The What, Why & How of Home Staging

 

The What, Why & How of Home Staging-2

If you’ve ever watched a show on HGTV you are probably familiar with the term “staging.” On Flip or Flop, where they gut and redo a home, they always bring in stagers to add furniture and decorative accents.  On Fixer Upper, Joanna always works well into the night (or so they have us believe), getting the home ready for the owners.  She is the one with the “eye” and the decorative sense, and she really excels when it comes to the staging of the home at the end.  Similarly, Hillary on Love It or List It and Drew & Jonathan Scott of Property Brothers, stage their properties after their respective makeovers.  The staging is what really makes viewers “ooh and ah” over the transformation.  But as we all know, HGTV isn’t real life, and staging, while essential for TV, costs money, sometimes lots of it. So, if you are a seller, should you consider having your home staged?  Does it pay off?  Are there different levels of staging?  The answer to all of these questions, is yes!  Yes, you should consider staging your home, because yes, it does pay off, but yes, there are different degrees of staging, and it doesn’t have to break the bank.

While on the TV shows, roomfuls of furniture are brought in, for most home sellers my recommendations involve what I would call “editing” and “decorative staging.”   In some cases, “room updates” might be warranted, where wallpaper is removed, bathroom fixtures are replaced, or kitchen updates are made.  And on occasion we might redo a complete room.  Let’s discuss what I mean by each of these.

Editing

Unless your home looks like it is ready for a photo shoot for a decorating magazine (from 2017, not 1979), I think every home can benefit from “editing.”  This is where a good real estate agent can begin to bring you value.  While most people have heard they should remove all personal photos (I think in moderation it is okay to leave them), removing furniture and decorative items can also go a long way, and be far more important than the personal photos.  Removing furniture can make a room appear more spacious and removing decorative items can reduce some of the “noise.”  Art can be a very personal thing, but unless it is neutral and complimentary to the room, it can be a distraction.  And sometimes people just have too much “art.”  You may be an avid reader, but bookshelves shouldn’t be cram-packed with dog-eared paperbacks.  Live plants should be limited in scope and limited to those that are healthy and thriving.  Kitchen and bathroom counters should be as clear as possible.  I know it may be convenient to have your coffee maker, toaster oven, blender, paper towels, knife block, etc all on the kitchen counter, but when you are selling your home, less is definitely more.  Be open to listening to your real estate agents suggestions ~ it’s not a personal affront to your decorating style, they are just trying to make your home show at it’s best.  In the photos that follow, I will highlight some of the changes I have made to a recent listing of mine.  I am fortunate in that my client has been very open to changes, and has been very happy with what I have done.

In an example of editing, this home has a beautiful front-to-back room with great light. This room started off with a piano, in addition to what you see in the before photo.  The seller had the piano removed, then I later removed some of the furniture and the large rug, which covered up the hardwood floors (which were in great condition).

Before:

Living room 2

And after:

004-DSC_3489January10

In another example, I had a large cabinet and artificial plant removed that was in the kitchen area (to the left in the first photo), and replaced it with a small bench (which came from the living room…and you will see that light-colored rug in an upcoming photo, also moved to a different room).

Before:

007-DSC_5216Oct11B

After:

Kitchen

Decorative Staging

Full-on staging is generally used for homes that are empty.  Furniture in a space actually makes it appear bigger (although too much furniture can make it look smaller).  But most homes don’t need a room to be emptied and completely redone.  What can make a difference, is what I call “decorative staging.”  This involves bringing in some decorative elements to help a space appear more cohesive or updated.  Here is an example of a bedroom where we did both editing and some staging.  We removed the black rug, the desk/chair the upholstered chair and the lamp (editing).  We then moved a light-colored rug (from the photo above) and a lamp from another room of the house into this room.  I replaced the decorative pillows with one from Home Goods, added a coordinating throw at the foot of the bed and a few decorative items on the nightstand (which the seller painted white).  Very low-cost, and I think the room shows as more spacious and up-to-date.

Before:

017-DSC_5246Oct11B

After:

Bedroom #2

In the master bathroom, I simply did some staging of the tub area, including the shelves.  While this bath may need a more extensive update, what I wanted to do was draw attention to the fact that it could be a very relaxing space.  Many homes in this particular area have small master baths with only a shower.  This bathroom actually has a shower (to the right, unseen in the photo) and a tub, so why not play it up?

Before:

020-DSC_5255Oct11B

And after:

Master bath

Room Updates

This step is a bit more involved, and often involves kitchen and bathrooms.  In this house, the shared bath had a very small vanity.  Not only was it not very wide, it was unusually low.  It generated a lot of comments, not in a good way.  So I had the vanity replaced.  As part of this redo, I also had the storage piece above the toilet removed to create a feeling of more space (thank you to my colleague, Ruth, for the suggestion).  I painted the walls (yes, really) a lighter, more neutral color, and then did some staging with decorative prints and new towels.

