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December had some great real estate articles submitted to the Google Plus real estate communities. It was was hard to narrow down a list with so many great pieces of content being shared, but I managed to do it. Here are 10 of the best real estate articles from December 2014 that I found on Google Plus, in no particular order.  If you enjoy reading about real estate then you are in for a treat as you will see some of the best real estate bloggers around share their expertise. Dig in and enjoy!

Best Google Plus Article December 2014

 


 Fantastic real estate marketing!

107 Proven Real Estate Marketing Ideas

Placester

Many Realtors struggle to properly market themselves in today’s changing technology driven industry. In this article, Placester covers 107 marketing ideas to help you get more exposure and ultimately generate more leads. If you are looking for direction as a real state agent when it comes to acquiring new leads, you’ll definitely want to check out this article. It’s packed with great info.

 


 Interviewing a Realtor is something all consumers should do!

How To Interview A Buyers Agent When Buying a Home

Kyle Hiscock

In this article, Kyle Hiscock explains the importance of interviewing your real state agent when buying a home. Many people interview Realtors when they are looking to list their house for sale, but most Realtors will agree that they rarely get interviewed when working with homebuyers. Kyle does a great job of directing consumers through the interviewing process.

 


When getting a mortgage the source of your funds is key!

Making Sure Your Cash-To-Close Comes From The Proper Source

Ken Caiani

As a Realtor, I get asked many mortgage related questions that I may not know the answer to. I just had a buyer ask me whether it mattered where the source of her funds came from when she showed up at closing. I knew that it mattered, but I didn’t know all the specific details to this question. In this article, Ken Caiani covers all of the major points to help understand where your money needs to come from when buying a home.

 


How do you know when it is the right time to buy a home?

5 Signs That You’re Ready To Buy Your First House

Andrew Fortune

This is an article that I wrote to help potential first-time home buyers determine whether or not they are ready to buy a house. I cover 5 main areas that can help you determine if you are ready to buy your first house. The information is based off of my personal experience as well as my extensive experience working with lots of first-time home buyers.

 


What are the latest bathroom trends for the coming year?

Bathroom Design Trends 2015

Karen Highlands

In real estate, kitchen and bathroom design trends are very important. In this article, Karen Highland covers some of the most desirable bathroom design trends of 2015. She walks us through new technologies, popular design materials, the use of natural elements, and many other details you should know about when remodeling and designing a bathroom. Karen provides some great visual examples, as well as a Pinterest board that she created on this subject.

 


How do you know you hired a bad Realtor?

Signs You Hired The Wrong Real Estate Agent

Bil Gassett

Hiring a real estate agent can be difficult. In this article, Bill Gassett explains the learning curve that most consumers face when hiring a real estate agent. Bill covers all of the main warning signs that you may have hired the wrong real estate agent to represent you. He also provides some helpful advice on how to fix the situation, should this ever happen to you. This is a great article loaded with expert tips and insights.

 


 Understanding how to negotiate is a priceless skill!

The Ultimate Negotiation Technique That Nobody Talks About

Seth Williams

Real estate negotiations can be tough. Good negotiation techniques are very valuable. In this article, Seth Williams walks us through a recent real estate transaction and provides detailed negotiation techniques that he used to help the deal work in his favor. It’s a unique article that has strong educational points, while being an easy read to follow with real life experience.

 


 Before selling your home look it over with a fine tooth comb!

Inspect your Home a Little Closer, Before Selling

Lynn Pineda

When you sell your house, it’s inevitable that the home buyer is going to hire an inspector to inspect your home before moving forward with the deal. In this article, Lynn Pineda connects with some great home inspectors to give you a list of things that you should inspect before listing your house for sale. The information is very valuable and can help save home sellers money and frustration by dealing with these items before entering into a sales contract with a potential buyer.

 


What’s the difference between a pre-approval and pre-qualification?

Home Loan Pre-Qualification or Pre-Approval?

Sean Young

Yes, there is definitely a difference between a mortgage loan pre-qualification and a pre-approval. Most consumers do not know that there is a difference though. In this article, Sean Young uses some great graphics, along with easy to follow information, to quickly explain the main differences so that we all understand why a pre-approval is so much better.

 


What are some of the best gift for a real estate agent?

Top 10 Gifts for Real Estate Professionals

House Hunt Agents

This may be my favorite article on the list…. because it’s about giving gifts to real estate professionals. If you know a real estate professional who is a friend, family member, or co-worker and you would like to buy them something special for Christmas this year, check out this great article form HouseHunt.com that covers some of the most popular gift ideas.

 


 

Thanks for taking the time to browse through this list of real estate articles found on Google Plus. If you found any of the articles useful and interesting, please consider commenting, sharing, or reaching out to the authors to let them know your thoughts. Google Plus is my favorite social environment to interact with other real estate professionals. If you are not actively involved with Google Plus, I recommend getting the app on your phone and hanging out in the real estate communities on there. You will meet some great professionals and find the best content being created in our industry.

Previous Google Plus Real Estate Reviews

Do you enjoy the Google+ real estate article reviews? Take a look at all of the above links where you will see additional real estate articles that have been highlighted from previous months on Google Plus!

Andrew FortuneThis post was put together by Andrew Fortune of GreatColoradoHomes.com. He is a Realtor in Colorado Springs, CO who enjoys technology, advances in small business, online marketing, and helping home buyers and sellers in his local real estate market, and beyond.

 

 

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The Very Best Google Plus Real Estate Articles November 2014

Best Google+ Real Estate Articles November 2014Have you seen any of the installments of the best Google Plus real estate articles? Bill Gassett has started a monthly column featuring the best Real Estate articles shared on Google Plus. If you haven’t been following this series, you may want to bookmark or pin his blog so you can catch up on what you’ve missed. The series of articles provides useful info for anyone getting ready to buy or sell a home.

This month Bill asked me to do the round up for November. The approach of a New Year must be inspiring our favorite Google+ bloggers. We could have picked at least a dozen articles for the “Best of November”. It wasn’t easy, but we’ve narrowed it down to something more manageable.

The first article this month is 2015 Mortgage Rate Predictions from 3 Industry Experts. Written by Tim Lucas who dives in with his thoughts on the mortgage market for next year. His opinion is that rates will go up, but when and how much is hard to say. Lucas provides a table showing what the rates were each year since 2007. They started at 6.34% in 2007 before sinking to 3.66% in 2012. They’ve been in the low 4s for awhile but Lucas doesn’t think this will last forever.

Brad Yzermans notes that all interest rate predictions should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Yzermins goes on to say he doesn’t see how rates can continue at current levels. His expectation is for moderate increases to as much as 4.75%. He doesn’t advise rushing to buy just because rates might go up. He suggests anyone with an FHA loan to re-finance now and get rid of their Mortgage Insurance Premium.

Luke Skar with the Madison Mortgage Guys adds the third voice to the article. Luke feels the improving market could signal higher rates. He backs up his assumptions with numbers from the National Association of Home Builders. He quotes their prediction that we’ll see a “26% increase in the overall number of single family homes”. He takes unemployment into consideration and predicts that rates will reach 5-5.5% by the end of 2015.

While the Mortgage Pros are optimistic about the housing market in 2015, we have seen a slight drop in sales volume. Bill Gassett explores the dip in his article titled Why Has The Real Estate Market Taken a Breather?. One key factor – the number of first time home buyers is down to 33% of all homes purchased this year. That is down from the historical average of 40%. First time home buyer purchases are at the lowest level since 1987.

In his excellent article Bill discusses the reasons why first time home buyers aren’t purchasing homes? The reasons start with high student loan debt. Add higher rents that make it hard for first time buyers to save for the down payment. Throw in a weaker job market, stricter lending standards and the destruction of family wealth. Gassett takes a close look at this trend before offering tips and making his argument that it’s better to buy now. This is a good read for anyone who is looking at long term trends in the housing market. It’s a must read for those hoping to buy their first home.

The Non-Occupying Co-Borrower Option” by Inlanta Mortgage – Madison is our third choice. This one goes hand in hand with Gassett’s article. This mortgage product is a possible solution for first time home buyers. Inlanta Madison covers the current requirements for this type of mortgage. If the co-borrower is related to the buyer, the loan to value can be as high as 96.75%. If the non-owner is helping with the down payment, they don’t have to complete the usual paperwork for the gift. They can just use their own funds. Starting your career with a mountain of college debt? The “Non-Occupying Co-Borrower Mortgage” may be your best chance to own rather than rent.

Corrine Guest answers the question Home Value Estimator – Which One Should You Use? Recent articles have looked at how inaccurate these computer generated values can be. Guest doesn’t waste time on the Zillow Zestimate valuations that have proven to be unpredictable and sometimes grossly innacurate. She points out three alternate sites where you can get a computer generated value without registering. She received three different answers for her home’s value but they were all similar. Guest feels the tools are useful if you consult with more than one. She doesn’t recommend looking at them every month unless you’re getting ready to sell. Instead, take a look every quarter. And when you want an accurate opinion of your home’s value, ask your Realtor.

The fifth article is Lynn Pineda’s guest blog for Rismedia. Is Your Realtor Sharpening an Axe? Lynn asks if your Realtor is prepared for the job. As she says, being prepared “goes beyond getting a license.” A Realtor has to stay on top of the latest trends and the mortgage market. They need to network with other real estate professionals. They should be at the forefront of the internet and social media. Her tips are just as useful for hiring a buyer’s agent as for hiring a listing agent. For other Real Estate Professionals, they’re a guide to help you stay on top of your game.

One of the last featured articles is really well done  and could certainly be called “the best Real Estate investing advice ever” which would not be too far off the mark!  RETipster Seth Williams wrote 101 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Real Estate Investing. Williams interviews a host of today’s leading real estate and mortgage professionals. He didn’t follow the usual formula of publishing each pro’s three tips together.

Williams mixed the suggestions from all contributors so they flow from the first tip to the last one. Starting with “Collaboration” and ending with “Create a Written Game Plan”. Seth’s technique of weaving the different tips together pays off. This is not only one of the most thorough guides for investors, it’s a good read.

Last but not least is an article I wrote about whether or not it makes sense to buy a home in a home owners association or not.

An important decision for any home buyer is whether to buy in an area that has a Homeowner’s Association.  A high percentage of our newer, upscale communities are subject to the home owners association rules and restrictions. In an HOA they have to approve your landscaping.  They have a voice about the vehicles you’re allowed to park in front of your home.  They’ll decide what your options are if you want to paint your home a new color.
It is possible to buy a home that isn’t governed by an HOA.  And for some buyers, it’s the only way to go.  Should you buy a home that isn’t in a homeowner’s association looks at the pros and cons of life without an HOA.

Narrowing down the options wasn’t easy this month. We wanted to include articles from: Andrew Fortune, Karen Highland, Kyle Hiscock, Anita Clark, Andrew Fortune, Andrew Dougill and Greg Hancock. We recommend that you include them all in your Google Plus real estate circles for useful real estate info.

Previous Google Plus Real Estate Reviews

Do you enjoy the Google+ real estate article reviews? Take a look at all of the above links where you will see additional real estate articles that have been highlighted from previous months on Google Plus!

About the author: Debbie Drummond has over ten years experience in the Las Vegas real estate market. She specializes in luxury homes and high rise properties.

 

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The Very Best of Google+ Real Estate Articles

Best Google+ Real Estate Articles October 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If this is the first recap of the “Best Google Plus Real Estate Articles” you’re reading, you’ve missed out! Google Plus is a great place to find real estate content from some of the best real estate bloggers. There are many Real Estate communities that are geared towards real estate industry professionals who create and share excellent articles, tips, and tricks! Google Plus communities are not only a great place to find excellent content, but also a place to network and interact with top real estate industry professionals! One of the most popular real estate communities on Google+ is where all of these monthly featured articles come from. Every month the real estate advice is hand picked among all of the posts shared on Google plus.

Thank you Bill for asking me to once again put together a recap of the Best Google Plus Real Estate Articles for October 2014! So without further ado, here is a recap of some of the most informative articles found in the Google+ real estate community in case you missed them the first time around. If you are in the real estate industry or just like reading about it consider joining the group where there are already nearly 14,000 members.

Surviving the home loan process

The first article of this month’s Google+ recap comes to us from Grace Keister, the content marketing specialist for First Team Real Estate. In Grace’s article, surviving the home loan process: Homebuyer FAQs, she does an excellent job breaking down the process of a home loan. The article explains the importance of being pre-approved when it comes time to negotiate on a home. There are many people who think a mortgage pre-qualification letter is the same as a mortgage pre-approval, which is completely false! A pre-qualification is not worth the paper it is written on as it does not assure the seller of anything. A pre-approval on the other hand checks the buyers credit, income and employment history.

In many regions of the United States, the cooler and cold weather is certainly upon us! This means it’s time to inspect and clean those chimneys and fireplaces. The next article by Tammy Behnam, regarding fireplace and chimney maintenance, gives some very nice tips to those who have fireplaces in their homes. The article points out some simple but important maintenance tips. Only burning wood, burning dry wood, and building a fire slowly are just a handful of useful tips that are found in the article. Take a look as you are sure to learn a trick or two about having a wonderful fire in your home!

Writing excellent real estate headlines

Learning to become a successful blogger is not impossible, even for those who feel they are “bad writers.” One of the most important tips for someone learning to blog is understanding the importance of creating quality titles and headlines for articles. Our next article, how to write successful real estate headlines for increased sales, comes to us from the folks over at HomeFolio Media. In this excellent article there are many tips provided for writing successful real estate headlines. Does the article sound useful? Is the headline unique? Does the title provide an urgency? These are all questions that a blogger should ask themselves before hitting that “Publish” button! You only have a few seconds to capture a reader and the title is a critical aspect in achieving this goal.

Why you need home owners insurance

Buyers commonly ask for recommendations to insurance companies as they are required to have home owners insurance. But the question I pose is, do they really understand what Homeowners Insurance is? In our next article done by Anita Clark, what is Homeowners Insurance and Why Do I Need It?, she has done an excellent and in-depth job explaining homeowners insurance. In the article you’ll find not only an explanation of what homeowners insurance is, but also quality tips such as knowing what your credit score is as it can impact the premium and also finding out if the home is located in a flood zone. This is a helpful article on home owners insurance you won’t want to miss!

Buying a home with little or no money down

Much of the general public has the misunderstanding that the only way to purchase a home is with a large amount of money down. This is not the case at all! The next article done by Luke Skar at Inlanta Mortgage, 6 ways to buy a home with little or no money, which was featured on my blog provides 6 methods to purchasing a home without “breaking the bank!” There are many grants, incentives, and mortgage products available to buyers who don’t have buckets of money laying around. One example is the 100% Financed VA Loan which allows a Veteran the option to put no money down! The are also additional programs where home buyer are able to put down 3 to 5 %.

Selling a home with tenants

Selling a home that is tenant occupied is less than desirable. If at all possible, it’s best and easiest to sell a home that is vacant or owner occupied. Coordinating showings, inspections, and bank appraisals are normally more difficult with a tenant in place, in most cases. This is especially true if the tenant has no desire to leave. Our last article done by Bill Gassett, how to sell a house with tenants, provides some awesome tips for selling a home with a tenant. As Bill points out, it’s best to wait for a lease to expire, but if this isn’t possible, he provides some actionable tips that will help your transaction proceed more smoothly. In addition, Bill explains the importance of knowing the tenancy rules and also establishing a rental game plan. This topic is rarely talked about, so make sure not to miss Bill’s article!

The above recaps and articles are just a teaser of what to expect on Google Plus, especially within the Real Estate Communities. If you haven’t started using Google Plus, don’t wait any longer and you won’t have to miss out on other great articles!

Previous Google Plus Real Estate Reviews

Best Google+ real estate articles September 2014
Best Google+ real estate articles August 2014
Best Google+ real estate articles June- July 2014

Do you enjoy the Google+ real estate article reviews? Take a look at all of the above links where you will see additional real estate articles that have been highlighted from previous months on Google Plus!

Kyle Hiscock is a top producing Webster, NY real estate agent with Nothnagle Realtors, based out of Rochester, NY. He has helped hundreds of buyers and sellers move in and out of the Greater Rochester, NY area. In addition to his vast real estate knowledge, Kyle is very active on many different social media websites! Connect with Kyle on Google+.

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7 Mistakes First Time Home Buyers Make

First Time Home buyers Mistakes

First Time Home Buyer MistakesRight now, the US housing market has yet to fully recover from its peak in 2006. Yes, things are healing quite nicely in many markets with some decent price appreciation, but the costs of buying a home are still very affordable. Between low home prices and favorable interest rates, this is a great time for first time home buyers to get into the real estate game.

But, becoming a first time home buyer can be a daunting decision. These are just so many complexities that jumping in at the wrong time might not be the best decision. Instead, it’s much wiser to be prepared for the ups and downs of home buying.

Getting into the market when you are certain it’s the right time is one of the best moves your can make as a first time home owner. When the time is right here are seven common mistakes made by first time home buyers that should be avoided at all costs.

Not Getting The Right Real Estate Agent

When you set out to buy your first home one of the top priorities should be finding a Realtor you are comfortable working with. The agent should have some experience and be competent enough to answer questions pertaining to buying and selling homes. Never under estimate the important of having a good agent. Just like any other business this really matters. You wouldn’t just hire any doctor to operate on you would you? Buying a home is a very large investment. You want to have someone in your corner that is a real pro! Here is a neat info-graphic that summarizes the importance of a real estate agent. You will realize this is great advice the moment you pick any ole real estate agent to work with you and find yourself in a tough spot where a great agent would be welcome.

Not Considering Renting May be Better Decision

Home ownership has long since been the American Dream. But, that same dream had thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure just a few years ago. So, be wise. Weigh your options. If the costs of owning a home are unaffordable or not feasible for you at this time, continue renting until you’re ready.

If you are going to make the leap into home ownership you want to be aware that you costs are not just principle, taxes and insurance but also the day to day expenses of owning a home. Buyers should always have emergency funds available for those occasions where financial difficulties arrive. As Kyle Hiscock, a New York Realtor points out in his first time home buyer advice, understanding your complete financial picture is an important element before jumping in and looking at properties. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to be a fiscally irresponsible home buyer. Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you will make in your lifetime.

Not Prepared for All-Cash Competitors

In expensive, competitive markets, such as the San Francisco Bay, Los Angeles and New York City areas, all-cash offers are very common. That’s because they almost guarantee potential buyers’ winning bids. As a first time home buyer, be prepared for this competition by being well educated on the current market. Above all else make sure you have your finances in order. Make getting a pre-approval letter from a lender one of your top priorities.

Not Taking DTI Seriously

DTI stands for debt-to-income ratio. It’s one of the very first things your lender will investigate when assessing your mortgage borrowing power. So, if you’re planning to buy a home in the near future, do not pick up any new debts, especially unaffordable ones. Many buyers have made the mistake of going out and finding their dream home while also deciding to purchase a car. When the lender finds out you have done this you could be facing the fact you might not get the loan. So be smart with your finances when purchasing a home.

Not Working with Lenders in Person

Starting your search for mortgage information online is okay. But, this should not be your last stop when shopping for mortgages. You need to personally work with a lender in order to get a full line of mortgage options, such as FHA loans and VA loans, as well as any local first time buyers programs that may exist. Do your home work on choosing a lender to work with. Not every lender has the same rates or even the same loan programs. Ask around with family, friends and your Realtor on who they would recommend to work with for financing.

Not Getting a Home Inspection

Finding the “perfect” home can be very exciting. But, don’t get too carried away. You still need to protect yourself by investing wisely. Oftentimes, first time home buyers try to cut costs by skipping the home inspection. Having a home inspection is for your own protection. There are lots of qualified home inspectors that a Realtor can recommend that will look for defects in the property. Not having the home inspected by a professional could result in thousands of dollars worth of defect damages later on down the line. This could easily become a first time buyer’s nightmare, just to save around $500. Here are some examples of  home inspections problems that would be real problematic to deal with after purchasing a home. Not only could they be expensive to remedy but also affect your health and well being.

Skipping home inspections has become quite common in areas where the market is booming as buyers are doing everything they can to win some of the crazy bidding wars that are taking place. Unless you are 100 percent certain there are no major defects in the property, skipping a home inspection is a big mistake!

Not Leaving Negative Emotions at the Door

The current market trends are leading to sellers receiving multiple offers on their homes. Not all of them allow the highest bid to make the final decision. Oftentimes, sellers will choose the buyer who seems to have the most love for the property. Smart buyers are even using emotion as a tool to win over the seller. Hand written letters are delivered by the buyers agent explaining how much the buyer loves the property and the years of enjoyment they can see ahead with their family. Buyers who come in complaining, adding unreasonable terms into an offer and having a generally negative attitude tend to get passed over. When buyers do this they make it easy for a seller to choose the best real estate offer for them!

Not Understanding How Home Value Appreciation Works

Many first time home buyers invest their entire life’s savings into buying a home. These buyers hope to make a hefty profit on the property’s appreciation within just a few years. But, a home is not a very liquid investment. It will take time to appreciate. So, be sure you’re investing for the long haul as a first time buyer. If the last ten years is any indicator you should be buying a home for the use and enjoyment. A place of shelter for you and your family. Not your ticket to paradise and ultimate wealth. More than likely those days are gone for a while.

Other Excellent First Time Home Buyer Articles

Use these additional resources to make sound decisions when buying your first home. Research and education provides a great way to go in with your eyes wide open when purchasing your first home.

The best first time home buyer tips come courtesy of Jackson Cooper who is an agent with Jensen and Company. You can visit their website at JensenAndCompany.com for all of your Park City Real Estate needs. Jackson loves working with first time home buyers and would love to share his expertise.

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Google Plus Real Estate Articles

Best Google Plus Real Estate ArticlesIt’s that time again, time for a roundup of the best Google Plus articles of the month. You will find some great real estate content from the Real Estate Community on Google Plus for the month of September. It’s all right here.

If you are a real estate professional and you are not currently networking with other professionals on Google Plus, you are missing out. I network with professionals on many social platforms and Google Plus is my favorite, by far. Great discussions happen every day in this community and the original content from other real estate professionals is second to none. This group will inspire and encourage you as a real estate professional.

Let’s start off with a great article from Lynn Pineda entitled 41 Home Selling Mistakes That Prevent You From Having Success.

This is an extensive list covering every aspect of selling real estate. If you have every had your home stuck on the market waiting months for an offer, then you know the agonizing tension that haunts the home seller in this position. The bottom-line is that there are always recognizable problems that keep a home from selling. Lynn’s comprehensive list of problems can help any home seller who is wondering why their house hasn’t sold, and also offers some top level advice for other Realtors who may have a house on the market that won’t sell.

Continuing the discussion on home selling, Bill Gassett discusses some timely advice in his article entitled fall home selling tips. Selling a home this fall? This is one you won’t want to miss.

Seasonal home selling tips can be great for those looking to put their house on the market, or those who have had their house stuck on the market and need a new perspective. In Bill’s article, he discuses tips such as the importance of keeping your yard clean of fall leaves, decorating for the fall, and many other timeless tips to increase your potential success in selling your home in the fall. These tips are great for real estate professionals as well. Take advantage this seasonally relevant advice and learn some new fall selling tactics to implement into your home selling tool kit. Bill advice is always right on track and very valuable.

Our next article covers a topic that is relevant to both home buyers and sellers alike. Kyle Hiscock’s article entitled “Are Home Warranties for a Buyer Worth It?” covers some great points on this common selling tactic.

Home sellers are often coached by their Realtor that offering a home warranty can help sell their house faster. Whether a home warranty is really worth it to a buyer has been a topic of debate in the real estate community for some time. Kyle does a nice job of laying out the pros and cons and really hammers home that a home warranty can definitely be beneficial to home buyers. Seasoned agents know the value of offering a home warranty to home buyers and Kyle’s perspective on this topic makes it easy to understand why home sellers should seriously consider offering a home warranty to buyers when listing their home for sale. This article is easy to follow and a must read for real estate professionals who are on the fence about home warranties.

In our next two articles, we’ll be discussing real estate investments. First, Debbie Drummond wrote an excellent article for investors entitled “Is the time right to Invest in residential Real Estate?”

Debbie does a great job discussing the up and down cycle of the real estate market to help gauge how an investor should react. She explains the difference between the Florida real estate market today in comparison to Las Vegas market. She makes a great case for Las Vegas being a prime investment market and how you can leverage this current market to do very well with your real estate dollars. Debbie’s in-depth analysis of the Las Vegas real estate market is valuable and well laid out. Definitely a must read for real estate investors in Las Vegas, or any market for that matter.

Continuing our discussion on real estate investments, Seth Williams discusses more market timing details in his article entitled “What Investors Needs To Know About Choosing The Right Real Estate Market

Seth illustrates the importance of identifying markets that are easy to work in, compared to others. Choosing an area that allows for easy access to county records is important. Communicating with the county office and obtaining good local mailing lists make some areas easier to deal with than others. Seth also talks about the value of working in an area that has a solid government structure, which makes real estate investing more desirable. The accessibility of the County Treasurer and the Assessors fees can real make a difference when dealing with local investment properties. Seth makes a strong case and helps direct investors to research and compare areas. His advice is timely and well laid out. Anyone who is currently investing in real estate, or has future plans to do so would benefit greatly from this article.

Our final blog entry comes from myself and is entitled “First Time Buyer Tips: Buying a First House”.

In this article, I break down the process of buying a home into an easy to read visual guide (infographic) and then elaborate in more details through the text. Buying your first home can be extremely intimidating. I spent a lot of time trying to simplify the process for first time home buyers and make it as easy to follow as possible, while still making sure to not leave any steps out. If you’re looking to buy your first house and you are wondering how it works, this is a great article to help you feel more comfortable with the home buying process. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Previous Google Plus Real Estate Reviews

Take a look at these Google Plus articles from previous months.

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Flood Insurance: Do You Need it

Do You Need Flood Insurance?

If you have ever lived through a flood you know first-hand how devastating they can be. Not only can they destroy a home and its belongings but in the ensuing aftermath they can bring about mold, bacteria, and unsafe living conditions. It is not surprising they are the most common natural disaster in the world, accounting for billions of dollars in damage and countless claims each year.

Some of the more common reasons for flooding are:Why is Flood Insurance Important

  • Dams/levees
  • Flash floods
  • Heavy rains
  • Ice jams
  • Mud slides
  • New/under developed areas
  • Snow melt
  • Tropical storms

Flood Tips You May Not Know

A common misconception is that if you do not live near a body of water you are not at risk of flooding. The truth is every home is at risk of being flooded! An overflowing dam, a broken sewer line, an unkempt or overwhelmed drainage system, or even a major storm can cause flooding. It can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone with devastating results.

Another misleading thought is that the Government will step in and bail you out. Think again. Unless your area is a federally declared disaster area (i.e. New Orleans and surrounding coastal towns after Hurricane Katrina hit or nearly the entire eastern seaboard after Hurricane Sandy), you could find yourself without federal, state, or often even local assistance. If you are in an area that does receive assistance, it is important to note you will have to pay back (with interest) whatever amount you receive. This assistance is not meant to compensate you for your losses, but rather, it is given out as a low interest loan to assist you with critical expenses incurred as you start the process of getting things back in order.

Most alarming is that many homeowners believe that when a flood disaster occurs, their home insurance will pay for the damages. That misnomer is quickly replaced with panic as they check with their insurance company and find their insurance policy does not cover for floods. A typical home insurance policy will cover damages in case of a fire, robbery, and other incidents, but will not include flood related damages, meaning homeowners must take care of their flood losses from their own pocket. All the more reason to make sure you have a flood insurance policy on your home.

What is Flood Insurance and Why Do You Need It?

Be Prepared For a FloodAs you would expect, flood insurance takes care of damages relating to flood and is the first and most important step to take if you want to protect yourself from a flood disaster. What you need to know about flood insurance is something every homeowner should consider! The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) a program directed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is the leading provider of flood insurance policies to protect homeowners from flood related losses.  Here are 3 reasons you need to consider getting flood insurance:

The primary reason is because you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) that requires a mortgage from a federally regulated lender. In an SFHA, where it is likely flooding will occur while you own your home, flood insurance is mandatory. This could include oceanfront or near-ocean properties or living next to a major body of water like a big river, lake, or creek. For some of these areas, heavy rainfall can cause the body of water to swell over the banks, flooding houses and destroying properties. For others, the potential of large waves or tropical storms puts them in the highest risk category. While the allure of living near water has its advantages, there is an inherent flooding risk that consumers need to be aware of and understand.

A second reason you should consider getting flood insurance is because you live in a community that benefit’s from the NFIP. The benefit is receiving flood insurance that is backed by the government. Whether you reside in a SFHA or low risk area, as your community benefits from the program, and nearly 21K communities do, it is hoped that all the residents will take advantage of the program. There are no fees to live in an NFIP community but each area is required to have a flood plain management ordinance, enforced by a local official. The official ensures the flood plain is periodically inspected and that no violations of the ordinance occur. If your community is not NFIP supported, then you would have to look for a federally supported private insurance company that offers flood insurance.

Third, although they are not the most dangerous natural disaster in the world, floods are the most common, causing incredible amounts of damage around the globe every year. According to Floodsmart.gov, the cost of flooding goes up exponentially with each inch of water in a home. For example, one inch of standing water can cause nearly $21,000 worth of damage while one foot of water puts the damage over $52,000. While these are only estimates, it is clear that any amount of flooding can have serious consequences for every homeowner and property affected.

How Flood Insurance Works

When you pay for flood insurance, and your insurance policy is handed out to you, it takes a whole month (thirty days from the issued date) to take effect. So if you decide to wait until the storms come a calling before getting a policy, you will definitely be paying for your losses yourself. If you have not gotten your flood insurance policy yet, it is advisable to seriously consider it before a calamity occurs.

Your flood insurance policy is dependent on how much coverage you are willing to buy. You could decide to cover both your home (the building) and the contents of your house, with the maximum limits of flood coverage for your house of $250,000 and the contents of your home with a ceiling of $100,000. The flood insurance policy pays for the estimated value of the damaged property, or the total cost of replacing your property up to the coverage limit.

In addition, the cost of flood insurance may vary depending on the flood zone you live in. High risk zones usually pay a higher sum compared to the medium and low risk zones. The FEMA maps out the flood risk zones, and it is advisable to check out your address on FEMA’s flood risk zones chart to find out what zone your locality falls under.

If your community has taken preemptive measures to reduce flood risks, you get as much as 45 percent off on flood insurance costs. You should meet with your insurance agent to find out what coverage and cost would be suitable for you, or you could decide to use the website calculator on the NFIP site to have an idea of the cost and the benefit.

Flood Insurance Advice

Like any other insurance policy, obtaining flood insurance should definitely put your mind at rest, especially with the unpredictability of floods and flooding occurring at a moment’s notice. As a reminder, it takes 30 days for your policy to take effect, so if you do not currently have flood insurance, it would be of great benefit to get a policy immediately.

If you think you are safe because you live in a low risk area, think again. A report from FEMA says that twenty five percent of all flood insurance claims since 1978 has been from low risk zones. Every homeowner is potentially at risk, regardless where you live!

Unless it is mandated to have flood insurance, many will roll the dice and opt to save those extra funds for something else. Depending on your tolerance for risk and where you live, that may be a bad gamble. For most, the results of a flood would be devastating, and the ensuing financial burden crippling…all it takes is better planning to give you peace of mind and security knowing your home is covered. Why risk it!

Other Useful Flood Insurance Information

Use these additional resources to understand all you need to know about flood insurance.

Anita Clark RealtorThis article was written by Georgia real estate professional, Anita Clark. Anita works at Coldwell Banker SSK Realtors in Warner Robins, GA. 478-960-8055

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Google Plus For Real Estate

Google Plus Real Estate Articles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What better place to find a wealth of useful Real Estate articles than on Google+. On Google+ you’ll find some of the best Real Estate professionals located in states nationwide. What do you do when you come across a Real Estate article that really stands out? In other words, the headline grabs you, or its on a topic that you’ve been dying to learn more about or what about those eye popping images? You’ll likely head back again and again to the spot where you’ve found these type of articles; welcome to Google+ where these amazing articles are found.You’ll also find one of the best Real Estate Communities is also on Google+ so be sure to check it out too.

Bill Gassett has been publishing monthly lists highlighting some of the best articles each month and he asked for my help in gathering up the list to feature here. You’ll discover modern, non-boring Real Estate articles below that you’ll be able to sink your teeth into to discover some great finds. Read them now, or bookmark, or pin for reading later. And be sure to share them and not hoard them all to yourselves!

Our first article highlighted is: Top Five Mistakes When Selling Your Home.

There are certain situations during the home selling experience that can and should be avoided at all costs. Here, Andrew Fortune goes over 5 mistakes to avoid when selling your home.

He touches on how pricing your home wrong can be downright scary to a Buyer; you’ll see a Buyer’s reaction to an overpriced home too! In addition, Andrew’s article goes over what can happen when you hire the wrong Real Estate Agent. This can have very adverse consequences and you’ll be advised on how to avoid this experience.

Keep on reading here to discover the entire article: “Top five mistakes when selling a home

A compilation of great Real Estate articles wouldn’t be complete without including one from Bill Gassett. Here Bill’s article is: What Appraisers Look At During A Real Estate Appraisal.

A Real Estate Appraisal is a simple part of the home selling and home buying process. Being in the know when it comes to appraisals can get you on the path that leads to a successful Real Estate closing. Here Bill tells you what you can do to make the most of your home’s appraisal, what will affect an appraisal and how to prepare for an appraisal from the inside to outside. He also covers how a Appraiser calculates your home’s value, appraisal myths, what happens when you need to challenge a low appraisal and a whole lot more.

Keep on reading here to discover the entire article: “How to challenge a low real estate appraisal”. As Realtors being involved in a low appraisal is never fun because we are usually in the middle trying to solve a problem one way or the other for one of our clients.

This next featured article by Seth Williams is pretty cool as it talks about cool inventions to be used in Real Estate. This article is: 20 Cool New Inventions for the Modern Day Real Estate Investor.

Who doesn’t like cool inventions? Especially when it can make our jobs and lives easier! This is an incredible list and you’ll be happy to now you can get these inventions now, as their not only available to George Jetson. You remember, George Jetson, right … from The Jetsons of futuristic 2062. If you’re scratching your head wondering, probably you’re too young as it ran in prime time series between 1962-1963 and then new episodes ran from 1984-1987. You can still see re-runs today. Anyhow, look at the list for George Jetson-like inventions!

Here Seth talks about the crazy looking Ball Chair, the under desk hammock that I have got to get, or how about an IPhone Stun gun case? These are just a few of the really cool items you’ll discover in Seth’s list.
Keep on reading here to discover the entire article: “ Inventions for the Modern Day Real Estate Investor”. The article is a fun way to look at the real estate business.

Top Google+ Real Estate ArticlesIn this last article, I talk about sweeping a Buyer off their feet, you’ll find sure-fire ways to sweep a Buyer off their feet to get a home sold. This answers the frequently asked Real Estate question of “How to attract Buyers when selling your home”. This article is: How can we Sweep a Buyer off their Feet?

Told in not a typical manner but rather in the form of a story; the story of Olivia and Jacob selling their home. Topics will be discussed that include; pricing a home right, how to make a home pop with excitement to blasting the home across the internet and more! You’ll hear how you can sell a home within 9 days.

Keep on reading here to discover the entire article: “How can we sweep our real estate clients off their feet“. As real estate agents we should always be looking to go above and beyond for our clients. The article shares how this can be done fairly easily!

The next article is by Kyle Hiscock who brings to the table his article My home expired, Why and now what should I do. Kyle explains why some homeowners are not successful selling their homes and what can be done to correct the mistakes they have made. The vast majority of sellers who run into home sale failure have a few common denominators which are pricing their home incorrectly and believing that all real estate agents do the same things to sell homes.   For some reason many who are selling their home believe that all Realtors are alike. This lesson is often times learned the hard way when the owner is unsuccessful and have to turn to someone who is a real pro.

In this next article, the dreaded low ball offer that we see all too frequently is discussed.  Here Debbie Drummond’s article is about Low Ball Offers in Real Estate – Do They Ever Work? From what should Buyers do in their low ball offer they present to how should Sellers respond to a Buyer’s low ball offer, Debbie provides solid advice enabling you to put your emotions aside to get the ultimate scenario you desire.

You’ll find that quite often low ball offers can be avoided simply by pricing a home right at the onset, which would discourage the need by Buyers to present a low ball offer as the home being sold is seen as being priced fairly.  By no means, will this always do the trick as some just like to try and get something for nothing. It’s how it’s handled that can make all the difference as Debbie points out.

Continue your reading here to Debbie’s complete article: Low Ball Offers in Real Estate sales – Do they work?

In the last article to round out the lot here is Seth Price’s article on 7 Keys to Local SEO for Real Estate Marketing. If you’re able to grasp SEO for your local Real Estate business, you’ll be reaching your target audience. Seth provides incredible recommendations to do just that.
Seth offers up tips on how to do it, provides examples of who’s doing it, how to create headlines and that incredible content to attract an audience.

Seth also reminds us about good, quality reviews. Customer reviews are powerful and likely can draw in many a new customer when you’ve proven to be great at what you do, selling homes. There’s so much more to learn in this article by Seth.

Keep on reading here to discover the entire article: “7 Keys to Local SEO Real Estate Marketing”. If you are a real estate agent or anyone who runs a small business for that matter, this is a great article to take your online visibility to another level.

Previous Google Plus Real Estate Reviews

Lynn PinedaThe following Google Plus real estate review was written by Lynn Pineda, a licensed Southeast Florida Real Estate agent for 9 years currently at Keller Williams Coral Springs Realty.

 

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Home Sellers: Expect More From Your Realtor

Home Sellers Should Expect More From RealtorsAfter 27 years of selling real estate, I’ve come to notice the gap in professionalism in the real estate industry. I see agents who are doing a stellar job, rising above and beyond in their efforts to bring their clients the very best in the industry. I also see agents who do the bare minimum required to sell a home. The sad truth is that many unsuspecting home sellers don’t know the difference.

I’ve written extensively on the issues surrounding the sale of your home, and have taken a strong stand on the need for an experienced, capable real estate agent to market your home. I know there are some other excellent Realtors who feel exactly as I do so I’ve asked my social media friend and fellow real estate blogger, Karen Highland, of The Highland Group – Frederick Maryland, to share her thoughts on what sellers can and should expect from a real estate agent if they desire excellence in service and marketing.

Karen and Chris Highland have been helping buyers and sellers for 22 years, and feel passionately about offering the very best in real estate marketing and services to their clients in central Maryland. All you need to do is check out their real estate marketing videos and photography to know they practice what they preach! Along with leading their team, Chris is the residential sales manager at his brokerage and mentors newer agents. Karen trains and coaches in internet marketing, and writes for their blog, Frederick Real Estate Online. Chris and Karen always have something to say, and fortunately for me, they have agreed to share some of their passion with us. Take it away guys!

Are You Settling for Less from Your Real Estate Agent?

“Bill Gassett has been so gracious to ask me to lend my insights through a guest post on his real estate blog. This post is my version of what I know his readers have often heard from him: Home Sellers: You Can, And Should Expect More from your real estate agent!

It’s time to expect more from a listing agent. The process of buying and selling homes has only gotten more complicated in the recent decade. With the increase in disclosures and legally necessary paperwork, and the added tasks of internet marketing, to the increase in complexity in the process, the bar has been raised a number of times. Is your listing agent up to the task? There is one simple question to ask yourself as you choose a real estate agent to market your home:

Is the Realtor Able to Handle the Complexities of Today’s Real Estate Sale?

I remember when the pages in a contract to purchase a home could be counted on both hands. Yes, I’m certainly dating myself! The last contract I had in both hands was far heavier and had upward of 60 pages, with all the disclosures and addendum’s. To say that the process has become complex is an understatement.

Technical Complexities

Today’s Realtor has to be more than just proficient in the process and the language of the contract; they need to be replete with experience and technical expertise. They need to have a holistic view of where we are in the local real estate market, and where we’ve come from. They need to have a view of other aspects of the real estate industry in the same way…what is happening and why. As we have seen changes in the industry, our understanding of the issues has deepened. Having that background knowledge is an invaluable for a real estate agent.

An example of depth of knowledge:

Realtor Does Not Know Short SalesWe recently got a call from a homeowner who, with his wife, has been looking for a home for two years and were emotionally exhausted from their efforts with two different real estate agents. They put an offer on a short sale and waited 9 months to find out that their offer was not accepted. We were astonished to hear their story because that should have never happened. If their agent had known anything about short sales, they would have known that a bank would never approve an offer with a house to sell contingency.

Some observations:

• An agent may not want to specialize in short sales and go through the training and hard work of learning the process, but they still need to have a basic understanding of the issues surrounding a short sale. If they represent a buyer in a purchase, they are not doing them any favors by not having a depth of knowledge about all the aspects of real estate.

• As with short sales, there are many changes in the real estate industry that have impacted the way we buy and sell. A real estate agent need not specialize in everything, but they need to have a holistic understanding to help buyers and sellers with whatever they may possibly encounter.

• On the flip side, just because an agent specializes, doesn’t mean that they don’t need to know enough about all other aspects to help their clients.

You should expect your listing agent to have that experience and know-how, or at least have resources to draw upon for it.

Transaction Complexities

After vetting the best offer, there are many moving parts to the sale of a home. The success of the transaction depends largely on the skill of the listing agent to negotiate, handle inspections, follow-up, and see the deal through to the closing. Many sellers are quick to realize that the listing agent really earns their pay during the time from contract to close. This is the time when experience and local know-how are most valuable.

What does all this mean to you as a seller? You should expect your listing agent to have that experience and know-how.

An example of depth of knowledge:

Our single-family listing in a desired neighborhood sold in 3 days with 2 offers. At the home inspection, a crack in the foundation brought up a concern. Our seller had purchased the home 10 years earlier as a new home, and in the first year, the settling of the home resulted in a crack. The builder sent an engineer to study the crack and determined it was not of consequence.

The buyers, however, in a state of panic, asked for a $5,000 repair in the home inspection response, at the encouragement of their (inexperienced) agent. We brought in an engineer for a small fee and he gave us his opinion that the crack was still just the result of the initial settling, and was still of no consequence. With his expert opinion, we were able to calm down the entire situation. We all settled happily.
My thoughts on this experience are:

• We’ve seen dozens of, maybe more, foundation cracks. There are inconsequential cracks that result from the home settling, and there are serious cracks that warrant foundation work. Every crack, or every problem, should not elicit panic from the agent. When real estate agents encourage panic-driven actions at the first sign of any problem, it never helps the situation. It actually minimizes truly serious problems that sometimes occur, by turning every problem into something serious. An experienced negotiator will approach problems with an appropriate solution, not with drama. Every real estate agent should have a basic understanding of major home inspection issues so when they surface they are better equipped to handle the negotiations. This is what our clients expect from us. Our purpose isn’t to collect offers and wait to pass go like Monopoly!

• Approaching problems with a “scorched earth” policy blows them out of proportion, and makes their resolution that much more difficult. To address a problem with the request of an expert opinion is usually much better than asking for an exorbitant dollar amount for a fix… a fix to something that is not yet even clearly defined. An experienced negotiator will move toward further understanding and clarity, resulting in real workable solutions. The problems become hurdles rather than road blocks.

• Creating drama, panic, or adversarial conditions does NOT equal the duty to advocate for your client. An experienced and professional agent will not create drama. Rather, they will look for clarity and solutions.

Complexities in Lending

Karen Highland Real Estate AgentIn recent years, we’ve seen upheaval in the financing industry. Getting a mortgage is often a process that takes planning and strategy, as there are many types of loan products and more scrutiny involved.

What does all this mean to you as a seller? A listing agent does much more than market a home. They vet offers, and in that process, they must have an in-depth knowledge of all of the possibilities that each offer presents. This includes the credibility of the buyer’s financing, the potential of all contingencies presented, and the ramifications of inspections and their outcomes. The nuances of a transaction can be many. You should expect your listing agent to have that experience and know-how.

An example of depth of knowledge:

Our seller’s received two offers on their home. One of the buyers was using a loan program which had a down-payment matching feature for county workers. After a quick perusal of the pre-approval letter, Chris remembered that the program was for county workers, but not for school teachers, like this particular buyer. Without the matching funds, they were not able to come up with the down-payment. The lender should have known, but we didn’t know that lender, and we know better than to assume. We encouraged our sellers to accept the other offer, resulting in a successful settlement, without the wasted time and heartache of watching the first contract fall through.

There are many moving parts to a real estate transaction. The nuances of all of these parts are learned over years of real estate sales. The industry changes have meaning to the way a listing agent guides their sellers through the transaction to the best settlement possible. Make sure you choose an agent with a depth of experience.

How Do You Know?

Home sellers, you can and should expect more. When you are considering a listing agent, ask them to tell you their stories. Listen for depth of understanding, even if you don’t understand all of the issues yourself. After all, you should expect the very best when you are selling your home, probably your biggest financial investment.These are just a few quick examples – there are many more!

Choosing a great real estate agent is not about picking the one that gives you an unrealistic market value or that whispers in your ear they will have your home sold in 5 days because they are #1 at everything they do. Pick an agent that has your interests at heart and the knowledge behind them to represent your interests every step of the way throughout the transaction.

This is the kind of real estate agent you will be smiling at across the closing table!

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Mortgage Loan Programs Reviewed

Navigating the Alphabet Soup of Mortgage Lending

Mortgage Loan Programs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many home buyers are overwhelmed by the alphabet soup they encounter when shopping for the right mortgage. Lenders throw out acronyms like FHA, conventional, VA and USDA, but most consumers don’t know the ins and outs of each loan type, or which one is best for them. Knowing about these home loan programs gets buyers better rates and lower payments!

It is not necessary however to know every detail of every loan type. You just need to know enough to choose the best long-term option for your situation. Here’s a short run-down below on each mortgage loan program to help you do just that. You can also find a ton of information on every question you may have regarding mortgage loans by following the link to this excellent resource. There is an amazing amount of mortgage information to absorb.

FHA Loans. These loans are named as such because the Federal Housing Administration oversees and backs them. This government backing allows lenders to issue loans at less stringent qualification standards.

For example, FHA loans only require 3.5% down, much less than the 5% to 20% down required for conventional loans. And, that entire amount can come for an eligible gift source, such as a family member or non-profit organization.

Also, lenders allow a lower minimum credit score to qualify, usually between 600 and 640. Borrowers with lower income qualify easier, since FHA allows borrowers to have a higher payment compared to their income.

As a trade-off for lenient guidelines, FHA loans do come with higher fees. Monthly mortgage insurance fees are $112 per month for every $100,000 borrowed, payable for the life of the loan. In addition, there’s an upfront fee of 1.75% of the loan amount.

The good news is that FHA loan rates are typically about one-half percent lower than are available for standard loans. This compensates for at least some of the extra fees. All told, FHA is a great program for many first time and repeat buyers.
Bottom Line:

FHA loans are great for home buyers with

• Dings on their credit report.
• Less money saved for a down payment.
• Higher home payment compared to income.

USDA Loans. This is a little-know loan program with big benefits. The USDA home loan is a zero-down loan program for buyers in rural and suburban areas. The loan is backed by the United States Department of Agriculture, whose goal it is to develop less urban areas by offering affordable mortgages.

The USDA loan helps buyers who are looking for homes in certain geographical areas. These loans are not farm loans or loans with big properties. The USDA loan is available to purchase just about any single-family home within certain geographical areas.

USDA-eligible areas are vast, encompassing about 97% of U.S. land mass and the 109 million people who live there. It’s worth checking USDA’s eligibility map to see if you can buy with a USDA home loan, even if you think your area is fairly suburban.

Upfront and monthly fees for USDA loans are lower than those of FHA loans. And USDA rates are comparable with FHA rates. Most borrowers end up with lower upfront and monthly costs by choosing USDA over FHA.

Bottom line:

USDA loans are a great choice because

• There’s no down payment required.
• Borrowers with a credit score of 620 and below can qualify.
• Most mortgage companies and banks across the country offer USDA loans.
• USDA loans require lower overall costs than FHA.

VA Loans. This mortgage takes the cake as far as benefits to the borrower. A VA home loan requires zero down and no monthly mortgage insurance. VA loan rates are extremely low. Many VA home buyers pay less each month for their own home than they did to rent.

All these benefits are provided by the Veterans Administration. The VA backs these loans which leads to lower risk for the lender, and lower cost for the borrower.

VA home loans are offered to those with current or former military service. Typically veterans must have served at least 90 days in the military, or up to two years, depending on their dates of service. For eligible veterans, the VA home loan yields a lower payment than any other low-down payment option.

Bottom line:

Borrowers with military experience enjoy

• Credit scores minimums down to 620
• No mortgage insurance
• Zero down payment
• Lower monthly payments compared to other low down payment loan options.

Conventional Loans. While no acronyms are required for conventional loans, they are worth including in this overview since they represent 60% of all loans. These loans are approved based on guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Credit and income requirements are little tougher on conventional loans, but borrowers who qualify enjoy lower overall costs. There are no upfront fees and mortgage insurance costs are often hundreds of dollars per month lower than with FHA. No mortgage insurance is required at all with a 20% down payment.

Conventional loans are best for applicants with 660+ credit scores although those with 720 or higher will get the best rates. A conventional loan can be approved with a sub-660 credit score, but borrowers will receive a higher rate.

Bottom Line:

Conventional loans work best for home buyers

• With a medium-to-high credit score (660-740+).
• With at least 5% down.
• Who want to buy in an urban area
• Who want to avoid high FHA upfront and monthly fees.

Shopping for a mortgage can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If you know just a little about the different home finance options you will relieve a lot of stress and make the best decision. Make sure when you are ready to buy a home you get pre-approved for a mortgage. It is important to understand there is a difference between getting pre-approved and pre-qualified for a mortgage. Any good real estate agent representing a homeowner will want to know a buyer has been pre-approved to protect their clients interests. Most pre-qualification letters do not verify a borrowers credit, employment or income. This is not the case with a pre-approval making the two documents night and day from one another.

And don’t think it’s the end of the world if you’re not quite qualified for your ideal loan option. The important thing is that you meet your goal of home ownership. Most buyers refinance into a better loan within a few years anyway. Get into your home, and the rest will fall in place at the right time. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of all the mortgage loan programs available when purchasing a home!

Tim LucasTim Lucas (NMLS 118763) is editor of MyMortgageInsider.com. He has been helping mortgage consumers purchase and refinance their homes for over 12 years. Visit Tim on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Protect Your Home From Storms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Severe summer weather, such as hail, thunder, and heavy rain, can result in a great deal of damage to your home and other property. There are many steps that homeowners can take to protect themselves from the flooding and power outages that can result from severe weather events, so prepare ahead of time so that you’re not caught off guard. In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the most effective actions you can take to safeguard your home and property from dangerous and destructive summer storms.

Steps to Take Before a Storm

Typically you will receive warning at least a few days before a major storm arrives. This window of time gives you a chance to make the necessary preparations. Keep in mind that weather forecasts are never perfect; it’s better to prepare for a storm that never arrives, or that turns out to be weaker than anticipated, than not to be ready at all. Keep reading to learn a few things you can do when a major storm is ahead in the forecast.

• Thoroughly inspect your home and make sure you have done everything you can to secure it. This includes the items in your backyard and on your porch as well as indoors. Bring items such as trash cans, toys, lawn or patio furniture or any lightweight items that could become airborne indoors so they cannot blow away or become projectiles. If you have a swimming pool, make sure it’s securely covered.

• If you don’t have storm shutters on your windows, installing these can be an added layer of protection for your home. Another option is to upgrade your windows to a shatterproof material. These steps will help insulate your home during cold weather and protect it during storm season.

• If you have trees with loose branches, this is a good time to give them a trimming. You should also inspect your roof and make sure all of the shingles are secure. Your drains and gutters should be clear so they are able to do their job if there’s a heavy downpour.

• It’s always sensible to stock up on essentials when a severe storm is headed your way. This includes canned food, bottled water and toiletries. It never hurts to have extra supplies in your home even if you end up not needing them right away.

Dealing with Power Outages

Power outages are common during storms. This is something you should be prepared for. One of the best ways to be ready for a power outage is to have a backup generator. You can choose one that is sized appropriately for your needs. This can ensure that your home’s pumps, heating systems and any security systems keep working. A generator can prevent many problems associated with storms, such as flooding and food spoilage.

Whether you have a backup generator or not, you should also have some low tech solutions available in case of a power outage. This includes several heavy duty flashlights with plenty of batteries. Candles are also useful for keeping your home lit when the lights go out.

Preventing Floods

One of the most potentially destructive aspects of severe storms is the flooding they can cause. In terms of threats to both property and your family’s safety, floods are a top concern. Read on to find out a few ways you can protect your home from dangerous and costly water damage.

• Make sure that your gutters divert rain away from your home. If necessary, extend your rain gutters. Gutter should be free of debris. The slope of your yard should not cause water to enter your basement. It may be necessary to consult with a landscaper or other specialist to make adjustments in the direction surface water flows. For example, you may need to upgrade the quality of your soil.

• One of the most common causes of flooding is the failure of sump pumps and other systems in your home. As noted above, a backup generator will keep your sump pump powered and ready to remove water. The next best thing would be to get a battery-operated backup sump pump that will keep working if your main sump pump goes off due to a power outage.

