Title 5, repairs and selling your home

So you are selling your home, and you are discussing with your realtor what the listing price will be. Be sure to discuss your bottom line and what your position is on repairs which may be requested by the Buyer as a result of their inspection, and especially any costs associated with repair or replacement of your septic system. Buyers frequently come back to the Seller after their inspector has gone through the house and ask that certain repairs be made by Sellers before closing. Think about how much you might be willing to spend to keep the deal at that price. Be realistic about the condition of your home and whether it complies with current codes. Beyond that, often the biggest item affecting sale and price is the condition of your septic system. If the system fails inspection and a new system needs to be installed, the cost can be significant and put a big dent in the funds you thought you would be walking away with. Your listing price should take into consideration who will be paying for repairs, particularly septic repair or replacement or whether the property is being sold “as is”.

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Work proceeds on Broadband

News from the Berkshire Eagle February, 2017:

Mount Washington

STATUS: The town is proceeding on schedule to build a fiber-to-the-home municipally owned network. Late in 2016, NextGen Telecom Services Group began to put underground wires in conduits for the network. The company will finish that work in the spring. National Grid and Verizon have given the town bills for expected makeready work on poles. Verizon expects to finish that work in May. CURRENT INTERNET OPTIONS: Satellite (Hughes Net or Exede), fixed wireless ( WiSpring)CONSTRUCTION ALLOCATION: $230,000POPULATION: 167 WHAT BORROWING APPROVED, IF ANY:

Up to $450,000

QUOTE: “My only goal was to keep the budget down and not spend unnecessarily,” said Gail Garrett, selectwoman and town clerk.

CLOSER LOOK: Mount Washington is building a broadband network to call its own — and not a moment too soon.

“We have no bodies. I can’t emphasize that enough,” said Garrett. “Realtors are telling me that if they tell somebody they don’t have high-speed internet in a home, they’re not buying it.”

NextGen has up to three months to complete the system after National Grid and Verizon finish make-ready on the poles to accommodate the network. The town will manage the network through the Select Board. The town will utilize MBI construction grant funding and its own borrowing — up to $450,000 — to pay for the network, which will only extend toward those homes that have opted into the network, although the network could be expanded to accommodate new users in the future. Garrett anticipates the town will need to borrow only about $270,000.

Garrett set the monthly price for both internet and phone service — $119.95, based on the funds needed to maintain the system. Garrett said she hopes the network will be up and running in May.

“It was years and years of dial-up and this and that,” she said.

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A review from a client, despite Yelp’s opinion

I hate having to market myself, but I know I have to make people aware that I am here, what I do, how well I do it and how reasonable my rates are.  I also have to combat  my nature as an introvert.  I asked a client recently to write a review of my service on Yelp.  Well, that apparently isn’t as easy as it sounds.  My client appeared to be on Yelp, that is why I asked.  He wrote a review, but it didn’t appear on my profile.  I thanked him for his effort.  Frustration caused him to give it another try.  He thought he needed a Yelp account to post a review, so he set one up.  He posted again.  Still no review on my profile.  Well, after some research, apparently Yelp didn’t feel my client’s recent experience using my service should be used.  Apparently their program weeded it out.  Well, the effort was a waste for the most part, which is unfortunate.  My client wasted his time, his opinion was ignored; I was denied evidence of my reliability and efficiency, and probably because my client isn’t one of those people out there constantly posting and building his own Yelp page.

Well, it wasn’t good enough for Yelp, but I reproduce it here for anyone wanting an opinion from another person using my service:

“We recently chose to sell our vacation house near Great Barrington and were referred to Ms. Garrett to serve as our lawyer throughout the process. I can only say that she made this both as easy and profitable as we could have imagined. She named a most reasonable fee at the outset and despite the many unanticipated hitches that inevitably arise in such a transaction, she never complained or asked for more money. Also, a frequent complaint about lawyers is that they never are available or accessible, but Ms. Garrett was always quick to respond–by e-mail or phone–to all our queries and concerns. She even forwarded any relevant e-mails between herself and the buyers and their lawyer so that we always knew what was going on. So yes, we can most heartily and sincerely recommend Gail Garrett as a lawyer.”

