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It's the most wonderful time of the year – and the busiest! Especially if moving is on your to-do list!

It is possible to get in the holiday spirit AND sell your home at the same time.

Some Realtors say holiday decorating is a no-no. Others say if it's done right – it creates a warm, welcoming vibe, leaving a lasting impression on your potential buyers. Just be sure decorations don't distract potential buyers!

Our gift to you? A quick "Top 10" on how to spread the holiday cheer when there's a "For Sale" sign outside your door.

  1. Keep it simple. You don't want to detract from your home. Grandma's huge village with a blanket of "snow" covering your gorgeous mantel? Skip it. Is your giant glass Santa or Menorah taking up floor space? Leave those out of your winter scenes this year. You want buyers to see your beautiful floors and appreciate all the space for their stuff!
  2. Don't add to the clutter! Clean up around the house and get rid of some extra clutter before adding holiday cheer (yes, school pictures, framed photos and other trinkets need to go). Store décor away in plastic bins (and label them).
  3. Make sure the holiday magic matches. Careful of clashing colors. Snowflakes, snowmen, silver, white and gold decorations all are perfect pairings with virtually anything. Greenery is always fail-proof too! Hang a live wreath on your front door and drape a fresh garland across the mantel for the perfect, simple touch.
  4. Point out the positive. Highlight new windows with flameless candles or your Menorah. String up a garland or beautiful white lights around your fireplace or arched doorway! Just be sure extensions cords aren't visible – this tells buyers you don't have many outlets.
  5. Keep it P.C. Yes, overly religious décor will turn buyers off – keep the nativity scene in storage this year!
  6. Keep the tree, well, trim (literally)! Careful of the diameter and the height, you want your space to look – spacious. Don't feel the need to hang every ornament on the tree, this year. For now, less is more. If you're planning on moving in the middle of the holiday season, try tree alternatives like a chalkboard tree, tinsel tree or a small table top tree (we hear the nostalgic ceramic trees are back!)
  7. Dim the lights! Stringing up strands of holiday twinkle? Put the focus on the structure of your home and stick with less is best. Projector lights are another option. The set up is simple and you can shut it off when potential buyers are on their way.
  8. Curb appeal is still a thing during the winter months! Ditch the giant inflatables that bombard the front yard. Plus, the holiday season can be a very snowy season! Don't forget to shovel, sand, snow blow (or plow) your driveways and walkways!
  9. Remember – it will cost more for you to move during the holiday season! Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are peak travel times, upping traffic and increasing your moving costs. Tip? Move mid-week to save some bucks.
  10. Speaking of moving, pack holiday items in clear, labeled (we're all about labeling) bins and ask movers to move the bins directly into your living room so you can get to decorating your new home - ASAP! And feel free to decorate this home the way you want!



Saving for Down Payment

Is the anticipation of needing to make a sizeable down payment discouraging you from homeownership? According to data from a U.S. Census housing survey, nearly 50 percent of current homeowners made down payments of 10 percent or less. 

Don't let the need to make a down payment discourage you from purchasing your first home. 

Our REALTORS® have put together a list of useful tips to save for a down payment.

  1. What Is Your Goal?
    Start with the end in mind. Figure out a realistic price range of homes you can afford, how much of a down payment you'll need and your time range. Getting prequalified is a helpful exercise to get some substantial numbers.

  2. Create a Budget 
    You already know a vague intention of putting money away "when you can" isn't going to work. Whether you use a spreadsheet or paper and pencil, write down every penny that comes in and goes out each month, so you know where you stand.

  3. Set a Monthly Savings Amount
    Once you have an amount in mind, you can determine how much money to save each month to make it happen. If you don't have enough disposable income for your goal, there are two options: reduce the amount of money spent or increase earnings.

  4. Cut Back on Spending
    When is the last time you examined your spending patterns? Certain expenses are fixed, but you can almost always find things large (vacations) and small (daily lattes) to forgo.

  5. Boost Your Income
    Gone are the days when traditional full-time jobs are the only way to make money. With options like selling on eBay, driving for Uber or freelance writing, the possibilities are endless. As a bonus, you work when you want instead of on someone else's schedule.

  6. Pay Off Debt
    Putting money aside while you're paying out on credit card interest is taking one step forward and two steps back. Pay off any outstanding credit card balances, prioritizing ones with the highest interest rates.

  7. There's an App for That
    Automate savings with an app like Digit, which analyzes your spending patterns and finds opportunities to put money away painlessly. You can also use direct deposit to funnel money into savings before it gets into your hands.

