Click here for instant Brookline Real Estate Blog Updates!

 Subscribe in a reader Share on Facebook

Add to Google Reader or Homepage Subscribe in Bloglines Add to Technorati Favorites


Welcome to your constantly updated resource for news and views on the Brookline Real Estate market. Here you will find commentary and statistics to explain the daily changes in the Brookline specific housing market.

Whether you're looking for an estate in Cottage Farm, a condo in Brookline Village or are just stopping by please feel free to read along and comment at will. If you are interested in speaking about renting an apartment, buyer representation or listing your home please feel free to contact me.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Holiday Wishes

I am off to take a much-needed holiday break, but want to wish all of the readers here a happy end to the year. For those celebrating Christmas, have a happy and safe holiday. We are all so fortunate to live in Brookline and I know that I will spend the remainder of the year reflecting on the relative ease at which we all get to live life here.

When I return I will start discussing the two significant changes in the 2008 mortgage market that will affect every single one of us, yet nobody is talking about yet. If there are any other issues you would like to hear more about, please feel free to post a comment here about them.

For now, it was a wonderful 2007. I am thankful for the 1000+ views this site has gotten this fall, justifying my time writing this. I hope that I have provided some insight, and look to spend next year discussing a good growth year for us all. I am excited for January 1st, as it will be the official start of the "Spring Market" and we should all buckle our seat belts for a fun one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Local home sales slide - The Boston Globe

Local home sales slide - Daily Business Update - The Boston Globe

Kimberly Blanton posted this today in the Globe's business section and it's already become one of the most emailed articles of the week. Here is what you absolutely need to know for Brookline.

November 2006 Condo Sales

Median Price: $457,553
Average Days on Market: 107

November 2007 Condo Sales

Median Price: $490,000
Average Days on Market: 79

I have not put single family home sales because they are skewed by the small number of properties sold this time of year. 10-15 homes is not the best tool for comparison when we have three to five times as many condos being sold in a similar period. A few things which cause the numbers in any November to be down from the rest of the year is the type of property that sells better later in the year. Many 3 bedroom+ units are bought by families who don't enjoy moving their children mid-school year. A lot of one bedroom units sell this time of year to renting professionals or the new crop of Medical Area recruits who are moving to Brookline in January. Look for live housing data graphs shortly on my website:

Monday, December 17, 2007


Who protects the renter?

Back when I was moving up to Boston I was working on a project to develop commercial property outside of Massachusetts and wanted to find a "day job" that meshed with those interests. I knew we were moving up here because my wife was going to be in a Ph.D. program in the Medical Area. We had one week in which she had to decide which program to accept and find suitable housing. I spent time on Craig's List searching for rental listings, and called with about 10 days notice to make appointments for the property I wanted to see. I also explained to the agents that we only had 48 hrs to find a place to live, and we absolutely had to have something rented before we left. Rental agent's dream, right?

Here's what the agent never told me: All rental agents are representing the landlord, and only the landlord. It didn't matter to them what I wanted, it only mattered to them what they were able to get for their client. It's funny that on the sales end of real estate transactions we have disclosure forms for everything. The very first time you sit down with an agent it is MANDATORY that you sign a disclosure form that explains the different forms of agency in Massachusetts. It's called the "Mandatory Agency Disclosure Form" and I can bet that more than 75% of you have never seen it before (that's an issue for another day). Yet, when you're looking to rent an apartment, nobody really takes the time to explain who they're representing, and what your options are. You find the place you like, do all of the shopping yourself, get to negotiating the lease, and you're working against the landlord and their agent. You don't have anyone on your side explaining to you what other similar units rented for, or what other options you should ask for (parking included, etc...) and paying the fee. The amazing part of it is landlords and their agents have been able to pull this scam on the public that the "customer" should pay the fee that the landlord negotiated with their agent. To clarify, the agent is working for the landlord, but you are paying for that work.

So, you go sign a lease, and you have a problem with something in the unit, you try to call the agent who "helped you" and you find out they really can't help you at all. You're not their client. It baffles me to no end that in a state so focused on tenants' rights there is nobody in the transaction that is allowed to represent the tenant. The more amusing thing is that while buyer representation is so common now in sales transactions, the rental agents who work side by side with the sales agents cannot fathom exclusively representing a tenant in their search. I hope this is something that changes soon, because rental agents are the first line of agents that consumers usually come in contact with. I decided I should become an agent because I saw how poorly I was treated in my search. I still remember the abysmal service a certain Newbury St. agent gave me, and she is my daily reminder of how I should strive to service my clients' needs. If I didn't get in the business my opinion of all agents would be awful, all because of that first rental agent.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Brookline delays demolition of Frank McCourt mansions.

Brookline delays demolition of Frank McCourt mansions - Brookline, MA - Brookline TAB

This will most likely be the most viewed story on this site today. This decision is hardly a surprise, as I'm not aware of any demolition requests that were immediately allowed by the Preservation Committee. The article also provides us with quotes from Committee members which prove they were aware that many valid arguments exist for allowing the demolition to happen, yet they want they stay.

