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      Blog :: 09-2014

      Avenue of Arts Redesign and the Rise of Seaport Square and D Street Rents

      It's the last Monday of the official start of Fall - and like most things, the real estate market is moving to turn a new leaf. We'll fill you in on all the exciting things that happened this past weekend: from the Avenue of Arts being redesigned to the rise of Seaport Square and rental rates in that district and its surrounds.

      DSCN5724.JPGAvenue of Arts Redesign

      The Avenue of Arts - that strip of straight road traversing Huntington Avenue - is reportedly being redesigned to give it a fresh new look, something that's a long time coming given it's the home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, New England Conservatory, Huntington Theatre Co., Northeastern University, Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts College of Art and Design and Wentworth Institute of Technology. Apparently, the Boston Redevelopment Authority wants the area to live up to that institutional weight in terms of urban design (and only rightly so!).

      The city's "building and beautification agency" is seeking proposals to develop design guidelines that will elevate the area's character in terms of future development and a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape. The general idea is to really give a more coherent urban character for this most important avenue given all of the projects that will be completed within the next three to five years.

      Projects set to affect the area include Wentworth's redevelopment of Sweeney Field at 500 Huntington Ave. into a 650,000-square-foot research and academic complex. Northeastern's master plan includes 2 million-plus square feet of new academic, student life, housing and athletic space. The final location and appearance of those buildings, open spaces and public amenities still are subject to BRA approval.

      There hasn't been any timetable quite just yet, but given the city's reputation to responding to proposals expediently, we predict that we're likely to see things move by Spring of next year.

      One SeaportSeaport Square On The Rise

      One Seaport Square, a giant part of the giant Seaport Square project in the Seaport District, could break ground in the next 30 days. The original date set for ground breaking was expected last April, but obviously did not push through. Sources say that the delay was caused by design elements being tweaked to include even more residential units in the mix. True enough, the unveiling of a movie theater together with the overall retail mix in the development looks to be an improvement of the original plan, and will likely pull crowds into the district.

      Just to refresh your memory, One Seaport Square is a $600 million twin 22-story development that is part of the overwhelmingly gigantic $3.5 billion Seaport Square Masterplan that is poised to firmly establish the Seaport District as the next "it" neighborhood. It is slated to have 832 luxury apartments, and 260,000 square feet of retail space on connected lower levels. The newly-signed 42,000 square foot movie theater will apparently be on the third floor. In total, the two towers will occupy 1.1 million square feet. That figure is astounding, given it is 17 percent of Seaport Square's whole development master plan.

      D Street Rents Also On The Rise

      DStreetIt seems that it's not just One Seaport Square that's on the rise - rental rates in Southie's D Street and West Broadway are gaining ground in the rental price game, as it just surpassed Beacon Hill's monthly prices (at least for August). In particular, figures show that D Street/W Broadway area rentals averaged $2,839 for 1 bedroom units, whereas Beacon Hill were at a flat $2,800. Looking at it even deeper, the D Street area now seems like it will take the same rates as Back Bay, with the latter only $100 more expensive at this time.

      As for who can actually afford the rents on these units? There's subset of Bostonians who can easily afford them, apparently. These will be well-paid dual-income households who aren't necessarily with children, but like to focus on living a high profile lifestyle. Majority of these individuals belong to the financial, health, and tech industries, which everyone knows is where the big bucks are and explains a lot.

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      Buying Without Seeing: How To Buy Pre-Construction Smart

      Ready to be pre-construction sale savvy? Check out Boston's premier and soon to be pre-selling development, the Millennium Tower now! Register for alerts with us and get exclusive information on floor plans, construction news, and even pre-selling prices! Register here.

      Financial District GloomyBuying pre-construction has its perks. You can be part of a unique and special project, like a brand new condo in Downtown Boston, or have first dibs on the penthouse in the latest hot high-rise.  More practically speaking, you can also, in many cases, take advantage of some discounted early phase pricing (more on that below).

      But how do you buy an apartment without touching, seeing, or walking through it? How will you know what the views from the 31st floor will really be like? How do you buy pre-construction smart? Here's some advice for you:

      1. Let the offering plan guide you

      For those who haven't read our most recent post about the 15 Most Crucial Questions for Brand New Condo Buyers, then you're missing out. We've basically covered everything and all that you need to know before you even start considering investing in a brand new development, including what is called the "Offering Master Plan".

      Basically, the offering plan includes everything from the appliances that have been chosen to the opinion of a tax lawyer on what taxes will be after the city asseses the finished building. It will also have a "special risks" section, which will include things like whether or not the developer has the right to rent any unsold units.  Take note though that the developer is only legally obligated to deliver what's in the offering plan, not what's in the rendering or the brochure.

