Archives for April 2012

‘How’s the market?’… A professional realtor’s perspective

Each month, the Colonial Times will present perspectives on the local real estate market from leaders in the Lexington real estate community

Dani Fleming

By Dani Fleming  |

Frequently I get asked the question “How’s the Market?”. It’s a valid question be-cause, for most people, the most expensive asset they own is their home, or it’s the most expensive purchase they plan to make. So, it’s important to have a good understanding of the market dynamics at any point in time. Having an extensive back-ground in the Information Technology field, my approach to real estate is a ‘Data Driven’ one.

There are many pieces of information you can use to evaluate the health of the market. Key pieces of information to know are:

1. Inventory Levels

2. Trends in Average Sale prices over time

3. Absorption rates

4. Sales distributions.

There are others also, but these four topics will be covered in this and a future issue.

Inventory Levels

The graph shows the movement of inventory (homes on the market) over the last 6 years in Lexington. This graph can tell you many things. Note the seasonality reflected in the graph – in Jan 2011 inventory levels were very low, and as the spring market got underway inventory levels began increasing as more homeowners put their home on the market to sell. In May 2011, the number of homes on the market peaked and then began dropping as fewer sellers decided to sell and started thinking about their summer plans instead, yet buyers remained very active. The net result of fewer homes coming on the market, yet buyer activity continuing, is a reduction of homes available for sale. In July and August inventory levels hovered below the peaks of spring and autumn with occasional homes coming on the market and occasional purchases occurring. But, most buying and selling activity slows down during the summer months, increasing again in autumn when sellers and buyers again think about moving. The autumn market is shorter than spring, starting around September and finishing by Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving many home sellers take their homes off the market for winter because of reduced buyer activity and this also means that they can bring their homes back on the market again in spring, fresh to the market. You can see the repeat of this scenario year after year, indicating a balanced cycle. In spring of 2009 we had very high peaks of inventory, but with subsequent lower peaks in the following years.

Seasonality in an inventory level graph indicates a ‘healthy’ market. When you are in an area with lots of foreclosures, short sales and oversupply of homes you don’t see seasonality of this type because the seasonal trends are ‘hidden’ amongst the clutter of the oversupply.

Reducing peaks of inventory levels also indicate a ‘healthy’ market. Declining inventory levels are an indicator of increasing prices – with the caveat that there are many indicators of what is happening with the market and you cannot review one in isolation; you have to review them all too truly understand what is happening.

Absorption Rates

Absorption rates tell us a huge amount of information about the current real estate market in a town. Using the sales data for the last 12 months, at any given price range, you can derive a rate of sales per month. The absorption rate calculates how many months it will take to sell the current inventory, assuming no more houses come on the market, at the same rate of sales that occurred in the prior 12 months. In other words, how many months will it take to sell what we have on the market? We generally say that any price range that has over 7 months supply has an ‘oversupply’ situation. Any price range under 7 months is in a balanced, ‘healthy’ state, and where we have less than 3 months supply we are in a ‘greater demand than supply’ situation. Note though that these figures change monthly. In winter when there is very little inventory on the market you tend to have ‘better’ absorption rates than in the peak of spring where a lot of homes have entered the market.

Reviewing Lexington’s absorption rates we can see that in every price range we are in a ‘healthy’ state of supply and demand. We don’t have any price ranges where we have over 7 months supply and in fact have many price ranges where we have less than 3 months supply. This supports what we are seeing ‘on the ground’ where we have very little inventory for all the buyers who are looking to move into, or within, Lexington. If you would like to discuss these statistics or review more, then please go to or call/email me at or (617) 997 9145.


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The Prank Heard ‘Round the World!

By Marilyn Rae Beyer  | 

Armored Forces Supplement Colonial Firepower at Rehearsal for Patriots Day 2012  |

Bill Mix and Tom Fortmann inflate the “tank.” Photo courtesy of Marilyn & Rick Beyer.

