Appealing Boston Area Property Taxes

Higher Boston area property taxes are sometimes a good thing. That’s because it usually means home values have increased. Did you know that if you feel your Boston area property taxes are too high you can file an appeal? Here are a few tips to follow.

Review Boston Area Property Taxes

When you receive your tax notice, examine it closely. Look for errors that may be mistakenly inflating the value of your home. Ask your county’s tax assessor’s office for a property record card and review it carefully. The property record card lists the components used to come up with your property’s assessment. This information may also be available online. Obvious mistakes such as an incorrect square footage or the wrong number of baths will reduce the value of your home — and that will reduce your property taxes.

Review the property tax bills for similar properties in your neighborhood. The tax notices are part of the public record and may also be available online. Compare your home to homes of a similar age or size. If your assessment is higher than the others you may have good grounds for an appeal.

Make sure you received all the property tax breaks you’re entitled to. Most states offer taxpayers certain exemptions, lower tax rates or reduced assessment ratios. The lower rates may apply to homeowners using their home as their primary residence, senior citizens or military veterans.

Your state’s tax department website is also a good source of information on how to appeal your Boston area property taxes. And you can also visit the National Taxpayers Union website,

Find more tips and articles on Boston area property taxes to your right in the Boston Real Estate Categories. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for daily news and tips we post there, too.

How Rising Rates Affect Boston Area Home Buying

The Boston area home buying market may feel the effects of the Federal Reserve’s recent decision to raise interest rates… or not. The Fed increased the rate on federal funds for banks by .25%, the first such increase in over seven years. What does that mean for people contemplating purchasing a home?

How will Boston area home buying be affected, if at all, by the Fed raising interest rates?

Boston Area Home Buying: What’s Next?

As part of an overall strategy to allow the market to recover from the 2008 housing crash, the Federal Reserve purposely kept interest rates low.

For months new home buyers have anticipated a rate increase. That’s given many an incentive to buy or refinance existing mortgages before rates went up. However, a slight interest rate increase isn’t likely to deter buyers from continuing to shop for homes. If anything, it may continue to make them aware that interest rates could be on the rise and now is the time to buy.

The increase in the Federal Reserve rate won’t affect you all that much. There’s little correlation between the Fed’s interest rate and mortgage interest rates. Economists argue that rates on new mortgages have fluctuated throughout the entire year without any change in the Federal Reserve’s policy until recently. They cite, for example, a movement of 70 basis points (.70%) in the 30-year fixed rate mortgage loan category during 2015.

Higher rates don’t mean mortgage lending will tighten up. Because the Fed’s rate hike was so small, it’s not likely to prevent homebuyers from being able to purchase. There are mortgage products available for most every financial situation — from low down payment requirements to still-attractive fixed rate 30-year conventional loans.

Higher rates may motivate you to act. Some economists expect interest rates to rise in 2016 by as much as 1%. While the increases will probably be small, they may serve as the “nudge” that some Boston area home buyers need to get off the fence and get serious about buying.

Higher interest rates may keep home values in line with wage increases. Home values increased dramatically in some markets during 2015. This appreciation rose higher and faster than wage increases, making it harder for many Americans to afford to buy. The rise in interest rates typically slows the rate of home appreciation. This will allow wages the opportunity to “catch up” with real estate appreciation, making homes more affordable.

If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, you probably shouldn’t worry. You probably don’t have an ARM. Experts say 85-90% of mortgage originations in the past two years were for 30-year fixed rate loans. Homeowners that may have had an ARM likely refinanced during 2015 expecting a possible rate increase. If you have an ARM don’t worry. Most ARMs have a locked interest rate between 5-7 years. The rate will remain unaffected during that period. Even if you’ve passed that timeframe, chances are the rate increases in 2016 will be small. If you’re still worried about the future, a fixed-rate refinancing is always an option.

Continue to shop around for the best deal. Just as the Boston area home buying process involves looking for the home that best suits their needs, you should do the same when loan shopping. Find the loan program that fits you and your financial situation. Shop around. Ask questions. Compare rates and lenders.

