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Ipswich Massachusetts Real Estate Blog

Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®


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A Housing Crisis for Seniors

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, SRES, REALTOR®

Last fall, I had to take the car keys away from an elderly relative who lives alone. This intervention should have happened much earlier, but when the day came it was one of the more emotionally wrenching things I’ve ever done. “Don’t take my car away,” he pleaded. “Without my car I don’t have a life.”

The fear he expressed is one shared by many older Americans, who, overwhelmingly, live in places where car travel is a necessity. And that number is skyrocketing: The population aged 65 and over is expected to grow to 79 million from 48 million in the next 20 years, and by 2035, one in three American households will be headed by someone 65 or older (and 9.3 million of those will be one-person households like my relative’s). A report just out from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, “Projects and Implications for a Growing Population: Older Households 2015-2035 Housing,” reveals that this demographic shift will increase the need for affordable, safe housing that is well connected to services way beyond what current supply can meet.

My now-car-free relative is not the sort to sign up for one of those 55-plus communities promising sunshine, gardens and golf. Retirement was an eventuality that inspired in him not relief but dread. Fiercely independent, an old-school intellectual and, frankly, a bit of a loner, he insists on remaining in his suburban home (“I will die in this house” typically ends any conversation in which I suggest a move) — even if that home is slowly becoming a dangerous place for him to be in.

A new study from the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing, a nonprofit research group, shows that suburban areas surrounding the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States make up 79 percent of the population of those areas but accounted for 91 percent of population growth over the past 15 years (and three-quarters of people age 25 to 34 in these metro areas live in suburbs).

Continue reading the main story

But suburban homes were originally designed, and for the most part still are, for young families — and for drivers. They are typically surrounded by other single-family houses. Lacking a fitter partner or a network of helpful neighbors and caring family members, older residents can end up feeling isolated, unable to do basic errands or keep up their property. Further, most suburbs are zoned to prevent any non-single-family housing from being built, whether multiunit projects or the seemingly benign granny flat.

We’ve got to change this paradigm.

Before she died, way too young, of breast cancer at 60, my mother used to say to me, only half-joking, “You promise you’re not going to put your mother in a home, are you?” She had vivid memories of her grandmother’s generally miserable experience at an old-age home.

Decades later, some progress has been made in rethinking these facilities (and they tend to be called “communities” now rather than “the home”), yet the unease about where one will end up as one ages is not at all unfounded. Better housing for older people exists at the lowest and the highest ends of the economic spectrum — for those who can afford luxury options and those who qualify for aid.

Really good options are limited, particularly for the middle class. A colleague of mine, bemoaning the lack of attention and care at his father’s pricey assisted-living center, put it this way: “It’s not like they’re worrying about cultivating repeat customers.”

Thoughtfully designed housing for older adults is not being created on a scale commensurate with the growing need. It’s not a market many architects or developers have embraced. Conversely, a disproportionate amount of attention has been focused on the presumed desires of millennials. We hear all the time that it’s that group that craves walkability, good transit and everything-at-their-doorstep amenities — and that only cities can provide it.

But what if these offerings weren’t exclusively urban? What if suburban communities could provide some of them? And what if more communities weren’t so keyed into specific demographics, maybe even aiming instead to serve multiple generations? Professionals are starting to pay attention, with some suggesting that the housing industry ditch the term “senior” altogether.

NORCs — naturally occurring retirement communities — are found most often in dense and vibrant cities like New York, and demonstrate how well cities can work for older people. But less than a quarter of older adults live in high-density areas, so demand is likely to increase for new housing options within existing suburbs and rural communities. While it wouldn’t be impossible for suburbs to morph into NORCs, it wouldn’t be easy. Zoning precludes a lot of the mixed-use (stores, restaurants, multifamily housing) that is required, as does Nimbyism (the “not in my backyard” syndrome). But we already have many of the tools for incremental transformation.

