Tag Archives: Homes for Sale

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.

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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.

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.

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.

Protecting Your Home From Liens And Lawsuits

17 May

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: May 18, 2011
Expanded Content

By Attorney George Warshaw

There are several ways that you can protect your home from liens and lawsuits.

The Massachusetts Homestead Act, recently revised, protects all or part of the equity homeowners have in their house or condo from individuals or businesses suing the homeowner. The protection applies only to primary residences and not second homes or investment properties.

Homeowners automatically receive $125,000 in protection upon the recording of a deed. The statute permits homeowners to increase that protection to $500,000 by filing a declaration of homestead with the registry of deeds.

The homestead is particularly valuable in disputes with home improvement contractors. A contractor or subcontractor has the ability to file a so-called “mechanic’s lien” on your home for unpaid work – even if you dispute that work. The homestead law often prevents a contractor from enforcing that lien.

Another method of creditor protection is to place your home into a trust. When done for a legitimate purpose, such as estate planning or as a way of managing real estate, a trust may prevent or deter a creditor from acquiring a lien on your home. A creditor usually has to “break the trust” through a court proceeding in order to attach one’s home. Under the newly revised Homestead Act, one can now utilize both a trust and a homestead to maximize lien protection.

A trust is typically created by signing a “declaration of trust” – a document prepared by a lawyer that often contains creditor protection features. © 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: The content and information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice. Before making legal decisions consult an attorney to see how the foregoing may apply to your circumstances. Laws change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change.

Mistakes Home Buyers Make in the Offer

9 May

Metro® Boston, Publication Date: May 11, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw

You’ve searched MLS (Multiple Listing Service) for a condo or house for sale in Massachusetts, acquired a real estate agent along the way, and now you’re ready to make an offer to purchase your new home.

Here’s a few things, often overlooked, that you may want to include or change in your offer: 

  • Make your purchase conditional on an appraisal that is no less than the purchase price
  • Don’t choose Friday or the last day of the month as your closing date. These are the busiest real estate days and your deed might not get recorded that day (i.e. you could be prevented from moving into your new home when you expect)
  • Make your offer conditional on all systems and appliances being in good working order on the day of closing
  • Be wary of the preprinted “inspection contingency.” These often limit your right to cancel solely to “serious structural or mechanical defects” that may exist in the house or condominium. Change it to an “inspection that is satisfactory to you.”
  • If you’ve also listed your home for sale, don’t try to buy the same day as you sell.

More on this to come. © 2011 George Warshaw. 

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

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