July 1, 2020

Has COVID-19 Got You Thinking About Buying a Vacation Home?

Are you thinking about buying a vacation home rather than spending money on annual vacations in other parts of the country or the world?  Are you worrying that vacation plans may continue to be interrupted for the foreseeable future? While it may sound like a great idea, purchasing a vacation residence is a huge financial decision. Here are some tips to keep in mind before you sign that offer to purchase.

1. Don’t rush your decision!

Location, view, features and other amenities determine whether a vacation home is a wise investment - or a financial disaster. Would you prefer to spend more time skiing or soaking up the sun? Do you love mountain air or the salty sea breeze? Remember, this is a long term financial decision.  Don’t get caught up in the excitement of the moment and end up buying a log cabin on a lake when you are really more of a villa on a golf course kind of person.

2. Calculate the costs!

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  In addition to a possible mortgage payment, you’ll need to pony up for real estate taxes, homeowner’s insurance, ongoing repairs and maintenance, management costs, utilities, and HOA fees if you purchase in an association or condo complex.  You may also need to furnish the property if you don’t find something that is totally turnkey.

3. What is your main motivation?

Are you thinking of renting the property, either long or short term? Renting out your home can mean constant cleaning and an inconsistent income stream. If your property is not local, you’ll need to hire a management company or someone to watch for any issues and prepare the property for move in and move out.  Plus, to earn top dollar, you’ll need to open up your home to renters during peak season—the same time you’ll likely want to be there.  Finally, many associations have rules regarding if you can rent, to whom and for how long.  It may turn out that the rules preclude your earning any real income.

4. Does distance matter?

While you may love the idea of a slope-side condo in Colorado or a high-rise apartment in Miami, don’t underestimate the difference between a two-hour drive and a multi-hour flight.  An accessible vacation home will inevitably be used much more often than a place a couple time zones away.  Plus, if your motivation stems from worries about current or post-pandemic travel, purchasing far from home doesn’t make sense.

5. Find a Realtor and a lender who are familiar with the area

Use the skills and experience of a local agent and lender.  You’ll need an agent who is familiar with different neighborhoods, association rules and market conditions.  Local lenders will be comfortable with appraisals, can help with different funding options and will be experienced with lending in rural areas.  You want to be sure your purchase goes as smoothly as possible.

6. Priceless Time

A second home can function as a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and worries. Regular vacation time can help you recharge your batteries and live a happier, healthier life.  It can provide a wonderful spot to gather with family and friends, and create lasting memories to cherish.

7. Added Benefit

If you’re planning to retire and downsize in a few years, buying a second home now can help you ease into the next stage of your life.  When it’s time to retire and sell your primary residence, your retirement space will already feel like home!

So, are you ready to start looking for that vacation home?  I’ve got experienced real estate colleagues all across the country.  Give me a call and we can get the process started!

Posted in General Info, Homebuyer
June 23, 2020

Offers, Offers and More Offers!

What the heck is going on in this current real estate market?  I’m fielding multiple offers on every listing.  Properties generally have an accepted offer within 3 days of putting a property into MLS.  Excellent, well-structured, appealing offers are being submitted with all the required paperwork.  A complete set of paperwork - that in itself is somewhat of a miracle!   From a seller’s standpoint it can be both a welcome boon and a daunting task to decide on what constitutes the best overall offer.  That may not be the offer with the highest price, as there are other factors to take into consideration.  

 

Does the buyer have something to sell?  How much is the buyer putting down?  Is the buyer pre-approved or just pre-qualified?  When does the buyer want to close on the property?  Does the buyer want to have a home inspection? Will the lender require an appraisal?  Are there any unusual requests or restrictive contingencies in the offer?

 

Weighing all the pieces of the offer is important when determining exactly which offer a seller feels the most comfortable accepting, and which offer is the most likely to close on time and with the least potential for hitting snags.  An experienced and area-knowledgeable Realtor will be able to examine all the details, explain the pros and cons of each offer, and help guide and advise a seller toward a successful closing.

 

But what if you’re on the buyer side of this crazy seller’s market? 

Leading real estate sources indicate home prices will continue to increase.  So to be successful, you'll need to be prepared.  Determine exactly which town or towns you want to purchase in; this is not the time to be wishy washy and looking all over the place, looking solely by price point.  This also ensures that you know the areas and neighborhoods of a town, so you’ll know when you see a listing if it’s in a spot you want to live.  Life these days is stressful enough, don’t waste time looking at a home in a spot where you absolutely don’t want to live.  Be prepared to see a property the moment showings begin.  If a house is listed on Thursday and showings begin on Friday, don’t wait until Sunday to see it.  There is a very good chance it will already be off the market!  Have your “ducks in a row” so you’ll be ready to submit an offer.  This means knowing your purchase price comfort level,  having a current pre-approval, having a lender who is super accessible 7 days a week, having your checkbook with you so you can give your agent a deposit to go with your offer, and very importantly, listening to your agent regarding structuring your offer. 

 

While these preparations won’t guarantee that your offer will be the winning one, they definitely will increase your chances of success.

Posted in Home Seller, Homebuyer
June 11, 2020

Pre-Qualification v. Pre-Approval

Why is a mortgage Pre-approval so important?  And just what is the difference between a mortgage Pre-Qualification and a mortgage Pre-Approval?

Pre-Qualification

To get pre-qualified, a lender evaluates your debt, income and assets to give you a loan estimate for how much you’re likely to be approved. This quick procedure can guide your search and help you explore your mortgage options, but it doesn’t include an analysis of your credit report or an in-depth look at your ability to purchase a home.

Drawbacks of a pre-qualification:

A pre-qualification doesn’t carry the same weight when making an offer as does a pre-approval. Your pre-qualified amount can help you determine your price range, but it’s not a sure thing.  It’s simply the amount for which you might expect to be approved. A listing agent, and a home seller, will most likely request a pre-approval along with your offer.  You don’t want to lose the opportunity to buy a home because you have to wait for a pre-approval to be done.

Pre-Approval

Once you’ve looked into a pre-qualification and started to poke around the internet looking for your dream home, it’s time to get serious and specific with pre-approval. You’ll complete an official mortgage application and supply your lender with the necessary documentation to perform an extensive check on your financial background and current credit rating. At this stage, you will most likely not have found a home yet, but you can leave blank any references to “property” on your application.

The basic formula of pre-approval remains the same from lender to lender. A lender reviews your credit report and financial information to determine your approved loan amount. Once the process is complete, your lender can disclose your specific mortgage amount. This can help you pin down your interest rate, and in some cases, you might even be able to lock in a specific rate! 

Benefits of a pre-approval: 

A pre-approval helps you narrow down your search with an accurate price range.  Real estate agents and sellers know you’re ready to buy, and you can make an offer on the spot when you find your dream home.

Final Approval

Keep in mind that you will still need a final approval to close on your home.  Your lender will require some additional information, an appraisal to be done on the property, and a final verification of your employment and income.   These last items are done by an underwriter.  Once all the underwriter’s requests are approved, you will have your final mortgage approval and will be able to close on your new home!  

Let us know if you're ready to start looking for a new home.  We will be more than happy to provide you with contact information for several lenders we routinely work with and trust will get you into your new home.

Posted in Homebuyer
May 26, 2020

Which Mortgage is Right for You?

 

Which Mortgage is Right for You?

 

There are a number of different types of home loans available.  Here’s a look at them.

 

30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage

This is the most common type of loan, as the steady interest rate means you can plan on a consistent monthly payment.  This provides you with the ability to budget and plan ahead.  It’s probably the best option to choose if you're planning to stay in your home for a minimum of 5-10 years.

 

15-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage

The shorter loan term and lower rate allows you to pay off your home twice as fast as with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. Like the 30-year loan, your rate stays the same throughout the life of the loan.  But because you are paying less interest, you can pay off the loan faster.  Between the shorter term and the lower interest rate, you will save a lot of money in the long run.

