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Support Your Community - 5 Ways to Help

 

It’s been 9 long weeks since we went into lockdown, so the Governor’s announcement this week that we can start to open things up will be very welcome to many who have been struggling physically, mentally, and financially.  However that light at the end of the tunnel may still be a way off, with many stage gates and regulations to work through before stores, restaurants, schools, and services can get back to anything like normal. So what can we do in the meantime?  We put together five simple things we as individuals can do to support the communities we live in.

Shop Local

 

It goes without saying that once the local stores and restaurants in your town are fully open you would support them whenever you can.  But many businesses have innovated and remodeled their business plan to stay in operation even with the lockdown restrictions.  Restaurants offer takeout, stores offer virtual shopping, hair salons sell products online, photographers offer gift cards to be redeemed at a later date.  All of these initiatives can help them stay afloat and still be around to open up when allowed.  Your local Chamber of Commerce is a good place to find lists of businesses that are offering services at this time.  For example, in Winchester they have launched shop01890.com, a website where you can search by business type or name to find stores, restaurants, and services.  Melrose has a list of all its members and if they have curbside pick up, delivery, gift cards or other offers.  Arlington Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the town to play “Shop Local Bingo”, encouraging residents to patronize local businesses and possibly win a $100 gift certificate.   

 

Donate

 

As the lockdown has continued and many people have been furloughed or even lost their jobs, the demand on local food banks has increased dramatically.  In addition, with children no longer in school many have lost access to their only guaranteed meal of the day.  Organizations such as Winchester Got Lunch and Arlington EATS have stepped up their operations to try and bridge this gap, but they require donations (of food and money) to keep up with demand. Picking up an extra box of mac n cheese, jar of peanut butter, or box of cereal next time you are shopping can make the world of difference to a family who is struggling.  Read our recent blog to find out about other organizations in your area and where you can drop your donations safely.

 

Give Blood

Emergency surgery, certain cancer treatments, and critical transfusions have still been taking place during the pandemic, but with the stay-home order drop-in blood drives were canceled and donations have fallen. Many people wrongly assumed that donations were not possible, but with supplies dwindling it’s as important as ever that healthy donors continue to make appointments.  The American Red Cross has great information on their website about the extra precautions that they are taking during the coronavirus outbreak, and they can help you find your nearest donation center.  

 

Volunteer

 

Volunteering can be a truly rewarding experience, as well as a fantastic way to give back to your community.  Despite the restrictions, there are still many opportunities to give back in this way, although some will look a bit different from before - maybe you will be helping to man a phone helpline, or packing goods wearing a mask and gloves.  Contact Boston Cares to get matched with an opportunity to suit your availability and comfort level.

 

Say Thanks

 

Throughout this crisis those classed as essential workers have continued to keep our community running.  Alongside healthcare workers, those working in grocery stores, mail workers, delivery drivers, police officers, firefighters, DPW workers, cable technicians, and numerous others have been going to work, often in difficult circumstances.  Why not take a moment to show your appreciation for their efforts  - you could write a letter, have the kids make a poster, or simply say “thanks” next time you see them.  If you want to go further, check your local residents' Facebook group or email list - some towns have set up regular food deliveries to workers at local hospitals and will happily accept donations.  

#inthistogether

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    Find Out Why Melrose is One of the Hottest Neighborhoods Around

    Located just 7 miles north of Boston, Melrose is a popular suburb, offering all the convenience of access to the city with the green space, fewer crowds and larger homes you would expect in a more suburban setting.  A small city with a population of around 28,000, the Victorian architecture, thriving downtown, good schools and convenient access to Boston have given Realtor.com cause to name Melrose one of the country’s “Ten Hottest Neighborhoods” 3 times in the past 5 years.

    Melrose offers a range of housing styles but it is known for its larger Victorian properties on wide tree-lined streets.  The pretty downtown area, with its gas-lamp lined streets, is home to many local stores and restaurants.  The city celebrates its heritage every year in September with the Victorian Festival, when the streets of downtown are closed to traffic and local stores and restaurants host stalls outside for residents and visitors to enjoy. Live entertainment draws the crowds and makes this a hugely popular event for all ages.  Other community events include the Summer Stroll and Home for the Holidays, both of which are landmarks in the calendar of residents.

    As well as the thriving downtown business district, Melrose boasts two large grocery stores - Whole Foods Market and Shaw’s - plus a very active YMCA offering sports and fitness classes for the whole community, and childcare and summer camps for school-age children.  Melrose also has its own hospital - MelroseWakefield Hospital - and other healthcare and eldercare facilities.  The Melrose Public Schools are highly regarded, with the five elementary schools, one middle and one high school accommodating almost 4,000 students.  In addition, the Franklin School has excellent Early Childhood programs.  Families are further supported by the North Suburban Family Network, offering parenting education workshops, playgroups, support groups, activities and other resources for families with children up to Kindergarten age.

