Tag Archives: Condos for Sale Massachusetts

DOES RADON SCARE YOU

26 Sep

MetroBoston, Publication Date September 25, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

If you own a home, or hope to in the future, you need to know about radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that emanates from rock formations below your home. It comes into the house through the foundation. It causes cancer. 21,000 people will die from it this year.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Radon can be remediated in the house by installing a relatively inexpensive fan and exhaust system, but people tend to take no action if levels meet the federal safety standard.

The federal radon standard considered “safe” is 4.0 picocuries per liter of air, expressed as 4.0 pCi/L. The federal standard, to me, is a disgrace.

According to the EPA, it is anticipated that out of 1,000 people exposed to radon, the following will likely develop lung cancer:

8.0 pCi/L…..15 nonsmokers or 120 smokers

4.0 pCi/L…….7 nonsmokers or 62 smokers

2.0 pCi/L…….4 nonsmokers or 32 smokers

1.3 pCi/L…….2 nonsmokers or 20 smokers

The risk is approximately 9x greater for smokers at the federal “safe level” of 4.0.

Some consider 7 cancer victims out of a thousand an acceptable number, I don’t; declaring 62 out of a thousand an acceptable number of cancer victims because they are smokers is unconscionable.

More on Radon next week © 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.

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.

Condo Due Diligence

27 Apr

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: April 25, 2012
By Attorney George Warshaw

Expanded Content:

Buying a condo? The condo market has heated up. Do you know what to look for – or look out for? Here are a few of the things that you should consider or ask about:

The Budget.

  • Is the budget adequate to cover the operating costs or running at a deficit?
  • Are any Unit Owners more than 30 or 60 days in arrears in monthly payments?
  • Are there any sharp increases in specific expense items?

Reserves.

  • Do reserves meet the Fannie Mae minimums (10% of budget + separate insurance deductible)?
  • Are reserves for improvements and major repairs sufficient?
  • Have there been major increases or decreases in reserves or expense items over time?

Repairs, Improvements and Assessments

  • What repairs are presently planned?
  • Any special assessments or improvements currently in effect, planned or being discussed?

Litigation

  • Is the association involved in any litigation?

Occupancy

  • How many units are owner-occupied or rented?
  • Have there been any sound and noise complaints?

Condo Docs:

  • Verify parking rights, locations and space numbers.
  • Review recorded condo plans. Do they match the present layout of the unitt?
  • What exclusive use rights are assigned to the unit? Who pays for repairs/maintenance for exclusive use areas?
  • Are there restrictions on pets?
  • Are there limitations rentals?

Board of Directors and Unit Owners Meeting Minutes

  • Do the minutes indicate upcoming major repairs, improvements that could result in a special assessment?
  • Do the minutes indicate upcoming increases in fees or charges?
  • Do the minutes indicate problems that you should know about?

My view: ask for two years worth of minutes.

Call or email me if I can be of help in buying or selling your condo, or if you have questions you need answered. metro@warshawlaw.com, 617-262-7800.

 © 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.

FSBO – For Sale By Owner

16 Nov

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: November 15, 2011
By AttorneyGeorge Warshaw

It’s tempting, very tempting.

Sell your home yourself and save the broker’s commission. But is it a false savings?

While people often underestimate the value of a good realtor, nonetheless, some homeowners have sold their homes successfully.

There are two parts of the FSBO process: marketing and legal.

Marketing involves finding a buyer and enticing your buyer to make an offer. Legal is about what’s needed to complete the sale.

MARKETING. You have to know how to price your home. Pricing requires research, time, and going to open houses. That can give you a false sense of price if you only look at properties that haven’t sold; i.e. they’re priced too high.

You may list your property on FSBO websites, Craig’s List, etc., but you’ve limited your market.

No broker is going to bring a client to see a FSBO and many potential buyers are leery of FSBO sales.

Try another approach! Don’t try to save all the commission, just try to save half.

Act as your own real estate agent. Hold an open house. Send out announcements to local brokerages that you’ll cooperate with brokers and pay a buyer’s broker fee of xx%. 

It may be a smart “savings” compromise.

Next week read the legal components of a FSBO.

© 2011 George Warshaw. All Right Reserved.

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 decisionsinterpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neitherintended 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.

How to Sell Then Buy a New Home

13 Nov

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: November 8, 2011
By AttorneyGeorge Warshaw

Many real estate attorneys have seen a sharp increase in new purchases these last four weeks. While none of us expect a housing miracle, it’s a good idea to review one simple, basic tenet for those selling their homes or condos and then buying a replacement property.

The most important advice I give clients is, “don’t do it all on the same day.” There’s too much that can go wrong. A delay in your sale could seriously jeopardize your purchase.

There are many things that often happen right before the closing that one extra day can fix. What would you do if a last minute repair is needed, the house isn’t broom clean, a lien is discovered, or the movers
don’t show up – and your buyers refuse to close?

