How to hire a real estate agent

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Your home is one of your biggest investments. When the time comes to sell it, putting time and effort into hiring the best real estate agent for you goes a long way to making sure you have a good transaction. According to the National Association of Realtors, 92% of Massachusetts home sellers worked with a real estate agent. But only 59% were “very satisfied” with the selling process. 33% of home sellers not being happy is a good chunk of the selling demographic. Why so many?

Three reasons people might be dissatisfied with their broker spring to mind. One: the realtor they hired might not have been a good fit for them–they might not have felt their needs were being listened too OR they might not have had enough confidence in their broker so they didn’t heed selling advice they were given. Two: they might have had or have been given unrealistic expectations for what their house was worth. Three: the house might not have been properly prepped to get great listing photos and successful showings.

All of those reasons emphasize how important it is to put your time and effort into hiring the best real estate agent for your home and for you. The right agent is not always the person with the most sales, the most signs around town or the highest suggested listing price in their market analysis.

As move managers, we work with our clients and their realtors to make sure their house is prepared for sale. It’s the realtor’s job to sell the house. It’s our job to work with our clients to get it staged and ready so the realtor can do their best work. Having spent eight years working with both parties, we’ve gotten some pretty good insights into what can make a real estate agent/home seller relationship work. Here are some questions you may want to ask as part of the interview and hiring process. There are no right or wrong answers but they do give you information about the agent and their selling process to consider.

How long have you been selling real estate and what did you do before this career? Are you full-time or part-time?

This gives you some insight into whether they are a dedicated professional and what kind of life experience they bring to the profession.

What are your first impressions of our house?

Sometimes houses are straight forward, like a colonial or a ranch, and can be appreciated by everyone. Houses with a little more personality or quirkiness don’t appeal to everyone. They have a smaller pool of buyers, but those buyers are all looking for a house that is a little different. Your real estate agent should see your house as it is, and not try and market it as something else. If you have a contemporary, for example, and your realtor can’t appreciate it, find someone who can.

Are there any improvements you would suggest and will the cost of those improvements be seen in the sale price?

Never make improvements to your house until you have hired your real estate agent. They have their finger on the market. They know if your home is best sold “as is,” whether paint and freshly finished hardwoods will make a difference or whether significant work should be done like new countertops, lighting, bathroom upgrades, etc. If you ask three realtors, you might get three different answers. Which one makes the most sense to you?

And beware the realtor who does not make any suggestions until after you have listed with them.

What is your plan for marketing our house? Can you show me some of your most recent listings? Do you have your own website?

Read the home descriptions. Look at the listing photos. Are they appealing or do they look like they were shot with a Kodak Instamatic on an overcast day? Are they clear or are they cluttered? 93% of Massachusetts homebuyers say the online listing was important in their home search. A realtor who does not take advantage of that huge market by providing the best possible photos and listing is not doing their best work.

Is their website professional? Does it make it easy for potential buyers to contact the agent?

And what other websites will the house be listed on?

Can you give me the names and contact information for two people who worked with you this year who have similar properties?

You want to hear first hand how it was to work with this particular agent. Did the seller feel rushed? Did they feel like they were informed throughout the process? Did the agent act on their behalf in all interactions with the buyer’s representative? How long did the house take to sell? What would they have done differently.

When is the best time for our house to be listed?

This is a trick question. The best time to list a house is when YOU are ready and when the house is ready. Of course a spring market is important, but in a good economy, a well prepared and well priced home can sell any time of year. If an agent pressures you intently about must list dates, it may be a sign they are more interested in selling in volume than in respecting the seller’s needs. A real estate agent will make a suggestion, but they will also understand if it’s going to be hard for you to get the house ready in time. They will also steer you away from doldrums periods like the week of the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving week.

Ask business questions:

  • How much will it cost to sell my home?
  • What is your commission and is it negotiable?
  • How long is the listing period?
  • How will the selling process work?
  • How often and how will you communicate with me?

After the initial visit, the realtor will visit again with their market analysis, including comparable listings and a suggested listing price. Review those, ask any more questions you might have, and sleep on it overnight before you make a final decision.

