Here's a new twist on that old idea of writing to the seller.
A Topsfield couple recently hit the jackpot after sending out a mass mailing to a hundred or so homes in Topsfield and Danvers seeking potential sellers, the Globe reports.
OK, this wasn't some form letter. The couple, Dan and Meghan Keith, did a fair amount of research, narrowing targeted homes down to ones they could afford and would want to live in.
The letter included a family picture with their daughter and dog, the story notes.
The couple took the plunge after months of fruitless house hunting, unable to find anything on the market that fit their needs.
"Everybody thought I was crazy," Meghan Keith tells the Globe. "But it ended up working out, which is weird."
Home buyers and owners have certainly faced their share of misery over the past decade.
And the return of escalating home prices is fast undoing any minor increase in affordability created after the real estate market - and the world economy - tanked back in 2008.
But all is not well in Renter Nation either.
No, it's not the happy land of footloose and fancy free Millennial types we have all been hearing about, who are choosing to rent because it fits their evolving, earth friendly lifestyles.
Rather, renters across the country are increasingly finding themselves cash strapped, having to devote ever greater amounts of shrinking or stagnant paychecks just to keep a roof over their heads.
If you are looking for a deal on a house, better get moving then. The next month or two is probably going to be your best chance for the next year.
Why? Well the holiday season is here. And, as I recently noted here, sellers still looking for buyers at this time of year are more likely to cut prices and move on, having struck out in the fall or summer.
Just think about it. If you are trying to sell your house between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you clearly aren't messing around or fishing for your fantasy price. That is unless your idea of fun is having home buyers pop up on your doorstep the day after Christmas.
In fact, you can buy a home at a significant discount in some of the most coveted suburbs out there, with a growing number of sellers in some of the nicest towns slashing prices by 5 percent or more as we head into December. Sometimes a lot more.
If you have a thing for old homes, nothing is worse than seeing some beautiful old colonial or Victorian leveled to make way for yet another McMansion.
Enter Barbara Jones. The Needham contractor launched Little Pink Houses a couple years ago to provide an alternative to homeowners who want to sell but aren't keen to see all their memories bulldozed away to make way for some cold, grotesquely large and soulless box.
Jones aim is to hit the $600,000 to $800,000 end of the market in Needham where listings are comparatively scarce, while saving some of the town's graceful older homes from the wrecking ball.
So what neighborhoods in Boston draw the most eyeballs when it comes to online listings?
Trulia just released its top ten list for Boston - it's ranks various parts of the city based on most homes viewed online, not on sales or prices, though most these neighborhoods did just fine on those counts as well.
OK, it's pretty clear Isitfriday has big plans for his house.
A regular on the comment board of this blog, isitfriday is confident his house, presumably somewhere in over-priced Greater Boston, will be his meal ticket when he retires.
After 30 years of paying the bank, isitfriday says he plans to be live debt free and then cash in on the equity built up in his house. With home prices on the rise again - and Boston area prices roughly 70 percent above their 2000 levels - it can be a tempting idea to indulge.
Is anyone else planning on using their house as a means to retire? I'm figuring in 30 years my mortgage will be paid off, house will be worth a lot more, and even if reverse mortgages don't exist, I'll still be able to sell for a good bit, downsize and spend all my money on healthcare!
OK, I like the idea of living mortgage free - that's likely part of my own retirement playbook once Karen and I finish paying off our Natick fixer-upper sometime in the 2030s.
But I am not so sure banking on a big gain in home equity - and planning to live off of it in your golden years - is the wisest thing.
You may not find your dream home this time of year. Actually, I can almost guarantee you won't, especially here in perpetually overpriced Greater Boston, where even Watertown and Natick now boast million-dollar condos.
But amid the most competitive market in a decade, the slower pace of the holiday season could prove to be a gift from on high for frustrated buyers.
This is a time of year when only serious buyers and sellers need apply.
After all, with a month packed with company parties, family gatherings and the onset of serious winter weather, it's a tough time of year to be either showing your house or looking for one.
Yet for frustrated buyers ready to take the holiday home-buying plunge, this could be a chance to land a house at a more bearable cost.
If you think home prices are high now, well just wait until next year.
The median sale price of Massachusetts homes could hit $355,000 next year, up from just under $325,000 during the first ten months of 2013, Tim Warren, chief executive of The Warren Group, predicts in this Globe piece.
