Eeeek! Don't do these things when you're buying a home!

Your agent keeps telling you not to make big purchases during the home-buying process, but you just don’t understand why buying a new couch or opening a credit card to save 20% off your $50 purchase will be an issue.  Any purchase, however big or small, can change your credit score and mess up the deal before it’s even closed. Here are some thinkgs to keep in mind and avoid doing until you close on your new home - and avoid the "what were you thinking?" questions later.

1. Don’t quit your job

I know you’re excited about your new home, but this is NOT the time to start re-evaluating your entire life. A new home is enough excitement for one month. Save the job search for next month.  I once had a buyer who gave his 2 week notice 11 days before the scheduled closing.  "But I'll be making $80 more a week," he said, figuring that made his buying position stronger.  Think again!  That $80 a week was a costly mistake that ended up costing the buyer money to extend the closing date out several weeks and lock in his interest rate.  Luckily the buyer was working with a super lender who was able to make things happen for him.

2. Don’t make large purchases

It’s really tempting to splurge on big scale purchases like a new car, furniture or appliances to match your fancy new home. It is even more tempting when a store is offering you a $10,000 line of credit with no payments for one year, but just don’t do it. DO. NOT. DO.  IT!  At least not until the deal has closed and the keys are in your hands.  Sure, you can window shop, measure and plan where your new furniture will go, but don't buy it or even put a deposit on it until you have closed on your new home!
3. Don’t make large deposits or withdraws  
If you are going to accept a large amount of money or move a large amount of money from one place to another, make sure your lender knows. Most of these things can easily be explained and likely will fly under the radar so long as they are brought up before hand and not discovered by your lender later. Remember, until the deal is signed and everything is done, you are under a watchful microscope. Don’t do anything to mess it up. I had a lovely buyer couple a few years ago who received the proceeds of the week's collection plate at their church.  Well, that $1,117 deposit into their checking account raised a flag with the lender.  Can you imagine how difficult it was to source that income?  Each parishioner put in a different amount of cash, with parishioners putting in everything from $2 to $50?  The lender worked out a solution with the church, but not without a few headaches and sleepless nights!

4. Don’t open or close lines of credit
Opening up new credit cards or closing old ones just before signing on your new home can potentially affect your credit score, and not in a good way. That being said, as mentioned before, wait until your mortgage and title are secure before making any risky moves.  Is it worth putting your mortgage in jeopardy in order to save 20% off your purchase?  Please wait to make those purchases and DO NOT open a new credit line!  And don't close a line of credit unless your lender advises that you do so.

5. Don’t pay your bills late

This may seem obvious but it tends to slip some homebuyers' mind. Stay on top of all your payments and don’t let late fees creep up on you. Don’t ruin your credit score days before your loan goes through.  This is especially easy to do if your current mortgage or property tax payment is due shortly before the closing on your new home.

Just remember that once you submit your loan application your finances and job status will be under scrutiny.  Any change can affect the closing process and prevent you from moving into that beautiful new home. It’s always best to wait until the keys are in your hand before making any changes - even if you think they won't matter.  And as always, feel free to ask your agent and lender if you have any questions or concerns!

Local Business Spotlight - Main Street Hardware

Walking into Main Street Hardware in North Andover is like stepping back in time.  But don't be fooled - you can still find the items you need for today's lifestyle!  The sight and smell and look of the store feels homey, without the overbright lighting, big displays and end-caps at multiple registers that you find in big-box stores.  Another thing you won't find in those big stores is the friendly greeting by owner Brian Major when you enter the store.  Brian cheerfully and knowledgeably helps all his customers and knows the repeat customers by name.  He knows where every item in the store is located, so you won't get the typical response of "it's over in Aisle 3" or "I'm not sure, someone in the garden section can help you." Brian will take the time to show you items, discuss your options and make sure you know how to use what you buy.  And just in case you don't find what you're looking for, special orders can be made.

 It's fun to poke around the store and find surprising items that you realize you just can't live without or that would make great gifts.  Like the flowered all-in-one hammer and screwdriver set I got for my grandmother, with a tape measure to match.  She loves it!  Do you need a lamp or vacuum repaired?  Bring them in!  Need to rent garden and lawn equipment to clean up after all the storms?  This is the place.  Looking for nails, spare keys, screen repair, a sled, holiday decorations or that generator and shovel that so many of us have needed the past month?  Main Street Hardware has it, and at a competitive price. It's always great to find what you need, or what you didn't know you needed, at a great price and with service to match.  Knowing you can do this right in town, while supporting a local business owner, makes it even sweeter.

