A Profile of Michael O’Brien, Real Estate Sales Associate

Michael O'Brien

A real estate agent helps people buy, rent or sell a home, office, building, or land. To do that well, an agent needs extraordinary people skills. Nurturing relationships that are often critical to the making of major life decisions, including where exactly to put down roots, what kind of space to settle into, and so on, is central to the real estate business. Assisting with both the staging of houses and other properties (making them attractive to prospective buyers) and the imagining of what one might be able to do with a given place, are also key. So having a realtor in the neighborhood who is at once keen on people and community and also keen on aesthetics, is a decided plus: Meet Michael O’Brien!

Michael has been a real estate sales associate– and working at Joyce Lebedew Real Estate – since 2008. Because houses had always been a passion of his, including home décor, renovation, gardening, etc., moving into real estate was a natural next step. He brings to this passion a talent for design: For close to two decades he owned his own floral design and event design business in Newton.

But even before joining Joyce Lebedew Real Estate, Michael joined our community. He moved to South Boston in 2006, “because I was attracted to the beach, the friendliness of the people and the openness of the community,” he explains. “South Boston has a small-town feel in a city setting. I love watching the changes all around us – young professionals moving in; lots of construction. I love the energy.” He also “truly enjoy[s] helping people find their new home.”

Since the fall of 2010, Michael has also been working as a special events designer with Winston Flowers, the premiere floral design company in the Boston area. When he’s not following up on a hot property, or delving deep into design options, he can be found soaking up the sun at the beach, practicing yoga or working out at the gym.

Michael O’Brien, Sales Associate



Blog post by the Joyce Lebedew Real Estate Team

A Profile of Jack Staley, Real Estate Sales Associate


Because Jack Staley calls South Boston home, it’s a breeze and a pleasure for him to share insights about the neighborhood with prospective homebuyers and renters. A sales associate with Joyce Lebedew Real Estate, he worked in the residential mortgage business in South Florida for a number of years before coming north.

When Jack moved to South Boston about seven years ago, he had known of its hot reputation as a neighborhood for young professionals. “I like the kind of growth and development I’ve seen here,” he says. But, he adds, “you can still get good bang for your dollar” in our community.

While sticking with Real Estate, Jack switched from working inside the bank to outside with clients as they explore various properties. “Now I get to see the great homes we showcase, and spend a lot of time with people,” as they search for their new abode. Striking up conversations with all these interesting men and women is one of his favorite perks of the job.

Jack chose to work at Joyce Lebedew Real Estate because it is the premier agency in South Boston.  JLRE listed and rented 50 units in the last 12 months, more than any other agency in town.  Of those 50, Jack listed and rented an amazing 29 of them himself!  That’s 3 times more than any other agent in South Boston.  Jack’s knowledge and love of the community is the reason he is trusted with the most listings and why he is so successful.

An avid hockey fan, he’s a Bruins season ticket-holder. You can find him playing, too, but in pick-up leagues! And in nice weather, look for Jack near the water. He did move from Florida, but chose South Boston, with its beaches, as his new home.

Jack Staley
Sales Associate


Blog post by the Joyce Lebedew Real Estate Team

New Year, New You, New Home

Sometime around the first of each year, many of us find inspiration to embark on new endeavors. We feel energized imagining how our lives will be different (in good ways) by the next time January 1st rolls around: “I’ll be 10 pounds lighter.” “I’ll have run my first marathon.” “I’ll have planted and tended a prize-winning garden,” and so on. A number of us might even vow to purchase a new home. What follows are some tips on getting ready to take the plunge.

Finding a house you can afford

Take your annual salary and multiply it by 2.5. The product is the amount you can (reasonably) spend on a house, or so the word on the street is. It’s important to take into account more than your income, though. Looking at debt and expenses is critical, too. CNN Money offers an on-line home affordability calculator to guide in setting goals.

Saving money for a down payment

To save $20,000 (10% of the national median home price of close to $200,000), for example, you’ll have to put away about $830 for each of 24 months.  Michele Lerner of dailyfinance.com has outlined a plan for amassing enough cash to stake your claim on the property of your choice in two years. Lowering expenses and increasing income are key, and might require some major lifestyle shifts, even if only temporarily.

