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August 2010 Archives

Foreclosure for W Boston In The Works?

The Boston Herald reports that the W Boston hotel may be going into foreclosure. Prudential Insurance Co. is pushing for the hotel to foreclose. While a Boston real estate lawyer can better explain the process of foreclosure, if the W Boston does go through foreclosure, it may end up costing the city of Boston more than $10 million in city loan funds. Prudential initially invested $192 million into W Boston. 

Prudential is opposed to the developer Sawyer Enterprises' idea to rent out a quarter of the high end condos in the building by saying that rentals of the condos will only bring about wear and tear. The rentals may also prevent future sales of the condos because of the stigma attached to being a rental property. Prudential submitted a court filing that stated: "The debtor has demonstrated no ability to mount a fresh sales campaign to rehabilitate its business or otherwise reorganize nor does it have any prospects for such reorganization on the horizon." 

Mayor Menino Calls Vornado Out On Real Estate Plans

Mayor Menino has criticized the real estate plans of Vornado Realty Trust. According to the Boston Herald, Mayor Menino is angry over Vornado's plan to bid for an ownership stake in the John Hancock tower while it fails to complete a project in Boston's Downtown Crossing shopping district. Mayor Menino told reporters that it was just wrong for the real estate developer. He said: "It's wrong. It's about greed. All they want to do is enrich their bottom line."

Vornado stopped construction of a $700 million mixed-use high-rise in the center of Boston's Downtown Crossing shopping back in 2008.

Mayor Menino Tackles Abandoned Properties Problem In Boston

Mayor Menino has taken a stand against owners of abandoned properties. The Boston Herald reports that Mayor Menino has created an abandoned property task force to check on properties weekly in order to ensure that owners make "necessary repairs." Mayor Menino warns that if property owners do not cooperate, they will need to go to court with their Boston real estate attorney in order to fight an order to make repairs.

This is all part of an effort by the city of Boston to fight against blight and potentially dangerous properties. Mayor Menino told the Boston Herald: "We don't need buildings like this in our city." He was referring to the abandoned Roxbury warehouse that was engulfed in a fire over the weekend. The fire consumed a whole block of abandoned warehouses. The fire may have been started by fireworks set off by people who may have been illegally squatting on the block. One of the buildings in the blaze was on the city's fire department list as a dangerous building.

Certain Areas In The Bay State See A Rise In Home Sales

While it seems that home sales in the Bay State have dropped overall, there are a few bright spots in the real estate market. According to the Boston Globe, there are a few Greater Boston areas that are reporting home sale increases during the month of July compared with July 2009. In Cohasset, real estate agent Tom Hamilton says that the drop in home sales for Massachusetts did not correlate well with his own experience in the market. He said, "When I saw the sales numbers, I said, 'That is completely inconsistent with the July we had.' Business is good. Business is very good."

The thing that real estate insiders worry about is the fact that it is only a measure of success in one month. Overall, a dip in home sales has been felt not only statewide, but nationwide. Experts worry that this may signal a slowdown in the overall economy. Barry Bluestone, dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, told the Boston Globe, "You're only seeing an increase from what were relatively low sales levels."

Are You At Risk? One In Ten Mortgages Could Face Foreclosure

The Boston Herald reports that 1 in 10 households with a mortgage could face foreclosure this summer. Approximately 9.9 percent have missed at least one of their mortgage payments, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. It seems that there are more homeowners struggling with their mortgages. The number of homeowners having issues with making mortgage payments was steadily moving downward, but has recently risen.

As more Americans are facing unemployment and reduced working hours at work, foreclosures have risen and are expected to continue to rise. Over 2.3 million homes have been foreclosed on by lenders since December 2007. Jay Brinkmann, Mortgage Bankers Association's top economist, said: "Ultimately the housing story, whether it is delinquencies, homes sales or housing starts, is an employment story. Only when we see a consistent increase in employment will we see an increase in sales and starts, and a sustained improvement in the delinquency numbers."

HOA Rules: What You Need To Know

A man in Laveen, Arizona was shocked when he was informed by his HOA that a flag in front of his home does not conform with HOA rules. He claims that the HOA rules are at odds with Arizona and federal law. Andy McDonel told ABC news, "The HOA is in the wrong. I have the law on my side."

