Sept. 20, 2018

Issues to Consider when Buying an Older Home

Buying a single family home in Boston, Newton, or Brookline can seem like an enormous task. In general, the home-buying process can be arduous, confusing, and anxiety-provoking, but when you add into the equation the fact that many of the homes built in this area are of the 1900-era, you have another level of worry for most buyers. You do need to pay special attention if you plan to buy an older home, as they can come with some unanticipated surprises.  To avoid any headaches down the road, learn about the following issues before offering on a home if you have the chance.

Hazardous Materials

When looking at older houses, ask about the construction date of the homes. If the homes you are considering date to years before the 1980s, they may contain materials such as lead paint and asbestos. When ingested, lead paint can cause developmental issues.  Asbestos has been linked to cancer if it is disturbed and becomes airborne and is inhaled.

Electric Wiring

Knob-and-tube wiring is an early standardized method of electrical wiring in buildings, in common use in North America from about 1880 to the 1930s. Modern home buyers often find that existing K&T systems lack the capacity for today's levels of power use. First-generation wiring systems became susceptible to abuse by homeowners who would replace blown fuses with fuses rated for higher current. This subjects wiring to higher levels of current and risks heat damage or fire. As existing K&T wiring gets older, insurance companies may deny coverage due to a perception of increased risk.

Insulation Quality

Proper insulation can help you keep your home cool and warm. You’ll want to check to make sure the house you plan to buy has proper insulation. Otherwise, you could spend a small fortune to insulate it, heat, or cool it every year.

Pest Infestations

If you see any signs of infestation when you’re looking at an older house, take the problem seriously. Dealing with unwanted animals, such as mice, termites, powder post beetles, or carpenter ants can be a hassle--and an extra cost.

Plumbing and Leaks

Many older houses still have original cast-iron pipes. Over time, these pipes tend to corrode, which results in leaks and low water pressure. If the leaking is severe, you could also have a moisture problem, which can cause wall paint to peel and stain and contribute to mold growth. Wet areas can also be a safe-haven for some rodents. Or, your home may have lead water lines, which can present contamination issues.

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At the end of the day, older houses can be stylish and cozy. However, getting these features sometimes comes with a price.  In an area such as ourts, you may offer on a home that has a number of these issues, and at the end of the day most of them are not deal-breakers, but you always want to be educated going into the process of buying so you are not caught off guard with a costly repair down the line.

 

Sept. 13, 2018

Featured Listing: 73 Beecher Place

Spacious Newton Centre Condo with 2 Off-Street Parking & Laundry

If you're one of the many buyers looking for a turn-key property in Newton, you have surely seen the lack of inventory.  With this listing coming to market, brought to you exclusively by Krystyn Elek & Chris Masterman of Unlimited Sotheby's International Realty in Newton Centre, at least one new buyer will find that home they have been looking for. This pristine townhome boasts nearly 1700 square feet across three levels of living, and a charming wrap-around porch. Nestled on a cul-de-sac next to The Cohen Conservation Area in Newton Centre, this 4-Bed/2.5-Bath strikes a perfect balance of size and location, just minutes to Bowen Elementary, Newton Centre, The Chestnut Hill Mall, Wegman’s, and local bus routes. The first floor features a half-bath, and an open-concept kitchen & living room with breakfast bar and dining nook, which leads directly to the back deck. The kitchen itself plays host to modern finishes of granite and stainless steel, with traditional shaker-style cabinets. On the second floor, you will find three generously-sized bedrooms and a full bathroom. The third level of living was converted into a spacious master suite with en-suite bathroom and large closets. Finally, two off-street parking spaces are located behind the home with direct access to the large, unfinished basement. 

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

73beecherplace.com

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

Sept. 6, 2018

6 Recipes for Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

Last week, I alluded to cleaning products in my post on eco-friendly kitchens. How can you clean with natural, non-toxic products and save money? Make your own. It is easy and straightforward. As a bonus, you will also recycle fewer bottles and jars as you won’t be buying as much packaging. You can use an old plastic spray bottle from a cleaning product, and mix your new home-made recipes right into it!