Get more information on Boston area home buying by checking out our other articles in the Boston area Home Buying Tips section just beneath Boston area Real Estate Categories to your right. And be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter. We post daily tips there.

Retire in Your Boston Area Home

Your current Boston area home may or may not be the place you’ll end up living when you retire. Many of us have dreams of retiring to a secluded beach or some other relaxing location. Statistically, however, most people never leave “home” when they retire. Let’s look at a few reasons to stay put when you retire.

Your current Boston area home may or may not be where you will live when you retire.

Boston Area Home Perfect for Retirement

According to a study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, only 7% of the older U.S. population move every year. Despite improvement in the economy allowing for greater relocation, a recent AARP survey found that as people near retirement they plan to stay in their current home. Here’s what retirees and soon-to-be-retirees think.

Home is where the heart is.

It’s more than just an old adage. It’s a frame of mind. People become attached to where they spend most of their time. Communities that they’ve lived in for a long time are usually near and dear to them. They feel comfortable there and they like that.

My friends all live here.

As people age they remember friendships and relationships forged over time. They may include church membership, service organization or a bridge club, and these personal connections are important. Experts say that a strong social network if vital in the happiness of an aging population. As one retiree asked rhetorically, “Where am I going to find friends like the ones I have now?”

People usually retire where they are.

Baby boomers were accustomed to moving to different parts of the state or country for job opportunities. Many didn’t settle down in one place until they were in their 40s. Usually after that, there are children involved and it becomes a little more difficult to move them away from their friends, their school and the towns they grew up in. And, let’s face it, as we get older we don’t really relish the idea of packing up and relocating to a completely new part of the U. S. In addition, it costs a lot of money to move. There’s a lot to be said for feeling comfortable and content.

It need not cost a lot to prepare your Boston area home for retirement.

Of course, you can spend a bundle if you decide to remodel your whole house. Yet many of the improvements regarding safety as we age needn’t cost all that much. Improving lighting in hallways or along stairs, adding grab bars or raised toilets in the bathroom aren’t expensive projects.

Find more articles that may concern your Boston area home in the Boston area Real Estate Category to your right, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook where we post tips daily.

Boston Area Real Estate Trends in 2016

It’s that time of the year again where the experts dust off the Boston area real estate crystal ball and look into the future. Whether you’re buying, selling or renting the real estate market affects you in one way or another. Here are a few predictions for 2016.

Boston Area Real Estate: 4 Expectations for 2016

It is time again for experts to dust off the Boston area real estate crystal ball and see the future.

Home price appreciation may level off. Now that the Federal Reserve has decided to raise interest rates slightly, analysts expect home prices to stagnate. Home affordability will become a bigger hurdle in 2016, especially with recent increases in home values. If prices rise and rates continue to go up, there could be a big increase in the number of unaffordable homes.

An improving U.S. economy may be offset by rising home prices and a lack of credit. Those factors will most likely limit Boston area real estate demand and housing growth. The exception will be in markets where rents have skyrocketed, making buying more attractive. Higher rents typically spur home buying. However, when rents are rising it’s usually more difficult for first-time buyers to save money for a down payment and loan closing costs.

A larger number of millennials are expected to buy. According to, more millennials say they want to become homeowners between now and 2018. Typically, millennials wait for a job change or promotion or when they’ve saved enough money to buy. While real estate experts don’t expect a huge surge of new buyers, they are confident there will be a gradual increase in 2016.

There could be fewer houses on the market. Most experts say the gradual recovery in home prices over the past few years has been both good and bad for people looking to buy for the first time or move into a larger home. This is due, in part, to the Baby Boomers who are slowly retiring and aren’t selling their homes as fast as they once did. As one economist said, “People aren’t going to trade in their low mortgage rate for a higher one.” Instead, Baby Boomers are remodeling rather than buying a larger home with a bigger mortgage and a higher interest rate. In fact, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) predicts home improvement projects will reach a record high in 2016.

