Sunday, July 15, 2018

How to be a perfect house guest

A few days ago I blogged about tips on how to successfully host guests at a vacation home.  As mentioned,  I am now following up on Part 2 of this theme with how to be a perfect house guest.  Of course no one is perfect on either end and it would be too "Stepford Wife" like if they were but I thought I would write a list of ideas for anyone planning a stay at someone's home.  I found a good article on this subject as a guideline but more specifically here is a list from my viewpoint and experience.

Before Arrival- Define agreed upon dates and a length of stay
- Arrive at a reasonable agreed upon time if possible
- Learn where to park and only park in designated space
- Understand and respect the hosts schedule (they may have appointments or work to do during your stay).

What to bring
Ask out what type of clothing to bring, casual, dress, swimwear. 
If you have a special diet feel free to bring your own food
Bring you own toiletries - sunblock, towels
If you have a special pillow feel free to bring along
If you have a pet ONLY bring if invited by the host.

DO NOT BRING CHOCOLATE or anything dangerous that the pet could access.  (we had one guest hide chocolate in a backpack that my dog ate-had to call poison control at 2am)

Tour the house and learn where you should put your things.
- During the tour get a pulse of your hosts.  
- Are they carefree and tell you to make your self at home in the kitchen?  If yes, know your limits but offer to help, make coffee etc. (I wouldn't raid the icebox when they are asleep).  - Respect assigned boundaries (ie: if a door is closed DO NOT ENTER unless invited).  
- Do not touch the house guests personal items unless you have permission.
- Learn the appropriate guidelines if your host has a pet (ie: keep door closed and appropriate foods).  

How to behave
Respect norms of house and the venue-if you are in a private house it is different than if there are neighbors all around so you need to be mindful of noise levels both in and outdoors.
-understand bedtimes, wake up times etc 
- Ask permission before using anything of the host, respect the word "No" if they set limits.
- Seek activities you can do on your own and feel free to take a day trip.  You can invite your hosts to join you but don't feel slighted if they suggest you go on your own.  Sometimes hosts need their own space.
- Be social and don't ignore your hosts when they indicate interest in chatting (ie: put your phone/laptop down).
- Keep the room where you stay clean-make bed, empty trash.  Your things should be neat and out of site.
- If you are the first one up learn how to make coffee.  Offer to help cook , clean table etc. 

End of Visit
Clean up after yourself and put everything back to how it was upon arrival without leaving a trace.  

Sign your hosts guest book and rave about how your stay was.  Chances are if you give a great review and follow all my suggestions you will be invited back next year.  

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She enjoys working with buyers and sellers on both sides of the Bourne Bridge. Wendy tries to connect her life wisdom with that of homeowners. She enjoys blogging and writing about all things local that keep her balance.  For more info on Wendy check out her website at 

Friday, July 13, 2018

How to host a successful vacation house holiday

A friend of mine recently shared this photo meme from an Onion article with me.  Although a spoof on reality, in this blog post I will share my summer hosting advice on this subject.  In a subsequent blog,  I will share suggestions on being the perfect house guest.

Keep in mind that if you have a vacation home your goal in this acquisition is to relax and enjoy family time.  The expectation shouldn't be that the purpose is to serve all your guests as the "Help".

Entertaining can be a lot of fun but it also comes with responsibilities and chores.  It is important to outline and set expectations before guests arrive of how your home functions properly.  Once you feel that your home is comfortable to accommodate a certain number of guests you can start inviting them!!

Rule 1: Identify your comfort zones and how you want others to behave in your space.  Before guests arrive map out where they will each sleep.  Be sure you have adequate bedding, pillows and towels.  If necessary buy an air mattress or two. 

If you are having out of town company coming from multiple locations try to coordinate arrival times (particularly if you have to pick them up at a train or airport).  You won't have time to run a shuttle service.  

