Tag Archives: Real Estate Agent

Small Claims – How It Works

17 Oct

It happens often. You’re buying a home but you don’t like the results of the
inspection and you cancel the offer – or at least you try. The seller refuses
to release your deposit.

 You’re a tenant. You paid a security deposit and now you want it back. You’ve asked for it but your requests have been ignored.

Recent changes to small claims procedures make small claims very attractive. The amount that can be sued for in small claims has increased from $2,000 to
$7,000.

You don’t need to hire a lawyer in small claims unless you are a corporation or a
limited liability company. You can do it yourself.

Once the small claims case is filed, notice is sent to the defendant by regular
mail. A date is chosen by the court and the parties must appear or risk being
defaulted.

Hearings are no longer held in front of a judge. Rather, certain court personnel,
designated as Clerk/Magistrates, conduct the hearings.

It’s important to bring with you all the documents that you want considered by the hearing officer. Telling the hearing officer that “it’s at home” will often
lose the case. Be fully prepared to have any witnesses with you, copies of
checks and all your documents. Good luck! 

© 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.

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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

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.

The Broker as Escrow Agent

30 Apr

Metro® Boston, Publication Date: January 26, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw

It wasn’t a bad idea.

The buyer saw a condo at a Coldwell Banker open house. He made an offer. It was revised and rejected several times. THEN he hired a broker to help him. His offer was finally accepted by the seller.

The buyer made an unusual deal with his new broker. “I’ll pay you an hourly fee, but no less than $3,000; just refund me your share of the broker’s commission.”

Coldwell claimed that the buyer’s broker was too late to the dance and had done nothing, or very little, to earn a commission. Since Coldwell was holding the deposit in escrow from which commissions were to be paid, it refused to pay the buyer’s agents any portion after closing. 

The purchase agreement, however, stated that the commission was to be split evenly between Coldwell and the buyer’s agent, but Coldwell never signed the agreement (brokers rarely do). 

The court nonetheless found Coldwell liable and awarded the buyer triple damages. An escrow agent is required to follow the escrow terms of the purchase and sale agreement. In the event of a conflict, it should have declined to hold the money, negotiated different terms of escrow, or sought immediate guidance from a court. See Zang v. NRT NewEngland,77 Mass. App. Ct.665 (2010). 

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.