Before:

019-DSC_5252Oct11B.jpg

And after:

Full Bath

While in this house the kitchen was already beautifully updated, sometimes it can pay off to add stainless steel appliances to a kitchen (especially if the appliances are a mix of finishes) or even change out countertops.  In a recent listing in our office they took out a dated backsplash, changed out the countertops from Corian to a black honed granite, added some stainless appliances and had a butcher block island refinished.  The home sold instantly.

Full Room Makeover

While generally the desired improvements can be accomplished by editing and decorative staging, in some cases it may make sense to makeover an entire room.  In this house we had a small fourth bedroom that had big, heavy furniture in it.  I had all of the furniture removed, and brought in a cute bed, chair (not in the photo) and a neutral rug.  From our trusty Home Goods I sourced a nightstand, lamp and a couple of small prints.

Before:

015-DSC_5240Oct11B

After:

010-DSC_3516January10

When it comes to getting your home ready for the market, a good real estate agent should make suggestions that will help maximize the selling price of your home.  Some of these tips cost nothing, and some may involve some level of investment (although some agents, myself included, have a stash of decorative items and furniture that can be used free-of-charge).  My suggestion to you is to listen and to be receptive.  It is not a critique of your home.  An agent is only trying to make your home appeal to the greatest number of buyers, which in the end, will help you to sell faster and at a higher price!

If you have any questions about buying or selling a home, if you are interested in learning what your home is worth, or if you have any questions about real estate in general, please give me a call (508-308-4436), send me an email (Lvandore@LandmarkNE.com) or send me a message via Facebook.  I would love to help you!

Interested in real estate and the local real estate market?  Click HERE to sign up for my monthly real estate newsletter, a round-up of relevant real estate news and current local market analysis.  Unsubscribe at any time, and rest assured that I will never share your email information.

 

Posted in Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Happening in the Local Real Estate Market ~ February, 2017

Local Real Estate Market Stats

Generally we saw fewer homes sales in February as compared to January (click here for January reports).  Much of this can be attributed to two factors, the first simply being that February is a shorter month (3 days can make a difference).  The second (probably more significant) factor is due to the time it takes to close a real estate transaction (generally 45-60 days).  Over the Christmas/ New Year’s holiday not much happens in real estate.  Transactions that go under agreement before the holidays will generally close in January.  But that 2-3 week period at the end of December/ beginning of January will impact the number of home closings we see in February.  Think of February as a month where the slowness of the holidays comes to an end and we turn the corner and start to see the spring market.

With only a few exceptions, February saw an uptick in the number of homes listed for sale (as of month end).  Wellesley and Dover each saw a 19%+ increase in active listings compared to January, and Medfield saw an almost 35% increase.  Other towns saw more modest increases (Sherborn at 10.5% and Natick at 7%), while Walpole and Norfolk saw no change in the number of active listings.  Holliston was the only town in our sample that saw a decrease (6.7%) in listings over January, although Middlesex County also experienced a 3% decline in listings.  Norfolk County, on the other hand, saw a 5% increase in listings.  For more information about inventory levels, see my blog post from last week, Buyers Face Fewer Choices.

Certainly there are more indications that mortgage interest rates will rise, which should drive (even more) buyers into the market.  Let’s hope we see more sellers realize what a great time it is to sell, and add their homes to the offerings!

5

7

3

1

saturday

8

10

2

6

9

If you have any questions about buying or selling a home, if you are interested in learning what your home is worth, or if you have any questions about real estate in general, please give me a call (508-308-4436), send me an email (Lvandore@LandmarkNE.com) or send me a message via Facebook.  I would love to help you!

Interested in real estate and the local real estate market?  Click HERE to sign up for my monthly real estate newsletter, a round-up of relevant real estate news and current local market analysis.  Unsubscribe at any time, and rest assured that I will never share your email information.

 

Posted in Real Estate | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Buyers Face Fewer Choices

Buyers Face Fewer Choices

An article from Realtor.com came out recently titled “New Reality?  Buyers Face Fewer Choices.”  In the article they note that the US has seen an overall decline of 7% in homes listed for sale.  Of course, not all markets are the same…looking at the US as a whole is a pretty big-picture view, and the article points out that some markets (such as Las Vegas, Houston and San Antonio) are actually seeing much greater inventory levels (as a real estate agent, I wish we had that problem).

I put together some stats for the local Boston real estate market, to see how it compares to what the country is seeing overall.  In general we too are seeing fewer homes listed for sale, with many markets seeing double-digit percentage decreases in inventory over this time last year.  Median prices are less consistent…generally as inventory levels fall, prices would go up, and while we are seeing that for Greater Boston overall, along with both Middlesex and Norfolk counties, this is not so consistent for the individual towns listed below.  Here are some specific stats for your review.

