Sagan Harborside Logo Black
Sagan Harborside Company Logo

Shari Sagan McGuirk

New Construction or a Renovated Home, Which Is Best For You?

Choosing between a newly-built home or a renovated home? Don’t just make lists of pros and cons. Sometimes, the heart wants what it wants – and you just fall in love with a house. Or a village, or a beach. Depending on where you live, one type may have a distinct advantage over the other. We’ve put together a short guide – hopefully, it’ll help your house search head in the right direction.

1. Price

For many years it was typical for new construction to cost more than an older home, but that’s not necessarily true today. With cheaper building materials and efficient production, brand new homes can be built at affordable prices.

Renovated homes sell at premium prices if they’re close to a city center, on the water, or convenient to popular shopping or dining districts. The price of a renovated home will reflect its location and any work that’s been done to restore it. Remember – older homes are expensive to maintain, so any repairs and improvements made by the seller will save you money in the long run.

New homes that are being built as infill in older neighborhoods often command the highest prices – they offer both a great location and new construction features.

2. Location

Location is probably the biggest factor in home-buying decisions. Your brand-new dream house might be miles away from your favorite neighborhood, and you have to prioritize.

Many close-to-the-city neighborhoods are experiencing a renaissance as people move in and fix up older homes. Older neighborhoods are more likely to have mature trees, sidewalks, shops you can walk to, and larger yards. And with shorter commute times, prices are going up.

If you’re looking to buy in a historic area or waterfront property, often the only homes for sale are older, renovated homes.

Source: Rick Harris

If you’re determined to have a brand new house, you’ll have to buy a home in tear-down condition and build new – keeping in mind that this will be an expensive process.

Another source of new construction in older neighborhoods are in-fill projects. Developers buy two or three old homes to tear down and build several homes that are closer together. Lot sizes are usually much smaller than surrounding homes – but they’re ideally located.

3. Floor Plans

New construction homes offer popular features like open-plan kitchens, large master bathrooms, high ceilings, and large closets. If you work with a builder from the beginning, you can choose your interior finishes like countertops, flooring, and cabinetry.


Source: The Designory

You’ll often find these features in older homes too, but even a renovated home will have its limits. Master suite additions are common in renovated houses; but not every home can be remodeled to an open plan design. If an open layout is a must-have, it may be easier to find in a new development.

Older homes may not have every modern amenity, but you’ll find traditional features like a formal dining room, a butler’s pantry, a screen porch, or library.

Consider whether these areas can be re-purposed, or opened up to improve the floor plan. If you have your heart set on a certain older neighborhood, look at every listing with an open mind. A quick meeting with an interior designer can help you figure out a home’s potential before you buy.

Source: Big Old Houses

4. Construction:

New homes must meet modern building codes – this includes safer wiring, proper insulation, and ventilation. Some new houses are extremely energy-efficient, but every builder is different. Energy-efficient windows and improved exterior finishes dramatically reduce maintenance. Find out what construction methods are best for your climate, and check with your builder before making a final decision.

Depending on where you live, older homes that have been renovated may or may not be required to meet the newest codes. Upgraded wiring? Finished basement? Ask for specifics and get an inspection before you purchase a renovated home. Heating and cooling systems should definitely be upgraded to modern, high-efficiency equipment.

The upside of buying an older home is superior craftsmanship. Walls may be lathe and plaster; paneling and shelving might be walnut or redwood, and floors typically solid oak. Even mid-century homes are well-built with brick facades and solid wood cabinetry. Exterior features like wood siding and porches add plenty of charm, but they’ll need ongoing maintenance.

So should you buy brand new? Adopt an older home? Think about your desired lifestyle, your family’s needs, and the location that will be the best fit. After that, you just may surprise yourself. 

If you need help choosing, Sagan Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty has over 70 highly agents who can guide you through the decision-making process.


Luxury Home Trends in Kitchen Design

Today’s luxury kitchens have evolved far beyond show-stopping commercial ranges and statement appliances.  Feature walls are the new stars of kitchen design – showcasing open shelving, handcrafted tile, book-matched stone, or a magnificent view. These carefully-curated display areas are complemented by appliances that are fully integrated into the cabinetry, so they almost disappear into the design. 