I'll give you a quick run-down of recipes that work for our most commonly-used products, and how to use them effectively:

DISINFECTANT SPRAY

  • 2 cups Water
  • ¼ cup White Vinegar
  • ¼ tsp. Tea Tree Oil
  • ¼ tsp. Lavender Oil

Directions: Combine and store in a spray bottle. Shake occasionally. Use where ever a disinfectant spray is needed.

WINDOW CLEANING SPRAY

  • ¼ tbs. Castile Soap
  • 3 tbs. White Vinegar
  • 2 cups Water

Directions: Combine and store in a spray bottle. Shake before use. Use a cotton cloth to clean. Do not clean windows if the sun is shining directly on them as this will cause streaks to show upon drying.

ALL-PURPOSE SPRAY CLEANER

  • 2 cups Hot Water
  • 2 tbs. White Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Borax
  • ½ tsp. Washing Soda
  • ½ tsp. Castile Soap

Directions: Combine the borax, washing soda, vinegar, and liquid castile soap in a spray bottle. Add very hot tap water, shaking the bottle gently until the minerals have dissolved. Spray on to the area to be cleaned and wipe with a sponge, rag, or cellulose sponge cloth.

STOVE & OVEN CLEANER

  • Water
  • 1-2 cups Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Castile Soap

Directions: Sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, then cover the grime with enough baking soda that the surface is totally white. Sprinkle some more water over the top. Let the mixture sit overnight. You can easily wipe up the grease the next morning because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid castile soap on a sponge and wash the remaining residue from the oven.

RUST REMOVER

  • Salt
  • Lime Juice

Directions: Sprinkle a little salt on the rust, squeeze a lime over the salt until it is well soaked. Leave the mixture on for 2-3 hours. Use leftover lime rind to scrub away residue.

LAUNDRY DETERGENT

  • 1 cup Dr. Bronner's Castile Bar Soap
  • ½ cup Washing Soda
  • ½ cup Borax

Directions: Use a cheese grater to grate the soap. Mix with other ingredients in a large container. Use 1 tbsp of mixture for light loads; 2 tbsp for heavy loads.

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Once you have a system in place for cleaning with your own natural ingredients you’ll realize how easy and economic it is; you can get the job done and know that what is going down your drain won’t have a negative impact on our bodies and on our environment!

Aug. 30, 2018

Bring your Kitchen up to speed with eco-friendly choices

If you are bored by the current state of your kitchen and about to remodel, make sure you move forward with eco-friendly choices in mind. Sure, going green might seem somewhat expensive now, but it’s worth it in the long-run.  Making the right choices now is good for the planet, which is ultimately good for you. There are five main considerations to keep in mind as you move forward with a renovation:

  1. Paint - The paint you choose for your kitchen should be durable to accommodate different temperature changes, but pick a paint that’s low-VOC. Some manufacturers make products which contain 50 grams of VOC per liter which is well under the cap set by the EPA, so those products will be perfect for an area like a kitchen.
  2. LightingMost kitchens get plenty of light during the day thanks to their big windows. If you have a kitchen like that, try putting some light-colored cabinets to maximize the effect. This way, you’ll avoid turning the lights on during the day, and you’ll save energy and money by doing that. If your budget allows, replace all old incandescent bulbs with LED lighting. These have numerous benefits including lower electricity bills and lower emission of greenhouse gasses.
  3. Flooring - Putting eco-friendly flooring in your kitchen is probably the most important step in making your home “green” if your considering a larger-scale renovation.  Flooring options such as cork, bamboo, or reclaimed hardwood have made it easier to be stylish and environmentally-responsible. But don't make this change unless you were going to rethink your floors to begin with. The most "green" material is the one you already have installed.
  4. Appliances - Buy appliances with high energy-efficiency ratings. In a normal use situation, your automatic dishwasher is likely to be more efficient than washing dishes by hand. With your stove, make sure it's working properly and always have a professional service it.
  5. Cleaning Products - A growing number of manufacturers offer plant-based and non-toxic products for cleaning, but why not go one step further and make them yourself? Combining basic products and creating inexpensive and chemical-free alternatives is a breeze. Try making your own cleaning solution with vinegar, water, and a few drops of dish soap to start!