Or as I have more recently experienced, the bank is too busy to get the loan documents to the closing attorney on the day of the closing. Believe it not, it has been happening.

Quite simply, you need to build in a margin for error.

So “sell on one day and buy on the next.” Leave the furniture on the truck overnight if you can. You’ll avoid an elevated heart rate!

© 2011 George Warshaw. All Right Reserved.

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 decisionsinterpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neitherintended 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.

Buttoning Up Your House

19 Oct

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: October 19, 2011
Expanded Content

By Attorney George Warshaw

Winter is approaching and the most vulnerable location of energy leakage and wasted dollars are drafty windows. It may be time to replace them.

To learn about replacement windows I spoke with certified master installer Fred LaCorte, of Climate Door & Window, (781-681-7007; climatedoor@verizon.net).

“For most people the first choice is usually whether to get single, double or triple pane windows. Single pane windows offer little or no energy loss protection. Double and triple pane obviously provide more protection, much in the way adding a thin liner into your winter gloves keeps your hands warmer,” Fred told me.

“Homeowners in choosing a window can increase their energy efficiency and save money in two ways. The first by placing a coating on the window; the second, by using a gas to create an insulation barrier.

“lowE is a coating placed on the glass that reflects radiant warming heat back into the atmosphere during summer months, while allowing the sun’s heat to penetrate into the house during the winter months, thus keeping the house warmer when it’s needed most. It also provides UV protection for furniture and carpets.

“Some double and triple pane windows have a layer of argon gas added between the panes,” Fred explained.  “Gas acts like an installation barrier and prevents heat loss in the winter and air conditioning loss in the summer.”

For the consumer, there are a number of measures that rate windows and decipher the mystery. You should find stickers on the windows that provide numerical information rating the energy efficiency of the glass. The lower the number the better.

Glass is rated by “U” value and a solar value called SHGC (solar heat gain co-efficient). For solar SHGC ratings, look for .35 or below. For U value look for .30 or less.

Here’s an example. Double pane without a lowE glass coating have a U value of about .44; with lowE glass coating around .35. Adding an argon gas barrier to a lowE coating drops the U value to around .30.

Triple pane, with double lowE brings have a value of around .20.

Not all windows are built with the same durable construction. A replacement window typically goes into an existing wood frame and is made of vinyl.  More durable windows are made of a composite, have a more rigid frame, and last longer.

Design Pressure measures the ability of a window to withstand flexing and energy loss due to wind velocity. Design Pressure uses numbers such DP 35, DP 50. The higher the number the better it can withstand stronger winds and flexing.

Lastly, don’t forget insulation. If you’re replacing the usual double hung window that used pulleys and ropes to raise and lower the window, make sure that insulation will be stuffed in the pockets where the ropes were used – otherwise the air will just channel around the window.

Home Depot, Lowe’s or the Independent Company

I’ve found the level of expertise more reliable with smaller, local companies than the big chains that merely offer a list of subcontractors. Smaller companies are more accountable and responsive if you’re unsatisfied with the work that was done.

 © 2011 George Warshaw. All rights reserved.

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George Warshaw is a real estate attorney, estate planner and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, prenuptial agreements 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 or if the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.

Rebuilding Your Credit

13 Oct

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: October 12, 2011
By Attorney George Warshaw

 “I couldn’t get a loan because my credit was lousy.”

 What can you do about it? There are a few simple things that can help. The starting place is your credit report. Get a free copy and see what went wrong, then start to rebuild.

 The first thing is dispute any inaccuracies in the report. Is something on the report that belongs to a person with a similar name? Has something already been paid? Don’t hesitate to challenge the credit bureau or call the creditor directly.

 Second, and I consider this the most important, start paying all your bills on time, especially mortgage and credit cards. There’s an easy way to avoid future late payments.

 Nearly every credit card or mortgage lender allows you to set up an automatic payment method in which money is taken directly out of your bank account by the creditor to pay the bill.

 If you put every credit card on an automatic minimum payment plan with the creditor, you won’t miss a payment! You can always write a check and send in more later when you look at your written statement, but at least you won’t miss a payment!

 Go to the creditor’s website, register, and look for the payment screen. It will solve a lot of problems.

© 2011 George Warshaw. All rights reserved.

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George Warshaw is a real estate attorney, estate planner and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, prenuptial agreements 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 or if the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.

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.

Getting Older – The New American Dream

30 Jun

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: June 29, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw

The economy has changed the way older homeowners view their future.

Many are selling their long-time residence and renting rather than buying a
replacement home. No more mowing the lawn, paying a mortgage and maintaining an aging house. Sell the house, bank the money.

The second home market in a prolonged down economy is usually the first to collapse and the first to present opportunities. Among those who rent their primary residence, many are taking advantage of the depressed market to buy a vacation house.