Getting your credit history clean

Examine your credit report for any inaccuracies. Make sure to fix problems as soon as possible.

We’ll check in with you NEXT January, to see how your plans are shaping up!

Blog post by the Joyce Lebedew Real Estate Team

Photography credit: Veer.com

The Hunt for a Parking Space

South Boston residents with cars do have some things to be happy about, contrary to popular belief. For starters, we don’t live in Oakland, California, where the motor vehicle theft rate per capita is more than 100% higher than the national average. Nor do we live in Chicago, where parking meters were privatized a few years ago resulting in a steep increase in parking fees. We find ourselves in a city whose government “gets” snow, and removes it from the roads fairly quickly.

But drivers here also have plenty of woes. Boston as a whole has been named one of the 10 worst cities in the U.S. for parking. The experimental parking rules that allow visitors only two hours to park on South Boston streets in the evening might have eased parking issues slightly for people trying to place their cars close to home after a day at the office, but they make it almost impossible for residents to host friends or family for more than a quick hello. And even with those new rules in place, people are still struggling to squeeze into too-small spaces or they waste a great deal of time circling the streets for a parking spot – and often end of walking quite a distance home after all.

Well, there are some residential properties with deeded parking spots in South Boston. Let’s take a look at two offered through Joyce Lebedew Real Estate:

In South Boston’s East Side artist’s district there’s a two-bedroom/two-bath ultra modern open floor plan unit  on East 2nd Street, with two parking spaces in a garage. On East Broadway, another two-bedroom – this one a gorgeous brick brownstone with period detail  – comes with two parking spots as well.

There are more such properties out there. Maybe now’s the time to start your search!

Blog post by the Joyce Lebedew Real Estate Team

Photography credit: Veer.com

Renting a Home in South Boston

In South Boston, rental units are in high demand. Which makes sense, because Southie is an amazing place to live! Once you’ve found the spot for you, you’ll cozy into a dynamic and welcoming community like no other.

A good way to begin a search for an apartment or house to rent is to clarify, for yourself, what is non-negotiable. For example, do you have to have at least two bedrooms? Must there be a laundromat no more than three blocks away? Are you sure that on-site storage is a necessity? And so on. Note where you’d be willing to compromise, though: It might cost more to live close to a T station, for example. Be sure, as well, to confirm how much you can spend for rent. A general rule is that keeping your rent at not more than 30% of your monthly take-home pay is the best way to go. Though that isn’t realistic for everyone (including many Bostonians), it’s an important mark to aim for. If the current tenants are available, ask how much they typically spend monthly on utilities, to help you estimate your budget.

Because rental properties are taken so quickly, have your credit, reference and bank account information, plus checks (for a deposit), with you. If two or more people are seeking to rent together, they should all go on the initial visit. Otherwise, by the time everyone can make plans to see the place, it very well might have been rented to someone else.

Parking spots, just like rental units, can be hard to find. Chat with local residents about on-street parking and nearby garages that offer spaces for a monthly fee.

Once you’ve had your application for a new home accepted, read the lease before signing it. Massachusetts requires all rental agencies to use a standardized form (called the “RHA lease”) for apartments, but it’s still important that you know what is in the document you’re signing, which includes an outline of your rights as a tenant.

Here are some resources for additional information:

Jumpshell” compares average rental rates in Boston’s different communities, including South Boston.

Curbed University” has come up with some great questions and answers about the logistics and legalities of renting in Boston in general.

Blog post by the Joyce Lebedew Real Estate Team

Photography credit: Veer.com

South Boston Homes: It’s Time to Buy!

The decision to buy a house is a big one: It impacts so many areas of one’s life. Most often, when a person confirms that it’s time to invest in a home, he or she is committed to spending years (perhaps decades) in that location, and to establishing community connections. South Boston, being the vibrant community that it is, is attracting home buyers, as it should. Here are a few house-hunting tips for those of you checking out the possibilities:

* Visit the different parts of South Boston to get a feel for where you might like to focus your search: Take a walk along residential and commercial streets; check out the waterfront and other buildings around Fort Point. Participate in a community event (a store opening, a benefit for a local charity, a bike or running race) or hang out in a few pubs or bars to hear what people are talking about.

