The Modern Phase II in the South End to be completed in July
Apr 2011 28

The first photos from The Modern Phase II project have been released. The new development, situated behind its sister, The Modern, Phase I, is located on Northampton Street between Tremont Street and Columbus Avenue in the South End. Its address is 265 Northampton Street.

The first listings from The Modern Phase II have been entered into our local MLS. The lowest-priced unit is a third floor one-bedroom, one-bathroom home with approximately 819 square feet of space. It is listed at $399,000. The highest-priced unit is a “sky-level” home on the seventh floor. It has one-bedroom and one and ½-half baths and approximately 863 square feet. It includes a ~706 square foot private balcony (!!) and a garaged parking space is included in the purchase price of $749,000. A two-bedroom, one and ½-half, third=floor unit is listed at $499,000.

Most units come without parking, which can be purchase for $23,000. Condo fees look to be in the under-$.60 per square foot range.

Phase II is to be expected to be completed this coming July.

When completed, The Modern project will have 62 units between the two buildings along with underground parking.

The Modern, Phase I was completed in 2006 with unit sales continuing to be made throughout 2007 and 2008. Coming at the end of the real estate boom, the developer had a bit of difficulty selling off the last units, although many sold for close to full asking and at prices seen in more-established sections of the South End.

This time around, the developer should have no problem finding buyers. There’s pent-up demand and the future looks brighter than it did, four years ago. I predict a fairly quick sales cycle.

The development team includes the Metric Corp., New Boston Ventures, and PEG Properties & Design. New Boston Ventures has a lot of experience with projects in and around the South End while PEG has been known in the past for ultra-quality renovations of South End, Back Bay, and Beacon Hill townhomes.

Ricardo Rodriguez of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage is the listing agent for all of the Phase II units.

The first open house for The Modern Phase II is this Sunday, May 1, 2011, between 11 AM and 1 PM.

Please contact me for complete details and to arrange a private showing or to arrange to meet prior to Sunday’s open house.

Below, three photos.

Development website: The Modern 2

Images above are of the model unit; finishes have not been finalized in all units.

New York lawmaker threatens Realtors with death
Apr 2011 26

A New York City lawmaker is threatening the very livelihood of real estate agents across the country by proposing legislation that would ban the invention of neighborhood names that have given us SoHo, TriBeCa, and DUMBO.

According to the New York Times, state assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is writing legislation that “would punish real estate agents for inventing neighborhood names and for falsely stretching their boundaries. It would also require that name changes get city approval.”

That sound you just heard was a collective gasp from hundreds of thousands of real estate agents across the country who live and die by coming up with creative names for otherwise moribund and boring neighborhoods.

But, seriously, the obvious silliness of this should be obvious. No nickname has ever been forced on anyone, anywhere. No one has to call the area South of Houston Street “SoHo”.

Here in Boston, of course, we have our own nicknames. In the South End is “SoWa”, the work of Mario Nicosia of GTI Properties who thought it made sense to brand an area where he owned a lot of property. It only stuck because people thought it made sense. It narrows an existing neighborhood into an even smaller one.

You have to be a real pessimist to think that real estate agents spend their days just dreaming up new neighborhood names. It doesn’t work like that. And, when they do offer up suggestions, it’s mostly tongue-in-cheek, like when I wanted to call the area between the South End and South Boston “SoSo”, because the neighborhood is, eh, just kind of so-so.

I’m not sure how the assemblyman thinks he can punish the agents and developers. Put them in the stocks? Fine them? Send them to Long Island?

ProCro, SoBro, FiDi, BoCoCa: A Lawmaker Says, ‘Enough’ – Cara Buckley, The New York Times

Back Bay Open Houses scheduled for Sunday, April 24, 2011
Apr 2011 22

Here is a list of all open houses scheduled for Sunday, April 24, 2011, in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. (There are very few open houses scheduled due to the Easter Sunday holiday. Note that many of the open houses are actually scheduled for Saturday, not Sunday.)

