Buyer Testimonial – Medford

1025 FellswayMichelle Lane is professional in her career and well understands the customer’s needs. She is knowledgable about the market, very respectful, helpful, friendly, patient and is alway accessible to provide information and support. I would strongly recommend her.

Buyer Testimonial – Grafton

27 MeadowbrookSimply put, working with Michelle was a wonderful…and easy…experience. ~ Seth Wulsin, Newton

Buyer Testimonial – Newton

42 FairhavenMichelle understood my needs and wants very quickly and was efficient in finding me the right properties. She well negotiated for me and kept it real. She helped me with the hard conversations and issues very well and was on top of every detail to the very end!
 
Kelli, Newton

Median Price of Single Family Homes in Boston Area

by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

This map shows the median price of Single Family Homes in the Greater Boston area.  This is based on closed sales in March 2018.  While these numbers can and will change month-to-month and year-to-year, this gives you an indication of how one town’s median home price compares to another.  To see how these numbers compare to past years’ values, refer to our Chart of Home Values over the Years  I expect that these numbers will go up as the year progresses as there is no end in sight to the tightness of inventory.

Stay tuned as we will break down the median price of condos and single family homes in Boston in a future post.

 

Michelle J. Lane
MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

What are the Requirements to Call a Room a Bedroom?

by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

When listing properties, the question often comes up – can they call this room a bedroom?  The questions typically comes up for rooms without a closet or room in basements.  The legal requirements for a bedroom are listed below.   The surprising answer is that a closet is not required.  However, particularly with basement and attic rooms, the ceiling height and second form of egress become the issues.   Most basement and attic bedrooms do not meet the ceiling height requirement.  Basements also typically do not meet the requirements for window size.  As your agent, I need to follow these requirements when listing your home.   Beyond that, Buyers get annoyed when Sellers stretch the description, measurements or room count of their house.  

If you are a buyer, you can use this outline to determine if a listing is property advertising the number of bedrooms.  

  

Seven features that define a bedroom

  1. Minimum square footage:  In Massachusetts, 70 square feet is the acceptable minimum.
  2. Minimum horizontal footage:  A bedroom must also measure at least 7 feet in any horizontal direction.  So a 7×10 or 8×9 would work as a minimum size.
  3. Two means of egress: There must be two ways out of a bedroom. Traditionally, these would be a door and a window.
  4. Minimum ceiling height: At least half of the bedroom ceiling must be at least 7.5 feet tall.
  5. Minimum window size: The window opening must be a minimum size, usually 5.7 square feet. The bottom of the egress window opening cannot be any higher than 44” from the finished floor.  The minimum egress window opening height is 24” high. The minimum egress window opening is 20” wide.
  6. A heating and cooling element: We’re talking a heater (a space heater won’t qualify) as well as a way to cool it down, whether that’s by opening a window or good old AC.
  7. Electricity – Two separate wall-type convenience outlets, or one outlet and one electric light fixture. The outlets shall be placed in practical locations and shall insofar as practicable, be on different walls and at least ten feet apart.

Does a bedroom need a closet?

Legally, a bedroom does NOT need a closet to be considered official.  Closets are expected in newer homes.  But back in the day, people did not have nearly as much clothing as they do today so clothes were stored in chests or dressers, with maybe a couple of things being hung on a hook.  The hanger was not invented until 1869.  That’s why, if an older house does have closets, they are shallow and many still have the original hooks in them.  

If you have a room that does not meet these requirements, you could get away with calling it an office, nursery, playroom or bonus room.  Buyers will appreciate your honesty in not calling it a bedroom. 

Michelle J. Lane
MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

State of the Real Estate Market – Jan 2018

by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

Housing Value

There are so many topics we can cover in talking about the state of the Real Estate market.  To be succinct, I will briefly cover these three topics.

  1. Tax Reform Bill
  2. Inventory
  3. Interest Rates

Tax Reform

There are many articles out there on the new tax reform bill and how it impacts homeowners.  I wrote one you can find here.  As you probably know, the key changes are that the Mortgage Interest Deduction has been capped to a $750,000 mortgage, down from $1m and that the maximum amount of real estate tax you can deduct is $10,000.  These changes will affect homeowners here in the Greater Boston area.  Today the median home price in Newton is $2,295,000, which would clearly require a mortgage over $750,000 for most people.  Moody’s is estimating that this will cause a 4% loss in home values from where they would have been if the Tax Reform Bill were not in place. 

