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      Blog :: 12-2012

      Protecting Your Home During The Holidays

      protect home holidays, boston homes, boston real estate, christmas 2012, new years 2012The holidays are a time for getting together with friends and family - a time when all is merry and cheer is high, of crackling wood under the fireplace, good home-cooked food, and hot cocoa. But unbeknownst to many, it is also sadly a time for burglaries. In fact, nearly 400,000 burglaries take place in the United States between November and January each year, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. December to January is also deemed an "extra vigilant" month by the National Crime Prevention Council, especially for families who have impending travel plans. And whether you're on a tight budget or would like to splurge on security, don't despair - we're giving you five practical tips on how you can keep your home safe during the holidays without breaking the bank.

      Automated Holiday Home Security

      We've all seen the "Home Alone" movies that make Christmas break-ins look like fun and games. But there's nothing amusing about putting your family in harm's way. That's why experts suggest that all families provide themselves with an automated security system. Managing your home's security is top priority, especially when you have everyone under one roof. Additionally, alarm systems are the biggest deterrent of burglaries, and wards off badly-intented people.

      Another great affordable alternative is to use a nifty device called Lockitron that enables you to lock and unlock your home's deadbolt locks with a touch of a button, no matter where you are - all from your favorite iPhone. Available for only $150, this item works with an app and interacts with a specialized deadbolt lock installed on your door jam. Even better, the device also comes with a bluetooth sensing device that reads your phone as if it's the key and unlocks the door whilst you're steps away.

      Keep Your Travel Plans Classified

      protect home holidays, boston homes, boston real estate, christmas 2012, new years 2012There's a reason why airports are a nightmare during the holidays - and it's not just the torrential winter weather. No, airports are a mess during the holidays because everyone is travelling. That is, everyone except burglars, who instead will be scheming ways to take advantage of your empty home. In fact, burglars prefer to break into homes that are unoccupied because if they're caught in the act, it's considered by law to be less of a crime than if they were to burglarize an occupied home.

      Because of this, you'd want your house to look as "normal as when you're at home" while you're away. Basically, the more "lived-in" your home can look, the better. One way to achieve this is to have automatic timer for your lights. Another is to leave your car parked out on the drive way. Lastly, turn to your good old neighborhood and ask them to look after your home. Lastly, work out your mail and newspaper delivery - you wouldn't want them to pile up and make it obvious to everyone that you're not there to pick it up.

      Don't Show Off Your Glittering Gifts

      protect home holidays, boston homes, boston real estate, christmas 2012, new years 2012

      Whether you're celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, it's almost a given that once December hits, presents will start rolling into your home. Unfortunately, your kids aren't the only ones excited about their holiday gifts. Burglars will be keeping tabs, too. For that reason, try as much as you can to not make large displays of holiday gifts visible through windows and doors of your home - it'll just invite more unwanted attention. After all, there's safety in humility.

      Secure Your Home's Entry Points

      Since we all know that burglars are lazy, they try as much as they can to steal our belongings. Burglars prefer to take the easy way out and go after homes that are an easy target. Less-than-sturdy windows and doors, for example, could attract burglars to your home during the holidays.

      On top of that, the biggest misconception people have is that a deadbolt lock will keep them safe. However, if you don't reinforce the area around the lock, it takes no strength to break into a home. A report on the burglary of single-family homes by the U.S. Homeowner's Association offers similar sentiments.

      Poor building materials can make houses more vulnerable to burglary, and older houses may have rusting, easily compromised locks or worn and decaying window and door frames, while newer houses may be built with cheap materials.

      So, what can you do to better burglar-proof your home this holiday season? Go to the home improvement store and look at the different items that are there, talk to the salespeople, and ask them how you can secure your home and strengthen the area around your dead bolt lock.

      Be Very Aware of Your Surroundings

      This tip sounds a little ominous, we know, but with safety and holiday cheer at stake - it's best to be overly cautious. It's actually a proven fact that most burglars live in the neighborhood where they commit the crime, so you want to be careful when bringing in gifts or items into your home. Before unloading your car, make sure that you weren't followed back home from the shopping mall, or that there's no one suspicious lurking on your street.

      Something else you might want to consider during the holidays: traveling in a pack.If there's any opportunity to have more people around you, then make sure you do. Burglars won't likely approach you if you're with three or four other people.

