Commonwealth Focus: Demographic Trends

by c21commonweath_ldowling 19. November 2014 14:35

Shifting population trends are a hallmark of America’s success and evolution. They spell opportunity for real estate professionals who understand the coming changes and tap into networks of rapidly growing ethnic groups, emerging economic sectors like the ‘knowledge’ economy or even age groups that experienced large birth rates. Here are some trends to watch in the coming years.

The Rise of Asian and Latino Markets

The country’s Asian population grew to 19.4 million last year, making this group on e of the fastest growing in the country. Latinos are an even larger population segment, with 54 million reported in the last Census. The Latino population accounted for 2.6 million first-time home owners during the past decade, the single-largest segment of newly minted buyers.

Both groups are known for well-organized community groups and networks that welcome those with an interest in learning about their heritage. For example, the Winchester School of Chinese teaches the language and culture of China through arts and cultural events. The Boston Spanish Language Meet Up organization in Cambridge hosts meetings weekly for its nearly 3,000 members.

Image via www.ceibs.edu

Both the Latino and Asian populations actively support cultural media outlets. For example, the El Mundo Spanish-language is in New England and is distributed to 21 cities around Boston. The Sampan newspaper, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in the region, reaches 24,000 households, including many on the West Coast and in Hawaii. Both offer translation services for advertising.

Image via Facebook.com/elmundoboston

The Millennial Boom

Millennials, or Americans born between 1982 and 2004, are the single largest group of citizens in the United States, even if many of them aren’t old enough to vote. While few are of home-buying age, and even fewer are able to purchase homes following the Great Recession, experts predict this group will have an outsized influence on the housing economy in the next 5 to 10 years. Researchers note that this generation tends to be civic minded yet insulated from society’s institutions, value wealth yet may not have the temperament to climb the corporate ladder, and want to create change yet lack a focus for that ideal.

Image via www.ceibs.edu

 Even with large student loan debt ratios and tight credit, Millennials’ outlook on home ownership is expected to grow, according to a recent report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Key factors in Millennials’ purchasing decisions tend to center on lifestyle choices, not economic standing. Surveys show that Millennial will settle for smaller living spaces in exchange for desirable locations and access to preferred amenities, retail areas and entertainment. In particular, Millennials who are old enough to purchase homes tend to live within close proximity of restaurants, bars and shopping outlets.

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Commonwealth Community Profile: Somerville

by c21commonweath_ldowling 10. November 2014 12:20

There are many reasons why Somerville is widely known as the center of the “hipster” universe but the largest reason why is found in the 2010 Census. Among all American communities, Somerville has the 2nd largest percentage of adult residents between the ages of 25 and 34 years of age. That, along with funky neighborhood squares (Davis, Union and Teele to name a few), Tufts University and a vibrant arts community, has fueled a booming economy and tremendous growth.

A two-time winner of the coveted All-America City Award, Somerville is now home to the much-anticipated Assembly Row which transformed a former Ford Motor Company plant along the Mystic River into a sprawling retail, entertainment and residential center that features Lego Land Discovery Center, more than a dozen fashion and shoe outlets, and hot eateries. At the same time, the city’s economy is booming thanks to a myriad of ethnic dining destinations (including Brazilian, Ethiopian, Haitian, and Peruvian cuisine), unique ‘mom and pop’ businesses (such as Brooklyn Boulders rock climbing, the Esh Circus Arts center, and the Aeronaut Brewery.)

Many notable public figures have called Somerville home, including native son and U.S. Congressman Mike Capuano (uncle of Hollywood star Chris Evans of Captain America fame), Boston University hockey coaching legend Jack Parker and Archibald Query, whom you may know as the inventor of the iconic sandwich spread Marshmallow Fluff. Mr. Query is celebrated every year at the “Fluff Festival,” which is billed as a “madcap” affair complete with a “Shenanigans Stage.”

Somerville’s access to the MBTA subway, rail and bus system (15 stations between the Orange, Green, Red, Commuter Rail and bus lines) makes it one the most commuter-friendly cities in Greater Boston and more than half of the city’s resident commute by public transit, walking, or bicycling.

Somerville has come a long way since the Revolutionary War, where one of the first rebellious acts took place in the fight for American independence, and the Industrial Revolution, which gave the city of 79,000 people a reputation as a blue-collar enclave during the 20th Century. Today, the average single-family home lists for $670,000 and the average condominium lists for $461,500. For information about listings in Somerville, contact Charlie Ball at (617) 666-2121.

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Commonwealth Connection: Online Tools That Work For You

by c21commonweath_ldowling 4. November 2014 13:46

Given the volume of web tools and mobile apps on the market today for real estate agents, it’s not always easy to select the most useful applications. This blog entry shares some of the web and mobile tools that can make your work easier, so you can focus on selling.

File share smarts

The two most popular online file sharing systems are Dropbox and Google Drive. But which one is better? If you need to share files quickly with clients, Dropbox might be the right tool for you. That’s because Dropbox is designed for quick sharing and storage. With Dropbox’s encrypted protection feature, it’s easy to send a secure link to a client or prospective buyers so they can access anything they might need, immediately.

 

By comparison, Google Drive is ideal for collaborative projects because the system updates and tracks shared files in real time. If you and other agents need to work on the same document at the same time, Google Drive lets you do that no matter where you are.

Spam be gone!

What’s more annoying than hundreds of email subscriptions jamming up your inbox? There’s a tool that can help. Unroll.me sifts through subscriptions that are associated with your account and cancel the ones you don’t want instantly. Unroll.me works by compiling automatic email subscriptions and allowing you unsubscribe to unwanted updates with a single click.

One caveat: Unroll.me only works for emails hosted on Google, Yahoo! and Outlook.com (i.e., it is not compatible with Microsoft Exchange)

Vmail with ease

Many experts believe that Video Emails will revolutionize real estate listings because they allow for immediate sharing of virtual property tours. One platform that is making waves in the realty industry is Bomb-Bomb, a video app that allows you to create property tours at the palm of your hands.

 The app lets you drop and drag photos of your listing into a template and then create a video incorporating all of the images you have taken at the property. With open rates of 67%, this tool is useful for direct marketing to longstanding clients as well as potential customers.

Social visibility

Every wished that you could you create a digital video property tour and upload it immediately to your social marketing platforms, including Facebook and Twitter? Welcome to the future, courtesy of Tout.

Tout’s mobile publishing platform means you can post videos instantly to any digital platform, including websites, other mobile apps and social media. The app works on IOS and Android as well as desktop through a proprietary webcam publisher available at Tout.com. 

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Commonwealth Community Profile: Newton

by c21commonweath_ldowling 10. October 2014 10:47

Newton Massachusetts is home to the Boston College Eagles, the historic Brae Burn Country Club, and as the home of notable people from a range of disciplines, including drama (actors Jack Lemmon, Matt LeBlanc, and John Krasinski), literary arts (Isaac Asimov, David Mamet) and comedy (Louis C.K.). It is also the home of legendary corporate leaders such as Robert Kraft and Sumner Redstone.

One of the little known facts about Newton is that it is one of the state’s larger cities, with 85,150 residents (11th most populous) and 18.2 square miles of territory (29th largest.) The community offers MBTA access to Boston (bus, subway and commuter rail), low crime rate, high-ranking schools and more recently, ‘green’ energy standards (in 2012, Newton announced that it purchases all of its energy via clean energy generation.)

No wonder the city was recently named the “Best City to Live In” by a national financial news and opinion outlet!

Newton remains one of the nation’s oldest communities (it was settled in 1630) and boasts a historically rich past as one of America’s earliest commuter suburbs (located 7 miles from downtown Boston, it’s easy to see why.)

The suburb’s convenient location makes it a hotspot for real estate, with the average 2014 home price valued at $819, 600, up 7% increase from 2013.

For more information about Newton listings, contact manager Greg Kiely at (617) 969-2121.

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Luxury 101: Three Tips to Move Mansions

by c21commonweath_ldowling 2. October 2014 16:08

As the price of a home increases, real estate agents face greater challenges when seeking to sell them. Catering to buyers who know what they want and have money to spend means doing everything possible to highlight the appeal of a luxury home. While beauty always is in the eye of the beholder, there are three things to keep in mind when listing a luxe property that will help move it quickly to “sold.” 

(Image viabayviewbuilders.com)

1. The price must be right

Selling luxury does not mean that price is no object. In fact, pricing can be even more crucial when dealing with sophisticated, educated and sometimes competitive buyers who are driven by the idea of ‘winning.’ The best approach means listing the property at a price based on a reasonable structure. Remember: overpriced properties are likely to drive buyers away and may even freeze out a splurge buyer. The average luxury home sits on the market longer than a more moderately priced home, which in a strong market, is less than 45 days on average in Eastern Massachusetts. The easiest way to set an appropriate starting price for a luxury property is by conducting a thorough comparative market analysis. By looking carefully at prices of similar homes that were recently in your community, even the fanciest home can be priced appropriately in line with your overall sales strategy. 

 

(Image via realestatecrm.biz)

2. Staging for gazing

Staging helps minimize a home’s time on the market, regardless of price point. For luxury listings, this means emphasizing the elegant elements of home. Formal dining rooms must be set with formal china, sterling silver place settings and crystal goblets. Outdoor amenities such as garden terraces, patios, porticos and outdoor dining areas must be immaculate. Bedrooms must exude elegance with items like plush down pillows, gorgeous quilts, and stylized accessories like mirrors, chests and armoires. Remember the golden rule of luxury staging: demonstrating the extravagance of a home can’t help but impress potential buyers. 

