Buyer Testimonial – Jamaica Plain

Michelle had previously done a wonderful job in helping us purchase our first condo, so it was an easy decision to ask her to help us sell the condo and buy a single-family house.  And she exceeded our high expectations!  She diligently and patiently helped us with our search for the right place to buy, while also helping us plan how to stage our place (with two small children) once we were ready to put it on the market.  She supported our decision to walk away from a property when the seller would not come down in price.  She did a truly fantastic job staging our place (including bringing in furniture and furnishings) which, together with her open-house savvy and wonderful photographer (Colin Patrick), we credit for the sale price; well above asking, and more than we had even let ourselves hope it could get.  Meanwhile, on the buy-side, through several rounds of tough negotiations, resulted in our getting the place for considerably under the asking price in a very competitive neighborhood.  And throughout, Michelle could not have been more patient, kind, positive, constructive, and helpful.  I would recommend her to anyone!

Elizabeth School Rankings for 2016


The rankings out and no real surprises here.  The Top Ten School districts are the usual suspects.

  1. Lexington
  2. Dover-Sherborn
  3. Acton-Boxboroough
  4. Brookline
  5. Wellesley
  6. Weston
  7. Westwood
  8. Newton
  9. Belmont
  10. Westford

The full list can be found here – Top School Districts in Massachusetts

The Top Ten Public Elementary Schools

  1. Lexington – Joseph Eastbrook
  2. Lexington – Maria Hastings
  3. Lexington – Bridge
  4. Lexington – Bowman
  5. Lexington – Harrington
  6. Newton – Ward
  7. Lexington – Fiske
  8. Sharon – East
  9. Newton – Mason Rice
  10. Weston – Field Elementary

The full list can be found here – Top Elementary Schools in Massachusetts

The Top Ten Public High Schools

  1. Lexington
  2. Brookline
  3. Boston Latin
  4. Acton-Boxborough
  5. Dover-Sherborn
  6. Cambridge Rindge & Latin
  7. Wellesley
  8. Weston
  9. Westwood
  10. Belmont

Newton Ranked 11. for North and 13. for South.  The full list can be found here – Top High Schools in Massachusetts

Overall, Massachusetts ranked Number 8 in States with the best schools.  For my CT friends, CT ranked Number 4!

Cambridge was the only Massachusetts city in the Top 100 Cities in the US in which to raise a family. Perhaps because it ranked #2 behind Manhattan in cities with the Most Things to Do. (Boston ranked #4).  Because they categorized Newton as a town instead of a city, it was not on that list, BUT it was Number 8  (and the only Massachusetts town) on the list of Best Towns to Raise a Family. 

Newton, Framingham and Waltham made the Top 100 Towns for Best Community.  The criteria for these selections includes interesting and important criteria such as the grades given to each school weighted by the number of students served, higher education rate, diversity, income equality, etc.  These towns also ranked high on easiest commute.  You would think that Cambridge would have ranked high in easiest commute given the number of jobs  there.  But few people who work in Cambridge can afford to live there or may choose not to because a house with a yard is insanely expensive.  So the commute for people who work there, but don’t live there is not the best.

Certainly, it would seem that, as in the past, Cambridge and Newton are going to be the areas that will boom again in this spring market.  However, any of the towns in the list of Top 50 school districts will fare well if the commute works for the people living there.  It is good to see that towns like Framingham and Waltham can offer an affordable alternative to those looking for an overall good town in which to live in which they can be part of a vibrant and diverse community and that offers a solid educational experience for their children.

If you or someone you know is looking to buy this year, contact me and we can analyze which towns make the most sense given what matters most to you.

Michelle J. Lane

Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

What’s My Home Worth? – 2015 Edition

Housing Costs

With housing prices climbing and inventory shrinking in most towns, clients who are afraid to make the wrong decision when it comes to real estate ask a lot of questions about where the market is headed…

  • Should I wait until things calm down to buy?
  • When should I sell to get top dollar?
  • Is this a bubble? What if I buy and prices tank in a couple of years?
  • Where is the best place to buy?
  • Should I wait to sell? With prices going up I don’t know where I can buy when I downsize (or upsize)

Back in 2010 Boston Magazine created a table of median prices from the peak of 2005 to 2010 to illustrate that the bottom of the slump hit in 2009.  They also showed the 10 year cycle from 1999 – 2009 to demonstrate how prices normalize over a real estate cycle.

To help answer all the questions clients ask about the market, I have created a new chart by adding the information for median prices today and for 2014.  This chart analyzes the market movement from the 2005 peak to today, from the 2009 slump to today and from 2014 to 2015.  I have also added in a few towns where my clients have bought that were not in the Boston Magazine chart.

To see the full chart, click here – What is My Home Worth Now? – 2015 Edition



10 years ago we experienced a bubble caused by banks giving loans to nearly anyone with a pulse.. Since then the market has gone through its normal cycle of dipping (hard), then climbing back up.  Of the 180 towns included in this chart, only 5 towns are still in the negative from 2009.  Overall, the median growth since then is 20%.

Who were the big winners?  The increase over 10 years is more important than the largest one year increase because it shows how a neighborhood performs over time.  No surprise that the long haul winners are Back Bay, South End and Cambridge.

Largest One Year Increase

Town 2015 2014 One Year Change
2014 – 2015
–Roxbury Condos $449,950 $305,000 47.52%
– Back Bay Condos $1,150,000 $888,500 29.43%
– Charlestown SF $980,000 $770,000 27.27%


Largest 10 Year Increase – Peak to Today

Town 2015 10 Year Change
2005 to 2015
– Back Bay SF $8,500,000 211.93%
– South End SF $2,525,000 104.45%
Cambridge SF $1,362,500 104.12%


Largest Increase from 2009 Slump to Today

Town 2015 Change from
Slump (2009)
to Today
–Roxbury SF $495,000 263.97% $136,000
–Mattapan Condos $143,500 143.22% $59,000
–Dorchester Condos $343,000 118.12% $157,250


So, if prices will continue to go up, why sell?  For all the reasons anyone sells – you need to downsize or upsize, or move away for a job, or sell because of a family change.   A house is not a stock investment.  It is the place where you live your life.  If your life circumstance changes, so should your home. Unless you are moving to a different market, what you are going to buy will be going up at the same or faster rate than what you own now.  Most boomers have visions of moving into the city.  If that is your dream, look at the chart and figure out if the neighborhoods you want to live in are growing at a faster rate than where you live now and you will see that waiting is likely not working in your favor.

Challenged Markets

Beacon Hill is hardly challenged.  Over the 10-year period from 2005 – 2015 the median price of a single-family in Beacon Hill is up 28%.  The numbers swing quite a bit on single-family houses in the high-priced neighborhoods because so few sell and the prices are so high.

The clearly challenged market overall is Hyde Park condos.  Yet even those prices are double what they were in 1999.  Given a long enough period of time, everything comes back up.  From 1999 to 2015, all towns grew in value, the least being 25%.  The most being, no surprise, Back Bay Single Family homes at 524% growth.  The median growth is 80%.

So if there are any renters out there wondering if it makes more sense to buy, if you are sticking around for a while, buying will help you to float upward with the real estate market.  Otherwise, expect the dream of home ownership to drift farther and farther away as real estate prices outstrip your income growth.

