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.

First Time Homebuyer $8000 Credit

I read some survey results this afternoon that indicated over half of prospective first time home buyers didn’t know about the $8000 credit.  Time to write a blog post!

The 2009 first time home buyer credit is limited to 10% of the home’s purchase price up to a maximum of $8,000.  We don’t have any real estate in Cambridge or Somerville available for less than $80,000 so buyers who qualify for the credit will be eligible for the full amount (with restrictions by income as explained below).

Who Is Eligible For the First Time Home Buyer Credit?

  • First time home buyers who purchase a principal residence between January 1, 2009 and November 30, 2009.
  • The purchase date is defined as the date the closing occurs and title transfers to the buyer

Who Qualifies As a First Time Home Buyer?

  • The definition of a first time home buyer eligible to receive the credit is a buyer who has not owned a principal residence during the three years preceding the purchase.
  • Both spouses’ homeownership history is considered when determining eligibility.  If either spouse has owned a home in the last three years neither will be eligible for the credit.
  • If the homebuyers are not married the credit may be allocated to a qualifying partner even if other partner[s] do not qualify.
  • Ownership of vacation or rental property not used as a principal residence does not disqualify a buyer.

What Kind of Property Qualifies for the Credit?

  • A condominium, single family house, co-op, mobile home, or houseboat (!) used as a principal residence
  • The home must be in the United States
  • Vacation properties and rental properties are not eligible

What Are the Income Limits for the Tax Credit?

  • Buyers with modified adjusted gross income  (MAGI) of up to $75,000 for a single first time home buyer and $150,000 for a married couple filing  a joint return are eligible for the full credit.
  • The credit is reduced proportionally for MAGI between $75,000 and $95,000 for single buyers and between $150,000 and $170,000 for married buyers filing jointly.
  • Single buyers with a MAGI over $95,000 and married buyers with a MAGI over $170,000 are not eligible for the credit.

Does the 2009 Credit Need to Be Repaid?

Unlike the credit available to buyers in 2008, the 2009 credit does not need to be repaid unless the home is sold before three years have passed.

Please consult your accountant or tax preparer for more information. The National Association of Realtors website has a number of articles and links about the 2009 first time home buyer credit.

Categories: Buyer Info

Comments: Please leave a comment. Your opinions welcomed.

Carr Schoolhouse Condos in Somerville MA – Atherton Street Condominiums

The condominiums in the Carr School at 25 Atherton Street in the Spring Hill neighborhood of Somerville are my favorite schoolhouse condos.  The interior hallways and stairwells are the best preserved I’ve seen with golden oak wainscoting and wide oak stairwells.  The huge windows, high ceilings (maybe 12 feet), transom windows over the doors, and blackboards nad cubbies in many units add to the schoolhouse vibe.  I went to elementary school in a similar building – the Dale Street School in Medfield, MA – and when I walk through the Carr Schoolhouse I can just imagine the schoolkids filling the halls between classes.

Carr School Condos in Somerville Massachusetts The History of the Carr School

The Martin S. Carr School was built in 1898 as an elementary school with fourteen classrooms. The school was named in honor of Martin S. Carr, a successful Somerville manufacturer who was active in City government serving over the years as Alderman, City Councilor, and member of the School Committee. Carr’s factory, in buildings now converted to lofts in Davis Square, manufactured jewelry, novelties, and metal ware.  The handsome school building was built of red brick in the Renaissance Revival style.  The Carr School was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

The Carr School sits across the street from one of Somerville’s historic landmarks – Robinson’s Round House.

Condominiums at the Carr Schoolhouse

Interior at the Carr Schoolhouse Condos in Somerville MAThe City of Somerville closed the Carr School in 1980.  The building was sold to a developer who converted it to residential use.  It was initially a rental building and subsequently converted to condos.

Today there are 20 condominiums in the Carr School.  There are studios, one-bedrooms, and two-bedroom condos on three floors plus a lower level.  Condos on the top floor have the attic space above the units deeded to their units and at least one owner has expanded into that space. Residents enjoy off street parking in the lot to the side of the building.

