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June 2010 Archives

Boston Public Housing Gets A Facelift

A newly renovated section of Boston public housing in the Washington Beech complex in Roslindale was unveiled this week. The Boston Globe reports that the renovation project in Roslindale was part of a federal effort to preserve public housing nationwide.

A Boston real estate lawyer can probably tell you how just in the state of Massachusetts alone, 2,045 living units have vanished over the past ten years. While some say the federal program to revive public housing is a way to bring public housing back into the real estate market, others are critical of the new program.

Red Sox Stars Put Their Homes On the Market

We all know that Boston is filled with Red Sox fans; curse or no curse. The Boston Herald reports that two lucky Red Sox fans may be able to buy the homes of Red Sox stars.

Jason Varitek put his home on the market after he and his wife called it quits and agreed to "equitably divide all marital assets." One of these assets is a five bedroom, six and a half bathroom home in Waban. It's approximately close to $2 million, but there has been no confirmation on the selling price.

Considering A Short Sale? Deeds In Lieu Are An Option Too

The Boston Herald reports that many homeowners who are considering doing a short sale should consider doing a deed in lieu of foreclosure. According to FindLaw, deeds in lieu are when a homeowner signs the deed over to the lender. The lender then cancels the loan versus foreclosing on the home. 

A lot of lenders are actually providing cash incentives for homeowners to use this process versus a short sale because it is less time consuming and also less expensive. A short sale, which is when a homeowner sells his or her home for less than the amount owed to the lender, is a longer process. This is because it still requires a Boston real estate lawyer, agents, and the entire home sale process. A lot of lenders would like to avoid this lengthy and more expensive process.

Lowest Mortgage Rates Don't Translate Into High Demand

The average mortgage rates on fixed rate mortgages reached historic lows this week. The Wall Street Journal reports that fixed mortgage rates for homes reached lows that have not been matched since 1971.

According to the Boston Herald, while these historic lows would give consumers incentives to lock in mortgages, the low fixed mortgage rates have not necessarily translated into more home purchases. Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for 30 year fixed mortgages dropped 4.69 percent from 4.75 percent last week. 

Price Drop On Plum Island Home Due Sand Erosion

It turns out that waterfront property can be had in Massachusetts for an affordable price. According to the Boston Globe, a Plum Island home that boasts waterfront views has dropped down from an asking price of close to $800,000 all the way down to less than $300,000. What was the reason for such a steep real estate discount? Sand erosion is taking land from beneath the home.

It is literally like a mansion built on sand that is going back to sea. Michael Webber, a Newburyport real estate agent, told the Boston Globe, "Right on the edge. Nowhere to go but back." The prospective buyer will have to move the house back because after the harsh storms of March, the town inspectors assessed that the home was too dangerous to live in. They ordered the residents to vacate the premises.

Closing Firms Possibly Get The Boot In Massachusetts

If you are a Boston resident looking to close on a home fast and without a Boston real estate lawyer, you may be out of luck.

The Boston Herald reports that closing firms may not be able to operate in the state Massachusetts. The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the District Court's judgment against the Real Estate Bar Association for Massachusetts, Inc. (REBA) which allowed closing firms such as National Real Estate Information to operate in Massachusetts.

Home Sales May Be On The Rise, But There Are Skeptics

Any Boston real estate attorney can tell you how busy he or she has been in the past month. The Boston Globe reports that home sales and prices have increased again in Boston for the month of May. While that does seem like indications of a housing recovery for Boston, a lot of experts are bracing for the real deal when the home buyer's tax credit ends.

According to the Boston Globe, the tax credit incentive drove up sales 36.8 percent last month as compared to May 2009. The average price of a single family home in Boston also saw a significant increase. Median prices for such homes went up by 2.6 percent for May 2010.

Rep. Barney Frank Pushes For Jobless Homeowner Help

The Boston Herald reports that U.S. Rep. Barney Frank is co-sponsoring legislation that would help unemployed homeowners make their mortgage payments.

There is a pending financial reform bill that will be worked out between the House and the Senate. The version put forth by the House includes a $3 billion loan program that would help unemployed homeowners from foreclosing on their homes.

The Federally Insured Reverse Mortgage Ups Risks

There is bad news for anyone who has a federally insured reverse mortgage. The Boston Herald reports that the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) may foreclose on homes if homeowners fail to pay their local property taxes and hazard paying premiums.