As Brian says, he's a "Plain Ol' Good Neighbor Hardware Store Guy" and his (and his employees') commitment to service, selection and customers can't be beat.

There's free parking on Main Street and in the public lot behind the store.  Check out the store and you'll be happy you did! 

Things To Do This Weekend!

Touch a Truck at The Goddard School on Maple Street in Middleton.  What kids (and some adults) don't like to get up close and personal with fire trucks, ambulances and other public service vehicles!  K-9 demos, too.  Saturday fro 9:30-Noon.

Looking to Volunteer? Join in the Work Day at Foster Farm and help clear the trails at Foster Farm Conservation Area on Saturday from 9-Noon.  Line trimmers and hand tools for cutting back vegetation will be supplied.  It's suggested that you bring gloves and wear boots and long pants. Meet at the Foster Farm rear soccer field parking area on Boxford Street.

Spring Carnival! Fiesta Shows returns for the annual carnival, sponsored by Lawrence Summer Programs. Head out for fun rides, games and food for everyone.  Thursday the 5th through the 15th in the parking lot at Lawrence Showcase Cinema.

Enjoy some grown up fun at Melrose Beer + Bites on Saturday from 2:00-9:30 pm.  Participants aged 21+ can sample an assortment of craft beers and cider from local breweries, as well as tasty appetizer "bites" from local food establishments.  Two sessions available, for tickets and additional info

Pick up some art work at Montserrat's Artrageous32! Auction on Saturday from 6-10 pm at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly. This annual benefit art auction of emerging and established artists includes works by students, alumni, faculty and friends of Montserrat. Students making "art in the moment," great food, music and fun! Opportunities to raise scholarship money for some great Montserrat students! Tickets and more info at 

Guided Hike of Boston Hill on Sunday from 1-3 pm. Come hike at Boston Hill and Ward Reservation with Friends of North Andover Trails. The hike promises Boston skyline views from Boston Hill and Holt Hill. Meet at the Brightview retirement community on 114. (The trailhead is on the far end of the parking lot).  Family friendly and free!

Head to the International Museum of World War II right here in Natick, MA! The museum is a multi-disciplinary hands-on place, with over 7,500 artifacts.  It is the most comprehensive WWII museum in the world, and is often the place where filmmakers begin their research when making a movie. Open Friday and Saturday from 9-4 (with special April vacation hours).

Need a new mattress? Want to support the North Andover High School Track Team? Then Sunday from 10 am - 4 pm is your day! The North Andover HS Track program will be hosting their 5th annual mattress fundraiser. Simmons Beautyrest, Beautysleep, Platinum, Simmons Beautyrest Black, Therapedic, Wellsville Mattresses will be up to 50% off retail with the proceeds going to the North Andover HS Track program. Floor models will be displayed at the North Andover HS Field House.  Take a look, get a great mattress at a great price while helping the North Andover HS Track program! Financing available!

The Fairy Tale Players present The Ugly Duckling Saturday at 10 am at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation on Locke Street in Andover. The ducklings are finally hatching, but one is different than the rest. Go on an interactive, musical journey with Different to discover where she belongs: is she a duck or maybe a frog? This tale is a celebration of our differences and includes an important lesson about what family really means. After the show the kids in the audience can try on costumes! Admission at the door, cash only please.

Aprill Open Art Studios at Western Avenue Studios and Lofts in Lowell on Saturday from Noon - 5 pm.  Empanada Dada Food Truck will be on site to fortify you as you browse the latest works and chat with local artists.  There will also be an art supply destash sale and the annual seed swap hosted by Mill City Grows. Free entry and free parking! 

The Sports Cards and Bruins Autograph Show takes place on Sunday from 9 am - 2 pm at Gaythorne K of C Hall in Methuen on Rte. 28.  Boston Bruins 2X Stanley Cup Champion and Hockey Legend Derek Sanderson will be signing from 10:00 am to 12:00pm. 

Open HousesIt's Spring - even though the weather isn't exactly cooperating - and that means Open Houses! Check out the list of open houses on my website or call, email or text me for information on open houses and other properties that may have piqued your interest. 




What Do I Do If My Home Sells Before I Have a New One?

