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      Blog :: 01-2015

      December Sales Signal Modest Improvement In The Market

      BOS Frozen 4As more people head out to the streets and return to their normal lives from being buried by Blizzard Juno, we're out today to report on how the Greater Boston Market performed in December, before the city got hammered by historic snowfall this week.

      It seems that it has been another year of recovery with the period ending December, albeit not the same as the figures 2013 brought to the table. With a broad pattern of rising prices and stable to improving inventory, the market has indeed shifted from being drastically undersupplied to approaching a steady equilibrium with Price Gains still in the positive but less robust than last year.

      REVIEW OF GREATER BOSTON REGION New Listings in the Greater Boston region were up 5.6 percent for detached homes, but decreased 1.4 percent for condominiums. Closed Sales increased 1.3 percent for detached homes, but decreased 4.1 percent for condominiums.

      The Median Sales Price was up 3.8 percent to $519,000 for single-family properties and 4.7 percent to $440,000 for condominiums. Months of Supply of Inventory decreased 13.3 percent for single-family units and 25.8 percent for townhouse-condo units.

      Borrowing rates remained lower than most expected for the entire year, spurring investors to buy. That trend snowballed with solid and accelerating private job growth that led to more consumers buying properties. It seems that the "usual suspects" of factors remained as hurdles for first-time homebuyers to invest in the market - student loan debt, sluggish wage growth, and lack of liquid resources, yet again prevented welcoming new homeowners.

      BIG PRICES, SLOWER SALES PACE IN BOSTON Just like the rest of the Greater Region, New Listings in Boston and its Neighborhoods were up 35.3 percent for single-family properties, but decreased 15.7 percent for condominiums -  sparked mainly by investors snapping up downtown condo units in both new and existing categories. New Single-family Homes in December 2014 totaled 46 compared to 34 in the same period of the previous year. Condominium properties dropped by 28 units, toiling to 150 in 2014 versus 178 units in December 2013.

      image5The Median Sales Price was up by almost 10 percent for both single-family and condominium properties, clocking in at $437,500 for single-family properties and $505,000 for condominium properties. Months of Supply of Inventory decreased by 24 percent (1.5 months) for the single-family market, and by 12.8 percent (1.2 months) for the condominium market.

      The Percent of Original list Price Received for both housing types remained healthily within its bounds; 96.2 percent of sold single-family properties received and closed offers at asking, while a whopping 99 percent of condominiums sold and bought received offers at original asking price, with the remaining 1% of all listings going above and beyond the seller's asking price.

      Given all the up and down movement in the market, the primary metrics we'll continue to watch in 2015 include days on market, percent of list price received and absorption rates, as these can offer deeper and more meaningful insights into the future direction of housing in the Metropolitan region throughout the year.

      Stay tuned as we update you on the market trends for the rest of 2015.

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      10 Essentials to Prepare You and Your Home For A Snowstorm

      Boston-Blizzard-2013For those of you who are true blue Bostonians, you know that Blizzards and Nor'easters are quite a common occurrence on the east coast. For those who are transients and transplants of Boston, you better listen up.

      First of all, let's try to give you an overview of what weather warnings actually mean:

       

      • A WINTER STORM WATCH means a winter storm is possible in your area.
      • A WINTER STORM WARNING means a winter storm is headed for your area.
      • BLIZZARD WARNING means strong winds, blinding wind-driven snow, and dangerous wind chill are expected. Seek shelter immediately!

      With that in mind, here are 10 essential tips to prepare you and your home from the on coming "historic" snowstorm:

      #1  Keep a bag of warm clothing handy Ideally, you'll want one bag for everyone in your family, and you should keep it in a closet that is easily accessible. If your power goes out, you probably aren't going to want to go looking for warm clothing in the dark. Having a bag of clothing in your coat closet in the living room, for example, can help you avoid this.

      #2  Pay attention to the local newscasts Some people hear about storms, but figure they'll worry about it when and if it happens. This is the worst attitude to have. People can die in blizzards, so being prepared is critical. If your local weather newcasts are calling for a blizzard, prepare ahead of time. That way, even if the blizzard doesn't hit, you will be ready for the next one. Better to be safe than sorry later.

      #3  Make sure you have plenty of blankets on hand If your power goes out (and in most cases with severe winter storms it does), you could be without power for a day or two, so staying warm is critical. Even if you don't heat with electricity, there's no guarantee that your heating source -- whether it is gas or some other form of heating -- is going to be working properly during a winter storm.

      #4  Keep several flashlights, batteries, candles and lighters on hand It's probably better to use flashlights rather than candles when at all possible -- because with candles you run the risk of accidentally starting a fire. While the majority of us are very careful and remember to blow out candles when we're not in the room with them and practice other candle safety techniques, the risk is still there. Your house could burn down with you in it before anyone could ever make it to your home in time to help you due to poor road conditions and other storm-related delays. Candles should really only be used as a backup, in the event that your batteries go dead in the flashlight or something.

