Boston Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Jan. 16, 2019

Emotional Roller Coaster

Emotional highs and lowsIf you should find yourself in a divorce situation or needing to divest the property of a deceased family member, it can be a bumpy ride, even though it shouldn't be. Here are a few points to consider if you find yourself in such a situation:

  1. I had clients whose mother had passed and left the family her house. As with all transactions, my goal was to sell the house for the most the market would pay. To get to that point, the family had to agree upon a realistic listing price for the condition the house was in. This took some doing because several of the family members lived in other states and thought that they knew what the property should sell for. Although it might be best to have an appraisal done to determine value, you should know that appraisals determine value based upon past sales - going back as far as a year. Since the market is always changing, it is just as wise to have a REALTOR®'s opinion of value.
  2. Market value is usually stated as a gross figure and does not take into account sale's or transfer of ownership expenses. These should be taken into account before "splitting the proceeds" between the divorcing couple or among inheritors.
  3. Prior to selling an estate, be sure you have a court-approved right to sell. Your estate attorney should procure this for you.
  4. Prior to listing the property for sale, family members should already have decided upon how the proceeds are to be split and to whom paid. All parties should agree in advance as to what "costs of sale" are to be deducted from the total proceeds at closing or which might be paid separately by whomever. You should have a letter signed by all parties so stating and given to your attorney so funds can be distributed quickly and efficiently upon closing.
  5. If there is a mortgage on the house, learn what its ramifications have on you. If there is a reverse home equity mortgage in place, they usually give you perhaps 6 months to pay the mortgage off. On the other hand, if it's a purchase-money mortgage with a due-on-sale clause, they will want to be paid right away. However, it takes time to foreclose which means you have time to re-finance or sell.
  6. If multiple parties are concerned with different ideas, there's usually an amicable solution available. For example, if one wants to keep the home but the other wants to sell, options include an immediate buyout by the one wanting to retain the property (a short or long-term promissory note might be held by the party wishing to sell while the buying party gets finances in order to take out a new loan); or, perhaps renting the property short-term or long-term is wiser for both with everyone splitting the rental income each month. Worst case scenario, a court can order the sale of the property and the proceeds split among the parties.

Each option comes with certain costs, including:

  • Selling - Listing, staging and closing costs
  • Renting - Property management and maintenance costs
  • Not Selling/Moving in - Maintenance and HOA fees

** Each option discussed also comes with potential state, federal and capital gains taxes. To this end, you might want to find a trusted estate planning attorney.

Jan. 7, 2019

Proposed Property Transfer Tax on Cambridge Homes

Just in from Greater Boston Real Estate Board

Meeting Tonight! 5:30 p.m., Cambridge City Council Meeting, Sullivan Chamber

The City of Cambridge is considering enacting a local by-law to establish a new sales tax on homes. The Cambridge City Council will hold a public hearing tonight! Monday January 7 at 5:30 pm, Cambridge City Hall, 2nd Floor, Sullivan Chamber, 795 Massachusetts Avenue.

Policy Order #10 on Monday's Cambridge City Council agenda will begin the process towards establishing a real estate transfer tax in Cambridge. The Policy Order will initiate a home rule petition from Cambridge asking the Massachusetts legislature to allow Cambridge to create the tax. The adverse economic impact and inequity inherent in real estate transfer taxes make them a bad tax policy for a number of reasons.

  • Subverts Prop 2 1/2: The tax would subvert the voter approval process inherent in a Proposition 2½ override in which voters can decide for themselves whether to increase their own property taxes to fund affordable housing.
  • Community Wide Responsibility: Community-wide responsibilities should be paid for by the entire community. The proposed tax scheme is inequitable and discriminatory as it would single out a small segment of the population, specifically home buyers and sellers, to pay for a community wide need/responsibility.
  • Unstable Source of Revenue: The real estate market is highly sensitive to economic downturns; this tax would provide an unstable source of revenue for a current and ongoing community need.
  • Exclusionary: The tax is exclusionary because it would in effect create an additional barrier to entry. It would establish an entrance and exit fee for each community that adopts it.
  • Increased Cost: Additional taxes and fees are a major burden to buyers and sellers particularly at the time of closing. Taxes and fees have a negative impact on housing costs and economic development.
  • Equity Stripping: It is important to remember that, unlike a home purchase which can be financed, payment of a sales tax cannot be financed. Such a tax would cost thousands of dollars due at closing from the buyer or taken from the seller’s proceeds. This transfer tax could be viewed as a municipal “equity stripping” of the value of one’s home.
Posted in Market Updates
Jan. 3, 2019

Is Feng Shui for You?


