For every Bostonian hopeful planning to pack their bags and head northeast, there are plenty of reasons to go forward with the big move. With over a quarter million college students, Boston reaps all the benefits of a youthful population brimming with innovation and enterprise. Boston even beats out both New York and Los Angeles as a top city for venture-capital investment, creating the perfect cradle for the young entrepreneur looking to delve into the startup industry. Before loading the moving truck, consider the following before you take off and don’t forget to pack your snow shovel.
Boston loves Sports
The Patriots. The Red Sox. The Bruins. The Celtics. You may not be a sports fan, but it is absolutely necessary to consider that many Bostonians are. For the non-sports fans considering a move the The Hub, keeping track of game schedules will prove to be immensely helpful when mapping out travel time through and around the city. The influx of sports fans from around the city and surrounding area will affect your commute, it would be wise to keep note of who plays who even if you won’t be tracking the scoreboard.
Over recent years, Boston and its neighboring cities, Charles River and Cambridge have developed an attractive corporate culture laying host to big pharma and tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. Boston has positioned itself to become a hotbed for hundreds of tech startups given the city’s proximity to some of America’s leading universities. In particular, Cambridge’s Kendall Square, neighboring MIT, demonstrates a thriving startup scene home to eager students and recent graduates.
College Town, USA
Boston and its surrounding suburbs boast some of America’s most elite universities including a host of Ivy’s and exceptionally prestigious institutions like Harvard University, MIT, Tufts University, Boston College, Boston University, Emerson College, Northeastern University, Dartmouth, Brown, and Yale to name a few. With over 30 colleges and universities within Boston’s greater metropolitan area, it’s safe to say that Boston is truly a college city and enjoys a multitude of benefits through university partnerships.
A staycation in Boston warrants a trip to one of the city’s many craft breweries. Although beer brewing has always been a Boston staple, the industry has seen impressive jumps with over one hundred different breweries now calling Boston home. Many breweries offer tours including Harpoon Brewery and of course, Samuel Adams. Keep in mind that while most bars around the city shutdown at 2 AM, the metro system stops running generally between 12:30 AM and 1:00 AM.
If you find yourself looking for an escape outside the city limits, quiet destination spots like Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket are within reach of a reasonable drive for a day trip or weekend vacation during the warmer months. Even without a car, many nearby vacation spots are accessible by bus, train, or ferry ride. Many Boston residents seek outdoor excursions enjoying the lakes and mountains of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.
Massachusetts winters are sometimes harsh. It’s not uncommon for Boston to receive several feet of snow during relatively frequent snowstorms. In general, wintertime temperatures dip down to the high teens and low twenties. During the cooler seasons, consider hitting a ski lodge. Even without the slopes, what better way to enjoy below freezing temps than posted fireside inside a rustic New England cabin
The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority or “The T” is at the heart of a Bostonian’s everyday commute. If you’re uninterested in paying additional fees for street parking, prefer to sidestep paying to park in a garage, and often find yourself forgetting to check your parking meter, then embracing public transportation may be the best option for you. It would be wise to consider selecting a home or apartment by a stop on the same color line you need to take to get to work. By reducing the number of transfer stops, your commute time will significantly decrease as opposed to having to jump trains every morning. Although living within walking distance from a T station would be ideal, expect to pay a hefty fee. These locations are sought after and typically expensive locations.
Apartment shopping in Boston means scouring the depths of Craigslist for apartment listings. Most available apartments are known as “triple deckers” or “three deckers” depending on who you ask. These buildings are owner-occupied two to three family houses rented to tenants for a lease on the second and third floor. These homes are unique to New England and are generally held as a staple experience to living in Boston. Triple deckers are often older homes, individually managed, and come with less luxuries than new apartment buildings, specifically in-unit laundry hookups. Considering that the average Boston renter pays roughly one-thousand dollars a month, settling for an in-building laundry facility in one of these homes will have a trade off for substantially cheaper rent.
Just before you unload the moving van, think about reserving your very own moving permit online through Boston City Hall. Most apartments within the city are accompanied by a September 1st move in date to accommodate (for better or worse) all of the many college students moving back to campus in the fall. Imagine the entire city is moving in on the same day and prepare to plan accordingly. If you are considering moving in at any other time of the year, subletting an apartment would be a solid option.
