$$ How much does it cost to live here compared to the rest of the country? You may be shocked to find out. $$

“The cost of living is going up and the chance of living is going down.” – Flip Wilson

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As time goes up, so do costs. That is something we can all agree with. We’ve all seen those books in the local diner or grocery store that have all the prices from 50 years ago.

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But, although inflation is inevitable, why is it that it is more prevalent in certain parts of the country? It’s a pretty well known fact that the cost of living is significantly lower in southern parts of the country. Cost of living even varies from city to city in some states. People will argue that since the cost of living is more expensive in New England it’s because we get paid more. But is that really true? and if so, do our salaries correlate with our cost of living effectively? I was curious, so I did some research. I thought you might like to know as well so here ya go.

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With a website called www.areavibe.com I was able to compare different cities through the USA and measure their cost of living, crime, education, income, and other factors that fall into play. I compared our home town of Lowell, MA; Boston, MA which is only 30 mins away from Lowell but cost of living is significantly higher through my recent observations; Raleigh, NC which has been a common comparison in price differences; Waco, TX to represent the South; and Fresno, CA to represent the West.

As far as livability and amenities, these cities are all very comparable. The livability in Raleigh and Waco is slightly higher based on a higher graduation rate. Raleigh comes out on top for livability specifically because of the low cost of living.

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As you can see in he chart above, Boston has the highest Cost of Living Index BY FAR. Lowell is not too far behind. The housing index for Boston is almost off the chart. Just to put into perspective for you, I also found these statistics.

Lowell’s cost of living index is 4% lower than MA (so Lowell is one of the cheaper areas to live in MA)

Massachusetts’s cost of living index is 25% higher than the national average.

Massachusetts’s housing index is 24% higher than the national average.

And this was the kicker for me – Massachusetts’s income tax index was 132% higher than the national average.

So in case you haven’t figured it out yet, we live in one of the most expensive states in the USA. 

So now the question is this, do our salaries and wages really reflect such a higher cost of living? Let us see.

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So to me, there isn’t really that much a difference but let’s go a step further and see that the numbers are to compare.

Boston vs Lowell 

Boston’s cost of living is 14% higher than the cost of living in Lowell. HOWEVER, the median household income is only 10% higher in Boston than in Lowell. 

Boston vs Raleigh 

Bostons cost of living is 29% higher than the cost of living in Raleigh, NC. HOWEVER, the median household income is .18% LOWER IN BOSTON than it is in Raleigh, NC. So in this specific example the answer is NO – WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID MORE TO LIVE IN A MORE EXPENSIVE LOCATION. 

So through this research it makes me think – how good is quality of life in an area where people are struggling to keep up with the cost of living and their salaries and wages don’t correlate? How many people just work as much as possible to make as much money as possible just to simply exist in their area rather than truly live? How can people save or do things they enjoy when you can barely afford rent or your mortgage, groceries, and utilities necessary to survive? 

 

Some people are fine with this. They like working and they like being busy all the time. But if you don’t, it’s important to know the facts. It’s important to know that things are different elsewhere. You may make excuses that you can’t leave because this or that. You can’t quit your job because of reasons A, B, and C. But at the end of the day, only you can change your situation.

Happy living.

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Whistle While You Work

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A lot of people in today’s society work because they have to, not because they want to.

We sit at desks all day doing work that we are not proud of nor is it fulfilling for us. It’s unfortunate that the perception of work has turned into something so negative. That the common reaction of going to work is “Ugh.”

I mean if we didn’t work what would we do all day? What would we be living for? We have 15 whole hours a day,105 hours a week, 420 hours a month, 5,040 hours a year! If you didn’t work would you seriously be watching Netflix for that long? People think that working is such a pain in the ass but yet if we didn’t work, we would be completely bored with ourselves and our lives. Work gets us out of the house everyday, it keeps our minds sharp, and if your lucky it gives you a chance to be creative and productive in society. So if we are spending so much time doing something, shouldn’t we at least like it?

How did we get to the point that the majority of us feel like we “have” to do something we don’t like over and over again? Why is it that we are so highly motivated by the money and tangible items that working a job we don’t like will bring us rather than the happiness and fulfillment we will feel while working a job we are passionate about? Why wouldn’t we rather do something we love to do everyday instead of dragging ourselves through the day because “we have to.”

