Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Houses Have EARS!

Who cares?  You should.  One of the very first things I was told when I started in real estate was, ‘houses have ears’.  That was over a quarter century ago.  At the time I simply dismissed it to a psychological neurosis – paranoia.  However, as I gained experience, in the back of my own neurotic psyche I became acutely aware of that possibility.

On my first outing with a Client, along with the obvious -- always be respectful to the seller agent showing us the property, my basic training lecture about how to behave during a showing would emphasize, keep your comments to yourself until we are back in my car.  My car is the ‘safe zone’ where my Client can tell me exactly what they think about the property (etc.) they just previewed.

Today, more than ever, remote surveillance has become common fare. If you are a fan of the TV series, ‘Person of Interest’, you know what I am talking about.

I just read a really good article in REALTOR® Magazine that brings this subject to today’s real estate market climate.  The article referred to a YouTube video produced by a Washington REALTOR® Legal Hotline and featuring their attorney, Annie Fitzsimmons.  The message is still the same for Massachusetts and the take away for buyers is ‘what you say could be used against you in negotiations’.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Home Inspections are not the Gospel

As you know, Massachusetts is a Buyer Beware state and many areas like Martha’s Vineyard do not require an owner to complete a ‘Seller’s Description of Property’ check list. Matter-of-fact, attorneys will suggest to their seller clients not to fill out the form due to possible liability, even though there are three choices provided for an answer: Yes, No and Unkn.

So what can you do to help you avoid buying a money pit?  The first thing you do is hire the best most through home inspector you can find. Usually, that will be the one the seller agents are not keen on. 
Next, you can ask your insurance company for a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange report, which is known as a CLUE report.  The CLUE report contains a 7 year history of any claims made on the home you are thinking about buying.  

Obviously, many problems in the home are not reported to insurance companies, but this is one more step beyond having a home inspection and those additional inspections that may be triggered by the home inspection, like asbestos, radon, mold, pest infestation, and lead. 

A cautionary from Bill Loden who is the President of the American Society of Home Inspectors is to be careful when buying a home that is or has been ‘flipped’. "Experienced flippers looking to maximize profits at the expense of the buyer will learn how to hide problems from the inspector rather than correct the problems."

Loden goes on to sight examples like, "an air conditioner that has coolant leaks can be charged just before the inspection and may work fine for a couple of weeks." 

Something else a buyer can do, and I always recommend to my clients, is to talk to the neighbors.  They would be the ones to know if there was a flood or a fire in the house. They may know just as much as the owner does and they are more than happy to spill the beans.

Finally, and most importantly is to hire an Exclusive Buyer Agent, one that has a track record for putting their client’s interests before their own.  Don’t take the Agent’s word for how wonderful they are, read their testimonials and ask to speak directly to some of their past and/or present clients.  This is your life, your money and your happiness.  You deserve the best so go out and get it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dreamers Dream, Martha's Vineyard Winners Act!

I realized a long time ago that I do not have the heart of a salesman.  I have the heart of a teacher, an advisor and a protector. 

I empathize with anyone who longs to make a buying decision on Martha’s Vineyard, because it is their dream and they know it will be good for them and will enhance their life in ways that almost nothing else will.  When I made the decision it was like immersing myself in the fountain of youth and from that decision many other positive life enhancing events sprung forth.

I find that many people today are scared to make that huge decision so they imagine all the reasons why they cannot or will not have what they want.  For many people that means assuming that they will not be able to qualify for a mortgage or have enough cash for a down payment.

I would like to present some graphics to enhance this conversation.

According to Freddie Mac, approximately 42% of all 30-34 year old potential buyers believe that they need a minimum of 15% to buy a home.


Relating this to Martha’s Vineyard, if you are purchasing as a first time home buyer or purchasing a residence either as a move up buyer or as a first time home buyer there are local programs allowing a down payment as little as 3% down.


I am not a mortgage expert but I am the source to the source.  With the disclaimer that all loans are made according to the specific profile of the applicant, Santander (Formerly Bank of Martha’s Vineyard) has given me this brief summary:

A 30-year fixed rate loan with 95% financing is available for a primary home purchase and is not restricted to first time home buyers.

The Mass Housing Program (MPH) has 97% financing available to first time homebuyers and restricted to low & moderate income families.

FHA has 96.5% financing available on qualifying purchases for both primary purchases and is not restricted to first time home buyers.

Here are a couple of charts to give you something to think about if you are unsure about waiting another year to make your life more complete, or if you are thinking the prices are going to go down significantly.
 (Please note that the interest rates were as of the time this chart was created) 

I do believe prices will go down more on Martha’s Vineyard but not in double digits as they have in the past. As soon as the inventory starts to get absorbed, and it will, prices will start to increase and then the path will be clear.  First we will enter a neutral market and then a seller’s market. This is the normal cycle for Real Estate and we go through it about every 15 years.


And where do we go from here?

If you want to do more than just dream about Martha’s Vineyard I suggest you start now by getting in touch with a lender and find out what you can comfortably afford. List your ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ and then in the fall you can get out there in the market and be clear, confident and focused.  Be a winner!