condo conversion

Should I Do a Condo Conversion for My Multi-Family House in Brookline?

If you own a two or three family house, I am sure you thought about the option of converting the house into condominiums.

 Watch this video to learn about condo conversion of a multi-family home in the Greater Boston area:

Doing a condo conversion is a tempting prospect, especially in a booming real estate market. Since the sum of condo values will exceed the house’s value, it is an idea worth exploration.

But just because the market is hot doesn’t mean it will be profitable for you!  Whether or not you should turn your two or three family house into condos depends on a few factors.

Here are three important questions to ask before you consider a condo conversion for your house.

1. What is the value of the home as a single entity versus as condominiums?

Your very first step is to ask a highly experienced real estate agent to give you a current price evaluation. The agent will need to provide you with a market analysis for several properties.

  • One analysis will be of the current market for multi-family houses Brookline.
  • Another analysis will be for the condo market in your neighborhood. For each unit in the building you will need a separate analysis, unless they are identical.

Once you know the value of the homes, you will be able to figure out how much you are willing to spend on a condo conversion.

Paperwork for cash money

2. What are the costs associated with the condo conversion?

There are several steps to the process, and each will cost money. There are two substantial expenses in a condo conversion.

– Legal expenses.

You will need to hire a real estate attorney who will write and file the documents, and advise you on the legal process. This may cost $12,000-$15,000.

– Rehab expenses.

This will be the bulk of your expenditure. In order to sell a two family home as two condos, the City will need to inspect the home and ensure it is up-to-code.

If your house is built in the late nineteenth century or early-to-mid twentieth century, like the overwhelming majority of the multi-family homes in Brookline, it is likely there is considerable work to do to get the house up to current standards.

I am not talking about the cosmetic changes.  These are electrical, plumbing, building and safety upgrades, and getting the property up to current codes required in order to obtain a certificate of occupancy necessary to close.

I cannot estimate this cost. If you’ve maintained and updated the house meticulously over the years, it may be $10,000 of various upgrades. If your house is needs a lot of work, it can cost $300,000. There is no way to estimate this without a licensed contractor.

– Expense of selling the home.

Other than the commission, which will be a percentage of the sales, you may also have to supply an engineer’s report for the condo conversion.  This will likely be less than $1,000.

 3.  Do I have the time, energy, and financial resources (cash) to do the necessary work?

This question is self explanatory.  You need to want to do the work involved in a conversion and have the money to pay for it.

Click on the link if you are curious to learn the value of your Brookline multi-family house. Or fill out the form below.

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how tax laws impact real estate

How The New Tax Law Will Impact Your Home

Are you wondering how the new tax laws will impact your home? I interview Bob Ingle, my accountant, about this important topic:

Ruth:  Hi, it’s Ruth again and I’m here with Bob Ingle at Ingle and Associates in Wellesley and we are talking about the changes in the tax code and how it’s effecting homeowners here in the greater Boston area especially. So, Bob, explain how the interest deduction is now changing with the new tax code.

Bob Ingle: Hi, Ruth. Thank you for having me on. Excuse me. As we all know, buying a home is a wonderful asset to purchase and the government helps out a bit by making the mortgage interest on the home deductible. The biggest change to the mortgage interest is on larger homes. When you have a mortgage of more than $750,000, which is fairly large in this day and age even in Massachusetts, the interest you pay on the mortgage in excess of $750,000 is not deductible, which curtails what deduction you can take and the tax savings that you have.

Ruth:  So, essentially what we’re saying is that the very high end homes and buyers who need to mortgage, to get a mortgage for those homes are going to be … Not being able to benefit as much from those deductions and their taxes essentially are going to go up.

Bob Ingle:  That is correct. That is on only new mortgages.

Ruth: Only new mortgages. So everything, any mortgage taken up to now is not going to be effected by this law.

Bob Ingle:  That’s right. The current limit is $1.1 million dollars of mortgage interest is deductible.

Ruth:  How is the state and local tax deduction going to change, Bob?

Bob Ingle:  All right. There is a change in this tax law. But let me first go back a step and saying that it’s always great to be a homeowner. The government likes you to be homeowners so they give you certain deductions that you don’t normally have beyond the standard deduction. In the past, you could only deduct taxes and real estate taxes paid if you itemize your taxes on your return.  They are now limiting the combination of real estate and state income tax deductions to $10,000 per return. That is a significant change in the tax law. People in the higher towns easily pay excess of $10,000 in taxes.

