April 19, 2018

Overseas Real Estate Investors: Is Boston a Good Option?

It is well known in communities both inside and outside of the United States that Boston has quickly become a hub of international investment.  Several of the city’s luxury condominium buildings report that almost one quarter of recent buyers have been international clients, many of them paying in cash.  

 

The reason for Boston’s strength in the local market is twofold:  firstly, the city enjoys a steady stream of newcomers because of the large population of students and physicians. Boston and Cambridge host a whopping 9 medical centers and hospitals between them, and that number grows to 24 when you consider all of the Greater Boston Metropolitan area.  Higher Education also plays a big role in the constant demand for housing: Boston is the location for 35 colleges, universities, and community colleges — there are about 152,000 students at Boston's institutions of higher learning, many of whom stay in the city over the summer months for internships and work opportunities.

 

Because of this consistent influx of individuals looking for housing, both the buying and rental markets have remained strong in Boston--even in times of economic downturn.  This creates a compression of inventory, and a steady increase in pricing. While Boston usually ranks as the 3-5th most expensive city in the United States, it still remains reasonably-priced on the global scale, so it makes for a great option for foreign investors to either park cash, or hold property as an income-generating tool.  

 

The city itself if comprised of 23 different neighborhoods, and the ones central to the city remain strong investment options--many foreign buyers favor Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and the Financial District as areas to hold cash for longer periods of time.  These neighborhoods are favorites of young, working professionals to rent in, and more established wealthy residents for permanent residence. The citywide median condo price in 2016 was $574,900, with Back Bay holding the highest median price of $1,050,000 and Mattapan holding the lowest at $185,000.  Brighton and Allston very good options for foreign buyers looking to hold a condo as a rental unit; these neighborhoods are heavily populated by students and tend to be less expensive than the neighborhoods named above. The median sales price for a condo in Brighton in 2016 was $408,750, and in Allston it was $429,000.  Investments in these areas also tend to require less attention as they will likely be rented by students. If you would like a nice balance between these areas, Fenway/Kenmore is a great option. Condominiums here tend to be accessible to both professional and student communities, and are closer into the “action” of the city. The median sales price for a condo here was $491,500.  Investors looking for good long-term growth opportunities are wise to consider neighborhoods on the outskirts of town, like East Boston, where the median condominium sales price in 2016 was $415,000. Areas outside of Boston proper, like Watertown, where the median price was $460,000 in 2016 is also an amazing opportunity for new buyers. This town is more commutable to Back Bay than many neighborhoods in Boston, and you get a lot more space for the money.

 

The most important thing to consider when making offers from overseas is that money has become considerably more difficult to move into the United States, especially from China. If you are considering buying in Boston, it is best to plan in advance to move money.  The market moves quickly and it is competitive; sellers like closings to happen within 35 days, so you will want to make sure that is financially feasible.

 

Boston has always been a good investment option, and it will likely remain as such for many years to come. If you want to start your overseas search today, reach out to us or start your search at krystynsellshomes.com/buy

April 12, 2018

5 Pieces of Research to Do when Buying a Home

It’s true that when you wander into an Open House or a showing that the listing agent on the sale of the home has a legal obligation to operate with transparency and truthfulness when speaking about the condition of the home.  Under Massachusetts-specific regulations, agents are required to disclose anything that would influence a buyer’s decision on whether or not to purchase the property.

 

While that sounds nice, there are a few small hitches--the first being, what is that standard?  An issue that might influence one buyer may be irrelevant to another. Obviously, big issues with the heating system, roof, foundation, and other major systems are clear instances needing disclosure.  But what about something like the age of the water tank? Agents are required to answer direct questions truthfully, and are expected to be up-front with major disclosures even when they are not asked directly...but what satisfies that criteria? And in an area like Greater Boston where the homes are often more than 100 years old, and agent could spend all week listing off little defects in a home. The second issue is that disclosure hinges on an agent’s awareness of a problem. Agents cannot disclose something they do not know about, and sellers have less incentive to be forthcoming about potential issues unless the agent has them fill out a “seller’s statement of condition”.