We suggest interviewing at least three real estate agents. Ask friends for first hand referrals. A first-hand referral is not to someone’s daughter or a friend of a friend. It’s to someone who represented them in a successful selling or buying transaction. Short of that, check in somewhere that people talk to people, like at a senior center. Don’t rely on who has the most signs or newspaper ads, that isn’t always indicative of how good they are to work with.

If this seems overwhelming, relax and breathe. Once you start, it’s easier than you think. And if you feel like you would like some extra support, ask your move manager to sit in on the visits and offer you an unbiased opinion. You are hiring a professional to represent you in what might be one of the largest business transactions in your life. Investing the time in getting to know that person so you are confident they are giving you good advice and professional selling services is worth the effort in the long run.





Ten gifts to give people who are downsizing


It’s not easy finding the perfect gift for people who are in deaccessioning mode (as museums call it) rather than in acquiring mode. You know, the people who are letting go of no-longer-needed things to give themselves more space or because they are planning a downsizing move. What do you give the person who wants less stuff, not more?

We have some ideas. Here is a move manager’s list of gifts for people for whom less is becoming more. Spoiler alert: Not all of them can be wrapped in tissue paper with a big sassy bow on top.

1 A Beguiling Filing

The world has moved dramatically towards paperless records in the past ten years. But up until then? Papers are us. What to keep and what to shred–that’s something your accountant or your lawyer knows for certain. Working with their guidelines, give the gift of help getting important documents in order. And of taking care of the shredding! (Hint: if there’s pounds upon pounds to be shredded, it’s worth every cent to hand it off for secure shredding via an office supply store.

2 A Photo Finish

Photographs from the past are wonderful things. But unidentified photos in boxes are confounding. Gift some sorting sessions, either with yourself or with a personal photo organizer. You have the advantage of hearing the stories. An APPO member has the advantage of knowing how to best tackle the project. 

3  A Tech Detangle

We know that shoeboxes accumulate photos and file cabinets accumulate documents, but computers are also accumulators. They accumulate things too, but because they don’t take up the kind of storage space you can measure with a yardstick, the extra stuff stealthily builds and can really get out of hand. Coaching sessions on how to organize an email inbox, do mass deletes of junk emails, store and organize photos and other tasks we never get around to in our digital lives is the kind of gift that would make a person feel both more confident and more organized.

4 A Smart Phone

This one you can put a bow on. You don’t have to be a tech lover to learn to love a smart phone. You don’t have to be tech savvy to learn to love a smart phone. You just need a smart phone and someone to show you around it. More than once. If you’re not a member of the tech generations, even though smart phones are intuitive, they have a learning curve. (Disclaimer: I handed my mother-in-law an iPhone when she was in her mid 80s. She looked at it the way she would have looked at a slightly decomposed dead rat. And now she goes nowhere without it and is a complete shark at texting.)

5 Subscription Boxes

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more fun than an “of the month club” gift subscription. Whatever a person loves, they’re probably a club for it. Flowers and fruits and other tasty things are the most common; if you can enjoy it, there’s probably a subscription box for it. Real Simple has some subscription box ideas, but beware of the ones that are mostly stuff!

6 Timely Stories

Are there things you wish you knew about a parent? Or are there things you want to tell them? A time set aside to tell and record stories is a wonderful gift. Pair with with a lunch out or a take-out lunch in. Some people are gifted story tellers, they love to spin a good yarn. Others will need some questions to help their story unfold. However you capture the story, by memory, in writing or by video, the chance to share a story about that connects dots is a gift for both the recipient and the giver. Need inspiration? Check out StoryCorps.

7 A Safety Patrol

When you live in a house for a long time, it’s hard to identify things that could make your house better for where you are at your stage of life. That’s why the gift of an outside pair of eyes, an aging in place specialist, can be a life changing gift. As move managers give you a short cut on the downsizing learning curve, aging in place specialists cut the wide swings off making a house smarter and safer. Start with a paid consultation by a professional rather than a sales call by a contractor who does aging in place renovations.

8 Cleaning Crew

Gifting a weekly or biweekly house cleaning service does two things: it liberates the recipient from the annoying task of chasing cobwebs and dust bunnies. And it helps prevent clutter from building up. Nothing is more motivating when it comes to keeping horizontal surfaces clear than knowing the cleaning crew is coming. 

