Will You Live in Boston or Beyond?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 22. May 2019 12:52

Boston, a city celebrated for its history and academia, is appealing to new and longtime residents alike—but so are the city’s many surrounding suburbs. Take a look at the landmarks, schools, and other traits that make both the capital and its nearby communities excellent places to live.

Boston’s Many Attractions

Boston has it all, from Revolutionary War-era buildings and parks to a tech scene booming out of the local universities. If you move to Boston proper, you’ll never run out of things to do. Here are some reasons why city dwellers love Beantown.

History Is All Around You

Bostonians take pride in living where early Americans fought for our independence. Walk along the Freedom Trail, visit the Paul Revere House, or explore the area’s many museums to live and breathe U.S. history.

Innovation and Collaboration

Boston is nicknamed the Athens of America because of the more than 20 higher learning institutes that call it home. MIT, Harvard, and Tufts provide world-renowned education and research and support the work of the city’s many CEOs and entrepreneurs. Brilliant minds from all over the globe come to Boston to share ideas, and the city’s residents are lifelong learners committed to supporting research, academic enrichment, and the arts.

It’s a Healthy City

Boston makes exercise easy. There are plenty of sporting events (like the Boston Marathon) to keep Bostonians entertained and in shape, and beautiful parks are all over the city—for instance, Middlesex Fells Reservation, which contains over 100 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and running. Living with the city limits also puts you in close proximity to some of the country’s top-rated doctors and hospitals.

Surrounding Suburbs

It’s true that Boston’s city center provides endless opportunity for the enthusiastic city dweller, but what if you’re looking for some peace and quiet? Boston’s surrounding suburbs are just as charming and full of history without all the metropolitan buzz.


This collection of 13 villages west of downtown Boston will entertain the whole family with its museums, antique shops, and hiking trails.


More affordable than other cities, Quincy attracts young people from across the state who enjoy its redeveloped downtown and proximity to Boston proper. Quincy has a small-town feel, and it’s 27 miles of coastline appeal to lovers of the sea.


Almost half of Wellesley’s households have kids, making it one of the most family-friendly neighborhoods. Wellesley is also known as the home of Wellesley College, Babson College, and a campus of Massachusetts Bay Community College.


This MetroWest suburb, only a 43-minute drive from Boston, provides a close-knit community for both new and familiar residents. The Center for the Arts in Natick hosts concerts, open mic nights, and film screenings. Century-old homes and the shops that line the streets make Natick a picturesque place to live.


A 45-minute drive to Boston, this quaint town recently upgraded its West Concord Village District, a pedestrian-friendly shopping area that attracts locals and visitors alike.

The Choice Is Yours

Whether you’re looking for bustling energy or a peaceful retreat, you can’t go wrong with moving to the Greater Boston area. Choose the town that complements your family’s lifestyle and goals for the future—either way, you’ll be surrounded by history, culture, and quite a bit of charm.     



How to Be a Good Neighbor

by c21commonweath_ldowling 20. May 2019 15:47

Applying the Golden Rule to the neighborhood goes a long way: Treat your neighbors as you’d like to be treated so everyone feels welcome and happy. Of course, there’re many ways to be a good neighbor, but a few common practices communicate your eagerness to develop long-lasting, positive relationships with new and old folks on the block.

Extend a Welcoming Hand

When families first move to the neighborhood, they probably don’t know many people around them. Be cordial and welcoming by knocking on their door and introducing yourself. You can always bring a fresh batch of cookies or flowers from your garden to extend a warm welcome.

We also recommend exchanging contact information at some point during your neighborly courtship—you never know when you may need someone to take in your mail while you’re on vacation. Be upfront about your willingness to lend a helping hand, and your new neighbors will more than likely do the same for you.

