There is still a lot of economic uncertainty across the country, and the globe, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every day seems to bring new bankruptcy and business closure announcements. Even if there were a miraculous turn-around in the second half of this year, our economy in Massachusetts has already lost a lot in 2020.
But how do things look in the long-term?
The chart below was compiled from Boston Business Journal data, identifying the 20 largest employers in Massachusetts. While this is just a snippet of the overall picture, it shows the diversity of our economy – a mix of health care, higher education, technology and other industries.
To be sure, some of the businesses on this list are facing challenges and others may join them as the pandemic wears on.
Some of the hardest hit industries nationwide have been the Accommodation and Food Services industry and the Retail Trade industry. According to a recent report by the Boston Planning & Development Agency, those industries made up only 8.0% and 4.6%, respectively, of the State’s total jobs. Here, as elsewhere, those industries will continue to face headwinds in the coming months. However, Boston – and Massachusetts – seem well-positioned to persevere.
From a real estate perspective, it is important to understand who these large employers are and how they are faring. News from these companies can impact the real estate market positively (growth/expansion means more jobs, commercial space occupied and generally more demand for housing) or negatively (layoffs/closures lead to fewer jobs, commercial space vacancy and negative pressure on the housing market).
I started a “small” decorating and renovation product at my home back in October 2019. The initial plan was to redo my dining room, and I hired an interior designer. What was originally just one room, morphed into the entire first floor, including the kitchen, living room, den, and front hall. What I found is that when you do one room over, it makes all the adjacent spaces look old and tired.
When I started this project, coronavirus wasn’t even a figment of my imagination, it was all but inconceivable. Fast forward to February 2020, and the pandemic began to wreak havoc on the construction process. My kitchen cabinet doors and drawers had all been removed to be sprayed (painted) off site when the painting contractor informed me that his painters no longer felt comfortable working at my house with the virus spreading. So I lived with my new “open concept” kitchen for several months, until they felt comfortable enough to return, wearing masks and socially distanced.
In these uncertain times, a home security system can enhance safety and peace of mind for urban residents. Since COVID-19, many city-dwellers are working from home and have groceries and packages delivered. A personalized security system enables residents to check what’s taking place in and around their property through surveillance cameras and smart phone communication, whether they are staying at home or monitoring from afar.
There are 2 general types of security systems for condos and apartments: wireless systems (DIY & unmonitored) and traditional (professionally monitored and hardwired). Here are some pros and cons of each:
1. Easy and fast install
2. Hooks up to smart phones for increased access and control
3. Portable security cameras and ability to see activity in your home from smart phone or tablet
4. Minimal equipment
5. Short contracts
1. Electro-magnetic interference from other devices make these systems less reliable and easier to get hacked
2. Battery operated
3. You’re on call
1. More reliable
2. Can be hidden in walls, ceilings and floors
3. Service company on call
1. Installation done by professional
2. More expensive
3. Long-term contracts, less flexibility
4. May require approval of condo association or landlord
As many offices have been closed for several months – and some expected to remain that way for the next several months – many workers have had to scramble to set up home offices. For many in Boston, where space is at a premium, that wasn’t part of the plan when they were searching for their homes. Here are a few useful tips we have seen/heard/implemented:
1. Find the Best Spot in Your Home
If you live in a “cozy” apartment, this can be a challenge. Sitting on your bed or on your couch is not ideal if you’re going to be working for an extended period. If you don’t have any room to spare, the dining table or breakfast bar may be best. Another good option can be a “corner desk”, which can work well in tight spaces.
2. Comfortable Seating
Unless you have a standing desk, we spend a lot of time sitting. Chairs in the office sometimes get a bad rap, but they tend to be relatively ergonomic. A good chair can be a solid investment.
3. Increase Internet Speed
Most of us weren’t planning to work from home full-time for an extended period. Especially if you share your home with others, there may not be enough bandwidth for everyone’s phones, tablets, laptops and TVs to all be running simultaneously – especially if people are streaming music or videos or videoconferencing.
4. Improve Lighting
Speaking of videoconferencing, lighting is an important consideration. Working in a dark corner might make the most sense space-wise, but if you’re going to be videoconferencing, then a small lamp should help ensure your colleagues and clients can see you. Unless you’re going for that doom-and-gloom vibe.
