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      Blog :: 03-2013

      Pitfalls of Property Selling

      With inventories continuing to dwindle, sellers are dominating the real estate market space. But don't let this upper hand fool you - the market has recovered, but is still fragile, and you'll have to play it smart if you're planning on selling. Avoiding these common property selling pitfalls will ensure that you hook your bait right, and reel in your ideal buyer.

      Because of the market's condition, buyers will continue to choose from a narrow list of available properties. Slim pickings mean a significant difference in a recovering real estate market, and sellers are indeed on the advantage. Knowing this fact, buyers are also on the defense, and are more vigilant of their purchases. But that doesn't mean your house won't sell - it just means you'll have to make smarter moves to land a buyer.

      PARTING WITH YOUR 'EMOTIONAL PRICE TAG'  It's normal to be emotionally attached to your home, especially if you've lived there a long time, or if it has been part of significant life events. But allowing this affection to obscure the realities of today's real-estate market is a serious mistake. If your local market is gaining in value, then you'll need to price your home accordingly, without the emotions. Oftentimes, this requires the painful decision to price it probably below the value you personally think it's worth. Don't be one of those sellers who think that their house is the exception, putting a price tag on it far beyond the average selling rate. However true it is that sellers currently have an advantage, it still won't be at par with your personal price tag . This is a business transaction, and sadly, personal emotions have little effect on the grand scheme of things. Make a reasonable profit, and find another living space where you can replant your memories.

      CHECKING OUT THE COMPETITION Another reason sellers might price a home too high is that they're simply unaware of the dynamics of their real-estate market. To sell your home, it's essential to have a firm grasp on the conditions in your area. Sellers should study the pricing trends and sales data in their local market. But the data tell only half of the story. To fully understand the market, sellers should get a first-hand look at the nearby homes that are also up for sale. We recommend that sellers take the time to attend open houses with their brokers, so that they'll fully appreciate the price range of properties that are similar to theirs. This way, both you and your broker are on the same page on what an "acceptable" offer would be.

      NOT CHECKING YOUR AGENT'S REFERENCES An effective, experienced real estate agent can be a great help in selling your home in today's market. Depending on who you're willing to work with, make sure that they're not only in the business of making commission, but also in the business of finding the best buyers AND the best home for you. These two traits are non-negotiables, since failing to be effective at one means that they're only out to get your listing or your offer. Having said this, finding the "right" broker may not be easy. A lot of agents think you can just advertise online on Craigslist and it will sell, and that's not how it works anymore. The right network, as well as precious information  To ensure you're doing business with a solid real-estate professional, contact some of his or her previous clients and ask about their experience.

      FAILING TO PREP YOUR PROPERTY Even though buyers don't have many options these days, it doesn't mean sellers don't need to put a little bit of elbow grease into their sale. They need to ensure that their property is in tip-top condition for showings and previews. This means making any and all home repairs, ensuring that the indoor and outdoor portions of the property are spotless, and removing clutter. It's a mistake to think that buyers just suddenly snap up properties, on the contrary, they're even more picky than ever, since they know there's only a handful of listings on the market. You'd want to make sure then, that your property sparkles and shines, assuring prospective buyers that it's worth the price you're asking for.

      YOUR ABSENCE IS REQUIRED It's important for sellers to be away from their home during open houses, as their presence can be unnerving to would-be buyers. Some sellers have the mistaken idea that they are the best people to sell their house, and that is absolutely not the case. Even though it seems like a good idea to be present during open houses so you yourself can answer questions pertaining to the property, prospective buyers tend to harbor uneasy feelings when the seller is present at every step of the way. We recommend having a constant open line of communication when you know a preview is in progress, because the last thing you'd want is for prospective buyers to have those 'uneasy feelings' follow them home and eventually influence their purchase decision.

      IT'S NOT PERSONAL, IT'S JUST BUSINESS The negotiation process can be tough on sellers, as buyers may demand concessions such as price reductions or help with restoration, renovation, or closing costs. Although such requests might be irksome, it's important that sellers consider them just another part of a business transaction. It's not meant to be personal; the buyer is looking to buy as carefully as they can, and pay as little as they can. It is not about you, it is about them. Keep that in mind when you're in the midst of a friendly pricing war or even a fierce negotiation.

