Archives for September 2011

Boston Ranks #3 in Best Cities to Raise a Family

3. Boston, MA

Historic Boston made Parenting Magazine’s Top 10 list for education and ranked high in the health category as well. Boston public schools spend a whopping $23,000 per student (the national average is $9,000), and the city is home to several world-class medical institutions, including Children’s Hospital Boston and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

 Families can stay fit in Boston’s many parks, such as the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, with beautiful paths to amble through. Also ideal for kids is the Back Bay Fens, a restored former saltwater marsh turned into an “urban wild” with community gardens, a playground, and basketball courts. Then there’s note-worthy Charles Street in Beacon Hill (where my nephew has is store Uncle Pete’s! www.unclepetesshop.com), the Boston Public Garden (which your kids will recognize from Make Way for Ducklings), and Fenway Park.

MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904
michelle@michellelanerealtor.com
www.MichelleLaneRealtor.com

Market Indicators as of Sept 2011

As we all know, the key market indicators are important in understanding where the real estate market is headed.  More important, what is the market doing right now.  Home sellers need to understand the market from week-to-week, month-to-month so that they can price and adjust as needed to get their homes sold.

So where are we at right now?  In each of the 10 years prior to 2008, Americans saved $250 billion.  The savings rate was about 2-3%.  Post financial crisis, Americans are saving $600 billion a year.  Vehicle sales have fallen to about 12 million units a year over the past 3 years, well below the 17 million unit sales pace before the slowdown. 

More important, home sales are down – no surprise.  New and existing home sales dropt to 1.2 million and 7.1 million in 2005.  The comparable figures are now 300,000 and 5 million respectively.   It’s going to take a turn around on jobs for this to get better.  We are not there yet.  I wish I could predict for you when that will be.  All I can say is, it will not be soon.

MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904
michelle@michellelanerealtor.com
www.MichelleLaneRealtor.com

Michelle’s Newton Broker Tour Review – Sept 15th 2011

As most of you already know, I LOVE houses, especially historic homes.  That’s a big part of why I am in this business.  So I am going to start sharing my thoughts on the houses I have seen. Unfortunately, I can’t make it to all the broker tours.  There were 43 houses on the Newton Broker Tour today!  I am only going to highlight the houses I love most or that have features or value worth making note of.  If you want to know what I think of Newton homes I didn’t mention here, just ask!

I’l l start with my favorite – 9 Crofton – http://www.michellelanerealtor.idxco.com/idx/11465/details.php?idxID=107&listingID=71285540   At $3,350,000, I expected it to be another house that was grossly overpriced. In reality, it is a BEAUTIFUL home.  Very tastefully updated.  Not at all old fasioned and stuffy. They did a really nice job of retaining the historical charm of the home while turning it into something a young family (with money) would want to call home.  The basement alone was worth the price of admission 🙂  Beautiful media room with server racks full of equipment I couldn’t even identify, a nice bar and a bathroom that was more high end than I’ve seen on the living area floors of most other houses.  Pool, huge yard, very nice master suite.  Really, just a grand home.  If I compare it to this one on Lake  http://www.michellelanerealtor.idxco.com/idx/11465/details.php?idxID=107&listingID=71203936  that is going for $4,999,000, I’d buy the Crofton house.   I’ll give Lake props on the Lake view and it has a pretty sweet kitchen.  But I like the layout, decor, yard and overall design of Crofton better.

 No question that this one – http://www.michellelanerealtor.idxco.com/idx/11465/details.php?idxID=107&listingID=71287088   on Oxford needs a refresh. Needs an exterior paint job.  But it did not disappoint on the charming details front.  I loved the fireplace surrounded by bookshelves and two benches.  Nice fireplaces, woodwork, etc.  So at $1,099,000. it would seem to be priced well.  But this is the second time trying to sell it.  For sure, they started too high at $1,297,000. first time around.   And there just is not as much of a market as there used to be for houses that need work.  Not many people have the extra cash anymore.  The kitchen startled me a bit in how much it did NOT go with the house. Oak cabinets, etc.  And there was this big sun room, but it was oddly off the main staircase, halfway up.  Just seemed like it didn’t go there, but I think it was built that way originally.  This would be a good house for someone who wants to update an old victorian, but these days, people want a bargain if they are going to be putting work into a house, so let’s see what this winds up going for.

