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Don’t be like Chicken Little

Whatever you do today, do not panic like Chicken Little. Are you going to spend the day wondering if you should train for the 2018 Boston Marathon?* Good for you!  Will you spend today pondering a semi-legitimate excuse why you can’t work tomorrow so that you can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Go for it! Whatever you do today, do not panic about the Federal Reserve’s slight increase in interest rates. The sky is not actually falling, but it is a great time to think about your mortgage.

 

Mortgage rates are cyclical. Interest rates go down, then they go up, before they go back down again. We have been spoiled for a very long time with historically low rates. For at least the short term, they will be on the rise; however, we have no idea where they will eventually peak or if they will ever return to the crazy low rates of recent years. What does this mean for you?

Now is a great time to refinance your existing mortgage. If you have an adjustable mortgage, now is the ideal time to lock in a stable, fixed interest rate. If you have owned your house for a while and have not recently refinanced, now is a great time to explore a lower, fixed interest rate.

This is an excellent time to sell your current home or buy a new home. The real estate market is currently in a very sweet spot where homes are still competitively priced and mortgage rates are still very low.

 Does it matter which lender you work with on a purchase or refinance? Yes, yes, yes (did we say yes?). The reality is that most lenders have access to and can offer you similar mortgage programs; however, not all lenders are not all created equal. Can you keep a secret? At Weiner Jackson & Simmons, we have our favorite lenders (and real estate agents too). We love working with people who are detail oriented, communicate with everyone involved in the transaction, and who do not panic when we hit a detour, as so often happens. If this is something that you want to explore, let us know and we will point you in the right direction.

So, no, the sky is not falling. The sun is shining and spring is only four days away. Get ready!

* If you are thinking of training for the 2017 Boston Marathon and haven’t yet started, it is time to panic, unless you are Batman, in which case, you should be totally fine.

 

Do you want to know MORE?

Two resources that will help you to understand how the Federal Reserve operates and what this all means for you:
The Federal Reserve (always best to go to the original source):
https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/monetary/20170315a.htm

A warmer perspective on the current trend from the Palm Beach Post:
https://www.google.com/amp/www.palmbeachpost.com/business/consumer-advice/first-fed-rate-hike-2017-impact-mortgage-rates/ACwXFE8sUzmcQYbd3cxW4I/amp.htm

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What Happens Next? Closing 101

Yea….you found a new home! You have so much to do. You need to pack. You may also be busy shopping for necessities, such as furniture, towels and dishes. You may also need to hurry up and WAIT??

Closing attorneys, lenders, and real estate agents do their best to make closings happen on the date stated on your Purchase and Sales Agreement (“P&S”). We work as a team, along with many other professionals. During this time, lenders coordinate with appraisers and insurance companies. Agents insure that certificates are obtained and utilities paid. The closing attorney teams with engineers, title researchers, local tax officials, and sellers (or their attorneys). A good team of agents, lenders, and attorneys will be in constant communication with one another and will be focused on the same goal of closing on time.

Once everything is ready, your lender will send a Closing Disclosure for your approval. The Closing Disclosure contains all costs and credits involved in the transaction. Buyers must wait three days after the document is released to “close” or purchase the home.

What happens next? Make sure that you have your photo identification ready, your funds available, and stretch those fingers!

Typical closings involve 150(ish) pages of paper, some from the lender and others from the attorney. Some of the documents will be familiar to you, like your Closing Disclosure, tax forms and loan application; other documents may be less familiar to you, like an Owner’s Title Policy or Declaration of Homestead. The closing attorney will highlight the content, show you where to sign or initial, and (sometimes) date. The entire process usually moves very quickly and is done under one hour.

Once the documents are signed, some need to be recorded at your local Registry of Deeds. As soon as that happens, you are officially a homeowner. Congratulations!!

** In most cases, a Closing Disclosure is used; however, there are exceptions, such as a property being paid for in cash and reverse mortgages.

 

 

 

 

 

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“Can I Ask You A Question?”

Have you ever noticed that when a doctor walks into a room, everyone suddenly has medical ailments? The question usually starts with, “I hate to ask you this when you’re not at work, BUT….”

We have a sweet as pie cousin who happens to be a pediatrician. We try not to ask her questions, but, inevitably, small talk among parents often leads into something medical. As we kick ourselves for letting the words escape our lips, she is very always gracious to share her opinion and experience as a parent, family member, and (yes) pediatrician.

The same thing happens regardless of what you do for work. Everyone has a situation that they want to discuss or question that they want to ask. Like our cousin, we are always happy to help and share our knowledge and experience. So, before you ask, we will share the answers to our most often asked real estate questions:

“I heard that mortgage rates have gone up lately. Should I wait to buy or refinance a house until the interest rates drop?”