Bring Peace into your HomeAre you planning on re-decorating your home to get it ready to sell? Or, are you looking for ways to improve life in your home? In the modern world, it's hard to find peace in our busy lives. Your home is your sanctuary and should be a place of relaxation. Here are some tips you might consider to prepare your home to appeal to those who follow Feng Shui principles, and perhaps enjoy the benefits Feng Shui is supposed to effect.

Briefly put, each area of your home is linked to a different part of your life, known as baguas, and your job is to balance each of those parts to create a harmonious whole.

De-clutter

For a balanced Chi (universal energy) in your home, it's important to declutter 'stuck energy'. This is hard for many people, but once you clear out items that you no longer need, you will find that your home's energy has been boosted because you are more organized and efficient. The North Bagua in your home is attached to your career, so this area is especially important to organize and declutter to maintain strength in the workplace.

Include Natural Elements

The East Bagua area of your home is related to your health and family. Implement water, wood and Earth Feng Shui elements into your décor. Paint a focal wall a warm brown color to represent the Earth, add a large mirror to reflect water and add plants and greenery to represent wood. These elements are supposed to help strengthen your health, well-being and your family's connection.

Implement Power Tones

The South Bagua should have fire and wood elements in the décor. Include a bright red pillow or paint a focal wall red. Then add brown and green elements to the room with plants, photos or art to maintain the wood element in the room and balance the Chi. The South Bagua represents your reputation and needs to balance both power and honesty, represented through fire and natural wood.

Add a Touch of Metal

A white or gray color scheme will help you balance the West Bagua in your home, which represents creativity. Rooms in the west area of your home should be simple and clean with metal elements in photographs, art and visual representations of what inspires you and sparks your creativity. This area of your home is meant for you to unleash your personality and expose the things that make you tick.

Feng Shui is meant to balance your home's energy and give you a sense of peace at home; and so, light candles that have comforting scents, dim your lights at night and truly get in touch with your inner peace. Leave work at work and make your home a place of relaxation by balancing your baguas in each area of your home. With these four ways to improve your home's energy with Feng Shui, you just might feel calmer and more productive in your home... whether you plan on selling or not!

Learn more ideas to implement Feng Shui into your home and life here.

Posted in Home Tips
Jan. 3, 2019

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Listing/Selling

Everyone makes mistakes—even the most seasoned real estate professionals. Perhaps what sets the great listing agents apart from the not-so-great ones is that that they learned from their mistakes early on.

Here are six common home-selling mistakes that new real estate agents face:

  1. Mispricing a Home. Especially at the upper end, mispricing a home can end in disaster for the seller. Agents who specialize in luxury homes have to know how to price those homes. Hear what Michalene Lanzito-Melges, who was with Keefe Real Estate (Lake Geneva, Wis.), warns how agents who don’t manage their clients’ expectations and don’t go the extra mile to price a home accurately could seriously damage their reputations. “The most common mistake I see homeowners make,” says Lanzito-Melges, “is to mistrust the figures the broker or the appraiser shows them and insist on listing the property at a price they feel in their heart is right. “For example, you might insist that your house is worth $2 million when your broker advises that $1.75 million is closer to reality. If you insist on listing it at $2 million, it’s likely that you’ll have to adjust the price downward in a few weeks—and perhaps by that time, the peak selling season will have passed, and a home that might have been snapped up immediately for $1.75 million will languish during the off-peak months at $1.5 million. “When I list a property and it isn’t sold within 30 days, it’s because of the price. Period.” Readjusting the price is an expensive process, Lanzito-Melges says. When you adjust the price of a home, you don’t just revise the listing; you have to relaunch your entire marketing program, including the website. She advises hosting a special “broker open” event if forced to reintroduce a property, but admits it’s tough to get agents to attend these.
  2. Skipping the Pre-Listing Inspection. Not going the extra mile to determine the right price is another common-home selling mistake. If the home is in a neighborhood where there haven’t been any recent sales, and/or the property is unusual for that neighborhood, comps might be sketchy and might paint an inaccurate picture. Agents should insist that the seller get the home into tip-top shape, and have it inspected, before listing it. The seller will sometimes dispute the inspector if something comes up as “substandard.” Of course, if the seller disagrees with the inspector, they should tell you—but they need to know that the inspector’s word is final.
  3. Poor Timing. Agents should also be certain that this is the right time for the client to sell. If they sell now, will they be hit with a tax event that they could avoid by waiting? Are they really eager to sell, and motivated, or will they be content to let the house linger on the market - which is to no one’s benefit. Will they be ready to move out quickly, if necessary? Do they have a deadline?
  4. Providing Unexceptional Home Staging. Poor staging of the house is another common mistake. Each room should have some furniture and decoration, but it shouldn’t look like it belongs to anyone. Also, agents must remember to sell the outside of the home as well as the inside. Many agents forget about a home’s curb appeal, so they don’t bother to suggest making the lawn, porch, garage and deck look beautiful; and then, worse, post inferior photos when they should have hired a professional photographer who knows how to make a home look good on the internet.
  5. Offering Mediocre Advertising. As soon as a home is ready to be put on the market, but before it’s listed, the agent should have a list of several potential buyers or broker contacts and should call them in person. Equally important, though, is to use all marketing avenues—especially the internet—to the fullest.
  6. Keep Sellers Away During Showings. It’s best that sellers absent themselves for showings. Buyers and brokers are uncomfortable when the seller or the listing agent is present and will not linger as long if someone else is following them around. Also, it’s annoying when sellers insist on commenting on ‘their’ home or making suggestions as to how a certain room or feature might be used. Instead, you want to make prospective buyers feel that the home is already theirs.
Posted in Home Tips
Dec. 28, 2018

