Centers And Squares
Welcome to Centers and Squares
As a Cambridge real estate agent, the city squares of Cambridge, Somerville and Medford and the town centers of Arlington, Watertown and Belmont, Massachusetts are my home turf. And as a lifelong New Englander who’s lived within twenty miles of Boston most of my life, I can introduce you to other nearby towns as we search for your new home. If you’re planning to sell your home in Cambridge, MA or nearby you’ll find plenty of info about the home selling process here too. Questions? Send me an email or call me at 617-504-1737.
What is Question Four in Somerville?
Inquiring minds want to know after seeing signs in favor of question 4 all over Somerville.
Turns out that Question 4 on Somerville ballots for Tuesday’s election asks if Somerville residents want to adopt the Community Preservation Act.
If the Community Preservation Act is adopted, a 1.5% surcharge would be added to Somerville property tax bills for funding to acquire, create, preserve and restore:
- Open space for parks, recreation and conservation
- Historic resources such as historic community buildings and artifacts
- Land for recreational use including parks, playgrounds and athletic fields
- Community housing to help meet local families’ housing needs
You can read more about Question Four in Somerville in this brochure on the City of Somerville website.
Tonight’s the night – time to turn back the clocks one hour.
Every year when we turn back the clocks there’s bound to be confusion on Sunday. Agents and buyers alike turn up at open houses at the wrong time.
Shorter nights are a challenge for the real estate business every day – or at least every evening. If you’re looking at properties after work you’re looking in the dark. Long days, light well into the evening, are optimal for real estate viewing. I once read about night life in some city close to the equator where it stayed light until 11:30 pm. All that I could think was – wow! You sure could sell a lot of real estate if you had all those extra hours of daylight. Somehow we manage to move plenty of real estate despite the short days of winter.
While I really don’t like the early darkness I am delighted to get that extra hour to sleep. I need every spare hour I can get. I won’t turn back my clocks until morning because I love that little jolt of happiness when it dawns on me that I have that precious extra hour.
So – sleep in tomorrow – but don’t forget to turn back the clocks before you head out!
Recently I had the opportunity to tour the Shirley Shaker Village. The tour is only offered once or twice a year and I’d missed it more than once.
The Shaker Village in Shirley is on the grounds of the MCI-Shirley – the prison. It’s a somwhat surreal experience – the pastoral landscape, the historic buildings, and the minimum, medium and maximum facilities that surround you make for an odd juxtaposition and a rather unsettling feeling.
The Shaker community in Shirley had sixty residents by 1790. At its height in the mid-1800s there were 150 residents of Shirley Shaker Village. Their buildings were wood frame or brick and included a laundry, a meetinghouse, an infirmary, barns and shop buildings. In 1850 the Shakers built a cotton mill nearby on the Catacunemaug River. Many of the buildings are extant, others are no longer standing. The Meetinghouse was moved to Hancock Shaker Village in 1962 after its meetinghouse burned. On the site you can still see the walkways that led to the separate entrances for men and women.
By the early 1900s only three Sisters remained in the Village. They relocated to Harvard and the 900 acre property was sold to the state of Massachusetts. The State opened the Shirley Industrial School for Boys – a reform school – that operated on the site until it was closed in the early 1970s. Some of the Shaker buildings still have Colonial Revival details that were added during the early days of the Industrial School.
One benefit of the buildings being on the prison grounds is that the State doesn’t have the money to upgrade the buildings so they remain remarkably intact. That was true in Concord where I grew up – a variety of buildings around MCI-Concord were untouched by time – never having been subjected to unfortunate renovations. But, like Concord, which lost a number of its older buildings near the prison, several of the Shirley buildings are crumbling and are past the possibility of restoration. Other buildings have been restored or at least buttoned down with money from a grant that the Shirley Historical Society received.
Check the Shirley Historical Society website for announcements about touring Shirley Shaker Village. It’s a fascinating tour and not to be missed.
The slideshow from our tour is below. For some reason I seem to have photos of the brick buildings but not so many of the wood framed buildings. We had to be careful not to take any photos that included inmates, or border fences, or prison buildings so I wasn’t able to capture every view that I would have liked. The last couple of images are of the mill buildings that remain down the street and are currently used as commercial space.