9 Bucket List Experiences

I have lived in Boston since 1977 and I have been intending to be on Lexington Green at the crack of dawn on Patriots Day since that time. I’ve never gotten there. What are some places and events your giftee has always talked about but never done? A day away is a wonderful thing indeed. The millennials may have made it newsworthy with their inclination to choose adventures over stuff, but most of us already knew that experiences are always better than things.

10 Something they Really, Really, Really Want

Rather than try and guess what would make someone’s holiday the best ever, ask them. What would they like? Encourage them to think out of the box. It might be a lobster roll at the beach in January or it might be a day of closet cleaning. It might be transferring home movies to digital formats or it might be having a lesson in how to use a ride share app. You can add your own finishing touches to make it extra special, but the easiest way to give a gift that’s the right size and shape is to solicit input from the recipient.


An artistic way to save travel memories

connolly painting

Travel souvenirs come in all shapes and sizes. They might be paper ephemera like postcards, brochures and maps. They might be artwork. They might be kitschy little figurines or t-shirts or hats or anything in between. We buy them to capture a place and a moment. We keep them because we have the room and they spark nice memories when we catch a glimpse of them. But when the time comes to sort and simplify, intellectually you know they haven’t earned a place in your life as you move forward, but emotionally, oh my but you love that map from the inn that has directions to your favorite restaurant in Key West.

One of our recent move clients received a gift from an artistic family member that we loved as a creative way to remember the places you’ve been: a painting that listed the names of all the places they’d lived and visited. Not only is it pretty as art, it’s smile-inducing as a reminder of their adventures.

If you don’t have the confidence in your artistic skills  yourself, there are artists out there who accept custom typographical artwork commissions, like the one below by Picture Perfect by Jody on Etsy that arrives as a digital download.

etsy place list

Or this clever world travel sign post that can also be customized from Everlong Print Company, also on Etsy.

etsy locations too

This is the kind of project you can DIY if you have a computer and a printer or are moderately handy scissors, glue or a paintbrush.

Here are two simple DIY variations from (top) and (bottom) using old maps and a store-bought frame. (You could use some of those old brochures before you recycle them.)

heart map

map of places lived

Eat a toad daily for a good transition


First of all relax…this is not toad-based dietary guidance. It’s 170 year old advice.

There’s a motivational adage that’s been kicking around since the 1850s that originated with French witticist Nicholas Chamfort:

“We should swallow a toad every morning, in order to fortify ourselves against the disgust of the rest of the day.”

Then there’s this from Emile Zola in 1896:

“Young man,” he says, in effect, to the candidate for laurels who seeks his advice, “one thing above all is essential to a literary career. It is not that you should learn your business, or that you should profit by the counsel of those who point out your shortcomings, or that you should cultivate the modesty of true genius, even if genius be lacking. It is that you should learn to swallow a live frog every morning before sitting down to your daily task. Take my experience.”

And its been attributed to Mark Twain in this version:

Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.

So what does all this eating of amphibians mean and how does it relate to downsizing? Allow me to throw around another analogy to explain that. We coach our clients to start the process of downsizing by handling the “low hanging fruit.” Every transition is a mix of hard and easy things to do. The tasks that are easy to get done are the best to start with. Early success builds up confidence, energy and momentum.

Eventually you have to address the harder tasks. Those are your toads. These are the tasks that you dread. If you stick with only handling the easy stuff, you’re going to be stuck with a whole lot of hard stuff at your transition gets closer. And make no mistake, a pile of hard stuff brings plenty of extra stress with it.

So as you work things through, start your day by eating one of your toads. A dreaded hard thing gets checked off first thing and that makes the rest of the tasks you do that day taste like dessert.

(Read about how the eat a toad quote evolved here.)


Learning by accident

Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash

Q: When is the best time for an accident? 

A: Never.

We’re not talking about a happy accident where you are in the right place at the right time. Those aren’t really accidents, those are serendipity. We’re talking about the unwelcome and unexpected things that happen and cause inconveniences large and small.

I have some recent first hand experience in the area of accidents. A week ago at the end of a long hot day of work in a series of long hot days of work, I put something somewhere stupid despite the voice in my head telling me I was making a very bad choice. That voice has had lots of “I told you so” opportunities because it was right. Within 30 minutes, I had caught a foot on the thing in the stupid place and splatted in a way so spectacular that Wile E. Coyote would be envious. The end result was a proximal humerus fracture, or, breaks in my upper arm bone at the shoulder.

