East Bay Homes - 2021

Page 1

A supplement to East Bay Media Group • February 17-18, 2021




Why 2021 will look a lot like 2020


It’s (still) an incredible time to sell


Many choose to invest in their nest


The sky’s the limit for real estate listings

Page 2 East Bay Homes - Winter 2021



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East Bay Homes - Winter 2021 Page 3


47 Appian Way | Barrington, RI $1,395,000


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Chart House Realtors is a boutique real estate firm conducting business throughout southern New England from our office in Barrington, Rhode Island. We offer our clients the best of both worlds: the support and resources of Keller Williams, the #1 selling real estate brand in Rhode Island, along with the personalized experience and specialized marketing of a boutique firm. If you are in the market to buy or sell real estate, we welcome the opportunity to discuss your objectives. Our team will prioritize your needs and values, paying unmatched attention to detail to craft a customized plan that accomplishes your goals.

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Page 4 East Bay Homes - Winter 2021



What’s inside … LORI GARDINER

Hello, 2021! You look a lot like 2020.........................................................6


Stats back up the anecdotes — 2020 was historic........................8 In marketing houses, the sky’s the limit.............................................. 10

423 Hope Street, Unit M1 Bristol, RI 02809 C: (401) 265-2594 O: (401) 254-1776 lorigardiner@remax.net

For buyers, the competition is tougher than ever..........................14 Need faster, better WiFi service? Try these tips.............................17 It’s a great time to sell! You can say that again..............................18 Many people are choosing to invest in their nests.......................20 TYPOLD EXTENDED MEDIUM



© 2018 Century 21 Real Estate LLC. All rights reserved. CENTURY 21® and the CENTURY 21 Logo are registered service marks owned by Century 21 Real Estate LLC. Century 21 Real Estate LLC fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act. Each office is independently owned and operated. It is your responsibility to ensure that the marketing materials you choose or create are compliant with real estate and other local laws in your area.

Each office independently owned & operated


Backyard structures bring life (and living) outdoors.................. 24 Different rooms demand different lighting solutions.................. 26

Topsail Realty Company Name

From Shore to Shore and Everywhere in Between Julie Vargas

20 C H A R AC T E R L I M I T

4.3.18 35

Passionately Serving You


Representing Buyers & Sellers of Fine Properties for 25 Years 729 Hope St, Bristol, RI • 401-345-1823 JVargas@C21Bristol.com • www.JulieVargasBristol.com



Mary Jo Tavares REALTOR ® 401.297.1399

mjtavares@c21bristol.com www.maryjotavares.com Licensed in MA & RI


East Bay Homes - Winter 2021 Page 5

YOUR #1 CHOICE FOR REAL ESTATE FROM ALL OF US AT RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES LTD We’d like to thank all of our loyal clients for once again making us your #1 choice for real estate in 2020, and for helping us to achieve our goal of becoming the first company to ever total over $1 billion in State-Wide MLS sales. We are humbled by your support and look forward to working with you again in the future.

SOLD | $1,925,000



SALES VOLUME $1,007,241,991 (2020)

LISTINGS SOLD 1,027.5 (2020) 204 Rumstick Rd - Barrington

SOLD | $1,862,500

SOLD | $1,665,000

450 Poppasquash Rd - Bristol

11 Shore Road - Bristol

SOLD | $1,675,000




MARKET SHARE (2020) 18 Anchorage Way - Barrington



259 County Road


Barrington, RI

Note: Numbers based in whole or in part on data supplied by the State-Wide Multiple Listing Service. The MLS does not guarantee and is not in any way responsible for its accuracy. Data maintained by the MLS may not reflect all real estate activity in the market. Based on information from Statewide Multiple Listing Service, Inc. for 2020 from January 1 - December 31 as of January 2021.

Page 6 East Bay Homes - Winter 2021

Hello, 2021! You look a lot like 2020 … The experts expect this year to look a lot like last year — low inventory, bidding wars and a feeding frenzy for good houses BY SCOTT PICKERING


Did the real estate market undergo a seismic shift in 2020? Or did it ride a rogue wave that is still cresting here in 2021? The answer to both questions might be … yes. The ‘rogue wave’ dynamic has been well-documented. Covid anxiety led many people to hunker down and stay put, disrupting the normal cycle of houses coming on the market. Buyers were hoping to seize on unbelievably low interest rates and had as much buying power as ever before. And urban residents with high incomes and sudden mobility — “Honey, I can work from home every day now!” — decided to pack up and leave the big cities. The green farmlands, open spaces and waterfront vistas of the South Coast and East Bay were wildly appealing, especially with that nasty virus swirling around. So inventory plummeted, prices shot higher, and all the “good” houses to hit the market were subject to fierce bidding wars. The rogue wave brought almost every seller, buyer and property along for the ride. Here in 2021, they’re still riding the same wave, something Realtors are experiencing every day. “If anything, it’s gotten even worse,” Roseann Dugan of Century 21 Topsail said. “Prices have remained high. Inventory has remained low. Right now, people are fighting over properties.” She said everything that happened in 2020 is on track to continue in 2021. “We’re not predicting anything to really change at this point.” Ms. Dugan has plenty of anecdotes to describe the market right now. She said East Providence “is on fire,” evidenced by one recent listing that had 25 offers in a matter of days. “The first-time homeowners are out there in droves,” she said. “Every situation is a multiple-offer situation. There’s no traditional market right now. People are bidding things up.” Ms. Dugan has been marketing a new development in the rural Touisset area of Warren. The lots, which have

Buyers know that if they want the house of their dreams they have to move quickly and bid aggressively. been available for two years, were very slowly going under contract, until activity skyrocketed in the past two months. Since the holidays there’s been a buying spree, and only two of the 15 lots remain. “There’s no inventory out there, so people are saying, ‘I guess I have to build what I want,’ ” she said. These properties are at the high end of the market for Warren, with prices for a new-construction home between $650,000 and $800,000.