It was a covert operation employing a time-honored military tactic, the element of surprise. On the Lexington Green on Sunday, Lexington Militia Capt. Bill Mix gave orders to Lexington militia man Bruce Leader, and Andrew Coots of Gardner’s Charleston Militia to commandeer two inflatable rubber Sherman tanks in order to startle and befuddle His Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot as a practice battle ensued on Lexington Green on Sunday – April 1st. Just as the King’s Troops Commander, Paul O’Shaughnessy blustered and bellowed for the rabble from Lexington to “Lay down your arms and disperse!” the unified local forces shouted a unison rejoinder, “Oh, yeah?”

Tom Fortmann, Rick Beyer, the two militiamen, plus late recruits in the persons of Rita & Mike Cramer, David Brossi and Michelle Berniere & sons Ben, Jeremy, Christian Berniere charged onto the Green bearing the faux armored vehicles, causing the staunch Redcoats to bust a gut and sending O’Shaughnessy into fits of laughter. Upon recovering his wits, the Redcoat leader barked, “Fix bayonets!” and ordered a unit to charge, threatening to poke holes in the balloon-like weaponry and thus taking the wind out of the brazen bearers of the buoyant battlefield prank tanks. Mix ordered a hasty retreat and the rehearsal proceeded in earnest, with the usual annual outcome at the expense of the Lexington Militia.

Battle Ready...Mix and Bruce Leader inspect the equipment. Photo courtesy of Marilyn & Rick Beyer.

Just about a month ago, after a committee including Fortmann and other Lexingtonians mounted a fund-raiser for local filmmaker Rick Beyer’s WWII documentary The Ghost Army, Fortmann had a bright idea. Goofy, yes, but bright, as is the wont of the MIT PhD engineer turned educator and former member of the Massachusetts Board of Education. Why not use the inflatable fake tanks from The Ghost Army event to put one over on the Redcoats during the April 1 re-enactment rehearsal? He called up the commander of the Lexington Minutemen, Mix, who portrays Captain John Parker on Patriots Day. The two cooked up the plan.

Redcoats charge, tanks retreat. Photo by Peter Lund.

About an hour before the practice battle, Fortmann and friends inflated the phony tanks and hauled them onto the lawn across the street from the Green. On cue, the crew hoisted the bright green dummies onto the field. Afterwards, the pranksters admitted that – even though the rubber tanks were filled with air – dragging them the 100 yards to the battle line was hard work. Fooling the Redcoats, however, was well worth it. Beyer noted, “The look on O’Shaughnessy’s face was priceless! I have no idea what he said, though, because he was laughing so hard.”

While the battle is a somber chapter of early American history, and, indeed, the yearly Patriots Day re-enactment honors that revered history, the early-April practice sessions frequently include such tomfoolery.

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Annual Yellow Balloon Fair!

This year Lexington’s Community Nursery School will be hosting their 40th Annual Yellow Balloon Fair on Saturday, May 12! Join us for this delightful family fair featuring oodles of fun activities. The fair will be held at the new school at 2325 Massachusetts Ave, in Lexington, from 10am-2pm, rain or shine. Admission is $2 per child ($1 for adults), and game tickets are $1 each.

Enjoy preschool oriented games, prizes, face painting, a bounce house, crafts, and a BBQ lunch. Returning after two successful years will be the visiting petting zoo with a variety of baby animals to cuddle and pet. Participate in the raffles which feature child-themed baskets put together by the classrooms and gift certificates from local businesses.  

The Yellow Balloon Fair is important to Community Nursery School as both a community event and a fundraiser for the school. As a cooperative, parent participation is a core value of the school. Nothing symbolizes this better than when the entire school community comes together for the Yellow Balloon Fair. Liz O’Neil says, “The fair promotes a sense of working together and gives us a chance as a community to celebrate what CNS is truly about.” 

As with previous years, CNS relies on help from local high school students and businesses. Fair co-chair Theresa Sain says, “We couldn’t do this event without the help of our community. While this event is mostly run by CNS parents, it’s a great time for us to reach out to the entire Lexington community to come together for a fun day.” Volunteering at this event counts towards the Lexington High School community service hours that all students need to graduate. If you are interested in helping out with the fair, please email Renae Nichols at Many of the fair raffle items are donated by local stores and businesses. Businesses that are interested in donating can contact Yellow Balloon co-chair Annie Roy at

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‘The Cure Is Coming’ 5k ~Walk for ALS Research


Saturday, May 5

11AM – Walk

11:30AM – 5K Run


Visitor Center

“The Cure Is Coming” event will feature a four-mile ALS awareness walk and wheelchair ride through Lexington Center, as well as a 5k road race. Organizers hope for a record 700 walkers, runners and riders raising money and awareness of ALS TDI efforts to develop effective treatments for ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Walkers begin a four mile loop at 11:00 a.m. and the 5k begins at 11:30. The event also features family activities, entertainment and lunch, provided courtesy of local Lexington restaurants.