The flag in question is a yellow flag that measure 3 feet by 5 feet. It has a picture of a coiled snake and the tagline "Don't Tread On Me." The phrase has recently been used by the Tea Party movement, but McDonel claims that the flag is meant to illustrate the sacrifices made by our founding fathers.

While he refuses to take it down, he will be facing fines from his HOA in a few weeks.

Getting Mortgage Modifications Gets Tougher

Boston homeowners may need to find other ways to get a mortgage modification because the federal government program aimed at helping homeowners facing foreclosure may make matters worse. Fox News reports that local homeowners like April and Scott McMeekin are getting frustrated with attempting to modify their mortgage with their lender. The couple sought help after April became unemployed and Scott's hours were reduced. April McMeekin told Fox, "We called our mortgage company and talked to them and they actually told us about the modification and said it would be perfect for you. It will work for you guys great."

Home Sales In Massachusetts Drop

Sales of homes in Massachusetts fell in July which is the first time there was a drop in sales all year. The Boston Herald reports that the Massachusetts Association of Realtors has said that the sale of single family homes was down 28 percent from a year ago. This is the biggest year over year slide since March 2008. Other industry insiders have noted the drop in home sales in the Bay State. The Warren Group has said that home sales have fallen 26 percent after Massachusetts enjoyed a full year of increased real estate activity.

Property Tax Bills Rise In Spite Of Dropping Home Values

The Boston Globe reports that residents in the Bay state should not be too surprised if they see higher property tax bills. While home values are down in Massachusetts, property taxes have gone up. Municipalities have driven up property taxes in order to pay for new buildings and services, but the practice seems to be frustrating to homeowners who have been seeing a drop in their property's value.

Janet Gorman, a homeowner in Dedham said, "There's absolutely no way you can sell a house in Dedham for what it's assessed at." She owns two single family homes plus a rental property in the town. She asked for a tax abatement and was able to get $900 taken off of her tax bill.

Homeowners Leave Obama's Mortgage Aid Program

The Boston Herald reports that almost half of the homeowners who enrolled in the federal mortgage aid program have dropped out. According to the Treasury Department, approximately 630,000 people have attempted to lower their monthly mortgage payments, but have given up. Experts in the real estate industry speculate that home foreclosures will be up in the second half of this year.

Only 32 percent of homeowners who enrolled in the federal mortgage aid program have received a permanent mortgage loan modification and have been able to make payments on time.

Chatham Building Gets A Shocking New Paint Job

We all know of neighbors who sometimes have quirky lawn ornaments or paint jobs, but the owners of a Chatham building have taken quirky to a new level with a shocking new paint job. The Boston Globe reports that the owners of a Chatham building have painted the house from a white to an electric green. lime, and yellow palette.

While some residents have been fretting over the new change, tenants in the building like the attention. Suzanne J. Nethercote, an artist who sells her work out of the building, said: "It's been great for business. We've had many people come in here because they're interested in why it was painted this way and leave with a painting."

Mortgage Applications Up Due To Low Rates

The Boston Herald reports that mortgage applications nationwide went up 13 percent last week. The increase was due to applications to refinance home loans in order to take advantage of low interest rates. In fact, applications to refinance loans composed more than 81 percent of all home loan activity; which makes it the highest percentage since January 2009.

Which brings about a question that homeowners can ask their Boston real estate lawyer:

When Does It Make Sense To Refinance?

Foreclosure Problems Can Affect Local Communities

The Salem News reports that while you can't see the foreclosures that are on the rise in the Bay State, it doesn't necessarily mean it is not there. According to RealtyTrac, home foreclosures jumped up by 6 percent when compared to July 2009 nationally. Foreclosure is typically a long process that is very complex and is best done with a Boston real estate attorney. The outward signs of a foreclosure typically come at the end of a foreclosure.

Tim Warren of The Warren Group in Boston said that even if you don't see an empty house with sign on it, your community could still be hard hit with foreclosures. He said: "Foreclosures are everywhere. Even if you don't have the problems associated with it, derelict, abandoned buildings, you still have problems with foreclosures."  

