Condos – A few tips!

January 1, 2014

I sell any type of property that can be sold. Buildings, condos, single families, land, commercial spaces, whatever! If It can be sold, I’ll sell it, done and done. However, many of my clients really are specific about their desire for a condo. Condos are a slightly different type of property than your classic single family or one owner property, so there are some things to take into consideration.

1. Condo Fees: Condo fees cover an assortment of things that pertain to the condo association (Landscaping, Maintenance, Pool etc.) . Depending on whether the association consists of many units (15 +) or a smaller association (let’s say a triple Decker converted into condos, 3 Units) can make a difference on how the association is handled and how much the condo fees are. Make sure you factor in the condo fees before even looking at a unit. A really high condo fee can either make or break your ability to afford a condo. Considering if the condo fee includes utilities (heat, hot water etc.) is important as well.

2. Condo rules, regulations, financials: Make sure to read these before purchasing a condo. The condo rules and regulations can give you an idea as to how the association is handled and how it is doing. Reviewing their reserves etc. will help give you and idea if something needs to be done to the building the reserves can handle it or if the owners will have a large assessment (bill they have to pay regardless as to if they agree with it or not). Requesting meeting minutes to review and asking if there are any pending or planned assessments is also a good idea.

3. Legal Action: Make sure before you fall in love with a unit to have your lender send their “condo questionnaire.” It’s a standard form that they have on hand that asks an assortment of things, one of the most important items on this list; ” is there any pending legal action against the association?” If someone is suing the association, you will have a much harder time getting financed and it could effect your property value. I’ve tried to sell multiple condos in this one particular building where one of the owners is suing the association for $400,000.00 because a light fixture fell on her. Every time I try and sell a condo there the lender won’t let it go through. I feel terrible for the other owners because nobody can sell their unit the legal action is resolved. Which leads me to tip 4 …

4. When buying a condo you need to understand that the other owners in the building can potentially effect the value of your unit. If your next door neighbor forecloses on their unit, it effects the value of your unit. If there’s a giant pit bull that barks all day in the unit next to yours it makes it hard to sell your unit. Conversely, a lot of people find comfort with the condo lifestyle. There is a maintenance team, the grounds are cared for, someone removes the trash and snow, you live without most of the hassle of a single family.

– Just a few tips to consider as you try to make the decision on Condo Vs. Single family.

Either way, make sure you do your home work! And if you have any questions, email me and I can help!

Cat Lady like you dream about

October 21, 2013

I had just opened my office when I got referred by a local attorney to help a client of his. His clients sister had sadly passed away suddenly and he was handling the estate which his client had now inherited. Since his client was out of state and unfamiliar with the area, he suggested she use me as her agent to get the property sold, knowing I’d go above and beyond to get the job done.

Being the bright eyed new entrepreneur that I was I jumped at the idea of getting a new listing in the highly desirable area of Arlington MA, just outside of Cambridge and Boston. This area is not only highly sought after, it’s super close to downtown, filled with architecturally unique properties, rich people, and a lot of buyers on the hunt. The only down side was that with traffic it could take me an hour and a half from my office on the South side of the city to get all the way North. But when you’re young, hungry, trying to build a reputation of doing a good job, and in need of money, one tends to put themselves out there on the corner for the taking, and I did just that.

I had set to meet the seller at the property when she was up visiting and was prepared with area comps, recent sales, price per sq.ft, the listing documentation, a cute outfit and an attitude that I was going to sell the sh*t out of this house. So when I arrived in the area and saw the amazing houses on the street, I thought, pfttt I GOT THIS. Much to my dismay I pulled up to my potential listing and saw that the house was a little, well let’s just say it had “deferred maintenance.” Shrubs were overgrown, window shades were down, grass hadn’t been cut in months, abandoned BMW in the driveway, front door was half falling off, gutters were rotted, and the list goes on. I however am a BELIEVER, I do not give up at first, second, or even fifth glance.

I burned every "before" photo in hopes of selling the place, so here is one after a little touch up.

So I walked up to the front door with my can-do attitude and rang the bell, no answer. I rang again, nothing. I knocked, nothing. Waited, then pounded the door, and heard footsteps slowly approaching. Expecting to see an I love Lucy esq mother in pearls answer I smiled my real estate agent – please like me – smile. As the door opened an older woman smoking a cigarette answered. “Hillary, come in” she said, and I happily did.

