Thursday, July 31, 2014

FHA Loosens it's Guidelines

Good News for Home Buyers
FHA Loosens its Guidelines

The FHA recently announced changes to its guidelines that will make it easier for home buyers to qualify for their home loans.

Previously, lenders were afraid to approve "make-sense" loans because the FHA guidelines were not clear in calculating the buyer's maximum allowable debt. Now, the FHA has clarified these limits, which should give lenders the confidence they need to approve more loans. With these changes, Drew Mortgage will now look at borrowers down to a 580 FICO score based on compensating factors on a borrower's credit profile and certain qualifying ratios.

What does this mean for home buyers?

With this update, FHA has made it easier for more buyers to qualify for an FHA loan, meaning sellers have an expanded pool of buyers. This is great news, as FHA remains the most flexible and affordable loan program for buyers with less than a 5 percent down payment. A reminder a gift can be obtained for the down payment. A seller can also give a sales concession up to 6% of the sales price to offset a borrowers closing costs and prepaid escrows.

As a direct FHA lender, Drew Mortgage will look at these loans with "common-sense" underwriting based on a borrower's credit profile, what circumstances can be documented to have caused past lates and other compensating factors such as reserves after closing, job history, housing payment history (i.e. canceled rent checks showing paid on time for 12+ months) and/or other positive merits of the borrowers loan profile.

So, today we can look at any borrower with a FICO down to 580 under our FHA program and hopefully qualify more borrowers for purchases of homes and/or refinances.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What it's like to live in Natick.....

Natick home to businesses, cultural center

By Vanessa Parks | GLOBE CORRESPONDENT JULY 27, 2014

Herman Scott walked with his 6-year-old grandson Aiden Scott to the family's frame shop on Main Street.
What’s a six-letter word for a square on a crossword puzzle that can be filled only by a lucky guess? That would be “Natick.”

Back in 2008, The New York Times crossword puzzle featured a crossing of Natick (“Town at the eighth mile of the Boston Marathon”) with N.C. Wyeth (“Treasure Island” illustrator, 1911). If you weren’t from ’round these parts and were unfamiliar with the less-well-known Wyeth, it was a tough intersection. Readers were not happy, and the term “a Natick” became shorthand for what is basically an unsolvable part of the crossword grid.

That’s just one of many fun factoids about this town nestled between Wellesley and Framingham. Another: The technique of figure-eight stitching for baseballs was developed here. They were made for years by H. Harwood & Sons (now condos) and stitched by women in their homes. And this: In 2000, the US census deemed Natick the geographic center of the state’s population. And, thanks to the old Hostess/Wonder Bread factory that used to be on Speen Street, the town appeared in an episode of “Family Guy.” After a nuclear holocaust, Peter remembers that Twinkies are the only food that can survive such a calamity, and the family ventures out to find the factory in Natick.

The home your money buys in Natick
In the real world, the town is home to a number of businesses, like Cognex Corp. and The MathWorks Inc. In 2012, the town opened a new Natick Community- Senior Center, as well as a $78.5 million high school. The same year, the state designated the downtown as the Natick Center Cultural District. The Center for Arts in Natick (TCAN) and the Morse Institute Library are considered the anchors, while the common hosts free concerts and farmers’ markets. The town is also home to the well-regarded Walnut Hill School for the Arts.

The town has two commuter rail stations, plus easy access to the Massachusetts Turnpike, Interstate 495, and routes 128 and 9.

By the numbers


The number of buildings lost in the 1874 fire that devastated Natick’s downtown, destroying the town hall, the Congregational Church, the fire station, a concert hall, and several businesses. The fire caused $650,000 in damage, which, in today’s dollars would be about $12 million.


The chapter in the Massachusetts General Laws designating Natick “The Home of Champions” and Brockton “The City of Champions.” The 2006 legislative act ended a dispute that arose in the late 1990s, when a bill was filed to make Natick’s nickname official.


The cost of a homemade ice cream sandwich at Liberty’s Ice Cream, a
family-owned store that’s been in business more than 35 years. Besides vanilla, you can also try pistachio, coffee, raspberry, and a few other flavors. Near the common, there’s also Park Street Ice Cream.


The number of yards on the books for the “Hail Mary pass” thrown by Natick resident and Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie at the Orange Bowl in 1984. A road near the Natick Mall is named Flutie Pass.



This is easy: downtown! Natick has a great downtown: broad streets, lots of stores and businesses, and, as a result of the aforementioned fire, lots of impressive brick buildings. Check out Lola’s Italian Groceria for a great sandwich or Comella’s just doors away.


Shop till you drop. Besides the Natick Mall, there are a number of strip malls and, as noted, the downtown. All the taxes paid by these various businesses and corporations help to keep costs down for residents.


