Boston is Fortunate
May 2010 12

Boston.  Is.  Fortunate.  Repeat after me.  Boston IS fortunate.

We are all overly aware that the real estate market is not what it used to be.  Since 2006 we have seen a constant decline in home prices throughout the U.S., some cities such as Las Vegas, have even seen over a 55% decline in home values.  But again let me say, Boston. Is. Fortunate.  Take a look at the graph below:

As you can see above, Boston has remained reasonably strong in comparison to most of the country’s larger cities.  Facing a 15% decline from our market’s peak doesn’t seem too terrible compared to the 36% in California cities or even the 21% in New York City.  Every day however, I see reminders as to why we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get lost in our own world of good product and decent market strength.  We are no longer in a seller’s market, we still face foreclosures and we need to adjust accordingly.

At 9:57 last night, I received a frantic phone call:

“Betsy, today is the first time in my life that I’ve missed a mortgage payment.  They’re going to foreclose on my home if I don’t sell it.  I’m putting it up on the market.  Yes, I know it needs some work but I’ll just give the new buyers a credit to do all of the repairs themselves.  I have to sell it RIGHT NOW!”

I reminded my dear, extremely stressed and temporarily irrational friend, of what I mentioned earlier:  ”We are not in a seller’s market, our market is down… you have to work for the sale”.  So she listened, or pretended to listen, to the points I laid out for her and for anyone else in her position:

1. If you miss a mortgage payment, relax, pull yourself out of the world of frantic, impulse decisions and get back on rational ground.  Depending on your bank you may have four to six months before they begin the foreclosure process.

2. Ask yourself whether you’ve done everything you can to avoid selling.  If not, KEEP TRYING, you don’t want to sell if you don’t have to!

3. You have to make your home sell. Competition is tough and you have to stand out. Remember my friend saying that there was work to be done but she would just give the buyers a credit to do it themselves?  BAD IDEA! When a buyer walks into a home, they want to be impressed; they want to be inspired to purchase your home. What they don’t want is to hear that they’ll have work to do after they’ve purchased it.

4.  If you do have work that needs to be done and you’re on a tight budget, prioritize! What’s going to make the best impression on potential buyers? If you have a hazardous material in your home such as asbestos or lead paint, these are high on the priority list.  In some instances, depending on what you owe, the cost may be greater than the benefit but if you can have them removed by a professional, it opens up your home a whole new group of potential buyers: families with young children.

5.  Don’t go through it alone.  Selling your home is a difficult process on its own.  That process will become exponentially harder when you carry the weight of a potential foreclosure.  Ask a real estate agent to work on your behalf.  Real estate agents are experienced in dealing with potential foreclosures and short sales (if it comes to that), have greater marketing capabilities, more resources, access to large networks of potential buyers, time to dedicate to getting your home sold, and most importantly, are there to protect you while getting the deal done.

A real estate blogger I follow recently stated that “Regrettably, most people cannot be 100% sure that they will remain safe from foreclosure because they can’t foresee the unexpected”.   While homeowners in the Boston area remain at risk of foreclosure, the reasonable consistency in our market has bought homeowners some time to refinance, prepare homes for sale, and get them sold.  As with the case of my desperate friend, this strength will fortunately allow her to sell quickly and avoid foreclosure altogether.  So let me say again, Boston. Is. Fortunate.

Jan 2010 13

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair 303 Commonwealth, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A Back Bay condo takes its life;

Looks like a real storm is brewing over at 303 Commonwealth between condo owner Jerry and Bernadette Wodinsky and infamous landowners Michael Kettenbach and Gary Crossen.  Both Kettenbach and Crossen should be ashamed of themselves – TEAM WODINSKY all the way. The Boston Globe reports, “

Last we saw Kettenbach, one of the more prominent in-laws in the feuding Demoulas family, he was on the losing end of a string of rulings in the fight over control of the $1 billion-plus supermarket fortune. At the same time, Crossen, one of his lawyers, was stripped of his law license for engineering a Grishamesque scheme involving secret recordings, a young law clerk, a sham job interview, and a judge in the Demoulas trial.

So you might logically think they’d take it down a notch, right? Not exactly.

Kettenbach and Crossen now find themselves reunited in court, codefendants in a civil suit in which they are accused of scheming to drive an elderly Brandeis professor and his wife out of the Back Bay condominium where they’ve lived for 32 years. Think constant construction noise, astronomical assessments, and a decommissioned elevator that has left the plaintiffs constantly climbing the stairs.

