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10 Real Estate Predictions for the New Year

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

10 Real Estate Predictions for the New Year

RISMEDIA, December 22, 2010—The start of a new year is often a time of reflection, as well as a time of anticipation for the future. It’s no different for real estate professionals, many of whom have weathered the recession and are now optimistic about 2011. From the return of new construction to the creation of healthier homes, the following are 10 residential real estate trends they see for the coming year:

1.) Building is back: After three years of little to no new development, John Wozniak of Wheaton, Illinois-based J. Lawrence Homes said the builder is excited about 2011. “After a couple of very challenging years, the market for new-construction housing is showing signs of life. Slowly but surely, homes are selling and new properties are breaking ground, such as the two communities we opened this year in Lynwood and North Aurora,” he said. “We’ve had encouraging sales and I believe they point to an uptick for 2011.”

2.) Apartments continue to thrive: If there has been one bright spot over the past few years in the real estate industry, it has been the rental market.

“People have realized the many benefits of renting, from having more flexibility with your housing commitments to a higher level of finishes and amenities. And, this demand will continue to outpace supply,” said Steve Fifield, president of Fifield Cos. “Appraisal Research reports that Chicago’s Class A downtown apartments are at a nearly 95 percent occupancy rate, and those numbers will continue to stay very strong for 2011.”

3.) Opting for established: The mega-communities in the exurbs are a thing of the past, said Brian Brunhofer of Meritus Homes. Instead, 2011 will see builders move toward smaller neighborhoods or pockets of homes in established communities. “Close-knit communities with respected homeowner associations, mature landscaping and neighbors waiting to greet you – that attractive quality of life is going to appeal to buyers much more in 2011.”

Seconding the movement toward established communities is Jeff Benach of Lexington Homes. “Buyers are looking for a safer investment for their home purchase,” he said. “We won’t see them roll the dice like in the past on a fast-growing town in a far-out suburb. They want a proven area with access to retail development and employment corridors. They don’t want to wait for the surrounding area to be built. They want everything already in place,” he said.

4.) Make it modern: Chalk it up to “Mad Men” or simply a pendulum swing in taste, but either way transitional and warm-modern design will be prevalent in 2011, said Brian Goldberg, a partner in LG Development Group. “Our clients are looking for a cleaner approach to the style of their homes – more mid-century and less traditional with a warm and tailored aesthetic,” he said.

Ray Hartshorne, principal of Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, agrees. “From the single-family side, our clients are gravitating toward modern design instead of strictly traditional, that is simple, clean line exteriors and open floor plans that are comfortable for the family and versatile for entertaining,” he said. “In the multi-family sector, now more than ever, we are seeing an interest in contemporary-themed and luxurious interior design for lobbies and common areas.”

5.) Buying for the long term: The Census shows the average person moves about 11 times, but Jim Chittaro, president of Smykal Homes, predicts that number will slowly decrease. “Thankfully, the idea of a home as a short-term moneymaker is essentially gone, so when people do buy, they’ll do it with the intention of staying put for closer to 10 years rather than two to three,” he said

This means people will be studying floor plans more closely, to ensure the home will grow with them, Chittaro continued. “Buyers want to be sure the home will suit their needs not only now, but down the road, whether they plan to expand their family or prepare for kids to leave the nest,” he said. “Floor plans that can adapt to lifestyle changes with flexible features like second family rooms should do well in 2011.”

Brunhofer agrees that more buyers will be looking for a home for the long haul. “It’s not just floor plans that buyers are going over with a fine-tooth comb,” Brunhofer said. “Our buyers are very careful about school districts. They want to know they can send all of their children to a school with a proven track record and not have to relocate a few years down the road to ensure a good education.”

The shift to long-term buyers will also put long-term builders in the spotlight. “People are hesitant to buy a home from a builder or secure a mortgage from a lender they don't perceive to be well-established,” said Benach. “Buyers want to know their builder is committed to them and the community, and that it’s not about making a quick buck or boosting a shareholder’s financial interest. That personal connection is really important.”