Short-Term Rentals Regulations

More regulations

Today Governor Baker signed into law a bill regulating and taxing short-term rentals. The timeline for implementation of the law will pose significant challenges for Realtors® conducting short-term rentals in 2019. The following Q&A should provide you with an overview of the new law. MAR has provided the following documents to help manage short-term rentals: an updated Short-Term Rental Lease, a Community Impact Fee Form, a 14-day Exemption Form, and a required Insurance Disclosure Form. These documents can be found at marealtor.com/ShortTermRentals The website will be updated as new forms and information becomes available. At this time, these forms are not part of our online forms library, but we will be working to have them included as soon as possible. New Short-Term Rental Laws in Massachusetts Q&A

What does this new law require?

The new law expands the state's hotel and motel tax to include the short-term rental of homes (condominiums, single family, multifamily, etc.). Massachusetts is one of the last states to adopt this type of tax. The tax applies to all rentals for a period of 31 days or less, regardless of whether the rental is for recreational, personal, or business use. At the insistence of MAR, the new law only applies to short-term rentals, meaning ordinary tenancies, such as an annual lease or a tenancy-at-will, are not covered by this bill.

Tax Structure

The short-term rental rate varies by locality and is the total of the following rates:

  • State: 5.7%
  • Local: up to 6% (Boston 6.5%)
  • Cape Cod & Islands: includes additional 2.75% to fund Cape Cod and Islands Water Protection Fund
  • A community impact fee of up to 3% may be assessed locally on professionally managed properties (Owners of two or more units in one town).

The law requires regulations to minimize the administrative burden on tax filings for those who only rent their unit five (5) months or less each year.

Are there any exemptions in the law?

The tax imposed by the new law does not apply to properties rented for fewer than fourteen (14) days per calendar year. It is important to note that these properties are still subject to the other requirements of the law, such as insurance and registration.

When will this law take effect?

July 1, 2019

What about the 2019 rentals I already booked?

The law exempts from tax any 2019 rental that is booked on or before December 31, 2018. Rentals booked on or after January 1, 2019 for stays on or after July 1, 2019 will be subject to the tax. We anticipate that the Department of Revenue will issue guidance on how to handle the tax on bookings made on or after January 1, 2019.

Does this apply to the units I rent?

As stated above, the new law applies to all rentals for a period of 31 days or less. Ordinary rentals, such as an annual lease or a tenancy-at-will are not covered. The new law applies regardless of whether the owner rents the property themselves, hires a Realtor® to rent the property, or uses an online platform to facilitate the rental.

Do I need to collect the tax?

Most likely, yes. The law requires intermediaries (which includes Realtors® who post the property for rent online) who enter into a written agreement with the owner or operator to collect rent or facilitate the collection or payment of rent on behalf of the operator to collect and remit the tax. The Department of Revenue will issue regulations to clarify how often the tax should be remitted to the Department. This also means that a Realtor® who does not collect or facilitate the collection of rent on behalf of the owner or operator does not need to collect and remit the tax.

