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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condo conversion in greater boston

Condo Conversions in Greater Boston: Everything You Need To Know

Have you considered doing a condo conversion in Greater Boston? There’s lots of factors to consider in a condo conversion:

Ruth:   Hi, everybody. It’s Ruth. I’m sitting here with my friend and attorney Ilya Fuchs, and we want to discuss condo conversions. We’ve had a lot of question about condo conversions recently, and we’re hoping this video will answer your questions if you are looking into it or considering it, but first, hi, Ilya.

Ilya:    Hi, Ruth.

Ruth:  Hi. Can you, let’s start by just simply defining what is a condo conversion?

Ilya:    A condo conversion in Massachusetts is governed by the Massachusetts Condominium Act with Chapter 183A. Simply put, if you own a two-family house and you want to convert it into individual condos, there are legal steps to take, documents, which need to be prepared and recorded, to make that two-family two individual condominiums.

Ruth:  It’s turning one property into several properties, essentially.

Ilya:    Correct.

Ruth:   What would be some of the very basic steps that somebody who’s considering a condo conversion?

Ilya:     The basic steps are the homeowner needs to engage two important people in the process. One is an architect, and the second is an attorney. The architect is the person who prepares the condominium plans off of which the attorney prepares the master deed and the declaration of trust, two important documents. The master deed is the document, which, first of all, declares the property a condominium. It also sets out to define the units, define the property, define the percentage interest that each condominium has in the common areas, and things of that nature. That gets recorded. The second document is the declaration of trust, which also gets recorded. That sets up the association for the condominium, sets out the by-laws, the rules and regulations by which the condominium is governed.

Ruth:   Really, what you need is an architect who specifically understands condo conversions in order for the attorney or for you to start being able to even put these documents together.

Ilya:     I mean, yes, the architect needs to know the rules, which are simple rules in terms of what size paper, really, the Mylar has to be to be accepted at various registers of deeds, the various margins, et cetera. Believe it or not, not every architect is versed, so it’s better to work with an architect who knows those … Any architect can draw the plans, but it’s much easier for someone who’s versed in the condo conversion.

Ruth:   What are some of the mistakes you’re seeing homeowners make when considering a condo conversion?

Ilya:      I think that most homeowners don’t even know what’s involved in the condo conversion. Some of the mistakes are, if specifically a homeowner is going to retain one of the units for themselves and they’re going to live there, they really need to take into account the rules and regulations, the various items that go into the owners when drafting because they’re going to stay there. It’s one thing when you have a two-family or selling both units, you don’t really care, it’s generic, et cetera, but for units that are retained by the homeowner, it’s important to take a lot into account.

I think the way I do is it I spend time speaking with the homeowner asking them a lot of questions. I also visit the property because it’s important to see what’s being converted. Is there a yard? Do they want it shared? Is there going to be exclusive use areas of the basement? Are there parking spots involved? If there are, then it’s not just a master condo plan, but you may need to prepare or record a site plan for the property. There’s a lot that goes into it.

 Also, if the units are currently tenanted. Most homeowners don’t know that each town has their own ordinances how to deal with condo conversions, and they supersede the state law. For example, if you have tenants, there are certain notice provisions you have to give before you can convert the property. Typically, it’s a year. Sometimes, you have to give the tenants a right of first refusal-

Ruth:  Wow.

Ilya:    … on the property. In Boston, for example, if you’re dealing with elderly or disabled tenants or low-income tenants, there may be a five-year period of notice for evictions. These are the things that need to be discussed up front before you even begin the process.

Ruth:  What are some of the trends you’re seeing in the condo conversion market?

Ilya:    I would say 15 years ago, I was doing a lot of condo conversions. Once the crash happened and the lending rules changed at around 2007, 2008, it stopped. Nobody was condo-converting. It was very difficult to get a mortgage for new homeowners, but I would say in the past year and a half or so, they’re back. Condo conversions are on the rise.

Ruth:  And back.

Ilya:    Couple of reasons are because there are a lot of young professionals and first-time buyers who can’t afford a single-family home. A condo is much more affordable. Also, because the lending rules and regulations have relaxed such that people are able to be the first person to buy in a three-unit condo, whereas before, lenders didn’t want to be the first bank to loan.

Ruth:  Right. They were looking owner-occupancy and-

Ilya:   Exactly, and that’s changed. I think also it’s a hot market. What I’m seeing is people who are converting the properties are pre-selling them before even the condo docs are recorded. Certainly, if you are a homeowner and you’re thinking of selling your three-family, you’re going to make a lot more selling three individual condos.