Real Estate Sales at the Carr School

There have only been a couple of sales at the Carr School in the last five years.  Most recently, a beautiful unit on the first floor with two bedrooms and one bath (and an original blackboard!) sold for $521,000 in 2014.

The Carr Schoolhouse Condos are located at 25 Atherton Street, Somerville MA 02143 

If there is a condo available at 25 Atherton Street it will show below.  Or you can search for Somerville condos for sale to see what’s on the market right now.  Want to live in a schoolhouse condo? Call me – I can help! Liz Bolton 617-504-1737. 


 

Vintage View of the Carr School in Spring Hill

Vintage View of the Carr School in Spring Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cambridge Condos – Bell and Fandetti Townhouses in Cambridge MA

What’s a Bell & Fandetti Townhouse?

Cambridge Bell and Fandetti Townhouse If you’re searching for a home in Cambridge it’s quite likely that you’ll come across a Bell and Fandetti townhouse. There are at least 16 clusters of townhouses around Cambridge designed by architects Douglas Bell and Gerald Fandetti.  The townhouses were built between 1973 and 1981. Their open layout and construction methods lowered building costs at a time when high energy costs were an issue for developers.  While some are deeded as condominiums, most are deeded as fee simple townhouses.  The developments typically consisted of three to eight townhouses with the largest group the 24 townhouses at Lilac Court in East Cambridge.

Most of the townhouses were of  balloon frame construction and sided with wooden clapboards, though several of the buildings have brick exteriors.  Most are built on slabs without basements.

Features of Bell & Fandetti Townhouses

The defining feature of Bell and Fandetti’s buildings was that in most cases the townhouse’s rooms were set apart by level rather than by walls. Rooms were often loft style and open to a main area that soars several stories. Often there is a wood burning fireplace or stove in the living room with a metal chimney that rises through the open area. There is typically a great deal of wood with wood ceilings, railings, and trim unpainted.  The feel of the original style often reminds buyers of a Vermont lodge.  A few of the Bell and Fandetti developments have somewhat more traditional room enclosures and in other cases owners have enclosed rooms over the years.  Many units were designed with a room and bath on the first level that could be used as an office or au paire suite.  Other features often found in these townhouses include:

  • Sliders to a private garden
  • Skylights
  • Decks
  • Some units had garages on the first level

Where Can I Find a Bell & Fandetti Townhouse in Cambridge?

Bell and Fandetti built all over Cambridge.  There are more than a dozen Bell and Fandetti townhouse developments around the city.  Their townhouses can be found in the Agassiz, Cambridgeport, Harvard Square, Riverside, North Cambridge and East Cambridge neighborhoods.

Recent Sales of Bell and Fandetti Townhouses

Many of the Bell and Fandetti townhouse clusters haven’t had a unit turn over in years. When one comes on the market it usually sells quickly.  Recent rents for Bell Fandetti range from $2200 to $4800 depending on size and location. There have been some sales in the last couple of years:

  • A 1527 sq. ft. townhouse at 36 Irving Street with two bedrooms and two baths sold for $779,000 in 2013.
  • A 1356 two-bedroom, two-bath townhouse at 126 Oxford Street that was in need of a total rehab sold for $600,000 in 2013.
  • An 1846 sq. ft. townhouse at 105 Trowbridge Street with three bedrooms and three baths sold for $931,000 in 2013.
  • A Bell Fandetti townhouse with 1+ bedrooms at 47 Cogswell Ave sold for $504,350 in 2013.
  • 42 Valentine Street, a 966 sq. ft. two-bedroom, 1.5 bath townhouse, sold for $5500,000 in 2013.
  • 46 Valentine Street, a 1084 sq. ft. two-bedroom, one-bath townhouse with a renovated kitchen and bath, sold for $632,000 in 2013.
  • An 1191 sq. ft. two-bedroom, 1.5 bath townhouse at 9 Bellis Circle sold for $526,000 in 2014.
  • In 2014 a 17522 sq. ft. two-bedroom, 1.5 bath in the Lilac Court enclave sold for $803,000.

