Does Remodeling for a Home Sale make sense?

by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

I often get asked by clients what they shoud do to prepare their home for the market.  The answer, unless the property makes sense for a builder, for the most part, is clean up, do necessary repairs and sell the property you have.

While nice kitchens and baths do sell a home, spending the money to renovate these right before a sale will net you less in the end.   The Remodeling ROI report for 2018 outlines the average cost of remodeling projects and the return on those costs.  You can see from the chart below that the only renovation that gives you a 100% return is replacing the garage door.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t do renovations on your home, just that you should do them several years before you sell your house so that you can get some enjoyment out of them first.  After all, that is part of the ROI.

So where to expend your effort if you are getting ready for a sale?  

  • Clear out all the extra junk in attics, basements, closets, etc.  If it is not going with you to the next place, sell, donate, trash.
  • Fix things that are broken.  Seeing visibly broken things affects the buyer’s perception of value.  Look around your house for broken panes of glass, rotted wood, holes in the walls, light switches that don’t work, have your furnace cleaned, touch up paint, etc.  Those things are worth addressing.
  • Curb appeal  – have the yard cleaned up, edged, plant some nice flowers.
  • Have the house professionally cleaned.

I deal a lot in estate sales.  I would say that for most of those, it is also worthwhile to take up the wall-to-wall carpeting that is covering hardwood floors and, if necessary, refinish the floors.  The impact of how much it transforms the house is worth the expense.  This is fairly easy to do with estate homes as they can be cleared out.  Understandably tough to do this for a house you still occupy.

If selling your home is a few years away, it is worthwhile to have your Realtor come in and walk through the house with you to give you a checklist of those things you can do to prepare your home for sale.  That way you can take your time getting the work done and can enjoy the rewards of getting it done before you go to market.

If you want help with that, just ask!

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

Brookline Stats – Week of Feb 12, 2018

Comparison of what is on the market in Brookline this year vs last year.  One less property.  Median price is down. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Newton Stats – Week of February 12 2018

Comparison of what is on the market this week vs same time last year.  5 fewer properties and slightly lower median price.  We are trending lower inventory overall this year.

 

Michelle J. Lane

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

State of the Market – February 2018

by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

I am writing this on the tail of my post of a couple of weeks ago.  I don’t typically give you updates so frequently, but given it is year end, I have just updated my market report on how the Greater Boston towns have fared over the past few years, through the last slump all the way back to the last peak.  The chart now includes the data for 2017 and can be found by clicking on the image below.

You will notice that most towns have faired well over the past few years, with most having surpassed their pre slump prices.  The towns north of Boston – Somerville, Everett, Malden, and the Boston neighborhoods that had the most room to climb – Mattapan, Dorcester, Chelsea, South Boston, Winthrop have seen the greatest growth. 

I would expect this growth to slow down as interest rates climb.   As I have mentioned in past updates, the real estate market goes in roughly 10 year cycles, where it will climb, level off, come down a bit, then go back up, usually not dipping below the past low.  The last dip we had was in 2012, so it’s been 5 years of growth.  We are due for a leveling off.   The recent increase in interest rates is the start of that.  They have been climbing for a few weeks now and came out today at 4.22% for a conventional 30 year mortgage.    If you want to chat about your home’s value and best time to sell, contact me.

This update is more for the benefit of sellers.  Because of tight inventory, I believe we will still have some growth this spring, but not what we have been seeing.  So, if you are an owner who is thinking of selling, this would be a good year to do so.

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.

 

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

 

Welcome Spring!

April 16, 2017

First, I want to wish all of you who celebrate Easter a wonderful day with your family today, I hope that those friends celebrating Passover have been enjoying their time with family this week.  Many of you are on vacation during the children’s spring break, so it is a convergence of all things that give people pause to enjoy time with the ones they love, which, to me, is the most important thing in life.

For those of you looking to find a home, the market will hit full force after everyone is back from their vacations this week.  That is a good and a bad thing.  Good because more houses will come on the market.  Bad because, once again, not enough of them.  So we have to be prepared for bidding wars and scarcity of options, particulary at the entry level.  I’ll go into the details more about the landscape and how we can succeed after Easter.

In the meantime, enjoy your loved ones, the good food, the good times and this glimpse of summer weather!

 

 

 

Michelle J. Lane

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

Are Boomers Responsible for the Housing Inventory Shortage?

The answer is to a degree, but not entirely.  

To clarify my explanations below, when I refer to seniors I am talking about the generation that are mid-70s and older.  Baby Boomers are those in the 52-71 age range.