Do I need to carry insurance for the listed properties?

No. Although part of earlier versions of the legislation, the final law does not include a requirement that Realtors® provide any liability insurance for listed properties. This requirement was removed due to the advocacy of MAR. Owners, however, are required to maintain $1 million dollars in liability insurance to cover each short-term rental. Realtors® should be sure to confirm that any property they list for rent is properly insured by the owner. The coverage is required to defend and indemnify the owner or operator and any tenants in the building for bodily injury and property damage. Realtors® may elect to offer insurance coverage as part of their services but are not required to.

Before offering a property for short-term rentals, a hosting platform (including Realtors®) must provide notice to the owner or operator that standard homeowners or renters insurance may not cover property damage or bodily injury to a third-party arising from the short-term rental.

Do the properties need to be registered with the state or city/town? Each rental unit will need to be listed with the state short-term rental registry. Additionally, each city and town is permitted to create a registration requirement for short term rentals. Check with your municipal government office for details. Are there any inspections required? Cities and towns may implement a health and safety inspection requirement and set the frequency of inspections. Short-term rental operators are required to cover the cost of inspections and will likely face a fee to cover registration costs as well. What are some best practices I can apply as the new law gets implemented? Realtors® would be wise to disclose to prospective renters that any booking made on or after January 1, 2019 may be subject to a tax and that the tax rate may change before the rental period. Realtors® may want to postpone the collection of rent until the community tax rates are finalized. Develop a policy to verify the number of units owned by each client in a municipality and that those units are properly insured. Stay tuned for more information and please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions that you may have. Justin Davidson General Counsel & Director of Government Affairs Massachusetts Association of Realtors®

Posted in Market Updates
Dec. 27, 2018

FEMA Insurance notice

Just announced...

FEMA Alert

On Wednesday, December 26, the (FEMA) notified insurers that they would not be able to sell or renew flood insurance policies under the (NFIP) during the partial government shutdown. Insurers could however still pay claims on existing policies.

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), together with most of the insurance groups,, noting that on Friday, December 21, Congress and President Trump enacted legislation specifically reauthorizing the NFIP through May 31, 2019. NAR is working with FEMA, the White House and Congress to find a way forward and resolve this situation.

FEMA made the announcement under the Antideficiency Act, which generally prohibits federal spending in excess or advance of appropriations, except in cases of "emergencies involving … protection of property." This is one of the few federal laws where a violation carries penalties up to and including imprisonment of federal employees.

FEMA has asked NAR for any property sales data that would justify an exception to the Antideficiency Act and allow NFIP to resume selling flood insurance policies. NAR has provided our research confirming 40,000 home sales are at stake each month NFIP cannot write policies, and will be following up with additional data.

Update as of January 3... FEMA will now underwrite new policies!!

Posted in Market Updates
Dec. 23, 2018

Are You Ready for Rising Interest Rates

Can’t say I didn’t warn you…

Courtesy Bankrate.com

And Interest Rates Are On the Rise!

Several months ago I was warning buyers and sellers to make a move ASAP before interest rates move up. The ridiculously low interest rates that the Feds have kept artificially low to make the economy look better than it really is was a temporary subterfuge that must eventually give way to a substantial, if not dramatic, rise back to true market value. The difference a one point increase from 3.5% and 4.5% on a $100,000 mortgage is about $60/month or $720/year. A $300,000 mortgage, therefore, costs $180/month or $2,160/year more. If a buyer is on a fixed income, you can see how his purchasing power gets eroded quickly as rates rise. This means buyers cannot afford as an expensive a house as before – or even buy at all – and eventually home values also erode due to the law of supply and demand. The upside for sellers in a market of rising interest rates is the flurry of panic buying as buyers try to buy before rates get too high. The most opportune time for rates to rise is right after a presidential election where there’s a change in government or a change in government policies; and so, it is of little surprise that we are now seeing a hike in interest rates that I have previously warned everyone about. Those who heeded are happy. Those who did not, not so much…

Posted in Market Updates
Nov. 24, 2018

Do Something for Yourself and Your Neighbors

There are two important things everyone should be on top of in the winter time and which inure to one’s own benefit!