 

So, with that being said--you need to enter the market as an educated buyer, and you definitely need to enter the purchase process with an idea of of the due diligence you need to perform.  Keep in mind that any decent agent will take these steps, but if you end up represented by a sub-par agent you need to know what to look for!

 

(You could avoid all of the hassle and just work with me, because I always perform due diligence for my buyers.)

 

BUT, here’s what you need to know:

 

  1. Disclosures, Exclusions, & Representations: this one is pretty straightforward. Basically, your agent should be looking at everything that is put forth as fact in the MLS listing of a property, and cross-reference it with both the MLS Public Record AND the Assessor’s database.  In this, they are looking to make sure the Number of Rooms, Number of Bedrooms, Number of Baths, Square Footage, Lot Size, and Taxes listed are correct. They should also be making you aware of any disclosures or exclusions noted i.e. the seller does not want to leave the Washer & Dryer for the buyer, or they have a history of water damage in the basement.

  2. Lead Paint Presence:  this is an easy one that most agents miss.  In the state of MA, a seller has to disclose any history or presence of lead paint at their property.  Often, you will see the Lead Status listed as “Unknown” but there actually is a history of lead that either the seller never knew about.  There is a website your agent can go onto to see if there are, indeed, no records pertaining to lead paint at a home.

  3. Inspection:  Unfortunately with how competitive the market is in Brookline, Newton, and Boston, buyers often have to forego an inspection to get an offer accepted. But if you can, always do an inspection! There’s no telling what kind of unseen or unknown defects can be lurking in an older (or newer) home.  If you can’t inspect between your offer and P&S, see if you can do an “informational only” inspection after P&S. Even better, see if your agent can pair you with an inspector who will do a “pre-offer consultation” on the home. Knowledge is power--and no one likes an expensive surprise.

  4. Fire Department Premise Search:  the fire department in your town keeps records pertaining to all sorts of things, but the one you’ll want to check into is the oil tank history.  You are looking for records of any underground oil tanks on the property--and if one exists, you’ll want to make sure there’s a record of its removal as well.

  5. Building Permit Jacket File:  I always encourage buyers to go to the building department and fire department prior to signing a P&S agreement to review historical documents and if necessary, have a conversation with the town inspectors to answer any questions. The main goal of this sort of due diligence is to check and make sure that all permits have been filed properly and there are no outstanding issues with the property or open permits. A good agent should jump-start this process for you and help you make sense of the documents (because a jacket file can get quite cumbersome).

The caveat to this sort of research is that there can be inaccuracies, missing documents, etc. with the town departments, or you or your agent may just miss something despite best efforts. Regardless, it is important to gather as much information as possible about a property you intend to purchase; your Realtor should be able to help you with this, but if not, you’re now educated to do some of it on your own!

April 5, 2018

Featured Listing: 9 Ferndale St, B

Light-Filled Dorchester Condo with Private Porch & Storage

If you're one of the many buyers looking for a turn-key property in Boston, you have surely seen the lack of inventory.  With this listing returning to market, brought to you exclusively by Krystyn Elek of Unlimited Sotheby's International Realty in Newton Centre, at least one new buyer will find that home they have been looking for. This outstanding 3 bedroom, 1 bath condominium boasts a generous footprint and tons of natural light. On the top-floor of a three-unit building in in Dorchester's Codman Square, this unit provides a spacious retreat in a bustling neighborhood just a short commute to Downtown Boston on the red line. This building was extensively renovated in 2005 and features oak floors, deeded storage in basement, a private back deck, in-unit washer and dryer hook-ups, and a shared backyard. With a fresh coat of paint, new flooring in the kitchen, and a new range and microwave, this property is move-in ready!

If you think this could be the right fit for you, call Krystyn today at 843-209-5044 or visit 

9ferndale.com

Open Houses will be hosted this weekend on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30am to 1:00pm.

