The Massachusetts South Shore Real Estate Blog: The Active Client (Part 2 of 2): How to Work Effectively with your Listing Agent

SoldLast time, in part one of our two part series: The Active Client: How to Work Effectively with your Buyer’s Agent, we discussed some important considerations for Buyers working with an Agent. Many of those considerations are also applicable in the context of Selling a home; however, there are some strategies that are unique to selling a home. As we’ve discussed previously in our article: Ten Reasons to Use a Real Estate Agent When Selling Your Home, every Seller should use an Agent to sell their home. The knowledgeable Seller will know that there are approaches to the client-Agent relationship that will help to sell your home quickly, for top dollar.

Pick the Right Agent: Alright, we admit that this is not technically a strategy to work with an Agent, but it makes the rest of the strategies much more effective. First, it’s important to find an Agent that is experienced and professional. Research your prospective Agent’s resume. Review their current listings. Are you impressed with the way that your Agent presents him/herself and his/her listings? Second, meet the Agent in person. Make sure that your personalities will work well together. Third, don’t rely solely on the price an Agent suggests as the basis for selecting that Agent. Suppose you discuss the listing with three potential agents. Two agents suggest a price of $400,000. The third suggests $500,000. It’s incredibly tempting to agree to list with the Agent that gives you the highest price. Take a moment to consider the possibility that the Agent may have given you an inflated price to secure your business with the knowledge that the price will inevitably be reduced to a realistic point. On the flip side, be cautious of a low target price as the Agent may be intentionally or unintentionally trying to make his/her sale easier, to your detriment. Finally, ask how they intend to market the property and how many other listings they currently have. If your Agent has twenty other listings, it’s unlikely (s)he will give yours as much attention as an Agent with fewer. Further, if your Agent’s strategy is to list it on MLS and do nothing else—you may want to consider an Agent that will more actively market your property.

No Secrets: It’s time to take the skeletons out of the closet (figuratively, of course—we hope). If you’re a seller, provide complete information about your home so that it can be presented fairly to potential Buyers. Honesty with Buyers often reassures them that you aren’t trying to take advantage of their relative lack of information about the property. More often than not, the major fault will be found during the home inspection, usually resulting in a request for a concession. If your Agent knows about the problem (s)he can preempt and present the issue in the most positive light and take the “sting out” while making the Buyer understand that the issue was factored into the pricing.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Advice: Last week, we discussed that Agents are experts in buying homes. The same is true when it comes to listing and negotiation. In addition to helping Seller’s set realistic pricing, experienced Agents will be able to provide insight into what Buyers prefer and what will help to set a listing apart from the crowd. In a market where inventory is set to increase dramatically, this is an invaluable service. Perhaps (s)he’ll suggest making modest upgrades, staging a room, setting a different price, or putting some of your property into storage. Try not to take advice personally—your agent understands that the goal is to appeal to as many potential Buyers as possible.

Explain why an Offer isn’t Adequate: maybe the closing date is not right for you, maybe the offer price is too low, maybe the offer is contingent on the buyer selling their current residence.  Giving feedback to your agent serves two purposes: 1) perhaps there is potential to make a counteroffer or 2) it will help the Agent guide future Buyers toward terms that are more likely to be acceptable to you.

Stay Positive: Your Agent will almost always go the extra mile when they have a personal connection and affinity for a client. Don’t treat your agent like a servant; she/he  is a professional. Perhaps it’s the extra phone call to another agent who has a Buyer in your area. Perhaps it’s spending additional time to make sure the house is perfectly prepped before an open house. If your agent likes you, chances are you’ll like your agent too.

Stiles Law, with offices located in Boston and Marshfield, Massachusetts, is a firm concentrating in real estate conveyancing and mortgage lending services, representing buyers, sellers, borrowers, banks, mortgage companies, investors, builders and developers in all of their real estate and mortgage transactions. Stiles Law serves all areas of eastern Massachusetts–the North Shore, Boston, and Cape Cod, in addition to the entire South Shore, including: Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury, Hanover, Pembroke, Marshfield, Scituate, Norwell, Cohasset, Hull, Hingham, Weymouth, Braintree, and Quincy.

