Buying vs. Renting in Boston

With Spring in full swing, the real estate market is getting especially busy — as it tends to do this time of year. With that, it’s time to ask the age-old question: are you better off renting or buying/owning in the Boston area?

Around March through June, demand tends to shoot up as leases end and prospective home owners and renters seek new digs. Fortunately for those people, Boston is in the middle of a major building boom right now. Nonetheless renting ain’t easy in Beantown. As we speak, major projects such as that at 35 Lomasney Way, Washington Village, South Station tower, and Bulfinch Crossing are getting underway or are expected to pick up their construction pace toward scheduled openings in 2018 or shortly after. All these developments will make for a rather spicy market as the city expands its residential options. So with that, let’s have a closer look at the market so we can answer this question: Rent or own?

Rental Market Blues

For the umpteenth time, the rental market in Boston continues to be considered one of the priciest in the nation — not exactly music to the ears of apartment hunters. The latest monthly report from real estate listings site Zumper offers us a glimpse into just how much apartments cost in the city. According to Zumper, Boston ranks third in the nation behind San Francisco and New York in the cost of renting a 1-BR apartment. Fortunately for prospective renters, the $2,250 median rent for a 1-BR represents a 1.3 percent drop from February; and the $2,600 median rent for a 2-BR was essentially unchanged from February into March, rising only 0.4 percent. So in that regard, renting continues to be about as good an option as last year. Here are a few developments for potential renters.

  • Piano Craft Guild

    There are still some vacancies in this 177-unit, six-story development. One-bedrooms start at $2,500; 2-BRs at $3,300; and 3-BRs at $4,600.

    Buying vs. Renting in Boston

  • Radian

The 240-unit, four-year-old development has at least a dozen studios, 1-BRs, and 2-BRs available. Studios start at $2,646; 1-BRs at $3,187; and 2-BRs at $3,846.

Buying vs. Renting in Boston

  • AVA Theater District

This 398-unit building was the largest apartment complex to open in Boston in 2015. There are still a number of units available now. Studios start at $2,550; 1-BRs at $2,539; and 2-BRs at $3,435.

Buying vs. Renting in Boston

While these options are especially enticing, and while Boston continues to undergo a nice facelift, there’s just too much demand, too little supply, and too many potential tenants able to pay the high monthly amounts. Consensus says that renting in greater Boston is a nightmare — and it’s less due to high costs and more due to just plain scarcity. It is this scarcity that has sent Boston rents soaring, and prospective tenants running.

Buy Me a River

Still with that in mind, does it mean that it’s better to buy? Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself before going forward with purchasing your shiny new home.

  • How much is permanence worth to you? Owning a home can give you peace of mind and more control—owners can pretty much do anything they want within the four walls of their homes. Renters, however, are generally at the mercy of their landlords.
  • How confident are you that you’ll stick around? Buying a home tends to be a long term investment. This is because buyers need to cover the closing costs they might incur and the investment loss that comes with putting their savings into a down payment on a home. Plus there’s that pesky broker’s commission if you decide to sell.
  • How confident are you about your future income? Any number of things can happen to homeowners. For renters, losing a job or income only affects the remainder of a lease; whereas home-owners can face all sorts of darker troubles like foreclosure, eviction, and bad credit.

Whatever your situation, it’s important to consider the long term — buying a home requires you to look into the future and ask a potentially maddening question: where do you see yourself in ten years, twenty years, thirty years? It’s a major commitment. And beyond that, if you’re looking to buy the median-priced condo in Boston Proper, you’ll need to pay a $100,000 down payment — which is out of the question for many — and if you’re looking to settle out in the suburbs, you’ll need to have savings of up to $50,000.

Obviously, then, the answer to our question isn’t so simple. It depends a whole heck of a lot on your income, your career trajectory, your savings, your willingness to commit to a long-term investment, your ability to pay those costly monthly rents, and a whole host of other variables. Whatever direction you choose, make sure you give it as much thought and consideration as possible. Because, as we’ve demonstrated, it ain’t easy living in Boston.

 

The Most Expensive House on the Market in Boston

If you’re looking for an expensive house in or around Boston, look no further. The founder of Reebok has put his 14-acre Brookline estate on the market for $90 million.

