Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Over the past couple of years of foreclosures being the sad part of our lives, an even sadder group of victims has emerged in the wake of such devastation. Family pets have been left behind out of desperation or indifference, but whatever the reason, the animals need our help.

It is hard for most of us who love animals to even imagine leaving our pets behind, but before we can attempt to do something about it, it is important to recognize the signs that it is about to happen right under our noses.
Homes that are lost through foreclosure happen for several reasons including but not limited to, unemployment, chemical dependence, uncontrolled credit card debt, disability, divorce or dissolution of partnership. The circumstances that lead to foreclosure do not happen over night, but rather over a long period of time and trouble. Distressed and depressed homeowners, who in better days may always have considered the welfare of their pets, are almost as helpless as the pets they now abandon.

Before a home is foreclosed upon, there are often many signs of that pending foreclosure that neighbors, friends or family members can see including the publication of the address and data in the newspapers as is required by law. Some of the signs of a distressed property include lack of upkeep of the interior, exterior and landscaping. If you know that there is a pet (or pets) in the home, and the family will be moving out, know that it is likely that the individuals will be renting. Most rental properties do not permit pets.

Sometimes the troubled homeowner is so overwhelmed that gathering information to make a decision about the pet gets lost in the chaos. Your intervention before the move can make all the difference in the world to an animal. It may be as simple as asking what plans have been made for the pet. If they have no idea what to do, they may be very grateful to learn from you about the animal welfare agency that is located a few miles away. You may also offer to make that phone call for them to be sure the animal has a chance to be adopted by another loving family in time.
If you are uncomfortable approaching the homeowner for fear of offending, erring on the side of kindness to the animal by at least providing rescue agency literature to the homeowner is a good start.

Communities have Animal Control Officers and Humane Societies that can provide contact information to help these animals before they end up on the street or worse. If you see an animal roaming the streets unattended, or “hanging out” around a foreclosed home, please make that call to the authorities. Sometimes we walk right by an abandoned pet and we never even realize it.

Realtors are in the unique position of seeing first hand what can happen to animals in a distressed property situation. Embroiled in a bitter divorce and facing foreclosure, “John” thought that “Mary” had notified the Dog Officer about having the dog picked up when the moving truck left. The animal had been tied in the back yard. John was mistaken. The neighbors heard the dog barking for what seemed like too long a time and help did arrive.

I remember a similar situation where pet rabbits had been abandoned… their cage inside the empty house. Each separating spouse blamed the other for the neglect. Luckily a Realtor found the dehydrated and starving animals in time to save them when she went to evaluate the property. I will not soon forget her anguish and her anger.

These may be hard times, but we can help each other if we keep our eyes open for those who can not help themselves. If you are in a position to provide information to the pet owners before the animal may be abandoned, you may have saved the animal from terrible hardship. If you suspect that an abandoned pet may have been left in or around a home, please make the call to the local Animal Control Officer and report your suspicions.

The new wave of foreclosures will start within a few months and all communities will feel the effects one way or another. We really can make a difference by paying attention to our surroundings so that the only effect the animals will feel is the same love they provide to all of us unconditionally.


As this article goes to print, Senate negotiators have reached a tentative agreement to extend the tax credit for first time home buyers. Because passage of the deal remains uncertain, I offer this information as hopeful rather than factual, but the deal would also include a new credit of up to $6500 to present homeowners. Those homeowners must have lived in their homes for five consecutive years out of the last eight in order to qualify for the credit.

The proposed credit would extend beyond the deadline of 12.1.09 to all real estate deals entered into by April 30 and closed before July 1. Presently the income limits for those to qualify are $75,000 for singles and $150,000 for couples, but the deal would increase those limits to $125,000 and $250,000 respectively.

The tax credit has been a successful incentive that has worked well with the low interest rates and the very low housing prices for first time home buyers. It would be unreasonable to do away with what works especially now.

Changes in lifestyles go hand in hand with real estate. As the homeowner’s need changes with time, so do the living arrangements. After World War Two, our country needed to get back to the business of expanding the family. Cape style homes were built all over the country for the ease with which the family could expand the living area as they needed. The post war boomtown, baby boom and comfortable economy contrast sharply with the economy today, although it has never paid to bet against America.

The morning news today had more of the same “increasing unemployment”, “pending foreclosure” “government takeovers” “roadside bombings” news to start the day. In real estate, however, you always have an opportunity for a new perspective on life.

Today my morning was extraordinary from the moment the door opened and in walked a World War Two hero named Mr. G.

Mr. G is the authentic, tried and true American who rarely speaks of his accomplishments and when pressed about his war experience, almost “skips” over the fact that he was a reconnaissance soldier who served under Patton. In his capacity, as reconnaissance, Mr G. risked his life routinely to go out ahead of the army into enemy territory to report back information vital to the safety of our military and the demise of our enemy.

One of the first to step foot into Czechoslovakia, Mr. G freed the weakened prisoners and replaced them with enemy prisoners. He is the reason we can transact any business at all freely in this country or in any of a hundred others. The morning news should report on what Mr G has done with his life and what he is doing right now as a model American.

After nearly seventy years of marriage to his sweetheart, Mr G now visits his wife every day in the nursing facility the next town over where she must reside. In order that he is closer to her, he is moving out of the home they shared to take up residence at a new facility within sight of where she lives. A more tender love story does not exist and he smiles when he speaks her name.

Mr. G could never have imagined applying for home loans he could never repay. For him, hard work and good living led to a home in the country with a white picket fence, seven children and a dog. Mr. G bought and paid for his home, loved his family who return that love many times over. Today Mr. G signed a lease that will give him a bird’s eye view of the wonderful Rowley facility that takes such good care of his sweetheart.

If the tax credit is extended, it may be that Mr. G’s grandchildren partake of it some day as our country finds its way back to a better economy. For the time being, young Americans can take a lesson from Mr. G, who, despite obvious arthritic pain, moved quickly to open the car door for this Realtor. Mr. G is among the gentlemen who saved our world and he is a gentle reminder that if we follow his lead, we will always find our way home.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bring On The Buffalos

What do you do when the moving truck pulls up to the property next to yours and your new neighbors begin unloading Rottweilers the size of buffalos who roar like lions? There are many folks who are terrified of dogs, yet in our society, our “best friends” live among us as cherished family members. There are a number of laws in place that speak to the barking, biting or nuisance caused by dogs, but the very best way to meet the needs of people and pets is to establish good relations with the neighbors from the very start as well as comply with the laws.

For twelve years I owned and loved one of these “buffalos” that could roar like a lion when she wanted to. I had a large home at the end of a dark cul de sac and “Nicki” served as a loving deterrent to strangers who need only take one look at her.

From the very moment I brought Nicki home, I introduced her to the neighbors. As she grew, we continued to walk the neighborhood and always complied with the leash law. If a dog owner is in violation of the leash law and the dog injures someone, courts generally hold the violator liable. No “trace” of Nicki was ever left behind for a neighbor to find.

Even though the neighbors grew to love her and she loved children, I never left her alone with anyone as a strict self imposed policy.

Recently a family relocating to the North Shore from the mid west visited a property and fell in love with it. They have three “buffalos” with massive shoulders and paws like catchers’ mitts. None of the neighbors are aware that the “buffalo bills” may soon be howling at the moon next door or leaving “traces” behind within the neighborhood itself.

New home owners are wise to check with the town hall to learn what regulations exist for pets. It is even wiser to fence in an area to secure the pets and never leave them outside without being monitored.

Presently there is a pair of little dogs in the same neighborhood and they bark at trees, clouds, oxygen and just life in general. They bark when the sun comes up, when it stays up and when it starts its descent. They bark when the moon appears, while it continues to shine, and until the sun begins to rise again. The neighbors will do well not to feed them to the “buffalos” because the Barking Laws in many towns are stacked against the neighbors.

In real estate, we see so much of life behind closed doors. We see the good the bad and the ugly. What is always a pleasure is to see people happy in their homes. It does not take a lot to make most folks happy from what I have learned, but it is most disturbing to see the unhappiness one neighbor can cause another. The fault never lies with an animal when it frightens, injures or disturbs a neighbor. If there is any fault at all, it is usually attributed to the pet owner for not having controlled the pet.

Use fences. Monitor your pets. Bring them inside if they continue to bark after you have determined that it is for no other reason but that the moon is out. Do, however, pay attention to whatever has alerted your cherished family members. They have an uncanny way of protecting us from harm far more than causing it.

Enjoy your new neighborhoods and be sure your pets become good neighbors as well.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Recently I received a call from a woman who sounded a bit distracted on the phone as she began to explain why she was calling. As I listened to her story, it became abundantly clear why she sounded somewhat “foggy”. She had lost both her beloved parents and her brother within a very short period of time and she was in mind boggling grief. She had never had to deal with legal or real estate matters and now she found herself overwhelmed by the circumstances of her life.

Life altering events can leave a person in a most vulnerable state where decision making becomes almost impossible. It is during times of living in nightmares when the professional services of attorneys, accountants and realtors must be rendered with tenderness and attentiveness that leads to resolution.

In the event that life knocks you down and you do not know where to turn, you may hear well intentioned friends say “If there is anything I can do, just let me know.” In truth, it is just at these most difficult moments when the last thing you can think of is how to ask for help or what help to ask for.

If you can find a way to remember anything during so difficult a time, remember to ask for a referral to a professional. The time to think about who would be your trusted advisor is before something horrible saps your strength. It is most important to ask someone whom you admire for a referral for such time as you may need one. Who guided your friend or co-worker through dark waters and helped them find peace again? Keep that name or (names) handy because if you have no idea where to turn, the terrible times can become worse instead of better.

I have a lawyer in whose hands I place my children, my own legal matters and those of my clients and friends. I have trusted this kind and brilliant man for twelve years. I have a doctor in whose hands I place my health. I have an accountant who, like the other professionals I choose to keep in my life, tells me the truth and keeps my figures true.

The woman who called me in such a sad state had no such trusted advisor. What she had was a blind and desperate need to trust someone and her bottomless sorrow became even more difficult when all three fell far short of providing services or producing promised results.

These times have many folks counting pennies. Although the inventory of homes has begun to move through to closings, many homeowners have been exhausted from the housing challenge and many buyers are also exhausted from searching through the inventory. It is most important to find that special someone with whom you “click”. Lasting friendships with trusted advisors start with obtaining a name from someone you already trust. It is not unwise to interview several professionals before placing your life, your home or your peace of mind in their hands.

Although several months of unnecessary heartache befell the woman who called my office recently, life has changed yet again for her. There are now trusted advisors in place who will see her through the storm and she will never forget what it meant to be so afraid and be left out in the cold. She will also now be the one who will say to a friend in need some day… “ I have a name for you.”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Celebrate the USA…….

It is a little known fact that the American colonies separated legally from Great Britain on July 2,1776 and not on July 4th. It took two days for the Second Continental Congress to approve the Declaration of Independence during the American Revolution, hence our National Celebration “The 4th of July”.

In his letter dated July 3rd, 1776, John Adams, referring to the birth of our new nation, wrote to his wife Abigail “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the greatest anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward and forever more”.

Our superb experiment The United States of America is like none other in the history of mankind. Above all else, we have kept our promise to each other and to the world that we will preserve, protect and defend the basic right to live free from tyranny of any kind anywhere.
When we celebrate the history of our country, we remind the whole world that the right to live in freedom when threatened is worth any war that has ever been fought however dreadful the reality of the fight. The beacon of hope for which our Country stands continues to draw the world to our borders. As long as our collective view of the world remains steadfastly rooted in the spirit of the United States Constitution, we will right any wrong and overcome any challenge to our way of life.

If the Founding Fathers were observing the debates taking place between and among our political parties, economists and industries today, I suspect they might find that the more things change, the more things stay the same. We are all still “contributing” our ideas as we live in freedom under our precious Constitution. Some of our “ideas”, however, would have caused the Founding Fathers’ wigs to curl.

Centuries ago, there existed the “Debtors’ Prison” where those who could not pay their debts were sentenced. Not only was the debtor sent to jail, but he had to pay to be incarcerated. Imagine what our Founding Fathers would say about the “idea” that our lending institutions developed to create the tremendous debt under which we smother today.
During the housing and credit crisis of the past few years, Americans did not end up in Debtors’ Prison. They ended up in homes they could never afford and those lenders should now be in “Lenders’ Prison”.

The economic forecast for our Country is one of Recovery and it is on the horizon as evidenced in the most recent housing statistics today. Home sales are on the rise despite an inventory that remains high and home prices will likely begin to rise albeit ever so very slightly and over a prolonged slow period of time.

The sales of high end homes remain slow as the banks’ jumbo loan availability is significantly limited. The national inventory of homes priced at 750,000 and above now exceeds 40 months as compared with 18 months in 2007. Until the rates for these jumbo loans improve as well as the high end consumer confidence, high end properties will continue to remain on the market for longer periods of time.

Presently, about one in six homeowners owe the banks more than their homes are worth, but the economists report that most folks are current on their mortgages. The current unemployment rate is nearing 10% but the federal stimulus plan is intended to generate jobs before the end of 2009. It is still believed that unemployment will be high until 2013.
The rates will most likely remain low and the $8000 tax credit for 1st time homeowners will probably be extended beyond the 12/09 deadline.

Housing experts such as International Chairman and Co-founder of REMAX Dave Liniger, instruct that the health of the housing market is directly tied to 3 factors: affordability, interest rates and employment. He notes that there are “positive elements” in the 1st two factors, but that unemployment continues to be the “troubling wild card in the economic deck.” We will recover and we will learn from our mistakes.

Over two centuries ago on July 4th 1777, John Adams went out for a walk at night “for a little fresh air and exercise”. On the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, he was stopped in his tracks. All around him he saw the “whole city lighting up their candles in the windows.” Although the new Americans lacked the technological means to communicate their universal joy, it nonetheless abounded through out every home on every street in all the states of the union.

We Americans will continue to light the candles that illuminate the purest way of life the world has ever known. It is precious. It is worth the struggle. It will always be a cause for immense celebration.

Is Real Estate For You?

Last week I sat with a group of 7th grade girls in Georgetown MA and I asked them what they thought they would like to be when they grew up. Among the future professionals were a lawyer, doctor, veterinarian, two singers, two artists, three fashion designers, a teacher and a whole lot of "don't knows". It occurred to me that in all my years of asking the same question of children, I had never heard any youngster say that he or she wanted to be a Realtor some day.

There are a plethora of TV shows depicting law enforcement. There are more medical shows than one viewer can ever see. Reality TV shows have saturated the networks and shows about the supernatural are on the rise. There are game shows, forensic detective shows, and anti-terrorist shows, but with the exception of real estate "tips" shows, there is no show that centers on the profession of the Realtor.

I think the- entertainment industry has a lot to learn about the heretofore untapped wealth of human interest stories that are; behind every door the Realtor opens.

In practice, real estate has far more to do with developing relationships than it has to do with structures, acreage or properties. Every - possible life event or set of circumstances that can happen to an individual or family has direct bearing on the Realtor who holds the key to the home and becomes a member of the family.

I suspect that most Realtors had little idea what the profession entailed until they began practicing. Even with my background as a nurse/attorney, I learned early on-that there is far more involved and required of the Realtor than bringing parties to the closing table.

The Realtor who is called to the home of an elderly seller whose spouse has just died has a lifetime of memories and minute to minute sadness to address beyond obtaining the square footage of the rooms. In addition, it may be most important to determine what support systems if any the distraught seller has to draw upon during such period of uncertainty.

Divorcing couples will often require the services of a Realtor in order to sell the marital home. These are generally not happy times for families engaged in the process of separation and it is not uncommon for the Realtor to be privy to emotions that range from sadness to rage. Moreover, the Realtor is often scrutinized by little eyes and ears whose lives are torn and it can be heart wrenching to be the subject of their gaze.

So multifaceted can the personal, practical and legal needs of the entire family be during such tumultuous times, that a new Divorce Certification Specialty has emerged within the profession. (The first and as far as is known only Divorce Certified Realtor in New England is located at this office. You may call for contact information.)

The Realtor who approaches the front door of the home he or she listed and finds the door unlocked or ajar has a judgment to make right there on the spot. We caution our Realtors to return to the car and telephone the police immediately for the safety of the Realtor as well as the protection and safety of the clients. There are too many stories of Realtors and or clients who have been the victims of violent crime while engaged in the practice of real estate. at other professional advertises the times, dates and address when the door will be open to a home? The professional Realtor is trained how to avoid and prepare for such circumstances.

On a lighter note, Realtors have opened bedroom closets and have come face to face with apparatus usually found in adults only locations. It has also been the case that the adults were found wearing the apparatus during a scheduled showing they "forgot about".

Sellers report the presence of ghosts to Realtors who would then require that flood lamps be provided for any after hours' showings.

When the seller neglects to secure the cage lid before leaving the home, the six foot boa is more than capable of greeting the Realtor and a prospective buyer at the front door.

Should your water; break during your visit to the Open House, the Realtor will time the contractions till the paramedics arrive.

