Blog :: 03-2017

Did Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch Get A Makeover?

Rumor has it that the King of Pop’s former home has been renamed Sycamore Valley Ranch.

If you have millions to burn, here’s a once-in-a-lifetime real estate opportunity. Word on the street is that the estate formerly known as Neverland Ranch, aka the home of the late Michael Jackson, is hitting the market once again. But there’s a catch: It has a new name. Now called Sycamore Valley Ranch, the sprawling property, which was designed by award-winning architect Robert Altevers in 1982, was on the market just two years ago with a price tag of $100 million. By comparison, at the current price of $67 million, you’ll get a slice of history at a major discount.

Tucked in the picturesque town of Los Olivos, CA, near Santa Barbara, the compound once inspired by Peter Pan has officially matured. Set on 50 acres of bucolic wonder, the property has been transformed into a more welcoming, functional estate. A 12,598-square-foot, five-bedroom, eight-bathroom mansion anchors the property, preserving the whimsy of Neverland but fused with the exposed timber beams and 18th-century French oak parquet floor that denote French Normandy architecture. Two guesthouses offer plenty of space for visitors, and multiple additional structures grace the massive estate.

The Ferris wheel and other amusement park rides from Michael’s residence have departed, but the estate certainly maintains a variety of outdoor activities. A red barn is ideal for an aspiring equestrian, while a train station featuring a kitchenette, loft, and two fireplaces is a unique component. A stand-alone movie theater seats 50 guests, while a dance studio provides the perfect spot to get some exercise. Another three-bedroom ranch house is connected to the stables, while a staff home overlooks beautiful Figueroa Mountain.

The legendary song-and-dance man, who tragically died of a drug overdose in 2009, originally purchased the property for $19.5 million in 1987.

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Mortgage Interest Rates Went Up | Market Update March 2017

March 14, 2017

The spring market is off to a very strong start this year in the communities North of Boston, MA.  The uncertainty of mortgage rates are causing many buyers to feel a high level of urgency. While it is a sellers market, depending on the type of home, location and price point, the level of demand can vary greatly.  Many homes are selling within days, while others a few weeks. Some homes are receiving a few offers selling for close to asking and others  are getting 15+, selling for tens of thousands over.

If you are in the market to move in the Suburbs North of Boston, call us to today to make sense of this crazy market.   For sellers, pricing, preparation, strategy, and understanding the nuances of navigating a bidding war is critical for taking advantage of this market to get top dollar.  For buyers, this market can be extremely frustrating!   it is crucial to understand the market climate you are in. It is just as important to understand strategies on getting an offer accepted in a bidding war as well as knowing when it is unnecessary to outbid yourself, and over pay by thousands, when you arent competing with other buyers.




Mortgage Interest Rates Went Up Again… Should I Wait to Buy?

Mortgage interest rates, as reported by Freddie Mac, have increased over the last several weeksFreddie Mac, along with Fannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors, is calling for mortgage rates to continue to rise over the next four quarters.

This has caused some purchasers to lament the fact they may no longer be able to get a rate below 4%. However, we must realize that current rates are still at historic lows.

Here is a chart showing the average mortgage interest rate over the last several decades.

Bottom Line

Though you may have missed getting the lowest mortgage rate ever offered, you can still get a better interest rate than your older brother or sister did ten years ago, a lower rate than your parents did twenty years ago, and a better rate than your grandparents did forty years ago.

The Best Smoke Detectors for Your Home and the Worst

The Best Smoke Detector for a Home, and the Worst: Which Do You Have?

First the good news: After decades of public education by firefighters and other community groups, Americans have finally gotten the memo that smoke detectors are a good thing. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 96% of homes in the U.S. have at least one smoke detector to alert residents to a fire on the premises. Now the bad news: There are actually two types of smoke detectors, and the most popular one is actually the less effective. So which one’s the best smoke detector for your home? Here are the facts on these two main types of smoke detectors—ionization and photoelectric—and how you can use them to keep your home safe.

