Hearing good things about training camp

Hearing good things about training camp so far – still waiting for the weekend schedule. http://ow.ly/5PLkn

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Find a loan before finding a home?

I am often asked if it is a good idea to start looking into financing before actually finding a home.  Short Answer: YES!

A recent article on MSN Money discussed that topic as well, and it is worth a read.  Check it out here.  Bottom line, it is always a good idea to start with your financing.  First off, the lender can tell you how much house you can afford, so that you are not shopping out of your price range.  Buyers that try to stretch the budget too far often end up being denied, especially in this market.  A lender will give you an idea of what you should be looking to spend.

A credit check by the lender will give you info about any credit issues you may want to clear up before putting in an offer.  Also, it’s a good idea to pull a free credit report each year anyway.

The article gives a great list of items you will want when applying for a loan;

  • Two months of pay stubs.
  • Two months of bank statements: That means checking, savings, brokerage and retirement accounts. Be sure to include all pages, not just the summary page.
  • Two years of W-2s if you are a salaried employee.
  • Two years of tax returns if you are self-employed.
  • Rental history for the last two years if applicable.

Lastly, don’t let the media or market rumors make you think there are no loans out there.  There is still money to be lent.  Even if you don’t have a 20% downpayment, there are FHA Loans available that require a far lower percentage – you will pay PMI and some fees, but most often it is still worth it.

If you are looking, have questions, need help with financing or real estate in general, give me a shout at 978-657-7437 or www.montefortelaw.com

 

 

 

http://realestate.msn.com/july-buying-advice-before-you-shop-line-up-a-loan

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Interesting article about the tricks ret

Interesting article about the tricks retailers use to get you to buy more. http://ow.ly/5I0bK

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Tips for Hiring Contractors

I did a post on my old blog with some advice for homeonwers being protected while dealing with contractors.  There was a new article on MSN Money today called Ten Ways to Avoid Contractor Scams, that had some other helpful tips.  The article centers on the need for contractors due to flooding in areas of the Mississippi River, however, many of the tips still hold true way up here in Massachusetts, with a few tweaks.  As to their 10 tips, they are all pretty good, but I chose the 3 that I think are the most important for further discussion, then filter in some of my Massachusetts tweaks, below.

1.  Get Four References.  This tip is likely the most important of all.  The article suggests getting four references, as contractors typically come prepared with three, so asking for a fourth forces them to think of someone new.  I get tons of calls from homeowners looking to potentially sue contractors, and often times the homeowner had no references from the contractor prior to starting work.  Or sometimes just the word of one friend.  ONE IS NEVER ENOUGH.  Anyone can get lucky and do a great job one time.  Multiple references are the only way.  If the contractor gets testy about it, that might be a sign.  Further, just blame your lawyer and say he/she said you should ask for references.

2.  Verify contractors’ licenses.  In MA, there are many different types of license requirements, but pretty much any contractor needs to have at least one.  For most jobs over $1000, a Home Improvement Contractor License (HIC License) is required.  Further, a Constrcution Supervisor’s License (CSL) is needed for anything structural in nature, plus many other instances as well.  In the internet age, checking licenses is easy, takes no time at all, and is a MUST for considering any contractor for a job.  Dealing with a registered HIC program contractor provides many protections not otherwise available (under the Home Improvement Contractor Law (M.G.L. c. 142A), there is an established arbitration program for resolving disputes between homeowners and registered contractors; there is a “Guaranty Fund” that can compensate homeowners up to $10,000 for unpaid judgments against registered home improvement contractors; there are established written contract requirements). So how do you know if your contractor is registered?  Simple.  There is an on-line lookup available at the Office of Consumer Affairs (called the OCABR) website:  OCABR license look-up

3.  Proofread your contract.   Make sure it spells out exactly what is to be done, details all of the costs, and provides both start and end dates.  The HIC law requires that certain specific provisions be present in the contract, including the total price of the work, the payment schedule, start and completion dates, a permit notice warning you that if you secure your own building permit or deal with unregistered contractors, you will not be eligible for the Guaranty Fund, and several other required provisions.  Have an attorney review the contract – it does not pay to be “penny wise and pound foolish”.