The social safety net that helped provide so much of what we’re talking about here has evaporated; it has to re-emerge in new ways. As I’ve observed over the years when writing about topics from communes to urban agriculture, much of this is so old-fashioned as to seem innovative.

New York University recently announced an initiative that matches students in need of housing with older people who have rooms to spare. Programs like Marin Villages, in Northern California, put together networks of volunteers to organize activities, cultivate community and supply rides and other services to seniors, though it does not offer housing.

Co-housing, if it can shed its 1960s hippie commune associations, which doesn’t square with how these communities operate today, is another path toward providing community and care for all ages. The homebuilder Lennar is offering houses with a range of floor plans to accommodate varied family stages and needs. De-stigmatizing housing for older people through good design, as architects like David Baker and Anne Fougeron are doing in California, is also heartening, as is Perkins Eastman’s recently released report on biophilic design in senior housing (in non-architect-speak, integrating nature into architecture).

Technology can be part of the solution, though not without some tweaks. I’ve been engaged in a slow-moving campaign to convince my newly nondriving relative of the safety, convenience and economic savings of using the car services Lyft and Uber, but the transition isn’t an easy one. Summoning these cars is a no-brainer for heavy users of smartphones, but for older people with declining vision and motor skills, it’s a puzzle. (Why is it nearly impossible to telephone one of these services? It shouldn’t be.)

On-demand delivery services (meals, groceries, medicine) can also help bridge the gap, with the caveat that receiving everything at your doorstep can increase isolation (that goes for all ages). Expect a slew of “smart” products to hit the marketplace soon, some actually smart (some probably really stupid) that include “time to take your medication” notification systems, wearables that deploy airbags in case of a fall or aid in walking and sitting.

The difficulties inside the home are significant, and homes themselves must evolve and adapt as their residents age. And again, there are existing fixes: universal design elements such as step-free entrances, single-floor living, under-counter appliances, and halls and doorways that accommodate wheelchairs. Many of these could be standard, yet, typically, they’re renovations done after the need for them arises.

Every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 people will reach age 65. That companies aren’t scrambling to exploit this market is not only unfortunate for their bottom line, but almost certainly treacherous, eventually, for all of us.

New Smoke Alarm Regulations When Selling Older Homes

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

For Immediate Release - November 16, 2016

New Smoke Alarm Regulations When Selling Older Homes 

No Expired Alarms; Replacement Alarms Must Have 10-year Batteries 

Starting December 1, older one- and two-family homes cannot be sold with expired or out-of-date smoke alarms. The Board of Fire Prevention Regulations has revised the State Fire Code to require that one- and two-family homes built before 1975 must have working smoke alarms that have not expired. Working smoke alarms installed prior to December 1, 2016 (that met previous requirements) can continue to be used until they are ten years old or have exceeded the manufacturer’s recommended life, whichever occurs first.

State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “Most people know they should have working smoke alarms. The one thing many people don’t realize is that smoke alarms need to be replaced about every ten years.” Major manufacturers of smoke alarms indicate they have a service life of about ten years and recommend replacement after that because the sensing technology deteriorates over time.

New Requirements When Replacing Alarms
When replacing expired alarms, the regulations require the new alarms be photoelectric with a hush button feature to silence nuisance alarms. Intensifying smoke will override the hush feature. Alarms can be photoelectric alone, or in combination with ionization technology. They may also provide smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detection in the same device. The biggest change is that replacement battery powered alarms will have to have a 10-year, sealed, non-replaceable, non-rechargeable battery. These batteries won’t ever have to be changed for the life of the smoke alarm. The entire unit, the smoke alarm and the battery, will need to be replaced at the end of ten years, and the alarm will give you an end-of-life warning.

