Real Estate with Sanda O’Brien: tips and information on selling and buying homes in Brookline, Boston, Newton, and Needham; Buyers Agent; Green Certification; Sellers Agent; Certified Relocation Specialist.

Property Taxes 2014

These are the 2014 property taxes, as voted by the local governments in Brookline, Boston, Newton, and Needham. For other towns feel free to contact me.

If you bought a home that was previously rented, and you live in it as your primary residence, you are entitled to a lower tax than the previous owner in some cities and towns (not all!). This is called Residential Exemption. It does not come automatically, you need to apply for the exemption to the assessors' office of your town. Contact me for help with the required forms.

BROOKLINE Residential: $11.39 per $1000 assessed value (was$11.65 ) Commercial: $18.50 per $1000 assessed value (was $18.97) Residential Exemption: $1,994.70 of the Real Estate tax bill (was $1954.42) BOSTON (incl Back Bay, Allston, Brighton, JP, Fenway, W Roxbury, S End, etc) Residential: $ 12.58 per $1000 assessed value (was $13.14) Commercial: $ 31.18 per $1000 assessed value (was $31.96) Residential Exemption: $ 1763.84 of the Real Estate tax bill (was $1724.47) NEWTON Residential: $ 12.12 per $1000 assessed value (was $11.17) Commercial: $ 23.18 per $1000 assessed value (was $21.32) No Residential Exemption NEEDHAM Residential: $11.64 per $1000 assessed value (was $11.30) Commercial: $22.99 per $1000 assessed value (was $22.18) No Residential Exemption

2013 Property Tax Rates

These are the 2013 property taxes, as voted by the local governments in Brookline, Boston, Newton, and Needham. For other towns feel free to contact me.

If you bought a home that was previously rented, and you live in it as your primary residence, you are entitled to a lower tax than the previous owner in some cities and towns (not all!). This is called Residential Exemption. It does not come automatically, you need to apply for the exemption to the assessors' office of your town. Contact me for help with the required forms.

BROOKLINE Residential: $11.65 per $1000 assessed value (was$11.40 ) Commercial: $18.97 per $1000 assessed value (was $18.68) Residential Exemption: $1,954.42 of the Real Estate tax bill (was $1883.71) BOSTON (incl Back Bay, Allston, Brighton, JP, Fenway, W Roxbury, S End, etc) Residential: $ 13.14 per $1000 assessed value (was $13.04) Commercial: $ 31.96 per $1000 assessed value (was $31.92) Residential Exemption: $ 1724.47 of the Real Estate tax bill (was $1.644.28) NEWTON Residential: $ 11.17  per $1000 assessed value (was $10.90) Commercial: $ 21.32 per $1000 assessed value (was $20.89) No Residential Exemption NEEDHAM Residential: $11.30 per $1000 assessed value (was $10.95) Commercial: $22.18 per $1000 assessed value (was $21.50)

Smaller Homes For The Future

Smaller homes for the future Buy a super-sized, outdated home today and you could have a tough time selling it when it's time to move on. By 2015, new homes will be 10 percent smaller, greener and packed with more technology and "universal" features than today's homes, according to a new study by the National Association of Home Builders. The NAHB's "The New Home in 2015" alludes to the economic downturn for ratcheting up a "less is more" movement that includes everything from homes designed with fewer frivolities to small "pocket neighborhoods" with small homes. The study says the lousy economy is the force behind the changing characteristics, features and sizes of homes to come, as well as the reason for the record low numbers of homes being built today. The findings are answers from 238 home building professionals, among them home builders, architects, designers, manufacturers and others who say the average, new single-family detached home in 2015 will be about 2,152 square feet, 10 percent smaller than the average size of single-family homes started in the first three quarters of 2010. That may yet be too large, given more than 60 percent of all U.S. households today are comprised of only one or two people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Smaller homes cost less to build and maintain and today's consumers are focused on reducing heating and cooling costs, they've don't have the equity to buy up, and appreciation probably won't come to their rescue for years. The aging population and tight mortgage money are also prompting consumers to buy smaller. The Census Bureau also says the average size of single-family homes peaked in 2007, at 2,521 square feet, was virtually unchanged in 2008, and declined in 2009 to 2,438 square feet. Early data for 2010 shows a further decline, down to 2,377 square feet. The report also says: The living room is dead. The living room will either vanish, merge with a "great room" or the kitchen, or become a smaller parlor, retreat, library or music room. Only 5 percent of those polled said the living room would remain as it is. Room for less. Other rooms to get the boot will include a third bathroom, fourth bedroom, unheated porch, dining room, three-car garage, media room and a second master bedroom suite. Greener living. Expect "low-e" windows, engineered wood beams, joists, and trusses, water efficient features and whole-home Energy Star ratings. Design for all. More technological and "universal" features will help better adapt the home for more people from kids to older people and people with disabilities.


New Rules On Credit Scores

Credit Score New Rules New Rules on Credit scores Consumers, on average, can barely pass a test about recent changes in the credit score market and that means they may not know how their scores score -- or don't -- when it comes to securing credit. The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and VantageScore Solutions say on 22 credit score questions administered by Opinion Research Corp. to over 1,000 consumers late last month, on average, consumers answered only 60 percent correctly. Most did not know who makes credit scores available, what is a strong score, nor the financial cost of a poor score. Your credit score is a numerical rendition of your creditworthiness. It indicates how well or how poorly you'll repay a debt. The higher the number, the more likely you'll repay on time. But there's not just one score. There are a growing number of both generic and lender-specific credit scores, few of which are identical. For instance, scores based on credit reports from one of the three main credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion - may use either of the two main scoring systems - FICO with its range of scores from 300 to 850, or VantageScore with its range from 501 to 990. Most scores currently used by mortgage lenders and made available to borrowers use the FICO scoring system. Government rules going into effect this July will require greater disclosure of credit scores and how they are used. All bureaus have long fought free credit score disclosures to consumers, much as they fought free credit reports. Credit scores have been around for decades, at first before consumers even knew they existed, and only recently has federal intervention mandated free credit score disclosures (still, with too many limitations) to help consumers understand how they are tabulated. And they do need to know. On the 22-question CFA-VantageScore quiz, consumers on average answered 60 percent correctly. Consumers who had obtained their scores scored higher, but not by much (64 percent), than those who never obtained credit scores and got 54 percent correct. In addition to what credit scores represent, most consumers do not know that: A credit score mainly represents the risk of not repaying a loan (48 percent correct). Age (33 percent correct) and marital status (40 percent correct) are NOT factors used to calculate a credit score. On a $20,000, 60-month auto loan, borrowers would usually pay $5,000 more in interest with a bad score than with a good one (30 percent correct).

When To Accept An Offer

When to Accept an Offer Today's market can be a difficult one for many sellers to navigate. And while your real estate agent can advise you, the ultimate decision of what offer to accept is entirely up to you.

This decision can come with quite a bit of pressure. Even in the most favorable of markets this can be a difficult time. How do you know when to accept an offer? Here are some questions to consider. Is the buyer pre-qualified/approved? Selling will require an investment of time and money. You may need to find a new home or a temporary rental. There's nothing worse than buying a new house, only to find out the deal to sell yours has fallen through. Do you need to move? The urgency of your move may dictate what offer you accept. Many sellers need to move quickly for a new job. Or they may need to sell to avoid foreclosure. If you are in a rush, you may need to accept an offer that is less than ideal. How much do you owe? You don't want to sell your home at a loss. And be sure to take closing costs into consideration. Many markets experienced high levels of depreciation over the last year. If you are underwater on your loan, now may not be the time to sell. What is the market climate? Are you likely to get another offer? How long has your home been on the market? Have you had many showings? All of these are factors to consider when contemplating what offer to accept. Above all, ask yourself if this offer was a reasonable offer. There are buyers that may attempt to low ball you. They may see that your home has been on the market longer than your competition. They may know that it's a strong buyers market. And in response they offer a much smaller amount for your home than it is worth. You are not obligated to accept or even respond to these low ball offers. But if you are in need of selling now, every offer warrants consideration or a counter offer. In the end, you must accept an offer that works for you. You may be willing to accept a lower amount in exchange for a faster closing date. Or you may wish to hold out for the highest dollar amount.

Brookline Home to Nation’s Two Most-Educated Zip Codes

Study: Brookline Home to Nation's Two Most-Educated Zip Codes: 02445 and 02446 rank at top, according to study. A recent ranking of the country’s best-educated zip codes found that Brookline has not one, but two neighborhoods at the very top. The data, part of a recent forecast by Maine-based Pinpoint Demographics, found that zip codes 02445 and 02446 are home to more people per capita with college experience than any other neighborhoods in the country. Even Cambridge, Brookline’s northern neighbor and home to Harvard University, earned only a ninth-place ranking with zip code 02138. The study includes adults with any higher education experience, from a few college courses to a full doctorate. In a press release, Pinpoint Demographics noted that Brookline is home to three colleges—Pine Manor College, Newbury College and Hellenic College—and bordered by several major universities and medical schools. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 87.8 percent of people over age 25 living in zip code 02445 had at least some college experience at the time of the survey, compared to 88.8 percent of those 25 and older in 02446. More recent data was not available. Pinpoint’s top-10 list also included two communities each in Chicago and Washington, D.C., as well as individual zip codes in Arlington, VA and Irvine, CA. (By Neal Simpson - Brookline Patch)

2011 Property Tax Rates

These are the 2011 property taxes, as voted by the local governments in Brookline, Boston, Newton, and Needham. For other towns feel free to contact me.

If you bought a home that was previously rented, and you live in it as your primary residence, you are entitled to a lower tax than the previous owner in some cities and towns (not all!). This is called Residential Exemption. It does not come automatically, you need to apply for the exemption to the assessors' office of your town. Contact me for help with the required forms.

BROOKLINE Residential: $11.30per $1000 assessed value (was$10.97 ) Commercial: $18.30 per $1000 assessed value (was $17.80) Residential Exemption: $1,837.46 of the Real Estate tax bill (was $1787.06) BOSTON (incl Allston, Brighton, JP, Fenway, W Roxbury, etc) Residential: $12.79 per $1000 assessed value (was $11.88) Commercial: $31.04 per $1000 assessed value (was $29.38) Residential Exemption: $1.594.85 of the Real Estate tax bill (was $1486.07) NEWTON Residential: $10.90 per $1000 assessed value (was $10.41) Commercial: $20.89 per $1000 assessed value (was $19.30) No Residential Exemption NEEDHAM Residential: $10.90 per $1000 assessed value (was $10.53) Commercial: $21.50 per $1000 assessed value (was $20.68)

Staging For All 5 Senses

The idea is not new, but more and more sellers are beginning to discover the power of "staging." Human beings are a sensory species. Our judgement and emotions are strongly influenced by what our senses tell us. To harness the full power of staging, here are some basics. 1. Sight: This one is pretty obvious! Your rooms should be tidy and uncluttered. Photos, trophies, and kids' artwork should be replaced with simple, classic decor. A buyer needs to be able to imagine their own life in your home. If your budget allows, you may want to temporarily store outdated and oversized furniture. Rent new, modern pieces to create a simple and clean design. For tighter budgets, slipcovers are an inexpensive way to neutralize loud patterns and to deter attention from stained and damaged furniture. 2. Smell: Be sure that each room is not only tidy, but that it smells clean. However, avoid harsh chemical smells, such as bleach. Many buyers may be sensitive to these smells and will want to make a quick exit. Consider installing simple room air fresheners or candles (when supervised) to create ambiance. Pet owners and smokers may have their work cut out for them. Smoke can infiltrate furniture, carpets, and even walls. And with many buyers suffering from allergies, you may need to send Lassie to doggy day care for the day. To remove odors, clean carpets and repaint walls. 3. Touch: Broken and chipped tile, missing and loose handles, and wobbly handrails are all red flags to a would-be buyer. Be sure that you do any minor repairs before showing your home. 4. Hearing: An open house can be an event. For large-scale estates, they may even include musical performances. But for smaller sales, and that is most of us, simply be sure that barking dogs are taken to doggy daycare. Have noisy equipment shut off. Don't leave on televisions or radios. Peace and quiet is a sound, too! 5. Taste: Okay, this can be a hard one, depending on what kind of showing you are having. Open houses, though, are a great forum to provide wonderful food and drink. Many agents set up open houses much like a party. Be sure to have enough finger foods (that aren't messy) for all of your guests. And even small showings can play up the sense of taste by having freshly baked cookies or other goodies filling the air. The bottom line? Staging is intended to create an atmosphere for the prospective buyer where they can envision themselves in your home. You create a lifestyle with your staging, and through how you stimulate the senses. Is your home most likely to be bought by a large family? Do you have a downtown condo that will appeal to young professionals? When staging is done right, buyers will pay top dollar for not only your home, but the lifestyle it will afford them.

Low Offers

Low offers Let's say you have found the perfect house, but the price is more than you want to pay. You decide to go for it anyway, and ask the agent to submit a "low ball" offer. Low ball offers sometimes work. If the market is fluctuating and the sellers are anxious, they may just accept it. They may be willing to negotiate if they have listed the house at a higher price than is reasonable. Most sellers are open to offers, but they won't give their house away, especially if the asking price is in line with recent sales of similar homes. What do you have to lose by making a low offer? If the seller yells and screams, the agent will be the focus of his anger -- and we don't take it personally. If you really want the house, however, a very low initial offer may irritate the seller to the point that he won't consider a better offer, if you decide to submit one later. Design your strategy on the basis of how badly you want the house. Another good strategy that you should discuss with your buyers' agent is to make your offer in the range that you feel comfortable, but so close tot he asking price that the seller will be afraid to reject it. Legally, when a seller makes a counter-offer, the original offer is rejected and the buyer is free to walk away. If your offer is "almost there" the seller will be afraid to loose you, and may accept it as is. It makes for a shorter negotiating process - and some buyers want to experience the entire "ride" - but it may get you a better price. In a situation with multiple offers, the strategy should be completely different. How to present low offers in real estate