If shopping ain’t your bag, get out. There’s Lake Cochituate, Memorial Beach at Dug Pond, Belkin Family Lookout Farm, Natick Community Organic Farm, Mass Audubon’s Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, the town-owned Sassamon Trace Golf Course, and a skating rink.


Some of the things that make Natick attractive — lots of shopping and businesses, good schools, and significantly lower taxes than the nearby
W towns — means things are getting crowded. The schools. The roads. Ick, traffic.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Large Ashland Townhouse

Monday, May 5, 2014

April adds 220,000 jobs

The job market is gaining ground as recent job reports record a surge in employment from March to April.

Private sector employment increased by 220,000 jobs from March to Aril, up from 209,000 from February to March, according to the ADP National Employment Report released Wednesday.

Out of the 220,000, the financial sector added 8,000 jobs, marking the strongest pace of growth in the industry since June 2013.

"The 220,000 U.S. private sector jobs added in April is well above the twelve-month average,” said Carlos Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of ADP.

“Job growth appears to be trending up and hopefully this will continue,” Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said.

He continued, "The job market is gaining strength. After a tough winter employers are expanding payrolls across nearly all industries and company sizes. The recent pickup in job growth at mid-sized companies may signal better business confidence. Job market prospects are steadily improving.”

Meanwhile, TrimTabs Investment Research also released its jobs report, which showed the economy adding 242,000 jobs in April, up from between 195,000 and 225,000 in March.

This marks the month’s best growth since 2011.

“While Wall Street has been fixated on the weather, the labor market has been gradually improving,” said David Santschi, CEO of TrimTabs. “The economy has added an average of 182,000 jobs per month this year, a bit more than needed to keep pace with population growth.”

Friday, April 25, 2014

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain

If you've ever been to northern Spain, you'll know that's not true but it's certainly a tantalizing tongue-twister, particularly for those of us who enjoy the theatrical arts (the line is a key lyric in Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady).

The problem is that rain doesn't stay mainly in the plain. Unless you're living on the moon, the fundamental force of gravity always forces rain to seek the lowest possible point. Unfortunately, that lowest possible point usually includes your home's foundation, basement or crawlspace.

But water isn't just a menace after it touches the ground. There are lots of ways for water to cause damage in a home because there are so many options for water to get into the home: through the roof and siding, windows and doors, foundations, plumbing leaks or blockage, air conditioner condensation, and even leaking showers. Water can even rise up from under the slab (no, the force of gravity isn't magically inapplicable, the water is just pushed up by hydrostatic pressure and/or other forces).

Water Damage
Water is one of the biggest sources of home damage. Water damage is particularly nefarious because water creeps in to your home over months or years without attracting much attention. You wake up one day and wonder why it costs so much to fix something that likely could have been easily avoided.

Therefore, it is critical to take preventive and, in some cases, corrective measures, to keep water where it belongs – away from your home. Because the topic of water damage can run off in lots of different directions (get it, "run off?"), we address ground water control and roof water control and will plan to cover other water issues in future articles.

Ground Control to Major Tom: Check Your Grading
Try wrapping your brain around this concept – a below-ground foundation is simply a reverse in-ground swimming pool designed to keep water out instead of keeping water in. Heavy, huh? Just like bending the spoon.

But seriously, controlling surface water around a home is the most important step to ensuring a proper defense against water ingress. Regrettably, it's almost always the most often overlooked strategy.

Surface water refers to water which is introduced to the soil when it rains. If not properly controlled, surface water may penetrate the home's interior and create damage to the structure, interior surfaces, and homeowner belongings (including your priceless supply of the last 37 years of National Geographic magazines).

Most homeowners look at their pretty landscaping and pretty flowers and pretty green grass without considering the effects of landscaping on water control. Two words: slope matters. When landscaping, it's not just important to see the pretty flowers, but also the slope of the ground and any obstacles to water flow away from the house. Flowers are great, we love flowers, heck, everyone loves flowers, but flower beds close to the house can damage the home by holding water directly against the foundation walls.

Installing barriers (landscaping timbers, vertical plastic edging, or stones) often exacerbate the problem because the barriers don't just hold the flowers and mountains of mulch; they also block drainage. If you must cling to your landscape timbers and edging, make sure downspouts extend beyond the barriers.

If your home is in cold climes, don't direct downspouts onto the driveway and/or sidewalks; snow and freezing rain can make the walking areas unsafe and help to accelerate cracks in the driveway and/or sidewalk.

The Slope of Things to Come
When we mention grading as a defect in a home inspection, the most common question is "Huh?" We're generally more interested in the second most common question: "How do we fix our grading?"

