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      Blog :: 09-2012

      Bloomberg Ranks Boston as 4th Best City in the US

      Boston, MA was ranked 4th as the Best City in the US by business news agency Bloomberg. In its annual 50 best Cities in the United States, Beantown was bestowed this title based on its leisure attributes (the number of restaurants, bars, libraries, museums, professional sports teams, and park acres by population), educational attributes (public school performance, the number of colleges, and rate of graduate-degree holders), economic factors (income and unemployment), crime, and air quality. Major professional league and minor league teams, as well as U.S.-based teams belonging to international leagues in each city. Bloomberg has this to say about the Bay state's capital:

      Boston isn't always one of the nation's safest towns. But few cities can match Beantown's blend of history, night life, and education. With 22 universities, Boston can seem very much a college town, owning a grimy charm. As New England's cultural center, Boston combines Gilded Age class with some Atlantic brine, from L'Espalier to B&G Oysters.

      Placing in 1st was San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. (respectively). Often termed the America's Walking City, Boston is also home to the largest number of academic institutions in the country, thereby making its population diverse and educated. The city's economy is also largely pegged on these students which, during the summer months is often no where to be found, and thus tourists replace them as the primary means of the city's revenue.

      View Bloomberg's slideshow of the Best Cities across the country here.

      Eastie Waterfront Endeavor

      After a year in limbo, a proposed development in East Boston is proceeding as planned. Located in between Marginal and Lewis streets, the project is one of four proposed developments in the Portside area in Eastie. The developers, New Jersey-based Roseland Property Co., is planning to break ground later this year. Once completed, the apartment complex will have 176 apartments to offer to the general public, with panoramic views of the Boston skyline. The whole area of the Portside development encompasses 13 waterfront acres in the East Pier district, right beside Piers Park.

      The other three projects - WinnDevelopment's Clippership Wharf, developer Philip DeNormandie's Hodge Boiler Works, and a New Street industrial redevelopment are also slowly coming out of its infancy development stage after the plans have been reduced towards becoming more of apartment-buildings than condominiums. The whole redevelopment once completed, is also projected to sprawl out 700,000 square feet of retail and commercial space.

      Read more about this development, as published on Bostonherald.com.

      Home Sales Hover Near Two-Year High

      Another good news of the housing market's recovery came in yesterday, as Bloomberg reported sales of new homes hovered close to its two-year high. According to the article, the rise in sales of new US homes was fueled both by record-low borrowing costs, as well as the decrease in the supply of foreclosed homes.

      Broken down by region, the Northeast experienced the highest growth throughout the whole country, with sales increasing by 20% compared to the prior year. This increase in property sales also reflected the increase in builder's confidence mostly in the Eastern part of the country, as proven by the number of developments found in the region.

      Bloomberg asked Stuart Miller, CEO of housing megahouse Lennar Corp. what his thoughts are regarding the signs pointing to the industry's recovery, he said

      Simply put, the housing market is recovering, not only are our sales margins and backlogs improving, but the beginnings of a sense of visibility are coming back to underwriting land acquisition and planning for the future.

      In addition, Toll Brothers Inc., the largest luxury-home builder in the country, experienced better-than-estimated profit and increase in revenue for its third quarter for properties in the East Coast.

      View the full article here, courtesy of Bloomerg.com

      10 Tips Before Becoming A Landlord

      With the Boston property market on the rebound, many - perhaps you're one of them, are contemplating on investing in a property and catch the mortgage wave while it's still low enough to mount. And with Boston having one of the highest returns in rental properties, be it condominiums or single-detach homes, investing now is indeed a lucrative business to be in.

      But before taking that big step of buying an investment property, here are 10 tips that should help you tip the scale towards becoming a landlord.

      1) Get Down and Dirty - Before buying a property, try to think about how much you want to get dirty. If you have a knack for managing construction work and contractors, consider investing in a fixer-upper and renovate it, and then it's your choice whether to flip it or rent it out to the hundreds of thousands of students looking for housing.

      2) Relax and Let It Roll - Don't fret if you're not the fixer-upper kind, there are companies out there that do the fixing, leasing, and maintaining for you. Termed as "turnkey" property investing, you can get a fixer-upper and seek out the services of companies like HomeVestors, Professionals Invest USA Network, MACK Co to liven up the property and list and fill it out for you.

      3) The Early Bird Remodel - Before even going to the bank, tour your prospective property with a general contractor to see how much work needs to be done. Even if this tip will cost you to spend money before your property earns, it will save you from headaches as well as huge disbursements of cash infusion in the long run. One must remember that to make money, you need to spend money.

