Today, I have a special treat for you. Last week I had the privilege of sitting down with Wendy Oleksiak, a top greater Boston realtor, to discuss today’s housing market, both selling and buying.
But, first, some background about Wendy.
Wendy Oleksiak was born in a suburb of Boston, however, when she was eight, her parents split, and she spent most weekends in Boston with her father. It was then that she grew to love the city of Boston, and particularly the neighborhood of Beacon Hill, where she still owns a home.
However, Wendy and her husband, Steve, also love the ocean, so they also have a home in Scituate, MA, on Massachusett’s South Shore.
Before I go on with more information and my interview with Wendy Oleksiak, I’m feeling the need for a little more information regarding Scituate and coastal Massachusetts.
This youtube video shares the proper pronunciation. (The last two examples are similar but different words)
Scituate is situated on Massachusett’s “south shore.” However, I find it a little confusing.
In fact, it might even be more confusing than the pronunciation of Scituate.
Above, you can see the state of Massachusetts in the lighter blue color. However, the “south shore” is not part of the southern coastline.
I don’t know what that area is called, but it’s not the south shore. If any Massachusetts folks know the answer to what this area is called, please let us know in the comments.
Although, sometimes folks call the entire southeastern region the south shore. However, the south shore is the coastal area to the south of Boston until you reach Cape Cod, as you can see in the map below.
Above on this map, you can see the south shore in yellow. The town of Scituate is outlined in green.
Further north is the city of Boston, in red. The * is where I live.
The north shore is the coastal area directly north of Boston to coastal New Hampshire.
And yes, the *wicked-ass pastries are in *quaint-ass Gloucester. I introduced you to the best thing I’ve ever eaten at the end of this post.
*Please notice how my vocabulary has increased rapidly since moving to Boston.
I’ve been learning other useful things to know about Massachusetts. It’s a very colorful state. ;] For those of you who’ve lived here a while, you already know the various regions. A few months ago, someone sent me this satirical map of Massachusetts. Please note: I realize it is NOT in any way politically correct.
As you can see, I live in the center of the Universe. ;] But, I used to live in Definitely NOT New England. (New York State). My son lived in the land of hippie students and also hippie farmers. Perfect!
By the way, he sent me the sweetest birthday note on his Instagram account.
Okay, enough of the geography/silly cultural lesson, and let’s get back to some more information about Wendy Oleksiak and my enlightening interview with her.
Wendy began working as a critical nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital, just north of Beacon Hill. During that time and afterward, she lived in numerous locations throughout “the hill,” as the locals call it.
But by around 2014, Wendy realized that her talents lie in real estate. She got her real estate license and began working as a realtor.
Wendy is now Principal of The Wendy Oleksiak Group and Vice President at Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty. She represents buyers and sellers in the Greater Boston and South Shore area and is one of the top-selling agents in her firm.
Wendy is in the middle flanked by her two associates.
Heather Reardon and Gerri Hanney. (the links take you to their Instagram pages)
Please follow Wendy Oleksiak on her Instagram here.
In addition to her real estate duties and making sure that Laurel gets her most recent invite, lol, Wendy is currently Co-President of the Beacon Hill Women’s Forum and on the Advisory Committee of The Boston Chestnuts.
Lucky me, having met Wendy Oleksiak in my early days in Boston.
Her natural warmth and charisma made me feel incredibly welcome as she went out of her way to include me in the goings-on.
Okay, Time for my Interview with Wendy!
Wendy took a pic of me sitting with my laptop in the street-level bar at the Newbury Hotel during our interview.
WO = Wendy Oleksiak
LB = me :]
LB – Thanks so much, Wendy, for taking the time to answer some questions about real estate as it pertains to the Boston Metro area.
The first one I have is how did you go from being a nurse to a real estate agent?
WO: I worked for years in the cardiac unit at Mass General and found it quite gratifying. However, by 2002, my husband and I bought a business, and I decided to devote my time to that and my young children.
During the next dozen or so years we moved 11 times, both buying and selling. And so, when my kids were older, I found a passion for real estate. What’s funny is that in so many ways, the careers are similar. I adore helping people. But, what’s really funny is that I’ve had recent real estate clients who were former patients!
LB – I love that story and find it inspiring. And, wow, that Cape is absolutely darling! Okay, I have some other questions.
What is the biggest mistake people make when putting their homes on the market?
