Blog :: 04-2020

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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      Medford - City Living with a Neighborhood Vibe

      The bustling city of Medford is located 3.2 miles northwest of Boston. Popular with commuters, the city is served by the MBTA Commuter Rail at West Medford station (11 mins to North Station) and the Orange Line T that runs through Wellington into the center of Boston and beyond. The I-93 also offers convenient access to Boston and all points south and north into New Hampshire and beyond.

      In recent years Medford has become popular with young professionals and families alike, for it’s easy and convenient access to Boston and the unique neighborhoods in the city offering a mixture of housing.  From the modern apartments at Station Landing to the larger single family homes on the Lawrence Estate, there is a diversity of housing styles to choose from.  Other neighborhoods include West Medford, Brooks Estate, South Medford, The Heights, Wellington / Glenwood and The Hillside.

      The main shopping / dining areas are focused around several distinct areas across the city - Medford Square, Haines Square, West Medford, South Medford and Hillside.  Each of these areas has its own unique character, a mix of locally owned stores, larger chain stores, restaurants, coffee shops and offices.  In addition, the new development at Station Landing offers shopping, dining, commercial and residential space in a picturesque riverside setting.  

      Medford is home to Tufts University, a highly rated private university, and the schools of Arts and Science, Engineering, The Fletcher School and The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life are all located within the Medford Campus.  The City has a robust public school system with 9 schools from K-12 including Medford High School and Medford Vocational Tech. There are also a number of private schools within the city catering for different religious and academic preferences.  Medford also has a public pre-K program for children ages 3-5yrs.  Parents in Medford are well supported by the Medford Family Network (MFN), an organization that offers parenting education and support to children and caregivers living or working in Medford.  

      There is a vibrant arts and music community in Medford, supported by Medford Arts CouncilThe Chevalier Theater offers movie screenings, concerts, comedy shows and other performances from local and national acts. CACHE, another organization dedicated to community arts, hosts several events across the year including Circle The Square and the Mystic River CelebrationThe Condon Shell on the banks of the Mystic River also hosts free community programs such as music concerts and movie showings during the summer.  

      Despite being so close to Boston, Medford has a vast array of outdoor spaces for residents to enjoy.  The Middlesex Fells Reservation covers parts of Medford, including popular hiking trails to Wright’s Tower and Panther Cave.  The Mystic River offers kayaking and paddleboarding opportunities, along with beautiful walks along the banks to admire the changing foliage.  During the summer, Wright’s Pond is open to residents only and offers a safe bathing spot and a beach, and Tufts Pool also gives outdoor swimming options.  

      With so many options for work, play and home life it’s easy to see why homes in Medford have been increasingly in demand in recent years.  Speak to one of our experienced realtors to find out how you could find your dream home in Medford.  

       

      OUR REALTORS RECOMMEND:

      "If you love Italian food, Medford is the place for you!  My favorites are Nappi’s and FiorItaly, both on Salem Street. For pizza, Amici’s in West Medford has the best pizza around! 

      I like to take my pup on a hike to Wright’s Tower - the views are amazing especially in the fall during peak foliage.  Another spot we like is by the Thomas Brookes Mansion behind the Oak Grove Cemetery - so peaceful and the history is remarkable."

      Nick Freda

      "I love living in Medford for its easy access to Boston, hiking in the fells and kayaking on the Mystic River.  

      My favorite restaurants include Bistro 5 in West Medford, Salvatore’s and Oasis Brazilian Restaurant (for a taste of home!).  For treats, go to Colleen’s Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop in Medford Square or my new find, Goldilox Bagels - so good!"

      Ides Figueiredo

       

       

       

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        Working from Home - Making the Most of your New Working World

        At some point most of us have probably fantasized about working from home - rolling out of bed 2 minutes before logging on, staying in your pajamas all day, long lunch breaks on the porch, no more exhausting commute and always home in time for dinner.  However after a few weeks of enforced WFH you may be realizing it’s not all as good as it seems.  If you are used to working in a more regular office environment, surrounded by people and a familiar routine, you might be feeling isolated and lonely, or have difficulty staying focused.  Add in the complications of homeschooling and worrying about staying healthy and it’s not exactly conducive to being your most productive work self.  Our agents are used to working independently, so we asked them for some key tips on how to stay focused and on task during the work day, and keep work and home separate even when they are in the same building.

         

        Get Dressed

        We’ve all seen the funny clips on Facebook where everyone on the Zoom call is only dressed from the waist up, and there are reports from clothing retailers that sales of shirts are up and pants are down.  While it may seem one of the main attractions of working from home is not having to stuff yourself into a suit and tie every day, it can help to dress as though you are going into a work environment, says Ides Figueiredo.  “If I know I have an important call with a client, I will wear clothes that make me feel professional and business-like.  Dressing for the task in hand helps me feel more confident and prepared”.  Save your sweatpants for the weekend.

         

        Designate a Work Space

        Matt Asdornvuttikrai suggests “reorganizing and making a specific part of the house your work space. Having a dedicated place for your work can help you to separate work life from home life.”  If you are lucky enough to have an office space in your home then that is an obvious choice, but with maybe 2 adults trying to work plus kids homeschooling it’s not always that easy, and you may need to improvise.  This could be a folding table set up in a bedroom, a set space at your dining table or your laptop on the kitchen counter, but each person should have their own space where they can spread out their work.  You can use something like this rolling cart to gather up all our papers, worksheets, pens and devices at the end of the day, making it easy for everyone, even the kids, to keep their stuff together. 

        Anne Spry also recommends designating different places in your house for different tasks to keep focused.  “My real estate work is all done in my office. I use my living/family room for other things like email or social media. I do all things bills and prepare for my taxes on my kitchen table. And I feel like I’m on vacation when I work from my basement!”

        Wherever you are working, it’s important to create the right atmosphere.  Some people find music, especially classical, can help you tune out background noise and keep your focus in the space.  Others prefer a more ambient background - Adam Sams suggests the National Park Service website where you choose the Rocky Mountains as your work soundtrack. 

        If you want more ideas on how to better furnish your home for remote working, read our blog on Furnishing Your Home for Extended Remote Work.

         

        Block your Time

        There are distractions working in an office - think of the time spent each day gathered around the coffee maker or ordering lunch - but at home those distractions are multiplied.  It’s all too easy to get distracted into “just” doing little jobs around the house - for example “I’ll just empty the dishwasher / place that Amazon order / put a load of laundry on / walk the dog” - and before you know it an hour has gone by.  You can still do all these jobs - it’s one of the perks of being home - but be conscious of blocking out time to do these, and time to work.  Maybe replace the time you would have spent commuting with doing 1 or 2 household chores, and then start your work at the usual time. Block yourself out a “lunch hour” and make an effort to move away from your work area and take a real break.  Erica Carson knows the benefits of time blocking to make the best use of your own natural productivity. “I’m most inspired and focused in the morning — so anything that requires a lot of creativity or diligence all gets done before lunchtime. Afternoons are for emails, making calls, and getting organized. Time blocking is key.

        Focus on One Job 

        If you are doing double duty with work and childcare, try this tip from Katie Tully. “I will set myself reminders on my phone as things come up throughout the day - emails to send, calls to make and so on - and then when the kids are occupied for a period of time I will sit down and hammer out a few things at once.  It’s much more effective than trying to respond to emails while cooking dinner and helping with homework!”  Breaking your work time into chunks can help the kids stay occupied too. I-Ching Katie Scott says “I will say to my children 'I’m going to spend 30 mins on my work now and you can do the same, then when we are done we will do something together'. It helps for both of us to break it into smaller chunks of time but with older children you could try longer periods.”

         

        Take it Outside

        The benefits of fresh air have long been documented but it’s even more important to bear in mind when we are confined to our homes more than usual. Now the weather is improving there is really no excuse not to get outside for a short period each day. Taking a break for a short walk, bike ride or run can help improve your concentration and focus, as well as having other benefits for your overall fitness. Even taking your morning coffee outside gives you a break from your screen, a chance to stretch your legs and get a change of scenery  Jenny Nordan says “Make the best use of any outdoor living space you have - I’ll pull a chair onto my porch for a zoom call or grab my phone and stand outside for 10 minutes to check emails”. Naomi DeLairre agrees “Getting outside on a sunny day is a good way to re-energize”.   You can take it further and combine work with exercise and chores - invest in some good headphones and join your next teleconference while walking the dog. 

         

        There are plenty of articles that can give you further tips and advice, so take some time and find out what works for you.  Ultimately this will end and we will return to more regular patterns of work, but you may find that working from home has actually brought benefits to both your business and home life.  If you want to consider a more permanent remote working arrangement, and your current home no longer fits your lifestyle, get in touch. We can help you find the right place to work and play.

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          Winchester - Community, Convenience and New England Charm

          Winchester, MA

          Located just 8 miles north of Boston and Cambridge, and with easy access to both cities, you can see why Winchester has grown to become a popular bedroom community.  The town has not one, but two, commuter rail stations that take you into the city in under 20 minutes, and has direct access to the I-93 for a short drive into Boston and Cambridge. There are also bus routes that connect to the Red Line at Alewife, North Cambridge and the Orange Line at Wellington Station in Medford.  

          The town has more to offer than just convenient transport links.  Another reason people are drawn to Winchester is the highly-regarded Winchester Public School system. Five elementary schools, one middle school and one high school cater for over 4600 students from Grades PK - 12. Winchester High School, recently renovated in 2017, consistently features in the lists of Top 20 High Schools in the state.  Vinson-Owen Elementary School has also been recently rebuilt (2013) and McCall Middle School is being expanded to accommodate the growing student population.   The schools are supported by the Winchester Foundation for Educational Excellence (WFEE), which raises funds to support staff and students. 

          The picturesque town center, with the beautiful common flanked by the striking white church steeple, gives the town a quintessentially New England feel.  Boutique stores and salons sit alongside popular favorites such as Starbucks and CVS for essential purchases. There are a variety of options for dining out, including The Waterfield Kitchen (part of the Serenitee Restaurant Group), the locally owned Black Horse Tavern and Lucia’s Ristorante (sister restaurant of the North End favorite).  For groceries, there is a large Stop and Shop in the town, and a Whole Foods Market just across the line in Woburn.   Winchester also has its own hospital with full Emergency Room and many world-class facilities. 

          One of the most stunning views of the town is looking across the Aberjona river towards the Winchester Public Library and the Town Hall.  People gather on the lawn behind the library to enjoy Town Day and the fireworks in June or to take part in the annual Halloween Parade, organized by the parent group Family Action Network of Winchester.  Across from the Town Hall, the En Ka Society brings the fair to town for a weekend in May, attracting the crowds since 1935 for this annual tradition.  Winchester has a thriving senior center, The Jenks, which as well as being a hub for the over-55’s, also hosts events and guest speakers for the whole community.   

          A portion of the Middlesex Fells Reservation sits within Winchester’s borders, with access points along South Border Road.  This is a popular spot with families for hiking, biking and nature walks. Upper Mystic Lake is another beauty spot within the town, and the Winchester Boat Club offers a prime spot from which to enjoy the lakes.  Wright-Locke Farm, a community farm offering organic produce, youth and adult education programs and events, is another gem of a place in town to enjoy the outdoors.

          With all that Winchester has to offer, it’s no wonder property is in high demand in the town.  Speak to an experienced agent to find out more about the current real estate market in Winchester and how you can secure your dream home.

           

          Photo credit - Barna Road Photography

           

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            Clean, Declutter, Refresh - Simple Changes to Make Your Home More Livable

            Current circumstances mean we are spending a lot more time inside than usual, and for some of us that might be highlighting frustrations with our current home.  But this period of enforced indoor time could be the ideal opportunity to do something about that, and make your home into a more desirable place to be.  While we are not suggesting you start knocking down walls or installing a new bathroom, there are some simple tasks you can undertake that will make a big difference.

            CLEAN

                  Green Mop

             

            Ok, maybe not everyone’s favorite thing to do, but now is an ideal time to do a spring clean and get to some of those tasks you have been putting off.  Empty out your kitchen cupboards and wipe down inside and outside, wipe walls and baseboards, wash windows (where you can reach), clean the oven, dust your closet shelves and rails, pull out furniture and vacuum behind it.  Spending some time on these deep cleaning tasks now makes it easier to stay on top of your regular daily or weekly cleaning - and gives you a great base to start your next task…

             

            DECLUTTER

            Clothes Hanging in Closet

             

            Once you have pulled out the contents of your cupboards or closets don’t automatically put everything back again.  Take the time to figure out what you really want to keep, and decide whether some things can be donated or repurposed.  Depending on your closet storage, you could consider packing away out of season clothing to make it easier to find the right item for the weather.  Winter clothes that you haven’t worn this year probably aren’t going to get worn again, so before you pack them away think about whether someone else could benefit from that sweater that no longer fits.  There are many places that will gladly accept donations of clothing - although they may not be accepting items right now they will be very grateful for them once things reopen.  In Winchester, try the EnKa Exchange, the Goodwill Truck near WholeFoods in Woburn, or for kids try Cradles to Crayons.   Once you have arranged your closet, you can tackle your basement, attic or that junk drawer in the kitchen, and get a clean slate for the next stage...

            REFRESH

            Decorative Throw Pillows

             

            Now your home is clean and you have removed some things that no longer “spark joy”, you can start to think about how to best display your favorite items.  If you have photos in frames on your mantel or shelves, changing these will give you some fresh memories to enjoy.  New throw pillows can give a lease of life to an older couch, and fresh sheets or blankets will revitalize your bedroom.  Changing out the artwork on the walls can give a room a whole new look - think about rearranging your prints or changing frames.  Updated lighting such as introducing floor lamps can also make a huge difference to the look of a room.  If you want to go further, a new coat of paint will really brighten up your space, whether it's a refresh or a completely new color.  Local hardware stores offer a contactless service where you can order your paint and pay by phone, and then pick up your items or even have them delivered to your home.  

            If after all this effort your home is still not meeting your needs, our agents are available to  help you search for something new.  With interest rates low and homes continuing to come on the market there are still opportunities to make a move.  And all of your hard work will mean your home is looking its best and ready for sale!  Contact us to find out how we are helping buyers and sellers while keeping everyone safe

             

             

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