Maybe I’m different but I just don’t buy it.

Believe it or not, every single person in this world is different. Meaning there is such a variety of ideas, skills, talents and creativity out there. So, here’s the ultimate question…

→  What is your unique skill, talent, or idea? ←

Whether it is painting, dancing, singing, taking care of people, treating the sick, educating, building, creating, driving, helping, fashion, make-up, drawing, traveling, running, caring, fixing, etc. DO IT! Do something that involves that skill or talent even slightly. Something that challenges you to be better but also allows you to be your true self.

If you read this and are like – “well I don’t know what I like to do” – then my challenge to you is: figure it out.

Take some time to yourself (not like an hour but like a month or so) and really figure out who you are and what your passions are. NOTE: It wont be easy, but it will be worth it.

You only have one life, don’t waste it waiting for your retirement when you can do all the things you said you wanted to do. If you don’t like your job quit. “I wish it was that easy” you might say. It is. The way I see it is you have the choice. You can choose to be miserable at a job you hate, or you can choose to change your situation. You can also choose to blame all your problems on other people. You can choose to put all your power in other peoples hands. You can choose to be unhappy doing the same things that make you unhappy every single day. OR you can choose to change it. You can choose to start over. You can choose to be happy. You can choose to whistle while you work. I believe in you. Good Luck.

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” – Aristotle

“Flip or Flop” Greater Lowell Style

So we all LOVE the HGTV shows about flipping houses right? There is something so interesting about watching an old destroyed home transform into something beautifully brand new. The best is seeing the before and after pictures where you say to yourself “is that even the same house??”

Well in this high real estate market there is a surplus of flippers with plenty of canvases available, especially in one of the oldest parts of the country. It is so satisfying to see a property go from old to new in just a few months.

Here are some real life examples of flips in Greater Lowell:

Mount Vernon St. Lowell, MA 

Bought for around $155,000 8/28/2015 – Under Agreement for $260,000 1/2/2017

  • 4 month renovation
  • Estimated profit = $20,000-$40,000


Mansur St. Lowell, MA 

Bought for $243,000 5/9/2016 – Sold for $399,000 9/29/2016

  • 5 month renovation
  • Estimated profit = $50,000-$90,000

 

Mead St. Lowell, MA 

Bought for $68,700 3/30/2016 – Sold for $206,000 10/28/2016

  • 7 month renovation
  • Estimated profit made = $40,000-$60,000

 

The next project was actually done by my Aunt and Uncle and their partners/ close friends. This property came out stunning when they were finished with it!

Frost Rd. Tyngsboro, MA

Bought for $225,000 12/30/2015 – Sold for $385,000 8/24/2016

  • 7 month renovation
  • Estimated profit = $60,000-$80,000

 

This project was done by my co-workers at Z.R. Rourke Real Estate and Rourke Construction. The transformation is absolutely amazing.

Grafton St. Lowell, MA 

Bought for around $169,000 3/1/2016 – Sold for $290,000 11/18/2016

  • 7 month renovation
  • Estimated profit $50,000-$70,000

 

If you know any houses that are an eye-sore in Greater Lowell, give me a call!

Cheapest Properties in Greater Lowell

Previously we’ve talked about the most expensive homes in Greater Lowell. We found the priciest, most extravagant homes were all located in the western parts of Greater Lowell in Groton, MA.

Now I wanted to go the other way. What are the cheapest properties in Greater Lowell? What has sold for less than $100,000 in this high market? Obviously these properties are in bad to horrible condition, but I thought it would be fun to show you guys that they are out there.

Tarbell St. Pepperell, MA – Sold $69,900

 

L St. Lowell, MA – Sold $65,500

 

Exchange Pl. Lowell, MA – Sold $65,000

 

& The cheapest property purchased within the last 6 months in Greater Lowell goes tot his beauty!

Whiley St. Groton, MA – Sold $50,000

 

So if you want to buy a house but don’t want to break the bank, just put a little elbow grease into these puppies!

A mortgage for $50,000 would cost you about $367 / month with about $1750 as a down payment!

 

“Zen” My Crib

Do you ever come home sometimes and you just feel on edge? You don’t know why but anything and everything is ticking you off. It’s common, especially after a long day of work or school or whatever you do with your day.

I’ve started to do some simple things to improve the energy in my home to make me feel at ease and comfortable when coming home after a long day. And now I would like to share that with you.