I’ve had some time to reflect on “accidents” while I dutifully sit (because I can’t lie) low and keep well iced. Although we have worked with many clients who had unfortunate accidents that they’ve managed to get through, the adage about walking a mile in another man’s shoes is definitely applicable.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

Smart phones are handy.

Although I was not alone at the time of my splat, if I had been, I would have been able to summon help with my phone. And if I had needed assistance, all the contact information for family would have been right there for the EMTs as well as a list of medications for the ER docs. Technology is no longer a luxury we can avoid, it’s helpful tool that can be learned and will have benefits in the long run.

In some cases, emergency pendants are a much smarter choice. You can’t be expected to have your phone with you at all times, so a tiny pendant around your neck can literally be a lifesaver. One of our clients accidentally set his off the other day while moving some things and in the time it took him to call the company and let them know it was a false alarm, they had already messaged his family. This is a best case example of better safe than sorry.

Have a idea whom you can ask for help.

I am lucky.  My long-suffering spouse can work mostly from home. It would have been tough sledding if I had to make due by myself the first week. If you should need assistance, know who can you ask, be that family, friend or hired aide. People often raise their hand when a friend or acquaintance is in need. Don’t deny them the chance to help if you need it. There are psychological benefits to being a helper, let friends and family rally for you if they offer.

Figure out how to get places.

I won’t be behind the wheel of the car for a few weeks, but I will be able to start moving about. How will I get places? With help from family and friends for sure, but also using a ride service like Lyft or Uber.

Keep adaptive tools like grabbers handy.

I’ve been making do with a most excellent pair of restaurant quality kitchen tongs, highly effective at both retrieving things on the floor and moving jigsaw pieces to where I can reach them. There are some more effective tools out there. Always good to have one on hand.

No time like now to fix the accidents waiting to happen.

We have a couple of step ladders, one of which does not lock open and is a bit shaky. That will be going to the metal recycle pile when I am able to take it there. We’ll remove things we are storing on the cellar steps and will add a railing that extends all the way down on the open sides. And that’s just the things that spring immediately to mind. I am sure once I start looking, I will find more. Look around your own surroundings, I bet there are things that you’ve been meaning to see to for a while. No time like now.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

From a business perspective, I’m lucky that our NextStage team is exactly that, a team. They’ve taken over my role in all our client projects, so we can still do our best work. We have closed the shop until we can get caught up there; moves come first. 

Life experiences help shape your world view. Some of those experiences have made us better move managers. Most of our team has helped a parent or relative downsize or has handled an estate. We have a personal understanding of some of the logistical and emotional challenges our clients are facing. 

For me, this particular life experience reinforces listening to that inner voice, stopping to take a break when I’m tired and more over, not allowing convenience to override safety at home and at work. And although we alway consider livability, design, function and safety when working on a floor plan with a client, you can bet that safety will be on that list twice. 

Our menu of services is getting bigger–introducing online estate sales

Would you like an estate sale with your transition?

We do moves your way. Every project plan starts with our client choosing from our menu of services. Most downsizing clients ask us to pack and unpack; if we were a restaurant that would be our house special. Many like to have our coaching and hands-on help sorting. Others want our experienced eyes to help with home staging to get those million dollar photos for their real estate listing. And others ask us to ship goods to family and friends. We do all that and everything in between. But there’s one service nearly all our clients ask for: help finding homes for things they no longer need through sale and donation.

Over the past eight years, we have developed multiple selling channels. We get goods to the place where they will bring the best return for clients. We’re not appraisers, but our team members have many years of experience and knowledge of “stuff.” Our general knowledge combined with the expert knowledge of our selling partners adds value for our clients. We like to highlight the hidden gems that dazzled with sale results, but our real skill is in our ability to get all kinds of things to the right market and to find good places to donate the rest.

Since the beginning, we’ve worked with a combination of auction houses, consignment shops and dealers. They are still key for items that have high value and/or high desirability.  But over the past three years there has been an growing challenge: the number of baby boomers downsizing is growing exponentially. It’s wonderful that people are making changes to better fit their lifestyle now. But they all have furniture and goods they no longer need. The local resale and donation markets are full to the brim. Things we could consign easily five years ago, we have trouble donating now.