Woodland Manor at 150 Woodland Road is situated amidst the lush green woods of the Brookline Country Club and Putterham Meadows Golf Course. Originally built andowned by Paul and Phyllis Fireman, the house was intended to be an oasis, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Boston.

In attempt to fulfill this vision, the owners hired architectural designer, Shope Reno Wharton. In 2000, Wharton and their team took more than 14 acres of untamed scrub and ledge and transformed it all into a single property, complete with a breathtaking array of rolling lawns, ponds, gardens, sculpted rock outcrops and a horticultural encyclopedia of specimen plantings.

Turf walkways and pathways snake through this extraordinary environment and the winding driveway — stretching one third of a mile long — offers visitors a multi-faceted glimpse of this incredible estate.

With 8 beds, 7 bathrooms, 5 partial baths, 26,623 Sq. Ft of living space, 13.86 acres of land, and a 4 car garage, the Woodland Manor estate is built for luxury and opulence.

For example, every exterior and interior stone was individually drawn by hand with two- and three-dimensional project drawings. An extreme amount of detail was put into the customization of this house. Built in the classic colonial style, the estate includes golf course frontage, scenic views of the sprawling Massachusetts woods, and curving limestone facades. Also included in the design are extensive custom profiles of cornices, lintels, quoins, keystones, balconies, chimneys and decorative carvings.

Handling the sale of the house are Jonathan P. Radford and Deborah M. Gordon, sales associates working with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New England, through the company’s luxury real estate division, Coldwell Banker Previews International.

Current owner and Reebok founder Paul Fireman said of the estate, “This has been our home for the last 16 years, and we’ve enjoyed many joyful gatherings with families and friends here. We took a significant amount of time to carefully create and design a home for day-to-day living, as well as casual and formal entertaining. It has truly served as our sanctuary and we will treasure our experiences and memories of this home.”

It has been on the market since September 2016.

A Look at the Oldest Houses in Boston

If you haven’t already discerned from previous articles, we here at GuaranteedMassRealEstateLicense.Com really like a good geography lesson. Because, let’s face it if you’re going to practice realty in the state of Massachusetts you’ve got to know at least a little something about the history of real estate. So for your knowledge and entertainment, let’s take a look at some of the state’s oldest buildings and houses, some of which date back at least a century prior to America’s declaration of independence.

  1. House of the Seven Gables
    This Salem, MA house, made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables, is a colonial mansion dating back to 1667. Built for Captain John Turner, the house stayed with the family for three generations. When Turner lost the family fortune, the house was acquired by the family, Ingersoll. It was during their residency that Hawthorne spent time at the house gathering inspiration for his book. Throughout its existence, inhabitants remodeled and refined the house, adding rooms, removing gables, updating it to a Georgian style. In 1908, Caroline O. Emmerton, founder of the House of Seven Gables Settlement Association, purchased the house and spent two years restoring it with Boston architect Joseph Everett Chandler. During this time, the house was made to resemble Hawthorne’s depiction in his romantic novel. The house is now a non-profit museum, with an admission fee charged for tours, and an active settlement house with programs for children.

    Shown here, the House of the Seven Gables has been restored to its original glory. Tours are now offered throughout the day.
    Shown here, the House of the Seven Gables has been restored to its original glory. Tours are now offered throughout the day. There’s also a shop on the grounds for those looking to snag a souvenir.
  2. The Fairbanks House
    Located on the southwestern edge of Boston in the town of Dedham, Massachusetts, this house is the oldest surviving timber-frame house in North America. Built between 1637 and 1641 by Puritan settler Jonathan Fairebanke, the house was constructed as a farm dwelling for Fairbanke’s wife Grace Lee Smith and their family. For eight generations, the Fairbanks family occupied the house. In 1905, the house was converted into a museum. It is now a well-known Dedham attraction.
  3. The Paul Revere House
    Built in 1680 by wealthy Boston merchant Robert Howard, this original three-story house once occupied by American Patriot Paul Revere is the oldest surviving house in downtown Boston. Following the Great Fire of 1676, Howard constructed the house atop the former site of the Second Church of Boston’s parsonage. Around the middle eighteenth century, it underwent two major renovations. First, the street-facing roofline was raised to bring the house in line with the Georgian architectural style pervasive at that time. Second, a two-story lean-to was added in the ell between the two 17th-century portions of the house. Revere and his family took ownership of the house in 1770, living there periodically until 1800.
    In 1907, these renovations were undone in a restoration effort that returned the house to its original construction. In April 1908, the house became one of the earliest historic house museums in the United States. In December 2016 the Paul Revere Memorial Association opened a a sizable visitor and education center connected to the house by an elevated walkway. The education center now serves as an exhibit space for Revere’s famous Midnight Ride, as well as his work as a silversmith and industrialist after the American Revolution.

