Richard Vetstein

We Cracked The Top 100!

by Rich Vetstein on March 12, 2010

As reported through PR NewsWire, the Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog is now ranked #95 of all legal blogs according to Avvo.com and Alexa rankings! As far as I can tell, this puts us Numero Uno in Massachusetts for all substantive legal blogs focusing on Mass. law.

Much thanks to all of you — our readers — who have made this blog so much more than I could have ever imagined. In the next few months, this blog will see more contributors, more guest bloggers, and will even get a bit of a design face-lift. So stay tuned…

More coverage here, herehere.

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In the recent and well publicized case of the disgruntled condominium buyer suing her realtor over the disclosure of second-hand smoke, the jury today sided with the realtor. The Boston Globe reports today that the jury took less than an hour to deliberate whether a realtor was liable for allegedly not disclosing to a condominium buyer that her downstairs neighbors were heavy smokers. The trial lasted an entire week, so the fact that the jury was out less than 1 hour demonstrates that they completely rejected the condominium buyer’s claims. Given the facts reported, I think the jury got it right here.

As the Globe reports, although the claims were ultimately rejected, the fact that this case made it all the way to a jury should serve as a warning to realtors to be careful about what they say (or don’t say) about any type of property condition, whether on site or off site. Don’t make statements unless you’ve investigated the facts, and don’t make promises that you cannot back up. That’s what got this realtor into trouble in the first place…

Click here for my previous post on the case.

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peeling-paint.jpgBreaking News (8/10/10): Two Local Real Estate Firms Fined By Mass. Attorney General For Lead Paint Housing Discrimination

My Boston.com fellow blogger, buyer’s agent Rona Fischman, has fielded several questions recently regarding the Massachusetts Lead Paint Law. Prospective renters have called apartment listings only to be hung up on abruptly with a “It’s not deleaded!” if they hear a child in the background or if they answer truthfully about having children. Mothers have received termination notices when the landlord discovers they are pregnant – usually of course for tenancies at will. Finally, there is a listing this week in a local paper for an owner occupied 2 family rental which states “Unit Not Deleaded” right in the ad.

The short answer is these are all likely violations of the Massachusetts Lead Paint Law, and could expose the offending landlords to stiff penalties and damages.

Under the Massachusetts Lead Paint Law, whenever a child under six years of age comes to live in a rental property, the property owner has a responsibility to discover whether there is any lead paint on the property and to de-lead to protect the young children living there. A property owner or real estate agent cannot get around the legal requirements to disclose information about known lead hazards simply by refusing to rent to families with young children. They also cannot refuse to renew the lease of a pregnant woman or a family with young children just because a property may contain lead hazards. And property owners cannot refuse to rent simply because they do not want to spend the money to de-lead the property. Any of these acts is a violation of the Lead Law, the Consumer Protection Act, and various Massachusetts anti-discrimination statutes that can have serious penalties for a property owner or real estate agent.

As the stories above show, landlords routinely flaunt, or are just plain ignorant of, the law. The issue becomes what to do about it and is it worth the time and aggravation? I guess that depends on your situation. Certainly, if you are being threatened with a discriminatory eviction, your first step should be to contact the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and your local Fair Housing Commission. In a recent case, the MCAD hit a property owner with $25,000 in damages and fines for evicting a young family to avoid de-leading. Next consider hiring a housing discrimination attorney. If you are low on funds, the atMassachusetts Lead Paint Lawtorney may agree to take the case on a contingency because violations of the lead paint law and discrimination laws provide for the reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and enhanced damages.

As for the “Unit Not Deleaded” ad, while may be truthful, it might as well read “Children Under 6 Not Wanted.” I would advise a landlord to avoid this sort of indirect discriminatory preference.

Lastly, the law is conflicting regarding owner occupied two family homes.  Chapter 151B, the state anti-discrimination law, exempts owner occupied two family homes from the prohibition of discrimination against children. However, there is no such exemption written into the lead paint law. So if a child is born into a owner occupied 2 family, it must be de-leaded. Vacation/recreational rents and short term (31 days or less) rentals are also exempt from the lead paint law.

As always, contact me, Attorney Richard Vetstein with any questions.

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The Los Angeles Times and other media outlets are claiming that lenders’ use of loan cost worksheets and estimates are a “sidestep” of the new RESPA mandated Good Faith Estimate which went into effect on January 1. HUD officials say they plan to conduct a review of the growing use of “worksheets” and “fee estimate” forms by mortgage lenders providing quotes to home buyers and refinancers. Lenders vehemently deny that they are doing anything wrong; in fact, they argue, cost worksheets are necessary because of several glaring deficiencies with the new Good Faith Estimate. This is all part of the shake-out during the first 30 days of the new RESPA reform which went into effect on January 1.

The new closing cost rules under the Real Estate Settlement Practices Act (RESPA) significantly changed the manner in which lenders are required to estimate loan and closing costs. Many charges cannot deviate at all, or at most by a 10%, from the Good Faith Estimate to the closing. That’s in stark contrast to earlier rules, which essentially allowed some lenders to quote low estimates of total costs, with no responsibility for the final dollar charges at closing, HUD contended.

Lenders — many of whom are feel the new GFE is the single worst government form ever to hit the real estate industry — respond that since the new GFE has a number of major deficiencies, such as not providing a total monthly cost payment, seller paid items and most importantly cash-to-close, it justifies the worksheets/estimates. (And if you can believe this, there’s no place on the GFE for the borrower to sign!).

Lenders, what are your complaints with the new GFE? (Try to keep them under 10!). Do you think providing these worksheets will ultimately help consumers? Are the criticisms about the worksheets unfair? Did HUD get it wrong with the new GFE? (I think I know the answer to that!). What can HUD do to improve it?

There is nothing explicit in the new RESPA rules prohibiting the use of these cost worksheets/estimate. Since this practice is on HUD’s radar, my recommendation to lenders is to explain clearly to the customer, preferably with a written disclosure right on the estimate, that this is not binding and not a substitute for the new GFE. That way, if HUD comes knocking on the door, you’ve covered yourself.

My goal with this post is to get the conversation going on the new GFE, not to rail against the mortgage industry. I’m on your side! As Jerry Maguire said, “Help me, help you…help me, help you!”

On a related note, as buyer’s counsel I now insert a rider provision into the P&S providing that the seller agrees to an extension (up to 7 days) of the closing date due to any RESPA/GFE related delays.

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David Gaffin, Greenpark Mortgage

I’m pleased to welcome another guest blogger, David M. Gaffin, a licensed Loan Officer with Greenpark Mortgage Corp. of Needham MA. Dave is licensed to originate in MA, NH and FL. You can visit him at Greenpark Mortgage or through his LinkedIn profile.

The new 2010 RESPA rules are all the rage right now. So I’m especially pleased to have a mortgage industry veteran like Dave to offer his views on the new rules, especially the new Good Faith Estimate (GFE).

So, you thought getting a home loan for purchase or refinance before was confusing? Well, I’ve got GREAT NEWS for you. Your government has heard you and has come to help! (Insert Sarcastic Mental Voice.)  The federal Housing and Urban Development agency (HUD) has dismantled the previous 1 page Good Faith Estimate that itemized most of the settlement charges for your loan and created a new 3 page “simplified” GFE to “help borrowers understand and compare the costs associated with obtaining a mortgage.”

In my opinion, HUD is trying to do at least 2 things for consumers:

1. Protect the consumer from dealing with shady mortgage companies that will disclose certain fees on the GFE, and then charge higher or additional fees at the closing table and

2. Encourage consumers to use the GFE as a shopping tool to ensure a fair deal.

An informed consumer will typically make better choices than an ill-informed one, so the premise behind the changes to the new GFE is a worthwhile one. However, there are several areas where a consumer may not be able to compare the costs of loan programs on an equal basis and thus make the most appropriate loan choice.

Page 1 of the new GFE groups together all of the “Adjusted Origination Charges” (e.g. processing and underwriting fees, points, doc prep, etc.) as one figure and the Charges for All Other Settlement Services (e.g. closing attorney fees, title insurance, recording fees, etc.) associated with closing your loan as another figure and adds them together to come up with the Total Estimate Settlement Charges.

The new GFE also spells out your loan amount, loan term, interest rate and the initial monthly payment for principal interest and any mortgage insurance.

However the new GFE does not include expected expenses for monthly real estate taxes, homeowners insurance, or home owner’s association dues. Nor does it inform the borrower about expected funds needed to close the loan. Because all the origination charges are lumped together, the new GFE is not specific in disclosing the number of points required to close the loan. It also does not include the Annual Percentage Rate, or APR.

Escrow funding for reserves of real estate taxes, home owner’s insurance and mortgage insurance are included on page 1.

However, despite the fact that this total sum should be uniform across lenders, the new GFE allows the lender to quote whatever number of months of reserves they choose, resulting in a variance of hundreds or thousands of dollars when comparing GFEs. This is not a borrower savings from lender to lender. At settlement these charges will be the same for all lenders.  This could result in the borrower unexpectedly bringing additional funds to the closing.  Some mortgage companies will try to gain a competitive advantage by initially disclosing lower escrow totals.  This would be an unfair and deceptive trade practice to the consumer.

Page 2 breaks into sections the charges for All Other Settlement Services which will include such newly disclosed charges as Owner’s Title Insurance, (which is an optional, but recommended purchase) and Transfer Taxes.  In many states, the Transfer Taxes are disclosed as a borrower–related cost, even though the borrower may not be responsible for this cost, thereby inflating the Total Charge Estimate.

Page 3 gives the consumer information about which expense items on the GFE cannot increase at settlement, which one’s can have a total increase of a 10% increase and which ones can change without limit. The origination charges cannot change at settlement.

Lenders who allow borrowers to choose settlement service providers will receive a Page 4 to the new GFE which will list those providers.

Analysis:  Does the new GFE Help Consumers Or Is It Just Another Complicated Form?

I have been in the mortgage industry for many years and have advanced educational degrees. I have passed my required national and state licensing exams and even I find this form to be confusing and not very helpful when comparing loans. My job as a loan consultant is to inform and educate my clients so that we arrive at the best loan program for them with the least costs based on their needs. I use different tools to compare programs, including cost/benefit analysis, total interest paid comparisons, length of loan term reviews, etc., but, with the new GFE rules, I must disclose 1 loan program within 3 business days of collecting 6 points of entry for an application. If I fail to do so, even if the borrower and I have not determined the best program for them yet, I am in violation of the law. I do not see how this helps the borrower determine the best loan program.

I will give HUD credit for trying, and as this is now the law of the land it is what we must all work with, however, given the vast departure from the look and feel of the previous form, it is going to take a lot of education on the part of loan officers, realtors and attorneys to establish a comfort level with the borrower’s understanding of the form.

When a borrower chooses a lender, they should be referred by someone they trust, should check out the lender’s and loan officer’s reputation by reviewing its website or other public information and feel comfortable that the loan officer is knowledgeable, understands their needs and has the borrower’s best interests in mind.  Then a GFE received from that company can be viewed as a Good Faith Accurate, and not just a Good Faith Estimate.

Dave, thanks so much for your insightful analysis! This is a great post and a boon for our readers. This underscores why borrowers must have an experienced and knowledgeable loan officer such as David Gaffin on their team.

I have certainly spend a fair amount of time digesting the new changes, but perhaps that is because I am so used to the old forms. The irony may well be that many consumers will be seeing the new GFE for the first time and may not be as confused as some of us industry veterans. Adjusting to major changes to long standing practices is always difficult.

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In this post, I’ll discuss a very important issue to lenders, closing attorneys and borrowers alike: how the new RESPA rules handle the disclosure of closing attorney fees/costs and title insurance.

The new RESPA rules significantly change the way lenders must disclose settlement services, in particular closing attorneys’ fees, and title insurance. Generally, under the new rules, closing costs are divided into one of three “buckets”:

(1) those that cannot change from initial Good Faith Estimate (GFE) disclosure

(2) those subject to a 10% tolerance–that is, those which cannot increase by more than 10% from the GFE to the closing, and

(3) those that can change, i.e., increase without limitation.

Here is how the GFE (page 3) shows the 3 buckets:

For closing attorney fees (which HUD now calls “title services”) and title insurance, bucket #1 does not apply, and whether the cost belongs in bucket #2 or #3 will depend on whether the lender recommended the service provider on a written list of preferred providers. If the borrower selects a provider from the list, such as a closing attorney, their charges cannot increase by more than 10% from the GFE to the closing.

Thus, lenders have an incentive to recommend trusted providers whose charges are standard and predictable. If the borrower wants a particular attorney or title insurance provider not on the preferred list, he/she is free to select one, but their charges are not subject to the 10% tolerance and can go up (or down) by any amount.