Pressure at all ends of the market Liz Kinnane works in a different area and typically at a different price point than Ms. Dugan. A Realtor with Mott & Chace Sotheby’s and based in the area of Tiverton, Little Compton and Westport, she’s often listing or showing houses with six-figure asking prices. But she’s seeing all the same phenomena, and she does not see any indication things will change anytime soon. “I’m seeing all the same kinds of activity as we had last year,” Ms. Kinnane said. “There’s a lack of inventory, and a lot of buyers … Escalation clauses are becoming the norm.”

Escalation clauses allow buyers to submit a price, but include a contingency that they will increase their offer if other buyers outbid them. “It’s still true, as it was last year, it’s a great time to sell,” Ms. Kinnane said. Ms. Kinnane has a few listings that will be coming on the market this spring, including a gorgeous waterfront estate in Westport. In that town, home to thousands of properties with pristine vistas, there is a grand total of 10 houses on the market right now. The shortage of inventory is also creating gaps in the market. Ms. Kinnane talked about Tiverton, where there is a $2.6 million listing, a $1.9 million listing, and then nothing between those prices and properties that are $600,000 or less. She also cited another factor that is tightening the inventory. The number of distressed properties — leading to foreclosures — is dramatically lower than a year ago. She thinks banks are reluctant to enact foreclosure proceedings in the midst of a pandemic and economic shutdown. But she speculates that at some point, that will shift and more of those properties


“The first-time homeowners are out there in droves. Every situation is a multiple-offer situation. There’s no traditional market right now. People are bidding things up.” n ROSEANN DUGAN

East Bay Homes - Winter 2021 Page 7

2021: Expect low inventory and bidding wars to be the norm will return to a more normal cycle.

A change that’s here to stay Matt Antonio admits he’s a bit of a “real estate geek.” He studies the data, analyzes the trends and has a good handle on everything happening in the market. The broker and leader of the Chart House real estate team in Barrington believes the “rogue wave” that struck in 2020 is actually here to stay. He thinks the habits of buyers have probably changed forever. “Inventory was at a record low. Everyone knows that now. Since the time they started tracking inventory, it’s never been lower,” Mr. Antonio said. “But the number of actual sales was indistinguishable from 2019. So think about that … In the end, nothing really changed. What’s happening is, things are still selling at the same volume, but buyers are making decisions much quicker than ever before.” Why? The competition is obviously a dominant factor, but Mr. Antonio

believes the explanation goes deeper than that. The advances in technology are driving consumer behavior. “Buyers are getting so much information quickly. They have access to so much data — aerial photography, virtual tours, floor plans, property history — people have everything they need to make a buying decision, and it all happens so quickly,” Mr. Antonio said. Chart House has seen some clients so comfortable they make a decision before even seeing a property in person. “It all leads to everything moving so quickly, and it sustains this level of low inventory,” he said. I think it’s going to change the way our industry works.” He offered one caveat: “I think it will only change if something changes significantly in the economy, if there’s a major shift in the interest rates or a major economic downturn.” Until that happens, Mr. Antonio predicts 2021 will look at lot like 2020. “Sellers are even recognizing that if their house has been on the market for even 30 days, and you haven’t gotten a reasonable offer, something is wrong … and it’s usually the price,” he WORDMARK + DBA D R AW I N G



“It all leads to everything moving so quickly, and it sustains this level of low inventory. I think it’s going to change the way our industry works.”

“There’s a lack of inventory, and a lot of buyers … Escalation clauses are becoming the norm.” n LIZ KINNANE

said. And buyers know it, too. “Buyers are trained to know that if there’s a good deal out there, and it’s something you want, just pay the





© 2018 Century 21 Real Estate LLC. All rights reserved. CENTURY 21® and the CENTURY 21 Logo are registered service marks owned by Century 21 Real Estate LLC. Century 21 Real Estate LLC fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act. Each office is independently owned and operated. It is your responsibility to ensure that the marketing materials you choose or create are compliant with real estate and other local laws in your area.


price — or more, if it’s something you really want,” Mr. Antonio said. “I think it’s a trend that’s going to continue.” TYPOGRAPHY

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Page 8 East Bay Homes - Winter 2021

