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Cash Buyers Make Up Over 50% of Boston Property Sales

A couple weeks ago, I ran across the stat that 38% of recent real estate transactions nationally were paid in cash compared to the 18-20% of residential real estate transactions usually paid in cash. I posted the stat to my social media channels and this led to a dialogue with a couple of people about what we could take from the stat.

One commenter”s opinion was the increase was the result of foreclosures. His logic revolved around prices having fallen to a level within reach of larger number of peoples’ savings. I said I’d see if I could find some additional statistics breaking down the numbers by location and purchase price.

The rise in real estate transactions paid in cash can be attributed to investors buying distressed property (short sales and foreclosures) in some parts of the country, but it is not the only factor.

The downtown neighborhoods of Boston, which made it through the housing crisis relatively unscathed, have seen cash transactions make up over 50% of all real estate transactions so far this year. The increase in home buyers paying cash has increased each year since the housing crash, from 28% of all real estate transactions in 2008, to 29% in 2009, 31% in 2010, up to 48% in 2011.

In Boston, cash buyers are not uncommon at higher prices. The percentages vary, but cash transactions make up a large percentage of the city’s high-end sales. Boston’s most expensive real estate transaction in the last year, a penthouse at the Mandarin Oriental, was bought in June for $13.2 million in cash.

Wealthy investors looking for a place to invest excess cash gravitate toward real estate as the stock market remains volatile. Property in Boston appears safe in comparison, especially since it is a market that has remained steady during the economic turmoil.

The view of Boston property as a safe investment has also attracted international investors. A recent study found 50 percent of real estate investment is concentrated in 30 cities and Boston ranked 18th on the list; considering Boston’s geographic size, this is オンライン カジノ a significant statistic. Canada, China, Brazil, Russia, and Europe are all sources of buyers because they view property in the United States as a safe investment. These foreign investors are cash buyers out of necessity because they do not qualify for financing without credit history established within the States.

Real estate transactions paid in cash are on the riseForeign buyers have been buying investment property at all price points and these overseas investors are one reason we are seeing cash transactions across the purchase price spectrum. The mid-price and lower-price real estate transactions in Boston have not been cash purchases historically. This unusual activity is the main reason cash transactions have made up over 50% of all real estate sales this year.

Tightened lending regulations have also contributed to the historically high percentage of cash buyers in Boston. More buyers are having difficulty obtaining financing, but even if a homebuyer has no problem getting financing, the property may present challenges because lenders deem it non-warrantable. Some common reasons for lenders to refuse financing are low owner occupancy (under 50%) in a building, too large of a commercial interest (over 20%) in a condo association, ongoing litigation, low pre-sale in a development, a home owners” association with budgeted reserve allocation less than 10% of operating revenues, and an appraisal price being too far below the proposed purchase price of a property. A cash purchase is often the only option if a property meets one of these criteria.

Buyers capable of making a cash offer are aware of the current lending environment. These buyers know they can often secure a favorable deal because sellers who have seen transactions fall apart because of financing might take a lower price rather than try their luck with a buyer seeking financing.

Two other factors contributing to the rise in cash transactions are empty-nesters and “kiddie condos.” Baby boomers who have been downsizing and looking for a more walk-centric lifestyle are buying Boston condos with profits from selling their suburban homes. Another demographic of cash buyer is affluent parents buying “kiddie condos” for their children who are attending one of Boston’s universities since the current market is shifting toward buying being more affordable than renting for the same period.

The market continues to improve and not only for those who can afford to pay cash. For a more detailed explanation of current real estate market trends in Boston, to discuss the ramifications of cash versus lender financing, or to explore if investment property is right for you, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate.

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A First-Time Home Buyer’s Emotions

Buying a home is one of the most stressful experiencesA dear friend of mine recently put in an offer on her first home. This could be the most emotional I have ever seen her and I was at her wedding. She was nervous, excited, and on edge waiting for the phone to ring with news from her real estate agent. She was buying her first home on the South Shore of Boston, an area beyond my expertise, so  my role was that of a friend, a friend who happens to be a Realtor.

