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      Blog :: 02-2016

      Pro Tips For The Small Landlord Seeking A Renter

      If you're looking to rent out the top floor of your brownstone or sublet your apartment during a posting abroad, you'll no doubt want to find a respectful, financially stable renter.

      But where's the best place to lock one down? Take a cue from professional property managers and landlords, who let us know the best ways for smaller owners to locate good tenants.

      Post an online ad: The easiest way to reach renters is, not surprisingly, by posting ads on any number of apartment-listing websites. But you want to be strategic about it.

      The most popular sites among landlords are StreetEasy ($50 for your ad to appear for two weeks; $75 if you want your ad to be a featured listing); the New York Times real estate classifieds ($99 for your ad to appear for 14 days); and Craigslist ($10 for brokers; free to list by owner). 

      Savvy would-be renters tend to trust StreetEasy and the Times over Craigslist, since they don't have to worry as much that what they're seeing isn't what they'll get, says Dylan Pichulik, CEO of XL Real Property Management, which manages small condo and co-op buildings in the city, as well as individual apartments for owners.

      "The best way is listing through StreetEasy because they have web crawlers that pull information from other databases," such as brokerage websites, says Pichulik, drawing renters with a volume and variety of listings. In addition, he says that "people have grown a little apathetic toward Craigslist because there's so much garbage on there, and it can be very inefficient."

      Or, as BrickUnderground's small-landlord columnist Craig Roche put it last year, "putting an apartment on Craigslist, as often as not, is an invitation to scammers and local 'entrepreneurs' who will pose as me and try to 'rent' my apartments."

      But since Craigslist is free to landlords, it doesn't take much to put up an ad, points out Donald Brennan of Brooklyn-based brokerage Brennan Realty Services. "If you've been getting tenants that way for years, it'll definitely be hard to break that habit," he says.

      Also, for all its drawbacks, Craigslist continues to be the place where many renters start their search, Pichulik says, "because they think they'll find no-fee apartments."

      Tap your networks: Post the information on your Facebook or Twitter accounts, and draw from a pool that's weighted more heavily toward friends and acquaintances.

      "It can be a good resource," says Pichulik, adding that typically small landlords who post on their own feeds "want more of a friend of a friend to move in, like if they're subletting their unit or breaking a lease."

      Pro tip: If you own at least three apartments, consider the new Apartment Hunters tool on LandlordsNY, a free social network for landlords (and a BrickUnderground sponsor). Apartment seekers submit the basic qualities they're looking for in a rental--number of bedrooms and bathrooms, neighborhood, price and must-have amenities (like a pet-friendly building or a gym)--and the information is blasted to the 1,300 or so landlords who belong to LandlordsNY. Plans are also in the works to add a pre-screening feature that would run credit checks on tenants. 

      Hire a broker: Brokers manage the due diligence, make sure the tenant is the right fit, check their credit to make sure you're getting what you think you're getting--all at no charge to you, and a fee of anywhere from a month's rent to 15 percent of a year's rent charged to your tenant.

      "From a financial perspective, there are no risks to the landlord in using a broker," says Brennan.

      While you may be somewhat less competitive compared to bigger landlords who cover the fee (and thus, advertise their offerings as "no-fee" apartments), it probably won't make much of a difference in today's tight rental market, says Brennan.

      So how do you find a broker to help you in a situation like this? If one helped you get the apartment, call them back and get them on the case. If they're not the right person for the job, they can direct you to someone else in their brokerage.

      If you found the place on your own, try cold-calling a real estate brokerage to speak to a rental agent. Or check out StreetEasy to see who's renting comparable apartments in the same neighborhood, Brennan suggests. 

      Spread the word: Sometimes the oldest ways are the best ways. Ask friends, co-workers and other tenants in the building (if you have them) if they know of anyone interested in moving in. 

      Know other landlords? Chat them up and ask if they know of anybody looking for a place like yours. "Anybody is a potential source of leads," says Brennan.


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      5 Tips for Millennial Home Buyers

      In previous generations, many people bought 'starter' homes while in their 20s or 30s. The world moved at a much slower pace then. People tended to stay put in the cities where they grew up. They wanted 'roots' and the status that homeownership afforded.

