The real estate news menu typically only has two things on it: A story about an interesting home that has recently come for sale or a report from the Association of Realtors as to current market conditions. If you want a little variety in your real estate news diet–especially if you are curious, passionate, or absorbed by the market or your own real estate goals—consider trying the following dishes.
This FREE, snack-sized, ebook is an excellent reference for Greater Boston condominium buyers and sellers. Not only do the neighborhood profiles found in CONTEXT make it easy to see how a specific condominium compares to other condominiums typically sold in a neighborhood, CONTEXT also clearly shows how nine of the most important and most valuable Greater Boston condominium neighborhoods compare on 17 different metrics. Get CONTEXT, before you buy or sell.
Inside the Condominium Market is a FREE dinner time presentation with a tapas-style approach covering a wide variety of the best and most frequently asked real estate questions, such as, Is Now a Good Time to Buy Or Sell, how has the market changed, and what’s the best way to get what I want in real estate. Presenters of this real estate information feast include an agent, an attorney, and a loan officer. To go to the registration page, click.
Five Benefits is a great starting point for folks who have distinct real estate tastes, namely that they are thinking about buying a Greater Boston condo or multifamily and renting it out. This educational presentation will show how a simple real estate investment has many benefits and numerous returns on investment. Some may equate the knowledge gained to a wine tasting symposium, in that attendees of Five Benefits will leave with a sophisticated understanding of real estate investment process and benefits. Space is limited. To go to registration page
What’s the surcharge you are paying for real estate safety?
My featured column in Curbed focused on the decisions people make to be safe in real estate.
They choose amenities such as safer neighborhoods, upper floors, doorman buildings and long term fixed-rate mortgages.
What are the costs associated with safety?
The Town of Brookline recently assessed the house of Red Sox majority partner, John Henry, at $19,485,200. The new valuation represents an increase of more than $6 million over the house’s valuation by assessors a year earlier and more than $10 million from two years ago. The increases in valuation resulted because the Cottage Street home was previously under construction. A recent call to the Brookline Assessor’s office, however, confirmed the home is now assessed as 100% complete.
The house is brand-new, ground-up construction, containing the largest amount of living space of any Brookline home, and of course it features many luxury finishes. Yet my analysis of public records show it as only the second most valuable home in Brookline Whose home came in first? The Yankees…just kidding. The highest valued house according to Brookline assessors was Reebok founder Paul Fireman’s $21 million-assessed abode. As Henry’s house is now complete, it is unlikely that even a change in management would cause it to finish first in assessed value.
Below are couple of details about the home:
Bathrooms: 9 full, 6 half
Fuel Type: Gas
Living Area: 22,758 square feet.
Lot Size: 2.61 Acres
Garage Size; 1,534 square feet.
The littlest Boston real estate story continues to be inventory.
I thought I would take a look at how inventory expands over the next few months.
The good news, the number of marketed Boston condo listings typically increases about 40%.
The bad news is, if the trend is consistent, this year will still only have about 1/3 the amount of on-market listings that 2010 had.
Check out the graph I made based on MLS on-market inventory:
I scoured the listing descriptions of July solds which found buyers in less than 7 days of market time, looking for a common attribute or feature which might be a tip-off that a particular condo was destined to sell super-fast. Experience told me that it’s usually price, location or condition which leads to the extreme marketability, so I noted which of these benefits agents were promoting in the property’s listing remarks. Then, I rated the benefit’s effectiveness in garnering super-fast sales.
There’s no question that a great price will cause a home to sell fast. At the same time, the average time to sell a listing which hyped “priced to sell” was 59 days, only slightly better than the 66 day average market time of July solds. More importantly, only one of the 24 listings which flaunted price in the listing remarks sold super-fast. So, I ruled out price.
Was it location that led to super-fast sales? Three Boston neighborhoods accounted for approximately half the super-fast sales, but apparently neighborhood is where the location-to-super-fast-sale connection ended. Listings ballyhooed as A+, amazing, fantastic, great, ideal, top, prime, perfect, premium, convenient, commuter, coveted, trophy, unbeatable, and write-your-own-superlative locations found buyers super-fast only about 8% of the time. Compare that to the 11% of July solds which had found buyers super-fast and it was obvious that “location” wasn’t a reliable indicator of whether a listing would sell fast.
As it was not price or location, it had to be condition. In regards to condition, I quickly ruled out “renovated” which appeared on about ¼ of all the July solds and scored no better than average for super-fast sales (11%). However, another word which was a clear indicator of condition and not so commonly used was “stunning.” Simply put: “Stunning” had stunning results. More than 22% of listings described as “stunning” sold within 7 days. That’s about twice the rate of the July solds. In fact, “stunning” was pushed in the listing remarks for 36 July solds and the average market time for those listings was only 39 days. These impressive results clearly mean that “stunning” is such a powerful indicator that a listing will sell fast in this market, that some might consider it a synonym for the word “Brookline.”
If you are looking for the smallest Boston real estate story, it might be the condominium inventory.
There ain’t much in it and there’s even less of it listed for under $500K.
Below I’ve posted the results of an MLS report I did which shows by date and year the number of on-market Boston condominiums listed between $200K and $499K. Check out how July 19, 2012 stacks up against the July 19th of years past. Spoiler alert: You might need a microscope to see the 2012 inventory.
