Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Report: Cost to Rent Two-bedroom in Boston Rises 8.5%

According to a report released by Zumper on Monday, Boston is still the third most expensive place for renters in the U.S. Only New York City and San Francisco ranked higher. 

In metro Boston, the median price of a one-bedroom apartment increased 5.4 percent year over year to $2,530, while the price of a two-bedroom unit jumped 8.5 percent to $2,930.

Providence, Rhode Island ranked #18 on the list. The median rent for a one-bedroom in the Rhode Island capital remained stable at $1,480, while the cost for a two-bedroom rose 3.7 percent year over year to $1,700.

Nationally, rents have overall increased. The median rents for one- and two-bedroom units are up approximately 2.5 percent year over year — to $1,237 and $1,480, respectively. 

According to the report, these cities are the most expensive for renters: 

1.    San Francisco, CA  ($3,530)
2.    New York, NY ($3,000)
3.    Boston, MA ($2,530)
4.    Oakland, CA ($2,500)
5.    San Jose, CA ($2,450)
6.    Los Angeles, CA ($2,300)
7.    Washington, DC ($2,300)
8.    Seattle, WA ($1,880)
9.    San Diego, CA ($1,830)
10.  Miami, FL ($1,710)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Why is Boston Traffic So Bad? Your Question Finally Answered

An early 2019 report crowed Boston with the title of the worst rush-hour traffic congestion in the U.S.A. Other reports have reached similar conclusions and proved that not only is Boston's gridlock particularly terrible, but that commutes are outrageously long. Why exactly does Boston have such horrible traffic? We have the explanation on exactly what led to Boston's reputation for having such terrible traffic. 

1. More than "Boston"

Boston isn't just "Boston". The city of Boston is part of a densely packed confederation of cities and towns that stretches for dozens of miles, and that united encompasses more than four and five million residents. In fact, if the Boston area were it's own city rather than a collection of municipalities, it would be more populous than any U.S city other than New York. 

2. Relatively Excess and Cheap Parking 

Several municipalities in the Boston region, including the city of Boston itself, give away free resident parking permits excessively. Or, they charge relatively low fees such as $25 per household for an initial parking permit. Furthermore, metered parking in Boston is some of the cheapest available in urban America. Condo and apartment developments often include parking as well. 

3. Constantly Increasing Population 

The population of Boston is expected to grow from 685,000 to 709,000 by 2030. Surrounding municipalities like Cambridge and Somerville are growing as well. Based on these recent trends, the Boston region could contain 5 million residents in the next few years. A large population will most likely lead to more drivers, and more cars on the road from car-hailing applications like Uber and Lyft.

4. The Demand for Car Hailing Apps

Car-hailing applications like Uber and Lyft have been growing in popularity throughout Boston and the surrounding areas. The number of rides completed through car-hailing applications increased about 25 percent in 2018, to 81.3 million, compared with 2017, according to a recent report from the state Department of Public Utilities. 80% of these rides began in Suffolk and Middlesex counties, which include most of the Boston region, including the city of Boston itself. In fact, 42.2 million, or more than half of all car-hailing rides, began in Boston.

Along with the popularity of Lyft and Uber growing, Amazon Prime has become super convenient for Boston residents who utilize Instacart and other home delivery services, which can drop off household goods with just a few mouse clicks. Although these vendors and services bring convenience to people's lives, these businesses translate to more cars on the road, and more congestion in daily Boston traffic.

Monday, November 25, 2019

5 Amazing Kitchen Upgrades Without Remodeling

Kitchen renovations can be strenuous, requiring a lot of time, money, and effort. However, if you don't have the financial resources or time for a full renovation, there are numerous affordable upgrades which will provide your kitchen with a brand new look. From refacing cabinets to replacing old lighting, a few cosmetic tweaks can give you the kitchen you always desired.

