Boston Area Home Improvements: No Regrets?

Statistics show nearly 75% of homeowners took on do-it-yourself (DIY) Boston area home improvements in the past three years. According to a recent survey from Zillow Digs, 40% of them regretted that decision. It’s an age-old question: Should you hire a professional remodeler or do a project yourself? Getting the job done right the first time by somebody who knows how to do it can spare regrets later. Here’s a list of the most and least regretted DYI projects.

Boston Area Home Improvements – “To DIY or Not DIY”

Boston area home improvements continue strong

Adding or expanding a room was the biggest DIY regret among those surveyed. Over half of those responding said they were unhappy with the results of their DIY project. Most of that work was done to bathrooms or bedrooms. Smaller DIY projects such as replacing cabinet hardware or lighting fixtures fared better. Less than 20% of respondents said they regretted doing that work themselves.

Of course, saving money is one of the main reasons homeowners take on DIY projects. However, almost 25% of homeowners said they went over budget on their project. Larger renovations often went over budget, but smaller projects like painting or replacing plumbing fixtures were easier to keep within budget. One advantage a professional remodeler has over the average homeowner is knowing the materials needed to do the job. The professional can usually buy the materials at wholesale prices because he’s a contractor or preferred customer of the home improvement supplier. In addition, the professional generally has all the tools necessary to perform the work. Most homeowners have only the basic tools and may have to buy or rent the tools they need. That can cause the price of the DIY job to get out of hand quickly.

Zillow Digs home design experts say DIY tips and videos make some Boston area home improvements seem easier than they really are. For larger projects it’s usually best to hire a professional. Many renovation or remodeling jobs require skills and experience the average person probably doesn’t have. Hiring a qualified professional can help homeowners avoid costly mistakes, added stress and regrets.

The Zillow Digs survey included responses from homeowners across the U.S. Here are the results of the survey:

The 5 Most Regretted DIY Projects:
Add or expand a room (such as a bathroom or bedroom)
Refinish the kitchen or bathroom cabinets
Refinish the attic or the basement
Replace the carpeting
Refinish or install hardwood floors

The 5 Least Regretted DYI Projects:
Replace lighting fixtures
Replace cabinet hardware (in the kitchen or bathroom)
Paint one or more rooms
Install new kitchen appliances
Replace plumbing fixtures (the toilet, bath or sink)

For more information on Boston area home improvements, see the Boston Real Estate Categories to your right. We also post on Facebook and Twitter, be sure to follow us there as well.

Boston Area Housing Snapshot October 2015

The Commerce Department recently reported housing starts in the Boston area housing market and other parts of the U.S. dropped to a seven month low in October. And while single-family home construction in the South fell, a greater-than-expected surge in building permits indicate housing is still relatively strong.

A Closer Look at Boston Area Housing

A surge in building permits indicate Boston area housing is still relatively strong.

Housing starts decreased 11% to slightly over one million units (adjusted seasonally) representing its lowest level since March. Despite that news, October housing starts remained above one million units for the seventh month in a row — one sign of a continued recovery to the housing market.

Experts say a stronger labor market along with a greater number of young adults leaving the parental “nest” has given increased support to the housing sector.

While residential construction makes up only about 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the U.S., housing greatly affects the overall economy. Higher home prices mean increased household net worth and increased consumer spending. In addition, housing has helped the GDP grow for the last eighteen months. It has also cushioned the blow of weakened manufacturing.

Single-family home starts dropped 2.4% to 722,000 units. Multi-family housing starts dropped a little more than 25% to 338,000 units.

Despite housing starts suffering in some areas, the number of actual building permits issued was encouraging. Building permits increased 4.1% to a 1.15 million unit level last month, with single-family permits rising almost 2.5% to the highest level since December 2007.

Building permits for multi-family units increased nearly 7%, giving housing experts optimism that the market is on stable ground. The increase in permits for multi-family units — primarily apartment buildings — is a result of pent-up demand for rental units.

For more articles and information on the Boston area housing market, see the right side of your screen under Boston area Real Estate Categories. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for daily news and tips we post there, as well.

Boston Area Home Buying in December

When you think about “shopping” in December, it’s normally in retail stores, not the Boston area home buying market.  However, the month of December could be a great time to shop for a new home. This may be especially true for potential buyers who may have been outbid during the more active home buying months.

The month of December could be a great time to enter the Boston area home buying maze.

A Good Boston Area Home Buying Month

While the majority of home sales occur during the spring and summer, there are definitely advantages to consider the so-called “off-season” of the real estate market.