Additional new mortgage loan options are needed. With rising interest rates come the need for new loan products with lower down payments. The growth in credit availability has been in the consumer lending arena, not in the mortgage loan industry. Borrowers have been more successful in using their improved credit scores to buy cars and boats, not homes.

New loan originations are expected to rise in 2016 by more than 10% to $905 billion, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Still, experts say additional creative mortgage products are needed to make home buying and borrowing more affordable.

Keep up with Boston area real estate trends as we move through 2016 by checking out articles we post in the Boston area Real Estate Categories to your right. We also post daily tips at Twitter and Facebook.

Paying Points on a Boston Area Mortgage Loan

Boston area mortgage loan experts say over 6 million people nationwide will buy homes next year. Statistics expect roughly 2 million will be first-time homebuyers. Both first-time buyers and others always wrestle with whether or not to pay “discount points” on their mortgage.

The Boston Area Mortgage Loan: Points?

Discount points on a Boston area mortgage loan are designed to save interest over a long term loan payback.

Just what the heck are discount points, anyway? Mortgage discount points are a one-time, upfront closing cost designed to discount the existing mortgage interest rate. One point is equal to 1% of your loan amount. Your interest rate is normally reduced by .25% for each discount point.

Since paying discount points lowers your interest rate, the process is often called “buying down” your rate. As an example, on a mortgage amount of $400,000 at 4% interest, you could elect to pay one discount point or $4,000 and lower your interest rate to 3.75%. For a borrower planning to be in that home for as long as a 30-year term, the interest savings over the life of the loan can be substantial.

Should you pay discount points? The answer is a resounding “that depends.” Paying discount points can be expensive. Plus, it will mean you have to come up with more money at the loan closing. Still, it may make sense — especially if you can negotiate with the seller for him to pay part or all of the closing costs.

Paying points to lower your mortgage interest rate could be a good investment over time. However, if you plan to sell your home in a few years or refinance your mortgage you probably won’t recoup the amount you paid in discount points.

Because discount points are used to “buy down” your interest rate, they are usually tax-deductible.

Mortgage experts recommend you consider paying discount points as a luxury, not a necessity. If paying one or more points puts you in a bind by requiring you to pay additional money at the closing, it’s probably best not to do it.

Okay, what’s next? Consult your real estate agent about concessions the seller may make as part of your offer to purchase a home. You never know what you may get until you ask. Discuss discount points with your Boston area mortgage loan professional to find out your best course of action.

Get more up to date news and tips on Boston area mortgage loans by checking out our other articles under the Boston Area Mortgage Info section just below Boston Real Estate Categories to your right. We also post periodic information about mortgages on Facebook and Twitter… follow us there as well.

5 Tips to Try on Your 2015 Taxes

As the deadline nears for filing 2015 income taxes, there’s no time like the present to get a jump on being ready to file. Experts say planning ahead may help lower the stress created by filing your income taxes. Getting an early start can give you the time you may need to cover all the bases. The following tax strategies may help.

Planning For 2015 Taxes Made Easier

Never too soon to start planning for filing your taxes for 2015

1. Be sure to check and double-check all tax withholdings. Review your withholding information with your employer’s payroll department to make sure you’re not having too much – or not enough – withheld from your paycheck. If you make quarterly estimated tax payments review them, too.

2. Consolidate your outstanding debts. Give some thought to paying off high-interest credit card balances with a home equity loan or line of credit. The rate will be lower and the interest will be tax deductible.

3. Take refinancing into account. If you refinanced your mortgage during the tax year, you probably have a lower interest deduction. And if you used any or all of the refinance proceeds for anything other than home improvements, that money may be subject to an alternative minimum tax. Don’t forget, you can deduct points that were paid in the refinance if you haven’t already.

4. You should prepay your quarterly estimated state taxes. Pay the fourth-quarter 2015 estimated state income taxes and any balance owed by December 31. You can deduct the payments for the 2015 tax year and you won’t be subject to the alternative minimum tax.

