Are you curious about how "for sale by owner" works, have questions regarding how real estate is bought and sold in Massachusetts, or have questions about our services? Here is a collection of frequently asked questions that we have put together to assist you.
What is the Five College Area?
The Five College Area refers to a consortium called Five Colleges, Inc. comprised of Smith College in Northampton, MA, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College and Hampshire College in Amherst, MA and Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley.
It is often thought of as a geographical area for real estate purposes, and each of the institutions are major employers in Western Mass. The Five College Area is also located in The Pioneer Valley, which follows the Connecticut River from its southern border into Connecticut and its Vermont border to the north.
What is the Knowledge Corridor that I've heard mentioned in Western Mass?
The Knowledge Corridor®, is a regional economic partnership between Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA. The area is home to over 29 colleges and universities and extends from Hartford CT, home of Trinity College and the University of Hartford and follows Interstate 91 and the Connecticut River north, crossing into Massachusetts in Springfield. Springfield is home to Western New England University, Springfield College (the birthplace of basketball) and American International College, among other neighboring institutions of higher learning.
It continues up into the Pioneer Valley including cities comprising the Five College Area. Northampton, home of Smith College, Amherst, which includes both Amherst College, University of Massachusetts (UMass) Hampshire College and South Hadley and Mt. Holyoke College. Northampton and Amherst in the north, and Middletown, Connecticut in the south.
The Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts provides a great deal of information about this important area and the partnership which ties both Hartford, Connecticut and the Springfield, Massachusetts area together in regional development. More information about the Knowledge Corridor and its impact on living in Western Mass may be found here.
Can a real estate agent recommend a home inspector to a buyer?
In Massachusetts, real estate agents have been prohibited from recommending home inspectors to buyers due to a potential conflict of interest that may result. Only a buyer's agent is allowed to provide this information. Be very suspicious if an agent hands you a list of "local inspectors" or gives you the name of a "really good home inspector" to "help" you. Remember, the agent's commission depends on a successful sale and agents don't want a "deal breaker" inspector to mess things up. You can find a link on our website in order to locate a complete list of Massachusetts Home inspectors.
Do you need an attorney to buy or sell a home in Massachusetts?
Unlike some areas of the US where closing services are provided by non-attorneys, Massachusetts buyers and sellers use attorneys in their real estate transactions.
I saw a home listed on the website last week and now it's gone. Does that mean it sold?
Properties advertised on our website are active status until the end of the advertising period (3, 6, or 12 months maximum) until the seller changes the status to any one of the following:
If I see a home that I like on the website, what is the next step?
Fantastic! All you need to do is contact the seller directly. We will never hide a seller's phone number or contact information from you. Just give the seller a call, tell them where you found their listing, and request to view the property. You may want to print out a flyer to take along and map the property for directions as well.
If you are working with a buyer broker, give the information to your agent to call the seller. If you prefer to call the seller yourself, it is always polite to tell them up front that you are working with an agent. The seller may not be willing to pay your agent's commission, so be careful about using an agent if you are not willing to pay their commission should it not be worked out in the negotiations.
Why don't I see the town I'm looking in on your Search page?
It may be that we have no current listings in that area at this time. Keep checking back as new listings are added.
Do you allow real estate agents to advertise on your website?
Massachusetts 4 Sale By Owner is primarily a for sale by owner service. Generally, agents use the MLS to advertise their properties, however there are occasions where licensed agents are able to advertise with us.
Does for-sale-by-owner really work?
Today, more and more homes are sold "by owner" as consumers become more comfortable with the process. In fact, as many as 25 - 33% of all homes sold in the U.S. are now sold "by owner". It has always been a bit difficult to track individual sales, as many are not tied into the MLS system, and the way sales are tracked in general by the NAR (National Association of Realtors.)
As with any home being offered for sale, preparation is important. Pricing is very important as well, as an overpriced home will not sell as fast whether listed with an agent or being offered "by owner". Marketing is also important. A well prepared home that is offered at a great price is unlikely to sell unless marketed effectively. That is why we started our company. We teach sellers how to prepare, price competitively and market their properties well. Our sellers actually have an advantage over other private home sellers who are going it alone.
In determining market value, what's the difference between a bank appraisal, a real estate agent's appraisal or one by an online appraisal service?
There are no real bank appraisers, as banks and mortgage companies use the services of independent, licensed residential real estate appraisers to assess risks involved prior to lending money for a mortgage. An appraiser is required by license to use a specific set of credits and debits, perform a physical measurement of the property, determine a set value of the property on a given day based upon comparable listings and property information supplied by the homeowner and public information and apply the findings to a report that must be defendable. A homeowner can expect to pay between $250 - $350. for a residential appraisal in many areas of Massachusetts.
