Ways to Use Your Storage Shed Space

by c21commonweath_ldowling 24. March 2014 09:21

If you are a Boston home buyer moving into your new home, you might be lucky enough to have a great new storage shed in place, or be interested in buying or building one of your own. With the extra outdoor space you may already be rubbing your hands and scheming out ways to use your shed, but we have a few suggestions for you, too.

Studio

Do you like to paint or play the drums with your friends? A shed is a great space for artistic activity, allowing you to get away from the computer and the phone and really concentrate on your creative side. Naturally you can also store paints and instruments (the latter perhaps not all year) in a shed.

Tinker With Tools

If you like working on lawnmowers, bicycles, motorcycles, and more, a shed is a great place to set up shop. If you have kids it’s especially helpful for storing potentially dangerous chemicals and tools where the young ones can’t get at them. You should be especially sure you have a lock and key for the shed in these situations.

Office

Yes, you can rig up your shed to be a great not-quite home office! Put a desk in and wire the shed for electricity and cable and you will be quite set. It’s also a convenient place to store files, and saves you money on a rental unit elsewhere.

Yoga Studio

A shed is a great place to convert into a yoga studio. Paint it in colors you find more reassuring and use the quiet of the space to relax, mediate, and practice yoga. Invite friends over to share the space with you, or even teach!

Workout Space

A shed can be a great place to store all your exercise equipment, from weights to jump rope to a treadmill. Hook up your shed with electric and you can run on your treadmill in peace, and even watch television while you’re doing it as one does at the gym.

 

If you are a Boston area buyer whose new home has a shed, let us know what cool and interesting uses you are planning to put it to. 

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Things to Do in Boston in the Spring

by c21commonweath_ldowling 12. March 2014 17:10

Believe it or not Bostonites, spring is around the corner, and with spring comes a slew of exciting events and opportunities to explore the natural beauty of Massachusetts. If you are a Boston home owner, take a look at these things to do in spring in the Boston area.

Gardens and Arboretums

After staring at snow for months, spring becomes a joyous occasion to be outside and look at nature's splendor. There are a number of gardens and arboretums in and outside of Boston where you can do just that. The Arnold Arboretum and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum have floral celebrations each year. Hyacinths and lilac bushes are highlights.

Sailing on the Charles

The Charles River is a lovely place to walk during spring, and just as fun to sail! You can rent boats from Community Boating near the Esplanade, and enjoy seminars, barbecues and more when you're not on the water.

2nd Annual Cambridge Poetry Festival

As part of National Poetry Month, the Cambridge Arts Council is promoting local poets and hosting readings on April 3rd. The entire month will feature poetry performances all around Cambridge.

The Boston Marathon

Every April the Boston Marathon is held on the third Monday, and is an occasion for stunning feats of athleticism (from the runners) and fun and celebration (from the bystanders) in downtown Boston. Take the opportunity to see this extraordinary event in person.

Red Sox Games

We would be remiss to leave out one of the favorite activities of a true Bostonite - watching the Red Sox play in Fenway Park! April 8 is opening day and Red Sox vs. Yankees is up to bat. It's generally easier to get tickets in the spring than the summer or fall, so be sure to check out a game this spring.

 

If you are a Boston area homeowner, enjoy the spring by checking out the wide variety of events in and around the city. Bostonites wake from hibernation with gusto, and no matter what your hobbies or taste, there’s sure to be an event out there for you.

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Emerging Boston Housing Trends in 2014

by c21commonweath_ldowling 24. February 2014 16:46

2014 has already been an interesting year for the Boston housing market. Whether you are a Boston home buyer or seller, the following stories are important to follow.

Ramifications of the Metropolitan Area Housing Council report

With Boston’s housing needs spotted at more than 400,000 new units (as covered on our blog here), a number of creative ideas have been suggested to handle those needs. One of these ideas is micro-apartments, which are exactly what you think they are. Popular in cities already experienced with needing to house booming populations, micro-apartments may be as small as 400 square feet. The trade-off in size is matched with more shared space, such as conference rooms and additional amenities. The issue these units solve is housing for millenials. Townhomes that would traditionally house families are currently being rented by several roommates in their 20s and 30s, causing a housing shortage for families that have to look far from Boston for affordable homes. Creating more needs specific housing can free up these spaces for better use.

Lack of Inventory

The closer you are to Boston, the higher you are able to sell your home. Inventory has been declining for almost 2 years. Homes in the 400k to 600k range are hard to find. Part of the problem is lack of construction. Former Mayor Menino wants to see 30,000 additional homes built in Boston by 2020. Homes need to be able to accommodate families and have several bedrooms.

Housing Rebound Continues

Boston continues to see the benefits of a housing recovery. Boston home values grew almost 10% from November 2012 to November 2013. Low mortgage rates and pent-up demand are helping. For someone ruminating whether or not to sell their Boston home, now is a great time to put your house on the market. 2014 did see mortgage rates rise by a point, so home sales will probably slow in conjunction with low inventory. If more Boston area potential sellers put homes on the market, it might pick up.

As a seller, now is a great time to enter the market. With low inventory, you’ll see more potential sellers checking out your home and putting in offers. Prices are rising, so the outlook is rosier than ever. Let us know in the comments what you see the housing market doing in 2014, and whether you are thinking of selling your Boston home!

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Spring Cleaning Tips

by c21commonweath_ldowling 20. February 2014 14:38

If you are a Boston area homeowner looking to either sell or buy, spring cleaning is a necessity. Nothing makes you realize you have so much “stuff” as when you are preparing to move, so make sure you are prepared by following these tips. As a Boston seller, you may find they make your home even more attractive to prospective buyers.

Organize Your Closets

A tidy home shows potential buyers the most optimal version of a home’s space. When a buyer walks into your walk-in closet, they should be blown away by how much they could contain and how well-organized clothes, shoes, and knick knacks may be.

Clean Your Walls

Cleaning walls can make them look as though a fresh coat of paint had been applied. Start out with a sponge and water. If you don't see results, use a little mild dishwashing liquid. For persistent stains, apply soap directly onto the stain. Paint cleaners are very strong and can soften the paint surface, so try to avoid them if you can. After you clean the wall make sure you rinse it with water.

Clean Your Tiles

Tiles can be cleaned easily, with a neutral pH cleaner, or with baking soda and water (1/2 cup of baking soda, 2 gallons water, well-mixed). Use a string or sponge mop to apply this mixture on the tile surface. This can also be used for grout. If you find you're not getting the results you want to see, it may be time to call in a professional.

Clean Stains on Countertops

As you prepare your meals each day, you may find stains on the countertops staring back at you, resisting all your normal cleaning efforts. Especially if you have granite countertops, these stains can be vexing. Be careful not to damage your countertops with the wrong cleaners. For soap scum or mildew, a solution of half a cup of ammonia in a gallon of water can work. For juice and coffee stains, you can add a bit of hydrogen peroxide in water, in addition to a few drops of ammonia. Grade 0000 dry steel wool can be helpful for small scratches.

Clean Your Kitchen Thoroughly

If you have stainless steel appliances, you can keep them looking new with an aerosol spray once or twice a week. Make sure it is wax based and use with a light hand - the surface of the appliances doesn't need to be greasy. Wipe off the mist with a clean cloth that is lint free - never use an abrasive scrub, like Scotch-Brite pads.

 

What spring cleaning tips do you have for other Boston sellers or buyers? Let us know!

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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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