The friend in me wanted to say something to help her feel better but the Realtor in me knew her situation was not traditional and somewhat intimidating for a first home purchase. The listing went on the market not long before she and her husband saw it. Because they were not pre-approved, the another offer was accepted before they could get their finances in order. Fortunately for them the offer fell through and they were able to put in their offer right away but so did another couple.

The house was listed using the uncommon method of value price range, meaning the owner would entertain offers between x and y. After they put in their offer, they learned the owner would not provoke a bidding war; he would look at each parties’ best and final offer before choosing the one he liked most. Talk about nerve racking! Of course the listing agent could not disclose what the other offer was so they had to blindly decide what the other couple’s best offer could be and make theirs a little better.

All I could say, as her hand was glued to her phone, was, “Worst case scenario, you don’t get the house. Best case scenario, you bought your first home. But either way, once you know, you will know what to do next.”

Buying a home can be stressful, emotional, and overwhelming whether it’s your first home or your fifth home. One source of comfort through this experience should be your Realtor. This was my friend’s first home buying experience and she was grateful to have an agent that she was completely comfortable with, felt confident in, and knew was in their corner.

We at Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate understand the emotions that can go into buying a home. We are available to discuss the process of buying property and specialize in assisting first-time homebuyers.

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Lights, Camera, Action! Filming in Boston

Boston has been captured on film for decades and as a Realtor and film junky, I find it fascinating to see how the city has changed over the years. In fact, one thing I like to do on a rainy day is watch movies filmed in Boston over time. First I watch a film from the 1960’s such as Boston Strangler with Tony Curtis or The Thomas Crown Affair with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. Then I watch a movie filmed in Boston from the last few years like Knight & Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz or What’s Your Number? with Anna Faris. It’s amazing to see how much the city has changed, particularly Back Bay and Downtown, or how little Beacon Hill has changed. Many other movies filmed in Boston have the same effect, but I can watch the movies I mentioned and pay attention to the city instead of the plot.

Filming Knight & Day in South End BostonBoston has been the backdrop to Oscar-winning movies, blockbuster classics, Emmy-winning T.V. shows, and reality television such as MTV’s The Real World. Boston has a variety of architectural styles that make it a great location for filming any time period. For example, Boston’s well preserved historic architecture offers ideal locations for historic period pieces like Glory or Amistad. Boston’s continuous modern development also makes this city an ideal setting for films set in the future like Surrogates.

Along with it’s blend of historic and modern architecture Massachusetts lures filmmakers with tax incentives packages including a 25% production credit, a 25% payroll credit, and a sales tax exemption. To qualify for the payroll credit and sales tax exemption a project must spend $50,000 in Massachusetts. Spending over half of total budget or filming at least half of the principal photography days in Massachusetts makes a project eligible for the production credit. The program requirements are straightforward, have no annual or project caps, no residency requirements, and no extended schedule of credit payouts. Judging by the number of films shot in Boston over the last few years, it is safe to say Boston offers a favorable tax break.

From the architecture to the tax breaks, it’s no wonder Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, chose Boston as the location to film the pilot of her new project “Gilded Lily’s.” The show will be a romantic period drama set in 1895 about the opening of the first luxury hotel in New York City. Filming in Boston will begin March 2012. According to the announcement made by the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Massachusetts Film Office (MFO) many people in Boston are very excited about the project, even though the show’s setting will be New York.

“This is a very exciting project for the Commonwealth. Massachusetts is the perfect place to set a story from the Gilded Age, an impressive and well-preserved period in the Commonwealth’s history,” said Lisa Strout, the Director of the Massachusetts Film Office.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase Massachusetts’ historical richness and the incredibly talented workforce that exists in the Commonwealth,” said Greg Bialecki, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development. “Our competitive tax credit program continues to bring top industry producers and filmmakers to the Bay State, creating significant job opportunities.”

To learn more about historic or modern real estate for sale in Boston, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate.

For more information about the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Massachusetts Film Office and it’s tax incentives, visit www.mafilm.org.

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Parking in Boston: Parking Options at Every Price

Parking in Boston can be difficult, expensive, and time consumingParking in Boston can be a nightmare. Let’s get that out of the way right now.

