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.

Top Five Mistakes Sellers Make

It can be a tough market for selling a home, but those conditions can get even worse if sellers aren’t careful. While a seller doesn’t control the real estate market, their actions can significantly contribute to how long and how much their home is sold for.

Underestimating Cleaning Up: It may seem obvious, but I can tell you real estate agents everywhere are nodding their heads in agreement as they read this. Inviting potential buyers in to see an unkempt home is like going on a job interview without freshening up after you cleaned your garage. How can the employer notice your fantastic talents and skills if they’re hidden underneath a sloppy exterior? How you show your home tells the buyer what type of care you, the seller, has put into the home?


If you can’t take the time to wipe the grime off the refrigerator doors, tidy up the kids’ rooms, take out the messy diapers, put away the food, and take the dogs out of the house for a while, then you’ll likely find buyers will quickly move on to the next home on their list.

Lingering During Showings: Yes, we all want to know how the open house or showing went, but hanging around during either of those events is not a good idea. Sellers who tend to linger during showings often make the buyers uncomfortable. Buyers like to have time to explore the home at their own pace and without feeling any pressure. Sometimes buyers want to sit on the porch or out in the backyard as they discuss the home’s possibilities. And if buyers are willing to sit for a bit and talk about the home, that’s a great sign. However, the chances of them doing that with the seller present is unlikely. Many times buyers will say, “Let’s skip the home if the sellers are there.”

If you’re selling your home, do yourself a favor and hit the road for a bit. Take a walk or head to the coffee shop. As soon as the showing is over, you can get all the details from your agent. That’s why you’re paying your agent! Let them do their job. Just make sure that your agent has all the home’s selling points and any additional features that make this home standout.

For Sale By Owner (FSBO) Trap: Some people are convinced that they can do it on their own. Maybe they can sell their own home, but it likely won’t happen without some headaches. Trained specialists are called “experts” for a reason. An expert real estate agent knows the market, has connections, guides you through the process, negotiates on your behalf, and will make the process of selling your home simpler.

One potential land mine that FSBOs face is the flood of people popping in to see their home. It sounds great that there’s so much traffic, but the problem is many times the people who pop into FSBO properties aren’t actually qualified for a mortgage or may not be serious buyers. Instead they’re just looking and satisfying their curiosity at your expense. Agents know to ask the right questions to make certain the lookers are truly potential home buyers.

Not interviewing agents: If you have kids, chances are you interviewed the nanny or babysitter. Taking time to seek out top real estate agents in your are. Setting up interviews with them is equally important. Choosing the wrong agent for the job will be a headache and slow the process down. There must be a connection, understanding, and good communication between the seller and the agent. There are lots of things that go on during the sale of a home, communicating with the agent should be one of the easier tasks.

Pricing a home incorrectly: This could be the worst mistake sellers make. Yet, this is where so much help can be found. Real estate agents see homes every single day. They know the neighborhoods and the comps. They are there to help you understand what homes have sold for in the recent past and what they’ll likely sell for during the current market conditions. Get a market evaluation from your agent and understand that what is a fair price for your home in today’s market.

How Home Sellers Can Maximize Buyer Offers

Today’s market can be a difficult one for many sellers to navigate. While your real estate agent can advise you, the ultimate decision of what offer to accept is entirely up to you.

This decision can come with quite a bit of pressure. Even in the most favorable of markets this can be a difficult time. How do you know when to accept an offer?

maximize offers
Here are some questions to consider:

•  Is the buyer pre-qualified/approved? Selling will require an investment of time and money. You may need to find a new home or a temporary rental. There’s nothing worse than buying a new house only to find out the deal to sell yours has fallen through.

•  Do you need to move? The urgency of your move may dictate what offer you accept. Many sellers need to move quickly for a new job. You may need to sell to avoid foreclosure. If you are in a rush, you may need to accept an offer that is less than ideal.

•  How much do you owe? You don’t want to sell your home at a loss. And be sure to take closing costs into consideration. Many markets experienced high levels of depreciation over the last year. If you are underwater on your loan, now may not be the time to sell.

•  What is the market climate? Are you likely to get another offer? How long has your home been on the market? Have you had many showings? All of these are factors to consider when contemplating what offer to accept.

Above all, ask yourself if this offer was a reasonable offer. There are buyers that may attempt to low ball you. They may see that your home has been on the market longer than your competition. They may know that it’s a strong buyers market. In response they offer a much smaller amount for your home than it is worth. You are not obligated to accept these low ball offers. However, if you are in need of selling now, every offer warrants consideration or a counter offer.
In the end, you must accept an offer that works for you. You may be willing to accept a lower amount in exchange for a faster closing date. Or you may wish to hold out for the highest dollar amount.

Written by Carla Hill, RealtyTimes

West Roxbury Homes

West Roxbury House Prices: Steadily Rising

West Roxbury’s real estate market is not known to be “hot”, but prices have risen steadily.  The chart below shows median house prices for the past three years in West Roxbury.  You see the obvious dips during the slow winter months.  Compared year-over-year, this past week median listing price was $442,000, and $424,000 on the third week of November 2012.  Same time in 2011, median price was $389,000.  That’s a not-so-shabby 4.2% increase the past year alone.

Large Chart


Sure West Roxbury doesn’t have the frenzy of Brookline or Jamaica Plain, but I see a healthy and sustainable housing market.  As more young families are priced out of Newton and Needham, this little neighborhood will become more desirable.  Boston’s commitment to public school improvement will help.

Realtor in 02467

Luxury Houses in Chestnut Hill MA: Days on Market Getting Shorter

Chestnut Hill MA houses come in a wide variety of styles and prices.  The most obvious reason is Chesnut Hill is not a municipality, but a zip code including parts of several towns: Pieces of  Brookline, Newton, West Roxbury and a nibble of Brighton.  Houses in West Roxbury will be priced lower than Brookline, even if next door to each other.  This is due to the difference in amenities, namely schools, in which Brookline exceeds Boston.

Houses in 02467 range from the modest Cape to the most magnificent mansions Brookline has to offer.  All of them have an improving market and find buyers fairly quickly.  Below find a break-down of the four quartiles of current Chestnut Hill single-family listings, their median price range and average days on market:

7-day Market Stats by Quartile for Single Family properties in
CHESTNUT HILL, MA 02467 as of 08 Nov 2013
Quartile Median Price Sq. Ft. Lot Size Beds Baths Age Inventory New Absorbed DOM
Top/First $4,500,000 6,000 40,075 6.18 6.00 64 11 1 1 55
Upper/Second $2,285,000 5,400 22,651 5.82 5.05 42 11 0 1 85
Lower/Third $1,595,000 4,000 14,810 4.64 4.32 36 11 0 1 80
Bottom/Fourth $1,075,000 2,612 7,841 4.18 2.73 62 11 0 0 76


A snapshot of current market conditions shows an unexpected market trend: Days on market for the most expensive houses is the shortest!  Conventional wisdom says the higher the price, the longer it takes to sell.  Because this is a snapshot of current conditions, we don’t know how long these houses will take to sell, but we do know the eleven most expensive houses have been on market, on average, less time than the least expensive eleven houses in Chestnut Hill.

The graph below shows the trend of recent months.  Although in general expensive homes have taken longer to sell than the rest of the market, in recent weeks the most expensive houses sitting on market haven’t been there for long.

Large Chart

What does this mean?  1. New luxury homes are coming on market, pulling down the average days on market of old listings. 2. Luxury Chestnut Hill homes which have been sitting on market for a long time are now off market – either under contract or terminated listings.

The luxury housing market in 02467 is strong, and will probably continue to show signs of strength though the spring market.

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buying a home

Three Signs Your Buyer Agent is Not Very Good

Stop your home search, start your buyer agent search!  If you are not getting results, find a better agent.

