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Building Permits Highest Since 2008

Joseph Coupal - Friday, June 22, 2012
The number of building permits has increased and has hit record highs since 2008.  This signals that housing construction numbers will get better, and in turn, this means more jobs.  The construction surge may be attributed to the mild winter.    However, housing won’t return to full force until the overall economy improves and hiring increases. Full story here.

Zoning Ordinances

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, June 19, 2012
It is important to comply with zoning ordinances or else you may face similar violations to a Middleboro man, who has planted tulips in violation of landscape regulations and building too close to the property line. He has already spent over a million dollars to improve the property, but if he has violated these ordinances, the renovations may be futile.  Full article here.  For example, in Bjorklund v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Norwell, 450 Mass. 357 (2008), the court prevented a homeowner from tearing down  smaller house to replace it with a larger house to ensure that the town ordinance would not be violated.

Mortgage Issues for Schilling’s 38 Studios

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, June 19, 2012
As Curt Schilling’s company faces bankruptcy, 38 Studios also faces mortgage issues.  An attorney for five former employees of the video game company has asked the Attorney General, Martha Coakley, to look into the relocation company that handled the company’s relocation to Rhode Island.  After the relocation, the company made a deal with MoveTrek Mobility LLC to assist staff in selling their homes, giving the impression that to the sellers that they sold their homes in 2011.  However, workers received a letter that MoveTrek was rescinding its agreement to purchase the homes, and on the same day 38 Studios filed for bankruptcy. MoveTrek was unable to sell 7 homes because Studio 38 refused to pay costs required to sell the home.  The attorney is accusing the company of violating the state’s consumer protection law and hindering workers with a second mortgage.

Popularity of Condos on the Rise

Joseph Coupal - Friday, June 15, 2012
It can cost more in Massachusetts to buy a condo than a single family home!  The demand for condos has risen and supply has fallen.  The median price of a Massachusetts condo is estimated to be at about $280,000.00, which is up 3.5% since last April, and also $5,000.00 more than the median price of a single family home.  See full article here. If you are interested in what real estate option is best for you, contact us at Brooks & Crowley and we can offer your our seasoned legal advice.

Commercial Real Estate Likely to Grow in 2012

Joseph Coupal - Saturday, June 09, 2012
Commercial real estate is expected to surge in the latter half of this year, with apartment buildings to lead the change, along with warehouse distribution centers and hotels.  The growth is expected to be greatest in the cities of Boston and San Francisco, since buyer interest is high.  Read the full story here. If you are interested in commercial real estate, contact the attorneys at Brooks & Crowley and we can provide you with legal expertise in making your future purchase.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Mortgage Bill Pushed Back

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, June 05, 2012
It appears likely that the ability-to-repay/qualified mortgage rule by the CFFB will not occur after the November elections.  The bill will require all creditors to determine a consumer’s ability to repay a mortgage before making a loan.  The rule would “prohibit creditors from making a mortgage loan without considering and verifying the consumer’s ability to repay the loan, establish a “Qualified Mortgage” category that would set forth standards for a safe harbor or a presumption of compliance, establish new restrictions on prepayment penalties, provide for a special balloon mortgage “qualified mortgage” exemption for rural or underserved areas, and special provisions to permit the refinance of mortgages with risky features into more stable standard mortgages with lower monthly payments.”’ It would apply to all consumer mortgages except home equity lines of credit, timeshare plans, reverse mortgages, or temporary loans. The Bureau is attempting to reshape mortgage lending after the poor underwriting that led to the housing crash triggering the financial crisis.  Banks are opposing many of the proposals because it will make it more difficult for them to extend loans.

Mortgage Rates Are At Their Lowest Since The 1950s

Joseph Coupal - Saturday, June 02, 2012
Current low interest rates suggest that if you are thinking of obtaining a mortgage or refinancing an existing one, now is the time to act.  According to Freddie Mac, interest rates have recently fallen, with the 30-year rate at 3.75 percent, down from 3.78 just last week, and the 15-year rate down below 3 percent from 3.04.  Today’s 30-year rate is lower than what the 20 or 25-year rate was averaging in the 1950s.  This is good news for those buying houses, as affordability to purchase a home has reached an all time high.  In the beginning of 2012, The National Association of Realtor’s composite quarterly Housing Affordability Index reached 205.9, which is a record high, with statistics showing that a median income family earning $61,000 could afford a home costing $325,500 in the first quarter.  The index for first time homebuyers being able to afford a home is at an all time high as well. The best time to get an attorney involved is when you are looking to make an offer to purchase, not after a purchase and sale agreement is signed.  At Brooks & Crowley, we can help with all stages of your purchase or refinance, and can answer your questions.  Call us today.

Low Mortgage Rates Make Refinancing Rather Tempting

Joseph Coupal - Monday, August 16, 2010
WASHINGTON — With mortgage interest rates setting record lows almost every week for more than two months, two questions naturally come to mind: How low can they go? And should I refinance — again?
Last week rates fell to levels that many people in the mortgage business thought they would never see. Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate loan was 4.44 percent, with 0.7 of a point in prepaid interest. (One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.) Loans fixed for 15 years also hit a record low, 3.92 percent, with 0.6 of a point, on average.
Loans that are fixed for five years and then convert to annual interest-rate adjustments averaged 3.56 percent last week. One-year adjustables averaged 3.53 percent. Both charged an average of 0.7 of a point, according to Freddie Mac.
Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in a report issued last week: “The ability to lock in a principal and interest payment at below 5 percent for 30 years is rare enough. The fact that a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage can be obtained for 4.5 percent, or a 15-year mortgage for 4 percent is an amazing opportunity for borrowers.’’
However, Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for, said: “The pool of refi candidates has been dwindling because we have been below 5 1/2 percent for the past year. People may not want to invest the time and money in another go-round.’’
He added that, in markets where values are still declining, an appraisal that was high enough to support a refinance just eight months ago may not be at the same value now.
Homeowners should not assume that they wouldn’t qualify for a new loan, said Malcolm Hollensteiner, mid-Atlantic regional manager for PNC Mortgage.
“There’s a large percentage of the population that doesn’t feel they are eligible to refinance, but they are,’’ he said. “Until you go through the process, you don’t know if you do.’’
Rates are higher on jumbo loans for amounts greater than $729,750, which are too big to be eligible for purchase by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. But the spread between jumbos and smaller “conforming’’ loans has narrowed significantly this year, Hollensteiner said. He said borrowers have to pay interest rates of about half to three-quarters of a percentage point more for jumbos. A year ago the difference was about 1 to 1.5 percentage points.
Refinancings now constitute most of the mortgage market, accounting for 78 percent of all loan applications nationwide, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported this week. And many refinancers are taking the opportunity to move into shorter-term loans that carry a lower interest rate and build equity faster. That’s a particularly attractive option for people who hope to pay off their mortgage before retirement.
Economists at Freddie Mac reported last week that during the second quarter, 30 percent of borrowers who were refinancing out of 30-year, fixed-rate loans chose new fixed-rate loans lasting 15 or 20 years. That’s the highest level of term-shortening the company has seen in six years. But other borrowers, Hollensteiner said, “are more focused on lowering their monthly payments.’’ And a significant number are pulling out equity when they refinance, using the cash to pay for home improvements or education expenses, he said.
Unless you had a high rate to begin with (say 6.5 percent or more) switching to a shorter-term loan boosts the monthly payment but can save a lot of money over the duration of the loan. For a $200,000 loan, switching from a 30-year rate at 5 percent to a 15-year loan fixed at 3.92 percent would increase the monthly payment by about $400 per month. But by paying off the loan in half the time, you would save about $122,000.
But refinancing isn’t free, even if the lender offers to roll over the expense into your new loan balance. Hollensteiner said nonrecoverable closing costs, such as loan application fees or government recordation fees, are typically about 1 percent of the loan amount. Depending on variables such as the day of the month you close on the new loan, you could have to come up with a similar amount in expenses that you will recover after closing, say from a disbursement from your old escrow account. These expenses include property tax payments and daily interest expenses.
“It’s all a wash, but it’s still money you need to have at closing,’’ Hollensteiner said.
Might rates go even lower? Perhaps, but probably not by much, according to Celia Chen, senior director at Moody’s Analytics. “I don’t think they’re going to fall much further; they’re at a record right now,’’ she said. “And even at this low rate, it doesn’t seem to be doing much to support the housing market.’’
And though it’s remarkable to note how many weeks in a row Freddie Mac’s mortgage rate series has marked record lows (seven times in the past eight weeks), the week-to-week changes have been tiny, usually only one hundredth or two hundredths of a percentage point at a time. Chen said she expects mortgage interest trends to remain “fairly stable at a low rate.” Source:

Mass. Home Sales in June Best in Four Years

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Motivated by the looming expiration of a federal tax credit, Massachusetts buyers snapped up 5,726 single-family homes in June, the highest number of monthly sales in four years, according to new data released today. Sales increased 28 percent in June compared with the same month last year, according to the Warren Group, a Boston company that tracks real estate data. Year-to-date numbers also rose 28 percent, to 21,400, from the same time last year. Condominiums were popular with buyers as well, with 2,511 sales in June, 31 percent more than during the same period last year, the Warren Group said. Condo sales from January to June rose to 9,735, a 30 percent jump from the same time last year. Kevin Sears, president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, attributed the increase in sales to the federal homebuyers tax credit, which required a binding contract on a home purchase to be in place by April 30 to qualify for up to $8,000 in savings. Buyers originally had until June 30 to close their deals but Congress recently extended the deadline to Sept. 30. “The tax credit did its job and got the market moving again,” said Sears, a broker and co-owner of Sears Real Estate in Springfield. “The activity over the next couple of months will answer whether the momentum was sustained.” Along with sales volume, median prices increased last month. The median price of a single-family home hit $325,000 in June, a 7 percent increase from June 2009 and the first time this year that median prices surpassed $300,000, the Warren Group said. The median condo price remained at $282,000 in June, a 1.8 percent increase from a year earlier. Median prices for the year so far were up 5.7 percent to $259,000, compared with the first six months of 2009. Timothy M. Warren Jr., chief executive of the Warren Group, said June is typically a good month for the real estate business. “That factor paired with the tax credit made for a very strong month,” he said. Other real estate data released today also indicated Boston-area housing values may be stabilizing. The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Prices Indices, which measures repeat home sales, showed that Boston home values increased by 1.6 percent in May compared with the month before and 4.8 percent from a year ago. Nationwide, home values rose about 1.3 percent in May compared with April, according to the Case-Shiller data. David M. Blitzer, chair of the Index Committee at Standard and Poor’s, said economists will be watching what happens in the housing market over the next few months to see if the improved numbers can be sustained without the incentive of a lucrative tax break. “It still looks possible that the housing market might bounce along the bottom for the foreseeable future, before showing any real improvement that will filter through to the rest of the economy,” Blitzer said. Source:

Forbes Ranks Boston #3 in Top 20 Cities for Working Mothers

Joseph Coupal - Sunday, August 01, 2010
It’s no secret Boston is a prime location in the U.S. for people to move to, with its many great institutions of higher education, some of the world’s finest inpatient hospitals, and numerous cultural and professional sports organizations. But another great facet of our amazing city is that Forbes has now ranked it #3 in the top 20 cities for working mothers.

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