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Two Condos with Great Woodwork

In most homes the natural woodwork has been painted, so when preserved for many years, it’s a delight.   This week two  condos with beautiful natural woodwork came on market.  Both condos are priced in the 300K’s, 2 bedrooms and both in the City of Boston.

First, 75 Russett Road in West Roxbury.  This is a first floor condo of a two family house.  Excellent layout, large foyer, nice curb appeal.  Next, 42 Orkney is a third floor condo in Cleveland Circle.  From this building’s decks you will have the best view of the marathon!


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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!

Top Three Reasons Why Property Investment Is King

No one wants to hear this, but I’m saying it anyway.  Real estate is the best long-term financial investment.  Phew…that’s a relief.

With the real estate market in the dumps for several years now, it is not easy to get back into the pro-property mind-set.  But, it is exactly at these times that you should be considering expanding your real estate portfolio.

One reason I know this is because while the real estate market is dragging in most of the country, it is dominated by the professional real estate investors.  Don’t you want to learn a lesson or two from them?

The professional investor loves real estate above all other investments.  There are three main reasons for this.

First, real estate investing can come in many forms, just like any other investments.  There are small condos, multi-family buildings, commercial, residential, mixed use properties, different towns, neighborhoods, etc.  For every budget, preference and style, there is an investment instrument.

Second, real estate has a certain tangible value that you just don’t see in other investments.  Property investors love that there is an asset they can visit, fix and maintain.  There is a satisfaction in knowing that you have some control and responsibility in the relative value of the property.

Third, although real estate is illiquid – meaning it takes relatively a lot of time and effort to sell it – it is a versatile investment.  You can hold it, or resell it when the market turns your way. You can do extensive renovations and have a quick resell, or you can hold it with tenants for years to come.  Whatever it is, you have options and you can make decisions based on the best scenarios for your needs and the market conditions.

All of this assumes that you have sufficient funds for a down payment and that your expenses on the property are covered.  The major drawback in investment real estate are the unavoidable expenses in maintaining it and the difficulty of selling it if you need the cash.

But this said, it may be time to consider an investment property, especially in such a critical time in the market.  Opportunities and possibilities are present, and real estate investing can be a perfect fit for long-term financial goals.

How to Sell Your Home’s Most Important Feature

A recent survey of 1,000+ homeowners and future buyers confirmed the old adage, “Location, Location, Location.”

The result of the survey showed that the top priorities for buyers are:  Ease of commuting by car: 38%, Access to health and safety services: 34%, Family-friendly neighborhood: 33%, Availability of retail stores: 32%, Access to cultural activities: 21%, Public transportation access: 19%, Nightlife and restaurant access: 18%, Golf-friendly area–access to golf courses: 6%.

This survey seems to indicate that how people spend time OUTSIDE their homes is more important than the inside.  Spending endless hours on the road and paying for the gasoline it requires are unattractive these days.

What does your home have to offer?

It is great that you’ve upgraded your home, the granite and stainless steel are adding value.  Sure, having a home in great condition and staged nicely are incredibly important to your marketability, but what about your location?

Here are tips for you to target your buyers better using your home’s location:

1. What type of home do you have?  A small condo attracts a different buyer than a large home and each of these people have different locational needs.  Think about what attracted you to this home’s location and play it up!

For example, is it ease of highway access or a short walk to the train stop?  Do you love that you can walk to get groceries or that your neighborhood is full of kids and kid friendly activities?

2. Add photos, map and video of the area, not just the home.  Many buyers coming through may not be familiar with the nearest bus station or closest grocery store.  Point those out, enthusiastically!

3. Be specific.  If something is only a five minute walk, say so.  A 10 minute drive, around the corner, etc.

4. Price accordingly!  You may have the prettiest home, in best condition, but if it is further away or less convenient for some reason, price lower than your competition.

For example, if your home is in a family friendly neighborhood where the value is the quiet streets and park, price lower if your home is on a busy corner. Don’t just compare prices based on the home, think location!

