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.

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.


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? 


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.


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Everything You Want to Know About Living in Walpole, MA


Thinking of moving to Walpole, MA?  Here is an overview of schools, things to do, commuting and more.  There is a lot to like about this town, which lies about 25 miles southwest of Boston.  For more links and information, see my Pinterest Board, “Walpole, MA.”

Population (2010): 24,070
Named after Sir Robert Walpole, the first prime minister of Great Britain
County: Norfolk
Settled: 1659
21 square miles
Zip codes: 02032, 02071, and 02081

Education (statistics per Mass Dept. of Education and Walpole High School)


Public Schools:

4 elementary schools (Boyden, Old Post Road, Fisher & Elm)
2 Middle Schools (Bird and Eleanor Johnson)
1 High School (Walpole High)
1 Vocational School (Norfolk County Agricultural High School)
Walpole also offers a preschool, the Daniel Feeney Preschool
     Center, which services children with special needs, integrated with
typically developing children (in 2015 45.8% of the students had
special needs and 4.2% were English language learners).

Student Population by School: Boyden ~ 398; Elm ~ 435; Fisher ~ 443;
Old Post Rd ~ 458; Bird ~ 498; Johnson ~ 430; Walpole High ~ 1172

Student: Teacher Ratio: Boyden ~ 14:1; Elm ~ 14.5:1; Fisher ~ 12.2:1;
Old Post Rd ~ 14.1:1; Bird ~ 13.3:1; Johnson ~ 13.9:1; Walpole High ~ 14.6:1

MCAS Results 2015 (percent of students scoring proficient or above)
Boyden: ELA 72%; Math 71%; Science 70%
Elm: ELA 79%; Math 71%; Science 68%
Fisher: ELA 83%; Math 84%; Science 82%
Old Post Rd: ELA 81%; Math 83%; Science 89%
Bird: ELA 85%; Math 61%; Science 58%
Johnson: ELA 86%; Math 74%; Science 62%
Walpole High: ELA 99%; Math 84%; Science 91%

Class of 2016 combined SAT: 1587 (Reading 527, Math 537, Writing 523)

88.7% of students in the class of 2016 went onto post high school education

Private Schools:
Next Generation Children’s Center. Daycare and preschool options.
Blessed Sacrament School. Preschool through grade 8 Catholic education.
League School of Greater Boston. Provides education for students with autism
Many additional private schools in the area


Things to Do:

Playgrounds: Memorial and Francis William Bird Park

2 Pools: Center Pool & Splash Pad & South Pool (outdoor, summer only)

Walking/Hiking: William Francis Bird Park (Trustees of Reservations property…includes a playground and basketball courts); Adams Farm (hiking trails and community garden); Walpole Town Forest (hiking trail with vernal pool), Bay Circuit Trail (200 mile long trail that passes through Walpole).

Ice Skating: Norfolk Ice Arena in nearby Norfolk (lessons and public skate)

Farmer’s Market: Open Friday afternoons in the summer

Walpole Footlighters: Community theatre

fullsizeoutput_59cClasses and Events

Walpole Parks and Recreation ~ offers classes for youth, teens and adults

Walpole Public Library (part of the Old Colony Library Network) ~ story times and book clubs

Community Sponsored Events (Kids Night In at Blackburn Hall, Christmas Tree Lighting)

fullsizeoutput_59dPublic Transportation and Commuting

Commuter Rail Station into South Station ~ Walpole (275 West St) ~ Franklin Line; 343 parking spaces

There is also a very small station at Plimptonville (185 Plimptonville St)…no parking, only one inbound and one outbound stop a day.

Access to Rte. 95 via Coney St ramp


Junior Women’s Club of Walpole ~ a volunteer organization that meets monthly. See thejwcw.org

Walpole Historical Societya repository for documents pertaining to the history of the town of Walpole.

Want to know more about finding a home in Walpole?  Contact me via email at Lvandore@LandmarkNE.com or via Facebook.   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.