The New York Times had an excellent article today about appraisal issues. Real estate appraisals are more often a challenge in today’s market. We’ve been experiencing it here in the Cambridge area but it’s happening all over the country according to the New York Times.
One thing I learned over the last few years is that appraisals aren’t an issue in a declining market – it was easy for a property to appraise when properties were selling for less than they had in the months before. Values may have been going down but appraisals were easy.
In an appreciating market appraisals are more apt to cause problems. Prices are going up so past sales may not support the prices buyers are willing to pay in the current market. Additionally, in areas without a lot of inventory it may be difficult to find enough comparable sales. Lack of inventory is often one reason why a property will sell for more than it might have in the past – buyers have been waiting for that property type to come on the market and are prepared to pay more to secure it.
New lending regulations for appraisals have also caused challenges. In the past local appraisers did the lions share of appraisals in the market. They knew the housing stock, they were more likely to have actually seen inside the properties they used as comparable sales, they understood the sublteties of neighborhood values and features buyers in this area were likely to appreciate, etc. A parking space for example may not have the same value in the suburbs as it does in the city.
As the New York Times reporter described, new regulations mean that many more appraisals are being done by out of town appraisers. My heart sunk recently when an appraiser pulled up in a car with Connecticut plates. That appraisal turned out ok but other times appraisers’ lack of familiarity with the area has caused problems.
The New York Times article also pointed out the value of cash sales in the appraisal process. Those sales will become the “comps” for the next appraiser and happily we’ve had many of them this year.
If your buyer is getting financing what can you do as a seller to ensure that your property appraises?
Make sure that your real estate agent is prepared for the appraisal. Your agent should bring printouts of comparable sales to the appraisal. I’ll highlight features on the sheets I want to call to the appraiser’s attention and make notations about similarities or differences – “only one bath,” “not a fancy renovation,” etc. Sometimes it can be tricky to get the right “comps”. When the comparable sales aren’t easy to come by I will make sure I bring sales sheets for similar properties that have sold nearby but over the line in an abutting town. I’m pulling together the comps that tell the story – that explain why a buyer would be willing to pay this price for this particular property.
On your end you’ll want to make sure that your property shows at its best. The appraiser is the final person that you need to impress during the sale of your home. Make sure your property sparkles, that it’s clean and picked up with lights on.
If you’re a buyer and the appraisal came in low what can you do? You may be able to renegotiate price with the seller. If not, you may have to put down more money since the bank is only going to lend X% of the value they’ve assigned to the property. You may be able to withdraw from the purchase if you’re unable to get your financing but that’s something to discuss with your lender and attorney.
On Saturday afternoon you can check out the energy fair in Medford that will be held at the base of Medford’s wind turbine.
The 3rd Annual Harvest Your Energy Festival is scheduled for Saturday, October 13, 2012 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm.
Held in Riverbend Park by the Medford wind turbine, the energy fair will include tours of the wind turbine, seminars on home energy savings, info about solar panels, and ideas for reducing your carbon footprint. There will be entertainment and vendors selling refreshments.
In a somewhat unusual juxtaposition, Revolutionary War re-enactors will be marching in the field adjacent to the energy fair at the same time. Tomorrow you’ll get a two-fer in Medford – a green energy fair and a Revolutionary War encampment. Something for everyone!
The Harvest Your Energy Festival will take place on Saturday, October 13, 2012 from 1-4 pm at Riverbend Park in Medford near the McGlynn Middle School. Here’s more info and directions.
Here’s the last of the third-quarter wrap-ups with a Somerville MA real estate review of sales for January through September 2012.
Last year’s numbers for the same period are in parentheses.
Like the other towns and cities we’ve looked at Somerville real estate has done much better in 2012 than in the last few years. Demand was way up and inventory was way down. Significantly more properties sold this year than last. The increase was in condo and single family house sales while multi-family sales held steady.
On September 30, 2012 112 residential properties were on the market in Somerville. That’s a dramatic drop from one year ago when 227 properties were listed for sale.
Total properties sold in Somerville – Jan-Oct 2012 (2011)
- 551 (452)
- Average days on market = 67 (83)
- Properties sold for an average of 99% of asking price (97%)
- Median price of $419,900 ($410,000)
Somerville Single Family Sales – Jan-Sept 2012 (2011)
- Total sold: 68 (48 )
- Sale prices ranged from $185,000 – $1,295,000 ($109,000 – $965,000)
- Median price: $472,250 ($460,000)
- Average days on market: 89 (71)
- On average, houses sold for 99% of asking price (98% )
Somerville Condo Sales – Jan-Sept 2012 (2011)
- Total sold: 367 (286)
- Sale prices ranged from $144,850 – $1,200,000 ($73,000 – $1,180,000)
- Median price: $390,000 ($365,500)
- Average days on market: 66 (87)
- On average, condos sold for 99% of asking price (98%)
Somerville Multi-Family Sales – Jan-Sept 2012 (2011)
- Total sold: 116 (118)
- Sale prices ranged from $235,000 – $1,180,000 ($190,000 – $2,075,000)
- Median price: $535,000 ($520,000)
- Average days on market: 72 (79)
- On average, multi-unit houses sold for 98% of asking price (96% )
Info about Somerville MA real estate market in 2012 (2011) from MLSpin
Thinking about installing solar panels? Wondering how much it would cost? Wondering if solar is worth the investment?
The city of Cambridge, in collaboration with the Sustainable Design Lab at MIT and MoDe Studio , has just launched a very cool tool – the Cambridge Solar Map that will answer these questons and more.
On the Cambridge Solar Map page you can enter your Cambridge address and get estimates about how much it would cost to install a solar system and projections of potential production, cost savings and pollution reduction. There’s an estimated payback time given and links to additional info about rebates and other programs.
The Cambridge Solar Tool is fun and fascinating to play with. For my house the tool projects some significant savings as well as what to me seems a somewhat daunting price tag. Zooming around the color coded map it’s easy to see some buildings that look like particularly promising sites for solar. All those large flat roofs look to me like bright yellow potential solar farms.
PS – make sure you have an updated browser – no Internet Explorer laggards allowed – the Cambridge Solar Tool requires version 9 or above or some other more “modern” browser like Chrome, Safari or Firefox.
It has been a very busy year in Cambridge real estate. Summer is usually a slower season but there was little let up this year. Buyers have outnumbered sellers all year leading to bidding wars and quick sales.
Here’s a look at the numbers for the year to date. The same period’s numbers, January through September, in 2011 are in parentheses for comparison.
The numbers tell the story – by every measure 2012 has been a much stronger year than 2011. This is the first year I remember seeing the overall market list to sale price ratio at 100%. As you’ll note, so many single family houses and multi-families sold for over asking that on average these properties were selling for more than the list price. In 2012 it took considerably less time for most properties to sell with days on market reduced significantly.
On October 31, 2011, 167 properties were listed for sale in Cambridge. That’s a big drop in inventory levels from last year at this time when 249 residential properties were on the market. It’s no wonder the market is so frenzied – demand is way up and inventory down. If you’ve been wondering about whether or not it’s a good time to sell the numbers make the question easy to answer – yes – it’s an excellent time to sell in Cambridge right now.
Residential real estate sold in Cambridge – Jan-Sept 2012 (2011)
- 813 properties sold (695)
- Average days on market = 57 (80)
- Properties sold for an average of 100% of asking price (97%)
- Median price of $475,000 ($465,000)
Cambridge Single Family Sales – Jan-Sept 2012 (2011)
- Total sold: 100 (87 )
- Sale prices ranged from $315,000 – $3,740,000 ($280,000 – $3,750,000)
- Median price: $882,000 ($793,475)
- Average days on market: 54 (74)
- On average, houses sold for 102% of asking price (97% )
Cambridge Condo Sales – Jan-Sept 2012 (2011)
- Total sold: 642 (560)
- Sale prices ranged from $187,500 – $2,870,000 ($164,000 – $3,450,000)
- Median price: $443,000 ($424,900)
- Average days on market: 59 (82)
- On average, condos sold for 99% of asking price (97%)
Cambridge Multi-Family Sales – Jan-Sept 2012 (2011)
- Total sold: 71 (48)
- Sale prices ranged from $400,000 – $2,186,000 ($282,000 – $2,325,000)
- Median price: $899,000 ($810,000)
- Average days on market: 49 (68)
- On average, multi-unit houses sold for 103% of asking price (97% )
Info about Cambridge MA real estate market in 2012 (2011) from MLSpin