A compelling reason to make any purchase is value. For sellers just listing their homes or for those whose homes have been for sale for awhile, fewer prospects mean lower offers. That represents a wonderful opportunity for bargain shoppers looking now rather than in peak months.

Real estate experts say a home’s selling price may fluctuate during the course of the year by 5-7%. Many of the price variations are predictable. A home generally will be priced higher in the spring and summer than in the winter.

According to RealtyTrac, a publisher of real estate market data, the best bargains are usually found in October, with average sales prices around 2.6% below normal. Other experts say December is the best month to get more bang for your buck. Much of the rationale has to do with the seller’s mood, likely to be happier and more generous during the holidays.

Let’s examine five reasons to shop for a home in December.

The competition is limited. Most people are busy with the hustle and bustle of the holidays and aren’t active in the market then. Fewer potential buyers means less competition and greater opportunity for a savvy buyer.

There are tax benefits. If you’re in the market not only for a house, but also for some year end tax deductions, December could be a good month. Purchase and close your home prior to the end of the year and you can deduct the mortgage interest paid, any loan points paid and your pro-rata share of the property taxes from your 2015 income tax return.

Motivated –– even desperate –– sellers. As mentioned above, sellers often are willing to take the best offer they can if their home has languished on the market. They could be especially motivated if they have a contract on another home contingent on the sale of their existing house. In the case of job relocation, the sellers may have to move before the first of the calendar year and may be desperate to sell.

See homes in their “natural light.” Shopping for a home in December gives buyers a chance to see homes in their natural state –– without “make-up,” so to speak. When trees have lost their leaves, grass is dormant and flowers aren’t in bloom buyers can get a better idea of the home’s features and uniqueness. In addition, it’s a good idea to check out things like drafty, cold areas in the home. They could be signs of faulty insulation or window or door seals needing replacement.

Interest rates are still very low. Despite recent rumblings that interest rates may edge upward slightly, today’s mortgage rates are very affordable. And that’s good news for anybody entering the Boston area home buying market during December.

Happy holidays… and happy home shopping!

Boston Area Real Estate Myths

If the Boston area real estate market isn’t confusing enough at times, many people have misconceptions that make it even more so. Often these myths dissuade others from entering the home buying or home selling maze. Don’t believe everything you hear. Here are a few popular real estate myths.

The Boston area real estate market can be confusing, especially given the misconceptions some people have.

Boston Area Real Estate – Misconceptions

Myth: With all the information available online you don’t need a real estate agent.
While there is a wealth of information on the Internet, it’s probably more important than ever to use the services of a knowledgeable real estate agent. Because buying a home is one of the most important purchases you’ll ever make, it just makes sense to have someone on your side to help. Remember, a good agent has probably helped scores of homebuyers. Wouldn’t you agree you could use the experience and assistance?

Myth: To buy a home you need a minimum of 20% for a down payment.
This may be the most popular misconception among millennials. This myth was likely the result of the last housing and credit crisis. After that debacle, lenders tightened their credit policies and getting a mortgage without great credit and a huge down payment was difficult. Today, there are loan programs available for borrowers to qualify with as little as a 3% down payment. Despite the overall relaxation of mortgage lending requirements, borrowers must still have a good credit score and sufficient income and assets. However, having to come up with a 20% down payment is a thing of the past.

Myth: The value of my home is determined by a real estate appraiser.
This misconception is probably fueled by misunderstandings in real estate terminology. An appraiser’s job is to evaluate a home –– usually for a lending institution –– and determine a market value of the property for lending purposes. The lender wants to ensure that its collateral, the home, is valued high enough to cover the loan amount and minimize the credit risk. The market value of a home is always defined as what a willing buyer will pay a willing seller in an arm’s length transaction on the open real estate market.

Myth: The best time to sell a home is in the spring.
While it’s true a number of homes hit the market during the spring, it’s certainly not the only time to buy or sell. The truth is people buy and sell Boston area real estate every day. The best time to sell your home is when real estate inventory is low –– typically in the middle of winter. Similarly, it may also be among the best times to buy, since there are fewer buyers shopping for homes over the winter. Fewer buyers means that sellers who need to sell may accept the best offer.

Myth: An open house isn’t all that important in selling a home.
Despite the cliche’, most homes really don’t sell themselves. A long-standing practice in the real estate marketplace is to conduct an open house for prospective buyers to visit and view your home. Not only can it save time and remedy the need to set up numerous showings of your home, but studies show many buyers are motivated to make serious offers on houses when other prospects are vying for the same home.

