To Buy or Not to Buy?

To buy or not to buy… that is the real question for Millenials trying to figure out their next step in life.  While renting is traditionally the next step after moving out of your parents’ house, is it truly the better option in the longstanding debate of renting vs buying?

There’s a bit of truth in all sayings–including the fact that it’s better to buy.  Buying a house is an investment in your future, and for most people, it is the biggest asset of their lifetime.  It’s an incentive to save every month. There’s the added benefit that mortgage interest payments are tax deductible. Plus, owning a house can also end up having a big impact on your retirement plans. Everyone’s financial situation is different, but…when you pay rent, you are paying someone else’s mortgage or retirement. No equity, no gain, no write off. When you buy, you are putting money into your future. So, isn’t it best to start that investment early? Kind of like maximizing the investment into your 401K right off the bat. Well, yes…and no…

There’s much more to buying a house than just the monthly mortgage:  there’s a down payment, property insurance, property tax, and maintenance costs. Juggling all these expenses can be extremely difficult for someone at the start of their career. Not to mention most millennials are facing crippling amounts of student loan debt and a high cost of living. According to Housingwire, 52% of millennial non-homeowners who wish they owned a home said their income wasn’t enough.

Another big factor that plays into your decision is what you want out of life right now. Are you looking for stability or flexibility? Where do you see yourself in five years? Millennials have become a bit synonymous with the “wanderlust” lifestyle, choosing to spend their money on trips and experiences over material goods. In fact, according to a 2019 Millennial Survey,  when asked to indicate their ambitions, participants prioritized travel over settling down with 57% of participants saying they want to see the world, 49% looking towards buying homes, and only 39% interested in starting families. This need for flexibility and change transpires beyond their personal life and into their professional lives with 49% of participants saying they would quit their current job in the next two years if they had the choice. Even with a proper income and financial order, this need for flexibility better suits the lifestyle of a renter, and some early buyers find themselves regretting it. Other millennials are pushing these big life milestones to later in life.

When talking to my older friends about renting an apartment or buying a home, the advice they always give is to live with your parents as long as they’ll let you in order to save up as much money as you can. My friends that started renting straight out of college share how hard they have found it to accumulate any kind of savings with their monthly expenses and starter salaries. Both paths though have led to the same trend: buying later and buying bigger. According to USA Today, after having to rent or live with their parents for years, Millennials are mapping out a new path to homeownership by skipping the starter home and going straight for larger houses that they can see as their forever home.

Although many factors and trends lean in favor of putting off buying, there are numerous success stories of buying early on, Including my own. I closed on my first house when I was 21. I couldn’t quite afford it making less than Minimum wage at the time, so I decided on a multifamily, bought a ton of books on landlord and tenant rights, got a roommate and now, 10 years later, my investment has doubled.

So which option wins in the debate of renting vs buying? Perhaps there isn’t one clear-cut answer. However, there is one constant in every equation—you. If you’re currently struggling on figuring out what would be best for you specifically, my advice is to go straight to the experts. Whether to rent or buy is different for each situation. Some people really should rent. Some could buy. It depends so much on so many specific factors and as agents, it’s our job to realize who is in the position to buy a house or not.

If you’re looking to take that next step in your life, but not quite sure what path to choose, Let’s have a conversation.

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winter survival tips

It’s finally here!

The first snowflakes of 2019 have fallen! If you haven’t seen the news all week it’s going to get cold. If you’re not prepared the cold can cause problems as a home owner. So here’s a few tips to make this winter a little easier.

Slippery walkways. Ice and snow buildup can make walkways slippery, creating an obvious danger for you and others. Be diligent about keeping all walkways near your home clear so everyone is safe. As a homeowner, you are liable for the sidewalks as well as the walkways. If someone slips and falls on your property because you didn’t properly maintain them it is also your responsibility if they get hurt.

In my most recent experience, even when you think you can make it to your car because the ice “isn’t that bad” use the salt anyway. If your curious to see the video of me falling in the driveway feel free to reach out.

Clogged gutters and downspouts. This is a fall maintenance must, but you can clean out your gutters as long as its safe to do so.

Once snow and ice begin to pile up, any debris in gutters and downspouts will make it harder for water to properly drain from your roof. If there is too much weight in those drains they could pull away from the facade.

