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

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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: an attorney specializing in landlord/tenant law; a small property owner and rental property manager; and a lead paint abatement specialist. 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

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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 Studenthacks.org.


Image via Studenthacks.org.

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)

ePlace 7th Annual Client Appreciation Party

Please join us . . .

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Posted by admin on Feb 28th 2014 | Filed in Events | Comments (0)

Test Your Cambridge Real Estate IQ

Please take this fun (and challenging) 10-question quiz to test your Cambridge real estate IQ.

And here’s how to rate your scores:
80% or more — You’re a Guru! Call or email us about becoming an agent or writing for our blog.
60% – 70% — Not too shabby. You are more or less a Cambridge Savant.
40% – 50% — Not too bad. You clearly care about Cambridge.
30% or below — Just getting to know Cambridge? That’s fine! Here’s a good place to start. And if you’re looking for a rental or doing a home search, feel free to call us — our office is full of Cambridge real estate gurus.

Note: if you’re having trouble seeing the quiz in the frame below, you can take it here

Posted by admin on Feb 7th 2014 | Filed in Market Data | Comments (0)

Historical and Recent Pricing Data for 33 Local Communities

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Thinking of buying this year, or considering an investment in real estate? ePlace has just released its update of sales data on 33 communities and neighborhoods in and around Cambridge and Boston, MA and within route 128. This report provides median price data for condos, single family homes, and 2-family homes in 2013 and looks at price changes relative to 2012 and 2005 (the previous market peak). It also indicates the number of properties sold in each category and each community last year.

Median condo prices in this sample range from $190,000 (Everett) to $900,000 (in Weston, where only 20 condos sold last year). Single family prices range from $226,500 (in Taunton) and $305,425 (in East Boston) to $6,475,000 (in the Back Bay, where only 7 single family homes were sold last year) and $2,592,125 on Beacon Hill. Two-family home prices range from $170,000 in Taunton and $243,183 in Roxbury to $2,032,000 in the South End (where only 5 two-family homes were sold last year). Prices are up in the large majority of communities and property categories between 2012 and 2013 and the majority are up relative to 2005.

If you have a budget in mind and are looking to purchase a condo, single or two-family to live in or as an investment, this reference can help you figure out where there will be a lot of properties in your price range. (It doesn’t mean, of course, that you can’t buy a cheaper home in a more expensive area or a more expensive place in a less expensive area). You might also want to pay attention to where prices have moved since the peak. In the more urban areas, lower-priced, lower-income areas suffered much more during the downturn than tonier areas: in these areas, prices often dipped drastically and may still be in the process of recovery while richer areas showed little if any decline in prices.

Enjoy, and please feel free to get in touch with any questions by commenting below or emailing info@eplacehomes.com. Also, if there’s a community that you’d like to see included, let us know!

Rachael Burger is ePlace’s Director of Information and Community Outreach and leads ePlace’s workshops on home buying and real estate investing.

Posted by Rachael Burger on Jan 21st 2014 | Filed in Market Data | Comments (0)

4th Annual Cambridge MLK Day of Service 2014

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The MLK Day of Service, which had its origins at the Fayerweather Street School, is having its fourth year as a Cambridge-wide event and will take place at the Cambridge Senior Center in the Central Square YMCA (right next to the ePlace Real Estate office) Monday, January 20th from 2:00 – 5:00.

At this event, more than a thousand volunteers of all ages:

  • make fleece scarves and blankets for homeless children, teens and adults;
  • make Valentines for shut-in elders and veterans;
  • make activity kits for kids waiting in hospital emergency rooms;
  • make bookmarks for children and adults in literacy programs;
  • sort donated food, children’s books, winter clothing and toiletries.

This is a kid-friendly service opportunity and ePlace’s own Rachael Burger will be heading up one of the sewing projects so feel free to come and please stop by to say hi.

Happy MLK Day to all.

Posted by admin on Jan 17th 2014 | Filed in Charitable,Community | Comments (2)

10-Year Real Estate Market Stats for Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, Arlington, Belmont and all of Massachusetts

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Just finished up real estate market stats for Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, Arlington, Belmont and all of Massachusetts. Here’s the summary:

2013 saw prices increase across all markets and property types with many segments experiencing double-digit growth relative to 2012. All markets and property types also experienced an increase in sales prices relative to 2008 (5 years) and relative to 2003 (10 years), with the exception of the Massachusetts multi-family housing market, where prices are still down 13% from 2003 levels. In most of our local markets, prices have also exceeded previous 2005 peaks.

