Blog :: 2016

What's Next for Interest Rates and What Does it Mean for Home Buyers?

If you follow real estate even a little, you've probably heard that interest rates are on the rise.  In fact, on December 1st most lenders came close to the highest levels we've seen in two years.  So what's next?  And does an increase in rates mean that home prices will drop since there will be fewer buyers and therefore less demand?  

Let's address the second question first.  In an article titled "Higher Rates Don't Mean Lower House Prices After All," the Wall Street Journal revealed that a recent study found that "prices weren't especially sensitive to rising rates, particularly in the presence of other positive economic factors such as strong job growth, rising wages and improving consumer confidence."  In fact, the last four times rates dramatically increased - in 1983, 1987, 1993 and 1999 - home prices increased by 6.6%, 5.2%, 1.2% and 10.9% respectively.  But with the combination of rising rates and U.S. home prices finally topping record levels for the first time since July 2006, it’s likely that prices will begin to increase more gradually then we’ve seen in the last 4 years.  

Now for the hard part - what’s next?  Interest rates were remarkably low in 2016, so an increase was inevitable, and since some lenders were offering loans with rates in the 2’s, a jump back to more “normal” levels will be a very sizable increase.  However, many industry experts predict that although rates will continue to rise in 2017, it won’t be as extreme as many people fear.  Kiplinger says that “even with a rate hike, interest rates will likely stay low and fluctuate within a narrow range for some time to come.”  Michael Winks, Executive Vice President / Chief Lending Officer for Northpointe Bank in Grand Rapids, Michigan, anticipates rates remaining in their current range through 2017.  Without a crystal ball none of us can be certain, but one thing is for sure: lenders and agents are advising buyers not to take their chances by waiting.  Even a small price increase on home prices, coupled with a marginal (one eighth to one half percent) increase in rates could cost a buyer tens of thousands of dollars.  

Here’s the bottom line: If you're thinking of refinancing, now's the time to lock in a rate.  If you have your eye on a property or you’re considering buying at some point over the next year, you'll find lower rates and will compete against fewer buyers if you act now.  In fact, waiting just a month or two could make a huge difference, as the influx of new inventory that comes to market in the first 6-8 weeks of a new year attracts crowds of buyers.  For more information, contact one of our experts, or call us at 617-236-0353. 

Tuesday Tip - 19 Tips for Winterizing Your Home

In this post from last year, we featured 13 tips for winterizing your home, via AOL Finance.  So far the temperature has been higher than the same time last year, but the forecast calls for a steady drop and by Christmas we're sure to see some of the white stuff.   So, we thought we'd do a little research to find more great tips for trimming your bills and staying warm this winter.  Take a look at this article by Popular Mechanics, which offers 19 Easy Ways to Winterize your Home.  

 

How To Find the Best Food Trucks in Your Boston Neighborhood

Cookie Monstah Food Truck in Boston

Though the food truck industry can be traced back to 1897 (according to the NY Times), very few people could have anticipated the 2008 boom that caused every struggling restauranteur hesitant to take on a new restaurant, to consider a mobile kitchen.  Because of the recession, food trucks were an appealing option because they required significantly less investment and enabled chefs to reach more people.  But what was born from necessity quickly gained momentum and usurped fast food chains as the best option for good and inexpensive food fast. In the beginning it was simple - hot dogs and tacos and other easy to prepare meals that could be slung out a window to folks in suits, hustling through Downtown Crossing from one meeting to another, but I doubt anyone imagined the smorgasbord of dishes that can be found in mobile kitchens.  Here are 3 ways to find out which food trucks are open, and in your area:

The city of Boston has a food truck schedule on their website.  It's based on permitted information and offers general neighborhood location (Financial District, Back Bay, Rowes Wharf Plaza, etc. - sometimes listing two or more) for each mealtime.  

Street Food Boston, created by Tatlow Park Software, is a free app that gives you up to the minute food truck and food cart schedules.  It also gives you the days locations and daily schedules and allows you to track your favorites!  

Boston Feed Me is a real-time graphic that tracks nearly 60 food trucks around the city. It was created by a group of graduating seniors at Northeastern University Jenn Kappel, Karen Doyle, Moling Guo, and Khrystyna Reyes, graduating seniors at Northeastern University, and provides profiles of each truck with menus, schedules, photos and more.

