Standing Out in a Competitive Rental Market: Be Prepared!

Posted In:
February 3, 2022

Today’s rental market can be challenging to navigate. While it may seem like a straightforward process of searching available listings and requesting a showing, what you do to prepare before you reach out is even more important than you think! Here’s some top tips from the professionals that can set you apart, and get ahead of the competition! 

1. Know Your Credit scoreIf your credit isn’t strong, work to repair and build it. If you know you will require a cosigner, come prepared with all of their info as well!

2. Get a landlord reference before you apply. Having the seal of approval from your current landlord tells your potential landlord what kind of tenant you are. 

3. Come prepared with a deposit to your showing.
Placing a deposit on the property you are interested in along with a completed application puts you in line. Without this, your application will be held up and others may beat you to it! 

4. Be transparent about your pets.Renting with pets can be a challenge. If you are thinking about adopting a new pet, reconsider until you find an apartment with a pet policy that allows them. Don’t waste your time and an agent’s if you know a property restricts pets and you are planning on moving in with yours.

5. Be responsive to questionsPainting a picture of who you (and your roommates) are sets you apart from others. Provide as much detail as possible and act quickly!

Remember that the rental process is similar to the interview process, each candidate is competing against a pool of other potential renters. The more you can do to be prepared and to stand out, the better. Having your documents in hand and ready to provide to the Agent is an easy way to ensure that your application makes it to the top of the pile! Making a folder that includes a copy of all applicants photo ID’s, Proof of Income, as well as landlord references, is an easy and smart way to not only save time, but to shine! 

Year over Year South Shore

Posted In:
March 17, 2021

I put this chart together to compare year over year inventory and sale price of Single family homes. Hull continues to be one of the fastest appreciating towns on the South Shore which isn’t a surprise to those of us that love the beach! With the continued complications of COVID and many people leaving the city for more space, the South Shore has increased in value substantially. If you’re interested in an analysis of another town, let me know and I can run the numbers for you.

Some South Shore towns I analyzed 2019-2020 year ends

Tenant Estoppel Certificate

Posted In:
February 3, 2021

What exactly is a tenant estoppel? By definition, an estoppel certificate is a “signed statement by a party certifying for another’s benefit that certain facts are correct, as that a lease exists, that there are no defaults, and that rent is paid to a certain date. A party’s delivery of this statement estops that party from later claiming a different state of facts.’’ Black’s Law Dictionary, 572 (7th Ed., 1999).

In other words a tenant estoppel is a certified statement by a tenant that verifies the terms and conditions and current status of their lease. Most commercial real estate leases require a tenant to provide an estoppel letter or certificate upon request and this is often a critical step during the due diligence phase of an acquisition and the also during the underwriting of a commercial real estate loan.

When a landlord puts a house up for sale that still has tenants living in it during that time, they should sign an estoppel certificate. A tenant must sign an estoppel certificate where the written lease contains a provision requiring the tenant to do so. It is a breach of lease to refuse to complete an estoppel where the lease requires a tenant to do so.

This can also be known as a rental information questionnaire. This is used to inform a potential buyer what rights are already in place for the tenants. This can be something as simple as the landlord agreeing to let the tenant have a pet or utilities such as heat and hot water included.

Why is this so important? The tenant estoppel provides proof of cash flow and rent payments on time, which is ultimately what a potential investor or lender in a property is concerned with.

‘There’s hundreds and hundreds of vacancies’ Renters are in the driver’s seat in this soft rental market.

Posted In:
December 4, 2020

Boston Sunday Globe Article featuring Broker, Hillary Birch

By Jon Gorey Globe Correspondent, Updated November 29, 2020

It’s been a while since renters have had the upper hand in Boston. But in a market that’s largely tied to the academic calendar, a drop-off in college students — thousands of whom didn’t return to campus this fall due to the pandemic — has led to staggering vacancy rates across the city.

“There’s hundreds and hundreds of vacancies,” said Stephen Visco, team leader at RTN Realty Advisors in Brookline. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been doing this for 18 years.”

