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The little House on the Channel- Hosting Toddlers

In December we not only had 2 additional adults stay for a week, but we also hosted a 2 and 4 year-old.  As you may have heard we had one of the warmest Novembers on record.  We had visions of campfires on the patio, snowman building, sledding-you know fun outdoor winter activities for the kids.  It was warm right up until 2 days before they arrived. The temperatures were in the single digits with below zero wind chills while they were visiting.

 

The biggest concern was what to do with all the energy that comes with toddlers.    600 square feet on the first floor of the little house does not leave a lot of running room (especially with my Christmas tree up and decorated with the glass ornaments). The frigid temps limited outdoor play.  

 

So does my car really need a roof over it?  The answer was no.  We cleared out as much space as we could on the first floor of the garage, bought the patio furniture in, and a play area was born!  We borrowed a riding car from a friend and invested in a big wheel.  We borrowed a train set from friends.  My husband filled an empty toolbox with real tools and he turned a refrigerator box into a garage for the riding toys.  The toddlers spent hours playing in the garage.

 

I also cleaned out one of my little storage areas upstairs in our bedroom.  It is an area of the house where the roof slants down.  I put down a sleeping bag and placed pillows and books in there.  The older child was allowed to go up there while the younger one was napping to play quietly, read and/or take a nap.  (The child will never admit to falling asleep up there- but it happened)

 

I moved all of my breakable ornaments to the top of the tree, got out the plastic plates and cups and put away other items that I would have been sad if they had accidently been broken.  

 

We had a great week, lots of laughing, and snuggling and “fixing” things with the tools.  I am so happy we could figure out the space to accommodate our dear friends and their children.  

 

I think no matter what size your home is you can host overnight guests even if they bring toddlers!  The key is making the space work so they feel welcome and comfortable.  

Senior Series- How to Play and Share Nicely With Family

Supporting aging parents and making decisions regarding 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.

Let’s Trade Backpacks

 

Recently I was on a trip with my adult son.  We had just started our walking adventure in an unknown city both carrying backpacks.  Almost immediately he realized my backpack was heavier than his, so he offered to switch packs with me.  He offered to carry my load because he knew he was better equipped physically to make the journey.  

Selling a home can feel a lot like carrying around a backpack that is too heavy; traversing a path you are not familiar with.  Assisting your parent sell their home can feel like you are carrying 2 oversized backpacks.  

I can as a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES), in a number of ways, carry your pack through the process.  It might be tempting to sell the home on your own, to save the commission.  I understand, I like to save money where I can as well.  But keep in mind all the “stuff” that is in the “backpack” when you are selling a home.  

Emotions

If you are selling the family home you will find not only is the home filled with more possessions than you remembered, but there is way more emotion tied to it than you ever realized.  Everyone has different memories of the home and they can be expressed in all sorts of ways. Emotions are often the reason it takes longer for the senior to get the home on the market.  I can provide a sounding board for the emotions while still pointing everyone in the right direction.  

Marketing

Marketing homes for sale has changed significantly over the past 40 years.  If your parent has owned their home for more than 10 years they may not have a full grasp on what it looks like now.  When they purchased their home HGTV was not around, print advertising was an effective way of marketing a home and open houses were the first chance buyers had to see the inside.  Now staging and good photos on-line are probably the most effective marketing tools.

Repairs or Remodel

Seniors often are resistant to making changes in their home to make it marketable.  They don’t want to de-clutter, tear down wallpaper and stage the home for sale.  This is a great time to let me carry your backpack.   I can look at the situation with objectivity and come up with a reasonable time frame for having the home ready to put on the market.  Let me be the “bad cop” in this situation.  I can explain what needs to done and why making the changes can add money to the bottom line.  

Showings

Showings for a senior can be difficult.  If the senior is not able to drive anymore leaving the house for a showing can be impossible.  As a SRES I understand this and have multiple suggestions for working through this.  

Legal

Selling a home is no longer a handshake deal.  A standard offer to purchase in the State of Wisconsin is typically around 20-26 pages of legal ease.  There are home inspections, radon tests, appraisals, financing contingencies, contingent of home sale buyers and seller concessions.

Walking through the aging process with your parent is difficult.  If you remember my son and I switched backpacks.  I still had to carry one, so will you.  There are numerous situations you will need to deal with throughout the process of selling, but hopefully I can lighten the load during this stressful time.  