I've already provided my take on this. This is a structure which almost none of us will ever see. This is not a case where the owner is hoping to change the zoning category, increase the number of units on the property, or dramatically change the feel or use of the neighborhood. This is simply a single homeowner who wants to use the property he owns to build a house which suits his needs. I think this exercise is a collective waste of time and it's unfortunate. The Preservation Committee needs to focus on the multi-family homes which get knocked down and replaced by property clogging large developments. Let Mr. Henry build himself a house.


Have you ever sold a car?

I attended a training program last week that I was reminded of yesterday. As many of you might not know, Wednesdays are "Broker Tours" for Brookline property. Since many agents are busy with clients and customers on the weekends, Wednesday is the day we get to preview listings in an open house style visit. I walked into a new listing near Brookline Village and was greeted by a dirty, empty room and wood floors in absolutely horrible condition. If this were a vacant condo I could overlook the emptiness, but the owners were still living here. They had all of their furniture crammed into the two bedrooms and the living room, and had a lovely dining room space that was bare and dusty.

My question: Have they ever sold a car?

When you sell or trade in a car you most likely spend the day before bringing it to the dealership getting the car detailed, cleaned inside and out and repair any nagging issues. You make sure that the second you drive into the dealership the car is looking better than it ever has. The papers and leaves are all removed, the floor mats are clean, and everything looks and smells shiny and new. You take a little extra time because you know that it will directly improve the price someone's willing to pay.

So why is it that homeowners don't do these things? I know in some cases I am preaching to the choir, but there is this mentality out there that lets people think they can just throw a sign on their lawn, open the door and leave it to the agent to work magic. Then, if it doesn't sell the agent must be a failure. In this case the homeowner has given the agent absolutely no shot. The first impression someone gets by walking into this condo is that it's been neglected. The owners don't care, they're not willing to do the things necessary to show the condo. How willing are these owners going to be to negotiate? Are they even serious about selling? All of a sudden these are the things going through our head, not "wow, does this space fit what I'm hoping to find?"

Instead of sitting there making jokes about the condition of the property I went around with another agent and took a look at what furniture was available for the empty room. While it was clearly a dining space at one point we were able to find a desk, a lovely chair, a bookshelf and some end tables which turned this barren, dirty space into a lovely sitting room and office. We did not spend a penny, we did not disrupt the homeowner at all, and we did it all in about 20 minutes. Now all of a sudden the horrible floors didn't stand out so much, the space looked livable and the condo felt like maybe it could become someone's home. We uncluttered an overcrowded bedroom by removing the desk and shelf, we added flow to the living room by moving the chair and we most likely brought the value of this space back in line with the asking price the sellers were hoping to get. This is staging. This is why you need an agent who understands property around you. This is why I spend my valuable time earning certifications like my Home Staging Specialist designation.

Next time you are about to display your house to the public, think about selling a car and compare your preparation. It will make you money.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Realtors' Forecast Bucks Common Wisdom

Realtors' Forecast Bucks Common Wisdom - EarthLink - Top News

I enjoyed seeing this in the Boston Globe's "Worst of 2007." Rona Fischman, a buyers agent, might actually find herself and her colleagues over at the Chicken Little Media Factory in my "Worst of 2007" for the reasons this article mentions.

"Despite over-exaggerated negative coverage on the housing conditions, many local markets are actually seeing price increases," Yun said at a press briefing. "Mortgage availability is improving."

I have tried not to editorialize here on the numbers we've seen. While blogs are at their root editorial devices, I have provided hard numbers in my market update sections, and I firmly stand by them. As of this week, this blog has been viewed over 1000 times this Fall and each of you has seen that Brookline's raw statistics demonstrate market stability if not growth. As with all markets, they can be broken down into "sub-markets" of the larger piece, and there will always be pockets of Brookline or specific property types which struggle. Let's face it, in 2004 you had to buy a condo that was on top of the D-Line if you wanted to live in Brookline because a) it was the only thing remotely affordable and b) it was the only thing that didn't sell immediately after coming on market. You won't see those things anymore. People caught up in the height of the boom will not have the same success as sellers now. This does not mean our market is bad. In fact, I would say that more bad property was bought and the market was more harmful back in '04 than it is now.

As we approach the end of the year I will post a 2005 - 2006 - 2007 comparison. I predict it will show 2007 being an improvement from 2006, but both of them sliding down slightly from 2005. Again, the market correcting is not a bad thing. The people who are predicting doom and gloom were the same people who were screaming that the market was in extreme over-valuation a few years ago. You cannot have it both ways. If you bought in 2005, it might take until 2009 for you to see growth. If that upsets you, I suggest you speak with anyone who bought property in the mid '80s. While I am not an investment analyst, I will tell you that a home is not a stock which will fluctuate wildly and provide you chances for immediate growth. If you stay in your home for five years it should make you some money. There is not a five year period that we've tracked where this has failed to be true. If you are moving more than once every five years, then that is a risk you are taking. We need to all be responsible in the housing decisions we make, conservative in our spending, and realistic about our goals. The balance of the economy didn't suddenly shift, the "unsustainable" growth stopped being sustained.

Friday, December 07, 2007


What do you mean it has no parking?!?!

