Bidding Wars? Bid fast, bid smart

April 8th, 2014

It’s as much a sign of spring as cheers bursting from Fenway and mobs of runners training on the hills of Newton: Open houses on Sundays are suddenly packed.

This year there’s a wrinkle. If you’re hoping to move in Boston or a surrounding suburb, good luck. Not only are prices high, but there just isn’t much out there. That low inventory means be prepared to act fast, but also be prepared to act smart. There won’t only be a lot of traffic at open houses, expect a lot of offers, too.

“If you’re going to buy, be prepared to offer to win,” said Gibson Sotheby’s David Bates, who is also the voice behind the Bates Real Estate blog. “We’re in a market that has a lack of inventory.”

He said the volume of available condominiums in the Boston area for under $500,000 today is about one-third the level of just two years ago.

“It’s overwhelming a lot of the buyers out there,” Bates said. “It’s the nature of the market right now.”

That lack of inventory combined with the brutal competition of shopping for a new home in neighborhoods considered up and coming can leave buyers with a sense of frenzy that can lead to a lack of judgment, or a rush to judgment.

Waiving home inspection costs, for example, in order to create a more enticing bid is asking for trouble, and so is bidding well over the asking price without knowing for sure that you’re not simply bidding against yourself. RE/MAX Destiny agent Josh Muncey recommends that buyers, real estate agents, and sellers do a lot of research to avoid overshooting.

“Buyers and realtors are always asking, ‘What’s the deadline for offers?’ because they don’t want to miss out on a property, and because it’s so competitive, they will frequently come in with an initial bid above the asking price,” Muncey said. “They’ll see tons of people at the open house, but they don’t ask how many other actual offers there are before they put in that bid. I’ve seen several instances where a buyer will make a bid tens of thousands of dollars above the asking price when they are the only offer.”

But will a seller actually release that potential price-driving piece of information? Have faith, says Muncey.

“It’s very common that they won’t tell you specific details,” he said, “but they’ll let you know how many [offers] they have and if they’re expecting others to come in.”

Another common place people look to cut corners are the various fees involved in buying a home.

“I don’t tell my clients to waive their home inspection fee, but I will sometimes tell them to waive a certain dollar amount on their home inspection,” Muncey added. “You can make your offer more competitive by saying, ‘I’m going to waive the first $9,000 worth of defects that will show up in a home inspection.’

“But let’s face it, this is Boston, and a lot of these homes are over 100 years old, and you’re going to have issues at any given property.”

Reducing the dollar amount, but not waiving the costs entirely shows the seller that you’re a buyer willing to look at the big picture.

“You’re letting the seller know you’re really concerned with material defects in the property, such as foundation issues, or the roof needs to go, or furnace is down, and you’re not taking the inspection down to nickel and dime with a loose door knob,” Muncey said. “That’s one way to strengthen your offer without waiving the home inspection.”

For those who have big city dreams, but find themselves stumped by the lack of availability in the condo market, Tom Acitelli, the editor of the Curbed Boston website, says buyers must start looking beyond the most desirable markets like Somerville and South Boston.

“At this point, Somerville’s denser [in population] than San Francisco,” he said. “To say places like that are up-and-coming is sort of like yesterday’s news. Yes, they’re up-and-coming as we speak, but in like a year it’s going to be over.”

What might be the next Somerville? Acitelli offered one possibility. “Waltham?”

“It’s sort of like the New York City phenomenon where gentrification and desirability, especially among first-time buyers, follows the subway lines into Brooklyn,” he said. “I see the same thing happening in [Waltham].”

Bates also threw Quincy and Roslindale into the mix, noting they are communities with comparable inventory that are often overlooked. Outside the metro area, he liked Stoneham for its “live, work, and play” experience and feasible commute.

“I think a good strategy for people with a lot of different price ranges is to consider the next market over,” said Bates.

For the purposes of choosing a neighborhood, Bates defines the Boston areas where he works into five market categories: enviable, established, emerged, enhancing, and other.

“Like, if you’re thinking Brookline, try thinking Jamaica Plain; or if you want the South End, consider South Boston. If you’re in Jamaica Plain and you’re still not getting what you want, try Roslindale.”

