#StayHome: How to Create Functional Spaces in Your Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak


Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many of us are spending a lot more time at home. We’re all being called upon to avoid public spaces and practice social distancing to help slow the spread of this infectious disease. While it can be understandably challenging, there are ways you can modify your home and your lifestyle to make the best of this difficult situation.


Here are a few tips for creating comfortable and functional spaces within your home for work, school, and fitness. We also share some of our favorite ways to stay connected as a community, because we’re all in this together … and no one should face these trying times alone.



Begin with the Basics


A basic home emergency preparedness kit is a great addition to any home, even under normal circumstances. It should include items like water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, first aid kit, and other essentials you would need should you temporarily lose access to food, water, or electricity.


Fortunately, authorities don’t anticipate any serious interruptions to utilities or the food supply during this outbreak. However, it may be a good time to start gathering your emergency basics in a designated location, so you’ll be prepared now-—and in the future—should your family ever need them.


Working From Home


Many employees are being asked to work remotely. If you’re transitioning to a home office for the first time, it’s important to create a designated space for work … so it doesn’t creep into your home life, and vice versa. If you live in a small condominium or apartment, this may feel impossible. But try to find a quiet corner where you can set up a desk and comfortable chair. The simple act of separating your home and work spaces can help you focus during work hours and “turn off” at the end of the day.


Of course, if you have children who are home with you all day (given many schools and daycares are now closed), separating your home and work life will be more difficult. Unless you have a partner who can serve as the primary caregiver, you will need to help manage the needs of your children while juggling work and virtual meetings.


If both parents are working from home, try alternating shifts, so you each have a designated time to work and to parent. If that’s not an option, experts recommend creating a schedule for your children, so they know when you’re available to play, and when you need to work.1 A red stop sign on the door can help remind them when you shouldn’t be disturbed. And for young children, blocking off a specific time each day for them to nap or have independent screen time can give you a window to schedule conference calls or work uninterrupted.



Homeschooling Your Children


Many parents with school-aged children will be taking on a new challenge: homeschooling. Similar to a home office, designating a space for learning activities can help your child transition between play and school. If you’re working from home, the homeschooling area would ideally be located near your workspace, so you can offer assistance and answer questions, as needed.


If possible, dedicate a desk or table where your child’s work can be spread out—and left out when they break for meals and snacks. Position supplies and materials nearby so they are independently accessible, and place a trash can and recycling bin within reach for easy cleanup. A washable, plastic tablecloth can help transition an academic space into an arts and crafts area.


 If the weather is nice, try studying outside! A porch swing is a perfect spot for reading, and gardening in the backyard is a great addition to any science curriculum.


In addition to creating an academic learning environment, find age-appropriate opportunities for your children to help with household chores and meal preparation. Homeschooling advocates emphasize the importance of developing life skills alongside academic ones.2 And with more meals and activities taking place at home, there will be ample opportunity for every family member to pitch in and help.



Staying Fit


With gyms closed and team sports canceled, it can be tempting to sit on the sofa and binge Netflix. However, maintaining the physical health and mental wellness of you and your family is crucial right now. Implementing a regular exercise routine at home can help with both.


We live in a community where you can safely exercise outdoors while maintaining the recommended distance between you and other residents, try to get out as much as possible. If the weather is nice, go for family walks, jogs, or bike rides.


Can’t get outside? Fortunately, you don’t need a home gym or fancy exercise equipment to stay fit. Look for a suitable space in your home, garage, or basement where you can comfortably move—you’ll probably need at least a 6’ x 6’ area for each person. Many cardio and strength training exercises require little (or no) equipment, including jumping jacks, lunges, and pushups.


And if you prefer a guided workout, search for free exercise videos on YouTube—there are even options specifically geared towards kids—or try one of the many fitness apps available.



Socializing From a Distance


Even though we’re all being called upon to practice “social distancing” right now, there are still ways to stay safely connected to our communities and our extended families. Picking up the phone is a great place to start. Make an effort to reach out to neighbors and loved ones who live alone and may be feeling particularly isolated right now.