So what's the big deal? Well that would actually bring local home prices back to levels not seen since 2005, during the peak of the housing bubble.
As you may or may not recall, 2005 was a great year to sell a house, but not so much to buy one.
Fall is sliding into winter and the holidays are here, but the real estate market shows no signs of going into hibernation.
In fact, it still looks like a crazy fast market, with pressure - really too much pressure - on buyers to act fast.
Just under a third of homes across the country are snagging buyers within two weeks, according to Redfin.
But in Boston, buyers face even more of a push to act quickly - not the greatest thing when you are weighing what is likely to be the biggest financial commitment you will never make.
The number of Boston listings that sold under two weeks in October topped 40.2 percent, with the pace even picking up a bit from September, albeit slightly, from 40.1 percent in September.
Are sellers finally rushing to cash in on all those double-digit price increases?
The housing market recovery to date has been a buyer-driven affair, with sellers lounging on the sidelines, watching, waiting and worrying.
OK, now some would-be sellers may simply still be locked into homes they overpaid for during the bubble years, while others may have refinanced at rock-bottom rates and are essentially locked into place.
But with home prices rising at double digit rates, a growing number of Greater Boston homeowners are opting to roll the dice and plant "For Sale' signs on their front lawns.
New listings of single-family homes jumped nearly 11 percent in October across Massachusetts in October, to just a shade under 6,000, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reports this morning.
That's means roughly an additional 600 homes hit the market last month compared to October 2012.
OK, there is no shortage of million-dollar condos and town homes in downtown Boston, Cambridge or hip parts of Somerville like Davis Square.
But would you lay out more a million or more for a town home or condo in Natick, Wayland or Watertown?
If so, here's a $1.1 million town home in South Natick that was built in 2002. That counts as brand spanking new in the Boston area.
Now South Natick is nice - it feels like an extension of Wellesley - but that's a lot of dough.
Maybe reading comprehension just isn't what it used to be.
Not sure what it is, but every time this blog delves into rising home prices, an increasingly problematic aspect of life in the Boston area, some of our more vocal housing bears on this blog automatically cry foul.
In fact, they see nothing less than a real estate industry conspiracy intent on revving up the housing market!
Not that home prices need any help right now, but the idea is pretty absurd.
A case in point is the reaction on the comment board of this blog to Thursday's post, "Hot fall market shatters records - and raises concerns."
If you really want that house, grab a pen and start pouring your heart out to the seller.
And above all, don't forget to gush. Shed that New England reserve and let it all tumble out about how you will cherish the seller's house long after they have moved on to that retirement community in Arizona.
Apparently, your closing argument should paint an idyllic vision of you and your family sitting by the fire in the seller's house, forever grateful to the generous, wise and bountiful sellers who gave you the keys to this man-made paradise.
Don't forget the cute photos of kids and pets as well, preferably your own, but really any will do.
Says Trulia: This should be the emotional punch line statement that bonds the seller to the buyer so much that they yell out - "I like these buyers and want them to live in my home!"
Wow, now that's a letter!
OK, I am only half serious here - still gushing seems to be a prerequisite if you want to write one of these letters, at least based on the advice being doled out to buyers on the many real estate websites out there.
Nearly 30 percent of all winning bids by Boston area buyers included a "cover letter" or personal appeal to the seller, according to Redfin's latest report on bidding wars in various metro markets across the country.
Bay State pending home sales hit record highs this fall, new data just out shows.
The number of single-family homes put under agreement in September and October were the highest on record since the Massachusetts Association of Realtors began tracking the numbers back in 2004.
Pending home sales across Massachusetts rose 17 percent this October compared to last year, to 4,793. September sales were also up 16.2 percent year over year, to 4,297.
Prices also rose as well - by double digits yet again - up 12.3 percent in October, to $320,000, compared to October 2012, MAR reports.
By comparison, back during the bubble years, there were 4,048 pending home sales in October and 3,959 in September, according to MLS numbers collected by the Realtors organization.
The October numbers were particularly telling, coming smack dab in the middle of the banana-republic government shutdown and fears that Congressional lunkheads might send the country - and the global economy - barreling over the fiscal cliff.
Looks like most buyers here simply shrugged this nonsense off.
One spring day a couple years ago, my dad told sat in my living room and told me he was terrified of winding up in a nursing home.
My parents couldn't afford to move into any of the local assisted living developments they had looked at, which pretty clearly set their entry prices based on what affluent seniors can sell their homes for in the Boston area.
