By Dave Twombly

I’ve been in a lot of properties and seen a lot of things in my real estate career, but recently I had a rare first that says a ton about the market we are in.

I was showing a multifamily in Cambridge that just came on the market. The open house was going to be done in a group showing and there were about 30 people waiting to get to see it. The property offered no yard and no parking. As I waited for my clients to show up I noticed the foundation was bowed outward (as my dear readers know, this is about the scariest thing a real estate agent/potential buyer can see. Foundations are just slightly important to making sure your house remains, you know, standing). Every window sill was rotted.

As we gathered to get inside the listing agent pointed out the warning sign from the city stating that part of the building (an illegal roof deck) was deemed ‘unsafe’ and therefore would not be accessible.  The listing agent informed everyone that the city would most likely make the next owner remove the roof deck. Then he proceeded to tell us that while the house was listed just under $500k the bidding would start at $510k and offers were due the next day. Many of us chortled.  I was incredibly curious to see the inside.

Boy was I shocked.  Inside we found unfinished walls. When I say unfinished, I mean down to the studs with some wooden slats haphazardly placed on the studs to create rooms.  The floors sagged to the point where one of my clients, a good 3-4 inches taller than I, was shorter than me if he stood in the middle of the room and I stood against the wall.

My other client, after pointing out the lack of counter space and storage in the kitchen, noted the stove was plugged into an extension cord that ran over doors to another plug in another room. The other unit was in similar condition.

Why am I telling you this? You are probably thinking “Come on Dave, you’ve seen plenty of properties that need work. Not every house is in move in condition That’s par for the course”.  It is and you are correct.  What’s remarkable about this instance is what it says about the market.

We all chuckled at the listing agent’s confidence that the place would sell, sell quickly, and sell for over the asking price.  As I saw it, there were only two things that could help this property.  A bulldozer or an endless pile of cash and a lot of time. Neither of these things are generally available to the typical buyer.
Sure enough, two days later the property was listed as being under agreement.

This, dear reader, is what you are up against in this market (especially if you want to live in Cambridge).  The lack of inventory escalates the demand and properties that are deemed unsafe  are snatched up after the first showing.  What can you do?

Get your ducks in a row. Make sure your pre-approval is solid and through a reputable lender (one who has done credit checks on everybody involved in the purchase, that means you and your husband/partner/sister etc).  Save as much money as you can.  The bigger the downpayment, the better you appear to the seller.  Be patient. Don’t get frustrated and keep plugging away.