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Right To A View: Neighbor Disputes Over Views

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, July 14, 2010
What do you do when your neighbor decides to renovate his home, plant a tree, or somehow obstruct the nice view you have? Well, it seems that you may be out of luck. Most homeowners do not have a right to a view unless it has been granted by an ordinance in the homeowners’ municipality or subdivision. While some cities have adopted ordinances that protect the right to a view, it typically does not cover buildings and other structures. You can ask a Massachusetts real estate lawyer, like us, about your specific area’s ordinance (if they have one). A view ordinance will cover a pesky tree that is overgrown. The complaining neighbor can sue the owner of the tree in court with the help of a Massachusetts real estate attorney. This can result in a court order that requires the tree owner to restore the view.
Be forewarned that most of the time, complaining neighbors will have to bear the costs of trimming the tree. What’s even worse is that sometimes, certain trees can be exempt from the ordinance. Trees on city property can be exempt as well. In a subdivision, the Homeowner’s Association may apply pressure to the tree owner if the tree’s dimensions violate its covenants, conditions, and restrictions. The HOA can take away privileges to public areas and even sue the tree owner. It is important to realize that most HOAs want to avoid litigation though. While these are some of the possibilities available to homeowners, it is ultimately in everyone’s best interest to resolve such matters out of court. If you do run into a stubborn neighbor though, be sure to give us a call. Source:

Reasons Your Home Isn’t Selling

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Home not selling? Do you know why? I bet you have an idea, but you may not be able to grasp it fully. Here are 5 reasons why your home hasn’t sold and what you can do about it. You’re Overpriced There’s a buyer for every home! Have you heard this saying? Sure, there may be a buyer for your home, but not at that price. If you’ve been on the market for a long time, chances are you’re overpriced. An overpriced home is the most common reason a home doesn’t sell. When you list your home you’re going to get the most activity within the first 30 days. If you overprice it right off the bat, you likely overpriced buyers that would have qualified for financing at a more reasonable price. And they aren’t coming back. Sure, you may be able to get a buyer at the inflated price but remember, your home still has to appraise. If your home doesn’t appraise at an inflated price, you will have to reduce the price anyways, or the buyer will likely walk. If you’re home is overpriced your helping your competition sell their homes. Think about a buyer that looks at your home, then goes to your neighbors home that’s similar, yet priced less. What would you do in those buyer’s shoes? You would put an offer on the home that’s cheaper. An overpriced home is going to be extremely hard to sell when there’s to much competition. If you can’t reduce your price you can try these other tactics. Your Home Isn’t Showing Well In a buyer’s market, you have a lot of competition. If you’re home isn’t showing well, your giving buyers one more reason not to buy it. Buyer’s today are nit picky animals, and they don’t have to settle for a mediocre home anymore. Let’s face it. A home with a few cosmetic updates can really get buyers excited. If you add some paint, clean the carpets, and bring in some fresh fixtures. Your home will show better. If you’ve been getting bad feedback from your showings, do something about it or your home isn’t going to sell. Also, household odors can turn buyers off faster then a light switch. Seriously, if your home smells like mold, animal urine, or cigarette smoke, buyer’s will turn around right after walking through the front door. The first thing buyers do when they walk through the door is take a deep breath.  If they are turned off by a foul stench, your house loses. You’re In A Bad Location The most important factor for a home selling, besides price, is location. Location is one thing you can’t change, unfortunately. If your home was in a better location, it may sell for up to $100,000 more then what you can get out of it in a bad location. What’s considered a bad location? It depends on the buyers. Some buyers have young children they want to attend certain schools. If your school district is undesirable it may be considered a bad location. Maybe you live close to a loud highway or the neighborhood is declining in value due to foreclosures. It could also be a smelly neighborhood with farms or industrial buildings nearby. How do you deal with a bad location? One of the best remedies for a bad location is a reduced price. If you can’t reduce your price, you may need to offer something different from your competition such as seller financing, or add in some furniture to the asking price. You Have A Terrible Listing Agent Did your agent promise you the moon only to give you a piece of moldy cheese? Some agents will tell you your home is worth more then it truly is using a technique called “buying a listing,” which is an unethical practice. They will tell you they can sell your home for more then other agents just to get you to list with them. They know very well that they can’t sell your home for that price. The strategy here is to get more signs in order to get more sign calls from buyers. And agents that buy listings will hound you to reduce your price after it doesn’t sell. All real estate agents are not created equally. It’s way to easy to get a real estate license and some agents just aren’t good enough to make it in this business. You might have a bad agent if all they did was put a sign in your yard and put the home on the MLS. You may have a bad agent if you never get any feedback from your showings. Bad agents don’t return phone calls or emails in a timely manner. Bad agents may be arrogant or abrasive which leads to other agents not wanting to work with them. If you realize the problem might be the agent, you may just have to wait out your contract. Ask the agent their policy, as most agents will release your from the contract at anytime. A good agent wouldn’t work with someone that isn’t satisfied with their services, they would fix the problem, or they would let you move on. You Have Insufficient Marketing This goes back to having a bad agent. No longer can we just put a sign in your yard and call it good. The listing process has changed drastically over the last couple of years. There are thousands upon thousands of real estate websites out there, and over 90% of home buyers start their search online.  If your listing agent doesn’t have a robust online marketing strategy, your marketing could be lacking. Have you heard the saying, “print media is dead”? Well, in real estate, this is just not true. Many people still look at the newspaper for open houses and your local real estate book still gets descent circulation. Yes, most buyers are online, but you have to be everywhere. The buyer that hasn’t yet moved over to the online world can still buy your home. Today’s top performing agents have a multi-level marketing strategy. They will utilize all the tools available: sign in your yard, color flyers on the sign, websites on the sign riders, multiple phone numbers, MLS listing, directional signs on corners of busy streets, newspaper adds, multiple open houses, and it goes on and on. When hiring an agent, it’s important for you to ask questions about their marketing strategy, and check up on them. If they say their going to do something, you need to check to make sure it’s getting done. If you’re home isn’t selling, I truly am sorry to hear it, and there are many many people out there with the same problem. Today’s market is a whole new animal. It takes an aggressive strategy and time to get any home sold. Give buyers a good reason to buy your home. They know the market is saturated with inventory, and their looking for the best deal. Selling your home today means making it the best deal in your price range. Source:

Mortgage Application Volume Fell Off Last Week

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, June 24, 2010
NY - Mortgage applications volume dropped off by 5.9 percent last week even as mortgage rates decreased, a sign the housing market is struggling with government incentives, according to a report Wednesday from the Mortgage Bankers Association. Refinancing activity fell 7.3 percent on an adjusted basis during the week ending June 18, compared with the previous week. Purchase volume slipped 1.2 percent. Customers looking to refinance existing mortgages accounted for 73.8 percent of total applications, down from 74.8 percent the previous week. Mortgage rates have hovered near historic lows recently. A Federal Reserve campaign to keep rates low ended this spring and rates were expected to rise. But they have declined instead in the past two months as investors pour money into the safety of U.S. Treasury bonds on concerns over the European debt crisis. Mortgage rates tend to follow the yield on U.S. Treasury debt. Low mortgage rates are key to keeping the housing market afloat after federal tax credits expired at the end of April. But home sales have dropped off since and rates may not be enough to bolster demand. The average rate for a traditional, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 4.75 percent last week from 4.82 percent the previous week. The average interest rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, which is often more popular with refinance customers, fell to 4.19 percent from 4.23 percent. The survey provides a snapshot of mortgage lending activity among mortgage bankers, commercial banks and thrifts. It covers more than 50 percent of all residential retail mortgage originations each week. Source:

Mortgage Fraud Arrests Hit 500

Joseph Coupal - Saturday, June 19, 2010
Some 500 people have been arrested in a nationwide crackdown on mortgage fraud, and federal officials pointed to Las Vegas as one of the centers of the scams that pumped up home prices until the housing market bubble finally burst. “I heard this many times,” said Scott Hunter, a Las Vegas FBI agent who has interviewed hundreds of so-called “straw buyers” lured into buying homes by unscrupulous real estate agents, brokers and loan officers. “They said, ‘Don’t let your good credit go to waste. You can purchase these properties. This is how you acquire wealth.’ ” “What happened here was, when the party stopped and they were not able to keep inflating the prices on these houses, the whole thing collapsed.” Nevada’s U.S. attorney, Daniel Bogden, counted 123 defendants charged, convicted or sentenced in the Silver State since March 1 as part of a national crackdown dubbed Operation Stolen Dreams. Bogden put losses in Nevada alone at almost $250 million. In Washington, D.C., the Justice Department linked nearly 500 arrests nationwide to the crackdown. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the push the largest collective enforcement effort aimed at confronting mortgage fraud. Holder said 1,215 criminal defendants had been netted in cases that uncovered more than $2.3 billion in losses, and said the Justice Department also engaged in civil enforcement actions to recover more than $147 million in the operation. FBI Director Robert Mueller called mortgage fraud “a risk to our economic stability” as a nation. More than lending institutions were victimized, said Michael Gibson, a Los Angeles-based federal Housing and Urban Development inspector who has been investigating cases in Las Vegas. Homeowners, taxpayers, reputable real estate industry officials and the Federal Housing Administration also were hurt, Gibson said. “They’re all victims in this. Every time you have a bad loan that’s FHA-insured, the federal government pays that claim amount.” Real estate analyst Rick Sharga, of Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac Inc., said places with the most foreclosures today were the most fertile places for mortgage scams during the housing boom. “The states that had the highest fallout in foreclosure and price depreciation certainly didn’t have markets built on sound business practices,” Sharga said. “The running gag was, you’d put a home on the market at breakfast and have three offers for twice the asking price by lunch. We’re seeing the consequences of that now.” “As soon as prices stopped going up, the whole house of cards came down,” he said. Prosecutors and investigators said schemes typically involved straw buyers with good credit buying homes at an inflated price or obtaining loans greater than the cost of the home. The resulting cash was skimmed by the person controlling the scheme. Homes were “flipped,” or quickly sold at inflated prices, driving up prices of comparable or neighboring homes, said Hunter, supervisor of the Las Vegas FBI white collar crime unit. Foreclosures have decreased in Nevada during the last year, according to RealtyTrac. But the state continued to lead the nation in May, followed by Arizona, Florida, California and Michigan. One of every 66 homes in the Las Vegas area received a foreclosure filing last month. The Justice Department said the probe announced Thursday resulted in significant criminal cases in places such as Duluth, Minn.; New Jersey and Atlanta. Officials said that in Chico, Calif., a home builder sold houses built before the market cooled in 2006 to straw buyers at inflated prices, then rebated tens of thousands of dollars to shell companies controlled by the buyers’ agents. The lenders were unaware of the rebates. The Justice Department said that to date, 38 of the homes are in foreclosure. Source:

Potential Tax Credit Extension

Joseph Coupal - Friday, June 18, 2010
The U.S. Senate has passed an amendment that would extend the closing deadline of the homebuyer tax credit by three months. Right now, qualifying homebuyers who were under contract by April 30 have until June 30 to close the deal. But because of the large volume of applications for lenders to process, concerns have begun to surface that some buyers may miss out on the tax break simply because of the backlogged pipeline. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) says it has received reports that as many as a third of the buyers eligible for the credit have already been notified by their lender that they won’t make the June 30 closing deadline. The Senate’s amendment, approved Wednesday by a vote of 60 to 37, would give homebuyers and their lenders until September 30 to complete their transactions.

Massachusetts Home Buyer Turn Offs

Joseph Coupal - Friday, June 11, 2010
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 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 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, we would recommend getting an ozone machine. A powerful ozone machine can do wonders for removing home odors. Let the light in 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 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. 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 This is Real Estate 101. Many sellers 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! Source:

Use a Real Estate Attorney Even When Selling by Owner

Joseph Coupal - Friday, June 04, 2010
Check out this video about how you should always use a real estate lawyer even if you’re selling by owner.

When Owners Evict Stabilized Tenants

Joseph Coupal - Monday, May 31, 2010
Q: I am a rent-stabilized tenant in an 18-unit building that was recently sold. The new owner has made it clear that the building will be converted to a one-family home for his family. Is there a law that protects tenants in a situation like this? A: Jarred I. Kassenoff, a Manhattan real estate lawyer, said that an owner may take back rent-stabilized apartments for his own use or for the use of an immediate family member. “There are no limitations on the number of units that can be sought for this purpose,” Mr. Kassenoff said. But, he said, if an owner wants to take over an apartment occupied by a tenant — or the tenant’s spouse — who is disabled or 62 or older, the landlord must provide an equal replacement apartment in the immediate area at the same rental terms as the stabilized rent. Moreover, Mr. Kassenoff said, an owner can evict a stabilized tenant only after the current lease expires, and provided he gives written notice of nonrenewal 90 to 150 days before the expiration. He said that owners must actually use the recaptured apartments as their (or their family members’) primary residence for at least three years or penalties can be imposed, including possible triple damages to a wrongly evicted tenant. Source: NY Times Contact Brooks & Crowley with any law questions regarding your real estate.

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