Bon Apetit!  

 

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The Best Activities and Entertainment This Holiday Season in Boston

(Photo credit: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/ultimate-guide-christmas-boston)

Boston is a fun place to be any time of year, but especially at Christmas-time, when the sparkling Christmas trees and festive lights illuminating streets and storefronts bring cheer to even the scroogiest Bostonian.  The city buzzes with music, holiday shoppers fill the sidewalks and stores and best of all, special holiday events start filling people’s calendars.  To make sure you capture the allure of Boston during the holiday season, and to avoid missing out on tickets or double booking yourself, it’s important to start planning your event schedule as early as possible.  Here are our recommendations for the best activities to participate in this year:

Lighted Christmas Trees - By late November and early December beautifully lit christmas trees begin to pop up all over the city.  You can find two of the biggest trees in Boston Common and Faneuil Hall, which is also the site of the Blink! holiday lights and music show which is free and runs 12 times between 4:30-10pm.  Here is a list of tree lightings taking place in November, and here is one for December. 

Ice skating on the common - If you're planning to head to Boston Common to see the glorious Christmas Tree, make sure to pack your ice skates for the outdoor rink, which opens in mid-November.    

Menorah lighting - Also in Boston Common you'll find public Menorah lighting each night through Hanukah (December 24th - January 1st).

The Nutcracker - Performed by Boston Ballet at Symphony Hall from November 25th-December 31st.  

Holiday Pops - Performed by Boston Symphony Orchestra from November 30th-December 31st.

Holiday shopping - You'll find unique shopping experiences in some of Boston's most charming neighborhoods.  Make sure to check out Newbury Street and the Prudential Center in Back Bay, Charles Street on Beacon Hill, Salem Street in the North End, Washington Street in Downtown Crossing and Harvard Square in Cambridge.  

Santa - In many of Boston's popular shopping areas you'll have the chance to visit with Santa, which is a nice way to break up a day of shopping with the kids.  

Santa Speedo Run- On Saturday, December 10th, hundreds of scantily clad runners will hit the streets for a run that raises money for The Play Ball Foundation, "which provides Boston middle school students with a chance to play, and build friendships and character through the lessons of sports - teamwork, communication and discipline."  It's a fun, unique holiday event for both runners and their audience

First Night - Boston's signature New Year's Eve event includes a fireworks show over Boston Harbor, a huge Celebrate Boston Parade down Boylston Street, musical performance, ice sculptures and fun activities for the whole family.  

These are just a few of our favorites, but there's no shortage of festive, entertaining things to see and do in Boston during the holiday season.  For more advice on activities in your neighborhood, contact one of our agents, all of whom live in the city and surrounding area.  

 

 

 

Tuesday Tip - The 4 Boston Neighborhoods Smart Real Estate Investors Should Check Out Now

If you’re from the Boston area, you likely remember a time not long ago, when towns like Somerville and Brighton were where college students with 3 digit bank accounts moved the day after they graduated.  While there were pockets of prosperity, the more affluent home buyer frequently chose Cambridge instead of Somerville, and Newton instead of Brighton.  But times, they have a-changed, and the savvy investors and homebuyers who recognized the potential of these areas are seeing enormous returns on their investments.  In Somerville, for example, the average home value is 56% more than what it was just 6 years ago (source: Zillow).  But while the market here is still very healthy, the percentages at which home values are forecasted to increase next year is almost half that of last year.  In other words, Somerville and neighborhoods like it - Brighton, Southie, Jamaica Plain, etc. - have blossomed in the last 10 years, capturing the attention, and investment capital, of every buyer within 50 miles of Boston.  Don’t get us wrong, these neighborhoods are still great places to live, but they aren’t your best investment options as they aren’t likely to see another dramatic spike in home value for some time.

So, which towns will be next to see a surge of Somerville proportions?  Likely it will be areas adjacent to those that have experienced recent booms, as they will start to see an influx of home buyers that weren’t able to afford the areas more popular neighborhoods and towns.  Naturally, the increase in buyers will have a direct impact on demand, and as home values begin to increase, so will taxes, which will mean more funds to contribute to the betterment, and appeal, of the town. 

With that in mind, here are four communities we think you should check out if you’re looking for a smart Boston real estate investment:

Medford

Photo credit: http://www.city-data.com

At 3.2 miles northwest of downtown Boston, this Somerville neighbor boasts optimal proximity to Boston.  And though it’s already a very accessible city, if the Green Line Extension is approved by the Federal Transit Administration, Medford could be an ideal option for commuters.  Home to Tufts University, Medford has a strong focus on academics for students of all ages, making it attractive to home buyers looking for a place to raise a family.  The city is investing in new housing opportunities as well as the growth of businesses and the preservation of environmental open space for the community to enjoy.  At $463,000, Medford’s median single-family home price is nearly 35% less than that of Somerville (source: Zillow). 

Roxbury

Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org

At the geographic heart of Boston, Roxbury is appealing to home buyers looking for a lively neighborhood in the beginning stages of a great revival.  Like it’s more expensive neighbors Jamaica Plain and Dorchester, Roxbury is a place that celebrates diversity and culture.  And with over 570 acres of parks, playgrounds and athletic fields (23% of park space in Boston and the most in any one neighborhood in the city), Roxbury has been an attractive option for families with children.  At $305,500, Roxbury has the lowest median single-family price on our list (source: Zillow).  It’s affordability coupled with new business and housing initiatives make it a great option for buyers who are looking for the significant return of a long-term investment. 

Dorchester

 Photo credit: boston.curbed.com

If you follow Boston real estate even a little, this one comes as no surprise.  Though, according to Zillow Dorchester’s 1-year growth forecast for home values is quite a bit lower than last year’s, there’s no doubt that the surge of residential and retail construction, supported by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, is going to have a major impact on the popularity of the area.  With 28 residential projects in various stages of development, including the hyped Dot Block which will feature 388,440 square feet of residential and retail space, the median single-family home price of $423,300 (source: Zillow) will likely see a significant increase over the next decade. 

East Boston

Photo credit: bostonredevelopmentauthority.org 

For buyers who want waterfront living but don’t want to pay Charlestown prices, East Boston is a smart choice.  While Charlestown is a lovely place to live, dine, and boat watch, the median single-family home price is $655,000 (source: Zillow), while East Boston’s is significantly lower (though not for long) at $387,000 (source: Zillow).  Like Dorchester, Eastie is well into it’s transition into one of Boston’s more desirable neighborhoods, but will be even more so upon completion of a record-setting number of new developments, including Portside at East Pier with some 550 units, 6 New Street with 259 units and Clippership Wharf, which is slated to have 400 condos and a large amount of retail space.  Eastie has more to offer than waterfront properties with some of the best views of the Boston skyline, it also has remarkable and affordable ethnic cuisine, beach access by way of a beautiful new greenway, and very close proximity to Logan Airport.  But hurry, the appeal of East Boston is one of the cities worst kept secrets.


Greater Boston Real Estate ROI

The Boston real estate market has experienced a plunge in affordability over the last several years.  According to Boston.com, the number of listings in Boston that are affordable for middle-income buyers is now just 20% of all the homes and condos on the market, having fallen by more than half since January 2014, when that number was 42%.  While this statistic works in favor of those who purchased in 2009 and 2010, it’s discouraging for buyers and investors who are constrained by limited (limited being a relative term here) budgets.  Luckily, forward thinking developers and city officials have taken a broader look at Greater Boston and surrounding towns, and have identified several areas primed for growth and development. It’s in these towns and neighborhoods that middle-income buyers and savvy investors will find good deals, great communities and exceptional return on their investment. 

Tuesday Tip - How to Declutter Small Living Spaces

Decluttering Small Spaces

Photo Credit: Apartmenttherapy.com

This guest post is contributed by Real Estate Unlimited, a real estate group representing the Echo Park neighborhood and other historic neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area. 

If you’re living in a smaller space, you want to keep clutter to a minimum – but how can you ensure that extra positions won’t pile up? In this post, we’ll look at some ways you can cut down on clutter and maximize space.  