  8. Ask for Cash
    Let family and friends know about your plans and ask them to give cash for birthdays, holidays, or any other gift-giving occasion.

  9. Say Goodbye to Splurges
    Do you generally treat yourself to extravagant purchases when you receive bonuses, tax refunds, or other "found" money? Adding those funds to your down payment savings will eventually pay off.

  10. Look into Assistance Programs
    Many state and local governments have down payment programs offering assistance through grants, interest-free loans, or traditional loans. Also, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans allow borrowers to put down as little as 3.5 percent depending on your credit score.

  11. Tap Retirement Accounts
    If you have a 401(k) or individual retirement account (IRA), check the rules regarding withdrawals or loans for down payments. While penalties may be waived, you will still have to pay taxes, so be sure to consult with a financial advisor.

We have years of experience helping people of all ages and financial situations reach their dream of homeownership. Contact us to learn more about what we can do for you.


Clear out clutter for GOOD

If you're anything like the typical couple or family getting ready to sell your home, hiding clutter is your idea of cleaning before a home showing. We know – throwing some clutter in a few bins and storage solutions is a go-to quick fix for emergencies (see our first post in this Clean Up series), but cleaning up and getting rid of the stuff you are just shuffling from spot to spot is key – especially if you're getting ready to move!   

  • Marie Kondo your home. Yep, I said it. Does it bring you joy? Nope? Say goodbye. There is no need to keep items that are just taking up space. Having trouble parting with items? Decide where you can donate them. A children's home? Homeless shelter? Local school/community center? Donating items will help you part with them a little easier.

  • And just like our friend Marie Kondo would say…tidying starts with your closets! Empty each closet out and create piles to "Keep", "Donate", "Throw Away".

"My rule on clothes? If you haven't wore it in a year, get rid of it!" says Erika Gaudreau, Real Estate Agent/Interior Designer.

  • Don't forget the coat closet! How many coats do you actually wear? Lots of Coat Drives take place before winter weather sets in. Donate your unused winter coats to someone who needs it.

  • Set aside items that are in re-sellable shape in a bin or portable closet. Price these items as you go through them. Host a yard sale and make some extra cash to use towards something you need in your new house!

  • Do you hoard cleaning rags, drop cloths or towels? As you fold your laundry, have a trash basket nearby, anything in less than great shape – toss! Including most of your cleaning rags. Less to pack up! Plus, you may want new towels to match the new décor in your new home! How many times can we say "new"?

  • Remember to clear out the pantry too!

"That panini grill you got as a wedding gift that's still in the box? Toss it. No one will know" Gaudreau continues, "unused items just take up usable space."

Discard any small appliances collecting dust, outdated food items, opened spices, sauces, flour, etc. that have been sitting on the shelves longer than you can remember!  Plus, home buyers will want to SEE your pantry, so, be sure it is organized and not stuffed to the brim.

So, how do you KEEP it all CLEAN for GOOD?

Part of the stress of selling a home is keeping the home you're living in clean – consistently.

  • Set a timer for 10 minutes and spend that amount of time picking up/cleaning one room. It can be one room a day, or 10 minutes per each room a day.

  • Sort mail and paperwork the second it gets in your pretty little hands. Stand by the recycle bin and toss junk mail and unwanted papers before you even enter your home. Pay and file away bills/invoices and other important paperwork in labeled file folders. Store folders in a file cabinet or drawer for safekeeping that's out of sight.

  • Have designated spaces for everything, and make sure that place makes sense. Coffee mugs should be in a cabinet or shelf by the coffee maker, chargers should have a home at a charging station on your desk. Important paperwork should be kept in labeled folders in a file cabinet. Cooking utensils, pot holders and recipes should be near the oven and easy to grab, quickly. Toys and children's books should be all in the playroom or a designated play space. See where we are going with this?

Cleaning is CONSTANT.

As you may have guessed, decluttering is more than a one-time deal. It's something you have to keep up with in order to keep things in order. When the entire family is home, set aside time to all focus on cleaning up. Give each person a specific job before they enjoy free time…grown-ups included! Albert Einstein once said; "Out of clutter, find simplicity." 
Decluttering will give you the peace of mind you never knew you needed. So, as you prepare to pack and move into a new space, really dig in and dig out of the mess that may be holding you back! Moving won't seem like a huge hurdle when you have fewer things to pack - and unpack!


ultimate challenge

You've Cleared all the Clutter... now All Hands-on Deck! Parents, get kids in on the clean up before moving out!