WO: The biggest mistake is people thinking they know more than their realtor. Commonly, they follow Zillow and other online real estate listing sources. Unfortunately, Zillow frequently collects data that is not accurate, or relevant.
LB – Oh yes, I can vouch for that with my old apartment in Bronxville. A year after I purchased it in 2014, Zillow said that the value had dropped by about 50%. Well, as you can imagine, I was quite miffed (to put it mildly) with that wrong information. I think they go by zip code for the comps. However, home values can vary wildly within zip codes. At least, in Westchester County.
Plus, they left out some of the best selling points, such as proximity to Bronxville Village and shopping.
But then, a few years later, they made the price of the apartment at least three times what it was worth. haha. Of course, I’d rather have them make that error, but yes, Zillow certainly made many mistakes with my former home.
LB – Let’s go over the process of putting one’s home on the market. What’s important for sellers to understand?
WO: People confuse the condition of their home with the appeal. If there’s a severe inventory shortage they can get away with just about anything. However, it’s not uncommon for a homeowner to believe their perfectly maintained home with pink and yellow tile everywhere is going to sell for a higher price than buyers would be willing to pay. They go in and see the dated tile and realize this means renovating. That’s a turn-off much of the time.
It’s not that the homeowners need to renovate before putting their home on the market.
But, they need to understand that even though their home has been beautifully maintained, buyers want up-to-date decor, as well. It can be helpful for sellers to get out and see homes that are in the price range that they believe their home would be in.
It is very eye-opening, especially when friends and family have complimented your home time and again. Your home may “live” beautifully, but buyers, unlike friends and family, are comparing your home to the other homes on the market. You want and need to be realistic about how your home compares.
LB – Do you recommend that homeowners have their homes professionally staged before going on the market?
WO: Absolutely, I recommend having the home professionally staged! Anything they can do to make their home more appealing is essential. And, that includes getting rid of any offensive odors from pets, etc. And, of course, getting rid of all visual clutter.
Today’s buyer is very picky and especially worried about environmental issues. I recommend taking care of any mold or radon issues beforehand. Buyers are going to have the home thoroughly inspected, therefore any necessary repairs must also be taken care of. Many sales fall through when these items haven’t been addressed earlier.
LB – I wrote a post about my views about staging a home to sell. At the time, the prevailing advice from HGTV was to depersonalize the home completely. It just doesn’t make sense to me. What do you think?
WO: I read that post, Laurel, and loved it! And yes, I totally agree. The home should look like people live there, but sans clutter. Plus, yes, take down those old window treatments. Buyers usually want light and bright.
LB – I bet you’ve seen some total disasters. Do you have any to share with us?
WO: Oh yeah. Here ya go, Laurel. Feast your eyes on this mess for 400k.
LB – Oh dear… Speaking of photographs.
When we put our house on the market in NY 9 years ago, the photos were incredibly distorted, which I found super annoying. I’m not seeing nearly as much of that now. What are your feelings on the topic?
WO: I use a fantastic photographer and it’s true, we’re no longer using the super wide-angle lens. It’s not natural and can be more confusing than helpful to buyers. We find it’s better to have more images, not super-distorted images showing as much as possible.
LB: If you have some examples of homes that are beautifully staged, I would love to see some.
WO: Sure thing. The following are from some of my listings that have sold in the past couple of years.
Below are a couple of images from a recent one-bedroom apartment sale on Beacon Street.
Oh yes, I remember this place with the gorgeous leaded windows.
And the red ceiling. This is a wonderful apartment.
WO: Above is a view from 136 Prince Street in Boston’s North End. This is one of my new listings. It’s a beautiful, contemporary two-bedroom with a great layout and incredible city views.
LB: Yes, I can see the John Hancock Building near the right of the image.
LB – You said earlier that it’s a seller’s market. Can you elaborate more on that, please?
WO: Yes, the pandemic has driven many people out of the city and into places with more space. Most houses end up in a bidding war. In addition, buyers need to understand that sellers in this market want cash offers. Therefore, they either need to be well-heeled or have wealthy relatives.
Bridge loans are another avenue for buyers who need to sell first to purchase their new home.
This way, they can compete with buyers who do not have to sell their home first.
Another strategy, if a buyer needs to sell first, is to put their house on the market and get it under agreement. This makes a buyer more competitive. However, the buyer (now also a seller) needs to be protected with a “suitable housing” contingency.
