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      Blog :: 10-2012

      Is the Rental Lifestyle Really On The Rise?

      Boston rent rentals Boston International Real Estate Back Bay Buying RentingIf you have been hovering on the thought of buying your own home, then chances are you're also wondering whether it's really a wise choice, and more importantly, if it's really better than just renting for the rest of your life. It seems this is the quintessential question in 1 out of 4 individuals today. Homebuying, it seems, is no longer an important life goal for them.

      Locally, this is evidenced by the fact that even though rental rates have skyrocketed, Boston's rental housing market is still in dire need of more units to replenish its dwindling inventory. In fact, Boston experienced a 23% increase in rental rates in the past 18 months; only North Dakota (+33%) and the city of New York (+25%) saw bigger increases. In addition, a little less than half of the respondents surveyed are expecting to experience even more increases in the coming years, prompting the question of why, inspite of increases, they are willing to continue with their preference of renting than buying?

      A possible explanation, according to the National Housing Institute, could be of fear. Specifically, the threat of the recession coming back with a vengeance. Most of the individuals who are currently as well as soon-to-be in the position to buy property are in their middle twenties to early thirties, the population who experienced the recession the worst, given they were just starting out fresh from school when it hit.

      Boston Seaport Wharf Southie Skyline Boston International Real Estate Downtown Financial District

      "An experience like that could make someone really think twice about the stability of their future investments, and therefore reassess the goals in their lives", said Alan Morrisy, Associate Editor at NHI.

      Regardless of whether you're one of the people who think renting for life is the solution, or buying a house is a sound investment, it is always good to be vigilant and aware where your money is going to and what it's going to be like in the future. Whether that future involves you selling purchased property, or cashing in on your stashed pile of savings, in the end it's all up to you.

      Being Homesmart During a Hurricane

      With the onslaught of historic Hurricane Sandy set to make waves today, preparations should already have been done, and you're comfortably settled in at home waiting the weather out. But even then, being homesmart is essential to make sure that the impact of the storm is minimal to you and your possessions. And with record-high winds and torrential rains, here's a list of practical things you can do to be homesmart and safe during, as well as after a hurricane hits your home.

      Monitor the weather with caution While it is smart to check-in so often on weather information services like weather.com, weather channel, and local news, be cautious not to over-panic and cause yourself unnecessary worry. The most important thing you have on your side during times of distress is a levelheaded mind.

      Have an ample supply of consumables Having enough food and potable water is one thing, but diligently going through them could be challenging. Keep in mind that weather forecasts only take into consideration the duration and impact of the actual weather system, but you need to be prepared to deal with the fallout, so keeping yourself as self-sufficient two or even three days after is always a good idea. Additionally, if you have multiple persons in your households, it is recommended that a liter of water per day per person should be stored up.

      Charge all those devices If you have multiple portable electronic devices, charge all of them. Use each device diligently as well, and keep a spare source of electricity. If you have a laptop, keep it plugged in the whole time - this can be the power source for your other devices when electricity shuts off.

      Do your laundry We often take power for granted and think of it as being readily available. But in a hurricane situation, wind gusts will most likely tear down trees and powerlines, keeping you in the dark for the duration and, in severe cases, days after impact. So do everything that you can do before you reach this point - including laundry. Put everything you can in the wash, so you'll be fully prepared to be up and out to work again once the waters have receded.

      Fill up your tub Water pumps, just like any other mechanical device, is powered by electricity. When power lines are down, so are the stations that keep our pipes running. Not having enough potable water could easily be addressed by cases of bottled water, but plumbing should be your primary concern. If you have a tub in your bathroom, it would be wise to fill it up and use that water for plumbing and secondary needs. If you can, avoid using this for washing dishes, since paper plates are good substitutes to lessen the need for wash water.

      Spooky Spots In and Around Boston

      If you're one to celebrate All Hallow's Eve (aka Halloween), then this list is for you. Boston and the rest of the Bay State is known to have haunted locations all over, given its abundance of antiquated buildings, and richness in history as the state is one of America's oldest settlements. Beantown's cobblestones, which date back as far as the early 1800's, are a sign of the city's dated past and have been witness to a lot of happenings, both commercial and creepy. Most of the homes built then were intended to house multiple families and have been home to many generations that some say still hasn't left its premises.

