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Pie in the Sky Event: The True Spirit of Thanksgiving

Every Thanksgiving, my family went around the table and said what we were most thankful for. I am sure this is a tradition many families share and it is a simple way to remind us of how lucky we are to be surrounded by food, friends, and family. It is in this spirit that Matthew Gaskill and myself volunteer our time and whatever resources we can use to helping others. Once again, we are volunteering for Community Servings’s Pie in the Sky. This is an wonderful event that brings the community together in the true spirit of Thanksgiving.

Since 1990, Community Servings has provided meals to those who are critically ill and their families in 18 cities and towns all over Massachusetts. These are people battling with HIV/AIDS, cancer, kidney disease, and other illnesses that make them too sick and weak to be able to shop or cook for themselves.

We are selling pies for $25 from the best chefs, restaurants, caterers, and hotels all over Massachusetts and $.90 of every $1 goes directly to Community Servings. Sure you could find pies available for a little less, but this $25 buys a pie and feeds a family for a week. Pie in the Sky began in 1993 when so many in the restaurant community lost friends and co-workers to the HIV/AIDS virus. Knowing how much food can change a person emotionally and physically, some of these people started Pie in the Sky. Since then hundreds of restaurants and volunteers have taken time to bake pies, sell pies, deliver pies, and whatever else is needed. This event raises 15% of Community Servings’s annual private fundraising revenue!

Pie in the Sky Event from Community ServingsPies are only available to those in Massachusetts who can pick them up in person at any of 63 pick up locations (14 of which are in Boston). However, anyone can donate a pie to one of Community Servings’ 1,300 clients in need or donate directly to Community Servings. Pies available are the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving; apple, pecan, pumpkin, and sweet potato.

Go to our team site to buy a pie or donate! Last day to order is 11/17/12.

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The Year is Not Over for Motivated Home Sellers and Home Buyers

Thomas Jefferson said “never put off till tomorrow what you can do today,” and this should be the mantra repeated by buyers and sellers this time of year. With the holidays are coming, most home buyers and sellers believe “if I haven’t found the right home” or “if I haven’t sold yet,” it is best to stop now and regroup next year in the spring. Since this is such a common belief, it would seem pointless to argue the contrary. But this is exactly what I am going to do.

Still Time to Close Escrow Before the Year is OverSince it is a common mindset to hold off buying or selling a home until after the holidays, this means less competition on both sides. For buyers, it is obvious to see how this is a good thing. In Boston, where there has been very little inventory on the sales market, good quality, well-priced listings have sold quickly for close to, at, or over-asking price and many times with multiple offers. This time of year, motivated home buyers may be able to find a home with less stress and intensity than in spring.

On the selling side, if your property has been sitting on the market, now is the time to show buyers how much of a motivated home seller you are! If it is priced fairly for the market, try a small price drop and take new pictures. Make buyers forget that it has been sitting and the result can be renewed interest. Less competition from sellers who have taken their homes off the market also works in favor online casino of the seller who has an active listing.

The people who are still searching for properties this time of year are serious and motivated home buyers. These are the people that will trudge through terrible weather, work with shorter amounts of daylight, and go to open houses instead of malls for holiday shopping. On the other end of the spectrum, the sellers that are letting strangers into their homes wearing wet or muddy boots while they go wait somewhere out in the cold are motivated home sellers. These are the groups that want to put in an offer and want to accept an offer, not the type who are browsing or throwing out a line and hoping for a bite.

If you are a buyer or seller looking to close escrow before the year ends, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate to discuss the best strategy for meeting your goals before the end of the year.

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Sotheby’s International Realty: Our Journey to Extraordinary

We at Sotheby’s International Realty are in continuous evolution to maintain our high standard of white glove service to our clientele all over the world. With society in constant motion not only are we on the pulse with what is current, we strive to stay ahead of the curve. This recently created video explores how much our world has changed and how our company thrives on meeting those challenges.

How Sotheby’s International Realty has grown

In 1976, the Sotheby’s auction house began Sotheby’s International Realty and, in 2004, entered a strategic alliance with Realogy.

In February of 2004, there were 15 company-owned offices. Today we have more than 12,000 real estate agents working out of nearly 650 office in 45 countries and territories.

In 2005, our company completed 19,000 transactions totaling $19 billion in sales. In 2009, we had grown to nearly 34,000 transactions totaling $22 billion. Today, Sotheby’s International Realty handles over 59,000 transactions representing $41 billion.