Although we never work for sellers or list property for sale, we know and can find you the very best listing agents anywhere to help you with selling your Boston area home. Contact us now for a list of the best listing agents in the Boston area to help you in selling your property.

Find more information about Boston area real estate by checking out the various sections of articles just below the Boston area Real Estate Categories heading to your right.

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Boston Area Home Improvements Include Painting

If you’re a homeowner, you probably already know that a remodeler’s best friend is paint. Painting is relatively easy, it’s cheap and it can make a big difference in the appearance of your home. Therefore, it should be at the top of your Boston area home improvements checklist. Here are a few tips and tricks to help your next paint job go smoother than ever.

Boston Area Home Improvements: Painting Tips

Try these ideas on for size –– and convenience!
Use a lint remover to clean dust, fuzz, or other debris particles from a paint roller.

There’s no need to ever clean another paint tray. Simply line it with aluminum foil or a small plastic bag, pour your paint in, and remove and dispose when finished.

If you’re doing more painting the next day, don’t clean your roller or brush. Wrap it with aluminum foil, make sure it’s air tight, and put it in the refrigerator. It should last for days.

If you have an old roller, you can salvage it and use it again by trimming the ends with scissors.

Hate the smell of paint? Mix a little vanilla extract in it.

If your masking tape has hardened, put it in a microwave for thirty seconds and it will soften up.

Keep paint cans clean by wiping your brush on a rubber band stretched across the top of the open can.

When it’s time to clean up, put your brush in a pot with a little vinegar and heat it up on the stove. Even a stiff brush will come clean more easily. However, this works on latex-based paints only.

For more information on Boston area home improvements see the other real estate related categories to the right. To keep you better informed, we also post daily on Twitter and Facebook.

Boston Area Housing: Rent on the Rise

Rent increases seem to be the norm rather than the exception in the Boston area housing market. While increases affect renters at all income levels, those near the bottom are being hardest hit.

Rent increases are common in the Boston area housing market.

Rent Inflation Affects Boston Area Housing

Higher rents are having a greater impact on the lower-cost housing units than on the higher-cost units say researchers for the Federal Reserve Bank. They reviewed national data compiled by the American Housing Survey from 1989-2013 to estimate the rate of inflation for rents and utilities. Their findings concluded around 32 million dwellings were constructed during that timeframe. Roughly 10.8 million were built to be marketed to the highest income earners, compared to only 3.1 million targeting the lowest income group.

The researchers further conclude increased numbers of new units attracting high-end earners is likely responsible for higher vacancy rates. Less competition among tenants helps mitigate rent inflation in that income group. Despite rents being higher for those new units, as a percentage it usually doesn’t rise as much as the lower-cost rental units. The reason? Supply of rental units at the lower end of the spectrum is more apt to occur from rents that were once higher, but have been lowered into the next bracket. The result is a “trickle-down” effect, meaning those units will probably still have higher rents than the lower-end housing, pushing up rent inflation for that segment.

During 2011-2013 rent inflation in the lowest bracket represented in the data was roughly 16%. Inflation in the highest bracket was -.4%.

This comes as little surprise to renters in the Boston area housing market. Annual rent growth during September was 5.2%, representing the highest increase since 2011 and marking the eighth consecutive month the rate has been 5% or more.

Based on a nationwide survey by property rental website, property managers expect to raise rents as much as 8% next year. This is due to an anticipated rise in demand and a drop in vacancies. Vacancy rates for rental units across the nation recently dropped to 6.8% — the lowest in twenty years.

Further affecting the rent inflation dilemma is that construction of multifamily housing came to a surprising halt during the housing crisis. New units recently added are barely meeting pent-up demand. Rents and occupancy levels are enjoying all-time highs, driven in part by higher demand and lower supply. While new construction permits for multifamily units are within 1% of where they were during the same month last year, most of the new supply is in higher-priced markets. The urban centers of major cities have benefitted, but not renters in suburbia or in less-populated cities desperately in need of more affordable rental units.

Boston area housing experts say more than 25% of renters currently spend over 50% of their income on rent.

Find more articles pertaining to Boston area housing in our section on Boston Real Estate under the Boston Real Estate Categories to your right.

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The Boston Area Economy: A Scam is Born

A scam tied to the new “smart-chip” enabled credit and debit cards has reached the Boston area economy as millions of Americans await their banks to send the new cards. While the chips are designed to put an end to counterfeiting, as usual, the bad guys have other things in mind.

