A new school is here and that means everyone is already talking about the latest rankings.
Parents, teachers and students know that school rankings need to be taken with a grain of salt. Each ranking system uses a different methodology and emphasizes certain factors over others and none can communicate things like individual experiences, special services, facilities, or extracurricular activities.
Case in point: four different ranking sites, four different number one schools:
All of the above are focused on public schools but do include charter schools, which can be an important consideration for families moving to the area. Charter schools are usually available to students in several nearby towns based and base admissions on a combination of application, eligibility and lottery.
All of these well-publicized school ratings are certainly not the whole picture but can be a starting point for more research and conversations with local families and administrators.
Whether a potential buyer will have children in the local school system or not, it is important to at least take school ratings into consideration for a real estate purchase. Districts do move up and down in the rankings over the years but those districts (rather than individual schools) that are consistently towards the top of the list tend to benefit from better-appreciating real estate markets than others.
A Realtor.com study done in 2016 found that homes in districts rated as a 9 or 10 by greatschools.org were an average of 49% more expensive than those rated a as 6 or less. Of course, property taxes and consequently school spending tend to be higher in these areas also which provides the public schools with more resources to be successful.
Public school quality is just one factor of many including home price, commute, community, etc that buyers have to weigh as part of the whole picture and most home buyers have to prioritize their non-negotiables.
Luckily, regardless of which town you choose, there are no wrong choices; Massachusetts is fortunate to have, as a state, the highest rated public schools in the country
In a strong sellers' market it can be tempting for homeowners and investors (and, unfortunately, a few agents) to skip going the extra mile in preparing a home for sale. After all, the home will likely get offers with or without things like staging, professional photos and a strategic marketing plan. The difference, though is in how strong those offers are and how quickly they come in. That difference can equate to tens of thousands of dollars and more.
Buyers tend to develop feelings for a property, either positive or negative, very quickly after seeing the first photos or stepping through the front door. The way a home is styled and furnished has a huge impact on this first reaction, and ultimately the offers that buyers will make.
With an occupied or already furnished home, a professional home stager or knowledgeable seller's agent can provide the owner with room-by-room suggestions on exactly what to clear out, rearrange, and specific items to add. Cleaning and decluttering alone makes a major difference but it's almost always worth going a step further and making some minimal investments in a few key up-to-date accent items in the right places or repainting a certain room in a more neutral color.
Vacant properties can see an even more substantial impact on the bottom line when they're at least partially staged. We recommend staging at least a living room, dining room and primary bedroom and adding a few accessories or accent pieces to the kitchen and bathrooms. Good agents will have recommendations for home stagers who can supply and install everything needed and remove it in time for closing. Some investors choose to purchase inexpensive furniture and resell it just before closing or offer it to the buyers of the home. Others, especially those who build or renovate several properties per year, find that it's worth keeping their own inventory of staging supplies. This of course does require some design expertise and knowledge of current trends.
The investment in staging (usually between $1,000-$7,000) can really pay off. According to research by the IAHSP, staged properties sell between 5-11 times faster than others. Not only is a faster sale far less stressful for sellers than spending months on the market, early offers tend to be much higher in price than those that come in after a property has been listed for a while. An NAR study found that staging equated to a 1-5% increase in sales price; definitely a solid return on investment.
Interest rates are up almost 2% since their lows in January and are expected to increase more over the coming months. Inflation is still at record levels and stock prices have dropped substantially. With all of these variables on a national level, what does this mean for our local housing market?
Those of us who stay consistently active week to week are noticing slight differences in buyer behavior but not in sale prices. As of the end of June, prices of condos and single family homes in the Greater Boston coverage area were up 3% from May and 10.3% from June 2021 so data still reflects record high prices and strong buyer demand. Looking at just the Metro West region within Greater Boston, price increases were even higher at 12.6% from May and 23.4% from June 2021.
Because inventory has remained low and incomes locally are quite high, only a small section of the potential buyer pool has seen enough of an impact on their purchasing power to delay their search, while plenty of others haven't been deterred. This has resulted in sustained high levels of demand over the last few years.
The resulting shift is that multiple offers now more often means three or four rather than a dozen plus and with that decrease in competition, buyer concessions like no-cost seller lease-backs and waiving all contingencies are becoming less frequent. The good news here is a bit more balance for both sides; sellers are still able to benefit from high sale prices while buyers are more likely to be able to move forward on their first choice home rather than writing offers every week for months on end.
Of course, the big question left is what might happen moving forward. Based on data and what we've seen so far, it seems that another significant rate increase would begin to have more of an impact on prices, even if that only means slower appreciation. The important thing to remember is that there are opportunities in any market and markets are very hard to time successfully. Instead of timing, focusing on the costs and benefits of a specific property, its valuation, looking at a variety of financing options, and determining how long it would (or could) be held will help to reach the right decision in making a purchase or choosing to sell to move on to another opportunity.
Data from the Greater Boston Real Estate Board.
Usually the very first impression would-be buyers have of a house, before they get inside, before they drive by and before they even read listing details is from one photo of the exterior. And if your agent is doing their job, this will be a professional high definition, wide angle photo showcasing every detail of the property. Not only will this first impression make or break whether buyers decide to find out more about the house, it sets the tone for how they're going to feel about it once they get there.
As sellers you want that initial peek of the house to draw people in and have them ready to write a competitive offer. The good news is that boosting curb appeal can be incredibly easy and inexpensive (think hundreds, not thousands) and will provide a huge return on investment. Here are our must-dos for seller clients:
These quick improvements will make your home stand out in pictures and in person, equating to a faster and higher priced sale.