 Saw a fixer-upper at 253 Crafts http://www.michellelanerealtor.idxco.com/idx/11465/details.php?idxID=107&listingID=71286555   This is one I do believe someone should buy.  Crafts is a bit busy, but at $635K for a 3000sf Victorian, how could you go wrong?  The price is in the right range to allow someone to fix it up and make it home.  Needs some paneling taken down, some carpeting pulled up, But it has good bones and retains an awful lot of its original detail. 

This is my first Broker Tour blog entry. Next time, I’ll take pictures of the architectural details I particularly like so I can share those with you.

Well those are my highlights of the Tour.  Stay tuned for next week’s review!

15-Minute Fixes for your Credit Score

(from creditcards.com)

Improving your credit score can feel like a gargantuan task. But by spending just 15 minutes, you can give your credit score anywhere from a small bump to a major boost. Here are some tips from credit experts on quick — and sometimes easy — ways to raise your score.

1. Set up automatic bill payment or alerts. The one thing you need to do is pay bills on time — that has the biggest impact on your score.   One way to do that is to set up automatic bill payment through your bank or credit union, at least for the typical minimum amounts of your bills,.   Or, if you’re not comfortable with automatic bill payment, set up regular email or text message alerts to remind you of bill due dates.  On-time payments over a period of about six months can increase your score by as much as 50 points.  It shows you are getting responsible about your bills.

2. Pay down revolving debt. If your credit card debt is more than 35 percent of your credit limit, it’s probably dragging your score down, but paying balances down can provide a quick boost. Experts recommend setting up regular automatic payments to make a dent in your debt.

A good rule to follow is this: For every $1,000 of available credit, try to use less than $350.  Say you have three cards, each with a $1,000 limit. One has a $500 balance, one has a $350 balance, and one has a $250 balance. Pay on all of them, but pay more on the first one to bring it down under 35%.

3. Pay your credit card bill early. If you use your card for everything from groceries to utilities to a pack of gum to get rewards — but pay in full each month — pay early. Because if you charge, say, $2,000 each month but pay your bill after you get your statement, it looks as though you’re carrying a large balance when you’re not.

Check when the statement closing date is.  Making the payment before the statement closing date — just five or six days early — can make a big difference over time. It will be reported to the credit bureaus as a $0 balance and will look like you’re holding less credit.

4. Ask your credit card company to raise your limit. If you carry a credit card balance but have been making payments on time and make enough money to support a higher credit limit, a quick phone call to your credit card company could raise your score. A higher credit limit will lower your credit utilization ratio (the amount of available credit you’re using), experts say. However, experts also say it’s important to be honest about whether that step would tempt you to rack up more debt.

5. Go online to dispute an item on your credit report. Some experts advise consumers to dispute a possible credit report error by registered mail, and to include evidence. But, let’s face it, many never get around to making copies, hunting down a stamp and heading to the post office. All three major credit bureaus offer the option of filing a dispute online — and it can be faster and easier, experts say. 

The first thing to do is pull a copy of your credit report from all three bureaus. You can do it free once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. Look at each one and see if there’s anything you don’t recognize. If you have any questions about information on your reports, you can file a dispute online. You can track it online, too, so it’s a lot quicker.

6. Just say no to too many inquiries. When you’re buying those cool new sunglasses and the cashier asks if you’d like to get a 10% discount by signing up for a store credit card, just say no. Whenever you take new credit, you get a ding on your credit score, so don’t apply for new credit cards all the time. 

7. Get a late payment removed from your credit report. In the “it-can’t-hurt-to-ask” category, it sometimes pays to call a creditor and ask to have a late payment removed from your credit report.

8. Play what-if with your credit score. Each consumer’s credit history is different, so spend a few minutes at the consumer website Credit Karma. The site offers a peek at your credit score — though it’s not the widely used FICO score — and offers a simulator that allows you to see how different actions you could take would likely affect your score.

It is often repeated that, when it comes to credit scores, there are no quick fixes. However, if you follow these tips, you could see a big improvement in your credit score — with just a small investment of time.

MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904
michelle@michellelanerealtor.com
www.MichelleLaneRealtor.com

Ten Tax Tips for Individuals Selling Their Home

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2011-15, August 8, 2011

The Internal Revenue Service has some important information to share with individuals who have sold or are about to sell their home. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may qualify to exclude all or part of that gain from your income. Here are ten tips from the IRS to keep in mind when selling your home.

  1. In general, you are eligible to exclude the gain from income if you have owned and used your home as your main home for two years out of the five years prior to the date of its sale.
  2. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from your income ($500,000 on a joint return in most cases).
  3. You are not eligible for the exclusion if you excluded the gain from the sale of another home during the two-year period prior to the sale of your home.
  4. If you can exclude all of the gain, you do not need to report the sale on your tax return.
  5. If you have a gain that cannot be excluded, it is taxable. You must report it on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.
  6. You cannot deduct a loss from the sale of your main home.
  7. Worksheets are included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home, to help you figure the adjusted basis of the home you sold, the gain (or loss) on the sale, and the gain that you can exclude.
  8. If you have more than one home, you can exclude a gain only from the sale of your main home. You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other home. If you have two homes and live in both of them, your main home is ordinarily the one you live in most of the time.
  9. If you received the first-time homebuyer credit and within 36 months of the date of purchase, the property is no longer used as your principal residence, you are required to repay the credit. Repayment of the full credit is due with the income tax return for the year the home ceased to be your principal residence, using Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit. The full amount of the credit is reflected as additional tax on that year’s tax return.
  10. When you move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure you receive refunds or correspondence from the IRS. Use Form 8822, Change of Address, to notify the IRS of your address change.

For more information about selling your home, see IRS Publication 523, Selling Your Home. This publication is available at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904
michelle@michellelanerealtor.com
www.MichelleLaneRealtor.com

Ten Tax Tips for Individuals Selling Their Home

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2011-15, August 8, 2011

The Internal Revenue Service has some important information to share with individuals who have sold or are about to sell their home. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may qualify to exclude all or part of that gain from your income. Here are ten tips from the IRS to keep in mind when selling your home.

  1. In general, you are eligible to exclude the gain from income if you have owned and used your home as your main home for two years out of the five years prior to the date of its sale.
  2. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from your income ($500,000 on a joint return in most cases).
  3. You are not eligible for the exclusion if you excluded the gain from the sale of another home during the two-year period prior to the sale of your home.
  4. If you can exclude all of the gain, you do not need to report the sale on your tax return.
  5. If you have a gain that cannot be excluded, it is taxable. You must report it on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.
  6. You cannot deduct a loss from the sale of your main home.
  7. Worksheets are included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home, to help you figure the adjusted basis of the home you sold, the gain (or loss) on the sale, and the gain that you can exclude.
  8. If you have more than one home, you can exclude a gain only from the sale of your main home. You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other home. If you have two homes and live in both of them, your main home is ordinarily the one you live in most of the time.
  9. If you received the first-time homebuyer credit and within 36 months of the date of purchase, the property is no longer used as your principal residence, you are required to repay the credit. Repayment of the full credit is due with the income tax return for the year the home ceased to be your principal residence, using Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit. The full amount of the credit is reflected as additional tax on that year’s tax return.
  10. When you move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure you receive refunds or correspondence from the IRS. Use Form 8822, Change of Address, to notify the IRS of your address change.

For more information about selling your home, see IRS Publication 523, Selling Your Home. This publication is available at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904
michelle@michellelanerealtor.com
www.MichelleLaneRealtor.com