That’s why we launched our own e-commerce site and opened a b&m shop, Nextstage Vintage. We offer expanded selling services geared specifically towards on-trend vintage and niche technology equipment for our clients. NextStage Vintage now serves as the mothership for our larger network of online selling venues–we list items on as many as six additional online marketplaces such as Etsy, Ebay, Chairish and Apartment Therapy Marketplace and actively use social media to promote those items.

We have assiduously steered clear of running estate sales because selling goods is only one aspect giving clients great transitions. Estate sales require an entirely different business model that we’ve always felt would take away from what we do best…getting people from where they are now to where they want to be without the stress and the worry. And we have been able to do a good job getting goods with resale value sold via our trusted partners and our own selling site.

But with the amount of goods coming onto the resale market continuing to grow, we have been looking for another way to efficiently help our clients clear out and find value for their no longer needed things. And we’ve found it! We’re happy to announce that we’re expanding our menu of services to include online estate sales cataloged and managed by us and hosted on Online sales are a more efficient and less complicated estate sale model than the traditional ones, and they are a natural fit with our other services.

MaxSold has been an industry partner to the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) for a few years; our peers in parts of the country with fewer available selling venues heartily endorse their process and results. We like that they enable us to sell efficiently in a way that’s convenient for our clients.

Here’s how a NextStage-managed online estate sale works:

  • Items that are no longer needed but have resale value are offered for sale via an online listing with photographs and a description (similar but less detailed than the ones we prepare for items sold online). We can do this over time, as we sort with a client, or all at once, after a client has moved to their new home.
  • Once all the items are lotted and entered, MaxSold hosts and promotes the sale on their website. All bids start at $1. A sale lasts from 5-10 days, with bidding taking place over that time period.
  • After the sale closes, buyers are required to pay for their items online. No money changes hand onsite. Buyers then pick up their items at the selling location (or our office) during specified pickup windows.
  • MaxSold generates a check for the seller within 7 days of the close of the sale.

The simplicity of a MaxSold downsizing sale is what makes it appealing. It allows the market to determine the value of an item. No haggling, no negotiating, no cash on the pickup day. The pickup for the sale either at the client’s home or at our office. And best of all, it’s fast.

We will continue to send select items to our trusted local selling partners as we always have. But by adding the additional option of estate sales to our menu, we are able to offer faster and more complete selling services in a cost effective way.

We have one MaxSold auction currently running and we will be holding two more this month. Check our Facebook page for updates and to see these sales. Change can be good, and we’re excited to offer this new service on our menu to make us a bigger and better one stop shop for those making transitions and dispersing estates.




Opening drawers, opening memories

memory box

“The hard part about going through all the boxes and drawers is that if I open the wrong one, I find that hours pass as I go through the contents.” Wise words from one of our clients who is sorting through decades of the ephemera of life in preparation for a move to an apartment after the unexpected passing of his wife a year ago.

In the course of living, we squirrel things away. We buy boxes of holiday cards on sale and stash them for the next year. We stockpile canning jars above and beyond our jar needs. We keep periodicals with articles we might want to refer to or get creatively inspired by. When you are thinning out in preparation for a move, those boxes are fast to sort. Keep, donate, recycle–not a lot of heavy thinking in boxes of the generic stuff of everyday life.

The boxes that take time are the ones that have memory-enriched not-generic stuff. It’s not boxes of stuff you can pre-identify as memory centric, like photographs. It’s boxes and drawers hiding things that catch you unaware because you had forgotten those things were there. Things that have accumulated over the years that have associations to people, places and adventures take extra time to work your way through and sometimes require a tissue or two too. Maps and brochures from trips, clothing left from teen years in an adult child’s bureau, handwritten notes from people long since passed away, yearbooks and programs from school plays…those are the things that take time.

As move managers, we frequently spend time with our clients going through those memory-enriched boxes and drawers. One member of our team spent a July afternoon hunched in an attic with a client going through a box of accumulated personal papers–among them the draft of an introduction from a luncheon where she introduced Eleanor Roosevelt. A hot humid attic is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for our team member, it was an afternoon of stories told by our client about her life that she will never forget.

The things you find rarely have historical or financial significance to anyone outside those who were involved. But they can be nice bits of anecdotal family history for future generations. Using your phone to snap a photo is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way to do that if the actual document isn’t worth keeping. (This means you need to organize your photos digitally, but that’s another blog post for another time.)

