Helpful Buyer Info

Will you need multi-generational housing in the near future?

Will you need multi-generational housing in the near future?

Back in the good-old days it wasn’t uncommon to have what was called “doubled-up households,” that is, homes that had at least one extra adult who was not enrolled in school and wasn’t a spouse or partner living in the home. Often it was a relative from the “old country” renting out a room, or providing house cleaning or baby sitting in lieu of rent. Many times it was an aged parent who shared in raising the kids and cooking meals.

It made a lot of sense then and according to the latest Census results, it’s making a lot of sense now.

According to the Census, in the years from 2000 to 2009, multi-generational households have increased by about a third. A couple of current scenarios are that adult children move home in a tough job market and elderly parents living long enough to be unable to care for themselves and having to move in with their children.

So how does that relate to real estate? It’s my opinion that this is a real force in the curent and near future housing markets,  and that homes that can be adapted for multi-generational living will appeal to a growing market and be particularly desirable properties.

If you’re renovating or building new you might want to include these three things:

Privacy but proximity – In design terms, this is called diversity with unity. You might want to include a separate entrance, a first-floor bedroom with wet bar/kitchenette, and a combination sitting room/dinng area. In the rest of the house a large, open kitchen/breakfast room/family room is the ideal layout for shared family times.

Flex spaces – If you’ve ever had an old-fashioned Swiss Army knife, you’ll know that well-designed tools/spaces can serve multiple purposes with a minimal effort to change them. Flex spaces are just that, they are spaces that can be easily transformed to function for different purposes and ages over time. If you’re renovating your living room/sunroom, while you’re at it you might want to consider how to transition them over time into a home office, then a space for an adult child who moves home for a while, then an in-law suite, then back to an entertainment area.

Design for the physically-challenged – When I was in design school many moons ago, the hot idea was to create environments that are usable by all people. It was called “Universal Design”.  A few easy things to include when renovating/building that will make it much easier for anyone to get around are:  Hallways that are wide enough to accommodate a wheel chair (usually 4′ will do it) with 36″ wide doors;  thresholds that are level with the surrounding base plane surfaces (called “zero-entry”); a full bath on the first floor that has a stand-up shower (no tub to climb over to get in), a 5′ square open space in the middle (the turning radius of a wheel chair), and no base cabinet under the sink; and light switches mounted a little lower on the wall (people tend to get shorter as they get older).

Multi-generational living usually requires more space, which is very good news for homeowners with bigger houses to sell. It also requires people to move out of their smaller houses into bigger ones, which is good news for first time buyers looking to get their hands on a starter home. So all in all, I think it’s a really great thing for real estate.

Okay, So What’s a Condo?

Okay, So What’s a Condo?

Often mistakenly referred to as a type of construction or development, it actually refers to the type of ownership.

A condo (condominium) is a type of ownership in real property where all of the owners own the property, common areas and buildings together, with the exception of the interior of the unit to which they have title.  Said another way, when you buy a condo you have exclusive ownership rights to the interior space of your particular dwelling unit but you share the ownership of the common areas (walls, grounds, fences, facilities) with the other owners in the complex. 

What is the appeal of a condo?

Condos offer you an alternative lifestyle for many individuals especially those who prefer to be independent and have their own place to call home that is affordable and at the same time more convenient that buying a conventional home.

What kind of condos are there?

There are many types of condominiums available out there. Each type can satisfy the different needs of different individuals. The building shape could be a high-rise, a mid-rise, a townhouse, a garden up or down, or a villa, either attached or detached from other units. There is what is known as a condominium apartment and there are those also known as condominium townhouses which might have slight differences with each other save for their structure type and ownership regulations.

What’s the main difference between a condo and a single family home?

Condo living is much different from owning or renting a single dwelling home or apartment. This is because of the dual nature that comes with every condo unit ownership. Condominium owners hold ownership over their respective units but each one sharing responsibility over the operating costs and maintenance of the shared elements in the property such as lobbies, passageways, elevators etc. that are essential parts of a condominium complex. By choosing to live in a condominium, you are choosing to live within a community of other condo unit owners who become your instant neighbors. Each condominium complex is a community in itself and each owner accepts and follows the standard rules and regulations unique to condo living.

What are the typical benefits of owning a condo?

1. A condo unit is less expensive than owning a single detached dwelling which may take you years to save for before owning it.

2. Amenities and shared facilities like the pool, clubhouse, and weight room are usually part of most condominium complexes.

3. You become part of a unique community where you are an integral part in the whole decision making process.

What are the typical drawbacks of owning a condo?

1. Depending on the condo complex, there might be some restrictions such as on owning pets, or having outdoor barbecues.

2. Owners are also required to follow some rules of conduct on common areas such as passageways and lobbies.

3. Owners might not be as “free” in their home because they also have to respect the rights of their neighbors living just on the other side of their walls.

What is the condo fee for?

Maintenance of the condo complex is shared by all the owners. When you buy into a condo or townhouse complex, you become a member of the homeowner’s association. As a member, you pay monthly dues to the association. Your dues will normally cover the management of the homeowner’s association, hazard insurance for the complex and a certain amount of routine maintenance. Precisely what is covered by the homeowner’s dues will vary from one complex to the next.

Is a co-op the same as a condo?

Co-ops are very common in New York city, not so much in the Boston area.  A Co-op is a actually a different type of ownership than a condo. When you buy a Co-op what you actually buy is a proportionate number of shares in the corporation that owns the building. The corporation in which you are a shareholder then issues you a proprietary lease entitling you to live in the unit you have purchased. Financing, the manner in which sales are recorded, rules and other details are also often different for  Co-ops than for condos.  The corporation also has the right to refuse to sell you shares based on any number of subjective criteria by the board of directors … that does not occur in condos.

 

Can you buy/sell a house with a failed septic system?

Can you buy/sell a house with a failed septic system?

Although they are very common in Metrowest, not all homes have septic systems. A system that no longer functions as designed is considered “failed” and while they are always problematic,  they can be incorporated into a real estate sale and get you to the closing table in one of three ways.

First, you can undertake the work and complete it prior to closing, with a full sign-off from the Board of Health in the form of a Title 5 Certificate of Compliance. This is often the preferable course for all parties and a lender, if any, and this option will get you the highest selling price for your home. You will need a design and this takes time for testing holes and design approvals so plan accordingly. If you’re short of funds, some septic installers will begin and complete the work slightly before the closing date and get paid out of the seller funds at the closing. This would require you to agree to release the funds directly to the installer at the closing.

Alternately, Title 5 does not require that a system be in passing condition prior to the sale, but most lenders will not issue a mortgage until the failing system is upgraded or funds to perform the upgrade are escrowed.

So you and the Buyers can agree to put an appropriate amount of money in escrow guaranteeing that the system will be installed after the closing. The usual formula for calculating this amount is taking the median of three bids plus a 50% contingency reserve. Most installers are able to give solid estimates based on a design, but they will charge more it they hit ledge, or other unforeseen conditions, so the contingency is there just in case. Again, this would require you to agree to release the funds from the closing to the escrow account. The escrow funds are usually held by the bank’s conveying attorney who will pay the bill for the septic when it’s completed, and then return any extra money to you. Many lenders don’t allow septic hold-backs at all, so this option, while an excellent solution if you’re tight for funds, might limit your pool of buyers and thus extend your time on market, but it won’t affect the price you’ll get for the home. Here’s an example of how this might work: A home is on the market for $300K with a failed Title 5. A buyer agrees to purchase the property, and they both agree to put the septic repair money in escrow. The median estimate is $30,000 for the system. The buyer, at the closing, pays the seller 300K, and the seller then pays of his mortgage (100K, for example) and then takes 150% of the 30K ($45,000) and puts that in escrow with the closing attorney. The seller leaves the closing table with $155,000. The buyer then has the new system put in place, and it only costs $30,000. The buyer sends the bill to the closing attorney, who pays the installer, and refunds the difference ($15,000) to the seller. There are variations on how this unfolds, but this would be a typical scenario.

A third option would be to get the buyer to pay for the septic system, although this is less likely to occur. A buyer who agrees to assume the cost of replacing the septic system will factor the cost of replacement plus a contingency factor into his bid price for the property. If it costs less than he planned, he pockets the difference. This would most likely have to be a buyer who can pay cash for your home. Most municipalities will allow him up to a year to fix the septic system and update the Title 5. But if the septic system isn’t working, the Board of Health can require that nobody will be living there. Not many people can buy properties with cash, so counting on this option will severely restrict your buyer pool, exponentially lengthen your market time, and ultimately get you less money for your home. So, in summary, bottom line … marketing your home with a failed septic system will affect the property’s value and restrict the pool of buyers, but it has been done many times successfully and with the right agent (shameless plug for “me”) you can do it too.

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