Linda Raymond Real Estate Blog, Fairfield, Westport & More

Fairfield & Westport living- homes, fun stuff & more!


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What Makes Your House a Home?

From the time you awake, until the time you call it a day, you carry out a pattern of activities that make up your lifestyle.

Elegant Breakfast Nook

Your house is your place of coming and going, of greetings and goodbyes, of good mornings and good nights.

Your routine may be rushed and hectic at times. At other times you may have periods of intense focus or moments of calm, harmony, and serenity.

You settle into your surroundings and set your house up to be comfortable for yourself, your family, and your friends. You decorate your house to reflect your style, tastes, interests, and passions.

Dining Room with Center Piece

You work hard and play hard. Your house is your base for productivity, security, privacy, and recharging.

Zen-like Home Office

Serene Master Bedroom

Comfy Family Room

Your house is the place you cherish, where you feel safe and sound, sometimes happy, other times sad; where you celebrate, gather together, share, work, create, cook, decorate; where you can love and be loved; where you live, grow, rest, dream, and at times sort through the chaos that life often throws at you!

 

Mudroom with Elegant Bench Cushions

Your house becomes an extension of all that you are.  And you become an extension of your house, making it complete. Without you, your house is merely a shell awaiting your energy, chemistry, creativity, excitement, and passion.

Stunning Designer Kitchen

What makes your house a home? You do!

This stunning house at 6 Hillandale Lane is awaiting completeness from you. Come home to 6 Hillandale Lane. There’s no place like home!

6 Hillandale Lane, Greens Farms, Westport CT

Please use the form below for questions, comments and showing requests!

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Martel


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Fairfield’s Super Seven for Supper

Hands down, one of the most fabulous features of Fairfield is all the chic eateries downtown. So, I thought I would share with you seven of my favorite picks for dining and ambiance.
Cafe Madeline
A Friday night ritual for me and my husband, Mark is to pop over to Cafe Madeline on the Post Road, a tiny, personal place, where Madeline is not just the proprietor but also the regular hostess. (You can see her in a white blouse in the photo talking with patrons.) The atmosphere is nothing short of charming and, shall we say, adorable.  Madeline’s taste is somewhat eclectic as evidenced by the pink floral sconces, mini white party lights surrounding the glass case with handmade beaded jewelry for sale, and the flat screen that displays musical performances or nature scenes to fit the mood.  There are probably no more than 10 tables inside, and if the weather is mild, maybe another 5 out on the front patio.  The food is always absolutely delicious.  We cannot resist ordering the butternut squash soup, which is rich and flavorful and always comes as a very generous serving. I typically follow that with the “small plate”, Portobello Mushroom with arugula and goat cheese, served hot  Unbelievably delish!  Mark always gets the Chicken Piccata, also a small plate. He’s not a fan of the spinach that normally comes on top, so he substitutes it for chopped broccoli, which the staff always remembers and does automatically. Intimate, romantic and wonderful!
TotoAnother favorite where you’re made to feel like family when you are a regular is Toto.  The Mediterranean-style eatery comes with the gregarious people and food with a flare. The owner, manager, and team always great you with a warm welcome and seem genuinely thrilled that you have arrived. The decor’ has a stylish and sophisticated, yet casual European elegance, and the covered, heated patio is in service for most of the year.  An absolute MUST starter (if you like cheese), is the Spicy Feta, served in a mini deep dish. You simply spoon it out and enjoy with some rustic bread. It’s truly a burst of flavor!  The Crispy Calamari Salad is the best I’ve had anywhere. Mark cannot resist the Lemon Risotto, the ultimate in decadence with just the right touch of citrus.
 