You may have goals for the number of boxes you want to sort through in a week, but don’t judge yourself harshly if you don’t meet that goal. If you find a particularly tough drawer or box of things, give yourself permission to skip it and come back to it later. Of course, our favorite solution to keep you moving forward is to work with a move manager. Sorting through decades of ephemera alone can be lonely, but doing it with someone else is usually a much more pleasant experience. Some of our clients tell us we make it fun…and we’ll second that because we truly enjoy that part of the job.

drawer memories

Lest you think that move managers have an easier time with drawers and boxes full of forgotten memories, I can testify that we can be as challenged by it as the next person.  I had to move a dresser, and took the opportunity to sort it out. 80% of the contents (hats, gloves, rain gear) was sorted quickly, but 20% made time stand still. Among the memories: a enlargement of my husband and son at an elementary school math night; our much missed canine’s bandana, winter collar and Halloween bow tie; a photo of a beloved friend who died of AIDS 24 years ago; half a bag of water balloons from when the kids were not yet grown up; and possibly the most emotional thing…the original pink drawer lining paper as folded by my mother at some point in the 1960s. Unexpected but welcome memories that took extra time and more tissues that I should probably admit to to handle. If only I knew a move manager…


3 estate dispersal case studies


Dispersing an estate is hard. Executors and families have to navigate through an enormous amount of decisions that involve communication and coordination between family members and legal representatives all while living with the emotions of loss. It can be overwhelming.

About a third of our clients are dispersing estates, including those working through living estates for family members who are no longer able to remain at home or make decisions. One thing we know for sure: at the end of the day the executors need to be able to look back at the dispersal process and feel that they did their best work to carry out the intent and directions of the person they are representing. And we do our best to help them with that.

One of the most important things we do when working with families handling estates is to provide support and coaching. We provide the hands on packing and logistical knowledge, and can act as their representative if they live out of the area. But acting as a sounding board, presenting options, communicating with all involved parties and providing solutions is one of the most important tasks we are able to take on.

There are a lot of tasks involved in dispersing an estate. We live our lives every day. We may have our legal affairs in order, but our houses—maybe not so much.This is because we are human. We have the stuff we live with every day. And we have the stuff that hides in nooks and crannies, the product of deferred decision making. We had no reason to make decisions about it, so we didn’t. In other words, estates aren’t just about the assets and heirlooms, they’re also about the stuff of everyday living that has to be managed with to prepare a house for it’s new owner.

We provide a range of services for estate clients, commonly assisting with:

Initial clearing out things like food, recyclables, disposables and unneeded medications for disposal and donation.

Assisting in locating and organizing personal and financial documents, providing secure shredding for high volumes of materials.

Facilitating and coordinating identification, packing and transporting items being taken by family both locally, nationally and internationally. 

Sorting remaining items to be sold or donated.

Arranging for the sale of items through consignment and auction.

Packing and delivering items to be donated, or arrange for pickup or items.

Coordinate with real estate agent to stage and prepare home for sale.

Provide inventories to family and legal representatives.

It’s not easy to imagine how someone who doesn’t know your family can be a part of dispersing an estate. About a third of our clients are doing just that. To help explain how we work to thoughtfully and respectfully work with estate clients, here are sketches of three recent jobs.

Case Study 1: The Family is Local estate

Client had lived in their three bedroom colonial home for sixty years, all siblings were local.

Worked in tandem with family for initial clear out of food and disposables.

(Family sorted and removed things being kept.)

Staged home for sale in consultation with real estate agent.

Sorted items not needed for staging to be consigned and donated.

Arranged for pickup or delivered those items to consignment shops, auction galleries and non-profits.

Returned after home was under sale agreement to remove remaining furniture and décor.

Case Study 2: The Long Distance Family Estate

Client had lived in their two bedroom ranch house for 30+ years, no family members were local.

Worked with family on sorting, marking and packing items to be shipped to them during the short period they were on site together.

Provided options and estimates for getting their heirlooms shipped, including an overseas container.

Packed and shipped smaller items via traditional services like USPS, UPS and FedEx.

Arranged secure transport and sale of firearms.

Cleared out all food and disposables.

Emptied house of all goods to be sold and donated prior to listing per realtor’s request.

