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Open House Etiquette

Homeowners roll out the welcome mat at open houses

Homeowners roll out the welcome mat at open houses

Open House Etiquette   Tis the season for open houses with the Cambridge real estate market already in full swing.

When you’re at an open house you’re essentially a guest of the home owner.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

Leave the coffee outside  I’m not sure what’s happened to make everyone walk around holding a cup. I’m as big a coffee addict as the next person (ok – bigger) but it wouldn’t occur to me to bring my drink with me when I go into a store or an open house. It’s even more mystifying given the proliferation of cup holders in cars nowadays. Long and short – leave your drinks outside when you visit an open house.

Hold onto the kids  If children are accompanying you to open houses you’ll want to keep a tight rein on them.  Many houses and condos that you’ll visit won’t be child-proofed.  There’s often expensive art and breakable objects at very turn – disasters waiting to happen. If your kids haven’t been taught to look-but-not-touch then you’ll really want to hold on to them tightly.

If you can’t say something nice … then don’t say anything at all.  It’s simply bad form to dis the house or condo that you’re visiting – at least within earshot of other visitors. I know sometimes it’s tempting to make a negative remark as a strategy when you like a place – how better to dissuade your competition?  More often than not, though, it’s just some negative nellies who loudly discuss what they perceive to be shortcomings.  Best to save your critique for long after you leave. 

Wear your good socks  While I typically encourage homeowners to allow visitors to wear shoes there’s a good chance, particularly if the weather is bad, that you’ll be asked to remove your shoes.  Good socks and easily removed shoes will make the process slightly less onerous.  It’s a lesson real estate agents learn early in their careers – the socks with holes have to be weeded from the sock drawer.

Don’t be shy about signing in   It’s some sort of reflex that many of us have (I admit it – I was prone to it too when I went to open houses as a hobby many years ago)  – we don’t want to sign in on the guest register.  But be brave.  It’s a simple request and given that you’re a guest in someone’s home – an unknown guest at that – it’s only fair to the homeowner.  If you’re working with an agent sign in with his or her name or add it to the sheet. That way if there’s info to be shared, offers coming in or whathaveyou, we can call your agent. 

That’s it – my advice from the real estate trenches.  See you out there on Sunday!

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The Pace of the Cambridge Real Estate Market

 

"Red Active" status shows a Cambridge property that sold within three days of coming on the market.

"Red Active" status shows a Cambridge property that sold within three days of coming on the market but is being shown for backup offers.

The pace of the Cambridge real estate market this spring is dizzying.

Newly listed properties are often selling before the open house. Many properties have received multiple bids.

Why is this happening?  Low inventory seems to be the answer.  There just aren’t enough properties on the market to satisfy demand. Here’s how Cambridge real estate listings today compare to the same time last year. 

  • Single familes for sale in Cambridge – 21 vs. 41 a year ago
  • Condos for sale in Cambridge – 115 vs. 231 a year ago
  • Multi-family houses – 11 vs. 16 a year ago

Wow!  The numbers of houses and condos for sale in Cambridge are down 50% from last year.  As always, multi-families are in short supply in Cambridge.  Inventory is down in Somerville as well though not as dramatically as in Cambridge.

The availability of properties for sale is even more limited than the numbers above suggest, however.  The increasingly common usage of what we agents call “red active” – the property status of Under Agreement But Will Show for Backup Offers – means that only 84 condos in Cambridge, not 115, are actually available for purchase as I write.

What does this mean for Cambridge real estate buyers and sellers?

For buyers:  Your best bet is to get a buyer’s agent who can alert you early on to properties coming on the market. Make yourself available to see new listings as soon as possible.  Make sure you get a pre-approval from a lender. Be prepared for there not to be a lot to see – there just isn’t large numbers of listings coming on the market at any particular price point.  And when there is the properties may sell quickly. 

For sellers:  If you’ve been holding off putting your property on the market this may very well be the time to sell.  Perhaps your friend in the ‘burbs can’t sell his house or your neighbor down the street’s house lingered on the market a few years ago.  Don’t let their experience lead you to think that it’s “not a good time”.  It’s a great time to sell right now in Cambridge. You’ll want the advice and assistance of an experienced Cambridge real estate agent – pricing, preparation and marketing continue to be critically important despite limited inventory.