• Fill in any cracks in your basement walls or foundation. Water can enter these cracks and cause flooding. You can seal cracks yourself or call a professional.

• Consider installing a home security system, geared specifically to notice if floodwater has entered your home. Many people hear “alarm” and think fire or burglar protection, but local ADT services in your area, and other flood sensor manufacturers, can install a system that will alert you if water rises even 1/16th of an inch in your home.

• Inspect your sewer or septic system. A clogged sewer or a septic tank that needs cleaning can cause a flood during a storm. Make sure to have your system inspected and maintained regularly.

Have insurance against flooding. While this won’t prevent floods, it will at least ensure that you are protected in case a flood does occur. A typical home insurance policy doesn’t cover floods, so you will probably need an additional policy for this.

Severe storms can unleash their fury any time of year, but they are especially common in spring and summer seasons. Keep track of the weather forecast in your area, and plan ahead. If you live in an area where storms are common, taking additional precautions might be necessary to ensure your home and your family are safe.

Don’t be caught by surprise. When you’re secure in the knowledge that you’ve done everything you can to prepare, you don’t have to fear Mother Nature. Protect your home by staying ahead of summer storms!

This article comes to Massachusetts real estate news via Beth Kelly who is a freelance writer based in Massachusetts.

 

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Best Google Plus Real Estate Posts June-July 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The internet makes it incredibly easy for information to be found. The problem is much of the information that is found on the internet is junk. Google Plus is one of the best places, if not the best place, to find quality real estate information! Google Plus communities, such as the Real Estate Community owned by Bill Gassett, are loaded with knowledge not only to make all of us better Realtors but to help consumers by providing rich content about buying and selling homes. This is a fantastic reason to encourage anyone who has an interest in real estate to join!

There have been many great articles published since Bill’s Best Google Plus Real Estate Articles May 2014 was published. Bill was actually kind enough to ask me to come over here to his blog to share my opinion on which articles I enjoyed reading the most. Here are several articles from the months of June and July that you should absolutely check out!

The Movement Against Zillow Estimates (“Zestimates”)

Over the past couple month’s there has been many real estate professionals writing about Zillow and other third-party real estate websites. Most of these articles have discussed and proven how inaccurate Zillow and other third-party websites truly are!
The first article, are Zillow estimates accurate by Bill Gassett is an in-depth explanation of the many problems with Zillow and their estimates. He explains the process by which Zillow uses to establish these estimates, explains why the estimates fail so often, and also gives some great reasons why real estate professionals hate Zillow.

Bill’s article was just the beginning to this movement over the past month against Zillow’s estimates. Debbie Drummond, a Las Vegas Real Estate Agent, followed up Bill’s article by giving an in-depth analysis of the effect of Zillows Estimates on the Las Vegas Real Estate Market. In this article she discusses why buyer’s need to take Zillows estimates with a grain of salt, which is absolutely true. During her analysis, she found that only 8 out of the 18 homes sold relatively close to what Zillow estimated these homes were worth. There aren’t many professions out there that allow a less than 50% accuracy!

Debbie’s article was followed by a great article by Andrew Fortune, “3 Reasons Why Local Real Estate Websites Are Better Than National Ones.”  In addition to the excellent infographic, Andrew discusses why consumers need to use local real estate websites, not national ones. Many consumers don’t realize that national real estate websites make money by selling advertising and leads to real estate agents. There are no requirements to be advertised on Zillow and other national real estate websites, other than the willingness to pay!

Andrew’s article was followed up by an article by myself, Zillow’s Home Value Estimates “Zestimates” – Accurate or Not?” . Like Debbie’s analysis of her Las Vegas Real Estate Market, I decided to perform an analysis on my local Rochester NY Real Estate Market. To no one’s surprise, less than 50% of Zillow’s “Zestimates” were relatively close to the 38 homes that were used in this analysis of recently sold Rochester homes.

This article also discussed other important reasons to not trust Zillow and other third-party websites. Third-party real estate websites often have outdated data due to the fact they are not held to any National, State, or Local regulations.
Four excellent articles within a month discussing the inaccuracies of Zillow and other national, third-party real estate websites. Bottom line, they cannot be trusted, and it is important that buyer’s and seller’s remember “LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL” when looking for real estate advice and information!

Real Estate & Internet Marketing

I want to make one thing clear, not every real estate agent markets the homes they sell the same, PERIOD! Over the past couple months, there have been a couple excellent articles discussing real estate and internet marketing.

Choose the right Realtor.

Many real estate agents will take a listing, put their sign up in the front yard, enter the listing into the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), and wait for the home to sell! Bill comes up with another gem of an article with his “Is Your Real Estate Agent a Post and Pray Realtor”.  In his post he gives many examples of a how to know you hired a bad real estate agent. These are the Realtors that are notorious for taking bad photographs, writing terrible descriptions of their listings, and don’t know how to market. Before hiring a Realtor, make sure to check out this terrific article on how to pick a Realtor!

Have a real estate blog.

Many real estate agents have discovered the power of having a real estate blog. There is nothing that can brand you better or show off your market expertise than having a blog. Of course if you know a little something about SEO it is even better as your content is likely to be found by consumers doing some kind of online real estate search. Seth Williams a blogger at RE- Tipster put an excellent reference together of some of the best real estate blogs at the current time. In Seth’s overview of some of the leading real estate industry blogs he groups them by collaborative blogs, real estate investing, marketing/technology, real estate economy and local Realtor blogs.

Have a visible internet presence.

The internet plays a huge role in the real estate industry nowadays! Buyers and sellers are beginning to their research online. A real estate agent who doesn’t use social media, doesn’t blog, and doesn’t have a website is stuck in the stone age of real estate! It is necessary and don’t ever let anyone tell you it isn’t! Karen Highland’s Real Estate and Internet Marketing article discusses the secret sauce of internet real estate marketing. Search engine optimization or SEO, is this “secret sauce” that isn’t really secret.

Any Real estate agent who has taken the time to blog regularly with quality content, interact socially, and work on their websites understands what internet marketing is and the impact it has on their business! Check out Karen’s article if you don’t believe that internet marketing is a huge part of the real estate industry, I think you will change your mind afterwards!

How to Buy a Home in a Seller’s Market

Many real estate markets across the country right now are in the midst of an extremely competitive seller’s market! Sellers are being able to “pick and choose” which of the multiple offers they would like to accept. While this is great for sellers, not so great for buyers! The good news is that there are things that can be done to help a buyer succeed in a seller’s market!

First and foremost, a buyer needs to be pre-approved, not pre-qualified! There is a major difference! In the article buying a home in a seller’s market, by Lynn Pineda, she does a marvelous job on explaining what a buyer can do to help themselves succeed with their home purchase. The tips given by Lynn can prevent the heartbreak associated with losing in a multiple offer situation.

These June and July “Best of Google Plus Articles” are just a small taste of what you can expect to find on Google Plus and more specifically, in a Real Estate Community, like the one owned by Bill Gassett! If you haven’t joined, what are you waiting for?

This review of what the Google Plus real estate community has to offer was written by Kyle Hiscock a top Realtor covering the Rochester New York area.

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Top Flooring Choices Examined

Top Flooring Choices When Buying a Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are looking to sell your home soon (or even a few years down the road), it’s helpful to know what buyers are searching for. I work with many new home buyers, so I see what they are doing before they move in. Trends and preferences may vary based on area of country and construction of home. These preferences are for the Northeast and Mid Atlantic states and focuses on single family homes (as opposed to apartments or rentals). I will start with overall trends, and then go room by room.

By far, the biggest preference is towards hardwood flooring. This should not come as no surprise to anyone, as it is not a new trend. This preference has been growing since the early 1980’s and became the preferred surface in the 1990’s, and it continues to grow year after year.

Realtors will confirm this, as this is often a requirement for the homes that many people look for, and some will screen homes out that don’t have hardwood. In a recent, unscientific survey I did on my site, 95% of consumers prefer hardwood for the common living areas (i.e. living room, dining room, and family room.)

So, if you have hardwood flooring and if it’s hiding underneath your carpet, by all means, rip up the carpet and refinish the hardwood floors. It will instantaneously improve the value of your home, and help it sell faster. If you can’t afford to do all of it, or if it’s too inconvenient, at least start with one room to show buyers what the wood could look like.

Even just removing the carpet to show the hardwood floors is a big step in the right direction. Many are pleasantly surprised by the relatively low cost of refinishing hardwood, so it’s usually an investment that gets a strong ROI (return on investment). And, it will help sell your house faster. Take a look as we examine what types of flooring home buyer’s prefer the most!

Room By Room Flooring Preferences

Dark Hardwood FlooringLiving room/dining room/family room – areas on the main level – By far, the preference here is for hardwood. No other surface even comes close. If you have hardwood in these areas, show it off. If you don’t have hardwood in the living room/dining room, I would strongly consider adding it. You will get your return on investment (assuming you have a plywood sub-floor…if you have concrete sub-floor it will be more expensive). Choose either very dark or very light floors, as these are the most stylish. And, satin finish is the most popular sheen.

 

Hardwood Floors in The KitchenKitchens – Believe it or not, now hardwood is now the preferred flooring surface for kitchens. This is followed closely by tile. Hardwood is often preferred as it’s more in style, easier on your feet, makes space look larger and easier to clean.

Hardwood is often less expensive, too. You can read more about it in this article: Kitchen floors – hardwood vs. tile. But, either way, it should, if you are remodeling, hardwood or tile is the way to go w/ 90% of homeowners preferring one of these two surfaces (10% prefer laminate, vinyl, linoleum or cork).

If you are just preparing your home for sale, and/or not doing a full remodel, your choices may be limited due to height of cabinets and appliances, so definitely involve a flooring expert before your run into an issue where you might either lock your appliances in or worse yet find that they don’t fit.

If you are selling your house, I would recommend you consult with your Realtor and/or stager before making changes here. It is easy to spend a lot of money in the kitchen and not get back your return on investment.

Bedroom flooring choicesBedrooms – Homeowners seem to be split on this one. Slightly more than half (56%) prefer hardwood for the bedrooms and 44% prefer carpet. This preference often has been influenced by homeowner’s experiences growing up and whether they are concerned about their feet being cold in the morning. But, either way, virtually all home buyers will NOT keep the carpet you have in your bedrooms.

They will either replace them or they will add hardwood (or refinish if you have hardwood underneath the carpet). Buyers do not like to live with other people’s carpets as there are usually odors and/or germs in there…or a perception that they are present. They seem to be even more concerned if they have young kids and/or babies.

So, those carpets will get ripped up – one way or another. (Unless the homeowner has moved out and then installed new carpets…and this will be obvious as there will be no furniture marks on the carpet). A small percent of customers will clean them, but my guess is this is about 10% and rarely will those furniture marks come out.

So, what should you do if you have carpet in the bedroom and you are selling your house? This depends! And, it’s a good idea to consult your Realtor. If your carpet is in bad condition, and if it smells, it’s best to get rid of it somehow. Leaving dirty carpet in place will definitely hinder your sale, especially if there is a bad odor.

If you have hardwood underneath the carpet, rip up the carpet and refinish the hardwood. (BTW, this is usually LESS expensive than replacing it with carpet)…you can read more here: If you have hardwood underneath the carpet, is it better to refinish the wood or re-carpet? If you can’t afford to refinish the floors, at least rip up the carpet. This is a step in the right direction to improving the value and saleability of your home.

If you have plywood underneath the carpet, you may prefer to re-carpet as this will be less expensive than adding hardwood. Hardwood will often give you a better return on investment, but it will also cost you more. And, be sure that you consult your real estate agent as they will know the types of flooring used and preferred in your specific neighborhood.

Foyer with Dark HardwoodEntryways – This one depends on the size of your entryway and how it flows with the rest of the home. More often than not, most new home buyers prefer to have wood in the entry, if there is wood in the adjoining areas. When you convert this area to wood, it makes the space look larger and more cohesive.

In fact, many new home buyers convert perfectly good tile hardwood when they are refinishing the floors. (This of course assumes that you have plywood underneath and that your entryway is not on a cement slab). The 2nd logical choice is to install tile in the entryway as it is waterproof.

If you are in the process of selling your house, it may or may not be worth it to change this area. If your flooring is in bad condition (e.g. if til,e is cracking or vinyl is peeling) and/or the space looks very dark (e.g. if you have slate tiles), it may be worth it to change, especially since this is your first impression of the house. If it’s just a small area, though, it may not make a huge difference and you may find the cost to fix a small area seems high. (Smaller jobs cost more per sf). But, if you can combine it with another project, it may be much more cost effective.

Bathroom flooring choicesBathrooms – This one should be obvious – tile is the preferred surface! Do not even attempt to put hardwood in a here (assuming there is a shower or bathtub). It will warp and it won’t last very long. Bathrooms are often expensive to renovate, and very often you will not get your return on investment here if you are selling.

Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes…but they also cost a lot of money. So if your bathroom is in bad shape, have a discussion with your Realtor on your selling strategy. Sometimes, it’s better to just leave it and let the new home buyer choose what they prefer; other times, it’s such an eye sore that you have no choice. In terms of style, most prefer a natural stone look – often a porcelain tile will look best and be cost effective. If you have the colored (and dated) 4 x 4 glazed tiles (pink, yellow, blue, green), a less expensive alternative is to re-glaze them white.

While tile is the strong preference for bathroom floors, luxury vinyl is often an acceptable alternative if you need to save money. Luxury vinyl has come a long way, and it does look like hardwood or tile, pending on which selection you prefer. Luxury vinyl should only be used on the floors, and never on the walls. Also, wainscoting is very stylish for bathroom walls (but not good for the shower area).

Powder rooms – New home buyers generally prefer either hardwood for powder rooms or tile. Ironically, many that install tile in powder rooms, select tile that looks like hardwood. Both tend to work really well in this area.

Basement CarpetDens (on lower levels) – Dens are tricky. While most prefer hardwood, many end up with carpet as it’s more affordable. This all depends on whether the den is on a concrete slab or over plywood, as this has major implications for cost, as well as moisture and warmth in the room. If the room is over plywood, and if it’s on or above ground level (on grade), most prefer hardwood.

If it’s over a concrete slab, there can be many complications and added expenses as the slab is often neither level nor smooth. And, many rooms like this tend to have poor insulation, so often carpet is a more practical and economic choice both for initial installation and for ongoing heating bills (at least here in the northeast).

Basements – Most people are all over the board on this and basements are very tricky. Most prefer hard surfaces (as they are concerned about moisture), but when they hear the prices on hard surfaces, they often revert back to carpet as it is much less expensive, especially given the complications that most basements in the northeast have – they are over concrete, they are cold, floor isn’t level and surface isn’t smooth.

Flooring on stairsAnd, in some basements there is asbestos tile, further limiting the options. The other factor is that most people want to spend less in this area since it’s a basement…so it’s ironic that this area often costs more. If you are selling your home, this is probably the area that will get you the least return on investment when selling your home as it’s the basement.

Steps – Most home buyers prefer hardwood steps with a carpet runner. The carpet runner is for safety, as well as style. This is followed by carpet on steps, and then that is followed by just plain hardwood on the steps. If you are selling your home, and you have carpet on the steps, but hardwood underneath, my advice to you is to rip up the carpet and refinish.

Let the new homeowner pick out their own runner for the steps, rather than trying to guess their style. Different people have different preferences, and you are more likely to be wrong than right here. The types of flooring home buyers prefer comes from many years of experience!

 Other useful flooring articles:

This article was written by flooring expert, Debbie Gartner. Debbie is the owner of Floor Coverings International in Westchester, NY. 914-937-2950.

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How to Purchase From a FSBOWe talk a lot about buyer’s agents and listings agents and the benefits of both but what happens if your buyer finds a home that’s not listed with an agent? This is actually not that unusual because buyers will look for homes everywhere and they don’t really care where they find the house, only that they want to try and buy it.

This is what happened with one of my favorite clients. A young, single woman of about 22 working at the local pharmacy in town doing very well for herself and wanted to start investing in the real estate world. This is a great direction for her since she was young, had the funds for an FHA down payment and had a great head on her shoulders.

In my mind, there was no concern for her age when it came to jumping in with both feet. She found me online so she was well versed in searching the Internet. Even though I sent her several homes that met her criteria, the one she wanted to see came from an ad in the local newspaper. Of course it was a FSBO (for sale by owner) and in most cases those sellers may not want to deal with an agent, hence the FSBO in the first place.

But I still advocated on her behalf and called for an appointment. The gentleman was also young and in the military and couldn’t afford listing agent fees so he decided to try it on his own. Here we come, agent in tow.

He was very cordial but I could see he was nervous about the idea of an agent in the mix. My buyer loved the home however and wanted to make a full price offer. The seller asked me if I could assist in the sale and I said sure, for 3% of the sale price. A modest fee since I was now facilitating the deal on both sides. He understood and because he had no previous knowledge of how real estate worked, he agreed.

I found it odd that those that don’t know the process would risk such a high liability in legal documents by listing themselves but in his case, he lucked out with an agent that was not about to swindle, cheat or lie to him throughout the process even though my loyalties were first to my buyer.

We wrote up the deal and I explained everything to both buyer and seller and even though he was a little apprehensive as to all the documentation, I assured him it was all valid and above board. He signed and on we went to inspection.

Because this was an FHA, the house had to be approved under the strict guidelines for an FHA loan. But the previous owner purchased the house under VA terms so we were more than covered for FHA.

The snag came when the appraisal came in. The appraisal came in lower than the list price, and of course, lower than my buyer was willing to pay. When I informed the seller, again he was apprehensive but I gave proof and informed him of his options. He could terminate the transaction, my buyer could make up the difference or he could lower his price. Since my buyer didn’t have the extra funds and I informed him that any appraisal might return the same results, he agreed to lower the price.

I was able to open escrow for them, help them both through the procedure and close on time. The seller was happy and satisfied and I felt that he was my client just about as much as the buyer. I even gave him a moving away gift on closing day.

A Fine Balance of Power

Now this set up worked well but it can always go south quickly. Sellers can go behind the agent’s back and persuade the buyer to drop their agent and just deal one on one. This is where close communication between buyer and agent is so crucial. Buyers that think they know everything and how it all works and can be easily dissuaded into ditching their agent. The benefit I had with my first time buyer is that she trusted me to work for her no matter which home she chose. Regardless of what home you buy, have a buyer’s agent on your side.

I can’t stress this enough. Even though I am not in real estate any more I constantly tell my friends, family and just about anyone I know, get yourself a buyer’s agent! Don’t buy a house without one. You need the protection and assistance in case there is anything you don’t agree with or understand.

Buyers may think they understand the process and they may have even closed a few real estate transactions in the past but things change; rules, laws and requirements change and real estate agents are required to keep up with all of these. If you don’t understand something you’re signing and you don’t have a buyer’s agent to help, you may be signing something you really don’t agree with and it could lead to legal issues down the line.

Read more: Differences between listing agents and buyer’s agents

Also, listing agents have one primary goal – to sell that home! They don’t care if you don’t have a buyer’s agent, they may help with the transaction but again, you are not fully protected. Just as in my buyer going for a house without a listing agent, that seller had to trust that I knew what I was doing and wasn’t going to screw him over. Of course we didn’t, but if he had his own agent, that agent could have verified the purchase and sale agreement and made sure the seller was protected.

Yes, you can buy a house from a seller that does not have the property listed with an agent and still use your buyer’s agent. It’s up to the agent to negotiate with the seller on any commissions or fees paid at closing to the agent. The buyer doesn’t have to pay for the help of a buyer’s agent. Just another one of the many reasons I always say “Have your own agent when buying a home!”

Tammy EmenethAbout the author: Tammy Emineth writes dozens of  monthly blogs to offer assistance to real estate websites as well as all types of personal websites. Tammy does marketing and online promotion through various social media channels for her clients.

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What Makes a Real Estate Agent Military Friendly?

How to be a military friendly real estate agentYou may have heard the term “military friendly” used in and around the real estate industry. But what does it really mean to be considered a military friendly real estate agent? While the definition may vary from user to user, the central idea remains the same. These agents want to support military home buyers.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to support our nation’s heroes in their home search by becoming a military friendly agent.

Identifying Military Home buyers

The first step to working with military home buyers is identifying who’s a veteran or current service member. Most of your military clients aren’t going to walk into your office in uniform. You need to be proactive and ask each and every one of your new clients “Did you serve?” By taking the pledge to ask you’re on your way to helping achieve the dream of home ownership.

Asking the question opens the door to identifying who’s eligible for the VA mortgage guaranty. If they answer yes, you have an opportunity to set yourself apart as an expert. Educate them on their benefits and connect them with an experienced VA mortgage lender. The VA home loan isn’t the answer for every veteran, but its significant benefits make it so powerful for so many.

Understanding Their Unique Needs

Military service members, veterans and their families often have a unique set of needs. It’s important for you to understand how their current service status may impact their VA loan application. Become familiar with different stages of service. Then listen to understand their needs and ask questions.

One service member may be looking for a home in a quiet neighborhood to limit sounds or situations that could trigger their post-traumatic stress disorder. Another service member may just be moving to the area due to a permanent change of station (PCS). They’ll need guidance on the community as a whole and recommendations for service providers.

Each and every buyer is unique. Spend the time to understand why certain home qualities are desired over others and you’ll be on the right track.

Promoting Use of VA Benefits

Once you identify your VA buyers by asking “Did you serve?” and educate them on their VA benefits take things a step further by promoting the use of their hard-earned benefits. With no down payment required and lower credit score requirements the VA mortgage guaranty opens the door to home ownership for many who don’t qualify for other types of financing.

When comparing a VA loan to conventional and FHA financing, a VA buyer can save a significant amount on their monthly payments. To understand how significant the savings can be, consider this: Veterans who obtained VA financing last year will save $19 Billion over the life of their loan due to the fact that VA buyers don’t pay mortgage insurance.

To promote the use of veteran’s VA benefits you simply need to do two things. The first we’ve already covered, and that’s to provide education on VA benefits to those who say yes, they’ve served.

The second way to promote the use of VA benefits is to educate yourself on VA loan facts. There are a number of myths and misconceptions about the VA loan. Through research and education you can understand the many benefits of the VA loan and make a huge difference for your clients.

This goes for sellers too. If you’re a seller’s agent and receive a VA offer, don’t suggest that your client automatically dismiss it. This isn’t your grandfather’s VA loan. VA offers are worth considering. The lending process is more streamlined and efficient. VA closing times are now comparable to that of conventional loans. Plus, your buyers will be a part of making the dream of home ownership come true for someone who’s served our country.

Like working with any other buyer you should explain the need and importance of getting pre-approved through a lender who does VA loans. Working with a lender that specializes in VA loans can be very helpful as they have systems and procedures down pat. If you are working with a buyer who has served our country the Veterans loan is the perfect mortgage vehicle!

Samantha Reeves is the Senior Mortgage and Home buying writer for Veterans United Home Loans, one of the nation’s leading financial services providers for service members and their families. A former mortgage loan originator, Samantha enjoys educating others about the VA mortgage process on the Veterans United Network of blogs and social media. Follow her on Facebook, on her blog, Tweet her @Samantha_VUHL or reach out on Google+.

 

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Photography Helps Sell Real Estate

Real Estate PhotographyIf you’re like me, you probably enjoy looking at homes online. Many people browse homes on the internet for fun. My wife and I like to look online at homes for sale in Colorado Springs, deep in the quiet mountain areas where we could never live, with our current lifestyle. We like to daydream about what it would be like to wake up and sit outside with our coffee in the morning and enjoy the deafening silence of mountain seclusion.

It’s fun to daydream. But in reality, when you are seriously looking to buy a home, it can be frustrating when the images online are the only visual aid to help you determine whether or not a property is worth looking at. As a home seller, online property photos are one of your strongest assets for getting showings and eventually selling your home quickly, and for top dollar.

With photos being such a huge part of your home selling marketing leverage, it makes sense to have an extensive list of questions to ask the person taking the photos of your house when you’re ready to sell. I have been in the business for many years and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to real estate photos.

Through the years I have learned some major tricks of the trade, which I will share with you. Here are some good technical questions to ask your real estate photographer when listing your house for sale. These questions will help ensure that you get the best real estate photos possible.

What size wide angle lens do they use?

A wide angle lens captures more space and makes the room look as large as it possibly can. Most stock DSL cameras come with an 18mm wide angle zoom lens. In my experience, many real estate photographers are perfectly content with an 18mm lens, but in reality, this is not sufficient to capture the whole room, especially in smaller areas.

18mm lense vs 10mm lenseThe best size wide angle is normally a 10mm lens. An 8 mm lens will create a “fish eye” effect which distorts the image and makes it less appealing to online home buyers, while 10mm is where that threshold stops. A good professional real estate photographer will usually have an upgraded wide angle lens to capture the most amount of space possible.

Some 10mm wide angle lenses will create a slight “fish eye” effect, but image correction software, such as Adobe Lightroom, will correct and manipulate the image back to shape without losing the edges of the image.

Knowing whether your photographer uses a wide angle lens is probably the single most important piece of information that you can find out about them.

As you can see in the comparison image, the depth of the room is dramatically different with a 10mm lens as compared to a normal 18mm lens. In bedrooms and small areas, this difference can make or break an online home buyers desire to view your listing. Make sure to find out what kind of lens your real state photographer uses and don’t let them show up with a stock 18mm zoom lens.

Do they use HDR photography software?

HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging is a process that involves taking 3 or more photos of the same image, while using different light exposures. Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) is a feature found on most DSLR cameras. It will automatically snap multiple images while changing the light sensitivity on each one. One image will be Overprocessed HDRdark, one will be average, and one will be very light. By adjusting the ISO and/or aperture of each image, the three images gather light from different areas of the room which could never be captured in one single shot.

HDR software will then take the three images and overlay them to grab the best parts of each one and create one final processed image. This allows the photograph to have equal amounts of light gathered from all areas of the room.

Typically a single image without HDR will have darker and lighter areas because the depth of field, and a single shot cannot fully capture all the areas of a room in one shutter click. With HDR you can really make a room light up and cause the viewer to feel as though they are standing in the room as they look at it. It’s one of the greatest photography tricks for real estate, and should be an essential part of your real estate photographers skill set.

It should be noted that simply having the software to process HDR images is not enough to make a photographer’s images flawless. It’s easy to over process an image and make it look like a computer Overprocessed HDRgenerated image. Have you ever looked at homes online and noticed pictures that looked like virtual reality?

That’s HDR over-processing. A good real estate photographer will know how to use HDR to gather the best light features of each photo, without making it obvious that they are using software to manipulate it. Each photographer will have their own artistic touch that they add to their work. It’s important to know that your real estate photographer is aware of the unnatural affects of HDR over processing.

As with most artistic processes, moderation is the key. Using HDR in moderation to gently bring out the best light features of the room has a powerful effect on home buyers as they compare your listing with other real estate listings online. A good real estate photographer will make your listing stand out above the rest.

HDR imaging requires a tripod to get the best images, since it’s gathering 3 different images in a frame burst. Any slight movement of the camera will cause the photo to be blurry when processed.

If your real estate photographer shows up without a tripod, it should be a red flag that you are not getting the best quality images possible. Tripods are a necessity for good lighting. Make sure your real estate photograph knows how to use HDR imaging and uses a tripod with a decent wide-angle lens.

What model camera do they use?

This is a very important questions. Since cameras are all digital now, new current models out perform old models by a long shot. The shutter speeds and image quality of today’s cameras are incredible. If your photographer is using a camera they bought in 2001, it’s highly likely that they are getting less quality images than a comparable new DSLR Camera. One of the main aspects to new camera technology is the frames per second. Here is a great list that shows the FPS of each popular camera on the market: http://www.hdr-photography.com/aeb.html. You’ll notice that Nikon and Canon seem to have the most powerful cameras on the market, which is why you generally see these cameras everywhere.

Take the model number of the camera your photographer uses and cross reference it with this list. This will give you a good idea of the quality of the equipment that they use. I personally wouldn’t want my photographer to use a camera that has any less than 6 fps. The images above were taken with a Canon 70D, which is a great camera for real estate photography.

Do they use a flash?

To a photographer that has been around for a while, using a flash has a bit a nostalgia. Old cameras did not have the ability to capture light at the speed of modern cameras, therefore using a flash was the best way to enhance the lighting in an image. The problem with using a standard flash for real estate photography is that it creates shadows in the image and takes away   Using flash vs natural lightingambient lighting features. If someone uses a flash for real estate photography, they are most likely not using HDR imaging, and are not as knowledgeable of new camera technology and the best ways to capture natural light.

If your real estate photographer shows up with a flash, it should be a red flag that you are not going to get the best possible pictures for your real estate listing. Unfortunately, there are many real estate agents who do not want to pay the expense of hiring a professional photographer, or learn how to take professional photos themselves. They show up with an average camera and a clunky flash, (or worse yet- use their phone) and start shooting away.

As a full-time REALTOR, I look at thousands of real estate photos every year. When I take photos for my own listings, I generally snap around 500 images and then narrow them down to the top 20 to 30 photos. If you hire a real estate agent who does not respect or understand the complexities of professional photography, it may have a great impact on your ability to attract the most amount of buyers to your listing.

Make sure that you ask the questions mentioned in this article to avoid getting stuck with some bad real estate listing photos. There are so many bad real estate photos out there that people have created websites fully devoted to mocking and displaying them.

Are you in good hands with your real estate photographer?

There are many common questions that you can ask a photographer, such as “how long have you been a photographer?” and “ how often are you hired to take photos for people?”, but in my experience, the 4 questions listed above will cut straight to the heart of the interview and will quickly let you know whether you are dealing with a pro, or a novice. If you are dealing with a novice, stand your ground and ask for a better photographer.

The images that you and your REALTOR put online are extremely valuable. Photography is one of the most important aspects of real estate marketing. You do not want to be one of the many sellers who have poor images which turn buyers away. Photography is a vital part of good real estate marketing. You want to have images that make buyers emotionally attach to your house before they ever set foot inside it.

With all the knowledge you now know after reading this article, you should be able to determine the professional ability of your real estate photographer. Just to recap, here are some of the main things you need to look for when your photographer shows up:

  • They should have a good wide angle lens, preferably a 10mm.
  • They should have a tripod.
  • They should have a newer model camera.
  • They should not use a flash.

For a humorous look at how much influence online real estate photos have on the real estate business, take a look at my article called Looking at Homes Online Versus In Person. The info-graphic in the article will give you a good idea of what buyers deal with when shopping for a home online. It can be very frustrating for a buyer to look at a home in person, only to realize that it is very different from the way it was marketed online.

If you plan on selling your house, do your own due diligence and interview the photographer with these questions. If you are not comfortable interviewing them, then ask your REALTOR to do it. If your REALTOR is your photographer, you definitely want to ask them these questions, because most REALTORS are not professional photographers. Simply having a high end camera does not equate them with being a professional.

Photography is a challenging industry that is always evolving. Having the person responsible for your valuable real estate photos be on top of their game can really swing the odds in your favor when listing your house for sale. The image above of the upside down house is one I saw just yesterday while looking at homes for a client in Colorado Springs. Yes, this really just happened. Don’t assume that your listing will look great. These kinds of mistakes are common and I hope that it never happens to you. I wish you the best of luck with your online real estate photos. With the information that you have learned from this article, you should do great!

How to get the best photos when selling your home was written by Andrew Fortune. Andrew is a Real Estate agent in the Colorado Springs area and enjoys collaborating with other real estate bloggers and social media experts to help inform consumers of the important details involved in today’s real estate market. His website, GreatColoradoHomes.com is a great resource for home buyers and sellers in the Colorado Springs area.

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Keep Emotions in Check Purchasing Real Estate

Don't Get Emotional When Buying a HomeGetting too emotional when buying a home can cost you big time! The last thing you want to do is create a lot of extra stress for yourself when buying in home. In order to make your purchase go smoothly we have consulted with Lolly Spindler of HouseHunt Inc who has come by to offer some excellent first time home buying tips. It is easy to make home buying mistakes especially when you have never done it before!

Whether buying or selling a home, emotions are always involved in the real estate process. So how do you keep your emotions from hindering your judgment when buying a home? It can be tricky, as optimism and excitement are prone to be high. However, it’s important to keep a clear and level head when it comes to making one of the biggest purchases of your life.

Tip #1: Don’t Pick a Realtor Because She/He is “Nice”

Picking a Realtor is an incredibly important part of the home buying process, so make sure you choose wisely. Don’t base your decision solely on the fact that you get along with the agent. Make sure you interview at least three agents, ensuring they have a plan in place and enough time to take you on as a client.

Tip #2: Focus on Your Bottom Line

At times there’s nothing that can keep us more grounded and realistic than the number on our bank statements. Money comes most into play during two parts of the buying process: looking at homes and writing an offer on a home, which leads us to tips three and four.

Tip #3: Don’t Look at Homes Outside of Your Price Range

Stick to the amount of money you’ve been pre-approved for, and don’t look at homes that are priced higher than what you can afford to pay. The worst thing you can do is fall in love with a home that’s too expensive just to have your heart broken once reality sets in.

Tip #4: Remember the Seller is Emotional Too

When writing an offer on a home, consider what you can afford and the fair market value of the house. Understand that the seller may have priced the home high emotionally, so if your offer is below asking price, be prepared to justify it so as not to offend him/her.

Tip #5: Prioritize What You Need, Not What You Want

Many people fantasize about their dream homes, but when it comes down to it, it’s much more important to have what you need than what you want. Once you’ve decided on a few neighborhoods and the time has come to zone in on a house, it’s important to land on a specific number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and a minimum amount of square feet. Use this checklist to prioritize what you need, would like to have, and don’t need.

Tip #6: Don’t Get Attached

Buying a home can be stressful, and you may feel all of that stress wash away once you find a home that fits your needs. However, don’t get attached. This is one of the worst things you can do during the home buying process, as many things can happen and come between you and the house you have your heart set on. Only let yourself get your hopes up once you’re closer to closing.

Tip #7: Remember You Can Always Make Changes

This may sound funny, but you may be better off deciding on a home that you aren’t 100% happy with. This is because, as most buyers tend to forget during the house hunting process, you can always make changes to the house. By looking at homes that cost less than what you’ve been approved for, you may be able to find a home that fits your needs, invest a little money into remodeling, and transform it into your dream home.

Tip #8: Keep a Cool Head When Bidding

Bidding situations can be incredibly stressful and make it hard not to get emotional. In order to help avoid them, ask your Realtor to include an escalation clause in the purchase contract. This will allow for incremental increases in the offer price based on competing offers up to a certain price point you determine. If a bidding war does come to pass, maintain your calm by being prepared: have all of your financing and documents in order and make an earnest money deposit.

Tip #9: Trust Your Realtor

Your real estate agent is there to help you remain level-headed and not overly emotional during this process. Trust them to guide you, as they have a lot of real estate experience; after all, they do this for a living. Listen to the advice they give and try to put their knowledge of the process before your emotional reactions to it.

Be prepared to experience a lot of emotional ups and downs during the buying process, but don’t let these emotions cloud your judgment. The worst thing you can do is make a rash decision that ends up costing you the home of your dreams.

By following these tips you’ll be better equipped to approach the home buying process in a rational, calculated manner. Remember, this will most likely be the biggest purchase you will make in your lifetime. Do you really want it to be hindered by a few fleeting emotions? Use this advice and you will more than likely be smiling in your new home without all the emotional heartache of being involved in a real estate transaction!

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Why Have a Buyers Agent in Real Estate

Having a Buyers Agent

Why have a buyers agentFirst things first. My name is Mark Brian and I am a REALTOR in Anderson South Carolina. Bill invited me to write a post that buyers would find informative or helpful. I was surprised that one of the most influential Realtors on the web would reach out to me.

So a BIG thank you goes to Bill!

I decided to write about why you need a buyers agent when buying a home.

Before you start thinking I am saying this for my benefit, I must tell you that I ONLY work as a listing agent. I have buyers agents in my office that work with buyers and I refer all buyers to them. The buyers agents in my office are REALLY good at what they do, so it just makes more sense for me to concentrate on what I do best.

Which is represent sellers and work to get them the best possible price and terms in the shortest amount of time. So how and why do you go about choosing a buyers agent?

The First Rumor to Dispel

There is a nasty rumor that buyers should go to the listing agent if they want to get a better deal. This is NOT true!
I don’t know why this myth still exists or how it got started.

Just hear me out on WHY it is NOT a good idea for Buyers to go to the listing agent thinking they will get a better deal:

  • The listing agent works for the seller to get the seller the best price and terms.
  • The buyers agent works for the buyer to get the buyer the best price and terms.

Do you see the difference?

If you are buying a home, you need a Buyers Agent to represent you!

Sure, the listing agent may be friendly, helpful, etc etc…

But make no mistake.

The listing agent is working for the seller.

I STRONGLY recommend ALL home buyers work with an experienced buyers agent.

Remember, I said I do NOT normally represent or work with buyers.

I only represent sellers as a listing agent and I am telling you:

Buyers always NEED a Buyers Agent!

Many buyers agents close more real estate transactions in one year than most people will in a life time. There is something to be said for the experience and knowledge that a buyers agent brings to the table.

My suggestion is to ask friends, family and coworkers for their suggestions. Interview several buyers agents and do not go with the first one. Do NOT select a buyers agent because they are your friend, family member or you went to school with them.

Find a buyers agent that you feel comfortable with and has the experience and knowledge you need.

A good buyers agent does much more than open doors or find you homes to look at. It is the stuff that comes AFTER you find the home of your dreams that makes the REAL value of a buyers agent crystal clear.

For example…

Making an Offer to Buy a Home

If you have found a home that fits your budget, in the right location and has what you need, then do not hesitate to make an offer. Because if you like this home, odds are there is another buyer right now looking for the same thing.

When you are working with a buyers agent, you can feel confident in making an offer. Remember the buyers agent is representing you and working to get you the best home at the best price and terms for you! But how much should you offer?

A Buyers Agent Will Help You Understand:

  • How long has the home been on the market
  • What’s the current market like?
  • Are home prices going up or down?
  • Are there any other offers on the property?
  • If there are other offers, how can you make your offer more attractive?
  • What does the comparable market analysis say?

Comps is short for comparable sales. Comparable sales are recently sold homes that are very similar to the home you are considering. You may also want to look again at the active listings to compare their prices to the home you are considering.

Too Little

If you make an offer that is too low, you run the risk of making the seller mad. This will only make negotiating much harder. Some sellers will not even counter an offer if it is too low.

With this in mind, your buyers agent will help you decide on a price that is realistic. Your offer should be based on what recently sold comparable homes have sold for.

Too Much

Without a buyers agent, it is also possible that you will offer too much for a property. An experienced buyers agent will know the local real estate market like the back of their hand. They can prevent you from paying too much!

Almost Right

Maybe your initial offer is close but not exactly what the seller was wanting. If the seller counters your offer, you and your buyers agent will need to negotiate the counter offer. Once again, the value of a buyers agent will become crystal clear.

But Wait There Is More…

Price is only part of your offer. You cannot forget the terms of the offer. You cannot overlook the contingencies. Exactly how this works varies from state to state and from one transaction to the next. Again, an experienced buyers agent is worth their weight in gold when it comes time to make an offer.

Your buyers agent will know how to write up the offer to include contingencies for inspections, the appraisal and financing and anything else that will protect you and help to ensure you are getting a good price and a fair deal.

In fact one of the biggest hurdles in a real estate transaction is the home home inspection. An outstanding buyer’ agent will help you negotiate any problems discovered at the inspection. Sometimes home inspection discussions can become contentious especially when the buyer and seller don’t see eye to eye on what should be fixed and what is a petty request. A good Realtor in your corner will help you sift through what requests are reasonable or not.

The Commission Is Not Reduced

No Commission SavingsSome buyers think that if they give up their right to have an experienced and knowledgeable REALTOR in their corner, that the commission will be reduced.

Actually, this is NOT true in most cases. I do not know where or why this idea came about.

The commission is set when the seller signs the listing contract. The listing company then agrees to split that commission with another broker if they bring the buyer.

Normally there is no mention of the commission being reduced if a Buyer wants to buy a home without professional representation.

Information Versus Knowledge and Experience

The changes that technology and the internet have brought to real estate have been substantial. Many thought that the same thing that happened to travel agents would happen to real estate agents. There have been many attempts to accomplish this but technology cannot match the consumer’s need for the knowledge and experience of REALTORS.

Many buyers think that since they can find listings online without an agent, they do not need a buyers agent. Adding to this problem are the websites that produce home values which cause buyers to believe they do not need a buyers agent.

Some real estate websites have another problem with accuracy:

Listings That Are NOT For Sale

OR

Home Values That are WRONG

These websites are NOT licensed real estate professionals. This means they are not accountable and can pretty much do whatever they want. Which means buyers find homes on these websites that are NOT for sale or sold many months ago.

There is no doubt that buyers can find a plethora of real estate information online. And buyers can browse thousands of listings from the comfort of their couch.

The problem is some of the information you find online is not true. Especially home values. If a website has home values that are off by 5%, that doesn’t sound too bad until you do the math.

A 5% error on the price of a $300,000 home is a $15,000 difference.

Not sure about you, but I wouldn’t mind an extra $15,000 in my pocket…

A BIGGER problem for buyers is all the information in the world means nothing if you do not have the knowledge and experience to use this information correctly. You have to know what information is true, what is helpful or accurate and what to toss out.

An experienced buyers agent will know the local real estate market like the back of their hands. One of a top agents greatest assets is being able to determine the market value of a home for you. An experienced buyers agent will have seen almost every situation imaginable. A Buyers Agent knows how to write contracts to protect the buyer. A buyers agent is an expert in negotiations.

Can you honestly say this about yourself?

So while buyers can find plenty of information online, it is NOT a substitute for the knowledge and experience of what a great agent can do for you!

The Buyer’s Agent Summary:

When you are buying a home, you are dealing with what is probably the largest financial decision of your life.

  • You need someone on your side that knows what they are doing.
  • That person is called a buyers agent.
  • Not having a buyers agent does not get a home buyer a better deal.
  • Not having a buyers agent does not mean the commission is reduced.
  • Do not select a buyers agent because they are your friend, family member or someone you went to school with.

Interview several real estate agents and find someone you are comfortable with and has in depth knowledge in the area you are interested in buying a home. They should have experience dealing with the type of home you are interested in buying also. A good real estate agent will point out mistakes you could be making and not bat an eyelash in doing so. After all the best buyer’s agents are thinking about their fiduciary responsibility to you and not when they will be cashing their commission check!

There is a difference between information and having knowledge and experience when it comes to real estate. If a listing agent is telling you to get a buyers agent to help you to buy a home, isn’t this something you should consider?

Hopefully you have figured out that it really makes sense to have a buyers agent when purchasing real estate!

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Final Real Estate Walk ThroughThe inspection and walk through are two very different AND very important things to do when buying a home. A home inspection is a limited and non-evasive examination of the condition of a home by a home inspector. A final walk through is a final inspection where the buyer makes certain that the property they’ve agreed to buy is in the condition they’ve agreed to buy it in. The final inspection is a time to make sure that any agreed-upon repairs (maybe negotiated from the home inspection) were made and nothing has gone wrong with the home since.

Many buyers find themselves pressed for time and tempted to forgo the final walk through, but this is not a good idea. Find time to do it a few days before the sale goes through.
Read more: Home Inspections on Lakefront Homes, slightly different.

Vacant Homes

Usually, sellers have moved out before closing. In these situations, it is of utmost importance that the buyers do a final walk through. Even if a home is left vacant for only a few days, problems can arise. A good example is an accidentally plugged drain with a faucet that’s been accidentally left on part way and dripping until you come in to find a flooded first floor after you’ve bought it.

Case Example

Let’s look at some clients named Chuck and Carol. They’re about to close on a charming rambler and are very excited to move in. The previous owner moved out soon after listing the home and the house has been vacant. The inspection went smoothly and there was nothing to note or cause any sort of alarm with the pending sale.

The day Chuck and Carol came for their final walk through, they were too engrossed in the excitement of where they’d place their furniture and what kind of window treatments to buy that they were neglecting the advise to walk through turning lights on and off and so on. Since they were obviously too pre occupied to get down to the business of the walk through, their agent decided to do it for them while they were in the back yard discussing lawn furniture.

What a nice agent, since this isn’t typically their responsibility! The agent flushed a toilet in the hall bathroom when they heard Carol scream in the back yard. The agent ran out back in time to witness a geyser — water gushing from the ground! And it didn’t smell pretty.

If the agent hadn’t depressed the flushing mechanism on the toilet, they would never have had subsequently discovered that the sewer line had tree roots growing in it. The following day they received an estimate of $6,000 to fix it. Since they were a few days away from closing, they had time to withhold that money from the seller’s proceeds and order the work completed.

Here is a list of items to check on a final walk-through:

• Turn on and off every light fixture
• Run water & look under sinks for leaks
• Test all appliances
• Check garage door openers
• Open and close all doors
• Flush toilets
• Inspect ceilings, wall and floors
• Run garbage disposal and exhaust fans
• Test heating and air conditioning
• Open and close windows
• Make sure all debris is removed from the home
Check for any safety concerns
• Put everything you want fixed in writing

When the Home is Occupied

It does occasionally happen that the sellers have not moved out by the time the transaction closes. If this is the case, it is recommended that the buyers do a final walk-through in the presence of the seller. The reason being is because the seller knows all the little quirks about the house and can answer any questions that the buyers may have.

Speaking of asking the seller questions, one good question is “what is the one improvement you’ve always wanted but never got around to doing?” Read more Tips for Sellers

When the Home is New Construction

This is also a very important circumstance to do a final walk through. If you do a detailed review of your newly constructed home, there’s a good chance you find problems that the builder can fix before you move in.

When a builder feels the home is finished, they call the city to do their final inspections. However, just because the city may sign off on the home, doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. It’s at this time that the builder will invite you to walk through the home with them. The city inspectors see that the home meets code. It’s now your job to look for any cosmetic flaws. The city will also not inspect for leaky faucets and the like. It’s not uncommon for a new home to have 10 to 30 things that need to be addressed or fixed by the builder before the buyers move in.

But, just because there are a few things to fix or repair you need to also think about how much you love the home. An agent once told me, “sometimes when you ask for everything you get nothing,” so be cautious and consider what items really need to be addressed.

Keep all these things in mind when you are doing your final walk through and the chances of missing an issue will go down drastically!

Tammy EmenethAbout the author: Tammy Emineth writes dozens of  monthly blogs to offer assistance to real estate websites as well as all types of personal websites. Tammy does marketing and online promotion through various social media channels for her clients.

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How to Mitigate Injuries When Moving

Preventing Injuries While Making a Move

How to Mitigate Injuries While MovingIt’s surprisingly easy to injure yourself or somebody else when moving out of one home and into another. From breaking fragile objects and cutting yourself, to throwing your back out trying to lift heavy furniture, moving can be dangerous for the inexperienced. While it might be safest for you to hire a moving company, if it’s a short move or you’re looking to save money, then following these tips can help you avoid any physical catastrophes.

The most common moving related injuries are caused by moving heavy or bulky objects that strain the lower back. The simplest way to avoid this is by using proper lifting technique by crouching down and lifting heavy objects with your legs, instead of bending at your waist to pick up a heavy box. Minor to major strains and sprains can, and likely will, occur without proper lifting technique.

Another option to further shield your back from injury is by wearing a back brace when lifting. This will help guide you toward straight posture, and help prevent serious injury like a slipped disk. Hand car dollies also serve as great options when moving large items, especially over uneven terrain. If you’re stuck moving obscenely heavy furniture that won’t fit on a dolly, look into furniture sliders to easily move the item, and protect your floors.

When moving heavy objects, broken bones can also occur, although they’re slightly less common than muscle strains. Be cautious of where your fingers are toes are as they’re easy fodder for being jammed inside door frames or squished under furniture and boxes. Invest in a pair of padded gloves or hard-toe boots to protect yourself from smashing and squishing injuries.

Limiting the weight of boxes to 50 pounds is also an option to prevent many of the aforementioned injuries. A tip by Moving Gal is one many people forget about, but if your move will include a lot of items jostling around, it’s useful to remember that “flammable items like match boxes, paint thinners, aerosol cans and other chemicals must not be loaded in the vehicle used for moving items. These items are flammable and dangerous. Professionals will not transport these items. Therefore, if you are moving yourself avoid including these items during the move.”

The weight limit also helps prevent mishaps when carrying boxes around, and it’s especially useful if you have other people helping you move. When friends or family are jumping in to help out, make sure to establish clear verbal confirmation when passing boxes among each other. It’s really easy to pass a heavy or fragile item to somebody, only to let go and discover they didn’t really have control. This is the easiest way to break toes when moving. Having an extra person walking with you to catch any mishaps is also advised.

Wearing adequate clothing is also important to prevent various injuries. Having tight-fitting clothing prevents shirts and pants from getting snagged on furniture causing you to drop it while shuffling out the door. Likewise, be sure to dress appropriately for the season, so you don’t overheat or freeze, but keep protective clothing in mind.

Checking out the new residence with moving in mind is also going to be helpful. This is a simple, but overlooked idea that can make a huge difference. Take notice of the closest, unobstructed parking spot is and see if you need to reserve it beforehand. Make sure you scout out any obstructions in sidewalks, whether it’s cracked or uneven, and highlight any steps with colorful environmental-friendly chalk.

Another thing to keep it mind is object size and if there are any trees, signs or lampposts that could get in the way and damage your possessions.

On moving day itself, it’s crucial to create a clear highway zone for highly trafficked areas. Ensure nothing gets set down here and people are not loitering. It’ll give some peace of mind while lifting heavy furniture, and streamlines the entire item-shuffling process.

About.com recommends that “if you have children, make sure they are either kept out of the way or preferably, they are off property at a babysitter’s house or neighbors. You certainly don’t want to be worrying about your children’s safety during a move. If you are making a move with pets, either keep them locked in an empty room – one where the movers don’t need to enter – or take them to a boarding facility or at a friend’s for the day. It’s much less stressful for them to be away from the noise and confusion.”

Also, don’t overlook your body’s nutritional needs either. Be sure to drink enough water and take small snack breaks. The last thing you want to do is drop an armoire on your face because you passed out from lack of sustenance.

Lastly, prepare for the worst but hope for the best, and as such, you need to have a stocked first aid kit readily available for any mishaps that might occur. If you follow our tips your chances of mitigating injuries when moving will have increased ten fold!

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How to Find a Realtor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most home sellers leave the equivalent of a nice used car behind when they sell their home. That’s right, the “several percent” that most home sellers lose during the real estate negotiation amounts to the same as leaving a nice car behind in the garage. This “throw away” money that they lose yields them nothing in return.

It’s so funny how most people are very careful how they spend their money every day, making sure they don’t get over-charged at restaurants and stores, but their ignorance in selecting the right real estate agent for the job of selling a home is the same as throwing money away. How so?

Imagine your home is on the market and you receive an offer from a buyer. The buyer’s offer is not what you had hoped to get for your home. Should you accept the offer, counter the offer, or not even respond to the buyer? If you think you’ll make the right choice without the help of somebody who knows the right answer, you’re probably wrong.

Most home sellers make a hiring choice before considering all the attributes that they will need in a listing agent, and rarely do they consider the value of somebody who is prepared to negotiate for every penny possible in the home sale. I suspect they assume that it really does not matter, and they typically just hire somebody they know and like (a recent NAR survey of home sellers reported that 64% of home sellers hired the first agent they spoke to about the job of selling their home).

It happens in every local housing market. It does not matter where you are, there exists a small group of excellent real estate agents, and then a mass of licensees who really don’t put a lot of effort into what they do. It all might seem harmless until you are faced with a tough decision and you have to rely on the person you hired.

Fortunately, I have a few tips that will help you when it comes to hiring the agent for the job of selling your home.

Finding The Listing Agent a Realtor Would Hire

If I had a home to sell in your market area, I would be able to get the best listing agent to work for me and not cost me any more money than the majority of other agents who have no business handling real estate listings. Fortunately for you, if you follow this 3-step process for selecting the real estate agents to interview, you will be confident in knowing that somebody is taking care of you. There’s no need to leave tens of thousands of dollars behind, you simply have to take these preliminary important steps.

1. Plan on interviewing at least three prospective agents – Why 3? Because you want to make sure you have left nothing to chance. If you heed my advice on the next 2 points, you will end up working with a great real estate agent who will “have your back” when that all-important negotiation begins. Plus, it is imperative that you have all three Realtors go through their full listing presentation, don’t cut the second and third agent short because you already know about something they will cover. Remember, you are interviewing them! You need to assess each one’s expertise, and you should not assume that one has all the knowledge and expertise that a previous presenter has demonstrated.

2. Choose your agents online – Word of mouth is great … until it isn’t. Don’t invite agents because you’ve met them at the PTA or youth baseball, go online and figure out who is pulling traffic to their listings. Find the agents that Google recommends and it is likely you’ll find the agent that I would recommend. How do you find them? Try searching terms like “Hopkinton MA Real Estate Market Report” or “Framingham MA housing report.” As you’ll see in the final point, this is where your best negotiators can be found. They are the ones who are staying on top of the information that they need to win negotiations for their clients.

3. Make sure all three agents publish housing reports – OK, this is the big one. Being a master negotiator is all about understanding one’s position in the deal. It is absolutely impossible to know where you stand with a buyer unless you are super confident in your understanding of your asking price.