If you would like more information about townhouses in Cambridge I’m just a phone call or email away!

Sales information about Bell & Fandetti townhouses comes from MLSpin.

Categories: Property Info

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Free Fun in Cambridge – Local Events in Cambridge MA – March 27 – April 3

Join the MIT Jugglers in Cambridge MATrying to fill your calendar in Cambridge?

Here are some free upcoming events  in Cambridge, MA: 

The public is welcome to join the MIT Student Juggling Club for juggling.  Free lessons and no experience required.

Friday, March 27, 2009 from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. Building 10 at MIT under the Great Dome, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA.

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Many Rivers to Cross – Reggae, Marcus Garvey & The Harlem Renaissance, Revisited. Address by Lesley University master’s degree candidate Kevin Alymer based on twenty-five year’s of research.

Saturday, March 28, 2009 from 6:00 to 7:30 pm. Lesley University, University Hall, 1815 Mass Ave, Cambridge, MA

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Feminist critic and Princeton professor, Dr. Elaine Showalter, will discuss her new book,  A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx, the first comprehensive history of American women writers.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 7:00 pm at the Harvard Bookstore, 1256 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA. Free admission.

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Lecture at Harvard’s Peabody Museum:  Starting at Standing Rock: Following Custer and Sitting Bull to the Little Big Horn by Nathaniel Philbrick.

Friday, April 3, 2009 at 5:30 pm at the Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA. Free admission.

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Cambridge Comes Out On Top

Today’s Sunday Boston Globe was chock-a-block full of real estate related articles.  If you didn’t get your copy there’s still time to hit the corner store.  There’s loads to read for the real estate obsessed.

The Boston Globe Magazine was all about real estate with the cover article titled “Top Spots To Live: The Best Communities in 15 Categories”.  The Globe polled realtors for their votes.  I’m a realtor but I don’t remember voting.  But even without my admittedly biased vote, I’m happy to report that Cambridge placed more times than any other Massachusetts city or town

And the winners are….

Cambridge MA Takes Top PrizeCambridge was anointed “Top for Singles-Friendly Activities and Night Life

Cambridge also won Honorable Mentions for:

  • Fitness Minded Folks
  • Foodies
  • Arts Lovers
  • Hipsters
  • Public Transit Fans

Somerville was the winner in the “Top for Hipsters” category and won Honorable Mention in the Singles-Friendly Activities and Night Life category. I remember years ago when Utne Reader magazine called Somerville one of the hippest places in the US.  At the time I thought it was a stretch but Somerville has been trending in that direction ever since.  With a vibrant arts community, rejuvenated Davis Square (not to mention Ball Square and Union Square), and a forward-thinking local government, Somerville deserves the kudos.

Arlington received Honorable Mention in the Foodies category. Arlington has become a hot bed of restaurants since the blue laws regulating the serving of alcohol were relaxed.

Melrose received Honorable Mentions in both the Car Commuters and Public-Transit Fans categories due to its easy access to commuter routes and to the three train stations in town.

Brookline won in the category “Top for Great Schools and Kid-Friendly Activities” and received Honorable Mentions in the Retirement Lifestyle and Public-Transit Fans categories

I’d say we did alright – no wonder we love living here! 

And if you’d like to live here too and want some help with your search – I’m just a phone call or email away!

Categories: Buyer Info, Living Here
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Architectural Styles: The Bungalow

Sometimes I think that the bungalow is the most misunderstood  architectural style.  Sellers seem miffed if you suggest that their house is a bungalow.  To them, “bungalow” connotes small,  or perhaps modest – something less than in terms of size or value.  Home buyers often ask “What’s a bungalow?” and I sometimes struggle as I try to explain. I love bungalows but too often it seems that it’s a case of “I know a bungalow when I see one.” I’ve taken to pulling out a cheat sheet  from my glove compartment- a clipping from a magazine with photos of several bungalows.

Bungalows are actually one of the most popular vintage house styles today.  There are groups dedicated to the preservation of bungalows, books about bungalows fill shelves in the architecture and decorating sections of the bookstore, and more than one magazine about bungalows can be found on the newsstand.

 What Is A Bungalow?

I guess it’s not a surprise that defining what a bungalow is might be difficult for people.  Here’s what I found in a couple of architectural guides I pulled from my shelves:  Architecture and Ornament: A Visual Guide defines bungalow as “Hindustani word for a single storey domestic house first popularised by the British Raj”.  That’s enlightening!  A Field Guide to American Houses refers to the “bungaloid style”. Huh?

Bungalows were part of the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 1900s.  Gustav Stickley, whose furniture today is highly valued, popularized the style and published bungalow house plans that were available to subscribers. Stickley’s journal was called The Craftsman and bungalows and other Arts and Crafts-inspired houses of the period are often referred to as “Craftsman-style”.  Sears Roebuck offered several bungalows models through its mail order catalogs as did other houses-by-mail companies.

A true bungalow is a one story or one-and-a-half story building.  Larger  bungalows were built however and while many bungalows were simple in style there were many very stylized bungalows built as well, especially in the West, with those designed by by renowned architects Greene and Greene some of the most elaborate examples.

In different parts of the country different styles of bungalows became popular. Variations include Prairie Style, Arts and Crafts, Tudor, Spanish, and Colonial Revival.   

Defining Features of a Bungalow

  • The classic bungalow has a low sweeping roof, often extending over a front porch.
  • The roof is usually a gable style, sometimes a hip roof, and has wide eave overhangs and, often, exposed rafter ends
  • Many are front gabled with the entry on the gable end facing the street, others are cross- or side-gabled.
  • Many bungalows have prominent, deep front porches often with tapered rectangular supports
  • Window styles are often multi-pane top sash over a single pane lower sash

When Were Bungalows Built?

 Bungalows date from the early 1900s to about 1930.

Where Were Bungalows Built?

Bungalows can be found across the United States. Bungalows’ popularity took off initially in Southern California but soon spread across the country.  Hotbeds of bungalows exist to this day in many towns and cities and bungalows pepper the streetscape in plenty of  neighborhoods.

The prevalence of bungalows is dictated by the years in which the town or city was developed.  Locally, towns like Cambridge and Somerville that were thickly developed prior to the 20th century will have fewer bungalows while towns that experienced building booms in the first decades of the century will have more examples.  Medfordand Arlington had large tracts of land that were developed in the twentieth century so bungalows can be in many parts of town.  Belmont and Watertown also had open land in the early 1900s for development and bungalows can be found in many neighborhoods throughout these towns.

Bungalows in Cambidge, MA

Avon Hill Bungalow

Avon Hill Bungalow

Few bungalows if any will be found in Cambridge’s older neighborhoods – East Cambridge, Mid-Cambridge and West Cambridge east of Fresh Pond Parkway are devoid of bungalows I believe (let me know if you spot one!).  North Cambridge has a number of modest bungalows and Chetwynd Road, a short street parallel to Upland that ends at Corcoran Park , is an all-bungalow street with several others on nearby streets. Cambridge Highlands near the Belmont line has a number of bungalows.  My favorite Cambridge bungalow, the only example on Avon Hill, and I think the nicest and most handsome bungalow in Cambridge, is pictured here.

Bungalows in Medford, MA

Bungalows can be found in North Medford, in the Park Street area, and scattered in other parts of town including several good examples on High Street in West Medford, on Winthrop Street near the rotary, and on Symmes Street off Century.  Bungalow sightings are welcomed so let me know of your favorites!

Bungalows in Somerville

The majority of Somerville’s single families were built prior to 1900 so Somerville does not have a wealth of bungalows.  Some can be found in the Ten Hill neighborhood and others in West Somerville.  A wonderful Somerville bungalow on Central Street, set amidst its handsome Greek Revival and Victorian neighbors, was on the market a few years ago and was featured in a recent article about bungalows in the Boston Globe.

Bungalows in Arlington, MA

Many of Arlington’s neighborhoods outside the center of town continued to grow in the twentieth century, often as farm land was converted to residential use.  There are wonderful examples of bungalows in East Arlington, several of which are pictured here, in Arlington Heights, and in the Morningside neighborhood which has some handsome examples.

Bungalow Resources

Magazines:

 American Bungalow

Style 1900

Books:

Loads of books about bungalows have been published in the last 15 years. Here are a few favorites I pulled from my shelves:

Bungalow Nation by Diane Maddex and Alexander Vertikoff – a beautiful book

Bungalow Kitchens by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen – vintage kitchen lovers will drool

Bungalow Bathrooms by the same authors – a great resource when deciding what bath style is appropriate for your bungalow

American Bungalow Style by Robert Winter and Alexander Vertikoff – bungalows as they’re lived in today

Inside the Bungalow: America’s Arts & Crafts Interior by Paul Duchscherer and Douglas Keister – a room by room look inside the bungalow

 

Please feel free to share your bungalow stories, sightings, or questions here. And watch for next week’s Architectural Style article on the Mansard in Cambridge and nearby towns.

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What’s A Fee Simple Townhouse?

A townhouse is a multi-level dwelling attached at one or both sides to one or more other units. In Cambridge, townhouses are either deeded as condominiums or have a fee simple deed.  If you are thinking of buying a Cambridge townhouse you will want to understand the form of ownership – will you be getting a condo deed or will you own the townhouse by a fee simple deed.

Form of Ownership

Condominiums

The owner of a condo owns his or her individual unit and has a percentage share of the condominium building and grounds that are owned in common by fellow members of the condo association. The condominium documents – a master deed and declaration of trust – spell out the percentage interest, define the common areas, and gives the legal description of the individual units. 

Owners of condos will share in the costs associated with maintaining the common elements. Costs are apportioned by owners’ percentage interests as defined in the condo docs.

Fee Simple Ownership

When you own a townhouse with a fee simple deed you own your townhouse building AND the land on which it sits.

Even though your townhouse may not be in condominium ownership there still may be association regulations and / or fees.  Make sure you understand what if any regulations govern the development and whether there is a governing homeowners’ association.

Do you have questions about buying a townhouse in Cambridge?  I would be happy to help and I’m just a phone call or email away!

Categories: Buyer Info

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Cut Your Property Taxes in Cambridge, Somerville and Watertown – the Residential Exemption

Residential Exemption for Property TaxesI’m dismayed every time I find out that a homeowner  – who’s usually a home seller at that point – hasn’t received the residential exemption that he or she was qualified to receive.   If you’ve failed to apply for the exemption by the deadline you are not able to get that money back – no matter how many years you missed out. It’s a lot of money to let slip away.

What’s the Value of the Residential Exemption?

For Cambridge homeowners who qualify for the 2010 residential exemption, $198,423 is deducted from the property assessment.  This amounts to a reduction in the 2010 tax bill of $1,531.83.

Here’s more information about the residential exemption in Cambridge.

For Watertown residents, for the 2009 tax year, the 2009 residential exemption reduces the assessed value of the homeowner’s property by $88,733, which translates to a savings of $1,086 for qualifying Watertown homeowners.  The value of the exemption in 2008 was $1,063.

The Somerville residential exemption for 2010 reduces the assessed value of a qualifying homeowner’s residence by $138,011 resulting in a tax savings of $1,697.54.  The application form for the exemption is online and questions should be directed to the Assessor’s office at 617-625-6600 ext. 3100.

Categories: Buyer Info, Living Here
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