Ice damming. Your roof is even more at risk if snow accumulates and allows for ice damming. Snow melts and runs down underneath the snow until it hits the bottom of the roof, where it hits cold air, and that water actually freezes and starts to build up so that there’s a large dam of ice at the bottom of the roof line. Water could then go under the shingles and inside the house, leading to leaks and water damage. Buying a snow roof rake – often less than $50 – allows you to safely clear snow from the end of the roof line at ground level.

Loose or missing shingles. Another potential cause of roof leaks are damaged shingles, which can often be spotted simply by surveying your roof before heavy snows. If any shingles appear broken or loose, call a roofing expert to take a closer look and make repairs.

Freezing faucets. As you prepare for the season’s heavier snows, remove hoses from exterior faucets to clear out remaining water. Since water expands as it freezes, any left inside a hose can easily burst it – not to mention the pipe it’s attached to. You can lower the risk of the faucet freezing by activating the shutoff valve for the outdoor faucet, then letting any residual water in the faucet run out.

Freezing pipes. Just like your exterior faucet, your home’s plumbing can cause major problems if pipes freeze. Never turn your heater down below 55 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, and consider insulating exposed pipes along exterior walls that may be at risk of freezing. If you are going to leave your house for an extended period, like a week long family vacation, you can leave a faucet slightly open on the main level – just enough for a slow drip. That way, in the event of freezing pipes, water has somewhere to go rather than building pressure and causing damage.

Faulty heating system. Home improvement experts recommend testing your heater before the first cold day of the year. Even if that’s come and gone, it never hurts to call in a pro for routine servicing that may prevent a breakdown when you really need heat. There’s nothing worse than having your heater go out.

Problematic exhaust vents. A key part of an effective heating system is the exhaust vents that let harmful gases like carbon monoxide out while keeping cold air from getting in.

Before winter storms or frigid temperatures make your heater work a little harder, walk the exterior of your house to ensure those exhaust vents, often located a couple feet above the foundation on a side or back exterior wall, are doing their job. Once the snow falls, make sure to keep those vents from becoming covered by the snow.

10 Tips on How to Sell Your House in 2019

While interest rates rose slightly and home price increases slowed toward the end of last year, home prices are still widely on the rise in most markets. Overall, the housing market is stable and presents favorable conditions for sellers. If you haven’t sold a house before, you may not realize how much goes into selling a house. For example, you will need to determine the actual market value of your house, clean it, determine appropriate disclosures, host open houses and showings, find a buyer, negotiate the price, get it appraised and inspected and close the deal. There is a lot that goes into selling a house so here are some tips on how to sell your house.

1. Find a Real Estate Agent

The first step to selling a house is to get a real estate agent. Some people think, “I can sell my house without a real estate agent.” Some do. But the process of selling a house is extremely complex. Selling a house requires a lot of detailed knowledge about the market, understanding how to find interested buyers, skilled negotiation tactics and detail management of all the appropriate legal paperwork to complete the sale successfully. We take a ton of stress out of selling your house and make sure every part of the process is done correctly.

2. Determine Your Home Value

The next step in the home selling process is to figure out how much your home is worth. Your real estate specialist will put together a comparative market analysis. The analysis generally looks at the quality of your neighborhood; the age, condition and any upgrades made to your house; the overall property value; and the average price of similar homes recently sold in the area. All of this information will help your real estate specialist determine the best pricing strategy to sell your house.

3. Make Necessary Repairs and Updates

A home buyer is looking for a NEW home. That means the more you can make your house LOOK new versus lived in will help entice potential home buyers to make an offer. Updating small items that are low cost and take minimal time to replace is a great strategy to improve the overall appeal and value of your home.

Lighting:

Update ceiling light fixtures, or clean your current light fixtures. Check to make sure all of your light switches and lights work, and replace any burned out bulbs. Some of the rooms in your house may be darker than others and could benefit from a small lamp to lighten it up. Just make sure it fits the room.

Floors:

Repair or replace portions your floors that are chipped, scratched, torn up or stained. If the floors need to be re-finished or re-carpeted, now is the time to do it.

Faucets:

Old, hard water corroded or stained faucet and sink hardware can be an eyesore. Updating your sink hardware and other bathroom accessories like towel holders, toilet paper or paper towel dispensers, shower rods, curtains, or shower doors can dramatically improve the overall appearance of your bathrooms and kitchen.

Tile and Grout:

Tile often becomes water stained or cracked over time. Grout and caulk will also stain, crack or fall out. These items should be replaced, re-finished or at a minimum cleaned to help your tub, shower or backsplash look good as new.