Real estate trades on supply and demand, and having an intimate knowledge of the market is what makes the top negotiators better than their peers. If you want to know how to handle that first offer that comes in, make sure you turn to somebody who actively demonstrates a higher knowledge of your local market.

Once you have interviewed all three agents, don’t be afraid to call each back with follow-up questions that you discerned from your meetings with the other agents.

Negotiation skills are not the only factor you should consider when interviewing agents for the job of selling your home, but it is one key issue that is almost always overlooked until it is too late. Fortunately, you don’t have to make this mistake. Simply follow the three tips I included above and you’ll be confident in knowing that your listing agent got you top dollar for your home.

Finding the right Realtor is an important step when selling a home. Don’t take the selection process lightly or you will end up disappointed like a lot of other people! Choosing a great real estate agent can be the difference of thousands of dollars in your pocket.

About the author: Joe Manausa, MBA is a 22+ year veteran of real estate brokerage in the State of Florida and has owned and managed his own company since 1992. His daily blog can be seen at manausa.com and features content that focuses on real estate analytics and providing his clients with a tactical advantage in today’s challenging market.

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Treat Your Home Like an Investment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article comes all the way from Vegas. Debbie Drummond has been a full time Realtor in Las Vegas since 2003.  She specializes in the luxury home and high rise market.  Debbie’s website is The Las Vegas Luxury Home Pro where she shares all her top real estate tips! Debbie is here to explain why your home is an investment and you should treat it like one!

For most families, their single largest investment is the home they live in.  While many of us take this investment seriously when making our buying decision, it’s easy to take it for granted once we have moved in.

If you have a family member or spouse who is putting on a bit of weight, you may not notice when you see them every day.  The same is true of your home.  You may not notice the paint is getting a little dull or chipped.  It’s easy to overlook the exterior of our homes if we pull into our garage and don’t spend a lot of time outside.

Routine Maintenance Will Save Money in the Long Run

Years of neglecting home maintenance can be costly.  It will damage the resale value and can lead to expensive repairs later.  In “Smart maintenance Tips for Homeowners”, the article provides an essential checklist that works well for all climates.  In our Las Vegas climate, having your HVAC serviced before the Summer heat and again before the Winter is a good idea.

In “Home Maintenance 101”  Admiral Cove Homes also suggests having the roof inspected and refinishing the patio and decks.   This will extend the life of your decks. One of the most common issues we find during a home inspection are filters needing to be changed.  Deteriorating caulk around plumbing fixtures is another common issue.  Changing the filters will save money on your energy bills.  Having the caulk repaired will help prevent mold. Visible items like caulk that is crumbling will make potential buyers wonder what else has been neglected.

Making sure you take care of the little things before selling your home can go a long way in keeping the buyer from trying to negotiate the offer on your home downward. Buyer’s today like turn-key properties.

Has Your Home Kept Up With The Times?

On top of routine maintenance tasks, we need to invest in keeping our home updated.  One of the biggest turn offs buyers have is going into a home and seeing out-dated kitchens and bathrooms.

Buyers see shiny gold faucets and trim in the bathroom and comment “that’s so eighties”.  Then they calculate how much it will cost to switch them to chrome or brushed nickel.  Recent trends have brass making a comeback.  However, it’s “brushed” brass rather than the shiny gold throwback of the disco age.

Light fixtures are another item that is easy to update and doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  It’s OK to have an occasional light fixture that was handed down from Grandma (that you’ll be taking with you when you move).  You don’t want outdated fixtures and sconces in every room of the house.

Replace items like Corian or white tile kitchen counter tops with granite or Caesar stone.  It may seem extravagant but it can help your home sell.  We recently worked with sellers who had updated their kitchen counter tops.  They knew the kitchen was dated and wanted to prepare it to sell.   They were surprised that it didn’t actually cost that much.  She wondered why they hadn’t updated it earlier so they could enjoy it.   Instead, they put them in for the new owners to enjoy.

Bathroom fixtures are another turn off.  If you have one of the old fashioned bath tubs from the eighties (think pinkish/mauve color), you might want to change it.  Aside from being dated, potential buyers will know it’s old and wonder about how clean it can be.

As a homeowner, it’s a good idea to budget for a home improvement project each year.  On a newer home you won’t have to do this.  On an older home you should be prepared.  One year, it may be replacing the HVAC system.  The next, maybe it’s time to re-do the kitchen or the bathrooms.

Flooring is another worthwhile home improvement project.  Today’s carpets come with warranties of 5, 7 or 10 years.  If you have an active family or pets, the life of the carpet may be shortened.  We are seeing a trend towards hard surface floors.  Ceramic or Travertine tile, wood or engineered wood with carpet saved for the bedrooms if used at all.  You can improve your home’s resale value while “Making Your Home Look Larger” as Debbie Gartner explains.

What’s your home’s value?

Anyone who invests in stocks keeps an eye on the market.  Why should your home’s value be any different?  There are websites that will give you a “estimate” of your home’s value.  Most of these online tools have not proven to be accurate. Stay in contact with your Realtor who should know the accurate value with just a little bit of homework.

Most of us do a monthly newsletter that reports market trends.  Let your agent know that you would like to receive updates for your specific subdivision or neighborhood. Maybe they can send you a report every six months or year about recent sales of homes comparable to yours.
This will be valuable information to share with your insurance agent.

Your home is an investment that should be protected.  If home values have gone up, you might need to increase your coverage.  If values have gone down, you might save money on your insurance premiums.

Be Pro-Active

You should become involved in your community.  Is there a graffiti hotline to call when you see a property that’s been tagged?  Is there a proposed zoning change that might affect your home’s value?  The more you stay informed the better you can make decisions about when you should sell your home and when you should hold onto it. Keep in mind your neighborhood will play a large role in the overall value of your home.

The tender loving care you give your home is likely to make a difference when you do cash in on it.  With so much of your net worth tied up in your home, it only makes sense to protect and maintain your investment.

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Pinterest For Real Estate

How to Use Pinterest For Real Estate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have not heard of Pinterest then you have probably been on a long hibernation from the internet over the last few years. There are not many social media platforms that have stormed onto the scene with so much popularity like Pinterest has done. If you have a blog for business purposes and are also in the real estate industry then Pinterest without question should be something you are using to drive traffic back to your site.

There is no other social media site that has the shelf life for a shared piece of content. For example when you share something on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or Linkedin you may get a couple of solid days of people sharing your content and then the amount of sharing will fade over time. This is not the case with Pinterest! If you have a great article it can be pinned over and over again for many months and even years!

This happens because Pinterest works on the “I told two friends concept”. A few people can pin something you have written today and two of their friends can do the same and so on and so on! Pretty soon your article is regularly getting pinned by more and more people. If used properly Pinterest sounds pretty exciting for exposing your content doesn’t it?

Do you want to learn how you can use Pinterest for your real estate business? Using Pinterest for real estate social media exposure is a no brainer! Be prepared, as this will become a comprehensive reference for using Pinterest to enhance your real estate business.

If you are a beginner and just getting started with Pinterest I would encourage you to take a look at the beginners guide to using Pinterest for real estate. What you will find is this article on the social media hat is the basics for getting started on Pinterest including what type of boards to create, what you should be pinning to those boards and how to maximize each pin for the best possible online exposure. At the end of the article you will also find a terrific video on using Pinterest for real estate.

Some quick suggestions for the types of must have boards to create for a Realtor include local real estate community boards, top notch real estate articles for buyers and sellers, home improvement, and mortgages/financing. While all of these boards specifically pertain to real estate, you should have also have a mix of other boards that show off your other interests and personality. All work and nothing else makes for a very boring Pinterest profile. One special note – I would highly recommend creating boards other than pinned real estate listings. The natural inclination for many real estate agents on social media is to share their listings. Can you say BORING! The majority of people could care less about your listing. You want to provide exceptional content that says WOW!

Real Estate Community Boards

As far as the real estate community boards go create things that people would be interested in knowing about a particular city or town. One of the staples that can be found on my real estate website are community pages for all the towns that I do the most real estate business in. These community pages are a great way to show off your real estate expertise and community knowledge. Here is an example of my Framingham real estate page. As you can see this is filled with a ton of information not only about all the best features of Framingham Massachusetts but also some great real estate information as well. This would be the perfect kind of information to have pinned to a dedicated Framingham Pinterest board.

The beauty of Pinterest is that you are pinning pictures so for one page like this one for Framingham you could have multiple pictures pinned to a board that show off school info, lakes and parks, churches and other things like this that someone thinking about relocating to Framingham may be interested in.

Best Real Estate Articles

Providing a board for the best real estate article is a great one because it allows you to not only post your best content to one place but also to share others content as well. Never underestimate the importance of sharing others content on social media. This is the best way to gain followers. Social media is about engagement and reciprocation. Someone who only shares their own content doesn’t usually go very far in having social media success. Your supporters are your life blood in social media!

Having other boards like home improvement and financial information are great compliments to the real estate industry and are also popular pinning topics.

Once you have put some of your boards together you want to start to master the art of using descriptions, links and hash tags for your pins. Keep in mind that search engines are not only going to see and index the boards you create but also your individual pins as well. For increased exposure doing this right will make a difference.

What you need to do is make sure you are describing your content in a way that a person may search for it online. Be descriptive when creating your boards by using proper keywords especially for your local boards. Do the same when describing your pins. Lastly, make sure you use hash tags to categorize your posts.

For example if you are writing a great real estate article that would be helpful for someone getting a mortgage to buy a home, use the hashtag #mortgage. The hashtag will put your article into a category with all the other popular mortgage posts.

For more advanced users I would suggest applying to get “rich pins”. Rich pins add Schema coding from your real estate blog that really enhance the look of your pins. You can easily distinguish a rich pin because the title of the article is in bold print and there is a link to the originating site of the pin. Rich pins really stand out and increase the odds you will get pinned. If you want rich pins I would advise on using Yoast SEO or some other plugin like it that will add the schema coding for you.

While I have given you a few ideas above for some Pinterest boards you may find that you really can’t think of many others that would work all that well for real estate. You are in luck because I put together some Pinterest real estate board suggestions that you can start to use right away.

Using Pinterest Group Boards

There is nothing more powerful on Pinterest than taking the initial concept of pinning articles and creating boards where multiple people can do the same. A Pinterest group board is like having an army of potential people who can make your best articles go viral.

The concept is simple – you create a Pinterest board in which you invite others to pin to. Anyone you invite to join the board can pin their own and other peoples articles. This makes the boards content grow rapidly both in size and popularity. The more people that join the board the greater potential for content to distributed. I have put together a nice reference for using Pinterest real estate group boards. This article I am sure will answer any questions you may have about how to maximize your efforts using group boards. If you are not using group board for real estate then you are missing out on a substantial opportunity for increased traffic and followers!

If you would like to take a look at how my real estate boards are set up, how I am describing and linking my pins and well as using proper hashtags you can take a look at my Pinterest real estate profile. This should help you not only generate ideas but see how to use Pinterest the right way.

Other Helpful Real Estate Social Media Posts

Use these references to make Pinterest a dynamic place for getting more real estate social media exposure. When you use Pinterest as the pro’s do you will see a very large amount of people visiting your blog directly from the site. Believe it or not Pinterest is my number one source of traffic!

 

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Best Google Plus Real Estate Posts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the great benefits of being on Google Plus daily is you come across some really informative real estate articles. Whether you are just following a great group or Realtors from other parts of the country or participate in some of the excellent Google Plus real estate communities there is always something worthwhile to read. Real Estate is a business that is constantly changing. In addition there are always new buyers and sellers entering the market looking for guidance.

What I am going to start doing more often is sharing some of the best real estate content I find on Google Plus. These will be summaries of real estate articles that are worth taking a closer look at. The majority of these articles will be helpful advice centered around buying and selling a home. So without further ado take a look at some of the best articles found on Google Plus for the first week of May 2014.

Tips For Dealing With Low Real Estate Appraisals

Buying and selling real estate can be very stressful. There are always problems lurking around every corner. One of the major hurdles when participating in a real estate transaction is getting past the lenders appraisal of the property. There are times when a property can be put under contract for a certain amount of money and the appraiser does not agree that this is the correct value.

When this happens this causes major havoc for both the buyer and seller. Do you know what to do when a home does not appraise for the contract price? In the article Debbie Drummond does a masterful job of explaining what happens when your property does not appraise for what it should. If you are buying or selling a home and run into an appraisal problem this article is a must read!

Don’t Pick A Realtor Because They Offer Home Staging

When you are selling your home one of the most important considerations should be the Realtor you select to get the job done. There are typically thousands of real estate agents to choose from in every market. Unfortunately many homeowners make poor decisions when selecting a Realtor. Often times an agent is selected based solely on some silly reason that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

When selling a home your property should look fantastic when it hits the market. It should have no repair issues, it should be clean and tidy, not too cluttered and no off the wall paint colors. In essence a buyer should be able to easily picture themselves in the property. One of the ways to ensure this happens is to hire a professional home stager who can give you guidance. For those that need it this is never a bad idea. Staging can be a powerful weapon in separating your home from the competition.

One thing you should never do however is pick a Realtor because they offer to stage your home. There are many real estate agents that offer staging as a value added service. That does not mean they should be chosen to represent your interests because they are providing a service like this. Over the years I have seen countless people make a mistake like this.

A top Realtor should have a great track record of success. This includes statistics that go along with their success. What kind of statistics? Look for an agent who prices a home properly. Their list price to sale price ratio should be exceptional. Another important stat is how long it takes them to sell their properties. Are they better than the market averages? Make sure you get a handle on their communication skills. Selling a lot of homes is great but you also want someone who provides excellent service as well. Staging is important but that is not a good reason to hire a Realtor. All the staging in the world will not sell a poorly priced and marketed home!

Multiple Real Estate Offers: How to Be The Winning Bid

When you set out to sell your home most people would love to see their home sell for the absolute most money. It is a very good feeling when you put your home up for sale and sell your home for more than you expected. One of the ways this is sure to happen is when you are fortunate enough to get multiple bids of your home.

From a buyer’s stand point this is an absolute nightmare. You have found your dream home and all of a sudden you find out there is another buyer who thinks exactly the way you do! In real estate multiple offers become far more common when it is a sellers market. With low inventory of homes for sale it becomes far more common for multiple offers on properties to occur. As a buyer there are things you can do to help increase the odds you are the winning bid. Kyle Hiscock does an exceptional job of explaining how you can be the winning bidder in a multiple offer transaction. At the top of most sellers wishes will be the highest bid of course but there are other things that a buyer can do to sweeten their offer. Kyle offers some terrific suggestions to increase the odds you have a good shot at getting the home you really want.

These are some of the best real estate posts found on Google Plus for the beginning of May. Using these tips should help your ability to reach your real estate goals. Best of luck!

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How Real Estate Agents Can Market Themselves

Real Estate Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Jenson, a real estate agent in Cleveland, came to me with a request: “I want a book to promote my business. But not a book about real estate – a book about me!”

It was a strange approach, but not ineffective.

It was strange, because the normal approach we take with real estate agents is to write a book that gives lots of tips on how to buy and sell your home. That makes the book useful to readers, and helps them understand that the agent really knows his stuff. Amidst the standard advice, one inserts some anecdotes from the agent’s past experience, to show how he has come to the rescue, achieved a higher sales price for the seller on one occasion and bargained the seller down for the buyer on another.

Here are some of the points that would typically be included:

• How to work with an agent
• Determining your asking price
How to apply for a mortgage
• What forms you will need to complete
• How to prepare your house to fetch the highest value
• How to host an open house
• How to buy a house for less
• How to make sure you don’t buy problems
• How to determine what you can afford
• How to narrow down the choices
• Home inspections

Mark Jenson wanted none of that. He wanted something focusing strictly on himself. He wanted to build a relationship with potential clients. Sure, the anecdotes in the book were all real estate related, so they clearly demonstrated his expertise. But would the unorthodox approach work?

In a word, yes.

Let’s not forget that it really takes only one or two extra sales for a book to hit positive ROI. While direct cause and effect cannot always be drawn from a marketing tool to a listing, it does appear that Mark has already broken even and made some money from the book. But why did his approach work? And did it work any better than the more orthodox approach.

First and foremost, it worked because a real estate agent can always distinguish himself or herself in the market as an authority by becoming a “published author”. As long as the book is about real estate, an agent’s face and name on the cover simply says “expert” and “authority” and “trust me” with a credibility that no business card will ever convey.

The business card says: I am a real estate agent.

The book says: I am THE real estate agent.

In that respect, the approach made no difference.

Second, Mark has been in real estate for over a decade, so he has some stories to tell. Stories always make for a better read than how-to tips,. On the other hand, how-to tips are more useful, especially if someone is about to buy or sell something as important as a home. I don’t think we’ll ever know which got read more, nor am I convinced that matters.

Mark’s strategy was simple. When a new owner takes possession of a home, he leaves a bouquet of flowers and three copies of his book, autographed, in with the new owners. The new owners move in, meet the neighbors, show their friends and family around, talk about the agent (“An amazing agent. Have you seen his book?”) And the word spreads.

This strategy varies from the typical agent’s book marketing strategy, where an agent might hand a book out to everyone who walks into his office.

Another standard tactic is to send a copy of the book to the local media, along with a note: “If ever you need someone to comment on real estate in this town, I am sure I can help you.” I have no idea if Mark did this. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

The weekly real estate section in most big city newspapers needs content – interesting articles to offset the pages and pages of listings. They aren’t fooling anyone; the section is an advertising tool, not a part of the “newspaper”. But they like to put content, and a review of a new and local real estate book can be a refreshing change. More importantly, if they need comments on house prices or mortgage rates, they now have another source that they might turn to for a quote.

Not every agent is well-placed to follow Mark’s strategy. Not every agent has a dozen years under his belt. A newer agent who wants to distinguish himself with a book, is probably better placed to go the conventional route, dispensing solid advice and showing that he knows what he is talking about..

At this point, you might be wondering whether book marketing should replace billboards and benches and other signage. The short answer is, no.

Billboards and similar advertising have one goal and one goal only – to keep an agent top of mind, so that when the time comes to sell, people will pick that agent. It’s all about name recognition.

So where does a book come in? The answer: anywhere there is a heated battle for name recognition, and several names are recognized. In those communities, having name recognition and being seen as authority on real estate gives an agent the edge.

So which works better, Mark’s approach or a more conventional how-to real estate book? I have no idea, and I am sure I will never know. But you probably do know, because you know your market and you know how you relate to people. That is likely the secret to success, and what Mark Jenson intuitively understood. If you want to distinguish yourself with a book, just make sure it will fit your personality and your marketing style, and I don’t think you can lose.

David Leonhardt runs a global team of writers through The Happy Guy Marketing. His team helps entrepreneurs, including real estate agents and mortgage brokers, write their business books. They help other people write their biographies and novels and screenplays.

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9 Signs That You Need New Windows

Do You Need New Windows?

When Should I Replace My WindowsThere is a lot more to windows than many homeowners realize. No wonder, then, so many procrastinate in replacing their windows, preferring to believe new windows aren’t necessary, when, in reality, old windows present many hidden costs, not the least of which is astronomical heating and cooling bills.

The main reason to invest in new windows lies within the hidden dangers of old windows; many older windows were produced prior to the advent of shatter proofing, and the glass in their panes has usually drifted downward over time, making higher portions more fragile.

Consequently, even with the application of shatter-proofing films, older windows break from far lighter impacts than newer windows. What’s more, sometimes their panes are so thin they shatter on their own because of no more than sudden, slight changes in air temperature or pressure. Not only does this create a large, open gap in a home’s exterior, but the shattered window glass can cause major harm to people and property. If you are selling a home one of the more common home inspection issues found will be some kind of trouble with a window system.

Rather than putting off window replacement, it is far better to update your windows if, indeed, an update is necessary. However, window replacement isn’t always absolutely imperative. In fact, to determine whether you should replace your home’s windows, all you have to do is go through the following checklist of signs that your windows have outlived their use.

Window Replacement Checklist: 9 Ways To Tell If You Need New Windows

Are your windows crank-opened?

Many older windows use crank-and-gear opening mechanisms that break down over time. If turning a window’s crank requires a lot of force, the mechanism is likely failing, and, as a result, the entire installation will need replacing.

Are your windows painted shut?

Not only does an inability to open a window in warm weather decrease a home’s airflow and make a room less comfortable, but a painted-shut window can cause equally hazardous issues. Often, painting a window shut was a fast, inexpensive means of insulating the window in an era when lead paints were prevalent. Troubling, as well, is the fire hazard painted-shut windows present: Any window for which egress is difficult or impossible can trap fire victims, turning a financial tragedy into a personal calamity.

Are your windows impossible to close without “Jerry rigging” them?

Windows that won’t shut without, say, leaning a chair against them or taping them with duct tape present the same fire hazard as painted-shut windows. After all, you might not have the time or ability to remove your makeshift jamb during a house fire. But windows that won’t shut properly also present the risk of unwanted entry into your home. In today’s world, you certainly cannot risk someone simply moving a chair and entering uninvited.

Do you insulate your windows with plastic?

The annual plastic-insulation project temporarily creates the same fire hazards in winter months – when Christmas tree and fireplace fires are common – as painted-shut and Jerry-rigged windows. Newer windows require no such insulation, being, as they are, far more sealed than their forerunners. Nor is window plastic a particularly satisfactory form of insulation because the plastic’s seal fails, undermining the entire system.

Can you feel a draft when you’re near your windows?

It wasn’t long ago when gasoline and fuel oil cost 10 cents a gallon; in fact, in 1997 a gallon of refined petroleum cost 99 cents everywhere in the country. It’s obvious, then, why many older homes still have fuel-oil furnaces and poorly insulated windows: We used to have plenty of cheap petroleum to burn.

Today, however, the same heating system and windows installed as recently as 15 years ago can cost a homeowner thousands per year in heating costs. Installing new windows can often reduce these costs exponentially, while also offering a major federal tax deduction for home insulation. Such savings add up and can go toward purchasing the natural-gas heating system that completes the savings picture.

Do your windows frost?

Idyllic as it might look, frosted windows is an indicator of structurally compromised window panes. Newer windows are often comprised of two panes with a small gap between them that helps moderate the glass’s temperature, while older windows are usually no more than one sheet of glass wedged within a sill. Already fragile from many years of temperature changes, as well as from gravity pulling their glass downward, such older windows can shatter from no more than a sudden cold snap.

Do your windows have lead weights?

Window weights – which counterbalance some older windows’ hinge-opening sashes – run between the side jamb and the wall in an outdated design that provides poor insulation. Yet the major problem with such windows is their weights are often lead, which was plentiful and cheap in a bygone area but, as we now know, is also highly toxic.

Since, unless you are a metallurgist, you will have no clue whether the window’s weights are lead or steel – even if you do find the weights’ access panel – assume they are lead in any window whose sash connects to its jamb via a rope; avoid touching them and have the window replaced immediately.

Are outside sounds voluble inside?

Sound and heat energy waves both travel easily over the air. So the fact that the barking of your neighbor’s dog sounds like it’s in your living room isn’t only a nuisance; it is a sign that warm air within your home can escape through your windows easily in winter months, to be displaced by – you guessed it – cold air. Adding insult to injury, poorly insulated, older windows can help that infernal hound’s howling keep you awake at night, in addition to driving up your energy bills.

Do your window jambs, sill and frames show signs of wear?

You would naturally replace a window if a baseball went through its pane, but the pane itself is only one part of a window’s overall structure. Everything surrounding it – including the sill, jambs and frames – can also deteriorate, creating air gaps in a window. Wooden window hardware is especially notorious for this, as wood rots and warps over time. Even if such damage isn’t obvious on the hardware’s exterior, it can still be an internal problem, so if your window hardware is wooden, assume the window needs replacing.

These are all signs that your windows could need replacement in the near future!

Paul KazlovTo learn more about whether your old windows need replacing, or for a quote on a window-replacement project in the Feasterville, Penn., and Morristown, N.J., areas, visit Global Home Improvement Inc.’s website or call us at 877-711-9850. Paul Kazlov is a “green” home remodeling enthusiast and an industry pioneer for innovation in home renovation.  Paul writes for the Global Home Improvement Blog and strives to educate people about lifetime remodeling solutions such as metal roofing. Follow him on Twitter @PaulKazlov.

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How to Baby Proof Your Home

Moving With Young Kids

Child Proof A Home

When moving into a new place it’s easy to forget how different the world looks from the perspective of a baby, but this perspective is important to keep in mind as families prepare to introduce their latest family addition to their new home.  In order to make your house child-friendly, you must first access your house and consider whether or not your house is safe in general.

Baby-proofing your home means you have taken into account the dangerous objects that might be easily accessible to your baby, and you have secured anything that they may try to open, pull, play with, or even put in their mouth that could possibly hurt them.  Before bringing your new bundle of joy home, use these helpful tips to provide a better and safer environment for your home, to ensure that you’ve covered all of the basics of baby safety.

Recognize Hazards

As adults, we possess the ability to balance our curiosity with caution, keeping us safe in most cases.  This differs for babies; however, it is important to remember that babies don’t see the world as adults do. As babies continue to grow, their curiosity grows within their surroundings. Curiosity is what compels them to explore.

As a parent, it is critical that your first step in baby-proofing your home is to see the world as our little one sees it.  Recognize things that could be harmful and removing those objects so that there is no chance of your little one coming into contact with any harmful objects.

Chemicals

Household ChemicalsBe mindful of where you store chemicals in your new home, such as cleaning supplies, detergents and etc.  You should remember not to put chemicals in lower cabinets. If you have done so remove them from that area and place them in a new location outside of your baby’s reach.

Be sure that paint and other hazardous substances are stored in airtight containers on high shelves.

Simply moving chemicals to a storage room and locking the door is enough to prevent a crawling baby from harming themselves. As your child begins to get older and is able to walk on their own, you should take extra steps to certify that there is a safe barrier between your child and dangerous materials.

Small Objects

As a rule of thumb, anything that is small enough to be placed in a baby’s mouth should be moved and stored in a different location.  Magnets, pens and small tools are considered “choking hazards” and should be placed out of your child’s reach.

Place these small objects in drawers high above your baby or inside cabinets. You should secure them with latches that prevent your child from accessing them.  There are a large variety of latches and locks created for the purpose of making it difficult for your child to get near anything that could hurt them, also to limit the chance of injury.

Miscellaneous Hazards

Electrical Cord is Baby HazardThink about the times that you, as an adult, have almost injured yourself after tripping over an electrical cord. These cords can be even more dangerous for a baby. A number of accidents could occur as a result of exposed electrical cords. Do as much as you possibly can to prevent this by gathering and tying electrical cords so that they cannot be reached by your baby.

A set of stairs is something like a yellow brick road that an inquisitive little infant will feel the urge to follow. Rather than leading to an adventure, this could instead lead to disaster. Baby gates are a reliable go-to solution for this problem.

Go even further by installing two baby gates. Place one baby gate about three to four steps up. Then position the second gate near the top of the stairs. Due to the gate being positioned higher, it decreases your child’s chances of crawling over it, but in case you have a gifted climber on your hands, you will have a second gate which serves as another obstacle for them. If the baby happens to take a tumble, there is only a small amount of distance between the two gates.

Improve the Safety of Your Furniture

Falls and collisions with furniture are a couple of the most common threats to your baby’s safety. Secure furniture in place to decrease its potential of injuring your child.

·Add cushioned corner guards or edging to coffee and side tables, hearths, or any other sharp surfaces.

· Mount and secure bookshelves to walls so they don’t topple over.

· Place blockers in electrical sockets to protect your child from sticking their fingers in them.

When it comes to ensuring your child’s safety, there’s nothing that you wouldn’t do.  Although you can’t prevent certain accidents from happening, minimizing their potential of occurring is crucial to the safety of your child.  Before you bring your new baby home, make sure that your house is prepared for the amount of exploration that your infant will no doubt take part in.

Julie SmithThis article on how to baby proof your home comes to you from Julie Smith, a mother and a wife who enjoys DIY projects, blogging and simply spending time with her family. She is the writer of www.iheartthishouse.com , blogging is her new found interest and she hopes to educate and inform fellow readers of this post. Julie is a firm believer in family, friends, fun and an American Home Shield secure home.

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Title V Inspections

Title V Inspections 101

Massachusetts Title VIf you live in Massachusetts and your home has a septic system, you’ll more than likely need to have the system inspected and approved before transferring ownership or making significant modifications to your home.

What is a Title V inspection?

The set of state regulations that govern this process is called Title V. These regulations were created in 1995 by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to protect waterways and the environment. Septic system inspections are a key piece of these regulations. Each city’s Board of Health administers Title V and keeps a record of a home’s as-built septic plans, as well as inspection results, which details the condition of the septic system and its capacity.

When do you need a Title V inspection?

Title V regulations require septic system inspections anytime ownership of a property is transferred. This includes selling the home to new owners or inheriting the property. There are, however, some transfers in which homeowners are exempt from a Title V inspection. According to the city of Yarmouth, MA’s website, these include:

  • Transferring ownership of a home between current spouses.
  • Transferring between parents and their children.
  • Transferring between full siblings.
  • When the property is held in a trust where at least one beneficiary is a first-degree relationship.

In addition to transfers of ownership, an inspection is typically required when the use of the property changes, such as converting a home into a commercial office space. A Title V inspection is also required when properties are combined or divided.

You may also need a Title V inspection if you make additions or improvements to your home. Although not all types of home additions dictate a septic system inspection under Title V regulations, adding bathrooms, showers, or bedrooms warrant an inspection.

Who performs a Title V inspection?

A Title V inspection should be done by a certified septic pumping professional, licensed in the state of Massachusetts. These professionals can also perform any necessary repairs, upgrades, or replacements necessary for compliance with the regulations.

In Massachusetts, the state does allow for a Confidential Voluntary Assessment, which means a homeowner can have their septic system inspected without having to submit their finding to the Board of Health. This could give the homeowner a heads-up to any problems or repairs needed before the official Title V inspection.

Here are a few septic professionals who perform Title V inspections throughout Massachusetts:

What does a Title V inspection entail?

Massachusetts Title V SepticWhen inspection time comes, the inspector will look at all parts of your septic system, including the cesspool, leach field, distribution box and septic tank. The inspector will also check for hydraulic failure and check the high groundwater elevation. According to the MassDEP, the septic tank, distribution box and the cesspool can be inspected at the absolute minimum.

The inspector will provide information on water usage for the last two years, as well as make sure that the number of bedrooms the septic system is rated for is the number of bedrooms in the house. Ensuring accuracy on this point can save homeowners a lot of headache if you ever want to sell your house.

Under Massachusetts’ regulations, the number of bedrooms a house can claim to have is dictated by the capacity of the septic system. For example, a home could have four rooms that are suitable for bedrooms, but if the Title V inspection determines that the septic system has only enough capacity for three bedrooms, then the home must be listed as a three-bedroom home.

This can come as quite a shock to homeowners, and it can obviously have a negative effect on the property’s value. Worse yet, ignoring this aspect of a Title V inspection can mean you’re essentially misleading prospective homebuyers, which can trigger expensive litigation. For this reason it’s important for homeowners to get their Title V inspection completed well before putting their home on the market. Under Title V regulations, the property owner has two years to fix problems found in an inspection.

It’s a good idea to obtain the original septic system plans from your local Board of Health and have them on-hand during inspection, as well as records of maintenance and pumping that’s been done on the system.

Once inspection is completed, the inspector will submit his findings to the Board of Health and they will give a conditional, pass or fail on the septic system. The Board of Health will keep a record of the results, which for any home buyer, is great because they can obtain the information before deciding to buy. However, home buyers should note that Title V inspections only assess the septic system’s current functioning – the report isn’t considered an indication of future performance or the expected longevity of the system.

Also keep in mind that when you receive a Title V report from your inspector and it says “pass” that does not mean that you have completely cleared the hurdle of what is necessary in Massachusetts. Local board of healths have broad power over septic systems and could potentially deny the approval for some reason. This really becomes important because there is the potential that you could be heading to closing on your home thinking you have a passing Title V when in fact you do not! See Massachusetts Title V approval for a complete run down.

What if your Title V doesn’t pass?

The first order of business is to call the local Board of Health and a local engineer. The latter will help to assess the situation and determine the best course of action. One thing the engineer can do is see if there is a reserve area in the original design of your septic system, meaning it has the capability to add more leach trenches. Another option is to come up with a design in the event that the entire system needs to be relocated.

Relocating or replacing a septic system can be costly and it’s a good idea to bid the project to several septic installers once the design is completed. This will help you find the best price within your budget. If money is tight, there are a few programs available to alleviate the financial burden of having to replace your septic system – tax credit and low-cost financing through the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency (MHFA), the Farmers Home Administration (FHA) and the USDA Rural Development Program.

Megan McClure is a freelance writer based outside Philadelphia. Find her on Google+.

 

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Semantic Search Explained

Semantic SearchWhen I was growing up, last century, buying or renting a house in the laid-back city of Brisbane was a relatively straightforward, low-key affair. You asked your pals who was the Realtor in their community and you visited their office sometime in the week.

There were two implicit statements in this approach that, with time, have been completely lost. First that the Realtor was the most trustworthy person to do business with in the community when it came to buying or renting property, they were the ones with all the knowledge, expertise and vested interest.

They knew the community inside out, knew their business and worked to build up their reputation. Second that the Realtor’s interests and yours were roughly aligned. Yes, they wanted to make money, but they were not out to rip you off and as long as you understood that then the entire relational exchange was a little like two friends agreeing on a deal.

In retrospect it all sounds naively rustic, counter-intuitive to how we expect the world to run today when every deal needs to be inspected from every side and even then there is a good chance that something had been missed. Trust and alignment of interests seem to be notions that belong to a bygone century, not our fast-paced, digitally-enabled world.

Yet that’s where we’re headed towards in the 3.0 phase of the web that’s presided over by Google’s semantic search. As search gradually transits from an engine that provides probably answers to a search query that we then have to go through individually, ourselves, to one that provides answers, trust becomes a key component.

To work semantic search needs trust. It needs our trust in the veracity of the results it gives us and it needs, itself, to be able to work out the trustworthiness of the answers it provides. So a search, for instance, using Google Voice on mobile for “the best Realtor in Hopkinton” should produce a handful of choices that don’t just happen to be Realtors but are actually “the best”.

The way Google’s semantic search does that requires activities on its part that entail such complicated concepts as “entity extraction”, “relational identification”,  specific “data types”, “strings”, “alphabet sets”, and “arrays”. The end result however is that when it provides an answer that answer is trustworthy and for the Realtor using search to get prospects that’s pure gold.

Disregarding all the technicalities of this new search the question from a Realtor’s point of view is what does one have to do to make the “trustworthy” list? The answer to that is much easier to get a fix on than the mathematics of semantic search:

Semantic Search For Real Estate

Real Estate Semantic Search1. Establish Yourself. Not all Realtors are equal. Some specialize in rentals and others in high-end properties. Some will only deal with residential properties and others will focus on business properties. Your digital presence, anywhere, has to make this crystal clear.

2. Tell Google where you are. If you post content about Houston and happen to be active in Philadelphia you’re not really helping Google understand where you are no matter what you say. There are a number of ways to establish location including using Google Local for Business, your Google+ profile, your Google+ Page, your LinkedIn profile, your website, your blog and every digital presence you have which permits you to establish your location.

 A good example of what a Realtor can do to establish trust within their community and surrounding area is to create a community page that establishes their expertise. Check out this community page that covers Shrewsbury Massachusetts Real Estate, schools, demographics and other town data that a perspective buyer or seller may be interested in. Would you not agree that a page like this builds trust and expertise surrounding the town of Shrewsbury MA? If you are a Realtor this is one example of how you can build your credibility.

3. Tell Google what you do. If you’re buying and selling golf courses but only blog about the daily life of a Realtor you’re making it really hard for Google to establish your expertise. By all means write about your daily woes but also write about why not every golf course is a sound investment, for instance. How one goes about getting the finance necessary for buying a golf course and what are the signs that a golf course is a good investment.

4. Tell the world what you do. Don’t just write. In the age of connectivity time is critical and no one has a lot of it to spend on reading all the time. Videos, Gifs, pictures and Tweets, all form a rich tapestry of content that helps create a more granular picture of who you are and what you do.

5. Connect the dots. The semantic web is social. The sharing of your content across social networks, the connectivity you make between the people you meet and the content you share, all form part of a complex matrix where what you share, who you are and you do become part of a very detailed picture.

All of this of course presupposes two things (again). First that you have a very carefully worked out content creation strategy that allows you to slice-and-dice your ‘message’ and inject it into the content you create. Secondly that Google’s semantic search is good enough to piece it back altogether.

Google is getting there with the second. To win in the semantic web you’d better make sure you’re there with the first. Keep in mind while the example of semanti search here is a real estate agent, this works the same whether you are a lawyer, plumber, or other industry.

David AmerlandThe real estate article above was written by David Amerland who is one of the foremost experts on the subject of search engine optimization (SEO). David Amerland is the author of ‘The Social Media Mind’ and the best-selling ‘SEO Help’, ‘Online Marketing Help’ and ‘Brilliant SEO’.

His books on online marketing, SEO and the social media revolution have helped thousands of entrepreneurs build successful online businesses. When he is not busy writing he advises companies and start ups on social media strategy and gives talks about the social media revolution on the web.

He maintains his own blog at http://helpmyseo.com where you can find practical SEO and social media advice and spends more time online than is probably healthy.

You can follow both David Amerland on Google Plus  and Bill Gassett on Google Plus where you will find both using this great social media tool to create relationship with others and share content worth reading. We both hope to see you there!

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How To Achieve Short Sale Success

Closing A Short Sale

Short sales can easily take two to three times longer to complete than a traditional real estate transaction. Keeping this in mind it makes sense to be well prepared if you need to short sale a Massachusetts home. Follow the outline below and you will be well on your way to increasing your chances that you will end up at a closing table.

Hire A Realtor Who Closes Short Sales

Massachusetts Short Sale RealtorChoosing a Realtor who understands the short sale process is a critical one. On of the biggest stumbling blocks to short sale success is hiring any ole real estate agent to represent your interests in a short sale. Trust me there are Realtors taking short sale business who are absolutely clueless. Even though it is against the code of ethics for a Realtor who has no knowledge of short sales to list them, it happens all the time. In other words don’t choose the short sale Realtor pictured to the right!

Some of the first steps of a Realtor representing a short sale candidate include:

  • Conducting a thorough interview of the short seller
  • Establishing whether there is a valid hardship
  • Determining lender/lenders
  • Figuring out approximate remaining mortgage balance
  • Determine what type of loan i.e FHA, Conventional or Fannie Mae
  • Finding out if the seller is in default
  • If so finding out how long in default
  • Figure out if the seller is motivated and cooperative

If the short sale agent you are interviewing is not asking these questions then this could be the first clue this Realtor is not the right agent for the job! Once an agent has done their home work on the seller and has gone ahead with listing the home for sale, they then have to perform the function of finding the right short sale buyer. Finding the appropriate buyer in a short sale is a lot different than a standard real estate sale. You MUST have a buyer that understands the short sale process and is completely invested in the home.

What does invested mean? You want a buyer that is willing to wait the time it takes to complete a short sale and also go ahead with completing their responsibilities just like any other real estate transaction. Responsibilities include getting a home inspection done, signing a purchase and sale, and procuring financing. All of these things should be done prior to short sale approval NOT after. One of the biggest reasons short sales do not close is because of the Realtor not understanding how to properly represent a seller.

Work With An Attorney Who Closes Short Sales

Massachusetts Short Sale AttorneyThe attorney you use in your short sale can have a huge impact on whether or not you get to the closing and also get your desired terms. Just as a real estate agent should have experience in closing short sales so should the attorney if you have one. By the way in my opinion it is vital to have an attorney representing your interests in a short sale!

A real estate agent should not be practicing law which is exactly what happens when you have a Realtor who negotiates a short sale contract and approval letter. Luckily for me I have one of the best short sale attorneys in Massachusetts representing all of my clients! Here are some of the things a good Massachusetts short sale attorney will be doing to get short sale approval:

  • Understand and maintain lender guidelines
  • Secure forms for each lender and/or servicer
  • Run a title exam on the seller’s property
  • Identify any liens and/or encumbrances
  • Identify all individuals on deeds and mortgages

Complete Short Sale Package

Short Sale PackageOnce these things are done the short sale attorney will assist in sending a complete “short sale package” to the lender. The short sale package that is submitted to the lender will include the following items:

  • A short sale “hardship letter” which will explain to the lender why the seller needs to complete a short sale
  • The seller’s tax returns from the prior two years
  • The seller’s current pay stubs
  • An authorization letter from the seller stating the attorney will be communicating and receiving lender docs on their behalf
  • The listing agents contract and purchase and sale if available

The completeness of the short sale package is vital in a short sale and often times can hold things up if the lender does not have all the documentation when they ask for it. A good attorney confirm the lender has everything they need when asked for it. Often times negotiators will claim they never received documentation that was already sent. The attorney will also keep all seller financial information updated and forwarded to the lender every 30 days or as they require.

One of the biggest roles the attorney has is maintaining a constant line of communication with the lenders negotiator. When a negotiator asks for a document the attorney needs to jump on it right away.

Short Sale Negotiation

Successful Short Sale NegotiationFrom a seller’s point of view there is nothing more important than short sale debt removal. Whoever is negotiating the short sale for the seller plays the biggest role in a seller’s financial future. Again I would never recommend using a real estate agent to negotiate a short sale.  The attorney I use negotiates on my seller’s behalf and looks to get the best deal possible from the lender/investor.

For example lets assume for a moment that a seller is $75,000 short at closing. The role of the attorney would be to try to get the $75,000 short sale deficiency eliminated! Today it is a lot harder to get a short sale debt completely removed but that is the goal. In many cases the lender will not agree to a complete debt removal but will accept either a cash contribution at closing or ask the owner to sign a promissory note. In short sales the amount that a lender typically tries to collect is pennies on the dollar.

While every short sale is different, using the example above a lender could ask an owner to bring $5000 to closing and agree to waive the remaining $70,000 balance. Often times in a short sale an owner has absolutely no cash and it would be impossible for them to contribute anything at closing. In this case the lender may ask for a $15,000 note be signed at favorable terms. Again these figures are just examples but show the type of monetary contributions lenders ask for. Keep in mind lenders will check your finances and know when they can’t get blood out of a stone. One the flip side if they see you have money to contribute, the likelihood is strong they will ask for something.

Aside from the negotiation of the dollar amounts the short sale attorney should also be looking to eliminate the possibility the lender can come back after you in the future for any remaining mortgage balance. This should be completely spelled out in the short sale approval letter.

Short Sale Obstacles

Short Sale ObstaclesBefore you ever get to the negotiating table with a lender there can be obstacles that pop up along the way. One of the most common short sale problems is disputes over value with lenders. This is one of the more common issues and can easily derail the short sale if you are not familiar with how to tackle the problem.

In every short sale the lender will send out a representative who will evaluate the current market value. This is either done by an appraiser or another real estate agent. They will do an analysis of value and report their findings back to the lender. The lender unfortunately can treat this value as “gospel”.  You are at the mercy of whatever the agent or appraiser has to say as far as value goes.

Here is where the biggest problem occurs. Most of the time it is not an appraiser that will do the evaluation but a real estate agent that the lender chooses. Here is the rub. The agent who does this work for the lender generally gets paid $40-80 dollars to do hours worth or work evaluating the properties value. Can you guess what type of agent has the time or inclination to work hours and only get paid $40-80 dollars. If you guessed bottom of the barrel then you are right on the money. Sometimes the agent isn’t even from the area and knows nothing about local value and differences between neighborhoods. Pardon the French but it can be a real shit show.

When a lender is given an evaluation that does not make sense they will counter offer at some ridiculous value that makes absolutely no sense. This is where a skilled short sale agent comes in that knows how to dispute a foolish evaluation given by some nit wit who is practicing real estate part time on the side. I kid you not this happens far too often!

Picking the right short sale Realtor and attorney is a vital part of short sale success!

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on how to achieve short sale success was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 26+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Using Google+ As a Real Estate Agent

 

David AmerlandThe following article is written by David Amerland who is one of the foremost experts on the subject of search engine optimization (SEO). David Amerland is the author of ‘The Social Media Mind’ and the best-selling ‘SEO Help’, ‘Online Marketing Help’ and ‘Brilliant SEO’. His books on online marketing, SEO and the social media revolution have helped thousands of entrepreneurs build successful online businesses. When he is not busy writing he advises companies and start ups on social media strategy and gives talks about the social media revolution on the web. He maintains his own blog at http://helpmyseo.com where you can find practical SEO and social media advice and spends more time online than is probably healthy. You can follow him on Google+ or Twitter @davidamerland.

There are few industries in the world that quite share as many challenges when it comes to online promotion as the Real Estate one. The busy realtor who struggles to carve up enough time to spend with potential buyers and sellers and still run his business, also has to contend with the demands made by the transition of marketing from traditional to digital.

Google Plus Real Estate SearchThere is a paradox here that must be addressed. While for most industries the transition from offline to online means greater opportunities and an increase in ROI due to the efficiencies achieved through the web, for the real estate industry as a whole it presents a real challenge. Real Estate, a proposition that is hyper-local, has to, somehow, also work on a global scale. Homes being sold in Texas may find buyers in Idaho. Villas in Florida can be bought by holiday home seekers in Britain.

Those looking to relocate from one State to another, or even one country to another, have to be able to find what they want outside their own search bubble. The realtor is expected to have a powerful presence in local search, achieve high rankings in global search and still run a business that has no regular hours and is plagued by a volatile target audience.

For realtors the only answer to the challenge represented by ‘online’ was to either specialize and hyper-localize in terms of both sellers and buyers in which case the issues raised by the complexity of being found through search became somewhat easier, or to put enough time and money into the digital part of the real estate business and hope the ROI worked. Either way the solution required curtailing the ability to work properly by either committing to a smaller, deeper part of the market or a greater expenditure of money. Both choices come with inherent risks.

Now however, there is another way.

The power that lies in “connecting the dots”

Real Estate Google Plus ConnectionsGoogle+ is frequently called in the media “Google’s Social Network” but it is a lot more than that. It is a set of powerful socialization tools that allow the creation of social signals right across the web. In order to quantify this a little let’s look at what is also frequently mentioned in the media as the “competing social network” to Google+ – Facebook.

The listing of a villa for sale in Florida posted on Facebook may get a little bit of interaction with some of those who see it, it may get re-shared a few times, particularly if it is a spectacularly appointed or expensively priced villa, but its finding a buyer has about the same chances that traditional, one-off print advertising offers or worse as at least the latter can lie around for a while the former will get buried in the stream within a couple of hours or so.

The chances then of the right person seeing it, at the right time, with the right mindset, are so slim that they hardly do justice to the effort involved in posting it. Now look at that same listing posted on Google+. The data is indexed by Google. The search engine notes that the listing is for a villa in Florida. It sees that those who interacted most with the listing come from Britain. It notes that the person who posted it frequently blogs about villas, engages in posts about real estate in Florida and interacts with realtors and clients who are based in the State.

The next thing you know a potential buyer doing a search on Google for moving services to Florida sees, in the suggested results on Google search, the name of the realtor who sells villas there. A different person using Google’s UK index to look for “luxury homes in the US” also sees the name of the realtor selling villas in Florida. And, if the realtor has done his homework and linked his G+ account with his website, they also see, each time, a thumbnail of his picture next to the suggested content that appears on Google search.

What has happened here is that by creating a breadcrumb trail of activity the clever realtor has engaged Google search to act as his personal real estate billboard, complete with publicity picture, when it’s relevant to the search query.

No more time wasters

Google Plus SEOThe key here is relevance. Search only works when it creates what is increasingly called, contextual value. There is little point in having your real estate listings show up on a search for Florida someone is carrying out as a school project, for instance. Here Google+ and Google become almost synonymous in purpose and the bridging link is data. But the gift is not just granted, you need to work for it.

The data you input in your Google+ profile, the connections you make, the interactions you have and the posts you place there are all part of an increasingly visible digital footprint that begins to define ‘you’ as an entity in Google’s search. That means that what you do and how, locally and globally begins to now make sense the way humans would understand it and machine search, in the past, didn’t. Which also means that you are then more likely to have a targeted audience in Google search than ever before.

If all this sounds like you can finally begin to achieve more in the digital world, in real estate, with less it’s because that’s exactly what it is. The caveat is that you will need to invest time in a content creation plan that will, in its totality, help create as complete a picture of you and your business as possible, link your website to your Google+ profile and behave online with the authority and expertise and generosity of advice and engagement that you do offline.

Do all this and suddenly the job of being a realtor will begin to sound a lot less demanding than it currently is. The time for using Google Plus For Real Estate is here! If you are a Real Estate agent reading this article don’t get lost in the shuffle! Google Plus can be a Realtors best friend if you know how to use it properly!

If you are in the Real Estate industry whether is be a Realtor, mortgage broker, or home stager make sure you join the Google Plus Real Estate Community. There are great discussion daily on a wide variety of topics related to Real Estate and how you can grow your business!

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Educating A Buyer Looking To Purchase A Short Sale

Buyer’s Agent Representation For Short Sales

 

Massachusetts Short SalesIn every real estate transaction I am a firm believer of a buyer having representation. It makes perfect sense for a home buyer to have someone in their corner giving them guidance. Unfortunately when it comes to short sales I have found that so many buyer’s agents are not properly educated enough to do a proper job.

Short sales are not ordinary real estate transactions and as such an agent who has no knowledge should no even consider getting involved with one unless they have another agent who does mentoring them. While representing home owners who have needed to short sale their property over the last seven years I have noticed time and again real estate agents who don’t even understand the basics of short sales. If you are a buyer and are considering purchasing a short sale I am going to go over some of the basics below on what you need to understand before entering into one of these transactions.

Short Sales Take Time

Short Sale Closing TimeIf you are considering buying a short sale the first thing you need to understand is that they take far longer to purchase than a non-short sale. On average it takes around 90-120 days to get short sale approval. In some cases it can be a lot longer! For example if there is more than one loan on the property and both are “short” then you will need to get approval from both lenders. This will add time to the overall process of getting to the closing table.

It is also possible that the original  mortgage the owner had on their home was an FHA loan. If that is the case than you can prepare yourself for an even longer journey. As crazy as it sounds, it is quite possible it could take 6-9 months or longer to get to the closing table with an FHA loan. This is obviously a question your buyer agent should be asking right up front. Guess how many buyer’s agents have asked me this question over the last seven years? If you said zero you would be correct!

On some short sales Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac is the investor holding the note. There are many buyer’s and agents who will ask the question who is the lender? Lets assume for a minute the lender is Bank of America (BOA). That does not mean that Bank of America is necessarily the decision maker. They may not actually own the note and are just the “servicer”  for the investor.

There could be 20-30 investors that own notes that BOA services. This is one reason why one BOA short sale could be a nightmare and the next smooth sailing.  This is true of most lenders not just BOA. On some loans there could also be mortgage insurance in which case the insurer also has to approve the short sale. Are you starting to get the picture here? Short sales are one big bureaucratic mess. If you were thinking that short sale approval was as simple as  some dude was sitting behind a desk making decisions then you are wrong!

The long and short of all this is that a buyer’s agent should not get a buyer involved with a short sale transaction unless they have the time to see it through until the end. Keep in mind that a seller going through a short sale is in a tough financial position. The last thing they can afford is an uneducated buyer thinking it is fine to bail on them after a month because they are tired of waiting for a short sale approval to be issued.

Be Prepared To Spend Money

Short Sale InvestmentIn every real estate transaction there is risk. When you purchase a home some of the typical expenses a buyer should be prepared for are home inspections, hiring a lawyer for contract review, and applying for a mortgage. In many short sales I see buyer’s agent’s trying to structure the contract such that the buyer does not have to spend money on any of these things until there is short sale approval.

Sure it would be nice to go around in life to never have any risk in anything you do but that is not how it works when purchasing a short sale. Well actually let me rephrase that. This is not how it works in any short sale where I will be representing the seller! The goal in any short sale is to actually get to a closing. When you try to change the rules of real estate you increase the likelihood you will not be closing. There are reasons why a buyer should get their home inspection done, why they sign a binding contract and why they procure their financing prior to short sale approval. For a complete explanation of why a buyer should complete these tasks up front see reasons to reject short sale offers.  Being educated on the entire short sale process is vital.

Interview The Listing Agent

Massachusetts Short Sale RealtorsWhy on earth would you want to interview the listing agent you may be thinking? The answer is real simple….you want to be able to find out what the chances are that you will actually close on the home you are interested in purchasing. Closing short sale transactions are far more complex that a regular sale. The listing agent in a short sale should have experience closing them! This can not be emphasized enough. There is nothing more important in a short sale than the listing agent having a track record of success.

For example if the listing agent allows you to do a home inspection after short sale approval do you really think they have any clue what they are doing? Would they be representing their clients interest to allow this? Do you think there would be plenty of short sales that bit the dust right before closing if this was allowed?

Here is a detailed list of short sale questions for a listing agent. These questions should be able to help you get a better grip on whether or not the Realtor knows what they are doing. You should at the very minimum be finding out how many short sales they have listed and how many of those have closed. You should also be making sure that if your offer gets accepted the seller signs it and the home is taken off the market. Remember without a signed contract, the seller can accept a better offer from someone else.