Also remember that lender’s title insurance is universally required by every public mortgage lender, and in Massachusetts the borrower pays that premium at closing (except for no closing cost loans). A lender’s title insurance policy, however, does not protect the homeowner. As HUD and I always advise, borrowers should always get their own owner’s title insurance policy. (See HUD’s Shopping For Your Home Loan Booklet and my post, Title Insurance Demystified for some horror stories about what happens when you don’t purchase an owner’s title insurance policy).

Here is how the new GFE (page 2) discloses closing attorney fees/title services and title insurance:

Note that lines 3 and 4 represent a huge change from prior practice for closing attorneys. Now closing attorney fees must be disclosed as a single, lump sum charge, plus the cost of the required lender’s title insurance policy. The old GFE itemized such closing costs as courier fees, discharge tracking fees, and the like, but the new GFE is intended to simplify the disclosure of attorney closing costs in favor of one standard charge that consumers can compare across the board.

From the GFE, these fees and costs are ultimately carried over on the new HUD-1 Settlement Statement, with reference to the new GFE lines:

At the closing, the borrower can now simply compare the GFE with the new HUD to ensure that the quoted charges have carried over to the closing table. Remember though that selected costs from a “preferred provider” may deviate up to 10% under the tolerance rules. Also, for the first time the new HUD mandates disclosure of the closing attorney’s share, or split, of the title insurance premium.

This is my second post in a series on the new Real Estate Settlement Practices Act (RESPA) rules which went into effect on January 1. My first post was Are You Ready For Some RESPA Reform? An Overview Of The New Regulations. Click here for a listing of the entire RESPA series.

As always, please contact Attorney Richard Vetstein with any questions.

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I received a link to a pretty good webinar on the new HUD RESPA rules. HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Residential Homes, Vicki Bott, participated in it along with mortgage industry veterans. It’s about an hour long.

Click here and click the play button on the small screen.

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I’m getting pretty tired of all the condominium developers and realtors out there claiming and clamoring that the new FHA condominium guidelines which went into effect this week are the next coming of the Apocalypse. The fact remains that the new guidelines will ensure that condominiums are financially sound and well-run, and that’s good news for everyone: lenders, consumers, buyers, unit owners and realtors alike.

David Fletcher, a Florida real estate broker and former developer who has survived every recession since the 1970’s, gets it. In an article in Realty Times yesterday, he outlines 10 benefits of the new rules, especially from a sales and marketing perspective:

  1. More buyers will enter the market because they can afford the lower down payment.
  2. No single investor can purchase more than 10% of the units, so the idea of a controlled association by one or two investors is no longer a threat.
  3. More inventory will offer wider choices tending to keep prices in check, as “FHA approved’ condominiums come on line.
  4. More real estate agents will be willing to show condominiums to their buyers, because the lender who provides the mortgage will have to approve not only the condo documents, but the condo association’s budget, reserve account and its fidelity insurance policy.
  5. New construction developers have the guidelines needed to create urgency in their pricing strategies, which is key to building and maintaining momentum.
  6. Commercial lenders will have a more comfortable level with developers. While the 50% presale requirement may look obtrusive, it is actually a benefit to the developer, because it will create urgency for buyers to purchase.
  7. Established associations that have dragged their feet to get their finances in order, now have a valid value-based reason to become “FHA Approved.”
  8. Real estate agents will show FHA approved condominiums with confidence in the association’s finances, not just because the down payment is low.
  9. Forward thinking lenders will hustle to become a “an approved lender’ in resale and new communities alike
  10. Knowing the property already has approved lenders will make competition for listings tighter and will attract more buyers and more prospects to the listing.

David believes — and I agree with him — that “FHA Approved” will become one of the most sought after seals of approvals for condominiums in 2010 and beyond. Let’s hope that all the realtors, lenders, and condominium developers out there realize the benefits that can be gained from obtaining FHA approved status.

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Divorce, unfortunately, often plays a major role in real estate transactions and decisions. The tough economy has added insult to injury for those unfortunate souls facing divorce in Massachusetts.

Quincy, Massachusetts Divorce and Family Law Attorney Gabriel Cheong offers great advice on his blog, the Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer Blog, about what to do if you are getting a divorce and the marital home is “underwater.” That is, when the balance on the mortgage is more than the fair market value of the house:

You’re divorcing and you need to sell your house that you own jointly with your spouse but with the recession, your house is now worth less than the mortgage that you have on it. You’re under water. You’re upside down on your mortgage.  Whatever you call it, you’re stuck and don’t know what to do.

Well, here are your choices:

  1. You stay in the house with your divorced spouse until either one of you can afford to move out or refinance. You might be thinking to yourself that that is ridiculous. Who would ever live with their divorced spouse AFTER the divorce?! More and more people are doing so in this new economy because there is simply not enough money to go around. It’s a sucky situation but it’s a reality.
  2. You and your spouse continue to co-own the house together until someone can refinance the property. Either you live in the house or your spouse lives in the house. You could have a situation where only the person who’s living in the house pays for everything or everything is split 50/50. Either way, you two will still own a house together.
  3. You refinance. If you try to refinance, know that you will have to put up the money to make up the difference between what you owe and what your house is worth. That would be tens of thousands of dollars if not more. Some people have that kind of money but most do not.
  4. You do a short sale. A short sale is when you get the permission of your mortgage lender to sell the house for less than what you owe on the mortgage and hopefully, you negotiate that you won’t have to make up the difference. Know that most lenders will not extend the option for a short sale unless if you’re behind on your mortgage payments by several months. At that point, your credit would’ve taken a hit already.
  5. You let the home go into foreclosure. This is not an ideal situation and it’s not generally recommended.
  6. You try to negotiate a modification or an assumption of the current mortgage. This is very difficult and very lender specific. Some will let you  modify the loan or do an assumption whereby you don’t have to refinance the house and yet be allowed to remove a spouse’s name off the mortgage. It’s worth a try.

Those are all your options.  The important thing to remember is this: do not ever sign over a deed to the house over to your spouse’s sole name without also being off [released from] the mortgage.  If you do so, you will have no equity interest in the property yet be liable for the mortgage (debt interest).

As Attorney Cheong outlines, it’s a tough pill to swallow for those in the unfortunate predicament of divorcing in this recessionary economy. I’ve heard stories of divorcing spouses creating separate living quarters in a house, akin to an in-law suite with separate entrances, etc.

From a real estate perspective, preserving the value of the property is paramount and in the best financial interests of both spouses (and the children). With the enactment of the new Obama short sale regulations, a short sale may be a good option for divorcing couples who are “under water.” The new regulations require that the lender agree to waive the outstanding loan balance on an approved short sale, so both spouses can wipe their credits clean of the mortgage obligations and move on with their lives.