      Downtown Crossing Reimagined

      Downtown Crossing reimagined, KMDG, BRA, Boston Redevelopment, Boston Real EstateAs we've written in our past articles, Downtown Boston is experiencing a resurgence in developments and improvements. As tall high-rise buildings and highbrow hotels are slowly but surely inching their way into the district, improvements on the streetscape are also on the way, with the rehabilitation of Downtown Crossing's commercial and business streets, and the Orange's line underground terminal, complete with a Times Square-esque open amphitheater.

      To add to this distinction, the (BRA) Boston Redevelopment Authority has selected urban landscape and architecture firm Klopfer Martin Design Group (KMDG) to develop a streetscape design program for Boston's Downtown Crossing District. KMDG , headquartered in Cambridge, was selected from 11 proposals submitted to the BRA for the project. The firm presented its long-term vision for sidewalks, roadways, pedestrian zones, signage, and the vending program, during the BRA's Annual Meeting earlier this week.

      In a press release posted on its website, the BRA selected KMDG for its expertise in "landscape architecture, wayfinding, urban design, and universal design". The firm will incorporate on-street retail , vending, civil and traffic engineering, and bicycling needs in their forthcoming designs, to be fully realized in time for the Spring and Summer months.

      In response to changing demographics, KMDG will use urban design to 'recast the crossing' as a public, open space. New wayfinding standards will be used to highlight intersections and opportunities to 'connect the connections,'" according to the BRA website. "Wayfinding components will include all modes of transportation (private motor vehicles, public transportation, bicycling, and pedestrians), informational kiosks, maps, and the area's history and culture to 'unlock the experience'.

      Downtown Crossing reimagined, KMDG, BRA, Boston Redevelopment, Boston Real Estate

      Surely, as luxury buildings like the Millennium Place and the soon-to-be-built Filene's basement replacement are in development, the district will allow for a great street experience as tourists, residents, employees, and shoppers milling about the area will be treated to a modern urban architecture - something this part of the city   has long been promised and is now being fulfilled.

      Goldman Sachs Gets Into South Boston

      Goldman Sachs, South Boston, Southie, Innovation District, Boston Real Estate, Archon Group, Cresset Developments, Boston International Real EstateIt looks like Southie is in for a serious transformation, as the real estate arm of heavyweight investment group Goldman Sachs bought a substantial stake along the district's waterfront area. The $23 million Archon Group deal will see the turnover of 6.2 acres of prime development land along E St. that is currently being occupied by a warehouse building leased out to shipping company DHL Express.

      The acquired property sits right next to a parcel of land that is owned by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, set to be developed into a hotel complex where two yet-to-be-named hotels and a massive parking garage will soon rise. Alongside this project, construction and property management group Cresset Development also has an ongoing demolition of a warehouse building, making way for a $62 million apartment complex aimed for a 2014 delivery.

      Goldman Sachs, South Boston, Southie, Innovation District, Boston Real Estate, Archon Group, Cresset Developments, Boston International Real EstateWith these developments on the pipeline, it won't be long until Southie sees the same boom and gentrification the South End experienced in the early 1990s. This only complements the city's long-ago plans to transform the southern part of the metro area into a bustling center, catering not only to shipping and warehouse requirements, but also to house new industries and more importantly, residents that have long sought for living spaces in a city that is otherwise congested.

      The entry of Goldman Sachs' Archon Group in the area is sure to make other investors realize the potential of South Boston as the next phase of the expansion of the "innovation districts" of Metro Boston. Additionally, the recent deals in the area has sparked talk of whether the MBTA should consider expanding transportation services into South Boston. Currently, accessibility to this part of the city is barely covered by the Silver and Red Lines.

      A Tale of South End Transformation

      275 Albany Street, South End, Boston redevelopment, Boston real estateMany people associate the South End with its beautiful brownstone buildings and picturesque streets. In fact, you could even say that the district is one of the most lively neighborhoods in America. To add a little mix to this distinction, upscale property developer Normandy Partners is teaming up with Gerding Edlen to jointly develop 275 Albany Street into a busting intersection, hosting a high-rise condo complex and a boutique hotel that will go along with it.