Himalayan Salt Lamps 

Some people call it a myth but actually himalayan salt has massive benefits to your body and soul. Here are some most common benefits from these powerful lamps.

  1. Cleanse and deodorize the air
  2. Reduce allergy and asthma symptoms
  3. Eases coughing
  4. Increases energy levels
  5. Neutralize electromagnetic radiation
  6. Better sleep
  7. Improved mood & concentration
  8. Treat seasonal affective disorder (winter blues)
  9. Reduce static electricity on the air

 

De-clutter 

“Tidy room. Tidy mind.” This is oh so true. Some people might be convinced that they like things better messy but realistically when there is clutter in your surroundings, there is clutter in your mind and if theres clutter in your mind you can’t truly be at ease. Start by minimalizing. This is process of reducing the things in your life that aren’t necessary. Things that have been sitting in your room for ages that has an inch thick pile of dust on it because you haven’t touched it in 5 years. If you don’t use it, lose it! Those things that you do use and need, organize it. Find places for all of your belongings so that all your counters and bureau tops are cleared away. Take a weekend (maybe set a goal for a full spring cleaning) to go through your things and decide what you need to keep and what you can donate or throw away. Keep this thought in mind, there are a lot of people out there that might need all those things you haven’t used. Give em up. Take 5-10 minutes during your day to put things in their places and clear off your counters and floors. It will make you feel so much better – promise.

No Work or Technology Near Your Resting Space 

One of the worst things you can do is combine your work and the place where you rest. This makes the mind associate these places with work and stress and it makes it almost impossible to relax in the one place you want to relax. If you watch TV before bed, make sure you shut it off before you fall asleep. Don’t have your computer near your bed or work on your bed. Try to leave your cell phone outside of your room. OMG did I really just say that? – YES. Get an alarm clock. You don’t need to check your Instagram 5 times before bed and right when you wake up.

The point being that when you are ready to relax – relax with no distractions or things in your space that your mind might associate with stress.

Incorporate the 5 Elements 

Fire – Candles don’t just make your smell wonderful, they can keep stagnant energy moving making the air feel lighter and more inviting.

Water – Water symbolizes wisdom and adaptability. Keep a small desk fountain to remind you to go with the flow. Feng shui says that if the water is flowing into your room versus out then that represents new opportunities coming into your life.

Wood – You will usually have wood already in your room with furniture. You can also add plants to add clarity and productivity to the mix.

Earth – To put a little piece of the Earth in your space, find some healing crystals. These beauties are said to be a powerful tool in energy balancing and healing. They are also said to harmonize interiors.

Metal – By adding metal in the form of wind chimes or metal decor, you can cleanse the energy of the room with musical vibration.

Numero Uno for making an energy at home better is changing your mindset about the space. Learn to love the space you live in in order to give yourself more relaxation and comfort. Make your space your own.

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“Old School” vs. “New School” Real Estate

“Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination.” – Albert Einstein

Did you ever wonder how real estate was bought and sold before the internet? It seems like a time before technology was so distant. Realistically, that was only about 20 years ago.. So in retrospect, a lot of our parents bought houses before the internet. WHATTT? Sooo you didn’t search on Zillow for months before buying? You didn’t make a list of properties to go see before you ever called a real estate agent? You didn’t create your perfect home on Pinterest before you bought your own home? Then how did you do it??

Well I thought it would be interesting to compare the process of buying a house in 1990’s vs. 2017. Here it is.

So if you were looking to buy a house in 1990’s here would be your steps to take.

  1. Figure out where you would like to live
  2. Find a real estate brokerage or agent in that area via newspaper & magazine ads
  3. Call the real estate agent you think is most knowledgeable about that area
  4. You tell real estate agent what you are looking for
  5. Real estate agent brings you to see properties they think you would like to see
  6. You find your dream home through your real estate agent

If you are looking to buy a house in 2017 here are the common steps to take now-a-days.