Ruth:   Yup.

Bob Ingle:   And then income tax on top of that. So, even though your tax rates might be going down, your taxable income is going up.

Ruth:   So, the places most effected by it are people with … Those who are most effected are those who are already paying high income taxes at the state level.

Bob Ingle:  Right.

Ruth:  And those who are living in towns such as Weston or Newton or areas where the real estate tax is very high.

Bob Ingle:   That’s correct.

Ruth:  So, it’s the combination of the local tax plus the state tax together, in excess of $10,000 is not going to be deductible.

Bob Ingle:  That is correct. That’s going to effect most of my clients. So, planning is very important going forward.

Ruth:  All right. Is there any way to mitigate this a little bit?

Bob Ingle:  A lot of my clients are paying the first quarter real estate for 2018 now, before the end of the year. But, no, there’s not much …

Ruth:   But by the time this comes out, it’s going to be too late.

Bob Ingle:  Right. So, we’ll stop here. We’re done.

Ruth:  We’re done. There’s no way to mitigate. They’re taking our money.

Bob Ingle:  Big Brother is watching us.

Ruth:  Take it up with the GOP. If you have any other questions about the tax code, you can call me but I’m going to ask you to call Bob instead. We are going to give all the contact information for Ingle and Associates and they can answer all of your questions about how specifically you are going to be effected by the new tax code. Thank you so much. You know where to find me. Call, text, write a comment below. We love hearing from you.


2018 real estate predictions boston

2018 Real Estate Predictions

Were my 2017 real estate predictions correct? What do I think 2018 will have in store for the Greater Boston real estate market?

Hi everybody, it’s Ruth. Happy New Year. Happy 2018. A quick video just to talk about what I think is going to happen in the Greater Boston real estate market in 2018. I think the first thing we’re going to see is finally more inventory. I did make that prediction for 2017, and I was wrong, but I am sticking to that prediction for 2018. I think finally we’re going to see some of that inventory come on the market and less pressure on the market. More homes to choose from.

With that, I see a flattening out of the prices. Prices only went up about 3.5% in Boston and Brookline in the past year, so I think the prices are just above flattening out. Less pressure, fewer multiple offers on each listing. This is great news for buyers. It’s going to be easier to pick up a home. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a buyer market. I think it’s still going to be a seller leaning market though.

Mortgage rates, last year I did predict they’re going to stay under 5%. The absolutely stayed under 5%. They’re hovering around 4%. I think they are going to go up a little bit and still stay under 5%. Mortgage rates are looking good.

I think the changes in the tax code and refer to a previous video I did with my tax accountant Bob Ingle about how the tax code is going to impact housing. I think it’s going to impact mostly housing in the higher end market, $1.5 million and above. These are the buyers that are going to feel that impact the most and maybe the buyers for those price ranges, their budgets are going to go down slightly. That may be reflected in the price as we will see.

 In general, I see a very active market coming up in 2018 in Greater Boston. The ultra luxury and luxury markets are going to be slowing down $2.5, $3 million and up. Slowing down already for the past year. They’re going to keep slowing down, which is the first indicator of a leveling off.

Some markets that are going to pop, I think the condo market in Brookline is still going to be extremely hot and the condo market in Brighton as well. We had almost no inventory last year in Brighton. I think that’s going to change and I think prices are going to go up more significantly in places like Brighton, in West Roxbury where these are entry level housing for Boston residents. And of course, Brookline and Newton on the lower end of the market, under $1 million are also going to be very active, very hot as young families are moving into these wonderful communities with excellent schooling.

Some of the hot topics that are going to be discussed in the housing realm in Greater Boston. One hot topic is going to be walkability. The closer the home is to a walkable area, meaning a place with some commercial activity and public transportation, the better the home is situated. Walkability is very high on the priority list and the lifestyle that the buyers are looking for.

As for the design trend, I think we’re going to see a continuation of a preference for minimalistic and smaller homes. More flexible designs. The location is more important than the square footage. We’re going to see higher prices per square footage for smaller homes. We’re going to see a continuation in that trend as families value open space and flexible space over the amount of space, and the location being the number one priority for most home buyers.