      GIVING OUT THE 'SELLER SNUB' In as short as the past two months, Boston's real estate landscape has drastically changed, given how buyers are ready to pay well above and beyond asking prices. Don't let this fact deter you from looking at varied offers, though. Even if you aren't crazy about a buyer's offer, don't dismiss it the minute you see what they're willing to pull out of their pocket. You need to be willing to negotiate with anyone and everyone who puts in an offer, even if it is one of those low-ball offers since more often than not, buyers are willing to stretch it for as long as they're sufficiently interested with your property.

      Thinking of listing your property? Contact us now for a risk-free consultation. We'll even valuate your home for FREE! Call us at (617) 505-1781 now!

      Signs It's Time To Sell

      Just like most businesses that deal with large purchases, the real estate market has traditionally depended on seasons. Historically, most homes and properties have a higher selling rate during the Spring and Summer months. This also used to be the case for Boston, since majority of its population are students, and seek housing prior to the Fall semester; recently however, the game has changed.

      With dwindling inventories, Boston's real estate market has been rapidly booming. Buyers are snapping up everything that's available, and are prepared to pay the high price to get them, whether they may be single- and multi-family homes, condominiums, and whatnot. This is making the "weather patterns" of selling harder to predict for some, unsure when to list their property for a hefty profit.

      And even though properties make for better showrooms in the Spring than on a dark and dreary winter day, sales of properties in Boston have been brisk regardless of the time of year. The recent sleuth of bad winter weather in the region had some effects on home sales, but not enough to deter buyers from making offers, as the local housing market's overall positive rebound that began last year has been largely impacting the buyer's psyche.

      This all then begs the question, "should I wait or should I sell?"

      Normally, the home-sale market ramps up in March or April and stays busy until the beginning of July when the market tends to slow down for the Summer. The 2012 home sales went counter to this. The market was active at the beginning of the year, all the way through November, lulling only for the brief winter pause. If you waited until Spring or Summer to sell last year, you would have missed the best selling opportunity of the first three quarters of 2012. We recommend you don't make the same mistake twice.

      There's an overwhelming positive outlook for real estate recently, buoyed by the fact that developments are being built with brisk, and construction permits are signed consecutively week after week since the last half of the 2012. Buyers are demanding more from the market, but the inventory is drying up, and pretty soon, there won't be anything left to sell.

      SELLING TIP: The best time to sell is when consumer confidence is on the upswing; interest rates are low; unemployment is decreasing; the economic news is mild; and there are more buyers in your local market niche than there are sellers. A high-demand, low-inventory market gives sellers an edge. Boston is undoubtedly meeting all of these.

      Consumer and realtor confidence  is at an all-time high. Looking at the past years, Boston hasn't seen a more positive market than it has these past couple of quarters. In a recent study, 88% of realtors have cited confidence of selling a listing "within a month of marketing them". 3 in 5 consumers, on the other hand, have also been found to have been "searching for the right investment" in the last six months.

      The economy has regained its momentum. With unemployment rates down and further steadily decreasing, more and more people are finding they have steady and secure income. Whether this income is disposable or not, this paves the way for financing. And with interest rates at their all-time low, all one needs is a constant flow of funds to sustain mortgage payments, making home buying extremely plausible (or, in some cases, even profitable). Capital Economics, a global analytics firm, expects the housing market to significantly improve even beyond 2007 rates, making the case for buyers to snap up properties even more appealing.

      These positive indicators, combined with the fact that inventories are at an all-time low, provide homeowners an opportunity to consider putting their property on the market for a substantial profit, provided their homes are in good condition and are in desirable locations. It's a good thing then, that Boston's sprawling skyline of neighborhoods are all desirable.

      Thinking of listing your property? Contact us now for a risk-free consultation. We'll even valuate your home for FREE!

      Go For Gold: When Listings Fetch Above Asking

      It's official: Boston is now a seller's market. With the number of listings at an all-time low, numbers from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) show that buyers are now battling for fewer homes in the Bay state, particularly in Downtown Boston and its neighboring suburbs. More importantly however, multiple offers and bids are being made to the few available properties that are currently on the market, making the case of offering above asking price a norm than a nuisance.

      Latest trend reports from both MLS and listings aggregator giant Zillow confirm that Boston's real estate property market is "currently underserved", with only a few listings available for prospective buyers to choose from. A brief look into the the hard numbers easily show that listings are fetching more than their asking price. In fact, 512 individual buyers paid at least 10% more than the seller's selling price. This is more than double the number of transactions that went beyond the asking price in 2012.  To add to that number, 68% of listings recently sold have been snapped up earlier than expected, selling in 30 days or less.

