How is COVID-19 Changing Real Estate?

How Homes are Shown

1. Mayor Walsh has asked that agents not show apartments occupied by tenants. This will certainly delay renters’ ability to find a new apartment.

2.Gov. Charlie Baker’s March 15 ban on gatherings of more than 25 people in Massachusetts affects open houses for residential properties. Many agents have made the decision to hold open houses – there are a total of 760 Open Houses scheduled for this weekend in the Greater Boston area. In some far-flung towns, the odds they will have 25 people in at once are non-existent. In areas where a large number of attendees is a possibility, some agents are having Open Houses by appointment only, meaning you will have to make an appointment during that 2-hour window. They will only allow people in during the window of their appointment. This is more efficient for the Seller as the house would only have to be disinfected once after the Open House is over. In the hotter markets, it only takes one Open House to get the property sold.

3. Listing agents will rely more on video tours and floor plans to show homes online. They may even do the tour for you with their smartphone to minimize the number of people who come in the home.

4. Sellers and Listing Agents are going to expect people viewing the homes to be serious Buyers and will discourage window shoppers by asking to see pre-approval letters before they show the house. I can see List Agents asking for proof of seriousness in other ways, a bio on the Buyer – why they are looking, timeline, etc. So, if you are a serious Buyer, it wouldn’t hurt to write something up and to have your pre-approval in hand.

5. Sellers who are fortunate enough to have a vacation home may retreat to those homes so the property on the market can be shown unoccupied.

If this goes on long enough, it could change the fundamental on how homes are shown moving forward. We’ll revisit this topic in a few months to see what the landscape looks like.

Municipal and Government Services

With cities and towns looking to protect their employees, the municipal services required to close on a home will be affected. Fortunately, the response has been fairly quick on some fronts.

1. Smoke Detector Inspections – the Governor has signed an Executive Order providing for the deferral of smoke detector inspections. The Order went into effect immediately and will remain in place until the declared state of emergency is lifted. The Order provides that the buyer must agree in writing to be responsible for equipping the property with approved smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Once the state of emergency has been lifted, the required inspections must take place within 90 days.” – by the Buyer, not the Seller.

2. Water Meter Readings – in towns that have automated readings or that allow the listing agent to read the meter, final water bills should not be held up. However, if the automated reading is not working or you live in a town where a representative from the water department must come out to read the meter, your closing could be held up. If you are my client I am already on top of it.

3. Recording the Deed – most Registries have now set up the ability to record deeds electronically. So, this aspect should not hold up closing on a property.

Other Services

1. The Closing – Attorneys are changing how they conduct closings to limit social interaction as much as possible. Sellers can typically give their attorney power of attorney to sign documents for them. You will need to meet with a Notary for this. I am a Notary, so if you will need me, let me know. This is something that also must be done in person, but there are precautions we can take. The proceeds can then be wired or mailed to the Seller. If you are selling your home, have a discussion with your attorney about this now.

If you are a Buyer, the lender requires that you sign the loan documents in the presence of the bank attorney (which is typically your attorney). No one else needs to be present. The Seller can sign their documents in advance. So, if you are a Buyer and you are concerned about social distancing, please discuss with your attorney.

2. Movers and Tradespeople – If you have a transaction in process, make sure all the service providers you will be using are available and that both you and they have health safety procedures in place – moving company, appliance delivery, tradespeople, etc.

3. The Bank – if you are going to need a bank check for the closing, make sure your bank will be open as these must be obtained in person at the counter. If that will be problematic, speak to your attorney about wiring the funds.

The Economic Impact

It goes without saying that with businesses closing down and people staying home, the economy is being hit hard and fast. Because of this, the FED called for an emergency interest rate cut of 25 basis points to a range of 0-0.25 percent and $500 billion round of quantitative easing — including the purchase of $200 billion in mortgage-backed securities.

It’s important to note that a rate near 0 percent does not mean there will be a further drop in mortgage rates – that remains to be seen. Let’s see what next week brings. If it does lower rates, there will be a higher demand for refinances and it may entice home buyers as well.