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“You can make your offer more competitive by saying, ‘I’m going to waive the first $9,000 worth of defects that will show up in a home inspection,” said RE/MAX Destiny agent Josh Muncey.

For many buyers, being hung up on location can stunt the search process, especially when the inventory is so low. Keeping an open mind and paying attention to the growth opportunities the state has planned may put you one step ahead of investing in the next Somerville.

“If you go into the search saying, ‘These are the specific neighborhoods I want to live in,’ you should really be thinking, ‘But what about five years from now?’ ” continued Bates. “In five years from now, there are a lot of different things that the Department of Transportation is doing and there are some neighborhoods that will completely change because of that. Look at the planned extension of the Green and Silver Lines and you may find yourself looking at a neighborhood you never considered.”

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s proposed Capital Investment Plan includes public transit additions to Medford and Somerville’s Union Square via the Green Line by 2020. Chelsea and East Boston will also see the benefits of a Silver Line extension, while long-neglected routes along the Red and Orange Lines will see improvements through increased train frequency.

The changes hint at real estate booms along the transit lines and close to the stations that will reap the benefits.

Looking farther out, train extensions beyond the T are causing buzz in real estate opportunities for those hoping to find a home in outlying suburbs. The most notable among the projects is the long-term South Coast Rail project, which aims to restore service to Southeastern Massachusetts, with stops in Taunton, Fall River, and New Bedford, with a South Station destination.

If buying right now just isn’t in the plan, however, and you just want to find a nice, affordable rental, don’t assume it will be any easier.

“There’s a trend in luxury buildings with high-end units, starting at $3,000 just for a studio, being built in the area,” said Raleigh Werner, founder of referral-based rental service Jumpshell.com. “It’s attempting to bring a new crowd of people in a sense, but it’s starting to create interesting results with middle-income folks having a hard time finding units. There’s such a high demand, but no new supplies in that space.”

Finding your dream home may take compromise, aggression, and possibly more money than you anticipated. But Acitelli offered a final practical piece of advice for buyers: “Be brutally honest with yourself with what you can afford and where you want to live.”

Rachel Raczka can be reached at rraczka@boston.com and tweeted @Rachel_Raczka.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2014/04/05/bid-fast-bid-smart/swMZNDmqOtExQejsJTvb6K/story.html

New On The Market: Newton Single Family

April 7th, 2014

Great 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath Dutch Colonial in Newton Highlands.

This Newton single family is a great starter home. Click on the visual tour and get all the information.

 

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Kitchen Renovation: Updating a Newton Victorian’s kitchen

April 6th, 2014

It was essential that the new space feel as if it belonged with the rest of the house.

MICHAEL J. LEE “The renovation was to make the kitchen more functional and appealing,” Jonathan Kantar says. “It’s now a light, energetic space with period touches.”

Located in Newton Centre, this 1892 Victorian is an architectural gem. “The owners feel very fortunate to live there and they see themselves as caretakers of the house,” says Jonathan Kantar, principal of Sage Builders LLC in Newton. While the homeowners have sensitively restored the original craftsmanship of the grand three-story structure, they opted to overhaul the kitchen to accommodate their family of five. It was essential that the new kitchen renovation feel as if it belonged with the rest of the house, says Kantar, whose firm worked on the design and build. Now light and airy with ample space to cook and dine, the room has a time-honored feel, relying on materials that look classic but are also easy to care for, and elements that fit the way the family lives.

MICHAEL J. LEE

1 | The island, where the family frequently dines, has a natural quartersawn-oak base that matches the home’s historic woodwork and provides a nice contrast to the dove-white cabinetry.

2 | The homeowners purchased antique bronze fixtures from Boston’s Genuine Antique Lighting.

3 | Raised ceilings help define the various areas of the kitchen, including the central food-prep and dining spaces.

4 | A Carrara marble full-height tile backsplash adds a subtle, reflective quality and is a breeze to clean.

5 | The custom cotton-white finish of the Viking rangeblends with the surrounding cabinetry. “A neutral color palette keeps the room grounded to the original era of the house,” says Kantar.