Stats back up the anecdotes — 2020 was historic Despite historically low inventory, Rhode Island’s housing market soared to new heights in 2020 For obvious reasons, 2020 was one for the record books, and housing sales certainly stood out among them. With more single-family home sales than ever before, Rhode Island’s housing market soared despite a worldwide pandemic and historically low inventory levels. Sales statistics released last month by the Rhode Island Association of Realtors, point to a single-family home market which saw a year over year gain of 5.1 percent in closed transactions and an increase of 12.3 percent in median price. At the same time, an already low supply of homes for sale at the beginning of the year dwindled further, falling from 2.6 months of inventory in January to 1.4 months in December. With a sixmonth supply typically touted by industry experts as a market balanced between supply and demand, the

inventory shortage led to fierce competition among buyers. Demand was fueled by historically low interest rates and the desire for newly sought-after amenities, thanks to the coronavirus. “Today’s buyers are vastly different than those we were dealing with a year ago. They’re looking for more space, Leann D’Ettore, home offices and a president of the lower cost of living – Rhode Island all thanks to the abilAssociation of ity to work remotely,” Realtors said Leann D’Ettore, president of the Rhode Island Association of Realtors. Median price gains also prevailed in other sectors of the market, rising 14.8 percent from 2019 to 2020 among multifamily home sales, and 6.4 percent among condominium sales. Sales activity, however, dropped slightly in those two sectors, falling 4.2 percent among multifamily homes and 1.7 percent among condominiums, both of which

TRACEY A. MULVEY RE/MAX Platinum Club REALTOR® ABR & PSA 401-835-8502 traceymulveysells@gmail.com

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2020 Year-End





$310,000 14.8%



















Percent change re ects a year-over-year comparison between 2019 and 2020. Information is provided by State-Wide MLS, Inc., a subsidiary of the Rhode Island Association of REALTORS®.

offer less private, outdoor space than single-family homes, a highly desirable feature due to COVID-19.

Housing shored up the economy in 2020 “This year has been a wild ride. When COVID hit, Realtors quickly had to figure out a new way to serve their clients, and we had no idea what was in store. Looking back, I’m amazed at how quickly we adapted to keep up with the unprecedented demand. The housing market is a huge economic driver, so it was critical that we navigated what was going on quickly in order to keep feeding that economic engine,” said Ms. D’ Ettore. According to a 2019 Economic Impact report by the National Association of Realtors, the latest available, the real estate industry accounted for $11.6 billion in Rhode Island, or 18.2 percent of the gross state product in 2019. Given more sales in 2020 than 2019, Rhode Island’s housing market played an important role in buoying the local economy through a tumultuous year.

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Out-of-state buyers added to the demand in Rhode Island’s housing market as urban dwellers and those suddenly able to work remotely flocked to lower cost, yet desirable areas. Coastal locations were a big draw, as were properties with more space and home offices. In an analysis of out-of-state buyers of Rhode Island residential properties in

The price and volume of singlefamily home sales rose significantly in 2020, and prices rose in the other categories of multi-family and condominium sales as well. Note the decreases in the number of distressed sales — likely a result of banks being reluctant to initiate foreclosure actions against homeowners during the pandemic.

2019 versus 2020, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York sent the most buyers to the Ocean State, with the percentage of buyers from New York rising 61 percent from year to year and 32 percent from Massachusetts. Connecticut was one of the few states which sent fewer buyers to Rhode Island last year. The percentage of out-of-state buyers rose most dramatically in the luxury market. New York buyers of Rhode Island properties sold from $1 million and more increased 200 percent from 2019. Buyers in the same price bracket from Connecticut increased 50 percent year over year, and Massachusetts buyers increased 32.5 percent. “At a time when many people were suddenly able to purchase their dream properties because they weren’t tethered to their location by their jobs, Rhode Island had mass appeal. Our lower cost of housing, open space and coastal location, all within a few hours driving distance of New York and Boston, attracted an unprecedented number of high-end buyers,” said Ms. D’Ettore. The analyses of overall and luxury sales by out-of-state buyers examined only the second, third and fourth quarters of 2019 and 2010, in order to measure the difference in the timeframe affected by the pandemic. All sales data was provided by the State-Wide Multiple Listing Service, a subsidiary of the Rhode Island Association of Realtors, and reflects all property sales transactions conducted by Realtors through its listing exchange service.

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East Bay Homes - Winter 2021 Page 9


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LITTLE COMPTON: Custom home surrounded by open pasture and stone walls. This fabulous 5-bed/4-bath residence on nearly 8 open acres of land offers an incredible open concept plan with floor to ceiling fireplace. $1,250,000

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VILLAGES ON MT. HOPE BAY: Waterfront end-of-road location! Pre-Construction offering of southwest facing popular ‘Jamestown’ contemporary design. Fabulous open plan with substantial second floor principal suite. $975,000

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Page 10 East Bay Homes - Winter 2021

In marketing houses, the sky’s the limit Drones add new dimension to high-value real estate listings across the region BY TED HAYES


The property is spectacular, even from the ground. A quick turn onto a private drive along Warrens Point Road in Little Compton leads soon to a large shingle-style home, with a charming and substantial outbuilding to the left. Trees line the entrance, and one is immediately immersed in quiet. A gentle sea breeze blows in off the water, just beyond a salt marsh that you can’t see from the drive in. By almost any standard, the property is a stunner. But send a drone up 150 feet, and its true beauty comes into view. To the west is Long Pond, beyond it Round Pond, and just south and east lies Buzzards Bay, where it meets Rhode Island Sound. At properties like 82 Warrens Point Road, which sold last November for $7.3 million and was marketed by Mott & Chace Sotheby’s International


