Mortgage rates fell over the past week to their lowest levels in a month and are now below where they stood at the end of February.
The week was a repeat of the familiar pattern we have seen repeatedly for the past few years: Just as macroeconomic fundamentals are poised to push rates higher, geopolitical fears seize the headlines, prompting a financial flight to safe assets and pushing mortgage rates downward.
Looking only at interest rates and not at the broader context, U.S. home shoppers have been indirect beneficiaries of a tumultuous world buffeted by fears of financial instability in China and Brexit over the past two years, and now fears of a global trade war. The decline in mortgage rates is all the more telling because it occurred the same week that the Federal Reserve increased short-term lending rates. After steepening somewhat during the first two months of 2018, the yield curve is again flattening.
Beyond ever-present (and difficult to predict) geopolitical risks, markets are likely to watch for inflation data due Thursday as well as speeches by two Federal Open Market Committee voters early next week. Markets will be closed for the Good Friday holiday, which could temper volatility, although borrowers should expect conservative pricing going into the long holiday weekend.
↑ Speaking of especially beautiful neighborhoods in springtime, Beacon Hill is probably the city’s most aesthetically pleasing year-round, what with its narrow lanes, brick sidewalks, antique townhouses, window boxes, and the occasional cobblestone street.
↑ The South End, too, with its Victorians and vegetation, can provide walks to savor when the blooming starts.
↑ The Charles River Esplanade provides not only a fantastic hangout for the warmer months, but fantastic views of Cambridge across the Charles River. Here’s Harvard from Boston.
↑ Can’t go wrong in the spring with Boston Common, what with its hidden gems and its many activities (swan boats, anyone?).
↑ The Harvard-owned Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain provides 281 acres of springtime reminders. Plus: Bike paths.
↑ A number of fabulous waterfront parks, including Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park in the North End, can provide excellent vantages for soaking up the warmer temps.
↑ And have we mentioned the Public Garden in spring?
Four Seasons two bedroom overlooking the Boston Public Garden!
Priced to sell at $2,575,000 or $1,798 per SF; $621 below the average sale price per SF of the last five front facing residence at the Four Seasons at 220 Boylston Street. At 1,432 SF with two bedrooms, two baths, garage parking and views into the Public Garden, that leaves plenty of room to put your signature on this luxury condominium property and still be "in the market".
A scaled-back proposal to build a primarily residential tower over the Massachusetts Turnpike next to the Hynes Convention Center won a key approval from the Boston Planning & Development Agency on March 15.
Developer Weiner Ventures had originally proposed building two buildings where Massachusetts Avenue meets Boylston Street: One 566 feet and 39 stories, the other 283 feet and 24 stories.
The newly passed proposal includes plans for just one of those towers—and it would now reach to 484 feet and 27 floors. It would include 108 condos atop two floors of retail and restaurant space as well as two levels of parking.
Professional stagers are paid to bring out the best in your home. Don't take it personally.
Your home might be beautiful. Maybe it is immaculate, stylishly appointed to suit your tastes or highly upgraded with the finest materials and features. Perhaps it is all of these things. But, unless you are one in a thousand, it is not “staged.”
Staging a home for sale is not a new concept, but it is a practice that has gained steam with our more challenging market. I see many home sellers confuse staging with decorating and consequently resisting the process and the recommendations of the staging professional. But the reality is that the moment you commit to marketing your home for sale, you need to commit to transforming your home into a place that potential buyers can easily picture as their home. This means that you need to be prepared to emotionally detach.
Let your home speak to buyers.
Your home speaks to you, but what is it saying to your potential buyer? Most sellers we encounter tend to take the staging process personally, and this is precisely the point. Our homes are personal, yet how we live is not how we sell. Our homes represent who we are; they are life-sized memory books of our travels, they trumpet our likes, our dislikes and our beliefs. They showcase our stuff -- all that stuff we have accumulated over time that speaks to us. The goal of staging is to make the home speak to everyone else, in a compelling and positive way.
You are proud of your Hummel collection. Each piece acquired over time has a special meaning, but to your buyer, it is a collection of your things which serves only to draw his attention away from the main event. Likewise the personal photos, the too-tall centerpiece, the overstuffed china cabinet and the bookcase filled with National Geographic magazines dating back to the Paleozoic Era -- these are all treasures to be sure, but they serve only to sidetrack a buyer from the task at hand.