    Although still close to Boston, Melrose enjoys plenty of open space, including parks, playgrounds and fields, forest areas, and conservation land.  Part of the Middlesex Fells Reservation, including the picturesque Ell Pond, is in Melrose and is popular with walkers, joggers and anglers.  Pine Banks Park has multiple sports fields plus picnic areas, a playground, a pond and hiking trails.  There are also two golf courses - Mount Hood Municipal Course and Bellevue Golf Club, a private members club that also has tennis and a pool.

    For commuters or those who want to take advantage of the Big City offerings, Boston is within easy reach from Melrose.  There are three commuter rail stations on the Haverhill Line  - Wyoming Hill, Melrose Cedar Park and Melrose Highlands - taking you into Boston’s North Station in under 20 minutes.  If you prefer the T, the Orange Line begins and terminates at Oak Grove station on the Melrose / Malden border. 

    Melrose offers the convenience of living close to a large city and the neighborhood feel of a traditional New England town. To find out more about the housing market in Melrose and discover whether this is the place for your next home, contact one of our experienced agents.

    OUR REALTORS RECOMMEND:

    "We love living in Melrose for the convenience - the Orange Line and the Commuter Rail make it so easy to travel into Boston.  For recreation there’s both a private and a public golf course, and the Fells are beautiful for a hike.  The restaurants are awesome! Giacomo’s is the best for Italian, Mexico Lindo has delicious food and a great atmosphere, and Turner’s Grill and Market is THE place for seafood."

    Lesley Smith

     

    Pictured: 52 Stratford Road Melrose, listed by Lesley Smith

     

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      Keeping You Safe - New Guidelines for Viewing Homes in Winchester

      Following consultation with real estate agents and brokers in Winchester, the town has issued new guidelines for the showing of homes.  To reflect increased demand, the town will now permit inhabited homes to be shown, providing specific rules are followed. These are in place to protect the safety of the sellers, the buyers, and the agents working with them.  

      Full details can be found on the Winchester Town website but the guidelines include 

      • Showing by appointment only (no public or broker open houses).

      • At the time of showing, only one agent plus the prospective buyers (maximum 2) will be allowed in the home at one time.

      • All parties entering the home need to wear face coverings, gloves, and shoe covers.  Shoe covers will be provided by the listing agent and should be taken away and disposed of by the buyer agent.

      • Good hand hygiene should be practiced within the home, including the buyers and their agent avoiding touching surfaces, cabinets, doorknobs, and other high traffic areas. 

      • The home should have a cleaning plan in place for before and after showings in line with the CDC Guidelines to ensure the risk of infection is minimized.

      This new guidance makes it easier for sellers to list their homes and for buyers to search for homes, confident they will be able to have safe viewings.  So if you were thinking of moving house, there’s now one less reason to delay.  Talk to one of our experienced agents to find out how the market is performing in your area. 

      Other towns have also updated or amended their regulations regarding showings.  Contact one of our agents to find out the latest information for where you live.

       

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        Market Stats - Listings During Lockdown

        At the beginning of each month we typically take a look back at the previous month to get a feel of how the housing market is performing.  Are sale prices up or down on the previous year,  have days on market increased or decreased, how many homes have sold and so on.  Right now these sorts of comparisons are difficult -  April 2020 looked nothing like April 2019 in so many ways, making it hard to draw any worthwhile conclusions.   However we decided to delve a little deeper into Real Estate activity since the pandemic really hit our communities, when non-essential businesses shut down and everyone came under the “stay-at-home” order.  Anecdotally we knew that demand was still there and homes were still selling, but would the numbers echo our own experience?

        The answer was a resounding yes!  Over the 6 weeks* since the Governor's announcement, a large percentage of the homes that have come to market have gone under contract and in some cases even already sold. In Melrose, 68% of homes that came on the market since March 23rd are under agreement, in Stoneham it’s 75%*.  While the number of homes listed has decreased compared to the same period last year, the level of interest and activity has been similar to a typical spring market.  We’ve seen this first hand at Waterfield Sotheby’s International Realty, where our three most recent listings received multiple offers and had accepted offers within 5 days. 

        So what does this mean for you if you are thinking of buying or selling?   A lot will depend on your personal circumstances - our blog “Buying or Selling a Home During the Pandemic - What You Need to Know” covers some of the things you need to consider.  But with talk of restrictions easing in the near future, there is a strong probability that inventory will increase and there will be more buyers out looking.  If moving was on your agenda for 2020, now is the time to talk to an experienced realtor to discuss your options.  Our agents would be happy to arrange a phone call or video chat to find out about your plans and give you an up to date analysis of the market.  In the meantime, take a look at these numbers to see what’s happening in your town.

