Tag Archives: buying investment property

35 Kingston Street #1/B: 4186 SqFt Blank Canvas of Mixed-Use Space in Downtown Crossing

New to the real estate sales market, 35 Kingston Street offers a creative buyer a rare opportunity to acquire a substantial amount of square feet in a premier location, Downtown Boston. Currently being used as two separate commercial spaces, this 4186 sq ft raw mixed-use space can be combined to create an incredible live/work area spread over two levels.

The location at 35 Kingston Street is convenient to public transportation such as the orange and red lines, commuter rail and AmTrack, and it is minutes to the main highways (I-90 Mass Pike and I-93) and an express lane to the airport. In addition, approximately $2.4 billion has been privately invested into the downtown area of Boston over the past 10 years creating a vibrant neighborhood filled with restaurants, college facilities and lecture halls, new residential high rise condos, theatre restorations, luxury hotels, shops, etc. With more projects from commercial to residential planned, valuing approximately $800 million, and a committed community of property owners (Downtown Boston Business Improvement District) dedicated to transforming the Downtown Crossing area of Boston area into a clean and lively neighborhood, $1million for 4186 sq ft at 35 Kingston Street is a well-priced investment with incredible potential.

35 Kingston Street #1:B exteriorThe lower level offers 2174 sq ft, if a buyer would want to keep this as commercial, this can be subdivided to maximize commercial potential. The first floor display level offers 2012 sq ft, 14ft ceilings, exposed brick, aged wood floors, and incredible possibilities for either a residential condo or large open commercial space. As it currently exists, 35 Kingston 1/B is not realizing its full potential, but for a creative buyer it offers endless options. Large spaces, such as 35 Kingston Street offers, have made incredible art galleries and studios, performance spaces, or a truly one of a kind home. The master deed has already been amended to allow converting the spaces from commercial to residential.

This project is not for the faint of heart, it will take a buyer with passion and creativity to see how this space can be maximized. But once completed, the new owner will have over 4000 sq ft in the most dynamic of Boston’s up and coming neighborhoods.

Exclusively listed by the Matthew and Alisa Group, contact us to schedule a private showing.

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3 Ways A Realtor Can Help You Win in a Situation with Multiple Offers

This is part two of a three part series on how to win in a situation with multiple offers. 

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know…. and what they know.

Many of the strategies I wrote about in the previous blog on how offer terms can help win a situation with multiple offers are only possible when the buyer has a good Realtor working on their behalf. A strong Realtor has a large vetted network of vendors in all aspects of a real estate purchase. From lenders and attorneys to painters and carpenters, a good Realtor has many qualified contacts able to put a buyer in the best position to buy a home. More importantly a strong Realtor has developed good relationships with other Realtors in the broker community.

  • Quiet Listings 

The Realtors behind Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate Blog

Most sellers would prefer to have their property on the general market but few unique properties are shopped around quietly among brokers for reasons as simple as getting the right price, the sellers do no want the general public in their home, or the sellers does not want their neighbors to know they are moving. No matter the reason, the result is the same, a buyer needs to be in the know when a property becomes available. A good Realtor spends their time knowing the market conditions, the properties on the market, and the other agents working in the real estate sales market in the area and surrounding neighborhoods. So when a new listing is not going on the general market right away, selling agents will contact other trusted agents they know and have worked with to bring a buyer. Agents working for brokerages with deep connections in the community and many active agents will have further access to these quiet listings beyond their own personal network.

In extreme cases where a buyer must waive a mortgage contingency and/or an inspection contingency, advance knowledge or early access to a property can also allow the buyer the ability to have an inspection prior to submitting an offer or get the property approved by a lender before submitting an offer. Our team of Realtors does not believe a buyer should waive these contingencies unless protected. By getting our clients early access to properties we are able to offer them a competitive advantage while protecting their deposits.

  • Home Inspectors

As mentioned in the previous blog, expedited contingency dates and a short due diligence period can mean an accepted offer. Having a Realtor with a network of trusted inspectors means a buyer can offer an inspection date within two days of acceptance. With a list of multiple qualified inspectors to call, a buyer can almost always find an inspector available within two days.

