Saturday, June 10, 2017

Big house, small house.....My personal baby boomer journey

As part of the baby boomer generation either I or one of my family members has transitioned through all phases of the real estate cycle.  When I was born, my parents first lived-in an apartment and in the late 60s bought a small but affordable ranch house in Oak Hill Park, Newton.    It was on a quarter acre lot with 3 bedrooms and one bath and cost $24K.  At the time Newton was ranked and still is ranked as one of the top public school systems in the state.  Their top priority was for my younger brother and I to be able to attend the Newton public school system.  As a child, I perceived this home to be the tiniest house of all my friends and an embarrassment to bring people over.  Looking back this may have been a predecessor for the Tiny House  movement although my parents did not live a minimalistic lifestyle (this was early days of collecting habits of my dad.)  See my blog decluttering.

As I went through high school, interestingly,  this little house became the destination for many of my friends particularly after a movie or date.  My parents always had an open door policy and welcomed my friends to visit whenever they wanted.    The small cozy space had a welcoming warmth that guests enjoyed the minute they entered the front door.  One time, although a bit late (I think 1:00 am) a friend, Billy rang our door bell and said "he was home from college".  Although we told him it was a bit late for a non-college setting the idea that he would stop by was actually heartwarming and became a long time family joke that "Billy was home from college"(he was studying nearby at Bentley). I learned from my parents how to make a house a home and have since carried this philosophy throughout my adult years.  They were always open to hosting dinner guests or having friends over for fine tea and coffee served in the nicest of bone china.

Once I went away to college and then graduated I moved to my our series of apartments before getting married and buying a starter home.  Right out of school,  I moved outside West Hartford Connecticut for an auditing job with Emhart Corporation.  I had searched through for a roommate through the West Hartford JCC at the time and found a two bedroom to share with someone already there in a very family oriented suburb which was not fun for a single college grad.  After one year of discontent with both my job and my living situation I decided I really wanted to be in a NYC and got a great job at Dunn & Bradstreet Corporate and my own apartment.  I found a small studio in Forest Hills New York with an easy commute to Manhattan where I was working for two years.

Missing my family and close friends as well as starting to date my now husband,  after two years it was time to move back to the Boston area.  I again started a new job in Needham and found an apartment in Chestnut Hill that I lived in for a year prior to getting married and moving to a 2 bedroom apartment in Newtonville.  During this time my husband was finishing a residency program in Boston and I studied for my MBA at BU. At this point an apartment was perfect as we both had full-time jobs and studying to do.

Once my husband finished residency and we were about to start a family we were ready to enter the housing market and started our search for our first home.  At the time we couldn't afford the high property prices in Newton or Needham ( my husbands family lived in Needham Heights) where we both grew up and a work colleague of my husbands encouraged us to look in her neighborhood of Dover, a rural community closeby.  In the mid-80s housing prices were booming and increasing much quicker than inflation and salaries. The starter home of my parents generation was now in the mid to high 200's.  

We ended up buying a raised ranch in Dover and closed one month to the date before our first child was born.    The house was structurally sound with 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths.  It was larger than the typical starter home and to me seemed like a huge home compared to where I grew up.  The lot size was an acre which is standard for Dover.  The area was very residential and only a few miles from the Needham line.   The house itself just needed some cosmetic updates which we would do.  The immediate needs of painting and redoing hardwood floors were tackled before we moved in but updating bathrooms and the kitchen could be done at a later time.  We were of the generation that understood that the first house would not be perfect.  We quickly learned that we had to compromise a bit and would need to put in our own money or sweat equity into tailoring it to our wants.

As part of our due diligence we drove around the area and went to the town hall to learn more about life in the community.  We learned that Dover had one of the top rated public school systems  and the amenities Dover had to offer fit our soon to be family needs.   As we drove around different areas in Dover we set our eyes on a few neighborhoods we admired as well but agreed that the location and size of this home was perfect for our family at the time.  We ended up staying in the house close to 17 years.

A few generations later, the starter home of our time may be a thing of the past. Todays millennials often seek out the maximum house they can buy.  Real estate is one of the largest single investments Americans will make and therefore it is important to buy the property you choose for the right reasons.  For insight into recent buying trends of millenials see a recent new article story on posted by CNBC.

