lead based paint disclosure for real estate salesIf you are thinking of buying or selling a home you need to be aware of a federal law that requires sellers to disclose that the home may contain lead based paint if it was built before 1978.  In addition, the seller must disclose whether the home has been tested for lead based paint or if they have any records or reports about lead based paint in their home.  The seller(s) must provide this disclosure to potential buyer(s) prior to signing a contract.  The buyers shall also have a 10 day option to conduct their own lead based paint risk assessment.  If the buyers choose to conduct an assessment this becomes a contingency to the contract.  The results must be satisfactory to the purchasers meaning it is not a pass/fail situation.  The buyers simply have to be satisfied with the results.  For example, the results might come back saying that there is lead based paint in the home.  The buyers can say they are satisfied even though it tested positive or they can say they are not satisfied and therefore they are cancelling the contract to purchase.  Typically, the older the home the more likely it is to have LBP.  Many of the older homes have been repainted which tends to encapsulate the LBP.  The risk rises when the old paint is chipping, cracking or peeling.  There is the risk that young children may chew on the paint chips and consume lead.   The federal government has produced a pamphlet called “Protect Your Family From Lead in the Home”.  You can click here to download the pamphlet.
The disclosure requirement applies to rental homes as well.  Landlords are required to disclose to potential tenants that their rental property could contain LBP.  If you would like to see a copy of a lead based paint disclosure click here.  For lead based paint disclosures for rental properties click here.  Real estate brokers and landlord are required to keep a copy of their disclosure for a period of 3 years.  In summary, if you are a buyer be sure you have had a chance to review the sellers lead based paint disclosure before you sign a contract.  The same holds true for renters.   You can be sure that real estate agents will have these forms for you to disclose and sign.  Real estate agents in Niagara County and Erie County are very familiar with federal law to disclose lead based paint.  This s not something new.  We just felt it would be a good idea to review for everyone.  As always, if you have any questions feel free to contact one of our professional real estate agents by calling 716-754-2550 or contact us by email by visiting our contact page at https://www.greatlakesrealestate.com/contact-us

In June of 2019 New York State enacted the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019. There are sweeping changes to landlord tenant interactions which, in our opinion, quite dramatically shift in favor of tenants. Some of the highlights are as follows:

NYS Landlord Tenant Law changes Security deposits can be no more than one months rent and they must be returned within 14 days of the end of tenancy along with an itemized statement showing the basis for any deductions. The Act now requires a new procedure at the beginning and end of tenancy where the landlord must inspect the apartment.  At least one week prior to the tenant moving out the landlord must inspect and provide an itemized statement outlining any damages that will need to be repaired.   A landlord can no longer collect first months rent,  last months rent and security. They can only collect first months rent and 1 months rent as security.  Landlords or landlord agents can only charge a maximum of $20.00 per tenant for background checks and credit reports, even though most background and credit reports cost more.
When it comes to late fees, landlords may only collect a maximum late fee of $50.00 per month and the late fee cannot be assessed until five days after rent is due.  Landlords can no longer refuse to rent to someone because of a past eviction or to someone who is involved in a landlord-tenant dispute.  Landlords will be subjected to heavy fines if they violate this rule.  Furthermore, if a tenant wished to vacate prior to the end of their lease the landlord has a duty to mitigate damages to the tenant.  Landlords must make a reasonable effort to find a new tenant and if they do, the former tenant’s liability to pay rent will be negated.
If a landlord does not wish to renew a lease or they wish to raise the rent by more than 5% the landlord must give 30 days written notice.  If the lease was more than 1 year the landlord must give 60 days notice to the tenant.  If the lease was more than 2 years the landlord must give 90 days notice.
The new eviction protections are the most egregious in our opinion.  It is becoming almost impossible to get a non paying tenant out of your apartment.   In the past you simply had to provide a 3 days notice before you could file for eviction.  The new law mandates landlords to provide 14 days notice.  If the tenant objects to the eviction the judge could postpone the case for an additional 14 days.  If a tenant loses in eviction court they have yet another 14 days to move out.  Warrants for eviction can only be served on a business day and not on a holiday.  One of the most radical changes allows a court to consider how and eviction may affect a tenants health or a child’s enrollment in a local school.  In some conditions, a judge could stay an eviction for up to 1 year!  We guess the courts don’t believe providing free housing to a non paying tenant would be a “hardship” to a landlord.  So goes it in New York State.

