How to visit the kids, throw a dinner party, take a class. Safely.

Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 9.58.36 PM has become a life-line tool that’s going to help us get through the next few weeks of social distancing. You may have already used it for work. If you haven’t or don’t know what it is, read on …


What is Zoom? Think “conference call” but with a camera. The camera is key:

  • My wife taught a yoga class on Zoom Saturday.
  • Last night we had dinner with friends on Zoom.
  • My niece may have her wedding shower on Zoom.

You can use to participate in almost any event, with others, no matter where they are. And you don’t have to be in the same room with them.

  • It’s cheap: there’s a decent “free” account or it’s about $15 a month for PRO
  • It’s easy. If you have a smart phone (iPhone, etc) or a laptop or a tablet, any device with a camera, it’ll work.
  • And it’s about as social as we can get during our “new normal”.

Once you’ve signed up, take a look at this link. It’s our favorite quick tutorial with Farrah explaining the controls:

We hope this helps.
Bob and Sue McDermott • Kenny MacCarthy • Gibson Sotheby’s International
Home buying and Mortgage Update

Home buying and Mortgage Update

Well it’s been quite a few weeks, and I hope everyone remains safe and well.  Please keep to social distancing and do you part for our community.  With that being said, I wanted to update you all on the real estate financing industry.

We at CrossCountry Mortgage, and many other mortgage lenders, we are open for business.  We are accepting online and phone loan applications and we are in constant communication with our clients, real estate agents, attorneys, title insurance agents and local and state officials.  It’s been a constantly changing environment and communication has been and will be paramount during this time.

New home purchases believe it or not are continuing.  However it’s with a lot of changes.  There is now social distancing and no more open houses (for the most part).  There are virtual open houses and tours.  Buyers can go into empty homes as well.  With these adaptations, we are still seeing multiple offer situations.  People are still buying houses

Refinances are still happening at a very brisk pace and are closing every day.  I personally closed on my refinance Thursday at my home, at a 7 foot long table complete with Lysol, wipes and our own pens.   Some attorneys are choosing to close outdoors too.   However they choose, it’s being done safely with separation.  We are also eager for a bill to be passed, which I understand is sponsored by our Senator Bruce Tarr, that will allow video closing and notarization.  The rules thus far seem complex, but it is very encouraging nonetheless.

The Registry of Deeds are open for business, just not open to the public.  The Essex South Registry in Salem, which is the Registry for Cape Ann and most of the North Shore, accepts electronic recording.  They have for years, and this is nothing new.  So Deeds and Mortgages can be recorded and closed just like they have been.

The Fire Departments have issued a smoke certificate inspection moratorium, so that is another item that’s not an issue.  That responsibility will shift to the home buyers, instead of the home sellers.

Appraisals for new home purchases and many refinances can now be done via an Exterior Only so the appraiser does not need to into a home.  This is not the case with FHA and VA loans, as those require inside inspections for functioning utilities.   Also refinances for a better rate and term, often do not even require any appraisal at all (this was true before COVID 19 too).  If you take equity out, then an appraisal is most likely.  Your lender, like myself, should be able to tell you before you proceed with refinancing.

Municipalities are open for tax information so we can get up to date property tax info.  If they are not, there are ways around that too.

Mortgage rates have seemed to lower and settle now with the stimulus bill that just passed.  These lower 30 year and 15 year rates are only for traditional Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, VA and FHA loans (govt agencies).  Jumbo loans now have much higher rates as that market has seemed to dry up overnight for those mortgages.  This is because the government is pumping billions of money into mortgage bonds, driving down the yield.  These bonds are only for conventional and government loans, like the aforementioned Fannie, Freddie, FHA and VA.   The mortgage bond purchasing is not for jumbo and non-traditional mortgages.  These government loans are not commonly found at local banks, but traditional mortgage lenders like CrossCountry Mortgage in Gloucester and Danvers.

So the home purchase market, refinances and mortgage market are quickly and constantly adapting and continuing business as best we can.  In my next article coming this week, I am going to talk about what to be aware of when buying a house in this market, how to draft contracts to protect yourself in the case of a job loss (with the advice of an attorney) and other things to be aware of. during the COVID 19 pandemic.

If you have any home buying, homeownership questions or need assistance, reach out to me directly at or call 617.688.6891.  I am here to help the best I can.

Lastly please continue to be safe, be well and helping others.

-Brandon Pratt


Are we headed for a recession?


A lot of our friends are worried and asking. So we did some research, some reading and this is what we think. (Reverse spoiler alert: the news is not all bad.)

We’re already in a type of recession. Almost over night, the vast majority of businesses, world wide, are closed or almost closed. It feels awful, like a crash. But that’s the right side of our brains, the emotional side.

Let’s move to the left or “logical” side and look at history and some data. So far, the results of the pandemic are very similar to those caused by the events of September 11th, 2001. The horror of 911 triggered a recession of business, finances, loss of productivity, travel, retail. Life, as we knew it, was changed instantly.

History will likely remember Covid 19 and the pandemic, in a similar way: as an “event” that changed life as we knew it very quickly.

911 and the pandemic are both events. And THAT is the bright spot at the end of the tunnel. We can recover from events sooner and easier than from long term issues with a system.

So how will this EVENT effect real estate prices? Our chart tells the story. In three of the five past recessions, prices went up. In 2008, the reduction in prices was caused by a problem with the system, not an event. It took years for the problem to surface and then years to bounce back.

