Archive 2008 - 2019

Real Estate News and Comment

by Peter Liffiton, P.E.



Economics 101 – If there is lots of demand for a product and little supply the price will go up.  If there is little demand for a product and lots of supply the price will go down.  That, in a nutshell, is our Real Estate market today.  There is a large supply of houses for sale, but the demand is low because it is so much harder to qualify for a mortgage and there are very few buyers who can pay cash for a house.  Thus the selling price of houses is still going down.  On the rental front, however, there is much more demand (from those who can't qualify to buy a house) and much less supply (since very little rental housing is being built) and so one should expect that rents would rise, and they have.  So what is a prospective home owner to do?   It seems we are back to the days of saving for a substantial down payment on a house and not buying more than you can afford.  A new requirement has been added, however, and that is that now you must also keep your credit rating up or you will not qualify for the best mortgage rates even with a 20% down payment.



DO IT NOW – It is spring planting time


It is time to plant all those tender crops that hate the cold nights and cold wet soil.  The overnight temperatures are moderate, the soil has been warmed by the sun and all is set for ideal seed germination for outstanding crops and flowers.  You may have already planted your carrots, cabbage, lettuce, peas, and radishes.  But your tender crops can now be seeded.  Green beans, tomato plants, corn, squash, peppers, cucumbers, melons, and any flowers you can think of.


Oh, and strawberries!  Your plants should have set fruit that is swelling to turn bright red in the next several weeks until early July.  If you don't grow your own, get out and find a "U Pick" field at any number of local farms.  In a week or two they should be almost perfect.




FREE ADVICEHow to Prepare When Going on Vacation

reprinted  from June 2009


When you leave on vacation, what do you do with your house?  If the answer is lock the door and leave, you must live in a condo with full concierge service.  Otherwise, there are a number of things you might consider doing.


1.  Mail delivery.  You can go on line to and have your mail held while you are gone.  You can go to the post office and have it forwarded to wherever you might be going.  But whatever you do, do not let mail accumulate in your mailbox or at your door as this is a sure sign your home is vacant.


2.  Newspaper (if you have home delivery).  Have the newspaper stopped while you are gone or arrange for a friend to pick it up daily so the papers don’t accumulate - another sure tip off that your house is vacant.


3.  Yard care.  If it is winter, arrange for some light snow clearing.  If summer, definitely arrange for lawn mowing if you will be away for more than two weeks.


4.  Utilities.  No, do not call the utility company and have them turned off.  But do lower your thermostat settings in winter.  In summer raise the temperature settings or turn off the air conditioning (unless necessary to protect plants or pets).  If you have well water, turn off the well pump.  No sense in a toilet wasting water or a leaky pipe flooding your house while you are gone.


5.  Security. Tell your alarm service and the local police you are going away and for how long.  The police have a set procedure for checking on vacation vacancies and will notify you or a third party of any problem while you are away.  Just be sure to tell them when you are coming back so they don’t think you are an intruder in your own house.


6.  Vent the house.  Leave the top of a window or two open slightly to allow built up humidity to escape the house.  It will help keep the house from smelling “stale” when you return.


7.  Perishables.  Clear out anything in the refrigerator that has any chance of spoiling before you return. (The smell is really hard to get rid of if you guess wrong.)  Also, toss any fruit like bananas sitting on the counter.


8.  Lighting.  Place a few lights on timers with on-off times that might suggest someone is in the house (tell the police which rooms have timed lights).


9.  Phone service.  If you still want to get phone calls, forward your phone to your cell phone.  As an alternative, confirm that you can remotely retrieve your phone messages while you are away.


10.  Pets and plants.  Arrange for a friend to water your house plants while you are gone and feed your tropical fish.  Any other pets should go with you or to a friend’s house or a kennel.


11.  Credit cards.  Be sure to alert your credit card companies that you will be traveling and making charges far from your usual area.  The fraud departments of credit card companies will often call your home phone to ask you to validate “suspicious charges” out of your area.  If you do not answer, they may very well suspend the use of the card to limit their exposure to fraudulent use of the card.


Finally, think of the expression “Just set it and forget it!” and apply it to leaving for vacation.  Do everything you can think of BEFORE you go so you don’t have to even give it a thought while you are gone.



I WANT YOU TO KNOW – How we have changed and not!
15 years ago residential real estate was nothing like it is today and for both buyers and sellers that is a good thing. 15 years ago it took a few weeks to get a property on the market since it had to be published in a big thick book of tiny black and white listings that got published maybe only twice a month. Now, with the right preparation and if absolutely necessary, a property can be put on the market within minutes of a listing contract being signed. Seller’s properties are seen far and wide on numerous websites and buyers are taking virtual tours of houses from thousands of miles away. As for mortgages, 15 years ago a 20% down payment on a purchase was the most common and 5% down payments were rare. Well, that changed to 0-5% down payments becoming very common. But wait! Now we are back to 10-20% down payments being common and 5% down payments are rare again. Your Realtor has his “finger on the pulse” of all these latest developments to best assist both buyers and sellers from the first meeting to a successful transaction, attending to every detail along the way.     
Peter Liffiton, P.E.
Registered Professional Engineer

Comments (2)

To Mr. Ed Daniels' comment. You are, of course, correct in your comments if you only look at Holliston. In this market, Holliston is proving to not be the norm, but the exception. Your Real Estate market is performing better than many towns in the Commonwealth. As for mortgage availability, there will likely always be first time home buyer programs available with low down payments. I expect you will agree, however, that the qualifications for those programs are not as loose as in the past. No, 20% down payments are not required in this market, but for the best terms and the best deals 20% down is a significant advantage.

Peter Liffiton | 2011-06-07 15:34:31

Sorry Peter, I feel the need to counter with Holliston facts. You state one reason for a slowing market is a large supply of homes. To focus on this fact for Holliston - we have 66 Active homes right now. For the past 10 years the average at this point in the year is 62 homes, median of 58. The high inventory was 101 homes in 2006. We are not experiencing an extremely hign inventory of homes. Also, FHA loans are government backed mortgages that require 3.5% down payments. These are still prevalent. MassHousing also offers a low down payment program, and USDA (not well known) offers 100% financing still! I am not saying low down payment mortgages are a good thing, but they are out there and buyers should know that they are still "easy" to get. The consumer should know that 20% down payments are NOT required in this market.

Ed Daniels | 2011-06-06 13:54:54