Prep Now!


It never hurts to plan ahead.

If you’re thinking of selling your home, now is the time to start preparing. That’s true whether you’re putting it on the market soon, two years from now (when you’re due for a work reassignment), or even five (fingers crossed the last kid finally graduates!).

Prepping your house can be a daunting task. It’s a lot easier if you do it in small, manageable chunks.

Why not start now?

The change of seasons is a perfect time to assess the condition of your house. This fall, go beyond resurfacing the driveway, washing the windows and cleaning the gutters — check the roof and chimney while you’re at it. 

Then step back and look at your home from the street. Maybe it’s time to add some outdoor lighting, re-do the driveway and paint/replace the front or garage doors.

Fall is also the perfect time to improve your landscaping. Add trees, shrubs and other plants now. This will give them time to get established, before the heat and dryness of summer. Pruning and lawn care – weed control, covering brown spots and the like – are essential for optimal spring display.

All satisfying projects that are sure to improve the curb appeal of your home.

Inside, start with maintenance tasks. When were your mechanicals last serviced? Make sure the fireplaces are in tip-top conditions. If not, an inspector will say so – and the buyer will want to negotiate repairs and cleaning. 

Decluttering is critical but can be overwhelming, we know. Tackling that chore one room at a time makes it – well, not easy or enjoyable, but certainly more manageable.

Next, try to view your home from the vantage point of a prospective buyer. Is it finally time to get rid of worn carpeting, remove old wallpaper, refinish hardwood floors?

How about that new kitchen you’ve dreamed of? Why not do it now? You’ll add tremendous value to your property – and the next owners won’t be the only ones to enjoy it. Imagine spending the holidays in your new space!

Is it time for a bathroom renovation? Maybe you’ve thought for a while about adding a deck or outdoor living space, or finishing the basement. 

You can get good ideas about what to do by checking out homes currently on the market. See the difference between those that are updated/prepped, and those that aren’t. And give us a call (203-295-4375) — we are happy to give you some ideas to get started.

It’s all sound advice. It also sounds expensive. If you have a few years left in your home, at least you will have time to appreciate the improvements.

If you are thinking of listing your home soon – we have a solution. Let Compass Concierge front the costs!

This unique service helps you maximize your home’s value. We front the cost of improvements – staging, flooring, painting, landscaping, pest control, electrical work, kitchen and bathroom renovations, water heating and plumbing repair, and more. There are no up-front costs, no hidden fees, no interest payments. Ever.

We guide you through the process, from budget to vendor selection through completion. When your home sells, you pay the cost of services provided – nothing more.

We’re very proud of KMS Partners’ Compass Concierge service. Contact us now for more details.

Even if you’re not planning to sell until your kid finally moves out of the basement….



Coming Soon on

Marketing Your Home Through Compass

Drive interest & buzz by pre-marketing your home on


Build Up Interest & Demand

If you look beyond real estate, from Hollywood releasing trailers for movies to fashion brands debuting a forthcoming collection at a runway show, these industries have mastered the art of pre-marketing to create interest and demand. Compass Coming Soon will do that same thing for your home — create excitement and anticipation for your property.

Listing your property as a Compass Coming Soon Listing can build anticipation among potential buyers and brokers, drive up its value, and shorten the sales timeline.

Get More Exposure

By creating a Coming Soon listing on Compass, we can create two opportunities to launch your property, thereby getting twice the exposure. First when the listing appears on, and second when the listing goes live on the MLS and aggregators.

Tap into our Google search advertising to build momentum. We reach prospective buyers precisely when they’re searching to help increase traffic for your property.

Gain Valuable Feedback

Coming Soon on allows agents and consumers alike to see your property before it goes on the market. During that period, we will be able to gain valuable feedback regarding the pricing, photos, and positioning of your property. When it’s time to go live to the whole market, your property will be perfectly priced and positioned to sell quickly

Ready to get started? Contact us at 203.295.4375 or

What’s old is new (in) again

They’re older. They’re called “antiques.” They’re also some of the most unique homes around.

Here at KMS Partners, we’ve noticed an intriguing trend. Antiques are back in favor with buyers. Younger folks, European transplants, down-sizers – all have asked to see homes that were built long before they (or sometimes, their grandparents) were born.

As we’ve shown some outstanding antique properties in Westport and throughout Fairfield County (Location), we’ve noticed a few things.

They are often on what were once main thoroughfares. That made sense back in the day – and it still makes sense today. These homes are easily accessible. Residents enjoy the benefits of living on roads maintained by the town or state. (Location, location)

It means too that the more desirable antiques may be located near downtown, retail shopping or the train station. Many younger homebuyers are moving from urban areas. They want space to raise their kids – but they want to be able to walk to restaurants and stores, just as they did in the city. (Location, location, location)

And, they want something else: the authenticity and character that antique houses provide. These were structures built to last. Every room had a purpose; every beam and nail meant something. Babies were born, children were raised, parents and grandparents lived together here. These homes have an indefinable but very real spirit. History lives and breathes in every corner. They truly are “homes,” cared for and lived in and loved.

Houses that last this long are well taken care of. Their owners have updated them when necessary. (That electricity didn’t install itself.)

An antique house is not for everyone, of course. You’re moving into a place you’ll want to make your own. And this is 2019, after all. But there’s another new trend in real estate, which dovetails with this. The open floor plan concept – with its big spaces and uninterrupted views -- that’s been popular for quite a while is changing. People have begun yearning, once again, for walls.

Older homes sure have them. They come in many different sizes and shapes. Buyers looking to put a contemporary spin on those rooms get something both original and exciting.

