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      Blog :: 01-2013

      How To Have The Fastest Closing Ever

      Fastest Home Closing Ever, Mortgage, Loans, Real Estate Agents, Turn Around Time, Boston International Real Estate, BostonIREIn the years leading to the financial crisis, it was not nearly as impossible to get financing on your property through within a day or two. That, of course, came amid a vastly different economy and during an untamed era. In today's massively regulated, monstrously documented, down-to-the-last-decimal-point, tabulated process, you should count on your mortgage-closing timeline reaching or perhaps even exceeding three months - and that's depending on your lender and local banking rules. Here are 10 bits of advice, that we think could chop a month or even two off of that epic slog from finding your dream home to signing the closing papers. We even included how many days you'll save on your transaction by sticking to these:

      1. Hire a multipurpose real estate agent

      A capable agent will manage the complex escrow process actively and properly. Start with hiring someone whose ability to follow through has been proven. Just as you want to ask for referrals from those you know and trust for a doctor or dentist, the same is true of all involved in the process of purchasing and financing a home. There are a lot of opportunities for things to get off track. Having the best team on it is critical to a smooth process for you.

      Time saved: A dedicated real-estate agent can slice days or weeks off a closing, experts say. But if your lender is backed up with other pending closings, even the best agent in town can't bump you to the head of the line.

      2. View closing documents 24 hours before closing

      Fastest Home Closing Ever, Mortgage, Loans, Real Estate Agents, Turn Around Time, Boston International Real Estate, BostonIRE

      By coordinating the closing schedule, you can set your expectations early and build in a bit of private time to spend alone with your loan papers.

      Sign the upfront bank paperwork immediately and send in requested documents as quickly as possible. You also should ask your lender how long the entire process may take. The actual mortgage part of the closing could take less than 20 minutes. It's the other steps that stretch the calendar.

      To help you navigate through all the bureaucracy and red tape, one document to view in advance is the HUD-1 settlement statement, which allows everyone involved in the deal to review all required costs and fees. You can scan that statement with your real-estate agent or your closing agent to ensure that nothing pops up at the last minute.

      Time saved: A couple of hours, perhaps. Getting answers to your final questions can prevent unnecessary chatter and long-winded explanations during the closing itself.

      3. Bring a certified check

      Fastest Home Closing Ever, Mortgage, Loans, Real Estate Agents, Turn Around Time, Boston International Real Estate, BostonIRE

      You should not come to the closing carrying a check that you just ripped from your personal checkbook. In fact, be sure to ask your escrow company if it prefers that your payment come via a wire transfer or a cashier's check. Nowadays, the only way to go is a wire transfer from your bank to the closing agent. This minimizes the risk of any issues. And in some cases, this may be the only option available.

      Time saved: As much as two weeks, or the number of days the escrow company takes to cash and then certify your funds.

      4. Keep the appraisal process running smoothly

      Appraisals are a crucial step in buying a home. The appraiser's determination of the value of the property dictates how much your bank will lend to you. You may be pre-approved for a $400,000 mortgage, but if the appraiser says the house is worth only $350,000, your bank is not going to hand over more.

      To ensure the appraisal process is fast and efficient, work with the seller so that the appraiser can access the house in a timely fashion, and that means every nook. If an appraisal comes in lower than the sale price, you can always negotiate with the seller on repairs or updates that will add value.

      If the appraiser is not accommodating, contact your lender. Whatever you do, be proactive about it. Most banks use appraisal-management companies, and these companies will have more than one option for appraisers.

      Time saved: If you stall the appraiser, you could add several days or weeks to the closing process. An appraisal can take as long as two weeks, depending on the complexity of the property and the issues involved in determining its value. To keep that task at two weeks or less, you should ask your real-estate agent to give you a list of comparable properties that the appraiser may find useful.

      5. Specify repair provisions in the contract

      Fastest Home Closing Ever, Mortgage, Loans, Real Estate Agents, Turn Around Time, Boston International Real Estate, BostonIRETime should be allotted for inspections that let buyers determine if they want to purchase the home as is. Buyers should specify the time frame for completing repairs after an inspection. You can also include provisions that allow for the seller to repair any issues that are determined within specified dollar limits -- say, a percentage of the sale price or (an) exact amount. This way, if an inspection determines that there may be unexpected repairs needed to the property, the buyer can either get it covered or choose to negotiate something different in the contract.

      Time saved: Minimal, but inspections and negotiations over items to be fixed can add days or weeks to the closing process if they pop up late.

      6. Hire a reputable escrow company

      Escrow is essentially a trusted, third-party account through which money for the home purchase is received, held and disbursed.

      Selection of an escrow company is the key, as is maintaining an open line of communication with your escrow contact. Experts suggest checking in at least twice a week in writing, to create a paper trail. Your calls can help move the process along. The fastest that you can get commitment might be half a day to a day. However, the typical time would be two to five days. But it depends on how busy people are at the company.

      When you call, ask them how long is it currently taking to get things done? Sometimes, they'll make an exception depending on your needs (and being pleasant about it helps tons, too. They'll tell you they're backed up or that they're working really quickly right now. When in doubt, call two or three companies for estimates.

      Time saved: About five days, if you find a solid escrow company that can handle your business.

