Welcome to Centers and Squares

As a Cambridge real estate agent, the city squares of Cambridge, Somerville and Medford and the town centers of Arlington, Watertown and Belmont, Massachusetts are my home turf. And as a lifelong New Englander who’s lived within twenty miles of Boston most of my life, I can introduce you to other nearby towns as we search for your new home. If you’re planning to sell your home in Cambridge, MA or nearby you’ll find plenty of info about the home selling process here too. Questions? Send me an email or call me at 617-504-1737.

Online Gift Registry for Home Buyers

Hatch My House Gift Registry

Have friends and family help you buy a house with Hatch My House

Have you heard of Hatch My House?  It’s an online gift registry where you can have friends and family give monetary gifts to help you save for a house – or at least the down payment.

I have mixed feelings about online registries and asking for cash but Hatch My House totally won me over.  It’s a really cute design – you select a house and then assign values to its features – inside and out if you want.   Your loved ones “buy” a window, or a door, a microwave, even a toilet for cripes sake (I’d advise against including the toilet – nobody seems to “buy” them – not surprisingly) – however you want to set it up.  You choose the values for each feature you want to include and when a donor selects it they can opt to leave a message to you that shows up when someone clicks on the building element.  It really is fun and you can’t help clicking and clicking when you open up one of the registers.

Hatch My House is popular with couples who use it for their wedding registry. Many make a good point – they’ve been together for years and really don’t need the traditional wedding gifts since they’ve already outfitted their apartment. 

Saving for a down payment is no easy feat.  Hatch My House could get you on your way.

 

PS ~ I love the vintage postcards with egg houses so couldn’t resist using one here.

Categories: Buyer Info

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Days on Market Hangover Shortened

MLS lightens up

MLS Lightens the Days on Market Ball and Chain

A number of years ago our local MLS, MLSpin, changed their policy about days on market for properties listed for sale. The new rules meant that a property that had been taken off the market would retain the days on market number when it was relisted. While it was arguably good for buyers who often think that days on market or “DOM” is a reflection of the property’s value relative to price, it really wasn’t a good policy for sellers.  That days on market number was a ball and chain that you carried with you as a seller or listing agent.

The only way to clean the slate and set the DOM ticker back to zero was to keep the property off the market for more than 90 days.

MLSpin recently announced that their Board of Directors has voted to change the period for the DOM “cure” to just 60 days.  Hurrah!  Under the new rules a property that’s been off the market for 61 days or more will be relisted on the MLS with a DOM of zero.  No word yet when the change to MLS policy will be enacted.

As a seller you want to be sure when your property comes off the market to clarify its status with your agent.  The status must be either Expired or Cancelled.  If you agent changes the status to Withdrawn you won’t be able to escape the days on market hangover no matter how much time elapses. 

Buyers should be pleased with this change too since it means that more properties may be relisted earlier in the season – and we’re all anxious for new listing to come on the market.  Buyers would also be well served by worrying a bit less (a lot less?!) about days on market.  If the property is right for you that’s what counts most – despite the DOM tally.

Categories: Seller Info

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Address in the Boston Globe

Address in the Boston Globe

Don’t Miss Address in the Sunday Boston Globe

Do you get the Sunday Boston Globe?  There are plenty of reasons to get the Sunday Globe – news, community, coupons! – but since last spring one of the best reasons is the Globe’s Address section.   The Globe had been getting a bit skimpy but lately it seems that they’re adding new sections rather than eliminating portions of the paper.