This time, we’re living in the results of an event, a virus. It’s biological and NOT a problem with the system. It’s sort of like a really bad snow storm: sooner or later the snow will melt and we’ll be able to work and play and travel and, yes, buy and sell real estate again.

Our advice: sit back and sit tight. This, too, shall pass.

Bob and Sue McDermott • Kenny MacCarthy • Gibson Sotheby’s International


Definitely Not Business As Usual

As events unfold and cause changes day by day, sometimes hour by hour, it’s not easy for anyone to keep up. For the time being, we’re going to try to break down “what’s happening” in our market, a little at a time.

Let’s assume you were hoping to sell or buy a home within the next few weeks or months, but aren’t actually in the process. The following will definitely affect you if you decide to ramp it up:

  • As of noon, March 24, 2020, there is a “work from home” order in place in MA for all non essential businesses until April 7. It means no face-to-face meetings.
  • 3rd party service providers (photographers, stagers, contractors, appraissers, inspectors, real estate agents, etc.) are not allowed to go out. Service providers can work, consult, talk, conference and advise as long as it’s from their own homes. No face-to-face meetings.
  • The back log in lending (caused by a slew of recent refinancing) is growing and slowing the sale/purchase process. No face-to-face meetings.
  • County and town offices (registry of deeds, final water meter reads) are closed and/or only allowing electronic filing. Again. No face-to-face meetings.
  • Notarization issues abound. Because we’re under “stay at home” rules, attorneys can no longer “witness” and notarize deeds, mortgages, 6D certificates, etc. No face-to-face meetings.

Some of these issues (like notarization) have been resolved. But it’s still far from business as usual.

What to do?

It’s simple. Wait. This will pass and we’ll all be able to go back out again.

We’ll be posting again soon with some data. We hope this helps.

Bob and Sue McDermott • Kenny MacCarthy • Gibson Sotheby’s International

Mask Donation Bin at Grand Banks


We’re putting out the call for help. If there are any contractors, painters, masons, or anyone else out there who has extra masks, our healthcare providers need them.  They are now being asked to reuse masks until they are visibly soiled. A huge risk to healthcare providers and otherwise healthy patients not stricken with the virus but under their care.

There are so many unknowns right now and there isn’t much we can do. But we can do this.  Please bring them Grand Banks. There will be a box on the porch by the warehouse.

If you have any questions please email me at


Dear Friends and Neighbors …

Our “new normal” doesn’t feel normal. Life goes on, but at a different pace, with different priorities.

Since statistics can sometimes have a grounding effect, we offer the following:

  • Last year 61 homes and condos went under contract or were sold in Rockport, Gloucester, Manchester, Essex and Beverly from 2/20/2019 – 3/20/2019.
  • This year, as of today, same time period: 66 homes and condos went under contract or were sold in Rockport, Gloucester, Manchester, Essex and Beverly.

The viris has caused an event, albeit tragic and worldwide, but it’s still an event and not a problem with the financial system. We’ve heard some refer to it as being like a really bad snow storm: sooner or later, the snow will melt and we’ll be able to go out and about again. If we stay calm, stay sane and stay home for a couple of weeks, the infection curve will flatten and the snow will melt.

Our advice:

  • Don’t forget to smile a lot and be helpful while you’re social distancing.
  • Every night before bed, watch stand-up comedy on TV.
  • Pause and remember that we’re all in this together.


Bob and Sue McDermott • Kenny MacCarthy • Gibson Sotheby’s International


16 Green Street, Unit 1 Ipswich

Commuter Open House: Friday 3/13 5-6pm

Sunday Open House 3/15 12:00-1:30pm


Come to one of this Weekends Open Houses for a St. Patrick’s Day Treat.
Commuter OH Friday, 3/13 5:00 – 6:00pm & Sunday, 3/15 12:00 – 1:30pm

16 Green Street, Unit 1 Ipswich MA
Small town charm with a beautiful river setting. Let’s make the coastal town of Ipswich your new home. Take a stroll along the Riverwalk and view historic homes, artwork and murals on the brick buildings. Visit Choate Bridge, built in 1764, one of the oldest bridges in the U.S. So much to see and do just steps from your new home at Stone Bridge Cottages. Kayak or canoe along the Ipswich River, then stop for lunch at one of the many great restaurants in town including Choate Bridge Pub & Restaurant, Ipswich Ale Brewery or Riverview Restaurant to name a few. Enjoy this bright, airy open concept condo w/ gleaming hardwood floors, a spacious kitchen, stainless steel appliances, granite counters and breakfast nook. Your own driveway, paved patio area and extra assigned parking space is a bonus. An abundance of storage in your basement storage area and a small shed off of your side entrance. A short drive to Crane Beach, Russell Orchards and steps away from the Town Hall and Senior CenteHeadshot (Elise)

Charleen McCarthy

Global Real Estate Advisor
Amanda Armstrong Group
Engel & Völkers By the Sea
Gloucester , MA





Women Who Inspire



Join us on Wednesday for our next Women’s Networking Event!

We want to create a space for women to come together, and share in the power of storytelling. This week we’ll hear from Jill Brown, and the story of how she overcame unexpected challenges in life with the help of her community and Wellspring House. We’ll also have a raffle with prizes like a massage from Life Bloom, a 5 Class Pass to Treetop Yoga and more!

For more information check out our event page:

Or send RSVPs to

We’re looking forward to seeing you here!

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