Friday, February 9, 2018

Renovating, upgrading or repairing your home......some points to consider

Are you thinking about remodeling your existing home?  Some good questions to consider are how long you plan to stay in the property or if you are doing the renovations as an upgrade before selling?

As a realtor and homeowner,  I generally recommend only doing a major renovation if you plan to stay place and enjoy the results of the project.  If you are thinking about selling you need to consider the fact that you may have different taste and needs of a potential buyer.  Not all upgrades (see Globe article here payoff) will be worth the time and cost and be recaptured when selling.

According to the NAR the impact of remodeling for buyers and sellers shows that 75% of owners want to stay in their home  after completing a renovation project.  The most valued interior renovations are in the kitchen and bathroom, while exterior ones include a new roof, windows and a a garage door.  There is a news release on this subject from September 2017 here.

Before making any decisions on a home improvement project do your homework.  The major components of this should include soliciting competitive bids before selecting a contractor,  be sure your contractor does all the required permitting (check local permit regulations), get an estimate in writing for the project and establish a plan for any variations as well as final approval at the end of the project.

We just did a work in progress repair to replace rotted wood on our deck.   Our original goal was to preserve the integrity of the deck so that when we do sell in a few years, preventatively there would be no rot issues if inspected.  Our painter last year recommended replacing a few rotted ballisters before returning to do another coat of stain.

What started out as a minor project using our regular contractor ended up costing 3 times what we planned.  We did not follow any of the above tips and learned the hard way.  The contractor started out replacing the identified rotted ballisters and it mushroomed into basically replacing all of them, the under-base and two sets of steps.    My husband told him to use the best materials and although we were in some communication we did not have a written proposal.  The contractor was working on a time and material basis and we went along with allowing him to proceed as needed.  A big mistake on our end was not to get an estimate in writing up front or to get interim progress reports of his spending.  Although he did an amazing job and the deck looks brand new it is not the place I would have spent money.  We do plan to downsize in a few years and this renovation money would have been more beneficial to upgrade a bathroom.

Below are some other articles and ideas:

Angie's List  Remodeling project

Whats worth renovating

Top renovation projects for resale

Home improvement budget

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham and a home owner.  She enjoys sharing her life lessons in this blog to help others make the best decisions possible for their real estate interests.  For more information visit her website at or her facebook page @wendybcb.  She is always interested in referrals.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Home Maintenance Checklist

Owning a home requires a lot of work.  As we take care of our health and our automobiles our homes also require maintenance to be kept healthy, safe and up to economic efficiency.  In November I did a blog post on Home Maintenance with links to key articles for each season.  Click here Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall.

I have just completed a comprehensive checklist of home maintenance items by season. that can be used to schedule and track your individual home maintenance projects.  I will update it periodically as I become aware of new items.  I have it available in a customizable spreadsheet as well if you would like a copy.   Feel free to send me an email and I can forward a copy to you at

p.s. Please note that even if you are selling your home there are maintenance items that need to be done up until the transfer of property ownership.  click here 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Perhaps politics should be run more like a Super Bowl Game

On Sunday the New England Patriots will take the field against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.  While fans from both sides will cheer in opposition for their favorite team this is also a day of family and friends gathering to have fun.  Many people have parties before, during and after the game.  For some good recipe ideas Superbowl Recipes

Over the next few weeks Congress will be finalizing the 2018 budget and furthering discussion on immigration policy.  Most recently the top 2 parties have been pitted against each other hoping to have a winning team.  Most decisions have become so partisan that neither side talks or respects the other.  Instead of working together there is anger and bitterness.  The majority side is deceitful and only cares about the money and their base.  The minority team tries hard to protect the rights of the democracy.  The lack of conversation and deliberate obstacles created by the two makes it impossible for the teams to work together in a beneficial way to their constituents.  Most energy of the majority team is spent reversing the policies implemented during the last administration.

This is not progress. This does not move us forward as a country. In sports there are rules of engagement and referees to monitor the fairness of the game.  The referees are neutral parties and do not have a favorite team.   Similarly we are supposed to have a system of checks and balances with the  three separate but equal branches of our government.  Sadly this system has been violated by the leader of the majority team.  The norms of separation of these branches are being weakened with each day.

This is not how a fair game is played.  In a football game the team would have penalty's and players would be suspended for violating the rules.  In Washington,  the rules change as mandated to protect the leader.  The leader chooses the "judges" who will protect only his interest.  The political teams seem to grow further and further apart with each policy coming from this leader.

 At the end of a football game both sides come together and shake hands.  Although the team who loses may be disappointed they recognize the hard-work of their teammates and share a mutual respect for the process.  They will proudly go home to their home base and work even harder to continue to support their fans in the communities where they play and prepare for the next season.

Although my Superbowl party guests primarily represent the New England team,  a few Eagles fans may stop by.  We will enjoy each others company and be good sports.  May the best team win and I look forward to watching a well- balanced fair game.

In follow-up the Patriots lost but were very good sports.  This was a full page in the Boston Globe today 2/5/18.
Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker in Needham.  Although she usually writes about real estate related articles sometimes she enjoys focusing on local issues.  You can visit her facebook page at @wendybcb

Decluttering is a state of mind and helps simplify the day

On my real estate page and on this blog, I frequently share articles about decluttering and organizing one's home. The more I read and struggle to keep my own space decluttered the more I realize it all starts with your state of mind.  

Prevention Magazine has recently done a series of articles on how to better focus. One of the most valuable ones I found is here  Declutter your mind.  Our thought process and how we approach each day is the roadmap for our success.  It is important to have a focus on what you need to do and minimize potential distractions. Like an athlete who needs to focus on his sport,  we need to clear our heads to focus on how to maximize our time and energy.  One way for me to stay focused and "decluttered in my brain" is yoga .  To escape the business in my life I will often do a 15-30 minute routine.  This helps me to stay grounded.  

In parallel to decluttering my mind, I am also trying to organize my financial life particularly with tax season approaching.   There was a great article Financial Fast featuring Michelle Singletary on how to have better focus on your finances and shopping habits.  By not being aware of these behaviors we tend to buy excessively rather than only purchasing what we really need. This can create impulse buying and feed your clutter. Michelle published a book last year called The 21 Day Financial Fast that teaches how to break bad spending habits.

Like your brain, if you don't have a handle on your needs vs wants  (a sense of what you already own vs a specific items you may need for a purpose),  you may fall into the trap of buying things just for the sake of owning them .  I did the financial fast last year and now limit my purchases to items I will really use.  I no longer buy an item to wear just once (unless its for a specific reason) and instead buy practical items that I will get much use out of.

Last week I spent a full day cleaning and organizing my kitchen.  I was inspired by an article I came across Kitchen clutter. I went through each cabinet and threw out expired foods, recycled a box of unused plastic containers and "bags and bags" of bags.  I purged outdated gadgets that I haven't used since my bridal shower (over 30 years ago).  I actually found a waffle maker that I thought I had thrown out when I looked for it recently.  As of this weekend all my counters and cabinets are clean and well organized.  I can see the food items I have and what items I need to buy.

I have to admit it feels great to have the room where I spend most of my awake time under control.  Not only do I eat in the kitchen but it is also my preferred home workspace.  I am now able to focus on the work in front of me when I gaze up at the empty counter tops.  I have a place to file my mail and a recycle bin on-hand.  My goal now is to spend 15 minutes every night to keep it this way.  I am now ready to tackle the rest of my house.

Wendy is a realtor at Coldwell Banker in Needham.  If you would like more tips on decluttering you can read check her previous blogs.  She also frequently posts new articles on her facebook page @wendybcb.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Things We Keep ( and these aren't My Dead Dad's Porno Tapes")

My blog has frequently shared ideas on how to downsize and declutter.  It specifically has focused on recommendations on how to get rid of the inherited possessions left behind and no longer wanted by family members.  After seeing the trailer for My Dead Dad's Porno Tapes I thought I would discuss ways to preserve the legacy (or secret legacy) your loved ones may have left behind.