Short Sale Low Ball Offers

Massachusetts Short Sale GambleIf you think short sales are an open invitation for you to offer some ridiculous price then you are wrong. The chances of a lender accepting something significantly under value is slim to none. What buyer’s agent and buyer’s need to understand is that the lender is going to verify that the offer the seller has accepted makes fiscal sense. The lender will either send out an appraiser or another real estate agent who will do an analysis of value on the home and send that back to the lender. The lender will use this information to form the basis of their decision on whether to accept, reject or counter offer.

It makes no sense for an owner to accept a low ball short sale offer. When a seller does this they have taken their home off the market for months and are almost assured that they lender will say NO! For a seller to accept a low ball offer would essentially be gambling away any chance they have for short sale success.

A short sale should be a decent value and more often than not slightly under market for what a similar property should sell for. Don’t expect the world though. Lenders are much tougher today with value and getting the most they can.

Short Sales Are “As Is”

Short sales are generally as is transactions. Don’t expect a seller to go out and make repairs after doing a home inspection. The whole reason they are doing a short sale to begin with is because they don’t have the financial means to keep the home. If you happen to do a home inspection and there is a major defect that you were not expecting what you should try to do is negotiate a lower sale price.

The listing agent will want to document the defect to the lender. They will do this by providing the inspection report to the appraiser or real estate agent who does the evaluation on their behalf. Do not expect to negotiate a bunch of silly “punch list” type of items from a home inspection. Go into the sale with an open mind knowing you will need to do some work.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on educating a buyer looking to purchase a short sale was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 26+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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A Look Ahead to The 2013 Real Estate Market

Underwater Nation: A Look at the New Year

 

Jared DiamondThe following article is a guest post from Jared Diamond who writes on a multitude of personal finance and economic topics. He enjoys sharing insights with broad audiences. Jared serves in a consultancy role with a dynamic set of personal finance companies. The views expressed in this article are those of Jared Diamond and do not necessarily reflect the views of Massachusetts Real Estate News.

According to a recent report from Zillow, more than 30% of the U.S. home-owning population is underwater on their mortgages. This is a grim outlook for the real estate market despite increasing property values, which we can attribute only to the shortage of homes built within the last 12 months. As 2013 looms, will these upside-down homeowners weather the rough economic storm or will they list their properties and try to move on?

The fed is desperately trying to come up with a solution to rescue those individuals who are drowning in negative equity in hopes to free up some of their finances. The logic is that those individuals will then turn to the marketplace with their newly freed funds and bolster the sluggish economy with it. But the fed may be in no position to bail anyone else out with the looming fiscal cliff.

Real Estate 2013It’s great that home prices are rising, but it will provide little relief to the still-crippled real estate market as we move into 2013. Although some markets are seeing sales gains, the current environment may not have enough of an effect on potential buyers as they weigh the pros and cons of investing in a home. Primarily, will the property’s value increase enough to outweigh any potential for negative equity?

But as property values go up, even slightly, so do the ambitions of property owners who may feel they can capitalize by asking for higher selling prices or increasing monthly rents. As such, commercial and residential renters should look to lock in low monthly payments by securing long-term occupancy contracts before prices go any higher in the upcoming year.

“That might be problematic for some rent-to-own properties,” says Brian McNerma, credit consultant with rent to own property listing service, HomeStarSearch. “Sellers will try to make up for their financial losses by passing the negative equity on to potential homeowners.” But not all property owners are underwater on their mortgages, he insists, and he urges those interested in lease-option to research the contract and the seller carefully.

Renters unable to escape higher monthly rents, however, just might consider making the long-awaited home purchase.Record-low interest rates and affordable prices are definitely enticing to new home buyers, but they do little to help those currently upside-down on their mortgages. Therefore, the number of home sales in 2013 – while trending upward slowly but surely – will be greatly limited by those who can’t afford and cleanly walk away from negative equity and start anew.

Bad Mortgage DecisionIn fact, those affected most by negative equity are young owners who purchased homes with low down payments and didn’t have a chance to see equity improve before the housing bubble burst. Now they’re left with financial security enough to maintain the mortgage, but not enough to get out from underneath it.

Despite rising property values, the market is far from healthy. Even with seeming upward trends in major markets, it’s important to look at the other factors that influence those trends prior to making the assumption that things are going well.

The slow growth however, is good long-term as it allows potential buyers to establish down payments, build credit, and take advantage of various financing options without housing becoming too unaffordable. The market depends on this type of behavior, which is much more stable than the easy credit days prior to the recession.

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Buying A Condominium Using FHA Financing

Why Is FHA Financing So Popular?

 

Mike DunskyI am excited to have Michael Dunsky from Guaranteed Rate Mortgage who will be covering some of the terrific benefits to FHA financing when you are purchasing a condominium. Michael has been one of my preferred loan officers for years and always does an exceptional job with his clients. Check out Mike’s terrific article on why you may want to consider buying a condominium using FHA financing.

Let’s say that you want to buy a home but are not looking forward to shoveling snow or taking care of the yard. Or, perhaps you are looking to buy in an area where single family homes are too high for your budget. A great alternative is a condominium. Condominiums typically sell for less than single family homes and offer home ownership opportunities without having to worry about general maintenance and upkeep.

FHA Financing buying a condoThere are plenty of home loan options available to those purchasing a condominium but one particular type of home loan, FHA (Federal Housing Administration), offers the least restrictive qualifying criteria. FHA loans are government insured loans designed to help more people qualify and achieve the American Dream of owning their own home.

FHA allows for low to moderate income buyers to buy a property who may not meet conventional loan guidelines or may have been denied for conventional financing. In recent years FHA loans have become very popular given the absence of those more “flexible” loan options that have gone by the wayside in the mortgage meltdown a few years ago. FHA financing basically opens doors to folks who might not otherwise qualify for financing.

Many condominiums buyers are first time buyers and most first time buyers share similar characteristics that FHA appeals to. Usually, first time buyers don’t have a sizable down payment, there is often higher debt for student loans and simply not having much time in the workforce to save much, as well, their credit scores may not be that high due to length of time having active credit. FHA loans seem to have modeled their guidelines to these specific traits.

Qualifying for FHA Financing

Qualify for FHA LoanFHA allows for the following:

• Only 3.5% down payment instead of the traditional 5% down payment required on conventional loans

• 100% of the down payment can be a gift, compared to a conventional mortgage that requires borrowers to verify they have at least 5% of the purchase price from their own funds

• Lower minimum credit score than conventional loans. Most lenders allow for a minimum score of 640 for a FHA loan while conventional loans can require significantly higher scores depending on the amount of down payment. Some lenders will allow for scores lower than 640 under certain circumstances

• More flexible with the amount of debt a person is carrying compared to that of a conventional loan.

The other aspect of buying a condominium with FHA financing is making sure that the condominium project meets FHA’s requirements. This would be one of the questions to ask before buying a condo. There are specific guidelines in place to ensure that the condominium meets FHA’s criteria for a project to ensure it’s long-term viability. In keeping up with the times, FHA recently updated their criteria for certifying a condominium project as there were certain guidelines in place that were outdated for our current economic climate.

Why use FHA FinancingFor instance, if you are looking at purchasing a condominium unit in a city then it would not be uncommon for the building to have some commercial space (retail stores or possibly professional offices). It was not that long ago that FHA only allowed for 25% of the condominium project to be allocated for commercial space. The revised criteria now allows for exceptions up to 35% commercial space which will free up more projects to become FHA certified and, therefore, open the door for more home buyers.

Another guideline FHA addresses, and has recently amended, is to allow for greater flexibility for one or more investors who can now own up to 50% of the entire project. Previously, this was limited to just 10%.

The owner occupancy ratio should always be looked at when contemplating buying a condominium. The owner occupancy ratio is a simple formula, the number of units lived in by their owners divided by the total number of units in the project. FHA will certify a project as long as the percentage of owners renting their individual units does not exceed 50% of the entire project.

A condominium project is run just like any household or business. There are costs associated with running the project and there are fees that the unit owners pay in order to cover these expenses (commonly referred to as condominium dues or homeowner association fees- HOA fees).

One area that is closely evaluated is the condominium project’s budget. In order to add further protection to a condominium project and to ensure that there are sufficient funds available for general maintenance and upkeep of the building, grounds, and common areas, FHA requires that each condominium project have a line item for reserves in their budget of no less than 10% for additional maintenance and repairs.

Condominium BudgetOne aspect of managing the finances of a condominium project is to ensure that no one runs away with the money. What’s to stop a trustee, the homeowner’s association, or independent management company responsible for all of the condominium project’s finances from mishandling or stealing the money from the budget?

FHA directly addresses this by requiring Fidelity Bond Insurance, also known as “Employee Dishonesty” or a “Crime Policy” is put in place for all condominium projects with 20 units or more. This is yet another protection for the unit owners to help sustain the viability of a project. The last thing you want as a unit owner or potential buyer of a condominium is to find out is that there are insufficient funds in the budget to keep the property looking fresh and clean along with upkeep and general maintenance.

In hard economic times some unit owners may fall behind on their HOA dues/fees and if a significant numbers of owners fall behind paying their HOA dues then this can materially impact the finances and viability of the entire condominium project (not to mention all of the unit owners that may, in fact, have to cover those costs at some point).

Part of FHA’s criteria for certifying a project requires that no more than 15% of all unit owners can be over 60 days delinquent on their condominium dues. This is one area that should be looked at closely prior to any purchase of a condominium. There are many more guidelines that FHA has in place for the sole purpose of good lending practices but these are the most pertinent in today’s lending environment.

Although the process for FHA certification of a project can seem a little excessive, I fully believe that any soon-to-be buyer of a condominium will appreciate that FHA has their best interest at heart. In fact there are many communities that are not approved for FHA financing. You may want to think twice about whether it makes sense to purchase in an area where a significant amount of buyers are not going to be able to purchase. Having an FHA approved condominium is certainly very important!

If you are considering buying a condo and want to work with someone that is very knowledgeable about mortgage financing, has great service skills and competitive rates, I would give Mike a call!

Additional Resources For FHA Condominium Financing:

Buying a condominium using FHA financing is very common place. Let Michael Dunsky be the one to help you with your financing. Michael can be reached at Guaranteed Rate, Inc which is located at 38 Pond Street, Suite 208  Franklin, MA 02038

Phone 508.528.1800

Michael.dunsky@guaranteedrate.com

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Maximum Real Estate Exposure

Maximum Real Estate Exposure in Massachusetts

 

As a top Massachusetts Realtor, one of the things I am constantly keeping aware of is how to make sure my clients properties and my business itself are marketed to the fullest. There are so many Realtors that don’t pay any attention to SEO or Social media. Anyone who uses social media and has an understanding of SEO knows that it takes a lot of time and effort.

There are many so many Real Estate agents that just don’t want to bother with it. Their mantra when marketing a home for a client is I will put it in the multiple listing service (MLS) and hopefully it will sell. Not this guy! In order to be the best in your field you have to stay two steps ahead of the competition. My repertoire consists of using multiple blogs and websites to draw traffic to my clients homes.

Real Estate SEOMaximum Real Estate Exposure is a combination blog/website that I designed with the intent to provide my clients with online Real Estate exposure they could not find anywhere else. In the Real Estate industry the internet has become a dominant search tool for those who are looking to purchase a home. Survey after survey says that over 90 percent of all buyer’s find their next home by doing some kind of online search.

Real Estate Exposure Via Google Searches

As a Realtor who always tries to stay up to speed with the latest innovations and technology, I recognized this trend years ago when search engines started to become a popular vehicle for folks to find a home. As a casual observer one of the clear signals of how the Real Estate business started to evolve was the move away from print media. If you looked at a newspaper five years ago on a weekend it would be filled with Real Estate advertisements. If you look at that same newspaper today there is barely anything there.

Clearly print media is not the place people go when they are searching for a home. The internet changed all of that! A buyer looking to purchase Real Estate today will more than likely do one of two things when they are first starting to look for a home. Most buyer’s will either go to one of the popular Real Estate search portals they have heard about like Realtor.com, Zillow.com, Trulia.com or will do a Google search and punch in something like the town, state and the word Real Estate or homes for sale.  A buyer may also find the address of a property they are interested in and just punch that address into Google.

Search engines have revolutionized the Real Estate industry because consumers are now empowered with most of the information they need at their finger tips. Years ago when I got into business this was not the case. Back in the 1980’s Realtors were the gatekeepers of info. When a buyer started their home search they typically would give their search criteria to their Real Estate agent and based on those needs and wants the Realtor would suggest the properties they should look at.

Today on most occasions they exact opposite occurs. Buyer’s today will more often than not tell the Realtor they are working with what properties they would like to visit. The Internet changed how the Real Estate industry works and how a Realtor conducts their business.

As a home seller this makes it vital that your home looks it’s absolute best online.  There are vast differences in what Realtors do to market properties. Unfortunately many seller’s find out the hard way that all Realtors are not created equal. If you want to maximize your chances of selling your home for the most money in the least amount of time, you are going to want to make sure you have hired the very best to represent you. Just like any other industry there are some very good agents and some you may find do not live up to anywhere near your expectations.

As a home seller one of the most important things a Realtor should focus on is the presentation of the property. You should expect that the photography the Realtor provides is outstanding. There should not only be an abundance of pictures taken of both inside and out but the quality should be exceptional as well. This is an area you do not want to skimp on.

You have one chance to make a great first impression online. You should also expect that the description of your home is well written and depicts accurately all the best features you would like to emphasize to a buyer. Lastly buyer’s today love video as a medium for looking at homes. You should make sure the Realtor you choose has some kind of video presentation.  In a sea of competition you want to make sure your home stands out from the crowd.

Exposing Real Estate Through Social Media

Using Social Media For Real EstateOnce the photography is done and the ink is dry on the descriptions of your home a web savvy Realtors job has just begun. While search engine exposure is vitally important, the next area you can’t discount is all the social media tools that are at a Real Estate agents disposal. Without a doubt the number one tool in for creating maximum online exposure is a well indexed Real Estate blog.

A blog forms the back bone of all of my social media efforts. A good way to describe a blog is a mini website for a property. With a blog you can do almost anything you can think of. What I like to do is create a place where buyer’s can visit and find out just about anything they would want to know about a property I am marketing. You will see exceptional descriptions, photography, a link back to my website, a video tour and an embedded Google map showing the exact location of the home. See Walden Woods Milford Massachusetts for an example of the type of marketing I am referring to.

Once you have the content in put together you then start work on your social media campaign. Some of the places you will find my clients properties exposed besides my own websites and blogs include:  Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, Active Rain, Daily Motion, and Pinterest.

The combination of search engine optimization (SEO) and social media are very important part of any Realtor who expects to be at the pinnacle of their industry.  Without a doubt having well optimized websites and blogs have been one of the biggest factors in my success as a Real Estate agent.

If you are thinking of selling your home or condominium we represent sellers in the following communities scattered in and around the Metrowest area including Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge.

Whether you are selling a condominium under a 100,000 or a million dollar plus home we treat everyone the same. We expect that our marketing is going to be top notch.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Maximum Real Estate Exposure was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at bill@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out ofmany Metrowest towns for the last 27+ Years.

You can see my Google+ Business page for Maximum Real Estate Exposure here.

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Home Warranties vs Home Insurance

Home Warranties vs Home Insurance: What you need to know.

 

Kaitlin ZiesslerThe following article is a guest post from Kaitlin Ziessler who is a blogger for American Home Shield. Her goal is to inform readers about the differences between home warranty and insurance plans. Other topics she blogs about include appliance repair tips and home care advice for homeowners and new home buyers.

 

Protection, security, a good night’s sleep — home warranties and home insurance provide them all. Though it might be tempting to skip the fine print of coverage in favor of a general sense of reassurance, it pays to know the particulars of these two products.

Home Insurance vs Home WarrantyTo get the right combination of coverage, home buyers need to understand the possible benefits each offers and also what sets warranties and insurance apart. Such information can prove to be a blessing for consumers needing to make use of the safety net warranties and insurance provide.

Meant to prevent or ease a financial hit if something goes wrong, warranties and insurance operate in different circumstances. Warranties prevent home buyers from having to shoulder the cost of something wrong with the home or its components.

Insurance protects against outside forces that wreak havoc on a property. Another difference lies in coverage time: insurance provides ongoing protection, while warranties expire after a certain specified period.

Homeowners often come by warranties and insurance through different means. While home buyers purchase their own insurance, warranties are often supplied by someone such as a builder. Builder warranties give peace of mind to buyers of newly constructed homes. After all, no one wants to have bought a home riddled with defects. Sellers of existing homes may include a warranty with the sale to nudge a would-be buyer into a purchase. Indeed, if a buyer has a warranty on a house, it can be an advantage in selling a home since the warranty is transferable.

Even when a home buyer isn’t the one providing the warranty, researching warranty companies is a good idea. When the time comes to purchase, the home buyer can then request that the seller goes with a warranty company of the buyer’s choosing. The new homeowner will then already know the specifics of the warranty coverage, how to make a claim, and how claims will be handled.

Home warranties aren’t a blanket promise to resolve problems that arise. Instead, they provide limited coverage on the workmanship or materials of certain elements of a home, including windows, plumbing, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. How long these items are covered differs from element to element. Components such as plumbing, electrical systems, and HVAC are often covered for two years, according to the Federal Trade Commission. For newly built homes, meanwhile, elements such as drywall, siding, trim, doors, and paint are usually covered for one year. For new construction, this provides owners a sort of break-in — or, perhaps more aptly, break-down — period that ensures buyers purchased the quality home they expected to get.

Owners purchasing or receiving a warranty for an older home might receive coverage on appliances, which builder’s warranties don’t typically include. Knowing the extent of the coverage helps owners not only choose the right warranty, it also lets them plan ahead for future breakdowns and problems a warranty won’t cover.

To choose the right warranty or get to know the one supplied by a builder or seller, buyers should look into the following:

  •   What items the warranty covers and for how long
  •   What kind of damage is covered — wear and tear, defect, breakdown or age
  •   Whether or not pre-existing problems are covered
  • Service fees and deductibles
  • How repairs will be made and who will handle them
  • Caps on what will be paid
  •   Claims procedures
  • Whether you can purchase a replacement item with help from the warranty company instead of having it repaired
  • How complaints will be resolved if whomever handles the repair does a poor job

Home WarrantyAs they would for warranty coverage, homeowners should also shop around for home insurance, not only to get the right blend of coverage, but to save money. Costs vary according to company and by things such as the home’s age, location, construction, and proximity to fire stations.

Consumer guides, state insurance departments, and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners can provide direction to those shopping. These sources can also alert consumers to complaints against an insurer and sometimes have information on rates.

Once a homeowner has a short list of insurance companies, the next step is to call around for quotes. According to USA.gov, discounts may be available for those over 55, long-term customers, and safety features in the home. Safety features include items such as dead bolts, storm shutters, and alarm systems.

When buying insurance, keep in mind that the policy doesn’t need to cover the value of the home including the land — the land won’t be lost in, say, the case of a fire. The value of items within the home, however, ought to be covered, allowing a homeowner to replace them as well as a house.

An insurance policy doesn’t typically cover the loss of a house due to floods or earthquakes. To get the benefit of that coverage, separate insurance must be purchased. For those in flood-prone areas, the National Flood Insurance Program provides protection.

What homeowners insurance does typically cover is property: the home, items inside the home, and detached structures such as tool sheds or garages. If the worst happens and a home is lost, a policy can provide “loss of use” coverage, which helps to defray living expenses while rebuilding. Insurance policies also cover liability if a non-resident sustains an injury on the property and the homeowner is responsible.

Besides standard coverage, consumers can buy extra insurance to extend coverage. For instance, homeowners may need to add coverage for belongings since there are limits on how much a standard policy pays out for those.

Home insurance is a more complicated affair than warranty coverage, but in both cases, taking the time to become an expert in a particular homeowner’s needs and what coverage is available to fulfill those needs is a must. The time to do this is in advance of purchase or at least before a homeowner needs to make a claim.

The extent of the benefits gained from coverage depends on smart consumer decisions. Becoming an expert allows consumers to get the maximum benefit with the least amount of trouble should the need to use a home warranty or insurance arise. It also lets homeowners sleep better at night.

Other Real Estate articles worth a look:

 

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Short Sale Negotiations|Seller Cash Contribution

Negotiation With Short Sale Lenders

Short sale negotiationsIn working in the short sale arena for the last five plus years, I have seen lenders do just about everything when it comes to negotiating short sales with home owners. There really is no “standard” in short sales. The way one short sale file at one particular lender is handled can be totally different on the next.

One of the biggest reasons for this is that every lender has different investors that actually own the loans. There could be more than twenty five different investors that have interests in loans at one lending institution. So for example just because Bank of America may have done something for a home owner in one circumstance does not mean they would do the same thing for another home owner in the exact same circumstance.

More often than not this is because one investor may not have the same needs or requirements as another investor.

There are basically three scenarios for a seller when completing a short sale. They are a:

  • Cash contribution to the lender at closing.
  • Signing a promissory note to pay back some portion of the short sale debt.
  • A combination of these two things.
  • A complete debt removal.

The biggest consideration for most home owners completing a short sale is debt removal. My goal of course in any short sale is to get the most favorable terms and conditions for the seller which is a complete debt removal. Going back five years ago getting complete short sale debt removal was a lot easier than it is today. Many lenders today want sellers to have some kind of  “skin in the game” if they are going to grant a short sale.

In my experience the terms that most home owners get from short sale lenders is very favorable. Home owners are typically asked to bring a cash contribution or sign a note that basically amounts to pennies on the dollar compared to what they owe.

A typical scenario could be a home owner being substantially under water…..for argument sake let’s say $100,000. It would not be unusual for a lender to ask the seller to bring $5000 to the closing and letting the short sale take place. Another possibility if the seller does not have $5000 is to work out a promissory note. Maybe the lender asks for a$15,000 note to be paid back over the next five years at an attractive interest rate. As mentioned previously it could be a combination of these two options. These are just quick examples to give you an understanding of what happens in the short sale world on a daily basis.

There can be circumstances although not real often, where the lender will only accept a cash contribution in order to close. The short sale lender may have this requirement for one of the following reasons:

  • The seller has money in liquid accounts.
  • The seller has not been late with any mortgage payments.
  • The cash contribution is a requirement of waiving the deficiency (debt removal).
  • The seller has a good credit score and are current with other debt.
  • The residence is an investment property.

One of the most difficult parts of going through a short sale as a seller is the long wait involved from the time you get an offer from a buyer until the time you actually begin negotiations with the lender. Sometimes there can be months in between the two. As a seller it is easy to feel in the dark and helpless. There can be times where you will be in this waiting game wondering what the lender is going to require of you and then their request finally comes. They ask you for a cash contribution that you just don’t have.

I have an outstanding short sale attorney that works on behalf of the seller with all of my short sale transactions. In a circumstance where the lender asks for a cash contribution that the seller just can’t come up with the first course of action will be to try to work out an amicable compromise with the lender/investor. This would typically be one of the following:

  • Negotiate to get the cash contribution lowered to something the seller was able to bring to closing.
  • See if the seller can get the funds from a family member or borrow from them.
  • Try to get the lender to accept a promissory note instead.
  • Ask the buyer to pay the cash contribution if lender allowed this to occur.

Short sale cash contributionIn the vast majority of the short sales I have been involved in we have been able to work it out so a compromise was reached and everyone got what they wanted. Should sale negotiations can be difficult at times but if you know what your doing common ground can often be reached.

What would you need to do in the rare instance where a large cash contribution was required that the owner just did not have and the lender would not budge? If all else fails what you would need to do in the scenario above is to put the home back on the market and build in a cash contribution to the lender right into the transaction.

So for example you would add a cash contribution for the lender on behalf of the seller on line 104 of the buyer’s side of the HUD settlement statement. You would also place the same contribution on line 404 of the seller’s side of the HUD as a “Cash Contribution To The Lender”. The  payoff amount would then go to the lender.

This is how short sale negotiations work with lenders. If you know what you are doing you can usually find common ground. Of course there are numerous things to look for in a short sale contract which I have covered in a number of articles I have written.

Other short sales articles worth a look:

If you are need to short sale your home or condominium in Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts and Worcester County areas. So far, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval! Short sales are specialized transactions that are critical to have the right Realtor representing you. Do not make the mistake of picking an agent that does not understand how to get to the closing table on a short sale. Nationally less than 30% of all short sales close!

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Short sale negotiations – seller cash contributions was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 25+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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What is Real Estate Title Insurance

Real Estate Title Insurance Explained

Real Estate Title InsuranceWhen purchasing a home one of the things that buyer’s will be asked is whether or not they want Real Estate title insurance. Often times I find that home buyer’s lament over this decision because of the expense involved. Real Estate title insurance is certainly not cheap!

While title insurance is a one time expense, it can be disturbing for a buyer tight on cash to have to come up with such a large unexpected expenditure. Real Estate title insurance can easily run into thousands of dollars in a home purchase. Unlike other insurance policies there is no monthly premiums with title insurance. It is a one time expense covering the owner until the property is sold.

One of the questions I get asked a lot by my clients is “should I purchase title insurance’?

Let me first explain what title insurance is and what it covers. Real Estate title insurance is a type of insurance that covers financial loss from defects in title to real property and from the invalidity of mortgage liens.

A title policy is put in place to protect an owner’s or lender’s financial interest in a property against loss due to title defects, liens or other matters. The insurance will defend against a lawsuit attacking the title as it is insured, or reimburse the insured for the monetary loss incurred, up to the dollar amount of insurance provided for in the policy.

In my experience all major lenders require title insurance to protect their interest in the mortgage secured by real estate. This is called a lenders insurance policy.  An owner’s insurance policy is not required but in my opinion is a highly valuable insurance that is risky not to have.

There is an opportunity for a buyer to get a substantial discount when they purchases both a lenders and owner’s policy at the same time. This is called a simultaneous issuance. For an enhanced policy, it runs about $4.00 per thousand based on purchase price + $175.00 in Massachusetts. This is a one time premium paid at closing which lasts the lifetime of the property ownership.

The Real Estate Title Search

Prior to a buyer taking title to a property or completing the “closing”, the lender through which the borrower is getting the mortgage will have a title search done on the Real Estate.

The purpose of the title search is to find any defects in the title. There could be any number of defects including liens, unpaid Real Estate taxes, judgments, unpaid condo fees, or others.

If title defects are found the buyer’s or lender’s lawyer will inform the buyer of such defects and then work towards getting them removed so that a clean and marketable title is given to the buyer.

Title insurance becomes of great value when something is discovered in the future that was not found when the initial title search was done.

A Title search starts with the most recent deed searching the grantees name (the person who holds title) back in time until the deed from which the grantee acquired the property is found.

That grantors name is then searched back in time in the grantees book to find when the grantor acquired the title as grantee. The typical title examination goes back fifty years but title insurance would cover beyond the fifty year search.

Anyone who has not purchased title insurance could surely tell you what a nightmare it can become without it!

Common Reason For Title Insurance Claims

Example of some of the more common reasons for claims against a Real Estate title insurance policy are as follows:                                                                   Real Estate Fraud

  • False impersonation of the true owner of the property
  • Forgery of the deed, releases, or wills
  • Real Estate fraud
  • Missing or undisclosed heirs to the property
  • Any Instruments executed under invalid or expired power of attorney
  • Mistakes in recording legal documents
  • Deeds by someone of unsound mind
  • Deeds by a minor
  • Misinterpretations of wills
  • Deeds with misrepresentation of marital status
  • Liens for unpaid estate, income, inheritance,  or gift taxes

For an astute buyer who really thinks about the expense of title insurance the follow up question I get is why do I need it if the lender is going to have a policy anyways?

The easiest way to answer this question would be to ask is what would you do if one of the above title defects were discovered and the attorney who did the title search was no longer in business? While you could certainly sue the attorney for negligence if he was still around practicing; what if he was not? You would have a very large issue on your hands! To be clear an attorney would only be responsible for negligence not the issues outlined above. This is why it is important to have title insurance!

One other important note about Real Estate title insurance:

A federal law called the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) allows the individual homeowner to choose a title insurance company when buying or refinancing residential property. Most of the time, homeowners do not make title insurance decisions for themselves.

They are typically handled by their lender’s or attorney’s choice; however, the homeowner does retain the right. RESPA makes it unlawful for any lender, attorney, or Real Estate agent to mandate that a certain title insurance company be used. Doing so is a violation of federal law and any person or business doing so can be heavily fined or lose their license.

Section 9 of RESPA denies a seller from mandating a home buyer to use a specific title insurance company, as a condition of the sale. Buyers may sue a seller who violates this provision for an amount equal to three times the cost of all charges related to the title insurance.

Some of the most prevalent title insurance companies are Fidelity National Financial, First American, Land America, Stewart and Old Republic.

In my mind having an owners insurance title policy is a no brainer and is certainly something you should consider unless you absolutely can not afford it! A title policy can be purchased in the future should you not have the funds available at closing time.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Real Estate title insurance was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 25+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Millbury, Worcester, Sutton and Douglas.

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Short sale or foreclosure?It is probably safe to assume that most consumers like to work with folks they know can be trusted. In Real Estate, like some other businesses there are those that can always be counted on for delivering great advice and others that only care about their own pocket book.

I always tell people some of the best Real Estate agents are those that don’t NEED to make a sale! It makes perfect sense because an agent that NEEDS business is far more likely to tell a buyer or seller something they want to hear rather than the truth.

Short sales unfortunately are a specialized Real Estate transaction where information is often times bandied about with no basis of fact. Many Realtors blindly go around telling people in financial distress that a short sale is better for their financial future because their credit score will not be impacted like going through a foreclosure.

Folks this could not be further from the truth! While there are certainly advantages of pursuing a short sale vs foreclosure, credit scoring is NOT one of them. There will be plenty of Realtors that will read this and argue with me telling me I am wrong.

As a Realtor who is tech savvy and social media connected you will see many of my articles in places such as Linkedin, Twitter and other Real Estate forums.

They will see some of my short sale articles and flat out tell me that I have incorrect information. When I mention the credit scoring impact of a short sale compared to a foreclosure is just about the same they scowl in disbelief. They will tell me I don’t know what I am talking about because they just learned differently at some short sale course their local Real Estate board was putting on. At this point I will be laughing because the people that teach these courses are usually Realtors that couldn’t make it in the business. They teach this nonsense because it is propaganda that helps get Realtors more business.

By now you are probably thinking how do I know the credit scoring impact is similar in these two financially stressful events. You have every right to be wondering! I know because I go right to the source. My FICO is the governing body for credit scoring including what happens in both a short sale and foreclosure.

Short sale vs foreclosure credit scoring impacts

Since I am often getting challenged on the credit scoring impacts by other Realtors and get asked all the time by my clients, I am going to share a very interesting study that was conducted by Fair Issac corporation.

The FICO study took various types of mortgage delinquencies on three credit bureau profiles of consumers that had scores of 680, 720 and 780, respectively. The study focused on consumers whose credit characteristics (e.g., utilization, delinquency history, age of file) were typical of the three score points considered. All of the consumers had an active currently-paid-as-agreed mortgage on file.

Results of this credit scoring study are shown below. The first chart shows the impact on the credit score for each stage of delinquency and the second shows how long it takes the score to fully “recover” after the fact including a short sale or foreclosure.

Credit Scoring Short Sale vs ForeclosureWhat you can easily see by this  study is that there is a negligible difference in credit scoring when comparing a foreclosure or short sale. While it seems unfair, those that had a higher credit score to start will see a greater scoring drop. In addition, the higher starting score, the longer it takes for the score to fully recover.

While there is a minimal difference in scoring impact between moderate and severe delinquencies, there may be a significant difference in time required for the score to recover completely.

These statistics are right from the guys that make credit scoring. They are not opinions. This is actual data that was put together and sourced by FICO themselves.

Benefits of a short sale vs foreclosure

So what are the benefits of going through a short sale rather than letting a lender foreclose on your property? The biggest advantage is that you will be able to buy another home in the future a lot quicker than you would with a foreclosure. Generally speaking the turnaround time for getting another loan after completing a short sale is two to three years. In a foreclosure it is typically five to seven years. There are a number of circumstances that can affect the time frame including whether the loan is FHA, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. For a complete financing guide see buying a home after short sale or foreclosure.

One of the other big factors you need to consider is your employment status. There are a number of large companies that will not hire a new employee that has a foreclosure on their resume. While this may not seem fair with all the financial turmoil that has taken place over the last five years, employers look at a foreclosure as a black mark on your record. In other words when you short sale a property you are owing up to a financial commitment. In a foreclosure you are walking away and taking no responsibility for your debt.

The last reason why more and more will choose a short sale over a foreclosure is just the sheer embarrassment of going through a foreclosure proceeding. In some states an auction is held right on the front lawn of the property. Who wants to lose their home and then have salt rubbed in the wound by watching a bunch of buyers compete over it. This is an unsettling experience for most.

The goal of almost anyone that goes through a short sale or foreclosure will be to improve their financial stability moving forward. Of course improving the impact a short sale or foreclosure had on their credit scores will typically be one of the first areas that people look at once they are back on their feet. There are certain things you can do to help fix your finances after a short sale or foreclosure that are covered in this helpful article.

Unfortunately, sometimes people just don’t realize they have options and just lose their home to foreclosure. Many have never taken the time to do any research and just assume there are no alternatives. A short sale can be a great alternative for some home owners – best of luck if you are one of them!

If you are need to short sale your home or condo in Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holden, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Medway, Mendon, Millbury, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Upton, Uxbridge, Shrewsbury, Sutton, or Worcester get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your short sale transaction.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts and Worcester County areas. So far, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval! Short sales are difficult transactions that are critical to have the right Realtor representing you. Do not make the mistake of picking a Real Estate agent that does not have experience closing short sale transactions.

If you are outside of the Metrowest/Worcester Massachusetts area and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Credit scoring impacts of short sale vs foreclosure was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 25+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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A Guide To Mortgage Equity Loan Options

Mortgage Equity Loan OptionsWhen looking to take money out of an existing home or other Real Estate borrowers often have a decision to make on what is the best method to do so.

There are basically three financing options that are available to home owners. These include a cash out re-finance, home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (HELOC). Determining which of these type of loan options will work best basically comes down to what purpose the money is going to be used for.

Unfortunately being in the Real Estate field, I often come across folks who have over extended themselves and find that they have created undue hardships. Going back ten years ago this was not so much of a problem as Real Estate markets around the country were booming and a home was an investment windfall.  Every few months the value of homes would continue to rise and did so for over a decade. Of course all good things must come to an end eventually and now we are left with property values decreasing in most areas.

When the economy and Real Estate values are soaring it is hard not to look at a home as a giant piggy bank from which you can tap at a moments notice. When times are tough however, you may regret taking your equity for granted by pulling it out of the home.

Below is a guide to help you determine whether borrowing against the equity in your home via a home equity line of credit (HELOC), home equity loan or a cash out refinance makes the most sense.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

Home equity lines of credit work much like credit cards do. As a borrower you are given a credit limit up to which you are allowed borrow. Also similar to credit cards is the fact that the loan is open ended and carries an adjustable interest rate. Home equity lines of credit are tied to the prime rate as a basis to lend money.

Typically borrows can expect to pay the prime rate plus 2% as an example. Like credit cards HELOC’S can be closed by lenders at any point in time. Like any other loan it is prudent to shop around for the best rate and terms. Make sure you only borrow what you can afford as this loan is directly tied to your home and if you can not afford to make payments you could potentially lose your home to foreclosure.

The biggest advantage to a home equity line of credit is you can borrower whatever you need, up to whatever amount the lender has set, whenever you need it. The big draw back however is the lender can shut off the line of credit if the value of your home falls, your credit takes a hit or if the lender just decides they don’t want to offer you credit anymore.

Home Equity Loan

Home Equity Line of CreditA home equity loan is a form of a second mortgage against your home. The terms of which can vary greatly from a first mortgage. With a home equity loan you borrow a set sum of money at one time and it is paid back over a certain amount of years and interest rate that can vary greatly.

Often times a home equity loan has a fixed interest rate but also could be variable as well. Like either of the other financing options if you don’t pay it back the lender would have the option to foreclose!

Most of the time a home equity loan option is used for a specific purpose where the cost is known ahead of time. For example paying for the kids college education or buying a new car. What you need to decide is whether you would get more favorable loan terms by going this route or by getting an unsecured loan somewhere else such as at credit union or local lender. Sometimes this decision boils down to how conservative you want to be. You may get a better interest rate by getting a home equity loan but is it worth the risk of having it secured against your home?

Some borrowers would say no. If you happen to lose your job and have an equity loan against the family home for $150,000 this may not put you in a comfortable position. You should also check to see if there are any penalties for paying off the loan balance early. A number of lenders will charge a pre-payment penalty fee if you sell the home.

Cash Out Re-finance

A cash out re-finance is when you pay off your existing loan and get a new loan for the old mortgage balance plus whatever additional amount you need to borrow plus any closing costs. If the cash out refinance interest rate is lower than the existing mortgage rate, this option is probably going to be the best route to take. Most of the time you are going to be able to get a better interest rate with a 1st mortgage than going to the 2nd mortgage option. It is likely cheaper to borrow this way than having the combination of two mortgages. This is especially true when fixed rate mortgages are very low.

Nowadays when getting any type of mortgage it really makes sense to look over your ability to pay it back. The last thing you want to do is find yourself in an uncomfortable financial situation. Carefully studying the above home equity mortgage scenarios to determine which fits your situation best is a good business decision!

Other Mortgage articles worth a look:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on A guide to mortgage equity loan options was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 25+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Sutton, Worcester, Natick, and Douglas.

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Getting a mortgage after foreclosure

There are not many things that can negatively impact your credit score more than a foreclosure or short sale. In fact one of the more common untruths you will hear from many Realtors is that short sales don’t impact your credit scores like foreclosures do. This is absolutely WRONG!

If you fail to pay your mortgage during a short sale the credit score impact will be nearly identical to a foreclosure according to My FICO the governing body for credit scoring.

Being a Realtor myself for the last twenty five years it does not surprise me when I hear this misinformation being spewed in person or around the internet.  Some Real Estate agents will paint a short sale as your ticket to the promised land and a foreclosure as a ticket to financial misery for the rest of your life.

They do this of course because they want you to list the property with them as a short sale. A true Real Estate professional should be going over all possible financial options with you and not just looking to put money in their wallet.

There are of course advantages to doing a short sale but a better credit score is not one of them unless you are able to complete a short sale without missing mortgage payments. The sad truth is that most but not all of the time a lender is not going to grant short sale approval unless you are behind in your mortgage payments. From a lender’s perspective if you are able to continue paying your mortgage why should they grant you a short sale?

The advantages of a short sale vs a foreclosure center around the time you will be able to purchase a home again in the future. You will be able to buy a home after completing a short sale much quicker than a foreclosure.

For a complete breakdown of how quickly you can get financing after both of these events see getting a mortgage after short sale or foreclosure. If you can show extenuating circumstances of why you had to do a short sale or lost your home to foreclosure you may be able to get a loan sooner. Some of the acceptable hardships that could factor into a lenders decision are divorce, loss of a job and unexpected medical expenses.

Another advantage of a short sale is how future employers, as well as other types of creditors look at you in the future. Having a foreclosure on your resume is not something an employer is going to look at favorably. In a short sale you have at least attempted to live up to your debt and not just walk away.

Owning a home again after a foreclosure/short sale

Work on increasing your credit score

Fixing bad credit

One of the most important steps you can take to getting back into the home ownership arena after a foreclosure is to work on increasing your credit scores. This article provides some excellent tips on building back your credit score as quickly as possible. There is no doubt that building your credit score after a foreclosure or short sale is a difficult task. On average you can expect your score to drop between 150-200 points so you will have a lot of work to do!

Two or the most important things you can do to raise your score is to pay your bills on time and keep your credit card bills below the maximum levels.

Keep your employment stable

One of the things lenders look for with borrowers especially after a short sale or foreclosure is employment stability. Unless you have the opportunity to move into a position that offers a much higher pay you will be better off sticking with the job you have. The lender is going to want to see you are grounded with work and not changing jobs.

Rebuild your savings after foreclosure

Lenders are also going to want to see that you have squirreled away some money. Working on saving any extra money so that your nest egg is built back up becomes important. A six month reserve is a safe bet to show lenders that you have a fall back plan should you happen to become unemployed.

Owning a home again after short sale or foreclosure is certainly achievable is you work diligently towards getting your financial house in order!

Other Short sale articles worth a look:

If you are need to short sale your home or condominium in Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holden, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Medway, Mendon, Millbury, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Upton, Uxbridge, Shrewsbury, Sutton or Worcester get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts and Worcester County areas. So far, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval! Short sales are specialized transactions that are critical to have the right Realtor representing you. Do not make the mistake of picking an agent that does not understand how to get to the closing table on a short sale.

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Fixing your finances after foreclosure or short sale was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 25+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Massachusetts Home Owners Insurance

Homeowners insurance is not optional if you have a mortgage and is a very important decision you must make in order to protect what will most likely be one of your largest investments.

To get the right amount of coverage at the most affordable rate for your home, condo or rental property, you should plan on getting homeowners insurance quotes from multiple companies and choose the quote that is best fit for your particular situation.

There can be a fine line between having too much or too little insurance coverage. Nobody wants to pay for more insurance than they need but having too little coverage can be disastrous financially.

Knock on wood but if you suffer from a devastating loss from a fire, flood, theft or other calamity and you are under insured you are not going to be a happy camper! Of course if you over insure your property you will be throwing money out the window every year.

Types of insurance policies/coverage

Understanding the type of insurance coverage you need plays a large part in determining the policy that is best for your situation.

Cash value insurance

Actual cash value insurance only reimburses you for the value of your home in it’s current condition. So if your home is twenty years old there will be depreciation taken on all the components such as the heating system, windows, appliances, etc. If an event occurred where you needed to make an insurance claim you would be given far less money than if you had replacement cost coverage.

Replacement cost insurance

Having replacement cost coverage is the preferred method of insuring most homes today. With replacement cost insurance you would be reimbursed for the amount it would take to re-build your home new with the same existing quality of materials. Replacement cost insurance does not have  a depreciation component.

Figuring out what the cost will be to re-build a home is where many home owners make the wrong insurance coverage choices. You MUST remember you are not insuring the market value of the property! Many home owners mistakenly do not take into consideration that you do not need to insure the land but just the buildings such as the home, garage, shed, etc.

When calculating the cost to rebuild your home you will want to look at your square footage, materials used, type of construction and any special features you might have.

Local builders or even some Realtors could be helpful information sources to guide you on what the going cost per square foot to build a new home are estimated at. If you own a 3000 square foot home and construction costs are running $150 per square foot you would be purchasing $450,000 in coverage.

One of the things you need to be cognoscente of is making sure you adjust your insurance policy when you make a large improvement such as a bath or kitchen remodel.

The Right Insurance CoverageContent insurance

Last but not least don’t forget to insure the contents of your property. Most home owners insurance policies only cover your possessions for their cash value and not the replacement cost. In order to get replacement cost coverage you will need to purchase what is called an “endorsement”.

Checking your policy for exactly what is covered is important because valuables  such as jewelery, silverware, furs, etc may not be covered. In that case you will want to add them to an insurance rider.

Liability insurance

Someone falling on your property and suing you would not be fun. Often times folks are under insured in this department because they spend so much time figuring out the rest of their policy they neglect the liability coverage. Increasing liability insurance coverage is usually relatively cheap and well worth it in the event someone does happen to injure themselves at your home.

Obviously getting the right amount of insurance coverage for your home is critical if you actually have to make a claim! Secondarily nobody wants to throw money out the window especially with insurance coverage. See this article on home owners insurance savings tips for additional ways to save a few bucks.

Other Real Estate articles worth a look:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Getting the right homeowners insurance coverage was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 25+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Sutton, Worcester and Douglas.

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Fixing Home Water Damage

Fixing home water problems

If you have ever been in the unfortunate position of having a pipe burst in your home, a washing machine hose give way while you were gone for the weekend, or a finished basement become flooded by a 100 year storm, you know what a royal pain in the $#@ it is to clean up and remedy water damage!

There are few things that can damage a home more than water. One of the most important things you can do when faced with a water damage problem is to tackle it right away.

Without taking immediate action the threat of getting mold becomes very likely which can further increase an already expensive proposition.

If you can get take care of the water in under 48-72 hours you stand a much greater chance that you can keep the mold at bay.

If it all possibly the 1st thing that you are going to want to do is take everything out of the area where the water damage has occurred and get it into a warm and dry environment. Even if it means taking these things outside that is what you should do.

The next step will be to either get in touch with a water damage and restoration company or take the same steps they would make in getting the water re-mediated from the home.

Open doors and/or windows ~ It goes without saying that you want to get as much fresh air circulating throughout the home as soon as possible.

Purchase or rent high powered fans ~ Most of the time opening the windows is not going to be enough to dry out serious water infiltration. You are going to need to get a hold of a few large fans that circulate a tremendous amount of air. Most of the fans needed to solve a water issue are going to run at least a few hundred dollars to purchase. Renting a fan could run you about $25 – $50 a day.

Water in the basement ~ If the water is in the basement an additional suggestion would be to use a large dehumidifier which can suck all the moisture right out of the area.

Of course one of the 1st things you should determine is how the water actually got into the basement in the 1st place. Was it ground water, water from a crack or surface water that is being improperly directed towards the home. Sometimes something as simple as a gutter or downspout coming away from the home can be the culprit.

See fixing basement water problems for a complete list of possible basement water problem solutions.

Check the sump pump ~ If your basement has an operational sump pump you will want to make sure it is working properly. On many occasions a sump pump can fail causing the water to flood a basement. If you find this is the case you can always purchase a pump to get a significant amount of water out of a basement. For smaller jobs a wet vac should suffice.

Water damage repair & restoration

When water damage occurs in your home you will be able to salvage some things but definitely not others. Some of the items that potentially can  be saved include sub-flooring,  hardwood flooring and linoleum provided you dry them quickly. Draperies and other such cloth goods can also be salvaged with a cleaning and disinfectant.

Most of the time you are not going to be able to save such things as insulation, drywall, plaster, laminated furniture, and carpet padding. These items absorb water very quickly and offer the perfect environment for mold to grow.

If the water damage in the home is extensive you may want to really consider hiring a professional restoration specialist that will  come to your home with the whole gamete of remedies including dehumidifiers, air purifiers, fans, and special equipment to dry floors. A professional water damage specialist will also employ cleaners to quickly and efficiently dry out a water damaged home.

Beyond these typical steps, a water damage specialist may also employ the use of wall driers, sanitizers, and mold and mildew remediation techniques to ensure that what is already a bad situation doesn’t get worse over time.

When fixing water damage in a home, addressing the problem head on becomes paramount. Keep these tips in mind if you are faced with this unforeseen issue.

Other Real Estate articles worth a look:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Fixing home water damage was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 25+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Sutton, Worcester and Douglas.

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Short Sale Problems

One of the grossly misunderstood topics in Real Estate is the short sale transaction. There are a large number of Realtors who unfortunately do not possess the knowledge to properly educate their clients on what should be expected of them when trying to make a short sale purchase.

The problem is further exacerbated because there are an inordinate amount of Realtors who are now listing short sales who have no business doing so!

Having poor seller representation in a short sale is far worse than a traditional sale because the home owner is relying on this person to help them navigate out of a financially difficult time.  Without a short sale approval the most likely outcome is a foreclosure which is the very thing a seller was trying to avoid by going the short sale route.

As the volume of short sales has grown so has the amount of Realtors who are looking to cash in. Money all too often gets in the way of sound decision making.

The code of ethics in Real Estate clearly states that you should not get involved in a type of Real Estate transaction in which you have no expertise.

This is the reason why there will be short sale lawsuits against Realtors! When I am representing a seller in a short sale and receive an offer from a buyer’s agent, most of the time the offer will have significant changes that need to be made in order to protect the seller’s interest.

Below are 8 reasons why you will more than likely NOT be buying one of my clients short sales if you don’t agree to modify your offer:

Low ball short sale offer ~ If you think a short sale is an automatic invitation to submit a ridiculous offer to the seller you might as well not even bother. The majority of the time you will see my short sales priced right at market value or even slightly below market.

The property is already a bargain to begin with. Both buyer’s and seller’s need to understand that once a short sale offer is submitted to the lender they will be sending out either an appraiser or Real Estate agent to do a broker price opinion (BPO). The contract price needs to be within reasonable proximity to market value or the offer will be rejected.

Inappropriate escrow funds ~ In Massachusetts the typical deposit when buying a home is $1000 at the offer and a balance of 5% upon signing a purchase and sale agreement, as we are a two contract state. These figures are of course negotiable but don’t expect you are going to be putting up two nickels the seller can rub together. The whole point of having escrow funds is to ensure a buyer does not walk away from the transaction. You need to have enough funds to prevent that from being easy to do.

Doing a home inspection after short sale approval ~ This is not in the slightest bit negotiable. A buyer will do their home inspection up front in the normal time frame for doing an inspection which is typically 7-10 days from the offer being accepted. Do you really think we are going to wait a significant amount of time to get short sale approval and then you are going to be able to walk because you don’t like the the fact there are no GFI plugs in the bathroom or the water heater is at the end of it’s life expectancy? Sorry friend it does not work that way.

Short Sale Success Massachusetts

If you are buying a short sale and are worrying about losing $400-500 you shouldn’t be looking at one. Additionally, if there are issues from a home inspection you can negotiate a possible credit. Once short sale approval comes the lender doesn’t want to hear about any problems.

As a buyer the other thing to consider is the fact that you would be out of the market for months when you could have discovered an issue that might cause you not to move forward without waiting all that time.

Leaving the purchase and sale signing date until after short sale approval ~ You are either going to purchase the home or you aren’t. We will not be waiting until after short sale approval to have a contract in place. Everything will be negotiated and agreed to up front.

Not getting a financing commitment right away ~ If you are going to purchase one of my short sale listings you will apply and get your financing before short sale approval. When the lender approves the short sale they will more than likely ask for a 30 day closing. We will NOT be waiting to find out if you are able to get financing that quickly or if at all!

Submitting an unrealistic closing date ~ Short sales should really be called “long sales” because most of the time they take longer to complete than a traditional sale. If you are buying a short sale you need to take this into consideration. If you are not committed to waiting then don’t get involved with a short sale. My short sales on average take about 90 days for short sale approval. The closing date should read “30 days from short sale approval”. You can not put an exact date when we don’t know when it will be!

Not agreeing to wait 90 days for short sale approval ~ The buyer we will be looking for is going to be committed to the property. If you think that you are going to find your self restless 5 weeks later because we don’t have an approval yet then a short sale is not right for you. Don’t forget you are purchasing a home that is probably a pretty decent value. It is worth the wait! It clearly would not be in the best interest of the seller if a buyer bailed on the transaction a month or two in and they had to start the process all over again.

Asking to take over the short sale because you are an investor ~ Sorry my friend if you are an investor please feel free to make a realistic offer but don’t think you are going to take over the negotiations with the lender. Don’t think you are going to make a low ball offer and the seller is going to accept it while you look for an end buyer to sell to and make a handsome profit. No I don’t think so! The seller hired me to complete the short sale. I don’t feel like defending myself in court on why I let an investor take over the obligations I was hired to perform.

Folks these are the kind of things that go on every day in short sales because seller’s do not do their home work in picking a short sale Realtor to work with. Don’t make that mistake. When you need to short sell your home do your research and hire a pro! These are all great reasons to reject short sale offers.

Who you work with to complete your short sale will have the greatest impact in helping you reach your financial goals. Completing a short sale remains a much better alternative than letting a property go to foreclosure for a number of reasons centered around credit and your ability to buy another property in the future.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area as well as parts of Worcester County. As of this writing in four years, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval!

I work hand in hand with a local short sale Real Estate attorney who knows how to get short sales to the closing table!

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area or even in another state and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to numerous Realtors all around the country.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on 8 reasons why you will not buy my short sale listing was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 25+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Disclosing a Haunted Massachusetts Home

While working as a Massachusetts Realtor over the last twenty five years one of the questions that always seems to come up is whether or not a Realtor is obligated to disclose a murder, suicide, haunting or other type of paranormal activity that may have occurred in a home or other Real Estate.

Wikepedia defines a haunted house as a home or other Real Estate often perceived as being inhabited by disembodied spirits of the deceased who may have been former residents or were familiar with the property. Supernatural activity inside homes is said to be mainly associated with violent or tragic events in the building’s past such as murder, accidental death, or suicide.

Disclosing Murder, Suicide, and Haunted Homes in Massachusetts

This is one of those topics that I would be willing to bet at least half the Realtors polled would get the answer wrong. I am sure most Real Estate agents would say that they are required to disclose a haunted house or if someone died in a property by murder or suicide. They would be dead wrong:)

One of my beliefs is that every buyer should be entitled to know anything that could materially effect the value of a home or the ability to sell in the future. This in fact is one of the articles in the Real Estate code of ethics.

In Massachusetts anyways, a Realtor is not required to disclose these kinds of events in a property. Apparently lawmakers do not feel these kind of events are worthy of Real Estate disclosure. I suppose in the case of a haunted home it would be much harder to prove the actual existence of ghosts.

Many states require full disclosure of violent crimes such as murder and any other event that may stigmatize a property before it is sold. Not the case in Massachusetts!