In addition to lowering rates, the Fed engaged in a $500 billion round of quantitative easing, which is the Federal Reserve outright purchasing assets it doesn’t traditionally buy to pump liquidity into the market. In this case, it was mortgage-backed securities and treasuries of longer maturities. Some homeowners will find it appealing to refinance rather than sell. This might tighten inventory even more than current levels. Inventory levels were low before the virus hit.

Mayor Walsh has banned all construction in Boston beginning March 16, for two weeks, at which time they will revisit the topic. That means all big and small projects must be stopped and the work zones secured, the mayor said. The only exceptions will be emergency projects, mainly roadwork and gas hookups. Naturally, this will have a negative impact on construction workers and builders.

Who I Worry About

Certainly, this is going to immediately impact people who have lost their jobs and income due to businesses closing such as the aforementioned construction workers.

It is estimated that up to 75% of people in this country live paycheck to paycheck which means they cannot pay rent, their mortgage or buy food if they miss even one check. There were 20,000 unemployment claims on Monday, more than in all of February. That is very worrisome.

The Senate passed the first phase of Covid-19 relief which includes free testing and paid sick leave.Of course, if you don’t have a job, paid sick leave doesn’t help. But it should help all the people still working because they are in vital positions that don’t usually get any sick time – people working in cleaning, food service, etc.

The second phase could take longer as the Senate debates what financial relief will entail. I am sure you have read that Republican senators are talking about making it income based going by 2018 tax returns. This is problematic on more levels than there is room to discuss here. Money needs to get in the hands of people whose hours have been cut, people who have lost their jobs and small businesses who have had to close. Many people will need money this week to pay their April rent. Chuck Schumer is proposing a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures which be of great immediate relief. Let’s hope that get passed soon.

Of course, that begs the question of what happens to landlords who are not able to collect rent? Not all landlords are rich slumlords. Some need the rent to pay the mortgage, insurance and tax on the rental property. Hopefully, people will get enough relief to be able to pay their rent.

Possible Areas for Relief

If you have been affected economically, make sure to check with your mortgage holder to see if you can get a modification or delay payments due to financial hardship.

If you are going to need to wait for a relief check or unemployment check, speak to your landlord now. It is best to come to an agreement before you are late on a payment. Legally, a landlord can evict you if you are even 1 day late with rent.

Most cities and towns have established websites that outline all they are doing to help people in their community.Here is the link for Newton
If you have questions on any of this or you will be selling soon and need to discuss how that will play out, just reach out to me. I’m home!

Why is it so Hard to Downsize?

Currently, there are 10,000 people turning 65 every day in the U.S. and that will be the case for the next 20 years. Those Baby Boomers were a generation of accumulators.  With more wealth than previous generations Baby Boomers were able to collect not only all the household goods they could want, but all the fixings for their hobbies and interests.  Add to that all the furniture, china, crystal that they inherited from their parents and grandparents and that is a lot of stuff to divest themselves of when it comes time to downsize.  It is not just the stuff.  The emotions around downsizing are heavy and difficult to work through.


  • WE CAN’T BEAR TO SEE STUFF GO TO WASTE.  We become paralyzed by the thought that we don’t want stuff to wind up in the dump.  Especially stuff that has sentimental value.  Millennials don’t want to inherit stuff – they are living a minimalist life.  There are a bunch of contributing factors to that, but that is a story for another day.  So, the first issue is the logistics.  Where does all the stuff go?  That’s where we can help.  We have a booklet that goes into great detail on how to divest yourself of all that extra stuff.  Email me to get a copy of that booklet. The one thing I can say here is start now.  It will take longer than you think.  If you are preparing to sell your home, we can help you figure it out.


  • THE NUMBERS DON’T FEEL WORTH IT.  Our rational side tells us that downsizing our home makes sense – pull the equity from our home, lower taxes, lower maintenance costs, fewer people to hire to care for the house.  All of which is important as we move into retirement and live on a fixed income and retirement funds.   Yet, we can’t seem to pull the trigger.  Particularly here in the Boston area, it feels like a home that is 1/3 the size of what we own now costs 2/3 the price of our current home.  So why bother?  The truth is most of us will hit a point of no return.  For most of us, the taxes, insurance, and maintenance will continue to grow to the point where they exceed what we can pay in our retirement years.  It’s better to make the decisions before they are thrust upon you and while you are in a position to make the best decisions.