Crooks Target The Boston Area Economy

Because it’s new, scammers are banking on you not knowing much about the smart-chip cards and how the banks will issue them. They’re sending out emails under the guise of your bank or financial institution requesting that you “updated their files” so they can mail you your new credit or debit card. Naturally, what they’re really trying to do is steal your personal financial information — either by you completing the emailed form or clicking a link in the email that would download malware to obtain it. It’s just the latest in a series of identity theft scams to hit the Boston area economy.

Protect yourself as best as possible by knowing these tips:

  1. More likely than not, your bank will automatically send you your new card by mail. If you don’t receive it, call them and request it.
  2. Banks and financial institutions rarely call you on the telephone to request information of a confidential and sensitive nature about your checking, savings or loan accounts.
  3. Don’t click on suspicious email links. If you receive an email that asks you to do so, call your bank and verify it as soon as possible.

If you think you may have already fallen prey to this most recent identity theft scam, don’t panic. Call your bank and notify them of what happened. Report it to the local authorities, the credit bureaus and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.) Lastly, monitor your credit report for any signs of identity theft or anything else unusual.

Being vigilant is one of the best ways you can thwart the scammers trying to illegally profit in the Boston area economy.
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Boston Area Home Improvements – Seriously Solar

When it comes to Boston area home improvements, going solar probably isn’t your first thought. Adding solar panels to an existing home sounds to some like an idea that will never see the light of day. However, it may be time to seriously consider going solar — a new day is dawning.

Boston Area Home Improvements: Let the Sun Shine

When it comes to Boston area home improvements, solar panels are probably not on your list

From 2013 to 2014 solar powered homes increased by 30%. Greater growth is expected through 2016 and beyond. In fact, California recently became the first state to generate over 5% of its electricity from utility-scale solar power.

The reasons solar panels should be considered among the top Boston area home improvements are many. Saving money on your home’s electric bill is one. Increasing the value of your home is another. For many, becoming a part of the movement to decrease our carbon footprints is an even bigger incentive. It is estimated that in just 20 years a home powered by solar energy can offset tons of carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere.

One of the biggest challenges solar energy faces are the commonly-held misconceptions of many homeowners. Let’s address a few.

Solar panels are unaffordable.
Experts say the cost of solar panels has reduced dramatically. Ten years ago the average cost for solar panels on a home’s roof was $43,000. Today the cost is roughly $29,000. In addition, there are renewable energy tax credits available for homeowners who use solar energy. Plus, if you install solar panels on your home, you can claim a 30% rebate. That could give new interest in adding solar energy to your list of home improvements. Still need convincing? There are solar panel leasing options available.

In bad weather, solar panels are useless.
This is a common misconception. The truth is that solar panels operate off of ultraviolet light which is present even on cloudy days. Case in point: Germany leads the world in solar energy implementation despite enduring harsh winters with minimal sunlight.

Solar panels require constant maintenance.
On the contrary, rooftop solar panels need minimal maintenance. Manufacturers recommend you clean the panels with a water hose once a year. Normal rainfall will usually suffice. The only other suggestion is to make sure there isn’t excessive debris such as pine straw or leaves that may block the panels from doing their job.

If you’re ready to look into solar for one of your desired home improvements consider this: not all roofs are able to accommodate solar panels. Contact a roofing contractor trained and certified in photovoltaic (solar panel) work by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. And do your homework. Ask for references you can contact.

If everything checks out, you may just enjoy the solar energy advantages resulting from your Boston area home improvements wish list. That’s guaranteed to give you a sunny disposition!

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Boston Area Home Selling Tips for Newbies

So, you’ve decided to sell your home? Before you do, consider these Boston area home selling tips for the best results.

Follow These 4 Boston Area Home Selling Tips

Consider these Boston area home selling tips. New to home selling, these ideas may help.

Choose the right real estate agent. Of course, you can try to sell your home yourself, but most people seek the aid of a professional. Once you choose a capable and knowledgeable real estate agent, you will enter into a listing agreement with their brokerage firm. The agreement usually requires you to give your agent 3-6 months to sell your home. During that time, if the home sells you will pay the agency a commission for their efforts.

Be prepared to sell. In this information-rich and high-tech real estate market, first impressions are important. So, if your home isn’t in the best condition — especially if it’s priced too high — it may be on the market longer than you want. And a house that’s quickly identified as having been for sale for a long period of time automatically sends red flags to prospective purchasers as having problems. If you’re serious about selling, commit to a price range with the listing agent and be ready to accept a contract in that range. This could very well be one of the most important home selling tips we can offer you here.

