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      Blog :: 08-2013

      Housing Cools Down As Summer Nears End

      Summer's just about to end, but the heat is still on in the hunt for perfect homes and apartments. And although the chill is starting to swirl through the housing market due to lowered demand as the "major" move-in date of September 1 closely approaches, the local housing market is still roaring with resurgence.

      If you own in Boston, you should rejoice - home prices are not rising as fast in the rest of the country's metro areas as they did earlier this year and much of 2012, and compared to the Greater Boston Market. Multiple-bid competitions -- fierce in many places this spring and late last year -- aren't as intense, whereas locally bidding wars are a daily event in the life of a realtor. And however true it is that inventories of homes for sale have generally been lower this year, the number swelled up this summer, rising more than expected and reversing near-droughts of listings that helped fuel higher prices.

      However, the housing market's increases are bound to plateau eventually. Rising mortgage rates are a good indicator of things to come, as the momentum will be measurable when the market's pace slightly slows. The recovery is still well underway though -- just don't expect it to be as wild of a joyride as it is this summer.

      Consider some of the key numbers:

      o Asking prices on homes listed for sale declined by one-third of a percent in the beginning of August, the first drop on a monthly basis since November. Quarter-to-quarter data through July confirm the moderating trend line.

      o Pending home sales -- though still staggering in terms of transaction count and value -- dropped by four tenths  of a percent in June, according to the National Association of Realtors. Local resales in June, however, have recovered by by 4.4 percent.

      o Inventories of homes listed for sale rose in Boston, after hovering near record lows for a year or more. Low inventories stoke buyer competition and bidding wars that can send prices up sharply. More plentiful inventories give buyers more to choose from and tend to calm things down. According to data compiled by realtor.com from multiple listing services in Boston, there was a 5.5% increase in inventories for the past three months of summer. Trulia estimates that national inventories of homes for sale are up 6 percent since January.

      o Affordability is beginning to erode as a result of cumulative home price increases plus higher mortgage interest rates. The National Association of Home Builders' housing opportunity index covering 225 metro areas, released last week, found affordability down by 4.4 percent from the previous quarter. The index measures the percentage of households who can afford to purchase the median priced home with a 10 percent down payment. In Boston, affordability has long been an issue, since home values - particularly in key neighborhoods in the city - have been historically higher than the national average. In contrast though, buyers in the city has an average of 15-20% higher budgets when seeking property.

      None of this is surprising -- or alarming -- to housing and mortgage economists who track market movements. We just all need to recognize the fact that the recovery is moving into a second, more sustainable phase. During the last 18 months, we saw eye-popping numbers on prices and sales, though the outsized increases were coming off the lows of a recession and housing bust.

      But price gains in the double digits that were commonplace in the city have gradually begun to self-correct. When prices get out of reach of a growing percentage of borrowers, demand slacks off and price hikes slow. That's the trend taking hold now. Sales should continue to see "healthy" growth and prices should continue to rise, but the percentages will be less.


      The number of permits for new, privately owned housing units in Boston soared in July, according to new data released by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Last month, building permits for 1,880 units were authorized, compared to 1,724 in June and 715 in July 2012. The total number of new units so far this year in the state was 8,991, compared to 5,633 over the same period last year. Nationally, permits for 88,145 units were authorized last month, compared to 83,925 in June and 72,056 in July 2012.

      So if you weren't able to catch the housing market rebound these past couple of months, wait a couple more and when these buildings are developed, swoop in with your offer, and you should be in a grand position to reinvest and perhaps greatly increase your equity come next summer selling season.

      The Ultimate Rental Guide For Internationals

      If you're coming from somewhere else other than the United States, it might be a bit challenging and daunting to find your very first rental property to call home. Being away from the confines of your your home city or home country in itself is already difficult, so we'd like to make finding your "new" home away from home a little easier to manage.

      But before we get into the details of the how you can secure an apartment rental, let's first understand the Boston rental market. Like anywhere in the US, the typical turnover of leases begin September 1, and end August 31st of the following year - though there are definitely times when new residents move in throughout the year for varied reasons. But listings (the units that are available for rent) are usually plentiful during the summer months of June, July, and August. Now, that having said, let's determine when you'd like to move in.

      As an international, you're most likely in Boston to attend a university with your program beginning sometime in September. Majority would like to move in as soon as they set foot in the city, but others prefer to wait it out. There are definitely pros and cons to this. Firstly, securing an apartment rental during summer for move in on September 1st is good especially if you don't know anyone in the city, or don't have anywhere to crash in for the meantime. There are literally hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of units available for rent. Also, it would be wise to move in before your program starts, so that it's no longer in your way once studies settle in. A con of moving during this time however, is that you have to be fast - one day makes a big difference when you're applying for an apartment, since you're competing with almost 70,000 other applicants who are also looking to rent, not to mention the hordes of people moving in on a particular day.

      However, there are also pros to waiting. If you're willing and able, waiting for a rental apartment after the rush has died down would (1) enable you to negotiate for a better price since there's not much demand after the September and October months; also (2) you'll have an easier time hauling in your stuff and moving in. Despite these advantages, a con to waiting is that you won't have that much units to choose from. Most of the rental apartments have already been leased out, so if you're looking to move alone and occupy a unit by yourself, it is much better to look and secure before September 1st. This is not to say that there aren't available apartments anymore; there are just fewer and limited selections to choose from. The truly best way to determine your move in date is really to weigh your needs and commit to finding an apartment as soon as you've determined this.


      during your search, you'll have to fill up application forms that will be submitted to landlords and or brokerage firms who have direct dealings with owners of apartments. You never know what you need to have on hand, so always always have all your documents at the ready. In particular, international student applicants are usually asked for their I-20 forms, issued by the US Gov't and your school. This proves that you are in the United States legitimately, and for schooling purposes. It also somehow proves your capacity to pay since it states your financial capability to undergo the program you're enrolled in. The I-20 is a substitute form in lieu of a Social Security Number, which all US citizens have.

      Proving your financial capability  is an all too important factor, too. If you can, secure a bank certificate from your local bank, proving that you have the means and stating how much you or your parents have in the bank. This will make your application shine, since landlords would want to make sure you suddenly won't be paying your rent.