Maintain Curb Appeal  

To be a respectful neighbor, you also need to upkeep your home’s exterior. No one wants to look out their window at trash bins overflowing with waste or a brown, decaying lawn. Do what a good neighbor would do, and clean up after yourself. Maintain the same level of cleanliness as the rest of your neighborhood by routinely mowing your lawn, taking out the trash, and painting over your home’s moldy or worn façade.

Practice Good Manners

Establish respectful relationships with your neighbors by being friendly and maintaining healthy boundaries. Your fence is there for a reason, but you should still know when it’s time to be a pal. If you’re hosting a large party, invite them over. They don’t have to attend, but at least they know they were welcome to participate in the festivities. You should also instruct your guests to park in your driveway or on the street near your home, ensuring they don’t take up too much space. 

Speaking of parties—don’t bother your neighbors by ignoring noise ordinances. Keep it down between the hours of 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. to ensure everyone can enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep without waking up to loud music. The same goes for noise in general: Revving your engines at 7 a.m. probably won’t settle well with your neighbors.

Lastly, practice good manners by returning things you’ve borrowed for yard work or home maintenance projects. If you get into an argument, be mature and shake hands after trying to come to an agreement, instead of gossiping around the block.

Enrich Each Other’s Lives

Follow proper etiquette to help everyone in the neighborhood feel happy and comfortable (yourself included). You’ll be content knowing you are part of a community that looks out for each other by being respectful and kind neighbors.


How Trends Affect Home Value

by c21commonweath_ldowling 15. May 2019 13:57

Square footage may be the main factor that determines your home’s value, but it’s far from the only one. Part of the sale price comes down to what’s currently popular. Keep up with the latest trends in home décor and hip locations to get more money at the time of sale.

This Upgrade, Not That Upgrade

The preferences that influence your home’s marketability are more particular than you might think. For example, painting kitchens blue increases your home’s value—homes with blue kitchens sold for a $1,809 premium in 2017 compared to homes without blue kitchens. This may coincide with the rise of open kitchens, which buyers believe communicate a level of seriousness and sophistication as the centerpiece of the home. Quartz countertops are a popular choice for kitchens because they’re sturdy, luxurious, and come in a variety of colors, patterns, and textures.

Bathrooms can be trendy because of their texture as much as their color. Modern bathrooms use rough tiles in cool grays, tans, and mixed colors to cover showers, countertops, and floors alike—a change from the simple, smooth tiles of years past. Fashionable bathroom storage is also on the rise, as sophisticated cabinets replace old racks standing over toilets.

Other popular (and profitable) trends include installing barn doors and farmhouse sinks. Incorporate these features in your home and listing to see your home sell quickly and for more money.

Location Can Be Trendy

Location is factored into your home’s final sale price. Buyers have always paid close attention to the quality of nearby schools, employment opportunities, and proximity to recreational centers and activities, but their offers may change depending on which activities are “in” in the moment. One study found that Starbucks continues to be a sought-after neighborhood status symbol—homes residing within a quarter of a mile of this famous coffee house increased in value by 96% between 1997 and 2014. If you love your morning coffee and your home is near a Starbucks, you’ll likely pay more to live there.

Trends Buyers Love

Buyers in your market ultimately determine your home’s value by deciding what they can and cannot live without. Proximity to entertainment and popular chains like Starbucks make your property more valuable, but even if your home isn’t close to cool coffee shops, incorporating on-trend design features will help increase its value. Today, bold, luxurious kitchens and bathrooms are worth more money. If you have the time and capital, get strategic with your upgrades to see a larger return at the time of your sale.



Prepping a Pristine Lawn

by c21commonweath_ldowling 13. May 2019 16:04

Now that spring is in full bloom, it’s time to take a good look at your lawn and start any necessary maintenance before the hot summer months arrive. Pick a pleasant day to examine your lawn, noting opportunities for improvement so it can stay well-kept and beautiful all year long. 