      #5  Charge all your cell phones ahead of time If the local weather reports are telling you that a blizzard is going to hit, be sure to charge all of your cell phones before the power goes out. Sometimes a cell phone is the only contact you have with the outside world during a storm. And, in the event you need help in a hurry, you won't want to be without phone service! So, charge your cell phones ahead of time and then don't use them except for emergencies during the storm.

      #6  Stock up on nonperishable foods Since you never know how long a blizzard is going to last, it's important to stock up on lots of nonperishable foods -- such as canned goods that you don't have to heat (pork & beans for example), bread and margarine, fruits and vegetables that can stand being at room temperature for a few days (such as apples, bananas, and oranges), even low-fat cookies and chips can help cure hunger pangs in a pinch. The thing is... if you prepare ahead of time, then you can be sure to have plenty of nonperishable, healthy foods available for your family to eat during the storm. Another reason to get nonperishable foods is if the power goes out, you won't find yourself trying to eat up food before it spoils and wondering what you're going to do when it runs out.

      #7  Stock up on bottled water You will need at least a gallon of water per person per day. While it's possible you will still have water from the tap available even if your power goes out, it is still a good idea to have clean drinking water on hand just in case. There is always the possibility that your pipes could freeze or something else could happen to prevent water from flowing out of your faucet. TIP: If you let your faucets drip ever so slightly, this will help to prevent the pipes from freezing in the winter.

      #8  Have things on hand to keep your entire family entertained while you wait out the storm.

      Some ideas for indoor activities include:

      • board games
      • cards
      • laptops and portable DVD players that can be charged up ahead of time for use during the storm
      • books
      • coloring books for younger children
      • puzzles
      • even craft projects for those who are tired of being cooped up and want something fun to do

      #9  Stay inside While blizzards can seem really cool -- particularly if you love snow -- they can also be very dangerous. High winds and blowing snow can create white-out conditions, making it easy for you to get lost just a few feet from your front door. While your kids may be clamoring to go outside and play in the snow, keep them indoors until the worst of the storm has passed. No amount of snow angel or snowman making activities are going to be worth it if you or one of your kids gets lost in a white-out. Typically, these storms hit in well below freezing temperatures -- meaning the possibility of frostbite and hypothermia setting in quickly is a real possibility if you or your child gets lost. It's not worth losing a life (or fingers or toes for that matter) just to kill the boredom and have a little winter fun.

      #10  Turn off the heat in rooms where people aren't hanging out Also, close the doors to those rooms. Take the time to cover up any space underneath doors or other cracks where you notice cool air is coming in. This will help to preserve as much heat as possible inside your home, in the event the power goes out.

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      Seller Secrets: How To Warmly Welcome Buyers

      DowntownXingWith today's ever-narrowing list of available properties in the market, most people have temporarily taken a break from searching for investment properties. But that break won't last long, as the spring and summer months are fastly approaching, and have been, historically, the city's primetime for property purchases.

      That said, if you're a homeowner looking to cash in on an investment you've made in the past, this year should be best for turning that smart steal into solid cash. Moreover,  the month of April is probably the best time for you to start scouting for brokers who can help you dispose of your property at the right price tag, and on a timely manner. And even though recent trends show that majority of properties that were available in the past three months closed above seller's asking price, it's still a very volatile market out there, and it's better to be safe than sorry in prepping your property for a purchase. So, if you're thinking of selling your home in today's highly competitive market, you'll need to avoid some of the rookie mistakes most suffer from.

      OPEN HOUSE AND PREVIEW Hosting an open house is one of the most popular ways to let people know that you're home is for sale. There are, however, certain instances when they can be a big mistake. Contrary to popular belief, hosting lots and lots of open houses is not good. Very often, open houses are used as an expression that you are doing something, or hosting something special. It's an event. If you have an event that constantly happens, it loses its allure and spectacle. They have to be well planned and there should be a reason for them, like a considerable drop in price or to show off an update, addition, or repair you've made to your place. If they are not well utilized, they can be a waste of your time, and reduce your audience's excitement and expectations. Also, you tend to have a lot of timewasters coming, which can make your home look like a shopworn and unwelcoming. The point: make your open house as special as you can, and consult with your broker what are the best events that coincide with your open house.

      This being the case, it's often inconvenient to ensure the property is always available for showings. When it comes to setting appointments, sellers often make the mistake of being inflexible. Compared to any other age group, buyers belonging to the younger 26-34 age bracket are the most likely to purchase a home in the next two years. These are young professionals who work long hours and have limited spare time. Not showing your house in the evening is like sending away a big chunk of your market. Make time to entertain them and respond positively to their preview requests.