Address debuted last March and is really a must-read for anyone interested in real estate and in houses.  It’s filled with articles and columns about real estate and home ownership and is subtitled “Your Real Estate Guide to Buying, Selling, Living”.  In years past the Boston Globe‘s real estate coverage struck many agents as “a day late and a dollar short” – the Globe always seemed to be reporting news and trends from several months back.  But their real estate articles have been noticeably better and more timely and Address reflects that improved coverage.  Regular features include:

  • An essay by guest columnists titled “My First Home”
  • A Massachusetts town profile that fills two full pages each week
  • Columns with questions and answers about home repairs, gardening and landscaping
  • The “Home of the Week” featured property for sale 
  • A decorating feature “Room to Love”

This Sunday’s Address section included

  • A two-page profile of Malden, MA – you’re bound to find out things you didn’t know about Malden
  • Info about sealing granite countertops
  • An article about decorating a Craftsman-style house on a budget
  • A wonderful “My First Home” essay written by a local minister

Just like the New York Times’ Home section on Thursday the Boston Globe‘s Address has become a must-read for me every Sunday – something I look forward to as soon as the newspaper hits the driveway.  Check it out!

 

 

Categories: Living Here

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Time Capsules in Medford and Watertown

Watertown time capsule

Watertown MA Time Capsule

Time capsules have been in the local news recently as two time capsules were unearthed in Boston.  First, a 113-year old time capsule was removed from the head of the lion statue at the Old State House. Then in December an even older time capsule saw the light of day at the State House.  This one was first secreted away in 1795 though it was rehoused and reburied in 1855.  First deposited by Paul Revere, William Scollay and Samuel Adams, the capsule’s contents should be fascinating since so much time has elapsed and its creators played such a large role in our history.

Franklin School Medford time capsule

Time Capsule in Medford MA

Sometimes I think that time capsule creators don’t do that good a job of gathering evidence of their time.  It’s difficult to decide what sums up an era – what will give people 100 or 200 years from now a real feel for our world.  As a lover of old paper I’ve given this topic some thought over the years.  Plenty of old paper I’ve got socked away brings back earlier times when I comb through the piles. For a time capsule perhaps a collection of essays in which people describe what they do in the course of a day would give a better sense of our lives.  It’s the minutia of the day to day that will likely catch the fancy of people living in very different times. 

I’ve come across a couple of time capsules in Centers and Squares territory.  The one pictured above is in Watertown Square.  It’s due to be opened in 2030, when Watertown celebrates its 400th birthday.  I’m not sure how old the time capsule will be at that point – we’ll just have to be surprised!  And I’m destined to forever wonder what’s in the time capsule outside the Franklin School condos in Medford on Central Ave, pictured at right, since it’s scheduled to be opened in 2075.

 

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Merry Christmas

Santa Real Estate Christmas Ornament

My Favorite Christmas Ornament – Santa is a Realtor

 

 

Tis a rainy, rainy Christmas. 

Best wishes for the happiest of holidays for you and yours.

 

Liz @ Centers and Squares

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Your HO-6 Condo Insurance Policy Questions Answered

HO-6 Insurance Coverage
HO6 Insurance May Be Required for Your Condo

If you’ve purchased a condo recently you may have been required to purchase HO-6 insurance coverage.  HO-6 insurance is required if your condo association’s master insurance policy isn’t “all-in” coverage.  Wondering what it’s all about?  Today’s guest post by Maria Lampros of Guard Insurance should answer all your questions.

What is an HO-6 insurance policy?

An HO-6 policy is like a home insurance policy, but instead is for condominium unit owners. Lenders have started requiring HO-6 insurance policies for new condo unit purchases. This is commonly known as “studs-in” or “walls-in” coverage.

Why do I need a condo insurance policy, when I already pay into my condo association master insurance policy?

When purchasing HO-6 condo insurance, it is important to take into consider the master condo insurance policy, if there is one. Many master insurance policies cover only the property, common areas and physical structure of your building. But there is a lot more to your condo than that.

Your condo is your home, and your home is filled with items that are unique to you and your lifestyle, like your furnishings, your computer equipment and any upgrades you may have installed. HO-6 Condo Insurance can provide coverage from damages that occur within your unit. Beyond insuring your personal belongings, your HO-6 policy can also help you control deductibles as well as provide comprehensive liability coverage.

What can an HO-6 condo insurance coverage policy include?

