Archive for the 'Seller Info' Category

Should I Take My House Off the Market for the Holidays?


Marblehead windowbox with pineapple

The weeks from Thanksgiving to the end of the year are quieter than other times of the year.

Many sellers wonder – Should we take our house off the market for the holidays?


The answer is – it depends.


There’s a lot to be said for remaining on the market during the holidays:

Buyers who are looking for property right now tend to be serious, motivated buyers. Searching for real estate isn’t as much fun in the cold, short days of December – if you’re out there looking it’s usually because you want to buy.

Fewer properties come on the market in the weeks between Thanksgiving and early January.  Other sellers take their homes off the market. Less competition means that your odds for finding a buyer are better.

People move at all times of the year.  If someone is getting transferred to a Cambridge company they’ll need to buy now – and if your home isn’t on the market it won’t be in the mix when they visit Cambridge on a real estate buying trip.

Last but not least – you’ve gone to all the trouble to keep your place show-ready for buyers – now you’re all set for holiday company!

On the other hand:

If your house or condo has been listed for sale for many months you might consider taking your home off the market for the holiday or even for a few months.

If your plans allow, taking your home off the market for several months can reset the days-on-market clock. That way you’ll be able to come back on the market for the spring real estate buyers with a New listing – Zero days on market status. 

Make sure your agent has canceled the listing in the MLS (the Multiple Listing Service) or your days-on-market ticker will resume when your home is relisted.

If home has been for sale for some time a break may be just what you need to stay sane – a few weeks, especially the busy holiday weeks – without having to worry about showings may be a welcome respite.

You and your agent can strategize about your best options during the holidays and decide together whether you should take your home off the market for the holidays.

November and December can be a great time to sell your home.  There are plenty of buyers still  hoping to find the perfect place.  Maybe it will be yours!

Categories: Seller 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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When Does the Spring Market Start?

It's already here - the Spring Real Estate Market in Cambridge

It's already here - the Spring Real Estate Market in Cambridge

When Does the Spring Market Start?  Spring is traditionally the busiest time of the year for real estate sales in Cambridge.  But when does spring start in real estate terms?

It’s bitter cold out and there are still piles of snow with undoubtedly more to come.  But no matter the temperature, spring starts in January for real estate buyers

More than the school calendar for kids, it’s the upcoming ending of leases that drives large numbers of buyers into the Cambridge market.  Buyers whose leases run through May or June or August start looking for a new home at the beginning of the year.

Most homeowners choose not to put their homes on the market during the holidays.  Inventory is at a low point.  But buyers are eager for new listings to see.  Their real estate agents have promised them that new listings will come on the market after the holidays.  Buyers keep waiting, hoping for more condos or houses that match their wish list.

Already there have been multiple offers on newly listed properties.  Open houses are busy.  Our loan officer is busy writing pre-approvals for new buyers.  It’s spring!

Sellers often like to wait until the grass is green, the snow has melted, the flowers are out.  Spring is a beautiful season in Cambridge and I’ve found myself thinking, on a perfect spring afternoon, “Ahhh, this is why so much real estate sells in the spring.”

But there’s much to be said for having plenty of potential buyers and lots less competition. Getting a jump on the spring market is a smart move.

And this year, with the homebuyer’s credit requiring that a property must be under contract by April 30, 2010, there’s all the more reason to put your home on the market soon.  Before the first-time homebuyer credit was expanded and extended, the initial November deadline caused a big spike in real estate sales in November. The April 30th deadline, coupled with the annual influx of buyers into the market, is going to create a big push in sales early in the year.  You do not want to miss out on the spring surge of 2010!

Sellers – start your engines! It’s springtime in Cambridge!

If you’re thinking of selling and would like to talk about how best to position and market your home, please give me a call at 617-504-1737.

Categories: Seller Info

Comments: Please leave a comment. Your opinions welcomed.

What Is the Definition of Broom Clean When Selling Your House or Condo?

The tools to get your house broom clean

When you’re selling your home in Massachusetts the purchase and sale contract usually calls for the house or condo you’re selling to be left in “broom clean condition”

What exactly does that mean?  What is the expectation for the condition the property should be left in?

What should a seller do before leaving their house for the last time?

“Broom clean” means that your property should be emptied of everything and at a minimum swept clean after your belongings have been moved.  If you think the buyers might want that table, or your old yard equipment, or the washing machine you had intended to take with you – ask your agent to find out if the buyers want the items.  The old cans of paint?  Even if they match the colors on your walls the buyers may not be interested and in fact may be upset to be left with them. Don’t leave anything in your house unless you’ve cleared it specifically with the buyers. 