Sotheby’s International Realty: continuously expanding our reach

When a listing is featured as a cover property on sothebysrealty.com it gets 30% more views. We have also developed lifestyle micro sites for buyers looking for property falling under one of the following lifestyles: Waterfront, Golf, Vineyards & Wineries, Skiing, and Farm & Ranch. There are 60 billion dollars in property value on sothebysrealty.com representing 30,000 listings with 38% of them outside the United States.

Of the 2.1 billion internet users, 72% don’t search in English. On sothebysrealty.com, users can search in over 16 diverse languages.

China will soon become the largest English speaking country in the world. Sotheby’s International Realty already has a network hub in Hong Kong and we continue to expand our presence within Asia.

On the pulse of where and how our clientele search for property

13.9 million mobile subscribers access real estate information via mobile and this year more internet searches will happen via mobile versus a computer. Because of this shift toward mobile search, we created a cascading platform of 60 interconnected mobile-friendly websites and developed GPS-enabled apps for smartphones.

1 in every 8 people on earth are on Facebook. 3 years ago twitter didn’t exist now there are 175 million tweets per day. 200 billion videos are watched around the world per month. We maintain a strong and  active presence on FacebookTwitter, YouTube and other social networks on both a corporate and local level.

What is the end result of our marketing efforts? 506 million media impressions delivered. Leveraging the world’s most influential partners including BBC, Google, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Financial Times, Luxury Properties,  International Herald Tribune, Bloomberg Markets, Country Life, The Robb Report, Sotheby’s At Auction, etc.

Contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate to see discuss how Sotheby’s International Realty can benefit you.

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What Can You Buy for $1 Million in Back Bay?

News outlets have been promoting how the housing crisis is in recovery and that the low mortgage rates make now a great time to buy! This may be true but what do you get for your money in today’s sales market in Boston?

Depending on the type of lifestyle you want, one of the downtown neighborhood in Boston can accommodate. This blog will focus on the Back Bay neighborhood and Back Bay condos.

What does $1 million buy you in Back Bay?

If we go by the data, $1 million can get a beautiful condo in Back Bay. I did a search of sold listings between $800,000 and $1.2 million in Back Bay. Over the last 6 months there have be 56 sold condos in Back Bay with an average sale price of $953,039 and the average price per square foot is $758.

One of the best things about buying a condo in Back Bay is that you don’t have to choose between lifestyle and location. Whether you want a luxury high rise or a historic brownstone, there are available condos in Back Bay.

Marlborough St

Penthouse living on Sunny Marlborough Street, this 1050 square foot 2 bed 2 bath renovated condo with parking and roof rights sold at the beginning of summer for the asking price of $999,000 after being listed for only 1 day. This condo in Back Bay offered high ceilings, an open layout, and top of the line kitchen with Viking Stove and granite countertops. The fireplace warms this condo into a home on the quietest residential street in Back Bay.

Condo in Back Bay on 299 Marlborough Street

299 Marlborough Street – Thread Real Estate

 

Commonwealth Ave

Located on one of the most historic streets in Boston, this 1300 square foot 2bed 1.5bath renovated condo in a brownstone with parking sold this summer for $1,000,000. Built in 1890, this sunny third floor condo offered high ceilings with classic crown molding, a bay window, and 2 fireplaces. Renovated to modern tastes, this condo in Back Bay also has central air conditioning, a chef’s kitchen with stainless steel appliances, and laundry in unit. This condo sold in 6 days!

Condo in Back Bay on 286 Commonwealth Avenue

286 Commonwealth Avenue – Warren Residential Group, LLC

 

Beacon St

Just a block from the Charles River, this 1797 square foot 2 bed 2.5 bath renovated duplex with parking and private patio sold for $1,080,000. This condo has a everything to call it home. From the classic features of hardwood floors, bay windows, 2 fireplaces to modern conveniences of laundry in-unit, central heating and air conditioning, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and walk-in closets. This condo in Back Bay was sold in just over 2 weeks for 98% of asking price.

Condo in Back Bay on 369 Beacon Street

369 Beacon Street – Realty Development Services

 

Newbury St

If you are not interested in a traditional brownstone, Back Bay also offers incredible options for modern luxury living. On Newbury Street, this 1330 square foot 2 bed 2 bath corner unit with garage parking and a concierge sold this spring for $1,130,000. Enjoy the 6th floor views of Back Bay from the floor-to-ceiling windows and want for nothing with Back Bay at your fingertips.