Promise, they can help (after they have a meltdown because you asked them to do something other than play Minecraft)! Getting kids involved in your family's home-selling plan gives them some control and makes them feel they are part of the process. It is important to keep rooms, especially bedrooms, picked up before you have an Open House or home showing because we all know; less clutter shows off your space and most buyers are looking for bigger and better! If potential new homeowners see objects scattered around, taking up desks, counters, etc. they will assume the home is too small or it doesn't offer enough storage options. Not to mention, they can't visualize their family's stuff in the home either! So, get your cleaning crew (this is your family, by the way) ready! Here are 5 tips to get your kids to help clean up – quickly!  

  1. Everything's a game! Have them tackle the' playroom (or wherever toys are hanging out). Ask those angels to clean up the red toys first, then blue, etc. Another way to make clean up less overwhelming is to separate toys by type too – blocks, vehicles, balls, the list goes on! Have them pick up one grouping at a time.

  2. Music Maestro! Put on their favorite tunes and tell them the person who picks up the most toys by the end of the song, WINS! Or – just enjoy a dance party while picking up! Music makes every chore fly by.

  3. Everything has a home…Ask them to put scrap paper, markers, dolls all in designated bins and place books back in the bookshelf. Use pictures to show what belongs in each bin or bag so small children can easily help put them away. If you have specific spots for everything, clean-up is easier – and faster!

  4. Are kids hesitant to help? Tell them anything left on the floor after the 10-minute timer blares will be whisked away and donated to a child who will take better care of their toys. Having a big ol' trash bag in your hands really helps get the point across!

  5. Say "Goodbye"! Next time the kids clean up, ask them to set aside toys they feel they have outgrown or they don't play with anymore. Have the kids decide where they would like to donate their toys and have them tag along with you to help bring the bags of goodies to a children's home or shelter. Some fire stations accept gently used stuffed animals to help comfort kids in crisis too! Getting rid of the extra toys and unused games now before you start packing, will make your move a lot easier!

In general, after playing with toys or games, always clean up before moving on to the next activity. Practice this every time they play so the expectation of picking up is always there. This will become a habit and not a chore…and it will be super helpful when it comes to keeping your new home tidy!

Now that the kids are on board, check out the next post in our cleaning series, Clearing out Clutter for GOOD.


Staging During the Holidays

The holiday season is a wonderful time of the year. If you're like many homeowners, you look forward to adorning your home inside and out with stunning decorations, dazzling lights, and holiday cheer. However, when you're hoping to sell your home during the holiday season you may run into a bit of a problem — how do you decorate your home?

In December, New England turns into a winter wonderland, and it's expected that home sellers will want to decorate their house before they wave goodbye. Our REALTORS® understand that you want to make the best decisions for your property while still enjoying the last few weeks in your home. We've gathered together these tips on staging your home for sale during the holidays so you can celebrate the holiday season while still properly presenting your home.

  • Focus On Everyday Presentation
    November through January is quite a whirlwind for many families. However, you still need to prioritize your home's presentation regardless of the holiday season. You interior needs to look and smell clean while your exterior should be tidied up as well as possible. Remember, potential buyers will look at every detail of your home.

  • Minimize Religious Décor
    While it is common to see many examples of religious decorations throughout New England homes, we caution our home sellers to avoid displaying these pieces. We never want to offend any potential buyers or their beliefs which is why we insist that you respectfully keep religious decorations stored.

  • Use Seasonal Décor Instead
    Even though you need to store your religious décor, you can still happily decorate with seasonal pieces. Nature-inspired decorations or those which symbolize the winter or harvest season are safer ways to jazz up your home in a neutral way.

  • Consider Coziness Over Clutter
    Close your eyes and think of the winter season — there's a good chance that nights around the fireplace, hot cocoa, and warm blankets enter your mind. You can create a cozy and seasonal-appropriate atmosphere in your home without putting up too many decorations. Consider toning down your decorating to declutter your space and instead focus on achieving a welcoming, warm, homey environment.

  • Don't Cover Up Important Features
    Keeping your space decluttered is important, especially when it ensures that notable features of your home are still showcased appropriately. For instance, although you may convert a nook into a Christmas tree display, we suggest leaving the space as it normally is. You want the buyers to view the top elements of your home in a context which allows them to imagine their possessions in the space.

