News from our Director of Productivity

Power Shift
Technology puts the client in the driver’s seat

Colleen Barry, GSIR Director of Productivity

IMG_5795Technology has revolutionized our world. Each of us has instant access to unfathomable amounts of information, art, and music, right in the palms our hands. While we mourn the loss of the local book stores, record stores, and travel agencies, we rejoice in the ability to communicate with someone across the globe. We revel in our ability to research nearly any
topic.

Likewise, there have been many positive developments that have shifted the balance of power away from service providers and into the hands of their clients. Real estate is one industry that has seen some of the more dramatic changes. From how people search for homes, to how homeowners think about selling, real estate has been revolutionized.

Fifteen to twenty years ago, a home buyer would need to contact a real estate agent in order to find out which homes were available. The agent would tell them about the properties available in nearby neighborhoods and would gather a list of open houses. Now, third-party aggregators like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com gather information from public record, MLS services, and other sources to give home buyers the ability to search on their own. They can see what the neighborhood looks like, assess key characteristics of nearby schools, survey the options for grocery stores, and map how far the location is from their workplaces or loved ones. Buyers can see where and when the public open houses are occurring and can attend on their own.

This unfettered access to information has uncovered a fascinating contradiction: You might think that the power shift away from real estate agencies as “gatekeepers of information” would have reduced the need for them; just as the ability to search for and book hotels and airfare eliminated the need for most travel agents. But, just the opposite has occurred. While third-party aggregators placed more power in the hands of each buyer, they created an unexpected need for professional help.

• Because buyers are doing more of the legwork themselves, the process has increased in duration from seven weeks to twelve weeks from 2001 to 2013. (source: NAR Study of Home Buyers and Sellers, 2014)
• The percentage of home buyers using an agent grew 27.5% from 2001 to 2013. (source: NAR Study of Home Buyers and Sellers, 2014)

This apparent contradiction highlights what an agent’s job has been all along: To be a home buyer’s or seller’s trusted advisor and guide. I argue that ours is a service industry much more than a sales industry. It simply took a technological revolution to make that clear. Annual studies by the National Association of Realtors (source: NAR Study of Home Buyers and Sellers, 2014) have found that what buyers and sellers want from their real estate agents hasn’t changed much:

Chart 1 Chart 1 002jpg

In short, clients want service, just as they always have.

Agents also help clients find the most accurate information. Not all the data on third-party websites is accurate; a predictable result of gathering complicated data from many sources. One example of this is the typical inaccuracy of a value estimate. Third-party websites typically use Automated Valuation Models (AVM) to generate values. While AVMs are easy to find, they can be wildly inaccurate. A 2015 study done by Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty found that AVMs were over the actual sale prices by an average of only 6%. But, within that group, some properties were over or under the actual sale price by 25% and 41%. Property valuation is an art. It requires skill and nuanced understanding of a home’s location, curb appeal, architectural style, condition, and other variables. As of now, AVMs are not able to create an accurate assessment of most properties.

Within the real estate industry, there also have been improvements to how we, as agents, share available properties, make offers, and complete transactions. Fifteen to twenty years ago an agent would take one picture of a property to market it. The marketing would typically consist of a one-page brochure, a window display, and a newspaper ad. The reach was extremely limited and the advertising lacked user engagement. Now our agents use our professional photographers to take dozens of beautiful photos. A study by VHT Studios in Chicago showed that professional photography sold homes 32% faster (source: VHT Studios, 9/14). Then the listing is shared in an online MLS (or several) and sent to third-party aggregators. Each viewer can zoom in on photos in each room to get a true feel for the property.

These enhancements have also opened up the international buyer market. As members of the Sotheby’s International Realty network, our listings appear on more than fifty websites and a cascading platform of dozens of affiliated companies’ websites. Many of our third-party websites have international audiences or are based in foreign countries, allowing a buyer in Beijing, London, or Dubai to virtually tour our homes. This has increased exposure for each property, thereby quickening the pace of the market and increasing final sale prices for our clients. International buyers tend to make cash offers due to the difficulty in securing financing as a non-citizen, eliminating the need for financing contingencies. In fact, Boston is #7 in the ranking of US cities for real estate investment, underscoring the importance of reaching a worldwide audience. (AFIRE Foreign Investment Survey, 2015)

A lot of the paperwork involved in the transaction has also gone digital. Programs like Dot Loop and Docusign allow agents to create digital contracts and send them to their clients via email. Then clients can sign them quickly and easily from their computers, tablets, or smart phones. Recently, one of our clients submitted and won a competing bid by while waiting in the airport for his plane to board. That could never have been accomplished in the past. No longer do our clients need to wait by a fax machine or sign for a package delivered by bike courier. They can carry on their normal lives during the process of purchasing a home. The ability to act quickly has become even more critical since in 2014, 35% of properties in Boston sold for more than the asking price. (source: MLSpin)

Chart 1 Chart 1

Is the industry done changing? Definitely not. There is a battle being fought between several third-party aggregators. Zillow acquired the rental property website, Rent Juice, and then acquired Trulia. This created a giant in the industry. However, Rupert Mudoch’s News Corp, acquired the Realtor.com website in 2014, after buying List Hub, a data distributor that had been feeding Zillow and Trulia. Predictably, List Hub ceased its distribution to give Realtor.com the edge in the market. This forced Zillow to scramble to create relationships with individual MLS services throughout the country. This battle will continue for the foreseeable future.

No one knows who the key players will be a few years from now. But, we can predict that change will continue to affect agencies and their clients. Real estate will become even more of an international business. And, if the competition continues, we can expect improved features and services to benefit all of us.

Real Estate News: Number of New Listings Continues to Grow with Temperature as Spring Market Progresses

The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR) reported that single-family home sales in April were down close to six percent compared to the same time last year as a shortage of homes for sale impacted the number of closings. Demand for available single-family homes pushed prices up, while condominium sales and prices were also down in April. Looking more to Greater Boston specifically, new listings continue to increase while closed sales decrease. Median sale prices also continue to grow adding to the value of property in this competitive market.

Greater Boston’s April Closed Sales:

Single-Family April 2015 April 2014 %Change
Sales 780 862 -9.5%
Median Price $470,000 $440,000 +6.8%
Pending Sales 1,700 1,475 +15.3%
Condominium April 2015 April 2014 %Change
Sales 663 867 -23.5%
Median Price $440,000 $397,000 +10.8%
Pending Sales 1,332 1,225 +8.7%

“A shortage of homes for sale has forced closed sales down in April,” said 2015 MAR President Corinne Fitzgerald. “As the spring market progresses, we’re starting to see more homes come on the market and if this trend continues, we should see a very active summer.”

The decrease in sales both in single-family homes and condominiums was not out of the ordinary specifically in the Greater Boston area. With the heavy snow fall and harsh temperatures this winter, buyers have not been able to actively attend open houses and view homes for sale. This ultimately has put a hold on sellers listing their home for sale. Undeniably, sales activity would be much higher if inventory was not at such a low.

Although condominium sales have decreased since April of 2014, on a month-to-month basis condo sales rose a tremendous 15% from 576 condos sold in March throughout the Greater Boston area. The Greater Boston Association of Realtors reported that the demand for condos remains strong especially among entry-level buyers looking to convert from renting to home ownership, overseas investors and suburban empty-nesters looking to downsize or relocate to Boston.

Greater Boston’s Inventory and Days on Market:

Single-Family April  2015 April 2014 %Change
Inventory 2,964 3,590 -17.4%
Months of Supply 3.8 4.2 -8.8%
Days on Market 90 86 +4.9%
New Listings 2,531 2,242 +12.9%
Condominium April 2015 April 2014 %Change
Inventory 1,530 1,872 -18.3%
Months of Supply 2.3 2.2 +6.9%
Days on Market 57 58 -1.4%
New Listings 1,740 1,568 +11.0%

The amount of new listings coming onto the market cannot keep up with the buyer demand at this time. In the Greater Boston area new single family homes coming onto the market improved nearly 13% (or almost 300 units) from the same month a year ago, and an outstanding 63% (or almost 1,000 homes) from March.