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5 Tips to Help You Prepare for Meeting With a Listing Agent

5-tips-blogThinking about selling your home?  I highly recommend that you interview at least three real estate agents.  Even if you have a “go-to” agent, for example, someone you have used in the past or an agent who comes recommended by someone you trust, it is still worth taking the time to meet with at least two additional agents.  Selling a house is a big deal, and you should take the time to make sure you have selected the best agent for you.

When you contact an agent, expect them to initially come to take a look at the house.  I would be wary of any agent who meets you for the first time and walks in with a market analysis and a proposed listing price.  Every house is different, and until an agent gets inside and sees the layout, condition, upgrades, etc, they cannot really do a good job of determining a proper listing price for your home.  Once the agent has toured your house, expect them to set up a second meeting, preferably with all homeowners/decision makers present.

To help you prepare for these meetings, I have put together a list of homework you should do prior to meeting with a listing agent…being prepared will help the agent provide you with a better market value assessment.

Tip #1: Make Sure Your Home is Clean and Picked Upbedroom-1940169__340-2

While it may seem that this is a no-brainer, it still bears mention.  You want your home to look its absolute best.  If you are going to be listing your home for sale, you should get used to keeping your home neat and picked up…you never know when a potential buyer will want to see it.  While agents are better at seeing past dirt and clutter (they aren’t buying it and are more subjective than a potential buyer), they also know that a clean and picked up home is easier to sell, which will often result in a higher selling price.  Take the time to make your home look its absolute best prior to your first agent visit.

Tip #2:  Prepare a List of Upgrades and Major Repairs & Maintenance

Did you replace the roof last year?  Did you upgrade your kitchen recently?  While some things may be apparent (e.g.  a kitchen upgrade), take some time prior to your agent visit to compile a list of work you have done on your home, and when you did it, to the best of your ability.  Provide this list to the agent, which can assist them in properly valuing your home.  Make the list as comprehensive as you can.  While some expenditures may matter less than others, let the agent determine what is important.  (As a side note, I recommend holding off on doing any significant upgrades or repairs before meeting with a listing agent…let them help you decide which expenditures, if any, make sense to do before listing.)

Tip #3:  Understand Your Selling Time Frame

All agents are going to want to know whether you are looking to list immediately, sometime in the next few months, or maybe in the next year or two (it is never too early to meet with an agent!).  The timing of when you want to get your home on the market can impact the listing price.  It also gives the listing agent an idea of what your expectations of them are.

beware-of-disclosing-too-much-informationTip #4: Beware of Disclosing Too Much Information

This actually might be one of the most important tips, and one that is rarely, if ever, discussed.  Until you sign a listing agreement with an agent, they do not represent you.  If you tell them you are divorcing and looking for a quick sale or that your neighbors are loud and obnoxious and you can’t get away from them fast enough…this could come back to haunt you later.  Disclosing information to an agent, who you later do not hire, is information that they now own, and can share with a buyer that they may bring to your property later.

I have personal experience with this one…when interviewing agents the last time I sold my house, the potential listing agent presented me with a market analysis and price.  I made the mistake of discussing that price with them, and giving them an idea of what I would be happy accepting…I did not hire that agent, and she later represented the couple who bought my house.  She had information about what kind of price I would be happy with, and low and behold, that is where the buyer came in at (lower than asking price, of course).  So beware…present the facts an agent needs in order to value your home, but don’t disclose everything until they are actually representing you in the form of a contract.

Tip #5: Have Some Idea What Your Home May Be Worthdollar-1924523__340

This is not meant to put the burden of valuing your home on you.  You are relying on the agent to be the expert, and despite the wealth of information now available about home prices, the agent will still have more accurate and complete information about listing and selling prices, in addition to experience in selling homes.  That being said, take some time to look at realtor.com (the most accurate site out there) and see what is currently on the market in your area and at what price.  Look for homes that have similar bedroom and bathroom counts, square footage and features.  This will allow you to ask better questions when the agent comes back with his or her market analysis.  It will also prepare you in case the agent comes back with a price that seems unusually high.  While sometimes an agent is trying to get a listing by coming in with the highest list price, generally that is not the case.  But by doing some homework in advance, if an agent’s proposed listing price is higher (or lower) than what you are expecting, you will be better prepared to ask questions and understand their rationale.