Top 5K finishers will be awarded medals in different age groups, with cash prizes to the top three male and female finishers. Additional prizes will also be awarded to top fundraisers.

Gabrielle Nahr, event chair volunteer for the sixth year said, “We are excited and humbled to see the success of ‘The Cure is Coming’ both in participation and donations. Having seen this event grow year after year gives me hope that we’re encouraging and funding more research so we can one day end ALS.” A native of Lexington, Nahr’s mother passed away from ALS.

Anyone interested in donating, walking, racing or volunteering should visit the event’s website at or call 617-441-7200.

About ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease. There is no known cause, cure or effective treatment for the disease.

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By Chief Mark J. Corr, Lexington Police Department  |  As a new officer fresh out of the police academy in 1983, one of the more difficult chores was serving arrest warrants for red light and speeding violations. I would go knock on doors and take residents into custody for the non payment of a $20 fine. Frankly, I found these assignments embarrassing.

Today, a traffic violation is a civil violation and the non payment of a ticket will adversely impact your driver’s license or registration. Decriminalization of traffic laws did not give motorists the privilege to violate traffic regulations and endanger public safety. Speeding and driving through red lights is still unlawful. Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana was decriminalized in Massachusetts in 2008. I often overhear people talking about “legally” possessing marijuana.

In one police report, a parent told officers that her16-year old son told her it was legal to possess marijuana in Massachusetts. It is troubling to me how many youths and adults do not understand the meaning of decriminalization.

The possession and use of marijuana is unlawful. Smoking marijuana is a health hazard. Most users have no idea where or how their marijuana was grown and contamination of product is common; some dealers add other drugs to their product. Tobacco companies were not the only ones who understood that a more potent smoke could promote an addiction.

A 2007 survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that drug use (as reported by the motorists) was as high as 16%; see the NHTSA web-site for more information. Surveys from around the nation tend to show that marijuana continues to be the gateway drug that many youths take before going on to use more serious drugs.

School Resource Officer Matthew Murphy is noticing a trend whereby students, new from the middle schools, seem more inclined to try marijuana than their older siblings. They cite the change in the law for their inclination to try marijuana. In our region, one ounce of marijuana can cost over $400 for 42 to 56 joints (using .75 to .50 ounce per joint).

Whereas distributing marijuana is still a criminal offense; the decriminalization of possession has made it more difficult to prevent a very lucrative business of selling smaller amounts of marijuana. Dealers are meticulously aware of the amount they should possess to avoid criminal possession. I could discuss at length the failure of the current drug laws, or cite many more examples of the hazards of marijuana use.

With the limited exception of a few who benefit from medical marijuana, I will simply say that the possession of marijuana is unlawful and smoking is unhealthy.

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A Personal Connection ~ The More Things Change…

Hank at Work

By Hank Manz  |  It has been a bit cold lately, but even with that I decided to head down to Ranc’s for some ice cream. I am a vanilla person most of the time, but about a year ago my horizons were enlarged when Joe handed me one of his new concoctions. With that memory in mind, this time I decided to go absolutely wild with the pineapple ice cream. First rate!

But then I realized that the whole frozen dessert thing seemed to be getting out of hand in Lexington. In the Center alone there is Candy Castle, Ranc’s, and Baskin-Robbins, along with the just-opened Fruitee Yogurt which has been, by the way, packed every time I have walked by. And if that is not enough, I note there appears to be another yogurt shop going in near Great Harvest.

When I bike through East Lexington, all too often I stop at Macaron Sweeterie. The pastries and frozen treats are one lure, but the benches on the sidewalk are another very important benefit. Enjoying yourself while scarfing down sweets is one thing, but doing so while waving to friends and neighbors is even better. If only there were benches on the south side of Mass Ave in the Center, I would spend even more time there. I remain convinced we could put

in benches there even though others tell me they would never fit. I seem to remember that argument was once applied to bicycle racks on that side, yet today they are there..

