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      Blog :: 2014

      Checklist for Buying a Home in Boston: The Pros You Need

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      Buying a home in Boston is hardly a do-it-yourself kind of project. Having confidence that all the I's are dotted and the T's crossed requires the input of professionals whose daily dealings keeps them in though with the current legal and financial arenas. Call them the "Fundamental Four" -- the four groups of professionals you will want to have on your team when buying a home in Boston this winter.

      First and foremost, you need to be sure the money factor is handled in an advantageous way. By far the most popular route is via a mortgage: a home loan. Your specialist here is the professional mortgage broker. He or she will advise you on the types of mortgages available this winter; will work with you to determine the amount you qualify for, the different payment plans you can choose, and guide you through the maze of paperwork.

      A real estate agent does more than just sparing you the trouble of going through the listings to find a suitable home. Yes, your agent will help you identify Boston area homes for sale that suit your budget and preferences, but will also be a vital part of the negotiating process and the disclosure and associated paperwork. Your agent is actually the professional who ties together the work of all your other consultants.

      The inspector is your expert when it comes to verifying the quality of the property itself. He will inspect and prepare a comprehensive report on every critical physical aspect. Buying a home can't be a guessing game when it comes to the state of the structure itself: your inspector will help you determine if it fits the price tag.

      The title/escrow company facilitates the actual transaction itself, which can be a bit more complicated than you might think. They will prepare all the legal documents after inspecting the title of the property, and, via contract, oversee the timing as the home is transferred from the seller to you.

      Should You Engage in a Boston Area Home Stager?

      When you put your home on the market, one of the decisions it’s easy to overlook is whether to engage a Boston area home stager. Especially if you know you have a good eye for décor or have experience in the visual arts, it may not seem necessary to call in a heavy-duty home staging pro to get your place in shape to sell. It’s certainly not a requirement for listing, but using a professional home staging company can be invaluable for a number of practical reasons:

      Your home is lived-in
      That does give it a warm, comfortable feeling, but that’s seldom as saleable as a home that presents itself as open and slightly under-furnished. Prospective buyers react favorably when they can easily picture their own belongings in the living spaces. A Boston area home stager is expert at knowing how to achieve a clean, less lived-in atmosphere with a minimum of disruption. 
      Save on unnecessary repairs and renovations
      Most are necessarily so close to the product (their home) that it’s next to impossible to see it with fresh eyes—the way the prospects will. One of the costly fallouts can be decisions to make repairs and renovations that don’t increase the home’s value by as much as they cost. Some such improvements (like over-painting interior or exterior areas) actually comprise décor choices best left to the future owners. A professional stager has field experience and a good sense for which updates are cost-efficient—and which could be counter-productive. 
      You stand to earn back more than you spend
      Engaging a local home stager can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. That might seem like an iffy decision since you can’t know that it will ultimately pay off…but it’s tempting when you realize that successful pros are in business because of their track record of making Boston area houses look great—great enough t become worth more money to buyers!  
      Using a professional home stager is just one of the ways we create successful home sales. If you are looking to list your Boston area home in the New Year, contact me to get started! 


      Buying a Boston Area Condo Involves Lifestyle Choices

      Existing home sales rose nationally throughout 2014 - and included in those numbers were a good many condominiums. If 2015 will find you investigating the market for a new home, it may be time to give condo living a serious thought. Buying a condo in the Boston area can provide many of the benefits of home ownership minus much of the worry that goes with keeping your property. Of course, whether buying a condo is the right housing solution depends on the buyer as well as the particular condo itself - but there are some generalities usually hold true.
      Most condominiums include a variety of amenities for the owners. There may be an on-site fitness center, or a pool. Owners may also have access to a club room, or even other features that some of the larger upscale developments offer, such as on-site shopping, hair salons and concierge services.
      Whether you call it an 'amenity' or not, never having to shovel snow, mow the lawn or worry about property upkeep is certainly welcomed by many. If you are buying a condo, you're usually buying everything from the drywall inwards - the rest is owned by the development.
      Those amenities don't come for free. Typically, you'll be required to make payments to the Homeowner's Association, or HOA. These fees can be tiny or considerable: ranging from a couple hundred dollars a year to as much as four figures a month. The variation in those numbers make it mandatory to include the HOA fees in your budget when you're shopping for a condo. Your savings on home insurance and property taxes can be given back in HOA fees.
      Many people are drawn to condo living principally because of the accompanying worry-free lifestyle. You get your own living space, are free to modify it, and are working towards owning it rather than just paying rent. However, this lifestyle isn't right for everyone: you sacrifice a degree of privacy, and don't have your own yard.
      The luxury of condo living will only be enjoyed if you're comfortable with the lifestyle that goes with buying a condo. Then, if you do think you might be a buying a condo in this winter, contact me or call me to review today's best inventory, here! 617-536-8000.

      House Plumbing Could Fall Victim in This Year's Early Chill

      It's easy to be caught off guard when the mercury drops before winter has even begun. And this year a visit from unusually early icy blasts of cold from up north has been the rule almost everywhere in the country. This Holiday Season, even local house owners who don't have to worry about their own Boston area house safety may be visiting relatives unprepared for the sudden December tundra; so it's a good time to go over the Red Cross cold weather Preventive Action guidelines:
      • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing (but: move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children). And keep garage doors closed!
      • In very cold weather, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
      • If you will be going away, leave the heat on in the house, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
      • Following those tried-and-true guidelines should mean you're home free. But if you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Trace the culprit: likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters the house through the foundation. To thaw frozen pipes:
      • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device--no matter how tempting.
      • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice inside the pipe.
      • Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too. 
      • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if it's not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, you'll have to call a licensed plumber.
      If you need a reference, contact me for this or any other Boston area house questions.  (617) 536-8000.


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        Relocating to a New Home Can Mean a New Neighborhood as Well

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        When searching for a new house, topping most people's list of requirements are the number of bedrooms, number and configuration of bathrooms, square footage, yard size - characteristics that are easy to compare, Architectural style might be important; asking price, certainly highly important, although many prospective buyers assume some wiggle room might be possible.

        There are so many facts to consider, particularly when that new home might include relocating to the Boston area, that one extremely important factor sometimes gets short shrift: the neighborhood.

        When I escort my clients on a tour of the properties they have decided to check out, I'm sure to remind them to observe the surroundings as well as the home. Some key details to observe about a neighborhood when relocating to Boston:

        Noise levels will vary by hour and day. If at all possible, visit candidate properties at different times of day and night to get a feel for the noise level in the neighborhood. Is there a lot of traffic and honking? Trucks passing by? If so, does the traffic layout make them hit their brakes or upshift frequently? Is there a church nearby that fills the street with cars on Sunday? Will that be okay - or an annoyance? Are there noisy restaurants or pubs that might keep you up late at night on weekends? When you are relocating to a new area and can't visit often, talk to some neighbors: they have the real scoop!

        Even if you don't have kids, it's important to learn the reputation of the area's school district: it will affect the resale value. Homes in better school districts are more desirable, and merit higher price tags as a result.

        The Internet is a terrific asset when it comes to scoping out crime maps and reports for specific areas - often with free up-to-the-minute information and alerts on crime rates. A chat with neighbors can also help you sense the level of concern - or ideally, the lack of it.

        As you approach an area, notice whether the road quality improves or falls off as you get closer. If the streets are crumbling and filled with potholes, community services may be suspect. Are the public parks grassy and clean? How handy are the nearest hospital, fire department and police stations? Before relocating to Boston, see if you can tell which neighborhoods seem to be on the rise. Any obvious trend has a good chance of continuing in years to come.

        Relocating to Boston - even if just from one end of town to another - is an exciting prospect! If you're looking to buy a home in Boston this fall, it's time we got on your radar. Call us at 617.536.8000 or contact us today!

        Flipping a Home in Boston: Clearing the Finance Barrier

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        In conjunction with the rise in house prices and demand, the profit potential for flipping a home in Boston is once more drawing the entrepreneur-minded.