As time progressed our family grew from three to five and in the late 90s we began to think about moving to a larger home.  We looked  off and on over a few years but truly did love our neighborhood.  As our daughters approached middle school though we decided it was time for them to each have their own bedroom.  We were bursting at the walls with clothing and things they needed and all felt we needed to upsize.  We ended up finding our dream home, a colonial, in one of the neighborhoods we aspired to move in when we bought our first home in Dover.  At that time it was just being built and didn't have trees.  Now in full bloom almost 15 years later it was bursting with families our age and we excitingly made the move.  The house was perfect and like my parents small home in Newton quickly became the "go to" place for our kids throughout their high school years.  We had a large basement and TV set up and always welcomed their friends.  Many a party and sleepover as well as a great cul de sac lot made our yard the perfect prom photo-op destination.

As the next decade approached our kids started to go off to college and leave the nest.   During this time we also had to deal with the process of helping our parents downsize and transition to care facilities as health care issues developed.  In addition to accumulating our own things we suddenly inherited our parents collections and items to deal with.  See Blog here Transition.  We now have a large house filled with things but the kids have all moved out of state.  The upkeep of this size house is high and a lot of work for two people.  We have since bought a townhouse on the Cape which is half the size and a the perfect space for our current needs.  Eventually we will decide what to do with our primary house.  

We are now seeing may of our neighbors downsizing from the suburbs towards an urban or resort lifestyle.  Many of my friends and colleagues are asking me, where I plan to retire?.  Although not quite ready ourselves I do have some suggestions for those who may be ready right now.  As we start to age, floor layout and ability to navigate a larger home may start to become difficult. For those who want to stay in their homes,  there are often renovation options to allow you to age in place.  The National Association of Home Builders has out together a checklist (click here)  NAHB.   

Today Baby boomers are changing the trends on the real estate market and will many opt to remain in place many choose to seek alternative living situations.  The options are growing now for our generation.  In California, for example a new law was just passed to expand the concept of Granny houses, small houses that could be adjunct to a property as an in-law or millennial type home for your extended family.  For those who may be aging and not be able to age in place or near family members there are senior housing options also available.  I suspect that as time goes on as the trendsetting generation there will be more innovative ideas coming along and I will share them as I become so informed. 

The other day, coincidentally my parents home in Oak Hill Park, Newton came on the market.  It is now listed at $659K and will probably sell in a bidding war above asking price.  As part of the weekly real estate brokers tour I went to visit the small ranch I grew up in.   The rush of great memories came flooding as I walked over the threshold.  I introduced myself to the listing broker and told her this was my childhood home.   She was actually the buy side broker when my parents sold the house in 2000 and remembered my parents quite well.  She asked if my Dad was the one with the large collection.   She moved to her Oak Hill Park house over 30 years ago  and raised her family there.  She said she went through a phase of thinking about upsizing but loved the area so much instead she chose to stay.  She too is an empty nester and said she is glad she did as this home is the perfect size for she and her husband today.  When I mentioned downsizing she suggested I consider making an offer as this would be the perfect size home for an empty nested baby boomer.  As I thought briefly about this idea I reflected on my own personal journey of living in this area most of my life.  

Wendy recently joined Coldwell Banker Needham.  She has been a realtor for over 8 years and knowing the area quite well can share a hands on local perspective.  She has also recently earned the SRES  designation and looks forward to helping other baby boomers as they approach their next transitions.  Feel free to contact her directly or click here if you would like to learn more.  

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Transitioning to Senior Living Options

Discussing retirement and longterm elder care planning with ones parents can be an uncomfortable conversation.  Often the topic arises at a time of necessity.  When confronted with this situation, it may be difficult to objectively seek out the best options as time can become of the essence.  When my father-in-law became ill a few years ago we confronted this issue first hand.  He was having a difficult time walking up and down a short flight of steps and his primary care doctor became very concerned about his stability.  She feared he could potentially break his hip and stated she would not give him a medical release after a short inhospital stay to return home.  She said he needed to more to an assisted living facility or would eventually end up in a nursing home.  We panicked and in a one week turnaround had to find a place where he would be able to move with his wife that would be acceptable as their next home.  My mother in law was beginning to show early signs of alzheimers and also needed a better living situation.  She appeared very upset and resistant and did not want to leave their home of 50 years.  