      7. Line up your insurance early

      Fastest Home Closing Ever, Mortgage, Loans, Real Estate Agents, Turn Around Time, Boston International Real Estate, BostonIREOn the same day that your escrow is opened, you should buy a homeowners insurance policy, plus any other necessary coverage, such as a flood policy. Make sure your escrow officers get your insurance broker's phone number immediately.

      The policy will not take effect until closing, so you are not paying for coverage just because you obtained the policy in advance. You might need to revise the policy if the coverage is deemed to be insufficient or if the documentation is not worded properly. A closing cannot be scheduled until coverage is confirmed.

      Time saved: Five to seven days, if you don't wait to purchase the policy.

      8. Build a pre-closing paperwork folder

      Ask your mortgage broker to give you a list of all financial documents that you will need to collect for the closing. Begin pulling together that paperwork right away, checking off each record as you add it to your pre-closing folder.

      The usual stack includes all pages of your bank statements and copies of all your pay stubs. Turn over every scrap of financial paperwork that you think reveals something about your monetary health. It all will turn up eventually anyway as the lender combs through your mortgage application.

      It would be prudent to avoid trying to save paper. If a bank statement is numbered 1 to 24 pages, they'll probably need all 24 pages, even the one that says 'intentionally left blank.' If any item is missing, the entire file will have to go back into the loan's underwriter.

      Time saved: Five business days, if you can avoid having your loan file returned to the underwriter.

      9. Respond promptly to requests for more information

      How to be a landlord, first steps to rent, buying property, Boston rents, BIRE, Boston International Real EstateThis often is the point in the process -- after you've seemingly answered every extraneous question and turned over every shred of your financial information -- where you may become the most frustrated.

      Don't worry: The end should be near. Don't let your exasperation over any last-minute plea for more records stall your process. But, yes, that question typically means the closing will take longer.

      Even if a missing item seems insignificant, it will require the file to go back into the queue for an underwriter to review. If the request is vague, speak to your loan officer to make sure you understand exactly what is being requested.

      Time saved: It's up to you. In the past, clients wait two to three weeks to turn over those last-needed documents -- delaying the closing for that same amount of time.Generally, lenders don't typically assume you're going to take two weeks to get something back to them. They assume you're going to do it in a day or two.

      10. Verify your past 2 years' employment history

      Some mortgage experts contend that to get your mortgage to the closing table in the fastest way possible, you should supply five years' worth of work-history documentation. Huettner calls that overkill and says that two years' worth is adequate to get your loan approved in a timely way.

      You should never embellish your work history or your wages. The lies will come out and simply lengthen the process -- or worse, cause the loan to be denied. If life events such as a divorce or a major illness have put a recent crimp in your savings, you should be ready to explain those.

      Time saved: About a week, which is the time you'll lose if the underwriter sees that hole in your documentation and flags your file for later review.

      Getting To Know Today's Buyers

      Sellers market, housing confidence, sell your house, Boston, Boston International Real Estate, BostonIRE, tips to sellersYesterday we wrote about the things you'd need to know about today's home sellers. Today, we're writing about the 'other side', the buyer side. If you're a seller, you'd definitely want to read about what makes today's home buyers different from their predecessors, or perhaps how your existing clients are no longer who they once were. It's helpful to understand the mindset of today's buyer, to understand what they've been through and what they're willing to do -- or not do -- to get the home they want.

      Similar to sellers, as the real estate recovery is becoming more and more apparent, the activity in the industry has no where to go but up for both sides, with sellers trying to unload and buyers trying to catch the investment wave. We've been hearing for months now that buyers have returned; that it has become cheaper to own than to rent in many markets; and that sellers are realizing their once unsaleable homes may have a market once again.

      Their confidence is back

      No matter where today's home buyers come from, they have one thing in common. They all have a sense of confidence about the real estate market.  Maybe they've been renting the past five years and have come across online calculators or research that helped them realize rents have risen too much, that they can actually afford to buy and pay less per month. It's possible they met with their accountant recently, who suggested they could benefit from the tax savings of owning real estate. Or it could also be that they've stumbled upon some hidden pile of cash that a distant kin left them; the point is one never knows, but it's always much better to assume that a little interest can go a long way.

      Sellers market, housing confidence, sell your house, Boston, Boston International Real Estate, BostonIRE, tips to sellers

      They're on a mission

      Whatever their background or recent experience, today's home buyers are coming to the real estate market in a bit of a "herd" mentality. They see reports of markets rising and interest rates still at 20-year-lows. They recognize rents are rising. These buyers, working with local real estate agents, have already been pre-approved by their lender. They're on a mission. They want to get into the market early. They don't want to miss the boat - don't let them.

      They'll pay a little more to get in the door

      Today's buyers are forgiving of small flaws in a property and aren't afraid to pay a little more to get in the door, as long as they're convinced the potential is there. Their optimism and confidence trumps doubt, as well as hitting a deadlock in negotiations. In essence, they're the ideal buyers. Their attitudes, coupled with low interest rates and inventory, are the recipe for the beginning of a sellers' market.

      Sellers market, housing confidence, sell your house, Boston, Boston International Real Estate, BostonIRE, tips to sellersTheir blinders are off

      But some things have changed. Unlike the buyers of 2004 or 2005, today's buyers have lived through our countries' economic crisis and market meltdown, and because most of these buyers are probably coming off their early thirties or late twenties, perhaps the recent economic crisis is the only one they've come to experience. They may be new and they may be serious about buying, but they aren't going in with blinders anymore, they're as serious with their money as you are with yours so educating them on the buying process, and more importantly the property itself (whatever its condition is), is key.

