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Banish the Boston Condo Search Overwhelm!

Are you totally overwhelmed by the idea of looking for a condo in Boston?  Are you curious, and just don’t know how to start looking?  If you are regularly thinking about becoming a first time homebuyer, but don’t know what to expect, t
his post is for you.

When prospective first time homebuyers are curious about Boston area condos, I suggest the following steps to overcome homebuyer overwhelm and make sense of the idea of becoming a condo owner.

First, choose some areas you think you’ll enjoy.  Condos in Boston greatly very  in prices and styles so narrowing down your search to specific neighborhoods is important.  If you’ve been searching  on Zillow or Trulia for condos in Boston , Cambridge, or Somerville, no wonder you are overwhelmed.  Just narrowing the search by price range will not be enough.

Second, go look at condos during Sunday open houses with absolutely no expectations to buy.  Open houses serve such a purpose for buyers, while you have an opportunity to meet real estate agents who may be eager to be helpful.  Focus on one or two areas per weekend to make good use of your time.  You’ll learn the area, different types of homes, and start developing a sense of home values.

Third, hire a real estate agent.  We are here to help, even in you very early stages of the search.  In fact, we can make the search a bit easier for you by focusing your efforts, and giving you step-by-step input and advice.  Hire someone you like and trust, and fire someone who is not doing her job.

Do not try and make sense of the real estate market online.  The web is a great resource for information about homes and for open house schedules.  But to learn what your Boston neighborhood has to offer, you’ll have to go do some offline searching.

Even if you feel you are far from buying, and just browsing, I’d love to see you at any of my open houses!

Customize you home search here.

 

Bellvue Hill House

Three West Roxbury Houses Priced in the $400,000’s

There are 55 houses on the market in West Roxbury, 19 of them are priced in the $400,000’s.  To make your West Roxbury house Bellvue Hill Housesearch a bit easier I’m reviewing three homes in superb locations worth a look.

9 Park Street, $469,000.  New to market, this is a 4 bedrooms, 1.5 bath home of approximately 1700 sf.  Beautiful located in the Highlands, 9 Park Street is surrounded by grand historic homes just a short walk from Centre Street.  It’s a red house, situated on a corner lot.  The house has a wood burning fire place in the large living room, an oversized dining room and big kitchen.  You’ll need to pass through the half bath to access the door to the back yard.  Four well proportioned bedrooms upstairs, and a walk-up attic suitable for storage.

The basement looks as if it was finished many years ago and can probably be easily restored to a usable living space.  The rest of the home needs a facelift, cosmetic updating throughout.  You’d have to paint the house immediately, the kitchen and bath renovations will be necessary in the coming years, but the house is livable as it is.   For a classic home in a convenient and prestigious area, this is a great choice, but only if you don’t mind investing some sweat equity.

204 Weld Street, $434,900. Three bedrooms, 1.5 bath, 1400 sf colonial.  Located on busy Weld Street, this unassuming white side-entrance colonial has a new kitchen and cheerful colors.  The main floor features a half bath off the new kitchen, a living room, dining room and heated sun-room.  The best part is the expansive deck, with stairs down to a level yard.

Three bedrooms upstairs are simple and serve their purpose.  The house is bright, comfortable and clean.  Perfect for a young family who wants outdoor space.  For 1400 square feet, it’s a good choice if you are looking for a super-easy commute to the city.

120 Russett Road, $425,000.  Brick bungalow of about 1400 sf, 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths.  It’s like a Cape and a Ranch had a love child.  Almost all the living space, including bedrooms, are on the first floor.  Walk directly into the dining room, which is completely open to the living room.  This large space is flooded with light from the many windows.  Kitchen is a bit awkward but also had good light and is easily tolerated with all white finishes.

The hall in the back of the home leads to two well sized bedrooms and a bathroom.  Walk downstairs to find a slightly musty finished basement.  With a little bit of work, this space will be much more usable.