        *single-family homes listed between 03/23/20 and 05/03/20, source MLSPin.

         

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          Buying or Selling a Home During the Pandemic - What You Need to Know

           

          Contrary to what you might think, the real estate market has not closed down.  Over the last two weeks alone, our agents have listed two properties over $1m that had accepted offers within 5 days of listing - a situation more typical of a busy Spring Market.  A combination of limited inventory, low interest rates, and pent up demand means that homes are still selling.  “Despite the uncertainty around COVID-19, we are seeing that properly priced homes in popular areas are still in demand” says Broker / Owner Anne Spry.   Naomi DeLairre agrees “We are still seeing multiple offers, even on homes in the higher price ranges”.   So if you are thinking of buying or selling, how can you do it without compromising your health and safety?  Here are a few changes that the real estate industry has made to adapt to the new normal, and some things that you can do to make the process run smoothly. 

          Listing Your Home

          You’ve made the decision to sell your home, now you need to choose an agent to work with.  Our agents are all available for virtual meetings to discuss how they will market your home, and our listing presentation materials are all available electronically for you to view and discuss with your realtor either in person or on a call.  They are happy to arrange a time to come and tour your home when you will be out, and use gloves, a mask, shoe covers and wipes to keep the home clean.  They will also talk to you about the marketplace, and the pros and cons of selling during the current time, so you can make an informed no-pressure decision.

           

          Securing Finance

          More so now than ever, it makes sense to get your finances in order.  For buyers, talk to your mortgage broker or bank about getting a pre-approval in place before you start looking.  “Some List Agents will want to see a letter of pre-approval, or proof of funds if not financed, before allowing you to view a home.” says Ann Basmaji.  As a seller, you might want to consider whether you want your Listing Agent to do the same - this way you know that the only people coming into your home are serious and committed about buying.

           

          Viewing Homes

          We have many ways to enable potential buyers to view your home virtually, be that through a professional video, a video phone walk-through, or a full-on virtual tour.  Take advantage of these to check out a home’s potential before you go through a physical viewing.  “I’ve used Matterport to help clients view the inside of the home, as well as the floor plans and measurements.  Matterport provides great details and is very easy to use” says Matt Asdornvuttikrai.  Some towns will not allow in-person viewings unless a home is vacant so check with your agent if that applies where you are looking, and if you are selling consider if you want to vacate the home to allow for in-person showings. For the viewing itself, only the decision-makers will be allowed in the property - usually a max of 2 people plus their realtor.  Masks, gloves, and shoe covers are typically required - ask your agent if these will be provided or if you should bring your own.  Erica Carson explains  “When viewing homes my clients and I wear masks and gloves. I also bring Clorox wipes with me to showings in the event that we touch anything in the home. A lot of the time a listing broker will have their clients open all doors to closets, rooms, and turn on lights so that you don’t have to touch anything.”  Your agent may offer to remain outside the property but you could FaceTime them or use other technology as you go around to ask questions in real time.  

           

          Negotiating an Offer

          When it comes to putting together an offer, the terms that go with it are becoming increasingly important.  “When considering multiple offers we are looking at more than just price, the terms play a more significant role” says Anne.  For example, sellers may prefer an offer that waives an inspection, to limit the number of people in their home. However inspections are still taking place, so you shouldn’t feel this is something you have to forgo.  Your agent will be able to advise you on the best course of action knowing your comfort level.  Both sellers and buyers should talk to their agent about how to protect against changes outside of their control due to COVID-19. Matt says “it is important that both parties agree ahead of time that if there is a situation where COVID-19 becomes a factor, there is extra time allowed in the contract for both buyers and sellers to adapt.”  If you have concerns about the physical act of moving out of the home, you might also want to consider asking to “rent-back” the property for a short period.  This allows the sale of the home to go ahead in a timely manner and means you can remain in the home until movement restrictions are lifted. 

          Closing

          Having made it through the offer process, completed the home inspection, and secured finance, the closing is the final step to securing your home.  Again, changes have been made to accommodate COVID-19 safety precautions.  The only two parties who need to physically meet are the buyers and the closing attorney, and this can easily be facilitated in a large space where they can remain socially distant.  “We have a large meeting room in our office where the two parties can remain at least 6ft apart at all times.  We provide separate pens, everyone wears masks and we provide wipes too” says Anne.  The remainder of the closing can be contact-free, with papers exchanged without people needing to meet.  In MA there is now provision for Virtual Notarization - check with your attorney if this applies in your circumstance.