If you are in the middle of a divorce, feel free to contact me, Richard D. Vetstein, and I can work with your divorce attorney to ensure that you’ll be protected in any refinance, short sale, loan modification, or foreclosure situation.

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Thanks to you, our readers, the Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog has quickly become the highest rankithumbs_upng legal blog focused solely on Massachusetts substantive law according to Avvo.com and Alexa.com rankings. As reported in BizJournals, the blog has proven very popular to home buyers, sellers, consumers, realtors and lenders due to its easy to read articles on timely topics affecting Massachusetts and national real estate law.

Much thanks to all of our readers!

Richard D. Vetstein

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After several revisions and delays, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has finally issued major changes to its revised guidelines on mortgage insurance requirements for condominium projects. FHA first proposed the revisions back in June (under Mortgagee Letter 2009-19). The new guidelines are effective December 7, 2009; however, some of the requirements are phased in through January 31, 2010.

There has been a considerable amount of controversy involving HUD/FHA’s proposed requirements for obtaining FHA mortgage insurance for condominiums. The newest guideline revisions are in response to the strong reaction from condominium associations and mortgage industry representatives who saw many of the FHA requirements as counter-productive and burdensome to condominium associations and owners.

The latest guidelines are described in two separate HUD/FHA documents:

  • Mortgagee Letter 2009-46B (the revised guidelines for FHA approval of residential condominium projects)
  • Mortgagee Letter 2009-46A (temporary guidance for condominium approvals).

Under the Temporary Guidance:

  • The “Spot Loan” approval process will continue through February 1, 2010, after which it will be replaced by the new Direct Endorsement Lender Review & Approval Process (DELRAP); and
  • The 30% cap on FHA loans per condo project will be expanded to 50% until December 31, 2010. Concentrations may be increased to 100% if certain additional conditions are met. After January 1, 2011, the cap reverts back to 30%.

The highlights of the New Guidelines are as follows:

  • Condominium project approval is not required for condominiums comprised of single-family totally detached dwellings (no shared garages or any other attached buildings).
  • Until December 31, 2010, at least 30% pre-sale level must be reached before any FHA mortgage can be granted on any unit. After 12/31/10, 50% pre-sale level must be reached.
  • 50% owner occupancy rate for the entire project.
  • No more than 15% of unit owners can be delinquent (over 30 days late) on their condominium fees.
  • Capital reserve funding:  The reserve study requirement has been eliminated, along with the requirement of at least 60% of the fully funded reserves. The new requirement requires merely that at least 10% of the association’s annual budget be set aside for reserves.
  • Budget review:  Lenders must review the condominium budget to determine that the budget is adequate and: (i) includes allocations/line items to ensure sufficient funds are available to maintain and preserve all amenities and features unique to the condominium project; (ii) provides for the funding of replacement reserves for capital expenditures and deferred maintenance in an account representing at least 10% of the budget; and (iii) provides adequate funding for insurance coverage and deductibles.
  • No more than 25% of space allocated to commercial use.
  • No more than 10% of units held by a single investor.
  • The 1-year waiting period for conversion condominiums is eliminated.
  • Unit owners must obtain individual HO-6 insurance policies if the master policy doesn’t cover unit interiors.
  • Fidelity insurance must be obtained for 20+ unit projects.
  • Re-certification required every 2 years.

Transition Strategy:

  • FHA will move all currently approved condominium projects to the new approval list and FHA Connection database.
  • Projects that received approval prior to October 1, 2008, will require recertification on or before December 7, 2009.
  • Projects that received approval between October 1, 2008 and December 7, 2009, will be “grandfathered” and will have to follow the new guidelines’ recertification process (recertification required every two years).

couple-homeAnalysis:

Although the condominium association and mortgage lobby were successful in watering down some the more onerous requirements, the new revised guidelines will still represent a major change in how lenders underwrite condominium mortgages. Lenders will have to perform much more extensive due diligence on condominium projects than before.

The new guidelines will also force existing condominium associations to really get their acts together, especially with their unpaid condominium fees, budgets, insurance and capital reserve accounts. FHA mortgage programs are becoming the first choice for first time home buyers, and condominium units are particularly suitable for first timers. I have already seen situations where condominium trustees feel no obligation to comply with FHA (and Fannie Mae) guidelines in connection with a proposal sale of a unit, and it is not a good situation. Condominium trustees and association can certainly open themselves up to liability if they don’t cooperate and maintain the marketability of the units which they govern. Trustees owe unit owners a fiduciary obligation to get their associations in compliance with all new FHA/FNMA guidelines, in my opinion.

For condominium associations, the Community Associations Institute has published this helpful “Head’s Up” and FAQ.

As always, contact Richard Vetstein with any questions.

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Noted Boston legal marketing guru, Steve Seckler of CounseltoCounsel.com, and Richard Vetstein (that would be me) recently co-presented a free webinar for lawyers who are interested in blogging, called Creating a Memorable Blog To Market Your Law Practice.  The webinar is now up on the Web for all to check out and enjoy.  Click here to download.

While presented to attorneys, this webinar has great information for anyone interested in blogging for their business:Lastfm+for+Wordpress+logo

  • Why Blog?
  • What is a Blog?
  • WordPress vs. Professional Design Blog Firms
  • RSS Feeds
  • Widgets and Plugins Must Haves
  • Blog Design
  • Statistics
  • Good Writing Tips

Steve and I had a great time sharing our knowledge of blogging.

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New, sweeping changes regulating how lenders, closing attorneys and title companies disclose loan and closing costs are set to go into effect January 1, 2010. The new regulations are part of a long awaited reform to the 30 year old Real Estate Settlement Practices Act known as RESPA aimed at providing greater transparency and fostering better consumer choice in loan and closing costs. The changes are so significant that HUD recently took the unusual step of giving lenders a 120 day reprieve in enforcing the new regulations.

The major components of the new RESPA reform are the new and substantially revised Good Faith Estimate (GFE), in which lenders disclose loan and closing costs to borrowers, and the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, which is a detailed financial breakdown of the entire real estate transaction signed at closing.

