7 Household Items to Hide When Staging Your Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 7. November 2016 16:00

As a seller getting ready to stage your home, it’s important to remember that this isn’t about you. That may sound harsh, but think of it this way: your buyer is looking for a home that they can imagine living in. If your house is full of your personal touches and unique style, the buyer will think of it as yours, not their future home.

Staging your home to maximize its appeal can help you sell faster and get better offers. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of seven household items that you should store out of sight before showings.

Oversized Furniture

Too much large furniture makes a space feel small and takes up valuable square footage. If you have an antique dresser monopolizing space in your bedroom or an oversized couch dwarfing your small living room, now is the time to put those items in storage. However, don’t go overboard and put all your furniture in storage—leave essential items that help a buyer see how a room can be used.

Statement Pieces

You may love your chair shaped like a giant hand or your light-up vintage bar sign, but that doesn’t mean your potential buyers will. If you have quirky décor in your home that isn’t likely to appeal to a large audience, store it out of sight.

Excessive Wall Art

Your walls shouldn’t be bare, but you don’t want to have so much wall art that your house begins to look like a museum or antique store. Choose to leave just a few pieces that nicely tie into the style of the room.

Children’s Toys

You certainly don’t want potential buyers tripping over building blocks or stuffed animals, so be sure to pack up children’s toys before each showing. For convenience, store toys in an attractive, inconspicuous toy box in your child’s room. If the box is clear, store it in a closet until after the showing. Put any large toys, such as a dollhouse or easel, into storage before you start showing your home.

Pet Supplies

While an estimated 30-37% of households in the U.S. have a cat and 37-47% have a dog, you shouldn’t assume that your potential buyers will be pet lovers. If you have pets, it’s best to have a friend or family member watch them during showings and to hide all pet supplies, including food dishes, beds, crates, and litter boxes.

Family Photos

Just about every professional home stager will tell you to put away family photos and children’s artwork during showings. Remember, buyers aren’t interested in seeing signs of the people who currently live in the home, they’re interested in finding a home that they can call their own.

Outdated Décor

Outdated décor can make your house look as if it’s been frozen in time, which isn’t going to appeal to the average buyer. If you have an old fraying ottoman or a ‘70s living room set taking up space in your home, consider selling these items or putting them in storage (if they have sentimental value) and renting contemporary furniture for your showings.

For additional tips about what to highlight and what to hide during showings, talk to your Century 21 Commonwealth agent. He or she can provide staging advice or recommend a professional stager to help you make your home look its best.


6 Tips to Personalize Your New Home on a Budget

by c21commonweath_ldowling 31. October 2016 12:00

When you first move into your new place, it can be hard to make it feel like your own. You may have spent months or even years looking for the perfect house for you and your family—but how do you make it feel like it’s yours? The house is either designed to the old owner’s taste or set up in neutral colors and fixtures to appeal to most buyers. Here are a few tips to make your new house feel like home sweet home on a budget.

Paint the Front Door

The front door is the first thing you and your guests see when entering your home, so it’s important that it makes an impression. Painting it a bold color like a red or blue, or updating the hardware for a fresh look (and additional security) will make an impression on everyone. Your new home will stand out in your neighborhood and showcase your personality to everyone.

Add Fresh Flowers Around Your Home

Flowers are friendly. Bouquets of freshly cut flowers sprinkled throughout your house add a sense of hominess, smell wonderful, and can be inexpensive. Purchase them from your local grocery store or pick them from your garden, it doesn’t matter.

Paint or Wallpaper, Sparingly

No matter the size of your new place, painting every room seems a daunting task. Pick a few walls to accent in a favorite color to help you feel at home. Wallpaper a smaller space, such as a powder room or laundry room, in a fun pattern. You can explore your creative side in a lesser-used space, and it will serve as an experiment for projects down the road.

Change Out Some Hardware

It’s easy to personalize some spaces by changing out the existing the hardware for something new. In the kitchen, replacing the faucet and cabinet fixtures can breathe new life into a space for way less than redoing your whole kitchen. You can look for fun fixtures at antique stores and flea markets rather than your big box stores. Putting up wall hooks in your front hall or mud room can also help define a space for your jackets, hats, and bags, further creating a space for you and your family.