6.) Upping the ante on amenities: In 2011, developers will continue to create new and exciting amenities to differentiate their properties and keep them relevant in the marketplace, said Tony Rossi, president of RMK Management Corp. “Renters are looking for something special, like an outdoor grilling area or special events like dance lessons,” he said.

But it’s not just enhanced outdoor spaces in apartments that will matter in 2011. Benach thinks condo and townhome buyers will also place a higher importance on outdoor space in the coming year, especially those who live in an urban setting.

“People may realize they don’t need to live with as much square footage inside their home, so to compensate they’ll want a place to call their own outside their home,” said Benach.

7.) High-tech takes over: Running your home entertainment system, appliances and lighting from a centralized control panel is old news. Going forward, we’ll see more homeowners want a smart phone app that can control their residence remotely, noted Goldberg.

“Each year, the demand increases for home technology that makes homeowners’ lives easier,” he said. “We’ll get to a point, and some of our clients are almost there, where homeowners can leave work and by activating an app on their phone have all of their home electronics queued up when they walk in the door – the oven is preheated, lights come on and a TV show turns on when motion sensors recognize they’ve walked into the room. It may sound like a movie, but some of this technology we can build into homes now.”

8.) Smaller homes stay the course: The average size of a new home decreased for the first time in decades from 2008 to 2009, and that trend will continue into 2011, said Benach.

“This trend is fueled by first-time buyers with smaller budgets, requiring smaller homes,” he said. “New buyers will have to be more conservative with their mortgages and will need to pay a higher percentage for a down payment, which means they’ll need a home with a smaller price,” he said. “People won’t be buying more than they need. So to meet their needs, we’ll see builders continue to trim the size of their homes and look for new ways to make square footage work harder.”

9.) Green and gorgeous: As the green movement continues to grow, high-end builders and developers have found ways to make homes both green and gorgeous. “The old mind set was that a green home couldn’t also be stylish and sophisticated. It was as if the two concepts were mutually exclusive,” said Hartshorne. “But new products and forward-thinking design have proved that today’s homeowners can have both. Also, building a green home doesn’t have to break the bank. We are constantly being introduced to attractive, sustainable building materials that are more cost effective than in the past.”

10.) Healthy homes: When you consider a study by the National Institutes of Health that found the number of people with allergies is as much as five times higher than 30 years ago, the trend toward building homes with a healthier environment will also gain ground in 2011, said Goldberg.

“Indoor air quality, low VOC paints and adhesives, and all-around healthier materials are becoming more and more of a concern for people building homes – especially for those with children,” he said.

Rick Croce, from Wheaton-based Smykal Renovations, said this trend applies to existing homes, too. “Due to the economy, many people have decided to stay put in their existing home, which means they’ll be investing in changes to make it look better and live healthier,” he said. “We expect to be pricing out more jobs that include installing HVAC systems with better filtration, using low-VOC materials and even replacing old doors and windows to safeguard against exterior pollutants.”

New Changes in Homestead Act

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

According to the Boston Globe article of 12/18/10, “The legislation clarifies ambiguities in a law first enacted in 1851. The statute, amended a number of times in ensuing years, provided $500,000 in protection from creditors — but only for homeowners who file a so-called homestead declaration with a county registry of deeds, a process that can cost between $35 and $100. Under the new law, homeowners do not have to make such a filing unless they hold more than $125,000 in equity in their homes. They can still get $500,000 in protection if they file a homestead declaration.”

For more information, please contact me at 978.471.9750 or ingridmiles@kw.com.

Received from North Shore Association of REALTORS

5 Holiday Shopping Traps to Avoid

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

5 Holiday Shopping Traps to Avoid

RISMEDIA — Finding the right gift at the right price can be challenging, especially during the holiday season when deep discounts and door-buster sales abound. A recent issue of Consumer Reports highlights five traps holiday shoppers can avoid.