So, if they don’t get the house they are targeting, they can notify their buyer that they are not moving and do not have to sell. This strategy can only be employed by a very educated agent who, in coordination with a real estate attorney, can include this protection in all agreements. It is critical to work with both an agent and attorney who understand these and other strategies and contingencies.
LB: That is all super interesting, Wendy.
I know as well from my own experience how important it is to work with a competent agent and lawyer.
Okay, I have two questions left.
What’s the worst part of your job?
WO: The worst part of my job is human behavior. Buying and selling a home frequently brings out strong emotions in people. Plus, they’re afraid of communicating important information as they don’t want to hurt my feelings or wish to conceal flaws that will cause concern for buyers. Clear communication and full disclosure are vital to a low-stress outcome.
LB: Oh, I had a similar experience when I was taking interior design clients. Clear communication is vital!
LB: What’s the best part of your job?
WO: I never know what’s going to happen the next day. It’s unpredictable, and I love that most days. It’s a challenging business, but it’s also very exciting!
I love this pic of you in your vintage car with your adorable pup! You have such wonderful photos on your Instagram Account.
Please follow Wendy if you’re not already. She can also be reached @ 781-267-0400
I hope y’all enjoyed the great information that Wendy Oleksiak shared with us. Thanks so much, Wendy!
PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES. And, also at the top of the page, you’ll find a link to the women’s clothing widget. Apologies, as it went missing for a bit. But, it’s back. There is a fantastic sale on sale going on.
Speaking of maps, I think knowing your area or getting realtor who is hyperlocal is so important. And staging might be. But, cleaning – nitpicky, cotton swab level cleaning – is a universal must! I really don’t think you emphasized that enough in your (not) HGTV post. 😉 I got into flipping as a artist/photographer who was cleaning houses and doing carpentry on the side. Even pre-pandemic my houses were under contract within 36 hours and only because I wouldn’t go under contract until the buyers had seen the house in person if possible.
A few things I haven’t seen elsewhere: I focus on the flow of spaces regardless of floorplan. I clean. I paint the walls light colors if needed not because I don’t like dark colors, but because light colors are generally easier to repaint than more saturated colors. Color comes from art and decorative colors. I clean again. I budget staging and reno right down to the cost of nails and then add 20% AFTER I check comps, figure out my target market, make sure competent repair people are available etc. I scrub some more. I keep meticulous records of repairs. I hire out plumbing, HVAC and electrical. (I even had one contractor come back as a buyer when that house went on the market.) I help my realtor out, I put the word out in so many ways – the neighborhood mailperson practically sold one house for us. I go back and clean again under different lighting. Darn missed a spot!
Thanks for all the laughs as I’ve read your blog as well as the “I feel ya” sighs. I too am always learning and there is always a perspective I haven’t thought about.
Funny map. Cute real estate agent. Nice comparison of unstaged and staged homes.
I staged homes for years and my understanding of “depersonalized” was to ask my clients to remove any religious objects and family photos. Once I also had to convince a client to remove an oversized picture of a military march that his grandfather was in. Both the religous objects and military photo are examples of things that can be emotional triggers for a potential buyer. I would tell my clients “You don’t want people to be thinking about whether or not they agree with your religous beliefs” and “You don’t want someone to think about their own relative who died in battle, you want them to think about the house.” Similarly, the family photos got this speech “You want them to imagine THEIR family living here, not yours.” Wendy’s staged photos are perfect. The space looks homey and lived-in, but not personal to one set of beliefs or a particular family. That’s my take on depersonalization of a space.
A little off topic, but you are the only person who talks about BM, Cotton Balls. I painted my ceilings w/ flat, my walls satin, and intended to use semi-gloss on trim & doors w/ Cotton Balls + 10 percent. My lender said the walls were atrocious. Meaning, bad drywall finish and awful paint job. Now, I’m starting over, I must have the walls painted flat. I’m stuck on Cotton Balls with white trim and doors. Opinionated friend wants me to use BM, Winds Breath. I feel WB is dull. Have you ever used Cotton Balls flat on walls?
Um…you were gong to share the best thing you ever ate…did you forget?
Hi BioDynamic Barb,
It’s there, underneath this line.
The north shore is the coastal area directly north of Boston to coastal New Hampshire.
South shore =south of the city. Opposite of the north shore which is, well, north of the city. (The city is of course Boston). Funny I grew up in north of Boston
I enjoyed this post, very much! My favorite picture is the little house hiding in pale pink roses. It just made me smile! Thanks for a fun read, Laurel!