      Located on a 1.3 acre site in the former parking lot next to the old Boston Herald headquarters and adjacent to the Southeast Expressway, the $165 million development will give rise to a 220-apartment building and a 325-room boutique hotel. The plan was approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority last September, and groundbreaking is set for early next year. Once built, the condo and hotel combination will serve as a break from the traditional low- to mid-rise developments in the area,  yet preserve the look of essential brownstone-lined streets of the South End untouched. The original plan for the site included two side-by-side hotels but that went up in the air last year, as the developers saw potential to offer residential apartments in an otherwise congested part of the city.

      275 Albany Street, South End, Boston redevelopment, Boston real estateThe area that the buildings will occupy will be near the edge of the district, where industrial warehouses and offices once sat. At least four major properties are in different stages of redevelopment in this gritty area between Chinatown and South End proper. The most significant is the former Herald block between Harrison and Albany. National Development has announced it will demolish the old two-story newspaper facility and replace it with four new buildings containing 475 apartments and 85,000 square feet of retail space.

      The gentrification of the South End has long been ongoing since the 1990's and this development is sure to set another mark in the neighborhood's quest to turn it into the city's most prominent living quarters, positioning it to join the ranks of Back Bay and the Beacon Hill.

      Advantages of Off-Season House Hunting

      SBoston skyline, winter house hunting, Boston real estate, Bargain buys, discounts, winter advantageo you've saved up your down payment, and mortgage rates are about as low as you think they'll go, and you're ready to start home shopping, but it's December - and everyone's telling you that you've missed the homebuying window for the year. Is that really true? Perhaps, and perhaps not. What are the pros and cons of buying a home while most of the country is focused on buying and wrapping gifts? Consider this article as an early Christmas gift from us to you, as we offer tips, tricks, and advice on what you can expect from the housing market nearing the end of the year, and what advantages could be in store for you.

      Holiday house hunting Shopping for a home in December and during the dead of winter might be somewhat less than ideal, as there are fewer homes to choose from and not as many open houses to peruse in the season's cold, wet weather. But a couple of things are working to your advantage: there will be less competition for any house you do find and fall in love with, and less competition often times work in your favor.

      Boston skyline, winter house hunting, Boston real estate, Bargain buys, discounts, winter advantageAccording to Realtor.com's historical figures, real estate prices are typically at a 12-month low in December through early February. This means that you don't have to be as aggressive with your initial first offer, compared to buying during peak to high season. Sellers who are more willing to keep their house on the market in winter may be more flexible in negotiating the terms of an offer; extending the time to close or agreeing to other concessions.

      Another important factor to consider is that you'll have more help in your homebuying during the cold winter months as you're likely to get more of your agent's time as the year winds down. Agents typically go on standby mode during the winter months, so they will be at your disposal.

      Of course, the downside to this end-of-the-year shopping is diminished selection. According to housing aggregator Trulia, the number of listings that come to market in the spring is 65% higher than what we see in November, December, and January. Many people just don't want to focus on showings during the holidays.

      However, if you do see something you like, it's a good time to pull the trigger and submit your bid. With rates near record lows, you might be able to afford more house now than you would be able to in the spring when rates are expected to edge up - even though it's only half a percent, this will eventually save you a couple of hundred dollars in the long run. There's also a chance lenders may be more willing to shave down fees at this off-peak time to gain your business in an otherwise slow season for them.

      Finding blemished bargains

      Boston skyline, winter house hunting, Boston real estate, Bargain buys, discounts, winter advantageLooking for the best bargain in a neighborhood? Zillow advises looking for listings where sellers clearly ignored their agent's advice. The site noted factors such as crowded rooms, knick-knacks and bad lighting, which can affect a selling price, but not long-term value. In other words, properties that have been left untouched and unimproved by their owners since the time of their listing.

      In our fair city, check neighborhoods such as the North- and South End, as well as Cambridge for walk-ups that usually turn people off during the peak of house hunting. There are great bargains out there overlooked and sidetracked by many because of the abundance of properties during the high season. Multifamily homes are also a good bet, as many (but not most) are vacated by tenants who have leases that turnover in January. Some landlords would want to dispose of those properties and cash in, rather than finding tenants. The same applies to apartments or investment properties in the commercial districts, as most businesses tend to have licenses on a yearly basis that ends in December. And if it so happens that lady luck isn't on their side and they'll need to fold up, you might be the lucky fellow to capitalize on their space.