The basic categories of an HO-6 policy are:

  • Dwelling
  • Personal Property
  • Loss of Use
  • Additional Property Coverage
  • Personal Liability
  • Medical Payments to Others
  • Additional Liability Coverage

DWELLING

Since insurance coverage on your condominium or apartment building is normally purchased by your condo association, your dwelling coverage focuses on your real property within your condo. Up to a specified limit, an HO-6 policy provides coverage on a replacement cost basis to insure the items in the following four categories:

Alterations and improvements – Your built-in cabinets, kitchen appliances and interior partitions are examples.

Common areas – In the event that your condo association by-laws require you to insure property which is outside your condo, for example a portion of your hallway or stairs, entrance or walkway, coverage can be provided by your dwelling coverage.

Property exclusive to your condominium – Your real property that pertains fully to your condominium, for example, upgraded doors and safety locks.

Structures which you own that are located off premises – Dwelling coverage can also provide coverage for a private garage or storage shed which you own that is located in another part of your building complex. Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: Buyer Info
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ReMax Destiny In the News

ReMax Destiny wins local honors

ReMax Destiny In the News

 

ReMax Destiny has been in the news lately

I’m delighted to report that the Boston Globe, for the second year, has named ReMax Destiny one of its “Top Places to Work“.  ReMax offers real estate services in 80 countries but Remax offices are independently owned and operated so our two offices – in Cambridge and JP – landed us on the Small Employers list.  We’re #6 on the list.

ReMax Destiny is a great place to work and I’m very happy I made the decision to move my business here two years ago.  We’ve got a super group of agents, a hard working and enthusiastic staff, and a broker, Paul Turcotte, who’s committed to staying ahead of the curve and ensuring we have all the tools necessary to provide top notch service to our clients. 

Employees chime in for the Top Places to Work honors but our other recent award was voted on by the community.

In the Fall issue of Scout Cambridge that featured the “Best Of” award winners ReMax Destiny won for Best Real Estate Agent or Agency. Thanks to all who voted for us!  We were in good company with many of my favorite Cambridge institutions garnering Best Of awards including the S & S, Pemberton Farms, Formaggios, and Porter Square Books.  Congratulations to all.

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What’s Killing the Trees?

Dying and Dead Trees

Have you noticed all the dead and dying trees?  If you haven’t you’re not paying attention – and you’re not alone.  Dead trees are everywhere.  Many more are dying or not doing well at all.  Few people seem aware of the problem however and there’s little information to be found about it.

dead tree Cambridge MA

Too late for the slideshow – another dead tree in Cambridge

But drive around Massachusetts and you’re bound to spot dying and dead trees if you look. Anywhere you go – Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, Concord, Winchester, New Hampshire – anywhere and everywhere you drive through.

I started noticing them last year.  I became a bit obsessed and would play the “dead tree game” wherever I drove.  Passengers would initially be a bit taken aback as I called out “Dead tree!” over and over again, but eventually they too would join in.

My obsession was lifted only when winter came and the lack of leaves made it impossible to distinguish the dead trees.  Since the no-leaves season is fast approaching I urge you to be on the lookout now as you’re walking or driving around – you’re sure to see dead or unhealthy trees all around.

One reason that few people seem to be aware of what’s happening is that the dead trees get cut down.  I’d been planning to photograph the dead trees as evidence for some time but was finally motivated to do so after a particularly beautiful (but dead) tree that could be seen from Mass Ave disappeared.  Already several dead trees in the slideshow have been removed.

The photos I took for this slideshow, in August mind you when trees should be fully covered in green leaves, show trees in Cambridge with a few from Somerville, Medford and Watertown.  Dead trees are everywhere in Cambridge – from Broadway to Brattle Street, from East Cambridge to West.  Dead trees are in yards, parks, schoolgrounds, and everywhere lining the streets.  We’ve lost almost all of the last few years’ investment in street trees as well as many of the much older and larger trees that line the city sidewalks.

Dead and Dying Trees in Cambridge and Nearby Towns

Dead and Dying Trees in Cambridge and Nearby Towns

The trees you see here may very well be gone soon.  Sadly there’ll be no shortage of subjects for next year’s slideshow as the dozens of very sick trees around town are likely to have died by next summer.

When my father identified one dead tree as an elm I realized that several of the most striking dead trees were some of the few remaining elms in the area, long-time survivors felled not by Dutch Elm disease but by whatever’s killing Massachusetts trees now.  I drove by a few of my favorites.  There are three stately elms in a row on Main Street in Medford.  One appears in very bad shape and the other two don’t look their best.  I stopped by Manassas Street where a huge gorgeous elm stood on the corner for decades.  It had been fine when I last worked around the corner at Coldwell Banker so I was stunned to see that only a stump remained.

Other species that seem particularly hard hit are the copper beech and at least one type of maple.  The glorious copper beech in front of the Cambridge Public Library is in terrible shape and can be seen in the slide show.  You’ll see sickly maples everywhere with many bare branches and very small leaves.  In many towns, in Massachusetts and NH, in yard after yard, some types of spruce trees were dead or dying.  Oaks seem to be holding up better but when I walked past some of the majestic oaks along the Mystic River I realized that a number didn’t look well up close.

So what’s killing the trees in Massachusetts and NH?

I vote for drought and continued lack of water as a major cause.  For at least the last two or three years, including this summer, we’ve been in a largely unacknowledged drought in the city.  It was only last week that for the first time I heard a weatherman use the “d” word – until then the forecasters would simply celebrate the unending days of no rain.  Even when rain was forecast, or when nearby towns got plenty of rain, the prevailing weather pattern meant that Cambridge area would get little or none.  Trees often take years to succumb to drought and we can expect to continue to lose trees that are stressed from lack of water.

Street trees are particularly vulnerable – I could have added many, many photos to the slideshow of young and not-so-young street trees that have died.  In part, I blame this on the very small ground area around many of the trees making it even more difficult for them to get adequate water.  But drive down Powderhouse Boulevard from Route 16 and you’ll see many dying or dead trees despite the grassy median they grow in.  Young street trees need to be watered regularly and since they’re not it’s not too surprising (though it’s very frustrating) that they’ve succumbed.  But older street trees are dying too.

Over-salting is one reason that local trees near streets and highways are dying.  Last winter I was mystified to see trees along Routes 2 and 16 that were totally white.  Then I realized that they were coated in salt from top to bottom that had been made airborne by passing cars.  Cities and towns need to cut back on the salt and everybody needs to buy snow tires, slow down, or stay off the roads when it’s stormy.

Invasive pests are another important cause of tree death.  Right now pests we’ve got to contend with include the emerald ash borer, woolly adelgid, and winter moth.

Invasive vines are another tree killer.  Many times I’ve come across trees that have a lot of greenery with dead branches sticking out at the top.  Since many of Cambridge’s trees have had the new growth at the top die off, I’ve often mistaken these trees for ones where only the new branches are affected. Look more closely however, and you realize that the greenery is actually leaves on the vine that’s killed the tree and the tree itself is now a dead host.

Some are suggesting that pollution is a major contributor to the tree die-off.  Locally, people have suggested that some trees have succumbed to underground gas leaks from old gas pipes.

Is this the first stage of a changing landscape due to climate change?  Most of the potential causes listed above can be lumped together under climate change.  It’s difficult to imagine what our towns and cities will look like when the local climate no longer supports the trees we know and love.  As a homeowner, it’s difficult to know what types of trees to plant – what will thrive here decades from now?

You can’t help but think that the wild weather we’ve experienced in the last few years is part of the changing climate.  I’ve documented the downed trees from freak storms and microbursts more than once.  The wild weather of a couple of weeks ago brought down more large trees locally – trees we really don’t have to spare.

Why Should We Care About Tree Loss?

I’m fully aware that not everyone is a fan of trees.  I’ve had enough beautiful trees taken down near me by “tree haters” that I leap out of bed at any sound that suggests a chain saw is on the job.  Some people see trees as a hassle – heaven forbid they have to rake – and others as a menace.  Others value smooth pavement over driveway or sidewalk more than they do the tree. But it will be a sad place to live if we continue to lose trees at the current pace.  And I’m afraid it’s a bit like the frog in the pot of water who fails to realize it’s getting hotter until too late.  It’s easy to overlook how important the trees around us are until they’re gone.  And then it will be decades before we can get back what we’ve lost.