From the moment I stepped I wanted to turn and run, I started gagging, but had to hide my gagging as to not offend my potential new client. It smelled like dead people, urine, trash, dust, and years of not opening the window molded into one scent and multiplied by 134. I was about to barf on the seller when she started to explain that she hadn’t visited her sister in 20 years and during that time she had become a cat breeder. Apparently, she kept hundreds of cats in the house that were very “special” and high end, and were the kind of cats that were on the Fancy Feast commercials. On a side note; why does cat food so closely resemble vomit? Like really? Is that necessary? Anyways, my potential client was a wreck because she didn’t realize her sister was living in such a terrible state, the house was covered in things, pictures, furniture, dust, dust, dust, wall paper was falling off, the ceiling was coming down, the floors were stained, nothing in the kitchen worked, and to top it all off, the place smelled as if these cats had taken over the house, peed on everything and then died on the floor and were left there for 10 years. Disgusting doesn’t even describe. It was as if I stepped into an episode of Animal Hoarders and Hoarders and Property Nightmares all mixed into one. I felt myself leaning in closer to my client so I could inhale her second hand cigarette smoke in hopes of masking my need to sprint outside and breath any air that wasn’t laced with cat urine and death. Fortunately, my potential client was so sweet, and as she smoked she pushed her oxygen tank along side her and described her health ailments and how she needed this house sold ASAP to help pay for her medical bills. Never one to leave a person in a lurch I sucked up my disgust and took a tour of the house. As I reached the second floor I was started to accept that despite the smell and cosmetic ailments, the house had good bones, a nice lay out, and potential. This wasn’t a project for the faint of heart, but it could be done, and done well.

 

The Stairs going up

Dining room after being emptied

And then I had to do it, I had to open THE ROOM. (I often think back on this moment and remind myself that money will get me to do a lot, but I don’t think I could go in that room again for anything less than $100K, also, why did I not take any pictures of this atrocity?). This room was wall-to-wall covered in cat cages, I mean like filled with cages, covered in cat hair, cat rags, cat urine, food, all kinds of nasty. My eyes started watering and I was getting dizzy from lack of oxygen, no joke, I had stopped inhaling and was living off my final breath. As I pushed the seller to show me the back yard I got to thinking, what is my plan? How will I get this sold immediately? This certainly isn’t for Suzie home maker and her first baby, I had to find a contractor or flipper that would look past the disgust and see that this house could be turned around.

About a week later I found him! It was half luck, half he knew the area and knew what he wanted. He walked through the property and in 15 minutes said, “i’ll have an offer to you tomorrow” and he did, and came through the whole time. My client was happy, the buyer was happy because he was in the business of taking drab to fab, and I was happy because despite multiple trips to dead cat world, I had gotten my job done and made my client very happy.

One afternoon just before closing, while waiting at the property for my client to swing by I took it upon myself to look in the freezer which was still functioning. Hoping to find a stray Choco Taco I rashly opened the freezer. And there sitting patiently and kindly wrapped in plastic, were 8 dead cats, frozen for later genetic use… or perhaps dinner.

Pictures of the AMAZING, JAW DROPPING, New house, courtesy of Olde New England Properties. If you’re looking to buy or sell in the Arlington area, I can not recommend Jonathan of Old New England Properties enough! This man is a miracle maker, check out his after shots:

 

Adorable, added garage, redid exterior

Exterior

Hello beautiful

Added a second Bath

Pocket door to living area

You have no idea what a transformation this is!

Love, Love, LOVE!

Refinished the attic and also made some rooms high ceilings

Another Bath

Hello New world!

I am so happy that this home had new life breathed into it! It’s amazing what some ingenuity and hard work can do to make something totally DRAB go to totally FAB.

 

First time buyer – Condo Under Agreement!

October 18, 2013

I’m representing a first time buyer in the purchase of her first condo and wanted to share some of the pictures. This is a 1 bed/1 bath condo located in a converted school house. Boston has so many historic buildings and many developers have purchased older buildings and converted them to condos. When done properly this type of conversion gives owners a fabulous mix of historic modernity. Personally I LOVE old buildings when converted, if these walls could talk!

This long time elementary school was was built in 1906 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. In the 80’s city cut backs forced the school to close down and it was later sold to developers for the condo conversion.