"Knowing how to navigate sales, comparison shop, and cut through salespeople jargon is half the battle to stress-free holiday shopping," said Tod Marks, senior editor at Consumer Reports. "Shoppers need to take precautionary measures before purchasing gifts to make sure they are getting the right product, for the right price, with no strings attached."

Five Holiday Shopping Traps to Avoid

1. Deep discount come-ons. "Door-buster" sales promise big savings. Consumer Reports found an electric percolator "on-sale" at Kohl's stores and Kohls.com for $61.99, a discount from the regular $69.99. But those prices are higher than the $59.99 manufacturer's suggested retail price. Retailers, especially discount stores, commonly sell below MSRP. Using a Web search, Consumer Reports found better deals. The best price was $30.03 plus $8.21 shipping at Salestores.com.

What to do? Comparison shop before buying and don't worry about missing a sale, it's likely that another one will come around before the season ends.

2. Gift-card gotchas. New federal rules for gift cards limit issuers' ability to charge certain fees and impose expiration dates. Inactivity and service fees can be charged only if a card hasn't been used for at least one year. But issuers can still charge fees to buy cards, as they do for bank-issued variety, those that bear a credit-card logo. For example, expect to pay $3 to $7 for an American Express gift card. Also, gift cards are not protected if an issuer goes bankrupt. If that's the case, the card could be worthless.

Beyond that, many people never get around to spending their gift cards. A quarter of people surveyed by Consumer Reports in October 2009 who received gift cards the previous year said they hadn't redeemed their almost one year-old cards.

What to do? Give cash or a check. Cash never expires and is good anywhere. If the check is never cashed, the money stays in your bank account.

3. Extended-warranty pitches. Salespeople push service plans because retailers keep 50 percent or more of what they charge for them, but they are notoriously bad deals. Some repairs are already covered by the standard warranty that comes automatically with the product. Consumer Reports' data shows that products seldom break within the extended-warranty window of coverage, when items do break, the repairs, on average, cost about the same as the warranty.

What to do? Some credit cards automatically extend the manufacturer's warranty on anything purchased with them, so check the card's website. Even if the warranty expired, check with the retailer or manufacturer, which might choose or be legally obligated to repair and make good on a product that prematurely fails or otherwise shows signs of a defect.

4. Return-policy limitations. Some retailers relax their return policies during the holiday season, but don't count on it and always learn the rules before buying. Some companies have different return policies for in-store, online, or mail-order purchases.

What to do?
Keep the receipt and let the recipient know the return policy. If the store provides a special gift receipt, include that with your gift.

5. Restocking fees. Many items, especially electronics and special orders, are subject to restocking fees that range from 10–25 percent if they are not returned in a factory-sealed box.

What to do?
Don't open the package unless you're sure you want the item inside. Items such as computer software, music CDs, and movie DVDs generally aren't returnable if the seal is broken. If a fee is charged, try to negotiate a partial refund, but never pay a fee if the item is defective.

5 Holiday Shopping Traps to Avoid

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

5 Holiday Shopping Traps to Avoid

RISMEDIA — Finding the right gift at the right price can be challenging, especially during the holiday season when deep discounts and door-buster sales abound. A recent issue of Consumer Reports highlights five traps holiday shoppers can avoid.

"Knowing how to navigate sales, comparison shop, and cut through salespeople jargon is half the battle to stress-free holiday shopping," said Tod Marks, senior editor at Consumer Reports. "Shoppers need to take precautionary measures before purchasing gifts to make sure they are getting the right product, for the right price, with no strings attached."

Five Holiday Shopping Traps to Avoid

1. Deep discount come-ons. "Door-buster" sales promise big savings. Consumer Reports found an electric percolator "on-sale" at Kohl's stores and Kohls.com for $61.99, a discount from the regular $69.99. But those prices are higher than the $59.99 manufacturer's suggested retail price. Retailers, especially discount stores, commonly sell below MSRP. Using a Web search, Consumer Reports found better deals. The best price was $30.03 plus $8.21 shipping at Salestores.com.