I believe that one day I will ask the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and I will hear "I want: to be just like the Realtor who made a difference in the lives of my family and me."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How Can The Market “Come Back” If It Never Left?

This morning a young gas station attendant noticed the real estate signs in the back seat of my car. He was very excited as he said “The market is really coming back!” Although the market never left, I knew what he meant as a consumer who learns what he can from the news media. The market consists of a property, a seller, and a buyer period. Properties are bought and sold every day everywhere. Factors such as the economy, supply and demand may affect the market, but the market itself goes on like “Old Man River”.

One key point that appears to be misunderstood by many consumers is the fact that the increase in market activity does not mean increase in home prices. It means increase in the number of homes that are being sold now. Home prices will increase again, but those prices will not be increasing anytime soon. “Real Trends” ( is a resource upon which Wall Street and the Real Estate industry rely for accurate research data. The CEO is Steve Murray who found that the prices of 2005 will not be seen again until about 2020. “Standard and Poors” estimates that the price of a property purchased in 2003 has returned to about that same value right now in 2009.

During the height of the market in 2005, a listing Realtor could hang a Purchase and Sale contract out the car window and buyers would chase that car down the street in bidding wars to entice the seller to accept over-asking prices for the high priced properties. In the years that have followed that hay day, the inventory has increased with over priced properties that have languished on the declining market for longer periods of time. In addition, as a direct result of the irresponsible lending practices over the past several years, we have seen the tidal wave of short sales and foreclosures that have contributed to declining prices.

The pricing overall has been corrected and homes are more affordable now than ever. The very low interest rates and tax credits for first time homebuyers have enticed consumers to act now, hence the increasing market activity of homes being purchased.

If your present home no longer meets your needs, price it intelligently, not “hopefully” and it will sell to a buyer who will purchase it intelligently not “dopefully”. One of the most common concerns voiced by sellers is “I don’t want to give my house away and then have to pay too much for the house I buy.” The market exists and continues across the board. All home prices were high in the hot sellers’ market, and all prices began to fall in the buyers’ market. If you sell at a lower price than you had hoped for, know that the seller of the home you wish to purchase has had to do the same with you.

Another common concern voiced by sellers is “I don’t want to put my house on the market until I know which home I will be purchasing.” The key to a successful move is to focus on the sequence of events that must take place for the most successful outcome. Unless you are able to carry two mortgages until your home sells, you must sell your home before you can purchase another. Being on the market can be very stressful for a number of reasons, so here are some tips to navigate from one address to the other and minimize the stress. You must have a plan.
Put your property on the market and price it intelligently with your chosen trusted advisor.
Looking for the right home can be a full time job. Work with your trusted advisor to narrow your search and save countless hours.

Be sure you have an updated pre approval letter from your lender.
Have a contingency plan in place in the event that your home sells before you find your next one. (Selling your home is the biggest hurdle and it should be a cause for celebration, not concern.) Many folks can rent storage and stay with family. One other increasingly popular option for that “in between” time are short term rentals at major complexes and huge hotel townhouse accommodations for relatively affordable costs. These interim accommodation places are on the rise in response to the growing need of consumers. (Ask us here at the “Crossroads” about discounted rates that a major hotel chain offers to our clients who use our name).

Know that when you put the cart before the horse, you will inevitably walk into the house of your dreams only to find that it will be purchased by another buyer who took that leap of faith and got his property sold first. No seller wants to wait until you sell your property when there is a ready willing and able buyer standing next to you at the open house.

The market is not “coming back” because it never left in the first place. Take that intelligent leap of faith and know that every home sells at the right price and time without exception. Good luck and we’ll be here to take that leap with you!

Thursday, May 28, 2009


This week I heard from two different friends who do not know each other. Many aspects of their lives have been in chaos for much of May, and they called for a friend’s “ear”. During our respective conversations they both noted that “Mercury has been in retrograde” and they attributed much of the turmoil to that phenomenon. While I don’t know a lot about the planets, as a “child of the universe”, I tend to keep an open mind toward phenomena I don’t understand. This morning a client called to discuss a delayed closing. He said he was not surprised that the “glitch” had occurred with the buyers because “Mercury had been in retrograde”.

During times of trouble, it is our collective experience to seek solace or resolution in something greater than ourselves. As the Broker/Owner of a Real Estate company with several Associate Realtors who are responsible for the well being of each and every client, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of one of the most challenging housing markets of the century. Being able to navigate through choppy waters is critical to bringing “our first class passengers” home safely. While there is no substitute for professional skills, experience and knowledge, I wonder what effect there may be to “Mercury Retrograde” periods on our lives. If it has any bearing on real estate, or even if our clients believe it does, it warrants exploration.

Briefly, Mercury is the closest planet to the sun and it can only be seen at sunrise or sunset. Astronomers note that while Mercury travels in a forward motion, there are times during the year when an optical illusion causes it to appear as if it is travelling in reverse, hence “Mercury retrograde”. Those for whom this phenomenon has great significance note that the Stock Market crash that occurred in October 2008 happened while Mercury was in retrograde. In addition, the presidential election of 2000 occurred during the retrograde period and the winner could not be declared for weeks.

Usually, the effect of the Mercury retrograde period is aggravation. Electronic equipment is said to break down for no apparent reason. (This morning, an Attorney and I discovered that his home and law office equipment had been “bouncing back” emails for no apparent reason. I must admit that my own computers have had their “quirks” this past several days and our very best IT man is at a loss.). While there may very well be a reason for several cell phone failures this week as well, I do not as yet know what it is. Forgetfulness, loss keys, typos, misunderstandings, irritability, flukes and general chaos are said to be standard operating procedure during Mercury retrograde periods.

During the month of May, the Mercury retrograde period was from 5/7/09 to 5/30/09. While the level of real estate activity increased palpably during this spring time with lowest rates and housing prices, so did the level of anxiety among clients with whose lives we Realtors become intimately involved. So many folks were living as if all 52 cards had been tossed in the air and they had no idea where they would land. Many of us Realtors spent additional hours assuring and reassuring our clients this past month. (Many of us spent hours assuring ourselves despite the increasing business!).

The next Mercury retrograde period is due 9/7/09 to 9/29/09. If the Mercury retrograde phenomenon has meaning for you, you may want to call now to list your property while the planets are lining up in your favor. While there is no substitute for professional skills and knowledge, this sure footed Capricorn would prefer to keep chaos to a minimum.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


About forty years ago my grammar school aged brother owed 11 cents on an over due library book that he found under his bed. When he asked that my Father “give him the money”, my little brother received his first lesson in financing. With his shoeshine kit under his arm, he set out for the barber shop to earn the money he owed his “lender”.
It is family folklore today that my brother has been debt free since his shoe shining days, but he is one of the rare folks who can make that claim.
Last night the housing package to the Stimulus Plan was unveiled to the country and the mixed reviews will be debated for a very long time. While the economic experts, industry leaders and elected officials have been meeting and holding court with each other over the housing debacle for a period of time, Realtors have been meeting with and holding clients’ hands for a far longer period of time. We know first hand in our own homes and in our clients’ homes that something HAD to be done…even if the plan to help homeowners who can not pay their bills is unfair on its face to those homeowners who have paid their bills….and it is.
In short, 9 million homeowners are going to get a break with their mortgage debt and many more millions of homeowners will not.
“But, Daddy, Bobby’s parents didn’t make him work for the library fine.”
Putting all debates aside, the cold hard facts are that our country’s lenders loaned money to anyone with a pulse for several years. Those folks were all on borrowed time because they could never pay back the loans and tidal waves of foreclosures have been hitting the beaches and driving down the values of all homes everywhere. IT MUST STOP.
In my days as a nursing student, I remember being completely disgusted one day in class when we were taught that live leeches were actually placed on infected wounds because they ate up the dead tissue and promoted healing.
Sometimes it takes a jar of live leeches to clean up a festering wound and save the patient.
The inventory of properties MUST be moved. Increasing the inventory with more foreclosures MUST NOT be allowed. The way to move this inventory and unclog the plug that has “stopped up” the whole world is to make it possible for homeowners to STAY IN THEIR HOMES, for buyers to BUY HOMES, for lenders to LEND RESPONSIBLY.
Two hundred billion dollars will be given to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for such purposes as refinancing mortgages and lowering rates. Seventy five billion will be used to modify mortgages into smaller payments so that 9 million homeowners can STAY IN THEIR HOMES. Even without equity in the home, there will be refinancing possible now.
Some specifics include incentives for both the lender and the homeowner to come to the table and rewrite a deal with which both can live. There are additional incentives for the lender and homeowner to enter into a better deal BEFORE the homeowner is late on payments.
Our Constitution remains the greatest experiment in the history of the world and no matter what fix we get ourselves into, we will have the shiniest shoes on the block as we get ourselves out.


The market and the economic stats that affect it have many folks wringing hands, scratching heads and afloat in a sea of uncertainty. We may all be in many different boats, but Captains attempting to navigate through choppy waters without a trustworthy Pilot and an accurate chart is a frightening and foolhardy endeavor.
To avoid ending up in the fog and on the rocks, you must be as well informed as possible.
Real Trends is a publication that tracks valuable stats for both Real Estate professionals and consumers. Steve Murray is the publisher of that well respected resource and the most successful real estate giants of the industry rely on his findings. I recently attended a summit for all New England RE/MAX owners where Steve Murray was guest speaker and the data he shared is invaluable to all Realtors and real estate consumers.
What can we expect for home values in 2009? The best we can expect is that the home values stay the same as they were in 2008, that is, no appreciation and no depreciation. (Buyers, buy that home you’ve been dreaming of NOW). The height of the sellers’ market wherein home values soared during the sub prime debacle was in 2005. Home values have depreciated steadily since that time and we will not see those values again until the year 2020.
When we apply that data to individual consumer circumstances, the Captain now has a Pilot to navigate through the choppy waters. Here are examples of real estate circumstances and the strategies best applied by a trusted Pilot.
1. FACTS:“Russ” owns a beautiful home in a lovely area in town. He wants to sell his home, but he would like to wait until “the prices come back”. He thought that he might rent the home until “the price comes back” to what his neighbor got in 2005. He owns another beautiful vacation home that he loves and he has given thought to purchasing a smaller property in a nearby town rather than own two large homes.
STRATEGY: If Russ waits till the price of 2005 “comes back”, his home will be another decade older and if he rents it during the “waiting period”, it will have the additional wear and tear that comes with rental territory. He will also have the additional carrying costs of repairs, maintenance, taxes, and all that is attendant to being a landlord for many years while he “waits”. It is likely that the large home he considers renting will depreciate further. If he sells it now at market value, he can purchase the smaller property at market value and the real estate transaction can be a “wash”. That which you sell “low” is offset by that which you buy “low”.
2. FACTS: “John and Penny” had their home on the market last year for $525,000. They have homes in two other states and their intent was to sell their large Massachusetts home and purchase a smaller one to maintain a presence near their grandchildren. Two offers came in at about 480,000. (The buyers would likely have come up to $495,000). The sellers were insulted. They had spent a great deal of money adding improvements to the property and despite the downward trend of the market, they would not reduce their price and they came off the market.
STRATEGY: The property is now worth about $450,000 and “John and Penny” have joined the ranks of homeowners who want OUT NOW. Anyone can put a property on the Multiple Listing Service. The key is to get you OFF the Multiple Listing Service for the MOST amount of money in the SHORTEST period of time. With very few exceptions, the stumbling block is the PRICE. The home must be priced just a bit UNDER fair market value because it’s not enough to be a “good” deal. With high inventory, you are in the best position to sell when you are the “best” deal in town. Fair Market Value is determined by comparing a property today with properties that have sold months ago. In a declining market, the savvy Captain and Pilot price the home conservatively and capture the most amount of equity as quickly as possible by doing so. (Multiple offers are born of correct pricing.)