Condo in Back Bay on 360 Newbury Street

360 Newbury Street – Otis & Ahearn

 

Search condos in Back Bay for $800,000 to $1,200,000. To see Back Bay condos in person, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group.

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Pricing a House: The Difference Between Sold Listings and Old Listings

This is a great time to sell with limited inventory on the current sales market and the mortgage rates at all-time lows. In fact, every news outlet is saying how the housing crisis is in remission, so why hasn’t your home sold yet?

Let me give you a frame of reference: if you have had a property on the market for longer than 2 months with no serious interest, your property can be considered stale and will be harder to sell. Keep in mind this is not true for all properties. Certain properties that fit into a niche market (multi-million dollar mansions, horse farms, etc.) or have problems (in areas with lots of construction, awkward layouts, etc.) will take longer to sell than turn-key properties. If your property doesn’t need improvements and is in a sought after location, why didn’t your house sell when it first came on the sales market?

Our society is becoming increasingly visual and tech-savy and people want to see high-quality photographs. Do your listings feature plenty of pictures of the property? Are the pictures high-quality and shot by a professional photographer? Is your listing mobile friendly so buyers look up your listing on their smartphone or tablet? If you answered “yes” to these, then more than likely it’s because the price is too high.

Pricing a house to sell in the current sales marketThere are many reasons a property doesn’t sell but more often than not, not pricing a house to sell in the current market is the factor for a listing to go stale. If you feel this is wrong, let me ask you, did you come up with a price based on the formula: I paid X so many years ago and put in Y so the price should at least be (X+Y)+Z with for inflation and appreciation? It’s an easy formula but it is the wrong way to go about pricing a home. One reason is that your ROI is never equal to 100%. There are several home renovation projects to increase its value, but none of them will give you back exactly what you put in. Another reason this formula is inaccurate is that the market works much differently and a property should be priced to sell for the current market. Worst case scenario is that your area took a hit in the housing crisis and it hasn’t recovered. If you bought it for X at the peak of the market, chances are you are not going to get it all back when you want to sell. Best case scenario, you bought low and held onto the property for years and now you can get much more than what you paid and put in.

“Is my property priced too high?”

If you and your Realtor are doing everything to market your property well, check the sales activity in the local market. Is there a lot of activity? If there is a lot of activity in your sales market but your property has not had any interest, this is a good indication the price is too high. Pricing a home is not a guessing game, have your Realtor provide a comparative market analysis and look at the data. This will show you what similar properties to yours have recently sold for and you will also be able to see how long they were on the market and compare the list price to the sold price.

If you are still saying to yourself that you know your home is worth the price you are asking, let me ask you this: do you really want to sell your home? If your answer is “only if I get the price I want,” you don’t really want to sell and chances are you won’t sell. If your answer is “yes,” then it needs to be priced to sell in the current market. If you want to get the best price, price the home to sell to begin with. This will bring a lot of traffic and interest right away, which is the most critical time for any house on the market. The properties that are getting close to asking or above asking are priced well at the start. If the property is priced too high to begin with, it will sit. To generate renewed interested, you will need to drop the price. Depending on how long you have it on the market and how many price reductions you make, you may end up selling for less than you would have if you had priced it well to begin with. In the meantime you have lost money because of the holding costs incurred through property taxes, maintenance, and mortgage payment.

Pricing a house too high for the current sales market

versus

Pricing a house to sell in the current sales marketIf this doesn’t move you to reconsider your strategy when pricing a house, see what your asking price gets you in the local market. Are there more bedrooms? New renovations? Landscaped outdoor space? These are what buyers are expecting at this price and if your property falls below their standard, buyers are not going to be interested.

If you are in the market to sell a home or would like to know what your property is worth in the current sales market, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group.

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Search MLS Listings and Use Our Website’s Tools

We designed our website to give you the tools you need to achieve your real estate goals. We believe the combination of the best technology and attentive and knowledgeable Realtors will give you the advantage  in a competitive real estate market.