Add Stylish Window Treatments

Many homes will come with standard blinds that feel industrial and don’t block enough light. Upgrade to beautiful new window treatments in a fabric you love, textured bamboo, or even tailored Roman blinds. They can make any space feel more put together and will add your personal touch to any room.

Add Comfortable Touches around Your Home

Make your home feel cozy for your guests and yourself by adding small things like throws on your sofa, lamps all around, and a tea tray. These cozy touches help turn a house into a comfortable, welcoming home for all to enjoy.

With tips like these, it’s easy to turn your new house into your own, personalized home—even on a tight budget. You can take these tips and use them make any new space feel cozy and comfortable within weeks of moving in.


7 Kitchen Trends That Appeal to Home Buyers

by c21commonweath_ldowling 31. October 2016 11:44

If you’re getting ready to sell your home but are worried that your kitchen is looking a little dated, it may be time for some updates. The kitchen is one of the first rooms a typical home buyer looks at, and as a space that brings the whole family together (everyone has to eat), you can expect potential buyers to look at this space with scrutiny.

While a major kitchen renovation may not be worth the investment, a few minor changes can help bring your kitchen up to date and woo potential buyers. Here are seven kitchen trends that can be major selling points.

Open Shelving

Too many cabinets can make a kitchen feel heavy and cramped, but too few cabinets might leave buyers worrying about not having enough storage space. As a compromise, consider replacing upper cabinets with open shelves. Open shelves lend the kitchen an airier feeling and give homeowners a space to display attractive dishware and art. If you’re not ready to take the plunge with open shelving, upper cabinets with glass doors provide a nice alternative and keep your space looking open and inviting.

Disguised Appliances

One of this year’s most popular kitchen trends involves a bit of a magic trick—hiding appliances in plain sight. Whether it’s a refrigerator hidden behind matching cabinet doors or a dishwasher that pulls out from what looks like a drawer, appliances that are integrated with their surroundings make practical use of space and make the kitchen feel unified.

Two-Tone Cabinets

Two-tone cabinets, also known as tuxedo-style cabinets, can give your kitchen a bold look without being too overpowering. You could choose to paint your lower cabinets a sleek black and your upper cabinets a pristine white, but black and white isn’t the only way to go. You could also choose complementary colors—just make sure you’re not opting for unusual color combinations that might make buyers raise their eyebrows.

Shaker-Style Cabinets

Shaker-style cabinets are simple in design, with basic recessed centers and no ornate moulding. Thanks to their simplicity, they look good with just about any kitchen aesthetic, from rustic to ultra-modern. Some people choose to show off the wood used in their Shaker cabinets by staining it, but you can also give the wood a paint finish for a more contemporary look.

Horizontal Lines

Adding some subtle horizontal lines to your kitchen can help expand the space and give the room a sleek appearance. Looking for a simple update? Try adding some horizontal pulls to your cabinets. You could also add a backsplash with a horizontal pattern.

Farmhouse Sinks

They may not work in every kitchen, but large, single basin farmhouse sinks are becoming increasingly popular for their minimalist look and practicality. The extra sink space makes it easier for the home chef to hand-wash oversized dishes without getting splashed.

Counter-Height Islands

Kitchen islands are an enduring trend, and they’re increasingly taking the place of the traditional kitchen table. A counter-height island gives family and friends a central place to gather while also providing additional meal prep space.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

If you do decide on some minor kitchen renovations, make sure the updates are still in keeping with the overall style of the house. After all, a potential home buyer who loves the idea of living in a cozy Craftsman home might not be thrilled about a kitchen that leans heavily on stainless steel or all-white cabinetry. You should also take a step back and ask yourself, “Is this something that will appeal to most buyers, or just to me?” Remember, the goal of updating your kitchen before selling your home is to attract buyers and increase the home’s value, so you may need to put your personal tastes on the back burner.

If you pay attention to the features buyers are looking for and are strategic with your updates, you may be surprised at the value you get from a kitchen makeover.


3 Ways to Make a Great First Impression with a Real Estate Clients

by c21commonweath_ldowling 24. October 2016 11:45

As a realtor, first impressions mean everything. A good or bad first interaction can be the difference between you gaining a loyal client and you missing out on a major sale. Here are a few ways to let potential clients know that you are exactly the person they need to have on their real estate team.