Whenever I see a mini-explosion of businesses, I always wonder why banks attract such enmity. Things have died down of late, but with Town Meeting in session the discussion is bound to start anew. I have always held that if your bank is in the Center, then there are enough banks, but if it isn’t, then either you don’t shop downtown or you think the downtown needs at least one more bank.

I chose my bank partly because the branch manager was known to me through her volunteer service and partly because it was in the Center, specifically near Depot Square where I can often be found waiting for a bus. Just in case I do drive, there are usually parking places nearby. The perfect storm of bank availability!

“But a bank is not a destination” one person protested in a hot note to me. Well, it is for me. I can visit my “wealth”, decide if I can afford to withdraw $20 of it, read the Wall Street Journal, say “Hi” to the staff, have a cup of tea, and check out the bulletin board. A bank down the street has pointed out that they have all of that plus a fireplace. Had the winter been colder, I might have cracked. In the interest of journalistic integrity, I have to admit that the first draft of this column was written with a pen from a bank where I have no money on deposit. They have a big bucket of them at the customer desk and every now and then I snag one as I pass through.

I have always been something of a non-interventionist where business is concerned. If there are too many of one kind of business, then there will be a shakeout. I know—there are some who swear that certain businesses can afford to pay more so they are favored, but in talking to property managers, that still seems to be a theory with not much to back it up. Some businesses do require less in the way of parking, of course, and therefore can more easily move into a vacant location, but that is a discussion for another day.

The too-many-businesses controversy isn’t a new one, by the way. While reading old Town Reports, I came across the tip of an iceberg which started to melt more than 80 years ago. Apparently Lexington was gentrifying a bit so piggeries came under fire. Suddenly the selectmen were hearing cases involving illegal piggeries and illegal slaughtering.

Things seemed to quiet down, but apparently the lack of piggeries meant that there was no longer enough manure available for the many farms in the area. So farmers would haul produce to market, then bring back manure on the return trip.

That caused two things to happen. First, the good citizens of Arlington protested the presence of leaking wagons on their streets. I still have it on my list to read some of the Arlington Town Reports from that time to get their side of an obviously smelly story. Then, the presence of manure stockpiles in Lexington started to be a problem. I have yet to find a picture, but apparently the stockpile near North Station, close to the present Public Services Building, was pretty much the olfactory wonder of the world. All this was sort of solved as the farms died out, but I have yet to figure out whether those farms jumped or were pushed. Probably a little of both.

The circle has started to close with the designation of the greater portion of the former Busa property as a community farm so it is going to be very interesting to see what changes that will bring. Years ago when Wendy and I lived in Nebraska, most of our large backyard was a garden. Our neighbor, a retired farmer used to shake his head and say things like “Don’t understand why you folks are messing around with this kind of thankless work” but then he would offer sound advice like “Plant the early corn so it catches the reflected sun from the garage and then the stalks will protect other things from the really hot sun which will come later” and “Don’t let the squirrels have any of the fall leftovers or they will start on your garden early next year.”

We followed most of the advice, but the squirrels were cute so we let them have the leftover sunflowers. Sure enough, the next year they were fighting us for control of the garden. Typical struggle. New people move in with new ideas only to be replaced by even newer people who have to learn things all over. I suspect that will never change.

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Notes from the Committee




As part of the Opening Events for the 300th , the town will be treated to a Country Fair and All-Town Picnic Sept. 22.

Lexington’s Country Fair will highlight the past, present and future with activities that range from old-fashioned colonial field games to more modern contests. Although still in the planning stages, other activities may celebrate traditional and contemporary toys, face painting and demonstrations of colonial and contemporary crafts.

A raffle table is in the works with original creations by Lexingtonians. Quilted works, handcrafted pillows, and accessories will be available.

Event planners are now choosing the blue ribbon contest categories. Categories currently under consideration include best pie, biggest squash and perhaps the most creative birdhouse. Don’t start working yet. Stay tuned for the official announcements!