  • Don't Disrupt Your Color Scheme
    It's not uncommon to use a variety of bright and beautiful colors in your decorations. You must also be aware of how these colors might impact the look of your home's existing color scheme. Silver and gold are normally able to blend with other colors, but bright reds, greens or multi-colored items could clash with the colors of your walls, furniture, and décor. We suggest limiting colorful banners or garland.

Decorating correctly for the holidays when you're trying to sell your home can be a difficult task. For more advice on making your home's presentation, look as professional as possible during the holiday season, contact us.


Clean up Clutter - fast!

Owning a home and having people live in it are two completely different things, right? If you're like most people, panic sets in when a friend suddenly decides they'll stop by in an hour…even worse…if your home for sale and you have a last-minute showing (Yay for potential buyers, though!). You are well aware that a day wouldn't be long enough to clean up the clutter scattered throughout the floors let alone a measly hour, so now what? Before you tackle what seems to be an impossible task, here are some tips that will have you on the fast track to a tidy home (even if you have to fake it).

SURPRISE! Your house needs to be picked up…NOW!

No one knows the stress to impress like home-sellers! For a surprise last-minute house showing with potential buyers (or any unexpected visitor) you just can't say "no" to, here are a few tools and tricks that will help you hide away clutter before guests knock on the door! 

  • Invest in hide-away furniture! I am not talking about a hide-away bed, either! Storage ottomans are a man and women's best friend. Throw toys, blankets, etc. in there to hide clutter FAST!

  • Baskets, baskets EVERYWHERE! Keep baskets on your steps and label one for each family member (including your spouse). Collect their clutter and toss the person's items in their respective baskets. Each family member needs to bring their basket up to their rooms and put the items where they belong. Move it, people!

  • Speaking of baskets, baskets and bookshelves offer the perfect combo to put away small items in a hurry. Invest in pretty, coordinating baskets and use them to store (eh hem - hide) small toys, board games, remotes, Legos (ugh, the LEGOS), magazines – the list goes on. Keep things looking neat by adding colorful cubes with chalkboard labels for quick reference! This not only will look great when you are showing your home to sell but baskets with covers (or stackable containers) are easily portable when it comes to moving day!

  • Behind closed doors…Armoires are great in the bedroom, but this statement piece can work as a beautiful piece of storage furniture too! You can just shove items on the shelves and CLOSE the DOORS (thank you, doors)! Keep one in the kitchen to store bowls, glasses, towels, etc. especially if cabinet space is limited. The living room is a great spot for this piece of furniture too! This large, glorified cabinet can store family games, cards, books, even extra sheets and pillows for guests. Clear, stackable bins that fit on the shelves work great for keeping things in their place and finding them quickly too!

  • Hiding spot = CHECK! If you're lucky enough to have a few good closets, keep a large storage bin in each one – if there are items or a few things scattered on the floor that need a hiding spot, fast – toss them in the bin until you have time to find a home for it all. Warning! When selling your home, potential buyers peek in the closets (guilty as charged), so keep them as neat looking as you can! The neater they are, the larger they look which is a turn-on for your next homeowners!

  • Keep small decorative laundry baskets in each bedroom. This will help keep clothes off the floor, hopefully, and help keep laundry separated for the designated launderer. Plus, if you are showing your home, do you really want future homeowners or renters to see your unmentionables scattered about?

  • If a miracle happens and you have extra time, run the vacuum (after all, everything is finally off the floor). A quick once over on the wood floors and carpets brightens up the place!

Take a second and catch your breath. Now that you've rested (that was fast, right?), you must find some energy to really clean and organize your home - for good - at some point. Sorry to burst your bubble! Cleaning up comes with moving out. You don't want to pack up anything that will sit in storage and collect dust. 

May the odds be forever in your favor.

Before you tackle the bigger project at hand, check out the next post in our series, The Ultimate Challenge: Cleaning with Kids!


Airbnb Investment

The landscape of the real estate market is changing dramatically, thanks to short-term rental properties. The increasing popularity of Airbnb and other similar services is encouraging property owners to invest in homes and condominiums that tourists find desirable. Our REALTORS® want you to make the best long-term investment choices possible. When considering properties to invest in for these purposes, we encourage you to ask the following questions:

  • Which area is ideal for investing?
    Although you may earn renters with a home in any location, one reason renters choose Airbnbs is convenience. They desire a comfortable, affordable space that places them right where they want to be. Look for investment homes in up-and-coming neighborhoods or in established neighborhoods which are hotspots for tourism. Choosing an area close to reliable public transportation, amenities, and attractions is also a wise decision.

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