Which Boston Communities Sell The Most Expensive Homes?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 31. July 2015 14:08

As we approach the end of 2014, data reveals that luxury home sales are on the rise in the Boston area and around the country. Homes purchased by those in the top 1% income level have increased by over 90% in some places while homes purchased by the other 99% have actually had negative growth in most places.  According to research done by Redfin, The Boston area has seen a 20% increase in the sale of luxury homes and a 5.2% decrease in homes purchased by the bottom 99%. Additionally, reports done by Pinnacle Residential Properties on the top two wealthiest towns in the area, Weston and Wellesley, indicate that the number of homes selling for $3 million + has increased by 30% in these areas since 2013.

So which areas around Boston are selling the most expensive homes this year? Here’s a breakdown of the top 6 and their average home prices according to data from the Coldwell Banker brokerage firm:

          1.     Brookline – average price $3.1 million

          2.     Weston - $2.8 million

          3.     Wellesley - $2 million

          4.     Dover – $1.9 million

          5.     Newton -  $1.6 million

          6.     Cambridge– $1.5 million

       Interestingly enough, the wealthiest towns in the counties of Middlesex and Norfolk based on per capita income tells quite a different story from the prices of homes on the market this year. Here’s a look at the wealthiest towns in the Boston area compiled from census data:

          1.     Weston

          2.     Dover

          3.     Sherborn

          4.     Wayland

          5.     Lexington

          6.     Carlisle

          7.     Concord

          8.     Wellesley

          9.     Brookline

        10.     Sudbury

What could this mean for homebuyers and real estate agents? Well, first of all, the wealthiest Americans are the most active in the market right now. Secondly, this data might indicate that the wealthy are catching on to the trend of urban living. Many sources have pointed out, the Boston Globe included, that the density of Boston proper has increased dramatically over the past couple of years, and Boston is denser than it has been in decades. Brookline’s and Cambridge’s place at the top of the list could reflect people’s desire to live closer to the city, including the wealthy.

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Thinking About Being a Landlord? Read Our Tips First

by c21commonweath_ldowling 27. July 2015 13:12

How To Be a Landlord

To the uninitiated, becoming a landlord sounds like a pretty good deal—you purchase a rental property, find some respectful tenants, and let the passive income roll in. In reality, there’s a little more to it than that. A rental property can be a great long-term investment, but don’t take one on until you’ve familiarized yourself with the responsibilities of being a landlord.

Know What You’re Getting Into

First, keep in mind that owning a rental property is not a fast track to getting rich—it’s an investment that will realistically yield about a 5% return per year, in most cases. And before you invest, you’ll need to think about the upfront costs. If you’re taking out a mortgage, be prepared for a down payment of at least 20%. Know that you’ll need to pay landlord insurance (which typically has a premium that is about 25% more than regular homeowner’s insurance), property taxes, and upkeep expenses.

In addition to understanding the cost of being a landlord, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with applicable laws in your state. For example, you need to understand what rights a tenant would have if injured on your property, how much notice you must give before inspecting a property or evicting a tenant, and how to legally handle a security deposit.

Get It in Writing

Include all the rules that you expect your tenants to adhere to in a lease or written policy. Although it’s an additional expense, it may be worth it to hire an attorney to look over this document to ensure that you’ve covered everything important and aren’t leaving yourself legally vulnerable.

Find the Right Tenants

The tenant who trashes the house or skips town without paying rent is every landlord’s worst nightmare. Avoid this type of situation by running a credit and background check on all prospective tenants and knowing what red flags to look for. If a prospective tenant asks if they can pay their monthly rent in cash, that could be a sign that they don’t have a bank account and are facing money problems (or are obtaining their income illegally). If they’ve been evicted before, that’s an obvious warning sign.

Another cardinal rule when finding tenants is to avoid renting to friends or families. It might seem smart to rent out your property to someone you know and trust, but you don’t want to risk damaging your relationship over a landlord-tenant conflict.

Learn How to Delegate

Even if you consider yourself handy around the house, it’s a good idea to outsource your repairs. You’ll need to address household repair issues quickly to avoid renter conflicts, and you may not always be available to fix the problems, especially if you already work a full-time job. Get recommendations for repair people when possible, and when you find someone you like, make them your go-to for your rental property.

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What to Avoid When You Buy and Sell a Home Simultaneously

by c21commonweath_ldowling 24. July 2015 13:03

Buying a new house and selling your old one simultaneously may appear excessively challenging but if you take enough time to plan the process, you will find yourself succeeding in both endeavors.