This Pilot advises all Captains that no matter how choppy the water, we can avoid ending up in the fog and on the rocks by charting an aggressive and intelligent course that is based on accurate information. Pilots do not operate from fear of the unknown. We operate from understanding the facts, knowing what we can and can not change, and applying that wisdom to protect our passengers and crew. This Pilot wishes all of you Smooth Sailing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


My client, a young man who was just buying his first home, arrived on time for his home inspection. He was beaming as he approached his home inspector and his pure happiness reminded me of the time when I bought my own first home. The young man had worked as hard as any young man I've ever known and the reward for all of his very hard work now had an address and was nestled on a beautiful lot in his favorite town.

As the young man and his inspector walked around the exterior of the home together, I entered what I thought would be an unoccupied home. (Sellers are usually not home during home inspections and the seller's agent was not able to attend the inspection.) When I opened the side door, an elderly woman stood several feet away from me in her kitchen. She introduced herself to me as the seller and she asked if it were "ok to stay" if she kept "out of the way". I reminded her that we were guests in her home and I asked if it were "ok" for us to be in her way for a short time.

The elderly woman forced a smile that failed to mask her sadness and she began to tell me her story. Her husband of sixty years had died only months before and it became financially impossible for her to keep the home that knew a lifetime of happiness within its walls. While she tearfully showed me her husband's military medals, excellent workmanship around their old home and photos that captured their past, I could see my young client in the back yard smiling with his inspector as he was learning more about his new home and plans for a bright future.

As the elderly woman pointed to a family portrait, I saw a large group of children gathered around the holiday decorations that must have filled the room with joy for years. The home would have new decorations and a new family portrait would be hanging someday with more children in it. It's called "life".

The cycle that affects all of us is palpable in the Real Estate industry. We see and address life's changes that bring tears or cheers every day behind the closed doors of the homes we share with our clients for the moments and times in their lives. The documents, deeds, records, reports, contracts, inspections, rules and regulations, are mere stepping stones that lead us from one home to another as we move through life's changes. The Real Estate business is far more about understanding and developing relationships than it is about "transactions".

Sometimes clients share things with Realtors that they do not share with their family members or close friends for a number of reasons, the most common of which appears to be because they "do not want to be a bother." No one wants to leave a home they love even if they appear "unmoved". The simple act of walking through the home and looking through photo albums with them or helping them pack may help them through the process of saying "good bye". Many of these homeowners are one as they go through the process of selling their homes and they could really use a visit or more frequent visits from family or friends during these difficult times.

The elderly woman signed the papers that made her home my young client's. After the closing, I accompanied my young new "homeowner" to his new home. When we entered the property, he bounced from room to room... his rooms. He ran down to his basement. He came upstairs beaming again and as he turned to leave his kitchen, he saw a note addressed to him on the counter. I watched him as he opened the note. I saw his eyes move through the handwritten lines before his face flushed. He folded the note slowly and he put it in his shirt pocket. He said "She is a very nice lady... a very special lady... a very special lady."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


A young couple attended an open house I was hosting recently and they handed me an offer they had prepared for the purchase of the home. Their offer was substantially lower than the fair market value of this beautiful property (tantamount to offering the price of a hamburger at a fast food drive through in order to purchase a complete filet mignon dinner at the Ritz) and they wanted me to know how they arrived at the figure.

In support of their market analysis, they had downloaded material from one of the many internet sites that have exploded through cyberspace with real estate public data strewn in all directions for the "convenience" of the general public to explore and interpret as factual.

They pointed to columns of figures and addresses of properties that had been on the market and that had sold. They took the original list prices of the homes and subtracted that figure from the actual sale prices of the homes and they used that same computation to arrive at the hamburger price they intended for the purchase of the filet mignon.

It does not work that way. As long as a home is overpriced, it will sit until it grows cold or until it is reduced to what is the fair market price for that home. There are columns of overpriced homes still on the market. Allhomes on the market are in the "column" we can refer to as "the wish list". That original "wish" to realize more equity than the market will bear, will never materialize. Homes that have been correctly priced for the market will beat the closing table within a predictable and reasonable period of time. Homes that have sold are the market and they are the only homes that should be used to compare with the value of any other home.

The records we REALTORS track in the market demonstrate that properties are being priced more realistically and as such, they are coming to closing sooner. The buyers are back.

The young couple with the unrealistic offer is not alone. There are many buyers who continue to approach properties that are far out of their price range and they are often armed with the false notion that "all sellers are desperate". We who practice real estate and really love what we do as REALTORS, recognize that although there are some circumstances where a buyer may come upon a "steal", it is the exception and not the rule. These ill informed buyers appear surprised when the sellers, whose properties have been priced correctly, reject their offers.

The market in which we are working today is in every way a normal market. The frenzy of the sellers' market has run though its normal cycle and has come full circle through the buyers' market to where we are today....experiencing normalization and stability.

Buyers and sellers need each other. In fact, they become each other often and in doing so they can appreciate how it feels to be each other. It is often the case that we REALTORS work with both buyers and sellers, so we understand the perspective of both at any given time. If we take a step back and take a look at the whole picture, it comes down to doing what's best for our families and our selves with such an enormous undertaking as the purchase or sale of our largest asset.