Copyright © 2015 Stiles Law, All rights reserved. Stiles Law is a Massachusetts licensed law firm and all content is based on Massachusetts law. The information presented above is meant to be used for general informational purposes and it should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts. No child labor laws were breached during the creation of this Blog, further Bob Bonkley was compensated for his likenesses and appearances in the same.

 

 

The Massachusetts South Shore Real Estate Blog: The Active Client (Part 1 of 2): How to Work Effectively with your Buyer’s Agent

Communication is KeyEven as some of us are groaning at the sight of stubborn snowflakes, we are starting to see the spring market hit its stride. The relationship between an Agent and their client is immensely important. While the Agent, as an expert, should take the lead, the savvy client will take steps to maximize this relationship to realize their goals. This week, we are exploring what it takes to effectively work with your real estate Agent in the first of a two part series: The Active Client.  In this article, we will focus on what it takes to be an effective Buyer:

  • Communication: Yes, communication is essential in real estate, not unlike business, family, and most other matters.  However, in today’s environment of always on, instant gratification expectations, it’s more important than ever to respond to your Agent’s questions quickly.  The listing for your dream home, at the “I-can’t-believe-it” price, may only be available for a couple of days if not hours—quick response to your Agent’s suggestion may make all of the difference. Your offer may be one of multiple offers pending and the quicker you solidify your best offer, the better your chance of it being accepted by the seller.  If you delay in responding to your Agent in either of these situations, it may really be a day late… and a dollar short.
  • Honesty with Yourself and Your Agent: Every elementary school student knows that honesty is the best policy: but sometimes after some intervening years, we forget this simple maxim. Be clear with your Agent about your price range, pre-approval status, and geography. If your Agent is prospecting houses for you in the wrong town or the wrong price range, it usually just means that you won’t find the house of your dreams.  Don’t be nasty, but this isn’t the time to be too polite either; be purposeful. Nothing sours a relationship like wasted time and effort. Tell your Agent what you like and what you don’t like—your next showing will likely be better than the last. While it might be smart to see houses that are outside of what you’re expecting to purchase, a moving target is much harder for your Agent to hit. This isn’t to say that you have to know precisely what you want– if information changes mid-stream, just update your Agent.
  • Rely on your Agent’s Expertise: You hired a Buyer’s Agent because their primary asset is their expertise in the field of buying a house. You may lack this expertise, so rely on theirs. Regular readers will recall this point in our article: Ten Reasons to Use a Buyer’s Agent when Buying a Home. Perhaps your Agent feels that your low ball offer may offend the Seller causing them not to want to deal with you. Your Agent has presented many offers in the past, so (s)he has a good feel for how that offer will be received by the Seller. Maybe your Agent is trying to provide a dose of reality when there is a negative aspect to a listing. Perhaps your Agent wants you to look at a type of home that you haven’t considered because it fits your lifestyle or goals. More often than not, their expertise can help you find the perfect home.
  • Teamwork is Key: Keep in mind that when you are buying a house, you are relying on your Agent’s team of professionals. Teamwork is essential to a successful transaction.  Delegating tasks to team members means that your capabilities are greater than if you were acting on your own.  Members of your team, in addition to your Agent include home inspectors, lenders, real estate attorneys, or even neighbors!  Professionals that know how to work with each other will accomplish goals quickly and more often. Think about it this way: when your Agent refers you to a professional, your Agent is implicitly confident that their referral will maximize the chances of the deal closing with as little risk and inconvenience to you as possible. Your Agent won’t (or at least shouldn’t) be referring you to professionals with whom they don’t have a strong track record of success. If you feel that a member of your Agent’s team is not working out the way you’d hoped, you can recruit your new team members. Just remember, you usually shouldn’t be tackling the difficult task of buying a house by yourself.

Each of the points above should help you to set yourself up for a smooth – and successful – foray into the real estate market.  Being an active client, working with your Agent effectively will increase your agility, speed, and success rate. So go out there and work with your Agent.  Trust your Agent.  If nothing else, return your Agent’s phone calls quickly!

Stiles Law, with offices located in Boston and Marshfield, Massachusetts, is a firm concentrating in real estate conveyancing and mortgage lending services, representing buyers, sellers, borrowers, banks, mortgage companies, investors, builders and developers in all of their real estate and mortgage transactions. Stiles Law serves all areas of eastern Massachusetts–the North Shore, Boston, and Cape Cod, in addition to the entire South Shore, including: Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury, Hanover, Pembroke, Marshfield, Scituate, Norwell, Cohasset, Hull, Hingham, Weymouth, Braintree, and Quincy.

Copyright © 2015 Stiles Law, All rights reserved. Stiles Law is a Massachusetts licensed law firm and all content is based on Massachusetts law. The information presented above is meant to be used for general informational purposes and it should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts. No child labor laws were breached during the creation of this Blog, further Bob Bonkley was compensated for his likenesses and appearances in the same.

 

The Massachusetts South Shore Real Estate Blog: Catching More Flies with Honey in a Hot Real Estate Market

Catch More Flies with HoneyGrowing up, my mother had a favorite expression: “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Her point was simple–and I’ve since found it is almost always correct: a person who acts politely and courteously, with regard for the feelings of others, usually has a better chance of meeting their goals. This old adage applies in the context of real estate transactions. The stakes are high: there are personal, emotional, financial and practical considerations at play. As real estate attorneys, much like other real estate professionals, we have a unique perspective that allows for the long view of this process. In this week’s article, we will make the case that there is a right way to be a Buyer in this year’s hot spring market.

Sellers are People too: It’s easy to forget, but their home is a personal place, often filled with memories, and selling can be an emotional process. This is especially true in cases where hardship is forcing the sale of the house. Most Buyers don’t meet the Sellers before closing. In the sterile environment of formal offers and contracts, all generated by negotiation through brokers and attorneys, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the Sellers are people with emotions. Being courteous and respectful, avoiding harsh, unproductive criticism of the Seller’s home or a “scorched earth” negotiation style helps to keep the Sellers acting on information rather than emotion.

Don’t Try to Win at Every Turn: There can often be many issues in a real estate negotiation: price, repairs, and dates, just to name a few. Most Sellers feel that they have “left some money on the table” for the Buyer, so when a prospective Buyer attempts to win on each issue it often alienates the Seller. Sometimes conceding on a smaller issue, even stating “I’ll concede on this issue in exchange for…” has the effect of demonstrating that you are a reasonable Buyer and  still “winning” while gaining the Seller’s heart and mind.

Avoid the Expectation of Perfection: We walk by small problems in our own homes every day. It’s easy to become complacent–satisfied with the less-than-perfect state of our abodes. Just like people–no house is perfect (even brand new houses). It’s one thing to use some faults as leverage to negotiate a concession, it’s quite another to expect the Seller to patch every hole, repaint every wall, and make all of the other repairs that most of us forget to do in our every day lives. Avoid making the Seller feel like they’re being attacked or that they’ve failed as a homeowner–it usually is counterproductive in negotiations.

Don't Rummage Through the Seller's DrawersA Guest in the Seller’s Home: When you’re walking through a Seller’s home, remember where you are. You have not bought the house yet. Take off your shoes. Respect the Buyer’s privacy–they will likely know if you’ve rifled through their drawers. Treating a Seller with respect enhances the likelihood that you will receive the same courtesy as the purchasing process progresses.

Walk a Mile in the Seller’s Shoes: Most sales are not distressed sales anymore. In this new environment, treating a Seller as distressed when they are not is off-putting and therefore counterproductive to successful negotiation. Further, the Buyer that assumes a Seller is lazy, stupid, or irrational is missing an important strategic opportunity and is likely alienating the Seller. Understanding the Seller’s situation allows for more leverage. Perhaps the Seller is willing to concede on price for a faster closing. Instead of repairs, maybe the Seller would be willing to leave some personal property. Understanding the Seller’s limitations will allow for a more productive negotiation.