As residents of Brookline know, few things get us as riled up as parking issues. For those of you outside of Brookline, I will quote the Town's Overnight Parking Policy:

Overnight Parking: No driver may park on any street in Brookline, or in any Town-owned off-street parking facility, for a period longer than one (1) hour between the hours of 2:00 AM and 6:00 AM on any day of the week unless allowed by the Transportation Board.

Well, this means we all have to have some sort of off-street parking. I happen to live in an 8 unit condo building that owns "two" parking spaces, and I use the term as lightly as possible because I don't quite see two cars ever fitting in them. So I, like so many others, rent monthly in an outdoor lot about 300 ft. from my front door. I pay $150 a month (which is about the going rate) and I'm in a 12 month parking lease. My management company plows (most of the time) and my car is close by when I need it. There is a large condo building with a parking garage across the street from me, so I can decide to rent a $200 garage spot if I wanted to.

What does this mean for house hunting though? So many people refuse to rent parking because they don't want to deal with the hassle or cost of it. So many sellers are worried about the value of their condo suffering because they lack deeded or assigned parking. (For the record: deeded is owned by individuals, assigned is owned by the condo association) We've already established what the cost is for rental parking in Brookline, or at least in Coolidge Corner, which is where the largest demand and highest prices tend to be. To buy a parking space these days you're most likely going to spend over $40,000 for an unattached spot. I'm referring to a spot that isn't really a part of your own property. When buying a condo with a deeded or assigned parking space you're going to see a similar increase in sales value.

Those prices make absolutely no sense for any reason other than convenience and quality of life. Of course, those are the reasons our properties here in Brookline are selling at over $400 per square foot, but let's look at what $40,000 would cost if you were to add it to your mortgage payment. We'll assume for our purposes here that you are going to get an interest rate of 6.75% That extra $40,000 will add to your monthly payment a total of $259.44. Yes, to buy a parking space you will pay at least $260 per month, yet to rent it you will only pay $150 - $200 per month. Why not buy a condo that fits your needs best and then go find parking later?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Brookline...a tourist destination?

Brookline Magazine's November issue (in your mailboxes yesterday) had a cover story about the "Tourist's Eye View of Brookline." The general tone of the article is defensive about alleged snubs because of the more well known Boston tourist destinations. At the end of the day, isn't the overall lack of a tourist draw in Brookline, but perfect access to everything in Boston the thing that draws us to live here? Yes, Brookline has tremendous schools. I live here and don't have any children yet, so I'm not here to take advantage of the school system. I live here because I can go into Back Bay tonight for dinner and some Christmas shopping and not have to worry about taking my car. I live here because I was able to quickly take advantage of window shopping and a walk around The Charles when I had family in from overseas last month. Brookline does not need to have its own tourist draws to compete with Boston. We are more here to compliment Boston. We are the small-town suburb surrounded by the arts, culture and entertainment of the big city. We walk to Fenway Park without being disturbed by the Park. Yes, Lars Anderson Park is a great place to stroll in nice weather, and the Kennedy Historic Site is an important part of our history. If that's the best we have to offer, then I am happy with what we've got. Brookline is perfectly situated to allow us all the chance to enjoy what we want to visit in Boston, and then provide us with the peace and tranquility of a small hometown.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Brookline home values down, taxes likely up - Brookline, MA - Brookline TAB

Brookline home values down, taxes likely up - Brookline, MA - Brookline TAB

Jessica Scarpati, one of the TAB's great local government reporters, wrote the linked article in this week's paper. It takes some knowledge of the terms she dances around to understand that she is making reference to the "assessed value" of property in Brookline. While I know writers normally don't write their own headlines, I do have to take some issue with a glossing over of a few of the details in this article. One will notice, if they go to the Town of Brookline Assessor's Office website, that even in condo buildings with identical units assessments differ pretty significantly. For example, in my building I know the value of the condominiums (all identical) varies by over 10%. I know that there is nothing in any of our condos to warrant a 10% difference, so this "value" that Jessica refers to is somewhat ambiguous.

What cannot be ignored is the "sales value" of condominiums and homes in Brookline. We've gone through all of the numbers many times, and as we approach the end of the month we should see even more news on the state of our Brookline-specific housing market. Please read below to follow the sales history from the past few months and if there are any specific numbers I can provide to you, please ask and I will do what I can to provide.

Finally, it is important to be aware of what our "assessed values" are for our individual homes. I know from looking at my building I need to request a tax abatement from the Town. If you have any questions about this process, or need help defending your case, please consider me a resource. There are many times when we can look at relevant sales statistics and get the town to more appropriately designate their assessed value at what the market is actually bearing. This can lead to substantial tax savings (which cuts all of our monthly mortgage payments!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Study: Pricing too high results in lower final sale

Study: Pricing too high results in lower final sale

About 10 days ago the Herald ran the article linked above. I can't find the page on the Herald's website, but the link takes you to the same article. Kathleen Lynn, a very good real estate writer from the Hackensack Record (NJ), points to a study done by an appraiser that indicates that "testing" the market as a seller is the most costly mistake you can make in today's conditions.

