Aug
17

K&G: Now With 100% More Karens

It’s hard for me to believe that I will be coming upon my one-year anniversary with Konowitz & Greenberg this fall. My son, who was just an infant when I joined the firm, is now walking and talking (well, mostly throwing things and yelling “uh oh!”). While my son rules the roost at home, I try my best to serve as the “team captain” at work, so that the K&G TEAM can do its best work for our valued clients.

In addition to my role as Office Manager, I am also the K&G Legal Assistant. My professional experiences and education have prepared me well for these extra responsibilities. Before moving to Massachusetts with my husband, I practiced law in Connecticut, working at a small trusts and estates firm after receiving my law degree from Saint Louis University and my undergraduate degree from Williams College. Before attending law school, I also earned a master’s degree in healthcare administration and worked full-time in a nursing home as an admissions coordinator, honing my interpersonal and communication skills. In addition, I have taught English and History to (sometimes) unruly teens. So, it’s not hard to see why I feel well equipped to manage the TEAM here!

What do I actually do here, you might wonder? This is a small office so, not surprisingly, I wear many hats. As the Office Manager, I organize calendars and coordinate meetings; communicate with clients, opposing attorneys and the courts; update our website; and plan the newsletter. I also make sure the office is running smoothly by ordering supplies, managing the billing, and providing technical support and computer assistance.

When I am wearing my Legal Assistant hat, however, I display my “do not disturb” sign at my desk, so that Steven, Karen and Cyndy know that I am not available to fix their computer problems! As a Legal Assistant, I organize and assemble court notebooks for civil litigation and domestic cases and assist in the preparation and review of legal documents such as Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney. I also run the K&G Estate Planning Department, which is a highlight of my job.

One of my most important responsibilities as TEAM captain is ensuring that my attorneys can stay focused on what they do best: practicing law. Each attorney here specializes in somewhat different practice areas. Karen is a highly experienced (and awesome!) domestic relations attorney. As I have learned, this type of practice requires certain talents. For example, appearing in front of a judge in a highly contested divorce proceeding requires chutzpah — that is, a certain swagger or boldness. If you do not understand my reference, you have yet to see Karen Greenberg in action. Karen, who tells me she is “4 feet 11 and a half inches tall” is more intimidating than my 6’5” husband could ever be! Cyndy’s breadth of knowledge and sharp legal mind makes her an excellent strategist and skilled at analyzing complicated issues. Steven is experienced and unflappable, willing to tackle whatever situation arises for any client who walks through our door. In my role here, I am privileged to work behind the scenes to support their court appearances and other achievements. I love the preparation, the collaboration, and the negotiation. I love the document drafting and the attention to detail this requires. Using my strengths and skills, I am able to assist Karen, Cyndy, and Steven and participate in our clients’ successes.

When I graduated from Williams, I could never have anticipated this course, but, right now, I cannot imagine being anywhere else. What I have found most rewarding is the opportunity to take on as much responsibility as I want, which means I am always learning. In fact, joining K&G has re-ignited my passion for legal work. In the near future, I hope to expand my legal role and responsibilities even further. I remain very grateful for the warm welcome I continue to receive from my colleagues and our clients!

Aug
17

Attention All Soon to Be Mother-in-Laws
Attention All Soon to Be Father-in-Laws

I know the peak wedding season has already passed, so perhaps my message is late for some, but I know it is still timely for others. Perchance your son, or your daughter, is engaged and planning to wed. With any luck, you are pleased (or moderately so) with your child’s choice of a lifetime partner. If you are not, or even if you are, there is something that you should consider: whether your son or daughter ought to have a prenuptial agreement drawn up before he/she marches down the aisle. Hmm, you might be saying, shouldn’t this question be directed at the future groom or future bride? The answer, as with any answer by a lawyer, always begins with two words: It depends.

Take a moment to think ahead, hopefully far ahead, to when you have departed from this earthly plane. Your worldly goods aren’t going anywhere; as the adage puts it, you can’t take it with you. But you may have strong opinions about who should keep it.

I think I hear another hmmm. Clearly when anticipating a joyful union, one does not want to focus on anything more frightful than the bill. But death or divorce should be considered, particularly with families that have significant possessions to pass on to their children.

“Karen, would you please get to the point?” as Steven would say — actually, he would silently make a sweeping gesture with his arm, letting me know I need to keep moving, and pick up the pace.