Rule 2: Set rules and expectations of your visitors.  This includes basics including where to park their car, where to store their belongings  upon arrival.  Tell them to remove their shoes when entering your home ( leave sand outside).  Share your preferred air-conditioning settings, night lights, items you unplug when not home and more.  

Rule 3: Give your guest a designated space for their visit.  (ie: where they can sleep, shower, hang clothing etc. ).  Have it broom clean and give them directions on how you would like it at the end of the visit.  

Leave a laundry basket or area where they can leave bedding, sheets etc on their last day.  Instruct them on how to turn on bathroom fans, wipe down shower, where to discard trash etc.  

Rule 4: Instruct guests on how to make coffee, feed themselves if you are busy, load the dishwasher if they use real plates.  You don't want a sink full of dirty dishes.  

Have essential food items including coffee, eggs, English muffins, cheese and other basics.  Stock up on paper goods and  water bottles. Buy mini moo coffee creamers and non-perishables.  If your guest is on a special diet let them bring any special food items they may require.  

Rule 5: If you have a pet specify guidelines on how your guest should treat your pet,  (careful of dog exiting the doors, absolutely NO CHOCOLATE!! or feeding human foods etc.)

Rule 6: Give your guests some space.  Don't experience FOMO ( fear of missing out). Let them go exploring on their own if you have things you need or want to do.  

give them a spare key and access codes so they can go out, return on their own.

Rule 7: Set up a supply area/basket with extra towels, sunblock, toothbrushes, toiletries, personal hygiene, disposable razors, etc.  Guests almost always forget at least one item.

Rule 8:  Teach your guests how to use your washer/dryer and provide laundry detergent.  Assign a time for them to do their own laundry.  

stock up on extra bath and beach towels.

Rule 9:  Set up some games, puzzles, magazines and TV access to allow guests to find their own entertainment around the house.  Give them a walking map of the area.

Rule 10: Enjoy your guests and keep things in perspective.  A little dirt is easy to clean.  Take time to chat, play games, drink wine and make it a fun experience for everyone. 

Lastly, tell your guests to sign your guestbook and that if they are good you will invite them back again!!   If you have additional suggestions and recommendations please feel free to share these in the comment section.   

p.s.Be sure to take some time for yourself after your guests leave and take a few weekends without company.  

Wendy is a Realtor based at Coldwell Banker Needham.  She also works on the Lower Cape during the warmer months.  She enjoys hosting family and friends on both sides of the bridge.   After four summers she has learned how to keep the balance of enjoying her vacation home while also being a good hostess and mom.  Wendy can be reached at

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Things We Keep

When one thinks of downsizing and decluttering one usually thinks of the physical material clutter we collect in our homes and offices Many are hard to dispose of because they preserve old memories.   

Often we keep photos and items of a deceased family member to pass on their legacy and remind us of their presence.  In the digital age this now can transcend beyond a physical space.   Perhaps it was weird karma that this article  was featured in today's Boston Globe as it hit a deeper spot in my memory bank.   I have sometimes questioned if I should delete a contact of someone who has passed on?

Tomorrow marks my birthday on the secular calendar but on the Jewish Calendar is also marks the 3rd yahzeit of my mother Audrey Stearns who passed away on July 15, 2015. I still maintain her phone contact info and fb wall link. I have not been able to delete this and it is a positive memory for me to have little reminders of my Mom who lives on forever in my mind and I feel still influences my day to day thoughts. I will be lighting a candle in her memory tonight as under Jewish tradition the day starts at sunset the eve prior.

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She also works on the lower Cape during the warmer months.  
She has her SRES and enjoys working with clients who are thinking about downsizing.  She can be reached at

Friday, June 8, 2018

For babyboomers, the downsizing dilemma on both coasts

As babyboomer kids grow older and flee the nests I can't tell you how often the conversation becomes are you going to downsize, what will you do with all your stuff and where would you go?  For those of us with larger homes in suburbia the harsh reality hits in the northeast at the first snowstorm when there is no one to help shovel or at the beginning of the season when you are hit with a huge landscaping bill after the winter clean up.  Although the ideal would be to live in a care free maintenance free environment there are important decisions that need to be considered.  A first step in this discussion may be the decision to sell your primary home and is it better to rent or buy a smaller place.