Whether you’re walking the sidewalks of Boston Harbor, roaming Harvard Yard, or exploring its various suburbs and bordering towns (including Salem), you’re sure to find a plethora of historic sites in Boston, Massachusetts. For prospective homeowners, a realtor’s knowledge of the area’s local architectural history might offer an extra appeal, giving greater context to whatever home they’re showing. These three houses are just a few of many prominent historical landmarks in and around Boston proper.

Real Estate Is One Way to Make the Best Money

The real estate industry has always been a lucrative business because over time, land increases in value and is a need that everyone aims to have. If you want to gain better opportunities, real estate investment or even a career in real estate is one sure way to have worthwhile earnings. Also, a lot of people would rather invest their hard earned money in real estate which is a sure way to increase your wealth.

Real Estate Is a Lower Risk Leverage than a Stock Market Investment Strategy
Real estate is less volatile than having a stock market investment. What this means is that while real estate value increases over time, stock market tends to be unpredictable and always has vigorous changes which can be quite risky. Real estate on the other hand, steadily appreciates in value and land this year tends to be much more expensive the next.

Also, real estate can be much better in terms of stability and tax advantages. Although stock market investment can be very liquid and quick, investing would make you think of bankruptcy at the back of your mind. Real estate tends to be much better option if you want to steadily increase your profits.

A Career in Real Estate Is Quick and Easy – You Are Your Own Boss
In most states, having a career in real estate only requires some education and training. Often, they just require a few weeks or a few months in order to start a career.

Also, being in the real estate industry, you can operate as an independent contractor and take control of your own time. You make your own decisions and at the same time work with yourself in getting leads and associates. Together with a keen sense of the market, along with a great attitude, sky is the limit with your career along with your profits.

What Makes the Real Estate Industry Alluring?

The real estate industry is a firmly rooted industry that has an overabundance of employment opportunities. The market is not only a good place to earn and make good money, but can also be a worthwhile investment that can be penetrated with ample connections and a lot of know-how.

There are a lot of great opportunities when going for a real estate career. Not only will it be gratifying, but can also be highly rewarding for those who want to make it their full time jobs. Unlike any other business where you are expected to do things on your own, being in the real estate industry means that you have to build a solid network of connections because you are expected to create strong relationships. You need to get businesses, sell properties from residential to commercial, and many other jobs that are related to the industry.

You Take Charge of Your Growth

One important aspect why the real estate industry is alluring is because you take charge of your business growth. You take full responsibility for the success of your enterprise and there are no particular limits as to where you can go. It all has to do with your attitude and effective marketing skills. Hard work and much needed skill all come to play which in turn can be rewarding.

Also, as you try to build relationships, your involvement before the prospective home buyer makes the decision can spell the difference between having a successful deal or not. This in turn makes it worthwhile to involve yourself with the activities surrounding that decision.

You Take Charge of Your Own Time

Another key element why a lot of people are enticed into the real estate industry is because you do not have to work around other people’s time. You take charge of your own time and you are the boss. You also take charge for most part of the job such as building connections within your business circle which can make the job easier.

Buying A Condo?

BUYING A CONDO?

FOCUES ON THE NUMBERS, NOT JUST THE AMENITIES!

 

In the last 30 years, condos have become familiar sights on the real estate landscape but they can look and operate very differently from one another.  There is a wide spectrum of what constitutes a condo, including:

  • The 1960’s apartment complexes that have been spruced up and the ownership legally changed to condos
  • The thousands of mills, schools, and churches that have been adapted and reused as condos
  • The turn of the century 3 family homes wherein one unit can now command $500,000 or more in some cities
  • The upscale townhouse communities with every amenity aimed at the successful young suburban buyer
  • The age- restricted development with no children but plenty of senior oriented social programs.
  • The second home community with marinas, ski trails, golf courses, and upscale clubhouses

It is easy to find the right lifestyle fit for your buyer clients-whether they are looking for their first home or they are downsizing from the large home in the suburbs to a “maintenance free” home.  The units for sale can be staged, the parking lot filled with cars, and the location is perfect!  Your client chooses a unit, you encourage an offer “subject to the condo docs” and you feel that your job is almost done.  Unfortunately, condos are among the most misunderstood properties by both buyers and real estate agents and having a laissez-faire attitude about the condo documents can get an agent into trouble.    75% of the time, the agents don’t even know if they have all of the condo docs and once the offer has been made, the buyer agent emails whatever the listing agent has sent to him or her- hoping that the buyer’s attorney does not make an issue out of anything.

The condo documents are not the same as the operating instructions for the dish washer and heating system that agents put into a nice notebook to provide at closing.  In fact, before an agent encourages his/her client to view some units in a particular community, that agent should have read through all the documents and financial statements to determine if it is the right community to recommend for the client.

New England has many different types of condominium developments, and Planned Unit Developments (PUDS) are often confused as condos.  The agent needs to know the difference upfront.  In a PUD, the unit owner has a single family detached or townhouse style unit and owns the land under his/her unit.  He or she often may be responsible for the maintenance and replacement of the roof, siding, windows, etc.  No one else can use the area around their unit vs. a “regular” condominium unit that has limited common areas such as patios, decks, storage units, garage spaces, etc.  A limited common area is a part of the complex that is owned by all the unit owners in common; however, the use is restricted to a specific unit owner due to their unit’s proximity to the area.  A balcony off a living room is a great example- all the unit owners own the balcony but only one unit owner can use it.

The most important of the condominium documents are the financial statements= not the budget.  The financial statements show the actual financial history of the property and may have absolutely no relation to the budget (or projected income and expenses).  You and your client need to review the financial statements to see how many unit owners are paying their condo fees late (or are delinquent), what the management fee has been ( it should not be more than 10% of the total budget in a  well- run association, whether or not the onsite people have been keeping up with the maintenance (including changing lightbulbs in outside lights and hallways, cleaning indoor common hall carpets,  filling in potholes in the parking lot, and paying attention to any pools, tennis courts, and clubhouses.  Does the pool have a handicapped lift?  This is now a requirement in MA for all hotel, apartment, and condominium complex pools to enable access to the pool for people who have mobility problems.

You and your client need to review the reserves.  Many agents believe that you can just hand these statements to their clients, but as a buyer agent, you need to be able to analyze and explain them as well.  The capital reserve is the “bank account” that holds the money for the large ticket item replacement such as roofs, septic systems, wells (in NH), parking lot paving, sidewalks, and other capital projects.  Look at the list of the capital projects that have been done in the last few years and what the management team has planned for the current year.  Ask how old the major systems are and when they need to be replaced.  There are many condo projects that are in trouble due to common septic system or well failures, roofs that need replacing, and other expensive issues.  Harbor Towers in Boston had huge HVAC issues and had to special assess each owner over $100,000 because the capital reserves did not have enough money in the budget.

Review the Master Deed and the Unit Deed for the complex.  Who is responsible for maintaining and replacing the windows?  Older condo developments defined a unit as a “cube of air space” with the boundary being the inner surface of the inner most side of the exterior wall. Many unit owners have been surprised to learn that they are responsible for broken glass (especially problematic in a golf course community).  Who is responsible for the duct work and the piping that runs through the unit?  They may be part of one large system, but once they go through a demising wall into your client’s unit, the client may be responsible.  What happens if someone’s tub above your client’s unit overflows and floods your client’s unit?  Does the client seek payment from the master policy or from their unit owner’s policy and are they insured sufficiently?

New England experienced an Arctic winter a couple of years ago with 7 feet of snow.  Practically every complex’s budget ran a deficit due to snow plowing expenses- which is understandable.  You and your client will need to check the Operating Reserves to ensure that enough money has been budgeted for unforeseen expenses.

Become familiar with the Rules and Regulations so that you can discuss smoking, flag flying, yard sales, and other possibly regulated activities with your client before he/she makes an offer.  You will protect yourself legally, and instead of discouraging a sale, you will look like the local condominium expert to your client and he/she will be more loyal to you!