Spring in January

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.

Realtors get a little bored in January.

They don’t have a ton of listings.

Buyers in the Midwest aren’t in a huge hurry to freeze their faces off to look at listings.

It’s kinda slow.

Molasses in January slow.



Now, about the middle of March, everyone who wants to sell their house this year is gonna get busy.

They are going to call a few realtors.

They are going to ask questions, need a market analysis, and make decisions.

March is when they will begin to think about the list of projects that need to get done.



Would you like to know my tip for selling your home quickly in a spring market?

Call your agent today.

In the middle of a cold spell.

Call while she has the time to give you her undivided attention.

Call while he isn’t buried in buyers and sellers.



Ask him to give you some tips on how to prepare your home for that May market now.

You might as well…there’s no fun to be had outside when its -20.

You can work on that to do list now.

Paint, de-clutter, and prepare your home to glisten for showings.



Your realtor may even provide you with a free consultation with a home staging consultant like me.

I can help you decide what to keep, store, or donate.

I can recommend which rooms to paint.

I can guide you through how to highlight your home’s potential.

Before
After


Then, when March rolls around….you will be ahead of the curve, the competition, the 8 ball.

You name it…you’ll be the first house listed and ready to go with an agent you trust.

See, that’s how you create spring in January.


Heather Anderson is a staging consultant whose specialty in de-cluttering  will guide you through the creative process of simplifying, strategizing, and staging your home for a quick sale.

Check out her blog here http://www.elbowroomnudge.com/

Download the Nudge Brochure

The Little House on The Channel – Christmas edition

This is our first Christmas in the Little House! Given that the house is 780 Sq feet I was a little apprehensive about decorating. Would I even have room for a tree? Where would the tree go? Could I have more than 1 tree as I have had for the past number of years?

We really only had one location that a Christmas tree would fit on the inside. I love real trees so a fake one for my only indoor tree was not an option. My husband measured the space so that we did not purchase a tree too large for the space! (We always purchase trees off the lot after one very “Griswold Christmas tree cutting” episode). We found a lovely short and slender enough tree at the second lot we stopped at. Because of the size of the tree I chose mostly our glass ornaments to decorate with this year. Next year I may choose the wooden ones.

One of the many advantages I have found living in a small house is you can change the look of the whole home in a few easy steps. I covered my couch pillows with Christmas pillowcases, took down the decorations on the ledge and put up my nativities, got the Christmas quilt and kitchen towels and TADA…Christmas.

I couldn’t stop myself and did have to put up a second tree. We went to a thrift store and purchased a fake tree- I am okay with fake trees as long as I have one real tree. We purchased the shatterproof ornaments and placed it outside on our deck. Now in the morning I can drink my coffee and look at both of my Christmas trees.

My husband helped with my need for Christmas decorating by putting up outside lights on the front of the house and garage and on some of our little trees and bushes. I think it looks like a Christmas card!

Having a little house has made me really choose what some of my favorite decorations are, what ones really mean something to me or to my family. Less decorating time gives me more time for family and friends, which is what the season is really for!!

The Little House on the Channel Pt 3 -How Do you Live?

My husband and I live in a 1-bedroom/1.5 bath 780 Square foot home on a lovely little channel across the street from a lake.  If you came to my house you would be surprised to see a very normal sized kitchen. Roughly 250 Square Feet (SF) of the 780 SF is devoted to the kitchen/dining area, almost 1/3 of the entire home. In fact my kitchen is bigger than a friend of mine who lives in a 1600+SF house.  

We love to entertain. We love to have a variety of people around our dining table.  Having a kitchen that was large enough for multiple cooks in it at the same time was important to us.  We also wanted a breakfast bar or an island that people could sit at to visit with us while we prepped food.  A “normal” sized kitchen was a priority when we were discussing the remodeling of the home.  

How do you LIVE in your House?  When you are looking for your next home think about this question.  Do you like to entertain?  Do you need an office or a craft room? Do you need multiple living spaces?  A large gourmet kitchen might sound sexy but if you never cook maybe that doesn’t make the cut.  Where as a family do you spend your time?  What hobbies do you have?

Also consider what your needs will be in 5 years.  Is the number of people living in your home going to increase or decrease?  Will the living spaces work when you have your teenager and 6 of their friends over?  Are your physical abilities going to change?  Is laundry in the basement going to become a burden?