      Charles Gate Hotel, Back Bay Sitting in Boston's Back Bay on Beacon Street, this hotel was built in 1891 by John Pickering Putnam, his architectural influence was derived from his interest in Nationalism. Frequented by the wealthy until the 1920's, the Charlesgate quickly became a boarding house for ladies of the night and it was linked to the Mafia. The Hotel is now filled with multiple condominiums complete with visitors from the other side. Apparitions in the form of Flappers have been spotted by several dozen workman and visitors, and the basement, once a stable has had quite a few sightings of ghost horses.

      Omni Parker House, Downtown Boston The ghost of Harvey Parker, who opened the Parker House in 1856 and died in 1884, allegedly roams the hotel's 10th floor annex. During his life, Parker was "a perfectionist who kept his hands in every detail of his restaurant and hotel operations," says the Omni's website, so his apparitions "hardly come as a shock." Other encounters include shadows, mysterious rocking chair noises -- especially strange because the hotel has no rocking chairs -- and orbs of light. Elevators also mysteriously come to the third floor, where Charles Dickens lived for two years, without being called.

      Lizzie Borden House, Fall River Although she was acquitted of the gruesome murder at her 1845 Victorian home, the ax-wielding Lizzie Borden never shook her "forty whacks" claim to fame that she killed her father and stepmother on Aug. 4, 1892. In addition to her chop-chop notoriety, Borden apparently had an intimate relationship with actress Nance O'Neill. There's also a theory that she had a torrid love affair with the housekeeper, Bridget Sullivan. Currently a bed & breakfast and museum, the Borden house is open for curiosity seekers to spend the night where the murders took place.

      Cutler Majestic Theater, 219 Tremont St. The theater was built in 1903 and opened and closed on many occasions before Emerson bought and restored it in the 1980s. "Every theatre major at Emerson must do tech work at the Majestic, and most have experienced something," according to a write-up on Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads. Some say the ghost of a former Boston mayor, who died during a performance, still sits in his seat, while others believe a couple and their daughter hang around the building's upper balcony.

      Hammond Castle, Worcester Inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. who built the medieval-style castle in the late 1920s had an odd desire to be reincarnated as a cat. Many believe the black feline who roamed the grounds and sat in his favorite chair in the library was Hammond himself. Henry Davis Sleeper, the legendary designer who is rumored to have had an unrequited love affair with his Red Roof neighbor, Abram Piatt Andrew Jr., designed the inventor's favorite spot, known as the "whisper room," where people have heard disembodied voices from beyond.

      Living It Up in Boston

      Much like any other metropolitan city, the real estate landscape in Boston is made up of different types of properties, designed to house different types of people according to their widely varied lifestyles. As Upper East is to Manhattan, so is Back Bay to Boston. In fact, most would argue that Boston's Back Bay and South End areas are even more uppity that its Upper East counterpart, especially because of the sheer number of brownstones concentrated on such a dense area. Some would argue that brownstones in Back Bay and the South End are even more expensive to live in than in Manhattan. They're right. At least when it comes to a property's size.

      Of the 3,000 condos sold in the last eight months of the year, only half measured greater than 1,000 square feet. The rest, even though centrally located and extremely desirable, were units ranging from 300 to 1,000 sq ft. And if size equates to luxury to you, then brace for bad news - only 1 in twenty of the units that were sold and went over 1,000 square feet are over 2,000 but less than 2,500. This means that if size is your primary consideration for buying, then it might be a bit difficult to look for something above the 2,000-square feet range. But unless you have multiple generations living in a single apartment, there really is no need for that big of a space nowadays.

      Yet, if you really need the extra space, then there are properties that will surely match your search criteria - just be prepared to bust out your checkbook. The median price for condo units that were sold above the 2,000 square feet range in the Back Bay-Downtown-South End area was pegged at $1,450,000. However, if that price tag is too costly, there's always Jamaica Plain and South Boston, where rumors of properties of this calibur go for only $700,000 and $650,000, respectively.