Below is the excerpt from the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93, section 114 that discusses Real Estate disclosure for alleged haunted homes, murder and suicide:

Afraid man of Massachusetts Haunted House

The fact or suspicion that real property may be or is psychologically impacted shall not be deemed to be a material fact required to be disclosed in a real estate transaction. “Psychologically impacted” shall mean an impact being the result of facts or suspicions including, but not limited to, the following:

  • (a) that an occupant of real property is now or has been suspected to be infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or any other disease which reasonable medical evidence suggests to be highly unlikely to be transmitted through the occupying of a dwelling;
  • (b) that the real property was the site of a felony, suicide or homicide; and
  • (c) that the real property has been the site of an alleged para psychological or supernatural phenomenon.

No cause of action shall arise or be maintained against a seller or lessor of real property or a real estate broker or salesman, by statute or at common law, for failure to disclose to a buyer or tenant that the real property is or was psychologically impacted.

While this is the case in Massachusetts you can not assume that in other states it is alright not to disclose known events such as a murder or haunting.

I find it kind of interesting that disclosure of a person who had AIDS was lumped into this kind of stigmatization. It does not seem all that similar of a disclosure issue?

If you are a Massachusetts Realtor another thing to pay careful attention to is purposely deceiving someone. While non disclosure may not be an issue, blatantly lying to someone certainly could be. If you are marketing a home that is well know to be suspected of being haunted and a buyer ask you a direct question about it you should always be truthful of what you know.

Other Real Estate articles worth a look:

Massachusetts seller’s disclosure statement

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on disclosing murder, suicide and haunted Massachusetts homes was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 25+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Natick, Worcester and Douglas.

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Buying another home after short saleAs a Realtor who has been heavily involved closing Massachusetts short sales over the last five years, one of the questions that I get asked quite often from home sellers is how long will it take before I will be able to buy a home again.

The answer to this question does not have any clear cut and dry answer. There are quite a few variables involved when trying to figure out when someone will be able to purchase a home after a foreclosure or short sale.

Going through either a short sale or a foreclosure has the potential to seriously impact ones credit.  Government entities Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA do not directly loan money to individuals but are the governing body that work with lenders to guarantee loans and free up money to provide mortgages.

Banks typically have the authority to lend to whoever they want but will generally follow the guidelines set forth by these entities. There are some lenders of course that will take greater risks with some borrowers than others.

Below are the general guidelines that FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac follow when considering a loan after a short sale or foreclosure:

Short sale with FHA Loan

  • Can purchase right away with no mortgage default
  • 3 year wait if in default at the closing
  • Reduced wait if the borrower has re-established good credit and can show extenuating circumstances

Short Sale With Fannie Mae Loan

  • 2 year wait if the borrower puts 20 % down
  • 4 year wait if the borrower puts between 10% to 20% down
  • 7 year wait if the borrower puts less than 10% down
  • 2 year wait if the borrower can show extenuating circumstances and puts more than 10% down

Short Sale with Freddie Mac Loan

  • 4 year wait before being able to get a loan
  • 2 year wait if the borrower can show extenuating circumstances

Foreclosure with an FHA Loan

  • 3 year wait before being able to get a loan
  • Reduced wait if the borrower can show extenuating circumstances and re-establishes good credit

Foreclosure with a Fannie Mae Loan

  • 7 year wait from the completed foreclosure sale date
  • 3 year wait if the borrower can show extenuating circumstances. Additional underwriting requirements apply for 4 years after a 3 year waiting period.
  • 7 year wait for a 2nd home, cash out re-financing, or an investment property

Foreclosure with a Freddie Mac Loan

  • 5 year wait from the completed foreclosure sale date
  • 3 year wait if the borrower can show extenuating circumstances

** As a side note a deed in lieu of foreclosure follows the same guidelines as FHA’s foreclosure policy, the same as Fannie Mae and Freddie Macs short sale policy.

When analyzing the difference between completing a short sale or going through a foreclosure in regards to purchasing another property in the future it boils down to the waiting time which is more favorable in a short sale.

Credit Scoring After Short Sale and Foreclosure

Credit Score After a Short SaleThe other question that I get from folks considering a short sale is how it will impact their credit. There is a lot of misleading information that come from Realtors, as well as online forums about the impact on credit scores. On many occasions you will hear that a short sale is far better for your credit than getting foreclosed on. This is incorrect! A credit score in a short sale or a foreclosure have the potential to be about the same. Maybe marginally better in a short sale.

According to Fair Issac (My FICO) a company that provides analytic, decision making, and credit scoring services for financial service companies a credit score will go down by 40 to 110 points after being 30 days late.  Further, the scoring drop will increase to 70 to 135 points after 90 days late on a mortgage payment.

The average scoring drop in a short sale, foreclosure or deed in lieu is 85 to 160 points. You need to keep in mind that in both short sales and foreclosure it is possible that the credit score drop could be closer to 200-300 points.

Credit scoring factors vary from individual to individual. The scoring change is heavily dependent on where the credit score was before the negative event took place. Both a short sale and foreclosure are considered a loan that was not paid as agreed.

What happens to your credit score in each of these events could be different than someone else who goes through the same financial event. Unfortunately, most of the time the higher the credit score the greater the decrease from where you started.

When trying to decide whether a short sale is right for you don’t be fooled into making the decision under false hopes that your credit will not be impacted all that much. The biggest advantage in a short sale is the shortened time frame in which you will be able to purchase a home in the future.

One of the most important steps after going through either a short sale or foreclosure is to be conscious about trying to improve your credit standing. Here are some excellent tips on how to increase a credit score.

*** The above information for waiting periods before buying a home after completing a short sale and foreclosure was sourced by the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac selling guides along with the FHA handbook.

Other short sale articles worth a peek:

If you are need to short sale your home or condo in Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holden, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Medway, Mendon, Millbury, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Upton, Uxbridge, Shrewsbury, or Worcester get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts and Worcester County areas. So far, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval! Short sales are specialized transactions that are critical to have the right Realtor representing you. Do not make the mistake of picking an agent that does not understand how to get to the closing table on a short sale.

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on buying a home after short sale or foreclosure was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 25+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Increasing a Credit Score With Home Finance Tips

Home Finance Tips For Credit Score

Credit scores can have a dramatic effect on a borrowers ability to get the best rates for many types of financing including a home mortgage and a car loan.

If your credit score does not meet minimum standards you may not even have the ability to get a home mortgage period!

There are a number of factors that the credit bureaus use to calculate your credit score. One of the most important factors they use is your past payment history which generally accounts for 35% of your credit score. In the mortgage article how to improve a credit score, all the various ways you can achieve and maintain a great credit score are discussed. If you pay attention to these credit scoring factors you will be well on your way to achieving an exceptional credit score.

When it comes to your home there are ways to improve a credit score with specific home finance tips.

Pay Your Mortgage On Time

It goes without saying that paying your bills on time is a must if you want to have excellent credit. Above all else you want to make absolutely certain you pay your home mortgage when it is due. As mentioned above, past credit history is a critical factor on how you be viewed by a lender when applying for financing.

There is nothing that will hit your credit harder than a missed mortgage payment. Credit scoring agencies will look at a missed mortgage payment in a far more negative light than a missed car or credit card payment. If at all possible you should always consider making your mortgage payment before other bill that are due.

Check Your Credit Report For Errors

While working in the Real Estate industry for many years as a Massachusetts Realtor I have had the opportunity to see  1st hand that it is easy for credit bureaus to make mistakes on a persons credit report. Do you realize that a credit report error can cost a borrower some serious money? With a mistake on your report your credit score will be negatively impacted. This makes it vital that you periodically check your credit report for errors but certainly before you try to refinance a mortgage.

If you find an error in your credit report you should make certain that you get it corrected right away! Here are the necessary steps you need to take in order to fix credit report errors. You will want to make certain the errors are corrected before applying for financing.

Postpone Financing Until Your Credit Is In Order

Depending on whether you have discovered a credit report error or had a legitimate blemish on your record in the past could be a reason for postponing a refinance. Removing a credit report error can take a little bit of time but could be worth it in the long run if you factor the difference in rate you will pay without the correction. Unless mortgage rates are climbing dramatically and locking a mortgage rate makes more fiscal sense, you will want to get your financial house in order 1st.

Sometimes there can be unpaid bills that took place a long time ago that come back to haunt you especially if they were turned over to a collection agency. Something as small as a $50 unpaid phone bill could come back to bite you in the form of a higher interest rate on your loan. Just a 1/4 point difference in rate could translate into thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. The good news is that as time goes by the blemish becomes less important in scoring factors.

Paying Off 2nd Mortgages and Equity Lines of Credit

Home Finance Tips

On the surface it may seem like paying off a 2nd mortgage or home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a good idea but it may not be, at least in terms of a credit score going forward. Your credit utilization or what you owe your creditors makes up 30% of the scoring factor that credit companies use to determine your score.

The closing of existing revolving accounts will typically adversely affect the ratio and therefore have a negative impact on your FICO score. You may want to consider lowering the balance but not paying off the loan in one shot.

Pay Your Property Taxes and Utility Bills On Time

If you find that you are strapped for cash there are certain bills that should always be paid 1st such as a mortgage, car loan and credit card bills. It makes sense to pay these bills 1st because they will have the greatest impact on your credit score. This however, does not make paying your property tax and utility bills on time unimportant.

The good news is that it will usually take a serious delinquency before missed payments are reported and negatively impact your credit score. Most of the time late payments on your property tax bill won’t effect you at all, as these are not reported to the credit bureaus unless a lien is placed on your property.

Always keep in mind how you manage your home finances affects your ability to refinance and get the best mortgage rates!

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Improving a credit score with home finance tips was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Rental Property Tax Law Changes

Rental Property Tax LawHere Ye Here Ye “Rental property tax law changes go into effect this year” Yes more great news for those who own Real Estate – NOT!

If you are the owner of rental property there is a pretty significant tax law change going into effect for 2012. As of this year anyone who owns rental property must now report all vendors doing work that exceeds $600. For the landlord that holds multiple rental properties this really is nothing new as they have been required to report this to the IRS.

Last year however, the Federal Government enacted the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (H.R. 3297) that expanded the reporting requirement to include ANYONE who owns rental property. To put it bluntly the little guy is now required to send a 1099 to contractors working on their homes.

If you are the owner of rental property it means you now have a legal obligation to collect information from contractors doing work at your property including their name, address, tax identification number or social security identification. You must also keep a detailed record of what you pay them through out the year. Again at the end of the year you are obligated to send them a 1099 form.

Rental Property Exemptions

There are a few exemptions that would allow a home owner not to report to the IRS including:

  • The property is only a temporary rental of your primary residence.
  • The income generated from the rental does not meet minimum threshold requirements.
  • Putting together the forms necessary to complete the reporting to the IRS would create a hardship for you.

As of this writing the IRS has not determined what would be considered the minimum income and what constitutes a hardship on your part. Expect the IRS to update these requirements soon. In the meantime do not let this deter you from keeping detailed records.

Recording Keeping For All Contractors

The requirement for keeping diligent records applies to all contractors doing work including but not limited to painters, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, landscapers, cleaners and even your accountant. Anything associated with running the business of having a rental property is included in these calculations.

When calculating the work that was generated on the property recoding keeping becomes vital because if you have a landscaper doing work in the beginning of the year that amounts to $350 dollars and later on in the year does another $300 dollars worth of work the burden of providing this information becomes necessary under the new rules.

Rental Tax Penalties For Filing Late

Rental Property Tax penalty

The IRS has not set the important tax dates as of yet for the 2011 tax year.  These dates will become important to have on your calender as the penalty for reporting late will be $250 dollars.

You will be able to file a 30 day extension for getting the tax forms to the IRS, however, this will not apply to making sure you get the appropriate forms to the contractors who have done work on your property. The contractors are going to need to have these forms in order to complete their own taxes and the burden is on the rental owner to provide them in a timely fashion.

If you are the owner of rental property you are probably aware of all the tax deductions available to you. If you are considering purchasing a rental property for the 1st time you may want to brush up on the rental property tax deductions. Of course this becomes an important piece of the puzzle come tax time!

Selling Your Rental Property

Have you gotten to the stage in your life where owning rental property may no longer be a desired part of your long term financial plan? Maybe you are just not that happy with all the rental tax law changes? There comes a point in time when you may have decided to throw in the towel. Owning rental property may no longer be at the top of your list for ways of making yearly income. There is no question that while rental properties can be lucrative they can also sap you of a lot of time and energy. If you have realized this is how you feel and want to sell your property, consider whether it makes sense to sell your home with the tenants still occupying the property or not. You should definitely understand the pro’s and con’s of selling a home with tenants. Consult with a local real estate agent and see what the local customs look like.

Be prepared for the Realtor to advise you to sell with the tenants out of the property. From personal experience it can be very difficult to sell a home when there are renters still occupying the home. It can actually be a nightmare if the tenants do not want to leave. They will make showings difficult and more than likely not keep the property in show ready condition. These are things you should take into consideration when deciding to sell with or without a tenant.


About the author: The above Real Estate information on rental property tax law changes was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 27+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Short Sale Realtor Mistakes

Short Sale Realtor Mistakes

As a Realtor who has been successfully completing short sales over the last four years I get to see quite a bit of the inner workings of a short sale transaction.

In many of the articles I have written about short sales, I have expounded on how important it is for a seller to have a Realtor representing them that understands the process completely.

From a buyers perspective it is pretty easy to understand the frustrations of some short sale transactions most notably the extra time it usually takes to get one approved compared to a traditional sale.

The short sale completion time often is due to the particular lender involved and the complexity of the short sale. Things like the number of lien holders, liens against the property and private mortgage insurance can all be factors in whether a short sale will take extra time.

When a Realtor is the cause of a short sale not being approved there is no excuse! In fact this is why there will be short sale lawsuits against Realtors who are clueless.

I want to share my story from a buyer’s perspective on a short sale that I was interested in purchasing for myself and how things have unfolded over the last few weeks.

Unfortunately, I ran into an agent that doesn’t understand short sales! Believe me I would love to broadcast who this agent is just so anyone thinking of short selling their property would never consider using them. In all likelihood this agent will be the direct cause of why this owner gets foreclosed on. It is a short sale botch job beyond belief.

Without giving away too many details this property was not located in Massachusetts. For me it would have been a nice vacation spot where I could get away when needed.

Let me 1st start off my story by explaining to you that the property was listed as an approved short sale for $79,900. If you are not familiar with short sales the vast majority of them are NOT approved by the lender prior to a buyer making an offer on one. Usually a buyer makes an offer and you wait for the lender to either approve, counter or reject the offer.

The property I was interested in purchasing was marketed and advertised as an APPROVED short sale in MLS. Well guess what folks it was NOT an APPROVED short sale.

The Realtor marketing the property clearly was misrepresenting the property in order to make it more attractive to an interested buyer. A clear violation of the code of ethics! This fact alone could get a Realtor in deep #$%@ but I am only starting my sad story.

I got past the fact that the short sale was not approved and made an offer anyways.  I should explain that this property is a condo and is located in a neighborhood where all the units are virtually identical aside from differences in updates, amenities, and whether it has a water view or not.

The last sold comparable property in the neighborhood closed 9 months ago for around $100,000. This becomes relevant because over the last 9 months property values have still been declining in this area.

At the moment there is a bank owned unit for $59,900 that is under agreement in better shape, a short sale that has been on the market for close to a year at $85,000 and another that was recently taken off the market for $75,000 that was also on for close to a year.

Clearly the value of the property is not the same as it was when the appraisal on this unit was done by the lender.

I made a very respectable offer on the property which my agent submitted to the listing agent. The listing agent told my agent that my offer would not fly and that the lender needed $84,200. Really??? I asked why it was being advertised at $79,900 and never got an answer.

The listing agent did submit the offer to the lender and used what is called a request for variance under the HAFA short sale program. The request for variance is used to get a lender to accept something less than what they are required to accept under the guidelines of the HAFA short sale program based on the appraisal they have.

This is what the listing agent wrote in the request: “I definitely don’t want to give this property away but I also don’t want the property to sit there for additional time where it can lose more value. There is currently one listing in this community that is listed in the 70’s and it’s a foreclosure with updates. The subject property is dated. The buyer is trying to use that as leverage and I have explained that the closed sales are what we are looking at.”

Writing this to the lender is wrong on so many levels! 1st of all a Realtor does not work for a lender in a short sale!! The listing agent works for the seller and should be doing everything possible to get the property SOLD. Does it sound like the Realtor is making a good case for my offer being something they should look at or I am just a dumb buyer who is trying to steal the property?

Needless to say my offer was rejected and the lender said they would not accept less than $84,200. The listing agent then raised the price in MLS to $84,200 after having been on the market for months as an approved short sale at $79,900. How damaging do you think that is for the seller!

Folks in a short sale the only consideration from a seller’s perspective is getting the property sold and the short sale debt removed.

Short sale Realtor buffoon

The seller should not care if the property sells for X or Y as long as the debt is removed which they are granted under the HAFA program. It is painstakingly clear that the agent has probably never done a short sale before and does not know anything about short sale debt removal.

You may be thinking how do I even know the listing agent wrote this to the lender? This is where it gets even worse. The listing agent passed along to my agent private information that should have never been shared with anyone.

What was shared were the HUD docs and the FHA variance rejection letter which included the following information:

  • A date in which foreclosure proceedings could be commenced against the seller.
  • The minimum amount the lender would accept for the property.
  • The name and phone number of the short sale negotiator.
  • The name of the HUD officer who signed the rejection of my offer. I already Google his name and could contact him directly as well.

Besides completely botching everything you could possibly do from a short sale perspective and maintaining your fiduciary responsibility to the seller, the Realtor does not even understand appraisals 101.

The listing agent insists that only closed properties are data that the lender should be looking at. REALLY??? You have properties on the market that are not sold that are listed 20-25% under what the last unit sold for 9 months ago!! Please go back to Real Estate school. Ask an appraiser if they use current listings in their analysis….stop acting like the biggest dope going.

I am paying cash so it doesn’t matter but if I was getting a loan my lender would certainly take the fact that there are  units on the market that haven’t sold sitting there at these prices.

Why do I bring the appraisal aspect up? The lender has an appraisal that is 9 months old for $90,000. If a new appraisal was ordered the lender more than likely would change their position.  I would get my vacation spot, the listing and selling agent would get paid, the lender would not own another property and most importantly the seller would avoid foreclosure.

The listing agent won’t ask the lender to get a new appraisal. I have also asked if my attorney could speak to the negotiator directly. I have been rebuffed on all accounts. If the listing agent had submitted the current listings and made a good argument to the lender for my offer being accepted I would not even be writing this article.

Instead I am left thinking about what I should do. If you were in my shoes would you do any of the following:

  • Explain this situation to the listing agents broker of record and make clear that their agent is a walking lawsuit waiting to happen?
  • Try and call the negotiator directly and ask for a new appraisal?
  • Make a copy of this article and mail it to the seller?
  • All of the above?

The seller has a ready willing and able cash buyer who can close immediately.  A foreclosure is a costly situation that the lender could avoid. This would be a win-win for all involved. A new appraisal would make this a simple transaction.

After going through it myself it is even more clear why every seller considering a short sale should be working with a PRO! If you are thinking of purchasing a short sale here are some short sale questions to ask the listing agent to see what the probability you will ever end up at the closing table. Nationally less than 30% of all short sales close! In many cases this can be traced back to a Realtor who has no idea what they were doing.

*** Update – after a few months I finally was able to convince the listing agent to get the lender to order a new appraisal. The appraisal was done and came inline with what I was offering. The lender accepted my offer and we closed. Without my knowledge of short sales this property probably never would have closed and the seller would have ended up in foreclosure. All because the Realtor lacked the proper understanding of how short sales work. The scary part is this agent advertise themselves as a short sale expert.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on short sale Realtor mistakes was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 25+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Why would a lender foreclosure instead of approving a short sale?

Lender choosing to foreclose v.s short sale

As a Massachusetts Realtor who deals with short sale transactions on a daily basis, I have seen and learned quite a bit since I started getting involved with these types of transactions four years ago.

One thing that I am extremely proud of is the fact that every short sale that I have listed has received short sale approval from the lender. This is no small feat, as nationally the success rate for completing a successful short sale in less than 30%.

I certainly can not take all the credit as the attorney I work with does all of the grunt work with the lender. The short sale law firm I use does outstanding work. My job in a short sale is the same as with any home I am marketing….get it SOLD! This means finding a buyer who will pay something in the ball park of market value and be willing to wait the time it takes to get short sale approval which is typically longer than a regular transaction.

Of course part of getting a short sale to the closing table is knowing how to follow proper procedures. The are plenty of Realtors getting involved with short sales who are completely clueless but see it as a money making opportunity and are willing to put a seller’s financial future at risk for their own potential gain.

Here are a few mistakes that I see repeated over and over again by Real Estate agents that don’t know any better:

  • Realtors® submitting multiple unsigned offers to the lender.
  • Realtors® submitting low ball offers to the lender.
  • Realtors® allowing home inspection contingencies after short sale approval.
  • Realtors® allowing an investor to negotiate the short sale.

For a complete explanation of each of these issues and why you don’t want any of them to happen to you see short sale lawsuits against Realtors.

Then again there are some Realtors who do in fact understand the short sale game and how to successfully navigate the waters. Short sales that have more than one lien holder tend to be slightly more difficult to get done than ones where there is only one lender involved. When there are multiple lenders involved you need approval from both in order for the sale to take place.

While I have yet to have this happen (knock on wood) I know of other Realtors who seemingly have had a situation where a 2nd lien holder has chosen to foreclose instead of granting short sale approval.

The scenario goes like this…. a home is on the market for $300,000 and is being marketed as a short sale. There is a 1st mortgage on the property for $310,000 and a 2nd mortgage for $50,000.  The seller has lost his job and can no longer afford to pay the mortgage so he chooses to short sell his property.

A buyer comes along and makes an offer for $290,000 which is accepted by the seller and sent to the 1st and 2nd lien holders. After a period of time the 1st lien holder orders an appraisal to verify market value and after doing their due diligence determines that $290,000 is well within the acceptable limits of market value. During the negotiation process the 2nd lien holder is offered $5000 in order to approve the short sale and allow the sale to take place.

Short sale denied by lender

The lender digs in their heals and says NO. They will not accept the short sale payoff of $5000. The Realtor involved says why not? They go on to argue with the lender that if you allow this to go to foreclosure you will get NOTHING as the home is worth far less than the $360,000 mortgage balance.

The lender does not bend and says we don’t care we are going to foreclose. Folks this is a real world scenario that happens everyday in the world of short sales.

What remains to be seen is whether or not the lender is going to get nothing. The answer is probably NO. More than likely one of the following scenarios will have taken place:

  • The 2nd lien holder has a loss sharing arrangement with the FDIC that will allow them to collect substantially more than the amount offered by the first lien holder under the short sale scenario.
  • Unbeknown to the homeowner, the second lien holder has bought insurance against the default. The lender will now collect on that insurance. Depending on the terms, this may not have been possible if they agreed to a short sale.
  • The homeowner’s loan with the lender was full recourse and they intend to pursue him for the deficiency and/or sell that right to a collection agency.
  • There are tax advantages to the lender that far outweigh the offer of $5000 that they received from the 1st lien holder.
  • Any or all of the above!

The above situation is why it is imperative to have a great short sale negotiator on your side. Of course there are times that it will be impossible to make the deal work but in many cases the skill of the negotiator can find a middle ground with the 2nd lien holder.

Click on the links below to see other important information related to completing a Massachusetts Short Sale:

If you are need to short sale your home or condo in Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Upton, Uxbridge, Shrewsbury, Worcester, or Douglas Get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts and Worcester County areas. So far, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval!

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Lenders choosing foreclosure over short sale approval was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Fannie Mae Mortgage Interest Rates & Costs Rising

Michael DunskyGuest blogger Michael Dunsky from Guaranteed Rate is back again to take a look at the recent announcement by Fannie Mae that a borrowers costs and/or interest rate will be rising in the near future.

Michael comes to the Massachusetts Real Estate blog on occasion because of his extensive knowledge on what is going on in the world of finance and mortgages.


More Bad News For Borrowers With Fannie Mae Backed Loans

Fannie Mae Mortgage Costs To Borrower IncreasingFannie Mae’s recent announcement indicates that on April 1, 2011 they are implementing a higher interest rate to borrowers even if they have a perfect credit score. This change is being implemented for any loan term over 15 years. Freddie Mac will also make fee structure changes as of March 1st.

They call this a Loan Level Price Adjustment (LLPA) and this means that borrowers are going to be charged more in the form of cost or higher interest rate based on a combination of how much down payment or the amount of equity in their home if they are refinancing, as well as their credit score.

Basically, the LLPA is Risk vs. Reward for the banks.  This is nothing new as Fannie Mae and banks have been doing this for years and continue to reevaluate every so often.  The higher the risk of the loan, the higher the cost will be.  This is not all that unreasonable. They should charge more for riskier loans!  It makes sense that the less qualified a borrower is, the higher the cost of their loan should be.  

What doesn’t make sense is that these new changes NOW impact borrowers even with perfect credit!

Here are some of the highlights or low lights as some refer to them:

  • Someone buying a home with credit OVER 740 with 25% or lower down payment will now pay approx .125% more in rate.
  • A borrower with a credit score over 740 refinancing to 80% of the value of their home and taking out additional cash can expect to pay an additional .25% higher in rate.
  • Anyone buying or refinancing a condominium (excluding detached condos) with less than 25% down payment (or equity) can expect an increase in rate of almost .5%!

Since the announcement from Fannie Mae most investors have already, or are about to implement the new pricing.  Borrowers without larger down payments will see slightly higher rates.  For those with lower credit scores, they can expect much higher rates.

This move by Fannie Mae is just a means of trying to become more profitable after the mortgage meltdown. The government a.k.a us taxpayers have spent billions trying to keep Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac afloat. With 2011 expected to be another big year in foreclosures, the losses are expected to continue to mount. Passing the mortgage costs on to borrowers should partially stem the tide.

Interest Rates RisingNow, here’s the good news.  There are other financing options that may not be as costly as the new LLPA brings.   One solution for a borrower with less than 20% down is to take a closer look at FHA financing.  FHA may in fact, be less costly given the LLPA changes. See a comparison of some of the differences between a conventional loan vs an FHA loan.

Don’t forget that if you are purchasing a property that needs some improvements the 203k rehabilitation loan is a terrific option! The 203k rehab loan is a simple program that opens the doors for the average home buyer to receive money to fix up a home the way they would like it. Maybe you are looking at a short sale or foreclosure home or any property for that matter that needs a little bit of TLC.

Another solution to a borrower with greater than 20% down would be to look at a second mortgage to reduce the loan to value and thus, higher interest rate.

The LLPA changes are certainly not favored by anyone but loan officers hands are not completely bound.  There are financing options that may be available to help offset the cost increases forthcoming.

Home buyers shopping for mortgages should be aware of these fee increases and take them as a reminder of how important it is to maintain the best credit score possible. For some borrowers looking for a loan it might make sense to put off obtaining a mortgage until they have improved their credit score. See how to improve a credit score to make that a reality.

Take the time to find a licensed, reputable, experienced loan officer.  He or she will certainly have the knowledge and ability to structure the best financing option for their clients given the ever-changing mortgage climate that we are in. Besides a lower interest rate a good mortgage broker can show you some of the better reasons to refinance a mortgage.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Fannie Mae Mortgage Interest Rates and cost rising was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Considerations For Renting or Selling a Home

Renting vs selling a home

Suddenly out of the blue you have found out that a new position has opened up within your company and they are asking you to relocate your family to the other side of the country.

The job opportunity is too good to pass up so you decide to take the position. You realize with an impending move you are going to need to either sell or rent your home.

Considerations for renting or selling a home

Anyone who is considering selling a home in 2013 and has bought in the last six or seven years faces the real possibility that they will be losing money on the sale. The thought of losing money is never pleasant but unfortunately is part of today’s Real Estate reality. In my experience the immediate thought process of most home owners is to rent the home and not sell for a loss. This is kind of similar to the stock investor who hangs on for dear life with their losing picks but sells their winners instead.

In many cases they will ride the loser for an extended period of time until they realize it will take a very long time for that stock to come back to where it once was when purchased. Anyone who has ever invested in stocks including myself has been guilty of this. It is hard to give up on a loser because there is always the thought that it will come roaring back. So is renting the home really the best move or should you unload this asset that is working against you?

Where is the local Real Estate market headed?

One of the considerations of whether to sell or rent your home is to find out from a local Real Estate expert where they feel market values are  headed both in the near term, as well as longer down the road. A knowledgeable Realtor that has been in the business for a while should be able to help you determine the trend of where the market is headed at least in the short term.  Crystal balls are a hard thing to come by in Real Estate. Those that are lucky enough to have one are often times millionaires. Unfortunately knowing exactly when the Real Estate market will turn around requires one.

Most economists believe that once Real Estate markets do hit bottom the climb back up will be a slow and steady one. The opinions of most are that yearly appreciation will return to more normal historic levels of  3%-4%. Of course this is an average and states, cities and neighborhoods that are desirable could rise at a slightly higher clip.

As a home owner what you should be trying to figure out is how long will it take you to get back to a break even point or even something you can financially stomach. You should also be asking yourself is the time it takes to get back to break even worth it to you?

For example, lets say you bought your home for $500,000 and it has dropped in value by 25% and is now worth $375,000.  Lets further assume that the Real Estate market beats the economists predictions and rises by 5% yearly. Do you realize it would take seven years to get back to break even?

If you have equity in the home you need to figure out if you would be better off taking the loss and putting your equity somewhere that could potentially earn you more money. If you don’t have any equity you would need to figure out if you have the necessary funds to bring to the closing table or would need to explore other alternatives like a short sale.

What is the local home rental market like?

Should I sell or rent my current home

Again you should consult with a local Realtor to determine how well the rental market is performing. Has the rental market done as poorly as the Real Estate market or is there demand for rental housing? Some areas rental markets have done very well.

There is a good possibility there are folks who would like to rent a nice home rather than commit to purchasing if they feel they could be transferred in a short time period or feel market values are still sliding and don’t want the risk.

The rental home becomes an investment property

Relocating home owners need to remember that a rental home becomes an investment property. Owning a home as an investment property has the potential to help or hurt you tax wise. This is definitely something you would want to consult a tax professional for guidance.

Although you will be taking in rent you need to remember that you will still have principal, interest, taxes and insurance to pay. If the property is a condo you would more than likely also be paying the condominium fees as well. As a landlord you will also be required to maintain the property and fix any necessary issues that come up.

Many landlords that have relocated out of state will also consider hiring a property manager. The typical charge for management services runs around 8-12% of the rent. So if you are charging $2000 a month for rent you can expect to pay a manager in the neighborhood of around $200 a month. There are some excellent tax deductions for rental property that could play a factor in your decision making.

Taking on landlord responsibilities

As a landlord one of the 1st steps is going to be choosing the right tenant. Over the years I have seen a few occasions where the renter did not treat the home the same way an owner would. The owner was left with paying to replace carpets and do quite a bit of painting. These kind of costs can add up fast. Picking a responsible tenant becomes critical.

There are also considerations such as handling tenant complaints, maintenance issues or even legal issues such as eviction. In the end there is a lot to think about when deciding whether selling or renting your home makes the best fiscal and practical sense.

Other Real Estate articles worth a look:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on considerations for renting or selling a home was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Bed Bugs in a Home Near You?

What are Bed Bugs?

Found bed bugs in home

Lately, there have been many news reports about the growing problem with bed bugs.  As a Realtor working in the Real Estate  industry it is always important to stay up to speed with current laws and issues facing both buyers and sellers of homes and other property. Like any other known defects in a home, a bed bug problem would be an obvious disclosure issue.

Some quick interesting facts about bed bugs: They are usually less than a quarter inch in size, can not fly, come out mostly in the evening and are not known to spread disease although there is some on going debate about this.

Adult bed bugs typically reach 5-7 mm in length, while juveniles are as small as 1.5 mm. Bed bugs have flat bodies and are sometimes mistaken for ticks or small cockroaches. Bed bugs feed by sucking blood from humans or animals. Adult bed bugs are reddish brown in color but will  appear more reddish after feeding. Juveniles are clear in color and also will appear bright red after feeding.

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs were once thought to be almost totally extinct in the United States. Over the last year we have found out that is not the case as reports have surfaced about bed bug problems in many major metropolitan areas. Bed bugs have been found in both homes and the workplace, infesting both urban and suburban areas.

Bed bugs were common in the United States prior to World War II but became rare after widespread use of the pesticide DDT in the 1940s and 1950s. The bugs remained prevalent in other areas of the world and recently have been increasingly observed again in the U.S, most likely due to increases in travel and immigration from developing countries as well as restricted use of stronger pesticides. Both of these reasons may be factors that have led to the recent increase in bed bug problems.

These little critters are most often reported to be found when sanitation conditions are terrible or when birds, most often bats are nesting near a home. Bed bugs however, can also live in clean environments.

Bed bugs can live in any area of the home but tend to be found in areas where people sleep like beds and other furniture. They do not infest the sleeping surfaces of beds as much as cracks and crevices associated with the bed frame and mattress. Bed bugs generally like small place where they can hide from site. Other places where bed bugs can be found include curtains, carpet, inside dressers and other furniture.

Since bed bugs can live for months without feeding, they can also be found in vacant homes so don’t assume because there is no furniture or beds that they can’t exist.

How to tell if you have bed bugs

There are a couple of ways to determine if you have bed bugs in your home. Upon waking if you notice obvious bug bites there is a possibility you may have bed bugs.

Bed bugs are most active at night and will bite exposed areas of skin while a person is sleeping. The face, arms, neck and hands,  are common sites for bed bug bites. Bed bug bites tend to be painless however they will itch which can cause irritation. Small bumps on the skin are the most common sign along with swelling, redness and itching. If scratched, the bite marks can become infected. An unusual symptom of bed bug bites is the tendency for there to be several bites lined up in a row. Many disease specialists have called this breakfast, lunch and dinner for the sequential feeding that is evident.

Bed bug bites can be mistaken for flea or mosquito bites or other types of skin conditions, since they are difficult to distinguish from other bites. Bed bugs also have glands whose secretions may leave odors, and they also may leave dark fecal spots on bedsheets and around their hiding places usually in crack or crevices in the room close to the bed.

The other way to try to determine if you have bed bugs is to visibly check for fecal stains, egg cases, and shed bug skin in and around the bed. You can also look at other areas such as in couches and other furniture. Even the clothes you were wearing is a possibility. Fecal stains may suggest that bed bugs have been present but do not confirm that the infestation is still active. Seeing the bed bugs themselves is important to confirm that an area is infested.

How to remove bed bugs in a home

Bed Bug Exterminator

Removing bed bugs from a home is not an easy process. Most of the time a bed bug infestation will require treatment by a local pest-control company. A variety of low-odor sprays,  and aerosol insecticides can be used to kill bed bugs. The treatment must be applied to all areas where the bugs are found as well as spaces where they may crawl or hide.

The pest-control company can help determine if the mattress can be disinfected or must be thrown out. Since beds cannot readily be treated with insecticides, most of the time it is necessary to get rid of infested mattresses and beds.

Disclosing bed bug problems

If you are a faithful reader of my blog then you know where I stand on disclosing problems in a home. My motto is disclose, disclose, disclose! Bed bugs are no different. If you are selling a home and discover you have a bed bug problem, you better make sure you disclose this fact to the buyer. Any Realtor who becomes aware of a bed bug issue should insist on being able to inform a potential buyer.

If you find you have a bed bug problem in your home and need a recommendation on a good Massachusetts pest removal company shoot me an email or give me a call and I will give you the bug company I refer all my Real Estate clients to when they have a pest issue.

Other Real Estate articles worth a look:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Bed bugs was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Short Sale Low Ball Offers

Massachusetts short sale home cash

There is no question that short sales are like the wild West. Almost every single sale is different. Each lender and even the investors that hold the loan may have different procedures on how they want things done.

There are some folks that believe that because a home is a short sale it is an automatic invitation to make an unrealistic low ball offer. Even some Realtors who have not been educated on the dynamics of a short sale believe they are just like a bank owned property.

Part of the problem could be late night television where you see so called Real Estate guru’s telling you how to buy and sell Real Estate to become an instant millionaire. Fat chance!

The kind of garbage spewed on these late night shows could not be the further thing from the truth. While Short sales and REO’s are both considered distressed properties they are nothing alike.

If you are short selling your Massachusetts home this becomes a very important point.  There is a strong likelihood that you will may receive an offer that should not be accepted.

The problem with a lot of short sale transactions is that Realtors are jumping in and representing sellers with no knowledge of the process. If the Realtor you have hired does not know how to guide you properly how can you expect to have any success?

If you are a Massachusetts home owner who is short selling a home what you really need to understand is that the lender is going to send a representative out to your home after it has gone under contract to do an appraisal or broker price opinion. The lender is doing this to find out what the fair market value is for the property. If the offer that you have accepted is not within the ball park of the actual value of the property your short sale is going to be REJECTED!

The worst part of this is that you probably will already have been waiting for months to find out if the short sale was going to be approved. If the buyer does not increase their offer to the banks counter proposal, the deal will be dead and you will have wasted an awful lot of precious time. Maybe time that you don’t have if the lender decides to start foreclosure proceedings.

Massachusetts short sales take a long time

This is where your Real Estate agent should have counseled you properly.
In a short sale your home should be priced aggressively in order to get
an offer as quickly as possible but not so much that it will be turned
down by the lender.

On a weekly basis I am seeing agents improperly handle short sales by either submitting low ball offers signed by the seller to the bank or collecting multiple unsigned offers and just submitting them all like some kind of free for all. This is NOT the way to handle a short sale!

An offer should be collected from someone who has a strong desire for the property and is willing to wait the time it takes for short sale approval. Generally speaking most short sales take three to six months to get approved. The buyer you work with should be educated on this fact.

The contract should be executed by both buyer and seller. I would also suggest some kind of clause that locks the buyer in for some amount of time to wait for short sale approval. On all my short sale contracts the buyer is required to wait for a minimum of 90 days or they would forfeit their escrow deposit which typically is 5% of the homes purchase price.

If you are going to short sell your Massachusetts home make sure you pick a Realtor with experience in getting these transactions completed! Accepting low ball short sale offers is just one of many mistakes you will want to avoid!

Click on the links below to see other important information related to a Massachusetts Short Sale:

If you are needing to complete a  short sale of your home or condo in Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Upton, Uxbridge, Shrewsbury, Worcester, or Douglas Get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area. So far, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval!

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Massachusetts short sale low ball offers was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Tax Deductions For Rental Property

Massachusetts Tax Deduction Rental Property

Given that fact that I am a Massachusetts Realtor, I often get asked if I have any rental property. It is a pretty logical question as I work in the field and would obviously have access to the information necessary to get a pretty good deal on a rental purchase.

Honestly I have never been interested in the headaches associated with a rental property. Everything from dead beat tenants not paying their rent to the thought of getting a call in the middle of the night from someone saying they have no heat or the water tank burst. No thanks…not for me!

This is not to say that owning rental property is a bad thing. There are lots of folks who have made terrific money off of owning a rental property. I have many friends as was as clients who I have helped purchase rental property over the years.

One of the excellent benefits of owning rental property besides collecting a rental check every month are the tax deductions.

The tax deductions for a rental property are quite different than those of a primary residence. It is important to understand the differences in tax deduction for a rental property. The IRS allows property owners to offset income by writing off quite a few rental expenses. There is a publication put out by the IRS called IRS Publication 527 that gives a detailed description of what tax deductions are allowed.

Rental Expenses For Write Offs

When you are renting a home one of the most important things you can do financially is to keep meticulous notes on what you spend that is associated with the property. Make sure you keep all the receipts for items dealing with the rental. Some of the most common deductible expenses for a rental property are cleaning and general maintenance, fees and commissions paid to a Realtor or rental agent, any advertising expenditures, mortgage expenses such interest, taxes and insurance as well as well as utilities that you happen to pay for.

If it is a condo that you are renting another common deduction is the condo fees. When initially purchasing a rental home you can also deduct fees associated with obtaining a mortgage.

Rental repairs v.s rental improvements

The tax deductions on a rental property v.s a primary residence are quite different. In fact what you can deduct in a rental property is treated much differently. In a primary residence you can have tax breaks for home improvements but not for general repairs. In a rental home the IRS says you can deduct a repair (things that keep a home in operable condition) but that an improvement most be depreciated over several years.

According to the IRS an improvement increases the value of your home while a non-eligible repair just returns something back to it’s original condition. The IRS further states that a capital improvement has to last for more than one year, add value to your home or prolong it’s life. An example to distinguish the two would be fixing a window pain vs installing replacement windows.

Whenever you hire a contractor to perform services for your rental, you can deduct their wages as a rental business expense. This can be done whether the worker is an employee or an independent contractor.

Depreciating a rental property

Depreciation in a home is part of the value that is lost over time due to wear and tear. With improvements to a rental home you can deduct a portion of that value every year over a set number of years. Different components of a home have different time frames over which you can deduct as an expense.

Figuring out depreciation on a rental property is probably something best left to a qualified tax professional unless you have a background in accounting or are a math whiz. The basics of the tax code allow you to depreciate your entire property over 27.5 years. As a landlord you are able to depreciate the property until you  recover your costs or you stop renting the home which ever comes 1st.

Figuring rental home profit and loss

Figuring Rental Property profit and loss

Figuring your profit or loss on a rental property is pretty easy. It is as simple as looking at what you took in for rent and then deducting all your expenses. For example if your collecting rents over a year equal $24,000 and your expenses equal $6000 then you would have a gain of $18,000.

Showing a profit on a rental of course is what everyone strives for but what happens when you are faced with greater expenses that what you are taking in for rent?

The IRS allows you to write off a loss in a rental property as long as you hold a ten percent interest, meet certain income requirements and actively participate in renting the place. Participation can be something as simple as placing an advertisement.

If you are married and filing jointly and your adjusted gross income is less than $100,000, you can deduct up to $25,000 in rental loses. Your deduction for loses will gradually phase out between income of $100,000 t0 $150,000. There is the possibility however, that you can pass along loses to future years.

Miscellaneous rental deductions

One other expense worth noting is travel expenses going to your property. You are able to deduct for the millage going to the rental home. Valid reasons for traveling to the rental property include for collection of rent, showing the property or performing repairs/maintenance. If using your own car while traveling to the home you are able to claim the standard millage rate of 55 cents per mile as of the 2009 tax year.

As you can see there are some excellent tax deductions for owning rental property.

When it comes to taxes it always makes sense to consult with an accountant, as everyone’s tax situation can vary!

Other Real Estate articles worth a look:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on tax deductions for rental property was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Short Sale Lenders Lying to Mortgage Holders

Short Sale Lender Lying

Over the last few years while working with Massachusetts sellers looking to short sale their home I have encountered on a couple occasions folks that were deliberately lied to and told that a short sale was not possible.

Fortunately these particular home sellers were savvy enough to realize their short sale lender was lying to them. They had done a little research online and knew that losing their job was a legitimate short sale  hardship and the fact that their home was under water made them perfect candidates.

They just happened to be speaking with someone in the collections department and not the loss mitigation department.

What home owners need to be completely aware of is who they are speaking with at the lending institution. The department that you reach will have a huge impact on what information you are relying on!

It should be crystal clear that lenders have three separate departments that handle borrowers who are in default with their loan. There is the loss mitigation department, the foreclosure department and the debt collections department.

The loss mitigation department is who you should be speaking with any questions related to short selling a home.

When you miss mortgage payments on your loan you may get a call from the collections department asking you to get current again. Make no mistake about it some of these people on the phone are ruthless and will say anything to you in order to get you to send them money.

You may even ask them about short selling your Massachusetts home and they will say you can’t. They don’t care because their goal is to get more money out of you.

If you are considering a short sale you DO NOT want to be speaking with anyone from this department!

What is sad is that there are probably lots of folks who have been told the same thing and just relied on the statement as being fact. Some of these poor sellers, having been told that a short sale is not possible, just let the bank take their home via a foreclosure.

Recently I met a seller who was attempting to do a loan modification and was told that in order to get the loan modification they would have to come up with the amount they were in default.

The amount was over $18,000 which they came up with by depleting their savings including retirement funds! Well guess what the lender after receiving the funds denied the loan mod. This unlucky home owner happened to be speaking with the collections department who duped them into giving them the funds. The lender receiving these funds should not have played any part what so ever in the owner getting approved for a loan modification.

They are now either left to short sale their home or face foreclosure. They wanted to stay in their home and were hoping the bank would restructure their loan in order to make that a possibility.

The take home message here is never to rely on anything your lender tells you. On many occasions the person you will be speaking with is nothing more than a glorified clerk. If you have ever called a lender you probably realize you never speak to the same person twice.

If you have run into financial difficulty and need to short sale your home talk with either a Real Estate attorney or a Realtor who has experience with short sale transactions.

Who you work with will have the greatest impact in helping your reach your financial goals. Completing a short sale remains a much better alternative than letting a property go to foreclosure for a number of reasons centered around credit and your ability to buy another property in the future.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area as well as parts of Worcester County. As of this writing in almost four years, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval!

I work hand in hand with a local short sale Real Estate attorney who knows how to get short sales done!

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area or even in another state and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to numerous Realtors all around the country.

Other short sale articles worth a look:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on short sale lenders lying to mortgage holders was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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203K Rehabilitation Loan

Mike DunskyGuest blogger Michael Dunsky from Guaranteed Rate Mortgage is back to take to help review a popular mortgage program known as the 203k rehabilitation loan.

The landscape of the housing market all over the country has changed drastically over the last few years. Foreclosures and short sales have become the norm not the exception. Many of these distressed properties that have been entering the market are not in the best of shape.

Some of them need a major overhaul! They have however, created opportunities for buyers who are looking to invest the time and effort to fix them up either to turn around and resell them or to live in as a permanent residence.

203k Rehabilitation LoanAs such, the 203K rehabilitation loan is a terrific mortgage vehicle for those buyers who would like to invest in repairs and improvements in a property. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) which is a part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the party in charge of administering various single family mortgage insurance programs.

The 203K is the primary program for the repair and rehabilitation for single family properties.

The 203K rehabilitation loan program is run through FHA approved lenders which submit applications from buyers to have the property appraised and have the buyers credit approved just like in a conventional loan process. The difference is that these lenders fund the mortgage loans and the Department of Housing and Urban Development insures them. HUD does not make direct loans to borrowers.

If you have not had the pleasure of your buyer’s financing with a 203(k) renovation loan then just wait, because soon enough you will.   With all of the distressed sales and foreclosure properties abundant, it’s likely that soon you’ll run into that home that needs either a little TLC or some major renovations.  Either way, the 203(k) loan is a great financing tool to help a buyer restore a home.

The 203(k) program was originally designed by FHA to help with neighborhood revitalization and is a fantastic loan opportunity to buy a home and put in a new kitchen, bathrooms, update electrical or plumbing…  almost any major and minor improvement you want. There is really nothing else available that allows for the flexibility that this program offers.  It’s a simple program opens the doors for the average home buyer to receive money to improve a home.

I love this loan for a few reasons:  First, the down payment requirements are minimal (only 3.5% of the acquisition cost which is the purchase price plus the renovation costs).  What bank do you know of that will give a construction loan to someone putting less than 10%  to 20% down?  None!  And the second reason I love this program is credit.  You know that credit score tightening has been big show stopper for many looking to buy a home, let alone buy and finance renovations.

A low FICO score can prevent a home purchase, especially a home purchase with less than 20% down as most mortgage insurance companies have minimum FICO score (some even have their minimum at 680!).  Most lenders will usually allow a score of no less than 640 for the 203(k) but some may still allow a score as low as 620.

Fico score for FHA 203k LoanPlease be aware that if a lender you know is allowing a 620 credit score now then be prepared to see this increase to follow current industry standards of 640.

I also like the fact that with 203(k) you have two options – the Streamlined K as some call it, and the Full K.  The real difference between the two are that Simple K allows only up to $35,000 for renovations and have a caveat that improvements cannot be structural in nature.  The Full K allows for any permanent improvement and no limit as to the amount as long as the loan does not exceed the maximum loan amount for that county determined by FHA.

There are a few other differences in paperwork between the two types of 203(k) loans but the premise is the same…  203(k) helps move inventory! If you’re sitting on listings or have buyers looking for a fixer upper then the 203(k) is definitely the way to go!

If you are looking for a Massachusetts 203k mortgage or any other loan product for that matter and want to work with someone that is very knowledgeable, has great service skills and competitive rates, I would give Mike a call!

Michael Dunsky can be reached at Guaranteed Rate, Inc which is located at 38 Pond Street, Suite 208  Franklin, MA 02038

Phone 508.528.1800

Michael.dunsky@guaranteedrate.com

Other Real Estate articles worth a look:

_________________________________________________________________

About the author: The above Real Estate information on 203k rehabilitation loans was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Removing Radon From Well Water

Massachusetts Radon removal from wells

Radon water testing

One of the roles of any good buyer agent when selling a home to a buyer client in Massachusetts is to educate them on the home buying process including the “contingencies” that they should have in their Real Estate contract.

The contingencies in a Massachusetts Real Estate contract usually consist of some or all of the following: A mortgage financing clause, a home inspection, pest inspection, mold inspection, water testing and lastly a radon inspection.

A Realtor’s job is to always look out for the best interests of their client. They have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure they protect and educate their buyer. Testing for radon in the air is quite common. Testing the quantity and quality when there is a well present at the home is also quite routine.

I have found while working as a seller’s agent that often times many Realtors are remiss in suggesting to their buyer to test the well for Radon in the water. Before I get into the details about why this can be a costly mistake let me tell you a little bit about Radon.

What is Radon?

Radon is an odorless, colorless, tasteless, radioactive gas found beneath the ground. It occurs naturally and is produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Radon has the ability to dissolve into our water supply.

How does Radon get into the water?

Most radon that is found in homes in Massachusetts as well as many other parts of the country is typically found in the air. It is far less common to see radon in well water. Radon enters into a home from seepage through cracks in the basement floor and walls. When you live in an area where there is an abundance of granite you are more apt to find radon in the water supply. High levels of radon gas are formed and travel through the granite and into the groundwater which is then transported to your private well.

For radon to become a soluble within the water that travels through the cracks in the bedrock, it first has to come in contact with a radium source that is in the process of breaking down into the radon gas. During the transformation, the radon atoms that are created, will either go from the rock and into the water, or they will stay in the rock and not effect the water at all. Because of how radon is formed it is very sporadic.

When radon is found to be present in well water showering, washing dishes, and laundering can release radon gas into the air of the home.

How to find out if there is Radon in well water?

This is where I said above that it can become very costly for a buyer if their Realtor is not paying attention. When you are buying a home with a well one of the contingencies you should have in your contract is the ability to test for Radon in the well water!

There are some home inspectors who perform well tests as part of their service but if not you will want to get someone who specializes in well testing. Whoever does the water test will take a sample of the water that will get sent to a lab for testing. YOU MUST ask for the well to be tested for Radon as it is not part of a standard screening with most laboratories.

How to remove Radon from well water?

Removing radon from water

So what happens if the test comes back positive and you have radon in the well water? Removing radon from well water can be done easily enough but is far more expensive than removing radon from the air. While the removal of high radon in the air of a home can typically range from $900 to $1300 for a standard radon mitigation system, you can expect the cost of radon removal in water to cost thousands.

There are two methods of removing Radon from well water. One is called a Radon Aeration system and the other a Granular Activated Carbon system or GAC system for short.

An aeration system is generally recognized as the best system for removing radon from well water although it is much more expensive. An aeration system can run around $3500-$8000. The aeration system is usually installed next to the well tank where the water enters the house. The aeration system consists of a plastic tank where the water gets air injected into it. Radon gets released as it comes in contact with the air. There is a venting system attached that takes the gas up and out of the house generally through a pipe up to the roof.

A granular carbon treatment (GAC) system is also usually installed where your water supply 1st enters the house. The GAC tank is installed after other water treatment systems such as a water softener. A GAC tank is filled with a coconut based activated carbon. The Radon gets trapped in the millions of pours in the carbon as the water passes through. Fresh carbon is able to hold 90% of the atoms until they decay.

The benefit to a carbon system is cost. Generally speaking you can expect to pay between $1500-$2000 for a GAC Radon system. The other plus is that with a GAC Radon treatment system the carbon will also capture other water contaminants. The only downside is that if there are a lot of other contaminants in the water it can shorten the life span of the carbon filter which can become costly to replace.

If the Radon level in the water exceeds 20,000 pCi/l per liter it is recommended that an aeration system is used over a GAC system.

Health risks from Radon in water

The reason why you want to remove radon from the water supply is not due to the fact that you are going to start glowing if you drink the water. When there is radon in the water each time you turn on a faucet you are letting radon into the air!

According to a few websites, radon in the air is estimated to cause as many as 20,000 additional lung cancers per year. Drinking water that has radon in it is only estimated to cause around ten additional cancers patients per year. As you can see there is a huge difference in where radon can hurt you. The risk from ingestion is very minimal.

Remember this: Radon is caused by the breakdown of Radium. It is a gas that can be very sporadic in nature. It is very possible that the home next door could have radon in the water or air and you do not or vise versa. You can not make the blind assumption that if the neighbors home has it so do you.

Other Real Estate articles worth a look:

_________________________________________________________________

About the author: The above Real Estate information on removing radon from well water was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Short Sale Lawsuits Will Realtors Be Next?

