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Monday, August 14, 2017

Pros and Cons of Buying in a New Neighborhood

When you’re searching for a home in an incredibly competitive market, you may start thinking about moving your search away from older, established neighborhoods and towards new suburban subdivisions. Is a neighborhood with homes that have been built in the past year or two the right fit for you? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

Benefits of Buying in a New Neighborhood

Modern Floor Plans. Older homes often have compartmentalized rooms, but many new homes have open concept floor plans (which can make the space feel a lot larger). New homes also typically have features, such as walk-in closets and large master baths, that are in high demand with modern home buyers.

Lower Utility Bills. Energy-efficient windows, heating and cooling systems, and appliances all help to reduce energy usage in new homes, which means lower utility bills for the homeowner.

Minimal Maintenance. One major benefit of buying a home in a new neighborhood is that not enough time has passed for major maintenance issues to arise. The appliances, plumbing, heating, and cooling systems should all be in good shape, which means you won’t have to worry about paying high repair bills right after making a down payment.

Move-In Ready Condition. When you buy an older home in an established neighborhood, you may have to take on some renovation projects to get the comfortable living space you want. On the flipside, new homes are move-in ready, which means you only have to decide where your furniture should go rather than agonizing over knocking out walls, redoing the kitchen floor, or repainting the walls.

Downsides of Buying in a New Neighborhood

Commute Distance. You won’t find new neighborhoods near city centers—there just isn’t enough space to build. New neighborhoods are often in far-out suburbs, so if you work, go to school, or just enjoy spending time in the nearest city, you could be in for a long commute.

Construction Sights and Sounds. Depending on just how new the neighborhood is, some nearby houses could still be under construction. That means you could be looking out your window to see piles of dirt or enjoying the sounds of heavy machinery at 8 in the morning.

Lack of Mature Trees. If you’ve always dreamed of living somewhere with tree-lined streets, a new development neighborhood might not be ideal for you. While there may be young trees in the neighborhood, it will take them years to mature.

Less Established Community. Neighborhood street festivals, local coffee shops, live music in the park: these are the kinds of things you might find in well-established neighborhoods but not in new subdivisions. However, people in new neighborhoods often form a close-knit community, and as a resident, you could help shape the neighborhood’s culture.

Are you house hunting but still unsure whether to look in newer or older neighborhoods? Don’t go it alone. A CENTURY 21 Commonwealth Realtor can help you find the right home and neighborhood for your budget and lifestyle.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Beginner's Guide to Indoor Plants

You’ve decided that your house could use a little greenery and that you should make a trip to the nearest garden center to pick up some indoor plants. The only problem? You have limited experience taking care of house plants and are worried you won’t have a natural green thumb.

Never fear: the barrier to entry is low when it comes to caring for house plants, and there are plenty of popular indoor plants that require minimal attention. We’ve got some tips to help you get started, along with recommendations for hardy plants that are great for beginners.

Tips to Help Your Indoor Plants Thrive

  • Learn what kind of light your plant likes. Check the label on your plant (or ask an employee at the garden center or nursery) for light requirements. If you buy a plant that likes direct light, the best place for it will be next to a south- or southwest-facing window. Plants that like indirect light will do best in a sunny room, away from the window (or next to a window with a sheer curtain covering it). Plants that like low light can be kept in darker rooms with north-facing windows.
  • Keep plants in pots that can drain. It’s not good for plants to sit in water because this can cause rot. Make sure your plant’s pot has holes for draining, and place the pot over a drainage tray or inside a decorative planter.
  • Test the soil to determine when your plant needs water. Every plant has different watering needs, and the best way to determine when your plant is thirsty is to stick a finger about half an inch in the soil. If it’s moist, the plant is fine. If it’s dry, it’s time to water (unless the instructions on your plant’s label tell you to let it dry out between watering.)
  • Water around the base of the plant. Avoid getting water on the foliage as much as possible.
  • Avoid sudden temperature changes. The temperature in your house at night (or when you’re on vacation) shouldn’t be more than about 10 degrees colder than it is during the day. Indoor plants typically start to struggle if temperatures drop below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

5 Resilient Indoor Plants for Beginners


Pothos is a fast-growing, hanging plant with broad leaves in multiple shades of green. It’s often recommended to “non-plant people” because it requires infrequent watering (and does best when it’s allowed to dry out between watering). It likes indirect light, but it can also handle low light. In addition to adding a pop of color to any room, it can help purify the air in your home.

