Tag Archives: property in the United States

Fair Housing Act: Why Realtors Are Not Allowed to Discuss Schools, Safety, and Religion

Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important purchase of their life for many people. People want to have a home where they can start and raise a family. It is common for buyers to want to know about the safety and schools. Unfortunately, Realtors cannot discuss those factors and/or religious institutions with buyers.

Realtors cannot discuss safety for two reasons, one of which is liability. If a Realtor says this neighborhood is safe and something happens after you move in, the real estate broker could be in trouble. The second reason is it violates the Fair Housing Act.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of race, religion, color, familial status, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability.

Fair Housing - Buy Property You Want Where you WantFor many buyers, safety is an important factor along with being in a good school district or being close to a religious institution. Saying a particular neighborhood is safe, how great the schools are, or a wonderful church is nearby could be considered steering. Steering can be done in one of two ways. One is only showing a homebuyer houses in a particular area based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, familial status, or sexual orientation. The other is refusing or failing to show homes fitting the buyer’s criteria on the basis of their race, religion, color, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or familial status.

Everyone has the right to buy property in any area they chose to live. Being able to afford the property they want in said area is a different story but affordability and availability should be the only factors that keep anyone from renting a property or buying a property where the buyer wants to live. However, a few types of housing are exempt from the Fair Housing Laws. For example, owner occupied homes with no more than 4 units and single family homes sold or rented without the use of a Realtor. Also, housing operated by and used exclusively for organizations that limit occupancy to members only.

As Realtors, we do not want to hide any information, and we are happy to give the facts when we can. We cannot speak about safety, schools, crime, or religious institutions, but we can direct you to those who can such as Picket Report or an officer at the nearest police station.

Posted in Buy Property, Real Estate Tips, Realtor, Where to Live | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buying a House? Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage First

Get Pre-Approved Before BuyingI’ve written before about the home buying process and the steps buyers need to take to become home owners. Yet I still see and speak with many buyers that do not have their pre-approval letter or have not spoken with a lender. In a buyer’s market (more listings for sale than buyers) or a “normal” market where not every listing goes under-agreement after the first open house, I could understand moving at a slower pace. Now is not that market. Now you are running with the bulls. If you do not want to get trampled, first – don’t wear red, and second – speak with a lender and get pre-approved.

This is not just in my corner of the real estate world. This is true all over the nation (with few exceptions). Last year sales of occupied homes were the highest they have been in five years, however the inventory is at a 13 year low. Which is prompting a need for construction of new homes and condo buildings. August saw the lowest supply of new construction homes on the market since 1963 at 143,000 units. Last month it rose to 150,000. At this rate, it would take a little over four months to exhaust all the supply of new construction off the market.

The lenders we work with are professional, responsive, and in some cases, superheros. It takes little to no time at all to get a pre-approval letter. In this market, if you want a chance to buy a home you want, have a pre-approval letter before you see it. If you find a home first and then try to get everything in order, you can lose out. If you plan to get a mortgage and do not submit a pre-approval letter, sellers will consider your application incomplete. And if multiple offers are submitted, your offer will end up at the bottom of the pile, behind those with a pre-approval letter and buyers paying cash.

We want to help you put the strongest offer forward, so you can secure the property. If you need the recommendation of lenders to speak with, we would be happy to provide the names of those lenders we feel are the best in the business.

Posted in Buy Property, Mortgage, Real Estate Sales Market, Real Estate Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Real Estate Transfer Tax: Fact or Fiction?

Plenty of rumors were spread during the election. Now that the dust has settled, we can start separating what was fact from what was fiction. One rumor in particular had myself and fellow Realtors concerned, the rumor of a 3.8% real estate transfer tax included in the Obamacare bill going into effect on January 1, 2013. If true, this would indeed affect many people. Fortunately, it is has been completely misunderstood and will not impact 97% of real estate transactions. In fact, it is wrong to call it a real estate transfer tax. It is a capital gains tax.

This video from the National Association of Realtors, addresses some of the rumors and explains how and when this tax will come into play.

Here are the basic facts:

  •  The new 3.8% tax increase is to help Medicare and goes into the Social Security Trust.
  • The tax only applies to individuals that makes over $200,000 a year or couples that make over $250,000 a year.
  • Sales of primary residences can still take advantage of the $500,000 capital gains exclusion, but the tax will apply to anything above that cap.
  • Any capital gains on non-primary residences (investment properties, second homes, ect.) will be subject to the tax if the owner’s income exceeds the limits previously mentioned.

Working in a bustling city, many of my clients own investment properties and pied-à-terres throughout the downtown neighborhoods. If you feel you will be affected by this new tax, please consult a tax or financial consultant to learn exactly how.

Posted in Investment Property, Real Estate Tips, Real Estate Transactions, Sell property | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is the Benjamin Mansion Boston’s Finest Restoration?

It is not often I walk through a home and see so many correct choices made on a development project.

I recently had the honor of previewing the single-family home for sale at 74 Beacon Street for an international buyer client I have been working with. The townhouse was originally built in 1828 by architect Asher Benjamin, who was best known for the Old West Church and the Charles Street Meeting House. Some say the wealthy buyers of these Asher Benjamin mansions chose the Beacon Street location because they viewed the newly formed “flat of Beacon Hill” as a superior location to the steep slope of Mt. Vernon Street. Although, in reality, these mansions were located near the city dump at the bottom of Beacon Street when built. Not until Back Bay was filled in did the area start to transform into the prime real estate we consider it today.

The Benjamin Mansion at 74 Beacon Street

One of the developers involved in the restoration grew up in a townhouse in London and her knowledge was an asset as the development team undertook a three-year gut-renovation project. The result was a restoration blending old-world detail and modern amenities. Some of those amenities include a heated rooftop endless infinity lap pool, deeded parking and a Brimmer Street garage space, an elevator, two roof decks, a patio, smart home technology, and a laundry room GQ found worthy of a Tom Brady photo shoot.

The price does reflect the quality at $1769 a square foot which is a price usually reserved for the first block of Comm Ave, Louisburg Square, and high-end buildings such as the Mandarin Oriental or the Carlton House.

Schedule a consultation with a Realtor

Posted in Boston Property, Property for Sale, Real Estate Development, Renovation, Restoration | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Mason House: Back Bay’s Latest Historic Mansion for Sale

The Mason Home: Million-Dollar Historic MansionNot too long ago I wrote about the Ames Webster Mansion at 306 Dartmouth St in Boston’s Back Bay, the incredible historic mansion that has been on the sales market for just shy of 800 days. At the time I wrote about the Ames Webster Mansion, there was no comparable property in Boston proper. This has now changed as The Mason House has come onto the sales market.

I recently had the privilege of touring The Mason House at 211 Commonwealth Ave and I feel it was a privilege. The Mason House is a single-family mansion built in 1883 by Rotch & Tilden architects in the Colonial Revival style for William Powell Mason. Situated across from the Commonwealth Mall between Exeter St and Fairfield St, every aspect of this home was designed with meticulous attention. The facade of the building is a seemingly simple brick exterior, but once inside, the grandeur within is revealed to the fortunate few to walk through the entrance. The moment you open the immense door and are welcomed into the incredible foyer, you do feel like one of the fortunate few.

The Mason Home's Formal Salon at 211 Comm AveThe basics of this brick mansion are as follows: 5 floors, 11 bedroom, 9 bathrooms, 14 fireplaces, private terrace, enclosed garden, elevator, au-pair suite, two wet bars, butler’s kitchen, and a heated garage that fits up to 5 cars. All of these features found in one Back Bay home is unique, but what truly sets this home apart from other multi-million dollar mansions are the exquisite details. For example, the beautifully patterned moldings along the crown, walls, and fireplace in the formal salon gives an air of delicacy and refinement. The formal dining room with coffered ceiling and restored mahogany paneling exudes formality and regality.

The Mason Home features an incredible music roomThe piece de resistance has to be the music room added in 1897. I believe the music room is reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome, Italy with a stained-glassed skylight set into the coffered half-dome ceiling at the room’s entrance. The dome in the center of the room is believed to be the first architectural element in Boston designed specifically for electric lights, which were used to illuminate the stucco ceiling details. The music room was added by Fanny Mason, the daughter of the William Powell Mason, who founded the Boston Symphony and the Peabody-Mason Music Foundation. In this room, Fanny Mason hosted many musical performances by renowned artists of the time.

The Mason House seems immense and overwhelming as a whole, but each room achieves an intimacy that can make you feel comfortably at home. This trophy property is available for the asking price of $17,900,000 and since the previous owners have renovated many of the rooms (including the kitchen) for our modern times, very few renovations would be needed for the new owners to call it home.

Schedule a consultation with a realtor

Posted in Boston Property, House, Property for Sale | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Subscribe to our real estate blog via RSS or email

Posted in Real Estate Sales Market, Real Estate Transactions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boston’s Historic Mansion Nobody Wants…

Various Highlights of Ames-Webster Mansion in Back Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schedule a consultation with a realtor

Posted in Boston Property, House, Property for Sale | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment