Archive for May, 2012

Reminder for those in the MWRA – RE High Fells Reservoir in Stoneham

The MMRA is reminding everyone – not to swim in at the High Fells Reservoir in Stoneham. Please read below.
Summer is here and with the warm weather, people head to the local swimming hole to beat the heat. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority wants to remind residents that swimming is not allowed at the High Fells Reservoir in Stoneham.

MWRA’s primary concern is public safety. The Fells has many rock outcroppings and swimmers who are tired or hit their heads while diving are a long way from emergency medical help. The facility is not staffed and there are no lifeguards on duty. There have been fatalities at this site in the past and more recently at nearby Spot Pond.

Protection of the public water supply is also critical. The covered storage tank was constructed as part of MWRA’s $1.7 billion program to modernize the water system, and was put into service in 1998. This facility provides the drinking water for Melrose, Saugus, Stoneham, and Wakefield. However, the open reservoir, constructed in 1899, still serves as an important component of the MWRA’s emergency water supply system.  In an emergency situation, the reservoir could be put into service as a drinking water supply in a very short time. Swimmers and dogs in the water pose a real threat to water quality.  

The MWRA recognizes that the Fells is a valued recreational resource in the area and has worked closely with local communities over the years to maintain a balanced use of this beautiful site that allows accessibility while protecting the public water supply. Illegal swimming has resulted in vandalism, damage to fencing, trash left at the reservoir, and fires.

The MWRA has asked the Massachusetts State Police to increase their patrols of this critical facility during the summer. The MWRA also needs the help of local residents to ensure public safety and protect public health.

Please call the MWRA’s 24-hour Security Hotline at 877-697-6972 to report swimming or any other harmful behavior.

New School Gets Initial Wakefield OK – Vote Looms

The following article appears today in the Boston Globe online www.boston.com as written by John Laidler, Globe Correspondent.

A proposal to build a new Galvin Middle School  cleared Wakefield’s Town Meeting by an overwhelming margin, but the $73.96 million plan still faces a critical vote next month.

By a vote of 1331 to 7, the annual Town Meeting in its opening night Monday authorized the town to borrow and spend $73.27 million for the project, representing the full cost minus $686,400  previously appropriated.

But the vote was contingent on voter approval of a debt exclusion to fund the town’s share of the project. The debt exclusion, or temporary tax increase, will be the subject of a special election June 9.

The project calls for erecting a new 187,733-square-foot fifth- to eighth-grade school on the site of the existing Main Street building, which would be razed. If the debt exclusion passes, it would add $188 to the tax bill of a single-family home valued at about $400,000 in fiscal 2014, according to town administrator Stephen P. Maio.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority has committed to reimbursing the town for 54.67 percent of eligible costs, or up to $34.69 million, leaving the town’s share about $39 million.

Town clerk Mary K. Galvin said turnout at Monday’s Town Meeting session was the largest she recalled in her 29  years working for the town.

A total of 1,419 voters were present at 10 p.m.  just before the vote on the Galvin School project, with slightly smaller numbers earlier in the session, according to Galvin. The session’s only other actions were approval of a fiscal 2013 budget and a $5 million appropriation to fund improvements to the athletic fields and other facilities at the high school.

Even supporters said they were impressed with the show of voter support for the Galvin School proposal, which had earlier garnered the unanimous backing of the Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee, and the School Committee.

“It was a positive sign to see the sheer number of people who showed up to vote for it,” said Lisa A. Butler,  a member of the School Committee and of the Permanent Building Committee, the panel overseeing the project.

“We expected parents to come, and we didn’t expect a whole lot of opposition. . . . But we were surprised at the number of people” that turned out, she said.

Based on the Town Meeting outcome, Butler said she is “cautiously optimistic” that voters will approve the debt exclusion. But she said supporters are taking nothing for granted.

“I feel that the support is out there. . . . But people still have to come out and vote,” she said. “We are going to need more than 1,300 people to come out for the ballot vote. We are telling people, ‘Don’t think that this is it. The next step is June 9.’ ”

The current school opened in 1955 as the town’s high school, becoming the middle school in 1974. A 16-classroom addition was built about that time.  Officials have said the school has worn-out mechanical systems and is not designed for the needs of a modern middle school.

Maio, who supports the project, said he was pleased by the large number of voters who turned out to back the plan.

“I think they see a real need for it,” he said. “They see the fact that by going this route, we are able to get close to 55 percent back from the state on it.”