A prenuptial agreement, executed by the married couple-to-be, may protect your estate from falling into the hands and/or control of your future (ex) son-or-daughter-in-law. Simply put, a prenuptial agreement, entered into voluntarily, with full financial disclosure to the parties to the agreement, may include language as to inheritances. And, inheritances (and gifts), so long as the assets are kept separate and not co-mingled with the marital estate, may potentially be excluded in case the newlyweds eventually find themselves in a less-than-blissful union. Proper language in a prenuptial agreement may keep an inheritance off the table and excluded from the marital estate. It may then not be subject to division in the event the parties divorce after your death.

The issue may arise as to whether a surviving spouse is entitled to an inheritance that is part of a deceased spouse’s estate. The inherited property may be excluded, if there is a valid agreement in place and the deceased spouse’s will does not contradict the prenuptial agreement.

A good estate plan, coupled with pre and postnuptial agreements executed by your children, can help ensure that your “family” assets are protected. However, as mentioned earlier, if co-mingled with the marital estate of the divorcing couple, all can be for naught. Good practices to avoid such pitfalls may include, for example, establishing a trust for large gifts such as a vacation home. What you are hoping to avoid is the couple using inheritances to pay for marital expenses such as vacations or their children’s education. Once that occurs, it may be difficult for your child to claim that the inheritance is not a marital asset subject to division upon divorce.

Please do not have the take away of this article be, oh dear, we screwed up. Breathe a sigh of relief. Massachusetts courts have recognized postnuptial agreements, so long as such agreements are entered voluntarily with full disclosure of each of the parties’ assets and liabilities.

So, returning to your initial question, “Shouldn’t the consideration of a prenup be directed to my child,” it depends… It depends upon the sophistication, age and worldliness of your offspring. Right after the cake-tasting may just be the moment to be that pushy parent!

Any questions? Of course! You know how to reach the Konowitz & Greenberg TEAM. We can help with prenuptial and postnuptial agreements as well as wills and trusts and estates.

Aug
17

Moving on Up…

New position? New career? Lateral move? C-suite? Middle Management? New kid on the block?

You’ve accepted an opportunity and HR sends you a “love letter” that is 108 pages long. You think to yourself, do I really have to read this before signing it. Isn’t this just some generic paperwork akin to the Fine Print on the bottom of the form I just signed for my new refrigerator?

You should most certainly read that love letter. Even better, you should have an attorney review it. The relatively small cost that you will incur in hiring counsel may later save you significant funds at several junctures, for example, (1) at the time of hiring; (2) in the event of firing; (3) in the event of resigning; or (4) if your employer closes its doors.

Will my new position include health insurance benefits? For what portion of the premium am I responsible? Is this negotiable? Will my soon-to-be spouse be covered after our wedding in 6 months? Am I entitled to an annual bonus? If I voluntarily leave my position just before my bonus is due, will I receive it? Will my new employer have to pay my commissions that come in to the company after I have left? Is the proposed non-compete legitimate? Can my employer really restrict my work activities like that for the foreseeable future? Can I take the customers I am bringing to my new position with me? Can my old boss badmouth me on social media with no consequences? And, by the way, should I sign that aforementioned “love letter?”

You may wonder whether you will be a so-called contract employee or an employee-at-will, even if you have a written contract. This technicality could become very important if, for example, your dream job morphs into a nightmare or you decide to move cross country or return to school. Will leaving your job subject you to a breach of contract claim by your former employer to whom you may have to pay damages?

If you are reading this now as you are “moving on up” and cursing yourself for signing on the dotted line “blindfolded” for your previous job, all may not be lost. Allow us to review what you then signed and with any luck, you are better situated than you think. You may, for example, not realize that you have paid vacation for which you are entitled compensation under Massachusetts law. A little cash in your pocket while you ready yourself for your new adventure could be a nice, unexpected treat.

And if you happen to be reading this while in the process of searching for a new position, make sure you ask us about some of our important State laws such as Massachusetts’ progressive, and relatively new, Pay Equity Law and our Wage Act.

While reviewing employment contracts and related documents may seem arduous and time-consuming to you, at K&G, this type of work is one of our specialties. Let us help you out and pave the way for a rewarding and enjoyable new opportunity.

And for you employers who may be reading along, because of our extensive experience working with employees, we are in an ideal position to assist you in crafting employment agreements and non-competes that comport with your own business objectives. And don’t forget those Employee Manuals!