While the FHA has had a record to be soft on delinquencies, it is going to take a stronger stance because of its own budgeting problems. We have written before about FHA's plan to hike up fees on the mortgages insured by FHA. The House recently approved a bill that would allow the agency to do so in order to address the agency's financial troubles.

Chapter 40B Plan Hits Bellingham's Zoning Board of Appeals

As any Boston real estate lawyer can tell you that Chapter 40B has its share of supporters and protesters. 

A new plan involving Chapter 40B is slated to be considered by Bellingham's Zoning Board of Appeals. The Boston Globe reports that in spite of years of residents who oppose the plan, it will probably be approved.

We have written about Massachusetts Chapter 40B law before and how it is a law that has been a lightning rod  for both supporters of affordable housing and critics who claim that the only people who benefit from the law are developers.

Foreclosures Doubled In Month of May From Last Year

The Boston Globe reports that foreclosures in Massachusetts more than doubled in May 2010 versus last year. Approximately 1,283 Massachusetts residents lost their homes to foreclosure this past May. Back in May 2009, there were only 584 foreclosures reported.

Paul Willen, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston told the Boston Globe that there will be more: "There's a lot of homeowners who owe more than their house is worth. There are a lot of accidents waiting to happen.''

Federal Mortgage Fraud Investigations Yield 500 Arrests

With the federal government probing into mortgage fraud, there has been an uptick in arrests. According to the Boston Herald, these federal mortgage fraud investigations nicknamed "Operation Stolen Dreams," busted a huge ring in Boston. A Boston real estate lawyer will you that five defendants were convicted in a $10.6 million mortgage fraud that dealt with the sale of 21 properties in the Boston metro area.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz released a statement that read, "We are working to hold professionals criminally accountable in the mortgage industry . . . who participate in large-scale fraudulent schemes."

Experts say that the places with the most foreclosures now are the places that mortgage fraud was most likely occurring during the boom with housing.

But this brings about the question:

Rights As A Tenant: No Roaches and Rats

Fernando Garcia of New Bedford is up in arms over a rat infestation  in his neighborhood. The South Coast Today reports that the New Bedford resident is upset because the presence of rats is ruining the hard work he has put into his triple decker.

He told the South Coast Today that the rats are everywhere: "I will see rats along that wall in the middle of the day." He claims that some of them are "as big as your shoe."

While he is an actual homeowner, this story does highlight the pest problems faced by tenants.

It may or may not be a little a shadowy on Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway soon. The Boston Herald reports that developer Don Chiofaro claims that his proposed two waterfront skyscrapers will not cast shadows on the park or create more wind gusts in a filing with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). Land use and development restrictions are common in urban areas such as Boston. A Boston real estate lawyer can tell you that compliance with BRA's requirements is essential to getting a development proposal approved in Boston.

Chiofaro wants to build a 40 story office building and a 50 story skyscraper that would house condominiums where the Harbor Garage currently is. The BRA currently has development powers for the city of Boston based on Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 121B, section 4 in 1957 and Chapter 652, section 12 in 1960. BRA has voiced some concerns over the possibility of shadows because of the heights of the two proposed buildings.  

Landlord's Son Tosses Tenant Out Window Over Back Rent

We all know that the relationship between a landlord and a tenant can get messy if the tenant owes some back rent to the landlord. It can sometimes lead to legal claims filed by a Boston real estate lawyer. However, most tenants would not expect to be thrown out of a window over unpaid back rent!

The Boston Herald reports that Kara Ferris asked her 16 year old son Daniel Bazzinotti to throw out her tenant Richard Brothers over an issue with back rent. Bazzinotti along with his buddies Brian Lally and Shane Denn threw Richard Brothers all right. The teens threw him out of a second story window.   

Getting A Mortgage In Boston Gets Tougher

Potential Boston homebuyers may have a harder time getting a mortgage in Boston. It seems that lenders are more wary about buyers unless they have a good credit score and are gainfully employed. A Boston real estate lawyer can tell you that it is normal for lenders to be cautious with potential homeowners, but experts in Boston say that this mortgage drought is more serious.

The Boston Herald reports that it is getting harder for buyers in Boston to even break into the housing market. The Boston Herald quoted Laurie Cadigan, President-Elect of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors as saying, ""Without stellar credit and solid employment, buyers can't get into the market. Jumbo loans are scarce and lenders are being incredibly difficult to deal with when it comes to financing."