Storage Smarts

Storage containers might have a reputation as clunky and unattractive, limited to spaces where they can be kept out of sight – but these days, you can find modular storage containers in a variety of colors and styles. These containers will allow you to make use of extra space – the area under the bed, for example, or the few square feet under an entryway table. For easy access, you can choose containers with wheels or drawers. For extra efficiency, invest in furniture with storage built in – an ottoman with space inside for blankets, or a bed whose foundation holds a set of drawers.  

Get Vertical

Wall-mounted storage shelves are a great way to open up floor space, especially when you’re storing items that you don’t need to access regularly. If your work or study area is covered with disorganized piles of paper, hang file folders near your desk, or use file folders near your entryway to hold mail. Magnetic boards, bulletin boards, and whiteboards are also a handy and space-efficient option for reminders, messages, and lists. This “clothesline” display is an inventive and attractive way to show off holiday and birthday cards, and all you need is a few feet of twine and a handful of clothespins. 

Photo Credit: Topdreamer.com

Get Mobile

If you live in a small one-bedroom or an efficiency, any piece of furniture represents a big investment in floor space. You can solve this problem by selecting furniture that’s modular and portable. For example, a set of shelves or file baskets with wheels can be pushed back against the wall or into a closet when not in use. A lap desk or this creative armrest-shelf offer surface space without bulk. A convertible futon can serve as bed and couch. A hanging desk can be lifted up to a vertical position to free up floor space. Whatever your layout, you can find a flexible and creative furniture setup to fit your apartment.  

Throw It Out!

The best way to maximize space is to have less stuff taking up space, right? You don’t have to go “full KonMari,” but you should make a habit of tossing excess possessions. Junk mail, old magazines, unworn clothing, expired food, and cracked dishes should be thrown away immediately. You might also want to consider digital alternatives to clutter-prone paper products – catalogs, newspapers, magazine subscriptions, take-out menus, address books, and day planners can all be shifted online. If you do need to keep a space for “junk,” make it a temporary space – a Tupperware container or paper bag – instead of a permanent installation in a drawer or closet.  

Establish Priorities

One reason it can be difficult to keep a small space organized is that each cramped storage space has to serve a variety of purposes. For example, if you keep your special-occasion wineglasses and your everyday coffee mugs in the same cupboard, you’ll constantly be shifting them around. Solve this problem by sorting items by frequency of use instead of type – party dishes in an upper cupboard, coffee mugs in a rack over the sink, soy sauce and peanut butter in the front of the pantry, vanilla extract and chocolate sauce in the back. Whenever you buy anything, ask yourself – “Will I use this every day? Once a week? Occasionally?” and store it accordingly.  

Efficient living spaces have a slender margin of error for clutter, but with these creative storage and sorting solutions, you’ll be on your way to a more spacious interior space in no time!  

About the Author: Real Estate Unlimited is a premiere real estate agency located in Southern California, serving Echo Park and nearby neighborhoods. We pride ourselves on our personalized, hands-on service, ensuring that all of our clients are matched with the perfect home in the perfect area. 

 

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    Tuesday Tip - Why Pre-Approval Should Be Your Very First Step

    It's a good time to be a seller in Boston.  Most have the luxury of picking from several different buyers, many of whom will be offering cash or concessions like a waived finance contingency or inspection.  One thing is for certain, they are unlikely to seriously entertain offers from buyers who are not pre-approved.  This is one of the main reasons that pre-approval is a critical FIRST step when house-hunting.  In other words, you should definitely be visiting your lender's website before Zillow or Trulia.  Today's Tuesday Tip comes from our friends at Mortgage Network, who put together this post offering several other reasons why pre-approval should be your first step.

    As always, our experts are happy to talk you through the finance process and help answer any questions you have about home buying.  Contact us through our website or by calling 617-236-0353.

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      Tuesday Tip - Why This Fall is the Perfect Time to Buy

      If you're sipping your first pumpkin latte while checking your fantasy football rankings and skimming past posts about your friends' kids' first day of school, then you know it's begun - Fall.  It's subtle now, but in a few weeks, as the temperature drops and the leaves change, it will be undeniably present.  At the same time, many of the city's buyers will slow their home searches and resign themselves to the Spring 2017 market.  But they could be doing so mistakingly.  The Boston real estate market has seen a rare supply shortage in the last 6 months, making it fiercely competitive for buyers.  Many homes are selling after only days on the market, and most for over-asking with buyer concessions like the forfeiting of a finance contingency or inspection.  Many frustrated buyers have missed out on numerous properties.  Once Fall hits, however, many buyers pull their focus from real estate and turn it toward school, the holidays and preparing for winter.  This presents a huge opportunity for buyers who aren't restricted to a Summer move, especially because last week, 53 new properties hit MLS - the biggest influx of inventory we've seen since the Summer began.  It's simple economics:  more inventory equals more supply, less buyers equals less demand.  

      Another great perk of buying the Fall - since the market generally slows down toward the end of Summer, agents find themselves with more time to focus on individual clients.  If you have a good agent, you should always feel like their most important client, but you can be sure to get much more attention after Summer has passed.  Here are a few of the other great perks of buying a home in the Fall months:

      - You'll can still take advantage of tax breaks

      - Sellers who put their homes on the market in the Fall are oftentimes more serious - meaning they have a reason to sell and are more likely to be open to negotiation

      - You can take advantage of end of year sales to outfit your home

      If you think now might be a good time to see what's on the market, reach out to one of our experts through our website, or by calling 617-236-0353.

       

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        Tuesday tip - 5 Golden Rules for Home Staging

        Home owners often spend years adding personal flair to their home's decor.  Unfortunately when they decide to sell, customized ornamentation and interior design can be a detriment rather than a selling point.  Staging is a great way to make adjustments that highlight  qualities that appeal to all buyers - space, light, neutrality, modernization, etc. 

        Staging your home might seem like a daunting and expensive feat, but if you follow these 5 golden rules and the room by room guide, you'll  likely see a 100% return on your investment.  

        For more staging tips and advice for getting your home sold quickly, contact our experts, who will be happy to talk you through a customized strategy.

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          Tuesday Tip - How to Determine the Value of your Home

          In last month's post about getting top dollar for your home, we mentioned the importance of knowing the approximate value of your home before putting it on the market.  In today's Tuesday Tip, we're going to outline a couple of ways to gather that information.

          First, a formal appraisal by a licensed appraiser.  If you're going to sell your home, it is very likely that it will be appraised at some point in the process, as no credible financial institution will lend to a buyer without a formal appraisal.  And while it's not standard for a seller to have their home appraised before putting it on the market, there can be some advantages.  Every seller wants to find that sweet spot - the asking price that's high enough that you don't worry about leaving money on the table, but low enough that it will sell quickly.  An appraisal will eliminate any doubt you have about how to price your home, and will give you confidence as you go into negotiations.  

          The downside to appraisals is that they aren't free, so a more affordable option is to have a skilled agent perform a comparative marketing analysis (known in the industry as a CMA).  A CMA is an evaluation of similar, recently sold homes (or comparables) in your area.  A CMA will establish the current market value of the home, or in other words, what buyers will be willing to pay for it.  Having an agent perform a comparative market analysis is also a good step in the agent evaluation process.  How quickly they gather the information and the way in which they share it with you are good indications of their responsiveness and ability to communicate effectively - two of the most important characteristics of a successful agent.    

          The current real estate market in Boston is seeing unprecedented demand, so many home owners who hadn't planned on selling, are kicking around the idea in order to take advantage of the opportunity to sell at top dollar.  In many cases, these homeowners are not yet ready to talk to an agent, but can't accurately estimate the value of their home on their own, so they seek out home valuation tools, similar to this one.  Tools like this give you almost instant feedback, and a great sense for whether or not it's a worthwhile time to sell your home.  

          Keep in mind that there are unforeseen situations that can affect the outcome of the appraisal, CMA and home valuation tool.  For example, a neighbor may have had some financial struggles that forced them to sell their home quickly and at well below market value.   Because these evaluations are based in part on the sale of comparable homes in the area, a situation such as this can affect the appraised or compared value of your home.  Working with an agent that has significant experience in your neighborhood will help you evaluate ALL of the factors that should be considered to fairly and confidently price your home.  

          For more information on how to price and sell your home quickly and at top dollar, reach out to one of our experts, visit our website, or call us at 617-236-0353.

           

           

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