March 22, 2018

8 Facts You Might Not Know About Newton, MA

There are certain things everyone knows and loves about Newton--the amazing school systems, the proximity to Boston, the rich history--but even Newton residents may be surprised to learn these pieces of trivia:

 

1. Newton is nicknamed “The Garden City” for its abundance of tree-lined streets and open spaces for recreation.

 

2. Newton’s record high temperature of 101°F was recorded in August of 1975.

 

3. The city has a rich history of comedy, and a current list of jocular Newton natives includes B.J. Novak, Amy Poehler, Joe Rogan, and Louis C.K.

4. The Fig Newton cookie is named after the city.

 

5. Newton is the “sister city” to San Donato Val di Comune, Italy and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

6. The Jackson Homestead, now the Newton History Museum at the Jackson Homestead, is best known for its history as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

 

7. The Waban zip code of 02468 is Newton’s wealthiest with a median family income of $213,958.

 

 

8. Newton is actually a patchwork of thirteen villages, many with small business centers of their own. The 13 villages are: Auburndale, Chestnut Hill, Newton Centre, Newton Corner, Newton Highlands, Newton Lower Falls, Newton Upper Falls, Newtonville, Nonantum (also called "The Lake"), Oak Hill, Thompsonville, Waban and West Newton. Four Corners is sometimes shown as a village on some city maps.

 

Now you know Newton!

--

Know any fun facts that I left off of the list? Comment below!

March 15, 2018

Featured Listing: 1992 Comm Ave, #4

 

Adorable Brighton Condo overlooking the Reservoir

We just brought an exceptional two bedroom corner unit to market in Brighton.  It boasts views of the Reservoir from one kitchen window and a view of a charming courtyard from the other window. The generously-sized living room with a fireplace, tall ceilings, wood floors throughout, and spacious bedrooms make this a perfect unit for investors or first-time buyers.  Ideally-located on the Brighton/Brookline line, this complex is just seconds away from the B, C, or D lines for those who use public transit. It is also convenient to I-90, Route 9, and the 86 bus to get you to Longwood, the suburbs, or Harvard in a dash! Common laundry in the building, and easy permit parking on the surrounding streets.

If you think this could be the right fit for you, call Krystyn today at 843-209-5044 or visit 1992CommonwealthAve.com

Open Houses will be hosted this weekend on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30am to 1pm.

March 8, 2018

3 Things to Scrutinize Before Selling Your Home

If you are selling a home in the Greater Boston market, whether in Back Bay, Jamaica Plain, Newton, or Brookline--there are three things you can do to make sure your listing stacks up against the competition, in turn ensuring you get top dollar for your home.  So, what do you really need to focus on before attempting to sell a home?

 

Scrutinize The Real Estate Agent You Hire

 

This can be as simple as “googling” different agents that you’re thinking of working with.  The internet is a treasure-trove of information, so you can see the reviews past clients have posted on Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Yelp, Facebook, and Google.  This is a good place to start, because past clients offer invaluable insight into what it will be like working with certain agents.  You can also see the number of reviews the agent has posted and get a good sense for how much business they do.

 

 

Beyond the obvious, though, the internet is also how many agents will market your property.  By exploring online, you can see who is active on social media, how they market their properties, and the level of engagement they get. The Realtor® you hire must be an expert in digital marketing; if they can’t market themselves how will they ever be able to market your home for sale? Particularly, since the vast majority of buyers begin their home search online, over the internet, you want to make sure the agent you hire knows how to get your home seen by prospective buyers. You also want to make sure their messaging is clear and appealing online.

 

Interviewing 3 or 4 agents in person is also a great way to help with the decision. Make sure you feel comfortable with your agent, and make sure you think buyers will too!

 

Scrutinize Your Home’s Curb Appeal

A couple of weeks before you bring your home to market, walk to the street and take a look at it from the curb – what do you see? Look at your home through the lens of a prospective home buyer. Do you see a welcoming exterior that is clean and tidy? Does your roof and paint job look fresh and healthy?  Are your gutters in good condition and secure?

 

 

How do your trees, bushes, hedges, and garden beds look?  Have you cut your grass? Does your landscaping look healthy in general?  Remove anything that is dead and lackluster and add some brightly colored flowers and greenery that will welcome a buyer to your home.