Chapter 40B Housing Law Has Mixed Reactions

The main purpose of Massachusetts Chapter 40B is to allow local Zoning Boards of Appeals in different towns the ability to permit affordable housing developments. It allows for 20-25 percent of the units to be long-term affordable housing. The law also has a goal of 10 percent affordable housing overall per municipality. While this is just an overview, a Boston real estate lawyer can help explain the law in more depth. 

There are many communities in the Boston metro area that have had mixed reactions about the decades old law. The Boston Globe reports that some towns have viewed Chapter 40B as something to be proactive about while other towns view the law as just another way for developers to profit from larger than needed projects.

Fees For Mortgage May Be On The Rise

According to the Boston Globe, Boston residents and homeowners nationwide who take out home loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will probably see hike in fees for mortgage payments. The House approved a bill that would give the FHA the ability to increase mortgage fees. The vote was an overwhelming 406-4 in favor of the measure.

The reason for the measure was to help with the agency's financial troubles. While the FHA does not offer loans, they do offer mortgage insurance in order to protect against defaults. The extra fees that homeowners must pay on their mortgages are due to the fact that buyers only have to put down payments of 3.5 percent.

Ask Your Boston Real Estate Lawyer About Your Rent Deposit

With the summer coming up, many people in the Boston area may be thinking about summer rentals. While it seems like fun to have a summer rental, there are some important things that you may want to discuss with a Boston real estate attorney. One of the more important topics is your rent deposit. Here is a little primer of what you need to know about your rent deposit.

What Is A Rent Deposit? It is an assurance that rent paid by the tenant and any other terms of the lease will be covered. This includes things such as paying for damages that you may incur on the property.

No Legal Compulsion to Disclose Possibly Stigmatized Property?

We all remember the haunted house from the movie "Poltergeist," but what if the home you recently purchased in Boston was "haunted?"

This was the very question posed by a buyer named "Debbie" to Boston real estate attorney Richard D. Vetstein in the Boston Globe's Real Estate Blog. Stigmatized property may have its challenges, but there is no legal obligation to disclose if a house is part of a stigmatized property in Massachusetts.

$108 Million Payout Over Countrywide Home Foreclosure Overages

A lot of Boston residents may need to call their Boston real estate lawyer to see if they are affected by the huge payout by Bank of America.

Countrywide Home Loans and its mortgage services unit (which have been acquired by Bank of America), has agreed to pay out $108 million dollars in order to settle federal charges. The federal charges claim that the institution was overcharging their customers who were on the brink of foreclosure. The Boston Globe reports that the Countrywide Home foreclosure charges were highly inflated. Some of the charges included a fee of $300 to mow a lawn, fees on customers who wanted to reorganize their debts, or fees for customers that were falsely accused of defaulting on their loans.

Mass. Campaign Against Mortgage Modification Scams Launched

The housing bubble bust has led many homeowners to attempt to figure out ways to modify their mortgages. However, what these homeowners fail to realize is that there are many mortgage modification scams out there. The Boston Globe reports that as a result of the rise in mortgage modification scams, Massachusetts has launched a campaign to raise awareness of these mortgage scams. This alarming new trend may be something that a Boston real estate lawyer can shed light on.

Thomas J. Curry, a board member of NeighborWorks America, says, "Loan modification scams are reaching epidemic proportions across the nation. Countless fraudulent companies are making a great deal of money by preying on the fears of worried homeowners.''

Settlement Over Racial Bias Case Against Town of Randolph

The Boston Globe reports that a Caucasian woman has settled a civil rights lawsuit against the Town of Randolph and the town's Planning Board's chairman Richard Goodhue. The lawsuit centered on claims that Richard Goodhue prevented Barbara Mersal from subdividing her property after learning that she was living with an African American man and that she has biracial children from another African American man.

Ms. Mersal's lawsuit alleges that she was "unlawfully bullied, intimidated and threatened'' because of Mr. Goodhue's "racial and gender bigotry.''

Home Insurance Policy Coverage and Natural Disasters

A lot of homeowners may need to call their Boston real estate attorney this week.