Provided secure shredding of confidential documents.

Provided clients with donation and consignment inventories.

Case Study 3: The Finish it Up Estate

Client had lived in house for split level for 60+ years and moved out of state to be with family members. Family, all out of state, had removed all personal items and heirlooms.

Coordinated with real estate agent and family to determine that property should be emptied for sale, staging was not needed.

Sorted and removed or arranged for pickup of all items to be consigned and donated.

Consulted with family and shipped two boxes of overlooked personal items and items they regretted leaving behind after they left.

Disposed of refuse in large onsite dumpster, including removing all window treatments and area rugs, basement and garage refuse.

Coordinated services of removal company to empty two sheds on the property.

Arranged for the proper disposal of hazardous household waste.

Arranged for disposal of outdated and poor condition appliances.

Cleaned emptied house prior to listing by real estate agent.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

We’ve had the honor of working with families on estates as small as studio apartments and as large as triple deckers with full attics and basement. No matter what size the household, the most important part of working with a family on an estate is the discovery process. What looks like a ratty old suitcase might be full of letters written by a husband to a wife during WWII. A wedding ring might be hidden in a nondescript box under a dresser. A painting in the pile of “disposable” art might be actually be an original work by a well known modern artist and might sell for $32,000 at auction. A file cabinet full of confidential medical reports might need to be shredded. All of those examples are extremely real, and we have plenty more just like them. (Okay, maybe only a couple of the $32,000 ones.)

We consider it a privilege to assist with an estate—to be there with people through moments that bring tears and others that bring laughter. We appreciate the opportunity and are committed to do our best to make sure that when the family or executor looks back, they can feel that they did their best to honor and respect their relatives memory.

3 downsizing case studies


One of the best things about being a move manager is that no clients are the same. No two days are the same. There is no standard client, standard family or standard move. Such an abundance of variability sounds terrifying to some. But not to us. It’s part of what makes this such a great job.

We tailor our move management services to meet each client’s needs. We are part of our their “transition team,” working with them, their family, the realtor, the mover and the new community. Stress and worry about a transition have their roots in the things you don’t know. We work with our clients and the rest of their team to clear up those unknowns and make sure there’s a plan so that everything that happens is a step ahead, not backwards or sideways.

We do that with a blend of experience, a Rolodex full of other tested and trusted service partners, some sweat, and above all a good sense of humor. We have one other thing: we know that the move will end well, because we have eight years of good endings to look back on.

It’s hard to imagine how someone you don’t know can come in and help you make such a big life transition. That’s why the majority of our new clients come to us on the recommendation of others we have worked with–people who have worked with us can explain what we do and how we do it. But if you’re new to the idea of working with a move manager, here are descriptions of three moves that might share some similarity with your own planned transition.

Case Study 1: The Full Move

Client couple had been in their home 45 years and were moving from a 3 bedroom cape home to a one bedroom apartment in a community.

Constructed a move plan and timeline with the clients. 

Worked with clients and their realtor to stage home by packing items being taken with them and by sorting, packing and removing no longer needed items to be sold or donated.

After agreement for sale of home, worked with client to identify items being taken to the new apartment, being taken by family members, being left for the new owner—and by process of elimination the things that are no longer needed.

Packed items being moved.

Sorted and delivered items to be sold at consignment and/or auction.

Sorted and delivered items to be donated.

Arranged for the safe disposal of hazardous materials.

Arranged for disposal of refuse.

Coordinated with movers on move day to prioritize order of items being brought up to the apartment and to insure that furniture was positioned according to space plan (which was done with impeccable accuracy by the client)

Unpacked essential items as they were brought to apartment: kitchenware, linens, clothing, lamps, bathroom goods and anything else that could be placed quickly to eliminate the majority of boxes.

Stowed less urgent items like books and art for unpacking the next day.

Nested in: hung shower curtain, placed extension cords behind furniture, made bed and other things to make the first night comfortable.

Returned next day to complete unpacking, make adjustments to furniture placement and hang art.

Case Study 2: The Medium Move

Client had been in four bedroom multilevel house for 51 years and was moving to a two bedroom apartment condo.

Constructed a move plan and timeline with client.

Decorator drafted a floor plan with client.

Real estate agent handled staging.

Sorted and delivered or arranged for pickup of items to be sold at consignment and/or auction.