Sales volumes (measured in number of units sold) are mixed (some up and some down) relative to 2012, but the large majority of markets/segments show a growth in sales volume relative to 2008 post-peak lows. Demand for residential property in our local area has been strong this year, despite the fact that interest rates have risen about 1% from their 2012 lows and spurred, in part, by foreign investors and historic-high rents.

The housing recovery in Massachusetts overall, and particularly in the single and multi-family markets has been less robust than in our local area.

To see the data (and more detail) take a look at the written summary, raw data and charts.

Posted by admin on Jan 7th 2014 | Filed in Market Data | Comments (0)

Will Buying a Multi-Family Home Make Home-Ownership More Affordable?

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Many first-time buyers consider buying a multi-family home in order to make home-ownership more affordable. I meet many of these buyers at the workshops that I host at ePlace. And many of our agents work with first-time buyers who are weighing the pros and cons of buying a multi-family or a condo in Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, Arlington, and beyond.

Buying a home that has rental income can help you qualify for a somewhat larger loan and can help substantially with your monthly payments, but also comes with additional responsibilities and higher maintenance and upkeep. Would it make sense for you? Here are some things to think about.

Financial

In qualifying you for a multi-family purchase, the lender will typically apply about 22% of the rental income toward your mortgage payment. At today’s 30-year fixed interest rate of about 4.75%, each $1,000 in monthly rental income will add a little over $40,000 to the mortgage you might qualify for, and the rental income can help substantially with monthly payments. Let’s work through an example (see also the spreadsheet with download option below):

If you (or you and your spouse/partner) have $100,000 of gross income and excellent credit, you might qualify for a mortgage (30-year fixed at 4.75%) of about $360,000 and a total purchase price of about $450,000 (assuming 20% down), resulting in a monthly payment (including real estate taxes and insurance) of $2333. With $1,000 of rental income, you can qualify for a slightly larger mortgage — about $400,000 — and purchase price of about $500,000 (assuming, again, that you can put 20% down) — and a monthly payment of $2557. Your rental income helps you buy a bit more house, but — if you apply all or most of it to your mortgage payment — it can lower that payment substantially (to about $1500 a month, in this case). With $2000 in monthly rent, you can get a mortgage for $445,000, a house for about $550,000 (assuming, again, 20% down) and a monthly payment of $2,781, which (if offset by rent) could result in a monthly payment of under $1,000.

Download the Multi-Family Purchase Spreadsheet with formulas.

Landlording

If you own and live in a 2-family home, you find yourself being a landlord. You’ll want to be familiar with Massachusetts landlord-tenant law and gain comfort with leases and tenant communications. The Massachusetts Consumer Guide to Landlords Rights and Responsibilities is a good starting place. The NOLO website also has excellent resources on landlord-tenant law in Massachusetts. A good rental agent (such as one of our agents from ePlace!) can also be a great help in finding and screening tenants and making sure that you as a landlord are in compliance with the law.

My own experience of 10+ years of being a landlord in a 2-family was overwhelmingly positive. I found living in the same building made it easy to maintain good communication with tenants, while also maintaining appropriate boundaries. I also found that charging a rent that was just a hair below market (and responding quickly and courteously to any issues) made it easy to keep tenants long term so the unit was never vacant.

As a landlord, you’ll have to make decisions about what to charge for rent, whether or not you’ll take pets, and whether or not you want to delead up front or deleading should you rent to a family with a child under 6. If the unit is separately metered, the tenants can pay for their own heat, hot water, and electricity (which is always better) but if your building has a single system then you’ll have to roll the utilities into the rent. Water and sewer works the same way: if separately metered, you can have the tenant pay the bill, but otherwise you foot the bill.

Maintenance and Upkeep

Obviously, owning a multi-family home means you’ll have higher maintenance and repair costs and will take on the duties of landlord, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re up for these tasks. A multi-family building will be bigger and, depending on your lifestyle and family composition, it’s fairly likely that your rental unit will take a greater beating than your own unit: floors may well get worn down faster, walls dinged up, appliances broken, drains stopped up and foreign objects fouling up the garbage disposal. In my investment workshops, I like to budget about $1.50 per square foot per year for basic property upkeep in a multi-family. In my experience, this covers anything that might typically come up in a year (calls to the plumber, new appliances or water heater, and minor repairs) plus a little extra, but will obviously not cover major items like a new roof, heating system, siding or porches.

In my experience, it’s possible to “defer” some maintenance tasks (like some of the larger items mentioned above) until you have the resources to handle them, but it’s important to note that well kept units (and buildings) tend to attract better tenants, so efforts you make to improve your unit for rental can pay off in rental income, lower maintenance, and ease of tentant relationships. This is part of the “just under market” rental equation — if people feel like they’re getting a good value they’re more likely to treat you (and the property) well.

Exit Strategy/Possibilities Down the Line

In addition to helping pay the mortgage, multi-family homes offer some attractive expansion or development possibilities down the line. These include:

  • Renovating your unit and renting it out at a higher rent then moving into the other (larger) rental unit;
  • Converting your entire building to condos and living in one or selling off both (if you work it right, by moving from one unit to the other, you can sell the entire building tax-free);
  • Converting the entire building into a single-family for your own use, or using both units for your own purposes (e.g. using one unit as home office or in-law apartment).

Most of our agents at ePlace in Cambridge MA have experience handling multi-family homes, and many also have experience with both rentals and sales — experience that is quite valuable in assessing the desirability of a potential multi-family purchase and not all that common in the marketplace. Feel free to get in touch if you’re considering purchasing a multi-family. Our Savvy Home Buyer and Nuts and Bolts of Real Estate Investing workshops are also good resources on this topic.

Posted by Rachael Burger on Dec 6th 2013 | Filed in Home Buying,Home Ownership | Comments (1)

A Visit to the Building Department Could Save You Thousands

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In the spring of 2013, ePlace agent Jen Keenan helped a couple, first time home buyers from Maine, purchase a single family home in Malden. The farmhouse-style home — which was likely built in the mid-1800s — had loads of charm, a new kitchen, 3 beds, 1.5 baths, and views of the Boston skyline from the second floor. In fact, picture of the home was highlighted in a book on Malden history that the sellers shared with the couple during their home tour. The buyers liked the location: a leafy neighborhood on the edge of Maplewood (it was almost equidistant between her job in Burlington and his job in Boston) and the price point was in their sweet spot. They didn’t waste any time in writing up an offer.

Yet the home inspection raised some cause for concern: some of the plumbing in the basement looked “funky” and a retaining wall at the back of the drive made the buyer unsure about the exact location of the rear lot line.

Jen visited the Malden zoning office to discern the lot line. Though no plot plan existed, the person at zoning estimated the lot line using old maps so Jen could give her clients a sense of the rough location of the edge of the property. (To obtain a professional lot survey with “stakes” at the corners of your lot costs about $1,000).

Next, Jen went to the building department to see what she could learn about the plumbing situation. She saw that while permits had been pulled for both plumbing and electrical work, the completed work had never been formally inspected by the city inspectors nor had the permits been closed out. In addition, the folder contained documentation that the roof had been replaced in 1987 and had a 20 year warranty — this was useful information that they hadn’t obtained from either the sellers or the home inspection.

Jen consulted with her buyers who decided that they were willing to deal with some of the challenges that come with an older home but didn’t want to have to deal with potentially costly plumbing and electrical work. Jen went back to the sellers with the building department information and requested that the plumbing and electrical work be signed off on before closing. The sellers agreed to get permit sign-offs prior to closing, incurring about $4,000 of expenses. The couple are now enjoying their new home and are working on customizing it for their growing family (they’ve recently rescued a puppy!).

Editor’s Note: Jen’s visits to the zoning & building departments saved her buyers at minimum $5000 and potentially more. In my mind, a visit to the building department is a “must do” for any purchase (prior to signing the purchase and sale agreement, and ideally prior to the home inspection). At the building department, you can pull the “binder”/folder on the property and review any permits that have been pulled and their status. It’s not uncommon to learn of work done to the property of which you were not aware (in one case, a permit pulled for damage after an electrical fire!), and you can check, as Jen did, to make sure that any recent work was done with permits and that those permits were signed off on. Though it’s not all that uncommon for work to be done without permits, this is something you’ll want to know. Believe it or not the local building departments are generally very helpful and easy to deal with and are often open late one night a week to increase accessibility. Just call ahead to confirm hours.

Posted by Rachael Burger on Nov 22nd 2013 | Filed in Home Buying,Real Estate Stories | Comments (1)

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