No Joanna Not Everything Needs ShipLap!

As a Realtor I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with HGTV.  LOVE the ideas, HATE the pressure it puts on home owners trying to sell.

Move this wall, paint everything white and add shiplap!!  If you have heard this or have wanted to do this I know you have watched a few episodes of Fixer Upper on HGTV.  As a Realtor I have a love/hate relationship with this show and many others that deal with real estate and fixing up homes.

I LOVE all of the ideas you can gather from these shows.  They have some great design tips, creative and inexpensive DIY ideas and great examples of staging homes for sale.  They usually make the homes look very warm and inviting.  I imagine myself having people over for dinner on those long Farm Tables with the perfectly placed fun flower display in the middle. 

But I must point out that these “Realty TV Shows” are anything but real life.  If you are thinking about buying a fixer upper consider my thoughts in my previous blog: Do You Want a Fixer Upper?


I HATE what these shows have done to the process of looking at homes with potential buyers.  Since these shows have become such a success I have seen a difference in what buyers expect.  A large majority of buyers expect homes to look like the “after” picture on these shows.  The perfect wall colors with updated kitchen and baths- MOVE IN READY! 

Buyers cringe when we walk into a home that has paint colors they don’t like, over stuffed closets and clutter.  I understand walls can be painted and all of the seller’s belongings will be gone, but a large number of buyers can’t actually look at a space and “See” it differently than how it currently looks.

I can’t blame HGTV for the buyer’s inability to see the space differently.  But I can be unhappy that the beautiful clutter free homes (probably not realistic) they portray on their shows has increased the pressure on my sellers.  

What is my point with all of this?

To sell your home you must de-clutter, clean the closets and most likely paint out bold, bright or odd colors.  You must Stage it.  I don’t mean you have to drag in different furniture but you may have to use your current furniture in a different way.  For A complete list of ideas on how to get your home HGTV ready check out my website here:

Enjoy the shows on HGTV, glean ideas from them, put in some hard work and you will be surprised at how “Show Ready” you can make your home. 

Senior Series- How to Play and Share Nicely With Family

Supporting aging parents and making decisions regarding their changing housing and independence needs can challenge the closest of families.  Here are some tips that can help make your families stronger and avoid stress.

It’s their Life

If your parent is still considered legally competent it is still their life and their decision.  Your role is to assist them in achieving their goals while keeping them safe.

Your family members are not your enemies

You may have a strained relationship with certain family members.  Remember, just like you, they are trying to do what they feel is right for the parent/s.  Even if you don’t agree with their position you must learn to come to an understanding that is best for your parent.

Love and Respect

Speak to and treat each other respectfully.  It is easy to fall into old family roles, behaviors and communicating styles.  Remember to be attentive, listen for understanding, don’t interrupt and tone of voice does matter.   Opening a productive dialog is the goal…not being right.

They are not Crazy Because They React Differently

Stress causes people to react differently.  Some people withdraw, some become angry, other become sad while others will try to take charge and “fix” it.  Acknowledge the stress and agree to work together.

Save the Drama for the Stage

Gossiping or complaining about family that is not present will usually end up causing more stress and family drama.   Go back to number 3- speak respectfully about that person and to that person.  If you have an issue address it with that person in person.  NO TEXTS PLEASE

Who’s in Charge?

Someone should be in charge if mom and dad aren’t capable of making their own decisions.  The best-case scenario is the senior chooses that person before they become incapable.  If not as a group you may need to choose a leader.  Once designated that person has the final say.  You can express your opinion, but realize this is an incredibly difficult role and respect their willingness to accept it.  

Late To The Party?

If you come after the process has started due to personal or geographical reasons don’t come ready to “save the world”.  Those who have already put in the work, have seen the situation unfold and made difficult decisions need your support not the list of what they have done wrong according to you.   If you feel guilty for your lack of participation, own it and work out those issues on your own time, privately.  