      As a foot note: unlike Manhattan, where sprawling Penthouses in skyscraper buildings are aplenty, there's only one known unit in Boston that supersedes 6,000 square feet - and that is Unit W-11B of the Mandarin Oriental residences, with a total square footage of 6,111 sq ft, and a cool price tag of $10.3M.

      Data courtesy of MLS

      Signed, Sealed, and Delivered In Under A Day

      It's been reported that in the past couple of months, Boston condominiums have been disappearing from the market. The inventory of local available condo units haven't seen these low levels since 2004, when the housing economy was still basking in all of its glory.

      With all the news that's been made public about how the rebound is real, it seems buyers in the Boston market are also quick to respond, snapping up cozy condominiums as quickly as they can. In October, four properties closed in just under a day of its listing, only two of which were slightly under the asking price.

      566 Commonwealth Avenue, Kenmore Square

      Bright SW facing large renovated studio in a luxury elevator building in revitalized Kenmore Sq. This updated unit is complete with new hard wood floors, central A/C, with a wall of fl to ceiling windows. Peer into Fenway Park from your private balcony. Co-op fee includes RE Taxes, 24/hr concierge, blanket bldg mortgage, cable, heat/hot water, extra interior maintenance, common laundry. Steps away from restaurants, nightlife, movies, the T, The Esplanade and shopping. Dry cleaning service in bldg. 600 sq. ft. ($333.33/sq. ft.)

      Asking Price: $199,000 Closing Price: $200,000

      141 Dorchester Avenue, South Boston

      Southie spacious studio layout with open concept. Bamboo hardwood flooring throughout. Stainless steel appliances and stone counter tops. Modern baths with stone counter tops  Washer/dryer in unit. One deeded parking spot included! Building amenities include: 24/7 concierge, gym facility, common bike storage, screening room, and outdoor pool terrace with heated lap pool, BBQs, and free WiFi internet. 804 sq. ft. ($496.27/sq. ft.)

      Asking Price: $399,000 Closing Price: $399,000

      1576 Commonwealth Avenue, Brighton

      Sunny top floor studio in great building in Washington Square Condominiums in Brighton. Freshly painted, shining hardwood floors,  separate kitchen and bath. 310 sq. ft. ($419.35/sq. ft.)

      Asking Price: $135,500 Closing Price: $ 130,000

      483 Beacon Street, Back Bay

      Amazing Back Bay corner one bedroom on sunny South East corner with high ceilings, hardwood floors (all newly refinished), new windows in living room, and much more.  Bathroom with granite wall accents and floor. Elevator building, pet friendly. 475 sq. ft. ($768.42/sq. ft.)

      Asking Price: $ 375,000 Closing Price: $ 365,000

      Common Real Estate Terms

      If you're planning on buying property in the near future, it's perhaps practical that you familiarize yourself with terms that will be useful when you negotiate or inquire about a particular property. Below is a rundown of real estate terms that should help your property parlance before, during, and after your acquisition process.

      Agent ?An authorized person who manages or transacts business for another. Laws governing real estate--especially relating to agents--vary considerably from state to state. While some standardization has been achieved, it is best to check the particulars in each state.

      Buyer Agent ?An agent who represents the buyer in a real estate transaction. A buyer agent may be paid by the buyer, seller, or listing agent at closing, provided all parties consent.

      Dual Agent? An agent representing both parties in a transaction. In almost every state, dual agency is illegal and unethical without the written consent of both the buyer and the seller.

      Listing Agent? The agent who represents the seller.

      Selling Agent? The agent who obtains a buyer. A selling agent may represent the buyer, or may be a subagent of the seller.

      Amenities ?Features that enhance the value or desirability of a property.

      Amortize ?To pay a debt in periodic amounts until the total amount, including any interest, is paid.

      Appraisal ?A qualified party's opinion of the value of a property. This may include examples of sales of similar properties.

      Assessment / Assessed Value? An official valuation of property for tax purposes. Payments made by condominium or cooperative owners for their share of building maintenance expenses.