5. Set Up Your Workstation like Your Office
You’re at home… it doesn’t “feel” like the office. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can impact your ability to get into the type of rhythm that you can have while at your office. Organizing your work area with all of your necessary supplies nearby – and eliminating distractions (give Netflix the pleasure of being right that you are NOT still watching) – can help.
BONUS TIP: FIND A NEW HOME WITH YOUR IDEAL HOME-OFFICE SET-UP
It is looking increasingly likely that working from home will be part of the “new normal” for some time. More and more companies seem to be looking for ways to let employees work remotely. If the past few months have been a struggle to find space in your home to squeeze in a workspace, or perhaps your roommates are on different schedules which is creating other challenges, then maybe it’s time to explore options.
Whether you want to search for a new home to rent or search for a home to purchase with room for an office, we can help! Feel free to dive right in and look around. But you can also contact us and one of our experienced agents can help serve as your guide.
We are all adapting to a life of social distancing. While we are still open for business and able to help with your home search, we are all finding different ways to try to enjoy our non-working time. We thought it would be fun to share some of our ideas and thoughts:
Staying in Shape with Live Stream Fitness Classes – Suzanne Conway
Do you find yourself day-dreaming about all the things you will do once the “stay at home” order is lifted? I am! And they are 2 contradictory activities that I obsess about daily. First, is indulging in a gluttonous carb and fat loaded brunch at Highland Kitchen in the form of pancakes, cheesy grits, bacon and biscuits. Second, pedaling manically at TurnStyle Spinning with earsplitting music booming in a dark studio and an instructor motivating me to increase the tension.
To quell these obsessions, I am making pancakes that pale in flavor and fluffiness to Highland Kitchen’s pancakes and not even attempting to duplicate the biscuits. However, I can get sweaty and winded with some virtual classes and so can you! Let’s keep healthy and sane while supporting our favorite fitness studios.
Virtual Live Streaming Classes:
Turnstyle Cycle and Bootcamp: www.turnstylecycle.com/schedule-live-streaming
Boston Yoga Union: www.ompractice.com/studios/bostonyogaunion/
The Bar Method: https://barmethod.com/bar-online/
Barry’s Bootcamp: https://www.barrys.com/schedule/#/week
Back Bay Boxing: https://www.backbayboxing.com
South Boston Yoga: https://www.southbostonyoga.net
Unexpectedly Entertaining a Returning College Student – Janet Daly
Yes, I have binge-watched Tiger King(!), have had to adjust my schedule to late sleepers (and LATE to bed), have paid them to paint bedrooms, helped with cancelling plans for Semester Abroad, and most importantly, tried to help with navigating through the disappointments and feelings about having their independent lives suddenly turned upside down. Silver lining: being grateful for Pre-Corona, normal lives! We will get through this!
Exploring as a Way to Get Fresh Air – Paula Luccio
Explore a new neighborhood! Now is the time to get out here and look around. There is no traffic, plenty of parking, and time on your side to investigate all of the wonderful areas around Boston that deserve a look. Recently I found an interesting table and chairs made of rocks behind the Spaulding Rehab Hospital in Charlestown and the largest in the world saw used in boat making. It is amazing what you learn when you have time to read the signs! There is fishing allowed and a beautiful rock garden with sea life sculptures. Look around and enjoy while you are able!
Ideas for Shows to Watch– Mike Schwartz
Tiger King (Netflix) (Because everyone else is doing it)
Better Call Saul (AMC/Netflix)
This is Us (NBC)
Law and Order SVU (NBC/Peacock/Hulu)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO/Hulu)
Older, but Still Great:
The Office (Peacock/Netflix)
Sopranos (HBO and various streaming services)
The Wire (HBO)
Modern Family (ABC/Hulu)
Breaking Bad (Netflix)
Sons of Anarchy (Hulu)
Cooking at Home – Iana Ulianova
Cooking at home can be a fun (and healthy) activity while you are spending most of your time at home. Try making these popular dishes yourself, or explore different cuisines to find something new to try.
