Archive for April, 2012

7 Springtime Home Spruces to Boost Buyer’s Interest – Reprint from Trulia 4/26/2012

Each of us thinks are home is perfect and we take such pride.  But when we get ready to sell we need to take a look from a buyer’s perspective.  Does your home reflect your pride of ownership.  Here are some great ideas to spruce up your home as you get ready to sell – thanks to

One of the first things many homebuyers look for are the unmistakable signs of something called ‘pride of ownership.’ As a whole, it’s a relatively intangible concept: there are just homes that have it – reeking of their owners’ love and meticulous care for the property — and homes that, well, don’t.

I’ve watched firsthand as buyers who like a cute home that is in generally good shape literally talk themselves into looking at a more homes once they start to notice one rickety gate, which snowballed into a nitpicky laundry list of little, tiny fixes the seller had left undone. The challenge is that between deciding whether and when to sell, staging, interviewing agents and determining a list price, it can be tempting for homeowners to fall into the trap of deferring maintenance on a home they might sell soon.

Whether you plan to put your home on the market next week or next year, here is a short list of  home maintenance items you should put on your Spring to-do list, stat, if you want to attract qualified buyers and let your home sweet-talk them into making a sweet offer:

1. Banish chips, scuffs and the like with a fresh coat of paint. I believe that eliminating nicks, scuffs and scratches on any painted or finished surface is one of the cheapest, easiest and most impactful spruces a seller-to-be can do.  That’s because these little tiny blemishes create a shabby appearance on a home that might otherwise be in great shape, but can be entirely banished with a good washing and some fresh paint.

This goes for interior and exterior walls, floors, and especially any sort of trims that are painted white, as is common with crown and floor moldings – scuff marks and blemishes seem to pop out from these items. Also, the edges of cupboards, doors and drawers are places where chips and nicks are so common that homeowners overlook them, but can be super visible to buyers who visit your home for the first time.

2. Brighten, polish and replace all trims.  One day, I’ll do a scientific study, and I predict the results will reveal that if you put two identical homes side-by-side and give one a set of tricked-out trims – exterior shutters, front door, eaves – even your house numbers, door knockers, kickplates and other exterior hardware – people will rate the house with the beautiful trims way higher on the ‘pride of ownership’ scale than you’d expect.

Go stand on your own curb to get the buyer’s-eye view of your home, and then drive around your own neighborhood or the nicest part of town and flip through some home improvement mags or websites for ideas.  If you can add attractive trims, freshen up the ones you have or paint them to create an unexpected but attractive color combination with the body of your house, you can skyrocket your home’s standing on my (newly invented) ‘pride of ownership’ scale.

3. Furry, drippy, noisy or broken HVAC systems. Maintaining your heating and air conditioning systems is not that expensive, but buyers think it is. In fact, your furnace  and AC are precisely the sort of major household machinery that intimidate first-time home buyers.  So, if they show up to the open house or a private showing of your home in June and the AC is making a funny knocking sound or just flat out doesn’t work well enough to keep the house cool, buyers might perceive that as a more serious red flag than it truly is.

Does your AC has that furry ‘science experiment’ look to it? Not only are you paying for the energy it’s probably wasting to push the air pass all that dust and dirt, the gross-out factor will have even the hardiest buyer wondering what else might be wrong with your home.

On the flip side, letting prospective buyers know that your home’s HVAC systems have been recently maintained or upgraded is a nice touch that makes itself obvious during showings and allows buyers to breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to concerns about short-term repair bills and the comfort level of family members who may have allergies and asthma.

Side note: if your AC does make a funny sound you might be so accustomed to you can’t hear it anymore – check in with your agent unless you know as a matter of fact that your AC is in tip-top shape. One more side note: if you live someplace where it gets cold around the holidays and you don’t plan to list your home until wintertime, right now may be the ideal time to have your heating system serviced. Off-season repairs and maintenance are often discounted.