These are my tips for preparing yourself to meet with a potential listing agent.  In an upcoming post, I will discuss what you should expect a listing agent to cover with you in their second meeting with you.  [If you would like to be alerted when these posts, and others, are available, please fill out the box below with your email information.]

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.


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Real Estate Round Up

Some interesting reading from around the real estate world.


Yippee Ki-yay! Bruce Willis Cuts the Price of His Idaho Mansion ~ Again!

First up, take a  look at Bruce Willis’ Idaho mansion.  For a mere $7M you can own this 8400+ square foot lodge-style home featuring lake views, heated decks, a pool and a 2200 square foot master suite.  For additional photos, see the original article posted when the house went on the market for $15M.


4 Tips for a Smooth Home Appraisal

Whether you are buying a home or refinancing, the appraisal is an important part of the process.  Item #3 is especially important in making sure your appraisal is as accurate as possible.


Ideal Homes for 8 Dad Stereotypes, From Sporty to Handy to Stay-at-Home

In honor of Father’s Day this Sunday (wishing all the dads out there a great day), here’s a home for every Dad.


After an Era of Ups and Downs, Home Prices Return to Sanity

While I wouldn’t say that all communities in Greater Boston have returned to “sanity,” this is good news for most.


How Much Do You Lose Every Year You Rent Instead of Buy?

If you are thinking of waiting to buy, you might want to think again.


House Hunting in Spain

A beautiful 6 bedroom country house in Catalonia Spain for sale for just over $1M.  We can all dream.

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What’s on the Market in Sherborn, MA


I lived in Sherborn for 11 years…my kids basically grew up there, with my son starting out at Pine Hill Elementary in first grade, and graduating from the high school in 2013.  I may be biased, but Sherborn is a great place to raise a family.  Incorporated in 1674, until more recently Sherborn was a farming community.  Now it is primarily a “bedroom” community of just over 4,000 residents.  Located approximately 25 miles from downtown Boston, many residents commute into the city or to areas along the hi-tech corridor of Rt. 128.

Sherborn has a single elementary school, and combines with the neighboring town of Dover (population 5,600) for middle and high school.  The Dover-Sherborn Regional High School is consistently ranked as one of the top high schools in the greater Boston area, often coming in at the #1 spot.

214 Farm Rd - waterfront home for sale in Sherborn

Sherborn has a rural feel, with working farms and horse farms a common sight.  The town has a small town center with a restaurant, a gas station, two wine stores, a Walgreen’s and a Dunkin’ Donuts, among other things.  There are also three churches, a library and a community center which can be rented out for events.  The town also has a hidden gem in Farm Pond, a small, pristine body of water that is available to residents.  Sailing lessons and a swim team, along with a sandy beach with lifeguards make this a popular place in the summer.  The town is also home to numerous trails, including Rocky Narrows, part of the Trustees of Reservations properties.

Homes currently on the market in Sherborn range in price from $440,000 to $3,725,000, with a median price of $949,000.  Below are a few highlights of what is available in Sherborn right now.


85 Brush Hill Road, listed at $699,000

Offering 4 bedrooms and 3 full baths, this ranch offers single level living with over 3,000 square feet.  This home offers an updated kitchen and baths and beautiful hardwood floors, all on an acre of land.


113 South Main St, listed at $1,149,000

This home combines the best of old and new…the original part of the home was built in 1780 and at one time was known as Wares Tavern.  A significant addition approximately 10 years ago also served to update all the systems.  Offering 4 bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths on over 3 beautifully landscaped acres, this home is fully updated and perfect for entertaining.


60 Washington St, listed at $1,650,000

Bridle Brook Farm dates back to 1734.  Offering 5 bedrooms, 4 full and 2 half baths, this 4900 square foot home is on almost 11 acres.  Multiple outbuildings include a 6 stall barn with tack room.  The grounds offer an in ground salt-water pool and spa along with an outdoor kitchen.  Updated for today’s living needs, this home has it all.

