Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy 2018

As the new year approaches it is always good to reflect on the past year and think about how you can create a better future.  A New Year is a new beginning and it always  good to take an assessment of where you are emotionally, physically and financially.

I have been thinking about what is most important to me this week and the areas I hope to focus on over the next several months.  Sadly my last remaining Aunt on my Mother's side of the family just passed away this week.  Her death makes me the oldest surviving female on my Mom's family line and now gives me the role of Matriarch.  As such I have created a list of areas where I hope to improve and share my thoughts to make the world a better place for my heirs. (  As we grow older we realize life is like a puzzle with many different components.  )

My short list includes:

Health and fitness-a healthy body and mind are critical to everything I do.  I feel much better if I do yoga and walk when I feel some stress.  This allows me the strength to be in the right frame of mind to engage with my social and business spheres.
Social-my family and friends keep me going and they are the reason I feel the next two areas are vital.  Likewise I thrive as a realtor by building my business network
Knowledge-It is critical to be aware of the world around us and the history that got us where we are today.  I constantly read newspapers and social media to better understand the political and social climate of our environment and demography.  When I am able I take courses in the real estate area to increase my market knowledge to better serve my clients.  I also have been specializing in senior clientelle and have been trying to keep up to date in issues concerning the needs of seniors for housing, healthcare and transitional living stages.
Advocacy-given our current government I find it vital to be aware and make daily phone calls Daily Action and  5calls to elected officials to fight for and preserve our democracy.  I try to watch a variety of newsstations, listen to podcasts and read the NYT, WSJ, Boston Globe and twitter feed of leading issues (liberal and conservation posts)  and the comments to better understand where we are as a country and what I can do to preserve those values I deem important. 
Organization (Business Plan and House/Declutter)-A major goal of mine is to keep my work environment and home clutter free.  I work better when I can focus and need to have my surroundings in a ready "to go" position.

Below are some great articles and ideas that I found helpful with great suggestions and links to kickstart your 2018.

1) NY Times tips for a better 2018
2)Boston Globe-tips for a happy and healthy 2018
3) Family Circle January 2018  Online Pursuit of Happiness
4) NYT-A Year in Fitness
5) Huffington Post- The Best Financial Moves You Can Make in 2018
6) Advocacy - Daily Action or 5 Calls

If you have time I also recommend reading The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin.  It has a month by month ideas to a happier you.  There is also a podcast available now on itunes.  see Happiness Project

I hope you enjoy these suggestions and have a wonderful start to your New Year.   As the "Matriarch" I hope to lead my family by a good example.  Happy 2018.

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She always feels happiest when she is helping her family, friends and business contacts.  She can be reached at,

Monday, December 18, 2017

The impact of the new tax bill on home ownership

The new proposed tax bill is being marketed as a plan to boost the economy and the middle class. Although I profess not to be an economist or tax expert I am quite nervous about its impact on most Americans who are not in the billionaire class.  Full Tax Plan (500 plus pages) click here.  According to the GOP this is a Christmas gift to all Americans but there are clearly differing perspectives as outlined in yesterdays New York Times article winner or loser?

As a realtor in a blue district I am on the loser list and can ascertain that this bill will not be helping me personally or the real estate market I serve.  For a brief understanding of the plan's impact click Overview.  This highlights the areas to be hit most and I can say for sure that this is a direct way to hurt those of us who live in markets with high costs of living, limited housing and state and local income taxes. 

I predict Home Ownership will likely decrease as it becomes prohibitive to finance a mortgage where the average home exceeds the cap on the new allowable principal.  Existing home owners will be reluctant to move up if they are currently within the allowable mortgage amount as the amount goes from $1M to $750K for new loans after December 15.  The homes that exceed the $1M cap will more likely start to drop in Price as buyers won't be able to deduct mortgage interest.    As noted in the WSJ the plan will hit NY and similiar higher cost regions like a dagger.

The areas where homeowners will be hit specifically include the Mortgage Interest and local property tax deduction.  Home owners will be able to deduct interest up to the first $1M basis of a home for an existing mortgage.  This mortgage had to be on record as of  December 15, 2017.  New loans will be subject to a maximum basis of $750K.  Home equity loan mortgage deductions currently allowed up to $100K will no longer be deductible.  In an area such as Dover and Needham where the median home price exceeds $900K this will surely hurt saleability.   Areas that invest significant tax dollars into public schools and other social services will be further penalized by higher local taxes and less deductibility.  Because the federal government will not have adequate money to fund many "social" programs I fear we may be hit twice.   State and local income tax will be reduced to $10K maximum.

For a brief idea of how the new tax bill will impact you click here.  For those who do benefit from the new plan I will say "Merry Christmas".  For the rest of us I will say may you not feel the burden too significantly in days to come.

Please note that I will continue to post relevant articles to the new tax bill below:

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker in Needham, Mass.  She loves helping local area buyeres and sellers and also has a national referral base.  Please visit her at or on facebook @wendybcb.

Relevant articles
click here for estimated Tax Calculator - this was posted today 12/20/17 as result of final bill

Boston Globe 12/19/17 impact on Home Equity
NAR 12/20/17 Tax-reform/the-tax-cuts impact on Homeowners
WSJ 12/27/17 Property tax prepayment
Boston Globe 12/28/17 How to pay if escrow account for Property tax

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The importance of staging

Who can remember the feeling of love at first sight?  We all want to look our best when meeting someone new to make a good first impression.  Studies have shown that buying a house invokes similiar emotions and it is often said that a buyer will know if interested within the first few minutes of looking at a home.

Staging is the process of dressing your home to make that first important impression.  There are different ways to prepare your home for entry to the marketplace.  Depending on the age and condition of a home,  work may need to be done structurally or cosmetically to spruce it up a bit.  Little things like painting or decluttering can often go a long way to showcase the space and structural integrity of your home.   A study by the NAR shows that a staged home typically sells much quicker than one that isn't.