4. Mend and tend to your fences, gates and screens. These items may not jump out at us in our own home – in fact, these are things I often see sellers skimp on or run out of time and money to tend to. And it’s easy to rationalize your way out of dealing with them, as they seem like relatively inexpensive fixes for buyers to make themselves.  But screens with holes in them and gates that don’t budge or hang off their hinges are precisely the sorts of things I’ve seen make buyers walk back through a home looking for other flaws; and anything to do with fences makes them envision neighbor disputes over bills.  You have the power to avoid sparking these concerns in the minds of house hunters by mending these items this Spring.

5. Doors, cupboards and drawers. One creaky door or squeaky cupboard does not kill a deal. But keep in mind that in some homes, other than the lights, these are the only functioning systems of your home that house hunting visitors will almost certainly use during the course of a viewing. Making sure your entry, interior closet and cupboard doors are in good cosmetic shape and that they work well and don’t stick is an easy, inexpensive way to position your home as a (literally) well-oiled machine.

One point of clarification – it’s less the case that buyers will notice, ooh and ahh over your smoothly sliding drawers than that they will notice and grow concerned if they don’t.

6. Have everything cleaned and washed. Even the most immaculate of housekeepers can realize a massive refresh to the look, feel, smell and the overall air quality of their homes by having professional cleaners come take a tour through the place. Springtime is a great time to ask your agent for referrals to the best local vendors to power wash your house, windows and driveway, as well as to have your carpets, rugs and window coverings cleaned. For those who are on a tight budget, many vendors offer Spring cleaning promotions for these services right about now (and if your budget is even tighter, there are products you can buy and machines you can rent to do these things yourself – just make sure you account for the value of your time).

7. Shred it up.  Some might say this is more like Spring cleaning than home maintenance, but I’ve noticed that the clutter of boxes and boxes of paperwork, old file cabinets and the like have a tendency to contribute to the sense that a listed property might be unkempt, the aura of  stagnation. If you have no cash to do anything else on this list, one thing you can do for free is to go through all your files and boxes, get rid of old papers and shred anything with sensitive information.

Just think – you’ll have to do it anyway when you move, so this is like giving yourself a head start and your attic, basement office or other rooms a fresh start. You can count it as a staging tactic as well, as it gives the rooms at issue some added visual white space, making them seem larger!


Tara-Nicholle Nelsen    broker from CA

Got Clutter? Get Staged! – guest blogger Jan Poulian

Have you ever walked into a space that had clutter – things all over the place, no sense of order?  How does that make you feel?  I myself want to turn around and leave. 

Especially if you are selling your home, you want people to see the outstanding aspects of your home and not get caught up with piles of things – papers, clothes, mail etc.  Or perhaps you like to collect little elephants, pieces of glass, pictures and paintings.  Again you don’t want people to get caught up in your world – rather in your house.  So declutter becomes the word for the day.  Thanks to Jan Poulian from Perfectly Staged for you. 

A staging consultation becomes an action plan for our clients.

We provide homeowners with a detailed list of maintenance issues, items to be removed, and of course reinforce less is always more. Getting staged is a great way to get your home ready for the market. A professional evaluation provides you with the tools you will need and will motivate you to get started.

At Perfectly Placed For You, we took our own advice. Because, we know all too well that being organized will help us be more productive. We believe our advice is extremely valuable, so we took note.

Our 1500 square foot warehouse stores our inventory. We own well over 100 pillows and wall hangings. In
order to keep them visible we store them on stacked shelves, color-coded of course and sized, for easy viewing and pulling. Our rugs are kept rolled up. So, we took pictures of them. This way we know which ones are in stock, and which are out on a job. To keep paper down to a minimum we purchased a portable scanner. We use it for copying receipts, and we keep copies of client documents on the cloud vs. inside a filing cabinet, or worse on top of our desks. By keeping ourselves organized, we feel confident offering solutions to our clients……

For the rest of the article with pictures – got clutter[1] from Jan Poulian 042012

Jan Poulian      Perfectly Placed for You

978-677-6770: office
978-337-3266: direct line

In the Spring Garden – guest blogger Billerica Garden Club

The Billerica Garden Club is very active in the community. They hold their May plant sale each year just in time for Mother’s Day (the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend), often exhibit at the New England Spring Flower Show, participate in Yankee Doodle Homecoming, prepare corsages for the annual Sweetheart Dinner for seniors who have been married to each other for 50 years or more, and participate in the annual Green Up Clean Up Day. In addition they have adopted several areas in town to maintain – Billerica Town Common, Memorial Walkway behind Billerica Memorial High School, as well as Marshall Island in Town Center. And as a special project in the community members of the club present gardening projects at area nursing homes and the senior center, including maintaining a butterfly garden at Billerica Crossings
In The Spring Garden
How to handle Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs in April
Did you know that the perfect time to plant dahlias, lilies, and gladiolas is during April? Well, these flowering bulbs actually do well during this month, so make sure that you mix a few organic ingredients or some compost into the soil where these are planted (combine bulb fertilizer, as well as aged manure and peat moss). This certainly will help nourish both the soil and flowers.

Apart from flowering bulbs, you can also start planting annual seeds. You can plant asters, cosmos, marigolds, and even zinnias for starters. Now, other than annuals, if you have perennials, they have to be divided. They can be moved into a different area of your patch, or extras can be given out to your gardener friends. In addition to this, if you have a water garden like a pool or pond, utilize this by adding aquatic plants after the first half of the month.

What to do with houseplantsYour houseplants can do well with a little bit of spring-cleaning in the month of April. And one of the best gardening tips for this would be to remove irregularities such as yellowing leaves, withered flowers, or even dead branches. Plants may also be able to breathe better when the dust from the leaves are removed using light spraying. Pinching is also advisable especially for plants, as this helps invigorate new growth and volume. Continue to inspect for insects and fertilize at half strength. Cut the plants back if they are getting leggy.

Nourish your Flower BedsShoots have been driving up out the ground for weeks now, so you know that Mother Nature is doing her part to get your flowers and shrubs back to their beautiful selves. Why not give them a boost with a layer of compost? Clear out any old leaves or sticks, weed your gardens and then sprinkle an inch of compost throughout your flowerbeds. Water the beds and then cover with mulch to keep it in all in place.

The Practice of Container GardeningHave you ever tried bringing plants inside your home or placing them out on your garden using different kinds of containers? You probably have but have not been too conscious of how to prepare it the right way. Container gardening can be very beneficial in a lot of ways. So if you happen to have a very spacious garden (an area that you’re too lazy to fix but would still want to have plants around), or live inside an apartment or condo unit (an area that has no yard space for use), then you can definitely do some container gardening at your very own convenience.
Whether you’re into some flower, herb or container vegetable gardening, the material for which you will plant and store these should have a good drainage system. You can choose to use an array of containers such as plastic bins, baskets (anything that will help hold in your organics), but you will always have to take note of the drainage factor.

As an alternative to planting your organics under the ground, you can fully concentrate on the containers itself especially if these were houseplants (for indoor container gardening). When growing different kinds of plants, you also get the chance to nurture these with some well-preserved soil. When the soil is of high-quality, then you can be assured that your plants will grow free from diseases. Other than that, when you do this kind of gardening, you’re also eliminating the possibility of weeds cluttering your garden. Apart from that, you are also given the chance to move your containers around, should the need arises.

Check out more information at:

Is your garden doing double-duty? Is it a fun, happy view that exudes energetic energy? That’s the philosophy behind the selection of Tangerine Tango as Color of the Year for 2012, according to color expert Catherine Falqoust. Check this website out for more ideas on colors in your garden:

What about planting seeds? If you are growing plants from seed, don’t oversow. For fine seed, mix it with sand so it is easier to spread over a larger area.