In the seller’s market, working with a hard working competent buyers agent is necessary in order to buy a property at the right price.

buying a home

Is Your Real Estate Agent Asleep At The Wheel?

Yet many buyers are failing at securing a home, and buyers are getting caught up in the stressful and intense market.

Here are three signs your buyers agent may not be your ideal advocate, and perhaps it’s time to switch.

1. Your agent is waiting to see what comes up on MLS.  If this is the only strategy employed to find a home, that’s not enough in the hot real estate markets such as Brookline and Newton.  Whether working with property investors or home buyers, a buyer’s agent can do other things to look for the right property, including networking and sending mailings to neighborhoods.

2. Your agent is not asking hard questions.  Your agent should ask you questions that force you to examine your price range, timing and every possible angle of the home buying decisions.  An experienced agent knows buyers don’t always buy what they say they will.  Such an agent thinks outside the criteria you have, finding alternatives, and presenting options and possibilities.

3. Your agent does not prepare you for the market and set expectations.  You should know what to expect when you are ready to make an offer, and be prepared for rejections.  When you choose a home you like is NOT the time for your primary real estate education.  You must be ready to go.  Finding the right home is the last step of the home search process, not the first.

Don’t get stuck with a buyers agent who isn’t servicing you.  If buying a home is important, do it right or expect it will go terribly wrong.

Brookline MA condos

Brookline MA Real Estate: 2012 Condo Market Summary

Brookline MA real estate didn’t suffer as much in the downturn as the majority of communities.  Still, we see a substantial pick-up in the condo market.

Brookline MA‘s condo market is known to be spread over a wide price range.  The condominiums in Brookline come in a variety of styles, settings, types of buildings and sizes.  The condos make up of the overwhelming majority of sales with Brookline’s mostly urban setting.

The market picked up with a nearly 20% increase in sales, and 20% plunge in market time.  Depending on the price range, the Brookline MA condo market has less inventory than demand, pushing prices up.

2011 2012 Change
Number of Sales 473 559 18.2%
Average List Price  $578,000  $584,500 1.1%
Average Sale Price  $562,000  $575,000 2.3%
Median Sale Price  $490,000  $500,000 2.0%
Average Days on Market 75 60 -20.0%
Average Sale Price / List Price 97.2% 98.4% 1.2%



Brookline MA condos


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Brighton condo market update

Brighton MA Condos: 2012 Market Summary

Brighton MA real estate picked up steam in 2012, and here are the numbers to prove it.

Below notice how both the number of sales and prices in Brighton MA have gone up, while the average days of market sank by nearly 40%.  The average sale price to list price ratio is also up, meaning sellers are getting nearly 98% of their asking price.    The pie chart shows sold Brighton MA condos in 2012 by their price range.

2011 2012 Change
Number of Sales 243 269 10.7%
Average List Price  $  286,500  $  297,000 3.7%
Average Sale Price  $ 276,310  $ 290,000 5.0%
Median Sale Price  $  246,000  $   257,000 4.5%
Average Days on Market 94 59 -37.2%
Average Sale Price / List Price 96.4% 97.6% 1.2%

Brighton condo market update

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boston real estate

Holiday Shopping: Boston Real Estate

One of the best examples of a self-fulfilling prophecy is in the seasonality of the Boston real estate market.  Every year, as boston real estateThanksgiving approaches, home sellers ask me, “Does it make sense to put the home on market now? There are no buyers looking.”

From potential home buyers I hear, “ Should we wait until Spring to buy?  There are no homes on the market now.”

Yet, despite the expectations for a quiet holiday season, almost every year I am on the phone putting together a deal while checking-up on my stuffed Tofurky.  This year the real estate market seasonality will be less pronounced than ever.

Both buyers and sellers will find advantages of pursuing their real estate goals during the holiday season.

Home Seller Advantages to Holiday Home Selling

Low Competition: Inventory shortage is what characterized our Boston real estate market the past few months.  Newton, Brookline, Cambridge, Arlington and Brighton have all had too few homes for sale to satisfy demand, leaving many buyers still looking.