      Balloon Payment/Mortgage? A mortgage with monthly payments often based on a 30-year amortization schedule, with the unpaid balance due in a lump sum payment at the end of a specific period of time (usually 5 or 7 years). The mort-gage may contain an option to "reset" the interest rate to the current market rate and to extend the due date if certain conditions are met.

      Broker ?An independent business person who sets real estate office policies, hires employees, determines their compensation, and supervises their activities.

      Closing ?The point at which real estate formally changes ownership. Closing costs are fees paid for services associated with a home's closing such as title insurance, surveying fees, recording fees, deeds, and affidavits.

      CMA (Competitive Market Analysis) ?A method of determining the value of a property by comparing the prices paid for similar properties.

      Commission ?Compensation paid to a real estate agent (usually by the seller) for services rendered in connection with the sale, exchange, or lease of property.

      Condominium (Condo) ?Individual ownership of a portion of a building, with common areas shared by all owners. Maintenance fees called "assessments" are paid to the condominium association to maintain, repair, or improve the property.

      Conventional Loan ?A fixed-rate, fixed term loan that is not insured by the government.

      Co-operative (Co-op) ?An arrangement in which a corporation made up of residents owns a building. The buyer owns a proprietary lease, rather than real property, and a corresponding number of shares in the corporation.

      Counter Offer ?A new offer as to price, terms, and conditions, made in response to a prior, unacceptable offer. A counter offer terminates an original offer.

      Deed ?A legal document transferring ownership of a property from one party to another.

      Disclosure ?Revealing what previously was private knowledge. Any statement of fact that is required by law.

      Down Payment ?A percentage of the purchase price the buyer pays in cash.

      Earnest Money ?A buyer's partial payment to the seller as a show of good faith in completing the transaction.

      Equity ?The difference between the current market value of a property and the claims--such as the unpaid portion of a mortgage--that exist against it.

      Escrow ?The closing of a real estate transaction through a neutral third party who holds funds and/or documents for delivery after specific conditions have been met.

      Exclusive Listing ?A written agreement in which the seller appoints only one agent to market the property for a specific period of time. If the owner sells the property himself, he is not required to pay a commission.

      Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) ?Fannie Mae purchases home mortgages, thus serving as a source of funds for mortgage lenders. It is a privately owned corporation whose shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, but it is subject to the strict supervision of the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

      Federal Fair Housing Law Refers to Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, and stipulates that discrimination based on race, color, sex, familial status, handicap, religion, or national origin is illegal in connection with the sale or rental of most dwellings.

      FHA (Federal Housing Administration) ?A federal agency established to improve housing standards and conditions. The FHA provides mortgage insurance to approved lending institutions.

      Forbearance Agreement? An agreement between a mortgage holder and a borrower that specified a loan payment plan and halts the foreclosure action if borrower meets requirements and terms of the agreement. The payment plan generally includes provisions for repayment to the mortgage holder of all delinquent interest and fees and could include extending the life of the mortgage beyond it's original term.

      Foreclosure? The legal process by which property that is mortgaged as security for a loan may be sold to pay a defaulting borrower's loan.

      Freddie Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation) ?A federally chartered corporation established to purchase mortgages in the secondary, or resale, market. Freddie Mac's policies are designed to serve the needs of savings and loan associations. It is subject to oversight by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

      Guaranty ?A pledge made by one person (the guarantor) to ensure that another person (the obligor) will fulfill an obligation to a third party (the obligee).

      Improvements ?Additions intended to increase the value of a property.

      Inspection ?An examination of a property by the buyer, agent, title insurance company, or other interested party.

      Lien ?A charge or claim by one party on the property of another as security for the payment of a debt.

      Listing ?A written agreement between a property owner and a real estate broker authorizing the broker to find a buyer.

      Market Value ?The price a property will command on the open market.

      MLS (Multiple Listing Service) ?A means by which agents are informed of the properties offered for sale by other agents.

      Mortgage ?A legal document pledging property as security for the payment of a loan.

