Stay Warm Next to the Fire This Year

by c21commonweath_ldowling 7. February 2014 19:14

If you own a Boston home you know that installing a fireplace is never a bad idea. With chilly temperatures reigning over the area for several months a year, a fireplace can add some useful warmth and a fitting aesthetic touch to your home. If you are looking to sell your Boston home or looking to buy a Boston home, here’s what you should know about fireplaces in 2014.

High-Tech Fireplaces

The fireplace of today is not necessarily a 19th century inspired nook or a corner stove connected to a chimney. You can purchase a fireplace nowadays that is either gas powered or electric instead of wood, and totally vent-free. A gas fireplace can be located anywhere, and you’re not limited to having only one. Add a fireplace to the bedroom, the kitchen, living room or home theater to create a warm and homey atmosphere. Put a fireplace on the patio to help you stay warm in the winter without creating a large and smelly bonfire.

Gas, Wood, or Electric

If you’re choosing a fireplace you’ll be faced with a lot of variety. If you want something more traditional, a wood burning fireplace will do the trick. You can enjoy real flames and the nostalgic smell of a fire on winter evenings. When the electricity goes out, it can heat the home, but it does require a chimney, and a willingness to chop or buy wood. An electric fireplace is much easier to take care of, but doesn’t really provide heat. Gas may be your best option. They provide heat and a real fire, and don’t require a chimney. You can put a gas or electric fireplace literally anywhere – wall hanging gas or electric fireplaces are becoming more common.

When it comes to energy use, gas and wood are your best options, as they actually provide heat. Wood is actually more expensive than gas, so for your pocketbook it is better. However, wood is more of a renewable resource than gas, so if your environmental footprint is a concern, you may want to install a wood fireplace.

Firepits

For a fairly simple and cheap value add, why not consider building a firepit? A firepit is a natural center of attention and can help keep guests toasty all winter long. Make sure you check local building codes before you start your project, as some areas are more strict than others, and build your pit far enough away from your home or trees – 25 feet or more is advisable.

Are you a Boston seller looking to install a fireplace this year? Are you a Boston buyer with a fireplace as a “must have” on your home buying list? Let us know in the comments!

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Features Buyers Want to See

by c21commonweath_ldowling 4. February 2014 19:10

If you are a Boston area home seller, you may be wondering what the secret ingredient is to getting your home off the market and into the hands of a new buyer – at a great price. As it turns out, there are several features that will help a home sell, and prompt Boston area buyers to pay more.

 

Central A/C

While it may be hard to remember in February, it can get quite warm in New England! Almost 70% of homeowners would pay more for central A/C. This feature can set your home apart, but is a bit costly to install if you don’t already have it.

Up to Date Kitchen Appliances

Potential buyers love to see a remodeled kitchen, particularly when it comes to the appliances. Stainless steel appliances in particular attract buyers. Other aspects of a remodeled kitchen are also attractive – granite countertops are still popular, as are kitchen islands and eat-in kitchens.

Great Closets & Bathrooms

The master bedroom is an important focus area if you are buying or selling a home. The most desired feature is a walk-in closet. People are willing to pay extra, especially people between their 30s and 50s. Perhaps parents on the hunt for their next home particularly appreciate the bigger space and opportunities for organization.

For buyers over 35, the master bathroom is also especially important. The buyer’s preferred master bathroom setup is en suite, meaning the bathroom can only be accessed from the master bedroom. This adds privacy, and double sinks, also preferred, provide plenty of space.

Fireplaces

Fireplaces, especially in the Boston area, have a lot of currency among buyers. Many say that they would add a fireplace upon moving in if the fireplace is absent (and anticipating buyer needs in this way is helpful for making the sale).

Floors

If you are trying to attract families or younger buyers (people under the age of 55), hardwood floors can help make the sale. Carpeting is still favored by the older generation, but families like hardwood because it’s easier to clean.

 

If you are looking to make upgrades or highlight features in your home, don’t forget any of these areas. They have captured buyer’s imaginations and can help move the needle on the sale of your Boston home.

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Tips for Gardening as a Seller

by c21commonweath_ldowling 31. January 2014 11:26

While the spring may seem far away, it’s never too soon to begin thinking about how to plant your garden this year. When you are trying to sell your Boston home, gardening becomes important, not just to you but as an expression of the home’s full landscaping potential.

If this sounds like extra pressure, have no fear! Preparing your garden as a seller can be made easier by following these tips.