So, if you are a landlord you should pay close attention to these new laws because landlords are liable for punitive damages of up to twice the amount of the security deposit for any violation.
If you are still interested in buying rental property give us a call.  We can help you find the perfect property and we can help you get started with procedures that will make sure you are in compliance with the new law.  Visit us at www.greatlakesrealestate.com to start your search for a rental property.

Niagara Fals NY real estate market updateAs in most Western New York cities, the real estate market in Niagara Falls, NY is pretty hot.  In January and February of 2020 there were fifty-five single family homes sold.  The average sale price was $84,891.  The total sales volume for this period was $4,000,669.  The Niagara Falls sales trend seemed to mirror other surrounding communities.  Of the total homes sold (55) twenty-nine of them were sold in less than thirty days.  Twelve homes sold between thirty-one and sixty days.  Eight sold between sixty-one and ninety days. The balance were sold after 90 days.  Like other Western New York communities, Niagara Falls suffers from a shortage of available homes to sell.  Once again, of all the homes sold, twenty-four were sold to cash buyers.  Due to the competitive nature of the market currently it is more advantageous to purchase with cash giving a leg up over other buyers who need financing.  Twelve homes were sold to buyers who obtained a conventional mortgage, eleven buyers obtained an FHA mortgage and two buyers obtained VA financing.
We are seeing an  increase in interest in homes located in downtown Niagara Falls.  Many investors are coming into the market and looking at homes in Niagara Falls.  We think that maybe the Buffalo market is getting so competitive due to the shortage of homes for sale that they are overflowing into the affordable market that Niagara Falls, NY has to offer.  So stay tuned…

As always, if you need assistance or would like email alerts of homes as they hit the market call one of our professional agents for assistance by calling 716-754-2550.  Or visit our website and start your search at www.greatlakesrealestate.com/search-page or visit our interactive map search page at www.greatlakesrealestate.com/map-search.

Buffalo NY real estate market updateReal estate sale in Buffalo NY were brisk in the start of the new year of 2020.  There were one hundred forty three (143) total sales of single family residential homes.  The average sale price was $141,434.  The total sale volume was $20,225,000.  Due to the low inventory of homes and the highly competitive sellers market it looks like more buyers are paying cash to get an advantage when there are multiple offers on homes.  Of the total homes sold in this two month period fifty two homes were sold to cash buyers.  Sixty nine buyers obtained conventional mortgages, sixteen sales were FHA mortgages, two sales were VA mortgages and the rest were listed as “other” financing.  Once again the days on market indicator shows a strong sellers market with ninety of 143 homes sold were sold in less than 30 days.  Thirty homes were sold between thirty one days and sixty days, thirteen were sold between sixty one and ninety days and the rest were over 91 days.  With the weather warming up we suspect our local market will also heat up.  If you are looking for a home in the Buffalo NY market you we would recommend you not wait until April to start your search.  Start now by going to www.greatlakesrealestate.com/search-page or visit or map enjoyable map search page a www.greatlakesrealestate.com/map-search.  As always, we are here to help.  If you would like to speak with one of our professional agents or need help getting started call us at 716-754-2550.

Lewiston NY real estate market updateReal estate sales in Lewiston, NY continue on a steady path due to low inventory.  There were nineteen homes sold in January and February of this year.  The average sale price was $266,393.  The total volume was $1,951,000.  Market ready homes are still selling quickly with seven of the nineteen homes selling in less than thirty days.  Another five homes sold between thirty one and sixty days, five more were sold between sixty one and ninety days and one home was sold between ninety one and one hundred twenty days.  The majority of homes sold in this two month period were three bedroom homes totally eleven.  Another eight homes were four bedroom homes.

Of the total sales, four were cash sales, thirteen were purchased using convention financing and two were sold using alternate financing which is typically either an FHA or VA insured mortgage.  As always, we have our fingers on the pulse of real estate in Western New York.  Stop by our website and start your search for a new home by visiting www.greatlakesrealestate.com/search-page or visit our map search page for a rich experience at www.greatlakesrealestate.com/map-search.  If you have any questions or would like to speak with one of our professional agents feel free to contact us any time at 716-754-2550.