If you have questions, call my office, and if you have a few minutes, read the full Ten Tips Article at MSN Money.

Updates to come on my website, www.montefortelaw.com.  Lastly, make sure to check out the Wilmington Farmer’s Market, running every Sunday from now until September 4 (I am the Market’s legal counsel).

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Shopping for Foreclosures

 OK People, I was away on vacation with my family and have been late on getting this newest post done (sorry, I was in Bruins Mania).  I’ll try and do better!

I get a lot of calls from potential buyers looking to purchase foreclosed homes.  While foreclosures can often be great buys, and the market is flooded with them, you have to deal with the selling bank, who, in exchange for giving you a good price, wants the closing to be done their way.  Inexperienced buyers should tread carefully when looking at these kinds of deals, and having an attorney to protect the buyer’s interest is of paramount importance.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when shopping foreclosures.

 1.         The Waiting Game

The selling bank wants things done on their timetable, not yours.  It may be worth it in the end, but be prepared to do some waiting.  There is often a great deal of waiting involved, from the time of the offer, through closing.  The bank is obviously trying to get the most money they can, so they tend to review multiple offers before accepting.  It can often take weeks, or sometimes even months, before the lender will accept the offer, and the acceptance typically comes with their specific conditions for acceptance.  For example, the bank will provide a written “Rider”, which contains additional contract terms, that becomes part of the accepted offer.  Among these terms is the time-frame for having a home inspection, the time for obtaining financing, and the time for closing.  So after waiting for weeks or months for the offer to be accepted, the bank typically allows only a short time, usually ten days, for the home inspection to be completed, and for you to get out of the deal if the inspection yields bad results.  You have to do it within the bank’s time frame, or you can lose the right to back out of the deal. 

Another wait can be for the recording of the foreclosure deed.  The lender may have completed the foreclosure process, but the bank is not the official owner until the foreclosure deed is recorded at the appropriate registry of deeds.  The banks often market the property before this recording is done, and accept offers.  So even if your offer is accepted, you can be stuck waiting for the bank to record its foreclosure deed, before they can sell to you.  And the wait can be significant.  If you are prepared to wait, which can be difficult if you are also trying to sell your current home at the same time, the rewards can be well worth it.

 2.         As-is

For the most part, these homes are sold “as-is”, so a home inspection is a necessity – there is no individual seller who can tell you about the roof, heating system, etc., so the home inspection is invaluable.  You don’t want get stuck with major problems, making what seemed like a great deal at the time, actually a money-pit.  Again, you will have limited time to have the inspection done, but DO NOT SKIP IT.  I have clients tell me of past horrors, such as finding out that a malfunctioning heating system was not built to code, thus costing thousands to repair and basically re-do from scratch.  A home inspection would have found the heating system problems, and the buyer may have rethought the deal, or asked the seller for concessions.  Lastly, if the inspections yields negative results, you can use the report as a way to negotiate for concessions or a lower price with the seller.

Bottom line is that you have to deal with any issues at the property prior to closing.  Most, if not all, of the selling banks require, as part of their P&S, that there is no recourse after closing.  Make sure you have the property inspected and know what you are getting into – once you close, any problems become your problems.

 3.         Clear Title

These properties are obtained by the banks through foreclosures, auctions, or short-sales.  There are a number of issues in MA regarding foreclosures done improperly, or signed improperly by the lenders using “robo signers”, as well as other procedural issues that can void a foreclosure or leave a cloud on title that cannot be rectified for years.  I am dealing with a case now where, due to an improper foreclosure filing, the parties have to basically wait a whole additional year for the lender to have proper title and the sale to finalize – it is a real mess.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to have the title to the property checked by an attorney/title examiner before you sign anything.  Although it is an extra expense, the cost is small when compared to possible issues down the road. 