      Other supporting documents (or at least copies of it) are also good to have on hand. This includes your passport, student visa, and the acceptance letter to the school you're attending. This all states the fact that you're a student in good standing, and not someone who's out to scam your way to an apartment.

      Back Bay Brownstones Architecture Design Boston International Real Estate BostonIRE BIRETIP 2: KNOW THE TYPE OF PROPERTY YOU'D LIKE TO RENT

      In the US and especially in Boston, there are different types of housing available. Determine whether you'd like to lease an apartment or a condominium. If it's a condominium - do you want in a high-rise, mid-rise, full-service or self-sufficient? Apartments are generally units in a multi-family home, meaning it's a house with 3 or 4 floors, and each floor is a unit on its own. A condominium in mid- and high-rise development is plainly what it is - a unit in a building where each floor has more than one resident living in it. A full-service building is a condominium building that has full amenities such as fitness center, elevators, lobby, concierge, a pool, and the like; whereas a self-sufficient condominium development is just a condo building without those previously mentioned.


      Budgets are an all too important factor when it comes to your apartment hunt. It dictates what type, where, and how far you're willing to go to secure an apartment. In Boston, be prepared to rent a studio between the ranges of $1,300-$1500, a one-bedroom for $1,500-$,2000, and add $300-$500 as the unit you're looking for becomes larger. This estimate is good for those looking to live solo, and it really will depend on the neighborhood you'd want to live in.

      Also, be VERY aware that when you're applying for rentals, you'll most likely be asked to put deposits along with your submission. Specifically, landlords require first and last month's rent, a security deposit, and the finder's fee (if applicable). This could amount to a maximum of four months worth of rent, so you should be prepared. Also know that the security deposit is fully refundable to you at the end of your lease, provided that you haven't done anything to affect the condition of the rental unit. It's also common that the Security deposit is equivalent to one's month rent, but in some cases they're a fixed amount that's less. It varies from landlord to landlord, but just to be sure, estimate it to be the former.

      Fixing your bank account in the US is very straight-forward and an easy transaction. However, if you're wiring or transferring funds from abroad, it takes a couple of days to reflect on your account. Be prepared for that. Tell your broker or your potential landlord this at once, and show proof of your deposit if necessary. This will make it known to them that money is coming, but is just not yet available. It won't harm your application, and if anything, would give a positive image of you being transparent with your finances.

      Boston Neighborhoods Framed Back Bay South End Beacon Hill North End Allston Brighton Brookline Boston International Real Estate BostonIRE BIRETIP 4: WHERE TO RENT AND NEIGHBORHOODS

      In our experience, international students have little information about Boston and its neighborhoods. Don't be like that - do your research about the school you'll be attending and the neighborhoods convenient and close to it. This makes a big impact in your apartment search, since you'd want to be close to your school. Weigh in your lifestyle as well: do you like to cook and stay in or dine out? Factors like these affect your neighborhood search since if you're on a budget and would like to prepare your own meals, then being nearby a grocery would be ideal.

      Don't forget to also think about your transportation. Although Boston has an extensive public transportation system of trains and buses, there are neighborhoods that stand out to commuters. If you have a car, that also changes your search parameters, since you'll need a parking spot for your vehicle.

      Check out these posts to get a sense and feel of how it is to live in the different neighborhoods of Boston:

      Neighborhoods By Rental Rate What's In A Great Neighborhood  Tips For Long Distances Searches How To Know When A Neighborhood Is Right For You 

      Also, do head on over to Boston Business Journals' convenient list of neighborhoods to find out what your budget can get you!

      The New Rules of Renting and Tips To Beat Out Competition

      Depending on whether you just bought yourself a rental property or are just starting your apartment hunt or have signed up for a new lease, you'd be glad to know that the City of Boston passed new rules of renting. This applies mostly to first time landlords who have properties that's up for rent, but it's also good to know your rights as a tenant of the place.

      The new law should've been in effect on August 1, but because of the sheer number of rental properties out there, city officials extended the effectivity date to August 31st. Essentially, every landlord will have to register any private rental unit located in Boston which, coupled with some new inspection rules, will hopefully hold landlords more accountable for providing tenants with proper living conditions. A piece of good news that's certainly welcomed by every apartment hunter.

      Landlords who fail to register their apartments with the city will be subject to fines and other disciplinary actions. As of now, non-compliant owners will be subject to a fine of $300 per month and assessed 1 point in the 'Chronic Offender' point system for non-compliance. As of end-July, there are approximately 140,000 total units in the city that will be required to register.

      As a renter, all you'd need to know is that your building's owner is required to give all details to the city regarding the property and their contact information, as well as the condition of the building and the units within it. This ensures that in the unfortunate event that something goes not as planned, you the renter, is covered and would have the help and assistance of the city in mitigating the situation.

      If you're a property owner, head on over to the online registration system and get more details about it by clicking here. Don't fret, it's not a long process, and there are certainly exemptions to the new law: While all private rental property must be registered, public property and owner-occupied residences with six or fewer units will not have to go through the process.

      If terms of fees, landlords must pay the city a $25 first-time registration fee and $15 annual renewal fee for each unit.  Fees are capped at $2,500 maximum per building and $5,000 maximum per complex (2 or more buildings on same parcel). In the subsequent years after 2013, the registration deadline will be July 1.

      Rent Price Increases

      It's no secret that rental prices in Boston are higher than the average media across metropolitan cities in the US, making it a challenge for the average home hunter to find affordable and spacious living spaces.  According to Trulia, rent prices as of July increased by 4.1% versus last year. The current average rental rate is pegged at $2,375, and vacanies are still in 3 percent range.

      But, if you're willing to wait and have got a place to stay in until end of September, it might be easier to look then, as the market is expected to loosen up a bit by then. In fact and though not a lot, some landlords had to revisit their rental prices the first two weeks of August, in order to rent out their units. Though not a usual practice especially in the highly coveted areas of Back Bay, South End, and Beacon Hill, it happens. And this is only a sign that come September, landlords would be more flexible to terms.

      More affordable neighborhoods, such as South Boston, where you can get a two-bedroom in the $2,000s, turn much faster; where in the Back Bay, a two-bedroom would be about $4,500 and those higher price rentals move slower. Some good news to ease the Sept. 1 crunch, is that both apartment owners and renters want to avoid the September 1st rush and are staggering the leases to an August date, middle of September or even October date. Even better news is that next year more newly constructed apartments will be complete, helping to ease the tight supply of apartments in Boston.