Snake Plant

Snake plants are slow-growing succulents with thick, slightly wavy leaves. They can handle a wide range of growing conditions, including low light levels and an erratic watering schedule. Like the pothos, the snake plant can help improve the indoor air quality.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is another succulent. It has spiky, elongated leaves that fan out from its base. As a succulent, it requires infrequent watering and does best in indirect light. Aloe vera plants are both decorative and useful: the gel from this plant can be used to soothe sunburns. Just take a mature leaf from the plant, cut it lengthwise, and squeeze the gel onto your sunburned skin.

Spider Plant

The spider plant has long, arching leaves and looks great on a desk or in a hanging basket. It needs only occasional watering, and unlike many other indoor plants, it can grow well in environments with slightly cooler temperatures (55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit). Although not a requirement, infrequently pruning the leaves can help keep the plant healthy.

Rubber Plant

A rubber plant can be a mid-sized decorative element or can grow into an elegant tree that could be the focal point of a room. If you want to keep it smaller, simply keep it in a small pot. If you want it to grow, repot it in a larger pot about once a year. A rubber plant will do best in a room that gets a decent amount of sun in the morning. Keep an eye on its leaves to determine the ideal watering schedule: droopy leaves most likely mean the plant needs more watering, while browning leaves likely mean you’re overwatering it.

Ask a nursery employee for additional recommendations for hardy indoor plants. You’ll discover that decorating your home with indoor plants is a lot easier than you thought!

Monday, August 7, 2017

How to Revive a Listing

Have you had a listing go cold on you? Any Realtor who’s been in the business for a long time has had a home linger on the market for months, only for the owners to give up and take it off the market. But there are ways to revive a listing and help your client sell their home. A good Realtor can reposition a listing and get potential new buyers in the door.

There are several techniques that Realtors can try if buyers aren’t coming in after 30-45 days, but if there are no offers after 90 days, it’s time to reconsider pricing, marketing, or the home’s condition. It may be necessary to look at all these factors and evaluate how to proceed. In certain cases, it may be necessary to take a property off the market to rebrand and attract a new subset of buyers. Here are our tips for Realtors looking to land a home sale on what seems like a stale listing:

Lower the Price

It might seem counterintuitive, but lowering the price can inject new life into your listing. Many people begin their hunt for homes using search engines like Zillow and RedFin. Sellers often price their homes based on what they paid for it and what they think they “need” to get for their next home. This flawed technique can prevent sales and lead to an overpriced listing. A Realtor can avoid this problem in the first place by presenting his or her clients with market comps and pricing the listing correctly, but if it’s still sitting on the market, dropping the price to a more realistic number might elicit an offer.

Likewise, a Realtor should price like a search engine. While historically, homes have been priced by the “900,” home buyers don’t search for homes between $149,900 and $199,900, they search for homes between $150,000 and $200,000. While many home buyers still use buying agents, you can’t underestimate the importance of search engines in your pricing scheme.

Take New Pictures

If you need to re-list, take the opportunity to take better pictures of your listing. Especially if the season has changed, new professional pictures (with better staging) can amplify your listing and attract new buyers. Your listing’s latest photos might bring in new buyers who overlooked the home the first time, based on new angles and spaces they didn’t previously see. Often overlooked, pictures can make or break a listing. Make sure your sellers care about this and put in the money for a professional.

Hire a Professional Stager

If it’s within your seller’s budget, consider encouraging them to hire a professional stager. If the seller’s home has been on the market for 90 days without an offer, staging can transform the space and lead to new views and subsequent offers. If a professional home stager isn’t within your seller’s budget, have them tidy up and remove clutter. Freshening up the home with some rented furniture and new seasonal items before taking new photos will still allow it to feel like a new listing and attract new buyers.