Pick Your Battles

Ask yourself is it really a hill to die on?  99% is most likely not. Determine what’s really important to you and support your family member’s decisions on those things that aren’t extremely important to you.

Who are the players?

Numerous people may have ideas, but who are the players in this situation?  If you are a family member by marriage, realize your primary role (usually) is to support and comfort your spouse and other family members, not to participate in decisions.  

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

This is not an easy process.  Keep your focus on the end goal, what is best for your mom and/or dad.

If you do need to sell you parents home please give me a call. A Market analysis of a home is a free service.

Senior Series- Warning Signs That Independent Living is no Longer Safe

Watching your mom & dad age can be difficult. The realization that living independently may no longer be a choice for them can be heartbreaking for all involved.  What are some warning signs that they may need assistance?


  1. Bruising

       Your parent may not be telling they are experiencing more falls, but their  skin may show signs of it.  Older skin bruises more easily and may show signs that they are bumping into things, becoming increasingly unsteady or falling.

  1. Food Crisis

Is there outdated food in the fridge or on the pantry shelf?  Or is there not enough food on the shelves to sustain life? The elder person may not be able to shop or cook or clean like they once did.

  1. Unpaid bills

Are you noticing stacks of mail where there was once complete organization? Your parents may not be able to tend to paperwork and bills due to a multitude of reasons- poor vision, declining memory or depression.

  1. Odor

Is your parent having difficulty with hygiene or a health issue that is causing an odor?  Remember that decrease in the ability to smell is part of the aging process.  Or is it that they are unable to keep up with cleaning of their home?

  1. Overall Messiness in Home

Are you noticing more piles?  Piles of magazines, clothes, undone laundry?  Maybe your parent is having more difficulty moving around and therefore regular household chores become difficult.  


What should you do if you are noticing these signs?  

  1. Have someone other than you assess the situation.  A medical check up may be necessary.  A physician can do both a physical and mental examination.  Don’t forget to have eyes and ears checked as well.  
  2. In Wisconsin every county has an Aging and Disability Resource Center-ADRC.  They are a wealth of information.  They can do a general assessment of the senior and their needs and then make recommendations for services.  Keep in mind not all services come with a cost.
  3. Let your parent know that you don’t want to intrude but you are genuinely concerned for their health and safety and want to help them fInd solutions that help them stay in their home longer and remain safe.  
  4. Start the discussion EARLY of what the future may look like. Discuss what their wishes are when it is necessary for them to move into a different living situation.  

Is It Time To Get Out Of The Snow?

Is It Time to Get Out of The Snow and Cold?

Have you ever considered moving out of the Midwest?  Where would you move?  Would you go permanently or still spend part of the year here?

A survey by Bankrate shows that half of people ages 50 to 64 would consider a move when they retire. 

Lance Lambert wrote an article for discussing the top growing retirement hot spots for baby boomers.  Most of the cities he mentions are what you would expect.  Places in Florida, Arizona, Texas & North Carolina.  A surprise to me was that Traverse City, Michigan made it on the list.  I am not sure I would pack up and move to another upper Midwestern state. 

Moving Across Country?

I have moved across the county two times.  My husband and I moved from Appleton, WI to Fullerton, CA.  We were in our 20’s. We moved for my husband’s job so the company took care of the moving expenses.  We rented because we knew we would not be there long term. We lived there just over 3 years and were moved back to Appleton by the same company. 


Now that we are getting closer to retirement we discuss if we would move somewhere warmer.  There are numerous things to consider because we wouldn’t be moving for a job- so no income.  We aren’t being moved by an employer so we would be paying all of the moving expenses. 

I am not qualified to give you advice on all the considerations that would need to be made prior to making a move. 

Patrick Beagle, owner and president of WealthCrest Financial Services and other advisors say there are financial considerations, logistical aspects and quality-of-life factors to weigh. And then all of those variables must coalesce.

One thing I can do for you is help you determine what your house is worth in the current market. Selling your home will most likely be a part of the moving plan.

Give me a call today for your free market analysis.

