Differences between male and female real estate agents
Oct 2011 14

There’s a lot of information out there, some good, some bad, some just interesting.

This comes in as “interesting”.

Trulia did a study that purports to show a difference in behaviors of male and female real estate agents.

Supposedly, male real estate agents have more listings than female agents, while female real estate agents list their properties for sale at higher prices.

In Massachusetts, they say, there’s a 23% discrepancy between list prices by male and female real estate agents. Meanwhile, the typical male real estate agents has 5% more listings than your average female real estate agent.

The discrepancy in number of listings is interesting for another reason; nationwide (and, presumably, here in Massachusetts), the number of female real estate agents is higher than the number of male real estate agents.

There’s so many factors at work here, so who knows. Perhaps more women than men are working as part-time agents, so they have fewer listings? Maybe sellers are sexist, and prefer listing with men? Maybe men take on more listings than they should – being either greedy or just short-sighted?

Regarding the higher price – that’s list price, not sales price. Which raises the question – do female real estate agents list properties for higher prices and sell at higher prices, or do their listings have to come down by more than the male real estate agents’ properties in order to sell?

Low inventory level puts upward pressure on South End condo prices
Sep 2011 20

It’s the fall real estate market and this means that many buyers are out in the Boston neighborhoods looking for a new home.

It looks to be a busy, but short, fall season, based on what I see going under agreement and by the number of inquiries I’ve been getting. It’s hard to make comparisons to prior years, though, since they were unique. Last year, for example, we were still feeling the after-effects of the expiring tax credit program that pushed many people to buy in the spring who may otherwise have waited until fall. So, the fall sales volume was lower than normal. And, in 2009, we were about 12 months into the bottom trough of the recession, following the September 2008 implosion of Lehman Brothers and the beginning of “bad times” for many people.

So, we’re busier this year, but that’s only because things were so slow before.

There may be more buyers, but I don’t see a lot of inventory out there, which will make things difficult for many. Although buyers may have (finally) been able to get their lenders to agree to lend, they are now faced with an unexpected problem: no homes to buy.

Or, at least, no homes at prices they can afford.

Sadly, for many people, prices in the downtown Boston real estate neighborhoods have not fallen by as much as in other parts of the city, state or country.

For example, if you’re looking for a two-bedroom home with 1,000 square feet or more but under $650,000, there’s just 55 from which to choose. This isn’t a lot, given that 165 condos fitting these criteria sold within the past six months. So, there’s a three month supply of housing. In a perfect market, you’d have five to eight months of supply. Less than that and there are too many buyers for the “good” properties and too much demand for sellers to be willing to negotiate. There’s always someone else, they’ll think.

My best advice is, be ready to go when you find the home of your dreams. See as many properties as you can, now, so that when you see the home you love, you know its value compared to what else is out there. Have your pre-approval in hand and already have talked to your co-buyers, lender, lawyer, and real estate agent about your plans.

Go in strong.

Above, 392 Marlborough Street #1, Back Bay, Boston, Massachusetts. Will Montero of Warren Residential Group. It is listed for $1.695 million.

Condominium living area calculations always questionable
Sep 2011 13

You’d think something as simple as the square footage of a condominium unit would be simple to calculate.

Unfortunately, it’s not.

The best way to know the size of a condo is to check the public record, the Registry of Deeds. Look at the original master deed for the building. Included will be square footage of each of the units along with the percentage ownership in the building.

Contractors’ designs often have this information, as well. And, City Hall records it as part of each parcel’s property tax information.

Real estate agents include the square footage on each sales listing, but the information may be questionable at best. Often, the seller provides the information, either from memory or best guess. The agent wants to be honest, but might be in a rush or unwilling to do the work necessary to find out an accurate number.

Which is why you will see it always as “estimated living area” or “estimated square footage”. There agent is abdicating responsibility for the accuracy of the number. And, that’s not a bad thing. The buyer should confirm any and all information when buying a home.