Boston’s moderately priced condominium inventory is in reality even tinier than the 517 cited. That’s because, of the 517 condominiums identified by MLS as “On-Market,” 122 of them have filled out what’s called “Active Status Forms,” which causes the listing to be identified in red on MLS. Properties with this type of MLS status have already found a buyer and cannot be purchased by another buyer unless the contracted buyer decides not to pursue the property. Obviously, inventory that cannot be purchased cannot be considered “real inventory.” So while the “listed inventory” for Boston condominiums under $500K totals 517 condominiums, the “real inventory” is only 395 condominiums (517-122=395).
Do 395 condominiums listed under $500K (actually $200K-$499K) seem too few for our fair city? Consider this: Boston is the anchor of the 10th largest metropolitan area in the country, an area whose population is estimated at 4.5 million (Wikipedia citing 2010 U.S. Census), and the median home price in the U.S. in June was reported to be $189K. So in answer to my question, I’d put it this way: If the local housing market were a car, and moderately priced condominium inventory was gas, I’d say we we’re currently running on fumes.
Maybe real estate buyers should read the listing disclosures section first?
Real estate listings attract your interest in a home by posting pretty pictures and writing enticing prose about the home’s features and benefits. If there is an ugly little truth about a property, the revelation is often saved for the “Disclosures” section of the listing. I scoured recent MLS listings and have provided below several of the more unusual ones I found.
A Wellesley home disclosed a ½ bathroom as only a “3-season bathroom.” Gee, I hope nobody has to use the ½ bath when it’s out of season.
A Beacon Hill two bedroom disclosed that “the second sleeping area is a permanent easement.” I wonder if a buyer has to roll over to the other side of their bed every time a neighbor wants get to their parking space?
Sometimes there is no evidence of a possible time-wasted showing or deal-killing detail until the disclosure was read, like the Dorchester condo’s disclosure that a “Billboard on the property provides income,” so there are no fees, budget or reserve in the association. Perhaps a great benefit….that is if you are ok with finding out that THERE’S A BILLBOARD ON THE PROPERTY, information which wasn’t obvious in the photos or remarks.
See the attractive kitchen of the ‘comfy’ Hyde Park home shown to the right. Want to move in? The disclosure reads, “There is known mold in the home. Bring a mask.” At least it sounds a little better than the Lincoln home — nearly three times the list price — whose disclosure reads “Severe mold issue… Need to wear a respirator.”
One Boston home’s remarks rave about its “lovely living space” and touts flexible possible uses for the property. One use not mentioned, however, was the home’s previous use, which was only revealed in the Disclosures section: “Property was formally used as a funeral home.”
Disclosures may be important to know before deciding to view a property, but are often missed by buyers because they aren’t in the main body of the Remarks section. Could some creative spin promote these revelations from the Disclosures section to the Remarks section? For example, the South End condo which had the disclosure that much of living space was “under seven feet,” could possibly be repositioned as a benefit in the Remarks section as a “Great Condo For Short People.”
Greater Boston MLS records show the penthouse condominium of Boston’s most famous couple quietly closed Friday for $9.2 million.
The luxury home featured more than 5,000 square feet of living space and sweeping views of the Charles River. The identity of the buyer as well as where the sellers are moving to is unknown. What is known is that the buyer paid more than $1,730 per-square-foot for the home –a rate typically reserved for Back Bay’s most exclusive addresses and buildings, such as the Mandarin Oriental– for a property on a block where a recent previous high was around $1,100 per-square-foot.
Before you set an appointment to see that hot new listing, check out the listing’s “disclosures.” The MLS “Disclosures” section is like “fine print” and generally reveals information that is important to know before getting too excited about potentially viewing or purchasing any property.
The most common disclosures include whether the agent is actually the owner or related to the owner and whether the real estate taxes listed include or exclude a residential exemption. Sometimes common disclosures are conditions regarding the transaction (“See attached escrow agent notification”) or seem rather benign, like “Room measurements are approximate.” Disclosures might also concern a condo association’s pet policy or non-smoking policy. They could even put a buyer on notice that an association is involved in litigation.
Disclosures can giveth a bedroom (used as a 1 bedroom, but designed as a 2 bedroom) or taketh a bedroom away (bedroom does not have closets or windows or is a pass through bedroom).
On new construction listings, the disclosure could let you know that the photos are only representative (taken of a similar property the builder developed) or that the condo fee and taxes are yet to be determined.
Disclosures could also concern the financing necessary to purchase the home. A disclosure in this regard might communicate that the condominium association has low owner occupancy, has one investor who owns a lot of units, or that a large part of the association is commercial space, or even that a home will need a construction loan as opposed to traditional financing.
The disclosure listed could also concern a buyer’s ability to purchase the property at all. There might be a right of first refusal, or the sale is “subject to third party” or even that the sale is contingent on the seller finding suitable housing.
On occasion, a disclosure can be good. A good disclosure might be “Three flat screen TVs come with the condo.” Other times, listing agents reiterate the excellence of the property in the disclosures section, so they disclose “picture perfect home” or “move-in condition.”
Disclosures could concern almost anything and for that reason they are important to know. I recently scoured several thousand Greater Boston MLS listing disclosures. In my next post, I will cover several of the most unusual disclosures I found.
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About David Bates
The Bates Real Estate Report is an original content blog about the Greater Boston real estate market. The reports focus primarily on the Greater Boston condominium market, and at the same time can touch on other items of interest and happenings of note in the general Boston market. It is written by a real estate agent who works the condo market and who has a passion for Boston real estate. In addition to this blog, his commentary on the market can now be seen in a variety of leading local real estate publications. If you like his insights, obviously, you should consider using him as an agent.
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