From my experience the top priority to preparing a home for sale should first be to declutter.   You want to be able to show the structure of your home and make the unique features of the physical property easily visible and accessible.  I recommend going room by room and getting rid of the junk.  Categorize things by if you will continue using them when you move or not.  Get rid of things you don't want and consider putting things that you don't use in a storage pod until you move.  You want to remove as many personal items from your space as possible.

For a more expensive home it may be worthwhile to hire a professional stager or organizer but even if you are on a limited budget there are easy ways to show your place in the best possible way.  Below are a few links to articles on staging I have recently read.

Tips for hiring a stager 
Staging on a limited budget
How to hire a professional stager
Do it yourself Staging tricks
Decluttering tips made elegant
In our technology driven times many millennials want a home that is Smart staged.

Wouldn't you always want to put your best foot forward when you embark on a new project?   Selling a home requires an even higher level of preparedness.  I hope the above tips give you some insight into this process.  As I find more articles related to staging I will add links to this blog post below.

When considering a move it is a good idea to meet with an experienced realtor who can guide you in the preparation process as there are many things to do beforehand to be well positioned.  Remember your property is only a new listing ONCE so you want to get it right the first time to attract the most buyers.  A realtor has insight into how to do this to be competitive in the market place.

Wendy is a realtor in the metro west area of Boston.  She takes a hands on approach with each client and has built a team of professionals to help with each step along the way to make the process as seamless as possible.  As an SRES she is able to help with downsizing and advising her more mature clients on selling "a well lived in" family home.  If you would like a free consultation on how she can help you sell your home please email her at

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall

Owning a home is a huge responsibility and with it comes constant maintenance.  When we bought our first house my mother-in-law always said "a house is like a gonif and robs you blind".   When budgeting to purchase a new home it is always a smart idea to factor in maintenance and operating costs.    For protection against the unexpected repairs, some real estate companies are able to offer a home warranty such as AHS to help mitigate this uncertainty.  No matter the age of a home is it always a good idea to set aside a reserve fund.

Home repairs and maintenance always end up being more expensive than estimated.  I am constantly doing small repairs that spiral into larger ones. See Proactive maintenance tips for preventative care.  Several home care issues can be minimized with proper preventative care but to be honest things always happen and often when least convenient.  Below are some links to common home care tips.

Annual On an annual basis there are things that should be routinely checked as detailed in the article.

Winter is Coming and it is not the next season of Game of Thrones yet.  Here are some suggestions to winterize your home

Spring Forward as it will soon be time to clean the closets and your interior.  Martha Stewart Magazine has some great tips room by room.

Summer Loving, Time to get the BBQ and yard ready for those backyard parties.

Fall as you fall forward here are some ways to ready for winter

Moving Day tips to prepare for move-in day ahead of time

Holidays with Thanksgiving and the Holidays approaching here are some fun suggestions to make your space clutter free and guest friendly.

I hope these tips and links will help you enjoy your property to its fullest and make your house a home for whenever you choose to have family and guests visits.  "You've Got a Friend".

Wendy is a realtor in the Metrowest and lower Cape area.  She has a primary and second home that constantly need to be maintained and is often scheduling appointments on both sides of the Bourne Bridge.  To help her manage her routines she has developed a spreadsheet that she will share if you email her at

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Empty nest or full hand?

Although figuratively my kids are all out of the house,  they still use our home as their primary address.  This is the permanent home they grew up in and since none own a permanent residence it makes more sense to have one constant address, right?.  

Tied to the home address are driver's licenses and car insurance, health care providers (covered until age 26 on parent plan),  cell phones as part of a family plan, cable access tied to our host plan and a credit card for home related expenses.  Most recently transportation such as Uber and Lyft have been paid by this card in the name of safety ( mom- you don't want me to take the train late at night).  Vacations are taken at our beach house and laundry is brought home in an overstuffed suitcase whenever they visit.

When I moved out after college,  I kept my driver's license to avoid paying NYC auto-insurance rates but other than that the cord was cut.  I remember having to install my own phone line.  Cable TV and cell phones hadn't yet been invented and transportation was via yellow cab, train or the subway.  Trips home were all paid by me.  Life was simple.  

Next on to cell phones-is the last semblance of family life the smart phone.  My kids are on our family cell plan and we can talk, text or face-time.  We post and snapchat if we have a quick funny but not savable moment.  We all communicate and text as things come up.  It is great now that my kids live out of state.  If one of us is traveling we are always aware and keep informed.  If there is a news event we will text and let each other know we are safe.  

In a few weeks I look forward to having my entire family home for Thanksgiving.  The nest will be temporarily filled.  New i-phones are out and my kids already floated the idea of shopping for upgrades on Black Friday.  My husband says the kids are all grown up and can afford to divest to their own phone plans. We will probably have a dispute about when to cut the phone cord.   I will fight to continue the family plan as it somehow keeps our nest in the palm of my hand.
Wendy is a mom and a realtor with Coldwell Banker.  She is always only a phone call, text or email  away.

Monday, November 6, 2017

I now appreciate the many lectures from my Dad- History Does Repeat Itself

Throughout my life,  I was raised with a very strong sense of ethical values.  My now deceased Dad taught Jewish history and ethics at a synagogue in Newton Massachusetts to 6th grade Sunday School students.  He had an in-depth knowledge of both American and Jewish history and a very strong sense of Judeo-Christian values.  His knowledge of history was mostly self taught and he was very proud to embark both cultural and religious history to both Jewish and Christian students through an acumenacle program with a local church.  As an American he was proud that much of the laws governing our Country were based on the values based on the Ten Commandments.  He always emphasized the importance of history and said it was cyclical.  If people didn't study the past the same mistakes would repeat themselves in the future.