      2. Choose an experienced developer

      Whether you've heard rave reviews from a friend or colleague about a certain development, doesn't mean that the developer has delivered the same quality throughout their projects. Take a look at the track record and the reputation of the developer in its totality. If the developer has a long list of satisfied customers, then chances are you will be another satisfied customer. If they had leaks or problems then maybe hold off until you can touch, feel, and see everything before you buy.

      Googling around for any articles and discussion threads about the developer can help, and an experienced real estate attorney (one that was not recommended to you by your broker or the developer) should also have a bead on which developers to avoid.

      Of course, we also suggest turning to us for advice:  in particular, speak to us about the reputation of the developer, quality of past developments, re-sale history, success in those developments and quality of construction. We'll be more than happy to provide you with those details.

      3. Make sure you secure Phase 1 pricing

      Pre-construction apartments usually get sold in phases or waves of pricing, and if you buy in the first phase, you can save anywhere from 5 to 10 percent off the final listing price. Note, however, that most of the time, the choicest units are often saved for last, when prices are highest.

      This is not to say however, that Phase 1 sales also only yield lower-than-market prices. In high-end developments and extremely in demand projects (like the upcoming Millennium Tower), developers are keen on current market conditions, so there's little elbow room for discount. What usually happens though is that there are flexible payment options such as lower down payments or deposits, and payment packages that are spread out and or "ballooned" until the development's delivery.

      4. Inspect the quality of the materials 

      The materials will be listed and highlighted in the offering plan, but you should still ask extremely detailed questions about them.

      Sometimes a thin sheet of oak will be used and covered with engineered floors meaning you really have engineered floors instead of the oak floors promised in the offering plan. Ask the developer specifically, for example, what percentage of oak is in the floor.

      Developers are allowed to make so-called "normal construction variations" from the offering plan in everything from materials to ceiling height, and your attorney should find out what the construction industry standards for variations are and detail that in the contract.

      Also try to negotiate the right to inspect the apartment, says Sonn. However, she says, sponsors don't like to allow this and it's easier to negotiate if you are buying a 'signature' apartment.

      5. Have a list of questions to ask the developer

      Get as much information as possible so you don't come have any surprises. Here are some questions to keep in mind:

      • Will there be a commercial space on the ground floor? What are the developer's plans for that space? Will they bring in a supermarket (an obvious plus)? Or will it be an Olive Garden restaurant?
      • What about the finishing touches? Will the developer put in the towel bars or medicine cabinets or will that be your responsibility?
      • Where will the air conditioners or the heat ducts be put in? Will they be on top or on the bottom of the wall? How much noise will they make? Can you get a model number to read the reviews?
      • The budget determines the common charges for the building, so is the developer painting a realistic picture of the budget? If the developer amends the budget by more than 25 percent, then you have the right to walk away.
      • When can you put on a hard hat and go inside the construction site? Sometimes you're looking at a hole in the ground, so when is the earliest you can go up and imagine your future kitchen?
      • When can you start to make changes? Can you turn that three-bedroom unit into a four-bedroom immediately or do you have to wait until all the units are sold?
      • When will the amenities start? Will the building have a gym and will you have to pay extra for it? How long do you have to wait to use it? What about the garage? When will they hire a doorman?

      Millennium Tower6. Get creative

      Views are important in metropolitan cities, but if you're looking into a hole in the ground, you have no idea what the view will be. There's a well-known story in real estate circles about a buyer who decided against a pre-construction property after he and his broker sneaked into a nearby building to ascertain what the view would be like, so you can definitely make your own "creative" approach in estimating what your window will look out to, if the developer already hasn't given that information out on their master plan.

      7. Be clear on what gives you the right to walk away

      Always keep in mind that real estate is first of foremost a business. Naturally, and like any other business, proprietors would want to protect themselves first. That's why contracts are written with a lot of flexibility for the developer, not for the buyer.  

      A good lawyer will help you look for all the loopholes. For example, if a developer gives you a construction end date of August 1st, 2013 but doesn't deliver by January 1, 2014, then you should have the right to walk away.

      8. It takes a long time to close on preconstruction, so keep in mind market-rate and interest-rate exposure

      No crystal ball could have predicted the housing crash of 2008. Those who bought their apartment pre-construction in 2007 paid more regardless of any pre-construction savings. The market will ultimately adjust your final price. You should also keep in mind that your mortgage interest rate is from when you close, not when you go into contract.

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      August Update: Post-Summer Greater Boston Real Estate Market Stats

      BOS sunrise1As Fall season fully settles in, there's a lingering question on everybody's mind: how did the local real estate market perform during the last month of the summer season? Well, to answer this question plainly, Greater Boston did fairly better than expected as it picked up from a first half year that was so-so compared to last year's sudden boom and return from recession.