Join us on March 7th at 10am for a free home buyers seminar.  Learn everything you need to know when buying a home.  We will have realtors, a banker, a home inspector, an attorney and a radon mitigation specialist.  You can get pre-qualified on the spot to find out how much you can afford.  You will be able to leave with a list of homes that match your criteria and location.  Don’t miss out.  Call today to reserve your spot!  Bring a friend.  We will have refreshments and some nice swag to take home with you.

 

Where: Our office at 916 Center Street  Lewiston, NY 14092

When: Saturday March 7th at 10am

Call 716-754-2550 to reserve a spot

living trustEstate planners often recommend Living Trusts as a viable option when contemplating the manner in which to hold title to real property. When a property is held in a Living Trust, title companies have particular requirements to facilitate the transaction. While not comprehensive, answers to many commonly asked questions are below. If you have questions that are not answered below, your title company representative may be able to assist you, however, one may wish to seek legal counsel.

Who are the parties to a Trust?

A Family Trust is a typical trust in which the Husband and Wife are the Trustees and their children are the Beneficiaries. Those who establish the trust and transfer their property into it are known as Trustors or Settlors. The settlors usually appoint themselves as Trustees and they are the primary beneficiaries during their lifetime. After their passing, their children and grandchildren usually become the primary beneficiaries if the trust is to survive, or the beneficiaries receive distributions directly from the trust if it is to close out.

What is a Living Trust?

Sometimes called an Inter-vivos Trust, the Living Trust is created during the lifetime of the Settlors (as opposed to being created by their Wills after death) and usually terminates after they die and the body of the Trust is distributed to their beneficiaries.

Can a Trust hold title to Real Property?

No, the Trustee holds the property on behalf of the Trust.

Is a Trust the best way to hold my property?

Only your attorney or accountant can answer that question. Some common reasons for holding property in a Trust are to minimize or postpone death taxes, to avoid a time consuming probate, and/or to shield property from attack by certain unsecured creditors.

What taxes can I avoid by putting my property in trust?

Married persons can usually exempt a significant part of their assets from taxation and may postpone taxes after the first of them to die passes. You should check with your attorney or accountant before taking any action.

Can I homestead property that is held in a Trust?

Yes, if the property otherwise qualifies.

Can a Trustee borrow money against the property?

A Trustee can take any action permitted by the terms of the Trust, and the typical Trust Agreement does give the Trustee the authority to borrow and encumber real property. However, not all lenders will lend on a property held in trust, so check with your lender first.

Can someone else hold title for me “in trust?”

Some people who do not wish their names to show as titleholders make private arrangements with a third party Trustee; however, such an arrangement may be illegal, and is always inadvisable because the Trustee of record is the only one who is empowered to convey, or borrow against, the property, and a Title Insurer cannot protect you from a Trustee who is not acting in accordance with your wishes despite the existence of a private agreement you have with the Trustee.

property lienThe Mechanics’ Lien law provides special protection to contractors, subcontractors, laborers and suppliers who furnish labor or materials to repair, remodel or build your home.

If any of these people are not paid for the services or materials they have provided, your home may be subject to a mechanics’ lien and eventual sale in a legal proceeding to enforce the lien. This result can occur even when the homeowner has made full payment for the work of improvement.

The mechanics’ lien is a right that a state gives to workers and suppliers to record a lien and ensure payment. This lien may be recorded where the property owner has paid the contractor in full and the contractor then fails to pay the subcontractors, suppliers, or laborers. Thus, in the worst case, a homeowner may actually end up paying twice for the same work.

The theory is that the value of the property upon which the labor or materials have been bestowed has been increased by virtue of these efforts and the homeowner who has reaped this benefit is required in return to act as the ultimate guarantor of full payment to the persons responsible for this increase in value. In practice, a homeowner faced with a valid mechanics’ lien may be compelled to pay the lien claimant and then pursue conventional legal remedies against the contractor or subcontractor who initially failed to pay the lien claimant but who himself was paid by the homeowner. Another justification for this result relates to the relative financial strengths of the parties to a work of improvement. The law views the property owner as being in a better situation to absorb the financial setback occasioned by having to pay the amount of a valid mechanics’ lien, as opposed to a laborer or material man who is viewed as being less able to absorb the financial burdens occasioned by not being paid for services or materials provided in connection with a work of improvement.