      Advice to sellers

      three things about home sellers, real estate recovery, home buying, home equity, closing a property dealGetting ready to sell your home and your real estate consultant tells you it's a "sellers' market"? Yes, it's true the market is shifting back in favor of sellers. But it's not a guarantee - at least not yet. Be prepared for a brief waiting period before you can see any offers, especially if your property isn't in a "hot" market. Thankfully, Boston is considered one of the Top 15 "Hot" real estate markets though!

      And always remember that buyers, even though ready and able, will demand a little more, may negotiate more, or may simply not want to feel they're being taken for a ride. The littlest feeling of a not-so-good deal or something going sideways can still scare a buyer away. When this happens, you're left with a property that goes "back on market," and that could leave a stain on the listing - so we suggest patience in all your dealings.

      While things are in your favor, be open to a little negotiation and be ready to treat the buyer fairly and honestly. Educate them. Don't assume you have complete control of the negotiations or the sales process. Be mindful that, while you may not have been one of them, many sellers have been desperate to sell or get out of their current homes in the past. Many of them would be grateful just to have a buyer today--and they, for better or worse, may be your competition.

      Rents, Remodeling, A High-rise, and the Road To Recovery

      Christian Science Plaza, Carpenter & Co., Rents Soaring, Remodeling, Trulia, Zillow, MLS, Boston International Real Estate, BostonIRE, BIREAs the first month of the year will soon be wrapping up, most results of last year's final quarter are slowly finding their way to the public. This week, tons of data regarding the market's uptick have been published in several newspapers, citing the city's real estate comeback. At the same time, new projects have sprouted along the way, suggesting that developers are really riding the recovery wave hard, pumping up steam to fill the inventory gaps that are really starting to strain the market.

       

      RENTS SOARING

      According to real estate aggregator Trulia, rents in Boston rose 6.4% year-on-year to an average of $2,400, comparing 2011 and 2012. But the increase in the average was driven mostly by upscale and luxury residential rentals in neighborhoods such as Back Bay, the South End, and Beacon Hill, where vacancy is scarce. Most of the units leased out last year in these properties were for professionals whose offices have relocated or have opened up either in the city, Cambridge, or the Innovation District. More so, Housing experts anticipate record rental rates this coming year as the Spring months roll on by, since there is strong indication that the number of new students coming into town will be significantly higher than usual.

      TURNING THE CORNER

      Not to be outshone, Homes prices for the Bay state also increased in value by as much as 18% in 2012. This number marks the twelfth consecutive month that homes prices in Boston has had year-on-year gains, and a banner year for the local real estate community since 2006. This only proves that the city has "turned a corner", and has risen from its housing market troubles. The increase in value also reflects gains in the median price of a home, estimated to be at $300,000 - a 12% increase from 2011. But the biggest leap was for condominiums, with sales rising more than 25% to 19,600 compared to only 15,200 in 2011.

      REMODELING BUSINESS IS BACK UP

      Christian Science Plaza, Carpenter & Co., Rents Soaring, Remodeling, Trulia, Zillow, MLS, Boston International Real Estate, BostonIRE, BIREIn an even more encouraging sign, it's been reported that the home remodeling business in back up again. Local home remodelers, have been getting a steady flow of inquiries regarding improvements they want done over the Spring and Summer months. Homeowner spending over the last two years have increased, signaling stronger sales in the coming quarters, as more homes and condominiums gets snapped up. Although figures for 2012 aren't readily available yet, pundits are confident it will hover the 8-12% range, coming off from $275 Billion in 2011.

      Although local interior decorators have "smaller" projects than what they have been used to in the past, the market is busy and the number of these minimal projects have been steadily increasing in mass. This shift in modular renovations - wherein homeowners choose to renovate a particular portion of their property rather than a bigger spread - could be interpreted as a cautious approach into building up a home's equity. Whatever the case is for your home improvement and renovation, it certainly makes up for the industry's slow growth in the past.

      CHRISTIAN SCIENCE CENTER

      Christian Science Plaza, Carpenter & Co., Rents Soaring, Remodeling, Trulia, Zillow, MLS, Boston International Real Estate, BostonIRE, BIREElsewhere in the city, news of a new high-rise building by the Christian Science Plaza along Mass. Ave is spawning some excitement in the neighborhood. Prominent local developer Carpenter & Co. is charged with redesigning the 14.8 acre Plaza and the city skyline by introducing two towers, totaling to 70 stories high.   The project is set to give rise to a high-end hotel, condominiums, retail establishments, and restaurants.

      Yet to be named, the development promises to transform the pocket neighborhood, and will not disturb the current serene configuration of the Plaza, as it will be built on its borders, occupying a triangular plot that is separated from the main plaza which is now being used as a parking lot between a church-owned office and the Prudential Center. The whole project is set to introduce an additional 950,000 square feet of residential and commercial space.

      The plaza has been an integral part of the Back Bay landscape for more than 130 years and serves as a destination for thousands of visitors, neighbors, and tourists. The plaza currently has seven buildings and about 10 acres of open space. Once this phase of the Plaza's redevelopment is completed, a third building along Huntington Avenue and a small retail pavilion at the corner of Huntington and Belvidere are also on the pipeline. But those project are still years away, for now these two towers are slated to begin demolition and construction by mid-year.