Paint:

Many real estate experts claim painting walls and permanent fixtures with a fresh coat of neutral color can help enhance your home and potentially appeal to a larger number of home buyers. Some items to think about are walls, cupboards, kitchen island, or exterior door.

Minor Repairs:

Fix and repair water damage spots inside your home from a roof leak, or stains on the wall from a window or wall leak. Repair all of the nail holes in walls or trim. Repair or replace cracked windows or torn screens. Make sure the garage door opens easily

Cupboards, Closets, Doors and Drawers:

The hardware on these items can become outdated, discolored or damaged over time. Updating, repairing or cleaning these items will improve the eye appeal and functionality.

Outdoors:

Repair or update any damaged landscaping. Pull dead plants, leaves and weeds out cracks in rocks, pavers or concrete. Trim trees, bushes and shrubs. Level or top-off landscaping rock or mulch. Re-seed dead or thin patches of your lawn and keep the grass cut while your house is on the market.

4. Get Your Home Ready to Sell

As clean and organized as your home may be, you will want to make sure your home is as tidy as possible to attract the highest offers. This means doing a deep clean from top to bottom. Getting your home ready to sell also means staging your home so it appeals to the most buyers.

Your real estate specialist will also implement a marketing strategy for your home. It may include professional photography, ad campaigns, open house events and showings. Bottom line, when it comes to selling your house, it’s all about attracting the attention of potential home buyers and getting them to fall in love with your house.

5. Prepare Your Seller’s Disclosure Statement

A seller’s disclosure statement is a legally required document in which you disclose any issues with your home, past or present. This could be anything from a leaky basement to an addition built without a permit. Although the general idea is to protect buyers from buying a property on the verge of collapse, it can also protect you as the seller too. By disclosing known issues, you can save yourself from potential legal action in the future. If you’re not sure whether to include something on the seller’s disclosure statement, consult with your real estate specialist and they will inform you if it’s something typically included.

6. Get Ready for Open Houses and Showings

Once your home looks its best and you have your disclosure statement ready, it’s time to open your home to potential buyers. Your real estate specialist will take the reins on this one. Hosting open houses and showings can be a long and tedious process. You do not want to put your life on hold just because you’re selling your house. Your real estate specialist can show your home while you handle everything else in your life.

7. Approach Purchase Offers and Negotiations Carefully

When offers start to come in is when it gets exciting. Pay attention to how much they’re offering, the type of mortgage, their contingencies, personal letter and any other factors included in their offer. Your real estate agent can help you sort through the offers to determine which, if any, are solid offers.

If an offer is worth considering, your real estate specialist will handle the negotiations. This can take some back and forth. Always remember, you’re trying to get the highest price for your house, and the buyer is trying to the lowest price for your house. In the end, both parties will need to meet somewhere in the middle. Going through the purchase offers and the negotiations with your experienced real estate specialist will yield the best offer possible for you and your family.

8. Hire an Attorney

Accepting an offer is a huge step when selling your house. Celebrate the victory, but there is still plenty to do before completing the sale. Before closing day, you will need to hire an attorney. The Attorney will make sure there are no outstanding issues with the property, essentially clearing the way for the sale to be completed.

9. Home Appraisal and Home Inspection

Before you can close on the sale, you’ll likely have to get your home appraised and inspected. The appraisal process involves an appraisal specialist doing a home walkthrough and other analysis to determine the appraised value of your home. This is important because most banks won’t issue a mortgage for more than a home’s appraised value. Best practice is to hire your own appraiser because you will not be entitled to the report if the home buyer pays for it.

During the home inspection, the buyer and a professional inspector will evaluate your home. Home inspectors will look at your home’s basic structural components, HVAC system, electrical work, foundation, basement, roof, attic, floors, windows and doors. Make it easy for the inspector to access all parts of your house. Also, consider hiring your own inspector to look for issues before you put your house on the market to avoid any unforeseen issues during the selling process. Big issues that surface following a home inspection can often delay the sale or cause the buyer to back out entirely.

10. Get Ready for Closing Day

Closing day is when you’ll finally hand over the keys and the sale becomes official. Most parties — including agents, lenders, Attorneys, buyers and others — will be in attendance. Be prepared to sign a lot of paperwork. If you have to pay any closing costs, you’ll likely need a cashier’s or certified check. Your real estate specialist will guide you through what to expect before the day actually arrives. Once all the paperwork is signed, and the keys are given to the buyer, your home is officially sold. You can say goodbye to your old home and hello to your next adventure.

Title V

About 1/3rd of all homes in Massachusetts are dependent upon septic systems, rather than municipal sewer. These include some of the toniest Metrowest suburbs from Wayland, Sudbury, Weston, and Hopkinton all the way down the Cape.

While the month of April brings the start of the busy spring real estate market, it also brings thawing of the permafrost, snow and lots of rain — conditions which can wreak havoc with older septic systems and their leaching fields. Most buyers and their Realtors recoil at the words “Title V” and “fail” and for good reason. The cost to replace a failed septic system can be exorbitant, running upwards of $50,000 in some cases.

Massachusetts septic systems, also called subsurface sewage disposal systems, are governed by Title V or Title 5 of the Massachusetts Environmental Code administered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). These complex regulations govern the inspection, design, construction and operation of septic systems. The rules affect as many as 650,000 Massachusetts homeowners with septic systems.

My home has a septic system. Do I need to have it inspected before I sell?

If you are selling your home, you cannot close without a passing Title V inspection of your septic system, completed by an inspector who is licensed by the state and your town. A Title V Inspection is good for 2 years. However, the inspection will be valid for 3 years if you have documented septic pumping service each year on or before the anniversary date of your septic system inspection. A list of licensed inspectors is available at your local Board of Health office.
 

The inspector will determine whether your system “passes,” “fails” or “conditionally passes” (i.e., requires repairs)

What is a conditional pass?

A conditional pass means that your system will pass if a certain condition is met. A repair or replacement of the distribution box is the most common condition that needs to be met. The inspector would write up his official Title V report with the conditional pass notes outlining the needed replacement of the distribution box. Once the repair is done, your Board of Health will issue a Certificate of Compliance which will be accepted as a passing Title V at closing.

My septic system failed. What do I do now?

If the inspection fails, your septic system must be repaired or replaced. If ownership of the house is not being changed, the homeowner may have up to two years to complete the repair. However, if the Health Agent deems the failure to be a health hazard, the homeowner can be required to begin the process of repairing it immediately.

Failed septic systems can be handled in a real estate sales transaction in two ways. First, the seller can undertake the work and complete it prior to closing, with a full sign off from the Board of Health. This is often the preferable course for all parties and the lender. Alternatively, the parties can agree to an escrow holdback to cover the cost of the septic repair plus a contingency reserve, and the work is undertaken after the closing. Some lenders don’t allow septic holdbacks, however.

What are the steps and permitting fees to install a new septic system?

The first step in beginning a septic repair is to hire an engineer to evaluate your land and to design a system that would be appropriate for your property. Once the engineer is hired, a percolation or “perc” test is scheduled. The perc test measures the rate at which water is absorbed into the ground and determines whether the soil is suitable for a septic system. Based on the results of the perc test, the size of your lot, and the number of bedrooms in your home, the engineer designs a septic system to serve the property. Once the plans have been drawn, four copies of the plans, two copies of the soil analysis, and a check for $175.00 must be submitted to the Board of Health office. The BOH has 45 days to review the plans and to either approve or reject them. If the plans are approved, the plans can be picked up and the installation of the system can begin. If the plans are rejected, the plans must be revised and an additional fee of $75.00 is charged to have them reviewed again. If the designed system requires state variances (done by the Department of Environmental Protection), an additional 90 days must be allotted for the review process.

When the job is completed is there any form of certification that it has been done and that it meets Title V standards?

At the completion of the job, (that is, when all work has been done according to the plans; when the engineer has submitted an “as-built” plan as to where the system was installed; and when the installer has submitted a certification statement), the Health Agent signs a Certificate of Compliance, (COC), which is issued to the installer. Upon payment for the work, the installer gives the COC to the homeowner.

What are the steps and permitting fees to install a new septic system?

The first step in beginning a septic repair is to hire an engineer to evaluate your land and to design a system that would be appropriate for your property. Once the engineer is hired, a percolation or “perc” test is scheduled. The perc test measures the rate at which water is absorbed into the ground and determines whether the soil is suitable for a septic system. Based on the results of the perc test, the size of your lot, and the number of bedrooms in your home, the engineer designs a septic system to serve the property. Once the plans have been drawn, four copies of the plans, two copies of the soil analysis, and a check for $175.00 must be submitted to the Board of Health office. The BOH has 45 days to review the plans and to either approve or reject them. If the plans are approved, the plans can be picked up and the installation of the system can begin. If the plans are rejected, the plans must be revised and an additional fee of $75.00 is charged to have them reviewed again. If the designed system requires state variances (done by the Department of Environmental Protection), an additional 90 days must be allotted for the review process.