The Chelsea is a funky and somewhat rustic place to have a drink and enjoy a meal.  Rough wood accent walls and ornate wrought iron design elements are contrasted with neon green metal chairs.  The stunning and fragrant, oversized bouquet of fresh flowers that is always a centerpiece on the bar pulls it all together!  The ChelseaHere, our favorite starter is the Beet Salad with pistachio nuts, a little arugula, and mini-mozzarella balls. The dish has a perfect blend of delicate flavors. Mark says that no one else in town can beat the Chelsea Burger.  I personally cannot live without their Octopus Salad, which is really more of an entree than a salad.  It doesn’t look huge when it arrives, but there is so much protein in it, you are sure to be full when you finish.  The flavors are spectacular!  Large tentacles come with potatoes, greens, onions, and a pickled vegetable that adds a perfect punch!  It’s a must-have in my book, with all the goodness and none of the guilt!
Old Post Tavern
For your classic tavern feel, visit the Old Post Tavern right on the corner of the Post Road and Unquowa.  They have been known to have a lively band during their happy hours, and the patio is lovely.  If you are a fan of French Onion Soup, go no further.  Something about their blend of cheeses as well as some magic ingredients in the broth makes theirs completely unbeatable!
BodegaIf it’s authentic, gourmet, Mexican food in a festive atmosphere you’re after, Bodega is the place to go.  Since it’s another tiny place, you may have to sample their margaritas or other drink specials while you wait for your table or seat at the bar.  One of Bodega’s delectables is the Ceviche, a deceivingly filling dish posing as an appetizer. The fish, in a specialty cocktail sauce, has a fantastic flavor and comes with some toasted plantains, that in my opinion, make a complete meal.  If you prefer something hot, their Chicken Soup is hearty and delicious.  You can have it mild or spicy depending on whether you opt to dump in the hot peppers served on the giant turquoise spoon.  Burrito Tinga is Mark’s tasty favorite, and my daughter loves the Gombos Tacos. Bodega's Festive Atmosphere
Martel is on the Post Road in Southport and is a cozy place with a bit of a steak house feel. The ceilings are high, yet ornate, and there is always an art gallery Marteladorning the walls. Always bustling, it’s a warm, upbeat atmosphere.  Although there are many excellent dishes here, my husband and I have gravitated toward sharing the Fondue for Two followed by Martel’s House Salad. The salad features marinated tomatoes and an aged Danish Blue Cheese that are fabulously delicious together!
Last, but not least, we love the Grey Goose, also in Southport, where we once stood elbow to elbow with John Mayer before being seated. The atmosphere can be described as rustic elegance with an eclectic crowd. Some folks go to hang out, others go for dinner. There’s always a flat screen at the bar featuring a sporting event as well as a crackling fireplace on the opposite wall. Penne ala Vodka, Grey Goose Style is Mark’s staple, while I go back and forth between the Grey GooseLobster Macaroni and the Steak Tips small plate.  The Lobster Macaroni is the absolute best here, with the secret ingredient of truffle oil to compliment the generous chunks of lobster and the crispy cheese topping. The Steak Tips are equally fantastic. Cooked to perfection, they come with a corn salsa and chipotle mayo dip that together, absolutely melt in your mouth!
All this talk is making me hungry!  Be sure to come and try out Fairfield’s fabulous eateries, and should you want to ensure you live right nearby, take a look at the homes for sale below and send a note through the form with any questions!
Click the images to take a video tour!
2073 Fairfield Beach Rd, Fairfield

2073 Fairfield Beach Road, Fairfield CT

254 Penfield Road, Fairfield CT

254 Penfield Road, Fairfield CT

6 Hillandale Lane, Westport

6 Hillandale Lane, Westport CT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get a Realtor on Board!


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Home Buying Tips In A Tight Market – What can a buyer can do to combat tight inventory?

If you are a home buyer and don’t see many options during your initial search online, make sure you get a Realtor on board to help you.  Get a Realtor on Board!

Even though inventory may be low and declining, there are at least three key actions your agent can take for you.  Make sure your agent knows what you are looking for, the location you want and your ideal timing.

  1. Armed with this insight, the first thing your agent will do is set up a search for you in the MLS. This allows other agents to conduct a ‘reverse search’ for your wish list items that could match a new listing they plan to put on the market.  They can call your agent who will then be among the first to know about the new listing that could be perfect for you!
  2. The next action your Realtor can take is to send an email to fellow agents in the offices around the town where you are looking that asks if they have a possible match coming to the market.  This can encourage sellers to expedite their plans and make their property available sooner than they had originally planned.  It also gets you first dibs on these homes!

Sample letter to homeowners

3. Last, but not least, your agent can write a letter or design a postcard describing your dream home and mail it directly to the homeowners on your favorite street or in the area you are focused on.

 

Sample Postcard

 

 

 

If you are a seller dealing with buyers that are circling and taking no action or facing a complete lack of buyers altogether, there are key action steps you can take too.

So don’t give into a slowing market, surge ahead, get the market to work for you, and make your move!

For questions or help in this market, send me a note using the form below.