From the main level you have stairs leading to the second floor.  There you find a large master suite, complete with skylights, generous  closets, and a private bath.

Located between Weld Street and Centre Street, you can easily walk to catch the train or get on the bus.  Walk to shops and restaurants.  It’s a quiet area populated mostly with single family homes and two family homes.  From 120 Russett you only have to walk 3 minutes to Hynes Field, one of the best hangouts for dogs, kids, and sports lovers.  It’s one of my regular hangouts.  See you there!


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Cleveland Circle Condos

Accepted Offer, Open House and Annoyed Buyers

Cleveland Circle CondosI annoyed many people on Sunday.  After an offer was accepted, I went ahead and hosted an open house.  Why would I host an open house if I have an accepted offer?  Isn’t it a waste of time for me and the prospective buyers?
Before you go huffing and puffing because you came to a condo too late, let me suggest to you this open house wasn’t wasteful for the buyers or the seller.
Why isn’t an open house after an offer was accepted a waste of time for buyers?
First, as a buyer, looking at property is never a waste of time!  Every property you see makes you wiser about the market.  How can that be bad?  Several buyers learned the nature of the market, and the necessity to move quickly on properties.  Don’t wait for an open house if you are serious about buying a home.
Not all buyers will like the property.  In fact, the overwhelming majority of prospective buyers coming through an open house are not a match to the property.  This is true of every open house everywhere.  Going to open houses helps buyers shape the criteria list, narrow down the search and become more focused.  It is likely you wouldn’t have bought it anyway.
Several times I was asked some version of the question, “What is the purpose of this open house?”
Remember, I work for the seller.  It is my job to generate as much interest for her condo as possible.  Even if we accepted an offer, who’s to say the buyers and sellers won’t have a falling out.  These days, transactions are falling apart and often don’t close.  This is why backup offers are commonplace.   Another buyer can put an offer on the property,  ready to be accepted by the seller, should the previous offer fall through.  Between inspection, tight credit, and human indecisiveness, deals are fragile.
Lastly, and most importantly, wouldn’t you rather have a friendly face greet you at the property than a sign on the door that says, “open house canceled?”  It was a pleasure greeting every single person who walked through the doors today.  That’s what being a real estate agent is all about.
Learn your market, and don’t wait for open houses when you are ready to buy a home.  If you want to learn about my listings before they debut on Multiple Listing Service, follow me on twitter @bostonruth or better yet, come join the fun at G+.
FSBO, Boston Real Estate

Where to Advertise a FSBO? The FSBO Online Resource List

FSBO, Boston Real EstateReal estate agents deliver tremendous value to home sellers and home buyers.  I have a belief in the importance of my work and it seems my clients agree.  Yet, some homeowners want to venture into the world of For-Sale-By-Owners.  In another post of tips for FSBO’s, I’ve shared some key elements for success.

In this post I’ve compiled a list of online resources for FSBO’s.  Choose to work with those that best suit your property and budget.

  1. For Sale By Owner.com This is the most well known website for FSBO’s, with a 14 day free trial.  You can post up to 6 photos, print flyers, write a description of the home.  Once you are a paying customer, your home can be advertised on Realtor.com and MLS.
  2. Owners.com.  Lot’s of online resources, high satisfaction rating, and a connection with Realtor.com and MLS.
  3. Craig’s List.  Post for free, but ensure you do not post your ad more than once a week.  Be aware that you will likely receive inquiries from bargain hunters.
  4. All The Listings.com. Post your ad for free, claimed to be search-engine friendly.  You have premium membership options.
  5. FSBOads.com.  Free advertising until the closing date.
  6. Miadomo.com. Claiming worldwide exposure for you ad, a free listing allows for 12 pictures, and $2 more if you want to be a “featured” listing.
  7. Virtual FSBO.com. Offering flat fee MLS, and syndication to Google Real Estate and other FSBO websites.
  8. Caagal.com. Free advertising for your property, wherever it is!
  9. Backpage.com.  This website will remind you of what Craig’s List used to be.  Clean, simple, great place to find anything.
  10. And one more resource.  If you are selling your real estate in the Boston area, I’ll happily write a blog post about your home and promote it through my distribution channels.  Write me directly if you are interested.