Be Prepared

The main objective of your first meeting with a potential client is to convince them that they are in good hands. You want your clients to leave the meeting feeling comfortable with their decision of choosing you as their real estate agent as well as confident in the fact that you can get the job done. Having a client that has complete faith in you and your decisions will help facilitate a smooth home buying or selling experience.

The best way to execute this goal is to come to the meeting prepared. Do your research! In the conversations you have before the meeting, make sure to get important client information such as where they work, where they live, and their household size. Ask what they are looking to find in both a property and realtor. Then take this information and use it as the foundation on which to build your research.

Now, we’re not suggesting arriving with a two-hour PowerPoint presentation; you, of course, do not want to overwhelm them. However, you do want them to recognize that you are knowledgeable in your field and you can not only provide them with exactly what they want but also suggest ideas and options that they may not have thought of before.

Put Effort into Your Presentation

A key factor that adds to the success of a good first impression is one’s presentation. Present yourself and your surroundings in a way that communicates to the client that you are in control. Make sure to have your office tidied and organized. Adding a picture of a family member or nice comfortable chairs with cups of tea or coffee available are small adjustments that help clients feel at home.

When meeting with a client, be sure to dress professionally. Trusting a person with your entire life savings can be a hard pill to swallow if they appear not to care about their professional appearance. During the meeting, make sure to make eye contact and keep the focus on your client. Silence your cell phone and have office calls forwarded to your voicemail. Being able to give potential clients your undivided attention makes them feel like they are and will continue to be your number one priority.

It’s All in the Attitude

Having a positive and upbeat attitude works wonders with new clients. For many, this is the first time they are buying a home, and a friendly face and calm demeanor are exactly the things they need to help calm their first time buyer anxiety. Some clients may also come with little savings or bad credit, so having an optimistic outlook can also help defuse some first-time jitters and nerves.

At the end of the day, you want your new client to believe that you are an integral part of them achieving their dreams of buying the perfect home. The best way to convince them that you are the right person for the job is by showing them that you know what you’re doing, that you’re approachable, and that you’re a reliable person. Convincing them of those three things will make it that much easier for you to create a positive client experience.


Things to Check Before Selling an Older House

by c21commonweath_ldowling 24. October 2016 11:00

All too often when selling an older home, people are telling you left and right how to make your home appear new. However, sometimes it is easy to get distracted by the cosmetic renovations and forget to check the most essential issues first. It is important not to neglect the fundamental issues of the home and to sell a home that you have truly improved from the framework to the interior. Listed below are a few things to check before selling an older home that many forget to consider.

Soil & Foundation

If you live on a hill or uneven terrain, it is probably best for you to have a soil inspector come and check your lands stability. Before selling to buyers, you want to make sure that the house you are selling is built on strong soil and foundation. Also, have the soil inspector check your back and front yards for soil contamination and the state of your grass and gardens. Fertile soil can be a huge selling point for potential buyers who love to garden and landscape.

Along with the quality of your soil, be sure to check the state of the foundation of the home before placing your home on the market. Older homes are more susceptible to foundation settling, such as large cracks in the foundation or uneven floors. Although this may be costly in repairs and somewhat time consuming, it is better to catch this issue before you place your home on the market than finding out in the middle of escrow.


Many old homes have their quirks, one of them being the electrical system. After living in a home for a long time, having to turn an electrical switch to use your microwave and TV may seem perfectly normal to you but can be a nuisance to new buyers. Have an electrician come out and check the wiring of the home, making sure all kinks are gone and wiring is up to code.

Asbestos and Mold

The older your home is, the more likely you are to find asbestos. In fact, if your home was built before 1975 there is a very high chance that there is asbestos in one of your building materials. Along with checking for asbestos, have a mold inspector walk through the home and double check that there is no mold present. Checking for these things helps you provide a home that is that much safer for the next family and helps cover yourself when it comes time for your buyer to bring in a home inspector.