If you are interested in seeing any of these homes, or if I can help you find another home in the Sherborn/ Dover area, please contact me, I would love to help!



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6 Design Trends for 2015

Home decorating…just about the time you get the entire house “done” it’s time to start over again.  While many of us update our wardrobes with some frequency to follow the fashion trends, changing out our home decor is a slightly more complicated (and costly).  Whether you are thinking of redoing a room or just enjoy seeing what’s new in the decorating world, here are some of the trends in interior home design for 2015.


Design Trend #1:  Color…Marsala, Saturated Blues and Guilford Green

What the “hot” colors are in home design depends on who you listen to.  The 2015 Pantone “color of the year” is Marsala, described as an “earthy wine red.”  Expect to see this color pop up in clothing this year, but also in home decor.  Paint is one of the cheaper ways to change or update a room.  In this article, This Old House shows how you can incorporate marsala-like colors in your home through wall paint and pendant lighting.


On Houzz (one of my favorite sites for home inspiration) they are calling for saturated blues to begin making a strong statement in home design in 2015.  Described as having a calming effect, selecting a deep blue for a room can make a statement and set the mood.

benjamin moore guilford green

Benjamin Moore (my favorite paint) has declared “Guilford Green” (HC-116) their color of the year.  Described as a “silvery green that works well with everything,” it looks lovely above against the white trim.  If green is not your thing, Benjamin Moore has a total of 23 paint colors they describe as “trending”…not surprisingly they include numerous blues and colors in the same palate as marsala.

Design Trend #2: Wallpaper…

No, I am not kidding.  All that wallpaper you tore down when you moved into your house?  It’s coming back.  Although no worries, most likely those country prints you stripped off the walls still belong in the trash.  When it comes to wallpaper, less is more…pick a room (not every room in the house) or an accent wall…geometrics and textured wallpapers are what is trending, but search “wallpaper” on Houzz and you will see a lot of variation.  I have to admit I have always loved a bit of wallpaper in a house and am happy to see it making a comeback.  Some of my favorite places for wallpaper are dining rooms, powder rooms and foyers.


Design Trend #3:  Statement Lighting

I love this trend and have been incorporating it into my own house.  It is amazing what an interesting light fixture can do for a space…especially in a dining room, foyer or over a kitchen island.  The right fixture looks lovely both when it is lit and when it is not.  Some of my favorite resources for lighting fixtures are Lumens, Arhaus and Pottery Barn.  Restoration Hardware also has beautiful (but often very pricey) fixtures…but be cognizant of their size…many of them are enormous and made for grand spaces with very high ceilings.  Shown above is a beautiful fixture from Arhaus called the Darcel Chandelier…when lit it truly sparkles, creating a magical feel to the space.


Design Trend #4: Driftwood Finishes

This design trend is popping up in furniture, beams, barn doors (inside the house!) and more.  Blame it on Restoration Hardware, IMO the king of the driftwood/rustic finish.  While RH has been touting this look for a while (at premium prices), it has now trickled down to the masses and you can find less expensive pieces that mimic the look at RH for sometimes a fraction of the price.


While adding driftwood furniture to your home decor is the least expensive way of getting the look, you can also add more permanent design elements, like a wall of driftwood finished planks…


…or kitchen cabinets with a gray weathered finish.


Other places you might incorporate the look is in overhead beams, flooring and the addition of sliding barn wood doors, all the rage now.  While you can do a lot or a little, there are many ways to incorporate this design trend into your home.

Design Trend #5: Cowhide

While the most obvious use of cowhide is in a rug, cowhide is also showing up on furniture…ottomans, benches and chairs.  And cowhide isn’t just for those looking for a “ranch” look…cowhide is very versatile and can work in both a contemporary setting and with a more traditional look.


Cowhide is best used as an accent…a touch here or there.  I love the bar stools pictured above.