Highlights of the new changes include:

  • Borrowers must receive a standard GFE disclosing key loan terms, including the loan’s terms; whether the interest rate is fixed or otherwise; any prepayment penalties and/or balloon payments; and total closing costs.
  • Lenders must provide borrowers with a standard origination charge for the loan which must include all points, appraisal, credit, and application fees, administrative, lender inspection, wire, and document preparation fees
  • Lenders have the option of providing borrowers with a list of approved service providers such as closing attorneys and title insurance companies.
  • A tolerance range has been specified for various categories of loan/closing costs to prevent unnecessary escalation of promised vs. actual charges.
    • Fees quoted for lender origination charge cannot change.
    • Fees for title and closing costs where the lender selects the provider or where the borrower selects the provider from the lender’s approved list cannot change by more than 10%.
    • Fees that borrowers can shop for themselves can increase (or decrease) by any amount.
  • The final page of the GFE contains worksheet-like charges to compare different loans and terms that the borrower can use to shop pricing.
  • Controversial lender payments to mortgage brokers, known as yield-spread premiums, must be disclosed in a standard manner.
  • The charges quoted on the GFE are then carried over to the HUD-1 Settlement Statement to ensure that the prescribed tolerances are met.

Here is a link to the new Good Faith Estimate (GFE) form and a link to the new HUD-1 Settlement Statement form.  The most recent FAQ from HUD (last updated 1.28.10) can be found here.

I think that overall the changes will provide consumers with greater disclosure and transparency of the myriad loan closing fees and costs in a typical real estate purchase.  It also creates an incentive for lenders to assemble a competitively priced team of preferred settlement service providers, so it can guarantee to its customers that the price of the preferred vendors’ settlement services will never increase by more than 10% at closing.  If borrowers aren’t happy with that, they are free to shop and find a better deal themselves.

I plan to do a series of upcoming posts on this important RESPA reform, highlighting the salient sections of the new GFE and HUD-1. As always, contact Richard Vetstein with any questions.

Please read my second post in this series, New RESPA Rules 2010: Disclosure of Settlement Services, Attorneys Fees and Title Insurance.

For all the posts in the RESPA series, click here.

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For my entire series on the new 2010 RESPA rules, look to the right under “Spotlight On: RESPA Reform” or click here.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced on Friday that it will not enforce for a 120 day period new, sweeping regulatory changes to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) set to go into effect January 1, 2010. The new regulations will still go into effect on January 1, 2010, but the board overseeing enforcement of these new rules will “exercise restraint in enforcing” them. HUD wants all lenders to make a good faith effort to comply with the new regulations beginning on January 1.

The major components of the new RESPA reform are the new and substantially revised HUD-1 Settlement Statement and Good Faith Estimate (GFE) of closing costs issued by lenders, settlement agents, and closing attorneys. HUD will require that lenders and mortgage brokers provide consumers with a newly revised Good Faith Estimate (GFE) that clearly discloses key loan terms and closing costs. Closing agents will also be required to provide borrowers a new HUD-1 Settlement Statement that clearly compares consumers’ final and estimated costs.

The new RESPA rule became effective on January 16, 2009, but provided a one-year transition period for the mortgage industry to incorporate these changes. HUD will continue to work with the mortgage industry during this period, including providing a comprehensive set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on its website.

This is very good news for lenders and closing attorneys so they can take advantage of some well needed additional time to digest the new forms and procedures. I recently attended a seminar on the new RESPA changes, and they are quite a substantial change to the current GFE and HUD-1. Lenders must provide borrowers with a firm “origination charge” which must include all the various loan origination fees now separately itemized on the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, including points, appraisal, credit, and application fees, administrative, lender inspection, wire, and document preparation fees. This origination fee cannot increase. Lenders also have to provide borrowers with a “firm” quote for typical closings costs, including attorneys’ fees, title insurance and recording fees, and select up to 1 preferred provider for such services. The firm quote cannot increase by more than 10% at closing. If the lender allows, borrowers can use their own providers who will not be subject at all to the firm quote requirement. The new changes will require quite a bit of coordination between lenders and closing attorneys.

Most lenders who I have spoken to are not ready for these changes. The likely impact is that for the first 4 months of 2010, borrowers could see either the current or the revised GFE and HUD-1 form, depending on whether the lender/closing attorney has implemented the changes.

For a more comprehensive review of the new GFE and HUD-1, please read my posts, Are You Ready For Some RESPA Reform?  Part I, An Overview of the New Regulations, and New RESPA Rules 2010: Disclosure of Settlement Services, Attorneys Fees and Title Insurance.

As always, contact me, Richard Vetstein with any questions.

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offer-to-pur3

Update (6/10/13): Battle of the Forms! Mass. Ass’n of Realtors vs. Greater Boston Bd. of Realtors Standard Form Offers

Update (10/3/15) New TRID Addendum

The Standard Massachusetts Offer To Purchase

The first step in purchasing or selling Massachusetts residential real estate is the presentation and acceptance of an Offer To Purchase. Most often, the buyers’ real estate broker prepares the offer to purchase on a pre-printed Greater Boston Real Estate Board standard form and presents it to the seller for review, modification, and acceptance. Attorneys are often not involved in the offer stage. However, in light of the legal significance of a signed offer and recent litigation over offers, buyers (and their brokers) and sellers may be wise to consult an attorney to review the offer.

An Accepted & Signed Offer Is A Binding Contract

Many sellers (and their brokers) are under the misconception that the offer to purchase is merely a formality, and that a binding contract is formed only when the parties sign the more extensive purchase and sale agreement. This is not true. Under established Massachusetts case law, a signed standard form offer to purchase is a binding and enforceable contract to sell real estate even if the offer is subject to the signing of a more comprehensive purchase and sale agreement. So if a seller signs and accepts an offer and later gets a better deal, I wouldn’t advise the seller to attempt to walk away from the original deal. Armed with a signed offer, buyers can sue for specific performance, and record a “lis pendens,” or notice of claim, in the registry of deeds against the property which will effectively prevent its sale until the litigation is resolved. I’ve handled many of these types of cases, and buyers definitely have the upper hand given the current state of the law.

There have also been recent court rulings holding that both email and text may constitute an enforceable contract even where no formal offer has been signed by both parties.

In some cases, the seller may not desire to be contractually bound by the acceptance of an offer to purchase while their property is taken off the market. In that case, safe harbor language can be drafted to specify the limited nature of the obligations created by the accepted offer. This is rather unusual, however, in residential transactions.

Home Inspection & Mortgage Contingencies

With the offer to purchase, I always advise buyers and their brokers to use a standard form addendum to address such contingencies as mortgage financing, home inspection, radon, lead paint, and pests. The home inspection and related tests are typically completed before the purchase and sale agreement is signed and any inspection issues are dealt with in the purchase and sale agreement. If they are not, there is an inspection contingency added to the P&S. See my post on purchase and sales agreements for that discussion.