Monday, January 26, 2009


About eighteen months ago a young couple with three small children was in the process of searching for a larger home. Because the “downsizing” market was in full swing, they could not sell their home for the amount that would make the purchase of the larger home more affordable. The weeks turned to months of frustration and uncertainty while the walls closed in on them.
Just when they thought they had reached their level of frustration, their basement flooded the morning of their well advertised open house. As soon as the basement was cleaned up and the problem remediated, their Realtor scheduled another open house that had to be cancelled due to the onslaught of ants that followed the flood.
With limited options, the young couple persevered and reduced the property price again. To their delight, a buyer called to schedule a showing…..just before the heating system started to smoke and required the replacement of vital parts.
This couple believed that “when you are going through hell, keep on going”, hence they reduced the price again and bingo….it went under agreement!
The young couple began to pack up their lives but just before the closing, the young wife was attacked by a swarm of bees in their back yard. She was hospitalized with IV antibiotics to combat severe cellulites in her arm.
With her arm in a sling, she and her now horrified husband continued to prepare to move. There were boxes everywhere in between diapers, dolls and toy trucks. The young wife and children went to the mall for last minute supplies. It was there that she saw the St. Bernard puppy in the pet store window. She and the children stopped in their tracks as the huge puppy pressed its nose up against the window. All the real estate catastrophes of the previous year receded in the big wet eyes looking back at them. The young wife reached for her cell phone.
When the young husband answered his office phone, he could hardly believe his wife’s request that quickly turned to a plea and a campaign to purchase the very expensive and destined to be very big pet. In vane he reminded his wife that they were already in chaos. They could not afford a St. Bernard. With one arm in a sling, his wife was limited to what she could accomplish as it was.
The children joined the campaign. They needed the dog. They would walk the dog. They would clean up after the dog…..honest they would. The dog already loved them back and they all would live happily together in their new home that had a bigger back yard that was perfect for their new dog. Their dog’s name would be Nicki.
The young husband lost the campaign. The closing took place and the big back yard became the receptacle of Nicki’s increasingly larger waste products that only the young husband seemed to notice. The dog food bags emptied quickly week after week and the happy growing dog swiped the coffee table bare with it tail daily. One of Nicki’s favorite games was to run off through the back yard woods any time she could and be chased by the young husband who grew more and more tired of the “game”.
Shortly before this author’s bi weekly article became due, the young husband, whose job requires that he leave for the office at about 3:30am, slipped on the ice in his driveway and fell down very hard outside his home in subfreezing temperatures. Not only had the impact taken his breath away, but he could not move as he laid outside in the pitch dark cold and complete silence.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Hosting an Open House provides a valuable opportunity for sellers, buyers, and Realtors to learn more about the property that is for sale, but there is a great deal more involved with an Open House than may meet the eye. Here are some facts to consider about Open Houses:

What an Open House means: The seller has agreed to permit the general public to enter the home for the purpose of looking through all rooms, closets, cabinets, basement, attic, storage areas, and garage in addition to exploring the property's land.

What an Open House does NOT mean: While there is a reasonable expectation that a buyer be permitted to observe the size of closets and the condition of cabinets, there is no permission ever granted to or implied for anyone to touch the sellers' personal property such as furniture drawers, armoire or entertainment center doors or use of any of the home's utilities.

Who attends the Open House? A billionaire lands a private jet at the end of the cul de sac, is followed up the front stairs by an entourage of staff carrying a chest full of thousand dollar bills, and states emphatically to your Realtor "You only want how much for this house? Nonsense! It's worth ten times what you are asking and I have no time for a home inspection. Let's sign." If your Realtor is still conscious, you are what is known in the business as "One Lucky Dude".

If the jet should miss the ramp, however, and your Open House continues, you may expect that your neighbors will be among the first to attend. Although you may view your neighbors as merely "nosey", know that your Realtor recognizes the value of their presence. Neighbors in fact do come in to look around for many reasons, but one reason may be that they would like their friend or family member to live closer to them... in your home.

Many Realtors are doing their own Open Houses on the same day as yours is being done, but they can and will send their buyers to view your home if it is open. These buyers have likely been sent by their Realtors because they are looking for a home like yours. Many buyers have found your Open House on the MLS, or any number of media or internet marketing sites and services employed by your Realtor, and have chosen to attend in order to compare your home with others they have seen.

Other Realtors attend your Open House to preview it for buyers who could not attend and you may receive a call for a second showing. Some Realtors attend the Open House so that they can keep on top of the market themselves. Their's is a welcomed presence always, as it represents an interest on the part of busy professionals who made a point of viewing your home for reference.

Although some attendees may be "tire kickers", know that all behavior is purposeful and even "tire kickers" eventually buy the car.

There will be folks who attend your Open House to look at your choice of colors and get ideas on how to decorate their own homes. Your Realtor will still recognize the value in their attendance. These visitors do not usually come in from over seas to view your new addition as a tourist attraction. They reside in or around your area and they too have a sphere of influence. Your Realtor may receive a call from a billionaire's staff administrator. "I work for an investor who heard about a home from someone who attended the Open House and it sounds just perfect. How soon can you show it?"

There is also the concern about hosting an Open House that every seller and Realtor must acknowledge and address; bad acts.

It is the sad reality that there are individuals among us whose intent is not always honorable. An experienced and trained Realtor knows as much as is possible, how to recognize and protect against malfeasance. While there can not be a guarantee against theft, a seller can benefit from increasing the expose of the property to the market with an Open House, while at the same time mitigating the risks inherent in opening the doors to the public.

All medicines and valuables should be removed from sight. Your Realtor stands in your place at all times during your Open House and as such is responsible for welcoming all of your guests warmly and respectfully as if each has been sent a formal invitation to an elegant gathering. While you would never want your guest to feel uncomfortable in your home, a well trained professional Realtor will know as much as is reasonably possible how to scrutinize and continue to observe all who enter your home from the moment they open the door to the moment they leave without sacrificing that "welcomed" feeling.

Guests will be asked to sign in the "Guest Register" and Realtors use that register to enhance business and make contacts for feedback on the property.

