Move Up Time During the Fall Real Estate Market?

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Moving with Kids

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How to Sell Your Home this Spring with Kids in Tow (and Keep Your Sanity)

South Shore Moms Blog | Contributed Post

The process of selling your home is not without its inconveniences. Add little ones to the mix, and you’ve got a whole new level of stress. As moms we know we can’t expect perfection, but with a little (ok, maybe a lot) of planning and a smart strategy, you can keep hassles to a minimum and achieve your real estate goals in the least amount of time with the best financial outcome. After all, this move is probably motivated by what’s best for your kids, be it more room for the family to grow, schools, job opportunities or family changes.

Aside from the changes your kids will experience moving to a new house, the most disruptive part of the process stems from keeping your house looking its best and being able to take your show on the road with short notice when buyers want to see it. If you and your agent can leverage smart staging, pricing and marketing strategies, you should be able to line up the right buyer in less time with less upset to your brood. The sooner you can accept a winning offer, the sooner you can get back to the business of sticky floors and endless legos (that is until you start packing, but that’s another topic all-together) Here’s what I’ve learned as a real estate agent helping South Shore parents navigate this process with little ones in tow.

 
 

Declutter

We’ve all heard the real estate adage, “Location. Location. Location.” but when families with kids are selling it should really be “Declutter. Declutter. Declutter.” You can’t start this process too early. As soon as you decide it’s time to make a move, start paring down. I tell my clients, the goal is get your belongings to your “irreducible minimum.” I know it sounds a little strict, but it will net you more money in the end. You don’t have to convert to Marie Kondo style Minimalism, but you do want to take away all that extra stuff that distracts buyers from your home’s best features. Most buyers have less capacity to see through clutter than we give them credit for. You need to make it easy for them to picture themselves living well there. Houses that feel clean, serene and un-cluttered sell faster and for more money. Ask your agent to show you photos of homes on the market that sold quickly and for more than list price. Chances are, they are decluttered, nicely staged and professionally photographed (more on that below). If you are unsure where to start, have your agent, a stager or a professional organizer walk through your property and point out where you can cut back and what to highlight. It’s a misconception that you want to erase signs of kids in the home. You aren’t going for sterile. Rather, the goal is to keep living spaces open and storage spaces easily accessible, not cramped. The vibe of the house should feel pleasant and real.

Use this opportunity to sell, donate or toss items that aren’t going to make the move with you or that your kids will soon outgrow. Remember, when you get to your new house your kids will probably be in a new stage or it will be a new season, so think about what you will need several months down the line. You could very well be done with maternity clothes, high chairs or this season’s snow boots by the time you unpack at your next address. As for toys, limit each child to one laundry basket sized container and pack everything else away. Now is a great time for kids visit the library, meet for playdates and any activity that requires zero clean up. I promise your kids will be extra excited to see their things in a couple of months.

For extra furniture and items of real value consider renting a self-storage unit or using a family member’s garage rather than filling up your own basement or garage. Buyers also want those spaces to feel clean and unencumbered and clearing them will make for better home inspections, as well. Keep it green with donating/recycling first, but when all else fails, think seriously about a dumpster for big jobs. A 10 yard dumpster can be delivered in 24 hours and costs about $400 for 2 weeks. This is money well spent if it helps you avoid last minute dump runs during your move.

The bottom line is, put a price tag on your time and on precious space in your home. if an item is something you do not want to move (or worse pay a mover to move), unpack and take up precious square footage in your next place, it is not worth keeping.

Utilize Online Marketing

A home buyer’s first showing is online. With the technology and tools available to your agent today, he/she should be able to give prospective buyers a very good sense of your property before they come for a private viewing. With the vast majority of all home shopping starting on the internet, your first showing will be digital, which is why it is critical to use an agent who nails this aspect of marketing. Make sure you contract with a tech-savvy agent who uses a professional real estate photographer and utilizes digital tools like video, 3D virtual tours and targeted social media marketing. They should be able to tell you who your target buyer is, and how they plan to reach them online. A strong, accurate and engaging online representation will help reach the right home shoppers and will aid in weeding out those who aren’t a fit. When it comes to showings, quality over quantity means less scrambling to get the house ready or kids and pets out quickly.