      However, if you've found that perfect place where you'd want to settled - at least for the next year or so, and are afraid to lose it to someone else offering a better bargain for the buyer, then here are four tips that could just make you the winner of the rental of dreams:

      1. Offer to take the apartment "as is" and take over the lease right away In the event that you find your dream apartment and it still needs a bit of work (ie renovation), let your broker know to highlight that you'll take the apartment 'as is'--without being cleaned or painted--when your application is submitted. This way, the owner is secure already that even though he doesn't do any redo's, he's good to go. It gives you a better shot at standing out and landing an apartment when there are multiple bids--especially the case for an under-market rent stabilized deal which is rare and extremely difficult to find. Mind you, this trick is only if you're dead set on the apartment for all its excellent qualities: location, amenities, and all. Renovations could be done easily, provided you have the funds - but there are certainly ways to secure the apartment "as is" and negotiate for an installment improvement plan from the landlord. This gives the owner flexibility in terms of their cash flow, and you a place to stay in the meantime. Just make sure that everything's written down as an addendum to your lease so you're also secure that in the event you entered into an install improvement plan, you'll have the place all spruced up one, two, or three months down the line.

      2. Be proactive -- and put a lot of money down if you can If you can, offer to put more than the required amount of money down--several months' to even a full year's worth of rent. We advise renters to "be proactive and actually ask the landlord or the landlord's agent, 'What would it take to get the place?'  Usually, a landlord will like the sincerity and interest and tell you exactly what they want.

      In the case of a condo, a tenant who explains that they're open to the owner's specific needs -- like showing an apartment while still occupied to other investors or setting up a long lease--is probably going to get put on the top of the list. The point is be flexible so the landlord knows you're not going to be a stuck up tenant.

      3. Offer incentives -- but don't get too extravagant We've had prospective tenants offer to replace the kitchen appliances with new ones, gift the landlord with customized items and gift certificates, even a free cruise around the city in a sail boat and free gym memberships - that's how much renters out there are desperate to get their dream apartment. These types of incentives tend to work better in smaller buildings with small landlords than in large ones though, so always think it through first before making a move. There's no guarantee they'll snatch up your offering, but it's a sure way to get the owner's attention.

      4. Don't be afraid to get personal Add a personal touch when putting in an application, even when it comes to rentals. It's always good to have a short write up bio in standby just in case you encounter a difficult owner who has trust issues. Something short but detailed about what you do, what your interests and hobbies are and what community events you participate and are involved with. This gives a human touch and a warm feeling to the rather dry application process.



      Planning A Painless Move: How To Avoid Move In Madness

      It's that time of the year: the end of summer is nearing, and along comes with it is the start of the Fall season. In Boston and the Northeast, Fall is actually already creeping in, with colder mornings to wake up to, and the chill of the night caps off the day. But it's just not the seasons that are changing - September 1 officially marks the move of more than 100,000 residents in the city. That's right - a hundred thousand. At the least.

      This is because four of five rental properties in the city have move-in dates that are set between August 31 and September 1. In fact, if you can, stay away from the Allston/Brighton area during these dates, as you're sure to hit some traffic with the hundreds of moving trucks that will be lined up in the streets since 98% of all properties in that neighborhood are rental units.

      But, if you're one of those lucky residents who has to move in during those dates, then it's an all-around adventure. Moving alone is already quite a gigantic task to undertake, and moving with so many other people is even more of a challenge.  At least that's how you should look at it!

      So how exactly do you prepare? What are the things you should be doing right now to avoid move in madness and have a (relatively) stressless and painless move? Here are some tips and tricks to make it your new apartment alive and awake, regardless if you're using either professional movers or not:


      Get organized - It's always smart and keen to have your stuff organized. This is more so true during a move. Try to already categorize what you're planning to bring and what's going to be recycled or just plainly junked. You wouldn't want to be lugging around that love seat with you, only to find out that there isn't room for it at your new place.

      Also, you might want to Start a "move file" to keep track of estimates, receipts and other information. You may be able to deduct your move and lower your taxes, so check with the IRS to see what expenses can be deducted on your next tax return.

      Contract Your Friends or Canvass Movers and Trucks  - This is something that - to no fail - is kept on the to do list until the last minute. Hiring movers is one thing since they'll gladly take your business even if it's last minute, but contracting your friends to help you move is another. If you are moving in with your helpful friends, make food arrangements and find out pizza places nearby - it's wise to keep that in mind as "payment" for your friends' muscle and sweat.  Also, ZipVans and UHaul trucks are also a must for moving in, so try to reserve yours at least two weeks ahead of your move.

      Stay Healthy - If you can, lay low a couple of days before your move. Fall move in dates tend to coincide with flu season, and you would not want to be under the weather during that crucial time. If you are moving from another state or an international location, gather your medical records ahead of time and keep them in a safe location so in the off chance that something goes not the way you planned it, then you're ready.

      Tie up lose ends - An important thing to remember during a move is that you're taking off from your old place to move to a new one. Your utilities, mail, and subscription don't automatically go with you. There's legwork behind that, and setting aside some time to arrange for your new address is prudent. Specifically:

      o Contact utility companies to disconnect, transfer or connect services. Plan on keeping current services through your move date and having new ones available prior to your move-in date. o Return library books and pick up dry cleaning or items out for repair. o Call your local newspaper and set a date to cancel your subscription. o Call your insurance agent to see what changes to expect in your policies. Ask if moving is covered and arrange for insurance for your new home. o Contact health clubs or other organizations to which you belong. Ask how you can end, sell or transfer your membership. o Contact your bank and/or credit union to transfer or close accounts. Clear out safety deposit boxes. Pick up traveler's checks or cash for "on the road" expenses.

      Keep in touch - File a change of address. If you don't know what your new address will be, ask the postal service to hold your mail in their office in your new city. Make a list of friends, relatives and businesses that will need to know of your move and send your new address to them as soon as possible. Postal forwarding time is limited.

      Take inventory - Decide what items need to go before your move and plan a yard sale or contact your local charities. If you donate, be sure to get a receipt for tax deduction purposes. Make a list of things that are valuable or difficult to replace. Ship these items by certified mail or carry them with you.