Lawn Maintenance 101

Performing routine mowing, irrigation, and feeding practices is the best way to prevent an overgrowth of weeds. If you keep a healthy lawn maintenance routine, you might not have to wrestle with any wild, unwanted plants. Use the following techniques to ensure weeds don’t become unmanageable and spread throughout your lawn:

  • Use herbicide to prevent weeds from sprouting in the warmer months—don’t even let them try to grow!
  • Remove weeds from nearby gardens to prevent them from traveling to your lawn.
  • Fill in your lawn’s bare spots with sod or seed to make sure weeds don’t take hold in these areas.

Weeds also develop in overgrown thatch (the layer of organic material that accumulates around the base of the grass). While a thin layer of thatch is healthy, thatch that reaches an inch in height creates room for weeds. Allowing for aeration in thickly developed thatch will help—mow or rake it to let more air reach the soil. Appropriate aeration fosters the development of organisms that work to break down excess thatch, helping you say goodbye to unruly weeds.

Check Your Machines

A well-maintained lawnmower runs much more smoothly than one that’s lived in your shed for the past four months without seeing the light of day. Perform routine maintenance on your engine to ensure it mows like a pro. Replace the oil and gas, spark plugs, and air filters, and sharpen the blades to make sure the grass cuts evenly. Thoroughly clean your mower to improve its performance and to prevent it from falling apart prematurely.

Stay on Track

A large part of good lawn maintenance is following a routine schedule. Plan out when you will water and fertilize your lawn throughout the week so you don’t forget to keep it nourished and healthy. Getting into a habit of mowing more often also helps you stay on track and prevents weeds from growing in thickets of unkept grass.

To help yourself stay on track, find ways to make springtime gardening and lawn maintenance a priority. Open windows and curtains to remind yourself of yard work while you’re lounging inside. You can also plan outdoor chores with the family and share tasks with your kiddos. After all, creating a beautiful yard is something the whole family should be proud of and enjoy doing together on warm, beautiful spring days.


Making Tiny Spaces Look Bigger

by c21commonweath_ldowling 8. May 2019 09:47

If you’re selling or moving into a home with small rooms, you’ll want to create the illusion of having more space. Why? Open and spacious rooms (especially closets) are more appealing to prospective buyers who may have a ton of belongings to bring with them. Making bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, bathrooms, and closets appear larger than they are is possible with easy DIY tips.

Declutter Everything

No matter how large your rooms are, they’ll look smaller and feel claustrophobic if items are scattered about everywhere. Declutter your home every six months to get rid of things you no longer need, use, or want. This is especially important if you’re putting your house on the market. Do a thorough sweep of every room before your showcase to help put the “open” in “open house.”

Using multi-purpose furniture is one strategic way to create less clutter year-round. For example, a window seat with built-in storage underneath could save you from needing another bulky bookcase or dresser. You can also maximize the space of particularly small closets with closet organizers to keep extra clothes from piling up or falling on the floor.  

The Essentials

Make small living rooms or bedrooms ”bigger” by painting them with light or dark colors. Medium shades make spaces feel more cramped and confined. Instead, opt for white or very dark colors to visually expand the space. Bedrooms are great places to experiment with color because they’re more private and tucked away. Why not paints the walls a bold version of your favorite color? The room will feel larger and reflect your unique style and taste.

You’ll want to be more intentional with the furniture you place in your rooms, too. Although it might seem counterintuitive to highlight open space with large furniture, drawing attention with statement pieces like big beds and dressers will prove that pieces of their size still fit comfortably in the room. Filling your rooms with too many small pieces of furniture can make them feel cluttered, even if the items themselves take up less space than something larger.

Also, select chairs and beds with exposed legs. Seeing the extra room beneath furniture creates a feeling of openness, unlike looking at beds and chairs with skirts that touch the ground.

Decorate Strategically

Use mirrors, lamps, and curtains to make your room feel and look bigger. Floor-to-ceiling curtains do a good job of drawing your attention to the length of the wall, ultimately making the room seem taller. You can also place mirrors in dark spaces to reflect light around the room. Placing several lamps around the room will have a similar effect.