      This Weekend's Winter Picks

      Boston Home Show, Cuisine En Locale, Nordic Nights, Ceter for Arts At The Armory, Gatsby Gala, Climb America, Brigham And Women's, Boston International Real Estate

      If you're bored and bummed out that the past couple days have been frigid and frozen, you are not alone. And if you have been preparing to shut yourself in for the rest of this season, you're on the wrong track, even if you're on a strict back-to-being-fit . Grab your coat and get out. Here are a couple of things to check out this weekend that's sure to give you some rest and respite.

       

      Boston Home Show, Cuisine En Locale, Nordic Nights, Ceter for Arts At The Armory, Gatsby Gala, Climb America, Brigham And Women's, Boston International Real Estate

       

      NORDIC NIGHT BLAST

      In the heart of winter, Cuisine en Locale presents 'Once in Valhalla', an event combining locavorism and lore in a four-hour food fest featuring eats, music, and theatrics. The Viking-themed event features all-you-can-eat-meat and wintry fruits and roots in a 10-course Nordic feast.

      Friday night, Jan. 25, 7 p.m Center for Arts at the Armory 191 Highland Ave., Somerville.  www.cuisineenlocale.com

      Boston Home Show, Cuisine En Locale, Nordic Nights, Ceter for Arts At The Armory, Gatsby Gala, Climb America, Brigham And Women's, Boston International Real EstateA GATSBY GALA

      All you Gatsby fans are in luck--Jumpstart's Young Professional Board will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a roaring-'20s-inspired party. The party will include live music, a DJ, and an open bar. Don't forget to wear your '20s-themed attire, as well. Tickets can be bought online or at the door. Unfortunately, attendance by Mr. Gatsby played by one Leonardo DiCaprio is not guaranteed.

      Saturday, Jan. 26, 8pm onwards Space With A Soul 281 Summer St. (617) 744.9336

      Boston Home Show, Cuisine En Locale, Nordic Nights, Ceter for Arts At The Armory, Gatsby Gala, Climb America, Brigham And Women's, Boston International Real EstateCLIMB AMERICA!

      It's time to get up and be active. ClimbAmerica! focuses on raising awareness of the dangers of heart disease, researching the disease, and offering free programs to motivate people to be active. Although there isn't really any time left to train, if you think you are up to the challenge of climbing the stairs of 100 Summer St. or Prudential Tower, then this event is for you. In order to participate, climbers must be over the age of 11, and climbers between 11 and 17 must get permission from a parent. You can register online or at the event.

      Saturday, Jan. 26, 9 a.m. 100 Summer St., Sunday, Jan. 27, 9 a.m. Prudential Tower, 800 Boylston St., 855-932-5462, giving.brighamandwomens.org

      Boston Home Show, Cuisine En Locale, Nordic Nights, Ceter for Arts At The Armory, Gatsby Gala, Climb America, Brigham And Women's, Boston International Real EstateHOME SWEET HOME

      And if none of these events tickle your fancy for the sole reason that you want to just lounge at home, then this event is for you! Since winter is the perfect time to focus on your digs, and make that living room more loungey, a home and decor show should freshen up your dwelling space just in time for Spring. Get tips, attend lectures, shop, and watch demonstrations by the pros at the Boston Home Show. And don't miss out on bargains that await you over at the Boston Design Center's Red Tag Sale (1 Design Center Pl., Boston), not a far distance away from the home show.

      Saturday to Sunday, Jan. 26-27, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (Jan. 27 until 5 p.m.). $10 Black Falcon Pier, 1 Black Falcon Ave., Boston.  800-533-0229, www.thebostonhomeshow.com

      And if all else fails, and snow is really what you're in to, then head over to Boston.com's interactive maps to find that perfect spot where you can be a kid again (or go with your own!) and go snow sledding in one of Greater Boston's bunny hills, free of charge.

      Boston's Two Billion Dollar Build

      (Note: This post has been updated. Scroll below for the latest news.)

      Real estate rebound, Boston, HYM Investment, NorthPoint, Cambridge, MLS, Boston International Real Estate

      With all of yesterday's news about the nation's record-breaking home sales of 2012, people should finally come to terms with the fact that the real estate industry has indeed rebounded - and with a vengeance, so to speak. In fact, the National Association of Realtors said that sales of homes throughout the US were up 10% from 2011, and have been in its highest since 2007, just before the market crashed. More startling however, agent, buyer, and seller portal Multiple Listing Service (MLS) have noted that property purchases were not only limited to home sales for residential use, but commercial as well as investment properties have also jumped a significant 15% from years prior and have also set record since 2005.

      But is it really an over-all improved US economy that's fueling this sales surge? Or is it merely a shortage of inventory? Well, a little bit of both. Developers in the past couple of years have either strategically postponed or halted their projects, augmenting expenditure and balancing their financial stability. So goes the same for buyers who have limited cash available and were less fluid, keeping it safe and storing their hard-earned dollars in the depository.