Change in # of Listings Change in Median List Price
Greater Boston * 15.9% decrease 8.6% increase
Middlesex County 21.5% decrease 7.3% increase
    Holliston 14.6% decrease 11% increase
    Natick 18% decrease 8% decrease
    Sherborn 25.7% decrease 7.2% increase
Norfolk County 11.3% decrease 5.5% increase
    Dedham 20% decrease 4.2% decrease
    Dover 5.8% decrease 30% increase
    Medfield 24% decrease no change
    Needham 32.3% decrease 1% decrease
    Norfolk 2.6% decrease 3% decrease
    Walpole 28.6% decrease 16% increase
    Wellesley 12.6% increase 4% decrease
    Westwood 8% decrease 7.2% increase
* Greater Boston includes Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth & Suffolk counties
All stats are as of March 6, 2017 as compared to March 6, 2016, per MLS Pinergy.

Inventory levels are lower as compared to last year in every location in the chart above, with the exception of Wellesley, which has seen quite the opposite, with a 12.5% increase in inventory.  And while Greater Boston, Middlesex and Norfolk counties overall have seen healthy median price increases, more than half the towns listed saw a decrease in median listing price (with Medfield seeing no change).  Despite the low inventory levels, maybe there is only so much increase in listing price that the market can take.

tulips-757144__340

The spring market is starting to heat up.  A relatively mild winter (lack of snow on the ground) encourages  more people to get out looking (and hopefully more people ready to list their homes).  In the past week alone, of the eleven towns listed above, seven saw net increases in inventory levels (the exceptions being Medfield, which was unchanged, and Walpole, Norfolk and Dedham, which saw a net decrease).  Sherborn saw 7 net new listings (from 19 to 26), Holliston saw 6 net new listings (from 29 to 35) and Wellesley saw 9 new listings (from 98 to 107).  This is good news for buyers.

abode-987096__340If you are thinking of selling, it really could not be a better time to list.  With interest rates beginning to creep up, more buyers are entering the market, ready to pull the trigger.  Couple that with low inventory levels, and sellers are in the driver’s seat.  Read my post, 7 Tips for Home Sellers to help make sure you are ready.  For buyers, I recommend that you get your pre-approval in hand and read my post, 6 Tips for Home Buyers.  If I can be of service to any one in the sale of their home or in their search for a new home, please give me a call (508-308-4436), send me an email (Lvandore@LandmarkNE.com) or send me a message via Facebook.  I would love to help you!

Interested in real estate and the local real estate market?  Click HERE to sign up for my monthly real estate newsletter, a round-up of relevant real estate news and current local market analysis.  Unsubscribe at any time, and rest assured that I will never share your email information.

Posted in Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

7 Tips For Home Sellers

7-tips-for-home-sellers

In many parts of the country it is a seller’s market…certainly in the greater Boston area we are seeing more buyers than there is inventory.  Some towns are particularly frenzied with multiple offers, properties selling before hitting MLS and homes selling above asking price.  But no matter what kind of market you are facing, if you are a seller, you always want your home to show at it’s best and spend as little time on the market as possible.  To that end, here are seven tips if you are thinking of putting your house up for sale.

1.  DECLUTTER!!

living-room-457793__340You are going to be moving, hopefully sooner rather than later…you might as well start the weeding out and packing up before you put your house up for sale.  When I sold my house several years ago I had been living there for 11 years…it is amazing the amount of stuff I had accumulated in the basement, attics & closets (bikes with training wheels despite one child in college and one in high school).  

  • Take the time to clean out before listing your house…buyers will open closets…if they are crammed with your stuff, buyers will not think “wow, look how much stuff I can pack in here!” but instead will see the closet as small and an indication of the house lacking in storage space.   To the extent possible, try to remove half of the contents of your closets.  
  • Don’t forget to clean out attics, basements & garages.  People want to know if they can fit both of their cars in the garage, and even if the basement is unfinished, buyers need to be able to move around freely in it.  
  • As you go through your house think about what you are going to take with you and what you plan to get rid of…anything in the latter category should be removed from the house before listing it (if you are in the general area of Walpole, MA, consider donating any household items in good condition to New Life HR…they will come pick up your furniture and take it away…click here to see what they take and don’t take).  Pack up some of the things going with you that you will not have an immediate need of…remove these things to a storage locker if possible.  Alternatively, store neatly in a basement or attic space (preferably boxed up).  
  • Decluttering also means removing unnecessary knickknacks, reducing or eliminating personal photos and clearing off countertops…ideally I like to see nothing on kitchen and bathroom counters (you aren’t selling reality here).   

2.  Clean, Clean…and then Clean Again!

Before listing your house it needs a thorough cleaning…this goes beyond the everyday cleaning.  Wipe down baseboards & window sills, wipe down switch plates, and clean grout in kitchens and bathrooms.  

  • Cleaning includes cleaning carpets…it is amazing how much better an old worn out carpet can look with a good professional cleaning.  In my previous home the living room and guest bedroom had carpet that had been in the home when I purchased it 11 years ago (and it wasn’t new then).  I had it professionally cleaned, and it really made a difference.   washing-windows-394158_960_720
  • Have windows professionally cleaned inside and out.  Another one I have personal experience with…when I sold my house my real estate agent wanted me to have the windows cleaned…they didn’t look that bad to me and I resisted her a bit.  Finally I gave in…and could not believe the difference…the windows literally sparkled and the house seemed brighter…spend the money and have them cleaned!  [Note…I now work for that agent!]
  • To the extent possible, erase evidence of pets.  You love your pets (I LOVE my dog), but people looking to buy your house don’t.  Keep the home free of pet hair and place litter boxes in inconspicuous places (keep them clean and make sure your yard is clear of pet waste).  

3.  Make Small Repairs and Updates

If there are small things that you are aware of that need repair, take care of them now, before listing your house.  

  • Replace broken or missing outlet covers, replace burnt out light bulbs, make sure all closet doors are on track, have leaky faucets fixed, and replace any broken or cracked windows.  Buyers tend to overestimate the cost of repairs by 2-4 times the actual cost, so it is worth spending the money upfront to fix things.   
  • Have old wallpaper removed and give the walls a good coat of a neutral paint color wallpaper-416046__340(one of my favorites is Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore).  While wallpaper is making a bit of a comeback, your wallpaper from 1990 isn’t really going to cut it.  Consider fresh paint in any room with an unusual color or if the room just looks tired…honestly, fresh paint can transform a room and it is something you can tackle yourself in a weekend.  If you have wood trim, you may want to paint it white...this is a bigger project, and I would hire a painter to do this one…but it is what buyers want today, and it can make a house look fresh and updated (there are a few exceptions to this, depending on the style of your home…consult with your real estate agent).  
  • Undertake small projects that have little cost but can update the house…easy things include replacing outdated light fixtures and changing cabinet hardware in kitchens and baths, projects that most people can tackle as DIY.  

4.  Make a Strong First Impression

Potential buyers will begin forming an impression of your house from the moment they pull up to the curb.  

exterior-2046781__340

  • If bushes are overgrown, the yard isn’t neat and the house looks tired or unwelcoming they may not even come inside.  Make sure the grass is mowed, bushes are trimmed (bushes should not be blocking windows), beds are mulched and the yard is picked up and neat.  
  • Consider adding some flower pots in front, a seasonal wreath to the door and putting out a fresh welcome mat. Consider painting the front door a fresh new color to give the house some pop.
  • In winter, make sure driveways and sidewalks are clear and free of ice.  
  • Consider giving the house a power wash if it appears dirty.

5.  Accept Staging Advice

Staging doesn’t have to mean bringing in all new furniture and making your home look like it stepped out of a magazine…generally it is much more simple (and cheaper) than that.  A good real estate agent can either help you with this, or may provide a third party who can come in and assist in making your home show it’s best.

  • A lot of what staging is about is removal...removal of too much furniture, removal of carpets and rugs that hide beautiful floors, and removal of heavy window treatments.  I know those were custom window coverings that cost you an arm and a leg…but they are often specific to your decor, may be outdated and definitely block sunlight.  the-white-house-81469__340Staging is also about making your home less personal.  You do not need to remove all of your family photographs, but you may need to remove some.  Artwork or other decor that isn’t neutral in style may best be removed.  Some things are very personal in taste, and you don’t want buyers responding negatively to your home because they cannot see past the decor.  
  • Staging can involve rearranging furniture and bringing in some accent pieces…don’t take it personally.  The purpose is to make your home appeal to the greatest number of buyers, it is not a critique of your decorating style.  

6.  Work With a Real Estate Agent

img_4311

Yes, I am biased, but working with an agent gives you many benefits.  

  • 90% of home buyers start their search on the internet.  A good agent will have professional photos taken of your house (which look much better than anything you can take with your iPhone), may add video and drone photography and may even set up a website specifically for your home.  
  • Your home will be listed on MLS (multiple listing service) which will give you access to the greatest number of buyers (MLS feeds to Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia, etc).  
  • An agent will walk you through the entire home-selling process, making sure you understand things like radon and lead paint testing, passing Title V (for private septic in Massachusetts), and what you are required to disclose to buyers.
  • Having an agent show your home removes you from the showings, which is a good thing.  It allows a buyer to feel comfortable opening closets and asking questions.  A good agent will be able to meet a potential buyer’s schedule to see the house, whatever time of day or day of the week.  
  • Most importantly, a good agent will help you price the house accurately.  Sellers often overestimate the value of their home…pricing too high will discourage potential buyers in those critical first weeks when your home attracts the most attention.   A real estate agent will also work on your behalf to negotiate the best price and help you sort out multiple offers if you are so fortunate (the highest price may not always be the best offer).