      But times have definitely changed. In thenext generation of real estate, we're a much more mobile society. Millennials, Generations X and Y don't necessarily want to be tied down by roots. They want the freedom to travel, or to take that new job, whether it's in Chicago, Los Angeles, or Dubai. Homeownership doesn't have the same status to them that it had to earlier generations. And, they've heard the horror stories of home ownership from those who bought during the market high only to see their home values plummet during the recession.

      But there are still many who want to be homeowners. And, the approach is different now, then it may have been a generation ago. If you're in your 20s or 30s today and considering buying a home vs. renting, here are some things to consider.

      Don't assume you can't afford to buy

      So many young people come out of college with student debt and very little savings. Even after a few years out of college, they assume they either don't have the 20 percent down payment or don't have the income to afford a purchase.

      That doesn't mean that if you're in your 20s, you can't afford to buy a home. Around the country, mortgage brokers, bankers and direct lenders are lending more than ever. Loan options such as those from the FHA (Federal Housing Authority) enable qualifying first-time buyers to purchase with as little as 5 percent down.

      Is it wise to put down less than 20 percent? Not always. But if you're credit-worthy and responsible with money, you can take advantage of the record low interest rates and loan options that exist today.

      Keep in mind that in some markets, renting is as expensive as buying. If you do your homework, you may understand that a home purchase is within your reach.

      Don't go it alone

      With today's easy access to online listings, most people old and young believe you don't need a real estate agent. People assume that the role of the agent, pre-Internet, was primarily providing access to the "keys." In reality, agents have always played such a bigger role, one that many people don't realize until they've gone through a transaction. A good local agent has years of intellectual capital inside his or her head.

      Agents know the market like no one else because they've been inside hundreds of homes, have relationships with many of the agents and have done many deals. They know exactly what to do when a red flag arises. Additionally, the home purchase is both personal and emotional. Through the years, buyers have acknowledged how they've let their emotions get the best of them to kill an opportunity. But having a solid resource beside them at all times -- the agent -- has helped keep them in check.

      Ask your parents for advice

      Your parents likely bought real estate in a different market, when interest rates were north of 12 percent and they were without access to the Web and online listings. But they have that home buying experience. They have been through the market before and can add value to your home search. They may be out of touch with social media and the technology available to help in the home buying process, but they likely have a solid financial opinion or helpful feedback. Plus, your parents simply have more grey hair and life experiences that have informed them about home buying and finances.

      Take your time

      Buying a home is not like buying a new smart phone, computer or flat-screen TV. It's not only a lot more expensive, it's much more personal and emotional and not something to take lightly.

      Even though the flow of information is quick today with texting, email and the Internet, a home purchase takes lots and lots of time, research and due diligence. It should never be rushed, ever. The home purchase evolves over time. Don't feel compelled to rush into it or leap to a decision on a home. Don't feel pressured by a "hot" market or competitive bidders. Slowly learn the market, do your research online and go to some open houses. Over time, you'll get more comfortable with the market, and with luck, you'll get pre-approved for a loan and hooked up with a good, local real estate agent. You may make an offer or two or three or four before you find the best home at the best price. Let the process work itself out over time. You'll avoid buyer's remorse.

      Don't be overwhelmed by data

      When your parents bought a home, there was probably little to no data available to them. They worked with a real estate agent who showed them homes, but they didn't have access to so much historic data or access to the technology and information we have today.

      Even so, access to all this information isn't always a positive force. Sometimes, it can stall a buyer or make them question whether or not they want to be a buyer. If you have a down payment saved up, can afford the monthly payment and plan to commit to the home for at least 5-7 years, then go for it.

      Chances are, if any of the above doesn't add up, you may not quite ready to buy -- which means you might be better off renting for the time being.

      Top-Rated Renovations

      10. One or More Fireplaces Pct. of home buyers willing to pay more: 40% Amount willing to pay extra: $1,400

      Some 40% of homebuyers without a fireplace said they would spend additional money for at least one and cough up an extra $1,400. The fireplace, while always popular, was less necessary when several TVs were going in the house all at once, Samuelson said. But he speculated that having a home with fireplaces may become more popular in the future as people spend less time watching TV and more time on tablets and e-readers. These people may find the fireplace a good place to cozy up and use their devices, he said.