      Generally if you look at the big picture and yearly totals, Greater Boston's performance for is still very positive. Month to month, there are some highs and lows - August being one of them - but these ups and downs are uncommon in a balanced market. Some analysts and (pessimistic) real estate pundits think that this is a sign of bad things to come, but in reality these are as normal leaves changing colors - it's just been so long since we've experienced and seen a balanced market that a lot of real estate practitioners are watching the numbers with much trepidation. The most important metrics to watch are the number of inventory and prices, as well as days on market and month's supply. That being said, let's get down and dirty with the numbers:

      New listings in the Greater Boston region were down 3.9 percent for detached homes from 1,029 units a year ago to 989 units this year. Condominium units were also down 17.2 percent from 868 in 2013 to 719 this past month. Closed sales decreased 10.4 percent for detached homes, with 1,280 units closed this year compared to 1,429 in August 2013. It's also down by 16.3 percent for condominiums, with closed sales this year totaling to 1,069 compared to last year's 1,277 units.

      The Median Sales Price was up 3.7 percent to $539,000 for single-family properties gaining $19,000 from last year. Condominium Median Sales Price was also up by 3.4 percent to $429,996, adding almost $14,000 from last year's figures. Months Supply of inventory increased 8.2 percent for single-family units but was down 11.4 percent for townhouse-condo units.

      According to the Greater Boston Association of Realtors (GBAR), sustained job growth, lower mortgage rates, and a slow rise in the number of homes for sale appear to have unleashed at least some pent-up demand. Since housing demand relies heavily on an economy churning out good jobs, it's encouraging to see the nation's second quarter GDP growth revised upwards to health 4.2 percent. Additionally, stronger-than-expected job growth in recent months have painted a rosy outlook for the real estate industry, as more and more families and individuals seek to better enrich their lives - with property being on the Top 3 list of purchases a good majority of the population will make in the next three to five years, barring any significant increases in mortgage rates.

      As a last note, you can easily observe that as common sense would dictate: that as the number of listings continue to decline, the higher the median sales prices will be. It's a good thing then, that Greater Boston's supply is sufficient, at least to satisfy the market's demands (read: no bubble in the works). Honestly, if you're on the fence on making a property purchase decision, we're projecting that the next year will be the best time to do it. Remember that as the economy continues to improve, the less likely you'll find choice properties as more and more people take them off of the market. So if you have resources to invest now, then we suggest you do so.

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      Fall Update On What's Going On In and Around Greater Boston

      IEast Bostont seems that as the months and the temperature gradually changes to full Fall season mode, real estate developments are also on the move. Changes in trends, and more projects are coming up even as we exit the usually-higher summer real estate transaction months.

      A concrete example is how the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) has just approved a 16-story tower on the East Boston Waterfront. The project, to be undertaken by Gerdin Edlin, a Portland, Oregon-based developer, will transform an empty industrial building to a glimmering residential project, complete with a wharf, and and a clubhouse.

      According to plans, the tower will have about 16 units per floor, giving it a 16x16 dimension to the project.  In its entirety, the development could create about 259 housing units.

      Gerdin Edlin, which entered the Boston market a few years ago, has developed luxury apartments in the Fort Point Channel area. More details of the project will be released in the coming weeks.

      NEWTON IS NUMBER 1 CITY TO LIVE IN THE U.S.

      In other news, two Massachusetts cities made it to the list of the Best U.S. cities to live in. The City of Newton is enjoying another day in the sun, as website Wall Street 24/7 just proclaimed it as the top-most desirable (that's right we're No.1!) city to live in the whole country! That will definitely contribute to Newton homes having an additional and healthier, albeit small bump to home prices.

      The list also gives high marks to Boston's southern suburb, Quincy, which ranked 33rd overall.

      Among other New England cities in the overall ranking, Warwick, R.I., ranked 45th, Cranston, R.I. ranked 36th and Nashua, N.H., ranked 32nd. Let's take a look at how the Massachusetts cities fared in individual categories:

      • For economy, Newton ranked 46th and Quincy ranked 50th.
      • For crime, Newton ranked 5th and Quincy ranked 11th.
      • For education, Newton ranked 6th and Quincy ranked 38th.
      • For housing, Newton ranked 1st and Quincy ranked 14th.
      • For environment, which factored in air quality, average temperatures and average rainfall, Quincy ranked 4th and Newton ranked 8th.
      • For leisure, Newton ranked 9th and Quincy ranked 18th.
      • For infrastructure, Newton ranked 7th and Quincy ranked 20th.

      Newton has been in the sun for its ultra-desirable living conditions. In fact, rent.com ranked Newton as the best city in the United States for couples just a week ago.

      cambridgeTOWNS WITH THE HOTTEST CONDO PRICES

      And speaking of other towns, let's take a tour of the towns with the hottest condo prices right now.

      It seems Cambridge and Davis Square must take a seat and yield on this one. Apparently, both aren't the only condo hotspots here in Greater Boston anymore.

      Plymouth, Lexington and Everett all have one thing in common: Double-digit increases in condo prices - more than 20%, in fact!