And while parties and playdates may be prohibited, modern technology offers countless ways to organize networked gatherings with family and friends. Try using group video conferencing tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom to facilitate a virtual happy hour or book club. Host a Netflix Party to watch (and chat about) movies with friends. Or plan a virtual game night and challenge your pals to a round of Psych or Yahtzee.


There are safe ways to connect offline, too. Rediscover the lost art of letter writing. Drop off groceries on an elderly neighbor’s porch. Or organize a neighborhood “chalk walk,” where children use sidewalk chalk to decorate their driveways and then head out for a stroll to view their friends’ artwork.


Of course, there’s one group of people who you can still socialize with freely—those who reside in your home. Family dinners are back, siblings are reconnecting, and many of us have been given the gift of time, with commutes, activities, and obligations eliminated. In fact, some families are finding that this crisis has brought them closer than ever.





Even with all of the tools and technology available to keep us connected, many of us are still feeling stressed, scared, and isolated. However, you can rest assured that you are not alone. We’re not only here to help you buy and sell real estate. We want to be a resource to our clients and community through good times and bad. If you and your family are in need of assistance, please reach out and let us know how we can help. (978)664-3700





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Septic Systems-A Topic North of Boston Buyers And Sellers Need To Understand


Septic Systems:

A Topic North of Boston Buyer's And Seller's Need To Understand

A Septic System is defined as an on-site wastewater disposal system that treats wastewater - usually under 10,000 gallons per day.  Think of it as your own mini wastewater treatment facility.  By wastewater I mean what comes out of your household plumbing fixtures like your toilet, sink, shower, and laundry.  These are common when a community doesn't have a public sewer system like North Reading for instance.  Roughly 1 in 5 homes in the US have septic systems with the New England states having the highest proportion of homes served by septic system led by VT@ (55%).  The major components of a septic system are the tank, the distribution box (or D-Box) and the leaching field. 

In real general terms here’s how it works.... The wastewater leaves the house and enters a tank where the solids separate from the water and are decomposed there by bacteria.  Bacteria are good.  Bacteria are your friend.  The wastewater then leaves the tank, entering the D-Box which distributes it into a network of lines in a trench (or leaching field) where drainage holes in these lines allow the water to eventually seep into the ground after again being treated by a layer of gravels & soils. 

Mass adopted a regulation in 1975 known as Title V which was most recently revised in 2006.  This regulation is used to determine as to whether the on-site wastewater disposal system is adequate to protect public health and the environment.

From a seller’s perspective, the first thing you should consider doing once the decision has been made that you are selling your home is to get your septic system inspected.  If your system passes, you can move forward and concentrate on all the other aspects of getting your home market ready.  You’ll be issued a Title V certificate which is good for 2 years (or 3 if you have record of pumping every year).  Residential transactions between the following parties are exempt from Title V:  spouses, parents, children, siblings, or a trust.  Title transfer under any of these scenarios DO NOT require Title V.  Refinances are also exempt.  Weather conditions may prevent an inspection from taking place prior to sale.  If that’s the case, it must be completed within 6 months. 

If your system fails, you’ll now begin working with an engineer, a licensed installer, the local board of health and be required to pull a construction permit.  Anyone at Farrelly Realty can provide you with a list of preferred contractors to get the job done.  Installation of a new system could run upwards of 50K with the entire process realistically taking 3-4 months.  Therefore, it is critical to get this done immediately.  If you fail, this does not necessarily mean you cannot sell your home until its replaced.  The buyer’s lender may approve a holdback which means putting 1.5X the cost of the project into escrow for work to be done post close.  That money will cover the cost of installation with the remainder returned to the seller.  A holdback can also be used if you are selling in the winter months and perhaps your system failed, and installations have stopped for the season.  A cash transaction will also not require Title V, but the system will still need to be replaced within 2 years. 

Some of the more common reasons for failing are: too much water (which dilutes the bacteria which is needed to digest the waste), backup sewage, discharge to ground surface, system requires pumping more than 4 times per year, leaching field is not draining properly or within a certain distance from various water sources. 

You may also “conditionally” pass which means you only have to repair part of the system rather than replace the entire system.  Some of the more common repairs may be replacing the D-Box or a cracked tank. 