Roof & Chimney

Before you start positioning your fireplace as a huge selling point of the house, make sure that it is safe to use. Have a chimney inspector check the state of your fireplace and chimney to ensure that interior bricks are in good shape and smoke can exit the home properly. Along with the chimney, check the state of the roof of your house. Considering this is a huge expense to pay for if there is something wrong, make sure to hire an inspector that you trust and one that understands the materials used on your roof.


Last but not least, an important thing to check for in an old home is lead. For many of us, lead seems to be a concern of the past. However, it is still commonly found in homes today. Have an inspector check the lead levels of the paint and materials used in the house. This list of things to look out for when selling an older home can appear to be quite intimidating. However, it is meant to encourage you to spend your money on the things that count. Staging and decor are essential parts to selling a home, but it is just as important if not more to make sure the bones of the home are still strong and healthy.


Pros and Cons of Investing in a Multifamily Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 17. October 2016 10:26

For many aspiring real estate investors, buying and selling (or renting) single-family homes may seem like the most clear-cut path to success. However, in cities where space is at a premium (like Boston), multifamily homes can prove to be a worthwhile investment.

A multifamily home is any building that has multiple housing units, such as a duplex, “triple decker”, or apartment complex. These units are typically popular with young renters, including undergraduates, grad students, and hospital interns and residents.

Enterprising investors can buy multifamily homes and either a.) rent out all the units or b.) live in one unit and rent out the rest. Multifamily properties can be a good way to grow a real estate portfolio, but they also come with some unique challenges. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of investing in multifamily homes.

Benefits of Investing in Multifamily Homes


  •  More units, fewer transactions: If you’re trying to grow your real estate portfolio by buying multiple single-family homes, you’ll have to handle separate negotiations and closing costs for each property. When you buy a multifamily home, you’re making one big purchase and getting multiple units that can be rented to multiple tenants.
  •  Easier to scale: Buying a multifamily home may not be the right choice for you if you just want to own a rental property to increase your passive income. However, if you’re serious about growing your real estate portfolio, multifamily homes can make good financial sense. Because you’ll have multiple units in one location, the per-unit expenses should be lower than if you owned multiple single-family homes at different locations. For example, you’ll have fewer roofs to maintain and fewer exterior spaces to landscape.
  • Greater financial cushion: Let’s say you buy a single-family investment property, rent it out for a year or two, but then have trouble finding a new renter and leave the home vacant for several months. The full cost of the mortgage will fall to you during this time. However, let’s say you own a triple decker and one of the units sits vacant for several months. You’ll still have two other rent-paying tenants to help cover your expenses.

Downsides of Investing in Multifamily Homes


  • More turnover: Families and couples are more likely to rent single-family homes, while younger single people are more likely to rent multifamily units. Younger single renters are less likely than families to stay in the same place for a long time, which means that turnover is typically higher for multifamily properties than single-family properties.
  • Higher upfront costs: You may need to make a (significantly) larger down payment on a multifamily property than a single-family property. However, you may be able to get a loan from the Federal Housing Administration if you plan to be an owner-occupant.
  • Higher maintenance costs: Not only will you have to handle maintenance requests from multiple tenants, you’ll also be responsible for maintaining shared spaces and amenities, such as a laundry room, stairwell, or courtyard.
  • More difficult to sell: If your dream is to fix up and flip properties, a multifamily home may not be the right choice, since there will be a smaller pool of buyers than there will be for a single-family home.

     Are you considering investing in a multifamily home but wondering if it’s a savvy choice? Consider talking to an experienced Century 21 Commonwealth agent; we know the greater Boston housing market well and can help you find the right multifamily—or single-family—property for your portfolio.


6 Easy-to-Adopt Habits of Successful Real Estate Agents

by c21commonweath_ldowling 17. October 2016 10:09

If you’ve gone into the real estate industry, chances are good that you have a driven personality and are always looking for ways to improve. Fortunately, becoming a more successful real estate agent doesn’t mean you have to overhaul your life dramatically. Start adopting a few small daily habits to set yourself up for success. Here are six tips to get you started:

Establish a Morning Routine

Establishing a morning routine (and sticking to it) will help you feel grounded and better prepared to be productive for the rest of your day. For some people, a morning routine may involve going for a jog or doing yoga. For others, it may involve reading industry news or checking their email while drinking tea or coffee. No matter what morning ritual you choose, carve out time to eat a healthy breakfast so that you have enough energy to focus on your work.

