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A Momentary Pause

Away Goes the Rabbit - and Back to Work We Go

Away Goes the Rabbit - and Back to Work We Go

Whether they celebrate the holiday or not, Easter provides an excused absence for Cambridge real estate agents – the last day until Memorial Day to grab a day off in the spring real estate market.

For buyers, it’s a bit frustrating because relatively few new properties are listed for sale the week before the holiday. 

Not to worry – this week and next there’s likely to be plenty of new listings coming on the market to make up for the week off.

I’ll be back with my favorites from our Wednesday preview – it should be a long tour!

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Cambridge Condo Styles

If you’ve decided to buy a condo in Cambridge MA you’ll want to think about what style of condo you prefer.

Cambridge condo styles include lofts, townhouses, luxury condos, condos in buildings, and units in converted two and three-family houses.

It’s often a good idea to look at several condo styles when you first go out with your agent to visit properties. You’ll fairly quickly determine which style of condo best suits your needs and preferences.

Cambridge Loft Condos

Cambridge Loft Condos

Cambridge Loft Condos

Cambridge has a number of condo complexes in converted industrial buildings.  Many offer very finished spaces with kitchens outfitted with granite counters and high end appliances, new hardwood floors and finished walls and ceilings. In other lofts the space is more raw. Condo buyers who are looking for wide open layouts and soaring ceilings will want to look at Cambridge loft condos.  In 2010 Cambridge lofts sold for $318,000 to $671,000.

Cambridge loft buildings include:

155 Brookline Street Cambridge MA

Erie Street Lofts

147 Sherman Street Cambridge MA

Aberdeen Lofts

Cambridge Townhouses

There are many townhouse complexes scattered around Cambridge, most built in the last 35 years or so. Some associations are comprised of just two or three townhouses while other complexes have many more units.  Rooms are laid out on two to four floors and many have garage parking on the first level. Often there will be some outdoor space – a private patio or small enclosed yard, a deck or two, perhaps a private roof deck.  Townhouses offer some of the largest condos in Cambridge often with three bedrooms and two or more baths. In 2010 Cambridge townhouses sold for $329,000 to $1,435,000.

Cambridge townhouses include:

Valentine Place in Cambridgeport

54 Trowbridge Street

91 Sherman St Cambridge MA

Lilac Court Cambridge

177 Pemberton St Cambridge MA

Luxury Condos In Cambridge

Luxury Condos

Luxury Condos

Luxury is a bit hard to define – not everyone describes it in just the same way.  There are a number of luxury buildings in Cambridge that offer high end amenities including concierge service, indoor pools, valet parking, etc.  Several are located in East Cambridge near Lechmere and close to Boston, others are near or in Harvard Square. In 2010 the most expensive luxury condo in Cambridge sold for $4,250,000.

Luxury condos in Cambridge include:

 950 Mass Ave Cambridge MA

130 Mount Auburn Street Cambridge MA

Thomas Graves Landing

Condos In Buildings

When you’re thinking of buying a condo in Cambridge one of the first decisions to make is whether you prefer to live in a condo in a building or a condo in a house. Cambridge condo buildings range from wood buildings from the late 1800s with six to twelve units, to classic brick converted apartment buildings of the early 1900s, to modern buildings built from the 1970s to the present.  Each has its particular charms.  Some prefer the classic architectural details of the older buildings while other condo buyers seek the modern conveniences available in the newer buildings. In 2010 the median price for a Cambridge condo in a building with ten or more units was $395,000.

Here’s a small sample of Cambridge condo buildings of various vintages:

 Cambridgeport Commons

50 Follen Street Cambridge MA

19 Chauncy Street Cambridge MA

61 Garfield St Cambridge MA

773 Concord Ave

88 Hancock Street Cambridge MA

329 Harvard St Cambridge MA

Cambridge Condos In Converted Two and Three-Family Houses

Condos In Houses

Condos In Houses

A large share of the Cambridge condo inventory consists of condos in two-family and three-family houses. Some of these multi-family units remain in close to original condition while others have been thoroughly renovated, sometimes transformed into modern spaces that previous tenants would barely recognize.

Typically, the condos in three families, or triple deckers as we call them, are of equal size. Some two-families have units of equivalent size while others have a smaller unit on the first floor and a larger two-level unit on the second and third floor.  Another layout is what’s referred to as “Philadelphia style” in which the first floor unit has a staircase leading to a room or two on the second floor.  The median price for a Cambridge condo in a two or three unit association in 2010 was $470,000.

search-for-cambridge-condos

Cambridge Condo Styles was written by Elizabeth Bolton, a Cambridge real estate agent with ReMax Destiny. Would you like some help with your search for a condo in Cambridge?   Give Liz a call at 617-504-1737 or send her an email.

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Should I Buy A House Or A Condo In Cambridge?