Still working?- If you are not yet retired chances are you would want to remain in a close by community.
Socially engaged?-Think about how involved you are with your social network.  Will you have a similar type of activities at a new destination?
Following your kids?-  If you want to move close to your kids think about if they are permanently in their current location or will they be moving at the next promotion?  You shouldn't move just to be near your kids.  If they leave the area will you again follow them?
Economics of a move? Depending on the current market you may end paying more than your current home.
Is it better to rent or buy?

An article last fall in the Huntington Post asks many of these questions and is worth your read.

Depending on where you live here are some insights into the economic side on both coasts.

East  The Kids Are Gone But Is Downsizing An Affordable Option

West   Should I Stay or Should I Go

Our youngest child moved to NY last year and it looks she will stay. We have two others living out of state as well. All visit for key holidays and assorted weekends but it is rare that the nest is full.  My husband and I have this discussion often and are starting to plan towards retirement.  Our house is fairly large for the two of us and our dog but we are caught in the East coast bubble.  We live close to our work and our social activities.  For now we will prepare to transition but are not quite ready to give up our home.    I am constantly attempting periodic decluttering as well as resisting the urge to buy more!!  I now only buy household items absolutely needed or that will replace others.   Having helped move clients and family who have downsized I am constantly learning about new resources to help with this transition.  I read and post extensively on this subject (see my facebook page @wendybcb.  I am always happy to share my insights and reply promptly to messages.

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham and enjoys helping baby boomers and their parents transition from a primary home to the next phase.  She has a strong network both locally and nationally to help clients move anywhere in the country.  Feel free to visit her website at

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Book Club and Aging in Place

I recently saw the movie "The Book Club" and it was hysterical.  Although meant as a comedy there were also some insightful reflections on the aging process as brought out by the stages of four adult women who got together since college days, baby booming and now through to the early retirement stage for their monthly Bookclub.  One of the characters, Diane recently lost her husband and had two grown millennial daughters who lived out of state.  They worried constantly about her safety and encouraged her to leave her comfortable home and lifestyle in Southern California to move nearby to them in the Scottsdale Arizona area.  Although well intended this was not what Diane aspired to and would have preferred to continue living independently in her California home.  That being said I am not going to write much more about the movie other than to say that often Millenial's think they know what is best and may force a situation that really is not what the "Adult" in the family wants.  Often it is better to allow one to remain independent and to stay in their home until it is their decision to move on or downsize.

Of course as we age safety measures may change based on physical ability.  When we have young children it is important for example to have child safety locks to prevent unwanted access to dangerous tools or hazards.  On the other extreme there are safety measures that should be considered as one ages to safely stay in place. The NYT recently had an article on such safety measures which should be considered. click here.

A recently published book “Age in Place: A Guide to Modifying, Organizing, and Decluttering Mom and Dad’s Home,” by Lynda G. Shrager, may be worth picking up as a guide to help a loved one begin this process if the goal is to stay put.  For those with out of state parents there are professionals who can help orchestrate this process to help declutter and make necessary recommendations for safety modifications to an existing home.

If you are into technology, there are now Robots available to help monitor health and even offer companionship to an elder who may be living alone.  Of course,  a digital companion cannot provide empathy or physical help one but they can help monitor vital statistics and send an alarm to medical services when intervention may be required. 

If you live in Massachusetts there are some very helpful options for those living alone.  MassOptions is a resource that provides a network of services available for both elder and disabled residents who wish to bring help into their home.  If you live in Norfolk County there is a service called Are You OK?  Registered seniors will get a daily phone call from the Norfolk County Sheriff's office to ensure the senior is safe.  