MA Housing Activists Rally For Gov't Foreclosure Aid

State housing activists went to Washington D.C. to help get foreclosure aid from HUD for troubled homeowners. The Boston Globe reports that the federal government is planning to carve out $1 billion in order to help prevent foreclosures from plaguing the nation. The $1 billion will go towards the Emergency Homeowners Loan Program which would help homeowners who have lost their jobs, suffered from a severe income reduction, and are now having trouble paying their mortgages.

Homeowners who qualify can receive up to $50,000 to help with mortgage payments and related expenses for as long as two years. While there are many experts who say that the Bay State has a good chance at getting some foreclosure aid, there are still more homeowners who need help. The $1 billion could help as many as 60.000 households, but Lew Finfer, director of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network, said: "The part that's daunting is that the number of people who are eligible is probably well over a million.''

Banks Fight Foreclosure Ruling As "A Plain Error"

The Boston Herald reports that banks such as Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank think that a 2009 foreclosure ruling is "a plain error that the Bay State's top court should reverse. A Boston real estate lawyer can tell you that the 2009 foreclosure ruling known as the Ibanez decision, invalidated two Massachusetts foreclosures because of paperwork issues. The banks are now fighting back the ruling with their attorneys requesting that the Supreme Judicial Court overturn the foreclosure ruling. In a brief sent to the Court, the attorneys wrote: "The (lower) court's rulings cannot stand as a matter of law or policy."

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway May Get Special Zoning Rules

The city of Boston is considering placing new zoning rules in effect specifically for the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, the Boston Globe reports. While a Boston real estate lawyer can explain the specific nuances of zoning laws, in this particular instance it seems pretty clear. The proposed zoning rules would prevent new construction projects from creating a barrier between the Greenway and Boston Harbor. The proposed laws would also aim to prevent casting shadows that many say would transform the area into a place that would be cold and unwelcoming.

While property around the Greenway has started to attract developers, the Boston Redevelopment Authority says that the purpose of the Greenway is a park first. Kairos Shen, chief planner for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said: "The Greenway, first and foremost, is supposed to be a park, and a park that is a resource for the entire city. It also bears the responsibility of connecting the downtown to the harbor, so the Greenway has to be activated to generate life and activity."

Does Virtual Staging Hurt Or Help Home Sales?

We all know that when you are attempting to sell your home, you can hire experts to come in and physically stage your home by rearranging furniture or items and removing any eyesores when prospective home buyers come to see the property. This can be done in order to make the home more appealing. However, the Boston Herald reports that a new type of staging called "virtual staging" may have to come with a warning of "buyers beware." Virtual staging is when you can use software to get rid of things such as cracks, and add imaginary upgrades to the home such as granite countertops.

The problem arises because there is a fine line between imagination and just outright deception. If you are interested in virtual staging for your own home, it may be wise to consult with a Boston real estate lawyer to see exactly what is improving the appearance of your home and what is an outright intentional misrepresentation of it.

Boston Redevelopment Authority Criticizes Landlord Robert Posner

It's been four years since the Downtown Crossing Barnes & Noble closed. As a result, the Boston Herald reports that the Boston Redevelopment Authority is criticizing landlord Robert Posner for failing to lease the space out and letting the building in the shopping district fall into disrepair.

Randi Lathrop, Boston Redevelopment Authority's community planning director, said: "It's very frustrating to have such a prime location stay empty for so long. It's a mystery to us why it continues to be vacant. The only explanation is that the owner is asking way too much rent." The property is currently vacant and there are no prospects to of tenants for the five story building. A Boston real estate attorney can often assess why prospective tenants refuse to lease a space, but in this case it seems like those in the Boston real estate market have their own ideas.

Are You Covered? Four Alarm Fire In Milton Destroys Home

A four alarm fire in Milton destroyed a colonial home located at 392 Adams Street. According to WCVB Boston, it is not yet known what started the fire. Luckily, no one was injured in the fire and the two attorneys who own the home were not home when firefighters arrived.

Typically, homeowners who have their property damaged or destroyed by fires will turn to their insurance for help. A Boston real estate lawyer can go over what a typical homeowner's insurance policy covers and does not cover, but here are some tips on how to deal with an insurance company after a fire in your home:

New Celtics Player Shaquille O'Neal On The Lookout For Homes

We wonder which Boston real estate attorney new Celtics player Shaquille O'Neal will rely on during his quest to find a home in Boston. The Boston Herald reports that the famous basketball player known as "Shaq," is currently on the market for a luxury condo; particularly in the Hub. However, in spite of the many pictures and descriptions about the Downtown Crossing luxury condos, Shaq said no thanks.

