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Even in a pandemic, the bidding wars for homes rage on

Buying
Q: How much money is needed up front to rent the apartment?A: It could potentially include first month, last month, and a half month of rent. Up front move in costs can be confusing. It is important to know the amount of the security deposit required for the apartment as well as any additional payments that will be needed before signing the lease. Every property and landlord are different: some may require first and last month’s rent in addition to a security deposit while others may only ask for a security deposit equal to half month’s rent.
Inside the city limits, properties priced at under $1 million frequently incite battles. Flickr

A couple weeks ago, Liz Taylor and her husband went to see a four-bedroom Colonial in Hingham that had just gone on the market. While the property was beautiful, it needed a lot of updates, including a new septic system.

“I believe they did one or two days of showings and got multiple offers by the end of the weekend,” Taylor said. “The winning offer was over asking, and they offered to pay for the new septic.”

Taylor’s story is far from unusual in Greater Boston, where open houses are no longer jam-packed, but bidding wars are still raging. When Governor Charlie Baker issued stay-at-home orders in late March, some assumed Greater Boston’s uber-competitive real estate market had finally met its end. But it’s proved to be anything but over, real estate agents and prospective buyers said.

(Home prices are up in Greater Boston despite the inventory wipeout.)

“Spring has sprung and it’s definitely pretty wild out there,” said Jared Wilk of The Shulkin Wilk Group at Compass. “There’s very real buyers that are out there if it’s the right house, and they’re ready to move on it. They have all their ducks in a row: preapprovals, letters to the homeowners, they’re taking away contingencies, going over asking price,” said his partner, Traci Shulkin. “We’re seeing very, very good offers out there.”

Inside the city limits, properties priced at under $1 million frequently incite battles. Sarah Maguire, a realtor with Compass, has seen several recently, including for a South Boston property her clients had put an offer on sight unseen.

“They did a virtual tour, put an offer in right away, then had an in-person showing on a Friday. By Sunday, we were one of eight offers,” Maguire said. “I haven’t seen that in Southie since 2018. We ended up offering $25,000 over, and we didn’t get it.”

Meanwhile, suburban bidding wars are picking up as Bostonians look to decamp from the city, sick of paying a lot per square foot to be stuck in their apartments. In wealthy suburban towns like Needham, Wellesley, and Natick, real estate agents are consistently seeing homes, especially those under the $2 million mark, receive multiple offers.

“I think it’s a combination of inventory being really low and wanting to make that change,” Wilk said. “Early on when the pandemic began, there was definitely a slowdown, and there was nothing new coming on the market.”

Now properties on the market are receiving a handful of offers within days. “It applies to all sort of price ranges and locations,” because people in smaller condos want more space and to get out of the city, while people already in the suburbs feel like their homes are cramped because they are working from home, Wilk said.

Ed Deveau, an agent with Century 21 Mario Real Estate in East Boston, said in an e-mail that he is also seeing bidding wars: “The stuff that’s overpriced is sitting, and the stuff that’s priced right is moving (sounds logical right?). … I think being locked up for 8-10 weeks has made a lot of people realize they need more space.”

The buyers out there hunting are the ones more serious about buying, Shulkin said.  A lot of these showings become offers, and that’s because buyers are doing a lot more homework; they’ve already studied the 3-D tours and have driven by multiple times, she said.

“There’s less buyers out there, but the people who are, they are raring to go and they’re anxious to buy,” said Shulkin, who recently had a client drive up from out of state and put in an offer on a Needham property later that evening.

“They’re doing it same day, and they’re ready to go.”

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