1. New Cabinets

The trend of refacing kitchen cabinets is growing among homeowners, who are looking for an easy and affordable way to modernize their kitchen. Refacing involves replacing the doors, drawers, and hardware, and covering the entire exterior of the cabinets with a brand new veneer. If you are happy with the layout and function of your kitchen, but desire a new aesthetic feel, cabinet refacing might be your answer. While a full kitchen gut and renovation may take several months to complete, cabinet resurfacing typically takes only 3-5 days.

2. New Backsplash

Installing a new backsplash is an easy and effective way to powerfully change the aesthetic of your kitchen. Be sure to choose a timeless material which will compliment your cabinetry.

3. Change Up Your Counter Tops

If you want to reinvent and look and feel of your kitchen even further, consider splurging on new countertops. If you are on a budget, head to your local stone yard and choose a granite at the lower end of the price range. Formica, a more affordable option than natural stone, has a variety of beautiful countertop pattern options and textures. If you are short on counter-space and are not looking to add more cabinetry, consider purchasing a pre-made island or bar-height table that you can float in the center of your kitchen. 

4. Add Shelving

Shelving is an overlooked yet brilliant way to powerfully change the look and feel of your kitchen, while adding functionality. If your cabinets don't have lip molding on the interior, remove cabinet doors to show off your beautiful serving dishes. Or, if you have an empty wall, introduce floating shelves from stores like Pottery Barn or IKEA, to add both style and more storage to your kitchen.

5. Introduce Proper Lighting 

Lighting can quickly and powerfully change the look and feel of any room. Get rid of harsh flourescent lights and replace them with soft can lights. Make food prep an easier experience by having an electrician install under-cabinet halogen fixtures, or ambient light tape. Also, over the kitchen sink is the ideal place for a statement piece like a sculptural pendant light. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Lowered Mortgage Rates Boosted US Home Sales 1.3%

As mortgage rates approach near historic lows, there has been a high increase in home buying. According to recent statistics, US home sales rose 1.3% to the highest level in 17 months. Furthermore, the National Association of Realtors stated that homes sold last month at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 5.49 million units, the best performance since March 2018.

The recent increase in home sales are a sign of US consumer's strong resilience, despite a darkening outlook for overall economic growth. Cheaper borrowing costs have resulted in improved affordability for buyers, making them more eager to buy despite rising property prices and a shortage of properties for sale.

The median sales price rose 4.7% from a year ago to $278,200, outpacing average wage gains.

Overall, home buyers are benefitting from the recent economic uncertainty, due to President Trump's ongoing tariff war against China. The 30 year mortgage rate averaged only 3.73% this week. However, the upside is limited due to a shortage in properties available for sale. There were only 1.86 million properties listed for sale at the end of August, down 2.6% from a year ago. The inventory shortage appears to be most pronounced in starter homes priced below $250,000, while sales of homes priced between $250,000 and 1 million have drastically risen.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

5 Easy & Creative Ways to Upgrade Your Rental

Renting does not always provide the exact renovations and design decor you truly desire. However, we rounded up some of the best budget-friendly design tips to upgrade and spruce up your rental.

1. Enhance Your Lighting 

Lighting is an overlooked yet powerful way to completely change the ambiance of any room. Switching out light fixtures and adding a trendy chandelier, or even adding smart light bulbs that connect to a Google Home or Amazon Echo, can brighten your apartment and add instant coziness. 

2. Upgrade Your Bathroom

Many rentals have bathrooms that are mediocre at best. Luckily, you can easily swap out your shower-head for something slightly more glamorous and high quality. You can also upgrade your towel bars or replace your toilet seat.

3. Replace Old Knobs & Handles

Looking to add some design and style to your bland or outdated rental? Consider replacing any old-fashioned kitchen and bathroom knobs with more stylish alternatives. Just remember to keep the original hardware safely stored away so you can put the old ones back before moving out.

4. Spruce Up Your Walls

As a renter, removable wallpaper will be your best friend. A bit of removable wallpaper can instantly add color and style to your apartment. Also do not underestimate the power of large wall art, it can instantly add glamour and a pop of color to any space. 