      It's a really hot market right now for both buyersand sellers, with buyers trying to make their last ditch effort to ride the investment wave before prices really skyrocket. It's not unusual to battle with other buyers and get four or five offers on the same place, but more recently that number has tripled in size - now, it's not surprising to have fifteen or so offers for the same listing. Sellers, on the other hand, are slowly trickling in with their listings, holding up sales (and prices!) for spring.

      The last time Boston's property sector experienced this was in 2005, when there were more buyers than available listings on the market. Back then, mortgage conditions were even more challenging, as interest rates were higher. Today however, interest rates are at their all-time low, making home buying and financing more accessible.

      HOTNESS INDICATOR

      From the numbers we've obtained, it seems that most neighborhoods in Boston have their own ranking in terms of fetching a good buy. Business savvy Back Bay leads the "Too Hot" pack, along with highbrow Beacon Hill and the South End. Listings in these neighborhoods have an average closing price that's 20-25% above the original asking price. "Hot" markets, particularly listings from the North End, South Boston's Innovation District, and Cambridge have seen offers 15-20% above asking, while Collegiate Allston area, as well as parts of Brookline and Brighton make up the "Mild" market, with listings going an average of 10-15% above the advertised price.

      If you're seriously considering cashing in on your property, now is definitely the right time to put it on the market. We advise our valued clients this, more than waiting for Spring/Summer, since there's going to be more competition by that time, and buyers will have more leverage to negotiate. Besides, it's always better to ride the wave while it's high, than wait for the next one.

      Want a free consult? Contact us now to schedule a risk-free home valuation, and find out how much your property can sell for!

      Sprucing Up For Springtime

      The snow outside might have made you overlook it, but yesterday was officially the start of springtime. But before you make your vacation plans and do-it-yourself projects, it might be a good idea to start small. And when we say small, we mean within walking distance small. Spring is the best time to prep yourself and your living space for the active season ahead. And whether you're in your first apartment or your dream home, or looking to sell your space, sprucing up your apartment doesn't have to be painful. If you cannot do the entire cleanup in one day, tackle one or two things at a time. You'll feel better about your place and ready for the new season. Here are a few suggestions that will vastly improve the comfort of your home in one afternoon's worth of work.

      Organize and clean the refrigerator

      Do you have three almost empty bottles of mustard and some long-expired eggs in your fridge? How about those Mexican leftovers from a month ago? Go through your fridge and toss what's no longer edible. Then, if you want to go the extra mile (or if the fridge literally stinks) actually clean it. And don't forget the freezer section while you're at it.

      Edit your clothes

      Even if it seems like you have the right amount of clothes, you may have much more than you think. In fact, it's not uncommon for someone to give away 20 pounds of clothing after going through their closets. Get out all of your clothes and consider how long it's been since you've worn each article. Often, items at the very bottom of your dresser or back of your closet haven't been used in several seasons. If you haven't missed these pieces yet, you likely never will. Give them away, or throw them out, as the case may be. By doing so, you'll finally have room for the clothes you actually wear.

      Get rid of 'the pile'

      Have a box or two that you never bothered unpacking after your last move, or a stack of "important papers" that is making a mess of your desk? How about a stash of old CDs or video games shoved under the bed? Go through them. Toss what you don't need, save and organize what you do, and be glad to be done with it. Who knows, you might find something you'd been vaguely searching for but had given up as lost. As for those old video games: You might be able to convert them into a little bit of cash online.

      Don't be a hoarder

      Now, go through all the products, perfumes, and miscellaneous items in your medicine cabinet and bathroom shelves. Throw out everything that you are not currently using -- even if it was expensive -- or that is clearly past its "use by" date. And while you are in the bathroom, look at the shower curtain liner. Is it greenish? Then it's time to get a new one.

      Shoveling Snow: Who's Responsible?

      Even though Spring's first day is tomorrow, it's evident that winter is not quite over. There a few more opportunities for snow to fall and ice to form over Boston. And while renters might assume that their landlord is responsible for shoveling snow and other winter weather maintenance, that's not necessarily true. As a renter, the responsibility for snow removal varies depending on your location and the agreement you've entered into with the landlord. To get down to the bottom of the issue, we recommend looking in three places: Your lease, state laws, and local ordinances.