Open-House Ready

Now that you've made your small rooms look bigger, you've got more space to relax and more opportunity to impress potential homeowners—a win-win for owners and buyers alike.


Hosting Mother's Day Brunch at Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 6. May 2019 16:27

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and you know what that means: It’s time for a delicious brunch! We recommend planning your party ahead of time to avoid feeling overwhelmed so you can focus on what matters most: telling Mom just how much you love her.

Get to the Planning

If you’re throwing a large brunch party, you’ll want to send out invitations, order flowers, and prepare all of Mom’s favorite recipes. Get a leg up on things by starting your prep the day or night before. Spend Saturday cooking and setting up decorations so you can thoroughly enjoy brunch with your mom and other family members. 

Before cooking any food, though, get a proper headcount for the brunch table. If you already know the number of people attending your Mother’s Day brunch, you can start planning your recipes and purhasing ingredients.

Delicious Food for Mom and Friends

Scrumptious treats, appetizers, and entrées will take your Mother’s Day brunch to the next level. It’s nice to start with a selection of tasty appetizers before more serving the main course, especially because guests will arrive at different times. Go with easy-to-eat, bite-sized appetizers to prevent unseemly messes. Deviled eggs, breakfast sausage meatballs, and cheese puffs with ham salad are all yummy appetizers you should consider adding your list.

Preparing your main dishes may take more thought. Make matters easy by letting Mom pick the menu: Ask her about her favorite brunch recipes. If she doesn’t have many requests, you can always resort to more traditional brunch items like flapjacks, brioche, donuts, mixed salad, eggs, and cucumber salads.

Lastly, let’s not forget about the cocktails. Get the party started with mimosas and fruity cocktails, and save enough to make a celebratory toast to Mom amongst friends and family around the table.

It’s Time to Decorate

Decorate the dining table with flowers, place settings, and special linens to showcase your love. Place flowers down the center of the table so everyone gets a glimpse of their pretty petals and leaves. You can also set the table with your favorite linens and special plates to make the scene come to life. For added emotional appeal, use Mom’s cutlery or china—a sentimental trick that’s bound to make her feel loved.

Explore Outside of the House

After you’ve satisfied Mom with her favorite food and good company, take her out! Boston is full of wonderful attractions she’ll love exploring with the family. Take a stroll through Piers Park or Boston Common, take a Boston Harbor Cruise, shop at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, or purchase some treats at Mike’s Pastry. The city’s full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy together.


Creating a Smart Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 1. May 2019 15:56

Creating a smart home, where technology controls everything from lighting to room temperature, used to be an expensive ordeal. Now, home automation systems are found in homes of all sizes around the world. If you’re considering upgrading your humble abode with the latest smart technology, use these strategies to make the tech-friendly transition easier.

Determine Your Needs

From playing music in every room to providing heightened security, smart devices are designed to accommodate a variety of needs. Before you buy a bunch of smart equipment, figure out exactly what you want it to accomplish so you can be sure the installation effort is worthwhile.

Lay the Foundation for Success

Smart products rely on strong Wi-Fi connections to properly communicate with the internet and smartphones, so before integrating any new systems, set up a Wi-Fi network that accommodates your needs. If you own a larger home, where smart products may be scattered throughout the property, Wi-Fi networks must cover a wider range.

Install a mesh Wi-Fi system to ensure that all products stay connected to the internet, and place several different Wi-Fi network devices throughout your home to create a single network that’s able to cover everything from your bedroom to the garage.

Start Small and Simple

Once you’ve determined your needs and installed a Wi-Fi network, you can integrate your smart products. Start with the basic items that are easy to set up and use right away. Some homeowners begin with a Smart Plug, which automates lighting, monitors energy usage, and more. With this handy product, you can schedule lights to turn on and off and track energy usage in devices placed throughout your home.