* Check your finances to make sure you are realistic about what kind of investment you can make and sustain. A fixer-upper, though perhaps most affordable now, might require plenty of cash to get it truly livable. Even a home in great condition will need upkeep.

* Start looking through listings where you’ll indulge in photos, floor plans, and all the details about kind of heat, nearby school, etc.

* Find a real estate broker who specializes in South Boston. Let them know which property type you are interested in (single family homes and condos are the most common for South Boston) and other criteria (price range; number of bedrooms; etc.).

* Read through Curbed University’s guide to real estate terms such as “earnest money,” “title,” and “special assessments.”

* Have patience: Taking your time might not only be necessary, but advisable. Plan for the search to take up to several months – though it might indeed be much shorter or much longer.

Blog post by the Joyce Lebedew Real Estate Team

Photography credit: Veer.com

(almost) Spring Cleaning

This very long, very cold winter is finally coming to an end. Okay…so maybe not just yet, but hopefully soon! Sunshine, more hours of daylight and the liberating feeling of not having to put on layer-upon-layer of clothing is around the corner (we hope!) Why not channel some of that energy into a bit of spring cleaning? A little effort now will result in a healthier, more comfortable home as we enter the season of new beginnings. Below are some of the many helpful hints from our friends at HGTV and Martha Stewart Living.

* Let the sunshine in by cleaning the window panes. Your best bet is to use rubber-edged squeegees, which come in range of sizes. A screw-on extension makes it easy to reach  way up high.
All you need is a bucket of warm water and a few drops of mild dish soap.

* Dust. Dust. Dust. Pay special attention to the places that are out of sight and/or out of mind, including ceiling fans, the tops of kitchen cabinets, and baseboards and doorways. Wipe blinds with a damp cloth.

* Bring drapes back to life by taking them down, removing the hooks and running them through an air-fluff cycle in the dryer with a damp towel, which captures the dust, for 15 minutes. As soon as the dryer cycle finishes, hang the curtains up again.

* Change the direction of your ceiling fans. If you switched the direction for winter, now’s the time to return it to the standard counterclockwise rotation, set to take the edge off of a room’s heat. (Running the fan clockwise creates an upward draft, redistributing the warm air throughout the room, which is helpful during cold months.) Check the base of the fan for a switch to adjust rotation.

* Wax wooden floors and shampoo carpets to get rid of salt and other debris tracked in by winter shoes.

* Attack that refrigerator. Toss out food that is spoiled or past its eat-by date. A simple solution of abrasive salt and bubbly soda water can help you make the shelves and walls smooth and sparkly.

* Use the self-clean oven option, but only after taking care of major spills.

* Remove lightbulbs from their sockets and polish them with a microfiber cloth dampened with water. Be careful not to get the metal screw base wet.

* Wash out trash cans. Spray garbage cans with a hose and dump out the water. Then, cover the insides with a disinfectant spray, scrub with a brush and rinse.

* Clean outdoor furniture with dishwashing detergent.

Taking these steps will help actual spring get here faster! Well, maybe not, but we can dream, right?

Blog post by the Joyce Lebedew Real Estate Team

Photography credit: By Thekohser (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Real Estate Pricing Comparisons

The process of buying a home can be fun and exciting, but it can also be downright confusing. To anyone outside the real estate industry, it can almost seem like a game where no one gave you the rules. Oftentimes, one of the most misunderstood pieces of the puzzle is the subject of pricing.

If someone charges a certain price for a home, how do you know that the home is worth what they are asking? Is the wool being pulled over your eyes, or are you about to get a great deal?

Luckily, there are tools and websites out there that can help. One such website is Curbed.com. Their feature called Curbed Comparisons shows you what you can expect to get for specific prices in specific areas.

Curbed Comparisons recently came out with a post entitled “What $799K Buys You Around Greater Boston.” Compared were homes in Newton, Chestnut Hill, and different areas of Boston at the same price point.