Aug
17

Parent’s (FKA Dad’s!) Law, Part Three

Now that our children have graduated from college, started graduate school, finished graduate school, or are entrenched in their careers, their need for a Health Care Proxy, Living Will and HIPAA Authorization is even more paramount. We might recognize the need for such documents for ourselves as parents; after all, we owe it to our children to reduce the foreseeable stress that will accompany our aging. However, the very same documents are also important for our now-adult children, especially when they do not live under our roof and/or are geographically distant. Our children’s lives and personal philosophies about relationships, life and death have changed so dramatically from when they first officially became adults (In Massachusetts the age of majority is 18) to today. As tough as it can be to accept, they are independent adults. As such, they may not want their parents making critical decisions for them anymore. They may have “significant others” or “best friends” or even close siblings/cousins in their lives who they would want to depend upon to carry out their wishes in serious health-related circumstances.

Let’s make certain we understand each of these documents and why they are so important:

A Living Will, also known as an advance medical directive, is a document that outlines the medical decisions you want in case you are unable to communicate them. A Health Care Proxy, a document that often accompanies a Living Will, names the person you want to make health care decisions for you (known as an agent) in case you are incapacitated. Essentially, the Living Will states what you want to be done and the Health Care Proxy identifies who you want to carry that out. A HIPAA Authorization —the acronym refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the law governing medical data privacy — is a document that allows any appointed person or party to share/receive specific health information. Without this document, family members, friends and significant others have no access to your health information. As a side note:
in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, currently, the Living Will is not recognized as a binding document; but, when presented to a Court by your Health Care Agent, the Living Will clearly indicates to the Court what your intentions were when you were fully functional.

Your child may think that having these documents screams: “I am not that old; I am not dying; I will never need them!” The problem with this rationale is that, while statistically sound and very reassuring, if they are needed and have not been drawn up, the consequences could be potentially devastating. Writing a Living Will is not pleasant to think about, but it ensures that the owner of that Living Will, if incapacitated, receives the treatment that s/he wants. In other words, the course of treatment incorporates your child’s wishes.

Conversely, if your child has not completed a Health Care Proxy, someone may be asked to make decisions based upon what they believe your child would want done. You might want to encourage your child to figure out his/her preferences for medical treatment, pointing out, for example:

• If your heart stopped beating, would you want CPR or defibrillation, which administers an electric shock to the heart?
• If you were unable to breathe on your own, would you want assistance from a breathing machine?
• If you were unable to eat or drink, would you want feeding tubes to supply your body with nutrition and fluids, and/or dialysis to remove waste from your blood and manage fluid levels?
• Would you want to donate your organs and tissue for transplantation or scientific study?

Because a Living Will raises questions that aren’t necessarily easy to answer, one must discuss these questions with a Health Care Agent before naming someone. Also, if your child practices a religion that has a particular stance on certain treatments, this consideration is equally important. When selecting a Health Care Agent, you should encourage your child to choose someone s/he thinks will act honestly and maturely, with your child’s interests at heart (not someone your child feels obligated to ask). This can be a family member, friend or outside adviser who is able to make thoughtful decisions.

Times have truly changed, and it is not unusual to be involved in a long-term relationship with a “significant other” to whom one is not legally married. This person with whom your child is sharing his or her life will not be entitled to receive any medical information unless s/he has been named in a HIPPA authorization. A well-drafted HIPPA authorization will allow your child to name several individuals, if desired.

A philosopher I once knew stated: “Maturity is tough!” Please contact me if I can assist you or anyone you know.

Apr
13

Attorney Karen Greenberg quoted by Professor Daniel Pollack’s Policy & Practice Magazine

Attorney Karen Greenberg was quoted by Professor Daniel Pollack in his article, “The Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in a Termination of Parental Rights Proceeding,” published in the American Public Human Services Association magazine, Policy & Practice. Check out the full article, with Karen’s contribution, below!

Click here to view article!

Feb
09

Yet Another Discipline of A Business Litigator

As a commercial collection attorney, I am often asked what the difference is between a commercial collection attorney and a retail collection attorney. Commercial refers to business to business, as opposed to retail, which is business to person.