 

Thinking of buying or selling in Cambridge or nearby this year?  I’d love to help.  Email me at [email protected] or give me a call at 617-504-1737.   Elizabeth Bolton, ReMax Destiny, 171 Huron Ave. Cambridge MA

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Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage – First Steps in Buying a Home

A pre-approval is your first step in obtaining a mortgage

A pre-approval is your first step in obtaining a mortgage

If you’re hoping to buy a house or condo in Cambridge or nearby this spring you’ll want to get pre-approved for a mortgage as one of your first steps in the homebuying adventure.

Nowadays, sellers expect to see a pre-approval with an offer – and ideally one from a known, reputable lender with a track record of closing loans.  Real estate is moving very quickly in Cambridge this spring so you really need to get your pre-approval ready in advance.  Talking to a lender and getting a good idea of what you can afford and what your payments are likely to be will help you to focus on looking at properties that you know you can afford.

When you’re getting ready to buy real estate you need to get your financial ducks in a row.  Gone are the days of “no-doc” loans that didn’t require you to document your finances.  Nowadays lenders need to thoroughly document your finances before they will lend the large sums of money needed to buy real estate in today’s market.

Courtesy of Kevin Greeley, the absolute top notch NE Moves loan officer, here’s what your lender will need when you are ready to get pre-approved for a mortgage:

What Do I Need to Get a Mortgage Pre-Approval?

Income and Employment Information:

  •  Last 2 years of W-2’s (if self-employed, 2 year’s complete and signed 1040 tax returns).
  •  Current year-to-date paystub (covering last 30 days)
  •  Complete addresses and phone numbers of employers for the past 2 years.
     

Liquid Assets Info (checking, savings, and/or investment accounts used for the purchase of property):

  • Complete addresses and account numbers of checking, savings, and/or investment accounts. 
  • 2 months of statements and/or passbook.
  •  Verification of the source of any large deposits in statements provided.
  •  If receiving gift funds, fully executed Gift Letter. (see loan officer for details)
     

Miscellaneous:

  • If separated/divorced: copy of separation/divorce decree and/or child support agreement.
  • If resident alien: copy of both sides of Resident Alien card.
  • If relocation or new position, copy of Offer Letter and relocation benefits, if applicable.

I can’t say enough about working with Kevin Greeley to get a mortgage.  We have been so fortunate to work with him over these crazy years in the mortgage market.  He is very thorough, anticipates problems and solves them before they become an issue, he personally dots all the Is and crosses all the Ts along the way, he is a master of all of the loan products and scenarios that come up in lending here, and he has a marvelous manner that will put you at ease in what can be a stressful situation.  Repeatedly, attorneys and agents comment on his ability to get a loan closed when other lenders are floundering.

You don’t have to be buying your house or condo with Coldwell Banker to get a loan from NE Moves Mortgage with Kevin’s help.  If you’re shopping for a mortgage or need to get pre-approved I encourage you to call Kevin at 781-929-4147, email him at [email protected]  or contact him online at his mortgage website.

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What’s On Your Real Estate Wish List?

What's On Your Real Estate Wish List?

What's On Your Real Estate Wish List?

If you’re hoping to buy real estate in Cambridge or nearby this spring, you’re probably coming up with a wish list.  You may not get everything on your list but it is a helpful starting point in the real estate hunt.

What’s on your real estate wish list?

Everyone’s list will be different but here are some things to think about:

Location – Probably the most important.  Cast too wide a net and it’s a difficult process.  Narrow your focus too much, too specifically, and you may get frustrated and fail to find your new home.  Decide on several towns and / or neighborhoods that appeal and you’ll be able to stay on top of the new possibilities. 

Style – House or condo?  If you’re looking at condos, is a big building too big or a two to three-unit too small?  Which era of building appeals – older, classic buildings or new construction?  Do you want a townhouse or a flat?  A ranch, Colonial, Cape or split level? Top floor, first floor or a condo in between?

Size – How big a place do you want?  Often, you have to get out and look at some options before you get a feel for square footage and what feel right.  Don’t be too quick to decide without seeing  a place that it won’t work because the square footage is too low. Much can depend layout and for houses in particular you’ll want to take the square feet numbers with a grain of salt.  It’s usually easier to decide on the must-have number of rooms and bedrooms you want or need.  Even then, a room that’s not included in the official bedroom count might suit your needs.