7.  Have an Exit Strategy

Having your house on the market is not fun.  You will need to keep it picked up at all times, as you never know when a potential buyer is going to want to see it.  While you will often have a day’s notice, you can just as likely get a call that a buyer would like to see your home in a half hour.  You DO NOT want to turn away showing requests.  

  • One strategy that can help is to take a laundry basket and walk through the house throwing everything into it that needs picking up/putting away…kid and pet toys, clothing, mail and piles of paper on the counter top, etc.  Throw the laundry basket in the back of your car, along with the kids and any pets, and leave the house during the showing.  laundry-basket-282426_960_720
  • Before leaving also turn on all lights ~ your agent can also do this if they are doing accompanied showings (as opposed to a lockbox).   Open up all shades and drapes (unless, of course, you removed those drape, like recommended above!)…you want your house to look as light as possible.

My final piece of advice is this…when your house is on the market, you need to think like a seller, not a homeowner.  To the degree possible you need to detach yourself from the house and do whatever is needed to make it appeal to as many buyers as possible.  Do not take comments and criticisms personally.  Discuss every offer with your agent and don’t dismiss any reasonable offer.  If you are motivated to sell, your house can sell quickly.  Good luck!  (If you are a buyer, see my post 6 Tips For Home Buyers.)

If you have any questions about buying or selling a home, if you are interested in learning what your home is worth, or if you have any questions about real estate in general, please give me a call (508-308-4436), send me an email (Lvandore@LandmarkNE.com) or send me a message via Facebook.  I would love to help you!

Interested in real estate and the local real estate market?  Click HERE to sign up for my monthly real estate newsletter, a round-up of relevant real estate news and current local market analysis.  Unsubscribe at any time, and rest assured that I will never share your email information.

 

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Local Market Stats, January, 2017

January is typically a slow month for real estate.   People are coming up for air after the holidays, and the early part of the month generally sees low activity.  By late January, in a market such as ours (with low inventory), things start to pick up.   In February and March we typically see more homes come on the market, with April and May being peak “spring market.”

Locally we are seeing very low inventory levels.  Despite strong prices, sellers are not flocking to list their homes (note the selling price compared to listing price ratio…especially Holliston!).  This has been going on for several years.  As you look at the reports below, notice the number of homes on the market, compared to the number of homes sold and pending.  In many markets (not all, Dover & Wellesley being the exceptions…we are seeing a lot of the very high end homes sitting on the market in these towns) we see inventory levels that represent about a month’s worth of  activity (sales + pending).  Anything under 5-6 months of inventory is considered a seller’s market…so right now there is no question, the market is in the seller’s favor!

Here are the relevant market statistics for January, 2017 for Dover, Medfield, Norfolk, Walpole, Wellesley and Norfolk Country, along with Holliston, Natick, Sherborn and Middlesex County (scroll down, in order listed above).  Note that this represents only one month’s worth of data, so for a town like Sherborn, with only 2 sales in January, it is less relevant than towns with more transactions.  Each month these reports will be cumulative (YTD or quarterly reports) and the data will become more useful.  If you have any questions about the data, questions about the market in general, or if you are interested in discussing buying or selling a home, email me (Lvandore@LandmarkNE.com), call me (508-308-4436) or send me a message via Facebook messenger.  I am always happy to talk to you!

dover-january

medfield-january

norfolk-january

walpole-january

wellesley-january

norfolk-cty-jan

holliston-january

natick-january

sherborn-january

middlesex-january

Interested in real estate and the local real estate market?  Click HERE to sign up for my monthly real estate newsletter, a round-up of relevant real estate news and current local market analysis.  Unsubscribe at any time, and rest assured that I will never share your email information.

Posted in Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Favorite Places to Walk My Dog in Walpole & Medfield

fullsizeoutput_5a5One of the things I always used to like to do when my kids were little was to go to a park.  From the tiny neighborhood park we visited before they could even walk (in the greater Chicago area), to several favorites in London, East Grand Rapids, Michigan and later Sherborn, we have hit many a playground.  Nowadays my kids are both in college and don’t seem all that interested in the playground.  🙂  But now I have a dog.  We get out every single day, with rare exception (e.g. torrential rain all day).  I don’t always love it, especially when it is cold and windy, but I know it is the highlight of my dog’s day (well, maybe the highlight after breakfast and dinner).  When I am rushed for time, we will just walk in the neighborhood, but most days we  hit a local park or reservation.  My dog is part beagle, and his nose needs a workout…I think he enjoys being on the trails as much as I do.  We have some favorites, which I thought I would share in today’s post.  We continue to discover new places to walk (in fact, once this snow melts, we have another one on our radar)…I think we both enjoy the variety!  Here are some of our local favorites.