Local vendors will be on hand to sell treats at the Country Fair and All-Town Picnic. Strolling entertainers can be seen throughout the day. Jeff Leonard, coordinator of Lexington Public Schools’ performing arts department, will be lending his expertise with the entertainment tent.

Fay Backert is chairing the Country Fair committee.

Anyone interested in participating in planning the fair or sponsoring an activity should visit or email



Following the theme for the 300th celebration “We are Lexington” many people are already contributing in small and big ways.

Mary Rommel has designed signature pillows featuring men’s silk neckties which will be sold at the Sept. 22 Country Fair to offset expenses for the celebration. Ties with a connection to Lexington are still being sought.

“We want to highlight the variety of artistic talent and a ‘Made in Lexington’ theme,” said Jessie Steigerwald, events co-chair. “Handcrafts were treasured in 1713 when Lexington was incorporated, and the one-of-a-kind creations made today will be among the most prized souvenirs from the 300th.”

Shirley Lane is handling inventory of locally made items to be sold at the Country Fair. Leslie Masson is storing costumes for the musical fashion revue Oct. 27. Amanda von Rumohr and Vicki Blier have generously donated fabric. Linda Liu has donated patterns and fabric purchased in the 1970s!

Many have lent vintage garments including wedding gowns to be shown at the musical fashion review. Lane has lent her 1940s wedding gown. Gail Leichtman is lending a 1880s riding habit. Jean Ricci is lending 1920s dresses. Alice Pierce has lent a 1960s skirt. The Lexington Summer Theater is lending 1970s dresses. Those with vintage garments are urged to contact Tanya Morrisett, revue co-chair at


Volunteers Needed! As the opening events for Lexington’s 300th celebration quickly approach, the 300th events team welcomes new volunteers. Can you save the date to help at the Country Fair on Sept. 22? Are you interested in working with community groups on the Opening Ceremony? Would you like to join the overall events planning team? Do you have an hour to help sew for the musical fashion revue? There’s room for all! Everyone is needed to make a celebration that Lexington will never forget. Writers, event planners, ushers, artists, community liaisons, logistics coordinators, general helpers and so much more are needed. There’s something for everyone and the planners can accommodate even the busiest of schedules.

The Opening Ceremony will take place simultaneously at Cary Hall and Lexington High School Sept. 22. The most urgent need is for a decoration team at each location. The Lexington Field and Garden Club is already helping with planning, but a team of volunteers is needed at each location to take charge of making the spaces look beautiful are needed. Ushers also are needed.

The Country Fair and All Town Picnic will offer old-fashioned fun for everyone. Activities coordinators, field game coordinators and food vendor coordinators for the picnic are needed. The evening will conclude with a Community Dance. Volunteers are needed to help coordinate refreshments, decorations and set-up.


Needle Arts/Fiber Arts Enthusiasts Needed! Looking for a fun way to help celebrate Lexington’s 300th birthday of its incorporation? If you sew, knit or stitch, the 300th’s Fiber Arts Committee is meeting at 3 p.m. April 1 at the Lexington Arts and Crafts Society (LACS), 130 Waltham St. All needle arts enthusiasts are encouraged to participate.

“This is one of the many ways to volunteer to make Lexington’s 9-month birthday party a success,” explained Jessie Steigerwald, committee co-chair. The celebration kicks off Friday, Sept. 21 with a gala ball followed by opening ceremonies, all all-town picnic and country fair, Special events continue through Memorial Day weekend 2013. Anyone who knits, quilts, makes costumes or clothes, crochets or any other form of needle arts should come with ideas and suggestions.

In addition, kits will be available for those interested for making tie pillows and costumes needed for a musical revue of fashion through the 300 years 1713-2013. Two quilting groups are being formed to create quilts to be donate to the town. Other items will be sold or auctioned to help defray costs of the 300th celebration at the Country Fair on opening day Sept. 22 and at the Musical Fashion Show Revue Oct. 27.

Co-chairing the Fiber Arts Committee with Jessie are Tanya Morrisett and Kim Coburn. For anyone who can’t attend meetings but wants to participate by making their own creations or in need of a kit call or email Corinne Steigerwald at 781-861-7190 or


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Revolutionary Revelry Calendar!

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