A real estate agent is not an appraiser in most cases and provides a Comparable Market Analysis (CMA) as a sales tool and are FREE. The results are highly dependent on the agent's prior knowledge, education, due diligence and desire to obtain a listing, however and can vary greatly in the results. Lenders never use an agent's CMA to grant a mortgage. They hire an independent appraiser to analyse the risk.
There are online valuation services that marketing themselves using phrases such as "what's your property worth?" or "what's my home's value?" and sometimes even calling themselves online appraisal services. Sellers can expect to pay $35. or more to receive a property report which contains comparable property sales based upon an Automated Valuation System. The northeastern part of the US is a particularly difficult area to obtain accurate AVM information. The historical nature of many of our homes, coupled with neighborhoods that combine a number of housing options (one or two family homes, etc.) or rural properties with varying acreage, unusual design or "value added" views, etc. are very difficult to use reliably.
Our most successful sellers have utilized the services of a licensed Massachusetts Residential Appraiser whose professional report has helped them avoid needless days on the market by falling victim to overpricing.
Is Massachusetts 4 Sale By Owner a real estate company?
No, we are a marketing and advertising company specializing in for-sale-by-owner, or FSBO properties. We provide marketing support for home sellers and builders.
What areas do you cover?
We list properties throughout Massachusetts, specializing in Western Massachusetts. In fact, we were pioneers in bringing the for-sale-by-owner alternative to the area in 2002. We educated home sellers and buyers about the process through a monthly magazine (Picket Fence Preview), home seller seminars and workshops and have been featured in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, First Time Homebuyers Magazine, Business West Magazine, The Summit and on national websites such as CNNmoney.com.
Do I have to be pre-approved for a mortgage before calling on a property listed with MA4salebyowner.com?
No, you do not need to be pre-approved for a mortgage prior to inquiring about any property listed on our website. It is a good idea to understand what price range you should be looking at and the best way to do that is to have a conversation with a reputable mortgage lender before you hit the pavement. The lender should be able to spend adequate time with you, answering your questions and helping you to gather information to assist you with your home purchase. If not, call another lender. There are some websites that prohibit you from contacting sellers before you are pre-qualified for a mortgage, however, their motives are to supply mortgage leads to their advertisers and not protect seller interests. Most sellers would love to hear from you, even if you have not been pre-approved as they understand that not everyone thinks they are in the home buying marketplace until they see something that really interests them. Just remember, a seller will view your interest differently as a pre-approved (or at least pre-qualified) buyer rather than merely as a "looker". Accompany your offer with a letter of pre-approval and grant the seller access to your mortgage representative if possible.
What is the difference between pre-qualifying and pre-approving for a mortgage?
Generally, think of pre-qualifying for a mortgage as a preliminary step only - one which can be done over the phone or on the Internet without any real proof of your circumstances or verification of income or debt. A mortgage lender is more than happy to give you a pre-qualification as guideline to help you determine what price range is realistic. To be pre-approved for a mortgage, however, takes a few days and requires that your credit history is pulled, you submit current W-2s and bank statement, that everything is verified and used to determine credit worthiness.
I am thinking about renting out my home. What should I know about becoming a landlord in Massachusetts?
The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) is the governing agency that administers and enforces federal laws and establishes policies that make sure all Americans have equal access to the housing of their choice. In Massachusetts, we also have laws pertaining to unlawful discrimination as found in M.G.L. c. 112, § 87DDD and 254 C.M.R. § 2.01 et seq. Before you become a landlord you need to understand how these laws will pertain to you.
There are many landlord associations throughout Massachusetts that could be valuable to you. Contact a good attorney who is well versed in real estate law pertaining to landlord tenants issues.
Here is a link that may also be helpful.
Landlord Rights and Responsibilities (Mass.gov)
I want to fix up my house a bit before putting it on the market. How can I find a good contractor in Massachusetts?
There are several things to consider before hiring anyone to perform work on your home. In Massachusetts, all home builders, general contractors, home improvement and remodelers as well as those who install siding and windows MUST be licensed. Any contractor providing home improvements must be registered as a Home Improvement Contractor ("HIC").
You can check any provider by license number, name or city. You can also see if any complaints have been filed against the contractor.
Be sure to check with your local National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) regional office in Massachusetts for more information on how to select a good contractor.
What is the new Massachusetts law regarding a homeowner's responsibility to prevent oil leaks from home heating systems?
Effective July 1, 2010, if you heat your home with oil you must upgrade your home heating system equipment to prevent leaks from tanks and pipes that connect to your furnace. Owners of 1- to 4-unit residences that are heated with oil must already have or install an oil safety valve or an oil supply line with a protective sleeve to prevent possible leaks. Installation of these devices must be performed by a licensed oil burner technician.
If you updated your heating oil systems on or after January 1, 1990 you are most likely already in compliance because state fire codes implemented these requirements on new installations at that time.
The full fact sheet is available on the Mass Department of Environmental Protection. Read More
In Massachusetts, what do I need to know about rental deposits?
Here is a link that may help.