Guide for Homeowners and Realtors
The Department of Fire Services has posted an updated version our Consumer’s Guide to Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Requirements for Selling 1- and 2-Family Homes pdf format of ConumersGuideSD-CO2016_booklet.pdf
 on our website. The guide covering the existing requirements for homes being sold through November 30 will remain on the site until December 1. Go to and type “Smoke Alarm Regulations” in the search box. The best source of information about a specific home is your local fire prevention bureau as they will be conducting the inspection.

Every Home Should Have Working Smoke and CO alarms
“The goal is to have working smoke and CO alarms when you really need them. Alarms that are easier to keep in good working order, should reduce the reasons people disable them,” said Ostroskey.

How to Find Out How Old Smoke or CO Alarms Are:
Check the manufacture date stamped on the back of the alarm to see how old it is. If it doesn’t have one, then it is already more than ten years old and needs to be replaced.

No Working Smoke Alarms in 55% of Last Winter’s Fire Deaths
“Last winter too many people died in homes without working smoke alarms,” said Ostroskey, “No one thinks fire will happen to them, but a majority of fire deaths occur in homes without working alarms.” Last winter (December 2015 – March 2016), there were 31 fire deaths in homes and in more than 1/2, 55%, there were no working smoke alarms. One-third of those who died in fires were seniors – people over 65.


by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

Study: Bidding Wars Here to Stay


The housing bubble was known for bidding wars, as buyers tried to snag a limited number of homes for sale and sent home prices soaring way over list prices. In the aftermath of the housing crisis, bidding wars still haven’t disappeared in some markets—and they aren’t likely to go away anytime soon, new research suggests.

Read more: Bidding Wars Brew Under Tight Supplies

Prior to the housing bubble, about 3 to 4 percent of homes on the market nationwide were sold in bidding wars, according to new research published in the journal Real Estate Economics. Researchers evaluated National Association of REALTORS® data dating back to the 1980s. During the peak of the housing bubble, nearly 30 percent of homes in metro Washington, D.C. were selling via bidding wars – the highest share of any other metro analyzed. In Los Angeles, 26 percent of the homes sold via bidding wars during this time; 23 percent in Las Vegas; and 22 percent in Baltimore and Norfolk, according to the study.

Since the housing crisis, the percentages have dropped considerably, but still remain elevated, according to the analysis.

“The persistence of this suggests that people have decided that this is a good way to think about selling these kinds of goods, selling houses in a more auction-like way,” says William Strange, an economist at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and one of the co-authors on the study.

It’s not just in areas with limited inventories of homes for sale that are seeing bidding wars either, researchers note. But they also suggest that real estate professionals may be strategically listing homes below their value to spur bidding wars.

“With the rise of bidding wars, we shouldn’t think that the housing market – like other markets – is just going to keep doing things in the old traditional ways forever and ever,” Strange told The Washington Post. “There are going to be changes.”

Source: “A Legacy of the Housing Bubble That Won’t Go Away: Bidding Wars,” The Washington Post (March 10, 2015)

The Smart Home

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

The Smart Home

Posted on July 13, 2015 by Keller Williams Realty International1 Comment ↓

It is now easier than ever to control virtually everything in a home with the simple click of a button or smart phone app. What was once only science fiction has become reality.

Not only can smart gadgets make homes more convenient and efficient, they also have the potential to increase home values and make them more attractive to buyers. Here are three popular smart home upgrades that could potentially increase home value and desirability, especially among millennial buyers who crave convenience and technology:


Programmable thermostats have been around for decades and are standard in most homes.  Smart thermostats, like nest, offer the ability to change the temperature and control it from your phone when you are away.

It even has the ability to track your temperature preferences and program itself within a week of installation.


Why Buyers Like This Feature

One huge advantage the nest has over other programmable thermostats is its ability to alert homeowners when a set temperature threshold has been reached.

Imagine having the ability to receive a notification that the temperature in your home is rapidly rising or falling alerting to a potential A/C or heat unit malfunction. This feature is especially comforting for people with pets. During the extreme summer and winter months, this could be potentially life-saving.

