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.
Busy real estate buyers in Cambridge have always had easy, one-stop shopping options for furniture for their new Cambridge home. Just outside Harvard Square, on Mass Ave heading towards Central Square, the intersection dubbed “Furniture Corner” has provided a number of shopping venues for Cambridge homeowners.
Located at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, Trowbridge Street, and Putnam Avenue, Furniture Corner seems to be in transition. Even before the rough patch in the economy, several furniture stores had closed shop. I can’t remember what furniture store occupied the highly visible storefront at the corner of Putnam Ave. but the space now houses an architectural firm. The Cambridge Pottery Barn and Hold Everything are long gone. Home Design’s storefront is empty and for lease. Longtime favorite Bowl and Board has left Cambridge for Davis Square leaving a large hole in the retail landscape on Mass Ave.
Other stores are capitalizing on the opportunity to move into new space across or down the street from their current locations. Heartwood has moved across the street to its new digs at 1008 Mass Ave. Sleep-a-Rama has moved down the street.
Though the huge 50% off sale signs posted at City Schemes recently gave me pause, there are still a good number of furniture stores at the corner. Crate and Barrel may have left Harvard Square but Crate and Barrel Furniture is still at the corner of Trowbridge Street. Looking for modern furniture and accessories? Design Within Reach is ensconced at Furniture Corner. One of my favorites – and a great source for custom desktops and tables - the Door Store is going strong, just up Mass Ave towards Central Square. Several other furniture stores add to the mix at Furniture Corner.
Just moved into your new place in Cambridge? Furniture Corner may be just the ticket.
Cambridge real estate buyers often decide that a condo is the best option for them. With an average sale price of over $1,000,000 houses in Cambridge are expensive. Condos offer other benefits beyond price including shared responsibility for upkeep and maintenance in small associations or perhaps a management company that handles the day to day upkeep for condo owners. Many first time buyers are looking for two-bedroom condominiums. Here’s a look at recent activity in the Cambridge real estate market. All information is from MLSpin.
Two-Bedroom Cambridge Condos – the Cambridge Real Estate Market in 2009
Since January 1, 2009:
- 51 two-bedroom condos sold in Cambridge
- Average sale price of a two-bedroom condo: $450,624
- Median sale price of a two-bedroom condo: $418,000
- Average price per square foot: $433
- Two-bedroom Cambridge condominiums sold on average for 97% of asking price
- Average days on market: 93
Cambridge condos with two bedrooms sold since the beginning of 2009 for prices ranging from $204,000 to $1,250,000. Actually one sale, the most expensive of the lot, was in co-op ownership.
What You Get for The Money in 2009 – Cambridge Two Bedroom Condos and Co-ops
For $204,000 a four room, two-bedroom, one bath, 835 sq. ft. condo sold on Willow Street, near Inman Square. The condo was on the second floor of a three-unit building and in need of renovation.
For the median price of $418,000, a five room, two bedroom, 1.5 bath condo in a newly renovated triple-decker sold on Wood Street. This 969 sq.ft. second floor condo had central air conditioning , in-unit washer and dryer, and one parking space.
The most expensive two-bedroom sale in 2009 to date, was an 1870 sq.ft. unit in co-op ownership on the sixth floor of 1010 Memorial Drive, the high rise pictured above, that sold for $1,250,000 in March 2009. Cambridge has a handful of buildings in co-op ownership. This unit had three bathrooms, garage parking, and stellar views of the Charles River which could be enjoyed from the enormous living room.
Two-Bedroom Condos – Cambridge Real Estate Options
Many Cambridge condos are in converted two and three-family houses. Others can be found in converted industrial buildings like the one on Brookline Street pictured at right. Many condos are in brick buildings built between 1900 and 1930. Other units are in high rises built in the 1960s to 1980s or in newer complexes built in the last few years. Of the 51 condos that have sold since the start of the year:
- Six condos were in two-family houses
- Ten condos were in three-family houses
- Nine condos were in buildings with 4 – 8 units
- Fifteen condos were in buildings with 12 – 24 units
- Eleven condos (actually 10 plus that one co-op!) sold in larger complexes with 31 - 436 units
Last year there were 161 two-bedroom condos on the real estate market in Cambridge on April 28th. Today there are 165 two-bedroom condos for sale in Cambridge. Average days on market for two bedroom Cambridge condos was 149 a year ago, now it is 111. Search for Cambridge condominiums here:
And if you would like more information about the Somerville real estate market see:
And for more information about the Cambridge real estate market including Cambridge condos, single families and multi-family sales see:
So often when we fall in love with a house it’s the details that make the difference. When I’m out on the real estate trail in Cambridge MA, I come across so many wonderful features in the great houses in Cambridge.
