3 Charts for the State of Massachusetts Markets

The Local Real Estate Market in 3 Charts

When you think about it, real estate has 3 elements to it. How much does it cost? How competitive is the market? and Which town is a good place to put my Money? Congratulations, I have all those answers for you in 3 charts.

OK, Now you know the relative cost of every town. If you're looking in Hopkinton, and the house you want is just out of reach, why not try Holliston? Or Southborough? These neighboring towns are - for the moment - a little less expensive, providing some opportunities for the flexible buyer. Want to know how they stacked up last year? That link will help. The summary though is that Ashland made some moves, as did Marlborough, while Upton lost some ground as prices stalled there last year. Overall though, things change slowly on this chart.

How competitive is the market?

Well, let'ts see:

This chart is pretty straightforward. Unlike the first chart, the data here jumps around quite a bit over time, as you can see from the historical snapshots. About the only constant has been Natick at the top - but not this spring. Framingham has moved into the top spot, and readers will know that I have cautioned buyers in Framingham as the market looks awfully frothy to me. Milford and Marlborough I'm sure will surprise some readers, but there are many years where value trumps prestige, and when that happens, towns with amazing values move quickly to right the imbalance. That's why, over a long time horizon, your net gains balance out. But if you want to try to market time the system, you'll need my next chart.

This chart shows you where the most price appreciation has happened since 2012. However - just like your mutual funds - past performance is not a predictor of future results. Paradoxically, the towns that are most likely to have big runs in prices are those that have lagged. Eventually, I'll have a more sophisticated version of this chart - that tracks highs and lows from well defined points - and it's worth noting that starting the tracking in 2012 meant that I missed a lot of appreciation that had happened in many towns from 2010. So use this chart carefully! But you can still glean some useful insights. I have already noted on the blog that Westborough, Southborough, Grafton and Northborough all look to me to be poised to "catch up" while Holliston, Hopkinton, Natick and Medfield are going to start running in to price problems - especially when interest rates start to move.

Tenant Turnover: Out with the Old, In with the New

How to Prepare for A New Tenant

Hello! As usual, a few caveats. Remember, this applies primarily for Landlords in Massachusetts, at least as far as statutory law is concerned. And in any case, I am not a lawyer, and this should not be construed as legal advice.

1) Notice. Tenants must give one-pay period notice (this is usually a month), unless you have pre-negotiated different. I negotiate 60 day notice, typically, but the standard is 30 days. If you're tenants have not given proper notice, you can't really stop them from moving out (nor should you), but you should tell them their security deposit may be at risk. A typical situation might be, say on the 10th of the month, when you call them and say, "hey! Where's the rent?" and they reply, "Oh, we're moving out at the end of the month, so we aren't paying you this month." The timing of this phone call/e-mail/letter is very important, legally. If they tell you two weeks before they move out, technically that is notice for the following month. That means they can't use their last months rent for the current month, and they owe one more month. They probably won't pay you (but they might), but you should tell them that the security deposit will be collected for the following months rent. I'm always very clear about what happens if I don't get notice, you should be as well, but some tenants do not seem to think that far ahead.
Once tenants move out, it's time to make the
unit look it's best again. It can take a little time - and money.

2) If the notice has been given, and is proper, than it's time to reconcile the deposits. You should have received:
Last Month (this is their initial deposit, which you collected when the tenant was approved. Right?)
Security (this was collected when they moved in, and put in a separate account. Right? You still have this money somewhere? It's not yours - they'll want it back)
The last month is for the last months rent. They will not be paying this month, so be aware if you haven't re-rented it (and collected the next tenants last month), you will be missing some cash flow, unless you have saved it for this moment.

3) Moving out mid-month. Tenants often do not move out on the last day of their lease. They often ask you to "pro-rate" the rent for the time that is unused. This is up to you, but is not required. If you know there are things you need to fix that fall under the "Wear and tear" category, I would use that money for it - security deposits can be scrutinized.

4) Security deposit: Tenants often ask for a "pre-move out walk through", or ask for the security deposit before they move out, or ask for the security deposit to be the second to last month's rent (or last months rent if you failed to collect it). Some times they ask for all three! My recommendation is NEVER EVER give that security deposit to a tenant until the unit is empty and you have received keys. State law gives you 30 days AFTER THEY MOVE OUT to review the unit, itemize the damages, and return their money. They won't like it, but it's the law, and that tiny security deposit is all that prevents them from doing damage to your building, so don't give it to them. Similarly, doing a 10 minute walkthrough the day of move-out and writing a check on the spot is also a poor idea. I have had tenants hide stuff (quite successfully) to pass a 5 minute inspection. Most tenants are very concerned that you will not pay them anything from the security deposit. Expect them to be concerned about the "delay" in giving them their money. But you are ENTITLED to the 30 days, and you should use what you need. Here are things you should check.

  • Garbage disposal. These are often broken and never reported. Until the next tenant moves in, of course.
  • All toilets: check for loose toilets, leaks at the stops, proper operation, cracks in the fixtures themselves. Listen for leaks. I recommend turning off, and turning on all shut-offs between tenants. This makes sure they are not leaking, and in operation.
  • Faucets - check shut-offs for leaks. Turn on the faucet, hot and cold, let it RUN for a minute or two, and check for leaks, or poor water pressure (clogged aerator or screen, usually).
  • Carpets: check carpets for light stains and permanents stains. Most new tenants want cleaned carpets anyway, it's easier to do it right after move out (when the unit is vacant) and then assess the stains post clean up.
  • Walls/ceilings. Tenants LOVE To put holes in walls. I charge $25 for every hole, up to $400 for room walls, up to $400 for trim per room, and up to $400 for ceiling holes. This is what it costs to get it fixed (about $1000-1200 per room, for ceilings, walls and trim).  Why up to $400?  Once there's 16 holes, you're painting the whole wall.
  • All kitchen cabinets. Check for easy operation and cleanliness.
  • Fridge - put it out and clean the coils and get the dust out. You know they didn't. Check for leaks from the ice maker line, if you have one.
  • Stove fan: Check/clean the grease trap. Make sure the fan is working.
  • Dishwasher: run it, check for leaks.
  • Switch plates: get 'em cleaned. Make sure they aren't scratched.
  • Tile floors: Make sure no tiles are damaged from someone dropping something heavy. If so, get a new tile put in. Charge them for the damage.
  • Garage: It was empty when they moved in, it should be empty now. If there are things that need to be hauled away, that will cost them $$ of security. Look for oil stains, gas spills, and other things that could be haz-mat, or just damage. Spilled salt can ruin concrete. Sweep and light clean the garage.
  •  Basement: see garage.
  • Check A/C, if summer. (Don't check the A/C if it is below 45 degrees, you will damage it). If you haven't had your heat/cooling equipment serviced in a while, think about doing it now. Being pro-active saves you money with tenants that need heat in the winter. Emergency calls are expensive.
  • Check the age of your hot-water tank. Put a reminder in your calendar when it hits 10 years, and start checking it more often. Leaks start slow, and often start at the bottom.
  • Check all vanity cabinets
  • Check the shower faucet for leaks, and the shower head too.
  • Check all burners on the stove, and the oven too.
  • Check all the windows to make sure they are not broken; check any/all blinds for same. Have them cleaned or replaced if necessary.

If you own a single family home, check the outside too, for damaged shingles, siding, screens, and review the lawn and landscaping.  Don't let your property go downhill just because you're renting it.

Once you have a list of damage and things that will cost you money (other than wear and tear, which you can not charge for. That 20 year old dishwasher that is broken? That's on you, not them.), make the list, put costs next to it, and send it (by mail) to the tenant with the remainder of the their security deposit within the 30 day limit. Note that it is your responsibility to charge "Fair-market" prices. If you aren't sure what something costs, get estimates, and keep them. You can't charge $1200 for a nail hole, unless they put the a very big nail through the fridge. Tenants do not have to "agree" with your assessment, but if they don't like it, or find it unreasonable, they may sue you, as is their right.

Good Luck!

Real Estate Sales for Worcester, MA - Home Sales and Real Estate Market Report (Apr, 2015)

The Worcester Homes For Sale Market Report

Ah, the Worcester Report. Looking for the future? Worcester gives us important clues as to where the market is headed. With lots and lots of residents, the large sample set tells us a lot about how much slack there is in the market. The chart says:
Can’t see the chart? You can find it Here .

Well, the chart says that Worcester is getting tight on inventory too! Sales keep churning at over 600 homes per month, and that keeps the pressure on for new listings. Their numbers are falling though.

Perhaps the most interesting thing of note is that the bank impacted homes is down not just in overall numbers - at 30 that's the lowest total on the board for short-sales and foreclosures - but also down as the over all picture of the market place - just 10% of the marketed inventory. In other places, when those numbers fall - and stall low - prices start moving up pretty quickly, both because sellers want more and generally the houses being sold are in better condition.

What should active home buyers do in Worcester?

Prices have not jumped as much as I would have expected in this report, but the nicer homes in good locations are going to be getting multiple offers at this point. Most homes won't get crazy, but things are going to move quickly for sure this spring. Make sure you know the VALUE of what you are purchasing - Worcester is tricky - because there are fewer homes to review and set your price barometer.

What should potential home sellers do in Worcester?

Sellers are very optimistic in Worcester. They should be! They are asking 140+/sq foot - well above the current sales trend. With everyone reaching for the next level of prices, you can too, so this is a great time to sell in Worcester.

Worcester Houses For Sale and Sold Market Statistics - Raw MLS Data

  • Worcester‘s “Home Seller Index” (HSI):114 Last Report: 109
  • There are 288 homes listed as For Sale.
  • There have been 616 houses sold in the last 6 months, and 364 homes sold in the last 3 months in Worcester.

    Will more home sellers come with the flowers? Time will tell.
  • The Average number of Days on Market was 74 days for just SOLD homes.
  • There is an Average Market Time of 125 days of the Worcester homes For Sale (currently for sale).
  • The amount that was paid in Dollars per Square Foot averaged $125 (vs. $127 in the last report)
  • Current sellers are looking for $ X /sq foot
  • There was an Average Sold Price of $191,062 for sold homes.
  • Worcester,MA, has 11 properties advertised as lender owned or foreclosure (typically foreclosure) .
  • There are 19 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 Got More

Hold on there! Don’t go yet. Realtor Matt’s got lots more you to check out if you are planning to buy or sell a home. Why not look here, and find out a lot more about Radon, New Construction, Title V, House Styles, Town Assessments, MCAS scores, and even some tips to get the best rate possible on your mortgage.

Other Posts You May Enjoy by Matt the Realtor

Red Sox Yankee Rivalry Begins Anew for 2015 - but it's different this time.

Welcome back Baseball

I have been just flat out lately, but I've still managed to catch some innings in the early season. There's lots of new faces, new theories, and on the whole, it's going to be a deeply interesting season for Sox fans. Could be great, could be terrible, but it won't be boring. But I can't write about that tonight. It's Sox/Yanks,and we'll focus on the Bronx Boppers for this post.

No Jeter: The end of Yankee magic

I have heralded many a time a poor season for the Yankees. I tried to call the year that Rivera would fade; Jeter would get old; that the free agent pickups would flame out. Each year, every year, for a long time now, the Yankees would use chewing gum and duck tape to cobble together a winner.
Baseball is back, baby!
A new hero or two each year. Just enough to keep them near or atop the division. Frankly, I got tired of watching them do it with mirrors. But you know what? Jeter was probably the straw that stirred the drink. He is GONE. Has the luck run out like the final sands in a hour glass? One would think so. If it wasn't for Ellsbury, Texeria, A-rod and Sabathia, I wouldn't even know who these guys were. To me, they look awfully ordinary. Of course, for 15 years they've basically been fielding current and past all-stars at every position. Not so today. If they don't stink this year, I'll be really impressed.

A-Rod: The gift that keeps on giving

But lets be honest. The real reason I'll be following the Yankees this year isn't their record, or their threat to the division. It's the human car wreck, A-rod. Will he hit? Will he hit so much he earns third base back? Will he flame out? If he flames out, how long will the Yankees stick him out there batting .210? Will the Yankees really NOT pay him his bonus money for hitting his HR milestones? If he doesn't get paid will he sue them? Again? Will he sue the league again? Will he keep playing the good soldier? Will the team rally around him? Will New Yorkers start booing him at every plate appearance if he stinks? Have the Yankees already decided they will cut him - and pay him 50+ million to go away? Will he get caught using PEDs AGAIN? And get banned for life? Will the Yankees frame him just to avoid paying him?

And I could go on. This just scratches the surface. He's been on his best behavior, but that won't last past April. There is so much money, pride, and ego at stake, you know it will end badly. And I'll be watching.

Could the Yankees become - lovable?

For as long as I've been watching, the Yankees always had players you loved to hate. Just really talented bad actors, ego maniacs, classes guys - they always had a few. A-rod was hardly the last in the series, and he's not even at the top of a long list. But this group of underdogs - should they come together, will become easy to root for. A bunch of nobodies playing for a season most NY beat writers have already written off. They'll have their moments in the sun, but I wonder if it'll be enough.  It's the first team in a long time though that I don't already hate. Ellsbury is a former Sox hand, as is Stephen Drew, McCann is a good guy, Gardner is the guy who won't quit, and everyone else is not a strong enough personality to really care one way or the other.  A-rod, of course, is impossible to root for, in any capacity, and Texeria is more difficult to root for, but they are no longer one of a string of watchable, but unlikable stars.

As for the series

Well, it's early. The Sox have been pounding on the Yankees as I type, with Miley cruising - and looking very sharp tonight. While the Yankees have looked limp and error prone. The Yankees have found success in the sixth, but still trail. If all 19 look like this, it'll be good for the Sox. They won't though.  We will have something of a handle on both team by the end of the series. If nothing else, we know they'll be trying for sure. Hey, look at that! Yankees get two, but still trail, 3-2, and that's the end of the sixth. We'll see how the Sox thump their way through the NY bullpen, which is good, but not deep. Should be fun.