Clean Outdoor Planting Containers

Whether your garden is large or small, make sure it is well maintained. Maintaining a garden when your house is for sale begins with cleaning. If you have outdoor planting containers or fencing, make sure to clean it regularly so it is appealing for potential buyers.

Mulch More Frequently

Cleaning planting containers is a nice touch, but making sure your mulch is new can be even more impactful as it is immediately noticeable. Mulch makes the colors of your garden pop and it is fairly cheap so try to apply fresh mulch frequently.

Tend to Overgrown Shrubs & Trees

If you enjoy gardening, trimming overgrown shrubbery and trees is probably part of your spring regimen, regardless of whether or not you are selling your home. If you’re not, now is the time to engage your green thumb and make sure the existing plants on your property look their best. Your landscaping is the buyer’s first impression, and adds to curb appeal. Trimming shrubs and trees is cost free and can make a major difference in your home’s appearance.

Power Wash

They may be loud, but nothing cleans quite like a power washer. Get the grime of the winter off your home, pavement, and fencing with a power wash in the spring. It spruces up the exterior like a coat of paint on the inside refreshes the interior of your home. It is well worth the small investment of hiring someone or purchasing your own equipment.

Plant Brightly

Now for the fun part – planning out your beautiful garden and bringing it to fruition! There have actually been studies of what plants are most appealing. Among these plants were sunflowers, hydrangeas, geraniums, jasmine, lilies, tulips, lavender, and at the top of the list, roses. Keep these preferences in mind when you’re choosing what to plant, but don’t let it restrict you – unique taste and flair will help to make your home memorable to potential buyers.

 

How are you planning to garden around your Boston area home this year? Do you have any of your own tips for sellers? Do let us know in the comments!

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Growing & Changing Boston

by c21commonweath_ldowling 21. January 2014 22:16

A new report has everyone in Boston buzzing about the future. In order to keep up with the economy and encourage growth, this city, just past its 400th year in 2040, will have to create up to 435,000 new housing units, according to the Metropolitan Area Housing Council. These housing units will have to cater to a graying Boston population as well as new and young workers and their families.

Considering the Boston population is around 630,000, this means that Boston will have to virtually double in size over the next 25 years. This is a tall order for any city. This means Boston will have to jumpstart construction and find space to expand the population.

Fortunately, construction is increasing in Massachusetts. Permits for over 12,000 new housing units were taken out in 2013. The pace of construction will have to be much increased for Boston to grow – more than 16,000 units will have to be built a year, just in the Boston area. Just over 8,000 were approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority in 2013, which means Boston development will have to be doubled.

Where will they go? Having to create that many units presents an interesting problem, since so much of Boston is surrounded by water. Units have been built by Fenway Park recently, and in the South End. Kendall Square is growing, as M.I.T. owns a lot of property in the area, devoting some of it to housing along with eating, entertainment, and of course research.

If you are Boston home buyer, or seller, what does this all mean for you? More housing should make Boston more affordable, so as a Boston seller, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you seller sooner rather than later. Some of the housing will be designed for retirees in mind, so the transition is fairly logical – as seniors downsize, new buyers at the height of their earning power will step in. If you are a Boston renter looking to buy, the future looks a bit brighter today. Rents in Boston are notoriously high, and Boston buyers have been searching high and low for homes in the Boston area. If housing needs can be met, over the course of the next two decades, more affordable housing should be coming to you.

 

Will Boston grow as much and as quickly as this report suggests it must? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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Extreme Weatherization Tips for Your Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 14. January 2014 16:06

There’s weatherizing your home, and then there’s preparing for the Polar Vortex. It’s not every day that portions of the Niagara Falls freeze, but that’s what happened early January, as the Midwest braced for dangerously cold temperatures. If we’re lucky, we won’t have to face something as severe as a polar vortex ever again, but if you own a Boston home, it’s important to know the following weatherization tips that will preserve your investment and your own warmth during severe temperatures.

Make Sure Your Windows Aren’t Drafty

Energy waste of up to 30% can be created by drafts and poor window insulation. If you don’t have vinyl siding, you can caulk your windows (with latex caulk, you can paint on it afterward). You can also acquire a window insulation kit from any hardware store. Door foam can help with door related drafts.

Make Sure Your Furnace Filters Are Clean

Filter cleanliness isn’t just important for the sake of it. A dirty furnace filter restricts air flow and makes it harder for heat to get to you. Increase your energy efficiency and stay warmer and safer this winter by making sure your filters are clean.