          Ultimately the decision on whether this is the right time for you to move or invest in property is in your hands.  The important thing to know is that everyone is co-operating to make sure that those who decide to move can still do it safely.  Katie Tully sums it up perfectly “Buyers are out there, sellers are willing, and we are here to make it happen safely.”  

          Ready to make a move?  Contact one of our experienced agents for a no-obligation chat about the market.

           

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            Fighting Food Poverty in Our Communities - How You Can Help

            Brown Paper Grocery Bags

            It’s one of the biggest challenges our society faces even during normal times - 1 in 7 school children lives in hunger* and almost 12% of households in the US are food insecure*.  Even in seemingly affluent areas, there are many families who rely on free school meals and food banks to keep themselves fed. During these uncertain times, with many people facing unemployment or reduced wages and schools no longer in session, these numbers are on the rise.  In addition many seniors who might typically rely on family or services for food are struggling to get to the grocery store or access a hot meal.  So how can we help?

            Some local businesses have taken matters into their own hands and are combating hunger with some truly amazing and generous initiatives. Twyrl Pasta Bistro in Arlington is an example of this - they launched the Senior Citizen Initiative through their Twyrl at Home delivery service to provide meals for some of our most at-need community members. For every meal ordered through Twyrl at Home, they will donate a meal to a senior citizen living in towns including Winchester, Arlington and Lexington. You can nominate someone to receive the meal or ask for it to be donated to one of the many organizations they are working with.  As an example, last week they were able to donate 36 meals to the Jenks Center in Winchester. Next time you get stuck for meal inspiration or just don't want to cook, consider ordering one of their delicious fresh pasta dishes and supporting this very worthwhile cause.  Go to their website https://www.twyrlhome.com/ to place an order.

            Another restaurant, Snappy Patty’s in Medford, started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help them provide free meals to those who need them.  There is a Snappy’s for Medford menu with options including the ever-popular PB&J sandwich and a burger for kids.  They originally aimed to raise $6000 to provide 1000 meals and have already surpassed that goal. If you are in need, give them a call on 781-219-4804 or reach out to them via their Facebook page. To donate go to their website http://snappypattys.com/

            Other organizations that provide children and families with food have really stepped up their efforts over the past few weeks. Winchester Got Lunch, which usually provides meals for school kids over the long summer vacation, has now teamed up with Winchester Public Schools, the En Ka Society and Woburn Council for Social Concern to deliver food parcels and grocery store gift cards every week.  They have expanded their service beyond those who typically qualify for free school lunches to include anyone who is in need at this time. They are able to do this thanks to the generous donations from the community - if you would like to contribute get in touch with them at https://winchestergotlunch.org/donate/  If you are in need of some help, you can contact them in confidence.  

            In Arlington, the “neighbors serving neighbors” program Arlington EATS has had to adapt their program to keep their volunteers and clients safe.  They  are now serving the community by delivering shelf-stable food to anyone in need.  You can contact them at 781-316-3400 or via their website https://www.arlingtoneats.org/ .  They would also be very grateful for any donations, which again can be done via the website.

            Council of Social Concern in Woburn are still accepting donations to their food pantry.  Contact them to find out what items they are in particular need of and how you can safely get donations to them.

            In Melrose the local food pantries have stepped up their requests for donations to try and match the demand.  A Servant’s Heart Food Pantry, based at Faith Evangelical Church is still accepting donations and distributing bagged groceries to those in need.  Melrose residents who are in need of food assistance can visit between 10am - 11:30am on Fridays.  If you wish to make a donation, reach out to find out about their most urgent needs.  

            Just across the border in Malden, Bread of Life have adapted their procedures but are still open for the public to pick up groceries on Wednesdays from 4-6pm and Fridays 2-4pm. They are also looking for more volunteers to help with food distribution and drivers to pick up donations. They have strict protocols for hygiene and sanitation for volunteers and have minimized contact between all volunteers and patrons to limit the risk of infection. Contact them if you would like to help. 

            During this time of crisis it has been so heartening to see how communities have pulled together to help those most in need.  We want to do our part to support those who are making extraordinary efforts to keep everyone fed.  If you know of a local business who is going above and beyond to help others, please let us know.  We would be more than happy to spread the word.  #inthistogether

             


            *Source - No Kid Hungry.

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              Independently owned and operated for 13 years in Winchester, we are a highly collaborative office of over 20 active agents (and growing), with a dedicated Marketing Team  and Transaction Manager supporting our agents. We have strong connections with buyers and brokers within the Boston Metro North region, and also through the Sotheby's International Realty brand. We are proud to support our communities through sponsorship of events and donations to local charities, foundations, and sports teams. A percentage of every sale made through our office goes to the Winchester Foundation for Educational Excellence (WFEE).

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