Centers And Squares
Archive for the 'Buyer Info' Category
Have you heard of Hatch My House? It’s an online gift registry where you can have friends and family give monetary gifts to help you save for a house – or at least the down payment.
I have mixed feelings about online registries and asking for cash but Hatch My House totally won me over. It’s a really cute design – you select a house and then assign values to its features – inside and out if you want. Your loved ones “buy” a window, or a door, a microwave, even a toilet for cripes sake (I’d advise against including the toilet – nobody seems to “buy” them – not surprisingly) – however you want to set it up. You choose the values for each feature you want to include and when a donor selects it they can opt to leave a message to you that shows up when someone clicks on the building element. It really is fun and you can’t help clicking and clicking when you open up one of the registers.
Hatch My House is popular with couples who use it for their wedding registry. Many make a good point – they’ve been together for years and really don’t need the traditional wedding gifts since they’ve already outfitted their apartment.
Saving for a down payment is no easy feat. Hatch My House could get you on your way.
PS ~ I love the vintage postcards with egg houses so couldn’t resist using one here.
If you’ve purchased a condo recently you may have been required to purchase HO-6 insurance coverage. HO-6 insurance is required if your condo association’s master insurance policy isn’t “all-in” coverage. Wondering what it’s all about? Today’s guest post by Maria Lampros of Guard Insurance should answer all your questions.
What is an HO-6 insurance policy?
An HO-6 policy is like a home insurance policy, but instead is for condominium unit owners. Lenders have started requiring HO-6 insurance policies for new condo unit purchases. This is commonly known as “studs-in” or “walls-in” coverage.
Why do I need a condo insurance policy, when I already pay into my condo association master insurance policy?
When purchasing HO-6 condo insurance, it is important to take into consider the master condo insurance policy, if there is one. Many master insurance policies cover only the property, common areas and physical structure of your building. But there is a lot more to your condo than that.
Your condo is your home, and your home is filled with items that are unique to you and your lifestyle, like your furnishings, your computer equipment and any upgrades you may have installed. HO-6 Condo Insurance can provide coverage from damages that occur within your unit. Beyond insuring your personal belongings, your HO-6 policy can also help you control deductibles as well as provide comprehensive liability coverage.
What can an HO-6 condo insurance coverage policy include?
The basic categories of an HO-6 policy are:
- Personal Property
- Loss of Use
- Additional Property Coverage
- Personal Liability
- Medical Payments to Others
- Additional Liability Coverage
Since insurance coverage on your condominium or apartment building is normally purchased by your condo association, your dwelling coverage focuses on your real property within your condo. Up to a specified limit, an HO-6 policy provides coverage on a replacement cost basis to insure the items in the following four categories:
Alterations and improvements – Your built-in cabinets, kitchen appliances and interior partitions are examples.
Common areas – In the event that your condo association by-laws require you to insure property which is outside your condo, for example a portion of your hallway or stairs, entrance or walkway, coverage can be provided by your dwelling coverage.
Property exclusive to your condominium – Your real property that pertains fully to your condominium, for example, upgraded doors and safety locks.
Structures which you own that are located off premises – Dwelling coverage can also provide coverage for a private garage or storage shed which you own that is located in another part of your building complex. Read the rest of this entry »
If you’ve been checking out open houses recently or calling about properties you find online, you’ve probably realized that it’s a fast-moving real estate market this spring.
If you’re hoping to buy in Cambridge or nearby towns this spring you need to get your ducks in a row early on. Properties are typically selling the first weekend so you’ll want to be prepared in case you find something you love.
One of the first to-dos in the home buying process is to get a pre-approval from a lender. It’s a good idea to have a copy of that pre-approval with you when you head out to look at properties. You’ll also want to tuck a check or two in your wallet if you don’t carry a checkbook with you.
Thus armed, you’ll be able to jump into the fray if you find a house or condo that feels like home.
If you’d like to talk about strategies for success in this market, give me a call at 617-504-1737 – I’m happy to help. Liz Bolton, ReMax Destiny, Cambridge, MA
It’s a testament to the complexity of the real estate transaction that after twelve years selling real estate full-time I still learn new things and encounter various twists for the first time on a regular basis. Today at a closing I learned three things I didn’t know about MassHousing loans.