It’s not only “old old” houses that are in demand. Those from “just” the 1920s and ‘30s have appeal too. They boast lots of architectural charm and detail – plus a bygone but very welcome sense of social flow on the ground floor. Homes of that vintage are delightful for entertaining, and family holidays.

So who is looking?

We see many clients from Brooklyn. They already know the character present in older homes. They love mantels with beautiful detail, high ceilings, old hardwood floors and exposed brick.

Many of these newcomers work from home. They love the idea of an outbuilding or barn that can be converted into a home office. Fortunately, many antique homes have those additional buildings on their property.

Europeans are looking at antique homes too. They appreciate the materials used – wide plank flooring, fieldstone and older (often smaller) bricks, exposed beams or rafters, plaster walls, higher ceilings, original glass and more. There’s a patina that is extremely hard to duplicate.

Antique homes have been valued by their owners for decades – sometimes centuries. And they provide great value to the right homeowner.

 To learn more – and see some recent listings that are attracting great interest – contact KMS Partners at 203.295.4375 or email us at


Deer resistant but evergreen no longer...

When we read this article, it became all too clear what was happening in our own yards. Some of us admitted to trimming dead branches from our boxwood hedges this fall in the hope that things would look better come spring. Now with spring around the corner and the outlook rather grim, it appears we have another thing to add to our spring to-do list. For those of us that love to wander the fabulous nurseries in Fairfield County, this may be just the excuse we need!

Republished with permission from Redding Gardner, by Sean McNamara.


There had been warnings for years about the coming plague, but outside of a couple of isolated plants there had really never been signs of Boxwood Blight here in Fairfield County until this fall.  Then suddenly it was everywhere.  A combination of cool temperatures and wet weather allowed this disease to spread.  The prophecy was being fulfilled.

Concerned homeowners were calling and asking me to look at their boxwood hedge that wasn’t looking well. Looking at sick boxwoods was nothing new. Boxwood Leafminer and Psyllid had been attacking this species for years.  As I wrote in my 2013 blog post, Managing Boxwood Monocultures, for 30 years we have been planting too many boxwoods.  Boxwoods are one of the few deer resistant evergreens.  To stop the threat of deer damage we created the perfect habitat for insects and diseases that feed on this plant species.  The difference is there is no treatment for Boxwood Blight.  Worried homeowners looked to me to fix their sick plants and unfortunately the only remedy was to rip them out and start over.  Thousands of dollars in landscaping was suddenly infected beyond recovery.

The growers knew the damage this disease was capable of.  Stories of boxwood growers burning entire fields were told at trade shows and landscapers were warned to only purchase from reputable suppliers.  Boxwood Blight did not exist in our natural environment and could only enter our landscaping by riding on infected plants from a nursery or garden center.  Stopping the spread of this invisible pathogen proved impossible.

Now that it is here, it will inevitably spread.  The sticky spores will cling to our hands, clothes, pruning shears and lawn mowers.  When the weather conditions are correct, the spores will infect the leaves and stems causing black blotches and defoliation.  After the initial symptoms appear the plants may temporarily recover, only to have the disease emerge again sapping the plants of energy until it ultimately succumbs.

My business is curing plant problems, and usually there is a remedy for most pests and pathogens.  But with this disease the cost may not be worth the cure. Currently the only course of treatment is applications of chlorothalonil every 10 days when the weather is around 60 degrees.  Even then, if the weather conditions are favorable to the fungus you may still get an outbreak.  Spending hundreds or thousands of dollars annually with no guarantee of infection prevention is probably more than most would want to invest.  It explains why growers have resorted to burning thousands of plants in their fields.

For most people, the best advice is to rip out their Boxwoods once they see symptoms and plant something, anything other than boxwood.  And if you’re planning a new landscaping project look for alternative species.  Some varieties of boxwood are less susceptible to the Blight, but none are immune.  Best to use holly, azaleas, rhododendrons or anything other than boxwood.

So say “bye bye” to the boxwood.  They are still here for now, but won’t be for long.  And remember that variety is the spice of life.  When everyone else is planting boxwood, andromeda and spruce because the landscaper says the deer don’t eat them, remember you may trade one problem for a dozen worse ones.

Home Staging Starts with Tidying Up

Let's talk home staging. Love it or hate it, we still think it is a priority task to prep your home for a successful sale.

On New Year’s Day Netflix premiered the eight-episode series on the virtues of the “KonMari Method” of tidying. A resurgence of the method first outlined in Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing has begun. The series sparks joy thanks to the transformation and the personality of Marie Kondo and those she helps.

Writing of the lessons learned from reading the book, One Kings Lane Editor, Cate La Farge Summers, summarizes the method:

“First, put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it.

Second, once only your most joy-giving belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible, and easy to grab and then put back.”

Simple enough, right? In the full article (click here), Cate tells of 8 lessons learned from  the book. We think if you take her advice, you will make it through your clothes in no time. And we all know, uncluttered closets look BIGGER!

 Lesson #1: Tackle Categories, Not Rooms

I’d always tackled clutter by room—take on the office first, the bedroom next. Instead, Kondo’s first rule is to tidy by category—deal with every single one of your books at once, for example, otherwise they’ll continue to creep from room to room, and you’ll never rein in the clutter. She advises beginning with clothing, since it’s the least emotionally loaded of one’s things (books come next, old photographs are much later), so as soon as I found a free afternoon, that’s exactly what I did.

 Lesson #2: Respect Your Belongings

With my eyes now open, I realized my closets had hit rock bottom. Everything had succumbed to a mixed-up messiness. Kondo asks that you consider your clothing’s feelings: Are they happy being squashed in a corner shelf or crowded onto hangers? Are your hardworking socks really thrilled to be balled up? It had sounded out there when I read it, but suddenly my clothes looked totally miserable.