Mexican (Tacos): https://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/best-chorizo-tacos-recipe/
Korean (Bibimbap): https://www.maangchi.com/recipe/bibimbap
Chinese (Kung Pao Chicken): https://www.chinasichuanfood.com/kung-pao-chicken/
Italian (Homemade Fresh Pasta): https://www.recipesfromitaly.com/make-italian-homemade-pasta/
Russian (Borsch with beef or vegetarian): https://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/summer-favorites/borsch/
Haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while? Try recipes with 5 ingredients or fewer: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipes/16397/everyday-cooking/more-meal-ideas/5-ingredients/?page=2
Farming at Home – Andrew Bemben
If you had a ‘Green Thumb’ itch leading up to the Spring of 2020, I’m sure it is a burning fire inside you now! With today’s circumstances and the “Stay at Home Order” being extended until May 18th, I’m sure many of you are itching to get your hands dirty while having a sustainable fresh produce supply! Also, I am sure you want to keep your distance going to the grocery store, until you absolutely have to! Here are a few indoor/outdoor garden plants that will make you have the excitement of saying: “The fruits of my own labor”!
1) Cherry Tomatoes - These plants are very easy to grow/maintain. Whether you’re growing them indoors or outdoors, just make sure that they have a good area where light or sun hits them about 7-9 hours per day. Water every day until the top soil is moist, but do not overwater. It will take 60-80 days to have a mature cherry tomato plant. Watch this plant take shape and pick the fruits of your own labor as you please to just pop in your mouth or make a Caprese.
2) Cucumber Plants - These plants need a little space between each other, a trellis or have them in a hanging pot. You will notice that these plants are vigorous growers that really branch out! Cucumber plants need about 8-10 hours of sun or light per day, with about 1-2 inches of water per week (once/twice per day). You will start to notice these vegetables mature within 50-70 days. Always great to make pickles, put in a salad or eat them plain with salt/pepper.
3) Jalapeño Pepper Plants - These plants also need a bit of space as they grow very high (2-3 ft.). Jalapeño plants also love the sun (10-12 hours), so be sure that they are in a sunny area or under light for the majority of the day. These plants also need a good amount of water, so check soil moisture often. Water about 3-5 times per week. You will notice that these vegetables will be ready to harvest within 60-80 days and that colors range from green, red to orange. Always great to add a little heat to your favorite dish or make salsa.
Not only will you have fresh produce but by growing your own plants, you might make this into a new hobby!
How To Entertain Two Young Kids While Trapped at Home – Eric Shabshelowitz
“School’s out for Summer… School’s out forever…”. Those lyrics were magical when I was young, but devastating when coming from the Governor’s mouth earlier this month (even if that wasn’t exactly the way he said it). We have two kids under the age of 5 at home and this past month and a half of imprisonment – I mean, social distancing – has them stir-crazy. Some of the things that have helped us get by:
Disney+: Both a blessing, and a curse. There is an enormous library of Disney movies to choose from. But my kids just want to watch Frozen 2. Every. Single. Day.
Obstacle Courses: Cushions, pillows, chairs, blankets, rope/string. We have learned that anything and everything can be transformed into an obstacle course, indoors or out. Great for getting them some physical activity and offering parents the chance to exert their athletic dominance over their offspring.
Hide-and-Seek: Teaches problem-solving, let’s them explore, and can buy a few minutes of solitude if you can find a really good hiding spot.
Other notables: Cardboard boxes, puzzles, FaceTime with Grandparents.
Please, please, please send me any other ideas! Please!
Playing Games at Home – Carol Korbman
During quarantine, I have been very lucky to been able to spend time with my adult kids and partner at home and have lots of fun playing many different games. If you are looking for a 2-person, simple game, Gin Rummy is the easiest one to play. The only thing you need is one deck of cards, you can play a few quick rounds or you can play for hours, the game moves very fast and keeps you entertained. Looking for a game that will take 20-30 minutes? Qwirkle is our favorite. It can get very competitive and you really need to think to get the most points to win. Our all-time favorite board game is Catan; love the strategy involved and every game can be very different. It can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours; the more you play the better you get at it. In the last few days, we have been experimenting with playing with extended family over the internet. So far, we love playing skribbl.io, a drawing and guessing game. Another application that we like is houseparty, it has 3 or 4 different fun games that you can play remotely. It is great to laugh at home or over the internet with people you love playing all these silly games.
Some Favorite Take Out/Delivery Options – Shelagh Brennan
Are you tired of cooking? If you are missing dining out, these local favorite restaurants offer take out/delivery options (some favorite options from each are included in parentheses).
