Sales

How is COVID-19 Impacting Boston's Real Estate Market?

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.

 

 

Home Search During COVID-19 Outbreak

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.

 

 

 

Green Thumb or Not? Low Maintenance House Plants

As we are moving past this mild Winter and quickly approaching Spring, many of you are in the green thumb mode and in need to re-amp or add to your indoor vegetation.  Maybe you once had an indoor plant and you noticed within the week that it turned into a bone-dry, wilted mess.  Or maybe you’ve never owned an indoor plant because you aren’t sure if you can keep it alive.  Don’t beat yourself up!  Like a pet, knowing the care for your houseplants starts with finding the right one for you and your schedule.  You may need an indoor plant that can live through your busy work schedule or a houseplant that can survive a week while you are on vacation, greeting you when you get home.  Here are a few plants that are low maintenance and that can instantly add vibrancy and color to your living space.


1)  Spider Plant
This plant thrives in the sun/well-lit areas.  Water every 2-6 weeks or when the top 2-inches of soil is dry.  Be careful not to over water as this can cause root rot.  This plant likes temperatures between 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
 


 


 

2)  Aloe Vera
This plant likes light, but not direct sunlight.  Water every 1-2 weeks and maybe once every 2 months in the Winter.  You want to make sure the soil is almost completely dry before re-watering.  This plant likes temperatures between 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit.


 

3)  Jade Plant "Shrek Ears"
This plant likes indirect sunlight.  Like the Aloe Vera, only water this plant when the soil is almost completely dry or every 1-3 weeks.  This plant likes temperatures between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. 
 

4)  Succulents
Succulents like lower amounts of sunlight, maybe 3 hours per day.  These plants like water at least once a week.  Temperatures between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit is the best for this houseplant.
 



5)  Dragon Tree

This tree needs very little to no sunlight.  It can also thrive in filtered light conditions.  60-85 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for this low maintenance plant.  Just watch the soil of this tree and keep it moist.  Needs water maybe twice per month.


 


 

Not only do houseplants add vibrancy and color to your home or apartment, but study after study shows that plants (in our living or office environment) can improve our overall well-being, making us feel better.  These plants can also take out toxins from the air we breathe.  We are less stressed, more productive/creative when we share our living space with a simple, low maintenance houseplant.

 

 

Riding the Seaport "Wave"

The Seaport District has seen tremendous growth and opportunity over the past five years, and its known as one of Boston’s fastest growing neighborhoods.  Those that purchased a condo here a few years ago have seen a large increase in their investment – the average condo sale price has increased over 133% since 2015.  
 


Data Source: MLS Property Information Network, Inc.


Nearby neighborhoods such as South Boston, Dorchester and Quincy have seen a lot of transformation over the past few years as well.  New developments and condo conversions in these neighborhoods, as well as the arrival of trendy restaurants and bars, have attracted buyers.  They have not yet seen the same amount of growth as the Seaport, but they seem poised to ride this Seaport “wave” and increase in value as well.  

 

 

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Why You Should Hire an Interior Designer

Deciding to hire an interior designer can not only increase the value of your home, but can also help you avoid some costly mistakes. Interior design is a crucial component when selling your home; it can boost buyer appeal, which can increase the value of your home.

If you’ve invested a good deal of money in your home, you will want to showcase it to look its best to prospective buyers. A designer offers a fresh set of eyes, trained to see things that you may not. In addition, professional designers have expertise in budgeting and planning, plus they bring an extensive list of resources for your renovation. They are invaluable in saving clients in time and headaches, identifying reliable contractors, plumbers, and electricians for their projects.

Lastly, a designer can offer you the “wow” factor. They can offer something outside of the box, that you would never think of, as a result of their trained eye and years of experience.

 

 

 

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First Look at Final 2019 Condo Sales Data

Happy New Year!  We are still digesting all of the data, but here is a quick look at how Boston’s condo market performed in 2019.  Looking at a sample of neighborhoods, average condo sales prices per square foot were slightly below 2018 levels in a number of them.  There are certainly areas that experienced growth - for instance, the average condo sale price per square foot in Jamaica Plain was up 2.5% in 2019.  At $536.38 per square foot, the average condo sale price in Jamaica Plain is still half as much as Beacon Hill ($1,212.32/SF), Back Bay ($1,247.61) and South End ($1,030.86).
 


Source: Based on data compiled by MLS Property Information Network, Inc.

 

The number of sale transactions was lower in many neighborhoods.  The number of condo sales in South Boston was down 14%, but South Boston still saw more sales than many other neighborhoods.
 


Source: Based on data compiled by MLS Property Information Network, Inc.

 

Check back with us!  We continuously review data to help identify trends and potential opportunities!

 

 

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Jamaica Plain: Market Update

Jamaica Plain is one of the fastest growing real estate markets in Greater Boston. Diverse, vibrant, and centrally located, it is highly sought after among buyers - investors and owner occupants alike. JP is an easy commute for those working in the center of Boston, and is more affordable than neighborhoods like Back Bay or South End.

Based on data from MLS, over the past five years, the average condo sale price per square foot in Jamaica Plain has increased from $428.91 in 2015 to $543.90 in 2019. So far this year, the average condo sale price is closing at 101.79% of the asking price, compared to 103.79% of the asking price as of the same date in 2015. In other words, not only are the average sale prices per square foot higher, but also condos are still selling for "over asking".
 