As you know, our website features every listing offered on the MLS, including those for sale by owner. Our website updates with the MLS each hour, so you know are getting the most accurate information available. On every one of the listings you have access to on our site, you can take advantage of the following:

  • Contact a Realtor with questions on the listing or to schedule a showing. No need to pick up the phone or even switch over to your email client since your request can be done directly from the listing.
  • Save the listing to a list of favorites, so you can easily access it later. You can use this to keep track of listings or to have easy access to listings you want to compare.
  • Save notes to the listing for you to reference later. By keeping your notes on our website, your notes will all be in one place and available for you whenever you want them.
  • Calculate mortgage payments with the integrated mortgage calculator. The mortgage calculator is adjustable, so you can change the down payment, interest rate, and loan term.
  • Get the opinion of friends and family with the ability to email the listing to anyone you want or share the listing to your social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest share buttons are all available on the page.
  • If you find some value in the Zillow Zestimate®, you can access this figure for each listing as well as many market and area demographics area compiled by Zillow. Although, if you rely on the Zillow Zestimate®, we should talk so I can explain how my knowledge will give you a better understanding of the real estate market than a number spit out by an algorithm.

We believe these tools will help make the most of your online search for property, but we also think your Realtor is another tool to be utilized in any real estate transaction. We are here to help and offer the guidance and advise you will not get from a website.

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Setting the Stage to Sell Your Home

Staging to sell your propertyOnce you put your home on the market, you have to come to terms with the fact that this will no longer be your home. Once you’ve accepted this, you can start to see it how a buyer would see it. The first step is to get all the clutter out and depersonalize. If you were buying a home, you would want to see a property free of all the previous owners’ personal items. People don’t want to be reminded that they are going through someone else’s home. You want to inspire the buyer with an unassuming canvas, something a buyer can look at and say, “This works, but I can see how I can do a little more.”

Hiring a professional stager is one of the best investments you can make when selling a home. If you are living in the house while it is on the market, a stager can help you by advising how to make the space appeal to a buyer while keeping it functional and livable for you. And if you have moved out and taken your furniture with you, staging a home can give life and warmth to an empty space. Unfortunately buyers do not always have the vision necessary to see themselves in a house. Staging allows them to see a house as their home.

You know your home. You know the time of day where the sun hits a room just right. Highlight the features that makes your home unique. Make sure to capture what makes this home so special and how it can make someone else just as happy to call it home.

Fix or upgrade the features that will turn someone off. Are the fixtures in the bathroom out of date? Change them to something more current. Are the cabinets in the kitchen still white with a wood border? Simply switch them out. Doing those little changes will add value to your home. If a buyer comes in and only sees what they will have to change and the work they will have to do, it can either turn them off completely or cause them of give a lower offer.

Many buyers these days like to come into a property and see little or no work needs to be done. Features like a landscaped garden can seem like a great highlight, until a buyer starts thinking of all the work and money they are going to have to spend to maintain it. Realizing these ahead of time, you can turn what some see as a negative into a positive. Offer helpful tips to show it’s not that difficult to take care of a garden or leave the name of gardeners that can help maintain it.

These are just a few ways to set the stage to sell your home. If you are interested in learning how we can help sell your property, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate.

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How We Can Help You Decide Where to Live in Boston

Are you new to the area or looking for the neighborhood that best suits your lifestyle?

We are available to discuss and share our insights on the city and its neighborhoods. Trust us, we could talk about Boston and its neighborhoods for hours. But if you’d prefer to do some research on your own before you get us talking, our website is a great source.

We have integrated the website with resources such as Walk Score, education.com, Yelp, and Google Maps to help educate those in the midst of an international relocation and those looking for a new neighborhood to call home.

  • The Walk Score feature will provide one score for the walkability of a location and another score for its access to public transportation.
  • The Yelp integration allows you to locate nearby services including dry cleaners, coffee shops, grocery stores, health providers, athletic facilities and gyms, restaurants, and much more.
  • Our education.com feature will show area schools on a map, provide contact information, offer a brief description as well as a link to more thorough information and reviews on the education.com website.
  • By featuring Google Maps on our website, we are able to provide access directly to Google Street View without the need to leave the property listing.
  • The Zillow integration offers a variety of charts and data providing insight on the real estate market and area demographics.

We think these tools will give you the ability to find the area right for you and your lifestyle. Of course, I am always available to discuss in more detail or if you have any questions.

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How Real Estate Developers Shaped Beacon Hill and America

The Mt. Vernon Proprietors developed Boston’s Beacon Hill into the neighborhood we know today and in the process they shaped the way real estate development would function during the formative years of the United States as a nation. Although we can see their legacy in the development of Beacon hill, their contributions to real estate development in the United States is even greater. As what was probably the first real estate syndicate in America, their model shaped the way America was built.

