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

Congress Proposes Bill that will impact Affordable Housing

The WSJ recently published an article on Affordable Housing being at risk.  To net it out, members of Congress have proposed reducing the Corporate tax rate from 35% down to 15-20%.  Approximately 25% of all new apartment construction in the US is affordable housing.  So this will have a big impact on aaffordable housing.   As banks find these loans less attractive and reduce lending, projects will lose funding.  Investors have already started pulling funding for existing projects.  This will be a real shame for those who most need help finding housing.

Specifically in Newton Mayor Warren has set a goal of adding 800 affordable units by 2021.  This goal could be impacted by less available funding for affordable housing.  Fortunately, Massachusetts has Chapter 40B promote the building of affordable housing.  Basically, the way it works is that if developers allocate a minimum of 20% of the units to affordable housing, they can get a single comprehensive permit and 40B also allows them to override local zoning requirements.   Since those developers can make a good profit on the market value units, they may not be as dependent on loans from banks that are targeted towards building affordable housing.  

Overall, given many poor and working class people’s fears over housing costs, this is a shame because it has not even passed yet and estimates are that the affordable housing market has dropped by $1B.  

 

For more info on affordable housing opportunities in Newton – click here.

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

 

Best Elementary Schools in Massachussets – 2017

Mason Rice School

Mason Rice School, Newton MA

Niche.com came out with their 2017 list of best elementary schools in Massachussets.  Lexington, Newton and Wellesley dominated the list.  Mason-Rice fell from number 1, but is still, the highest ranking in Newton, which is creating demand for housing in that school district.   In all, 9 elementary schools in Newton made it to the top 25.  Great schools, combined with easy access to Boston via the Green Line and the Commuter Rail are really pushing up prices of homes in Newton. 

Here are the top 25 to save you digging through the list:

  1. Lexington – Maria Hastings
  2. Lexington – Bowman
  3. Newton – Mason Rice
  4. Wellesley – Schofield
  5. Lexington – Joseph Eastbrook
  6. Newton – Ward
  7. Lexington – Harrington
  8. Lexington – Bridge
  9. Lexington – Fiske
  10. Wellesley – John D. Hardy
  11. Wellesley – Hunnewell
  12. Newton – Cabot
  13. Belmont – Roger E. Wellington
  14. Wellesley – Sprague
  15. Newton – Angier
  16. Belmont – Winn Brook
  17. Newton – Countryside
  18. Newton – Pierce
  19. Newton – Memorial Spaulding
  20. Brookline – Heath
  21. Belmont – Daniel Butler
  22. Westford – Day
  23. Newton – Bowen
  24. Newton – Lincoln Eliot
  25. Wayland – Claypit

For more details on these rankings, check out the full list here:

2017 Top Elementary Schools in Massachusetts 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seller Testimonial – Wellesley

Michelle was very supportive and understanding in dealing with a sale of our Mom’s house. Mom is 85 and leaving her home of 58 years so it was a big deal. Michelle also dealt smoothly with two siblings on opposite side of the country. Her communication was responsive, clear and we always felt that she was doing her best for us. There were some ups and downs in finding the right buyer and Michelle kept working her networks to keep us the process which was ultimately successful and we were very pleased with the final price and the overall process. 

Joel Kushner, CA

New to the Market – Gorgeous Newton Upper Falls Townhouse Condo

New to the Market today!  Newton Upper Falls Townhouse condo – 4-bedrooms 4.5 bathrooms.  

72 High Street. $1,389,000.

Gorgeous 3,400sf 4-bed, 4.5 bath, 1-car garage townhouse condo is the product of a to-the-studs renovation by an internationally-awarded local designer. His passion for design is evident in how beautifully the needs of today’s homeowner are blended with architectural details that provide the character and charm that make this a home. The spacious open kitchen/dining area offers gorgeous views and direct access to a patio, an enclosed porch and, beyond that, a deck and the yard. Imagine the parties you could throw! The kitchen is equipped with Viking appliances, Grohe fixtures and a huge island that sits 3-4. Entry way and living room share a double-sided gas fireplace. En-suite master bedroom has beautiful views. One more bedroom and bath on this level and two more bedrooms and a full bath on the third floor. Basement adds a finished room, full bathroom and beautiful mudroom area that is directly accessed from the garage. Stop by an Open House to see all this home has to offer.