Understandably it would be a challenge to move them both to a new place and make it their home.  In order to get them to agree to move it became important to emphasize the safety aspects of finding a new place.  Click here for some suggestions on how to Convince an elder.  We had to take my mother in law to see many places while my father in law was in rehabilation care.  We emphasized that she couldn't live with him any longer unless they both moved to a safe place.  We met with the marketing agents and had her dine at the places we visited.  They showed us their best activities and tried to embrace her interest.  A key selling point was the food at each venue.   

We were fortunate to find an assisted living facility that had an apartment available in the same area where they lived.  The building was brand new and they became one of the first residents.   Their new home was physically located behind the street where they raised their family and my mother in law could still do her usual daily routines including playing mah jong and going to the nearby hair salon and CVS.  My father in law would be able to get the medical attention he needed and both would have all the amenities including home cooked meals, personal hygeniene and health care services.  

Once we found the place,  my sister in law and I managed the transition process from beginning to end.  We had to plan which items they could bring to the new place, arrange movers, organize the items needed in the new home and for a few months we kept their primary home up and running.  We set their new place up to look like a smaller version of their primary home with many of their favorite furniture pieces including their bed and china cabinet as well as some artwork.  My in-laws adapted quickly and became very happy in their new home.  

At first they wanted to see their old place but after a few weeks seemed to feel this was their home.  A big help was that we visited constantly and ate with them in the dining room.  They got a lot of attention when they moved and seemed to enjoy being in the spotlight.  A key selling factor for them became the meals.  They felt like they were in a restaurent for each meal and particularly loved the desserts.  We treated this as their new normal and arranged to have frequent visitors until they started to phase in the activities available.   My father in law continued to have medical issues and found the care he received was essential while my mother in law became immersed in the social activities.  

After a few monthes we determined they were settled and would permanently stay at the facility.   We then were ready to prepare their home for sale.  Sadly we had to go through all their belongings and determine each items ultimate fate.  Their new home had limited space and if up to my mother in law she would want to keep every item she owned.  We had her work with us for a few days but then realized we were not getting anything done.  We soon started to go over and clean when she was busy and unaware we were doing the job without her.  As her dementia increased she soon forgot much of the task and soon things that were out of sight were out of mind.  We spent a few months cleaning and purging.    We spent countless hours going through over 50 years worth of accumulated stuff.  We donated much to Goodwill and called the trash man to come pick up filled barrels every Thursday during this time. 

At this point we did not know about most of the services available to help with this process and did the bulk ourselves.  We didn't think about doing an estate sale but now retrospectively definitely could have easily had a weekend garage sale to purge the bulk.  The benefits of an estate sale company is that they come in, organize and sell.  Then they typically will broom clean the place.  Instead towards the end we ended up hiring to help us clean prior to listing to rid of the remaining clutter and empty the attic.  We ended up paying them to take away a lot that could have instead been sold.  Since this experience I have visited many sales where people buy just about everything from clothes to used tupperware and we could have sold it all.  I have now built a database of estate sellers to recommend to my future clients.  If only I had known 4 years ago.    

Once the house was emptied we had to also fix some minor things up prior to getting ready to sell.  We repainted, repaired some minor items and staged the place to look clean.  I took the role of Realtor at this point and worked to get the house marketed and sold.  The process became emotional for the family once an offer was made and my challenge became to keep this as the best deal for my in-laws. The main objective was to have enough proceeds available to pay for their new place.  It was a sad process and our best offer ended up being from a builder who has since torn down and rebuilt the house. I tell my family the house was the chapter of their life at this property and they were now entering a new chapter at the Assisted Living facility.  My in-laws transitioned smoothly and for them there was no looking back.   They ended up being very happy with the transition and we knew they were in a safe environment.  

I have since become interested in helping others going through this process and earned my SRES.  I have many good resources for baby boomers who may have parents going through this phase of life.  

Wendy recently joined Coldwell Banker Needham.  She has been a realtor for over 8 years and knowing the area quite well can share a hands on local perspective.   Feel free to contact her directly or click here if you would like to learn more.  

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Which do you value more Time or Money?