The Quincy School 1919

Today

Living room

Living/Dining

Bedroom

Cute Galley kitchen, perfect for a first time buyer!

Kitchen that's easy to manage

One of the many benefits of buying an older building that was converted is that a lot of these older buildings in New England were built very strong. Granite blocks were a popular building material here in Quincy and you can see the longevity of these materials in comparison to field stone.

Mortgage shake down

Posted In:
October 7, 2013

Rates, rates, rates!

Unless you’re lucky enough to be a cash buyer, most of us have to get financing when purchasing a property. Naturally, rates area always a hot topic of conversation when starting your search. Getting a pre-approval is usually the best way to start so that you can know what you can reasonably afford to spend. Depending upon where the lending market it at can make or break how much you can afford to spend.  Over the last few years the rates have plummeted which has helped contribute to a “buyers market.” For the last year or so we’ve been hovering in the mid 3% on a 30 year fixed rate. This is a historically low rate which has sparked a lot more buyers to enter the market. When it’s inexpensive to borrow money, more people do it!

Great chart showing rates over the last 30 years.

When borrowing money is at an 18% interest rate, the amount at which you borrow drops dramatically. As the summer progressed and more and more sales were taking place the interest rates took a quick jump into the 4.75% range which made buyers nervous this was the end of low interest rates. As the market continued to progress the lack of inventory and more buyers trying to get into houses forced the prices of homes up further. As of right now, rates are back down to 4.2% and prices are stabilizing. Sales however have not seemed to slow down as they traditionally do heading into the fall.

We’ll have to wait and see how the year concludes!

Beautiful Brick Mansions!

July 22, 2013

Brick, ahhhh.

I was just in Chattanooga, Tennessee for my beautiful cousins wedding. It was a wonderful weekend filled with amazing events and a lot of love. The South is certainly a different world then the North Land that I reside in, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, my southern People!

This wedding was full of spectacular events, the first of which was a “Welcome to Chattanooga” BBQ hosted by a family friend of the bride. I arrived via cab after flying in from Boston to find a GORGEOUS Brick Mansion, overflowing with smiling faces, gathered around a Keg…hello AMAZING, I’ve found heaven.

The house was TO DIE FOR, classic brick, large, well decorated with high ceilings and big open spaces. I didn’t get any interior photos because I was attempting to avoid being the trashy northern cousin who looked like she had never been in a nice house before (although, I REALLY REALLY wanted to snap pics because we know i’m obsessed with houses). But I did grab a couple of the outside:

Back side of the house. Love the roof line and the white trim with the brick.

Back side of the house. Love the roof line and the white trim with the brick.

Front entrance (sorry for the bad quality photo, I was a few beers deep at that point).

Front entrance (sorry for the bad quality photo, I was a few beers deep at that point).

When I got home to Boston I was really channeling my inner Southern Woman. I started researching some of the brick houses Massachusetts had to offer. Since we have a lot of history and historic homes here in New England I wanted to get a feel on prices of the brick mansion of my dreams, you know, for future reference. (Dear Mom & Dad, where the F is my Trust Fund? It’s ok, I grew up to be normal, you can give it to me NOW). 🙂

Property located at 11 Dellbrook Rd. Weston, MA. Listed at : $10,500.00 Listed By:   Carolyn King,  Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Weston

Property located at 11 Dellbrook Rd. Weston, MA. Listed at : $10,500.00 Listed By: Carolyn King, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Weston

 

11 Dellbrook Rd. Weston, MA $10,500.00

11 Dellbrook Rd. Weston, MA

11 Dellbrook Rd. Weston, MA

200 Pond Rd. Wellsley Georgian Colonial on 9 Acres. List Price: $6,950,000.00 List agent: Jill Boudreau Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Wellesley - Central St.

200 Pond Rd. Wellsley Georgian Colonial on 9 Acres. List Price: $6,950,000.00

200 Pond Rd. Wellsley Georgian Colonial on 9 Acres. List Price: $6,950,000.00

147 Main Street, Hingham, MA  List Price: $2,950,000 Listing Agent:   Martha Gentry, Hammond Residential

147 Main Street, Hingham, MA List Price: $2,950,000 Listing Agent: Martha Gentry, Hammond Residential

200 Pond Rd. Wellsley Georgian Colonial on 9 Acres. List Price: $6,950,000.00 List agent:  Jill Boudreau  Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Wellesley - Central St.