      Real estate rebound, Boston, HYM Investment, NorthPoint, Cambridge, MLS, Boston International Real EstateBut fast forward to 2012, where all seems to be well (at least better than previous years!), and most are again in search for homes, or investment properties. Well, that's where it gets complicated. Individuals who have had an advantage of having cash lying around in between the financial crisis years have snapped up some pretty decent deals - ones that looked bleak before the real estate upsurge.

      Boston, in the past couple of years, has been blessed to have been fairing a bit better than its other competitor cities, having home and property sales only go down (at the peak of the crisis) to -3% in 2008. Ever since that year, the city has been above the negative threshold, not exactly busting, but better than the rest. And now, the city is at it again with over 22 groundbreakings last year of projects soon to rise, and a $2 Billion Build that was inked and started this early in the year.

      Real estate rebound, Boston, HYM Investment, NorthPoint, Cambridge, MLS, Boston International Real Estate

      The 20-story NorthPoint Tower will soon rise in Cambridge, and is set to break conventions by featuring 335 luxury units, a ground floor retail complex, and an elevated park and staircase in the area. The elegantly-designed condominium tower sits beside the Gilmore and O'Brien bridge, the latter one connecting to the Orange line's transit terminal.

      The HYM Investment-backed project is set to be completed late 2014, and is a stark revelation of how Boston is hurriedly playing catch up to ride the wave of the real estate industry's comeback, making sure that the inventory of available units - whether for investment or for residential use, be back at its best to service all the city's needs for additional living space.

      UPDATED: MAY 17, 2013

      Seems plans have been changed for the famed North Station landmark. New renderings reveal the commercial complex's foray into the "street shopping" concept, ditching fast food eateries and conveniences for a more streamlined shopping experience. The plan, it now seems, includes two towers and will likely produce 1.7 million square feet of residential and commercial space.

      Included in the plans are the build of 500 luxury residences, 600,000 sq. ft of office space, a 200-room hotel, and finally a "podium" of street style shopping. Check out the photos below:

      10 Ways To Turn Off Buyers

      Not Turning Off Buyers, Boston International Real Estate, Bostonire, Tips to Sell, Tips to CloseWhat a difference a couple of years make. Back in 2007, homebuyers would beg to purchase your house. They would even bid more than the asking price for the privilege to do so. Now that the market has picked up, it gets a bit more challenging to unload your property. Once the real estate bubble burst and foreclosures diluted the housing pool, buyers suddenly regained the upper hand. But instead of buying, they're waiting, hoping that housing prices will again be swayed to their side.

      So what's a smart seller to do in this environment? Well, there's only one way to navigate through it - and that's to make your property extremely attractive, not turning away any of those prospective buyers. Here are 10 suggested things that turn off buyers, something that sellers should definitely avoid at all costs:

      Not Turning Off Buyers, Boston International Real Estate, Bostonire, Tips to Sell, Tips to CloseDISASTROUS DIRT

      Hands down, everyone agrees: Nothing turns off a buyer quicker than a dirty house.

      The number 1 biggest mistake is not getting the home in the best possible condition. Realtors  won't even represent sellers at this point unless they are fully aware of how important it is to get their home in the absolute best condition that they've ever had it in. It is always a good idea for sellers to go the extra mile, from steam-cleaning tile and grout to replacing carpets.

      The property should be neat and clean and free of all debris. If it reeks of cats or the kitchen sinks and counters are so filthy that it almost looks like the food is moving, chances are buyers won't even want to come in.

      OVERT ODORS

      Buyers, it's said, buy with their noses. Make sure your home smells fresh and inviting. Odors - especially kitchen odors, are something that on lookers would definitely notice. It might be a good idea to hold off on cooking fried food, fish or greasy food while your house is on the market.

       Some pet owners mistakenly believe pet smells to which they've become accustomed help make their abode homey. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      Not Turning Off Buyers, Boston International Real Estate, Bostonire, Tips to Sell, Tips to CloseIf you're a dog person, don't make the mistake of thinking everyone else is a dog person. The truth is, about half of people recently surveyed in the Boston Metro area don't appreciate household pets as others would. In fact, we'd go as far as to recommend sellers eliminate all traces of pets, not just pet odors. It's important to get rid of pet paraphernalia and have a "pet plan" to make sure the animals are not around when the house is shown.

      The fact to the matter is, seeing pet paraphernalia automatically lets prospectives entertain the thought of what your pet has done to the house in the past. And even though you'll have to disclose that you do, in fact own a pet if the sale goes through, it's already reassured the buyer that the property is worth it, and that's what matters. The same rules hold true for smokers: Remove all ashtrays, clean all curtains and upholstery, and consider smoking outdoors while your home is on the market.

      OLD FIXTURES

      Not Turning Off Buyers, Boston International Real Estate, Bostonire, Tips to Sell, Tips to CloseWant buyers to roll their eyes? Leave old fixtures on your doors and cabinets. It's a hard truth that in order to make your home marketable, you'll need to change out your oldest of the old fixtures. New cabinet hardware and doorknobs will probably cost all of $400 or $500, but it makes a huge difference, especially when you're trying to unload an investment as enormous as property. The same holds true for dated ceiling fans, light fixtures and kitchen appliances.

      WALLPAPERS

      Your grandmother may have had it in every bedroom. Your mom may have loved it as a room accent. But today's buyer wants no part of wallpaper. Wallpapers are a pain to remove and simply adds another chore to a buyer's to-do list.

