Home Buyer

Go Big and Go Home: 6 Tips for Upsizing With No Regrets

Upsizing to a bigger homeRemember when you bought your home? It was just perfect for the two of you. But now — with a couple of kids, some ever-shedding pets, or maybe an in-law living down the hall — that's no longer the case. Whether you’re already bursting out of your house or about to expand your family, the time to move to a larger home might have arrived.

If it's any consolation, you have plenty of company. In 2014, a record 60.6 million people, or 19% of the U.S. population, lived with multiple generations under one roof, a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data found. If you have older kids, you can’t even count on having an empty nest, now that the preferred living arrangement for 18- to 34-year-olds is with their parents (more than alone or with a roommate). And more than one-fifth of Americans older than 55 live in a multigenerational household, as well.

So, what do you look for in a home when you’re bringing so many people under one roof? There’s plenty more to consider before you upsize beyond just square footage. Topping the list: how to upgrade your home without fully downgrading your bank account. Yes, upsizing will cost you, upfront and on down the line. But that doesn't mean it's a bad investment. It just means you need to be smart about it.

Here are six things to keep in mind before leaping into a larger home.

1. Think critically about your goals

Yes, we get it: You want more space. But have you thought, specifically, about why?

Before you hit the house-hunting trail, take a moment to pin down what you really, actually need.

How are you actually going to live in this bigger house? Why do you want a bigger kitchen? If you’re going to be hosting Thanksgiving moving forward, maybe that makes sense. But otherwise, perhaps not so much.

Listing your goals will also help you prioritize. Is the idea to accommodate your traditional nuclear family, or do you need to make rooms for seniors and young adults coming back from college? Is open concept right for you and your family? It sounds fabulous to watch the kids when they’re little, but as they get older, will it still be the right fit?

The key is to have a plan and find a home that works into it.

2. Determine whether bigger is truly better

Before beginning your search, consider not just the home's square footage, but also the layout.

What people want and need isn’t necessarily what builders are producing. In this very hot market, they’re building the largest houses they can on the smallest possible lots in order to amortize the price, which doesn’t necessarily equal the right spaces for families.

You might think you're getting more space, but if that space isn't useable or suitable for you, does it really help you in the long run?

Sometimes, the more bedrooms a home has, the smaller those bedrooms are. You don’t always need more rooms; sometimes you need more spacious rooms.

3. Buy only the space you’ll use

On a related note: Before you speed forward with your upsizing plan, you should make sure the rooms or features in the larger house will actually be used.

An example from the not-too-distant past: When home theater rooms were all the rage, it was a status symbol to have a room with a very expensive system and comfortable seating. But many of those expensive rooms were barely used. That's not the way most people live.

4. Crunch the numbers

Are you prepared for the real financial burden of upsizing?

Beyond just the sticker price on the house are the long-term costs associated with it. When you go up (in square footage), you get higher property taxes, higher utilities, and more maintenance. And acquiring more rooms means shelling out for more furniture and decor.

Make sure you can afford to move up without becoming "house poor." You can prevent this sad fate by using online affordability calculators to figure out how far you can stretch your dollar. Or talk with your lender to get the big picture on the costs of your move.

Pro tip: A simple call to the utility company can unearth historical data about the energy costs for a particular address year over year.

Be thorough in your research. Consider not only the price of a home but also the monthly payment and all the associated costs.

5. Consider the resale value

Upsizing now can mean a tidy profit later if you choose your home and location wisely.

Sure, you might think that once you've found the right size home, you'll stay forever. But you might find yourself downsizing a few years from now. As with any home purchase, look at your potential new place through the eyes of future buyers.

That means doing your research about what home buyers want. And right now, that's flexible space because as baby boomers age and their kids buy homes, they’re thinking about when Mom and Dad may visit or live with them.

Keep the latest buying trends in mind as you scope out listings, and your new home could pay off down the road.

6. More space might mean buying in a different neighborhood

After you’ve predicted the future, don’t forget what you learned from the past: It’s all about the neighborhood.

Perhaps your starter home is in the perfect up-and-coming community — close to the city, public transportation, and your favorite restaurant. But having more room to spread out often means spreading farther away from the city center. So make the choice. Are you willing to consider a different neighborhood — one that might be farther from where you live now?

Life is about trade-offs, right? This might be a really smart one.

