General Index 

General House Hunting Articles

Things about Housing Everyone Should Know

Good Towns for Buyers, Good Towns for Sellers

Home Buying, Step by Step

Common Housing Problems and What to Do


Common Expenses when Buying or Selling Homes

After You Move In

Remodeling Slideshows for Kitchens, Baths, and others!


Oct. 30, 2023

5 Spooky Home Inspection Problems that Aren't so Scary


5 Spooky Home Inspection Problems that Aren't so Scary


Transcript Follows! (Note much of transcript is AI generated, so mistakes may be in the text, it's lightly edited). 


Things that I have found that home buyers are universally really, really nervous about but don't don't really need to be. So the first one and the second one are both related. We do a lot of radon testing today. A lot of times, people are worried about radon in the air but 99% of the time, they don’t need to be.


No one should really be worried about that. Radon systems or very simple. They're very effective and they're very inexpensive. So my feeling of radon is that nobody should, especially with radon in the air, no one should walk away from the house. Radon in the water is a little bit more complicated if the house has a well and you find radon in the water. You know, some people just aren't going to be okay with that. But I have to tell you. It's not all that serious of a health hazard. So some of the other things that we've talked about are far more serious. A lot of states don't even have, you know, maximum thresholds for radon in well water and I assume that's because they don't consider it to be very serious. I tend to agree. Plus there are mitigation systems that you can use they are on the expensive side. But there are systems that can solve it. 


Garage floor basement cracks and most foundation tracks. Okay. People really get worried about cracks in the garage floor, or heaves, you know, different words at different levels, or Big basement floor cracks. These cracks are non-structural. They don't have anything to do with the house. So they're (the concrete floors) are really just put down, you know, to keep the dirt down, keep the water down, keep the moisture down.


They're non-structural. So people get really worked up about it but there's really no reason to be. And most of the time, the deals will stay together once we explain it to them. It's just non-structural. Most foundation cracks. Again. They're nothing-burgers. I mean, you should always have a home inspection and you should always have your inspector look at all foundation cracks, you know, they look for evidence that you know, it's still moving that it's slipping away that there's some sort of issue underneath. But 99% of the time, you're not really, you're not going to see that. 


Roof issues. I mean, it's become conventional wisdom, that if a house has a bad roof you just shouldn’t buy it, but I mean today, you can fix roofs. And honestly, out of a lot of things that need to be fixed on a house. They've become one of the more inexpensive ones. I mean, if you're buying a three thousand square foot house and if it needs all new AC equipment, that's like 25 thousand dollars. The roof is probably 16.  So, it's a little bit more than half.


I mean is 16 thousand dollars a lot of money? Yeah, but If it's your dream house so you don't walk away from it, you negotiate over the money and settle it out and that's what you should do with roof issues.. They should not be a deal breaker in any way shape or form.


I mean maybe the sellers unwillingness to negotiate over it should be a deal breaker. But not the roof itself.


Broken septic! If you look around on my videos, you'll see that Ihave recommended that if you find houses with broken septic, they can be significant opportunities and you know, a fixed septic is a fixed septic.


I mean, once it's got the all clear from the board of health, you're good to go. So, you know, broken septic, it scares people. People worry a lot about septic, but when I see a house with broken septic, what I know is you're going to get a brand new septic system.


And that's great! That's a good thing. Not a bad thing. So it's really just working out the details to make sure you’re protected and you don't end up with something that doesn't work. That's really what it's about. Similar in a similar way, a broken heat exchanger, I've had multiple inspections where we've gone through and they, they open up the furnace, and they look at the heat exchanger and they say it’s cracked.


And the buyer says, well, what does that cost to fix? And the home Inspector goes like, this is, can't fix it. Need new heater, They're like, “new heater. I want out!”  I'm on the other side. Going, “A new heater. Fantastic!”  To me the house just got seven thousand dollars cheaper, and I got a brand new heater. 


A lot of this really all depends on how you're looking at that. But I wouldn't worry about a broken heat exchanger as a buyer. You have tremendous leverage to get that fixed. And so, you know, like I say down at the bottom home buyers are often risk averse about all these items, but with risk brings opportunity, Okay? An opportunity to improve the house as you go through inspection.


So not everything that comes up in an inspection should, you know, force you to back away, especially if you really like the house. So a good agent, a strong agent will work to make sure that you understand the issue at a significant level and that it can be fixed, it's a house almost anything can be fixed.


So it's really more about the money and about what the situation is going to be going forward. So I hope this video helps. I'll put up my final slide here. You know, just let people know that if you have a home inspection question and you feel like I could help you answer it I probably can!  


I'll try to get back to you soon as I can.  It can be anywhere in the country and I'll try to get back to you. I’m not a home inspector. But in terms of negotiating and protecting buyers with home inspection issues, that's definitely something I can help you with.


If you want to avoid problems that your inspection by making sure someone is going through the house who's been on a few hundred inspections. Right here. Reach out. I'm happy to help you and if you like the video, make sure I can keep them coming by subscribing below.

Sept. 27, 2023

Buying a Listing is on the rise!

Buying a Listing is on the rise!

