Month: September 2014

Case Schiller: Home Price Gains Decelerate Rapidly


Case-Shiller: Home Price Gains Decelerate Rapidly

Newton, MA. Top Realtors, Sotheby’s Newton, MA

Biggest drop in HPI since November 2012

home prices money
While I agree that the market is not as frenzied like last year the under 1 million market is still insanely busy.  Listings that have come on in the last few weeks for the fall market looked VERY expensive to me.  There have been a few price drops.  The over 2 million mark is STARTING to move but there is a lot of inventory to clear out before we see any appreciation in that segment.  At one point buyers will move away from “only brand new” mindset to a restored late 19th and early 20th century houses being back in vogue.  That will be a welcome return to quality over shiny and new.

The Case-Shiller home price index fell 0.5% in July, the drop the biggest since November 2011 and the third month in a row of declines, according to the latest Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

Annualized growth printed at 6.75%, well below analyst expectations and the slowest rate of growth since November 2012.

The national Case-Shiller HPI printed at a disappointing 5.6% in the 12 months ended in July, down from 6.3% in June and well below analyst expectations.

Home prices were growing at a double-digit annualized pace as recently as February 2014.

“While the year-over-year figures are trending downward, home prices are still rising month-to-month although at a slower rate than what we are used to seeing over the past couple of years,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

The 10-city home price index grew just 6.7% in the year ended in July. The 20-city price index was also up 6.7%.

“The housing market has been giving us a lot of mixed signals lately. New home sales are up big, but existing home sales are down. Case-Shiller and other housing indices continue to show a general slowdown in home price appreciation, even as some local markets remain very hot. Inventory is up, but sales volume is down,” saidZillow chief economist Stan Humphries. “What all of this is really telling us is that the housing market we’re beginning to see emerge from the ashes of the recession is one that is finally transitioning away from being fueled by internal factors like low mortgage interest rates, low inventory and low prices.

“Instead, it is increasingly being fueled by more traditional outside factors like wage growth, an improving job market and household formations. This transition won’t be seamless, however, and I expect to see more conflicting data as the recovery continues,” Humphries said.

The national HPI increased 0.2% in July, while the 10-city and 20-city HPI composite dropped 0.5%.

“The slower pace of home price appreciation is consistent with most of the other housing data on housing starts and home sales,” Blitzer said. “The rise in August new home sales – which are not covered by the S&P/Case-Shiller indices – is a welcome exception to recent trends.”

Cities in the South and West, the two largest housing markets, saw the biggest price drops and are still seeing the bulk of the price increases today.

“Slow but steady is this year’s theme when it comes to home price increases,” said Quicken Loans vice president Bill Banfield. “Unless we see a significant change in the economy, I don’t see this changing in the near future.”

 

Seniors’ Housing Cost Burden on Rise


Seniors’ Housing Cost Burden on Rise

Newton Real Estate Top Brokers, Sotheby’s Newton, MA.

For a growing share of older Americans, housing expenses have become an increasingly large financial burden.

Chart: Housing burdenOne in three Americans over age 50 were carrying a severe or moderate housing cost burden in 2012, up from one in four in 2000, according to a new study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and AARP. The Center defined a severe burden as housing costs that consume more than half of household income; a moderate housing burden takes between 30 percent and 50 percent of income.

The Center’s report, Housing America’s Older Adults – Meeting the Needs of An Aging Population,” warns that the nation is unprepared for both the financial and non-financial housing challenges that will accompany the coming explosion in the elderly population. Aging baby boomers will require better access to public transit, handicap access, assisted living facilities and other special services and amenities, and many will need subsidized housing.

Housing is often an older person’s largest single expense. And because housing costs are largely fixed (think mortgage payment, taxes, insurance, upkeep and utilities), they can become a growing burden for people as they age and become more vulnerable to reductions in income. Incomes often decline toward the end of their working years and decline again when they enter retirement. Pensions and Social Security benefits fall again when one spouse dies.