When the job is completed is there any form of certification that it has been done and that it meets Title V standards?

At the completion of the job, (that is, when all work has been done according to the plans; when the engineer has submitted an “as-built” plan as to where the system was installed; and when the installer has submitted a certification statement), the Health Agent signs a Certificate of Compliance, (COC), which is issued to the installer. Upon payment for the work, the installer gives the COC to the homeowner.

How long does the process for repairing a septic system take, from beginning to end?

A homeowner should allow approximately 3 to 4 months for the installation of a septic system. The length of time can vary from system to system. There are a number of variables involved. The availability of the Health Agent to witness a “perc “ test is one. Because of the amount of work that has to be completed, engineers and installers are often busy for months in advance. In addition, if the designed system requires either local or state variances, time must be allotted for public / variance hearings. A system that is installed in less than 2 months (from start to finish) is the exception to the rule.

What is an average cost for the system?

New septic systems can range from $25,000 to $50,000. The type of system designed, the size of the lot, the number of bedrooms, the engineering fees, the requested variances, the type of soil, and the proximity of the system to water, all contribute to the cost of the system.

If I am required to replace my failed system and I do not have the money, what do I do?

Homeowners who cannot afford to repair their failed septic systems made apply for financial aid with the Massachusetts Home Septic Loan Program. Applications for this program are available at most local banking institutions. The loans are low interest and repayable over an extended period of time.

The state also provides a tax credit of up to $6,000 over 4 years to defray the cost of septic repairs to a primary residence. Forms are available from the Department of Revenue (DOR) to allow homeowners to claim up to $6,000 in tax credits for septic upgrades. The credit cannot exceed $1,500 in any year and may be spread out over 4 years. The tax credit is limited to work done on a primary residence only. Tax Form Schedule SC is the correct form for the tax credits.

Asbestos

Asbestos is inescapable.  It is in our homes, our schools, in the water and soil.   You breathe it, drink it, and eat it every day.  It is feared, and rightly so… it has dangerous properties.  But fear must be molded into respect… asbestos is not a harbinger of Armageddon.  Knowledge, as always, is your sharpest sword… ignorance, your biggest danger.

What is asbestos, and why should I care?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral found in many parts of the world, mined primarily in Canada, South Africa and the United States. Nearly 3/4 of the world’s supply comes from Quebec, Canada.  It has been used since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans and was prized for its heat resistant properties.   Used to insulate the boilers of steam locomotives in the 1930’s, asbestos was not in widespread use until the 1940’s.  After World War II, the asbestos industry in the US grew dramatically.  According to the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), in that time over 100,000 schools and 700,000 public and commercial buildings used asbestos for insulation, decoration and fireproofing.

Asbestos is literally everywhere!  According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 40% of the land area and much of the drinking water of the US contains some level of naturally occurring asbestos.

So why this 30 year love affair?  Asbestos has qualities that set it apart from any other material.  It is virtually indestructible; it does not decompose or decay; it is a poor conductor of electricity; it is resistant to heat, chemicals, and water.  Like the proverbial “bad penny”, you just can’t get rid of it!!   It exists in microscopic fibers of varying sizes. When mixed with other materials, it passes on its insulating properties while adding its fibrous strength.

Modern uses of asbestos… a “short” list

Building and construction:

Sprayed-on insulation and rustproofing for steel beams in large buildingsheat insulation for pipes, furnaces, boilers and ductwor
loose fill, blown and sprayed wall or ceiling insulation
soundproofing
ceiling tiles
asphalt floor tiles
the backing on vinyl sheet flooring
various adhesives for carpet, tile and general construction
wallboard and wallboard patching compounds
caulks, spackles and putties
heat resistant adhesive compounds such as furnace cement
concrete and Portland cement products (including cement wallboard)
chalkboards
cement fresh water and drain pipes
exterior siding on homes
fire doors; roofing shingles
paints and texture coatings on walls and ceilings
plaster
wiring insulation and fabrics.