The more you understand how you live the easier it will be for you to communicate to your Realtor your wants and needs.   An experienced agent will be able to help you find the right house that you can then turn into a home.

The Little House On the Channel Pt 2- Remodeling

When we purchased the Little House it was covered in brown; brown carpeting including the bathroom and kitchen; brown paneling, brown window coverings.  It was a rather dark and somewhat dreary looking place.  Now, if I do have to say so myself, it is adorable.

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Our remodeling project required us to basically tear the home down to the studs and start over.  We took out a wall to make a larger kitchen, put in new insulation, new drywall, new hardwood floors, updated electrical/plumbing, new bathroom, all new fixtures, appliances, furnace, a/c and more.  Basically we have a completely new house on the inside.

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We hear a lot of the same questions when people see the before and after: “When you first walked in could you visualize it differently?” “How did you ever come up with the ideas?” “How did you decide what to do first?”

 

Here is how we tackled the job

  1. We used a 3 ring binder to keep our ideas, receipts, measurements, contractor quotes…all things “Little House” went into the binder. It was not just an ordinary binder.  It was the one with all the pocketed dividers.  We had a tab for appliances, bathroom, lighting, flooring, heating, kitchen; all the categories that made sense to us.
  2. Make a budget to correspond with the tabbed categories you have in the binder. The one guarantee I can give you about remodeling is you will over spend your time and your money.
  3. We created boards on Pinterest for the different categories as well. We spent hours on-line looking at photos of kitchens, bath, lights, landscaping, barn doors… again anything that we wanted to change or create.  We each had our own boards and compared notes and ideas.
  4. We also spent hours at home improvement stores…wandering, taking notes, comparing prices & gleaning ideas.
  5. We listened to wise people. We give full credit to many who helped “design” the Little House.  We spent many a meal with family and friends and as we discussed our thoughts they helped us think through and gave us great ideas.
  6. My husband is really smart about all this remodeling stuff! He can do a lot of things himself, but he is also smart enough to know when to call in the professionals.  We hired electricians, plumbers, drywallers, framers, carpenters & general labor
  7. We have great family and friends who were willing to help. The Little House really was a group effort.  Many wonderful people gave their time to help us.  They helped rip out the old carpet, pulled staples from the subfloor, pulled out bushes, hung lights, laid wood floors, laid ceramic tile, finish carpentry, grunt labor, painted, you name it they did it.

I don’t think building a new home or a major remodel is for everyone.  It may be for you at some point, but just not your season.   We are very happy with our remodeled Little House on The Channel!  It was the right house for us at the right time in our life.

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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).

 

Here is how I tackled the job:

  1. 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?  
  2. 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?
    • Does someone I know need it?
    • Dumpster or thrift store?

 

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

  1. 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.  
  2. If you really think it is worth something you could try to sell on Craigslist, Ebay or take to a consignment store.  
  3. 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!  

 

Helping Others Move

Assisting others in a move? Moving someone else, helping him or her to downsize or preparing another’s home for sale can be difficult. Most typically this occurs when you are assisting elderly family/friends. And often it is during sad times.

I feel it necessary to give my own definitions so that we are on the same page for who I am talking about:

  • MOVEE: the person who needs to be moved from their current situation and/or who is unable to move themselves due to age, illness or death.
  • MOVERS: the person/people responsible or feel responsible (I can not help you with unresolved guilt at this point) to assist MOVEE change living arrangements.
  • FOM: Family of Origin- Original children/step children of the MOVEE

The need for a move often times happen when nothing is going well. People are in the hospital; decisions have to be made quickly and emotions are almost always over stimulated. I am fortunate to have been able to assist my mom move, from a home she built with my dad, to a lovely apartment when she was healthy and agreeable.

No matter what the circumstances, I believe there are ways to make the process less eventful:

  1. As much as possible try to play and share nicely with the other MOVERS involved. Remember ultimately you are on the same team- you are trying to get the MOVEE to a different living situation or get the MOVEE’s home sold.
  2. Who has the final say? This can be tricky and very sticky depending on who the players/MOVERS are and what the needs/capabilities of the MOVEE is. As much as possible try to decide up front who will make what decisions regarding the home sale, price, etc.
  3. What will fit in new place? Most likely if they are going from a home to a smaller living space therefore everything is not going to fit. Find out what the MOVEE really would like to bring to the new place. A good way to determine what can come is to make a footprint of items. When we moved my mom we used newspaper print and labeled them couch, curio cabinet, etc. Took her to her new apartment and showed how they could be arranged. Consider a storage unit for some of the items that won’t fit but MOVEE cannot part with yet. You can always revisit what is living in the storage unit in 6 months. By then the MOVEE may be okay with getting rid of them.
  4. Take photos of the home and possessions and put them in an album. Remind the MOVEE and yourself that you get to take the memories with you.
  5. If MOVEE is ready to get rid of things or you are removing the contents from a home after someone has passed away it can be difficult to determine who gets what. I suggest if possible discuss with your elderly loved ones to label items they feel strongly should go to a certain individual. I recommend they do this before they become a MOVEE. We literally taped names to the bottom of items so we knew whom mom would like those items to go. Some of these she brought with her to her new place, others were given at the time of the first move.
  6. After determining what was coming with her and getting rid of the junk we put the remainder of the things she was getting rid of on tables in the garage. Then we allowed each FOM to go through and pick X amount of items. After the first round the FOM went through again but this time they chose X amount of items for their children. After that we opened it up to the grandchildren, etc.
  7. There are also moving companies that specialize in moving seniors. Please call me if you would like recommendations.
  8. This is a very emotional time…if the MOVEE is physically and cognitively involved – the change can be very hard. Remember to treat them with respect and care, but stay firm if the move is in the best interest of their safety and health.
  9. Take a look at getting your home market ready so the home can yield top dollar. In the case of a home that may need a few updates or if it is difficult for occupant to leave for showings consider making the move first and then list the home.

Change is hard, moving can be difficult. Remember to keep the end goal in mind, play and share nicely with others and get professional assistance where needed.

Riding the Real Estate Roller Coaster

Strapped in, stomach churning due to anticipation. Your emotions range from excitement to fear. At times feeling that you cannot breath, then realizing you are holding your breath. You want to scream. You can hear the sound of grinding as the gears begin, slowly being jerked forward. For a moment you want to run away and hide. But yet, your curiosity is so great and the anticipation of what lies ahead too compelling. Slowly, going uphill you smell the gears as they are heating up and grinding to pull the cart upward. Your mind is a jumble. Up, up, up. Finally, you can see the top of the hill approaching. Excitement begins to fill you, then, all becomes black. You have closed your eyes tight. Your hands are clenched onto the bar, holding on for dear life. You can feel the wild breeze blow through your hair and hear a wiz in your ears. You feel yourself descending at a rapid rate. Again, all around is chaos. Screaming. Laughter. You want to get off, but you cannot. You must complete this ride.

 

If you like rollercoasters the above paragraph may sound like fun.  Both of my sons and my husband love rollercoasters.  One time they rode 17 times in one day!  I get motion sick.  Selling your home can feel like a rollercoaster ride.  

 

“We are going to sell our house and find a newer, better, bigger, smaller house” (whatever you are hoping your next home looks like); you excitedly tell everyone you know.  You get it all cleaned and ready for photo day.  You post the listing link on Facebook. Your stomach starts to churn with anticipation, “When will the phone calls start? When will the first showing be?”

 

You receive the feedback from the first showing.  They don’t like the color of your kitchen; they feel your bathroom is outdated.  WHAT??? Now you start to fear that no one will ever want your house.  Then you become a little mad. You start to even feel that you cannot breathe, and then you realize you are holding your breath.

 

Your agent calls – you have an offer! You hear the price of the offer- for a moment you want to run away and hide, your mind is a jumble.  Up, up, up, finally the buyer comes to the price you can accept.

 

The next hill brings you to the The Home Inspection report.  The buyer wants what fixed?? You feel yourself heating up and you start to grind your teeth.  You have closed your eyes tight. Your hands are clenched, holding on for dear life. Thankfully your agent holds your hand through this part of the ride. You and the buyer come to an agreement on repairs.  The buyer’s financing is secure.

 

Finally, you can see the top of the last hill approaching- closing day.  Closing day frequently also means moving day.  You feel yourself descending at a rapid rate. Again, all around is chaos. Screaming. Laughter. You want to get off, but you cannot. You must complete this ride.

 

The roller coaster pulls back into the station, a mix of relief and empowerment wash over you.  You survived!  It had its ups and downs but was worth it.  Selling a home can feel very much the same.  At times you are not sure why you ever got on the ride.  However when it is over and you have opened a new door you realize it was worth it.