Mortgages from MassHousing have become more and more popular in the last few years with first time homebuyers. They allow for a low down payment and since nobody seems to be offering “blends” – second mortgages that make up for down payments under 20% – a Mass Housing loan without mortgage insurance is an attractive option for many buyers.
So what do I know now about Mass Housing loans that I didn’t know before?
– You have to be an owner occupant as long as you have a Mass Housing mortgage. Even years down the road, if you still have your MassHousing mortgage, you can’t opt to rent out your place. You can buy a multi-family with a MassHousing loan but it still has to be your primary residence.
– You may have to move into the place you just bought with a mortage from MassHousing within 30 days. Most lenders require you to move in within 60 days – giving you some time for renovations, etc. – but Mass Housing cuts that period in half. I’m not sure this applies to all MassHousing loans – I found info that varies on other sites but this was a requirement of the buyer’s loan today.
– There’s the potential for paying back some of the MassHousing benefit you received if you sell before nine years have passed. Talk to your lender to get the particulars – it has to do with your income going up beyond certain levels as well as the profit you make when you sell. Mass Housing may reimburse you if you’re subject to this “recapture tax” – again, make sure you ask your lender to explain how this works.
A good lender who offers MassHousing loans can explain these provisions and more. If you’re interested in Mass Housing loans or other mortgage products that fit your particular circumstances give Kevin Greeley of NEMoves a call at 781-929-4147.
2012 has been a year of bidding wars in Cambridge. Just how often are they happening? I decided to take a look at the numbers of Cambridge houses selling for over asking price. How many houses in Cambridge sell for over asking?
As of yesterday, 117 houses had sold in Cambridge since January 1st. Of the 117:
48 sold for over asking
11 sold for full price
58 sold for less than asking price
So, slightly more than half of all Cambridge houses sold to date in 2012 sold for full price or more.
In fact, this is the first year that I recall seeing the MLS report I run with a Sale to List Price ratio for all sales at more than 100%. In other words, on average, Cambridge houses have sold for more than asking price in 2012. The sale to list price ratio for Cambridge houses sold in 2012 is 102%. That number is usually high – somewhere in the 90s – but this is the first time I recall seeing the total – not just one price band – exceed 100%.
Those numbers don’t tell the whole story. While almost half of the houses sold for less than full price often the discount was rather negligible – a few thousand on a house selling for hundreds of thousands. Just a handful sold for discounts of 7 to 11% off the asking price.
The premiums paid in multiple bids however was often much larger – $516,000 for a house priced at $399,000; $$450,000 for a house with an asking price of $369,000; $3,150,000 for a house priced at $2,400,000, etc. A number of sale prices were 20 to 30%+ over the asking price.
Let’s hope inventory builds in 2013 – we don’t need more bidding wars – we need more listings!
If you’re hoping to sell your Cambridge home for top dollar or if you’re hoping to buy and want some expert guidance in how to prevail in this market, give me a call – I’d be happy to help. Liz Bolton, ReMax Destiny, Cambridge. 617-504-1737.
Ok – your offer was accepted. Congratulations! Chances are the next step is to get a home inspection scheduled. Wondering what happens on a home inspection? Here’s an overview:
What Happens On A Home Inspection
Typically your home inspector starts on the exterior of the property. He’ll be looking at the siding, the trim, the foundation and the roof.
Then we’re off to the basement since as one home inspector says “that’s where the fun is!” A good home inspector will go through the cellar one system at a time and look at the plumbing, the heating, the electrical and the foundation. He’ll be looking for any evidence of current or past pest problems though if conditions warrant you may consider getting a separate pest inspection by a specialist.
An inspector typically is not checking for lead paint – that’s a separate inspection by another specialist. The inspector is also not looking at the smoke or carbon monoxide alarms since Massachusetts law requires that those will be inspected by the local Fire Department prior to the sale of the house.
Upstairs the inspector will go room to room with more time being spent in the kitchen and bath[s].
Your inspector will be taking notes and it helps if you take notes too. You’ll be getting a report that outlines the inspector’s findings. You may get the inspector’s report on the spot or it may be emailed to you afterwards. Ideally you want ask the inspector when you first call for an appointment how long it will take to get your report – particularly if you’re up against the agreed upon inspection deadline in your offer.