Contractor Fined for Violating Asbestos Regulations

asbestos regulations contractor breaking rules The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has levied a $10,200 fine against Rick Denoncourt Carpentry Inc. for violating state asbestos regulations. The violations were discovered during MassDEP's complaint investigation of a residential building renovation located in Holyoke in November 2009. The complainant reported that asbestos thermal system insulation removal had been performed without instituting the appropriate asbestos handling and disposal procedures. In a settlement agreement with MassDEP, Chicopee's Rick Denoncourt Carpentry agreed to pay a penalty of $10,200, of which $7,200 was suspended for one year provided that the company remains in compliance with the state asbestos regulations. "Failure to identify and properly remove all asbestos containing material prior to renovation or demolition activity poses a public safety hazard," said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP's Western regional office in Springfield. "Such actions can result in significant penalty exposure, as well as higher clean-up, decontamination, disposal and monitoring costs." (from Banker & Tradesman, Aug 2010) asbestos regulation violations contractor fined in Boston

New Credit Checkups for Borrowers

new Credit checks for borrowers Borrowers face new set of credit checkups with the new Initiative that targets last-minute changes in finances Mortgage giant Fannie Mae rolled out its Loan Quality Initiative (LQI) June 1, thereby forcing home-buyers to obtain mortgages based on "refreshed" credit reports or risk their closing being canceled. In other words, the buyer is not officially approved for the mortgage until the results of second credit report are approved. There may be other last-minute verifications of undisclosed liabilities, such as job status, that may be "refreshed" as well. Example: Buyer A listed his three credit cards on his loan application. The lender approved Buyer A's credit and approves the mortgage loan request, partially based on this information. Buyer A goes to Home Depot, applies for yet a fourth credit card. The day before the closing, while Buyer A's excitement is peaking, the lender refreshes his credit to make sure his credit score is still as good as it was when it was pulled the first time. The lender discovers that Buyer A's credit score has been lowered because Buyer A applied for a fourth credit card. It's called finding an "undisclosed liability," and it is not going to end well for the buyer. Under the LQI, the lender could delay the closing, increase the interest rate, ask for a larger downpayment, or cancel the closing. In some states, Buyer A could lose his deposit. The fact is that pulling the second credit report is not new, and that the LQI will be a welcome new tool for lenders who practice responsible lending. Depending on the state and the standard purchase and sale agreement used, borrowers could lose their deposits, according to Boston attorney Richard D. Vetstein. He recommends that real estate attorneys review standard purchase agreements. If a borrower has taken out new loans that are sizable enough to affect the debt-to-income-ratio calculations used in the original mortgage approval, the deal could fall through. The added debt load could render him/her ineligible for the mortgage because he/she suddenly appears unable to handle the payments without a strain on the household budget.. Many lenders already pull second credit reports right before the closing, but the Fannie Mae mandate will likely result in a markedly increased number of lenders pulling second credit reports and performing other last-minute verifications. But holding the buyer accountable pales in comparison to the stringent accountability now in place to prevent lenders from submitting contract products for sale to Fannie Mae with "undisclosed" liabilities. Just as lenders are calling for refreshed truth from buyers, Fannie Mae is not asking -- it is forcing lenders to upgrade the quality of their underwriting and to get used to the new system and embedded, stringent accountability tools for meeting clear, detailed and tougher underwriting standards. Fannie Mae's ultimate goal is not to punish the lender or homebuyer. It is to be repaid. Not only will profits start flowing again, but investors will return. And when that happens, loans will become easier to obtain. (from Inman News, 2010 - David Fecher)

New Rules For Gift Cards

New Rules for Gift Cards The Federal Reserve recently changed the rules regarding the overdraft protection for ATM's and debit cards.  At the same time, it also put forth new rules for GIFT CARDS, that will better protect consumers. Changes to Expiration Dates The new rules put limits on expiration dates. According to the new rules, the money on a gift card must be good for at least five years from the date the card is purchased. Additionally, if any money is added to the card at a later date, it must also be good for at least five years. Here's where things get tricky though. Even if a gift card expires after five years, the money on that card may not expire for seven years. That means, you may be able to use unspent money even after the card expires. You simply have to contact the company and request a replacement card at no charge. Limits to Fees According to the new rules, all fees must be clearly disclosed on the gift card or on its packaging. In addition, the new rules put limits on the fees that can be charged. For example, fees can be charged if: (1) you haven't used your card for at least one year, and (2) you are only charged one fee per month. These restrictions apply to fees such as: dormancy or inactivity fees for not using your card, fees for using your card (sometimes called usage fees), fees for adding money to your card, and maintenance fees. That said, you can still be charged a fee to purchase the card. And you can be charged a fee to replace a lost or stolen card. When Do the Rules Take Effect and What's Covered? These rules apply to gift cards sold on or after August 22, 2010 for store gift cards as well as gift cards with a MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover brand logo. Are All Prepaid Cards Covered Under the Rules? No. It's important to keep in mind that the new rules ONLY apply to gift cards, which are just one type of prepaid card. The new rules do NOT cover other types of prepaid cards, such as reloadable prepaid cards that are not intended for gift-giving purposes. This can be confusing, since a reloadable prepaid card with a MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover brand logo that is intended to be used like a checking account substitute is not covered. The rules also do not cover cards given as a reward or as part of a promotion. So the best advice is to read the card and its packaging carefully to understand the policies for that specific card.

