Tips For Homeowners

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Emerson-Thoreau Amble 2

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.

Amble1

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.

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.

Barrett SIR Staff Attend Orientation

Orientation

Recently Barrett Sotheby's International Realty Owner and CEO Laurie Cadigan and staff members Linda Fabrizio, Administrator; Diane Gilson, Advertising Director; and Sue Leone, Office Manager participated in an orientation conference held for companies that have recently joined the Sotheby's International Realty® network of residential real estate brokerages.

Philip White, President and CEO, Sotheby's International Realty Affiliates LLC said, "Our luxury network helps connect the finest independent real estate companies to the most prestigious clientele in the world. Our orientation program helps our network's brokers effectively use the exclusive line of Sotheby's International Realty products to better serve their clients' needs."

The orientation conference included business meetings in Short Hills, NJ, highlighting the exclusive Sotheby's International Realty marketing, advertising and referral services that are designed to attract well-qualified buyers to Barrett SIR's property listings. In addition, a networking event at the Sotheby's Auction House in New York City emphasized the unique ability to refer real estate clientele to the auction house for appraisal services for jewelry, art, antique furniture and collectibles.

"Our visit to the Sotheby's Auction House and Real Estate Center in Manhattan highlighted the opportunity we have to target our marketing to a coveted audience worldwide," said Laurie Cadigan.

Summer in New England on Pinterest

Just about impossible to believe that August is almost over. And for many folks Labor Day signals the unofficial end of summer, although the seasons don't officially change until the autumnal equinox on September 22. Since we're not ready to give up summer, we're sharing one of our favorite Pinterest boards "Summer in New England". As our description of that board says, "Summer in and around Greater Boston and the New England region may be fleeting and sometimes fickle. But that's why folks pack so much in to those few glorious months."

Minuteman Bikeway: Bedford to Cambridge

Fall is almost officially upon us with the month of September ushering in familiar crisp and cool mornings and the school year in full swing. And with this we all come to the realization that NOW is the time to get out and enjoy the last few warm afternoons that are left. Living in the Greater Boston area, there are lots of places and great activities to do just that. One such activity, suitable for all, is the Minuteman Bikeway.

Minuteman Bikeway

Stretching from Bedford to Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Minuteman Bikeway, named the 6th best urban bike path in the U.S. by USA Today, makes for the perfect afternoon getaway, whether it's a quick walk or bike ride or traveling the full 10 miles from end-to-end, there's plenty to see and do on the way. One great stop is the center of Historic Lexington. With numerous shops and restaurants, it can prove to be a great stop for lunch or a just quick snack or to walk around and take in the historic sites.

Another great spot to stop and take a quick break or to have a nice picnic is Arlington's Great Meadow. Located right off the path, with multiple entry points, the views and wildlife offer a serene and calm setting. From the meadow, it's only a few miles to Arlington Center, which is located right near the corner of Mystic Avenue and Mass Ave. From shops to restaurants to the Arlington Center for the Arts, there is plenty to do.

Arlingtons Great Meadow

From there, the last stretch of the bike trail leads into Cambridge's Alewife Station. However, before getting to Alewife there is another small park just after heading out of the center of Arlington. Spy Pond Park is yet another place to stop for a little rest with a fantastic view. Overlooking Spy Pond, onlookers can sit on a park bench and just watch the breaking waves juxtaposed with the fast paced traffic on Route 2 off in the distance. Once getting into Alewife Station, one can either turn back and head whence they came or continue their travel into the city of Boston either by the "T" or another bike trail. Either way, even a small trip on the bike trail can make for a great day.