Not only is this an extremely pricey project but it may also be an unexpected one.  Homeowners looking for financial assistance to repair or replace their system can always apply for financial aid through the Mass Home Septic Loan Program found on the Mass Housing website. 

From a buyer’s perspective, there really isn’t too much you need to do.  You’ll want to review the Title V report.  Be sure the local board of health is on board and has also approved the passing inspection.  Both need to happen - passed by a licensed inspector & approved by the Board of Health.  This is typically handled by a buyer’s agent. 

In order to get the maximum life expectancy out of your system of roughly 30 years, here are some tips: don’t dispose of any hazardous chemicals into the system, don’t dispose of grease, gas, paint, paint thinner, pesticides, antifreeze, etc., practice water conservation by installing low flow toilets & shower heads, turn water off when not needed (i.e., brushing teeth), avoid using drain cleaners that might dilute the valuable bacteria, divert roof drains & surface water from over the system, don’t park or drive over it, and ONLY flush toilet paper down your toilet. 

A few of the biggest myths regarding septic systems include: 

I can’t have a Garage Disposal - Not true.  You may have one but if you do, you should pump annually rather than once every 3 years.  It should also be used as if it’s not there just allowing tiny pieces in the drain to go down.

I shouldn’t use Bleach - Not true.  Yes, bleach breaks down bacteria which is needed to successfully break down waste in the system, but the ordinary household amounts of bleach used for laundry for instance is not going to be enough to wreak havoc on your system.

I should regularly treat my system with Rid-X- Not true.  Or maybe better stated, not necessary.  The human body itself uses many enzymes to breakdown food in our bodies which in turn end up in our septic systems.  Get it?


Any specific questions, please call or text me directly at 617-285-7117 or via email at

Money-Saving Strategies That Will Teach Your Kids Responsibility

Money-Saving Strategies That Will Teach Your Kids Responsibility


When you’re a parent, getting your finances together isn’t just about affording a night out or saving up for a big vacation. Spending responsibly protects your whole family from the many hardships financial instability causes. Moreover, it allows you to provide the best life possible for your loved ones.


In addition to securing stability, spending wisely can also help you to teach your children responsibility. Not just with money – although that’s important. There are several money-saving strategies that are also great opportunities to teach your kids vital lessons they can use their whole life long.




Overconsumption and excess waste is one of the leading causes of environmental strife facing our world today. There are tons of ways you can teach your children to care for the planet while saving money as a family. For example, you can start a compost pile in your yard. This allows you to make use of food scraps and paper waste that would have otherwise wound up in a landfill, and save money on mulch for your garden.


It’s also a great opportunity to teach your children about decomposition. Consider giving them an age-appropriate task for the compost pile, such as turning it occasionally. Join them in their work, and ask them what they notice about the pile over time. This will help them come to understand how organic items break down and become useful, giving them a strong foundation for both biology class and ethical environmental consumption throughout life.


Other ways family members can reduce waste include being mindful of water consumption and turning out the lights when you’re not in the room. 




Often when people evaluate their budget for unnecessary spending, restaurants stick out like a shockingly pricey sore thumb. An easy way to cut back on this expense: Eating at home. Not only will making your own foods save you money, but it will also make your meals healthier and more nutritionally dense.


As an important bonus, it also gives you the chance to teach your children how to cook. As soon as your child is old enough, they can help out in the kitchen. Take a look at different kitchen jobs you can assign to your child while you’re making meals. Keep your kids involved, and thoroughly explain each step in the process. As they gain a better knowledge of cooking, you can give them more tasks, independence, and creative freedom – before you know it, they might be making dinner for you!




When it comes to taking care of your finances, making and sticking to a budget is vital. It’s almost impossible to spend money responsibly if you’re not paying close attention to how you’re spending in the first place. Tracking every transaction allows you to take control of your money and make it work for you.


This is an important skill to pass on to your kids as well. Few schools require financial education as part of the core curriculum, and, as a result, many young adults (and older adults) have no idea how to manage their money. Get your kids involved in the budgeting process early so that it’s a normal, everyday part of their lives. For example, you can put them in charge of a single category, such as groceries. By having them keep a running tab of how much you spend on food each week, they can practice addition and subtraction, build good money habits, and develop a sense of how finances move in a responsible household.