Do your Due Diligence to Apply Appropriate Leverage: In addition to your outward behavior to the Seller, be sure to understand the Seller’s practical considerations before making your offer. Price is never the only consideration. Doing your due diligence can often mean a more tailored negotiation that enhances the aspects of the deal that are most important to you. Perhaps your Seller is older and is going to find it difficult to move their possessions. A savvy Buyer may offer to pay for or defer the cost of movers to entice the Sellers to accept an aggressive closing date. Perhaps the Sellers feel the crunch of needing to find a new home to purchase. The savvy Buyer may offer to grant the Seller the right to extend for 45 days if the Seller can’t find suitable housing in exchange for a price reduction or some of the Seller’s appliances. Sometimes, there is no point of leverage–knowing this is equally valuable. Real Estate transactions shouldn’t be made with a cookie cutter.

Final Thoughts: At base, civility, courtesy, and professionalism is the foundation of effective negotiation. I’m certain that every Real Estate Professional reading this article has had clients who are selling mention that they are happy to be selling to “really nice people.” Perhaps they’ll ignore an oil adjustment. Perhaps they’ll allow the Buyer to move in a few days early. Perhaps, they’ll allow the Buyer to close a few days late. The savvy Buyer will help maximize their chances of buying the home of their dreams on favorable terms by being one those “really nice people” who understands that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Stiles Law, with offices located in Boston and Marshfield, Massachusetts, is a firm concentrating in real estate conveyancing and mortgage lending services, representing buyers, sellers, borrowers, banks, mortgage companies, investors, builders and developers in all of their real estate and mortgage transactions. Stiles Law serves all areas of eastern Massachusetts–the North Shore, Boston, and Cape Cod, in addition to the entire South Shore, including: Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury, Hanover, Pembroke, Marshfield, Scituate, Norwell, Cohasset, Hull, Hingham, Weymouth, Braintree, and Quincy.

Copyright © 2015 Stiles Law, All rights reserved. Stiles Law is a Massachusetts licensed law firm and all content is based on Massachusetts law. The information presented above is meant to be used for general informational purposes and it should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts. No child labor laws were breached during the creation of this Blog, further Bob Bonkley was compensated for his likenesses and appearances in the same.

 

The Massachusetts South Shore Real Estate Blog: Get Ready for the Spring Market

Plowing With StyleIt is often the case that with the melting snow and mild temperatures the spring real estate market sees substantial increases in inventory. After a year of extraordinary snow and very low inventory, this year’s spring market is poised to heat up quickly. An influx of listings should spur a “Seller’s Market.” While every market is different, for those interested in our thoughts from last year’s spring market should read: Five Tips to Thrive in a Thawing Real Estate Market. In light of changing market conditions, we’ve decided to compile some of our thoughts on the emotional and tactical considerations in this year’s market. It’s easy to forget in the rush that selling and buying a home is an emotional process. Sellers are contemplating moving from their home which is a very personal space. Buyers are looking for a place to call home and spending considerable sums of money. It is important for Sellers, and Buyers for that matter, to maintain composure. This week, we will explore some of the tips, tactical and emotional, to help Sellers sell their homes for top dollar.

Consider Hiring a Professional Stager to Put your House “Over the Top”: Some Sellers have found great success by hiring a professional “stager” to add some furnishings to entice Buyers into making an offer. By making your house look inviting and stylish, you will make it easier for a Buyer to picture him or herself living in the house. Some Buyers may be so enchanted that they make an offer which calls for all furniture to be sold with the house. This is proof positive that the staging worked–and don’t worry, the Stager will be happy to sell the furniture to the Buyer. If hiring a professional would not be cost effective, consider obtaining the same effect through sweat equity. Spend ten minutes looking at listings on the MLS. The house that has fresh paint, a manicured lawn, shampooed carpets, and all clutter removed will look indescribably more appealing than a house that does not. Don’t let a little elbow grease stand between you and a top dollar offer. If your budget allows, consider professional photography as another way to make your listing stand out among the rest.

Leverage (Know thy Enemy): When I sat down to write this article, I didn’t think I’d be quoting Sun Tzu, but the point is too good to miss. Understanding the Buyer’s situation can make the difference between a good and great deal. Has your Buyer already sold and is therefore desperate to find a house, even if they overpay slightly? Does the Buyer have a subjective attachment, i.e., do they love your house and can’t stand the thought of not living there? Calling your Buyer “thy Enemy” may overstate the adversarial nature of this exchange. Treat your Buyer with respect–buying a house is emotional for the Buyer, involves a substantial amount of money and can be very stressful. A relaxed, happy Buyer may be more willing to make an offer, and will generally result in an easier sale process for you, the Seller.