 

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)

This type of loan is most popular when longer term loans are at a much higher interest rate, or when you want to keep your payments as low as possible because you’re planning to move within a few years. This type of home loan features an interest rate that changes after a fixed amount of time, with a “rate cap” that stipulates the maximum rate that the interest can adjust to over a specific time.

 

Jumbo Loan

If you’re looking for a loan that exceeds the current conforming limit (which varies by state and county), then a jumbo mortgage can help you make your move.  This type of home loan will allow you to buy a lot of real estate – so if you’re looking at a pricey “forever home” it may be the right loan for you – but it can also requires more stringent credit guidelines and a larger down payment.

 

FHA Loan

FHA loans are super popular with first-time home buyers because they have lower down payment options (as low as 3.5% down) and they offer more flexible credit restrictions.  If you haven’t been able to save up a big down payment, or if your credit score is less than stellar, an FHA loan can make it possible to get a mortgage and make you a home owner.  FHA loans can be adjustable rate or fixed rate.  With an FHA loan you will be required to pay PMI (private mortgage insurance), which will be covered in a separate blog! 

 

VA home loan

A VA loan is available solely to those who are veterans or active-duty service members.  This military type loan offers less restrictive credit guidelines and low down payment options – as low as 0% down! It’s just one way to thank our service members!

 

Posted in Homebuyer
May 19, 2020

Some Easy Tips to Cut Your Work-at-Home Electricity Use


10 easy low- and no-cost tips to cut your work-at-home electric use

 

1.      When your phone and other electronic devices are charged, unplug the chargers. It may be more convenient to leave the cords plugged into the outlet, but many chargers use energy even when they aren’t connected to a device. 

2.      Remember what your parents said when you were growing up: Turn off the lights when you leave the room.

3.      Let the sun shine in!  If there’s enough sunlight for the room, open the blinds and turn off lamps and lights.

4.      Check your HVAC system air filters and replace them if they are dirty. Clean filters use less energy and reduce the strain on your system, saving money and prolonging the life of your system.

5.      When your heat or a/c is running, be sure windows aren’t open.

6.      If you have older light bulbs, switch to LEDs.  The cost has come down dramatically and they use a lot less energy (and last longer than older bulbs).

7.      Use a power strip.  Be sure to switch it off to stop power flow when you’re away.

8.      Unplug your printer and smaller appliances when they’re not being used.

9.      Using your computer’s sleep mode or power management features can save you enough each year to buy a dozen Starbucks coffees!  If you won’t be using your computer for more than a couple hours, energy.gov recommends turning it off.

10.   When you need to replace office equipment such as computers, monitors and printers, purchase ENERGY STAR® certified equipment. They use less energy to perform regular tasks, and when not in use, they automatically go into a power saving mode.

Posted in General Info
May 9, 2020

Covid and the Current Local Market

We take our role as essential service providers seriously, and hope that you and yours are well and safe. We’d like to tell you a bit about the current real estate market.

We are seeing increased interest in properties the past couple weeks. Perhaps some of this is due to people being cooped up at home – and dreaming of a new (and perhaps larger) home. The increased interest is also due to the fact that for many people, now is the time they just have to move, whether it’s due to financial, career, lifestyle, family or personal reasons. Buyers are impatient to become homeowners, or to find a home that better fits them at this time. Mortgage rates, down payment requirements, and underwriting qualifications are super favorable right now, with some of the lowest rates in history.

You may feel anxious about putting your home on the market, or looking at properties, and we get that. We are keeping our clients’ best interests at heart. If you want to see a property in person, we will make sure you have the safest experience, utilizing gloves, masks, booties, wipes and hand sanitizer. If you’re comfortable with 3D tours, virtual showings, Zoom meetings, online document creation and electronic signatures, we can work entirely remotely. And if you’re not comfortable with virtual technology, we will take away the fear and uncertainty by walking you through it. As we have done for nearly 30 years, we will support you through the entire buying or selling transaction, no matter what!

In this uncertain time, it is more important than ever to make sure you have someone on your side who can accurately gauge the market. Someone who is experienced. Someone who has navigated previous real estate storms. Someone who will advocate for you and support you with honesty, integrity and compassion.