      9. Eat-In Kitchen Pct. of home buyers willing to pay more: 40% Amount willing to pay extra: $1,770

      The people who are most interested in an eat-in kitchen tend to be in the 35 to 54 age range, with 30% of those prospective home buyers indicating this is "very important" in a house. Meanwhile, just 21% of those under 35 years of age and 20% over 55 feel the same way. More people, especially those who are raising families, want kitchens that look into family entertainment rooms. Some have even made it a family hangout by placing big-screen TVs and other electronics in the kitchen. "Buyers who are in families want to be in one space and do it all," DeSimone said.


      8. Stainless Steel Appliances Pct. of home buyers willing to pay more: 41% Amount willing to pay extra: $1,850

      Like most features, stainless steel appliances are most important to people between the ages of 35 to 54, with 23% considering them to be a "very important" investment, compared with just 16% of those under the age of 35 and a mere 11% of those over the age of 55. From a cost perspective, stainless steel appliances are not necessarily the best investment. Samuelson noted that stainless steel wears out far easier than most other common materials. Also, the children in the house can also get their fingerprints on the appliances, requiring more cleaning. However, Samuelson said people are primarily driven to buy stainless steel appliances because they look more attractive.


      7. Kitchen Island Pct. of home buyers willing to pay more: 48% Amount willing to pay extra: $1,370

      Kitchen islands are most important to people ages 35 to 54, with 24% of them indicating that it is a "very important" characteristic. Just 19% of people under 35 and 13% over 55 considered this feature important. DeSimone noted that kitchen islands often come in handy for those who are raising a family. It provides additional room to put out food for the family and allows the kitchen to become more organized. Although the desire for a kitchen island is high, those who do not have one but want one are only willing to shell out $1,370, less than most other features.


      6. Ensuite Master Bath Pct. of home buyers willing to pay more: 49% Amount willing to pay extra: $2,030

      Once again, the ensuite master bathroom tends to be more important to people ages 35 and older. "It kind of goes to the 'home is my sanctuary' mentality," Samuelson said. This, along with a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, has become more important in the past 10 years or so. Many people are eager to make their bathroom more "homey" by doing things such as installing televisions on the wall. The fact that many master bathrooms have two sinks is also an appealing option for married couples, Samuelson added.


      5. Hardwood floors Pct. of home buyers willing to pay more: 54% Amount willing to pay extra: $2,080

      Some 25% of buyers under the age of 35, and 28% of those between 35 and 54, considered hardwood floors "very important" when looking for a home. Only 17% of people ages 55 and up felt the same way. In previous generations, homes with carpets were considered better in order to conserve energy, DeSimone said. Even today, older people are more likely to feel more comfortable with carpeting because the insulation makes the home a little bit warmer. But for younger people looking to have many guests at the house and for people with children, hardwood floors are desirable because they are easier to clean than carpets.


      4. Granite Countertops Pct. of home buyers willing to pay more: 55% Amount willing to pay extra: $1,620

      Among homeowners between the ages of 35 and 54, 24% viewed granite countertops as "very important," compared to 18% of people under 35 and 18% of people over 55. Although just one in every five prospective home buyers said granite countertops were very important, 55% of those who bought a home without such a countertop said they would pay extra for it. Both DeSimone and Samuelson agreed that the granite countertop is more of a style issue than anything else. "There has been more emphasis on the beautiful kitchen these days, and granite countertops are a part of that," Samuelson said.


      3. Walk-In Closet in Master Bedroom Pct. of home buyers willing to pay more: 60% Amount willing to pay extra: $1,350

      A whopping 60% of homeowners were willing to pay extra for a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, with 44% of people between the ages of 35-54 viewing this feature as "very important," compared to just 35% under the age of 35 and 36% of people 55 and older. DeSimone said the walk-in closet is desired for two main reasons: space and status. The space is very desirable for people as they get older and acquire more clothes, allowing people to be more organized. Having a walk-in closet in the master bedroom is also a status symbol. When giving a house tour, DeSimone said, people want to say, "hey, check out my closet," in the same way they say, "hey, have you seen my new kitchen?"