The market conditions, your coordination skills, the selection of the right professionals for the job and logistics will all play a role. In addition, it’s important to understand some of the biggest mistakes that homeowners make while trying to buy and sell simultaneously. 

Is it Easier to Buy or to Sell First?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors. The type of property you want to purchase and its price will determine your ability to buy quickly. Market conditions, correct real estate valuation, good marketing efforts and demand will have an effect on trying to sell.

Understand the fact that both buying and selling real estate will entail a lot of paperwork. Start working on documentation early enough to streamline both processes and close the deals fast. 

If you can afford to own two properties at the same time, buying before selling your old house would be the smartest thing to do. Use funds on hand and take borrowing to the absolute minimum possible. 

People that don’t have enough financial resources for the purchase of a new home should attempt to sell first and buy only after. This strategy will minimize the financial burden but keep in mind that you’ll have to move out immediately after closing the deal. Renting an apartment or looking for a storage solution in advance will be essential.

Biggest Mistakes to Avoid

Simultaneous property buying and selling is an ideal case scenario but things don’t always work according to plan. Understanding the possible mistakes and knowing how to act can save you a lot of money.

The biggest mistake that many homeowners make involves lacking a solid plan for the simultaneous sale and purchase. Try to come up with possibilities for each scenario. What will you do if your house doesn’t sell? What about finding yourself incapable of buying the house of your dreams? Have you talked to a bank representative and do you have clarity about the financial parameters of the deal? Take a couple of months to think about all of these specifics.

A professional and independent property valuation is another essential. Many real estate sellers find themselves incapable of attracting prospects because of unreasonably high pricing. The emotional value and the amount of money you spent on the house cannot be used to make an accurate current value calculation. Independent, third-party appraisal is the only possibility if you want to sell the house quickly and move on to purchasing new property.

The final mistake involves attempts to sell the property and buy a new house on your own. Professional assistance in terms of legal issues, marketing and negotiations will speed up both processes. If you are adamant about buying and selling at the same time, you will need to find the right representative in advance.

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Should You Consider Buying a New Home with Mold Problems?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 20. July 2015 13:47

For the prospective homebuyer, nothing can turn a good deal sour like the discovery of mold. Mold is a sign of poor maintenance and is often a deal breaker. However, there are some circumstances where it might be worth the effort to purchase the home and clean it up. It is essential to know when to buy and when to walk away. To make this decision, a homebuyer must have a thorough understanding of mold.

Causes of Mold

Mold is a natural occurrence outdoors and breaks down organic matter like dead leaves. Indoors, it can be a health risk for those who are allergic as its spores blow through the air. Although most types of mold are nontoxic, some varieties produce dangerous mycotoxins. An indoor mold problem is generally caused by moisture. Common places where mold can grow include the following:

  •  Basements that flood
  • Leaking pipes
  • Improperly sealed windows
  • Over-watered houseplants
  • Poorly-ventilated areas

Detecting Mold

Because mold grows in hidden places, finding it can be challenging. A homebuyer should be attentive and check for visible moisture or a musty smell. Some states require a real estate agent or the homeowner to disclose of any known mold. However, if he or she is unaware, there is little to be done.

Before purchasing a home, it is a good idea to have it inspected by a professional. He or she may be better equipped to detect water damage or mold in places you might not have been. If you suspect mold may be present, choose an inspection contingency as part of the purchase contract.

When to Buy Anyway

If mold was not discovered until the inspection, you may be able to use this to negotiate a lower price or require the homeowner to remedy the problem before purchase. Depending on the type of mold and the severity, it may be necessary to hire a professional cleaner. When possible, get a quote for this amount and figure it into the big picture.

Although unpleasant, mold is not always a major problem when buying a new home. If you have family members with asthma, or a baby or elderly person will be moving in, it may be better to avoid the mold altogether. If the concerns are minimal, cleaning and removing it may be sufficient. However, to prevent new mold growth, the source of the problem must also be repaired. It is important to consider the time and cost of this before making an offer.

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Find the Perfect Neighborhood For You in the Boston Area

by c21commonweath_ldowling 16. July 2015 13:47

If you’re planning to move to the greater Boston area, you have no shortage of choices when it comes to neighborhoods. Although the city itself is relatively compact, Boston is full of unique and diverse neighborhoods that make it a great home for people at every stage of their lives, whether they are college undergraduates or recent retirees. Below you’ll find a few of the Boston area neighborhoods and suburbs that may appeal to you. 

