Home Buyer

Septoc we all have it, but no one wants to Talk about it....


Living in North Reading we all may be different, but we all have one thing in common; we all have septic systems.  Septic systems although not extremely complex, do cause a lot of anxiety and stress.  Generally, speaking we do not fully understand how it functions, and have no idea what a Title V means and why sellers of Real Estate serviced by a Septic System must have a Title V.  I have decided to bring this “stinky subject” to the forefront to help educate us and to decrease anxiety around the subject of septic systems.

If you are selling your home, that is serviced by a septic system you cannot sell your home without a passing Title V inspection. The inspection is conducted by a licensed inspector both by the state and the town where the system is located. A list of licensed inspectors is available at the Board of Health or call our office and we would be happy to provide you with the approved list.

The Inspector will determine whether your system “passes”, “fails” or “conditionally passes” (requires repairs).

What is a conditional pass?

A conditional pass means that your system will pass if a certain condition is met. A repair or replacement of the distribution box is the most common condition that needs to be met. The inspector would write up his official Title V report with the conditional pass notes outlining the needed replacement of the distribution box. Once the repair is finished the board of Health will issue a Certificate of Compliance which indicates a passing Title V at closing.

The septic system failed, now what?

If the inspection fails, your system must be repaired or replaced.

Failed septic systems can be handled in a real estate sales transaction in two ways. First, the seller can undertake the work and complete it prior to closing, with a full sign off from the Board of Health.  Or, the parties can agree to an escrow holdback to cover the cost of the septic repair plus a contingency reserve,

(generally, one and a half times the total amount), the work is undertaken after closing. Some lenders do not allow for septic holdbacks so make sure your Realtor or Attorney inquires with the buyer’s bank or mortgage company prior to closing.

Prevention is always the best approach with anything and this includes your septic. All systems should be pumped, generally every one to two years. The person who pumps your system should do a quick visual inspection to make sure everything is operating correctly.

I hope you have found this article informative and useful, if you have more in-depth questions about septic, please reach out to your Board of Health or your septic professional. Please feel free to call us at Farrelly Realty Group 978-664-3700 if you have any questions or Real Estate needs.


6 Mortgage Questions And Answers For The First-Time Home Buyer

Question MarkMortgage questions abound when you're a first-time home buyer. Compounding the challenge is the discomfort interrupting the conversation with a would-be lender or seller to ask about credit scores or how much money you need as a down payment. Everyone knows this stuff, right?

No, they don't all know—so you should ask these questions. Or, at the very least, study up a bit so you know the basics. To help get you up to speed, here's a crash course on the most common mortgage questions (and the answers you need to know). Take five to read on, and wonder no more.

1. What do you need to get a mortgage?

Before loaning you money, lenders want to see proof that you've proven reliable paying off past debts, so you'll need to start establishing credit.

There are ways to verify your past payments on utility bills, cell phone and rent. Getting a credit card is another option, just be sure to pay your bills according to the prescribed terms. Timely payments on car loan or college loans will also help you establish credit and help you get a mortgage.

2. If you have bad credit, how do you improve it?

For starters, check your credit report. It's free to download one copy each year, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find. And if the news is bad, there's still hope.

If you’ve got bad credit, frequently it's due to aged activity —an old collection notice, medical bill or something you didn’t know about. Often these issues can be fixed, boosting your credit score fairly quickly.

If you do have a bunch of bad marks and late payments, however, start paying on time and your score will gradually improve. 

3. What’s the difference between a mortgage pre-approval and a pre-qualification?

Pre-qualification is not going to hold the same weight as a pre-approval. You can go online and get somebody to print you out a pre-qual letter. And you’ll find that if you’re negotiating with an agent and they’re looking at a pre-qual letter, it’s probably not worth much to them.

A pre-approval letter — involving lenders fully checking your finances in a verifiable way — takes more time and effort, which is exactly why it carries much more weight. If you're serious about buying a home, get pre-approved to show you mean business.

4. How much down payment do you need for a mortgage?

The gold standard down payment for a mortgage is 20% — so if the home's price is $400,000, you'd have to pony up $80,000 of your own money to get the loan.