The mortgage contingency is likewise critical. With mortgage loans harder to underwrite and approve, we are seeing loan commitment deadlines extended out for at least 30-45 days from the signing of the purchase and sale agreement. Always consult your mortgage lender before making an offer to see how much time they will need to process and approval your loan. The loan commitment deadline is one, if not the most, important deadlines in the contract documents.

In order to help finance the acquisition of said premises, the BUYER shall apply for a conven­tional bank or other institutional mortgage loan of $[proposed loan amount] at prevailing rates, terms and conditions.  If despite the BUYER’S diligent efforts, a commitment for such a loan cannot be obtained on or before [30-45 days from signing of purchase-sale agreement], the BUYER may terminate this agreement by written notice to the SELLER in accordance with the term of the rider, prior to the expiration of such time, whereupon any payments made under this agreement shall be forthwith refunded and all other obligations of the parties hereto shall cease and this agreements shall be void without recourse to the parties hereto.  In no event will the BUYER be deemed to have used diligent efforts to obtain such commitment unless the BUYER submits a complete mortgage loan application conforming to the foregoing provisions on or before [2-5 business days from signing of purchase and sale agreement].

Any time the parties agree to an extension of any deadline in the offer (and the purchase and sale agreement for that matter) make sure it’s in writing.

_______________________________________________________

RDV-profile-picture.jpgRichard D. Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts real estate closing and conveyancing attorney and former outside counsel to a national title insurance company. Please contact him if you need legal assistance with your Massachusetts real estate transaction.

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Now that time is running out on the First Time Home Buyer Credit–what I call the Realtor Cash For Clunkers program — I came across this comically shameless video produced by one of America’s largest real estate brokerage companies.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2leBqxcwhvI]

But seriously folks, the credit seems like a good idea, but filled with exceptions.  From what I can decipher, the basics of how you qualify for the credit are:

  • First-time buyer refers to anyone who has not owned a principle residence in the past three years.
  • Non-married buyers qualify as long as one person meets the first-time buyer definition. Married tax payers must both be first-timers to qualify.
  • The tax credit is equal to 10% of the purchase price, up to a maximum of 8,000 dollars.
  • The home must be purchased between January 01, 2009 and December 01, 2009 and remain your primary residence for three years.
  • You don’t have to pay it back. (Filing options available from the IRS website).

The confusing part comes into play for those looking to use the tax credit towards their downpayment or closing costs. The basic story is that FHA-approved lenders are able to create an additional loan that would allow you to access this money upfront for the following:

  • Assist in covering your closings costs.
  • Buy down your interest rate.
  • As additional money towards your downpayment.

From what realtors say, the catch is that buyers must still fund a minimum down payment of 3.5% from their own wallets. The tax credit can be used in addition to the 3.5% downpayment but cannot be used to make up any part of the 3.5%. The other catch is apparently these loans are not easily carried out and assistance is not widely available to say the least. Massachusetts just came out with its own program.

My friend Metrowest Massachusetts real estate broker extraordinaire Bill Gassett has all the details in his real estate blog and here.

Good lord, my head is still spinning from that video. I’ll leave it to the realtors to explain the credit in some fashion of clarity.

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Breaking News (1.7.11): Mass. Supreme Court Upholds Ibanez Ruling, Thousands of Foreclosures Affected

Update (2/25/10)Mass. High Court May Take Ibanez Case

Breaking News (10/14/09)–Land Court Reaffirms Ruling Invalidating Thousands of Foreclosures. Click here for the updated post.

In late March of this year in the case of U.S. Bank v. Ibanez, Massachusetts Land Court Judge Keith C. Long issued one of the most controversial rulings in recent years which has called into question hundreds if not thousands of foreclosure titles across Massachusetts. The Ibanez decision is what happens when you mix equal parts of a deteriorating real estate market with Wall Street’s insatiable demand for mortgage back securities with sloppy lending practices and outdated state foreclosure statutes.

The Facts

In the Ibanez case, the Land Court invalidated two foreclosure sales because the lenders failed to show proof they held titles to the properties through valid assignments. In modern securitized mortgage lending practices, the ownership of a mortgage loan may be divided and freely transferred numerous times on the lenders’ books, but the documentation (i.e., the assignments) actually on file at the Registry of Deeds often lags far behind. The Land Court ruled that foreclosures were invalid when the lender failed to bring  the ownership documentation (the assignments) up-to-date until after the foreclosure sale had already taken place. This was true even if the lender possessed an assignment with an effective date (i.e., backdated) before the first foreclosure notice.

The net effect of the Ibanez decision is to call into serious question the validity of any foreclosure where the lender did not physically hold the proper paperwork at the time it conducted its auction. This has already caused significant uncertainty in the ownership of many properties that have already been foreclosed and are awaiting foreclosure.

In deciding the case, Judge Long took a very pro-consumer approach to the foreclosure law, persuaded that the apparent title defect would chill a foreclosure sale and harm debtors:

None of this is the fault of the [debtor], yet the [debtor] suffers due to fewer (or no) bids in competition with the foreclosing institution. Only the foreclosing party is advantaged by the clouded title at the time of auction. It can bid a lower price, hold the property in inventory, and put together the proper documents any time it chooses. And who can say that problems won’t be encountered during this process?

Also of significance was that Judge Long rejected a customary Massachusetts conveyancing standard which provides that recording out of order assignment documents does not create a title defect. I think Judge Long got it wrong as he elevated form over substance and didn’t give enough credence to the legal principle that the note follows the mortgage, but hey, I’m just a lowly attorney.

What now?

The Ibanez ruling is not final as the lenders have filed a motion to reconsider with the Land Court. And now the heavy hitters have gotten involved. The Real Estate Bar Association of Massachusetts has taken the unusual step of filing a friend of the court brief, urging the Land Court to reconsider its decision.

On the consumer side, the National Consumer Law Center and well known consumer class action attorney Gary Klein have joined the fray and filed a brief. Attorney Klein has also filed a class action in federal court to challenge completed foreclosures and future foreclosures on the same facts as the two foreclosures voided in Ibanez.

As of now, Judge Long of the Land Court has not made a final decision which should come in a matter of weeks. I will update you when the ruling comes down. Either way, in my opinion, given the widespread impact of this case, it is destined for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. It’s hard to say how the SJC will come down on this.

