Tuesday, December 28, 2010


We were closed yesterday. I was supposed to be leaving town, but that obviously didn't happen. When I woke up, I couldn't tell how much snow there was, because it had blown around so much. There is no school this week, so I couldn't use the school closings as a guide. It was Monday after a holiday, so I didn't have yesterday's news to go by. Since we'd already cancelled the paper and Comcast was knocked out by the storm, I didn't have today's news to go by! So how did I decide to close?

Well, real estate is almost always a delayable purchase. Many buyers, as well as agents, don't want to drive if they don't need to do so. Those warnings and pleas from the Governor's office, to stay home if you can? They generally apply to us. In addition, most people don't want their properties shown in bad weather, because they don't want to take the risk that a prospective buyer would fall or get hurt trying to get in. Most inspections, closings, negotiations, and other business can be delayed for a day. Everything else, including anything that can be done with a computer and email, will proceed as usual. It's one of the benefits of the change in real estate, away from bricks and mortar and toward clicks.

Of course, we always worry that we will inconvenience someone who expects us to be open. That's why it matters whether everything else is up and running. As far as I could tell yesterday, not much was. So why make employees struggle to come in, only to sit around without any calls or visitors?

Finally, I think a lot of people hoped that the Christmas spirit would linger one more day, if we all took a deep breath and relaxed. And, at least for us, it did!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Is the Tide Turning?

Yesterday was the busiest day for property sales that we've had in a long time. I spent the morning today trying to track down the reasons, and there are several possible causes. Two sales came about because the owners brought down their prices. In at least one instance, that produced multiple offers, so clearly buyers are motivated also. They aren't closing before the end of the year, so I don't think it's for tax purposes on the seller's part. It could, however, be due to the cold weather and the arrival of heating bills.

Two of the buyers are coming from Manhattan, so we're wondering whether the bonuses came early this year. There have been some news articles that make that claim, so it could be true. One buyer is about to start a new job, and was in a hurry (although, in the past, those people could have--and probably would have--rented in the short term). One renter turned into a buyer, and that could be an outgrowth of interest rates rising, with the prospect of higher rates next year.

We've had walk-ins as well, which means that people have gotten the message that the time to buy is now. Or maybe it's our Christmas present as agents! Either way, we'll take it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rate Rise Alert

We've been talking about this for months, but it's finally happening. Interest rates are going up. The latest rates are almost half a percent higher than they were a couple of months ago. What does this mean?

First of all, the cost of owning a home with a mortgage goes up when the interest rates rise, meaning that fewer people can afford to purchase a home. It also indicates that, in most cases, buyers can afford to pay less for the same home, since they will qualify for a lower mortgage amount. In a buyers' market, which we are in now, that burden falls on the seller in large part. So, if you are selling, you will almost always receive less for your home when interest rates are higher.

In the larger sense, it could also mean that we are past the bottom of the market. Mortgage rates generally start to rise when things are starting to improve. Some of that is a signal from the stock and bond market that inflation could be a worry, and part is that the government will stop holding rates down if demand increases.

So, just as people often try to time buying an airline ticket to wait as long as possible to buy a non-refundable ticket at the lowest price, and frequently hesitate just a little too long (as I recently did....), you may already have waited past the point where you should have bought that property. Just don't wait any longer. Once things start to turn around, prices can move quickly. Consider this your warning!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fenway Park South

We went to my brother-in-law's house in New Jersey for Thanksgiving. He lives outside of Princeton, in a nice residential neighborhood with very large homes (dare I say McMansions?). We hadn't been in many months, and, in the interim, he had undertaken a large renovation of their basement. He has recreated Fenway Park, from the Citgo sign and the Jimmy Fund emblem to the concession stand. He even bought seats when the Red Sox got new ones, and they are lined up in front of his 100-inch television screeen. He has the Green Monster painted on tin underneath the TV, done by a woman who travels by trailer from renovation to renovation around the country. (Who knew this was a business?)

But there's more! There is a concession stand in one corner, complete with official Red Sox peanuts and other snacks. The family has outfits identical to those worn by real Fenway Park workers. They have a pool table on one end, inlaid with the correct insignia. I'm impressed, and I don't watch baseball.

So here's the real estate question: What does it do for the value of their home? You can be the judge. There is one nod to the Yankees fans who come--they have Yankees toilet paper.