  • Mortgage Lenders

When an offer has a mortgage contingency, a pre-approval letter must accompany the offer. In a multiple-offer situation, the decision can come down to what lender two particular buyers are using. When a buyer is using a big box lender, such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, etc., their offer can be viewed less favorably because the arduous and inflexible underwriting can stall, delay, and even kill a deal after keeping the home off the market for two or more months. A seasoned listing agent will advise their client on the risks associated with taking an offer accompanied by a pre-approval letter from one of these lenders. Similar to the network of trusted home inspectors, Realtors have extensive networks of trusted mortgage lenders. Many Realtors have had to step in and advise a buyer to switch from a big box lender promising slightly lower rates to a mortgage lender known for getting to the closing table.

Working with a Realtor a buyer trusts is a key factor in any real estate transaction. However, a seller’s agent will not only look for the best terms for their client, but also the team the buyer has decided to use. Agents want to work with other proven agents because it assures their client the best chance of success. Using an agent unfamiliar with the area and the local customs of a transaction or an aunt who has her real estate license but has not sold a home in four years will not make an offer appear any stronger in a situation with multiple offers.

In the next post in this series, I will discuss how important the lender can be in a home purchase. Unless all buyers start buying property with cash, the lender a buyer uses can make or break a deal.

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How to Win in a Situation with Multiple Offers: Terms

This is part one in a three part series on how to win in a situation with multiple offers.

It’s not all about the money.

In this real estate sales market, with very little inventory available, well-priced properties are getting multiple offers. This is true nation wide and can be intimidating to all types of buyers. From first time home buyers to seasoned home owners and investors, this market is fiercely competitive. Buyers who have been on the losing end of multiple offers, can make an aggressive over-priced offer which can create more burned buyers who feel they need to pay more to get the home they want.

If a buyer are working within a budget has found a home priced comfortably in the selected price range, how can an offer look attractive to a seller without significantly over bidding? An offer includes more than the price. The terms of the offer are incredibly important to a seller.

Before submitting an offer, a buyer should consider the following:

  • Flexible closing date

A flexible closing date shows the sellers the buyer wants to work with them to make their transition as smooth as possible. Some sellers have their next home already lined up and need to sell their first property before they can close on their next. So a quick close would be preferred. However, other sellers may have renovations planned and would prefer to have a later closing, allowing them to perform renovations prior to moving into the new property. If the buyer has the flexibility, make it know to the seller by putting it in the offer.

  • Quick contingency dates and due diligence period

How to Win Against Multiple OffersWhile the closing date may not need to be rushed, speeding up the dates for inspection and mortgage contingency will look positive to the seller. If a deal falls through, it will most likely be at the inspection stage. Because most failed deals fall through at this stage, it benefits both buyer and seller to shorten the due diligence period. If any problems do arise and the deal falls through, both parties are find out early in the process are are then free to move onto other options (the next buyer or the next home for sale).

  • Larger down payment or pay with all cash

A larger down payment or an all-cash offer means one thing to the seller, low risk. An all-cash offer means there will be no problems due to financing because the offer contains no mortgage contingency. A larger down payment looks better to a seller for the same reason as a bank, less risk. If a buyer puts in more of their own money, the less the bank has to lend. With a smaller loan amount the easier it should be to obtain a mortgage.

  • Escalating Clause

An escalating clause should only be used in a circumstance when the buyer must have a particular home and can afford to have an aggressive strategy. Adding an escalating clause means the buyer will offer  a certain amount ($1000 or $5000) over the highest offer the seller receives. The buyer can always cap the escalating clause at a certain amount to to minimize risk should another bidder be overly aggressive and offer far more than the home is worth. Keep in mind the escalating clause is a risky and aggressive strategy only to be used with much consideration.

Other ways buyers are attempting to set their offer apart include waiving the contingencies all together. We do not recommend waving contingencies to our buyers, however if a buyer is properly prepared it is possible to waive both the mortgage and inspection contingencies while still protecting a buyers interest.

  • Waiving the inspection contingency

If the buyer can have early access to a property,  the access can be used for more than a superficial look. A buyer may be able to schedule an inspection prior to submitting an offer. If the buyer is able to preform an inspection and is satisfied with the report, the buyer can submit an offer waiving the inspection contingency with confidence and no risk to the good-faith deposit.

  • Waiving the mortgage contingency

Waiving a mortgage contingency should only be done when the buyer has complete confidence in their financial means and in the lender. We would not recommend waiving the mortgage contingency unless the lender has pre-qualified the subject property. We work with lenders who can qualify a property within 4 days, however in most cases the buyer would need early access for this strategy to work.

Not all of these options are for everyone. If the property you are looking at is a highly desired property, one or more of these options could help you offer stand out among the multiple offers. Some of these strategies also require a buyer to have early access to the property before it is made available to the general public. In the next post in this series, I will discuss how a buyers choice of agent can position them to win a situation with multiple offers.

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Luxury Building Condos Go No Smoking: Smokers Need Not Apply

Smoking is becoming more and more out of fashion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of smokers in the country has dropped from 20.9% of adults in 2005 to 19.3% of adults in 2010.

With high-end homeowners and renters expecting luxury and top of the line accommodations, the odor left behind by smokers tend to deflate the high standard many buildings aim for. Following the trend of the times, luxury building condos are now becoming smoke-free environments.

Many buildings already do not allow smoking in the common areas both in and out of doors, but would not place any smoking restrictions within the owner’s unit. This is changing as buildings become smoke free, meaning no smoking on the premises, including in individual condos. One reason for banning smoking within someone’s property is the effects of second-hand smoke. Even if smoking is restricted to one condo, the vents are common throughout the building and the smoke from one unit will travel through the vent and into other units. This will affect the air quality in everyone’s condo.

Another reason is not every smoker keeps their cigarette butts in an ashtray or trashcan. Some (but not all) smokers have a habit of flicking their finished cigarette outside. Entering a luxury building littered with cigarette butts along the street does not make the impression these buildings (or condo owners) want.

Luxury Buildings becoming smoke freeIt seems strange to put restrictions on what an owner can or cannot do within the unit they own. However, the condos are part of a community and share ventilation systems, common areas, and amenities. With the majority of the population being smoke free, more luxury building condos will continue to become smoke free. This will be positive when considering the value when it comes time to sell the property and also if you are considering buying a condo in a luxury building as an investment property. Smoking does cause damage to a property and will turn off potential tenants.

Although people will try to get around the rules and continue to smoke in condos in many creative ways, such as Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development, it will ultimately not work.

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The Matthew and Alisa Group Home Buying Process Class was a Success!

This is a quick blog thanking everyone one for joining us at last night’s Home Buying Process Class!

We had a great turn out of buyers eager to learn about the home buying process. Matthew Gaskill and Alisa Peterson discussed the market conditions to give everyone an understanding of what to expect when searching to buy property this season. With properties going under-agreement as soon as they hit the market, we wanted to make sure that buyers understand how quickly they need to move to buy property.

Joe Smith, a knowledgeable lender from Guaranteed Rate explained what lenders look for when someone applies for a mortgage and the different types of loan programs available to homebuyers, both first-time home buyers and more seasoned  home buyers. He knows just as well as we do how competitive the market is right now and without proper financial backing (i.e. pre-approval letter), sellers won’t even consider the offer.

The wonderful David Datz, Esq., a real estate attorney, explained how important it is to assemble the right team to guide you through this process. This is one of the biggest purchases you can make and it is essential to have knowledgable professionals to explain what you are buying and what you are signing.

Thank you again to Stella Restaurant for providing delicious food and a great space for us to host our class. As you can see from the video, we had quite a few eager buyers ready to learn about the home buying process and I know there are more that were not able to make it.  We will be planning another class in month or two. If you are interested in attending, please subscribe to our newsletter and subscribe to our blog and we will keep you posted on our next class. These classes are meant for anyone interested in learning about the buying process in the current Boston real estate sales market. If you are a first-time home buyer, third-time home buyer, or an investor, you are welcome to join us and learn something new!

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Investment Property Inspection and Reinspection Ordinance

Boston’s real estate market has a somewhat transient nature. The high number of colleges and universities along with medical and financial jobs opportunities lead to thousands of people moving in and around the Boston area every year. We see this in the sales market but much more so in the rental market. Because of the need for rental housing, savvy investors purchase investment property they then offer as apartments for rent.

The way to build wealth in real estate is to buy and hold on to property, which is why most people buy condos in the city now with the idea of renting when they move to something bigger later. However, many investors think on a larger scale. They don’t see one condo to rent out, they want the whole building. Both types of landlords are great and much needed in this city, however some changes are in the works that investors should know about.

Since Boston has hundreds of colleges and thousands of students, dorms are constantly full. The appeal of being off campus in a vibrant city can also make dorm living seem less than attractive. Unfortunately for them, not everyone rents to undergraduate students (students are not a protected class, so landlords can refuse to rent to them). For undergraduates, options are slim and not very ideal. In fact, some conditions are downright inhumane. It is with this in mind that the City of Boston, has been drafting and re-drafting a new law to increase rental property inspections and have owners that do not seem to care about their properties, tenants, and neighbors, take more responsibility.

New ordinance for investment property in BostonPresently, inspections only occur when the lease expires. The proposed law, Rental Housing Inspection Ordinance, will mandate inspections of over 140,000 rental apartment units in Boston, with each unit inspected at least once every 5 years. Owners would be required to register for $25 per unit and pay a $15 annual fee. Prices are higher for any owner who wants to enroll in an alternative compliance plan available to property owners in good standing and a favorable history of compliance. The new ordinance includes any owner who rents out their condominiums. The law requires owners to report any transfer of ownership within 30 days of closing and stipulates the owner of the property (or the acting agent for a trust) have their name, address, and phone number on the mailbox at the property. A P.O. Box does not comply with the address requirement. It also requires any non-local owner to have a Boston-based resident agent.

The goal of this new law is to protect many of the tenants living in problem properties and to force the owners to take offenses seriously. “Problem Properties” are considered by the city as properties that the Police Department has been called to no fewer than four times, the Air Pollution Control Commission has received no fewer than four complaints, or the Inspection Services Department or Public Health Commission has received new fewer than four complaints all within a 12 month period.

The vote to pass this new ordinance can happen as early at December 19th, go into effect on January 1st, and have owners register by July 1st. For those about to buy investment property, keep these new rules in mind, the fees will affect your bottom line depending on the size and location of your building.

UPDATE: The Boston City Council voted 9-4 to approve the rental registration ordinance on December 19, 2012.

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How Does President Obama’s Reelection affect the Housing Market?

It is the best time of year! Right now is time to sit and enjoy the silence. We are in the quiet period when all the campaign commercials and coverage end but right before the bombarding of Christmas commercials and specials. During this quiet time we can have a moment to think about what this election really means. What can we expect in the next four years?  No matter how you feel about the election, it is over and we know who’s captaining the ship. So far the unemployment rate is still not great but it has been steadily increasing over the last year. The economy is showing signs that it is growing. But what about the housing market? The housing market is seen to be related to the jobs market and with the unemployment rate maintaining steady growth, the housing market may continue to strengthen.

Obama's Reelection and the Housing MarketThe mortgage rates are still incredibly low (less than 4% on a 30 year fixed mortgage) and the housing market appears to be on the rise after bottoming out. So far this year, low inventory has been the big story in regard to the housing market. Well-priced properties sell fast and sometimes over asking price. We don’t know what the future will bring, but now is a great time to sell. If you are aggressive, it can be a good time to buy property as well. Foreign investors have felt the same way and have bought many properties in the US with all cash offers. Since President Obama will be in office for four more years, the policies in place most likely will remain. Meaning the strict regulations that lenders have to follow will remain (whereas Romney would have done away with many of them). Also the Federal Reserve will move forward with the Quantitative Easing plan, which may not be the best plan but one that has helped the housing market so far.

I would like to predict that the housing market will continue to rise in prosperity but no one can be certain. I do however find comfort in the fact billionaire investor Warren Buffet is buying real estate brokerages all around the country. He is partnering with Brookfield Asset Management, a Canadian real estate investor, to at least double his brokerage business’s size. Warren Buffet has been very vocal about his belief in the turn around in the housing market. If Warren Buffet believes enough in the housing market’s continued growth to put his money in it, you should too!

If you are interested in learning more about buying or selling property, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group.

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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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Investment Property: Where to Start

Buying Investment PropertyOne of the biggest misconceptions I’ve heard from clients who are interested in buying investment property, is they are going to make livable income from their investment right away. More people have the desire to take advantage of the low mortgage rates and feel buying investment property is a safer investment than buying stocks. This is can be true, however, investing in real estate should be thought of as a long term commitment and must be done wisely.

Depending on what type of property you invest in you may be able to start a steady cash flow, but when you buy investment property, you should think of it as a way to build wealth not get rich quick.

If you buy an investment property in an established neighborhood, this would be considered a low risk investment. In Boston an example would be Back Bay or Beacon Hill. A possible drawback would be the prices would be higher to buy an investment property. However, the positive side is in Boston, where the rents are only going up, the tenant’s rent would cover most is not all of your operating costs, which include mortgage, condo fees, maintenance, and taxes. Little to nothing will be left over for shopping, but after your mortgage is paid off (by someone else), the investment property is now worth a lot more than you originally paid. The goal in these established areas is a safe investment with appreciation and key metric is appreciation rate.

If you buy an investment property in an area that doesn’t have the demand as the established neighborhoods, the risk is higher. In Boston an example could be areas of Roxbury or areas of Dorchester. The drawback would be that you wouldn’t be able to charge as high for rent but the buy in would be less and the money you do collect from rent would more than cover your mortgage and leave some extra cash on hand. Your investment property may not be worth much more than you paid for but the capital of your mortgage would be paid off quicker and you would be able to generate a profit quicker. The goal in riskier areas that do not offer the same appreciation rate as the most established areas is cash flow and the key metric in determining cash flow potential is cap rate (or capitalization rate if you aren’t into the whole brevity thing).

Buying either type of investment property should not be rushed into. Once you buy a property, you are still responsible for maintaining it. If your only experience with how to be a landlord comes from The Ropers on reruns of Three’s Company, we can help. For more information about buying investment property, contact the Realtors of Matthew and Alisa Group Real Estate.

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Assessed Value vs Market Value

“Why is the assessed value vs market value so far off for this property?”

Many buyers have asked this question thinking a ratio of assessed value offers a shortcut to a property’s fair market value. While I use and can suggest many factors and figures to determine a property’s fair market value, I do not ever look at the assessed value when pricing a property. In fact, the only time I consider a property’s assessed value is when I want to provide buyers with the figure they will pay for property taxes.

The fair market value is the price agreed upon between a willing and informed buyer and a willing and informed seller under usual and ordinary circumstances (not under duress). The fair market value is the highest estimated price in terms of money which the property will bring if exposed for sale on the open market with reasonable time allowed to find a buyer who is purchasing with full knowledge of all the uses and purposes to which the property is best suited and for which it can be legally used.

Market Value vs Assessed ValueIn contrast, the assessed value is the dollar value assigned to a property by a public tax assessor for the purposes of measuring applicable taxes. Some states require assessed value to be a percentage of the real market value, but most do not. In Massachusetts, Town Assessors are required to submit assessed values to the State Department of Revenue for certification every three years. Assessors review the real estate sales market data every year and therefore reassess values each year. Many states do not allow the assessment value to be increased unless the home is sold or improvements are done to the home (called Proposition 13 protection in California). If market value falls below assessed value, the home owner may petition the tax collector for an abatement.

Since fair market value and assessed value differ in purpose and in how they are determined, an analysis of assessed value vs market value does not provide a consistent ratio from which to judge the merits of one metric or the other. After charting the two values looking for a correlation, the results show assessed values are all over the place in relation to a property’s fair market value.

I suggest using better methods of gauging a listing price’s merit in the current market. A comparable market analysis (CMA) is the best method for determining probable price of a property, but even price per square foot or the ratio of sale price to list price can be used as quick metrics of a list price’s validity in today’s market. Our Realtors are available to provide you with a CMA if you are considering buying property or thinking about listing your home for sale.

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