      Like we said last week, one pitfall to property selling is being too close to heaven which, in this case, is the seller. Don't hang around like a bad smell during the open house and preview; it makes buyers uncomfortable. Buyers need to see themselves living in your home without you lingering. They need to "feel" the house as if they are already living there. Remember that they won't be able to do this with you there, watching their every move, making the leap of imagination all but possible.

      THE NEGOTIATION A major mistake sellers make when they put their house up for sale starts with their language. How would you feel about a seller, or real estate broker who says, "the price is firm"? It conveys many things in one breath. It says, that they are unreasonable. It also says that their home is overpriced. Most importantly, it says that they have laid out an "unwelcome mat".

      And even though negotiating can be really stressful, especially when it deals with something as important as what your home is worth, having an open mind about deals is important and crucial to both prospective buyers and yourself. A big mistake sellers make is not considering every offer presented, even the low ball ones, and possibly insulting offers. The way people bid has nothing to do with the property itself, so you need to allow for people's differing styles. You should consider every bid, and offer a counter bid. You should never take a bid personally, it isn't meant that way. Granted, there are wise guys out there, but more often than not the bidder will move up, they just want to get the ball in the air as low as they can. Negotiate and don't neglect - that is the golden rule for a considerably lucrative closing.

      Many sellers refuse the first offer, which can also be a big mistake. First bids often create a sense of confidence in the seller. They think that if one person has bid, there will surely be more and better bids to follow. Historically, the very first bid you get is often the best one you will get. But the tides have turned, and this no longer applies. HOWEVER, this doesn't mean that you should completely snub the offer, since getting buyers to bid ups the ante for you, and essentially brings in the big buyers with the buzz that your home is making on the market.

      HOME INTERIORS We all have it, that leaky faucet, or the doorknob on the back door that needs repair. If you're selling your home, you need to know how much these minor things matter. Always remember that buyers have something you don't have: a fresh pair of eyes. They see things that you don't see anymore. With this, ask your broker to spend a little time in your humble abode to observe these "small things" and make every feasible and possible change you can make. If your concern is not that you don't have the budget for it, then consider it as a pre-payment for your sale since buyers will definitely ask for these repairs to be made before they sign on the the dotted line. Either way, the buyer will want compensation for every little defect and will negotiate your price down, essentially getting you to pay for those repairs yourself anyway, but by their terms. It is better to have everything fixed beforehand when you can control what it is going to cost.

      We all take pride in our homes, we like artwork on the walls and we like to be surrounded by photos of people we love. In fact we think these things give the house plenty of appeal to visitors. This is a mistake when it comes to selling. People need to visualize how they can make the space their own. Get rid of your photos and replace the art you have with something more neutral and pleasing to everyone. Do not impose your taste on your prospective buyers: this, in our experience, is something that every seller seem to overlook.

      PRECIOUS PETS Pets are a big no-no when it comes to sellers. No matter how precious or cute they look, they have to be taken away, or hidden during property previews. And as much as buyers smile and say, "cute dog", they are gritting their teeth and don't want the dog in the way when they are looking at a new home. Also, take note that even though you're probably immune to it already, animals leave odors in your home. People think a house with animals is less clean, even if that is not the case. If you can hide or ditch the pets, do. Trust us, it will have a more negative impact than you think.

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

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      The Three Things To Know About Today's Sellers

      image4When markets move in a positive direction, the first ones you'll hear it from are sure to be real estate agents. With all of our updates and musings about how the recovery is going to impact the housing economy this year, you're guaranteed to be kept abreast with all the need-to-knows. We usually advice clients when there are shifts in buyer's or seller's behaviors - particularly when open houses are busier, when sales come in quicker, or even when we have multiple offers on our hottest listings. This, in the hope that by the time the news finally hits the mainstream media, you're comfortably sitting idly by for your property to start earning, leaving everyone else who start to feel the pull to get back in the market miles behind you.

      That's what we're seeing in Boston right now, and the news is that this is also the case in many other parts of the country. With all signs tilting toward a sellers' market for the first time in years, it's helpful for buyers to understand today's seller. No two sellers are alike, of course. But there's a certain mindset that many sellers these days share, and it's a grateful one for many. Understanding that mindset can help you buyers more successfully and easily navigate through the process of purchasing a home, whether for investment or otherwise. The same holds true for sellers; they should be mindful of what buyers have in mind when they start their real estate hunt.

      Many homeowners are in a negative equity position

      three things about home sellers, real estate recovery, home buying, home equity, closing a property deal

      According to a recently-release equity report from Zillow, 28 percent of homeowners with a mortgage today are underwater. Many sellers have been hoping and wishing for prices to increase just a little bit. Some have outgrown their current home, are forced into an hour-long commute (or longer) each day, or simply want to move to a new town or area. But due to their property's negative equity, they've been stuck. The emergence of a sellers' market provides them with a glimmer of hope. They just may be grateful for any offer that will allow them to get out at last.