If you would like to discuss how the housing market in 2018 is going to impact you as a home buyer, as a home seller, I would love to talk to you individually. Every story is different. Everybody has different needs, a different lifestyle and a different home. Give me a call, write me a text, make a comment below. I would love to hear from you. Have a wonderful, happy, joyous 2018.

Ruth Malkin Brookline Real Estate Expert


real estate tax rate

Massachusetts Real Estate Tax Rates

Below find an interactive map of Massachusetts tax rates by towns created by Kurt Rosenfeld, including information on residential exemption.  Some of the highest real estate taxes, per $1,000 in assessed value, are in Longmeadow at $23.58, Wilbraham at $22, and Maynard at $22.

Lowest real estate taxes are paid in Hancock (Berkshire County) at $2.94 and Chatham at $5.03.  

Remember, the tax rate is calculated per thousand dollars of assessed value.  Even though Brookline’s real estate taxes seems fairly low for Massachusetts at $9.88, the high property value accounts for the sizable tax liability homeowners pay.  But Brookline, along with a handful of other towns, has a residential exemption. 

A residential exemption allows homeonwers to pay less taxes than real estate investors.  The exemption is a reduction in the assessed value of the home.  In Brookline the residential exemption saves homeowners nearly $2,300 for fiscal year 2017.  In Boston, homeowners save $2,435 this year, and in Cambridge $2,046.

For an interactive version of the map, click on it.  

Massachusetts Real Estate Tax Rates

massachusetts real estate taxes

Massachusetts Real Estate Tax Map by Kurt Rosenfeld, March 2017. For details, five year rate history, and residential exemption information, click on the map for an interactive version.


home seller's market boston

3 Things I Dislike About The Home Seller’s Market Right Now

There’s 3 things I dislike about the home seller’s market in Boston right now. I share my comments in the video below:


Here’s a transcript of the video:

Hi, everybody. It’s Ruth. I wanted to share a few thoughts I’ve had about the home seller’s market as a result from a conversation I had with a new client buyer of mine last week.

There are three things I really dislike about the home seller’s market. We’re defining the home seller’s market as for the very low inventory we’re finding in Boston and Brookline, and many other parts of the country. We’re also seeing the home prices going up very, very quickly, and multiple offers on almost every single property coming on the market in the overwhelming majority of price ranges.

The three things I really dislike about this market. Number one, I’m working with a lot of young families who are struggling to find housing, suitable housing, that they can afford in communities where they want to live, be it Brookline, Newton, Arlington, some other areas, Wellesley as well, where families, young families, are unable to enjoy the community where they really want to live. They are being pushed out even to very entry level housing. Their incomes may be high but prices are way, way up. Housing is taking up a greater and greater portion of the income. That’s one thing we’re struggling with in this market.

Number two is sellers are starting to get a little bit overconfident. I think it’s a very natural part of this cycle that at some point, after a strong seller’s market, homeowners believe their properties are worth a lot more sometimes than they are. That the homebuyers are willing to pay anything for it. That’s not really the case. They may be desperate for housing but they’re not going to pay anything for the property. That’s a conversation I’m finding I’m having more often with home sellers.

The third point I want to make about the home seller’s market is the vicious cycle aspect of it. When there’s low inventory in one price range, it’s hard for buyers to move around. Therefore, sellers are not putting their home on the market. They don’t have anywhere to go. This becomes a cycle. I am speaking to several of you, many of you out there, home sellers thinking about putting their homes on the market. But where do we go? How do we move? What if we do not find a place to go? That is the biggest concern of home seller’s right now, is what if I don’t find a place to go. Do I still need to sell my place? The vicious cycle aspect of it is making things worse and making it harder to break out of the strong home seller’s market.

Thank you for listening. These are the thoughts I wanted to share with you today. You know where to find me. If you want to comment, talk, ask a question, call, text, write a comment. 

Ruth Malkin Brookline Real Estate Expert

What’s The Biggest Asset Class In The World?

I just read a very interesting article about the biggest asset class in the world. I share my comments on what I see happening and how it may impact you. Click to watch:

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Hi. It’s Ruth. I’m in my Brookline, Massachusetts office, and Boston weather seems to be saying “goodbye summer and hello fall.” I hope it’s nice where you are. I wanted to first of all thank everybody for all the comments, e-mails, and phone calls after the last video. I love hearing from you. Keep them coming. I’m always glad to hear from you.