Sorted and delivered items to be donated.

Arranged for disposal of refuse.

Packed all small items, movers packed art and lamps to be moved.

Coordinated with movers on move day to prioritize order of items being brought up to the condo and to insure that furniture was positioned according to space plan.

Unpacked essentials.

Stowed non-essentials strategically.

Nested in.

Returned next day to finish unpacking and make adjustments.

Returned after sale of home to remove all items belonging to the client left for staging.

Case Study 3: The Essentials Only Move

Client had been in her two bedroom condo for 30 years and was moving to a one bedroom apartment in a community.

Constructed a move plan and timeline with client.

Drafted a floor plan for new apartment.

Real estate agent handled staging.

Client handled dispersal of no longer needed items.

Packed items being moved.

Coordinated with movers on move day to prioritize order of items being brought up to the apartment and to insure that furniture was positioned according to space plan.

Unpacked essentials.

Stowed non-essentials strategically.

Nested in: hung shower curtain, placed extension cords behind furniture, made bed and other things to make the first night comfortable.

Client and family finished unpacking.

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While none of these moves exactly describes your upcoming transition, you probably spotted some tasks in all of these moves that would help make your move faster and less stressful. As we said before, no two moves or clients are the same. But that’s not exactly true. There’s one thing that’s the same about all the moves we’ve ever worked on. Because our clients had a great move team that we were happy to be a part of, they all had moves that ended well.

Sprint or Marathon: your move pace is up to you

time-731110_1280When you’re getting ready to make a transition, you might wonder how long before your move should you start working with a move manager? That depends: are you a sprinter or a marathoner?

You’ve already done the hard work leading up to your move. Think about it as having done the training runners do leading up to an event. You did the thinking and considering and reviewing to that brought you to the place to where you are ready to make a transition. And you’ve decided where you are going to go, an equally tough thing to do. So now the training phase is over and you are at the starting line, ready for the actual event to get underway.

The Marathoner’s Move

If you’re a marathoner, you will start working a move manager three to six months ahead of the date you are planning to list your house for sale because you prefer a measured, consistent pace over a longer period of time to sort, plan your new space and stage your house for sale. With our marathon-type move clients, we schedule of work sessions once or twice a week, always moving forward. And yes, there is homework assigned for between sessions.

Marathon runners will tell you they have to dig a little deeper, find a little more oompf in the final miles of the race. Similar to that, even if you’ve done most of the prep work, the final stretch before your move takes some extra effort. The measured pace gets kicked up a notch when we start packing what’s going with you and clearing out things that are not going but were needed for home staging. But for the most part, you did the training, you put in the time sorting and planning and you’ll get through the move and the unpacking that follows in your new place just fine.

Speaking of unpacking, marathon-type clients often prefer to unpack in stages. The essentials get unpacked the first day. The furniture gets arranged, beds get made, the coffee pot is ready for operation, the clothing is taken out of the wardrobes so those big boxes get out of there and whatever else can be unpacked and placed easily is done. Non-essentials like books and art are stowed and unpacked over the next week so you can settle in at a measured pace at your new home too.

The Sprinter’s Move

If you’re a sprinter, you may start working with a move manager closer to when you plan to list your house for sale or even after you’ve sold your house and you’re ready to move. You are ready to go and eager to get things done fast. We might work with you daily, or every other day right through the move and unpacking to help you hit all your goals.

Sprinters know there isn’t a lot of extra time to make changes. Logistics that count on outside organizations, like non-profits and movers, might take a little extra work to get in place so they are ready to take the baton from you in the moving relay race. Sometimes Plan A, getting donations picked up, for example, turns into Plan B, delivering donations, instead. But fixing challenges like that why you work with a move manager in the first place! If there’s one thing we move managers have, it’s a deep bag of tricks for getting things done.

When it comes to unpacking day, sprinters like to get it done fast. To get there, we bring a SWAT team of unpackers to get boxes emptied and out, to get as much as possible put away and to stow things that will be put away later where they won’t be in the way.

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There’s no right or wrong pace for your move. It’s your move and you should do it at the pace that suits you best. As move managers, we use our skills to make sure you can work at your most comfortable speed and have a great transition. We’re your team, there to make sure that you cross that finish line when you expect to in a way that works for you. And we are definitely going to cheer you along every step of the way.