      YOUR LEASE

      Like many questions involving landlord and renter rights and responsibilities, your lease is a good starting point to find out more information. Usually, if you live in an apartment complex with common areas and parking spots, your landlord will be responsible for keeping those areas clear; but it won't always be explicitly written in the lease. If you're renting a single-family home where you have sole control over the walkways and driveways, you may find that you're responsible for shoveling snow and clearing walkways of ice, in addition to cutting the grass and other seasonal maintenance.

      STATE LAWS

      If your lease has no mentions of snow removal, your next step is to find out what your state law says. State laws vary, and responsibility for the task may differ depending on the apartment you're renting and the terms of your lease. This is important if your lease does not explicitly mention snow removal, but it's also important even if your lease does cover the topic. Some landlords, particularly smaller ones, use stock leases without being fully aware of the relevant state laws or statutes. If your landlord has an obligation based on state laws, the language in your lease may not change or override that.

      To prevent confusion, a blanket law over Massachusetts protects renters and landlords from going into legal battle over who shovels what. Particularly, Bostonian landlords are tasked by the city to sweep and shovel snow that's in the "immediate proximity" of their property. This doesn't necessarily mean that renters don't have a responsibility to keep those alleyways clear; rather they are protected from being liable if something untoward happens to individuals utilizing your leasable space. If you're the victim however, your landlord is answerable to you and is bound by your lease to address the situation.

      LOCAL ORDINANCES

      Finally, take a look at your local ordinances. Some cities and counties have additional laws, called ordinances, which place obligations on either tenants or landlords.They'll spell out not only your landlord's responsibilities with regard to snow removal, but may provide you with remedies, or a person to contact, if management isn't keeping up their end of the bargain.  While these ordinances won't conflict with state law, they may increase your responsibilities--or your landlord's. You can usually find a copy of local ordinances on your town's or county's website. We've included some here, such as:

      • For Boston, Worcester, and Lynn: sidewalks in front of businesses or residences must be shoveled and safe to walk on.
      • If you're a property owner in Worcester, you must remove snow and ice from sidewalks 10 hours after it stops snowing. The fine for failing to comply with this city ordinance is $75.00 per day.
      • Throwing snow into Boston city streets, whether public and especially private, is prohibited.
      • In Salem shoveling snow back into the street will cost you $75.00 the first time you do it, $150.00 the second time, and $200.00 for the third and each time after that. (And in Lynn you'll get fined $100.00).

      By checking your lease, state laws and local ordinances, you should be able to get concrete answers to your question who is responsible for shoveling snow during the winter season - which sadly for us, Bostonians, is still staying put.

      Riding The Real Estate Wave With The Young

      Selling your home can be challenging. Selling your older, dated, and historic home is even more challenging. But if you live in a city (or a state, for that matter), that's as old as the founding of the country, you're bound to have an exposure to these old-er and "antiquated" abodes - in fact, chances are, you own one of them. You might have held on to your home as long as you've had for historical or sentimental reasons, but the recent changes in the local real estate market is probably prompting you to do otherwise; and only rightly so since now is definitely the time to consider letting others in on your "oldie but goodie", cashing in on your investment while the market is scorching hot.

      According to the 2012 Home Quality Survey of Greater Boston Homes, more than half (53%) of Bostonian homes were constructed prior to 1920. This figure includes buildings and single-family homes that have five or less than floors in them, referring to brownstones and apartment-type structures. The survey also noted that of the 53% of "older homes", barely half (47%) have gone through "extensive renovations", except for city-mandated structural repairs. This bit of news is especially staggering when you consider that Boston real estate has been in the spotlight of late for all the developments that are on the rise.  But of course, majority of these newer properties sit on land that has been recently reclaimed, rezoned, and or redeveloped.

      And thanks to the efforts of Gov. Deval Patrick and Mayor Menino to attract and make the youth a more permanent fixture to Boston's city life, majority of current and prospective homebuyers nowadays belong to the younger demography of 25-39 years of age. And aside from the difference in age, another factor that differs between "historic" home sellers and the vibrant youth of today are their lifestyle preferences. To put it simply, you could say that it's like selling a cassette recorder to a kid.

      But not to worry, all is not lost - you could still cash in on your property; all you need do is appeal to a buyer's practicality and put a little effort into your pitch, and you should be all set. The very first thing you'll need to do is to allay the fears of young buyers about maintaining a home that was around during the real "Beantown" days. Second, you'll need to showcase the features that have the most appeal to young couples and families. Have not fear, following our eight tips won't cost a lot of money, and they could reap you an early and hefty offer.

