Friday, March 31, 2017

Retirement comes in all colors and forms

This week Crayola Crayon announced that they would be retiring one of their colors.  Today it was announced that the notorious color "dandelion yellow" would be retired.  For Crayola this means the end of using this iconic color from their standard box of 24.  To learn more this click here. yellow Many young artists will always have fond memories of the coloring books and drawing they created using this color and may have some of these masterpieces in their bedrooms or adorning their parents and grandparents refrigerators.

I also retired my car known as BIG RED this week.  I too have many wonderful memories of this vehicle.  I have owned BIG RED since 2004 and it was the family carpool vehicle through my kids middle and high school years, the CRCAP camp pick up truck,  the moving van to and from NYU, Dartmouth and Tufts as well as the vehicle used for family vacations over the past several years.  This car has over 140,000 miles and was well enjoyed by our family.  My kids each learned to drive using this car and they definitely gained a sense of confidence having one of the larger cars on the road.  The time to retire BIG RED came after it began to show severe signs of old age on the underside.  Rust began to spread like a disease and could not be reasonably repaired.  Fortunately though she did not have to become a salvage vehicle and has found a new home with someone who will take gentle car and fix her up as needed.  Although sad to say farewell to my loyal BIG RED it was time to move on and buy a newer car.

Retiring can mean different things to different people.  It can mean ending your current job or role and resting or it can mean changing your job to do something new.  Often retirees find a brand new career or area where they can volunteer their talents.  It can also be a time to change a living situation by downsizing and moving to a new location or retiring to a new community.  During each phase of life we go through many transitions.  As we go through these changes it is always good to find others who understand and can support you in your new ventures or help you go through the transition.

As part of my real estate practice this year I realized helping others go through this process was a niche I am interested in working with.  Thus this prompted me to get my SRES which is a real estate designation to help more senior clients transition from their possibly large family home to a more appropriate living situation for the current life phase.  I enjoy working with clients who are thinking about retiring and downsizing and hope I can help others with this process.  If you are starting to plan for this stage or know anyone who is please have them reach out to me or check my blog and Facebook page @wendybcb where I enjoy sharing relevent content on this subject.

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

How to appeal to the buyer when listing your home

Many of today's buyers are first timer buyers and likewise many of today's sellers have gone through the process of being both a buyer and a seller.  It is important to remember that the buyer is your customer and your goal is to sell .  Surprisingly many first time buyers may be the ones who are entering the housing market and may ultimately buy your home, particularly if it falls in the competitive market of my area in the under $1M price range.  For existing homes on the market there is competition and the seller must be positioned to have the best house to offer in the desired price range.  It is a good idea to do an assessment of both visual and structural updates that can make your property appealing to the market.  I always recommend decluttering as much as possible and doing simple upgrades where you can to make the property look fresh and new.    Click here for a great article to get a better understanding of how to prepare your home for this market.  First Time Buyers

I just went through this process myself to sell my parents condo in Florida.  My brother and I inherited our recently deceased parents condo with 80 years worth of life contents.  Finding a home and emptying the contents of the condo to prepare it for the market is worthy of a few other blog entries and you can read much about this in prior posts.  After 18 months of going through this phase we finally had an empty unit on March 1st, 2017 and now wanted to get it on the market.

We met with a local realtor friend of my parents who suggested we could try to sell it "as is" but after careful analysis feared this approach would limit our buyer pool to the lower end of the market.  Although my parents thought the place was immaculate and well kept after completely emptying its contents after an estate sale it became obvious that the place needed serious spiffing up to appeal to someone who would want to move in quickly.   I decided to do a little homework and price out the cost to repaint and recarpet the 1600 sq. ft. condo in the Tampa area.  I found a great painter and he referred me to a few carpet places.  In total, I ended up doing a complete makeover by painting the entire unit ($2200), replacing all the light and outlet covers (total $160) , replacing an outdated bathroom mirror fixture ($60) , replacing a vertical blind for a sliding door at Home Depot ($168) and recarpeting the entire place ($2175) .  I spent close to $6000 and an extra week doing these repairs.

Finally the place was ready to list.  I did a bit of competitive analysis and saw that there were a few condos that were similar to mine and they all sold this past winter.   I learned these had all been on the market for a minimum of 300-450 days.  We wanted to price it to sell quickly and felt that the realtor we were working with perhaps wasn't the right fit.

Thus, I met with a different broker from my company and learned her strategy was similar to my own.   We listed the condo with her and one week later held an open house and got a cash offer within one hour.  The offer was accepted that night.  The feedback we got confirmed that it showed really well.  Although not totally updated with new appliances and cabinets it appeared very well maintained  The money we put in upfront made the sale a quick success and we quadrupled that amount in our selling price.   The buyer was excited to see a place that was in move in condition where everything looked fresh.  The best part is that we got a cash offer with a two week close.  We close now on March 31.