Remember, buyers are buying a lifestyle, not just a pile of bricks arranged nicely.  If they don’t get what they need from the area, the home is meaningless.  But if they love the area, they may make the home work even with a few imperfections.

Top Reasons Why Your Home is Still On Market

by Ruth Malkin-Lerner

Are you still on market while other homes have sold?  If it has been more than one season since you have put the home on the market, you may be showcasing the wrong features and missing out on really important ones.

Here are some top reasons your home is not inspiring summertime buyers.

First reason buyers are bored is bad landscaping.  Has it been a while since you trimmed your shrubs and trees?  In the summer months, buyers are looking at the land around the home as much as at the house itself.  Overgrown shrubs, bushes and trees make the yard look messy and uninviting.  It screams work.

Furthermore, summer is when we are accustomed to seeing color outdoors.  It is not all about the grass, which is also important. Make sure your landscaping includes some flowers and seasonally appropriate plantings.  Sure, you may have to do some maintenance, or hire someone if this is not something you enjoy.

But without some color and a good manicure, your home will look dull.  Gardens bring in buyers, and keep them there longer.  A great yard can cancel out some indoor negatives.

Here’s another idea – if you like gardening, add some value to your home with a small organic vegetable garden.  The young buyers love it!

Second reason buyers may be turned off is poorly staged outdoor space.  If you’ve been cheap about getting some good patio furniture, now is the time to do it.  If you have any patio or deck space, ensure it is furnished to showcase the utility.

Your outdoor space should feel like an extension of the home, and a buyer should be able to see him or herself enjoying it, as they would a living room and bedroom.

A third reason buyers are not hanging out long enough in your home to make an offer is that there is no AC.  If you have it, turn it on.  If you don’t, get some window units for key areas of the house, or leave the windows open with a very discreet fan.

The worse comes out of a home when it is hot.  The furniture feels overbearing, a dark room is depressing, a bad smell you may have overlooked becomes fowl.

Update your home for the season and show it as a summertime steal.  Buyers will relate better to your home, spend more time in it.  Bring the best summertime features out of your home and showcase it for it’s current usability.

Summertime Selling Tips

Summertime can be a great season to sell your house. Why? During these hot months, your landscaping and outdoor spaces come alive. Today’s buyers are looking for extended living areas and love usable outdoor space.

According to HGTV, outdoor spaces can bring in big bucks. Jon Seppala, president of Action Builders, notes, “Backyards and outdoor patios have to be much more substantial than in the past. Built-in grills, outdoor fireplaces, gazebos — people are looking for these features. We’ve had people who have fallen in love with the house and have decided to buy before they walked in the front door.”

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has also identified a trend, noting during a recent panel that young homebuyers (Gen Xers) are looking for homes with a connection between indoor and outdoor spaces, even in colder climates, to create the perception of greater home size, even if the space is only usable for part of the year.”

Here are some tips to take advantage of Summer selling.

First, keep your home cool. Have your AC turned up to a comfortable level during showings and open houses. If you live in a region where you don’t have or need AC, be sure that you use fans or open windows for breezes to create a nice atmosphere. The last thing you need is a prospective buyer distracted by sweat or humidity. You want them focused on your wonderful home!

Heat also has a way of bringing out the worst of smells in our home. To hold these deal breakers at bay, have your carpets cleaned when you list your home for sale. Next, roll up your sleeves and be sure you clean your home before any showing. Bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchen are notoriously stinky. Focus your attention on these!

When your home is listed for sale, it’s your responsibility as the seller to keep your yard, landscaping, and pool maintained. Overgrown trees, shrubs, and lawns not only seriously depreciate curb appeal, they can also turn a buyer off.

If you are unable to stay on top of this task each week, hire local workers to keep your yard looking in top shape. This expense will come back to you when you make the sale.