This home at 82 Warrens Point Road in Little Compton sold last year for $7.3 million. Realty, the ability to see a property from above has become almost a necessity. At high end homes that owe much of their value not just to the buildings but the land on which they sit, drones — remote controlled aerial cameras that can shoot video or still photos from almost any angle — have become big business. More and more realtors are using the technology to their advantage, and good drone pilots are in high demand here. “It offers a different perspective that you just can’t see otherwise,” said Mott & Chace’s Phyllis Ibbotson. “It’s a great tool to have.” Ms. Ibbotson has been working as a Realtor for eight years. She focuses on higher end homes in the southeast region, particularly Westport, Mass., Little Compton and other East Bay coastal areas. In her early days, drones were still a novelty, and it could often be an expensive proposition to hire a pilot and get quality footage. These days, it has become a lot easier, the quality is top notch and the price has come down to the point where spending $600 on aerial shots is an investment well-made, especially for multi-million-dollar listings. Commercial drone pilots must be licensed by the Federal Aviation

Administration, and Ms. Ibbotson keeps a list of many across the state and into Massachusetts with whom she regularly works to help augment and improve her listings. One of them is Matt Celeste, of Blueflash Photography in Cranston. Mr. Celeste got into drone flying about four years ago, using it at first to help provide additional options for customers of his wedding and event photography business. These days, real estate projects have become a larger part of his business, and he enjoys the work. “It keeps us very busy,” said Mr. Celeste, who has worked with more than 100 Realtors and shoots more than 100 properties per year. Though most of the listings he photographs are higher end, he does a fair bit of shooting at more modest properties as well. Drones are very useful at looking at the condition of roofs, what the neighborhood is like and other features that might be hard to spot from the ground. “There are some that don’t lend themselves to aerial photography,” he said. “If it’s a dense neighborhood, it’s not the same. But on a lot of mid to higher end listings, especially near

See DRONES Page 12

East Bay Homes - Winter 2021 Page 11


Page 12 East Bay Homes - Winter 2021

DRONES: The view from 150 feet up can sell a house From Page 10





© 2018 Century 21 Real Estate LLC. All rights reserved. CENTURY 21® and the CENTURY 21 Logo are registered service marks owned by Century 21 Real Estate LLC. Century 21 Real Estate LLC fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act. Each office is independently owned and operated. It is your responsibility to ensure that the marketing materials you choose or create are compliant with real estate and other local laws in your area.

the water, it can show views that you just can’t get from ground photos. That’s where aerial photography and video shine. You can get a taste from the ground, but you can’t get a real sense until you see it from above.” After crashing his first drone in his parents’ yard the day after buying it, Mr. Celeste has come a long way, he said. He is licensed by the FAA to fly drones as high as 400 feet, but he said 100 to 150 feet usually offers the best vantage point and angle. “People love that question,” he said when asked how many drones he’s destroyed. “It’s difficult at first; it takes a while to get your brain adjusted to the joystick controls. It feels very awkward for a while, and then you get it. At this point, I’m very comfortable doing it.”

The lower Sakonnet River flows into Rhode Island Sound in this aerial photograph of 42 Patten Drive in Little Compton, which sold for $2.35 million. TYPOGRAPHY


Topsail Realty Company Name



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East Bay Homes - Winter 2021 Page 13

DRONES: Drone pilots finding big business in real estate From FACING PAGE

Many options While drone photography is essential to getting a look at a property from a wider perspective, Ms. Ibbotson said it and other innovative photography techniques have become more popular over the past year, as the Covid-19 pandemic has curtailed the ability of out-of-town buyers to travel and see a property in person. Many of her listings these days contain not just drone footage and aerial and ground-based still and video photography, but also tech-heavy techniques many might be familiar with from Google Street View. That technology, which uses 360-degree view cameras that allow the viewer to interact with the video by selecting which way to look, has found its way into real estate.

Many of her listings now have virtual tours, in which the viewer can start off in, say, the foyer and work his or her way through an entire home, choosing which way to turn and where to look. “They’re pretty cool,” she said of the virtual tours. “You get a dollhouse version of your house, and you can walk through it and go into any room in the house.” Though the technology is not cheap, “just because of the price point I work in, you want to provide as much information as you can.” As technology evolves and more options present themselves, Ms. Ibbotson said she will continue to use those that help present her properties in the best, most comprehensive light. Though she said many of the properties she has could sell themselves, it can only help to show how they fit into the land around them. “The technology is amazing.”


Pilot Matt Celeste has been flying drones commercially for several years and uses them not just in the wedding and event industry, but in real estate property listings across the state.


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Page 14 East Bay Homes - Winter 2021

For buyers, the competition is tougher than ever One agent describes the current market as ‘a perfect storm,’ making it harder than ever to find the right home BY SAM TAVARES Across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the residential real estate market, and Rhode Island’s real estate market shifted with it. According to State-Wide Listing Service, end-of-the-year data for singlefamily homes indicates Rhode Island’s medium price for single-family homes increased 12.25 percent. In 2019, Rhode Island’s average cost for a single-family was $285,000. The medium cost for a single-family home in 2020 increased to $319,000. Bristol’s median price for single-family homes was $335,000 in 2019 and grew to $380,000 in 2020. At first, sellers were hesitant to put their houses on the market or allow potential buyers in their homes during a pandemic, resulting in many sellers pulling their listings

off the market. As the demand for listings has increased and with limited inventory, buyers are struggling to find a home. Ryan Fonseca, a realtor at Century 21 Topsail, said, “Because of the low inventory, we’re seeing bidding wars and buyers paying $10,000, $30,000, upwards of $50,000 over asking price.” With high demand and limited inventory, today’s market is extremely competitive. “We feel for our buyers, but we’re trying to guide them to make an educated and smart decision. Many get frustrated on missing out on their possible dream home,” Mr. Fonseca said. Today’s demand is being fueled by a lot of local buyers, but also by a surge in out-of-state buyers. Deborah Cordeiro, owner and Realtor at Harborside Reality, said “A multitude of factors are at play; a huge factor is people are no longer tied to a specific region.” The pandemic changed the appeal of large cities, and out-of-state buyers who discovered they can work remotely are relocating to local coastal communities. Though the prices might seem high by local standards, the East Bay’s