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

When traveling its best to look and sound like a local one

When I went on my first trip to Spain in 9th grade I was warned to blend in and not wear plaid or bright color tops.  My teachers said it was best to not stand out as a "loud" American and to quietly assimilate into the crowds of people.  This advise was given primarily as a safety tip to avoid pick-pocketers in crowded areas such as the Gran Plaza in Madrid.

Today with increased threats of terrorism and xenophobia worldwide this is still sound advice.  In today's Boston Globe travel section there was an article "Lost In Translation" that emphasized the importance to blending in, particularly in this current era of populism.  Travelers fare best when they are able to avoid the image of the loud American Tourist.   Click here for to read the article  Don't Talk Like An American Tourist.  It always makes an impression when you try to speak the local language and although it can be comforting when someone answers you back in English.

I advise anyone planning an international trip to do a bit of homework beforehand.  It is a good idea to have a translation app on your phone and learn a few key phrases.  It is also useful to download the cities you plan to visit on Trip Advisor or maps on another app called Here We Go.  You can save these downloads on your phone for times when you don't have wifi.  Also be familiar with the climate and types of clothing the locals wear.   In some cities people may dress more casually, while in rural areas shorts and t-shirts may be the norm.   Also  in certain religious areas it is inappropriate to wear bare shoulders or short skirts.

It seems like everyone uses plastic to pay for things.   No more are the days of carrying travelers checks.  Also in most places you don't need the local currency so it is not worth exchanging money or changing it back at the end of your trip.  You may be able to get a card that doesn't charge a withdrawal fee if you take out money abroad.  It is a good idea to have some small pocket cash to pay for drinks and small items.  I would use your bank card vs travelers cheques as you will be paying the way the locals pay for services and then don't risk the need to pull out your identification in public.  On this idea though,  I have learned from experience to be cautious when using a bank card.  You may want to open a new credit/debit card with enough money for the trip or the ability to transfer money to this account.  I have had my debit card number stolen a few months after my trip.  Fortunately this was caught and stopped by the fraud department but it is best to try to not risk this in the first place.

Finally when you do travel abroad try to take in as much as you can about the local culture. I often try to read a book about the destination ahead of time.  When I went to Cuba a few years back I read a book called "Finding MaƱana" to learn about Havana prior to the revolution and this gave me an insight into the local pre-Castro history.  Speak to the locals and have real conversations to gain their perspectives on their homes and place in the global world.   This is how we can all learn to better understand the culture and history of areas we aren't exposed to on a daily basis.  Take lots of photos and try things that look,taste and smell different.  Buy a local cookbook to bring home and try some recipes to prolong this experience and share it with your friends when you return.  Expanding one's horizons is how we can all learn to better appreciate the world around us and gain a better understanding.  This is the best way to prevent the growing xenophobia surrounding much of the U.S. these days.

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

Monday, March 13, 2017

Let the Moonlight shine

This blog is about letting go while letting some light into the process.  I returned to my parents condo in Florida last week after completion of the estate sale. The place was empty albeit a few items left to ship north. My original intent was for this to be my last visit, to meet with the realtors, sign, list and just let it go.  

I was shocked to see the bare bone walls and the condition of the carpeting once empty. It became apparent that the place needed major cosmetic work before being put on the market. At first I was extremely stressed and upset at this prospect and thought we would list it "as is". But after further examination I saw that the estate sale company had pulled bookshelves nailed to the walls out of the studs instead of unscrewing them and there were 3 major holes in the wall. The wall in one bedroom needed to be re-plastered in 3 places. In addition, the carpet condition had many dark stains and areas that had been cut around the bookcases. It looked deplorable and would be embarrassing to show it "as is". The condo was built in the mid 80s and had original fixtures and appliances (all in working order).  

If cosmetic work was done the age of the appliances and fixtures would be less of a concern. However, coupled with the condition of the carpeting and the walls, at this point it would really only appeal to the bottom end of the market. The price after fixing it up would potentially command a price in the low $100s but without any work it was suggested that it should be listed in the high $70s. We would only attract those interested in a fixer upper.

After thinking it over, my brother and I, agreed that in the long run it was better to fix up the condo and make it the best we could at a reasonable cost before putting it on the market. I spent a few days lining up a painter and carpeter knowing this work ultimately required another trip down to Florida. As luck would have it my realtor helped me find a few great contractors and I arranged to have them work the following week.  