Click the links below for more information about making the big move and where to move.

In the meantime,


Boomer Boomtowns: America’s 10 Fastest-Growing Retirement Hot Spots

Think before you start packing

The Little House On the Channel Pt 1-Squeezing In

I live in a 780 Sq Ft house with no basement.  This fact surprises a lot of people since I sell homes for a living. We were willing to attempt to squeeze into this house so we could live on the water.  We really wanted less to maintain so we had more time to enjoy.  

We had to downsize to fit into our newly renovated little house.  Thankfully I have a good friend who coached us through the process of possession purging (Click here to learn some tips ).  It was not easy!  I was surprised to find out how much emotion a small glass dish can evoke at the thought of sending it to Goodwill.  

Not only did we have to purge our possessions but the Little House came with all of the former owner’s belongings as well!!  Obviously it is almost unheard of to purchase a home with all of the existing stuff, but you might end up sorting through someone else’s home at some point (a relative or friend who is unable to sort their own things or who has passed away- see Moving Others).

Every item had to pass the test to stay

Was it still useful?  And the bigger question- did I still use it?

 Why was I keeping it?  Was it really a family heirloom or did I just feel guilty for getting rid of the cribbage board my aunt gave me?

 Can I take a picture of it so I can keep the memory? (but not keep the milk can turned into a floor lamp)

 How much it will it cost to re-buy it at Goodwill for the one time I want to use it in 3 years?

 Could I modify into something else that would be useful in my little house?

 How does it work in my new space?

Does someone I know need it?

The items I got rid of also had to pass a test so I could determine the best way to get rid of them

 How much is it worth?

 Should I sell it on Craigslist?

Dumpster or thrift store?

It’s Worth A lot of Money!!

A big hurdle to get over is the “It might be worth something, I should sell it” dilemma. Here are my thoughts:

For 98.5% of the items you are getting rid of consider this: You already spent the money on the item when you purchased it so stop thinking about recouping it.  Hopefully you enjoyed it, or it served the purpose it was originally intended for.  Donate it to a worthy cause so they can make a little money and keep looking forward.

If you really think it is worth something you could try to sell on Craigslist, Ebay or take to a consignment store.

You could have a garage sale but consider how much your time is worth and how much you really think you will make-might be more cost effective to take to the thrift store.

Downsizing sounds sexy!

But it is a lot of work and there are a lot of decisions to make.  For my husband and I it is working to live with less.  We watch a lot more sunsets and I have only missed by divided relish tray once!

I originally published this post over 2 years ago.  I think more people are considering  tidying up and downsizing with the popularity of Marie Kondo’s book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”.  She also has a show on Netflix.  She has great ideas that make it easy to start the process. 

The picture above is how the front of the house looked when we purchased it.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

What are a few of your favorite things?

As I write this question the song from Sound of Music pops into my head. The list in the song “A Few of My Favorite Things” are very simplistic items:

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

Snow days are one of my favorite things!

I am writing this on a snow-covered day on which most of the area schools and many businesses have been closed. 

What are some of my other favorite things?

  •  Finding a front row parking spot when it is raining
  • Chubby Baby thighs 
  • My hubby delivering my coffee to me in bed
  • Reading a good book- preferably on a warm beach.


My favorite of all is spending time with my adult children and their significant others.  With one living in Ireland and the other in Seattle, my heart is in many places at once.  So, time spent with them is invaluable. That is one of the many reasons I love being a Realtor.  It allows me the flexibility to spend time with the people I love and in the places I love.  


This year I am going to share some of my favorite things with my customers and clients. Sadly, I will not be able to give everyone a new car but I hope you will enjoy the items I share.   If you are on my mailing list look for these in the coming months. If you aren’t and want to be apart of upcoming client giveaways, and entertaining blogs give me a call or send me an email. AND please give me a call if you are looking to buy or sell or if you know someone who is. 

Please let me know some of your favorite things in the comments below.   

Downsizing in 10 Minutes!

