Attorney General Levels the Playing Field in Nantucket

The Massachusetts Attorney General has made a bold step toward helping consumers by forging an agreement with the Nantucket Association of Real Estate Brokers Inc. that effectively opens up the pool of prospective agents.
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Prior to Nov. 14, the association and its Multiple Listing Service made it nearly impossible for off-island realtors to list homes there. Requirements for membership pretty much excluded off-island agents from the market unless they had a physical office there, were involved in the community, and paid a $5,000 membership fee. The state alleged the restrained competition violated Massachusetts consumer protection and antitrust laws.

“Competition is important to our markets and helps to ensure better results for consumers,’’ Attorney General Maura Healy said. “Organizations should not use membership rules or requirements to limit competitors where there is no basis to do so.’’

The November agreement between Healy’s office and the Nantucket association opened membership to off-island brokers and reduced the initiation fee from $5,000 to $500. The agreement also eliminated the requirement that brokers be actively involved in the community.

What does the agreement mean to the home buyer or seller? Without access to their listing service, nonmember agents were virtually boxed out of the competition, limiting consumer choices on who should represent them. It’s not to say that island brokers haven’t been providing quality services to their clients, but people on Nantucket are going to be better served by having the ability to choose from a wider pool of agents based on track record, experience, knowledge, and fees.

As it stands, of the 24 sales on the island this year, six were by off-island brokers. That’s a quarter of the real estate transactions in 11 months. It’s evident that island residents have been trying to expand their options to find other agents to work with beyond Nantucket. This appears to be demonstrative of the evolving world of real estate. Technology has expanded regional limitations on the state and national level, and now we’re seeing it on Nantucket.

The world of real estate continually evolves hand in hand with technological advancements. Years ago, for example, there were more than 15 Multiple Listing Services in Massachusetts. Now the largest, Massachusetts Multiple Listing Service, covers all of the state, but there are some areas such as Cape Cod where other MLS systems are used in addition to the state one. This evolution to centralizing listing services enables realtors to sell property effectively anywhere. A more holistic system is changing the game for real estate, and there is no reason that agents should be prevented from working anywhere in the state in which they’re licensed. Homes are sold online. As long as you price a home correctly — which isn’t hard because you can pull comparable sales figures off MLS — you can sell it. I could sell a home here in Watertown as well as I can sell one in Holden.

Real estate transactions are one of the largest financial decisions people make, and now island residents are better able to choose the agent they feel comfortable having manage this sometimes overwhelming experience.

New Owner Plans ‘Reinvention’ Of Hanover Mall

Park City, Utah-based PECO Real Estate Partners has acquired the 732,101-square-foot Hanover Mall from CW Capital.

The purchase price was $39.5 million, according to Plymouth County Registry of Deeds filings. Newmark Grubb Knight Frank represented the seller.

Special servicer CW Capital of Needham acquired the property at a 2010 foreclosure auction after submitting the only bid of $36.7 million. The previous owner, Walton Street Capital, paid $99.4 million for the property in 2007.
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The outstanding balance of $76.7 million had been the largest delinquent loan of any commercial property in Greater Boston, according to real estate loan researchers Trepp. Underwritten by J.P. Morgan Chase, the loan was resolved this month with a $62.3 million recorded loss, according to Trepp.

Without giving details, the new owners said they plan a “comprehensive strategy that will reinvent” the mall. Hanover Mall will join PECO’s PREP Strategic Investments portfolio.

“Hanover Mall represents an ideal opportunity for PREP to apply our expertise and revitalize this well-known property to its full potential,” Roy Williams, PREP chief investment officer, said in a statement.

PECO is currently redeveloping the mixed-use Kenwood Towne Centre in Cincinnati and transforming the former Parmatown Mall in Ohio into a mixed-use complex called The Shoppes at Parma.

Anchored by Macy’s, Sears and Walmart, the Hanover Mall was completed in 1971 and renovated in 2004.

Unique Brookline Estate Hits Market At $90M

Woodland Manor, a one-of-a-kind Brookline estate built by Reebok founder Paul Fireman and his wife, Phyllis, is available for sale for $90 million.

Sited on a parcel surrounded by the Brookline Country Club and Putterham Meadows Golf Course five miles from central Boston, the Firemans assembled approximately 14 acres of scrub and ledge into a single property and transformed it into a tapestry of rolling lawns, ponds, sculpted rock outcrops and a horticultural encyclopedia of specimen plantings.

