Month: February 2014

Newton Contractors I Love!

Newton Realtor

Blogging or trying to blog every day is hard work.  I am not usually at a loss for words and I have NO problem expressing my opinion, however, I do find blogging everyday to be stressful.  I don’t want to post inane things and I’ve been told my personality doesn’t always shine through my posts which could be a good thing.  We did a major renovation on our house recently and people are always asking for good contractors etc, so my post today is about service people I REALLY liked….

I’ll start with our Architect; Kent Duckham from Duckham Architecture and Interiors, he’s awesome.  I should also point out that both he and his wife Alina are personal friends.  Kent is very talented….not just a little talented a lot talented.  Alina is also extremely accomplished.  With Kent and Alina you get the ying and the yang…Kent is a thoughtful, quiet, reserved listener and Alina is well — just the opposite!  Check out his website:   Amazing projects, don’t let the grandeur scare you away, he also does smaller projects and loves a challenge.

My contractor was another friend Bruno Visco.  Bruno is brilliant!  Bruno can figure out any problem, talk to the architect and structural engineer and explain it to me so I could understand.  I cannot say enough good things about him, he’s ethical,  meticulous, treats every house like it is his own and last but not least, he’s adorable!

I am not going to mention my structural engineer because I HATED him…he was slow, changed his pricing, unresponsive…the list goes on.   Same problem with the civil engineer.  Between the two I would say the job was held up for at least a month to 6 weeks.

Bruno chose Serge Nasta as the Master electrician for the job.  Serge is a character, while also being capable, he is hilarious and also a little loud 781-393-9815.

The plumber we used was Powderly and Sons.  I will say that this was not a contractor that Bruno worked with before but was open to using them especially since the pricing was so much better than his guy.  Jeff and his brother took over the business from his dad and we really thought they did a good job.  Let’s put it this way, we have plenty of heat and haven’t taken a cold shower.  We did have a leak but my lovely daughter overran her bathtub and it leaked into the powder room.  A story for another day!

Our HVAC contractor Jeff Lawson.   Jeff had great pricing was very knowledgable and the air conditioning is great!  He also did the bathroom exhaust fans.  I think every Realtor in Newton has used Jeff to install their central air.  781-443-4270.

Greg Sousa from Dornan and Sousa Roofing did the roof.  We’ve known Greg for years and again the job was done on time and on budget.  (978) 454-1840.  Gutters and downspouts…New England Gutter King 888-KING-348.

I sort of liked the tile guy and sort of didn’t so he doesn’t make the list!  I cannot say enough about the guy who put in the glass shower doors.  Have you ever dealt with these shower door people?  What a bunch of asses filled with self-importance — quoting $4500.00 for one shower door and acting like they are doing you a favor with a 10-12 week lead time.  Call Tom at Boston Glass Group, you will not be disappointed!   (617) 505-6091

If you need a painter call Kieran Ridge 617) 312-793  Let’s face it when all the contractors leave the painter is the last guy there.  You will probably be spending time with your painter, too much time with your painter!  So make sure your painter is honest and pleasant.  You will just want your house back, you will just want to be there with no noise, no fumes, no yelling.  Renovating sucks no matter how you slice it but it is infinitely better if you have the right people.

Many people say to me I would never hire my friend…that is the most ignorant and irrational thought process.  If you can’t trust your friends, maybe you should get some new ones!

29 Things You Need To Know Before You Move To Newton

29 Things You Need To Know Before You Move To Newton

Newton is more than just a Beantown ‘burb. As this list will demonstrate, it’s also the home to a famous composer, a New World religion, and the namesake of a very famous cookie.
Very cute and informative at the same time.  Special shout out to Dave at Buff’s Pub!

Existing Home Sales Fall 5.1% In January 2014

Existing Home Sales Fall 5.1% In January 2014, To Lowest Level Since July 2012

Existing home sales dropped 5.1% in January, hitting their lowest levels since July 2012, according to data released Friday by the National Association of Realtors. In addition to the winter weather, the NAR blamed rising home prices and mortgage rates, as well as the ongoing inventory shortage.

In January, existing home sales dropped to an annualized rate of 4.62 million (seasonally adjusted), down from 4.87 million (seasonally adjusted) in December 2013. January’s rate is 5.1% below December’s, and also 5.1% below the rate one year earlier. Sales have not been so slow since July 2012, when the annualized rate (seasonally adjusted) was 4.59 million.