In the current real estate market, you may be surprised at just how quickly your properly priced and staged home will sell.  You're got a buyer for your current home, but you haven't found a new home yet - or can't move in because it's still under construction.  Now what do you do?  There are a few ways to proceed. 

Rent Back.  If your buyers don't need to move in right away, they may agree to a "rent back."  Essentially you become your buyers' tenant after you close on the sale of your home.  You'll sign an agreement to stay in the home for a specific length of time and a specific payment, whether it is broken down by day, week or month.  

Temporary Housing.  This is becoming increasingly popular as homes sell quickly in this market.  If you are only going to be "homeless" for a few days or weeks, an "extended stay" hotel is a viable option.  Many of these hotels also accept pets.  Generally the accommodations are a suite with one or two bedrooms, a living area and a small kitchen and eating area.  They can be a little pricey, but most have free happy hours with appetizers during the week, so you can cut down on food costs - and you'll get housekeeping.  So think of it as a sort of vacation!

Short Term Housing is another popular alternative.  You may be able to find a home or apartment that is available for a couple months, perhaps even an Air BnB, but there are also many larger apartment complexes that now cater to people who need housing for 3-12 months.  The shorter the rental term, the higher the monthly rent, but many of these complexes accept pets, some have garage spaces available and come with many welcome amenities like gyms, theater rooms and pools.  Again, think of it as a vacation and enjoy your stay!

Family or Friends.  If you have family or friends with extra space, staying with them can be a cost-effective solution.  Or perhaps your parents, grandparents or friends are going to be away for a while and need a housesitter.  This could be the perfect situation.

Bridge Loans.  Also known as "swing loans" or "transition loans," bridge loans are a type of short-term financing used when you want to buy a new house, but you haven’t closed on the sale of your old house. Your current home serves as the collateral for the bridge loan. You pay off the bridge loan with the proceeds from the sale of your old home. 

Bridge loans typically last between 90 days to one year. During the term of the loan, you typically make interest-only payments. However, there are substantial upfront fees.  The amount you can borrow is determined by the amount of equity you have in your old home. You can either borrow enough money to pay off your existing mortgage and make the down payment on your new home or you can continue to make your monthly mortgage payments, and only borrow enough to cover the down payment on your new house.

There are some down sides to such a loan.  If you haven't sold your current home by the time the bridge loan expires, you would not only have to pay the accumulated interest, but you would have to refinance the loan into a standard mortgage with fixed monthly payments to cover both principal and interest.  Qualifying for one mortgage can be a tough hurdle, with a ton of paperwork. Getting a bridge loan means you are essentially qualifying to carry two mortgages, so don't expect the process to be easy or inexpensive.

Winter at the Beach, Summer at the Ski Slope.  If your in-between homes time coincides with the vacation off season, inquire about renting at below seasonal costs when landlords generally are collecting no rents. Often times the owners are looking for someone willing to stay in their vacation home so they can collect some income and be sure the property is okay when there are fewer people in the area to keep an eye on it.

Building a New Home.  Building your own home is a huge undertaking with many costs along the way. To make sure they can meet these expenses in a timely fashion, many homeowners turn to construction loans, which are short-term, variable-rate loans with short-term interest rates. Your lender pays the builder on a prearranged schedule as your home is being built. 

While the work is being completed, you make interest-only payments on the loan. When your home is complete and you can move in, the bridge loan gets paid off and you get a permanent mortgage.  Keep in mind that if you add upgrades to your new construction home, you likely will need to pay between 50% and 100% of the cost upfront - unless you are working with a national builder in a large complex, where you may only have to pay 10% up front for upgrades.

There are two basic types of construction loans:

1. Construction-only loan.

Provides short-term financing, lasting between six months to a year and gets replaced by a traditional mortgage once the construction is completed. 

During the life of the loan, you make interest-only payments. The principal is due in a lump sum upon completion of the construction. 

At that time, you can apply for a mortgage from the same lender, or shop around for a mortgage with lower rates. 
Keep in mind that if you borrow from another lender, it means going through another closing with all of the associated costs.

2. Construction-to-permanent loan.

The lender automatically converts your construction loan into a standard mortgage after your home is complete. The advantage to this type of loan is that there is only one loan application and one closing. The one major disadvantage is that you have to agree to the mortgage rate and terms before the construction is complete. 