That being said, you need to be aware of the various tax ramifications when converting. Again, the biggest thing that I see is people who are going to retain one unit don’t know what it means. They’ve had a three-family. All of a sudden, they’re going to have two neighbors. Those are the things that you have to prepare. I do, I prepare my clients for that.

Ruth:  We know that condo conversions for some homeowners can be very lucrative, that it’s much more profitable to sell it as three homes rather than one-

Ilya:    Correct.

Ruth:  … big one, but tell us a little bit about the cost involved.

Ilya:    If you look at what you’re going to gain by selling, for example, three individual units, the cost involved is not that great. You’re looking anywhere, I would say under $10,000 for both the legal work and the architectural-

Ruth:  And the architecture, yeah.

Ilya:    … work, and that includes the recording of the documents, et cetera. A good size investment, but certainly not-

Ruth:  Prohibitive.

Ilya:    … prohibitive. The other thing I can say is the way I work is I get paid upon the sale of the first unit. They’re not paying me up front. I know there are other attorneys who take retainers or half up front. I don’t take anything up front, and that helps people. The architect typically wants to get paid once they finish their work, but I wait to get paid until the first unit sells.

Ruth:  That’s excellent. What would be the first step, if I’m considering a condo conversion, for the people out there considering, who just want to think about it, what would be the very first step?

Ilya:    The first step is to call me because I think within a 20-minute conversation, I can educate the client, and I can also … They’ll figure out if this is something for them or not, because a lot of the times, you don’t want to go through the process of a month down the road, they’re going to say, “Wait a second. I didn’t know this,” or, “I wasn’t expecting that,” so I think that conversation is really important. I can certainly direct someone to an architect, they can find their own architect, but building a team between attorney, architect, and you is the most important thing because you’re ultimately the person who’s going to be selling them, and you also need to know the ins and outs. What I do besides the … When you’re marketing the property, besides the master deed and declaration of trust, a buyer wants to see a budget, a buyer wants to see the purchase and sale agreement, everything-

Ruth:  So does the lender.

Ilya:     Correct, and a lot of times, you want to have all of that ready upfront-

Ruth:   Upfront.

Ilya:    … so you have a package to delivery to the buyer. It’s important to have that team so everyone knows their role. I prepare a 6D Certificate. We’re in a new association. There’s no trustee preparing it, so …

Ruth:   There are few extra steps, the sale as well.

Ilya:    Correct.

Ruth:  If you’re thinking about a condo conversion, talk to me, talk to Ilya. We will help you figure out if it’s even the right thing for you and discuss the opportunity further.

We will have all of Ilya’s information available right below this video, so get in touch with Ilya. We are here in Brookline, Boston. We’re happy to help you anywhere in Greater Boston. Thank you.

Ilya:   Thank you.
 
 ********************************************************************************************************************************************************
Ruth Malkin Brookline Real Estate Expert

 

Coolidge Corner 19 Winchester Street

Coolidge Corner Condominium: 19 Winchester St. Unit 604

Convenient and comfortable home for City living in Coolidge Corner. Spacious and cheerful condominium with parking in a highly desirable building. Features include hardwood parquet floors and great closet space, living room with sliders to private porch with beautiful City view. Ready for an update with your personal customization and taste. Steps to Beacon Street and Coolidge Corner, 19 Winchester Street is a meticulously maintained modern elevator building with a pool, laundry on-site, and beautiful lobby. Ideal for investor or owner occupant.

  • 698 sf
  • One Bedroom
  • One Outdoor Parking
  • Sixth Floor
  • Outdoor Pool

$535,000

 

Schedule your provide showing by giving us a call at 617.291.0323 or sending an email at showing@malkinREgroup.com.

123 sewall ave 1K Brookline condo

123 Sewall Ave, #1K: Walk to Coolidge Corner, Longwood Medical Area

New condo listing in Brookline.  

Ideally located a short walk to both Longwood and Coolidge Corner.  Beautifully maintained one bedroom home  with an open and modern space, sunny and bright.  Granite kitchen with island, open to living room and dining area.  Sliders to spacious private balcony.  Bedroom has great closets, and fits a king size bed.  Laundry hook-up in unit, elevator building, garage parking included.  Excellent for investor or owner occupant.

Located in one of the most walkable areas around Boston, with easy access to C and D lines.  

Basic Information about 123 Sewall Ave #1K in Brookline:

  • One bedroom
  • 800 Square Feet
  • Garage Parking Space
  • Price: $549,000

 

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.

 

Four Common Pitfalls When Buying Your First Investment Property

Investing in real estate can be an outstanding way to increase your wealth. In fact, Entrepreneur.com calls it “your smartest investment.”

However, investing in real estate does come with pitfalls. Make sure you set yourself up for success by avoiding these costly mistakes.

