Housing Prices Rise Again As Sales Remain Strong

Housing prices have been consistently rising throughout the United States. According to a recent report from the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, average housing prices across 20 metropolitan areas rose by 5.5% in October.

Trend of Rising Prices Persists

Prices have been rising steadily for the past 12 months. The 10-City Composite appears to be increasing at a constant pace. The index rose 5.5% in October, compared to a 5.4% increase in September.

Prices have been stable throughout the country, but some regions have experienced stronger increases than others. The markets in Denver, Portland and San Francisco have been the most robust. Prices in these regions have risen 10.9%, more than double the average year-over-year increase throughout the rest of the country.

David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that rising prices are indicative of a healing economy. Generally good economic conditions continue to support gains in home prices,” stated Blitzer. “Among the positive factors are consumers’ expectations of low inflation and further economic growth as well as recent increases in residential construction including single family housing starts.”

Recent economic reports support his position. The last two job reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that economic activity is rapidly improving, which is the most important factor affecting housing demand. The index could rise further if job growth proves to be more resilient in the coming months.

Could Price Increases Stall in 2016?

Analysts are hopeful that the trend will continue through 2016. However, there are a couple of reasons growth could stall.

The Federal Reserve recently enacted a rate increase in December and has hinted that it could raise rates further in the next meeting. Higher interest rates will inevitably make borrowing more expensive, although they may not hurt the housing market considerably if economic activity continues to rise.  

Slowing home sales could also be a leading indicator that prices will fall in the near future. The November report from the National Association of Realtors® showed that completed housing transactions fell 10.5%. Their data shows that the market may have started to peak in mid-summer, which means that there could be a possibility that slowing demand could cause a pricing correction.

Why You Should Hire a Licensed and Insured Contractor

You have probably heard a few horror stories about homeowners that worked with terrible contractors. You shouldn’t let them deter you from hiring an experienced and honest professional the next time you need to remodel your home. You’ll rarely encounter serious problems if you verify they are properly licensed and insured.

M.G.L c. 142A is the code that requires all Massachusetts contractors to be licensed. You will want to check with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation to confirm that they have the proper licenses before hiring them.

Why is it important to choose a licensed and insured contractor?

Making sure that your contractor is licensed and insured before hiring them will save you a lot of grief down the road. Here are some reasons that licensure is so important.

Save Money Redoing their Work

The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs in Business Regulation requires contractors to meet strict eligibility criteria before receiving a license. Therefore, you can depend on a licensed contractor to deliver high-quality work.

Unlicensed contractors can’t guarantee the same quality. One homeowner paid $120,000 to a contractor over the course of 15 years, only to find out that the work was substandard and needed to be redone.

While the generally allows you to collect restitution for work done by unlicensed professionals, some unscrupulous professionals will leave after the work is done and you may never be able to collect. Others may not have the money to repay you.

Receive the Insurance Coverage

While licensed contractors are less likely to create problems, they are still human and occasionally make mistakes. Fortunately, licensed contractors almost always have adequate insurance in case anything goes awry.

However, M.G.L c. 142A  doesn’t require them to be insured, so it’s important to verify first. You’ll sleep easier knowing any possible damages will be covered.

Work Trustworthiness

Trust is very important when working with any professional and contractors are no exception. Contractors that work without a license are much more difficult to trust. Since they are already openly late breaking the law, they may also try to scam you in some other way. On the other hand, licensed contractors are closely monitored by the office of consumer affairs and building regulations. Very few will take the risk of losing their license by exploiting their customers.

Shrewsbury Housing Sales Expected to Rise Further in Spring

The Central Massachusetts housing market has fared much better than expected this winter. The Greater Boston Association of Realtors (GBAR) reported that sales of new homes rose strongly in January. While this may be partially attributed to the unusually mild winter, the market is still outperforming most expectations.  Sales are expected to rise even further in Shrewsbury this spring, as many buyers are looking for refuge from steep prices in Boston.

The GBAR states that data from December and January shows that the market is expected to rise stronger in the spring. They stated that the market usually slows down during the early winter months, so unusual patterns of growth during this time generally indicate a strong market in the spring.

The market for condos may be particularly strong this spring. The GBAR reports that condo prices rose 8.4% over the past year, while single family homes only rose by 3.7%. The accelerating demand for condos could be due to a growing number of young, single adults relocating to the area for new employment.