Overdraft Charges for ATM’s and Debit Crads

overdraft charges for ATM's and credit cards The Federal Reserve has issued new rules about the overdraft fees that banks can charge on your ATM or debit card usage. If you haven't already received a notice from your bank about these changes, you will soon. Either way, there are some important points that you should pay attention to when you read that notice. What are Overdrafts and Overdraft Fees? An overdraft is a withdrawal that exceeds the amount of money in your account. In terms of ATM or debit cards, this means that you either withdrawal money from a machine or make a purchase that exceeds the amount of money you have in your account. When this happens, most banks will cover the amount, rather than deny the purchase or withdrawal. But, in return for covering that amount, banks charge you an overdraft fee. Typically, banks charge a fee for each transaction that exceeds your account balance. So, if you make three purchases – one for $30, one for $10, and one for $5 – but you only have $29 in your account, you will basically have three overdraft transactions and will be charged an overdraft fee for each. That fee can range from $20 to $35 dollars. In our example, then, a person with three overdraft transactions may pay $105 in fees! Of course, many banks offer an overdraft protection plan that allows you to link your account to a savings account that will be used to cover any overdrafts. However, even in these situations the bank will typically charge an overdraft fee – it will probably just be a smaller fee, such as $10. What's Changing? Essentially, your bank must now offer you a choice about the overdraft protection it offers you for your ATM and debit cards. In the past, banks were allowed to automatically enroll you in their overdraft policies. Under the new rules, however, your bank has to receive your permission to enroll you. That means, if you want your bank to cover any overdraft transactions – and you are willing to accept the overdraft fee they charge for such service – you will have to opt in or officially grant your permission. If you do not opt in, the bank will not charge you a fee. But they also will not cover any overdraft transactions made with your ATM or debit card, meaning those overdraft transactions will simply be declined. When Do the Rules Take Effect? If you opened an account before July 1, 2010, that account will be considered an existing account. For existing accounts, the date to decide whether to opt in or not is August 15, 2010. If you open a new account after July 1, 2010, the account will be considered a new account, which means the new rules will be in effect immediately and you will have to opt in if you want the overdraft protection. Can I Change My Mind? Yes. Regardless of what you decide, the new rules give you the flexibility to change your mind in the future. Simply contact your bank to discuss how to opt in or out, if you change your mind. Do the Rules Apply to Checks? No. Checks and automatic bill payments are not bound by these rules. The new rules are specified for ATM and debit cards. Some banks may allow you to opt out of the overdraft plan for checks, but they are not required to do so. If you are interested in opting out, contact your bank regarding their policies for checks and automatic bills.

Tips For Saving

Tips for saving Saving Takes Time... If you wait until you're 45 years old to start saving for retirement, you'll need to save about $24,000 per year just to reach a comfortable retirement level. But if you start when you're 25, you can reach that same level by saving just $4,000 per year. So use the simple tips below to start getting your savings on track right away. 1. The next time you get a raise, invest that extra money in your future. 2. If you're about to pay off a car loan or some other monthly expense, you can make a huge impact on your investment plans by simply adding that extra money to your retirement account. 3. Make your investments automatic. To make saving easier, sign up to have a specified amount conveniently deducted from your paycheck and electronically deposited into your savings investments. You'll consistently add to your savings, without even thinking about it. 4. If you have access to a 401(k) retirement plan, make sure you are using it–especially if you get matching contributions from your employer. You'll double your money with the employer's match...and your contributions are generally taken out of your check pre-tax, so your savings cost even less in real, after-tax dollars. The most important point is to get started right away – not next month or next year, but right now with whatever amount you can. You can always increase the amount you invest...but you can never get back the compounding interest you'll lose by waiting. Saving takes time tips for saving

Low Offers

low offers You have found the perfect house with everything you wanted - but the price is more than you want to pay.  You decide to go for it anyway, and ask the agent to submit a really low offer, what we call a "low ball" offer. Low ball offers sometimes work. If the market is fluctuating and the sellers are anxious, they may just accept it.  They may be willing to negotiate if they have listed the house at a higher price than is reasonable.    Most sellers are open to offers, but they won't give their house away, especially if the asking price was fairly determined by an experienced agent  (is in line with recent sales of similar homes). What do you have to lose by making a low offer?  If the seller yells and screams, the agent will be the focus of his/her wrath - but we don't take it personally.  If you really want the house, however, a very low initial offer may irritate the seller to the point that he/she will refuse to continue negotiating with you, even if you are ready to make a higher offer later.  Home owners will take the offer personally, and will be offended if someone thinks their home is worth so little... So before you make an offer, ask your agent to do a Fair Market Value Analysis for that property.  Then design your strategy on the basis of how much you want the house. fair market value low ball offers