Accept an Available Offer

Perhaps your seller has already received what they felt was a “low-ball offer,” well under their list price. If this price is close to market value, discuss the possibility of accepting such an offer with your client. Accepting this offer may be better than the alternative, which is the property sitting on the market for months and the market potentially changing for the worse. If a seller can be flexible, it can be in their best interest to accept an offer now rather than waiting to see what happens.

Monday, August 7, 2017

4 Tips to Stage Your Home During the Summer

Selling your home in the summer can mean increased competition and a more crowded market, but it also usually means additional buyers, including families, scoping out homes. Throughout the summer selling season, houses can sell more quickly, especially when priced right and staged correctly.

If you stage your home well in the summer, you can give your listing the edge it needs to sell in a competitive market. In the summertime, staging outdoor areas and giving your home a natural, airy feel may help it sell faster and for more money. We have the tips you need to stage your home successfully during the summer:

Keep Up Your Curb Appeal

You should maintain your front curb appeal year-round, but summertime is particularly important. Warm weather and lack of rain can dry out plants and grass, or lead to an overgrown yard. Maintaining your curb appeal doesn’t have to be costly, as you can do most of the work yourselves.

Start by weeding your garden, putting down mulch, and planting some attractive new flowers. Any outside structures you have, such as walkways, patios, and driveways, should be well kept, without broken pavement or stones. Make sure to edge out the grass in these areas as well.

Other inexpensive fixes including painting or refinishing your front door, purchasing a new doormat, and adding some planters by your entrance. Make buyers feel welcome when they enter the home and they’re more likely to place an offer.

Make it Bright and Airy

Summertime home buyers want to see easy and breezy, so your staging should reflect that. Remove excess furniture and clutter to create a natural flow through the home. Think about painting your interior rooms lighter neutral shades to emphasize your home’s natural light and keep the space feeling airy. Keep your curtains open, and allow paths of natural light to shine through. If you have screened windows or French doors and live somewhere temperate, consider leaving them open for a fresh breeze. If it’s hot where you live, keep the air conditioning running to allow buyers to see how comfortable and cool your home is.

Sprinkle Seasonal Accents Throughout

Summer is the perfect time to add seasonal accents throughout your home. Summer is a beautiful season, and it’s a time when many people are thinking about taking a vacation, so use fresh florals, rattan furniture, driftwood, or rope to remind buyers of the tropics and nautical destinations. Your décor should be subtle, not overwhelmingly bright. Keep it neutral, so it appeals to most buyers, with accent colors like blue and green, and some patterns tossed in sparingly.

Focus on Your Kitchen

The kitchen is often considered the heart of the home. Bathrooms and kitchens sell homes no matter what time of year you put your house on the market. Make sure your kitchen is looking its best by updating your backsplash, cleaning your cabinets, removing clutter, and even considering replacing countertops if necessary. Replacing your cabinet hardware and decluttering can completely alter your kitchen’s appearance for the better. Before putting your home on the market, make sure your kitchen meets the needs of your buyers.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Benefits and Challenges of Buying a Home Near a College

The Boston area is known for being home to more than 50 different colleges and universities, including Harvard University, Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern University, among many others. Investing in a home near one of these colleges has many benefits, including excellent public transportation options, community events, fantastic events, and the potential for a great return on investment. However, there are also potential challenges to buying in a university neighborhood.

While many people think of college neighborhoods as solely for students, buying near a college is great for professors, parents, and anyone who wants an engaging social life. Many Boston college neighborhoods offer wonderful dining options and a wide assortment of entertainment. Read about the benefits and challenges of buying near a Boston college:

Public Transportation

Living in Bostin has its benefits, including great public transportation. Most colleges have worked to have a multitude of different public transportation options on and near campus. Whether you like to take the subway, MBTA buses, trolley, or commuter rail, Boston universities offer proximity to the best the city has to offer.

Great Restaurants and Entertainment

One of the benefits of living in a college neighborhood is having access to fantastic restaurants and lifestyle options. Living near a Boston college means a diversified source of entertainment and dining choices, shops, and more. You’ll love the vibrant social atmosphere the neighborhoods have to offer as well, with events that are open to the community almost nightly.

Potential Challenges

If you’re not a college student, living in a student neighborhood can be somewhat difficult in certain ways. Moving into an apartment complex or a condo building with many student units can be loud and rowdy. Living near students can also mean seeing a lot of resident turnover, as they move in and out more often than a traditional population.

