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South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade

I can’t help but notice the increased amounts of Kiss me I’m Irish t-shirts, Leprechaun hats, four-leaf clover pins, shamrock shakes, and green beer which means St. Patrick’s Day must be near. With St. Patrick’s Day comes the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held every year in South Boston.

This year the parade will be Sunday March 18th, starting at 1pm. The parade route starts at West Broadway T stop and continues along West Broadway through East Broadway to East 4th, to East 5th and around Thomas Park. The parade continues down Telegraph Street over to Dorchester Street and concludes at Andrew Square.

Parade route of the St. Patrick's Day parade in South Boston

Why South Boston?

According to Allied War Veterans Council, the history of the parade goes back to the American Revolution. In 1776, 55 cannons traveled to Dorchester Heights from Fort Ticonderoga on General John Henry Knox’s orders. In an effort of bolstering the appearance of strength, trees were cut down, hollowed out, and blackened over fire to look like cannons. On March 17th, orders were given that in order to pass safely, you had to know the password, which was “St. Patrick.” The British, not knowing the password or that some of the cannons were trees, saw what they were up against and left Boston. This event became known as Evacuation Day.

St. Patrick’s Day parades have been going on in Boston since 1879, however it took until the community became interested in local history to start celebrating Evacuation Day along with St. Patrick’s Day and make it a city holiday in 1901. Which is also when the city constructed the Dorchester Heights Monument, the site where General Knox had positioned the cannons. With the popularity of the combination of St. Patrick’s Day and Evacuation Day, Suffolk County made it a holiday in 1938. Because of the large Irish population endorsing the holiday, a law declaring the holiday was signed in 1941 using both black and green ink.

For more history and information about the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, visit their site.

If you are interested in seeing property for sale in South Boston, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate.

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Ink Block Project Slated for Former Boston Herald Site

Ink Block development to be built on the former Boston Herald siteThe proposal for the Ink Block development has been made public and a new vision for this area of Boston’s South End neighborhood is a drastic departure from the current state of the area once known as the New York Streets. The New York Streets neighborhood was Boston’s first victim of urban renewal in the late 1950s, a vibrant multi-ethnic neighborhood turned into an unwelcoming industrial wasteland in order to keep the Boston Herald from leaving Boston.

After fifty years at the site, the Boston Herald closed down their production at the South End location known as One Herald Square. The sounds of reporters on the phone and typing out stories ceased. The print presses were shut down. The company moved their offices to the new Innovation District in Boston’s Seaport and began paying The Boston Globe to print and distribute their newspapers circulated in the Boston area.

With the Boston Herald site shuttered, the focus turns to what will become of the 6 acre site they left behind. The site, which runs along Harrison Avenue from Herald Street to Traveler Street, is owned by National Development, which bought the property five years ago. National Development is based in Newton and has been involved in many local developments such as Station Landing, a residential and retail complex in Medford; the Kensington project, a 27-story residential building across from the Ritz-Carlton in Downtown Boston; the Marriott Residence Inn in Charlestown’s Navy Yard; and Longwood Center, a life-sciences building in the Longwood Medical Area. National Development plans to develop the project known as Ink Block with Patrick Purcell, Boston Herald publisher, as a minority investor.

Last week, National Development went before a group of local residents at Project Place to discuss the Ink Block proposal it had submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The Ink Block proposal requires the demolition of the current building known as One Herald Square and envisions in its place four new structures with a total of 475 apartments, a grocery store, retail shops, restaurants, and over 400 parking spaces. The completed Ink Block project will total 550,000 square feet total with 85,000 square feet allocated to ground floor retail. The four buildings will be metal, glass, and brick, each distinct in appearance from the others. One building will be five stories tall, two will be eight stories, and the fourth nine stories. The Ink Block plans were designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects.

The Ink Block apartments will be spread out over all four buildings and will include lofts, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, and 3 bedroom apartments. Rents have not yet been determined for the apartments, but 15% of the units will be affordable. All the affordable housing will be on site.

Ink Block apartment amenities will include a roof deck with pool, theater, fitness center, cyber lounge, bicycle storage, shared car service (Zipcar), shared bike service (Hubway), and electric car charging stations. The garage will offer around one parking space available for every two residential units.

30,000 square feet of the project is allocated for a grocery store. Community members were pleased with this announcement, saying the area has a void when it comes to nearby grocers. The news was tempered when National Development said the desired Whole Foods was not among the grocers currently in talks despite the developer’s pursuit of the national upscale chain. It was mentioned that an urban Stop & Shop has experience in similar locations.

UPDATE: New York based Wegman’s supermarket has expressed interest in opening a Boston store and Danny Wegman, the chain’s chief executive, toured the Ink Block site during the last week of March. Wegman, in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said, “We believe we belong in Boston, not just in the suburbs.’’ He also toured sites in the Fenway.

LATEST UPDATE: Whole Foods Market has agreed to anchor the retail portion of the Ink Block project with a 50,000 square foot store, which will be the largest Whole Foods Market in the Boston area. The store will feature a full selection of organic and natural foods, a wine selection, prepared foods, a gelato bar, and an outdoor cafe seating area on Harrison Avenue. In a prepared statement, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said, ”This is a huge milestone for the neighborhood, and I am proud to welcome Whole Foods to the South End.”

National Development said the goal of the Ink Block project is to create a more inviting pedestrian-friendly area and to this end the proposal calls for wider sidewalks and the bulk of parking to be hidden in the interior of the structure. The vision of a human-scale development is the result, in part, of a proposal National Development submitted last spring for a smaller project that was derided by neighbors as uninspiring and suburban. Since that last proposal, approval of the Harrison-Albany Corridor Strategic Plan allowed for bigger development. The community wants Ink Block, as the first new development in this part of the South End, to set a tone and it appears National Development is listening.

The Ink Block developers did not purchase three adjacent buildings on Albany Street

Three adjacent buildings on Albany Street

Although most of the reception for the new Ink Block proposal was favorable at the recent Project Place pitch, some questioned National Development’s choice to not buy three adjoining properties along Albany Street. Those three properties appear empty, recently vacated by an insurance company, a taxi stand, and F.W. Webb. The detractors claimed National Development missed the opportunity to develop the site to its true potential, but the company said their analysis showed the current market would not bear the larger project.

The finished Ink Block project will be one of the largest residential developments in Boston, built on one of the few large plots available for development in the city. The plan is for Ink Block to be built in phases. The first building will be a nine-story building on Herald Street, followed by a five-story building facing Harrison Avenue and housing the grocery store, and then an eight-story building facing Harrison. The fourth building, facing Traveler Street, may be delayed until construction and occupation of the first three buildings. The entire Ink Block project is projected to be completed before 2016 and cost around $125 million.

To discuss how the proposal of the Ink Block project will affect investment property in Boston’s South End neighborhood, contact our Realtors.

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17th Annual Taste of the South End

On March 6th, 2012 at 7pm in the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama, 40 restaurants will participate in the 17th annual Taste of the South End. General admission tickets are $95 and include unlimited tastings from all 40 chefs’ tables and complimentary wine and cocktails. VIP tickets are also available for $150, which in addition to tastings and drinks, include early admission and access to the after party.

The proceeds for Taste of the South end go to AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, Inc. (AAC). Founded in 1983, AAC is New England’s first and largest AIDS organization. They focus on education, prevention, and providing health services to men, women, and children living with AIDS and HIV.

Participating Chef Gordon Hamersley of Hamersley’s Bistro has said “The Taste of the South End is Boston’s premier food & wine event in our neighborhood and it brings together all of the South End chefs for the AIDS Action Committee. It is a fine way to both raise money for a wonderful organization that does vital work in our community and also have fun saying hello to friends, neighbors, and colleagues. I would not miss this event for the world.”