Do you know sometimes real estate agents will "buy a listing?"  What does that mean?  Well, if a listing agent thinks that a home seller will list with what ever agent gives them the highest price for their home, it can be very tempting to give that home owner a very high price - a price so high, they know it's is very unlikely to work for the market.  This leads to unhappy sellers as the poorly set expectations about what is possible often leave sellers distrustful with their agent, and that is very bad!  

For more info on buying a listing and how to protect your self as a homeowner, please check out my video here!



Posted in Home Selling
Sept. 12, 2023

Make or Build a Cash Flow Spreadsheet for Investing In Properties

Making  a Cash Flow Spreadsheet for Investing in Real Estate

Hi!  I'm going to share some thoughts below the video, but if you'd like to get an overview of my thoughts AND see my spreadsheet in action, watch the video below!

Key Elements of any Cash Flow Spreadsheet

There's lots of room for debate here, but I think a good spreadsheet needs the following:

1) It needs to be simple. 

If it's complex, you won't use it.  Ultimately, my spreadsheet only uses 3-5 field for each property, which means I can fill it out very quickly for each property, so I can assess 10 properties in less than 45 minutes.   How does that help?  Well, out of 10 properties, about 7 or 8 aren't going to look good on paper, so now I can focus on just 2 or 3.  That save a lot of time.

2) You should track rent metrics.

Without a doubt, the hardest thing to know is the rent.  Landlords often have tenants below market, or the units are vacant.  If you're diligent about tracking rental information in your spreadsheet, you can use it to make good predictions.  I generally track it as $/sq foot/ month, which is a useful metric.

3) Make sure you're using the same assumptions

I make sure that my interest rates, percent down, and my "monthly costs" are all either the same or easy to configure.  This is both to keep me honest and make sure that my cash flow numbers are conservative.  Once you see a property, you can make more adjustments specific to that property, but for the initial screen, they should all be the same. 

4) Good on paper might be good, might not be good.

Some properties look good on paper.  Too good!  Maybe the rents are going to be lower than average, or turnover is high, or crime in the area is higher than average.  Maybe it's the building - a lot of cash intensive fixes coming due.  Whatever it is, things that look too good to be true usually are - so make sure you take a close look before buying.

Matt H

March 24, 2023

Everything You Need to Know about Slab Basement for Houses

When a listing says the basement is a Slab, what does that mean?

I get asked often about what a "slab basement" is when it appears in search listings.  A Slab basement is another way to say that there is no basement.  The home was built on a "slab" of concrete, and that slab is the entire foundation.  


Why are some homes on a Slab Foundation?

There are many reasons that homes are built on slab concrete foundations without basements.  Here are some of the reasons:

  • Soil doesn't support digging/basement construction.  In many parts of the country, there is very little dirt to put a foundation.  Some soils have too much clay or sand or are otherwise unstable to dig in, so instead they build on top of the surface with a slab foundation.
  • Cost.  The builder may simply have been trying to reduce the cost of the construction.  Basements are very expensive to build, and are not always a profitable investment for the builder.
  • Water.  If the house is close to the groundwater, digging a basement might just create a permanently wet basement.  In those cases, it is better not to dig at all, and just build on a slab of concrete. 

I'm sure there are others, but those would be the most common.  Whatever the reason, it should be noted that fixing such a thing is generally not practical.  Although slab basements are far less common in New England, in other parts of the country they are the dominant choice, showing that they can be fine houses just as they are - perhaps with a bit less storage. 

Are there special things about homes with Slab Concrete Foundations?

There are a couple.  Obviously, your heating and cooling equipment won't be in the basement, and is often somewhere on the first floor, where it can be noisy. So check out where the equipment is.  Some homes today would put the equipment in the attic, and that reduces the noise factor.  Also, it's important to check for termites with slab homes, as often the sill of the home is quite close to ground level, and termites can be harder to spot if the home exterior sheathing is close to ground level. Lastly, if the home has forced hot water, check to see if the plumbing is buried in the slab.  Concrete and copper are not friends, and the pipes often leak after a generation or two, forcing the house to be re-plumbed.  

Should I Buy a Home With a Slab Basement?

Sure!  No reason not to.  However, you shouldn't pay the same about of money for a home with a slab basement as you would for a home with a typical basement - at least in areas where the majority of the homes have a basement!  Buyers prefer basements, if they can get them, and giving them up means your average buyer will pay less for the house.  Often significantly!  In a soft market, a slab basement could reduce the sale price of the house 10-15% from similar homes with full basements. 

Don’t Go Just Yet! More Information for you…

About Matt Heisler

Matt Heisler is a real-estate professional and owner of this website. He has been selling homes in MA for buyers and sellers for over 20 years. He is an expert in foreclosure purchases, short-sale purchases, short-sale sales, buy and hold investing, fix and flip investing, and of course traditional residential home sales. He is happy to take questions as they pertain to real estate on Title V, Radon, Termites, Sump Pumps, Roofs, Foundations, Wells, Septic Systems, Cash-Flow, Staging, and a host of other housing issues. As a Vanderbilt University alumnus, he is proud to serve his local community.

*All information is posted in good faith and is assumed to be reliable, but may rely on third party information sources.

