Cambridge Realtor Finds a Sanctuary for Homeless Congregation

The Boston Ethiopian church had grown from a bible study group in 2006 meeting in a member’s living room to a congregation of over 400 with worship, a choir, and an extensive education program including bible study, Ethiopian language instruction, and tutoring in math and English. The growing church had rented space from a Seventh Day Adventist church in the Fenway and a Catholic parish in Boston but this congregation, home to a great number of Ethiopians in their adopted country, needed its own home.

In February, a parishioner and board member named Lee, charged with leading the search for a home for the congregation ventured in to the ePlace Real Estate office in Cambridge MA looking for help. After that first meeting agent Herb Kimsey went to work scouring all available sources to identify possible locations. He searched various databases, considering not only at church properties, but empty warehouses and veteran’s halls. He brainstormed with colleagues, and even searched City of Boston abandoned properties for potential bargain locations.

When the former Our Lady of Lourdes church in Revere became available a viewing was quickly arranged, and it became apparent that it met most of the necessary criteria with plenty of room to grow. However, as a decommissioned Catholic church that had sat empty for 10 years, it had fallen into significant disrepair.

Lee and her church board decided to make an offer that was within their budget but the knew it was going to fall short of several bids coming in from developers. With Herb’s help they persevered. At his suggestion they rallied church members to strengthen their bid by signing petitions, obtaining a dozen glowing letters of reference and another dozen letters from children hoping to secure a permanent home at Our Lady of Lourdes.

During several visits to the Revere site, neighbors and former parishioners wandered over to ask about the fate of the building, and have a chance to see it once more, maybe for the last time. All expressed their good wishes to the buyers, and their hopes that it would remain as a church and landmark in the community as it had been since its cornerstone was laid in 1902.

In his letter to the Archdiocese, Tsehay Beyene, the Senior Priest and Adminstrator said,

“We wanted to establish the church as the cornerstone of a stable and welcoming community for our families, and especially our children. We are devoted to the work of our Sunday schools in building morally and spiritually strong young people, and giving them the opportunity to study the Ethiopian language, that they remember their culture and history.

Our Lady of Lourdes was the heart of the community to its parishioners for 100 years, and a source of guidance and comfort through the cycle of life, from baptism to final rest, and all the joys and sorrows in between. We would welcome the opportunity to bring this building, holding all its history and stories, back to life.”

Happily, members’ efforts paid off and The Boston Menebere Leule Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s revised offer was accepted by the Archdiocese. The closing on the property was held Sept 5th, with head priest Tsehay Beyene and church board members signing the mortgage after a prayer of thanks. The keys were handed over amid a roomful of happy, relieved smiles.

This is just the start of a lot of hard work and fundraising by the parishioners. They are anxious to repair the building and get it polished and prepared for what is likely to be an impressive and memorable ceremony of consecration of their new church.

Posted by admin on Sep 18th 2014 | Filed in Home Buying,Real Estate Stories | Comments (0)

Free Savvy Home Buyer Workshop 9/17 at 6 p.m.

ePlace’s Rachael Burger will be offering the Savvy Home Buyer workshop on Wednesday September 17th from 6:00 – 8:00 at the ePlace offices at 830 Mass Ave in Central Square, Cambridge. More info here and intro below.

Posted by admin on Sep 2nd 2014 | Filed in Home,Home Buying | Comments (0)

Infographic: 3 Reasons to Sell Your Home


Data Source: MLSPIN (Multiple Listing Service Property Information Network)
Greater Cambridge is comprised of: Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, Arlington, Belmont, and Watertown.

Posted by admin on Jul 9th 2014 | Filed in Selling Your Home | Comments (0)

Where can you buy without a bidding war?

Bidding wars are the norm in Cambridge these days, where the sale price relative to the last list price was a whopping 106% in the three months ending on June 5th 2014. How do other communities compare, and where might you buy without a bidding war? The following table shows sale prices relative list prices for a number of communities in the Boston area. Here’s what the numbers mean:

bright orange (100% or above): These communities are seeing lots of bidding wars. At the upper end, properties may go tens of thousands of dollars above asking.

light orange (98% – 99%): In these communities, the demand for property is still strong. You will see occasional but not constant bidding wars.

yellow (96% – 97%): These markets may still be competitive but bidding wars are not the norm.

Sales Price Relative to Last List Price in Assorted Boston-Area Communities

If these numbers aren’t making sense, here are some examples. Say a property lists for $425,000 then drops to $400,000. If it sells for $408,000 then the sale price divided by the last list price is $408,000/$400,000 = 102% (represented by 102 on our list). This means that the sale price was 2% above the last list price. If a property lists for $500,000 and sells immediately for $525,000 then its sale price divided by its last list price is $525,000/$500,000 = 105%. If a property lists for $500,000 and sells fro $490,000 its sale price divided by last list price is $500,000/$490,000 = 98%.