Other non-construction uses are:

Automotive and elevator brake linings and clutch pads
high temperature gaskets
heat-proof gloves
fire blankets and protective clothing
stovetop heat resistant pads
paper products
and plastics.

You can now understand why asbestos became so widely used that it has touched all our lives.  The asbestos story, however,  has a dark side.

And now, the bad news…

Even the brightest clouds have a dark lining and, with asbestos, the dark lining was within the human lung.  The unique dangers of asbestos were ignored by the industry but were painfully obvious to those who worked in the mines or produced asbestos products.   Asbestos workers were exposed to large amounts of airborne asbestos and brought the dust into their homes for their families to inhale or ingest in their food.

We know now what they did not know then… that there are a number of potentially fatal diseases related to inhalation of asbestos fibers including mesothelioma, asbestosis, interstitial fibrosis, pneumoconiosis and lung cancer.   Though the connection is less strong, many physicians believe that cancers of the digestive system and other organs may be related to the ingestion of asbestos through contaminated food and water supplies.  Because the onset of these diseases can take up to 30 years, their connection to asbestos inhalation was painfully slow in coming.

Enter the lawyers and Federal regulation… stage left

The day of reckoning did finally arrive in the 1930’s with the first lawsuits.  Legal maneuvering continues into the present as more victims step forward to claim compensation for exposure to asbestos in buildings, in the construction/demolition industries and through the mishandling of asbestos-containing products.

The judicial frenzy reached its peak in 1986 when the EPA proposed an immediate ban on the use of asbestos in certain products and a total ban within 10 years.  Over time cooler heads prevailed… via the Supreme Court… as the studies revealed that a more conservative approach was necessary to both preserve public safety and to not lay waste to an entire industry that, in fact, provided a product both useful and safe when used in an intelligent manner.  Rather, the court ruled to overturn most of the EPA’s ban, and instead limited the ban to include 1) the development of new uses for asbestos and 2) the reintroduction of asbestos into industries where it had been replaced by other products.

Currently, most Federal regulation involves the handling and disposal of asbestos currently in use.  The asbestos industry in the US has been severely curtailed as manufacturers, suffering from the effects of extreme but necessary regulation,  have turned to less regulated alternative materials.  Asbestos-containing products are still manufactured and sold in the US, but manufacture, distribution and installation is strongly regulated by the EPA.  You need not worry that you will accidentally purchase a product containing asbestos… larger-than-life warnings must be conspicuously posted on them!

Virtually every school, business and government agency that has responsibility for a building has an asbestos policy.  Some colleges have Websites devoted to the asbestos problem at their schools, how they are coping with it, and guidelines for students if they may have had contact with asbestos-laden materials (such as if your roomy puts your head through the ceiling).

There is asbestos, and then there is asbestos… and all asbestos is not dangerous!

Asbestos a not a single, easily categorized substance such as carbon monoxide or radon.  It occurs in a number of different forms and the risks posed by them vary considerably… from minimal to severe. Crocidolite and amosite asbestos, known as amphibole asbestos, are the most dangerous forms.  Their fibers cling tenaciously to lung tissue while resisting the body’s natural self-cleaning processes.  This long term irritation to body tissue can lead to disease and death. Fortunately, these forms of asbestos have been banned for years though some may still exist in older homes.

Chrysotile asbestos, a less toxic form, comprises over 90% of all the asbestos used in the US.   This form of asbestos is not nearly as persistent in lung tissue and low level intermittent exposure is not considered to be a health risk to a healthy person.

In fact, both OSHA and the EPA concur that asbestos is not dangerous unless airborne.

Even if airborne, many studies of asbestos workers indicate that it takes more than a casual exposure to asbestos dust to cause disease… even over periods as long as 15 to 30 years!  Asbestos doesn’t “radiate” danger and its mere existence in low levels in your environment is not automatically cause for alarm.

Before you get yourself all wound up… is that weird stuff REALLY asbestos?

So here we are.  Or should I say, there you are.  In your home.  Starting a project.  Should you be concerned about asbestos?  What can you do to safeguard yourself and your home?  Should you hire a professional or do-it-yourself?

In the US, any home built after 1980 is very likely asbestos free.  And though an asbestos professional may be able to recognize asbestos, you probably can’t.   Sure, if your home if 50 years old and there is a solid whitish jacket over your furnace or heating pipes, you can bet it is probably asbestos.  But to know for sure, especially with manufactured materials like floor tiles, wallboard or siding, you need to have testing done.