March 21, 2023

We've moved now Vanderbilt Properties

Important Changes coming! 



After helping thousands of people move across Massachusetts, we've done some moving and renovating ourselves!  




Matt Heisler





March 9, 2023

Property Tax History and Organization Links





I have quite a lot of tax history on the blog, and it tends to be popular!  Here's an effort to organize that information.


Alphabetical Rankings (easiest to find your town).


2017 Property Tax Rates

2018 Property Tax Rates

2019 Property Tax Rates

2021 Property Tax Rates

2022 Property Tax Rates


Least to Most or Most to Least (easiest to find where you rank among the other towns)


2013 Property Tax Rates

2018 Property Tax Rates

2019 Property Tax Rates

2021 Property Tax Rates

2022 Property Tax Rates






Changes in Tax Rates, 2014-2017

Summary of Tax Rates 2013-2017


April 6, 2022

Should I Buy A Home Next to Powerlines, or A Railroad, or a Highway?


Today's Buyers Ought to Know series is, “Should I buy a house next to power lines?” You’ll probably be surprised at the answer, but not really once we discuss how we sorta get there. It's pretty common in real estate that the house you want is just out of your budget. How do we get the house that you want in your budget? Well, one of the ways that you can do that is  you buy a property that has an impacted location. Now, what's interesting about impacted locations is, there's a ton of them. A lot of people think there's just one type. No!  There's, I mean, I have some listed here, but there's another two dozen that I could probably list that probably are less recognizable about the kinds of impacts that you can have. 


The short version is all properties that have an impacted location are going to be impacted with what the market thinks they're worth. And ultimately one of my job's is to try and figure out how much (the impact is)  so that you're not overpaying or not trying to get a discount, that's not going to happen. So, just to review the list, the types of impacted properties could be:  properties that are right next to the power lines. And, of course, I'm not talking about telephone poles, I’m talking about high tension lines, right? Where you look at it and It looks like it's out of a zombie movie right? Like it's just- people don't like looking at ‘em, and, some people worry that they have health effects, although science on that suggests, that's not really a thing. But people believe what they wanna believe, and what they believe is, they don't want to live next to power lines. They pay less for those houses. That's a fact. Okay. So what about railroad properties, if you had a railroad  in your backyard that property is not going to sell for the same (amount). Now, there's a big difference, if it's an old Spur Line that only runs once or twice a week, vs.  the commuter rail, right? So just because it's a railroad property, you can't make assessments about how it's going to …you can't make assumptions about how much it's going to get impacted just because it’s next to a railroad. It depends on the railroad!  There's a difference in how the markets going to look at (each of those). Highway properties are the same kind of thing. They're people that have around here 495 or the Mass Pike in their backyard. This is not uncommon, it happens all the time where people live on 85 or 30, or 20, or any of the other state highways. Some state highways are so big, they're just like interstates. But how close are you to the road? How much is the noise? Is there any kind of noise barrier or visual barrier between you and these locations? All of these things ultimately change what kind of discount you should probably be seeking right? 


And steep slopes, and I don't mean like a little sledding grade. I mean, like a deep slope. Like holy cow. Great. There's a ton of these properties with modern technology, you can build a house anywhere! It doesn't have to be on flat ground. Some houses have driveways where they have switchbacks you go up, but then you do what u-turn and then you go back up to another u-turn. I mean, I've seen some crazy stuff but what I know is that house does get the same money asa home with a flat lot. There's just fewer people who are interested in the house, but at some point they get interested in the value that the house provides at a certain price point. So a lot of people say, well, I would never live in a powerline house and house and I say, 

“Well, what if the house was one dollar?”

 “Oh, well then I would do it.” 

 You know, we all have a number where it works, right? And so, the market has a number for where it starts to make sense to more people than it stops, that it doesn't make sense to. I mean, that's what it's about. There are lots of neighborhood properties that have almost no backyard, either again because of steep slope. Sometimes there's Wetlands back there. You literally have like 5 or 10 feet of a backyard. The lot can be bigger, but what you own is not usable in any way, shape, or form. So functionally, you have no backyard, Tthat impacts the property, the price of the property. 


If you're in a neighborhood, it's a significant discount. And then there's another one on here that I have just called abutting a zoning change. So if you're in a residential area, when you're right next to a commercial area that tends to affect the price that you can get. There's all sorts of “right next to a commercial area”. Sometimes you can't even tell that the zoning line is there. Sometimes you can tell!  Right? Like here next to it, there’s a trucking depot, the trucks are all outside and it looks - not so great. That's going to have an impact.  The greater the visual impact between your property and the property next door,  the less it feels -Wonderful - The more of a discount you're going to get there. That's just how it is. But no matter the impact,  ultimately you have to ask yourself two questions. The first is, does this bother me? Most of the people that end up buying impacted properties, the impact doesn't bother them very much if at all. So most people that buy a house next door, Highway will tell you honestly, it was never as bad as we thought it was going to be, but at the time, they bought the property, they were very worried about it. The good news is most of the time these impacts are much bigger, at purchase time. Then they are actually having to deal with it. I mean, that's  good news if you're like, worried about it, right? But at the end of the day, you still have to be careful price wise because at purchase time, not just when you purchase but when someone else purchases it later, there's going to be a price impact. I mean if you’re there  long enough I guess it doesn’t matter a ton,, but for a lot of these properties, it's not uncommon to see them sell at a 20% discount. So it's a six hundred thousand dollar property and you end up paying 10% more than you should that sixty thousand dollars. I don't know. Maybe you don't need sixty thousand dollars. Most of the people I talk to,  they need sixty thousand dollars. If you could Venmo them sixty thousand dollars, they would be really, really happy. They need the money. That tends to be people that I work with. So you don't want to overpay by 10%. Just because it's 10% cheaper, a 10% cheaper, doesn't make it a good deal if it's a significantly impacted property. 


That's ultimately the message that I want to get here. Now, a lot of impacts are not 20 percenters. But some of them are. Sometimes  it could be more but most of the time around 20%, you know, is where you start finding buyers for those items.  But I will tell you, you need to be aware that if you buy a severely impacted property, there's some markets where I'm not going to recommend that you sell it. I’m going to see if you can hold on (wait for a better market).  It's been a long time since there's been a bad market, but you know when the markets bad, these properties, you have to really fire sale them in order to get out from under them. That's not a situation that you want to do. You do need to know that if it's a serious impact, that you're taking on some level of not being able to sell property, whenever you want.


 If you buy a house with great lot inside of a neighborhood, I don't care how bad the market is, you’ll always be able to sell that house. Can you get what you want for it? No. (Not in a bad market), but you’re going to be able to sell it - that’s the beauty of the “safer” properties.


A Lot of times, you can split it. You don’t need a property that is 100% safe. It can be a slight impact, you can still be able to sell property. You'll still be able to get a really good return. So, I know, one of the things people worry about, “if I buy a house next to power lines, I'll never get my money back”. Yes, you will!  And if you want I'll show it to you. I'll show you when the person bought the property, and then we'll look it will be ten years later, and they make just as much money as everyone else - as long as, they paid the right price at time of purchase! 


Okay, so the key here is not to necessarily try to find the perfect property or avoid properties with impacts. A lot of times, they can be beneficial to you. Because, you know, if you, if you're doing this right, you don't care about the specific impact because some people are like, “ I don't care about a backyard, I don’t want to mow it,”.  Great. Let's go find that property. You're going to be able to get more house that you want, at a lower price. That’s a win!  And then you don’t have to mow the lawn!  Not everybody needs to spend all day Saturday mowing the lawn, some people just don’t want to do it.  

Buy a house where you don’t need to do it.  And then you win, win. 



This can be a good strategy. Should you buy a house that’s next to powerlines? I'm going to sum up here, I'm going to do it. Should you buy a house is next to a railroad? Should you buy houses next to a highway? Yes, if it doesn't bother you and you're getting the discount that you need to get. That is the reason you should do it. You should never do it. If you can't live with the impact. Don’t do it.  Go find something else, it’s easy to do, there’s plenty of houses. 



And understand that if you can't deal with any impacts, you're going to get less house. That's just how it goes. But there are lots of different ways that you can make this work for you and your budget. You just need to be aware how the system works. So have a good one. I hope this got some answers for you. If you're looking for more detailed answers about a specific property. You guys know where you can find me. Thanks a lot, bye.

An Educated Home Buyer is a Happy Home Owner. Read On!

April 1, 2022

Buying a Home in an Ultra Tight Market when Selling a Home too!



As part of my  seller’s ought to know series, we’re going to talk about how to buy in an ultra tight market. Even though interest rates are going up, the market remains ultra tight and it's ultra tight, because there's just not enough inventory. Having said that, we've been doing this for a while, and there are definitely some strategies that you can do that are going to be successful. They’ve been successful for other people and you can do ‘em too. 


Honestly in every market buying and selling is a challenge and it's not an easy thing to do, but if you want to move…   It can be done! There are definitely three popular strategies, and there are some other sub-versions of these as well. You can sell your home with a home finding contingency. Right? So, basically, that's a situation where you put an offer together (on your house), but it says that you have a certain amount of time to find the next house. That's a good option. You can sell with a bridge loan. Okay. What that means is you find the house that you want and then you have a mortgage set up so that you can already purchase that house without having to have your house sold or  under agreement. This tends to work really well if you're moving long distances or, you know, you've got to get out of the old house before you can get in there and fix it up, and do other stuff. So, the bridge loan is definitely a good way to do it as it reduces the timeline dependency of being able of needing to sell one before the other. 


Another one is simply just to be ready to sell. Don't be sort of ready to sell, be completely ready to sell, have your house all packed up, you know, have your listing contract all set have the pictures already taken of your house. Literally be ready to put your house on the market tomorrow, right? And then be aggressive out there writing offers. But with these strategies, none of them are an obvious slam-dunk strategy. It really depends on your situation, and what you're trying to achieve.  A home finding contingency in this market is going to be unpopular with interest rates going up. There aren't a lot of buyers who are going to want to give you a very long time to go look for a house. Generally, they don't want to give you a long time, anyway, so you need to be understanding that if you're going to give (the buyer’s right to pick the date) up. It's probably going to affect the price that you get on your house.  Maybe in this market, not so much, but it's definitely something that is material for most buyers and could effect what you end up getting for your house.