In Greater Boston’s condo market, sellers are profiting greatly. The typical condo owner was able to sell their unit either at or just below the full original asking price. The Greater Boston Association of Realtors reported that the percentage of original list price to selling price rose a full point to 100.4% in April, marking the 15th consecutive month the ratio of list price to sale price has reached or exceeded 98%.

“The long winter may have delayed the start of spring selling season, but there’s every indication the market will continue to heat up with the temperatures” stated GBAR President David McCarthy. “The local economy is adding jobs, mortgage rates remain near record lows, and property values are appreciating steadily once again. I’m optimistic sales will rebound and that the next few months will be very busy,” he added.

Ultimately not only in Boston, but across Massachusetts as a whole there is not enough inventory to keep up with the demand which continues to put upward pressure on prices. The number of new listings continues to grow with the temperature as the spring season progresses. If this trend continues, the late start to the spring season will make for an active summer season answering to those sellers who may be reluctant to list in fear that they will not find a home to buy.

About the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®:
Organized in 1924, the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® is a professional trade organization with more than 21,000+ 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.

Vacation Homes: A Feature of Extraordinary Homes Listed by our Affiliates in Other Desirable Regions

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died while serving in the U.S. military. Celebrated on the last Monday of May each year, Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day following the Civil War and officially became a federal holiday in 1971.

Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial kick off to summer is spent attending memorials, holding family gatherings and going on vacation in remembrance.

Where will you be spending your holiday weekend? Featured here are extraordinary vacation homes listed by our affiliates in other desirable regions where the Sotheby’s International Realty brand extends. Click each photo for more information.

Pink Chimneys_aerial Bermuda

Tucker’s Town, Bermuda | Rego Sotheby’s International Realty | $16,750,000

250 Baxters Neck Road, Marston Mills | Sotheby's International Realty | $5,199,000

Cape Cod, Massachusetts| Sotheby’s International Realty | $5,199,000

New London, New Hampshire | Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty | $4,950,000

New London, New Hampshire | Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty | $4,950,000

51 Gunning Point Avenue, Falmouth | Sotheby's International Realty | $3,195,250

Cape Cod, Massachusetts | Sotheby’s International Realty- Falmouth Brokerage | $3,195,250

916 Main Street, Cotuit | Sotheby's International Realty-  Osterville Brokerage | $2,450,000

Cape Code, Massachusetts| Sotheby’s International Realty- Osterville Brokerage | $2,450,000

45 Childs River Road, Falmouth | Sotheby's International Realty | $1,395,000

Cape Cod, Massachusetts | Sotheby’s International Realty | $1,395,000

7 Collins Brook Road- Windham, NH | Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty | $969,000

Windham, New Hampshire | Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty | $969,000

45 High Street - Camden, Maine | Legacy Properties Sotheby's International Realty | $940,000

Camden, Maine | Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty | $940,000

434 Eel River Road, Osterville | Sotheby's International Realty- Osterville Brokerage | $850,000

Cape Cod, Massachusetts | Sotheby’s International Realty- Osterville Brokerage | $850,000

73 Goodwin Lane- Lyman, Maine | Legacy Properties Sotheby's International Realty | $699,000

Lyman, Maine | Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty | $699,000

'Tucker's Point Golf Villas,' Tucker's Town, Bermuda | Rego Sotheby's International Realty | $199,500 - $399,500

‘Tucker’s Point Golf Villas,’ Bermuda | Rego Sotheby’s International Realty | $199,500 – $399,500

To view more beautiful homes visit our Destinations Section in the spring 2015 issue of the ‘Collection Magazine.’ Make one of these beautiful homes your own by calling 844.667.6663 or email relocation@gibsonsir.com

Real Estate News: Dorchester to See Transformations Surrounding MBTA Stations

IMG_3325The neighborhoods surrounding Dorchester’s MBTA stations are “on the cusp of transformation” according to the Boston Globe. New housing, shopping options, and broader economic growth are all of the buzz throughout these Dorchester neighborhoods.

