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Empty Nesters Transitioning

As many of our generation turn into “empty nesters” or are otherwise transitioning from the suburbs to the city, or from the city to their country house…there are all sorts of new dynamics affecting those plans. Good post from Scott below.

Empty nesters struggling to land

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis

There’s good news if you are nearing retirement and want to downsize. You can sell your home now, and, if you are lucky enough to live in an upscale suburb like a Belmont or a Newton, you might be able to find a buyer within a week or two.

The bad news? After selling the big and now empty house you have painfully resolved to say goodbye to, finding that downtown condo or one-floor ranch you have been yearning for may not be all that easy.

In fact, if you want what you want, you could end up paying more to downsize.

Here’s a piece I wrote for the Globe West looking at three pairs of empty nesters. Two managed to land, while the third, in Lexington, is still weighing their options.

They are the lucky ones. Downtown Boston condo prices are soaring, while those modest ranches and other smaller homes in the suburbs are already being fiercely fought over by young families looking for the first house. (Of course, the number of ranches and capes in the more expensive ‘burbs is dwindling as they are torn down to make way for McMansions, but that’s a story for another day.)

Here’s what Ilene Solomon, a long-time Newton broker who deals every day with empty nesters, told me.

She estimates it could cost as much as $2 million for, say, an empty nester selling a big house in Newton or another upscale suburb to find real estate happiness in downtown Boston.

Others are opting to stay in town or close to it, buying or condo or renting in an apartment complex like Charles River Landing in Needham.

Still, finding a condo in the suburbs is no cinch either, with the pickings pretty slim right now.

“The biggest dream is to go into Boston and get a wonderful place and start a new, exciting life,” Solomon said.

Are you an empty nester? What does the real estate market look like to you?


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Low Interest Rates – Forever?

Another good post by Scott.

Low interest rates today, tomorrow, forever?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis  October 10, 2013 09:30 AM

Who knows where the economy will be by the time the Tea Party wrecking crew in Congress finally wears itself out.

But if there is any near certainty, it is the latest bout of uncertainty the nuttiness in Washington has injected into an already wobbly economy will keep interest rates at their historically low levels for some time to come.

Ben Bernanke and the Fed over the summer flirted with cutting back on its multitrillion-dollar home buyer subsidy program – known as quantitative easing – amid signs of a modest improvement in the economy.

But of course Big Ben beat a hasty retreat in September after the Fed’s well telegraphed intentions started to push up rates and spook the housing market.

Now with the threat of a slowdown or even a full blown Depression looming should Congress force the federal government to default on its debt payments, there’s zero chance the Fed will be backing off from its $85 billion a month mortgage bond buying program anytime soon.

President Obama’s choice of Janet Yellen to fill Big Ben’s shoes – she’s a strong supporter of the Fed’s cheap money policies – all but seals the deal, as economist Elliot Eisenberg notes in his daily “Laughs and Graphs” blog.

Here’s Elliot, the former chief prognosticator of the National Home Builders Association.

Given the government closure and resulting lack of economic data, the fact that Q3 GDP growth will be below 2% and that inflation remains very tame, virtually guarantees that tapering will not commence following the conclusion of the late October Fed interest rate setting meeting. Now with the formal nomination of Janet Yellen for the post of Chairman, I’m 100% sure tapering will not commence before January.

This is big news for home buyers – today’s low interest rates, hovering now at 4.25 percent for a 30 year mortgage, represent a massive government subsidy.
At their current, rock bottom level, today’s interest rates shave as much as 30 percent off the average monthly mortgage payment, at least compared to what it would be under more historically normal rates of 7 or 8 percent.

It’s hardly all gravy. There is a strong argument to be made that home buyers still pay for it all by having to pay more of the same house – just look at what’s happening with home prices.

But frankly most home buyers, for good or ill, aren’t looking at it that way.


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Cape Cod Waterfront Under $500K

Interesting CurbedCapeCod post below showing a great assortment of waterfront homes all over the Cape.

10 Cape Cod Waterfront Properties Listed for Under $500K

Monday, October 14, 2013, by Jazmine Donaldson

[596 Shore Road, Truro via Zillow]

There are currently 183 waterfront properties for sale onCape Cod that are asking under $500,000. We dug though the listings to find the very best, most interesting and/or unique condominiums and single family abodes on the water. From an East Sandwich Beach cottage behind the dunes to a PTown condo on Cape Cod Bay, here’s a map of waterfront properties for under $500,000.