  • DOWNSIZING FEELS LIKE LIFE IS GOING BACKWARDS.  The home we are in now is likely where we raised our children and had a great life with a home full of family, entertaining, etc.  Moving to a smaller home is an acceptance that phase of our lives is in the past.  Aside from that, the home we are in now is likely the largest, nicest home – if not the only home we have lived in throughout our adult life.  Letting it go feels like taking a step back after a lifetime of accumulation and achievement.  But that emotion is what leaves us stuck in a life that is stressful, no longer fits, and holds us back from enjoying the next phase of our lives.  Maybe we can take a page from the Millennial playbook and minimize our life so that we can fill it with experiences and adventures instead.  Spend the money you save by downsizing on visiting children, grandchildren and friends, taking vacations or hanging with friends in meeting places instead of throwing parties.  A house does not define us or our place in the world.  The people who loves us, whom we love and whose lives we impact are what defines us.  

When you are ready to embrace the next phase of life and letting go of a too big house is part of that, I will be here to help.

Michelle J. Lane

MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor, Luxury Specialist
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth
Email Me
CELL: 617 584-3904
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How to Evaluate a Low Offer

No one appreciates a low offer on their home.  The first impulse is to reject it outright.  Whenever you receive an offer it is essential that you evaluate it properly and not simply give an emotional response.  Here are some items to consider before responding to a low offer:

Buyer’s True Intentions

Most Buyers don’t make a low offer with the purpose of getting you upset.  There is nothing to be gained by that.  Is the Buyer seriously interested in your house, but not able to pay more?  Maybe the Buyer will pay more but wants to see how motivated you are to sell the property.

Maybe the Buyer is only interested if they can ‘steal’ the house.  Some Buyers get advice from family or friends about negotiating that is wrong and does not reflect the desire of the Buyer to buy your home.  So, a low offer does not indicate anything.

Future Offers

Is it likely you will receive other offers in the near future? Some Sellers who get an offer immediately after listing the house aren’t very flexible because they think there are other offers just around the corner. 

This may or may not be your situation.  When evaluating a low offer, you should also think about the possibility of other offers.  Also bear in mind, that the first offer you receive is usually from your most motivated Buyer.

Your Needs

What are your needs and how does this offer address your needs?  Sometimes a low offer is hard to accept, but it may help you get out of this situation and move on with your life.


As painful as a low offer may be, don’t immediately write it off.  Listen to your agent’s advice.  Your agent will know the market and will have a feel for whether a better offer might be around the corner.  They can often negotiate the offer up to a level that you will find acceptable. 

Michelle J. Lane

MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor, Luxury Specialist
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth
Email Me
CELL: 617 584-3904
Follow me on Facebook
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Follow me on Pintrest

Houses of Halloween

October seems like an opportune time to do a rundown of homes made famous by Halloween themed movies.  Below are most of my favorites.  A few are here in New England, so you can see them for yourself.  It’s a GREAT time to go to Salem.  Aside from Hocus Pocus being filmed there, the town has many Halloween themed events this month.


First of course, is THE scary movie Halloween. I recall seeing this movie when it first came out – yes, I am SO old.  No movie has scared me more – before or since.  I remember having to sleep with the lights on because I kept imaging someone in the closet or under the bed.  I even ran out of the house when the power went out the day after I saw the movie.  I was home alone and it truly terrified me.  Well, enough of my cowardice.  🙂  There were several houses and locations for the movie.  But the most famous is Myers house.  Here is how it appeared in the movie and how it looks today, all restored.  What a difference!




Whipstaff Manor was an amazing house – one of my all-time favorite movie houses.  But it is not one that existed outside Universal Studio Stage 12.  They fashioned it after the architecture of Antoni Gaudí, which I think was a brilliant choice.













Another one of my favorites.  Rather than highlight the several houses in this movie here (the colonial era houses of the movie opening, Allison’s house where the elaborate Halloween party was held, etc.)  I’ll point you to this great article that covers the Hocus Pocus houses  Better yet, go see them for yourself.  October is a great time to have some spooky fun in Salem.  


Max’s House – 4 Ocean Ave Salem









There were two houses that were main characters in the movie.  First is the house of the old man who put razor blades in apples – shown at the beginning and end of the movie.