Preemptive Home Inspection: Just like people, houses are not perfect. You know the Buyer will be conducting a home inspection. By hiring your own inspector, you have the chance to address serious repair concerns before any Buyers begin their inspection. A Buyer’s inspector, and by extension the Buyer, will be impressed by the proper repair of important systems. Minimizing surprises helps to keep your sales price from sliding. While your Real Estate agent is a wonderful adviser with regard to many issues, he or she is likely not a contractor or home inspector. Until you have a professional give you an honest assessment, your sale price is, to some extent, something of a guess.

You have more “Stuff” than you Think: As a Seller, one of your most important contractual obligations is delivering the house with your personal property removed. Before agreeing to a three week closing, consider whether it’s realistic to move the contents of your entire house in such a short time. Even with enough time, some Sellers wait until the last hours to remove their possessions. If your possessions aren’t removed by closing, the Buyer could walk away from the transaction. Further, the Buyer’s rate lock may expire. When this happens, the Seller usually pays the expense of an extension–often over $1,000. Take my advice: start packing now!

Perform all Obligations in a Timely Manner: Consider this scenario: the Seller receives an offer at top dollar, but the Seller must replace all outlets in the house. In the Seller’s excitement, she grabs the closest pen, signs, and faxes the Offer back to the Buyer’s agent. As the closing approaches, the Seller realizes that replacing all outlets in the house is quite a chore. Rather than hiring an electrician to finish the work, she thinks: “I won’t do the work; what’s the worst that could happen?” Nothing causes more drama and consternation than unfulfilled contractual obligations. The Buyer can (and sometimes does) walk away from the transaction. The closing may be delayed. Often, the Seller is forced to pay the Buyer for the cost of the work, usually with some built in premium to account for the uncertainty of the true cost. It’s almost always advisable to perform the work in a timely manner. This doesn’t just apply to repair items. The Seller that leaves dirty dishes in the sink, leaves an uncooked turkey in the oven, removes the bathroom mirror, or leaves trash piled in the shed (we’ve really seen each of these) will suffer the same fate. By making a real effort to respect the Buyer and your contractual obligations, the Buyer is more likely to look past that scuff on the floor or small hole in the wall. Buying and Selling a house is stressful–make it a little easier by fulfilling your contractual obligations.

We’ve tried to provide some of the best tips for being a “good” Seller in this hot spring market. Whether adding some beautiful furniture, understanding your Buyer’s position, or conducting a preemptive home inspection, be sure to treat the Buyer with respect and honesty. No amount of furnishings or hard ball negotiation can save a deal that is destroyed by mistrust and hurt feelings.

Stiles Law, with offices located in Boston and Marshfield, Massachusetts, is a firm concentrating in real estate conveyancing and mortgage lending services, representing buyers, sellers, borrowers, banks, mortgage companies, investors, builders and developers in all of their real estate and mortgage transactions. Stiles Law serves all areas of eastern Massachusetts–the North Shore, Boston, and Cape Cod, in addition to the entire South Shore, including: Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury, Hanover, Pembroke, Marshfield, Scituate, Norwell, Cohasset, Hull, Hingham, Weymouth, Braintree, and Quincy.

Copyright © 2015 Stiles Law, All rights reserved. Stiles Law is a Massachusetts licensed law firm and all content is based on Massachusetts law. The information presented above is meant to be used for general informational purposes and it should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts. No child labor laws were breached during the creation of this Blog, further Bob Bonkley was compensated for his likenesses and appearances in the same.

 

The Massachusetts South Shore Real Estate Blog: Benefits of Wintertime Investment in Real Estate

Winter Wonderland

Typically there’s a thick blanket of snow covering everything in sight–and if there isn’t, it won’t be long until there is. It is for this reason that the real estate market is notoriously slow in the winter months. While it’s tempting to curl up with a steaming cup of cocoa and a good book, this is actually one of the best times to purchase real estate. Numerous factors, which we will outline here, combine to make this time of year a buyer’s market for novice purchasers and high-powered investors alike.