There is often an interesting paradigm when I ask this question to my friends and family members.  On one hand it may seem more practical to do something yourself as it would save you money but on the other hand, it could end up costing you more time than expected.  Perhaps this would have been time you could have spent at work or vacationing.  If you factor in the amount you are paid per hour, perhaps this is lost income and it would have been more effective to hire someone to do the job.  This can be a common dilemma when it comes to smaller household projects and it may come down to the pleasure factor, if in fact, you enjoy cleaning your home, mowing your lawn or assembling a piece of IKEA furniture.  

When you get to projects on a larger scale usually it is more cost effective to hire a professional to get the job done.  For example,  a tax accountant may be able to put together your return in a few hours and save you money by locating tax deductions you were unaware of.  You could alternatively spend a full weekend doing a return and end up missing some key deductions.

The old saying that "A penny saved is a penny earned" is not relevent when one is making a large monetary or life changing decision.  I have learned the hard way that in the long run it is always best to hire the person who will do the best job to get something I need done.   Even with IKEA furniture,  we have had to deal with the long lines at the store in the midst of putting a dresser together only to realize a critical piece was missing.  For a small amount more we could have paid someone to assemble and deliver a comparable piece of furniture and be done in an hour vs spending a good Sunday afternoon to get to the same point.  

In the real estate business it is always best to work with someone who knows the local area and market conditions.  A realtor will interview the buyer or seller to gain an understanding of their specific needs.  Their sole job is to work for the interest of the client to help them buy or sell a house.  They do not get paid until this job is complete.  It is recommended to do your research upfront but to work with an expert to guide you through the search or sell process.   

Too many times have I seen first time buyers spend months trying to search for a property, only to be unprepared or well positioned when ready to make an offer.  They often lose out to the buyer working with a realtor negotiating on their behalf to seal the deal.  The buyer needs to be in a competitive position with financing and readiness to understand the best terms when making an offer.  A buyers agent works on their behalf to help them be positioned and find the best property.  The cost for this service is most often paid through the sellers commission to the buyer and seller agents.  For the buyer,  there is no real logic for doing this on their own.  

Sellers often think they may save money by going about their property sale by themselves.  How many times do you drive by a house that says  FSBO "For Sale by Owner" one day and then see it hasn't sold a month later.    In the longer run,  the house hasn't had full market exposure, may not be well staged or may be overpriced.  

A seller agent would have guided the seller to best prepare this property for the optimal market exposure.  The commission fee they tried to avoid will be covered if they can sell their home quickly and for a competitive market price vs having the price driven down by keeping it on the market too long.   For the seller side to answer the true question of "Why"  one must also look at sales statistics.  Typically the home sold through a professional sells for 10-15% more therefore offsetting the commission cost.  On the time side, the seller who sells on his own will need to be available whenever a showing is requested.  In addition, once the home is sold often the buyer needs access to the property for inspections and follow up items.  A sellers agent will be there to help with these appointments and follow up on some time consuming things that may need to be handled along the way.

A well trained agent will advocate and help a buyer search for a property.  They will be able to walk a buyer or seller through any issues that may arise and refer the client to appropriate professional services as needed. In addition,  it is a real estate agents job to provide relevant  buyer information to a prospective buyer that may influence the buying decision.  The agent has a wealth of knowledge about the area and can refer the buyer to well known vendors or service professionals already well vetted.  

Beyond mandatory disclosures a seller is not obligated to disclose every issue about a property unless asked.  An experienced agent will lead the buyer to ask the right questions or prompt the buyer to have the appropriate professional inspect the property if he or she senses some concern.    Someone who tries to purchase a property without a professional runs the risk of being mislead.  On the seller side, an agent will advise the seller on which information must be shared with prospective buyers.  Someone who misinforms a buyer may be subject to liability.  Laws are constantly changing and both the buyer and seller have an increased risk of errors and liability if they are not properly guided through the transaction process.  I encourage both buyers and sellers to seek out professional services to help them save money and time in the long run.  This is when the saying "Time is Money" can be true.

Wendy recently joined Coldwell Banker Needham.  She has been a realtor for over 8 years and knowing the area quite well can share a hands on local perspective.  She has also recently earned the SRES  designation and looks forward to helping other baby boomers as they approach their next transitions.  Feel free to contact her directly or click here if you would like to learn more.  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Whether you are looking for a pet friendly home or a home friendly petplease read.