 Bridge loans have additional costs!  Honestly with the prices that properties are going for,  I think, bridge loan pricing is very attractive right now. And it's definitely something that I think most people should consider. The downside is not everyone qualifies, you know, if you take the expensive piece out of it, a lot of people don't necessarily qualify for it because you do -  the bank does look a lot closer at your financials to make sure you carry the house for three to six months. 


The third option - writing offers without knowing exactly what you're going to get for your house. It's very nerve-racking. Ultimately bridge loans and, you know, just being ready to sell, you really need to have a good understanding of pricing for your house. Some houses are easy to price, and some houses are not. In this market, the good news is, most people end up getting more than they expect. And at some point that will stop, but for the moment that has definitely been the case. That has made the move, definitely worth it. 



Are they paying more when they buy?  Yes, they are, but they're getting it back when they sell or most of it and sometimes more than most of it. So those have been good things to do. But with any of these strategies doing them, for the first time can feel uncomfortable. I know that a lot of my customers, you know, worry about it. At  the end of the day, there aren't any risk free strategies in a tight market, right? I mean, at the end of the day, you can solve most of these problems with money, but the risk of money is a real thing. Not everyone has a lot of money sloshing around. So, you know, you have to take on some risk to kind of make it work, but you can be successful like haven't gone down these roads more than a few times. You know, I can show you sort of where the signposts are and the kinds of things you should be thinking about, in order to determine which strategy is right for you!  And again, as I said, in the opening and even normal markets buying and selling is not not easy. We have lots of practice helping people do it. Helping people get the timing down and making sure that they're ready to go from house “A”  house “B”. It can be done. It's a little tougher in this market, but it's certainly not impossible and really shouldn’t  be something that prevents people from moving forward. Having someone who understands the strategies, where they go wrong, how they don't work. And then making sure that the paperwork that we put in place in order to protect you, so you can execute these strategies is a key part of what we do. If this is something that you'd like to know more about,  absolutely reach out to me, I’d be happy to discuss your situation in detail, and figure out which one of these situations is right for you or where something else is the right strategy for you. Thanks. Have a great day.

March 23, 2022

Buying Foreclosures in Today's Market

Quick Overview to Explain How Foreclosure (REO's) Are bought and sold TODAY


Hey everybody. I appreciate you clicking on this video. And I know you're here because you want a deal on a foreclosure. I've got some good news and some bad news on that front. But if you want an overview of foreclosures, this is a great place to start. So I'd like to tell you I have lots more information than this quick video. So if you are still interested in pursuing foreclosures, make sure you reach out to me. Tere's a lot to go over really just trying to keep these overviews to like, five minutes. And, you know, this is a really complicated process. It's changed a lot. 


At the end of the day, it's just an overview. If you need more info, let me know. Most people, most of the buyers that I talked to, even a lot of the investors, they're still convinced that foreclosures happen the way they did, you know, a long time ago. So back when I started, which was a long time ago and in the old days, you know, the banks would post notices in the paper, which they still have to do. (It's required by law) Then they would do an auction out on the street and whoever showed up could get a deal and it was very difficult to get to the properties. This way, it sort of limited what you could do geographically.  And because of that only a few people showed up and you know, the banks had certain processes in place so that they could sell them as many times as they wanted and build lists (of buyers) and the whole thing. But at the end of the day, it was a fairly profitable enterprise. Especially if you were pretty good at figuring out what these properties were worth. 


Even if they weren't sold out on the street, if it was a local bank, a lot of times you can walk into the local bank and find the people who are dealing with distressed property at the bank and talk to them and, you know, tell them your story and maybe get a deal. So the problem with all of that is because there was sort of this inelegant system to do it, There were lots of opportunities for bank and mortgage fraud. Although it didn’t happen with every foreclosure it happened with enough of them where the banks were very eager to do something else. So they have! It's their responsibility to do something else. 


Today things have changed. The first is that for a bank to actually take possession, takes a very long time, most banks will try to do anything to avoid, having to foreclose on a property that includes doing a short sale and lots of other things because it just takes forever to (fore)close. And basically, they aren’t getting paid the whole time that they're taking possession. It's not a good deal for the banks that way, but when they finally do take possession eventually, they get around to listing. And again  I've seen this take years, you know, they take possession of a certain date, that six months later, eight months later. It finally comes up for sale. I don't know why it takes so long. I can't tell you. I just know that it does. When they do list it though, the process is pretty much the same today. They figure out what the market value probably is, and then, they list it substantially below the market value. Now, why would they do that? Well, they do it, so they can get multiple offers. Okay, and this is all part of the fraud prevention that they're trying to do. So if you only get two offers on the property, it might be easy for, you know, the real estate agent who's ever handling, the REO to steer the bank towards one offer, which may not may or may not be the best offer, maybe the offer might be from someone that the agent knows. But if you have fifteen offers, well, it's a little bit easier to figure out what the market value of the property is. Today they list them low, and then they collect offers and so you can run out there and see him all you want. But basically the bank is going to sit there until they get a bunch of offers. Now in a super hot market, this happens pretty quick. You still gotta hustle out there, but most of the time, in a normal market, the more beat up properties, the higher-risk properties, they can sit out there for a while,while the bank sits there and collects offers and figures out what the best thing is to do. It's not uncommon for this process to take a while. If you're writing offers on foreclosures, don't write an offer on a Friday, expect an answer on the Saturday. It's not usually what happens. First of all, nobody’s working at the bank on Saturday or Sunday. Best cases, you're going to hear on Monday, but, you know, like I said, it can really take a while and you sort of need to know the banks move at their own speed. 