fullsizeoutput_5a8

Adams Farm, Walpole

For the last few years, since moving to Walpole, this is our “go to” place to walk.  Very popular with dog walkers, it is rare that we don’t get to say hello to at least a few “dog friends.”  You will also see runners and mountain bikers there, so heads up.  There is a main loop that most people seem to use that is partly in the woods, and partly in some open fields.  It takes us about 40-45 minutes (including stops to sniff) to complete.  Adams Farm is located on North Street in Northeast Walpole, almost on the Westwood Line (I have been known to make a quick stop at Bubbling Brook after a walk in the summer).  Per their website, the park contains almost 700 acres of land (owned by various entities).  There is ample parking, and the park is free to use.  The non-profit Friends of Adams Farm helps oversee and maintain the park (along with participation from the Town of Walpole, who owns about half of the land).  Donations are gratefully accepted.  In addition to the trails, there is a butterfly garden and a community garden with 64 plots that can be rented…in the summer there is always someone working in the gardens.  My only criticism of the park is that the trail map isn’t the most intuitive to follow (at least that’s my experience).  We have learned the trails mostly through trial and error (and following others!).  Aside from that, I find this to be a real treasure.  My dog Ollie and I are there probably 4 or 5 times a week…check out our video from our Valentine’s Day walk.

Rocky Woods, Medfield

Rocky Woods is a Trustees of Reservations property.  Located on Hartford St. in the northeast corner of Medfield, Rocky Woods is comprised of 490 wooded acres with many trail options.  Unlike Adams Farm, there is a good color-coded trail map, and trails are well-marked.  There are two ponds, one of which is being overrun by beavers.  It’s actually kind of sad, as Echo Pond used to be a beautiful little treasure…now the beavers have blocked one end and continue to destroy more trees rimming the pond’s banks.  But if you have kids, you can see the work of the beavers and it is easy to spy their huge beaver den, so maybe some educational value there.  Like Adams Farm, you can contribute to the ongoing maintenance of the reservation by becoming  a Trustees member.  Membership encompasses all of the Trustees properties, approximately 100 parcels covering 25,000 acres.  Parking at Rocky Woods is ample, but if you aren’t a Trustees member it will cost you $5 (become a member).

fullsizeoutput_599

William Francis Bird Park, Walpole

This park, located in east Walpole is fast becoming a favorite of mine.  Like Rocky Woods, Bird Park is a Trustees property.  Much smaller than Adams Farm or Rocky Woods, at only 89 acres, this park is mainly comprised of paved walkways rather than trails.  You will see a lot of walkers, many with dogs, but unlike other parks, dogs are typically on-leash here.  Bird Park was created in 1925 and has many small ponds and beautiful stone bridges.  The only negative is that the geese have fallen in love with the ponds, and as we all know, they can be a bit messy.  What this park offers, that the others don’t, are tennis courts, basketball courts, a large enclosed playground and a large paved (enclosed) area with all kinds of small riding toys for kids.  In the warmer months, this is a popular place.  Benches throughout the park provide places to sit and watch all that is going on.  There is ample (free) parking on Polley Lane.  Parking here you enter the park through the “Allée,” an open area lined with huge hemlocks, quite impressive (see photo above).

SONY DSC

Medfield State Hospital, Medfield

Located on Hospital Road in the northwest corner of Medfield, this is the site of a former state psychiatric facility.  Originally opened in 1897 as the Medfield Insane Asylum, operations ceased in 2003 and in 2014 it was sold to the Town of Medfield (for more history, see here).  I love walking here.  All the original buildings still stand, in varying states of disrepair.  Windows are, for the most part, boarded up, and entry to any of the buildings is strictly prohibited (not that you would want to go in), but there is much to see and appreciate in the brickwork and architecture.  The public is welcome to wander theSONY DSC grounds, which has a kind of quiet stillness to it…some might think eerie, but based on the number of people walking their dogs there, it doesn’t seem to bother many.  Entry is on the end closest to Rt 27, and there is ample parking.  If you continue to follow the road in, there is a new parking lot down near the Charles River.  The parking is close to miles of trails that border the former hospital (some of the trails end up at Dover-Sherborn High School…for a map, see here).  There is also a big open field for dogs (or kids) to run around in, located behind the buildings along the back of the property.  There is a group studying the long-term use of the property; for more information, see Medfield State Hospital Vision and Master Plan.

Wheelock Conservation Land, Medfield

Located on Elm St in Medfield, parking is available at the back of Wheelock School (enter at the most eastern entrance and drive straight back).  You will know you are in the right place when you see other dog walkers.  A very popular place, there are paved walkways from Wheelock south to Rt 27 (see maps here, here and here).  There are also some large open fields for dogs that like to run.  You can also access wooded trails, part of the Bay Circuit Trail.  The paved walkway is more of an “out and back” kind of path, but you can go out on the pavement, and head back by cutting across the fields (or vice-versa) to add some variety.  Best to avoid on weekends in the spring and fall as there are fields that host kids’ sporting events and tournaments and the parking area is often full.