It's as simple as that! You can do more, or less, to bring your space up to standards. Just do what you can! Every little bit helps.

Aug. 23, 2018

8 Surprising Facts about Boston

Do you think you know the significant historic moments in Beantown history?  These might surprise you:

  1. The first subway in the United States was built in Boston. The Tremont Street Subway in Boston's MBTA Subway system is the oldest subway tunnel in North America and the third oldest worldwide to exclusively use electric traction (after the City and South London Railway in 1890, and the Budapest Metro's Line 1 in 1896), opening on September 1, 1897.
  2. A deadly wave of molasses once flooded the North End.The Great Molasses Flood occurred on January 15, 1919 in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. At about 12:30 in the afternoon a molasses tank 50 ft tall, 90 ft in diameter collapsed. Witnesses variously reported that as it collapsed they felt the ground shake and heard a roar, a long rumble similar to the passing of an elevated train, a tremendous crashing, and a deep growling and as the rivets shot out of the tank, a machine gun-like sound.
  3. Boston was home to the first chocolate factory in the United States. The Baker Chocolate Company is the oldest producer of chocolate in the United States. The company was established when a physician named Dr. James Baker met John Hannon on the banks of the Neponset River. Hannon was penniless but was a skilled chocolatier, a craft which he had learned in England and which was, until now, exclusive to Europe. With the help of Baker, Hannon was able to set up a business where he produced Hannon's Best Chocolate for 15 years.
  4. Greater Boston is home to the first public beach in the United States. The United States’ first public beach was Revere Beach, just 5 milesnorth of the city. Thea beach stretches 3 miles long.
  5. Christmas was once banned in Boston. The Puritans of New England then passed a series of laws making any observance of Christmas illegal, thus banning Christmas celebrations from 1659-1681. Offenders were punished with a hefty five shilling fine. Puritans believed it to be a corrupted holiday.
  6. The Boston University Bridge is one-of-a-kind. The Boston University Bridge’s claim to fame is that it’s the only place anywhere in the world where a boat can sail under a train going under a vehicle driving under an airplane.
  7. The first American lighthouse was built in the Boston harbor.Little Brewster Island is home to Boston Light, the oldest continually used light station in the U.S.—first lit on September 14th, 1716.  It’s part of the Brewsters, a group of the outermost islands in the park. It’s also an active U.S. Coast Guard navigational aid facility which beams light 27 miles out into the Atlantic.
  8. Candlepin bowling was invented just outside of Boston! Candlepin bowling was developed in 1880 in Worcester, Massachusetts, by Justin White, a local bowling center owner.

What are your favorite fun facts about Boston?

Aug. 9, 2018

Unlimited Sotheby's Ranks in the Top 1000 Brokerages Nationwide

FROM USIR.COM

Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty garnered an impressive ranking among the top 1,000 brokerages nationwide.

As a hyper competitive and independent industry, it can be difficult to accurately quantify and analyze data about real estate brokerages on a large scale. Organizations like T3 Sixty, LLC have taken on the challenge of harvesting and analyzing U.S. real estate industry data into compact, user friendly lists such as the Swanepoel Mega 1000.

This ranking of the top 1,000 U.S. brokerages is determined based on Sales Volume, but also includes a review of over 9,000 data sets and accounts for 86,000 brokerages nationwide. We are proud to announce that Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty landed within the top 1,000 at number 789, with a sales volume of $363.6 million, transaction sides of 476, and about 90 full time agents. Considering the scope of the study, this places Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty in the top 1% of registered U.S. real estate brokerages.

With a strong focus on per agent productivity and high quality listings, Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty performed better than many other brokerages that have higher agent counts and more transaction sides. In fact, of the 36 Massachusetts brokerages to make the list, Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty achieved it’s rank with the 3rd lowest number of agents. Of the top 1,000 U.S. brokerages, 55 of them belong to the Sotheby’s International Realty brand.

To learn more about the Swanepoel Mega 1000 and to view the list in it’s entirety, click HERE. To learn more about Unlimited Sotheby’s International Realty, or to browse our current listings, click HERE.