  1. New England is a bit unique in that people here, particularly the older generation, tend to stay put for many, many years. I specialize in selling homes of seniors and selling estate homes.  It is extremely rare to find an older home owner who willingly leaves their home.  If they move it is because their children have decided it is too dangerous for them to stay in the house alone.  You don’t know how many times I have heard some variation of “they are taking me out of here feet first, my children will be selling the house after I die.”
  2. In the big picture, they don’t think it makes sense for them to sell. One issue is that the value of homes in the greater Boston area has risen so much that if someone who has been in their house for 30,40,50 years sells, they would far surpass the $250K profit limit ($500K for a couple) at which point they would have to pay capital gains taxes. If they keep the house until they pass and leave it to their children, then the basis value of the home resets to whatever the market value is when they died. 
  3. Another issue is that there are very few choices for downsizing. If they are not leaving the state for a warmer climate, most seniors want to stay in the same town to be near their friends, neighbors, doctors, etc. Most of the towns outside of Boston don’t have enough inventory of affordable housing for seniors.  Boomers can’t go far because they are still working and need to be near their jobs.  All of this is compounded by the fact that demand is pushing up the price of houses on the lower end of the market, but not pushing up the price of the seniors’ larger houses commensurately.  I’ll use Newton as an example.  In Newton, a 2000sf 3-bed, 2-bath house in good condition might sell for anywhere in the $900K-$1.3m price range.   The home of a senior that might be in the 3,000-6,000sf range might sell for $1.5m-$1.6m.  Why is that?  Because if a younger person is going to buy a house of that size, they want a new one.  They realize the older homes cost more to maintain, heat, etc.  So particularly, Boomers who are working an can afford their homes, figure they may as well stay put.
  4. Boomers are uniquely nostalgic and resistant to change of their towns. Perhaps because our childhoods were at a time of prosperity for most American families and a time of suburban living with a lot of other children to play with.  The greatest resistance to change appears to come from this generation.  If builders knock down old run-down homes to build the new, big homes  we complain that the city is becoming gentrified.  Or we complain that these houses are not in keeping with the old Ranches, Capes and Split-Entries that proliferated after WWII.  If the city tries to build a higher concentration of affordable rentals, we complain it will bring crime to the city or bring people who are taking resources without contributing.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if no new inventory is being added and seniors and Boomers aren’t leaving, there will be a inventory shortage.  Think of it like a revolving door and we are the ones with our foot in the door, blocking everyone behind us from moving forward.

While Boomers might be contributing, we are not entirely responsible for the shortage.  Boston is an area fortunate to be flux with high-paying jobs, but with no land left for housing developments. And we are certainly not responsible for the massive influx of foreign nationals buying homes here – with cash in their pocket and the ability to outbid most other home buyers, pushing prices up.  These people are coming here because of the great schools, the strong job market, and the stable housing market.  Several things could happen to change this in the future, but that is discussion for a future post. In the end, it still comes back to the fact that there s no room here to build more inventory unless we build up or in a higher concentration.    

It will be interesting to see what changes the future will bring – perhaps builders will find a way to build large, over 55 communities in or close to the city.  Or they will build houses that will appeal to Boomers who want a big entertaining area, but don’t need or want to pay for 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms.   Right now though, there is no profit for builders in creating smaller homes.

One change we all need to watch out for is inflation and rising interest rates.  If Trump succeeds in taxing everything coming into the country and bringing jobs here at a higher pay scale, inflation will follow.  Which is then followed by rising interest rates.  That could have a slowing affect on home purchases, particularly at the entry level.

I’ll expand more on these last few points in future posts as economic events unfold.

Michelle J. Lane

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

Spring 2017 Market has Launched

This week, 21 houses came on the market in Newton.

New to the Market in Newton

Compare this to 11 last week.  And properties are going off the market faster than they are coming on.  33 houses went under agreement in Newton this week.

So far, it is still a seller’s market.  I don’t expect that will change until interest rates spike. More about that in my next post.  So if you are a seller, it is not too early to get your home on the market.  Contact Me if you are  thinking of selling.  By the time you get it ready, staged and photographed, the market will be in frenzy mode – if it is not already.

If you are a buyer, unfortunately, the competition is still tough.  If you see something come on that you like, there is no time to think about it.  See it as soon as you can.  And let’s make an offer.

If you want to see what is new in your town, Search for New Listings here.

Let the games begin!

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

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

Newton Market Update – Week of July 4

July 5, 2016 by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

While everyone is starting their summer vacations, the market typically does as well.   As most people know, the spring market is busy because people with families are trying to stay in their houses until the end of June, but be in their new house for the start of the school year.  The window for that to happen is just about closed.  So the market is now all about people selling and buying who are not bound by that schedule.  And, naturally, many of those buyers are home hunting in between vacations.

What does that mean for the market?  For the purposes of analysis, I look at just single family homes for the past two weeks.  It seems to have slowed down the high end, with more at that end being pulled off the market.

Newton Stats

Now you might think that is because the average price of a home in Newton is just so high that there isn’t much under $1m anyway. That is true to some degree.  But if you look at the chart below, you can see that the ratio of houses on the market to those that sold is far greater on the high end.

Newton Stats 2

So the bottom line is that there is not a bad time to sell houses in the $1.5m and under range.  But the high end is a bit tougher.

In terms of available inventory, things are about the same.  This time last year, there were 131 houses on the market.  Today there are 125.  But more of those are on the high end.  35 under $1m compared to 24 today.

So, the obvious trend is that housing is becoming far less affordable in Newton.  No surprise to anyone who is watching the market or trying to buy a house.

What would it take to change that?  As we know, the real estate market goes in cycles.  Roughly 1o year cycles where it goes up for several years, plateaus for 1 or 2, goes down for 2-3 then comes back up to surpass the high of the last cycle.  Serious economic shake-ups can shift the numbers a bit, but that is the gist of it.

So we will never go back to past lows.  But to slow down or correct this upward climb, interest rates would have to go up and jobs would have to leave the area in significant numbers.  Neither seems to be happening anytime soon.  As a matter of fact, the Brexit mess has caused our mortgage rates to go down.

So if you are a buyer looking in the under $1.5m range, keep at it.  It does not appear that things will get any easier with the passing of time.

If you are a seller, there is no bad time to sell.  The withdrawal of homes on the high end is not so much because this is a bad time to sell, but because supply exceeds demand.  But yes, putting them back on in the fall is not a bad idea.

If you are trying to figure out when to sell your house and for what price, contact me to schedule a meeting.

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