With careful choices and preparation, the Open House is an invaluable tool in the sale of a home. As long as your home has been priced correctly and is well marketed, and if you keep your lovely home as spotless and sparkling as possible, you will be headed toward the closing table before any of those sellers around you who have not done the same.

Also, you may be well advised to keep smelling salts on hand for your Realtor. This New Year already looks great with private jets soaring all around us.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Start Packing

Your great grandmother’s hope chest that is stored in your attic was as much a treasure to her as was Uncle Lou’s collection of railroad ties was to him. You can hardly remember how long ago it was that you permitted him to store his precious lumber under your deck, but there it all is attracting as many pests as a home inspector can find.

Your son’s enormous collection of yellowed Marvel Superheroes Comic Books, that he could not bear to part with, are still in your basement although he has long since moved away. The box is stacked with many others that are filled to capacity with old Halloween costumes, his first pair of skates, her doll collection and they are propped up against the wall by the speed bike with the broken chain.

No children ever had more toys than yours and no children or ancestors ever left more belongings than yours all over your packed closets, storage bins, garage, basement, attic, crawl spaces, cabinets, drawers....and then there are your belongings.

You’re a chip off the old block. You can not bear to think about discarding Valentine’s Day cards, although you can’t place faces to the names of some of your past admirers. You have the very first potholder you ever made at summer camp. You have every holiday decoration ever given or left to you and unless you have an evergreen tree farm in your backyard, you can never display them all.

Those who have gone before you left everything to the one they, and now you must make choices that impact your ability to move through your own life changes, or forever be part of the collection.

If you want to sell your home, or if you’re scheduled to close on the home you have sold, the home must be delivered in what is referred to as broom swept condition, that is, empty. Take a deep breath. It can and will be done. Here are some tips:

1. Call the former owners of all that has been left behind and tell them that the deadline for discarding is no later than a date certain. If they have not claimed their treasures, by that date, it will be assumed that they are of no value and they will be removed from the house.

2. Go through your home with a different eye. Take a deep breath and start early. What you do not use, wear, play with, need, want, enjoy, or derive MUCH pleasure from, is hampering your ability to move forward and belongs somewhere else.

3. Sort things. Put stickers on piles to identify valuables from throw aways. You’ll be surprised how many “valuable” stickers will be replaced by “throw aways” as you go through this process.

4. Start early. Pace yourself. Pack a box a day. It works wonders.

5. Call for a dumpster. These huge containers come in all sizes and are delivered when you want them and removed when you are through with them.

6. Ask for help. Have a pizza party and start filling that dumpster.

7. Call your local church or charity and ask how your possessions may impact someone else’s life. You’ll feel a whole lot better about your choices when you know you've made a difference.

Good luck with the changes you are making. Let your Realtor help you every step of the way. We've been there too.

You may call Janet Hilton for a confidential "Sellers' Anonymous" consultation if you can not bear to part with that old dog collar. She can help you get a hold of yourself. RE/ MAX Country Crossroads Realty 144 Newburyport Turnpike, Suite A8, Rowley, MA 01969; Tel. 978-948-5333.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Sky is Not Falling

Buyers and sellers who put stock in "Chicken Little" media reports have come to learn through their own experiences that there never was a "bursting bubble". While the near hysterical reporting by some of the more established media may have created the hoopla that has been selling papers, Realtors across the country have in fact been selling properties that are correctly priced for the market they are in.

To be clear, a sellers' market occurs when there are more buyers than there are properties on the market. With very low interest rates, buying frenzies can occur as the home prices soar. A Realtor may characterize such a market in this way: "I could drive down the street while hanging a Purchase and Sale form out the window and buyers would run to jump on it."
A buyers' market occurs when there are more properties on the market than there are buyers. If the interest rates begin to rise, the buyer has less purchasing power and home prices will come down. In many cases, the sellers who reduce their homes in order to sell them, become buyers who now reap the benefit of the reduced homes they wish to purchase.

Every property sells. What cannot be overstated is the number one reason why a property sits too long on the market. THE PRICE IS TOO HIGH.

When your Realtor or Appraiser prepares a price analysis on your home, it must be performed without emotion. Location, condition, age, amenities, updates, maintenance, style, features and a myriad of factors are compared against properties that have actually sold. That does not mean that your Realtor is insensitive to how deeply affected you are as a seller both emotionally and financially by the value ascribed to your home. Realtors are homeowners too, but as professional interpreters of the market, they must be the "messenger" no matter how difficult the content of the message.

Sellers should obtain more than one price analysis on their most valuable asset. Professional opinions may differ and a confident Realtor will encourage the seller to make comparisons. A REALLY confident Realtor will not engage in the business of overpricing merely to obtain the listing. The substandard practice hurts all sellers, buyers and Realtors.

Learn to trust your instincts. You do not have to BE a Realtor, but it sure would take a lot of the heat off if you could BELIEVE your Realtor and choose your price intelligently by going over the comparisons that the Realtor presents to you. Put on your "buyer's hat". Would you pay $XXX for your home when the home down the-street is newer, larger and has a three car garage?

Numbers have no emotion........neither do mortgage pre-approvals, appraisals, comparative market analyses, economic indicators, etc. The best Realtors however sensitive, emotional and compassionate as they may be know that what will bring you to the closing table is their intelligence and ability to price and market your home correctly.

The next time you open a newspaper article that reads "The Sky is Falling and We're All Going to Die!!", the Realtors, Sellers, Buyers, Lenders, Lawyers and Economists who know better, suggest that you do the following to get your money's worth out of that print media. Roll the paper up as tightly as you can and stack it with the other rolled up prints right next to the fireplace. They make terrific kindling. If you do not have a fireplace, you may wish to use the paper to line your bird cage while thinking of what Chicken Little would say in today's market. "The sky is not falling. It's just not the limit."