Posted by Marie Presti on 6/4/2018

Even in expensive, upscale communities like Newton, Mass., an eyesore next door can plague homeowners. A home that isn't being maintained like others in the neighborhood can negatively affect your visual sense and in some extreme cases, impact property values. It might be an overgrown yard, a fence in need of repair, excessive noise, unruly pets, paint peeling on the home or even a car or boat parked in front of the home that hasn't moved in weeks.

A client of mine recently wanted me to list her home, but she had some concerns about her next door neighbor's yard. She said it looked like Miss Havisham's place in "Great Expectations." I explained that in my experience, most people want to be good neighbors and may be willing to correct an issue once it is brought to their attention. A practical but possibly confrontational solution is to contact the neighbor and describe your perception of the issue. (They may not always agree with the same urgency and it might be necessary to seek other remedies.) One way I recommend for getting the problem solved sooner rather than later: I tell homeowner(s) to offer help. They can either physically go over to do some of the cleanup. Or, they can offer to help pay someone to take care of the mess, if it's not too expensive.

In general, an owner-occupant may be more sympathetic to your plight and thankful for your desire to help them out. (Of course others may not be so thrilled, so be prepared.) If you think the home might be a rental property, check with the county tax records to identify the owner. They may be unaware of the situation and welcome the notification to protect their investment.

Another alternative might be to notify the homeowner's association (HOA), if there is one. One of the benefits of a HOA is to enforce community appearance standards as set in the covenants or bylaws that specify how properties must be maintained. This could be a less personal method of reaching a beneficial outcome.

If the source of the problem is a code or housing violation, the city may be the ultimate authority. Most cities have a separate code and neighborhood services division and some cities have 311 for non-emergency assistance. But wherever you live, deal with the situation tactfully. This will ensure neighborly relations stay intact.

Tags: Untagged  
Categories: Uncategorized  

Posted by Marie Presti on 5/10/2018


Some of you may have seen one by now – a nondescript envelope arrives in your mailbox. What's inside is a Xeroxed copy of a letter on cheap paper that isn't personalized ("Dear Newton Homeowner"). The missive is from a developer who is "reaching out to homeowners in the area." The offer sounds sweet: a quick sale, no real estate commission and the house can be sold "as is." Getting top dollar -- all in cash -- is icing on the cake.

Before you make a move, here's some advice -- on the house, of course!

The Grass isn't Always Greener.

Some homeowners think a developer will pay a lot for their property. Particularly if they live near a village center with public transportation, restaurants and shops – quite often the case in Newton. But they're looking to make a profit, so they'll generally offer a homeowner less money, compared to someone who will live there and take care of it the home. To maximize your options, it's always a good idea to put your home on the open market. Doing so generates multiple bids, and developers will sometimes match what an individual would pay. When choosing someone to sell your home on the open market, choose carefully. Talk to several Realtors. Make sure they have the credentials to target market the home to include a developers' network and qualified consumers. Most importantly, they should be trained to negotiate on your behalf to get you top dollar.

Remember that decrepit house on the corner that looked like Boo Radley's house in To Kill a Mockingbird? The one that transformed into a House Beautiful showpiece? Most likely, a developer bought it for short money and flipped it for a profit. Developers love old, run-down homes. (Not hard to find in Newton, which has one of the oldest housing stocks in the region.) They'll look up places that have been owned by one person for a long time and drive by to check out what kind of shape they're in. If a rehab is in order, that's music to a developer's ears. Especially if the owner doesn't have the money to make repairs.) If you're approached by one of these developers, do the calculations (the cost of renovations vs. the market value). Your house may be worth much more than what they would offer you – even when you deduct the cost of improvements.

Know the true value of your property in today's marketplace.

If you decide to sell to a developer, find out the zoning code for your property first. (This can be obtained easily from the City of Newton Assessors' Database.) If you have a property with a single-family code, but it's in a multi-family zoned area, you might be able to change it to the latter. (In order to convert a single-family zone to a multifamily zone, you have to go before the zoning board, and getting approval can be difficult.) If it turns out you can rezone, figure out how many units can be put on it, calculate the market value and use that as a negotiating tool. If you find out your single-family is in a multi-family zone, it's going to be very enticing to a developer, regardless of what sits on top of it.

Look before you leap.

Lastly, no matter how tantalizing a developer's offer may seem, be sure you are dealing with a legitimate outfit. Ask around. Check online reviews, the Better Business Bureau and the company's website. Realtors can be also be an excellent resource. Recently, one of my client's got a letter on cheap paper with typos asking if she wanted to sell her house. There was no return address, only a phone number and no website. That letter went right into the "Newton Recycles" bin. Of course there are plenty of reputable developers out there. Taking the time to do the research will lead you to them.

Tags: Untagged  
Categories: Uncategorized  

Posted by Marie Presti on 3/26/2018


In her March vlog, Marie explains how online tax forms do the job well, but some people require personalized attention. If the latter is the case, Marie can provide recommendations for great tax preparers in the Newton area. Watch to win a Dunkin' Donuts gift certificate.

