I get a kick out of people who think they can time the real estate market and buy and sell at precisely the most advantageous time.
Really? Then maybe it's time to quit the day job.
Buying and selling a house is not like buying and selling stocks, with lots of factors that make for an emotional and complex decision making process.
Why do people buy or sell?
Maybe they are planning to have kids and want to "settle down" in neighborhood or town with a decent school system. Or maybe they've hit retirement age and can't deal with another New England winter, to name two big life changers that prompt people to act.
Too often, it's a divorce.
Really, there are a thousand and one reasons.
If you are lucky, prices are falling when it's time to buy and soaring when you want to sell.
Given what we've seen in Greater Boston over the past few decades, the latter is more likely.
But unless you are willing to wait it out for five, who knows, ten years - with no guarantee that conditions will be more favorable in the future - the real estate market you are in is the one you are going to have to deal with.
You've been dealt a set of cards and it's up to you to play them wisely.
The Hub is undergoing the most rapid gentrification of any city in the country, a new study by the Cleveland Fed finds.
More than a quarter of all Bostonians now live in formerly low-income neighborhoods that have since been gentrified, many over the bubble years of the early and mid 2000s.
And that number is likely higher now - the study doesn't go past 2007, with prices once again back or having blown past previous peaks in a number of neighborhoods.
I spotted the item on John Ford's Boston Real Estate Blog, which offers an interesting take.
Are we seeing the return of the buy-now-at-any-cost mentality?
Buyers scrambling to get into the market, fearful of getting priced out should they wait any longer, helped push the real estate market over the cliff during the bubble years.
And as the the spring market approaches, buyers in early 2014 now find themselves facing similar pressures, this time not just from soaring prices, but also from rising interest rates.
Not only are rising rents bad for apartment dwellers, it is making the dream of home ownership increasingly unattainable for millions of Americans.
That is one of several findings in a new study released by the nonprofit Demand Group, a joint venture of the Conference Board and Nielsen. (The Washington Post's Wonkblog offers a pretty interesting take on the study )
As many as 31 percent of renters are forking over 30 to 50 percent of their pay on rent. And a quarter find themselves signing over more than half of their paychecks to their landlords.
Most real estate surveys of the best towns to buy a home in take a winners/losers approach based on where prices are rising or falling.
NerdWallet looked at things a bit differently and came up with some surprising results.
The San Francisco-based financial advice website, using an array of federal and market stats, went on the hunt for vibrant, growing towns across Massachusetts that are ideal for homeowners.
Topping the list was Wilmington, a town of 22,350 of 17 miles north of Boston that hardly ever pops up on anyone's list. The median home price in Wilmington, home to the Boston Bruins training rink, is $378,900.FULL ENTRY
Greater Boston needs more places to live, not more sports glory.
Some of the city's top business leaders seem intent on mounting a bid to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Boston.
Too bad some of these bigwigs couldn't throw the same energy into something that really matters, such as solving the Boston area's increasingly chronic housing and commuting problems.
I mean it's great the Red Sox have broken the bambino's curse three times over now, while the Patriots have morphed from bottom feeders to the top of the heap in professional football.
The Celtics and Bruins have each won a championship each in the past decade.
Way to go.
But what good is having great sports teams if you can't find an affordable house to buy or apartment to rent?
Here's a toast to The Arlington, Boston's latest luxury rental address.
The developers, a joint venture between big-time local builder Dean Stratouly and New York's Related Cos., did something that sadly counts as radical these days in Boston.
Instead of putting up yet another cookie cutter glass tower, the developers spent tens of million renovating 100 Arlington Street, a neat 1920s mid-rise in Park Square.
Previously home to the Boston Renaissance Charter School, the 14-story, art-deco building "features a limestone and brick facade and two-story arched windows on the street and penthouse levels," according to a press release pumped out by the developers.
You'd pay a lot of money to build something like that now, which is probably why everything new looks pretty much the same now.
Boston and a growing number of suburbs all have one thing in common now - home values that are once again at peak levels.
At a median value of $418,300, Boston has blown past the prior pricing peak set during the bubble years. So have Cambridge ($541,800), Brookline ($591,500), Newton ($793,100), Watertown ($425,000), Wellesley ($1,012,000) Winchester ($789,000), Cohasset ($748,900) and Somerville ($435,800).
All told, 22 out of 156 communities surveyed by Zillow in Greater Boston are back at peak pricing levels. (Zillow blends assessed values with prices.)
And of course, I have forgotten to mention Belmont, Concord, Lexington, Lincoln - you get the picture.FULL ENTRY
Yes, condo prices are getting nutty again.
The median price of a condo in Massachusetts crossed the $300,000 threshold in January.
That's the highest condo price ever for a January since The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman, began tracking condo prices back in 1987.
It also represents a 24 percent increase from January 2013, when the median price for a condo in the Bay State was at a relatively more affordable $242,000.
By comparison, the median U.S. home price weighs in at $188,900. And that's after a 10 percent increase in January.
Condo sales were also up by a pretty sizable 16 percent, with 1,144 units changing hands the first month of the year, The Warren Group reports.
What's even more amazing, condo prices are not all that far behind single-family home prices in Massachusetts, with the median home price in January rising 16 percent, to $315,000.
The spring market is getting ready to kick into gear. And would-be home sellers across Massachusetts are once again seeing dollar signs.
Reports of rising home prices have emboldened many sellers, who think the crazy days of the real estate bubble have returned and the sky is the limit.
But while prices are definitely going up, the easy money mortgages that drove the last bubble are gone.
In fact, when it comes to pricing your home, the margin of error is not all that big, warns Bruce Taylor, co-founder of ERA Key Realty Services in Whitinsville.
ERA Key Realty has 18 offices doing business across a broad swath of Central Massachusetts, from south to Franklin and north to Lowell and as far east as Framingham.
A seller might be able to get away with a little overpricing. You might even find a buyer if you list at 5 percent above comparable properties in your neighborhood.
But once you hit 10 percent, you are going to run into some serious problems, Taylor contends.
In his market, that's roughly pricing your house at $330,000 instead of $300,000.
"We have had a very significant rebound in the last two years but we we are still not back at 2006 levels," Taylor notes.
If you needed any more convincing that Greater Boston is one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, just take a look at open house listings.
I did a search on Realtor.com for all open houses this Sunday within 20 miles of Boston and came up a grand total of 1,331.
I then knocked the price range down to $500,000 and roughly halved that number. OK, pricey, but still manageable.
But when go below that rough median point, the pickings get slimmer fast. Less than a quarter of all open houses feature listings under $300,000, or 264 out of 1,331.
Knock that price down to $250,000, and that pool shrinks again, to 141. That's still a pretty high number given the median U.S. home price stood at just under $200,000 at the end of 2013.
So what's available for under $250,000?
Long-time Somerville homeowner and cheerleader FormerlyF took exception to my blog post questioning whether some Somerville sellers might be getting a bit carried away. Actually not just carried away, but deluded even.
You see, the number of Somerville listings priced at $700,000-and-up as exploded, now making up more than 41 percent of all the homes on the market in the city. That's compared to just 7.5 percent last year.
We are talking about a total of 17 homes, including 2 priced at over a million.
(Of course, if you want to see a lot of high-priced listings, Somerville still can't hold a candle to Cambridge. I just counted well more than a dozen listings on Redfin of $1 million and up, including this gorgeous old mansion near Harvard Square being offered for $7.2 million.)
But FormerlyF contends the Somerville sellers aren't deluded, but rather well poised to cash on in what will be a hot spring market. If anybody is going to be having the last laugh here, it will be all those Somerville sellers who cash in for big prices, not the online scoffers, he argues. (OK, I'm paraphrasing, but you get the point.)
Bill Wendel is serving up some pretty strong brew these days at the Real Estate Cafe in Cambridge.
Wendel just sent over stats showing a dramatic increase in $700,000 and up listings in Somerville, which he has dubbed "Delusionville."