      Mortgage Insurance ?An insurance plan that protects the lender if the borrower does not repay a loan. Mortgage insurance is required when a home buyer makes less than a 20% down payment at the time of purchase. Private mortgage insurance (PMI) covers conventional (fixed-year, fixed-rate) loans. The Federal Housing Administration charges a mortgage insurance premium (MIP) on FHA loans.

      Offer ?A proposal to purchase property at a specified price and terms.

      Open House ?The common real estate practice of showing "For Sale" homes to the public during established hours.

      Origination Fee ?A lender's charge for establishing and processing a new mortgage loan. It is generally computed as a percentage of the loan and may be tax deductible.

      Owner of Record ?The person named in the public record as the owner of a property or mortgage.

      Principal ?The amount of money upon which interest is paid.

      Qualified Buyer ?A buyer who has demonstrated the financial ability to afford the asking price of a home. Prequalifying with a lender can expedite the home buying transaction.

      Refinance ?Obtaining a new loan to pay off an existing loan. Refinancing is a popular practice when interest rates drop.

      Short Sale ?To sell a home through negotiation with the bank or lender, who agrees to accept less than the full amount owed to satisfy the debt allowing the debt to be 'paid off', short. Short sales are subject to bank approval and are often used as options in lieu of foreclosure.

      Title Insurance ?An insurance policy that protects against losses arising from title defects such as forged or misfiled documents

      Town House ?Also known as a row house, generally refers to a type of dwelling having two floors, with the living area and kitchen on the first floor, and the bedrooms on the second. Town houses share a common wall between units.

      Walk-Through ?A final inspection of a property before it changes ownership


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            What Are Innovation Units?

            Over the past months, much of Boston has been a buzz over Mayor Menino's pronouncement of his initiative to push for innovation units to be built alongside developments within the city. Particularly, his vision is to have the units ready for occupancy with concentration in South Boston as well as the Waterfront district. The aim of his initiative is to prepare affordable and practical living spaces for young professionals that will soon flock to these areas for employment, as commercial properties begin to turnover and development contracts are continuously being signed.

            Innovation Units Studio Architecture Design Boston International Real Estate BostonIRE BIREThe concept for these "high-efficiency" apartments are based on NYC-style units that have been optimized to maximize living spaces and accommodate the massive Manhattan population.The most recent development to sign-off on these Manhattan-esque compact units is the Pier 4 project by the Waterfront, standing 21 stories high and will have 373,000 square feet of retail and residential space, and will include  50 smart innovation units.

            With this in mind, you're probably asking yourself, "what are innovation units?", and how different are they from existing floor plan configurations currently available in the market?

            Size Matters

            The Innovation units' floor plans come in a very specific range, starting from 375 square feet, but would not exceed 450, which coincidentally is the city's current minimum for new-construction apartments. In contrast, the average one-family home in the Northeast roughly about 2,600 square feet. Taking into consideration that most of these units are dedicated to yuppies flocking to the district, the size in itself is practical to house a single occupant and a guest at most.

            Interiors and Items

            The units are also configured to have furnishings that will maximize space, and at the same time still serve multiple purposes. In this case, form and function meet, as the items are tastefully designed to be soothing to the eye, yet pleasing to the user's needs. A professionally-designed pulled out bed will be the main fixture in the floor's layout.

            Beyond Cooking and Bathing

            For those worried that the unit's bathroom will not be a blissful experience, worry not. A modern stand-up bath will take up a fourth of the unit's space and is planned to have storage facilities as well to hold clothing and peripherals. As for the kitchen, an eat-in counter will take up another fourth of the space, and is designed to provide you with a culinary corner that can doubles up as a computer nook.

            Read more about upcoming developments that host these Innovation units from Boston Redevelopment Authority's website.

            Spending Saturday on the South End

            If you're still unsure of your plans for the weekend, The South End Historic Society is having its 44th South End House Tours on Saturday, October 20. The event offers participants a unique glimpse into the private homes of Bostonians residing in this sophisticated neighborhood. Most people living in the city are fans of the South End, as its brownstone buildings offer a quaint break from the busyness of Back Bay.