Use Time Blocking

Identify high-priority tasks that require a lot of concentration and block out time on your calendar to get them done. If you have big tasks, try breaking them into manageable chunks that you can complete in smaller increments. Use a visual tool, whether that’s Google Calendar or your trusty day planner, to create brightly-colored time blocks for your most important projects.

Return Calls and Emails Promptly

Set aside times to respond to calls and emails, and don’t leave clients hanging. Efficiently returning calls and responding to emails will make your clients feel valued, which will make them more likely to recommend you to friends and family.

Keep Up with the Latest Industry News and Technology

In the real estate industry, there’s always something new to learn. Make sure you’re attending conferences and reading up on the latest real estate trends, both nationally and in your market. You should also keep up with technology trends so that you understand the ways in which new tech is changing the way people search for, buy, and sell homes.

Give More Than You Get When Networking

Don’t go into networking events with a “what’s in it for me” attitude. Networking is a two-way street, and when you show that you’re willing to help others rather than just promoting yourself, your new contacts will be more receptive to working with you in the future. And while it’s important to establish contacts in the real estate industry, you should also find ways to get involved with your local community outside of the real estate sphere.

Explain Your Process to Clients

No one wants to feel like they’re in the dark when buying, selling, or renting a home. Whenever you have an initial meeting with a new client, make it a point to walk them through your process, let them know about possible challenges, and explain several possible outcomes. Stay in regular communication with your client throughout the home buying or selling process, and if you need to adjust your strategy at any point, let the client know how and why you’re doing this.

Keep in mind that the tips above are just a jumping off point; you may discover other routines and strategies that work well for you. The best thing you can do is to find the strategies that work for you and turn them into a regular part of your day.     


More Single Women Are Becoming Homeowners

by c21commonweath_ldowling 10. October 2016 11:20

After the housing market and financial crash of 2008, many thought the housing market would never recover. In 2016, single women are the surprising candidates leading the way in growing the market and buying new homes. In the Boston area, 14% of homebuyers were single women in 2015, and the numbers are only rising as income inequality becomes a thing of the past and women earn more money than ever before.

Single women can be excellent clients for realtors as they often know what kind of property they want, where they want it, and how much they want to spend. Especially for younger women making the transition to owning properties, home buying often comes out of a desire to stop renting. There are many times for these women that renting and buying a home are a similar cost. For these single women, home ownership provides more control over their lives, a place of their own that they can modify and settle into, with or without a partner.

In Boston, where rent can be expensive in trendy neighborhoods close to downtown, buying homes can be a respite from high rent payments but still allow walkability to many amenities in great neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain or Beacon Hill. Single women don’t have to sacrifice city living to have their own home.

Trends with Female Homebuyers

Nationwide, there are some trends that can be seen with first-time single women homebuyers. While these women are wealthier on average, they still more often than not spend less than $200,000, prefer two or more bedrooms, and aren’t likely to choose new construction. While suburban areas right outside the city may be less expensive, single women prefer to buy in more vibrant city areas and will compromise size and cost for other amenities they deem important. They also desire enhanced security and want proximity to stores, shopping, and fitness centers.

It’s clear that single women are a driving force in the housing market now, and realtors and sellers need to make an effort to appeal to this key demographic. With interest rates in 2016 at near-historic lows, first-time single women homebuyers are poised to influence the market even more than before, moving from renting to buying in droves.


5 Alternatives to the 20 Percent Down Payment

by c21commonweath_ldowling 10. October 2016 11:13

Buying a home is difficult enough on its own between finding the right property and beating out other buyers. But a 20% down payment? For many first-time homebuyers, that can feel like a huge obstacle. With a current national median home price of $306,700, 20% is a whopping $61,340 you need to save up before getting the keys to a new place. Thankfully, there are other financing options beyond the traditional 20% down payment to buy a home.

Federal Housing Administration Loans

FHA loans, administered by the Federal Housing Administration, require just a 3.5% down payment, or just $10,734 for the same national median home price. To be eligible for a government-backed mortgage like this, you’ll need a credit score of at least 580. You can qualify with a score as low as 500, but you would need to put 10% down.