They had sold their condo on the Cape, but had not cleared enough to pay for even the smallest apartment at the least expensive assisted living facility in Eastern Massachusetts.
I pledged to my dad that I would never let him be shunted off to a nursing home - even if it meant moving him and my mother in with me, Karen and our three little ones in our relatively modest Natick fixer-upper.
It never came to that and that's probably a good thing - the only available space was the small, downstairs playroom off the dining room.
We could and would have done it, but it definitely would have been a very tight squeeze.
Instead, I moved my parents, both well into their 80s and increasingly frail, to an apartment in an assisted living complex in Illinois, five minutes from where my older brother lives outside of Chicago.
Real estate is a lot cheaper there and the care they receive in Illinois is as good if not better than anything they could have managed to pay for here.
Needless to say, though, the whole experience was eye opening.
Yes, it's expensive to buy a four bedroom home, the gold standard of today's market.
A four bedroom, two bath home costs on average $510,736 here in the Bay State, according to a recent Coldwell Banker survey.
But while four bedrooms are undoubtedly popular with buyers who have growing families, what's wrong with three bedrooms and maybe just one bathroom?
After all, that was the middle class standard during the golden years of the 1950s and into the 1960s, an era that mass produced modest capes and ranches, that, at 1,100 to 1,200 square feet, feel cramped to many buyers today.
Homes that were, and remain today, relatively affordable, even though they have fallen out of fashion and, in the tonier suburbs, are getting flattened to make way for McMansions.
My recent blog post on the increasingly astronomical cost of the four bed, two bath home, drew a strong reaction on the comment board from some who question why anyone really needs four bedrooms, kids or not.
So much for all the doom and gloom talk of a looming real estate slowdown.
Economists for the various real estate websites and brokerages out there have been talking up a storm about how the Fed, rising interest rates and the troubles in Washington were adding up to big trouble for home sales and prices.
Yet instead of a slowdown, we are seeing, if anything, acceleration, with homes in Greater Boston selling like hot cakes, according to a new Zillow survey.
Homes within the I-495 beltway that sold in September were on the market about 99 days before finding a buyer.
That's down from an average of 107 days on market last year, or 7 percent faster, to be exact.
Here's one New York trend for Boston's high-rise set to keep an eye on.
New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio apparently is scaring the daylights out of luxury condo owners in the Big Apple with his plans to hike taxes on the rich.
De Blasio wants to boost New York City's income tax - yes, New York has its own income tax - to 4.41 percent on everyone in the city making $500,000 and up.
New York's new lefty/progressive mayor says he will use the extra millions to pay for universal pre-K.
Anyway, that already has some super rich Manhattan condo owners checking out new digs in exclusive Englewood and other New York suburbs, CNBC's Diana Olick reports.
So what has this got to do with Boston?
Growing number of home buyers are effectively locked out of the market, a new report finds.
While much has been written on the subject, here's a rather striking summary of the bleak situation many buyers face right now trying to get a mortgage and land a home.
"Conventional lending is all but closed to people of color, low-and- moderate income households, and first-time home buyers. Indeed, more than 70 percent of GSE activity is refinancing existing loans," states the report just put out by the by The Opportunity Agenda, National Fair Housing Alliance and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers.
Now I am sure some housing bears may applaud the fact that homeownership rates have plunged since the mid-2000s. Nationally, just over 65 percent of Americans are living in houses they or their families own, down from more than 69 percent in 2004, this Bloomberg piece finds.
But that decline primarily appears to be coming at the expense of minority home buyers, as well as families of more modest means from all backgrounds.
The white ownership rate has remained steady at about 73 percent, while for blacks it is now hovering around 43 percent, albeit up slightly by a fraction of a percent in the third quarter.
To say the least, that's really troubling.
When it comes to sports stars trying to unload their mansions, the western suburbs are great pretty crowded these days.
Paul Pierce, the long-time Celtics great traded to the Nets, is taking care of some unfinished business back here in Boston, putting his five bedroom, six-bath Lincoln spread on the market for $2.6 million.
Pierce may have been the Celtics most prolific scorers - No. 2, just ahead of Bird and behind Havilcek - but he's not exactly shooting for the moon with the sale of his 8,362 square foot contemporary.
The Truth is looking for a relatively modest $200,000 gain, having bought his Lincoln mini-manse, which boats big windows looking onto a wooded, 1.87 acre lot, for $2.4 million back in 2003.