There are many resources available to allow seniors to age in place.  Often seniors don't like to ask for help so it may be helpful for those who are worried to do some homework and make a list of services and resources available.  When the older relative is ready for help they will indicate this by their behavior but perhaps you can proactively engage and make recommendations to ensure safety ahead of time.  

Wendy is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Needham, Mass.  She also works with buyers and sellers on the lower Cape during the summer months.  Since earning her SRES, she has been networking and learning about available resources to help her more mature clients.  She is always happy to chat and make recommendations to help baby boomers and their aging parents.  She can be found at or on facebook  @wendybcb.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How to get rid of your stuff-garage sale?

How to Have a Successful Garage Sale
Its spring time and most of us feel inspired to do some spring cleaning.   Previously I have posted several blog posts about decluttering and downsizing.  I am now going to share some ideas on how to actually get rid of your "stuff".  One has the choice of giving things away, donating them or selling them.  The first two options are a great way to repurpose your treasures by sharing them with either someone who will appreciate them or possibly have a need for items they otherwise may not be able to purchase.

There are several methods available if you are considering the option of selling your things.  If you have a lot of time you may consider selling things online on sites such as Ebay or Craigslist.  If you are a facebook user many areas have Marketplace sections where you can also sell items.  These sites require you to take a photo of the item, write a description and post a price.  You have the option of shipping (you can charge the shipping fee) or arrange for pick up if local.  If you agree to have a local pickup you need to be cautious and may want to meet the purchaser as a mutually agreed upon public space.  For safety purposes I would not recommend welcoming an unknown buyer to your personal home.

I know from experience that the above methods are extremely time consuming and labor intensive.  In addition you need to be readily available to ship an item when there is an interested buyer.

If you decide to go the yard sale route it can be a fun social way to have a one weekend event.  The frequent problem though is that more often than not buyers cherry pick and may leave you with the "junk" you still need to get rid of.  Sometimes you get lucky and it is often true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  Many times garage sales have benefited both buyer and seller. If you do decide to go this route below are suggestions to make this effort a success. 

What to Sell
lBecause variety is the spice of life, garage sale shoppers prefer sales that feature a little bit of everything. If you have nothing but used clothing and toys to sell, wait until you can pull together a few more items.  When deciding what to sell, never underestimate the value for absolute junk. One of my neighbors last year was selling used Tupperware containers.  Although shocked they are great for artists to use to paint or store supplies.  If you haven’t used something in the past year, put it up for sale.  lSince dealers and antique collectors frequent garage sales, proudly display one-of-a-kind items.  Buyers look for household items such as dressers, bookcases, baskets, tables, toys, and tools. If you do decide to sell appliances, make sure they work or if they note, include a receipt saying you are selling it for the parts.  You don't want to have the buyer return it because it didn't work. You may want to. have an outlet for buyers to test a TV set before buying it.

How to Price
Be sure to label and put price tags on items. Customers may assume that unmarked items are out of their price range. Part of the fun of a yard sale is that buyers want to get a "good" deal.  Be prepared to haggle. Price things higher than the price you really want for it so you can accept discounted offers.   Most garage sale enthusiasts love to negotiate but if you are selling something that you value it’s okay to say, “I’m firm on that price.”  Price things you want to move fairly.  It is common to sell items at a 10-30% discount from retail. 

How to Display
Presentation is important.  Be sure everything looks clean and if dishes sparkling.  Larger items bring the most foot traffic. If you sell a couch or table early in the day, ask if you can keep the item with a “sold” sign on it until the end of the day.
Keep things organized.  Clothing on racks sells higher than similar items thrown on a blanket. If possible, hang a line in your garage or buy a portable rack. People who dig through boxes expect to pay much less for those items.
Clearly mark your sales area or buyers may try to buy items you hadn't intended to sell. If you have a sale in your garage, cover the lawn mower, shovels, and rakes.
Attract attention with eye-catching balloons and signs.

How to Publicize
Use social media and if practical you may want to place an ad in a local newspaper.  Also it is a good idea to put posters around town and post at local community areas at strategic locations, directing traffic to your neighborhood, street, and house.  When the sale is complete don’t forget to take them dow.