- The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) recently released their latest Quarterly Home Price Index report.
- In the report, home prices are compared both regionally and by state.
- Based on the latest numbers, if you plan on relocating to another state, waiting to move may end up costing you more!
- Alaska & West Virginia were the only states where home prices are lower than they were last year.
According to the recently released Modern Homebuyer Survey from ValueInsured, 58 percent of homeowners think there will be a “housing bubble and price correction” within the next 2 years.
After what transpired just ten years ago, we can understand the concern Americans have about the current increase in home prices. However, this market has very little in common with what happened last decade.
The two major causes of the housing crash were:
- A vast oversupply of housing inventory caused by home builders building at a pace that far exceeded historical norms.
- Lending standards that were so relaxed that unqualified buyers could easily obtain financing thus enabling them to purchase a home.
Today, housing inventory is at a 20-year low with new construction starts well below historic norms and financing a home is anything but simple in the current mortgage environment. The elements that precipitated the housing crash a decade ago do not exist in today’s real estate market.
The current increase in home prices is the result of a standard economic equation: when demand is high and supply is low, prices rise.
If you are one of the 58% of homeowners who are concerned about home values depreciating over the next two years and are hesitant to move up to the home of your dreams, take comfort in the latest Home Price Expectation Survey.
Once a quarter, a nationwide panel of over one hundred economists, real estate experts and investment & market strategists are surveyed and asked to project home values over the next five years. The experts predicted that houses would continue to appreciate through the balance of this year and in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. They do expect lower levels of appreciation during these years than we have experienced over the last five years but do not call for a decrease in values (depreciation) in any of the years mentioned.
If you currently own a home and are thinking of moving-up to the home your family dreams about, don’t let the fear of another housing bubble get in the way as this housing market in no way resembles the market of a decade ago.
Spring is traditionally the busiest season for real estate. Buyers, experiencing cabin fever all winter, emerge like flowers through the snow in search of their dream home. Homeowners, in preparation for the increased demand, are enticed to list their house for sale and move on to the home that will better fit their needs.
New data from CoreLogic shows that even though buyers came out in force, as predicted, homeowners did not make the jump to list their home in the second quarter of this year. Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic had this to say,
“The growth in sales is slowing down, and this is not due to lack of affordability, but rather a lack of inventory. As of Q2 2017, the unsold inventory as a share of all households is 1.9 percent, which is the lowest Q2 reading in over 30 years.”
CoreLogic’s President & CEO, Frank Martell added,
“Home prices are marching ever higher, up almost 50 percent since the trough in March 2011.
While low mortgage rates are keeping the market affordable from a monthly payment perspective, affordability will likely become a much bigger challenge in the years ahead until the industry resolves the housing supply challenge.”
Overall inventory across the United States is down for the 25th consecutive month according to the latest report from the National Association of Realtors and now stands at a 4.3-month supply.
Real estate is local.
Market conditions in the starter and trade-up home markets are in line with the median US figures, but conditions in the luxury and premium markets are following an opposite path. Premium homes are staying on the market longer with ample inventory to suggest a buyer’s market.
Buyers are out in force, and there has never been a better time to move-up to a premium or luxury home. If you are considering selling your starter or trade-up home and moving up this year, let’s get together to discuss the exact conditions in our area.
Why the Back Bay, Boston is for You
Back Bay is Boston’s premier shopping and dining neighborhood. Back Bay is perfect for people watching and socializing, and provides ample opportunity to dine, shop, party, and vacation all at once, and all within close range of the T. There are plenty of things to do in Boston, but consider the Back Bay your one-stop-shop for all things high-end entertainment and relaxation.
Before this part of the city was home to good eats and fashion-forward tourists, the area that is now Back Bay was home to a giant mill dam that birthed a swampland full of mosquitos on the bay. But thanks to some spare dirt laying around (shout out to the 1849 Boston health department), over 450 acres of steaming tidal area was filled to grade and re-sanctioned for development. In the years since, many magnolias have been planted, neighborhood associations formed, and new district names given to reflect the ongoing changes. Now, this area of the city is formally known as the Back Bay Architectural District.