6 | Kantar and his clients selected polished Taj Mahal quartzite for the counters. Made from sandstone, the virtually impenetrable material looks a lot like marble but is easier to maintain.

7 | A second 27-inch Viking oven built into the island provides overflow baking capacity.

8 | Porcelain tiles measuring 8 by 36 inches sheath the floor. “The tiles create the look of a pickled hardwood floor,” says Kantar. “The product is really durable, doesn’t scratch, is easy to clean, and relatively inexpensive.”

9 | The beverage and lounge area is a favorite morning spot for the family. The space includes an espresso station, extra sink, second dishwasher, and storage for drinkware.

Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/03/09/updating-newton-victorian-kitchen/lEfM0Y534ibf6U0Iwj8NCP/story.html

 

Remodeling A Room to Love: Sleek bunk beds make small space

April 5th, 2014

We don’t normally associate bunk beds with being sleek and stylish, probably because of who normally sleeps in the beds. The remodeling of this room ignores that thinking.

“This is a bunk bedroom that we recently designed for a client in their weekend ski home,” writes Jennifer Palumbo of Jennifer Palumbo Interior Design in Newton. “The family uses this home year round, from ski season through the summer months. We wanted the design aesthetic to be conducive for any time of year.”

She says with the family members getting tall, it was important to choose extra-long twin mattresses to avoid toes hanging off the end.

“Bunk bedrooms are a popular element of weekend and summer homes, which tend to draw larger groups of family and friends,” Palumbo says.

- Doug Most

http://www.bostonglobe.com/2014/03/29/bunk-beds-open-space/YtCylOmKxPyoTHteofULrN/story.html

MICHAEL J. LEE FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Quick fresh home design tips to brighten up your home for spring

April 4th, 2014

To kick things off, it’s time to talk about spring! If you are anything like me, I am sure you have grown a bit weary of your décor after being cooped up inside for what seems to have been the longest winter ever. Spring is the time to shake off the staleness in your spaces and make some changes to help you feel like you have a fresh start with home design.

Fresh paint. Nothing changes the feeling of a room like a new paint job. Consider a bolder color if you’ve been settling for neutrals, or brighten up your space with crisp white or light grey as a backdrop. Some current favorites of mine are Sherwin-Williams Pediment for a light warm grey and Classic French Grey for something more dramatic; Farrow and Ball’s Arsenic for a very bold green and Hague Blue for a moody deep peacock color; and Benjamin Moore’s Mellow Pink for something soothing and Ewing Blue for a crisp spa-like turquoise.

New pillows. Replacing your throw pillows with new covers for the season can totally change the look of your space. You can find great ones made of designer fabrics on sites like Etsy. Pop them over old pillow forms for a jolt of new life. A good rule of thumb is to mix a geometric or striped pattern with something more organic like a floral or a paisley. Or for a more streamlined look stick with a solid color in a nice texture like velvet and one pattern.

A fresh rug. Swap in a serene and simple jute or sisal rug for the warmer months to give your space texture. You’ll be surprised how a large, neutral area rug can really open up a cramped space. If you want a more eclectic look, you can layer a small patterned flat weave or vintage rug over a larger sisal. Make sure your rugs run under at least two legs of all the seating in the room to avoid the dreaded “rug island” look.

A hint of green. Nothing brings more life to a room than a live plant or cut florals. It’s amazing how a potted tree can wake up a dead corner of a room. Research what kind of house plants work best with the kind of light you have in the room, as not all varieties work with all kinds of light. For example, the ever-popular fiddle leaf fig tree seen in many a design magazine only thrives in direct bright light. (I learned this the hard way via two dead ones.) Pick a plant that works with your space, or instead incorporate a few succulents tucked into a cool planter for some plant life with very little commitment.

Erin Gates blogs daily at www.elementsofstyleblog.com and is releasing her first book in October with Simon & Schuster. Send questions to Erin@eringatesdesign.com.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/specials/2014/03/29/quick-fresh-tips-brighten-your-home-for-spring/0Rb7C0kwqsOk4dqseNxntO/story.html