Even Flor, the floor tiles company, has gotten into the trend by offering black and white cow-hide-look floor squares.  As long as you keep the cowhide to an accent, there are no real restrictions on how you can use it.

Design Trend #6: Mixing Styles

This is another one of those “a little goes a long way” kinds of things…in the photo above we have a fairly traditional looking dining room, but the chairs are very modern.


Here mid-century modern furniture decorates a very traditional window nook.


Another look I am seeing (and loving) is mixing glitzy with rustic.  Again I turn to Restoration Hardware for highlighting this trend in their latest catalogue.  One of my favorite ways to pull off this look is with the glitzy chandelier (also a statement piece, see #3 above) with a more rustic dining table.  In the photo above they have actually added a chandelier to a living room, a bit less expected (and note the driftwood hardwoods and modern design elements).  (If you are in love with the Crystal Halo chandelier, it comes in three sizes, starting at $3225…I told you RH lighting was expensive!).

So there you have it, 6 design trends you can consider when decorating for 2015…whether you are just changing paint color or doing a major overhaul of your house, one or more of these ideas might inspire you.  I leave you with a photo from Houzz that incorporates a number of the design trends discussed…a glitzy light fixture, driftwood finish traditional table, modern chairs and a wall color in the vein of the hot color for 2015, marsala.  Now go have some fun!





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Online Real Estate Photo “Don’ts”

The most recent stats indicate that 96% of home buyers start their search on the internet…with websites like realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia available this probably isn’t much of a surprise.  And as you might expect, buyers make decisions about which homes they would actually like to see based on the photos displayed online.  I look at listings online every single day…and I am amazed at what is out there.  I thought I would list some of my recent favorites…most of these are actually from Maine, where I am looking at vacation property…I won’t name where it is as I don’t want to call out any agents, but some of these fall into the WTH are they thinking category.

Probably my all time biggest pet peeve is the toilet lid that is up (and I have even seen ones with the toilet seat up).  Look, it’s bad enough that a toilet has to be in the photo, it isn’t that hard to put the lid down.   This photo isn’t even actually from Maine, it is from the greater Boston area…because I see this all the time.  PUT THE LID DOWN!!




I know it can sometimes be difficult to get sellers to cooperate with reducing the clutter and clearing off counter space but these next two photos from the same property make me want to cringe.

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Then there is the out-of-focus photo…seriously, what does this accomplish other than to make one feel dizzy?


This photo is actually from Belgium but I had to include it because it just cracks me up…and trust me, I see photos of homes in the US posted with people in them too.  You are trying to help a buyer imagine themselves in your home…do not include photos with you or your relatives hanging out, no matter how awesome you might think the photo is.


Then there are the ones that you really don’t get their purpose…is this photo going to make me want to see the house?


And this one, from the same house…are you trying to show us the water damage on the ceiling?
l7abd3a45-m30xd-w640_h480_q80 And finally (and you see this ALL THE TIME)…photos that are so dark you can’t even tell what is going on.  This one just kind of creeps me out.  l7abd3a45-m12o


If you are thinking of listing your home for sale, make sure the agent plans to get a professional in to take the shots unless the agent is really, really good with a camera…I was told unless you have a camera that you can operate in manual mode and you have a tripod, you have no business taking the photos for your listing.  Now I’m going to cut my Maine friends some slack here, it’s different when you are listing property for sale in the remote corners of Maine…there probably aren’t even people who take professional real estate photos.  But some of these are still inexcusable.  Would YOU buy a property based on these photos?

If you would like to discuss buying or selling a home, I would love to talk to you!  And I promise to use a professional!

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7 Great American Road Trips

Here in Massachusetts we have had some unusually warm weather (we were just shy of 90 degrees on Mother’s Day!).  While many people are probably aware of the record-setting amount of snow we had, it was also an especially cold winter.  So the sudden appearance of summer-like weather is welcome (very, very welcome).

Friends are posting pictures on Facebook of their kids all dressed up for prom and graduation is just around the corner, which means summer isn’t far behind.  Have you made your summer vacation plans?  Many around here spend some or all of their summer on the Cape and Islands (Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard)…we are lucky to have a vacation paradise practically steps out the door.  But with gas prices staying well below $3 a gallon, have you considered a road trip?  There really is nothing more American than hopping into your car and taking off on some kind of journey.  To help inspire you, I have gathered a few ideas to get you started…some road trips take more planning than others, some take more time.  But the flexibility offered by a road trip, and the chance to explore another part of the country can’t be beat.

Let’s start off with the classic road trip, Route 66.


Route 66

Where: Beginning in Chicago and ending in Los Angeles, this route passes through Illinois, Missouri, a corner of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

How Long: 2,448 miles

Highlights: While Route 66 actually existed, over time new highways were built that bypassed it; in 1985 is was officially “decommissioned.”  To travel the route now is a slower paced activity that allows for stops at both natural wonders like Meramec Caverns and the Petrified Forest, along with manmade attractions such as the Big Blue Whale, reptile farms and Indian curio shops.

Website to Get You Started:  Driving Route 66


The Lower 48

Where: This road trip hits every one of the lower 48 states.  This trip is a loop, so you can start at the point nearest you and continue through to every state before winding back up at your starting point.

How Long: 13,699 miles…you might have to take a sabbatical from your job to get through this one, which realistically would take 2-3 months to complete.

Highlights: This trip was planned using an algorithm to find the optimal route that would allow you to visit a National Natural Wonder, a National Historic Sight, a National Park or a National Monument in each state, along with a stop in Washington, D.C. (to see, of course, The White House) and two stops in California (because they’re special).  (I am originally from Michigan so I have to also include this road trip, formulated by the same person using the same algorithm…it is 2,098 miles and hits all of the “Pure Michigan” hot spots.)

Website to Get You Started: Computing the Optimal Road Trip Across the U.S.



Overseas Highway

Where: Route 1 from Miami to Key West, Florida, passing through Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon & Big Pine Key.

How Long: 127.5 miles, including a 7 mile long bridge; can be traveled in as little as 4 hours

Highlights: Started in the 1930’s on the right-of-way of a former railroad, this route crosses over 42 bridges.  As you might expect, this route offers all manner of water activities…fishing, sailing,kayaking, diving and snorkeling options abound, but don’t forget to include time to visit the giant flea market on Big Pine Key.

Website to Get You Started: The Florida Keys and Key West.  And don’t forget to watch the movie “True Lies” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis for a great action scene on the overseas highway.


Grand Canyon to Moab

Where: Covering six national parks in Arizona and Utah

How Long: 862 miles, the suggested trip is for 10 days

Highlights: Starting at the Grand Canyon, this route crosses over into Utah to hit Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands & Arches National Parks, along with Dead Horse Point State Park.  Great for those who enjoy hiking, camping and mountain biking, this is certainly a trip to remember.

Website to Get You Started: A Classic Road Trip from Utah to Arizona


Coastal New England

Where: Starting in Mystic, Connecticut and traveling through Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, ending at Bar Harbor, ME

How Long: Approximately 400 miles

Highlights: Starting at Mystic Seaport and hitting highlights like Newport, RI, Boston and Portland, Maine, this route ends at Acadia National Park, with 47,000 acres to explore.

Website to Get You Started: Discover Coastal New England


Kenai Peninsula and The Big Island Loop

Where: This isn’t a single trip, but rather two different trips, one on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska and one on the Big Island of Hawaii…traveling beyond the lower 48 brings some breathtaking scenery.

How Long: Kenai Peninsula trip, approximately 500 miles; Big Island Loop, approximately 300 miles.

Highlights: The Alaskan road trip travels through Chugach State Park and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and offers mountain biking, fishing, kayaking and lots of wildlife.  The Hawaiian trip circles the Big Island of Hawaii and includes Volcanoes National Park and a side trip to climb the 13,796 foot Mauna Kea.