While living in a college neighborhood certainly has its benefits, you must be prepared for the challenges you’ll face living there. Don’t buy near a university without considering all the factors, including the negatives.

Property Values

Property values near a university increase over time, but you should be wary of renting to students. Buying near a college can be difficult, as there are typically few properties for sale. Low inventory means high demand and can raise the value of your investment exponentially. If you do decide to rent to students, make sure to screen applicants and budget for repairs between tenants. While renting can be a great way to get a steady return on your investment, it can also be a hefty expense.

You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of buying a home near a college before making your decision. But if you enjoy living in a walkable neighborhood, attending university-sponsored events, and staying connected to your community, choosing a college-adjacent home could be a wonderful experience.

Monday, July 31, 2017

5 Family-Friendly Activities Around Boston During the Summer

If your kids are home this summer, Boston has a variety of family-friendly activities for you. Whether you want fun outdoor activities to take advantage of the summer weather or would prefer to go somewhere indoors to beat the heat, we have suggestions. Planning entertaining family-friendly activities near Boston doesn’t have to be pricey, either. Don’t stay at home, bored. Take your kids out somewhere exciting and experience Boston during the summer. Take advantage of your family’s staycation and visit Boston hotspots for fun and excitement.

Check Out Fenway Park and the Red Sox

Seeing a Red Sox game is a perfect summer family activity. The team plays April-September/October most years. While tickets to games vary greatly in price, you can sometimes find family deals with tickets in the $20/person price range. The legacy of Fenway Park and the Red Sox will make a fine history lesson, and your children will enjoy watching the game and eating hot dogs at the park.

Walk the Freedom Trail

Boston is home to the historic Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile trail through the city’s historic neighborhoods with 16 sites important to the birth of America. As the most popular attraction in Boston, you may want to save this for a weekday when it’s less busy. Make time to stop by the USS Constitution for a tour or the Faneuil Marketplace for a bite.

View the City from the Skywalk Observatory

Take your children to see the entire Boston skyline at the Skywalk Observatory! It’s the only place in the city where you have 360-degree views of Greater Boston, including Hancock Tower, Fenway Park, Harvard University, and many other landmarks. With tickets for a family of four costing under $60, it’s a fantastic way to spend the afternoon. There’s even a wonderful restaurant, Top of the Hub, for an extended experience viewing the city.

Visit the Boston Children’s Museum

This private, nonprofit educational institution helps children understand and enjoy the world they live in. Whether your kids are big or small, they’ll love playing and learning in the exhibitions in the museum. The Boston Children’s Museum is also recognized internationally for its role as a research and development center for children’s exhibitions, curricula, and educational programming. Not only will your children have a blast, but you’ll be supporting a worthy cause.

See a Play in the Park

While your kids are at home, there’s nothing better than something educational and fun at the same time. If it’s also free, you’ve hit the triple jackpot. For several weeks each summer, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company puts on a free Shakespeare performance near the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common. Your kids will be introduced to Shakespeare in a new way, you’ll have a fun evening out, and it won’t cost you any money.

Monday, July 24, 2017

5 Tips for Marketing Luxury Condos and Apartments

“Luxury” is a label often given to properties in the top 10% of the market, so as a Realtor selling luxury condos or apartments in Boston, you’re going to have a much smaller pool of buyers than you would for non-luxury listings. However, if you can target the right buyers, getting into the luxury market can be well worth it.

Below, we’ve compiled five tips to help you start marketing luxury condos and apartments.

Understand the Buyer

Your luxury listing isn’t going to appeal to a wide swath of people—for one thing, the price will be prohibitive for the average home buyer. Because you’ll have a smaller audience, it’s important to hone in on the characteristics of your target buyers and tailor your marketing to them.

Build a psychological profile for the buyers who are most likely to be looking at condo and apartment properties at your listing’s price, in the listing’s neighborhood. Determine their deal-breakers and the features that are most important to them. You should also identify the features they’re most interested in beyond the property (for example, are they looking for a walkable neighborhood or a great school district?) so that you can highlight those amenities.