      Most often, sellers equal buyers

      Often, sellers feel the same amount of stress or excitement that buyers feel because they're somewhere in the buying process, too. Though some sellers will become renters after their sale is complete, many will get back in the homeowner game soon after the sale goes through, sometimes immediately. Sellers, as would-be buyers, want to capitalize on low interest rates and home values. Getting the home sold quickly and at today's value may be all a seller needs to make a purchase. Though it may be a "sellers' market," these sellers usually aren't greedy. They feel the buyer's pain and likely want to get out cleanly and quickly so that they, too, can buy.

      Relieved yet cautious

      Even the sellers who are above water or own their homes outright are well aware of what's happened in the real estate market over the past five years. They've watched their friends and neighbors lose everything on real estate, forced to do short sales, or even have their homes foreclosed. They welcome the news that the market is changing, and in their favor, at last. They're more hopeful than they were even six months ago. Generally speaking, however, sellers who aren't stuck in their homes (because of depressed home values or other reasons) are still feeling conservative and cautious. They're more likely to stick to the offer at hand, than to risk losing a sale because of greed.

      A word to the wise buyer

      three things about home sellers, real estate recovery, home buying, home equity, closing a property deal

      Real estate is a game, in a sense, where both sides hope to achieve each other's goals. This is why it always helps to understand your "opponent". In this case though, its better to think of them as your ally than your opponent since when you've found a home you like, figure out who the seller is, and what makes them tick, and you guys will be off to sign those papers pretty soon. Don't make assumptions. Take a step back. Put yourself in their shoes.

      Sellers aren't the same as they were pre and post the economic downturn when greed and gaffe, respectively, ruled the mindset of almost anyone in the industry; nowadays, you'll be same to assume that everyone is in a level playing ground and no one is out to take advantage of you. Listen to your real estate consultant when they tell you that a property is a good deal, and catch the first wave of properties on the market now while sellers are still grateful to receive a reasonable offer, especially if it at least comes close to the value their home had before the crash.

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      Details on Boston's Newest & Tallest Skyscraper and More Hot Developments

      fourseasons1It has been more than a half a year ago that we found out about Boston's towering new project that's set to rise 700 feet high in the heart of the Christian Science Plaza. From that point since, little has been made known about the historical and gargantuan Back Bay project except that it is known in the real estate community simply as 1 Dalton Street, and the fact that the project's height approval was historical for the city, since not many achieve to get a green light from the Redevelopment Authority with such towering dimensions. Yet, here we are - and here it comes.

      After nearly three years in the planning, Cambridge-based developer Carpenter & Company finally and formally broke ground on the 61-story spire last night in a ceremony also attended by city officials, Mayor Walsh, as well as bigwig personnel from the Four Seasons, who will be occupying the tower with their five-star hotel brand alongside private residences. Once completed, the Four Seasons Tower will have 211 hotel rooms and 180 condominium units that are eligible for the same hospitality services as the ones owned and managed by the group within the property. This effectively brings Boston up to speed with its brother cities around the world who have mixed Four Seasons hotel & condo properties like London, Shanghai, Singapore, Los Angeles, Cairo, Chicago, Istanbul, and New York.

      During the groundbreaking ceremony, it was also revealed that Harry Cobb, who is the man behind the Hancock Tower's iconic design, will be the lead architecture of the project that's set to rise in 2017 with much fanfare due primarily for its historic height. Once topped off, 1 Dalton Street will be the only tallest residential building in Boston and the whole New England region, even besting Downtown Crossing's upcoming and iconic Millennium Tower.

      greenwayELSEWHERE IN THE CITY

      Elsewhere yet still within the city, another residential building is poised to join the sprouting slew of projects underway along the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The recent uptake in projects in that area has been spurred by the city opening up new parcels of land and open space, and "dead" parking complexes in an effort to truly connect the Waterfront to the rest of the Midtown and Financial Districts.

      One such project of note is New Boston Ventures' upcoming 12-story building that will host 52 residential units and a first-floor restaurant and retail space to be located at 102-112 Broad St. According to the developers' project filing, the project has the aim to "fill in a gap in the urban fabric along the Greenway and create additional activity" after the Big Dig's depression of the elevated central artery left "fragmented sites and rear facades facing the public parkland."

      This spells out additional gains in property values along The Greenway, which has already seen it's spike go up three years post the Big Dig, and has stably climbing ever since. Basically, the Greenway functions as the "central park" of the Waterfront, North End and Financial Districts, providing a natural and serene patch of land amidst a completely concrete setting.

