Linda Raymond Real Estate Blog, Fairfield, Westport & More

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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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My Most Cherished Walking Trail in Fairfield CT!

tidal-marsh-with-creek

Everyone who walks this trail, especially my dogs, agrees that this is one of the most wonderful places to go to decompress and gain inspiration in Fairfield Connecticut’s beach area.   You may find yourself alone with the wildlife (and your dogs), or you may see other people dog-walking, jogging or bicycling. marsh-trail

There is convenient access from several beach area neighborhoods.  One entrance is on Old Dam Road.  You can jump on the trail from the Meadows condo complex off South Pine Creek Road, or you can enter at Mona Terrace by the soccer field and senior center. The latter is my favorite because there is a cut-through from an additional neighborhood near me at the Veres Park cul-de-sac.  A parking lot is also available at the senior center, next to the soccer field.

marsh-trail6

When entering from Mona Terrace, I like the fact that you have options. You can choose to go for a short and sweet stroll along the marsh-side path that leads out to Oldfield Road.  Or for a bigger commitment, you can jump onto the wide trail and go through the woods, across the bridge, and past the Meadows condos and Old Dam Road to the end of the trail and back. marsh-trail3

The woods are always peaceful and pretty, but in my view, the vistas along the tidal marsh are where I find my “Zen”.  When it’s high tide, the water winds through the tall grasses, and when the sun hits the water just right, it sparkles through the reeds and tree branches like diamonds! In the summer, the seaside greenery boasts flowers of vivid colors, and a vast variety of birds are busy doing what they do!

marsh-trail5

Last, but not least, if you take the full route to the end, you will get the prize.  What makes this my favorite trail is that it narrows along a little strip of raised land, where you start to wonder where you will end up.  But it leads you to the sweetest of surprises.  The tail takes you to a final destination, where (spoiler alert) you are surrounded on three sides by the water of a tranquil lagoon.  Beyond the edge of the lagoon, to the right, you can see two more waterways.  Old Dam Road flanks the lagoon with Pine Creek behind it.  And behind that, you see Fairfield Beach Road and the Long Island Sound.  Three different waterway views all at once, what a rare treat!   Your dogs can go for a swim, you can take some photos as I’ve done here, and then, you can head back to reality feeling renewed.

tidal-marsh-trail-end

 

For more information about the rich local amenities or any real estate questions, send me a note below or give me a call.

-Linda
203.912.4440

 


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Choosing the Best Moving Company

There are plenty of tough decisions to make when buying and selling a home, and choosing good movers is one of them.   DecisionsTo provide some insight on the options, I’m sharing ratings from some recent Connecticut area moves as well as a national moving company comparison.  The Connecticut input comes from a few people who completed an informal survey about four movers that handled local moves in the Fairfield County area. The national review comes from a comprehensive report by Reviews.com and provides the results of their in-depth comparison.

I asked a handful of people who recently moved for feedback about the moving companies they chose.   A 10-question survey asked respondents to rate their moving company on a scale of 1 to 5, with one being terrible and five being excellent. They were asked to score based on their opinions of the quote process, price, range of services, scheduling process, efficiency and timeliness of the move, and care in handling their belongings.  I received four responses, each rating a different mover. Keep in mind that every move is different with unique circumstances, but here is some feedback about one move with each company.

Braun
The customer moved from a condo in Stamford to another condo in Southport for the price of $3,500. The company received a low overall rating of 2.2.  Aside from satisfaction with the process of obtaining the quote (score of 4),  the available services (score of 3), the customer was not pleased with the movers, giving the company a 2 for the scheduling process and timeliness and 1s for price and handling of belongings. Their comment was, “The movers just wanted to get it done quickly and they did damage to some of my furniture. They also did not pack the items as they had indicated they would in their estimate.”

Lippincott Van Lines
This move was from a house in Seymour to another house in Fairfield. The cost was $2,000.  The overall score was 3.7 with ratings of 4 on price, quote process, their range of services, and timeliness/efficiency, and 3 for the scheduling process and handling of belongings.  They said they would recommend this mover, and their comment was, “Actual movers were good, sales staff could be more responsive”.

Lippincot Van Lines

All My Sons
This company was used for a move within Connecticut from a condo to a house for $750.  The customer gave them an overall rating of 3.7 with ratings of 4 on all aspects except for price and care in handling belongings for which they gave a 3.  They did not share a comment.

Junkluggers
The highest rating of the four went to Junkluggers with an overall score of 4.5.  They handled a move from one house to another within Fairfield for $800. Although they received a 3 for their range of services and a 4 on their quote process, they received 5’s in all other categories.  The customer said, “Junkluggers only does close moves, but they also will haul your junk away and give you a receipt for things that they bring to Goodwill. We used them for our move – you pay by the amount of things you have (how much space it takes in the truck). They were super quick and handled everything great!”

And now for the comprehensive report comparing national movers- Here is the scoop on national movers from Reviews.com with a shout out to Atlas Van Lines and Bekins Moving and Storage.

