Tag Archives: Condominium Attorney

Things to Know About Condos

2 May

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: May 2, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

If you are buying a condo there are three things that are commonly overlooked.

First, condominium living is not for everyone. You are living in a building with others, some of whom you may not like, and others whom you may adore. You won’t know that in advance.

In larger condominium buildings a problematic neighbor or two is rarely much of problem. Besides, you have a management company and an administration to step in if needed. In small condominium projects, one crazy owner can make your life hell.

In smaller buildings it is wise to ask about the people in the building before buying: do they get along? Is there anyone that others complain about?

Second, buyers will carefully inspect the condo before buying, but rarely ask the seller about noise. Has the seller made or received any noise complaints? Are children roller skating on hardwood floors overhead?

Buyers also rarely ask about leaks. Have there been any water leaks into the apartment or from the apartment in the last several years?

Last week I posted the Due Diligence Checklist that I use when checking out a condo. See http://georgeinthemetro.com or email me for the list – and contact me if I can be of help in your purchase!

© 2012 George Warshaw.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

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Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship.

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at metro@warshawlaw.com.

Should You Rent Your Condo?

26 Jul

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: July 20, 2011
Expanded Content

By Attorney George Warshaw

Consider, for a moment, a significant asset that you already own; one that could generate a stream of revenue well into the future – your condo. 

Rather than sell your condo to buy a new home, would you rent it instead? There are numerous possible benefits. 

The key is to get your interest rate as low as possible today while you are still living in the condominium. By doing so, you place yourself in the best position to generate future “positive cash flow”; one that will allow the rent to cover your mortgage, taxes and condo fees.

With interest rates at distress levels, now is the perfect moment to plan for the future. As an owner-occupant your rate will be lower than what would otherwise be available after you move.

Given the vagaries of the stock and bond markets, the prospective lack of a sufficient future social security payment – at an age when you might actually enjoy it, real estate is a reliable extra revenue source.

If you decide to rent your condo rather than sell it, keep one important thing in mind: if you plan to refinance shortly before you move and rent, the standard Fannie Mae mortgage form used with owner-occupied loans requires the homeowner to live in the condo for 12 months after signing.  Make your plans well in advance.

So be a smart condo owner – plan now for the future, and get the benefit of rents paying your mortgage. 

© 2011 George Warshaw. All rights reserved.

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George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and legal author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship. Before making any legal decision, consult an attorney to see how the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.

The New Mass. Homestead Law

31 May

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: June 1, 2011 

By Attorney George Warshaw

If you mention “homestead law” to someone in Massachusetts, their eyes usually roll in puzzlement and ask, “What’s that?”

Quite simply, it’s a law designed to help homeowners keep their homes when in debt or faced with a judgment they cannot pay. The law does not protect against divorce, taxes, or mortgage foreclosure, but it is very helpful in many other situations.

The law prevents a plaintiff, claimant or creditor from selling your principal residence to satisfy a debt, as long the equity in your home is not more than $125,000 or $500,000.

By filing a Declaration of Homestead in the registry of deeds, you protect up to $500,000 of the equity in your home against liens imposed after the time and date of your filing.

If you choose not to file, you still receive $125,000 in protection – but only if you bought your home on or after March 16, 2011. Otherwise, you must file a written declaration to gain any protection.

Filing a declaration is cheap and easy to do. While it is better to have a lawyer guide you, you can download the form on most registries of deeds websites.

Homesteads filed under the old law are valid with, perhaps, one exception:  recent decisions from the bankruptcy court have led many to question whether the “release of homestead” language in the standard Fannie Mae mortgage inadvertently terminated a homestead filed before March 16th (i.e. under the former version of the law).

Many commentators are suggesting that homeowners file a new homestead declaration to be safe.

How the new law works. Here’s an example:

Husband and wife (H&W) purchase a home for $500,000 and borrow $100,000 from the bank, giving the bank a mortgage for the amount borrowed. It will be their principal residence.

They thought about filing a formal homestead declaration to obtain the maximum protection but did not. Fortunately, the new law gives them an automatic $125,000 protection in the equity in their new house or condominium from liens and lawsuits.

They hire a home improvement contractor and get into a dispute. The contractor files a mechanic’s lien and later obtains a judgment for $25,000. The judgment cannot be enforced against the marital home. Thus, the contractor cannot force the sale of the house or condo to pay the judgment. Their home is safe under the homestead law – at least for now.

A few years pass and the husband and wife sell their home for the same price they paid. The contractor cannot stop the sale or require they pay the $25,000 judgment as a condition of the sale. The husband and wife take the proceeds from the sale, a little less than $100,000, and put it into their bank account. That money is safe for one year under the new law.

If the husband and wife use the proceeds from their sale to buy a new home within one year of their sale, the proceeds and their new home will be protected against the contractor’s judgment.

The new Massachusetts Homestead Law is very complicated, but it works to the benefit of all homeowners. It provides special protections for persons of age 62 or more or who are disabled and permits beneficiaries of a trust to protect their principal residence if the real estate is in the trust.

It will take a few years before the courts provide guidance and clarity on the details of the law. © 2011 George Warshaw. All rights reserved.

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George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship. Before making any legal decision, consult an attorney to see how the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.

Avoiding Surprises in Home Renovations

24 May

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: May 25, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw

Your real estate agent or broker, with good intentions, recommends a home improvement contractor. He starts the job but you get into a dispute and quite rightly refuse to pay. Can the contractor place a lien on your home?

Massachusetts law permits an unpaid contactor, including a subcontractor, to place a lien on one’s home for work, labor and materials. It is typically called a “mechanic’s lien.”

A contractor must carefully follow strict procedures in order to acquire and maintain the lien on your house, condo or vacation home, but it’s not hard to do.

If you are renovating or remodeling your home should you care? Try to refinance, get a home equity loan or sell your house with a lien on it!

Now for the surprise. . .

A subcontractor or materials supplier who has not been paid can file a mechanic’s lien on your home – even if you paid the contractor in full, and even if you never signed a single document with the sub!

Can you protect real estate from mechanic’s liens? Make sure the roofer, the plumber, Lowe’s and Home Depot and all subs are paid. The homestead law is another way. More on homesteads next week. © 2011 George Warshaw.

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George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship. Before making any legal decision, consult an attorney to see how the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.

Problems in Margaritaville

30 Apr

Metro® Boston, Publication Date: February 2, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw 

Recently, the Boston Globe ran a story on nightmares that people can experience in owning a condo in a small building. The gist of the story is that one miserable owner can make everyone’s life a living hell. 

While it doesn’t happen often, it happens often enough to require your attention as a buyer. 

So how can you ferret out a problem situation before you buy? These answers are not perfect; but perhaps this will help. 

Oddly enough, the first thing to do is ask. Ask the seller and especially the property manager (or one of the condo trustees) if everyone gets along, and about conflict and complaints. Inquire whether there has been any past litigation or mediation in the last three years. 

As a buyer, it’s important to review the minutes of meetings of the unit owners and condo trustees. Conflict will often be evident – or gleaned – from the notes of the meetings. View at least 3 years’ worth of meeting minutes.

Look over the budget carefully. Have there been any expenditures for legal fees in the last three years?

If you find yourself as an owner in one of these situations, it may be best to bring matters to mediation or arbitration and get them resolved – sooner rather than later! © 2011 George Warshaw. 

The foregoing is not intended as legal advice. Consult an attorney to see how or if the foregoing applies to you.

Attorney George Warshaw represents buyers and sellers of homes, condos and investment properties and prepares wills and trusts for inheriting real estate. George welcomes new clients and questions at  george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.