Other forms of smart lighting are popular too. Smart bulbs and dimmers, for example, require basic electrical work to install but allow you to control your home’s lighting from anywhere in the world—you can light up the whole house before you pull into the driveway or make sure everything’s turned off from across the country

Home Assistants

Virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant answer questions, play music, turn on lights, and even tell jokes. By listening to your commands, these devices can set up a call with a friend, order an Uber, or deliver a weather report.  If you have a fully decked out smart home, a virtual assistant can control numerous smart devices throughout the house so you don’t have to use two or three apps to initiate commands.

Enjoy Your New Home

High-tech features can make your day-to-day routines simpler—even fun. Integrating devices with your home may take time, but if you have a lot of needs and interests that technology can help with, you’ll enjoy living in a sophisticated home that operates with heightened efficiency.


Revamping Your Kitchen on a Budget

by c21commonweath_ldowling 29. April 2019 16:14

Remodeling a kitchen can be expensive. The average remodel costs $60,000—if that number is out of your budget, we’re here to tell you there is still hope. With a bit of research and work, you can revamp your kitchen to make it look new again without breaking the bank.

Make More Room

Reorganizing your kitchen can clear up space for more cooking and dining and make room to add colorful flair. Vertical bookshelves painted in your color of choice is a cheap way to add more storage space for dishes, pots and pans, and any miscellaneous items. Add hooks to the inside of your bookshelf to hang aprons and linens.

Getting hanging pot racks for your kitchen’s ceiling also creates more countertop space. If you’re in need of new countertops, look for bargains at discount granite stores or home improvement stores, or consider cheaper countertop materials like resin or wooden butcher’s block. Keep an open mind toward the materials you’re willing to use and a wide range of cost-effective countertops will be available to you.

Update Hardware

Changing out old kitchen hardware instantly revitalizes any kitchen space. Start by replacing outdated sinks and faucets with trendy alternatives like brushed brass or stainless steel. Take this opportunity to elevate your faucet, too, increasing the amount of sink space for washing dishes and bulky pots.

Complement your new sink with updated appliances from local hardware stores. By avoiding designer kitchen brands, you’ll save money that can be spent on other fun updates, like a new, fancy backsplash.

Lastly, make your kitchen cozy and welcoming with warm lighting that’s not overly dim. We suggest searching for lighting you love in magazines and finding similar fixtures for a discounted price in department and home improvement stores.

Add Personal Touches

Kitchens are joyful places. Families and friends gather in these spaces to celebrate good food and each other’s company. Adding simple finishing touches can make your kitchen appropriately lively and welcoming. Start by applying a fresh coat of paint, which can be done well for cheap if you handle the job yourself. Save that extra painting money for new curtains, which help eliminate smells from cooking and smoke.

Simple Upgrades You Can Afford

With these remodeling tips in mind, you’re well on your way to creating a new kitchen space that’s clean, organized, and attractive. Do your research to find great deals on appliances, and take care of the grunt work yourself. You’ll wake up to a kitchen you love without a bill that sets you back.


Planting the Perfect Spring Garden

by c21commonweath_ldowling 24. April 2019 15:23

It’s refreshing to get back to tending the garden after winter—getting your hands dirty in the flowerbeds and soaking up some sunshine. Whether you’re planting to improve your home’s curb appeal or gardening just for the fun of it, take special care to choose plants that can handle the local climate and look fabulous year-round.

A Look at Climate

Boston has a continental climate, with cold, snowy winters and warm summers. Due to the city’s coastal location between two colliding air masses (down from Canada and up from the Gulf), residents can expect unstable weather conditions. One day, skies are clear and sunny—the next, they’re dark and stormy.

To account for rapid changes in weather (with periodic freezing temperatures at night), we recommend investing in hardy plants that will last through cold days and nights. Pansies, which can be found blooming across New England this time of year, are a good example.  