For home inspections, "grading" is simply a term to help describe surface elevation changes when compared to other areas around or near the house. Proper grading is when the grade or slope of the elevation slopes downward and away from the home at a rate of 1 inch per foot for the first 6 feet and then a continued slope for at least 10 feet from the foundation.

Proper Grading and Sloping
It sounds complicated but it's pretty simple – a proper grade allows water to flow away from the home and foundation; an improper grade allows moisture to flow back towards the home and seep into the soil. With improper grade, rain saturates the soil, pressures the foundation, and eventually forces moisture through the foundation and into the basement or crawlspace.

When you're talking about grade, you may hear our home inspector use the word "swale," a depression in the grading that is sloped to divert water away from the house. A swale normally is used when the surrounding grade is relatively flat and the sloped depression creates a way for water to flow away without changing the overall grading.

Although there are other strategies for keeping water out, including drain tiles, damp proofing coatings, or sub-slab drainage pump systems, grading is the easiest and most cost effective primary defense against water.

Ups and Downs, Strikes and Gutters
Did you know that when 1 inch of rain falls on a 2,000 square foot roof, 1,250 gallons of water pours from the roof? That's a ton of water. Actually, that's five tons of water.

We claim no special skill in math, but this one is a pretty simple calculation – if the home has four downspouts, there are over 300 gallons of water dumping near the foundation in four different areas.

If an area receives only 4" inches of rain per month, the roof sheds 60,000 gallons of water annually. At the risk of stating the obvious, it is critical to control water draining from the roof and divert the water away from the foundation walls to prevent water penetration.

What's the best way to control roof water? Gutters and downspouts are inexpensive and simple ways to keep rain water from dripping down and accumulating around the foundation and saturating the soil near the foundation.

Gutters must be sloped or pitched to allow water to drain to the downspout area. Too little pitch and there's not enough flow to remove debris in the gutter; too much pitch isn't aesthetically pleasing. Generally speaking, an effective gutter slope is roughly ¼ inch drop for every 10 feet of gutter. Gutter runs in excess of 30 feet should have a downspout installed at each end, pitching the gutter from the center towards each downspout.

Properly Route Water with Gutters and Downspouts
Over time, gutters sag as attachment points loosen; this phenomenon allows water to stand in the gutter and concentrate debris in low areas, the weight of which makes gutter attachments even looser and creates more sagging until the gutter hangers or spikes fail completely. Therefore, it is important to clean the gutters regularly; check to make sure that hangers are tight to prevent sagging.

Downspouts (or leaders) collect water from gutters and divert water to the ground. Downspouts must terminate at least 3 inches from the foundation walls. Problems occur when downspouts don't direct water properly or where there is blockage directly in front of the downspout. If the turn piece where the downspout meets the ground (90° or elbow) is missing, the downspout will direct all water straight down the foundation, erode the area and pond water directly against the foundation.

When Water Avoids Even the Best of Prevention Intentions
Even with the best of water prevention intentions, we've all been victims of April showers that seem to last for 40 days and 40 nights and which figure out ways to push water into the basement or crawlspace. Thankfully, most recently constructed homes offer some drainage systems installed on the interior and/or exterior of the home.

What's the first thing you think of when it's raining heavily? That's right: "Gosh, I hope my sump pump is working." It's probably a good idea to check your sump pump before the heavy spring and summer rain seasons. Check to make sure that either the vacuum switch or the float triggers the pump and that the ejector line is clear of debris. As with downspouts, sump pump discharge should be away from the foundation, not obstructed and not discharged on sidewalks or driveways.

Watch Your Downspouts
Unless you live in an area with near zero rain, ground water is almost always present, and water may well up under the slab during times of heavy sustained rainfall even when grading is proper and roof water is controlled. In addition to a sump pump, there are other ways to address ground water, including sub-slab drainage, and directing drainage lines to the exterior.

Controlling ground water in a crawlspace is a similar battle. Add a sump-pump or drainage system and if the crawlspace is dirt, cover the area with a vapor barrier (heavier weight plastic), which helps to prevents moisture from escaping into the crawlspace area. The vapor barrier won't stop ground water from flowing into the crawlspace, but it helps to reduce humidity and acts as a deterrent to keep water vapor and dirt smell out of the crawlspace.

Avoid the Swimming Pool in Your Basement
Although it may be a grand idea to invite the neighborhood kids over to go swimming, you probably didn't imagine setting up the pool in your basement.

The challenge of water control is just like anything else in life – prevention is the best cure.

If you properly employ simple and inexpensive water control methods – grading, gutters, and downspouts – you will greatly reduce your risk of long-term damage caused by water.

If you have any questions about water control or any inspection service, US Inspect is pleased and available to guide and assist you.