What to do? Comparison shop before buying and don't worry about missing a sale, it's likely that another one will come around before the season ends.

2. Gift-card gotchas. New federal rules for gift cards limit issuers' ability to charge certain fees and impose expiration dates. Inactivity and service fees can be charged only if a card hasn't been used for at least one year. But issuers can still charge fees to buy cards, as they do for bank-issued variety, those that bear a credit-card logo. For example, expect to pay $3 to $7 for an American Express gift card. Also, gift cards are not protected if an issuer goes bankrupt. If that's the case, the card could be worthless.

Beyond that, many people never get around to spending their gift cards. A quarter of people surveyed by Consumer Reports in October 2009 who received gift cards the previous year said they hadn't redeemed their almost one year-old cards.

What to do? Give cash or a check. Cash never expires and is good anywhere. If the check is never cashed, the money stays in your bank account.

3. Extended-warranty pitches. Salespeople push service plans because retailers keep 50 percent or more of what they charge for them, but they are notoriously bad deals. Some repairs are already covered by the standard warranty that comes automatically with the product. Consumer Reports' data shows that products seldom break within the extended-warranty window of coverage, when items do break, the repairs, on average, cost about the same as the warranty.

What to do? Some credit cards automatically extend the manufacturer's warranty on anything purchased with them, so check the card's website. Even if the warranty expired, check with the retailer or manufacturer, which might choose or be legally obligated to repair and make good on a product that prematurely fails or otherwise shows signs of a defect.

4. Return-policy limitations. Some retailers relax their return policies during the holiday season, but don't count on it and always learn the rules before buying. Some companies have different return policies for in-store, online, or mail-order purchases.

What to do?
Keep the receipt and let the recipient know the return policy. If the store provides a special gift receipt, include that with your gift.

5. Restocking fees. Many items, especially electronics and special orders, are subject to restocking fees that range from 10–25 percent if they are not returned in a factory-sealed box.

What to do?
Don't open the package unless you're sure you want the item inside. Items such as computer software, music CDs, and movie DVDs generally aren't returnable if the seal is broken. If a fee is charged, try to negotiate a partial refund, but never pay a fee if the item is defective.

5 Holiday Shopping Traps to Avoid

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

5 Holiday Shopping Traps to Avoid

RISMEDIA — Finding the right gift at the right price can be challenging, especially during the holiday season when deep discounts and door-buster sales abound. A recent issue of Consumer Reports highlights five traps holiday shoppers can avoid.

"Knowing how to navigate sales, comparison shop, and cut through salespeople jargon is half the battle to stress-free holiday shopping," said Tod Marks, senior editor at Consumer Reports. "Shoppers need to take precautionary measures before purchasing gifts to make sure they are getting the right product, for the right price, with no strings attached."

Five Holiday Shopping Traps to Avoid

1. Deep discount come-ons. "Door-buster" sales promise big savings. Consumer Reports found an electric percolator "on-sale" at Kohl's stores and Kohls.com for $61.99, a discount from the regular $69.99. But those prices are higher than the $59.99 manufacturer's suggested retail price. Retailers, especially discount stores, commonly sell below MSRP. Using a Web search, Consumer Reports found better deals. The best price was $30.03 plus $8.21 shipping at Salestores.com.

What to do? Comparison shop before buying and don't worry about missing a sale, it's likely that another one will come around before the season ends.

2. Gift-card gotchas. New federal rules for gift cards limit issuers' ability to charge certain fees and impose expiration dates. Inactivity and service fees can be charged only if a card hasn't been used for at least one year. But issuers can still charge fees to buy cards, as they do for bank-issued variety, those that bear a credit-card logo. For example, expect to pay $3 to $7 for an American Express gift card. Also, gift cards are not protected if an issuer goes bankrupt. If that's the case, the card could be worthless.

Beyond that, many people never get around to spending their gift cards. A quarter of people surveyed by Consumer Reports in October 2009 who received gift cards the previous year said they hadn't redeemed their almost one year-old cards.

What to do? Give cash or a check. Cash never expires and is good anywhere. If the check is never cashed, the money stays in your bank account.

3. Extended-warranty pitches. Salespeople push service plans because retailers keep 50 percent or more of what they charge for them, but they are notoriously bad deals. Some repairs are already covered by the standard warranty that comes automatically with the product. Consumer Reports' data shows that products seldom break within the extended-warranty window of coverage, when items do break, the repairs, on average, cost about the same as the warranty.

What to do? Some credit cards automatically extend the manufacturer's warranty on anything purchased with them, so check the card's website. Even if the warranty expired, check with the retailer or manufacturer, which might choose or be legally obligated to repair and make good on a product that prematurely fails or otherwise shows signs of a defect.

4. Return-policy limitations. Some retailers relax their return policies during the holiday season, but don't count on it and always learn the rules before buying. Some companies have different return policies for in-store, online, or mail-order purchases.

What to do?
Keep the receipt and let the recipient know the return policy. If the store provides a special gift receipt, include that with your gift.

5. Restocking fees. Many items, especially electronics and special orders, are subject to restocking fees that range from 10–25 percent if they are not returned in a factory-sealed box.

What to do?
Don't open the package unless you're sure you want the item inside. Items such as computer software, music CDs, and movie DVDs generally aren't returnable if the seal is broken. If a fee is charged, try to negotiate a partial refund, but never pay a fee if the item is defective.

How to fight colds and flu: What works and what doesn’t

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

 

The much-dreaded cold and flu season is upon us. And if you’re like me, there isn’t any spare time built into the schedule to be sick. So how can I bolster my defenses against the germs lurking in the common areas in my office, the mall where I do my holiday shopping and the rest stops I encounter in my holiday travels?

I took a look at the research Emily Sohn and Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., have written about for EatingWell and pulled together a list of what’s worth trying—and what’s not.

Try It: Vitamin D
In a study published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children who took daily vitamin D supplements (1,200 IU) were 40 percent less likely to get a common flu virus than kids who took a placebo. Laboratory studies indicate that the nutrient may help immune cells identify and destroy bacteria and viruses that make us sick, says Adit Ginde, M.D., M.P.H., a public health researcher at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. 

Although the Institute of Medicine released in a report November 30 new recommendations for vitamin D (600 International Units per day for everyone, except men aged 71+ who should get 800 IU), they “only focused on bone health,” says Ginde. “There is not yet enough evidence to definitely prove that vitamin D reduces infections, but the amount recommended for bone health is lower than what we think is needed for improved immunity and reduced infections. Most people need at least 1,000 IU a day and some need 2,000 IU daily or higher to reach levels that appear necessary for optimal immune responses.” While many experts recommend a vitamin D supplement, you can also get it (in small doses) from fatty fish, such as salmon, and fortified milk—and your body makes vitamin D from the sun.

Try It: Green tea

Polyphenols, potent plant antioxidants, are what’s believed to give green tea its immune-boosting effects. One laboratory study suggested that a particular type of polyphenols called catechins may kill influenza viruses. To maximize benefits and minimize bitterness, use just-below-boiling water and steep green tea no more than a minute or two. A little lemon and honey can also help blunt the bitterness. But don’t add milk, because the proteins will bind to the polyphenols, making them ineffective.

Try It: Probiotics
Some research suggests that when these so-called “good” bacteria—found in yogurt, sauerkraut and other foods—reach the lower intestine, they not only suppress the growth of “bad” bacteria but also might activate the immune system to fight off diseases in other ways. But studies showing a clear boost to the immune system are few. In one study of 33 healthy young women, both “regular” yogurt and so-called “probiotic-fortified” yogurt (which contained added beneficial bacteria cultures) were found to boost T-cells, key players in the body’s defenses against viruses and other pathogens. But it’s a long way from findings like those to “assuming that by loading up on yogurt—or sauerkraut or kimchi—you can boost your immune system enough to fight off something like the H1N1 flu,” says Barry Goldin, Ph.D., professor in the department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. Fortifying yourself with a daily dose of fermented foods can’t hurt, says Goldin, “but if you want to beat the flu, get vaccinated.”