Wasted time costs you money


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Choosing A Real Estate Attorney

Many people come to their Realtor with an attorney already on board.  They figure the attorney is of no concern to their agent thinking that if they know the attorney or have dealt with them before, that lawyer is the best option.  They may think a recommendation from a friend covers all the bases.  Besides price, most people haven’t considered the critical factors below about the attorney they hire to successfully close their real estate transaction.

Here’s a Top 10 List of questions you should know the answer to before bringing your attorney on board-

  1. Does he play well with others?   There are real estate attorneys that give their egos priority over their fiduciary responsibility to their clients.  These lawyers may decide they don’t like the lawyer on the other side of the transaction and deliberately try to kill your purchase or sale as an assault on that attorney. Play well with others?Your Realtor may have worked patiently and tirelessly to successfully negotiate optimal terms for you thus far only to then work triple-time behind the scenes to keep your purchase or sale together because the attorneys are fighting. You may know nothing about this unless your sale falls through because of it. You want to work with a lawyer that relates professionally with all parties in the transaction at all times, or they are counter-productive and doing you (and everyone else involved) a disservice.
  2. Does she know the new TRID lending regulations?  There are new lending regulations that require a three-day period before closing for the buyer to review all the final numbers compiled by the attorneys. This requires attorneys to be well organized and proactive in compiling the credits, debits, and allocations of taxes, insurance, oil deliveries, etc. earlier than before. There are also new forms they need to be familiar with.  If your lawyer is not up to speed with the new regulations, your closing can be significantly delayed at the last minute as a result.
  3. Is he overly chatty or verbose, adding to your bill?  I have worked with attorneys that have kept me on the phone for almost half an hour every time they called and then complained about all the extra time they are spending on the case, stating that they will have to bill for it. I’m sure this is not what you want.Wasted time costs you money
  4. Does he communicate effectively with you, your agent, the lender and the other attorney? There are attorneys that act like it’s beyond their scope of work to communicate effectively with the other parties in the transaction.  Some barely respond to calls or emails at all! Communication is a critical component in your purchase and sale because the lender, the two Realtors, and the two attorneys have a huge amount of detail to coordinate in order to keep your sale on track. entrepreneur-1001611__180 If any of the players is “missing in action” it prevents the process from progressing efficiently, and critical information can fall through the cracks.
  5. Does she specialize in real estate?  If your attorney focuses more on criminal law, divorce or other areas besides real estate, you can end up with an attorney that is in court or unavailable when you need them at a critical time. Specialized in real estate
  6. Is he familiar with the local regulations and practices? You want to be sure your attorney is knowledgeable about the local area of the home you are buying or selling. The process and attorney responsibilities can vary from county to county.  There may also be issues that arise about boundaries, zoning regulations, permits or other things specific to your town that your attorney will need to know about.
  7. Does he have a paralegal?  Many attorneys diversify their workload to include more lucrative endeavors than real estate closings.  This is fine for you as long as they have a paralegal and/or partner in his practice to keep everything on track when he is focused elsewhere.  Otherwise, you and everyone else involved in the transaction can sit ‘dead on the vine’ waiting for a critical response or document.Paralegal or partner?
  8. Is he efficient? Some attorneys are content with creating delays and taking their time to get things done. Efficient?Ask any lender or real estate agent what’s important about an attorney, and they will tell you efficiency (second to good communication)!  The entire transaction is on the clock from the moment an offer is accepted.  The attorney must send and receive the contract in the allotted timeframe and then get it to the lender. They must complete a title search and address questions and concerns in a timely fashion, and they need to prepare all the closing documents on time, or your closing could be postponed.
  9. Is she versed in your areas of specific concern? If you know your transaction will involve added elements of complexity, you want to be sure your attorney can still handle it with ease. For example, if you are moving out of state, coordinating a purchase and sale or pursuing a short sale, run this past your agent and potential attorney up-front to assess their experience and comfort level.
  10. Has your agent recommended him? Last, but not least, the most thorough insight you can get on your would-be attorney is from your Realtor.  Thumbs upMany of the questions above are not ones you can easily get answers to by interviewing the attorney directly or even from a friend who’s used her. If your agent hasn’t worked with the lawyer directly, he or she can ask other agents how well that attorney served his client and worked as a team player for a successful transaction. Your agent’s only interest in the attorney you hire is to get a solid team member on board to help ensure a smooth move for you!

Is there an attorney you are considering that you would like feedback about?  Have you had a good or bad experience you would like to share?  Is there something you would add to the list above? Your questions and comments are welcome below.

 


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Winter Open House Tips: Excite, Delight & Invite!