Lesson #3: Nostalgia Is Not Your Friend

As I started emptying the closets, I opened boxes filled with letters and old photographs. Serious mistake. Kondo knows what she’s talking about when she insists you put blinders on and focus only on the category of stuff at hand. Read one old letter, and suddenly you’re down a rabbit hole of nostalgia.

Lesson #4: Purging Feels SO Good

Once I got to work, it was so much easier and more fun than I’d thought. This question of joy gives you permission to let go of off-color shirts bought on sale, dresses past their prime, skirts that always clung uncomfortably….Six hours later, I’d filled 12 bags with non-joy-giving clothes. Instead of panic, I felt relief—12 times lighter. It also felt like good karma: The best stuff went to a consignment shop, and the decent stuff went to a charity thrift store, off to see a new, hopefully better life.

Lesson #5 and #6: Fold, Don’t Hang

Once you’ve sorted out the things to discard—and only then—you can decide where the remaining things should go. Rather than folded in a cubby or hanging in a closet, Kondo thinks a lot of our clothing would be better off (or as she’d say, happier) folded in a dresser.

Kondo’s vertical folding technique makes everything easy to spot and hard to mess up (you aren’t jostling a whole pile every time you take something out or put something back). Folded this way, clothing looks like fabric origami, ready to line your drawers in neat rows.


To keep these little folded packages standing at attention in the dresser, try using shoeboxes as drawer dividers. A smaller box is perfect for square scarves, a deep one in the bottom drawer for sweaters.

Lesson #7 and #8: Fall in Love with Your Closet and Rediscover Your Style

You’ll be tackling the next category before you know it. Trust us, your home will photograph and show better…and you will love the way your home feels!

Want more ideas? We are happy to stop by - call us at 203.295.4375 or email


Real Estate is a Market

Who creates the real estate market?

Let’s go back to basics and remember that real estate is not a product, it’s a commodity. It is the buyer who establishes value. Similar to a stock -- Apple, Amazon, IBM -- the buying public pushes the price of a home up or down every day just like in the financial markets. The buyer’s perception of value determines whether your home sells. Or not.

Going into the process, a seller may have an idea of the price someone will pay for their home and it may be based on what they paid, 2 or 10 or 25 years ago. It may be based on additional expenditures that have been spent on the home over the years, or how much the neighbor sold their house for. All of these things are irrelevant. Price is a moment in time! Educated real estate agents use current, relevant active and sold listings to guide you towards the correct price range for your home. These listings are what a buyer will use when it comes time to make an offer and also a bank appraiser, as the buyer goes through the mortgage process.

Some factors that can influence pricing…supply and demand. If demand for houses increases faster than supply, house prices go up. If there is a glut of inventory…prices tend to go down.

Interest rates and the economy are important influences. Are more jobs coming into the community? Is a major employer leaving? Don’t forget demographics. Baby boomers are downsizing. Millennials are deferring real estate purchases. Who knows what trend is next?

Some key points to remember about pricing your home:

  • Pricing your home to appeal to the largest number of buyers increases the chance of getting a buyer who will pay the most.

  • The market won’t let you under price your home. Value pricing will result in multiple offers, even in a “challenging” market. If you only get one offer, the price isn’t too low.

  • No showings, no repeat showings and no offers is the market rejecting the price.

Do you want to be in the market or on the market? Do you want to chase the market or face the market?

Do you want to SELL or STAY?

Historically, the longer your home is on the market, the less it will sell for. Price it right from the beginning and get your property sold.

Just remember...You, the seller, can set the asking price, but it’s the buyer that ultimately sets the sale price. 

Let KMS Partners help guide you through the selling process. We are in the trenches with sellers and buyers and have a keen knowledge of our local markets.

“To every thing there is a season…” The Bible says it (and the Byrds sang it).

But for the past few years, the seasonality of the real estate market we’ve all grown so accustomed to has disappeared.

Longer sales cycles are the new normal.

Here’s one example. For decades, listings for the “spring market” began the moment the Super Bowl ended.

Now -- because of lackluster Wall Street bonuses, harsh weather and other factors -- buyers don’t feel the same urgency. Sellers, meanwhile, spend more time prepping for sale.

With new inventory hitting the market for months after the big game, prospective homeowners take a wait-and-see attitude. For everyone -- including realtors -- the seasonal rhythm has changed.

Back in the day, buyers felt pressure to be settled by Memorial Day -- before summer begins. That’s no longer the case. Some even choose to rent for a summer. That enables them to see which neighborhoods they prefer. And, of course, they continue to monitor the market.

But summers — once a dead period — are coming alive. Buyers who still analyze in the spring now tend to buy during the summer. Or even fall.

Which brings us to right now: the back-to-school rush. We usually count on a flurry of sales just before the start of school. Yet again, buyers who won’t settle on a purchase may rent for a while. They keep looking for the right home — during a new sales cycle.

The “in for the holidays” idea still exists. But if the perfect property can’t be found, buyers are content to wait for the new spring market. Which, as we noted earlier, may begin at any time.

So, what’s a KMS Partners client to do?

If you’re selling: Prep your house. Create a “shiny penny.” Price your home according to market comps. Then list it -- whenever you are ready.

If you’re buying: When you find the house you love, submit an offer. You may be surprised what a wonderful deal you get on a dream house!

Want to know more about the “changing seasons” of the real estate market? Give KMS Partners a call: 203-295-4375. We’re happy to chat, any time of the year!