Great Neighborhoods for Students and Young Professionals

The Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood may be best known for its namesake ballpark, but there’s a lot more going on in this part of Boston to recommend it to twentysomethings. The neighborhood’s proximity to several universities, its easy access to public transportation, and its thriving nightlife make it a popular area for students and young professionals.

Allston in west Boston is also popular with students and young professionals, thanks in part to its wide range of restaurants and bars, discount shopping options, and nightlife. For those young adults looking for a slightly quieter but still central area, the nearby Brighton area may be a good choice.

Great Neighborhoods for Young Families

Young families who are hoping to move to quieter, residential areas may do well to consider nearby towns such as Belmont, Cambridge, or Holliston. Cambridge in particular has become popular with people in their 20s and 30s planning to buy their first houses, and demand is high for single family homes and condos. Belmont and Holliston both offer a small town feel but with an easy commute to Boston proper, making these suburb towns a good choice for parents who work in the city.

Great Neighborhoods for Those Ready to Trade Up

As families grow, they may find themselves ready to leave their first home and purchase a new house with a little more elbow room. Some of the most popular areas around Boston to trade up include Hopkinton, Wellesley, and Winchester. Hopkinton is a scenic, historical town that consists of primarily single family homes and is known for its excellent educational system. Wellesley is also known for its strong focus on education, and is full of beautiful historical homes that are steadily increasing in value. Winchester gives homeowners the opportunity to live in a picturesque, semi-rural environment without sacrificing excellent public schools or easy access to Boston.

Great Neighborhoods for Retirees

When all the kids have left home and Boston area residents begin to contemplate retirement, they may also think about downsizing or heading a little farther away from the center of the city. Framingham, as one of the largest suburbs of Boston, offers a wide range of single family houses and apartments at reasonable prices. Somerville also offers reasonable housing costs and a quaint, small town environment for those hoping to retire near Boston. Milford, meanwhile, is a small town with a strong community bond, a world-class medical facility in the Milford Regional Medical Center, and single family home prices that are lower on average than housing costs in the surrounding area.

The Boston neighborhoods and surrounding towns described above are just a small sampling of the many thriving communities that make up this part of Massachusetts. To find your best fit, take the time to tour the area, attend open houses, and get recommendations from a trusted realtor.

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Stressful Move? Get Organized with Our Packing Tips

by c21commonweath_ldowling 13. July 2015 12:10

Moving Checklist

One of the most frustrating things about moving is taking a look at everything you’ve gathered over the years and wondering how you could possible get it all organized and packed. You want things to be easy to unpack after the monumental job of moving it all to your new home, and you want everything to be protected while it’s being moved. Use these tips as a guide to get your house packed up efficiently and prevent a stressful moving day.  

Catalog Each Room

You don’t need to be intensely detailed with this part, but it is a good idea to get a feel for what kinds of packing materials you’ll need. 

  • Take note of breakables and furniture that need special care while being moved so they can be adequately protected and labeled for the movers or anyone else who helps you. 
  • Books, papers, and heavy items should be packed in small boxes so as not to over-pack and make the boxes too heavy to carry. Don’t just look at the books on the shelves but remember that these items might be under beds, in closets, on desks, or inside drawers. 
  • The kitchen can be a difficult area to catalog, as there are appliances there you may be leaving for the next owner. Note what you plan to keep and what you want to leave so you know what needs to be packed and what you’ll need in order to pack them. 
  • Don’t forget to thoroughly check linen closets and other out-of-sight locations for towels, guest linens, and other items that you wouldn’t want to leave behind.

You may have things like seasonal decorations or other items you don’t use often packed away in a storage unit, garage or shed. Catalog these items as well and decide if they should be repacked into new boxes, or if they can be labeled and loaded onto the truck as they are. 

Orient Your Packing Materials

It’s not just boxes that you need when packing but also materials to label each box and protect fragile items. 

  • Indelible ink markers are the best way to label boxes. They’ll effectively label both plastic and cardboard containers so you and anyone who helps you will clearly be able to see what’s in them and where they should go. 
  • Use your catalog to decide where you want different items to go so you can group them for easy unpacking. Use stickers or other indicators to color code or otherwise label the boxes for easy recognition. 
  • Bubble wrap, packing paper, and separators for the boxes will help you safely pack breakables like dishware. Use your catalog to see how much packaging you need for the items you have. 