Many people believe that winter is the hardest time of year to try and sell their house. While it’s true that sellers can’t showcase their colorful warm-weather landscaping, there are plenty of other things you can highlight.

The good news about selling in the winter is that the people out looking are typically very serious buyers with a clear timeline in mind for purchasing a home.  Add to this the benefit of less competition to deal with as other sellers wait for the crowded spring market.

One key marketing activity is to hold an open house.  What can you do to make an endearing impression of your fabulous house that offsets any winter doldrums?

Make prospective buyers feel like welcome guests and present your house as though you are hosting a special gathering for family and friends. While your agent highlights all the selling points, the special effort you make will give an enchanting edge toward a special intangible attraction you want buyers to feel that I like to call chemistry!

Start by planning ahead as you would for a big party.

Excite with Winter Curb Appeal
Let buyers see from the street what a warm, charming, romantic and inviting place this will be when they come in.

Consider ideas like a planter or two with colorful evergreen plants and branches, window boxes or hanging baskets.

Winter window box

Image credit: Lea-Ann Vernig

Elegant winter planters

Image credit: settingforfour.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charming winter porch display

Image Credit: HGTV

A bench or trellis can add a nice focal point and polished look to an otherwise bare area.  A brightly colored chair and new welcome mat can go a long way toward creating a fresh look. Here are some photos of welcoming winter homes and a historic winter home for further inspiration.

Romantic winter home

Image credit: insidearciform.com

If there’s snow on the ground, a well-shoveled driveway and path are an absolute must. The last thing you want to do is make visitors feel like it’s a treacherous hardship to get to your house, or worse, let them risk injury.  If parking is tight, clearing some space along the street is also a good idea.

Of course, an adorable snowman fully adorned with your most innovative accessories, and maybe an open house sign can help to set the tone!  Consider leaving some outdoor lights on for an added welcoming glow on an overcast day.  On a practical note, you may want to have a basket of booties inside the front door to keep your house clean.

Make it Delightful and Warm Inside
Think about what makes you feel warm and fuzzy when you visit a friend’s house for a winter get together and aim to delight all the senses.

Light a fire in the fireplace or light candles (real or artificial) on a dining room table and in the bathrooms, simmer apple cider with cinnamon on the stove. play some nostalgic music.

Festive fireplace with candles

Image credit: HGTV

Implement some whimsical touches, such as displaying a card game, a recipe book for creative holiday drinks or hanging brightly colored winter scarves or hats on hooks in a mudroom.

If it’s the holiday season, display festive touches with glass, silver, and natural materials for an elegant, romantic look that will have the broadest appeal. Avoid commercial decorations and religious symbols that may distract, turn off or offend some people.

Use photos to showcase key features of the home that may be hidden during the winter such as colorful gardens, scenic views, a furnished deck or patio or beautiful pool.  Show pictures of the house across all seasons.  This can be done with an open photo album or by framing and hanging a few beautiful photos around the house.

Invite the Guests!
Last, but not least, with your preparations under way, your agent can feel confident about promoting your wonderful open house.  They can get the word out near and far with an ad in the paper, special door-hanger invites to the neighbors to come for the first hour, posts to all the social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, a published Event on Facebook to which guests can be invited, the date published on all the real estate websites and the MLS, a bulletin in your town’s local Patch.com and on your agent’s blog, and of course, plenty of  signs leading the way!

If you wonder about the benefits of having an open house, take a look at the discussion of “Open House Pros and Cons” and feel free to leave a comment on the page.

If you have more ideas for hosting a magical open house, please share them below!

CT Post Open House Tips Article


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Home Buying: Lessons Learned from Power Couple’s First Time!

Home Buyers Race to Buy House

Wait! Remember Your Pre-Approval!

Ronald and Sara were a happy young couple ready to jump into home buying and get their first home together. When they called me, they knew what they wanted, a four-bedroom home with nice property and a pool in the million dollar range. There was a house, in particular, they had seen online that they were very excited to see right away. They thought this could be it, and they would be buying their first home.

I was excited for them too! I asked if they had spoken to a mortgage professional yet. They had not, so I gave them a few reputable contacts to reach out to and told them they should have a mortgage pre-approval before they started looking. They asked why, and I told them that the pre-approval serves three critical purposes, one, it confirms that they are eligible for a loan, two, it lets them know what their spending limit is and what the associated monthly payments will be, and three, it positions them as strong and qualified buyers when presenting an offer for the home they want to buy.