While these figures are encouraging so far, Zillow experts believe that the high price of housing in urban regions could eventually dissuade buyers. “I do think at some point we are going to start pushing up against the fact that it is actually quite expensive to buy a home,” Svenja Gudell, a chief economist at Zillow told Boston.com. “Even smaller increases will start to deter some homebuyers.”

Of course, people relocating to the Boston area will need to live somewhere. Few will want to keep spending money on rent, so they may choose to purchase homes in Shrewsbury and other small Central Massachusetts communities to build equity.

Some economic variables still cast some uncertainty on the local housing market.  Fed rate hikes and an unpredictable economic environment could threaten future. However, most data has been encouraging so far, so experts are unlikely to taper their forecasts anytime soon.

State Senate Introduces Solutions to Boost Housing Production

The Massachusetts housing market has been improving in recent months. Data from the Greater Boston Association of REALTORS and other organizations shows that sales and prices in 2015 were the strongest in years.

Demand for housing has been rising with economic growth. Low interest rates and new housing programs also have played a prominent role.

 However, the rebound may be in jeopardy if housing production doesn’t improve. State lawmakers are taking two steps to address the concern.

There are several problems that appear to be playing a role. Many parts of the state fell into disarray during the economic downturn. State officials are confident these properties can be restored to the benefit of middle-class and lower income citizens.

State Sen. Linda Dorcena-Forry hopes the state legislature will introduce new solutions for the crisis this year. “Across the commonwealth, low rates of housing production have not kept pace with population growth and need,” she told Wbur.

However, contractors have not taken the initiative to gentrify these properties. State lawmakers will try to encourage them to do so by introducing new legislation in the coming weeks.

Part of the housing crisis also stems from the agent demographic. Lawmakers are considering legislation that would offer generous tax breaks to seniors. In exchange, the government would earned the right to purchase the property at a discount when it goes to market.

Dorcena-Forry and other lawmakers are enthusiastic about the recent housing market recovery. However, they will need to continue working on new solutions to boost housing production to guarantee the sustainability of the rebound.

Local real estate agents should also be pleased with efforts to boost housing production, because they are noticing an increase in demand for many housing units for lower and middle class families. “We had 21 offers on one property recently,” said Joyce DiLiegro, of Exit Realty/Beatrice. “There are so many buyers and not enough property.”

While a modest housing shortage may be driving prices, it limits the opportunities for real estate agents. We can sell more homes over the course of a year if the supply if there are enough for every interested buyer.  

Massachusetts Lawmakers Seek Boost Housing Supply as Demand Rises

Housing sales in Massachusetts recently reached their highest level in 10 years. Real estate agents and property owners across the state have praised the robust recovery. However, a lack of inventory poses a concern for the sustainability of the market. State lawmakers are discussing solutions to increase housing supply to meet the growing demand.

Rising Demand Spurs Need for Solutions as Construction Stalls

A recent report from The Warren Group found that housing sales reached their highest level in 10 years. Prices have continued to rise as well, which suggests that demand is going to rise in the future as well.

The housing rebound is encouraging, but the market may hit a wall if demand stagnates. The vibrant market has prompted policymakers at the state and local levels to pursue solutions.

Several experts have addressed the state legislature to discuss ideas to boost the state housing supply. Clark Ziegler, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, made a presentation on September 29th. Ziegler said that boosting the supply of housing for low income and middle class families will need to be a major priority in the near future.

Other Experts Believe Housing Production Isn’t as Immediate of a Concern

While the contracting inventory is a cause for concern, some experts feel the problem isn’t as severe as some of their colleagues.  Jim Nemetz, a local real estate agent, said housing production is likely to continue through the end of the year.

“I expect a good clip of activity between Thanksgiving and the end of the year,” Nemetz told reporters. “Sales prices sound astronomical, especially in Brookline and Newton, but with the current interest rates, they’re affordable to professionals who work in Boston.”

His sentiments have been echoed by Corinne Fitzgerald, another local real estate broker. “With all these new listings added to the market this month, it suggests to me that we can keep this momentum going into the fall,” Fitzgerald stated. She was very impressed with the year-over-year sales figures this past summer.

All experts agree that the state needs to make increasing the housing supply a priority. However, state lawmakers may not feel pressured to take immediate action until all housing experts indicate that there is a major cause for concern. However, most policymakers recognize that housing units may not be sufficient to meet the growing demand as the state undergoes the strongest growth since the mortgage meltdown.

Important Traits of a Bathroom Designer

Are you having difficulty deciding which traits are important in a bathroom designer? Remember that a designer must be able to do certain things with ease, as well as communicate with you properly to get the job done. Here are 5 things we feel are some of the most important traits of a bathroom designer.