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“This is an unprecedented opportunity to own 14 acres in a private location in one of the most sought-after areas just minutes from downtown Boston,” listing agent Deborah Gordon, of Coldwell Banker, said in a statement. “It is a one-of-a-kind property that has been masterfully crafted with the finest materials and finishes. Every inch of this home has been thoughtfully designed and constructed. The property offers ultimate privacy with city accessibility.”

The winding driveway, a third of a mile long, leads to a home offering more than 26,000 square feet of living space and features in excess of 5,000 square feet of Deer Island granite terraces with garden views.

Millennium Tower Boston Dominates High-End Sales

The second full week of July was huge for the 60-story Millenium Tower Boston. Nearly three years after breaking ground at the site of the former Filene’s in Downtown Crossing, the first wave of units closed at the Boston’s tallest residential building.

Of the 185 properties that closed for $1 million or more in Massachusetts that week, 44 of them were at the Millennium. All but six closed on Monday, July 14 and the remaining units closed the following day. The units sold for between $1,005,000 and $8,700,000 and only four owners took out mortgages, according to data compiled by The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.

The average sale price of those units was $3,610,988.64.
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The unit everyone is waiting to hear about is the 13,000-square foot-penthouse unit purchased by Irish billionaire John Grayken, according to various news reports. It is rumored to have sold in the $37 million range.

Happy Independence Day!

Fitzgerald Law Offices helped 46 families and individuals buy and sell homes in the month of June. We are looking forward to a long weekend! If you or someone you know is buying or selling this summer please have them contact us. We’d love to help them out. 781-924-5326.

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Have a safe and happy Independence day!

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Bay State Home Sales Reach Highest Numbers Of 2016

Single-family home sales in Massachusetts rose by 20.9 percent in May, and the median sale price reached an eight-month high, according to a new report from The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.

There were 5,297 single-family homes sold in the Bay State in May, compared with 4,382 in May 2015. Year-to-date, sales were up by 28.2 percent, with 19,554 homes sold in the first five months of 2016 compared with 15,258 sold during the same time last year.

iStock_000007666250_Medium_twgThe median sale price of a single-family home in May was $347,000, a $7,000 increase from $340,000 last year, the highest median sale price in eight months. Year-to-date prices remained flat, with a median sale price of $325,500, up 0.2 percent from the same period in 2015.

“Single-family sales increased pretty dramatically year over year,” said Larry Rideout, owner/CEO of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty. “The suburbs are catching up now. I’m still cautious about maintaining these incredible numbers. June is going to be off the charts. Then in July, units at the Millennium are going to start closing and you’ll see some big impacts.”

The 60-story luxury condominium tower in Boston’s Downtown Crossing was 90 percent presold at the topping-off ceremony in September of last year; the penthouse went under agreement earlier this month for an estimated $35 million.

Condominium sales rose in May by 9 percent, with 2,146 condos sold compared with 1,969 sold in May 2015. This marked the 12th consecutive month of increases in condo sales. Year-to-date, condo sales increased by 19.4 percent to 7,845 condos sold, compared with 6,573 in the same timeframe last year.

The median condo price in the Bay State increased in May by 4.4 percent to $335,000, compared with $321,000 in the same month last year. Year-to-date, condo prices were up 3.2 percent to a median sale price of $310,000 compared with $300,450 in the same time period last year.

Rideout said he’s also seeing an increase in properties for sale; not enough to flood the market, but enough to bring some balance to what has been a strong seller’s market.

“Things might be reaching a point where the inventory will be at a level where people can make more thoughtful decisions,” Rideout said. “That’s the good news, that we’re supplying demand. It’s better for everyone when the market is balanced. We’re going to see a strong second half. The numbers in June and July are going to choke you. It’s going to be a great year.”

Boston real estate hits another peak with marketing of Fenway roof decks

From the front page of today’s Boston Globe…

For $350,000, you can buy a four-bedroom house in, say, Framingham, or a condo in Dorchester.

Or, if you are among a select few, you can buy a 16-by-16-foot patch of roof deck in the Fenway.

In the latest salvo of “Can you top this?’’ by luxury real estate developers, Samuels & Associates is selling something straight out of South Beach on the roof of its Pierce Boston building that is under construction: “sky cabanas.’’