Every decision you make as a parent is an opportunity to teach your children how to grow into capable adults. Focus on ways you can spend less while sharing valuable lessons with your children, and you’ll see returns in more ways than you could count.


Photo Credit: Pexels



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    Take Advantage of Your Home Equity: A Homeowner's Guide



    Homeownership offers many advantages over renting, including a stable living environment, predictable monthly payments, and the freedom to make modifications. Neighborhoods with high rates of homeownership have less crime and more civic engagement. Additionally, studies show that homeowners are happier and healthier than renters, and their children do better in school.1


    But one of the biggest perks of homeownership is the opportunity to build wealth over time. Researchers at the Urban Institute found that homeownership is financially beneficial for most families,2 and a recent study showed that the median net worth of homeowners can be up to 80 times greater than that of renters in some areas.3


    So how does purchasing a home help you build wealth? And what steps should you take to maximize the potential of your investment? Find out how to harness the power of home equity for a secure financial future.





    Home equity is the difference between what your home is worth and the amount you owe on your mortgage. So, for example, if your home would currently sell for $250,000, and the remaining balance on your mortgage is $200,000, then you have $50,000 in home equity.


    $250,000 (Home’s Market Value)

    -           $200,000 (Mortgage Balance)


                 $50,000 (Home Equity)


    The equity in your home is considered a non-liquid asset. It’s your money; but rather than sitting in a bank account, it’s providing you with a place to live. And when you factor in the potential of appreciation, an investment in real estate will likely offer a better return than any savings account available today.





    A mortgage payment is a type of “forced savings” for home buyers. When you make a mortgage payment each month, a portion of the money goes towards interest on your loan, and the remaining part goes towards paying off your principal, or loan balance. That means the amount of money you owe the bank is reduced every month. As your loan balance goes down, your home equity goes up.


    Additionally, unlike other assets that you borrow money to purchase, the value of your home generally increases, or appreciates, over time. For example, when you pay off your car loan after five or seven years, you will own it outright. But if you try to sell it, the car will be worth much less than when you bought it. However, when you purchase a home, its value typically rises over time. So when you sell it, not only will you have grown your equity through your monthly mortgage payments, but in most cases, your home’s market value will be higher than what you originally paid. And even if you only put down 10% at the time of purchase—or pay off just a small portion of your mortgage—you get to keep 100% of the property’s appreciated value. That’s the wealth-building power of real estate.





    Now that you understand the benefits of building equity, you may wonder how you can speed up your rate of growth. There are two basic ways to increase the equity in your home:


    1. Pay down your mortgage.


    We shared earlier that your home’s equity goes up as your mortgage balance goes down. So paying down your mortgage is one way to increase the equity in your home.


    Some homeowners do this by adding a little extra to their payment each month, making one additional mortgage payment per year, or making a lump-sum payment when extra money becomes available—like an annual bonus, gift, or inheritance.


    Before making any extra payments, however, be sure to check with your mortgage lender about the specific terms of your loan. Some mortgages have prepayment penalties. And it’s important to ensure that if you do make additional payments, the money will be applied to your loan principal.


    Another option to pay off your mortgage faster is to decrease your amortization period. For example, if you can afford the larger monthly payments, you might consider refinancing from a 30-year or 25-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage. Not only will you grow your home equity faster, but you could also save a bundle in interest over the life of your loan.


    1. Raise your home’s market value.


    Boosting the market value of your property is another way to grow your home equity. While many factors that contribute to your property’s appreciation are out of your control (e.g. demographic trends or the strength of the economy) there are things you can do to increase what it’s worth.


    For example, many homeowners enjoy do-it-yourself projects that can add value at a relatively low cost. Others choose to invest in larger, strategic upgrades. Keep in mind, you won’t necessarily get back every dollar you invest in your home. In fact, according to Remodeling Magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report, the remodeling project with the highest return on investment is a garage door replacement, which costs about $3600 and is expected to recoup 97.5% at resale. In contrast, an upscale kitchen remodel—which can cost around $130,000—averages less than a 60% return on investment.4


    Of course, keeping up with routine maintenance is the most important thing you can do to protect your property’s value. Neglecting to maintain your home’s structure and systems could have a negative impact on its value—therefore reducing your home equity. So be sure to stay on top of recommended maintenance and repairs.