Open Houses this weekend Saturday and Sunday  12:00 – 2:00.  Come on By!

Click here for more information.

Michelle J. Lane

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

 

Newton Upper Falls Townhouse Condos coming Soon

Coming Soon – Two beautiful completely reconstructing historic townhouses in Newton Upper Falls.

$1,325,000. each

by Michelle J. Lane

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

Completely renovated by a builder with a passion for building a top-quality product that pays homage to the history of the original structure and neighborhood.  The unit on the right #70 is coming to the market first.  Measuring approximately 3,400sf, the unit offers 4 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, a fully finished basement with direct access from the garage.  This home must be seen to be appreciated.  The oversize windows let in tons of light to every room.  The kitchen is wonderful – spacious with tons of storage and a generous eat-in space that opens to a beautiful deck; Viking appliances, Grohe fixtures, large island.  Views from the kitchen and decks are breathtaking.  There is so much to appreciate about this home. Click here for more information.

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

Financial Tips for Getting a Mortgage

I recently listened to a webcast on mortgages that had some tips that would be good for everyone.  So let me share those here.

While sites like Credit Karma are good for keeping tabs on your credit score, the model and, therefore, the range that Credit Karma uses is different than the one the credit bureaus use.  They are using an older model – Vantage 2.  This will change over time.  But as it stands now, their range goes to 990 versus the 850 of the credit bureaus.  So the score will come out different.  While it will still give you a very good idea of where you are generally with your credit score, you need to know exactly when it comes time to get a mortgage.  Everyone is entitled to one pull of their credit report from the bureaus at no charge, without it affecting your credit.  That can be done at www.annualcreditreport.com.  You will be asked for your SSN but this is a secure site.

  1. Why is this so important?  Before there are specific scores that determine what interest rate you will get on your loan.  So if you are thinking of buying any time in the next year, pull your credit report and work on improving your score if needed.
    1. 580 – the lowest score you can have to get an FHA loan. (you’ll need to put more down for a loan at this score – 10-20%
    2. 620 – the lowest score you can have to get a conventional loan or an FHA loan with the minimum of 3.5% down. However, anything up to 640 is considered a fair score so you will likely pay a higher interest rate.
    3. 640-719 is considered good and will get you a good rate.  But likely about 1/2 point more than an excellent score would give you. 
    4. 720 and above are considered excellent. But most banks consider 740  the minimum to be considered excellent and to get prime rate.  The rates you see advertised by lenders are typically for prime rate.   You also have to put down at least 20% to get prime rate.  
  2. As part of this, make sure you are not the victim of identity theft.  It can take a very long time to correct damage to your credit from identity theft. Some things to do on this front:
    1. Opt out of getting credit card offers.  You’ll save some trees but, more important, you will be eliminating one of the top ways your identity is stolen.  Visit https://www.optoutprescreen.com/?rf=t to do this.  In the meantime, shred or burn these offers.
    2. It goes without saying, don’t fall for email messages that tell you your account has been compromised and you need to follow the link to reset your credentials.  Your bank or credit card company would not alert you of fraud through email.  They also would not ask for your SSN over the phone.  Neither would the IRS – that’s another scam for another post.  At most, they will ask for the last 4 digits of your SSN.  Never give anyone your SSN over the phone.  If you are in doubt, tell whomever calls you that them you will call them back. Then look up the official phone number and call that.  
    3. Share your SSN with as few people as humanly possible.  Sometimes the identity theft is someone in the victim’s family. 
    4. When you sign up for things online, don’t use the same password you use for your bank, credit card and other financial accounts.  Come up with a password for those things that has nothing to do with any of your other passwords.

Even if you are not buying a house, you may refinance in the future, so it would serve everyone to protect your credit and credit score.   

If you are looking to buy or sell, even if it is down the road, contact me.  It’s never too early to prepare.

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