And Hull House where most of the movie takes place.  Both houses are located in Los Angeles.








While there are plenty of other movies that take place on Halloween, most are not famous, so I’ll highlight a few more that had some interesting houses in them.



Another locally filmed movie.   Most of the movie was filmed in Cohasset.  But the Lenox mansion was actually the Crane Estate in Ipswich.  Abbott Hall in Marblehead and Milton Academy were also locations for the movie.

Crane Estate – Ipswich MA



This is an old classic that many of you may not have seen given the movie was filmed in 1959.  But it was interesting.  5 people are challenged to stay in a haunted house overnight and whomever did would get $10,000.  Aside from the scariness, there is intrigue of trying to figure out motives, etc.  So this one might be a good one to watch on Halloween.  Most of the movie is filmed in a studio, but the exterior shots are the Frank Llloyd Wright Ennis House in Los Angeles.

Ennis House front view 2005.jpg



The house is located at 4267 Roxbury Street in Simi Valley, California. 

In the movie a fictional Cuesta Verde housing  company built a housing tract over an old cemetery, but instead of moving the bodies, they only moved the headstones. Big mistake.








The exterior of the Bramford, where most of the movie takes place is actually the Dakota apartment on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.  Sadly, also the site of John Lennon’s murder.

image from:

The Dakota



Long Island’s 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville was the site of the DeFeo family murders in 1975, in which Ronald DeFeo Jr. killed six members of his family. Thirteen months later, the Lutz family moved in, but left after a month, claiming the house was haunted.

The house was the inspiration — and used for exteriors — in the 1979 film “The Amityville Horror.”  How it looked in the movie and how it looks today.  Not so spooky.  The current owners say they have not experienced any paranormal activity.








and some favorite TV shows from my childhood…..


This house at 21 Chester Place in Los Angeles was only used for exterior shots.  It’s address was originally on Adams St for a long time!  The house is no longer there.  The last owner left it to archdiocese who made it part of a college and then eventually a high school was built on the location and where this house stood is now a field.


THE MUNSTERS (1964-1966)

Known as 1313 Mockingbird Lane, this is a house built on the backlot of Universal Studios and was used in many TV shows, including Desperate Houswives and other movies, such as the Burbs with Tom Hanks.  Looked a lot different in that movie.  Click here for more pictures and information on the house. 

Image may contain: tree, plant, sky, house and outdoor


DARK SHADOWS (1966–1971)

Finally…Dark Shadows. I loved this show – I used to race home from school to watch it at 4:00 every day.  Seeing it today, I realize it was incredibly cheesy and basically was a soap opera with vampires and werewolves as main characters.   But back then, I was enthralled.  The house – Collinwood mansion in fictional Collinwood Maine was actually Seaview Terrace in Newport RI.   Only the exterior was used.  The interior I am sure was on studio lots.

By Jim McCullars

Seaview Terrace aka Collinwood Mansion


Hopefully you saw some of your favorites in this list!  

Michelle J. Lane

Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Open Houses in Newton Sept 14/15

With 127 Open Houses, there is lots to see!  Nice weather for it too.

Michelle J. Lane

Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Closed Sale in Norwood

Just sold this lovely home in Norwood Center.  A great result for the sellers, selling for far more than they anticipated!  They took good care of the home and took my advice in clearing out the house and letting me help with staging.

Stay tuned as I will have a similar house for sale in Norwood in the spring.   Contact me for more info.

If you are thinking of selling this fall or spring, now is the time to talk about staging and pricing.









Michelle J. Lane

Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904


New to the Market in Newton Week of Sept 9th

New listings on the market the week of Sept 9th.

Lots to see this week and a beautiful weekend to see new listings.

If you need help buying a home in Newton, contact me – info below.


Michelle J. Lane
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904


Seller Testimonial – Natick

Michelle helped us buy this house 7 years ago and helped us sell it this year.  We have built a great agent-client relationship. Michelle has always been patient, passionate, candid and considerate. We think Michelle has natural talent of reading people’s mind. Her instinct about who is the most potential buyer proves to be very reliable. She worked very hard. Almost responded our questions in no time. She is an excellent agent.     