Be aware when you search for where to post your advertisement for your home, some websites are a lead generation resource for Realtors.  This is not necessarily bad, but it is unlikely to fill your need for exposure for your home.

Good luck!

Cleveland Circle Condo

New Listing: 137A Sutherland Road, Brighton

Cleveland Circle CondoSOLD, $265,500. On the corner of Sutherland Road and Lanark Road stands a German style stucco house with a red roof and shutters which is unlike anything else in the area.  This is a row of two family houses, and in a rare opportunity, one of the condos  just came on market.

Not only is this condo special outside, but it has features you will find nowhere else.  137A Sutherland Road is a loft-like open concept condo with an exposed brick wall and hardwood floors.  You have direct access to outdoor space, and exclusive use and access to the basement of the building.  Walk downstairs to find plenty of storage space and your very own washer and dryer.

The condo fee is only $135, and the heating bills are low.  Walk to the B, C, D lines, walk to the park, Reservoir, Chansky’s, Cleveland Circle.

This home is perfect if you:

  • Love to balance the City life with quiet solitude
  • Have a dog who deserves some space and freedom
  • Need an alternative to the high condo fee, shared amenities lifestyle
  • Want a home that’s really special

137A Sutherland Road is priced at $260,000.  It debuts on MLS 10/9, first open house is 10/14, but you don’t have to wait! Private showings can be scheduled immediately.

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!*

 

FSBO Do’s and Don’t Introduction

I don’t know why anyone wants to be a FSBO – for sale by owner.  To me, selling your own property is like doing your own dental work, a bad idea.  But let’s say you super-glued your chipped tooth and want another adventure.  Here are the do’s and don’ts for a sale-by-owner if you want a shot of succeeding.

Do pay a commission to buyer’s agents.  The buyer’s agent compensation is figured into the prices of professionally listed homes.  Agents who will bring buyers probably have a contract for compensation, so you will pay it either way.  It will either be part of the offer price, or your offer price will be lower by that amount.  So expect to pay for a buyer’s agent.

Don’t assume you’ll sell to unrepresented buyers.  Buyers don’t want to be unrepresented, partly because they don’t want to deal with you, dear home seller.   First-time home buyers are especially savvy at interviewing and choosing their buyer’s agent.  They also understand it is the best way to buy a home, at no added cost.  Move-up buyers are usually also selling a property, and working with an agent on both the buy and sell.

Unrepresented buyers are usually in earlier stages of their home search and likely not ready to buy.  They may come over to look at your home, maybe even love it and you may hit it off.  That is a far cry from putting money on the table.

Do list on Multiple Listing Service.  There are brokerages that will list your home on MLS for a nominal fee.  You must do it for the chance of brokers and buyers finding you.  This is the most important source of information for anyone in the real estate market.

Do have information packages ready for buyers.  At the very least, provide town records information.  Include pictures, a floor plan, and a list of improvements you’ve done in recent years.  Off season photos are nice, too, and any interesting house history.  Don’t forget the price, condo fees, and taxes!

Don’t hide information.  Share what you know to be true, even defects you have chosen not to repair.  You are liable for what you know about the house, and remember, inspection is coming anyway.  Termite damage, roof leaks, water damage, wet basement…I’m a big fan of honesty and disclosure.

A great way to get some marketing ideas is to follow some of the area homes on the market, and go to open houses.  Who knows, maybe you’ll do very well and find yourself in a new career.  But if you get sick of it, or for some reason the home is not selling, give me a call and we’ll fix that.

Good luck!