Houses vs Condos In Cambridge

Houses vs Condos In Cambridge

When you’re thinking about buying real estate in Cambridge MA or nearby one of the first things to consider is whether you want to buy a house or a condo.

Condominiums are a well established part of the real estate market in Cambridge.  There are far more condos available than single family homes.  How to decide to what’s right for you?

Prices of Condos vs Houses In Cambridge

In Cambridge price is often the most important factor that determines whether you’ll focus on condos or single families.  The median single family home price in Cambridge last year was $860,750. By comparison, the median price for Cambridge condos was $425,000.

The condition and level of renovation you’re hoping to find in your new home will also influence whether you buy a house or a condo. At any price point you’re likely to get a more renovated condo than house. 

Price aside, what else should you think about when deciding if a house or a condo is right for you? Much has to do with your disposition and what makes you happy when you come home.

Single family houses may be right if:

You’re the independent sort – you’d rather make your own decisions and make your own choices about how to spend your money

You want a yard – you’re more likely to find your own private yard with a house

You want more space – a house with a cellar, perhaps even an attic, will typically give you more room to spread out

You want more privacy – you’re happiest without neighbors above, below or beside you.

Condos may be the choice for you if:

You’d rather share the responsibilities of home ownership – Owning a condo isn’t the same as renting – there’s no landlord to call – but even in the smallest associations you have fellow owners to share upkeep and maintenance projects.

You don’t want to think about yard work, exterior maintenance, etc – In larger associations there will be a board of trustees, a management company, perhaps even full time staff. You won’t have to be involved in the day to day responsibilities at all.

You’re away from home a lot – If you travel or work long hours there’s a certain comfort in knowing that there are people back home who might notice if something is amiss.

Categories: Buyer Info

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Buying A Home In Cambridge

Your guide to the Cambridge home buying mazeIs buying a home in Cambridge one of your New Year’s resolutions?

If it is, you’ll want to keep coming to back to Centers and Squares since we’ll be running a series of posts this month on what you need to know to make your Cambridge home buying process smooth and successful.

There’s so much to think about when you are starting your search for a house or condo:

  • How do I get pre-approved for a mortgage?
  • How much can I afford to spend for a house or condo?
  • My lease ends in June (or August, or whenever) – when should I start to look for a place?
  • Should I buy a house or a condominium?
  • What kinds of condos are there in Cambridge?
  • What happens during a home inspection?
  • How much money do I have to put down?
  • How long does it take to buy a house in Cambridge?
  • What do condo fees cover?
  • Do I need a lawyer to buy real estate in Cambridge?
  • What will I get for the money in [fill in the blank] neighborhood?
  • When do I get to move in?

and on, and on.

We’ll touch on all of these questions and more in the next few weeks. And if you’re moving to Cambridge from out of state we’ll answer your questions too – tell you about Cambridge neighborhoods, transportation, places to stay while you’re house hunting, where the best gyms, supermarkets, stores, etc are, and more.

If you have questions that you want addressed please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Flood Insurance Freeze

Over the RiverSeems like flooding’s been on everybody’s mind lately with all the rain we had in Massachusetts.  Coincidentally, there’s a freeze in the flood insurance program right now.

Most flood insurance policies are issued through the National Flood Insurance program since private coverage is often exorbitant. The  NFIP was up for renewal at the end of March but Congress went on recess on March 26th without renewing the program.  The program is on hiatus and no new policies can be issued before Congress extends the program after reconvening on April 12th.

Real estate buyers who are closing on a home or refinancing a property that requires flood insurance won’t be able to obtain coverage until the program is reintated.  No insurance – no closing. 

The City of Cambridge website has more information about the recent redrawing of floodplain maps in Cambridge.

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Massachusetts Home Sales Impacted by Flooding

Water bubbling up from the street in Arlington after the rain

Water bubbling up from the street in Arlington after the rain

Massachusetts Home Sales Impacted by Flooding  Real estate agents and buyers have slogged through a lot of wet basements in Massachusetts in the last few weeks. It was the worst flooding in Eastern Massachusetts in decades.  Even days after the rain ended you would still come across sump pumps dumping water out onto yards or sidewalks from flooded basements.

The flooding, and the fact that much of Massachusetts was declared a disaster area, is impacting real estate closings. 

There’s a good chance in the next few weeks that your lender may require an additional visit from the bank’s appraiser if you’re closing on a property in Middlesex County or another county that was declared a disaster area.  If your appraisal predated the storms the bank may require another inspection prior to closing.

In some cases you may be required to pay for the inspection. And it’s possible that your closing may be delayed by a few days.  All of this is still unfolding so it’s hard to predict exactly how the inspections will work and what the impact will be – particularly if the property was severely flooded.

Categories: Area Info, Buyer Info

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Boston Globe Article About the Current Real Estate Market

It may look like winter - but the spring real estate market has started in the Cambridge area.

It may look like winter - but the spring real estate market has started in the Cambridge area.

We Cambridge real estate agents often grumble about the Boston Globe’s real estate reporting. Too often they’re behind the curve, not quite giving the real take on what’s happening in the real estate market around Boston and Cambridge.

A lot of that has to do with basing analysis and reporting on home sales.  Since the home sale process in Massachusetts takes about six to eight weeks, from offer to closed sale, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that sales reflect current reality – when they’re actually a reflection of what was happening two months ago.

But on Saturday, the Globe’s front page article about real estate activity, “For Sale, But Not For Long” was right on the money.  In many towns around Cambridge inventory is low and demand is up, spurred by the homebuyer credit which is set to expire before the end of the spring real estate market.

I just finished the latest round of monthly real estate reports for half a dozen towns. In several towns, the number of homes for sale is down substantially from this time a year ago.  The difference is even more dramatic if you compare the numbers to the same time two years ago.

And yet, demand is up because of the homebuyer credit, not to mention continued low interest rates, and in many cases, lower prices.

What does this mean for prospective home sellers?  If you’re thinking of putting your home on the market this spring it’s best to do so sooner rather than later.   Many sellers think waiting until the lawn is green and the flowers and leaves are out is the way to go.  Not this year!  You don’t want to miss the surge in activity created by the impending expiration of the homebuyer credit. 

A property must be under agreement by the end of April and close by the end of June for the buyer to qualify for the homebuyer credit.  Times a wasting to get your property in the mix.  Ideally you want to list your home for sale no later than the beginning of April if not sooner.  There may very well be a lot of sellers thinking the same way so putting your home on the market sooner to get ahead of the crowd is not a bad idea.

What does this mean for home buyers?  Home buyers who hope to qualify for the credit should be hitting the pavement, familiarizing themselves with what’s on the market in their price range.  Once you’ve seen enough properties you’ll start to develop a sense of what price seems right and a better idea of what you like and what you don’t. When you find “the one” you’ll know it – because you’ve seen enough of the competition to know this is the right home for you.

You also want to get out and visit new listings as quickly as you can.  It’s not uncommon right now for properties to sell the first weekend.  We’re also seeing properties sell before the open house. Last week a single family came on the market in Cambridge on Wednesday. By Friday there were multiple offers and it was under agreement.

Want some answers to your real estate questions?  I’d be happy to help!   I can be reached by email or by phone at 617-504-1737.

 

Nowadays, Elizabeth Bolton is a real estate agent at ReMax Destiny at 907 Mass Ave in Cambridge.  Let her put her ten+ years of real estate experience to work for you.

Categories: Buyer Info, Seller Info

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What Do Condo Fees Cover?

condo fees cover a variety of expensesWhat Do Condo Fees Cover?   Many first time real estate buyers tend to think of condo fees as an “extra cost” of owning a condo.  I know I did. Then I bought a house as my first home and quickly came to realize that home ownership inevitably had expenses associated with it. Condo fees started looking a lot more reasonable to me.

So what are the typical things that condo fees cover for condos in Cambridge and nearby towns?

The two expenses most often included in the fees:

Master insurance – this is the insurance policy that covers the building structure and common areas. Typically you’re responsible for insuring the interior of your unit and, if so, banks have started requiring you to purchase additional coverage, called HO-6 insurance, prior to your closing.

 Water and sewer bills –  Typically in Cambridge you’ll find just one water and sewer meter in the building. If that’s the case then those bills will be paid via the condo fees.  Some condo docs will spell out a formula that prorates cost by number of residents per condo but more often, the  bills are simply paid from the condo fees collected.

Other Expenses That May Be Paid Through Condo Fees

  • Heat and / or hot water
  • Snow removal
  • Landscaping
  • Exterior maintenance
  • Professional management
  • Elevator
  • Concierge or security desk
  • Swimming pool
  • Common area cleaning
  • Contribution to reserves
  • Common utilities

Many of the expenses covered by condo fees are simply the cost of home ownership that’s shared by you and other members of the condo association.  Some expenses may cover things that are less important to you – a pool, an elevator, a health club.  Others are costs in lieu of doing it yourself – snow removal, professional management, etc.  You have to decide if the benefits provided are worth the expense of higher fees.

High condo fees are not necessarily bad – they may be an indication that the condo association is budgeting with the long view in mind. Buildings cost money to maintain and an association that fails to budget for inevitable repairs and upgrades will suffer from deferred maintenance and the possibility of large assessments to cover overdue projects.

On the other hand, some associations prefer to keep fees on the low side while each association member banks their own money until such time the association decides to pay for a project by divvying up the cost among the members.

As a part of the homebuying process you’ll have the chance to review the condominium association’s financial documents. You’ll want to decide if you’re comfortable with the finances and the association’s financial style.

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