Islands Make a Statement:

Islands add a luxury touch when fully clad in a quartz surface material, a rich wood such as walnut, or a highly-figured stone:

Source: Knock Architecture and Design


With fewer upper cabinets, kitchen designers are using custom cabinetry walls as a way to fully integrate and conceal storage and appliances, leaving the island and prep areas uncluttered. Finished in beautiful wood, the “hidden kitchen” becomes a feature wall itself:

Source: Pinterest

Custom refrigerator and freezer units can be configured to disappear into drawers, or fit under the counters to preserve the clean lines of a modern kitchen.


Feature Walls Set The Stage:

A kitchen’s feature wall is its focal point – and in a modern luxury kitchen, that usually means tile or stone displayed in quantity.

Moody, darker colors are trending this year, and the contrast helps hardware and custom details to really stand out. With open shelving and a steel-trimmed range hood, this deep blue tile creates a stunning feature wall. Antique-inspired pendant lighting adds extra charm over the island:

Source: The Urban Electric Co.


A tiled feature wall adds Old-World charm to a kitchen with traditional beams and classic white cabinetry:

Source: Pinterest


This modern kitchen exudes high-end glamour with a full-height feature wall and island of Caesarstone. Dark stained cabinetry adds contrast, allowing the gold lighting, barstools and accent strip on the island to stand out. Everything about this kitchen has an air of understated, modern luxury:


Hardware Is Like Jewelry:

High-quality hardware adds richness and depth to a kitchen. Today’s luxury hardware trends include rose gold, matte brass, deep bronze, and matte black. These finishes are more difficult to produce and not widely distributed – a rarity that adds an instant aura of luxury to a kitchen.

For a traditional home, refrigerators in a custom color with deluxe gold hardware will display gourmet ingredients and a wine collection with style:

Source: True Appliances


Luxury Kitchen Lighting:

Quality lighting adds both function and character to a luxury kitchen. Advancements in lighting design have replaced old-style ceiling spots with bright, efficient, and unobtrusive LEDs. Expect no fewer than three levels of lighting in a high-end kitchen. Task lighting is directed at work areas, so it may be a combination of under-cabinet lighting and pendants over an island. Ambient or general lighting comes from pendants or chandeliers, plus small ceiling spots as needed to keep the room comfortably bright. Accent lighting is added above or below cabinets, or behind glass doors, to add ambiance. Dimmers and remote controls make it easy to adjust all three and set the mood.

Instead of small pendants for island lighting, here the designer has chosen three stylish fixtures with shades as a focal point:

Source: Atlanta Homes


A custom marble stove back, seamless marble installed on the walls, and massive marble island gives this Atlanta kitchen a sense of updated luxury. The bespoke range hood and custom display shelves are high-end features that make a traditional kitchen stand out.


The Butler’s Pantry Is New Again:

Removing upper cabinets creates an open, spacious feeling – but it also reduces storage. Butler’s pantries are the answer. This classic solution is making a comeback, and it can be the perfect spot for a coffee bar, wine refrigerator, or second dishwasher to keep the kitchen mess out of sight. Custom lighting and high-end finishes make it an extension of the kitchen:

Design: Jeff King and Co.


A luxury kitchen in 2019 focuses on the highest quality materials. Natural stone and quartz products are being used as statement pieces over large areas, and rich color or tile patterns inject personality. Hardware and lighting are more important than ever, as they’re truly the jewelry of the kitchen.




Should You Stage Your Home When Selling?

Most people put time and effort into staging their homes before selling – getting rid of clutter, planting flowers, and touching up paint. But the use of professional home staging services has grown tremendously in recent years. Many Realtors offer a few hours of professional staging as an added value when they list your home, so be sure to ask!  Real estate staging firms provide services as simple as a walk-through consultation, or as complex as furnishing an empty home. Studies have shown that staged homes sell faster, although not necessarily for higher prices. So, should you hire a professional home stager?

The decision to hire a stager is something you’ll make in consultation with your listing agent. Consider your lifestyle and local market conditions – in a hot market, homes may already be selling quickly, with multiple offers. However, staged homes garner a lot more interest – their photo-ready interiors look more appealing, especially on the selling agent’s website and online listings.