Your Online Resources for Brookline and Newton Real Estate

To this day I get phone calls on a couple of listings I had five or six years ago in Brighton.  This is not intentional bait-and-switch marketing, it usually catches me off guard.  On these calls I ask where they learned about the listing.  The answer is one of two websites, which I won’t mention.

There are several sites  promising listing information, but they are useless.  Worse than useless, they’ll suck-up your time.  In your Newton, Brookline or Brighton property search, use the following resources.

1.    Realtor.com.  The Realtor website is a premier stop for everything real estate.  It is linked to the Multiple Listing Services so information is current.  Once you put in your search criteria, make sure you scroll down past the ads of “featured properties.”  They are not part of your search results.  The drawback is it’s not local enough so if you want to find some area information and articles, this is not the place.

2.    Boston.com.  For open house information, and all local real estate information, Boston.com has proven itself.  It is one of the most used local real estate sites in the United States.  You’ll see the photos and have some community information, videos, maps, etc.  Again, scroll down past the ads.  Nothing against the ads, but they are not part of your search results.

3.    Your agent’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  This is the best.  You’ll receive your updates by email daily, what’s new to market and price reductions.  You can log on and have access to all the same information I have, delete the listings you don’t like, write comments, ask questions and request showings.  On your agent’s MLS you will see the pictures and also have access to a tour, video, and related documents such as a floor plan.

If you are serious about your search, daily email is critical.  You’ll learn about price reductions (my favorite piece of information).  You’ll learn about a property now in your price range when it was not previously.

What about the homes that don’t make it into MLS?  This is a tiny percent of the market.  Most for sale by owners in Brookline and Newton are on the MLS.  If you’ve hired a buyer’s agent, he or she should be checking Craig’s list regularly as well.

Even if you are just casually looking at real estate, or starting a serious search, please please please use good sources of information so you are not wasting your time.  Listing information is easy to obtain and it is free.  Ensure it is from an accurate and reputable source.

Caught in the Bad Information Trap? No More Zestimates for Brookline and Newton!

Are you addicted to Zillow? It’s so easy to sink into that site. I admit to getting caught up in it when trying to get a picture of real estate in other parts of the United States. My real estate curiosity doesn’t end in Newton, Brookline and Boston. But then I remember, the injustice Zillow does to my neighborhood, it does elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that information is totally accessible and easy to use. It’s those Zestimates that drive me nuts. Zestimates 50% off are not uncommon. In price ranges we have in Newton and Brookline, even 15% off a useless estimate.

Just because something is computer generated doesn’t make it right. A lot goes into pricing real estate, variables a computer just can’t compute. From experience, I believe the Zestimates are a combination of recent sales data and the public records. This is incomplete information.

I’ve encountered Zestimates used in two different ways. First, by sellers. “Zillow said my home is worth $950,000 and you’re telling me to put it on market for $800,000???!!!” Well, Zillow didn’t know that the square footage in your public records is wrong, that your house is a “contractor’s dream” and your back-yard is a puddle.

Buyers sometimes try to use the Zestimate to come up with a price for a house when they want to make an offer. This makes me so nervous! Offer too much for a home and you are overpaying. Offer too little and your are missing out on a home that may make you very happy.

If you want to continue using Zillow in your search, be mindful and ignore the Zestimates. You’ll do better looking at recent sales (and make sure they are recent), and comparing them to each other and your subject property. Done professionally, it is called a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA).

Better yet, ask your agent for a CMA whether buying or selling. For buyers, your buyer agent should provide you with a CMA before you make an offer. For home owners, a market analysis is usually a free service, and one that is provided happily and without obligation. This is your best bet, especially if you trust your agent. Leave the Zestimate for your home in Zewton or Zookline.