Ability to Communicate Effectively

A good designer should be able to not only produce the results you need, but keep you informed throughout the process. Because visions can be different in each person’s head, detailed and effective communication is key in any bathroom design build process. The bathroom is one of those areas of the house that needs to be functional in a specific way for each individual or family. It gets used possibly the most often of any other room. Therefore, properly communicating from start to finish is a must for any quality designer.

Great Ability to Visualize

Visualization and imagination is key to designing, as the end result will be a different look and design than what is currently there. Also, visualization helps to create a plan that functions. Without prior envisioning, a plan could easily fall apart once construction begins. Many times, visualization needs to ignore and/or make a new use of whatever is in the current space. A good bathroom designer should be able to see what could potentially be there, based on the current space available and what the homeowner needs in both style and functionality.

Finding Creative Solutions

Oftentimes, in designing it’s necessary to be very creative, due to available space or needs. The ability to find creative solutions to difficult issues is a must-have trait in a bathroom designer. Sometimes there are space restraints that make it hard to figure out where to put everything that is needed. That’s where a good designer comes in. A quality professional who is experienced at innovation in design will be extremely helpful in this area.

Versed in Different Design Styles

A designer should be well-versed in various styles. This way, more options are readily available for a homeowner to choose from. Choosing styles goes along with being creative about designs and solutions. The more a designer can do in this department, the better chance that the ultimate result will be one you love that is also fitting when applied to your lifestyle. If a designer doesn’t understand the difference between (for example) a classic style and a Victorian one, you may end up with something completely different than what you envisioned.

Abundance of Product Knowledge

Knowing about the products available both locally and by order is important when it comes to designing a bathroom. When your designer has this kind of knowledge, it opens up many more possibilities. During the visualization process, more creative and desirable options may arise. It also could potentially help save money and allow for extra items within the budget. This knowledge can also speed up the process because that’s less time spent searching endlessly to find out what’s out there. The more product knowledge your designer has, the better it will be for everyone involved.

 

How Design Build with Scope of Work Can Reduce Estimating Errors

 

One of the most common problems with building and remodeling is estimation error. These can blow your construction budget out of proportion if certain aspects or overlooked or contingencies aren’t planned for in the building contract. There are 5 common types of estimating errors that can create project nightmares. Fortunately, there’s a way to reduce and hopefully eliminate these costly estimating errors. Here’s how working with a design-build contractor and having a scope of work can help to reduce these errors to a great degree.

Omitted Items

Sometimes, there are items missing from the blueprints and design specs, omissions which go unnoticed until the construction is already about to be underway or already in progress. These include what are called “soft fees” such as permits or local fees. Other times, there’s a hard construction cost, such as a step in the building process that wasn’t included in the initial estimate that can cost extra thousands of dollars. By hammering out the scope of work with a design-build contractor, these omissions can be greatly reduced or hopefully even eliminated entirely.

Costs Assumed to Be Included in Bids, But Aren’t

Almost every construction bid has a number of sub-contractors and sometimes, their bids won’t include costs that you assume would be included. By working with a design-build contractor, the subcontractors have to submit all the work that they have to do to the contractor to become part of the scope of work. Every detail of the work required by each subcontractor is hammered out so that you don’t find yourself paying extra costs related to the job that the subcontractor may have accidentally forgot to mention or didn’t anticipate.

Inadequate Budget Allowances for Materials

One of the most common estimating errors is making an estimation for materials that turns out to be too low. You may find that the material that was specified for a project turned out to be much more expensive than the contractor’s original estimate. In a design-build scope of work, allowances are made for each and every material. This offers a built-in cushion in case the materials end up more expensive than originally thought.

Unforeseen Price Changes of Labor and/or Materials

Costs of building materials have a way of fluctuating at a moment’s notice, especially when there are stocking issues due to sudden demand or a factory issue. These should be allowed for in a design-build scope of work. However, it’s also important to understand that labor costs can change between the time of the estimate and the actual project, due to a sudden shortage of skilled workers or a general rise in the cost of skilled labor in your area. Therefore, allowances must also be made for labor cost increases.

New Materials & Building Tech

If your project is using recently released products or using new design or building techniques, it’s possible that there will be a steep learning curve related to these unfamiliar things. With a design-build contractor, there should be a time and cost allowance for the use of newer materials that may need to be installed differently than previously existing materials. An expert in the new materials or techniques may need to be brought in as part of the scope of work.

