Theresa Hatton
CEO, Massachusetts Association of Realtors
Age: 43
Industry experience: 14 years 

Pricey East Coast housing markets are nothing new to Theresa Hatton, who took over as the new CEO of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors this month. Hatton was CEO of the Greenwich, Connecticut Association of Realtors from 2010 to 2017 as the wealthy Fairfield County suburb absorbed the effects of the economic downturn. In Massachusetts, Hatton sees a real estate market that has a different set of issues: chronic shortage of inventory, high entry-level home prices and calls to regulate short-term rentals and impose transfer taxes on high-end properties. MAR board members and Hatton met last week to begin mapping out a three-year strategic plan for the 25,000member organization, which is preparing to relocate its headquarters from leased offices in Waltham to a newly-purchased building on Route 1 in Foxborough. 

Q: A recent report by Redfin noted that Boston luxury property prices – defined as the top 5 percent of listings – declined for the first time in three years during the first quarter. Is the Boston luxury market overbuilt, or was that just a lull before the completion of Pier 4 and One Dalton?
A: I think that there is a demand for more of the low to middlepriced range and there’s just not enough inventory in that segment. I don’t know that people are moving up as quickly. I don’t think it’s an overall correction market, it’s the overall level of supply and demand. 

Q: As a recent transplant to Massachusetts, what was your own house-hunting experience like?
A: MAR recently acquired a building [at 18 Washington St.] in Foxborough, and we’re renting a space in Waltham. I’m renting an apartment month-to-month near Waltham and will look for a home when we relocate in January 2020. I completely respect and appreciate the shortage of inventory. That day I went to look at an apartment, I was the third person in line. 

Q: What was the housing market like during your time at the Greenwich Association of Realtors?
A: In 2010, coming out of the worst year in the history of Greenwich real estate in 2009, the market was very slow. It took us longer to recover than other markets. When I left them last year, the upper-end market, if it was not on the water, was still selling at a 60 percent discount to what it was before the downturn. This goes back to the housing stock. People are looking for a condominium, not a lot of lawn and maintenance, not a lot of land with acres and trees to maintain. 

Q: You started work at MAR just in time of Massachusetts Realtor Day at the State House. What’s at the top of the legislative agenda in 2019?
A: I’ll start with the one that relates to our organization specifically: The Board of Registration has certain requirements for what’s approved for continuing education for a licensee. It’s very limited. The courses have to be a minimum of two hours. We’re just asking that the regulations not have to be approved by the legislature and be approved by the Board of Registration, so they can be a little bit more timely. And another one is the governor’s housing choice bill, allowing zoning changes by simple majority rather than supermajority. 

Q: What’s the association’s argument against real estate transfer taxes? 
A: Right now, there’s an inventory shortage and prices are increasing. They are increasing faster than other parts of the country, so we’re having an affordability issue and a transfer tax on top of it is going to be making first-time homeownership unreachable. And people who have been in their homes a long time and want to downsize, they can’t downsize to a lessexpensive place anymore because the properties are in such demand. The prices are not as reasonable as they predicted when they were planning their retirement. The transfer tax, where the funds would be put toward the environment and resiliency, is a benefit for the entire population, but they are asking just people who are selling their homes to foot the bill. 

Q: A recent consumer sentiment survey by Pulsenomics found that Boston-area Millennials are pessimistic about their ability to buy a home. What’s MAR doing to address barriers to homeownership?
A: That goes right to the issue we were discussing: legislation to help establish a homebuyer savings account. So if you’re a first-time homebuyer, you can put up to $5,000 toward a down payment and you can deduct it from your Massachusetts tax return. And the interest would not be taxable. It’s something to help people put money away and incentivize them. 

Q: What’s the next battleground in short-term rental regulations?
A: We did discuss with our legislators that more bills will likely be filed, so we will be monitoring those. Our other big priority is energy scoring. We’re all for energy efficiency, but scoring homes in New England, where the housing stock is significantly older, really just damages the marketability of homes. It’s not as if individuals shopping for homes in New England need to look at the roof and windows and insulation and furnaces. But if a score is put on it, it’s going to have a negative impact on the seller. 

Q: Given the recent MBTA service disruptions and worsening traffic congestion, how is Greater Boston’s transportation crisis affecting homebuying decisions?
A: Commuting is definitely a concern, even our move from [Waltham] to Foxborough. It’s a concern all over and there’s a lot of infrastructure projects that are about to take place and are on the drawing board, so it’s going to have a major impact on travel and push people further toward the city if they can afford to. 

Hatton’s Five Favorite New England Inns Within Driving Distance: 

  • The Parker House, Quechee, Vermont 
  • Winvian Farm, Litchfield Hills, Connecticut 
  • Mayflower Inn and Spa, Washington, Connecticut 
  • The Grafton Inn, Grafton, Vermont 
  • Inn on the Sound, Falmouth 

Taking Stock of the Housing Market

by Steve Adams time to read: 4 min