If you’d like to know more about current market conditions or how we are practicing Covid-19 safety, please feel free to reach out. We truly are in this together!

Posted in Market Updates
May 8, 2020

Thank You Local Heroes

 

 

 

While we are having a super busy week with sales and new listings, we do want to take a moment to thank all our local heroes who have been putting themselves on the front lines the past several weeks. Both Nurse’s Day and Teacher Appreciation occur this week, and those two groups are certainly heroes! With Cinco de Mayo in the week’s mix of “events”, it would be remiss not to remember our food service workers and the grocery store employees who help get food to us as well. Add to the mix the truck drivers, factory workers, janitorial personnel, transportation workers, delivery drivers, first responders – we cannot forget them either. A huge THANK YOU to all (and to those who have accidentally been left off this list.)

We have much to be thankful for amidst the crisis, including our Yankee ingenuity and our compassion for our neighbors. Who knew so many people had sewing machines and would jump in to make masks? Who expected manufacturing companies and breweries to be willing and able to change course and produce much needed equipment and supplies? Who would have thought teens would offer to grocery shop and run errands for no pay at all?

We’ve come together as a community at large, and we’ve shown our compassion. We’ve celebrated our similarities and shared willingly of ourselves. We’ve been a support for those who must endure a permanent and capricious loss, and for those who are struggling to get through each day’s challenges.

As we move toward a “new normal”, let us remember how good it feels to help each other, and hold on to the knowledge that we have proven once again that we are Merrimack Valley Strong!

 

Posted in General Info
April 28, 2020

Buying or Selling During the Stay At Home Advisory

You have no doubt heard by now that Governor Baker has extended the Stay-at-Home Advisory until May 18th. 

 

As an essential business, we continue to work with our clients, just in some different ways than in the past.  We are making the most of current technology to provide the best options for buyers and sellers.    Showings, closings, staging consultations and market analyses are being done virtually or while practicing social distancing.  Signatures and notarizing can be done electronically. 

 

In-person showings and small in-office meetings are being held if clients prefer, but only by implementing CDC recommended procedures to keep our agents, office staff and clients safe. 

 

Both inventory and mortgage rates remain low.  Thus, homes are continuing to sell quickly - and often with multiple offers.  There are still many, many buyers and sellers whose housing situations haven’t changed; they still need to buy or sell a home.  We can provide you with the market statistics and data you need to determine if this is the time for you to start prepping your home for sale, to list your home, or to start searching for a home. 

 

Let us put our experience, professionalism and in-depth market knowledge to work for you.  Working together, standing together, building your dream together.  We will not let this beat us!

April 23, 2020

Take Care of Your Car While It’s Social Distancing

Take Care of Your Car While It’s Social Distancing

 

While you may be saving on gas and wear and tear, it’s not good to let your car sit idle for too long.  Here are some tips to be sure your car is ready when you are!

 

-        Fill up your gas tank and then add a gasoline stabilizer. The stabilizer will prevent condensation from building up and you will extend the life of the gas in the tank!  Plus, why not take advantage of low gas prices while you can.  Just be sure, of course, to bring your wipes and hand sanitizer with you to the gas station.

 

-        Check your tires and make sure the pressure meets the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation. Keeping tires filled to the right amount helps with wear and tear even when the car is standing still.

 

-        Take your vehicle for a joy ride! Driving your car at least once a week for more than 15 miles will get all of the engine parts moving and help keep the battery charged.  It also gets you out of the house, which will feel wonderful!

 

-        Check to see when your car is due for routine maintenance and make an appointment.  Most service departments are taking appointments online. If your registration or sticker expired last month or this month, you’ll want to be sure to take care of that when the RMV and inspection stations are back up and running. 

 

-        Give your vehicle a good once over every now and then and make sure that mice or other critters haven’t set up shop inside. Exhaust pipes and engine blocks are a favorite, so keep an eye out.  If you see acorns, straw and small pieces of fabric or insulation, chances are you have something living in your car!  A simple, humane answer is to spray essential oils like peppermint, clove, and cayenne pepper, which work as natural repellents.