When to Sell
Yard sales attract the most customers when the weather is nice.  Be sure to check the weather forecast before planning your sale.  Spring and fall are often good times to sell.  Saturday is often the best day for a yard or garage sale, though this varies regionally. In some places, people tend to favor Thursday or Friday sales. If you are new to an area, ask around to see which days are the most popular for sales.

What to Do with Leftovers

At the end of your sale you may have many items left.  You can decide if you want to donate these or store them away for a future sale.  If you decide to donate be sure to arrange to get a donation receipt as you may be able to get a donation benefit.  Again remember that one person's junk may be another person's treasure.

Clean and enjoy the new found space you have once you reorganize after the sale.  Feel proud that you were able to purge whatever you did.

If you need advise or ideas on how to get rid of your things feel free to reach out to me.  I have a great network of people who specialize in helping with the downsizing and process of asset liquidation.  

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham,  She has her SRES and specializes in helping clients with the downsizing process.  You can read more about her at her website.  

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Do it yourself or not- why a FSBO may not be the best option when selling

In today's do it yourself world we often learn the hard way that sometimes it may be easier to pay someone.  There is an article in today's NYT Smarter Living section that suggests the importance of knowing one's strengths and weaknesses.  Click here.  Let's face it we can't be a jack of all trades in everything.

How often do you try to fix something minor at your house only to make it worse.  My husband recently tried this with a sink faucet and accidentally broke the inner faucet valve and now we need to replace the entire fixture.  Sadly this model has been discontinued and we now need to replace both sides.  Lesson learned, it cost more in the long run to do try to save a few bucks.  If you buy do-it-yourself furniture for one of your kids who is moving to an apartment out of state you can spend money to travel to help build the furniture (hotel $300 night, meals $150 plus,  transportation $100) or you may be able to hire someone from Task Rabbit to build it for under $75.  Your choice!!

Although both of these experiences were not significant in monetary value they highlight the overlooked aspect of how a well thought out plan can go wrong.  Always think time and money when factoring in a business transaction.  I always ask myself to think about the opportunity cost if I go one way when another approach may be more effective, produce a higher return and save me time in the long run.

As a realtor I am quite sensitive to this when I see potential sellers who want to sell on their own.  As a FSBO (for sale by owner)  a seller is taking all the risk of selling a property into their own hands.  Statistics show that in the long run a seller will yield a higher sale price by using a realtor and will more than cover the commission.  Further selling a property is a legal transaction and a seller must fully understand his or her legal obligations of disclosure as mandated by local regulations and Massachusetts State law prior to entering a contract with a potential buyer.  These regulations are constantly being updated and a realtor's job is to know these regulations.

By selling privately the seller risks the level of market exposure of MLS to bring the maximum number of buyers in the common market.  An example of this is highlighted here.  He/she will spend a lot of time selling and may not be as savvy in asking the best price.  An independent agents sole job is to represent the seller and do everything possible to help the seller best position the property.

Selling a house on your own is great if it sells quickly but if not this can become a challenge when you are the one showing it to potential buyers.   Can you separate your emotions from the business side of the process?  Do you want to tie up all your time to meet the buyers needs?  After an accepted offer there are times the buyer will need to visit the property for inspections, work estimates and other tasks up to the close.  There is a lot of hands on work that realtors do to make the transaction go smoothly to alleviate the time constraints on the seller.   Remember time and money are key.

Next time you get the urge to do something on your own think out the process and ask yourself if it will really save time and money in the long run.  Chances are you are better off hiring a professional to do the job at hand using their hard learned expertise.  You will be happier and less stressed. (Incidentally inventories are at an all time low and this is a great time to sell while interest rates are still reasonable.)

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She works in both the metro-West Boston area and the lower Cape.  She loves working with first time buyers, sellers who may be downsizing and anyone else who is an enthusiastic client.  Check out her website