Maio said another factor that might have helped generate support for the project is that “for the first time in my memory, you have the Finance Committee, the Board of Selectmen, and the School Committee all in agreement that this is the most fiscally responsible way to go.”

Opponents have argued that the town should carry out a less costly upgrade to the existing school that would avoid a tax increase. But Maio said a simple repair project would cost the town more than $20 million and a full scale renovation about $70 million,  and that the state would not provide any reimbursement for either of those two options.

Butler said she believes tthat Monday’s action action reflects a change in voter attitudes in town that goes beyond favoring a solution to the middle school building issue.

“People realize if you want to improve your town, you have to invest in it,” she said, citing the vote to fund improvements to the athletic facilities at the high school another sign of that new attitude.

Should the project go forward, it would be conducted in two phases. The first, set for completion in August 2014, would involve construction of the new building save for the auditorium.

The second phase, set for completion by the end of 2015,  would involve the construction of an auditorium, the razing of the existing building, and site work.

 

This is similar to what Billerica did for the Parker School which is scheduled to open in the fall of this year.       Joan Parcewski, Realtor  Woods Real Estate  Joan@woodsre.com   www.JoanParcewski.com   978-376-3978

Check Your Credit Annually

This information is taken directly from Money Management International’s website http://www.moneymanagement.org/Budgeting-Tools/Credit-Articles/Credit/How-to-Get-Your-Credit-Report-and-Credit-Score.aspx

 

Prior to 2003, consumers who were interested in reviewing their credit file disclosure (commonly called a credit report) either had to pay a fee, live in one of the states with state-mandated free reports, or have been denied credit. However, at the end of 2003, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, which amends the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), was signed into law. This act gives every American consumer the right to a free annual credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To facilitate the credit report request process, the three credit reporting agencies collaboratively developed a Web site, AnnualCreditReport.com, where consumers can request a copy of their credit report from each of the credit bureaus (alternatively, you can call 877.322.8228). You can order all three credit reports at the same time, or choose to order one at a time throughout the year.

Beware the ubiquitous “free credit report” Internet ads and emails–AnnualCreditReport.com is the only official Web site where you can order your free annual credit reports. These other Web sites often require you to subscribe to credit monitoring services that you most likely don’t need. Make sure you type the address correctly, as impostor Web sites also exist.

While the FACT Act gives you free access to only one report annually per credit bureau, you are still able to obtain a free credit report if you are denied credit, employment, or anything else as a result of your credit report. When you are denied a loan or revolving credit, the company that denied your credit application is required to tell you which credit bureau supplied the information used to base their decision. Submit your credit denial letter along with a request for your credit file to the credit bureau. In addition, residents of Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont have free access to their credit reports under state law. These can be ordered in addition to your free FACT Act annual credit reports.

Free credit reports ordered through AnnualCreditReport.com do not include your credit score. Credit scores can be ordered at the same time as your free reports for a nominal fee. While some organizations offer score monitoring services, and scores do frequently fluctuate, most consumers only need to review their score and their credit reports once per year and before making a major purchase. Victims of identity theft will want to monitor their reports more regularly.

 

It is important for everyone – whether you are buying a home or not – to check your credit annually and be sure to check all 3 bureaus as information is not always reported to all three.  And make sure to get things corrected as soon as you find a mistake.

Joan Parcewski   Joan@woodsre.com   www.JoanParcewski.com   978-376-3978

 

FHA National Servicing Center Loss Mitigation Services

Communities across the United States are experiencing steady and even increasing rates of foreclosure, as well as an increase in the number of homeowners at risk of foreclosure. Each foreclosure event represents a potentially devastating impact on the homeowners that lose their homes, on the neighborhoods that experience a growing accumulation of vacant and abandoned housing and on the nation’s economic recovery which is largely dependent upon the stability of the housing market.
In response, The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which is a part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is working aggressively to halt and reverse the losses represented by foreclosure. Through its National Servicing Center (NSC), FHA offers a number of various loss mitigation programs and informational resources to assist FHA-insured homeowners facing financial hardship, and whose mortgage is either in default or at risk of default.
FHA Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP): FHA HAMP is designed to help FHA-insured borrowers who meet HAMP eligibility requirements to avoid foreclosure by permanently reducing their monthly mortgage payment through the use of a partial claim. The partial claim defers the repayment of mortgage principal through an interest-free subordinate mortgage that is not due until the first mortgage is paid off. Under the partial claim option, lenders are authorized to advance funds on behalf of a borrower, to reinstate a delinquent loan that is up to 12 months delinquent. HAMP will allow HUD to bring eligible FHA borrowers’ payments down to an affordable level. This will be accomplished by bringing the mortgage current, buying down the loan by up to 30 percent of the unpaid principal balance and deferring these amounts in a partial claim.

HOPE for Homeowners (H4H): The HOPE for Homeowners Program will refinance mortgages for borrowers who are having difficulty making their payments, but can afford a new FHA-insured loan. Call (800) 225-5342 for more information.

In addition to HAMP and H4H, FHA offers a variety of standard loss mitigation program options. A more extensive explanation of these options is available online here, and include:

FHA Loss Mitigation Home Retention Programs and Policies:

 - Special Forbearance Fact Sheet
 - Loan Modification Fact Sheet
 - Partial Claim Fact Sheet
 - FHA HAMP Fact Sheet
 - Servicing Loss Mitigation FAQs
 - Loss Mitigation Policy and Guidance

FHA Loss Mitigation Disposition Programs and Policies

 - Preforeclosure Sale Fact Sheet
 - Deed In Lieu Fact Sheet

FHA Home Equity Conversion Mortgage Program (HECM):

 - HECM Assignment Requests
 - HECM Foreclosure Sales Program, June 1, 2009
 - HECM Servicing FAQs
 - HECM ML 2011-01 FAQs

CONTACT FHA

FHA staff are available to help answer your questions and assist you to better understand your options as an FHA borrower under these loss mitigation programs. There are several ways you can contact FHA for more information, including:

 - Call the NSC at (877) 622-8525
 - The Online FHA Resource Center
 - Call the FHA Outreach Center at 1-800-CALL FHA (800-225-5342)
 - Persons with hearing or speech impairments may access this number via TTY by calling the Federal Information Relay Service at (800) 877-8339
 - Email the FHA Resource Center

Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) Borrowers:

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development National Servicing Center 2 West 2nd Street, Suite 400 Tulsa, OK 74103 Phone: (800) 594-9057 or (918) 292-8900 Fax: (918) 292-8984 Email: HECMServicing@deval.us

There are still homeowners in trouble with their mortgage.  Check the resources provided through these website links.   

Joan Parcewski, Realtor   www.JoanParcewski.com  978-376-3978   Joan@woodsre.com

 

Three Things A Home Inspection is Not! – guest blogger Dave Cobosco from Housemaster

So many buyers go into a home inspection with incorrect expectations from the inspection.  Here Dave attempts to set the record straight as to what an inspection is.

Welcome to Dave is our newest blogger on greenjoanrealestate. We look forward to a long partnership.

A home inspection is NOT a pass/fail test.  A home inspector does not give the house a “passing” or “failing” grade. A home inspection documents the condition of major elements and systems in a house. It’s up to the buyer to determine whether or not the home meets their own criteria. Buyers looking to totally renovate an older home may feel that the need for significant repairs isn’t a concern for them as long as the structure is in good shape. Conversely, a young couple with limited resources, looking to buy a “starter home” in which they plan to live only a few years, may find that a home with numerous defects is not for them.

A home inspection is NOT a to-do list for the home seller.  The role of a home inspector is to document an opinion of the home’s condition at the time of inspection, not to create a “to-do” list of repairs for the home seller. Because each real estate transaction is different, buyers should consult with their real estate sales professional or lawyer regarding how any repair needs should be addressed. These professionals are well qualified to provide guidance because they understand the buyer’s financial position, how long the buyer plans to live in the home, and local market conditions — all of which factor into real estate decisions.

A home inspection is NOT insurance.   It’s important to remember that there are many risks associated with buying a home. Every home buyer must do their homework and learn as much about the property as possible. A quality home inspection should be just one of the steps taken in this important process.  Read on for more tips on making the most of your home inspection.

 

Making the Most of Your Home Inspection

• Choose wisely when it comes to selecting a home inspector.  

Price should not be the reason to select a home inspector. Even in areas where there is mandatory licensing, credentials among inspectors can vary dramatically. Look for an inspector who has access to the highest quality initial and on-going training, from an organization such as the National Institute of Building Inspectors®

Make sure the inspector will provide an easy to understand inspection report which contains pertinent details on the condition of major elements of the home.  Also, ask if the inspection company provides any type of written guarantee to back up their service. Obtain a copy of terms, conditions, and limitations associated with the guarantee if applicable.

• Look for a home inspector that encourages you to go along on the inspection.

The inspection is a terrific learning experience, even for a seasoned home buyer. A professional inspector should be happy to invite you along, answer your questions, demonstrate how to operate various systems in the home, and provide helpful maintenance suggestions. Plan on the inspection taking an average of 2 to 3 hours.

• Heed the inspector’s advice.

Read the inspection report in its entirety. Address any outstanding concerns found on an inspection as soon as possible. Deficiencies will continue to deteriorate with usage and the passage of time. Additionally, you should arrange to have elements that were obstructed due to storage or furnishings, or that could otherwise not be inspected, evaluated prior to closing.

 

A professional home inspection is the smartest investment a home buyer can make. HouseMaster would be happy to answer any of your questions regarding home inspections or schedule a convenient appointment to conduct your professional home inspection.

For more information about home buying and inspection, contact:

HouseMaster

Dave Cobosco

Owner/Operator

409 Middlesex Turnpike

Billerica, MA  01821

C:  508-479-1773

O:  866-313-7732

dave.cobosco@housemaster.com

http://www.housemaster.com

8 Things to Know About Buying A Home Today – Reprint from Inman News (Lowes)

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This article was written by Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years’ experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of “House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide.”.

The home-sale market is showing signs of life. More buyers are confident now than they were a year ago that now might be a good time to buy. Interest rates are near all-time lows and home prices in some areas are back to 2002-2003 levels.

Some analysts are finally suggesting that we may be headed for recovery. If you have a secure job, plan to stay put and feel this is the right time for you to buy a home, consider the following.

In most places in the country, home prices are still declining. It has only been recently that the market picked up and it’s too soon to know if this will result in a sustainable increase in prices.

The recent home sales in areas around California’s Silicon Valley defy the norm. Significant job growth in the area combined with a low inventory of good homes for sale has resulted in multiple offers with buyers bidding the price up sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars over the asking price.

In other high-demand, low-inventory areas, you may find yourself bidding against other buyers, perhaps even more than once. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the price will be bid up significantly over the asking price. This will vary from one listing to the next depending on property location, condition and price.

It’s important to research the local community where you want to buy. Find out what homes are selling for, if multiple offers are common and if listings are selling for more than the asking price. This will help you make a realistic offer that might be accepted when you find a home you’d really like to buy. It helps to work with an experienced local real estate agent.

Some sellers in high-demand niche markets intentionally list their home at a low price hoping to stimulate multiple offers. If you see such a listing and there are a lot of buyers wanting to make offers, you will be better able to know how high your offer would need to be to win the contest if you have done your due diligence.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Whether you’re anticipating competition or not, you should be preapproved for the mortgage you’ll need to complete the purchase before you write an offer. In competition, this will make a big difference, particularly if everyone else who is offering is preapproved. It also lets you know what you can afford. And, it puts you in a good bargaining position with the seller.

Buyers aren’t the only participants in the housing market that have heard the news that the market has improved. Some sellers are putting their homes on the market because they’ve been waiting for a better time to sell. This is good news for buyers looking in low-inventory markets.

You should expect that you will have to negotiate. Many of today’s sellers are selling for less than they paid. Even though the market has improved a bit, sellers may be disappointed with the current market value of their home. Be prepared to negotiate, not just the initial price, but after inspections are completed if items come up that you hadn’t anticipated.

Include realistic contingency time frames in your purchase contract for loan and appraisal approval if you’re applying for a mortgage. The recent uptick in the market means that lenders are suddenly overwhelmed.

In mid-March, buyers in Oakland, Calif., who were seeking approval for a jumbo loan were told they could close a transaction in 21 days. Not only could they not close in 21 days, it took more than 21 days for loan approval due to lender backlog.

THE CLOSING: Underwriters could require that additional conditions be met before you can be approved. Act quickly to avoid further delay.

Building a Pondless Water Feature – A Reprint from Inman News

Inman News is a newsletter produced for Lowe’s.  With spring coming and everyone trying to think of new ideas for their yard – why not build a pondless water feature?  Follow the instructions written by Paul Bianchina from Inman.

There’s nothing quite like the sound of water bubbling in  your backyard. A water feature can become an eye-catching landscaping feature,  or a cool and tranquil backdrop that also helps block unwanted traffic or  neighborhood noise.