When my husband and I started looking at homes many years ago a top priority was to live near a playground and recreation area for our soon to be born child.  These days, in addition, to seeking a place that will be great for your immediate human family,  pet owners have other equally important criteria.  Ideally you want to live in a place that will be pet friendly. To be considered a pet friendly area there must be pet amenities nearby which include pet stores, places to walk, groomers, veterinarians, and often restaurants with areas to eat with your dog.   According to the top 10 pet friendly cities nationwide include Portland Oregon as number 1 and Boston as number 7.  

As a local dog owner,  I can vouch for the Boston area being a great place to have a dog.  Whether you live downtown or in the suburbs there are numerous pet friendly amenities everywhere.  In addition, there are great vacation places within driving distance that welcome dogs along the south towards the Cape and up north towards New Hampshire.   In the suburban town where I live there are great hiking trails and nearby dog parks.   In addition to having many of the amenities mentioned above, with Tufts Veterinary School and Angel Memorial Hospital MSPCA in Massachusetts animal health care is a top priority.  

The physical setting of the home may be a factor in choosing a property.  Depending on the age and size of your dog, he or she may have difficultly walking up or down stairs.  You may want a place with a fenced in backyard where the dog can run outside freely.  (Of note, if you live in an area near woods you still need to be wary of wild predators and ticks and may not want to leave your dog unattended.)    If you are looking at a rental or a condo it is also critical to check the rules of the landlord/association as sometimes dog or pets over a certain size are not permitted. 

As city streets and traffic makes walking often difficult for urban folks the concept of dog parks has become increasingly popular over the past five years.  First starting in cities such as Manhattan and downtown Chicago this trend has more recently migrated towards the suburbs. There are close to 60  dog parknow in the greater Boston area.   Recently a dog park opened in Needham near my primary home and Mashpee where I spend time during the summer with my dog.  A dog park is a great place for dogs as well as their owners to socialize.  In fact,  many empty nesters flock to the dog park to meet other dog owners.  

Perhaps you have already found your dream property and are ready to consider becoming a pet owner.  As a near empty nester my pet has become my best little friend and I am always excited to seek out new places to walk with her.  If you would like to add a little friend to your life,  Coldwell Banker has recently engaged in an arrangement with Adopt-a-pet to help place shelter dogs in loving homes.  This is one additional way that my company works with our clients through all stages of life.  After all there is nothing like coming home to the unconditional love of a dog.  A dog truly does make a house a home. 

Wendy recently joined Coldwell Banker Needham.  She has been a realtor for over 8 years and knowing the area quite well can share a hands on local perspective.  She has also recently earned the SRES  designation and looks forward to helping other baby boomers as they approach their next transitions.  Feel free to contact her directly or click here if you would like to learn more.  

Friday, May 12, 2017

What is an SRES and how can one help you?

I recently added the 4 letters SRES to my business card and email signature along with MBA.  I would like to explain what this Real Estate designation means and how it may be a valuable resource for my current and potentially new clients.   I have been a Realtor for close to seven years and have had interactions with several different types of buyers and sellers.  Through my recent experience of helping my in-laws and parents  transition from their primary residence to care facilities,  I learned a lot and feel this is an area where I can help others with similar needs.  

As a baby boomer and part of the sandwich generation,  we often transition from caring for our kids to caring for our parents .  When my youngest daughter left for college four years ago, naively my husband and thought we would at last become empty nesters.  That status lasted about one week when my Dad's ongoing ailments brought him to the point of needing palliative and then hospice care for about six weeks until he passed away.  Simultaneously my father in law began having problems with balance amongst other issues and we were told by his primary care doctor that he could no longer live independantly.  Unexpectedly, our family was thrown into the new roles of primary and subordinate elder care providers.

My first confrontation with the transition involved helping my in-laws downsize their home of 55 years.  Due to the above mentioned medical needs,  we had to move my father in law and reluctant mother in law to an assisted living facility.  This was a challenge as my mother in law at the time did not want to leave her home.  We had to explain that she would not be able to live with her husband otherwise.  Getting her to buy into the process was a challenge in itself.  Once we found a place, we had to facilitate the move-in and then the move out of their house which was packed to the brim with a lifetime of stuff.  