Currently more than 275 apartments are under construction neighboring the JFK/UMass Red Line station and nearby on Mount Vernon Street another 184-unit building is in the works.

Growth does not stop there for Dorchester! At the next southbound stop, Savin Hill, there is a proposal for 375 new homes and a 60,000 square foot cluster of restaurants and stores. Between the Red Line and Fairmount Commuter Rail other apartments, stores, hotels and a 65,000 square foot cinema are being pitched. Lastly, at Ashmont Station another rental and retail building will be added in 2016.

“This is a huge opportunity,” said Richard Taylor, director of the Center for Real Estate at Suffolk University. “You get a lot of ripple effects from this kind of development. It increases residential density, you have more arts and entertainment, and it injects more income to support local retail.”

As a result of a historically strong market, developers are now able to finance large-scale projects in parts of the city that were once skipped over during prior building booms. The Boston Globe reported that, “Over the next few years, developers could add more than 1,400 homes near Dorchester transit stops, including two-bedroom condominiums priced under $450,000 and apartments renting for hundreds of dollars less than comparable units downtown.”

A few current projects under review by the Boston Redevelopment Authority include DotBlock, a 4-acre site which will include a mix of small-scale condos and larger apartment complexes. DotBlock is predicted to include up to 375 housing units, stores, restaurants and a parking garage projected to see construction early next year.

DOTBLOCK

Meanwhile next to to the South Bay shopping complex (less than a half-mile from Andrew Station and adjacent to several bus lines as well as the Newmarket Station on the Fairmount Line) there has been a proposed 500 residences, along with a hotel, smaller stores, restaurants and a new cinema.

Other large projects include 278 apartments next to the JFK/UMass stop as well as an 84-unit condo and apartment building near Ashmont Station.

Source: Boston Globe

Sotheby’s News: Spring 2015’s ‘The Collection’ Magazine Released!

The Spring 2015  issue of the Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty ‘The Collection’ magazine was just released and is on it’s way to mailboxes all over the region!

Read about the opening of our new office, detailed market reports of Boston & Massachusetts and view our featured listings in the Spring 2015 Collection Magazine:

The Spring 2015 magazine is already an overwhelming success thanks to the great efforts put forth by the Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty Leadership Team, Marketing Team, participating businesses and all of the agents who now have their listings proudly and professionally advertised in the 10,000 circulating copies.

Please look to share this electronic version of the magazine with your sellers, buyers, sphere of influence and via your various social networks.

Contact us today for all your real estate needs by calling 844.667.6663 or visit our website: Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty for more information.

Sotheby’s International Realty News: Significant Sales – Volume 2, 2015

The latest issue of Significant Sales has been released and features top sales from around the world.  Here at Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty we are pleased to announce that our very own, Will Montero’s sale of 130 Commonwealth Avenue has made this issue!

Beginning with a captivating penthouse in New York, also featured are ocean views in Florida, an inviting estate in Colorado and more than twenty other properties from around the globe.

New York

$55,559,392 USD | New York, USA | Sotheby’s International Realty-East Side Manhattan Brokerage

New York – This home is located on a full floor in the tower of Manhattan’s tallest residential building high over Central Park. It has exceptional personal service from Park Hyatt’s new five-star flagship hotel available to all owners. One57 is surrounded by the city’s best restaurants, shopping, entertainment and cultural offerings of Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and Broadway.