 

Don’t forget the front door! This element is probably the single easiest item you can update for a huge return on the time and money invested.

 

Sometimes your first impression is your only impression; so don’t let buyers want to skip your home because you failed to evaluate the first impression it gives off.

Scrutinize the Interior Details

 

Now that you’ve viewed your home as a prospective buyer on the outside, move inside to discover what you see still in “buyer mode”.  Yes, of course you want to consider big things like layout, kitchen renovations, staging, and the like--but not everyone can afford to take on big projects like that before listing a home.  Instead, you should “sweat the small stuff”.  By paying attention to seemingly minor details before you list your home, you will present a home that has been loved and cared for.  And if you home feels like that, buyers will think that everything is in order.

 

Do you see dust on ceiling fan blades and air conditioning vents?  Do you see scuff marks on walls or dents in the walls?  Remember those loose cabinet hinges, or that cracked switch plate in the kitchen, or that squeaky door to the basement? Oh, yes you do…time to fix those things.  Never let prospective home buyers think you haven’t been caring for your home.

 

Now you’re ready to bring your home to market!

Posted in Selling, Tips & Tricks
March 1, 2018

Working with a Buyer's Agent

When you are deciding to buy a home, there are a thousand things running through your head, and without a doubt one of those things is "Wow, this is a lot of money".  In an area like Greater Boston where towns well outside of the city itself, towns like Arlington, Belmont, Wellesley, and Needham (not to mention ones closer in like Brookline and Newton) are selling at insanely high prices, it's compelling to try to find a way to "get a deal".  One of the biggest myths in real estate that I've seen buyers subscribe to is the notion that working with the agent selling a particular home is the way to "get a deal".  Today, I am going to address why this is misguided and often costly, and tell you 5 reasons you want to work with a dedicated buyer's agent. So, let's get started!

First, the Seller's Agent, the person you likely met in an Open House for the property you are interested in has one goal:  to sell that property at the highest price and best terms possible.  They also sometimes angle to sell to a buyer who is "unrepresented" by an agent because it brings in a larger commission for them.  Make no mistake, even if an agent is writing up an offer on your behalf in this situation, they are 95% of the time, representing the interests of the seller alone.  If you sign on to work with a dedicated buyer's agent, you are contracting an agent to work on your behalf and get you the best house for you, at the best price and best terms possible while protecting your money.  You lose nothing, and stand to gain a lot by doing this:

  1. No financial cost to you! Many buyers don't realize that they, in most cases, do not have to pay their agent directly for their services. The fee structure is arranged such that the seller pays the seller's agent, and the seller's agent pays the buyer's agent for bringing along a qualified buyer.
  2. Make your search as effective and as efficient as possible. The internet-warrior days of searching for a property should have died a long time ago. Sites like Zillow are often outdated and misleading when it comes to pricing and availability.  Having an agent with access to the Multiple Listings Service is crucial to making your search timely and efficient.
  3. Localized market knowledge. We are out here representing buyers every single day. We understand the market, pricing, timing, and nuance that goes into selling and buying homes. We understand what value certain homes and features carry, and whether that value is inflated or deflated in certain locations or neighborhoods.
  4. Extensive process knowledge.  A good buyer's agent will have overseen dozens and dozens of transactions, making the offer-to-close process as smooth as possible. With every closed sale, that knowledge deepens and becomes more nuanced, helping each new buyer anticipate bumps in the road and pivot accordingly. A seasoned professional will also have more negotiating power than a buyer will on their own.
  5. Local network of other industry professionals. Once you've found your dream home and negotiated a price and terms that work for you, you're going to be forming relationships with other real estate-related professionals.  An experienced buyer's agent will be able to recommend trusted mortgage lenders (before you start searching), real estate attorneys, home inspectors, contractors, etc.  You don't want to be looking for these people on Angie's List.
Feb. 22, 2018