      And as much as it might be a relatively decorative addition to your bare walls, wallpapers are very personalized such that it might be appealing to you (of course it is, since you put in so much time leafing through catalogues to find the right one!), but it doesn't necessarily translate to your prospective buyer having the same taste.

      POPCORN ACOUSTIC CEILINGS

      Not Turning Off Buyers, Boston International Real Estate, Bostonire, Tips to Sell, Tips to Close

      Times change, and with them home decor styles. Acoustic popcorn ceilings, once the must-have for fashionable homes in the '60s and '70s, now badly date your space. Don't fall into this trap and let yourself get caught off guard by showing your home's age as if it wasn't being taken care of. If you can't stomach the cost or the mess to remove the overhead popcorn, be prepared to credit your buyer in order to close a sale.

      TOO MANY PERSONAL ITEMS

      Psychologically, when buyers tour a home, they're trying it on to see how it fits, just as they would a skirt or a pair of pants. If your house is cluttered with too many personal items, it's like the buyer is trying on those clothes with you still in them. A fit is unlikely.

      Anything that makes your house scream 'you' is what you don't want. Another truth in selling is that how you decorate to live is fairly different from how you decorate when you want to sell.  Sellers should try to eliminate personal items, including family photos, personal effects and even unique colors. And if you really want to hook a buyer, try placing a mirror strategically so that people can actually see themselves in the home, so they can actually picture themselves living there.

      MISREPRESENTING YOUR HOME

      Not Turning Off Buyers, Boston International Real Estate, Bostonire, Tips to Sell, Tips to CloseMisrepresenting your house online in the multiple listing service is a sure way to really upset buyers and their agents. Some properties look very photogenic, and if yours happen to be one of them, don't be misguided that you can stop there.

      Sellers, automatically paint the best picture they can and some listings I've looked at and wondered how in the world they got that gorgeous photo without showing all the junk that's around it. Better be upfront that caught in a tight position.

      POOR CURB APPEAL

      Much is made of curb appeal, and for good reason: It's your home's handshake, the critical first impression that lasts with most buyers. You have to totally trim and edge your yard to get it into the most immaculate condition you can. It's a big mistake to not freshly mulch the beds and trim the trees. Every little detail counts.

      CLUTTER

      Whether inside or out, less is more when it comes to clutter.

      Not Turning Off Buyers, Boston International Real Estate, Bostonire, Tips to Sell, Tips to Close

      Your closets should be half-full with nothing on the floor. Why? Because most people looking for a house have outgrown their previous house. Showing them that you've still got room to grow gives them a reason to buy. Kitchens and built-in bookshelves should showcase spaciousness by following the rule of three. For kitchens, there should be no more than three countertop appliances. Meanwhile, bookshelves should be divided into thirds: one-third books, one-third vases and pictures, and one-third empty.

      The home office should be very generic so any type of professional can imagine living there. Otherwise, it can be a distraction and could invite unwanted questions: 'What does he do for a living? How much money does he make?'

      So, if you're just about to make that curcial that decision to sell, be sure to refer to this list to make your home as marketable as it can get.

      Soon On The South End

      Not too long ago, we wrote about transformations that are about to happen in the Southend. Well it seems that developers just can't get enough of that area, as numerous projects have seem to sprout up since only a month ago; one of which is a MassDOT project aimed at altering one of the neighborhood's 'crime hotspot' areas into a massive parking facility, to be utilized by surrounding developments.

      A big reason why there's so much 'freed up' space on the historically-preserved Southend neighborhood is that city planners have up-zoned certain areas that were up for renewal and redevelopment. Formerly zoned out to be for low-to-mid housing projects, the BRA has elevated the kinds of developments that could be initiated in the Northeastern tip of the neighborhood, specifically the area known as the Harrison-Albany Corridor. This signals the final phase of transformation for the neighborhood, whose gentrification began in the early 90's.

      Ink Block Project, MassDOT, Normandy Real Estate Partners, Southend, Whole Foods, Target, Boston International Real Estate, BostonIRECapitalizing on its mantra of being one of the most desirable neighborhoods to live in - in the city, and perhaps in the whole of Massachusetts - the area will soon be home not only to streets and streets of classic Victorian brownstones and its ever-expanding restaurant scene, but will also be the destination for shopping and service apartment living.

      Aside from Normandy Real Estate Partners' dual-tower project featuring a 325-room hotel and a 220-unit mid rise apartment at 275 Albany Street, and four other apartment-style housing projects in their infancy phases, the big buzz surrounding the recently up-zoned area deals with The Ink Block Project that consists of 471 apartments, as well as a massive 85,000 square feet of retail space. The project sits on 6 acres of land formerly occupied by the building that was The Boston Herald's headquarters, and is positioned to be one Boston's largest ever mixed use developments.

      Ink Block Project, MassDOT, Normandy Real Estate Partners, Southend, Whole Foods, Target, Boston International Real Estate, BostonIRETrue to its name, The Ink Block once completed, promises to be a neighborhood within a neighborhood - having the basics and more, without having to step out more than a block outside your comfort zone. Currently, the project is finishing up some paperwork, but is scheduled to demolish structures surrounding it by mid next month and should be completely flattened to the ground by Springtime.