Although the typical mindset is to just get rid of everything when an elder passes, perhaps this is an opportune time to treasure hunt for the few gems amongst the junk.  Soon after both my parents passed away (over the past 5 years) in Florida, my brother and I had to make many decisions.  It was nearly impossible to hold onto everything they had collected over their combined 160 years.   After months of cleaning out their condo, there were several relics that I could not bring myself to sell.   (see my prior blog about Death Cleaning.)  My Dad has a huge antiquities collection.  I sorted through and kept the best of each item which I now display in my home.  Although I am quite proud of this collection, its the little things that I kept and brought up North that help me preserve their memories.  One such item is a wooden rolling pin.  I believe I took my grandmother's years ago when she passed and now I have my mom's too.  Looking at these bring back memories of the love of my grandmother's baking and the scent of her apple pie. (the best ever)

For the heirs of a vast collection perhaps you too want to find a way to display your inheritance in your home.  There are options of taking items passed on and storing them away in the basement only to be passed on again or there is the option of using this to add to your home decor.  In yesterday's WSJ there was a great article with tips on how to do this without looking like a hoarder  Decor guru .

When I first lost my parents I was quite distraught.  I found writing a log of special memories was a great way to remember them both.  To this day everytime I see something that reminds me of them I like to reflect on how they would react and write it down.  I now periodically look back on this word document I have saved and still add to occassionly.  There are now companies that can help you scrapbook or do a video to commemorate a family legacy in a more formal manor but I chose a simple microsoft word doc.

My parents had a love for the arts.  I inherited their season tickets to the NSMT when they relocated to Florida and my family kept it going for several years, always thinking of them.  Whenever I see a movie or play I still ask myself how they would have liked it.  Their memories have carried onto many of my personal interests as well as areas I have become engaged both civically and socially.

For the material things that we end up inheriting one must ask which items carry the most significance.  I would recommend figuring out the items worth holding onto and perhaps donating the rest to a place that will also honor their memory.  For example, my Dad had over 4 boxes of Holocaust books which I donated to the St. Petersberg Florida Holocaust Museum.

Of course the greatest way to preserve someone's memory is to share stories and the history of a loved one with the future generations of your family.  Keeping a few small tokens you can talk about may be a good start.  During family gatherings you may be able to share a story about why these items have been in the family.   Family photos and old movies are also a way to visually share a history.  I just coincidentally heard an advertisement for  This is a company that lets your digitalize old photos, film, videos, slides etc into a watchable archived format.

It may be adventurous to go through an old black book (most of our parents kept their own version with written down phone numbers of their social contacts).  I went through my moms and reached out to older relatives to let them know she passed and have since tried to meet and keep in touch.  .  I have been trying to piece together family trees and meet relatives on both sides who I may not normally interact with.   It has been rewarding for me to get to better know some of my second and third cousins,  a few I have met since my parents both passed.

There is a great blog called Family Search that you can look at for a starting point on how to start learning more about your family legacy.  The world is a small place and many of us have extended family we have never met.   Before you begin to clean or declutter, keep in mind the items that may hold clues to your own history and could never be replaced.  Set these aside as perhaps they will be useful tools in your family search efforts.  These may become a part of the legacy you may be able to share with future generations.  Maybe one day when your decendants  find old family movies instead of their "Dead Dad's Porno Tapes" they can then share their heritage with their children.  Perhaps this is the greatest way to memorialize the legacy of one's family.

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She specializes in working with babyboomers and their loved ones to provide advice and guidance as they prepare for their next transitions.  For more tips she can be visited at WendyBCB or on facebook @wendybcb.

Monday, January 15, 2018


When one gets married part of the wedding vow includes the words "until death due us part".  As we accumulate much of our possessions throughout adulthood how many items have you saved since this special day:your entire life? Does the thought of downsizing scare you because you have closets filled to the brim?  How much stuff do you have in your home that is never used or just takes up space?  Often when a parent passes away the heirs find things that probably date back to their parents childhood hidden away and unused for decades.  Burdened by their own junk the likelihood of wanting to add more to the mix is low.

In Sweden,  the concept of  döstädning Death Cleaning literally means the process of cleaning out your stuff while you are alive.  Margareta Magnusson explains her approach to cleaning in her new book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning:  How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter.  She writes with simplicity and humor as she walks through the process of sorting things to organize all aspects of one's collective being.   She talks about the physical as well as cyber accumulations we all have.

Magnussan's approach is somewhat familiar if you have read Maria Kondo's book on Tidying Up.  Both suggest separating the things you wish to hold vs the things you no longer need.  I read the Kondo book a few years ago and have followed many of the organization techniques in my current living space.  Magnusson's focus, since she is a bit older, is on downsizing and freeing oneself of possessions no longer used.  She suggests giving things away to loved ones while you can.  She emphasizes that your heirs will not attach the same meaning or share the same taste in your stuff.