Another attractive benefit to a smart thermometer is the energy savings it promises. New home buyers are often concerned with potential future savings over the cost of their mortgage. The prospect of lowered energy bills is attractive.

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide  Detectors

Smart smoke detectors not only sound an alarm when smoke is detected, they also monitor for carbon monoxide. These products are also available from nest.

These potentially life-saving gadgets can send alerts to your cell phone when danger is suspected.

Depending on the brand, some smart smoke detectors speak before they sound to allow the homeowner a chance to dismiss the alarm before it sounds.

Why Buyers Like This Feature

Some homeowner insurance companies offer discounted premiums for homes with smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

 Keyless Entry

Another smart gadget gaining popularity is keyless door locks. These devices have the ability to remotely lock and unlock doors from a smart phone. No more turning around to make sure you locked the front door or leaving keys under the mat.

At $250 per door as sold by august store, these locks are significantly more expensive than traditional locks.

Why Buyers Like This Feature

Among the advantages of keyless entry is the ability to program locks to allow certain access codes for specific time periods. For example, if you have a cleaning service or dog walker, you can provide them with a code to use on certain days and times only. This offers security and flexibility for many home owners. 

One comment on “The Smart Home”

  • Tina says:
    July 16, 2015 at 5:28 pm We have the Wink system in our house. We’ve had keyless entry and programmable lights and outlets for about a year and absolutely love it. We can run macros from our phones to turn off all the lights in the house at the same time, or set timers on outlets for a fan to run during specific hours. It’s nice to not have to worry about getting up to shut off all the lights at night, or knowing that the porch light will be on when you get home late at night. The keyless entry means no more fumbling for the right key to unlock your door – and no more arguments with my husband because he forgot to lock the door (ours is on a 30 second auto-lock timer). We’re working on installing the Nest and the smoke/CO detectors in our new house as well!

How Much Is Your Home Really Worth?

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

How Much Is Your Home Really Worth?  

If you’re thinking of selling your home, you may be fantasizing about the profit you’ll reap from the sale or calculating exactly how much you’ll need to pay off your current mortgage and have enough left over for a down payment on the next house.

Before your fantasies run amok you need to realize that, while you can estimate the value of your home in a variety of ways, the true value is only what a buyer will pay for it. That said, there are several ways to get a strong idea of how much a buyer will pay for the property in current market conditions.

What Your Home Isn’t Worth

Many homeowners find it confusing that there are various numbers floating around that indicate their home value. Here are a few:

  • Property tax assessment. Each jurisdiction uses a formula to establish home values for a tax assessment, but this price rarely correlates with the market value of your home. Your tax assessment can be higher or lower than the current market value.
  • Homeowners insurance value. Insurance estimates are based on the cost of replacing your home without the land, so this value is skewed compared to market value.
  • Mortgage balance. Your mortgage balance simply reflects your home loan. The difference between your loan payoff and the market value of your home is your equity.
  • Neighbor’s home value. Even if your neighbor’s home is similar to yours, it’s not likely to be identical. A REALTOR® can help you evaluate your home’s worth in the context of other nearby properties.
  • Cost when you purchased the home. Regardless of how long ago you purchased your property, the value can have gone up or down.
  • Desired value. You can always try to put your home on the market for your desired price, but if you’ve over- or under-priced it, you’re shortchanging yourself. because you’re either selling too low or your house could sit on the market and eventually sell for less than if you priced it correctly in the beginning.

Comparative Market Analysis

A REALTOR® can do a comparative market analysis with recent market data to help you estimate your home value. When you sell your home, an appraisal will be required by the buyers’ lender, so keep in mind that your home has to appraise for the selling price or, depending on how your contract is written, you’ll have to renegotiate the sale or the buyers will need to come up with extra cash.

A CMA is both an art and a science. While it’s based on data, it also requires local market knowledge and intuition about which homes to compare and how to interpret the prices. Most REALTORS® will look for recent sales of homes that are similar to yours, preferably within the past two or three months, up to about six months. In addition, a REALTOR® can look at other homes currently on the market and homes that didn’t sell that were taken off the market to compare values.