5. Add Custom Shelving

Introducing custom shelving can be a game-changer to your apartment. You can even position shelves to cover unattractive and outdated radiators. Adding shelving will add style to your apartment while simultaneously giving you the opportunity to better organize your belongings.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Top 10 Design Tricks to Make Your Small Living Space Look Bigger

1. Built-in Storage

Furniture that comes with built-in storage is a great solution to make your small living space look brighter and bigger. One ideal example is an ottoman with hidden storage space. Furniture with built-in storage allows you to live in a clutter free space, which will open up your living area to look more spacious. 

2. Add Mirrors 

Mirrors do a great job of adding style to your apartment while also adding the illusion of more space. Large mirrors especially can add dimension to your space when they reflect and enhance the light. The best place for mirrors are either on white and well-illuminated walls, across from a window to let in natural light, or behind certain furniture pieces such as a chest or an end table. 

3. Use Light Paint Colors

Interior designers suggest painting rooms in light and calming colors to add the illusion of more space. Light paint colors will make a living area look bigger, brighter, and more open. 

4. Curtains 

Curtains can be strategically placed to make an apartment look more open and inviting. By hanging curtains higher than the window, you will instantly add more light and dimension to your living area. This technique is especially useful to spaces with low ceilings. It helps draw the eye upwards, making the space look less cramped and the ceilings look higher. If you are against the idea of curtains, you could use either Roman shades or blinds. They make the room look less crowded which leads to more space and openness. 

5. Create a Focal Point 

To make a space look bigger and more open, interior designers suggest choosing one aspect of the room to highlight something that is visually interesting. Eyes will be drawn to this focal feature immediately and people will pay less attention to the small size of the room. Some of the most common focal points used by homeowners are fireplaces, a wall, and artwork. When using a wall as a focal point, you can either paint it or cover it with wall decor or wallpaper. 

6. Rugs

A rug is the perfect decor accessory to make a room feel bigger while simultaneously adding style. If possible, use a large rug which extends beyond the furniture. This trick makes the room appear bigger, especially when the rug is placed under a couch, coffee table, and other furniture. A small rug will make the space feel limited and small. You can even use multiple rugs in one space to separate one room into smaller areas. 

7. Use Both Natural and Artificial Lighting 

Surprisingly, lighting has the greatest impact on interior design, and if it's done right, it can change the perception of a living space, making it feel larger than it actually is. Desk lamps, wall scones, and floor lamps are just a few example of lighting sources which will add space and openness to any room. You can also utilize natural lighting by placing a mirror across a window, it will enhance the sun by reflecting it from a window. 

8. Add Stripe Decor 

By incorporating striped decor into your interior design, such as striped rugs, you will help expand the room and make it look larger and more open. You can even paint the stripes onto the wall. Horizontal stripes make the room look expansive, while the vertical stripes will make it look taller. 

9. Creative Furniture Layout

Arranging furniture is one way to make a room appear more expansive and open. One way to do it is by adding separation between different rooms. For example, you can separate the living area from the dining room by arranging the chairs and sofa in a way that clearly outlines the distinction between the two spaces. Another way to make your space feel more open is by pushing your furniture against the wall. 

10. Multi-purpose furniture 

When living in a small space, you ideally want your furniture to serve many different purposes, allowing your space to be more open and inviting. The best options include a console table which also can be used as a desk, and a sleeper where you can sit during the day and sleep at night. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

As Summer Approaches, Boston & Cambridge Apartment Rents Rank Highest in U.S

According to recently published reports, Boston and Cambridge were among the most expensive U.S markets heading into July. These results aren't surprised considering Boston has consistently ranked among the likes of New York, San Jose, and San Francisco in terms of affordability. The report from real estate listings and research site Zumper calculated the median rent for a Boston one-bedroom at $2,450, up 0.08 percent from the same time last year, and calculated the median rent for a Boston two bedroom at $2,840, up 3.3 percent annually. The latest statistics come out as city officials discuss the increasing rental prices in Boston, and search for solutions. Many officials are interested in visiting the topic of rent control, or establishing private, independent dorms or other co-living arrangements.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Here Are Average Rents near Boston Universities

Renting near Boston Universities can vary, but can offer relatively good deals. Northeastern, Boston University, M.I.T, and Harvard have the highest apartment rents within a one-mile radius of their campus. According to newly released data, average rents near Northeastern, BU, and M.I.T, were particularly expensive: $3,335, $3,321, and $3,286 a month, each. Meanwhile, the average rent within one-mile of Harvard was $2,780. Although very pricey, this is still cheaper than the overall Cambridge average of $3,031 a month.