      Clean house - Start collecting boxes and other packing supplies at least a month before your move. Use up things that can't be moved, such as frozen foods, bleach and aerosol cleaners. Dispose of flammables, corrosives and poisons. Drain all gas and oil from your mower and other motors. Gas grills, kerosene heaters, etc. must be emptied as well. Empty, defrost and clean your refrigerator at least 24 hours before moving day.

      Be prepared - As moving day gets closer, finish packing and prepare a box with the essentials. Keep these items handy, preferably in your car. Don't forget to include extra clothing, toiletries and snacks for the kids. Other things to consider are:

      o Coffee cups, paper plates, paper towels o Plastic forks, spoons, knives o Dish soap, trash bags, towels o Phone books, pencils and paper, your "move file" o Scissors, masking tape, utility knife, can opener o Toilet paper, prescriptions, aspirin or other pain relievers o Flashlight, light bulbs, hammer

      Finish up - Before leaving your old home, check every room, closet and cabinet one last time. Make sure everything is loaded. Leave a note with your new address in the house so future occupants can forward any stray mail.


      Get connected - Check to see if your mail is making it to your new address or pick up any mail being held.

      Fill out the paperwork - Get a new driver's license and new tags for your automobile. And don't forget to register to vote. In many states, you can do this when you get your new license.

      Finally, make yourself at home!

      Downtown Developments and Rental Update

      With summer nearing its end and fall pacely settling in, Bostonians are slowly seeing the return of the student crowds and the increasingly tightening rental market. Reports of same-day deals abound now that both local and international students are flocking to the city, preparing for the inevitable September 1 move-in madness that's soon to ensue.

      While majority have signed and seen places they'll move to,  many are still out on the prowl for that perfect place to call home for the next year. And although the inventory is getting tighter and tighter, locating good finds and decadent deals is still possible. In fact, Zillow Rentals says that there are still 376 studio to one-bedroom units under $1,800 that are available in Downtown Boston area (comprising of Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Theater District, the South End, North End,

      West End, and Fenway / Kenmore), reflecting a 60% decrease in rental inventory in just a span of one month.

      So, if you're still looking for a place, it's definitely high time to schedule some showings, as units are falling faster than anyone is expecting. However, if you're on the other side of the fence and are willing to join the enlightened few who've come to realize than buying is better than renting, then this next bit of news is for you:

      Hub Condo Prices Set Record Second Quarter Levels 

      Boston's condominium market set a record in the second quarter as the median price for a unit reached the highest level of all times, but sales were off compared to a year ago. From April through June, the median price for a downtown condo rose to $537,950, up 5.2 percent compared to a year ago. The price hike came as 1,042 condos sold in the dozen downtown neighborhoods, off by 1.2 percent in the second quarter of 2012.

      Nine of the dozen downtown neighborhoods saw median prices rise. The North End saw the biggest jump to $484,500, up 21. 4 percent compared to the same period a year ago, Charlestown's median swelled to $514,500, a 15.4 percent hike, and South Boston median prices increased to $425,000, a 12.8 percent rise from Q2 in 2012.

      Three neighborhoods experienced a drop in median prices. In the Leather District, median prices dropped to $517,000, down from nearly 12 percent from last year, on the Waterfront, median prices fell to $777,500, down nearly 6 percent from last year, and in the Fenway neighborhood condo prices slipped slightly to $372,000, off .40 percent in the city's most affordable neighborhood.

      The Final Fate of Parcel 9 in the North End

      Early this year, there were two proposals that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation considered for the lot dubbed Parcel 9, located in the North End near Haymarket. As of March, MassDOT was considering awarding the lot to either (1) a 180-hotel room and food market equipped with a winter garden; or (2) a 50-apartment building with its own rooftop garden and food market store.

      Well, it seems that the bigwigs over at MassDOT has reached a verdict, and sadly it's not one that home-seekers will cheer as the city is soon to set its eyes on proposal No.1, otherwise known as the Haymarket Square Hotel. Though a blow to potential home buyers, the development is still a key addition to the growing portfolio of projects that's hitting Beantown. Once built, the Haymarket Square Hotel is set to service transient tourists as well as botanical fans alike, as the winter garden will offer space for the city's green-thumbed residents. If you're one, remember to stay tuned when it opens its doors (and plots!) so you can avail of a garden during the midst of the snow season.

      Millennium Towers & Millennium Place Preview

      Millennium Partners has released preview photos of its penthouse unit that are just about ready to be turned over at Millennium Place. The views and amenities are awesome, and so is its location. MP has been plagued with mixed media write-ups since they continually refuse to give out their selling numbers and list down units still available for the general market. Rumored to be already 80% sold, Millennium Place is a one-of-a-kind development in the city, integrating social media in its units, as well as high-end furnishings for all its units and amenities that are beyond the normal.

      Not too far from Millennium Place, the old Filene's Basement site is currently undergoing some transformation and demolition. With the open-ground next to it having sat idle for the last six years, Millennium Partners last year committed to developing the Millennium Tower in it place, rising 60 stories above ground. The development is set to update and be the catalyst of Downtown Crossing's much-anticipated revival, with the Orange line subway station also undergoing some nifty updates.


      Housing Expectations in The Second Half

      The U.S. housing recovery continues to make gains. New home sales have surged 38% since last year, hitting a five-year high in June. And despite a monthly drop in activity, sales of previously owned homes remain 15% higher than last year as well. Locally in Boston, the property market is steaming hot that it is seriously putting back the bite in the "mini" housing boom. Multiple developments are going up almost every quarter, and projects are being filed and approved faster than before to make way for the demand in the coming years.

      In fact, if housing in the first six months of 2013 could be summed up in one sentence, it would go something like this: inventory is painfully tight, sales activity is surging and home prices are continually jumping. Now real estate experts are sounding off on the trends that will help shape the sector in the second half of 2013. Here's what you need to know:

      No Threat of Inflating Another Bubble

      Home prices have clocked double-digit price appreciation this year. Prices across the 20 major U.S. metro markets, including Boston, were 12% higher in April than they were a year before, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. Other indexes have registered similarly dramatic gains. The last time prices appreciated by double digits were during the last housing bubble, motivating to question whether a new bubble is beginning to inflate.