      4) Determine Your Returns - Before you buy, determine whether there is money to be made in your local market. Start by calculating the capitalization rate. A cap rate measures of the rate of return on an investment property based on the expected annual rental income divided by the purchase price. This will ensure that you are actually getting yourself into a profitable business venture.

      5) Commuter-friendly - If you're aiming to become a hands-on landlord, finding property that is not only convenient for your tenants but also for you is best. This ensures that if need be, you are able to assist and easily transport yourself to the property's location.

      6) Best Buy Deals - An untapped and unheard resource for a while now, short sales are the best way to find a property that's easy on the pocket but great of the portfolio. Enlist a real estate agent who has a good network and relationship with banks, as this will make the process A LOT easier for you. Aside from short sales, also look at foreclosure auctions, probate sales, and estate auctions - these sales activities tend to have good finds.

      7) Coughing Up The Cash - Cash is necessary for this type of investment whether you secure financing or not. If you do take out a mortgage, expect to drop at least 20%, as well as a decent credit score. If purchasing a rental, cash reserves of six months' worth of payments on that property. If you need a mortgage, consider a community bank that keeps its loans in-house.

      8.) Tenant Tenacity - Once you're all settled in and the paperwork has been completed, securing tenants (if not using the property as a turnkey one) is your next most important step. Being patient in finding good tenants is something that will greatly pay in the long run and will contribute to the longevity of your newly-purchased investment. Remember to never accept a credit report a prospective tenant has printed out and provided himself. Do your own credit and criminal background screenings. Ask for two landlord references. Companies like the National Association of Independent Landlords provide a selection of screening reports, including full background searches for $29.95

      9) The LLC Loop - Form a limited liability company (LLC) to hold your investment property; otherwise, your other assets could be at risk should an accident occur. This not only prevents you personally from being hounded incessantly, but also provides a buffer between your relationship with your tenants.

      10) Real Estate Reality - If in the end you're not convinced that investing and being a landlord is for you, then there are other alternatives that also make you a viable property investor hence increasing your portfolio. Consider Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), they're less risky, and yields are ensured, although they might be a little on the low-end compared to an actual property buy.

      For more on these tips, click here to go to Forbes' original article.

      Home Sales Rally for 14th Straight Month

      The month of August marks the 14th straight month that home sales in Massachusetts have gone up, both from previous years as well as previous months. Sales of single-family homes passed the 5,000-mark for only the second time since June 2010. Total single-detached homes that were sold last year number to 4,136, compared to 5,077 of August this year. The median price of single-detach homes, remained flat compared to last year at $317,750. 

      Not to be outdone, sales of condominiums were also up from previous year and previous months. In fact, sales increased by 25.2% compared to the same period last year, and 11.9% higher than last month. The  median price of condominiums in the Bay state averaged to $292,000.

      In terms of turnover and inventory, single-family homes decreased by 22% (33,905 listings in 2011 compared to only 26,459 as of August 2012). Condominiums were also snapped up, leaving it down 30% (11,284 in 2011 compared to only 7,882 last month). Detached single-family homes stayed on the market an average of 103 days in August 2012, which was down one day from 106 days in August 2011. Condos stayed on the market an average of 91 days, which was down from 103 days in August 2011. Asked what is the main cause of this increase in sales, Massachusetts Association of Realtors Trisha McCarthy was quoted as saying,

      These drops in months of supply are typically a result of big uptick in closings in a single month," said McCarthy. "However, escalating rent prices could certainly be fueling the increased condo-market activity.

      These figures, along with recent national reports and analysis, indicate that confidence is indeed returning to the housing market. With signs that the recession is slowly ceding, it is perhaps the right time to buy a property - especially in a market where it's continually increasing.

      Click here to view the entire press release by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors (MAR).

      Boston's Class-A Spaces To Spike in 2013

      Boston, along with Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles, is expected to experience the most in Class-A (Commercial & retail properties) rental price increases next year, a study by Cushman & Wakefield finds. The study, entitled Global Shopping Center Report, projects that Boston's retail spaces will spike as much as 8% in the coming year. Currently, rental in Class-A properties in Boston is hovering between $85-$95 per sq. ft. Further, the report also found that the average sales performance of tenants in these Class-A properties was 4% above the rental price they currently pay, with revenues generally performing much better than overhead expenses, especially in high-end and specialty stores. This figure represents a better per sq.ft. return ratio compared to other metropolitan cities such as New York.