Inventory

It is early in the year to be able to say where inventories will be for spring, but looking at a snapshot of today compared to the same day over the past 4 years, inventories are remaining low:

Newton Housing Inventory

Interest Rates

Given the Tax Reform Bill reduction in the Mortgage Interest Deduction only affects new mortgages (after Dec 15, 2017), it is possible that sellers will want to hang on to their existing mortgage and stay in their homes, which will further exacerbate inventory shortages.

Are now over 4%.  I expect they will stay there and possibly go up from there.  I say possibly only because rates have defied rate hikes by the Federal Reserve over the last couple of years.  The Fed does expect to make at least two more hikes in 2018. 

In Summary….

Because inventory is still low and people have not yet felt the impact of the Tax Reform Bill, I expect the spring market to still be brisk.  I suspect that the less desirable homes will feel the sting of the changes  by staying on the market longer.  By less desirable, I mean those that need a good deal of updating.  Buyers (who are not builders) are reluctant to buy these.  Once they make their downpayment, they don’t have money left over for updates.  If they have any money left over, they don’t have time to manage the projects, don’t want their children breathing in construction dust, and cannot find contractors to do the work.  

At the entry level prices (in Newton that is around $600K) you will find Buyers who are willing to take on projects in order to get into the city.  However, once you get to prices where they can buy a house  that does not need work, say $800K or more, they would rather get into a bidding war on an updated house than buy a project house.   If you want to know the value of your home, contact us here.

 

What the House Tax Proposal Will Mean to Homeowners

By Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

By now, you have heard a lot about the House tax reform proposal (HR.1) and may be wondering how it will impact you as a homeowner and what the real estate industry is doing to protect your interests.  At a high level, those changes are:

  • Mortgage Interest Deduction is capped at a loan balance of $500,000.
  • Real estate tax deduction is capped at $10,000.
  • Tenure for Capital Gains deduction moves up from 2 of the last 5 years to 5 of the last 8.
  • Eliminates the Moving Deduction

How will this impact homeowners in the greater Boston area?

Cap on Mortgage Interest Deduction

Currently, the mortgage interest deduction is capped at a loan balance of $1,100,000. Under the House proposal, the cap would fall to $500,000.  The change applies to future impact future home buyers as the proposal maintains the cap of $1,100,000 on existing homeowners.  This will impact a great percentage of Massachusetts homeowners, particularly those in and around Boston. To make matters worse, the $500,000 cap is not indexed to inflation or home price growth, so over time, more homebuyers will be pushed into this category.  The plan would also limit the mortgage interest deduction to one principal home, ending any deductions for vacation homes.  It also will not allow you to deduct the interest on a home equity line.

Cap on Real Estate Tax Deduction

As drafted, real estate tax deductions are capped at $10,000 and that figure also is not indexed to allow for growing home values or tax rates over time.

Capital Gain Tenure

Currently, to claim the exclusion from capital gains, you must have lived in your house for 2 of the last 5 years.  This has been important to people who rent out their homes during a relocation for example. Under the House plan, a home seller will now have to have lived in the home for 5 of the last 8 years to claim the exclusion from capital gains. This will impact any home owner who sells in less than 5 years after buying their home. Roughly 20% of homeowners sell in 5 years or less due to divorce, relocation, or upsizing their home.  Imagine how this would impact those in the military.

This change would force people to hold onto their homes longer and intensify the low inventory problem.  

In Summary

Aside from these changes directly impacting real estate, the House proposal will eliminate the state and local income tax deduction.  This directly impacts all Massachusetts taxpayers who file a Schedule A for itemized deductions. Combined with the limitations on the real estate tax and mortgage interest deductions, this could push many people out of the ability to file itemized deductions.

To counterbalance these changes, the personal exemption will go from $6,350 to $12,200.  However,  the plan eliminates the deduction for dependents.  For homeowners in the greater Boston area, even with the increased personal exemption, the reduction in itemized deductions will result in a negative financial impact.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) estimates that the impact of these changes will reduce home values by 10%.

The NAR is taking several actions to address these concerns.  They are spending millions from the dues we Realtors pay to lobby for changes to these provisions that harm home ownership.  NAR is also investing in ad campaigns in many markets to raise awareness.  Lastly, they are asking us Realtors to reach out to our representatives to express our concerns. 

This plan has not yet passed through the Senate, so there is still time for you to get involved. If you wish to reach out to your representatives, you can do that here – Take Action

And, of course, if you have any questions on all these, please ask.

Michelle J. Lane

MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Boston Magazine’s Public School District Rankings – 2017

The link to the full chart can be found here – Boston Magazine’s School District Rankings 2017

The Top 10 contains the usual suspects with Newton coming in at #7.   But you can sort the list by criteria that matters to you.  For example, sorting on High School graduation rate shows that Lynnfield is  #1, while Medfield is #1 in number of graduates going on to college.  You can use the chart to see where your town lands in all these categories or to evaluate towns you are considering as a place to buy a home. 

  1. Dover-Sherborn
  2. Condord-Carlisle
  3. Weston
  4. Lexington
  5. Wayland
  6. Westford
  7. Newton
  8. Wellesley
  9. Manchester-Essex
  10. Harvard

Michelle J. Lane

MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

 

Spotlight on Lowell

April 26, 2016

So today I did Jury Duty in Lowell.   I’ve been there before, with my friend/client Laura Roberts, who shares my love of grand, older homes. We went on a roadtrip last year to see a particular beauty.  But I hadn’t been to Lowell Center.  I have to say the center is very quaint with the majority of the area consisting of small brick and stone storefronts from the 19th century.  I was pleasantly surprised as I never thought of Lowell as being so quaint.  In my mind, it was a former mill town that lost its reason for being (the mills) and had become a shadow of its former self akin to the Rust Belt.   

The truth is that Lowell is true to itself in that it still has a robust population that is roughly 50% immigrant, who work primarily in construction and industry.  It has not become a ghost town.  The population has, in fact grown by 5% over the past 10 years or so to about 110,000.

So why am I so curious about Lowell?  Because they have some amazing, grand old homes that can still be had for reasonable prices compared to most of the Greater Boston area.  Yet it only took me 35 mins to get from Newton to Lowell.

For a sampling of what your money can buy – here are the most grand houses on the market in Lowell today.

 

 

Beyond the awesome houses, Lowell does have a lot to offer.  An MBTA commuter line, the Merrimack River, a National Park, Universities, Hospitals. The crime rate is reasonable and declining every year.  It is about half what it was 15 years ago and less than the national average.  And I must say that everyone in the courthouse was very nice!

What it doesn’t have is great school rankings.   So it may not be ideal yet for young families looking for a city with good schools.  

As I took a break from Jury Duty, I passed a woman who was shouting to an invisible adversary and then I was approached by a panhandler.  So not exactly gentrified yet.  But I do wonder if it could be down the road as Boston and the surrounding area become too cost prohibitive.  This tight spring market is pushing prices up ever higher and is pricing people out of the area immediately surrounding Boston. 

Lowell would be great for Boomers like myself,  who don’t really want to downsize their homes but would like to cut costs in retirement.  Or for young couples who don’t plan on having children but want a nice big house not too far from Boston.

Michelle J. Lane

MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

 

Congress Proposes Bill that will impact Affordable Housing

The WSJ recently published an article on Affordable Housing being at risk.  To net it out, members of Congress have proposed reducing the Corporate tax rate from 35% down to 15-20%.  Approximately 25% of all new apartment construction in the US is affordable housing.  So this will have a big impact on aaffordable housing.   As banks find these loans less attractive and reduce lending, projects will lose funding.  Investors have already started pulling funding for existing projects.  This will be a real shame for those who most need help finding housing.

Specifically in Newton Mayor Warren has set a goal of adding 800 affordable units by 2021.  This goal could be impacted by less available funding for affordable housing.  Fortunately, Massachusetts has Chapter 40B promote the building of affordable housing.  Basically, the way it works is that if developers allocate a minimum of 20% of the units to affordable housing, they can get a single comprehensive permit and 40B also allows them to override local zoning requirements.   Since those developers can make a good profit on the market value units, they may not be as dependent on loans from banks that are targeted towards building affordable housing.  

Overall, given many poor and working class people’s fears over housing costs, this is a shame because it has not even passed yet and estimates are that the affordable housing market has dropped by $1B.  

 

For more info on affordable housing opportunities in Newton – click here.

Michelle J. Lane
MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904