Featured Listing: 383 Langley Rd, Unit 1

Spacious & Chic 3 Bedroom, 2.5 Bathroom Condo in Newton Centre

This spacious, 3-bedroom, 2.5 bath condo has everything to make it a home: For starters, updated kitchen with stainless steel appliances, granite counters, and polished concrete floors. All brand new Pella windows let in plenty of sunshine from the property’s south and east exposures! New triple-pane sliders in living room and master bedroom open onto private patios. Master bedroom has elegant, built-in office area with custom wood desk and shelving, and two large closets with storage systems. A second large bedroom has en-suite half-bath and large closet with Stolmen storage system. Third, good-sized bedroom features an Elfa storage system in closet. Located in the Bowen school district (association shares boundary with Bowen Upper Field). Minutes to major routes, Newton Centre and Chestnut Hill. Less than 3/4 mile to Newton Centre D-Line stop, and less than 1/4 mile to 60 Bus to Longwood Medical center. In-unit laundry, side-by-side parking spaces, and pet friendly, too!

If you think this could be the right fit for you, call Krystyn today at 843-209-5044 or visit 383langleyrd1.com

Open Houses will be hosted this weekend on Saturday from 11:00 to 12:30pm and Sunday from 12pm to 1:30pm.

Feb. 15, 2018

The Value of Professional Photography

When I log on to our Multiple Listings Service or cruise Zillow to see if there are any new listings on market, I am always stunned by the number of sellers and listing agents that opt not to take professional photographs of a property.  There's this push and pull that often goes into it because photography costs money...but it also MAKES you money. Today we will look at examples of photos taken at the same condominium in Brookline and talk about why professional photography (and why working with an agency who uses that standard as its baseline of operation) is advantageous.

1. Room Dimensions - I'm sure you've struggled with your cell phone before trying to capture the width and depth of a room, and I'm sure you've noticed that it's nearly impossible.  Take a look below to see what a difference a photographer with the appropriate lenses and equipment makes.

Bedroom 2 - Cell Phone Photography

Bedroom 2 - Professional Photography

2. Lighting - Getting the lighting just right without having to head to photoshop is a real struggle on a cell phone.  A photographer has lighting props and exposure tools to make sure the balance it just right...and you don't have to lift a finger to edit the pictures.

Living Room - Cell Phone Photography

Living Room - Professional Photography

3. Image Resolution - I have uploaded the best-quality image from an old MLS listing, and a low-resolution professional photograph from the same property below. Do you see the difference?

Master Bedroom - Cell Phone Photography

Master Bedroom - Professional Photography

It's really a no-brainer.  The problem is that some agencies require their agents or sellers to pay for photography, so many people opt not to have a larger expense.  But here at Unlimited Sotheby's International Realty, every home is photographed by a professional to help us showcase the property in the best way possible.

Call us today if you are interested in engaging us for world-class services and vast international exposure.

Posted in Selling, Tips & Tricks
Feb. 8, 2018

Featured Listing: 53 Alton Pl, #5

Stunning Brookline Condo with Renovated Kitchen & Bath

If you're one of the many buyers looking for a turn-key property in Brookline, Boston, or Newton, you have surely seen the lack of inventory.  With this new listing, marketed exclusively by Krystyn Elek of Unlimited Sotheby's International Realty in Newton Centre, at least one new buyer will find that home they have been looking for. This 2BR/1BA unit nestled between Coolidge Corner and Brookline Village showcases a perfect blend of classic architectural detail with modern finishes.  Placed at the front of the building, on the top floor, the condo is bathed in sunlight throughout the day. The floorplan is open and generous with a large entry foyer, two bedrooms of substantial size, and a spacious living room ideal for relaxing or entertaining. The bow windows, handcrafted woodwork, and inlaid wood floors are married nicely with the kitchen and bathroom renovated in 2016. There is transferrable rental parking available across the street for $200/month and a semi-finished deeded storage space in basement.  This unit is convenient to the C & D line trains and a short commute to Longwood Medical and Harvard Medical. With close proximity to Brookline High School, the central library branch, City Hall, Coolidge Corner Theater, Brookline Booksmith, and a number of parks, you will have convenience and comfort at every turn.

 

 If you think this could be the right fit for you, call Krystyn today at 843-209-5044 or visit 53altonplace.com

Open Houses will be hosted this weekend on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 12:130pm.