By having the built-in allowances and strong attention to detail that a design-build contract affords you, many common estimating errors can be greatly reduced or avoided altogether. This makes for a smoother construction process and can save a great deal of resources, both time and money, in the long run.

How Design Build Helps Get You a Better Estimate

Estimation errors and cost overruns are two of the most common issues when it comes to any construction project. So how can you get a better estimate that gives you a more accurate understanding of the true costs of construction? Working with a design-build contractor and drawing up a detailed scope of work will help get this better number and, in turn, alleviate other issues that can cause errors and overruns.

Avoiding Cut Corners

The last thing you want on any job is to have tradespeople (electricians, plumbers, etc.) cutting corners in order to save time and/or reduce costs. Design-build contractors usually have specific subcontractors that they have worked with time and again that they trust. Not only does this help give you peace of mind that they’ll do the job right. But if these tradespeople have worked with the contractor on a regular basis, they’ve worked in a design-build environment before with success.

One of the worst things that can happen on a job is product not being installed properly and no one wants a “callback.” Design-build contractors make sure that clear and concise plans are available so that there is far less chance for a major mistake to occur.

Overcoming Assumptions

When it comes to anything in life, assumptions can be dangerous, and in building and remodeling, incorrect assumptions can bring projects to a grinding halt. Throughout the design process and even during the build process, never be afraid to ask questions. Don’t think any question is stupid: ask them all. Especially during the estimating and subcontractor bidding process, if you notice that something isn’t listed, don’t assume that it will be included.

Missing items in bids can be as simple as certain types of costs that could vary wildly from project to project. The bidder may simply not have a hard number to use. Make sure that you have a best estimate for every single aspect of your project. Design-build contractors are usually pretty good at nailing down these details, but never be afraid to ask. Also, make sure all quotes and estimates are in writing, just in case something comes into dispute later or otherwise is omitted.

Understanding Change Orders

Change orders are common once projects have begun, and if upcharges or allowances are made for them, typically things are alright. Sometimes there are design errors or omissions that aren’t originally allowed for, too, and kept to a minimum they’re typically not a problem. Just keep in mind that some changes only involve increased cost as far as material. When additional labor is involved, this can cause some serious cost overruns to occur. Keep in mind that the further along you get in a project, the harder it is to make design changes that will require significant additional labor.

Working with a design-build contractor, you’ll typically have regular meetings to discuss how the project is going. Any questions or concerns you have should always be voiced. However, be sure you’re working with a contractor you trust that gives you an estimate that covers all of the bases. Sure, you won’t be able to plan for every single cost, but the more than you can hammer down, the better. Design-build contractors are usually pretty good at giving you some of the most realistic estimates because they usually know their team and can guarantee a great result.

Shrewsbury Releases Plan to Construct New Housing Units

The Shrewsbury Master Plan Steering Committee has recently released new plans to stimulate economic development. The plan outlines the town’s ideas for improving the infrastructure and expanding the housing supply.

Town Officials Intend to Evaluate Housing Market More Regularly

Shrewsbury officials want to make sure that all infrastructural issues are adequately addressed over time. Many development programs have been indefinitely delayed under prior administrations, so the city and state leaders are trying to make reforms to advance progress. The state has recently requested that city leaders lay out plans at least once every ten years, but Shrewsbury intends to put detailed proposals together more frequently. They released a set of plans in 2012 and will likely introduce new proposals for infrastructural upgrades in the next couple of years.

Monitoring the housing supply is a major priority for Shrewsbury officials. Demand for housing is increasing as a number of Boston residents and workers are unable to find housing and start turning to suburban communities in Worcester and Suffolk County.

Assistant Town Planner Matthew Sarcione said that the new plans are a good start. The city is expected to start working towards the outlined goals after funding and other logistics are sorted out.

“I think the plan itself is in a good position,” said Sarcione. “We’ve included a lot from the public forums. A lot of work has gone into it. Implementation is going to take a lot of time.”

Assistant Town Manager Kristen D. Las hopes that the new projects proceed on schedule. However, there are a number of variables that can be difficult to foresee ahead of time, so it’s impossible to predict when certain projects will be completed. Las said some projects may be completed ahead of schedule, while others could be delayed or never finished.

Citizens Encouraged to Weigh in on Future Planning Hearings

Shrewsbury city leaders want to incorporate citizen feedback in future plans. They are urging citizens to contact them about concerns regarding housing and other issues they face. The current plans have already been sent to the committee, but citizen requests could still be incorporated into the existing plans.