      Plymouth seems to be the 1st placer in condo price this year,  with a more than 50 percent increase through the end of July. Plymouth's median price is now over $358,000, with 100 condos sold so far this year.

      Next up is Everett, which, after today's decision by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to let Steve Wynn build a $1.6 billion casino in the city, could soon become Las Vegas East. The median condo price in the old industrial city on the Mystic River has jumped more than 34 percent, to $236,500.

      SomervilleJust 12 miles to the west is Lexington, one of Boston's most historic communities along with being one of its most affluent suburbs. The median condo price in Lexington is now $575,000, after a 32.6 percent increase.

      Next up is Melrose, a middling suburb just north of Boston where the median condo price is now $290,000 after a 32.4 percent increase.

      Now it's time to head back towards the city to Allston, one of Boston's most diverse and vibrant neighborhoods, as well as Boston's college-student capital. Allston's median condo price just hit $357,000 after a 28 percent increase so far in 2014.

      So, if you're looking to buy brand new away from Downtown, these cities are certainly worth looking at. While Cambridge is still ideally close, it does have a higher median condo price of  $566,500, and even Somerville falls within that, with a median price of $475,750.

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      15 Crucial Questions for Brand New Condo Buyers

      boston-skyline-02A sleek new condo building certainly has its draws, from sensible layouts to high-end stainless steel appliances, pristine lobbies and fast, reliable multiple elevators. Of course, we know that those perks don't come cheap. Not only will you pay a premium to buy new, you'll also take a risk on the unknown and untested, especially if you commit well before your place gets built.

      To boost your chance of getting what you pay for - and ward off any nasty surprises - read on to our guide of the 16 essential questions you should ask while shopping for a new construction condo.

      1.  What's the exact plan for the building? 

      Before a developer can start selling new condos, their "offering master plan" (which describes the development plans in detail) must be approved by the Bosotn Redevelopment Authority, otherwise known as the "BRA". Details of the project include everything from what the developer will use for the facade to how many trees they'll plant on the grounds - everything, in fact, is approved. The idea is to protect buyers from any surprises and hold the developer accountable and to ensure safety and zoning guidelines are met. .If they don't deliver as promised, purchasers can easily approach the board regarding their complaints.
      Keep in mind that upcoming development's sales office will have a copy of the plan, which is typically several hundred pages long. You, your broker and or lawyer should review it carefully, keeping an eye out for unusual provisions, costs, and other details an inexperienced eye (yours) might miss. The information is also typically available on the BRA website.

      Aside from you and your broker doing much research and reading, there are also certain things you should take a look at early on. One of those is the offering plan's "special risks" section, which covers things like reserve-fund requirements and terms for purchasing a super's unit. You'll also be able to find out if the developer has reserved the right to refrain from selling any units, which could mean the building would end up as a hybrid rental/condo if the market takes a turn for the worse. This is especially important if you are particular to residing in a residence-only type of development, and would not want any transient neighbors.

      It's also important for prospective purchasers to check the offering plan for its engineering report. You want to make sure the building construction details were developed by reputable and experienced architects/engineers and that a licensed professional has put their name to building. The offering master plan will also contain budget reports from the engineers that will lay out the first year's operating utilities costs - a large part of the buildings operating costs. If the information is missing or inaccurate, it's a problem, because those budgets will relate directly to your common area charges, and, unfortunately, first-year operating budgets, which in our experience are often off by as much as 20 to 25 percent.

      donwtown_crossing_042. What's the developer's track record? 

      Before you make a deal, find out as much as you can about the developer. Are they involved in any lawsuits? What other buildings have they completed? Have buyers generally been happy? Use Google, and search through Yelp and other see if their other developments are up to par with what you are looking for. Most importantly, try to find out if your broker has dealt with them in the past to get feedback with how previous clients like or dislike the developer's workmanship, turnover, and management of the property.

      Keep in mind that there are always people who write bad reviews, so you need to do your homework to decide what's a legitimate complaint. Be sure to look up the backers of the project, often affiliated with a development firm --as well as the principal architect and construction company contracted to build the project. Again, all of these details you'll be able to find in the master plan offering.

      3. Any weird closing costs?

      Though not a common case, developers sometimes will pass on unexpected extra expenses to buyers, including part of the cost of the supervisor's apartment, the building's insurance costs for its first year and attorneys' fees for preparing and filing the offering plan. You want to make sure you're not surprised by any of these. They'll all be listed in the offering plan.

      4. How about concessions?

      Concessions are almost like hidden perks or bonuses developers will give to a buyer. They don't affect the sales price, but they can save the buyer some money (think things like closing rebates and free storage or parking spaces). While concessions aren't anywhere near as prevalent as they were during the post-2008 market downturn, it's worth asking your broker about. You never know, you might get some great freebies with your property purchase - which is always a great thing.

      roche bros5. What building extras am I willing to pay for?