In short, Jerome and Bernadette Wodinsky own the fourth floor of a magnificent Commonwealth Avenue building that Michael and Frances (Demoulas) Kettenbach seem to want all to themselves. The Kettenbachs have bought every other unit in the building, but the Wodinskys, who do not appear eager to sell, stand between them and what could be one of the city’s grandest single-owner homes.

The fallout has raised the ire of a Suffolk Superior Court judge, who issued an order and injunction last month against Kettenbach and Crossen in which she strongly expressed the view that the Wodinskys would probably win their case.

For starters, contractors for Kettenbach and Crossen, who handles real estate issues for the family, summoned state inspectors last spring. They condemned the elevator, the Kettenbachs quickly removed it, and seven months later, there’s no replacement in sight.

That leaves the Wodinskys to negotiate four flights of steep and narrow back stairs (their entry point is in the basement) every time they come and go.

Jerry Wodinsky, by the way, is legally handicapped. At 82, he suffers from emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, peripheral vascular disease, high cholesterol, diabetes 2, and has three stents implanted in his legs, according to filings in Suffolk Superior Court. Except for that, he’s in perfect health.“  (FULL STORY HERE)

Dec 2009 10

sale0906Special thanks to @RealEstateCafe for the new tip.  A recent article in the Boston Business Journal discussed a report conducted by online real estate service Trulia Inc that ranked Boston 3rd home-price discounts.  As I am writing this article the WBZ news is on and reporting the story as well.

My take, it’s no surprise or shock that home pricing has been slashed.  One thing I would like to see and will be looking in to for a follow up post is the break down by Boston neighborhood.  It is important to note that while pricing has decreased Back Bay has held strong, again no surprise.

While it may be possible to get 14% off a home in a certain area, that type of discount is not likely in Back Bay.  That being said there is NO WAY I would advise a client pay asking price. In these times there’s always room for negotiation.  2006 and the era of buying at asking or more than asking is long gone.

Buyers if you are looking for representation and someone to get you a great investment, contact me.

From the Boston Business Journal, “Boston ranks third in the nation in home-price discounts, as reductions were recorded by some 35 percent of all listings on the market as of Dec. 1, according to a report by online real estate services firm Trulia Inc.

The city’s average price discount among current listings is 8 percent; the group’s asking prices have been reduced by a total of roughly $37.7 million.

Nationally, 22 percent of homes currently on the market have had prices reduced at an average discount of 12 percent. The top city, in terms of the percentage of homes that have been discounted, was Minneapolis at 40 percent.

Trulia said prices for luxury homes listed above $2 million have been slashed by an average of 14 percent, compared with 10 percent of homes priced at less than $2 million.

Luxury homes make up only 2 percent of the home listings tracked by Trulia, however they account for 26 percent of the $24.7 billion in price reductions recorded among its current listings, the company said.” (Boston Business Journal)

Dec 2009 03


The current issue of Boston Magazine features my favorite Boston architectural firm RUHL-WALKER. The story details their amazing work on the recently sold penthouse loft at 485 Harrison Ave in SOWA.  RUHL-WALKER doesn’t just create a home to live in…they create a masterpiece! Do yourself a favor and check out their work I have no doubt you will be blown away.  Also, we would like to give a shout out to our friend and genius Mr. Brad Walker – congrats and keep up the amazing work your designs are by far the best!

Dec 2009 01


I have been raving on about FP3 for quite a while, but I cannot say enough great things about this gorgeous Seaport District building. The developer Berkeley Investments was smart enough to realize that good product + great pricing = guaranteed buyers…a very simple formula many developers seem to forget.  It’s all about quality and pricing my friend.  The duplex penthouse units of FP3 are incredible and have insane private outdoor space already wired and ready for  gas, electric and H20, not to mention the breath-taking city skyline views at night.

Bank and Tradesman recently published an article outlining FP3′s beautiful sales strategy. “FP3, the 92-unit condominium project in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, came online weeks before the bottom fell out of the city’s red-hot condo market. Last year set records for big condo deals, but an economy limping along on life support put an end to that. Transactions tumbled by upwards of 60 percent. New condo construction became un-financeable, and real estate observers took to talking about large blocks of unsold units like an albatross around developers’ necks.”

If you would like to schedule a showing or need buyer representation at FP3 please contact:

Jeanine Heller at 508.930.6232 or email


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