Okay we all know that you can not downsize in just 10 minutes!  However, I think we often say I ONLY have 10 minutes so I will wait until I have more time.  The word ONLY is stopping you from starting.

ONLY is a very powerful word.  It can be used to motivate people to act immediately: “There are ONLY 2 seats left at this price” It can limit who can participate: “ONLY those 18 years or older can apply” It can make you feel very, very sad: “There is ONLY one piece of chocolate remaining in the house”

It can also hinder us from reaching our goals: “I ONLY have 10 minutes, I might as well not even start… to exercise, to clean or to start to downsize/declutter.

Downsizing, like exercise, is something people know they should do but just don’t know where or how to start. We often think of downsizing when we are considering selling our homes. Really, we should be in a constant state of sorting, discarding & donating which is what downsizing is.

I believe that 10 minutes is long enough to accomplish more than you think.
The Next time you ONLY have 10 minutes try to do one of these:

1. You can easily clean out one drawer. Quickly determine what you no longer use or what does not belong there. Have a thrift store bag or box handy to place the unwanted items and a basket for the items that you want to keep but don’t belong there. Don’t find a new home for the items that want to live somewhere else- that is for another 10-minute timeframe.

2. At the end of each season scan your closet and pull the items you did not wear, do not fit or you don’t like. This can easily be done in 10 minutes. Another day use your 10 minutes to go through: your sock drawer, scarfs, shoes or jewelry.

3. Read my friend’s blog for 10 minutes, she has great ideas to organize your home. Go to:

4. Box up drinking glasses and coffee cups you no longer use and donate them.

5. Go through your books or DVD’s. If you have read it or watched it chances are youwon’t again. (of course, there are the classics that you watch or read over and over again, but probably only a few fit this category)

6. Sort your mail.

7. Research filing systems so that next time you have 10 minutes to file your paperwork you have a system.

8. Get rid of old paint. Take the lids off and pour in kitty litter almost filling the container. Stir with a paint stick. Leave overnight. If it is not hard the next day add more Kitty litter and repeat until paint is hardened. You can now throw this in the garbage.

9. Clean out your linen closet.

10. Sort through your pantry. Throw out anything expired and donate food you don’t like or will never use.

11. Sort your lawn tools- how many rakes do you really need?

12. Go through your spices. If you have not used it in one year- throw it out. Keep only the spices you know you use- not the ones you purchased for the new recipe you have never tried.

After 2 weeks of having ONLY 10 minutes per day you could potentially have spent 140 minutes sorting, throwing and organizing. That is 2 hours and 20 minutes. Keep it up for a month and you would have over 5 hours of downsizing done.

Instead of saying I ONLY have 10 minutes you can say LOOK WHAT I DID IN ONLY 10 MINUTES.

P.S. There are numerous books and plans available that have loads of ideas and systems on downsizing. Give me a call if you want my recommendations.

The Un-SEXY, Most Valuable Home Repair

If you have watched any home repair shows on TV the Sexy home improvements get a lot of hype. With some paint and new flooring you can make dramatic changes. Then you can invite your friends over to sip a glass of wine and tell you how beautiful your project turned out.  But what they might not see is your foundation is deteriorating beneath them.  


Sadly the most important home repair will not WOW your friends, but will save you costly future repairs and contribute to the overall value of your home.


I have seen a lot of potential buyers walk away from some very SEXY houses because of signs of a neglected foundation.   Basements that have: Efflorescence (white powdery/chalky residue forms on basement walls), cracks and/or signs of movement, mold and standing water.

Today’s topic is about foundation protection. (sexy right?)


What is the problem?

The part of the country I live in has very heavy clay soil.  When the hole is dug for the foundation it essentially creates a large clay bowl.  The foundation is poured and then some sort of fill is put in around the house between the “clay bowl” and the foundation.  When moisture penetrates the fill, it has nowhere to go because it is in the “clay lined bowl”.  The ground freezes and thaws adding insult to injury.  

Number one enemy to your foundation is moisture.


What is the cure?