MLS # Address Description List Price Time/Date
71206717 244 Beacon St U:3C 2 room, 1 bed, 1 bath Brownstone $395,000 Apr 24 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM
71212053 186 Commonwealth Ave U:34 3 room, 1 bed, 1 bath Mid-Rise $430,000 Apr 23 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
71211617 478 Beacon St U:6 3 room, 1 bed, 1 bath Low-Rise $489,000 Apr 24 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
71193384 478 Beacon St U:4 4 room, 1 bed, 1 bath Low-Rise $489,000 Apr 24 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
71205345 159 Saint Botolph St U:4 3 room, 1 bed, 1 bath Rowhouse $649,000 Apr 24 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM
71196156 33 Bay State Rd U:3 5 room, 2 bed, 2 bath Brownstone $724,500 Apr 24 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM
71193838 109 Beacon St U:2 4 room, 2 bed, 1.5 bath Mid-Rise $769,000 Apr 23 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM
71196690 109 Beacon St U:4 7 room, 2 bed, 1.5 bath Rowhouse $770,000 Apr 23 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
71219826 220 Commonwealth Avenue U:3 5 room, 2 bed, 1 bath Brownstone $799,000 Apr 24 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
71211897 340 Commonwealth Ave U:3 5 room, 2 bed, 2 bath Rowhouse $930,000 Apr 23 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM
71219244 298 commonwealth U:302 5 room, 2 bed, 1.5 bath Townhouse $949,000 Apr 24 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
71219244 298 commonwealth U:302 5 room, 2 bed, 1.5 bath Townhouse $949,000 Apr 24 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM

Above, 220 Commonwealth Ave #3, Back Bay, Boston, Massachusetts. Betsy Herald of The Charles Realty is the listing agent.

San Francisco hidden parking garage
Apr 2011 22

Cute!

Above, a San Francisco homeowner’s architect comes up with the solution to needing a parking space while following local historical housing restrictions.

Hat tip to The Daily What

Mortgage loan rates drop in weekly survey, April 21
Apr 2011 21

The average 30-year, fixed mortgage rate improved during the past week, up from 4.91% on a national basis to 4.80%, according to the Freddie Mac weekly survey of loan providers.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.80 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending April 7, 2011, up from last week when it averaged 4.91 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 5.07 percent, so continued good news for buyers.

A $400,000, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage at 4.80 percent would run you approximately $2,098 per month in loan repayments. This is $27 less per month when compared to last week and $66 in monthly savings compared to last year.

This week, 15-year fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.02 percent with an average 0.7 point, up from last week when it averaged 4.13 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.39 percent.

Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist at Freddie Mac says, “Low inflation is keeping mortgage rates at bay. The core consumer price index rose just 0.1 percent in March, below the market consensus forecast. The 12-month growth rate in core prices was 1.2 percent, which is also rather low by historical standards.

“The housing market continues to struggle. Although housing starts and existing home sales in March were stronger than the market consensus, they were still at low levels. Moreover, homebuilders became more pessimistic in April about the near-term according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.”

Homebuilders are still struggling and housing starts down. That may not change for awhile. The sub-5% mortgage loan rates are a good thing for buyers and should help the market. Whether inflation will increase is a fear right now.

Buyers hold out til last minute to make offers
Apr 2011 21

According to a story on WBUR’s website, there is a limited amount of activity out there (in the suburbs, at least) with buyers holding off when making offers on properties, even ones perceived to be priced appropriately.

There is a lot of psychology at work, here. Some sellers may believe they are pricing their homes accurately but are still far above what the market accepts. And, buyers may think sellers should take any offer, regardless of amount, thinking it’s their “right” to get a good deal and to hell with the seller breaking even.

Even now, three years after the economic crisis kicked off with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, it seems as though buyers and sellers are in a standoff.

Here in Boston, things are a bit different. Activity is off 25% or so, but prices continue to remain high. There is a fairly good economy so owners can hold on without being forced to sell, there is limited inventory, and there are still buyers who want to buy, now, and have their finances in order to do so. This is why you’ve seen the market here remain flat, with little price depreciation. (At least in some price ranges.)