      Dishing Out on Boston's Dining Scene

      Boston dining scene, American Provisions Boston, Lucca Boston, Scholars Bistro Boston, Area Four Boston, Cinquecento Boston, El Centro Boston, Local 149 Boston

      It's been a while since we've last written about Boston's dining scene, and since then there's been plenty to write - given all the new establishments that have opened the past couple of months. And with the onset of the holidays, the city has seen what's probably the last rush of restaurant launches last weekend. So, if you and your friends are looking for a good place to have your holiday get together, there's no need to look elsewhere, as we're dishing out the details on the city's hottest and newest gastronomic destinations.

      New Restaurants

      There's a handful of restaurants that opened during the fall, capitalizing on the season when most people feel the need to dine out before winter really settles in. Living in a dining hotspot such as the South End definitely has its perks, as newly-opened El Centro (472 Shawmut Avenue, 617-262-5708) brings together the warmth of mexican food and homestyle cooking in a lively atmosphere that's sure not to be short on ambiance. Just a short stroll away, artisan food store American Provisions (613 East Broadway, 617-269-6100) offers selections on fine foods, wines, cheeses, handmade pasta, and sandwiches that's sure to enliven your taste buds.

      Boston dining scene, American Provisions Boston, Lucca Boston, Scholars Bistro Boston, Area Four Boston, Cinquecento Boston, El Centro Boston, Local 149 BostonOpening its doors just this weekend, hotly-anticipated Cinquecento (500 Harrison Ave., 617-338-9500) serves up some Roman-style reprieves, complete with an ambiance that has a subtle Italian feel, yet an upscale coziness. The dishes on this Aquitaine-owned establish truly does not disappoint, and is worthy to be on the same list as favorites Gaslight Brasserie, Union Bar and Grille, and Metropolis Cafe. Last but not the least, Local 149 (149 P Street, 617-269-0900) isn't just your regular sports bar - in fact, it markets itself as the first British gastropub in town. Its massive bar and huge selection of pub grub definitely separates this watering hole from the rest.


      Boston dining scene, American Provisions Boston, Lucca Boston, Scholars Bistro Boston, Area Four Boston, Cinquecento Boston, El Centro Boston, Local 149 BostonCool Cambridge has also welcomed new members to its culinary circle with the launch of a number of chic and restaurants and watering holes. Abigail's (291 3D Street, 617-945-9086), has bravely opened its doors in the burgeoning dining scene on Kendall Square. It's mostly New England menu might seem a little too familiar at first, but satisfying surprises surely follow with every dish they prepare. Their kitchen plays host to a lot of innovators and employees in the area, and is slowly but surely becoming a Kendall Square favorite.Not to be outdone, Area Four (500 Technology Square, 617-758-4444) combines two restaurants in one, having an all-day bakery cafe, as well as a separate area that has two wood-fired ovens that churns out puffed-up pizzas, calzones, and other italian favorites, in addition to scones, buns, and daily sandwich specials to cover its cafe crowd.

      Late Night Dining Options

      Boston dining scene, American Provisions Boston, Lucca Boston, Scholars Bistro Boston, Area Four Boston, Cinquecento Boston, El Centro Boston, Local 149 BostonFor those of you who have late night cravings after the merriment hours are official over, worry not - there's a lot of fine establishments out there that's got you covered. First off is Lucca (116 Huntington Ave., 617-247-2400) in Back Bay. Not only are they open for drinks and cocktails until the wee hours, but their kitchen also serves delectable food until closing. If you're mind is still racing from the day's exhaustion, wind out and chill out with your friends at Downtown Crossing's Scholars Bistro (25 School St. 617-248-0025) where their late night menu includes heavy food selections that won't leave you hanging. But if you're looking for some Chinese fare, fort night favorite Apollo (84 Harrison Ave., 617-423-3888) by Chinatown is open until 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. And finally, for a more modest late night eat, check out Pour House (907 Boylston Street, 617-236-1767) along busy Boylston, their kitchen don't close until 2am on weekends, so you'll get to energize yourself for another late night round, with satisfying staples such as burgers, wings, and more.