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Efficient real estate legal services

It is great to be appreciated for good work….here is a recent comment from a client:

Gail, You have been terrific, thanks very much. Tim mentioned you run the most efficient and friction-free real estate legal services in the area, and we believe it!

My only regret is that due to distances and efficiency we didn’t get to say hello in person for old times’ sake.

Have a wonderful holiday!

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Mount Washington Broadband

When Town budgets are soaring, taxes rising, locals moving out…it is a great sense of accomplishment to try to beat back unnecessary spending in Town.  I spent many many hours working on the Town Broadband project.   Hope things move forward and work as planned.  This is my podcast on the subject:

https://muninetworks.org/content/tiny-mt-washington-builds-fiber-home-community-broadband-bits-podcast-212

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High Speed Internet coming to Mt. Washington MA

Sometimes you need to toot your own horn. I am so so proud of the work I have done for the last two years on the Town of Mt. Washington Broadband plan. Most recently, I spent hours and hours on all the bid documents, advertising and bidding process, including touring contractors and responding to questions. I wrote the Town’s Broadband Plan and worked long and hard to beat back the cost and insure that the plan is as financially viable as possible.

What started as a 1.2 million dollar cost has been substantially reduced and shouldn’t exceed $700,000. I eliminated areas where service was not needed-i.e. where there were no “takers”, saving on costs of construction and annual pole application and rental fees and maintenance. I eliminated all homes that were not willing to pay for service at the going rate year round. Approximately 60 homes did not want service and/or were not willing to pay for service year round at the going rate. The Town would have paid for installations and maintenance for nothing for uncertain periods. There are homes in Town that are merely weekend retreats and summer escapes There are hunting cabins, unused buildings, a church, an abandoned school house all of which did not need service and where installation would be a waste. There were people who just don’t want or need internet. All these buildings were eliminated from the broadband plans, saving substantially. Also eliminated was a two mile stretch for only one subscriber and where the cost of installation would have been extraordinary (almost $100,000).

From day one, I was concerned about the budget and did not believe the Town would vote for a 1.2 million dollar cost. I did not want to see the Town spend unnecessarily and wanted to make sure the project was viable so that later we would not suffer increased taxes. I knew broadband would be built, I too want it, but I wanted to make sure we did not spend unnecessarily.

Part of insuring the plan is viable was making sure we had committed subscribers at the right price and for as long as possible. I advocated for deposits and agreements to pay for service. This had to be tempered so as not to discourage subscribers as subscribers are essential to carry the cost of the system.

Thanks to narrowing our scope, reducing costs, obtaining funds from subscribers, obtaining agreements of subscribers, putting a construction agreement in place with a reputable contractor and putting together our Plan, the Town received a grant from the State for $230,000 to assist in the construction and we are on our way to constructing high speed internet in Mt. Washington.

Work has begun with pole agreements and applications to National Grid and Verizon for approval to use their poles for the wiring, to determine what, if any, upgrades will be required to do so and at what cost.

Hope all goes as planned!