Kicking off with a classic waterfront cottage on East Sandwich Beach, this 698 sq. ft. 2BD, 2BA comes with “limited views of Cape Cod Bay.” Something about a dune in the way. Regardless, asking price is $450,000.
Built in 1920, this 708 sq. ft. 1BD, 1BA Woods Hole Village cottage is set on .26 acres on Mill Pond. The renovated home is listed for $449,000.
Here’s a 840 sq. ft. 2BD, 1.5BA townhouse in New Seabury’s Maushop Village. The unit includes water views and direct access to a private ocean beach on Nantucket Sound. Yours for $499,000.
Unit A3 is a 574 sq. ft. 1BD, 1BA overlooking Kalmus Beach (rejoice, windsurfers and kitesurfers!) and Nantucket Sound. Per the listing, the condo rents for $2K/week, in season. Asking price is $435,000.
“MILLION DOLLAR VIEW!!!” But wait, there’s more! This 1,100 sq. ft. 2BD, 2BA penthouse condo comes with a fireplace, deck, pool, and a 30′ dock with access to Nantucket Sound. Unit 17 is your for $459,900.
Waterfront? Check. Private dock? Check. Access to Nantucket Sound? Check again. This 542 sq. ft. 2BD, 1BA cottage with a 22′ screened porch is asking $275,000.
Set on .43 acres on Mill Pond, this 1,008 sq. ft. 1BD, 1BA (with a 3BD septic) “cute and open concept” split level was built in 1994. Asking price is $350,000.
This adorable contemporary saltbox features 2BD, 2BA in 1,260 sq. ft. The .60 acre property on Uncle Israel’s Pond has a “great rental history” and is asking $430,000.
According to the brokerbabble, if you’re “looking to own a little piece of paradise in Truro,” this listing fits the bill. The 488 sq. ft. 2BD, 1BA attached cottage is asking $399,000.
Per the listing, unit 9C boasts “The best view in the entire complex, more than 180 degrees, water can be seen from every window in this home.” The 700 sq. ft. 2BR, 1BA beachfront condo is asking $469,000.
10 Waterfront Properties for Under $500K


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Goode and Farmer Report – Boston October 2013

Most Boston neighborhoods are showing a very real trend as we look at third quarter sales. The sales increases we have seen quarter after quarter are moderating. Average sales prices continue their upward trend and average days on market are plummeting. In all Boston neighborhoods combined the average total days on market has decreased an average of 47% in 2013. The number of available condos for sale has decreased an average of 6% from this time last year. Inventory numbers are at a record low of 686 condos for sale in all Boston neighborhoods.

All Boston neighborhoods combined saw an 8% increase in the average sales price of condos to $592K from $544K last year. The total number of condos sold increased 6% to 3,599 units from 3,407 last year.

The Back Bay saw a 9% increase in average sales price to $1.215M but a 9% decrease in sales from 402 in 2012 to 365 this year. The inventory of available condos is equal to last year as 73 condos are available for sale.

The South End saw a 12% increase in the average sales price to $772K from $687K in 2012 and a 15% increase in the number of sales to 463 from 427. Inventory of condos for sale decreased 13% to 63 from 72 last year.

South Boston experienced a 10% increase in average sales price to $463K from $420K. Available condos for sale increased by 54% to 88, the largest and only increase in inventory in any Boston neighborhood. The number of sales increased 4% to a total of 489 from 471 last year.

The outlier neighborhood is Beacon Hill which saw a 21 % decrease in unit sales to 110 from 139 last year but did see a 12% increase in average sales price to $892K. Average days on market decreased 57% to a Boston low of 30 days! There are only 21 condos available for sale on The Hill.

The moderating number of sales as well as the crazy decrease in days on market…shows that inventory is of course the problem. While the market continues to show resilience, declining inventory levels are beginning to impact sales as is evidenced on Beacon Hill and Back Bay.


Boston Q3 chart
























We will watch the fall market closely for the effect of declining inventory levels. The addition of many units for sale in South Boston is one positive sign, and we will see what develops going forward.







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Goode and Farmer Report – Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet October 2013

Year-to-date sales through the 3rd quarter of 2013 continued to climb as the great weather brought more buyers to town. With market values of property slowly rising and continued low mortgage rates the time seemed right to buy.

The average sales price of condos sold was up 5% to $432K  from $412K last year. Although the number of sales year to date decreased by 23% from 115 units last year to 90 this year, 40 sold in the 3rd quarter making it the best period so far this year.

Single family properties performed well with a 24% increase in the average sold price from $795K in 2012 to $1.038M year to date. The median sales price increased 15% to $880K from last year’s $752K. 32 single families have sold so far this year vs. 38 last year. Total sales volume was up 9% to $33.2M. There is clearly a demand for single family homes that have been slower to sell in the past.

The average days on market has come down overall driven by less inventory available for sale and relatively strong demand. For condos it decreased 14% from 194 to 166 days and for single-family properties DOM’s increased 14% from 178 to 206 days.  The high end of the single family market traditionally takes longer to sell.