PS: We’re experience another “new normal” with land sales. The timeline that builders like to follow has changed. With land demand lower than in years past -- and new construction supply growing -- builders are not looking to secure land and build in time for traditional seasonal trends. They’re waiting for custom builds, and have buyers secure the land or buy when there is perceived value.




Top Reasons to work with KMS Partners

• With KMS Partners you'll get the benefit of 130 years of collective experience in the real estate industry: More ideas, more perspectives, collective marketing ideas, more resources and more negotiation experience.

• KMS Partners can call on the individual strengths of each of the team members for specialized roles and tasks.

• KMS Partners has multiple spheres of influence to spread the word about their listings.

• KMS Partners name recognition brings confidence to customers and agents. We have a good relationship with our peers.

• KMS has consistent production over 18 years.

• KMS has a widespread network group throughout the Tri State Area and especially New York City.

• KMS utilizes social media and email marketing for our clients.

• KMS Partners has a first class website with top notch videos and photographs to market our listings.

• Market knowledge: KMS knows the real estate inventory so we can give solid advice to our clients.

• Personal attention: Each client has a lead agent with the support of the entire KMS team. There is always a team member available to cover if the lead agent is not available. Customer service is our priority.

• KMS is active in community service. We know how important it is to give back. Our Flagship Coldwell Banker office in Westport gives KMS partners and our clients all the support needed to get our listings sold and our buyers to the closing table.

So You're Showing Your House

We all know the expression “caveat emptor”: It’s Latin for “let the buyer beware.”

But the seller needs to be aware too. And that’s never more important than when you’re selling your house.

Listing it is only the first step. Once that’s done, it’s time for your real estate agent to show it. That moment – when strangers first walk through your door – is when the reality of real estate sales first hits.

Because buyers may have very different ideas about your house than you do.

Here’s what you can expect from showings:

  • Your first showing is online. At KMS Partners, we strive to strike a balance between dazzling potential home buyers online, and encouraging a property visit. Our job is to keep potential buyers intrigued, and wanting to come back for more.

  • Clients may not always arrive on time. We try to give you ample notice of a visit, but we’ll often request a time range. Being flexible helps everyone – and is a lot less stressful too.

  • Buyers may cancel at the last moment. Maybe they’re tired. Maybe they’ve just found their dream house. Maybe they’re running late for their plane, or they have to pick up their kid from Grandma’s. Don’t take it personally. It’s no reflection on you!

  • Once they arrive, buyers may not get out of their car. They might not like another house on the street, or they didn’t realize it’s not a cul-de-sac. Again, don’t take this personally. It’s just the way people are.

  • When they visit, it’s human nature for buyers to look for faults. We’re not sure why, but it seems easier to eliminate options (“I could never live with that kitchen”) than to think about possibilities (“Wow, we can really expand and make a great dining nook there!”). It’s our job as realtors – not yours, as the seller – to help them envision how they could love your home as much as you do.

  • Some buyers eliminate a house within two minutes, based on a “feeling.” They don’t even want to see your fabulous full basement, or take in the view from your beautiful deck. Once again: You can’t take it personally. Again: Namaste!

  • Most buyers are respectful about removing shoes, or wearing shoe protectors when entering a home. Having a chair by the front door to slip off shoes, or put on booties, is helpful and thoughtful.

  • Buyers will open closets, cabinets, drawers, appliances and anything else that can be pulled or tugged on. If there’s something you don’t want anyone to find or see – stash it in a very safe place!

  • You should also store any precious items and medications. Enough said!

  • Buyers may ask to use your bathroom. Put yourself in their shoes!

  • The more organized your closets, cabinets and storage spaces are, the better an impression your house will make. Buyers like to see that they can fit all their “stuff” in their new home.

KMS Partners is here to guide you every step of the way. We’ll make this daunting process as manageable as possible. Contact us 203-295-4375 or with any selling — or buying — questions!

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year! Is it spring yet? Nope. Still January. Which means there is still time to make a few New Year’s resolutions.

Here at KMS Partners, we resolve to build on what we’ve always done: help clients deal with the sometimes daunting, always changing world of real estate with knowledge, insight and passion. We resolve to continue being by your side, every step of the way.

So what should your resolutions be?

    If you’re buying:

  • Financing? Get your lender picked out. Prepare your paperwork for pre-approval. And check your credit report -- for free -- at
  • Think about what really matters most to you: Location? Condition? Style? Property? Price?
  • Do not pay attention to Zestimates. KMS Partners are a much better, more accurate and realistic source of information.
  • Start early. Seeing lots of houses will prepare you to make an offer with confidence when the right house appears. (It will help you know that house, too.)
  • Call KMS to get you on Listingbook. It is more accurate than the other real estate websites, as it feeds directly from our MLS.

    If you’re selling:

  • Talk to your accountant about the new tax laws. He or she will help you get the most bang for your selling buck.
  • Order the dumpster months ahead of listing your house. You’d be surprised at the wait list!
  • De-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter. You should begin this process months ahead too. You can never make too many trips to Goodwill, or the charity of your choice.
  • List early. Get a jump on the market. Don’t wait until May.
  • Start packing.
  • Have a pre-list inspection done with one of KMS’ recommended inspectors. It’s amazing what you’ll learn -- and you could avoid any major inspection negotiating issues.
  • Test your well water for add-ons: arsenic and radon.
  • Have your septic system pumped.
  • Check that all permits and COs are up to date.
  • Buyers may not love your wallpaper. Let KMS help you determine what is current (and what is not).

    If you’re neither buying nor selling:

  • Go to the gym more. (Just kidding.) (Sort of.)

  • (Want to know more? Contact KMS Partners: 203.454.5411. We resolve to get back to you as soon as we can.)