Avoiding short sale lawsuits

Short sale Realtor Sued

There is no question that in this economic down turn we have experienced over the last five years or so that short sales and foreclosures have become part of our everyday Real Estate landscape.

Every week there are countless new short sale listings that hit the market in Massachusetts. In many of these short sales the seller, not understanding there is a big difference between a traditional Real Estate transaction and a short sale hires any ole Realtor® they happen to come across to represent them.

On the other side of the coin, there are also plenty of Real Estate agents that see the growing number of short sales coming available for sale and realize there is a lot of money to be made.

The problem however, is that many of these agents are flying by the seat of their pants and have done nothing to educate themselves on the ins and outs of closing a short sale.

As a Realtor® who has been successfully closing short sales for almost five years, this is one of my biggest pet peeves! How anyone can look a desperate seller in the face and take on a listing to sell their home with no short sale expertise is just beyond me. It pisses me off when I see a new short sale listing hit the market and know the agent has no track record with this type of transaction.

There are many Realtors® that are putting the noose around their own neck. In desperate times people do desperate things. The end result is that on many occasions consumers get very poor advice that can cost them dearly.

Realtors® that do not have short sale expertise could really do themselves a favor by referring the business out to an agent that is qualified to get the job done.

You may be wondering why this has become such a passion of mine? The answer is simple. Short sales have become stigmatized because there are numerous Real Estate agents and buyers that have been involved in deals where the listing agent did not know what they were doing. The end result for a number of different reasons is a sale that didn’t happen. This leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Going forward it makes it harder for the agents that do know what they are doing to find buyers for the short sales they are marketing.

Below I am going to touch on all the things you should look out for in trying to successfully complete a short sale whether you are in Massachusetts or another state.

Properly pricing a short sale

When you are short selling your home there is a good chance that you are not able to afford the monthly mortgage payments any longer. You may be just scraping by and know that next month you won’t have enough to pay your lender. When you decide to short sell your home and are no longer paying your mortgage pricing the home properly becomes critical.

The last thing you want to do is either over price or under price the home. For obvious reasons if you over price you will more than likely not be able to procure a buyer in a timely fashion.

If you under price the home and receive a contract from a buyer, the lender is going to reject the short sale after reviewing the appraisal or broker price opinion that they order.

Both of these scenarios can leave you with nothing and that much closer to a foreclosure. A short sale should be aggressively priced such that you will find a buyer in a timely fashion but not so low the lender is going to reject the short sale contract.

The short sale contract

There are numerous Realtors® that are clue less when it comes to giving sellers advice on the short sale Real Estate contract. Lets get one thing straight right off the bat….. When a seller signs a Real Estate contract it is almost always legal and binding as to the terms and conditions in the agreement.

Here are 4 short sale contract issues you need to be aware of:

  • Realtors® submitting multiple unsigned offers to your lender
  • Realtors® submitting low ball offers to the lender
  • Realtors® allowing home inspection contingencies after short sale approval.
  • Realtors® allowing an investor to negotiate the short sale
  1. When a Realtor® submits an unsigned offer to your lender YOU do not have a legal and binding contract. The buyer can walk at any point in time with no consequences to them! Does this benefit a seller in anyway? The answer is NO NO NO!  The Realtor® you hire should be looking to lock up the most qualified  buyer who stands the greatest chance of getting to the closing table.
  2. If you sign a low ball offer you stand an equally strong chance that the lender is going to reject your offer and send it back. If you accept an offer that is no where near the market value do you really expect the buyer is going to agree to the price the lender wants? Not likely and again you will be back at square one after being off the market for an extended period of time.
  3. Allowing home inspections after the short sale approval is another big mistake. Do you really want to have your home off the market for months, get a short sale approval from your lender and then find out the buyer wants to back out due to inspection items? Don’t let the blind lead the blind. There is no reason for letting a buyer have home inspections after short sale approval. I find most buyer’s agents think they are protecting their client by trying to save them from spending a few hundred dollars. WRONG – what the buyer’s agent is preventing is the buyer from negotiating a pricing discount if there were issues discovered. Lenders DO NOT negotiate home inspections issues after short sale approval.
  4. Letting a buyer negotiate for a seller is clearly foolish. The investor only cares about the seller if they get the terms THEY want.  An agent who lets an investor take over a short sale transaction is asking for a lawsuit. Realtors should not let investors negotiate a short sale!

Short sale negotiations

Short sale negligence

This is clearly an area where you will see most of the lawsuit’s against Realtors®. There are agents who are engaging lenders in the negotiations of short sale approval but don’t have the knowledge and understanding of either short sale debt release and/or short sale tax ramifications.

Who do you think will get sued if a seller receives a 1099-C or 1099-A at the end of the year or gets stuck with a deficiency judgment by their lender(s) at some later date in the future and they were not informed up front about it?

There are many Realtors® who have negotiated short sales that misrepresented to their client that the short sale approval letter removed the short sale deficiency when in fact it did not.

Realtors® are supposed to abide by the Real Estate Code of Ethics but clearly there are many who’s judgment is clouded by the almighty dollar.

The Code of Ethics clearly states:

Article 11  Realtors® are knowledgeable and competent in the fields of practice in which they engage or they get assistance from a knowledgeable professional, or disclose any lack of expertise to their client.

Article 13  Realtors® do not engage in the unauthorized practice of law.

Speaking of giving legal advice, there are Realtors® who are guilty of telling their client to stop paying the mortgage to complete a short sale. While this may be the proper advice in 9o-95% of most circumstances with short sales what if the sale falls into the 5-10% where stopping payment was not necessary?

Most major lenders may require payment stoppage but some of the smaller lenders do not have that guideline. Telling a seller to stop paying the mortgage could have serious consequences on their credit that could have been avoided. Again Realtors® should not be giving this kind of advice. It should come from a lawyer.

The take home message here is to make sure you do your home work when hiring a Realtor to represent you in your short sale!

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area. As of this writing for almost four years, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval! I work hand in hand with a local short sale Real Estate attorney who knows how to get short sales done! I will admit there is some luck involved in my success rate but the team I have put together does a stellar job.

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area or even in another state and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and has an understanding of the short sale process! I have referred numerous short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on short sale lawsuits will Realtors® be next was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Tax Breaks on Home Improvements

Tax breaks on home improvements

There is no question that there are far less people today that have the kind of equity in their home that they did five to ten years ago. In most areas across the country Real Estate values have dropped by a substantial margin decreasing the amount of folks who have capital gains concerns.

One of the great benefits of home ownership has been the fact that equity growth to an extent does not always get taxed.

A very important capital gains tax law went into effect in 1997 and is known as the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997.

The current Real Estate capital gains tax law when selling your personal residence allows for an exclusion of up to $250,000 in profit if you are single and $500,000 if you are married. In order to be eligible for the tax exclusion you must have lived in your home for two of the last five years. The home must also be your personal residence and can not be considered an investment property.

If you move often or do not have substantial equity in your property then tax breaks on home improvements are not going to be much of a concern.

For those that are fortunate enough to have lived in their home for a long period of time and have built up a sizable equity position, there is good reason to keep track of what you have spent on home improvements.

By keeping track of the home improvements that have taken place in your property you are able to increase the cost basis which will decrease the amount of taxes you pay when it comes time to sell.

How do home improvement tax breaks work?

In order to figure out how to calculate your tax break from home improvements  you are going to need to figure out what your initial cost basis was when you 1st purchased your home.

This will be what you actually paid plus any closing costs such as attorney fees, transfer taxes, surveys, commissions or any inspection related charges.

You will then need to figure out all the home improvements you have made to your home since the purchase. As an example lets say you purchased your home for $400,000 including all the closing cost expenses.

Lets further assume you also have $50,000 in home improvements since you purchased including a new bath room, a finished basement, a large deck and brick patio. if you add the purchase price and improvement costs together you get an adjusted basis of $450,000.

Reducing Real Estate capital gains tax

Going back to the qualifications of the capital gains tax law for Real Estate outlined above, lets assume you have met the litmus test and have lived in the home for two out of the last five years as your primary residence.

You find out you are going to be moving out of the area you are located in and sell your home for $700,000.  If you are single the tax law says you can exclude up to $250,000 in profit or gain.  Using the $700,000 sale price minus the adjusted cost basis of $450,000. You would not pay any taxes on the sale.

Here is where the tax breaks on home improvements come in. If you had not kept track of what you spent making your home better you would be paying taxes on $50,000 because that would be become what is considered profit to the IRS.

By keeping receipts on the home improvement dollars you have invested you will save $7500 0n your taxes! As of this writing the current capital gains tax rate is 15%. $50,000 x 15% = $7500. This is obviously a nice chunk of change to save just by being a little studious.

What counts as a home improvement for tax purposes?

When calculating tax breaks the one thing you don’t want to do is fool around with the IRS. While you may consider every dollar you spend on your home an improvement the IRS certainly does NOT! As a matter of fact most Realtors or buyers won’t either. See home improvements with the worst return on investment.

According to the IRS an improvement increases the value of your home while a non-eligible repair just returns something back to it’s original condition. The IRS further states that a capital improvement has to last for more than one year, add value to your home or prolong it’s life.

Home improvements must also be there when you sell your home as well. For example if you spent money putting tile flooring down in your kitchen fifteen years ago and then five years ago put in new hardwood floors you can’t claim both as improvements.

It is important to note that repairs do not count as improvements. Again according to the IRS, repairs are things that are done to keep up a homes condition without adding value or prolonging it’s life. There are real slight differences in comparing an improvement to a repair. An example of a repair would be fixing a window pain. An improvement would be replacing a window.  If you are unsure on whether an improvement you have made to your home can be counted or not I would recommend speaking to a qualified tax professional or look at page 9 of publication 523 which details tax issues when selling a home.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on tax breaks on home improvements was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA)

What is a HAFA Short Sale?

What is HAFA

Over the last four years or so I have been helping numerous sellers successfully complete a short sale in and around the Metrowest Massachusetts area. Short sales are not for the timid at heart and require quite a bit of knowledge of proper procedures in order to get to the closing table.

Lately I have been getting asked more often what exactly is the HAFA program as it relates to short sales. I figured I would give anyone thinking about possibly short selling their property and easy to understand explanation.

In a nutshell, HAFA stands for the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program

The treasury department rolled out the HAFA program in 2009 but it did not go into effect until April of 2010.

A HAFA short sale provides incentives in connection with home owners who are  completing a short sale or a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure to avoid a foreclosure on a loan eligible for modification under the HAMP program.

So now you are probably wondering what in the world the HAMP program involves? HAMP stands for Home Affordable Mortgage Program. The HAMP program was put in place to help those home owners who have run into financial difficulty to modify or refinance their mortgage. The goal of the HAMP program was to make it easier for a borrower to continue to make their monthly mortgage payments and keep their home.

By most accounts the HAMP program has been regarded as a failure so far. There are staggering amounts of borrowers who have been rejected under the program and not allowed to refinance into a lower mortgage payment.

Personally, I have spoken with numerous folks who have tried to get their loan modified without success. The end result has been for these home owners to pursue a short sale. For more information on HAMP see the government website at home affordable mortgage program.

Now that you have the basic understanding of the Home Affordable Mortgage program let me continue with explaining the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Short Sale Program (HAFA) with some of the benefits to those involved.

Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative Provisions

  • Requires borrowers to be fully released from future liability for the first mortgage debt. The home owner is not required to sign a promissory note and there is no deficiency judgment allowed. The borrower also does not have to contribute any cash either. This is obviously a huge part of the program for anyone completing a short sale! In fact this is the biggest reason why any seller would want to apply for a HAFA Short Sale if they qualify.
  • Provides a number of financial incentives including $3000 to the borrower for relocation assistance. You read that correctly. The seller can get a check for $3000!. Servicers can get $1500 to cover processing and administrative costs and investors can get up to $2000 when they allow up to$6000 in short sale proceeds to go to any 2nd or 3rd lien holders on a one for three matching basis.
  • Complements HAMP by providing a viable alternative for homeowners who are HAMP eligible but nevertheless unable to keep their home.
  • Uses the home owners financial and hardship information already collected in connection with consideration of a HAMP loan modification.
  • Allows home owners to receive pre-approved short sales terms before listing the property including the minimum acceptable sale price and/or net proceeds.
  • Requires all servicers participating in HAMP to implement HAFA in accordance with their own written policy, consistent with investor guidelines. The policy may include factors such as the severity of the potential loss, local markets, timing of pending foreclosure actions, and borrower motivation and cooperation.

HAFA also has been recently modified so that:

  • Those seeking a short sale must get an answer within 30 days.
  • Servicers are no longer required to verify a borrowers financial information.
  • Servicers are no longer required to determine if the Debt-to-Income (DTI) exceeds 31%.
  • Second lien holders no longer must accept 6% of the unpaid balance.

Lenders Participating in the HAFA Short Sale program

Home affordable Foreclosure alternative program

You may now be wondering if your lender is an active participant of the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program. For a list of lenders who are participating in this short sale program see Lenders participating in HAFA. Please understand that if your lender is on the list it does not necessarily mean that you will be able to qualify for the HAFA short sale program. In order to qualify you MUST meet the HAFA guidelines.

Completing a short sale remains a much better option than letting a property go to foreclosure for a number of reasons centering around credit and your ability to buy another property in the future. The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program is something every seller should consider when short selling their home.

When considering your financial options it makes sense to see if you qualify for a HAFA Short Sale!

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area as well as parts of Worcester County. As of this writing in almost five years, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval!

I work hand in hand with a local short sale Real Estate attorney who knows how to get short sales done! I will admit there is some luck involved in my success rate but the team I have put together does a stellar job.

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area or even in another state and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

Other short sale articles worth a look:

 

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (HAFA) was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Appealing a Massachusetts assessed home valueChallenging Tax Based Values

Taxes on homes or other property in Massachusetts are typically based on two pieces of information including the towns property tax rate and the assessed value.

Obviously the tax rate is set in stone and is not something that is going to be changed once it is put in place for that particular fiscal year. What does change of course is the assessed value of the home.

If you are a Massachusetts home owner, appealing a Massachusetts property tax bill if something you may want to consider if you feel the assessed value is way off base on your home.

We are going to discuss in brief below on how the taxes are determined on your home. If you feel you are getting over taxed on your home you are going to need to be well armed on how to appeal high property taxes. Know how to file for a tax abatement and win is easy when you understand how your property value is determined. Follow the guide I have prepared and you will have a complete understanding on what you need to do.

How is assessed value calculated

In order to appeal the property tax bill you are going to need to have a good understanding of how the assessed value of your property was calculated by your local tax assessor.

A Real Estate assessed value is typically calculated on a year to year basis in most communities although it is possible it could be every few years for some. What you need to clearly understand is that the assessed value of a property is NOT the same as:

  • An appraised value by a lender
  • A market evaluation by a Realtor which is often called a BPO or broker price opinion
  • The actual market value

It is easy to understand why the general public can get confused on the assessed value vs fair market value issue because even many Real Estate agents don’t know the difference! How do I know this? From some of the crazy statements I hear from hanging around the office water cooler or even some of the silly advertising that you find in the Multiple listing service or other advertisements.

As an example “come take a look at this bargain priced home listed for $100,000 less than assessed value”. I bet you are getting excited already and want to see this place – NOT!

What this tells me is that the agent marketing the property knows very little about property valuation or they think someone else might be stupid enough to believe the property is being given away by the owner. A good buyer’s agent that didn’t just get their license and has a bit of intelligence would be able to point out to a naive buyer that the home has been over assessed by the town and the owner is paying too much in taxes!

Keep in mind that assessed values are nothing more than a yard stick for a municipality to collect an appropriate amount of taxes to sufficiently cover the state and local appropriations chargeable to the city and town.

Towns adjust the tax rate and a properties assessed value to achieve this goal. For a complete explanation see assessed home value v.s fair market value.

Reducing Massachusetts property taxes

So how do you go about checking on whether the assessed value of your home makes sense? The 1st thing you are going to want to do is look over what is called the town assessment field card and check it over for accuracy. The town field card will have pertinent information about your property including the bedroom and bath count, the gross living area, the age,  garage type and size, as well as the amount of land you own. All of these things play a large roll in where your assessment will be figured.

You will want to look over the field card diligently to make sure everything is correct. If there are blatant errors that pop out you may have an easy challenge on your hands.

One would imagine that if you believe you are being over assessed it could be because your neighbor of someone else with similar characteristics to your property is being assessed at a lower amount. This is clearly a possibility and actually happens fairly often.

What you are going to need to do is have someone provide you with what they feel are the most comparable properties to yours that have sold in the town. A skilled local Realtor is usually a good option to help you with this. Armed with this information you can then check the assessed values on those properties. There should be some kind of correlation with these properties. Don’t discount the fact that your home may be in a more attractive neighborhood. If the assessed value of the similar homes are lower you may have a case.

Meet with the local tax assessor

With your research in hand you should schedule an appointment with your local assessors office and file for a tax abatement. The necessary paper work regarding the application process and the deadlines for filing should be made available to you.

Applications for abatement’s are typically due on or before the due date for payment of the first actual tax bill. The towns assessor has up to three months in Massachusetts to act upon an abatement request.

If you are denied your abatement request and do not feel that the assessor made the proper ruling you have the right to appeal to the State Appellate Tax Board.

One other thing to keep in mind is that you may be eligible for other tax exemptions if you are a senior citizen, served in the military or have a disability. For an explanation of these exclusions see Massachusetts property tax relief. These are programs that many Massachusetts residents may not even be aware of.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on appealing a Massachusetts property tax bill was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 27+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Great Reasons to Refinance a Mortgage

Reducing your interest rate

Great reasons to refinance a mortgage

When interest rates are at record lows it creates an environment that is ripe for refinancing a home mortgage. There is no question that a mortgage on a home is usually one of the largest financial obligations that you will have in your life.

It stands to reason that if you can cut your interest rate you will save a bundle of money of the life of the loan. Besides reducing an interest rate there are a number of other reasons to consider refinancing a mortgage.

Changing your mortgage term

When a home owner refinances most of the time it is because they able to get an attractive interest rate. One of the considerations when rates are really favorable is the ability to also cut the mortgage time substantially for the loan and not have your payments change all that drastically. You could have the term of your mortgage go from 30 years down to 15 or 20 years and in the process not only will you be cutting time off the loan but also decreasing your interest costs. When cutting the term of your mortgage you will also be building equity in the property much faster because more of your payment will be going toward the principal instead of interest.

If you look at a 30 year mortgage it is incredible to see how much money you are actually paying the lender in the early stages of the loan. It is enough to make your head spin. Going to a shorter term mortgage saves an incredible amount of interest!

There is also the possibility you may have started with a 15 year loan and now realize that it is difficult to make the payments every month as well as keep up with the rest of your bills. If this is the case going from a 15 year mortgage to a 30 year mortgage may make financial sense. See getting the best mortgage home loan program for considerations on which loan product may suit your needs best.

Taking out cash

There are times in life where something unexpected may occur and you may really need some money badly. You may not want to cash out of other investments such as stocks or CD’s due to penalties or tax ramifications.  Refinancing a mortgage can sometimes be the a great alternative especially if money is cheap.

A cash out refinance could also make sense if you want to make an improvement on your home but don’t want to take out a home equity loan creating a 2nd mortgage on the property. Maybe you want to purchase a new vehicle and would rather not finance it from another lending source. These are all reasons that make sense for a cash out refinance. Just make sure you don’t blow this money and put yourself into a financial hole.

Mortgage Debt

Changing from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate mortgage

Sometimes when a borrower purchases a home they can’t qualify without going with an adjustable rate mortgage which typically offer lower rates than a longer term mortgage. If you can grab at the chance for additional security of locking in a great long term interest rate why not!

Often times when buying a home the borrower may opt to go with an adjustable rate mortgage if they feel they will not be staying in the same home that long. If circumstances change and you feel you will be staying put going to a fixed rate with long term emotional and financial security may be of great benefit.

Going through a divorce

Divorce of course is something that most people don’t plan for but can become an unfortunate circumstance of ones life. There is always the possibility that one of the spouses will keep the home and the other could be bought out of the property. If this happens to be the case a refinancing is a solution to get the property into one mortgage holders name. The other spouse gets the cash from the refinance.

There is quite a bit to think about when going through a divorce. See divorce and selling Real Estate for a summary of some of the things to consider.

Consolidation of two mortgages

If you read the newspaper or watch the news and are hearing that interest rates have become very attractive one of the things you may want to consider if you have a home equity loan or other 2nd mortgage to refinance into one loan. Not only is it more convenient to get one statement from one lender every month but you will more than likely get a better rate with one lender.

As a Realtor who has been practicing Real Estate for almost twenty five years and being associated with the mortgage industry, I can tell you with certainty that it makes sense to shop around and speak with a few lenders. You need to be careful not to just shop the interest rate but the whole package including the points you will be charged and the closings costs. While one lenders rate may look great on the surface it could be because there are higher fees or points attached. Above all else do your home work!

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on refinancing a mortgage was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Solving Basement Water Problems

Woman afraid of water in the basement

Working as a Massachusetts Realtor for almost twenty five years, I can say without question that one of the greatest fears of any home owner is having a water problem in their basement!

When buying a home, the uneasiness of having a water issue will be magnified ten fold if the intention of the owner is to finish the basement as additional living space.

Having a little bit of water in an 2oo year old colonial with old stone foundation walls and a dirt floor is far more acceptable than seeing even a drop of water in a luxurious finished lower level that you find in many high end homes today.

When you have a beautifully finished space with plastered walls, fancy wood work and plush carpeting the last thing you want to deal with is a water issue. Not only will a wet basement have a serious impact on a homes marketability and value, it can create health risks due to the possibility of mold.

When you have mold you also have another very costly problem to fix as well! I won’t even mention the fact that where there is water there is also insects not too far behind. Water issues can lead to termites and carpenter ants…two things you want to avoid!

If you own a Massachusetts home solving a basements water problems boil down to how and where the water penetration occurs.

Fixing surface water

One of the easiest fixes to a basement water issue is when the water is coming from improper drainage around the home. Some wet basements are easy to cure just by unclogging the exterior gutter system. It is amazing how many times I have come across a home that has a couple years of leaves that have become lodged in the gutters, completely rendering them useless. When it rains you see the water just pouring right over the gutters into the ground below causing a serious back up where the water has no where to go.

Another possible issue with basement water problems occur when the downspouts of the gutters are not extended far enough away from the foundation again causing the water to pool.  One solution besides extending the downspouts is permanent underground piping that is capable of moving larger quantities of water further from the house.

If the gutters have been cleared of all debris and the water from them is taking the intended path it may be that the yard is improperly sloped back towards the house.

Most experts recommend that your yard slope at least 6 inches to a foot away from the house. In other words there should be a crowning effect that carries the water away from the foundation.

Correcting a drainage problem such as this can usually be fixed by consulting with a professional landscaper. Be careful that you do not add to much soil close to the foundation of your home. After listening to numerous home inspectors over the years the recommended amount of concrete showing from the ground to the siding should be six inches to avoid insect and water damage.

Repairing water penetration through a crack

If the water penetration into the basement can be seen coming through a crack this is generally an easy fix as well. There are times where a home owner could fix this themselves if the crack is small enough. If this is the case mixing up some hydraulic cement and plugging it into the crevice should suffice.

Basement wall crack

When the crack is on a large scale the recommending treatment is through an epoxy injection. The process of epoxy injection closes the crack and restores the structural integrity of the wall. The company that is highly regarded for repairing foundation cracks in Massachusetts is Crack-X.

I have  recommended them for crack repair on a number of my clients homes and they have always done an excellent job. Fixing a crack with Crack-X will be far more costly than doing the work yourself but in the long run will be worth it.

Repairing/cleaning footing drains

If water is leaking the basement at the bottom of the wall or at the seams where the wall meets the floor, the issue probably isn’t surface water but hydrostatic pressure pushing out water that is in the ground.

If this is the case check to see whether you have footing drains. A footing drain is underground pipes installed when the house was built to carry water away from the foundation.  There should be a drain or manhole in the basement floor or a clean out pipe just above the floor line. The drains could be clogged, in which case you can just flush them out with a garden hose.

Another avenue to try if you don’t have footing drains is to create what is called a curtain drain. A curtain drain is a type of French drain system that is underground in a trench with gravel that diverts the water away from the house before it gets there. This type of drainage system would be far less expensive than either an interior or exterior water proofing method.

Interior drainage system with sump pump

An interior drainage system can be a less costly fix than an exterior drainage system as long as the basement is unfinished. If you cant keep water penetration occurring from the outside this is the way to go. An interior drainage system is one of the most common you will see. An interior system is created by sawing out a channel of concrete around the perimeter of the foundation. Perforated pipe is put in the dug trench. The pipe drains to the basements low spot where a sump pump will remove the water.

Outside water proofing system with French Drains

An outside water proofing system can be one of the most effective means of keeping water out of a basement but also one of the more expensive solutions. With an exterior system a French Drain is installed around the perimeter of the home.

The reason why this is the most costly method is because some serious excavation work has to take place around the entire home. It is possible you may have to remove brick patios, walkways, decks and mature landscaping! You could easily spend ten’s of thousands of dollars with this method but if you have water penetrations from multiple locations it could be the best solution.

Mold and water damage from basement leak

One of the more well known Massachusetts Basement water repair companies that solves the whole gamete of water problems is a company called B-Dry Waterproofing.

The company offers the only water proofing method that permanently stops all the ways water can enter your basement. According to the company the will stop water:

  • Through floor cracks
  • From under the footer
  • From over the footer
  • Through wall cracks and mortar joints
  • Bleeding and sweating of the foundation walls
  • Allow a permanent means for water to drain

B-Dry is located in Lexington Massachusetts and they can be reached at 781-861-7897.

The other well know Massachusetts basement water repair company is Basement Technologies.

The Basement Technologies company also does a wide variety of water penetration fixes. They are well know for their jingle 1-800-busy-dog. For all your basement water proofing needs you can visit their website at Basement Technologies.

Keeping your basement free of water will go a long way in making sure you are able to get top dollar from your home when it is time to sell!

Other Real Estate articles worth reading:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on solving basement water problems was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service Real Estate needs in the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Massachusetts Energy saving tips WinterHow to Save Money Around Your Home in The Winter

It is no secret that energy prices have been a big part of every Massachusetts home owners budget for the last few years.

As we head towards Winter there are some fairly easy and inexpensive things you can do to save additional money and conserve energy. Some are fairly obvious and easy. There are however a whole slew of items that would be considered for less obvious to the average home owner. By systematically taking the time and going through all the money saving tips around your home you stand a much better chance of saving quite a bit of cash. Believe me when go through all of these energy saving tips it can really add up! While we have mentioned that these are tips that can save money during the Winter, many of them apply to all seasons around your home.

Easy energy saving tips for your home

Turn back the thermostat –  People automatically assume that turning back the thermostat will save loads of money. The key here is not to turn it too far back! When you are heating a home everything in the house gets warmed as well. So all the furniture, cabinets and other items in the home act as a sponge absorbing heat.

When you turn the heat down it actually makes the furnace work harder to raise the home temperature as well as everything in the home back to the original temp.

What I would suggest is to upgrade to a programmable thermostat and set the temperature down during the time when you are not home. You want to make sure however that you are not turning the temperature down drastically.

For example, I would not change the difference in temperature by more than 5 degrees. So if you are normally comfortable at 70 degrees I would not set the thermostat back to more than 65 degrees.

As an additional thought, if your home is equipped with a multiple zone system, I would also suggest that you may want to keep the area of your home where you sleep a little bit warmer than the rest of the home.  If all of your bedrooms are on the 2nd floor there is no sense in keeping the downstairs the same temperature as the bedroom area. Have your thermostat set to go down at night on the 1st floor by a few degrees and then come back up in the morning.

Close the fireplace damper – This is one of the easiest things to forget about but also a place where a lot of heat loss can occur in a home. Don’t let all that heat get lost going up and out the chimney.

Give your heating system a tune up – Proper maintenance is vital to keeping your heating system running as efficiently as possible. Make sure that you have your heating system cleaned and inspected at least once a year if you have oil heat and at least every two years if you are using gas as a fuel source. During the heating season make sure that your filters are changed once a month.

Fill the gaps with weather stripping and caulking- make sure all your doors and windows are tight. Just the other day I noticed a draft coming from the interior door leading to the garage. I had not noticed that the weather stripping was missing. You can pick up an item like this at Home Depot or Lowe’s for under ten dollars. If you have a home with older windows make sure you caulk and gaps. Using the locks also provides for a tighter and less draft resistant fix.

Window air conditioners- If your home is not cooled by a central air system and you are using  window air conditioners make sure that all the gaps between the window and exterior have been filled. This is a notorious problem for air penetration.

Add additional insulation to the home – Adding additional insulation to your attic, basement and outside walls is a low cost improvement that returns money the longer you stay in the home. This can be done either with insulation bats or with blown in cellulose.

Keep furniture away from vents – If you have furniture blocking your vents you will drastically cut the efficiency of the heating system. In one of the rooms in my home I happen to have long draperies. This can be a problem as well if they are not tied back. Keeping your drapes away from blocking the vents is an important consideration.

Keep the vents clean – Make sure you keep your baseboard, radiators and registers dust and dirt free. This will not only have a drag on efficiency but who wants to breath lousy air. If your home has a forced hot air heating system it is easy to accumulate dust and debris. There are many companies that you can call to have your ducts cleaned.

Seal your duct work – If you have FHA (forced hot air) make sure the ducts are properly sealed. Over time the tape used to seal openings and joints can start to open or even fall off.

Unplug appliances not in use –  One of the biggest drains on energy consumption is having an extra appliance like a fridge. There are many that folks that have them. Of course guys are notorious for wanting to have that extra place to store their beer.  Things like extra televisions and other household appliances that do not get use often should also get unplugged. These appliances although are not being used still drain energy and cost you money. The term often used to describe this is “leaking energy”. Look at the electrical meter on your house before and after doing this and see what I mean.

Home energy savings for Winter

Use power strips – Plug home electronics devices, such as TVs and stereo equipment, into power strips; turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use.

Clean the refrigerator coils – Once a year you should vacuum or clean the fridge coils especially if you have a pet. Dirt, dust and pet hair on the coils will impede air flow and make the heat transfer less efficient forcing the appliance to work harder. It is estimated that dirty coils can cut the energy use by 6%. This would save around 15$ per year on an older fridge.

Turn off bath fans – After taking a shower make sure the bath fan does not stay on longer than necessary. This is an opportunity for heat to get sucked out of a home.

Turn down water heater temperature – In most homes the water temperature set on a water heater is between 130-145 degrees. Setting the temp back to 120 is more than enough for a hot shower. It is estimated that a 10 degree temperature reduction can reduce water heating costs by 5%. Lowering the temperature by 20 degrees could save the average family around 50$ per year.

Low flow shower heads – Install low flow shower heads to conserve heated water. Also keeping the time in the shower down also helps.

Wrap the water heater – You can buy a water heater wrap at most hardware stores, Home Depot, or Lowes for around 25$. The blanket will pay for itself in a year and offer saving after that. According to the Department of Energy this will save the average household around 4-9% of their annual total water heating costs (around 12$-48$ for most homes.) It will also help to insulate the first 6 feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater.

Purchase energy star products – Energy Star Products are much more efficient and designed to save energy. For example an Energy Star fridge uses about 20% less energy than a standard refrigerator. Over time the savings can really add up.

Open shades and curtains – Opening shades and curtains on the South side of the home is something that will give you a little something extra on those sunny days with a solar effect. Remember to close them at night to help keep the heat inside.

Interested in getting an Energy Star Audit on your home? Visit the Energy Star Audit website to get an evaluation done on your property. An energy star audit could really help you save some cash.

You can also visit the state by state Energy Star directory to find out if Home Performance with Energy Star is offered near you. For additional energy savings tips I would suggest visiting the Department of Energy website. I hope this advice provides some cost savings and helps reduce your homes energy bills!

Other useful Real Estate Articles:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Home energy saving tips for the Winter was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 27+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service Real Estate needs in the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Avoiding a Massachusetts Foreclosure

Avoiding Massachusetts foreclosure

Foreclosure is something that most people want to avoid at all costs. Nobody sets out to own a home and then see it taken back by the lender. Across the country this has become a common theme as ten’s of thousands of people are losing their homes due to an economy that has not been this poor since the great depression. Like other states, Massachusetts has their fair share of foreclosures.

In these tough economic times there are many contributing factors on why someone could fall victim to the inability to pay a mortgage. These include but are not limited to job loss, reduction in income, mounting credit card debt, an increase in mortgage payments, an illness, or a divorce.

In Massachusetts there are areas where property values have dropped 30% or more since the Real Estate market peaked in 2005. Some Massachusetts home owners have found themselves so under water that they just throw in the towel and walk away from the property lock stock and barrel.

In fact there are a percentage of borrowers that still have the ability to pay their mortgage yet decide they just do not want to own the home anymore.When a Massachusetts home owner can afford to pay their mortgage yet feels the need to abandon the home it is what’s known as a strategic foreclosure or default. Fannie Mae the giant mortgage backer for many loans has taken the initiative to come down hard on these folks walking away by not allowing them to procure financing for up to seven years!

People that decide to strategically default generally are looking at it as a business decision. The theory is that it will take years for their homes market value to recover to anywhere near where they paid. Instead they walk away from the property and start fresh.

What I have realized in talking to many people who have come under financial strain is that they don’t realize they have options besides letting the lender foreclose.

The alternative that I have been tremendously successful with is helping owners complete a short sale of their property. In a Massachusetts short sale the lender allows a home owner who owes more than their home is worth to take less than the amount owed at closing.

You may be thinking why would a lender want to allow a short sale? There are a number of reasons, most importantly the cost involved for the lender proceeding with a foreclosure. The mortgage holder when all is said and done can easily spend $40,000-$50,000 going through a foreclosure. A short sale can save the lender money they would otherwise lose. With a short sale there is a buyer in place and on many occasions the owner is still in the home maintaining the property until closing.

Massachusetts Short sale vs loan modification

What about a loan modification instead of a short sale? There are also many people that I meet on a monthly basis that would love to stay in their home and not move at all but can’t afford to stay in the home without it becoming more affordable. There is usually some valid reason the home has become a financial burden such as a pay cut or job loss by one of the spouses. Home owners that wish to stay are often times requesting the lender modify the terms of their loan to make it more affordable.

The Obama Administration instituted a program called the Making Home Affordable Program which includes opportunities to modify or refinance your mortgage to make ones monthly payments more affordable. The problem is that the program has not been nearly successful as hoped. There are numerous folks who have tried to get loan modifications only to be turned away by their lender.

Some of the guidelines for the loan modification include the following:

  • Mortgages for single-family properties that are worth more than $729,750 are excluded from the provisions of the loan mod bill. For two families the amount is $934,200. For three families the amount is $1,129,250 and for four families the amount is $1,403,400.
  • Interest rates can be lowered to a minimum of 2 percent and then if necessary, the term of the loan can be extended to a maximum of 40 years.
  • The home must be the owners primary residence and verified as such with a tax return, credit report, and other documentation such as a utility bill. The home may not be an investor-owned property.
  • The home can not be vacant or be condemned.
  • Borrowers must provide their most recent tax return and two pay stubs, as well as an “affidavit of financial hardship” to be qualified.
  • A Borrower who is in bankruptcy are not automatically eliminated from consideration for a modification in this program.
  • Borrowers in active litigation regarding the mortgage loan can qualify for a modification without waiving their legal rights.
  • Borrowers are only allowed to have their loans modified once and eligibility only applies for loans made on Jan. 1, 2009 or earlier.
  • Incentives are provided to extinguish second liens on loans modified under the Obama re-finance program.
  • Homeowners are eligible for up to $1,000 of principal reduction payments each year for up to five years.

There are many folks that I speak with who seemingly meet the above criteria yet are turned away for a loan modification forcing them into other alternatives. When a loan modification is not possible the next best alternative remains a short sale.

Massachusetts foreclosure notice

Stopping  a Massachusetts foreclosure should be the goal of any home owner who cares about their financial credit and the ability to get a loan in the future. The effects on ones credit from going through a foreclosure can be devastating!

Recently I have found a lot more home owners are getting foreclosure notices before they start thinking about a short sale. This of course makes it more difficult to get one done but certainly not impossible. In fact I have been involved in transactions where I have gotten the foreclosure postponed when the auction date was only two weeks away. This of course is not ideal. If you see financial problems ahead that you know are not going to change, you should really be actively thinking about initiating a short sale.

Once you become committed that you are going to short sale your Massachusetts home it is highly advisable that you work with a short sale specialist who is knowledgeable, honorable and someone you can trust! There are an abundance of Realtors that have begun to take short sale listings that have no experience what so ever completing a short sale transaction.

I would encourage you to do your home work when selecting a Massachusetts short sale Realtor to work with. Short sales are complex transactions that require an in depth knowledge. Some of the key considerations include short sale tax consequences and short sale debt removal. When you are trying to complete a short sale it is not advisable that you hire your mothers sisters boyfriends cousin because you heard they were a great person!

The success rate nationally is less than 30% for completing short sale. Don’t make this mistake – HIRE A PRO!

If you are needing to complete a  short sale of your home or condo in Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopedale,  Medway, Mendon, Milford, Hopkinton, Southboro, Westboro, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Upton, Uxbridge, Shrewsbury, Worcester, or Douglas Get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area. As of this writing over the last three plus years, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval! I work hand in hand with a local short sale Real Estate attorney who knows how to get short sales done! I will admit there is some luck involved in my success rate but the team I have put together does a stellar job.

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area or even in another state and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on stopping a Massachusetts foreclosure via a short sale was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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How to Interview a Realtor With Great Questions

Realtor interview Questions

Real Estate interview questions for Realtors

Carefully interviewing a Realtor should be one of the most important things any home seller does when considering selling their home yet many do not.

Having been in this business for almost twenty seven years I have found this to be pretty fascinating. There are lots of folks that will make contact with a Realtor from any number of sources including seeing a for sale sign in their neighborhood, visiting an open house, getting a post card in the mail or maybe even from a recommendation from a friend or relative.

One of the problems I have found is that many consumers think that all Realtors do the same things to sell homes. This could not be further from the truth!

In most businesses 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. The old 80/20 rule. In Real Estate it is a mind boggling 94% to 6% ratio! That is just an amazing statistic. Given these figures is there any wonder why there is so much dissatisfaction from consumers? It is really easy to get stuck with a Realtor who does not do much business or have a great work ethic.

Unfortunately getting into the Real Estate industry is very easy. Take and pass a Real Estate test and you have made it. It shouldn’t be that easy but that’s the way it works.

So how do you avoid getting stuck with a poor Real Estate agent? Ask great Real Estate interview questions! Trust me when I tell you, these questions will make an unskilled Realtor very uncomfortable.

There is no better recommendation than a track record of success. As a home seller you will be paying a Realtor quite a bit of money to sell your home. Why not work with a top producing agent? There is a reason most agents continue to be successful year after year.

In most circumstances it does not cost you anymore to work with a terrific agent than someone who does very little Real Estate business. The interview questions below will go a long way in determining whether you are hiring a pro or not! If you are selling a Massachusetts home it is imperative that you ask the right questions so you don’t get caught with an under performing Realtor. See these interview questions below along with additional real estate interview questions here.

Time in the Real Estate business and production level

  • How long have you been selling real estate in Massachusetts?

Experience is important but does not necessarily mean that a newer agent couldn’t be a rising superstar. Many of the other Real Estate interview questions below, however, will help determine this.

  • How many homes did you sell last year as a seller’s agent?

This is a very important question! Do you want to work with an agent who sells 5 homes a year or someone who sells 25? Do be fooled by the agent who does very little business telling you that you will get better personal service. That is a bunch of hogwash! There is a reason why they only sell 5 homes a year.

  • Of the homes you sold last year, again as a seller’s agent, what was the average number of days from the original list price to the accepted offer?

This is a very telling statistic because it speaks to how well the agent did their job from day one when they recommended a list price to you. Don’t get caught with an agent that gives you an inflated value just to get your business. “Buying a listing” is a very common thing that agents do when competing with other Realtors.

  • What was the average ratio between the listing price and the selling price?

This question boils down to two things. Pricing the home correctly from day one and the Realtors negotiating skills.

  • What kind of market share do you and your company have?

This is not extremely critical but you should at least be working with someone who has some general knowledge of the area and has sold other local homes in the past.

Personal service to the seller and testimonials

  • Do you have a personal assistant?

Busy Real Estate agents have a hard time doing everything well on their own. When a Realtor invests the money to hire their own staff member you know they care about personal service. A Realtor can’t be in two places at once. A helping hand and good team work says a lot about a skilled agent.

  • Can you provide me with at least 3 recent references?

A good Realtor should be able to provide you with references that you can call. Of course every Realtor is going to want to give you a hand picked list that they know the client will say wonderful things. Instead ask them for the last three homes they sold and look up the owners names and call them. This will give you a better picture of the clients satisfaction level.

Internet marketing and advertising

Realtor interview questions Massachusetts

  • I have read the Internet is an extremely valuable tool for selling homes. How will you market my home online?

This quite possible may be one of the most important questions you ask the Realtor! You want to align yourself with a Realtor that has a strong understanding of both online and social media marketing. Over 90% of all buyers find their home online. The Realtor you choose should be marketing your home EVERYWHERE!

  • Do you have your own personal Real Estate website for marketing homes and if so does it come up in competitive Real Estate searches such as State, City and the worlds Real Estate or homes?

This is a very important consideration when hiring a Realtor. A great agent will invest in having a great website that not only looks fantastic but more importantly attracts buyers for local Real Estate searches. Most consumers will type things like the city, state, and the words Real Estate or homes for sale. As an example Hopkinton MA Real Estate.

You want your home in the spotlight which can be achieved when the agent you hire understands search engine optimization (SEO) and gets their site on the 1st page of Google for keyword searches buyers most often use.

  • Do you have a Massachusetts Real Estate blog to market your clients homes and if so is it ranked highly by Google? Do you use your blog as a marketing tool to drive traffic to my home?

Like a website, Real Estate blogs are great vehicles to promote properties. You can create entire blog articles about a single home that promotes their best attributes using multiple photos and descriptions.

  • Do you use social media marketing sites such as Facebook and Twitter to reach a wider net of Realtors and potential clients?

Sites like Facebook and Twitter are becoming remarkable tools for a Realtor to use to cast a wider net to reach potential buyers and sellers. With Facebook you can have your own business page to promote your business including properties you may be marketing.

  • Do you use video and virtual tours to market your homes?

Video is another important medium that has really caught on in recent years. Buyers love to see a video tour of a home they may be interested in viewing. A video tour can be especially helpful to a relocation buyer. The tour used be the agent should be quick to download. Another consideration would be syndicating the video tour to Youtube which gets quite a bit of traffic.

  • Is my home “enhanced” on the most visited Real Estate websites such as Realtor.com, Trulia.com and Zillow.com?

This is an extremely important interview question. Real Estate marketing is all about presentation and standing out from the rest of the competition. It is not enough just to be included in the most visible Real Estate sites.

The agent should be presenting your home with numerous photos, detailed descriptions highlighting your homes best attributes, and an embeddable virtual tour. Survey after survey says that buyers looking online skip the homes with a couple of photos and no descriptions. This is a huge piece of the marketing! Make sure the agent shows you exactly what your home will look like online. It is obvious that many sellers do not check on their agent. Trust me folks, you would be flabbergasted if you knew what a poor job some Realtors do marketing homes.

  • Do you have a good camera?

Not only is having lots of photos important but the quality can not be overlooked. You should be looking for an agent that has a good camera with a wide angle lense.

Preparing and staging a home for sale

  • Can you show me how to make my home more marketable?

A Realtor should be able to give you some simple advice on how best prepare your home for the market.  Things like whether or not it would be worthwhile to make an improvement or properly staging a home for sale. The general rule on improvements is to make them when they are really going to enhance the saleability or give a large return on investment.

Communication and feedback throughout the home sale process

Massachusetts Real Estate transactions

  • When a buyer calls on my home will you ALWAYS be the one they speak with?

It makes sense that the Realtor you hire is the one who speaks with the buyer when an inquiry is made. At many Real Estate offices this is not always the case. Often times there is an agent who answers the phone and they get the lead. This is not ideal if the agent has never seen the home before and the buyer is asking specific questions about the property.

  • How will you communicate with me regarding your efforts?

One of the biggest complaints against Realtors is a lack of communication. You will want to nail down how the Realtor will keep in contact with you. It it by phone, email, text? A Realtor should be flexible and work however the client desires. Above all else there should be regular communication. See Realtor communication skills.

  • Do you have a feedback system and if so, how does it work?

Anyone that I know that has ever sold a home wants to know how the showings go. The Realtor you hire should be prepared to call the buyers agent after the showing to find out what the level of interest there is and the buyers general thoughts.

  • How readily accessible will you be? Do you have a cell phone that I can reach you on when I need to?

Real Estate is a business that people should be able to reach the person they hired to sell their home. A Realtor who has a phone that can receive email is a real plus.  You want to make sure your agent will be taking your calls as they come in. For some reason many agents never answer their phone. This is not a good sign!

  • Once the offer is accepted will you be attending all the inspections on my home?

A full service Realtor should be at the home inspection, bank appraisal, etc. You are paying this person a lot of money. Make sure they earn it! They are your fiduciary.

  • How will you verify that the buyer is qualified to buy my home?

The Realtor should be verifying the the buyer is qualified by making sure that there is a legitimate pre-approval letter accompanying the offer and speaking with the buyers lender.

  • What are your fee structures and why?

The Realtor should be making sure they explain to you how they get paid and what exactly they do for the money earned.

  • As far as production goes if I called the owner of your company would they tell me you were one of the top producing agents in the company or a middle of the road agent?

In life you get what you pay for. Why not hire the best if it costs you the same!

  • Will you allow me to terminate our contract if I am not completely satisfied?

This is an important question because a Realtor that is confident they will get the job done should have no problem with this clause.

There are some truly great Real Estate agents out there. It just takes a little bit of time and effort to find them. Don’t settle for any Realtor that walks through your door or you will end up disappointed.

Related Real Estate articles:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on how to interview a Realtor with great questions was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out ofmany Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Upton, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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Hail Damage to Roofs|Insurance Claims From Hail

Massachusetts Hail Damaged Roofs

Hail Storm Roof Damage Massachusetts

If you live in the Metrowest area of Massachusetts there is the strong possibility that the roof on your home may have been damaged by the hail storm that took place in May of 2009.

You may be thinking to yourself that you remember the hail storm but looked up at your roof and did not notice any damage. The fact of the matter is you can’t see hail storm damage from the ground.  The truth is many home inspectors do not even know what to look for because they receive no formal training on hail damaged roofs.

A homes roof must be physically inspected by a person who has training and experience to determine if there is actual hail damage. Insurance companies send their adjusters to special training so they can properly identify hail damage to a home.

With hail damage you will see some of the tiny granules of a roof missing. Over time the roof damage will get progressively worse and shorten it’s lifespan. Eventually your roof will end up leaking.

Even if your roof has minimal damage you have a valid insurance claim and should file with your insurance company. The damage caused by a hail storm might not cause your roof to leak for years. This makes it critical to have someone who is qualified inspect your roof. Figuring out whether you need a new roof is important when the damage takes place not at some point in the future. You will see below when we discuss insurance ramifications why this becomes so important.

As a Realtor, I have seen hail damage become a tremendous advantage to someone who is thinking of selling their home in the near future or even a few years down the road. You may be wondering how roof damage could possibly be advantageous? The answer is simple….a new roof has one of the lowest returns on investment in a home. The is no question that replacing a roof is expensive! For a decent size home of around 3000 square feet you could easily be looking at $10,000 – $15,000 for replacement.

When you go to put your home on the market you can forget about tacking on that money to your asking price. Buyer’s are not going to pay for your new roof. Are you beginning to see the picture why the hail storm was a boon to home owners? In the last year I have been able to save a few of my clients a boat load of money because of my knowledge about the hail storm and insurance claims.

I had a couple home owners in Hopkinton Massachusetts that were selling their home and it was clear to me that their roofs were nearing the end of their lifespan. They had not gone through a home inspection yet but there was a strong possibility the home inspector would fail the roof. It would not be unreasonable for a buyer to ask for a replacement which would have cost the seller thousands of dollars! Instead I had the seller file a claim for hail damage and they got a free roof less their deductible. You can bet the seller and the new owner were both thrilled.

Making a Hail Storm Damage Roof Insurance Claim

In the streets leading up to the neighborhood where I live there were at least fifteen homes that had roofing contractor signs in the front yard. This has been big business for the roofing contractors in the area. In fact the damage was so wide spread there were even contractors from out of state getting into the fray. Out of state roofing companies are often known as “storm chasers”. It is not uncommon for home owners in areas where damage has occurred to be offered a “free” roof. You may find that roofing companies call you or stuff your mailbox with their fliers looking for business.

Roofing Hail Damage and insurance claims

So what do you do if you think you may have hail damage to your roof and want to file an insurance claim? You should 1st check your home insurance policy and make sure you are covered. As long as you are, put in a call to your insurance agent. They will get a claim started on your behalf and ask an insurance adjuster to visit your home and look at the roof.

At the same time you will also be wanting to get in touch with a local roofing contractor to give you an estimate on replacement. You should actually have the roofing contractor/contractors visit 1st to verify you do in fact have hail damage.

Often times the insurance adjuster is going to want to get together with the roofing contractor to make sure they are on the same page. The roofing contractor you are hiring should have no problem meeting the adjuster with you. The adjuster will take pictures of any damage and then explain what the next steps will be. Some adjusters may give you a settlement quote right on the spot while others may take up to a few weeks. The adjuster and roofing contractor are more than likely going to compare notes to see if the total roof measurements are about the same.

If the insurance adjuster happens to think there wasn’t any significant damage you will need to have your contractor debate it with them. If you are not able to have your roofing contractor at the home when the adjuster can be there most insurance companies will agree to have the adjuster come back at a later date.

It is as simple as that! You should also keep in mind that many insurance policies have some kind of deductible that you will need to pay. In my experience quite a few of the local roofing contractors will absorb that fee in order to get your business. As with any other business it would be prudent to get references and make sure the roofing contractor is licensed and insured.

If  you don’t ever remember any hail storms but have been approached by a roofing contractor for a new roof don’t fool yourself into thinking you are going to get one if there is no damage.

The other thing you need to keep in mind is that your insurance premium is going to rise when you put in a claim. When there are numerous insurance claims being put in by other home owners in your area, your rate is more than likely going to go up anyways.

Other useful Real Estate articles:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on hail damage to roofs|Insurance claims from hail was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out ofmany Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Upton, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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Selling a Home in a Buyer’s Market

Selling a Massachusetts home in a buyer’s market

Selling a Massachusetts home in a buyer's market

The title of the article really should read buying and selling a home simultaneously in a buyer’s market.

In my daily life as a Massachusetts Realtor I come across lots of folks who do not sell their home even though they want to. The thought process is that they have bought sometime over the last five years or so and know if they put their home on the market they will be taking a loss.

In the Metrowest Massachusetts area the peak of the Real Estate market was in the Spring of 2005 so if you purchased a home after that there is no question you will be taking a loss on that home if you sell today (September of 2010). In this area of Massachusetts depending on the town and the type of home, the peak in values could be down anywhere from 20%-30%.

When people think about the concept of selling their home many can not get past the fact that they will take a loss on their current home. They fail to see the bigger Real Estate picture. If you are going to stay local, selling your home in a buyer’s market is not an issue because you are going to be purchasing a home under the same market conditions!

Here is a simple Real Estate concept that many consumers do not grasp. You bought your home for $500,000 and using a figure of 20% it has dropped in value to $400,000. You have lost $100,000 on paper! This is where the thought process ends for many. People get so caught up thinking about their loss that they forget when you are moving up in the market what used to be an $700,000 home is now worth $560,000 using the same 20% drop in value.

If values had remained flat and there wasn’t a Real Estate correction you would be going from a home valued at $500,000 up to a home worth $700,000. A difference of $200,000. In the present buyers market scenario the difference is $400,000 to $560,000 or a spread of $160,000. If you are moving up you saved yourself $40,000.

What if you are moving down in the market? Lets turn the above example around. You owned an $700,000 home that is now worth $560,000. It is too large for your needs and has become expensive to heat, maintain and pay taxes on. You desire something more manageable and affordable.

Well guess what the home that you planned on buying five years ago for $700,000 is now only going to cost you $560,000. So what has happened is you have lost $40,000 in buying power. A 20% loss on 700k = $140,000. A 20% loss on $500,000 = $100,000. $140,000 – $100,000 = $40,000

So moving down isn’t ideal as moving up but a loss of $40,000 is certainly much different than taking a paper loss of $160,000 especially if it is going to make your payments and cost to maintain the home much more reasonable.

Interest rates Massachusetts mortgages

The biggest differentiating factor in looking at whether or not it makes sense to move often times boils down to what you are trying to accomplish. Is it a lifestyle change, looking to get into better schools for the kids, having a shorter commuting time, etc.

One of the biggest factors that should never be overlooked in your decision making process is the present cost of money compared to what you are paying right now. In other words what does the current interest rate environment look like. If you can get an even better interest rate than you currently have on your present home it could be the perfect time to find a new home.

Once you have made up your mind to sell your Massachusetts home there are three things that can ensure you will be successful:

  • Price your home properly.
  • Pick a top producing Realtor to work with.
  • Make your home presentable and easy to show.

