Southborough's Garfield House in Peril; ANR and lack of town funding key Issues

Southborough Garfield House subject of Much Town Discussion

Southborough is neither a large town, and for much of it's history it has always been small. As such, it doesn't have very many historic buildings. There are a few that stand out, and one of them is the Garfield House, at 84 Main St, Southborough MA.

It's a castle among the farmhouses of town, and always was. Recently though, after decades of family ownership, the property was sold, and recently there were proposed plans in place that to have it demolished. See a good run-down here.

Built in 1847, it's about a 10,000 sq foot home with 13 bedrooms and 5.5 baths. It's pretty cool looking too, being all stone.

Many members of the town would be sad to see such a unique property and significant part of the towns history fall to the wrecking ball, as well they should!  But keeping historical items requires money, and that is going to be a key stumbling block going forward. Kudos, though, to the town members who picketed and let their voices be known, but activism is best coupled with an exit strategy, and I'm not sure anyone has one, other than demolishion. Let's see why.

Options for Garfield House

There are basically four outcomes that I can see.

1) Town buys the property and assumes current maintenance.
The town would likely have to buy the current owner out, at a substantial premium to the price he paid, and become the steward for the property. That means maintaining security and structural renovations when required. This is the lowest cost option for the town, and yet it would still be well over 1 Million dollars up front, and then security and maintenance costs probably at 5% of that annually. That's about $300 added to every body's tax bill next year just to save this one house, and $15 dollars a year going forward. Borrow some money, stretch it out 10 years, and you are looking at $45 dollars added to everyone's tax bill for 10 years.

2) Town buys the property and assumes restoration and future maintenance.
This is a more expensive version of plan #1. Basically, I'm not sure it will ever be a tourist desitination, but the town may explore options to make it a municpal building of some sort. That would require renovation, and my back of the envelope calculations for something like that are somewhere between 750K (if you are very, very lucky), to 1.5 million. Total cost estimate: Let's call it 2.25 million, or about $70-75 a year added to each and every tax bill for 10 years.

3) Current owner puts a covenant on the property, and town reimburses him for the loss.

This is a way to have the property stay in private hands, but comes with a cost for the town. The current owners can put a covenant on the property to make sure the existing house is kept in working condition and cannot be torn down. The reason the original owners didn't do this is because such a covenant decreases the value of the property. A lot. Probably by $1M, but as much as $1.5 million I would guess. The town would need to offer compensation to the original owner, but once the covenant was in place, the owner could sell the property (for $1), and the new owners would be purchase it knowing they were responsible for renovation and preservation. This is similar to adding a home to the historical registry, without all the paperwork and time involved in that process.

4) Demolishion

The paper Southborough Wicked Local, has an article this morning which states that because the owners - or future owners - are proposing an ANR application, there is little the town can do to stop demolition based on town sentiment. I believe ANR stands for "Approval not required" and it means the owner can do what he is proposing without asking for any significant variances or going through the many committees that the towns have (planning, especially). The plan conforms to the current zoning, and as such the town can only put the brakes on if they find that the plan actually doesn't. It probably does though, as the developer who first proposed it is an expert in these plans.

Between a Rock and Hard Place

While I empathize with the town supporters, as a real estate agent who looks at numbers all day, I can't get past the numbers here. I'm just not convinced that the town has the capabilities or political support to financially offer the owner a reasonable accommodation here. Although the current owners are submitting a new ANR to "protect their interests" their interests are expensive, and if they can't be met, the house will fall. It is clear from the back and forth that altruism is not part of the owners current plan, as had been previously implied at the time they purchased the property.

Things change, and change is hard. But the only constant is change.

Sox Final Surge De-Railed; Fans and Media look to 2015

Brief Run Ends with new Losing Streak

After a less than stellar, but still important, 8-2 run, the Sox began some games that really could have counted in the division. They promptly fell back to the offense challenged team they have been all season. There are a lot of theories as to why this has been the case. Poor veteran performance. Too many rookies. Too many injuries. But the answer, I think, is a lot more subtle than it might appear. Almost all the teams in MLB are very close talent wise, and it takes very little pushing to get to the top or the bottom of the heap.

Last year, the sox had great health up and down their lineup, and had injuries in all the places they had depth. They were a tough team mentally, but they caught some breaks. By the time the season wound up, they were good enough to win it all. But no one confused them with the powerhouse teams of 2004 and 2007. They simply weren't that much better than everyone else, and when the ball bounced the other way, they ended up on the short end of the stick.

Want proof? Well, the Blue Jays did very little different this year than last, and have had a much better season. The Red Sox brought back most of the same pieces and are in the bottom, and the Orioles are hardly a different team, and yet have lead the division for most of the season. Tampa Bay, atop the division with the Sox last year, had until recently found themselves at the bottom. All this flip-flopping with very few off-season moves suggests the teams are very close - on paper - and injuries and luck are what separate them.

This is good news for the Sox. For all the talk that they should be "sellers" looking to pick up prospects for the future, the truth is the team is very close to getting back on top of the division. I'll be the first to admit, it doesn't really look that way, but the evidence is there - if you look.

Veterans being pitched Around

One of the things I look at is not just who's in the line up, but the LENGTH of the quality hitters in the lineup. Pitchers aren't dumb. They work around good hitters. If everyone is a tough out, than they are hard to pitch around, and produce the kind of offense the Sox had in 2013. A different hero every nite. Pitchers get forced into having to get the big guns out because guys are already on base. How do we know that not's the case this year? Well, beyond the obvious, (JBJ having a brutal season, Brock Holt being celebrated as a player), we can look at the big guns. Ortiz last year hit .310, but this year is hitting just .255. Why the drop? Well, we see his OBP is about the same - in the .390s. That means he's seeing the ball just as well, but getting far fewer to hit. If he's not getting hits, he's less dangerous. Pedroia also is seeing fewer strikes. I think it might even be in his head a little, as he's trying to get hits at the plate, but with fewer strikes is causing more damage than help.

Napoli is a bit of an outlier - he's having a better season - but the season he had last year was not very good average-wise, and this is more of a return to the mean. With weak players in the lineup, pitchers are working around the hitters, leading to a lot of men left on base, and that oh-so-close feeling in so many innings.

More proof? Well OBP is the best predictor of runs, and the Sox are near the bottom in the AL for runs, yet their OBP is 5th in the AL - still in the mix competitively. They just need one or two more bats, and things will be fixed. Will it be Boegarts? Certainly could be. Victorino? They have obviously missed him terribly. That's two bats right there - if they perform - and if Pedroia can reverse the decline, well, you can really have something. Vasquez should improve offensively. Even JBJ could be a tougher out in the future.

Giving Credit where Credit is DUe

I bashed the Yankees this year, predicting they wouldn't be a factor in the division. Remarkably, they are. I don't know how they are stringing together the victories. Their best two pitchers are now hurt, they have no offense to speak of. And yet, here they are, sitting second in the division. I don't think they'll stay there, but a great job to hang in the way they have.

But how long can they keep this up? And I'm not talking about 2014 either. Even if they finish third this year, next year looks pretty grim too. At some point, you need to put talent on the field, and I don't see that the Yanks are going to have the health, or the age, or the prospects to do that. The always seem to do more with less, so we'll see, but if I had to choose a team, I'd pick the Sox in 2015 easy.

Final Predictions

It's a good time to make some predictions about the burning questions of the Sox. Let's see how well I can read the tea leaves.

A) Lester leaves. I think the bidding war for Lester is going to be intense. I think someone is going to offer a silly Robbie Cano type deal, and he'll take it. I think the Sox will end up offering 5 years and $110 million, with a six year option. But someone is going to offer 7 years at $150, and he'll take that. Worse, I think it'll be the Yankees. That's a bad deal for the "winning" team, but it won't be bad for 3-4 years, and it'll hurt.

B) Lackey Stays. They re-work his deal for 2 years at $12 million per season.

C) Vasquez is #1 catcher. He's ready. Is his bat ready? Probably. Enough to hold his own. You only need a .700 OPS there with that defense, and he could be better than that.

D) JBJ improves. There have been signs that he's finding how to make the adjustments. I think he does.

E) Boegarts finds his power stroke. And stays at third. I think 2015 is going to be a big year for the kid. And will make the Sox worth watching in September, perhaps.

F) Lester doesn't get traded.

G) Middlebrooks does get traded. Unless than plan to keep him in AAA as Mike Napoli's backup. I think he's too good to be a 1B/3B utility player, and his cheap dollars and potential power could make him worth a lot. But he'll have to show something in September.

H) Bye, Drew. I did call that the signing wouldn't help offensively. It didn't. They can do better, in lots of ways, than Drew.

Real Estate Sales for Berlin, MA (July, 2014)

Homes For Sale in Berlin Market Report

Berlin sellers have certainly been aggressive - and patient - this year. And that combination has paid off.

Can’t see the chart? You can find it Here .

We see a big jump in prices, and it all happened very fast, with 16 of the the past 18 sales 3 months - just 2 sales in the previous 3 months. As a result, we see prices rebounding near their all-time high. The existing sellers aren't shy either, asking even more - $176 a square foot. On the downside though, we see inventory clearly building going into August, so I expect price changes for motivated sellers in the near term. The increase in inventory is the main reason the HSI has fallen under 110, and we're back to a pretty neutral market statistically, but seasonal patterns do not favor the sellers here.

What should active home buyers do in Berlin?

The good stuff is gone, and the prices are probably a little high for what is left. Be patient and smart - prices look like there will be a pull back, and that should restore some value for buyers.

What should potential home sellers do in Berlin?

Demand is good, but make sure your home is price right and showing well. If you haven't sold in the last three months, don't blame the market - the problem is how your home is positioned.

Find Your Next Home or Check out the Competition!

Berlin Recent Houses For Sale and Sold Market Statistics - Raw MLS Data

Scales are tipping back to the buyer
this summer.

  • There have been 18 houses sold in the last 6 months, and 16 homes sold in the last 3 months in Berlin.
  • The Average number of Days on Market was 83 days for just SOLD homes.

  • There is an Average Market Time of 127 days of theBerlin homes For Sale (currently for sale).
  • The amount that was paid in Dollars per Square Foot averaged $169 (vs. $159 )
  • Current sellers are looking for 176 $/sq foot
  • There was an Average Sold Price of $396,679 for sold homes.
  • Berlin,MA, has 0 properties advertised as lender owned or foreclosure (typically foreclosure) .
  • There are 2 properties advertised as a short-sale is going to be needed by the lender.

*All statistics are for Single Family Houses and based on data in MLS. Matt’s HSI is proprietary, and is designed to offer town-by-town information, instead of large scale trends. (That means you won’t find it anywhere else. Take that, Case-Schilling!).

Matt's Top Read Real Estate Posts

Ashland Reports are out!

Latest real estate reports in Ashland

My latest reports on Ashland are linked below. I've started a specialty blog for Ashland, as it has one of the more diverse property sets ups in Metrowest.

Here's the condo report: Ashland Condos

Here's the single family report: Ashland Single Families

That's right!  My Ashland information is moving......

Find Your Next Home or Check out the Competition!

Happy reading!!