The comparison of your home with others should include not only the size and the number of bedrooms and baths, but also the condition of your home, the neighborhood and the proximity to amenities. If you do not understand the comparisons a REALTOR® is making, ask to see some of the homes currently on the market or look online at photos of the properties.

While it may be tempting to list your home with the REALTOR® who tells you it can sell at the highest price, a smarter way to sell your home is to price it as accurately as possible from the beginning. Studies show that an overpriced home that lingers on the market will end up selling for less than the estimated correct price.

Seven Ways to Curb Winter Utility Costs While You’re Away!

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

Energy tips.....Ready for a winter vacation? If you’re spending your holidays abroad, take 15 minutes before you head out the door to complete these easy energy-saving to-do’s. You might save enough to buy yourself a massage après-ski. Plus, you'll be more relaxed knowing your home is hibernating safely while you're away.

  1. Turn down your thermostat. Depending on your home’s insulation, you can set your thermostats lower than usual. We recommend keeping it at a steady 55 degrees while you're away, cutting your heating bill significantly. (Do keep in mind the hazards of frozen pipes.) Programmable thermostats, which may be installed at no cost during a home energy evaluation, will let you keep the heat low through your vacation but warm things up just in time for your return. If you'll be away for an extended period, consider turning off the water, draining the pipes and setting the thermostat even lower — but talk to a plumber first.
  2. And your hot water heater (or put it in vacation mode). If your water heater is older than its warranty period, and especially if it's showing signs of age such as leaks or rust, consider replacing it now to avoid the catastrophe of a ruptured tank while you're away. Look for an Energy Star® model to save on the substantial cost of hot water, year-round.
  3. Lower and close all your window treatments such as blinds, curtains and drapes, to hold heat in the house. You should also make sure to lock your windows as that will help further eliminate drafts with a tight seal. While you’re considering windows, be sure that they can hold up to the winter chill – double- or triple-pane ones are best.  
  4. Add insulation and air sealing. If your home has cracks or gaps that let in drafts, or if your insulation is lacking, there's no better time to have the structure sealed and give it a warm blanket. You'll reduce your heating (and cooling) bills year-round, and you're more likely to avoid freezing pipes; this is especially important if you've turned down the thermostats.
  5. Use light timers. If you leave lights on to discourage burglars, put them on timers rather than having them consume electricity 24 hours a day. Save even more power by swapping out your bulbs to high-efficiency bulbs such as CFLs and LEDs, available at low- or no-cost during a home energy evaluation.
  6. Unplug everything you can or put your electronics on smart power strips. These power strips will both turn off your DVR when your TV is off and eliminate electricity leaks from equipment when it's not in use.
  7. Close the damper on your fireplace, if you have one. When you return from vacation, get in the habit of doing this after each fire, as soon as the ashes are completely cold.

Flood Insurance Update as of July 23, 2014

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

MAR Applauds Passage of State Flood Insurance Bill that helps Massachusetts homeowners


BOSTON - July 23, 2014 - The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR) applauds the work done by Governor Patrick, Attorney General Coakley and Speaker DeLeo to address the devastating impacts of the changes to National Flood Insurance Program at the state level with the passage of H3783, An Act relative to flood insurance.

“Due to the older and coastal housing stock in Massachusetts, we have been working tirelessly with the National Association of REALTORS® on a federal level to seek relief for Bay State homeowners after major changes to the National Flood Insurance Program,” said MAR 2014 President Peter Ruffini, regional vice president for Jack Conway REALTORS® in Norwell. “We greatly appreciate that Governor Patrick, Attorney General Coakley and Speaker DeLeo not only recognized this as a serious issue, but also crafted legislation that will help some of those homeowners impacted to prevent default or foreclosure.”
This new law will provide homeowners with the option of purchasing flood insurance in an amount that would only cover the outstanding amount of a mortgage or equity loan. Previously, these homeowners would be required to purchase full replacement value regardless of the value of the mortgage owed. As a result, insurance premiums could be so high that some homeowners could no longer afford to live in their homes. This new law will be beneficial for some to help prevent default or foreclosure, but it is still recommended that homeowners carry enough insurance to protect themselves in the event that they lose their home to a flood.