Landscaping is expensive and buyers know this. Why not showcase one of your most valuable assets? Trim existing trees to their best advantage. Have gardens, paths, benches, and pool ready for enjoying. Buyers know that a fully landscaped yard will save them time and money. Plus, it’s ready to enjoy.

As a courtesy to prospective buyers, you may also consider compiling a list of locally recommended handy men, gardeners, and pool maintenance companies.

Finally, staging patios and porches is important. From family gatherings to al fresco meals, these hot spots get lots of use.

Start your staging with a thorough cleaning. Powerwashing decks, patios, and furniture can make dirty items look new again. For furniture that needs a bit more TLC, apply a fresh coat of paint. Next, stage for an “event.” Replace wornout cushions and invest in simple outdoor accessories. A selective arrangement of candles, glasses, and even a nice table setting can be the icing on the staging cake.

The bottom line is that caring for the outdoor living spaces of your home can make or break a sale during the Summer. Take full advantage of all your home has to offer.

Written by Carla Hill

Find A Buyer for Your House in Two Weeks

Is your house sitting on the market for a while now?  Sick of it, yet?

Maybe you are getting ready to go on market, and you are dreading all the naysayer’s advice about trying to sell a home these days.

Sitting around waiting for a buyer is not the best strategy to find one.  Along with your agent, you have to review and revise your marketing strategy regularly and be pro-active about the process.

In my area outside of Boston, I hear stories about how properties are getting multiple offers first days on market, real estate is selling like hotcakes and buyers are fighting over houses.

Oh, really?  Tell that to the house sellers on market now for six months with nothing to show for it.

Sure, some markets are much better than others, but there are some things you need to do to get the house attracting a buyer and quick – how about in two weeks!

Step 1. What has your agent been up to?  A good agent should regularly review with you the marketing that he or she is doing.  Where is the house posted on the internet?  In what papers is the home advertised?  Know what is going on and don’t just assume that your house has ample visibility.  One way to learn how well your house is exposed in the media is to do a search as if you are a buyer.

Step 2. Learn what houses have sold while you’ve been on market.  If nothing else has sold in your house’s price range, then there is a slow market to contend with.  If other houses have sold, then there is a market in which to compete.  That’s good news.

Step 3. Review your price.  I’m sure if you’ve been on market long enough your agent has discussed this with you.  The price is extremely important.  Don’t fall into the line of thought of “we’ll price it high so we can negotiate later.”  The price is set by the market, and buyers will often shy away from an over priced house.  Either the right buyers don’t want to do business with you, or the right buyers aren’t even coming to see the house.  Home searches are done in price ranges so you need to look good on the screen or paper before the buyer chooses to see your home.

Step 4. Speaking of looking good, how are your pictures?  I suggest getting new photographs or rotating the photos of the house every few months.  This freshens things up and perhaps the picture that is on there is not attractive enough, or not speaking to the right buyer.  Changing pictures has always elicited a response from the market for me.  This is especially important with changing seasons.  I always find it funny to see pictures of a house covered with snow in mid June.  Give me a break!

Step 5. How does your home look inside and out?  If you didn’t get it staged, it may help.  Have you decluttered enough?  Is there curb appeal?  Are your (scarce) decorations fitting the season?

Some fresh pictures, a better price, and a nice looking home, you should be excited to open your doors to some ready, willing and able buyers.

Have you seen the “competing” houses sell?

Home Sellers: Avoid These Very Common Mistakes

In a buyers’ market, selling your home can be a frustrating lesson, especially if you make costly mistakes that can slow your sales opportunities.

According to an article by Zillow, about 36 percent of homes nationwide sold for a loss in January. As spring rolls in and buyers head out to shop for their perfect home, they’re doing so with a critical eye because of the many choices due to excessive inventory.

If you avoid common seller mistakes, you can save yourself time and money. Let’s take a look at a few of these problem areas.

Sole-focused, comp-based pricing. Yes, recent sales count. Studying and understanding the comps in your area will give you an idea about how much buyers were willing to pay for homes in your neighborhood in the recent months, but relying strictly on the comps is a mistake.