Interest Rates are Still Low: Okay, so this isn’t because it’s winter.  Fed policy has helped to keep rates historically low. While none of us have a crystal ball, investors and home-buyers could see significantly higher rates in the not so distant future.

Fewer Buyers: Get ready to dust off your Econ. 101 notes–as demand drops and supply remains relatively constant (or at least if demand drops more sharply than supply), we should expect prices to drop as well. Most other buyers, whether to avoid the slush or moving their children during the school year, will be drinking their cocoa rather than pounding pavement (or ice, as the case may be). In addition to lower prices, buyers will enjoy greater negotiating power as there are fewer standby offers (or even interested buyers) for the Seller to rely upon. Further, chances are that if the property is on the market during the winter months it has been on the market for longer than the seller wanted and as such is motivated to sell. Wintertime bidding wars are rare.  All of this plays to the advantage of the buyer.

Agents will have Fewer Clients: Since there are fewer buyers during the winter months, Real Estate Agents will simply have fewer clients to tend to. This means each client will receive a larger portion of the Agent’s attention, and by extension, even greater searching and negotiating power.

Lower Loan Application Volume: When fewer homes are sold, lenders have fewer applications to process. Similar to the greater attention from Agents, loan processors will likely have more resources to dedicate to your application which should improve speed and smoothness of the loan application process.

You Get to See the House at its Worst: Yes, you read that correctly. At base, selling a house is selling a product. There’s a reason that most listings show the property in the middle of spring or summer, covered with lush vegetation and manicured landscaping: it helps to increase the buyer’s perception of the property’s value. Buying when the property is covered with snow, sand, salt, and ice removes the emotional “wow” that fair weather primping can have. Additionally, prospective buyers will have a better idea of the condition of essential systems—for example, whether the furnace adequately heats the space. Leaks, cracks, and other cold weather problems will also manifest themselves more readily in the dark winter months.

While it might feel counterintuitive to start your search while the frigid winds are still howling, the intrepid buyer is more likely to score a deal than the one who is waiting for the springtime thaw.  For additional considerations about whether this is the time to invest in real estate, check out our past Article: Is It Time To Buy That Investment Property Or Second Home?

 

Stiles Law, with offices located in Boston and Marshfield, Massachusetts, is a firm concentrating in real estate conveyancing and mortgage lending services, representing buyers, sellers, borrowers, banks, mortgage companies, investors, builders and developers in all of their real estate and mortgage transactions. Stiles Law serves all areas of eastern Massachusetts–the North Shore, Boston, and Cape Cod, in addition to the entire South Shore, including: Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury, Hanover, Pembroke, Marshfield, Scituate, Norwell, Cohasset, Hull, Hingham, Weymouth, Braintree, and Quincy.

Copyright © 2015 Stiles Law, All rights reserved. Stiles Law is a Massachusetts licensed law firm and all content is based on Massachusetts law. The information presented above is meant to be used for general informational purposes and it should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts.

 

The Massachusetts South Shore Real Estate Blog: Summary Process: Evicting a Tenant in Massachusetts

In our last two posts, Considerations for Future Real Estate Investors and Congratulations–You Bought an Investment Property–Now What?, we discussed some of the reasons why it is a great time to invest in real estate and how to properly establish the landlord-tenant relationship. Even the most experienced landlord can find him or herself with a tenant that needs to be removed.

STOP! Do Not Attempt to Perform a Self-Help Eviction:

In Massachusetts, it is illegal to engage in “self-help,” which generally includes: changing locks, removing the tenants personal property, threatening or harassing the tenant, or turning off the tenant’s utilities (e.g., water, heat, gas, or electricity). Engaging in any of these activities will only make your legal problem worse: now your tenant may now have a viable defense (defeat your attempt to evict), a counterclaim (a money claim against the landlord for damages), or you may even be charged with a crime and you could go to jail (this is rare but can happen, especially for egregious behavior). We know, this doesn’t seem fair. Why should a bad tenant have so many rights? Don’t shoot the messenger. Here’s how to evict property.