Perennials and Flower Borders• If you didn’t clean-up your borders in March, do it now. (It’s important to remove weeds now while they’re still small and haven’t flowered yet it’s also easier to remove now instead of when they are fully matured.)
• Cut back all ornamental grasses to 6-12″ if you haven’t done it already, and don’t wait any longer to do it. It may already be difficult to cut off the dead leaves without also harming the new ones.
• Plant, divide or move perennials – it’s now or never! Okay sure, you can still do it in May, especially planting new ones, but it’s best to get all this jostling around of perennials done before it gets hot. Continue dividing perennials. If the perennial bed was fertilized in the fall no need to do it now — the plants haven’t used the fall treatment yet. Remember that compost, which helps the plants take up nutrients by maintaining good soil structure, is not fertilizer. Continue making notes of the location of flowering bulbs and bloom time — you’ll be glad you did when it comes time to plant more bulbs in the fall.

Here are a few key tasks for the month of April:
• This is the last opportunity to plant any bare root trees, shrubs or hedging.
• Herbaceous perennials like Yarrow or Butterfly Weed or Bearded Iris over time can form large clumps and become very congested. Now is an ideal time to divide and re-plant. Simply dig out large clump and separate using garden fork or spade and re-plant. Ideally this process should be repeated every 3-5 years. Check out the website from Colorado State University for more information on Herbaceous perennials:
• Time to plant summer flowering bulbs (Dahlia, Gladiola, Lily etc). It’s also a good time to plant evergreen shrubs and trees.
• You can also apply a top dressing of bark mulch to planted beds to conserve moisture and impede weeds. It also creates an attractive neat and tidy look to the border. (Tip: water soil before applying top dressing)
• Continue to cut/remove the faded blooms of spring bulbs; do not remove foliage for at least 4-6 weeks in order to allow the bulbs to replenish food resources for next year. Lawns can be cut more regularly now especially if ground conditions are firm and dry. When mowing begins, set mower blades to cut high — 2 inches for shady lawns — to encourage well grass rooting and discourage weed growth. If the lawn is mowed on schedule, the clippings will not need to be removed. They will decompose and return essential nitrogen to the lawn.
• General lawn care includes tidy edges, rake and remove thatch. Apply a weed & feed to encourage healthy grass growth and discourage weeds, but be careful, grass can be easily damaged ‘scorched’ with excess dosage, if in doubt use liquid feeds. Wet area first before applying liquid feed. It’s also time to check and start your in ground sprinkler system to make sure everything is working correctly.
• Check planted borders for any new weeds; a quick tidy up with the hoe will significantly reduce the need for any weeding later in season. Remove any blooming invasive weeds such as Dandelion which will self seed profusely throughout the garden. Might help to remember, ‘One year’s seeding is seven years weeding’.

In a normal spring daffodils can be taken inside to enjoy them. The daffodils that are open and in full bloom tend to get destroyed, but the ones still in bud are more resilient, so you can pick them for vases inside the house.

You can add to hanging baskets and containers a water-retaining gel or even to the compost, which will swell up and retain moisture for a lot longer. Give your plants a good watering two to three times a week, stopping just as baskets start to drip, but before the water runs out the base of the containers, so as not to waste too much.

Are you keeping up your Garden Journal with bloom dates and spring events in this most unusual spring? Make notes now of the places where spring-blooming bulbs, planted next fall, will look perfect next year.

Check out the book on Rain Gardens: Sustainable Landscaping for a Beautiful Yard and a Healthy World
by Lynn M. Steiner and Robert W. Domm
In recent years, awareness has risen not only about the problem of water collecting in places where it shouldn’t, but also the problem with run-off, and what to do with it. All sorts of toxins run unfiltered into our waterways. Not good. What’s a homeowner to do? One of the answers comes in the form of a pretty simple solution: rain gardens. Lynn Steiner and Robert Domm have compiled a comprehensive guide for constructing them in their new book, Rain Gardens. With explanations that are easy to understand, and illustrations and photographs that show and tell, the home gardener can plan and build a rain garden for their own property with confidence.
Check out the review at:

What about those pesky animals that pick at your flowers and vegetables? One good way to protect your garden is to put a chicken wire fence around it. You can also put old shear curtains over blueberry bushes they make very good netting and if you wrap a brown paper around the root of your tomato plants and leave about 3 inches above the soil line that will protect them. Also, Marigolds planted throughout the garden will keep Aphids away and are quite beautiful to look at. These are just a few ideas for helping protect your hard earned work creating that beautiful garden. More to come next month. By the way does anyone have any ideas on how to get rid of wild Turkeys they are all over my neighborhood!

