Back to School: Time to sharpen my pencil

Even though it’s technically still summer the moment Labor Day hits I’m ready for it to be fall.  Fall clothes are my favorite, fall traffic is not.  Hot apple cider, pumpkins and mums, and days that end with a good meal in front of the tv – guilt free- are a welcome balance to the long summer nights dining al fresco under the stars.  It’s also a time to get organized, and if you’re me that doesn’t just mean turning over the closets (which is a favorite pastime because I love throwing away, donating, and gifting things that no longer work for me) but it means it’s time for the second most important real estate market.  The Fall Market.

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56 Gray Street . Apt. #4

On off years, (those years that I am not in the market for a new home), I romp through the  neighborhood kicking leaves, listings in one hand – hot cider in the other, intent on exploring.  There’s something so stimulating about being in the hunt – even if you’re not in a position to buy – spending time exploring homes that are for sale is both educational and entertaining.  From the moment I step across the threshold I begin to assess.  In the city, curb appeal can be deceiving.  Many streets have no garden in front at all and rely on a few potted plants, perched on a step to set the stage.  Streets can be dirty, littered with trash and even…ugh, dog poop.  In these instances you need to rely on the neighborhoods historical ranking.  In the South End, where I live, we have neighborhoods within neighborhoods.  I live in the Eight Streets, which is considered a premier location because Union Park falls within this district.  That street is Paris in Boston with its private park and fountains, it’s lovely.  If you are looking within the Eight Streets you can clean up the streets, pot your own plants, and renovate the interior.  Location, location, location.  You know the drill.

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I’m a little bit quirky, and I apologize in advance for saying this but it’s true – critical.  I open the door (how heavy is it?), peak into the vestibule (is it well lit – bright?), I sniff (don’t laugh, there are few things worse then the smell of cooking cabbage, cat urine or mildew)  I want to smell something fresh and pleasant when I enter the building.  That all happens in the time it takes you to ascend the nine steps.  We are all adept at judging. So this first impression is critical.

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My heart skipped a beat when I saw the listing for 56 Gray Street.  A sweetie of a street in the South End, bordering the Back Bay.  These Federal Style homes were really for the rich and famous’ servants.  At just 350SF, I was all aflutter.  I’ve never lived in a studio, and I certainly haven’t lived in a place that small before, and with my tiny house obsession it appeals.

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Lynn– both the Owner and the Broker, had me at Gray Street.  I didn’t even try to play hard to get.  It was a jewel box (location, location, location).  As a rental it was more Kay Jewelers than Cartier, but the potential was there.  I started frantically designing in my head.  Pour Lynne was worried about the shower curtain rod not staying up in the bath – me…I had that sucker ripped out with the 80’s style 2 x 2 speckled tile, lock stock and barrel.  The next change was hiding the brick wall (sorry all you brick wall lovers, the palette needs smoothing out).  La Belle Julliette was calling and I could see the millwork go up, the closets surround the bed, the tucked away shelving on the side, and my sconce lighting build right in for reading in bed.  Add to that a tiny ( and I mean TINY) kitchen reno with a Smeg fridge and you have a palace for a pauper.

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I handed over my deposit check, scrambled to rub two nickels together to make a dime, and sadly learned that it wasn’t enough.  I do hope that the new owners will have a special place in their heart for that little gem.

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Happy Sunday.

Eye on RE – South End Find

Steal of a deal?  Probably not, with the voraciousness in which properties have been gobbled up in the last few weeks in the South End.  Still, 75 Waltham Street, Unit 2 looks like it has potential.  2 beds in just 615 SF of basement level living, private deck, in need of a refresh.  Money could be made.  Never underestimate the lure of a 2 bed, even if it is in the basement.  Even if the beds are small.  Even if the building does need a little TLC, and that TLC will come out of your pocket.

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75 Waltham Unit 2 Boston . staged for sale…sort of.


Last on the market in November 2003, it sold for $335K.  It will undoubtably go for over asking.  My guess is $45K over ask -it’s listed at $529. which would have it sell at $933. a foot.  That seems about right. No featured pictures of the bath lead me to believe it’s a gut.

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Serviceable Kitchen . With a face lift this could be a “wow”.

The owners will stand to make about $215,300. or $18,721. a year for the 11.5 years they held it.  Not bad, but when you renovate and return to the market you can make a lot more.

Waltham Street is considered a prime location in the South End.  Add to that, the building sits on a corner lot, abutting Ringgold Park, a lovely sunny, kid friendly location.  This is my Sunday Open House pick.  Listed with Thom McGair of Hammond, they will likely do best and final Monday by noon.  Come with your checkbook in hand.

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Happy Hunting.