Most of the offers for foreclosed property are actually collected through auction websites and there's a bunch of them out there. You can go crazy going out there and looking at those websites, but it can be very frustrating because some of those websites, in order to write an offer, basically you fill out five or six fields and then you submit the offer. So the problem with that is because, it's not even a signed contract. It's just it's just me bidding on a property. So there's a bunch of problems with that. The first problem is that if they're showing you what the last bid was, you don't know if the last bit was serious. The bank doesn't know either. Right? Like, I mean, they treat all the bits the same, but some of these auction websites will show you what the last bid was. And I believe someone typed in those numbers, but a lot of times those numbers are not real and when the auction ends, they go to the buyer that put in the number and they say, “Hey you won! Now you have to give us money!” and the buyer goes. Oh, wait a minute. I haven't really looked at the property and so then they either look at the property or Bank, says listen, if you're not serious, you know, we're just going to go down the list and go to the next person. Very often what happens is the buyer that ‘won’ realizes that if he buys the property is going to ‘lose’ and the property comes back on the market. We see this happen all the time. So some properties, you know, it'll go under agreement and then it'll come back up. It'll be a new round of bidding that will go under agreement, that will come back up under agreement, come back up, three, four, times. It's not weird and it's all because there are a certain number of buyers out there that are happy to put a price on there that doesn't make any sense (once they research it). And then once they get more information about a property, they immediately run away from the property as fast as they can. I's just something that you need to be prepared for because of the system. So some of the auction websites require more formal offers and you tend to see less of the bouncing, but every situation is different. And there's not a ton of foreclosures. So it really is sort of, you know, every situation is different! 


At the end of the day, the bank is collecting all these offers to reduce the possibility of fraud. It's just impossible and practice to get them to hurry up or take your offer first. It's not, they're not, this is by design the banks have no interest in taking your offer first. If they do, they're going to be worried that there's fraud going on. They want 12 other offers, you know, or whatever their number is, before they make a decision and they want to make sure that the offers are consistent from a market perspective as to what it is that they should get. 


The offers are evaluated in a typical fashion, which means that they're looking not just at the price but they're looking at the financing too. So if you're a high LTV buyer, then you're at a disadvantage. You’re going to have to pay more than someone comes in and offers cash. A lot more! And sometimes paying more isn’t going to help at all. So if you pay five thousand dollars more as an FHA buyer, and they can take someone who's going to pay cash and no mortgage contingency for five thousand dollars less - You're not going to win that. That's the bank's going to take the cash every time, they're going to close in 30 days. It's what they're going to do. On top of that, a lot of foreclosures, especially the ones that are a good deal, can’t be purchased with high LTV loans. You know, you can't -  if it needs a new roof immediately, if the roof is already leaking and you try to buy a foreclosure with an FHA loan.. I have to tell you, it’s not  going to happen. The bank is aware it's not going to happen, and they're not going to choose your offer because they know that you're financing isn't going to get past the appraiser when it comes time to to perform. They're going to have to put the house back on the market which they don't want to do. So, they tend to favor offers where, where the financing is more secure, even if the price is a bit lower. They're very rational about this again, you know, once all those offers go in, I'm pretty sure they don't even look at the names, they don't care. They're just looking at the numbers and that's how they make decisions. 


Foreclosures and value. No matter - all the time I've been doing this, it's a persistent urban myth and foreclosures are good values and easy ways to make money in real estate. I'm sorry. It's not true. It's not true. It's especially not true because banks are not here to give you a discount. I think we all know at this time, that banks are very good at looking out for themselves. When they own a piece of property, they are no different! Now, they don't want to do any work on the property. So if it's cosmetically challenged or it has physical flaws, things that need to be fixed - things that increase the risk profile of the property. Well, that intends to sell for what looks like a lower price, right? Relative to what other similar kinds of property sell for, but that's how it works when the property needs updating or needs to be fixed. The price goes down. And so I in here  a simple, you know, valuation metric formula for how you can figure out the price of the property. Okay?  The current value of the property is the maximum intrinsic value. So if everything was perfect, okay, for that house and that location has a maximum value. Okay minus the risk, right? So let's take an easy one: It’s a  perfect house, perfect, lot. And it's worth 500. That's its max intrinsic value. And it has a failed septic system which is going to cost thirty five thousand dollars to fix. Well, it's probably going to take 60 thousand dollars off the price right? Because people don't do dollar for dollar for risk!  They usually one and a half dollars or two dollars for every dollar of risk that they take on. So you're going to take 60 thousand dollars off the five hundred thousand dollars and someone will probably be willing to pay, you know, 440K for that house and then replace the septic system. So again, this is a situation where if you have an FHA loan, can you offer 460 and buy the house? You cannot! Failed septic system means you'll never get past FHA. Right? So if you have the cash to buy the house of 440, but no money to put a septic system in,  will a bank let you buy the property? Sure, but then you're going to be in a world of hurt. You're not gonna be able to live there. It's got a failed septic system, and the town isn’t going to let you live there. You're going to have to replace that system. You're gonna have to figure out where to get the money from, you know, maybe you can still borrow it from the house. I guess, if you pay cash, you could probably do that. 