      New Boston wants to start building this summer. Plans call for restoration of a circa-1805 Charles Bulfinch-designed brick warehouse -- a designated Boston landmark that would be integrated into the project as a lobby and residential space. The group is also planning on demolishing an adjacent five-story commercial building to expand the project. The buildings to be demolished currently house two popular watering holes: The Times Irish Pub and Restaurant and the Littlest Bar. It's unclear at this time where they will relocate or whether they have been offered space in the new project.

      boston landing-2BRIGHTON'S BATTLE TO BE 'IT'

      2014 saw a huge transformation for Bostonian neighborhoods. One could easily argue, if it were not for its earlier resurgence, that the Seaport and South Boston's D Street/West Broadway came on top as the most happening neighborhood in town. Although this area of the city did see A LOT of action in 2014, it was perhaps mostly aftershocks from 2012 and 2013 that shot up the Seaport & South Boston last year, as many high- and mid-end developments turned over and started filling.

      Having said all of that, last year's actual 'It Neighborhood' winner was East Boston, with all of its announcements of developments and projects aimed to make the across-the-Charles neighborhood more Seaport-esque (as encouraged by Mayor Menino it his finally years in office). But East Boston's title may soon be in question. By who? Brighton.

      boston landing-3This comes after recent movements and progress in the Boston Landing Project has been significantly made within such a short span of time. To remind everyone, Boston Landing is a gargantuan development that will include a 250,000 sqf HQ office for New Balance, a 345,000 sqf NHL sports complex, a 175-room hotel, an additional 650,000 sqf of office space spread out across three lateral buildings, and last but not least 65,000 sqf of pure retail space (alongside 1,750 parking spots). The project also seemed to get more of the state's support, as a new commuter rail stop is set to be opened in the area to service transient workers as well as avid sports fans.

      But Brighton's big project isn't only about commercial and retail - nearby, a three-building, 60-unit, mixed-use development is also on the rise by Parsons and Washington streets, a five-story, 92-unit redevelopment of the old Circle Cinema near the Brookline border (which coincidentally will also include a mid-range hotel), a new luxury rental development dubbed 375 Market Street (where the rumored rent for two- and three-bedroom units are said to range from $2,750 and $3,450), and last but certainly least, Boston Landing is also integral to Harvard's recently-annnounced 10 million square foot expansion into Brighton/Allston territory over the next decade or so.

      The battle to be "It" isn't over for East Boston, though. There's tons of potential and unused land in the neighborhood. And who knows, their aim to be the next Seaport District might be closer to fruition than expected. As they say in real estate, "build and they will come".

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        Top Ten Critical Rules Every First-Time Homebuyer Needs To Follow

        post pic 5 revisedFor most people, buying their first home quickly changes from excitement to fear with daunting new terminology and real estate lingo to learn, contracts to sign, and obligations that may last 30 years or more. Certainly not the majority, but many decide it's too much and take what's commonly called the ostrich approach: they more or less bury their heads in the sand, taking the path of least resistance, often spending less than an hour examining a property before making an offer.

        Almost always, these hasty takers realize they've made avoidable mistakes costing thousands of dollars or more. So it's no surprise that for a typical buyer, it's well worth spending an extra 20 hours of time to save more than $10,000.

        If you follow these ten critical rules of buying a first home, you'll put yourself in a position to avoid many of the common (and often expensive) traps. You'll also have the satisfaction of knowing you're in the minority that bought a home the smart way.

        One little fact before we begin: the most important and easiest rule is found at the very last so you'll remember it. These are the rules professional real estate buyers use that you should also follow.

        PHILIPPINES-ECONOMY-FOREX10. Shop Around - On Interest Rates And Beyond

        For most homeowners, buying with cash is not really an option hence making the most expensive component of home ownership will the interest expense on that mortgage. So remember, before you even begin shopping for a home, your first step should be to shop for a mortgage. A natural first place to begin is your current bank that you already have a relationship with, but it certainly shouldn't be your last.

        Make sure to also check Bankrate.com and other online resources to compare rates. A $500,000 home with a $400,000 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 4.5% interest rate will cost about $329,600 in interest payments. By saving just a quarter of 1% and sourcing a loan with the same conditions at 4.25%, the total interest cost declines nearly $22,000.

        Many buyers fail to realize how much interest they can avoid paying with a little extra effort. While variable interest mortgage rates start out lower than a fixed rate mortgage, it is recommended that first-time buyers pick a fixed rate unless they intend to sell within a few years. The fear of losing your home because of rising mortgage payments is an added stress most beginning families don't need.

        Depending on your situation, you may qualify for a government loan program. Never assume you can't qualify before inquiring. Many lenders don't participate in special financing and have little or no incentive to tell you about them. When it comes to finding the best loan for you, surfing the Internet is your best bet in finding the information homebuyers need.