1. Have Shovel, Clear Walkways

It is easy to ignore everything but your own driveway and sidewalk after a heavy snowfall. I mean, who even wants to spend hours cleaning one’s own space, let alone other people’s? However, if your neighbor is out of town or incapacitated, think of the Golden Rule and help him out just as you would like to be helped out. On the other hand, call 311 to report lazy or cantankerous Boston neighbors – a $50 fine is assessed each day a violation exists! See https://www.boston.gov/departments/311/rules-clearing-snowKeep your hydrant visible

2. Have Shovel, Clear Hydrant

You never know when an emergency might arise like a tree catching on fire, and so you will want to ensure that your nearby fire hydrant is clear from snow so that the fire responders won’t have to spend time clearing it before they can hook up to it and put the fire out!

Allow melting water to reach storm drain

3. A less urgent task

but still important nonetheless is keeping the street drains clear so as much runoff can be drained off the streets and sidewalks to cut back on icy patches from forming nearby.

Posted in Home Tips
Sept. 24, 2018

Tenants, Landlords, and Marijuana

Marijuana, Landlords, & TenantsYes, it is legal to use marijuana products in Massachusetts; but that does not give you the right to smoke it wherever you want. Wherever smoking cigarettes is restricted, marijuana, too, is restricted. Therefore, if your landlord does not allow smoking on the premises, this includes weed as well. Please read your lease carefully before signing if smoking inside your apartment/home is important to you. Until landlords think about it, cultivating a certain amount of marijuana for personal use is permitted. However, once insurance companies notify their clients about raising insurance rates where growing marijuana indoors occurs – possibility of water damage, electrical fires, and mold being factored in – landlords might prohibit the growing of weed as well. Since the ballot on recreational use of marijuana only passed 54% to 46%, there are a lot of folks who don’t care for the presence of weed; therefore, homeowners should remove or relocate equipment during the listing period. It goes without saying, homeowners should not smoke either cigarettes or weed inside the house if they do not want to impact the value of their home when it comes time to sell it.

Posted in Home Tips
Aug. 23, 2018

Reasons Your Home Did Not Sell

Jim Sells Where Others Fail

Jim Sells Boston where others fail

There are several reasons why properties languish on the market and take a long time to sell… if ever. Let’s talk about the obvious one – Price.

The biggest mistake a seller makes after they have decided upon a price for their property is believing that their property is priced okay even if dozens of buyers go through the house and no one makes an offer especially if the feedback they get only includes complaints about the location, floor plan, yard. This situation is only compounded when the feedback is good and sellers are hearing buyers say how beautiful the property is. Folks, whether your property is in an undesirable area/location, whether it is too small or even too big, whether it is a fixer-upper or even a tear down, it can sell very quickly if the price is right. On the other hand, if you have a gorgeous property in an ideal location and totally updated, it will take forever to sell if it is overpriced. There is a buyer for every kind of property, but only for the right price. Buyers compare houses one to another and through the process of previewing, eliminate those that do not fit what they are hoping to find based upon location, floor plan, price, and appeal (smells good, looks good, feels right). Therefore, if your property has been on the market longer than the average days on market of previously sold properties, your listing is over priced – even if it is the nicest home on the market. Another way to put it is this: If your property has been on the market for 21 days with few to no showings or if you have had 21 viewings with no offers, then the market is rejecting your property at its current price point.

Sellers who have competent representation by Certified Negotiation Experts should under price – not over price – their properties to begin with. By underpricing your property, you create an excellent opportunity for bidding wars among potential buyers akin to an auction which will drive the price up to or above market value.

In this way, buyers are the ones who are stressed out about how high to go with their offer price; whereas, when sellers overprice, they are the ones who stress out over how low to go so they don’t lose the offer at hand. Bidding warHere is a real-life example with one of Jim’s listings: Sellers wanted to list at $1,100,000 but the market did not support such an asking price. Jim suggested listing between $1,025,000 and $1,050,000 to maximize the number of prospects willing to look at the property. Open houses were held for an hour on Saturday and 2 hours on Sunday to give everyone an opportunity to view the property. Offers were to be received by Monday evening. By Monday evening, 5 offers had come in and after several phone calls to give everyone an opportunity to make their highest and best offer, the property went under contract for $1,087,000 – $62,000 more than asking. Another property on the same street started out at $1,149,000 and after 3 weeks was reduced to $1,099,000 – without success. After another 3 weeks the price was further dropped to $1,069,000 and finally sold 2 weeks later - $1,035,000. Property 1 was on the market for 2 days. Property 2 was on the market 55 days. Which seller had the better representation?