Buyers tend to label the homes they see, as do agents. So, you can either be the “house with the beautiful arched doorways” or the “house with the Elvis throw rug and a bunch of office furniture where the dining room should be.” Both evoke emotional reactions, but unless the buyer is one who spends his annual vacations at Graceland, you will be far better served by eliminating distractions.
Clutter may suggest your home doesn’t measure up.
Most of us, if honest, will admit that our daily lives involve a certain amount of clutter. The little stack of mail and car keys and loose change next to the telephone, the “junk drawer” which has been busy propagating the species while no one was looking, and a bathroom with enough toiletries on display to groom the entire population of Northern Ireland are all examples. OK, I’m talking about my home here, but we all have our own flavors of clutter.
True, clutter is just another perpetrator of distraction. More importantly, though, your clutter may be sending a message that you don’t have enough space. My own kitchen counter top is at this moment permanent home to a toaster, a toaster oven, a coffee pot, a butcher block of knives, a canister of utensils and a bowl of random items of fruit origin, the latter living out their golden years in a decorative bowl. This arrangement (except for the brown bananas) is functional, but to another person it might suggest I lack the cabinet space to properly store these everyday items. And, if I'm hoping that this other person will buy my home, I need to clean up my act.
Don’t shoot the stager.
The primary goal of staging is not to transform your home into the eighth wonder of the world. For most of us, this simply isn’t realistic. Rather, the best stagers will work with what you have, rearranging and reallocating all of your belongings, in order to present the property in its best light. Sometimes this means reallocating some of those belongings to the garage.
Too often the tendency is take the process personally, but you shouldn’t. Staging is not a do-it-yourself sport, and only a third party specialist can bring the neutrality and objectivity needed to accomplish the goal. You may interpret the message that your favorite painting would look much better above the fireplace -- in your neighbor’s house -- as an indictment on your style and tastes. OK, maybe it is, but most likely it is not. Rather, it is probably the stager’s attempt to ensure that your appointments don’t upstage the home itself. That’s his/her job.
Make no mistake -- professional staging is an inconvenience. Your daily routine will be turned, at least temporarily, on its head. And it can be unsettling as you watch your life rearranged to suit the tastes of others. But if selling your home in the shortest amount of time and for the most money is your goal, it is precisely those "others” who should be your focus.
Millennials are picking up the pace of moving into homeownership, but the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) says not all are finding a way. Its 2018 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study found that inventory constraints and higher housing costs have prevented some from leaving the more affordable confines of their parents' homes.
The study evaluates the generational differences of recent home buyers and sellers and found that slightly more than a third of home purchases over the last year, 36 percent, were made by Millennials, an increase from 34 percent in 2017, making them the most active generation of buyers for the fifth year. Gen X buyers accounted for 26 percent of sales, baby boomers for 32 percent, and the silent generation, those born between 1925 and 1945, 6 percent.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the survey findings reveal show what it takes for Millennials to be a successful buyer and why, even as sales to that age group reached an all-time survey high, slim inventories and other conditions are working against many. Yun said the overall share of those buyers remains at an underperforming level.
The typical Millennial needed a household income of $88,200 compared to $82,000 last year to purchase the same sized 1,800 square foot home which increased in price from $205,000 to $220,000. They were also carrying more student debt than revealed in last year's survey and slightly more of them said saving for a down payment was the most difficult part of buying a home.
"Realtors® throughout the country have noticed both the notable upturn in buyer interest from young adults over the past year, as well as mounting frustration once they begin actively searching for a home to buy," said Yun. "Prices keep rising for the limited number of listings on the market they can afford, which is creating stark competition, speedy price growth and the need to save more in order to buy."
Added Yun, "These challenging market conditions have caused - and will continue to cause - many aspiring millennial buyers to continue renting unless more Gen Xers decide to sell, and entry-level home construction picks up significantly."
Among other generational findings of the survey was that, as in previous years, younger boomers were the most likely, at 20 percent, to purchase a multi-generational home with an increase from 30 to 39 percent who said they did so to provide a place for their adult children to live. Providing a place for their parents was a reason given by 22 percent. This also applied to Gen X buyers, with those purchasing for multi-generational purposes rising from 12 percent in 2017 to 15 percent and many of those (35 percent) saying adult children were the reason, slightly more than those doing so because of their parents.
"Costly rents and growing student debt balances appear to make living at home more appealing, affordable and increasingly more common among young adults just entering the workforce," said Yun. "Even in situations where three generations are all cramped under the same roof, it can significantly help some millennials eventually transition straight to homeownership. Eighteen percent of millennial buyers in the survey said their family home was their previous living arrangement."
Regardless of the age group, the quality of the neighborhood was the most important factor in deciding where to live, followed closing by proximity to employment. Recent Millennial buyers were also as likely as other age groups to put a priority on living close to friends and family.
The share of millennial buyers with at least one child continues to grow, at 52 percent in this year's survey and up from 49 percent a year ago and 43 percent in 2015. With the need for a larger house at an affordable price, 52 percent of millennials bought in a suburban location while also being more likely than Gen Xers and younger boomers to choose a home in a small town. After climbing as high as 21 percent in 2015, only 15 percent of recent millennial buyers purchased a home in an urban area.
Eighty-six percent of Gen Xers and 85 percent of Millennials purchased a single-family home, while boomers of all ages were most likely to buy a multi-family home. Only 2 percent of millennials bought a condo.
"While there is an overall trend among households young and old to migrate towards urban areas, the very low production of new condos means there are few affordable options for buyers - especially millennials," Yun said.
The survey also found that both buyers and sellers in all age groups prefer to work with real estate agents. Millennials, at 90 percent, were most likely to purchase using an agent, but at least 84 percent of other generations did so as well. Close to the same percentages of sellers were also agent assisted.
NAR mailed its 131-question survey in July 2017 to a weighted random sample of buyers who had purchased a home between July 2016 and July 2017. The survey could be completed by mail or on-line and was available in both English and Spanish. Of 145,800 surveys mailed, 7,866 were returned.
The 30-story, 340-foot Pierce Boston condo and apartment tower, the tallest building in Boston west of Back Bay, officially opened at Brookline Avenue and Boylston Street in Fenway on March 1.
Four weeks earlier, one of the biggest—and longest-in-coming—new projects in the Boston region got officially underway: The five-building, 1.1 million-square-foot Fenway Center where Brookline and Commonwealth avenues meet in the Kenmore Square area.
These buildings would total more than $1.48 million square feet of commercial, technology, and life science research space—the idea is to rival other regional commercial hubs such as Kendall Square and the Seaport.
It’s there that owner HYM Investment Group has put forward a general redevelopment plan with two paths. Both paths include 16.5 million square feet of new residential, retail, office, hotel, and lab space built out over as long as two decades. (Eleven million square feet of that would go in Boston and 5.5 million in adjoining Revere.)
That pro-commercial path would be paved with the up to 8 million square feet of office space that Amazon is seeking in a new HQ. It would, too, include 7,500 residential units, 550,000 square feet of retail, and up to 830 hotel rooms.
But suppose Amazon choose Dallas or some such exotic placeinstead of Boston. In that case, HYM would take a pro-residential path, with 10,000 housing units, 450,000 square feet of retail, and 670 hotel rooms.
There would also be 5.25 million square feet of office space.
Kendall Square-based M.I.T. is driving much of the change in the Cambridge neighborhood.
Silver Line service from downtown Boston into Chelsea is expected to start this spring. The five-mile route will run from South Station to a stop just west of Everett Avenue, and will facilitate connections to the Red and Blue lines.
An estimated 8,700 people will use the route daily, a figure sure to further boost Chelsea’s status as a Plan B for buyers and renters priced out of Boston proper.
The route will include an exclusive right-of-way for Silver Line buses once in Chelsea, where there will be four stops total. And, as part of the extension, the state will relocate Chelsea’s commuter rail station westward and spruce it up quite a bit.
These developments including the Hub on Causeway, the first phase of which is under construction and is due to include the city’s largest supermarket; a 15-screen movie theater; 10,000 square feet of outdoor space for a new entrance to TD Garden and North Station; and 175,000 square feet of what the developers are calling “creative office space.”