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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Ways to Sell Your Boston Home in Winter

by c21commonweath_ldowling 25. November 2013 16:03

For many sellers, winter marks the end of their selling season, as they choose to rest the home and wait for the peak buying season of spring to begin. While winter may not be the optimal time to sell a home, the smart seller can take advantage of the lessened competition to get their property off their hands.

Keep It Cozy

It's always important to ensure your home looks as attractive as possible, and winter offers extra opportunities to get this right. Wreaths and tasteful seasonal decorations can capture the warm feelings of the season. If your Boston home has a fireplace, now is the perfect time to sell it as a charming feature of the home. There's almost nothing better than curling up next to a fire, and winter offers the opportunity to remind potential buyers of that warm and fuzzy feeling.

Leverage Your Location

Yes, winter means salting the driveway and shoveling snow, but if you are planning to buy a home in Boston, this is an important reality that you will have to live with and should consider before making an offer. As a seller you have the opportunity to show why your neighborhood and particular property is better suited than other homes for the season. Is it a short walk to the bus stop? Are you within walking distance of a grocery store? Is your street plowed frequently? Are you near a great hill that can provide hours of sledding fun? If skiing and skating are nearby, make sure you let buyers know that, too.

Use Lighting to Your Advantage

Let in as much natural light as possible. Try to host house tours or open houses in mid-afternoon, when the light is best. Of course, winter brings many overcast days, so it's important to make sure your interior and exterior lighting make the house look warm, inviting, and bright. Add lamps, or even candles, where light is lacking and be willing to take the hit on your electricity bill if need be. Though it gets dark early in the winter, leaving lights on so the house looks inviting to passerby will help you bring more people through the door.

 

Selling a home in the Boston area shouldn't require skipping an entire season. Follow our tips to make your home more appealing to the Boston area buyer.

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Celebrity Neighborhoods in Boston

by c21commonweath_ldowling 22. November 2013 17:57

Boston, Massachusetts, has been home to people of note since before the Republic began.  We'll highlight some great neighborhoods that Bostonians and residents of the greater Boston area have called home over the years.

Manny Ramirez

This former Red Sox slugger's downtown Boston condo has attracted almost as much attention as Ramirez himself. A 4 bedroom penthouse in the Ritz-Carlton, near Boston Common, it was acquired in 2001 for $5,778,790 and sold in 2011 after spending a few years on the market for a bit less than that, at $5.5 million. Boston buyers should be aware that the market is not quite as in their favor as it was a few years ago; prices on properties all across the Boston area have been rising, downtown included.

Bette Davis

You may not have known that the film legend was born in Lowell, Massachusettts, an old industrial town that is now a thriving suburb 25 miles outside of Boston. Lowell provides a number of resources to the region, including the University of Massachusetts Lowell and its Tsongas Center, home to numerous entertainment and sporting events. The home where she grew up is a two family house, a pink Victorian on Chester Street.

Tom Brady

The Patriots quarterback has had a series of homes in his time in the Boston area. A Back Bay penthouse Brady & wife Gisele Bundchen owned, was sold for over $9 million in 2012, and construction is ongoing on a home in Brookline. Brookline is an upscale suburb of Boston with great schools, parks, and The Country Club, the first private club in the United States.

Jay Leno

Jay Leno may be most closely associated with Los Angeles, but he has a home in Andover, Massachusetts, where he grew up.  Andover has been the home to a number of notable people, as well as Phillips Academy, perhaps the nation's most well known prep school.

Matt Damon & Ben Affleck

No list of celebrities in the Boston area would be complete without the actor-director duo, who grew up mere blocks apart in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  North of Boston, Cambridge is close enough for a commute but offers plenty of jobs and cultural entertainment of its own, in part due to the presence of educational powerhouses Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Boston area has many celebrities, past and present, spread across a variety of fantastic suburbs and historical towns.  Find your home in one of these great neighborhoods today.