One common exception to the rule are old house parts.  Doors stored in the basement that have been removed from rooms upstairs or old pieces of trim removed in a remodeling for example are usually best left in the house – and many buyers will assume that those items will remain.  It’s not a bad idea to have your agent check with the buyers if you’re unsure.

It’s not a bad idea to go room by room for a final check.  Open up every drawer and cabinet, the washer and dryer, the dishwasher, etc. When my family moved we once left our games in the playroom cabinet and another time a last minute load of laundry was inadvertently left in the dryer.

“Broom clean” does not mean that you have to scrub your house down – but it’s awfully nice if you do.  Your contractual responsibility is to leave the house swept and empty of all possessions. However, many times a seller – who’s often too tired to clean after moving – will have house cleaners in for a last polishing after their move.  It’s a very nice gesture and will be appreciated by your buyers.

Categories: Seller Info

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Ten Quick and Easy Projects to Get Your House Ready to Sell

Prospective sellers often ask me about various repairs and projects they’re contemplating prior to putting their house on the market.  Should we put in a second bath? Should we renovate the kitchen? They wonder if it’s time for the renovations or big fixes they had always planned to do.  Usually my answer is No – you will not get your money back for big projects completed shortly before you sell your house.  Better to keep your money for a new kitchen in your next home – and have some time to enjoy it.

It’s actually the less expensive, easier fixes that have a high return.  Selling your house is all about first impressions.  You want your house to sparkle and shine from the first time an agent or buyer walks in the door.  

Here are some easy, inexpensive projects to get your house or condo in tip top shape:

1.  Declutter, declutter, declutter.  You want your home to look like a show house.  Counters cleared off, closets thinned, surfaces bare.  When in doubt – out and away it goes. 

2.  Rent a storage unit if you have nowhere to put your clutter.  It’s relatively inexpensive and the answer to the question of “but where do we put our stuff?”

3.  Depersonalize your home.  It’s ok to have some personal items scattered about the house. The goal is not to strip your home of all of its personality.  However, if you’ve turned your home into a family photo gallery or have loads of memorabilia scattered about, it’s time to thin the collections.  You want buyers to focus on the house, not on the details of your life or hobbies.

4.  Clean, clean, clean.  Your house must sparkle and shine.   Fingerprints cleaned, counters, cupboards and drawers wiped clean, bathrooms gleaming, stove sparkling, floors shined.  If you’re not a cleaning whiz have a housekeeping service do the job.

When Selling Your House Make Sure Your Windows Sparklet5.  Get the windows washed.  Dirty windows are a turnoff.  Your buyers want to see the sun streaming through clean and sparkling windows.

6.  Fling open the windows.  Fresh air is free and you want to make sure your home is free of all odors while you’re on the market.

7.  Caulk your bathtub and clean the grout.  It’s something that we sometimes overlook in our own home but one of the first things a buyer will notice in your bath.

8.  Paint the trim and woodwork.  Look around your home with a critical eye.  Stair risers scuffed?  Woodwork chipped?  Paint and some sandpaper is an inexpensive fix with a big impact.

9.  Spruce up your yard.  Keep the lawn mowed, bushes trimmed, garden beds mulched. A big pot of flowers in bloom is a nice addition to your front steps.  If you’re in a condominium, add some plants or flower boxes to your deck.  No outdoor space?  Keep bouquets of fresh, sweet smelling flowers in your condo.

When You're Getting Ready to Sell Your House Flowers Help10.  Make sure your entry looks inviting.  Your house need to appeal from the moment someone walks up to the door.  Paint the door if needed, make sure your railings and steps are secure and in one piece, get a nice new doormat.  If your decluttering didn’t extend to the entry take care of it now – when you sell your house the piles of boots and shoes, recycling bins, and other paraphernalia usually stowed in the entryway have to go.

These low cost, high impact tasks will ensure that your house looks its best and sells for top dollar

If you’re planning a move and want to talk about today’s real estate market, get advice on preparing your home for sale, or want to learn about the top marketing efforts that lead to a successful sale – give me a call or an email.  I can be reached at 617-504-1737 and I look forward to speaking with you.

Categories: Seller Info
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What Does It Cost To Sell My House In Massachusetts?

Selling a House in MassachusettsIt’s not uncommon for the check you receive at your real estate closing in Massachusetts to seem smaller than you expected.  If you don’t account for the various charges that you’ll pay in addition to the real estate commission, you may be surprised.  Here are some of the miscellaneous costs of selling a home in Massachusetts:

What’s the Transfer Tax in Massachusetts?

This fee, called a tax stamp,  is often unexpected but is one of the costs of selling your house or condo in Massachusetts.  The transfer tax is paid by the seller and the rate is currently $4.56 per $1000 of the sales price.

What Other Miscellaneous Fees and Costs Can I Expect for Selling My Home?

Attorney fees – Massachusetts is what’s sometimes referred to as an “attorney state” – buyers and seller almost always engage attorneys to advise them, represent their interests, and review and prepare the contracts and myriad of legal documents necessary to sell a home in Massachusetts.  Attorneys’ fees vary and will depend on the complexity of the transaction though some attorneys offer a fixed fee.  I’m usually not privy to what buyers or sellers are paying for legal counsel but have seen fees that ranged from$500 to $1500 and more. Consult your attorney about potential costs.

Sellers are required to have the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms tested by the local fire department before the sale closes.  The fire department will provide a smoke certificate that must be provided at the closing. The fee for the inspection and certificate for a single family or condominium ranges from $40 to $50 in Cambridge and nearby towns.  Fees for multi-unit properties will be higher. And if you’re selling a house in the ‘burbs and don’t have city or town sewer than you’ll also need to pay for a Title V septic inspection.

Final Water BillSellers must request a final water reading and pay the final water bill at the closing. Some towns and cities charge for providing the final water reading, Somerville, MA for example, charges $25 to get a final water reading.  If the water bill for your condominium is paid through your condo fee in most cases you will not need to get a final bill.

Special assessments for condos are typically paid by the seller prior to closing.  A 6D certificate indicating that no outstanding charges are due will be issued by your condo association and is required to sell your condo in Massachusetts.  Condo fees will  be prorated with the seller required to pay all condo fees due up until the closing.

Property taxes are also prorated.  If your bill is paid through a date after your closing the extra days’ payments will be refunded on the settlement sheet.  Likewise, if your last tax bill paid covered a period pre-dating the closing date the amount needed to cover property taxes up until your closing will be charged to you.

Other Charges For Selling Your Massachusetts HomeMiscellaneous charges for mailing, filing fees etc will be added to your charges on the settlement sheet.  These charges include overnight mailing, courier services, wiring fees, charges for processing mortgage discharges, and recording fees for recording various documents at the Registry of Deeds.  All told these can easily add up to several hundred dollars.

While typically paid prior to closing, sellers of condos should be aware that condominium management companies have started to charge for providing various forms and documents needed to sell your condo.  Many condo associations rely on their management company to provide the 6D certificate, fill out the condo questionnaire required by the buyer’s lender, and provide copies of budgets, minutes, and condo docs. I’ve seen charges as high as $150 for packages that include all the required documents.

Categories: Seller Info

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Declutter Your House To Get It Sold

Staging your house to sell has become much more important in today’s competitive real estate market. Clearing away clutter is one of the best – and least expensive – things sellers can do to make their home sell for more money in less time.  After you declutter, your house or condo will look larger, more attractive, and much more appealing to home buyers. 

You Don’t Sell Your House The Way You Live In It

Messy ClosetWhen I work with sellers to prepare their property for sale we go room to room to identify anything and everything that should be removed.  The goal is to have clear surfaces everywhere you look.  No piles on the nightstand, no tchotchkes on the bureau, the desk a clear expanse.  The miscellanea stacked in a corner that you don’t even see anymore – it’s got to go.  The notes and magnets covering the fridge – not while you’re selling your home. The toiletries arrayed in the bathroom – not acceptable.  We’re aiming to get as close to the model home look as we can.
One challenge while living in the house that you’re selling is that buyers are able to peek into your cabinets, your Neat Closetclosets, even your medicine chest.  If it’s built-in it’s acceptable for buyers to take a look inside.  This means that you can’t use those areas to stash your excess stuff.  In fact, it’s almost as important to declutter your closets and cabinets as it is to declutter the rooms.  A crammed closet sends the message that you don’t have enough closets and storage space is an important point on most buyers’ wish lists.  Thin the clothing and clean up the shelves and floors. 

Too Much Of A Good Thing

One of the bonuses of selling real estate in Cambridge and other nearby towns is the opportunity to spend time inside some truly fascinating homes.  Filled with books, fine art, collectibles, and memorabilia, many of the homes we tour are visual feasts.  But though agents and buyers may linger, gazing at the art or collectibles, the details of the house or condo fail to register.  There’s too much to see, too much beauty to absorb.  So don’t be offended when your agent suggests some thinning of the accessories.  Too much is really too much when you’re selling your home.  And I speak from experience as a lifelong collector (some would say packrat) – I live surrounded with the things I love but when it’s time to move I live like a minimalist. 

So where do we put the stuff? 

Decluttering your house before listing it for sale is a great opportunity to start packing or to weed out those possessions you don’t want to move. Some ideas: 
  • Hold a garage sale
  • List items on Craigslist for a price or for free. Freecycle is another option for giveaways
  • Buy some plastic bins and stack the filled bins neatly in the basement or garage
  • Rent a storage space. It’s well worth the relatively modest cost. One of my favorite storage facilities is the U-Haul on Route 16 at the Somerville / Medford line
  • Ruthlessly weed out and bring things to the curb. Curbside trash pickup – what could be easier?

The Reward

Why go to the trouble?  It’s simple – your house will sell for top value if it’s presented at its best.  If your agent isn’t giving you some “tough love” and advising you on how to prepare the house, you’re not getting good service.  From the moment the first buyer’s agent or buyer walks through the door you want to be show ready.  For more tough love for sellers see:

Categories: Seller Info
Comments: Please leave a comment. Your opinions welcomed.

Dollars and Scents For Homesellers

Smells In The HouseIf you smell it you can’t sell it!” the former manager of our Huron Avenue office used to say.  And she was right.  If you’re selling your house you need to think about scents.

 Scent makes a very strong impression when entering a house for the first time.  There are several things to do – and not to do – to ensure that the impression your house makes is a positive one.

 Agents are often embarrassed to tell their clients that their house smells.  So it’s best to assume the worst and do all that you can to make sure your home smells sweet.

Here’s some tough love advice for getting and keeping your house show-ready:

Fresh Air In

Let The Fresh Air InFor starters – fresh air is free.  Fling the windows open and air out your house.  Nothing is worse than stale air – in all its variations.  Even if it’s cold out, turn down the heat and let the air in for a bit – a short bit if it’s very cold.  And if it’s not the dead of winter, but not yet warm enough to leave the windows open all day, while you’re on the market be sure to give your home a daily breather before leaving in the morning.


Odors Out 

 If you can’t stash dirty laundry in the basement or in the washing machine, do a load of wash.  If the clothes pile up you’re in danger of entering the “man smell” zone as my colleague calls it – when the odor of unwashed clothes greets you at the bedroom or closet door.  A related no-no is the damp-towels-in-the-bath smell.  Whip those towels out of the bathroom every day and replace them with the unused set you’ve kept just for show. Every day may be laundry day when your house is on the market!

 Cooking odors are also problematic.  The scent of baking cookies – good.  The smell of last night’s fish dinner – bad.  Plan your menu accordingly or make sure to thoroughly air the house.

 Pets and smokers present their own sets of issues.  Pitch the well loved dog bed and blankets, empty the litter box daily, clean the upholstery thoroughly, and clean the carpets.  Even better, if at all possible, send the pets to the neighbors’ or their grandparents’ for the duration. If the smokers in the household haven’t been banished to the outdoors, now’s the time. Indoor smoking should cease well in advance of putting your house on the market. 

Be Careful With Sweet Smells

Baking Cookies For The Open HouseBe careful not to fall into the trap of using air fresheners or scented candles for odor control or enhancement.  The plug-ins and other types of air fresheners sold in the supermarket are a turn-off for most buyers.  Many people are allergic to the chemicals in these products and a buyer with a pounding headache is not inclined to think fondly of your house. And most people will wonder what’s being masked by the strong smelling deodorizers.

 One effective but far more subtle option is the reed diffusers that you can find everywhere nowadays.  Be careful – some of these can be quite strong too.  You want the scent to enhance, not overwhelm.  Sandalwood is one scent that doesn’t overpower.  Balsam is another – at any time of year – and one of my favorites is made by Frazier Fir.  It’s expensive but elegant year round and worth the cost. Check local shops if you want a more inexpensive alternative – there are many diffusers available for under $25.

 It really is about the “dollars and scents”.  Make a good impression and you’ll be a successful home seller – make a bad impression and your pocketbook will suffer.

 Now let’s get ready and get your house sold!

 And for more tough love for sellers see:

Stage Your House To Sell – Declutter


Categories: Seller Info
Comments: Please leave a comment. Your opinions welcomed.

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