We all tend to be weary of commitment so plenty of homebuyers and agents alike can be hesitant to discuss an agency agreement, often until it's too late. But having a mutually beneficial agreement in place early in the process is valuable to both the client and the agent, for several reasons.
For the homebuyer, a buyer agency agreement ensures that your agent is working on your behalf and will have your best interests in mind throughout the process. Since your agent is the person is advising you on one of the largest purchases you'll ever make, it's important to make sure that they're committed to you from the beginning. It confirms that the agent has no incentive to sell you any one property over another and means that any and all off-market properties can be considered as potential options. The agreement will spell out what you can expect from your agent and any compensation that would be expected to come from you as the client in the event that some or all of the amount due is not being offered by a seller or seller's agent. Understanding the structure of your relationship with your agent from the very beginning makes for a much more straightforward process.
For agents, presenting new clients with a buyer agency agreement when you first begin discussing their home search will ensure that your clients are as committed to working with you as you are to them. Sometimes just having a conversation about the agreement is helpful in determining whether the client and agent are the right fit for one another. It also will allow you to search for and present off-market and for sale by owner properties without having to address how - or if - you'll be compensated for your work. And, having the agreement in place gives you the opportunity to educate your clients on the services you offer, and allows you to outline expectations for them so that everyone is on the same page and can anticipate clear communication throughout their homebuying journey.
After all, very few people enter into a working relationship with an attorney, financial advisor or other professional without having some sort of agreement in place outlining what each party can expect from the other. Real estate should be no different.
How Not to End Up Homeless After Selling a Home in a Sellers' Market
The competition for available homes on the market in the Greater Boston area (and across the country) has never been higher. What this means for lots of would-be sellers is that they're faced with the very real possibility of selling their current home without having found a new one. This is not a position anyone wants to be in, and luckily there are ways around it.
Because demand from homebuyers is so high, sellers are in an excellent position to dictate the terms they want. What many don't realize is that this goes beyond simply suggesting an offer that comes in at a great price. A good seller's agent will guide potential buyers to draft an offer that's both strong in price and terms that allow the sellers some time and flexibility in figuring out their next steps.
One strategy is to sell subject to sellers finding suitable housing. In a seller's market, it is MUCH better to ask buyers for this accommodation than vice versa. Making an offer on a new home subject to a home sale contingency is very likely to go nowhere in this type of market. However buyers, especially those who are currently renting or have flexibility in their closing timeline, are often very willing to move forward with a purchase knowing that it may take some time before closing for the sellers to get an offer accepted on a new home.
A second option that can be more appealing to buyers since it allows them to close and lock in an interest rate sooner is to request that they lease the house back to the sellers for a period of time after closing. While this does come with an eventual end date it can often give sellers 60-90 days between the offer and closing plus the agreed upon lease period which is often up to 60 days after closing. Having this 4-5 month cushion plus the advantage of having the proceeds from the sale in hand before closing on the new house can make a huge difference in having both the time and budget to close on the new home.
With careful planning and strategies like these it is entirely possible for homeowners to take advantage of high sale prices while minimizing the risk of not finding a new home. As with any major transaction, it is always important to discuss pros and cons with your agent before moving forward.
With extremely low inventory levels in early 2022 (just take a look in changes in inventory for both condos and single family homes in Massachusetts) and slight increases in interest rates doing little to dampen record levels of buyer demand, getting an offer accepted in the Greater Boston market is no easy feat.
Over the last year our agents have seen multiple offer situations where the winning bid has included terms like free lease-back periods for the seller, all expense paid vacations, uncapped escalation clauses and of course waiving all contingencies. The good news is that there are ways to get an offer accepted that don't involve selling your firstborn child. Here are 7 of our favorite strategies, but it's always important to discuss the details of any terms you're considering with your agent:
Home inspections done by a thorough, knowledgeable inspector can be an essential educational component of purchasing a home and protect buyers against many - not all - unexpected issues that might come up. In Massachusetts, much of our housing inventory is made up of older homes so bringing in an expert who is familiar with how things were built during different decades, how they age and the nature of our climate's effect on a house can provide a wealth of information. We often get questions from both buyers and sellers about what to expect during a home inspection:
The right staging and presentation can make at least tens of thousands of dollars difference in a home's sale price. Even in a seller's market it's important to focus on cost-effective ways to showcase a property in it's best light, which brings us to tip number 1:
Just how long will it take to be moved into that new home? Plenty of first time buyers and those who haven't been in the market for a long time aren't exactly sure what to expect.
Closing timelines vary based on the needs of the buyer and seller in a specific transaction; we've seen everything from a week for a cash purchase with extremely fast title work to 8 months. Generally though in Massachusetts we see closings between 30-90 days.
For financed properties, most lenders will need at least a month to get through the necessary steps to underwrite a loan.
Between the time an offer is made and closing day there are several key stages, some of which are simplified in the event of a cash or otherwise non-contingent purchase.
The following is an example of what we commonly (but certainly not always) see in the Greater Boston market based on a 45 day closing timeline of a typical financed purchase with inspection contingency:
Day 1: Offer acceptance and earnest money deposit
Day 7: Inspection deadline
Day 10: Purchase and sale agreement and deposit (not to be confused with down payment)
Day 12: Complete loan application deadline
Day 30: Mortgage commitment
Day 44: Final walk-through
Day 45: Closing day (sometimes the property isn't "on record" until the following day so best to plan moving trucks for Day 46)
Your Realtor's job is to make sure that everything - and everyone including inspectors, lenders, appraisers, attorneys, and cooperating agents - stays on track so expect that they'll be working behind the scenes throughout the process and to be in close contact as each deadline approaches.