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!

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.

Advice

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
www.MichelleLaneRealtor.com
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on LinkedIn
Follow me on Pintrest

http://michellelanerealtor.com/2486-2/

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

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

 

Seller Testimonial – Newton

Thank you Michelle for selling our mom’s house, for your support and for walking us through this entire process. Answering our questions and addressing our concerns from the other side of the country.  We wish you all the best and will keep you in mind for any real estate needs amongst our family and friends.  Rayesa Khan – California

Seller Testimonial – Framingham

Michelle Lane is a true professional. She provides invaluable expert advice for sellers before listing their property, and guides sellers calmly through the entire process. She knows the market in and out and will do the research to answer any question. She is a very strong negotiator, taking every variable into account in every correspondence with buyers and buyers’ agents. She is trustworthy and compassionate, and I very much look forward to working with her again in the future!
Donald L, Newton

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
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