How To Identify Materials That Contain Asbestos

You can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional. A professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows what to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are released. In fact, if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone.

Taking samples yourself is not recommended. If you nevertheless choose to take the samples yourself, take care not to release asbestos fibers into the air or onto yourself. Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) should be left alone. Only material that is damaged or will be disturbed should be sampled. Anyone who samples asbestos-containing materials should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before sampling.

Oh no, keep me away from sharp objects…  I FOUND ASBESTOS IN MY HOME!! What now?

Calm down.  Just because asbestos has been used in your home does not necessarily mean you are at risk.  Remember what was said earlier… if the asbestos is solid and not releasing particles into the air, the consensus is that there is no discernable risk to health.  If there is a small release, the risk may also be minimal to nonexistent, though again testing is required to know for sure.

Handling asbestos is simple:  don’t handle it at all if possible!   In the early days of asbestos abatement, the conventional wisdom was that it should be completely removed from buildings and schools.  In classic overreaction, people were thinking of asbestos as if it was radioactive… even having it near their children was unacceptable.  The end result?  This helter skelter removal increased the problem as the dangerous hard-to-control asbestos dust got into literally everything.   Modern techniques generally call for sealing or encapsulating the asbestos so that it cannot release fibers into the atmosphere.  Only when the asbestos cannot be sealed, or in the cases of renovation or demolition, is removal considered a reasonable option.

Is asbestos removal a job for the do-it-yourselfer?

I dread saying this… but no.  Current federal regulations have effectively made do-it-yourself asbestos removal impossible to do legally, which means… hiring a professional.

  • Get a thorough written description of the work to be performed.  This is vital for future reference if there are problems or misunderstandings.  This will give you a realistic way to compare quotes and methodologies from different contractors.
  • Get more than one opinion and quote.  One contractor  may determine that sealing the asbestos is preferred, while another may want to completely remove it!  Remember… sealing is the method of choice.  Removal should only be done when sealing is illegal, impractical or impossible.

I have some very exciting news!

I am proud to announce that I have become an affiliate real estate specialist with a national program called Homes for Heroes


Homes for Heroes was established shortly following the tragic events of 9/11 as a way to give back and say “Thank You” to our nation’s heroes. When heroes work with Homes for Heroes affiliate real estate specialists and local businesses, they receive Hero Rewards® which are easy ways for firefighters, law enforcement, military (active, reserves and veterans), healthcare workers, EMS and teachers to save significant money when buying, selling or refinancing a home; or when making every
day home-related purchases.


HERO REWARDS
BUY A HOME – receive a check from Homes for Heroes in the mail.
SELL A HOME – receive reduced real estate service fees at closing.
MORTGAGE or REFINANCE – receive reduced lending fees.
LOCAL BUSINESS AFFILIATES also provide special hero discounts.

The Circle of Giving
Every time a hero uses Homes for Heroes, they help other heroes in need. A portion of Homes for Heroes’ earnings is donated to the Homes for Heroes Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that provides assistance to heroes in need
.

Why am I telling you this?
Because this program is available everywhere in the United States, and you may be a hero or you may know a hero that would benefit from this program. By working with me on the sale, or purchase of their house, I am able to donate a portion of my commission to the Hero, as well as the Homes for Heroes cause.

For more information about Homes for Heroes (or the Foundation), please visit HomesForHeroes.com/affiliate/Liz-Purdy or to sign up contact me at 508-658-0153 or email LizPurdy@ERAKey.com.

Thank you for your time, and for helping to say “Thank You” to each and every community hero. Because Service Deserves Its Rewards®!

Don’t lose your loan!

If you have worked hard to overcome your past credit problems in order to purchase a home it can be a huge relief when you finally receive that pre-approval letter from your mortgage loan officer. A pre-approval is your next big step toward purchasing the home you have been dreaming about, but it is not a golden ticket either.

Once you are pre-approved for a mortgage the next step is generally verification (aka underwriting). You will be required to supply a number of documents to your lender in order to verify your income, employment history, and other information which is relevant to your loan. Assuming that you are able to pass successfully through the verification process your loan status should move from “pre-approved” to “approved.” 

Yet just because a lender has issued you a pre-approval does not mean you are guaranteed financing. There are still a number of ways to mess up your loan before your closing date rolls around. Keep reading for a list of ways to mess up your mortgage approval. Hopefully you will be able to learn from the mistakes of others so that you never have to find yourself in the same unfortunate situation.