July 26, 2018

Guest Post: Go Local and Get Home!

Buying a new home without giving up all your major organs is a challenge. I am sure you are hearing the stories of finding “THE HOME” but the offer was not accepted…and then they do this over and over…submitting 45 competitive offers, only to find out that your competition is somebody offering an obscene amount of money, and, oh wait…all of it in cash!  Battle this with getting yourself PRE-QUALIFIED FIRST! Walk in there armed with all the tools you have available to you: A strong Real Estate Agent and Mortgage Lender and your chances of getting your offer being accepted is higher. How do you do get PRE-QUALIFIED? Do you go online? Walk into a big bank and become a mere number to them? NO! Go LOCAL to someone who is responsive and who is recommended by your real estate agent!  

Why?

  • Expertise.  Going to a big conglomerate that claims to do it all may not be what you want or need.  Going to a local mortgage professional will get an expert on mortgages in the market where you live
  • Time is of the Essence.  You know what they say, “you snooze you lose”.  In this environment you need a dedicated team to get you to the start line, run the race, and finish strong!
  • Peace of Mind. Knowing you are working with someone that your Real Estate Agent, a friend, or a family member has worked with and trust.  You deserve to have all your questions and concerns addressed quickly. Contacting a giant call center and wondering who you will speak to is unsettling.  When you selected a Real Estate Agent, you selected someone you know and trust and is close by. The same criteria should apply when you choose your Mortgage Loan Officer.
  • Local Networking.  If you are going to move into a new home, you may be in the market for certain items or services.  Tapping into that Realtor’s and Mortgage Loan Officer’s networks can be valuable to you in more ways than one.

 

This blog post was written by Mona Wong at Monument Mortgage.

Monument Mortgage is local, focused on developing personal relationships, and passionate.  Mona loves knowing her clients are moving into a new home, starting a family, getting closer to grandchildren, or down-sizing to enjoy retirement years and being a part of making that happen.  She focuses on personal relationships that are built to last!

Mona SooHoo Wong

NMLS# 19615/MB 2705 MA, NH

617-818-7430

monaw@monumentmortgage.com

July 19, 2018

5 Attributes of a Great Landlord

In cities like Boston, Newton, and Brookline, many home owners are tempted to leverage their resources into an investing portfolio of real estate. But often, those same people forget that landlords are proud members of the customer service industry. You are providing a product that you ultimately have to "sell" to a prospective tenant, and you will have to manage relationships with your renters. Having great customer service skills is a must for landlords who wish to be successful. The most professional and successful landlords will have the following traits in common.

    1. Proactive. One of the best things you can do as a landlord is address issues before they become problems. Fix outdated or underperforming items before they break, and you can control the timeline, the cost, and ultimately take the emotion out of needing to fix something that breaks with tenants in the property.  It will save you time, energy, and money, and will keep your tenants happier in the long run.  Remember that old proverb: a stitch in time saves nine.
    2. Attentive. You need to pay attention to what a renter is actually saying. Truly listen to each and every word, without letting your focus waver. You must be willing to pay attention to the details.  You may assume you know someone's questions, concerns, or motivations without even hearing them, but people will surprise you. This is another thing that will save you time and money in the long run, and keep your renters happy.
    3. Personable. As a landlord, you must be able to put yourself in another person’s shoes so that you can better understand and respond to unique situations. Everyone is from a different background; however, you need to be able to relate to your renters on a one-to-one basis. Most likely you’ve rented in the past or are currently renting—as a starting point, think about how you would like to be treated by your own landlord....but remember to be attentive, not everyone is the same!
    4. Calm. You often will not hear fro tenants until there is an emergency and they are in distress. When these instances occur, you must be able to respond calmly to stressful situations. It will instill confidence that you are able to handle the problem and will likely give you more breathing room to do so.
    5. Organized. This is a MUST for landlords.  In this role, you have to pay attention to local, state, and national regulations regarding Fair Housing, Lead Compliance, and financial compliance, and you need to be organized in every way. You should have a repository of all paperwork for a property, preferably with a hard-copy back up.  Programs like dotloop are awesome for transaction management!

If you’re thinking about property ownership as a source of income, ask yourself if you embody these traits. You might have to work hard to keep your stress level down or may not be a naturally amicable person. That’s OK, you may have to work on one or two of these traits, but when you master all five, you will see a boost in resident retention and good-will from your tenants.

July 12, 2018

5 Steps to Prepare Your Home for Sale

When you are thinking about putting your home on market, there are some obvious to-dos that home owners think of:  painting, staging, and de-cluttering are clearly good starting points, but there are a number of smaller tasks that get ignored.  If you are going to place your home on market, make sure you take care of these 5 things, preferably before photos are taken:

  1. Replace burnt out lightbulbs.  You want the light in your home to be maximal, so make sure there are no burnt out or fading bulbs.  Small items like a missing bulb can also be distracting to a potential buyer. It will make them wonder what else has been left in disrepair.
  2. Replace your street numbers.  You'll have potentially hundreds of people swinging by for open houses and showings, so you want your home to be easily identifiable.  Replace those old, painted over street numbers with something big, bold, and modern.  It serves a practical purpose and is aesthetically pleasing.
  3. Replace your worn-out welcome mat. Beyond curb appeal, it's an easy first impression to make.
  4. Clean your windows.  This one is usually overlooked and make a huge difference in allowing light to filter in, and for photos to look sharp.
  5. Add some greenery. Both inside and outside of the house, consider a facelift that involves plants.  You can do a small garden along the edge of your home, or put a couple of large welcoming planters with a pop of color along a walkway. It's also a game-changer to have fresh flowers or plants in vases throughout the home!

Are there any other "must-do" items that you can think of? Add them in the comment section below!

July 5, 2018

What is "Equity"?

When you speak to a real estate agent about buying a home versus renting, they will often give you a spiel about “building equity.” While that is a good line of thinking--the actual meaning is often lost on first-time buyers.  So let me explain:

Equity is the difference between the market value of your home and the amount you owe on your mortgage.

For example: if you were able to sell your home for $200,000 and you owe $150,000 on the mortgage, then your equity is $50,000. This is very simplified because it doesn’t take into account the actual cost of selling your home, which can be quite substantial.  If it costs you $15,000 to sell that home (real estate commissions and closing costs), your net equity is reduced to $35,000. In short, net equity is the amount you would actually pocket at the end of the sale.

How do you build equity?

For starters, the more money you have for a down payment on a home, the more immediate equity you will be able to build through ownership.  If you buy a home with cash, for instance, you have no mortgage and thus no differential between value and money-owed to a lender. Every penny of equity that comes of owning the home goes back to you fully. The larger your initial down payment, the more your equity builds.

Homeowners can build home equity in a variety of ways, but the three most common are as follows:

Wait

The fair market value of your home can increase because similar houses in your area are now selling for more. You may have bought your home two years ago for $100,000 but if you sold it today it would be worth $120,000 because the market has increased. Your equity in the home has increased by $20,000 due to this increase. In general, housing markets increase in value over time, so the longer you own your home, the more equity you will have, not withstanding a substantial economic downturn that effects home values.

Increase Value

If you make home improvements that correspond to a higher anticipated sales price for the home, you may be increasing your equity as well. For example, you might spend $10,000 on remodeling your kitchen and this increases the market value of the home by $30,000. Now you've increased your equity by $20,000.  Not all home improvements result in an increase in equity, though. Some routine improvements like fixing a leak or replacing a hot water heater will cost you money but may not increase the overall value of your home.

Pay

With every single payment you make on your mortgage, you build equity. Why?  Because each payment chips away at the principal balance you owe on the loan. As the loan balance decreases, your equity increases.  Making extra payments toward the principal increases your equity even more quickly.

Can equity decrease over time?

Yes, but not usually.  If the housing market crashes (like it did 2006-2011), home values will fall, decreasing your equity. You may also experience a drastic decrease in equity if you if you take out a second mortgage or home equity loan without proper foresight.  And there is always the chance that an accident will adversely affect you. If your home burns down or is damaged in a disaster and you don't have enough insurance to pay for your loss, then you will lose equity if you need to repair or rebuild out-of-pocket.