The most effective cure is to create a slope of topsoil away from your house.  This is known as grading.  Of all the homes I have sold that the buyers have had a home inspection, 99 out of 100 get tagged for negative grading.  Which means the soil slopes toward the foundation instead of away.  It may have been graded properly at some point, but over time the backfill settles to create the negative grade.


What is the process?

Wayne Allen, from Wisconsin Basement Inspection Services, LLC gives the following instructions:


  1. Depending on the elevation of your house you may need to install window wells so you can build up slope around basement windows.
  2. Use pulverized topsoil to build the positive grade of a 4-inch drop over four feet (an inch per foot). Leave soil a minimum of 1-2’ below your siding.
  3. Thoroughly tamp the soil either with a hand tamper or a rented gas powered tamper, which is faster and more efficient. You’ll notice the soil will compress with tamping immediately. Add more dirt and repeat until the downward slope is accomplished.
  4. Cover the tamped soil with 10 mil+ plastic sheeting up to the basement walls and up on the walls 1-2 inches. Secure the plastic sheeting with plastic spikes (staples) from a hardware store every two feet along the wall or walls in question.
  5. Then cover the plastic sheeting with decorative stone to your liking. Remember the stone only has to cover the plastic so it looks good, it doesn’t need to be several inches thick.  Stone is preferable to mulch because it: does not attract bugs, stays in place during heavy rains and is easy to blow debris out with a leaf blower.
  6. General items: Replace or level all concrete that slopes toward a foundation wall.  If you do the work yourself it costs much less or hire a local handyman the cost is more but still much less than a landscape company. If a decorative border is used at the lower end of the grade don’t make it a dam. Have occasional breaks like you would have with paver blocks to let water escape during rain or snow melt so it continues away from the structure and can evaporate or follow the path of least resistance away from your home. If there is a crown that sends water back to the graded area it should be cut down or a swale put in to move water away from the area.
  7. Final step is to make sure sump pump discharge and gutter downspouts extend well beyond the 4 foot slope

For the price of some dirt, plastic and decorative stone you can avoid thousands of dollars (easily up to $25,000) in costly basement repairs. After you are done invite your friends over anyway- maybe they won’t marvel at a perfectly graded home, but they may need to do the same to their home.

The Little House On the Channel-The Engagement Party Completed


We hosted an engagement party for 110 people at our 780 Square foot home on the channel.  If you don’t know about The Little House on The Channel click here to read more about it.

Earlier I had shared with how I hoped it would turn out- you can read about my vision for it here.

I believe it turned out better than I had even hoped!  First of all I did not imagine the beautiful white tent extending our indoor living space from the garage by 512 square feet.  I want to give a huge shout out to fellow realtor Dina Mitchell who read my original post and graciously offered the use of her tent.   Not only did it add usable square footage but also it truly made the entire affair feel more formal.  It turned a driveway into a banquet hall.


We put the tables in the tent with white tablecloths.  I purchased bud vases in varying heights and colors from the thrift stores and borrowed a few from my sister.  Lace runners were borrowed from another friend.  We ran the large patio lights in the tent- it was beautiful.

As I stated in my earlier post I am not a fan of having a party in the garage.  I had hoped ” for airy, white, spring feel.”  I believe I achieved that- take a look at the photos.  We hung white icicle lights (a lot of them- some ours, some borrowed) behind the white sheets with lace over the sheets.  My son and his lovely bride to-be hung photos of themselves on long gold cords over the lace.

My husband was going to remove his table saw and a few other pieces from the garage.  He did not have to; we were able to use them as part of the buffet table.  

I covered the buffet tables with the white sheets.  I like to build height on my buffet table.  I used cake pans, bricks, wooden boxes & cardboard boxes for my height; then covered them in sheets and lace.

One of the items left at the Little House when we purchased it (click here to learn more about The Little House on The Channel-Squeezing In) was random pieces of slate.  We had no idea what we would do with them but it was one of the things we just could not get rid of.  My husband came up with the idea to clean one of them up and use it as a cheese tray.  