One last thing that needs to be talked about and that is Poison Ivy – that nasty plant that causes us extreme annoyance and now would be a good time to kill it before it starts to grow too much. Last year I tried something different see the recipe below:

Heat to boiling1 gallon of white vinegar with 1 cup of salt until clear then add 8 drops of liquid detergent after you heat the vinegar with salt then let cool and spray or pour over Poison Ivy and it will kill the plant and anything else that is there. I tried this last year and it worked great! Keep in mind that it will kill any plant that is in the soil. This is all natural and no side effects!

Happy Gardening!

Become a member of the Billerica Garden Club by visting their website at Or join your own local garden club. They provide an invaluable service within any community

Happy St George’s Day!

For those of you who may be wondering what St George’s day is, let me refer you to another blog post from BillericaBillericay. In my home town of Billerica MA, we have a Twinning arrangement with our sister town of Billericay Essex UK and are very lucky to have a number of friend with whom we share information, pictures, and sometimes special holidays. We noticed on facebook that today was St George’s Day in England. So check out the link to the blog below. And to anyone of British descent – Happy St George’s Day to you as well.

Organizing During a Difficult time – from Guest Blogger Karen Kenney

When someone dies, the emotions are overwhelming and the family has all it can do to get thru day to day. Using an organizer is a wonderful option to help them. Thanks to our guest blogger Karen Kenney from Organizing Works (Bedford)

BereavementThe trauma associated with the loss of a loved one can be overwhelming. Many things must be done when a death occurs. Many people must be contacted. Arrangements must be made. Paper work must be completed. Insurance claims must be filed. The list seems endless.

When these tasks are completed, spouses and other family members must then deal with making decisions about what to do with the possessions of the loved one. Often they have no idea where to begin. They are at a loss as to how best to help the grieving spouse, parent or child.

Karen Kenney is particularly sensitive to the needs of people who have suffered such a loss. Widowed at the age of 32, Karen had to face all of these tasks and more. This painful experience taught her many things. She learned that:
• people handle grief differently.
• family members and friends want to help. They want to do the right thing, but they are not sure what that might be.
• people often do not know what to keep, give away, or throw away.
• some people want to keep everything. Other people want to give everything away or throw it all away.
• adult children often want something that will help them remember Mom, Dad, Grandma or Grandpa. They take items and later realize that they do not want or cannot use these things.
• adult children, or other family members, will often take unwanted items because they believe that refusing them would cause hurt feelings.

Based on her own personal experience, and the knowledge she has gained from working with so many people during their bereavement, Karen offers some important suggestions for people who are trying to help.
• Be kind and understanding.
• Listen to the person who is grieving.
• Do not try to make decisions for them.
• If they seem unable to make any decisions, offer them encouragement. Perhaps suggest that they keep something that will make them laugh – something from a happy time.
• Suggest that they keep something that gives them comfort. Karen has kept some sweatshirts for those times when she feels the need for a “hug”.
• Suggest that they save some pictures.
• Encourage them to offer something meaningful to others who are also grieving. If possible, let the other person select something.
• If they are downsizing, suggest that they take only those things that will be needed in their new home, and those special items they have chosen to remember their loved one.

Often times during bereavement, family members become overwhelmed while trying to help. That is the time to call Professional Organizer Karen Kenney.
She can:
• act as a buffer between family members who are struggling with this loss and their need to “do the right thing” for their loved one. Many times family members are at odds as to what each person should be doing. Karen can help guide family members toward achieving solutions that are good for everyone.
• help make decisions about what will be needed in the new home.
• help find a place to donate items no longer needed or wanted, but that someone else would love to have.
• help make decisions about which things should be kept as a reminder of the loved one. Perhaps just taking a photo of an object is all that is needed.