      2. New Kitchen Appliances Pct. of home buyers willing to pay more: 69% Amount willing to pay extra: $1,840

      About 69% of homeowners said they were willing to spend more money for new kitchen appliances. Unsurprisingly, people who are looking to buy a new home find this far more important than people who are eyeing previously owned homes. People who are the first to live in a specific house tend to want everything to be new in the house because they consider the house truly "their own," DeSimone said. People also do not want to have to deal with the stress of broken appliances. "They don't want to come home after a horrible stressful day at work and find the dishwasher isn't working or the fridge is making noises."


      1. Central Air Conditioning Pct. of home buyers willing to pay more: 69% Amount willing to pay extra: $2,520

      Nearly seven in 10 homeowners said they would be willing to pay more on central air conditioning -- the same as new kitchen appliances and more than any other feature. Central air conditioning was considered "very important" by more than 60% of people in all age groups. Samuelson noted that although people were willing to shell out approximately $2,500 for the feature, that is far less than what it would actually cost to install central air conditioning. "There is a difference in people's preference and what they are willing to pay for," Samuelson said. "They may want the steak but are on a macaroni budget."

      Winning a Bidding War For Your Next Home

      The bidding wars are back. While not every local real-estate market is experiencing bidding wars, some homebuyers find themselves competing for houses because not many are for sale in their markets. The result? Many homes have 10 to 15 offers the day they go on the market, says Susan Paul, owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Move Time Realty in Scottsdale, Ariz.

      To compete in a bidding war, buyers need to prepare financially for the home purchase. They have to be familiar with property values in their target neighborhoods. And they must know what they want.

      While offering the most money might seem like the best way to win a bidding war, sellers don't always choose the highest offer. Instead, sellers often prefer offers that are most likely to go through and that meet their conditions. Here are six tips to increase your chances of making the winning offer in a bidding war for the house of your dreams.

      1. Have a lender on speed dial "Too many buyers talk to a lender and start looking at homes at the same time," says Eldad Moraru, a real-estate agent with Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. in Bethesda, Md. "You need to have everything (financial) done before you begin to look." Then you are more likely to win a bidding war.

      He suggests selecting a lender and a loan, completing everything the lender requires and having a preapproval letter in hand -- all before submitting an offer.

      "You need to make sure your lender is ready to issue an approval letter specific to the property at the drop of a dime," Moraru says.

      Paul recommends keeping a file folder constantly updated with your most recent pay stubs, all pages --even blank pages -- of recent bank statements and any other documentation the lender may need to make a quick loan approval. Then you are ready to make an offer.

      A strong preapproval is essential, especially if you are competing against buyers with cash to offer, says Alan T. Aoyama, vice president of Century 21 M&M Associates in Cupertino, Calif. Any hint that you might have trouble qualifying for financing could eliminate you from the seller's choice of buyers.

      2. Cash in your pocket plus the paperwork to prove it "An all-cash buyer can even waive the appraisal," Aoyama says. "If you're a noncash buyer, you need to have a copy of your proof of funds with your offer, along with a strong preapproval. At a minimum, you should offer a down payment of 20% if you know you'll be competing against other buyers. You need to show you have the funds to close and the ability to make up the difference if the appraisal comes in too low."

      Moraru says that in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, it's common to supplement your offer with a financial information sheet detailing your job history, salary and bonuses, 401(k) balance, how much you have for a down payment and where the money is saved.

      A higher-than-customary earnest money deposit can sometimes impress sellers when there is a bidding war, Moraru says. Just make sure you fully meet all deadlines and terms of the contract so you don't lose your deposit.

      3. Make a fast, personalized offer To compete against other buyers in a potential bidding war, make sure you see a home the day it goes on the market, so you can move quickly, Paul says.

      "Your buyers agent should talk to the listing agent to find out what is motivating the sellers and what they need -- such as a quick settlement or a post-settlement rent-back," Paul says. "Be flexible, and work that into your offer. Make it as easy on the sellers as possible so your offer is chosen above 15 others."

      Paul says buyers should offer to help the sellers in any way they can, such as helping them find a home for their pet if they can't take it with them.