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They’re not canopied cabanas in the classic sense, but 12 open-air roof decks ranging from 150 to 250 square feet, with lounge furniture, wet bar, and an endless view of Boston. They’re priced from $300,000 to $350,000, but are available only to those who have bought a condo in the 30-story tower; those start at around $1 million and run north of $6 million.

We’re told all the time: This is a new Boston. That translates into buildings hoping to woo new money, and touting the latest amenities from valet parking to private chefs to — now — cabanas in the sky. The private party pads may be a first.

In a city where parking spaces have been known to fetch $300,000 or more, crazy sums for nice extras are hardly new. Early marketing suggests that this novelty, too, will sell, despite a square-foot price that rivals the actual penthouses in the Pierce.

“It’s a little funny to think of your own private little piece of cement up there,’’ said Rich Giordano, a community organizer with the Fenway Community Development Corp., after hearing about the sky cabanas.

A longtime affordable-housing advocate, Giordano marveled at the new heights of the Boston real estate market.

“It’s a symptom of something. The market reaching for the [most] it can,’’ Giordano said. “After a while, what can you say?’’

For Samuels & Associates, the sky cabanas were a way to turn an underused patch of roof into something that can set its building apart from the luxury towers rising from the Seaport to the Fenway.

“It’s not something you see in Boston,’’ said Leslie Cohen, chief operating officer at Samuels. “You might see it in Miami.’’

The 12 cabanas will line one side of the building’s roof, set apart from an outdoor pool and sitting area and indoor lounge that are open to all Pierce condo owners. Each comes with a door and frosted windows, for privacy, along with a wet bar, nice flooring, and a wide-open view of the city.

“We were looking to create this urban oasis and offer an amenity no one else is,’’ Cohen said. “It’s the best of both worlds: outdoor common areas and private sky.’’

So far, four of the cabanas are already spoken for, more than a year and a half before the building opens. Sue Hawkes, a marketing consultant who is helping sell the units at Pierce, said it doesn’t take much to pitch them beyond a simple description.

“People say, ‘Wait, I can get a cabana?’ ’’ said Hawkes. “It’s kind of crazy, but people are really into it.’’

And as more high-end buildings pop up, Hawkes predicted, there will be more high-end amenities like this as developers try to stand out during a real estate boom.

Giordano would like to see more actual homes built at the prices these cabanas cost, homes that regular Bostonians can afford — and actually live in.

Real estate sales surge — especially in Greater Boston. In some places, condos are out-pricing homes, a rarity

The weather is warming up. And so is the housing market, especially in the core of Greater Boston. This, according to today’s Boston Globe.

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Home sales in Massachusetts shot up 31 percent in March over last year, according to data out Tuesday from the Warren Group, while condominium sales climbed 27 percent. Real estate agents and other specialists said they expect that pace to keep up through the key spring selling season.

And for one of the few times on record, condos are out-pricing single-family homes, a sign of strong demand to live in Boston and its immediate environs.

A bit of that year-over-year surge reflects a rebound from last winter, when snow and cold kept buyers home. But mostly, real estate observers say, it reflects a market that is very strong this spring, in certain places.

“It’s hyperlocal,’’ said Linda O’Koniewski, the chief executive of RE/MAX Leading Edge in Boston. “Inside [Route] 128, in the more desirable school systems and the sweet spots in price, it’s at an insane pitch.’’

That — combined with still-tight supply — is sparking bidding wars and giving sellers their pick of strong offers.

And buyers are learning they need to jump, said Eileen Lorway, a Redfin real estate agent on the North Shore. In strong pockets of the market, she said, it’s pretty common these days for a house to be listed on a Thursday, host open houses over the weekend, and be under contract by Tuesday morning.

“It’s become a very fast market,’’ she said. “Sellers have the confidence to set an offer deadline. That says something.’’

The strongest markets, said Warren Group CEO Tim Warren, are the places you’d expect: suburbs that have added well-paying professional jobs, such as Watertown and Needham, resurgent city neighborhoods such as Charlestown and South Boston, and places like downtown Boston and Cambridge that appeal to empty-nest baby boomers and international investors.

That’s helping new high-end developments like Pierce Boston in the Fenway, which launched sales earlier this year. So far, prices are running 20 to 30 percent higher than developers originally planned, said Sue Hawkes, the project’s marketing consultant. Many of the buyers plan to move in from the suburbs.

“These people are leaving suburban, single-family homes,’’ she said. “We’re in the midst of a very real paradigm shift.’’