“We will continue to work with our national association and other coalition partners to address longer term issues involving FEMA mapping and housing affordability,” said Ruffini.

About Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®:
Organized in 1924, the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® is a professional trade organization with more than 19,000 + members.  The term REALTOR® is registered as the exclusive designation of members of the National Association of REALTORS® who subscribe to a strict code of ethics and enjoy continuing education programs.

by Eric Berman | Jul 23, 2014

What's Happening in April?

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

What's happening in April 2014?

  • April Fools' Day - April 1st
  • Total Lunar Eclipse - April 15th
  • Tax Day - April 15th
  • Easter - April 20th
  • Earth Day - April 22nd
  • Holocaust Remembrance Day - April 27th


  • Golf Master's Tournament - April 10th-13th
  • NHL Stanly Cup Playoffs begin - April 16th
  • NBA Playoffs begin - April 19th

Seasonal Foods:

  • Asparagus, Lettuce, Garlic, Rhubarb, Oranges

Famous Birthdays:

  • April 1, 1928 - Jane Powell
  • April 3, 1958 - Alec Baldwin
  • April 3, 1961 - Eddie Murphy
  • April 15, 1452 - Leonardo da Vinci

Ipswich Makes the Top 10 Best Locations to Live in MA -

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®


Ipswich, our 10th best place to live in Massacusetts, boasts a low crime rate, 31 historical locations, and seven parks. It is also accessible by commuter rail.John Phelan/WIkiCommons

10. Ipswich

By Christina Jedra / Globe Correspondent

Ipswich, our 10th best place to live in Massachusetts, boasts a low crime rate, 31 historical locations, and seven parks. It is also accessible by commuter rail.

Economy recovering as housing market cools....

by Ingrid Miles, CBR, REALTOR®

The U.S. housing market appears to be cooling off and that’s not a bad thing, according to Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff.

Rascoff expects home values to appreciate by about 3% in 2014, lower than the 5% appreciation rate homes had been seeing over the past year or so.

“The fact that the housing market is starting to slow down" means the recovery is sustainable, he says. "We had bounced too far off the bottom too quickly and so this slowdown is okay." 

The real estate market, of course, is a bifurcated story. According to Rascoff, appreciation in Las Vegas is up 33% year-over-year. California, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona have also seen home prices appreciate by more than 20% year-over-year.

Washington D.C., Chicago and Philadelphia, however, have all seen home values drop year-over-year.

“These markets are starting to find their own footing, some going way up and some not so much,” explains Rascoff. 

And the markets that are shooting up now won’t be for long, he notes. “It’s unsustainable...Las Vegas at 33% year-over-year [price appreciation] has to come down. What’s important to remember is these markets that are shooting up so quickly fell the furthest so they had a lot further to go on the  way back up.”

So where are the housing risks in 2014?

“What’s driving the housing market now is negative equity,” says Rascoff. “But what’s happened over the last year or two is that about 5 million Americans have been freed from negative equity so in some of these inventory constrained markets where home values were going way up more inventory is coming onto the market and that’s what’s helping to moderate these appreciation rates.” 

The days of buying a home at 50% less than its estimated value are gone.

It’s a seller's market right now according to Rascoff.

“Inventory is still constrained," he says. "There were a lot of buyers that were sitting on the sideline waiting for the media to tell people that home values have bottomed. We’ve now declared that and so buyers are trying to act.”  

Credit given to the The Daily Ticker

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 61

Contact Information

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

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