When I was in the 6th grade as awkward as it was I sat in my Dad's class.  As a student I would often appear to zone out to him when I would glance or pass a note to a friend.  He once called me out for not "paying attention" and yelled at me when we got home from class because he thought I wasn't listening.  Perhaps during that one lesson I missed a few words concerning the Pharisees and the Saducees, ancient Jewish sects, but overall I actually was a good student and now realize close to fifty years later that I did absorb much of what he taught.

My parents generation grew up during the hard times of the depression, WWII and McCarthyism as well as the Korean and Vietnam War.   As the country rebuilt itself after these wars,  they experienced a sense of freedom and renewal.  They were proud that they could bring children into a war free world and began to focus on ways to improve the life for citizens within the US.  They were the generation that fought for many of the liberal freedoms and rights many of us share today.  They began fighting for individual freedoms including the Civil Rights Movement and Women's Lib.  They fought hard to ensure that our generation would grow up free from the economic and policy burdens of their generations.

Highly principled both of my parents were actively involved in community and educational programs throughout their middle age and retirement years.  After retiring from teaching at the Temple,  my Dad taught adult education classes in both Newton and later Florida where they retired in 2001.  My Mom was active in B'nai B'rith and Jewish Women International, a large fundraising organization benefitting a Children's Home for orphan children in Israel.  Although they didn't have a lot of money they would always be the first to donate to worthy causes to help people out.  My Mom had a Z'dakah box where she put change every evening and when my Dad passed she bought a special one to put donation money in memory of my Dad.

In addition to teaching,  my Dad was a major collector of historic artifacts and ephemera.  He built a museum quality collection that defined his life.  He was extremely proud of each item and understood the history and original of both his Judaica and Americana Collections.  Each time I would visit him he would have me spend time learning the significance of his latest acquisition.  To him, the collection represented his way of commemorating the past history.  Many items were displayed behind glass cabinets and he had documentation detailing the history and how the item correlated to history.  Some items were commemorative to honor heroes and some were ephemera to not forget the troubled past.  I admit my brain was not able to absorb each of his lessons but their significance was part of who my Dad was and he was able to use his collection as a tool to impart his knowledge.

Sadly many of my parents generation are starting to pass away.  I have lost both of my parents over the past three years.  As I watch the changes going on in the country they had loved and found hard to build for us I am saddened to see the world they built disappear.  Many of the hard fights that defined their generation are being reversed.  There has been a strong move back towards conservatism and many of the current government policies are reversing the progress of the past 50 years.  It is a challenging time and I am hopeful that I am able to carry on my parent's legacy as best I can by continuing to stand up and confront the challenges to the values they fought so hard to embrace. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Welcome to my coffee house

Those who know me know that I am a coffee drinker and I confess that I do have a daily addiction.  I actually get a headache if I go a prolonged period of time without a cup of joe.  How did my "habit" start and why do I continue,  you may ask?

In today's Wall Street Journal there was in interesting article on the history of the coffee house and its evolution since ancient times.  My history does not have such longevity but I would suggest typifies many amongst my peers.

Coffee and I go way back to childhood.  As a kid I hated to drink milk.  I was not into the fake syrupy additives like chocolate syrup or coffee-tyme.  Instead my Mom used to give me a glass of milk that was half milk, half Maxwell House.    Since that was also my brother's first name I came to think this was common place.  I gradually began to add more coffee and less milk as I aged through high school.  Once I began college,  my true love for coffee began.  It became a way to stay up late at night and study for an exam.  It became a way to take a quick study break at the Campus Center and an easy inexpensive way to meet up with friends.

As I moved through young adulthood and parenthood,  the local coffee shop became an easy venue to meet up with friends and other new parents.  It was a place to sit, talk and sip a warm drink when it was too cold to be outside.  As the Coffee Connection and soon Starbucks emerged into my geographic area this quickly became part of my daily routine.  Since that time there have been many new entries to the coffee shop market but I have consistently looked forward to each visit to the nearby Needham or Wellesley Starbucks.

To this day, Starbucks is still a place I visit frequently.  I have expanded my geography to also now include the Starbucks at Mashpee Commons during my summer months on the Cape.  Particularly in the warmer months it is a welcoming place to sit outside and schmooze with my dog.  She too enjoys our little visits and gets very excited when I bring her water in a Starbucks plastic cup.  I also admit I love the Starbucks App as when it is just the two of us I can preorder a coffee, run in, grab it and stake a table outside.  I also use it often if I am in a rush to take a cup to another venue.

Of late I have been sitting at my local Starbucks to do work on my laptop.  As a realtor it has become the perfect offsite office for me.  Instead of sitting in an isolated cubicle it is a great place to meet with potential clients and colleagues to network.  I have in fact spent hours scheduling back to back meetings.  I will often have a few work related meetings and then a few social catch-ups back to back.  An additional hidden benefit of  this venue is that it allows me to be in the midst of conversation about the local area and trends.  I like to always be aware of what is going on in my marketplace.

If you see me sitting by myself at Starbucks always feel free to pull up a chair and say hello. Likewise if it looks like I am in a meeting a quick hello is always welcome in my coffeehouse.

Wendy is a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She shares her time between her base office in Needham and Mashpee/New Seabury on the Cape.  You can often find her at the local Starbucks.  For more information on how to connect with her click here

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Decluttering today, less stress tomorrow

Since writing this original blog in November 2017 professional organizer and author Maria Kondo has created a Netflix series "Tidying Up with Maria Kondo".  If you don't have Netflix don't worry, many of the tips can be found in today's Washington Post article reviewing the show or by continuing to read this blog.