    When you put your money into a checking or savings account, it’s easy to make a withdrawal when needed. However, tapping into your home equity is a little more complicated.


    The primary way homeowners access their equity is by selling their home. Many sellers will use their equity as a downpayment on a new home. Or some homeowners may choose to downsize and use the equity to supplement their income or retirement savings.


    But what if you want to access the equity in your home while you’re still living in it? Maybe you want to finance a home renovation, consolidate debt, or pay for college. To do that, you will need to take out a loan using your home equity as collateral.


    There are several ways to borrow against your home equity, depending on your needs and qualifications:5


    1. Second Mortgage - A second mortgage, also known as a home equity loan, is structured similar to a primary mortgage. You borrow a lump-sum amount, which you are responsible for paying back—with interest—over a set period of time. Most second mortgages have a fixed interest rate and provide the borrower with a predictable monthly payment. Keep in mind, if you take out a home equity loan, you will be making monthly payments on both your primary and secondary mortgages, so budget accordingly.


    1. Cash-Out Refinance - With a cash-out refinance, you refinance your primary mortgage for a higher amount than you currently owe. Then you pay off your original mortgage and keep the difference as cash. This option may be preferable to a second mortgage if you have a high interest rate on your current mortgage or prefer to make just one payment per month.


    1. Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) - A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card. It allows you to draw out money as you need it instead of taking out a lump sum all at once. A HELOC may come with a checkbook or debit card to enable easy access to funds. You will only need to make payments on the amount of money that has been drawn. Similar to a credit card, the interest rate on a HELOC is variable, so your payment each month could change depending on how much you borrow and how interest rates fluctuate.


    1. Reverse Mortgage - A reverse mortgage enables qualifying seniors to borrow against the equity in their home to supplement their retirement funds. In most cases, the loan (plus interest) doesn’t need to be repaid until the homeowners sell, move, or are deceased.6


    Tapping into your home equity may be a good option for some homeowners, but it’s important to do your research first. In some cases, another type of loan or financing method may offer a lower interest rate or better terms to fit your needs. And it’s important to remember that defaulting on a home equity loan could result in foreclosure. Ask us for a referral to a lender or financial adviser to find out if a home equity loan is right for you or check out of preferred vendor list on our Farrelly Realty Group website





    Wherever you are in the equity-growing process, we can help. We work with buyers to find the perfect home to begin their wealth-building journey at no cost to the buyer. We also offer free assistance to existing homeowners who want to know their home’s current market value to refinance or secure a home equity loan. And when you’re ready to sell, we can help you get top dollar to maximize your equity stake. Contact us today to talk!


    The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.




    1. National Association of Realtors -
    2. Urban Institute -
    3. Census Bureau -
    4. Remodeling Magazine -
    5. Investopedia -
    6. Bankrate -



    5 Reasons to Sell Before the Selling Season Picks Up

    A common thought in real estate is “never list your home in the winter offseason”. This thought is perpetuated by industry experts, agents and repeat sellers alike, this saying encourages many would-be sellers to wait until the spring peak to list their homes. However, studies show that homes listed in the winter offseason can at times not only sell faster than those in the spring, but sellers can also net more above their asking price at this time.1 Don’t wait until spring to sell. If you’ve been thinking of selling your home, here are five compelling reasons to list now.


    1.    Take advantage of low inventory. Since most sellers are waiting until spring to list, local inventory falls during the offseason. However, there are still motivated buyers who are ready to move now and don’t want to wait that long to purchase a home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 55 percent of all buyers purchased their home at the time they did because “it was just the right time.”2 These eager buyers may flock to your home. You may not need to try as hard to make your home stand out in the sea of other similar homes. With less competition, more buyers, some of whom may have otherwise overlooked your home if you listed during the peak, will express an interest to buy. While you’ll likely have fewer showings in the offseason, buyers who do visit will be more serious about writing an offer. Your home will likely sell faster than it would have during the peak season.