      Where To Find Peace & Quiet In Boston

      Wellesley College, Shambhala Meditation Center, Boston Public Library, Stanza Dei Sigari, Peter Faneuil House Gardens, Berkeley Perk CafeThe first long weekend of the year is coming up, do you have any plans? Although MLK weekend is traditionally celebrated with people tuned into their television sets for the Presidential Inauguration, it might be a good idea to skip this one and pamper yourself while the weather is still warm-ish. There's also a good chance that you're still perhaps fresh out off the holiday daze, with the season having been barely three weeks ago. If that's the case, then we have just the thing for you - escape the hustle and bustle of the city (without actually leaving its confines) and get some much-needed rest with these rest & recreation hushspots:

      Wellesley College, Shambhala Meditation Center, Boston Public Library, Stanza Dei Sigari, Peter Faneuil House Gardens, Berkeley Perk CafeA "Smart" Escape If it's been a while since you've gotten lost in our fair city, it's probably a great idea to take a little tour somewhere that will actually "freshen up" your view. Go to Wellesley College, where a brisk walk around a quiet woodsy pond might give you the relaxation you're rearing for. The College welcomes tourists anytime of year to hike their well-worn paths and trails - and if you muster up some appetite, there's always the dining halls where you can dive in to an open-to-all, cheap, eat-all-you-can meal deal.

      Wellesley College, Shambhala Meditation Center, Boston Public Library, Stanza Dei Sigari, Peter Faneuil House Gardens, Berkeley Perk CafeOM is for "Open Meditation" If hiking doesn't quite fancy your feet, then meditation might tickle it. Shambhala Meditation Center in Brookline offers free meditation programs, with introductions to Buddhist-inspired practices and meditations. The audience is quiet targeted, catering to the LGBT community under 30, people in recovery, or just laypeople with an interest. There are also good yoga and and tai chi classes and art seminars.

      Masterpiece Museum If you're the artsy type looking to relax and unwind with masters of classic artworks, then you would be glad to know that there's a hidden gem tucked deep into the heart of Back Bay. Not only does the Boston Public Library have one of the largest collections of books, but it also has a relatively unknown collection of masterpiece artworks ranging from Rembrandt to Goya to Picasso. Looking for these pieces is an adventure itself, since they're scattered throughout the library and its different research rooms.

      Wellesley College, Shambhala Meditation Center, Boston Public Library, Stanza Dei Sigari, Peter Faneuil House Gardens, Berkeley Perk CafeHookup With A Hookah Since speakeasys tend to be a good place to relax and just lounge, the underground setting of Stanza Dei Sigari should be a great place to relax and smoke a hookah or two. Not only does its laid back ambiance take away those tensions, it also offers a quiet and cozy place to mingle and just chill with friends.

      Urban Oasis Off a quiet street on Beacon Hill is a quaint and largely unknown park that's a respite from the downtown Boston crowds. Decorated by the Beacon Hill Garden Club, the little space called the Peter Faneuil House Gardens, beside the former Peter Faneuil School, was once an abandoned playground. Red benches sit in the shade of tall birch trees and walkways fringed with high shrubbery weave their way around stone-lined garden patches. There's even a half basketball court, also flanked by benches for spectators, though there usually aren't any.

      Wellesley College, Shambhala Meditation Center, Boston Public Library, Stanza Dei Sigari, Peter Faneuil House Gardens, Berkeley Perk CafeNot Your Ordinary Cafe If you're sick of all the Starbucks lying around the city, and seeking for a restive respite, then Berkeley Perk Cafe is the right place for you. Off the beaten path across the Berkeley Street bridge from Back Bay, their offerings are unique and pleasing to the palate. They have several varieties of hot chocolate too, perfect for the winter season.

      First Steps For First Time Landlords

      How to be a landlord, first steps to rent, buying property, Boston rents, BIRE, Boston International Real EstateSo you've got a property under contract, and you're excited that you're going to finally become a landlord. While it can be a financially and personally rewarding investment, there are lots of things to do in preparation for your new career as a lessor.

      Pre-closing Homework

      At the home inspection, make sure to really take a hard look at what needs to be repaired or replaced once you take ownership of the property. The most common tasks include changing out the toilets to low-flow models, strapping the water heater, changing the door locks, fixing broken doors or windows, repairing damaged drywall and probably just a good old-fashioned scrubbing of the entire property. If the flooring is made of hardwood, you'd probably want to wax and mop it out first to make sure it gleams when the site goes on previews.

      Even before you close escrow, you should start making a list of the above items and others that need to be fixed. This will allow you to go home improvement store shopping to canvass and figure out a better budget than you previously estimated. It should also assist you in determining who will be doing the work and getting bids for projects. Also, if there's a good tenant already in place, you've done yourself a huge favor because you'll get a security deposit and rent at closing. So you possibly don't have to go in and fix a bunch of items.

      Essential Upgrades

      Once you take ownership of your new property, chances are you'll need to make changes in these three areas:

      How to be a landlord, first steps to rent, buying property, Boston rents, BIRE, Boston International Real EstateWater: Because water issues are prevalent in rentals, it's a good idea to have a plumber assess or change out all the water valves, hose bibs, water supply hoses, washing machine hoses, dishwasher hoses, etc. In Boston, most buildings are dated and it's probably time to replace them, and doing so before a leak occurs -- especially because the property will be occupied then -- is just a good move. At average, set aside $250-$750 into your budget for this.

