Thursday, May 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

What is an SRES and how can one help you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

At What Price Is Integrity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 5, 2017

Due diligence in a home purchase and health insurance coverage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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