DCIM101MEDIA

$19,000,000 USD | Florida, USA | Nestler Poletto Sotheby’s International Realty

Florida – This property is ideally located in the renowned Estate Section of Delray Beach, just seconds to the famed Atlantic Avenue, north of Boca Raton’s Mizner Park and south of Palm Beach Island’s Worth Avenue. The home sits on one of South Florida’s best land parcels with incredible privacy, great elevation, stunning ocean views and one of the deepest oceanfront parcels the South Florida coastline has to offer. It features six full bedrooms, seven full and three half baths and 16,000 square feet. It was designed by Affiniti Architects with Marc Michaels interiors and built by Mark Timothy Homes.

Colorado

$15,100,000 USD | Colorado, USA | Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty

Colorado – A truly unique offering, this spectacular home is just a few blocks from Aspen’s core, yet it is situated with end of the road privacy and peaceful outdoor space. The combination of size, luxury and location are rarely seen in this market. There are six en suite bedrooms, plus an office, gym and media room.

California

$15,000,000 | California, USA | Sotheby’s International Realty-Montecito-Upper Village Road Brokerage

California – One of Montecito’s premier properties is perfectly situated on prestigious Picacho Lane. South facing terraces look over lush gardens to ocean and island views. This architectural masterpiece is unparalleled for its luxury, amenities and attention to detail. The approximately 3.5-acre estate is graced with two private water wells, a two-bedroom guest house, pool house, staff quarters and a north south tennis court

Bermuda

$14,750,000 | Bermuda | Rego Sotheby’s International Realty

Bermuda – This expansive estate was beautifully designed and built in 1992 for the enjoyment of a large family. Every detail of the property has been carefully crafted with high end materials and work- manship designed with a fine sensitivity to traditional Bermuda features. The main house includes four spacious bedrooms all en-suite, a large formal living room, informal living room/movie room with wet bar, dining room and library all with fireplaces, an office wing, a conservatory, two wine cellars, elevators and a two-bedroom staff apartment. The grounds are magnificent with a beach pavilion, two-bedroom guest cottage, separate gym, pool, tennis court and putting green, as well as access to Grape Bay Beach.

Significant Sales was designed to be a powerful tool in local marketing for listing distinctive properties as it showcases the global reach and power of our broad network.

Click here for the full issue of the Volume 2 2015 Significant Sales.

 

Featured Properties: Inspiring Homes Have Views as Expansive as Your Vision

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6 and 7 Mount Vernon Place rest in a truly unmatched Beacon Hill location.

Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty introduces a one-of-a-kind opportunity to complete a five story Greek Revival Single Family home. Located in one of Boston’s most desirable neighborhoods of Beacon Hill, 6 and 7 Mount Vernon Place are two residences that have the potential to be your historic dream home.

In the 1830’s both 6 and 7 Mount Vernon Place were built as single family brick residences with flat facades and traditional brownstone sills. Later in their history they were purchased by the Unitarian Church and used as a meeting house and Bed and Breakfast. Today in 2015 the opportunity awaits where you are able to purchase either home in shell condition and customize the living space to your liking.

The current developer of both 6 and 7 Mount Vernon Place has secured permitting for completion of all exterior work including new windows, restored shutters, repointing, roofing, and new electric, water and sewer utilities for the potential new owners of these historic gems.

6 and 7 Mount Vernon Place both have an approximate living area of 7,500 +/- square feet and are being offered as potential six bedroom, six full and three half bathroom homes.

Well thought suggested layouts that maximize potential have been proposed. Below you will see two sample suggested floor plans.

Roof RND (2)

Roof RND (2)

Rendering are courtesy of CBT and are for representation only. Actual product may vary. Floor plans are preliminary. All layouts are subject to change and all measurements are approximate and subject to normal construction variances and tolerances.

Each home will benefit from an underground shared garage with an adjacent project from the same developer at 25 Beacon as well as an assigned outdoor parking spot in front of the house.

6 and 7 Mount Vernon Place are exclusively listed by Beth Dickerson of Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty. Email Beth.Dickerson@SothebysRealty.com or call 617.510.8565 for more information about this rare opportunity.