5. You should prepay your personal property taxes. Some counties bill taxpayers twice – once in November and again in February. If you pay the February installment by the end of the tax year you can deduct it on your 2015 income taxes. A word to the wise, however, the alternative minimum tax does not allow this deduction.

As always, if you have questions about your withholdings, exemptions, deductions or other tax matters see a qualified tax professional.

Find more tips and articles on Boston area taxes to your right in the Boston Real Estate Categories. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for daily news and tips we post there.

Boston Area Economy Part of Nationwide Job Gains

Average unemployment in the Boston area economy mirrors that of the U.S., remaining steady at 5%. That’s a 7-year low. As the economy has grown, more people looked for employment. Job additions exceeded expectations according to recently-released November statistics.

Job Growth in the Boston area Economy

Job gains were solid nationwide, with employers adding 211,000 jobs during November. The construction industry was among the biggest gainers, along with private sector services. While there was weaker growth in temporary employment — even among retailers who employ part-timers for the holidays — analysts say this is a good sign of economic recovery.

The Federal Reserve has maintained interest rates at record lows to aid the economy. Most economists believe the Fed will raise interest rates, perhaps for the second time, during the first half of 2016.

A recent survey of business executives show lowered expectations for profit and growth. This is largely due to increased domestic competition and sluggish growth in the manufacturing sector. Others, however, say a boost in retail spending over the holidays may spur a better outlook for business.

One thing seems certain. If the economy can hold on, the growing trend of Baby Boomers retiring will create future job openings. It is expected there will be more than 50 million job openings in the next ten years. Roughly 30 million of the jobs will be to replace retiring Baby Boomers.

While short-term growth sounds good, analysts are quick to issue a word of caution. They say with the nation’s place in an ever-important global economy there are factors that may hurt growth and prosperity. Continued instability in China’s economy and the increased threats of terrorism throughout the world may impact possible improvement in the U.S. economy.

Find more information about the Boston area economy by checking out the various sections of articles just below the Boston area Real Estate Categories heading to your right. We also post articles and information daily on Facebook and Twitter.

Boston Area Housing: Emerging From Underwater

Recent Boston area housing statistics — included as part of third quarter housing results reported by Zillow –– show that roughly a million U.S. homeowners finally owe less than their homes are worth.

Water Receding in Boston area Housing Market?

Boston area housing continues to emerge from being underwater.

According to the Zillow report, the negative equity rate among homeowners in the U.S. dropped to 13.4%. That’s a 1% decrease from results compiled during the second quarter. The negative equity rate was 16.9% a year ago. Historically, the expected norm is a negative equity rate of 5% or less.

Housing experts say the quick rise in home values have helped the negative equity improvement. Home prices went up during October, increasing 6.8% from the same month a year ago. Nationwide, the home price increases have collectively lowered negative equity to almost $60 billion in the last quarter.

Despite these remarkable improvements, negative equity is still higher than it should be. And while a larger number of borrowers are now able to refinance because of increased values, a huge number of homeowners are still underwater. Analysts estimate over 6.5 million homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their home is worth. In addition, roughly 30% of U.S. homeowners with mortgages are still technically in a negative equity position. They lack the needed equity to make a down payment on their next home or can’t afford to sell their current home and move.

Some markets throughout the U.S. are faring better than others. Prices vary across the country and the recovery may be slower in some areas. Effective negative equity rates in U.S. housing markets range from a low of 8% to a high of over 30%.

A market with a higher negative equity rate has a smaller number of houses on the market. This usually impacts first-time buyers the hardest, since negative equity usually affects lower-priced homes. The nation’s supply of affordable homes for sale is short overall, but especially so for entry-level or “starter” homes. Boston area housing experts agree the biggest obstacle to a continued housing recovery is the lack of homes for sale.

With the number of repeat buyers continuing to shrink over the past ten years, there are challenges ahead. Tighter credit standards — including requiring higher FICO credit scores — have made it harder for many buyers to qualify for loans to buy larger or higher-priced homes. A decade or more ago, homeowners trading up to another home were in the 30-40 age range. Today they are much older, in the 50+ age range.