The best protection against these claims is for the homeowner to employ reputable firms with sufficient experience and capital and/or require completion and payment bonding of the construction work. The issuance of checks payable jointly to the contractor, material men and suppliers is another protective measure, as is the careful disbursement of funds in phases based upon the percentage of completion of the project at a given point in the construction process. The protection offered by mechanics’ lien releases can also be helpful.

Even if a mechanics’ lien is recorded against your property you may be able to resolve the problem without further payment to the lien claimant. This possibility exists where the proper procedure for establishing the lien was not followed. While it is true that persons who have provided labor, services, or materials to a job site may record mechanics’ liens, each is required to strictly adhere to a well-established procedure in order to create a valid mechanics’ lien.

Needless to say, this is one area of the law that is very complex, thus it may be worthwhile to consult an attorney if you become aware that a mechanics’ lien has been recorded against your property. In the event you discover that a lien has been recorded but no effort has been made to enforce the lien, a title company may decide to ignore the lien. However, be prepared to be presented with a positive plan to eliminate the title problems created by this type of lien. This may be accomplished by means of a recorded mechanics’ lien release from the person who created the lien, or other measures acceptable to the title company.

As in all areas of the real estate field, the best advice is to investigate the quality, integrity, and business reputation of the firm with whom you are dealing. Once you are satisfied you are dealing with a reputable company and before you begin your construction project, discuss your concerns about possible mechanics’ lien problems and work out, in advance, a method of ensuring that they will not occur.

The Mechanics’ Lien law provides special protection to contractors, subcontractors, laborers and suppliers who furnish labor or materials to repair, remodel or build your home.

If any of these people are not paid for the services or materials they have provided, your home may be subject to a mechanics’ lien and eventual sale in a legal proceeding to enforce the lien. This result can occur even when the homeowner has made full payment for the work of improvement.

The mechanics’ lien is a right that a state gives to workers and suppliers to record a lien and ensure payment. This lien may be recorded where the property owner has paid the contractor in full and the contractor then fails to pay the subcontractors, suppliers, or laborers. Thus, in the worst case, a homeowner may actually end up paying twice for the same work.

The theory is that the value of the property upon which the labor or materials have been bestowed has been increased by virtue of these efforts and the homeowner who has reaped this benefit is required in return to act as the ultimate guarantor of full payment to the persons responsible for this increase in value. In practice, a homeowner faced with a valid mechanics’ lien may be compelled to pay the lien claimant and then pursue conventional legal remedies against the contractor or subcontractor who initially failed to pay the lien claimant but who himself was paid by the homeowner. Another justification for this result relates to the relative financial strengths of the parties to a work of improvement. The law views the property owner as being in a better situation to absorb the financial setback occasioned by having to pay the amount of a valid mechanics’ lien, as opposed to a laborer or material man who is viewed as being less able to absorb the financial burdens occasioned by not being paid for services or materials provided in connection with a work of improvement.

The best protection against these claims is for the homeowner to employ reputable firms with sufficient experience and capital and/or require completion and payment bonding of the construction work. The issuance of checks payable jointly to the contractor, material men and suppliers is another protective measure, as is the careful disbursement of funds in phases based upon the percentage of completion of the project at a given point in the construction process. The protection offered by mechanics’ lien releases can also be helpful.

Even if a mechanics’ lien is recorded against your property you may be able to resolve the problem without further payment to the lien claimant. This possibility exists where the proper procedure for establishing the lien was not followed. While it is true that persons who have provided labor, services, or materials to a job site may record mechanics’ liens, each is required to strictly adhere to a well-established procedure in order to create a valid mechanics’ lien.

Needless to say, this is one area of the law that is very complex, thus it may be worthwhile to consult an attorney if you become aware that a mechanics’ lien has been recorded against your property. In the event you discover that a lien has been recorded but no effort has been made to enforce the lien, a title company may decide to ignore the lien. However, be prepared to be presented with a positive plan to eliminate the title problems created by this type of lien. This may be accomplished by means of a recorded mechanics’ lien release from the person who created the lien, or other measures acceptable to the title company.

As in all areas of the real estate field, the best advice is to investigate the quality, integrity, and business reputation of the firm with whom you are dealing. Once you are satisfied you are dealing with a reputable company and before you begin your construction project, discuss your concerns about possible mechanics’ lien problems and work out, in advance, a method of ensuring that they will not occur.