200 Pond Rd. Wellsley Georgian Colonial on 9 Acres. List Price: $6,950,000.00 List agent: Jill Boudreau Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Wellesley - Central St.

200 Pond Rd. Wellsley

200 Pond Rd. Wellsley Georgian Colonial on 9 Acres. List Price: $6,950,000.00

147 Main St. Hingham, MA

147 Main St. Hingham, MA

And then there is my end all and be ALL, bananas house crush. I grew up about 3 miles from this house and always would drive by it with my friends. In college during the summer I worked at the restaurant that the owners of this house also owned (located right across the water way). In the winter they have every tree on their property covered in white lights and it looks like a fairy tale. This place is so huge, their guest house is twice the size of my parent house. It’s legit:

49 Margin Street, Cohasset, MA

List price: 22,000,000.00

Listing Agent: Jonathan Radford, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Newbury St. Boston

Brick covered in Ivy.

Brick covered in Ivy.

Aerial View

Aerial View

You get a private doc into Cohasett Harbor.

You get a private doc into Cohasett Harbor.

Back yard

Back yard

The only interior shot that I actually like. I'd have to gut this entire place. Shheesshhh totally unlivable in current condition! ;)

The only interior shot that I actually like… Honestly, I’d have to gut this entire place. Shheesshhh totally unlivable in current condition! 😉

North End 1 bed, MUST HAVE!

July 17, 2013

The spring/summer market here in Boston has been out of control, literally INSANITY. I’ve been working my A$$ off to keep up with all my clients needs because as many of you know, this industry is feast or famine and you have to stay engaged when it’s busy.

I’ve been working with a a fabu couple in the North End of Boston (“Little Italy” of Boston). They really want something different and not your typical square, white walls, box, condo. Granted the North End has plenty of AMAZING and unique property, but it’s usually really effing expensive, and/or it’s a dump in a basement that smells like dead people.

Last night we saw a beautiful Penthouse condo on Fulton Street. 1bed/2baths, listed at $679,000.00, condo fees are $465.00 per month and taxes are $6292.00 (welcome to Boston, you’re now poor off taxes). The unit was gorgeous, check out the pictures below that I graciously stole from Otis & Ahearn (listing agent Sean Dacey was great, also a Ginger so he gets bonus points):

Amazing spiral Stair Case

Amazing spiral Stair Case

Great Dining & Reading area.

Great Dining & Reading area.

Living room

Living Room We're still shopping so I'll keep you posted on any other awesome units we check out!

The Spring & Summer… BOOM.

July 17, 2013

And we’re back!

Sorry for the delay, we were having server difficulties and it took me a while to track down my international, jet setting, programmer to fix us! Thankfully he returned from the middle of nowhere and got HOB back up!

The Spring and Summer market has been CRAZY here in Boston and from what I can tell is certainly nation wide. A lot of clients keep asking me if I think this is a “Bubble” with prices sky rocketing back up into “WTF ZONE”. Honestly, it’s hard to tell and I have mixed feelings on our real estate market but have been trying to watch for signs. Personally, I feel despite everyone’s banter over the current political atmosphere, we’re doing alright. Real Estate is up as is Construction which is a sign that the economy as a whole is on the rebound. Hey, it’s not perfect, but it’s certainly a world away from where it was when I opened my own office 2 years ago.  This flux seems to be transcending industries which I think gives us as consumers a renewed sense of stability and people are investing again in real estate.

The lack of inventory really got the Spring market going as there were a lot of new buyers entering the market to take advantage of the ridiculously low interest rates. Simultaneously, there wasn’t a lot of property to choose from… enter… THE PERFECT STORM. Too bad we don’t have George Clooney to chime in about the Real Estate Bubble….

WHY ARE PRICES SO HIGH????!! Even in Gloucester ...GArrrrrr!!!

WHY ARE PRICES SO HIGH????!! Even in Gloucester ...GArrrrrr!!!

Dude, Move to Dorchester, you can't even pretend to be tough and from Savin Hill anymore.

Dude, Move to Dorchester, you can't even pretend to be tough and from Savin Hill anymore.