      The study, done collaboratively with ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers), looks at the sales, revenues, and occupancy rates of retail spaces in particular cities in several global regions. In previous years, increases in Class-A U.S. rental prices occurred mainly in Las Vegas and Washington DC due to inflows of investments, however moving forward the growth areas will be in the above-mentioned cities given its population's increasing allocation of discretionary income specifically towards shopping & leisurely activities.

      Perhaps another significant factor for this expected increase is Boston's limited Class-A retail landscape, which is primarily concentrated in the Back Bay area, with the Prudential Center, Copley Place, and Newbury Streets as primary destinations for high-end and specialty retailers.

      The full report can be accessed here, courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield / Cornerstone Commercial Properties.

      10 Tips To Boost Your Home's Resale Value

      There are plenty of reasons why home improvements take place - it could be that the space doesn't quite agree with the current tenants anymore and needs to be remodeled and reconfigured. It could also be that there's just the itch to redesign for a fresh new look. Regardless of what the reason may be, the foremost motivation for major improvements is the idea that one wants to ensure that their property remains in tiptop shape, and always looking new and maintained; all of which lead to one road: improving a property's value. And in this cyclical real estate market, it is always important to be ready to cash in and convert your assets.

      And in this spirit, we've drawn out 10 tips that could help you boost your home's resale value by figuring out which renovations - small or substantial, should be prioritized and take precedence over the rest.

      1) Get A Pro's Prospective - Consider hiring a real estate agent, a local designer, or an architect and get their opinion about your home and how to best improve it. It always good to have a fresh set of eyes look at what you have, in case you've missed some details that experts would know to look at. Remember, these resource persons are trained with their respective clients in mind, so having advance notice of what they'd look for is a great way to get prepared.

      2) Low-balled on Landscaping - Most people don't think that this matters, but it does - greatly, in fact. Some properties decline in face value primarily because of its exterior looking like a mess. In more severe cases, it affects buyer's bids and drags down your property's evaluation. A simple clean up of the front and back lawns and its surroundings ensures you that whoever looks at your home will find it aesthetically pleasing.

      3) Power wash and Pomade - Much like landscaping, cleaning is essential. Make sure you have ample cleaning supplies stocked up, in the event that an impromptu showing is approaching and would need a quick clean.

      4) Research on What's Selling - If you're renovating just because you want to and for no particular reason, it would be wise to research on what the market is currently looking for in terms of furniture, fixtures, and the like. And whether you do decide to profit from your property regardless of it being furnished or unfurnished, these pieces will still have an impact when you show your home to prospective buyers.

      5) It's What You Are ... Outside and In - Basically, upgrading your doors (both inside and out) is like getting a tan - it's something that will catch the attention of people around you. This ensures that your property stands out from the rest, and will have recall in your prospective client's mind or simply to make your neighbors look twice.

      6) Eyesores Are Out - Take out and replace outdated and useless stuff. This includes but is not limited to your lawn gnome, or that pink pelican statue out back. Remember to try and keep your property simple and sweet.

      7) Kitchenomics - The kitchen, alongside the master bedroom, are the main showcases of any home. Remember to keep it neat and tidy. Dispose of those energy guzzling appliances and replace them with Energy-efficient ones. It not only keeps your bills at bay, but it also makes the area look modern.

      8.) Look To The Light - Replace those windows and dividers that prevent the sun from shining. You've made your house a home, and it's now time to show it off with the use of some sun. Artificial and ambient lighting, although very effective under the right settings, isn't quite the same as natural lighting, and your prospective buyers will see this.

      9) Paint Pays - If you're not structurally modifying anything in your home, it would be a good idea to put a dab of fresh paint over that plain wall you've been staring at. This is a cheap and full-proof way to enliven any room and catch the attention (and imagination!) of people viewing your property.

      10) Storage & Space - If there's one thing that everyone nowadays look for, it's space. Lots of it. So whatever the size of your humble abode is, it's always good to squeeze some more out of it. Put in space saving cabinets, compartments and turn awkward areas into nooks that make use of once-thought usable space.

      Boston Condos: More for Less

      Regardless of where you come from, city living is always more expensive than suburban settings; properties tend to skyrocket, the closer you are to convenience. However Boston, one can say, is an exception - especially if you know where to look.

      Because the city is so walkable and is not concentrated on a particular district, its sprawling scene is flexible to the few who are familiar with its neighboring towns and communities. For instance, one can have the comfort and conveniences of downtown living in nearby Cambridge. Although it might not have the same hustle and bustle of Back Bay or the Financial District, its laid-back lifestyle should still satisfy one's late night cravings with the abundance of restaurants and establishments within walking distance.