Admit it, we are all guilty of becoming packrats.  My husband often says if there is an empty surface I will fill it.  A home full of stuff becomes overcrowded and the process of purging can be daunting.  It takes discipline to keep a home clutter free.  Little inactions and bad habits can lead to a messy cluttered environment.

Studies show that clutter and disorganization decrease productivity and efficiency. To learn more about the health impacts of clutter click here. Another thing my husband always says is that "everything has its place".  He gets upset with me if I take something out and don't return it to the cabinet or drawer.  I know he is correct as I have often misplaced my keys or forgotten where I last left an item.  This seems to happen when I am in a rush or desperately need to get out the door.  Sound familiar?

After going through decluttering and organizing my deceased parent's home last year in Florida,  I came to realize how burdensome the disarray of accumulated papers and things really is.  There were so many things acquired and held on to that were totally useless and unpurposeful.  I came home from an intense period of deep cleaning and made a promise that I would not do the same with my own home.  Over the past several months I have been in a constant tug of war of keeping up with cleaning and avoiding unnecessary new acquisitions that just take up space.  I think to myself "do I really need this now" before making any purchase.

If you can answer yes to any of these questions then you may also share this problem.

*Do you grab your mail from the mailbox, give it a quick skim and set it aside on your kitchen counter?

*Do you have to dig to find your dining room table before hosting a dinner party?  How about your workdesk?

*Do you throw everything in a pile in your garage when you need to make space?

*Do you have all of your kids art projects from their first day of school through college graduation?

*Did you save magazines but never get around to reading them?

Fear not, there is great advise out there on how to declutter.  To start you may want to check out these articles:

Tracy McCubbin, a professional organizer from dClutter has five easy areas to tackle in your house.

Vermont mother and author, Eve Schaub recently published a book called Year of No Declutter for advise on how to keep your children's things organized.

Lastly, Japanese organizer Maria Condo's book shares advice from her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up  on  You Tube.

If you don't have the time or energy to tackle organizing on your own or need a jump start there are professional organizers available to help.  As a realtor, I have a network of great 
If you can't find my contact info in your cluttered address book you can simply contact me at

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Curb Your Enthusiasm- The New Golden Age

For many senior adults downsizing from a primary home to an independant living complex is an exciting beginning to the Golden Years.  Trending in the market I serve are Baby Boomers with oversized homes that are now empty nests.  Many of the recent conversations of my peers have revolved around where and how to downsize.  The options have been limited and very expensive.  This situation is beginning to shift.   As Baby Boomers begin to age there is a growing trend of seniors who are healthy, wealthy and energetic seeking carefree lifestyles of ease and luxury.  They are seeking curb appeal in sleek modern luxury buildings in urban locations vs.  the large suburban mcmansions.  

With freedom from home ownership responsibility , many older boomers tend to move to smaller spaces of either condo or apartment style living.  click here for Boomers In the past, the common trend had been  warmer climates where land was less expensive.  As baby boomers age many have greater wealth than their predecessors and are opting to remain close to family and roots.  The demand for higher end senior living spaces is growing in urban areas.  This population wants to continue the lifestyles they have embraced throughout their working years.  

Boomers are seeking properties with luxury amenities and services.  For an example of one such option, explore Waterstone at the Circle by Epoch in Cleveland Circle.  This luxurious building, opening in January 2018 is located on the Brookline/Brighton line where the Circle Movie Theater had been for over 50 years.  The complex is composed of rental units beginning at $7000 plus per month and will offer  walk-in closets, full kitchens, spacious layouts, several common areas, concierge services, chauffeured car service, two restaurants and an on-site movie theatre ( Incidentally as a child I used to frequent this theater and saw The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins when they first opened around 1964).  This is a great place for fully independant post baby boomers.  

Alternatively if someone prefers suburbia,  One Wingate Way in Needham offers complete luxury independant living.  A great benefit to Wingate is its continuing care retirement community.  One Wingate Way shares land with The Residence at Wingate which offers Assisted and Memory Care as well as Skilled Nursing and Rehabilation services.  Likewise, more and more such complexes are being built in both the suburbs and urban areas around the country.  

As a babyboomer and SRES this is an exciting time for me as a real estate agent.  I enjoy working with an older client base and am actively engaged in studying the local market.  I am able to share my expertise with my peers as we continue our empty nest conversations.  The options particularly in the rental market for this demographic had been somewhat limited around the Greater Boston area and this is beginning to change.     

Property developers and market research studies have shown that Baby Boomers will be the next large "Millenial Market" as they age from single home ownership to alternative living options.   The average age of residents looking at Waterstone is 82 years young.  Senior living options are being Redesigned and rethought.   This new selection of living spaces will create new opportunities for growth in the housing market. As more options become available for empty-nesters there will be more homes on the market from which they came.  

As an SRES real estate agent I can help manage this transition process by helping to identify potential living options for those thinking about downsizing.  I am eager to work with these clients and families to prepare their homes for the real estate market.  If you know anyone who is considering a move feel free to reach out to me at  

Friday, October 20, 2017

What to expect when you are not expecting- along the life cycle

When I was pregnant with my first child,  a friend gave me the book What to Expect When You're Expecting  by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel (revised May 31, 2016).  This was a detailed guide on how to prepare for all aspects of pregnancy through childbirth.  The book was filled with practical  advise and was a great way to launch parenthood.  I read this close to thirty years ago and since its update they actually have added a website as well.  click here.  

After the new baby is brought home, the  family begins a journey over the next several years and the process of acquiring things needed a long the way.  Things will be acquired out of "need" and then "want".  Sometimes these may be used short term but will be stored away incase needed for future use.  Some will be held onto for nostalgia.  Moving from a small apartment to a larger home along the way may occur to house these things and the growing family.  It is suggested to look at the long term costs and risks prior to jumping into a larger home as big may not be always be better though.  click here.  This may go on until the children grow up and move out often creating an empty nest.  