New Smoke Detector Rules in Massachusetts

new smoke detector rules Starting April 4th, 2010, the new law regarding smoke detectors requirements in Massachusetts homes becomes effective.  There is some confusion about the new requirements, because the final say comes from the local Fire Department, who sometimes chooses to exceed the Massachusetts requirements.  For example: the law is applicable to 1 and 2 family residences, but Brookline Fire Department will apply the new law to condominiums as well. State law requires that the local fire department has to inspect every property before it sells to ensure that the property is equipped with appropriate working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Smoke detectors use either photoelectric or ionization technology to detect smoke and fires.  Ionization types are prone to false alarms if cooking smoke or bathroom steam are present, and some people have disabled them because of annoyance. The new smoke detector law requires that a photoelectric only smoke detector be installed within 20 feet of a kitchen or full bath.  All other smoke detectors in the property must be either a combination photoelectric and ionization unit or you must have 2 separate detectors (one photoelectric and one ionization) in each location. Here’s a PDF file with more details on the new law:  new Mass  Smoke Detector Law

Recent Flooding and Mortgages

Flooding areas in Massachusetts Due to extensive flooding, certain counties have been designated as Disaster Areas by FEMA. Massachusetts: Bristol, Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk and Worcester RI: Kent, Newport, Providence and Washington While FEMA declared as of March 29th, the effective date of the incident is March 12 and ongoing. For my clients who are in the process of buying: the lender will have to order re-inspections for all properties located in the above counties.  Loans closing on 4/2 and after will be subject to final inspection.  Note that loans closing in the next week or so will not be held up going to closing, but will require the inspection prior to closing. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Affordable Multi-Family Lender

mha multi-family lender The Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) has signed an agreement with Fannie Mae, becoming the first Fannie Mae multifamily affordable lender in New England. MHP will now have access to up $100 million in Fannie Mae funds to finance new affordable rental developments. Fannie will fund up to half the loan if agreed-upon underwriting standards are met, increasing MHP's ability to fund new rental developments. MHP's total budget is approximately $1.2 billion. Managing director Mark Curtiss said MHP intends to use the Fannie money to help fund large development projects. Though the agency operates throughout the state and is not focused on any particular region, such projects are more likely to be in suburban areas in the Eastern part of the state, Curtiss said. MHP will service the loans, inspect the property, and make sure affordability requirements are met. The program has already put through its first loan, a $22 million deal with Criterion Development Partners for the firm's Windsor Woods development in Canton. The project includes 159 rental units, 40 of which will be affordable to households at 80 percent of median income. (from Banker& Tradesman) mha first multy family lender in new england

New Construction Permits up in January

Massachusetts new construction permits Permits for new home construction in Massachusetts rose 44 percent year-over-year in January, according to numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. Bay State cities and towns issued 463 housing unit permits in January, compared to 321 for the same month in 2009. The pace was still lower than January 2008, when 538 units were granted. Despite January's increase, the number of permits issued for single-family homes, condominiums and apartment units has declined over the past two years. In 2009, there were 7,097 permits issued, down from 9,241 in 2008. There were 293 permits obtained for single-family homes last month, compared to 233 in January 2009. (from Banker&Tradesman) Mass permits for new construction new building permits for homes

Ban on Renting Condos

Condo association votes to ban renting

Question from a client who owns and rents out a condo:  Why would a condo association put to vote, and then implement, a ban on renting out units after the present leases expire?  Is it legal?

From the research I did, the answer is that it is legal, if all the association rules are folowed.  Such ban cannot be imposed by the trustees alone, or by the board of directors.  It is a change to the Condo Documents, and it must be voted in by the owners.

Many associations require a “super majority” to vote in such a drastic change.  That super-majority varies with the association: it may be minimum of  66.66% of unit owners, or 75%, or any other number specified in the Condo Documents.

I agree that in general, it is a bad idea to force investors (owners who rent out their property) to sell their units in a buyers’ market.  It can bring down the value of all the units.

But the reason why an association may want to pass such ban on renting has to do with the ability of all units to be sold.  Fannie Mae, who backs most mortgage loans in the US, requires that more than 51% of the untis in a condo association be owner occupied.  When this requirement cannot be met because more units are rented than owner-occupied, a potential buyer is unable to obtain a regular loan.

A buyer already in the process will be refused the mortgage, and will exercise his/her mortage contingency option and back out of the deal.  The property can be sold only to a cash buyer, or to a buyer who is able to find a “portfolio” or “in-house” mortgage.  These mortgages tend to carry slightly higher interest rates.

