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25 Bits of Data-Driven Advice for Hub Sellers and Buyers

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.

One of the most talked-about real estate books of the year is Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate, authored by Zillow executives Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries. In Zillow Talk, the execs who have led the real estate research giant in collecting data on millions of homes and home sales advise buyers, in the Hub and elsewhere, to let "let data be your guide."

1. Housing is the most important industry in America that almost nobody understands.

2. The three things that matter in property are future location, future location, future location.

3. An exercise room and a media room are among the most desired amenities in upscale homes.

4. Warren Buffet looked at the historically low interest rates found in 2012 and thought that residential real estate was "as attractive an investment as you can make now."

5. More than four out of five U.S. adults surveyed in 2011 thought that buying a home was the best long-term investment a person could make.

6. From 1975 to 2014, residential real estate outperformed the S&P 500, according to Zillow.

7. As an investment, housing is less volatile than stocks, less risky, puts a roof over your head, has tax write-offs, and can be purchased with leverage.

8. The best way to make a rent-buy decision is to consider the "breakeven horizon, the number of years after which the real cost of buying becomes less than or equal to the real costs of renting."

9. In about 80 percent of the metro markets Zillow surveyed, the breakeven horizon was less than three years. In Boston, it was four years. I'm thinking in Somerville it was 45 minutes.

10. The key indicators that a neighborhood was about to gentrify: older homes, low owner occupancy, and access to popular neighborhoods.

11. The worst house in a great area typically appreciated slower than other homes in that area. According to the authors, it is the worst house for a reason and there is less of a demand for cheap homes in nicer neighborhoods.

12. Ninety-one percent of respondents in one survey thought school boundaries were important in finding a perfect home.

13. Want some low bids when you put your home on the market? Put the words "unique," "modern," "investment," "potential" or "TLC" in the remarks section.

14. Want some high bids? Put the words "luxurious," "captivating," "granite," "stainless" and "landscaped."

15. Additionally, the longer the listing remarks section is, the higher the sales price.

Related:
Boston's Million-Dollar Listings Bounce, Cheaper Ones Decline [Curbed Boston]
Are Hub Sellers Asking Less to Get More? A New Era Dawns [Curbed Boston]
Extreme Over-Asks in the Hub: Where They Happen the Most [Curbed Boston]

16. "Main Street" is twice as popular a name nationally as the next most common street name: "Park Street."

17. "Ocean" is the most valuable street name in Boston. By the way, I don't know where Ocean Street is in the Boston area, but you know what they say, if you have to ask where it is... you probably can't afford to live there anyway.

18. Changing levels of optimism and well-being are often reflected in changing home values. Yet there is no way to tell if the optimism is the fuel or the consequence.

19. What definitely fuels higher home values and faster appreciation is the presence of Starbucks. Starbucks is Zillow's corporate neighbor in Seattle.

20. In Boston in 2011, sellers had the best outcome when they listed in the second week of April. The worst week to list in Boston was the third week of December.

21. Sellers with a nine as the last non-zero digit sell it better: They sell for more and faster.

22. Real estate agents are here to stay: When purchases are expensive and infrequent, buyers want help.

23. Homeowners are more conservative than renters, but renters have more sex than homeowners.

24. Higher WalkScores generally lead to greater appreciation and faster recovery from down markets. WalkScore is Zillow's corporate neighbor in Seattle.

25. "Gayborhoods" outperform most neighborhoods. So, "if you are looking for a home, you might want to consider up-and-coming LGBT-friendly neighborhoods—especially those that are located close to Starbucks."
· Our Bates By the Numbers archive [Curbed Boston]