Data Source: MLSPIN

Posted by admin on Jun 6th 2014 | Filed in Home Buying,Market Data | Comments (0)

May Home Buyer and RE Investing Workshops at ePlace

Next week we’ll be offering our Savvy Home Buyer Workshop (on Wednesday 5/21 from 6 – 8) followed by our Nuts and Bolts of Real Estate Investing workshop (on 5/28 from 6 – 7:30).

Workshops are free and open to the public but pre-registration is required. You can register for the May (or future) workshops here.

The Savvy Home Buyer

This workshop covers the home-buying process in detail. It includes: * deciding on the price point that is right for you * understanding mortgages, mortgage expenses, and getting pre-approved * finding a home and working with an agent * property due diligence and comparative market analysis * elements of the offer * home inspection, purchase and sale, mortgage contingency, walk-through and closing * getting a property in a highly competitive market and paths to affordable home-ownership.

Real Estate Investing

This session covers the nuts and bolts of real estate investing. We will: * talk about real estate vs. other types of investments * run the numbers on a multi-family investment property * understand capitalization rate, rent multiplier, and return on investment * discuss taxes and financing * review detailed real-life examples of a condo conversion and rental project * discuss “lessons learned” from local investors.

Posted by admin on May 15th 2014 | Filed in Events | Comments (1)

Highest-Value Improvements for Rental Units

We had over 60 people attend our Small Residential Property Owners’ Symposium on Wednesday April 30th. The formal presentations were followed by a lively Question and Answer session. Many attendees wondered what the impact of rents from new construction will be and how they can compete.

The expansion of existing residential housing stock by more than 10% is bound to have a dampening effect on rents. That being said, rents are up about 25% over the past five years and we expect that demand will remain strong.

Small property owners can compete with new “luxury” buildings by updating their units so that they provide some (or all) of the things that today’s renters are looking for. These improvements also add significantly to the bottom line. Based on our experience, these are the highest-value improvements and their return in terms of monthly rent.

Improvement Estimated value per month
Front entrance and common areas in good repair
Even if the unit itself is pristine, first impressions matter
$100 +/-
Laundry in Building/in Unit
Very few people want to drag their laundry to the laundromat. A coin-op machine in the basement provides a great deal of convenience at minimal cost over time — and in-unit laundry is of course provides the most convenience
$100+/-, $150+/-
Many smaller buildings don’t take pets, and the most of the larger luxury buildings do.
Updated appliances
Updating appliances (and sprucing up the kitchen a bit) can yield big returns
Paint, refinish floors $100+/-
De-leaded unit $200+/-

Posted by admin on May 8th 2014 | Filed in Rentals | Comments (0)

What does a surge of building mean for Cambridge residential real estate?

Photo courtesy of Wicked Local Cambridge

Photo Courtesy of Wicked Local Cambridge

The Cambridge market is again white-hot: both sale prices for residential property and rents are at record highs. Rents for 2-bedroom apartments in Cambridge are up 27% since 2008: in 2013, the average rent for a 2-bedroom was almost $2900.* Condo prices in Cambridge were up a full 15% between 2012 and 2013: the median price for a condo in Cambridge in 2013 was $514,750.* The city is also seeing a surge in development of residential housing, concentrated at Alewife and East Cambridge. Will all of this new building take some of the heat off the residential real estate market?

At the end of 2013, more than 5,000 residential units were either permitted or under construction, which would add 10% to the city’s housing stock. The majority of the units under construction are luxury rental units like the 429 Atmark apartments at 80 Fawcett Street, 398 units at 160-180 Cambridgepark Drive and 115 units at 159 First Street. At Atmark, studios start above $2000/month, one-bedrooms over $2300/month and 2-beds start above $2900/month.

Market dynamics dictate that a glut of rental housing will inevitably have a dampening impact on rental prices but would have little impact on the prices and availability of purchased housing.

Will these large rental buildings convert to condos and become available for sale eventually?

Cambridge has experienced two waves of condo conversions: one in the mid-to-late 80s and then another which began after the end of rent control in 1995 and only ended a few years back. Tighter financing terms for condos (both new construction and conversions) following the financial crisis, along with tremendous investor appetite for investment income (fueled, in no small part, by foreign money, especially from China) has meant that buildings such as the new one at 87 New Street — 54 units near Alewife and Danehy Park completed in the Fall of 2010 — have been brought to market as rental, rather than condo buildings.

When will the tide “turn back” to condos?

When rental prices fall relative to sale prices and/or when the financing and appetites for investment income change. We expect this is 5-10 years out, at a minimum. Though new rental housing should provide some relief for renters, we expect the rental and sales markets to remain strong.

* Based on data from MLSPIN (The Multiple Listing Service Property Information Network).

Posted by admin on Apr 20th 2014 | Filed in Real Estate Development | Comments (0)

ePlace Announces Small Residential Property Owners’ Symposium April 30th 6 – 7:30


Are you aware that more than 5,000 new residential units (most of them rentals) are permitted or under construction in Cambridge and more than 8,000 for neighboring Boston? How do you stay ahead of the changing market? Please join us for a lively Symposium in Central Square or contact one of our rental consultants today.

As a leading local Cambridge real estate company, we want to help you prepare for this change. We are hosting a symposium with a number of experts: Stuart Farkas, a Cambridge attorney specializing in landlord/tenant law; Sean Persson, Rental Manager at ePlace; Bill Scott, Principal at ePlace and a local investor and landlord; and John MacIsaac, President & Founder of ASAP Environmental, a lead inspection company. We’ll discuss:

  • What today’s renters are looking for;
  • Determining the current market rent for your unit(s);
  • Improvements you can make to maximize the value of your rental units;
  • The rental cycle and how to get back to the optimal cycle if you’re off it;
  • A 20-point screen for potential tenants;

  • Handling security deposits and escrow accounts;
  • Common lease addenda pitfalls;
  • Rental increases within and between tenancies;
  • Legal remedies for tenants who violate condo rules or lease terms;
  • Lead paint;

Bring your own questions and the panel will try to address them or feel free to email in advance with questions or concerns.

This workshop is free and open to the pubic. Pre-registration is required. Reserve your spot here.

Posted by admin on Apr 1st 2014 | Filed in Events,Real Estate Development | Comments (0)

March/April 2014 Workshops at ePlace


ePlace will again be offering our popular workshops The Savvy Home Buyer and Nuts and Bolts of Real Estate Investing on March 19th and April 2nd, respectively, at 830 Mass Ave. More information and registration for these free workshops here or on our Real Estate Education at ePlace Meetup Page. Here’s what some past participants have had to say:

“Rachael was concise + clear — the handouts and her explanations made everything so much more comprehensible!” — Victoria C.

“I loved the small group setting. My ‘ignorance’ as a first time buyer/beginner in the process was not a big deal. Your warm way and careful explanations were very much appreciated. The handouts and reference to web site was great” — Sonny W.

“Excellent workshop. Nicely paced, VERY informative, GREAT down-to-earth presentation. Thank you!” — Roger S.

“Subtle information not mentioned anywhere else” — Nazik H.

“ Great learning experience based on real projects/investments. All squeezed in one presentation and for free and for the purpose of sharing knowledge and community (Unique). I look forward to the next learning opportunity with Rachael. ” — Maher M

Posted by admin on Mar 12th 2014 | Filed in Events,Home Buying | Comments (0)

Results of the “Test Your Cambridge Real Estate IQ” Quiz

Image via

Image via

We got a good response to our “Test your Cambridge Real Estate IQ” quiz. The quiz is still open here and feel free to leave us any comments below.

Apparently this was a fairly challenging quiz — the average score was about 50%.

1) What is the price of the most expensive single family home sold in Cambridge last year?

35% guessed right: $7,700,000 was the highest price last year (2013) but certainly not a Cambridge record.

2) What was the price of the least expensive brokered single family home sold in Cambridge last year (2013) (does not include private sales)?

30% guessed right ($330,000). Another 30% guessed that the lowest price was $230,000.

3) Based on MLS data, what was the median increase in condo prices between 2012 and 2013?

Only 22% answered correctly on this one (15%). The largest number of respondents (30%) guessed that the increase was only 4%.

4) Based on MLS data, what was the median condo price in Cambridge last year (2013)?

57% of respondents go this right: $514,250.

5) What was the average sale price relative to original list price for Cambridge condos last year (2013)?

The majority of respondents know that this market is overheated and answered correctly: 103%.

6) This 3-family property near Kendall Square at 16-18 Bristol Street sold for $810,000 in 2005. With some updates (but no major renovations) it sold again in 2013 for what price?

48% answered this question correctly: the property sold for $1,550,000. 8% guessed that the property fell in value.

7) Which of the following is NOT the name of a Cambridge neighborhood?

61% were onto us on this and knew that “University Commons” is not the name of a Cambridge neighborhood. Riverside and Area 4 fooled 39% of the respondents.

8) Which of the following is NOT the name of a street in Cambridge?

65% of respondents were savvy enough to know that Tory Row is not a Cambridge Street name. 35% were fooled by Vassal Lane (in Huron Village), Saint Mary’s Street (in mid-Cambridge) and Hurlbut Street (near Porter Square).

9) Which of the following statements about Fresh Pond and the Charles River is NOT true?

61% knew that fishing is not allowed at Fresh Pond. 17% guessed that fishing is not allowed in the Charles River.

10) Which of the following statements about the red line are NOT true?

43% of respondents were not fooled by the statement that the red line got its name because it runs through the heart of the city. 26% didn’t know that the original Red Line Extension was supposed to go all the way through Arlington to 128 in Lexington and that this plan was defeated by Arlington.

Thanks to those who took the quiz. If you haven’t taken it yet, you can still take it here. If you’d like to see another quizz or have any comments, please comments below.

Posted by admin on Mar 6th 2014 | Filed in Market Data | Comments (0)

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