      In an effort to lure buyers, some developers have packed their projects with over-the-top amenities. If your heart is set on that doggie swimming pool, go for it - but you'll be paying for it in the form of monthly common charges, so be sure the amenities you're getting is more than worth it.

      A tip we always give is for buyers to think about what types of services they'll really need. Some, like swimming pools, cost a lot. Something like a wine cellar can be good since there's almost no maintenance on it, and the developer is just using space that's already there. It's the relative value of it. Also, keep in mind that developers tend to lowball the ongoing costs of amenities in their offering plans. Once the first year is up and reality sets in (and building management realizes that they may need more doggie lifeguards), expenses tend to go up, taking common charges with them.

      atmark26. What does the model apartment look like?

      For buildings that are still under construction, developers often create off-site sales offices that feature sample bathrooms, kitchens and other elements to give you a sense of finishes, appliances and bathroom fixtures. When the building is closer to being done, they'll often dress up one of the units as a model apartment to show you a version of the finished product.

      Just always remember that in a demo sales unit, you can see the quality, pretty much, of what you're going to get. What you won't be able to see are the windows or views, but you get an idea of the finishes. Set your expectations to that frequency and you should be fine.

      7. Does the design fit my lifestyle? 

      When you're looking at the model apartment, don't be afraid to get into the nitty-gritty. Open the drawers and really take a look.  If you rarely cook, a small kitchen with limited cupboards may be just the kind of sleek, space-saving layout you're after. But for the gourmet family of five, you may want to make sure you have small conveniences like a place to put a pull-out trash can or enough drawers.

      Also, pay particular attention to light. In our experience, some buyers are not sensitive enough - they just want to know that when you turn them on, they work. But you should also be judging whether there is the right amount of light, that there are lights in the bathroom, or under the counter if that's what you want. With concrete slabs up above, lighting isn't going to move, so you need to be okay with what you have.

      donwtown_crossing_05[1]8. Can I get a mortgage on a pre-selling development? 

      It's not impossible to get a loan when buying in a new development, but it can be a bit trickier than one for an existing apartment. Banks are wary of lending to buyers in under-construction buildings because of housing lender guidelines; they often won't issue mortgages unless the building is already at least 51 percent sold and meets certain minimums for owner-occupied units, among other requirements.

      Some financial institutions cannot do new condominium financing until the building has two years of financials with the homeowners paying common charges. Luckily, Boston developers deal with this all the time--usually by teaming up with a "preferred lender" that will line up mortgages until the building meets Fannie Mae's or other lender's specifications, and stay on afterward.

      If you buy when the building is only 25 percent sold, your rate will be higher than if you buy when it's 50 percent sold (it can vary by about 0.5 percentage points). However, typically, you'd also get a lower price on your apartment, and you could refinance down the road.

      As for getting approved, it can often be quicker and more straightforward than getting a loan for an existing apartment because the bank has already approved the building. To see if you qualify, get in touch with the preferred lender directly.

      9. When can I move in (for real)?

      In a new development, it could be 12 to 18 months before the building is ready to close and you can move-in. While the sponsor can give you a target date, even the most experienced developer who runs on schedule can run into delays which are out of their control. Our recommendation is to plan for a buffer of at least a two-months delay from the target closing date, so you don't find yourself moving out of your old place before the new place is done.

      In the past, you could also try to negotiate a "drop dead" date by which you'd be entitled to cancel your contract and get your money back if the unit isn't ready. However in a strong seller's market like the one we have one, you may not have enough leverage to make this happen. Ask your broker to check on this - there's no harm in trying.

      410. What kind of retail will the building have?

      Mixed-use buildings - which combine residential apartments with offices, hotels, stores or restaurants - are common in Boston. It's worthwhile to ask what your developer has planned for any space in the building set aside for commercial use so you don't get stuck with something noisy, stinky or otherwise unpleasant.

      In some cases, a building will prohibit less desirable establishments from opening up. In other cases, the developer could use the space for a high-end gym or grocery store--which may feel like another amenity. But it's possible you'd get stuck with a fast food restaurant or loud nightclub.

      11. Who are the neighbors?

      Take a look around the building. Are there empty lots? If there are, there will likely be construction, and you need to think about how that will affect your quality of life, your views, and, also, your resale value. Your broker will usually let you know this in advance when you go to preview the property.

      In neighborhoods that are booming and gentrifying, this may be even more of an issue. We'd recommend taking a look at Google Maps, and walking around the project radius at different times during the day. Remember that the building might be going up soon, but that doesn't mean you'll be insulated from what's going on around you.

      Ask your broker or the sales office staff as many questions as possible about the neighbors. Who lives next door? Is it the owner of the house or a renter? What about things like dry cleaners and supermarkets? Are they close by?

      12. What's the source of heat and air conditioning?

      Some systems have drawbacks you wouldn't think of, aside from their relative abilities to heat and cool your place. Just to give you a little engineering education:

      On the lower end of the scale there are PTAC units which are heating and cooling systems. While some of these can be attractive and even efficient, others can be noisy, so make sure you turn them on to see how you feel about the noise level. They also stick out into the room so you want to make sure you account for that when you are planning where your furniture goes.

