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Celebrating Paul F. Forman

by Michael Marsden

I had the honor of attending a dear friend's celebration of life event who passed almost a year ago to the day. It was held by his wife on the lawn of their neighbor's home on a windy evening under a tent overlooking the Thimble Islands in Stony Creek village. The tent was filled with Paul F. Forman's friends, family, and business associates, all eager to share their stories about how and when they met Paul. I met Paul back in 1988 through his wife Barbara, a former book designer now fine artist, when I was a IT consultant for Macintosh computers. Paul became a client too, working from the same home office, and we all became friends. We shared common interests like fine wine, good dining, Porshce cars, the environment, global warming and more. I miss Paul as every time we talked it was interesting. He had a big brain. 

Paul came to the US at 5 years old from Prague escaping the Nazi's with his family and personified the American dream that anyone can become anything they want to in our country. He was highly educated his focus was optics. He worked on many projects that helped shaped our world and history. One of many projects was developing the optics and camera for the U2 spy plane for instance.

He later founded Zygo, a Middlefield, CT public company employing 550 people with a global reach. Paul fascinated me with his global experience, travels, projects, and intelligence. We had discussed starting the "Zero Carbon Foundation" together, but time kind of ran out. He was passionate about spending the rest of his life helping the world lower carbon emissions to reverse global warming.

After attending the recent ceremony and listening to the many people who shared their significant stories about Paul and is contribution to the world, I came to sadly realize that I did not drink enough from his well of experience. I've always known Paul to be a highly principled person with boundless integrity. A friend and business colleague, Paul Jacobs, was one of the speakers at the event shared anecdotes that touched me. He told the crowd about how Paul always sought out the opinion of everyone at a conference table as he though everyone had input that should be considered. He made sure those personalities that were more vociferous at such meetings would crowd out those who'd be OK not to say much. This is a trait I need to work on personally and appreciated knowing that about Paul. 

Taking this idea a step further, I learned that Paul did not insist you use his idea, but that you would just consider it. Paul would in return always consider other people's ideas. This is some of what made Paul a special person. 

I will certainly miss Paul as will the huge crowd that turned out for this wonderful celebration. I will certainly take the lesson I learned from Barbara who held this event. I'd much rather come celebrate a loved ones passing a year past well past the sad, mourning stage. It truly is a happy celebration when compared with your basic funeral. Well done Barbara. 

Farewell, Paul. I still think of you often and miss the conversations we had while eating your world class hot dogs at our lunch breaks in your kitchen overlooking the Thimbles. 

Tips on Selling Your Home During the Holiday Season

by Michael Marsden

November 5th, 2008 by Alix Boyle

If your home is for sale now, in about five minutes it will still be for sale during The Holiday Season — the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's when the real estate world slows down.

Many sellers take their homes off the market because they just can't deal with the hassle of cleaning up for a showing or open house at the same time they are trying to celebrate, entertain, shop, wrap, bake and decorate with family and friends.

If you want to keep your home listed during this season, keep in mind these tips from area agents:

Keep your thermostat turned up, and light a fire in the fireplace or have your agent flip on the gas fireplace when showing the house.

"A lot of people turn the heat down while they're at work," said Kara Flanagan, an agent with Coldwell Banker in West Hartford. "You need to keep the home warm and well lit at that time of year. There's nothing worse than walking around the house when it is cold and dark."

Replace your dim light bulbs with higher wattage bulbs to brighten the room; raise the shades to let the most light in; and consider having your windows professionally washed to create even more sparkle, Flanagan recommends.

Yes, it's a festive time of year, but you may want to leave the 10-foot inflatable snowman in his box while you are trying to sell your home. Too much stuff makes a house look smaller than it really is.

"If you're Christian, most homes never look better than when they're decorated for the holidays with the Christmas tree, the wrapped gifts — it's just beautiful," said Marilyn Jacobs, an agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Old Lyme. "Holiday decorations are a form of staging, so set the table with china and crystal and make it look warm and inviting so clients can envision themselves in this home for the holidays. It helps. People today don't have a whole lot of imagination. You have to draw them a picture."

Pare down the clutter, and follow all the other rules for preparing a house for sale. Although there are so many fun yet time-consuming activities at this time of year like parties and visiting friends, don't slack off on cleaning, and paint your home before putting it on the market.

"Price it right, and make it pretty," said Michael Marsden, an agent with Page Taft GMAC in Essex. "Take down most of your personal photos, which can be very distracting. The house should look like somebody is living there, but barely living there."

Marsden's agency will pay for a two-hour consultation with a home stager, who suggests ways homeowners can neutralize their space. Marsden often recommends removing furniture to make the house look more spacious and create a better traffic flow during showings when six or more people gather to look at a property.

Hold off on cookies and cider. Who needs more food at this overindulgent time of year?

Potential buyers may not like the aromas of cooking or baking; most want a clean smell to greet them when they walk through the door.

Avoid cheap scented candles or even expensive ones. Spray Windex instead, agents say.

In the fall, make sure all the leaves are raked up, and in winter, shovel the snow off the walk. A pot of mums or winter pansies or an evergreen in a container will make the front door look more welcoming.

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, it is, especially at this time of year. Is it worth the trouble to keep your home listed? Area agents shout out a resounding "yes."

People looking to buy during the holidays are serious buyers who may be relocating from another area, Coldwell Banker's Flanagan said. Families like to look at homes during Christmas vacation because the children are off from school. She personally bought two homes during this period and sold her first home ever on Dec. 15 several years ago.

Page Taft's Marsden believes that some homes show better in the winter, especially if they have winter water views. "I look at this time of year as a time of incredible opportunity," he said. "This is the time when people are most serious about buying."

But Sacramento real estate agent Elizabeth Weintraub advises people to take their homes off the market during the winter holidays.

"When an agent says 'leave home on the market,' they're saying they don't want to lose the listing," said Weintraub, who is also a real estate columnist for the about.com website. "It's not goodwill to men or peace on earth; it's lining their own pocketbooks. If you can get over the hump to January or February, you will probably have a better chance to get a better price.

"Agents like to say buyers are serious, but buyers are always serious," she added. "Holidays don't make them more serious than any other time of the year."

When Weintraub takes a client out to look at homes, she typically shows them about eight properties. Thus, if you are the seller, you have a one-in-eight chance that day for someone to actually purchase your home. There is less inventory on the market, and buyers may not even find what they are looking for, she says. Agents go on vacation; activity dies down; and there are not as many people out looking.

So, why not enjoy the season? Weintraub recommends putting your house back on the market as a new listing in the spring, when it will generate the most traffic.

CT Farm Fresh Express

by Michael Marsden

CT Farm Fresh Express

On the last day of February my wife started a new venture in a business climate that is tough for existing businesses. After listening to an NPR podcast about a west coast woman who called herself "Sprout About," a business whereby she delivered CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) baskets to area homes, Deb was inspired to go a whole lot further and created CT Farm Fresh Express. 


Each week, Deb travels the state visiting some 30 farms and returns to home base to pull the 50+ orders a week she delivers to homes and restaurants. Deb, like me, is passionate about the environment, lowering are carbon footprint, and eating great, local, healthy food. She not only supports our local farms and agriculture, she is fighting the huge carbon footprint that industrialized farming creates. 

Deb believe in eating local. We believe in supporting our CT Farms and our local economy. Visit http://www.CTFarmFreshExpress.com to learn more about her great company and maybe even to sign and give it a try. You'll be able to enjoy local, grass fed beef (no the unhealthy and inhumane corn fed beef that's found in grocery stores and that will clog your arteries), chicken, pork, a wide variety of cheese, the best greens and produce you'll find anywhere in the state, maple syrup, and much more. 

 

You can call Deb at 860-917-7627 or visit: http://www.ctffe.com for more information. 

1st Homebuyer Tax Credit

by Michael Marsden

Although I broadcast an email to all my clients to get this word out, I am writing this blog so that there is another resource available alerting those who qualify for this tax credit.