While the housing market in Shrewsbury is stable relative to Boston and other larger communities, new problems could surface in the future if population growth exceeds projections. The city will be soliciting even more input from citizens in the future to ensure construction is on target to keep prices in line.

The Shrewsbury Master Plan Steering Committee has recently released new plans to stimulate economic development. The plan outlines the town’s ideas for improving the infrastructure and expanding the housing supply.

Town Officials Intend to Evaluate Housing Market More Regularly

Shrewsbury officials want to make sure that all infrastructural issues are adequately addressed over time. Many development programs have been indefinitely delayed under prior administrations, so the city and state leaders are trying to make reforms to advance progress. The state has recently requested that city leaders lay out plans at least once every ten years, but Shrewsbury intends to put detailed proposals together more frequently. They released a set of plans in 2012 and will likely introduce new proposals for infrastructural upgrades in the next couple of years.

Monitoring the housing supply is a major priority for Shrewsbury officials. Demand for housing is increasing as a number of Boston residents and workers are unable to find housing and start turning to suburban communities in Worcester and Suffolk County.

Assistant Town Planner Matthew Sarcione said that the new plans are a good start. The city is expected to start working towards the outlined goals after funding and other logistics are sorted out.

“I think the plan itself is in a good position,” said Sarcione. “We’ve included a lot from the public forums. A lot of work has gone into it. Implementation is going to take a lot of time.”

Assistant Town Manager Kristen D. Las hopes that the new projects proceed on schedule. However, there are a number of variables that can be difficult to foresee ahead of time, so it’s impossible to predict when certain projects will be completed. Las said some projects may be completed ahead of schedule, while others could be delayed or never finished.

Citizens Encouraged to Weigh in on Future Planning Hearings

Shrewsbury city leaders want to incorporate citizen feedback in future plans. They are urging citizens to contact them about concerns regarding housing and other issues they face. The current plans have already been sent to the committee, but citizen requests could still be incorporated into the existing plans.

While the housing market in Shrewsbury is stable relative to Boston and other larger communities, new problems could surface in the future if population growth exceeds projections. The city will be soliciting even more input from citizens in the future to ensure construction is on target to keep prices in line.

MA Economic Boom to Benefit Shrewsbury Housing Market

The Massachusetts economy took a couple years to begin recovering from the depths of the recession. However, new studies show that the economy is beginning to boom. The turnaround suggests that the economy is going to be doing much better in the future, which is contributing to the state’s housing recovery. While the recovery is primarily centered in large cities such as Boston and Worcester, other Central Massachusetts markets such as Shrewsbury are also benefiting.

Economic Boom Comes Unexpectedly to Massachusetts

The New England Economic Partnership recently released a report showing that the Massachusetts economy is undergoing the strongest and most sudden economic boom in over 20 years. Nearly 100,000 jobs have been created in 2015 and that figure is expected to accelerate over the next five years. The   New England Economic Partnership predicts that unemployment will drop from 4.7% to 4.1% by 2018.

Randall Ellis, an economics professor at Boston University, attributes a large part of the economic boom to the growing technology sector. He said the state has experienced strong growth from the recession.

“Massachusetts is in a very good position to benefit from the increased use of high technology medical equipment and devices and treatment patterns,” Ellis stated. “It is also a hotbed of development for new drugs and we are also benefiting still from the ongoing military spending. I would add education spending is a very important backbone of the economy.”

The growth in technology has been fueling job growth in the Boston region, which has trickled into other parts of Central Massachusetts. A number of engineers and other technology professionals that work in Boston commute from Shrewsbury and other cities. Since Boston is suffering from a large housing shortage, the growing technology sector is likely to drive demand for housing in Shrewsbury over the coming years.

Leaders are Cautiously Optimistic

Although Massachusetts is undergoing one of the best economic recoveries in recent history, leaders are still worried that things could turn around. House Speaker Robert DeLeo and other state lawmakers are confident that the economy is on the verge of a continued recovery, but still want to be cautious.

DeLeo points out that he was very optimistic about the economy last year, which led him and other leaders to create an unrealistic budget proposal. Tax revenues failed to meet lofty projections, which forced lawmakers to impose strict spending cuts.

The Legislature is hopeful that the market will continue to recover, but wants to make sure that it will remain sustainable.

Housing market experts are also cautious, but believe the market will stay on a sustainable track to recovery. The Massachusetts Association of Realtors has confirmed that pending homes sales rose 35.9% in September even as experts expected the market to stall after the summer. This suggests that the market will continue to grow for months to come.