In order to qualify for a resident permit that allows for parking on the street in one of Boston’s neighborhoods, the car has to be registered and insured in Boston. Unless the car was previously registered in New York City, insurance premiums will most likely increase with a Boston registration.

Resident street parking can be more or less painful depending on the neighborhood. The worst neighborhoods for parking in Boston are Beacon Hill and the North End, and honorable mention goes to Back Bay. All three have more residents with cars than streets for parking.

Once you find a parking spot you have to remember which day of the week street cleaning occurs in the neighborhood or it will be towed. In a snow emergency, the car cannot be parked on a main street or it will be towed. The good news is you can sign up for email alerts through the City of Boston’s No Tow program.

If searching for parking in Boston does not sound appealing, renting a parking space is an option. There are parking spaces to rent all over Boston with prices varying all over the city. One uncovered full parking space can start at $250 a month in Back Bay. The starting rate for a garage parking space in Back Bay can be $375 a month and valet garage spaces are even higher.

If you are flexible, there are a couple ways to save some money on renting a parking spot. Renting a tandem spot can cost $200 a month. A tandem parking space is wide enough for one car but long enough for two. To prevent either driver from blocking the other, each will each exchange keys with the other. Also, many garages offer a reverse commute option which is ideal for those who live in the city and work outside the city. These reverse commuting options have different hours depending on the garage but the standard allows for access between 4pm-8am during the week and anytime on weekends and holidays. The garage will usually allow for one or two sick days a month. These reverse commute spots can start as low as $115 a month.

Buying a parking space in Boston can also be an option but those price tags can come as a bigger surprise. One space in Boston can start at $30,000 but it can also go as high as $300,000. In 2009, an outdoor, uncovered parking space, one block from the Public Garden, was sold for $300,000. This sale beat the previous record of $250,000 for a spot at 31-33 Commonwealth Ave.

If you are relocating to Boston and are not ready to live car free, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate. We will be happy to either help find properties that include parking or help navigate parking solutions in Boston.

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Relocating to Boston: How My Brain Had No Part in the Decision

Deciding to leave your hometown for a new one is a big decision and takes a lot of planning, none of which I did when I relocated to Boston. I relocated without much thought of what I was getting myself into. For those of you about to relocate to Boston, I would like to share with you a few things I wish I knew when I uprooted my life and made the move across the country.

I’m originally from Los Angeles, CA and I was often asked, “Why did you relocate to Boston?” I would say it was for a new adventure, I wanted real seasons, or I was tired of driving everywhere and wanted to live car-free. But the real reason was a boy. Yes, I am a hopeless romantic and, yes, it was the best move I ever made. My boyfriend had to move back to Boston and I came with him, his dog, and cat. I was lucky that he already knew the city and I relied on him entirely for what Boston neighborhood to live in, how much we could spend, how to find apartments…everything.

Relocate to Boston with Dog

Now that I’ve lived here for 4 years, the first year in Beacon Hill and the last 3 years in the South End, I wish there were a few things I knew before I relocated to Boston. One thing in particular was that the majority of Boston rentals are on a September cycle. We were looking in July for an apartment in August that would accept both a dog and cat. So not only was there limited inventory, we added the extra hurdle of needing a pet-friendly apartment. Fortunately, we did do our research, set up appointments with both owners and brokers, and were able to find an apartment in Beacon Hill.

Another surprise was the upfront cost of renting an apartment in Boston. Legally owners cannot ask for more than first month, last month, one month security deposit, and cost for a new key and lock. With Boston being one of the top three most expensive cities to rent, most owners will ask for all of it. If you use a Realtor, expect to pay another month’s rent for their fee. Sometimes the fee can be split with the owner, but Boston is an owners’ market and most owners do not need to split the fee because they know another renter will be willing to pay the fee in order to get the apartment. Not much would have changed if I had known beforehand about the upfront costs but I would have liked to not been blindsided.

I was lucky when I relocated to Boston because I had someone with me that had an idea of what we needed to do. If I had done it alone, I know it would have been too overwhelming. Fortunately, since I became a Realtor, I am now in a position to help with relocating to Boston with the full understanding of how hard it really is.