While planning for a newborn is very exciting most people do not plan for the other end of the life cycle.   It is much less exciting to think about planning for old age.  Declining health and death are scarey to talk about often causing delay of conversation until it is may be too late.   However, as I have learned an unexpected illness can create havic and upend the best of plans.  Unfortunately we never know when misfortune may come upon us.  

An article in last weeks New York Times, click here ,discusses the fact that most of us do not adequately plan for these events.  This article provides useful tools to plan for long term care and an end of life plan.  It is important to have a long term plan in place in case of a sudden death or disability.   If you don't already have long term care insurance or an estate plan this should be on your to do list.

Likewise it is a good idea for all of us to outline our personal end of life wishes while able to think cognitively.  In the book,  Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

by Atul Gawande, the author provides an overview of the long term care options that have evolved in the United States and shares ideas on how to plan for the end of life pointing out that this is the one destination we all have in common.  Ultimately we all aspire to have a dignified end of life .  

The sun rises each morning and sets at days end.  Likewise we rise at birth and our lives are set at the end.   Although we may collect things along the way we don't take any of these with us in burial.   In Jewish tradition we are buried in a simple Pine Box.  According to Jewish law, the deceased must return to the earth that gave her life. A pine box decomposes in the ground, and is therefore the traditional Jewish casket.  For more understanding of baseline tradition click here.  

Although I can't speak for burial practices amongst other faiths, I do know that the process of distributing one's final estate to beneficiaries is typical.  Often a large financial estate will go through probate or a different legal process.  In the eyes of the person passing on the estate this may be seen as a great gift.  However often an inheritance may become a burden to the beneficiary.    

A new book being released January 2, 2018 called 
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson  addresses how to get rid of the material things in our life ideally before passing on.  The theory is that most likely your collections and cherished things may not be of value to the next generation.  Instead of burdening them with having to clean and dispose of these items it is helpful for the original owner to do this while alive.  

The conversations and strategy to plan for the end of life an disposition of one's assets can be meaningful if properly planned.  It is good to understand the owners intent and where possible put the assets in a place where they will be most valued.   To help with these difficult conversations and decisions it is recommended to work with professionals who can guide you through the process.  These individuals are able to be more objective since they will not have the emotion ties confronting the situation.  An elder care attorney for example will understand the best options to position one's assets and determine appropriate health care proxies.  An estate sale or organizational specialist may be able to help organize and create balance.  An SRES may be able to help with finding a home or recommend ways to prepare a current home to meet the physical needs of the occupant if modifications are needed.  The common goal for all involved should be to help a loved one plan for an end of life that is fulfilled with accomplishment, pride and dignity.  

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker in Needham, Mass.  As an SRES she enjoy helping others plan for the various phases of life cycle and works with a team of professionals to compliment her services and help make each transition as seamless as possible.  

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Part 3 of the empty empty nest

We got home after dropping off our daughter in NYC (mid August) and helping her set up her new apartment.  She was excited and ready to embark on her career and has an amazing first apartment.  Her brownstone walk up in Gramercy is something I would have strived to have lived in when I worked in the city 35 years ago.  She is in a prime Manhattan location with restaurants and stores all around.  I do not think she will miss the suburbia life of metro-west Boston very much.

We came home to empty bedrooms but a very happy smiling dog.  At least Delilah was there to great us and bring a smile to my face.  I left NY trying to hold back my tears and did fine most of the past 24 hours.  We made a stop at Mohegan Sun to have a destination and break during this transition instead of coming straight home to our empty nest. This was a great way to debrief.  It took a few days for the quiet to set in but then my husband and I started to get into our normal routine.  We could begin to make plans with our friends and do things on our own time.  A weekend movie or last minute meal at a restaurant just because we feel like it would become the new normal. 

Fast forward one month later,  (mid Sept) all three kids came home for close to a week to celebrate my father-in-laws unveiling and birthday of my youngest daughter.  Although originally my New York kids planned to just stay the weekend they agreed to spend the week since my daughter was in from the West Coast for the week with her boyfriend and dog.  It was great to have everyone home under one roof.  As the weather was warm we ended up spending most of the week down the Cape.  We had a week of quality family time and intense conversation.

Although lots of fun, I do admit it is unbalanced to cram everything everyone wants to do because they are only here for a few days into both schedule and diet.  We ate out almost every night at someone's favorite restaurant or made someone's favorite meal.    The house was a sudden disorder and my exercise equilibrium got out of sink.   There was constant running around.

Although I often think about downsizing, it was great to have a place to accomodate everyone and not feel cramped.  More often than not, however,  we are in a large empty house with just two of us.  The size and expense are high and downsizing would enable us freedom of time and ability to visit the kids more often.  I do wonder how it will be to live in a smaller home and know we have to get rid of a lot to do this.  But then again at some point our kids will all have larger homes of their own that we can visit and perhaps relocate some of our things.

After one week everyone went home to their jobs and homes I was left with a 3 pound weight gain and loads of sheets and dirty towels . I had cleaners come to both houses to vacuum, wash floors and deep clean.   After getting resettled again the house seemed quite.  We then went away for a week to a conference (late Sept) and are just starting to get back into the empty nest routine. 