Ionization smoke detector

Ionization alarms use a small bit of radioactive material to detect the incinerated particles that make up smoke. They’re also the most common—the National Fire Protection Association found that 90% of all the smoke detectors in the U.S. are this type.

The problem? Ionization smoke detectors are sluggish at detecting slow-burning or smoldering fires, such as those caused by the most common types of fire starters—namely cigarettes, frayed electrical wires, and fireplace embers. By the time an ionization alarm activates, smoke and carbon monoxide levels have likely built up sufficiently to disorient you and make you unable to escape your home.

Joseph Fleming, a deputy fire chief at the Boston Fire Department, says as many as 30,000 people in the U.S. have died in fires since 1990 because their homes were equipped only with ionization detectors.

So why, then, do ionization alarms get placed in homes? For one, they’re cheaper—typically half the price of a photoelectric smoke detector—and the battery on an ionization alarm tends to last longer.

Just beware: Since ionization alarms have such a high false-alarm rate—they can be triggered by cooking or even showering—many people disconnect or “shush” their ionization alarms. If you do, be sure to turn them back on!

Photoelectric smoke detector

A photoelectric smoke detector uses a beam of light to detect smoke particles. And although these detectors are twice as expensive as ionization alarms (it’s no wonder they’re less popular), data from the National Institute of Standards and Technology has found that photoelectric alarms can detect smoke 20 to 50 minutes faster—that’s a significant head start!

Photoelectric alarms are considered the best way to protect your family from fire. In fact, in 2008 the International Association of Fire Fighters recommended that photoelectric alarms be the only type of device installed; several states, including Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine, require photoelectric alarms in new residential construction.

As for the home you’re currently in, experts recommend you invest in photoelectric smoke alarms in bedrooms and hallways, and leave the ionization smoke alarms in the kitchen, if at all. And ideally you’ll want your alarms to be hard-wired so they don’t rely on battery power (61% of homes have smoke detectors that work only on battery power). Hard-wiring also allows for the devices to be interconnected so that if one detector goes off, they all do (just 25% of homes have interconnected smoke alarms, even though new homes have been required to have them since 1976).

And don’t forget about carbon monoxide detectors

In addition to smoke detectors, all homes should have separate detectors for carbon monoxide—an odorless gas emitted by furnaces, stoves, grills, and other appliances that burn fuel. Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning, causing about 400 deaths a year.

Mass Home Buyers Timeline

Massachusetts Home Buyers Timeline

1. MORTGAGE PRE-APPROVAL  - Before starting your home search, get pre-approved from a reputable lender.  A copy of the pre approval will be needed when submitting an offer.

2. FIND THE HOUSE - Do your homework, drive around neighborhoods, visit open houses.  Is your search criteria and budget match the availability of homes for sale?

3. MAKE THE OFFER-  Ask your agent for a market analysis and strategize an offer.   A good faith deposit, pre-approval along with any additional disclosures is submitted with an offer.

4. OFFER ACCEPTED- Congratulations! Inform your lender. 

5. HOME INSPECTION ( within 10 days)  The home inspection will reveal any maintenence items and defects that will need to be addressed immediately, as well as items that should be budgeted for, and potentially any major defects.

6. SIGN PURCHASE AND SALES-  ( within 14 days) The Purchase and Sales agreement is a much more detailed version of the Contract to Purchase. An attorney will review this agreement and negotiate legal terms. Typically 5% of the purchase price is deposited in escrow at this time. 

7. FORMAL MORTGAGE APPLICATION-  Once the Purchase and Sales has been executed, a formal mortgage application will be submitted with your lender.

8. MORTGAGE APPRAISAL -  The lender will have the property appraised to confirm its value. 

9. MORTGAGE COMMITMENT- The lender will issue a mortgage commitment. It is important to look at the conditions of the commitment, as once the commitment date has passed your deposit money will be at risk.


11. CLOSING ( 45-60 days)


John Ternullo, REALTOR,  The Ternullo Real Estate Team |  RE/MAX Leading Edge




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Where Are the Home Prices Heading in the Next 5 Years?