The Right Agent Every Step of the Way Nicki Ann Tyska RE/MAX River’s Edge 401-297-5174 nickityska@gmail.com

Locally and throughout the region, housing prices have been going in one direction lately — up. coastal homes are considered bargains to wealthy out-of-state buyers, many of whom are willing to pay over the asking price. The rise in demand continues as people spend more time in their homes, and many buyers are looking for extra space and home offices. These are unprecedented times for real estate. In today’s market, sellers will have no trouble finding a potential buyer, but buyers will be competing

“We feel for our buyers … Many get frustrated on missing out on their possible dream home.” n RYAN FONSECA

with everyone else in the market. Ms. Cordeiro said, “If sellers have a multifamily and they no longer want to be a landlord, or have a second home that doesn’t affect their living situation, that’s when it’s a perfect time to sell.” The combination of factors including, low-interest rates, working remotely, need for more space, and out-of-state buyers, have created what Ms. Cordeiro refers to as “a perfect storm.”

“A multitude of factors are at play; a huge factor is people are no longer tied to a specific region.” n DEB CORDEIRO

East Bay Homes - Winter 2021 Page 15






Little Compton



82 Warrens Point Road $7,300,000 Judy Chace & Cherry Arnold

128 Adams Point Road $2,250,000 Midge Berkery & Beth Anderson

85 Nonquit Lane $1,925,000 Lindsey Duckworth & Phyllis Ibbotson

Current Listings

Barrington 136 Adams Point Road Jennifer Boland

Little Compton $3,500,000 401.413.2597

6 Bluff Head Avenue Phyllis Ibbotson

$2,500,000 401.297.8450

Barrington 132 Nayatt Road Midge Berkery

$1,495,000 401.330.7488

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This information is based in whole or in part on data supplied by the State-Wide Multiple Listing Service.The MLS does not guarantee and is not in any way responsible for its accuracy. These properties may have been sold by other real estate companies. Data maintained by the MLS may not reflect all real estate activity in the market. Data is based on information from non-MLS sales, StateWide Multiple Listing Service, Inc., MLSPIN, and SmartMLS for RI, MA, and CT for SFM, MFM, CND, CMM and VLD listings for the period of 1/1/2020 through 12/31/2020

Page 16 East Bay Homes - Winter 2021


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Tips to improve WiFi around the house Speedy, reliable internet is something people have quickly grown accustomed to. That’s no doubt why dropped WiFi signals can be so frustrating. Various things can contribute to slow or interrupted Wi-Fi. As a result, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to address underperforming Wi-Fi. But that’s good news, as it means there’s an assortment of strategies that consumers can try to improve the Wi-Fi in their homes.

Upgrade your router Many people rent their routers from their internet service providers, but it may surprise some to learn that they can buy their own. Buying your own router can be beneficial in various ways, not the least of which is it can save money. Router rental fees vary, but they typically cost between $10 and $15 per month. Consumers will save money in the long run by buying their own router rather than renting one from their ISP. When buying their own routers, consumers also can pick from a host of options, including routers

with strong performance ratings that may contribute to better WiFi performance.

Set up automatic firmware updates It’s easy to forget a router after it’s been plugged in and internet service starts working. However, manufacturers routinely issue firmware updates to improve router performance. Turning on automatic updates may improve WiFi performance, and such updates also can provide a host of additional benefits, including added security measures.

Relocate the router PCMag.com notes that the location of the router can affect WiFi performance. If possible, locate the router in the center of the home so it can easily reach all parts of the house. Locating wireless routers away from walls and other obstructions also may improve performance.

Switch frequencies Switching frequencies can help wireless consumers whose service might be

The router — what and where — is the most important part of your wireless system. adversely affected by congestion. Consumer Reports notes that wireless congestion can affect WiFi performance in apartment buildings and densely populated neighborhoods. In such instances, consumers can check their routers to see if they’re running on the 2.4 GHz frequency band. If so, switching them

to the 5 GHz band, which has more channels and is likely to be less congested, may improve WiFi performance. Slow and/or interrupted WiFi signals can be very frustrating. Thankfully, various strategies can help consumers quickly remedy such issues.

