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

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:

https://www.masssave.com/en/shop/recycling/refrigerator-and-freezer-recycling/

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
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

 

Fall House Prep Checklist

The list below outlines all the important things you should do before winter sets in.  Many of you use landscapers and contractors to do much of this for you.  If so, contact them now.  The closer you get to the time that these things MUST be done, the less likely you will be able to get on their schedule so book ASAP.  If you need referrals to contractors, let me know.

The House – Outside

☐  Have Gutters Cleaned

☐  Draft-Proof the House – caulk around windows, check weather stripping and replace as necessary

☐  Check Your Roof  –look for tiles and flashing that are coming up.  If you don’t know what to look for, ask a roofer to look it over. Fix as necessary.

☐  Have Your Irrigation System Winterized – schedule this now!

☐  Drain Spigots – turn off the valve inside and then run the water to drain the water out.

☐  Check walkways for needed repairs – if stones are coming up or asphalt is split, it could wreck your snowblower or trip up people walking over snow and ice.

☐  Bring in Hoses and Flower Pots – the flower pots will freeze and crack if they have dirt in them or fill with water.  So, if you don’t want to bring them in, at least empty them and turn them over.

☐  Stow your Mower – it’s a good idea to take out the spark plug, put oil in the opening and run the mower for a couple of seconds to distribute the oil.  At the very least, drain the gasoline.  It will get stale over the winter.

☐  Check your Snowblower – make sure it runs! If not, have it serviced.

☐  Clean and Store your Patio Furniture – if you can’t store, at least store the cushions so they don’t get stained and moldy. Then cover the furniture, grill, etc.

☐  Check the House for wood rot and have replaced.

☐  Remove Screens and Put up Storms (or pull down)

☐ Weather strip your garage doormake sure critters cannot slip under the door

☐  Check Outside Lights and Replace Bulbsbetter now than in the freezing cold!

Seal cracks where mice can get inthey are going to be looking for a warm place soon.

☐  Remove Window A/C Units – if you cannot remove, cover them on the outside

Take Pictures! – if you are going to be listing your house in the early spring, you may not be able to get good picture if there is still snow on the ground.  If you are a client of mine, planning to sell in the spring, I will have my photographer do this for you.  Just let me know.

The House – Inside

☐  Turn on the Heat to make sure it works

☐  Change Furnace Filters 

☐  Have Furnace Servicedideally you should have it checked every year, but if it is making noise, then definitely.

☐  Check Chimney(s)birds and bats can nest up there, creatine can build up, bricks can come loose. If you don’t want to flash a light up there, call an expert.

☐  Check Smoke Detectors it’s a good idea to blow the dust out of the detectors and make sure they work.  If you will be selling in the spring, you likely will have to change them all as the rules for smoke detectors changed in December 2016

☐  Reverse direction of Ceiling Fans

The Yard

☐  Seed Bare Patches in your lawn now so they can take hold before winter.

☐  Plant Spring Bulbsnow is the time!

Plant Shrubs so they can root for next year.

☐  Fertilize the Lawn with a high phosphorous mix (12-25-12) to ensure good grass in the spring. 

Last Mowing to 1¼”end of Oct is good time for this.

Prune your Plants – this is somewhat complex, different plants must be pruned at different times of the year.  This article gives a great rundown

https://www.thespruce.com/how-and-when-to-prune-plants-1403009

☐  Divide Crowded Perennialsshould be done every 3 years.

☐  Mulch New Bedsafter first frost but before ground freezes

☐  Get rid of Annuals as they Diesnails and slugs feed on these and breed.

☐  Trim Spent Perennial Foliage to the ground so energy goes to the roots.

 

Buy

☐  Snow Meltthere won’t be any once snow arrives

☐  Shrubs to Round out your Landscapingparticularly if you are selling in spring.

☐  Restock Emergency Kits for your Cars

Click the image to get this list in a printable PDF format

If you are going to be selling your house in the spring, feel free to contact me now to talk about what you can do now to have the house look great at the beginning of the season.

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

Seller Testimonial – Newton

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

Seller Testimonial – Brookline

Close friends of our’s referred us to Michelle Lane as they’d completed three transactions with Michelle and raved about her service. Michelle Lane exceeded our expectations for what a RE broker can accomplish. This was our first time selling a property and she “held our hands” the entire process and made everything easy. She also landed multiple offers, all above asking. After working with Michelle Lane on both the purchase of our new house and the sale of our condo, we won’t consider any other agent for our future needs.

