Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Does Owning A Pet Impact the Sale of Your Greenwich Home?


 Pets and Greenwich real estate have a love/hate/love relationship—a strong one. For prospective Greenwich buyers and renters who own pets, a home’s suitability can be a make-or-break element in their decision. But how the home sellers handle their own pet wrangling is another matter entirely.
The statistics give us a glimpse into just how consequential the issue has become. The majority (61%) of American households either have or plan to have a pet in the future—and of those who answered a real estate survey this year, 81% said it would influence their choice of residence. If you know many dog or cat owners (or are one yourself), that comes as no surprise. Ninety-nine percent consider their animals to be part of the family.
For Greenwich homeowners who are contemplating selling, there is a seemingly contradictory takeaway when it comes to all of this. There’s little doubt that if they have successfully created a safe and comfortable home for their own pet, it should be a plus for the 61% cited above. After all, it’s living proof that their own dog or cat will be right at home with minimal fuss, right?
Yes and no.  I never hesitate to point out the pet-friendly features of a property—especially when the prospective buyers have indicated that it’s on their own wish list. It’s a hallmark of 21st century Americans that whenever the subject of dogs or cats comes up, the ensuing conversation will quickly turn to the personality quirks of the current menagerie (if it doesn’t, those folks are petless).
Sooooo, you might assume that if a homeowner’s Greenwich real estate encompasses comfortable quarters for their own cat or dog, it would be a plus to have said creatures on display as part of a showing. But just about every Realtor® on the face of the planet will agree: not so! The near universal recommendation is to not only to send the family animals off for a temporary field trip anywhere else, but to put some effort into erasing the evidence of their recent presence—most particularly, odors! Lose the dog beds! Pack the kitty beds off somewhere in the garage! Pick up the dog toys! Stash the water dishes!
The fact is, the idea that dogs and cats can be comfortably housed on a property is a plus—but the actual dogs and cats themselves are a minus. Too distracting. Too personal. A major goal in showing a home is to enable the potential buyers to project their own personalities onto the property: to see themselves living there. A strange dog or kitty roaming around inhibits that. And there is another reason: people can be counted on to respond to the pet (especially dogs) one way or another—it’s quite likely to become the most powerful memory of the whole outing!


Monday, May 22, 2017

How To Maximize Property Value In Appraisals

You’ve probably heard the wry old saying: “Nothing clears the mind like the prospect of being hanged at dawn.” For some homeowners, you could add an equally wry modern Greenwich real estate version: “Nothing clears the mind like having a real estate appraiser drop by for a look-see.”

I’d like to counter that notion—there’s really not much to worry over when the Greenwich real estate appraiser is scheduled to make an appearance. The stress level can be lowered by keeping a few simple ideas in mind:

1. Appraisals aren’t showings. Sure, you want to have the house as spruced up and orderly as you would for any visitor. But your property doesn’t have to present the kind of perfection it will for an open house or prospective buyer showing. Experienced Greenwich appraisers aren’t looking for a 100% clutter-free, immaculate show-stopper of a home: they will be concentrating on physical details like square footage and structural and mechanical features. They are more like backstage workers than audience members—but neatness can’t hurt!
2. Paperwork is a plus. If they are available, dig out any floor plans or location plats you may have filed away. Also, the age of your home is one thing, but updated features can boost the end appraisal value. If you prepare a list of improvements and the years in which they were completed, it will make the appraiser’s job that much easier—and your Greenwich home’s appraisal that much better.
3. Curb appeal is the exception. Appraisals aren’t showings, but no one—even the professional who prepares your Greenwich appraisal—is immune to the “first impression” effect. Condition is a factor in any appraisal, so it will be worthwhile to be sure the front lawn is mowed and plantings trimmed. If the front doorway is in need of a paint refresher, it will be effort worth making.
4. Consideration helps. The appraiser’s job is part physical, so being considerate of that part of the appraisal process will be appreciated. Be sure that obstructions are cleared, that rooms are appropriately heated and cooled—and that Lassie and Garfield aren’t allowed to pester.
5. New good news is good news. If there have been positive changes in the neighborhood, it can’t hurt to let the appraiser know about them. Greenwich may be part of a rising market, but appraisers don’t speculate on future values. Supplying some positive neighborhood developments can be persuasive. 

There is another “nothing clears the mind” quote, too: Nothing clears the mind like buying property. That saying isn’t wry at all: it’s absolutely true! If you are setting out on your own Greenwich house hunt, I hope you’ll give me a call to help focus your search. And if you’re readying to sell your own Greenwich property (which puts you in the soon-to-be-visited-by-the-appraiser category) the same applies. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Power of Staging Your Home

The living room at 70 Sumner Road Greenwich CT, newly painted and staged.

The family room at 70 Sumner Road.  Edited accessories and staged.
Showings—whether here in Greenwich or anywhere else—can sometimes succeed or fail as a result of quite minor details. Appreciating that fact isn’t hard to do when you relate showings to their first cousins: live theatre. In important ways, they are quite similar.