A real estate syndicate is a group of investors pooling money and using the funds as a whole to fund real estate projects. The funds could be used to acquire property in its entirety or as an equity contribution to the project along with a mortgage, which would fund some portion of the project.

The Mt. Vernon Proprietors were founded in 1795 by Harrison Gray Otis, Jonathan Mason, Charles Ward Apthorp, and Joseph Woodward. Members of the group changed frequently, but partners included the famed architect Charles Bulfinch, Hepzibah Swan, William Scollay, Dr. Benjamin Joy, and Henry Jackson. In the same year they founded, the Mt. Vernon Proprietors bought an 18.5 acre cow pasture from an agent working on behalf of the painter John Singleton Copley, who had been living in England for the previous 20 years. When it took place, it was the largest land transaction that had taken place in Boston and included the land bordered today by Mt Vernon Street, Louisburg Square, down Pinckney Street to the Charles River, along the shoreline to Beacon Street, and up Beacon Street to Walnut Street, which connects with Mt. Vernon Street. This was such a large plot of land that it would be 30 years before Louisburg Square and the land west of it was laid out.

Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill in BostonThe majority of the tract was hilly pasture, not valuable until the Massachusetts State House was built at the top of Beacon Hill in 1798. The plot of land where the State House was to be built was bought from the heirs of John Hancock, the first Governor of Massachusetts and the man with the world’s most famous signature.

Harrison Gray Otis had been appointed to a town committee to select the new site of the Massachusetts State House and a scandal ensued when it was discovered he was involved in the purchase of the newly valuable land. John Singleton Copley protested the sale, but after a decade of legal arguments the sale was upheld.

The Mt. Vernon Proprietors planned to use their land as a new residential area for those whose fortunes had grown due to Boston’s merchant trade. The group’s surveyor, Mather Withington, and Charles Bulfinch created separate development plans, but both proposed large lots ranging from 60 by 160 to 100 by 200. Bulfinch’s plan focused on freestanding mansions with lots large enough for stables and gardens, as was common practice in the South End and West End at the time, and a few homes were built following Bulfinch’s specifications. Withington’s development plan was eventually chosen, a plan which proposed the laying of Mt. Vernon Street, Chestnut Street, Pinckney Street, and Walnut Street as they are today.

The work of laying the streets began in 1799, with the streets aligned in an east-west orientation with limited access from the less desirable North Slope, which was referred to as “Mt. Whoredom” at the time. During this early stage of development, Mount Vernon, the Western peak of Boston’s three hills cut by 50-60 feet. The country’s first gravity railroad was used to transport the dirt downhill and into the water, increasing the developer’s land by filling in the area now occupied by Charles Street and part of the Flat of the Hill.

Beacon Hill map as planned by the Mt. Vernon ProprietorsThe early homes built on the Mt. Vernon Proprietor land were of great dimensions, following the vision of Charles Bulfinch. Harrison Gray Otis commissioned Bulfinch to build a home at 85 Mt. Vernon Street. Bulfinch bought the parcel west of Otis in 1805 and divided it into the two lots at 87 and 89 Mt. Vernon Street on which he built large freestanding mansions with a shared driveway.

Along with these homes, the Massachusetts State House at the top of Beacon Hill was also designed by Charles Bulfinch. At the time architecture was more of a hobby than an occupation and Bulfinch was employed as a member of the city’s Board of Selectman and Boston’s Chief of Police. Although, Bulfinch would go on to become the first American to practice architecture as an occupation and he would design many more buildings around Boston before heading to Washington D.C. to work on the Capitol.

After the initial estate sized lots were sold and developed on Mt. Vernon Street, the Mt. Vernon Proprietors decided these homes were not in the best interest of their investment. Because of this the rest of the land was laid out in more dense blocks of row houses and even the gardens of the original estates were developed, thus the mansions at 89, 87, and 85 Mt. Vernon Street appear to be incorporated within a developed block.

Among the houses associated with the Mt. Vernon Proprietors surviving today are:

  • 29A Chestnut Street, built on a speculative basis in 1799
  • 70, 71, 72, 73, 75, and 74 Beacon Street were built in on a speculative basis in 1828 after being designed by architect Asher Benjamin.

Other homes in the Beacon Hill neighborhood are associated with individual members, but these represent efforts of the group.

For more information on property for sale in Beacon Hill or to own your own piece of history, contact a Realtor from our team.

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