Tom A. – Newton

Seller Testimonial – Westford


Michelle was excellent throughout the entire process from the minute I contacted her until the close of the sale. When I contacted her to see if she was interested in representing me in the sale of my home, even though it may have been out of her typical sales region, she enthusiastically responded. She immediately started researching comps in the area and came up with a thoughtful sales strategy. She responded to all my questions and kept me informed of all the little steps I needed to take to ensure a smooth closing. Her contribution to staging my home for the listing photos and showings was critical to me getting top dollar in a very quick sale! I would highly recommend Michelle Lane to anyone looking to buy or sell a property.

Linda McKusick

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

 

TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL ESTATE OR YARD SALE

 by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

It is that time of year again – ideal time for spring cleaning and yard sales.  As many of you know, my area of expertise is estate sales – not hosting the sale of personal possessions, but selling estate homes when a family member has passed.  In that role, I have helped many a client clear out the home of a lifetime of possessions.  So I would like to share my tips with you here.  If you are selling an estate home, my team helps you arrange all this, so contact me if you would like to chat about that.

CONSIDER HIRING PROFESSIONALS

I can’t stress enough that if  you are clearing out an estate that has a lot of valuable items, consider hiring a professional company who is licensed, bonded, insured, collects and pays required sales tax, are experts in market values, appraising, pricing that generates maximum value, knows how to prep, staff, advertise, run a professional sale, and assist with after sale clean out.

 Also, it is difficult for a family to watch cherished items being sold off. Usually a professional will be able to sell quite a bit more than a family doing their own sale.

Professional estate sales companies do charge a commission, but it is a small price to pay to have a safe, legal and successful sale.   If you need names of reputable estate sale companies, we can provide that info.

However, if you feel you do not have enough valuable items to warrant a professional or just feel brave enough to go it on your own, below are tips to help you have a successful event.

PLANNING

  1. Line up a lot of Help – It takes a lot of people to pull off an estate or yard sale. The day will involve answering questions, taking money, making change, bagging up items, etc.  It is easy to get frazzled if someone is talking to you while another person is trying to buy something, and you are trying to bag up purchased items.  Imagine that multiplied by lots of questions / transactions going on at the same time.  You will also need to have people in all the rooms where there is stuff for sale.
  2. Give yourself enough time to get ready. For an estate sale, this could be weeks in advance.  You will need to inventory what you have, create a database for that inventory, write up price tags, get bagging supplies and plenty of change ready and more.
  3. Have plenty of Bags, newspaper, bubble wrap, tape, whatever you need to bag up purchased items. Start stockpiling or asking neighbors for their extras in advance.
  4. Call a Charity in advance to see if you can drop off whatever is leftover or have them pick up when the sale is over.
  5. Make special and unique SOLD or PAID tags so they cannot be duplicated. See the section on minimizing theft for more details on this.
  6. Put price tags on everything, with descriptions of the items if possible.
  7. If you have a lot to sell, create a database of the item and its price.

TO MAXIMIZE YOUR INCOME

  1. Check items that could be valuable online or pay a professional to come through and tell you what is valuable and what is a fair price. You don’t want to see your items on Antique Roadshow as the find of a lifetime for someone else. If you find valuable items in the mix, it may be better to sell on eBay, Facebook, Craigslist, at an auction or sell to an antique dealer to get top dollar.  People who come to estate and yard sales are looking for bargains.   
  2. Advertise on Estate Sale sites, Facebook, and other sites that make sense – well in advance.
  3. Last day is 50% off. Don’t give discounts before then.  If there is still a lot left halfway through the last day, consider lowering prices even more.  If you have a lot of small, low value items, consider $5 or $10 bags in the last hours.
  4. For Yard Sales, make signs that say prices are as marked until a certain time at the end of the sale so you don’t get into haggling – unless you like haggling.  But remember that takes your attention off watching your inventory.
  5. Price to sell. Don’t put the top price you see online.  Those are retail prices for people who don’t need to sell right away.
  6. Have items marked with some details such as what the jewelry is made of, dimensions and brands of furniture, provenance of art so that people know what they are buying and why it is priced where it is.
  7. Clean the higher priced items and show them in their best light.
  8. Just because it is old does not mean it is valuable. Let go emotionally of what your family paid for an item or the notion that because it belonged to grandma it is valuable.  Otherwise, you will overprice items and they will not sell.  Many things you think are valuable are not of interest to young buyers – things like China, Crystal, figurines are not of interest to the younger generation. 
  9. People will show up early and start lining up – sometimes an hour or two in advance if it is a big estate sale.  Get some enterprising person to sell coffee and snacks outside during this time!

TO PREVENT THEFT

It is a shame to have to say this, but there are professional Yard and Estate sale thieves.  They employ many tactics from swapping price tags, having one person distract staff by asking lots of questions or asking to see something while their partner(s) pocket small items, walking out the door with the items without paying, etc.  If you are not prepared for this, you will lose valuable items and you will be frazzled.  An once of prevention, as they say……

  1. Do not allow large bags or purses or even bulky coats. Advertise this in advance.  Should people show up with bags, ask them to lock in their car or have someone who can check bags.
  2. Do not leave any entrance or exit unattended – staff every door. If it is a Yard sale, have the ‘register’ at the end of the driveway or exit so no one passes without paying.
  3. Have one person in every room. Also have a person at every exit. 
  4. Keep Jewelry under lock and key or have staff wear the pieces!
  5. Don’t let people walk around with items in their hand. If they will be doing a lot of shopping, they should pay for each piece as they decide on it and one of the helpers can then bag up and hold for them.  You can have a table dedicated to this process.
  6. Make sure people do not roll things up in rugs – yes that has happened.
  7. Price switching is big at Yard and Estate sales. So, if possible, write both the item description and price on the tags to make them harder to switch.
  8. Special colored paper or tags to mark SOLD items… you’ll be amazed at how many try to say they paid for an item by putting their own “sold and paid” sign on it. People using their own post its to say SOLD on items they can’t physically move, iscommon. You’ll need specific PAID receipts that are not easy to fake.
  9. Don’t let people corner you or point to items to get you to turn your head or distract you. If everything is marked, you should be able to say the information / price is on it.  Professional thieves are experts at distracting you by pointing at items and asking questions while they or their partner pocket items.  Don’t let people look at more than one piece of jewelry at a time. And don’t think you know who will or will not do this.  Where I live, there is a band of sweet looking old ladies who have been doing this at yard sales for years.  Probably still at it now.

TO BE COURTEOUS TO BUYERS

  1. No early birds. Don’t let people in early or sell to them early.  For one, it will throw you off your game if you are busy trying to get ready.   It also angers the people who show up at the right time only to find that a lot of the good stuff is already sold.
  2. Have a lot of change available – you don’t want to be running around through the mayhem looking for small bills and change.
  3. Do not allow people to make piles of things they want to buy. They see something they want they should bring it to the check out table, pay for it and have it held for them.
  4. Make sure staff are easy to identify and find.

LOGISTICS

  1. Name tags for people working the sale. Identical T-shirts would be even better.  People working the sale should be easy to spot.
  2. Post notes on doors or cabinets that are not to be opened. Lock them if you can.
  3. Whenever possible, line items up around the perimeter of the rooms so you do not create bottlenecks.
  4. If someone buys something large and says they will come back with help to pick it up, get their contact info.
  5. Have checkout lines. That way you can equip those people with change and bags and it will keep things orderly.  Have ‘This Way to Checkout’ signs posted everywhere.  Have those lines at the exit, which ideally, is not the same as the entrance.
  6. Price tags!! People hate having to find someone to ask the price.  Worse is when they ask and the seller looks at it like they have never considered what they would sell it for and take up time trying to figure that out.
  7. If you are overwhelmed, give people numbers, like a deli counter, and only let in a limited number of people at a time. When one leaves and turns in their number, give it to the next in line.
  8. Consider using payment methods other than cash – Square Reader for credit cards, Venmo for phone to phone payments, etc. Less time counting change!
  9. Consider partnering with professional movers. Have them outside with a truck.  That way, anyone who buys big furniture pieces can immediately pay them to move them to their house rather than needing to come back with help and a truck.
  10. Have a plan for leftovers – call area donation centers ahead of time to find out what their policies are on large donations. If you have a lot of unsold items, you may be able to arrange a truck to come pick them up at the end of the sale, or you can assign someone to take them to a drop-off location.  You may also have to hire a dumpster or a junk removal company for the last of the stuff that a charity won’t take.

Again, if you need help or recommendations on any professionals, just contact me. Information is below.

 

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

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