Largest One Year Decrease

Town 2015 2014 One Year Change
2014 – 2015
-Hyde Park Condos $156,000 $264,900 -41.11%
Merrimac SF $322,500 $395,000 -18.35%
– Beacon Hill SF $2,552,500 $3,175,000 -19.61%


Largest 10 Year Decrease – Peak to Today

Town 2015 10 Year Change
From Peak
(2005) to 2015
-Hyde Park Condos $156,000 -45.64% $287,000
–Mattapan Condos $143,500 -36.22% $225,000
Randolph SF $260,000 -25.71% $350,000


Largest Decrease from 2009-2015

Town 2015 Change from
Slump (2009)
to Today
-Hyde Park Condos $156,000 -15.45% $184,500
Halifax $257,693 -7.97% $280,000
North Attleboro $300,500 -6.53% $321,500

When to Buy, When to Sell

As I mentioned, you should sell when your life circumstances drive the need to sell….your house is too big, you need to buy a bigger house, you are getting divorced, or you have a job transfer.  Trying to time it so that you sell just before prices soften is a game you won’t win.  And, unless you are moving away from this area, the rest of the market will rise or dip with the value of your home.

What you should watch out for is rising interest rates.  The higher the rate, the less Buyers can afford, including you as you move from one home to another.  If rates continue to climb, it may be time to make that move.

The chart may help you make your plans.   If,  like most Boomers, you dream of moving into the city, but the neighborhood you want to move into is growing by double digits while your suburban town is not, then your dream is slipping farther and farther away.  If that is the case, you will either need to make a move soon or you may have to expand your vision of where in or around Boston you would live.

I do feel vindicated my prediction last year that East Boston would be the next place to keep an eye on came to fruition.  While East Boston is still affordable, condo prices rose by 20% over the past year.  So I would say if you are unsure if you should buy or sell, or where to move, Contact Me and we can discuss your plans in greater detail.

Michelle J. Lane
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904


Boston Ranks #3 in Best Cities to Raise a Family

3. Boston, MA

Historic Boston made Parenting Magazine’s Top 10 list for education and ranked high in the health category as well. Boston public schools spend a whopping $23,000 per student (the national average is $9,000), and the city is home to several world-class medical institutions, including Children’s Hospital Boston and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

 Families can stay fit in Boston’s many parks, such as the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, with beautiful paths to amble through. Also ideal for kids is the Back Bay Fens, a restored former saltwater marsh turned into an “urban wild” with community gardens, a playground, and basketball courts. Then there’s note-worthy Charles Street in Beacon Hill (where my nephew has is store Uncle Pete’s!, the Boston Public Garden (which your kids will recognize from Make Way for Ducklings), and Fenway Park.

Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

MSN Ranks Jamaica Plain in Top 10 Revitalized Neighborhoods

Jamaica Plain, Boston

A 1960s proposal to build a highway through the “southwest corridor” of Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood accelerated white flight to the suburbs. The road was never built, but during the project’s planning stages, hundreds of businesses and families were uprooted, shaking the community.

Many of the former factory workers’ homes turned over to Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican immigrants, giving the neighborhood an eclectic mix. But abandoned factories left the neighborhood in a state of neglect.

The turnaround started in the late 1980s, when cheap rent attracted students, artists and a vibrant lesbian and gay community. In the past decade, conversion of commercial spaces into condos added to the neighborhood’s appeal for new residents. Now Jamaica Plain, a 4.5-square-mile community, has become one of the hottest neighborhoods in Boston, leaving some local boosters wondering if they can afford to stay.

And if this piqued your interest in JP, I have a beautiful condo coming on the market soon, just ask for details!

Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Buyer Testimonial – Brighton

I had been looking for a condo for a few years but put it off thinking I couldn’t afford what I wanted. My work schedule is all over the place so it was an overwhelming process. Michelle was such a relief! She truly has a passion for people and homes. She is informant and aggressive where she needs to be but also not pushy at all. Michelle genuinely has your best interests in mind. She kept looking for me and would forward along listings that fit my criteria, she made it as easy for me as possible! She found a gem! Fit my budget and location needs so there was no buyer’s remorse here! She was very knowledgeable and so helpful explaining the lingo and time frames and sequence of events. Her hard work made my first home possible and I love it still on my one year anniversary  

Melinda Tam