At #9 on the list was a South Boston condo, part of a new development at 401 West First Street. So what does $799K get you in terms of a newly constructed South Boston condo? It gets you two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and heated garage parking for starters.  Not only do these condos come equipped with central air and laundry, but they featured king sized master suites with glass steam showers, and European kitchens with stainless steel appliances. Add to that private front decks and a common roof deck, and it looks like $799K in South Boston gets you a lot!

This particular unit is already under agreement, but you can contact Joyce Lebedew at 617-269-6400 or info@joycelebedewrealestate.com regarding additional units in the same complex.

Blog post by the Joyce Lebedew Real Estate Team.

Plant Spring-Blooming Flower Bulbs Now


October is the perfect month for planting flower bulbs that will beautify your spring garden. The ground is just the right temperature – not too hot and not too cold. Before you get your do-it-yourself garden work underway, however, here are a few pointers:

  • Scout spots to place the bulbs and imagine what the arrangement of colors, shapes and textures might be. Some people like neat rows of foliage; others appreciate seemingly random groupings of flowers and plants.
  • Be sure the area has moist but well-drained soil, and that it gets good direct sunlight. You might want to check out the distinct sun requirements of specific types of bulbs.
  • Invest in high-quality bulbs. Firm is better than squishy. And big is better than small. Also, don’t buy bulbs that have mold on them.
  • Bulbs usually come with planting instructions. Take a look at them in case there are particular suggestions for that type of bulb. As a rule, people recommend planting bulbs between two and three times deeper than the bulbs are long.
  • Consider planting bulbs in a clay pot instead of in the ground. Flowering bulbs can thrive in a container, and the pot can be placed on a porch or walkway.
  • Cover the soil in which the bulbs are lying with mulch, as protection against a local freeze.
  • Water as needed.

Daffodils, snowdrops, irises, scilla, crocuses and hyacinth are all spring bloomers. Colorful varieties are waiting to be mixed and matched in your garden.

Blog post by the Joyce Lebedew Real Estate Team.

Finding a New Home in the Fall

Autumn Leaves

Historically, Autumn has been a comparatively slower time of the year for real estate. With folks back from vacation, with school back in session, and with a series of upcoming holidays, many people opt to focus on moving into a new home at other points in the year.

However, there are multiple reasons why Autumn is a perfect time to look for your new dream home. And this is especially true for South Boston, where development and renovation are going strong!

Autumn Advantages (for home buyers):

Interest rates are at 60-year lows – under 4% for many potential buyers. Prices have been kept in check, too, because of recent years of a down economy. Now just might be your time to make that house purchase you’ve been dreaming about. Talk to your realtor about all options, including houses whose prices have just been reduced.

Mortage Pre-Approval (for home buyers):

Before you start looking for that new house, secure a pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender. You’ll have a lot of advantages with a letter in hand. It shows realtors that you’re serious about buying a home, and gives sellers confidence that a sale can go through. And there’s no need to worry about being bound to the lender who prepared the note for you. The approval simply means that the institution is ready to make you a loan, but there is no obligation on your part to use those services.

Autumn Advantages (for renters):

It’s not only university and college students who tend to get settled into their homes by Labor Day. Rental demand dips for all constituencies in the fall. And that means there are deals to be had. Check with realtors about move-in specials. Some offer one-month discounts or even a free first month; some remove the broker fee or say no last-month deposit is required; others put their preference for one-year leases aside and allow month-to-month agreements. Due to the typical dip in rental demand during this time of year, some owners and managers will be eager to get their remaining inventory rented as soon as possible.

Financial Overview (for renters):

Before you start your hunt, be sure to review your finances in detail. Check income against all expenses to see what you can afford to pay in rent each month. Remember to consider other factors as well: Is it worth it to spend a bit more to be closer to work or school, to save on the commute? Is it important to be close to public transportation? Is it important to have an extra room for a study or office from which you can, perhaps, make additional income?

List of Must-Haves:

Whether you’re looking to rent or buy, do keep your list of must-haves with you while you are out and about on the search. Pets, kids, restaurants, parks, neighborhood, neighbors – there’s plenty to consider when thinking about where to live, and you don’t want to forget to ask the necessary questions and do the required research to be in a position to make the right choice.

Blog post by the Joyce Lebedew Real Estate Team.