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Finding the Right Boston Neighborhood

by c21commonweath_ldowling 21. November 2013 12:53

Buying Your Home in the Boston Area

If you’ve been looking to buy a home in Natick, Franklin, Cambridge, or anywhere in the greater Boston area, you may feel like someone has turned back time, back to the last decade’s housing boom. The Boston housing market has not been as volatile as the market of many other cities, but over the past year prices have continued to rise.  More than 60 communities have seen prices exceed those of the bubble years, and overall the Boston area is just 15% below the 2005 home price peak, according to the Boston Globe.

If you are looking to buy a home in greater Boston, what should you do?  What should you consider in determining what home you should buy?

First-Time Buyers in the Boston Area

If you're jumping into home buying for the first time, among the many things you'll have to take into consideration is picking a good starter neighborhood.  Salem is charming, growing, and decently priced, with Boston only a 20 minute commuter rail ride away. Medford is young, with great new restaurants, developing waterfront properties, and one of the lowest tax rates in the Boston area. Western South Boston ("Western Southie" to the uninitiated) has new condos, shops, restaurants, and a bright future. These towns are among the many in and around the Boston area where young buyers can get style and value at the same time, before moving with their families to a bigger home.

Families Looking for Great Investments

When your priorities expand to include school districts, new towns emerge as desirable in the 2013 Boston real estate market. Needham is known for its low taxes and schools that are recognized for their excellence statewide. Milton offers beautiful homes and special touches everywhere, including a French language immersion program that is offered as soon as the first grade.

Boomers Looking for Investment & Luxury Combined

For the Boston home buyer looking for great value and luxury, a number of neighborhoods stand out. Marblehead offers prestigious yachting and beautiful views, and Hingham’s historical homes attract boomer buyers with their charm. Sudbury offers spacious homes and with prices still beneath their peak, but recovering, its appeal for an investor is clear. There are great homes in each area that are still available in this buyer’s market.

Boston has much to offer a home buyer of any age and lifestyle. Find your new Boston home today!

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3 Reasons To Buy Your Home Before 2014

by c21commonweath_ldowling 11. November 2013 12:53

2013 will be over soon, and if you're a potential home buyer in the Boston area, you may be wondering if your purchase should wait. With the stress of the holidays almost upon us, is now really the time to buy a home?  Based on a number of economic factors, the answer is "yes."

Get In While Interest Rates Are Still Low

Interest rates are still historically low, but there are signs that will change soon. Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke has indicated that the Quantitative Easing program he has instituted to encourage low interest rates may be on its way out. This would mean that the Federal Reserve would no longer be buying mortgage-backed securities and treasuries in an effort to stimulate the economy. Without this help, interest rates on mortgages will no doubt go up. One of the reasons the Quantitative Easing program might go away sooner rather than later is fear that it could contribute to inflation. As a home buyer in Boston, now is the prime time to buy - take advantage of the low interest rates Quantitative Easing is bringing about before it goes away AND lock in a good interest rate in the event it affects inflation.

Winter Weather Rewards the Persistent

There is a lot of home buying activity in the summer, but fall and winter find more home buyers sitting on their hands. For a buyer, this means less chance of a bidding war, and in all likelihood, easier negotiating with a highly motivated seller. A home buyer can also get a better sense of the condition of the home. Is it drafty, heated evenly, well-insulated? Winter in the Boston area is hard on the heating bills, and buying during this season will give you a better sense of how your future home stacks up.

2014 Brings New Regulations

There's no fixed deadline set for the end of Quantitative Easing, but January of 2014 will bring a new mortgage rule that could affect home buyers in the Boston area, though it affects buyers nationwide. As of 2014, the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau (CFPB) will discourage banks and lenders from making loans where the ratio of debt- to-income is higher than 43%. If this rule had been in place in 2012, almost 1/5th of home-owners would have had to buy a less expensive home, or increase the amount they spent on a down payment. Sidestep this wrinkle in the home buying process altogether by buying in 2014.

There are many compelling reasons to buy a home in the greater Boston area this winter. Grab your gloves and a winter jacket, and find your dream home this year!

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