Watch the following video for scenes from past Taste of the South End events.

For more information about the South End neighborhood or about property for sale in the South End, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate.

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Sotheby’s International Realty Expands Asian Real Estate Network

Sotheby’s International Realty currently has an office in 13 of the 20 top real estate markets worldwide. In the company’s latest move to remain the preeminent luxury real estate network worldwide, Sotheby’s International Realty announced plans to expand the company’s network of real estate affiliates in the Asian market.

Michael R. Good, chief executive officer of Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC says the real estate market in Asia is the company’s number one focus for growth in 2012: “The economic growth and the emerging leadership of Asia in the world economy mean significant opportunities for referral business throughout the world for our network. Our first priority will be to identify potential affiliates in China, India, Australia, Singapore, South Korea and other key locations in the Pacific Rim.”

Sotheby's International RealtyAmong current brand affiliates in Asia are Hong Kong Sotheby’s International Realty, Vietnam Sotheby’s International Realty, Hunter Sotheby’s International Realty in Thailand, Japan Sotheby’s International Realty, New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty, and Taiwan Sotheby’s International Realty.

The Sotheby’s International Realty brand has a current network of over 12,000 agents, in over 580 offices, in over 42 countries and territories worldwide. New affiliations will only be granted to brokerages and individuals meeting the same strict qualifications current affiliates met when they first joined the Sotheby’s International Realty brand.

An expanded management team in the region will create a hub in Hong Kong to support growth in the region and service the needs of the growing network. The Hong Kong hub will also allow the regional affiliates to leverage an already close working relationship with the Sotheby’s Auction House in Hong Kong.

For more information on the expanded Asian real estate network of Sotheby’s International Realty, see the press release from Market Watch.

For information on how this expansion benefits both Asian investors looking to invest in United States property and American investors interested in investment property in Asia, contact our Realtors.

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About to View Property? Here are Some Do’s and Don’ts

Not too many people put much thought into etiquette these days even when going to view property to buy or rent. It’s not anyone’s fault, it is just how society has evolved. When I talk about etiquette, I don’t mean to conjure images of Victorian Britain and reruns of Upstairs Downstairs. I am simply speaking of the basics in proper behavior dictated by certain situations. For example, appropriate behavior does exist when one is going to view property. It’s nothing complex, it is common sense behavior that follows the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

For those who are just starting their search to buy property or rent property in Boston please help us help you.

First, if you are working with a Realtor, be aware that just because you are available in the next hour, your Realtor, the listing agent, or the current occupant might not be. If you are available within the hour, do let your realtor know but also give other times you are available.

Second, when you are going to view property, bring everyone that needs to see it. Inventory in Boston is limited and moves fast. If this property is for roommates, a couple, or a single occupant that needs parent approval, make sure everyone can see it. I am not saying multiple showings are inappropriate, but in the time it takes to schedule and reschedule showings, someone else can come in and scoop it up.

Third, even if the listing is pet-friendly, leave the dog at home. Again, this property is someone else’s home and that someone may choose to not have a pet regardless of the pet policy. They may have allergies or a fear of dogs and forcing one into their home is disrespectful. Or they may have pets that may not want another animal in their home.

Fourth, don’t ask to use the bathroom. Just don’t.

Fifth, if you are looking at property for sale, look beyond the paint and the furniture. This was how the current or previous owner made it their home, you can change it to make it yours. When comments about the decor are being made, one is not always sure who may be listening. Not to mention those comments are irrelevant and off-topic when it comes to the task at hand, which is finding your next home.

These are not fixed rules; there may be agents who disagree with some of these, and there may be agents who have even more rules. We are not trying to make anyone on edge when viewing property, because buying property is stressful enough without thinking about behavior at the viewing. All we ask is to think of it in this way: If you are planning to rent or sell your property, think about how you would want people to treat you and your property when viewing it.

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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

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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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