Blog :: 2011

As the Holidays Approach

It's important to remember the value of your home. Especially this time of year, when being together with your family is paramount, don't forget to also give thanks to the building that keeps you safe and warm all year long.

A few things you can do to remember your home:

1. Get it a gift. It will make it seem better all year long. Some ideas are: new throw pillows, curtains or a new rug, or lamp, or maybe go big with new energy-saving windows or a HE washer and dryer. Get something that will make it more of a home.

2. Don't forget to decorate with love this holiday season! Bring warmth into your space with lights, candles and even some seasonal music. Pandora radio stations are great ways to ensure that your classic music choices don't run on repeat or get boring.

3. If you are going away, and leaving your home for the holidays, don't forget to get someone to take care of it. You want to ask a neighbor to get your mail and newspapers and to go in and change the lights every night. Also, be sure to turn your water off in the event of a freeze. These tips might seem obvious, but if you live in a condo, it might not be as natural.

Enjoy the holiday season everyone!

Is Bigger Better?

When shopping for a home, what's on your wish-list? If you're looking in the suburbs, due to the current state of the real estate market some of the giant homes are being sold for uber affordable prices. Does that mean you should swoop in and grab them? Not necessarily. If you're looking in the city, the prices per square foot are still so high, that sometimes it's important to ask yourself: is bigger really better? What could purchasing a small home save you? In time, money and headaches? A lot.

Here are somethings about small homes that make them extremely attractive:

1. Small homes cost less: not only upfront, but over the years. Heating and cooling a small house is so much less expensive than a big house. Furnishing and decorating all the extra rooms adds up, and renovating extra restrooms, or a giant kitchen, comes with a giant price tag. And don't forget that you'll be saving money on the property taxes because of the smaller square footage.

2. Tons of time saved: not having to clean 6 rooms, or 3600 square feet, will save you SO much time.

3. Easier to live simply: with less space, you have less stuff. Quick anecdote: when I moved into my first ever apartment in Boston, my dad was helping me move. My apartment was the typical tiny Beacon Hill unit, and I had a black bookshelf that didn't fit into my room. I didn't want to throw it away because it was perfectly good and almost brand new so my thought is that we would just put it in our living room. My dad warned my roommate and I against it saying, "Don't. Give it away, if you put it out here, you'll just find random stuff to fill it with." We laughed and kept it. A year and a half later it was full of everything from old DVDs to owner's manuals to an iron and we couldn't seem to get rid of any of the stuff. I will never again own more than I need. Ok, so long story short... If you have extra space you will find a way to fill it, and that's not a good thing.

4. Quality investments: when you have less space to fill, you can spend more money on quality pieces that will stand out in the limited space. You can also afford granite or marble slab for counters in a smaller kitchen, or nicer cabinets. You can update 2 bathrooms nicely and not have to worry about the downstairs ones... Basically, it takes less to make a smaller house really nice.

All in all, a small home also makes for a homier home. I think that if you're attracted by the glitz and glam of the large McMansion, just take a moment to consider what a smaller home could save you. Is it worth it in the end?

(Source & inspiration)

Preparing Your Home For Winter

We've already has some cold days this year! Even though it has warmed back up a bit (I promise you that this is only temporary), I can assure you that winter is coming. However, it is not too late to take some steps to prep your home for the cold months ahead.

1. Give your boiler a check up

Whether you like it or not, your heat is going to get turned on soon (if it hasn't been already). It's a good idea to get your boiler tuned up. It could add years to its lifespan! If nothing else, the filter should be changed between cooling and heating, which is not a difficult task!

2. Inspect chimneys!

Now is the time! Do not wait to have them inspected or cleaned if you use your fire place regularly throughout the winter.

3. Weatherstripping

If you're like me and live in an old building in Boston, you can actually feel the cold air blowing into your home from underneath doors and around windows. Get some floor snakes to go under your doors, and purchase some products to seal up your windows. Not only will you save money on heating, but you'll be so much more comfortable when it starts getting really cold!

4. Prevent ice damns on your roof!

"Seal air leaks. Shutting down air leakage is probably going to have the biggest effect, and it's the kind of thing you can do incrementally. The second would be adding insulation. If you have R18 insulation value, turn it into R36. This is where your energy audit will be helpful. And the third is making sure your roof is vented properly, if your house is designed to have a vented roof. Make sure your soffit vents aren't blocked, your gable vents are open." (Source)

5. Order a home energy audit

If you've been putting this off, now is the time to do it. They use an infrared gun to monitor heat leakage, and the process is so much more successful when it's cold outside. The results could help you save money and stay warmer this winter!

6. Prepare an emergency kit

Collect a flashlight, batteries, matches, food and water in case of an emergency. Also, collect the phone numbers of your local utility companies and tape them somewhere safe!

Let us know if you have any other suggestions to keep everything and everyone safe this winter!

Source

Source

Thinking of Renting out your Condo Instead of Selling?

"If I can't get the price I want for my condo...... I'll just rent it."

We can't tell you how often we have heard this statement over the past few years. With the housing market in Boston in a bit of a holding pattern, many condominium owners feel that the best thing to do right now is rent and wait it out.

There are many advantages to this strategy: the potential of market increase, tax deductions, and many other positive aspects to becoming a landlord. But, experience tells us, it may not be as simple as you think.

As Realtors, it is our job to inform condominium owners of all aspects of all their options. With that in mind, we ask people to consider these Seven Considerations Before You Rent Your Home:

1. Tenant occupied properties tend to sell for less

If you decide to rent your property with the intention of selling next spring or the year after, you need to consider that marketing a property with tenants in place can put you at a disadvantage. Tenanted properties tend to not show as well and create challenges for showing availability.

2. Renting your unit could pose a disadvantage to your condo association

One of the largest obstacles we face in the current mortgage market is owner occupancy. A building with more than 30% of the units rented could lower the value of all condominiums in the association.

3. Damage to the property

Keep in mind that if you have recently renovated or improved your property, having a tenant may place wear and tear on these "new" items. Additionally, despite proper screening and best intentions, a tenant almost never takes as good of care of a home as the owner does.

4. What if you get the Tenant From Hell

Even with a complete, professional screening, there is always a chance your tenant could "go bad". A landlord needs to think through if they can afford the monthly expense if the tenant does not pay rent, especially in a down economy without the readiness of available new jobs, should your tenant lose theirs. Are the financial advantages worth the potential cost of renovating after a tenant destroys your property or the cost of an eviction?

5. Monthly Nut

The most important first step in deciding to rent your property is to determine the cost of ownership verses the potential rent. Even if the rent can cover your mortgage, taxes and condo fees, you need to consider maintenance, vacancies, building assessments and other potential expenses of ownership.

6. What if the market goes down instead of up?

As Realtors, we are currently very optimistic about the future of our current real estate market. However, we do not have a crystal ball and there is always the chance that over the next year, two years or beyond, the market in Boston will decrease rather than grow. If you rent with the intention of selling for more "next year", you could end up being a landlord much longer than you planned for.

7. Tenant Issues and Maintenance Problems

Unlike a stock certificate that sits quietly, tenants need things! Are you prepared to get a locksmith at 2am? Do you know good plumbers, electricians? Are you ready to liaise with your condo association if the tenant violates the Rules and Regulations of your association? These are questions any potential landlord needs to ask themselves.

As Real Estate Professionals with a combined 30 years of experience in The Boston Market, we are here to answer your questions, help you weigh your options, and always give you honest advice. Please feel free to contact us anytime for a free real estate consultation or to answer your questions. The knowledge is free! We are here to help and serve.

By, Betsy Herald

QR Codes in Real Estate

I think that at this point, it is safe to say that we have all seen the little scan-able bar codes on advertisements and for sale signs. Have you ever scanned one? Do you even own a smart phone that can? Do you even know what they are? For those of you who answered "no" to that last question, they are QR codes, which is short for "Quick Response codes." The idea is basically, if you have a QR code scanner on your smart phone (which is a free app), where ever you see a QR code, all you have to do is snap it with your phone and you'll be sent to a webpage with details on whatever it is that the code was printed on. In the case of real estate, this means that just by scanning a QR code on a for sale sign outside of a property, you could be sent to the price, square footage, condo fees, and all other useful information about the property instantly to your phone.  When you think about it that way-- it is really no wonder why QR codes are considered among the gold standards for mobile marketing.

However, how many people are actually utilizing them to their full potential?  And who are these people? "Thirty-five percent of adults own a smart phone, according to the Pew Internet Project, making the QR technology available to them." (Source) but that that mean they use it? Although some people definietly remain skeptical or in the dark about QR codes, there has certainly been a boom of them in the last year or so. Now, "Scanbuy Inc., a New York company that develops and manages QR codes, processes 1.2 scans a second, every second of the day, or more than 100,000 scans per day globally. (When the smart phone app scans the code, it acts like a hyperlink, taking the user to a webpage.)" (Source).

And, who is doing all this scanning? "Men are bigger scanners than women (60.8 percent), and people with household incomes of $100,000 or more scan more than lower earners, according to comScore. Scanning is also a young person's game. Those 25 to 34 scan more than people between 35 and 44, who scan more than those in the 45-to-54 group, and so on. Only 2.9 percent of scanners are 65 or older." (Source) So, does this make the codes a logical addition to sales listing signs? Possibly.

Have you ever scanned one? After reading this-- will you? And from a marketing perspective it is important to think about the fact that a QR code takes up a little amount of space on an ad, but the potential punch it can deliver is large.

Cash Deals in Massachusetts

So far this year one third of the homes purchased in Massachusetts were bought in cash-- mortgage free. In an economy that is known for its down market- why are we seeing this? Possibly because the only people who have enough assets to buy in this economy are the ones who would buy in cash anyway? Or maybe it's a reaction to the new, firm, and constricting guidelines surrounding mortgages. Or perhaps it's the volatile stock market that has investors searching for more tangible and stable ways to invest their money. "Brian Bethune, an economist at Amherst College, said wealthy buyers may want to take advantage of deep discounts in the high-end market rather than watch their money flounder in stocks and bonds." (Source).

Whatever the reason, the trend is not isolated to Boston. "Across the nation, about 31 percent of all August home sales were in cash, the second highest percentage since February, when it reached nearly 34 percent, according to a survey by the Maryland-based trade publication, Inside Mortgage Finance." (Source).

Many people are buying in cash: investors picking up run-down properties to either flip or fix up and rent, foreign buyers, empty-nesters that are down-sizing and moving into the city who can buy a condo with the profit from the sale of their suburban home, or wealthy parents buying their kids a condo to live in while they go to school in the area.

Regardless of the reasons, this is atypical and remarkable percentage of cash purchases, and an impressive increase after 22% in 2010 and 20% in 2009.

The story was published on the front page of the Boston Globe and can be found here: Source.

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691 Massachusetts Avenue

This is just to inform you of a gorgeous new development in the South End at 691 Mass Ave! The finishes are stylish and very high end and the prices are very affordable! There are 1, 1+ and 2 bedroom homes available. Indoor and outdoor parking is also available for purchase. More details can be found at 691MassAve.com. You can also read up on Boston Home's article about it here.

Saving for a Down Payment

Piggy backing on the most recent post, I would like to discuss with you the first step to buying, when you do decide that the time is right for you. If you are like most people, you won't have 10-20% of the price of a home sitting in cash in your savings account, especially when you are a first time home buyer without any substantial equity. So, how do you do it? Of course with an FHA loan, it is possible to only put 3.5% down, but that means that your monthly mortgage payment is substantially higher. In an ideal situation, you have enough saved in order to be able to put 20% down, and then your mortgage payments with a 30-year fixed loan are manageable.

Sounds great, right? It's certainly easier said than done. So, how do you do it? ZillowBlog has some clear steps and here they are:

1. Figure out how much you need to save

Many websites have calculators that will allow you to figure out how to achieve your ideal monthly payments, how much you need down, what the interest rate would be, and how the money would be broken down. Using a calculator like that, or talking to a finance agent who can walk you through your situation.

2. Seek Expert Advice

Especially if you have a poor credit history, or have had problems in the past with credit or spending problems, seeking the advice of a financial planner is highly recommended.

3. Set up a separate savings account

It's far too easy, with the advent of online banking, to transfer funds from a savings account to a checking account when they are linked. Setting up a separate savings account that you can transfer money into, but not out of easily, you won't spend it as much.

4. Set up an allotment or automatic transfer from one account to the other monthly

When the amount going into your account, even when you spend down to zero, is less then you will spend less. When the money is out of sight, it is out of mind.

(Source)

Good luck savers!

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Thinking of Buying?

September 1st is a BIG day in the Boston rental market. Everyone is moving out and in and the streets are crowded with moving trucks. If you resigned you lease and you are going to be paying rent on the same unit for another year, you might be thinking to yourself right now that maybe it's time to actually buy something. What is the advantage to owning your own home? Of course there are many of them, but some to bare in mind from an article on Realty Times are:

1. It might be more upfront, but it will save you money. Long-term home ownership can save you a lot of money in the scope of your life.

2. Budgeting. What we have seen a lot of this season in Boston, is rent increase from year to year. If you want to be sure that you are spending the same amount on housing for an extended period of time, one good way is a fixed-rate mortgage!

3. It's yours! The security and freedom that associated with owing your own property means that your get to paint, remodel, improve and reap the benefits yourself for as long as you would like. Additionally, "Most homeowners are in neighborhoods with other homeowners, meaning more time to build relationships and friendships. Recent studies have also shown that homeowners rank themselves as healthier than their renter counterparts."

4. "Tax Breaks: They're not on the chopping block just yet. Many homeowners are still able to take the mortgage interest deduction (MID) each year, along with great rebates and credits associated with upgrades made to your home.

5. Equity: When you pay a landlord, it's money down the drain. When you pay on a mortgage, you are paying towards owning a piece of something. You may still owe $100,000, but perhaps the home is worth $200,000. This means you have $100,000 worth of equity you've built up over time." (Source).

Buying homes is more doable now than it has been in recent times. Prices and interest rates are low, and sellers are desperate to sell. If you are thinking about it, you can use this interactive calculator to see if it makes sense for you.

Hurricane Irene Hits Home

This photo, submitted to Boston.com by John Harrington, in evidence that Irene was very present in the Back Bay. I hope that everyone who has been affected by the hurricane is recovering well. The first death in Massachusetts caused by the storm was reported this morning. Our thoughts go out to his family. It will be a team effort to recover from the storm, but after a disaster like this we can rebuild. Please share your hurricane stories with us, we'd love to hear them.