Bottom line is, a lot of these properties need things fixed and they need them fixed immediately and you need to have the cash on hand to do that. And you need to know that you're going to have an opportunity to estimate what it's going to cost. But the bank is not going to let you go out there and do a septic design to figure out how much the septic system is going to cost. You're going to have to guess! And if it's a sixty thousand dollar septic system. Your profit is gone. I mean, that's just how it works, sophisticated investors, understand this, okay, that they are going to take a chance and hope that the numbers come out, where they should in order, so they can make money. But a lot of times, you know, inexperienced buyers are not aware of how much risk is embedded in a property and they need to be very, very careful in assessing what kind of discount they need in order to take on that risk. Okay, you should never be taking on forclosure of all things for even money, which is to say it needs 20,000 dollars and your only going to ask twenty thousand dollars off. That's crazy. 


You're going to do all that work and end up right back where you started. It doesn't make any sense. So, you know, understanding how much risk is in these properties, is really, really important. You know, is there a buried oil tank somewhere? Is there mold in the property which often requires extensive repairs in order to get the mold out? It can be fixed. Anything can be fixed. But sometimes it's very, very expensive. So, you know, far more  expensive so you've got to take those high-risk elements and make sure that you've got a pretty good feel for whether or not you know, they're going to come into play and if they do,  run away! Because once you buy it, it's yours and there's no givsies-backsies. Okay. Bank is going to make you sign multiple documents that say, they don't know anything about the property, you know, if something bad happens on the property once you own it, it's your problem. Okay, they don't want - the whole process is designed to get them off the hook and make sure that you can’t sue them. You need to be aware of that and that means that you need to pay a price that takes into account the fact that you're taking on all this risk. 


Here's the good news. Okay, you don't need a  forclosure to make money in real estate. If what you want to do is find a distressed property and fix it up. There are tons of them typically out there. And you can do the same math that you're doing foreclosure, except they're easier to buy!  Estate sales are often sold through the traditional process through MLS. They're a great way to find properties that need work. But ultimately, they are sound houses, without the risk that, you know, foreclosures take on. Okay, without the cash needed, right up front. A lot of times you can live in a dated house for a while, then fix it up as you go. So focusing just on foreclosures and assuming that there's deeper value there, I think is not a good way to find a house, especially if you're on a budget. Okay, if you're on a budget, you need to cast as wide a net as possible and figure out where it is. Believe me. You're not going to get the discount you think, on foreclosures.


Does it happen? Sure, It happens.  But it happens with other property too, it just doesn't happen with foreclosures. Every once in a while, nobody can see the diamond in the rough. Okay, and that house sells far below where it should that, It's a good value. I mean, it happens! But it doesn't just happen with foreclosures and you don't need to limit yourself to foreclosures in order to build equity and in order to be successful investing in real estate. I hope that sort of clears up the process from how it used to work, to how it works now and hopefully you've identified whether or not this is something that you want to do. There’s  not a ton of foreclosures right now, but that will change and when they come back on the market I’m sure this video will get a lot more looks. Alright, folks, until next time. See you.


March 20, 2022

Title V Overivew Massachusetts Septic System Reports Explained


Today in this video, we’re going to cover Title V. It's really about septic systems, and Title V is  the Massachusetts law that covers septic systems installation, and inspections and basically respond to stuff that I like to go over whenever someone's buying a Title 5 property which is pretty common. In this area, 40 to 50 percent of the properties and Title 5, they have septic systems, and so we run into them all the time and there's definitely things that most people should know before they buy a house. I mean, anytime you're buying a house, you should know as much as you can about the expensive components and septic systems definitely qualify. 


So what is Title V? As I mentioned, Title V is a law that governs septic systems. We talk about Title 5 in real estate all the time, but we're usually talking about the report. So when you sell a house in order for you to get a mortgage for the next buyer, to get a mortgage on that house, the bank's know that they need to ask for Title 5, make sure that the septic system is good. So they do! And that Title 5 report is what they need in order to check that box and make sure someone can get that mortgage. So the report is really thorough. I mean, it's 17 pages and even all the pages aren't necessarily filled out for every septic system, there's a lot of stuff that's in the report. If you're looking at a lot of reports, you can sort of figure out a lot of stuff about a septic system. But it’s not exhaustive. They don't dig the system up and check it out. There are things that they do not do and you should be aware of the fact that they haven't done them. And so the main thing that I think most people should really need to understand about a Title V report is that it is not a warranty and it's not a guarantee. So if they give you the report, you buy the house, the system fails a week later. That's just tough luck. That's how it goes. So they're not really on the hook for that. The folks that are inspecting systems are licensed by the state. So it's in their best interest to give you as clear and understanding of the system as possible. And if it is going to fail, they're supposed to fail it when they inspect it. But you know, things can happen. Most of the time that's pretty much how it works. 