A title exam will show if the foreclosure deed has been recorded , so you will know if the bank already owns the property or not, if there are are liens against the property for taxes, judgments, or otherwise, and if there are any old title issues that were never rectified.  Again, there is nothing worse than sinking a ton of money into a property for a flip, only to lose buyers or have your deal stalled due to some past title problem.  If you have to go through the land court to fix a title issue, expect it to take a very long time, due to the huge number of cases on their docket.  Further, as there is typically no recourse after closing, you need to know that you are receiving clear title before you close.  Again, anything found later, becomes your issue.

 Foreclosures can get you a great value, at a great price, if you act prudently and are aware of the pitfalls.  If you are considering making an offer on a foreclosure, please call me so I can help you through it, and make sure you are protected.  Call me at 978-657-7437 or vists www.montefortelaw.com .  The website is going to be updated soon as well, with lots of new improvements.

 Lastly, for a great article about buying foreclosures, check out this one by Bill Gassett, of Re/Max: http://massrealestatevoice.com/post/984910/buying-a-foreclosed-home-or-potential-foreclosure-property

 

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Contractors, are you owed money for services rendered?

Contractors, are you owed money for services rendered?
Review this page to see how I can be of service to you.

“The only knowledge that can hurt you is the knowledge you don’t have.” -Anonymous 

The Home Improvement Contractor Act, which is M.G.L. c. 142A, also called the HIC Act, applies to most home improvement contractors doing residential work, and these contractors must register with the HIC Board.

 

For info on who must register, click here.  Click  for an application.

If you are already registered, but need to know more about the requirements, click here.

What type of work is covered by the Act?  Most residential contracting is covered, however, there is a detailed list here.

The Act also provides that registered contractors automatically consent to go to arbitration with homeowners in teh event of a dispute, should the homeowner desire.  Go here for information on the HIC Arbitration Program. Violators may be penalized with fines, imprisonment, license suspension or revocation, equitable orders, or all of the above. Very specific contract provisions must be present in home improvement contracts to avoid violating the law, and the law requires contracts for over $1,000.00 to be in writing.

Call or email me for a review of your current procedures and contracts, to make sure you are in compliance with the law.  Improper contracts can prevent you from filing a mechanic’s lien on property you have worked on, and subject you to fines and penalties, even if the work itself is good.  visit www.montefortelaw.com or email Mike@montefortelaw.com for more info or to request a free HIC Act brochure.



As a Contractor, are you aware of your obligations under the Act?  Are you aware of the penalties that can be assessed under the act, based on the Act’s requirements for your written contracts, even if the job is done right?  Many contractors are not aware of the Act, or if it even applies to them and their situation. The Act provides for very specific requirements for a home improvement contract, and the completion of that contract.  One of the services my office provides is a re-usable contract that complies with the Act, and preserves your mechanic’s lien rights.  In situations where it is warranted, my office can file a lien on your behalf and have it enforced through the courts.

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Do you live in a condo?

If you are on the Board of Trustees of a condominium, or simply live in a condominium, there is often substantial pressure caused by unit owners who do not pay their condo fees.  Below are some tips to help with collecting overdue fees.

An association that has units owing condo fees can cause a shortfall in condo funds, and both (1) make it difficult or impossible to afford necessary repairs, and/or (2) make it difficult or impossible to refinance or sell a unit to anyone needing financing.

As to refinancing or selling a unit to a buyer needing a mortgage (as most do), lenders follow guidelines from the Federal Housing Administration, for condo mortgages.  Among the requirements for most lenders, including Fannie Mae, is that no more than 15 percent of owners can be delinquent on condo dues.

In this market, where bankruptcies and foreclosures are so very common, condo trustees are in a difficult position when trying to collect past due fees, as most owners’ failure to pay stems from a simple lack of funds, rather than a disregard for condo rules.  Regardless of the reasons why, a shortfall can make repairs impossible, and can even make it difficult to maintain utilities, such as keeping the lights and heat turned on.  A shortfall leaves the remaining unit owners stuck with the choice of paying more than their fair share, just to keep the place afloat.  Sometimes the board is forced to make special assessments to recoup the shortfall, again putting the onus on those unit owners who are paying their dues, which may seem like a “punishment” for those actually paying on time.