      Pre-inspect your home

      One of the most difficult decisions for home sellers is to figure out how much to spend on home improvement projects before putting the house on the market. We always recommend paying for a home inspection, especially if you're a bit more senior and have not had the money or energy to keep the house in great shape. An inspection will help determine if there's anything that absolutely must be done before putting the house on the market. In addition to a general home inspection, we recommend that homeowners get the heating and air-conditioning system cleaned and inspected. In Boston, this might entail having those radiators checked and that furnace fixed or replaced. There are tons of services out there that would gladly "trade-in" your old ones for newer models for a fraction of the cost.

      Remember: your goal is to provide peace of mind for younger buyers, ensuring them that they won't have to spill that much more by buying a dated home. We also recommender highlighting these small but substantial endeavors in your listing sheet or marketing materials, as that is a prospective buyer's first contact.

      Buy a home warranty

      Sellers should buy home warranties that cover repairs for the systems (electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling) and appliances in the home. Most home warranties are available as one-year policies and provide coverage while the property is on the market and after the closing. A home warranty costs around $300 to $400 and reassures buyers that they won't be faced with a major repair expense in their first year of homeownership.

      Offer a possible expansion or renovation plan

      Most real-estate agents know a contractor, and we have definitely have a go-to list of people we contact for the type of job to be done, so it would be fairly simple for us to give you a ballpark estimate of sample fit-and-finish renovation projects such as replacing the flooring or renovating a bathroom. Younger buyers don't always realize that everything they see can be changed with a renovation. If they like the home based on the location, the schools and the general style, they can be persuaded to buy if they can see the possibilities that come with a renovation. Sellers can also pay for simple drawings that show some renovation options that would work well with the home's configuration and its lot.

      We also recommend that sellers find out about any permit issues with an expansion such as height or setback restrictions or wetland and to include that information with marketing materials. For instance, we do background research on properties we think have great potential, even taking into account its age. In fact, these gems tend to sell faster than newer homes, since it's already in a well-developed part of town.

      Provide renovation loan information

      Mortgages are available that allow homebuyers to borrow money to buy the home plus money to pay for renovations. The most popular renovation mortgage program is called the FHA 203(k). The loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

      Younger buyers who are looking at homes that are 20 or 30 years old are likely to look at the kitchen and baths and want to renovate. A seller can provide information about an FHA 203(k) loan with their marketing materials to show buyers that they can wrap renovation costs into their mortgage. Listing agents usually prepare a cost analysis of a standard mortgage and an FHA 203(k) loan to demonstrate the availability of the loan program and to show buyers what the mortgage payments would be based on prospective renovation plans at various price points such as $5,000, $25,000 or $50,000.

      Offer a credit for repairs

      Sellers don't always have the money or the energy to make repairs themselves, and besides, some buyers will want to do renovations their own way, so you can offer a credit back for repairs, and suggest to buyers that your home could be an opportunity for them to make it reflect their own personality. While repair credits are often part of the negotiating process, if you know some things will need fixing, you can provide information about the credit upfront to prospective buyers, so they know they won't have to pay for a new furnace as soon as they move in.

      Lighten and brighten your home

      Homes that were built decades ago are darker with smaller windows, so to compensate for that, you need to remove the heavy window treatments and clean the glass to make sure as much light as possible is coming in. Use the brightest light bulbs you can and update your light fixtures. Particularly, trim shrubs covering windows, remove old carpet from hardwood floors and remove dark, heavy furniture. Don't overdo it though, and just remember to keep it simple. Get rid of your collections and sentimental things, so buyers can visualize themselves in the home.

      Highlight neighborhood amenities

      The thing with younger buyers, is that they have a long road ahead and are often are interested in schools, even if they don't have children yet. Your marketing materials should mention everything that appeals to young couples and families such as the location near commuter routes or public transportation, swimming pools, tennis courts, a gym, or nearby shops and restaurants. You need to think about what young buyers are most interested in, and then market your house accordingly. If your home has a great yard or a prime location within a subdivision close to the elementary school or a park, we make sure that's highlighted in your marketing.

      Paint your home in neutral colors

      The old rule of thumb used to be that sellers were supposed to paint their rooms white in order to appeal to all buyers. These days, white rooms tend to look boring, especially to younger buyer since they like neutral colors other than white.