The other caveat with FHA loans is the necessity for mortgage insurance, which is necessary for any loan in which less than 20% is put down. FHA loans also have limits on how much homebuyers can borrow based on the median home price in the area, but will still satisfy most needs. FHA loans can be a fantastic option, especially for first-time homebuyers without 20% to put down.

USDA Rural Development Loans

The USDA offers 0% down loans to homebuyers who qualify in their areas as having low or moderate income. These loans obviously are limited to what the USDA defines as rural areas, though that covers a full 97% of the United States. Check out if the area where you want to move is covered at USDA.gov.

State and Local Home Buyer Programs

The federal government offers lots of options to homebuyers, but there are thousands of payment programs in the US that offer financial help. Here are some in Massachusetts. These programs vary in who can qualify and how much assistance they offer but doing some research can assist in buying a new home.

VA Loans

If you or your partner has served in the military, the VA can assist you with your mortgage. The VA offers 0% down loans without any mortgage insurance needed, as they supply it. To qualify for a VA loan, you’ll need to present a certificate of eligibility, noting that you were in the military or that you are a widow/widower of a military member. A VA loan can be the best option if you qualify.

Credit Unions

Credit unions, non-profit banking cooperatives, can often offer mortgages at lower rates with limited or no down payment to members. You may need to meet income requirements and have a decent credit score, but policies vary widely among different credit unions. Mass Bay Credit Union offers competitive rates in the area.

There are many good alternatives to the traditional 20% down payment option for a mortgage. Do your research, discover which option is best for you, and happy house-hunting!


Don't Make These 3 Staging Mistakes When Selling Your Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 3. October 2016 17:22

When selling a home, it is important to present it to buyers in the best state possible with a tactic called staging. Staging goes a little bit deeper than making sure your rooms are clean or the lawns are mowed before the showings, but involves strategically highlighting the perks of the home while re-translating the flaws of the property into a more forgiving light. For instance, you should leave smaller rooms with as little clutter as possible and furnish them with items that serve dual purposes.

It is possible to overdo your home’s mini-makeover and inadvertently turn buyers away with the new presentation of your home. Below are ways to avoid making common mistakes that sellers make when staging their home.

Mistake #1: Going Overboard with Renovations and Layouts

First and foremost, remember to avoid over-staging. When it comes time to revamp the home, sellers can get caught up in the whirlwind of the makeover and completely forget their audience—the potential buyers. 

The purpose of staging is to help buyers envision themselves living in the home. This means it’s important to come up with a universal design that will attract the most buyers. Refrain from choosing paints or styles that are eclectic in taste and more to your specific liking than that of the vast majority of people. Although renovations will make the house look new, upgrades that are specifically tailored to your tastes may prevent buyers from seeing themselves living in that home. Your ultimate goal is to create a space that gives a buyer a hint as to what the room could look like when he/she buys the home.

You should also refrain from putting too much furniture in one room. Even if the room is large, the more you add to a room, the less square footage you are showing the buyer. 

Mistake #2: Crowding the Walls

All too often, it is an amateur decorator’s instinct to set furniture against walls and use the wall space as the determining factor of where furniture should go. Although this works in some cases, try to refrain from using walls as your designing compass. For instance, in a living room setting, take in the entire design of the room and place furniture in a way that allows people to sit and talk comfortably.

When staging a home, you want potential buyers to be able to see themselves living in that house at all stages of their life. You want to communicate not only a homey feel, but also a space that is great for hosting, relaxing, and having fun. The more versatile your home can be, the more buyers your property will attract.

Mistake #3: Overlooking the Little Things

Staging does not always mean elaborate changes or renovations for sellers. It can come in the form of a fresh coat of paint on the outside of the house or a lawn that is free of dead leaves and tree branches. When preparing your home for sale, don’t get caught up fixing the larger issues while forgetting to address the smaller issues.

Many times, small touches can make a huge difference. Placing potpourri in bathrooms or buying matching dish towels for the kitchen are quick and easy fixes that give the home a cohesive and warm design.

Staging a home can be tricky and easy to overdo. When in doubt, ask your Century 21 Commonwealth agent for advice. An experienced real estate agent should be able to offer home staging tips or recommend a professional home stager who can make buyers fall in lover with your property.