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Where The Dog Parks Are: Dogs Love A Wild Rumpus

Dog in Pet Friendly Apartment wants to Play

I mentioned in my first pets in the city blog that I have a dog and two cats. Since finding a pet friendly apartment, I’ve learned that my cats are perfect pets for apartment living. They want to be fed, have a clean litter box, and toys. Trips outdoors are not required. On the other hand, my dog needs me to feed her, walk her, and give her back as much love and attention as she gives me. I’ve already discussed how you can spoil your pets in the city at pet boutiques, now I will focus on where the dog friendly parks are in Boston.

To give your dog some grass time in Boston, take them on long walks along the Esplanade, the Commonwealth Mall, Blackstone Square, or any park in Boston. Taking your dog on a walk to different parks in and around your neighborhood is a great way to explore the city and enjoy Boston’s historic architecture. Another option is the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain. This 265-acre historic landscape is open year round from dawn until dusk and was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, he also designed a little park in Manhattan called Central Park. But please respect the plants and keep your dog leashed, with the hills and size of this arboretum, your dog will be exhausted just walking by your side.

If you want to give your dog playtime with other dogs, there are official off-lease dog parks at the Boston Common near Beacon Hill, Peter’s Park in the South End, and many more throughout the city. Be sure to check the designated off-leash hours at each dog park. These parks not only offer exercise for your dog, but they are great places to get to know your neighbors, learn about local events, and neighborhood gatherings.

Brookline also offers 14 off-leash dog parks, but I am reluctant to write about these parks because I do not have first hand experience with any of them. I do know the off-lease parks are available to both residents and non-residents when you pay a fee to register your dog. Some of the Brookline dog parks have off-leash hours from dawn until 9am, others until 1pm, and a few parks have hours from dawn until dusk from December to February.

If you can’t give your dog all the exercise they need throughout the day, there are plenty of dog walkers all over the city that can help. Many dog walkers are easy to find online or you can ask the people that work at the pet boutiques but the best way to find one is at the dog parks. At the dog parks, you can see first hand how the dog walkers treat the dogs in their care and which one will be the best fit for your dog.

At the end of the day, your dog is so happy for the attention you give them. Whether it’s for a short walk around the block, a play-date at the park, or an adventure around the city, they just love being with you.

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Cars for the Car-Free in Boston

I love being car free in Boston. I feel healthier from walking all over the city. I also feel like I know my city better than I would have driving through it. I find different routes to take, hidden parks, and secret artwork from local artists. However there are certain times when I miss having a car. When I am showing condos for sale and apartments for rent all over the city to one of my clients, I miss having a car. Fortunately, there are others in similar situations and Boston offers many options where I can have mobile freedom while being car free.

Boston has the MBTA public transportation options of buses and trains (known as the T by locals), as well as taxis. These are great when I need to get from point A to point B, but when I have big errands that require multiple stops all over the city or I want to take a road trip to Maine for lobsters on the pier, I am grateful to be a member of Zipcar.

Zipcar offers hybrid options for borrowing a carZipcar is a car sharing program where members can borrow a car when they need it. Sign up for membership online and order a car from a computer or mobile app. They have hundreds of cars located all over the city in multiple makes, models, and colors. In the mood for sporty european luxury? Reserve an Audi or BMW. Need to do some heavy lifting? Grab an SUV or pickup truck. Zipcar also helps you stay green with hybrid options.

Zipcar offers daily rates for trips out of the city and hourly rates for quick errands across town and back. All of the rates include gas and insurance. It’s convenient, easy to use, and they have accessible customer service always available to help.

Another option is to hire a private driver, this may seem decadent but there are times when the focus needs to be on work and not the road. I don’t have it in my budget to hire a full time private driver but there is a way to hire a temporary driver through Uber. Request a town car from any mobile phone either through app or text and they will send the nearest driver. The service texts once with the estimated arrival time and again when the car arrives. The fare is calculated based on distance or time depending on speed and is charged to the credit card on file.