      Door locks: You should change out the door locks when you takeover the property and after each tenant moves out. There are numerous smart key systems that allow you to rekey the door knobs in place every time a new tenant arrives and is priced similar to normal door locks and knobs.

      Flooring: If you need to change out the carpets (which is unlikely for most Boston properties), take a look at laminate wood flooring as an alternative. It will cost more upfront but should last you a long time and is consequently a good investment. Many are turned off by laminates, but manufacturers have since come out with newer versions that look awesome on any decent-sized apartment. Laminate will also save you the hassle of having carpets cleaned during turnover, arguing with past tenants over the cost and having new tenants complain about stains.

      Leasing documents

      How to be a landlord, first steps to rent, buying property, Boston rents, BIRE, Boston International Real EstateYou'll need to get a lease application and lease agreement. Your real estate agent can provide you the standard documents, but be sure to add any terms or clauses that you feel are important to you. Once you find a prospective tenant, you'll need to pull their credit report and conduct a criminal check. Usually, your agent has access to this sort of background checks.

      Finding a tenant

      It's wise to get in touch with a real estate agent to find a tenant for you. In most cases, agents already have a roster of people who are or will be looking for apartments at the end of their current lease. This also gives you a good indication of when to buy an income property: either in the dead of winter (to give you time to refurbish and improve), or just when the market is going to be hot (in the case of Boston, this is usually in the Spring months - just before schools start back up). Going to an agent won't cost you a cent, as the future tenant will be the one to cover their cost. It's just a matter of finding a reliable, well-connected, and trustworthy realtor that can get you the right hook ups, from contractors to clients.

      How to be a landlord, first steps to rent, buying property, Boston rents, BIRE, Boston International Real Estate

      But if in the case that your listing doesn't get inquiries, you're probably asking too much for your property. Connecting with an agent also gives you this advantage: they know what's the best deal you can fetch on your rental. Remember, they also make money off of it, so they won't be quick to underprice your property. Once you think you have a prospective tenant, it's always wise to interview them and ask them the basic questions.

      Once you find a good tenant, move quickly to get a lease signed so you don't lose them to another landlord's property.

      And finally, realize that being a landlord is a business, and your tenant is your customer. Just like any other business, the better you treat your customer, the more likely you will have a successful business venture. Consider asking your realtor if they also manage properties since most of them do, and for cheaps! They'll actually play the role of property manager for you so that all you need do is sit back and let the rent checks come in.

      Keeping Your Home Healthy This Winter

      Healthy, Home, Winter, Boston, Real Estate, Flu-freeThough Boston has already hopefully seen the spike of the flu outbreak, it is still a good idea to keep your home healthy this winter given that the season is still far from over; the air outside is dry and cold, perfect for spreading germs and virus.  And even if you constantly wash your hands and keep everything sanitized and safe, you can't prevent these microscopic critters from getting into your system - whether you're out in the streets, or even indoors at home. And since protection begins at home, here are some basic yet sure fire ways to keep you and your family healthy, and stave off a visit to the doctor:

      Healthy, Home, Winter, Boston, Real Estate, Flu-free

       

      Watch Out for Germy Hot Spots

      The sink, the telephone, computer mouse, children's toys, and doorknobs are popular landing sites for virus and bacteria. If someone is sick at home, disinfect daily, especially the remote control and the phone. To illustrate, what's usually the first thing you do after you call in sick? Pick up the remote control.  In fact, remote controls are the germiest thing in hotel and hospital rooms - so this is probably the case in your home, too. And since a virus like influenza spreads through touching something a sick person has also touched, or an object that's been sneezed on, cleaning off the places your hand usually goes is most important.

      Healthy, Home, Winter, Boston, Real Estate, Flu-freeCombining Diet and Disinfecting

      We all know that eating lots of fruits and vegetables are good for boosting your immune system, but one thing that not all of us know is that it's also good for household disinfecting, cheaply for that matter. Peeling open an orange? Save the rind and rub it against your palms after washing them with water (or anytime for that matter); this not only makes the most use of the fruit, but it also saves you from frequently buying disinfectant soaps.

      Healthy, Home, Winter, Boston, Real Estate, Flu-freeStop Pushing Germs Around

      Beware of dust rags, dishrags, mops and other cleaning tools. Unless sanitized between uses, they only spread around the germs you are trying to kill. It's a free ride for the virus. Some of the cleanest houses tested have the highest germ counts because the tools used for cleaning are "dirty" themselves. During this "sickly" season, it is best to depend on disposable products such as paper towels and the like, so as not to keep on spreading germs in the household.

      Take The Field With Tech

      Healthy, Home, Winter, Boston, Real Estate, Flu-freeIf you're used to hand washing dishes, don't - your dishwasher is sitting pretty there, not only for convenience, but also for a healthier you. By putting your plates, cooking utensils, and kitchen paraphernalia in the automated washer, you not only save time and effort, but you're also making sure that they're ultra-clean and bacteria-free. Remember: the less human contact these items get, the better. Kitchen items are the most prone sources of sickness since everyone shares them.

      Some medical practitioners believe that dehumidifiers minimize the spread of germs since they prevent them from breeding. However, keeping these dehumidifiers clean is also of utmost importance; failure to do so usually makes them into breeding grounds. Keeping a small dehumidifier per room is more ideal (and easier to maintain) than a centralized one.