I spoke about this recently with Jennifer Knight, a REMAX buyer’s broker on Martha’s Vineyard (jennifer@jennifersrealestate.com, (508) 221-2615).

“Tastes and needs have changed. Many who have sold their primary homes still need a place where they can entertain; where friends, children and family can be together, especially in an environment where there is a great deal of life, enjoyment and energy.

“But now they’re buying with cash flow in mind. They’re buying and then renting their Vineyard house for a month or two in the summer. The income from the vacation home rental covers the taxes and possibly operating costs, and they still get to host their family and friends.”

What’s happening on Martha’s Vineyard is not unique as people strive to find a balance between the life style they want or need, and the means to support it.

The prolonged so-called “jobless recovery” has caused many to change their approach to getting older and restructure their personal financial game plan. No one any longer believes that social security will be there for you when you retire.

It’s not simply a matter of the continual rise in the age when you are eligible to receive benefits – obviously they hope you are dead before the government has to pay; rather, the government has “borrowed” most of the money for its day-to-day operating expenses.

The recent debt ceiling crisis revealed that the government raided social security as a loan to be repaid in the future. Now the government needs to raise the debt ceiling to be able to borrow more money to pay its bills and repay social security.

Hmmmm! Perhaps they should consult a financial planner or better yet, I’m sure Bernie Madoff could give them some advice. At least he has experience!

© 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.

NetZero Solar Living – Imagine Having No Utility Costs

8 Jun

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: June 8, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw

Is it possible to live for free, where the cost of heating, air conditioning and the power to run every appliance is generated by the home?

Net Zero” refers to an energy sufficient structure in which the annual energy cost to operate the house or condo is produced by the home’s own mini power plant.

With a solar home, NetZero is reached by “banking” excess electricity generated by the solar panels with the electric company as a credit. The credit pays for electricity drawn from the power company in periods of intensive usage.

To reach NetZero efficiency, the amount of energy you bank annually approximately equals the amount you draw.

I toured a 13 unit NetZero condo project under construction in Concord, Massachusetts – the “Concord Riverwalk.” Each condominium is built as a self-contained cottage style structure with its own solar power plant. Owners share gardens, walkways, garage parking and other common areas.

Each house generates energy through solar panels installed on the south side of the roof, and saves energy through “green” construction techniques that eliminate air infiltration and seepage, i.e. energy loss.

Contact Steve Weikal (617-596-2777, steve@concordriverwalk.com) for more info.

Next week, the economics of solar – get cash back and credits from a number of sources.

© 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.

A Short Sale Surprise

30 Apr

Metro® Boston, Publication Date: April 13, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw

In a short sale, a mortgage lender agrees to accept less than it is owed when a house or condo is sold.

The short sale lender issues a letter to the seller (i.e., its borrower) in which the lender promises to release its mortgage upon receipt of a certain amount of money by a specific date. The letter is in turn given to the closing attorney who relies upon the letter in conducting the closing and issuing title insurance.

I recently discovered a lender that issues not one, but two short sale letters: one for the attorney, and one that specifically directs that it “DOES NOT” go to the attorney. The second letter requires additional “side” money before the lender will release its mortgage.

What happens if the sale goes through but the lender never receives the secret side money? The unsuspecting buyer won’t have clear title to the property if the lender refuses to release its mortgage.

The unsuspecting buyer hopefully bought title insurance, but it could still take several years before the mortgage is finally cleared from the title.

Apparently, our Attorney-General was notified of this national lender’s disgraceful practice and has done nothing about it. Maybe that’s the surprise! © 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, prepares wills and trusts for inheriting real estate, and trusts that protect your children and pets. George welcomes new clients and questions at  george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Discounting Brokerage Fees

30 Apr

Metro® Boston, Publication Date: March 16, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw 

A recent advertisement offered to give a buyer a “$5,000 rebate certificate” if the buyer attends one of the broker’s “open houses” and then uses that broker as the buyer’s agent in the sale of any property. 

Hmmm! Sounds interesting. Go to an open house, see a particular house or condo, sign up right then with the broker to buy that or any other property, and get $5,000 back at the time of purchase. 

This could be a good deal for a buyer, but it also might not. 

A broker that lists a house or condo for sale receives the entire sales commission where there is no other broker involved. That’s good for the broker: it doesn’t have to split the commission with a buyer’s agent. 

Where the listing broker gives a buyer a cash incentive to use no other broker, how does a buyer know the lowest possible price at which the property could be purchased where the buyer is not getting independent advice? 

There’s no substitute for being a knowledgeable buyer. Consider assembling your own team of realtor, lender and lawyer before you start shopping for a new home. You’ll be assured that way of getting the best possible advice. © 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, prepares wills and trusts for inheriting real estate, and trusts that protect your children and pets. George welcomes new clients and questions at  george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

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.