      Meanwhile, heat pump units inside the wall are typically quieter and more efficient, and their placement can permit larger windows. In ultra-luxury buildings you may have even better systems - true central air systems - with very sleek vents and possibly humidity control to protect your artwork. Make a value assessment based on your own preferences: if forced hot air is something you don't like, and you prefer radiators, be sure to ask about it.

      OBB 313. What's the soundproofing like between apartments?

      This can be a little bit trickier to check in an empty building (and impossible in one that's not yet completed). But you can always have a friend go upstairs to the apartment above you and walk around in high heels or with a heavy step to see if you hear anything. If it's still not built, then ask about the materials - in between walls and floors - being used in the development. A simple search online, or through an experience engineer friend of yours would yield good to accurate estimates. You should also considering asking about how many panels the windows will have, so you an make sure noise from the outside stays outside.

      14. What's the experience of residents so far?

      If people have already started moving in, they can be a wealth of information. If permissible, visit the building during the evenings and try and reach people in the amenity spaces or even knock on doors. You really want to ask someone who's actually lived through a rain storm, used the facilities, turned on the shower and used the garbage disposal.

      We also suggest asking your broker if they have had past clients who currently reside in the building. We've introduced clients to prospective buyers before, and they've gladly shared their whole purchase and living experience. Don't forget to ask about the small things, too. Certain "small" red flags can indicate that a building has structural issues, including leaks through the heating/cooling systems and windows; ventilation problems; and mechanical noises or pumping sounds.

      boston_millennium-tower-boston_815. Can I rent out my place?

      Some developers prohibit renting out a unit for up to a year after closing. Others limit the use of amenities to owners. If you may find a tenant down the road, double check the building's policy on renting your unit - whether it's for a prolonged period of time, or just for a short AirBnb getaway. In some instances, developers have already earmarked certain units in certain floors to be a "flexible" unit that makes it attractive to both the investor and the condo home hunter.

      Ready to try out our tips? Check out Boston's premier and soon to be pre-selling development, the Millennium Tower now! Register for alerts with us and get exclusive information on floor plans, construction news, and even pre-selling prices! Register here.

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      Downtown Boston Block To Get Architectural Design Overhaul

      Devonshire St., Boston, MAAs we mentioned in our article last Monday, there seems to be an upsurge of developments and tweaks going on in the Downtown Crossing (and now Financial District) area in an attempt to "modernize" the neighborhood that's considered the Downtown junction of the city. Congress Square, a project commissioned by real estate developer Related Beal and envisioned by architects at local architecture firm Arrowstreet is only one of the handful of plans and recent projects that are creeping up the once desolate Downtown area.

      arrow2Congress Square is positioned to be a gigantic 340,000 plus square feet square of retail-office-plaza space that will be bordered by State, Devonshire, Water, and Congress streets. To complement its mixed-use nature, restaurants, retail shops, and possibly a boutique hotel and even a residential complex are also in the mix.   It is set to be completed by the Fall of 2015, just in time to be included in the busy season of openings and inaugurals, as Roche Bros is expected to bring in heavy pedestrian traffic to the area at the same time or perhaps even earlier.

      arrow1A notable feature of the project is its planned 24-hour operating time, something Bostonians have long been clamoring for. Though not the whole area is set to be open round the clock, a significant portion of it will be operating 24/7 and is easily accessible to pedestrian flow. In particular, about 50,000 square feet of the alleyway occupied by Quaker Lane will have conveniences and nightlife options open to the public's enjoyment.

      Congress Square follows Millennium Tower's lead

      boston-millennium-towerThe redevelopment and revitalization plan perhaps follows the recent stride of success by real estate developers in the area, most notably by Millennium Partners. Its sold out high-end residential complex, Millennium Place, marked the era of new and upscale units available in the neighborhood. And with the recent groundbreaking of Millennium Tower - also situated in the Downtown Crossing district - more and more reimaginations of the area have been popping up in the recent months.

      Millennium Tower (updated construction photos here) promises to be the city's gleaming gem of a tower, standing at 625 feet consisting of 56 stories in total, with retail and commercial spaces on its base and high-end residential units all the way to its peak. It is poised to have a total of 1.1 million square feet of space. The tower will be located in the center of one of Boston's busiest areas, and the 231,000 SF of retail space is positioned to take advantage of the large pedestrian volume. Above, up to 600 residential units, both condominium and rental, will have a mix of one, two, three, and four-bedroom units, complemented by 550 parking slots. It recently broke ground last Spring and is now open for reservations through partner firms.

