Every week, we ask an Boston real estate professional for their thoughts on the top trends in Boston real estate.
This week, we talked with Michael Peerless, a real estate consultant with Boston Heritage Realty.
Boston Agent (BA): How important is advertising to your business, and what mediums/platforms have you found most effective?
Michael Peerless (MP): Real estate is powered by referral business, but advertising is crucial to maximize an office, or agent’s, potential. Real estate advertising is no different than any other business marketing themselves. Utilizing the right medium or platform can set you apart and help target the right audience. There are thousands of real estate agents in Boston, and without the proper advertising, an agent or listing will not stand out. Whether it’s an exclusive rental listing or new sales listing, the more eyes that see it, the better chance of renting or selling it.
In my six years of working as an agent, the most effective platforms have certainly changed. In the last two years, I found Zillow to be the most effective. Zillow allows agents to showcase their recent transactions, reviews, listings, ratings and more. They are data driven and collect/display as much info as possible about each and every property. There has been some backlash in the last few months about the accuracy of their information, but in terms of advertising and marketing, Zillow has certainly been the most effective for me. In addition to Zillow, social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have emerged as useful tools for marketing property and instant sharing of listings, pictures and interesting real estate data.
There is no perfect medium for agents in the current landscape, but I’m involved in a start up specifically for the real estate agents. FillitApp.com is creating a platform for renters to apply directly online. No more paper applications and cosigner forms. Everything is moving online! We aim to create a new platform for agencies and landlords to advertise property, and accept tenant applications directly online.
BA: What are the benefits of working with a boutique brokerage over a large, all encompassing company?
MP: I have not worked for the latter, but I can say working in a small boutique brokerage is a great environment. The brokerage I work for, Boston Heritage Realty, has only a few agents. We all work independently, but we support each other like a team. Having a small office gives everyone an understanding of what needs to be done. We help each other with showings, lease signings or just day to day tasks.
The most appealing benefit of working at a boutique brokerage is access to a niche market. Boutique brokerages tend to specialize in certain locations, or types of property, which makes it easy to succeed in that space. For example, the small brokerage I work for is in the heart of Fenway. Having a broker who has been in the same area for 20 years helps gives us a step up in the area by having a large database of exclusive properties and landlords. You also get agents that tend to do the entire transaction from start to finish. You deal with one agent, as opposed to an array of people who each have a role along the way. In the large, all encompassing companies, you will find a long list of agents and employees who do a little bit of everything.
BA: Boston’s affordability is lacking, and getting even worse, according to analysis from Zillow, with homeowners devoting an average of 22.4 percent of their monthly income to mortgage payments and renters 33.8 percent. How have continually rising prices affected your business, and do you see affordability returning to the market anytime soon?
MP: The rising rent prices haven’t had a dramatic effect on our business, mainly because the demand is still there. My office is located in one of the hottest real estate neighborhoods of Boston, the Fenway. Median condo prices are up over 80 percent in the last 10 years, 30 percent in the last year, and yet there is still no inventory, and never any vacant rental apartments.
The biggest challenge is with buyers. We have first-time homebuyers who are struggling to buy because they are competing with multiple offers over asking price, buyers paying with all cash and waived contingencies. This is forcing buyers to either pay more than they want to, or move to areas that are less desirable.
I don’t see affordability returning to the market any time soon. A combination of low interest rates, international money and no inventory will continue to affect the affordability of Boston for the foreseeable future. While new rental buildings are popping up throughout the city, they are targeting the high end rental market. This is leaving recent college grads to pay over 33% of their salaries towards rent. Some will argue that the salaries of the recent graduates are more to blame than the rising real estate prices!