Thinking of Moving to Westchester?

If you’re considering a move north of New York City, please check out my recent interview with Brownstoner, an informative real estate magazine and website in Brooklyn.

In the webinar, “Making the Move to Westchester,” I put in the spotlight Westchester’s beautiful Sound Shore, and answered an array of questions for homebuyers, including:

  • Why should Brooklynites consider Rye and other towns on Westchester’s Sound Shore?
  • What’s the market like right now in lower Westchester?
  • How do buyers and renters find a community that’s a good fit for their family?

A key point that I discussed with moderator Elizabeth Aloni is that the Covid pandemic has caused home buyers to sharpen their focus on leaving the city for the suburbs, at an earlier stage of family rearing than they have in the past. While this fall has seen a bit of a holding pattern — many people bought or rented in the suburbs when the pandemic hit, but, for now are staying put—by the spring many more will be seeking homes to buy or rent in the suburbs.

My colleague, Chase Senior Home Lending Advisor Michael DeRosa, was on hand to discuss various financial products available for buyers. He also had some good advice: “Buyers need to be prequalified or pre-approved if you’re making the move in the next four months,” he said. “But if you’re thinking of making a move in the next year — at least know your credit score now. You’d be surprised at how many flags come up without you knowing it.”

Watch the full webinar below. As always, I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have, and help you get started on your next move. Feel free to give me a call at 914-414-5147 or email me at Fiona.Dogan@juliabfee.com.

Leaving NYC? Why Rye, New York is the Best Place to Live

Pre-pandemic, your criterion for the perfect suburban abode may have been a home closest to a Metro-North RR commuter station, with an easy commute to Manhattan. But with the tectonic shift toward remote work and school, now you may be wishing for a home with a big backyard where you and your kids can take Zoom breaks and a little exercise, while breathing in some fresh air.

For urbanites fleeing New York City, there are plenty of factors to consider before putting down new roots: schools, space, amenities, lifestyle, and more.  But if the search for the perfect town seems overwhelming, here’s some simple advice: consider Rye, New York! With the prospect of kids and spouses being home from work and school looming, you’ll find Rye to be a pretty-near-perfect town to settle in — in a pandemic and beyond. 

As resident of this beautiful city on the Long Island Sound for over 20 years, I’m grateful for all that Rye has offered to me and my family. Here are 10 reasons why:

  1. It’s like being on vacation, all year-round. 
    Dip your toes into the soft sand and gentle waters at one of Rye’s beaches and you’ll feel like you’re visiting a seaside resort town. As a resident, you’ll have access to 34 acres of public beaches, known to locals as Rye Beach and Oakland Beach.  We have a boardwalk, too, with great views of the sparkling Long Island Sound ahead and Rye’s historic art deco amusement park, Rye Playland, as a backdrop. Challenge the kids to a round of Playland’s miniature golf course. Just minutes away is Longford’s Ice Cream, serving small-batch, premium frozen deliciousness for the past 26 years. This is coastal living at its best. 
  2. It’s where everybody knows your name. 
    OK maybe not everybody will know your name right away, but because of its size — Rye is a small city of about 16,000 residents — there’s a very strong sense of community here. Shopkeepers and restaurant owners will get to know you. Your school community will be tight-knit. And there are many ways to get involved. If you’re looking to make new friends, donate time to a worthy cause, or spend time on activities you enjoy, there is undoubtedly a community organization aligned with your interests. Our 70-year-old Rye Newcomers and Neighbors Club is a warm and welcoming way to meet people. Many of their activities, including an outdoor book club, have continued throughout the pandemic. The  Woman’s Club of Rye, Garden Club, Rye YMCA, and the Expat Connection are just some of the organizations that contribute to our vibrant community. In no time at all you’ll recognize everyone in our amazing local newspaper, The Rye Record!
  3. There’s always green space nearby. 
    There’s no better place to be outdoors than Rye! Our beautiful 62-acre Rye Town Park has verdant spaces for picnicking and relaxing. The Rye Nature Center offers educational programs and includes forest and wildlife sanctuary and two miles of trails for hiking. Nearby, the Edith G. Read Sanctuary offers 179-acres of forest, bamboo groves, native grasses, birds, and wildflowers. The Marshlands Conservancy of Rye is excellent for birdwatching. Pristine beauty surrounds us.
  4. Waterfront recreation is minutes away. 
    In addition to our beautiful beaches for swimming and frolicking in the sun, Rye is home to beach clubs, yacht clubs, fishing areas, and a marina with a public launching area, winter boat and kayak storage. Sign the kids up for sailing or kayak lessons or rowing classes with Row America.
     
  5. We are home to a top-ranked school district. 
    Rye City Schools top regional and national lists each year. In 2020, U.S. News ranked our district 12th in New York State and #125 in the nation, and Niche.com gives our education an “A+” rating. Not only will you find excellent public schools but there are outstanding private school options nearby. You’ll find amazing teachers and a rich array of programs and activities in our strong school communities. Education is simply stellar.
  6. Our restaurants rival the Big City’s. 
    You won’t miss city dining when you move to Rye. When it comes to gourmet fare, Rye has it all, including an elegant French eatery and patisserie, a fabled steakhouse, wonderful fish, low-key bar and grill-style establishments, plus beachy waterfront restaurants with views of the Long Island Sound. We know how to dish good food! 
  7. Shops that stock what you need — and want. 
    Our bustling downtown offers everything from home décor and clothing to fine wines, fresh produce, and prepared foods. Our independent bookstore has thrived for over 30 years. What’s more, our very active Rye Chamber of Commerce created a pandemic-friendly pedestrian area on our main thoroughfare, Purchase Street, where we enjoy al fresco dining, outdoor exercise classes and dancing, and a farmer’s market. 
  8. Art and culture thrive here. 
    Our thriving Rye Arts Center is a community gem that offers opportunities to engage in art classes, lessons, exhibitions, performances and more. They’re offering robust virtual activities now and are rolling out in-person small-group programs. History buffs will want to engage with the Rye Historical Society and Jay Heritage Center. Need a mindful wellness break from these stressful times? Check out Wainwright House, the oldest nonprofit holistic learning center in the nation. 
  9. It’s a short commute to NYC. 
    If you’re heading into town, to the office or otherwise, frequently or sporadically, take a 40-minute trip on Metro-North to Grand Central. The commute can’t be beat.
  10. There are homes to suit every taste and budget.
    You’ll find a varied inventory of homes here. From classic and custom Colonials, to contemporary estates, romantic Tudors, ranches, co-ops and condominiums, historic homes and brand-new construction, Rye has it all. 

You may have seen Rye featured in scenes on television shows like Mr. Robot, and big-screen features like “This is Where I Leave You,” starring Tina Fey and Jane Fonda, and “Big,” starring Tom Hanks.  Our city looks beautiful on screen — but it’s even better in real life! I’d be happy to share my extensive knowledge and experience to help you make the move.

Fiona Dogan Ranks Among Top 1.5% Brokers in Nation

When buying or selling a home, you want to work with a trusted real estate professional. Here’s some very good news for those in the market for a top agent: Fiona Dogan was recently ranked among America’s Best Real Estate Professionals by REAL Trends, placing her in the top 1.5% of all realtors in the nation! 

Fiona Dogan was among only 15 agents in New York State to be recognized in the “Individuals by volume” category. This distinction is the latest in a series of accolades earned by Fiona, who was ranked among the top three percent of all agents at William Pitt Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty.

“I’m am totally honored by the recognition,” she says. “While this prestigious list reflects one’s professional expertise, it also speaks to all of the time and effort that goes into getting to know clients to achieve the best possible outcome for them.” 

REAL Trends ranks over 14,500 residential real estate professionals solely based on their excellence in real estate sales during calendar year 2019. To qualify for inclusion, an individual agent must have closed at least 50 transactions or $20 million in sales volume in 2019. This group of highly successful real estate sales agents represents the top 1 percent of all real estate practitioners in the United States. 

As real estate decisions are among the most important financial and lifestyle decisions people make, it is critical to have the expert advice of a broker has successfully navigated the local and global market and who understands her clients’ needs. 

“I take the time to work with individuals and families to understand their real estate needs at the very beginning of the process,” Fiona explains. “That means each client is given a customized experience while I guide them through every aspect of the sale. That includes: research, staging, pricing, marketing, inspections, negotiations, and a lot more.” 

Fiona’s real estate experience spans over a decade and includes work in new construction, home staging, and buying, selling, and renting homes in Rye, Harrison, Purchase, Port Chester, and White Plains. She also serves international clientele looking to relocate to the area. 

“I am incredibly proud of our agents whose achievements brought them this impressive recognition,” said Paul Breunich, President and CEO of William Pitt-Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty, in a company announcement about the rankings. “To be ranked among the top 1.5% of 1.4 million real estate professionals nationally is a testament to the exceptional service these agents provide to their clients every day.”

Read more about Dogan’s recognitions here.

Talk to Fiona about your real estate needs.

Fiona Helped Us Close on Our Home During COVID-19

Darlene Bronson accepted an offer on her home in Rye Brook, New York in early December. She planned a closing date for April 1, 2020, which would give herself time to find a new home, pack, and move. Things were going according to plan: she found a new home in January and began to pack up her home of eight years. By the first week of March, she was ready.

Then COVID-19 hit. Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all non-essential retailers and businesses to close. The world shut down.

“We had no idea when we would be able to close on the home we were selling or the home we were moving to. It was unsettling.”

She said that working with real estate agent Fiona Dogan “kept her sane” during the crisis. “Fiona was always there for us, even when the timing was out of her hands. She kept the process moving so that the moment we were allowed to act, our closing would be scheduled. She made it happen.”

Sealing the deal remotely

As New Yorkers began to navigate their new stay-at-home life, Bronson had to dive into the taped-up boxes in her empty house to find items they needed to live day-to-day. The Brooklyn couple who bought her home wanted to accelerate their move, but their co-op board would not allow movers into the building. Bronson worried about losing her deposit on her new home.

“We were concerned about losing everything on both ends,” she said. “But Fiona kept us calm. She smoothed things over. She was in close contact with our buyers and their broker, the bankers, and lawyers. Fiona also had an excellent working relationship with the agent for my new house, whom she had recommended. Her constant communication kept everyone in the loop and kept our deal active.”

Fiona orchestrated a new closing date of April 28, pulling together all of the parties necessary to complete the sale, including the buyer, seller, their agent, and attorneys. She spent one afternoon in her car parked in the Bronson’s driveway, ready to field questions from the new buyers as they completed their final walk-through and inspection. She ensured the proper paperwork was routed, documents were signed, money was wired, and signed documents were delivered to all necessary parties.

“There was a level of trust that Fiona had cultivated on both sides that helped seal the deal,” said Bronson. “We closed on both houses in the same day. It was hairy! We couldn’t have done it without Fiona.”

“We were in good hands”

Bronson says she interviewed several brokers before putting her home on the market and that Dogan felt like “the right fit.”

“My children were graduating from college and we were ready to downsize. Fiona understood our situation and took time to get to know what we were looking for. She also gave me confidence that we would be able to sell our home to the right buyer.”

Though Bronson wasn’t ready to sell her house last summer, Dogan gave her valuable advice on getting her home ready for the market, including making small repairs around the house; packing up bulky furniture and personal items; hiring a home inspector for a pre-listing inspection; and taking photos of the home while the weather was good and plants were in bloom.

“She guided me through the whole process. Fiona had an amazing team to stage the house and it looked beautiful!” says Bronson. “By the time we put the house in the market in October, it was HGTV-ready.”

Dogan marketed the house online via open houses and showings by appointment, her website, social media, her extensive professional network, and the Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty network. The result? Multiple offers and a bidding war.

“Fiona handled everything. I felt taken care of, like I was in good hands. When one offer went through, she calmly went back to all offers and negotiated a great deal.”

No one could have anticipated the chaos that would follow. Bronson says there’s no one she’d rather work with during a crisis. “I highly recommend working with Fiona.”

Now is the time to prep your home for a post-pandemic sale

The blossoming of spring flowers typically coincides with a surge in new listings hitting the market. But this year, the coronavirus has disrupted the hot home-selling season. With shelter-in-place orders in place, home buyers are not out in their usual spring time droves. Chances are, they wish they were. Space, fresh air – these are things more urbanites are dreaming about.

There are bright spots pointing to a housing market recovery. Many New York City area families, spurred by the pandemic, are seeking to make a move now to escape to homes offering more space and more fresh air. There’s a new wave of city dwellers shopping in the suburbs, according to a recent Wall Street Journal story.

The declaration earlier this month that real estate is considered “an essential business,” fortunately, has kept things in motion, albeit at a slower pace. As an industry, we’ve adjusted the way we do business, offering virtual home tours and participating in remote home closings. It’s the new normal.

Yet, some buyers may not take the plunge until they can tour a home in person. That means that when the pandemic subsides, there could be a pent-up demand for inventory. So, this is a good time to start preparing for a housing market that will recover once this crisis is over.

Here are my tips on how to position your home to be ready for a post-pandemic sale:  

Boost your home’s curb appeal: Trim shrubs, power wash your deck, paint your shutters and trim, mulch flower beds, replace any broken light fixtures, flower pots, or other décor damaged by winter. Your home needs to “wow” a buyer before they ever step foot inside the front door.

Organize the interior: With most of your meals being cooked at home, your pantry may already have undergone a makeover or a cleaning out. If not, organize shelves in the kitchen and other areas of the house. Fold towels and sheets. Consider ordering drawer organizers and/or matching baskets to keep supplies tidy.

Purge: In this time of uncertainty, consider what truly brings you happiness inside your home and do a deep purge of what doesn’t. Have a dumpster delivered and discard any furniture that is worn or outdated or otherwise overcrowding a room in your house. Work with your realtor to get some advice on what will work well when photographing your home for listing.

Fix up, renovate, and repair: Get your home in showroom-ready shape. From broken drawer pulls and torn window screens to faulty faucets and sinks slow to drain, make a list of small repairs and needed renovations throughout your home. Fix what you can and research vendors to help perform major repairs when our lockdown orders are lifted.

Interview realtors:  Now is also a good time to talk with prospective real estate agents who can market your home effectively for a quick sale at the highest possible price. Seasoned real estate professionals who have seen an array of market conditions will help you navigate a post-COVID real estate sale.  If you choose to work with Fiona, you will have access to a global referral network and superior technology enabling face-to-face communication between agents, sellers, and buyers.

I would be happy to discuss the preparation of your home for sale, whenever the time is right for the real estate market, and for you. I can be reached at 914-414-5147 or Fiona.dogan@juliabfee.com.

Real Estate Planning? Fiona Dogan is Here to Help

With the spring market getting underway just as the number of coronavirus cases rises in the region and around the world, many people are wondering if they should put real estate decisions on hold. A shaky economy and volatile stock market aren’t easing concerns.

Some may have to move for a new job or because they need more space for a growing family — or less space if they are becoming empty nesters. Others may want to escape apartment living during this period of “social distancing.” Yet, there are other good reasons to move forward and make a real estate decision:

Right now, buying a home is more affordable than ever. Mortgage rates are at an all-time low, hovering in the 2.5% to 3% range. Interest rates, also at historic lows, may eliminate a future refinancing. And sellers in Westchester County may have a slight edge, with a lower inventory contributing to higher demand. This may explain why here at William Pitt Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s, we are seeing significant activity amongst buyers and sellers.

Because of the challenging times, we are adapting our practices, including reducing or eliminating open houses in favor of individual appointments and virtual walk-throughs of our listings. Ensuring the health and safety of our families, co-workers, and clients is paramount.

Preparing for your next move

I’m here to help! Here’s how:

Home value estimates:  By providing you with a rough estimate of the value of your home, we can help you prepare to buy what you can afford or sell by determining the list price.

Virtual walk-throughs: With social distancing in full-swing, some home sellers are reluctant to open their doors to the general public for an open house. I’d be happy to take you through a listing by appointment, or set up a time when I can show you a home via FaceTime or Skype.

Preparation and planning for buyers, sellers, and renters: There’s a lot to be done before you start your real estate journey. Should you stage your home before selling? What are your parameters for a new home? What are the ideal terms for your rental arrangement? I have extensive experience in these areas, and more, and can be of help.

Along with the rest of the world, I’m staying on top of a rapidly changing situation and its impact on the real estate industry. Most important, I am focused on providing the best service possible. Please reach out to me with any questions or concerns, at any time. I would love to hear from you.

Let Fiona help you sell or find your dream home. Contact Fiona at 914-414-5147 or email her directly.