My friend Marilyn Messenger wrote a great article, The 5 Reasons the Sell Your House Now! She outlines the benefits of selling your home during the holiday season.  One of the top reasons is the lower competition as many home sellers decide to wait or take their home off market for the holidays.

Serious Buyers: Marilyn also reminds us the buyers coming through a home between Thanksgiving and New Years’ are serious.  These are determined buyers, who are not going out in harsh weather during overscheduled holidays to look at a home for kicks.

This year, home sellers can expect buyers who are eager, ready to buy after losing out on multiple offer situations in September and October.

Holiday Home Buyer Advantages

Fewer Buyers Looking: The worry of fewer homes on market is balanced by many buyers exiting the market and new ones waiting until 2013.  Fewer buyers translate into fewer multiple-offer situations, and home sellers who are more likely to entertain your offer and work with you.

Shorter Mortgage Queue: Underwriting mortgages is taking weeks if you get stuck with the wrong bank, and closing delays are common.  Much of the refinancing business will waiting until January, leaving your attorney with more time to work for you.

Homes are Ready to Sell:  There will be two types of properties on the market. First, the “leftovers” from the busy fall market.  These homes haven’t sold because of poor marketing or they were overpriced at critical moments. Neither of these reasons reflects poorly on the houses, but gives you an opportunity to negotiate.

There will also be new listings.  Savvy home sellers want to take advantage of the low inventory and serious buyers.  It’s a perfect time to match home buyers and home sellers who are ready to move on.

My advice to my clients has been and always will be to first work around your own schedule.  You never know if your ideal home buyer / home seller has plans matching yours.  Real estate surprises us regularly, as not everyone conforms to the same self-fulfilling prophecy, and not everyone celebrates the same holiday season.

(Coming in July 2013, an article entitled, “Boston Realtors Gone to Cape.  Please Resume Your Real Estate Activity After Labor Day.”)

Newton Ma Houses for Sale

Newton Houses in High Demand, But Are You Positioning Your Home Correctly?

Newton real estate is in high demand and in analyzing the market for Newton houses; you find almost across the board, the market is newton, ma housesfavoring sellers.  Inventory of houses on market in Newton is just meeting demand or falling shy of it in some price ranges.

The price range with most pressure is the $800,000-$899,999 price range in Newton, with only one month of inventory.  Houses in this price range are sitting the least time on the market at only 51 days.

Alternatively, luxury Newton homes priced $3,000,000-$3,999,999 have 16 months of supply.  This means the sellers can expect their house to sell in 16 months, even if their home is the best of the lot.

What does this mean to you if you are selling your house in Newton?

First, you can use this information to set expectations on roughly how long it will take to sell your home.  The months of supply tell you if you have a lot or little competition in relation to the demand in recent months.  Many people thing the average days on market is the best indication for how long it will take for a home to sell.  But average days on market don’t always go hand in hand with months of supply.

Second, if you plan to price your home near the top or bottom of a price range, it may make sense to price higher or lower just a bit.  For example, if you plan to price your Newton home just over $900,000, it may be worth to price your home at $899,999 where you’ll have less competition and more buyers.

No matter where your home is priced, and regardless of competition, there is a guaranteed way to a quicker and easier home sale.  To beat the competition you must offer the best value in the price range.  This doesn’t mean you should have the biggest, newest, prettiest house, but the one offering the most solutions for buyers for every dollar they spend.

Next, the house needs to be marketed correctly, online exposure being the single most important element of property marketing.  Regardless of the low inventory and high demand, to attract a better buyer faster who’d pay top dollar for your home, your house must stand out in the crowd of 152 Newton houses.

A home priced correctly and marketed properly, should be the first one sold in the price range, within the period of months of supply.  Newton houses may be a hot commodity in most price ranges, but there are still houses lingering on market for months without an offer.  Don’t be the home seller of such a house.


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