If you're ready to go big, contact us. We’re happy to help you upsize to a home that is the perfect fit.

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Six Reasons To Consider Downsizing

Big Home and Small HomeThe kids are grown and out of the house, retirement is on the horizon and suddenly your home feels like a pair of shoes that are two sizes too big. Could it be time to downsize your home?

For some people, the idea of downsizing may not sound appealing at first, but it’s important not to confuse downsizing with downgrading. In fact, a closer look at downsizing reveals that a smaller home may feel more like an upgrade.

1. Bigger is not always better

For some, moving up in life means buying a larger house, but typically it comes with  larger mortgage payments and more square footage to maintain. If you currently own a large, older home, moving into a smaller home could mean new construction with little maintenance and lower mortgage payments -- not to mention newer appliances, large open spaces and walk-in showers.

2. Work smarter, not harder

Let’s face it, homeownership is a lot of work. As most homeowners know, there is always something that needs updating or maintaining. The more rooms there are and the larger the yard is, the more time, effort and upkeep are required to keep your property in tip top shape. And if you raised a family in your home or own pets, your home can show quite a bit of wear and tear. With a smaller home and less acreage, there are fewer rooms to paint, less outdoor maintenance to stay on top of and more time for relaxing on the porch with a drink and your favorite book.

3. Save money

Ok we admit, this is probably the first thing that came to mind when you started to think about downsizing. But, have you thought about just how much money you could actually save? Decreasing your mortgage payment could allow you to pay off bills or car payments faster and increase contributions to your retirement account. And a condo or smaller home could reduce your utilities costs, property taxes and insurance. And here’s the best part … if done right, you could use the proceeds from your current home to pay cash for your new home and eliminate a mortgage payment all together -- and maybe even have some left over!

4. Declutter once and for all

A larger home means room for more “stuff” -- and we have a tendency to accumulate. Grown children often leave their childhood bedrooms and playrooms filled with discards; collections from long-ago hobbies overflow in basements and closets. Even the most organized home owners can struggle with keeping a home decluttered. Downsizing to a smaller home is the perfect time to simplify your life by donating or disposing of all those unused items that have taken residence in your home over the years.

5. Less stress

Tired of shoveling snow, cleaning out your gutters, or dealing with a broken water heater? Downsizing to a condo or townhome is a way to eliminate some of the worry in your life. Condominium or Home Owners Association fees typically cover maintenance items like snow removal, roofs, pest control and lawn care. Large complexes often have recreation facilities which can enable you to save on gym or swim club memberships.

6. More fun

Today’s condo and townhouse complexes are full of social activities and even spa-like amenities. Myriad groups and clubs help you to meet other residents and establish yourself in your new neighborhood quickly. With walking trails, fitness centers and community activities, your new home could feel more like your favorite vacation spot.

Ready to reap the benefits of a smaller home? Contact us to get started. We are happy to help you downsize into some of the best years of your life.

Home Buyers Reveal: What I Wish I Had Known Before Buying My First Home

first home keysLove. Terror. Giddiness. Teeth-gnashing desperation. Buying your first home involves so many emotions. And like so many other milestones in life, you won’t fully understand the impact until you live through the process yourself.

In an effort to clue you into some of the challenges you'll face as a first-time home buyer, we asked some folks who've already gone through the ringer to spill what they wish they'd known earlier ... tips that would have saved them a ton of time, effort -- and tears. Here's hoping their 20/20 hindsight will smooth your path to home homeownership.

Even if a home looks perfect, it has problems

It's easy to fall hard for a recently renovated house that looks like it’s in absolutely perfect condition. Beware, a home inspector may find a laundry list of issues -- and that's a good thing. For instance, while a new hardwood floor may look beautiful, if it’s not installed properly you could find abnormal gaps, debris in the finish or sanding blemishes. And the same goes for the kitchen appliances – just because they are installed does not mean they are working.

The takeaway: No matter how nice a home looks, a home inspection is the only way to make sure you aren't buying a lemon. The last thing you want to discover after you buy is a major problem that could have been identified early on. You don’t have to ask the home seller to make repairs before taking ownership, but you do need to know whether you should proceed with the purchase or not.

Step away from the computer

Some sage advice: "Stop Googling, move away from the computer and into the real world.”