La Voile - www.lavoilerestaurants.com - Back Bay, Brookline (foie gras)
Mistral - www.mistralbistro.com - Back Bay (thin crust pizza)
Select Oyster Bar - www.selectoyster.com - Back Bay (Duxbury oysters)
Trident Cafe - www.tridentbookscafe.com - Back Bay (books delivered too)
The Butcher Shop - www.thebutchershopboston.com - South End (Lasagna Bolognese)
Myers & Chang - www.meyersandchang.com - South End (wok-charred udon noodles)
Toro - www.toro-restaurant.com - South End (quesos)
At-Home Exercise Routine – Jack Lavanchy
Just because you can’t go out doesn’t mean you can’t work out. Exercise is especially important in this current environment. With all of us stuck inside and not being able to follow our regular routines, it can be easy to get into bad habits. The key is to make time every day and do something to keep moving. Not only are there physical benefits, but mental ones as well. Sound body, sound mind, right?
I’ve created a workout circuit anyone will be able to do and you won’t even need equipment!
Pick four exercises of your choice and repeat in order four times with 2 minutes of rest in between each round. Slowly increase reps or number of rounds as the exercises become easier.
*20 Second Plank
*10 Pushups (Keep knees on ground if too difficult)
*20 Seconds of Mountain Climbers
*15 Air Squats
*10 Lunges (Each Leg)
*20 Seconds of Jumping Jacks
If you’re just getting started, do the circuit one time for a few days. Once you get used to it, try to go through the circuit twice and keep adding until you can get through it four times. You will feel better and have a better outlook on things too!
Which Wine is Best During the Coronavirus Quarantine – Joseph Palermino
As an avid wine aficionado, I have been asked which wine, of the more than 250,000 wines in the world, is best during this corona crisis. Picking one wine out of a quarter of a million isn’t easy. Easier to pick an excellent real estate acquisition in Boston, at least statistically. However, one wine does seem to be the only choice in these difficult and uncommon times. That wine is champagne. It’s production methods and fermentations are unique and extremely complicated. How else would one get all of those lovely bubbles? But that is not the reason I chose champagne. Champagne is surely the most celebratory wine. It is widely consumed on a myriad of festive occasions. And that is why I pick champagne. During these difficult times we need to celebrate and appreciate the best things and people in our lives—past, present and future. Be positive and toast to a future of hope, love, peace and prosperity. Champagne is a most noble companion on our future journey!
As we know, many COVID-19 patients end up alone and isolated, without their phones in the hospital. In extreme circumstances, they’re unable to see or say "goodbye" to loved ones due to prohibitions on hospital visitors.
Medical professionals, dedicated to supporting their patients are offering their own phones so that ICU patients can connect with family members, adding additional pressure and unanticipated risk to already strained health providers.
Two local residents, one of whom, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts, are spearheading an effort to collect and donate these devices to area hospitals. There's a collection site in Newton Centre which allows for a safe “physically distanced” drop-off or a volunteer can provide pick up. Cabot & Company is also acting as a collection site - we are accepted devices Monday-Friday from 9am-3pm. Devices should have a camera, charger and all personal information removed and deleted from your iCloud account. Extra chargers are also needed and welcome.
Because this effort is organized by individuals, and not a non profit, we are unable to provide a tax receipt for your donation however any donation is greatly appreciated!
For more information about readying your device for donation, please email email@example.com.
To view recent media coverage about this collection effort:
The COVID-19 pandemic has had, and will continue to have, a major impact on Boston's real estate market. Many different factors are at play. Most of the effects are having negative impacts on the market, such as increased unemployment in certain industries, slowed/stopped construction and widespread uncertainty about how much damage the pandemic will inflict on the economy and how long it will list. However, there are also a few side effects having a positive impact, such as the lowering of interest rates.
The impact of this pandemic is only just starting to be felt. Looking at Boston's condo market, in the first quarter of this year, we actually saw more closed sales and more condos go under agreement this year than last year. However, we saw fewer listings come on the market.
While the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Boston was made on February 1st, many of the office/business closures and government-ordered restrictions did not come into place until March. In the beginning of March, in fact, the Boston condo market seemed to be performing very well and we actually saw more new listings come on the market than over the same period year. However, that quickly changed.
Looking at some major milestones in the month of March (see chart below), we get a better picture behind the slow-down.