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      Downtown Crossing's Millennium Tower Takes Shape

      donwtown_crossing_05[1]Many things and trends happened over the summer: as expected rental and sale inventories dwindled, more developers announced landmark projects, and more importantly, the real estate market overall has regained its momentum of recovery. In all of this, one predominant thing that definitely changed over the last three months is Downtown Crossing's skyline and mood, as the Millennium Tower is rising up from the ground in a surprisingly steadfast rate - we even have pictures to prove it!

      But more than the Millennium Tower's fast pace construction is the neighborhood's positive reaction to all that's going on, proving that the once "hopeless" area in the heart of the city of Boston is desirable and in demand again. In fact, aside from the 60-story, 442 residence glass structure that Millennium Tower is poised to be, there's the reconstructed T station that will serve as the gateway to the neighborhood, as well as revived retail spaces for everyone's enjoyment.

      roche brosRoche Brothers, one of New England's finest grocers, is set to open a massive 25,000 sq-foot supermarket a year prior to the tower being completely built, setting the stage for a highly-urbanized community in conjunction with existing convenience shops, food establishments, and services already in the area. In the horizon, too, is Primark Department Store, an Irish fashion and clothing warehouse (much like H&M) that will complete and complement the everyday needs of residents of the area, not just of those residing in the tower.

      donwtown_crossing_04Confidence in the area has indeed sparked up since 2009, when high-end residence 45 Province debuted to the market. Since then, more and more interest has been pouring in to the Downtown district. Plans for a renewed T station matching that of Manhattan's Times Square were drawn, and developers flocked and flooded the Boston Redevelopment Authority with proposals, hoping to catch the then upcoming real estate wave. Not soon after, Millennium Residences came to fruition, and proved that renewed investor confidence - both from buyer and developer side - is all it took to put the neighborhood back on the map.

      In fact, that same confidence is so palpable now that Millennium Tower is actually already fielding inquiries, as well as reservations from a select group of brokers in town, prior to formally establishing price points. In other words, well-connected buyers and their brokers can now put a reservation under their name, with the actual total amount still undisclosed from the fact that it's still being developed! That's just proves how much interest there is on the development. Lucky for you, dear reader, we're one of those power brokers you can talk to with regard to hooking you up. Click here to consult with us now, and get exclusive investor access!

      Here's a construction update gallery of how the Millennium Tower is faring these past few weeks:

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      What It Means To Be In A "Walkable" Neighborhood

      BOS summer

      Summer is not the only time that the real estate machine turns and churns. Though it might be the height of buying, selling, and renting, it is not the only season when properties get snapped up and or rented out. Though unconventional, some people tend to do transactions throughout the year precisely to avoid the rush, and hold off on any market fluctuations that happen during the peaks months. Others also relocate at another time because of other factors that affect their life. But regardless of whether you're looking to invest or rent a place, you're most likely inclined to look at one that's in a relatively "walkable" neighborhood.

      Boston, known to be America's most walkable city, is a sweet spot for properties to have this claim. The neighborhoods that surround Beantown are so tightly knit one another, that it's hard to decipher which neighborhood is which. But the term "walkable" is a broad term - it could mean a lot of things: walkable to the nearest subway stop, supermarket, school, or simply walkable in all its sense. So, to help you narrow down what exactly is "walkable" in terms of the Bostonian lifestyle, we're looking into what the word exactly means. First off, living in a walkable neighborhood does you wonders. In fact, experts say the ability to take a stroll through the area where you live has many benefits: it can make a substantial difference in your health, safety and the overall comfort you enjoy in your new neighborhood -- and with rising gas prices, it can also make an impact on your pocketbook too. With this in mind, there's certainly a lot of options to choose from in Boston that could shave some pounds of your waist simply by getting up and get moving to your destination.

      For those who have work or attend universities and colleges in the Downtown district - consisting of Back Bay and the Financial District, nearby neighborhoods such as the South End and Beacon Hillare the top choices. Though not exactly a stone's throw away, the price ranges in these neighborhoods will afford you the best bang for your buck when it comes to living close but on a budget since like anywhere else, the closer you are to where you need to be will cost you.

      In terms of the formal definition of the word, the US Department of Transportation officially defines "walkable community" as one where it's easy and safe for people to walk to grocery stores, medical clinics, schools, professional offices, and other services. It roughly means being at the heart of convenience. As a property hunter however, you can assess this by 1) looking at the property and its proximity to all of those mentioned; 2) check an online walkability aggregator site such as walkscore.com; and 3) tick off a checklist such as this.

      Also, here are some elements that, through our clients' feedback, we've identified that will give you a practical sense of what exactly comprises a walkable neighborhood:

      Room to walk and bike

      The layout of your new neighborhood is important. Pay particular attention to the things beyond a home's driveway or yard. Are streets designed for walkers and bikers? Do sidewalks offer sufficient space to walk? (There are sidewalks, aren't there?) Are they in good condition? Walk Score also says a neighborhood "center" is important, whether it's a main street or a public space, and suggests looking for signs of pedestrian-friendly design (i.e., when retail, grocery and other commercial buildings are set close to the street, with parking lots in back) that make a community more accessible to walkers.