Don’t Overprice

Of course you want as much money for your house as fair market value allows, but aim too high and you may be going through this process longer than you planned. The best time to capture a buyer is in the first several weeks your home is on the market. Right now on the South Shore, we are experiencing low inventory and a seller’s market. If you already have an accepted offer on your next house and have to sell in order to buy, you may loose your chance if you don’t accept an offer within a certain timeframe, so try to be realistic. In some price points and towns there are 10+ buyers ready to make offers for each listing. As a result, homes are selling quickly, often for full pice or more in mere days. Lately, if a house has been on the market for several weeks or months, a buyer’s first question is “What’s wrong with it?” Often there is nothing wrong with the property other than that it is priced too high. Here’s where you need to rely on a professional. Your agent should provide you with a data-based comparative market analysis of relevant homes in your area. Ask what the average time on market is for houses like yours and set expectations accordingly.

If you are in a hot market or price point, make sure he/she is equipped to navigated a multiple offer situation so you pick the right buyer the first time and don’t leave money on the table. It’s trickier then your might expect. Remember the common theme here — the faster you sell, the less disruption for you and your kids and the more money for those bunkbeds your promised them.

Get Out of Dodge

Once your home is decluttered, staged, photographed and ready to be shown (need a break yet, Mama?), consider leaving town or camping out with friends or family for the better part of opening weekend. Hopefully, you can turn this in to a fun distraction for your little ones who will probably we wondering what exactly is going on and where all their toys went. Recently on the South Shore, open houses have become a key tool in a seller’s strategy. Many of our buyers come from the Boston area where they are used to open houses rather than private showings, and others simply prefer them because of convenience. Consider allowing your agent to hold a brokers’ preview and two open houses your first weekend. The first days and weeks your house hits the market is when it gets maximum exposure and buzz — capitalize on that! The most serious and qualified buyers will show up ready to write offers if they fall in love with your space.

If your house doesn’t sell right away, don’t lose faith. Try to be as accommodating to private showings as possible. Blocking out certain dates and times or requiring too much notice can label your house difficult to show and leave buyer’s agents less enthused about bringing their clients’ through. You can’t sell what you don’t see, so if access is tough you are going to limit your buyer pool. To make it easier to get out on short notice, keep a large bag or plastic tote handy. When the showing request comes in, or before you head out in the morning, stash your counter top clutter, mail, little toys, even laundry inside and stow it in the trunk of your car. As for kids’ stuff, remember your expertly packed hospital bag? Same idea applies here. If you are home with your kids, keep a bag packed with their essentials — have snacks, lovies, water bottles, etc. at the ready so you can grab and go.

Cut Yourself (and Your Kids) Some Slack

This is a time of change for your family and it is going to put a strain on the routines and schedules you’ve worked so hard to build. Don’t forget to breathe. I remind my clients to take it one step at the time. This is all temporary. You are probably on this road because you’ve got a goal that’s right for your family in the end. You’ll be back on track with cooking, entertaining, messy projects, and packed playrooms in time. Right now, it’s not a bad idea to ease the burden if you can with a little extra screen time, paper plates, simple meals, and outings to keep the kids busy. Yes, those extras are going to cost a little, but will ultimately help you net more at the closing table. Happy mom, happy kids, happy house.


Study Finds that Daughters Benefit When Moms Work

The Boston Globe

For the past couple of months, my 3-year-old daughter, Emma, has cried when I prepare to leave for work. She loves our nanny; often, a few minutes after I depart, I peek in the window and see Emma nestled up close to her, happily chatting away. Yet I can’t help feeling physically pained when Emma wraps herself around me, trying to keep me at home.

I have worked since Emma’s older brother, Max, was 4 months old. My schedule is flexible, and I’m able to be home most afternoons. Still, I feel guilty.

Harvard professor Kathleen McGinn believes that many working mothers feel more guilt than necessary. As the leader of a study released this May from Harvard Business School’s new Gender Initiative, she found that daughters of working mothers are more likely to be employed, work more hours, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time. The study, which examined data from 24 countries and 20,000 people, also found that women whose mothers worked are more likely to hold supervisory positions. For men, having a working mother didn’t seem to affect their professional fortunes, the researchers found, but those whose mothers worked do spend more hours each week caring for family members.