There are lenders who allow you to lock in your mortgage rate for up to 12 months during construction. However, some lenders also offer a rate lock with float-down option. This entitles the borrower to have the locked interest rates reduced if market interest rates fall during the lock period. 

Whatever your situation, be sure to discuss your options with your Realtor.  Our experience and connections can help you navigate the waters to find the solution that's best for you!



Local Business Spotlight - Oak & Iron Brewing Company

Oak & Iron Brewing® Company – Small But Mighty!

Have you heard the buzz about Andover’s Oak & Iron Brewing® Company?  This month it celebrates its first anniversary and if you haven’t yet been, you need to go check it out!  Founded by longtime friends and former business colleagues Jim Cass and John Helferich, the brewery embodies their vision of the New England spirit: independent, innovative, hearty, and rugged with a great heritage.  A two year search finally resulted in their discovering just the right space to execute their vision. Their warm and inviting taproom at the refurbished mill on Red Spring Road is the perfect gathering spot all year round.  This summer, though, it will be able to accommodate even more thirsty patrons when the outdoor beer garden space doubles in size. Who wouldn’t want to sit on the patio with the babbling of a small waterfall from the Shawsheen River acting as natural music!  And bring Fido along as dogs are welcome in the outside seating area.  

Jim and John say their “big idea” is socialization, and from the looks of things, they have the right idea!  They’ve had over 13,000 customers through their doors and those people represent all ages of people from Andover and the surrounding communities.  What hits them most is that people really want to sit and enjoy their beer and their company – putting their phones down and actually talking to each other!  You can feel free to bring your kids, your parents and even your grandparents. Jim and John have even provided toys to keep the kids occupied while the parents enjoy a respite and a brew.  As they say, they wanted to create an environment where people just like themselves would like to gather with friends and family. After meeting with them for just a few minutes, I felt like an old friend.  They are engaging and funny, and their passion for their beer, their business and their clients is evident. They are also proud to be an involved member of the community. Their employees are either family members, friends or children of friends and customers.  They sponsor a “blessing of the Beers” as well as sponsoring a team for Run for the Troops and working with the Shawsheen Greenway. They respect the history of the mills and the town, and appreciate the help and support Andover has given them in order to make this dream a reality.

 Each day features 12-13 rotating selections, created right onsite, with the 5 original brews remaining the favorite choices.  Golden, cream and red ales, IPAs, classic porters and more are on tap. You can even get flights of beer. The New England inspired seasons and time honored classic varieties are brewed by Jim and John, in small artisanal batches.  You can have tastings in the taproom, host a private gathering, listen to music and take home growlers and special beers. In order to maintain their passion for brewing, the owners don’t want to get into the real business of food, so they offer just a few select snack favorites such as warm Bavarian pretzels and poutine (snacks rotate and are posted at the bar) and patrons are encouraged to bring in their own food.  The two most popular choices at this time are pizza and Chinese food but you can be as creative as you’d like! On busy days and nights, you’ll find a food truck on site.

Currently the taproom is open Thursday-Sunday so make plans to see what's brewing soon!


Heading Out This Weekend?

Here are some ideas to keep you busy this weekend!

  The Easter Bunny Express at the Railroad Museum of New England in Thomaston, CT.  What kid doesn't love trains?  A fun 1 1/4 hour ride scenic train ride on Saturday and Sunday, accompanied by the Easter Bunny and his friends!

BBQ Shin-Dig and Chili Cookoff, Saturday from 6-10:30 pm at the Relief's Inn in Lawrence.  Catered BBQ compliments of Sarcastic Swine and chili cook-off plus awesome raffles, door prizes and dancing.  All to benefit the Last Call Foundation.  Contact Kim at

A Knight of Honor Rising Star Gala sponsored by the North Andover Merchants Association, Saturday from 6-10 pm at the North Andover Country Club.  This annual event features dinner, entertainment, live and silent auctions, presentation of two scholarships to North Andover seniors and recognition of milestones by town businesses. For tickets and more info:

The Pettengill House Denim and Dancing Fundraiser, Saturday from 7-11 pm at the beautiful Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury. Put on your denim and dancing shoes to support a great local cause! All proceeds benefit The Pettengill House, Inc.  Enjoy great food, live music, dancing, fabulous live and silent auction and raffle prizes! Featuring live music by Thomas Machine Works Band and Low Ex! For tickets