The way it used to play out was you would price something 5% over market value and the market would eventually catch up to your asking price. These days the market is not "catching up" across the board like it used to be. Even in Brookline's single family housing market where we see strong price indications, the sample size is so small that it's hard to think that every house on the market will eventually sell. Also, in this time of the year when fewer buyers are out there as a seller looks at adjusting prices, many times it's not until the third or fourth adjustment cycle that they finally get to where they should have been all along. By that point, the critical two week period in which the most buyers will be introduced to your property is long gone and your ability to attract offers is greatly reduced.

Sellers need to take a good look at these numbers and the stories taken from them. I can promise you that I am never in a listing presentation trying to ask the seller to raise the price they're hoping to ask for. Usually I present a very thorough analysis and the seller immediately tries to negotiate up from there. THIS IS THE WORST MISTAKE YOU CAN MAKE!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The upcoming week.

As the snow falls outside and Thanksgiving is upon us I will be taking a break from posting until the weekend. As always, important topics will be posted about and I am available to answer any questions. Next week I will return with an analysis of an article about the damage a high asking price can do to the eventual sales price of the home.

Please enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday as well as the continued domination of the New England Patriots and Boston Celtics. Our teams in addition to the Mike Lowell news yesterday give us all a lot to smile about.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Housing slump not over -

Housing slump not over -

When I read through the above article, it is clear everyone that the Massachusetts housing market is not the pot of gold that everyone experienced in '04 and '05. What the Herald buried down three quarters of a page was the following quote:

Massachusetts’ housing market isn’t in as rough a shape.

Regular readers of this blog recognize by now that the median numbers, when analyzed a number of different ways show a different picture. Are things down since '05? Of course they are, and they needed to come down. The '05 market was the height of unsustainable growth. That winter we heard "Bubble" and the spring of '06 heard talks of interest rates "sky-rocketing" up to well over 7% Well, last year the market did "correct" and the rates temporarily approached 7%, but what happened next surprised everyone. The rates took a turn down in November '06 and at one point I was able to refinance my 6.625% 30 year interest only loan into a 6.0% 30 year PITI (conventional principal, interest, taxes and insurance) loan for the same monthly payment. In a period of 6 months I completely upgraded my long-term financial flexibility.

All of a sudden the talk of a "bubble" went away and the market absolutely took off this past spring ('07). By April all indications within Brookline and other immediate Boston suburbs, pointed to this being one of the strongest real estate markets ever. Then the media got wind of the unfortunate conditions in Florida, California and other areas of the country with less housing demand. The firestorm started with the "credit crunch" and all of a sudden foreclosures were at "record levels." For those keeping track of these things, there were no more than 3 foreclosures in any month within the town of Brookline, and there were even a few months with zero.

What the media was failing to notice was '06 was much harder on home sellers than '07 had been. Now we're facing a problem where the market could possibly grind to a halt and nobody in the media would be able to guess why. Time after time, conversation after conversation it is becoming apparent that there is no quality housing stock coming onto the market. Buyers are out there right now needing to buy. People are trying to find housing, and their options right now are completely limited by the fear that the media has instilled in all potential sellers. Rental prices are going through the roof right now, showing us that people still have significant money to spend on their housing. Almost every buyer I speak with, and across the board most agents I talk to all say they are out there actively looking and there is nothing good to look at.

The numbers (which you can find in the archive here) are strong for Brookline. Home sellers who pay attention to the market are selling their property quickly and for good prices. Buyers are out looking (I know one open house that had almost 40 people the first weekend). If you are thinking about selling, put your property on now where you will face almost no competition. When the spring comes around the market should be crowded again and we'll finally get to see how this shakes out.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Property news as we go into the "off-season."

As we approach the busy shopping and family visiting time of year, properties like The Warwick and Washington on the Square will most likely get more aggressive in marketing their final batches of units. Last year, when I was one of the listing agents for the Warwick, the busiest week we had was the week immediately before Christmas. That Saturday morning we were able to put 4 condos under agreement. I point this out because as buyers, you should still feel comfortable putting property under agreement if it fits the quality of life you are looking for. In fact, you might just find that the seller is more willing to negotiate in these upcoming weeks than they will in early January with the prospects of the "Spring Market" around the corner.

As you go about your holiday preparations, please consider me a resource. Having represented buildings like the Warwick as well as many other properties in and around Brookline, if there is a question about something you have seen, I will do my best to answer it. I spend much of my time during the week previewing new listings (most of the time before they hit MLS) and will be more than happy to try to point you in the right direction.


Are we crazy?

I was in my Home Staging Specialist certification class this week when a discussion about relative real estate values came up. This class was filled with Raveis agents from across the lovely Commonwealth. We were on our way to stage a listing in Chestnut Hill and after reviewing the property the agents from Norwell, East Longmeadow and Lexington were aghast at what $1.2 million dollars bought them in Brookline. I heard all of the snide comments about how they had spectacular waterfront listings with 4 car garages that were immaculately renovated, etc... It caused me to chuckle a little bit, because my little 2 bed condo in Coolidge Corner would probably cost as much as a house with a lovely yard that Tessie (my English Cream Golden Retriever) could call her own. Then I read this. I pay to live here because I love the fact that my wife can walk to work every day. I love the fact that we can leave Tessie 20 minutes before game time and be in Fenway before the Anthem. I love the fact that when family comes to visit I am out to dinner at Abe & Louie's in 20 minutes without having to get parking. When I made the switch from my old office (which I walked to every day) to my current office (I sadly have to drive a whole 10 minutes now) I regained my appreciation for the suburban feel we get living here, even though we are completely surrounded by Boston. I don't feel like I live in a city at all. Parts of Brookline remind me of the Connecticut towns I grew up in, but when I want to be in Boston I don't have to worry about how to get there or how long it might take.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Credit Crisis: The Sky is not Falling - Brookings Institution

Credit Crisis: The Sky is not Falling - Brookings Institution

This paper was published recently on the mortgage, credit and housing "crisis" we are all hearing about in the major U.S. media outlets. Coming from such a respected source, it is important that people who try to be informed about housing and financial issues read and have an understanding of what is being said here. In fact, I still need a few more reads through it before I can glean enough information to fully process what has been written.

Take a look and combine it with information that is starting to come out which indicates that 2008 could be a turn-around year in certain housing markets. At the end of the day, what matters is your comfort level in investing a minimum of a quarter of a million dollars (and that's the bare bare minimum here in Brookline). Like every "market" we can look at supply and demand figures. As far as I know there are very few if any "new" homes being built anywhere in Brookline. Therefore the available supply will always be capped. The demand (buyer pool) is pretty consistent as well. Medical Residents will always move in for short-term (2-5 year) stays and the academic community will always provide a constantly regenerating pool of consumers interested in living here. Therefore, while markets will ebb and flow, Brookline will be a more stable investment than almost any other community. These factors will not change which should be comforting to all who are currently invested here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


LDS Church Update

Jessica Scarpati from the TAB had an update last night on the meeting between Mormon Church officials and Fisher Hill residents on the proposed meetinghouse development on Catlin Rd. According to Jessica's report, the church officials have agreed to move the entrance to their meetinghouse from small, private Catlin Rd to an entrance to be built on Route 9 instead.

For those who aren't familiar with the property, it's a large single family home on Fisher Hill overlooking the reservoir with a sub-dividable lot along Rt. 9. It is the property on the corner of Catlin and Boylston. This home was on the market for most of the past year until the LDS officials stepped in and purchased it hoping for Dover Amendment protection. We shall see what happens here, because Fisher Hill residents are extremely protective of their neighborhood. The TAB should have a full story on the meeting last night with some diagrams of the proposal, so stay tuned...

While you're reading the TAB, take a look at this article.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Who "sells" the house?

I am currently in the middle of an in-depth training program to become a "Certified Home Staging" expert and an interesting discussion came up in our down-time today. Many times a homeowner will call an agent, sign a listing agreement and then tell their agent to go "sell" their house. My question to you is... who sells the house?

Here is my take on the question:

You, the homeowner, have a product that you are bringing to a competitive market. You control the "product" but I control the image of that product. So who is more directly responsible for having the house sell (or not sell)?

Well, one way to look at my job as a listing agent is to break it down into four primary functions.

1) I must take the house you own and position it competitively within its market.

2) I must facilitate access to your home and focus on refining the public exposure and marketing of your home.

3) Once an offer is presented I must present the merits of the offer within its relation to your goals and the current market conditions. I will then present you the data from which we will build the case for your counter-offer. Finally I will deliver the counter-offers in a manner consistent with maintaining an amicable relationship with the potential buyers and their agent.

4) Finally, I will facilitate and manage the conditions agreed to within any offer and subsequent Purchase & Sale Agreement. This includes inspection contingencies, fire department inspections, appraisals, mortgage contingencies, and a pre-closing walk-through.

These are four major sections of the transaction, and each one of them has many smaller functions tied to them. For example, we need to make sure that we are pricing realistically for current market conditions. It would make no sense for me to give you numbers from April to price a November listing. You need better data than that. Second, bringing in a staging expert (someone certified) to consult with you and present a multi-tiered plan of attack for presenting the house to the public is critical. You, the seller, will be tasked with taking the staging tips and pricing data and coming up with an appropriate listing price based on how much work you're willing to put into the presentation of the house. While we're doing the "pre-launch" work we will most likely bring in someone to draw up floor plans and hire a professional photographer to highlight the feature elements of your home. We will also start working on a catered event designed to draw interest from your immediate neighbors. We might use this event to demonstrate some of the creative staging elements we have tried to incorporate in your marketing plan.

These, and so many other critical details, are just part of the listing package we agree to. As with so many contracted relationships, work must be done by both parties to ensure we make the strongest impression possible. If you are wondering why your house has not sold yet, take a look at some of these and match them with the efforts you've made on your behalf. Remember, at the end of the day I am tasked to facilitate and represent the sale of your home, but you are the one selling. Make sure you're taking an active role in the process!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


The Sprint to the Finish Line

With November now in full swing, we are seeing the final 6 weeks of the 2007 market. Last year we saw amazingly strong under agreement rates in late November and December. The "sales" numbers might slow a little because people do not plan to move in the middle of the various holidays.

This brings us to an important distinction in evaluating numbers that come out. We all talk so much about "sales" and what we're looking at are numbers derived from transactions started 1-3 months ago. By the time the data is processed we have a lag in what is happening in the market and what the numbers show us. It is impossible to work off of under agreement statistics because listing agents cannot disclose the price at which a property is put under contract until the transaction ends (closing or the deal falls apart). One thing we have noticed over the past few weeks is transaction "volume" is down. There are fewer properties coming on the market (3-5 each weekend) and property is going under agreement at 5-10 units a week. The numbers point to a good trend, in that we are selling more than we introduce to the market, but we're not at the heavy volume numbers we're used to in the super-strong markets.

Look for some new numbers and graphics showing November's numbers soon. Also, the Brookline Board of Selectmen vote tonight on the appointment of Associate Members to the Zoning Board of Appeals. I am one of about 15 candidates for three vacancies. I like the 1 in 5 odds, but we'll see. Traditionally the Board has appointed architects and attorneys, but I remain excited about the opportunity and will apply again next year if I'm not appointed today.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Lost in the Shuffle

With all of the numbers swirling around I want to draw everybody's attention to the opportunities for tremendous success in the current market conditions.

Let's pretend for a second that the "market" is "down" 10%.

You own a condo in Coolidge Corner that you paid $500,000 for. The 10% hypothetical change in the market brings the value of the condo to $450,000.

Now, you and your family are in need of more space and a yard for your dog. You decide to look for a single family home. The average price for single family homes when you bought your condo was $1,000,000. Now, with the 10% "adjustment" that home is $900,000.

Suddenly, that "loss" of $50,000 on your condo has turned into a gain of $100,000 on your home, leaving you with a net gain of $50,000. The interest rates are stable since you bought, so the monthly payment structure hasn't changed much. This means you are able to buy more house, or do more with the house you buy with this adjustment.

Whether you're "trading up" or moving in from a distant suburb, this is a tremendous market to move in. Almost every seller is also a buyer and therefore the market will continue to turn over.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I know what you're saying, but what do you mean?

There is so much talk these days about the real estate market, pricing changes and trends, and all things related to our most precious investment. What does it mean? What numbers should we pay attention to and what should we not worry about?

Statement 1: "The real estate market has dropped close to 20% nationally."

Response: There are areas of the country that are being hit very hard right now. Some of the largest losses are in Florida and California.

Statement 2: "The media has story after story about how bad the market is, how can it possibly be good?"

Response: Compared to the 3rd quarter of last year, our total number of condominiums sold increased 15.6%. The median prices increased 3.0%. The average days on market is down two days and the total inventory remaining on the market is down 18.9%. The single family sales numbers are far and away better than the condos. Please contact me if you want the full breakdown.

Comment: So, what does this mean?

Response: Buyers and sellers need to take a good hard look at the numbers. Right now we are in "stand-off" mode. Buyers are going to properties and saying "I'm not going to pay that price because the market is down." It is critical for buyers to take a good look at property simply for how it fits the lifestyle they want and then have their buyer's agent negotiate the proper price for it. Sellers, you need to make sure you are absolutely attuned to the sensitivity of the market right now and take your best shot pricing your property from the start. Long gone are the days of "we'll try this price for a few weeks and if it doesn't sell....." Price your property to sell immediately. The worst thing that can happen is people get into a bidding war over it. Doesn't sound so bad now, does it?

We'll wait to see what numbers October brings us tomorrow, but for now Happy Halloween and take a deep breath. The sky is not falling.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Love that Dirty Water

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox on their seventh World Series title. While my celebration last night was more relief than jubilation, it was a fun night out. One of the many wonders of being here in Brookline, and living in Coolidge Corner specifically, was we were able to take a quick T ride into Kenmore Square at 7 last night, had our table in a restaurant at 7:30 and were in the middle of the fun as the game ended. As we walked back home through the hoards of students, it was refreshing to step across the town line and back into our peaceful "suburb." Truly one of my favorite aspects of Brookline living. Now off to the rolling rally...

Friday, October 26, 2007


What do you think?

We're in the final week of October now and we're about to turn the corner into the Holiday Season. How have you found the fall market? Are there properties which have interested you? How has the mortgage crunch affected you? Why are you or aren't you involved in the market? Post your comments below.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Leading Real Estate Compaines?

Yesterday I got a lovely piece in the mail from a small boutique real estate office in Brookline Village in which they claim that their network has 31% of the national sales volume. They show my firm, William Raveis, as being part of the "other" with an unquantifiable small piece of their pie chart. Guess what, owner of the small office, your ad is misleading. You and I are part of the same network. Not only does William Raveis share the designation of being part of the "Leading Real Estate Companies of the World" but we also happen to have a significantly better regional and local market share than your office.

On another note, I interviewed with the Board of Selectmen for appointment to the Zoning Board of Appeals. A lot of Brookline residents are aware of significant controversy surrounding the ZBA recently. Five members resigned and ten of us have been interviewed over the past two weeks to take their place. I tried to demonstrate to the board that I hope to bring the perspective of a citizen to the board. Whereas every other candidate was an attorney or architect, I pointed out that none of them know as much about the Brookline housing supply as I do. If appointed, I hope to bring a neighborhood voice to the Board. I truly feel that our homes or investment properties are the largest single investment we will ever make. People in the community care deeply about ZBA decisions because they are the single largest outside factor that could negatively impact our neighborhoods permanently.

In this "difficult" market it is going to be more critical than ever for homeowners and developers to improve or add onto their properties to get any financial gain from them. Since Brookline hasn't created any additional land and won't be able to in the future, many of the homeowners needing to improve on their property will need special permits or variances. It is crucial that the town find some way to promote improvement and development. While development must not go unchecked, it is very important that the people willing to improve the quality of property in our neighborhoods are allowed to do so. Gone for now are the days in which living in your property will make you thousands upon thousands of dollars without doing any work to improve the property.

We shall see how the Board votes on the vacancies. I would expect as many attorneys and architects to be appointed as possible, but I will say that I was one of the few people there out of my own free will. I was not "recruited" and remain excited about the prospects of being able to serve my community.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


"September sales tank..." except they don't.

Ah, my nemesis Kimberly "Chicken Little" Blanton is at it again. Fear mongering, inflammatory statements that brush the far side of the truth, and simple over generalization about something that cannot and MUST NOT be over-generalized.

On October 9th I started my post by stating I was providing numbers you should see in the Globe but you won't. I then put together a press release that I emailed to various media outlets, including the Globe. Please contact me if you would like a copy of it.

Tucked at the bottom of the business section piece on the market are quotes and numbers indicating that the Greater Boston market is actually UP. Take a look at the numbers, make your own conclusion. Yes, the market in other areas of Massachusetts is not nearly as strong as we have here in Brookline. I would not give you a market analysis of your home using sales stats from Worcester, so why should you be swayed by stats from their market either? The Globe is doing a disservice to the sellers of the Greater Boston area. They are spitting in the face of arguably their single largest revenue source, and they do not take the responsibility they have as a respected news resource seriously enough. If you read Kimberly's piece and are thinking about selling your home you will most likely panic. Please take a deep breath, take a look at Brookline's numbers and you will see that your investment is still as secure as it ever has been.

As a quick post script, tonight you will be able to see me roughly at 7:30 being interviewed by the Brookline Board of Selectmen for appointment to the Zoning Board of Appeals. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the Board recently, and I hope to be a part of restoring confidence in the process. For more detail tune into BATV Channel 23.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


What Commission Do You Charge?

It is amazing how many conversations about real estate start with that question. It baffles me to this day that this is the one field in which people think they can make a decision simply by how much money the professional practitioner will "charge" them. It gets asked other ways, like "what's your fee" and "how much will it cost me" but at the end of the day, it speaks to a backward mentality.

Let's run through an exercise here: You get a big bonus at work this holiday season and you decide you want to buy a fancy new car. Let's say you spend $80,000 on that car. When it comes time for that first service are you going to go from random mechanic to mechanic and ask them what their rate is? You'll most likely take it to someone who you have heard has specific expertise with that model car, and you'll most likely pay a lot more than the random mechanic who would have done who-knows-what to your car.

An even better example is picking a place to eat dinner. Do you open the yellow pages, start at the A's and call asking "what's the price of food?" First, there are steaks and lobster which will be a whole lot more expensive than burgers and fish sticks. There will also be places which will give you $7 steak and I seriously doubt you would feel comfortable eating it. The simple "what's the price of food" question just makes NO sense. If you feel like a steak, you're going to the Capital Grille or Abe & Louie's.

So, what commission do I charge? It's impossible to know. I need to see what type of house or condo you have, and then we need to have a serious discussion about your pricing before we can determine how in-depth we need to get with your marketing campaign. From there, we build out a marketing calendar and we decide which types of floor plans and virtual tours you will need.

The one important thing to look at is the agent representing your sale does not get 5-6% of the sale of your house. All agents should be cooperating with buyer's agents. This usually takes half of the commission amount. Next, most agents split their commissions with their offices who pay for Globe and Boston Homes ads, certain Open House materials and other incidental costs. I will say, on average, I am looking at maybe 1.5% of the overall sale price of your house before I even start doing my own personal marketing efforts for your house (floor plans, fliers, post cards, catered broker tours, etc...). Remember, all of these things are paid up front whether your home sells or not. So yes, maybe there is someone out there willing to give you a "rebate" or "charge" you a lower commission, but I assure you the Globe isn't charging them less than me for advertising and the floor plans I pay for aren't offered to them for less money either. By hiring that agent for less money, I will ask much will that cost you?

Friday, October 12, 2007


Get Ready for Your Interview

It's Friday again, and while most of us are thinking about Cowboys and Indians, you should also start preparing for your interviews on Sunday. Stop scratching your head and think about your normal Open House behavior. There are three reasons why most people attend an Open House.

1) You're not working with an agent and you are "just starting" your search.

2) You're working with an agent and they haven't found and property to show you privately.

3) You're bored and want to walk around and see what's out there

For the first reason, this open house visit is critical. All of the people who will be involved in the decision making process should be out there looking at the same things together. You should use your time to identify key elements of each home that you like or would like to avoid (write them down!!). You should also, most importantly, start interviewing agents through their performance at Open Houses. A good agent will not be all over you. They should let you take in the atmosphere and style of the home, stand back and let you identify which questions need to be answered, and then be armed with the information you need to compare and contrast the things you're looking at with what you cannot see. Buyers so often think that they'll just walk aimlessly from listing to listing without a game plan or process for narrowing down their search. There is no more colossal waste of time in my mind. Every time you walk in the door you are interviewing either the agent or the property, and on a good match, maybe even both.

The second reason for viewing an Open House (working with an agent but they're not privately showing you property) is a symptom of the first. How did you select your agent, and once selected, did you give them a realistic list of property priorities? Did they have a buyer questionnaire for you to fill out which identifies your reasons for moving and your housing priorities? Have you seen a lot of property with them and not found a match yet? In a lot of cases, a well paired buyer and agent team should be able to look at fewer than 10 properties before finding a match.

The final reason, boredom and curiosity is actually great. It's a wonderful way to understand what is going on in the market around you, therefore making you more informed if and when you or a friend of yours decides to enter the market. Remember, it's never a bad time to start interviewing agents. You know who your physician is, your mechanic, your barber/stylist, etc... why not identify your Realtor before you need them too?

Enjoy the weekend, good luck in your interviews, and I hope you find a match!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Countrywide Has Got to Go???

I was just enjoying a peaceful rainy day lunch at my favorite Coolidge Corner lunch stop when I heard the above chant coming through the windows. It seems like a group called the "Massachusetts Alliance to Stop Predatory lenders" and the "Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA)" have banded together to protest at all of Boston's Countrywide offices. Never one to pass up an opportunity I asked a nice gentleman handing out fliers to explain to me why we were trying to stop Countrywide. Let's just say he wasn't quite sure why. My conversation with the non-home-owning NACA representative actually centered around the fact that Countrywide is not a financial adviser or an attorney contracted to protect your rights.

Every single one of my customers and clients knows that when we have discussions about homes they want to look at, lenders they want to pick to finance those homes, and legal counsel they want to represent them at the closing (as opposed to Banks' counsel) we make sure that everything starts with one question. "How much are you comfortable spending each month?" Where in this crazy market did we lose personal accountability? I actually ask my buyer clients to fill out an extensive questionnaire before we proceed too far into the home search process to make sure that they're not following a harmful path.

One of the fears we have in the real estate brokerage business is how easy it is to get a license to sell Real Estate. There is no practical training to steer you through the potential pitfalls. Nobody trains you on consumer protection. In fact, all you have to know to get a license in MA is what method of mapping is used by communities and what parties you can't discriminate against. Buyers, in their quest to go to the path of least resistance will not hire a buyer's agent to protect them. Around and round we go until we end up at the closing table without representation and all of a sudden a buyer has been "mislead" or "misinformed" about their purchase.

I'm sure we'll hear more "big" news from the lending industry in the not-too-distant future, but when we boil it down to facts, homeowners must understand that in purchasing a house they are putting themselves into significant debt. If managed properly their purchase has a tremendous potential for upside, but improperly used it can destroy their financial well-being.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


September's market snapshot - Numbers Don't Lie III

Once again from the Raveis home office we have numbers which you will not see printed in the Globe but should. They have a wonderful piece today about how numbers are down "on the South Shore" in which they mysteriously leave out a large number of towns that don't support their editorial content. Here we have Brookline's numbers.

vs. Massachusetts




Inventory % Ch.
SOLD % Ch.
Avg.$$ % Ch.





75 -31.19%
184 17.94%
1,466,683 13.32%






187 -44.34%
686 16.86%
955,947 6.70%

Jma. Pln.





33 -29.78%
80 -0.52%
537,995 -12.45%






30797 -2.74%
44,268 -44.00%
431,848 0.01%


Inventory % Ch.
SOLD % Ch.
Avg.$$ % Ch.





239 -20.59%
728 10.47%
500,064 -1.80%






145 -28.57%
310 2.30%
534,682 -1.78%

Jma. Pln.





172 -19.26%
460 3.13%
368,666 5.24%






120 -33.33%
421 -14.77%
312,915 7.37%






14959 -6.94%
22047 -6.52%
336,173 4.47%

Sngl. Fam Sale Price
% Ch. Condo's
Sale Price

13 1,055,270



12 1,479,487
40.19% 34
596,513 17.38%


44 963,153



44 913,027
-5.20% 20
516,612 -9.46%

To boil it down to simple numbers, Single Family inventory for the year is down right now (think supply and demand) because almost 20% more homes have sold and overall those sales have been for more than 13% more money. This month alone there is a 40% increase in sales price for single family homes last month over September '06.

In terms of condos, we saw fewer sell in September, but the number on market is down 20%. Those that did sell were able to sell for almost $90,000 more than they did in September last year.

This is a tremendous market right now. Buyers already know they are finding amazing deals, and if you are a seller you can look at these numbers and see that appropriately valued property is still selling at a rate that blows the rest of the country away.

top 10% awardAwarded Top 10% in the Nation for Consumer Satisfaction by the Internet Consumer Group
more info

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


The views expressed on these pages are the opinion of the author and any public contributors. They do not substitute for the advice of a legal or financial professional. These opinions are not representative of any firm or business. Please always consult an attorney, financial professional or sign a contract with a Buyer Agent or Seller's Agent for specific advice.