Get the Timing Right

Whenever possible, you’ll want to put up your listing (and begin promoting it) during the season when it looks its best. For example, a Boston penthouse with spectacular views of the city skyline, an outdoor swimming pool, and a tennis court for residents will look a lot more attractive in the spring than it will in the dead of winter. Make sure to have a professional photographer take pictures of the property during the best season, too.

Show the Home in Creative Ways

Many Realtors shy away from open houses for luxury properties because they’re worried they’ll attract unqualified buyers—or worse, criminals. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t invite multiple prospective buyers to see the home. Instead of hosting a traditional open house, consider putting on an exclusive event for potential buyers. You could turn the apartment or condo into a temporary art gallery and hold a cocktail party, or you could invite prospective buyers to a morning yoga class at the building’s fitness center before touring the home.

Know the Luxury Features

Before you begin marketing a luxury condo or apartment, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with all of its high-end features, such as the security system, smart home technology, and energy-efficient appliances. Make sure you’re prepared to demonstrate these features, talk about their benefits, and answer any questions the prospective home buyers may have.

Sell a Lifestyle

One mistake that novice marketers often make—in luxury real estate and beyond—is to focus on high-end features rather than the benefits to the end user. When you’re marketing a luxury condo or apartment, you need to show buyers how the building’s amenities will contribute to the lifestyle they want. For example, with buyers who value fitness but have limited free time, you could explain how the on-site gym will make it easy for them to fit in a workout without leaving the building. For buyers who love to entertain, you could explain how a condo’s terrace would be an excellent space for grilling and hosting outdoor parties.

A (relatively) small buyer pool for luxury properties doesn’t have to stop you from making a sale. As with all types of properties, the key lies in understanding your prospective buyers’ pain points, needs, and desires. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your pool of buyers so that you can succeed in the luxury real estate market.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Community Gathering Places Can Be A Selling Point for Apartments

In densely populated cities like Boston, young renters and seasoned real estate investors alike have been turning their attention to apartment complexes with small units and large community gathering places.

A community gathering place is any semi-private space that is only accessible to residents of the building. For example, an apartment complex might boast a clubhouse with a communal kitchen, a wine or coffee bar in the lobby, a library, a game room, or an outdoor deck with pools and grills. In addition to having these communal spaces, many newer apartment complexes also organize events, such as book clubs and group fitness classes, to help bring residents with shared interests together.

What’s the Appeal of the Communal Space?

Community spaces are a great way for apartment developments to set themselves apart and keep residents for longer. As developer Robb Bader put it in an interview with the Star Tribune, the modern renter “expects not only an apartment but a lifestyle.” When a building offers shared amenities, prospective renters can picture themselves stopping in for Happy Hour at the lobby bar or hosting a game night in the clubhouse rather than just spending their downtime in their apartment. It helps them to see the building as a social space rather than just a roof over their heads.

The social aspect of communal spaces can be especially appealing to young professionals who may have moved to a new city for work. It can be challenging to meet people in a new place, but when apartments offer a variety of shared spaces, it becomes a lot easier for residents to meet their neighbors organically. For many, this kind of apartment living offers an appealing alternative to the high-rises where people come and go without ever getting to know their fellow residents.

Finally, community gathering spaces can be an essential selling point for developments marketing micro-apartments (often just 300 to 450 square feet). Micro-apartments are becoming increasingly popular, especially in Boston, as young renters and buyers demand affordable housing in central locations. However, a tiny space with a practically non-existent kitchen and a bed that folds into the wall can still be a tough sell unless there are “third places” that residents can go to stretch their arms. Shared spaces like basement lounges and state-of-the-art communal kitchens can make residents feel like they’ve got plenty of living space, even if that space is laid out in a non-traditional way.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Selling This Fall? 5 Home Improvement Projects To Do Over the Summer

Planning to put your home on the market this fall? There’s no time like the present to start working on home improvement projects that will make your home more appealing to buyers. Here are five projects you should consider doing over the summer:

Inspect Your Roof

You should inspect your roof on a yearly basis to head off any serious damage (especially damage that could lead to leaks). If you haven’t inspected your roof yet this year, now is the time to do it. You can climb a ladder to get a better look at your roof, but if you’re uncomfortable with heights, you can also perform an inspection from the ground using binoculars. Check for things like damaged or warped shingles, noticeable leaks, rust spots, and masses of moss. If you discover any issues, bring in a professional roofer.