Next weekend is a long weekend and my daughter is returning to Boston for Homecoming.  We are planning to visit NY late October.  In addition, yesterday I got a facebook message from our Italian son, an  exchange student, Samuele who lived with us for a year.  He is able to come visit our family for Thanksgiving.  I texted my kids right away and told them.  Everyone is in process of booking tickets to come home now for the holiday.  I am so excited that we will have a full house in November and truly can't wait.  We will try to visit the West Coast early winter.  We have lots of places to go now.  Although we miss the kids the visits do give us something to look forward to.  Maybe this empty nest thing isn't as bad as I feared. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

To save or to sell- the inherent risks of collecting

We all know collectors.  My Dad was a compulsive one, a collector of collectibles ranging from biblical antiquities, books, old newspapers,  and American ephemera to ball point pens and elastics.  The typical collector enjoys the fun of the chase and never has enough.  They often have a hard time departing with their amassed legacy.  The thrill is in the hunt and lasts only a few days until new prey comes along.  I grew up in such an environment and will reflect upon experiences learned along the way.  About a year ago my brother and I were in the midst of selling our deceased parents estate which was an accumulation of 140 years of combined collections.  The collection was located in their condo on the west coast of Florida.  We both live up north.

With the impending hurricanes a few weeks ago I have been thinking more and more about the philosophy of collecting in general.  Our Dad would have been one of the ones who wanted to stay behind when told to evacuate during Hurricane Harvey or Irma.  He would have risked his life to preserve his collection.  To much of the millenial generation we live in disposable and replacement mode and can easily buy new things.  For my Dads generation people held onto their acquisitions with pride.   Luckily he did not have to make this decision, however I do empathize with the many who have had their homes and collected personal history's devastated this past September.

Back to my discussion,  there does comes a point when the collector can no longer collect and more often than not, their children don't have space or interest to sustain a said collection.   Often its location is no longer manageable.  Perhaps no one can explain this situation better than Ellen Stern in a New York Times article last week , where she highlighted the history of her husbands art collection.   After the Chase, the Long Goodbye.  The pieces you collect become a vested part of yourself and you begin to nurture them like children.  Ms. Stern took the longer and more difficult path to disperse of this collection after  her husband's recent death.  She is working with Sotheby's to begin the process of auctioning off key pieces beginning early November.  She is dedicated and able to spend the necessary time to pursue the best options to find new homes for several cherished items. 

We used a similiar auction house to deal with a specific subsection of our parents collection as we also wanted the assurance that each item would find a new loving home.  As a full disclaimer this was a luxury in that we were able to hold onto our parents property for an extended length of time to research optimal estate vendors.   Retrospectively this actual cost may have outweighed the benefit particularly if the hurricane were to hit last year.   This would have been a risk not worth taking as much may be been destroyed with flooding.

Many people in the position of needing to downsize or handle the sale of a deceased loved one's estate don't have time or money on their hands.  It is often common to have to empty the contents of ones property within a short time frame to settle the estate.  When time becomes an issue there are estate sale companies that can come in and handle the process from full house to broom swept floors for a price.  If you live out of state and have to deal with a family estate this may end up being your best option after weighing in  travel or shipping costs to physically deal with everything at a more convenient location.

Last week, coincidentally after reading the NYT article we had a presentation in my real estate office by a representative from one of the leading online estate sale companies.  This company will come in and assist home sellers with the almost complete liquidation of the internal remove-able contents of their property.  They will assess a monetary value to these items but typically take most items to a midwest offsite facility where they will sort through, price, photograph and set up an online auction for 5 days. All bids will start at $1 but collect close to market value as the auction time closes.  Generally they sell most items and will donate the balance.  Other companies will come in and do an onsite sale.   With this type of sale often the seller can put a reserve on items they don't want to sell below a certain selling point.

Depending on the timeliness and desired outcome of the sale, different options work for the specific situation.  The reality is that we can't take everything with us and in order to get the optimal amount for a collection one should really plan its demise while they are healthy and able.  My Dad knew the dealers he bought from and would have been able to obtain the most leverage if he tried to resell things instead of leaving all to us.  I am positive we sold much below appropriate value just because we had to get rid of things.  Leaving a collection to the hands of the next generation has inherent risks of not being as valuable to the new owner or not being appreciated for the same intrinsic value as the original acquirer. 

Having gone through the process of downsizing twice with my parents and in-laws I have learned a bit along the way.  I do admit that I put some reserves on a few of our parents items that now sit in boxes in my basement.  My husband too has boxes of stuff from his parents home. Much of what we have most likely takes up space and will take time to sell.  This makes it more difficult for us the think about downsizing which I often idealize toward as an empty nester.   A few days ago I drove by my parents house.  It was in process of being torn down.  It was quite sad to see but reminded me that there is no longer the childhood home for me to visit.  It is now the memories in my head that will continue to preserve the legacy of my our parents generation.

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  Having earned her SRES she enjoys the opportunity of helping those who may need an extra hand in helping their loved ones deal with the stages of downsizing or transitioning from their primary home to the next phase. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Butterflies are free-part 2 of The Start of the Empty Empty Nest

When my husband and I first got married my mother in law told me children are like butterflies.  Once they grow their wings they will be set free and go off on their own.  Although she gave me this advise on our wedding day and was referring to the prospect of me taking away her only son,  I profoundly listened to these words and tried my best to always make her feel our presence in her life.  She was very fortunate to have all three of her children remain within proximity to their breeding ground.  Although one ended up moving to western Mass. she often would visit while the other two lived within a 6 mile radius of where they grew up.

In my nuclear family my parents ended up being the ones fleeing their nest when they migrated south to Florida and I was the one who remained behind.  My brother also moved out of state.  Now fast forward to thirty three years later and my butterflies have all spread their wings and moved away.  My husband and I still have our nest however it will officially be empty this week as we soon drive our youngest to New York.

Change has always been hard for me and writing gives me time to put my thoughts down on paper and allows me to find some perspective to my emotions.   Today is the official moving day.  My eyes are watering and I am hopeful to be able to contain my emotions and enjoy the move in.  I will update my blog once it is complete and further reflect on the move.  I find the transitions to always be the hardest for me and once I am on the other side usually do well.