Home staging isn’t decorating. It neutralizes the decor and can minimize some features and accentuate others. If you’re unsure whether staging is right for you, discuss the following questions with your Realtor:

  • What’s the available inventory for homes similar to yours, in features and price point?
  • Are there deficiencies that can be minimized by creative staging?
  • Are there rooms that have an undefined purpose?
  • Are you in a hurry to sell?

Talk with your Realtor about competing listings, and how staging can transform your home into a sought-after property. Staged homes attract more shoppers, and increased competition for a listing can have a positive effect on its final selling price. A 2017 profile by the National Association of Realtors found that:

  • 29% of sellers’ agents reported an increase of 1% to 5% of the dollar value offered by buyers, in comparison to similar homes.
  • 21% percent of respondents stated that staging a home increased the dollar value of the home between 6% and 10%.
  • 39% percent of sellers’ agents stated that staging a home greatly decreases the amount of time the home is on the market. (Source: The Profile of Home Staging)

Staging an Empty Home

Home-staging won’t hide your home’s flaws, but it certainly keeps buyers focused on imagining the listing as a lived-in home. Realtors Heather Murray and Jack Brown of The Murray Brown Group at Sagan Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty in Swampscott, Massachusetts  advise their clients to consider staging:

“When a home we’re selling is empty or sparsely decorated, we like to either stage the home ourselves or use a professional stager depending on the amount of staging needed. When a home is empty, staging can help buyers envision how the space will look with their furniture in it and how the rooms function and flow. When a home is sparsely decorated, staging can help “finish” the look and create a more attractive and appealing aspirational look. Any of the times we’ve staged a home we’ve felt it significantly helped sell the home faster and at a higher price than we would have gotten with it un-staged.”

If the home is empty, the rooms can actually appear smaller. Staging the main rooms with furniture helps buyers understand the scale of each space – they can see at a glance how a sectional sofa or dining table will fit. In older homes with small rooms, furniture that’s the right scale makes the spaces feel livable. Instead of unflattering ceiling light, staging adds warm and inviting lamplight to the home.

A new, high-tech approach to staging an empty home is Sotheby’s International Realty’s Curate App. Using virtual reality, Curate by Sotheby's International Realty allows consumers to select and place furniture, rugs and lighting into images of empty rooms. It even offers different interior design styles, so users can see how their taste and style will work with the home.

Home staging will ensure that your home looks its best while it’s on the market. This is especially helpful when real estate agents show your home without your listing agent there. Prices for staging vary significantly from one city to another. For a large home, you can expect to pay a few thousand dollars a month to have a professionally-decorated, expensively-furnished interior.

Staging a Lived-In Home

In a home that’s occupied, personal mementos and clutter can stand in the way of a buyer’s ability to imagine themselves living in the home. When you decide to sell, work closely with your Realtor to transform your home so that it appeals to a buyer, not to your tastes. Your listing agent will alert you to any problem areas and share valuable resources with you, like trusted cleaning services, painters, and staging professionals. Professional help is critical as you prepare your home for sale.

Decluttering can be the most difficult part of selling a long-term residence, but it’s a critical part of staging a home. If closets are stuffed and rooms look crowded, buyers get the impression that the home doesn’t have enough space. Your Realtor’s expertise is invaluable at this stage – remember, they’re experts in how buyers will view your home. When a Realtor recommends professional staging services, they’re using on their knowledge of the market to give you the best possible outcome.

If you decide to hire a staging service, the home stager provides a list of changes to make and acts as a neutral advisor as you de-personalize your home. They may advise you to strip wallpaper, change a bold paint color, and put lots and lots of things in storage. A home stager will create a plan and help you find movers, storage facilities, painters and cleaners to get the job done.

Should You Stage the Home Yourself?

If you’re on a tight budget, it’s fairly easy to find tips on how to stage your home, and handle the project yourself. Just be sure to factor in your own time, and consider whether you have the resources to get the work done. If you already have an attractively-furnished home, your listing agent can offer expert advice on staging techniques to make your home more marketable. They may even recommend a professional home stager for a walk-through consultation. For a small fee, you’ll receive professional advice and a plan that you can implement yourself.

Is Home Staging Worth the Expense?

Demand for home staging services has increased dramatically in the last several years, as statistics show that staging helps properties sell faster. According to the National Association for Realtors, staging increases the sale price of the home anywhere from 1 to 15 percent. If you’re living in the home, a faster sale avoids the stress of keeping a spotlessly clean home for weeks, or even months, while it’s for sale. When you factor in the cost of carrying an empty home while it’s on the market, including home staging in your selling plan makes good financial sense.  

If you are interested in staging your home, contact one of our realtors at (781) 593-6111 to review your options and discuss whether staging is right for your home and budget.  


Life on the Water in Marblehead

Known as one of the great yachting capitals of the world, Marblehead Harbor has been a center of classic shipbuilding and waterfront life since the Revolutionary War. While these days the rocky shoreline is lined with stunning homes, Marblehead still remains true to its seafaring roots. Five yacht clubs line a sheltered harbor full of boats of all types – from fishing dinghies to historic schooners and globe-circling sailing yachts. Local shipbuilders and sail makers keep the art and craft of classic wooden boat-building alive.

Summertime Sailing

Summer in Marblehead Harbor is a bustling scene, as local sailing regattas compete for space with kayakers, paddlers and fishing charters. If you’re not a boat owner yet, you can set sail in one of Atlantic Charter’s well-appointed sailboats for the day, or book a weekend sail around the outer islands. You can even charter a historic Schooner built for Gen. George Patton. Or, dive deep into the local sailing scene by joining the annual Marblehead to Halifax Race. Joining a yacht club will give you access to launches, boat slips, storage, and a clubhouse where you can meet fellow sailors and learn more about local conditions and events.

 Photo: Karim Benali, via Sail Magazine

Paddling the Coves

Summer fun on the water includes puttering about Marblehead’s coast by standup paddle board and kayak. Pull ashore on Crowninshield Island, an uninhabited island that marks the entrance to Marblehead’s Little Harbor. Explore the rocky shoreline on the ocean-side, and a sandy beach and salt marsh on the cove-side. Before paddling home, be sure to hike the short loop trail that leads to a great view of the harbor and 17th-century Fort Sewall.

 Source: Dakota Donovan

If your family loves paddling or kayaking, check out the Paddlers Membership at the Dolphin Yacht Club. You can store and launch your equipment from the club, and join up with other members who share your love of the water. The club’s waterfront restaurant is a popular local dining spot, with expansive views of the harbor.

Marblehead Harbor’s rocky islands and inlets are just perfect for exploring, and you don’t need your own equipment. Just north of the harbor you’ll find Little Harbor Boathouse. Protected by Crowninshield and Gerry’s Island, it’s an ideal launch point. They sell and rent a selection of Hobie Kayaks and Stand Up Paddle Boards, and their summer programs will have your kids paddling in no time. Try out their easy pedal-kayaks, or fish the quiet coves from a well-equipped fishing kayak.

Fishing Around Marblehead Harbor

Kayak fishing is quickly becoming a popular sport for anyone who loves to fish. Here you’ll catch striped bass and bluefish while exploring the productive fishing areas in and around Marblehead, known as the best fishing town in New England.

You don’t have to go too far out to sea for a great catch, either. The many rocks and ledges close to shore provide fun fishing for the entire family. Or head further out to troll around the islands for striped bass and tuna, which arrive every June like clockwork. If you live in Marblehead and love to fish, you’ll probably want your own boat; but the local charter fleet is outstanding as well:

Messing About In Boats

It may begin with your first dinghy as a child, a weekend paddling trip, or a sunset sail; it can end with a lifelong passion for fishing or an annual pilgrimage for the summer regatta season. But life on the water in Marblehead offers every opportunity for what’s affectionately known as “messing about in boats”.

 Source: Allison Horrocks

And if all of this activity is too much, you can always take a break at Devereaux Beach, catch some rays and indulge in some ice cream from Lime Ricky’s Beach Shack.

If you’ve always dreamt about living on the coast, don’t wait to live your dream! Marblehead is the ideal community for those who share a love of the ocean. Contact one of our Realtors at (781) 593-6111 to view homes for sale in this beautiful, historic town.


  1. No comments. Be the first to comment.

Explore The North Shore

bench facing harbor with moored boats

Join Our Team!

We are looking for professional, self-motivated, licensed individuals looking to grow their business for our real estate team. Candidates should be accustomed to performing at a high level, be familiar with a sales environment, self-driven and focused on providing exceptional customer service.

Learn More