The report finds that:

  • Nearly 17 percent of people over age 50 are moderately burdened, spending from 30 percent to 50 percent of their income on housing.
  • Another 16 percent spend more than half of their income on housing.
  • Some 3.9 million households over age 62 are eligible for rental assistance – but only 1.4 million receive it.
  • In 2010, about three out of four homeowners ages 50 to 64 were still paying off a mortgage, up from about two in three in 1992.
  • Housing costs are especially challenging for minority groups: 39 percent of older Asian households, 43 percent of older Hispanic households, and 46 percent of older black households have moderate or severe house cost burdens.  The figure for older white households is 29 percent.

Housing reliably consumes a large chunk of retirees’ monthly income. As baby boomers prepare for retirement, many should consider reducing their housing costs so they fit their new retirement budgets.

Luxury Real Estate Headlines: Third Week in September 2014


 

Luxury Real Estate Headlines: Third Week in September 2014

Top Brokers, Newton MA.  Sothebys Realty Newton, MA. Margaret Szerlip September 22, 2014

Highlights from this week’s top news stories on luxury and global real estate, art, collectibles and home.

2014_9_19_Cape Town_SAR 49 000 000 | Cape Town, South Africa | Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty

Africans purchase for exactly the same reason as Europeans, because Cape Town is an exceptionally beautiful city with world-class food and services,” said Lew Geffen, chairman of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty

Decline in the Rand Helps Push Cape Town SalesThe New York Times

House of the Day: A Hong Kong RetreatThe Wall Street Journal

House of the Day: An English Manor in DallasThe Wall Street Journal

Florida Property Once Owned by Ivan Lendl Will List for $21.5 MillionThe Wall Street Journal

On the Market: Rhineland-Palatinate, GermanyArchitectural Digest

Smooth Jazz Meets Stormy DesignThe Wall Street Journal

House Hunting in … the Dominican RepublicThe New York Times

Home of the Day: Midcentury rambler in AltadenaThe Los Angeles Times

Unusual Sowden Residence in Los Feliz asking $4.875 millionThe Los Angeles Times

FHA Fees Are Holding Back First-Time HomebuyersAmerican Banker

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to Auction 3 PaintingsThe New York Times

Born in a MinuteSotheby’s

 

22 Lenox Closed $2,241,000


Top Brokers, Newton, MA.  Sotheby’s Realty Newton, MA.  September 22, 2014

Congrats to the sellers (Credere Ventures LLC) of 22 Regent Street, West Newton…Best wishes to Sean and Dao…we wish them much happiness in their new home.

Chic and Stylish Total Renovation

Chic and Stylish Total Renovation

Newton Bi Monthly Real Estate Recap


Newton Bi Monthly Real Estate Recap Margaret Szerlip, September 22, 2014, Newton, MA.  Top Agents

 

I must say I am a bit disappointed with the results of the past two weeks.  Inventory is building, we have 180 homes currently listed vs. 140 a month ago.  During the same two-week period in August, 65 homes went under agreement vs. 24 in the September time frame.  We will have to see if this trend continues.  I will say that prices seem to be much higher than even six months ago.  1 million is the new 750-800K.  The Jewish holidays are upon us and that does impact the number of transactions completed.  Perhaps buyers are finally saying enough with the price increases.  There is some movement at the above 2 million mark.