        Flipping a home is the process of purchasing a property - often one in a rundown condition - then improving its value and reselling it for a quick profit. Quick is the key word in this strategy, since a fast turnover allows capital to be devoted to purchase and renovation rather than operating and maintenance costs. It's why successful house flippers generally focus on quick gains over maximizing profits.

        While this has proven to be a lucrative strategy in the past, financing has always been the first major hurdle for anyone flipping a home. If you've been noticing some of the inviting house-flipping prospects in the greater Boston area, several financing routes sometimes make such a deal possible:

        Larger Down Payment:

        Flipping a house in Boston in the current lending market will often require a significant down payment. Since launching the project might require at least 25-40% for financing, it's essential that you prepare sufficient cash reserves to complete the renovations envisioned - and successful house flippers suggest you add 20% to the cost estimate!

        Seller Financing:

        Seller financing - a mortgage provided by the home owner - is also called a 'purchase money' morgage. Sellers may be willing to provide financing if they have had trouble selling their property, which is often the case when a home flipper believes its value can be greatly enhanced by repair or remodeling. Seller financing would be more common were it not necessary that the original owner own the home outright.

        Hard Money Loan:

        Hard money loans - also known as short-term bridge loans - are another common source of financing for flipping a home in Boston. Hard money loans are backed by the value of the property rather than the credit record of the borrower, and typically feature a lower loan-to-value ratio than found in a bank mortgage. The added risk has a cost: expect to provide a large deposit and a premium for the loan (often 8% or more).

        While sub-prime mortgagees may no longer be as readily available as they once were, there are still multiple sources of financing for entrepreneurs who can spot profit possibilities for flipping a home in Boston. With real estate prices continuing to rise, this fall again holds promise in the house-flipping arena. Call us if you are interested in learning about some of the latest prospects!


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          Real Estate Books Aid the Greater Boston Area Buyers, Sellers and Investors

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          When it comes to making the most of real estate, knowledge is power. The schools didn't teach us anything about selling a home or how to decide which home to buy, yet those are subjects that have lasting impacts on our lives. When such key decisions are in our immediate future, we come face-to-face with the importance of making the right choices, asking the right questions - and engineering the best deal.

          Whether or not you're about to head a foray into real estate in the Boston area, here are a number of excellent recent books that will help arm you with actionable knowledge:

                  100 Questions Every First Time Home Buyer Should Ask

          This book is a general go-to reference for buyers (and for sellers as well: being able to put yourself in the shoes of potential buyers is essential for intelligent marketing). Answers to the "100 Questions" are provided by top brokers from around the country, so every detail won't necessarily answer local real estate specifics; but on the whole, this book is concise and informative. The questions are arranged in an easy-to-read format, separated into chapters like "Putting Together the Deal" and "How Do I Know What I Can Afford to Spend." Readers rate it very highly.

                  Smart Essentials for Selling Your Home

          Solid, practical information that can be invaluable for homeowners about to enter the Boston real estate market. In the same way that 100 Questions is also useful to sellers, this one would make excellent reading for itinerant home buyers who'd like to know what's important to sellers... thus being one step ahead when it comes to striking a win/win deal. Smart Essentials is mercifully short: just under 100 pages.

                  Buying a Home: Don't Let Them Make a Monkey Out of You

          Newly updated and with the highest reader reviews, this one is most appropriate for potential buyers with little or no previous real estate experience. As author Musgrave puts it, the object here is "to convey to the reader only the necessary information - and not one work more." The extremely easy-to-read, informal approach is a welcome departure for first-timers: no wonder readers are almost unanimous in agreeing that if first-time home buyers read just one book, this is a worthy choice.

                  Investing in Real Estate

          A recently written follow-up to the 2008 best seller, this is an accessible starter book that addressed most of the key issues that successful real estate investors learn to evaluate. The index is especially useful for locating individual topics quickly (something eBook readers don't need to worry about; just highlight a search term).

          Thinking of buying or selling real estate in or around Boston? Knowledge truly is power - and we're here to share what we know and to bring it all to bear on your behalf! Call 774.766.1577 or 617.536.8000 for expert real estate advice when considering buying or selling a home.