McGinn says working moms should feel good about the models they’re setting for their children. “For a long time we’ve been told that being home is the best thing for our kids,” she says. But that may not actually be the case. “Working moms affect their children’s gender attitudes, their beliefs about what is ‘right’ and ‘normal’ for women. They learn that it’s reasonable for women to work and for men to be involved at home.” They also do as well, if not better, at school, both in terms of academic achievement and behavior, as kids whose mothers stay home, McGinn says, citing a 2010 study published in Psychological Bulletin by Rachel G. Lucas-Thompson.

Of course, many parents have no choice but to work — the United States is the only industrialized country that does not mandate paid maternity leave — and for many mothers there is no alternative to earning a living. But to talk to local women in families where one parent could afford to stay home is to see a world where women continue to wrestle with their choices.Joanna Weiss: Anne-Marie Slaughter’s unfinished business

Michelle Juralewicz, a senior public relations executive who lives in Jamaica Plain, took eight weeks maternity leave after the birth of her 14-month-old son. While she saw going back to work as a financial necessity, Juralewicz, 33, says she also wasn’t ready to put her career momentum on hold. Her parents ran their own staffing business when she and her three siblings were growing up. “I always viewed a career as a natural path for women and that they could be equal partners with men — though society did its best to rebuke that,” says Juralewicz, who shares household duties equally with her husband.

Working and raising kids is inevitably a juggling act. “I feel like I’m treading water a lot of the time,” says Megan Pesce, an Acton mother of two boys, ages 8 and 11, and an interior designer. “It can be overwhelming to wear both hats. I sometimes wonder if am I doing well enough in both jobs, or just average.” But Pesce, 41, always knew she wanted to have a career.

Pesce’s mother worked the night shift as a nurse when she and her two younger brothers were growing up. “My mom was a single mother who worked out of necessity. She got her master’s degree and became a forensic nurse,” says Pesce. “She helped me realize how valuable I can be. I don’t know if I would have had the confidence to do this without her example.”

Pesce does billing at night and often has client appointments in the evenings; her husband, an entrepreneur, is instrumental in keeping the household running. “I want to be around my kids as much as possible,” she says. “I go to their sports practices and games. They understand that I work, but they know that family is very important.”

A mother who chooses to stay home can face a different struggle: the challenge of raising a family on one income. Yet for Cambridge mother Kerry McDonald, it’s a sacrifice worth making. McDonald, 38, ran a successful corporate training consulting company. “Throughout my pregnancy, I could not have imagined that I wouldn’t go back to work. My work was my baby,” she recalls. “I thought I’d take a few months off. Then I found myself feeding my daughter on demand, wearing her in a sling, being responsive to her cries, and I realized that I wanted to be there to meet all of her needs.”

McDonald now has four children and is co-editor of “Choosing Home,” a recently published e-book of essays by women who have left careers to pursue stay-at-home motherhood. She feels that community support for stay-at-home moms is dwindling.

“I think now as a society we generally prioritize work, money, and consumption over family, children, and home,” says McDonald. She is put off by the findings in McGinn’s study. “I find it disturbing that it highlights job titles and salaries as the ultimate indicator of a successful life.”

Angela Stevenson-55.jpg

Angela Stevenson, a real estate broker in Hingham, has seen many sides of the working life since becoming a parent seven years ago. The mom of three worked in media advertising sales, took 2½ years off after having twins, and then ran a sales territory for a technology company that required extensive business travel. She switched to her current field for its proximity and flexibility.

“When I was a new mom, it seemed like there could have been a right choice or a wrong choice, and now that I have done it both ways I don’t feel like that,” says Stevenson. “I got a lot of satisfaction from being home full-time, and I enjoy working. I think my stress level was about the same in both scenarios.”

Stevenson’s mother worked when she was growing up. “I saw her finish her undergraduate and master’s degrees, and I was always proud of her. I remember her teaching me that the best thing you can have is the opportunity to have options, and I see that as so true now.”

McGinn notes that amid all the change in the modern workplace, parents have found ways to remain present. “The number of hours parents spend with their children has remained steady since the 1960s. . . . Back then mothers weren’t sitting around playing blocks with their kids all day. They were doing everything around the house and the kids were off outside,” she says.

That may mean that, despite having parents who may struggle to be everywhere at once, kids themselves are getting just as much attention. “The total number of hours parents spend with kids now includes fathers, who are more involved than ever,” McGinn says. “And when working mothers are with their children, their time together is more focused.”