      Boston.com has listed condominiums around the city, with price points that aren't as steep compared to others. These properties, all priced under Five Hundred Thousand, are centrally located in and around the city proper, all within reach via public transport, or just a couple of minutes away with a vehicle.

      Not satisfied? Take a private peek at our soon-to-be-launched interactive property and lifestyle match map here. You can search properties within particular neighborhoods, set your own price points, and customize the search according to your lifestyle preferences.

      Boston's Finest Condominiums

      Like any other housing market, Boston has seen its fair share of ups and downs throughout the years, most notably during the recent recession. But with the numerous reports recently coming in about the local market's upshift, there are indeed concrete signs that Boston is recovering --  and in greater and faster leaps than ever before.

      For instance, S&P's most current home price index show that properties within the Greater Boston Area appreciated by 2.5% compared to last year. Another study done by the National Realtors Association says that the market is shifting towards a seller's market, translating the surge in the demand to own.

      And regardless or whether you're thinking of renting or owning your own place to take advantage of these developments, here's a list that should give you a clearer picture of the finest condominiums Boston has to offer:

      1) One Charles - Developed by the same people behind the Ritz in downtown, Millennium Partners, this mid-rise is centrally located and has spectacular views of the city, as well as amenities that will surely please and serve. 

      2) 285 Columbus Park - This converted condominium features lofts with high ceilings, open floor plans. Located by the Back Bay T station, it's only a stone' throw away from everything in the city.

      3) 3 Avery Street - Luxurious living with hotel services and scenic views.

      4) 330 Beacon Street - This development is perfect for those who enjoy the outdoors. Located by and between the Charles River and Back bay, 330 Beacon has it all.

      5) 360 Newbury Street - These loft-style units were designed with cosmopolitan shoppers in mind. Located in haute Newbury Street and architected by none other than Frank Gerhy in 2005, not only are you buying a lifestyle property, but also a piece of art.

      6) 44 Prince Street - Although a newly-constructed building, 44 Prince still affords the old charms of the North End. The development boasts a large clock tower and a European-style courtyard with fountain.

      7) 45 Providence Street - Conveniently located in the middle of Beacon Hill and Harborfront, this property not only has luxury amenities - it also features an outdoor pool, as well as a roof deck on its 33rd floor.

      8.) 221 Columbus Avenue - A fan of the South End? Get your fix in this mid rise-development. With open floor plans, high ceilings, and wide windows, the artist in your will surely be at peace.

      9) Atelier 505 - Boasting of its first floor proximity to Restaurant Row in the South End, foodies and enthusiasts alike will surely get the best the district has to offer.

      10) Audobon Park - Dubbed the finest development in Fenway, Audobon Park at 16 Miner Street located near LandMark Center offers a suburban setting amidst a bustling city.

      Want to see more? Click here to see the complete list of top condominiums, courtesy of Curbed Boston.

      Your Home, iPad and iPhone style

      There are many reasons why this week's debut of Apple Inc.'s newest iteration of its overly popular smartphone, the iPhone 5, comes in a good time. Perhaps there is the need to upgrade your phone, or perhaps there is the want to be technologically-savvy. Either way, a better and more relevant reason is because of the smartphone's capability to do so much more that text, call, and surf the web. One feature in particular, is its ability to completely control your home with a touch or a tap of your favorite iPhone and iPad.

      Hyannis-based home automation company Savant Systems is offering just that. Seen, heard, and felt in action at the Savant Experience Center at swanky Broadway street in New York City, the system allows for full automation of one's home with the use of a chosen device. Opened just in July of this year, the Experience Center allows individuals to interact firsthand with the system, guiding you through different rooms that one might have in their own home. Every single piece of electronic device can be hooked up and monitored on the system, controlled securely and solely by your finger tips. From fixtures to fireplace, to TV and temperature, one has complete and full control. It is also designed to integrate with iCloud, so streaming your favorite tunes and movies into the living room is a simple tap away.

      The automated system works anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection, and your device is registered. Even more, pricing for Savant's products come in a broad range, so home automation is no longer just for the luxurious, but for the simple yet technologically savvy individual as well. CEO and founder Robert Madonna explains:

      "In the past home automation was only for luxury homes because there was a cost barrier ... But with the arrival of the iPad and the iPhone, those costs are getting lower so the average homeowner can now afford to put automation directly into the home for security, lighting control, entertainment. Anyone who can afford to buy an iPhone or an iPad can essentially have a piece of automation in their home."

      Take a video tour of Savant's Experience Center here, courtesy of Forbes.