Repave or Reseal Your Driveway

If your asphalt driveway is starting to crack, pit, or erode, it could be an eyesore for potential home buyers. Fortunately, summer is a great time to repave your driveway because the heat helps with the asphalt’s adherence. If you have a few minor cosmetic problems that don’t require a complete repaving, you could also patch up the problem areas over the summer.

Repaint Your House

If your house’s siding, trim, or front door are looking a little weather-worn, give them a fresh coat of paint over the summer. However, try to avoid painting if it’s any hotter than 90 degrees—not only will a high temperature make for unpleasant working conditions, it will also cause the paint to dry too quickly, which can affect the adhesion.

Keep Your Yard Healthy

To keep your grass green all summer and into the fall, set your lawn mower blades slightly higher than you do the rest of the year. Leaving the grass a little longer will provide shade for the soil, which will reduce water evaporation. Get the recommended lawn watering schedule from your local water authority, and turn on your sprinklers early in the day if possible. Lawn maintenance isn’t the only thing you can do to help out your curb appeal over the summer. Make time to remove any dead plants or tree branches, trim back overgrown bushes, and pull weeds.

Install Energy-Efficient Windows

Consider replacing older windows with ENERGY STAR-rated windows this summer. Energy-efficient features can be a major selling point for home buyers, and in the meantime, your new windows will help you reduce your cooling costs!

Don’t forget: if you’re thinking of selling your house this fall, it’s not too early to meet with a CENTURY 21 Commonwealth Realtor. Your Realtor can help you determine the value of your house and even recommend home improvement projects that will give you a return on your investment.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Should You Make a Backup Offer on a Home?

You’ve found your dream home: you love its architectural style, it’s close to where you work, and it’s in your price range. There’s just one problem—another buyer has gotten there first.

However, all is not necessarily lost, even if the home seller has already accepted another buyer’s offer. Although it’s a long shot, you may be able to get the home by making a backup offer.

What Is a Backup Offer?

A backup offer is something that you, as a home buyer, can make when a home seller is already under contract with another buyer. The home seller may accept a backup offer so that they’ll have another buyer lined up if the first one falls through. You’ll make an offer and negotiate with the home seller the same way you would if you had been the first buyer, and if the initial home sale falls through for any reason, you’ll be next in line to buy the house.

In most cases, the initial buyer will end up closing on the house (knowing that there’s a backup offer may even pressure them to close sooner than they would have otherwise). However, there are plenty of reasons the initial home sale might fall through. For example, the initial buyer might get cold feet or find another property they like better and back out of the sale. The sale might also fall through if the buyer uncovers something they don’t like during the home inspection or if a contingency in their contract isn’t met. In very rare cases, a buyer may fail to secure financing and be forced to back out of the sale.

It can be a gamble, but if the initial home sale does fall through, your backup offer can pay off in a big way. And if you’re trying to buy a home in a competitive market with limited housing stock (like Boston), it may be worth taking a risk and making a backup offer. Just make sure you’re prepared to continue your home search if the backup offer doesn’t pan out.

Best Practices for Backup Offers

If you decide to make a backup offer, keep these tips in mind:

  • Get it in writing. If you and the home seller sign a formal backup contract, that contract will become effective immediately if the first buyer backs out. You may need to include a deposit when you sign the contract, but you’ll get this deposit back if the first buyer closes.
  • Get your own home inspection. You should always get a home inspection before buying a house, but this step is especially important if the original buyer backs out due to something they uncovered in their home inspection. You’ll need to hire a home inspector to evaluate the property so that you can decide if you’re willing to take on any existing problems.
  • Use your Realtor as a resource. Have your Realtor check in with the listing agent frequently to see what progress the initial home buyer is making towards closing the sale. Before making a backup offer, you should also have your Realtor find out if there are any other backup offers on the house—your chances of getting the property decrease significantly if there are multiple buyers in line ahead of you.

Do your due diligence when making a backup offer, and this competitive strategy may just pay off.

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