Think of what happens when you attend a play. The audience finds their seats, settle in, and wait for the action to begin. The house lights dim, the stage lights brighten, and the action begins. If all goes without a hitch, the play captures your attention—and it has every chance of successfully casting the spell the author and director intended.

But if one element is jarringly out of place, the whole effort will go up in smoke! If a stagehand accidentally wanders onstage, the illusion is wrecked. Likewise, if a drama’s agonizing death scene is perfectly portrayed—up until the moment when the dying actress' wig begins to slip—the audience will be hard pressed to stay in the moment.

In a different way, the success of Greenwich showings is subject to similar kinds of missteps. The illusion we are after isn’t that of a home that has desirable features and is in great condition—that’s no illusion: it’s real! The illusion part comes when we create the impression that the current owners are not much in residence; that the home—although it may be furnished—presents itself in a neutral kind of way that seems to be awaiting the new owners’ belongings and personal touches.

Showings tend to be most successful if prospective buyers have no trouble envisioning themselves as the comfortable new owners. They may or may not find that the spaces and features will accommodate their family’s needs—that’s not subject to illusion. But showings have the best chance for success if the “stage” is clear of distracting elements. That’s why evidence of pets should be avoided. Strong odors of any kind, likewise (one of my current country listings pops an apple pie in the oven for every showing and I swear it lifts everyone's spirits). Family photos should be removed if at all possible; personal mementos of all kinds stored out of sight, and so forth.

When you appreciate the reasoning behind a showing’s attempted illusion, you can see why savvy realtors advise against decor schemes featuring strong colors. It is also why it’s a good idea for owners to safely vacate the premises with a few minutes to spare. It’s not because the owner is objectionable—it’s that the presence of the owner counteracts the illusion.

The funny thing is that the “illusion” is actually an authentic projection: it’s a mock-up of the reality that will come to pass if the prospect does decide to become the home’s owner.
Part art, part theatre, a little magic.  Putting your best foot forward in every way possible is all part of the selling process.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Top Ten Signs That Your House May Be Haunted



A writer with The Greenwich Times recently interviewed me on living in old homes.  Having lived in 8 old homes during our married life, my husband and I have some experience in this regard.  The article, This House Has A Soul, speaks to the kind of person that does well living in a pre-war home.  

What it doesn't talk about is a whole different dimension on the topic:  The possible presence of a ghost or ghosts.  A Google search of "ghosts in my house" turns up 6 million results.  

A review of the literature shows some common themes.  Based on that search, here is my list of the Top 10 Signs That Your House Is Haunted:

1.  Lights turning on and off, or up and down, on their own.
2.  Light bulbs blowing frequently.
3.  Unexplained noises – but when you go to investigate, there is nothing there.
4.  Doors and cabinets opening and closing on their own.
5.  Seeing unexplained shadows from the corner of your eye.
6.  Items disappear then reappear or change direction/orientation.
7.  Strange behaviour from your pets, e.g. dogs barking or growling at something you cannot see, cats staring in a particular area as if they can see someone.
8.  Hearing voices of people, whispers, or someone calling your name.
9.  Seeing twinkling lights, mists or unexplained moving shapes.
10.  Sudden temperature drops, especially in one area of the property.

What should you do if you think you have a ghost?  There's 79 million opinions on the Internet, to help you arrive at a plan of action.






Monday, March 20, 2017

9 Terrible Home Improvement Ideas


During these final Greenwich winter days, when the weather has refused to cooperate with outdoor plans, one way to fill the idle time is searching online for home improvement ideas. You may not follow through with any of them—but it’s amusing to review the almost unlimited number of clever and inventive notions people have put online.

When it comes to the kitchen, for instance, there are bounteous home improvement ideas. There’s the herb garden wall (in addition to a green thumb, a powerful sunlamp in the ceiling is required) or the pool table top that slips right over the center island. That one wouldn’t work if your kitchen’s island is plumbed: the water faucet would stick up and ruin everything.
But among the clever and innovative home improvement ideas you will also find some that are totally impractical—or just plain terrible. Here are nine of the silliest I’ve found— 

1. Hammock Over the Stairs. A space-saver, yes. An attractive idea? Just, no.
2. See-through Bathtub. Glass walls for the tub = a housekeeping nightmare (among other drawbacks).
3. Fire Pit Coffee Table. Again: just, no.
4. Ping Pong Door. This one is complicated: the closed door has pins halfway up that allow it to tilt horizontally, whereupon the plastic net is slid into notches provided in the door frame…anyway, it’s a really small ping pong table.
5. Cat Transit System. A CTS consists of 8” diameter tubes running throughout the house just below ceiling level. Exit openings are provided at various points. Added feline-pleasing features: windows cut into the tubes at various key viewpoints.
6. A Wall That Plays Music When it Rains. This is an exterior wall idea. You install metal tubes, funnels, bamboo water chimes and tin pans to route rain water down the side of the wall as noisily as possible to splash and bang through twists and turns and waterfalls. This looks to produce the same quality of music a vacuum cleaner makes.
7. Beach Sand Under Work Desk. Like an on-the-job vacation; facilitates barefoot computer working. But—alas—another housekeeping nightmare.
8. Forest Chandelier. This one is a chandelier that looks like dozens of snakes coiled around one another: when lighted, it casts creepy shadows on ceiling and walls that “turn your room into a forest.” In a bedroom, certain to cause sleepless nights.
9. Glass Floor Over an Open Shaft. This home improvement idea is available only to Greenwich condo dwellers in buildings with abandoned elevator shafts. Since there aren’t any, we’ll never have to experience the horrendous effect.