Always get a little more than what you think you’ll need. Most packing supply stores will allow you to sell back unused materials. When it’s the middle of the night and you realize there are a lot more books in that office closet than you thought there were, you won’t want to go out searching for additional boxes.  

Know When to Let Go

While you’re cataloging, figure out what items you no longer need or what items have reached the end of their life span and will need to be replaced. If your couch is falling apart, maybe it’s time to throw it out or donate it and get a new one for the new home. The fewer things you have to pack, the fewer things you’ll have to unpack after the move! 

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What You Need to Do Before Listing Your House

by c21commonweath_ldowling 26. June 2015 12:11

Putting your house up for sale is not the first step towards getting it sold. Before you get a real estate agent involved, you need to prepare your home and property for listing. You know you’ll have to make the place look photo-ready, but there’s a little more to it than that. You’ll want to get your house looking in top shape so that homebuyers will fall in love with it.

Assess the Damage

Any house that has actually been lived in for a period of several years (or decades) has some damage.

There might be a crack in the wall in the hallway from when you moved the new couch into the den or the tiles in the kitchen could be peeling away from all the people that have gone in and out through many family dinners and holiday parties over generations. You could have a very old HVAC system or shingles and siding that are falling off.

Whatever the damage to the inside or outside of the house, figure out what needs to be fixed or replaced before you list the house for sale. Get estimates from several contractors before you commit to one to ensure that you’re not spending a fortune on replacing a part of the house when it would cost a lot less to simply renovate these areas.

Clean and Declutter Inside and Out

While a good open house looks effortless, it actually requires a lot of planning. You’ll want to set aside the time to thoroughly clean and organize your home, as well as to landscape the exterior to increase your curb appeal.

Clean appliances and declutter the countertops and other surfaces. If there is too much furniture in a room, try moving things around or opening the curtains and shades to add light and space in the house.

Picking up the kids’ toys and making the beds are obvious ways to make a home photo-ready, but you may also want to consider packing some of these things away early. Personal touches make it difficult for people to see themselves in your home and may deter them from making an offer.

Power wash the back porch and make sure the siding and outside of the house is clean and there is no chipped paint. Mow the lawn, clean up the mailbox (or get a new one) and get a landscaper for the gardens and shrubbery if you need to do so.  The first impression of the house will be the outside. Make sure people love your home before they ever even set foot over the threshold.

Get the Papers in Order

You don’t just need the deed to the house to make a sale. Put together any instructions for large appliances, the HVAC system, and all the electrical, water, and other utility bills you have from over the years. These are things that may be able to prove your home is energy-efficient and that it’s been cared for while you’ve owned it. These factors are integral in getting the best price possible for your home. Compiling the appropriate paperwork is all part of the planning process, and if you plan well, the rest of the process of selling your house will go a lot smoother than you might have thought it would.

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Top Boston Neighborhoods for Young Professionals

by c21commonweath_ldowling 15. May 2015 12:57

 

Perhaps you’re moving to the Boston area for a new job or you’re graduating from college and looking to escape a rowdy, fraternity environment that still offers lots of entertainment options for singles in your age group. Besides the student-occupied Allston neighborhood, most Boston neighborhoods aren’t broken down by age group, but rather income, history and personality. Here will point you in the right direction to begin your search.

Somerville  

Somerville, located just northwest of Cambridge is a great area for a young, working professional to consider renting an apartment or buying a home. In recent years, the business sector has been booming with a strong support for local businesses. There is plenty to do for entertainment and commuting is easy. Somerville is much more affordable for those starting out than nearby Cambridge or Boston proper. An added bonus- you can find some great views from homes or apartments located on hills in Somerville. The only downside is that parking can be a problem depending on where you decide to live.

South Boston  

South Boston was formerly a rough neighborhood for Irish immigrants, but it has undergone a dramatic change in recent years. Rents are more affordable here, but steadily rising. This neighborhood is great for 20-30 somethings with an abundance of bars, restaurants, and access to public transportation. The area has gone from being called “Southie” to “Sobo”. South Boston also offers waterfront views and beach access.

Brighton

Due to its proximity to Allston, quite a bit of students do reside in the Brighton area. However, Oak Square & Brighton Center are great for working professionals, not quite as populated with college students. Here you’ll find plenty to do with an abundance of bars and restaurants and access to public transportation with a little less noise.