Your Realtor | Your Advisor

You know that saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”? When we become adults, we need a small city just to help us navigate the world. We’ve got doctors to keep us healthy, financial advisors to grow our money, and lawyers because, well, you know.

We hire experts to decorate our interiors, clean our closets, navigate our kids’ college process, and teach us how to golf and play tennis.

When we need therapy -- physical or emotional -- we call other professionals. Plumbers, electricians and remodelers keep our homes looking great.

We hire these “trusted advisors” carefully. We don’t randomly select names from a hat, the Yellow Pages or even an internet search.

We seek men and women who are the top in the field. We want them to be knowledgeable, current on the latest trends, and always learning. They should be accessible, able to communicate well, and have impeccable references. Many of you are someone else’s expert advisors. You may be a doctor, lawyer, financial advisor, decorator, golf pro or therapist.

We know some people have a love/hate relationship with Realtors. You may call us to help buy, sell or consider a move at a stressful time. Even in the calmest time, you may be embarking on the biggest financial transaction of your life.

Relax. We are proud to be your expert advisors.

We do a lot more than unlock doors, point out features and make you sign countless papers.

At KMS Partners, we are advisors in every sense of the word. We are coaches, counselors and therapists.

We are there for you when you’re selling and buying -- but even when you’re not ready for a transaction.

Want to know if you’ll get your money back after redoing a bathroom? Considering putting a fire pit in the back yard, and uncertain if that will be attractive or not to a buyer? Unsure if you need a permit to finish the basement? Thinking about selling in a few years, and wondering what to do now to help yourself later? Want to know if your house will be a teardown? Just interested in the latest market statistics?

Call us. We want to be your number one, go-to people for all things real estate.

We cherish the relationships we develop with the men and women who start out as clients, and end up as friends.

We’re here to help -- before, during and after a sale.

And if you need a referral to a good doctor, lawyer, tennis pro, physical therapist, plumber or electrician: Just ask.

For more information from an expert advisor, call KMS Partners at 203.454.5411.

Online and Off

You can find anything online: The perfect wedding dress. Your former college roommate. A house. But that doesn’t mean you should stay online forever.

Long before the ceremony, you need to touch, feel and see that dress. It’s a lot more satisfying to have drinks with your old roommate, than simply emailing. And even though you can see a house on your laptop, you still need a real, live, human real estate agent to seal the deal. (Hey, even Amazon is now building brick-and-mortar stores -- staffed with actual people!)

And to help in many other ways.

Buying a house is often the most important financial transaction you’ll make in your life. There are many reasons you should trust it to a person, not a pixel.

For example, we can help with pricing. Sure, you can find it online. But what does that price mean? Is it fair? What about comparables? Is there room for negotiation?

We’re there when you walk through the front door of a house. You might have done all your research on your screen. But you need to learn: Can you hear I-95 or Merritt traffic through that other screen (the porch)? What does the neighborhood look and feel like? And real estate agents can point out nuances you might not notice, like dead trees standing dangerously close to the bedrooms.

A real estate agent can assist with all the transaction details you may never think about (or find online): contingencies, including mortgage, appraisal and building inspections, and binders and deposits.

If you’re selling a home – sure, you can list it on an online site. But photographs are no substitute for a Realtor who can point out where a fresh coat of paint can add thousands of dollars to the price, or suggest a stager who will add even more.

And you sure can’t close a sale online. In Connecticut, the only way to secure title insurance is through an attorney.

At KMS Partners, we embrace technology. The internet has made our lives – and our work – easier, and more productive. Today we’d be lost without our laptops.

But technology is only a tool. It helps us – human beings – be better at what we do.

Which is providing personal service to our clients. Whether you are buying a home or selling one, we’re here to help.

And we’ll be there for you after the closing too – when the listing is long gone from the web.

After all, this is our town too. We moved here thanks in part to real estate agents who looked out for us, and sold us homes we loved for all the right reasons.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog. Now log off your computer, pick up your (cell)phone, and call KMS Partners. We’re excited to meet you, face to face. We’ll answer your questions. We’ll even buy you coffee.

Take that, Zillow!

Contact KMS Partners 203-295-4375

Get Ready for Spring

After a very warm September, fall has finally settled in. October is prime time for apple picking, leaf raking and sipping hot chocolate. And of course, preparing your house for the spring market.

That’s right. Just as you’re putting storm windows up, you can’t forget about your screens.

Or your flower beds, roof and chimney.

The more you prepare your home now, the better the end result will be. Getting ready to sell can feel overwhelming. But if you start early and take your time, the process can seem almost seamless.

First, consider a pre-inspection. Your buyer will inspect your house closely. You can learn ahead of time what they will find, then make repairs. It’s the right thing to do – and it may add value to your asking price. (KMS Partners can refer building inspectors to you. Just ask!)

Then, check out your mechanicals. When was your furnace last serviced? Is your hot water tank leaking? Does your humidifier work? Do you have smoke and CO2 detectors, and are they working? (Call us! We have vendors who can help.)

Have you looked at your chimney crown lately? Have you cleaned it? (Yes, we have people who can do that.)

How worn is your roof? What about your roof ridges? (Glad you asked – we’ve got roofer recommendations.)

Of course, you need to clean or flush your gutters. It’s essential to keep rainwater flowing before the ice arrives. (Ask us for names.)

Fall is a great time to paint. It dries easily -- and there’s no humidity or insects to interfere with the results. While you’re at it, you can also paint that red and green dining room a neutral color. (We know some very good painters!)

When were your windows last cleaned? Do it now. As a bonus, you’ll enjoy lovely fall views. (We know the best window washers around.)