If you don't have that much, you can put down less, but you'll have to pay PMI, or private mortgage insurance. It's an extra fee of about $50 to $100 a month that lenders will require to mitigate the risk that you might default on your loan due to your lack of funds.

When you put less down, the trade-off is you actually have to spend more on a monthly basis.

That said, there are some exceptions that allow a buyer to avoid PMI even with a small down payment. Buyers who are in the military, veterans, and family members of veterans may be able to avoid PMI with a Veterans Affairs loan. And once your equity in your home rises above 20%, you can stop paying PMI.

5. What kind of down payment assistance is available?

If you're looking for help with a down payment, the "bank of Mom and Dad" may be a smart start — if your parents have the means to pitch in. Gifted money can help many people qualify for a loan, although you absolutely must tell your lender that the money was a gift. Fibbing on this front will raise red flags.

If private assistance isn't an option, or isn't enough, there are over 2,000 down payment assistance programs across the country that can help, as long as you meet eligibility requirements in terms of income and credit.

Check with one of our real estate agents (or your lender) for more information about programs on the North Shore that will help you become a homeowner.

6. What types of home loans are available?

Loan types vary widely, but typically fall into two camps. The first includes loans with an adjustable rate, meaning the interest rate could change after a period of time. The second includes loans that are "fixed" or "term," meaning the rate will stay the same for the length of the borrowing period. Generally, term or fixed-rate loans are more common and considered the safer option, but it all depends on your circumstances, including how long you plan to stay in the home.

As a first-time home buyer it’s expected that you’ll have a number of questions, so don’t be afraid to ask them. The more you educate yourself about the home buying process, the better … after all, purchasing your first home is a pretty big deal!

Have a lingering question we didn’t answer here? Feel free to contact us.

Don't Get Trapped! How to Spot Pests and Rodents Before You Buy That Home

Mouse TrapYour idea of a dream home probably doesn’t include mice scurrying around your kitchen cabinets or tribes of ants playing hide and seek in your bathroom. But sadly, just because you don’t see any critters during an open house doesn’t mean they’re not there.

The best approach to identify potential pest issues is to hire a professional. But if you’re not ready to shell out the extra money for that just yet, you can still protect yourself against future creepy-crawly surprises.

But brace yourself: You're going to have to play a spine-tingling game of “I Spy” during your next tour of the home - looking for pest droppings, casings, and wings.

Here are the telltale signs of vermin you need to keep an eye out for before you sign on the dotted line.


Why you should care: When they’re helping Cinderella sew a dress, rats and mice are helpful and kind. In real life, they spread ticks and fleas. In the case of rats, disease too. Plus, they leave droppings everywhere. 

What you should look for: The most obvious sign is scratching noises coming from under the floor or behind the walls. But rats are nocturnal; depending on when you tour your prospective dream home, you might not hear a peep. And while chipmunks are adorable from afar, they can wreak havoc on your electrical wiring when they’re living in your walls.

What's a home buyer to do, then?

Rodents nest, so check small, dark crevices of the home such as cabinets, pantries, or storage rooms for signs of them, including shredded paper or fabric.

Check for dirt, grease, or small holes in baseboards. (A small rat can squeeze through a hole that’s no bigger than a quarter.)

And pay attention to how stuffy it feels inside the home—food attracts rodents, but so does humidity.

Bugs and insects

Why you should care: First off, they’re a nuisance. Moths, for instance, will devour your clothes, bedding, and furniture. Others are serious health hazards. Cockroaches top the list with gastrointestinal and respiratory illness. They can even trigger asthma attacks in some people. They're also hard to get rid of.

What you should look for: The bugs themselves will be the clearest sign. No signs of a swarm? You should also be on the lookout for dead bugs and bug parts, holes in packages, and openings in the home that bugs may creep through from the outside.


Why you should care: If a colony’s been happily living in your would-be house for some time, your foundation may be at risk. In fact, termites cost Americans $5 billion in repairs each year, according to Orkin. (And what's even scarier? Many insurance companies don’t cover termite-related damage.)

