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How 100 Inches of Snow Affected Hub Real Estate Pros

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Here's the latest installment of Bates By the Numbers, a weekly feature by Boston real estate agent David Bates that drills down into the Hub's housing market to uncover those trends and people you would not otherwise notice. Follow him on Twitter and check out his ebook, Context: Nine Key Condo Markets, 2.0.

Describing what it was like to transact business in the midst of record snow, Hub real estate agent Mark Hand said, "It seemed kind of a futile effort, to be honest."

There was the time that Hand was able to get a "For Sale" sign out to his new listing, but, before he could get the listing to market, the six-foot sign was completely buried in snow. "You couldn't see anything," said Hand, who has been selling real estate since 2006. So, the sellers decided to hold off coming to market.

Then, there was the February day that Hand had clients in his Jeep Wrangler and the only way to continue down a snow-laden JP side street was to take out a tow strap and drag a stuck vehicle a few hundred yards. "And I'm in a suit doing this," Hand added.

So, instead of focusing on listing and selling, the top-producing agent buried his head in marketing efforts. Undoubtedly, many Hub realtors felt a similar pain. Yet, despite the relentless snow and the onslaught of freezing cold, some Hub homes did make it to market and did secure buyers.

Home Inspector Lenny Licari has been in the business 26 years and said this winter is the worst year he's ever seen for water infiltration inside a home. "About three years ago, we all thought that was the worst," Licari said, referring to the winter of 2011 that seemed to bring a storm a week. "This is four times as bad as that."

Licari said that 70 percent of the homes he's inspected in the last three weeks had water pouring in, and that it didn't make a difference whether the home was brand-new or 200 years old. "I've seen it in every room you can imagine: bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, coming through living-room chandeliers. They're coming from exhaust vents in bathrooms, water stains everywhere." You may find it surprising, but Licari said that buyers were taking the running-water problems in stride. It's the sellers, including those telling him they haven't had a leak in 25 years, who have been freaking out.

Record snow makes it impossible for Licari to see roof shingles, gutters and many outside areas. Yet, the veteran of 16,000 home inspections sees the glass as half-full. "It's a very good time to have a home inspection because if you're gonna have problems with ice dams or problems with not having enough insulation or ventilation, this is perfect."

Not being able to complete the home inspection, however, has created issues for Brookline real estate attorney Ilya Fuchs. "Every single buyer wants to put in language protecting themselves, saying that their inspection contingency is extended through the end of March or whenever they can get up on the roof or see the roof. In the past, extending the home inspection contingency a month would be a deal killer, but, this winter, motivated buyers, sellers, agents and attorneys are finding ways to make it work.

Fuchs also noted how, even after the final contract, the Purchase and Sale, weather-related issues have still threatened closings. Fuchs said that some appraisers couldn't get out to appraise and some sellers could not get moving-trucks into their driveways to move their belongings. That delayed closings as did the fact that the registry of deeds was closed several days. Finally, weather-created problems discovered on final walk-throughs also sometimes needed to be worked out before deals could close.

The attorney, who has had a law office since 1999, noted that no one across the board—buyers, sellers, realtors, lenders and attorneys—had experienced such conditions in the Hub before. "We were all kind of learning on the fly," Fuchs said. Yet, in the end, he was happy with the cooperation other professionals displayed to get deals done.
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]