      It isn't.  The current pace of growth, while certainly unsustainable for long term market health, is nothing to worry about just yet. Prices are now rising as fast as they were during the bubble years, but they are still low relative to the levels where they were back then. In actuality, prices are undervalued across most of the country, lower not just than their bubble-era peaks but also lower than their historical norms when adjusted for inflation.

      Most economists believe home prices will continue to climb throughout the rest of this year. CoreLogic projects 2013 will end with a 6% increase over 2012 across the 20 major markets. And Altos Research, a Mountain View, Calif.-based firm that tracks real estate data in real time, believes 2013's final tally will be even higher. Still, it won't last. They say several variables, including increased inventory and higher mortgage rates, will slow the pace growth, which to be clear, is expected to stay positive over the next several years.

      More Homes Coming To Market

      The abnormally tight inventory levels fueling the return of such frothy buyer practices as bidding wars and contingency-free offers will slowly begin to ease. Inventory - which hit a 12-year low earlier this year -- is already starting to increase and economists believe that trend will continue despite the season. In Boston, inventory saw its lowest levels since 2004 this year. In June, there were 7% less homes for sale nationally than a year earlier, but the monthly numbers offer the forward-looking story. From May to June, nationwide inventory grew by 4%; last year that monthly increase was only 1%. This reflects projects turning over and homeowners disposing their properties.

      Last May, the City of Boston, along with the Massachusetts Governor's office, pledged to assist developers in creating conditions conducive to adding 20,000 additional housing units to the market. This year alone, there has been a record of an average of 8 projects being approved every month. Still, some experts, believe we could see housing shortages in the most sought after locales as far out as the next three years.

      It will come down to new construction as more homebuilders continue to gain confidence and roll new developments. Experts expect to see more construction commence in places like the Northeast, Texas, the Carolinas, Northern California and other parts of country where there's strong housing demand, spurring job growth in both construction and housing-related industries.

      Since an unusually large portion of new construction is multifamily, increased inventory won't just help slow the rapid rate of home price growth but also quell rent prices. As many as six million more households nationally will join the rental market ranks over the next decade;  more building in major cities will help keep rents from rising too much in response.

      Mortgage Rates Will Keep Climbing

      Mortgage rates have risen over the past two months. A recent Trulia survey found rising rates was the number one worry among prospective buyers right now.

      Economists believe rates will continue to climb, though at a much less feverish pace than recently witnessed. But while the higher rates - the 30-year fixed loan is about a point higher than it was in early May - mean borrowing is getting more expensive, housing won't become unaffordable anytime soon.

      In reality, prices are still low relative to rents, so at 4.5%, it's still more than a third cheaper to buy than to rent on average across the U.S. Not every market will remain cheaper to buy but on average, buying will stay cheaper than renting until rates reach 10.5% -- a level we haven't seen since 1990. In Boston, rent to buy ratio is still pegged at 3.5 years - so if you've been renting more than three and a half years, you might want to consider buying soon.

      Still, in metro areas like San Francisco, San Jose, New York and Boston, markets that were always historically cheaper to rent than buy before the downturn, rates will begin to tip the scale back toward renting once they rise above 5%.

      The estimation is it would take a 6.5% interest rate to bring affordability just back up to the level of early 2000s, meaning neither too affordable nor unaffordable. There's plenty of room for appreciation and rate increases before that and we will probably get a little of both. Rising rates may help fuel another trend in the coming months: an easing of tight mortgage credit that has hampered the purchases of even qualified homebuyers. As rates rise, refinancing business dries up, pushing lenders to begin ramping up the mortgages they underwrite for prospective buyers.

      Defaults In Decline

      Foreclosure activity is on the decline. RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif.-based foreclosure site, reports that 800,000 properties had foreclosure filings on them nationwide in the first half of 2013. That's down 19% from the second half of 2012 and down 23% from the six months before that. In June there were 127,000 filings across the U.S. - the lowest number logged since December 2006. In Massachusetts, foreclosure petitions dropped a staggering 84% in July to only 245. Overall, the first six months of the year indicate that Boston, and Massachusetts in general, is over the foreclosure crisis since petitions have dropped a total of 69% for the first half.

      Nationally, short sales continue to increase, with lenders arranging deals before they even process their first foreclosure filing on a delinquent homeowner's property. In the first quarter of 2013 short sales increased 79% versus a year earlier, thanks in part to the fact that short sale guidelines were loosened by the government sponsored enterprises. Locally, short lists aren't as popular, however this phenomenon could be seen in the way properties close over and above owner's asking prices. Average closing for the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and South End neighborhoods hover between 10-15% over asking.

      Another trend that will continue: investor activity, especially among international buyers. Individuals from Latin America, Asia, and parts of Europe continue to flood the market, as local economies in their home countries are either flourishing or diminishing, moving investors to seek greener pastures for their treasure throve across the seas.

      Overall, the housing market for the rest of the year should be smooth sailing, with blue skies on the horizon. And if developers continue to build and deliver, it will only add to the continued increase in property gains, as demand isn't expected to lay low in the next three to five years.