        While not as drastic as the total amount of interest payments, make sure you understand the total costs you will have to pay at closing. Also, know that many, if not all, closing costs are negotiable. In many states, buyers can select any title insurance company they want, although they rarely request a title company other than what their bank selects. Shopping for title insurance isn't glamorous, but is often worthwhile.

        donwtown_crossing_049. Do Your Research and Homework

        Perform your homework before you start looking at homes you may actually purchase. Fortunately, most buyers follow this step to a limited degree but often not as much as hindsight dictates is wise. Some homework is not only easy; it's fun. Netflix and HGTV have many shows dedicated to home buying, improvement, or even flipping.

        If you do nothing else than watch Netflix and HGTV real estate shows, you'll learn how easy it is to go over budget on improvement projects. You'll also gain insight on the sometimes emotional roller coaster ride real estate brings. By watching others in your same situation, you'll help to reduce the mystery of the process. Netflix is especially useful, because the streaming channel allows viewers to watch one episode after another; you can learn a considerable amount in a short period. All while enjoying popcorn.

        good-broker-163x1428. Check Your Emotions At the Door

        Leave your emotions behind or at least for last. A potentially expensive mistake is falling in love with a property and ignoring red flags. The emotional influence is often underrated and not discussed, but it's rare to find a buyer that isn't excited at the closing table.

        To minimize getting swept-up in the moment, calculate your total maximum price and monthly payment remembering that total isn't the same as the home price. You have to add in insurance, taxes, maintenance and planned upgrades. After you find a loan officer you're comfortable with, he can help you determine the appropriate amounts.

        Also, it's not a bad idea to take a close friend along when visiting homes - you can ask them to point out things they think you won't enjoy after you move in. They do after all, know you best.

        home-inspect7. Get an Outside Professional Inspector

        Hire a qualified, insured/bonded, and licensed home inspector. Don't think for a minute that a half-hour walk-through is sufficient to find every possible defect a typical home inspector can find.

        In Massachusetts, we're lucky that sellers are required various levels of disclosures that come attached to the property. Even still, treat those with extreme skepticism. Even sellers who aren't intentionally trying to hide defects may inadvertently do so. Also remember that homes less than 20 years old are most likely up to code in most situations and will be less expensive to restore and fix especially if it is plumbing, electrical, or cooling / heating in nature.

        Also, during the 2000 to 2008 housing boom, homes were often "slapped together" as quickly as possible by relatively inexperienced crews. If the house you're viewing is a "housing boom" property, treat it the same as an older home. Until proven otherwise, I always view homes built from 2005 to 2008 with additional suspicion.

        All else being equal; newer homes are less expensive to insure, heat, cool and initially maintain. For first-time homebuyers that may not fully understand the ongoing costs of owning a home, keeping expenses manageable is often the difference between having the home serve you or having you be a servant to it.

        Many first-time buyers only contact the same agent their parents use. Failing to shop for the best insurance value typically results in paying at least a few hundred dollars more per year, especially compared to "big name" insurance companies with large advertising budgets.

        For your best value, contact at least three agents and make sure at least two of them are independent agents representing multiple insurance companies. Talk to them in detail about coverages so you're able to determine the best coverage for your needs.

        Independent agents usually price compare several insurance carriers to find the best value. If you buy your homeowner's and auto policy from the same company, expect to save an additional 10% to 15%.

        zero_marlborough_entrance2-150x1506. Consider the Costs and Burdens of Renovations

        Few buyers find the perfect home they would build. For the rest of us, unless you're building brand new, it's unlikely that you'll find the perfect place that you don't want to make changes to.

        If the home you're considering buying is older, particularly over 50 years old, you can count on the local building inspector requiring electrical and mechanical systems be brought up to code during improvements. Before buying a home with a desire to make what appears to be a simple update, first find out what the worst case scenario is by a licensed and bonded contractor.

        Even real estate remodeling professionals get caught in regulatory tangles at times due to previous out-of-code improvements and original equipment. Take extreme caution here, at it is very, very easy to get sucked in to renovation projects.

        Avoid or expect to update homes with galvanized plumbing, knob and tube wiring, old fuse boxes/panels and circuit breakers less than 100 amps, standard shingle roofs over 20 years old (regardless of warranty) and old oil furnaces. Also, homes with any of these characteristics will cost considerably more to insure.

        tax-tips5. The Taxation Game

        Not all homes are taxed the same. Lake and other special taxing districts can cost homeowners more than the local municipal taxes. And just because a home doesn't have water access, doesn't mean it's not part of a lake district. In counties such as ones found in the North and South shore, many homes near lakes have special tax assessments the same as the properties adjacent to the water.

        Because most property information sheets only include a total, buyers should check with the local tax collecting authority to find out what is included to arrive at a total tax bill. Recently passed referendums, and special assessments, may not show up in previous taxes as well. Be sure to determine if a tax increase is expected to avoid a surprise.