You don’t need to deal with the hassles of owning a car in the city, but you don’t need to forfeit the conveniences of a car either with services like Zipcar and Uber.

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C’est Chic Pet Boutiques

Cat has a Home but No Toys

Once you and your furry friend(s) have found a new pet-friendly home, it’s time to find where to get everything your pets need. Sure you can go the Petco or PetSmart super store route, but since your little ones are now pets in the city, spoil them at the chic pet boutiques!

In the South End, you have the pet boutiques Polka Dog Bakery, The Urban Hound, and Bark Place.

The Polka Dog Bakery found on Shawmut Avenue has a wide selection of toys and accessories for both dogs and cats. Additionally this bakery makes the best and most unique dog treats in Boston. Since it’s located around the corner from the Peter’s Park and the Joe Wex Dog Recreation Space I’ll give you fair warning, you can’t walk your dog by and not go in. With their great sense of smell they know irresistible treats are inside even if they have never set a paw in the front door. Trust me: you will not be able to say no.

Bark Place on Washington Avenue has toys, treats, and accessories for your pooch but they also offer grooming. They have a drop off option where you have their groomers make your dog all shiny and new. They also have a do-it-yourself option where they provide the tub, brushes, towels, and blow dryer which is perfect if your dog is like mine and little too high strung to have someone else clean her.

Found on Malden Street between Albany Street and Harrison Avenue, the Urban Hound also offers little treats and grooming as well as a doggie day care if you don’t want to leave your pooch at home while working.

In Back Bay, you’ll find Fish & Bone and Pawsh Dog Boutique and Spa. Both pet boutiques are highly reviewed for their services, have wonderful accessories and treats, and are conveniently located on/near Newbury Street.

Four Preppy Paws caters to the Beacon Hill pet-owning crowd. A wonderful pet boutique on Charles Street that has all the food, treats, and accessories you need to spoil your pet.

Kitten Playing with Designer Toy

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Boston’s Historic Mansion Nobody Wants…

Various Highlights of Ames-Webster Mansion in Back Bay

Boston is filled with historic real estate. Originally built to house the elite, many properties in Boston have been converted into luxury condos, commercial spaces, or museums. There are a few, however, that retain their original glory as single-family mansions. One in particular is the Ames-Webster Mansion in Boston’s Back Bay.

The Ames-Webster Mansion is located at 306 Dartmouth Street, situated on the corner of Dartmouth Street and Commonwealth Avenue at the heart of Back Bay. A 26,000 square foot brick mansion such as the Ames-Webster is not common in Boston real estate and to be honest nothing about this multi-million dollar mansion is common.The Ames-Webster Mansion holds 50 rooms, 28 fireplaces, and 6 parking spaces.

The original building at 306 Dartmouth Street was designed and built by renowned architectural firm Peabody and Stearns in 1872. John Sturgis, who also designed the original Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, is credited with the redesign and enlargement of the property in 1882 to a single family home for Frederick Ames, who was, in his time, called “the hub’s richest man” by the Boston Globe. The home has had few owners since which means few renovations and the survival of the original ornate detail intact throughout the home, such as the stained glass skylight designed by John La Farge and the murals Benjamin Constant painted around the skylight.

This historic mansion is a true example of a trophy property. It has everything: location, size, prestigious pedigree, and it’s zoned for commercial use as well as residential. Yet it has been for sale for over 700 days and was originally priced for $23 million with the price dropping to $18 million last November.

With the economy the way it is, not too many people have $18 million on hand, but there are properties in the United States of this magnitude (and greater) that have sold over the last year. How has this one stayed on the market? Many theories could answer this question, but I like to believe it is haunted, a detail the owners would have to disclose* to potential buyers. I’m not saying it is haunted, but if it were, that could be scaring away potential buyers.

Boston Historic Ames Webster Mansion at 306 Dartmouth Street in Boston's Back Bay

*Fun Fact: The only instance of the term “paranormal activity” in Massachusetts Law is in relation to stigmatized property.

Update: It turns out someone wanted the Ames-Webster mansion after all. The property sold on March 15, 2013 for $14,500,000.

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