Level of renovation– Most of our housing stock in the Cambridge area  is older.  Some places have been updated – many older places are transformed into luxurious, modern spaces.  Others don’t have the newest, flashiest of fixtures and appliances but are very nice as is.  You’ll find condos and houses that could use some attention to outdated features and others that have some definite projects that are must-dos.  What’s your comfort level condition-wise?  “Needs work” typically goes well beyond painting and buffing.  How much is too much?

Outside space– Is it important to you to have outdoor space?  Private space or is common space ok?  Do you need pet or play space? Is a big yard too much of a good thing for your busy schedule?

Parking – Is a parking space – or two – important to you?  Opting only for garage parking will further limit the options.  In some neighborhoods and locations it’s easier to park on the street than in others.

Public Transportation – Will you be taking public transportation to work? Even if you drive, many buyers want to have easy access to public transit.  And what’s your definition of public transportation?  Does it have to be a subway stop or will a nearby bus stop suit your needs?

Do you have or want pets?  If you’re looking at condos make sure you check for what’s allowed – some will restrict by number or by size and many places won’t allow pets at all.  Even houses get scrutinized in terms of pet friendliness – often it seems we’re buying a place because it works for our pets as much as ourselves.

Particular features – Hardwood floors, in-unit laundry, air conditioning, a dishwasher, a gas stove – what are the must-haves or really hope-to-haves on your list?

Price– Let’s not forget price.  You’ll want to be pre-approved  before you head out on the real estate hunt so you can focus on places you’ll be able to buy.

Now that you’re armed with your real estate wish list it’s time to head out on the hunt.  If I can be of help with your real estate search please give me a call at 617-504-1737 or email me at [email protected].  I’d love to help!

Liz Bolton, ReMax Destiny

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House Hunting circa 1916

House Hunting ca. 1916

House Hunting ca. 1916

I came across this poem tonight in a 1916 book of verse, A Heap ‘o Livin’ by Edgar A. Guest.  Guest wrote many of the verses that appear on Buzza mottos from the teens and ’20s. 

The poem tickled my funny bone – the home buyers are dreaming of the newest in amenities circa 1916.  Though the amenities on today’s house hunters’ wish lists may be different the sentiments seem very familiar.

 

House-Hunting by Edgar A. Guest

Time was when spring returned we went
To find another home to rent;
We wanted fresher, cleaner walls,
And bigger rooms and wider halls,
And open plumbing and the dome
That made the fashionable home.

But now with spring we want to sell,
And seek a finer place to dwell.
Our thoughts have turned from dens and domes;
We want the latest things in homes;
To life we’ll not be reconciled
Until we have a bathroom tiled.

A butler’s pantry we desire,
Although no butler do we hire;
Nell’s life will be one round of gloom
Without a closet for the broom,
And mine will dreary be and sour
Unless the bathroom has a shower.

For months and months we’ve sat and dreamed
Of paneled walls and ceilings beamed
And built-in cases for the books,
An attic room to be the cook’s.
No house will she consent to view
Unless it has a sun room, too.

There must be wash bowls here and there
To save much climbing of the stair;
A sleeping porch we both demand —
This fad has swept throughout the land —
And, Oh, ’twill give her heart a wrench
Not to possess a few doors, French.

I want to dig and walk around
At least full fifty feet of ground;
She wants the latest styles in tubs;
I want more room for trees and shrubs,
And a garage, with light and heat,
That can be entered from the street.

The trouble is the things we seek
Cannot be bought for ten-a-week.
And all the joys for which we sigh
Are just too rich for us to buy.
We have the taste to cut a dash;
The thing we’re lacking most is cash.

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FHA Loan Limits Restored

FHA Loan Limits Restored

FHA Loan Limits Restored

Congress has just restored the higher loan limits for FHA loans.  The loan limits had rolled back as of October 1st but are now back to the higher levels that had been in place since January 2009.

This means the FHA loan limit for Middlesex and Suffolk counties is back up to $523,750, rather than $465,750, for single-family houses.  In these counties, the limit for a two-family house is $670,500 and for a three-unit property is $810,450.

The bill did not increase the loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-backed mortgages.

Questions about mortgages?  Contact Kevin Greeley of NEMoves Mortgage.

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When Your Lender Says Jump…

 

When your lender says jump… You say “how high?”

And then you do what you’re told and answer what’s asked.