The next inquiry is what is the difference between a commercial collection situation and a breach of contract situation? To answer that question, I must first answer the question, what is a breach of contract? A business contract creates certain obligations that are to be fulfilled by the parties who entered into the agreement. Legally, one party’s failure to fulfill any of its contractual obligations is known as a “breach” of the contract. Depending on the specifics, a breach can occur when a party fails to perform on time, does not perform in accordance with the terms of the agreement, or does not perform at all. So, how does this differ from a commercial collection situation? Generally, money is at the crux of the situation. Commonly, the right and/or remedies in a commercial collection situation are already well established. The only major issues are how much is owed by one business to the other business and what is the likelihood of success for collection of that debt. In other words, the contract has already been breached.

Commercial debts are not like fine wine; they do not become better with age! Small/medium businesses tend to hold on to their commercial accounts far too long. The chief advantage of turning over an account to a commercial collection attorney is an increased likelihood of a successful outcome. The old expression, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, rings true.

What makes a good commercial collection attorney? The immediate reaction is the one who gets the money back. That may seem to be the correct answer, but the better answer is one who can accurately review the quality of the potential claim, which actually means its ultimate collectability. If the claim is eventually uncollectible, a business is better off to cut its losses and move on. Why spend good money and resources when, at the end of the day, the business will get nothing? Sometimes this is an emotional decision. But it should not be; it is a simple cost analysis. Should one spend more time, money and energy, only to get little, if anything, in return? Additionally, pursuing a claim also means that the business may be spending time and effort away from its main goal, namely growing and developing the business.

A seasoned commercial collection attorney is your best defense against being taken advantage of either as a creditor or as a debtor. Such an attorney can help come up with strategies either to get you the money that you are owed or to protect you from overeager creditors. If you are a creditor, a commercial collection attorney can help you develop a strategy to put you in the best possible position to be able to recover any money due the company. If you are a debtor, a commercial collection attorney can help provide advice to try to protect your assets and offer alternatives to resolve the situation.

At the end of the day, I, as a seasoned commercial collection attorney, thoroughly investigate my business clients’ commercial/corporate goals and apply my many years of experience to provide advice based on principled thinking that not only has their backs, but their futures, too. If you are caught in the crosshairs and need someone to talk with, call me at (781) 237-0033 x236 or email me at ssk@kongreen.com.

Feb
09

A Firm Decision: Returning to the Practice of Law

I am well past the days of sippy cups and Cheerios; even the days of Little League games and surviving kids’ frenetic birthday parties are in the rearview mirror. With two young men launched, I am facing just one more high school graduation, and one more college application challenge. So, the time has come for me to do what makes me happy, fulfilled, and proud: activate my attorney status with the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers and GO FOR IT!

That is exactly what I have done, enthusiastically landing here at Konowitz & Greenberg, PC. Could there be a better fit? A place where I am not the shortest or the oldest? A firm where attorneys don’t just talk about being family-friendly but indeed, the partners, Steven and Karen, are siblings! And most importantly, a law firm that serves its clients with the utmost respect, talent and compassion.

My interest in law germinated during my college years at Oberlin, a small liberals arts school with a reputation for progressive politics. As a psychology major, I became fascinated with the laws surrounding the involuntary commitment of individuals with psychiatric disorders. Back in the day when an internship was one of the many ways a college student could choose to spend the summer – having since evolved into practically a mandatory credential – I sweated away the summer in the Public Defenders’ Office at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C., trying to catch a glimpse of John Hinckley. Fast forward, I graduated college, worked as a real estate paralegal in a large Boston law firm and went on to law school at Northeastern University. What an amazing group of classmates, ranging in age from 23 to 66! Immersive class discussions, hilarious skits parodying law school and lawyers, and unique clerking experiences all followed.

I knew I wanted to become a practitioner, and I was intrigued by the range of available specialties. What better way to learn about the numerous and varied practice areas than to clerk after graduation – which I did, for two years, in the Massachusetts Trial Courts. Mission accomplished, I joined a mid-size Boston law firm and became a litigator, practicing in such areas as employment, banking, business, real estate, discrimination and domestic law. It was a great run of over ten years but by then, with two small children and the desire for another, it was time to stow the briefcase in the closet for a few years.

Well, it is now a little more than a “few years.” As is often said about having children, “the days are long, but the years are short.” I’m certain that none of you parents will be the least bit surprised that my hiatus was longer than anticipated. And I am grateful to my husband that we had the ability to do things the way that we did. No doubt, my 16-year old daughter is thrilled now that I have another focus; her only regret being that I need the car to drive to K & G, thereby demoting her to passenger-only status.