The housing outlook, therefore, is of concern to some. Inventory continues to drop resulting in a rise in home prices. And while home equity is improving, the gains often have a negative impact on the overall health of the Boston area housing market.

For additional information and more articles on the Boston area housing market, see the right side of your screen under Boston area Real Estate Categories. We also post daily on Facebook and Twitter, too.

Boston Area Mortgage Loan Closing Tips

A loan closing attorney who, when reviewing the documents with a new Boston area mortgage borrower, used to jokingly say, “You’re welcome to read all these forms, and if you find anything in your favor the lender will be happy to correct that mistake!” Of course, he was only joking and he used that line as an ice-breaker. However, it’s very important that you review your closing documents to make sure they are correct.

Closing Your Boston Area Mortgage Loan Accurately

Remember, you’re going to be asked to sign almost every document you’ll see in the loan closing paperwork. You will be responsible for everything in those agreements. With mortgage terms up to 30 years, that’s a long-term commitment.

While most mortgage lenders are careful to make sure documents are accurate, mistakes do occur. One real estate expert says she has yet to see a loan closing where there wasn’t at least one typo, numerical error or other mistake. Her advice is to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

The recent TRID (Truth in Lending/Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act Integrated Disclosure) rules require lenders to give borrowers Closing Disclosures at least three days before the loan closing. Mortgage insiders say borrowers should double-check three key areas: the loan amount, the personal and property information and the interest rate.

If you find an error, call your lender as soon as possible. It will either be corrected or new documents will be drawn up. If the mistake is serious, the lender may be required to restart the three-day disclosure period and delaying the loan closing. Such a delay could create a “domino effect” if the sellers need the proceeds from the closing to purchase their new house.

One last Boston area mortgage loan closing tip — and it may be the most important – remember this: “Read twice, sign once.” Correcting the mistake may prevent problems later.
Find more tips and articles on Boston area mortgage loans to your right in the Boston Mortgage Info section just below Boston Real Estate Categories. And follow us on Facebook and Twitter for daily news and tips we post there.

The Boston Area Economy: Saving vs Spending

Recent statistics show Americans are saving faster than they are spending. The shift in consumer spending habits in the Boston area economy began during the most recent recession. The trend looks like it will continue heading into the holiday shopping season and beyond.

The Frugal Boston area Economy

The shift in spending habits in the Boston area economy began in the last recession.

Americans saved over $40 billion in October alone. The savings rate grew to 5.6% — the highest level in almost three years. Spending only rose 0.1% between September and October.

According to experts, when the savings rate increases and spending is lukewarm it often means consumers are worried about the economy. That worry means tighter spending. Despite the higher savings rate, it doesn’t necessarily mean consumers fear a recession. The U.S. Commerce Department reported the economy actually performed better than expected during the third quarter, with growth of 2.1% — higher than initial estimates of 1.5%.

Recent trends in the Boston area economy show consumers are still spending, but are cautious with their purchases. Experts say they may be saving money for larger ticket items. Spending on smaller purchases is decreasing. Big box retailers like Target and Walmart expect sales this year to be relatively flat.

However, big ticket items do seem to be more popular. Automobile sales in the U.S. reached an all-time high this fall, and the sale of new homes are up over the previous year. Large home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot report increase in purchases of items costing $900 or more, including roofing material and kitchen counter tops.

This shift could mean homeowners are looking to make improvements to better maintain and add value to their homes. As a result, even when homeowners spend money on their homes — their largest asset — they may be accumulating greater wealth by increasing their home equity through adding value.

The bottom line is the Boston area economy is still seeing spending — it’s just more selective and more frugal. And as the saying goes, selective and frugal spending is better than no spending at all.

Find more articles and information that may affect the Boston area economy in our Boston area Real Estate News section to your right under Boston area Real Estate Categories. We also post news and tips each day on Twitter and Facebook. Follow us there for even more up to the minute news on the Boston area economy and how it could impact you.