In purchasing your new home, your future monthly payments will be made up of principal, interest, real property taxes, and insurance. But what is the tax for the Community Facilities District, otherwise known as a Mello-Roos District? The Land Title Association (LTA) has answered some of the most commonly asked questions about the Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act.

What is a Mello-Roos District?

A Mello-Roos District is an area where a special tax is imposed on those real property owners within a Community Facilities District. This district has chosen to seek public financing through the sale of bonds for the purpose of financing certain public improvements and services. These services may include streets, water, sewage and drainage, electricity, infrastructure, schools, parks and police protection to newly developing areas. The tax you pay is used to make the payments of principal and interest on the bonds.

Are the assessments included within the Proposition 13 tax limits?

No. The passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 severely restricted local government in its ability to finance public capital facilities and services by increasing real property taxes. The “Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982” provided local government with an additional financing tool. The Proposition 13 tax limits are on the value of the real property, while Mello-Roos taxes are equally and uniformly applied to all properties.

What are my Mello-Roos taxes paying for?

Your taxes may be paying for both services and facilities. The services may be financed only to the extent of new growth, and services include: Police protection, fire protection, ambulance and paramedic services, recreation program services, library services, the operation and maintenance of parks, parkways and open space, museums, cultural facilities, flood and storm protection, and services for the removal of any threatening hazardous substance. Facilities which may be financed under the Act include: Property with an estimated useful life of five years or longer, parks, recreation facilities, parkway facilities, open-space facilities, elementary and secondary school sites and structures, libraries, child care facilities, natural gas pipeline facilities, telephone lines, facilities to transmit and distribute electrical energy, cable television lines, and others.

When do I pay these taxes?

By purchasing an interest in a subdivision within a Community Facilities District you can expect to be assessed for a Mello-Roos tax which will typically be collected with your general property tax bill. These special tax payments are subject to the same penalties that apply to regular property taxes.

How long does the tax stay in effect?

The tax will stay in effect until the principal and interest on the bonds are paid off along with any reasonable administrative costs incurred in collecting the special tax or so long as it is needed to pay the expenses of services, but in no case shall exceed 40 years.

What happens if a general tax payment is not made on time?

Because the Mello-Roos tax is typically collected with your general property tax bill, the Facilities District that obtained the lien may withdraw the assessment from the tax roll and commence judicial foreclosure.

What is the basis for the tax?

Most special taxes levied on properties within these districts have been structured on the basis of density of development, square footage of construction, or flat acreage charges. The act, however, allows for considerable flexibility in the method of apportionment of taxes, and the local agencies may have established an entirely different method of levying the special tax against property in the district in question.

How much will the Mello-Roos payment be?

The amount of tax may vary from year-to-year, but may not exceed the maximum amount specified when the district was created. In the case of the purchase of a new house within a subdivision, the maximum amount of the tax will be specified in the public report. The Resolution of Formation must specify the rate, method of apportionment, and manner of collection of the special tax in sufficient detail to allow each landowner or resident within the proposed district to estimate the maximum amount that he or she will have to pay.

How is the special tax reflected on the real property records?

The special tax is a lien on your property, essentially like a regular tax lien. The lien is recorded as a “Notice of Special Tax Lien” which is a continuing lien to secure each levy of the special tax.

How are Mello-Roos taxes affected when the property is sold?

The Mello-Roos tax is assessed against the land, but is not based upon the value of the property, therefore, the possible increased value of the property does not affect the amount of the tax when property is sold. The amount of the tax may not exceed the original maximum amount stated in the Resolution of Formation. Any delinquent payments must be satisfied before the sale of the real property since the unpaid amounts are a lien against the property.

Underground heating oil tanks can pose many potential problems to both home buyers and sellers. They have been the source of many environmental problems such as contamination of surrounding soil and ground water.

Leaks are generally caused by the rust inside underground tanks or by an electrical condition sparked by electric utility lines.

Buyers should always have the tank inspected to make sure that it is structurally sound. Buyers who do not want an underground fuel tank can arrange for an above ground tank to be installed in the basement and the underground tank to be shut off. Cleanup of any leaks will also have to be taken care of.

For buyers, the underground heating oil tank should be written in the sales contract. For sellers, your lawyer should make sure that the description and condition of the underground heating oil tank is accurate and up-to-date.