Does it matter the square footage? In some ways, no. Are you buying square footage or are you buying a condo? The amount of square footage doesn’t have anything to do with number of bedrooms or bathrooms or how many windows it has. But, square footage is a good way of comparing similar properties, which is why it matters. It matters when you are buying, it matters when you’re selling.

Before making an offer, check the details. Review the master deed (it’s available online). Your attorney should check it out after you have an accepted offer, but you should read it beforehand, so that there’s no surprises.

The more information you have, the better equipped you are to make a wise and prudent home-buying decision.

Above, a model unit at The Clarendon, in Back Bay Boston.

Fall Boston real estate market looks to be strong, short
Sep 2011 06

With the passing of Labor Day, the fall real estate market begins in earnest, here in Boston.

What do I expect?

Based on my ten years’ experience, I have a good idea of what will happen.

The economic uncertainty means there won’t be the level of high demand we saw between 2005 and 2007. Last fall’s level will probably be matched. This means, fewer buyers out there, and fewer sales. However, prices will remain “high”; meaning, at the same levels seen during the past couple of years. Demand for the “best” properties and limited supply here in downtown Boston means that homes that are priced accurately and fit the criteria of the largest number of possible buyers will go fast. There just aren’t that many condos out there available from which to choose. We don’t have a glut of homes on the market and there’s no reason to think we will anytime before the end of the year.

Today, just 4 new properties have been entered into our local MLS that are located in downtown Boston. You would expect 20 to 30 in a “regular” year. Real estate agents used to be waiting until the day after Labor Day to go live with new listings. Now, maybe they are still on vacation today, but my guess is, we’re just not going to see the high level of new listings we’ve had in the past.

My recommendation to you, if you are a buyer, is to get prepared to act, now. Have you talked to your lender about a mortgage loan? Have you been pre-approved? You should be. When you find the home you love, you’ll be making an offer and the seller will want to know right then and there that you’re qualified and ready to move forward and that you can close on time, without any trouble. No seller is going to risk losing a week or even a couple of days while you go find a mortgage.

If you are a seller, it cannot be emphasized enough: price your home to sell at what it’s worth today, not last year or two years ago, maybe not even for what it was worth four or five years ago. Do the necessary repairs, now; at least vacuum and do some paint touch-ups. Stop the sink from dripping. Buyers don’t want to put up with any repairs after they buy; more importantly, they don’t have to. They are in charge, now. Make them happy and you can find a buyer and at a price you can accept.

As always, if you are looking to buy or sell a home in Boston this year, please contact me. I can make sure the process is stress-free and satisfying.

Who owns the walls in my condo, me or the condo association
Sep 2011 03

Owning a condominium is different from owning a single-family home. When you own a single-family home, pretty much anything that happens on your plot of land is yours to decide. In a condo, however, what you can and can’t do is not always so clear cut.

A recent legal decision in Massachusetts illustrates this all to well. According to a post on the Universal Hub website, the Massachusetts Appeal Court ruled that owners of a condo in Charlestown could remove an interior wall between their kitchen and living room but would be responsible for replacing the wall (presumably, at their own cost) should the condo association demand it in the future.

To those who don’t own a condo, this might seem ridiculous. How, they might ask, is it possible that a condo association can dictate what happens inside your own home?

Well, the reason is, the condo docs rule what is and what isn’t “common areas”; meaning, what does the building own and what do the individual unit owners own. The wall in question was apparently originally designed to hold “common elements (such as the pipes and ducts that the kitchen/living room wall in fact contains)”. Since the building might need to put pipes and ducts in there at some point, the owners can’t just do what they want.

It’s a peculiarity of condo ownership. Most of the time, you’ll find that owning a condo is no different from owning a single-family home. However, it’s a case of buyer beware. Read the condominium association’s condo docs prior to buying a home. Review it with a lawyer. Understand it: can you own pets, can you smoke inside your unit, can you put a roof deck on, can you have a waterbed, can you put your clothes out to dry, can you have different-colored window shades (seriously).

Only in extreme cases would something like this end up in court. You don’t want it to be you.

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