Today I wanted to discuss the largest asset class in the world. Do you know what it is? The very, very biggest market in the world? It is the United States residential real estate market. It is a $26 trillion market right now. That is the value of residential housing in the United States. It is bigger than the stock market. The United States Stock Market in its entirety is worth currently approximately $25 trillion. Of the $26 trillion in housing, about $15 trillion is in equity, which is the good stuff. That’s the good news. That means $11 trillion is in mortgages.

I’ve had a conversation with a couple of people recently about the 2008 financial crisis, and what has changed since and how lending has changed since. There was also a timely article a couple of weeks ago in the Economist that I enjoyed, and I want to share some of the ideas and some of the thoughts I’ve had. In 2008 I know the basic way to look at the crisis it started out from risky bad lending. Some of it was even fraudulent. I remember in 2006 having a conversation with one of my mortgage brokers who said, “Really, all you need to get a loan is a pulse.” I’ll never forget that. I don’t know if I was more scared or humored by that comment, but probably scared would’ve been the right reaction.

That is no longer true. Right now, it is much harder to get a loan, and, as some of my most qualified buyers in the past couple of years have found out, that even with 20% down and excellent credit, they’re still going through the wringer to secure the loan for their home. That has changed dramatically. Another thing that has changed dramatically is the health of the banks. The banks, what they were doing in the 2k’s leveraging lending and making many risky loans, but at the same time they have very low reserves in the bank, which has been a reoccurring problem in financial crises. I won’t get into the history of finance, but right now most of the banks we’re looking at about double the cash reserves of 2008 or the pre-crisis time.

One thing that hasn’t changed since the 2008 financial crisis is the fact that the United States government is backing up the overwhelming majority of mortgages. What does that mean? Well, the United States government backing up anything means it’s the United States taxpayer who ultimately has to pay for a bailout, which is what we did in 2008 and we will do again if and when the next mortgage crisis happens. Whether or not that’s a good or bad thing that the United States is backing up loans, that’s a conversation that I’m not going to have here, but I’m happy to discuss with you in person.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that the next financial crisis is right around the corner. I really do not. I think we’re looking at a very robust market in the next few years. Maybe less price increases, flattening out of prices, which is probably a good thing. If you have any questions about this topic, you want to argue with me, discuss with me, or just check in, I would absolutely love to hear you. You know where to find me. Call, text, e-mail. Talk to you soon.

boston real estate market questions

What’s Going On In The Boston Real Estate Market?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently about what’s going on in the Boston real estate market.

So I put together this video to answer those questions. Click below to watch:

As always, I’m here to help you make great real estate decisions. If you have any questions about anything real estate related, please let me know.

39 Englewood Ave Brighton

New Listing, 39 Englewood Ave #16, Brighton

Two bedroom condo in Brighton’s Cleveland Circle in excellent condition.  Brookline line home just steps to Beacon Street, C, D lines.  Second floor condo with two spacious bedrooms, good closet space, plenty of sunshine.  Features include recent stainless steal appliances and new windows, hardwood floors, open kitchen-living room and a private porch.  City lifestyle with restaurants and parks nearby.  39 Englewood is quiet and well managed, with laundry in the building.

Number of bedrooms: 2

Square Feet: 775

Asking: $375,000

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Chart of the Week: Brookline Condo Sales Year-to-Date

It’s been a transitional year in real estate for Brookline, just like the rest of the country.  While most of the United States is finally showing signs of a strong revival in the housing market, Brookline is way ahead as usual.  Brookline’s condo market is showing signs of inventory revival, after a couple years of sparse sales and double digit price hikes.

As of the end of July, there have been 340 condos sold in Brookline, well ahead of this time last year and slightly ahead of 2013.  Notice, though, it still falls short of the peak from a decade ago, about 35% fewer sales in 2015 than 2005 or 2002.

Why is the number of sales important? Looking at the number of sales will show us that more buyers are finally buying a home.  This chart shows us where we are in a cycle of sales, usually leading the price cycle.  The trough is behind us.

None of this means buyer experience has changed much in 2015 than in previous years.  More condos sold so far this year, but there are more buyers entering the market as well.  The pressure on buyers is caused by both the inventory available and the number of buyers.  Anecdotal evidence will tell a story of a tough seller’s market, with multiple offers as commonplace.

Brookline condo market


21 Most Common Questions from Home Buyers

21 Most Common Questions from Home Buyers