On a bright note, there are many highly successful Greenwich home improvement ideas that are unique, fanciful and add distinction and value to a property.  Falling in this category is the renovated master bath of a new listing we have at 2 Fairway Lane in Greenwich.  His and her baths that marry the distinction of pre-war architecture with high end modern finishes.  If you are in the market for a special home, renovated from top to toe on a quiet country lane that is only minutes to town, call me to come tour it.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Empty Nesters Could Be Force Behind Greenwich Real Estate Boost

 Time Magazine ended last week with a commentary that could foreshadow how this year’s Greenwich housing market might differ from years past. Author Bill Saporito identified a mismatch in the housing market that could bode well for empty nesters. Whether or not the implications will be a perfect fit for our Greenwich housing outlook, the “Big Picture” assessment does seem to gel with what we’re hearing and reading.  Time’s housing market “mismatch” begins with the national assessment that the U.S. is experiencing a shortage of new homes. Even though the latest economic outlook is refreshingly encouraging, new home builders are only now beginning to build the capacity to expand operations. As a result, “they haven’t banked as much land” or filed enough permits to keep pace. It’s also possible that the new administration’s crackdown on illegal immigrants may materially tighten labor availability.

The upshot is to create a scenario where demand for existing homes rises, putting current homeowners in prime position when they decide to list. Bolstering that proposition are some national statistics which peg the supply of existing homes at a scant 3.6 months—and it’s been more than a decade since the supply was that low. 

What that probably means for our local Greenwich housing prospects is what you expect when demand outpaces supply. When those greater conditions combine with the more immediate local factors, the overall takeaway should be good news for empty nesters (and downsizers in general). In addition to the extra energy that arrives with real estate’s traditional spring selling season, the specter of rising Greenwich mortgage costs acts as an extra prod. Time quotes the chief economist of one global group on that score: “…buyers are beginning to realize you might as well get in now.”

The good news for baby boomers, empty nesters, and downsizers of all stripes is that the new housing starts are now disproportionately being designed with them in mind: high service, luxury condos leading the pack. What that means is even fewer new single-family homes are in the pipeline—further raising demand for their existing properties, if and when they decide to list. 

If you have been considering any of the opportunities unfolding in today’s Greenwich housing market, I’ll be delighted to discuss ways I can help you take advantage of them. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

How To Reduce Your Moving Stress



If you go looking for new ideas to make a relocation to or from Greenwich easier, it’s amazing how often the words “stress” and “relocation” appear in the same paragraph.  The simplest way to reduce your stress is to hire relocation professionals-- from professional organizers to movers.  That follows the old adage to let experts do their jobs and who better to help you move than those who do it day in and day out.  

Since one of my roles as a realtor is to help reduce moving-day drama, here are some tips that I regularly use with my Greenwich clients. The first one is something you can get started on long before any move is on the calendar:
1. Stockpile cartons, bubble wrap, padding paper—even those peanut-shaped plastic fillers. More and more, Greenwich residents are buying everyday items online, so the shipping cartons and packing materials inside are a lot easier to come by.  Staples in Old Greenwich, Westys in Stamford or Portchester, or any of the Greenwich moving companies will have supplies, if you prefer to pick them up in person.
2. As relocation day nears, be sure to have the other basic packing materials on hand: those disposable heavy-duty Scotch shipping tape rollers and a couple of magic markers. 
3. Within reason, try to sell or donate everything you can (they’re not called ‘moving sales’ for nothing). Especially if you are moving out of Connecticut using professional movers, the weight saved can make a meaningful difference on the expense side. If you are fond of shopping, there’s even the bonus of replacing shopworn items with new ones at the other end of the move.  Greenwich Hospital Thrift Shop is one of my favorite places to donate anything from mom's old fur coat to the waffle iron that never sees the light of day.
4. Think forward; pack backward. Imagine the ideal order for unpacking (label an “open 1st” box, “open 2nd” box, etc.), then line them up backward, so that the “1st” box will be first to be unloaded and easiest to spot.
5. In connection with that earlier “sell everything” tip, once ensconced in your new home, resist the urge to rush right out to complete every room’s decor. Experts agree that this is one of the most common reasons that relos wind up with expensive cost overruns. Relax for a few low-stress days as you unpack at a leisurely clip. Plan to give yourself ample time to figure out what’s really indispensable in your new environment.
The single extra “Top Tip” that most relocation counselors agree upon? It’s Number 6—to avoid falling into the trap of assuming that a simple Greenwich-to-Greenwich move doesn’t also take some degree of preparation. Above all, pack fragile items as carefully as if they were headed across the Connecticut border!

Moving does not have to be a crazy, frenzied event if you plan well in ahead and take deep breaths along the way.