What you should look for: Visible clusters of termites and mud tunnels in the foundation. Pay special attention to any wood in the home, noting whether floors are sagging, wood has visible holes, or it sounds hollow when you knock on it.


Why you should care: Bedbugs have elongated beaks (!) that they use to jab into your skin to extract blood, which they then gulp down. For most people, that's plenty reason to avoid them. Revulsion factor aside, they’re also ridiculously difficult to obliterate. If you’ve walked through a home that you suspect has bedbugs, you’ll need to obsessively check your clothing and bag for any signs of the critters, then wash everything ASAP in very hot water.

Professional bedbug removal can set you back as much as $1,500.

What you should look for: Any rust-colored stains on furniture or bedding are serious red flags, Bridges warns. (This isn’t human blood, FYI. It’s bedbug feces. Gross, right?) If you’re eagle-eyed, you may also spot tiny cream-colored eggs in the nooks and crannies of beds or other furniture.

Is there any type of pest infestation that’s a deal breaker?

The answer to that question depends on the pest, how much damage is already present that you are willing to repair, and your tolerance for the pests.

In some cases, it may not be worth the extra money you’ll have to shell out to treat the problem or repair the damage.

For example, getting rid of pest problems and keeping them out will usually require an ongoing pest control service. Unless your heart is really set on a home, it might be wiser to keep looking.

If you can’t decide whether you should make an offer or walk away, call a pest professional. Ask the pro to evaluate the infestation in person and give you an unvarnished opinion on what can be done and how long it’ll take.

Need referrals to trusted contractors to evaluate a potential home? Contact us for a referral.

The Ultimate Checklist For Moving In The Winter

New England House In WinterSo, you found that perfect new home, your offer was accepted, the paperwork is complete and it’s time to pack all your belongings and start moving. This an exciting time, but it’s January in New England, a time of year when even going outside can feel daunting.  

We've put together the ultimate checklist to help reduce some of the stress of moving in the winter and make your move go as smoothly as it would on a warm summer day.

Safety First

  1. Ice melt: The last thing you want to do is slip on a patch of ice while moving a box of your most valuable possessions. Be sure to have plenty of ice melt on hand to reduce the chances of slipping on outdoor stairs and walkways.
  2. Extra towels: Snow melts quickly when tracked inside. Have some extra towels on hand to mop up messy puddles and avoid wet slippery floors inside.
  3. Visit the new house: Before packing the truck for the move to your new home, visit to make sure all the walkways are clear and the lights are working inside and out. Dusk comes early in the winter.

Stay Warm

  1. Protect your hands: Insulate your fingers from the cold and ensure you have a good grip on boxes and furniture by investing in a pair of warm gloves with good grippers.
  2. From the inside out: Brew some coffee and tea or make a quick run to the local coffee shop. You and your team of movers will appreciate a warm beverage on a cold winter day.
  3. Preheat the moving truck: Before you load the last few boxes, start the truck and let it preheat.
  4. Pump up the thermostat: Your new home should feel warm and cozy. When you make that quick visit before the big move make sure the heat is on.

Be Smart

  1. Protect your floors: Mud and dirt can accumulate quickly, and scratches are bound to happen when furniture is being moved. Preserve the floors in your both your old and new homes with temporary floor protection paper.
  2. Avoid a costly error: Before you park your moving truck on the sidewalk or street in front of your new home, learn the winter parking regulations in your new neighborhood. Ask your new neighbors if there are any parking restrictions or visit your local city or town website. 
  3. Feet first: Moving in flip flops is never a good idea … especially in the winter. A pair of sturdy boots with good treads is a much safer choice. Boots will keep your feet warm, help avoid slips and falls and make it easier to walk in the snow or mud. Boots will also protect your precious toes if something does drop on them.

Last but Not Least

  1. Medications: Some medications (both over the counter and prescription) must be stored at a certain temperature. When packing medications, label them appropriately and make them one of the last items in the truck to ensure they do not get too cold.
  2. Shovels: Tis’ the season for snow. Don't pack your shovels! They should be readily accessible in case an unexpected snowstorm comes along or some last minute shoveling is needed to clear out a pathway for moving furniture and boxes. 
  3. Technology: Your flat screen television and computer don’t like the cold temperatures. Avoid freezing your technology by wrapping these items in blankets and loading them into the truck last.
  4. Don’t forget the lights: In the madness of celebrating the holidays, getting ready to move and shoveling snow, it can be easy to forget to take down those holiday lights outside. When you do your final sweep, check outside for any lingering holiday lights on the house or bushes.

While the winter may not be an ideal time to move in New England, the key to any big move is preparation. If the cold, ice and snow gets under your skin, just focus on celebrating spring in your new home.


Don't Get Burned by a Credit Freeze

credit freezeBaby, it’s freezing outside.

With Equifax and other companies reporting massive data breaches this year, more consumers are putting a freeze on their credit reports. And while a credit freeze won’t affect a borrower’s ability to qualify for a mortgage, it does require the borrower to take additional steps during the application process.

Exactly what does a credit freeze accomplish?

A credit freeze blocks anyone — including lenders and employers — from accessing your credit report. Requests for a credit freeze must be submitted by mail, online or over the phone to the three major credit bureaus individually (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian). You’ll need to provide your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. The fees vary by state but are minimal -- some are free and the most costly ones are $10 each time you place or lift a freeze. Payments can be made using a personal check, money order or credit card. Fees are generally waived for victims of identity theft.

Once placed, a credit freeze stays on your credit report until you lift or remove it. Existing creditors (or debt collectors acting on their behalf) will still have access.

Do keep in mind that while freezing your credit can prevent others from opening new lines of credit in your name, it also prevents you from opening an account yourself. It can affect your ability to purchase a new cell phone, secure a store credit card or pass the security review associated with an application for employment.

Borrowing? Here's what you need to know

If you’ve instituted a freeze on your credit but now want to apply for a loan, you will have to contact each credit bureau to temporarily lift the freeze.

If you're a borrower applying for a mortgage, that freeze will probably only have to be lifted once, because the credit report will be good for the typical 30- to 45-day period from contract to closing. But there are certain situations where another report needs to be pulled by the lender nearer to the closing. In that case, as the borrower you may have to lift the freeze — and pay for it — multiple times.

In addition, borrowers could run into problems in competitive housing markets where you need to close quickly. In those instances, it might be tricky to unfreeze the credit in time for the lender to pull credit reports and complete the underwriting and pre-closing process.

Here are a few considerations if you’re applying for a mortgage with frozen credit.

Check your own credit in advance

While freezing your credit protects you from the time the freeze becomes effective, it does nothing to correct existing credit issues. Get a copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies, check them carefully and correct any errors before you apply for a mortgage.

Get fraud alerts

While a credit freeze “locks down” your credit, a fraud alert still allows creditors to pull your credit report as long as they verify your identity first, according to the Federal Trade Commission. For example, a business may call you to verify that you are the person requesting new credit. However, while fraud alerts may make it more difficult for others to open new credit accounts in your name, they may not prevent misuse of your existing accounts. Placing a fraud alert is easier than a credit freeze. You need only to contact one of the reporting agencies, which in turn is required to notify the others. A fraud alert is free of charge.

Know how the freeze works

Understand the logistics of lifting the freeze — and make sure you allow enough time for the lender to pull credit reports. Consumers who deal directly with the three credit-reporting agencies are given a PIN (personal identification number) to provide, either by phone, online or mail, every time they want to lift or remove the freeze, according to David M. Blumberg, a spokesman for TransUnion. Alternatively, consumers can lock or unlock their credit using a third-party service like TransUnion’s TrueIdentity, which is available online or in an app.

Putting a freeze on your credit report can protect you from identity theft; just be sure to do your homework first.

If you are concerned about fraud and identity-theft issues, contact information for the three major credit bureaus are listed below.

Equifax: 888-349-9960, www.equifax.com

Experian: 888-397-3742, www.experian.com

TransUnion: 888-909-8872 www.transunion.com