It became obvious that it was well worth sprucing things up ourselves. Particularly because the condo is empty it needed to appear to be in move in condition.  Ideally the condo would appeal to a retired couple or an investor who may want to rent it out.   After leaving the condo and heading to the hotel, I thought to myself I should make this opportunity a positive.

Because we had sold all the furniture I needed to stay in a hotel and I ended up staying at a nearby spa. This ended up being one of the best choices. The Spa had a health club, Jacuzzi, very good restaurant and nice amenities. In the end I decided to take the opportunity to make this a positive. I realized I have to come back one more time to oversee the work and booked another stay at the spa.  My last night on this trip was Oscar Night and thus inspired me to tie the theme into this blog.

One week later, the condo looks great and is now in move in condition!!! I spent a few days at the spa and was able to relax and gain confidence that the decision to fix up the condo before listing it was the right move. By turning what originally seemed like a negative to a positive reminded me of the movie Moonlight. As in the Academy Awards when there was a weird twist of events when La La Land was originally announced as the winner and then it was declared Moonlight actually won, I felt that originally the condo had very dark prospects but now that we let some light in and fixed it up it now deserved to be well prepared to attract Moonlight and hopefully a great buyer.

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

Moving on Up or Moving on Out? What are the best options for Baby Boomers or their older family members to consider?

As baby boomers begin to approach retirement age the trend toward downsizing and purchasing retirement homes has become increasingly commonplace over the past several years.  Like all other long term planning the ideal situation is when there is both time and ability to navigate all available choices in the local marketplace.  Unfortunately however, often times the decision can be forced upon suddenly due to an impending health situation.  In these cases there may be less choice out there as a move may need to be expedited.  Either way it can become overwhelming to explore the many available living options.  Click here for a Checklist of typical things Boomers look for when searching for a new home.

I have put together a brief overview of the types of housing choices below.  Since earning my SRES designation I have been visiting and getting to know a bit about communities available to my senior clients in the marketplace.   I primarily serve both metro-west Boston and the Mashpee/New Seabury area on Cape Cod.  One of my goals is to comprise a referral base of places I am aware of and I am happy to share this with my clients.  I am constantly posting relevant articles as I read them on my Facebook page @wendybcb.

In yesterday's Boston Globe there was an article exploring the choices in over 55 communities which you can read by clicking.  55 Plus.   Beyond the communities mentioned in the article there are many other types of communities available for our aging population as noted below.  In my previous blog on 2/12/17 titled "Keeping It Local While Aging in Place" I discussed the age in place concept so I will not cover this option now but instead have listed alternative Senior Housing Options below.  

Senior Housing Options (*)
Senior housing is categorized by the level of care available to residents. At one end of the spectrum, there are communities that offer little or no care; at the other, facilities that provide continuous care. Between those extremes are a wide range of housing choices that can meet changing needs.

Independent Living: Condos, townhouses and single family homes that are smaller and more maintenance free than large family properties are frequently people's first choice, especially if they're healthy and active.

Active Adult Senior Retirement Homes and Communities: Active adult senior retirement homes and communities aim to service the interests of active adults over the age of 55. Housing types often include condos, townhouses and single-family properties, and all are designed with an eye toward delivering a maintenance-free lifestyle for residents. Such communities offer a vast array of on-site activities, including exercise, social clubs, art instruction and lecture series.

Assisted Living Senior Retirement Homes and Communities: Residents live in their own apartments, but have the benefit of an on-site staff, meal service in communal dining spaces, and planned activities and outings. Some assisted living communities also offer access to nurses and daily living assistance. Others may offer more extensive medical and personal services.

Adult Family Senior Retirement Homes: Such properties are licensed to care for up to six residents in a home setting. Services typically include meals and housing maintenance and attending to residents' safety and care. Facilities may specialize in addressing specific health concerns and provide care and an environment tailored to those conditions.

Alzheimer's and Dementia Care: Facilities specialize in caring for patients with dementia and Alzheimer's disease offer programs that address residents' needs and provide an environment where they can live safely. Housing services typically include personal care, such as bathing and dressing and administering medicine, along with dining and housekeeping. In addition, many buildings incorporate over 50 design features, such as safe wandering paths and color coded areas to help with way-finding. Such designs provide comfort and ease residents' anxiety.

Continuing Care Retirement Living Communities: A Continuing Care Retirement Living Community offer progressive levels of assistance, depending on a person's needs. They include independent and assisted living and nursing care.

A realtor who has earned the SRES designation has studied and is very familiar with all phases related to assisting and guiding more senior clients as they prepare to transition from their family home setting to their next phase.  If you have or know anyone who may be thinking about moving or is approaching this decision point please feel free to reach out to me as a referral.   My email is

* Source SRES.ORG