Speaking of inventory, currently there are 120 condos on the market with an average listing price of $500K and an average price per square foot (ppsf) of $571. There are 45 single-family properties on the market with an average listing price of $1.511M and an average ppsf of $550.

With the great weather in September and the forecast for above average temps throughout October, we expect the market to be busy through the end of the year.  There remain some wonderful opportunities to own a part of a very special place.


Ptown chart Q3 2013












Other towns on the Outer Cape have experienced a similar dynamic. The number of single-family home sales in Truro remained the same as last year with 37 units sold over the first 9 months of 2013.  The average sales price was down 17% to $598K from $724K last year. The Truro market consists mostly of single-family homes. There are currently 72 single family properties available to chose from.

In Wellfleet the number of single family home sales declined 14% from the same period last year with 48 homes sold this year vs. 56 sold in 2012.   The average sales price remained the same at $526K.  There are currently 87 single family homes available for sale offering many choices for buyers.

Truro chart Q3












The third quarter market report is overall positive news on the outer Cape in both single family homes and condominiums. Although the number of homes sold is down somewhat from a very strong 2012, prices are rising after many years of depressed values. Demand remains high with many long time visitors taking advantage of low mortgage rates and slowly rising prices to search for their “special home” on the Cape.

Please call or stop in if you are considering selling or if you are just curious as to what your home is worth. If you are considering buying a home, remember that our business philosophy is that the best-informed buyers are the happiest and it is what we do best.

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My Favorite New Listing This Week

As the MLS copy says – “A gracious East End property”.  These wonderful single family properties with that extra private cottage are so Provincetown…and very much in demand. Some owners of properties like this renovate the main house while living in the cottage, and eventually have a guest cottage to rent out or to live in while renting the main house.  A true flexible use property.


beach access








594 Commercial Street, being offered at $1.2M, is a 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom, 2,451 sf property. This gracious East End property, in the same family for 75 years, is comprised of a large 4 bedroom, 2 bath home, and an adjacent charming artists cottage. The first floor of the main house has a large living room with wide pine floors, wood burning fireplace, and a rank of windows with original period trim. Left of the entry is a master bedroom, leading to a garden room with French doors to a patio. A formal dining room, a country kitchen, and a full bath complete the first floor. Upstairs are three bedrooms of varying size, and a second full bath. The artists cottage has a two-story living room, with palladian window and wide pine floors, a kitchen and a bath. Upstairs is a loft bedroom. There is a spacious lot with shrubs and trees. Across the street is deededed beach assess, with parking(2).


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Housing Recovery Still On Track…NYT

Excellent article with the national perspective.

By  New York Times
The housing market, one of the main drivers of the economic recovery, continues to gain strength despite the drag of rising mortgage rates and other economic headwinds, but some analysts are worried that it may slow in the months ahead.

For now, though, builders are building, sellers are selling and mortgage lenders are less nervous about extending credit to buyers.

The heady price increases in the first half of the year slowed a bit in July, according to data released on Tuesday.

But in the face of pent-up demand and emboldened consumers, home values were still heading upward at a healthy pace, rising 12.4 percent from July 2012 to July 2013, according to the Standard & Poor’s Case/Shiller home price index, which tracks sales in 20 cities.

A separate index of mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac showed an 8.8 percent gain in prices over the same time period.

Two national homebuilders, Lennar and KB Home, reported significant revenue growth and profits in the third quarter. Lennar said its third-quarter earnings rose 39 percent over the third quarter of last year, and KB said its profit had increased sevenfold.

“We still have a lot of young people that are going to start moving out and forming households and we’re going to have to find housing for them,” said Patrick Newport, the chief United States economist for IHS Global Insight. “There are shortages of homes just about everywhere.”

Higher home prices help the economy not just by strengthening the construction and real estate industries, but by making homeowners feel wealthier and more likely to spend.

While the number of Americans who lost the equity in their homes in the housing crash set records, rebounding prices have helped nudge more and more households back above water. According to CoreLogic, 2.5 million households regained equity in their homes in the second quarter.

Mr. Newport said the full effects of higher mortgage rates had probably not shown up in the numbers yet.

Rates increased from about 3.4 percent on 30-year fixed-rate loans in January to about 4.4 percent in July, according to a survey by Freddie Mac, and many loans were written at even higher rates this summer. But they remain well below typical rates in recent decades, and mortgage borrowing costs have already eased a bit from their recent peak now that the Federal Reserve opted last week not to begin a wind-down of stimulus measures.

Rising rates may not torpedo the housing market recovery, but they have made refinancing much less appealing.

The number of mortgage applications for purchases has climbed by 7 percent over the last year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, but refinance requests have fallen by 70 percent since early May.

As a result, banks have laid off thousands of workers in their mortgage units. Citigroup laid off 1,000 workers from its mortgage business, it said on Monday, following Wells Fargo and Bank of America, which have both done layoffs in recent months.