Ironically almost 35 years ago I was the one moving to New York for my first job and my mom moved me into my studio apartment in Forest Hills.  It seems like just yesterday and I remember how excited I was to move to NYC.  At the time the song  New York, New York by Frank Sinatra was my motto.  I had an Internal Audit position with Dun & Bradstreet Corporation on Park Avenue and loved the excitement of being a part of the New York business professional scene.  I worked from headquarters but was able to travel to clients worldwide.  Coincidentally my daughter will have a similar role with a consulting firm located a few blocks from Grand Central and near my location.  In many ways I am excited to relive this stage again vicariously.  I now empathize with how my mother felt when I told her I was excited to move out to an exciting place from Newton.

I was fortunate to have my daughter spend the past month with us on the Cape and we had a lot of fun quality time including beaching, bike riding and watching Game of Thrones.  It was a great month with many packed memories.  We will soon embark on our four hour drive in a well packed car. For me the hardest part will be once it is emptied and then we return to an empty house.

 More to come in a few days.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The empty, empty nest

 I started blogging a bit when my youngest daughter was about to graduated high school in spring 2013.  My first blog was called "ihatch" and most of my posts were therapy to me fear of becoming an empty nester. We raised three kids each spaced about three an a half years apart with diverse interests.  They were involved with many extracurricular activities of which we often participated.

The night my daughter hit accept on her college decision at midnight on April 30, 2013 I subscribed to the Huntington Theater as I thought we would have nothing to do on our Saturday nights going forward.   We had close to eighteen years of weekends filled with middle and high school theater, ice hockey games, soccer practice, play rehearsals, cheerleading competitions, bar mitzvahs during the early teen years and much more to keep our schedules occupied.  I was then fearful that my husband and I would look at each other and have nothing to do.  On the upside, we have found more than enough things to do with our free time and have had great opportunities to travel and reconnect with old friends. There are some very positives aspects of having an empty nest but this soon can become counterbalanced. 

Since Michelle started college we quickly learned that we were the sandwich generation.  Although she would be "local" at Tufts this would be the first time our family of five had only two occupants in our four bedroom house.  In the first month of attendance at college,  my father passed away and we began to have elder care issues with my in-laws.  A few months later it became necessary for them to move to an assisted living facility. A year later, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and moved in with us for about 6 months.  After her passing about 9 months after diagnosis ( my daughter had finished her sophmore year in college) my father in law began dialysis and his health dimished as my daughter ended her junior year abroad.  

We have had four years of illness, downsizing and moving of parents, organizing elder care issues and all associated with the generation of parental care.  I have had hands-on experience with downsizing and helping my own elders transition towards more managed care living arrangements and have since earned the SRES designation in real estate.  I am now able to and willing to share what I have learned.

At this point, my youngest daughter just graduated college and will be moving to NYC.  My other two grown up children also live out of state, one on Brooklyn and one in San Francisco.  Since the summer our youngest started college we have also purchased a smaller townhouse property on the Cape that we could consider downsizing too in the future.  Our kids prefer to visit us on the Cape as their vacation and my husband works long hours when we are off Cape. 

As I have mentioned in other posts, like most baby boomers the cost to upkeep a large house should be re-evaluated.   I spend most of my time in the kitchen, bedroom and occasionally the family room to watch TV.  Each time I have to pay to landscape, mulch or do an internal repair I question our priorities at this stage and feel the money spent to maintain this type of house could be better used elsewhere.  My husband and I are at the stage of starting to reconsider large home ownership and I will blog about this process as it develops.  One of my goals over the next year or so will be to de-clutter and get rid of many of the contents in our primary home that we don't need at this point in life.  We have much too much. 

I admit, I am sad to have an empty, empty nest.  I look at young families and have so many fond memories.  I will probably cry when dropping our daughter off next week and am saddened by the fact that all three of our kids have chosen to live out of state.  My friends all say it is great that we will have nice places to visit and yes while that is true,  it does take money and coordination and will get harder and harder for our entire family to be together on a regular basis. I will be scouring for inexpensive airline tickets  every Tuesday and have set up price alerts to the west coast.  Thankfully New York City is only a four hour drive. 

All said and done,  I will have plenty of time to focus on my real estate business this fall and will welcome any referrals to keep my schedule busy.

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She enjoys writing about local events and issues near and dear to her heart.  Please visit her website or visit her Facebook page @wendybcb.  

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The basics to a happy home and balanced day

A common phrase I hear a lot as a realtor is that "Home is where the heart is".  I believe one of the things that defines home is a place where people feel comfortable and welcomed.   This  type of environment is not defined by the size or age of the property but rather by the ambience set by its owners.  No matter the square footage of a house,  the kitchen often becomes the epicenter of the property.  One lesson I learned from my parents (who had the smallest house of  all my friends)  was that it was alway very important to be a good hostess to anyone crossing the threshold.  It was important to always have a full kitchen and to offer beverages (either warm or cold) to anyone who visited.   Following through with this philosophy in life is to always be prepared and able to serve my guests.  You never know who may come by unexpectedly.  Thus when I set up my kitchen below I am sharing my basic vital items that I always keep on hand.

As many of my friends know I am a big coffee drinker.  I frequent Starbucks and have more recently learned how to make a good brew at my house.  In fact, the first purchase for my house even before kitchen furniture was a coffee maker.  I have more recently acquired different coffee maker devices specific to my crowd.  (see my toys in bottom photo).  Depending on the guest size,  I will make a pour over cup if it is just for me or use a Keurig for my husband who loves flavored coffee.  If I have a large group I will brew a pot of coffee.  A good cup of coffee is particularly enjoyed earlier in the day.  It is also great as a mid-afternoon pick me up or after a meal with dessert.   In addition,  coffee is always great to offer a guest who may be doing work at one's home during the day.  (Of note, I also keep a full stock of tea bags on hand).  My guests often say I run a great local coffee shop!