      Young buyers are nowadays attracted to highly stylized storefronts of stores like Pottery Barn and West Elm which essentially translate to their living space's look. Check out similar stores and or their catalogs, and you'll see the palette has soft earth tones, off-whites, beige and pale gray. These colors, though neutral, are in style and would give your prospective buyers some room to imagine themselves in the space you're offering.

      Preparing For Spring Selling Season

      As we mentioned the other day, conditions are looking pretty rosy for homeowners who want to sell. That, of course, hints that things must be good for buyers, too since they have more options to choose from. In fact, we've been getting a lot of inquiries into different types of real estate available out there, implying that more and more potential buyers are getting ready to move off the sidelines. Th inventory might be low right now, but that doesn't mean they won't go back up in the coming months, so it's better to be prepared than to have to procrastinate.

      To give you a better picture of what it's like these days and how it's about to really spike up once spring reaches its peak, our clients have incessantly asked us to alert them of any property that's available out there, whether it's a multi-family complex, a cozy condominium, a beautiful brownstone, or in some cases, even a sprawling commercial space.  This doesn't come as a surprise, as people see reports of rising home prices in the Bay State, letting go of their worries about buying a home that will fall in value. And, of course, when prices are rising, potential buyers want to move before prices go up even more.

      And with the spring home-buying season only a short time away, how should you, the prospective buyer, use this time to prepare? Assuming you'll need a mortgage, the first step is to be sure your credit history is accurate and your credit rating as high as possible. Make sure all your bills are paid on time, and pay off your credit card balances if possible. If not, make sure to at least settle as much as you can. As with any financial transaction, the less debt you have, the bigger the loan you can get. A good practice during the time you're contemplating on buying property is to NOT open new lines of credit, because mortgage lenders are wary of borrowers who could get into trouble from an overabundance of available credit.

      Secondly, start assembling cash. Chances are you'll need a down payment of 20% of the home's purchase price. Of course, this figure isn't fixed, but is a good guiding number. Also, be prepared for smaller, less worrisome fees such as closing expenses and advances on taxes. Typically, they could equal to about 5% to 10% of the purchase price. We always give our clients a hand at zeroing in on a figure prior to submitting an offer, just to make sure they're going to a deal fully-equipped.

      Boston Neighborhoods Framed Back Bay South End Beacon Hill North End Allston Brighton Brookline Boston International Real Estate BostonIRE BIREIt's always a good idea to investigate neighborhoods before you start the property search process; going in with a blank slate might be too much of a risk. Proximity to transportation and schools are important even if you don't have children or drive a car, because when it comes time to sell, those are the two major things buyers look for. Beware of neighborhoods with large numbers of "distressed sales" such as foreclosures and short sales. Those sellers may settle for fire-sale prices, undercutting home values, and you don't want to be in a neighborhood with prices dictated by others.

      Interested to buy your own Boston home base? What about selling it? We'll gladly help you with both. Call, email, or tweet us now and we'll get you set-up!

      Why Your Home's Value Is Rising

      The boom that Boston's real estate market is experiencing right now is escalating so much that even neighborhoods and properties that people once thought were dead in the water, are now selling above and beyond asking prices. A concrete example of this being that an open house this past weekend saw a line of eager and interested buyers outside its doors.

      "This recent real estate spree in the city is a stark indication of the strong spring homebuying season that's soon to erupt", says properties broker David Paez. "The low supply of available homes however, will affect buyers, especially first-time buyers looking for more affordable, lower-priced homes, since they are having to compete with investors and cash buyers". Nationally, 13 of the most troubled U.S. housing marketing also saw significant growth rates in the first 30 days of 2013. Particularly, downtrodden cities such as Phoenix, Sacramento, and Detroit have seen double-digit growth in local home prices 2012. Boston, though not a part of the "troubled list", is not an exception, reporting property gains that are in the top 10 ranking nationwide.

      With all of these figures, you're probably wondering what the cause is for all the home price appreciation. And in our earnest attempt to enlighten you, prospective buyers and sellers, of the real estate industry's current on goings, we've round up three factors that we - along with experts in the industry - think are contributing to the increase in  home value prices.