Why hold onto things only to burden the next generation? Wouldn't it be much more practical and meaningful to pass items on that your children selectively want and figure out a plan to divest of the rest?  There may be opportunity to transfer all else to a meaningful end user who will really appreciate these items.

In the Boston Sunday Globe yesterday there was a great article about pop-up museums in the local area.  One man has collected telephones and recently opened a Telephone Museum in Waltham, Mass. He is excited to share his love of the telephone and to teach younger children about this passion.  Similarly there are a few other interesting museums that have popped up where collectors are able to share their wares.  Imagine how great it would be if you had a place to divest of your valued collections where others could enjoy and share in your interests.

Not everyone has things worthy of a museum collection but I do believe that "One man's junk is another man's treasure."  There are plenty of ways to repurpose or donate many of the items that you may no longer find useful.  Many things are like new and can fulfill a need for someone who may not have the means to buy them.

When my parents passed away (in Florida a little over two years ago)  we went through each cabinet and donated medical supplies to a local hospice thrift shop,  old towels and blankets to a local animal shelter, old clothing and household items to the Salvation Army and canned goods to a local food bank to begin with.  (Full disclaimer,  I also ended up shipping some items that we weren't ready to depart with back to my home up North). 

As cited in my blog on April 25, 2017  Downsizing,  planning ahead while you can is the best way to approach decluttering .  We all mindlessly accumulate much more than we will ever need and purging is critical to keep your living space under control.  I have spent the past year cleaning my primary home and now have many clutter free rooms.  I actually feel much happier when things are more orderly and get stressed when piles begin to re-accumulate.  I will spend time cleaning my kitchen surfaces each night before I can go to sleep.  I still do have a few target zones to tackle in my basement though and will soon try to resume cleaning during the next snowday this weekIf you would like some guidance as you begin to embark on your own döstädning please feel free to reach out to me.  I have some great resources available and would be happy to give some guidance.
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning begins at home
Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker in Needham, Mass.  She has her SRES and enjoys helping her clients in their search for an ideal home.  She also enjoys helping her more senior clients with the downsizing process while advising them on finding an ideal home for no-longer serviceable belongings.  She can be reached for a free consultation at

Friday, January 12, 2018

Need a roomate? Tips for Millenials or those entering the Golden Years

Are you an empty nester?  Do you have an empty room you would like to rent in your house?  Are you moving to a new city but can't afford your own space?  Are you tired of living alone and seeking a living companion?  There are many compelling reasons for seeking a roomate.

In today's NYT there was an article about finding a roomate in the  Golden Years. Although it is traditionally recognized that millenials seek roomates when they are starting out in college or moving to a new city it is becoming increasingly mainstream for older adults to seek a home sharing arrangement.  For an older person who lives alone it may be ideal to have someone younger for companionship and help around the house.  Home maintenance tasks become much more difficult as we age.  (I would have loved to have my kids home to shovel this winter.)

In many cities it is prohibitively expensive to rent an apartment and it may be more practical to have a companion for both social and economic reasons.    Local newspapers and facebook are a good starting point in your search.  There are dedicated facebook groups by demographic that will screen potential roomate seekers.  Craigslist also often has listings of people seeking a roomate.   I would suggest starting with your personal network and then expanding your search if you don't have luck. There are several online matching services.

When renting an apartment or living space a landlord typically has a screening mechanism in place.  When one has a home or apartment and wants to share it often the level of screening may be less stringent.  My son lives in New York with a roomate who sublet his apartment this summer.  Although I cannot attest to the level of screening conducted by his roomate, my son's laptop was stolen on the day the subletter moved out.  It has never been recovered. 

Due diligence is critical for a roomate search.  You MUST fully screen for safety and lifestyle quality.  You may want to request a financial verification, personal references and  CORI check if you are planning to sublet a room to someone.   You can never be too careful especially since this person will be living with you.

Below are some links to help facilitate this search.



If you have a roomate and need to find a place to live,  Wendy is a realtor in the metrowest area of Boston.  She loves helping clients in their search.  For more information visit