For a bigger project, refinish your floors. You might want to take a quick vacation, to minimize the fuss. (KMS Partners knows great floor folks too.)

Do you have bats? (Not as Halloween decorations.) Mice? Are others rodents trying to get into your house, or already nesting? (Our list of professionals can help,)

Don’t forget to trim your trees. Sure, the leaves look pretty -- but tree work is essential. (KMS has a fantastic list of reliable tree workers.)

As you think about pitching, purging and packing, ask yourself: Do I want to pay someone to move this? Do I want to pay to store it? Do I really need this? Order a dumpster. You’ll be amazed how quickly it fills up with stuff you don’t need. (Where do you get a dumpster? Ask us!)

The days are getting shorter. How dark is your home? Do you need to replace light bulbs? (Sorry – that’s about the only thing KMS Partners don’t do.)

It’s clear: We’re happy to help this fall (and any time) as you prepare your house for the market. In the meantime: Happy Halloween!

Contact KMS Partners 203.454.5411.

Real Estate Myths and Reality

Everyone “knows” certain things about real estate. After all, we all live somewhere. And most of us, at some time, have bought or rented a home. Like so many urban -- okay, suburban -- myths though, much of what people hear is wrong.

At KMS Partners, we’ve heard it all. For example:

“Agents work for the seller -- not the buyer.” Not true! There are buyer agents and seller agents. Each one has a fiduciary responsibility to their client. We work for you -- and only you!

“My house is in great shape!” Really? Would an inspector agree? Have you looked at the crown of the chimney lately? Tested your well for arsenic and uranium? Are all your systems up to date on servicing? Have you tested for radon? Checked your attic for mice, mold or other deplorables? Whenever you’re selling, consider a pre-inspection to identify areas needing repair or service.

“I don’t need a stager. They don’t help sell a home.” We are sure your house IS in great shape. (Well, pretty sure.) But even the most magnificent home may need to be staged. Stagers know the little things -- removing personal photos, positioning that piano just right, adding a scent or two in the kitchen -- that can make a huge difference to buyers. (And just to repeat: Yes, you do have exquisite taste!)

“That property is worth x amount of dollars. I saw it on Zillow!” Sorry. Time and again, “zestimates” have been shown to be inaccurate to determine value. But don’t take our word for it. Click here

“Of course, we’ll need room to negotiate…” Not necessarily. If you price your house correctly, you shouldn’t have to waste time and energy negotiating. Odds are, your home will sell soon too.

“You underpriced my house!” A house cannot be underpriced. If it is, buyers will bid up the price to its value in the current market.

“We finished the basement ourselves, so we didn’t need a permit.” That’s a myth! Any improvements to your house need permits -- and must be closed out prior to selling. Finished lower levels, attic levels and enclosed sun rooms are just a few examples. Connecticut has a new law for permits and CO's that goes into effect on October 1st. Call KMS Partners for details.

“I don’t need to pay for a local real estate attorney. My daughter’s in law school. She’ll close for us.” Congratulations on your daughter. But sorry -- Connecticut requires actual attorney representation for property closing.

“We’re building our house. So we don’t need a Realtor.” That’s a doozy. People fall for this all the time. They’re lured into believing they’ll get a better deal without having representation. But building a home is complicated. Consumers can’t know if they’re getting a better deal on new construction without having a Realtor on their side.

“I’ve got time. If I keep looking, I’ll find the perfect house.” There is no such thing as the “perfect house.” Every home has some flaws. Every house has features we wish were different. If you’re looking for perfection, you’ll never stop searching.

“There’s no difference between Realtors.” Hey! There are 1,200 agents registered with the Mid-Fairfield County Association of Realtors. They can’t all be the same. In fact, they’re not. In fact, KMS Partners has been Coldwell Banker's Top Team in New England since 2008. They clearly stand out from the rest. Marketing acumen, professional experience, peer respect, access to Coldwell Banker’s Premier office, vendor contacts, website and social media presence, assistants and coaches -- and our long presence in our home communities -- all make KMS Partners stand out from the pack. (And remember: Even though you have access to our entire team, each KMS Partner is a unique individual too!)

All About Appraisals

“And of course we’ll get an appraisal…” Realtors say it. Lenders say it. Homebuyers and homeowners nod; hey, it sounds like a normal part of a real estate transaction.

But what exactly is an appraisal? Who does it? And why does everyone need one?

In her 25-year career, Nicole Daly has done thousands of appraisals -- many for KMS Partners. The owner of Daly Appraisal Services, and a certified residential appraiser, she’s the perfect person to explain her profession.

“An appraisal is an estimate of the current market value of a property,” she begins.

“Most of my work is for mortgage financing. Banks want to make sure the buyer is not paying too much for a property.”

Connecticut requires appraisers to be licensed by the Department of Consumer Protection. Lenders go further: They demand certification. That means many hours of education and field training, followed by an exam.

However, “homeowner’s getting ready to sell will often hire me when they perceive a disconnect from a realtor pricing analysis and what they think their home is worth. It can be a reality check sometimes and helps to give them a true understanding of the value of their home from a licensed 3rd party perspective.”

Daly studied as an “apprentice” (provisional appraiser) for two years. She was certified in 1994, and formed her own firm in 2008.

When a lender asks her to appraise a property, Daly contacts the real estate agent (or, in the case of refinancing, the homeowner). She learns a bit about the property online. But to make an informed appraisal, she must actually visit it.

Increasingly, banks are asking for photos of interiors.

Daly works with the realtor and Multiple Listing System to find comparable properties. That usually includes sales within the past six months, and homes within one mile. Armed with that information, she arrives at an estimate of market value.