Conversely towards evening a libation is a great way to wrap up a busy day.   Most adults (over 21) I know will enjoy a glass of wine.  Wine is a the holy drink of many religions but has also become the versatile drink to have as the day winds down for even the agnostic.   I often enjoy having a glass before dinner (sometimes while cooking).  I also welcome the chance to share a glass of wine with guests  often accompanied by appetizers or during a home cooked dinner.  Wine is perfect to serve during a party or  an evening social event , as well, such as bookclub.

For the non-drinkers I always have some ice cream on hand in my freezer as this is something easy to serve that generally disappears quicker than it would perish.    Who doesn't love ice cream?  This is alway my happy food and my last basic stock item.  Guests of all ages can't say no to a little treat and just the mention often brings a smile to ones face.  These days I try to keep a supply of regular and low sugar options as some of us have to watch our diets.  Although there is nothing better than Brighams Ice Cream,  the Halo flavors are low in sugar and high in protein and a great alternative.  Ice cream is a great mid afternoon snack or after dinner dessert.  It is also a great late night munch.

These days with the all the turmoil in the world, all three of my above basics can help one get through each challenging day.  I enjoy a cup of coffee at home when I wake up in the morning as I read the newspaper and catch up on my social media feed.  I may also pick up a cup mid-day as a pick me up.  Incidentally studies have shown positive health effects on drinking coffee including longevity.  More often than not,  most of the turmoil is a bit abnormal and once I get home at the end of the day, a glass of wine is quite welcome while I watch World News.  I sip it slowly as I prepare dinner and generally finish it off with my meal.  My doctor actually told me a glass of Red Wine in moderation is actually good for my heart and we all love to listen to "Doctor's Orders".  Lastly depending on how much I ate at dinner I will have a small scoop of ice cream for dessert or sneak downstairs and have a bit later in the evening before catching the daily recap on late night comedy shows.

As my readers can see, my three basics have been the key ingredients to make my house a happy home.  Whether I am entertaining or home alone, these easy items enable me to be a good hostess or to keep balance in my daily homelife.  I love hearing from others about what simple things make them happy and help make their homes their happy place.  Maybe we can meet up in person and discuss over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

Wendy is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Needham.  She enjoys writing about local events and issues near and dear to her heart.  Please visit her website or visit her Facebook page @wendybcb.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What is means to be a valuable team player

When I was a young child I absolutely hated team sports.  I was not very athletic and was often the last choice by appointed team captains for their team.  The captains wanted a team of winners and it was commonly perceived that I would bring the team down.  I always felt isolated and a bit like an outsider to this activity that so many of my peers flourished in.  As I graduated to be an upper classman, I had the option of selecting physical education activities that were a bit more specialized.  At this point I also was allowed to get credit to take something off campus on my own dime.  I much preferred taking a dance class at a classmates mother's dance studio to taking a required team sport at my high school.

In my first job as an accountant I too learned to excel in my own style of work and enjoyed independent projects at an entry level position, however as I watched my colleagues move up the ranks I began to learn more about the comrade they shared around the coffee break area talking about team sports.  Although an anomaly to my upbringing, (my Dad was a historian and said sports were against his religion) I began to see the value of these conversations.  My colleagues were sharing a common interest that sparked conversation beyond the parameters of a spreadsheet.  New understandings of workmanship were often sparked during these impromtu dialogues and sometime led to collaboration of work ideas.

Sadly politics has become a high level team sport.  There are two major teams who do not understand the value of team sports.  Each team is becoming extremely polarized for their own benefit and it is becoming nearly impossible to work together.  Last week Mitch McConnell, Republican House Majority Leader said if the health care bill doesn't get repealed the Republicans may need to work with Democrats as a last resort.  Shouldn't this have been a positive sign to allow the 2 major players to work together to come up with a plan to ammend the ACA Health plan that works but needs some modification.  Instead today they vote to push ahead "repeal" and then "replace" and are rallying to get everyone on the McConnell team.

As a realtor we are trained to work and collaborate with other professionals who are able to complement and enhance our skill set. This includes working and collaborating with professionals on both sides of a transaction to optimize the purchase or sale of real estate.  When I studied management during my MBA program we were taught that the most successful leaders were the ones who worked with others and took the team approach.  In one book I read a long time ago it was noted that the most effective managers were the ones who allowed the team approach and often the best ideas come from the bottom.  See book In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman (Warner Books) was an American business management “bible” that presents eight specific management principles common to successful companies.  Many of the practices in the book are still being used today by the successful top tier companies.  

As we move more and more forward in the current administration means you have to be on the "right" team of the leader or you are bullied and singled out.  There is no such thing as equal play time.   This was further exemplified today by Trump when he publicly stated today his disappointment in Jeff Sessions for not recusing himself from the ongoing Russia investigation.  Although I do not agree with much of Sessions policies he is a man who is following the law and doing his job in accordance with the Constitution.  The President is not a team player and believes that all loyalty must be to protect him.  A true leader would trust the team to do what they feel is right and to support their work.  

Although through my life and career my perception of participating in a team has changed drastically.  I have learned to become a team player when it is important but it has also become apparent to me that team loyalty is only valuable if the members also have a sense of integrity and can stand up to their individual beliefs when they conflict with the goals of the team.  To me this is the true definition of becoming a winner. 

p.s. since writing this post the latest version of the repeal and replace of the ACA health care bill has not passed thanks to the teamwork of Chuck Schumer for the Democrats and the Heroic efforts of 3 Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.

Wendy is a realtor at 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 is constantly networking and working hard to build a team that will provide the best level of skills available to fully service her clients in all aspects of the real estate transaction.  She also has her SRES,   Feel free to contact her directly or click here if you would like to learn more.