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Estate Planning

There is nothing like the death of your last parent to bring out underlying family hostilities and to magnify them. If your family has any dysfunction, rest assured, when that parent dies it will hit the fan. Don’t let that happen. Be sure to make a list of personal property you own and how you want it distributed, especially sentimental items that can mean so much to your children and about which they will be particularly sensitive. Better yet, if it is something you don’t need or want anymore, give it to loved ones while alive. There is great joy in giving a treasured item and knowing one of your possessions will be treasured by your loved one when you are gone. Make it easy on your loved ones. Prepare for your death. Write your own obituary. Leave written instructions as to what you want in the way of notice and burial or cremation and what type of funeral or service you want. Be sure you have a Will and you understand exactly what will happen upon your death. You should review each and every asset you have and know exactly what will happen to that asset upon your death. Make sure you know who the beneficiaries are on all accounts. Be sure you consider what passes outside the Will and its impact on what is left by way of the Will. For some cases, the Will is just a back up plan and everything can pass automatically. Think long and hard about who you put in the position of winding up your affairs and the impact that will have on others. Communicate with all involved so that they know what should occur, and distribute all documents to those involved so that everyone is aware of what should happen. Lack of disclosure creates unease and uncertainty and leads to anxiety and distrust. Don’t leave your children with uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to discuss what happens upon your death. The last gift you can give your children is a smooth, easy settlement of your estate so that if there is a possibility of fostering a better relationship among your children in the future, your death will not contribute to further unrest. My mother, prior to her death, distributed certain special treasures she knew that each child wanted and would appreciate. I look at those items now and think of my mother. My mother also listed each of her children on her major asset, her stock account, and upon her death each child received his/her equal share, immediately, without issue and without having to wait for any estate process. Many accounts today can simply be transferred automatically upon death. Don’t postpone your arrangements. Your children and heirs will thank you long after you are gone.

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Buying a home or land? Beware

Buyer Beware

Buying a home or land? Be sure to look at the deed to the property. Are there any rights or easements recited in the deed? Be sure you know whether the property is subject to any easements or rights of way. How does the deed describe the boundaries? Can you find the boundaries? Do you see anything within the boundaries that is being used by someone else?

A woman purchased a home some time ago and there was a dirt road next to the home. She didn’t look into that, and over the years her neighbors have now paved the road, widened the road and increasingly disturbed her.  The neighbors blow leaves, stones and dirt toward her home from the road. She wishes she hadn’t bought the home and hopes to one day sell it.

When she purchased the home, she and her attorney should have thoroughly explored the rights of her neighbors and the impact it would have on her quality of life. Unfortunately, that was not thoroughly explored and discussed.

I have gone to closings and heard attorneys, for the first time, mention to the Buyer the rights or restrictions expressed in the deed as if an afterthought. To discuss those things at the closing is too late!

When a Buyer informs me they are purchasing a property, the first thing I do is look at the deed and give them a copy. If it has any rights or restrictions in it, they need to be explored and understood right away.

Buyers would be wise to read the deed to the property, review their boundaries and be familiar with their boundaries and any rights of third parties. This should be done within the inspection period provided in the Purchase and Sale Agreement.

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Selling your home in Berkshire County, MA

Selling your home?

Here are some things to consider when you review the Purchase and Sale Agreement your realtor gives you.

1. Make sure the realtor lists the correct owner and property address. Surprisingly, mistakes continue to be made which require unnecessary amendment and clarification. For example, if the property is in the name of a Trust, be sure the correct Trustees are named.

2. Be sure the price is what you agreed upon and at least 5% of the purchase price is being paid as a deposit.

3. Make sure the closing date gives ample time for the contingency periods listed, otherwise extensions need to be obtained unnecessarily. Keep track of the dates that the Buyer has to perform their inspection and other contingencies. Buyers are usually given 14 to 21 days for inspection and 45 days for their mortgage financing. If the Buyers insert anything but ordinary financing arrangements, you should look into their ability to finance the transaction.

4. Make sure you understand what will happen if your septic does not pass Title 5. Repairing a failed septic is costly and takes time.  Hopefully, you have already done a Title 5, but if not, you should have it done as soon as possible.  It is the Seller’s obligation by law to provide a Title 5 report.

5. If you have tenants, be sure you can deliver the premises free of those tenants, if required. If tenants do not vacate voluntarily, you may need additional time to get them out, and that should be in the agreement you sign.

