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Greater Bostonís top spots to live

In these 13 communities in Eastern Massachusetts, the real estate market is sizzling. It's Great to see a lot of our local North Shore towns on this list!

 

NOW THAT THE REAL ESTATE MARKET appears to be back on track, one thing has been paramount in home buyers’ minds, and it’s not schools or an easy commute or amenities like parks or community spirit. Those are important, of course, but buyers want to feel confident that they’re making a good investment, that their new house will hold its value or, even better, inch up.

Each of these 13 communities offers something different — from a hip urban vibe to a laid-back rural one, from small Capes for first-time buyers to tricked-out mansions in the millions, from beaches to paddocks to stately historic districts — but they have one thing in common: They’re all on the upswing, with the biggest single-family home price increases in Greater Boston from 2011 to 2012. (To avoid skewed data, cities and towns with fewer than 50 sales last year were eliminated from consideration.) That means if you already own a home in one of these areas, you probably won’t lose money if you decide to sell. If you want to buy in a top spot, you can sleep well at night knowing your investment will be relatively safe.

Mortgage rates remain at a record low, so now’s a good time to start looking, especially because tight inventory across the board means prices may continue to climb. “We’re in our 12th straight month of inventory decreases,” says Timothy Warren, CEO of the Warren Group, a Boston-based real estate tracking firm that provided the price data here. “I’m somewhat puzzled why more people aren’t listing their houses. Maybe they just haven’t heard how easy it is to sell right now.”

 

METRO

CAMBRIDGE

Median single-family home price in 2012 $809,000

Change since 2011 +9.32%

Population 106,038

Residential tax rate $8.66 per $1,000 of assessed value

Inman Square in Cambridge.

ion sokhos for the boston globe

Inman Square in Cambridge.

Single-families are never easy to find in Cambridge — they account for just 7.5 percent of the housing stock — and these days, when they do come on the market, they “just fly off,” says realtor Catherine Luther of Channing Real Estate in Harvard Square. “There’s a whole new group of buyers out there, people in their 20s and 30s who don’t want to rent anymore.” Today’s median single-family price in Cambridge is actually 21 percent higher than that of the 2005 market peak, and condos, too, are up, with a median of $438,000, 5 percent higher than last year. If you’re looking for diversity, brains, walkability, and crunchiness, there’s no place better than the People’s Republic. Just make sure you come armed for a bidding war.

 

SOUTH BOSTON

 

Median single-family home price in 2012 $442,500

Change since 2011 +10.63%

Population 33,311

Residential tax rate $13.14

It’s been years since Southie shed the rough-and-tumble image depicted in 1997’s Good Will Hunting. Though South Boston retains its neighborhood character, it has become a hub for single professionals and young families looking for great restaurants, appealing parks, and proximity to downtown, the waterfront, and public transportation. At the moment there are only 14 single-families on the market, ranging from a tiny three-bedroom for $349,000 to a 4,000-square-foot Victorian for $1.3 million. But act fast, because the area is red hot: Single-family prices have climbed 8 percent from the 2005 market peak, and condos are doing well, too, with a median of $400,000.

 

NORTH

BEVERLY

Median single-family home price in 2012 $355,000

Change since 2011 +9.31%

 

Beverly.

ion sokhos for the boston globe

Beverly.

Population 39,796

Residential tax rate $13.64

The commute to downtown Boston — about 40 minutes — is hardly a deterrent when a city’s got as much going for it as Beverly, located at the confluence of the Bass, Danvers, and North rivers, which form Beverly Harbor, with access to Salem Sound. Originally an agricultural and working waterfront community, Beverly became a summer resort for city dwellers in the 1800s, and many properties built between the late 19th century and World War II still stand, from bungalows to Queen Annes. There’s also plenty of green space, and though each neighborhood, from Prides Crossing to Fish Flake Hill, has its unique charm, taken together they’re “sophisticated but very friendly and family-oriented,” according to Patricia Marcotte, an agent with Beverly’s RE/Max Advantage. “There’s just a lot going on, and people really get to know one another. Beverly’s a beautiful place to live.”

 

GROVELAND

Median single-family home price in 2012 $313,326

Change since 2011 +9.17%

Population 6,509

Residential tax rate $14.48

Groveland, which has seen growth over the past 10 years, “still has a small-town feel,” according to realtor Todd Alperin, a partner with Coco, Early & Associates in bordering Bradford. Decisions are made by Town Meeting, and the downtown is little more than a bank, post office, and a couple of pizza shops and small stores. Its school district, Pentucket Regional, had some of the highest SAT scores in 2011-2012 of the communities on our list. Current housing stock includes a four-bedroom riverfront property for $795,000, a mid-priced 1849 Colonial in the historic Elm Park neighborhood, and a small three-bedroom for $189,000. Overall prices are slightly lower than in nearby towns like Boxford and Georgetown.

 

NEWBURY

Median single-family home price in 2012 $417,000

Change since 2011 +17.96%

Population 6,719

Residential tax rate $11.40

Closely linked with neighboring Newburyport, Newbury is a little more sleepy. Stretching from rural Byfield to Plum Island — more than a dozen properties currently available have water views — Newbury’s historic heart is the area surrounding its two town greens. Both spots offer a mix of antique styles, while the side streets tend more toward smaller ranches and Capes built in the 1950s and ’60s. There’s not much commercial activity but loads of opportunity for nature lovers, with the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and the Martin H. Burns Wildlife Management Area making up a combined 6,217 acres. The big event every year, according to owner-broker Dolores Person of William Raveis Newburyport, is the post-Christmas bonfire. “The whole town turns out for it,” she says.

 

REVERE

Median single-family home price in 2012 $232,000

Change since 2011 +9.59%

Population 52,459

Residential tax rate $15.56

“Revere didn’t always have a positive image,” says John Festa, the city’s director of economic development. “That’s all changing now.” Maureen Celata, owner of M. Celata Real Estate in Revere, points to the panoramic ocean views along Revere Beach — which helped push the median condo price up 19 percent over 2011’s — and the bedroom community of West Revere as among the city’s draws, along with the quick commute to downtown Boston and Revere’s diverse population, which today features many Bosnians, Brazilians, Colombians, Dominicans, Irish, Italians, Russians, and Somalis. A $2 million plan to bring in new restaurants and retail envisions the downtown area having “more of a Melrose feel” in the near future, says Festa. “People are seeing possibilities. It’s going to be quite a place to live in the next 10 years.”

 

 

King’s Beach, Swampscott.

Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff

King’s Beach, Swampscott.

SWAMPSCOTT

Median single-family home price in 2012 $388,000

Change since 2011 +11.49%

Population 13,896

Residential tax rate $18.84

Swampscott has all the advantages of the North Shore without the long commute — it’s just about 20 minutes from Logan International Airport and some 12 miles from Boston, with a commuter-rail stop near its border with Lynn. A lot of its housing stock was built before World War II, but there’s a smattering of newer Colonials, Capes, and raised ranches and some chic loft condos available, too. With good schools and convenient shopping, “prices here are unbelievably low compared to other towns,” says Phyllis Sagan of Swampscott’s Sagan Realtors. “Certainly compared to Brookline, Newton, Wellesley, Weston, you get a lot of bang for your buck.” The Olmsted section, with its Civil War monument and sweeping ocean views, is one of the town’s most desirable areas.

 

 

TOPSFIELD

Median single-family home price in 2012 $462,000

Change since 2011 +10.95%

Population 6,133

Residential tax rate $15.95

Most of Topsfield’s northeastern border is parkland, with hiking, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, Mile Brook Reservoir, Bradley Palmer State Park, and Willowdale State Forest. Hard by Interstate 95, the town underwent a boom in the 1950s, ’60s, and early ’70s, says Scott MacDougall, a realtor with Keller Williams in Topsfield, leaving it with a housing stock of ranches and newer Capes and Colonials. Antique homes are concentrated near the town common. The school district, Masconomet Regional, had some of the highest SAT scores in 2011-2012 of the communities on our list. Famous, of course, for the nearly 200-year-old Topsfield Fair and beloved by equestrians and ornithologists, it’s also a place where “people get to know their neighbors,” says MacDougall, “a really friendly community.”

 First Parish Unitarian Universalist, Medfield.

ion sokhos for the boston globe

First Parish Unitarian Universalist, Medfield.

 

WEST

MEDFIELD

Median single-family home price in 2012 $590,000

Change since 2011 +17.76%

Population 6,483

Residential tax rate $15.73

Smack in the middle of the square made by the Mass. Pike, Interstate 95, and I-495, Medfield is nothing if not convenient. Incorporated in 1651, the bedroom community bordering the Charles River continues to add housing stock to its Colonials and antiques, but according to Joan Snow, a partner in Medfield Properties, its family atmosphere is its real draw. She notes not only the good school system — Medfield had the highest SAT scores in 2011-2012 of all the communities on our list — but also the range of activities, from horseback riding at the Norfolk Hunt Club to swimming lessons at the town pond, from summer concerts and Shakespeare in the park at the town gazebo to Medfield Day, with rides for the kids and an entertainment stage. There’s plenty for adults, too. “It’s easy to make friends here,” says Snow.

 

The Presidents Building, one of the many historic sites in Shirley.

 

The Presidents Building, one of the many historic sites in Shirley.

 

SHIRLEY

Median single-family home price in 2012 $265,000

Change since 2011 +26.19%

Population 7,272

Residential tax rate $15.65

Like many towns in Central Massachusetts, Shirley, a rural community whose population is artificially inflated by two state prisons and the Fort Devens Army base, was hit hard by the recession, so its 26 percent price increase is significant. There is a commuter rail stop, a historic town center, and a picturesque mill pond in front of Phoenix Park, an office complex. Its current housing stock, most of it newer, is heavy on Colonials. Short sales and foreclosures have been fairly common in Shirley, says Ron Morrison, northern regional manager for ERA Key Realty Services in Ayer, and “have increased buyers’ ability to find good value.”

 

 

SOUTH

FREETOWN

Median single-family home price in 2012 $250,000

Change since 2011 +9.17%

Population 8,881

Residential tax rate $12.76

Large lots are the norm in rural Freetown, which contains a mix of older homes under $350,000 and new-construction customized homes — there’s one on the market now for $2,300,000. Despite a recent influx of buyers, residents are so opposed to changing Freetown’s countrified character that they recently fought the installation of a traffic light and got a roundabout built instead. Tracy Shand of Jack Conway & Co. realty in Lakeville mentions Long Pond as a particular draw. “It’s more beautiful than New Hampshire here,” she says, “and no one knows about it.” Corinne McNeill, an agent with Success Real Estate in nearby Marshfield, agrees, but adds that Freetown is “right next door to Taunton and New Bedford, so it’s such a short distance to go to anything you need.”

 

Freetown.

Bill Greene/Globe Staff

Freetown.

ROCKLAND

Median single-family home price in 2012 $237,000

Change since 2011 +12.86%

Population 17,583

Residential tax rate $17.58

Former factory-town Rockland’s blue-collar aspect hasn’t changed that much, which keeps home prices on the low side (a 2,488-square-foot antique in need of work can be had for $214,900). Rockland’s near more affluent towns like Hingham, Norwell, and Hanover, though, so it’s probably only a matter of time before its stock of mostly Capes and ranches is discovered. “First-time home buyers or others who plan to stay can get a lot of house for a lot less money and live very comfortably in town,” says Dan DiRenzo, principal broker at Rockland’s Realty Choice. “In other communities, you’d be paying a lot more for less amenities.” If you’re lucky, you might snag a place on historic Union Street (there are currently four available).

 

Stoughton.

ion sokhos for the boston globe

Stoughton.

 

STOUGHTON

Median single-family home price in 2012 $269,900

Change since 2011 +10.73%

Population 27,150

Residential tax rate $15.07

Nearly everyone in Greater Boston knows about Stoughton — or at least about the part of it that houses the 357,000-square-foot IKEA store that opened in 2005 (and is set to add about 16 percent more space by fall 2014). But there’s more to the town, from its easy commuter locale between Interstate 95 and Route 24 to the shady beach at Ames Pond. Newer housing stock is in the $400,000 to $600,000-plus range, but you can occasionally find older houses with potential for under $200,000 and even a few short sales. “It’s a wonderful family town,” says Jim Gibbons of RE/Max Landmark in Stoughton. “Right now the attraction is for entry-level buyers,” he adds. “Where else can you get such a nice price for a nice house? A couple towns over you’d pay much more.”

 

***

HONORABLE MENTIONS

 

  Median single-family home price in 2012 Change since 2011
Billerica $303,000 +5.85%
Bridgewater $280,000 +7.49%
Burlington $385,000 +7.39%
Danvers $343,450 +6.91%
Dorchester $275,700 +5.03%
East Bridgewater $255,000 +6.81%
Easton $364,157 +5.55%
Everett $237,000 +7.73%
Gloucester $347,000 +5.79%
Groton $391,500 +5.38%
Hanson $255,000 +5.70%
Jamaica Plain $530,000 +5.89%
Malden $278,000 +6.41%
Methuen $235,000 +6.82%
Natick $419,625 +8.43%
Peabody $300,000 +5.26%
Weston $1,250,000 +8.70%
West Roxbury $399,500 +6.53%
Wilmington $341,250 +8.33%

 

Source: The Warren Group; only communities with 50 or more sales in 2012 were considered

 

***

 

WHERE CONDOS ARE HOTTEST

 

 

Median condo price in 2012

Change since 2011

Belmont $467,000 +26.32%
Chelsea $170,000 +17.24%
Framingham $113,000 +29.89%
Gloucester $188,000 +18.80%
Lynn $130,000 +20.37%
Middleton $364,900 +32.45%
Northborough $330,000 +15.79%
Revere $191,000 +19.00%
Winchester $444,500 +16.44%
Winthrop $234,000 +17.00%

Latest Data on Home Ownership

Here are the top 5 financial and non-financial reasons people are buying in this current market...share you reasons!

 

InfoGraphics

The above information was taken from the following surveys conducted by Gallup:

U.S. Homeowners’ Reasons for Owning More Than Financial

American Dream of Owning Home Lives On, Even for Young

Americans’ Optimism About Home Prices Surges This Year

Mortgage Choices : What Type Of Mortgage Should You Get?

If you're not sure what type of mortgage you qualify for, this is a great interactive tool to help guide you in the right direction!

The Mortgage Reports Infographic : How To Choose Which Mortgage Product Suits You Best

While the U.S. housing recovers, the mortgage market rebuilds. As a result, today's home buyers have more mortgage financing options than at any time in the last 5 years. With so much choice and brand-new rules, it can be tough to know which loan is best.

The "rules of thumb" from yesteryear no longer apply.

Flowchart : Find Your Best Mortgage Option

To help today's buyers make better mortgage choices, The Mortgage Reports presents this flowchart.

The graphic uses three specific loan traits as a starting point -- (1) Downpayment Amount, (2) Loan Size and (3) Credit Score -- then follows-up with specific questions to uncover a buyer's optimal mortgage program.

In addition to identifying conventional loan opportunities via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the flowchart identifies loan possibilities via the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), via jumbo mortgage lenders, and via niche mortgage programs including the USDA Rural Housing loan, the Department of Veterans Affairs' VA loan, and the Fannie Mae Conventional 97 program.

Some of the questions asked include :

  • What is your local loan limit?
  • Are you borrowing more than your local loan limit?
  • Do you plan to make a downpayment of 20% or more?
  • Do you plan to make a downpayment of 5% of less?

Depending on a buyer's answers to the above questions, the flowchart may recommend a conforming loan; or a jumbo mortgage; or a something more suitable. Home buyers in less-densely populated areas may find the USDA Rural Housing program to be the best fit.

Furthermore, first-time buyers planning on a low- or no-downpayment mortgage may be routed to specific loan program depending on whether their downpayment is a gift, or is sourced from their own funds.

How Housing Is Leading Us Out of the Great Recession

Here's a different perspective than we usually hear about our economic recovery...what are your thoughts??

We are often asked if the housing market can truly rebound if the all-round economy remains sluggish. We answer by explaining the housing market is not dependent on the economy but rather the economy is reliant on the housing market. Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moodys.com, addressed this issue in a recent report.

 “Historically, housing has always led the U.S. out of recessions. It is the most interest rate-sensitive part of the economy, and as rates fall during recessions, housing rises first.”

How does real estate impact the economy?

Real estate impacts the economy in several ways. As Zandi explains:

“Housing’s resurrection is crucial to the creation of more jobs. Every new single-family home creates and sustains almost five jobs for about a year. These include not only construction jobs, but manufacturing positions for producing lumber, paint, nails, plumbing fixtures, carpets, wall board and so on. Truckers are hired to move this material around, and retailers add workers as new homeowners shop at home-improvement and hardware stores. Realtors, mortgage bankers, landscapers and cable installers all increase staff.”

Is the current market momentum sustainable?

If the economy is dependent on a recovering housing market, we need to know whether the current good news being reported in the real estate industry will continue as we move forward. Again, Mr. Zandi:

“The pace of construction has risen to 900,000 homes per year and is set to double to 1.8 million in the next few years. Even this will be only enough to meet demand; in an average year, 1.25 million households are formed, 350,000 houses are irreparably damaged or demolished, and an additional 200,000 are built for use as vacation or second homes. Given pent-up household formation—hundreds of thousands have put off their plans because of the tough job market—there could be a couple of years in which closer to 2 million homes will need to be built to meet demand.”

Housing will remain strong for the next several years. That will enable the economy to continue to heal until it fully recovers.

No, The Housing Comeback Is Not Taking A Pause

Just in case you were wondering...good news all around!
 
 

Here are a few excerpts from a Reuters article: Existing Home Sales Fall as Prices Rise  Most Since 2005

U.S. home resales edged downward in March, a  pause in the housing market recovery that has helped boost the economy

Nationwide, the median price for a home resale  rose to $184,300 in March, up 11.8 percent from a year earlier, the biggest  increase since November 2005. The limited supply of available properties is  pushing up home values.

First, this isn't a "pause in the housing market recovery". The housing  recovery is based on residential investment, and only the commission on existing  home sales is included in residential investment (the main contributors are new  home sales and home improvement).   A decline in the headline number  for existing home sales due to fewer distressed sales, is a positive, not a  negative!

Second, the median price is a poor measure of overall  market prices since this reflects changes in the mix in addition to changes in  prices (the repeat sales indexes are a better measure of price changes).   Note: Lawler  used the median over the weekend to show that investors are buying at a  higher price point - an appropriate use of the median price.
The NAR  reported total sales were up 10.3% from March 2012, but conventional sales are  probably up over 20% from March 2012, and distressed sales  down.  The NAR reported (from a survey):

Distressed homes - foreclosures and short sales -  accounted for 21 percent of March sales, down from 25 percent in February and 29  percent in March 2012.

Although this survey isn't perfect, if total sales were up 10.3%  from March 2012, and distressed sales declined from 29% of total sales to  21%, this suggests conventional sales were up sharply year-over-year - a good  sign. However some of this increase is investor buying, although the NAR is  reporting investors are buying about the same percentage as a year ago:

Individual investors, who account for most cash  sales, purchased 19 percent of homes in March, down from 22 percent in February;  they were 21 percent in March 2012.

Other data suggests investor buying has increased, see Housing:  Some thoughts on Investor Buying, Inventory and recent Price Increases and  from the WaPo: Wall  Street betting billions on single-family homes in distressed markets

Of course inventory is the key number in the NAR report.  The NAR  reported inventory increased to 1.93 million units in March, up from 1.90  million in February.  Some of this increase was seasonal, and  this is still a very low level of inventory.  And inventory is still  down sharply year-over-year; down 16.8% from March 2012.  But this  is the smallest year-over-year decline since 2011.     
Important: The NAR reports active listings, and although there is some  variability across the country in what is considered active, most "contingent  short sales" are not included. "Contingent short sales" are strange listings  since the listings were frequently NEVER on the market (they were listed as  contingent), and they hang around for a long time - they are probably more  closely related to shadow inventory than active inventory. However when we  compare inventory to 2005, we need to remember there were no "short sale  contingent" listings in 2005. In the areas I track, the number of "short sale  contingent" listings is also down sharply year-over-year.
 

The following  graph shows existing home sales Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA).

EHSNSAMar2013

Calculated  Risk

Click on graph for larger  image.

Sales NSA in March (red column) are   above the sales for for 2008 through 2012, but below the bubble years of  2005 and 2006. 
The bottom line is this was a solid report.  Conventional sales have increased sharply, although some of this is investor  buying. And inventory is low, but the year-over-year decline in inventory is  decreasing.

Read more:  http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2013/04/existing-home-sales-conventional-sales.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CalculatedRisk+%28Calculated+Risk%29#ixzz2RKm1iP7M

Why You Need to Change Your Attitude About Housework

No matter how much housework you do — do more! Not only will you clean your home, but you’ll burn more calories, ward off some cancers, even move closer to spiritual  enlightenment.

 Lisa Kaplan Gordon in lotus position with cleaning supplies

Researchers say cleaning more often can lead to spiritual enlightenment. Image: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic

No matter how much housework you do — do more! Not only will you clean your home, but you’ll burn more calories, ward off some cancers, even move closer to spiritual enlightenment.

At least, that’s what some researchers and authors promise  — clean more, live longer and better.

  • A study of 200,000 women in nine European  countries found that housecleaning between 15 and 17 hours a week — a little  more than 2 hours per day — cut breast cancer risk by 30% among pre-menopausal  women and 20% among post-menopausal women.
  • An Indiana University professor showed that 4 hours of work in and around the house helped hypertensive and pre-hypertensive patients lower their blood pressure, in some cases to normal levels.

These studies have changed my relationship with sweeping and scrubbing.


My attitude has always been: I work so others might clean. I’ve employed wonderful cleaners ever since my first job as a copy girl, when  I’d eat ramen nightly rather than mop a floor in my 500-sq.-ft. Manhattan rental.

Years later, I bit the bullet and vacuumed my four-bedroom house  between cleaning lady visits. Actually, my three cleaning  robots — Roomba, Neato, and Mint — did the vacuuming and sweeping: When I  wanted a deep  clean, I ran all three at once.

But that was then. Now, I realize that doing housework myself can help me achieve other goals I hold dear, like staying fit and living long.

Instead of looking at household chores as  time-eaters, I now look at them as calorie burners. Here’s what an hour of  housework burns:

  • Vacuuming and mopping: 194 calories
  • Dusting: 174 calories
  • Washing windows: 180 calories
  • Ironing: 113 calories

I wore a calorie-counting armband for a week, and on the days I vacuumed the  den or scrubbed the bathroom for half an hour, I burned about 100 calories more  than the days I did not clean. Theoretically, if I vigorously cleaned for 30  minutes each day, I would lose about 10 pounds a year (if I didn’t reward myself  daily with a latte or bag of chips).


In fact, a British study found that women’s waistlines  have expanded 6 inches over the past 60 years because they don’t clean their  homes as long and hard as 1950s housewives, who burned up to 1,000 calories a  day by doing housework without today’s modern machines (like my  Roomba).

Perhaps, the best benefit of housework is that mindful cleaning  can bring me closer to enlightenment, says “The Power of Now” author (and  Oprah’s guru) Eckhart Tolle. Simply, the more one observes the moment, the less  stress she will feel about the past and future. 

We can all use a  lot less stress. So instead of rushing through housework, or talking to my  mother on the phone while I’m washing dishes, I’ll dive into the moment of  cleaning. When scrubbing pots, I feel the water cascading over my hands, notice  the tiny soap bubbles, feel the crusted food melt away — that kind of  thing.

It’s a discipline that gets easier with time. But the more I stay in the now of cleaning, the calmer I feel. Really.

What’s your  relationship with cleaning? Do you love it or loathe it? Besides a clean house,  what benefits do you get from housework?

Is this another real estate bubble or just a lot of hot air?

Here in the northeast, we're not very "bubbly"...which in this case is a good thing! What are your thoughts about the local market?
 
 
The number one question real estate agents are being asked these days is: “Is this another bubble?”

For now, the answer is no. Overall, the housing market this spring is hot, way hotter than any normal spring. For the most part, this is just the natural result of supply that is at record lows thanks to the price declines of the last few years.

The Great BubbleSpring 2013
High price to income (PI) ratios Low to average PI ratios
Lots of new listings Record low new listings
Record high sales volume Average sales volume
Extremely easy credit Relatively tight credit

 

A Mini Bubble Brewing in a Few Cities

The market today is so hot that many Redfin Agents are concerned that we’re entering into bubble territory. At a recent lunch with a half-dozen Redfin Agents, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman asked whether they felt that the market was getting bubbly. They all nodded vigorously.

In some markets, there may be a “Mini Bubble” going on right now. This map shows the four markets most likely to be in a Mini Bubble, and the four least likely:

New-Bubble-Map3_Redfin

MarketPrice to Income vs. Jan-00Sale to List Mar-13Flips* Mar-13Multiple Offers Mar-132-Week Pending Mar-13
Washington DC 26% 98% 11% 71% 43%
Los Angeles 26% 100% 10% 91% 52%
San Diego 13% 99% 11% 91% 50%
San Francisco 12% 104% 10% 93% 60%
New York 9% 94% 6% 68% 9%
Portland 8% 99% 8% 60% 41%
Boston 6% 97% 11% 74% 3%
Seattle 4% 100% 12% 74% 48%
Denver 0% 100% 12% 46% 52%
Phoenix -4% 99% 10% 36% 37%
Charlotte -8% 97% 3% 50% -
Dallas -10% 98% 7% 46% 28%
Las Vegas -14% 101% 10% - 14%
Chicago -17% 97% 7% 51% 12%
Atlanta -20% 99% 18% 50% 24%
National 5% 99% 10% 76% 35%

* “Flips” refers to the percentage of home sales where the same home also sold at least once more in the preceding 18 months.

 

What makes a Bubble?

Multiple offers are becoming the norm in many markets. More than a third of new listings are pending within a week, over half in much of California. Inventory hits a new record low every month. There’s no doubt that this market feels similar in many ways to the bubble of 2005 and 2006, but a real estate bubble is more than stiff competition among buyers and rapidly rising prices.

Consider some of the features of the real estate bubble that dramatically burst in 2008, taking the entire economy with it. The Great Housing Bubble had the following characteristics…

Rapidly Rising Home Prices

All 20 markets tracked by the Case-Shiller home price index experienced year-over-year price gains from 2003 all the way through early 2006. Now, home prices are definitely rising rapidly in many markets. Of the 19 markets we track as part of the Redfin Real-Time Home Price Tracker, 12 saw double-digit price gains between March 2012 and March 2013. Sale-to-list ratios are 98% or higher in over two thirds of Redfin’s markets and up from a year ago in every market but Phoenix:

New-Bubble_Sale-to-List_2013-03_Redfin

But a spike in home prices alone does not a bubble make. Over the long term home prices have historically risen slightly faster than the rate of inflation. The recent spike in prices is just a return to the long-term trend in many markets that overcorrected, which leads us to…

Home Prices Detached From Incomes

One of the easiest ways to tell if you’re in a housing bubble is to compare home prices to incomes. If home prices are rising considerably faster than incomes, chances are good that there’s a bubble. Over the long term, price to income ratios should remain relatively stable in any given market, barring dramatic improvements or collapses in the local economy.

To investigate where this metric sits today, we compared the Case-Shiller home price index to per capita incomes from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Between January 2000 and the height of the housing bubble between 2005 and 2006, the price to income ratio rose over 50 percent in half of the twenty metro areas tracked by Case-Shiller. Across the nation as a whole, home prices rose 102% between January 2000 and December 2005, while incomes rose just 24%.

Today, in 11 of the 20 markets, price to income ratios are at or below where they were in 2000. Just four markets are in possible “bubble” territory, 10% or more above their January 2000 level: Washington DC (+26%), Los Angeles (+26%), San Diego (+13%), and San Francisco (+12%).

 

Change in home price to per-capita income ratio since Jan. 2000

 

Case-Shiller Metro AreaPeakLatest
Atlanta 12% (20%)
Boston 51% 6%
Charlotte 23% (8%)
Chicago 34% (17%)
Cleveland 8% (26%)
Dallas 10% (10%)
Denver 16% 0%
Detroit 11% (35%)
Las Vegas 83% (14%)
Los Angeles 103% 26%
Miami 106% 10%
Minneapolis 42% (7%)
New York 69% 9%
Phoenix 72% (4%)
Portland 49% 8%
San Diego 93% 13%
San Francisco 79% 12%
Seattle 45% 4%
Tampa 86% (3%)
Washington DC 92% 26%
Composite-20 63% 5%

 

Lots of Listings and Sales

When home prices were shooting to new highs in 2005, sales and listings were off the charts. Inventory was low, but not for lack of new listings. Plenty of new homes were coming on the market daily—new and existing home sales hit levels in 2005 that were more than double their early 1990s levels—but record sales were keeping standing inventory low.

Contrast that with today’s market, where new listings are scarce and standing inventory is at record lows. Sales are up quite a bit from their post-bubble lows, but current levels are roughly on par with pre-bubble averages. To put it another way, during the frenzy in 2005, inventory felt tight because many buyers were acting crazy, but today inventory is actually tight. Tight inventory naturally leads to price increases.

Proliferation of Sketchy Financing

At the height of the market frenzy in 2006, abundant financing was available to anyone who could fog a mirror. No job, no income, no assets? No problem! Over a quarter of homes were purchased with zero-down loans. Many of those homes ended up as the foreclosures and short sales that caused much of the post-bubble pain the housing market has experienced the last few years. Meanwhile, all-cash deals were relatively rare, making up about 17% of sales.

New-Bubble_Sale-Financing_Redfin

Today the tables are completely turned. Just six percent of sales are backed by zero-down loans, while nearly half of sales (46%) are all-cash. Much of the frenzy we’re experiencing today is driven by investors. That doesn’t necessarily mean that prices are reasonable, but it does mean that we won’t be seeing the same kind of crash we had in 2008.

So What Will the Next Bust Look Like?

In our most recent buyer survey 58% of buyers—62% in Washington DC and Los Angeles—indicated “low interest rates” as one of the primary reasons they’re buying now. The Mortgage Bankers Association forecasts that the interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage—currently at 3.57%—will rise nearly a full point to 4.5% by this time next year. That’s still low by historic standards but could easily be enough to significantly dampen buyer enthusiasm.

At the same time, the recent upticks in prices will bring more sellers into the market over the next year, and homebuilders are still ramping back up, with new home sales likely to increase quite a bit from their current level.

In other words, over the next year inventory will increase and demand will decrease. In markets where home prices are at or below a level supported by local incomes, this will just slow down appreciation, but in Washington DC and Los Angeles this could trigger a minor correction, knocking around five percent off home prices in those markets.

In Washington DC, where the home price to income ratio is 26% above the January 2000 level, Redfin Agent Philip Gvinter recently wrote an offer with no appraisal contingency, no inspection contingency, accepting the home in as-is condition, a 14 day financing contingency, and a $40,000 escalation clause, but still came in second out of thirteen offers. “We are definitely in the beginning phases of a bubble,” remarked Gvinter.

San Diego is also a risk, but to a much lesser degree, since prices there haven’t shot up as much yet. In San Francisco, well over a third of the sales are all-cash, but the home price to income ratio is 12% above the January 2000 level, and rising. Redfin Agent Charmaine Frank describes the market there as “a complete frenzy,” and observes that “some properties are receiving upward of 40 to 60 offers and selling in 24 hours or less.” This in a market where the median home price in March was over $800,000. However, since income data does not include capital gains such as stock sales, which are a big driving force in the Bay Area right now, it’s unlikely that there will be a correction there unless tech stocks crash first.

What’s a Buyer or Seller to Do?

If you’re buying a home in Washington DC or Los Angeles right now, be cautious. If you find a home that you can’t live without and you can get it for a price that you are 100% comfortable with, go for it, but it’s not worth over-extending or compromising in this market when lower prices, higher selection, and less competition may be just around the corner.

If you’re buying in the middling markets, there’s no need to be concerned about near-term price declines, but it also won’t hurt to wait it out for a year or so for the frenzy to die down. Prices aren’t likely to be much higher. If you’re a price-sensitive buyer in Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, or Dallas, buying soon would be a good idea, since prices are likely to go up before they stabilize at historically supported levels.

If you’re thinking of selling your home to sell in Washington DC or Los Angeles, you would do well to get it on the market now. Take full advantage of the current frenzy, rent a while, then look to buy in a year or so when inventory will probably be higher. If you play your cards right you’ll get a nice down payment out of your current home, so higher rates won’t affect you as much when you buy later.

Don’t Call it a Comeback (of the Bubble)

The dearth of listings and price gains we’re seeing in today’s market are not sustainable, but the evidence points to more of a “bottom bounce” than a bubble. Things will settle down, the imbalance between buyers and sellers will inevitably tilt back to equilibrium, but barring a massive external economic disruption or major world war, prices are unlikely to drop considerably from where they are today.

2012 Marks a Year of Growth at RE/MAX of New England

Overall Increases Show Improvement in Market Conditions...let's keep the momentum going into 2013 and beyond!!

Natick, MA – April 9, 2013 – RE/MAX of New England is pleased to announce several key success factors which marked 2012 as a year of recovery in the housing market – an overall increase in volume of home sales, total transactions, Agent productivity, and the launch of proprietary technologies.

In New England, RE/MAX Agents were involved in 33,369 transaction sides, an increase of 18.1% over 2011. The 2012 New England sales volume for RE/MAX Agents was $8,132,829,983 up 21.1% from last year. Agent productivity within the RE/MAX of New England network rose 6% to an average of 13 transaction sides per Agent*.

AcrossNew England, RE/MAX outperformed the competition in Agent productivity**. In Massachusetts, RE/MAX completed 11 transactions per Agent, three more than their nearest competitor; in Connecticut, RE/MAX completed 15 transactions per Agent, three more than the closest competition; in New Hampshire, RE/MAX completed 17 transactions per Agent, almost double their nearest competitor at nine;  in Rhode Island, RE/MAX achieved 14 transactions per Agent twice that of  their nearest competitor; and in Maine, RE/MAX completed 15 transactions per Agent, just one more than their competition.

These significant improvements and milestones came under the new leadership of Executive Vice President and Regional Director of RE/MAX of New England, Dan Breault, who started his new role in May of 2012. Dan is a demonstrated leader growing RE/MAX’s market share in Indiana by more than twenty-five percent and Agent productivity by thirty-eight percent in a down economy. He brings decades of leadership, sales and major brand experience to the New England market.

“These signs of improvement are incredibly exciting for everyone at RE/MAX of New England,” said Breault. “The past few years have been a challenging time for all of our Agents, but the numbers confirm that we have successfully led the way through these tough times and are maintaining our position as the most productive sales force in the industry.”

Also an important milestone in 2012 was the official introduction of Integra Enterprises Corporation. Integra is the largest sub-franchiser of RE/MAX, LLC, representing approximately 30 percent of RE/MAX franchises worldwide. More than 27,000 RE/MAX Agents fall under the umbrella of Integra, including all 2,725 RE/MAX Agents inNew England. Despite operating in more than 30 countries internationally, this family-run, privately-held company based inToronto,Ontario,Canadahas maintained a low profile in the international business community, instead choosing to focus on enhancing the RE/MAX brand name.

Entering its 33rd year in business in 2012, Integra moved forward with an aggressive growth strategy to shake up market share inNew England. Their goal was to double existing market share, further growing the RE/MAX name. Integra took the first step toward this goal by completing the largest conversion inNew England to date. ERA Andrew Realty, with 70 experienced Agents in two offices inMedford,MA andStoneham,MA, joined Integra under the name RE/MAX Andrew Realty Services.

In addition, RE/MAX of New England also experienced an increase in franchise growth through several significant mergers and acquisitions. Most notably, RE/MAX Heritage and RE/MAX Leading Edge, both inMassachusetts, united to create one of the largest real estate company’s in that state. Keeping the name RE/MAX Leading Edge, the offices’ combined market share now makes them the number five real estate company in Massachusetts and the number two franchise within RE/MAX of New England in volume, transactions, and Agent count.

Also, RE/MAX Valley Shore in Old Saybrook, CT merged with Genovali Realty holding number one market share within Old Saybrook. In Maine, RE/MAX By The Bay successfully expanded into Portsmouth, NH adding 20 seasoned Agents to their company and further strengthening their footprint within that territory. In Manchester, VT, Battenkill Real Estate transitioned into RE/MAX Four Seasons after operating as a private real estate office for more than 25 years.  All of these accomplishments furthered strengthened Integra’s vision to expand within the New England market.

RE/MAX of New England also made significant strides in utilizing the newest industry technologies. At the start of the year, remax.com was re-launched allowing users to have a more intuitive, personalized online experience and giving home buyers and sellers direct access to the things that matter most –thousands of listings with the ability to build a customized consumer experience.  Differentiating itself from other real estate franchisors, RE/MAX was the first to incorporate the new Real Estate Network powered by ListHub in a mobile app format, while still offering its consumers the ability to search for homes across the country through traditional MLS data.

2012 Moving Trends

The spring season is when we start thinking about making the big move...which is great for both buyers and sellers! Did you know the top reasons Americans moved in 2012 was for family reasons, to improve their housing situation, or for a job? Also, 40% of people who moved stayed within 50 miles of their last home.

If you’re in the real estate market, it’s important to have a good understanding of the who, where, and why of moving trends. Where are your residents coming from, and for what reasons are they most likely to move? By understanding their motivations, you can better position yourself to meet their needs and structure your business to address their concerns when it comes to finding a new home.

Below, you’ll find an infographic by Appfolio illustrating where and why Americans moved in 2012. Here are some notable points to take away:

  • 40% of Americans who moved stayed within 50 miles of their last home.
  • The top reasons Americans moved in 2012 was for family reasons, to improve their housing situation, or for a job.
  • The largest rate increase of out-of-state moves was for 25-29 year olds, which experts believe will encourage the economy.

2012 Moving trends

RE/MAX of New England Donates More Than $170,000 Through 2012 Community Partnerships

It's always great to be able to give back to worthy causes in the communities we live and work in! We have very philanthropic agents and great partners in our communities.
 
RE/MAX of New England participated in three Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure events in 2012, in Hartford, CT, Boston, MA, and Portland, MA, raising more than $24,000 for the fight against breast cancer. RE/MAX of New England recognized Julie Scott of RE/MAX Leading Edge in Melrose, MA, and a breast cancer survivor herself, with their annual Think Pink Award for her outstanding commitment to the Susan G. Komen organization by raising more than $3,000 last year; funds that will stay in Massachusetts to support preventative screening options and ensure that local women get the care they need in the fight against breast cancer.
 
RE/MAX of New England was also proud to partner with the Boston Celtics for the seventh year for the popular Home Court program, which awards deserving Celtics fans with a brand new home basketball court, jerseys, equipment, and more. In 2012, three families in Lawrence, MA, North Andover, MA, and Monson, MA were awarded their very own home courts. Submissions for this year's program are being accepted at www.celtics.com.
 
For more information, visit www.remax-newengland.com.
 

Housing Market 53% Back to Normal...

Trulia’s Housing Barometer improved in February, up 20 percentage points from one year ago

Each month, Trulia’s Housing Barometer charts how quickly the housing market is moving back to “normal.”  We summarize three key housing market indicators: construction starts (Census), existing home sales (NAR), and the delinquency-plus-foreclosure rate (LPS First Look). For each indicator, we compare this month’s data to (1) how bad the numbers got at their worst and (2) their pre-bubble “normal” levels.

In February 2013, all three measures held steady or improved:

  • Construction starts notched up. Starts were at a 917,000 annualized rate, up 0.8% month-over-month and up 28% year-over-year. Aside from a December spike in construction, February starts were at the second-highest level since July 2008. And 31% of February construction starts were in multi-unit buildings–compared with the typical level of 20%. Construction starts are now 43% of the way back to normal.
  • Existing home sales also increased. Sales rose slightly to 4.98 million in February from 4.94 million in January. Year-over-year, sales were up 10%. Excluding distressed sales, conventional home sales were up 25% year-over-year in February. Importantly, inventory–which has been very tight and could hold back sales–rose almost 10% in February, which is a bigger jump than the typical seasonal increase. Overall, existing home sales are 70% back to normal.
  • The delinquency + foreclosure rate dropped. The share of mortgages in delinquency or foreclosure dropped from 10.44% in January to 10.18% in February, and is now at its lowest level since October 2008. The combined delinquency + foreclosure rate is 46% back to normal.

Averaging these three back-to-normal percentages together, the housing market is now 53% of the way back to normal, up from 51% in January. One year ago, the market was 33% back to normal. At this rate of recovery, “normal” won’t come until late 2015. Despite sustained improvement on every indicator, the housing market still has a way to go. The trend is up, but the road is long.

Housing Barometer Infographic February 2013

Housing Barometer Line Chart February 2013

 

Buying a Home 44% Cheaper than Renting Despite Rising Home Prices

Low mortgage rates have kept homeownership less expensive than renting in all 100 large metros

Even though asking home prices rose 7.0% in the last year, outpacing rent increases of 3.2%, the gap between buying and renting has narrowed only slightly. One year ago, buying was 46% cheaper than renting. Today’s it’s 44% cheaper to buy versus rent. In fact, homeownership is cheaper than renting in all of America’s 100 largest metros. That’s because falling mortgage rates have kept buying almost as affordable, relative to renting, as it was last year. According to Freddie Mac, between February 2012 and February 2013 the 30-year fixed rate dropped from 3.9% to 3.5%, though rates have been rising in March.

To determine whether renting or buying a home costs less, we do the following:

  1. Calculate the average rent and for-sale prices for an identical set of properties. For this report we looked at all the homes listed for sale and for rent on Trulia from December 2012 to February 2013. We estimate prices and rents for the similar homes in similar neighborhoods in order get a direct apples-to-apples comparison. We are NOT just comparing the average rent and average price of homes on the market, which would be misleading because rental and for-sale properties are very different: most importantly, for-sale homes are 47% bigger, on average, than rentals.
  2. Calculate initial total monthly costs of owning and renting, including maintenance, insurance, and taxes.
  3. Calculate future total monthly costs of owning and renting, taking into account price and rent appreciation as well as inflation.
  4. Factor in one-time costs and proceeds, like closing costs, downpayments, sales proceeds, and security deposits.
  5. Calculate net present value to account for opportunity cost of money.

To compare the costs of owning and renting, we assume people will get a 3.5% mortgage rate, reside in the 25% tax bracket and itemize their federal tax deductions, and will stay in their home for seven years. We also assume buyers get a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and put 20% down. Under all of these assumptions, buying is 44% cheaper than renting nationwide, taking into account all of the costs and proceeds from buying or renting over the entire seven-year period. We also look at alternative scenarios by changing the mortgage rate, the income tax bracket for tax deductions, and the number of years one stays in the home.  Our interactive map shows how the math changes under alternative assumptions. And if you’re interested, check out our detailed methodology which explains our entire approach, step by step.

Savings from Buying Versus Renting Smallest in California and New York, Biggest in the Midwest Buying a home is cheaper than renting in all of the 100 largest metro areas, but buying ranges from 19% cheaper than renting in San Francisco to 70% cheaper than renting in Detroit. The financial benefit of buying instead of renting is narrowest in San Francisco, Honolulu, San Jose, and New York.

Over the past year, the gap between renting and buying has narrowed most in the Bay Area. One year ago, buying was 35% cheaper than renting in San Francisco and 38% cheaper than renting in San Jose; now, the difference is 19% and 24%, respectively. These metros have seen strong price increases year-over-year. In contrast, the gap didn’t narrow at all in New York, where buying remains 26% cheaper than renting, both now and a year ago. On Long Island, the difference actually widened from 34% one year ago to 36% today. New York, Long Island, and other Northeastern metros have seen more modest price rebounds over the past year, despite rising rents:

Where Buying a Home is a Tougher Call

# U.S. Metro

Cost of Buying vs. Renting (%), 2013

Cost of Buying vs. Renting (%), 2012

1 San Francisco, CA

-19%

-35%

2 Honolulu, HI

-23%

-26%

3 San Jose, CA

-24%

-38%

4 New York, NY-NJ

-26%

-26%

5 Albany, NY

-30%

-34%

6 Orange County, CA

-32%

-41%

7 San Diego, CA

-33%

-42%

8 Los Angeles, CA

-35%

-37%

9 Long Island, NY

-36%

-34%

10 Ventura County, CA

-36%

-43%

Note: Negative numbers indicate that buying costs less than renting. For example, buying a home in San Francisco is 19% cheaper than renting in 2013. Trulia’s rent vs. buy calculation assumes a 3.5% 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, 20% down, itemizing tax deductions at the 25% bracket, and 7 years in the home.

 

At the other extreme, homeownership is most affordable in Detroit, where buying is 70% cheaper than renting. This means it costs less than one-third as much to buy a unit than to rent a similar unit in a similar neighborhood. In fact, buying is less than half the cost of renting (more than a 50% difference) in 46 of the 100 largest metros.

Where Buying a Home is a No-Brainer

# U.S. Metro

Cost of Buying vs. Renting (%), 2013

Cost of Buying vs. Renting (%), 2012

1 Detroit, MI

-70%

-69%

2 Dayton, OH

-63%

-70%

3 Gary, IN

-63%

-60%

4 Cleveland, OH

-63%

-57%

5 Warren-Troy- Farmington Hills, MI

-63%

-64%

6 Toledo, OH

-62%

-59%

7 Memphis, TN-MS-AR

-62%

-61%

8 Kansas City, MO-KS

-60%

-55%

9 Birmingham, AL

-59%

-60%

10 Indianapolis, IN

-58%

-56%

Note: Negative numbers indicate that buying costs less than renting. For example, buying a home in Detroit is 70% cheaper than renting in 2013. Trulia’s rent vs. buy calculation assumes a 3.5% 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, 20% down, itemizing tax deductions at the 25% bracket, and 7 years in the home.

In the largest metros, the rent-versus-buy decision depends largely on location. Within the New York metro area, buying is just 6% cheaper than renting in Manhattan, but 53% cheaper in suburban Westchester County. This, however, is an extreme example. The differences within most metros aren’t quite so stark. In the Los Angeles metro area, buying is 22% cheaper than renting in the Pasadena / San Gabriel Valley area (telephone area code 626), while buying is 36% cheaper than renting in the San Fernando Valley (area code 818). The difference between the 626 and the 818 is a lot smaller than the difference between Manhattan and Westchester.

Here’s How Renting Could Be the Better Deal Three factors have a real impact on the rent-versus-buy math: mortgage rates, tax deductions, and how long you stay in your home. Change any of these factors, and buying a home won’t look quite as inexpensive relative to renting. Using our baseline assumptions of getting a 3.5% mortgage rate, deducting at the 25% bracket, and staying in your home for 7 years, buying is 44% cheaper than renting nationally. Here’s the “but”:

  • Lower mortgage rates lower the cost of owning. While buying is 44% cheaper than renting with a 3.5% mortgage, buying would be 39% cheaper than renting at 4.5% and only 33% cheaper at 5.5%. Higher rates mean a higher cost of owning, but prices today are low enough relative to rents that buying would beat renting even if mortgage rates rose two full points.
  • Itemizing deductions lowers the cost of owning. Mortgage interest and property tax payments are typically deductible. If you itemize deductions (at the 25% tax bracket) regardless of whether you own or rent, buying is 44% cheaper. Without itemizing (read: you’re just taking the standard deduction), buying is still 35% cheaper than renting. This means that even if tax deductions were eliminated entirely – don’t worry, no one in Washington is seriously proposing anything that drastic – the rent-versus-buy decision probably wouldn’t change that much. Though it would probably encourage people to buy smaller or cheaper homes.
  • Staying put longer lowers the relative cost of owning. The combined cost of buying and then selling a home can easily total more than 10% of the home’s value. Staying put longer means, in effect, spreading those costs over more years. Buying is 44% cheaper than renting if you stay put for 7 years, 37% for 5 years, and 20% for 3 years.

In other words, depending on your circumstances, buying could be a bad deal. Suppose you stay put for only 3 years AND don’t itemize your deductions (lots of homeowners with mortgages don’t itemize, by the way). Even with a 3.5% mortgage, buying would be only 9% cheaper than renting nationally. And in many markets, buying would be MORE expensive than renting if you stay put for 3 short years and don’t itemize: buying would be 2% more expensive than renting in Boston, 9% more in Los Angeles, 26% more in New York, and 45% more in San Francisco. Clearly, buying is not for everyone — especially if you live in a more expensive housing market.

RentvBuy_InteractiveMap_Winter2013_3years_noitemiz

Remember, also, that owning carries a lot more risk than renting. Some of the factors affecting the cost of ownership involve a lot of uncertainty.

  • One uncertainty: you might plan to stay in your new home for a long time, but unexpected family or employment circumstances could make it necessary to move sooner and incur those closing costs after just a few years.
  • A second uncertainty: unforeseen maintenance or renovation problems could push the annual care and upkeep costs much higher than 1% of the home’s value, which is what we included in our model.
  • And, of course – as if this needs to be said after the last few years – there’s no guarantee that home prices will rise. We’ve used a conservative estimate of a little over 2% home price appreciation per year, varying a bit by metro – which is just slightly above the rate of inflation we’ve included. But actual appreciation could be much higher or lower than that. Price declines are always a risk, and not just in Las Vegas and Detroit. Even metros that didn’t see huge price declines during the most recent housing crisis have sustained price declines in the past. For instance, prices fell by more than 20% in much of Texas and Oklahoma in the late 1980’s, and by 10-20% across much of New England and upstate New York in the early 1990’s, according to FHFA.

Buying Probably Won’t be This Cheap Relative to Renting Next Year How will the rent-versus-buy math change over the next year? Two factors matter most: (1) whether prices or rents are rising faster, and (2) what’s happening to mortgage rates. Looking forward, the gap should narrow more sharply because both factors should work together to raise the cost of buying relative to renting.

First, home prices are likely to keep rising faster than rents. The continued economic recovery will make people more able and interested to buy a home, boosting the demand for housing while inventory remains tight, fueling price increases. At the same time, the increase in multi-unit-building construction should add more supply, especially to the rental market, which will keep rent gains modest.

Second, mortgage rates are likely to rise in the next year as the economy improves, even though they fell in the past year. The consensus among macroeconomic forecasters is for 10-year Treasury bonds –which 30-year fixed-rate mortgages track pretty closely – to rise 6 or 7 tenths of a point over the next year. This translates roughly into a 7-9% higher monthly payment for a given mortgage.

Together, prices outpacing rents and higher mortgage rates will make buying less affordable next year relative to renting than it is now. By this time next year, the cost of buying could even exceed the cost of renting in some of the priciest metros. The rent-versus-buy decision depends on so many factors, both economic and personal, and next year the math could look very different.

Americaís Most Irish Towns

The suburbs around Boston and other Northeastern metros are the capitals of Irish America. Those are also the areas where home-searchers from Ireland are looking today.

On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish. But what about the rest of the year? Twenty-two million Americans — 7.2% of the population – say their “primary ancestry” is Irish, according to the Census’s American Community Survey. Another 13.5 million Americans claim at least some Irish ancestry, bringing the total to 35.5 million Americans — 11.6% of the population — with at least partial Irish ancestry. If that sounds low, remember that Ireland’s population today is just 6.4 million – 4.6 million in the Republic of Ireland and 1.8 million in Northern Ireland. So there are almost 6 times as many Americans with at least partial Irish ancestry as there are people who live in Ireland.

Irish-Americans are strongly concentrated in the Northeast. The percentage of people with primary Irish ancestry tops out at 20% in the Boston metro area, followed by Middlesex County, MA (west of Boston) and Peabody, MA (north of Boston). The top six metros are all in Massachusetts or upstate New York:

America’s Most Irish Metros

# U.S. Metro % Irish ancestry
1 Boston, MA

20.4%

2 Middlesex County, MA

16.9%

3 Peabody, MA

15.8%

4 Albany, NY

15.6%

5 Syracuse, NY

15.0%

6 Worcester, MA

14.8%

7 Camden, NJ

14.8%

8 Philadelphia, PA

14.2%

9 Long Island, NY

13.1%

10 Wilmington, DE-MD-NJ

13.0%

Among 100 largest metros. Primary Irish ancestry only.

Irish-Americans are at least 5% of the population in most counties across the U.S., and 10% or more in most of New England, New York state, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and other smaller counties across the country. At the other extreme, Miami is just 1% Irish:

U.S. Map of Where Irish-Americans Live

(Click here to view the interactive version of this map)

 

America’s Top Irish Neighborhoods Even though Irish-Americans make up just 5% of the New York metro population overall– less than the national average and only one-quarter the share in Boston – the neighborhood with the highest percentage of Irish-Americans is Breezy Point /Rockaway Point in Queens (ZIP code 11697). Most recently, this neighborhood is known for having had significant Hurricane Sandy damage:

America’s Top Irish Neighborhoods

#

ZIP code

Neighborhood

Area

% Irish ancestry

1

11697

Breezy Point / Rockaway Point

Queens, New York, neighborhood

54.3%

2

11569

Point Lookout

Long Island South Shore suburb

45.6%

3

10965

Pearl River

New York northern suburb

43.4%

4

60655

Mount Greenwood

Chicago Southwest Side neighborhood

40.7%

5

02081

Walpole

Boston southern suburb

40.0%

6

19022

Crum Lynne

Philadelphia western suburb

39.2%

7

02190

South Weymouth

Boston South Shore suburb

38.6%

8

02351

Abington

Boston South Shore suburb

38.1%

9

02050

Marshfield

Boston South Shore suburb

37.5%

10

02191

North Weymouth

Boston South Shore suburb

37.4%

Primary Irish ancestry only.

These maps of greater Boston, New York, and Philadelphia show that the most Irish neighborhoods tend to be in the suburbs, while the central parts of these cities are much less Irish:Of these top 10 Irish neighborhoods in America, eight are suburban. The two within big-city limits are far from the city center: Breezy Point/Rockaway Point and Mount Greenwood are around 20 miles from Manhattan’s Wall Street and Chicago’s Loop, respectively. The most Irish neighborhoods have something else in common: five out of 10 are right on the water. Breezy Point/Rockaway Point and Point Lookout are both on the Atlantic Ocean, as are North Weymouth and Marshfield on Boston’s South Shore. And Crum Lynne, west of Philadelphia, is right on the Delaware River.

Map of Irish-Americans in Eastern Massachusetts

                                 

Irish Today, Irish Tomorrow The geography of Irish-Americans reflects the housing decisions of generations of Irish immigrants and their descendants. What about future Irish immigrants to America – where might they go? For a hint, we looked at the metros and neighborhoods in America where the highest share of total foreign search traffic (excluding Canada) came from Ireland (in this case, the Republic of Ireland, not including Northern Ireland). Boston once again tops the list. In fact, eight of the top 10 metros where Ireland accounts for the highest share of foreign search traffic are also among the top 20 metros for the highest share of Irish ancestry (see chart above). In other words, people from Ireland tend to search more for homes in places where more Irish-Americans live:

Largest Share of Search Traffic Coming from Ireland

# Metro Rank out of 100 in % Irish ancestry (from list above)
1 Boston, MA

1

2 Long Island, NY

9

3 Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI

49

4 Middlesex County, MA

2

5 Raleigh, NC

61

6 Peabody, MA

3

7 Fairfield County, CT

18

8 Springfield, MA

12

9 Rochester, NY

19

10 Providence, RI-MA

11

Among largest 100 metros. Does not include searches from Northern Ireland. Primary Irish ancestry only. Based on search traffic in 2011 and 2012.

Finally, where are people from Ireland looking for vacation homes in the U.S.? Trulia search traffic reveals that the traditional vacation or resort towns with the highest share of foreign searches coming from Ireland are on Cape Cod, MA, including the communities of Dennis Port, Cotuit, West Yarmouth, and North Falmouth, as well as Boothbay Harbor, ME. But there are some differences between where Irish-Americans live and where people from Ireland are looking at homes in America. Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI, which is north of Chicago, and Raleigh, NC, both rank near the middle of the 100 largest metros in Irish-American population but are on the top 10 list for share of search traffic coming from Ireland. In the other direction, Camden, NJ, and Wilmington, DE, both are among the top 10 metros for Irish-American population (see chart above), but rank much lower (48th and 71st, respectively) in share of search traffic coming from Ireland today.

Therefore, people from Ireland are searching more in places with large Irish-American populations. America’s most Irish towns today are likely to remain strongly Irish for many St. Patrick Days to come.

Real Estate is STILL your best return on investment!

Want to hear something crazy given all the ups and downs in the market?? Check out this graph below...

If we go all the way back to January 2000 and look at the DOW, S & P and NASDAQ (which are all doing phenomenally well over the last couple of months) investments up until February 1st of this year...REAL ESTATE still outperforms any one of those by far.

What do you think about those returns on investment?

 

Local housing market desperately seeking sellers

Emily Glass (left) and her husband Venkat Korvi would like to sell their condo and move into a bigger house but they can't find anything suitable. Home inventories are at an eight-year low and everyone is asking: Where are the sellers?

Emily Glass (left) and her husband Venkat Korvi would like to sell their condo and move into a bigger house but they can't find anything suitable. Home inventories are at an eight-year low and everyone is asking: Where are the sellers?

 

John and Melissa Smith are eager to sell their three-bedroom home in Waltham and buy something larger now that they have two children. But the starter home the Smiths purchased seven years ago — near the market’s peak — won’t command a high enough price to make a move feasible.

Ashley Krause and her partner, Kerri Scott, are interested in moving from Krause’s family condo in Roslindale to a single-family home, but so far they haven’t found anything enticing enough to justify jumping into the real estate fray.

Those are just two examples of why so many people in the region’s real estate industry — and especially potential home buyers — are asking the same question: Where are all the home sellers?

The number of homes for sale in Massachusetts is at an eight-year low, despite an increasing number of prospective buyers and a housing market that — overall — is on the mend. Some owners can’t afford to sell because they owe more than their properties are worth, while others aren’t yet convinced it’s the right time. The result is the demand for homes far outstrips the meager supply, an equation that threatens to hold back growth in a business crucial to the state’s economy.

 

 

“There is nothing on the market for me to want to buy to move into,’’ said Krause, a 31-year-old pharmacist who rents from her sister. “I’m afraid to put her condo up for sale and end up on the street.”

The situation differs dramatically from a few years ago, when the local housing market slowed to a glacial pace following the national subprime mortgage meltdown and tumbling home values. Then, real estate agents were practically begging for people to go house-hunting. Now, potential buyers are out in droves — motivated by low interest rates and renewed confidence in the economy — and it’s homeowners who are on the sidelines.

In Massachusetts, the number of single-family homes for sale fell to 18,329 at the end of January, 27.3 percent fewer than during that month last year and the steepest year-over-year fall in almost a decade, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported this week.

The tight market has prompted robust competition in some of the Boston-area’s more popular neighborhoods, prompting bidding wars and price inflation, real estate agents say. Statewide, homes are selling more quickly than a year ago. Single-family homes remained on the market for an average 114 days in January compared with 128 days in January 2012, the realtors group said.

“More buyers are competing for fewer homes and we are shifting to a stronger seller’s market,’’ said Sam Schneiderman, president of the Massachusetts Association of Buyers Agents.

Concerned the lack of properties for sale could hurt the all-important spring selling season, real estate agents are cold-calling potential sellers, penning handwritten notes, and launching seminars to attract new business. Their universal message — demand is high, supply is low; it’s time to list. “Everybody in the world is trying to reach sellers,” said Alex Coon, a Boston-area manager of the online brokerage firm Redfin.com. “Home-buying classes are brimming over. Anywhere we can find a seller, we are trying to reach them.”

It’s not just that sellers are sparse — it’s that buyers are quickly snatching up attractive homes almost as soon as they are put up for sale. Last year, the Massachusetts housing market began to build momentum. Statewide, 46,887 single-family homes were sold, the most since 2006, according to Warren Group, a Boston company that tracks local real estate. The buzz of activity carried over into January, with sales 10 percent higher than the same month in 2012, Warren Group said.

But some worry that if sellers don’t soon start showing up in greater numbers, the upward sales trajectory will falter.

“If we don’t have the inventory to sell, we won’t be able to continue” improving, said Kimberly Allard-Moccia, the president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors and broker-owner of Century 21 Professionals in Braintree.

Currently, there is a 4.7-month supply of single-family homes for sale, according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors. A balanced market has about 6 months worth of supply according to the Washington, D.C.-based, National Association of Realtors. Anything less tips the market in favor of sellers.

Eric Belsky, managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, said the relative lack of homes for sale suggests many interested home buyers are coming from outside the area, or are local first-time home buyers or investors. Otherwise, he said, buyers would be selling their existing properties — leaving local inventory relatively unaffected. Thin inventory puts upward pressure on prices, Belsky said, but it’s still unclear whether the increases are enough to get more people into the market. “It’s an open question,” he said.

John Ranco, a senior sales associate for Hammond Residential Real Estate in Boston’s South End, said many homeowners who couldn’t sell their properties during the recession turned to renting, which currently can be a lucrative source of income in the city. In addition, he said, more Boston residents also have decided to stay in their current homes, lessening the opportunities for newcomers.

Also, thousands of homeowners are still plagued by a recession hangover. Despite the recent upturn, Boston-area home values are down nearly 16 percent since their peak in 2005. So many homeowners owe more to lenders than their properties could fetch for sale.

Other potential sellers are simply doing what some do every year — waiting for the snow to clear. “No one likes muddy boots tramping through their houses,’’ Ranco said.

Meanwhile, real estate agents are becoming more aggressive about targeting sellers.

Steve Mehigan, manager of the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage office in Waltham, said his agents are reaching out to homeowners who unsuccessfully tried to sell their properties with other real estate offices. Sometimes his agents will show up at a homeowner’s door to let them know multiple buyers are interested in their property.

“Our buyer appetite is absolutely voracious,” Mehigan said.

Brian Montgomery, a buyer’s agent with Charlesgate Realty Group in Boston, was so frustrated by his inability to find suitable homes for his clients that he recently published a blog post titled: “Desperately seeking sellers.” It included a wish list of nearly two dozen Boston-area homes his clients would like to buy.

Montgomery listed properties in Brookline, Boston, and Cambridge. “We’re hoping that by publishing this list, an owner may wake up from their amnesia,” he wrote, “and realize they actually want to sell their property!”

For Emily Glass, 33, of Arlington, it’s not amnesia that is keeping her in her Arlington condominium. She just doesn’t see any place better. “There is really nothing available,” Glass said.

Krause, the Roslindale condo dweller, said properties she’s toured over the last few months are either too small or lack a yard. But she also gets the irony of her situation — while she searches for the perfect home, her family’s condo remains off the market and out of play for some other prospective buyer.

“Right now, I need some people like me to let their places go,” she said.

Spring Real Estate Rebound?

Here's a great video that recently aired on Fox 25 that buyers and sellers should definitely check out, should you decide to dive into the Spring market. Throughout the piece there's a ton of insightful market information from trusted industry resources.
 

Despite dip, housing starts show strength

Always a great sign of builder confidence and for the rest of the market when housing starts (breaking groung on new construction) show a sustainable upswing at a steady pace.

Builders started construction on new homes in January at a pace that suggests last year's upswing in construction is sustainable despite a slight month-over-month dip.

At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 890,000 units per year, January new-home starts were down 8.5 percent from the month before, but up 23.6 percent from a year ago,  according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The pace of new-home construction in January represents an 86 percent increase from an April 2009 bottom of 478,000, but is still less than half the mid-2000s peak. 

But housing starts are getting closer to historical norms as they continue to trend upward after two and a half years in the doldrums.

Total housing starts, which include both multifamily and single-family units, were dragged down in January by an unexpected sharp decline in the "volatile" multifamily housing sector, wrote Bill McBride on his blog at Calculated Risk. McBride characterized the latest numbers as "a solid report."

Single-family housing starts rose 0.8 percent in January from December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 613,000, while the annual rate for multifamily units fell 26.1 percent from December.

Builder confidence dipped slightly this month, but remains near its highest level since May 2006, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said in a statement that the association expects new-home starts "to continue on a modest rising trajectory this year."

Housing starts

Source: Calculated Risk

Regionally, the Midwest and Northeast saw double-digit-percentage dips in housing starts from December to January -- 50 percent and 35.3 percent, respectively.

The West and South, however, saw month-over-month increases, with a 16.7 percent and 4.1 percent jump, respectively.

Dramatic 2012 Sales, Volume Increases at RE/MAX

DENVER, CO – With a housing recovery in full swing, RE/MAX LLC experienced significant improvement in closed transactions and sales volume in 2012. In the U.S., RE/MAX agents were involved with nearly 840,000 transaction sides, an increase of 12% over 2011. The 2012 U.S. sales volume for RE/MAX agents was $165 billion, up 18% from last year. Most importantly, individual productivity within the RE/MAX network rose 15% to an average of 16.3 transaction sides per agent.

"For several years in a row, RE/MAX agents have averaged more sales than other agents. Again in 2012, RE/MAX agents closed more real estate deals than agents with any other brand," said Margaret Kelly, RE/MAX CEO. "It's clear that the advanced tools and technology resources RE/MAX offers makes our agents the best prepared to assist home buyers and sellers in this recovering market."

Since 1997, closed transaction sides in the RE/MAX organization have never fallen below 1 million and have never been exceeded by any competitor. Worldwide in 2012, RE/MAX transaction sides rose 8.4% to 1.3 million and sales volume was up 10.1% to $296 billion.

RE/MAX saw franchise sales growth in 2012, as well. The global franchisor added 739 new franchises and six new countries, including mainland China. RE/MAX ended the year with a country count of 89, an international presence greater than any of its competitors.

In addition to residential performance, nearly 440 commercial offices and divisions increased their transactions by 8.4% and sales volume by 17.4%.

"RE/MAX adapted to the market over the last few years, and trained our agents to succeed. That training paid off, and our agents are now the best positioned for a real estate market that is coming back strong," Kelly added.

Industry recognition also came to RE/MAX in 2012. For the 10th time in 14 years, RE/MAX, LLC was recognized as the #1 real estate franchisor in Entrepreneur magazine's 34th annual "Franchise 500." For the 4th year in a row, RE/MAX earned the top real estate ranking in the Franchise Times Top 200 survey, and was named one of the "Top 50 Franchises for Minorities" by the National Minority Franchising Initiative through the World Franchising Network.

Last year also saw the launch of a redesigned consumer-facing website, remax.com, which is the first real estate franchisor to provide consumers with a personal, consistent web experience across desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Remax.com has been the most visited real estate brand website for the last 3 years according to Experian Hitwise.

As part of the RE/MAX system, brokers and agents have access to comprehensive professional training from the award-winning, on-demand RE/MAX University, as well as technology resources like the RE/MAX Mobile Suite, RE/MAX LeadStreet® and the online customizable marketing toolkit, Design Center.

For more information, please visit www.joinremax.com.


Own a Home? Check Out These 8 Tax Breaks

Tax time clockTaxes are due April 15, which means it’s time to start gathering your W2s, 1099s, child care receipts and bank statements.

But before you sit down with your accountant, it’s important for you to know that merely owning a home could mean you qualify for tax breaks. In most cases, you need to itemize your taxes in order to take advantage of these deductions. Yes, it makes the tax-filing process seem impenetrable, but the benefits may outweigh the complications.

Here are a few of the tax breaks you’ll want to investigate:

Mortgage interest paid at settlement

Take a look at your closing statement; one item that’s generally listed there is home mortgage interest. On a mortgage of up to $1 million, you can deduct the interest that you pay at settlement if you itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040). This amount should be included in the mortgage interest statement provided by your lender.

Points

Did you pay points in order to obtain your home mortgage? These fees are included on the income tax deductions list and can be deducted as long as they are associated with the purchase of a home. If you refinanced your home, these points are still deductible, but it must be done over the life of the mortgage.

Property taxes

As long as they are based on the assessed value of the real property, you can deduct your state and local property taxes. However, if your money is being held in escrow for the purpose of paying property taxes, you cannot claim this deduction until the money is actually taken out of escrow and paid. If you do this, check your Form 1098 for the amount you may deduct. Be aware that if you receive a partial refund of your property tax, the amount of the deduction you can claim will be reduced.

Selling costs

If you sold a home in the past year, you may be able to reduce your income tax by the amount of your selling costs. These costs can include things such as repairs, title insurance, advertising expenses and broker’s fees. The IRS only allows the deduction of repair costs associated with selling if the repairs were made within 90 days of the sale. It’s also crucial that the repairs were made with the intent of improving your home’s marketability. Selling costs are deducted from your gain on the sale.

Home office

If you use a portion of your home exclusively for the purpose of an office for your small business, you may be able to claim a deduction on your taxes for costs related to insurance, repairs and depreciation. You may only claim this deduction if the space within your home is used exclusively and regularly as either your principal place of business or a place where you meet and deal with customers or patients. You may also be able to take advantage of this deduction if a portion of your home routinely is used for storing items (product samples, inventory, etc.) used in your business.

In tax year 2010 (the most recent year for which figures are available) nearly 3.4 million taxpayers claimed the home office deduction.

Mortgage insurance premiums

You may be able to deduct the premiums paid for private mortgage insurance for your principal residence and for a non-rental second home.

The deduction begins to phase out once your adjusted gross income reaches $100,000 ($50,000 for married filing separately). In general, you can deduct the premiums paid for the current tax year only. A qualified tax adviser can provide information about rules for mortgage insurance provided by the Federal Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and Rural Housing Service.

Home improvement loan interest

If you’ve taken out a loan to make improvements on your home, you may be able to deduct the interest on this loan. Qualifying loans are those taken out to add “capital improvements” to your home, meaning the improvement must increase your home’s value, adapt it to new uses or extend its life. New carpeting or painting are not considered capital improvements, while adding a garage, installing a water heater or building a deck are all examples of capital improvements.

Construction loan interest

If you take out a construction loan to build a home, you may qualify to deduct the interest. The IRS only allows a deduction for mortgage interest if the loan relates to a “qualified” home, which means it must either be your principal residence or a vacation home that you will use for personal purposes. You can only use this deduction for the first 24 months of the loan, even if the actual construction takes longer.

Tax codes can be confusing. You may want to consult the IRS website for information concerning deductions and credits. Additionally, consider meeting with a professional to ensure you’re not missing any deductions for which you’re eligible.

Asking prices up in 86 of 100 largest markets

Asking prices of homes listed for sale on real estate portal Trulia.com in January were up from a year ago in 86 of the 100 largest U.S. metros, according to a monthly report released today.

The report, which covers roughly 4.5 million for-sale and for-rent properties listed on Trulia through Jan. 31, showed asking prices up 5.9 percent from a year ago, and growing by a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent from December to January -- the biggest month-over-month gain since March 2012.

In some markets, the strong growth in asking prices doesn't necessarily indicate that worries are over, said Jed  Kolko, Trulia's chief economist.

"In  many local markets today, dramatic price gains can mask serious red   flags," Kolko said in a blog post. "Strong job growth, low vacancy  rate,  and low foreclosure inventory -- not huge price gains -- are  signs of a  healthy housing market."

Trulia identified San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Denver and Salt Lake city as "booming" markets with strong fundamentals.

"Rebounding" markets  like Phoenix (where asking prices were up 24.8 percent from a year ago), Las Vegas (up 16.8 percent), Riverside-San Bernardino (up 14 percent) and Detroit (up 14.2 percent) remain vulnerable to factors like slow job growth, high vacancies, or future foreclosures, the report said.

January 2013 Trulia asking price summary

Time period Change in asking prices Change in asking prices, excluding foreclosures No. of 100 largest metros with list-price increases
Month-over-month 0.9% 1.2% (N/A)
Quarter-over-quarter 2.2% 2.9% 79
Year-over-year 5.9% 6.5% 86

Source: Trulia. Monthly and quarterly increases are seasonally adjusted.

January marked the first time since last spring that asking rents posted a smaller year-over-year increase (4.1 percent) than asking price. The report noted that construction of new multi-unit rental properties has helped grow rental inventories in some markets.

"Rent gains are slowing down because of more supply, not less demand," Kolko said.

Metros* where rent gains slowed the most in the last six months

Rank Metro Change in asking rents from a year ago Change in asking rents from a year ago, July 2012 Difference between Jan. 2013 and July 2012
1 San Francisco 2.4% 11.5% -9.1%
2 Portland, Ore.-Wash. 4.7% 9.2% -4.4%
3 Seattle 6.4% 10.8% -4.4%
4 Denver 7.4% 10.3% -2.9%
5 San Diego 2.0% 4.4% -2.4%

Source: Trulia. *Among the 25 largest rental markets

Bird's Eye View of the new Higgins School

Earlier this week when the design team for the new Higgins Middle School showed off the latest schematic plans for the campus, there was a short video within the presentation.

That "fly-through," as it were, offers a bird's eye view of a virtual campus, full of trees, new athletic fields and lots of windows on that new school building.

The schematic plans, budget and project schedule will be submitted to the Mass. School Building Authority's board of directors by Feb. 15 for approval. 

Check out this bird's eye view of the virtual campus, full of trees, new athletic fields and lots of windows proposed for the new Higgins Middle School building. Very exciting to see the plans come to life.

 

Robin tours Brooksby Farm

Check out our own Robin Murphy - Remax Advantage RE - Peabody, MA as she tours the Brooksby Farm neighborhood and highlights the sights and sounds of the area. Stay tuned for more videos from the Horowitz Team connecting with the community!

 

Itís Peak Season for Housing Somewhere!

It’s Peak Season for Housing Somewhere Visualization Preview

Check out the full infographic

Consumers look for homes most in March and April. However, peak-search season happens now in Hawaii and Florida, but is six months away in Montana and Oregon.

As winter’s end approaches, the housing market wakes up. All key measures of housing activity–searches, prices, starts, sales, and inventories–typically hit their annual lows in December or January. But at the start of each year, would-be buyers come out of hibernation first: search behavior starts to pick up in January, reaching its peak in March and remaining strong through August. Sales and inventories then peak later in the year. But local housing markets have their own rhythms. To see when each state’s housing market heats up, we looked at six years of search history on Trulia – January 2007 to December 2012 – for properties in every state. (This is based on the state where the property is located, which is not necessarily where the person searching is located.) Of course, Trulia’s site traffic has grown dramatically over these years, so we used a seasonal adjustment model to strip out the upward trend and uncover the regular seasonal rhythms of search behavior across the country.

Nationally, the peak months of search activity are March and April. After a slight dip in May, there’s a second peak in the summer months of June and July. As the year ends, search activity drops off. December is the slowest month, followed by November. At the state level, though, the peak month for search activity ranges from as early as January to as late as August. This month, January, is Hawaii’s peak month for search activity. Next month, February, is the top month for search traffic in Florida. In these warm states, winter weather is good for home searches and going to open houses. Across much of the country, though, home search activity peaks in the springtime, including in the Midwest, the Plains, and much of the West and Northeast. The summertime – June through August – is the peak for most of the South and a few states in the Northwest and northern New England. No state enjoys peak season in September, October, November, or December.

Even though the earliest two states to peak each year–Florida and Hawaii–are warm, southerly states, and the last two states —  Montana and Oregon – are northernly, home searches generally peak later in the South than in the Northeast, Midwest, and Plains. Why do Minnesotans search most in March and April, rather than in the warmer summer? And why do Mississippians look most in June and July, rather than in the milder spring? To avoid the rain: in most of the Northeast, Midwest, and Plains, it rains less in the spring than in the height of summer, but in many Southern states, it rains less in the summer than in the spring. The punchline: warm weather is good for search traffic, but dry weather helps, too.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening right now. The interactive map shows, for each state, whether search activity is above or below the annual average for that state. (That means every state is above its own annual average in some months and below in other months.) In January, search activity in most states is already out of the winter slump and is above the annual average. In Florida and Hawaii, January search traffic is more than 10% above each state’s annual average. January search traffic is below the annual average only in four New England states – Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island – plus North Dakota and the District of Columbia.

Click on the February button at the top of the interactive map, and you’ll see that Florida, Arizona, and Wisconsin are more than 10% above their annual average. In every month from March through July, all (or all but one) states are above their annual average in search traffic. By October, every state is at least a little below its annual average of search activity, and in December every state is 10% or more below its annual average.

It’s clear that housing swings with the seasons in every state. But where are the swings biggest? Maine, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, and Ohio have the largest changes in search traffic throughout the year. In contrast, search traffic fluctuates least over the year in Alaska, the District of Columbia, Vermont, Hawaii, and Idaho. So whether you’re looking to buy or sell, get in sync with the rhythms of your local housing market. Home sellers looking for the most buyers should list when search traffic peaks. Home buyers, however, should think about searching off-season – they might find less competition.