 

(Image via lushome.com)

3. A picture is worth much more than a thousand words

Luxury buyers are human. The things they see will make an impress. That’s why every luxury home must be marketed with superior photos shot using professional-level equipment in the most flattering lighting possible. In fact, splurging on a professional photographer is recommended for any property over $2 million. Staged lighting, high-speed cameras and a professional photographer’s inmate style and touch will yield images that emphasize the finery and amenities within the property while highlighting its unique selling points. 

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Three Fall Staging Tips to Wow Buyers

by c21commonweath_ldowling 30. September 2014 18:26

Autumn appeal for potential home buyers is adding a touch of flair to your staging décor. Warm scents, fall foliage hues, and inviting lighting accents provide elegant ways to ensure that a home leaves a lasting impression. Check out these three staging tips that will charm and delight buyers in a tastefully appropriate manner.

Come and knock on our door

Upping a property’s wow factor starts at the front doorway. Consider lining the steps with gourds of varying shapes and sizes. For a splash of color, incorporate an arrangement of potted chrysanthemums in bronze, yellow, burnt orange, and white. Spruce up the door itself by hanging a harvest wreath complete with vibrant foliage like leaves, myrtle, oat, wheat and berries.

Image via Unskinnyboppy.com

Seasonal Scents

The smell of pumpkin spice and warm cinnamon apples are synonymous with autumn. These comforting and nostalgic scents make a house feel cozy and warm. Popular varieties include Yankee Candle’s Bay Leaf Wreath, Apple Spice, or Pumpkin Ginger Bark, all which make a space feel homier. Candles should be displayed in a fall arrangement by placing them in glass trifle bowl and laying them atop a bed of artificial leaves.

Image via Figuringouthome.wordpress.com

Let there be light

As the crisp autumn weather rolls in and daylight wanes, agents are presented with the challenge of brightening up homes during evening showings. To make lighting inviting for tours at dusk or at night, using soft tones is a must. Avoid fluorescent lights and use bulbs with gentler hues to create an ambient and familiar atmosphere.

Image via Interior-Design-It-Yourself.com

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Donation Centers Give Furniture a New Life

by c21commonweath_ldowling 25. September 2014 17:54

Making a house a home takes work. Filling family rooms and mantles with photos of friends and family, decorations and most importantly – furniture, breathes life into the household and the family who live there. Throughout the moving process, real estate agents often encounter buyers and sellers who find themselves with excess furniture. Whether they are downsizing to a smaller home or undertaking an interior design overhaul, excess chairs, sofas and the like can pose a logistical challenge. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution- organizations like NewLife Home Refurnishing gladly accept gently-used furniture that can be distributed to a family in need.

NewLife Home Refurnishing, which is based in Medfield, MA with a furniture collection site in Walpole, MA, has partnered with the Commonwealth team for many years with agents from Medfield volunteering to sort through collected items. The not-for-profit organization provides furniture to people who have fallen on tough economic times, victims of fire or flood, veterans, refugees, and many more in need. The organization also accepts a wide range of donations from mattresses to desks to cooking utensils. For those who don’t have furniture to donate, but would still like to help, NewLife accepts tax-deductible monetary donations.

Real Estate agents are in an ideal position to help non-profits like NewLife thrive. Clients who are looking to get rid of furniture throughout the home buying/selling process often welcome help in taking unwanted or unneeded furniture off their hands. Agents who are interested in learning more about how clients can donate goods, please visit: http://www.newlifehr.org.

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Fall Foliage Trips

by c21commonweath_ldowling 3. September 2014 18:32

Fall is one of the most exciting times to be in New England, and justifiably so. Nothing quite compares to the crisp fall weather, crackle of leaves below, and the stunning foliage that can be seen all around the homes of Boston area towns and the New England countryside.

boston houses

If you are looking to take a weekend roadtrip, the following towns have some of the most marvelous landscapes for viewing. Check out our list below and let us know your favorites!

Lake Waramaug in October

Near Litchfield, Connecticut, Lake Waramaug is located near Mt. Tom. The colors in the fall are so beautiful that Connecticut’s official Department of Environmental Protection website provides daily updates on the foliage for visitors.

The Berkshires

Massachusetts' very own Berkshires offer a vast landscape of fall colors. It's great for hiking, strolling, camping, and canoeing. The Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts shines in the fall and is perfect for a drive. There are many great towns to stop in for shopping and dining, too.

Vermont

If you're in the mood for a long drive, take a trip down the Kancamagus Highway in Vermont. It's particularly breathtaking in early October. You can count yourself among the "leaf peepers," a colloquial term for people who travel to take in the foliage.