This series – House Parts We Love – is my celebration of the myriad of special features that add charm and character to a house. Many of these features are found in older houses since builders in years past paid a lot more attention to the details. There are fine features in newer houses too – so if new houses or modern architecture warm your heart - not to worry - I’m snapping pictures in houses of all ages. And feel free to email me with your favorite house parts.
Vintage Decorative Metal Doorknobs Found Around Cambridge
Doorknobs have been catching my eye lately. Doorknobs are such an integral part of the house – a part of the house that is hard for anyone to miss. You can’t help but be intrigued when it’s a beautiful Art Nouveaux doorknob you turn to open the front door. Or perhaps it’s the intricately patterned embossed doorknob that’s a standout on a closet door. The utilitarian can also be beautiful.
Hurray if you’re lucky enough to have some fabulous doorknobs in your home already. If not, there are some great sources for new, reproduction, or vintage doorknobs. Ebay is worth visiting regularly for vintage hardware and architectural salvage yards will have vintage doorknobs available. Raybern on Weston Ave in Teele Square, Somerville carries a wide variety of specialty hardware including some lines with reproduction doorknobs.
Here are some other providers of antique and reproduction doorknobs:
Other house parts we love:
Elizabeth Bolton is a house enthusiast and real estate agent in Cambridge MA.
Somerville’s Spring Hill neighborhood is a popular option for Somerville real estate buyers given its proximity to Porter Square and its stock of handsome, architecturally significant houses.
Spring Hill History and Architecture
Much of Spring Hill was developed on former farm land in the 1840s when the Greek Revival architectural style was popular. Many fine example of Greek Revival architecture remain and Spring Hill is a designated historic district. Development continued as a horse-drawn streetcar line to Boston was extended through the neighborhood in the 1870s. Other architectural styles found in Spring Hill include Gothic Revivals, Italianates, Queen Anne Victorians, and Second Empire Mansards. Triple deckers filled remaining empty lots in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Spring Hill is set high enough that you can glimpse wonderful views of Boston and Cambridge as you walk around the neighborhood. The views are even better from the houses in the neighborhood many of which are topped with cupolas.
Spring Hill, Somerville Real Estate
Real estate options for Somerville buyers in Spring Hill include single families, multi-families and condos including units in the converted Carr School on Atherton Street.
Recent real estate sales on Spring Hill from MLSpin include:
- a Victorian three-bedroom single family on Berkeley St. sold in Jan. 2009 for $426,000
- a Greek Revival six-bedroom house on Atherton St. sold for $580,000 in Nov. 2008
- a six-room, two-bedroom condo on Berkeley St. sold in Dec. 2008 for $400,000
- a seven-room, three-bedroom condo on Porter St. sold in Nov. 2008 for $550,000
- a newly renovated 2400 sq.ft. three-bedroom condo on Benton Rd. sold for $733,750 in Jan. 2009
- a two-family on an 8500 sq.ft. lot on Harvard St. sold for $500,500 in Dec. 2008
- an Italianate used as a multi-family on Laurel St. sold for $830,000 in June 2008
Cambridge real estate buyers will quickly learn to recognize triple-deckers if they’re not already familiar with the house style. These three-unit buildings , also called three-families or three-deckers, are ubiquitous in Cambridge and Somerville and are also found in other nearby cities and towns including Boston, Belmont, Medford and Watertown. Nowadays, many triple-deckers have been converted to condominiums so even if you’re not looking for investment property you’ll likely be looking at a lot of triple-deckers.
Triple-Deckers in Cambridge Massachusetts – History and Architecture
Triple-deckers were first built in the 1870s in Boston (according to some, others suggest that Fall River or Worcester was first to popularize the style) and soon became a common building style throughout New England, particularly in cities. Three-deckers were the answer to high land costs and the need for relatively inexpensive housing options for workers.
Constructed with three stacked identical units, triple-deckers have a flat roof, often an overhanging cornice, and frequently front or back porches – or both – on all three levels. Typically the narrow end of the building faces the street though there are a number of examples in Cambridge where the wide facade faces forward often with bay windows on each side of the main door to the building.
As evidenced by the varying quality of interior and exterior ornamentation, triple-deckers were also constructed for those of more means as builders sought to appeal to middle-class home buyers. In Cambridge you can find simply ornamented three-deckers as well as examples with gracious foyers, handsome built-ins, transom windows, and rich paneling and trim. Exterior details reflect a variety of architectural styles including the Colonial Revival and Queen Anne.
Developers often built several triple-deckers side-by-side and some Cambridge streets are lined almost entirely with three-families including Alberta Terrace in North Cambridge, Cambridge Terrace in Porter Square, Speridakis Terrace in Cambridgeport, and Marie Avenue in Mid-Cambridge.
Triple-Deckers in Cambridge – Investment Property and Cambridge Condos
Triple-decker apartments have become popular as condos and many of Cambridge’s three-families are now in condominium ownership. Builders will buy a three-family, gut it and transform the apartments – often changing the floor plans, sometimes installing a second bath, and outfitting the kitchen and baths with all the bells and whistles that today’s buyers expect. Other triple deckers have gone through more modest upgrades and still retain much of the original feel and character.
Sale prices for the eleven Cambridge three-decker buildings that sold in the last twelve months in the MLS ranged from $485,100 to $1,055,000 with a median price of $810,000. It won’t be surprising if many of these return to the real estate market as condos as a couple already have. Asking prices for triple-deckers currently for sale in Cambridge range from $699,000 to $1,185,000.
Sale prices of Cambridge condos in triple-deckers over the last twelve months in MLS ranged from $305,000 to $735,000. The most expensive triple-decker Cambridge condo sale that I can think of was the $881,500 paid in 2006 for a beautifully renovated condo in a particularly handsome three-decker in Cambridgeport.
Read more about architectural styles found in Cambridge in these posts:
Here are some Somerville and Cambridge triple deckers on the market – click on the photo for more info and use the back button to return to this page:
And if you’re looking for Cambridge multi-unit properties or considering buying a condo in a triple-decker in Cambridge:
In the real estate market in Cambridge and Somerville, condos are often the best option for first time homebuyers. In Cambridge the average sales price for a single family home in the last 12 months was $1,140,675 – well out of range for first time buyers. In Somerville, during the last twelve months single family houses sold for an average of $434,626. Somerville real estate buyers, however, will find that condos are in better condition, are usually more updated, or in a better location than a similarly priced house in Somerville.
The 2009 Two-Bedroom Condo Market in Somerville MA
Many first time buyers are looking for a two-bedroom condominium. Since January 1, 2009:
- 19 two-bedroom condos sold in Somerville
- Average sale price of a two-bedroom condo: $410,983
- Median sale price of a two-bedroom condo: $403,000
- Average price per square foot: $325
- Two-bedroom Somerville condos sold on average for 97% of asking price
Sale prices of two bedroom condominiums sold in Somerville since the beginning of 2009 ranged from $265,000 to $639,500.
What You Get for The Money in 2009- Somerville Two-Bedroom Condos
For $265,000 a five room, two-bedroom, 1.5 bath, 1114 sq. ft. condo sold in East Somerville on Myrtle Street, not far from Union Square. The condo was a townhouse, part of an 18-unit association built in 1989. There was parking for two cars, an 80′s era kitchen, private patio, and finished basement. Seems like a good deal!
Right in the middle of the pack, for the median price of $403,000, a six room, two-bedroom, 1 bath condo sold on Electric Avenue (can’t you just hear the song in your head?) near Teele and Davis Square. This 1074 sq.ft. condo was on the first floor of three-family that had been renovated and converted to condominiums in 2003. The condo had central air conditioning and there was a garage space plus additional driveway parking.
The most expensive two-bedroom condominium sale in 2009 to date, was a beautiful six room, two-bedroom, two bath condo on the upper two floors of a two-family on Lexington Avenue between Davis and Porter Square that sold in January for $635,000. The house was built in 1900 and gut-renovated and converted to condos in 2004. The house backs up to the bike path. The 2097 sq. ft. condo had an open floor plan, granite and stainless steel kitchen, central air conditioning, a fireplace, several decks, in-unit laundry, and parking for two cars.
Two-Bedroom Condos – Real Estate Options in Somerville MA
Many Somerville condos will be found in converted two and three-family houses. Other units, townhouses and flats, will be found in larger condo buildings built in recent years or during the last boom in the 1980s. Somerville also has a number of loft condo buildings and one of the condos sold this year was a live/work loft for artists near Davis Square that sold for $585,000. Of the 19 condos that have sold since the start of the year:
- Two condos were in two-family houses
- Seven condos were in three-family houses
- Ten condos sold in larger complexes with 6 – 21 units
Last year there were 106 two-bedroom condos on the market in Somerville on April 22nd. Today there are 72 two-bedroom condos for sale in Somerville. Search for one here:
I’ve always loved to take classes and the myriad of excellent adult education opportunities in Cambridge and nearby towns is one of the reasons I love living in Massachusetts. Whatever your interest you’re likely to find a course to take. Classes are typically open to all, regardless of town or city of residence. Many of the programs also have classes for kids or teens.
All of these programs publish printed catalogs each season and it’s worth picking up copies or asking for a copy to be mailed to you. I’ve included the links to the organizations’ websites below but the printed catalogs are superior – you’ll find yourself highlighting classes, turning over page corners, and repeatedly discovering new intriguing choices as you flip through the pages. Copies of the Cambridge, Boston, and Brookline adult ed catalogs can be often be found about town, sometimes in newspaper boxes, in local shops, and in libraries. The Concord Public Library usually has a good collection of suburban adult ed catalogs for the taking.
Here are some of the best adult ed programs in the Cambridge / Boston area:
In Cambridge MA
The Cambridge Center for Adult Ed (CCAE) has been part of Cambridge for over 130 years, first as the Cambridge Social Union which was founded in 1876, and as the Cambridge Center for Adult Education since 1938.
CCAE has a wide variety of course offerings – some that meet for a single session, others that run for weeks. Need-based scholarships are available. Some of the course topics include:
- Photography & Video
- History & Contemporary Issues
- Homes and Gardens
- Work Life
Here’s a video about the Cambridge Center for Adult Ed:
In Boston MA
One of the best Adult Ed organizations, the Boston Center for Adult Education, recently moved its headquarters to 122 Arlington Street in downtown Boston from its old home by the Public Garden. A rich variety of courses are offered with topics including:
- Creative Arts
- Performing Arts
- Professional Growth
- Real Estate & Finance
- Humanities & Science
- Foreign Languages & ESL
Adult Ed in Other Massachusetts Communities
Brookline Adult & Community Education is another superb local option for classes. Courses are offered in a wide variety of subjects including:
- Health and Well Being
- Investment and Business
- Dance & Exercise
- Music, Performance and Production
There’s also an excellent selection of lectures on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for $5 per lecture. Upcoming topics include:
- The Plight of the Butterfly
- Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands
- The Uncluttered Family
- A Glimpse Into the Current Housing Market
Concord-Carlisle Community Education offers a diverse selection of classes in Concord MA. A sampling of courses from the spring catalog include:
- Meal Planning Without Tears
- Small Scale Agriculture – Raising Chickens
- Papermaking Workshop
- Organic Lawn Care
- Introduction to Kayaking
- Instant Piano for Busy People
Lexington Community Education has been offering excellent courses for years in Lexington, MA. I took furniture refinishing there years ago and have been meaning to take their Furniture Upholstery class. Other upcoming courses include:
- Coping With the Stress of Tough Economic Times
- In the Bin – Household Recycling Know How
- Probating Your Parents’ Estate
- Summertime Pilates
- Intro to Web Design
Newton Community Education has a wide variety of reasonably priced adult ed classes. Some of the spring classes that caught my eye include:
- How to Be a Private Eye
- Totally Green Organic Bodycare
- How to Be a Landlord
- If Your Home is a Castle, Why Does Your Office Feel Like a Dungeon?
- Whitewater Kayaking
Learn a new skill, explore a new interest, discover more about your community. If you live in Cambridge or nearby there are endless opportunities in Massachusetts adult ed.
People buy a particular house for all sorts of reasons – location, condition, size of the bedrooms, the renovated kitchen, the big backyard – everybody has their own real estate wish list.
For some of us it’s the small things – the special features that catch our eye, that warm our hearts, that feel just right, that spark the fantasy – that make a house The One. It might be the beautiful stained glass window in the stairwell, the handsome built-in bookshelves in the livingroom, or the deep clawfoot tub in the bath.
The list of features – house parts - that have that special magic, that create that pull of desire, is very long. Long enough that I’m going to make it a regular feature here.
So without further ado – the debut of House Parts We Love.
Charm is always high on my list when I’m looking for a house to buy. Cutout shutters are a sure-fire way to add charm to a house. Put cut-out shutters on a house and it transforms the simplest and plainest of houses into the most appealing home on the block.
Cut-out shutters seem to have been most popular in the 1920s to 1950s or so. I’ve seen them on earlier vintage houses though. For years a Victorian in Porter Square was adorned with “E”s on the cutout shutters - which I, of course, thought must stand for Elizabeth.
Designs are varied – shamrocks are popular in these parts, letters, crescent moons, diamonds, pine trees, animals - all sorts of designs are possible. Location often dictates the style of cut-out, with nautical themes, for example, popular close to the shore.
The Arlington house shutters pictured above have a fleur-de-lis cutout. The Cambridge cape, a beautiful house in the Divinity neighborhood, has squirrels (I think!) as cutouts on its shutters.
As a house enthusiast and Cambridge real estate agent I’m always coming across beautiful or charming (or both!) house parts. I’ve taken to carrying my camera with me to capture them to share with you. Check back often for more of my favorites – and please – let me know about your favorite house parts – and I’ll be on the lookout!
Other House Parts We Love: