Real Estate and *stuff *

Real Estate and *stuff *

A real person helping real people with real estate

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Somerville investment property for sale!

August 29, 2016

VermontSomerville

Attention Investors! Grab this quick! Fully-rented three-family in the hot market of East Somerville! Just steps to Sullivan Square T, Assembly Square Shops, Restaurants & Route 93 you will always have tenants! First floor has individual entrance with central air and basement access. All units have separately metered gas heat. Maintenance free vinyl siding and newer roof. Great private fenced back yard. Each level has 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom with great details such as hardwood floors and built-ins. Realize over a 5% cap rate with market rate rents! Listed at just $944,999!

To stem foreclosures, committee recommends loan modication bill

May 14, 2012

Stop foreclosure! There are a variety of options for distressed home owners such as loan modifications, deed-in-lieu or a short sale. Find out which option helps you the best!

New news and new avenue for distressed home owners!  Please see the Boston Herald article reprinted below.  There is a new hotline in Massachusetts for residents facing foreclosure.  If you are facing foreclosure, there are a variety of options available to you.  Call or email to me to find out what they are.  You can also visit www.dontforeclosenow.com to review them.

“In an effort to stem the tide of foreclosures, a key legislative committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would require banks to make loan modifications available to homeowners when financially feasible to prevent families from unnecessarily losing their homes.

The Joint Committee on Financial Services unanimously recommended passage of the bill (H 1219) on Wednesday, with 10 of the 17 committee members voting in favor of the legislation, which has been a priority for Attorney General Martha Coakley.

“This is a fair and balanced approach that brings both the bank and the borrower to the table to look at the mortgage,” said Rep. Michael Costello, a Newburyport Democrat and co-chair of the Financial Services Committee.

The bill, filed by Rep. Steven Walsh (D-Lynn), would require banks and other lenders to assess a borrower’s ability to pay and the value of a loan modification compared to the cost of foreclosure before entering into foreclosure proceedings. If a modified loan is worth more than the amount the bank expects to recover through foreclosure, the lender must offer a modified loan to the borrower, according to the bill.

The legislation also addresses two recent Supreme Judicial Court decisions by requiring that lenders produce proper documentation showing they are the legal holders of the mortgage before foreclosing.

Coakley, who says foreclosures are a major obstacle to a full economic recovery, applauded the advancement of the bill on Wednesday. Coakley has said that in addition to pushing families out of their homes, unnecessary foreclosures have led to more abandoned property in cities and towns.

“Addressing the foreclosure crisis is a critical step toward moving our economy forward. This bill would promote reasonable loan modifications that keep people in their homes, keep properties on the tax rolls, and without requiring banks to sacrifice the bottom line,” Coakley said in a statement.

Among those who cast votes, the bill received unanimous support in the Financial Services Committee. Ten members voted in favor, four did not vote and three Republicans reserved their rights. Sen. Michael Knapik and Reps. Nicholas Boldyga and Marc Lombardo reserved their rights, while Sen. Brian Joyce and Reps. Kevin Murphy, Lori Ehrlich and James Cantwell did not vote.

According to Costello’s office, more than 45,000 Massachusetts residents have lost their homes due to foreclosure since the start of 2007. In February, there were almost 1,400 new foreclosures started, more than double the amount from a year ago and showing that the problem has not gone away even as the economy has rebounded.

The Warren Group recently reported completed foreclosures in Massachusetts dropped more than 30 percent last year, compared to 2010, but analysts believe the drop was partly due to lenders slowing the process down.

With $44.5 million paid to Massachusetts as part of a national settlement over illegal foreclosures and loan servicing with Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and GMAC/Ally, Coakley two weeks ago launched a HomeCorps program featuring the hotline (617-573-5333), which makes loan modification experts available to advise residents.

Coakley said last week that the hotline had been inundated with calls from more than 1,000 homeowners calling in the first week, averaging 200 to 300 calls a day.

“We are going to try to help everybody we can to stay in their homes,” Coakley told Fox 25. “For a lot of people this can be real relief.”

Under the national settlement, the banks are also ordered to provide about $14.6 million in cash payments to Bay State borrowers and $257 million worth of mortgage relief across Massachusetts, money that Coakley said can be used for refinancing or principal reduction.

By Matt Murphy / State House News Service

National Open House Weekend…here’s your free pass

April 24, 2012

Well…they are all free open houses but here is your way to go through the houses without being stalked by the listing agent.  Print off this flyer and hand it to the agent as you sign in.  Make sure you include your name as they do need to track who is in their client’s homes.  You’ll be able to freely view the house at your own pace and enjoy your time!

If you have additional questions afterwards or would like a free list of the open houses in your target area – just let me know!

No-Mow, No- and Low-Water Grasses Let You Slack the Summer Away

April 10, 2012 1 Comment

If you want a yard that demands less time money and water consider low-maintenance grasses in lieu of the traditional lawn.

We love our lawns. Turf grass covers nearly 47 million acres in the U.S., according to the Lawn Institute. But that’s not very green. The average household dumps 60 gallons of water per day on conventional lawns. Toxic lawn herbicides and pesticides run off into lakes and streams. Gas-powered mowers spew pollution. And then there’s the watering, weeding, seeding, sodding, thatching, and mulching commitment.

If you’re looking for an alternative, consider replacing some or all of your high-maintenance turf with innovative grasses that require little or no water or mowing once established, or ground covers that form walkable “carpets.”

In turn, you’ll reduce the need for irrigation, stop washing harmful chemicals into the watershed, add depth and texture to your landscape, and spend your spare time enjoying your yard instead of manicuring it.

Low-maintenance turf grasses

If you need grass for kids or pets, consider new “miracle” cultivars or blends. UC Verde Buffalo Grass, for example, delivers lush, silky blades that require little or no water once established, rarely need mowing, and need no fertilizer or pesticides. The secret to these grasses are long (but noninvasive) roots and thin blades. Make sure you get the right fescue, or grass, blend for your soil type and growing zone.

No Mow Lawn Mix” is great for open, sunny swaths where native prairie grasses once grew, such as the cooler, medium-rainfall areas of the upper Midwest, Northeast, and Pacific Northwest. And hardy Eco-Lawn thrives even in difficult spots, such as under spreading trees or in clay soils.

The cost of growing these blends from seed is comparable to that of conventional grass seed. No Mow Lawn Mix, for example, costs $3.75 to $5.95 per pound; you need 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet, which translates to about $0.02 per square foot. Planting grass from plugs is more expensive; you’ll need at least 1 or 2 plugs per square foot, at a cost of about 50 cents per plug.

Sedge: One of the most exciting breakthroughs in turf concepts in recent years has been the development of sedge lawns. Sedges look a lot like conventional turf but have more in common with native grasses that existed in America before sod-busting development and agriculture. The great thing about them is that they require little or no mowing, fertilizing, or chemicals. Some require less water than many conventional turf grasses. Others tolerate wet, moist areas, and many thrive in shade.

Ornamental grasses: This term covers both grasses and grass-like plants, such as sedges. For our purposes, we’re talking low-water, native grasses. Low to medium-height species can be used en masse as meadows. Tall ones function as vertical elements in a landscape. Check with your local extension service to find out which kinds are native to your area. What might be native to one region, such as pampas grass, may well be invasive in another.

Synthetic grass: Synthetic grass is starting to get some respect, thanks in part to increasingly urgent water restrictions in parts of the country, and because new versions are so amazingly lifelike. Synthetic turf requires zero water or mowing, which does wonders for your carbon footprint. The grass looks perfect—and perfectly real—and is suitable for either an expansive play area or a little jewel box of a garden nook, particularly where nothing else will grow.

On the downside, lawns made of petrochemical plastics can feel stifling in hot weather and offer no habitat for birds or insects. Some communities have protested the use of synthetic turf in institutional landscaping like school soccer fields, amid health concerns that the recycled-tire crumbs used as infill to provide drainage and keep blades from matting contain high levels of toxins.

While synthetic turf has little or no ongoing maintenance costs, it’s about twice as expensive upfront as conventional turf. Basic installation averages $6.50 per square foot, according to SyntheticGrassUSA.com, versus about $3.80 a square foot for the real thing.

5 Things You Forgot to Clean in Your Bathroom

April 6, 2012

Your bathroom, one of the rooms you clean most, hides areas that rarely see a scrub brush. It’s time to tackle these 5 nasty spots you probably forgot.

If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your bathroom, we don’t want to know what’s living in your tub. Probably, a host of staphylococcus, the skin infection bacteria that, a recent study showed, more frequently grows in tubs than in garbage cans.

But we presume you or someone else regularly swishes out the toilets, wipes out the tubs and sinks, and mops your bathroom flooring.

But you may be missing some critical areas. With the help of Kristi Mailloux, president of Molly Maid, here is a compiled a list of 5 bathroom spots home owners often forget to clean:

1. Showerheads: A warm white vinegar bath will get rid of mineral deposits, making your low-flow shower head flow even lower. Let the showerhead soak for about 20 minutes, then poke a paperclip into shower head holes still clogged. Scrub with an old toothbrush, then rinse and repeat if necessary.

2. Toilet bases: Mildew can grow on the caulking around the base of your toilet. Spray with white vinegar or disinfecting household cleaner, then scrub with a hard-bristled brush. Dry thoroughly.

3. Shower curtains: Clean soap scum and mildew from plastic shower curtains by tossing them into your washer on the gentle and cold (never hot!) water cycle, with detergent and ½ cup vinegar. If mildew is present, add ½ cup of bleach instead of vinegar. Toss a couple of large towels into the machine to act as scrubbers. Hang curtains back on your shower curtain rod, spread them out, and let them drip-dry. If you turn on the bathroom fan, they’ll dry faster.

4. Drains: We don’t usually pay much attention to drains until they’re clogged. But all year your hair, toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner are building up in sink and tub drains. Remove the stopper — unscrew the shower drain — and clear away obvious gunk, like hair and soap. Soak the drain in vinegar to clear away mineral deposits. Then, pour boiling water, or a mixture of ½ cup white vinegar and ½ cup baking soda, down the drain, which will bubble away crud sticking to pipes.

5. Medicine cabinet: Throw out prescription and over-the-counter drugs you no longer need or want. But don’t dump them down the drain, where they become part of the watershed, or into the trash, where anyone can fetch them out. Instead, take them to a local collection site, often at police or fire stations. Or check U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Take Back Initiative’s website for dates and sites for their next collection.

Bonus tip: Just for the fun of it, launder those powder room towels you won’t let anyone use. And be sure to clean out your dryer’s lint filter when you’re finished.

Warren Buffett Says Buy Homes Now!

February 28, 2012

Love these guys!  Check out this video blog with “Think Big, Work Small” as they recap a recent interview with Warren Buffett.  As one of most recognized (and successful) investors of all time, he is not shaken by the housing market – in fact – he thinks it’s the place to put HIS money!

Unique and beautiful feature in this West Marlborough Colonial for sale

January 22, 2012

Check out the “sewing room” in 5 Pleasant Street in Marlborough!  New to market and open this coming Sunday (1/29) 12pm to 1pm this is some beautiful wood work!

4 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, hardwoods, full pantry, first floor laundry, fireplace and full dry basement.  Special incentive pricing and a great location.  You can walk to the downtown area for dinner or shopping and still be moments from 495 for the Monday morning commute.

Want to this in person?  Stop in the open house on Sunday 1/29 or contact me

The Costs of Renting Out Your House

December 18, 2011

You have a single-family house you’d like to rent out. Perhaps you’re temporarily relocating for work, or maybe you inherited your childhood home from your parents, and you’re not quite ready to part with it yet.  This has become a very popular option for many home owners but there is risk involved.

Renting can be a profitable choice, but it requires an investment of time, money, and organization to make it work. Here’s how to determine whether renting out your house is worth the cost.

Calculate your monthly expenses

You want to charge at least enough to cover your monthly outlay. So the first step is to use our free downloadable worksheet to calculate your costs. Start with regular expenses like mortgage, maintenance, and homeowners association dues.

You may also need to upgrade your insurance coverage. Your agent can advise you about adding landlord insurance, a special type of policy that covers rental properties. As a rule, landlord insurance costs about 25% more than standard homeowners insurance.

If you’re renting the house furnished, make sure you’re covered for the personal possessions you leave behind. Jane Cline, the insurance commissioner of West Virginia, tells owners to prepare a detailed inventoryof household items. If you’re renting the house unfurnished, figure in the costs of moving and storing your items.

Check out prospective tenants

As a practical matter, you’ll have to formally check out your prospective renters. MrLandlord.com, an information and service site for landlords, suggests a variety of background checks: credit reports, eviction reports, and criminal background reports. None of these is expensive, but you must get your prospects’ permission.

MrLandlord.com charges $8.95 for an eviction report. A combined credit and eviction report is $14.95. If you want to be especially careful, a countywide criminal report costs $29.95.

Account for maintenance and upgrades

Even with the most scrupulous checks, you can’t be completely sure renters will take good care of your home. Eva Rosenberg, an enrolled agent in Northridge, Calif., advises that if you’re not within easy driving distance of your rental property, you’ll need to arrange for someone else to keep an eye on the place, even if it’s just to make sure the lawn is mowed. If the tenants are neglecting upkeep, you’ll want to know about it sooner rather than later, since it could be a warning sign of trouble down the line.

Of course, even if the renters are conscientious, problems can crop up: boilers will fail; roofs may leak; washing machine hoses can burst. If household systems or appliances need repair or replacement, you’re better off spending the money up front, before the fix becomes an expensive emergency.

You may also want to invest in some of the “extras” that Sue Peters, a broker in Wellfleet, Mass., recommends adding to attract a tenant willing to pay a higher fee. She suggests spending money on air conditioning, expanded-channel cable TV, and a Wi-Fi network.

Don’t want the headaches? Hire a property manager

You can save yourself a lot of time and effort if you engage a management company to oversee the property and take care of the details. Some firms charge a percentage of the rental fee, others a flat monthly fee, based on the extent of services. Joe Aimone of GoRenter in Phoenix, Ariz., says his firm offers a variety of services, starting at as little as $50 a month, including general maintenance, rent collection, and—if necessary—eviction.

A management company can help you figure out how much to charge, find and vet tenants, and prepare a lease. It will also pay the real estate taxes on your behalf and present you with an annual 1099 form. Many management companies maintain 24-hour emergency lines and a roster of approved service people, so they can take care of plumbing or electrical problems and bill you later. A property manager will also see that driveways and sidewalks are shoveled, so you don’t find yourself with an unpleasant claim against your liability insurance.

Expect to pay a management company 8% to 10% of the annual gross rent, on average, with a $50 to $85 monthly minimum.

Keep scrupulous records

Whether or not you use a management company, you’ll have to keep extensive business records. DeDe Jones, CFP, CPA, in Lakewood, Colo., advises owners to save receipts for any expenses and to file them carefully.

The IRS treats maintenance expenditures, like a new hot-water heater, differently from capital improvements, such as a new deck or patio, so you’ll want to consult a tax professional. Meanwhile, keep the two types of receipts separate to make tax prep easier. You’ll have to file Schedule E on Form 1040, which can also serve as a template for the kinds of records you’ll need.

Finally, because of the complex tax and liability issues involved, many financial experts suggest forming a corporation when you become a landlord. An attorney can advise you about whether incorporating makes sense in your situation.

New Refinance Program Targets ‘Underwater’ Owners Current on Payments

November 30, 2011

This seems like big news!  I was just reading this article from Orlando which is a very hard hit area of the country.

“Starting Thursday, home owners with “underwater” mortgages can apply for a new Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac refinance program geared for pretty much everyone who owes more on a home than it’s worth.

Matt Hamilton has dutifully paid the loan on his Maitland house and a Longwood rental condo, but until now he could not refinance them to obtain more affordable interest rates because the properties are financially underwater.

Starting Thursday, Hamilton and many of the other quarter-million Orlando-area residents with “underwater” mortgages can apply for a new Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac refinance program geared for pretty much everyone who owes more on a home than it’s worth — including landlords and second-home owners.

“It’s been difficult because I’m so far in the hole that no one wants to refinance me,” said Hamilton, a product developer for Longwood-based Onlinelabels.com. “But if you look at my payment history, I am a safe risk.”

The federal government’s previous foreclosure-prevention efforts, such as the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), lowered the interest rates on mortgages of home owners at risk of foreclosure because they had lost income. But the new Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) is seen as a possible game changer even for home owners who are underwater but who have stayed employed and continue making their payments.

Home owners who have missed mortgage payments in the past six months need not apply. And not all the details — such as loan limits — have been disclosed yet. But this is one of the first refinance programs that doesn’t require an appraisal to determine the value of the house.

“It’s a reward for the responsible borrower who swallowed a bitter pill but still kept moving,” said Travis BeMent, mortgage-loan originator for Home Loans Today of Orlando. “There’re a lot of people out there ready to pounce on this.”

The HARP application process begins Thursday, just as new reports show that more than half of the mortgaged homes in Metro Orlando are saturated with more debt than they are worth. In all, 254,146 mortgaged homes in the four-county metro area are in that situation, according to a report released Tuesday by the mortgage-research company Corelogic.

Even though Orlando has a greater share of underwater homes than Florida overall or the nation as a whole, the percentage of “negative-equity” houses in the metro area actually decreased slightly during the third quarter: 51.6% of the mortgaged homes in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Lake counties were worth less than their loans in the July-through-September period, down from 53.1% in the second quarter.

About 44% of the mortgaged houses in Florida, and 22% of those in the nation, were underwater in the third quarter, according to Tuesday’s report.

Many of those mortgages were sold to home owners who purchased at the peak of the market in 2006-07, when sales prices were double what they are today and when interest rates ranged from 5.7% to 6.5%, according to the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association. Today, interest rates on a 30-year mortgage are less than 4%.

One cautionary note about HARP: Interest rates could change by the time a qualified property owner’s refinancing application is processed, BeMent said. Fannie and Freddie are not expected to have the ability to process the new loans until as late as next March.

But HARP, he noted, also offers a break to home  owners who want to refinance for 15 or 20 years instead of 30 years. To qualify, an owner must have a mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and will likely need a credit score of at least 620.

Orlando lawyer Jeremy Sloane hasn’t missed any payments on a rental home he owns in east Orange County’s Avalon community, but he still loses money on the property every month because the mortgage he took out in 2006 far exceeds the rent he collects, now that prices have collapsed. He said he has already talked to FBC Mortgage about the new federal refinancing program.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s anyone’s responsibility but myself to make the payments, but the frustrating part was that other people have been able to get out of their situation and not take a loss,” Sloane said. “This program will hopefully make it a lot more palatable renting out that house and not taking a loss.”

By Mary Shanklin, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.”
I have also found this article on SmartMoney (http://www.smartmoney.com/spend/real-estate/sizing-up-harp-20-1322685479452/) that has a great, quick write-up of the refinancing limitations.  The guidelines prevent anyone who has been behind in their payments over the past six months from applying and you have to have a credit score of at least 620.  If you are looking for other options, they do exist.  This page will give you a full list of options for distressed homeowners – avoid foreclosure.  If you would like some help reviewing these options, a private meeting is available to you.

Tree Falls Over Property Line: Who Pays? Who Picks Up the Pieces?

November 10, 2011

If a neighbor’s tree falls over your property line, file an insurance claim for repairs and cleanup. No house damage? Check if chopping and hauling debris is covered.

When a tree falls

Your neighbor is responsible when a tree falls over your shared property line only if you can prove he was aware that his tree was a hazard and refused to remedy the problem. Regardless, your insurance company restores your property first, and later decides whether or not to pursue reimbursement from the neighbor or his insurer if the neighbor was negligent in maintaining the tree.

Before a tree falls

Write a letter to your neighbor before his dead, diseased or listing tree falls through your roof or over your property line.

The letter should include:

  • Description of the problem
  • Photographs
  • Request for action
  • Attorney letterhead–not necessary but indicates you mean business.

Trim their trees

If the limbs of a tree hang over your property line, you may trim the branches up to the property line, but not cut down the entire tree. If a tree dies after your little pruning, the neighbor can pursue a claim against you in civil or small claims court. Depending on the laws of your state, your neighbor may have to prove the damage was deliberate or caused by negligence, but may also be able to recover up to three times the value of the tree.

Before you cut, tell your neighbors what you intend to do to protect your property. They may offer to trim the whole tree instead of risking your half-oaked job.

Your tree falls

It’s always a good idea to take care of your big and beautiful trees, and keep receipts for trimmings and other care.

But if your tree falls over a neighbor’s property line, do nothing until their insurance company contacts you. You may not be liable unless you knew or should have known the tree was in a dangerous condition.  If you pruned a tree or shored up trunks to prevent problems, gather your receipts to prove your diligence.