Source: MLS Property Information Network, Inc.

 

Curious about what's on the market in Jamaica Plain?  Click here to start your search.

 

 

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Art in the House

The whole culture is telling you to hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Always listen to the art.
- Junot Diaz
 

Art enhances the home.

In today’s modern world, an environment adorned with art provides a quiet respite from the busyness of everyday life. Additionally, artwork has a huge impact on our moods and emotions and makes us feel calmer, happier, and inspired. It is cognitively proven that art in the home helps develop a child’s mental and social skills by boosting their ability to analyze and solve problems, improve motor skills and gain a sense of color. Studies show patients recovering from an operation have a faster recovery when surrounded by visual and audio artifacts (music) which uplift the human spirit and create positive energy. Art affects the fundamental sense of self and conveys a visual narrative about the life, childhood, family and interests of the owner.

From a design and value perspective, art is the best way to add personality, color and a focal point to a space. Interiors come alive with beautiful paintings, sculptures and photographs. The Penthouse at 89 Beacon Street, Beacon Hill is a great example of how a new construction condo with bare walls became a finished space with a beautiful balance, scale and texture. 

Galerie D’Orsay of Boston provided works of the masters including Picasso, Dali, Matisse  as well as contemporary artists Gove, Buist, Roblin and Zupan. The result is a gorgeous harmony of art, interior design and architecture which shows off the lifestyle of the home’s modern classic design, finishes and neighborhood.


Art turns a house into a home. It is an element of ourselves that we can project onto our walls and into our spaces.
- Ben Flyte, Galerie D’Orsay Boston 

 

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Buying a Condo as an Investment: How Many Bedrooms is Best?

For some real estate investors, residential condominiums are the preferred type of investment property.  Some benefits include that condos typically are less expensive than whole buildings and there are fewer management responsibilities because condo associations typically handle day-to-day operational issues like snow removal.

But, how many bedrooms is the ideal size to buy as an investment property?

As always, the answer is “it depends”.  Some investors take a philosophical approach – for instance, some investors prefer 3 bedroom apartments since there has been increasing willingness for co-living arrangements, particularly because it tends to be much cheaper for renters to live with roommates in Boston.  Others focus more on economics and might prefer the smallest possible units to try to maximize their rent per square foot.
 


Source: CoStar Multi-Family Market Report, Boston-MA, dated 11/12/2019



Source: CoStar Multi-Family Market Report, Boston-MA, dated 11/12/2019



Source: LINK Boston Quarterly Sales Summary, Third Quarter 2019, Citywide Report


The data shows that the ideal condo size for YOU will depend on your investment goals and criteria.  Larger apartments (2-3 bedrooms) have shown a lower vacancy rate than smaller apartments over the past few years.  Rents are higher for larger apartments as well, but of course purchase prices and expenses will be higher.

If you have questions about buying a condo as an investment, don’t hesitate to contact us.  We would be happy to share more specific market reports and data.  We also provide free consultations to real estate investors to review investment goals and when ready, help find the best opportunities for you!

 

 

Boston Bound Student? It's College Tour Season!

Guest Blogger: Nathan Hartseil of First Home Mortgage

Got a College Student in Boston?
Rent costs have you doing a double take?
What if you bought a condo instead?

Many folks are incredulous when I tell them that they are able to purchase a single unit (condo, townhouse, single family) residence for their child here in Boston at the same “market best” terms that they might get themselves – and that these loans are available with as little as 3.5% down, up to the generous local limit of $688,850 (as of this writing, October 2019).

Perhaps your student works, but doesn’t make enough to support the unit on their own?

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration all allow a parent to “cosign” the mortgage – combining the income, assets, and qualifiers of both the student and the parent or family member on the mortgage application.

Perhaps your student is just starting out on their own, and you plan to visit often? Purchasing a “second” or “occasional” home in Boston, even without their help -  just 10% down assures that your student has a place to call home, and that you will always be able visit.

As long as your student (or parent, or disabled relative of any age) occupies the home as their primary residence for 1 full year, there are no restrictions (on the mortgage side) on roommates, future rentals, or any other customary uses…. A property that serves as a college home base can easily be converted to an income producing investment upon graduation.

What might this look like?

As of this publication, 30 year fixed rates are in the 3s-4s.  A 3-bedroom condo directly on the Green Line off student centric Commonwealth Avenue is currently available for $500,000.  Presuming a 760 credit score and a 5% down payment, Apr 4.05%:

Principal and interest: $2,268
Property Taxes: $268*
Condo Fees: $340
Mortgage Insurance: $100
Homeowner’s Insurance: $50-100

Total monthly expense: Around $3000

(*Boston also offers discounted taxes to primary residents, which will further reduce this expense by about $200, under the Property Tax Exemption Personal Exemption.)

With 2 paying roommates, your student’s expenses on monthly housing could be substantially reduced, while building equity to realize upon graduation.  If Boston’s popularity and average rents are any indication, holding the property as a rental could prove lucrative as well.

Ready to dive in to a search? Click here to get started. Or contact Cabot & Company to connect with an experienced agent to help guide you.

 

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