Websites to Get You Started: Alaskan Road to Nowhere and Hawaiian Sea to Summit Road Trip.

We have such a wealth of travel options within our own borders, from seacoast to mountains, canyons to prairies…hop in your car and go do some exploring!

For other travel options, check out the links below:

10 All-American Summer Road Trips

America’s Best Road Trips

10 Best U.S. Road Trips to Take This Summer



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What you get for $1,000,000…

The New York Times does a regular feature in its real estate section which is one of my favorites.  It is called “What You Get For…” and highlights 3 homes in different parts of the country for a certain dollar amount (which changes).  I like this feature so much that I  am going to replicate the format, albeit highlighting properties that are local.  Today I am featuring five homes, each around $1 million dollars.  A millions dollars sounds like a lot of money…a million dollars IS a lot of money.  But in the greater Boston area, $1M doesn’t always buy you as much as you might think it should.  The Boston area counts as one of the more expensive housing markets in the US, with Wellesley, MA cited as the 10th most expensive town in the country (as of this writing there are 92 properties listed for sale in Wellesley, of which 75 are listed at more than $1 million).  Today I will include properties listed for sale in Dover, Natick, Needham, Sherborn and Wellesley, all of which share some borders in the area west of Boston.


18 Normandie Rd in Dover, MA.

What: A 1926 home with 4 bedrooms and 2 baths.

How Much: $998,800

Size: 3009 square feet

Price per square foot: $332

Features: Beautifully landscaped .92 acres with in-ground pool, Tiki bar and putting green on a dead-end street (Note: home recently went contingent.)



46 Western Ave, Sherborn, MA

What: A 1928 farmhouse with 4 bedrooms and 2 baths

How Much: $995,000

Size: 2100 square feet

Price per Square Foot: $474

Features: Over 15 acres of open fields with an active blueberry farm.



215 Eliot St, Lot 3, Natick, MA

What: 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath new construction in South Natick

How Much: $995,000

Size: 2700 square feet

Price per Square Foot: $369

Outdoor Space: 1.19 acres in Eliot Acres, surrounded by more expensive homes.


29 Wareland Rd, Wellesley, MA

What: Contemporary Cape with 4 bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths

How Much: $990,000

Size: 2144 square feet

Price per Square Foot: $462

Features: Approximately 1/3 acre of professionally landscaped grounds in a walk-to-train location.


749 Charles River St, Needham, MA

What: 5 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath ranch conveniently located near Dover, Wellesley and South Natick

How Much: $995,000

Size: 4162 square feet

Price per Square Foot: $239

Features: One level living with full finished basement on one acre.

If you are interested in seeing any of these homes or need help buying or selling in the area, please feel free to contact me!  





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Real Estate Reading

178779186-Real-EstateToday I want to share with you some interesting articles related to real estate that appeal to anyone with a general interest in what is going on in the market.  These are all fairly quick reads that are perfect for your lunch break or when you just need a brief distraction.  I hope to make this a regular feature of my blog…I come across a lot of good content and I think many people share an interest in some aspect of real estate, whether you sell real estate for a living or whether you are a homeowner (or a homeowner wanna be).  Take a look at some of my favorite features from the New York Times, along with a few other articles of general interest.  I will have more in the upcoming weeks.

From the New York Times, a regular feature that is one of my favorites…this week is House Hunting in…Bali.  A beautiful home for $435,000…yes please.



And another favorite feature from the New York Times, What You Get For….  This week three homes are featured, all listing for about $1.35 M.  One is in Montana, one in Houston and one in Virginia Beach…note the taxes for Houston…YIKES!



One of the reasons many sellers are not putting their homes on the market…In Hot Market, Sellers Left With No Place To Goa real concern for many in the Boston area.



And if you are looking to buy, this is worth reading…It Doesn’t Pay to Wait to Buy A Home.


A shout out to all of my friends in Ann Arbor, Michigan, #3 on the list…These Are the 20 Hottest Housing Markets in the US Right Now.


This should keep you busy, I will have some more good articles in the upcoming weeks.

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