Fairy Garden Workshop at the Stevens-Coolidge Place on Sunday from 1:30-3:30!  Create your very own fairy garden. Everything you need is including: a container, soil mix, a variety of suitable miniature plants, and a selection of miniature embellishments and natural materials to appease the garden fairies. Leave with a tiny world to enjoy inside or out!  Pre-registration is required. For tickets:  

4th Annual Adult Easter Egg Hunt at Mill 77 Trading Company in Newburyport.  March 24th & 25th from 10 AM - 5 PM each day. Find eggs filled with over $1000 in store merchandise, gift certificates and of course, candy!  This is an adult (18+) Easter egg hunt! You will have the chance to find several eggs throughout the store, bring up to 3 to the register and choose just ONE to open!  This is an adult (18+) Easter egg hunt! You will have the chance to find several eggs throughout the store, bring up to 3 to the register and choose just ONE to open!

Jump into Spring Scavenger Hunt on Saturday from 2-5 in Newburyport. Family friendly and free!  Join participating retailers in Downtown Newburyport, The Tannery Marketplace, and the Industrial Park to find items and have a chance to win a grand prize basket. From 2-2:30pm Scavengers will prepare for hunt by stopping at BC Essentials to pick up maps and instructions. You will then commence to hunt for items using the clues on your map to find items in participating retail shops. 

Seacost Home & Garden Show, Saturday and Sunday at the Whittemore Center Arena in Durham, NH.  Over 200 Exhibitors showcasing the latest products and services for your home! Garden Marketplace, Meet the Chefs Cooking (and tasting) Series, seminars and more. 
Tickets available at the arena box office.  For more info

Spirit Beacon Psychic Fair and Mystical Marketplace on Sunday from 10-5 at The Breakaway in Danvers. The most talented psychics and the best craftspeople come together to form Spirit Beacon! Make a day of it, or just pop in. Check out Breakaway's fantastic brunch, browse and shop, get a reading or some reiki healing, or just come by and see what it's all about. Parking and admission are FREE.

Disney's Beauty & the Beast, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at North Andover High School.  This much loved, classic love story is presented by the Acting Out! Theatre Company.  Group rates are available, just in case you want to load up the SUV and take some neighborhood kids along.

Spring Castleberry Fair.  Celebrate the season (and ignore the cold and snow) at this favorite Arts & Crafts Festival on Friday and Saturday at the Shriner's Auditorium in Wilmington.  Juried artisans from all over New England will display and sell their American made works; including Pottery, Fine Art, Original Watercolors, Fine Jewelry, Tile, Ladies Apparel, Spring Décor, Plants and so much more.

Open Houses.  It may still feel like winter, but the spring real estate season is upon us!  Come check out the properties at 201 Marbleridge Road and 904 Alder Way in North Andover, and 73 Summer Street and 38 Taylor Cove Road in Andover. For times and more info, or to look for other properties, head to 

Tips for Preventing Wire Fraud

The increasing frequency and sophistication of wire fraud is definitely a concern in real estate, particularly for home buyers.  How does this happen? Scammers hack the accounts of buyers and wait until the closing date approaches.  The hacker poses as an agent or title company and emails the buyer with instructions for wiring the downpayment amount.  Of course, that money then disappears into the hacker's account, leaving the buyer high and dry - and homeless.  How can you prevent this from happening to you?

- Check the original instructions given to you by your closing agent.  None of the routing or account numbers should have changed. If the instructions have changed, you are likely being scammed. 

- Carefully look at how the wiring instructions were sent to you. Most closing agents these days only send information via secure or encrypted sites.  Even if the insructions appear to come from an encrypted site, or if you just have a gut feeling that things seem off, verify with your closing agent.

- Look at the email address the request was sent from.  Does it exactly match the one you've been using to connect with your closing agent?  Hackers will often create a similar address, thinking you won't notice the slight difference.  For instance, your agent may be and the hacker will use

- Check the name of the person who sent the email.  If the email is from a person you haven't previously dealt with, it could be fraud.

- If you're purchasing out of the area, or won't be at the closing for some reason, ask for the wiring instructions to be overnighted to you. 

- Before wiring any funds, always call your closing agent, attorney or Realtor (if funds are being held by the company) to verify the wiring instructions. 

It's sad to say, but as the old saying goes, caveat emptor!