Make Sure Your Pipes Are Ready for the Chill

It’s one thing to look at a heating bill and be surprised it’s higher than you expected. It’s quite another to run around the house stopping up a burst pipe and mopping up the mess. On your trip to the hardware store for window caulk, pick up fiberglass insulation if you have any unprotected pipes in garages, basements or other cold nooks and crannies of the house. Ensure water to your exterior valves is shut off inside the house and lines are drained. If you are gone for the day, leave the heat on (at 55 degrees or so), and make sure it stays on if you are gone overnight.

Surprise Ceiling Fan Tip

You may think ceiling fans should be out of commission during the winter months, but in fact they can help you save energy during the coldest months of the year, as well. Try making the blades run clockwise, reversing their normal direction. As a result, warm air will be pushed downward. It can save you as much as 10% in heating costs depending on how many fans you have in your home!

 

When it gets cold, there are many steps you have to take to make sure your house stays warm, your bills stay low, and you stay safe. If you are a Boston home owner, let us know what tips you follow and think are most important to keeping bills down and keeping your home secure through the winter.

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Predictions for the 2014 Housing Market

by c21commonweath_ldowling 10. January 2014 18:12

2014 has arrived, and with a new year brings a new housing market forecast, new buyers testing the market, and new sellers looking to get the most out of their investment. Want to know what 2014 will have in store for you, as a Boston home buyer or a seller? Read on for our preview of how this year's housing market might play out.

2014 for the Buyer

Buyers in 2014 might find they have more money in the bank than last year, and more economic opportunities. The stock market has been improving for some time, and a number of observers think 2014 will see a recovery for the average person, too. The unemployment rate dropped almost one point over 2013, and hovers at around 7% for the beginning of 2014. Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics thinks it could be as low as 6.25% by the end of this year, according to the Boston Globe.

A health economy should encourage new buyers to make investments. The recovery of real estate waits on the recovery of the economy as a whole, and it looks like this year might provide an additional boost to the housing market.

For buyers, another positive sign is that the inventory of houses available is increasing. In 2013, the number of homes for sales increased nationwide for the first time since 2011.

On the other hand, while buyers may find their economic prospects improving, sellers still have a lot of advantages.

2014 for the Seller

With the value of homes rising and the economy improving, Boston area sellers may be less inclined this year to get rid of their homes quickly, and instead look at renovating and improving their homes for more value down the line. In 2014 it should be easier than last year to borrow against your property and get such renovations done.

Before you begin construction, make sure you are appraised of inventory trends and not missing the perfect opportunity to sell your home. Have your realtor provide you with a report on listings versus closings in the area. If you see that listings have begun outpacing the closings, it might be time to put your home for sale, before the real estate market is saturated. Price your home realistically so you don’t find yourself burned by buyers who are unwilling to chase after overpriced homes.

 

Are you looking to buy or sell your home in the Boston area in 2014? Let us know what you think the year has in store for you. We wish a very Happy New Year to everyone!

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Boston Area Housing Market in 2013

by c21commonweath_ldowling 8. January 2014 18:47

As we turn the corner of 2013 and look ahead to 2014, now is the perfect time to evaluate how the Boston area housing market is doing and what trends have developed over this year.

 

Boston – One of the 10 Healthiest Markets

According to a press release issued by Zillow in December, Boston is one of the top healthiest housing markets in the country, coming in at #6. The Boston market’s health was attributed to a number of factors, including a low foreclosure rate and overall financial stability of homeowners in the area. In fact, some have gone so far as to say the Boston market is booming, with housing sales rising month over month and prices increasing beyond expectation (see the Boston Globe for more details). It’s a great market for the Boston area home seller.

New Areas Opening Up

The demand for homes in Boston is greater than the supply right now, and so new towns and Boston suburbs are opening up and generating sales where they had not before. The towns off I-495 circling around Boston are having their day in the sun at present. This area is traditionally less popular than I-95, but is increasingly appealing to young families who are looking for more space at a better price. Surprising new growth in this area has observers comparing the Boston area to Texas, another state with several locations on Zillow’s list (see the Boston Globe for a full report on the I-495 area).

According to the Boston Business Journal, East Boston is attracting tons of new Boston area buyers, as well. In fact, East Boston ranked #1 as the Hottest Housing Market in Boston in late 2013. The neighborhoods in East Boston have been gentrifying quickly, and home prices are up a staggering 25% over 2012. For both the Boston area seller and the Boston area buyer, entirely new regions have opened up and are now fair game.