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It’s a great time to sell! You can say that again Many factors combined to make 2020 an incredible sellers’ market, and 2021 will bring more of the same BY SCOTT PICKERING


Last year was a great time to sell a home. By all indications, this year could be even better. With listings seemingly at an all-time low, demand is as high as it’s ever been. Translation: With so few houses on the market, there is fierce competition for almost everything that comes up for sale. In some cases, wild bidding wars are driving up prices and making it certain that almost any new listing sells — and sells quickly. Michelle Cartwright, broker and coowner of the RE/MAX River’s Edge agency that has multiple offices throughout the East Bay, has been in this business long enough to have seen every sort of high, low, up, down, crash, boom and cycle in the real estate market. Like so many others, she’s never seen anything quite like this. “I tell the agents in our office they should be talking to anyone they know. There’s just no better time to sell than right now,” Ms. Cartwright said. There are many factors contributing to the phenomenon, and of course the pandemic is the undercurrent to all of it. Anxieties — with life, health, the economy, government policies, etc. — can all influence human behaviors. More than ever in anyone’s lifetimes, home is the safest place anyone can be. Whether real or imagined or legislated, that has become part of society’s DNA for the past year, so people are staying put — literally staying at home. And with all that uncertainty in the world, they’re less inclined to start a family right now, have another child or change jobs. Thus the normal turnover in the housing market, such as Baby Boomers going south, or empty-nesters downsizing, or families needing a bigger home, are all a little out of whack. Fewer people want to move and fewer houses are on the market than ever before. Consider Barrington right now. The preeminent family community in this region has fewer than 25 houses on the market, and only 15 for less than $1 million. Inventory is always low in the winter, but that is far below what would be considered “average.”

Most sellers can expect to put out a "Sold" sign in weeks, not months.

In Bristol, there are about 30 singlefamily homes for sale right now, in a community with more than 22,000 residents. In Warren, there are seven houses for sale. Yes, 7. The severe shortage of inventory becomes its own riddle of ‘which comes first, the chicken or the egg?’ Potential sellers are keenly aware that there is almost nothing for sale. So why would they sell their house now, if there’s nowhere to go? “There’s such a major inventory shortage that people don’t want to move forward. If they don’t know where they’re going, they don’t want to sell.” Ms. Cartwright said.

Healthy financial picture Despite all the anxiety in life these days, many sectors of the economy are doing well, and many people are still gainfully employed and earning full wages. That means there are a lot of people with a lot of buying power. And with interest rates obscenely low — some buyers are getting 2%! — there are folks with cash in hand, easy access to money and no place to go. “You’ve got all the millennials who are ready to move out of their parents’ homes,” Ms. Cartwright said. But the market for first-time homebuyers is brutal right now. Every buyer is competing for any decent listing with waves of people in a similar position. A home in East Providence recently listed and was shown 75 times in a matter of days. It attracted 25 offers. That’s not a typo — 25 offers in a matter of days. Across Rhode Island, prices rose more than 12 percent last year, but Ms.

“If anyone is thinking they’d like to make a move in the next two years, they should really consider jumping on right now.” n MICHELLE CARTWRIGHT

Cartwright said that in many areas in the East Bay, it was more like 17 percent.

Creative offers So the prices are high, the buyers are plentiful and the competition is fierce. That means sellers have all the power. They can demand a great price for their home, enforce favorable terms and work the deal to their advantage. Ms. Cartwright said she and her team have gotten very creative with their buyers, trying to help them present the

most favorable offer possible to any seller. “You really need to understand what the sellers’ needs are,” she said. “The offers today are structured so differently than they were two years ago.” Some buyers are writing personal letters or including family photos with their offers, hoping to play with the sellers’ heart strings. Buyers are making sure to have the most credible lender possible, as some sellers are differentiating offers based on the reputation of the lender. Buyers are offering creative terms over the owner’s length of stay in the property or the window of time before closing the deal. Some are waiving mortgage contingencies, others are offering full-cash deals. The homeowners can often pick and choose through an array of creative offers. It’s the epitome of a sellers’ market. “If anyone is thinking they’d like to make a move in the next two years, they should really consider jumping on right now,” Ms. Cartwright said. A year ago, the real estate market was as uncertain as it had ever been. A worldwide pandemic was just beginning to show itself in the United State of America, and schools and businesses were weeks away from closing their doors for months. Then things eventually stabilized and one of many truths emerged. “With Covid, last year at this time, we all braced ourselves, not knowing what would happen,” Ms. Cartwright said. “What we’ve learned in the past year, is that buyers have an insatiable appetite for real estate.”

East Bay Homes - Winter 2021 Page 19

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Many are choosing to invest in their nests Kitchens, patios, fire pits, pools, finished basements and home offices are in top demand these days This is a fairly typical kitchen renovation, by modern standards: white cabinets, open space, center island with pendant lights, stainless steel appliances and white subway-tile backsplash.



In real estate, Covid has changed a lot — buyers are fleeing cities and our coastal communities are a popular landing spot, driving up prices and creating a sellers market, at the same time that low interest rates are allowing many homeowners to refinance and take on home renovations. For those whose industry and income have not been negatively impacted by the pandemic, much of the money saved on travel, entertainment and dining out has been reallocated to home improvements and enhance-




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East Bay Homes - Winter 2021 Page 21

RENOVATIONS: Kitchens and bathrooms are always at the top of the list From FACING PAGE ments. According to Homeadvisor. com’s State of Home Spending report for 2020, average spending rose to $13,138, from $9,081 in 2019. Increased costs accounted for some of that change, but 2020 also changed how much time we spend in our homes — and consequently, how much money we are willing to spend on them. “Home has become more important than ever,” said Tracey Mulvey with RE/MAX River’s Edge. “Kitchens are always at the top of the list.” More cooking at home means that we are spending a lot more time than ever in our kitchens, and if they aren’t working for us, they quickly move up the priority list. Kitchens are typically the most expensive room in the house, both in new construction and renovation projects, closely followed by bathrooms.