Feeling almost as if I had been a member of the Witness Protection Program, I wasn’t sure how comfortable I would be shedding my cover and becoming an “Esq.” all over again! But, funny, with the support and confidence of my K & G colleagues, it all came flooding back to me in very short order. The biggest challenge, as you can probably guess, has been catching up with all of the technology. Luckily, I have my own Genius Bar in my family: three children and a husband (less up-to-date than the other Geniuses!). And I have our wonderful office manager, Karen, and our star junior associate, young Kassandra!

While I intend to continue my practice in litigation and general business law, I also plan to expand my specialty areas to include consultation on work place issues, including
rights and responsibilities, with respect to both employers
and employees.

So, with the support of K & G, I am set and ready to share my expertise with you, resolve your legal problems and, most importantly, improve the quality of your life. Can’t wait to meet you!

Feb
09

Beginner Home Buyer Basics

Envision yourself walking through a house (or condominium) for sale. As you walk through, you see the backyard is a perfect place for your dogs and children to play. The dining room would be great for hosting friends and family for the holidays. The living room looks perfect for binge-watching your favorite show. This could be your new home. Buying your first house is an exciting time, but this monumental new beginning is not worry-free. Before this house becomes your home, you must be cognizant that many issues may arise that can cause unease, from needing small repairs to serious legal issues that affect your ability to own the property. However, certain steps can be taken to ensure that you are protected and that these issues are minimized.

Even though the house is as beautiful in person as it was in the staging photos, someone must take a deeper look into the house, meaning an independent inspector. Even if the seller hired an inspector, you must hire your own inspector to make sure that your interest, as the buyer, is shielded. The seller’s inspector might feel no particular allegiance to the seller, but regardless, it is important to remember that inspectors, like the rest of us, are all human who can make mistakes or miss things. This is an additional layer of affirmation to ensure there are no issues, such as leaky plumbing, lead, or mold, which have been overlooked or are just harder to unearth, turning your dream home into a nightmare.

Owning a property not only means that you own the land and whatever structures on it, but you also own the title to the property. Similar to the way in which the inspector examines the physical property for any unwelcome surprises, the title to the property must also be examined because title defects can cloud a title to a property and prevent free and clear ownership. Some title issues, such as missing mortgage discharges, easements, and liens, are common and will typically be revealed by the title inspection, but some title defects, such as fraud and forgery, can be hidden and more difficult to pinpoint. If these defects arise post-sale, it will likely cost a substantial amount to remedy. Title insurance can protect buyers from financial loss stemming from an undetected title defect. While this is merely an option,it is worth careful consideration to ensure that your interest in your home remains safeguarded. Moreover, it is to your advantage to ensure the title is clear prior to your purchase. Don’t let someone else’s headache become yours.

The purchase and sales agreement (“P & S”), which governs the terms and conditions between the seller and you until the closing, must be reviewed by an attorney. Every property is unique, which is why that house you wish to buy is so special to you. Thus, every real estate transaction is unique and every P & S governing a transaction is unique. Once the P & S is signed, you, as the buyer, are bound by its terms, and retracting is considered a breach of contract. Prior to signing, consulting with attorney, who will know what issues to hone in on with the P & S, can help ensure that you, as the homebuyer, fully understand the terms contained in the P & S before being bound by them. An attorney can also negotiate additional terms and modifications that benefit or protect you. For example, under Massachusetts common law, the buyer bears the risk of loss, meaning that, absent a provision stating otherwise in the P & S, in the event that that house gets destroyed by a fire, the buyer is liable. The P & S must contain language that shifts the risk of loss away from the buyer and onto the seller, who likely has homeowner’s insurance to address such disasters.

Purchasing a house is a wonderful event, but the process can be riddled with legalities. Taking precautions is the key to preventing any issues from ballooning. When you are preparing to turn a new house into your dream home, the costs of these precautions are small prices to pay for peace of mind.

Feb
09

What Will They Think of Next? Baby Born in Dallas to Woman without Uterus

Recently, a woman in Texas born without a uterus gave birth to a child. (https://tinyurl.com/yaangd5q) According to the article, there have been at least 16 uterus transplants, the first one in Sweden, several years ago.

There are many women who do not have a uterus. Some are born without, while others lack a uterus because of medical reasons. Previously, a woman without a uterus who wanted to build a family would have had to rely upon adoption or some form of assisted reproduction technology by traditional surrogacy or gestational carrier arrangement. Now, she may carry herself!

Let me explain a few terms and concepts.

