When it comes to making a successful real estate investment, understanding the “little secrets” in each market is key. As entrepreneur Robert Kiyoaski noted, “The problem with real estate is that it’s local. You have to understand the local market.”

Enter IVY Member Judy Golfarb, a longtime Boston resident whose twelve years at Coldwell Banker have given her the edge in Boston’s residential real estate scene. Read Judy’s top tips and connect with her below!


What are the biggest changes you’re seeing in real estate at the moment?

In desirable locations, like the Greater Boston area, we are experiencing a dearth of inventory. That’s been the case for about the last two years. From a supply and demand perspective, this has created the definition of a seller’s market. There’s limited supply and increasing demand.

New listings are being snapped up at record speed and almost always with multiple offers. This can put a great deal of pressure on the buyers. It’s a domino effect, because a seller can’t sell unless he or she has a place to go. People who are looking to upgrade are in a tough spot. Buyers need a savvy agent who knows how to handle the multiple offer situation. And has access to the “soft” listings that may not make it to the public market

On that note, many of my Back Bay, Beacon Hill and South End transactions are off-market sales. If I’m aware of a developer gutting a brownstone, I will have my buyers do a drive-by and if it’s safe, I’ll get my buyers in for a hardhat tour. And then we make a full price offer based the specs and architectural plans. The buyers are thrilled to get “new” and avoid a bidding war.

Another trend we’re seeing is an increasing demand for city living from the empty nester population. Folks whose kids have gone off to college are eager to start a new chapter in their lives, with greater cultural options nearby and the ability to walk places. That’s adding to the buyer pool.

Lastly, interest rates are so low now that when young professionals who are currently renting run the numbers, they realize that buying is not much more expensive than renting. Many of my deals are from first time buyers who see the financial wisdom of making the investment now. Of course, they need to make the down payment, but there is often family support and other assets to meet that hurdle.

Is it the same trend happening elsewhere in the country?

From what I’m hearing from my California counterparts, desirable areas in Southern California are experiencing the same thing. New York City is a very different landscape because the entire West Side of the city is being developed and new buildings continue to be built. That adds to the inventory and helps keep up with the demand. In Boston, we’re more limited by what we can build for a variety of reasons, political and otherwise.

What’s your top advice to buyers?

First, get your finances in order. You will most likely need to waive your mortgage contingency. With one or two exceptions, I have not put together a deal with a financing contingency in the last two years, even though many of my buyers will be getting a loan for the purchase. And from the listing side, my sellers almost always have the luxury of accepting only those offers with minimal contingencies.

Second, know your budget, and be ready to act quickly.  You may not be able to see a home more than once before you need to decide whether to make an offer. Stressful but fast and decisive action is often rewarded.

Third, work with a savvy buyer agent who is educated about the market and will patiently pass along that knowledge. An experienced agent will weed out the dogs and ensure you are equipped to jump when the right home presents itself. The asking price of a home is just a number—it may priced under or over value, and that’s something your agent needs to be able to explain to you.

And comparison shop till you drop. Nothing replaces getting out there and physically seeing the listings.

Lastly, enjoy the thrill of buying a new home that you will make your own. It’s a wonderful experience that is worth savoring.

What’s the worst mistake you see buyers making?

One of the things I see is a preconceived notion of the “perfect” next home. Wish lists are great and there may be a few non-negotiables. But there’s no such thing as a perfect home, partner, job, car. Try to stay open to what could ultimately become welcome compromises.

I pride myself that I have not had a single buyer regret a purchase decision. Part of that comes from them being able to understand tradeoffs and knowing I am always working in their best interests.

It’s important to also understand that no one has total control over real estate. My demographic is often the young professional single or couple or the older established, wealthy mover-and-shaker. It can be difficult for them to understand that buying and selling real estate is an area of their life that they can’t be in total control of.

What has surprised you the most about the industry?

To be frank, I was very surprised by the amount of cash offers that I saw early in my career. Recently, I put a unit under agreement for over $2 million, and the purchase is being made in cash. This is very common. In Boston, many of our industries are thriving and there is wealth combined with consumer confidence.  And real estate can be a fantastic portfolio addition.

What’s your top piece of advice?

Look for opportunities! No matter what life presents, be open to opportunities. Strive to maximize them, however unexpected. My mentor taught me that years ago and I’ve taken it to heart.

What’s your most audacious life goal?

I am blessed to feel passionately about what I do for a living and to have earned my clients’ trust and repeat business. When I was a practicing attorney (I litigated) I didn’t feel quite so blessed. I want to take my business to the next level, growing my client base and positive impact. Owning a home that you enjoy is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and being able to play a fundamental role in bringing someone that joy is very rewarding.

And maybe getting my Boston marathon PR time lower!

What’s your one message to the IVY community?

Think of me any time you have a real estate related question! I’m here as a resource. I’m happy to take the time to chat with you about you goals, and perhaps how I can play a role in your reaching them. And if you are not near Boston, my referral network is all over the country and I will make sure you are in the best hands possible.

Judy is an IVY Member (Boston). Connect and collaborate with her here! To learn more about IVY, please visit www.ivy.com.