It is still a great time to buy a new home or refinance your current home. Yes, rates have increased very slightly over the last few months, but they are still really low at this point. We have all been really spoiled with the ridiculously low mortgage rates for the last few years. Have you ever asked your parents or grandparents about when they purchased their home?  They probably told you that their house cost $26,000.00, but also that their interest rate was 17-20%. With mortgage rates still so slow and such a variety of lending programs available, it is definitely worth exploring whether it makes financial sense to buy or refinance now, before the rates rise.

“Should I have an attorney review my Purchase and Sales (“P&S”)?

In a profession where our answer is frequently “it depends,” our answer to this question is it is very wise to do so. The most important reason is that, once it is signed, you have committed to the terms and cannot change them.

Most real estate agents use a standard form created by REBA, the Real Estate Bar Association of Massachusetts. Are the forms any good? Yes, but our experience guides anticipation all of the legal problems that might arise during your transaction and which cannot be added to the document by an agent. We attach addendum which offer important, additional protections, related to condition of the premises, delivery of Deed, survey review, potential defects to title, ability to obtain property and Title Insurance, damage to the property, deposits, contingencies for mortgage or sale of other property, and other important aspects of the home.

“Do I need Title Insurance?”
We often get this question at the closing table. Lenders typically require a policy for the loan and which is paid by the buyer.  An Owner’s title policy is optional; however, it’s one of the smartest investments that you can make in your home and it is reasonably priced, especially when compared to the cost of fixing issues that might arise later.

For purchases, we look at a 50 year history of the premises. Even the most meticulous search may not unveil hidden risks with your “title (aka ownership),” because those risks have not yet become evident by the time of closing. Some specific hidden risks that can be protected by Title Insurance are:

* forgery;
* fraud or mis-representation in connection to the execution of the documents;
* undue pressure on the seller or personal representative of an estate;
* false impersonation by people claiming to own the property;
* incorrect statement about the marital status of a Seller (which is more likely if the premises is being sold during a divorce);
* issues related to a seller who has passed away, including disclosed or missing heirs, birth of additional potential heirs after the creation of the will, misinterpretation of a will or trust, and estates which were not properly probated;
* inadequate survey;
* incorrect legal description;
* non-delivery of deeds;
* claims or liens not yet on record;
* confusion regarding similar or incorrect names;
* delivery of deeds after the death of a grantor;
* incorrect indexing at the Registry of Deeds;
* unrecorded easements; and
* zoning violations.

As always, please call or email us if you have any questions regarding this or anything else.

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Holy Smokes: Marijuana in Massachusetts

Congratulations, Massachusetts! We have survived our first full day of legal recreational marijuana.

Realistically, not much has changed. Massachusetts has been pro- marijuana for almost ten years. We first decriminalized (meaning you won’t get arrested for possession) it in 2008 and approved it for medical use in 2012. The first “local” medical dispensary was recently approved in Mansfield, in the town next to our office.

Effective yesterday, anyone age 21 or old can possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their primary residence; however, there are still rules that must be followed, some of which are:
·         You can also possess up to 6 plants if you live alone and 12 plants if you live with another adult;
·         If you want to give someone else an ounce of marijuana as a gift, you can do it;
·         If you want to sell it, you still cannot; and
·         Your plants cannot be displayed in plain sight (aka in a window facing the street).

One of the key provisions of the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act is that it is “illegal to prevent a person from prohibiting or otherwise regulating the consumption, display, production, processing, manufacturing, or sale of marijuana and marijuana accessories on or in a property the person owns, occupies, or manages except that a lease agreement shall not prohibit a tenant consuming marijuana by means other than smoking on or in property in which tenant resides unless failing to do so would cause the landlord to violate Federal law.”

This language creates an immediate concern for many landlords. If a landlord already has a “no smoking” regulation on their premises, there should already been an understanding that smoking marijuana in that unit would not be permitted; however, whether or not the tenant would be able to possess or grow marijuana on the premises is probably unclear in the existing lease. For this reason, we recommend that all landlords immediately create an addendum to their existing lease agreement to regulate the growing and smoking of marijuana.

Please see our website www.wjslegal.com for more information. As always, please feel free to contact us about this or any other legal questions that you may have.
rday, anyone age 21 or old can possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their primary residence; however, there are still rules that must be followed, some of which are:
·         You can also possess up to 6 plants if you live alone and 12 plants if you live with another adult;
·         If you want to give someone else an ounce of marijuana as a gift, you can do it;
·         If you want to sell it, you still cannot; and
·         Your plants cannot be displayed in plain sight (aka in a window facing the street).