Wensheng Wang and Hongyin Tang – Natick

Is the Boston Market Slowing Down?

Yes, it would seem so.   As a Realtor, I can tell you subjectively, that it feels as if it is.  Buyers are looking, but not buying or are lowballing homes that don’t sell right away (usually those that need work or are on busy roads).  One might think that is just the normal slow down as we approach winter.  So I ran the numbers to check. I chose two neighborhoods in Boston, a town north of, west of, and south of Boston.  I have run these numbers only for single family sales.  Otherwise, it becomes like comparing apples and oranges.   It can be tough to tell what is going on just by median price.  Any town can have a fluke in one month where a pricey home or two sold or a couple of particularly rundown homes sold.  So I have included numbers for Days on Market (DOM), # of Listings Sold and a snapshot number of houses on the market today vs a year ago.  You can see that overall, the number of listings sold is going down while days on market is going up.  These are indications of a slow down, seasonally adjusted.

At the end of the year, we will update our spreadsheet that shows the numbers for most Eastern MA towns for the year, and shows the trending over the past couple of decades.  That can be found here – 

Boston Area Home Values

Town Sept 2017 Sept 2018 Oct 2017 Oct 2018
Median Price $1,107,500 $1,002,500 $960,000 $1,220,000
Days on Market 41 45 25 61
# of Listings Sold 48 37 37 31
# on Market     118 127
Median Price $462,500 $473,200 $450,000 $528,888
Days on Market 22 25 32 18
# of Listings Sold 24 17 16 9
# on Market     14 34
Median Price $484,500 $465,000 $486,000 $522,500
Days on Market 38 42 39 27
# of Listings Sold 12 15 21 22
# on Market     44 51
Jamaica Plain        
Median Price 871,000 $897,500 $705,000 $1,067,500
Day on Market 23 89 70 21
# of Listings Sold 5 4 5 6
# on Market     8 7
West Roxbury        
Median Price $575,000 $677,000 $605,000 $600,000
Days on Market 51 33 42 29
# of Listings Sold 18 10 22 23
# on Market     20 30


So what does this mean for Boston area home owners? No need to panic, this is part of the normal cycle of real estate values. If you are not looking to sell, you’ll be fine over time – check our spreadsheet for proof of that!  If you want to sell next year it may mean that you will have to put money and work into presenting your home in the best possible light.  And you will have to be realistic about price.  Every town and every house are different, so if you want to know what you need to do to get your home sold either this winter or in the spring, just reach out to me so we can discuss.

What does it mean for Buyers?  You may not be fighting so many people in bidding wars moving forward.  There will still be bidding wars.  Because this is an area with affluent buyers who all want a move-in ready home with great spaces and details.  If they have to fight someone for that, they will.  It’s the homes that need work or are in less desirable locations where good deals will be found.  

Buyers do need to keep an eye on interest rates.  If they continue to rise, which I expect they will, that may further supress home prices.  But you’ll be making up those savings with what you pay in added interest.  

If you want the analysis for your particular town, just ask.  And if you need help buying or selling, I am here to help.

Michelle J. Lane
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Mass Save Refrigerator Recycling Rebate to End

I just noticed so thought I would share with you that it appears the MassSave refrigerator and freezer recycling program is ending at the end of this year.   If you are not familiar with the program, you can have them pick up a working refrigerator or freezer for a $50 rebate.

If you are thinking of selling your home in the spring and know you have a spare refrigerator or freezer you will be getting rid of, give MassSave a call before Jan 1, 2019 so you can get the rebate.  And better to have it taken out now before we have heavy snows.  The program will still exist after tha date, just not with the rebate.

You can find more information and schedule your pickup here:

The following eligibility requirements apply:
  • You must be a valid residential electric account holder of one of the electric sponsors of Mass Save.
  • Refrigerators and freezers must be working, plugged in, clean, and empty at the time of pickup.
  • Refrigerators and freezers must have an inside measurement between 10 and 30 cubic feet, which is the standard size for most units.
  • You must call to sign up before January 1, 2019 to be eligible for the $50 rebate.
  • A maximum of two units per electric account per calendar year will be accepted.

Have your electric account number handy to avoid scheduling delays.

Michelle J. Lane
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904