        Condominium owners have found they can get stuck for repairs that other members should pay. For example, when a condominium building needs repairs and one or more members is in foreclosure, the other owners may have to pay the share of the owner in foreclosure. Take that into account when looking at properties in multi-unit buildings.

        Condominium expenses typically including taxes, lawn care, common area costs and more. If you're considering the purchase of a condo, make sure you know who you're partners are because condominium owners truly are partners.

        Easements are a cause of frustration with many minted constructed home owners. What may appear on paper as a simple easement can turn into a nightmare if the homeowner doesn't get along with the owner with an easement. Make sure you meet and evaluate landowners (including kids) with an easement on your property.

        4. Look Past Your Nose

        Your nose knows a lot. If you visit enough open houses and home tours, you'll inevitably run across homes with the sweet enticing aroma of baked cookies or apple pie. When entering a home that has a pleasant smell, take note that if this home is otherwise desirable, another visit is required.

        Also, take an especially close look at the pipes, drains, and the basement level for signs of moisture. Most advanced sellers will have a smell of baked goods in the air before an open house to help market the home. However, sometimes, the motivation is more nefarious, and the seller is attempting to mask a musty or otherwise unpleasant odor. Another warning sign is if the windows are open or the temperature is different than it should be based on the thermostat.

        neighbor3. Be Neighborly

        Meet your neighbors. Many buyers are uncomfortable knocking on a stranger's door, but they may not be strangers for long. Do the neighbors have teenagers in a band that practice every Friday night? Do the neighbors own or rent? Do they have dogs that may bark every day at 5 a.m.?

        Neighbors will often let you know about problems the seller has "forgotten" and which other neighbors in the area you may not want to live near. Remember, like it or not, the neighbors come with the house as a package. If you still can't bring yourself to talking to the neighbors, ask your real estate agent to do it for you.

        2. Get Intimate with the Bylaws

        Find out what local laws, restrictive covenants, and regulations you're subject to. Don't assume if you have or want to buy a fishing boat, company truck, or travel trailer camper that you can park it in the driveway. Just because there are doing so on the other side of the street that you can too.

        Make sure you know if the garden, fire pit or shed you want to add to the backyard is allowed beforehand. In some locations, the color of paint, the type of mailbox and style of outside lighting is limited.

        Your home-based business you're planning on having at your new home may not be allowed. If your buying a larger house so you don't have to drive into an office everyday, this may turn into a problem, especially if your business requires customers to visit. Installing a satellite dish is not allowed in many areas, and in some locations that allow a dish, there are strict rules for placement and appearance.

        1. Use a Buyer's Representative

        The last and most important rule for first-time homebuyers is using a buyer's representative instead of the typical real estate agent that owes his fiduciary duty to the seller.

        One of the secrets in the real estate profession that I'm sharing with you is that when you call and talk to the typical real estate agent, he represents the seller, not you. You may go to many home viewings and spend time with your agent, but unless you have a written contract, he almost always works for the seller.

        A buyer's representative, on the other hand, owes you the buyer a fiduciary duty and is obligated to help you negotiate the best possible price. You can expect a buyer's representative to point out and highlight negatives on any given property that a typical agent never will.

        A buyer's representative will not only help find your dream home, but will tell you how to buy it as cheaply as possible. If you can already see the advantages of using a buyer's rep, but are wondering what the catch is, then I have especially great news for you.

        Usually, a buyer's representative gets paid the same way as a standard agent - through the listing agent's commission sharing agreement, so it doesn't cost you anything extra. In fact, many people who act as a buyer's representative (when allowed by state law) will rebate some of their commission back to the buyer. In fairness, many selling agents will rebate part of their commission too.

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        Property Preview: Boston's Big Ten Openings In 2015

        BOS Jan 8-2It seems Boston is off to a great start to the year, with the city bracing itself for ten gigantic residential launches in the next couple of months. Rental buildings, as well as condominium buildings are scheduled to turn over beginning spring and staggered throughout fall in the city's busiest neighborhoods. While most Bostonians know that prices are currently spiking up (both for rentals and sales), they also know that the turnover of newer units will replenish the city's coffer of available units, with the potential to level-off the spikes.

        In total, these Big Ten Openings will add a whopping 3,145 units to the market, perhaps flooding supplies in particular "hotspot" neighborhoods where there have been a lot of development and turnovers that started at the onset of the real estate recovery, circa 2011-2012. And though fears of a bubble burst persist in real estate circles, there doesn't seem to be concrete proof that it will actually happen due the staggered nature of unit turnovers as well as stable consumer demand and perhaps most importantly, inventory in Boston as a whole still requires additional units to respond to the market's needs.

        In fact, analysts forecast growth in the first-time homebuyer market segment, as well as a rise in the renting population within the city, as universities foresee a higher-than-usual increase in enrollment rate (usually at 4%; predicted to be 7% for the coming academic year, keeping in mind the sheer size of the student population already in town).