Local Business Spotlight - The Wine Lab

As I turned the corner from Water Street onto High Street, with the warm red brick of the old mill building beside me, I thought of the song I used to sing way back when I was a Girl Scout.  “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”  That’s how I feel about the amazing revitalization going on in town.  For those naysayers who said the mills were useless dinosaurs, take another look.  A hardworking group of local entrepreneurs is embracing our mill history while keeping an eye toward the future. 

 It’s an exciting time in Machine Shop Village!

One of the newest and most interesting new tenants of the bustling West Mill is The Wine Lab.  The Wine Lab is a winery and wine bar where people can come enjoy a night out with some great local wine.  The atmosphere is conducive to both quiet conversation and more lively group events.  People can get even get more hands-on and reserve a time to make a custom batch of their very own wine!  The Wine Lab features an outdoor patio space, live entertainment and a rotating floating art gallery featuring local artists.  With a nod to the past, The Wine Lab offers a mix of modern industrial fixtures with solid wood beams, exposed ductwork and huge windows, creating a bright and inviting year-round space.  The Wine Lab features small plates and wine pairings, and some specialty wine drinks will make a debut in the future as well. 

This family-owned and operated business has strong local ties.  Owners Ryan and Tim O’Connor-Crowe aim to keep the community involved by offering fun events and something "different" from the usual chain restaurants.  The chatter on local social media already shows a great deal of excitement over this new establishment. Come check it out – and be prepared to make new friends and hang out with your old friends!

The Wine Lab is opening this summer at 18 High Street in North Andover. 

This Weekend's Fun Ideas

Hopefully you have power back and can enjoy some of these fun ideas for the weekend!

National Pig Day - yes, that's right!  Friday from 11-12 at the MSPCA's Nevins Farm in Methuen, it's a special pig edition of Little Bookworms Story Time. Kids can listen to a fun story about kindness and care for pigs, followed by a visit to the pig barn, where they can feed the pigs fresh fruit and vegetables.

Chocolate, Cheese and Wine Festival at the Radisson Hotel in Nashua at 6:30 Friday.  At this 21+ event you can taste and experience international and domestic wines, gourmet chocolates, artisan cheeses, and specialty food products, including gourmet pastas, caramel & hot fudge, mustards, relishes & chutneys,infused sea salts and more! Tickets

11th Annual Youth New England Wrestling Championships at North Andover High on Saturday and Sunday beginning.  This is one of the most competitive youth wrestling tournaments in New England.  For more info

Annual Easter Egg Painting Day at Magic Brush Pottery in Tewksbury on Saturday and Sunday. There are several different techniques you can copy of use your own.  Eggs are $6 each with discounts for multiple egg purchases.

A Little Bazaar presents Women's Day at Mill No. 5. on Saturday from 12-4 on the 4th and 5th floors.  Co-hosted by Crose Nest and Dandelion District, Women's Day will feature female entrepreneurs offering their handmade goods and artwork. For tickets and workshop info:!

Time for the Annual St. Patrick's Parade in Lawrence.  This year's parade theme is Love, Loyalty and Laughter." The parade kicks of at 1:00 at the intersection of Amesbury and Common Streets.  

Happy Hour at the Sugar Shack at Appleton Farms in Ipswich on Saturday from 5-7 pm. See how sweet sap is turned into tasty syrup before sampling local beers that highlight the flavors of winter. The evening begins with a tour of the sugaring operation to collect sap and bring it back to the sugar house for boiling. Learn the process of filtering the sap, stoking the fire and boiling the syrup to perfection. Taste the finished product before sampling a variety of local beers or roasting marshmallows in our earth oven. Light refreshments and beer samples provided. Full beers available for cash purchase. Ticket includes one beer flight and sample of our syrup to take home! Tickets and info at

Meet & Greet with Belle and the cast of Beauty and the Beast, hosted by (and at) Imajine That in Lawrence. Belle from Acting Out Theater's production of Beauty and the Beast will be on hand to greet her fans. Belle will be joined by some of her friends from the beloved musical. Don't miss out on this magical opportunity to meet one of the most beloved princesses. Sunday at 1:00.