 

CURRENTLY LISTED

Report Run: 9/22/2014 10:57:31 AM
Property Type(s): SF
Snapshot Date: 09/22/2014
Towns: Newton
 09/22/2014  9/22/2014
Price Range Number of
Listings
Avg. Days
on Market
vs. today Number of
Listings
Avg. Days
on Market
Under $50,000
$50,000 – $99,999
$100,000 – $149,999
$150,000 – $199,999
$200,000 – $249,999
$250,000 – $299,999
$300,000 – $349,999
$350,000 – $399,999
$400,000 – $449,999
$450,000 – $499,999 2 71 2 71
$500,000 – $599,999 8 37 8 37
$600,000 – $699,999 10 64 10 67
$700,000 – $799,999 9 40 9 40
$800,000 – $899,999 13 52 13 54
$900,000 – $999,999 13 37 13 37
$1,000,000 – $1,499,999 34 51 34 52
$1,500,000 – $1,999,999 31 120 31 121
$2,000,000 – $2,499,999 23 126 23 126
$2,500,000 – $2,999,999 19 99 19 99
$3,000,000 – $3,999,999 11 198 11 198
$4,000,000 – $4,999,999 3 115 3 115
$5,000,000 – $9,999,999 4 119 4 119
Over $10,000,000
Total Properties 180 Avg. 88 180 Avg. 89
Lowest Price: $465,000
Median Price: $1,545,000
Highest Price: $6,950,000
Average Price: $1,805,159
Total Market Volume: $324,928,784
Lowest Price: $465,000
Median Price: $1,545,000
Highest Price: $6,950,000
Average Price: $1,805,159
Total Market Volume: $324,928,784

UNDER AGREEMENT

Report Run: 9/22/2014 11:00:10 AM
Property Type(s): SF
Start Date: 09/08/2014
End Date: 09/22/2014
Towns: Newton
Went Pending Current Status
Price Range # of
Listings
# UAG # CTG # Sold # Other
Under $50,000
$50,000 – $99,999
$100,000 – $149,999
$150,000 – $199,999
$200,000 – $249,999
$250,000 – $299,999
$300,000 – $349,999
$350,000 – $399,999
$400,000 – $449,999
$450,000 – $499,999 1 1
$500,000 – $599,999 6 3 1 2
$600,000 – $699,999 1 1
$700,000 – $799,999
$800,000 – $899,999 1 1
$900,000 – $999,999 4 4
$1,000,000 – $1,499,999 8 6 2
$1,500,000 – $1,999,999 2 2
$2,000,000 – $2,499,999 1 1
$2,500,000 – $2,999,999
$3,000,000 – $3,999,999
$4,000,000 – $4,999,999
$5,000,000 – $9,999,999
Over $10,000,000
Total Properties 24 17 5 0 2
Lowest Price: $495,000 Median Price: $979,500
Highest Price: $2,399,000 Average Price: $1,171,450
Total Market Volume: $28,114,800

SOLD

Total Sold Market Statistics
Report Run: 9/22/2014 11:00:57 AM
Property Type(s): SF
Status: SLD
Start Date: 09/08/2014
End Date: 09/22/2014
Towns: Newton
Price Range # of
Listings
Avg. Days
on Market
Average
Sale Price
Average
List Price
SP:LP
Ratio
Average
Orig Price
SP:OP
Ratio
$0 – $49,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$50,000 – $99,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$100,000 – $149,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$150,000 – $199,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$200,000 – $249,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$250,000 – $299,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$300,000 – $349,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$350,000 – $399,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$400,000 – $449,999 1 5 $445,000 $499,900 89 $499,900 89
$450,000 – $499,999 2 22 $476,000 $452,000 105 $452,000 105
$500,000 – $599,999 1 108 $595,000 $659,000 90 $699,000 85
$600,000 – $699,999 2 82 $662,500 $699,000 95 $699,000 95
$700,000 – $799,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$800,000 – $899,999 2 18 $829,850 $819,000 101 $819,000 101
$900,000 – $999,999 3 40 $944,833 $922,000 103 $966,000 98
$1,000,000 – $1,499,999 3 97 $1,286,667 $1,232,667 106 $1,274,667 103
$1,500,000 – $1,999,999 3 74 $1,606,083 $1,732,633 93 $1,949,667 83
$2,000,000 – $2,499,999 1 103 $2,115,000 $2,250,000 94 $2,250,000 94
$2,500,000 – $2,999,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$3,000,000 – $3,999,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$4,000,000 – $4,999,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$5,000,000 – $9,999,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
$10,000,000 – $99,999,999 0 0 $0 $0 0 $0 0
Total Properties 18 Avg. 61 $1,033,581 $1,056,156 99 $1,108,883 96
Lowest Price: $445,000 Median Price: $927,250
Highest Price: $2,115,000 Average Price: $1,033,581
Total Market Volume: $18,604,450