Looking Ahead to 2014

A number of economic indicators seem to be improving in the United States as a whole, and particularly in Boston, which has a fairly robust job market. A strong economic performance in Boston in 2014 should be followed by another healthy showing by the housing market. The suburbs should continue to shine and attract buyers, competing with desirable real estate in town. As companies grow, and move out of the downtown area, the range of residency will increase, as well.

 

What do you think will happen in the Boston housing market in 2014? Do you plan on buying or selling a Boston home!  Let us know, and a Happy New Year to all!

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Holiday Home Selling Tips

by c21commonweath_ldowling 20. December 2013 11:36

The holiday season is already here, making things festive and bringing friends and families together. For some people, the holidays may mean shopping, but for others, the holidays mean selling – selling a home in the Boston area!

Having to sell your home during the holiday season doesn’t have to be bad news. Life-changing events don’t suddenly come to a halt because it’s snowing outside and there’s tinsel on the tree. People change jobs, relocate, get divorced, get married, and have babies during the winter months, and require a home that fits a new lifestyle. As a seller selling during the holidays, you’ll find you face less competition because many people will wait until spring to put their homes on the market. So check out our tips to attract and hold the interest of those winter buyers, and sell your Boston home this holiday season!

Take Advantage of the Season

Provide hot cocoa or bake cookies for home viewers. If you don’t have the time to bake on every occasion that someone stops by, a good option is to heat a small pot of water with cinnamon sticks, vanilla, cloves and other spices on the stove. This provides a wonderful scent throughout the home and won’t overwhelm people with sensitivities to artificial scents from candles or potpourri. Show potential buyers what is like to entertain in your home and not just live. Set the table as if you were having a dinner party, but be sure to avoid cluttering. Choose your Christmas tree wisely. A real tree will add a wonderful smell to the home for an added bonus. Make sure your tree is not too big for the space where you decide to put it. This can make the room look small and cluttered. Play holiday or classical music softly in the background.

Give the House a Winter Glow

There’s nothing more comforting than walking into a warm, cozy, protected home when it’s freezing and snow is billowing outside. If you have a fireplace, light it. Turn up the heat a couple of degrees. Nothing will make guests feel less comfortable than a cold house on a cold day. Turn on all the lights before someone views the home. If it’s still somewhat light outside, open all shades and blinds. Replace any low-watt bulbs with 100-watt bulbs so that people can see every corner of the home, even if it’s dark or dreary outside. Have your windows washed to allow even more light to come in and give the house the cleanest appearance possible.

Don’t Slip!

Make sure you keep the driveway, porch, and sidewalks clear of snow and ice. If people can’t comfortably enter your home, it gives a bad first impression they aren’t likely to shake off. Keep lights set on timers outside to make the house look inviting for anyone that happens to drive by. Make sure the “for sale” sign with contact information is clearly illuminated. Have people take off their shoes or put paper booties over them before touring your home. This may seem counter-intuitive but it gives the impression that the home is well-kept.

Winter Won’t Last Forever

While it may be hard to believe during the holidays when you’re buying a home in the Boston area, winter won’t last forever. As a seller, be sure to have pictures of your home during the summer months available so that people can see how the exterior looks when it isn’t covered with snow. Place these photos in ads if possible. Additionally, show off any winter features your home has such as extra insulation, weather-proofing, double-pane glass, etc. If your home is energy efficient, leave your gas or electric bills out to prove it.

 

Follow these tips, and Santa might leave you the greatest gift a Boston area seller can imagine – a sign that says “Sold!”

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Spotlight on Franklin, Massachusetts

by c21commonweath_ldowling 12. December 2013 15:38

If you are searching for a great neighborhood outside of Boston, Franklin may be your kind of town. It has a lot of charming New England touches, along with plentiful modern amenities and easy commuting to both Boston and Providence. Read on to learn more about the town and buying a home in Franklin!

Location

Franklin is a suburb between the Blackstone and Charles Rivers in Norfolk County. It's within 30 miles of all 3 of New England's largest cities, Boston, Providence, and Worcester. This central location makes commuting a breeze, with rail provided by the MBTA, and highways connecting the town to the nearby urban centers. In addition to this, the town of Franklin is a very dynamic community on its own, with a museum, more than a dozen playgrounds and recreational fields, shopping, performing arts, and various clubs.