For Chestnut Hill, the general average rent is $3,103. Thus, renting within a one-mile radius of Boston College is significantly cheaper than renting in Chestnut Hill overall. The average rent within one-mile radius of Boston College is $2,137 a month.

Renting near Brandeis University also appears to offer a discount over Waltham rents on average (more than $100), and renting near Tufts University can also provide a generous discount against renting Medford in general.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Boston Affordable Housing Program Kicks Off Best Year Yet

Boston policymakers and developers have been making serious strides to ensure Boston is a more affordable and inclusive place to live. Statistics shown on the city's Inclusionary Development Policy, reveal there were 546 new units of affordable housing created in Boston in 2018. Despite these strong developments, Boston's real estate community has been stressing the importance of everyone's involvement in continuing to fix the city's housing crisis and achieve housing targets set by numerous Boston lawmakers. 

Developing housing in Boston is no easy task. One-bedroom residential units can cost upwards of $450K to build, and the median rent for the same units runs $2,400 per month on average. By utilizing a mixture of federal and local programs, the state has been taking steps towards creating more affordable housing. Nationwide, one of the most effective ways to create and sustain affordable housing, has been the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. Developers have had the incentive to construct and build affordable housing thanks to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and tax-exempt bonds. 

Furthermore, Boston has its own tax credit program in place to further encourage affordable housing opportunities. There are programs like the Affordable Housing Trust Program, the Housing Stabilization and Investment Fund, the Capital Improvement and Preservation Trust Fund, the Housing Innovations Fund and the Facilities Consolidation Fund. Also, Mayor Marty Walsh introduced a 14-bill legislative package in January in an effort to build a more inclusive and equitable city, which called for more affordable housing funding and stronger protections for low-income residents facing eviction. He also signed a law into measure which regulates and restricts short-term rentals for units listed on Airbnb for free up more housing in favor of people signing a yearlong lease.  

Mayor Marty Walsh hopes to see 69,000 new units of housing created by 2030, while Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker wants 135,000 new houses statewide by 2025. Along with the creation of more affordable housing units, many Boston lawmakers want to address the issue of affordable housing by enacting rent control in Boston. A group of state lawmakers, including representative Michael Connolly, intend to file a bill to allow municipalities in Massachusetts to enact rent control, which was officially banned by voters statewide in 1994. However, rent control imposes many issues and hampers the desire for investors to build housing. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

How To Master Running a Rental Property

1. Understand the Market

Knowing the market is a very simple step which many property investors and property managers skip. By researching your market and city, you can make notes about essential factors including the local economy, employment sectors, and the average rent for specific areas. Knowing this information will allow you to manage your rental property with more expertise and rise to meet certain expectations. 

2. Properly Screen Tenants

Properly screening tenants is imperative to running a successful and profitable rental property. By properly screening tenants, you can avoid tenants who will miss rent payments, destroy your property, and make you undergo the eviction process to remove them from your property. By background checking your tenants, running thorough credit checks, and confirming their employment records, you can make the management of your property flow smoothly and successfully. Finding the right tenants also requires intuition and sometimes interviewing the potential tenants to get a feel for their personality. 

3. Educate Yourself With Current Tenant-Landlord Laws

Another imperative key to running a successful rental property is keeping current with the updated tenant-landlord laws in your state. Becoming fully aware of all relevant regulations and statuses governing real estate is extremely important and will prevent complicated issues in the future. Often consulting a local real estate attorney to help you navigate the real estate laws will be worth the money and effort. 