Apply for or Open New Accounts

Even though your credit was checked as part of the pre-approval process, your lender is most likely going to check your credit report again prior to closing. They do this in order to be sure you have not experienced a change in “borrower circumstances.” If credit or financial changes occur between pre-approval and closing (such as a drop in your credit scores) then you could lose your loan.

Applying for or especially opening new accounts is one potential way to kill your mortgage before you ever make it to the closing table. When you open a new credit obligation while your mortgage loan is in underwriting, especially a large obligation like an auto loan, you could raise your debt to income ratio as well. An increase in your debt to income ratio could financially disqualify you from closing on your loan even if your credit scores are not an issue.

Run Up Your Credit Card Balances

Another potential way to mess up your mortgage closing is to run up your credit card balances. As is the case with opening new accounts, when you run up higher balances on your credit cards you have the potential to both raise your debt to income and to lower your credit scores simultaneously. You may not realize it, but your credit card balances have a big influence over your credit scores. As your credit card balances climb your credit scores will generally begin to fall – sometimes significantly. In fact, your credit card balances can have a negative impact upon your credit scores even if you keep your accounts paid on time each and every month.

Close a Credit Card Account

When you close a current, positive credit card account that action has the potential to drive your credit scores downward. Closing a credit card does not cause you to lose credit for the age of the account (that is a myth), but a freshly closed account can increase your debt to income ratio. When your debt to income ratio increases, your credit scores will most likely be impacted negatively. If your credit scores fall because of a credit card closure then there is a chance you may no longer qualify for the mortgage you had been approved for previously.

Pay Off a Collection

You would think that paying off old collection accounts is a positive move when it comes to your credit scores. However, due to a deficiency in some of the older FICO credit scoring models which are used by mortgage lenders, paying off an old collection can sometimes be interpreted as new derogatory activity. As a result, there are instances when paying off an old collection account could actually have a negative impact upon your FICO credit scores. Even if that impact is only temporary those newly lowered credit scores could be enough to cheat you out of your home loan.

Of course you should not assume that paying legitimate old collections is necessarily a bad idea. However, if you were already approved for a mortgage with those old collections present on your credit reports then you might want to consider waiting until after your home closing before paying or settling any old accounts.

Make Late Payments

Making late payments on any of your credit obligations while your mortgage is in the underwriting process is a huge mistake, a mistake which could easily put the brakes on your home loan.

A late payment could potentially cost you up to 50 points per credit bureau. At best, your closing date could be pushed, at worst, you no longer qualify for your loan.

Report your gross income, not your net income

While this doesn’t happen often, it does happen. Make sure when you enter your income on the application, you enter your gross income. This will go into the calculation for your debt-to-income ratio and if it isn’t entered correctly will not show the whole picture.

Document all the ways you earn money

Often people just submit a W2 form showing their annual salary, but if your debt-to-income ratio is too high, the lender will have to go back and ask you for more—such as documentation of 401k, IRA, stocks and bonds. Submit everything. More information is better.

Prepare to explain big deposits in your bank account

Banks will scrutinize your checking account history for the past two months. You’ll need to produce a paper trail for any out-of-the-ordinary, large amounts of money deposited into your bank account, such as the check your parents gave you to help with the down payment or the time your boss finally reimbursed you for that business trip. In the latter case, for instance, you might be asked to submit a copy of your expense report and evidence of your credit card payments for the expenses. Many times, a borrower has a very kind and generous family member who is excited to help them get in to a home. This kind hearted person reaches in to the old cigar tin under the mattress and pulls out a couple thousand dollars of cash to give to their favorite loved one

The borrower, all excited about now having the cash to put in the new kitchen or bathroom, puts the money in their account a few days before the closing. As with all loans, the lender will ask for updated assets, or as such bank statements to ensure the borrower has the cash to close. The underwriter will see this large deposit and ask for it to be sourced. Meaning, we have to prove where the money came from. We have to prove this to meet government requirements of insuring that the lender is not funding terrorism or laundering money. All deposits must have a paper trail of their source of origination. A note from Uncle Ernie will not do.

The Takeaway

Just because your 3 credit reports and scores were checked by your lender prior to receiving your initial pre-approval does not guarantee you the money in hand to purchase your home. Yet if you can avoid the 5 mistakes above you should have little to worry about, at least from a credit perspective.