And yes, the stats do raise some questions as to whether some Somerville sellers have temporarily lost leave of their senses.
This time last year, just 7.5 percent of all Somerville listings were priced at over $700,000. This year, that number has topped 41 percent.
That's 17 listings at the top end of the market in the city that's home to such hipster hotspots like Davis Square, compared to a grand total of just four last year.
Thinking of fixing up your home? This spring may finally be the time to strap on the tool belt and get to work.
Or if you like me, with minimal handyman skills, stick to the painting and demolition and hire a capable contractor.
The payback for home renovation projects plunged after the real estate bubble collapsed and Great Recession hit.
But after nearly a decade of tough times, renovation values are on the rise again, reports Hanley Wood, publisher of Remodeling magazine, in its annual Cost Vs. Value Report.
Millennials are hardly the first generation to graduate into a job-killing economy and a miserable housing market.
Gen-Xers entered the work world in the early 1990s when the term "downsizing" gained currency, followed by the even more idiotic "rightsizing."
Much was made of the plight of Gen-Xers stuck without work or in dead-end jobs, living at home or with a gazillion roommates - the movie "Reality Bites" offers us some laughs while capturing the funk of those times.
I counted myself lucky to be making a semi-poverty wage, working 60 to 70 hours a week as a reporter for a struggling daily up in the Merrimack Valley after I graduated in 1991.
Nationally, the recession was a fairly mild one. But in New England at least, the real estate market was a mess and the local economy in a severe recession, with a once red hot condo market having gone belly up, taking with it some of the region's top banks.
Good luck to homeowners who still think they can renovate on the cheap.
Residential and commercial contractors across the country are now more likely to walk away from a job than give in to demands to slash prices, remodeling magazine reports.
Just a little over a quarter of contractors reported dropping prices in 2013 to win work, according to an L.E.K. Consulting survey cited by remodeling.
That's compared to 44 percent of contractors who back in 2010 reported giving on price in order to get work.
Today's majestic waterfront home could very well turn out to be tomorrow's underwater wreck.
Sea levels along the Massachusetts coast are expected to rise two to six feet over the course of this century. In fact, they have already risen by nearly a foot over the past century.
More powerful and destructive storms like Sandy are already ripping apart sections of the coast, wiping out waterfront homes in a matter of a few furious hours.
So what happens to all those waterfront homeowners who are now finding themselves in the path of coastal inundation?
Stocks are tumbling. Is the great investor real estate sell-off next?
Wall Street investment funds and mom and pop operators like have spent years vacuuming up distressed homes across the country.
Now with prices rising by double digit rates, investors are looking to cash in. In practical terms, that means they are going to start dumping these one-time foreclosure specials on the market in 2014 and beyond, a panel of 110 economists and real estate forecasters surveyed by Zillow finds.
That could be good news for buyers as the spring market approaches, potentially cutting down on competition from cash-rich investors while putting more listings on the market.
The impact is likely to be a bit more muted in Greater Boston, where the big investment funds never really arrived, though we have certainly had our fair share of activity by smaller operators.
Condos have long been a starter home alternative here in Massachusetts, the land of perpetually increasing home prices.
But condos are suddenly not looking at all that affordable now. The median price statewide hit $300,000 in January, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reports this morning.
Just last January, the median price was a considerably lower $250,000, so we are talking about a 20 percent increase, according to real estate trade group monthly report on pending sales. (Basically, it's condos that have been put under agreement, but have to officially close and change hands.)
Boston's overheated luxury rental market may finally be headed for a correction.
So says John Ford. Owner of downtown Boston brokerage by the same name, Ford's Boston Real Estate Blog offers an insightful and independent take on the city's real estate market.
"There could be a correction in the luxury apartment market this year," Ford noted when I called him last week. "There are too many luxury apartments and I don't see that changing in the near future."
(You can find the quote in my B&T column that just appeared today, where I tackle the luxury apartment overload in depth.)
So why the concern?FULL ENTRY