Nearly 7.2 percent of apartments in Boston were sitting vacant on Nov. 22, according to Boston Pads, a real estate technology platform that tracks local sales and rental data. That’s more than a five-fold increase over a year ago, when the vacancy rate sat at 1.32 percent.

Vacancy rates were even higher right after Sept. 1, the unofficial New Year of the local rental calendar, peaking at 9.17 percent the next day in Boston. It wasn’t just the lack of returning students, Visco said. While most tenants have kept up with rent payments through the pandemic, “a lot of people who lost their jobs just ended up moving home and not renewing their lease,” he said.

Landlords have been making concessions to fill those unrented units, covering the much-hated broker’s fee and slashing rents. “They’ve decreased their rents by like 20 percent from what they were a year ago,” Visco said. “I mean, they’re just scrambling to get these places rented.”

And when you combine a surge in pet adoptions this year with a glut of vacant apartments, many landlords are getting more flexible about allowing cats and dogs. “I’ve had three places that changed their position on having a pet,” Visco said,

“because they wanted to get it filled.”

Visco said studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments are still renting at a pretty good clip. “The ones that are really tough to move are the bigger three- and four- bedrooms,” he said, because most people aren’t eager to share space with roommates right now. “You’re not going to be moving in with three or four of your buddies during a pandemic.”

For example, in Brighton’s Oak Square neighborhood, Visco said, “You can get a three- bedroom right now for $2,000 to $2,100 a month versus, back in the day, looking at $2,500 to $2,600.” That’s for an average unit in an older home, Visco noted. New construction and luxury buildings aren’t necessarily dropping rents, he added, but are instead offering two or three months of free rent with no broker’s fee.

Outside the city, rents and vacancies have been a bit more stable — a trend that rental website Apartment List has found replicated across the country. With the pandemic shutting down much of what makes city life attractive, “many renters today are questioning whether it still makes sense to pay a premium for city living,” said Rob Warnock, Apartment List research associate.

Indeed, while the median September rent in Boston dropped 8 percent year over year, according to Apartment List data, and Cambridge saw a 10 percent drop, median rents in Quincy, Framingham, and Waltham were more or less unchanged — and rents in Weymouth actually rose 4 percent.

“Overall, the Quincy-Weymouth area has remained pretty stable,” said Hillary Birch, owner and broker at 3A Realty Group in Quincy. As with the sales market, where home buyers have been seeking more space outside the city, there’s been a similar

flow of renters leaving Boston. “It’s been the same in rentals; I think people are definitely looking for a little bit more space,” Birch said.

Still, even suburban landlords are being more flexible than in the past. “Rents are maybe down a little bit because owners are having to make some concessions in order to keep their units occupied or to maintain the tenants that they currently have,” Birch said. For example, some of her clients are waiving security deposits or allowing small dogs or cats when they ordinarily wouldn’t entertain the idea of pets.

And outside the city, where tenants are more likely to pay for their own heat and hot water, “owners are a little bit nervous to have a vacancy during heating season,” Birch added. That’s making landlords a bit more open to negotiation on rent. “Or I have landlords that maybe aren’t being as stringent about the application — where the credit isn’t perfect, but they’re open to the conversation if the person has steady income.”

Visco said landlords across the board are feeling the impact of a soft rental market, from big management companies to “mom and pop” owners. “Even in Newton, Watertown, Brighton, there’s still a ton of vacancies,” he said, though buildings closer to downtown and near colleges have been hit the hardest. From Commonwealth Avenue to Harvard Square to the Fenway, apartments that ordinarily get filled up by incoming students still have hundreds of vacancies.

A recent search for Cambridge apartments on yielded more than 700 available units, for example, hundreds of which had been listed for 30 days or more — a seldom seen supply. A similar search in Somerville produced almost 600 results. “Typically in Somerville or Cambridge, those are hot places to live, everybody wants to live there,” Visco said. “So you never see that many vacancies.”

Visco has been advising his mom-and-pop landlords, who typically operate on thinner margins than big apartment complexes, to price their rents low enough to fill any empty units. “We’re in a city, there’s always people moving, but there’s so much competition out there,” he said. “You’re better off filling it at a lower rent to get people in there than having it sit vacant.”