North End

Boston’s North End was formerly mostly an Italian neighborhood, but Boston’s little Italy now consists of a mix of Italian Americans, young professionals, and people from a variety of other cultural backgrounds. The North End is one of the oldest Boston neighborhoods and has a lot of European character and interesting architecture.  You’ll also be near the waterfront and close to the Harbor Walk.

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Buying a Green Home

by c21commonweath_ldowling 30. April 2015 12:54

 

The term ‘green’ is increasingly appearing in home listings, but what does this somewhat vague term actually guarantee? It’s up to buyers to look closely and determine whether the house they’re looking at has environmentally-friendly features that align with their goals as a homeowner.

The first thing to think about when searching for a green home is why this type of house appeals to you. If you want a home that will reduce your utility bills, you should look for houses with Energy Star rated appliances, double pane windows, and good insulation. If you are concerned about sustainability, look for houses that maximize space and are built using recycled materials. You should also think about how long you plan to stay in your new home. Single-family green-certified homes cost $34,800 more on average than other single-family homes, and while the energy savings will eventually pay off, that usually doesn’t happen for about a decade.

How to Find the Right Green Home

You can start determining whether a home will be environmentally-friendly before you even walk in the door. First, think about the location. If you’ll have to drive a long distance to get to work or to access important amenities, the air pollution and cost of gas will cancel out some of the home’s environmental benefits. If, however, the house gives you easy access to your work, public transportation, or bike-friendly roads, you may be able to reduce air pollution.

The landscaping can tell you a lot about the house, too. Look for houses that only have native plants, as these will be able to thrive with less water and fertilizer than non-native plants. Strategically placed trees may also contribute to a house’s energy efficiency because their shade can reduce the need for air conditioning in the summer.

The next thing to look at is the house’s orientation. If it was built to maximize sun exposure, it will require less heating during the winter. Pay attention to the window placement as well—large windows that let in a lot of natural light will reduce your need to use artificial lights during the day.

Inside the house, look for features like energy efficient appliances, low-flow plumbing, recycled materials, wood from sustainable forests, and dual pane windows.

Not sure how to tell if a home’s orientation, landscaping, and features are working to its advantage? Work with a realtor who has sold green homes before and knows what to look for. You may also want to pay for an energy audit to learn how effective the house’s insulation is and how much you will likely spend on utilities.

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Property Taxes in the Boston Area

by c21commonweath_ldowling 15. April 2015 12:43

 

Calculating the cost of buying a new home? Don’t forget to factor in the annual property tax. Property tax is calculated differently depending on what state you live in, so if you’re thinking about moving to Boston, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Massachusetts laws and the average property tax rates in the greater Boston area.

In Massachusetts, a homeowner’s property tax is a percentage of the fair cash value of their house on January 1st of the current year. ‘Fair cash value’ simply means the price that a willing buyer could be expected to pay a willing seller, and an assessor typically determines that value by looking at the market price of similar properties sold in the last year and projecting the value to January 1st. The property tax will then be applied to the following fiscal year (which runs from July to June), and taxes are collected each quarter. So, for example, a property tax value based on a January 1, 2015 assessment would be paid during the July 2015-June 2016 fiscal year, with the first preliminary tax payment due on August 1st, 2015.

If you are a Massachusetts homeowner and you believe that your home has been overvalued in the annual assessment, you can submit an abatement application by the third quarter tax due date (February 1st). If an assessor determines that you are correct and the initial assessment was not accurate, you will receive a refund or credit based on the difference between the original proposed property tax value and your new, more accurate property tax value.

Once the correct assessed home value is determined, each town and city in Massachusetts determines what proportion of that total value local homeowners will pay per $1,000. For instance, if you owned a house that was valued at $350,000 in Framingham, where this year’s property tax rate is $18.29, you would divide $350,000 by $1,000 and multiply your result by $18.29 to get $6,401.50.

A town or city’s property tax rate is something that many buyers take into consideration when looking for a house in the Boston area. As of 2014, property tax rates for the greater Boston area range from $10.44 (in Woburn) to $21.20 (in Bolton). However, you also have to think about the average single family home prices in the area you want to live. If you find a town with a relatively low tax rate but houses with high assessed values, you can still end up with a relatively high tax bill. Ultimately, an area’s property tax rate is just one piece to think about in the bigger picture of purchasing a home.

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