Though her work is “number-centric,” Daly says, she works with realtors to know “tweaks” -- extenuating circumstances, like the fact that a homeowner must sell quickly because of a divorce, or that a home looks great because of excellent staging.

Though the field originally attracted only men, Daly is seeing more female appraisers. She like the job because she is not an office all day, and can create her own schedule.

“This is a great area. It doesn’t get better than Fairfield County,” Daly says. She has appraised some of the most beautiful homes in the state (and been inside a few “celebrity homes” too).

Part of Daly’s work involves watching for red flags. For example, if she sees a deck -- but it’s not reflected on the town’s tax card -- that could mean trouble.

“If you’re a homeowner, be sure to get the appropriate permits and zoning variances for any improvements you make,” she warns. “You don’t want it to be an issue when it comes time to sell.”

Daly notes that appraisals are valid for only 90 days.

“It’s a snapshot in time,” she says.

Hopefully, now the real estate picture is a little bit clearer.

Got questions about appraisals -- or any other aspect of real estate? Contact KMS Partners: or 203.454.5411

Prepare Your House for the Market

We are often asked by clients who are thinking of listing their homes what to do to get ready, even if selling is months or even a year away. KMS Partners can help you prepare for your transition in many ways. We will visit your home to make suggestions about what could be addressed to make the house more saleable and worth more money at the end. We can also help you find suitable vendors to do needed repairs, staging, painting etc. As the time draws near to put your home on the market, consider the following points:

Say to yourself, "I'm ready to let this home go and move on" Focus on the fact that soon this house will no longer be yours.

Check Curb Appeal. If a buyer won't get out of her agent's car because they don't like the exterior of your home, they'll never get inside.

  • Keep the sidewalks cleared.
  • Mow the lawn. Put away all the equipment too!
  • Paint faded window trim. Repair any wood rot.
  • Plant yellow flowers or group flower pots together. Yellow evokes a buying emotion.
  • Trim your bushes.
  • Paint fences and decks if needed.
  • Clean the gutters and straighten out the downspouts.
  • Paint the Front door and threshold. Make sure the front door is easy for a realtor to unlock and that the door handles are easy to open.

De-Clutter. We all collect an amazing amount of junk. Think of this process as a start on the packing you will eventually need to do anyway.

  • If you haven't used it in over a year, you probably don't need it. Get the dumpster!
  • If you can't bear putting the stuff you no longer need in a dumpster, plan a tag sale or donate it.
  • Remove most of your books from bookcases.
  • Pack up those knick knacks and shells from the beach.
  • Put essential items used daily in a small box that can quickly be stored in a closet.

De-Personalize. Put away photographs and family heirlooms. You want buyers to imagine their own photos on the walls. Buyers lack vision and family photos distract them every time.

Prep your Kitchen.

  • Stack dishes neatly.
  • Clean those counter tops and clear them off. No one wants to see your toaster oven.
  • Clean the oven and refrigerator.
  • Flowers and new dish towels will help.
  • Pick up Fido's water dish

Merchandise Bedroom Closets. Buyers will open closets and cabinet doors. They are nosey!

  • Hang shirts together, buttoned and facing the same direction.
  • Store items out of season.
  • Not too many items on the floor
  • Line up shoes. And deodorize them!

If everything is well organized they will think you take good care of the rest of the house as well.

Rent a Storage Unit for extra furniture. Almost every home shows better with less furniture.

  • Remove pieces of furniture that block or hamper paths and walkways.
  • Remove extra leaves from your dining room table to make the room appear larger.
  • Leave just enough furniture in each room to show the room's purpose and leave plenty of room to move around.

Remove and Replace Favorite Items. If you want to take window coverings, mirrors or lighting fixtures with you, remove them before going on the market. Take down the chandelier in the dining room if it has sentimental value. If buyers never see it, they won't want it. You will need to replace removed fixtures with something else though. You don't want to leave wires hanging down.

Minor Repairs.

  • Replace cracked floor or counter tiles.
  • Patch holes in walls.
  • Fix leaky faucets.
  • Fix doors that don't close properly or squeak. WD-40 can be a great help.
  • Replace burned-out light bulbs with high watt bulbs.
  • Service heating and AC equipment.
  • Clean or replace old worn out carpets with new ones or expose the hardwood floors underneath.
  • Install or test your CO2 and smoke detectors. Connecticut has a new law about these detectors.
  • Paint the interior rooms with neutral colors. Fresh paint makes a big impact.

Garage and Basement. Make the garage and basement an asset - these areas are often overlooked and the last places that get attention. These are the catch-all areas where everything goes that has no other place to go, so it’s usually a mess. If your garage and basement are neat, the buyer will think you've taken good care of your house everywhere else.

  • Paint the floors with heavy gray epoxy paint.
  • Paint the walls a flat white.
  • Get rid of old or unused tools and garbage cans.
  • Get rid of old paint cans.

Clean the House!

  • Wash windows inside and out.
  • Rent a pressure washer and spray down sidewalks and exterior.
  • Re-caulk tubs, showers and sinks.
  • Polish chrome faucets and mirrors.
  • Clean out the refrigerator.
  • Vacuum daily.
  • Dust furniture, ceiling fan blades and light fixtures.
  • Bleach dingy grout.
  • Hang up fresh towels.
  • Clean and air out any musty smelling areas. Odors will send those buyers out the door!
  • Wash the dogs. Put their toys away.
  • Clean the kitty litter before each showing. Seriously, every time!