I borrowed glass trays from friends and family  (because I had purged a number of mine).  We rented chafing dishes for the hot food.

It really was a perfect day.  It did not rain.  It was warm enough so people could sit on the patio and the deck.  People enjoyed long conversations outside and in the tent.  

My son and his fiancé were able to enjoy a relaxed day visiting with family and friends.  

My advice when hosting a large party at your house?  Plan well in advance so you know exactly what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by.  I love to use excel spreadsheets for event like this so I have all my thoughts, tasks and lists in one place.  Most importantly enlist the help of family and friends.  Sometimes the real connections can happen during the hard preparatory work.  And the day was made that much sweeter knowing how many hands had helped make it happen!  


Desperately Looking for a House?

As a buyer you may be feeling panicked.  A house shows up on-line, you are sure it is “the one”.  You excitedly dial the number, you get a live voice, you ask if you can set up a showing and then you hear those very, very sad words:  “Sorry that house has an accepted offer”.  You may have already sold your home or your lease is soon to be up and you NEED a place to live.


This is the craziest market I have seen in my 12 years of real estate. Homes are getting multiple offers, sometimes in a matter of hours of going “live” on the market.   According to my brokers, who have been in the business for 30 years, this may be the lowest amount of inventory they have ever seen.  


What can you do as a buyer to navigate this current housing market?

  1. Get your pre-approval.  You will need to know your pre-approval amount prior to making an offer.  If you are putting an offer in on a home and you know there are other offers coming in it would be wise to submit the pre-approval with the offer.


  1. Don’t trust the on-line real estate sites.  Zillow, Trulia, are liars.  They don’t mean to, but they do.  These websites will continue to show properties as active even though they have offers.  They will show them as active/available until they close.  Why? Because in our multiple listing service agents don’t mark their listings as “pending”.  We mark them as “Active with Bump”(has an accepted offer but buyer has a home to sell) or  “Active without Bump”(has an accepted offer and buyer DOES not have a home to sell).  The labels we use do not translate to the labels the on-line sites use.   


  1. Find one agent you trust and work exclusively with that agent.  Why?  Agents have the ability to see the new listings as soon as they come live on the multiple listing service.  In fact, we can set you up to receive those new listings as well…even before Zillow knows about them.  Most real estate offices also have a board of new listings. An agent who is working hard for you will be checking the board daily. I have even been known to knock on a few doors to see if people are interested in selling.  


  1. Be prepared to pay full asking price or possibly even over list price.  Many homes are getting multiple offers with-in hours of listing.  I have written offers for buyers for $5000 over asking price, strong buyers with 40% down, and they did not get the home.  If you want a “deal” on a house this may not be the right time for you to be attempting to purchase a home.


  1. Keep in mind every $1000 of offer price equals about $5 per month in your mortgage payment.  For example the difference in your mortgage payment if you pay $100,000 for the home versus $105,000 is $25 per month.  My advice to buyers when writing offers when multiple offers are coming in for the property is to decide what price you will offer that if you DON’T get the home you won’t be sad in the morning.  You won’t be saying: “ if we had only offered $1000 more”.


  1. However don’t get into an auction mentality and overpay for a home.  Make sure you have a highest and best amount in mind that you will pay for that home when you start the offer process.   I always ask my buyers to think about re-sale.  How long do you plan to own the home?  If you pay top dollar for a home today and have to sell it in 2 years you may not re-coup your investment.


  1. You will have to list your home and most likely have an offer on it before you can write an offer on another home.  I know that is a scary thought, what if there are no homes for you once you have an offer??  But with the amount of offers coming in on properties most sellers will not accept an offer contingent on the sale of your home.  If you have an offer on your current home you are contingent on a successful closing.   They are a few other creative ideas that I use when listing homes- call me and I would be happy to discuss them with you.  


If you are thinking of selling there has not been a better market in years.  If you are trying to buy…hang in there, you will find one.