Sure, online research serves a purpose, but if you're serious about buying a home, it’s not until you get pre-approved for a mortgage that the home-buying process gets real. Money talks.

The takeaway: You can’t get pre-approved by plugging in simple numbers on a mortgage calculator. You need an experienced lender who will take a detailed history and require documentation of your assets and income. This is the only way you'll establish that you qualify for a mortgage and for how much.

Never miss a deadline

You found the perfect condo and your offer was accepted, so you want to celebrate. However, your lender informed you that the closing process would take about two months, and within those 60 days, you have a hefty to-do list.

Struggling to keep up with the copious paperwork can make it tough to remember all essential appointments and complete paperwork on time. But you must.

The takeaway: Buying a home requires you to stay on top of your to-do items, especially during the escrow process where there may be penalties for missing a deadline. One of the key to-do's is the three-day requirement to send in your deposit. Miss that and you may miss out on the deal.

Choose a lender you like

Finding a good lender is imperative. Shop around for someone who is professional, returns emails and phone calls in a timely manner and gets things done quickly so you don’t miss deadlines.

The takeaway: A lender can make or break a deal, so choose wisely. One of the main things to look for besides the loan rate is the responsiveness of the lender. They need to move fast or the deal may fail.

Summon reserves of patience

While hunting for your first home you may submit numerous offers on different properties - all of which may fall through.

This can be a major disappointment and it may be difficult to be patient. But sooner or later you will find the perfect home. As inventory can be scarce, working with a realtor who's "in the know" about upcoming listings can help the process. For example, sometimes contractors do work on a home before it hits the market. This can be a great opportunity to purchase a house before it is even listed.

The takeaway: It’s tough not to get disheartened while house hunting. Competition is fierce, and you need to prepare yourself for the long haul. You may need to adjust your criteria so more possibilities are opened up. In the meantime, keep making those offers. One of them will get accepted eventually.

Buying your first home is life-changing, exciting and challenging, but remember you are not in it alone. Learn from the mistakes of others, do your homework, and try to enjoy the road to homeownership – all the ups and downs will be well worth it in the end.

If you are ready to take the plunge and purchase your first home, please contact us, we are happy to help!

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Open House Red Flags: 10 Things to Look for When Buying a Home

open house signWhile many home buyers at an open house focus their time assessing the layout of the rooms and the brands of the kitchen appliances, smart buyers know the things that are really important to look for when buying a home.

In competitive markets, a well-prepared open house may have been deep cleaned, upgraded, and staged with stylish furniture, so you shouldn't be overly impressed by a house that looks and smells nice. (You can, however, be rightly appalled by a home that looks and smells atrocious.)

Think of the open house as a first date: It’s an opportunity to look beyond the pictures you saw online and figure out if the property is worth seeing again — or if you should move on and never look back.

Red flag No. 1: Too much scent

Don’t let those freshly baked cookies or potpourri simmering on the stove fool you. The more aggressive the scent, the greater the likelihood the seller is taking precautions to mask a more offensive odor.

Take a deep whiff in every room you enter, and look closely at walls, ceilings, and flooring for signs of pet accidents, mildew or smoke.

Red flag No. 2: Poor tiling

Be sure to inspect the tile in kitchens and bathrooms. If the gaps or tiles are slightly uneven, it may indicate a DIY job. Lazy or unskilled tiling could indicate that multiple fixes might have been done on the fly, which can add up to big bucks in potential repair costs.

Red flag No. 3: Foundation issues

Most houses have hairline cracks, which just indicate the house is settling into its position, but large gaps can signal a bigger issue with the foundation. Other tipoffs: sticking doors or windows, visible cracks above window frames and uneven floors. How do you know if the floors are uneven? Roll a marble from one side to the other. (This tactic might be more subtle if you have kids with you.)

Red flag No. 4: Signs of deferred maintenance

When you walk through a home, be on the lookout for signs that the owner might have neglected routine home maintenance. Take note of issues such as burned-out lightbulbs, rotted trim, leaky faucets or faded paint. These signs indicate the seller may have ignored other ongoing home maintenance tasks that can cause real problems down the road.

An attentive homeowner is focused on tasks like flushing the water heater annually, changing air filters monthly, cleaning the chimney, inspecting the roof for leaks, and regularly re-caulking around windows and doors, for example, to keep all those systems in good working order.