More: Mass. Home Sellers Sweat Slow Spring Market – WBUR

Low-cost buyer’s agent real estate agency opening in Manhattan
Apr 2011 19

Crackerjack real estate broker and all-around nice guy Noah Rosenblatt continues to break the mold, unveiling his newest service, Flat Fee Consulting for Manhattan Buyers.

He explains the concept on the Urban Digs website:

I am going live this week with what I think is an innovative new service for Manhattan buyers out there who do not want to take on a full buyers broker. A flat fee consult basically consists of all the ‘meaty’ parts of a buyer broker’s job without the buyer broker. As the buyer, you will submit the offer directly with the listing agent while hiring me as a third party consultant for the initial property valuation, comps analysis, bidding strategy, negotiating strategy, etc.. The centerpiece of this new service is a new tool I just developed called The Digs Report. Let me formally introduce it this new concept today.

Offering limited services to buyers in exchange for a discounted fee makes a lot of sense … for a specific type of buyer. Most buyers want the “complete package” when it comes to their agents. Advice, consultation, support, someone to drive them around … etc., etc., etc.

Some people, however, feel they can do all the work themselves. Or, they’ve already done the work, perhaps by going to open houses and looking at properties on their own. Maybe they’ve already found the home of their dreams, but now they need data, data from an unbiased source. The only way to do that is to pay an expert.

Massachusetts does allow agents to offer a similar level of service. It’s called a Facilitator. This agent provides a buyer with comparative market analyses, can give the buyer listing sheets, etc., but cannot offer advice on how much to offer to buy or negotiating strategies. The agent owes no “loyalty” to either buyer or seller. The facilitator is paid at closing, from the proceeds of the sale. In theory it works, but I’ve never encountered anyone who has actually used a facilitator. And, there is still the risk of threats of “bias” since the facilitator only gets paid if the buyer goes through with a sale.

An example of when this sort of arrangement might make sense is if you, as a buyer, visited the Boston Condo Blog and searched through the listings and decided, I can do all this work myself, all I need is a list of all the properties on the market. As a facilitator, I could provide you with all the data. If you find a property you wish to buy, you could then ask me to create a competitive market analysis of how the price of your property compares to other properties that have recently sold. Then, you’re on your own. If you go through with the sale, I get a commission, usually discounted from the traditional 2-2.5% that a buyer’s agent receives.

Many “traditional” agents fear this type of thing. Most people are afraid of change. Offering real estate services for a discounted fee chills many agents to the bone. Anything that puts their 2.5% commission at risk is evil. Flat-fee services such as those offered by Redfin and CondoDomain have rocked the real estate world. (They’ve yet to have shown they are viable business models, but that’s a different story.)

What do you think?

For more information, please contact me.

And, good luck, Noah!

Below, details (in summary) from the Urban Digs website. Check out his site for specifics.

The service will work like this:

1. Initial Property Valuation

The first step in the process is for me to verify that enough data exists to even run a comparable sales analysis with confidence. Generally, this means having enough sales data in the building that you wish to place an offer in.

Just like any buyer broker would require, I will need access to the target property to inspect: views/exposure, layout, condition, building amenities, etc..

2. Comparable Sales Analysis

What is the place you are about to bid on worth in today’s market?? The meat of the buyer brokers job!

As your outside consultant, I will perform a Comparable Sales analysis using in-building sales as well as current inventory trends for your local Manhattan submarket …

3. Devise a Bidding Strategy

The next step in the process is to discuss the analysis with you and devise an initial bidding strategy before submitting the offer …

4. Submit The Offer

Submitting your offer the right way helps your chances of getting the deal done immediately! At this stage we probably know where your initial offer will come in, which leaves writing up the offer letter the last job to do …

5. Negotiating Strategy

In this stage, I will act as your adviser behind the scenes as the seller counter’s your initial and updated offers.

5. Sign The Contract / Walk Away

a) continue and move forward with attorney phase
b) walk away

Simple. Clean. One-time service. Perfect for buyers that want to work on their own, yet feel they can use some assistance when the right property presents itself!

Low rents can be had … if you’re lucky (and live in NYC)
Apr 2011 19

Rent control is banned from being instituted in any Massachusetts’ town or city, courtesy of a law enacted as a result of a voters’ referendum passed in the mid-1990′s.

However, it, and it’s bigger sister, rent stabilization, still exists in New York City (actually, throughout New York State, wherever enacted by individual cities and towns). There are over 37,000 rent-controlled units in NYC and over 1 million rent-stabilized apartments.

Rent control limits the amount a landlord (owner) can charge a tenant (renter) and how much the rent can increase, each year. Stabilization regulations are somewhat looser. Rent control is what it’s called if a tenant has been living in a property continuously since 1971. Once that person dies/leaves, the apartment is removed from the rolls (unless it’s in a building with fewer than six units) or moves into the rent stabilized pool (if it’s in a big building). (Wikipedia has all the specifics.) Locally-allowed increases are limited by amounts determined by a state-run board. And rent control generally does not exist for buildings put up post-1947.

And, that’s just the short description. In reality, it’s a byzantine puzzle of rules and regulations.

But, that’s not the point of this.

What is the point is that Curbed.com has found two rent stabilized apartments in the West Village where one tenant is paying just $615 per month while another is paying just … wait for it … $128.

Commenters on the blog post were understandably in awe. Some, downright angry.

Point made by one commenter, which seems to be logical and reasonable, is that the property tax on that one unit must be well above the $128 paid by the tenant, each month. (The estimate is $750.) This, of course, does not allow for any amount above that, say for profit, maintenance, insurance.

No one likes paying rent. What people hate more is someone (not them) getting something they don’t.

Above image from the Curbed.com entry, which had this story, originally. The building in question is listed for sale with Massey Knakal.

Why people love living in Boston. Or, hate it.
Apr 2011 19

It might (well, it shouldn’t) come as a surprise to you that Boston is considered to be very liberal, both socially and politically.

For some, it’s a badge of honor. For others, something that causes feelings of constant fury.

Regardless of political or social persuasion, though, our state does have a lot going for it.

Barry Nolan writes on the Boston magazine blog about how the city / state stacks up when it comes to all that’s good about living here:

According to the most recently available data from the Census Bureau:

MA ranked #1 for persons over 25 with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher.
MA ranked #1 for doctors per 100,000 population.
MA ranked #3 in the nation for personal income per capita.

Here are some more statistics:

MA ranked 47th for energy consumption per capita.
MA ranked 49th for infant mortality rate.
MA ranked 50th for traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles driven.

We’re high on the list of many other things considered quality of life issues. Click through for details.

True Measures of a “Liberal” Economy – Barry Nolan, Boston magazine

Fort Point Channel / Innovation District / Seaport District / South Boston Waterfront apartments and condos available
Apr 2011 15

If you’re looking for an apartment or condominium home in the hot Fort Point Channel / Innovation District / Seaport District / South Boston Waterfront neighborhood, you have plenty of options, with more coming soon.

The Boston Herald had an article in today’s newspaper about the neighborhood, pointing out many of the options.

They talk about the new Atlantic Wharf apartments. Originally planned as condos, the developer of this new office / residential hybrid chose instead to take advantage of the hot rental market, building 85 “loft-style” units.

Boston Properties has just completed Atlantic Wharf, consisting of residential, restaurant and commercial space between the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and the harbor.

The Lofts at Atlantic consist of 85 luxury rentals priced from $2,200 to $8,000 per month with amenities including a clubroom lounge, a fitness facility and on-site boat slips.

Also in the area are the FP3 condos, priced from the $400,000′s to over a million. Further into the neighborhood is the Park Lane apartment complex, practically at the tip of Boston, facing its Harbor and near the new Liberty Wharf destination spot, complete with restaurants and bars.

There is also a wide selection of already-built condo projects in the neighborhood, including the Channel Center, along with attractive, spacious lofts in the Leather District, near South Station.

And, just a block from Atlantic Wharf are the Residences at the InterContinental and Rowes Wharf.

For more information about rentals and condos in these neighborhoods, send me an email.

Above, artist’s rendering of the lofts at Atlantic Wharf.

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