Those are just a few of my favorite places to take the dog (and to clear my own head…I do some of my best thinking when walking the dog).  At almost 10 years old, a 45 minute walk will tire him out for the rest of the day.  Ollie and I are always looking for new places to walk, so if you have a favorite spot or two, please leave a comment below.

fullsizeoutput_5a7

Looking to relocate to Walpole or Medfield (or any surrounding towns)?  I represent both buyers and sellers in Walpole, Medfield, Dover, Sherborn, Holliston, Natick, Wellesley and Norfolk.  If you have any questions about the area, or if you are interested in discussing buying or selling a home, please call (508-308-4436), email (Lvandore@Landmarkne.com) or message me via my Facebook business page.

Interested in real estate and the local real estate market?  Click HERE to sign up for my monthly real estate newsletter, a round-up of relevant real estate news and current local market analysis.  Unsubscribe at any time, and rest assured that I will never share your email information.

 

Posted in Boston & Surrounds, Community, Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

6 Tips for Home Buyers

6-tips-for-home-buyersIt’s early February, and the spring market is already here.   Interest rates are creeping up, with predictions that they may hit 5% by year’s end (note that a 1% increase in the mortgage rate translates to a $720 increase in your annual mortgage payment per $100,000 of loan…so a $400,000 loan would cost you almost an additional $3,000 annually).   With the mild winter, we are seeing more people out looking, and inventory levels remain low, ridiculously so in some areas.   Since the first of the year we are seeing what available inventory there is on the market, go under agreement.  If you are serious about buying a home, now is the time.  If you plan to wait until March or April to get serious, be prepared…more inventory also means more buyers (and more competition).  Fasten your seat belts and read on for my six tips on how to put yourself in the best position to obtain the house of your dreams.

tax-468440__340
1. Get Pre-Approved

This may be the single most important item on the list.  If you don’t have a pre-approval, you aren’t really in the game.  No seller will look at an offer today without a buyer pre-approval.  It’s just the way it’s done.

  • Note that a pre-approval and  a pre-qualification are not the same thing.  A pre-approval is what you need, and it will require talking to your lender and may involve providing some actual documents to support your financial position ~ it is more than a casual conversation with a lender about what you might be able to afford.  The pre-approval will give you an idea of what the bank will be willing to lend you (although a pre-approval does not guarantee you will get a loan) and will show the seller that you are a qualified buyer.
  • If possible, your pre-approval should state that you do not need to sell an existing home in order to get a loan.  This will, naturally, be dependent on your financial situation, but it will make your offer much more attractive if your qualifying for a loan on your new home is not contingent on you selling your current home.
  • Just because you are pre-approved for a certain amount doesn’t mean you have to buy a house up to your limit.  Make sure you think about what you are comfortable spending, not just what the bank is comfortable loaning to you…they may not be the same thing.   Also, before extending an offer on a property, make sure you understand all the costs associated with it beyond your mortgage payment.  What are the property taxes like (this information is readily available on the listing sheet)?  Are there HOA fees (this is not just for condos, some detached homes come with HOA fees)?  And while you may love the pool, make sure you understand what a pool costs to run and maintain.
  • Refrain from making big purchases, changing jobs, moving money around, etc. prior to buying a home.  Banks like to see stability and no big changes leading up to your purchase.

house-409451__340

2. Understand What You Are Looking For in a House

This may not be 100% apparent at first, which is why you want to initially try to see as many houses as you can to help narrow down what it is you want.

  • Spend some time thinking about your priorities and your deal breakers.  Have these discussions with a partner/spouse who is purchasing with you…you will not agree on everything, but understand where each of you are willing to compromise and what the most important things are to each of you.  Are you willing to do work on a house? Do you need to be close to commuting options?  Do you want a big yard or a small yard?  How many bedrooms do you need?  What towns are you interested in?  Is there a particular school district you want to be in?  Have some conversations up front so you know where you both stand…but be flexible too.  You will never, ever find a house that checks off every single box, no matter what your budget (the more budget we have, the more we tend to want).  Be ready to compromise…with each other and with the available inventory.  
  • While open houses can be a great way to get started, once you become more familiar with the market and the inventory, you really should work with an Realtor.  A good agent will watch the market for you…agents have access to MLS listings before they appear on some of the popular websites like realtor.com and Zillow.  More importantly, an agent will also have information about listings before they hit MLS, sometimes weeks in advance.  Sometimes listings sell before even making it to MLS.  In a competitive market, you want to have all the advantages possible ~ you want to be the first person to hear of a new listing and the first person to get in to see a house ~ it may make the difference between getting the house and not.  Besides helping you to see homes, an agent will help you to negotiate an offer when the time comes, being aware of comparable sales and what is happening in the market.  They will also help you through the process from offer and acceptance to closing.  In today’s market sellers still generally pay the real estate agent’s commission…why not take advantage of a Realtor’s services?
  • Make sure any decision makers are prepared to see a house ASAP.  The best houses go quickly.  Do not assume that if you see a house on Wednesday that you can wait until the weekend for your spouse to see it.  Do not even assume you can wait until Thursday for them to see it.  Be prepared to do what it takes to see a house that you think is a contender.  Consider whether a spouse can see the house via FaceTime if necessary.  Be prepared!