6. Make sure you understand whether you are obligated to provide a new survey or not. A survey is costly and takes time. Unless this is a new lot, a survey is generally not required.

7. Be sure you have listed, specifically, any items (fixtures) which are attached to, or installed in, the home or land that you plan to remove from the property and which are not included in the sale. It is presumed appliances go with the house, but it is best to specify if they are included or not.  If you have a wood stove, be sure you can provide a wood stove permit to the Buyer.

8. You should advise your attorney of any outstanding loans on the property and provide your attorney with the loan number and a written authorization to obtain a payoff of the loan for closing. You should advise your attorney who provides fuel to the home and provide your attorney with your tax bills and special assessments.

9. Be sure an adequate number (often 5% of the purchase price) is inserted in the agreement in the event of a Buyer default. If your home is off the market during peak sale season, it can set you back significantly if a Buyer defaults in their purchase. This sum will compensate you for the lost time and opportunities.

10. If there are any other terms or special conditions relative to your sale, such as repairs you have promised to make, they must be set forth clearly, but simply in the agreement.

11. Be sure to have your attorney review your Purchase and Sale Agreement before you return it to the Buyers.

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What Does a Massachusetts Real Estate Attorney Do?

In Massachusetts, attorneys play a large role in real estate transactions. I’m proud to have helped many home buyers and  sellers in Berkshire County MA cut through the frustration and confusion to complete their transactions. Under Massachusetts’s state law it is now a requirement to have an attorney preside in real estate closings. However even without such requirements it is advisable for the protection of all parties to have an attorney manage the closing process.

So what precisely does an attorney do besides carrying out the closing? Rather a lot now that you ask.

The attorney managing the closing takes on a number of time intensive activities. It’s worth knowing when you are finalizing your mortgage that you may request a closing attorney of your choice. The law was changed in 2010 to incentivize lenders to permit borrowers to choose from a number of attorneys or a personal lawyer they are familiar with. Exercising this options will potentially save you hundreds in legal fees as you can use the same lawyer to negotiate and review the purchase and sale agreement.

The process begins with intake and dealing with all inspection issues.  The attorney then performs a title examination. Once a title order has been issued by the mortgage lender the closing attorney will request a municipal lien certificate to ensure everything is in order with the properties taxes. The attorney will also seek insurance binders and documents on payoffs of prior mortgages.

The attorney is legally responsible to perform a proper examination of the property title. The title should be investigated at least 50 years into the past. If problems are discovered, the attorney will work with all concerned in order to find a solution. Defects with a title can lead to very unfortunate wrangling so the importance of this step to peace of mind cannot be underestimated. Under Massacusetts law the attorney conducting the closing must provide a certification of title to the buyers.

Title insurance is also a step a good closing attorney can help organize for the buyer and lender. Title insurance policies are a necessity with financing. Title insurance protects the owner’s and lender’s interest in the property, much like homeowner’s insurance. I act as agent for Old Republic Title Insurance in issuing title policies to banks and buyers.

When the time for closing comes around the attorney will help parties gather, prepare and deliver the multitude of documents needed to cross every t and dot every i. This can range from something as important as the HUD-1 Settlement Statement to minutia like smoke and carbon monoxide detector certificates.

Issues that the closing attorney is responsible for can include:

– The payoff and discharge of mortgages

– Transfer taxes and fees

– Funding of mortgage escrow account

-Pre-paid interest payments

– proper disclosure and payment of closing costs and lender fees

– The allocation of taxes on real estate and utilities

– Distribution of proceeds from the sale

– Title V Septic certification and condominium 6(d)certification

– The payment of commissions to realtor

A good attorney will ensure that all parties understand the great many documents involved. They will see that all funds are properly distributed and finalize the closing.

It’s a process I’ve helped conduct for many satisfied clients in Mt. Washington, Sheffield, Great Barrington, Alford, Egremont, Monterey, Becket, Otis, Lenox, Pittsfield and New Marlborough.

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