Tag Archives: Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Ambassador Real Estate

Downsizing?

December 31, 2019 by

When Cindy and Van Wrenn bought a four-bedroom, four-bathroom home in Omaha’s Seville neighborhood in 1998, they had three small boys and desired a larger home in a family-friendly area in the well-regarded Millard School District. And for 15 years, their home near 156th Street and West Dodge Road fit the bill. The couple raised their boys in the 3,000-plus square-foot home, and Cindy got a job at nearby Grace Abbott Elementary as a secretary and began teaching piano lessons out of her home.

Fast forward to 2014 and the Wrenns began kicking around the idea of downsizing. “We really love this part of town and enjoyed that house,” Cindy Wrenn said. “We weren’t in a big hurry…Our youngest was still sort of bouncing back and forth from apartment to home, and me living two minutes from work was definitely huge.” And her piano students—many of whom attended the elementary—were nearby.

“While we loved the two-story, we knew someday we weren’t going to be able to do the stairs and we wanted less square feet to take care of,” Wrenn added. “Van was also doing all the snow and yard care and traveling a lot at the time, so he wanted to outsource all of that.”

The Wrenns agreed they wanted to remain in northwest Omaha and sought out a ranch-style house with a formal living room for holding piano lessons. Wrenn said they looked at several options including villas, which they found “pretty pricey.”  They settled on a three-bedroom, three-bath townhome in the Waterford neighborhood near 156th and Ida streets, about 10 minutes further north.

The Wrenns spent about nine months prepping their home for sale and listed it the following spring in a strong housing market. It sold fairly quickly, and the transition went well.

Four years later, Wrenn said they’re both very happy with their decision to downsize and their choice in homes. She said she rarely misses the space of the old place, “except at the holidays. We have a growing family—three granddaughters and another grandchild on the way. It can be a bit tight when everyone’s over.”  She retained all but one piano student, and her work commute is only a few minutes longer.

Lisa Andrews, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Ambassador Real Estate, said the Wrenns are typical of downsizing clients, a growing market as the population ages. “They’re usually in their 50s or 60s and looking for homes with the same or a bit less space but a better layout and utility,” she explained, “A nice master with a big master bath on the main level, plus an office, a family room, and maybe a spare bedroom.” Large kitchens with pantries, good storage, main-floor laundry, covered decks, and a fenced yard for pets are also in demand. “And maybe an extra TV room or play space for the grandkids—just a bump-out space.”

Formal dining and living rooms are not as desirable among older clients, who often “pass the torch” of hosting holiday dinners and family gatherings onto the next generation, Andrews added.

Buyers moving locally almost always want to remain within their same quadrant of the city, Andrews said. “People become very attached. I’ve only had one couple in all my years that downsized and moved to a different part of town.”

Andrews admitted that finding a villa or ranch townhome with the desired amenities within budget can be a challenge. “The price point for new construction can be high. Downsizing from a large two-story to a smaller ranch is often not going to save you money. Ranches generally cost more.” And while existing villas and townhomes may be cheaper, they’re in short supply. “Maybe you want to buy a place that provides snow removal and lawn service, but that’s not available. I tell people to go with the layout and house and just outsource that stuff. It helps to be flexible.”

Staying flexible is exactly what Cathy Bolton aimed for when she decided to downsize four years ago. While she envisioned staying in the large Elk Creek Crossing two-story she built in 2000 until retirement, a divorce and five years of maintaining the home on her own changed her perspective. With a strong housing market and desire to move on, she decided to sell her home a couple months after her daughter graduated from high school.

“Mowing a big lawn, cleaning three bathrooms, fixing things or breaking the bank to hire a repair man…it just became too much on my own,” Bolton said. Reducing her mortgage payment and maintenance costs became her goal.

With her younger son still in high school and daughter commuting to community college, Bolton said she wanted to remain in northwest Omaha near their schools, her doctor, her regular grocery and shopping, etc. She was less certain about what type of house she wanted. She opted to rent a three-bedroom townhome and move in before listing her home. Once empty, she had remaining home repairs made, cleaned, painted, and had her real estate agent stage it for a quick sale.

“I think it would have been impossible to do while living in with a family,” said Bolton, who has a history in mortgage lending. “It was the best decision.” Doing so enabled her to get her full asking price.

Bolton said the layout of the townhomehalf the size of her former homemade all the difference. “It was laid out great so everyone had their own private areas, so we didn’t feel on top of one another.”

Renting had its pros and cons, Bolton said. “It was good because I wasn’t sure what I wanted and I didn’t want to buy and get trapped or have to move two years later.” It proved disappointing when her landlord decided to sell the property and she was forced to relocate after just 18 months.

“It totally caught me off guard,” Bolton said. “But moving again was a lot easier because I didn’t have near as much stuff, and we weren’t as attached. There were a lot of emotions with the first move…it was especially hard on the kids. But I think it made them resilient and reinforced that ‘home is where the heart is,’ as cheesy as that sounds.”

Today, Bolton’s daughter is on her own, and she and her son live in a smaller three-bedroom home near Eagle Run golf course, which she purchased in 2019. She said she’s glad she waited to buy until she was certain what she wanted and set her priorities, like a bigger garage.

“[With the townhome], I was surprised by how much I missed the garage space.” Bolton said. “Now I have a two-car plus a tandem space for garden tools and a work bench, and a longer driveway for everyone to park when they come over. It’s those things you don’t think of.”


This article was printed in the January/February 2020 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Eclectic Style Pulls Together Custom-Built Home

September 26, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Lime green lawn chairs and a Japanese maple brighten the entryway of the Legenza’s Bennington home, creating an inviting space typical of their style.

“Our last house was so dark and it drove me crazy,” Tara Legenza says. “It was built in ’79 so the rooms were very defined, and I hated that.”

Behind their front door is a curated entryway that melds into the open floor plan with one great kitchen, dining, and living room space where the Legenza family—including husband Jon, two children, three dogs, and a full tank of saltwater fish—spend their time. The space features two massive, exposed-bulb chandeliers.

“I knew I wanted one, big, open space,” Tara Legenza says. “I wanted tons of light.”

After three years searching for an existing carpet-free house with an open floor plan, natural light, and a modern exterior, the Legenzas decided to build their current home.

“We were like, ‘We’re just going to do it our way,’” Legenza says.

Their three-bedroom, three-bath home was two years in the making. When their first home sold faster than expected, Legenza and the kids moved in with her parents in San Antonio for a year while the custom home was finished.

“Then we moved in Christmas Day,” she says. “It was like a great present.”

Tara and Jon collaborated on the floor plan by “meshing” together several home floor plans from their builder, Todd Gaver of Gaver Custom Homes. Legenza added a few custom features for their family, including lower cabinets in the kitchen offering easy dish access for their young kids and a pantry with ample counter and shelf space.

Tara Legenza's kitchen

“I always think about efficiency,” Legenza says. “Where will people stand, how will they use the space. Everyone’s family life is different, so you definitely need to plan for your life.”

“Life-proof” luxury vinyl planking, or “LVP” as Legenza calls it, and colored concrete in the lower level were chosen to make maintenance and cleanup a breeze.

“We built this house with pets, kids, craziness in mind,” Legenza says. “We like to entertain quite a bit too, and we’re not people that make you take your shoes off at the door.”

She grew up in a military family and relocated to Omaha in 1999. Legenza received an associate’s degree in photography from Metropolitan Community College and a Bachelor of Arts and Studio Arts from the University of Nebraska. 

In 2014, following a successful career in corporate marketing, Legenza founded ReDefined Interiors by Tara, a home staging and decorating business, that eventually led her to join Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Ambassador Real Estate as an agent.    

The career shift lets her take “calls on the go,” gets her out from behind her desk, and offers a work-life balance suited to her creative personality. Legenza’s sense of style goes into her staging as well as her home. Favorite pieces displayed in her entryway include antique cameras, film cutting equipment, hardcover books from her grandparents, and canvas displays of her photography.

“I have an eclectic taste, and I incorporate things that have meaning for me,” Legenza says.

“Everything kind of has a story behind it, and that is what I find interesting.”

She selects pieces on a gut feeling, sometimes saving them until an artist has a vision, as with a piece of walnut, carved into her favorite coffee table by Peyton Maas of Forged Woodworks in Springfield, Nebraska. The grand ladder gracing the entryway was salvaged from a demolished barn in the Omaha area. Others, such as a mid-century modern lounge chair bought at a garage sale for $5, were investments she sees as worth revamping.

“I grew up going to estate sales with my grandparents [and] my mom, and just finding these cool things,” Legenza says. “I just found that having meaning was better than having something new and pretty.”    

Three years of house hunting, two years of building, and future projects for the home have informed Legenza’s practice as a real estate agent.

“Going through the building [process] and the selling process of our first house [has] definitely given me a different perspective on how to tell people what to expect,” Legenza says.

Behind the walls and underneath the LVP are less glamorous but important aspects to consider in custom builds, according to Legenza.

“A lot of people don’t spend money on the better insulation and plumbing fixtures, and over time it is just going to cost you more money,” Legenza says. “It is definitely worth investing in that.” 

Location is vital in home-buying as well. After shopping around, Jon and Tara chose their lot for its size and the strong school system in the Bennington area.

“This kind of felt like [the] country at the time. It has since exploded, but it is definitely a small-town feel, and that’s what we liked,” says Legenza. “It feels like the iconic USA neighborhood.”


This article was printed in the October 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Tara Legenza's kitchen, horizontal

Team Irish

March 9, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

The mother-daughter real estate duo of Sheila Irish and Brittney Kusmierski have a simple philosophy when it comes to their clients.

“We do what’s right, and we treat people the way we would want to be treated,” Irish says. “We do our business with heart; we care about our clients. This is the largest purchase most people will ever make. We go above and beyond to make sure things go smooth through the whole process from the loan to the closing. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying/selling a $70,000 or $1.5 million house—you’re going to get the best service from both of us.”

Team Irish’s cozy office nicely fits the family atmosphere of their real estate group, she adds. “Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Ambassador Real Estate is a family. We work to help each other. We’re transparent, and we have an amazing culture that Vince Leisey has created,” she says. “The employees at our company are not agents and work directly for Vince. We’re always running around 100 miles per hour, and each of us have our own lives going on, but at any given moment we’ll stop and chat and be there to support one another.”

That positive environment translates to great service for clients.

“From contract to closing and beyond, we’re diligent in the work that we do and the service we provide,” Irish says. “We complete not only the necessary tasks to get a deal done, but we lead our clients on a journey that they remember. And we have fun!”

331 Village Pointe Plaza
Omaha, NE 68118
402.618.5037
teamirish4homes.com