If you do these three things you can be successful in a buyer’s or seller’s market. There are plenty of Massachusetts homes still selling! The common denominator in most Real Estate sales are these three items.

Related Real Estate articles:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on selling a home in a buyer’s market was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Upton, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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Rhino Shield A Painting Alternative

Rhino Shield is something you may be reading about more and more in the near future. It is just starting to become popular as an alternative to painting a home.

If you live in Massachusetts or any of the other the New England states you already know that our varied seasons can do a number on a homes exterior appearance. It is not uncommon to have to paint a home every three to six years or so depending on the quality of the paint used, the number of coats applied and the skill level of the painter.

The Rhino Shield system offers an alternative to a traditional paint job. From the company’s website the description of Rhino Shield is as follows “Rhino-Shield Ceramic Coating is a durable, flexible maintenance free wall coating. It is a high build acrylic-urethane-elastomeric formula that waterproofs, insulates, and soundproofs.

Innovative technology combines elastic acrylic resins with urethane resins resulting in a flexible but tough surface. This thick rubber-like membrane actually becomes part of the substrate due to excellent adhesion and bonding. Rhino-Shield Ceramic Coating offers superior mildew resistance, corrosion resistance, and ultra-violet ray reflectivity. This insulating, industrial, maintenance-free coating is long lasting.”

More than likely a home owner would consider using this product when they know that they are going to be in the home for an extended period of time. The cost of a Rhino Shield coating is much more expensive than a typical paint job. A ball park estimate on cost would be similar to what it would be to install vinyl siding.

So the hitch is that you would need to be in the home a while before you would see a return on your investment. Over time however you could see a return on your investment by never having to paint your home again. At least according to what the company expresses through their advertising. Rhino Shield offers a 25 year warranty on their product and claims that it will last a lot longer than that.

According to their website the product can be used on any exterior house surface, including wood, stucco, siding, brick, cement block and concrete. Rhino Shield is waterproof because it incorporates variable sizes of ceramic micro spheres as fillers. This also makes this paint perfect insulation to reduce energy cost.

From everything I have been reading on this product the preparation work prior to application is of the utmost importance. It is critical that before the Rhino Shield product is applied a thorough power washing is done followed by a repair of any necessary areas. All existing paint should be sanded, scraped and then caulked.

Once these steps are taken the wood  is primed using Rhino-Shield Adhesive Primer Sealer. They then finish with the top coat, a Rhino-Shield Ceramic Coating, to all the wood surfaces. The unique properties of Rhino-Shield allow wood to breathe while preventing moisture from permeating. This gives the wood superior protection over typical paint which either suffocates and rots the wood or peels and flakes and allows moisture to damage the wood.

Rhino Shield Ceramic Coating provides superior mildew resistance, corrosion resistance and ultra-violet ray protection. The Rhino Shield product would certainly qualify for the every popular “green movement” as well. Their  ceramic top-coat product is a low-e thermal barrier that may reduce you energy consumption, and because of the mil thickness, Rhino-Shield can be used to encapsulate lead paint. Lastly, any product that extends the life cycle by fifty percent or more beyond the industry average is considered green!

References for Rhino Shield

One of the things that immediately comes to mind about this type of product is those consumers who are “traditionalists” yet hate the fact that clapboard siding and the painting involved is a constant maintenance issue.

There are many including myself who love the look of a clapboard sided home. For many a vinyl sided home does not have the same appeal but they opt for it anyways because they have grown tired of spending the necessary money keeping their home looking good.

In the Massachusetts area anyway, it is fairly uncommon to see million dollars homes with vinyl siding. Using Rhino Shield could end up being a best of both words scenario where you can keep the traditional look of wood but also end up with a low maintenance home at the same time!

As with any product I would highly recommend you do your research. Rhino Shield may or may not be right for you. My recommendation would be to speak to a few people who have used the application and get their perspective. Better to hear it from the horses mouth than a biased company rep telling you how wonderful the product is.

To get an estimate from a Rhino Shield representative for your home you can call 1- 888-90-RHINO or check out the Rhino Shield of New England Blog. Also for a better understanding of Rhino Shield you can watch the video below.

 

If you end up deciding that painting is something you would rather do, I would highly recommend you check out Duration Paint by Sherwin Williams. I had my home painted with this product three years ago and it still looks outstanding. Duration paint is much more expensive than traditional paints but will last far longer. It is considered a superior painting product!

Related Real Estate Articles:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Rhino Shield an exterior painting alternative was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Short sales in Massachusetts

The reason why Realtors handling short sales should not let a short sale investor take over negotiations with a lender may not be fairly obvious.

If you are a Realtor who works  short sales or are thinking about doing them here is where you really need to pay attention. Without a doubt we live in a very litigious society today. There are undoubtedly going to be lawsuits that come out of many of the short sale transactions that are taking place or should I say don’t take place.

When you sign a listing contract to represent a seller they are YOUR client. YOU are THEIR trusted adviser and advocate. You need to be thinking about doing everything possible that benefits THEM. To put it more bluntly a Realtor owes a seller undivided loyalty, reasonable care, disclosure, confidentiality, accountability and obedience to lawful instruction.

The same holds true when it is a short sale transaction. The rules of the game don’t change!

I have found through reading various Real Estate forums that investors don’t understand that we are held to different legal standards than they are.

What do you mean by that Bill? Simple…when a person needs to short sell their home and they hire me they can expect that I am going to do everything that I normally do for every other seller. My goal is to get my client the best terms and conditions.

Once I get a good offer from a buyer that has a strong probability of closing, an attorney, who is part of my team, takes over the negotiations with the lender. The attorney I use is very good at what he does. This is part of the reason why a seller would hire me to complete their short sale. Most Massachusetts home owners in need of short selling their property have done their research and selected me because of my track record with closing short sales.

When an investor approaches you about making an offer they will undoubtedly want to negotiate the deal for the seller. Well guess what the seller didn’t hire an investor to get them out of the financial mess they are in… they hired YOU!

If you go along with this arrangement and the transaction goes sour for any reason causing the seller to be foreclosed on guess where the fingers are going to be pointed. Do you have a mirror handy? This is akin to letting a buyer’s agent negotiate for the seller!

I can already hear the seller’s attorney in court:

The Realtor said this was a good idea and told you should let the investor take over the short
sale negotiations Mrs. Jones”. Is this correct? Yes sir it is.

“Didn’t you hire this Realtor and his team to help you with the short sale mam”? Yes sir I did.

“Did the Realtor advise you to work with this investor mam”? Yes sir they did.

Do you know this short sale investor Mr. Gassett?” No sir I do not.

“Mr. Gassett do you think the investor was working on behalf of the interests of your client”

Well Um Err they told me they were going to do everything in the best interests of Mrs. Jones.

NO THANKS! I certainly don’t want to find myself in court and neither should you. Do yourself a favor and don’t end up looking like the dude below.

Inexperienced short sale Realtor

If you are a consumer and thinking about doing a short sale and have NOT listed your home with a Real Estate agent I want to make something perfectly clear…There are lots of very good short sale investors that know what they are doing and can accomplish the same thing a qualified Realtor or attorney can in getting a short sale approved.

Like any other financial decision you make in life you should be doing your due diligence when deciding whether or not to work with an investor and their company. Checking out their track record and getting a list of references probably would be a very good idea.

If something sounds fishy or too good to be true it probably is. You want to be careful you do not get caught in short sale fraud. There have been cases recently where both investors and Realtors have been caught in shady deals that are both illegal and immoral.

An investor of course is going to be looking to buy your home as cheaply as possible as their goal will be to turn around and re-sell it for a profit. While getting the best price for an investor is going to be key for them moving forward, a reputable one should also be looking out for getting the best deal for YOU which includes negotiating the lowest deficiency possible.

In many short sales today the lender is going to ask you to pay back something. It will more than likely be pennies on the dollar but the chances of a seller walking away Scott free have grown slimmer.

If you hire a short sale investor to negotiate your deal the debt removal part of the transaction becomes essential. Short sale debt removal becomes critical because the last thing you want is a someone chasing you down years later for a deficiency.  A number of lenders are selling unpaid mortgages to collection agencies which in some states have years to come after you for a collection of this unpaid debt!

There are some differences in working with a short sale investor vs a short sale Realtor. A Realtor is going to be far more concerned about getting an offer that makes financial sense to a lender. In other words is the offer presented to the lender going to be accepted because it is close enough to market value. As previously mentioned, an investor is going to want to buy the home as cheaply as possible.

One of the biggest reasons why many short sales never reach the closing table is because the seller accepts an offer that is too far under market value and the lender rejects the contract denying the short sale.

Rejected short sale offer

Most short sale investors are not going to make their 1st offer to the lender the best one. They are going to be looking to negotiate for the best deal for themselves.

As a seller you need to be confident in the fact that an investor will raise their offer to a point that the lender will accept it.

Despite what all investors claim there is a greater chance when a profit margin is involved that a lender will not accept their offer. Do you think lenders like leaving money on the table?

Realtors should also be doing the same. If the seller accepts a low ball offer and submits it to the lender for approval and the buyer is not willing to come up you have wasted a lot of time and possible condemned the seller to a foreclosure.

Just because an investor tells you they will increase their offer if necessary does not mean they will come to an agreement with the lender. After all they are looking to make a profit which creates a gap between the market value and where they are trying to purchase the property at.

I guess you really need to ask yourself if you want a buyer negotiating for you?  My advice of course  would be to work a qualified Realtor or attorney when doing a Massachusetts short sale.

If you are needing to complete a  short sale of your home or condo in Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopedale,  Medway, Mendon, Milford, Hopkinton, Southboro, Westboro, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Upton, Uxbridge, Shrewsbury, Worcester, or Douglas Get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area. So far over the last three years, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval! I work hand in hand with a local short sale Real Estate attorney who knows how to get short sales done!

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Realtors should not let short sale investors negotiate with lenders was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Septic system deed restriction

In Massachusetts the law governing septic system installation and maintenance is known as Title V. Whenever a home owner is going to be selling their home they will need to get what is called a Title V inspection done.

In order to close on a property in Massachusetts you will need to have a passing title V.

If a Title V test reveals that the septic system has failed a seller has two options in order to get to the closing table. They can either replace the system prior to closing or they can put an appropriate amount of money in escrow guaranteeing the system will be fixed. A third option could be to get the buyer to pay for the septic system although this is less likely to occur unless the buyer is desperate for the property.

Most lenders will accept funds to be held in escrow, however they are going to generally ask for 1.5 times the cost of the estimated amount to install a new system. For example if a septic installer gives a quote of $20,ooo for the installation of a new system, the lender is going to ask for $30,000 to be held in escrow.

One of the things a Title V inspection will reveal is what is known as the septic systems “capacity”.  A septic system is “rated” according to it’s bedroom count. For example if a septic system has the capacity for four bedrooms it will say as much in the report.

One of the subjects I have written about in the past is bedroom count misrepresentation with septic systems. The are many Realtors that don’t even know this law exists and have put homes on the market stating there are more bedrooms than the septic system capacity allows for.

In other words if the septic system is only rated for three bedrooms you can not market your home as a four bedroom regardless if you have a room that qualifies as one. This is an easy way to get sued. Don’t make this mistake as it could be a costly one!

By the way, the qualifications of a bedroom must be a room providing privacy primarily used for sleeping purposes, have at least one electrical outlet, ventilation, at least one window, and have minimum dimensional criteria. There are also some towns where you need to have a closet as well although some also will accept space to house clothing such as a bureau.

One of the things that I made mention of in the article about septic system misrepresentation is how a home owner could potentially add an addition to their home that could be construed as a bedroom. It could meet all the criteria of a bedroom but not necessarily be used as such.

Deed restriction for septic system and room countUsing a bedroom count deed restriction

One of the things I have seen become more common place over the last couple of years is towns forcing home owners to put deed restrictions on their properties. This can happen because of the bedroom issue as well as another little know Title V rule.

When calculating bedroom count one of the rules of calculation is to take the number of rooms in the home and divide that by two.

For example, a proposed “game room” addition to a nine room, 4-bedroom house will create the tenth room of a house. Per Title 5, the number of bedrooms is calculated as: 10 rooms divide by 2 equals 5-bedrooms.

A deed restriction can be used so that a building permit may be issued for homes that exceed the approved septic design flow based on the total room count. The intention of the deed restriction is to resolve the possible conflicting Title 5 definition of a bedroom to the actual bedroom count.

This deed restriction is not intended for construction that will actually increase the bedroom count beyond the approved design. If  sometime in the future the septic system is upgraded to meet additional bedroom flow capacity, or the house becomes connected to public sewer, the owner may request the Board of Health for a release of the deed restriction. This release  also gets recorded at the Registry of Deeds.

A deed restriction is also not something that has to be done although the alternative to a deed restriction would be to seek approval from the Board of Health to upgrade the septic system in order to meet the proposed design capacity.

What I have found interesting about these Title V bedroom count deed restrictions is that some towns are fairly rigid with them and others are not. I know in my home town of Hopkinton MA the board of health regularly puts deed restrictions on properties using the room count divided by two formula.

Related Real Estate home selling articles:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Massachusetts Title 5 bedroom count deed restriction was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Upton, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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Beware of The Short Sale Investor|Short Sale Fraud

Short sale scammer

Any Realtor that regularly works with short sales is bound to come across a proposition from a potential buyer who happens to be a short sale investor.

As a home owner you may have also at one time or another noticed some signs around town that say  something like “we buy houses” or “stop foreclosure” or “We buy homes for cash FAST”

If you are selling a Massachusetts home and it happens to be a short sale let me give you some words of wisdom – make sure you or your Realtor does their due diligence when deciding whether or not to work with an investor.

A short sale investor has one goal in mind and that is to buy your short sale at the lowest number they possibly can. Seems reasonable enough. An investor obviously needs to buy the home on the cheap because more than likely they are going to turn around and flip it to someone else making a handsome profit. As a Massachusetts home owner trying to short sell your home you may be thinking why should you care as long as you find a buyer?

The answer is real simple. One of the biggest reasons why many short sales never reach the closing table is because the seller accepts an offer that is too far under market value and the lender rejects the contract denying the short sale.

When you are short selling your home what you need to understand is that the lender is going to verify the market value of the property prior to giving short sale approval. The lender will send out either an appraiser or ask an independent Realtor to do what is called a BPO (broker price opinion).

The contract price that you have accepted from the short sale investor needs to be within a reasonable proximity to appraised market value or the short sale will be rejected. From an investors perspective they could care less because they have your home tied up and there is no risk to them if the transaction does not happen. They get their deposit monies back if the lender does not accept their offer. A short sale investor knows this and will put offers on many short sales hoping something eventually sticks.

Just by putting a few of these deals together they can make quite a bit of money. Guess at who’s expense though? Trust me their pitch is going to be how they are going to be helping you get out of a desperate situation.  You will be more desperate when it does not happen because you will be that much closer to FORECLOSURE.

Your home will be off the market tied up for months with this investor while you wait for the banks reply. When it finally does come and the answer is no way Jose you will be starting from scratch and the foreclosure will more than likely be right around the corner. This scenario happens all across the country on a regular basis with short sales.

If your Realtor is naive to how short sales work, you could easily get caught in a situation you are really going to regret. I tell people all the time in the short sale articles I write that it is critical to work with a Realtor that has a strong track record of closing short sales.

There are also situations where the investor buyer is the referral source to the listing agent. The listing agent may be given an incentive from the investor buyer to take on a short sale in return for receiving the re-sale listing after the investor buys the short sale home. In essence the Realtor lists the house again when the home is being “flipped”. For performing the transaction for the investor the Realtor is promised they will handle  more of these transactions in the future. The problem with this arrangement is very simple.

Any Realtor who signs a contract with a seller to sell their home is working for that seller! It is the Realtors fiduciary responsibility to get the seller the best terms and conditions. How can a Realtor do this when there is an inherent conflict of interest? THEY CAN’T. This is a short sale scam!!

Financial ramifications of an accepted low ball short sale offer

Going back a few years ago it was not uncommon for many lenders to completely forgive a seller of their short fall. So for example if the seller was $50,000 short the lender would wipe out the debt and the seller would be free and clear. The game and the playing field has changed quite a bit in 2010.

It is much more routine for a lender to require a seller to pay back a portion of their short fall in order to close the property. An agreement to pay back a portion of the debt will become part of the approval letter. Typically the owner will be asked to sign a note where they agree to pay back a certain amount over “X” amount of time.

The reason why this becomes important when dealing with a short sale investor is because if they do manage to get the lender to approve the short sale you will more than likely be on the hook for a larger portion of debt than if you held out for something closer to market value.

Short sale investor/mortgage fraud

One of the other short sale scams that takes place is when there is fraud committed against the lender by efforts of both the Realtor and short sale investor. A simple example would be a short sale that is listed for $175,000. A Real Estate agent receives an offer from a couple that wants to buy the home for $160,000.

Massachusetts Short sale bribe

Instead of submitting the offer to the lender, the agent calls up an investor friend and has them submit an offer for $140,000. The agent does not let the lender or seller know about the $160,000 offer but instead submits the investors offer of $140,000.

The investors offer of $140,000 gets accepted and the investor turns around and sells the property to the couple who was willing to pay $160,000. Folks this is what is known as MORTGAGE FRAUD! The other term for this practice is known as “flopping”. Someone caught doing this will find themselves in Federal Court.

Many of the larger lenders now are requiring a full appraisal before a resale can take place. They are also requiring short-sale buyers sign statements affirming the transactions are arms length, with no hidden buyer-seller relationships, and that there are no agreements to resell the property in place.

Firms such as Bank of America and others have language in their short sale approval letters that prohibit the flipping of a property and after closing they will audit transactions to identify “flips” or “flops”.

Other measures have been put in place by the Treasury Department to prevent short sale fraud by requiring that the buyer and seller have no hidden relationship and banning a re-sale to take place in under 90 days.

Let me be clear on this issue. If the bank knows up front that a flip is going to be taking place it is NOT mortgage fraud.

There is nothing wrong with an investor making money. Being in business and making a profit is what most people strive for. Non-disclosure is a completely different story! A Realtor however, does not get off the hook quite so easily if they have not performed their fiduciary duty to get their client the best terms and conditions in the sale. Realtors that get involved with these kinds of transactions walk a fine line with getting themselves into a situation where they are clearly not working in the best interest of their client.

Block head Massachusetts short sale Realtor

If you find yourself in a position that you are going to need to do a Massachusetts short sale it is highly advisable that you work with a short sale specialist who is knowledgeable, honorable and someone you can trust! There are numerous Realtors that have begun to take short sale listings that have no experience what so ever completing a short sale transaction.

I would encourage you to do your home work when selecting a Realtor to work with in a short sale transaction. The last thing you need is to be stuck with a block head agent that does not know what they are doing!

Many agents do not know the 1st thing about short sales and try to learn on the fly. When you are facing foreclosure the last thing you want is to be stuck working with an agent that doesn’t know about short sale procedures!

If you are needing to complete a  short sale of your home or condo in Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopedale,  Medway, Mendon, Milford, Hopkinton, Southboro, Westboro, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Upton, Uxbridge, Shrewsbury, Worcester, or Douglas Get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area. So far over the last three years, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval! I work hand in hand with a local short sale Real Estate attorney who knows how to get short sales done!

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area or even in another state and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

Other short sale articles of interest:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on beware of short sale investor|short sale fraud was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Divorce and Selling a Home

Divorce and selling a Massachusetts homeDivorce and selling a home they say are on the list of most stressful events a person can go through in their lives.

One of the realities of being a Massachusetts Realtor is that I often encounter folks that are going to need to sell their home due to a divorce. Divorce and selling a home in Massachusetts is as common as the day is long. It is one of the things that keeps real estate agents busy.

The divorce rate today is higher that it has ever been. It is just a fact that people do not stay together for better or worse like they used to.

The divorce rate of course opens up the opportunity for Realtors to be helping those that need to sell what usually amounts to their largest marital asset.

Purchasing a Massachusetts home together can represent a significant outlay of funds for one or both members of the divorcing party. When it comes to a divorce both members are going to have have an active interest in ensuring that their part of the investment is protected whether there was a cash outlay or not.

Selling a home while divorcing can often times be a highly charged emotional event. Even in an amicable divorce there could be times when discussing the sale of the home could lead to rash decisions. Keep a close lid on your feelings and make sure that you are not led by emotion into a bad decision. You will need to keep in perspective that this should be a smart business decision. If you are selling a home and getting a divorce in Massachusetts it goes without saying that you will want a competent representative in your corner. A good Massachusetts divorce attorney is something both sides should have unless you think things can be worked out through mediation.

There are typically three scenarios when selling a home in a divorce:

  • One spouse keeps the home and buys out the other parties interest.
  • One spouse keeps exclusive use for a specified period of time, typically when the youngest child turns eighteen, after which the home can be sold.
  • The home is sold immediately and the profits are shared amongst each spouse.

Both parties should really be thinking about what it is that they would like to do. Does one party want to sell and the other would like to keep the home? Is it financially feasible for one party to keep the home? In the event one party does keep the home how will the other party be compensated?

For purposes of this article I will focus on some of the considerations when selling a home during a divorce.

Possible Tax Benefits Selling a Home During Divorce

Taxes selling a Massachusetts home

There are many that do not realize there are tremendous tax benefits when selling a home due to the Real Estate capital gains tax law that went into effect in 1997 known as the Tax Payer Relief Act of 1997.

The current capital gains tax law when selling your personal residence allows for an exclusion of up to $250,000 in profit if you are single and $500,000 if married!

In order to be eligible you must have lived in your home for two of the last five years. The home must be your personal residence and can not be an investment property.

In a nut shell what this means is that the parties could get a tremendous tax break if the home is sold while you are still married. Selling the marital home will allow up to $500,000 in profit to be excluded from federal capital gain taxes. A couple may apply for this tax break if they file a joint tax return. If you choose to file separately, each partner can still claim up to $250,000 on their tax return, provided that they still meet the two-out-of-five years in the home qualification.

If the parties have owned the home for a significant amount and there has been a large equity growth this can amount to a significant tax savings. If one party chooses to remain in the home but plans on selling in the near future there could be quite a difference in tax savings.

Can I afford the home after the divorce

Selling Massachusetts home in a divorce

One of the unfortunate things I see a lot in a divorce is one parties desire to “win” at all costs.

There have been occasions where one spouse insists on keeping the home even though it is not a prudent financial decision because they see it as winning a large battle.

If they end up keeping the marital home there are times when they later realize that maybe taking on such a large debt and all the expenses that come along with home ownership was not such a good idea.

When going through with a divorce and keeping the marital home you need to make sure you can afford the mortgage payments. So many couples getting a divorce underestimate what it’s going to cost them to live once the divorce is finalized. One of the things that should be done when contemplating keeping the home is to develop a comprehensive budget before you lock yourself into a divorce settlement.

The emotional side of things should also be considered as well. Does the home have treasured memories shared together or is it a place you would rather forget about. Going back to the part about “winning” is what clouds many peoples judgments when it comes to both financial and emotional decisions.

Selecting a Real Estate Agent in Divorce

When couples go through a nasty divorce selecting a Realtor is something that most are not going to do as it will more than likely be court appointed.

When the relationship is amicable however, selecting the  Realtor to work with is an essential part of the process. Just like any other Real Estate transaction you should be looking for a Realtor who has a strong track record of success.

Given that over 90% of all buyers today find their homes online you want to work with an agent that is going to provide dominant internet exposure. The agent should have their own website that comes up on local internet searches, as well as placing your home in the most traveled consumer sites for looking at properties.

Customer service selling Massachusetts home

I should emphasize though that it is not enough to just place your home in the popular sites. This is what the average agent does.

You should work with a Realtor that is going to spend the time adding great photography, expanded descriptions of your home, as well as some kind of video tour.

These are the type of things that make a difference and help your home stand out from the competition.

Above all else in a divorce you are going to want to work with a Realtor that has great communication skills.

Given there are two parties involved who might not be sharing the same roof anymore, you are going to want to work with someone who understands the nature of divorce and all the feelings that come along with it. The agent is going to have to have a certain level of patience as all communications will more than likely be repeated multiple times.

Selecting a Realtor is a process that should be done together. What I have witnessed 1st hand over my twenty four years in the business is that if one party selects who they want to interview, the other party may feel slighted in the process. The natural instinct is to feel that the Realtor is going to play favorites.

When I am hired to represent a couple in a divorce I want them both to be present for any interviews that take place. I want them to know that I represent both of them equally. The goal is always to get the best terms and conditions in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of headaches.

Creating an atmosphere of trust where either party can call me at anytime is very important. Getting a divorce is stressful enough as it is. Adding a home sale on top of it can make you feel like your life is totally upside down. Making the home sale process go as smooth as possible is always one of my missions.

Related Real Estate articles:

_________________________________________________________________

About the author: The above Real Estate information on divorce and selling a home was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 27+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Moving From a Home During a Short Sale

Moving out of a Massachusetts short sale home

One of the questions I am often asked when consulting a Massachusetts home owner about short sales is whether or not it is alright if they move out of the home.

Sometimes  life circumstances dictate that it would be more convenient to live somewhere else. The answer to this questions is an easy one. Leaving a home during a short sale is not a good idea!

If at all possible it is far more wise to remain in your home when trying to complete a short sale.

There are some lenders that consider a home owner moving out of their residence as “abandonment”. When abandonment comes into play you can often times see the lender trying to fast track the foreclosure proceedings.  This of course is not something you really want to monkey around with.

It is not uncommon to see a lender send out an independent firm that will visit the home and see if the owner is still present. If the short sale inspector reports that the home is vacant, there are times when these companies are ordered by the bank to change the locks and secure the property.

There are numerous times over the last three years that I have been called by these types of short sale inspection companies. The party line is always the same. They get a phone call from the lender asking them to stake out the property and find out what the current status is. Of course when they get to the home they end up seeing my Real Estate sign and then give me a phone call.

When this happens I explain that we are doing a short sale and it is not necessary for the locks to be changed. In my experience these short sale inspection companies are usually pretty good and understand the short sale process. When I tell them it is not necessary for the locks to be changed they usually comply. This is not to say that they won’t end up changing the locks at some point down the road.

There was one time despite the fact that I told the company not to change the locks that they did so anyways on orders from the bank. This of course is illegal. The bank has no legal right to change the locks on a property they do not own especially if it has not been abandoned.

When a property is abandoned the bank position is that they have the right to protect their asset. There are any number of things that can go wrong in a home when it is vacant. One of the most common is pipes freezing. When this happens you can easily have a situation where significant damage can occur. Water damage is further enhanced by the likely hood of getting mold. These kind of issues are what the lenders are trying to avoid when they secure a property.

The bottom line is if you are able to stay in your home during a short sale then this is what you should do! When I 1st started working with Massachusetts short sales a few years ago, it was very typical to request that the bank postpone a bank foreclosure sale in order to entertain or continue to process a short sale transaction.

Recently it has become increasingly more difficult to get the mortgage lender to agree to postpone the foreclosure sale especially if it is a Fannie Mae loan. Moving out during a short sale could further increase the chances of the lender being difficult to work with.

Related short sale Real Estate articles:

Massachusetts short sales

If you are in need of doing a Massachusetts short sale it is highly recommended that you work with a short sale specialist. There are numerous Realtors that have begun to take short sale listings that have no experience what so ever completing a short sale transaction.

I would encourage you to do your home work when selecting a Realtor to work with.

Many agents do not know the 1st thing about short sales and try to learn on the fly. When you are facing foreclosure the last thing you want is to be stuck working with an agent that doesn’t know about short sale procedures!

If you are needing to complete a  short sale of your home or condo in Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopedale,  Medway, Mendon, Milford, Hopkinton, Southboro, Westboro, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Upton, Uxbridge, Shrewsbury, Worcester, or Douglas Get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area. So far, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval! I work hand in hand with a local Real Estate attorney who knows how to get short sales done!

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on moving from a home during a short sale was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Pods moving and storage MassachusettsWhat to Know About PODS and Moving

If you are pretty observant like I am you may have  noticed a white container in a local yard that had in big bold lettering the word PODS and wondered what it was. PODS is short for portable on demand storage. More than likely a home owner who has one of these units is either moving or getting ready to move.

PODS offers service to over 200 million people in more than 20,000 cities in 58 states, provinces, and territories throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Whether you are moving across town or across the country PODS are a great alternative to large expensive moving companies. The way the PODS system works is they drop of a pod at your home and you are able to fill it up at your leisure. You are given the flexibility to pack at your own speed and do not have to worry about others touching your belongings.  When you are done packing and are ready to move your container, PODS will come and pick it up for you and deliver it wherever you need it to go.

De-cluttering and organizing a home

There is no question that PODS offer a convenient solution to moving. Working as a Massachusetts Realtor however, I have found that one of the biggest benefits is the fact that a pod unit helps de-clutter and organize a home. In a competitive Real Estate market you really need your home to look it’s best if you want to put the most money in your pocket. Home buyers have lots of choices and will look for homes that are in turn-key condition.

Part of a homes appearance that can be easily changed without spending a lot of money is the cleanliness and organization. The goal should be  to show off all the rooms in their best light. Staging a Massachusetts home is one of the smartest things you can do as a home seller. Buyers will be much more impressed by a home owner who clearly takes pride in the appearance of their home.

A home that shows well can mean the difference between  selling quickly or sitting on the market for months! In the link to the home staging article above I offer a number of tips to getting your home prepared for the market. When I meet with a home seller in the Metrowest Massachusetts area one of the things I am never afraid to do is give advice on how to make their home more appealing to the masses. Of course I know some people are very sensitive about their home but if I don’t make suggestions we both lose!

On a number of occasions I have gone into homes that are just loaded with “stuff”. Some people seem to be collectors and just don’t ever want to give up anything they have ever purchased. As home owners we all accumulate lots of things we don’t even realize we have. If you happen to be a pack rat and just can’t stand to think about throwing anything away the perfect solution is getting a POD.

Benefits of a PODS storage container

Massachusetts moving companies

  • PODS delivers a container to you so you can pack it and unpack it at your own pace.
  • PODS containers can be stored at your home or business for easy access. If you prefer not to have the container in your yard they can be stored in one of the companies dry and secure storage centers.
  • PODS storage containers come in 3 handy sizes: 8x7x7, 8x8x12, and 8x8x16 (sizes are approximate).
  • You don’t have to drive a huge truck around town, maneuvering in and out of tight spaces and fill it up with gas when you are done.
  • The PODS themselves remain at ground level for easy loading and unloading.
  • You’re not on any time constraints, so there are no late fees or extra charges for taking longer than you expected.
  • You are able to store your container for a few weeks or a few years.
  • A pod container can be delivered next day for loading.
  • You are the only one that has the key to your PODS storage container unit so you can be sure your property is safe.
  • PODS containers are weather resistant and have been tested to withstand a wind velocity of up to 110 miles per hour when partially filled.
  • PODS delivery trucks are equipped with a patented lift system that minimizes the shift of contents while in transit to one of their storage center facilities.
  • PODS Storage Centers feature sophisticated security systems.

If you realize there is  quite a bit of excess furniture and other items hanging around your home, think strongly about getting a PODS unit to change the visual appeal.

Another alternative to going with a POD is to get your own storage container at a facility that specializes in storage. Here are some excellent tips on how to choose a storage facility. There can be vast differences on what the options and prices that are found from place to place. It really makes sense to do your homework when trying to accommodate your storage needs. Getting some references from either friends or relatives is always a good idea when you are going to be placing what amounts to your most valued possessions in the hands of someone you may not know.

Are you a Massachusetts home owner and want to get a pricing quote on a PODS storage unit? Click the link….>> Get a Massachusetts PODS Storage Quote.

Related Real Estate articles:

Use these additional resources to make your home selling and moving experience a pleasurable one.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Massachusetts moving and storage with PODS was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 27+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in and around Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Upton, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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Massachusetts Foreclosure Properties

Are you considering buying a Massachusetts foreclosure property?   Investors that have a long term perspective of the Real Estate market understand that purchasing a bank foreclosure can be an excellent financial proposition. In the Metrowest Massachusetts area there are plenty of them around and they can typically be bought at a discount to the present market value.

Buying a Massachusetts foreclosed home however, is not for the timid at heart and there are many things that buyers need to consider. If you have ever watched a late night infomercial you would think that buying a foreclosed home for 50 cents on the dollar and immediately re-selling it for a boat load on money is automatic. Don’t plan on it!

Foreclosed homes generally can be purchased anywhere from 5%-20% below the current market value. Along with the chance for immediate equity comes a lot more risk. As a buyer of a foreclosed home, you should be preparing yourself for a significant amount of due diligence.

Having been in the  Real Estate industry for the past twenty four years the best advice I could provide is to make sure you have an attorney represent your best interests.

One of the 1st things an attorney will do is a title search to see if there are any liens or other liabilities on the property. Things like unpaid taxes, mechanics liens, or court judgments are all possible land mines. The sooner you determine the legal status of the property you are interested in the better as this will help determine if it is even worth it to put in an offer.

The last thing you want to have happen is to think you just bought a home for $500,000 but then find out there is $100,000 worth of liens on the property.

Having your financing already lined up is a very important consideration as well because these kind of transactions tend to move very swiftly.

Unlike a traditional Real Estate transaction everything is “buyer beware”. When purchasing a non foreclosed home the seller will have had some kind of history with the property and should be disclosing any known issues. In a foreclosure the lender has never lived in the property therefore they would have no idea what problems if any the home has.

Most of the time you will be buying in “as is” condition. In many cases a person who has lost their home because of financial difficulties probably has not had the funds to keep up with the maintenance.

There could be any number of problems that are not readily apparent. Issues with some of the more expensive components of a home such as heating, plumbing and electrical systems are all possible. There could also be vandalism by the previous home owner or other vandals as well.

I have been to plenty of foreclosed homes where the owner has taken out their anger on the property. I have been in homes where the entire kitchen was removed! Some of the other more common issues today is the copper plumbing being taken out of a home. I know that may sound crazy but it happens!

Massachusetts Bank Auction

Still interested in buying a foreclosed home? Here are the three scenarios when buying one:

  • A pre-foreclosure where you buy directly from the home owner before the bank takes over.
  • At an auction where you may be in competition with other buyers.
  • From a Real Estate company or the bank itself. This is known as an REO aka Real Estate owned.

In a pre-foreclosure you get to do all your various due diligence including any home inspections and a title search to make sure there are no liens. In a pre-foreclosure the owner signs over the deed to you and you take title to the property. In this scenario you acquire the mortgage a must bring it current giving the bank any missed payments.

Buying at an auction typically carries the most risk but also can come with the greatest reward.

Auctions are handled differently from state to state. Some are held right at the property and others at the local court house.

Many times with an auction you are not allowed to inspect the property prior to the scheduled auction date. These types of sales tend to bring out more “investor” types as these properties can be bought on many occasions for a price that could warrant a “flip” where the buyer turns around and re-sells the property.

A buyer going to an auction will need to come up with a fairly large deposit and will be expected to show the lender that they have the ability to complete the purchase. The other consideration in the auction scenario is that you may have to spend time and money removing the previous owner. A task that most buyers don’t have the stomach for.

The REO scenario is usually the least risky as the bank has acquired the property and has wiped out the liens through purchase.

Once a home is Real Estate owned many banks will list these homes with a Realtor. The buyer gets clear title, is most often allowed to inspect the home, and is allowed to have a mortgage contingency. This is typically the best route for the non savvy Real Estate investor.

A few other very important considerations in the foreclosure process in the “pre-foreclosure period” and the “redemption period”. The pre-foreclosure period is the time between a previous owner’s notification of default and the point when the property can be sold by the lender.This time period is also when the existing owner can make good on the note and keep their home, or sell it themselves. So the shorter the pre-foreclosure period, the more advantageous it is for the new buyer.

The redemption period is the time when the previous owner is allowed to buy back the home after the lender has sold it. Again, the shorter this time period, the better it is for the buyer. Some states have no redemption period, making it an optimal situation for someone to purchase.These time periods vary depending on the State the property is located in. Knowing the exact redemption period is critical because you could end up losing time and money if the previous owner ends up buying back the home.

Most of your efficiency as a buyer depends on whether the state in which the property is purchased uses mortgages or deeds of trust for real estate transactions.

When a state uses mortgages, it means they also conduct their foreclosure proceedings through the courts. These transactions tend to take longer and have a range of potential problems. When a state uses deeds of trust, the foreclosures are non-judicial and tend to resolve quicker and with far less head aches.

In Massachusetts the primary means on foreclosure is non judicial (no court action). If the deed of trust, however, does not contain a power of sale language, (language in the mortgage that allows the mortgagee to sell the property) the lender may seek judicial foreclosure.

As few as 75 days may pass from the time a property owner receives a notice of default until the property is sold at a public foreclosure auction sale.

As you can see there is quite a bit to know when buying a Massachusetts foreclosed home. In addition to having a good attorney, a knowledgeable local Realtor can be an important piece of the puzzle in helping to determine the market value of the property you wish to purchase.

Related Real Estate articles:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on buying a Massachusetts foreclosure property was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Upton, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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When To Do a Short Sale Home Inspection

Massachusetts short sale home inspection

In most Real Estate transactions there is a buyers agent representing a buyer and a sellers agent representing the seller. In a traditional purchase, the home inspection is generally done within the 1st week or two after a contract has been executed by both the buyer and seller.

This is know as a “home inspection contingency” and allows the buyer and their home inspector the opportunity to carefully look over the home for any potential structural or mechanical defects.

If the buyer does not like the results they generally can exercise their right not to move forward with the purchase of the property.

When to do a home inspection for a short sale property can sometimes be a bone of contention depending on which side you are representing in the transaction.

Buyers of course do not want to spend money on home inspections when they do not know for sure whether their short sale offer is going to get approved or not.  In many short sale offers I receive, the buyers agent will ask in the offer to let the buyer do their home inspection after the short sale approval letter comes from the lender.

As a Massachusetts short sale listing agent however, I need to protect my clients best interests.  Allowing a buyer to wait until after the lender’s approval to do a home inspection would give the buyer the ability to walk away far too late in the transaction and could force the seller into a foreclosure sale because they would not have enough time to find another buyer.

In addition most short sales are “as is” transactions. The reason the seller is doing a short sale to begin with is that they do not have enough money to continue paying the mortgage. Buyer’s need to understand  going in that the home inspection is not going to be an opportunity for them to present a laundry list of repairs they want the seller to remedy.

Lastly, the buyer is not going to be able to negotiate any costs of repairs if the home inspection was completed after lender’s approval. When the lender or lenders approves a short sale it is based on a definite dollar amount they will be realizing at the closing and they do not allow for further negotiations.

If the home inspection is done up front in a short sale it could be possible to negotiate a credit prior to the offer being submitted to the lender.

For all these reasons it makes sense that the home inspection is done prior to short sale approval!

Massachusetts short sale Realtor

As the number of Massachusetts short sales has grown so has the number of unqualified Realtors who have started to represent home sellers. If you are a Massachusetts home seller and need to do a short sale it is of the utmost importance to realize that not every Realtor is qualified to represent a short sale!!

Many consumers make extremely poor choices by working with agents that don’t have a lick of experience with getting short sales approved.  Picking a good Massachusetts short sale Realtor is critical to your success.

There are many errors I see constantly by agents who are representing sellers in short sales throughout the Metrowest area. If you are considering doing a short sale I would highly recommend reading some of the short sale articles I have written below. The articles cover some of the considerations as well as mistakes you want to avoid when trying to successfully complete a short sale.

As a home seller you need to remember that tons of short sales across the country do not get approved and end up in foreclosure. Sometimes this is due to the Realtor not properly handling the sale. There are also debt removal and tax consequences discussed below that you will want to be familiar with.

If you are needing to complete a  short sale of your home or condo in Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Upton, Uxbridge, Shrewsbury, Worcester, or Douglas Get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area. So far, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval!

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on when to do a short sale home inspection was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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USDA Loans For No Down Payment Financing

A USDA guaranteed loan is a government insured 100% purchase loan. This type of loan is only offered in what is considered a rural area. They are serviced by direct lenders that meet Federal guidelines.

USDA loans (US Department of Agriculture) aka Section 502 loans are an excellent mortgage vehicle for those home buyers who do not have money to put down but have decent credit ratings. Typically a credit score over 600 will allow a buyer to secure USDA financing. A score between 580-600 will come under much heavier scrutiny but will not rule out the borrower.

Most people think that 100% financing is a thing of the past due to the mortgage market melt down. While it is hard to get 100% financing, it is not impossible because of the USDA loan.

The USDA loan is typically used to help low to moderate income households purchase homes in rural areas. These loan products are backed by the Federal government. A common obstacle for many folks to owning a home is the lack of down payment funds. The use of a USDA loan makes the reality of home ownership far more reachable to a large percentage of borrowers.

Qualifying for a USDA Loan

In order to qualify for a USDA mortgage loan you can only have an income up to 115% of the median income for the area that the home you are interested in buying is located.

The guidelines also include repayment viability based on P.I.T.I (Principle, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance) divided by gross monthly income being less than 29%. Total debt divided by gross monthly income must also be equal to or less than 41%.

Families applying for the loan must not currently have housing that is adequate. The test of adequacy is based on family size. For example ff a family of five is living in a two bedroom apartment then that is not adequate and they would be eligible for the loan. The home must also be reasonable in size based on the size of the family. You would not be buying an enormous home with a USDA loan!

One of the other great benefits of the USDA loan is that there is no mortgage insurance required. Without the need for private mortgage insurance the borrower can save a substantial amount of money!

In my experience, unless you are in a heavily populated city the definition of rural is pretty loose. Many areas that you may not consider to be rural in your mind may qualify for a USDA loan. Areas that have a population under 20,000 will probably pass the test in most circumstances.

To see if a USDA loan would work for your financing needs it would be smart to check with a qualified mortgage professional. Not all lenders work with these type of loan products as they are more paperwork intense.

For additional information on USDA loans I would suggest visiting the USDA loan website which provides a vast amount of information on this loan product..

If you are located in Massachusetts and want to know if you qualify  based on the income limits for a specific area you can visit Massachusetts USDA offices which will provide you with the local income limits based on the county that the property is located in.

If you are located in another state here is the link to the USDA State & local offices.

USDA loan alternatives

USDA Loan vs FHA loan

If you find that you do not meet the income requirements for a USDA loan another popular choice for a lower down payment loan would be an FHA loan. There are no income restrictions with an FHA loan  you will only need to have a 3.5% down payment. For a comparison of conventional mortgage plans to an FHA loan see conventional financing vs FHA loans.

While there have been tremendous changes for the better in the mortgage industry, the media loves to portray the mortgage market as one where borrowers have almost no chance of getting a loan. Doom and gloom unfortunately always seems to sell better than the actual reality of things.

There is no question that mortgage lenders have really tightened their belt and are not lending to anyone that is breathing and walks into their office.  There is however, plenty of funding available to those that have a job with a steady income and a decent credit rating. So don’t assume you can not get a loan!

We are currently in one of the most attractive times in our history as far as borrowing money goes. It is rare to see an interest rate environment where rates are so attractive, combined with a significant drop in housing prices we have seen from 2005 to 2010!

Related Real Estate articles:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on USDA loans for no down payment financing was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Massachusetts Realtors not attending home inspection

In the Real Estate industry it is usually pretty easy to spot a truly dedicated Realtor who has a passion for their business. It is also just as easy to spot a pretender that does as little as they can get away with.

Unfortunately, there are very low barriers to becoming a Realtor. Take a test and you are in business as soon as a broker hires you.

Many agents that get into Real Estate do so because they think it is easy money. After being in the Real Estate business for a while some agents tend to develop bad habits and become very lazy.

As a Massachusetts Realtor who has been in the field for the last 24 years, I have met some agents that are fantastic and others that I can’t believe are allowed to practice. See picture above.

There are so many consumers that do not know the rules of the game and don’t realize when the Realtor they have hired is doing what they should be under their job description.  One area that is quite common to see a Realtor not fully representing their clients best interests is at the attendance of the buyers home inspection.

A good buyers agent should be at the home inspection representing their buyer client. Likewise, the sellers agent should also be there to represent the seller during the home inspection.

A great Realtor who is a true advocate for their client is going to walk the walk and talk the talk. How can you properly represent your clients interest in a home inspection if you are not there to hear what has been said by the home inspector? The answer is simple – YOU CAN’T!

Buyer’s agent attending home inspection

As a buyers agent the Realtor must put their clients interests 1st and negotiate for the best terms and conditions for their client. If a buyers agent is not at the home inspection it makes it far more difficult to negotiate the best terms and conditions for the buyer. Part of attending the home inspection is understanding how potential defects will affect the value, as well as what the cost is to remedy such defects. A buyer’s agents job is not to just drive a buyer around until they find a home. Complete buyers representation is seeing the transaction through until closing.

A good buyers agent who is in attendance can get a feel for how important issues that have arisen are rectified. The job description of a buyers representative includes counseling their clients on what is appropriate and reasonable for the seller to correct. For example, if a safety issue is discovered a buyer is more than likely want to get that fixed especially if it poses a real danger.  There is always a fine line though on what is reasonable and appropriate. Part of negotiating is getting the things that are most important addressed in some fashion. This is one of the many roles of a buyers rep.

Seller’s agent attending home inspection

Home inspection Massachusetts

I see buyer’s agents in attendance far more than I see the listing agent being present. This means one thing….There are lots of Massachusetts home seller’s that are getting poor seller representation at home inspections. It is just as important that the seller’s listing agent is present at the inspection. Maybe even more so than the buyers agent!

The listing agent should be there to hear exactly what the home inspector says about the property as it relates to defects. There are two very important factors on why this holds true.

Just as there are good and bad Realtors, the same holds true for home inspectors. There are some inspectors that do an absolutely great job of conveying the facts to a buyer and then explaining how those facts relate to what is or isn’t appropriate.

In my eyes a true professional will make a buyer have a complete understanding of what they are dealing with and whether or not the defect is common for the age of the property and life expectancy of the item in question. On the other hand some home inspectors are “drama queens” and love to make the most minor defect into a catastrophic event.

In the event you have a home inspector that falls into this category a good listing agent in attendance can ask the inspector questions that may alleviate any fears that may have been caused due to the nature in which the issue was explained. There have been plenty of times where I have been able to temper a buyers fears by just asking the home inspector a few simple questions.

Let me make this clear…I do not interfere in any way from the inspector doing his or her job!

The second major reason why a listing agent should attend the home inspection is buyer exaggeration. There are plenty of buyers that love to use the home inspection as a 2nd round of negotiations. In some cases this is warranted and other cases it clearly is not!

There have been plenty of times where I have heard exactly what a home inspector has said about a particular item and the buyer has turned it into something much more involved. Of course when this happens the buyer ends up asking the seller for a credit or a reduction in sale price. More often than not the credit they are looking for is way out of whack with what is appropriate. There have been times where the inspector has said nothing needs to happen and the buyer has still asked for a credit.

This would happen even more if I was not in attendance to hear what the inspector said. When I am in attendance, I can later explain to the seller whether there is a legitimate  need to address an issue or not.

Massachusetts Realtor not giving home inspection advice

If you are thinking of selling your Massachusetts home when you interview the Realtors make sure you ask them if they will be in attendance at the home inspection representing your interests! If you start hearing excuses on why the agent may not be attending I would give serious consideration to someone who will be there for YOU!

You may even hear from a real estate agent that they don’t attend home inspections because someone has told them that it increases their liability.  That’s hogwash! I completely disagree.  It’s the Realtors conduct at the inspection that puts them at risk, not their presence. Know when to open your mouth and when not to!

Realtors should not be tempted to provide a service that’s outside of their expertise. I am clearly not an inspector and I don’t confuse my buyer or seller clients by acting like one.

One other home selling tip is to make sure you fill out the Massachusetts sellers disclosure statement. Make sure the buyer has looked at it prior to when they make an offer. It is far more difficult for a buyer to ask you to remedy issues from a home inspection if they were already aware of them before they made an offer!

Home inspections are an important part of the home buying and selling process in Massachusetts. It makes sense that both parties have proper representation. In other states it may or may not work the same way. Please keep this in mind.

Related Real Estate articles:

Testing a Massachusetts well when buying a home

Massachusetts home warranty benefits

Massachusetts bedroom misrepresentation with septic systems

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Realtors should be attending home inspections was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.


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Strategic Real Estate Default

You may have heard or read recently about strategic defaults as this topic is all over the news. A strategic default is when a home owner walks away from their mortgage when they are still able to make the payments.

The reason why a home owner would consider a strategic default and just walk away is because the value of their home has dropped substantially below what they owe on their mortgage.

The general feeling amongst those that are using a strategic default is that it will take years for their homes market value to recover. They basically walk away from the property and start fresh.

Fannie Mae the government backed lending giant is putting into place simple measures that will discourage home owners from considering a strategic default. What does Fannie Mae plan to do?

They will begin “locking out”  borrowers from getting new mortgages for seven years! They will also go after strategic defaulters for the money they owe in states where they are allowed to do so.

Those home owners who walk-away and had the ability to pay the mortgage or did not complete a workout alternative in good faith will be ineligible for a new Fannie Mae-backed mortgage loan for a period of seven years from the date of foreclosure.

Fannie Mae stressed that borrowers who make a good faith effort to work with their lender in order to resolve their situation will be eligible for Fannie Mae loans much quicker than those who just walk away.

Obviously the more homes in neighborhoods around the country that become abandoned due to strategic defaults puts further pressure on depressing Real Estate prices. Foreclosures and bank owned homes tend to bring down values of surrounding properties. Traditional home owners end up competing with these bank owned homes when selling their properties.

Some people that are using strategic defaults are doing so because they have become so exasperated at their lenders for not doing more to help them such as a loan modification. Anyone who has ever tried to get a loan modification would probably be the 1st to admit that lenders do not make it easy for a borrower to get one. Often times borrowers can’t get responses from banks to their questions and are repeatedly told to send in the same documents over and over again.

As a Realtor who has been selling Real Estate for the past twenty four years in Massachusetts, I have come across a number of properties where the owner just picked up and left. Often times I wonder why they did not take the necessary steps to try to avoid foreclosure.

It seems there are lots of folks that do not realize there are better alternatives that just bailing on their loan.

Short Sale vs Strategic Default

One alternative that I have been very successful with is helping Massachusetts home owners to short sale their property. In a short sale the lender allows a home owner who owes more than their home is worth to take less than the amount owed at closing.

Short sale success in Massachusetts

The owner of the property benefits in this situation because they get out of a financially difficult situation without going to foreclosure which can seriously damage your credit.

Most of the time when your home is foreclosed on you will not be able to get a loan to buy another home for five to six years. With a short sale in most cases you will be able to buy another property in two to three years. In either event your credit scores are going to take a hit but a short sale is generally the lesser of two evils.

Some of the statistics that have been bandied about are pretty scary and unfortunately are an indicator that Real Estate values are more than likely not going to be headed up for quite a while.

By the end of 2011, approximately 48 percent of the 50 million mortgage loans nationwide are predicted to be underwater or valued less than the money owed on them. There are also published estimates that more than 11 million American homeowners are underwater and predictions are that the number could more than double in the next 18 months!

It begs the question on whether or not holding a buyer out of obtaining a Real Estate loan for seven years would help the housing markets around the country?

One of the driving forces for a Real Estate recovery is going to boil down to simple economics of supply and demand. Home ownership needs to be more affordable to more people. We will not see a full fledged recovery without the buyers to support it.

Given the fact that Fannie Mae is going to seriously crack down on strategic foreclosures, looking at short selling your home could be a more logical solution.

The only conundrum when looking at a strategic default vs a short sale is whether or not the lender will let you complete one. In many situations lenders will not let you short sale your home unless you have a financial hardship. In my experience, I have seen quite a few lenders that are not enforcing the hardship qualifications aspect of a short sale as you would expect. Is it harder to get a short sale done without a hardship? It certainly is but not impossible.

There is certainly lots of things to think about when deciding if a short sale is the right move or not. Over the last three years I have helped numerous home owners in the Metrowest Massachusetts area complete a short sale. Along the way I have written quite a few articles that detail some of the most important considerations when completing one.

If you are considering a Massachusetts short sale I would encourage you to read some of the articles I have put together below.

Short Sale Real Estate articles:

Acceptable short sale hardships

Short sale tax consequences

Short sale debt removal

Questions to ask a short sale listing agent

Picking a top Massachusetts short sale Realtor

If you are needing to complete a  short sale of your home or condo in Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Upton, Uxbridge, Shrewsbury, Worcester, or Douglas Get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area. So far, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval!

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Fannie Mae strikes against strategic defaults was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Home warranty Massachusetts

Home warranties are something you see every now and then being offered by a Massachusetts home seller who is looking to provide a perk and piece of mind to a prospective home buyer.

The seller pays for the warranty upfront and the Realtor advertises that the property comes with a home warranty.

A home warranty is basically a service contract that covers the repair and or replacement of many of the most frequently occurring things that can break down in a home including appliances and home system components such as heating systems, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical items.

A home warranty gives a buyer piece of mind after they move into a home that if a repair crops up they will be covered and it will not turn into a major unexpected expense.

Home warranties used to be popular by just those folks that were selling their home. This is no longer the case as lots of Massachusetts home owners purchase a plan even if they are not selling their home. The typical cost of a home warranty goes for between $350 to $600 per year. There are usually different types of plans that can be purchased and the cost will vary depending on how much you desire to have covered. In other words there are certain levels where you can have just the basics covered like the kitchen appliances, all the way to the major systems in the home.