Traditional surrogacy refers to a contractual arrangement whereby a woman agrees to have her egg fertilized with the intended father’s sperm, or donor sperm. When the child is born, Massachusetts requires the child be adopted by the intended parents, which cures the parentage question. Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 210 § 2. In Massachusetts, the surrogate’s parental rights may not be terminated by contract. R.R. v. M.H., 426 Mass. 501(1998).

A gestational carrier is a woman who agrees to have an in vitro fertilized embryo, to which she has no genetic relationship, implanted into her uterus, and carry to term. The gestational carrier agrees to relinquish her parental rights upon the birth of the child. The egg and/or the sperm may be the intended parents or donated. Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts recognize intended parents as the legal parents and issue pre-birth orders. Culliton v. Beth Isr. Deaconess Med. Ctr., 435 Mass. 285 (2001). No subsequent adoption is needed.

Uterus donors may be dead or alive. Prior to the transplant, the woman’s eggs are retrieved, fertilized and the embryos frozen. The embryos are not implanted until at least a year has passed since the transplant, to ensure the womb is functioning as it should. The baby is delivered by a cesarean section. A transplanted uterus must not remain permanent because of the potent drugs required to avoid organ rejection.

If there is no success in the back seat of Daddy’s Lincoln, and the dependable turkey baster is just not reliable enough, good old-fashioned research has found another way. We have come a long way, baby!!!!!

Kudos to Attorney Peggy Swain of Maryland, the AAARTA Director, who shared the Cullman Times Article on the Academy Listserv.

Jul
26

Our House

Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard, Life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy …… (Crosby, Stills and Nash)

Recently, I overheard a conversation between a father and son. The son was think of buying a house, and they spent the entire conversation only on money issues. While money issues are obviously important, there are more issues. This made me think that while buying a house is a grueling process taking from days up to a few months, or maybe even years, numerous first-time buyers make mistakes that can be easily avoided. Here are a number of issues to think about:

• Letting your emotions control your decisions! Buying a house can be a long and frustrating process. These days, starter houses go quickly, and it’s common for first-time buyers to experience rejection on the first offers they make. In this kind of environment, it’s easy to fall in love with a house that’s out of your budget, or get caught up in the heat of a bidding war and end up paying more than you expected. “It’s OK to get excited when you think you’ve found your house, but you don’t want to put yourself in a bad spot,”

• Being Too Picky! Go ahead and put everything you can think of on your new house wish list, but don’t be so inflexible that you end up continuing to rent for significantly longer than you really want to. First-time buyers often have to compromise on something because their funds are limited. You may have to live on a busy street, accept outdated decor, make some repairs to the house, or forgo that extra bedroom. Of course, you can always choose to continue renting until you can afford everything on your list. You’ll just have to decide how important it is for you to become a house owner now rather than in a couple of years.

• Lacking Vision! Even if you can’t afford to replace the hideous wallpaper in the bathroom now, it might be worth it to live with the ugliness for a while in exchange for getting into a house you can afford. If the house otherwise meets your needs in terms of the big things that are difficult to change, such as location and size, don’t let physical imperfections turn you away. Besides, doing house upgrades yourself, even when you have to hire a contractor, is often cheaper than paying the increased house value to a seller who has already done the work for you.

• Being Swept Away! Minor upgrades and cosmetic fixes are inexpensive. If you’re on a budget, look for houses whose full potential has yet to be realized. Also, first-time buyers should always look for a house they can add value to, as this ensures a bump in equity to help you up the property ladder.

• Compromising on the Important Things! Don’t get a two-bedroom house when you know you’re planning to have kids and will want three bedrooms. By the same token, don’t buy a condo just because it’s cheaper when one of the main reasons you’re over apartment life is because you hate sharing walls with neighbors. It’s true that you’ll probably have to make some compromises to be able to afford your first house, but don’t make a compromise that will be a major strain.

• Not Thinking About the Future! It’s impossible to perfectly predict the future of your chosen neighborhood, but paying attention to the information that is available to you now can help you avoid unpleasant surprises down the road. What kind of development plans are in the works for your neighborhood in the future? Is your street likely to become a major street or a popular rush-hour shortcut? Will a highway be built in your backyard in five years? What are the zoning laws in your area? Is there is a lot of undeveloped land? What is likely to get built there? Have house values in the neighborhood been declining?

Once you have found your dream house, and you have avoided many of the first-time buyers mistakes, then it is time to call you attorney before you sign and contract obligations.

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