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!

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?

July 23, 2018

For Smoker and Tokers

So, you like to smoke.

Thankfully, we can do most anything we like to within the confines of our home. However, if you are smoking cigarettes or joints or even burning harmless incense, you should consider doing one of two things:

1. Don’t smoke inside your house.

Step out onto the back patio/porch.

If you must smoke, get a smokeless ashtray 2. If quitting smoking or not smoking inside your home are options, look into purchasing a few smokeless ashtrays such as the one pictured above. Cigarette smoke and its odor cling to walls, ceilings, and your furnishings. Long after the cigarette is extinguished the odor remains. When buyers are out looking at homes, they know if a smoker lives in the house as soon as they open the front door. On odd occasions, you can even smell the odor of cigarettes before you open the door if the house reeks sufficiently enough of it. I have had buyers walk away from smokers’ houses without even going in to have a look around because they couldn’t get past the stale or pungent smell from cigarettes and marijuana. Not only can smoking in your home devalue it, the odor can prevent it from selling at all. The same goes for heavy incense users! By using smokeless ashtrays, you limit to a certain extent how much smoke gets circulated in the house.

3. If you have quit smoking or can smoke outside, there are several things you might consider doing to reduce the impact years of smoking has had on your home. If you’ve ever gone to a smoky bar, you were probably reminded of your outing the morning after – when you could still smell smoke on your clothes. The same thing applies to the fabrics in your home. a) If possible, the fabrics in your home need to be aired out or washed in cold water, and then air dried. If line drying is impractical, use low heat. Some of your items might benefit more from a visit to the dry cleaners! b) For those items that cannot be aired out or taken to the cleaners, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on all their soft surfaces. Use something similar to a colander or flour shaker to sprinkle baking soda over your carpet, fabric-covered furnishings, and mattresses. It should look like you have a thin layer of snow around the room! Then, work the baking soda into the soft surfaces by gently rubbing your hand over the mattress or fabric, or by walking around the carpeted room in your socks. Let the baking soda absorb the odor for about an hour while you clean the hard surfaces. After about an hour, get busy vacuuming everything up. c) To clean your hard surfaces you can try white vinegar. There’s something about vinegar that gets rid of smoke smell. Because the smell of smoke is caused by the leftover resins and tars, vinegar (an acid that cuts through resin and tar) is a great way to clean those surfaces that are not made of fabric, and perhaps, some that are fabric. I know what you’re thinking; vinegar does not smell much better than smoke. Well, that’s true, but the smell of vinegar eventually diminishes, cigarette smoke does not.

4. If your house has had a chronic smoker living in it and the house reeks from years of smoke, your likely best and only solution is to bring in commercial ozone generator. The stronger the odor, the higher the concentration of ozone is required (larger machines). Alternatively, you can run several machines all at once throughout the house. It will be cheaper than replacing carpet and re-painting walls and ceilings!

The important thing that I’d like you to take away from this blog is that you should stop smoking inside your house now to prevent additional smoke odors from piling on to what is already present. This should help reduce the amount of effort required to eliminate the odors that still remain when you start thinking about selling your home.

Posted in Home Tips
June 30, 2018

How Boston's Personal Residential Exemption Works

The mayor and the Boston City Council chose to increase the residential exemption from 30% to 35% of the average of all residential parcels back in 2017. This amounted to a tax reduction of $2,433 for everyone who had a personal residential exemption on file. This means that many homeowners saw their property tax bill go lower... provided the assessed value of their properties hadn't skyrocketed!

The current tax rate for 2018 is $.01048 by which you multiply your assessed value. Therefore, if your property is assessed at $500,000 and you did not apply for your exemption prior to 2018, your property tax bill will be $500,000 x .01048 = $5240. With that same residential exemption in place, that tax bill drops $2,433. In this example, the tax bill then becomes $2,757.

Property Tax - Personal Residential ExemptionsHowever, the residential exemption in 2018 has increased further to $2,538 and the .01048 tax rate is 11 cents less than 2017. These two factors provide yet another nice tax break to Boston property owners! I reckon this has saved Bostonians over $50 a month. Not bad!

You can look up the current and assessed value of any property in Boston at http://www.cityofboston.gov/assessing/search/ and use this to determine the taxes on your current or future residence.

Posted in Market Updates
May 23, 2018

Summer Security

If you can’t afford a security system or you can’t afford all the equipment you want at first, you can use some fake gadgets as a temporary fix or to bolster your existing security measures. After all, it's better to have fake security system than nothing.

Fake TV device

Fake TV

A Fake TV gives the impression that you’re home and watching TV in your dark or dimly lit home. It’s a small box that emits light to mimic the color and scene transitions of a television program. When someone sees the television-like glow through your window, it seems that someone is home watching TV, possibly deterring burglars from your home. Available from FakeTV.com

A Pretend Motion sensor

You can get a dummy motion sensor that emits a small LED flashing light, and if it senses motion, it can give a message to the intruder. Choose from different electronic voice warnings such as “Warning! Warning! Security Alert!” or “The authorities are being notified!” The fear of being caught by a security device may scare intruders away.