So they forged ahead, chose a lender, and sought their pre-approval. But they were soon shocked and disappointed to learn that they would not be eligible for a mortgage for at least another year.

Ronald and Sara were a power couple with great jobs and ample income. Sara had a Ph.D. and was the director of a graduate school. Ronald was an emergency room physician.

But, what they didn’t realize was that all the student loans they were paying off gave them a ratio of debt to income that was too high to get a mortgage. So we found a nice home for them to rent for a year. In the meantime, they worked hard with the credit expert company, North Shore Advisory to ensure they were on the fast track for managing their debt and raising their credit scores within the one-year timeline they had set as a goal.

Couple gets engaged

“I do!”

Fairfield University Home

This is the one!

Honeymoon in Africa

Honeymoon in Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast forward a year later, and they sailed through the pre-approval process to obtain a Certified Pre-Approval from William Raveis Mortgage, got engaged, and found and closed on a gorgeous new home in the university area of Fairfield, Connecticut!

Ronald and Sara also managed to jet-set off to Africa for a pre-honeymoon celebration on safari before returning to their new home to plan their wedding!  Clearly they were perfectly situated to live happily ever after, but what were the lessons learned along the way?

Always get a pre-approval before you start shopping for a home so that you know where you stand, avoid unexpected setbacks, and can position yourself as a competitive buyer.   Besides, an offer to purchase a property is not complete or acceptable without a pre-approval letter from your lender or proof of cash.

Be sure your pre-approval is of the utmost quality, as they are not all created equal. Recent changes to national lending regulations add extra time sensitivity and make this more important than ever. There are a number of new technology enhancements available that can make the whole mortgage process faster, easier, and more transparent for consumers.

Mortgage Technology Enhancements

New Tech Enhancements Simplify Mortgage Process

William Raveis Mortgage is the only mortgage banker to provide a Certified Pre-Approval.  This means that when they present a Certified Pre-Approval to a buyer, they have completed a full review of credit, income, and assets, reviewed supporting documentation and double-checked it all via an automated underwriting system to ensure that when the big day comes, the buyers get their loan and the sale goes through.

Playing with Credit Cards

Play with Your Credit Cards AFTER You Close!

Last, but not least, it’s important to be aware of all the factors that can impact your credit score because, the lower your score, the more you will pay for your mortgage, (as well as insurance and other things). In fact, it’s a good idea to check your credit well in advance of applying for a loan so that you have time to work on it if need be.  Visit North Shore Advisory, Inc. for an expert resource about credit tips and strategy.  Once you have your good credit and Certified Pre-Approval in place, make sure you don’t do anything that can change your credit score before you close!  Even a tiny negative change to your credit can bump up your interest rate and suddenly put your dream home out of reach.  So check with your lender or Realtor about things you should or should not do during your home purchase process.

Then you are ready to make your dream home come true! Welcome Home!

For questions about the process of buying or selling a home, or if you’re thinking about a move this season, send me a note below!


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Moving is So Bittersweet

You might say the phenomenon is like a rollercoaster ride when a house changes hands. It goes from someone’s beloved home to being the commodity of ‘a house’ and then back to a dear home again when the new owners move in.

And during this process, the lives of those connected to the transfer undergo such a monumental, emotional and bittersweet transition.

Cathy & Sal

Cathy & Sal

Cathy and Sal passionately enjoyed two decades of raising a family on Charles Street in the Fairfield Beach area. They always celebrated holidays to the hilt. Their elaborate lawn displays each Halloween included their camouflaged kids as spirited spooks who actively taunted trick-or-treaters before handing out candy. And their Christmas displays included every conceivable festive (inflatable and not!) item they had in their attic during the off season! Top these 20 Halloweens and 20 Christmases with a beautiful wedding ceremony for their eldest daughter this past summer, and you have just a few exceptional memories in your chest.

But now that the last of two girls and a boy have grown up and found a place of their own, it was time to move on. They didn’t expect it all to happen so quickly, but they priced their house to sell , staged it to look great and had it under contract for above their asking price in just 23 days!

Cathy and Sal found another fantastic home near the shore in New York and will be much closer to their family. This was an exciting change and the start of a new chapter, yet I know Cathy was fighting back the tears as she waved goodbye to her old house and smiled for the picture before making the full transition to her new home.

Today Charles Street welcomes a new family with two little boys, and like Cathy and Sal, they’re ready for lots of new good times to be had!

For questions and about your own transition, just send me a note below, and I’m happy to help. -Linda