This is my first time commenting on your blog, even though I’ve been following it for several months now. I’m so glad I discovered it. Laurel Home has been at once enlightening and entertaining. I’m not at all familiar with Massachusetts, but I still find the map funny as heck. This is very helpful real estate advice. A few things you’ve heard before, but the part about the camera lens I didn’t realize other people struggled with, too. Thought it was just me that found that so strange and frustrating. Know what? I have those bar stools in the last staging photo. I was planning on changing them out for something else, but now I see how good they look here and realize the stools aren’t the problem. Here they are in nice contrast to the other colors and finishes in the room, and I think in my room they are too matchy with the other finishes/colors in the room. Maybe I will try painting them, and putting on some nice cushions like the ones in the photo have. Not buying whole new stools will make my husband very happy. Thanks, Laurel and Wendy!
A great post, as always, Laurel! Thank you! I lived in the “Quaint-ass towns” section when I was in MA and loved every minute of it.
Although I am totally unfamiliar with this part of the country, I loved Elizabeth K’s comment. I wonder if there is a comparable politically incorrect map of the greater San Francisco Bay Area, which is where I live. There must be.
I was born and raised in Massachusetts. I always understood that if it was south of Boston, it’s the South Shore.
That map is hilarious!
The examples of properly staged houses were excellent. I’ve always disagreed with the extremely stripped down look because it’s very helpful to see tasteful examples of how people have used their space. One thing I’ve realized is that even if your home is lovely and well designed, if you’re thinking of selling, or even posting pictures of your home somewhere, you need to examine everything through the lens of a camera. My living room, for instance, is styled and looks very pretty and uncluttered. But when I view it through a camera lens, I realize that to sell it I would have to remove about half of the decorative items, even though in person the room doesn’t look over decorated.
In that first photo of a staged home… is that long green seat actually a camouflaged radiator? THAT would be a cool idea for the long and low ones!
And, loved the map and the very candid comments.
The satirical map had me laughing out loud! Being a native Rhode Islander I will tell you we think we are great drivers and everyone else doesn’t know how to drive.. And…when the crazy MA people drive in our state we call them Massholes. (Still not politically correct, but funny) 🤣
Laurel, I second everything that Wendy said. Another “staging secret” is to have the walls painted a light color -it makes every place look bigger!!
Hi Laurel, great post!
I live on the South Shore too, and also owned a home in that other southern part of Massachusetts – that’s actually called the “South Coast”.
And the non-PC Massachusetts map is too funny!
Yes, as someone said, below the arm of Cape Cod is the South Coast. Between Boston and Cape Cod Canal on the coast is South Shore. I believe historically Scituate specifically was called the Irish Riviera because it was where prosperous Irish Catholics who lived in and around Boston owned summer homes. Mothers and families would spend the summer at the beach and it was a fairly easy commute for husbands to come down on the weekends. Linda – South Shore
Laurel, I almost forgot to wish you a Happy Birthday.
Happy Birthday & thank you for all you do. I hope you had a great day.
The next time you see Wendy ask her how the places in the city are selling. If everyone is leaving, is anyone buying there?
And how has that affected their prices? I’ve always found real estate fascinating.
In the youtube video regarding how to pronounce Scituate, the first person you see is a Rhode Island judge referring to Scituate, RI. It’s a beautiful, rural part of Rhode Island and contains our reservoir; very picturesque. I am such a big fan of your work and have learned so much from your blog; keep up the great effort!
That southern area on the water that is not the south shore is called the south coast.
If you really want to get confused, come to the Cape where lower is upper and south is north!
Curious, Wendy had mentioned that it is a sellers market and that people are leaving the city. Is it a sellers market in the city?
yeah, that weird camera lens that makes a place look HUGE and then you get there and find out the place is quite small….give me a break. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!!
The map is dead -on accurate (says one who has lived here 25 years and is now in the Peoples Republic of Cambridge).
Hi Elizabeth K,
That map of MA with all the different colors and descriptions is hysterical. 😂
– north shore
Thanks Laurel…great post and interview. I couldn’t agree with Wendy more – about the state of the market, staging and some of the mistakes sellers make when putting their homes on the market. Such great advice.
I got a kick out of the satirical map of Massachusetts! I’m sending this to one of my best friends . The two of us spent a week in a few of those parts of Mass…she will get a kick out of it.
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