Highlights to Explore
As you’re walking along Commonwealth Ave., take a second to absorb your surroundings. You’ll be amazed by the gorgeous Victorian brownstones in the residential areas, a marker of the old Boston wealth that settled here after the area was re-zoned for residential construction over one hundred and fifty years ago. Back Bay has long been considered one of Boston’s most desirable (and expensive) places to live, and notable buildings include the giant and ornate Boston Public Library and the tallest building in the city, the John Hancock tower at 200 Clarendon.
If you’re exploring with children, take a two-hour tour of the bay with Capt. Berry on his floating classroom bay cruise tour. Your littles will learn all about how to hunt for jellyfish, identify bay-area birds, and hold a crab without getting pinched. Availability is limited, so make a reservation in advance to guarantee your spot with the Indiana Jones of the Chincoteague. If you’re looking for an exploration of the bay but don’t feel ready to dig around in mud, book a tour on one of the bay’s Swan Boat Tours.
Atmospheres to Enjoy
After you’ve had your fill of walking and shopping, these are the places to go for a delicious drink or an evening of partying. Sonsie on Newbury Street offers a wide variety of cocktails and pairings, as well as a Gluten-free menu for guests with dietary restrictions. It gets packed during the late-night hours and is known to be a social hub, but it offers a more relaxed vibe before it fills to capacity in the evening. For a more alternative drinking experience, Bukowski’s Tavern is where you should go. If all you do is write venomous drunk poetry and ramble about your own hopeless pit of self-loathing, you’ll be in good company with many other Charles Bukowski fans, but those qualities aren’t required for entry. Don’t expect to find the place empty (which is probably what Bukowski would have wanted). Bukowski’s Tavern is actually known for their peanut-butter burger and never-ending playlists of punk rock as much as for their great beer selection and has made its way onto a series of “Best Dive Bar in Boston” lists.
Shopping to Appreciate
The Back Bay is stocked with every high-end brand you’ve ever coveted, so whether you’ve been shopping Louis Vuitton for years or simply lusting over it, the Back Bay has every store can you think of along its avenues. Window shop or shop until you drop, run your fingers through some fine linens and silks at the stores of the Prudential Center, along Newbury Street, and at Copley Place. The shopping grid is easily decoded, and the more down-market stores like Urban Outfitters are located near Mass Ave. but as you progress eastward, you’ll notice progressively high-end shops (e.g. Lucky Jeans). You’ll know you’ve hit the boundary of the eight-block shopping stretch when you find yourself peering into the windows of Chanel and Cartier. For the most comprehensive list of stores, visit this list compiled by the Back Bay Association.
Food to Adore
The Back Bay is home to a variety of restaurants, and options cater to all price ranges and food preferences. If you’re looking for elegance and sophistication, stop into L’Espalier on Boylston Street for refined French-English fusion. Their calling-card is a gorgeous eight-course menu, which promises to entrance guests and leave them satisfied. If L’Espalier is a little spendy for what you’re looking for, try Stephanie’s on Newbury, an award-winning restaurant known for its sophisticated comfort food. The restaurant is close to some of the city’s most upscale and popular shops and art galleries, making it the perfect spot to grab a bite and continue exploring. Alternatively, Trident Books and Café is the perfect stop for those of us who enjoy a slightly less traditional pairing: great books and better coffee. Their café is well-known for their all-day breakfast menu and antioxidant rich smoothie selection.
Forbes.com recently released the latest results of their American Dream Index, in which they measure “the prosperity of the middle class, and…examine which states best support the American Dream.”
The monthly index measures several different economic factors, including goods-producing employment, personal and commercial bankruptcies, building permits, startup activity, unemployment insurance claims, labor force participation, and layoffs.
The national index score was rounded out to 100.0 in January as a baseline for comparison and it rose the fourth straight month in a row to 101.8.
Alaska, coming in at 89.4, represented the lowest score on the index due in part to the recent collapse in oil prices. In contrast, Wyoming came in with the highest score at 115.1. The full results can be seen in the map below.
Forbes Senior Editor Kurt Badenhausen explained why many states saw a boost in the index last month:
“The American Dream Index rose for the fourth straight month to 101.8 propelled by gains in goods-producing jobs and building permits, as well as declines in unemployment claims and mass layoffs.
Goods-producing jobs (manufacturing, mining, construction and agriculture) were up for the ninth straight month in May…Building permits rose for the fourth straight month compared to the prior year.”
The American Dream, for many, includes being able to own a home of one’s own. With the economy improving in many areas of the country, that dream can finally become a reality.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released the findings of their Q2 Homeownership Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) Survey. The report covers core topics like, “if now is a good time to buy or sell a home, the perception of home price changes, perceived ability to qualify for a mortgage, and [an] outlook on the U.S. economy.”
The survey revealed that 75% of homeowners think now is a good time to sell, compared to 70% last quarter. This is a considerable increase from more than a year ago when 66% agreed.
Even though homeowners believe that now is a good time to sell, many have not taken the step to list their homes, as inventory shortages still exist across the country. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s Chief Economist, had this to say:
"There are just not enough homeowners deciding to sell because they’re either content where they are, holding off until they build more equity, or hesitant seeing as it will be difficult to find an affordable home to buy...
As a result, inventory conditions have worsened and are restricting sales from breaking out while contributing to price appreciation that remains far above income growth.”
If you are wondering if now is a good time to sell your house, let’s get together to discuss the opportunities available in our market.
In Realtor.com’s recent article, “Home Buyers’ Top Mortgage Fears: Which One Scares You?” they mention that “46% of potential home buyers fear they won’t qualify for a mortgage to the point that they don’t even try.”
Myth #1: “I Need a 20% Down Payment”
Buyers overestimate the down payment funds needed to qualify for a home loan. According to the First Quarter 2017 Homeownership Program Index (HPI) from Down Payment Resource, saving for a down payment was the barrier that kept 70% of renters from buying.
Rob Chrane, CEO of Down Payment Resource had this to say,
“There are many mortgage-ready renters today, but they don’t know it. Often, homebuyers remain sidelined for years due to the down payment.”
Many believe that they need at least 20% down to buy their dream home, but programs are available that allow buyers put down as little as 3%. Many renters may actually be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined with new programs that have emerged allowing less cash out of pocket.
Myth #2: “I Need a 780 FICO® Score or Higher to Buy”
The survey revealed that 59% of Americans either don’t know (54%) or are misinformed (5%) about what FICO® score is necessary to qualify.
Many Americans believe a ‘good’ credit score is 780 or higher.
To help debunk this myth, let’s take a look at Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report, which focuses on recently closed (approved) loans.
As you can see in the chart above, 53.2% of approved mortgages had a credit score of 600-749.
Whether buying your first home or moving up to your dream home, knowing your options will make the mortgage process easier. Your dream home may already be within your reach.
We often discuss the difference in family wealth between homeowner households and renter households. Much of that difference is the result of the equity buildup that homeowners experience over the time that they own their home. In a report recently released by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), they reveal how valuable equity can be in retirement planning.
Craig Copeland, Senior Research Associate at EBRI, recently authored a report, Importance of Individual Account Retirement Plans and Home Equity in Family Total Wealth, in which he reveals:
“Individual account retirement plan assets, plus home equity, represent almost all of what families have to use for retirement expenses outside of Social Security and traditional pensions. Those families without individual account assets typically have very low overall assets, so they have almost nothing to draw from for retirement expenses.”
The report echoed the findings of a working paper, Home Equity Patterns Among Older American Households, authored by Barbara Butrica and Stipica Mudrazija of Urban Institute. Fannie Mae highlighted these findings for their blog The Home Story this past winter, quoting Butrica and Mudrazija:
“For most adults near traditional retirement age, a home is their most valuable asset — dwarfing retirement accounts, other financial assets, and other nonfinancial assets. Although relatively few retirees tap into their home equity, having it provides financial security… In fact, many retirement security experts argue that the conventional three-legged stool of retirement resources — Social Security, pensions, and savings — is incomplete because it ignores the home.”
USAToday interviewed two area experts to comment on the EBRI report. Randy Bruns, a private wealth adviser with HighPoint Planning Partners, agreed with the findings:
“Social Security and home equity are major pieces of the retirement puzzle.”
Wade Pfau, Professor of Retirement Income at The American College of Financial Services and author of “Reverse Mortgages: How to use Reverse Mortgages to Secure Your Retirement,” said having the equity without a plan to use it won’t help:
“Home equity is a very important asset for American retirees, and so it is important to think about how to make best use of home equity in retirement planning.”
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