Let me know and I can connect you with a great US Inspect Specialist.

* * * * *

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

U.S. Housing Starts Climb in March:

The Commerce Department reported that groundbreaking increased 2.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 946,000.

Plus, February's data was actually better than first released. As February's starts were revised to show a 1.9 percent rise rather than the previously reported 0.2 percent fall.

Gaines in home building has been difficult as a brutally cold winter weighed on home building in December and January. Activity has also been hampered by shortages of building lots and skilled labor as well as rising prices for materials.

Groundbreaking for single-family homes, the largest segment of the market, surged 6.0 percent to a 635,000-unit pace last month. Starts for the volatile multi-family homes segment fell 3.1 percent to a 311,000-unit rate.

Friday, April 18, 2014

How to Prevent Water Damage

Preventing water damage is a whole lot cheaper than paying for repairs. Here are three easy prevention tips.

Water damage is the No. 1 culprit that weakens your home’s foundation and the very core that holds your house together.
You’ve heard about core strength for your body. Well, water damage hits at the core strength of your house, eventually causing serious structural damage. Damp wood invites termites and carpenter ants; plus, it causes mold and mildew.

Here are three easy things to do to that will give you piece of mind the next time heavy storms hit.

#1. Ensure Good Drainage

Why it matters: Poor drainage weakens your foundation, causing cracks, uneven settling, and pathways for water to enter your home.

How to do it:
Clean your gutters routinely. A clogged gutter will send cascades of water down the side of your house, damaging your siding and foundation.
Ensure your downspouts direct water 5 to 10 feet away from your house.
Make sure your yard is sloped at least 6 inches over a 10-foot span away from your foundation. That slope keeps water from getting down right next to your foundation, where it could cause walls to lean, crack the masonry, and create leaks. (For crawl spaces, keeping water away makes sure excess water doesn’t pool underneath your floor, making for damp conditions that encourage mold, rot, and insects.)
But don’t let the soil get too dry, either. Long dry spells let the soil around your house dry out and shrink. A big rain may make the soil expand, putting pressure on your foundation walls. In a drought, run a soaker hose at least 6 inches from the foundation and 3 inches under the soil to keep the soil from contracting and expanding.
Maintenance cost: Very little. Cleaning gutters can be a no-cost DIY job, or you can hire a pro for $50-$250, depending on the size and height of your home. To get the soil slope you need, you might have to buy some additional topsoil.
Worst case if you put it off: Your foundation could settle, cracking your basement walls. The cost to stabilize, repair, and seal deteriorated foundation walls is a whopping $15,000-$40,000.

#2. Test Your Sump Pump Regularly

Why it matters: Sump pumps come to life during storms. That’s not when you want to realize yours isn’t working properly. You should check it at least once a year, and ideally perform several checks during heavy storm seasons.
How to test your sump pump:
1. Slowly fill the sump pump pit with water. Watch for the "float" (similar to the float in your toilet) to rise, which should turn on the pump. Then watch to make sure the water level falls.
2. Test your backup pump the same way, but unplug the main pump first.
3. If you don’t have a backup pump — or a generator — and are on municipal water, get one that runs on water pressure. If you’re on well water, your only option is the battery kind.
Maintenance cost: Testing is free; a water-powered backup sump pump, including installation, costs $150-$350; a new battery for a battery-operated sump starts around $200.
Worst case if you put it off: Your basement could flood, ruining everything in it, including drywall and carpeting. (Did you know your regular insurance doesn’t cover flooding?) Plus you run the risk of mold and mildew — which can also be a very expensive problem.

#3. Check for Water Leaks and Fix Them

Why it matters: Persistent leaks lead to mold and mildew, rot, and even termites and carpenter ants (they like chewing soggy wood, since it’s soft). Yet if you fix a leak soon after it starts, there may be no long-term damage at all.

How to check for leaks:
Check for dark spots under pipes inside sink cabinets, stains on ceilings, toilets that rock, and of course drips.
At least once a year, inspect your roof. Repair missing, loose, and damaged shingles. Repair any cracked caulking and check for leaks around flashing.
How to Inspect Your Roof
Tips for Preventing Leaks
Maintenance cost: Negligible for a simple fix, such as a new washer. A visit from a plumber might set you back $250; a roof repair, a few hundred dollars to $1,000.
Worst case if you put it off: Drips ruin the cabinet under the kitchen sink, and run down into the floor sheathing and joists underneath, so you need a structural repair, plus new cabinets and new kitchen flooring. Or the roof rots, so you need a new roof and repairs to rooms directly beneath.

If you do these three things and still have persistent water problems, such as water getting into your basement or an area of your yard keeps washing out, the solution is a bit more complicated in the form of a French drain.