      Moraru says while price is important, sellers want to know the buyer can finance the property and meet any other conditions. If you don't know the date when the sellers want to settle, you can write "will settle on seller's schedule" into the offer.

      Aoyama suggests offering 30 days of free rent if the sellers want to stay in their home after settlement.

      4. Keep your home inspector on alert Most real-estate agents don't recommend buying a home without an inspection, but making your offer contingent on an inspection can weaken your position if other buyers are waiving an inspection contingency. Aoyama says buyers should carefully read all disclosures and reports that are available, because some sellers provide a home inspector's report for buyers. You can also have an home inspection done after your offer has been accepted that can provide information on the home's condition.

      "If you're serious about a particular house, you can have a home inspection before you make an offer, and then make a noncontingent offer if you're satisfied with the report," Moraru says. "You'll need to move fast, though, and have a home inspector ready almost the day the home goes on the market."

      Paul says you can bring a home inspector along when you first look at the home and say the inspector is a friend, just to get a feel for the condition of the home without an in-depth checkup.

      "If the inspector says the house looks OK, you can feel better about waiving the home inspection contingency," Paul says.

      5. Eliminate or reduce contingencies One of the best ways to make your offer stronger is to eliminate contingencies regarding home inspection, financing or appraisal, Aoyama says. That puts you in a more solid position to win a bidding war. If you have cash reserves to cover the gap between a low appraisal and your offer, you can waive the appraisal contingency, he says, but leave your financing contingency in place to protect yourself.

      "If you can't waive these, you can at least shorten the time frame, such as (by) reducing the loan contingency to 10 days if you know your lender can provide you with proof of financing quickly enough," Aoyama says.

      Offering to buy the home as is can be tempting, but make sure you have an accurate idea of the home's condition with an informational inspection for safety.

      Paul says buyers need to make their offer as strong as possible, so if you don't need a home warranty or help with closing costs, don't ask for them.

      6. Try an escalation clause -- maybe An escalation clause is an addendum to a purchase offer that authorizes your agent to offer a specified amount above the best offer the seller receives. It's a powerful way to wage a bidding war.

      "Buyers are offering escalation clauses a lot less often than when the housing market was booming, unless the home is priced way below market value," Moraru says. "I recommend that buyers who want to offer an escalation clause be very careful when choosing to go as high as they can with the understanding that they can live with the price if it goes to the maximum amount. They also need to feel that if someone else gets the house at a higher price, that buyer overpaid."


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      Winter health tips for a comfortable winter in Boston
















      So far, this year the winter in Boston and most of the New England area has not shown its true usual colors. Weather patterns have fluctuated between moderate to cold temperatures, with slight chill factors followed by unusual heat waves, resulting in the constant misleading sensation of uprising spring rather than that of winter in the air. Not to worry, if you are a fan of winter weather or more of the spring type here are selected tips that got you covered and point you in a healthier and safer exercising direction.

       It is fine to exercise in the cold as long as you take certain precautions to avoid hypothermia.

      Insulating Layers

      Insulating yourself against the wind and other elements is key, to create a much necessary barrier. The obvious advantage is the removal of the outer layer in case of increased body temperature. It is recommended that the first layer is made of synthetic/polyester material which dries quicker and will keep moisture away. The second layer material should preferably be made of wool and the outermost layer should be light weight water/wind/snow repellent jumper or sport jacket.  

      Hat and Gloves

      About half of your body heat is lost from an uncovered head when temperatures are below freezing. Wearing a hat will help your body retain heat and functionality Gloves will help prevent skin damage and frostbite in sub-zero temperatures and further provide constant blood flow to the rest of the body.

      Face Protection

      Protect the skin on your face by covering it up with a scarf or a mask and further allowing warm frigid air to enter before you inhale, thus helping the protection of your lungs.

      Current Weather Forecast Check Up

      Check the air temperature and wind chill factor before exercising outside.  There is  little risk when exercising in 20° Fahrenheit, even with 30 miles per hour winds, but that dangers exist when the combined temperature and wind-chill falls below -20°F, which can happen occasionally in Boston.

      The most accurate and current weather forecasts can be accessed through the help of these four websites:


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