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Page 22 East Bay Homes - Winter 2021

A fairly typical outdoor renovation in this area: new patio, fire pit, built-in cooking space and a mounted TV for entertainment.

RENOVATIONS: Better outdoors spaces are in huge demand these days From Page 21

Investing in the green spaces Outdoor spaces became the key to maintaining social connections as the pandemic enforced social distancing through the summer and into fall, and spending on decks and patios took priority for some homeowners. As fall rolled around and temperatures dropped, fire pits became the hot new commodity, with choices ranging from inexpensive small-profile metal models to large built-in stone pits, integrated into new or existing patios and landscaping.

Another popular property enhancement? Gardens. “When the pandemic started, we started getting requests for gardens, both perennial and vegetable gardens,” said Mike DaPonte of DaPonte’s Landscaping Services in Bristol. “People were interested in creating their own farm-to-table gardens at home. They didn’t just want ornamental trees, they wanted to be able to pick their own apples.” Mr DaPonte

added that in-ground pools are another popular upgrade, though if you do not already have your plans in place, you may already be too late for the upcoming season. “We’re seeing lots of interest in upgraded patios and outdoor living spaces, as well as pools. Swimming pool contractors can’t keep up with the demand, and they are currently bidding on jobs that they won’t even be able to begin until after July.”

A fresh coat of paint Don’t have the cash for a pricey kitchen renovation, a pool, or a new stone patio? Homebound homeowners have found interior painting to be a budget-friendly (often do-it-yourself) way to dramatically change a tired space — more than 30 percent of homeowners surveyed for the Homeadvisor report replied that they took on a painting project in 2020. Technology is another lower-cost approach to a satisfying home improvement. Included among the top 30 purchases on the last Amazon Prime Day in Oct. 2020, were the Fire TV stick, the Echo Dot smart speaker, the Amazon Smart Plug, the iRobot Roomba vacuum, the Ring video

“Home has become more important than ever.” n TRACEY MULVEY

doorbell, and the MyQ smart garage door opener. “Kitchen and bath, always,” said Dina Karousos of Gustave White, when asked about where her clients were putting their renovation dollars. “But in this past year we are also seeing a lot of basements waterproofed and finished as home gyms, and walls restructured in open floor plans to

“In this past year we are seeing a lot of basements waterproofed and finished as home gyms, and walls restructured in open floor plans to create home offices.” n DINA KAROUSOS

create home offices.” “With everyone working from home, and kids distance learning, you just can’t work at the kitchen counter from your laptop any more.”

East Bay Homes - Winter 2021 Page 23

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Backyard structures bring life (and living) outdoors Designing an ideal backyard space requires forethought and an eye for style. Knowing which features to include in a yard often boils down to what homeowners want to achieve in the space. Will it be a relaxing oasis or a central entertaining focal point? People often look to various structures to add height and visual interest to outdoor spaces. Homeowners will likely come across structures like arbors, gazebos, pergolas, and even trellises as they wade through the variety of features they can incorporate into backyard plans. Each of these structures can add appeal, but they also can offer shelter from the sun and privacy when enjoying the yard. There are significant differences between each structure, so here’s an in-depth look at what sets them apart. n Arbor: An arbor is one of the more simple garden structures. It is usually a frame that is arched or square-cornered. Most homeowners use it as an entryway to a garden or even the front of the home. Those with green thumbs may cover the arbor with climbing and trailing plants. The Spruce says arbors


The combination of beams and columns provides some protection from the elements, and a lot of visual appeal.

East Bay Homes - Winter 2021 Page 25

OUTDOORS: Simple structures create elegance and comfort outside From FACING PAGE date back to early Egyptian and Roman gardens and were used throughout Europe by the late 16th century. n Pergola: The words arbor and pergola are often used interchangeably, but to suggest the two structures are the same would not be accurate. Pergola comes from the Italian word “pergula,” which means “projection.” Pergolas were once projected from exterior walls and supported on one side by pillars or columns. Today, arbors are usually freestanding units with two or four posts. Pergolas may be connected on one side to a home or another structure. Some are freestanding units supported by four posts. Pergolas tend to be larger and offer more privacy and shade than arbors.

n Gazebo: Gazebos are more defined garden buildings, states the contractor referral site Network. Gazebos are freestanding units that can be built in various shapes. Some are octagonal, others are square. Like a pergola, a gazebo is supported by columns and may have low railings or built-in benches. Gazebos also may have a more solid roof than arbors or pergolas, providing sun and other weather protection. The roof may have added architectural appeal, like a cupola. n Trellis: A trellis is a simple, geometrically-shaped structure that provides a surface for climbing plants. A trellis also may support fruit-bearing trees. Trellis work may be used in conjunction with an arbor or pergola, or be installed on fencing. Incorporating structures into backyard designs can provide functionality and appeal.

Learn the right ways to clean lawn and patio furniture Once the days begin to grow a little bit longer and the numbers on the thermometer creep a tad higher, outdoor entertaining season is right around the corner. Homeowners may be anxious to once again return to the comforts of their backyards. However, their patio furniture may not be ready for lounging just yet. Some simple cleaning strategies make it easy to brighten outdoor furniture made of metal, glass, wood, and plastic. Before homeowners know it, their backyards will be ready for outdoor entertaining season.