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          Boston Area Luxury Home Listings and Fall Time Romance

          Ah, fall is truly in the air... the traditional time when people can fall in love at first sight! I'll try not the dampen those autumn spirits too much, but for anyone currently looking into the Boston area luxury home listings, some advice may be in order:

          Online love at first sight is a really bad idea.

          Those Boston area luxury home listings can indeed be truly alluring, and using today's technology to winnow through the current crop of terrific luxury home listings is a supremely practical approach.

          Bust do remember that any warm glow you experience after checking out a particularly fetching online tour is best held in check until after you have paid an in-person visit. Then the love affair is more likely to be the real thing.

          Especially when it comes to the luxury home listings, they have been created by talented professional stagers and photographers (not to mention musicians, when a video is part of the presentation). We work with them to create an immersive online experience, which is all to the good.

          The only drawback comes if we do such a good job that Boston area luxury home prospects fall head over heels. If reality can't possibly match the romance of their mind's eye abstraction, well... just ask a teenager's parents about what the falling out of love experience is like! Until you have contacted me and we've made a real life, in-the-flesh house tour, what we are dealing with is - let's face it - puppy love.

          Seasoned buyers know that stunning photos can't begin to reveal all the details that make for 'the real thing.' Does the kitchen fit a family's cooking style? Is that gorgeous landscaping a good setting for kids and pets? Is the neighbourhood right for a particular family?

          If your own home belongs among our eye-catching Boston area home listings, you probably also know that prospective buyers will be genuinely impressed when they visit in person. If that's the case, I hope you'll be contacting us soon for a complimentary consultation.


          Call us today! 617.536.8000

          When is Key in Decision in Whether to Buy a Home in Town

          Fall signals the traditional start of real estate's second busy selling season, and while that's all fine and good, when it comes to making your own momentous personal real estate decision - whether to buy a home or to sell your own; trying to decide exactly when to make the move is easier said than done.
          It is true that this year national observers are unusually unanimous in expecting that last year's sales upswing will continue. But if you are deciding whether now is the right time to buy a Boston area home (or list yours for sale), the reasons behind the quickening sales activity might be an eye-opener.
          Here are five of the headline reasons why so many will decide to buy a home in 2014:
          A Third Cheaper Than Renting
          Web giant Trulia's national averages show that it is still 35% less expensive to own than to rent. In the 100 largest metropolitan areas, even after mortgage rates rose from 3.75 to 4.50%, the home ownership advantage continued.
          Protection Against Rising Rents
          Renters are finding it more of a hassle even to find an apartment.  In the third quarter of 2013, the U.S. apartment vacancy rate fell to its lowest level in over a decade (4.2%) even as the average effective rent in the U.S. rose by 3%, year over year. With supply of rental accommodation tight and unemployment falling, experts expect even higher rents in 2014.
          House Prices Are Still Relatively Low
          Again according to Trulia, house prices are still below benchmark value levels. In 91% of the largest metropolitan markets, analysts estimate that homes were 7% undervalued in 2013...and headed up.
          It's Becoming Easier to Qualify for a Mortgage
          As interest rates rise, mortgage lender refinance business will suffer. Consequently, lenders will need to compete harder for new home buyers. That's expected to lead to loosening of lending strictures, effectively increasing the number of prospective buyers.
          House Prices Are Expected To Rise
          House prices increased by 2% in the third quarter of last year, according to Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) figures. If consensus predictions hold true, house prices will continue to rise by 3% in 2014, making sooner rather than later the optimal way to participate in that upward trajectory. Whether you are hoping to buy a home in our area this year or beginning to think it's time to explore selling, the signs are certainly there.
          Call us anytime 617-536-8000, or drop by the office to chat!

          New Fed Leadership is Good News for Buyers.

          On January 6, the Senate confirmed Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors, making it the first time ever that a woman has led the nation's most important financial institution. In some respects, it makes her the most powerful woman in the United States. As with every personnel change in the Fed, Yellen's rise has fostered plenty of concerns about the direction the Federal Reserve will take under her leadership.
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