How Landlords Save the World

The title of this entry is over-the-top, I admit, but I am just here to stick up for the landlords out there who are trying to do some good.  The word “landlord” in itself has some negativity associated with it, and the use of “lord” in this context is distasteful in our American sensibility.  In media, landlords are portrayed as misers ready to make a buck on the poor and take advantage of families.

Please!

Let me tell you about the landlords, the real estate investors, I know.

First and foremost, there is a commitment to maintain the property and keeping the tenant happy and comfortable, even with the high occupancy rate and the increasing rents.  I am not suggesting any altruism here, but it is cheaper to keep than replace tenants.  It only makes sense that tenants stay for a long-run, and take care of the property, as it is their home. Fostering that environment is essential for positive tenant-landlord relations, which is the relationship you want in between any consumer and supplier.

A rental property is a huge financial commitment and a landlord idiot enough to not take care of it and ensure it’s livability is ill suited for the job.

Yes, there are many terrible landlords out there.  The worse of them are the ones who neglect their properties, fail to keep up with safety codes, and don’t treat their tenants with the respect they deserve.  Just like in any occupation, in any aspect of humanity, there are some bad apples.

For more on tenant-landlord rights in Massachusetts, go to http://www.mass.gov/ago/docs/consumer/landlordtenant073007.pdf

Three Ways to Invest in Real Estate

Investing in real estate can seem overwhelming and reserved for the very rich.  In the current economic conditions and marketplace, it may even feel a bit too risky.  But if you’ve ever thought real estate investing may be right for you, this is a great time to learn about your options and how it can be done by almost anyone.

Before we learn about our options, though, let me say that I believe real estate investing can be a long a cumbersome process if you are new to it.  That is not a bad thing, and I think of a lengthy process as a series of checkpoints that will make me very sure of my decision at the end. But it does mean that you have to have a critical eye, some good research skills and an a greater-than-average supply of patience.  If this sounds like you, then let’s review how you can get into the lucrative business of real estate investing.

Whatever your budget, real estate can be your investment vehicle.

1.  All cash deal.  If you have lots of cash, you may be able to find an investment property in your area and buy it without a mortgage.  The advantage of this is that you will be a highly qualified buyer and you can probably secure a property for a bit of savings over a buyer who has to get a mortgage.  Another advantage of a cash buyer is that her expenses are much lower, as there is no monthly mortgage payment.  This enables her to be more flexible on the rent, giving her more options in choosing tenants.

The disadvantage of an all cash deal is that it is not taking advantage of very low mortgage rates.  Borrowing is pretty cheap, and if all your cash is in one place, you can’t use it elsewhere.  Leverage is a real estate investor’s friend.

2. Part cash, part mortgage.  The down payment minimum is 20-30%, depending on various circumstances and your financial qualifications.  My rule of thumb is that you should make money, or at least break even, with this kind of down payment.  If you lose money on a monthly basis, the property is not worth the price, (at least not not for an investor). Your mortgage payments, any association fees and taxes should be covered by the rent.

The advantage here is that you’ll be taking advantage of the cheap borrowing costs, and you’ll own a property with an income without the whole cash outlay.

The disadvantage is, obviously, the cost of borrowing money and the higher cost due to your mortgage payment – same as the mortgage on your home.

3. Pool of investors with little cash.  Gather a few friends and family, and pool your money together to buy one property.  It can even be a small property at first, but at least get into the market.  If ten friends get together with $15,000 each…you do the math.  The advantage is that you are in the real estate market, getting a piece of the pie, however small.  It is a start, or a great single investment you have.  You can hire a real estate broker and an attorney to help maybe for a stake in the property instead of commission and fees.

The disadvantage is finding like-minded individuals and putting it all together in a legally binding agreement.  To me, this is just a bit of leg-work, and not so much a disadvantage, but it does add to the complexity of the transaction.

Entering the real estate market as an investor is not simple at first, but once you are in, it gets easier and easier.  If you’ve ever considered investing in real estate, this is a great time to get in.  Just choose your strategy and do it!