The housing bill that went into effect in July offers first-time homebuyers a tax credit equal to 10% of the cost of their home up to $7,500. This tax credit is available to first-time homebuyers who purchase a home in the United States as their principal residence on or after April 9, 2008, and before July 1, 2009. To learn more about the bill, visit www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com

Solar Hot Water and Volkswagen

by Michael Marsden

Those who know me know I am passionate about renewable energy and making America energy independent. We can move towards that goal without each of us doing our part. Yes, buy CFL and LED lights to replace your energy corrupt incandescent bulbs, but there's more you can do. While I give advice I must do my part too. This year I made two big moves towards lowering my dependance on foreign oil. The first thing was to give back my 2006 Passat for the smaller and brand new clean burning VW Jetta TDI diesel station wagon. I am waiting anxiously for it to arrive. The demo I drove was fantastic. A German engineered vehicle that is a delight to drive that is loaded with my favorite items like a glass retractable roof, 10gb hard disk GPS/Entertainment system with touch screen and that allows my iPhone to even play videos through it, heated seats and 18" wheels, and the best part 50+ miles per gallon. Some say why not the Prius or other hybrid? Well the Prius would have been my choice just based on its tenure in the hybrid world. That plus everyone I know absolutely loves it. However, they aren't giving the tax credit for them anymore (my new Jetta will get a $1,300 tax credit this year) and it was about $4,000 more expensive than my fully loaded VW. I have almost always owned a VW and or BMW my entire life (save for my mistaken purchase of a Subaru which was a miserable in comfort and quality from my experience) so this was easy. That coupled with the hungry VW company buying my lease out early so I could get it now rather than run my less efficient, but zippy, 3.6l v6 engine. Although my very large and comfy Passat got 24mpg, it was painful feeding it $150 a week in fuel for all the miles I drive in the Real Estate business. I will write more after I own it for a few weeks to let you know if hindsight is as sharp as my foresight. 

As for heating my old 1760 antique home, getting energy costs down was almost as expensive as buying a new car. However, my 20 year old oil driven Slant Fin boiler and its companion hot water tank was bleeding me dry using 3,300 gallons of foreign heating oil each year. At the $4.46 per gallon lock my oil company offered me as a long time high volume customer I did a Sarah Palin thanks, but no thanks, on that one. I researched my heating contractor as thoroughly as the equipment I was to buy. I found out that many of the sales people that came to my home to quote their oil eating systems were incompetent or just out for their bottom line. They simply were quoting the brand and system they made their money on without regard to the volume of water my large system. I ended up choosing Silverio Mechanicals in Old Saybrook, CT simply because the proprietor loved his job and loved the technology that was out there to be had. He didn't sell fuel so he wasn't predisposed to either oil or gas and could talk to me about the benefits and negatives of each. in the end I chose gas. It just made more sense to me. The oil companies told me that a gallon of fuel oil produced 133,000 btu to 117,000 that propane produced. However, and at the time, the price for my volume of use for gas was $2.20 per gallon to the $4+ for oil I was quoted. Add to that the efficiency of Buderus oil furnace was 86% to the 96% propane model. I didn't need a math professor to tell me what to buy. 

I love the new Buderus system my contractor installed for me. For one, it uses a computerized control system that monitors the outside temperature so that it heats the water to a temperature that is appropriate to overcome that ambient temperature. My home is a constant and comfortable temperature. I used to experience a sinusoidal temperature curve of real hot to real cold because the oil boiler just heated the water to one temp regardless of outside temperature. Add to that, Buderus has solar hot water panels that work in concert with its propane counterpart. I am projecting that 80% of my hot water will be produce by the solar collectors which will add to my bottom line I hope in about 3-4 years based on today's fuel prices. 

I hope those who read this will feel compelled to at least think about what they will do to get us off our oil dependancy and lower their carbon footprint. My next investment will be in Solar PV so I can cut my electric costs. What will your next move be?


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