In short, a high percentage of units being rented makes any unit much more difficult to sell.  Following the supply and demand rule, this will bring down the value of all the condos in the association.  By passing a ban on renting, the owners are trying to avoid this.

renting ban condo association

Buy Dinner And a House

real estate office

Some of us will now be able to go to our local supermarket and pick up a more substantial purchase than dinner -- a house.

A New England real estate chain is teaming up with  the Stop-and-Shop chain to open "micro" real estate offices in grocery stores, it was  announced this week.

The company has signed an exclusive, five-year agreement with Stop-and-Shop Inc - based in Quincy MA, and one of the largest supermarket chains in New England,   with more than 375 stores throughout New England, New York and New Jersey.

So get ready to do business while the deli order is being filled.

(from Inman News) real estate in grocery stores

Mortgage Rates Feb 4 2010

Rates as of Thursday, 4th February, 2010:
Term Confor ming APR Payment per $1,000 Jumbo APR Payment per $1,000

Mass Housing Loan/

My Community

360 5.375% 5.439% $5.60 N/A% 0.000% $0.00
30-Yr. fixed 360 4.750% 4.812% $5.22 5.500% 5.590% $5.68
15-Yr. fixed 180 4.250% 4.357% $7.52 5.375% 5.528% $8.10
Agency Jumbo 360 4.875% 4.938% $5.29 N/A% 0.000% $0.00
FHA 30-Yr Fixed 360 4.875% 4.938% $5.29 N/A% 0.000% $0.00
3/1 ARM 360 3.625% 3.683% $4.56 3.600% 3.681% $4.55
20-Yr fixed 240 4.500% 4.584% $6.33 N/A% 0.000% $0.00

FHA Jumbo

360 N/A% 0.000% $0.00 5.000% 5.088% $5.37
*Rates are subject to change due to market fluctuations and borrower's eligibility. mortgage rates 2-10-2010

Activity Report, Jan 25

The holiday season is over, the new year has started, and the market is now waking up. On Sunday Jan 24th, our office held a total of 21 open houses, which were attended by 126 parties, for an average of 6 parties per open house.  In Brookline alone we had 8 open houses, attended by 66 parties, and average of 8.25 parties per open house. In the week that ended on Friday,  Jan 22nd, our office had 7 properties go Under Agreement. report

Cash Offers

why are cash offers preferred?

Question from a buyer: Why do sellers prefer to take cash offers, even when it's a lower offer than mine? cash offer This buyer was part of a multiple offer situation, where the winner had offered less than she did, but needed no mortgage.  Yes, frustrating... A buyer who needs a mortgage makes the offer contingent on obtaining the mortgage.  Many things can go wrong, especially in the present mortgage landscape, and if the mortgage is rejected, the buyer is able to walk away from the deal, with no loss. By the time the rejection comes, four to six weeks have elapsed from the accepted offer, during which the property stayed off the market.
  • It is possible that during this time the best selling season may have passed and fewer buyers are now available;
  • One or two mortgage payments have been made;
  • The property is now perceived as "stale" as it has stayed on the market for too many days.
All this translates into lost money for the seller.  If the difference in the offer amount is not that great, the seller will take the lower offer that is cash, and assume a lower risk. Some things that can easily cause a mortgage rejection:
  1. The buyer may have credit issues not noticed at the time of the pre-approval;
  2. The appraiser's valuation comes under the loan amount;
  3. The condominium does not meet all the Fannie-Mae condo rules. For example: reserves not high enough; one person owns more than 10% of the units (easy in a six unit building); more than 50% of the units are rented; more than 15% of condo fees are late more than 30 days; the condo association is involved in a lawsuit;
  4. The buyer had a major change in income or debt situation (lost job, etc).
mortgage rejected cash offer

Mortgage Rates Jan 7, 2010

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Fixed Rate Mortgages*

Term Confor ming APR Payment per $1,000 Jumbo APR Payment per $1,000

Mass Housing Loan/My Community

360 5.250% 5.314% $5.52 N/A% 0.000% $0.00

30-Yr. fixed

360 4.875% 4.938% $5.29 5.500% 5.590% $5.68

15-Yr. fixed

180 4.250% 4.357% $7.52 5.375% 5.528% $8.10

Agency Jumbo

360 5.125% 5.188% $5.44 N/A% 0.000% $0.00

FHA 30-Yr Fixed

360 5.000% 5.063% $5.37 N/A% 0.000% $0.00

3/1 ARM

360 3.625% 3.683% $4.56 3.700% 3.781% $4.60

20-Yr fixed

240 4.750% 4.835% $6.46 N/A% 0.000% $0.00

FHA Jumbo

360 N/A% 0.000% $0.00 5.250% 5.339% $5.52
*Rates are subject to change due to market fluctuations and borrower's eligibility.

DOW Chart and Mortgage Forecast

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COMMENTARY

2009 brought some of the best home loan rates ever seen in the history of the US, but things have worsened over the last month (December). This is in part because the Federal Reserve is winding down their Mortgage Backed Security purchasing program... right at a time when there is an increased volume of Mortgage Backed Securities coming to market.

So why are there more coming to market right now? It takes about four months for home loan originations to become securities - and summer originations were light. But loan origination volume increased in late summer and early fall, due to lower home loan rates as well as the expected expiration of the Home Buyer Tax Credit, which has since been extended. This increased volume of home loans are now securitized and hitting the markets, at a time when the Fed is buying less.

As with any item, when there is lots of supply - in this case, the increased volume of Mortgage Backed Securities - and diminishing demand - i.e. the Fed buying less and less - Economics 101 tells us that the price of that item will subsequently go down.

And as Mortgage Backed Security or Mortgage Bond prices go down, home loan rates go up, which is what we saw happen throughout December. While rates were able to end last week at about the same place as they began the week, they did worsen about .50% from the beginning of December to the end.
Feel free to contact me with any questions.
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2010 Property Tax Rates

These are the 2010 property taxes, as voted by the local governments in Brookline, Boston,  Newton, and Needham.  For other towns feel free to contact me.

If you bought a home that was previously rented, and you live in it as your primary residence, you are entitled to a lower tax than the previous owner in some cities and towns (not all!).  This is called Residential Exemption.  It does not come automatically, you need to apply for the exemption to the assessors' office of your town.  Contact me for help with the required forms.

BROOKLINE Residential:  $10.97 per $1000 assessed value Commercial: $17.80 per $1000 assessed value Residential Exemption:  $1,787.06 of the Real Estate tax bill BOSTON (incl Allston, Brighton, JP, Fenway, W Roxbury, etc) Residential:  $11.88 per $1000 assessed value Commercial: $29.38 per $1000 assessed value Residential Exemption:  $1.486.07 of the Real Estate tax bill NEWTON Residential:  $10.41 per $1000 assessed value Commercial: $19.93 per $1000 assessed value No Residential Exemption NEEDHAM Residential:  $10.53 per $1000 assessed value Commercial: $20.68 per $1000 assessed value

Market Report GBAR, Nov 09

Fresh from GBAR (Greater Boston Association of Realtors) comes this report about Greater Boston Area market closing end of November.   This area includes most communities inside Route 128 - so as a market it's pretty large, and quite diverse. In short:  the number of sales is on the rise in all categories, the prices pretty flat, and the inventory (active listings) shrinking. Feel free to call me or email me with any question. Greater Boston Association of Realtors® November Market Data Yearly Comparison                         Single-Family Homes                                           2009                2008                % Change        Units Sold        869                  499                  + 74.1 %          Median Sales    Price             $405,000         $402,500         +   0.6 %          Day on Mkt.     96                    116                  - 20 days          Pending Sales   806                  599                  + 34.6 %          Active              3,600               4,034               -  10.8 %            Listings                         Condominiums                         2009                2008                % Change Units Sold        796                  476             +  67.2 % Median Sales    Price             $315,000         $337,000    -    6.5 % Day on Mkt.     104                  115             -   9 days Pending Sales   724                  549             +  31.9 % Active              3,956               4,262          -    7.2 %    Listings   Month-to-Month Comparison  Single-Family Homes                            November        October           % Change Units Sold        869                  727                  + 19.5 % Median Sales    Price             $405,000         $400,500         +  1.1 % Day on Mkt.     96                    104                  -  8 days Pending Sales   806                  996                  -  19.1 % Active              3,600               4,179               -  13.9 %    Listings   Condominiums                         November        October           % Change Units Sold        796                  688                   + 15.7 % Median Sales    Price             $315,000         $322,500          -    2.3 % Day on Mkt.     104                  101                   +   3 days Pending Sales   724                  939                   -  22.9 % Active              3,956               4,379                -    9.7 %    Listings

Activity Report, Dec 15

This is the holiday season, the market is slowing down. On Sunday Dec 13th, out office held a total of 10 open houses, which were attended by 35 parties, for an average of 3.5 parties per open house.  In Brookline alone we had 4 Open Houses, attended by 17 parties, and average of 4.25 parties per open house.

Tenants Protected

Boston Tenants Remain Brotected From Condo Conversion

Boston Tenants Remain Brotected From Condo Conversion

Boston renters facing displacement by condo conversions will continue to be protected. Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced that the Boston City Council has passed an ordinance that extends existing protections provided to tenants facing displacement by condominium or cooperative conversion. The new ordinance, which extends the provisions for renters by five years from Dec. 31, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2014, was originally proposed by Menino in 1999, and was extended once previously in 2004, according to a statement.