The NAR’s Existing home sales data tallies of the number of sales of previously-owned single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops that close during a given month. Since resales account for a greater share of the housing market than new homes, the measure is considered a market bellwether.

Friday’s news is not exactly surprising, given this winter’s horrific weather. “Disruptive and prolonged winter weather patterns across the country are impacting a wide range of economic activity, and housing is no exception,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, in a release.

NAR President Steve Brown, co-owner of Irongate, Inc., Realtors in Dayton, Ohio, pointed out an additional weather-related problem contributing to the weak numbers: higher flood insurance rates in flood zones, which account for about 8 to 9% of sales. “Thirty percent of transactions in flood zones were cancelled or delayed in January as a result of sharply higher flood insurance rates,” Brown said.

Of course, weather isn’t the only factor. Prices are going up, inventory is low, and mortgage rates rising. The median existing-home price in January was $188,900, up 10.7% from one year earlier. The median price for an existing condo was $188,700 in January, a 13% year-over-year jump.

Although inventory rose 2.2% in January from the prior month, the 1.9 million existing homes available for sale represent only a 4.9-month supply at the current sales pace. An inventory level of about six-months is considered healthy. Mortgage interest rates (30-year conventional, fixed-rate) were slightly down in January, falling to 4.43% from December’s 4.46% level. However, that’s still significantly above the 3.41% rate offered to buyers in January 2013.

“These issues will hinder home sales activity until the positive factors of job growth and new supply from higher housing starts begin to make an impact,” Yun noted.

The confluence of factors seems to be keeping first-time home-buyers out of the market. January 2014 marks the lowest market share for this group since NAR began tracking the measure in October 2008. In January first-time buyers comprised 26% of existing-home purchases, down from 27% in December and 30% one year earlier. Normally, they should be closer to 40% of the overall market.

In one bright spot, distressed sales continue to fall. Foreclosures and short sales accounted for 15% of January’s sales, compared with 14% in December but 24% in January 2013. Of the total distressed sales last month, 11% were foreclosures and 4% short sales. A full 33% of existing home sales transactions in January were purchased with all cash.

The pace of home sales dipped from December in every region of the country in January. Year-over-year, only the South saw higher sales, with a 1.6% increase from January 2013. The median price for January sales in the Northeast was $241,100, up 6.6% from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $140,300, 7.6% percent higher than in January 2013. In the South, the median price was $161,500, up 9.4 percent from a year ago. And in the West, where inventory is particularly tight, the median price jumped 14.6% from one year earlier, to $273,500.

Real Estate Marketing to the Milllennials — I Think I Have it in Me…

Andy Fulton–Thanks for sharing

How to Buy a House – As Told by Memes

Andy Fulton

by  on February 11, 2014

Having trouble connecting with Millennial homebuyers? This graphic may be just the thing you need to get your marketing efforts on their level.

“I Can Haz Real Estate” gives Millennials and other aspiring homebuyers who are Internet-savvy a highly simplified version of the home-buying process. The vehicle this infographic uses to explain this frequently convoluted process is a “meme.” If you’re wondering what exactly memes are, they have been described as “virally-transmitted cultural symbols or social ideas” or cultural elements like jokes and turns of phrase that are created and disseminated by individuals.

The memes contained in this infographic are simple images with text imposed over them. This type of meme uses standardized images with defined voices and contexts in which they should be used. (For example, the fist-pumping baby near the top of the graphic is known as “Success Kid” and is used to express happiness about a victory or success.) As most Millennials and Internet-savvy people can tell you, memes are commonly shared on social networks like Facebook and websites like Reddit.



Newton, MA. January Real Estate Recap

Newton, MA – Single Family Properties

  • Unit sales are up 75.0% to 35.
  • Median price in January was $1,000,500. This is up 28.9% from $776,250 in January of 2013.
  • 3-month price per square foot is up by 12.6%.
  • More Headlines …
Headlines are based on comparisons between this month and the same month last year unless otherwise stated.
Changes Favoring Buyers
January, 2014 % Chg From Jan, 2013
Listings Under Contract 23 -11.5%
Changes Favoring Sellers
January, 2014 % Chg From Jan, 2013
Unit Sales 35 75.0%
Median Sale Price $1,000,500 28.9%
Sales to List Price Ratio 97.6% 0.9%
Inventory 92 -17.1%
Months of Supply 1.7 -19.6%
Market Time (Days) 73 -14.1%
Price per Sq Ft for Sold $368 15.0%
New Listings 46 -4.2%
Monthly changes may not accurately reflect long-term trends. Click here to see longer-term averages

There were 35 unit sales in January. This is up 75.0% from 20 in January of 2013. Sales/list price ratio in January moved down to 97.6% from 98.1% in December.
Median price in January was $1,000,500. This is up 28.9% from $776,250 in January of 2013. 3-month median price of $1,000,250 in January was up slightly from $926,000 in December and up considerably from $760,000 in January of 2013.
Inventory of 92 in January was up 24.3% from 74 in December but down 17.1% from 111 in January of 2013. New listings of 46 in January were up considerably from 20 in December but down just slightly from 48 in January of 2013. Months of supply of 1.7 in January was up somewhat from 1.4 in December but down a little from 2.1 in January of 2013.
Market Time
Days on market of 73 in January was up substantially from 46 in December but down slightly from 85 in January of 2013. This is the highest days on market has been since February, 2013.



William Raveis

Real Estate and the Weather

Ugh- New England weather!  Try showing houses in this weather.

So what is the trick for getting many people to view a home on a freezing cold wet day?  Ah—the PRICE!  Nothing will warm a heart more than a perception of a deal.  Now it would help if the Realtor had a nice fire burning in the fireplace and maybe some coffee or hot chocolate and some delicious chocolate chip cookies to help warm the heart as well as the bones.  Of course, that leads to the truly mindless (rude) people who will walk around someone else’s home obliviously dropping crumbs all over the floor so the other open house attendees can grind those crumbs into the rugs.

This leads me to clueless (lazy-stupid) sellers.    If there is snow on the ground, PLEASE shovel your walk, throw down some ice melt and keep it clear.  If you have to get out there with a toothbrush to accomplish this, do it!  AND every day your house is on the market not just Sunday.  Nothing  panics a Realtor more than standing at the door of an open house cautioning people to; “watch the ice, hold on to the railing, hold your kids hand.”  We would rather be engaging the prospective buyers at your open house  pointing out how lovely the family room looks– helping them to imagine watching the next the Super Bowl in this very room with their friends and family.

This also brings me to my next pet peeve—removing shoes.  I know the floors are buffed and shiny and they look oh so beautiful but they can also be as slippery as an ice skating rink.  Now if the foyer is drop dead gorgeous and is the most beautiful room in the house, by all means, keep people there as long as possible.  If not, a Realtor should supply as large as mat as possible to provide a place to seriously wipe feet or place some construction booties over shoes.  It also isn’t a great experience when someone falls on those slippery floors or down the basement stairs.  Kind of puts a damper on the open house as a whole!  If your foyer is small, tight or just average, buyers will be thinking hmm… this foyer does not seem very welcoming.

Selling a house in the snow is not glamorous but it doesn’t have to be a chore either.  I truly believe that a serious buyer will come out in any weather to look at a home that meets their needs.  However, it is the Realtor’s job to make the experience as positive as possible.  A warm smile, well-lit rooms, to be engaging but not pushy and most importantly have a real knowledge of the house.  Know the answers to how many AMPs of electricity, how many zones of heat and A/C,   what is being built in the huge crater at the end of the street; can you walk to the schools, how far is it to the T or bus?  Basic knowledge and courtesy, that’s what buyers want and deserve.

A Flood of Listings Coming to the Market?

Sotheby’s Newton, MA.  Boston Top 20

I can only hope….I’m hoping for less than a flood and more than a trickle.

A Flood of Listings Coming to the Market?

Posted: 12 Feb 2014 04:00 AM PST

We have previously talked about the diminishing supply of housing inventory and how it is impacting the real estate market. The situation might be about to change dramatically according to a recent survey by Lending Tree.

The survey revealed three interesting findings. Of those surveyed:

  1. 63% have a positive outlook on the economy this year
  2. 69% have a positive outlook on housing this year
  3. 71% said they are considering selling their home this year

While the first two findings are good news, the third was rather amazing.

71% of homeowners are considering selling their home in the next 12 months!  (I don’t foresee this happening nor would it be a good thing.)

While we realize that 70% of the housing inventory in this country could never be turned over in a year, it is interesting that people are again thinking about moving. There has been a pent-up selling demand over the last few years because families lost both equity in their homes and confidence in the economy. Rising prices have returned equity to many and an improving economy is again rebuilding consumer confidence.

Bottom Line

Only time will tell. However, even if a small portion of that 71% actually decide to sell, this year’s real estate market could be very interesting as we move forward.


Sotheby’s Newton, MA.  Newton, MA.  Top Brokers So I have a question home buyers…..If you were looking for a renovated house in the 1.7 – 2 million range would you rather have a luxurious shower or a small shower and a bathtub in the master bathroom?  There is a bathtub in another bathroom on the same.  Let me know your thoughts….



Or This?

Pre-Appvoals: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Amy Slotnick,   Margaret Szerlip

Dodd Frank, QM, ATR…yikes!  I can hear all of you moaning in pain just thinking about the mortgage process.  Thankfully, I have Amy Slotnick of Fairway Mortgage to clarify and simplify the experience.

Dodd Frank– The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires lenders to take more consideration when making mortgage loans.

QM — simply means Qualified Mortgage, the long and short is that loans can no longer contain high risk features such as interest only, negative amortization, balloon payments, or a loan term longer than 30 years.  In my humble opinion these are all good.

ATR — The ability to repay?!  Wasn’t that always part of the criteria for a mortgage?  Basically, this ATR will make sure you have the ability to repay a loan you can afford, eliminating teaser ARM loans with a cap of 5%.  Meaning that after a 5 year period on a 5/1 ARM your rate can no longer jump from 3% to 8%.  You will now be pre-approved based on the higher rate.

In order to receive a pre-approval your lender will want to see your W-2 or pay stub.  The lender must consider 8 types of information.

1.  Your current income or assets

2.  Your current employment status

3.  Your Credit history

4. The monthly payment for the mortgage

5.  Your monthly payments on other mortgage loans you get at the same time

6.  Your monthly payments for other mortgage-related expenses such as property taxes and home insurance

7.  All other debts

8.  Your monthly debt payments, including the mortgage, compared to your monthly income (debt to income ratio) or how much money you have left over each month after paying your debts (residual income).

All of you monthly debt cannot exceed 43% of your pre-tax income.  There are NO exceptions to this..43.01% will be disqualified.

Buyers?  GET PRE-APPROVED, by a reputable bank.  Sorry to say this but PLEASE PLEASE NOT BofA!  So many  transactions involving Bank of America are a nightmare…my opinion.  Make sure your agent understands the new complexities and how to draft an offer that makes your offer more compelling to a seller, especially in this multiple offer enviroment.

Sellers?  Make sure you have a smart agent!  Make sure agent is protecting you.

Fairway Independent Mortgage is putting their money where their mouth is!


Fairway has always offered a pre-approval that is a guarantee of a closing due to our complete, thorough, 360 degree evaluation of the applicant’s financing ability. (For info on a pre-approval vs. pre-qualification letter, click here).

We review all income and asset documentation to ensure that we have a complete financial snapshot and have not overlooked anything that could potentially derail a transaction further down the road.

Ninety percent of our loans are underwritten in house, with more complicated transactions getting a full underwriter review. In short, we will not issue a pre-approval without fully evaluating all aspects of the transaction.

(If the property is a condo we will review the condo details to ensure that the property meets all secondary market guidelines).

Now we are strengthening that guarantee even more by “Putting our money where our mouth is!” A pre-Approval letter from us is a guarantee of a closing-or we will reimburse up to $5,000 in related costs!

Certified Pre-Approval Guarantee: Closing Loans On Time, Under Budget, With No Surprises

Fairway will issue and guarantee the accuracy of “Fairway Certified” pre-approvalsas long as:

·        The borrowers personal financial qualifications stay the same or improve[1]

·        The agreed upon loan parameters stay the same or improve[2]

·        The property meets all necessary loan requirements[3]

If we are wrong we will:

·        Reimburse documented short-term moving, relocating and/or storage expenses up to a maximum of $1500

·        Reimburse any documented lost home inspection or appraisal expenses up to $1000

·        Reimburse any forfeited earnest money expenses up to $5,000

Before you get started, check out our handy document check-list

Our complete Promise to the real estate community print document, including theFairway –Certified pre-approval, can be found here.

A “Fairway-Certified” pre-approval is easy -just call or email amyslotnick@amyslotnick.com781-719-4670 and ask for Amy Slotnick!

Call Margaret Szerlip at 617-921-6860 or e-mail me at of you are looking to buy or sell a home.