      Access to local jobs, schools and services

      Walk Score says a walkable neighborhood is one where schools and jobs are close enough that most residents can walk to them from their homes. Also important is the ease of access to shops and entertainment facilities, which, if you need the extra incentive, is something that a 2012 Gallup poll has found to correlate with happiness and quality of life.

      Quality of driver behaviors

      Another important aspect to consider is how drivers behave on the road at different times of the day and night, according to the NHTSA, especially during heavy commute times. Do drivers obey traffic regulations such as posted speed limits, stop signs and crosswalk right-of-way laws? Also, consider visiting the local police department and asking a traffic officer about areas that may be a concern for pedestrians, particularly those with limited mobility or children walking to and from school.

      Access to parks and public spaces

      Are there plenty of public spaces to gather and play? Since getting outside can be beneficial to all members of your family, look for opportunities to engage in your favorite physical activities. If you enjoy bicycling, take a look at the width of roads in the area; see if there's a bike club that rides together for safety and fun. Also, for both children and parents, look for parks that offer sports programs like baseball and softball leagues.

      Making walkability a priority in your home buying search can really pay off: The enjoyment of walking back to your new house after a fun, healthy community activity can be just the "Welcome Home" you need.

      Crime rates

      Visit crimereports.com, a website that provides visitors with free up-to-the-minute crime maps and crime reports for specific areas. The site offers a free mobile download and, if you choose, will send free crime alerts on a regular basis.

      Also, make time to talk to the community resource officer for the area. Your city may have a different title for this position, but it's essentially someone who works as a liaison between the police and neighborhoods.

      Your community officer can provide information about property and violent crime trends for an area and may even be able to provide crime report printouts. For small communities, you may need to check directly with the police department.

      National Sex Offender Database

      The police will be able to provide information about registered sex offenders living nearby. You should also check out FamilyWatchdog.us, a free database that allows you to search by street name or city. The site provides information -- often including a photograph --about offenders living in the neighborhood.

      Noise and traffic

      Your home search may not span months, so that you can learn about summertime vs. wintertime noise. But you should plan to visit the neighborhood at all times of the day and night. Check out traffic patterns during rush hour. Are some streets more dangerous because of this traffic? What's the neighborhood like at midnight on a Saturday? Is there a church nearby that eats up all the Sunday morning parking? Are you so close to the airport that you hear the roar of planes?

      Talk to multiple neighbors: Does the neighboring park host festivals that might create parking and noise issues? Ask when they think the neighborhood is at its wildest and, if at all possible, make a visit at that time.

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      What To Look Forward To This Fall

      YBOS 1st day fallou might still be in pumpkin season denial given the deceivingly scorching weather outside, but sadly it's true: summer has come and gone and yesterday was first full official day of Fall season. However, not just because summer - the busiest season for the real estate market - is over doesn't mean there's nothing to look forward to, especially in a town that's full of upcoming developments for the fall.

      In fact, there isn't only developments in the industry to look forward to, but also a lot of things are on the table for discussion in the coming months ahead. For starters, given condo prices are sky-high right now, will we see this listing come off the market? Or better yet, will rent prices come down as the months get farther and farther away from peak the move-in months? Well, we don't exactly have the answers for you, but we will do our best to get you chimed in on the conversation. Let's start with all that's a buzz:

      More Luxury Apartments "Conversions" More and more planned luxury rental apartment developments are converting into luxury condos for sale instead. This is primarily due to three very important factors: (1) the dwindling inventory of available Downtown Boston condo units to buyers, (2) the exceedingly high number of available luxury apartment rentals, and lastly, (3) the extremely high demand in luxury condo units right now.

      Rents Are About To Dip It's not a secret that real estate practitioners and experts these past couple of months have been speculating an inevitable (but still comfortable) downward trend to the recent high rental rates have been experiencing. Well, it seems like it's finally here. Ever since the real estate market showed to have bounced back from the recession, developers picked up their pace to deliver new luxury apartments to the market. This has caused an abundance of available apartments to the market, and is currently making an impact on the rental rates city-wide. Let's stay tuned how low the rents could actually go though - our bet is that not too low, probably three to five percent, at most.

      In fact, there's already signs of the luxury rental apartment market cooling down. 315 on A is already offering two free months in exchange for signing a 12-month lease with them. They're also waiving the application fee on top of that!

      Debut and Delivery of Massive Condos Begin Construction on the gigantic pair of towers at the Christian Science Plaza is scheduled to start this fall. The taller of the two towers will be quite uppity, with condos and hotel rooms managed by the Four Seasons brand. Speculation is that there will be a unit in the building that's poised to be Boston's first $20,0000,000 listing. It is after all, going to be the tallest residential building in the city, after all, so high equates to price tag, I'm only guessing.

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