There’s no doubt about it – getting a mortgage isn’t an easy process.  That’s certainly true nowadays.  In fact it’s always  been true – aside from applying for the no-doc loans of yore you’ve always had to provide plenty of documentation to get a mortgage.

Think about it – the bank is lending you 100s of thousands of dollars – often many 100s of thousands.  No matter how entitled you feel to that loan, how stellar your credit is, how large your bank account, or how long you’ve been paying the mortgage on the property you want to refinance – the bank is going to need to thoroughly document your current finances and your financial track record.

Lately I’ve been hearing from many lenders that they’re getting lots of push back from potential borrowers.  Borrowers get aggravated when they’re asked for documentation or they fail to turn in necessary forms and documentation on a timely basis. 

This is not what you want to do if you want a mortgage. 

Your lender has to jump through far more hoops nowadays in order to get your loan approved.  Underwriters are more reluctant to sign off on things, appraisals are problematic (topic for another post!), regulations change frequently – and the changes almost always make things even more difficult. 

So when your lender asks you for documentation get him or her what is asked for – quickly.  When you’re asked to sign and return documents do so – quickly.

Organize your records.  Don’t bring piles of papers to your lender and expect him or her to organize your paperwork. Go through the list of what’s been requested and put together your papers in an orderly fashion.  Spend as much time and care on this as you would a job application or a tax audit.

Documents that your lender will ask for may include:

  • Tax returns
  • W2 forms
  • Pay stubs
  • Bank statements
  • Canceled rent checks that show punctual payments

Your lender needs to verify your income, assets and debts.  Be prepared to document the source of all deposits into your accounts that appear on your bank statements.  You’ll need information about all of your investments.  Unless you’ve been employed at one job for a number of years you may be asked to provide explanations about job changes, etc.  If you’re starting a new job you usually have to have received a paycheck before you can get a loan.  If you don’t have a credit history in the US be prepared to be asked for alternative evidence of payments to creditors.

Your lender will tell you what’s needed.  Get what’s asked for as quickly as you can and you’ll be that much closer to moving into your new home or getting that amazingly low interest rate when you refinance.

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What Do I Need to Bring to the Closing?

What do I need to bring to my real estate closing?

What do I need to bring to my real estate closing?

If you’re buying or selling  a house or a condo in Massachusetts you’re probably wondering what you need to bring to the closing.

The real estate “closing” is sometimes referred to as “passing papers” – and no wonder – if there’s a mortgage involved there’ll be a lot of papers getting passed around the table.  Nowadays, selling a house or condo in Massachusetts involves a great deal of paperwork.  So come to the closing table with a limber wrist – you’ll be signing your name over and over.  Here’s what else you need:

What Do I Need to Bring to the Closing When I’m Buying a House or Condo in Massachusetts?

Photo ID – you’ll need a photo ID – usually a driver’s license or passport.  It’s not a bad idea to bring a second form of ID since every so often a lender asks for a 2nd form of identification

A Bank Check – Unless you’ve arranged in advance to wire the funds you need for the closing you’ll need to get a bank check (aka a treasurer’s check) for the money you need.  This is not the same as a personal check from your checkbook. 

Your attorney or her paralegal will tell you the amount you need a day or so before the closing.  Ask how the bank should make out the check – typically you’ll be asked to have the bank make it out to you.  At the closing you’ll sign the check over to the lender.

Your Checkbook – It’s not uncommon to need to write a small check at the closing – perhaps an adjustment is made on the settlement statement, a charge has been omitted, or the amount of your bank check was estimated. More and more often people aren’t carrying a checkbook so be sure to bring yours with you.

Your attorney or lender may require you to bring something else but these are the must-haves at every closing.

What Do I Need to Bring to the Closing When I’m Selling a Condominium or House in Massachusetts?

Your job as seller is much easier at the closing – you’ve only a few documents to sign.  Here’s what you’ll need to bring:

Photo ID – a driver’s license or passport

Your Checkbook – Usually you’re getting the check, not writing one, when you’re selling your property. But just in case some small adjustment needs to be made it’s a good idea to have a check or your checkbook with you at the closing.

The Keys – You’ll be passing along the keys to the new owners.  Don’t forget the mailbox key and the garage door clicker (or leave them in the house or condo).

Ask your attorney if there’s anything else you’re required to bring.

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