Top: Compass agents Melanie Olinto and Joe Cunningham celebrate a swift sale with their happy clients the Grasshoff family. Bottom left: Sven and Jessie Grasshoff, with their children Wesley, 3, and Olivia, 5, in their longtime South End home. Bottom right: Keeping up with the kids proved challenging in their urban environs — prompting a shift to the suburbs.

At Home in Boston’s South End

The quick, quiet, off-market sale of their beloved brownstone allowed one family to make a smooth transition from city to suburbs.

Images: Jessika Theos

When Sven and Jessie Grasshoff prepared to sell the apartment they’d lived in for most of the past decade, they didn’t spend weeks cleaning, painting, and staging their home. Instead, they went on vacation. Along with their children, Olivia, 5, and Wesley, 3, they headed to Florida while Compass agents Melanie Olinto and Joe Cunningham listed their home off-market and spread the word among their networks. Five days into their holiday, the Grasshoffs got a call: Their home had sold. No muss, no fuss. They could barely believe it.

“We were so happy, because with two little kids, the last thing we wanted to do was hold open houses and try to keep it clean for showings,” says Jessie, a teacher-turned-full-time mom. “We were amazed that it sold so fast.” Though to be fair, their home is a gem — an airy, 2,210-square-foot, three-bedroom brownstone that boasts a private entryway and large backyard — a real rarity for Boston’s South End. “It feels like a single family home,” says Sven, a partner at Falcon Investments.

Striking built-in shelving, stately arches and columns, a light-filled kitchen, and an entry mudroom (a rarity for Boston!) are some of the key features of the Grasshoffs home.

The Grasshoffs’ apartment did include one major catch: The family wasn’t in a rush to leave. They’d already purchased a new home in Weston, about 15 miles away, but ideally didn’t want to move until the end of the school year to avoid disrupting their childrens’ schedules. “Timing the selling of our place in Boston was important to us, and by doing an off-market listing, Mel advised that buyers would be more flexible and we’d be able to dictate when we wanted to close,” says Sven. “And it worked.”

What made you decide to trade your city home for the suburbs?

Jessie: We both grew up in the same town in Connecticut with lots of land — a place where you could just open your doors and the kids could run outside. Our kids don’t have that kind of freedom living in the city. We just wanted them to have the same experience we had growing up. Plus, our daughter will be starting kindergarten in the fall, and we’re moving to one of the area’s best school districts. But we love this place, we love this neighborhood, we know everybody, and we’ve got a nice life and community here — so we’ll definitely miss it.

How did you meet and decide to work with your Compass agents Melanie Olinto and Joe Cunningham?

Jessie: Melanie’s kids go to the same school as our daughter, though they’re older. We have a mutual friend that had mentioned that we were moving, and she took the initiative to get in touch. We kept saying ‘we’re not ready, we’re not ready,’ because we really were in no rush. And she just kept coming back and asking, ‘are you ready now?’ We felt there was really something to be said for her persistence and ambition.

Sven: We figured if she was going to be that persistent with us, she’d be that persistent with buyers. We interviewed a few different groups, and honestly, one of our big concerns was that we liked the idea of having a real estate team, to make sure that there was always somebody available. I’d voiced that concern to Melanie, and she came back with a solution — partnering up with Joe. We met him, we liked him, and that combination is what made our decision.

Jessie: It was the perfect balance. They both have their different skills. Mel is feisty and loves negotiating and Joe is an executor — he’ll come in and get stuff done. Plus, he used to be an interior designer and is really talented. He even gave us design tips when he came out to our new house! So they complement each other well.

Once I started telling people who we were working with, so many people were like, ‘Oh, Mel? We worked with her. Oh, yeah, we worked with her!’ Everyone in the neighborhood seems to know her.

Your home sold remarkably quickly off-market. What strategies did your agents employ to make that happen?

Jessie: We took many of the same steps you’d normally take — Mel and Joe helped us declutter, take some things off the bookshelves, get rid of some of the family photos, and just clean up. But we didn’t bring in furniture, and we didn’t really change anything. We did have professional photos done, though. Which made the house look so great that we started joking around, saying, ‘why are we moving?’

Sven: Joe was especially helpful — he has a big car, and he even drove out to our new house with us to move some of our stuff.

Jessie: Yes, we put him to work! And we had a vacation already planned, so Mel and Joe suggested that they quietly list our home and show it during the week we were gone. The idea was that maybe two weeks later we’d do an open house if there weren’t any offers. They sent the listing to other Compass agents, as well as within the Top Agent Network (TAN). Another team of Compass agents [the Kopman Adler team] ended up bringing in our buyer. And they got us a great price on our home.

Jessie: It’s hard to leave, as it’s so nice this time of year in Boston. But once the winter sets in, we start schlepping the kids to school in the ice and the snow and the rain and the this and the that — it’ll be really nice to not have to do that. Or on a rainy day, to have the kids go to their playroom instead of into our living room where their stuff is everywhere. We’re sad to be saying goodbye, but we’re excited for our new chapter. And we feel so lucky that closing the door on this one was easy.

We have friends trying to sell their places who have’t had as much luck. And I’ve found myself saying, “You’ve gotta talk to Mel and Joe, it may be time for a change. They’ll get it done!”

Want to work with an agents like Melanie Olinto and Joe Cunningham? Compass partners with you throughout your home search and sell experience, providing deep knowledge of Boston’s real estate market to help you find your place in the world.

Compass Quarterly

Compass Quarterly is a print and digital publication that celebrates our brand's core values: technology, data, entrepreneurship, and design. Join us as we create a more sophisticated real estate experience.

Kelly Phillips Badal

Written by

Writer | Editor | Globetrotter: Specializing in stories about travel, home design, lifestyle, more. Portfolio:; Twitter/IG: @kellybadal

Compass Quarterly

Compass Quarterly is a print and digital publication that celebrates our brand's core values: technology, data, entrepreneurship, and design. Join us as we create a more sophisticated real estate experience.

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