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Worcester Real Estate Law Blog

Court issued zoning dispute ruling after construction had begun

In several recent posts, we’ve explored the importance of obtaining permits and investigating applicable zoning laws. Without that work, zoning disputes might arise and cause significant delay and/or expense.

Unfortunately, zoning disputes do not always arise in a timely manner. For example, a developer may have obtained all of the necessary building permits, only to be sidelined by community or neighborhood association complaints brought after construction has begun. 

New ways to think about real estate purchases

Have the guidelines for buying residential or commercial real property changed in the wake of the housing and foreclosure crisis? A recent article calls for greater caution.

For example, conventional wisdom held that a home is a safe investment option. At a minimum, real estate ownership was considered more financially beneficial in the long term than renting.  However, when the housing market crashed, many homeowners found their mortgage balance below the property’s fair market value. Although property values have been climbing upward in many neighborhoods in Massachusetts and across the country, equity in real estate is no longer regarded by some as a sure-fire investment. 

Does cloud-based technology help or hinder real estate deals?

In an age of convenience and technology, it’s perhaps no surprise that real estate professionals are trying a new paperless approach to real estate transactions. 

The process utilizes new cloud-based storage technology. Around 3,000 real estate offices now use a platform called Dotloop. Agents with accounts can access mortgage documents, deeds, titles, or other transactional paperwork from multiple devices: desktop computers, tablets or phones. When a signature from a client is required, an agent simply needs to invite that individual to the platform site. The platform also provides a notification to all parties after a document has been reviewed or signed.

Ways to approach lease disputes

Housing co-ops and condominiums are attractive to many Massachusetts tenants for their convenience, shared approach to common maintenance and repair issues, and affordability compared to more traditional housing alternatives. 

However, that shared ownership can also give way to disputes, as a recent pet ownership dispute illustrates. According to the story, the co-op board at issue had maintained a no-pets policy for 84 years, but several of the residents had applied for exceptions on the ground of medical necessity. 

Strategies for approaching lease disputes, negotiations

In Massachusetts, state law governs certain aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship. In fact, the website of the Attorney General of Massachusetts contains helpful information about tenancies established by written lease and those at-will. The information is helpful for prospective tenants, especially those who might not know that they have certain protected rights. 

For example, some terms in a rental agreement may be open to negotiation between the parties. When it comes to issues of payment arrangements, housing discrimination, eviction or habitable living conditions, however, there are legal parameters that must be observed.

Ways to approach a zoning or building permit denial

There's no denying that Boston and many of its surrounding suburbs have a great deal of history. According to the city of Boston's website, there are nine local Historic District Commissions that review property owners' requests to make exterior design changes to real estate located within designated districts. 

Yet even if an individual doesn't live in a historic district, there may be other municipal regulations that impact an individual's plans to buy or sell a house. One prospective homeowner's nightmare experience with a building permit revocation illustrates that a conversation with a real estate attorney might be a wise safeguard in many instances.

Settlement payments for wrongful foreclosures total $3.1 billion

Although a real estate attorney is usually called upon in the front-end of a deal, a recent story suggests that a legal professional could also provide counsel to residential or commercial owners facing foreclosure. 

Specifically, the Federal Reserve recently issued a report indicating that around 83 percent of borrowers across the country have been compensated for some form of financial injury, most commonly in the form of improper or premature foreclosure proceedings. As of April 2014, borrowers had cashed payment checks totaling around $3.1 billion.

Commercial real estate companies adjust to foreclosure market

Although many aspects of the housing industry were affected after the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008, some commercial real estate companies responded by buying foreclosed properties in bulk. That institutional buying is credited with helping home prices to rise in many distressed markets.

Yet the market for such purchases and sales of investment properties may be changing, according to a recent report. Specifically, as cash flow issues normalize and collateral values once again start to rise, the supply of foreclosure properties is diminishing. Some commercial buyers and lenders are responding to this change by investigating the feasibility of flipping those distressed properties. Institutional buyers that have benefited in the past few years from rental income from purchased foreclosure properties may now be looking to sell those homes to lock in their profits. 

Worcester city leaders propose new zoning for open spaces

Zoning laws in Massachusetts are not set in stone, as a recent article reminds us. According to a recent vote of a Worcester City Council subcommittee, local developers may have to pay heed to new open space considerations.

Specifically, the council members approved a 131-page plan to create more city parks, rectangular fields, dog parks, other open spaces and playgrounds over a seven-year timeframe. If approved by the full City Council, the proposal will be submitted to the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

First-time Massachusetts homebuyers may face added challenges

For many Massachusetts workers, buying a house is the quintessential American dream. Such a goal often involves years of saving and planning. For example, in order to qualify for the most favorable mortgage rates, a homebuyer may need to make a sizable down payment, perhaps as much as 20 percent.

Yet in a housing market that is still recovering, a recent announcement from Bank of America is not good news. The bank used to offer a first-time homebuyer program. In a change to its lending strategy, however, Bank of America will now direct borrowers to other sources, such as programs offered by the Federal Housing Administration. 

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