But not every place is seeing the boom. Of the 295 cities, towns, and Boston neighborhoods that Warren tracks, only 84 have seen their median single-family home prices recover to 2005 levels.
The rest are still below last decade’s peak, with some in Worcester County down by as much as 30 percent.

And statewide, prices are relatively stable. Condo prices — helped along by a surge of luxury units sold in Boston — climbed 10 percent, compared to last March, to a median of $320,000. But the median price of single-family homes, which make up a much larger chunk of the market, actually fell nine-tenths of a percent, to $315,000.

But those broad numbers are masking a market that’s intense in certain places, and that — despite historically low interest rates — is tough on first-time buyers and others trying to find an affordable place to call home.

“Entry-level and mid-market buyers — typically the housing market’s bread and butter — are likely to face stiff competition, rapidly rising prices, and very limited inventory,’’ said Svenja Gudell, the chief economist at the real estate website Zillow.

“The patience of many buyers will be tested in coming months.’’

If you’re in the market for a home, contact Fitzgerald Law Offices for experienced real estate counsel. 781-924-5326

Selling your home? Forget the granite countertops

It used to be a real estate listing with “Jacuzzi tub’’ or “crystal chandelier’’ would draw a lot of eyeballs, leading to higher prices and a speedy sale. These days, a barn door might be the golden (or wooden) ticket.

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According to a report released Tuesday by Zillow Digs — the real estate site’s design and home improvement cousin — a sliding door might help a home fly off the market 57 days faster and fetch a 13.4 percent higher price than homes without it. Scouring listing descriptions from 2.8 million condos and single-family homes sold all across the country between January 2014 and March 2016, the study’s authors marked keywords from “craftsman’’ to “solar panel.’’ They controlled for the size, age, and location of homes, comparing, for example listings of similarly aged and sized houses within the same county that included the keywords (“granite,’’ “crown molding’’) with those that didn’t. Then they created a statistical model to try to predict what a home with a pendant light or an outdoor kitchen might sell for, and how quickly, compared to homes without those attributes.

The Dreaded Home Inspection

The following is an excellent article by Boston Globe Correspondent and Real Estate Broker Marjorie Youngren.

The mere thought of a home inspection can cause anxiety in buyers and sellers. Although a buyer’s offer has been accepted, it is often contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection, keeping everyone on edge.

Consider this scenario: The seller has lived in his home for many years and doesn’t see anything wrong with it other than the fact that it’s, well, older. He’s “never had a problem.’’ The buyers, about to make the biggest purchase of their lives, want their new home to be perfect. The home inspector’s job is to pick the house apart and let his or her clients, the buyers, know what is wrong with it. Finally, there are two realtors with opposing interests, one representing the buyer and the other the seller, and both are trying to do the best by their clients. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it doesn’t have to be, as long as everyone has the proper expectations heading into the inspection.

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The buyers need to understand that a home inspection really is not meant to be used as a negotiating tool. It is to provide additional information about the home they are purchasing, a reference point. Good buyer’s agents will explain to their clients that in New England many properties are older and that reasonable wear and tear is expected — no home is perfect. The buyers should be concerned about health and safety issues that weren’t disclosed or observed before they made their offer.

Negotiable examples uncovered by an inspector could include things like mold; code violations, such as no fire door between the garage and interior of the home; or electrical issues, such as double-tapped circuit breakers. Issues like the last two could keep the owner from collecting insurance after a fire, so it would benefit the seller to address them. Usually, however, the seller prefers to issue the buyer a credit to cover the cost of the fix.

One way or the other, these are justifiable negotiations, and it is the responsibility of the seller’s agent to explain this. Conversely, items that are visible to the eye ¬— tired roofs and furnaces, wood rot, cracked tiles — are expected in older homes and not items for which a seller should have to compensate the buyer. They were already considered when the agent priced the home to sell.

Finally, in a seller’s market like this, with limited inventory and high demand, it behooves a buyer to have a home inspection prior to making an offer. Buyers should expect to be involved in multiple-offer situations on newly listed properties, and they need to do whatever they can to have theirs stand out. A pre-inspection enables the buyer to uncover issues ahead of time and put in an offer without including a home-inspection contingency.

The fewer conditions the sellers see, the more attractive the offer looks, and the more likely it is they will accept the offer.

If you are buying or selling you should have an attorney. Negotiations can get hairy at times. Call today for a free consultation. 781-924-5326.