A water feature can also be a great do-it-yourself project  that just about anyone can tackle.

The term “water feature” can mean different things  to different people. But if you want a stunning, low-maintenance option that’s  customized to your yard and your style, consider going “pondless.”

Also known as a “disappearing pond,” pondless  water features eliminate the open pond that requires periodic maintenance to  prevent algae and other problems, along with potential safety issues for small  children. Instead, they use a water reservoir, a recirculating pump, and some  type of rock or other feature that the water flows out of. The water filters  down through a rock base over the reservoir and disappears, to be recycled  endlessly.

The basic components

Pondless water features can be large or small, simple or  elaborate. Their design is pretty much limited only by your imagination,  ambition and budget. But they all share the same four basic design elements:

1. The reservoir:  This is simply a big, relatively shallow round or square box made of a tough,  high-impact resin. The box is solid on the bottom and sides to retain the  water, and is perforated or slotted on the top to hold the rock while allowing  the water to drain through. The top also has a removable plate to access the  pump. Reservoirs come in a few different sizes, depending on how much water you  want the system to process.

2. The pump: This  is a submersible, 110-volt electric pump specifically designed for these  applications. It sits inside the reservoir, with a filter on the inlet side to  filter out impurities, and a hose on the outlet side that’s routed to wherever  you want the water to come out. There are several different sizes available,  depending on the amount of flow desired.

3. The water outlet:  The water coming from the pump exits through some type of visible outlet, and  this is where your creativity can have free reign. Many water features utilize  a natural piece of basalt as the center piece of the design, which is drilled  to receive the hose coming from the pump. You can find basalt in many sizes and  shapes, and you can use one piece alone or a grouping of several pieces with  the water tumbling over all of them. Other options include decorative jugs,  vases of any size or shape, actual water fountains, cherubs and other garden  statues, pieces of discarded masonry, and many other objects.

4. Base rock:  Finally, you’ll want to cover the reservoir with a layer of rock that the water  flows over and disappears into. There are many different types, sizes and  colors of rock to choose from, depending on your personal preferences. You can  mix and match sizes and colors, as well as incorporating pieces of natural  wood, metal sculptures and other objects you might like.

Putting it all  together

Select an area for the water feature, and lay out the  general size and shape you want. Remember that the overall size of the rock  base can be the same size as the reservoir, or it can be substantially larger.

Next, you’ll need to excavate a hole for the reservoir  itself. The hole should be a little wider and a littler deeper than the  reservoir, to allow for leveling and backfilling. Place a layer of sand in the  bottom of the hole, which will make it easier to level the unit, and also  protects it from rocks. Check the level in all directions; pack some additional  sand into the hole around the base to stabilize it; and then backfill up to the  level of the top lip.

If you’re installing a heavy water feature such as a piece  of basalt, it’s typically installed next, directly on top of the reservoir for  stability. Be sure you have adequate help for lifting this into place; some  larger pieces will even require a forklift or other machinery. Route the hose  through the hole in the rock, and seal it with an approved sealant.

Install the pump in the reservoir and connect the hose.  Route the wire from the pump to an exterior-approved, GFCI-protected electrical  outlet, but don’t plug the pump yet. Make sure the inside of the reservoir is  clean, then fill it with clean water. Activate the pump and test all the  connections and the flow rate. If everything looks good, install the access  door on the top of the reservoir, then cover the top of the reservoir with the  base rock.

Shopping

You can sometimes find small water feature kits, with a  reservoir, pump and all the other components, at home centers, warehouse stores  and other retailers. For larger pump and reservoir equipment, check with any  local retailer that handles landscaping supplies, including nurseries or  sprinkler dealers. They’ll either have the materials you need in stock or they  can easily order them for you. They can also work with you on the proper sizing  of the pump. You can also find what you need online; start with a search for  “disappearing water features,” and go from there.

For basalt and other rock, check with any local retailer of  rock supplies. They can also drill rock for you if you find a specific piece  that you like, and can assist you with delivery and placement. As far as the  electrical wiring’s concerned, consult with a licensed electrician to have the  proper GFCI outlet installed near the water feature’s location.

Just a comment – For those looking to sell their home this spring/summer, this would be a cool feature to have and gives a little WOW as the potential buyer drives up to your home.    Joan Parcewski  Joan@Woodsre.com

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