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
Newton        
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
         
Malden        
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
         
Dedham        
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
MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Century 21 Commonwealth is now Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Commonwealth

Starting November 1st, I will be a part of the Berkshire Hathway HomeServices organization!  While I have enjoyed being affiliated with Century 21 these past 9 years, I am looking forward to the change.  Century 21 is a very established company with a global presence and many JD Powers awards under their belt.  And I am going to miss getting my Academy Award Statues from them.  🙂

However, I am excited about the change.  Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is the fastest growing Real Estate brand today with 47,000 agents worldwide.  And the brand was just recognized as Real Estate Agency Brand of Year and Most Trusted Real Estate Brand in the 2018 Harris Poll EquiTrend Study.

Personally, I feel the colors and branding of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices are more polished and better suited to a luxury brand in a luxury market.  My sellers will appreciate the more elegant home selling materials.

Nothing changes on the back end.  Commonwealth is simply changing their affiliation from Century 21 to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.  We still have the same 22 offices (and will be adding more), the same 500 agents, the same marketing, great service and all you have come to expect.  You will still reach me in all the same ways you did before. 

Here is a link to the full press release.

Please let me know if you have any questions on this change.

Michelle J. Lane
MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

 

DO POT SHOPS DEVALUE HOMES?

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts and the opening of shops in Newton potentially on the horizon, I am being asked if pot shops will negatively affect the value of homes in the vicinity of the shops.  The answer will surprise you – several studies on the subject all came to the same conclusion – pot shops increase the value of nearby homes. 

Almost all studies focus on Colorado given recreational sale of marijuana was legalized in January 2014, providing a good span of data to study.  But studies of states with at least 1 year of data show the same trend.

  1. Real Estate Economics, in this study, James Conklin and coauthors studied how the conversion of medical marijuana stores to recreational marijuana stores affected housing prices in Denver, CO. Their research provided strong evidence that homes located near such converted stores experienced a much higher increase in value than houses located farther away — as much as 8 per cent more.
  2. Economic Inquiry – in a recent article, Cheng Cheng and coauthors found almost similar results suggesting a 6 per cent premium in prices for homes sold in municipalities that legalized retail sales of marijuana, versus those that didn’t.
  3. Realtor.com found that since the first recreational pot shops opened, the median home price in the state jumped from $248,000 in the first half of 2014 to $298,000 in the first half of 2016. Realtor.com reports the four states with at least a year of experience with recreational marijuana sales showed a marked increase in home prices — well above the national median price.
  4. An academic study from two University of Mississippi economics professors, estimates that Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis and local governments’ approval of retail outlets within their jurisdictions increased housing values by an average of 6 percent.
  5. A second study, from the University of Wisconsin School of Business and economics researchers from two additional universities, focused on property values in Denver and found that homes near retail cannabis outlets — within just 0.1 miles — gained 8.4 percent more in value than houses just steps further away, from 0.1 to 0.25 miles. That big increase amounted to almost $27,000 for an average house.

SOME POSSIBLE REASONS FOR THE INCREASE IN VALUE

  1. Homes around marijuana dispensaries may have been subject to a discount prior to legalization, but that legalization with no ill effect, lifted the stigma around such homes. We’ll have to watch home values in Newton over time to know if that is happening here, but so far, that does not appear to be the case.
  2. Another is that the stores had economic effects that were highly localized and boosted the economic profiles of their specific neighborhood – more jobs, bringing customers into nearby shops, paying high commercial rents, etc.
  3. Legalization led to a surge in housing demand prompted by marijuana-related jobs. And, as existing residents become more willing to remain in place, the housing supply drops as demand rises, thus the increase in property values.

It is a different story for communities harboring grow houses.  Surrounding properties do lose value because the pungent odor the plant emits turns off home seekers.

Another concern around legalization is the claim it will encourage more crime and further reduce home values of those living near growers, manufacturers, and retailers. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report indicates a 3.5% increase since Jan 2014.  It’s important to note, however, the city began tracking marijuana-related crimes as well, which make up less than 1% of all offenses.  Experts believe the growth is tied to population growth and and not directly tied to the sale or use of the drug.

One could see that the incidents of people driving under the influence could increase.  Particularly if they are driving to a shop to get their pot.  But I suspect that if people are the type to drive under the influence, they are already doing so.

It is highly unlikely that someone is going to mug you for the pot you have in your pocket considering it is legal for everyone over the age of 21 to grow their own pot at home.  The opioid and heroin epidemic is a far greater concern when it comes to crime.  As Realtors, we warn our clients not to leave any pain medication in their medicine cabinets as addicts have been known to come to open houses and rifle through medicine cabinets.  No one is going to come through your house looking for your pot considering they can legally grow or buy it themselves.

The biggest concern is robbery of pot shops.  Because marijuana is not legalized on a federal level, shops are not able to take credit cards or checks.  They therefore, carry a lot of cash, which makes them susceptible to armed robbery.   The shops and the federal government are looking for solutions to this problem, so this could get solved over time.

So the targets of crime are the cultivators and shops.  There is no evidence that people who live around the facilities are at a higher risk of crime.

The bottom line is that evidence so far indicates that home values increase in neighborhoods where there are recreational marijuana dispensaries.

I believe right now, the biggest risk to home values is the natural ebb of the market.   It is natural for the market to soften after several years of growth and that seems to be happening now.  Buyers are being much more selective in what they will put an offer in on.  They want move-in ready houses with new kitchens and baths, Central A/C, recessed lights, newer roof, windows, mechanicals etc.  In other words, new or like-new homes, and are willing to pay a premium for those.  Houses that do not have all this are starting to languish.  Particularly as sellers believe they are riding a wave of ever increasing prices and are pricing their homes too high.

I’ll be writing another blog entry on this topic shortly so stay tuned.

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

 

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