Birch has encouraged landlords to be more flexible not just with new applicants, but with existing tenants as well, given the economic hardships many of them are facing. “Most renters are doing their best to stay on top of their payments, they’re just maybe taking a little bit more time to get the whole rent paid,” she said. “But I always tell my landlords, it’s better to have a tenant that’s paying a little bit late than a tenant not paying at all.”

It all adds up to this: “Right now, renters are in the driver’s seat,” Visco said. Conditions are so favorable, in fact, that it could be worth locking in a lease for longer than a year, if a landlord is open to it.

“If you can negotiate locking into a lease ending in August of 2022, you’d want to do that now,” he said. “It’s a renter’s market, and you’re going to get a deal.”


Posted In:
November 19, 2020

3A Realty Group Receives 2020 Best of Quincy Award

Quincy Award Program Honors the Achievement

QUINCY 2020 — 3A Realty Group has been selected for the 2020 Best of Quincy Award in the Real Estate Brokers category by the Quincy Award Program.

Each year, the Quincy Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Quincy area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2020 Quincy Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Quincy Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Quincy Award Program

The Quincy Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Quincy area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Quincy Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

SOURCE: Quincy Award Program

Recent projects!

Posted In:
November 4, 2020

A look at some of our recent sales!

Sold in Wellesley – $1,650,000
A lovely Hanover estate! Sold @ $1,157,060.00
A Spacious 2 family in Quincy, Walk to the T!
A Cozy Cape in Weymouth!

Landlording in the time of COVID

Posted In:
July 22, 2020

Have rent prices been affected?

Based on our extensive rental experience throughout the South Shore, we are happy to say that rent prices have remained stable throughout this pandemic. What has changed is the potential renter pool and availability of units. As many people were out of work for an extended time, many tenants who had planned a Spring move, decided to remain in place. Additionally, because many people were unemployed, the availability of high quality renters was diminished. Despite these unprecedented circumstances, 3A Realty Group continued to show, and place many applicants throughout the Spring. Now that we are into the Summer market, we have seen a surge of inventory for rent and potential renters. The good news for landlords: If your property is priced appropriately, we will be able to fill it for you in a reasonable time frame.


Physical health for your and your renters should be your number one objective. We have found that landlords that are working with their tenants to ensure they are safe while showing compassion for each individuals challenges during this time has created better results for landlords and payment of rent. Landlords, particularly those with multiple locations and many tenants, should try to be as consistent as possible (understanding that various municipalities have adopted differing approaches) when communicating with tenants and attempting to address tenant concerns.

The best thing that you can do to help your tenants to manage their fear and anxiety about the pandemic affecting the world is to help them get educated and provide them with helpful resources.

Creative approaches to receiving rent

While some tenants have announced closures and plans to withhold rent, other landlords and tenants are seeking more creative approaches that would provide short term relief, but avoid placing the entire burden on the landlord. These include:

Rent Holiday: Deferred payment of rent for a short period (e.g. 1 to 3 months). Tenant could repay the deferred amount by spreading out smaller payments during the remainder of the lease term. Alternatively, the lease term could be extended for the same length as the rent holiday and tenant could repay the deferred amount at the end of the extended lease term.

Rent Reduction: Payment of reduced rent for a short period. The reduced rental amount could also be repaid by the tenant in the same manner as described for a rent holiday.

Security Deposit Application: Application of tenant’s security deposit toward upcoming rent payments without a requirement to replenish the security deposit until the crisis abates.

Guaranties: Deferred payment of rent in exchange for a guaranty of payment in the future. Be sure to get in writing.

Partial Payments: Invite your tenant to pay in partial payments weekly, rather than monthly.

As of today, COVID doesn’t seem to be going anywhere so we recommend having a plan in place to prevent loss of rent should we have another surge in the Fall. We are here to help you find creative solutions to your leasing endeavors, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to discuss.

How COVID 19 is affecting the housing market

Posted In:
March 17, 2020

And it’s here, the widespread health crisis we all knew would eventually come. While many people are scrambling to find toilet paper (seriously, what is that about), most of us have decided to hole up at home and do our part to help delay the spread of COVID 19 (Coronavirus disease). Many of my clients are asking me how they feel this will affect the housing market and while I don’t have an exact answer, I can share my experience so far.