When an issue crops up that is covered under the home warranty you make a call and a service contractor comes out to view the issue. They are there to make sure that the issue is covered under the plan that you hold. The fee for a service call is in the neighborhood of $50-$100 dollars. Most of the time with these warranties you can expect that only a repair will be made unless it is absolutely necessary for the problem item to be replaced.

People often ask does it matter how old the appliances or systems are when purchasing a home warranty? The answer is that it does not, however the component needs to be in good working order. You can not expect a warranty to be purchased for something that is already defective and asked for it to be covered under the home warranty plan. If only things were that easy! You can expect the home warranty contract to be filled with clauses that will protect the home warranty company for a components prior condition.

Massachusetts service contractor

In addition if the service contractor determines that you have not been taking care of a particular item the warranty could be voided. For example, lets say the heating system has an issue and is not working properly. If the technician comes out to your home and sees you have not been maintaining the system by regularly changing the filters they may reject your coverage.

The other thing that you need to consider with a home warranty is that although they tell you that you will get a similar product if it fails, it may not be exactly the same. Why could this be an issue? You may have a brand of appliance that you think is rock solid. The fact that you just happen to really like it does not mean that you will get the same brand back if a replacement is needed. You could start out with General Electric and end up with Whirlpool!

So if you are thinking of purchasing a home warranty who should you go with? One of the most respected and well know home warranty companies is American Home Shield. They are the founding and leading Home Warranty Company, and have over 35 years of experience of providing warranty coverage. At the time of this writing they have over 1.3 million home warranties in force nationwide, and over 11,000 contractors in their service network.

American Home Shield leads the industry in delivering innovative home warranty products to their customers. Whenever I have recommended a home warranty to a client, I have always chosen American Home Shield.

According to the American Home Shield website their basic coverage includes: heating systems, water heaters, plumbing and electrical systems, ovens, ranges, garbage disposals, microwaves and cook tops as well as ceiling and exhaust fans and plumbing stoppages.

Or you can expand your coverage to include:

Central A/C,  refrigerator, clothes washer, clothes dryer, garage door opener, well pump, pool, spa.

Other well known home warranty companies include 1st American, Old Republic and Fidelity National Home Warranty.

Do I think home warranties sell homes? No I do not but I think they can on some occasions bridge the gap in negotiations if there are older components in a home that may break down shortly after the sale takes place.

On many occasions a home inspector will point out to a buyer that something in the home may be getting close to the end of it’s useful life. In homes where there are components that have reached the end of their lifespan a home warranty could end up saving you quite a few bucks!

Other related home selling articles:

Massachusetts seller’s disclosure statement

Staging Massachusetts homes

Breaking a Massachusetts Real Estate contract

Massachusetts home buyer turn offs

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on home warranty benefits for Massachusetts homes was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Non Internet Savvy Massachusetts Realtors

As a Realtor, knowing how to market your services as well as a clients property online can be very powerful. In the Real Estate field it can certainly be the difference maker in whether or not a client chooses to hire you or NOT!

It is not that hard to figure out that Realtors are a dime a dozen. Picking the wrong Realtor can get ugly. In most industries 80% of the business is done by 20% of the people. In Real Estate the ratio is 94% and 6%! It is easy to see why there is a lot of dissatisfaction within our ranks.

Unfortunately, there are very low barriers to entry for becoming a licensed Real Estate agent. Pass a test and you are in business. When the market was booming every Tom, Dick, Harry and Mary wanted a license into the promised land of easy money. They came in droves expecting to be living the life of luxury.

Then Real Estate markets around the country changed. The 3 P’s of Real Estate no longer worked. Put a sign in the yard, put it in MLS, and pray. This marketing strategy used to work for many agents when the Massachusetts market was booming.

From the mid 1990’s to 2005 Real Estate was Easy Street. Multiple offers and home values rising by the month. There was much less marketing skill involved in the Real Estate business. Commission checks were rolling in and there were smiles everywhere. The life and times of a Realtor were rosy!

Heck you could price a home improperly and a few months later it wouldn’t matter because the market would have caught up to your mistake. An inexperienced Realtors blunders could suddenly turn into genius. Those were the days.

The Real Estate market today is much different. Terms such as auctions, short sales, mortgage meltdown, and foreclosure,  are all common things we deal with on a daily basis. There are no lines forming at the door to the division of Real Estate licensing anymore.

In fact the Real Estate industry has gone through a consolidation. Many of the agents who didn’t realize that you need to invest a serious amount of time and energy in actually working your tail off are getting out just as fast as they entered.

There is also another set of agents that have managed to hang around but  don’t have a clue about what you need to do in order to be successful in a challenging market. Up until a few years ago, a Realtor that entered the business in the last ten years had not seen a down Massachusetts Real Estate market.

Times have changed and so should your thought process about picking a good Realtor to sell your home!

If you were looking for skill sets of the best Realtors it would be those that know how to price homes accurately, have a strong grasp of online marketing and communicate well throughout the home sale process.

The Internet has grown by leaps and bounds as a tool to sell homes. Survey after survey says that almost 90% of all buyers find their home from an online search! If you are considering selling your home it makes sense to be aligned with a Realtor who provides a dominate online presence for their clients. Not an agent that is not going to tell you what you want to hear in order to get the listing!

Using Google as an interview tool can be very important of selecting a great Realtor to work with!

There are lots of Realtors that love to talk a good game about how much online marketing they provide. Here are three tips that will expose the online pretenders from the internet savvy Realtor. Google the agents name you are considering hiring and also ask them for an address of a home they are marketing. Lastly, Google the town you are located in, state and the word “Real Estate”. As an example Hopkinton MA Real Estate or Framingham MA Real Estate.

You should Google all of them. If the Realtor has any grasp on social marketing there should be pages upon pages of results for their name! You should be able to quickly get the picture as to whether or not this agent is Internet savvy.

Real Estate SEO

When you Google an address of a home they are marketing, you will be able to see all the sites that the home is being marketed on. Think about this for a moment…if you Google a homes address and don’t come up with anything other than Zillow or Realtor.com you have found a Realtor that follows the 3 P’s of marketing. Run for the hills Amigos this is not what you want!!

The most competitive search terms to rank for online are the city, state and Real Estate combined. Everyone vies for the 1st page of Google for these terms because buyers will use them to search for property! An agent that is on the 1st page will see an exponential difference in Real Estate traffic to their site. Obviously this is what you want as a seller.

Besides Real Estate, one of my passions is SEO (search engine optimization). When a client hires me to sell their home it will be found everywhere online. My clients property becomes front and center for those buyers who are looking in my market area. A good Real Estate professional understands the importance of implementing a social media strategy into their marketing plan.

The goal is to provide the greatest exposure to my Real Estate listings, while also generating worth while hyper-local, geo targeted content that can be found through the search engines. So how is this accomplished? Well 1st let me tell you it now takes days to get the marketing set up for my clients homes.

The 1st thing that is done is getting the listing into my website that covers Real Estate sales in Metrowest Massachusetts. This website is highly indexed by Google and will usually come up on the 1st page for anything related to Real Estate in the towns I cover.

This is important because if the site can not be found what good is it? My knowledge of search engine optimization has allowed me to have a top ranked Real Estate site. One of the best features of my website is the ability to syndicate the listing to some of the most heavily traveled Real Estate sites at the click of a button. Click the link to see all of my Metrowest MA Real Estate marketing. There is not another Realtor in the area that provides this type of Real Estate exposure.

If you are not in my coverage area and need a Realtor this is the type of Real Estate marketing you should be looking for! Of course an agents track record is also an important consideration. Here are some great interview questions for listing agents to help you make a great selection.

Related Real Estate articles:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on picking the wrong Massachusetts Realtor can get ugly was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Upton, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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Home improvements with the worst return

One thing I have learned over the years while working as a Massachusetts Realtor is that many folks do not realize the correlation between making improvements to their home and what the corresponding return on investment will end up being.

So many people blindly assume that every improvement they make to their home will bring an automatic 100% return or close to it. Unfortunately this is not the case…far from it. One of the best home improvements you can make to your home is a remodeled kitchen and that generally only brings a 75% return!

I don’t know how many times over the years that I have done an evaluation on a sellers home and they were disappointed to find out the value was not quite what they expected. More often than not it can be traced to the fact that money was put into the home in places where there is a very low return.

So what are some of the worst returning investments in a home?

Swimming pools

Let me 1st preface by saying that adding a swimming pool somewhere other than Massachusetts may add more value in a home. In Massachusetts the time you are able to truly enjoy the use of a swimming pool is around three months. The weather in the New England states in not the same as down south or out west in the Arizona area where temperatures remain much warmer for a larger part of the year.

Swimming pools are generally far more expensive to install in Massachusetts because of our rocky soils. The cost of an in-ground swimming pool can vary quite a bit depending on the size and whether it is a gunite or liner pool. On the lower end your very basic liner pool is going to cost around $40,000 by the time your figure the cost of the pool, fencing, landscaping, etc. A luxury swimming pool can easily go upwards of $100,000 if you go all out with a nice design and frills such as a cabana, fireplace and fancy surfaces around the pool.

When you install a swimming pool in Massachusetts what you really should be thinking about is the enjoyment you are going  to get out of having it. Do not expect that you will be getting a good return on your investment. Swimming pools often times can actually end up being a detriment when selling a home. There are many buyers that flat out will not buy a home that has one no matter how beautiful it is.

Are there times where a buyer is specifically looking for a pool? Sure…if you are lucky you may find a buyer that will pay a little more for a home with a pool. Just don’t expect that it will be anywhere close to the money you have sunk into the ground.

A new septic system

New Massachusetts septic system

While you would never hear a couple saying “hey honey what do you think about getting ourselves a beautiful new septic system?”, the fact of the matter is that many home owners incorrectly assume that a buyer will give you something because you have one. Fat chance!

Replacing a septic system is really one of the worst nightmares a home owner can face. The cost involved with installing a new title V system can put a huge dent in your wallet. The cost of replacing a Massachusetts septic system can vary quite a bit depending on the soils and the ground water level. If there are tough soil conditions and a high water table you could be shelling out $40,000 – $50,000 or more to have a new system installed.

Even if the soil conditions and water table are very favorable you could still expect to be handed a bill of around $10,000. There is no question that replacing a septic system is a huge investment. Replacing a septic system is obviously not something you run out and do because you just feel like it. If your system fails it is a fact of life that it must be replaced. In Massachusetts you can not sell a home without a passing Title V!

The problem is a buyer could care less if you have a new system in the ground. All a buyer is going to care about is when the toilet flushes it works.  Do not expect a buyer to pay for your septic problem! You will be lucky if you get the buyer to pay 10%-20% of the cost of installing a new system.

A new roof

There is no question that one of the major components a buyer cares about when purchasing a home is the roof and basement. Of course this stems from the fact buyers never want to think about having a water issue. Surprisingly though home buyers do not care if you have a beautiful new architectural shingle adorning your rooftop.

As an example lets take two identical homes in the same neighborhood one with a twenty year old roof approaching the end of it’s useful life and another home with a new roof. Let’s also assume the new roof  would cost the seller $12,000 to replace. Don’t expect the buyer to pay an additional $12,000 for the home. Buyer’s rarely ever pay for the mundane. Buyer’s are far more willing to pay extra for things they can enjoy on a daily basis. A new roof is not one of them. A gorgeous new bath….different story!

There is no question that a swimming pool, septic system and roof are three of the worst home improvements for return on investment in a home. What are some of the others? According to the latest cost vs value remodeling report for the Northeast here are a few more home improvements that do not fair well when it comes time to sell:

  • A bathroom addition which comes in at a return of 59.5%
  • A home office remodel which returns 48.1% on investment.
  • A master suite addition which comes in at 65.2%
  • A deck addition also has a low return at 60.8%

When it comes time to sell your Massachusetts home remember that some of the improvements you have made may help the saleability of your property but not your bottom line!

Related Real Estate articles:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on home improvements with the worst return on investment was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Upton, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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Massachusetts home selling

Getting a Massachusetts home sold today is a lot more difficult than it used to be. The fact of the matter is that there are far fewer buyers that can qualify to buy a home today.  We all know that lending practices have tightened and rightfully so.

There are also millions of people that have lost their homes either via a short sale or foreclosure that can no longer think about being a home owner.

When the housing supply exceeds the demand it creates an environment that home sellers really need to be conscious of. When there is an imbalance in the market between the number of buyers and sellers, the process of selling a home becomes far more competitive.

The most important factor in getting any home to sell is to make sure the home is priced properly. Without the correct list price you will be in an up hill battle to sell your home. Besides a proper list price and a well coordinated marketing campaign, another top consideration is to make a good 1st impression on the buyer!

Most buyers today have the option and will take advantage of looking at lots of homes. As a seller you want to make sure your home stands out from the competition and I don’t mean in a bad way! Here is some simple advice on what NOT to do when selling your home:

Wet Basements and leaky roofs

Water in Massachusetts basement

One of the biggest obstacles any Massachusetts home seller faces is the threat of water in their home. There is nothing that will turn off a home buyer more than dealing with a water problem.

Any buyer that has ever dealt with a water issue will certainly cross your home off the list no matter high nice it is. The thought of water penetration scares even the most hardened buyer.

My advice is simple! Make sure you get it corrected before the home ever hits the market. Don’t wait for the home inspection to take place and have the inspector inform the buyer that the home takes on water. If  the water is entering the basement invest in a sump pump and a dehumidifier when it is an older home. If the the property is a younger and the basement has the potential to be finished, you are going to want to make certain that it is bone dry. This could include getting a B-Dry system if necessary. If you don’t correct the problem you will be rendering the lower level useless to a buyer.

Think you want to hide your water issue from the buyer? Think again! This is a Massachusetts property disclosure issue that you could easily get sued on. Always disclose what you know especially if you do not intend to fix the issue.

Your home stinks

Massachusetts home with bad odors

Strong odors in a home are clear turn offs to buyers. Whether the smell is from smoking which by the way you are probably so accustomed to you don’t even notice or to pet odors you want to make sure they are gone by the time the for sale sign hits the lawn. Another common pitfall occurs from strong cooking odors.

While you may not find the odors offensive, you are not buying your home – someone else is! Sometimes getting rid of such smells as smoke, pet odors, mildew, and others can be difficult. If you find that standard house hold cleaning items do not do the job, I would recommend getting an ozone machine. A powerful ozone machine can do wonders for removing home odors.

Let the light in

sunny Massachusetts home

Buyers are attracted to clean bright homes where there is an abundance of natural light. One of the easiest things to do is to make sure all the blinds in curtains are drawn in your home.

I can not tell you how many homes that I go into that are not staged properly. Letting the light into all the rooms in your home is one of the most cost efficient home selling tips.

Due to the positioning of some homes there will be rooms that will be dark whether of not the curtains are drawn. In this instance you want to make sure you have some lights that are on timers during the day. While natural sunlight is preferred a few well placed lamps is better than nothing!

Outdated decor and too much stuff

messy bedoom

Most home sellers incorrectly assume that every buyer should be able to see beyond the orange shag carpets, yellow toilets and checker board dining room wall paper. Sorry folks they don’t. Most buyer do not have that sense of vision.

Even if you find one that does you can be sure they will be discounting their offer less than what the actual cost is to remedy the problem. Making these kind of improvements to a home can go a long way in assisting the saleability.Replacing carpets, painting and removing wall papers are simple and inexpensive fixes.

If you just have too much “stuff” that has accumulated in your home over the years you may want to think about getting storing some of it in the garage or basement if you have the room. If not you should give serious consideration to renting either a POD or storage facility. To really make your home stand out from the crowd you could always consider hiring a professional stager. I have also put some tips together about staging a Massachusetts home for sale. Lastly, your stuffed moose head on the wall and the flashing neon bar sign are only impressive to you.

Don’t hang around the home

Seller staying at home during showing

This is Real Estate 101. Over the years I have met some sellers who are extremely prideful of their place. There is certainly nothing wrong with that but you don’t want it to get in the way of your sale.

It is rare that a buyer is going to want a guided tour of your home. This is the Realtors job. Your home is going to sell itself. If the buyer is emotionally connected to your home you have nothing to worry about.

Unfortunately, your pride and the tour are not what will be the deciding factor if they decide to purchase. More often than not, the buyer and their agent are not going to feel comfortable if you remain in the home. The same holds true for sellers who believe accompanied showings help sell homes. They do not!

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Massachusetts home buyer turn offs was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Upton, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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Fixing Credit Report Errors

Fixing credit report mistakesIf you are buying a home one of the things you will absolutely want to do beforehand is to fix any credit report errors! There is nothing that can put a damper on purchasing a home than finding out you need to fix a credit report error so that you will be able to get a mortgage! Fixing credit report errors is not the difficult as long as you know what you are doing.

There is no question that getting a home loan today is far more difficult than in years past. Gone are the days where anybody that had a pulse could speak with a bank or mortgage company and feel confident they would walk away with a mortgage.

When you are looking to make a home purchase today one of the most important factors that lenders will look at is your credit report. Over the last five years, lenders have been burned badly as the foreclosures and short sales continue to mount across the country.

Checking a Credit Report For Accuracy

With the conservative nature of most lenders it makes it of paramount importance that your credit report is accurate! What most people don’t realize is that almost three out of  every four credit reports has enough errors that could cost someone getting a loan or effecting the interest rate they receive! In many cases the consumer does not find out about the mistakes until it is too late.

Checking your credit report for errors is something every home buyer should do before they purchase a home. By law you are able to get one free credit report a year from the three credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Everyone should take advantage of this and be checking their credit report diligently.

The lender will use your credit score to determine how great a risk you are and what the likelihood that you will be paying back the loan. The lender will also use your credit score as a basis for giving you a rate on your loan. Those who have the best credit get the best rates. It’s as simple as that.

Credit Repair Companies

When we are faced with uncertain times in Real Estate and the economy in general there always seems to be people out there who will try to prey on others misfortune. One of the things that becomes commonplace are the companies that advertise how they will fix bad credit. The ads are easy to spot and go something like this… “credit problems?”  “We eliminate bad debt”.

The real truth is that bad credit does not go away by paying a company to remove it. If debt removal were only that easy! What these credit repair companies do is get inaccurate information removed from credit reports. But even they can not get rid of information that is correct no matter how damaging it may be to your financial picture.

Contact The Creditor and Credit Reporting Agencies

So once you have your credit report in hand and find errors that need to be corrected how do you go about fixing them? Most credit repair experts will tell you to contact both the creditor and the credit reporting agency. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit bureaus to make corrections however, it does not require creditors to make corrections.

Credit experts will also tell you that it’s more efficient to order the creditor to fix the incorrect information it is sending to the credit bureaus, and at the same time tell the credit bureau to update the credit report with the right information. Any correspondence you have with the credit bureaus about fixing your credit report should be done in writing by certified mail. The Fair Credit Reporting Act also requires the credit bureaus act within 30 days of receiving your request.

You should send a separate letter to each agency where a mistake is found. Make sure that you explain the situation in detail and include a copy of the credit report with the faulty information highlighted. When writing the letter make certain to list the creditors name and account number for which the incorrect data appears. It also makes sense to follow the letters up with a phone call. You want to make sure you keep meticulous notes to who you are speaking with and how the conversation goes.

Get A Universal Data Form (UDF)

When you speak with the creditor you are going to want to get a copy of the UDF, or universal data form. This is a document that your creditor sends to the credit bureaus to update your report. The document tells the credit bureau what sort of change is being made such as a payment history change, a balance update, deletion because of an error, an update of current status, or some other reason.

If the creditor will not send a UDF, ask for a letter confirming that the creditor notified the credit bureau of the inaccuracy and asked for a correction.

All these steps become important should you not be able to get your credit report cleaned up and need to file a lawsuit.

Some of the more common credit report errors include the following:

Credit report

Collections: The credit report should not show any collection or charge offs longer than seven years old.

Late payments: There should also be no late payments that are over seven years old on the report as well.

Payment records: All paid in full loans should or loans settled for less than the amount due should show a zero balance. Sometimes these do not get updated on the reports.

Original dates: Length of your credit history accounts for 15% of your credit score. The date you opened your account should be accurate. You should report the date being inaccurate if a credit card company is merged or acquired or if a credit card is lost or stolen.

Available credit: Credit reports and credit card statements should match on the available credit you have. It is always good to keep your available credit under 50%. Debt accounts for 30% of your credit score.

Mysterious accounts: All of the accounts on your report should be accurate. If your identity is stolen you are bound to find accounts on your report that should not exist. You should call the creditor right away to check the social security number and name with the one shown for the incorrect amount.

Types of accounts: Sometimes accounts are not categorized properly. For example a home equity line of credit should be listed as a 2nd mortgage not just a line of credit.

Closing a credit card: Most people do not realize that closing a card can decrease a credit score. This occurs because it shrinks your available credit which also reduces the credit utilization ratio. The credit utilization ratio is a factor in your credit score.

Reason codes: You should take a look also at the reason codes which detail why your score is what it is. These codes explain what factors played into the credit score and what can be done to make them better.

There is no question that keeping on top of your credit score become important for all types of loans and even possibly getting rental housing. Keeping up to speed with your credit report and fixing any credit report errors is well worth the effort.

Related Real Estate articles:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on fixing credit report errors was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 27+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Massachusetts Building Contractors

As a Massachusetts Realtor getting asked the question should I move to another home or improve on my existing home is something I hear fairly often.

The answer to this question often depends on each individual home owners circumstances.

Massachusetts home improvements are cheaper

There is no question that now is a great time to remodel a home in Massachusetts for a number of reasons. The 1st being the cost of a number of building products are down substantially from where they were just a few short years ago. Framing lumber, plywood and drywall are all down by a significant amount.

The labor force for the home building industry has also been devastated with the economic downturn. There are so many building contractors that used to be swamped with work that are finding it hard just to remain busy. The construction industry has been one of the hardest hit in Massachusetts especially out in the Metrowest area.

This environment has made it very difficult for contractors. Some contractors are so desperate for work they are seriously under bidding the value of the job just to remain working. Of course this is good news for home owners as they are able to take advantage of the lowered pricing scale.

Another benefit to the weakness in the building trades is most home owners will not have to wait months for a contractor to show up. The way things are you will probably be able to get a contractor to show up in a matter of days instead of weeks.

Will I be over improving my Massachusetts home?

The question remains though on whether or not the home improvements you would like to make are fiscally responsible. One of the key factors on deciding whether an addition or large improvement makes more sense than moving depends on the neighborhood in which you are located. In other words does the neighborhood support the improvement you are thinking of making?

As an example if you live in a neighborhood where all the homes are around 2000 square feet and you would like to add a 500 square foot “great room” addition this could add a substantial amount of cost to your home. You would now be the big dog in the neighborhood which is a situation that you usually want to avoid in Real Estate. The rest of the smaller homes in the neighborhood will ultimately bring the value of your home down.

This situation could be completely different, however, if there were other larger homes in the neighborhood to support such a big addition.This where the neighborhood and the homes around you become a substantial factor in the decision making process.

Another thing to consider is whether or not the addition would create  functional obsolescence. Using the “great room” addition again as an example, lets say you owned a three bedroom 1.5 bath colonial. Would the cost of the addition be an over improvement because you would still have a three bedroom, 1.5 bath home and the homes you would be competing against at the same price point when you got to sell are four bedrooms and 2.5 baths?

I have seen on many occasions where Metrowest Massachusetts home owners have made this mistake and it has cost them big time. For instance a common example is the owner that makes their current three bedroom home into four bedrooms by adding a substantial 2nd floor addition. The problem is they have no made their home “top heavy” The upstairs is very spacious yet the kitchen and family room are still on the small side and don’t match the overall square footage.

In this instance the owner could have been better off at buying an existing four bedroom home with more size in the key areas where most buyers demand it.

Over improving would be something you would want to avoid and certainly could be reason enough to consider moving instead of making the home improvement.

The case for moving

Moving in Massachusetts

Now is a great time to upgrade to another home for a few reasons. The cost of money is very cheap! Interest rates are near all time lows and allow you to finance a larger amount amount of money for far less than you were able to a few years ago. You might be able to get a larger mortgage for close the same monthly payment you have now if you have not refinanced recently.

In the Metrowest Massachusetts area the value of homes in some communities have dropped by 20-25% from the high water mark in 2005. While the value of your current home has also dropped if you are moving up in the market you will reap the benefits of buying a home that has dropped by a larger amount. In other words if your home was worth $400,000 in 2005 and it dropped in value by 20% it is now worth $320,000 which is a loss of $80,000. The home that was valued at $600,000 in the same year would be worth $120,000 less or $480,000. As you can see there is a difference of $40,000!

Don’t forget quality of life aspects

While the financial aspects of making a move or not should be strongly considered don’t forget the quality of life afforded by home ownership!

Sometimes the thought of whether to move or improve your Massachusetts home should be decided by the things you cannot change about your current property. Things like the amount of traffic on your street, the size of your lot and usability of the yard, how long your commute is to work,  your neighborhood quality of life, the school district and the ease in which you get to major traffic routes and shopping. If you love  where you are then improving may make more sense. Just make sure you make the right improvements.

If a different location would be an improvement before you even talk about the new home then trading up could be the way to go!

Related Real Estate articles:

Staging a Massachusetts home

Sell a Massachusetts home in 70 days

Handling offers selling a Massachusetts home

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on should I move or improve my Massachusetts home was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Upton, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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Massachusetts home owners insurance savings

One of the things that every Massachusetts home owner is required to have when procuring a loan for a property is to have home owners insurance. Most banks and mortgage companies will not give someone a loan unless their home is insured.

Most loan documents will also give the bank the option of taking legal action against you if you do not keep your home insured. Keep in mind that the lender is not allowed to require you to insure the property for anymore than the replacement cost of the dwelling.

If you are paying cash for a property there is no law requiring you to have insurance coverage although it would be silly not too. After all a persons home is usually one of the biggest assets you will own. Murphy’s Law of course says that without insurance disaster may strike at any moment!

So what are the steps you can take to save money on your Massachusetts home owners insurance?

Bundle your insurance protection with the same carrier

One of the better ways to save on your insurance premium is to bundle your insurance coverage with other things you may have insured such as a car. Almost every insurance company is going to give you a discount for insuring both your home and car together.

Since most people typically own a car before a home your 1st stop when thinking about insuring your home should be where you currently get your car insurance protection. Of course there is no guarantee that using this firm would give you the best rate but it is a good place to start. It always makes sense to get multiple quotes so checking with a few insurance companies makes sense. You may find that moving your car insurance to be bundled at another shop makes more fiscal sense.

Do not over insure the home

Over insuring a property is a common mistake as well. There are times when the insurance agent will ask how much insurance coverage is needed to insure the value of the property. What you need to remember is that you do not need to insure the value of the land. Sometimes people forget this and include it in the amount insured. A good Realtor should be able to provide you with a pretty accurate figure to back out of the equation. Remember you just want to insure for the replacement cost of the dwelling!

Increase the deductible

Another way to decrease the cost of your policy is to increase the amount of the deductible. Increasing the amount of the deductible often times can translate into a pretty serious difference. A reduction in the premium of 10-20% would not be considered out of line. What you should be looking at is the probability that you will be needing to make some type of claim. Some areas may be more susceptible to some kind of claim than others.

Protective device credit

Lastly, there are many insurance companies that will give you discounts for certain amenities in the home such as a security system, fire alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, special security locks or some other type of “disaster proofing” like storm shutters.

Miscellaneous available insurance credits

There are other potential areas that you could save on the cost of your policy including if you are a non-smoker, if the home is newer, if you are a long time customer of the insurance firm or if you and your spouse are retired. All of these things could potentially allow you to  receive a credit and are certainly worth asking about.

Saving money on your insurance policy is great but taking care of your home is even more important for so many financial reasons. In fact when you are closing on a property in Massachusetts you will often here the closing attorney give a speech about what you need to do as a home owner. One of these things of course is to keep the property insured and not to do anything that would decrease the value. The last thing you want is to have your insurance policy canceled!

Rejected home insurance Massachusetts

In Massachusetts  an insurance company is permitted by law to cancel a policy at any time up until the policy has been in effect for 60 days. Once a policy has been in effect for 60 days, under Massachusetts law (M.G.L. c. 175, §99), it can only be canceled during the term of the contract only for the following reasons:

  • Non payment of the insurance premium.
  • A conviction of a crime which increases hazard under the policy.
  • Committing fraud or misrepresentation by the insured in obtaining the insurance policy
  • Willful or reckless acts or omissions by the insured increasing the hazard of damage
  • Creating physical changes in the property making the property uninsured.
  • A determination by the commissioner that continuing the policy would violate or place the insurer in violation of the law.

Prior to an insurance company canceling your policy they are required to provide you with sufficient written notice of cancellation, except in the case of nonpayment of a premium when the insurer is to provide at least ten days written notice.

Once an insurance policy is in effect, under Massachusetts law (M.G.L. c. 175, §193P), a home insurance company can refuse to renew coverage at the end of the term of the contract which is typically for a year, provided that at least forty-five days prior to policy expiration, it gives the insured written notice of non renewal with a statement of the reasons why the policy will not be continued.

Insurance companies are not going take money out of their own pockets unless you do something stupid! Follow the law, pay your bills and keep your home in good standing and you will be all set.

Related Real Estate articles:

Tax deductions to remember when buying a Massachusetts home

Increasing FICO scores to get a better mortgage rate

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on Massachusetts home owners insurance savings tips was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Upton, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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Massachusetts Real Estate contract

When a Real Estate client expresses a desire to break a Real Estate contract you know the next few days of your life are probably not going to be too pleasant. When people are looking to break a contract it is usually a highly charged emotional event!

In Massachusetts we are a two contract state. When a buyer wishes to purchase a property, more often than not they will fill out what is known as an offer to purchase contract.  This is later followed up with a purchase and sale agreement which has the same terms and conditions as the offer form but spelled out in much greater detail.

The offer to purchase contract includes all the major terms in the deal including the offer amount, consideration which is the amount the buyer is putting in escrow to secure the property, as well as the agreed upon closing date, and any contingencies. The most common contingencies include the buyers ability to obtain financing and the home inspections that they would like to perform. These include home, pest, radon, well, mold, lead paint and possibly others.

The typical amount you almost always see for initial consideration on a Massachusetts offer form is $500-$1000. When the buyer signs the purchase and sale agreement the buyer will typically put a balance of 5% in escrow. Although this is the amount you see most often, a deposit is always open for negotiations. Sometimes a buyer might not quite have the 5% to put down.

Breaking a Real Estate contract as a buyer

Most of the time the person that wants to get out of a Real Estate contract is the buyer. There could be any number of reasons why a buyer would wish to terminate a contract from general home inspection issues, to the discovery of mold or radon, or some other unforeseen problem with a property.

If the buyer has a contingency within the contract for the reason they wish to terminate then there is no issue and the buyer will receive their deposit back in full.  There is always the possibility that a buyer could try to back out of a Real Estate contract after all their contingency dates have lapsed. In this case the seller would be entitled to keep the money that is in escrow. It is possible that the seller could sue the buyer for damages but in my experience most of the Real Estate contracts that I have seem limit the sellers damages to the deposit amount.

Breaking a Real Estate contract as a seller

What about the seller backing out of a contract? This is a question that I often have to educate my seller clients on. There are many folks who do not realize that an offer to purchase Real Estate in Massachusetts is a BINDING contract. This means that a buyer could sue you for performance and force you to sell your home.

Sometimes sellers can get remorse and feel like they no longer want to sell after they have signed a contract with a buyer. There could be any number of reasons for this happening. Maybe the house the seller wanted to purchase is no longer available or some kind of heath issue crops up with one of the parties that makes selling not an easy task. There could be an endless amount of reasons.

Getting out of a Massachusetts Purchase and sale

What do you do if you are selling your home, have a signed contract and feel that you want to break the contract? The 1st thing you would want to do is make your listing agent aware of the situation and have them get in touch with the buyers agent.

As a seller you are probably going to feel like you are on a stormy island of your own as all the other parties in the transaction are not going to be too happy with your decision.

You can more than likely expect the following:

  • Be prepared to release the buyers escrow money to them with any accumulated interest.
  • Most buyers will more than likely want to reimbursed for any out of pocket expenses they realized during the transaction. These expenses could include: inspections, mortgage application fees, mortgage lock in fees, attorney expenses, etc.
  • Additional complications could include the expense of interim housing if they have already sold their home and were expecting to move into yours.
  • A change in interest rates could be another complicating factor if rates have risen during the time they were under contract. Be prepared to buy down their mortgage rate if they ask.

As a seller what you need to remember in this circumstance is that you are breaking a contract. If you really want to remain in your home you need to be as nice as pie to a buyer. The buyer could easily drag you into court to force what is known as “specific performance” where you are not only forced to sell your home but also reimburse the buyer for any of their costs associated with this mess.

Obviously the best case scenario would be a very understanding buyer who lets you excuse yourself from the contract. Not every buyer is going to be so kind. If you find yourself in this kind of situation a competent Real Estate attorney would be a must! A Real Estate attorney would be able to negotiate the best possible settlement with the buyers or their lawyer.

Other Real Estate articles:

_________________________________________________________________

About the author: The above Real Estate information on breaking a Massachusetts Real Estate contract was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Upton, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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Getting The Best Mortgage Home Loan

Best mortgage programs

Getting the best mortgage home loan for your particular needs is all about doing the proper research so you can hand pick the program that works for your situation in life. There are numerous loan programs available to savvy home buyers.

The most common loan programs are the conventional fixed rate mortgage and the adjustable rate mortgage. The fixed rate mortgage program can be further broken down by the length of time. The most common length of a fixed rate loan is either 30, 20 or 15 years.

The shorter the loan time frame, the lower the rate will be. The best loan program option generally boils down to how long you expect to remain in the home.

The case for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage

A 30 year fixed rate mortgage is the most common loan program and one that gives the borrower the security of paying one set rate for a long period of time. As a borrower you do not have to worry about your rate going up as it is fixed for the life of the loan. You can be confident knowing your payments will be manageable, and you will be knocking down the principal of the loan and building equity slowly but steadily.

The main disadvantage however, to a 30 year fixed rate mortgage is that you will pay a substantial amount of interest during the time you have the loan. There are ways to avoid the large payout in mortgage interest (see below).

The case for a 15 year fixed rate mortgage

The 15 year fixed rate mortgage has become a very popular loan product. It is easy to see why when you see how much extra you pay in interest over the life of a 30 year loan. It can actually be staggering to see just how much money the bank is making in interest! The reason many borrowers opt for the 15 year loan is two fold. When you apply for a 15 year fixed rate loan you will notice that the rate offered is always lower than a 30 year fixed rate loan. Looking at the gap between the two rates can be a serious consideration for a borrower especially as the gap grows larger. With a 15 year loan you will grow your equity in the property far more quickly and save a bundle in interest payments.

What you need to be certain of is that you will have no problem making the payments as they will be much larger given the fact the loan will be amortized over a smaller period of time. For example on a home mortgage loan of $300,000 over 30 years you will pay $1642 per month for principle and interest. The same payment on $300,000 for a 15 year fixed loan is $2301 which amounts to a difference of $659 per month. Not exactly chump change!

If you are uncertain that you can handle the jump in the amount of the payment the best thing to do is go with a 30 year fixed rate loan. You can always add extra principal to your payment each month which will in effect accomplish the same thing as having a shorter mortgage term. By adding the extra principal you will be paying down the note faster which will cause there to be less interest paid over the length of the mortgage.

There is always some discussion amongst financial experts on whether it makes sense to pay down your mortgage. The argument boils down to the fact that mortgage interest is deductible on your taxes. If you are already maxing out your tax-advantaged retirement accounts it may make sense to do so.

The case for a hybrid adjustable rate mortgage (ARM)

If you are going to be buying a home and there is near certainty that you will be moving in a short period of time then one of the hybrid adjustable rate programs may suit your needs perfectly. There are a number of adjustable rate options including a 3, 5, 7 and 10 year loan periods. With the hybrid loan, the rate is fixed for a set amount of time and does not go up until you reach the end of that period.

These hybrid loans generally have lower rates but usually not enough that you would want to use them unless you know you will be moving. The risk to you may be sizable because once the rate term expires there is a good chance that the rate could jump. If your income can not support the jump in the rate that would not be a good thing, especially if your debt load has also increased during the fixed rate period. Having some cash reserves would be an excellent consideration when going with this type of loan program.

The case for an FHA loan ( Federal Housing Association)

The FHA loan has become an exceptionally popular loan program especially amongst 1st time home buyers. The main advantage of an FHA loan is the fact you only have to come up with a down payment of 3.5%. You are also not required to pay private mortgage insurance which is typically required under a conventional loan program when you are putting under 20% down.

The FHA loan is also more flexible when it comes to a borrowers credit. For a full break down of the advantages of an FHA loan see FHA vs conventional rate mortgages. The caveat with an FHA mortgage is that you will pay an up front fee of 2.25% of the loan amount as well as .5% for the 1st five years of the loan or when your home equity hits 22%.

The rest of the mortgage terms to look out for

The other considerations when trying to determine what the best loan program for your needs should be is the amount of points and fees you will be paying. There is a direct correlation between the amount of points and closing costs you will pay for your determined interest rate. The more points you pay the lower the rate will be.

A mortgage point is equal to 1% of the loan amount. So if you are mortgaging $300,000 a point would equal $3000. The fees and closing costs also become important. If one lender is going to charge you more closing costs and fees for the same rate as another lender it might not make fiscal sense to use them. This is where comparing the cost of various loan programs becomes very important.

Mortgage rates and programs are constantly changing today. It is always in your best interests to shop around for the interest rate and program that suits your life situation!

Related Real Estate articles:

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on getting the best mortgage home loan was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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Massachusetts short sale hardships

I have encountered quite a few people in my Real Estate travels that incorrectly assume that anyone who owes more money than their home is worth and wishes to short sell their Massachusetts home can do so with no problem.

Sorry folks but it does not always work that way. In some respects it actually doesn’t make sense that those who have kept their obligation to their lender, made their payments and don’t have a hardship are not always allowed to short sell their home.

Sometimes life is not fair. It’s quite possible your neighbor may be able to complete a short sale and you might not be so lucky.

Most but not all of the time your lender is going to require some kind of hardship in order to complete a Massachusetts short sale. In other words you are going to need to qualify for a short sale in order to complete one.

Just wanting to walk away and get a less expensive home is not a reason to do a short sale and most likely the lender will deny the short sale request.

So what are some of the legitimate reasons a lender will consider as a hardship?

Any of the following will typically qualify as a legitimate hardship for a Massachusetts short sale:

  • A reduction in income through the loss of a job, disability, illness, or just the straight reduction in hours that a causes the inability to continue to make payments.
  • Marital difficulties – Separations and divorces are legitimate reasons a lender will consider a short sale.
  • An increase in expenses – Reasons could include an increase in dependents, an illness, etc.
  • An increase in significant debts – credit cards bills, medical bills, legal fees and other similar types of debt.
  • Death – Death of a family member who was a contributing factor in keeping the mortgage current. Also the corresponding loss of income or medical bills associated with the death such as funeral expenses, ect.
  • Relocation for a job – The relocation must be due to a job change and lenders also typically require the move to be over 50+ miles.
  • Military service – There are some lenders that will accept being called into military service as an acceptable hardship.

When you are applying for a short sale you will be asked to write a hardship letter that is going to detail to the lender why you are no longer able to make mortgage payments on your home. The hardship letter will be one of the determining factors on whether a short sale is approved or not.

Is there a possibility you could still do a short sale without an actual hardship? Yes it is possible. This is what is known as a strategic short sale. A strategic short sale occurs when there is no hardship and the owner could continue to pay their mortgage but it considering just “walking away”. In other words the seller would just default which is known as a strategic foreclosure.

If it makes financial sense to the lender they may still consider a short sale where there is no hardship. In this case you can almost be certain the lender will either ask you for a cash contribution at closing or sign a promissory note. It may even be a combination of the two.

If you are considering short selling your Massachusetts home I would make certain that you have done your homework on who you are going to work with. The Realtor that will be representing you should be well versed in all the legalities and procedures involved with a short sale. There are numerous Real Estate agents that are starting to work with short sales, yet don’t have a clue as to what they are doing.

Hiring a Realtor to represent you in a short sale is far more important than a traditional sale. In all likelihood it could be the difference between getting FORECLOSED on or not! I would encourage you to read some of the Massachusetts short sale articles I have written below which covers most of the things you will need to be aware of to have short sale success.

Related Real Estate articles:

Massachusetts short sale specialist

Questions to ask a Massachusetts short sale listing agent

Do I stop making payments in a short sale

Getting Massachusetts short sale debt released

Short sale tax consequences

If you are needing to complete a  short sale of your home or condo in Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Upton, Uxbridge, Shrewsbury, Worcester, or Douglas Get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area. So far, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval!

If you are outside of the Metrowest Massachusetts area and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing! I have referred short sales to other Realtors all around the country.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on acceptable hardships for Massachusetts short sales was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Sherwin Williams Duration Paint

If you live anywhere in the New England region you know that are weather can go from being beautiful to down right nasty in the blink of an eye. Where I live in Massachusetts a homes exterior can take a terrible beating due to the elements.

If your Massachusetts home has clapboard or wood siding you are probably used to painting the exterior every five years or so. Painting is not cheap and frankly lots of people get sick of the maintenance involved with having clapboard siding because of it.

Over the last decade or so I have seen a trend in Real Estate where vinyl siding has become much more accepted. Part of the reason stems from the fact that vinyl siding has far more quality today than it did in years past. There are also those that love the traditional look of clapboard siding and would easily choose it over vinyl siding if not for the expense of painting a home every five years.

I am going to offer your a solution for the next time you paint your home and it is called Duration paint by Sherwin Williams. Duration is a top of the line paint that is time tested to hold up against our brutal Massachusetts Winters and the blistering heat of the Summer months.

After hearing about Duration from a local painter about three years ago, I decided to give it a shot on my own home.  I can honestly say I could not be more thrilled with the Duration paint job. My home three years later looks just like it did when the paint was applied!

One thing that you have to know about the Duration paint going in is that it is not cheap! Be prepared to spend a lot more upfront money on this paint than the traditional paint you would find at a typical paint store or the Home Depot. I can say in the long run it is well worth it!

To give you an idea just how good Sherwin Williams thinks the product is they guarantee the paint for as long as you own your home. While I am no expert in painting I trust my eyes and so far the paint has held up amazingly well.

According to the Sherwin Williams website some of the benefits of the Duration paint include:

Painting Massachusetts Home Exterior With Duration Paint

  • A guarantee for as long as you own your home.
  • One coat self priming performance.
  • No blistering or peeling creating a virtually maintenance free exterior.
  • Available is Gloss, Satin and Flat paint finishes.
  • Available in five gallon buckets.
  • No thinning required on the paint.
  • Has the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

If you do any of your own research on the internet about Duration paint you will find it highly rated by a number of the Building Professional and painting forum sites.

One thing that I did note from a number of painting professionals is that there is a learning curve when applying this paint. Apparently Duration goes on substantially thicker than most paints. Not only does the paint cost more but also it takes more paint to get the same coverage as a standard paint.

So if you are like me and like the traditional look of clapboard siding but hate the fact you need to paint your home so often, give Duration paint a shot. I am willing to bet you will be as pleased as I am!

Related Real Estate articles:

Staging a Massachusetts home

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on painting a Massachusetts home with Duration paint was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Upton, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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Marking a property under agreement or accepting back up offers?

In Massachusetts when you are marketing a seller’s home and you procure a ready willing and able buyer to purchase a property you have hopefully started your journey to a successful closing.

One of the things that Realtors are required to do is change the status of the property when we have a signed contract between a buyer and seller.

Realtors are given one of two options in the Greater Boston Multiple listing service (MLS) when you have a contract. You can either mark the home “under agreement” (UAG) or “accepting back up offers” otherwise known as (BUP).

It is up to the seller on which way they feel makes the most sense. In most circumstances  trying to decide which way to mark the status will usually come down to what the Realtor recommends.

There are a number of Realtors that just flat out tell their clients to mark the home as accepting back up offers. This is down right foolish! I am in the camp that does NOT give this advice and here is why.

9 times out of 10 when a buyers agent sees a home in the MLS marked as accepting back up offers they are not going to show the home anyway. This makes perfect sense. Why take the time and effort to show a home that for all intents and purposes is really under agreement? The only way a buyer could actually purchase the home in a BUP status is if the 1st buyer backs out. Most Realtors don’t want to get a client excited about purchasing a home that more often than not is already going to be sold.

The second reason is even more important to the seller. When you mark a home as accepting back up offers the status of the property is technically still considered “current” by MLS standards. What this means is the days on the market continues to elapse when in the BUP status.

The Realtor is also required to put the reason why the status is marked as accepting back up offers. Some of the most common reasons include the signing of a purchase and sale agreement, home inspections, or the buyers financing commitment.

So here is the rub. Lets say the Realtor marks your home as accepting back up offers (BUP) and gives the reason as the buyers financing commitment.  Lets also assume your home has been on the market for 45 days.

Generally speaking the time needed to get a mortgage commitment from a lender is around 30-45 days from the time the lender takes the buyers application. What happens if the sale falls apart during the time frame it is marked BUP?

The unfortunate answer is that when your home comes back on the market the days on market will include all the time that is was marked BUP. It will show in Multiple Listing Service (MLS) like your home has been on the market for quite a long time!

This is NOT the case if you had marked the home as under agreement. When a home is marked under agreement the days on market clock stops! So in the above example if the home was marked UAG and came back on the market the market time would read 45 days.

Curious Massachusetts home seller

Why is this so important? I have never met a buyer in my twenty four years in the business that did not ask “how long has the property been on the market”. Every buyer wants to know this because it will give them an idea what their leverage will be when making an offer! When a home 1st comes on the market a seller is in the drivers seat. As the market time grows the seller loses their negotiating leverage.

After a certain time period buyers will start to mentally ask themselves why has this home not sold? Am I making the right decision purchasing this property?

If two similar homes are on the market and one has been on for 14 days and the other for 200 days which home do you think a buyer will feel like they can negotiate a better price on?

Believe me I ask myself all the time why some Realtors give the advice they do on various Real Estate subjects. This one is a real puzzling to me. Is it just the heard mentality? Is it a lack of confidence in their ability to keep a deal together? Is it the seller telling them this is the way they want it to go and the Realtor just says “OK” without explaining the disadvantages?

Inquiring minds want to know!

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on marking a property under agreement or accepting back up offers was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Mendon, Hopedale, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Upton, Grafton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, and Douglas.

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Short Sale Tax Consequences

As a Massachusetts Realtor that has been doing quite a few successful short sales, one of the things I like to make sure of when I meet a potential client that is looking to do a short sale is to give them a complete understanding of how they work.

Short sales can be complicated transactions. Anyone who regularly participates in short sales knows that almost every single transaction is different. Every lender has their own set of rules on how they go about completing a short sale.

One of the things in particular that I feel is extremely important to educate a seller doing a short sale is the tax consequences. There are different sets of rules regarding short sale tax liability depending on whether or not the home was a primary residence or not.

If you are selling your primary residence as a short sale, The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 generally allows taxpayers to exclude income from the discharge of debt. The debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a short sale or foreclosure, qualifies for the relief granted.

The Mortgage Debt Relief Act applies to debt forgiven in calendar years 2007 through January 2014. The Debt Relief Act actually was set to expire at the end of 2012 however, congress has since extended the act for another year. Up to $2 million of forgiven debt is eligible for this exclusion or $1 million if married but filing separately. The exclusion does not apply if the discharge is due to services performed for the lender or any other reason not directly related to a decline in the home’s value or the taxpayer’s financial condition. This act was put in place for the specific purpose of helping home owners avoid the financial hardship caused by doing a short sale.

Prior to this relief act being put in place the IRS would treat the forgiveness of a debt as taxable income. The logic behind this is when you take out a mortgage there as an assumed obligation that you will be paying it back. When money is borrowed, the borrower is not required to include the loan proceeds as income because the borrower has to pay back the loan. When the obligation to pay back the loan is removed, the amount of the proceeds the buyer received becomes reportable as income because there is no longer an obligation to repay.

When there is a cancellation of debt, the lender is usually required to report the amount of the canceled debt to you and the IRS on a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt. Eligible home owners also must complete IRS form 982 which must be included with the Federal tax return to claim the mortgage relief.

If you are selling a property and it is not your principle residence you will be paying taxes on the short sale deficiency that is forgiven!

Short sale debt removal

This is obviously a key consideration when determining whether doing a short sale is the right move or not.  Debts forgiven that do not fall under the debt relief act include rental properties, business properties, 2nd homes and car loans. Credit cards also do not apply unless you were insolvent just prior to the cancellation of debt.

The most common situations when the cancellation of debt income is NOT taxable include:

  • Qualified principal residence indebtedness: This is the exception created by The Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 and applies to most homeowners.
  • Bankruptcy: Debts discharged through bankruptcy are not considered taxable income.
  • Insolvency: If you are insolvent when the debt is cancelled, some or all of the cancelled debt may not be taxable to you. You are insolvent when your total liabilities exceed the fair market value of your total assets.
  • Certain farm debts: If you incurred the debt for the purpose of running a farm, more than half your income from the prior three years was from farming, and the loan was owed to a person or agency regularly engaged in lending, your cancelled debt is generally not considered taxable income.
  • Non-recourse loans: A non-recourse loan is a loan for which the lender’s only remedy in case of default is to repossess the property being financed or used as collateral. In other words the lender is not allowed to pursue you personally in case of a default. Forgiveness of a non-recourse loan resulting from a foreclosure does not result in cancellation of debt income. However, it may result in other tax consequences.

Whenever I am dealing with a short sale and there are tax questions, I always recommend speaking to a qualified tax professional or attorney who is well versed in these matters.

One of the other things I would pay careful attention to is getting your Massachusetts short sale debt discharged. There are a lot of Realtors who are doing short sales and do not have a clue about debt release. You do not want to get caught with your pants down on this! Having a collection agency chase you for unpaid debts is probably not a pleasant experience!

Related Real Estate articles:

If you are needing to complete a  short sale of your home or condo in Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA. Get in touch! I would love to interview for the chance to represent your best interests.

I am successfully completing short sales through out the Metrowest Massachusetts area. So far, knock on wood, I have a 100% success rate for short sale approval!

If you are not in the Metrowest Massachusetts area and need to do a short sale please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to refer you to a Realtor in your location that handles short sales and knows what they are doing!

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on short sale tax consequences was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out ofmany Metrowest towns for the last 24+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Ashland, Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Sutton, Wayland, Westboro, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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Massachusetts home for saleGetting a Home Ready For Sale

Back in the boom times of the Real Estate market from the mid 1990’s until the mid 2000’s getting a Massachusetts home truly ready for the market was far less important than it is today. Every home seller today is in stiff competition with the next guy down the street with far less buyers in the market place.

This makes it far more critical for your home to be polished when the for sale sign gets placed on the lawn. In a buyers market those that are looking at your home are far less forgiving. It is easy for buyers to be choosy because there are so many more homes for them to look at. Massachusetts homes that are not in good shape can take a severe price beating in this environment. Most buyers are looking for turnkey properties. Far fewer buyers are interested in spending the time and energy of fixing up a sellers headaches.

One of the things you hear talked about a lot in Real Estate circles is “curb appeal”. 1st impressions are an important factor when you are selling a home. Since the 1st thing a buyer looks at when they visit your property is the yard and the exterior of the house, you want to make sure that at the very least it is presentable.

Here are some tips for minimal money that will help to facilitate a more timely sale:

Exterior Home Sale Tips

  • Clean up all debris from the winter months including any tree limbs, branches, and left over leaves.
  • Clean the driveway and walkway of any sand and other debris.
  • Pay careful attention to have all your landscaping beds raked and weeded out. Adding a fresh coat of mulch always goes a long way.
  • Trim the bushes if needed. Pay attention to keeping them a few feet back from the home allowing for proper ventilation.
  • Consider planting some hearty Spring flowers that have lots of color.
  • Assess your driveway and get it seal coated if it looks old and worn. Seal coating is fairly inexpensive and really does wonders to give your home a new and appealing feel.
  • Clean out your gutters. Leaves hanging out of gutters creates a feeling that the home is not well maintained.
  • Hose down your deck and consider seal coating the surface if needed.
  • Look for any rotted trim and replace as needed.
  • The entry way to your home should sparkle! A fresh coat of paint on the front door always looks great. Make sure you remove any cob webs.
  • Consider adding a few potted plants at the entry with some vibrant flowers.
  • Use a garden hose and spray down any areas of your siding that may have mold or mildew build-up.

Before visiting some tips for sprucing up the interior of your home please keep in mind that a buyer almost ALWAYS estimates higher than the actual cost to make necessary repairs and or improvements. It will cost you far less money to do these things than letting the buyer deduct an appropriate credit in their mind.

Exterior Home Sale Tips

Massachusetts home sold

  • The 1st thing any home seller should consider is taking any unnecessary possessions and remove them from the house. You want to make your home feel as large and airy as possible. De-cluttering old furniture, boxes, and nick knacks go a long way in making a home presentable. I would consider a local storage center in your area for these things, as it is well worth the money spent. This of course is if you don’t have the space in a basement or attic.
  • If there is not a local storage facility, I would suggest renting a storage unit from