Today, many real estate conversations center on housing prices and where they may be headed. That is why we like the Home Price Expectation Survey.

Every quarter, Pulsenomics surveys a nationwide panel of over one hundred economists, real estate experts, and investment & market strategists about where they believe prices are headed over the next five years. They then average the projections of all 100+ experts into a single number.

The results of their latest survey:

Home values will appreciate by 4.4% over the course of 2017, 3.4% in 2018, 2.8% in 2019, 2.7% in 2020, and 2.8% in 2021. That means the average annual appreciation will be 3.22% over the next 5 years.

Where Are the Home Prices Heading in the Next 5 Years? | MyKCM

The prediction for cumulative appreciation fell from 21.4% to 17.3% by 2021. The experts making up the most bearish quartile of the survey are projecting a cumulative appreciation of 6.3%.

Where Are the Home Prices Heading in the Next 5 Years? | MyKCM

Bottom Line

Individual opinions make headlines. We believe this survey is a fairer depiction of future values.



Attention First-Time Buyers: Here's the Key Stuff You Don't Know About Mortgages

When it comes to mortgages, there’s a big gap between what people thinkthey need in order to get one and the reality of what buyers are successfully doing—especially young people.


You Don't Know I know, I know, I’ve written on down payments before (like last month, when I highlighted that putting 20% down isn’t the norm).About Mortgages!

But you know what? When it comes to what might be the biggest purchase of your life—one that can be incredibly intimidating for first-time buyers—it’s nice to know real facts. And in the mortgage market, reality is very often different from perception. Or, for that matter, myth.

Last week, the National Association of Realtors® issued its 2017 Aspiring Home Buyers Profile report. The report cites data from surveys taken in the third quarter of 2016 about down payments.

The report summarized that 39% of nonowners believe they need more than 20% for a down payment on a home, 26% believe they need to put down 15% to 20%, and 22% believe a down payment of 10% to 14% would work.


So on average, those nonowners thought a down payment would need to be about 16%. The reality? The average down payment on purchase mortgages in 2016 was 11%.

In fact, when we drill into the purchase mortgages taken out by people under 35, who represent the majority of first-time buyers, we see the average down payment was even lower, at just under 8%. In other words, aspiring first-time buyers think it takes twice as much to buy a home than it really does.

Perception, meet reality

But averages can be misleading, right? Especially when there is a wide distribution, like we observe with down payments. When we dig into what actually happened in 2016 we find that most young people buy homes with … less than 5% down. That’s less than one-third of what the average nonowner had assumed! 

As with many things in life, the most correct answer to the question of how much you need to put down is “it depends.” There are a slew of important factors like who you are, your financial circumstances, the home’s location, and the price of the home.

It is possible to buy a home with a mortgage with no money down. VA and USDA loans are the most popular loans that offer the ability to put no money down. In 2016, 16% of buyers under 35 put no money down.

The largest share (36%) of loans for buyers under 35 in 2016 was for people putting down something less than 5%. The options there include loans offered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but also 3% down payment programs backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (aka conforming loans). And, of course, this includes the traditional 3.5% FHA mortgage that is primarily targeted to first-time buyers.

More than half of young people who successfully bought a home with a mortgage in 2016 put at most 5% down. The average dollar amount for these buyers was $3,500. That’s right, if you have #FOMO from your friends buying homes, the majority of them are putting down just a few thousand dollars.

How are they doing it? The aforementioned mortgage products (conforming, FHA, VA, and USDA) represent almost 99% of the mortgages to people under 35 in 2016. There is nothing exotic about this.

And it doesn’t require perfect credit, just fair credit. The average FICO was 713, and the floor we observed in FICOs (below which very few mortgages were made) was 639.

Put that all together and you can see that for the millennial dreaming of buying a home this year, you need a FICO score of at least 639 and enough money that you could put down at most 5%. If you live in a typical American town, what you need could be as little as $3,500.

That sounds a lot more attainable than most people think. The truth is out there! Take advantage of it.