A lot of people prefer city sewer, I just did this slide because there are some pros and cons about septic systems, and I think the biggest Pro that's out there that I think people don't understand is that they're super environmentally friendly. Way more than city sewer! City sewer requires power, you know, not not just to move the water from you know your house to wherever it needs to go. But most sewage is treated, and treating sewage is an expensive proposition. It requires a lot of electricity to get waste water back into a situation where it could be released back into the environment. Septic systems, most of the time do not require any electricity at all, and they use bacteria from Mother Nature and they release the whole system back to Mother Nature. So ultimately, you know, you're you really I think it's hard to beat the environmental friendliness of a septic system. Another Pro, obviously as you don't have a sewer bill, I mean sewer bills are hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for most folks in this area and they're going up, you know, they don't tend to go down. They tend to go up because you have to get septic treatment plant. So the more people that move here and where stress is put on septic treatment plants, the more routing they have to do to get him to other treatment plants. It just gets more expensive or more pipes they have to maintain.  


When you don't have a sewer bill there’s a huge savings, now, the offset there is, you're basically in charge of your own Sewer Service. Okay? Even though modern-day systems are designed - and Even the older systems - are designed for a really long use by that, I mean, decades, 25 to 30 years is what they were designed for, when they do need to be replaced, the bill is often very expensive. Twenty to forty thousand dollars is not out of line for typical septic replacement, especially a full replacement. So some systems can be kept going by replacing parts, you know, a lot in this area, a lot of D boxes, were not required to be particularly good, and today, the standards have been improved. But sometimes you run into older systems that have bad D-boxes. You can replace them, that doesn't cost twenty to forty thousand dollars, but it's not cheap either, and it's expensive. There are things that you need to know there. 


When I'm looking at a report. There's a bunch of things that I'm trying to figure out. First, I'm trying to figure out how old that system is because like I said, most of them are designed to last 30 years. If you got a system that's 50 years old that’s in the ground, I think you need to have a discussion about that. Right? Like, it's really you got to start thinking about how the systems work and how much pressure it's been under for 50 years, try to dig into the report, see if they've got good drainage information in there. If it's if it's a system that was done in the 1990s and that would make it 25 years old today, not really worried about that system, quite as much because the technology has gone a long way. And if it's been properly maintained, it will probably still have, you know, plenty of life left in it. 


But ultimately, when you're looking at the report, those are the kinds of things you're trying to figure out. Sometimes we run into ed. (houses) that have very small systems, even though the house is quite large. I won't get into why we see that, but sometimes you do see that. So it's a four-bedroom house it functions like a four-bedroom house, but it's only got a two bedroom system... If you're putting a lot of people in the house, that's a concern. Because the amount of water that that system is designed to handle, it's probably not consistent with how you're going to use the house. So that is definitely something that you need to look at for any system that you’re going to buy, making sure that it's the right size for how you're going to use the house. Not just the right size for the house. A tough thing to find out from the report is how well the seller is taking care of the system. It's not usually information we can give you! We just don't know. There is nobody looking at it on a regular basis.  For everyone's who’s buying a septic system, you do have to take some sort of chance there. If there's obviously serious problems with it, they should come up when it's inspected. They should be in the title V report. But there are a lot of things that people can do that are not proper, that are harder to have inspectors notice. I also think people should know, I mean, a lot of houses are on their second septic system and if that septic system was done relatively recently in the last 20 years. If you take care of that system, it's going to last a long time. You know, I mean the chances that it will outlast your run with the house are very good. And you should really understand how they're put together so that you can keep it running for as long as possible for as little money as possible. It really doesn't take a lot of time or money to keep a septic system running the way it ought, and especially modern-day systems, but you still need to know what to do. And so it's probably a good idea to talk about that before you buy the house.



This is what a septic system looks like. I have another video that goes into this in more depth, with the key things here are just that there's a tank, a D box, and a leach field, the report addresses each of these at various levels of detail. They definitely get to take a good look at the tank. They're supposed to take a really good look at the D box, if there are reasons that they can't they note them and if they found problems that require fixes, in those areas they note them too. The one part they can’t really inspect is  the leach field and unfortunately leach field failure often requires a new system. So those are the chances that you take there. Some people don't want to take those chances,  they highly prioritize city sewer systems, but I think you can actually really reduce your risk of having problems with your septic system by looking at those reports and understanding that  Just because it says “pass”, that doesn't always mean everything’s OK. But a lot of times a passed system, with a little bit of knowledge to go along with it, means you can have a lot of trouble free years with that system, and not pay any sewer bills, which can be a really good thing. So, little knowledge can go a long way.  I hope you enjoy the video. 

An Educated Home Buyer is a Happy Home Owner. Read On!