Take a close look at the homes that are currently listed for sale. How does your home stack up? What are the benefits of buying your home compared to the others on the market? What makes your home stand out? Are you conveying this information to buyers?

When you do review the comps, see if you can notice any particular benefit listed for the sold homes that may have attracted buyers and ultimately caused the sale to close at a higher price. The typical advantages include: good schools, neighborhood parks, walking distance to retail stores, close access to freeways, quiet neighborhood, bright rooms, open floor plans, and new appliances. Now, take a look at your home from that buyer’s perspective and search for a few more unique features worth noting.
List your improvements and upgrades. If you’ve put in a tankless water heater for instance, be sure to mention it. While only so much can appear on the Multiple Listing Service, if you have plenty of additions to your home make a bullet-style list, print it out, make copies, and leave it for open house guests. This additional sheet will help buyers remember specific details about your property and it will help your home stand out from the dozens of others that they might be viewing.

Listing home for sale based on what you paid. Do you sell a car based on what you paid for it originally? Not typically. Yes, I understand cars depreciate but when it comes to real estate, many people, until recent years, had been trained to think that homes only appreciate. Well, houses most certainly can build equity, but there’s been a sharp lesson about how they can lose value too. Getting what you paid or more for or a home depends on many factors, including when you purchased it, current market conditions, economic factors, length of ownership, improvements, and how much time you have to sell.

Listing your home based on how much is still owed can cause a seller to list the home for too high of a price. This can quickly result in a painful cycle of price reductions signaling to buyers that there’s plenty of room to negotiate on price. In the last month, 23 percent of homes listed on Zillow had price reductions.
Not making curb appeal into web appeal is another mistake. Curb appeal is the art of making your home appeal to buyers from the moment they first see your home. Some sellers think of this in terms of making their home appealing when buyers come to an open house or drive by it. But these days, curb appeal must transfer to web appeal, too.

That means that any and all pictures of your home should create web appeal — an instant attraction — drawing the buyer into your home for an in-person look. If your photos or videos are not properly composed with pleasant lighting and free of clutter and distractions, they won’t appeal to buyers browsing the web. With so many of the searches for homes originating online, it’s worth it to invest in the best photos you can of your home. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words … and a video of your home can be worth even more if it convinces the buyer to get in the car and make the drive to see the “real” thing!

Written by Phoebe Chongchua

Spare Yourself the Headaches of a Home Sale

Listing your home on the market for sale can be a list of hassles and annoyances – from the day you list to the day you close.  But if you take a little bit of time and invest in getting yourself prepared, you’ll have fewer headaches.  Do this right, and you’ll have buyers falling in love with your home.

You know that without curb appeal, you won’t get people indoors to see your lovely home.  It is vital you get the outside to reflect the pride you have in your home.  Both landscaping and the outside condition are imperative in creating the warm homey feeling people want.  Your home should say to buyers, “Living here feels right.”

Next ensure that the inside says the same thing.  Getting rid of the clutter and getting the house sparkling is a big start but there are many other things to make the house feel great to the largest number of possible buyers.  Seek your agent’s advice or a hire a professional stager.  The time and money invested will more than pay off.  You’ll be so pleased with the results, you may even consider staying!

If your home is in great condition, you are doing yourself a big favor in avoiding costly arguments and hearing grievances from your prospective buyers.  The house or condo  shouldn’t only look good, it should be working properly.  Think of it this way, if the buyer’s inspection turn up many unexpected items, you’ll have to repair them or pay for them when you haven’t planned on doing so.  Instead, bring in your own inspector or do the repairs you know you should be doing anyway.

Don’t forget getting all the pesky paperwork in order.  Warranties, contracts, loans, and any major repairs that may require proof later on can all be useful, if not necessary.

Spend a little time before the home is listed, and you’ll enjoy your easy-breezy sale with all the glowing reviews from buyers that your home deserves.

What do you dread about selling your home?  Comment below.