What can you if you are affected by the Ibanez ruling?

Well, if you are a homeowner facing foreclosure, consider Ibanez an early Christmas present. You now have a powerful tool to argue for the invalidation of the foreclosure sale. (I won’t comment on the fact that you still owe the lender money).

If you are contemplating purchasing a property out of foreclosure or are selling a previously foreclosed property, pray that there’s an existing title insurance policy on the property, and ask the title company to insure over the issue. Some are willing to do this. Others are not. The other option (albeit expensive) is to hire an attorney to file a Land Court “quiet title” action to validate the proper assignment of the mortgage loan, assuming you can track the documents down and they were not backdated. In Ibanez, the lender couldn’t produce the assignment until 14 months after the auction. The last option, and unfortunately probably the safest bet, is to sit, wait and see how the Land Court and appellate courts will rule ultimately. Not the answer you probably want to hear, but it’s reality.

Please contact Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. for more information.

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Signing or not signing?The Massachusetts Purchase and Sale Agreement Is Anything But “Standard”

Home buyers sign a never ending pile of legal documents to purchase a home. But arguably the most important document in the entire transaction is the Massachusetts purchase and sale agreement. The purchase and sale agreement is signed after the Offer to Purchase is executed, and spells out the parties’ responsibilities during the interim period when the property is taken off the market and the closing.

Important Update: Please read our article on the new TRID Rules

In Massachusetts, the form most often used is the so-called standard form agreement supplied by the Greater Boston Real Estate Board or one modeled very closely to this form. (Due to copyright laws, we cannot embed the standard form agreement — contact my office if you need assistance with drafting a purchase and sale agreement). The “standard” form purchase and sale agreement is, however, far from standard, especially for buyers. In fact, the standard form is very much slanted in favor of the seller, and the playing field must be “leveled” to protect the buyer’s interests.

Click here to read our series of posts on the Massachusetts Purchase and Sale Agreement

This is why it’s imperative that home buyers and sellers alike retain a Massachusetts real estate attorney to modify the “standard” form purchase and sale agreement in order to best protect all parties’ rights and remedies, and customize the agreement to the particular aspects of the transaction. This is typically done through a “rider” to the purchase and sales agreement. Often, the buyers’ attorney and the sellers’ attorney will attached two different riders to the agreement.

I’ll outline a few common issues not addressed adequately in the “standard” purchase and sale agreement. (Most of these are from the buyer’s perspective).

Mortgage Contingency

The “standard” purchase and sale agreement does provide a basic mortgage contingency which gives the buyer the option of terminating the agreement if mortgage financing falls through. However, for a buyer, the more specific you are in terms of interest rate, points, name of lending institution and definition of “diligent efforts,” the better. Buyers’ counsel should specify that the buyer will not be required to apply to more than one institutional lender currently making mortgage loans of the type sought by the buyer and that the buyer may terminate the purchase and sale agreement unless the buyer obtains a firm, written commitment for a mortgage loan. Here is a sample rider provision:

MODIFICATION TO PARAGRAPH 26: Application to one such bank or mortgage lender by such date shall constitute “diligent efforts.”  If the written  loan commitment contains terms and conditions that are beyond BUYER’S reasonable ability to control or achieve, or if the commitment requires BUYER to encumber property other than the subject property, BUYER may terminate this agreement, whereupon any payments made under this agreement shall be forthwith refunded and all other obligations of the parties hereto shall cease and this agreement shall be void without recourse to the parties hereto.

Home Inspection/Repairs

Typically, buyers complete the home inspection process prior to the signing of the purchase and sale agreement, and any inspection contingency provision is deleted from the purchase and sale agreement. What happens if the inspection results are not ready before the P&S signing deadline or if the seller has agreed to perform repairs prior to the closing or give a credit at closing? In this case, a home inspection contingency clause should be added back to the agreement, and any seller repairs or closing credits should be meticulously detailed in the rider.

Septic Systems/Title VMassachusetts Septic Title V requirements for selling property

If the home is serviced by an on-site sewage disposal system otherwise known as a septic system, the Massachusetts Septic System Regulations known as Title V requires the inspection of the system within 2 years of the sale of the home. Failed septic systems can cost many thousands of dollars to repair or replace.  Thus, buyers would look to be released from the agreement if the septic system fails inspection.  Alternatively, buyers could be given the option to close if the seller can repair the septic system during an agreed upon time period, provided that the buyers do not lose their mortgage rate lock.

Radon Gas

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. The ground produces the gas through the normal decay of uranium and radium. As it decays, radon produces new radioactive elements called radon daughters or decay products which scientists have proven to cause lung cancer. Radon testing should be performed by buyers during the home inspection process. Elevated levels of radon (above 4.0 picoCuries per liter (pCi/l) can be treated through radon remediation systems. The purchase and sale agreement should provide for a radon testing contingency and the buyers’ ability to terminate the agreement if elevated radon levels are found, or the option of having the sellers pay for a radon remediation system.

Lead Paintmassachusetts lead paint law

Under the Massachusetts Lead Paint Law, buyers of property are entitled to have the property inspected for the presence of lead paint.  (Sellers are not required to remove lead paint in a sale situation). Because the abatement of lead paint can be costly, buyers typically look for a right to terminate the purchase and sale agreement if lead paint exists and the abatement/removal of it exceeds a certain dollar threshold. Here is an example of a provision added to the standard form:

LEAD PAINT.  Seller acknowledges that the Buyers have a child under six (6) years of age who will live in the premises.  In accordance with Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 111, section 197A, as the premises was constructed prior to 1978, Buyer may have the premises inspected for the presence of lead paint which inspection shall be completed within ten (10) days after the execution of this Agreement, unless extended in writing by the parties.  If the inspection reveals the presence of lead paint, the abatement and/or removal of which will cost $2,000 or more, then Buyer may terminate this agreement, whereupon any payments made under this agreement shall be forthwith refunded and all other obligations of the parties hereto shall cease and this agreement shall be void without recourse to the parties hereto.  Any lead paint removal or abatement shall be Buyers’ responsibility.

Access

When my wife and I signed the Offer to Purchase on our house, she couldn’t wait to get in there with her tape measure, paint chips and fabric swatches. Oftentimes overlooked, but a cause of friction is buyers’ ability to access the house prior to the closing. To avoid such friction, an access clause should be added to the purchase and sale agreement giving the buyer reasonable access at reasonable time with advance notice to the sellers–it’s still their house after all.

These are just a few of the issues not adequately addressed by the “standard” form purchase and sale agreement. There are many more.

