Saturday Afternoon Real Estate Thoughts

As I sit here in my office on a cloudy warm summer day my thoughts turn towards what's going on in real estate lately. As everyone is aware there are alot of listings out there for short sales & foreclosures, as well as bank owned (REO) properties. Buyers & Sellers have a hard enough time figuring out the market in normal times but lately I've talked with more & more that are finding today's market even more confusing.

The media write stories such as "Housing Prices Plumeting" or "Market Drops XX.X%" and buyers and sellers attentions are immediately drawn to it. Many articles written are based upon some statistics from some government report or even based upon another article, guess this falls into that category also. What many of these articles fail to accomplish is to tell the reader exactly what is going on in their market specifically. Even regional news reports are usually based on large geographic areas. An example of this is the recent reports that the Massachusetts housing sales are down XX.X%. What many fail to take into account is the differences in Massachusetts housing markets. There is alot of Massachusetts west of Rt. 495, those numbers people forget are also included in many statistics quoted. So making blanket statements that all housing is down by some large number is not as much of importance than what the local market conditions are.

I don't say this to tow the line the National Association of Realtors (NAR) that "Now is a great time to buy" but in the markets I serve (Medford is close to Boston) people still need housing and employment & schools still draw people to this area. Prices have dropped compared to 2 years ago. Selling for the sake of selling may not be the most ideal for some owners but prices haven't tanked. You may not get the same $$$ you might have just a year or 2 ago but if your selling to move to another property then you might be surprised to learn that the property you will be buying more than likely will be less than if you purchased a year or 2 ago. You might even get a great deal with distressed properties.

I've fielded many calls from owners who are in financial trouble with their lenders & other bills. Some of the best advice I can give is to keep in touch with creditors, by establishing rapport with them you may be more likely to have them work with you to resolve the problems. Ignoring the problem until recieving a foreclosure notice isn't wise. Most often it's too late for me to "work magic" and help out as fully as I might have months ago. In this case most often it's time to consult a competent attorney, credit counselor or other public service recently enacted to help owners. Lenders don't want to own property. They want to have a reliable income stream from owners paying on time. Recent legislation may help with this but only time will tell.

Now is also the time to start looking at your finances with a mind towards your utility bills with winter approaching. Utility bills have climbed and the forecast for this winter is pretty dire for alot of people. If this might be you, start exploring fuel assistance programs, payment plans, budgeted utility payments and also preparing your home for winter. Have your furnace checked & cleaned. Same goes with hot water heaters. Take a look at your hot water heater, if it's greater than 12 years old, consider replacing it, it'll cost alot less to have it done now than on Thanksgiving Day (I found this out the hard way), same with a furnace. Check out your windows, cracked or loose windows let heat out, easier to repair or replace them when the weather is good. Have a home efficiency survey conducted. This will help you by identifying areas of your home that might be costing you extra $$ every month. I'm not a huge fan of the compact flourescent light bulbs asthetically but you can't ignore their energy efficiency.

Buyers today are also mindful of the operating expenses of homes. Homes that have even a modest amount of energy efficiency are attractive. I'm not saying that every home needs to have cutting edge efficiency but those qualities are high up on most buyers lists. Cars come with fuel mileage quotes on their windows (accuracy of this is up to debate), but homes do not. Being prepared with the information is a huge bonus & helps most buyers fears. Home prices have fallen but operating expenses have gone up so some of that price decrease has been taken up by the increase.

Medford & the surrounding communities still continue to draw interest amongst buyers because of the proximity to Boston, access to public transportation, shopping & dining options and other conveniences. Prices are what they are, they may not be what they might have been, but this area is still what I call home, and I'm glad I do.

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