The no go on the condos has Boston real estate experts buzzing. One downtown broker guessed that it was the lack of access to restaurants or room service that killed it for Shaq. The condo complex does not have a restaurant or the option for room service. He said: "I suspect the lack of food killed that deal. He's got to eat all day."

Looking to Rent? Longwood Towers Are Offered For Lease

After writing about how tough the rental market in Boston is nowadays, it is nice to write about how Longwood Towers is now switching its plans to sell condos to offering the renovated units for lease. According to the Boston Herald, five years ago, a developer bought the apartment complex for $110 million in order to convert the apartments into condos. However, as the recession has continued on, the developer has decided to put the units up for rent. The units are expected to rent for around $2,700 to $10,000 a month. Edward Zuker, CEO of Chestnut Hill Realty, said that he is waiting for the real estate market to rebound before attempting to sell the units as condos.

Rentals In Boston On The Rise, But Are Harder To Come By

There are more people in Beantown checking the classifieds for rentals; and they are not just college kids. The Boston Herald reports that more and more Boston residents who have lost their homes to foreclosure have turned to rentals in Boston. However, there seem to be fewer rentals in Boston and those rental costs are on the rise because many renters can't afford to be homeowners thanks to stricter lending and a shaky real estate market.

According to the Boston Herald, Reis Inc. has reported that vacancy rates in greater Boston has dropped to 6.2 percent. In the meantime, rental costs have risen for the first time since 2008 by 1.2 percent. Experts have said that this real estate rental market is very unique because such a low vacancy rate commensurate with a strong economy.

Massachusetts Cracks Down On Mortgage Loan Originators

The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts Division of Banks has told 43 licensed mortgage loan originators to cease and desist work because they did not meet the licensing requirements under new state laws. Under the new laws, mortgage loan originators must finish 20 hours of prelicensing education, pass a national and statewide exam, and supply fingerprints for a criminal background check.

That state meant business when it cracked down on the mortgage loan originators who failed to meet the licensing requirements. Steven L. Antonakes, the commissioner of banks, said: "[They] had ample opportunity to meet the revised licensing requirements." As a result, a list of mortgage loan originators who failed to meet the licensing requirements was released by state officials.

Downtown Crossing Landlords Wary Of BID Tax

The Boston Herald reports that in spite of initial support for a campaign that would require landlords in the Downtown Crossing district to pay more taxes, some of the landlords are now hesitant. The proposed tax, called BID Tax, which is also known as the Business Improvement District tax, was approved by the Boston City Council last week. If you have more questions about this tax, it may be smart to talk with a Boston real estate lawyer.

The BID tax will be used to raise approximately more than $4 million. There are close to 480 property owners who signed a support petition for the BID tax. The BID tax money would be used to pay for street cleaning teams, uniformed ambassadors, and marketing the shopping district. Landlords have the ability to opt out of the tax by letting the City Clerk know.

Mixed Use Project Planned For The Fenway

The Boston Globe reports that Boston real estate developer Samuels & Associates has filed a letter of intent with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) to build two mixed use buildings in the Fenway. The current occupants of the space include a parking lot, a Goodyear tire store, and a temporary food market.

The first building proposed would boast 170 apartment units and retail space on the first floor while the second building would have 150 apartment units, 200,000 square feet of retail space as well as 225,000 square feet of office space. There are also plans to build 500 parking spaces underground. The developer hopes that the proposed plan will transform the Fenway into a shopping area that is similar to Newbury Street. 

A Possible Public Nuisance In Lynn Over Smelly Dairy

The residents of Lynn say there is something in the air; and it sure isn't love. Lynn residents are upset over a stench that has filled their community air for the summer because of a dairy factory. Rocco DiFillipo, owner of the Brickyard Bar and Grill on Blossom Street said that the smell is causing patrons to opt for indoor seating: "It's like rotten milk, and it's strong enough to make people go back inside. It's been bad."