Boston

If you live in a Boston home, you don’t have to travel far to find places that show off New England’s natural colors. The Boston Common and Public Garden are fantastic leafy places for a stroll. The Esplanade along the Charles River is great for walking, running, and biking with a background of vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows. You can dive deeper into fall by visiting the Arnold Arboretum, where you can learn about the trees that most captivate you and sip a cider from the visitor center after your tour.

Do you have places near your Boston home that you love to visit? Spots off the beaten path you love to tour in the fall? Let us know in the comments!

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Things to Do in Boston in August

by c21commonweath_ldowling 8. August 2014 18:42

Although summer is coming to an end, there is still no shortage of things to do in Boston, from theatre, to festivals, to sports games, Boston continues to offer events that you won’t want to miss out on, and here is just a short list.

 

Shakespeare on the Common 2014

The Boston Common is a wonderful outdoor space, to relax at night and enjoy some theatre or some music! From right now until August 10th, the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company will present Twelth Night. This year Shakespeare on the Common is also offering special concerts that will take place before the plays so don’t forget to get there early, and admission is totally free!

Festivals and Feasts

Boston GreenFest 2014 – From August 15th to 17th at Boston City Hall Plaza, you can visit this festival for free and have fun while learning about what is you can do in your home and neighborhood to address the important changes we need to make for the environment!

St. Anthony’s Feast – From August 29th to 31st, St. Anthony’s Feast, that has been celebrates since 1919, will be taking place in New England. All entertainment is free and open to the public, and while you’re there you’ll have to try the delicious food because after all, this is the largest Italian Religious Festival in New England!

 

5th Annual Mass Brewers Fest – On August 29th the Seaport World Trade Center will turn into a brewery for the day! This fest will offer more that 100 styles of local beer to sample, so come out, celebrate local craft beer, and drink a cold one!

 

Summer Dine Out Boston 2014

For 2 weeks in August, Boston turns into a place that will allow you to try all those little restaurants you’ve wanted to try, but just never had the chance! Local restaurants offer a limited number of items for lunch and dinner at a specified low price! So go around Boston and try all these delicious cuisines! 

Red Sox Games

Of course, with the summer wrapping up, we can’t forget to catch at least one more Red Sox Game! In August we still have 3 more teams to play at home, the Astros, the Angels, and the Mariners, so get out there and cheer your Red Sox on!

New England Patriots Pre-Season

 

Football time has arrived! Break out the tailgating gear and head down to Gillette Stadium to watch the Patriots play the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers in week 2 and 3 of the 2014 NFL preseason!

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Agent Primers

by c21commonweath_ldowling 25. July 2014 10:39

Agent Primer: Google Glass for Realtors

Google Glass is the search and Internet giant’s self-described “smart glasses.” The best way to describe the device is as a smart phone worn on your face. Many experts believe Google Glass will revolutionize the real estate market, both for buyers and sellers.

The $1500 glasses became available to the public in May 2014. Smart Glasses applications enable realtors, while wearing the device, to live stream a tour of any property from a first-person perspective. The viewer on the other end sees what the seller sees as they move around the house. The buyer experiences a personal, one-on-one tour of the property—even if they are halfway across the world.

Google Glass

This innovation is game-changing for realtors showing to clients who wish to pre-screen a property in a high level of detail or who are unable to travel to see every home. Generic photos and video home tours cannot capture the property as meticulously as Google Glass.

The tours are shot hands-free, allowing the realtor to open closets and refrigerators or turn on taps, effectively displaying every amenity in the home. Realtors can also wear the glasses as they drive, educating prospective buyers about the property’s neighborhood while navigating through it.

For more information and tips, see National Mortgage Professional’s article “Five Ways Google Glass Will Change Real Estate.”

Agent Primer: Virtual Staging 101

Every realtor knows that the cost of staging a home can be as much as $2500, but is well worth the effort. Rooms just look better when decorated tastefully, and empty homes spend upwards of 70% more time sitting on the market, according to the Real Estate Staging Association. Fortunately, new virtual staging services make sophisticated staging accessible. These services, offered online by hundreds of companies, fill rooms with lifelike digital furniture and accessories at the touch of a button.

Companies like Virtual Staging Solutions and Obeo Virtual Staging charge approximately $80 dollars to stage a room, and as little as $325 for a group of five. The service is easy to use, requiring only three simple steps. A) Select your photo package. B) Submit and describe the photos. C) Choose from the site’s furniture options, or allow them to choose for you. In no more than four business days, your photos are returned full of furniture, fixtures, and art.

In an age where the Internet is the primary search tool for prospective buyers, superior property photos make an impact. Use virtual staging technology to grab prospective buyers’ attention and show them the full potential of a space—without breaking the bank.

For more details, see The Boston Globe’s recent article on the virtual staging phenomenon.

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