A Garden Designer’s Cape Cod Cottage

Realtor Lisa Sadinsky helped Jennifer Mooney find an affordable home where she could create a dream garden of her own.

Photo © 2013 Julie Bidwell Jennifer Mooney, owner of Paula’s Perennials in West Hartford, Conn., poses with her two dachshunds, Henry and Kiki, at her Cape Cod-style cottage.

About the Agent

  • Name: Lisa Cudrin Sadinsky
  • Brokerage: ERA Broder Group
  • Location: West Hartford, Conn.
Contact Lisa
After working as a fashion editor for Women's Wear Daily in New York City, Jennifer Mooney decided to move back to her hometown of West Hartford, Conn., to start a gardening design business, Paula’s Perennials, with her mother. While Jennifer wanted low-maintenance living, she also wanted room to design a garden of her own, so a condo wouldn’t cut it. Find out how Realtor Lisa Sadinsky helped her find a place that fit her needs.

What was at the top of the homebuyer’s wish list?

At the top of Jennifer’s wish list was a home that was affordable enough to leave her some extra cash for growing her fledgling garden design business.  Her second most desired characteristic was good bones and low maintenance in every possible way – down to preferring a home with a first-floor roof line ( ranch or cape) so she could clean the gutters and windows herself without having to climb a tall ladder. (Jennifer is among the most industrious, independent and detailed-oriented women I’ve ever known.)  Low maintenance can generally be satisfied with a condo, but Jennifer wanted complete control of the exterior to design her own dream garden, so a condo was out of the question. 

How did you go about fulfilling the buyer's needs? What were your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge was matching Jennifer’s price range with the specific type of neighborhoods within West Hartford she wanted.  She wanted professional, highly educated neighbors with well-maintained homes – in West Hartford this generally means a price point that’s at least 50 percent more than Jennifer’s budget.  To meet this challenge we focused on homes that needed TLC but weeded out homes that had a lot of costly deferred maintenance issues. 

Why did you think this house in particular would be a good fit for Jennifer?

This was the perfect house in so many ways.  The neighborhood borders Wood Pond, one of the more prestigious neighborhoods in West Hartford, so it met Jennifer’s location desires.  It’s a brick cape, so it offers all the benefits of low maintenance one-floor living but like all capes offers additional square footage, which Jennifer could finish if/when she desired to expand her living space over time.   It was an estate sale, so although the bones of the house were in good condition it needed the cosmetic work Jennifer was willing to do.  The yard had tremendous potential for a showpiece garden, with stone walls and a variety of mature plantings that could be used to anchor the new design.

How closely did this house match the buyer's original wish list? What compromises were made?

In Jennifer’s own words: On a purely visual level, it was literally the house of my dreams. I had always envisioned myself in a sweet New England cottage-style house surrounded by lush greenery and a cottage garden. On a more realistic level, I was looking for a house that didn’t have any big, expensive upkeep issues looming in the future. I was also dead set on natural gas instead of oil heat. I was looking for my overall cost of living to be low enough that I could build my small business and live without panicking about monthly bills. This house met all of the major points on my checklist: gas heat (and stove – huge bonus for this NYC transplant!), newer roof, newer furnace and water heater. No major structural issues that I would have to worry about down the line. All the cosmetic issues were an exciting bonus as far as a do-it-yourselfer like me is concerned. The neighborhood was also important, and I noticed right away that all of the neighboring homes were beautifully taken care of, another huge bonus. I can’t say there were any compromises. This was truly a perfect fit.

How did you solve any snags or surprises in the home buying process?

We found and Jennifer fell in love with this home within a few weeks of Jennifer deciding it was time to make a move, which in terms of finding a home is relatively quick.  The challenge was quickly selling the home she owned, which proved difficult given the timing of the listing.  There were two instances when I received calls from buyer’s agents stating an offer was coming, only to have one’s hiring package from a potential employer fall apart and the other deciding last minute to succumb to the spouse’s wishes and go with another property.   However, the seller of Jennifer’s current home loved the vision she had for the property and was willing to grant contract extensions to see her vision come to fruition.  The buyer for Jennifer’s previous home fell in love with all it offered, including its stunning gardens and contemporary decor, and before long all parties involved had pens ready for the closings.

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