_________________________________________
Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is a nationally recognized real estate attorney, and has handled thousands of Massachusetts real estate transactions. He can be reached via email at [email protected].

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images-9My last post on this blog and on Boston.com on Massachusetts landlord-tenant law spawned many questions on the Massachusetts security deposit law.  So, I decided to go into more detail about the topic.

Massachusetts Security Deposits–An Overview

Last month’s rent and security deposits are one of the most heavily regulated aspects of Massachusetts landlord-tenant law and are fraught with pitfalls and penalties for the unwary, careless landlord. Any misstep, however innocent, under the complex Massachusetts last month’s rent and security deposit law can subject a landlord to far greater liability than the deposit, including penalties up to triple the amount of the deposit and payment of the tenant’s attorneys’ fees. This is why I advise landlords not to require security deposits. If a deposit is necessary, take a last month’s deposit, the requirements of which are less strict than security deposits. If landlords insist on taking a security deposit, they must follow the law to the letter.

Requirements For Holding A Security Deposit

The following steps must be followed when a landlord holds a security deposit:

  1. When the deposit is tendered, the landlord must give the tenant a written receipt which provides:
    • the amount of the deposit
    • the name of the landlord/agent
    • the date of receipt
    • the property address.
  2. Within 30 days of the money being deposited, the landlord must provide the tenant with a receipt identifying the bank where the deposit is held, the amount and account number.
  3. Within 10 days after the tenancy begins, the landlord must provide the tenant with a written “statement of condition” of the premises detailing its condition and any damage with a required disclosure statement;
  4. The tenant has an opportunity to note any other damage to the premises, and the landlord must agree or disagree with the final statement of condition and provide it to the tenant.
  5. The security deposit must be held in a separate interest bearing account in a Massachusetts  financial institution protected from the landlord’s creditors.
  6. The landlord must pay the tenant interest on the security deposit annually if held for more than one year.
  7. The security deposit may only be used to reimburse the landlord for unpaid rent, reasonable damage to the unit or unpaid tax increases if part of the lease. Security deposits cannot be used for general eviction costs or attorneys’ fees. Within 30 days of the tenant’s leaving, the landlord must return the deposit plus any unpaid interest or provide a sworn, itemized list of deductions for damage with estimates for the work. Only then can the landlord retain the security deposit.

What Do I Do If The Landlord Mishandles My Security Deposit?

First, talk with the landlord about the situation and respectfully remind him or her of the law’s requirements. Many landlords will balk at the potential penalties for a security deposit violation, and most issues can be resolved amicably, usually with the return of the deposit with interest. If that doesn’t work, send the landlord a certified demand letter under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, Chapter 93A. If that fails, take the landlord to Small Claims Court (the limit for these type of claims involving triple damages is $6,000) or contact an attorney.

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I’m pleased to have Donald J. Griffin, MAI, SRA, an experienced appraiser with Don Griffin Appraisals, Inc., who is here to guest blog about a topic very much on the mind of Massachusetts homeowners, buyers and sellers:  Massachusetts property values.

Don Giffin, MAI Appraiser

What Happened?  The Last Three Years

The Massachusetts real estate market was artificially stimulated by forces outside the normal supply demand model. This led to artificially increased values, mostly at the lower end of the value range in communities at the lower end of the income range. Once the stimulation was terminated, around 2006, and market forces returned to normal, the correction process began. The Massachusetts market has to absorb all of the artificially induced value, before it can start to act in a normal supply demand model.  Any particular property will be affected by the market that it is in, therefore to answer the question, “How much has my property value declined?”, look at the community it is in, and the location of its value in the community’s range of value, i.e. low medium and high. In general a high end valued home in a community with high incomes will see little to no loss, while a low end valued home in a community with low income will see high declining value. Most communities will continue an upward trend in average value. The upper end in both markets will continue to feel the pressure of the recession and tight credit for 12-18 months until the recession’s negative effects are mostly dissipated and we have moved into a strong growth mode. Properties at the low end of the value range in all communities will wait a long time to attain the values seen in 2006.

The Broad Strokes

In general, decline in real estate value is a result of an imbalance in supply and demand.  More sellers than buyers, cause reduced prices. If possible sellers wait, hoping the market will improve.

The Impact of the Sub-Prime And Credit Crisis On Massachusetts Property Values

There have been many articles written describing the sub prime mortgage market in relation to the collateralized mortgaged backed security market. For our purposes I will simply state that the effect was to increase demand for real estate, mostly at the low end of the value range. I say the low end because the goal was to bring marginal buyers into the market by lowering the bar for qualification for a mortgage.

This did not affect the middle and upper income value ranges in Massachusetts as much, since high income earners were already in the market.

However, there was an “upsurge effect.” When a low value owner sold for a profit, they moved up to the middle market, creating a secondary effect on the middle and upper markets.

From 2003 to about 2006 we can document an upsurge in Massachusetts property values, which we attribute to the excess demand entering the market during this period.

Case Study, Arlington, MA:  The Middle Market

I’ll use Arlington, Massachusetts as a sample middle market community. I’ve tracked the average sales prices of single family homes from 2003 through 2009 Year to Date, shown here:

arlington graph

Case Study, Wellesley, MA:  The High End Market

I’ll use Wellesley, Massachusetts as a sample upper market community where I’ve tracked the average sales prices of single family homes from 2003 through 2009 Year to Date, shown here:wellesley graph

What Markets Have Been Affected?

In general, middle market Massachusetts communities, such as Arlington, have seen declines at the low end, with recent increases at the middle value ranges, mostly correcting the effects of the oversupply caused by the subprime mortgages. The upper value range in a middle market community has mostly seen steady growth in value, but is now starting to feel the impact of the recession.

High income communities, such as Wellesley have seen similar changes. The YTD value declines at the upper level are more pronounced and reflect not only the recession but also the lack of ready loans for jumbo mortgages.

Property Value Predictions:  What Does The Trend Tell Us?

Following the trend lines we would predict that the lower and middle value ranges in most Massachusetts communities will continue an upward trend in average value. The upper end in both markets will continue to feel the pressure of the recession and tight credit for 12-18 months until the recession’s negative effects are mostly dissipated and we have moved into a strong growth mode.

_______________________________

Thanks so much for the informative post, Don.  We look forward to your future contributions to the Massachusetts Real Estate Blog. As you can see, Donald J. Griffin, MAI, SRA really knows his stuff. So please contact him for your appraisal needs.

Richard D. Vetstein

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