This “Perfect Storm” gave sellers the ability to list higher than anticipated and end up with a bidding war on their property (and a lot of times getting an over asking price). Over the last 4 months the majority of offers I’ve put in when representing buyers have been multiple-offer situations and many times we have closed over asking price, or we lost out on the property.

Things seemed to have calmed down in this second half of July. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still bat shit crazy out there, but interest rates have increased a point, which is stabilizing list prices.

For example: A single family that Sells for $350,000.00 at a %3.25 interest rate (30 year fixed mortgage), with taxes of say $4,700.00 per year is a $1,920.00 per month payment (not including insurance).

But when that same house is financed at a %4.25 interest rate, the payments increase to $2,120.00.

$200.00 a month may not seem like a lot, but if you’re buying a more expensive house it increases accordingly. One point in interest rates can make the difference between a buyer being able to afford a $350,000.00 house and a buyer being able to only afford a $295,000.00 house. Because of this, sellers are forced to look at pricing their property so that it can get the maximum exposure to potential buyers.

Personally, I think with interest rates increasing, sellers will be forced to become more reasonable with their expectations of selling price and the prices will settle into a more affordable realm, which will remain higher than 12 months ago, but won’t be out of control like we saw in the spring market.

sale pending

I bought a dump!

May 20, 2013

For as long as I can remember I wanted to own my own house. I’m not into drugs, but I might as well be, because I look at real estate like a crack smoking , street walker…Can’t get enough…MORE, MORE, MORE, NOW! So when the day came that I closed on my first house, I was so excited I sweat through my brand new Calvin Klein dress bought specifically for the occasion, pounded 6 cups of coffee (not an exaggeration), go lost 3 times going to the registry of deeds I had been to multiple times before, and puked in my mouth a little. Needless to say it was one of the best days of my life. Seriously, AMAZING. I had worked so hard for that day and it was finally here. I signed the papers, grabbed the keys and ran to my new house.

Having worked in real estate for a while I knew the “buy the worst house in the best neighborhood” lecture pretty well , because I gave it to my clients on a weekly basis. Taking my own advice, I negotiated the price down on the cheapest house in my DREAM neighborhood to what was a ridiculously good deal so I was pretty confident in my decision even though I knew there were things I had to fix.

It’s funny how when you’re shopping around at houses you see all the good things, but the day it becomes yours you suddenly realize all the flaws (kind of like boyfriends, really perfect, until they’re yours, every day).  So when I walked up to the front of my new fab-pad, and the front door literally broke off, I thought it was probably just a lucky sign of how smart I was in purchasing this house.

It seemed odd when I walked into the front porch that everything looked more crooked than I remembered it at the walk through. Closet doors seemed off their hinges, shelves were slightly off, and what I thought were “beautiful hardwood floors” were floors that hadn’t been refinished since the year I was conceived.

I didn’t have time for “buyers remorse” and besides, this is what I do, so no regrets here.  But I had to evaluate how I hadn’t noticed cracks in the ceiling and separated beams just the morning before. Was I losing my mind? Perhaps… but seriously?  And then it occurred to me, the first earthquake in 100 years had just happened in Massachusetts two days prior! And suddenly it occurred to me that my 1903 salt box, bungalow had seen better days.

Let the project-ing begin! Stay tuned, but for now, enjoy (and by “enjoy” I mean “cringe at”) some “before” pictures:

Parke ave before

My nasty bathroom... oh dear.

blog 1 kitchen

Kitchen, kind of yuck, but i've seen worth.

blog 1 laundry

I hate laundry, this room isn't helping with that.

blog 1 floors

Pristine hardwood floors!

blog 1 front of house

Trailer Chic?

blog1 floors

Don't even get me started!

blog 1 closet

Right after the 100 year earth quake. My closet totally busted...AWESOME!

 

 

 

 

House of Birch!

Posted In:
May 15, 2013

Welcome to HOUSE OF BIRCH! We’re glad to have you here. I started this blog as a way to discuss my sick obsession with Real Estate, Construction and Design. When I started working in real estate I was always looking for unique articles to feed my drug like addiction, but found most real estate blogs to be, well… terrible. So here at House of Birch we take a more glamorous approach to everything real estate related in hopes of avoiding the inevitable eyes glazing over while reading about the legal ramifications of security deposits and property lines. Thank you for visiting!welcome