Is an organizer for you?
Perhaps M. Cahn from Concord, MA says it best.

“Karen Kenney has an excellent understanding of the how and what of working with the tangibles of death. Do I throw away or save? Do I make a clean sweep or store? These are critical questions when dealing with the loss of a loved one, and complex questions when there is a complicated grief. Karen’s calm manner, organizing expertise, and experience with grief, work to provide an excellent resource for others. Her help was invaluable after my husband’s death and my mother’s death.”

Karen Kenney — Organizing Works –

Greening thru Our Youth

If we want to effectivly move our nation towards being green, the best place to start is with our youth. As they learn more and more about the benefits of going green, they bring that home and start to educate their families. The natural cycle of wanting to be a food example for your children and grandchildren will direct our everyday activities and everyday thoughts into doing that is right. If we as a nation can follow the ideas taken from we will make our world a better place to live. Going green is a 24 hours a day 7 days a wwek project for all of us.

National Civic Education Project

Earth Day Network’s National Civic Engagement Project (NCEP) seeks to support teachers and their students from diverse schools across the country to combine civic and environmental education inside their classroom with hands-on learning experiences outside the classroom. These grants allow students and educators to collaborate and act on environmental projects within their local communities.

Earth Day Network strongly believes in creating personal responsibility for the environment among students around the world to promote a more democratically active citizenry. Working from the ground up, the NCEP empowers selected teachers and students to remedy specific environmental concerns in their communities with demonstrable outcomes and results.

The studies of civic and environmental education are closely intertwined and this connection allows students to understand how their actions can influence the environmental health of their own communities. The need to empower residents of low income neighborhoods with the civic skills to address environmental issues in their communities is particularly acute. Residents of “at risk” urban neighborhoods are exposed to higher levels of air and water pollution and are more likely than their suburban counterparts to live near power plants or waste sites. 80% of Hispanic-Americans and 71% of African-Americans live in areas that fail to meet one or more EPA air quality standards (as compared to 57% of Caucasians). African-Americans from 5- 34 years of age are five times more likely to die of asthma than Caucasians.

For more information on our National Civic Engagement Project, please contact the Education Department at

Self Guided Walking Tour – The Lexington (MA) Revolutionary Experience

If you haven’t explored Lexington MA, a great way to start is with the self guided walking tour from the Lexington Historical Society.  According to their website, the sites include Buckman Tavern, the Lexington Minuteman Statue, Parker Boulder, the Flagpole, the route to Concord, the Meetinghouse, Belfry Marker, the Revolutionary War Monument and the Frieze. 

Another way to explore Lexington is with the Historic Scavenger Hunt. 

Lexington Scavenger Hunt

Explore Lexington’s historic houses (Buckman Tavern, the Hancock-Clarke

House, and Munroe Tavern), the Battle Green, and Ye Old Burying Ground, and

see if you can answer the 10 questions below. You can

print a copy of this

scavenger hunt

and bring it with you to Lexington when you visit.

How many patriots are buried on Lexington’s

Battle Green?


What is a niddy noddy? 2. Have you seen one?

Name a popular Colonial tavern drink. Do you

know the recipe?


4. What are the “Doolittle Prints” and why are they important?

5. What is a Meeting House? Where was Lexington’s?

Name two men who lived in the same historic house (at

different times) and also share a gravesite.


Can you find the burial site of Captain John Parker? Are you

sure you have the right Captain Parker? How can you tell?


Whose large, round kitchen table is at the Hancock-

Clarke House?


What, or who, was left in Mary Munroe Sanderson’s



What mark did the British soldiers leave at Munroe



FIRST SHOT: The Lexington Revolutionary Experience | ……

1 of 2 8/18/2009 6:45 AM

Why did the Hancock-Clarke House have wallpaper in

1775 and Buckman Tavern did not?

How was Reverend Jonas Clarke related to the patriot

John Hancock?

Who fired the First Shot of the American Revolution?

It’s all part of the history of Lexington and a fun way to learn the characters that played a part in the Revolutionary War.   

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