Currently, open houses are essentially prohibited due to the restrictions against public gatherings. Showings in and of themselves are also challenging, if not impossible, given the circumstances. Based on the slow down of new listings, and the challenges involved with showing the units there are on the market, we expect that the number of new units that go under agreement and the number of closed sales in the second quarter of the year to be lower than in last year's second quarter.
It is too early to tell though where we will see sale prices trend. Certainly, as mentioned above, there are negative effects on the real estate market due to the epidemic, including that many businesses are closed which has severely increased the unemployment rate and forced others to accept pay decreases; the stock market has gone down substantially and some people that may have had their "down payment" funds in stocks saw those funds shrink; and there is continued uncertainty about the impact this pandemic will have on the economy and for how long.
However, certain effects are pushing in the opposite direction. For instance, interest rates are extremely low, which presents favorable financing opportunities; while it is only temporary, the construction work-stoppages are further slowing the delivery of much needed additional supply of housing units; and some of the industries that comprise Boston's workforce may not be impacted as greatly by job and profit losses, which may insulate Boston more than some other parts of the country, as the medical, pharmaceutical, biotech and technology industries are all being called upon to help steer us through this pandemic.
It is also too early to tell what the second half to the year will bring. We have clients that were planning to bring their properties to market this Spring, but have decided to hold off until the COVID-19 concerns subside. We may see volume in the Summer and Fall this year turn out to be higher than in years past.
As always, we will continue to watch and monitor the market. Please reach out to us with any questions you may have on the market or if you have a property you plan to sell and want to discuss timing strategy.
These days it feels that life has been put on hold, as a lot of things we used to do are restricted or stopped altogether. That being said, people still have to move, and we are hearing daily from prospective buyers, sellers and renters.
Real estate agents, and the real estate industry as a whole, is adapting quickly to what is going on in the world and people's lives, and we are here to help. In an era of social distancing, here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a home:
1. Video Tours. Video tours are available for many properties, especially Cabot & Company's exclusive listings. Thanks to our agents and tenants, we have compiled a database of videos for the majority of our available apartments.
2. Experienced Agents. Our agents know our exclusively listed properties inside-out. At a time when it is important to carefully evaluate a property before scheduling an in person viewing, it is important to work with someone that knows the apartment and has personally seen it. For our exclusive listings, we have seen and rented them multiple times, so call your agent with questions.
3. Further Evaluating Occupied Apartments. Given the current circumstances, it is difficult to visit occupied apartments. Agents, tenants and landlords are all trying to be safe and responsible. At Cabot & Company, we are endeavoring to practice social distancing. Most current tenants are understanding of the circumstances and are happy to assist us in answering your questions and sending additional photos or videos.
4. Visiting a Vacant Apartment. We are doing our best to help you screen properties before scheduling a tour. Ask for a video first. Still interested and want to view it in person? Be prepared for the following:
- You may be asked whether you have traveled recently, or have any reason to believe you have been exposed or are exhibiting CODIV-19 symptoms.
- You may be asked to use hand sanitizer before and during the tour, and wear gloves and a mask/face covering.
- You will likely be asked not to touch anything. Many agents are turning on all lights and opening all doors and closets ahead of time.
- Any showings are encouraged to be prompt. Take a quick look around, and then discuss any questions outside. Your agent will also be happy to answer follow up questions via email or on a phone call.
This is a challenging time, but it does not mean your home search needs to be put on hold. We are all working to navigate through the COVID-19 outbreak together. Do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or suggestions on how we can further help with you house hunting.
With spring approaching everyone is looking for fun activities to do in the city. Boston has over 60 different museums that fit a variety of interests. From modern art museums, to historical museums, to a world famous science museum, and everything in between, Boston truly has a rich and cultured range of museums. Here is a list of some of them:
- Museum of Science - www.mos.org
- Boston Children’s Museum - www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org
- New England Aquarium - www.neaq.org
Museum of Fine Arts - www.mfa.org
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum - www.gardnermuseum.org
Institute of Contemporary Art - www.icaboston.org
Harvard Art Museum - www.harvardartmuseums.org
- USS Constitution - ussconstitutionmuseum.org
- Harvard Museum of Natural History - www.hmnh.harvard.edu
- The Paul Revere House - www.paulreverehouse.org
- JFK Library Museum - www.jfklibrary.org
- Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum - www.bostonteapartyship.com
- The Mapparium - www.mbelibrary.org
- Old State House - www.bostonhistory.org
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