Refinancing also gave households more spending power as it lowered monthly payments.

Analysts offered a cornucopia of reasons for the continuing strength of the housing market: people rushing to buy before prices and interest rates increased further, a gradual relaxation of lending standards, an uptick in inventory, a smaller share of foreclosures in the sales stream and large-scale buying by investors looking to put houses on the rental market.

Still, some analysts questioned whether fundamental factors like job and wage growth would sustain the market and restore first-time buyers to the market. Others warned of a lurking shadow inventory.

“While recent results have been considerably better than those seen earlier in the cycle, and also better than we had anticipated, we have not given up on the argument that a large supply overhang of existing homes (factoring in all those in foreclosure or soon to be) promises to keep pressure on prices for some time,” Joshua Shapiro, the chief United States economist for MFR, wrote in a note to investors.

Once the backlog of demand is absorbed, continued strength will depend heavily on consumer confidence. That’s where politics, including a looming battle over federal spending and the debt ceiling, could stall improvement.

“The real test will come over the next few months, given the sharp drop in mortgage demand and the potential for a rollover in consumers’ confidence as Congress does its worst,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, an economist with Pantheon Macroeconomics.

On Tuesday, the Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, reported that Americans’ confidence in the economy fell slightly in September from August, as many became less optimistic about hiring and pay increases over the next six months. The September reading dropped to 79.7, down from 81.8 the previous month, but remained only slightly below June’s reading of 82.1, the highest in five and a half years.

Year-over-year prices were up in all 20 cities tracked by Case/Shiller, but the gains varied widely, from 3.5 percent in New York and 3.9 percent in Cleveland on the low end to a frothy 24.8 percent in San Francisco and 27.5 percent in Las Vegas.

The month-to-month increase in the Case/Shiller index slowed to 0.6 percent, after gains of 1.7 percent in April, 0.9 percent in May and 0.9 percent in June.

Asked if the slowdown in growth was alarming, Robert Shiller, the Yale economist who helped develop the home price index, said no. “I’m not worried,” he said in an interview with CNBC. “I think that would be a good thing.”

His greater worry, he said, was “more about a bubble — in some cities, it’s looking bubbly now.”

Still, Mr. Shiller said, even the bubbliest markets were still well below their peak.

Other analysts raised the same point. Prices in San Francisco are still only at 2004 levels, cautioned Steve Blitz, chief economist for ITG Investment Research. “For those who bought and still hold homes in 2005, ’06 and ’07, they may still be in a negative equity position, depending on the terms of their mortgage,” Mr. Blitz wrote. “Don’t let those double-digit year-over-year percentage gains bias opinion to believe all is all right.”


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Boston Inventory…Empty!

Curbed Boston and Bates by the Numbers post below.

Inventory in the Boston Condo Market Continues to Straddle “E’

Tuesday, October 1, 2013, by Brenda Phan
Here’s the latest installment of Bates By the Numbers, a weekly feature by Boston real estate agent David Bates that drills down into the Hub’s housing market to uncover those trends you would not otherwise see. And check out his new ebook, Context: Nine Key Condo Markets.


Compared to a year ago, inventory in the nine neighborhoods is down around 14%, but one bedroom condominiums are the least available, down 30%. In a city of singletons that’s not good news. It may be a wise idea to wave the one-bedroom driver into the pit area for a fill up.

Currently, there are only 82 one bedrooms available for sale in the nine markets, yet in September, (and not all the numbers are in) MLS has recorded that 90 one-bedroom condominiums went into “pending” status, or in other words found buyers. Just two years ago to the day, there were 283 one-bedrooms available, about 3.5 times more.

That’s less than a one month supply. As a reminder we need a three month supply to have anything resembling a neutral market. So guess, what, we don’t have anything approaching a neutral market.

I went to an open house for a Brookline 1BR, priced at $315,000. and the brokers could have done better charging admission in lieu of a commission. There had to be 30 people to view that property, off season, and an open house time of 2:30pm.

I guess the bump of interest rates has had little effect.

In September, the median price of a 1BR, is over $400,000. That’s up from $361,000 for September 2012.

Of course the pickings for a one bedroom can get even slimmer.

You want to super-size that one bedroom, something over 700 square feet. Well, less than ½ the 1BR available have it, (as well down to 39 from 74 a year ago) and the median price jumps to $535,000. But at least you have twice the opportunity of finding one with garage parking, as only 20 available condos have it.

Want it at a reasonable price? Then now is definitely not the time to be looking at Back Bay one bedrooms, there median price for on market is$649,000. Hey, I could buy a parking space and sleep in it for that kind of money.

Where is one bedroom inventory the lowest? America’s new hip neighborhood, Somerville, where there are only two available. Last month in Somerville, five went “pending”, meaning there is less than ½ month supply.