Quick tip: Look for fermented dairy products, such as yogurt or kefir (a yogurt-like beverage), that are labeled with a “Live & Active Cultures” seal from the National Yogurt Association. The seal signifies that the yogurt contains a set minimum amount of two particular types of beneficial bacteria.

Try It: Soluble Fiber
Mice that ate a diet rich in soluble fiber for six weeks recovered from a bacterial infection in half the time it took mice that chowed on meals containing mixed fiber, according to a recent study in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. Soluble fiber—abundant in citrus fruits, apples, carrots, beans and oats—helps fight inflammation, says lead author Christina Sherry, Ph.D., R.D., of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Insoluble fiber—found in wheat, whole grains, nuts and green leafy vegetables—is still important for overall health, but it doesn’t seem to have the same impact on immunity. Strive for 25 to 38 grams of total fiber a day, Sherry says, paying extra attention to getting the soluble kind.

Skip It: Airborne
As with many label claims, Airborne’s current one begins with a kernel of truth: vitamins A, C, E, zinc and selenium—nutrients in the supplement—are among the vitamins and minerals that our immune systems need to function efficiently. According to a 2002 report in the British Journal of Nutrition, deficiencies of any of these nutrients (or of vitamins B6, B12, folic acid, copper or iron) can depress immunity. But the key word is deficiency; most of us—save for smokers, pregnant women, breastfeeding women and the elderly—meet our needs for these nutrients with the foods we eat. (If you fall into any of those higher-risk categories, talk with your doctor before taking a supplement.) And more isn’t better. Excess amounts of many nutrients are potentially harmful, and it’s all too easy to go overboard. Just one tablet of Airborne contains 1,667 percent of the daily recommended value (DRV) for vitamin C.

Skip It: Glacéau’s Vitaminwater “Defense”
This drink, with a label that claims it is “specially formulated with nutrients required for optimal functioning of the immune system,” doesn’t deliver the mega-high doses of nutrients that Airborne does. (A 20-ounce bottle of the water contains 150 percent of the DRV of vitamin C and 25 percent for four B vitamins and zinc.) Plus it delivers 125 calories per bottle.

(c) By Eating Well Magazine, Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.

10 things to love about yoga in the winter

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

10 things to love about yoga in the winter

(Originally published Winter 2008)
  1. Not having to wake up quite so early to do your practice while the sun is rising.
  2. More time to attend workshops on the weekends when it's not competing with yard work (understandably, gardening IS yoga for many of us...but not so much for me)
  3. How well our twisting postures prepare us for shoveling.
  4. A warm toasty studio or meditation spot on an icy cold day.
  5. That yoga allows us to practice impermanence. That all sensations (in this case, cold ones) pass (unless you live on the North Pole).
  6. Snow cancellations give us "extra" time that we can use to practice, read, meditate.
  7. A meditation walking through a snow storm and listening to the sounds (a kind of buffered quiet I've never heard elsewhere)
  8. Bundling up in blankets for savasana.
  9. Heating up your body all on your own through a vigorous practice.
  10. More opportunities to stay indoors and develop a home practice.

by Florian Yoga Companion Post

Displaying blog entries 1-7 of 7

Contact Information

Photo of Ingrid Miles, CBR, SRES, Lead REALTOR, Stephen Mil Real Estate
Ingrid Miles, CBR, SRES, Lead REALTOR, Stephen Mil
Keller Williams Realty
11 South Main St & 1 Merrimac St
Topsfield & Newburyport MA 01983 & 01950
Direct: 978-471-9750
978.861.4218
Fax: 978-861-4218

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