Create a relationship with your agent. While the real estate brokerage firm is important, more important is the agent charged with selling your home. He or she will be your point person. Make sure you and your agent are on the same page with respect to sales price, projected sales time frame, move date and other components during your Boston area  home selling process. It will make for a smoother, less stressful experience.

Move quickly when you receive an offer. Many times in a bustling real estate market, when you get a serious offer, you need to act quickly. When you accept the offer and escape the contract, the countdown to closing — the ultimate goal — begins. Sellers often underestimate how long the home selling process can take. And once your home is under contract with a buyer, it can take several weeks before financing is approved and the actual closing occurs. Be prepared to move quickly in the event your purchaser is paying cash or is pre-approved for financing. You certainly don’t want to lose a potential sale because you weren’t ready to move. The bottom line: expect the unexpected. Have a plan and know what your next move will be regardless of whether the closing will occur a month or more, or if it will be in a week.

Follow the above Boston area home selling tips and you just may turn the “newbie” label into a savvy experienced home seller!

Although we never work for sellers or list property for sale, we know and can find you the very best listing agents anywhere to help you with selling your Boston area home. Contact us now for a list of the best listing agents in the Boston area area to help you in selling your property.

Find more tips to help you sell your home by hopping over to our Boston area Home Selling Tips section of articles just below the Boston area Real Estate Categories to your right. And remember to find us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.

First-Time Boston Area Homebuyers Decline

While housing continues to make a steady recovery, the percentage of first-time Boston area homebuyers remains very low. At only 32% of all home purchases, first-time buyer totals have fallen to the lowest level in almost thirty years.

Why Boston Area Homebuyers Aren’t Buying

The percentage of first-time Boston area homebuyers remains very low.

Despite market conditions seemingly being favorable for first-time buyers, they simply aren’t getting involved. Low mortgage rates, promising employment opportunities for college-educated prospects, and rising rents ordinarily would signal a ripe opportunity for those looking to buy their first home. However, according to a recent survey, those same increasing rents and higher home prices are hindrances to young couples trying to save money for a down payment. Factor in the scarcity of new and existing homes in an entry-level, affordable price range, and it’s easier to see why first-timers are hesitant to enter the market. Many still think it may be too difficult for them to qualify for a mortgage.

Survey respondents cited debt as the major factor for putting off buying a home. They said too much debt prevents them from saving sufficient money for a down payment. And over half of those surveyed specifically blame student-loan debt.

Ironically, younger buyers still have a strong desire to own their own home. Of first-time buyers that made a purchase, 64% say their primary reason for buying was their “desire to own” rather than rent. That percentage represents an 11% increase from just one year ago.

Repeat home buyers surveyed cited their desire for a larger home as the main reason that motivated them to purchase. Many feel even though home prices are high, the values are rising as well and with interest rates near all-time lows there’s no better time for them to upgrade.

A majority of those surveyed — 80%, in fact — viewed home ownership as a good long-term investment, with 43% saying that home ownership was a better investment than the stock market.

The report was released during which time the U.S. home ownership rate is at its lowest level in 50 years, 63.4%. That rate leveled off in the third quarter of this year, marking the first time since 2013.

Other interesting survey findings were as follows:

Cash purchases still comprise a large percentage of home transactions. While most buyers needed mortgage loans to buy their homes, that percentage dipped slightly. Not surprisingly, roughly 50% of first-time buying prospects cited the mortgage approval process as being more extensive and more cumbersome than they anticipated.

Today’s Boston area homebuyers have the highest average FICO credit scores in history. And more borrowers are qualifying for mortgage loans — notably so among middle-income black and Hispanic borrowers — even though they comprise a smaller percentage of the total housing market.

As expected in this technology-driven world, today’s home buyers are utilizing mobile apps and real estate websites more and more to search properties and mortgage rates. They are also making quicker decisions and taking action faster than ever. Statistics show buyers purchase their homes on average in 10 weeks compared to 12 weeks during the period between 2009 and 2013.

What does this all mean for first-time Boston area homebuyers? First-timers hesitant to become purchasers need to be more aware of low down payment mortgage programs. In addition, if their credit is relatively good, financing should be available at low interest rates. And, even though home sales prices are high, so are rents. So, they should take a look at purchasing while the time may be right for them.

Get more up to date news and tips for Boston area homebuyers by checking out our other articles under the Boston area Real Estate News section just below Boston area Real Estate Categories to your right. And don’t forget to check us out on Facebook and Twitter for even more updates daily.