Garelick Farms Creamery has been emitting the smell of "sewage and sour milk" thanks to the death of microbes that the creamery uses to break down waste before the waste is sent to the city's sewer treatment facility. Luckily, the creamery has sent for a new batch of microbes from a Budweiser plant in New Hampshire. In the meantime, the creamery has issued an apology to Lynn residents over the smell. A spokesman said: "We are working with local officials to take necessary steps to correct the situation."

The Home Appraisal Process: What You Need To Know

Massachusetts homeowners should know that the home appraisal process is an important one; if you ask a Boston real estate lawyer. In Boston, an appraisal is known as an unbiased estimate of the nature, quality, value and utility of the interest in an identified piece of real estate. An appraisal helps to establish the market value of a piece of real estate.

Some things every homeowner should know:

  • Appraisers are licensed by state. This means that they must complete course loads and internship hours.
  • The appraiser should be an independent third party to a home sale.
  • The buyer typically pays for the appraisal when he/she applies for a loan

There are a variety of different ways that appraisals are made:

Massachusetts Foreclosures Rise Indicates Problems

NPR reports that the recession is not going anywhere if you look at the foreclosures rise in many states; including the Bay State. Massachusetts was not hit hard early on in the recession, but it seems that the housing bubble collapse is making itself felt now. Real estate attorney Paul Collier based in Cambridge told NPR, "The financial conditions that created this meltdown and the legal conditions that created this meltdown are still there." In fact, he said that he is far more busier now than ever helping Massachusetts homeowners facing foreclosures. We are certain that there is many a Boston real estate lawyer who can say the same thing.

Broken Appliances And Landlord Repairs

There was a recent question posed by a tenant to the Boston Globe's Robert Griswold about what to do about broken appliances and landlord repairs. The tenant was confused as to whether he or she is responsible for replacing a broken fridge or whether the landlord is responsible for making repairs. What was the answer? The answer it depends.

While each situation is a unique one best discussed with a Boston real estate lawyer, there are a few things to consider:

  • Did you write out all the different types of repair that are expected of your landlord in your lease?
  • Does the repair stem from a breach of the warranty of habitability?

New Massachusetts Foreclosure Law Protects Homeowners

We all know that the fear of foreclosure has gripped many residents of the Bay state. But did you know that a new Massachusetts foreclosure law was just passed this week? Boston.com reprinted a statement from the Office of State Senator Patricia Jehlen that weighs in on the new foreclosure protection law. We are certain that many a Boston real estate lawyers are brushing up on their foreclosure knowledge this week.

The new law aims to protect not only distressed homeowners, but tenants from being evicted from foreclosed properties. Tenants can only be evicted from properties for just cause. Also, a tenant can not be evicted for nonpayment of rent unless there was written notice with the proper contact information given to the tenant. The contact information must be posted and delivered. This is a major protection for tenants. We have written about what a tenant can do if he or she has to face a foreclosure eviction in this blog before.

David Lahr and Miriam Lahr Fight To Save Home From Foreclosure

The Boston Herald writes of how David Lahr and his wife Miriam Lahr of Everett were living the American dream when they purchased their home back in 2000. Despite the fact that the home that they purchased had no electricity and simple plumbing, with their own sweat equity, they were able to renovate the house into a beautiful home. The problem is that they are now in danger of foreclosing on the home.  

While the Brazilian immigrant family is in danger of foreclosure, they are part of a group of Americans who may qualify for the federal Home Affordable Modification Program. The program is for homeowners who can no longer afford to make monthly loan payments. If you have specific questions about foreclosure, it may be best to meet with a Boston real estate lawyer, but here are some questions to ask yourself if you fear that your home may be foreclosed:

Landlords and Tenant Pets: Read That Lease

The Foster's Daily Journal reports that a Somersworth tenant by the name of Ellen Gibbs-LeJeune is up in arms because her landlord won't let her adopt another dog. Ms. Gibbs-LeJeune is a Parkview Terrace resident who is 80 years old. When she asked her landlord if she could adopt a dog, her landlord said that since she left "several pet stains" on the carpet of a unit she rented in the same complex before she moved to her new unit.

The Parkview Terrace property manager said: "She and (the landlord) had words when she moved. He had to replace the carpeting. That's the reason for the denial."