With a good inspector, by the time you’re done you should have an understanding of any issues to add to your to-do list, a grasp of how the mechanicals in your house work, and a good sense of what you need to do for ongoing maintenance and emergencies. You’ll be a homeowner soon!
The New York Times had an excellent article today about appraisal issues. Real estate appraisals are more often a challenge in today’s market. We’ve been experiencing it here in the Cambridge area but it’s happening all over the country according to the New York Times.
One thing I learned over the last few years is that appraisals aren’t an issue in a declining market – it was easy for a property to appraise when properties were selling for less than they had in the months before. Values may have been going down but appraisals were easy.
In an appreciating market appraisals are more apt to cause problems. Prices are going up so past sales may not support the prices buyers are willing to pay in the current market. Additionally, in areas without a lot of inventory it may be difficult to find enough comparable sales. Lack of inventory is often one reason why a property will sell for more than it might have in the past – buyers have been waiting for that property type to come on the market and are prepared to pay more to secure it.
New lending regulations for appraisals have also caused challenges. In the past local appraisers did the lions share of appraisals in the market. They knew the housing stock, they were more likely to have actually seen inside the properties they used as comparable sales, they understood the sublteties of neighborhood values and features buyers in this area were likely to appreciate, etc. A parking space for example may not have the same value in the suburbs as it does in the city.
As the New York Times reporter described, new regulations mean that many more appraisals are being done by out of town appraisers. My heart sunk recently when an appraiser pulled up in a car with Connecticut plates. That appraisal turned out ok but other times appraisers’ lack of familiarity with the area has caused problems.
The New York Times article also pointed out the value of cash sales in the appraisal process. Those sales will become the “comps” for the next appraiser and happily we’ve had many of them this year.
If your buyer is getting financing what can you do as a seller to ensure that your property appraises?
Make sure that your real estate agent is prepared for the appraisal. Your agent should bring printouts of comparable sales to the appraisal. I’ll highlight features on the sheets I want to call to the appraiser’s attention and make notations about similarities or differences – “only one bath,” “not a fancy renovation,” etc. Sometimes it can be tricky to get the right “comps”. When the comparable sales aren’t easy to come by I will make sure I bring sales sheets for similar properties that have sold nearby but over the line in an abutting town. I’m pulling together the comps that tell the story – that explain why a buyer would be willing to pay this price for this particular property.
On your end you’ll want to make sure that your property shows at its best. The appraiser is the final person that you need to impress during the sale of your home. Make sure your property sparkles, that it’s clean and picked up with lights on.
If you’re a buyer and the appraisal came in low what can you do? You may be able to renegotiate price with the seller. If not, you may have to put down more money since the bank is only going to lend X% of the value they’ve assigned to the property. You may be able to withdraw from the purchase if you’re unable to get your financing but that’s something to discuss with your lender and attorney.
If you’ve never bought real estate before of if you’ve owned elsewhere but never bought real estate in Massachusetts you’ve probably wondered – how long does it take to buy a house in Massachusetts?
While I can’t predict how long it will take for you to find the house or condo of your dreams, once you do find the perfect place and make an offer there is a typical time-frame for your home purchase.
The home buying process varies state by state. Here in Massachusetts the typical home buying purchase takes six to eight weeks. That’s from the day your offer is accepted until the day you close and get your keys.
It may be possible to speed up the process or to extend the time-frame. Perhaps you need to move more quickly or maybe the seller won’t be ready to move for several months. Buyer and seller will agree to a date that works for both parties.
I once had a sale close in just 12 days. That’s fast. Nowadays closing so quickly would be a much bigger challenge – the mortgage industry isn’t making things easy so it is better to work in the 6 – 8 week time-frame if you’re getting a mortgage.
Closings can also be extended. More often than not this happens when the seller needs a particular closing date beyond the standard period and the buyer agrees. However, you’ll want to consider the ramifications for your financing. Your lender will only be able to lock your mortgage rate for a certain period of time. An extended closing may very well mean that you won’t be able to pin down your mortgage rate until you get closer to the closing.
In general, you can expect it to take six to eight weeks to buy a house in Massachusetts. So if you’re in the real estate market, plot the weeks on the calendar and make your plans.