Much of it boils down (no pun intended Mr. Frog) to quality of life.  Without a decent tree canopy it will be a lot hotter around here. Acres of asphalt baking in the sun without benefit of trees’ shade make for a miserable summer. And it’s not just the lack of sun and daylight that make people feel gloomier in the winter – it’s the lack of greenery.  A bare tree’s branches are a thing of beauty but nothing beats the new green leaves of spring.  Here’s a super article on the impact of trees on human health and happiness.

Aesthetics are a huge part of trees’ value. There’s nothing more grim than a city street barren of trees.  There are tree-less streets around here that are about as depressing a block as you’ll see.  City greenery is one reason real estate tends to sell better in the spring – everything looks better when the leaves are back on the trees.  Chances are almost any Cambridge street that you consider appealing is lined with trees.  But perhaps not for long if something’s not done: one Avon Hill block I photographed had three or four huge trees reduced to stumps and several others dead or almost gone.

Property values are absolutely impacted by trees or the lack of trees.  My own street in Cambridge was described as a “tree-lined bower” some decades ago.  That’s far from the case now as almost all of the trees have been lost and not replaced.  I showed one real estate buyer a condo on my block and she turned up her nose and said “but there aren’t any trees on this street”.  Needless to say, a sale was not made that day.

Privacy is another benefit of our city trees that’s often overlooked until a tree is gone.  Most of us would far rather have our views framed in leaves than be staring into our next door neighbor’s house.  It’s easy to take for granted just how much a tree blocks from view.

What Can Be Done About the Dying Trees?

While some of reasons trees are dying may be beyond our individual control there are things we can do:

Water the trees for cripes sake!  Whether it’s a tree in your yard, a tree in front of your house, or a tree outside your office – get a bucket and get watering.  The trees need regular watering and need water as they head into winter.

Consult an arborist about any distressed trees in your yard.  I’ve got one of mine on a regular treatment plan for winter moths.  I just wish I could get the raggedy, beleaguered street trees sprayed as well.

Encourage the city to water the trees they plant.  Trees need a great deal of water when they’re first transplanted.  City trees never seem to get what they need.  The lack of rain has exacerbated the problem resulting in the death of almost all the youngest trees.  Can’t we give some kids a job for the summer?

Talk to your representatives about using less salt or de-icer in the winter months.  It’s better for trees and for local ponds, streams and lakes.

Become better stewards of the tree canopy.  It’s a mixed bag around here in terms of what towns and cities are doing to ensure a healthy tree canopy.  Cambridge has hearings about cutting down street trees but I’m not sure it makes any difference. Far too many trees aren’t replaced.  Brookline’s magnificent tree canopy puts Cambridge’s motley treescape to shame. What have they been doing right?  Medford calls itself a “Tree City” but its streets are often tree-free or what trees are there end up getting mutilated for overhead wires.

Actually become a tree steward.  Every year Massachusetts offers a two-day tree steward training.  The training is held in a rural area but there’s also an emphasis on the health and maintenance of urban trees.

Plant trees.  Plant a tree in your yard or work with the city to get street trees planted or replanted on your block.  It’s hard to know what trees will do well going forward. What will our climate be like 30, 40, 60 years from now?  Recently it seems the newer oak trees the city planted seem to be doing well – their roots go down deep and they seem to do better finding enough water.

Press for answers about the problem of dying trees.  We need to start asking questions.  It’s too easy to overlook the die-off of trees as the dead ones are cut down and lost from memory.  Something’s happening though and we need to find out the causes before it’s too late.

Here’s some more from the internet about trees dying:

World’s Big Trees are Dying

Trees Dying at the Quabbin

The Impact of Our Drought on Trees

Climate Change, Invasives and Tree Death

What’s Killing the Spruce Trees?

Superb Post about Tree Death and Pollution

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