Be Objective:

  • Go outside and open your front door. Do you want to go inside? Is your house welcoming you?
  • Imagine how your house will look to a buyer.
  • Examine carefully how furniture is arranged and move pieces around until it makes sense. We have stagers to help you if needed.
  • Make sure window coverings hang level. Remove heavy curtains.
  • Tune in to the room's statement and its emotional pull. Do you want to hang out there?
  • If it looks like no one lives in the house you're almost finished.

Call KMS Partners to help you with suggestions, vendors and smart tips to help you get your house ready for the market..

Selling a House the KMS Partners Way

Many of the KMS Partners stories you read here come from us. This time, we turn our page over to a KMS client. Every home, every seller, every buyer and every perspective is different, of course. But we think his experience is instructive. We hope you do too! I’d never sold a house before. But I’ve known Karen Scott for years -- everyone in Westport knows Karen -- and with KMS Partners’ reputation, it was a no-brainer to call her when it came time to put my mother’s house on the market.

I’m not sure what I expected. Perhaps Karen would come over, decide on a listing price, do whatever realtors do, and within a few days (okay, weeks), I’d receive a check. I really hadn’t thought things through well.

Karen did come over. She walked through the house. She took some notes. Then she asked some questions.

She wanted to figure out if my sisters and I wanted to sell to a builder (who would tear down the 1950s-era home), or to a family that would probably renovate. She walked me through pros and cons of various types of listings. She talked about “comparables” -- homes in neighborhoods like ours, what they’ve been listed and sold for, their advantages and disadvantages compared to this house.

We emailed and phoned for a while. We agreed on a strategy.

Then she went to work. She called builders. She met them at the property. She followed up with emails to me.

Each time, the word was the same: A few nibbles. But no bites.

Karen explained that although the area was very desirable and the house had a lot going for it, builders were putting up very few homes in the price range we wanted. The new construction market had slowed. Besides, the house was on a hill. Builders balked at that.

But Karen kept working. She called her contacts. She reminded them of the advantages. She pursued a number of different strategies.

Meanwhile, we had to clean out my mother’s house. At Karen’s suggestion, I called a woman who specializes in doing just that. She was fantastic. She helped my sister and I clear out what we wanted, sell what was salable, and donate other items to worthy organizations. One of the tasks my sisters and I had been dreading was made as easy as it could be.

After a few weeks, Karen suggested we shift our strategy. We decided to list on MLS. That would attract more attention. It also meant lowering the asking price a bit.

I also had not thought about how I’d feel once the “For Sale” sign went up in front of the house I’d grown up in. That’s when the finality of selling set in. But Karen and I talked frequently, so I knew the home was in good hands.

Fairly quickly, we had interest. In fact, we had interest from two buyers. Karen spoke with both. One, she determined, was more interested than the other. He made an offer. She suggested a counter-offer. There was a bit of back-and-forth. In a matter of days, we agreed on a price.

Once again, I hadn’t really thought through what was involved. I figured I’d sign some papers, shake some hands -- and then the check would come.

Once again, Karen came through. She and my real estate attorney formed a strong team. They communicated often about all the little things that needed to be done. Karen walked me through all the details I hadn’t thought of, like making sure the snow plow guy knew the house was being sold.

When the buyer asked if he could store some boxes in the garage a few days before the closing date, Karen knew the right questions to ask. And she was there when he brought the boxes over.

The closing happened quickly. Indeed, I did sign some papers. I handed over the keys that -- after decades of one owner -- would now belong to someone else.

Suddenly, it was over. I called my sisters to tell them our childhood home belonged to someone else.

And then I called Karen, to say thank you.

Just like countless other buyers (and sellers) have done, over the years.

If you’ve got a seller (or buyer) story to tell, contact KMS Partners 203.454.5411

Décor Trends for 2017

At KMS Partners, we hear over and over: Décor matters. Whether you’re moving into a new home, redoing your residence or freshening up before you sell, your furnishings, color scheme and overall “look” send important signals to everyone.

Trends are always changing. But one thing never changes: Our advice to clients to embrace what’s new. You don’t have to be a slave to fashion -- but don’t be afraid to incorporate something different into design.

So how do you do it?

We’ve consulted with experts, and looked online to see what to expect in the coming months. Here’s what we found.

Vogue reports that green is coming back into vogue, from walls to rugs. It was the 2017 Pantone Color of the Year; it symbolizes refreshment and revitalization, and it’s a great way to “bring the outdoors in.” You can find many ways to work it into your color scheme – even with “really fun emerald glasses.”

Navy pairs with almost any color scheme. And – unlike black – it does not make a space feel small.

Raw white – chalky, handmade, imperfect, organic – is another color to watch for in the coming year.

But muted colors are important too. Whites, beiges, camel and blush pink are “super on-trend.” Gray should be particularly strong, in all shades.

Tropical prints are big, thanks to designers like Marc Jacobs and Prada. Think throw pillows and the like.

Mixing and matching fabrics and materials will be hot. Texture including brushed brass tables, light fixtures, fabrics and wallpapers makes any interior more inviting.

Marble and brass will stay hot, in kitchens and baths. White marble goes well with “something industrial, hard, and a little bit glamorous” like brass. Bronze “warms up any space,” and can be used in vases, lamps and decorative bowls.

Patterns – in the form of geometrics – invoke ancient cultures, from Africa and Asia. They don’t have to be complex. Simple lines and triangles are fine.

Quirky lighting fixtures show off a room’s uniqueness. And artisan-crafted furniture is both special and sturdy. Artisan glass, porcelain and even wood is also a trend to watch in 2017.

Butterflies – “happy and buoyant” – are moving out of kids’ rooms, and into wallpaper all over the house.

Faux is fine. You can find it in wood beans, leather counters and foliage. You just have to know where to look!

We’d love to hear your ideas. Contact KMS Partners: 203.454.5411