4. Perform Routine Maintenance 

Performing regular and routine maintenance on your property is one of the most important factors required to run a successful rental property. It's also highly suggested you check certain areas to prepare for the summer and winter months accordingly. By making routine maintenace on critical areas a priority, you will highly improve your rental property and prevent small issues from developing into large and expensive repairs. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Massachusetts Undersupplied with Demands for Low-Income Housing

The housing outlook for low-income residents in Massachusetts is beginning to look bleak, as new reports reveal Massachusetts is seriously undersupplied when it comes to housing for its low-income market. Massachusetts has less than half the needed apartments extremely low-income households can afford, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston expects the gap to widen in the coming years if the affordable housing policy does not undergo serious changes. The low-income category is defined as households earning less than $29,150 for a single family of three, or $22,650 for a single person.

According to recent reports by the Boston Globe, Massachusetts currently has 274,842 extremely low-income households, but there are only 128,037 apartments in the state with rents they can afford. The low-income renter segment of the Massachusetts population has grown since 2011, but not as fast as the higher-income segments. The number of residential units low-income residents can afford without being rent-burdened has declined, and the situation is only expected to grow worse. Being rent-burdened is defined as spending more than a third of one's income on rent.

Furthermore, over 9,000 subsidized residential units are expected to lose low-income subsidies in Massachusetts by 2025. This means more than 25 cities and towns across Massachusetts wouldn't have any subsidized housing at all. Numerous municipalities have looked into buying or refinancing the units with expiring subsidies, however the federal government forecasts it could cost between $843M and $1B annually to maintain and develop affordable housing in Massachusetts by 2035.

Overall, affordable housing solutions have become a much-discussed concern for Massachusetts policy makers and real estate developers. Boston lawmakers are revising changes to its Inclusionary Development Policy that would require market-rate developers to create affordable residences in developments with 10 or more units. In addition, municipalities have set targets to build more housing to bring down high prices.

How Does Boston Rank in Terms of Affordability for Home Buyers?

Boston has consistently ranked as one of the most expensive cities to rent a home in the United States, so how does the city rank in terms of affordability for prospective home-buyers? According to a newly published report from RealtyHop, Boston is still ranking high in terms of affordability. The listings and research site analyzed data on property prices and taxes as well as median household income, and then compared the 100 most populated U.S cities. According to their research, Boston ranked as the eighth least affordable city in the United States for buying a home.

According to the RealtyHop study, buyers in Boston have to spend 56.34 of their monthly income on home-ownership. That is one of the highest shares in the eastern United States. California cities accounted for half of the 10 least affordable cities. Los Angeles ranked as the number one most expensive city for home-ownership, followed by Miami, New York, San Francisco, Oakland, Jersey, Irvine, and Boston. The median household income in Boston is listed at $62,021, while the median home price is $625,000.

Boston ranking high in terms of affordability is no surprise. Thus, the increased legal efforts to bring down or freeze housing costs to make buying and renting in Boston more accessible will most likely continue to grow.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Boston Lawmakers Are Considering Implementing Rent Control

As rental prices continue to skyrocket in and around Boston, Boston lawmakers have revisited the idea of rent control. In January, Cambridge state representative David Rogers proposed a rent control bill that has since been passed to the Housing Committee. Most recently, the Boston Globe reported that other state lawmakers are intending to propose another law which would include other ways to assist tenants, including rent control. 

State representative Michael Connolly spoke about the issue to the Boston Globe, stating, "The burden of renting in so many of our communities has become so extreme. People are asking what can we do about it.”

Boston currently holds the title for the fourth most expensive city to live in throughout the entire United States. In April, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is expected to be about $2,400 per month.

Is rent control the answer to Boston residents struggling with high housing costs? Governor Charlie Baker disagrees. Charlie Baker believes rent control will slow down the production of new housing, which will ultimately have a negative affect on the Boston housing situation. 

What exactly is rent control? Rent control is a legal precaution that stops property owners from being able to raise rents or puts a cap on how much rents can be raised. The goal of rent control is to ensure affordable housing and prevent landlords from profiting off of extreme market pressure. 

Although the goal of rent control is to protect affordable housing, it often has unintended negative consequences on those who manage or own the properties. Some consequences include rents being higher for apartments that are not regulated, owners failing to maintain their buildings properly because the lower rents aren’t enough to help pay for maintenance costs, and renters staying in apartments because of the affordable cost, even though the home may no longer meet their needs. Although in the short term rent control appears to assist in affordability, it poses long-term affects included decreased affordability down the road, encourages gentrification and poor property management, and lowers the value of neighborhoods overall. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Upgrade your Rental Property

The importance of always challenging yourself to improve and progress is vital to living your full potential. As spring approaches, now is a perfect time to upgrade and renovate your rental property. Renovations can appear intimidating, because they sometimes take a toll on your finances and time. However, there are plenty of affordable ways to upgrade your property in powerful and noticeable ways. These simple changes will keep your tenants happy and increase revenue. Here are 5 renovation ideas for you to try in 2019:

1. Fresh Paint 

A fresh coat of paint has the remarkable power to liven up any drab room. You can simply touch up the walls with the current color, or give each room a fresh paint job. Neutral colors tend to have have a calming and inviting effect, and are universally appreciated by most tenants. If you plan to paint multiple rooms, paint each room one at a time to simplify the task and reduce labor costs.

2. Install Light Fixtures

Attractive light fixtures have the powerful ability to change the entire ambiance of a room. Modern, crystal chandeliers will add a touch of elegance and grace to any apartment. If you are electronically experienced, you can install the light fixtures yourself to save money. If you choose hiring a professional instead, finding a handyman is much less expensive compared to hiring a electrician. Overall, light fixtures are small accents that make an impressive statement for new or current tenants.

3. Upgrade Windows

New windows can enhance the outside exterior of your rental property, as well as the inside aesthetic. Installing new windows has numerous benefits, including reducing sun or glare activity, enhancing privacy, keeping pesky bugs out, and enhancing the appearance of your unit overall. 

4. Enhance Curb Appeal 

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. By vastly improving the exterior appearance of your apartment units through diligent landscaping maintenance, you will make an impactful improvement on your properties and boost tenant retention rates. Plant attractive seasonal flowers, perennials, or hedges. Another simple yet powerful way to boost your apartment's curb appeal, is to build a walkway. Using stepping stone, gravel, or mulch, you can create a beautiful exterior appearance. Stepping stones are very cost-effective because they require minimal digging, and you don't need to purchase large quantities to cover a stretch of your front lawn.

5. Make Small and Steady Improvements

Finally, making small and steady improvements will improve the overall aesthetic of your rental unit and continuously increase value. Gutting the floors and re-tiling the bathrooms can make a large and drastic improvement, however these projects require time and a considerable price tag. If you do want to make some noticeable improvements, start with small upgrades that still make a huge difference. For example, by replacing old sink fixtures or fixing and re-painting cabinets, you can highly improve your kitchen. Consider whether you need to fix something because it's not working or it is not physically appealing, and start with small improvements as you gradually transform and upgrade your property. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Boston Rent Remains Among the Most Expensive in the Nation

As spring is approaching, Boston rents have remained among the most expensive in the nation. According to a recently published report from real estate listings site Zumper, the median one-bedroom rent as of February 28th, stood at $2,390 a month, and a median two-bedroom stood at $2,750. Rent stayed flat in February, and essentially remained unchanged from a month prior.

Boston coming in as one of the nation’s priciest cities to live in is no surprise. Boston has consistently ranked as having similar rent prices to San Francisco, New York, San Jose, Los Angeles, and more. The spring of 2019 will most likely see the same high rent prices. In fact, the only other city in the Northeast that comes even close to Boston in terms of renting costs, is New York. Boston is still leading as the fourth most expensive to live in within the entire nation, just ranking below San Francisco, New York, and San Jose.

Reports show Boston had Nation’s Worst Traffic Commute in 2018

The average Boston driver wasted an average of 164 hours commuting in rush-hour traffic in 2018, the highest total among U.S cities. According to new reports published from research firm INRIX, Boston was rated as having the worst rush-hour traffic congestion in 2018. The company analyzes millions of data for it’s annual Global Traffic Scorecard, and Boston has consistently ranked very badly. 

INRIX also looked at commutes in terms of peak (slowest travel times) versus inter-peak (fastest point between morning and afternoon commutes) travel times. In Boston on average, commutes increased 27 percent during peak versus inter-peak hours. Fortunately, there was some positive news in the recently published data report. In cities like Boston, Washington, D.C, and Chicago, a higher proportion of trips were found to be taken via public transportation, walking, or even cycling. Any car trips were most likely related to business. Conversely, Los Angeles ranked as the most car-dependent city in the nation. On the bright side, Boston’s title as the U.S city with the worst possible traffic may pave the road towards lawmakers making the T lower in price or fare-free.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Rising Seas Are Lowering Massachusetts Home Values

New reports show that rising sea levels are drastically lowering Massachusetts property values. Boston's Seaport hasn't been affected by flooding this year like it was at the start of 2018, however new reports have come out displaying how rising seas are hurting New England property values. The report, first published by New York-based First Street Foundation, a non-profit that studies rising sea levels, revealed that New England homes have dropped more than $400M in value due to tidal flooding and rising sea levels.

First Street Foundation studied 2.5 million properties throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine coast lines, ultimately determining sea levels had accounted for $403.1M in home price depreciation between 2005 and 2017. Massachusetts faced the greatest amount of property loss, with an estimated $273.4 in lost value. Furthermore, property values are expected to continue decreasing from rising sea levels, unless adaptation and precautionary measures are being taken to stop it. The study stated that homes next to, but not yet in, flood prone areas are still highly susceptible to the damages and depreciating home values brought along from flooding and water damage.

Currently, Boston real estate leaders are going through several storm resiliency studies to determine the best way to prevent $80B of liable commercial real estate from getting damaged by regular flooding in the future. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh revealed a comprehensive plan in October that requested more private-public partnerships to build and protect the city around rising sea levels and flood damage.

Monday, February 4, 2019

How to Deal With Difficult Tenants

Every landlord's goal is to have ideal tenants who always pay rent on time, properly maintain their residence, follow the rules, and continuously renew their lease. Unfortunately, being a landlord involves dealing with all types of tenants, not just exceptionally great ones. Even by following a strict screening process and writing stringent lease agreements, you will inevitably come across difficult tenants at some point, such as those who: 

  • Fail to pay rent on time 
  • Damage property 
  • Sublet without your permission 
  • Cause general issues 

Difficult tenants can bring harm to your reputation and business. In Massachusetts, being a landlord is especially a challenge because the laws and rules are nearly all slanted in the tenant's favor. Fortunately, if you have a solid plan in advance to prepare yourself for troublesome tenants, you can handle tough situations smoothly and prevent problems from spiraling out of control. Taking the time to learn the following important legal knowledge will help you address any future negative situations with troublesome tenants:

1. Tenants not Paying Rent on Time 

When addressing tenants who are behind on their rent payments, you must always maintain composure and professionalism. Communicate with the tenant in person and in writing, reminding them of the consequences of paying rent late, including any late fees. Always save written documentation in case you need to bring the case to collections. 

In Massachusetts, the grace period for a renter must be clearly defined in the lease agreement, including when, where, and how the payment must be made. A landlord cannot begin the eviction process within the grace period defined in the lease. Late fees are also required to be defined in the lease agreement. According to Massachusetts laws, late fees and/or interest charges may not begin until 30 days after the rent payment is due. If the grace period expires and no payment is made, the landlord can begin the eviction process. Landlords are required to first provide you with 14 days "Notice to Quit". If the tenant makes a payment within these 14 days, the landlord can no longer continue the eviction process. 

2. Tenants Suddenly Abandoning their Lease

When you find out one of your tenants has suddenly abandoned their apartment and moved out, it's important to understand the law on property abandonment. You have the legal right to pursue unpaid rent and any additional fees the security deposit does not cover. Ensure that you document all efforts made to communicate with the tenant and keep receipts of any necessary repairs that were made. If your efforts to collect the rent back turn out unsuccessful, you may file your case with small claims court or hire a collection agency to track down your tenant. Consider reporting the tenant to all major credit bureaus, which will negatively impact their ability to secure another apartment rental. 

3. Property Damage 

If your property has been accidentally or purposely damaged, you must first asses the damages and figure out repair costs. Discuss restitution with the tenant and listen to their side of the story. If the property damage is minor, landlords have the power to retain the security deposit to cover any damages incurred by the tenant. Also consider asking your tenants to purchase renter's insurance, it's extremely affordable and prevents many major problems. 

4. Creates a General Nuisance 

Occasionally you will run across renters who break rules, accidentally or purposely. Examples of common troublesome behavior includes sneaking pets into apartments which are not pet friendly, or having large parties which cause noise complaints and legal worries. Whatever the case is, always begin by confronting the tenant in a respectable and kind manner. Ensure you go over the lease agreement terms and address any concerns or confusions they may have. A responsible property manager should always have an eviction clause in your lease agreement to protect yourself from troublesome situations that persist. 

Overall, having a clear-cut system to handle troublesome tenants will save yourself many headaches and legal troubles. Take the time to prepare yourself and educate yourself on property laws, which will allow you to conduct yourself in a confident and efficient manner. Remember that taking the time and investment to conduct background checks and credit checks before signing a lease often prevents many problems. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Mortgage Rates Drop Lower in Early 2019

The new year started with lower mortgage rates across the board in the U.S. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate recently dipped to 4.51%. The low mortgage rate combined with decreasing home price growth should get prospective homebuyers excited to buy. However, the recent turmoil of the stock market may affect home buying activity in the next few months. The 30 year mortgage fixed-rate averaged 4.51% for the week ending January 3, 2019, down from last week when it averaged 4.55%. A year ago at this time, the 30 year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.95%. The 15 year fixed mortgage rate average 3.99% this week, down from last week when it averaged 4.01%.

This mortgage-rate drop offers a potential boost to the housing market. The decline on mortgage rates gives consumers an opportunity to obtain low rates on loans to purchase or refinance their homes, if they can look past volatile financial markets and still high home values. High home prices, stock market swings, and a traditionally slow time of year for home buying have largely lowered housing-market activity in recent months.

Short-Term Rentals Will Get Hotel Tax Treatment Under Newly Enacted Massachusetts Law

Under a newly enacted Massachusetts law, short-term rentals in Massachusetts will soon be taxed at the same rate as hotels. Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker signed a bill into law in late December aimed at regulating short-term rentals. This new measure goes into effect July 1st, and requires all hosts to register with the state, carry insurance, and taxes them at the same 5.7% short-term rental tax that hotels currently pay. The new law is expected to bring in at least $25M annually for the state. However, hosts who rent their home fewer than 14 times annually are exempt from the tax. 

The most popular short-term rental website, Airbnb, is very unhappy with the decision and is already preparing to fight back. Airbnb Northeast Press Secretary Liz Debold recently released a statement expressing their disappointment in the "flawed bill" and stated that Airbnb will continue to fight for "hosts, guests, and local small businesses". Airbnb most recently filed a lawsuit in federal court in November to overturn another Boston short-term rental law passed last summer which would have required hosts to register and a pay a $200 annual fee.

This new law will bring several large changes to Massachusetts, which encompasses several regions especially popular for short-term rentals. Cape Cod, the Berkshires, and Boston are specifically very profitable regions for Airbnb hosts. Under the new law, Boston is permitted to add on an additional 6.5% tax on short-term rentals. Massachusetts will be the first state requiring short-term rental hosts to register with the state. This law has serious benefits for the safety and security of consumers who stay in Airbnbs. Hotel industry groups were especially pushing for the required state registry and were happy with the new law. Lawmakers believe this law will create a more balanced playing field between short-term rentals and traditional hotels, leading towards a more fair and practical system.