            The South End Society (SEHS) is a non-profit community organization that was founded in 1966. They task themselves with preserving and revitalizing the neighborhood, as it was declared a Historic site in 1972. Click here to learn more about SEHS and purchase tickets to the event on Saturday.

            Regardless of whether you're new to the area or a veteran of Boston, here's a surefire list of South End staples that will complement your Saturday stint at the neighborhood.

            Sites To See:

            The Cyclorama - an impressive and historic venue located in the stylish South End neighborhood of Boston. Surrounded by the largest collection of Victorian brownstones in New England and representing the height of urban industrial chic, the Cyclorama offers inspiration and limitless possibilities for all kinds of events.

            SOWA - The famed South of Washington area is best known for its open markets during the weekends. Stop by on Sundays to see the numerous merchants lined up and get some retail therapy.

            Succulent South End Staples:

            South End Buttery A bakery famous not only for their goodies, but also for sandwiches and soup, this cozy cafe will surely re-energize you for more exploration of the South End.

            B&G Oysters While you're in the mood to explore, try some New England oysters from nearby B&G Oysters who South End residents swear to its succulence.

            Toro Best known for their tapas and Spanish selections, Toro is your destination for unique finger foods for the famished. Experience Castilian flavors in the midst of brownstone settings.


            Seaport District's Pier 4 Set To Rise

            The Seaport District is wasting no time playing catch up to developments rising in Boston. Originally planned to be constructed  in back in 2008, the redevelopment of Pier 4, also known as Anthony's Pier, was finally put in motion today, as the first phase of its fabrication is set to begin next month.

            The Hanover Co. of Houston is set to begin the construction of a 21-story apartment and retail tower in middle of November, resulting to 369 apartments up for grabs for eager home hunters. The apartments will come in standard configurations ranging from studios to family-friends three bedrooms. The development is also set to offer "innovation units" that are less than 450 sq ft, are compact, and high-efficiency, as prescribed by Mayor Menino.

            The entire project at Anthony's Pier once completed, will include two additional high rise buildings and a one-acre park to serve the area's nature and sea lovers. This will result in the area having more of a 24/7 feel to it, and increase likelihood of companies setting up shop in the Seaport district as housing becomes available. The first phase is set to be ready for occupancy by mid-2014.

            Tips for Choosing Neighborhoods

            One of the nicest things about relocating is that you get to start anew, regardless of where you're moving to. Whether you need more living space, a change of scenery, or even for employment - relocating is often always an exciting act to endure. If you're one of those grasping the idea of moving to a new home in the foreseeable future, one thing to always consider in your apartment hunt is the viability of the particular area you're relocating to.

            The neighborhood where you'll end up residing in should be one that fits not only your transportation and daily needs, but also your lifestyle. And depending on whether you'll be living alone or sharing your living space with your family or yet to be known friends, certain considerations take precedence over others.

            If you're a first time-buyer with limited financial resources, it's wise to buy a home that meets your primary needs in the best neighborhood that fits within your price range. You can maximize your home purchase location by incorporating some of the following strategies into your neighborhood search:

            Tip #1: Look for communities that are likely to become "hot neighborhoods" in the coming years. They can often be discovered on the edge of the most desirable areas in the city. Look for a home in a good neighborhood that is a bit farther out of the city. If commuting is a concern (often not the case in Boston due to its extensive transportation lines), purchase a home that is close to public transportation.

            Tip #2: Look at the neighborhood demand by asking your realtor whether multiple offers are being made, whether the gap between the list price and sale price is decreasing, and whether there is active community involvement. You can also drive around neighborhoods and see how many "sale pending" and "sold" signs there are in a particular area.

            Tip #3: Look into purchasing a condominium or co-op, rather than a house, in a desirable neighborhood. This way you still may be able to purchase in a prime area that you otherwise could not afford.

            While Boston's cityscape is not as vast as that of Manhattan's skyline, it is mostly segregated into pockets of uniqueness featuring properties that cater to a specific demograph, all of which have their own charm. Visit our Lifestyle Match map and see which properties and neighborhoods best suit your needs.