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

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.

Fiona Dogan Ranked Among Top 3% of All Company Agents

When selling your home, choosing the right person to assist you can make all the difference in the world.  On that score, look no further than Fiona Dogan, the consummate real estate professional, who was just ranked among the top three percent of all agents at William Pitt Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty for sales in 2019. That placed her in the top 30 brokers across 26 brokerage offices in Westchester County, Connecticut, and Massachusetts!

“This achievement could not have been realized without the extraordinary service, exemplary client experience, and commitment to hard work you demonstrate every single day—all core values shared with our company,” Paul E. Breunich noted in a letter to Dogan notifying her of the recognition.  Breunich is president and chief executive officer of William Pitt Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty, an affiliate of Sotheby’s International Realty.

“It’s terrific to be recognized, of course,” Dogan says. “And, particularly rewarding when it’s for work I love to do. I’m happiest helping clients find their perfect home, or finding the buyer that is just right for their property.”

As real estate decisions are among the most important financial and lifestyle decisions people make, it is critical to have the guidance of an expert broker with extraordinary judgement, impeccable taste, industry expertise, and a vast knowledge of the local and global market.

Dogan’s 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. Dogan offers concierge service to her clients, a differentiating factor that has helped her become a top-producing broker.

“I work with individuals and families to develop an understanding their needs at the very beginning of the process. That ensures a customized experience,” Dogan emphasizes. “I’m involved in every aspect of the sale: research, staging, pricing, marketing, inspections, negotiating, and more. I go the extra mile.”

Her affiliation with William Pitt and Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty benefits her clients in myriad ways, too.

“Through our affiliation with Sotheby’s International Realty, we achieve much broader exposure than any other firm for our listings. Coupled with my own extensive network, I’m able to assist buyers and sellers locally and around the world.”

Dogan’s top ranking recognition is the latest in a series of accolades received by Dogan, who also achieved the top three percent ranking in 2018 and in the same year, was named to the America’s Best Real Estate Professionals by Real Trends list in 2018.

When Renovating, Should You Choose Value Over Happiness?

Homeowners typically will weigh the cost of a home renovation project against the value it will add to their house. But the pleasure of enjoying a new kitchen or bathroom should be considered, too, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), with insights from the National Remodeling Industry.

Let’s look at the kitchen renovation, for example. A little over 60 percent of the cost of a major kitchen remodel is recouped by the homeowner, according to the NAR report. But, the project earns the top score for the joy it brought homeowners, a perfect 10!

The 2019 Remodeling Impact Report examined 20 renovation projects and ranked them according to how happy homeowners were with their renovations. The study also measured return on investment. The top three projects with the highest “joy score” were kitchen renovation, closet renovation, and a full interior paint job. Renovations with the greatest return on investment were new roofing, new hardwood floors, and refinished hardwood floors.

So, should you tackle projects that will make you happy or ones that will add the most value to your home? Here are three factors to consider:

  1. Even if you’re not planning a move, ROI is an important consideration. Life is full of surprises and you never know when you may need to sell. ROI is as important for the young millennial family who just moved into their first home as it is to the Boomer couple looking to age in place. By choosing the correct projects, you can enhance the functionality, livability, and beauty of your home while increasing property value at the same time.
  2. Not all remodeling projects are created equal. Purchasing a home is often the biggest investment any individual makes, so it is wise to carefully consider any work that affects that investment. The improvements should be in line with the value of a home, just as the cost of a home should be in line with the neighborhood it’s in. So, while a homeowner might enjoy heated floors and imported tiles in her master bath, the cost of the renovations may exceed the value in the long run. By researching the value of specific renovations, homeowners can avoid unpleasant surprises when it’s time to sell the house.
  3. ROI can vary significantly depending on the local market and local buyer preferences. Generally speaking, remodeling a lower-priced home will increase the home’s value more than remodeling a higher-priced home. A brand-new kitchen in a starter home will stand out more than an upgraded kitchen in a luxury mansion. In higher end neighborhoods, installing a swimming pool may add more value. In colder areas, attic insulation may make more sense. Local variables need to be considered.

Should you do it? Back to our kitchen renovation example: what I’m seeing in the marketplace is buyers who are looking for HGTV-ready kitchens that are modern and beautiful, and also highly functional with state-of-the-art appliances, attractive light fixtures, and new hardwood floors. What’s more, today’s lifestyles center around the kitchen. It’s understandable that a completely renovated kitchen brings homeowners joy, and from my experience, an updated, sparkling kitchen can help seal the deal when it comes to selling your house.

My advice? Talk to your realtor about the local market. Balance your immediate desires with the big picture. Choose remodeling projects wisely. Avoid lavish lighting and ornamental wall finishes that are on trend today but may be out of date in a few years. The cost of highly personalized additions such as a children’s theatre, elaborate home gym with rock climbing wall, or indoor hot tub may never be recouped. In addition, steer clear of custom finishes. A large nautical star in your entryway floor may appeal to the boat lover in you, but not to a potential buyer with Western ranch on his mind.

If you’re planning to stay in your house for a very long time, and remodeling will enhance your enjoyment of your home, it may make sense to follow your gut on renovation projects. But ROI should always be a consideration. And remember, it’s not a one-size-fits all model. I’d be happy to help you evaluate your potential projects, and to talk to you about what’s selling in the Rye and Westchester real estate market.

For more information, call Fiona Dogan at 914-414-5147 or email her at

The Art of Pricing Your Home to Sell

Determining the right price for your home is complicated. It’s a balancing act. You don’t want to price so low that you are leaving money on the table, but you can’t go so high that would-be buyers are turned off. Pricing your home is part art, part science, and part psychology.  It is also the most important part of the entire sales process.

If you get it right, your home will sell quickly at a price that pleases you. But an overpriced home may cause buyers to simply wait till you lower the price or worse — they will move on quickly.  Remember, the list price of your home is not necessarily the sale price. The list price of your home is designed to generate showings, and produce offers. It usually takes into account some negotiation.

The critical time to attract buyers is the first 2-3 weeks of listing your property. If buyers perceive good value, you may receive multiple offers. If your house is not well-priced, you will lose showings.

So, how to master the art of pricing our home?  Here are five strategies you may find helpful:

  1. Price your home based on facts not emotion. Don’t assume that the buyer is willing to pay a premium for your years of happy memories. Do not compare the price of your house with a price your neighbor got a few years ago. Markets change quickly by season and by year. Buyers are able to do their own research, and decide how much your home is worth by deciding what they’re willing to pay for it.  
  • Determine the appraisal value. The most valuable marker for the price of your home is the appraisal value. A lender will set the appraisal value based on comparable sales within the last 6 to 12 months within a half a mile to mile radius. This will give you a valuable indicator of the value of your own home.
  • Package your home for sale. Your pool of buyers today may be very different from the buyer pool you were in when you bought your home. Today’s new young buyers, for example, are HGTV-savvy and have different expectations. So, be prepared to take your agent’s advice. They usually recommend that you bring your home into the best possible marketable shape by renovating, repairing, decluttering, and upgrading. The size, condition, and finishes will all influence the pricing.
  • Make it easy for buyers to make an offer. Sellers wonder why buyers don’t simply “make an offer.” Psychologically, if buyers feel the asking price is too far removed from what they are willing to pay they often do not want to insult the seller with a low-ball offer. They can also be reluctant to engage in a long and difficult negotiation process with a seller they perceive as being unrealistic and unmotivated. Buyers always have an eye on future resale and do not want to feel they overpaid. Pricing slightly below your competition can make your home stand out from the noise and reduce your days on market.
  • Don’t go at it alone. Bring in the professionals! Hire an outstanding local agent whose full-time job it is to track and analyze the market. The price you may want for your home has nothing to do with what it is actually worth on the open market. Your realtor is on your team! She is your best advocate. She will perform up-to-date quantitative analysis in order to make a realistic pricing recommendation to sell your home quickly for the best possible price.

Call Fiona Dogan at 914-414-5147 for more information on pricing or selling your home!

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