One of the key provisions of the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act is that it is “illegal to prevent a person from prohibiting or otherwise regulating the consumption, display, production, processing, manufacturing, or sale of marijuana and marijuana accessories on or in a property the person owns, occupies, or manages except that a lease agreement shall not prohibit a tenant consuming marijuana by means other than smoking on or in property in which tenant resides unless failing to do so would cause the landlord to violate Federal law.”

This language creates an immediate concern for many landlords. If a landlord already has a “no smoking” regulation on their premises, there should already been an understanding that smoking marijuana in that unit would not be permitted; however, whether or not the tenant would be able to possess or grow marijuana on the premises is probably unclear in the existing lease. For this reason, we recommend that all landlords immediately create an addendum to their existing lease agreement to regulate the growing and smoking of marijuana.

Please see our website www.wjslegal.com for more information. As always, please feel free to contact us about this or any other legal questions that you may have.

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Why an Owner’s Title Policy?

Great information from Old Republic Title Group, who we proudly represent:

Mr. Seller and (presumably) Mrs. Seller arrived at settlement to execute the deed to Mr. & Mrs. Buyer. A while later, the real Mrs. Seller’s attorney mails a letter to Mr. & Mrs. Buyer claiming the property still belongs to Mrs. Seller, who had been separated at the time of the purported sale and unaware of the perfidy of Mr. Seller.

Joe Frazier, after his annuity income stops, decides your property is still his, 14 years after he signed a deed. Sounds crazy, but he still sues you and you need a good title attorney, NOW.

Your legal description recites a boundary along a roadway. Your seller says he uses the dirt roadway to get out to the main roadway. The searcher just assumes there is legal access to a public road because of the way the legal description reads. When the property owner over which you must travel to reach the main highway sells, the new owner decides to block off the dirt road. Now you are landlocked. You may or may not be able to require this neighbor to open the roadway again without purchasing an easement from him, but you have to go to court and pay a lawyer and the court expenses.

A new regime takes over the local municipal government determined to save the taxpayer’s money and get re-elected again and again. The “newly elected” tackle their new job with vigor that would surpass the “white tornado” in that old commercial for a newer, stronger, more disinfectant cleaner. They are determined to “clean house.” To their delight they discover that their campaign rhetoric was absolutely true. The last members of the municipal board had never gone after the scofflaws of the township to get them to pay their water/sewer line tap-in fees, or their street improvement assessments, or any of the other myriad township assessments and fees imposed on the upstanding property owners as a privilege to live in “Camelot” township. Now is the time to collect on the old municipal liens. But now you are the owner of the property. It was your seller who was the “scofflaw.”

When you purchased your property, the settlement clerk paid off the seller’s mortgages. You thought your troubles were over. Later when you went to refinance your mortgage for a lower interest rate, the searcher finds old open mortgages still against your property. The settlement clerk had obtained a letter of indemnification from the seller’s title insurance underwriter (because the seller had an Owner’s Title Policy) in order to insure over these old mortgages. Later the clerk failed, for whatever reason, to obtain releases from the mortgage companies to clear the courthouse records. If you did not purchase an Owner’s Title Policy insuring you against such liens, you cannot obtain a letter of indemnification, as did the seller when you purchased, because you did not purchase the Owner’s Title Policy to protect yourself.

However, you were advised by a trusted and competent advisor that you do not need an owner’s title policy. “Once they search the title to protect the lender, you know your chain is good. So why pay the extra money for an owner’s policy.” Good advice? Not when that claim comes in.

A Lender’s Title Policy insures only the lender. And the Lender’s policy insures that the mortgage is a first lien. The lender, of course, would be concerned if you lost your title to the property but only when you lost your title to the property. The lender would be concerned if they found out there is a judgment or municipal lien ahead of their mortgage in lien priority; but only when the mortgage is in foreclosure. The lender gets concerned once the tragedy has already happened. An owner is concerned before it gets that far. And, without an Owner’s Policy, you are not covered and you must pay someone else’s debt.

Because the title policy is an indemnity contract for losses, the mortgage company must suffer a loss before they actually have a claim under the Lender’s Title Policy. Therefore, they must proceed to foreclosure, sell the property and obtain less than the debt due on the loan. By that time the owner has been ejected from the property.

For just a little more money over the lender’s-only policy you can get an Owner’s and Lender’s policy combination that protects your ownership interest. In addition, should you die, the ownership interests of you heirs or devisees are also protected under this same policy. You pay a premium only once and the policy continues in force until you sell to a third party. Don’t let anyone convince you that the lenders coverage accrues to your benefit.

Reprinted from the December 1999 issue of the Old Republic National Title Insurance Company newsletter, Title Talk, Pennsylvania Edition

For more information or with specific questions, please feel free to contact us at (508)319-1529.

 

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