Red flag No. 5: Nearby water

That creek might look picturesque now, but it won’t when it comes cascading through your back door.

In New England, rain and snow is a given, so it’s vital to consider the possibility of flooding. Being uninsured against flood risk can create giant damage bills on a regular basis.

Red flag No. 6: Wonky windows

Take a second to pull back the curtains to check for lopsided frames, and then give the windows a tug to make sure they slide easily. If they stick, it could be a sign of foundation issues (as noted above) or just poor installation. Neither is good. 

The only fix — and it’s an expensive one — are new windows.

Red flag No. 7: Mold

To detect possible signs of mold while wandering through an open house, discreetly open bathroom and sink cabinets to take a look around water pipes or drains. Even small black or gray spots indicate that more serious issues may be lurking. You can also check the caulking around faucets and tubs for black spots and look for patches on the ceiling.

Red flag No. 8: Water damage

A musty odor can indicate water damage, even if you don’t see standing water. Check walls and ceilings for water lines; they likely indicate flooding from a leak or a burst pipe that may have caused internal damage. Also, take a peek at exposed piping in basements or laundry rooms and check for rust, water stains or leaking.

Red flag No. 9: Cosmetic enhancements

While most realtors will recommend a fresh coat of paint before putting your home on the market, be wary. That one freshly painted wall could be an accent wall -- or it could be hiding something, like a patch of mold.

Rugs can also be used to cover damage. Don’t be afraid to lift up area rugs to check hardwood flooring. Look at the underneath to make sure they’re not stained or damaged by pets.

Red flag No. 10: Improper ventilation

Without adequate interior ventilation, moisture sticks around, which can create mold and increase allergies. The tipoff: Condensation on windows or slightly bubbled or peeling paint around windows, doors or vents. Either can indicate moisture in the walls and ceiling drywall.

The bottom line: Don’t walk through an open house the way you walk through a museum. Even though your home inspector is likely to detect many of these problems down the line, being attentive to these red flags in an open house ensures that you’re not wasting your time on a home that isn’t the one for you.

See a listing of our upcoming open houses, or feel free to contact us with any questions about your home or one you're considering buying. We're happy to help. 

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Septic Systems a lot of us have them, but nobody wants to talk about it....

 

Living in North Reading we all may be different, but we all have one thing in common; we all have septic systems.  Septic systems although not extremely complex, do cause a lot of anxiety and stress.  Generally, speaking we do not fully understand how it functions, and have no idea what a Title V means and why sellers of Real Estate serviced by a Septic System must have a Title V.  I have decided to bring this “stinky subject” to the forefront to help educate us and to decrease anxiety around the subject of septic systems.

If you are selling your home, that is serviced by a septic system you cannot sell your home without a passing Title V inspection. The inspection is conducted by a licensed inspector both by the state and the town where the system is located. A list of licensed inspectors is available at the Board of Health or call our office and we would be happy to provide you with the approved list.

The Inspector will determine whether your system “passes”, “fails” or “conditionally passes” (requires repairs).

What is a conditional pass?

A conditional pass means that your system will pass if a certain condition is met. A repair or replacement of the distribution box is the most common condition that needs to be met. The inspector would write up his official Title V report with the conditional pass notes outlining the needed replacement of the distribution box. Once the repair is finished the board of Health will issue a Certificate of Compliance which indicates a passing Title V at closing.

The septic system failed, now what?

If the inspection fails, your system must be repaired or replaced.

Failed septic systems can be handled in a real estate sales transaction in two ways. First, the seller can undertake the work and complete it prior to closing, with a full sign off from the Board of Health.  Or, the parties can agree to an escrow holdback to cover the cost of the septic repair plus a contingency reserve,

(generally, one and a half times the total amount), the work is undertaken after closing. Some lenders do not allow for septic holdbacks so make sure your Realtor or Attorney inquires with the buyer’s bank or mortgage company prior to closing.

Prevention is always the best approach with anything and this includes your septic. All systems should be pumped, generally every one to two years. The person who pumps your system should do a quick visual inspection to make sure everything is operating correctly.

I hope you have found this article informative and useful, if you have more in-depth questions about septic, please reach out to your Board of Health or your septic professional. Please feel free to call us at Farrelly Realty Group 978-664-3700 if you have any questions or Real Estate needs.

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