Size

As of today, Franklin is a smallish town, with only about 30,000 residents. It is expected to grow by a projected 10,000 residents. Franklin maintains a cozy feel, like an old-fashioned small town, while being very connected to the businesses and culture of the surrounding area. Along with the population, business opportunities in Franklin have been growing, as well.

History

Franklin has two National historic districts, and around seemingly every corner there is a piece of history. Of particular interest is the wide range of architectural styles in the town, dating from many different periods in history. Franklin boasts the country's first library, featuring volumes from none other than Benjamin Franklin. It also has the oldest continually functioning school house in the United States, the Red Brick School.

Schools

A primary reason that people look to buy homes in Franklin, Massachusetts, are the top-rated public schools, which have earned the “high performance” distinction. Aside from the public schools, there are also Cornerstone Christian Academy, Ben Franklin Classical Charter School, and Dean College. Franklin’s location also presents opportunities to explore the public resources and youth programs of the esteemed universities in Providence, Boston, and beyond.

Activities & Entertainment 

Franklin has a town commons where community events are held, such as concerts, the Trout Derby and four days of Fourth of July celebrations. There are shopping and dining options in town, along with a performing arts company. The overall culture of Franklin has earned it several honors, including being named one of Family Circle’s Ten Best Towns for Families.

Franklin also offers sports teams across a wide range of recreational sports, from baseball and basketball, to winter sports that New England is well-suited for, like ice hockey, and for more than 30 years, even downhill skiing.

Famous Residents

Franklin has had a number of famous residents over the years, including quite a few athletes. Former NFL players Eugene Wilson, Ellis Hobbs, and Asante Samuel called Franklin home, as did Stanley Cup winning coach Peter Laviolette and NASCAR drive Bobby Santos III.

Home Buying

 

Sold on the merits of Franklin, Massachusetts? There are great homes on the market in Franklin, and now is the perfect time to establish your family in one of the Boston area’s most comfortable and tight-knit communities. Search for your Franklin home today!

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Spotlight on Natick, Massachusetts

by c21commonweath_ldowling 4. December 2013 14:21

Looking to buy a house in Natick, Massachusetts?  We have all the information you need to know about moving into this great community in the MetroWest area of Massachusetts.

Location

Natick, Massachusetts is in a great location, on the Charles and Concord Rivers. It is about 15 miles west of Boston and in an affluent area, with many well-to-do neighboring towns. It has a historical downtown, Natick Center, which contains an MBTA Commuter Rail station.

Size

Natick, Massachusetts is a small town of 33,000 people with connections to Worcester and Boston. It has a historical downtown with a great deal of New England charm.

History

The town of Natick is a Puritan founded town over 350 years old. It’s had many famous residents over the years, including Doug Flutie, former Boston College and professional football player; novelist Horatio Alger, Jr.; The Modern Lovers singer Jonathan Richman; the 18th Vice President of the United States (Henry Wilson), Harriet Beecher Stowe, the writer and abolitionist.

Business & Commuting

While Natick is a very well connected commuter town, it also has many businesses of its own. Natick is home to MathWorks, Boston Scientific, and Gognex Corporate headquarters.

In addition to active businesses, Natick has gained some attention as the former home of a Twinkies factory, as shown in an episode of the popular animated company “Family Guy.” 

Schools

One of the reasons people love Natick and search for Natick real estate is the great schools, both public and private. The Walnut Hill School for the Arts is a boarding school and graduates more students to Julliard than any other school in the United States. The Riverbend School is a Montessori school catering to students from 15 months in age to the 8th grade. The Tobin School is a private day school for students through pre-school and the 5th grade.

Activities & Entertainment 

Natick boasts a newly minted Cultural District, a distinction granted them by the state of Massachusetts to promote artistic activity in the town. The Center for the Arts is the heart of the district, but there are other cultural institutions in the town also, including the Morse Institute Library.

For sports, there is a bicycle store in town, and every year you can catch a bit of the Boston Marathon, which runs through Natick.

Food & Shopping

Natick offers Natick Collections for shopping, and a range of ethnic food, including Chinese, Japanese, a Greek restaurant, and an Italian grocery.

Home Buying

So far this November, Natick real estate has stayed on the market for less than 2 months.  When it comes to Natick real estate, it’s best to get it while you can.

Find out why Natick is one of the most beloved towns in the Boston area by checking our listings online or taking a trip to see lovely Natick for yourself this winter.

 

 

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