Annual Springtime Flowers

For a colorful, fruitful garden, plant annuals that can withstand the area’s colder springtime temperatures.

Pansies: These purple, yellow, and white flowers don’t mind water or frost, making them a great option for Boston’s colder climate.  

Primrose: These flowers come in many bright colors and bloom late in the winter months so you can enjoy them through the beginning of spring.

Snapdragons: Saturated in color, these stalky flowers perk up in the cooler spring and fall seasons.

Nemesia:  Plant these beautiful annuals near pansies to complement your already colorful flowerbed. Nemesia comes in almost every color and does well in the cool weather.

Cold-Crop Vegetables

Maybe your garden is a source of delicious home-grown vegetables. Cold-crop veggies like parsley, lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and collards will do just fine in Boston’s continental climate. Planting and harvesting these vegetables are satisfying activities for novice and experienced gardeners alike.

Purchasing the Right Plants

If you’re unsure what flowers and plants to include in your garden, you can learn more about New-England-friendly plants here. You should also make a trip to your local nursery to see what kinds of plants are sold outside. If they’re doing well out in the elements, they’ll more than likely thrive in your garden. Paying closer attention to the local forecast gives you a leg up on selecting plants and flowers well-suited to your garden this time of year.

Watch Your Garden Come to Life

Tending to your garden is about more than upkeep for your property. It’s about taking care of yourself, too! Gardening is a great way to enjoy the fresh air and get a little exercise, and it’s even better with friends and family. Get your hands dirty with a bit of weekly landscaping to make your garden come to life and do some growing of your own.      



Selling a Fixer-Upper to a Prospective Buyer

by c21commonweath_ldowling 17. April 2019 14:31

When selling a fixer-upper, you’ll first need to decide who you’re selling it to: traditional buyers or investors. Homes that require simple to moderate repairs might be attractive to eager buyers willing to do some remodeling themselves. Contrarily, homes with major issues can be sold to investors if traditional buyers are intimidated by daunting repair work. Whomever you sell your home to ultimately depends on the current state of the property and the amount of work you’re willing to put into renovations.   

Selling to Investors

Homeowners sell dilapidated homes to investors instead of traditional buyers for several reasons. Firstly, financing may not be possible if the home doesn’t meet safety standards. Repairs may also be too much of a burden for homeowners and traditional buyers to take on themselves (which is to say your home needs more than just a little TLC).

In these cases, selling to a buy-and-hold or wholesale investor can take a huge load off your shoulders. Instead of making expensive and time-guzzling repairs yourself, you can count on an investor to do the prep work for you. Additionally, the escrow period usually takes less than a month because inspections, appraisals, and mortgage issues no longer determine your sale. Selling run-down homes to investors as-is encourages cash offers and flexible closing dates, making the transaction simple.

Selling to Traditional Buyers

Traditional buyers are the families, friends, and individuals looking to make your house their home, and they likely come with a set of requirements. Your home doesn’t have to be perfect to sell to this demographic, but you should put in a bit of grunt work to receive reasonable offers without drastically decreasing your asking price.

Start by tackling safety issues to avoid problems with inspectors or financers. Take a good look at your roof, electrical panel, water heater, pipes, and septic and HVAC systems, and check for damage from water, mold, or termites. After these major issues have been addressed, you can move on to easy cosmetic fixes, like painting rooms, caulking bathrooms and kitchens, fixing lighting fixtures, and cleaning carpets.

Marketing Your Fixer-Upper

You’ll still need to market your home appropriately, no matter whom you’re selling it to. For investors, market your home on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or sites like Zillow and Trulia with photos of the place, and know that you’ll likely still need to hold showings and inspections.

For traditional buyers, market your home by focusing on the positives. Highlight the property’s size, location, and floor plan to distract from the less seemly features. Using descriptive keywords like “landscaped,” “remodeled,” or “historic” will also give you a leg up. Lastly, price your house appropriately by researching the market and prices of homes selling in the area.