  1. Figure out where you would like to live
  2. Google “(location) houses for sale”
  3. Look through Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia, and other real estate websites that show real estate listings
  4. Decide exactly what you are looking through by getting inspiration from other homes, pinterest, ect
  5. Google “best real estate agents in (location)”
  6. Call your real estate agent and tell them exactly what you want
  7. It might take your agent longer to find you something because you have a very specific criteria
  8. If your agent doesn’t do their job good enough or fast enough you might go back online and look for another one

 

There are major differences I see between this “old school” style and “new school” style of real estate. First of all, the role of a real estate agent is changing. Instead of being the most knowledgeable about your area and being able to bring qualifying homes to your clients, you now have to be more knowledgeable about trends and styles. You have to be able to be personable and likable to make sure your client stays loyal to you. In the old school style the focus was more on selling the home, now the focus is on making your clients happy. This isn’t a bad thing, it is just different. The second difference is the convenience level, like a lot of things on today’s world. The internet makes things easier and gives you more independence. It gives people more knowledge. This basically made agents work a little harder too. Instead of being a basic agent, a successful agent needs to have a niche. They need to knowledgeable on things that other people are not in order to supply value.

If you are looking to buy, I always suggest hiring an agent that is specifically knowledgeable in the type of property your looking to buy (i.e. luxury, waterfront, vacation home, suburb, city, investment, etc.) This is how you get the most out of your agent and avoid wasting not only your agents time, but yours as well. aaeaaqaaaaaaaak0aaaajdi4otixyjm2lta5zdytndbimi05y2izlti1zgrlmdc5zmzioq

 

 

UMass Lowell vs City of Lowell

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Being from Lowell, I generally tend to look at the UMass campuses and dorms as just another landmark. It seems so normal to me because it has always been there. Just recently I realized how large of a school UMass Lowell actually was and how highly regarded their academic programs were. University of Massachusetts Lowell Campus is nationally recognized for it’s programs in engineering, criminal justice, education, music, science and technology and offering 122 bachelor’s, 43 master’s and 36 doctoral degree programs.

There is no question that the University has brought tremendous value to the city such as renovating old buildings, boosting the economy, and increasing population. However, the city seems to think that they deserve a little bit more than just that.

Their argument is this: as the university expands physically, larger than their original blueprint, they take over more property. Umass Lowell actually owns 4% of all property in Lowell. The issue is that the university doesn’t pay any taxes on this property. Because of this, the city misses out on $7 million per year. From the university’s perspective, they say they generate enough economic activity for the city that a cash contribution isn’t necessary.

The university also argues that the extra costs that would be associated with tuition in order to compensate for a contribution to the city, would be devastating to the students who depend on a valuable education without spending too much money. To me, I think if they just took some money out of the university owners/ share holders pockets (who make millions, if not billions per year) then there wouldn’t be an issue..  but that’s non of my business..

Other large, tax-exempt institutions in Massachusetts have set an example by contributing funds to their respective cities. For example; Boston University, Simmons College, and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences donated a total of $23.2 million to the city of Boston last fiscal year. Amherst, MA – whose population is mostly students – pays for the municipal services used by their students every year.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 students come to Lowell to live every school year. With this high traffic of students, parents and visitors – liveliness to downtown’s restaurants, shops, and nightlife increases in this old mill city. As we can assume, the high amount of traffic also adds stress to the roads, emergency serves, public transportation and other public city amenities.

Although nobody can argue that the university has added countless value to Lowell, I do think that they could spare a little more than just a “spark in the economy. University’s are extremely profitable institutions. In  response to the public amenities used by the students and staff, the university should pay the city respectively. Especially if the city is missing out on taxes that they deserve via property. Lowell has been a struggling city for a while and is now on the up and up reinventing itself. With the extra cash coming from the university, the city could improve sidewalks & roads, public transportation, emergency services, etc.

Aside from all cosmetic fixes, the most valuable thing that the university can contribute to improving is public schools. With the extra funds to the city, Lowell public schools could pay their teachers more, renovate old school buildings, supply more books and resources for underprivileged children and overall improve the culture in this city. The university has started to help the school system in other ways however. They allow Lowell High School students to take college courses while in high school to acquire credits and get a head start in their college career.

“If families can get all sorts of experiences in the public school system because higher education is right there in the community, then you can really market that opportunity to families and attract them to your residential neighborhoods, increase those property values, and solve your fiscal challenge.” – Benjamin Forman, executive director of Gateway Cities Innovation Institute.

What are your thoughts?

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References:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/11/29/umass-lowell-growth-creates-benefits-strains/zRTdcTar6j1AYgoHBohj5O/story.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Massachusetts_Lowell