My sister-in-law and I managed the process from beginning to end and had to navigate the array of issues from deep cleaning and disposing of medicines, personal items, as well as hazmat items (my father in law was a chemist),  fixing up and doing a few minor updates,  and then listing and ultimately selling the property.   Of note, I was the listing agent but also was very intimately involved in the details as the seller ( my inlaws were unable to participate due physical and health issues.).  I now have a great database of the resources we used in the Metrowest area. 

About a year after my Dad passed away , my Mom became terminally ill and ended up staying in my house in the Boston area for treatment.  Her biggest fear was that she would become a burden to me and my family and that someone would have to take care of her.  She had a very strong resilience and wanted to be in full control.  It was hard for her to accept the help of others as she had been my Dads primary care giver for several years.  She ultimately wanted to return to her home in Florida where she would be surrounded by her friends and things and primarily her independence.  After 4 months of chemotherapy she was happy to return home where she wanted to spend her final days.  She was in her condo until the last days when she had to go under hospice care.  She ultimately made that decision as she knew she needed the comfort they would provide.    Mom was in control until the end and guided us with how she wanted everything handled. 

My brother and I inherited the estate and property in entirety. We had to clean out and prepare their condo in Florida for the market although we both lived up North.   Our parents had a vast collection of many specialty items and it was complex to go through this process.  Because we lived out of states complicated the process as neither of us could get away for long time periods.  Due to my profession as a realtor and more flexibility with time to travel to Florida most of the project fell on my shoulders.  It was initially very important for me to go through each and every item in their condo before I would let anyone help me clean it.  This took much too long.  I had to research and develop a help network in the Tampa area until I eventually relieved the intrinsic cost to my time and money outweighed the benefit.  See my blog for more details  (How to make downsizing easy for your kids, April 25, 2017).  The one major lesson I learned with this experience was that hiring professionals is a must especially if you live out of state.  Things that would take me weeks, could be curtailed and done by an independent professional who knew the best resources a in days.  

It can be overwhelming for someone to feel they are losing control of their situation and may have to depend on their children or caregivers for help.   Often emotions can block clarity to learning what the safest and best options may be at the time.  The parent may feel they are losing a perceived freedom of choice.  The family knows they are looking out for the parents best interest.  

To earn my SRES I had to go through a two day training program where we learned the various issues that often confront this population.  Although much of the curriculum was familiar to me, it was useful to gain insight into the specific needs of this niche.   We learned about available in-home care and housing options.  The class helped tailor my real estate knowledge to help those confronting a potentially stressful life change.    I truly enjoy face-to-face client and family meetings and have been trained to help in sometimes difficult conversations.

Some key points on the SRES website defining an SRES are: 
An SRES®understands that this can be a stressful time for a family. It's hard to deal with leaving a home after spending many years in it. Perhaps the parent would actually prefer to go on living there. Your agent wants to understand the challenges you all face in this major decision. By doing so, they can present all available options, so that the outcome is one that will suit the family's needs.
At times, the amount of information coming your way may seem overwhelming. An SRES® is there to help by tailoring meetings to a senior's needs. Don't be afraid to ask as many questions as you'd like until you feel comfortable with the steps to the sales process and other potentially-complicated details. An SRES® may suggest taking breaks so you can absorb the information, and may want to break up the prelisting-process over several visits to your home.

Change is always overwhelming but since completing the course I have been focusing a lot of my time into learning more about the available living options for seniors in my area.  In addition,  I have met with vendors who can provide services to help with downsizing, estate sale management, packing and cleaning services.  There are many resources available to make this transition less scarey and a meaningful experience if you have the right tools in place.  

As mentioned, my family went through the process without much guidance and had to navigate this unfamiliar territory on our own.  The skills I learned through this gave me more more hands-on experience than the classroom but I felt the added SRES would add the recognizable marketing credentials to my profile.  As an SRES, I personally enjoy  helping others who may be going through similar experiences where I can share my knowledge.  I look forward to being able to work with clients who may be approaching this challenge and hope I can make a positive difference in their lives. 

Wendy recently joined Coldwell Banker Needham.  She has been a realtor for over 8 years and knowing the area quite well can share a hands on local perspective.  She has also recently earned the SRES  designation and looks forward to helping other baby boomers as they approach their next transitions.  Feel free to contact her directly or click here if you would like to learn more.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

At What Price Is Integrity?