 

-        Wash your car.  Rain and bird droppings can damage the paint finish.  So can dish detergent, so be sure to use soap made specifically for washing cars.  Start from the top of the car and work your way down, to keep the dirt you’re washing off from just spreading all over the car.  Spending an afternoon washing, vacuuming, and waxing your vehicle is a great way to spend some time outside and can be very therapeutic!

Posted in Staying Positive
April 10, 2020

Some advice from RealSimple .com on how to celebrate Easter under quarantine

Things will be different this year, but you can still enjoy your holiday traditions, with a twist or two!
 
Change the way you dye eggs
For many families, dyeing Easter eggs together is an annual tradition. This year, though, fresh eggs may be hard to find on grocery store shelves as people stock up unnecessarily. Also, if you do have fresh eggs at home, you want to preserve them for eating, not decorating or crafting. (For best results, avoid dyeing eggs and then eating them later. Not all dyes or decorating tools are food-safe, and even though they’re on the shell, it’s better to be safe than sorry.)
 
Instead, consider using Styrofoam eggs or another type of crafting egg. These eggs can be ordered straight to your door—you want to avoid unnecessarily trips to the store—and decorated with markers, crayons, and more tools you likely already have around the house. Best of all, you can save your favorites (and any extra, undecorated eggs) for next year.
Do an alternative egg hunt
Setting the kids loose on a field or playground dotted with eggs isn’t really social distancing, especially if you typically do it as a group with other families. Instead, if your home and yard have the space, tuck eggs around your house for your kids to find.
 
For a larger egg hunt, get in touch with your neighbors. Ask all participating families to decorate large Easter eggs on paper and then tape the paper eggs into windows facing the street. On Easter Sunday, families can head out in cars, on bikes, or on foot—careful to keep their distance from one another—to try and spot all the eggs in the neighborhood.
 
Rethink Easter baskets and gifts
The overflowing Easter baskets of years past may not be possible this year, either because money is tight or you’re unable to visit your go-to stores to pick up all the supplies and gifts. (Online delivery may not be as speedy as you’d like this year, either.) Save the big adult Easter basket for next year: Consider tucking homemade sweets into baskets or fill them with print-outs or drawings of the Easter gifts you plan to order or buy once businesses are open again. (Consider it an IOU from the Easter Bunny.) If you can, for Easter gifts for kids, focus on digital gifts you can enjoy in the moment: Buy and download a new movie or new game for them to enjoy at home.
 
Order in for your Easter dinner
If you typically go out for Easter brunch or dinner—or head to Grandma’s for her Easter specialties—don’t take it upon yourself to cook a multi-course meal. You want your groceries to last as long as possible, and taking a trip to the grocery store just to pick up extra eggs and potatoes for your Easter spread isn’t worth the risk.
 
Instead, consider supporting local businesses. Call around to see if any restaurants are offering a to-go or delivery special for Easter meals. (Chances are, at least one place is.) Place your order a few days in advance so the restaurant is prepared and get ready to enjoy your meal with minimal prep or stress on your part.
 
Focus on small-scale Easter games
A bunny hop race or Easter egg toss may not be possible this year if you don’t have the supplies, numbers, or space (or all three). Focus on games—beyond the egg hunt—your family can play together, such as guess the number of jelly beans or Easter egg basketball, even if you only have one or two kids in the family.
 
For older kids, consider giving your favorite family games an Easter spin: Play Scrabble with all Easter- or spring-themed words, for example.
 
Adjust your expectations for your Easter service
If your Easter celebration includes a religious component, think carefully about attending church services. Many states, counties, and cities have banned all group gatherings, but WalletHub’s survey says 56 percent of people who attended Easter services last year would attend this year if services were held. Even if your church does still hold a service—some are skirting federal recommendations to do so—consider if attending is the safest option for you and your family (and others attending).
 
You can stay connected with your church on Easter by checking to see if it’s hosting a digital service: Many religious organizations have been offering online services, so do a little research online to find one you can stream.
Posted in Staying Positive