        Millennials will also have a huge role in shaping the real estate landscape this year, as they comprise the bulk of first-time homebuyers - which not coincidentally, is also predicted to increase 4% by years' end. That no doubt bodes well for developments in the next two to three years, who will have potential buyers and or renters flocking to their lobbies as soon as they open.

        For now though, we'll bring you what's in store this year. Here are Boston's Big Ten Openings in 2015:

        SOUTH END

        Ink Block- S. End- National DevelopmentInk Block 300 Harrison Ave Rental, 315 units Spring 2015

        Already generating a lot of buzz because of its convenient and trendy location - and not to mention its anchor retail tenant WholeFoods, Ink Block sits in the former Boston Herald site. Units in this posh and upscale development range from 1BRs to 3BRs and is currently offering one month free to prospective residents.

        TroyTroy Boston 55 Traveler Street Rental, 378 units Spring 2015

        The Troy is one of those luxury rentals that's too good to pass up. Its amenities and building features, as well as location, make it a safe bet for those looking for an upgrade in their living quarters. It is also dubbed the South End's "New Modern Classic", with units ranging from "sustainable studios" to one bed with dens, to full two-bedroom apartments.

        EAST CAMBRIDGE

        20-20Twenty | 20 20 Child Street Rental, 355 units Summer 2015

        Aptly named Twenty Twenty is a 20-story building located on 20 Child Street across the Charles and is an addition to the ever-growing North Point project. It is poised to add to the East Cambridge's soon-to-be towering skyline, complete with a 9,000 sqf retail and commercial space on the building's first three floors.

        zincThe Zinc 22 Water Street Rental, 392 units Summer 2015

        Completed in July last year, this 15-story luxury apartment community features outdoor living indoors with its full range of unique amenities such as common fireplace water features, grilling stations, covered bike racks and more. Units range from studios to two-bedrooms that have a more than decent average size of 793 square feet! Pretty darn good, if you ask me. Not to mention the Zinc is also adjacent to Lechmere station which makes it even more comfortable and convenient.

        SEAPORT DISTRICT

        100 Pier 4100 Pier 4 142 Northern Ave Rental, 359 units Now Leasing

        Part of a much, much larger development, 100 Pier 4 is a testament to the standard of luxury living in the Seaport. Complete with an elevated pool and deck area, a high-end fitness center, a well-appointed resident louge, and a private screening room, its units range from studios to three bedrooms with prices that reflect is opulence.

        MIDTOWN (Financial, Theater, and Greenway Districts)

        AVAAVA 45 Stuart Street Rental, 3998 units Spring 2015

        One of the city's much-frenzied buildings due to its architecture, AVA Theater District has a lot more to offer than what visitors might see from outside its walls. Part of the Avalon Community that sits so famously by the Pru, AVA's units will range from studios to two-bedrooms, all with a hotel-like ambiance. Add to that fact that residents will have exclusive access to a Rooftop Sky Pavilion that comes complete with a indoor and outdoor lounging furnishings as well as grilling stations.

        One GreenwayOne Greenway 99 Kneeland St Rental, 217 units Summer 2015

        Nestled in between the Financial District, Chinatown, and the Theater District, One Greenway is the much celebrated project to come to the Rose F Kennedy Greenway in a long time. It will house market-rate apartments, as well as retail establishments on the ground floor.

        One CanalOne Canal 1 Canal Street Rental, 320 units Fall 2015

        Started only in late 2013 and inaugurated by Mayor Menino himself, this addition to the embankment between the West End and the North End will surely add some character to the stiffness of Bulfinch Triangle. The complex will rise 12 stories high and will house 320 units ranging from studios to two bedroom units.

        FENWAY

        viridianThe Viridian 1282 Boylston Street Rental, 322 units Spring 2015

        One of the burgeoning blockbuster projects in Fenway, The Viridian was completed and topped off last July. In two months time, its well-appointed halls and apartments will be available to everyone who's been looking for an alternative to Fenway Trilogy - both of which offer a superb luxury rental lifestyle that's easily accessible and close to conveniences such as a theater, major grocery store, and dining options.

        Van NessVan Ness 1325 Boylston Street Rental, 172 units Spring 2015

        This development might be opening alongside The Viridian, but don't let that fool you into thinking they're the same. Developed by Samuel & Associates (who seem to be the father of Fenway's real estate renaissance), Van Ness is dubbed to be the epitome of Fenway lifestyle, balancing work and play. Sleek, contemporary, it's slated to be the perfect nest for city dwellers, especially with its retail bragging rights on the ground floor anchoring ever-popular and the city's first centrally-located Target. Units range from studios to two bedrooms up to almost 2,000 sqf.

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