3.  Have Your Deposits Ready.  

In Massachusetts this is a two-step affair.  

  • When you make an offer be prepared to write a check for $1,000 to $2,000 (this checkbook-688352_960_720can be more, but basically it is a nominal deposit).  This is money that shows the seller you are serious.  This can be a personal check.
  • In Massachusetts, after you have an offer and acceptance and the inspection has been completed, you will sign a purchase and sale agreement…at this time you need to be prepared to hand over an additional deposit bringing the total deposit to (generally) around 5% of the purchase price.  This too can be a personal check.  If you are buying a $500,000 home and have already put down a $1,000 deposit, you will need to write an additional check for $24,000.

4.  Be Ready For the Next Steps.  beach-84533__340

Most of us don’t buy a house every day, so even if we are not first-time home buyers, we may not remember all the things that need to happen between offer & acceptance and closing.   Tip:  Don’t make an offer on a house and then head out of town for a two week vacation…

  • As soon as you have an agreement you will need to set up a home inspection for the property.  While this is optional, it is highly recommended, even with new construction.  The inspector will look at the exterior of the house, the major systems, and they can test for radon, pests, etc.  The cost varies, and is the responsibility of the buyer.  You can talk to friends or family for a referral; your agent can also give you some recommendations.  Expect to have 7-10 days to get all inspections and testing completed.  You should plan to attend the home inspection.
  • Once the inspection is completed and any issues have been resolved/negotiated, it is time to sign the P&S.  This is drawn up by the buyer’s attorney (if you don’t have one, your agent can usually recommend someone).  The P&S is usually signed within a few weeks of the offer, sometimes less (remember, this is when the additional deposit is due).  Signing can be done electronically.
  • Once the P&S is signed the buyer is expected to turn in their loan application…usually no later than the next day.  Before the P&S you should already be talking to your lender to get the (loan application) ball rolling.
  • keys-1281663__340Closing…timeframe for this can vary, but anywhere from 45 to 75 days, sometimes more, depending on the wants and needs of both buyer and seller (this should be negotiated as part of the offer).  There is a lot to sign and initial at closing and this is easiest done if you are present, as opposed to being done remotely.  You will need to bring a bank check (not a personal check) for the balance of the money you are putting down on the house.

5. If You Have a House to Sell, Get it on the Market Before You Buy.  abode-987096__340

This is a big concern for many sellers in today’s market as they don’t want to sell their house without having a house to go to…however…

  • Do you really want to run the risk of carrying two houses?  While you may think that if you put your house on the market it will sell tomorrow, you never really know.  Better to list it now, and then negotiate for a longer closing date if you sell quickly.
  • Selling your house will help light a fire to make a decision on a new house.  Sometimes buyers just cannot get off the fence.  Yes, it is an important decision, not to be made lightly, yet at the same time do you really want to be looking at houses for the next three years?
  • The market is hot right now for sellers…why not take advantage of it and get the best price for the house you are selling? 

feng-shui-1927585__340

6. Keep it All in Perspective.  

Despite all the previous urging to “be ready,” to list your current house, to make a decision…in the end, you also need to keep it all in perspective.  It is very easy to get caught up in the mania of the real estate market.  In the end, you have to trust that it will all work out.  Sometimes a house you lose out on maybe just wasn’t meant to be…not to get all “new-agey” on you, but sometimes the right house might still be waiting for you.  When I was looking for a new home a few years ago, I found a house that I thought was perfect, but before I acted it was gone.  I beat myself up about it for weeks…and then the house I ultimately bought came up for sale.  And it is a much better house for me than the house that I thought was “meant” to be mine.  So trust a bit…it will happen.  Just do your part to be ready when it does.

If you have any questions about buying or selling a home, if you are interested in learning what your home is worth, or if you have any questions about real estate in general, please give me a call (508-308-4436), send me an email (Lvandore@LandmarkNE.com) or send me a message via Facebook.  I would love to help you!

Interested in real estate and the local real estate market?  Click HERE to sign up for my monthly real estate newsletter, a round-up of relevant real estate news and current local market analysis.  Unsubscribe at any time, and rest assured that I will never share your email information.

 

Posted in Real Estate | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment