Tuesday Tip – 10 Ways to Warm up Your Home this Winter

November 18th, 2014

When the cold weather sets in and you spend the majority of your day with a chill in your bones, there’s nothing more appealing than a warm, comfortable home after a frigid walk from the T.  So begins the battle between the thermostat and the bank account.  Today’s tip for how to Warm Up Your Home This Winter (Without Turning Up The Heat) comes to us from the folks at Yahoo DIY (www.yahoo.com/diy).  They’ve come up with 10 simple, yet somewhat unconventional ways to keep your heating bill low and your body temperature high.  For more thoughts on how to winterize your home and save money on utility bills, contact our experts at The Charles Realty, 617-236-0353.

Tuesday Tip – Five Important Things to Consider when Shopping for a Rental

November 11th, 2014

If you don’t have a rental horror story you’re one of the lucky ones.  Just about everyone has experienced a landlord’s unfilled promises of repairs, neighbors that play loud music until 4am, or that peculiar smell that comes out of the heating vent.  So when you’re shopping for a rental, what are some of the important things to look out for?  Our experts have put together a quick list to make sure your dream rental doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

1. Be hyper-vigilant in your walk through.  Sometimes it’s easy to get swept up in granite counter tops, back patios and bay windows, but don’t forget about the little things like water pressure, plumbing and fixtures.  When temperatures fall below freezing in December, you’re going to want to make sure the heat works well and there is plenty of hot water.

2. Ask about the neighborhood guidelines, including parking rules, snow removal and trash schedules.  Many places in and around Boston have street cleaning, snow removal and other city ordnances that may affect you, so it’s important to find out about schedules, protocols for weather situations, etc., particularly if you’re new to the area and are unfamiliar with these types of processes.

3. Listen closely for freeway or other road traffic – and remember it will be much louder during rush hour.  Is there a train that runs nearby?  How far away is the closest grocery store or T stop?  These are all things that the landlord might not share with you, but will inevitably impact the comfort of your living environment.

4. If the landlord isn’t thorough, and doesn’t seem to have a formal process for securing renters, be wary.  Just think, if they don’t do their due diligence with you, then they likely don’t spend much time taking care of their rental property.  The reference check, credit check and seemingly incessant questioning might seem like a nuisance at the time, but it’s a sign that the landlord cares about their home, which likely means they’ve taken good care of it.  Even better if they’re using a broker, as this indicates a commitment to finding good, responsible tenants for a home they clearly care about.

5. Ask the landlord about their maintenance processes, including pest control and major appliances.  Do they have a procedure in place for making repairs, or does it seem like they’ll just wing it?  Many landlords have specific vendors that they use while others might have a family member who works as a local handyman.  When the air conditioner sputters and dies on the hottest day in July, it will be good to know that your landlord has a plan in place to fix the problem thoroughly and expeditiously.

There’s a lot of competition for good rentals in and around Boston, so when you find a place that seems perfect, it’s understandable to feel pressure to get the papers signed.  Make a standard list of questions to take with you on your walk through, and add to it as you notice things around the home.  Making a hasty decision without knowing what exactly you’re getting into can cost you big, so be informed, be prepared and most importantly, listen to your gut if something doesn’t seem quite right.  For more advice on finding a great rental property in the city, feel free to reach out to our experts at The Charles Realty, 617- 236-0353

Tuesday Tip – A Must Have Checklist for Home Loan Shopping

November 4th, 2014

Shopping for your dream home is exciting!  Shopping for a mortgage, not so much.  But for most, there is no dream home without a mortgage, and so it begins – the analysis of financials, the gathering of paperwork, the list of questions to ask, and re-ask lenders (ahem, layman’s terms please!).  Today’s tip, The Ultimate Home Loan Shopping List, comes to us via Trulia (www.trulia.com), and features a reference guide for important documents you’ll need to bring with you to lender appointments, and critical questions you should ask to secure the best rate.  The author, Rebecca McClay (http://www.trulia.com/tips/author/rebeccaclay/) gives you all the information you’ll need to make shopping for your home loan a less stressful and – dare I say – more enjoyable experience, giving you more time to focus on the fun part – picking out your new home!  For more information about lender comparisons and specific things to know when applying for a condo loan, feel free to reach out to our experts at The Charles Realty, 617-236-0353.

Tuesday Tip – 10 Questions to Ask When Interviewing Listing Agents

October 28th, 2014

When choosing a real estate agent to help you sell your home, it’s important to find one with proven expertise in selling properties in your area for at or above market value.  A lot of factors contribute to an agent’s ability to get you top dollar for your home, and you want to make sure they’re aggressive, committed and savvy.  Here are ten important questions you should ask when interviewing listing agents (keep in mind that all agents you’re considering should come see your property before you decide to work with them):

-       How long have you been a licensed Realtor?

-       How long have you been working in this market?

-       How many homes have you sold in the last 6 months?

-       How many of these homes sold for list price?

-       Do you have any client testimonials?

-       Are there any improvements or repairs that you would recommend for my property?

-       What are the most marketable characteristics of the neighborhood where my home is located?

-       How are your marketing strategies different or more effective than other agents?

-       How, specifically, do you plan to market my home?

-       What particular features of my home do you think will be most appealing to buyers, and how do you plan to highlight them?

When shopping for a real estate agent, it’s definitely not a one size fits all scenario.  An agent who has great experience selling colonials in the suburbs might not be the best fit if you’re listing your condo in the city, so it’s perfectly appropriate, and necessary, to keep asking questions until you are confident you’ve found the right person for the job.

For more information on finding the best agent for the sale of your home, feel free to reach out to our experts at The Charles Realty at 617-236-0353.  Of course, we’d love to be considered as your listing agent, but we’ll also refer you to another agency if we think they have more experience selling your type of home.

Tuesday Tip – How to Make a Small Space Feel Larger

October 21st, 2014

Whether you’re buying or renting in Boston, affordable square footage can be a hard thing to come by, so it’s important to find ways to make the space that you do have feel more open.  Our friends at Trulia (www.trulia.com) created a list of 7 ways to make your small space look bigger.

Do you have our own great tips for making a space feel larger than it is?  Share it in the comments section below.

Tuesday Tip – Finding the Right Neighborhood in Boston

October 14th, 2014

Location, location, location – that’s the number one rule in real estate, but it’s especially true when buying a home in Boston.  The city of Boston is distinguished by its eclectic mix of vibrant and diverse neighborhoods. From Back Bay to Charlestown to The North End, each area is charming in its own right.  Components such as architecture, food, and resident population create a unique personality and appeal to all of the Boston villages.

As a buyer, it is critical to spend a good amount of time in each neighborhood, both during the day and at night, to get a feel for the atmosphere and personality of each.  For example, The South End has a very particular and dynamic vibe that you might not find anywhere else in the city.  Some claim the South End to be Boston’s version of Greenwich Village, with its incredible number of good restaurants, cafes, theaters, and shops.  For those looking for a more traditional feel, Back Bay is an appealing option with the gaslight lanterns lining Marlborough St and large brownstone homes along Comm Ave and Beacon.  The shopping on Newbury St is some of the most recognized in the country.  Venturing into The Fenway/Kenmore Square area, you will find plenty of activity.  With many colleges in the area, as well as Fenway Park, and a number of medical centers, these neighborhoods are experiencing a lot of growth.

Boston is home to an assortment of people, but pride in their city is a universal characteristic.  So while restaurants, local activities, and proximity to highways and public transportation are all important things to consider, make sure that the neighborhood you decide on is one that you will feel proud of calling home.  Afterall, the city will become your backyard, so you want to feel as comfortable outside your home as you do inside.  For more specific information on Boston’s neighborhoods, contact the experts at Charles Realty who live, work and play amongst them all, 617-236-0353.

Tuesday Tip: Preparing Your Home for Market

October 7th, 2014

In today’s real estate market, if you’ve got a nice home in a coveted area, it’s likely to sell quickly, but here are some tips for getting your home ready to fetch top dollar.

First things first, remove all personal items.  When you’ve created memories in a home, celebrated holidays there, and marked your children’s growth on the walls, sometimes you forget that prospective buyers won’t feel the same nostalgia that you do.  So while you might think your perfectly arranged shelves of framed pictures and memorabilia are creating a “homey” mood for the buyer, it’s important to remember that each visitor touring the property needs be able to visualize their own life fitting in to the space, not take a trip down your memory lane.  This is why it’s important to de-clutter and remove as many personal items as possible.  In the kitchen, remove all pictures from the refrigerator and all large appliances like toaster ovens and coffee makers that take up valuable counter space.  Your potential buyers might be animal lovers but they could also be allergic to pet dander, so it’s a good idea to remove dog beds, food bowls and any other signs of animals.  The same goes for high chairs and baby toys, which have a way of making a room feel very cluttered and small.

It’s a difficult first step to start removing yourself from a home that you’ve invested much of yourself in, but it will make a big difference to prospective buyers.  That being said, if removing pictures from a wall will leave it discolored and vacant looking, it’s better to leave them be.  The key here is identifying where your personal items add character to the home itself, and removing anything that might get in the way of the buyers imagination. Items left in a space should not be a distraction to the buyer.  They should leave remembering the abundance of counter space in the bathroom, not the line of skin care products you share in common.   If you have a hard time being objective about what should stay and what should go, contact a staging company or invite your realtor to assist you.  They are experts at creating spaces that are minimal yet inviting.  For more information on how to make sure your home sells for top dollar, call us at 617-236-0353.

Tuesday Tip – How To Distinguish Yourself in a Multiple Bid Situation

October 1st, 2014

There’s no question that Boston real estate belongs to a competitive market.   As a buyer, it can overwhelming when you show up to an open house that looks more like the mall during the holiday season.  It’s even more anxiety provoking when you realize that the home is exactly what you, and everybody else there, have been looking for.

Of course, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of coming out on top in a multiple bid situation.  The obvious recommendations, such as paying cash, waving financing contingencies, or increasing your initial bid are all great.  But these all require some monetary backing.  What if you don’t have that option?

What can you do to stand out to the sellers of your dream house?  Here’s a thought – many buyers will write a letter to the sellers and include it with their offer.  This in itself is a good idea, but not an original one.  Try submitting a letter to the seller several days before offers are reviewed, so they get to know you and have time to digest your words before the offer due date.  You know the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” well it rings true in this instance.  A picture of yourself or your family accompanying the letter is likely to engage the seller further.  This way they will be looking for your offer the day they are due.  True, your offer might not be the highest, but the seller may feel more connected to you, even if they later receive other personalized letters with offers, because they have had some time to think about your cute family and the words you put to paper.

In the end, money talks the loudest, so if the seller gets an offer that far exceeds yours, Shakespearean sonnets won’t change their mind, but if they’re deciding between a couple of close offers, the personalized touch – and the extra time they have to think about you and your story – will definitely leave an impression and distinguish you from other buyers.

For a complete guideline to seller correspondence and more tips on becoming a distinguishable buyer give us a call at 617-236-0353

Moving Tips for Labor Day

August 27th, 2014

It ́s almost here: Septmeber 1st, the big moving day in Boston! We have rented apartments for 30 years and know exactly what you should keep in mind when moving this coming Monday! We also know, that it can be a little overwhelming…

In order to make your move as smooth as possible, we put together the most important tips for you:

  1. By now, you have probably already reserved a truck for Monday. Do yourself a favor and call up the rental office to confirm the reservation. The last thing you want is the office messing up your reservation and not having a truck available when you need it.
  2. Have friends and family help you! Many hands make light work. The more people there are working together, the sooner you’ll be sitting on the couch with a glass of wine enjoying your new home! Don ́t forget to acknowledge their help though. Pizza and beer are the standard method of bribery, but if you hold out the prospect of something more valuable to them (like watching their kids/inviting them to the movies some time), they tend to work faster.
  3. Document any damage in the apartment you ́re moving out of! You have probably made a few scuffs and scratches here and there, but you don ́t want your security deposit docked because the next tenant puts a hole in the wall while moving in. They will be able to report any damage in the first 15 days of living in your old place and have it pinned on you. So, get your smart-phone out and take pictures or even a video of your old place before returning the keys to your landlord!
  4. If you usually park your car on the streets in Boston, move it on Sunday night. About 90% of the people who will be driving all those moving trucks on monday have never done it before. You won ́t believe how many smashed, scratched and dented cars you can see in the streets on September 2nd. Park your car in a parking lot or somewhere else off the streets just to be safe!
  5. Prepare for the weather! According to Google, there ́s a 20% chance of rain on Monday. This doesn ́t sounds too bad, but if it does rain, you’ll wish you prepared for it.

Keeping all those important tips in mind, you should be good to go! Monday will be a long day, but when you ́ve mastered the move, you will be more than happy! We wish you all the best for the first year in your new apartment and want to congratualte you on your new home!

Backyard Improvement Ideas

June 10th, 2014

Sunny days and nice weather are ahead of us this summer making it the ideal time to make backyard improvements. Creating the right features in a backyard make it the ideal close escape. Here are some ideas that will make any backyard pop:

Lighting- The right outdoor lighting helps with late night relaxing and prevents people from tripping or running into objects in the dark. Both electrical lighting and torch/lantern lighting will make a backyard more inviting.

Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Outdoor Fireplace/Firepit- Cheap and easy to make, fireplaces and pits are great places to gather with friends and loved ones. This project can be as easy as digging a pit and filling it with some stones to hiring a contractor to make a big project out of this. Fireplaces and pits are good gathering spots to roast some marshmallows with the kids or have some drinks with friends.

iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Create Your Own Beach- With enough sand you can create your very own beach in your backyard.

sunset.com

Sources:
Top 10 Ideas for Outdoor Living Spaces
25 Ways to Create an Outdoor Oasis