I was taught at an early age that one's words and actions matter.  My Dad would say that your reputation has to be earned and it can take only a minute to lose it.  My Mother would say that you need to be able to look yourself in the mirror every morning.  One small act of dishonesty can lead you down a dangerous downward spiral.

I learned this at five years old the hard way.  My mother sent me down the street with $.50 to buy a quart of milk, which at the time cost $.35 at the local A&P. I returned home with the milk and a dime.  I used a nickel of my change to buy a gumball in the candy machine.  When my parents asked where their change was I told them that the cashier had only given me back a dime.  They were extremely upset and marched me back to the A&P to talk to the manager.  Before the cashier was questioned, I admitted that I had spent my change on candy.  At this point, my parents told me the cashier could have lost his job due to my behavior if I had not told the truth. I was appropriately punished and to this day have a hard time telling even a “white lie”.

When I reached fifth grade, I wanted to get my ears pierced like all my friends. My Dad was adamantly against this and didn’t want me to “mutilate” my ears.  He said I should not be a follower and do something just because everyone else does. I would complain to all my friends that he was too strict.  

As I approached middle and high school I was not allowed to attend unchaperoned "boy-girl" parties that my parents deemed inappropriate for my age.    Upon complaining my parents would say that I was not to be a follower and wanted to shield me from any potential risk.  They instead instituted an open door policy at our house and although small welcomed my friends at anytime.  

Dad made me watch the 1974 movie "Walking Tall" starring Joe Don Baker as the high-principled sheriff who single-handedly fought for justice in his small corrupt Tennessee Town. At the time I thought my Dad’s belief system was a bit old school and an embarrassment to my peers.   My mother also led a highly traditional life and also embraced these values. I remember how strict they were with an 11:00 pm curfew until I went to college. 

As an adult, I now understand and appreciate the code of ethics that my parents embraced as they raised our family.  I believe these values have also been ingrained in our children and are thankful that they are each perpetuating a value system that my parents would be proud of.  As our kids approached their teen years we also encouraged them to invite their friends to our home whenever they wanted.  As Mother’s Day approaches perhaps our upbringing was the greatest gift our parents gave us and that we have in turn given to our children.

At times, I have often been accused of being too honest like my Dad, which sometimes could create a Curb Your Enthusiasm type moment ( a time when one is annoyed and blurts out something that can be a bit embarrassing but truthful) but for the most part I don’t think this is a bad thing.  Of course, there were some questionable moments.  For example, once in the hospital my Dad blurted out that he thought Melissa McCarthy was overweight on Mike and Molly, although the aide helping him at that moment was also overweight  (she hopefully didn't hear this).  This was a definite bite your tongue un-pc moment.   Now when I look around at how the world has changed since both my parents passed away a few years ago I think this kind of innocent honesty was actually not a bad thing.

My perception of the world as I grew into adulthood was very na├»ve.  I believed that most people were good and saw the world through a similar lenses.  Until the recent election I had no idea what the term liberal vs. conservative really meant.  In Judaism, which was how I was raised, the Conservative movement represented a mixture of tradition with modern thought and is constantly evolving.  There was always conversation and room to discuss one’s thoughts on a given subject without a definite right or wrong.  Perhaps the most representative example of this is during the Passover Seder when the youngest family member asks the  "Four Questions"The primary question “Why is this night different than all other nights?” is asked from the viewpoint of four different perspectives of learning.  This teaches that each question has a different interpretation based upon one’s perspective. Openness of differing ideas is encouraged and acceptable.  

Sadly today I see a different world.  The U.S. Conservative movement  objective focuses on preserving a less interpretative way of life and to bring America back to the perceived "good old days".   As exemplified in the recent firing of FBI Director James Coomey and the response by many leaders of the GOP party, I question the integrity of our political leaders, many who do not question authority and just follow along even at the expense of their moral code.  The administration spokesperson yesterday said Coomey's firing was due to the FBI losing faith in his work.  In a Senate hearing today,  the acting Director McCabe  contradicted this statement and reiterated that the staff of the FBI had the highest respect for Coomey and never questioned the integrity of his work.  Did the WH lie to us?  Will the WH say McCabe testimony is  "fake news"?  