      1. Lidiane on

        . Nothing needed to be said.Highest Unit Re-enlistment Rate - Any oiftut that has been in Iraq recently. All the danger, all the hardship, all the time away from home, all the horror, all the frustrations with the fight here - all are outweighed by the desire for young men to be part of a 'Band of Brothers' who will die for one another. They found what they were looking for when they enlisted out of high school. Man for man, they now have more combat experience than any Marines in the history of our Corps.Most Surprising Thing I Don't Miss - Beer. Perhaps being half-stunned by lack of sleep makes up for it.Worst Smell - Porta-johns in 120 degree heat - and that's 120 degrees outside of the porta-john.Highest Temperature - I don't know exactly, but it was in the porta-johns. Needed to re-hydrate after each trip to the loo.Biggest Hassle - High-ranking visitors. More disruptive to work than a rocket attack. VIPs demand briefs and battlefield' tours (we take them to quiet sections of Fallujah, which is plenty scary for them). Our briefs and commentary seem to have no affect on their preconceived notions of what's going on in Iraq. Their trips allow them to say that they've been to Fallujah, which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency here.Biggest Outrage - Practically anything said by talking heads on TV about the war in Iraq, not that I get to watch much TV. Their thoughts are consistently both grossly simplistic and politically slanted. Biggest offender - Bill O'Reilly - what a buffoon.Best Intel Work - Finding Jill Carroll's kidnappers - all of them. I was mighty proud of my guys that day. I figured we'd all get the Christian Science Monitor for free after this, but none have showed up yet. Talk about ingratitude.Saddest Moment - Having the battalion commander from 1st Battalion, 1st Marines hand me the dog tags of one of my Marines who had just been killed while on a mission with his unit. Hit by a 60mm mortar. Cpl Bachar was a great Marine. I felt crushed for a long time afterward. His picture now hangs at the entrance to the Intelligence Section. We'll carry it home with us when we leave in February.Biggest Ass-Chewing - 10 July immediately following a visit by the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Zobai. The Deputy Prime Minister brought along an American security contractor (read mercenary), who told my Commanding General that he was there to act as a mediator between us and the Bad Guys. I immediately told him what I thought of him and his asinine ideas in terms that made clear my disgust and which, unfortunately, are unrepeatable here. I thought my boss was going to have a heart attack. Fortunately, the translator couldn't figure out the best Arabic words to convey my meaning for the Deputy Prime Minister. Later, the boss had no difficulty in convening his meaning to me in English regarding my Irish temper, even though he agreed with me. At least the guy from the State Department thought it was hilarious. We never saw the mercenary again.Best Chuck Norris Moment - 13 May. Bad Guys arrived at the government center in the small town of Kubaysah to kidnap the town mayor, since they have a problem with any form of government that does not include regular beheadings and women wearing burqahs. There were seven of them. As they brought the mayor out to put him in a pick-up truck to take him off to be beheaded (on video, as usual), one of the bad Guys put down his machinegun so that he could tie the mayor's hands. The mayor took the opportunity to pick up the machinegun and drill five of the Bad Guys. The other two ran away. One of the dead Bad Guys was on our top twenty wanted list. Like they say, you can't fight City Hall.Worst Sound - That crack-boom off in the distance that means an IED or mine just went off. You just wonder who got it, hoping that it was a near miss rather than a direct hit. Hear it every day.Second Worst Sound - Our artillery firing without warning. The howitzers are pretty close to where I work. Believe me, outgoing sounds a lot like incoming when our guns are firing right over our heads. They'd about knock the fillings out of your teeth.Only Thing Better in Iraq Than in the U.S. - Sunsets. Spectacular. It's from all the dust in the air.Proudest Moment It's a tie every day, watching my Marines produce phenomenal intelligence products that go pretty far in teasing apart Bad Guy operations in al-Anbar. Every night Marines and Soldiers are kicking in doors and grabbing Bad Guys based on intelligence developed by my guys. We rarely lose a Marine during these raids, they are so well-informed of the objective. A bunch of kids right out of high school shouldn't be able to work so well, but they do.Happiest Moment - Well, it wasn't in Iraq. There are no truly happy moments here. It was back in California when I was able to hold my family again while home on leave during July.Most Common Thought - Home. Always thinking of home, of Kathleen and the kids. Wondering how everyone else is getting along. Regretting that I don't write more. Yep, always thinking of home.I hope you all are doing well. If you want to do something for me, kiss a cop, flush a toilet, and drink a beer. I'll try to write again before too long - I promise.Semper Fi,

        Back To School Home Search Tips

        It's that time of year when families consider moving to get their children into a good school district. Folks over at realtor.com recently conducted a back-to-school survey to see how much weight schools have in the home-buying decision. The results show that school-district boundaries do impact the buying decision for more than 60 percent of home buyers.

        Additionally, it was found that home buyers are willing to pay more and give up certain features for a home located in their district of choice. These buyers are especially willing to give up access to shopping and nearby parks and trails, among other amenities, to reside within the school-district boundaries of their choice. And as we all know, Boston is a big college town, where both individuals as well as families relocate to in order to attend some of the nation's best educational institutions. For locals, moving to areas such as Brookline is a great option, since the school system is regarded as one of the best in the country.

        To give you a more in depth look into how home buyers weigh in school systems into their next home purchase, those surveyed said that school-district boundaries will have an impact on their buying decision. In particular, almost 24% said they would pay up to 5% above their budget to move to a neighborhood that has an excellent and "well known" institution. However, majority, or 40% said that schools are accessible enough in Boston that there is no need to elevate their current budget. That's how much schools and universities there are in the city that one can easily reach it either by car or by public transport.

        For home buyers who said that school-district boundaries will have an impact on their decision, the majority rated the boundaries as an "important" consideration.In fact, 90% said school-district boundaries are "important" or "secondary" to their search. And with young millennials who are likely to start a family of their own, schools are a necessity if only to prepare for family life with children in the coming years ahead.

        In general, a new house can mean more space, great neighborhoods and good schools. We've outlined five tips to find your dream home near the right school either for you or for your family and kids:

        1. Know your family's needs. Is your family growing? Is square footage the most important factor, or a large backyard? Make a list of exactly what you need in your family's new home. Though Boston is notorious for being congested, there are neighborhoods and suburbs that make great for a large home, complete with huge yard. Know these areas before you even start your search and narrow them down according to your need.
        2. Search for homes by the best schools by consulting with us. We've placed hundreds of students - both foreign and local, to be at walking distance from their schools. We pride ourselves with knowing the ins and outs of Boston, and even discovering neighborhoods for you that are outside of your shortlist but still serve their purpose.
        3. Review school information. Boston is a college town. There are a total of 53 higher education institutions in the city, including 7 junior colleges, 14 colleges, 8 research universities, and 24 specially-focused institutions. This list does not count the public schools systems in the city, 3 of which are amongst the best in the country. Do your research on the school, and we'll handle the rest.
        4. Look for parks and play areas. Of course with hard school work comes hard play. Take a look at neighborhoods that offer both school and sanctuary. Also look for other things that matter to you, like how far away it is from a baseball field, etc. Draw your own search boundary, if a specific area really matters to you - we're sure to find you your own piece of property in that locale.
        5. Make a list of questions. When you're ready to tour the homes we've recommended, be prepared with the questions that will help you make the best investment. Ask about things that matter specifically to you and your family but also what matters for the home's future value. We will be able to guide you to find the right home, in the right location, near the right school.