I hope this article provides some insight for readers getting ready to attempt a big move!

For questions and info regarding your future moving plans, send me a note on the form below.  I’m here to help!

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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Nothing Like a Great Back Yard on a Holiday Weekend!

My own back yard in the Fairfield beach area is one commonly referred to as a ‘postage stamp’, though it still manages to accommodate our trampoline and numerous modest get-togethers.  However, some good friends of mine in Westport have a much more spacious back yard with abundant space for fun, games and big-time bashes.  We’ve been to quite a few, with the latest one being Memorial Day weekend 2016!

Awesome back yard at Hillandale House

It turns out, these friends have just moved their social agenda to another gorgeous yard (and home) nearby.

New Home, New Back Yard!

The good news for all of you readers out there is that the wonderful back yard my friends have left now has a brand new house on it that will be ready to support a new source of festivities!

Tucked away just off Turkey Hill South, a new home sits on a quiet country lane cul-de-sac. Carefully designed and finished on four levels, this home will feature elegant transitional style with open flow and ethereal light. Romantic landscaping and plantings surround the level property making it super for entertaining, fun in the sun, and peaceful relaxation.  It is the Hillandale House.

Hillandale House

The builder, Coastal Construction Group, has fine tuned the art of quality home construction by providing careful attention to site design, layout, architecture, craftsmanship and the right property location. As we all know, a home is more than just the place we live, it’s the foundation for everyday living.  Added bonus?  This home is located four minutes from Green’s Farms station and under an hour from Manhattan!

Take a look at the sneak peek video, and visit the listing online and check out a snapshot of the progress!  Perhaps you know someone who has been weighing the options of renovation versus new construction and this may be a consideration?  If you or a friend may be interested, reach out to me at 203-912-4440 or send a note below.

In the meantime, whether it’s Memorial Day, Father’s Day, a graduation party, or just plain summer fun, here’s to a great backyard barbecue!

 


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Save Money, Have Fun, Do a 1031!

If you own an investment property and are thinking of selling it to buy a different one (or two), you can do a 1031 Exchange and enjoy great benefits!  What’s so great about it, and how do you do it?

 

Here’s how it works-

  1. With IRS code 1031, owners can defer paying all capital gains on investment smart ladyproperty. This means that if you own property used for business or investment, you can sell it and use the proceeds from the sale to reinvest in another investment property of greater or equal value to avoid paying taxes.
  2. You have to declare that you are doing a 1031 Exchange before you close on the sale.
  3. You have to meet the 180-day rule: Investors have 180 calendar days to complete the exchange and close on all intended purchases.
  4. You have to meet the 45-day rule:  Identify up to three possible replacement properties within the first 45 days of the 180 day period. You can also sell multiple properties and buy one big property.   If you identify more than three properties, the total cost of the identified properties can’t be more than twice the value of what you are selling.  If you identify more than three properties and they end up totaling more than 200 percent of what you are selling, then you have to buy 95 percent- worth of the properties you identified in order to complete the exchange. Your replacement property must cost more than the net sale price of your existing investment property. Identify 3 Properties
  5. You Must use a Qualified Intermediary (QI) to facilitate the 1031 exchange.  The QI takes care of everything for you including preparing the exchange agreement, handling escrow, and coordinating with the closing agents.  The QI must be a third party to the transaction.  He or she can’t just an attorney or Realtor in the transaction that puts the sale proceeds and funds in an escrow account, nor can the QI be a relative. These are IRS regulations.

And here are six amazing benefits of doing 1031 Exchanges-

  1. You enjoy huge savings on taxes.
  2. You can shelter your earnings in real estate, legally!
  3. You can diversify or consolidate your investment property.
  4. You can gain buying power by reinvesting.
  5. You can create more income to build your wealth.
  6. There’s no limit to the frequency or quantity of 1031 exchanges you can do.

Consider an “equity build strategy” suggested by the Midland company (referenced below) that looks like this:

  • Defer paying up to 25 percent in taxes on your gains.
  • Sell a moderately producing property to buy a higher income-producing property and increase your monthly income.
  • Pay no federal, state, capital gain, or income taxes on the sale of the property.
  • Do 1031 exchanges over and over for a lifetime, and the tax liability will never be passed on to your heirs.
  • Base your strategy on cash flow, and you will have success in any market. The key is to get the highest percentage income on your purchase.  Even if the dollar amount is small, it will grow over time.  For example, if you can sell a property making seven percent cash-on-cash and buy a property that makes 23 percent cash-on-cash, you are well on your way to implementing an excellent equity build strategy!  Equity bulid strategy

It’s a good idea to use a QI that is local or that works in many states and is familiar with the varying regulations and taxes in different states. You want a QI that has experience and is bonded and insured. You also want to look for one that is a member of the National Federation of Exchange Accommodators and that is a Certified Exchange Specialist (CEC).

Here are some resources to get you started:

1031 Exchange Made Simple

Midland Self-Directed IRAs & 1031s

For help selling and locating properties, please reach out to yours truly!

 


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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