I am weary that this behavior is filtering down to the general population.  Dishonesty and credibility are becoming the accepted norm with limited accountability. We deserve political leaders who are honest and tell us the truth.  At what price is the integrity of the spoken word being compromised?  When will our politicians learn that words and actions do matter?

Wendy recently joined Coldwell Banker Needham.  She has been a realtor for over 8 years and knowing the area quite well can share a hands on local perspective.  She has also recently earned the SRES  designation and looks forward to helping other baby boomers as they approach their next transitions.  Feel free to contact her directly or click here if you would like to learn more.  

Friday, May 5, 2017

Due diligence in a home purchase and health insurance coverage

If you were buying a property and found that it had a pre-existing condition during an inspection, would you go forward with the purchase prior to getting cost repair estimates?    In today's blog I am going to discuss the importance of due diligence in real estate transactions as well as in making legislative decisions.  I try not to be political in my writing but when an issue will impact each of our lives, as does the proposed new health care bill,  I feel it is my responsibility to comment.

As a real estate professional when I work with buyer clients, I always recommend they do their due diligence before committing to the Purchase and Sale "P&S" for a home or condo.  Know the rules and regulations of the home owners association if the property is a condo.  Get all the documentation and review it.  Once an offer is accepted call a home inspector, as well as any other specialists who can independently teach you about the property and evaluate its condition.

If anything of concern arises during the inspection process,  bring in professional contractors to further evaluate the situation and get cost estimates of needed repairs where applicable.   Once cost estimates are obtained the buyer can then intelligently negotiate with the seller to repair, replace or in a worst case scenario "repeal the offer".  Most often a reduction of their purchase price is negotiated.   

How can a health care bill be passed without full review by all members of the house and without cost details?  Did anyone look at the impact on the budget numbers?  This vote was rushed through yesterday without a CBO score.   Do we know the number of people who will lose their insurance or become part of a high risk pool.  Will the $8B  Upton Bill even go near the implicated cost?  

The bill allows states to exclude pre-existing conditions from their health insurance coverage offerings and removes the federal mandate of employer coverage.  Many employers will now be able to opt out of offering health care as an employee benefit to save money.   If you are reading this chances are, you or someone you love has at least one pre-existing condition ( do you wear glasses?).  Click here for a partial list .

As I have been reading the newspaper and listening to various interviews today with elected officials it is obvious that many voted just to appease their political party politics.  Click here to see who voted to pass the bill by a slight margin of 217-213.  vote    This is a short sighted win and hopefully will go under better scrutiny when it reaches the Senate floor.  There are items in the bill that will impact all of our lives.  Many who voted to support the bill today admit they did not read it in full.  This is irresponsible leadership.  

If I did not disclose something to my client or if I advised them to do something detrimental to their real estate transaction I would be held accountable and could possibly be sued.  It is my fiduciary duty to protect the interests of my buyers and sellers.  

Shouldn't our elected officials bear a greater responsibility to their constituents?  I ask all of my readers to become aware of how they are being represented by elected local representatives and officials.   If you learn they are making decisions that hurt your interests speak up and let them know they risk re-election.  I was in Washington DC this week and actually stopped by my State Representative Joe Kennedy III's office on Capital Hill to put a face to a name as I often call his office when I see a proposed bill I disagree with.  Advocacy starts at the local level.  

If you don't do your due diligence no one else will advocate for your health care rights.  Before the ACA was introduced many Americans were uninsured.  Many at risk patients were not getting the essential medical care needed and now may lose their coverage once again.  Many may become ineligible for coverage due to pre-existing conditions exclusion clauses.  See #IAmAPreexistingCondition.  

Please do your homework if you are considering a job change, interstate move or a new insurer before changing your existing healthcare coverage.   Check the new health care policy options that will be offered and make a change quickly to prevent any lapse in coverage as this can cause an increase in premiums.  Under the new bill proposal things you have coverage for may no longer exist.  A mistake in a real estate transaction can cause monetary damages.  A mistake in health care coverage can have much graver circumstances.  

Wendy recently joined Coldwell Banker Needham.  She has been a realtor for over 8 years and knowing the area quite well can share a hands on local perspective.  She has also recently earned the SRES  designation and looks forward to helping other baby boomers as they approach their next transitions.  Feel free to contact her directly or click here if you would like to learn more.