      EMPLOYMENT IS ENERGIZING THE MARKET.  Numerous (and even weekly) reports have indicated that the U.S. jobs market is "steadily improving" and are in fact at its lowest levels since the recession hit, suggesting that more people can now afford that home they've been dreaming of. Alongside this, extremely low interest rates coupled with various banking institution's lesser-strict policies, are paving the way for individuals to take out mortgages and home improvement loans. Moving upward together with employment and buying power are home price indices, since demand is about to skyrocket skyrocketing, especially in once hard-hit metropolitan markets.

      THE BUCKET HAS REACHED THE BOTTOM. In the past four years or so, real agents, economists, and even homebuyers and homeowners have asked when the market will hit bottom, seeing figures consistently spiral downward after the 2007 financial crisis. And as of mid-2012, the market has apparently reached that benchmark, signaling the return of buyers and sellers who were once on the sidelines waiting for the right time. Particularly, those "sharks" who have been patiently lurking for lucrative deals, are now gambling again on the real estate industry, stimulating demand and upping the ante for first-time homebuyers.

      HOME IMPROVEMENT PERFORMANCE SAYS IT ALL. When the stock market is up, it's primarily due to the contributions of "emerging industries", with special mention to technology, healthcare, and the automotive industries who lead the pack. But recently, home improvement stocks have notably made an impact to the rise of major stock markets. Revenues of home improvement retailers such as Home Depot and Lowes are up, and that means consumers are again putting money into improving their most valuable asset: their homes. These home improvement retailers are projecting growth well beyond this year, forecasting albeit humble but still growing, revenues in the next three years to come.

      All in all, these three trends paint a pretty picture of the U.S. housing market for the rest of 2013. Locally here in Boston, the market is clamoring for more properties to go on sale and developments to finish construction so sales can go through already. In fact, developments that are still in the pipeline are seeing rapid pre-selling rates, with Millennium Place declaring last week that more than half of their yet-to-be-topped-off project has been sold. And with this kind of market, the rest of the over 100 projects to come should proceed with confidence and clamor. And with the almost-everyday signing off of Boston Redevelopment Authority-certified mid- and high-rise projects, it's with any amount of luck that there'll be enough paint left over for 2014.

      Curious to find out how much your home is worth? Call, email, or tweet us now for a free assessment.

      Spotting A Good Investment Sale

      All this news about the real estate's comeback is sure making people think about purchasing their own piece of investment property. More often than not however, people are afraid to make the leap and risk losing. But fret not, we've got good tips for guys who go for the gold like you, as we present you ways you can choose an investment property that will earn you the most:

      First and foremost, decide whether you're inclined to put your hard-earned money into. Whether it's a single-family home or a condo, what's important is that you've taken the first step towards narrowing down your search. Understand that until recently, real estate was too risky and illiquid for most investors, so the crop might be thinning out. But snagging a good site ahead of Spring definitely increases the likelihood that you'll get the most for your money.  Last Tuesday, various financial indices (namely S&P Dow Jones) reported that home prices showed the most gains in nearly four years, coming in at 7.3 percent nationwide last year. For certain neighborhoods in Metro Boston, home prices increased even double this. Seeing this trend, buying and selling this Spring is going to be tenacious, so better get ahead of the curve.

      Low mortgage rates make homes very affordable at today's prices, and investors have become very active in many markets. If you've already decided you can live with the hassles of being a landlord, or whether you'd just rather flip, then we suggest beginning your search already. Buying in Boston is very segmented though, so if you're going for a single-family home, then your best bet is in the suburbs of the city, in areas such as Brookline, JP, Somerville, South Boston, or Dorchester. If you're thinking of renting out a condo or an apartment, then stay within the city limits. City properties definitely always have a promising future.

      Rental rates on the two types of properties are a key issue. Investors generally assume that it will take four or five years of rent increases for income to cover maintenance costs, taxes and other expenses. If there's a glut of condos or single-family homes, you may not be able to raise rents very fast, prolonging your time in the red. Of course, a glut also means home prices will not rise very fast. The ideal rental property is in high demand, allowing the owner to raise rents every year and assume that property values will rise at a good clip.

      Generally, operating costs are easier to estimate on condos, because the exterior work is covered by your association fees. With a single-family home, costs for a new roof, landscaping and exterior painting could hit you out of the blue. Another factor to consider: the type of renter likely to be drawn to your property. A recent survey by a premier property management group, which manages 1,700 properties in 20 U.S. cities, found that renters of single-family homes are 18 percent more likely to stay in the home for five years or longer. Generally, that's good for the property owner, because each change in tenants can mean going a month or two without rent.