    2.    Set a higher listing price. Homes sold during the offseason can sell at a higher price, on average, than those sold during the spring and summer peak. There are many reasons for this. First, motivated buyers are willing to pay closer to the asking price for a home. Second, homes are more likely to be priced right and reflect the economics of not only the local market, but the neighborhood as well. Often, homes listed during the peak may be priced to compete with other homes in the area and neighborhood. Sellers may be pressured to sell for less than the list price in order to encourage buyers to choose their home out of the others on the market.


    3.    You’ll receive more attention. If you need to hire a tradesperson to handle routine maintenance or undertake a minor home renovation before you list, you may be able to take advantage of flexible scheduling and cheaper rates. Many of these professionals experience a winter offseason as well, and will be able to focus their time and attention on you and your project.


    4.    Easier to maintain curb appeal. Curb appeal is intended to attract the buyers who are just driving by as well as those who saw your home online and wanted to see it in-person. It sets the stage for what interested buyers can expect when they step foot in the home during a showing or open house. If you list your home during the peak of the selling season, you may exhaust your time your energy maintaining curb appeal. You’ll likely spend most of your free time mowing the lawn, weeding, trimming shrubs and hedges, planting flowers in pots and in flowerbeds, pulling spent blooms and watering it all to ensure it looks lush and healthy on a daily basis. After all, a lush landscape will attract potential buyers and set your home apart from other similar homes in the area.


    The offseason eliminates the pressure to maintain a picture-perfect front landscape. Since most grass, shrubs and plants go dormant at this time of year, you’ll have less to maintain. If you live in an area that experiences a traditional winter, your landscape will be covered with snow. Even if you live in a milder climate, you may not have to mow as often, if at all. It’s still important to ensure your exterior appears well-tended, so make sure your walkway and front porch remains free of snow, ice and debris.


    5.    Tap into the life changes of buyers. Many buyers receive employee raises and bonuses at the end of the year. If they’ve been saving to buy a home, this extra money may allow them to reach their goal for a down payment and put them on the path to becoming a homeowner. Additionally, companies often hire new employees and relocate current ones during the first quarter of the year, creating a strong demand for housing. If you live in an area that’s home to a large company or has a strong corporate presence, this may be the perfect time to list.


    Are you thinking of Listing in the Offseason? 3 Things we recommend you do Before You List

    Get your home ready to list by following these tips.


    1.         Schedule maintenance. Buyers, especially first-time buyers, want a home they can move into right away; they don’t want to repair the roof or the furnace or replace windows with blown thermal seals before they move in. Do the scheduled maintenance and make repairs before you list your home for sale.


    In some cases, it may help to have an inspector do a pre-inspection of your home. A pre-inspection will make you aware of any major, potentially deal-killing, issues that will have to be addressed before you list. It also gives you an idea of minor issues that a potential seller may want repaired. Overall, it helps you to accurately price your home and may protect you from claims a buyer might make later.3 


    2.         Create light. Balance out the lack of natural light outdoors by turning the lights on inside. Since people naturally tend to buy emotionally, turning on the lights helps create a sense of warmth and coziness. Light a fire in the fireplace, if you have one, fill your home with the scents of the season, such as vanilla or fresh baked cookies, and put a throw blanket on your sofa.


    If you plan to paint the interior of your home before you list, consider an off-white shade to create consistency throughout your home and make the space feel larger and brighter. If you have photos of your garden or the home’s exterior in the spring or summer, display them so interested buyers can get a glimpse of what the home looks like in other seasons.


    3.         Give your home a thorough cleaning. Cleaning puts your home in its best light. Clean and polish all the horizontal surfaces of your home, including countertops, window sills and baseboards; have the curtains dry cleaned or otherwise laundered; wash windows, glass doors and their tracks; vacuum carpeting and polish all wood surfaces, including the floor.


    Additionally, this is a great time to pack any personal items and family photos as well as sort through your belongings and donate items you no longer use. This not only eliminates any clutter, but it also gives you less to pack and move when you sell.


    If you’re thinking of selling, give us a call! We’d love to help you position your home to sell in our market.



    Sources: 1. Time, October 30, 2015

                2. National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

                3. Forbes, August, 27, 2013