Barking Dog device

A Pretend Dog Barking Device

Place a sensor outside your home and when it detects motion, a speaker inside your home plays dog barking noises. Some more sophisticated systems will also turn on some lights in the home shortly after the dog starts barking, to make it appear that you were woken up or bothered by the dog barking. Typically, noisy dogs are not a burglar’s friend, and it may make a burglar think twice about breaking into your home.

Fake Security Cameras

Fake Security Cameras

 

Fake security cameras can give the impression that a burglar is under surveillance. Although the whole point of buying fake security components is to save money, you don’t want to buy the cheapest fake security camera because it will look cheap and fake. Spring for a good-looking model and ask yourself if you would be tricked by it, so it will be more likely to trick intruders.

Fake decal

Yard Signs and Stickers for Security Companies That May Not Even Exist


Fake security decal

A sign or window sticker warning that your home is armed by a security system may deter burglars, even if your home doesn’t really have a security system. However, some signs and stickers look more believable than others, and if you have a fake company logo on your yard sign, it’s pretty easy nowadays for a determined thief to whip out their smartphone, Google the brand, and see if it’s a legitimate company or not.

Posted in Home Tips
Dec. 23, 2017

3 Energy Saving Myths Busted

Here are three winter energy-saving myths that have been repeated so many times people believe they’re true. Plus, three alternatives to help you save money this winter and all year round.

Windows Myth 1: Replacing single-pane windows is a good investment. According to the Energy Star program, replacing old single-pane windows with double-pane, low-E windows will save you money every month. While that’s true, it’s not the entire story. In an average house with 20 or more windows, it could take up to 30 years to recoup the cost. Most people don’t stay in their home that long.

Money-saving alternative: Storm windows are less expensive, customized to fit over existing single-pane windows and installed by homeowners. Storm windows save energy by creating a second layer of air that reduces drafts and escaping heat. Newer models can be left on year round, as they open and close.

Myth 2: Exterior caulking is the best way to seal leaks. The purpose of exterior caulking is to keep water out, not prevent heat from escaping. Making your house more energy efficient usually requires improvements on the inside.

Money-saving tip: Underneath the house, the floor joists and sill plates around the foundation are usually poorly insulated. A simple bead of caulk where wood meets foundation can help reap rewards. Elsewhere, however, more is needed. In the attic, blown-in insulation will make a dramatic difference in energy savings (especially in older homes) helping keep hot air inside in winter and outside during summer.

Myth 3: Closing registers saves energy. Forced-air heating systems are more efficient with the registers open. And over time, ducting can develop leaks, so closing registers only forces more air out of the leaks.

Money-saving tip: If you have easy access, patch or replace old ducting with obvious air leaks. Reduce the need for forced-air heat by placing more efficient space heaters in rooms you spend the most time in.

Small losses of energy can add up, but locating them often takes specialized equipment. That’s why one of the best home improvement investments you can make, both to identify energy loss and get inexpensive and simple solutions to close those gaps, is arranging an energy audit through your utility company. Don’t forget to ask about rebates or incentives when you schedule the appointment!

Source: The Family Handyman

June 26, 2017

FHA Conforming Loan Limits Raised

and, do so annually!

FHA loan limits

Getting a mortgage for a home can be a challenge for many buyers for a variety of reasons. However, high-cost-of-living states such as Massachusetts pose an additional challenge – higher down-payment requirements. Fortunately, the Feds understand this and try to keep the FHA low-down-payment mortgages available in such high-cost states particularly where counties see skyrocketing prices. As long as your loan amount doesn’t exceed $598,000, you will be able to purchase a home with an FHA-insured mortgage with only 3.5% down. Therefore, your purchase price cannot exceed $620,000 unless you are willing to increase your down payment to compensate for the higher price.

Posted in Market Updates
May 15, 2017

FICO Scores

My Credit Score is Decent.
or is it?!

How many times do we REALTORS® hear buyers say, “My credit is good” when it really it isn’t? Constantly. Some buyers think that their credit is in great shape when it isn’t because they don’t understand what good credit is considered these days and how lenders arrive at a different score than what you might find online.

Here is how a FICO score is determined so you can take steps to improve yours:

Get a handle on your FICO score

* 35% is determined by your payment history: having a long history of making payments on time and no missed payments on credit accounts is one of the most important items lenders look for. * 30% is determined by amounts you owe: measured by the amount you owe relative to the total amount of credit available to you. Someone closer to maxing out their credit limit is deemed to be a higher risk for late payments in the future and this can lower his credit score. * 15% is determined by the length of credit history: a credit report containing a list of accounts opened for a long time is ideal. The score considers your oldest account and the average of all accounts. * 10% is determined by new credit accounts: therefore, opening several new accounts in a short period of time can lower your score. Also, multiple credit inquiries can represent a higher risk; except for those initiated by you, an employer, or a bank when soliciting “pre-approved” credit offers. To compensate for rate shopping, the score counts multiple inquiries in any 14-day period as just one inquiry. * 10% is determined by the types of credit in use: how many retail accounts, finance company loans, credit cards, and mortgage loans are given consideration.

When all is said and done, the best number to have before taking out a loan is 740 or above. This score is viewed as a safe risk and you can get a loan fairly easily and at the best rate. Less than 740 just makes things more difficult and the interest rate possibly higher.

Posted in Market Updates