Pitfall #1: Speculative Buying

 You may have heard a lot of stories about “flippers” making big bucks. The idea sounds simple enough. Buy some ugly fixer-upper for a low, low price. Get all the work done. Sell it for a higher price.

But don’t get blinded by the dollar signs in your eyes. Speculative real estate purchases are a terrible place to start. They’re extremely risky. First, you risk that the repairs will take far more money and time than you hope they will. Second, you’re risking a lot on the idea that the home will sell quickly. If it doesn’t, you’ll still have to pay taxes, upkeep, and insurance on the house while you’re waiting for it to move.

By the time you’re done meeting these two expenses the benefits of buying and re-selling the home may evaporate. Some newbie investors have been lucky to break even. Others end up losing money…lots of money…while trying to play this game.

Pitfall #2: Failing to Calculate Your Return Properly

Let’s assume you’ve overcome the first pitfall and are not attempting to “flip” the home. That means you’re going to become a landlord and rent the property out to someone else.

But don’t assume the amount your tenant pays in annual rent is actually going to go into your pocket.

Instead, your return will be the Total Annual Rental Income minus condo fees and taxes, divided by the price of the property.

Let’s say you pay $250,000 on a condo you plan to rent out for $1000 a month. Most newbie investors say, “Great, so that property will pay me $12,000 a year. Score!”

But let’s follow the formula. Their condo fees are $250 a month, which means they’re losing $3000 on an annual basis. Property taxes can easily eat up another $6000 a year.

Remember, you won’t get the benefit of the residential exemption.

That $12000 has already shrunk to $3000. The annual return is just $0.01. You’ll need to raise the rent or you’ll need to find another property at a lower price. And if rental properties in that neighborhood are going for less than what you plan to charge you may want to move on to a different property before making a purchase.

You can use this calculation to make an apples-to-apples comparison and learn the value of the property you plan to purchase.  Note that your mortgage should be covered by the income or you’ll be out of pocket. However, you don’t use mortgages in return calculations.

Boston and Brookline home for sale

Pitfall #3: Failing to Account for the Change of Vacancy

Rental properties don’t have tenants 100% of the time. You must account for turnover. When people move out it can take several months to find someone else to move back in. You’re going to have to budget for the months when you’ll be covering your mortgage instead of your tenants.

Keep in mind that market conditions fluctuate. Sometimes, people will snap up condo rentals so fast it will make your head spin, simply because there won’t be much rental inventory available anywhere in town. At other times, the condo can sit for half a year or more.

Ask your real estate agent to talk frankly with you about the typical state of the market so you’ll know how much to set aside. You shouldn’t be paranoid about vacancy…but you should be realistic.

Pitfall #4: Purchasing Investment Property Without a Qualified Buyer’s Agent

It’s never a good idea to buy any kind of property without the help of a qualified buyer’s agent. However, this is especially true when you are trying to invest. As noted above, the buyer’s agent can give insight into market conditions that might be very difficult to research on your own. Once you tell your agent that you are hoping to purchase an investment property he or she can steer you towards desirable neighborhoods and properties that will provide a decent return.

I help people invest in real estate in Boston every single day. If you’ve got questions, feel free to contact me so you don’t make any major mistakes as you start working to build your financial future.
RuthBio1

 

Cleveland Circle Condo

164 Strathmore Road #15, Brighton

New listing at 164 Strathmore Road #15, Brighton.  Two bedroom condo near Cleveland Circle and steps to T.

Bright and sunny corner unit with spacious two bedrooms.  Inviting foyer, high ceilings and hardwood floors.   Updated eat-in-kitchen is ultra stylish with stainless steel appliances and granite counter.  Bow window and open living area.  Washer / dryer in the unit.  Walk to Cleveland Circle, steps to T, close to Boston College.  This is a perfect City home for occupant or investor.  Dogs welcome for owner occupants. Don’t miss!

Basic Information:
2 bedrooms, 1 bath
840 Square feet
3rd floor
Taxes: $3,500 not including residential exemption
Street Parking
HOA: $390 includes heat and hot water
 
Watch short video below and schedule your private showing!

 

Schedule a Showing for a Listing

Beat the crowd of home buyers by scheduling your showing now. *YOUR INFORMATION IS CONFIDENTIAL AND WILL NOT BE SHARED WITH OR SOLD TO ANYONE, EVER!*
cash buyer

Decline in Cash Sales: The Pros and Cons of a Shifting Market

According to Case Logic, cash purchases make up for 36.4% of real estate sales nationally.  This is a decline from the peak in 2011 of 46.6%, nearly half of all the sales.  

In Massachusetts, about 22% of the transactions are cash and the percentage is higher in states with more significant proportion of distressed sales (foreclosures), such as Florida where 50% of sales are cash, and Michigan with 53% cash transactions.

Boston has seen a decline in the share of cash deals for the past few months.  Although the market has been robust, tempered only by lack of inventory, more deals are financed by a mortgage.

Why fewer cash deals?

cash dealFirst, cash buyers are often investors.  Investors buy when prices are lower, when they perceive the value of the property is not fully realized in the price.  Investors buy either to speculate or to generate income.

Speculators are finding the margins are getting smaller as home prices have climbed so aggressively in Boston and Brookline.  Finding a bargain in this real estate market is nearly impossible.

Investors buying income properties are also feeling the pinch.  Although there is still a better return in real estate than most other options these days, rental income is flattening, while prices are still rising.  This makes for lower returns on investments.  Investors are being out-bid by home buyers.

Other than investors, cash buyers are often foreign non-residents who are looking for an investment in United States real estate.  There is no shortage of foreign nationals searching for a safer asset than anything they can find at home.  But, with the Boston real estate market rise in recent years, their money seems to be better spent in less expensive metropolitans.

A Welcomed Change of Pace?

home buyerAfter a few years of cash buyers outbidding home buyers, this is a welcome change for many.  Renters trying to buy their first home and forgo the outrageous increase in their housing costs have been hitting a wall.  Squeezed between rents going through the roof, and cash buyers sweeping up entry-level properties, first time home buyers can hopefully find a light at the end of the tunnel.

But lower share of cash deals is not all sunshine and moonbeams for home buyers.  Lower share of cash buyers also means the bargains are gone, and we are soon reaching a saturation point in pricing.  Investors provide a great leading indicator of where prices will go next.  If they stop buying, we can expect a slowing of price increases.

With that, more homeowners may be ready to put the property on the market, which is great…but it also means a shifting market.  What’s the point?  Buyers should use their heads and a good real estate agent when making offers and not get caught up in buying frenzies.

Buyer Beware!

When prices go up at a steady pace, rather than the big jumps we’ve seen, there is a greater danger of overpaying for a home.  After years of multiple offers, homes selling well over asking price, and aggressive bidding, it is easy to fall into that rhythm.   When prices increase by 5% annually, rather than 21% annually, it is possible to lose money on a home you bought three years prior by overpaying by just a little.

More than ever it will be imperative for home buyers to hire an experienced real estate agent.  Find someone who is unaffected by the hype and can discuss the danger of overpaying for a home.  Home buyers will soon be able to take back a little control over the real estate market as long as they realize the past couple years are no indication of what will happen next.
RuthBio1

 

Investor Property in Boston: 35 Pratt Street, Allston

Multi family house allston35 Pratt Street in Allston is an investor’s dream!  With little inventory on the market, it has been difficult to find good projects.  Well, here is your chance with a two-family house.  Pratt Street is an ideal location for the following commutes:

  • Boston University
  • Anyone who needs I-90 access
  • Cambridge
  • Harvard Business School in Lower Allston
  • Downtown via B line

Close to Brighton Ave and Commonwealth Ave, yet set on a quiet street, 35 Pratt Street is an excellent option for many potential renters.

The house sits on a 4,000 sf lot which awards it a small garden.  There is a private driveway, two units and a basement.  There is a total of five bedrooms, and a large living room, dining room and kitchen in each unit.  The house requires an upgrade both inside and out, cosmetic and system renovation.

Book your private showing, before it’s too late.

Schedule a Showing for a Listing

condo prices brighton ma

Chart of The Week: Median Condo Prices in Brighton MA

At an open house in Brighton a few weeks ago, a browsing buyer says to me, “Overpriced, everything is overpriced!”

What does that mean?  condo prices brighton ma

If a property is overpriced, multiple buyers would not be willing to pay more than the asking price.  If property is overpriced, it wouldn’t sell fast.  Shall I remind you what overpriced feels like? How about 150 days on market, difficult negotiations, and neither seller nor buyer are happy about anything.

Real estate sales are a fairly decent example of the natural laws of supply and demand.  Real estate is a finite and scarce resource (especially in Boston), and buyers have the choice of NOT buying.

Just because prices have increased rapidly and a one bedroom condo in Brighton can now sell for over $350,000 does not mean it is overpriced.

On the right find the median sale price of condos in Brighton MA for the month of March 1987-2015.   Most of the major price hikes happened two decades ago, when condos were $55,000.  I’ll take two of those, please!

Take a step back and think about the market, not just the four walls of the condo.  With the anticipation of rail at Boston Landing, biotech boom in Cambridge, and Cleveland Circle’s upcoming face-lift, this market is just getting started.

 What condos are currently available in Brighton?


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