        Still stuck on your home search? Contact us now to schedule a free consultation! Call us at (617) 505-1781 or email us at info@bostonire.com

        Cheat Sheet for Boston Condo Buyers

        Home prices have surged in the past year, forcing many first-time buyers to consider a condominium or townhome because these options are generally less expensive and more practical for smaller families. Regardless of whether you're contemplating buying a unit from a fully-serviced building, or a converted multi-family home, condominium living can be quite comfortable - even more so than the traditional four square. But is one of these the right choice for you?

        To answer this, we've come up with a cheat sheet to guide you in your perennial property decision which we hope will arm you with the right tools to assess these communities, that come with a different set of rules and issues than a traditional home. We'll also be considering the latest and hottest housing numbers, so you know what to expect in the market once you've made that bold move into buying.

        QUICK CONDO 101 Buying a home is undoubtedly complex. But with condos, there's even more to consider, from community rules to fees and finances. Here are some of the things you should scrutinize when buying into a condo complex:

        Finances: One of the biggest things most would-be condo dwellers overlook is the monthly cost of homeowners association (HOA) dues, which cover the cost of regular maintenance and repairs. In Boston, dues can range from an average of $80 to $220 each month. There's also the possibility of special assessments or temporary fees to cover repairs or improvements, if the event arises.

        Getting a good deal is not just about who has the lowest monthly fees. Often, communities will fail to collect enough dues from residents for years, and then wind up levying huge bills for repairs such as new siding or new elevators that can cost residents thousands. The amenities you get for those monthly dues can vary widely and can include such things as window washing, adoorman, health center, party room, pool, etc. The thing you want to look at is what you are getting for your money with regard to the fees and how different buildings compare.

        You also need to know how a building or community deals with delinquent dues, so you can rest easily knowing that your own dues are not going to vain. The best question to ask your condominium management is: how long do they wait before placing a lien on a unit whose owners are delinquent? This will give a better sense of how management deals with that sort.

        You, together with your broker or agent, should sit down and comb through a community's financial documents looking for upcoming assessments, as well as review its reserve study, which will tell you whether a property has enough money to cover needed upkeep and repairs in the years ahead. This will also appease whatever doubts you may have with regard to where your monthly fees are going.

        In addition to getting yourself qualified for a loan, you need to make sure your building passes muster. If it has too many HOA delinquencies or if litigation is pending, it might not make the grade with lenders. You can ask the building manager or seller's agent if the building is eligible for Federal Housing Administration loans. Most of the time and because of the strict Fair Housing Act enforced in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, bigger condominium complexes often don't have an issue with this. Smaller, multi-family homes that are converted however, sometimes hits a snag.

        Rules and policies: Just as important as a community's finances are its rules and regulations -- or covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs.) If you don't go over these with a fine-toothed comb, you might want to move out as quickly as you moved in.

        For instance, you might find out that a particular building doesn't allow dogs, or dogs of a certain size. So Fido or Frida would have to go. Or, you might discover that the wood-frame condo complex doesn't allow hardwood floors -- bad news for some allergy sufferers. These rules can dictate everything from what you can put in your window to what you can hang on your front door or put on your balcony, which means you might not be allowed that charcoal grill. In many instances, you won't be able to plant anything around your unit. Can you live without that tiny plot of tomatoes? Another thing that people should ask about is parking. Is it reserved? How many spaces do you have? Where are your friends or visitors allowed to park? Are there quiet hours? What is the policy on renting out units? Make sure you know the answers to these questions before you buy.

        Going to miss your open spaces? Don't worry, places like Archstone North Point and 100 Memorial Drive have vast grounds, public spaces, and indoor pools where you can still have the comforts of a full-fledged foursquare home. Check out our hotlist of condominium buildings here.

        Satisfaction with management: You may also want to figure out whether residents are generally satisfied with the property's management. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of public resources for buyers trying to research communities and their associations. However, board-meeting minutes are a great way to find out what repairs are coming up, what issues neighbors are squabbling over and how money is being spent. If a lawsuit is pending, you'll also likely find some discussion of it here. Granted rummaging through transcripts could be time-consuming, so take up the task to your broker or agent but only do so if you're really interested in the property; otherwise you might be distracting their attention away from finding you that perfect piece of property.

        Lifestyle: Lastly, you should make sure you are ready for the condo lifestyle, which includes shared walls and much more interaction with your neighbors. Remember that when you live in a condo, you have to be accommodating and flexible. Many of these first-timer questions can be found in the Community Association Institute's brochure for condo homebuyers.

        Housing-market update: Condos on the rise Condominium prices in Boston's downtown market jumped to a record high in the second quarter of the year, driven by strong demand, tight inventories, and a taste for luxury.

        The median price for a condo in Boston's central neighborhoods increased to $537,950 in the three-month period that ended in June, a 5.3 percent increase from same period a year ago, encompassing a 12-neighborhood area, including the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, South End, Midtown, Fenway and the Waterfront along with more neighborhoods and areas. This figure beats the previous record of $537,000 during the first quarter of 2013. The national median existing-home price was $214,200 in June, up 13.5% from June 2012.

        Strong sales of luxury condos, which include services like a valet and concierge, helped push the citywide median value -- the midway point between the lowest and highest sale prices -- to the record. The median price of a luxury condo jumped to $1.4 million from $1.24 million in the second quarter of 2012, a more than 13 percent increase. Sales of luxury condos increased by 2.4 percent between April and June.

        Home values throughout the Boston area are on the rise. Median sales price for condos in Greater Boston - considered roughly the region within the I495 loop - rose to a record of $422,000 in June, reflecting a 5.5% increase from the same month last year. Single-family homes also rose to a record $541,500 in June, a 7.8 percent increase from the same time last year.

        Within the city of Boston, areas like South Boston and Charlestown -- neighborhoods with relatively lower costs -- have experienced some of the biggest jumps in condo values over the last several months as buyers are unable to find or afford properties in other downtown neighborhoods. More than 3,000 units will be available in the next 2-3 years, as the city catches up with the demand for compact yet comfortable condominium units.

        Questions? Comments? Do you have a question about buying? Email us at info@bostonire.com to have them answered! Better yet, call us at (617)505-1781 and schedule a FREE no-commitment consultation to find out how you can best get the most out of your hard-earned money.