Step 1: Notice to Quit:

The tenant must receive actual notice that the landlord intends to end the tenancy. There are two types of notice: a 14 day notice to quit and a 30 day notice to quit. A 14 day notice is only applicable if the landlord’s claim is based on the fact that the tenant has failed to pay rent. A 30 day notice is required in all other situations, i.e. termination of a tenancy at will or for the tenant’s breach of a provision in the lease.

Know your Dates:

  1. Service Date: the date on which the tenant is served with the Summons and Complaint. This date must occur at least one day after the notice period expires.
  2. Entry Date: the date on which the Summons and Complaint, Notice to Quit, and Return of Service are filed with the court. This date must be on or before the Monday (unless Monday is a holiday–then it’s Tuesday) entry date stated in the summons and complaint–it must be no fewer than 7 days nor more than 13 days after the Service Date.
  3. Answer Date: the date, which must be on or before the first Monday after the entry date stated on the Summons and Complaint, on which the Defendant’s answer and counterclaims must be filed.
  4. Trial Date: the date, which is ten days after the entry date stated in the Summons and Complaint, assuming there is no jury or discovery request which can automatically extend this date, on which the landlord and tenant must go to court for trial.

Step 2: Summons and Complaint:

If the tenant has not surrendered the premises by the expiration of the notice period, the landlord (now the Plaintiff) must serve a summons and complaint on the tenant (now the Defendant), usually by sheriff or constable, and then file the summons and complaint, return of service, and notice to quit with the Court (see the discussion of the “Entry Date” above). As is apparent from the discussion of important dates above, the process of service and the timing that it takes is technical. This process must be done properly–any deficiency can result in a dismissal of the Plaintiff’s suit.

Step 3:  Trial:

On the day of trial, most cases are resolved through mediation or direct negotiation between the parties. Settlement is more predictable than going before a judge because a judge has broad discretion in granting stays  of execution–in some narrow instances, up to one year. An attorney will be instrumental in protecting the landlord’s interests through careful drafting of a Settlement Agreement and by gauging the relative strength of the case. Further, your attorney will help you prove the facts alleged in your complaint at trial–the only way to prevail if negotiation is unsuccessful.

Step 4: Execution:

An execution is the written court order which allows the tenant to be removed. Removal must be done by a constable or sheriff and the tenant must be given 48 hours notice before removal can take place. A landlord who attempts to remove the tenant or the tenant’s property by himself or herself can be subject to the significant self-help penalties noted above.

The Best Way to Save Considerable Time and Money:

  1. Establish your Landlord-Tenant Relationship Properly: for starters: read our last post Congratulations–You Bought an Investment Property–Now What?, use a well drafted lease, hold the tenant’s money properly, do your due diligence before entering the contract, and document the condition of the premises at the start of the tenancy.
  2. Send a Notice to Quit as Soon as you Stop Receiving Payment: many landlords will allow many months of non-payment to occur before starting the eviction process. The cost of sending the notice to quit is relatively small in comparison to the saved time (and money) that early service can shave off the process.
  3. Call your Attorney Before Taking any Action: while it may not rise to the level of self-help, quite frankly, landlords already tend to fight an uphill battle. Even if the tenant has been rude and unpleasant, returning this behavior can result in judicial sympathy for the tenant.

Evicting a tenant can be unpleasant, time consuming, and costly. Problematic tenants are an unfortunate realty for real estate investors of all experience levels. Understanding the process and following these tips can help keep this process relatively quick and efficient.

 

Stiles Law, with offices located in Boston and Marshfield, Massachusetts, is a firm concentrating in real estate conveyancing and mortgage lending services, representing buyers, sellers, borrowers, banks, mortgage companies, investors, builders and developers in all of their real estate and mortgage transactions. Stiles Law serves all areas of eastern Massachusetts–the North Shore, Boston, and Cape Cod, in addition to the entire South Shore, including: Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury, Hanover, Pembroke, Marshfield, Scituate, Norwell, Cohasset, Hull, Hingham, Weymouth, Braintree, and Quincy.

Copyright © 2015 Stiles Law, All rights reserved. Stiles Law is a Massachusetts licensed law firm and all content is based on Massachusetts law. The information presented above is meant to be used for general informational purposes and it should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts. No child labor laws were breached during the creation of this Blog, further Bob Bonkley was compensated for his likenesses and appearances in the same.