, just to name a few.

Although the path has already been forged, the Amble still has a certain allure. With each step forward one is thrust backwards into the time of Emerson and Thoreau, when walking wasn't for fitness, but for leisure and a way to find oneself among nature. Keeping in mind how times have changed, how in the current epoch people have information at the tips of their fingers, this path can hopefully serve as a way for us to return to our roots. To once again, take an intrinsic act and walk, not into the future, but into oneself.

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."