        What's In A Great Neighborhood?

        What distinguishes a great neighborhood from the merely meh? It's a difficult question, encompassing everything from physical attributes such as good design to the right number of parks and public places.

        Unmistakably, a lot of factors converge to create the perfect neighborhood. Of course, personal taste trumps all. However, according to experts that range from urban planners, to geographers, to well-known architects and real-estate agents, pinpointing the perfect neighborhood is made up of a set of characteristics, not just from  a single set of parameters. Neighborhoods are put on the map for buyers or renters because they are a fit to the person's desired features.

        Is it a quaint and charming street, good schools or an abundance of interesting shops, restaurants and other diversions? What elements conspire to create great neighborhoods such as Boston's Back Bay or sultry South End?

        PEOPLE AND PLACE If you ask public space experts, it's people, not developers, who create the next big place. According to them, it's always a bunch of individuals coming in who think the potential for their community is bigger. Potential neighbors have this feeling that something has happened there and start to do little things that collectively add up to a big thing.

        That might include a shoe-repair shop owner sprucing up his storefront, a coin laundry adding an attached coffee shop or a resident putting in a park bench on the corner to allow people to stop and talk. These twists give a signal that something is going on here. Pretty soon other people put a bench on the street. Most of the time, this is when, revitalization and gentrification is born. Take, for example, the Village in the suburb of Brookline.

        In many areas across the city, this urban renewal is started by artists - those who need to live cheaply to pursue their craft but want to be close to cultural and physical amenities. Somerville and Davis Square in Cambridge are perfect examples of this.

        Not too long ago, these neighborhoods were quite desolate and rundown. Now, it is teeming with life and culture, especially for the hipsters who live out there, and who crave that kind of life. Musicians once exclusively reigned these two neighborhoods, but now most Bostonians are torn between being across the Charles or staying put in Beantown. The move of these artists sparked the beginning of a thriving district.

        This is also true for South Boston and the Waterfront area. Districts have sprout out like wildfire in this part of the city, with the Innovation District and the Fort Point Channel leading the pack. Start up companies have espoused growth in the neighborhood, leading the younger folk to follow where the jobs are. For those who remember, this is how the area of Kendall Square / MIT began. Now, the gentrification is moving southward, as space is becoming tighter and tighter in the downtown districts.

        Elements that encourage interaction - parks, boardwalks, public plazas and wide sidewalks - serve as people magnets. Best of all are sidewalks on a community's main street that run between café seating and storefront window displays, allowing people to walk dogs, greet neighbors and people watch. Add things such as weekly farmers markets, civic-association pancake breakfasts and multidimensional establishments that offer opportunities to linger, such as a coffee shop with art displays, a lively bulletin board and outdoor café seating, and you've got the beginnings of a great neighborhood hub.

        These are the places you take friends and family when you want to show them the neighborhood, city tour guides say, as it's a known fact that people attract people. So when businesses converge in one place, such as a theater, bookstore and art gallery, they give people reason to stick around. Indeed, developers take notice of this, capitalizing on the most important and useful places, such as the local post office, coffee shop or park. The more things that can be clustered around these places, the PPS says, the more central and beloved a neighborhood will become.

        Boston Fenway Citgo Boston International Real Estate BostonIRE BIRE

        LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Of course, few people are going to settle in a neighborhood if it doesn't have access to well-paying jobs. The places that have the most value and that gentrified first were those closest to, or have access to, high-paying jobs. That is why you see neighborhoods revitalized near the subway lines into Fenway's Kenmore and Longwood areas.

        True enough, planners say access to good public transportation can turn even some suburbs into hot areas. A study released earlier this year by the American Public Transportation Association and the National Association of Realtors showed that between 2006 and 2011, home values performed 42% better on average if the homes were within a half-mile of public transportation with high-frequency service, such as subway, light rail or bus rapid transit. Residents in those areas had better access to jobs and lower transportation costs, leaving them with more money to enjoy neighborhood amenities. Another perk that transit stations offer is the ability to attract and open retail shops, services and dining, giving some suburbs without a real downtown a place to walk and linger.

        LET'S NOT FORGET SCHOOLS By and large, the highest-value home prices in America are found in school districts of very high quality, preferably those with access to high-paying jobs. These areas, such as the Boston commuter suburbs of Newton and Brookline, are the blue-chip stocks of neighborhoods, even for people without kids, because they attract people with higher levels of education, who tend to be more active in preserving community value.

        Good schools and walkability are two of the biggest themes in terms of leveraging a neighborhood's marketability. Information for these commuter towns describe and show quaint main streets and residents talking about taking a quick stroll over to parks, bars, shops and theaters in their free time.

        And with millennials entering the marketplace, volatile gas prices and fringe suburban home prices in decline, the demand for walkable neighborhoods has outstripped supply in most of the U.S. Walkscore, the online giant community, ranks Boston as the 3rd best city in the country to walk around in. Here's their official survey that ranks the walkability of America's cities and neighborhoods.

        GET OUT, STAND OUT Sometimes, a whole host of elements serve as magnets to draw people out of their cars. Items near the top of the list are:

        • Short blocks with relatively narrow streets and wide sidewalks.
        • Ample windows at eye level that let you see activity or displays inside as well as entryways, courtyards and arcades.
        • Human-scale lighting, benches and signs.
        • Tree-lined streets that provide a sense of buffer from street traffic and a comfortable canopy overhead.
        • Landmarks such as fountains, historic theaters, gazebos or clock towers.
        • A complexity of architecture, building materials and color -- at least on the first couple of building levels -- as well as a mix of building uses.

        In other words, cookie-cutter big-box stores and row after row of parking lots aren't found in many of America's great neighborhoods. In fact, a neighborhood will draw people if it's providing the opportunity for interaction with a backdrop of design that is enjoyable to look at. And interaction is key to satisfaction in a community. If people are happy and engaged with their community, they are more involved with its activities and work harder to protect it.


        Many wonder whether the host of developments that are currently being built in Boston will end up clogging the city and leaving no more room for improvement. To that, we say that many of the best neighborhoods are yet to come, as cities encourage more creative development in urban areas and tend to sprawl outwards to the suburbs. Take for example the South End - it's continuously evolving (and even expanding!) even though it's already a quaint and perfect neighborhood.