Be More Chill A musical presented Friday and Saturday by Acting Out in Lawrence. Jeremy Heere is just an average teenager. That is, until he finds out about “The Squip” – a tiny supercomputer that promises to bring him everything he desires most: a date with Christine, an invite to the raddest party of the year and a chance to survive life in his suburban New Jersey high school. But is being the most popular guy in school worth the risk? BE MORE CHILL is based on the novel by Ned Vizzini. For audiences 13+

The Spotlight Playhouse celebrates it's 10th anniversary by presents "Broadway on Essexing! This cabaret dinner theater performance features songs from our past ten seasons of performances as well as songs that give a peek into the future! With over 20 performers and musical direction by Peg DiGrazia, the evening is sure to be a treat! Doors open at 6 pm on March 9 and 10 for a full dinner, dessert buffet and coffee and tea. A cash bar is available. Dinner will be served 30 minutes after the doors are open. For more info and tickets

Open Houses: Saturday and Sunday.  Spring is just around the corner! Check out our open houses at 18 Summer Street in Andover on Sunday from 12-2; 904 Alder Way in North Andover on Saturday from 11:30-1:30 and Sunday from 1:30-3:30;847 Amesbury Road in Haverhill on Saturday and Sunday from 12-2.  Check for other homes for sale on our website www.andover-top


You've worked hard, skipped the expensive machiatos, taken "staycations" and saved money for years.  You're finally ready to make that leap and buy your first home or "move up" to a larger home.  Are you really ready for it?  You may have been pre-approved for a mortgage, but do you really want to go to your maximum amount when you buy a home?  There are so many other costs that you need to factor into your decision. So what are some of the real costs associated with owning a home?  Let's take a look.

Mortgage and Property Taxes:

According to the National Association of REALTORS® the average cost of a home in Essex County in 2017* was nearly $421,000 with an average monthly mortgage of $1,701. This does not include property taxes or PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) if you put down less than 20% of your home's purchase price.  Those taxes can vary greatly, of course, depending upon the city or town you live in and the assessed value of your home. 


Cost You May Not Have Thought About

HOA and Master Association Fees

If you opt to purchase a condo or a home in a community association, you'll need to add the monthly, quarterly or annual fees to your monthly cash layout. These fees rarely decrease, so be sure to factor in a cushion in case your fees go up or a special assessment is levied. 

Hired Help

Are you working full or part time, stressed out by caring for children or other family members, overwhelmed by cleaning and cooking and laundry?  Any or all of these - plus other factors - may make you decide to hire help to keep you from burning out and to keep your biggest investment in good condition.

The latest surverys show that people spend an average of $295 a month on housecleaning services; $240 on (summer) landscaping and $108 on snow removal.  Want to have a pool?  Factor in another $125 per month per season.  A home security system averages $130 per month for "live" monitoring.  And if you live in some areas (NH is big on this) you will need to pay for trash and recycling collection at an average monthly cost of $55.  In all, the average homeowner general maintenance cost is over $3,000 per year.  And here in the Merrimack Valley, costs can be even higher.  Ouch!

Emergency Fund

How will you come up with the money you'll need if something unexpected happens, particularly a larger item like needing a new HVAC system or roof?  Even just a new washer and dryer can run well over $1,500.  Sure, you may be able to put these costs on your credit card, but will you be able to pay the bill without added finance charges?

Experts suggest a couple scenarios for creating an emergency fund.  Some advocate a more conservative approach, making sure to have 6 months' worth of expenses in a savings account.  A more general rule of thumb is to have 10% of your home's purchase price set aside for emergencies.  So that $421,000 home you bought means you should have $4,210 set aside.  You can add this money up front when you buy your home if you have cash left after your purchase, or set aside an extra $100 a month that's earmarked for that emergency account.  Keep in mind that you may not use the fund every year, but you want to continue saving in case something major happens.  If you don't have money set aside, you might want to rethink that decision to hire the pool guy or cut the housecleaning down to every other week.

Other Savings Goals

It's never to early to start saving for your retirement, kids' education or a special vacation.  To avoid dipping into your maintenance account or over spending on your credit cards, put aside some money from every pay check toward those goals. Financial planners suggest taking 10% out of your pay every week and immediately put it into a high-yield savings and investment account.  By taking that 10% up front, you won't really miss it.  At least, that's what the experts say!

The Final Word

How much you want to spend is a personal decision, of course, but these associated costs may be reason to think twice about spending to the top of your mortgage limit.  You want to be able to enjoy your new home, not work overtime to just make ends meet!  Contact me to help you find your dream home at a price you'll be happy paying!


*Let me know if you're interested in statistics for other counties in MA or NH