Massachusetts law provides a legal remedy for associations trying to collect past due fees, by way of the filing and enforcement of a condo lien against a delinquent unit.  The lien even takes priority over the mortgages on the unit, for up to 6 months worth of condo fees and collection costs.  The lien is a creature of statute, and therefore, the procedure for placing the lien is precise.  If done right, the mortgage holder of the unit will often come forward and pay the arrears, including collection costs, in order to protect their own mortgage interests, as they do not want the condo lien to take priority over their mortgage. 

Some basic tips to rely on:

  1. Do not wait.  When a unit becomes delinquent by 30 days, send them a notice requesting payment.  Under the statute, a unit must be at least 60 days in arrears in order to start the lien process, but a demand for payment from the association can be sent right away.  If payment remains in arrears on day 61, have the condo’s attorney send out the statutory notice.  The statute has specific waiting periods between each step in the process, so the ball needs to start rolling as soon as possible

 

  1. No exceptions.  It is unfair and unprofessional to act differently towards different unit owners.  If a notice is sent after 30 days, do the same for everyone, regardless of who they are, their reasons for non-payment, and even if they are trustees.  Acting the same toward each unit avoids any discrimination issues and demonstrates the fairness of the board.  To allow some untis more time than others creates the perception of unfairness, and may even be a breach of the trustees’ Fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the condominium.  A statement can even be written into in the notice stating that “all unit owners a certain number of days delinquent (I suggest 30 days) receive the same notice”.

 

  1. Rely on the professionals.  If your condo association uses a management company, they may have procedures in place for collection notices already.  Talk to them and see what they can do to help.  Once the 60 day mark hits, notify the attorney and have him or her start the statutory process.  The attorney will know how to properly draft and send the notice, so as to retain proper legal rights.  Again, doing this uniformly for all units is best.  Waiting too long can cause the arrears to go beyond 6 months, which can reduce the collectible priority amounts under the lien.

 

  1. Hire a good attorney.  The attorney should be experienced at condo fee collection.  I have done a huge number of these cases, and most of the time I am able to collect the funds owed without going to court or costing the association any money.  An experienced attorney in this area will know that his or her fee is collectible against the unit owner, and therefore should not require a retainer up front for condo fee collection, other than to pay out of pocket costs, filing fees, etc.  The unit delinquent unit is responsible for payment of collection costs, so even if the lender is going to pay, the attorney fees are part of the payment.  I do not charge a retainer for this type of work, and typically do not charge costs up front either, unless there are many units in arrears at once.

 

  1. Do not make it personal.  It is not necessary to agrue with or ostrasize a delinquent unit owner.  Let the law work for you, and use your hired professionals to enforce it.  If done right, the case almost always succeeds.

 

  1. Know your condo docs.   Condo documents provide for whether or not an association can charge late fees or interest on past due fees, as well as any limits for such fees.  If the docs do not provide for interest or late fees, you should consider amending your docs.  Further, older associations have older documents, and the limit of fees might be too low for today’s standards, and provide little incentive to avoid being late.  If this is the case, amend the docs.  The docs themselves will spell out the procedure for amendments.  Your condo’s attorney can assist with this, and if your condo is not represented, call me and I’ll help you.

 

  1. Keep records up to date.  It is important to always know what units are behind, by what amount, and what other fines or fees are to be added.  Your professionals need to be updated so that they seek the proper amount of payment.  Be prepared to go to court if the case gets that far, but most cases do not.

 

Collecting condo fees from people you live with is never easy.  Rely on hired professionals to take advantage of the legal process, and keep you from having to do the work yourself.  If your association needs representation, call or email me, 978-657-7437 or mike@montefortelaw.com.  I have had great success with condo collections, and most of the big firms that represent lenders know me for this type of work, which helps in negotiating and ultimately collecting payment.  With no retainers, and the fee being assessed to the unit owner, the association gets the collection work done for free in most cases.  I do not require filing costs be paid in advance unless we are doing multiple units, and those costs are reimbursed when payment is collected.  See my website for more info, www.montefortelaw.com and click the tab for “Real Estate and Condominiums”.

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