Tags: Untagged  
Categories: Uncategorized  

Posted by Marie Presti on 2/14/2018



Newton, home of The Presti Group, was just named the best city

in Massachusetts for safety, wealth, environment and the economy, just to name a few attributes. With its top-rated schools, fantastic public services and close proximity to downtown Boston, Newton is desirable, convenient and beautiful. Real estate will continue to be strong. Following are my real estate predictions for 2018:  

  • The Upside of the New Tax Law  Homeowners who used to write off their state income and municipal real estate taxes will only be able to write off up to $10,000. Using Newton’s current tax rate of $11.12 per thousand, a house would have to be assessed for over $900,000 for taxes to be over $10,000 (without considering the Mass. income taxes for the prior year). Therefore, this should have little effect on the lower-range homes. However, for owners of higher-priced residences, there may be less of an incentive to keep their homes, particularly if they’re already considering downsizing. The good news, is that if homeowners choose to move, the number of new listings will increase.
  • Homebuyers can put away the helmet  The inventory of mid-priced homes in Newton has been low for the past several years, driving bidding wars as consumers battled for fewer homes. However, at the end of 2017, Realtors saw a 5.7% increase in the number of properties sold this year to 1,005 units (up from 951 in 2017), according to the Greater Boston Association of Realtors. This percentage may increase even more to 7-8%, as the demand for homes levels off in the entry market and new listings continue to come on-line. Not only that, because of the new tax legislation, many higher-end homeowners may choose to sell their properties and downsize. This is excellent news for homebuyers, because there will be more to choose from and fewer bidding wars as result. For sellers, though, the news may not be so bright. Selling their homes for thousands of dollars way over market value (which used to be the norm) may be waning.
  • All Good Things Must Come to an End For anyone buying a home and/or borrowing money, the low mortgage rate they’ve enjoyed for years is ending. Mortgage interest rates will increase, with industry analysts predicting them to climb throughout 2018. Given the conforming loan interest rate is now four percent, rates will increase at least a half of a percent by the end of the year. This shouldn’t hurt the higher end of the market ($1M+), since those buyers are less price-sensitive. On the other hand, it could impact first-time buyers looking to purchase a home here.
  • What goes up won’t go down (at least in 2018) The old adage, “What goes up, must come down,” hasn’t applied to Newton. The average home price here continues to rise, and by the end of 2018, I predict a healthy increase, to approximately 5-6%. (I believe this rise will not be as high as 2017, as the median sale price of all residential properties last year was up by 8% to $1,000,000 from 2016.) Tax reform could also impact us by a few percent, making the increase a more modest gain and one that is more in-line with an average market. However, due to Newton’s many attributes, not to mention the corporations with thousands of employees who are looking around Boston for housing (Amazon? Do you hear me?), we all could be surprised.

Tags: Untagged  
Categories: Uncategorized  

Posted by Marie Presti on 2/2/2018


Mortgage loans for more than 80% loan-to-value typically require private mortgage insurance (PMI). This type of insurance reimburses the lender if a borrower defaults on a loan. However, PMI is expensive, and homeowners should be aware of how to remove it when certain conditions have been met.

A borrower can request in writing for the lender to cancel the PMI, when the mortgage balance has reached 80% of the home’s original appraised value. (Many people don't realize this, but the lender is required to eliminate the PMI when the balance reaches 78%. So it's a good idea to monitor this, especially if additional principal contributions are being made to pay off the loan early.)

I followed this process myself with my Newton home many years ago, and was able to get the PMI removed. It saved me over $150 a month off my mortgage payment.

Other methods to eliminate PMI sooner (than through normal amortization) include:

  • If the value of the home has increased, the owner may consider refinancing with a loan that does not require PMI. There will be refinancing charges involved, but you can determine how long it will take to recapture those costs from the monthly savings.

  • Some lenders will consider using a new appraisal to verify that the home’s mortgage is below the 80% requirement. Find out in advance from your lender if they will accept this procedure and get the names of approved appraisers they will recognize. The cost of an appraisal could range between $450 to $600.

  • Another strategy is to make additional principal contributions on a regular basis to reduce your mortgage balance to 78-80% level that would allow the lender to eliminate the PMI.

Mortgage insurance is not required on VA loans regardless of the loan-to-value. FHA mortgages made after June 3, 2013 are required to have Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) for the life of the loan. For FHA loans made prior to that date, the MIP should automatically cancel when the loan-to-value ratio reaches 78% and has been in effect for a minimum of five years.

To obtain additional information specific to cancelling your mortgage insurance, contact information can usually be found on the annual statement provided by your mortgage servicer.

If you are thinking of doing this, feel free to reach out to me at The Presti Group ahead of time. I can do a pricing analysis that can be given to your bank's appraiser, to help with justifying the equity in your home.  I'm always happy to help reduced my client's mortgage payments!

Tags: Untagged  
Categories: Uncategorized