Remove stuck-on debris Inspect furniture and be prepared to remove any stuck-on debris, such as bird droppings, sticky food residue or even cobwebs and insect nests. Be sure to use a cleaning tool that is safe for the material you are cleaning. Test an inconspicuous area of the furniture first to ensure your tools don’t damage the furniture. For example, many scrub brushes can scratch glass or aluminum.

Make a thorough cleanser Clean stains off of furniture with a versatile cleanser. A mild cleaner can be made by mixing 1⁄2 cup baking soda with 1 gallon of warm water, according to the experts at Better Homes & Gar-

dens. Regular dishwashing detergent also can be mixed with water, as it has a mild bleaching agent. This cleanser can be used on plastic resin furniture or metal furniture, which are popular patio furniture materials.

Patio fabrics Check the cleaning instructions of outdoor fabrics, as there might be specific instructions on the tags. In some cases, fabric may be removed and washed in a washing machine on a gentle setting. A solution of dish soap and warm water also is a gentle way to clean outdoor fabrics. Once items are clean, HGTV advises applying a waterrepellent fabric protector to minimize staining and maintenance.

Strip or sand Wood furniture may need specialized care. If stains cannot be removed with a mild cleanser, then hard woods like teak can be surface-sanded to restore items’ original look. Pressure washers can often do more harm than good to patio furniture, so it’s best to look for an alternative way to clean them. Usually a bit of elbow grease and a cleanser is all that’s needed. Give the cleaning product time to work. Wipe down and dry the furniture thoroughly to prevent the growth of mildew.


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How to choose the right lighting inside your home Lighting in a home serves both practical and aesthetic purposes. It’s easy to maneuver around a well-lit home, reducing the risk of slips and falls, and the right lighting can help homeowners create their desired ambiance, which typically changes depending on which room you’re in. When choosing lighting for their homes, homeowners must walk a fine line between appearance and functionality. A fixture in the foyer that instantly impresses visitors likely won’t prove as awe-inspiring if it’s installed in the living room. When choosing lighting for a home, some general rules about what works in each room can help homeowners make the most informed decision.

This kitchen includes a combination of recessed lights in the ceiling and undermount lights in the island and cabinets.

Kitchen Kitchens are often the busiest room in a home, so lighting here can be especially important. A kitchen often benefits, both practically and aesthetically, from different types of lighting. For example, pendant lighting above kitchen islands can make meal prepa-


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LIGHTING: Different rooms demand different lighting solutions From FACING PAGE ration easier and safer, but such lighting likely won’t work in breakfast nooks and informal dining areas in the kitchen. Recessed lighting works best in such areas. In kitchens with no island, under-cabinet lighting can be used to illuminate countertops and simplify meal preparation.

Formal dining room Many people enjoy the look of chandeliers in formal dining rooms, and such fixtures can be installed directly above the dinner table. The interior design experts at Better Homes & Gardens advise hanging chandeliers roughly 33 inches above the table in dining rooms with eight-foot ceilings, adding three inches for each additional foot above eight feet. Darkened dining areas may be ideal in restaurants, but homeowners may want to split the difference at home and choose dimmable chandeliers for their dining rooms. This allows homeowners to dim the lights for romantic dinners but turn them up for family gatherings with lots of people around the table.

Living room Adaptability also is important in the living room, where homeowners may host anything from movie nights to book clubs to parties for the big game. It can be a tall order to accommodate such a wide range of activities, and many homeowners come down to deciding between recessed lighting and track lighting. If the living room currently has neither style, homeowners should recognize that it will cost

considerably less to install track lighting than recessed lighting. Better Homes & Gardens notes that flexible track lighting provides ambient, task or accent lighting, and track lights can even be moved to change lighting schemes at any time, making them a budget-friendly option for homeowners whose living rooms are multi-purpose spaces. Recessed lighting also works well in living rooms, especially ones with low ceilings. That’s because recessed lighting is installed into the ceiling, meaning it does not take up any visual space in the room. That can help living rooms feel bigger.

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Bedroom The home improvement experts at BobVila.com note that bedroom lighting should provide enough light when getting dressed, but also be able to be toned down as residents prepare for their bedtime routines. Both portable and installed lighting can be used in bedrooms to serve these various functions. Recessed fixtures that dim can ensure there’s ample light to get dressed in the morning, but they also can be dimmed at night as residents try to get ready to sleep. Portable nightstand lights can make it easier for couples sharing a bedroom, allowing one person to stay up and read while the other goes to sleep. Homeowners have many options and many needs when choosing lighting for their homes. A professional consultation with a lighting expert or interior decorator can help homeowners find lights that provide both practical and aesthetic appeal.

Did you know? … Planting When planning spring landscapes, homeowners should always group plants with similar water needs together. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, grouping plants with similar water needs together helps to conserve water, which can be an especially useful strategy if or when drought restrictions go into effect in summer. Homeowners also can embrace additional strategies to landscape with water conservation in mind. For example, aerating soil helps to improve water flow to plants' roots and reduces water runoff, helping to ensure that plants get all of the water they need while reducing the likelihood that homeowners will have to use excessive amounts of water to keep plants healthy. In addition, using low-water-using types of grass can help homeowners who live in areas prone to drought conserve water while still maintaining lush, green lawns.




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