Heavy winds and torrential rain whipped through the Boston metro area over the weekend. The Boston Herald reports that winds close to 70 mph caused trees to be uprooted and cause significant property damage.

Homeowners like Ann Giudice now have to deal with trees that have landed on their property as a result of the extreme weather. Ms. Giudice said that a huge maple tree landed on her garage and is now askew on a fence bordering her neighbor's property. She said that the tree's impact on the garage "took it right off its foundation."

This leaves a lot of homeowners asking their Boston real estate lawyer:

Spite Fences and Neighbor Disputes

There are some people that build fences out of spite.

Boston real estate attorneys would call these fences "spite fences."

Yes. There's an actual legal word for fences built out of spite for a neighbor. Spite fences are ones that are put up extremely close to the neighbor's property and have the purpose of annoying or inconveniencing the neighbor.

Housing Rebound or Decline? Stats Weigh In

Bye bye First Time Homebuyer's Tax Credit. Hello, lousy housing market.

Didn't Boston real estate attorneys tell you this would happen?

As Bostonians (and Americans, for that matter) bid a sorrowful farewell to the First Time Homebuyer's Tax Credit, they are now starting to sift through the remains of the early 2010 buying frenzy to determine whether or not the tax credit provided an artificial boost.

Candidate Ryan Fattman Rallies Against Chapter 40B

When can affordable housing laws become a burden on citizens?

According to Massachusetts state representative candidate Ryan Fattman, some affordable housing laws can infringe on zoning laws, making their construction problematic for the locals living in the affected areas.

'Caucasians Only' Ad Faces Discrim Lawsuit

Caucasians only. That's what a real estate advertisement in the New Bedford Standard-Times read.

Now, on first glance, that's a straightforward case of housing discrimination.

Real estate and housing discrimination are problematic issues for Boston real estate attorneys. While the issues fall largely into the realm of civil rights law, the housing aspect forms an essential crossover into the scope of the Boston real estate lawyer.

Foreclosure Alternatives: The Loan Modification

Distressed homeowners in Boston aren't always jumping at the first chance to foreclose. In fact, many seek the counsel of a Boston real estate lawyer in order to discuss ways they can avoid foreclosure.

Foreclosure is just one of many options available to the distressed homeowner. While foreclosure is the option that distressed homeowners are more likely to hear about, there are other options available.

Home Improvement and the Boston Real Estate Lawyer

Architects have suffered as the result of the housing collapse. But what's interesting is how they've rebounded. Indeed, many architects are taking their valuable skills and applying to a consumer market. We discussed this topic on this blog yesterday.

The new consumer market, however, is a stark contrast for many architects. Some spent their careers designing large-scale building projects, only now to find themselves working on much smaller scale projects. According to The Boston Globe, architecture firms have trimmed the fat and let go a quarter of their workforce since July 2008.

Boston Rental Market: Discrimination in Housing?

Beantown may be a lot harder to rent in if you are not Caucasian. The Boston Herald reports that individuals who advertise rentals on Craigslist in Boston blatantly prefer white tenants to African American and Hispanic ones. The Boston Herald used the Boston area Craigslist page in order to try out an experiment to see how the rental market in Boston was like with regards to race.

They submitted responses to a sample of 739 posts for rentals on the site. Each sample was emailed from three equally qualified potential renters. The only difference between the three potential renters was their names. One was an Irish sounding name (Matthew O'Brien or Neil Baker); one with an African-American sounding name (Tremayne Robinson or Tyrone Jackson); and one with a Hispanic sounding name (Pedro Gonzales or Jorge Rodriguez).

As a result of the experiment, more whites were informed that rentals were still available, received responses from housing providers, told to contact the property owner, or told of any additional units that were available.

Unemployed Architects Do More Home Improvement Projects

Are you planning to renovate your home? You may want to talk to your Boston real estate attorney about a new trend: Architects taking on home renovation.

When the economy started to take a nosedive, large projects dealing with construction started to stop flowing in to many of Boston's architects. The result was a lot of unemployed architects who had to be creative with their time and resources.

The Boston Globe reports that rather than thinking big, unemployed architects started thinking smaller. How? Architects started taking home improvement projects. Why are these architects taking on these projects? Home renovation happens to be a $250 billion a year sector. It has also been stronger than the new home construction sector. In fact, 62 percent of homeowners surveyed by American Express indicated that they are planning to renovate their homes this year.