Sotheby’s International Realty Rolls Out New Marketing


Sotheby’s International Realty Rolls Out New Marketing

Sotheby’s Realtor Newton, MA.  Top Agent, Newton, MA.

I attended the Fall Regional Marketing Event yesterday in Beverly.  What an informative session!  The new Sotheby’s marketing plan is amazing, there is no other Real Estate company in the world with the reach of Sotheby’s.  The Search Marketing is constantly evolving and Sotheby’s is implementing a very forward thinking plan through a combination of organic and paid ads.  The SIR mobile site is a simple but powerful interface to connect buyers and sellers anywhere at anytime.  There is an exclusive global real estate search – 45 counties world-wide.  The exclusive deal we have with the NY Times at INYT.com  WSJ Digital Network, Architectural Digest, Hong Kong Tatler, Luxury Estate.com etc. will enable our listings to reach our ever-expanding global buyers.  HomeFinder, Yahoo, Zillow, trulia,boston.com and too many others will all interface seamlessly now.  As many sellers and agents know the information provided on trulia, Zillow and the other sites is not always accurate and not easy to fix.

Social Media will also connect homes through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, youtube.sothebysrealty, and SIR Mobile.

Check out sothebysrealty.com to view some amazing properties.

30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage Rate Spikes 14 Basis Points


Newton, MA. top Brokers, Sotheby’s Newton, MA.

30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rates Spike 14 Basis Points, Largest Rate Hike Since November 2013; Current Rate is 4.19%, According to Zillow Mortgage Rate Ticker

 

MEANING

SEATTLE, Sept. 16, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The 30-year fixed mortgage rate on Zillow® Mortgages is currently 4.19 percent, up 14 basis points from this time last week. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose steadily last week, peaking at 4.30 percent on Sunday before easing down to the current rate.

“Last week, rates hit a five-month high on anticipation that the Fed’s policy statement might suggest an earlier than expected hike in the federal funds rate,” said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. “This week, any significant movement in rates will stem from the Fed’s Wednesday announcement, which could reveal how quickly the federal funds rate will rise after the stimulus program ends.”

Zillow’s real-time mortgage rates are based on thousands of custom mortgage quotes submitted daily to anonymous borrowers on the Zillow Mortgages site, and reflect the most recent changes in the market. These are not marketing rates, or a weekly survey.

The rate for a 15-year fixed home loan is currently 3.26 percent, while the rate for a 5-1 adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is 3.03 percent.

Purchase Mortgage Application Activity

Zillow predicts tomorrow’s seasonally adjusted Mortgage Bankers Association Weekly Application Index will show purchase loan activity decreased by 4 percent from the week prior. Zillow combines loan requests made on Zillow Mortgages last week with the previous week’s Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Weekly Application Index to predict the MBA’s Weekly Application Index for purchase loans, which will be released tomorrow. For more information about this prediction, visit http://www.zillow.com/research/mortgage-app-index-part-one-7016/.

Below are current rates for 30-year fixed mortgages by state. Additional states’ rates are available at:http://www.zillow.com/mortgage-rates.

State Current
30-Year
Fixed Rate
(09/16/14)
Last Week’s
30-Year
Fixed Rate
(09/09/14)
Change in
Basis
Points
California Mortgage Rates 4.18% 4.08% +10
Colorado Mortgage Rates 4.17% 4.07% +10
Florida Mortgage Rates 4.19% 4.07% +12
Illinois Mortgage Rates 4.20% 4.08% +12
Massachusetts Mortgage Rates 4.26% 4.10% +16
New Jersey Mortgage Rates 4.14% 4.01% +13
New York Mortgage Rates 4.28% 4.12% +16
Pennsylvania Mortgage Rates 4.19% 4.08% +11
Texas Mortgage Rates 4.18% 4.02% +16
Washington Mortgage Rates 4.15% 4.04% +11

 

Newton is Considering A One Year Demolition Moratorium


for sale sign

 

Newton Toying With a One Year Demolition Moratorium

Newton, MA. Real Estate , Sotheby’s Newton, MA.

 

 

I stated in my last post that I was going to try to address the proposed One Year Moratorium on Tear Downs in Newton. On September 4th, Alderwoman Amy Sangiolo has made a motion on “behalf of concerned citizens requesting a one year moratorium on the demolition of single and two-famly homes.”  The purpose of this moratorium is unclear.  The problem has been defined as the following:

What’s Being Lost”

  • Integrity and Character of Existing Neighborhoods
  • Moderately Priced houses–less than $800,000
  • Historic Houses
  • Mature tree canopy and neighborhood green space
  • Socio-economic and generational diversity

What’s Replacing It:

  • Houses out of character and scale with neighborhood context
  • McMansions Out of Character
  • Snout Houses
  • Linguine Houses
  • Added Density
  • Physical and Fiscal Impacts on Infrastructure

I have a lot to say about this and I’m not sure where to begin.  First off I believe we have a zoning problem not a building problem.  If you want to curb McMansions than limit the size of a house based on the lot size.  That’s easy, we have made it a problem because of special permits and variances.  I have to laugh at the moderately priced homes under $800,000 comment.  Who are we kidding, there are NO moderately priced homes in Newton.  There is not one home listed under $450,000 and the Massachusetts  average is $322,000.  The average price of a home for sale in Newton is currently over 1 million dollars.  Snout houses for those who don’t know are houses with the garages added onto the front of a home.  I have absolutely no idea what a linguini house is.  Snout houses are ugly for sure, but people buy them because they want a garage.independt living pictureas

Added density and socio economic/ generational diversity go hand in hand.  You cannot have it both ways.  The only way to increase the inventory of lower priced homes is to build townhouses and multi-families and apartments.  But the neighbors don’t like that so they go down to the special permit hearings or Historic Committee hearings and fight for the status quo.  Has there ever been a time in history where people say we love change?  Our leaders must have the confidence to stand up to these people and do what is right for everyone.  I had a neighbor that added a huge addition and I hated it, but I got over it. The land is too expensive for a developer to build a small house.  It just doesn’t work that way.   Newton has a significant number of homes in Waban, Newton Centre, West Newton Hill,  Chestnut Hill, Auburndale and the Highlands that were built in the late 19th century and the early 20th century that are basically historic McMansion’s.  I am sure that many people thought these homes were ugly and out of character 100 years ago.  So many of Newton’s “moderately priced hosing stock” consists of smaller Colonials on the north side of town and splits and ranches on the south side.  These homes have become functionally obsolete.  Today’s buyers want an open concept first floor — period.  They don’t want a family room and a living room and a sun-room and a dining room separated by walls.  They want an open concept kitchen/ family room and a dining room that can also serve as an office.  So the floor plan of yesterday no longer works.  In expensive homes those buyers want the same thing on a larger scale.  They may have the unused living room set up with a pool table.  Younger buyers want to have fun in their homes.  They want to play pool or ping-pong and watch movies in their media rooms.  And who are we to judge what people want.  Builders MUST build what a buyer wants to buy.  It costs more money to renovate than rebuild.  Which brings me to the possibility of a design review process.  Wellesley currently does this and now Wellesley has big houses that all look the same.  We are not a socialist country and we cannot legislate taste.  I sell real estate, what one person hates another loves.  It’s a zoning issue.

One of the things I really liked about Newton was its diversity and sadly that is disappearing.  But isn’t it the Alderman who approved the building of The Street?  My God the average upper middle class person with two kids can’t really afford to shop in most of the stores.  The movie theatre costs twice as much as a normal theatre.  The restaurants are not a place where the average homeowner goes for a bite.  You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t say we want generation and socio-economic diversity and build an outdoor mall that most of your citizens can’t afford to shop and NONE of the lower-income people can even dream about shopping at.  It’s like the affordable housing units in luxury building in Manhattan where the affordable people have a separate entrance.

I think some of the Alderman complaining are responsible for the current state.  The process is unfair.  You can’t approve some changes and then say, oh we approved too many and the neighborhood is changing so now we have to put the brakes on.  The Historic Committee and the Building Department and the Alderman each have a few members with a chip on their shoulders.  Their minds are made up before they even hear the findings.

Like it or not the horse is out of the barn.  Newton is not affordable and I don’t see how we make it affordable unless we make some zoning changes.  We can approve multi families and townhouses on busier streets close to the town centers.  Builders need incentive to build here.  If we arbitrarily have a moratorium builders will go somewhere else because it will become untenable to do conduct business here.  Let’s hope for a thoughtful process that can meet the needs of most of the residents of Newton.

s

 

Newton is Most Romantic Spot in Greater Boston for Couples


If you’re in a relationship, chances are you look forward to the words “date night” quite a lot (at least, we hope). And given that Boston has a plethora of romantic spots  – from pasta nights in the North End to swan boat rides in the Public Garden (don’t hate) – there’s no excuse for being stuck in date night rut.

But if you and your special someone are looking for an even more romantic place to live, it seems like Newton could be the best choice. At least, according to Rent.com’s recent study on the best cities for couples. Based on a handful of couple-friendly criteria, the website found that Newton, MA was the best (read: number one) spot for couples.

Rent.com surveyed 1000 married renters – 57 percent of which have regular date nights with their significant other. The study also looked at each city’s percentage of married adults and divorcees – as well as the number of places to go and things to do in the vicinity.

In particular, the study chose cities with a myriad of date-night options available such as variety of restaurants, dancing, culture, and day trip opportunities (nearby ski slopes, afternoon hiking spots and/or amusement parks).

The study found that 55 percent of adult renters in Newton are married. Many of them frequent a wide variety of restaurants – no surprise there. And they also have around 242 different “amusement” options to choose from in the area.

Whether you and your significant other prefer skiing or dining out, one thing’s for sure – Boston-area couples obviously know how to plan a good “date night” – in Newton, anyway.

The Tear Down Conundrum


The Tear Down Conundrum

Newton, MA.  Realtor  Sotheby’s Newton, MA

for sale sign

 I am reposting this blog and next week I will update you with what is happening (or not) in Newton regarding the proposed building moratorium.  

 

Last week I had the unfortunate experience of attending a Newton Historic meeting.  A client purchased a house on the south side of Newton.  The house is an average home built in 1959 in a modern style.  By today’s standard the house doesn’t really work.  The bedrooms and baths are very small and closet space is lacking.  The kitchen is a small box with the original appliances.  The oven is sooo cute but has the capacity of an easy bake oven.  The yard is very large and flat and the lot size is well above average for Newton.  The client brought her contractor to the house and the contractor said it would actually cost more money to renovate and expand than tear the house down and build new.  The couple was undecided if they wanted to tackle a new house design and build but decided we should start the process in case that was the route they wanted to take.

We asked the seller to apply for a demolition permit to speed the process along.  Any structure that is more than 50 years old requires a historic review.  Often times this is just a formality.  The staff member pulls the building jacket and digs around to find the history of the house and the neighborhood.  The applicant must bring pictures of the exterior of the house from all angles and the surrounding properties.  After reviewing the pictures, considering the findings presented and listening to the neighbors object to every request, someone on the commission makes a motion, someone else seconds and the commission votes.  The choices are Preferably NOT Preserved or Preferably Preserved.  Not preferably preserved gives the owner the green light to proceed with demolition.  Preferably preserved comes with a one year delay in tearing the home down or in special cases an 18 month delay.  After one year, the owner can tear the house down at will!  As far as I can tell most people in the audience were not aware that once the owner waited out the year they could build ANYTHING as long as it met with zoning guidelines.

Personally, I am not advocating for more or less leniency regarding teardowns.  I was appalled at the rudeness and lack of respect 2 members of the commission displayed.  I did get the sense that these two members had little regard for what was brought forth and had already made up their minds.  What I do know is that every neighborhood changes and evolves.  I am sickened by some of the ugly cookie cutter homes that builders put up with no thought to the lot or neighborhood.  Nevertheless, people do buy these homes and I do not think we should be legislating taste.

I am in complete agreement with the zoning changes implemented in 2011 to prevent monstrosities from being built on tiny lots.  I am perplexed why some permits are granted and some are not.  I get the feeling neighbors get upset that their neighborhood is changing and go to these meeting to fight for the status quo.  I understand they are afraid that the new owner will build a hideous house and cause a disruption on their street.  What I would like to see more of, is neighbors working with neighbors to create a home that brings a 21st century vibe while the new construction improves the whole neighborhood instead of sticking out like a sore thumb.

There was one particular case at last week’s meeting.  A home was purchased in April and some serious problems came to light, the owners thought it was more prudent to build new rather than fix the many structural problems they encountered.  The owners hired an architect who designed a more current larger version of the old house but still worked beautifully with the neighborhood.  The neighbors loved the house and were supportive of the demolition.  In another case I was taken aback by neighbors’ objections to a  house being taken down because the foliage was so special.  I kid you not – the discussion dragged on about his “beautiful” foliage which consisted of rose bushes hanging over a chain link fence.  Many neighbors concerns revolved around the fact that there are too many development projects and the feel of their neighborhood is changing.  My answer to that is time does not stand still.  This is the perfect opportunity for the developer/owner to work with the neighbors to design a house that works with the surroundings.  It can be done and has been done…attend a special permitting hearing and you’ll be flabbergasted about your own neighbors’ behavior.  You’ll want to lock up your kids and dog and pray they don’t own a gun!

Yikes!

Yikes!

I am torn between property rights and neighborhood concerns.  Newton is becoming a town that is unaffordable to most people.  Single-family homes under 500,000 no longer exist here.  Areas that were once inhabited by working class immigrant families are being scooped up by upwardly mobile yuppies and new immigrants.  Will this change the fabric of Newton?  It already has, in ways good and not so good.  Like it or not developers are paying more money for homes than end users.  Is it right to deny seniors the opportunity to make the most amount of money possible to supplement their retirement?  Is it right to say yes to one tear down and no to another simply because too many teardowns are occurring and the feel of the neighborhood is changing?  Remember after waiting one year the owner has the right to tear down his home and build the ugliest house possible if it meets zoning and set back guidelines.  I have to believe that we can do more to promote good will among neighbors.  I think the Historic Commission has a responsibility to promote harmony not discord.   Humans don’t like change but we can’t stop progress simply because change is hard.  I’m sure it was incredibly hard when the Mass Pike tore Newton in half.  However, can we deny that the convenience the Mass Pike offers is part of the appeal of Newton?   I look at my neighborhood and I witness incredible change, some I like and some I don’t.  The most valuable thing I have learned in the past 20 years is not to pass judgment until the project is completed.  Most often, once the house is landscaped it fits in.  Maybe we should require a landscaping plan to go along with architectural plans.  There is certainly more we can do to keep moving forward in a thoughtful way without creating so much tension between neighbors.