What generally is an extremely busy time of year, (I was just quoted three weeks ago in a article talking about how the spring market has come early) we have seen a slow down that was swift and widespread. The combination of the stock market and the virus, as well as school and restaurant closures has left many people feeling uncertain about the future. When people are uncertain, they generally don’t make large purchases or big moves. I’ve had 3 clients this week who were ready to list for sale decide that they were going to hold off. And who can blame them? With the news and medical professionals showing us facts about the spread of this virus, who would want a stream of strangers in their homes?

Those who have lost large amounts in the stock market are also reevaluating their desire to make big purchases which has also compounded the already scarce listing inventory (if people aren’t moving, they aren’t listing their homes for sale). One silver lining is that interest rates are EXTREMELY low, lower than ever before. So those that are ready to move have the benefit of more purchasing power within their monthly payment budget. This is actually a great opportunity to be a buyer as rates are better than ever and many buyers aren’t able to enter the market without wanting to list their home for sale simultaneously.

As scary as this time is for many people, I think it’s important to remember that this too shall pass. We all need to do our part to help slow the spread so our hospitals are not inundated and those at higher risk are not unnecessarily exposed. I think we can expect a delay in the spring market but eventually, the sun will come out and people will be back ready to list and buy. What was usually a busy March, April, May, will probably push to May, June, July. If you’re planning to sell, don’t worry too much. My advice; Stay home, grab a cup of coffee and book, and relax, it’s going to be ok. In a few months houses will sell, people will buy and the world will keep rotating. But don’t forget to keep washing your hands!!

Seller Closing Costs

Posted In:
February 25, 2020

In what continues to be a “sellers market” we have many clients asking us what it will cost them to sell their property. Naturally, every transaction is different but here is a simple break down of Seller closing costs for your reference:

  1. Real Estate attorney fee: Approximately $1000 (depending on complication level of sale). A lot of people think they don’t need an attorney to sell their home – I’m here to tell you it’s a huge mistake to not have an attorney reviewing all the paperwork and ensuring that the legal aspect of the sale is done properly.
  2. Smoke Detector/Carbon Monoxide inspection: $50-$100, Although your agent will generally handle meeting the Fire department the seller is required to provide this certificate which generally runs $50 (single family) to $100 (multi family). This does not include the cost of any smoke/Co detector upgrades you may need to do to the property to makes sure it passes the inspection
  3. MA Excise Tax Stamps: $4.56 per $1000 of the sales price (.456%) They don’t call it Tax-achusetts for nothing, pay up! For example if you sell your home for $500,000.00. You’ll pay $2,280.00 in Excise Tax Stamps. Cheers to that!
  4. Realtor Commissions: Typically 5% of the sales price (generally split between seller agent and buyer agent). Having a good agent work on your behalf is a huge asset. I could go on and on about why for sale by owners are a nightmare, but I’ll spare you the lecture. Just hire an agent who is ready to work for you and you’ll be glad you did.
  5. Septic Costs: Varied, First you’ll need to get a Title V inspection done, hopefully you pass (yay!). If not you’ll need to get an engineering plan done (ball park $3000-$4000), then you’ll need to get quotes to install the septic. This can vary greatly depending upon the system.
  6. Miscellaneous expenses: Sometimes you have other unexpected items come up so budget in a few hundred for last minute issues.

San Francisco! BOOM!

Posted In:
August 6, 2014

Just returned from a quick weekend in San Francisco, CA for one of my lovely friends weddings. What an amazing city it is (I lived there for a short stint in 2007 and still have a major love for it). I spent the majority of Thursday walking the city and checking out the houses, which are AMAZING. I’m loving the Marina District – boasting GORGEOUS views of the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco is known for having some of the most expensive real estate in the US, and I can certainly see why.

“The median price of homes currently listed in San Francisco is $895,000 while the median price of homes that sold is $930,500.” – Via Zillow

So basically; bring a million and prepare to be average if you want to buy in downtown.