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!

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
April 26, 2017

Avoid These Common Mistakes

When Buying A Home

Being an Accredited Buyer Representative, I take my job looking out for my buyer clients very seriously. If I am going to find the right home in the right area at the right price I need more than just “We’re looking for a 3-bedroom home in Boston.” I need to know as much about your preferences and top priorities in terms of features, location, and lifestyle. This is why it’s important to have a detailed conversation before jumping into the search; hence the tongue-in-cheek photo attached!

Please do not confuse your Google search with my REALTOR license!1. Underestimating Costs

The purchase price seems to be the big number to focus on but you also need to factor in other costs including: property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utility bills, home maintenance expenses, desired home improvements, closing costs, and if applicable, mortgage insurance and association dues/move-in fees. In fact, being qualified to buy a house doesn’t automatically make you qualified to buy a condo if the association has high monthly fees.

Google, Zillow, Trulia, etc. are not your friends.

2. Not Getting Pre-Approved

Right now, many parts of Boston are experiencing a Seller’s Market where buyers are having to compete in bidding wars to get the home they want. If you do not have a letter showing that you are pre-approved for the purchase price of the house you want to make an offer on, you will be lucky if the seller will even look at your offer when three or more other buyers have submitted such letters with their offers.

3. Not Researching The Neighborhood.

It’s easy for you to imagine yourself living in a beautifully updated home, while overlooking what it will be like living in its neighborhood. Be sure to consider schools, parks, proximity to transportation, shopping, restaurants, safety, or anything else that is important to you.

4. Ignoring Resale Value

While house hunting, the thought of selling your new home may seem a remote and distant prospect, but it might not be! Even if you imagine yourself living there forever, life often dishes out unexpected changes. It's important, then, to consider how other buyers might react to your home when you turn around to sell it because what you think is tolerable and not a big deal might be the cause of future buyers avoiding buying it due to undesirable or hard-to-modify features. It such instances, you need to ensure that you are getting a great deal on your purchase because future buyers will want a great deal to buy yours.

5. Not Hiring Jim

You may or may not be aware of “buyer representation” and what it means. Even if you do, only a select number of real estate professionals are Accredited Buyer Representatives! This designation is earned only through experience, special coursework, and keeping up on the latest issues and trends. He is a proven and skilled professional who can achieve the best results for you.

March 31, 2017

Government's Heavy Hand on Landlords

Just Cause Eviction Bill Re-Introduced Again in 2017

Eviction might be getting more difficultIf you’re a landlord or planning on becoming one in Boston, you have to keep informed of what you can and cannot do when your property is within the city limits of Boston. Mayor Martin Walsh has re-filed a proposal to radically change the eviction law in Boston. The “Jim Brooks Stabilization Act” is nearly identical to the just cause eviction bill filed in late 2016. GBREB strongly opposes the bill which would prohibit landlords from failing to renew a lease or terminating a tenancy at will, would limit the grounds upon which a landlord could terminate any tenancy, and would require notification to the City prior to the filing of eviction actions.

The proposed home rule petition has been referred to the Committee on Government Operations chaired by Councilor Michael Flaherty. No date for a public hearing has been set as of this day. The bill would need to be approved by the Boston City Council and the State Legislature before becoming law. If the bill is sent to the State House, the Mayor’s office has indicated that freshman legislator Chyna Tyler (D-Boston) intends to file the bill.

Photo courtesy: fastevictionservice.com CA

Posted in Market Updates
Feb. 17, 2017

Landlords, Tenants, and Snow Removal

Who’s Responsible for Snow Removal?

Get your shovel out!

You own a rental property and insist that you have no responsibility for removal of snow except for clearing the sidewalks as required by a municipal ordinance. Are you correct? No. The usual rule is that it is the responsibility of the homeowner or landlord to keep means of egress free of snow and ice. The State Sanitary Code provides that, “the owner shall maintain all means of egress at all times in a safe, operable condition and shall keep all exterior stairways, fire escapes, egress balconies and bridges free of snow and ice.”

If the residence has its own means of egress, meaning that it is not shared with other occupants, the landlord and tenant can agree to allocate the responsibility of maintaining such egress free of snow and ice to the tenant.  Therefore, in situations where there is a single or multi-family home and the occupant has its own exclusive means of egress, be sure to review the lease to determine who is responsible for keeping exclusive means of egress clear of snow.

What about when you are the property owner and occupant? Do you have a legal obligation to remove snow and ice from your own property? Yes. All Massachusetts property owners have a duty to use “reasonable care” for the protection of visitors, and are legally responsible for the removal of snow and ice from their property. In terms of liability, homeowners should be aware of the 2010 SJC ruling of Papadopoulos v. Target Corp. That case expanded the duty of property owners to remove snow and ice from their property and definitively held that Massachusetts property owners have a duty to use “reasonable care”for the protection of visitors, and are legally responsible for the removal of snow and ice from their property.

The Court did not define “reasonable care,” and the duty of the property owner will depend on the specific situation. It is recommended that every property owner should take care to do the following: (1) review insurance policies to be sure that there is adequate coverage; (2) determine whether contractors or others hired to remove snow and ice have insurance; and (3) be vigilant when there is newly fallen snow, melting or freezing. If complete clearing is not possible, warning signs may be appropriate.

Posted in Home Tips
Jan. 31, 2017

Curious About Local Real Estate?

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Curious about local real estate? So are we! Every month we review trends in our real estate market and consider the number of homes on the market in each price tier, the amount of time particular homes have been listed for sale, specific neighborhood trends, the median price and square footage of each home sold and so much more. We’d love to invite you to do the same!

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You can sign up here to receive your own market report, delivered as often as you like! It contains current information on pending, active and just sold properties so you can see actual homes in your neighborhood. You can review your area on a larger scale, as well, by refining your search to include properties across the city or county. As you notice price and size trends, please contact us for clarification or to have any questions answered.

We can definitely fill you in on details that are not listed on the report and help you determine the best home for you. If you are wondering if now is the time to sell, please try out our INSTANT home value tool. You’ll get an estimate on the value of your property in today’s market. Either way, we hope to hear from you soon as you get to know our neighborhoods and local real estate market better.

Posted in Market Updates