      The survey noted an increase in recent years of the number of single-family homes for rent. That's due, in part, to the large numbers of foreclosed properties that have been turned into rentals and the difficulty many renters have had in getting mortgages. The survey found that single-family renters make more money and are nearly twice as likely to have children as apartment dwellers. Around the country, the median income for single-family renters ranges from $75,000 to $100,000, compared with $50,000 to $75,000 for renters in multifamily housing. About 63 percent of single-family renters have children, compared with 34 percent of multifamily renters. Single-family renters also tend to be older.

      No doubt, there are lots of terrific tenants in Boston among the childless 20- and 30-somethings who prefer multifamily housing and are likely to move fairly often. Most renters in Boston share their living space, so multifamily housing is not a bad idea. But tenants who are older, more prosperous, used to dealing with responsibilities such as children and likely to stay in the home for a number of years can be especially appealing for the property owner. With an unusually large number of renters of this type looking for homes, the single-family investment property is also worth considering.

      What Do Home Sellers Need To Disclose?

      A lot has been said about the dwindling inventory of available properties in Boston. Just this week, Millennium Place in Downtown Crossing announced that they are already halfway sold out, after only marketing the fast-rising luxury high-rise for barely six months; and this won't be the first you'll hear of upcoming developments selling out prior to completion. Gone are the days when penthouse units become vacant rooftop floors.

      In the coming spring and summer months, the city is set to see more of its inventory of upcoming and existing developments drained. This is because over the start of the real estate recovery (which began last year), more and more buyers have bitten into the investment wave, snapping up whatever they could before the market completely turns against them. It's important to note though, that more are to come for property hunters out there, with developers regularly breaking ground at record pace, and owners cashing in and selling their investments. And with all of this good news in mind, you can't help but wonder how satisfied people are with their purchases? There's a lot of elements that go into a sale, and going through each and every one of them might be tedious, but it's better to be safe than to have buyer's remorse.  Whether you're looking to buy or are considering the sale of your own property for a hefty profit, it's better to know what you're getting yourself into - or out off, if you're on the selling side.

      Even though it might be a scary thought to let prospective buyers know the "defects" in a property that's up for sale, it's best to disclose them than have your deal go dead. More often than not, buyers value a seller's input into the property - it gives them a sense of honesty, and builds a trustworthy foundation between the two parties. You wouldn't want to be caught dead in the water just because of a leaky pipe or two. And as you've probably surmised, every property has a "defect" - even new ones, as taste often is personal and unique, and whether old or new, you'd probably want to change something to add your personal touch to a property.

      Though different across states, Disclosure Laws often provide a safety buffer both for seller and prospective owner. It protects both from unnecessary headache and the deal going into a halt. In Massachusetts, there is four-page form called "Sellers Statement of Property Condition" that sellers need to fill out when they've decided to release their investment back into the wild. Detailed within it are almost all of the information you would need to know to make an educated purchase decision. In fact, there have been many instances when buyers have chosen to put an offer on a place just by seeing this form and nothing else.

      Devil is in the details

      If you're on the verge of buying a property, the primary thing you'd need to consider from reading the seller's disclosure form is whether there is material fact that could ultimately lead you to give an offer, or tuck that checkbook back into your briefcase. Material facts are information that could influence someone's decision to purchase or not, however minuscule it may be. The primary thing when you have the disclosure documents in hand is whether the details that turn you off are things that you can easily live with. If not, yet you still find yourself attracted to buying, then there are multiple ways to still make that deal happen, namely (1) ask for improvements to be made, (2) negotiate for a fairer price, or (3) ask for construction compensation for work you want done yourself that the sellers agrees to.

      If you're a seller, don't be discouraged to disclose information that you think might turn off buyers, since you'd be surprised to know that A LOT of transactions have closed on the sole merit that both seller and buyer have agreed to fix "problems" that have been spotted by either party. And as you've guessed, withholding information could cause legal action, even after the sale has gone through, so be of the safe side.

      More importantly, don't be overconfident that another prospective buyer will come right along - close it when you can, even though it might seem like it's a seller's market. A general rule of thumb when you're caught in confusion whether you should disclose something or not is to disclose anything that you yourself aren't sure of. It might be insignificant to you, but it might be material fact to someone. In all of this, just remember that your goal is simple - it's to sell your home or investment with as little risk as possible. A post-closing lawsuit or mediation could be costly and time consuming, both for you and your buyer.