Blog :: 04-2018

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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Odors - Silent But Deadly For Home Sales

PigEwww … what’s that smell? While most of us will refrain from voicing such a thought in a public setting, it’s easy to envision a small child blurting out the accusation.

Aromas can leave a potential buyer with a negative impression and a memorable smell that might make them think twice about purchasing the home.

A smell can be overwhelmingly nostalgic, triggering powerful images and emotions before we have time to edit them. The scent of fresh baked apple pie may remind you of your long-deceased grandmother or a certain perfume may remind you of a girlfriend from 30 years ago.  

The sense of smell is one we often take for granted. We tend to focus on what we can see, touch, taste and hear. But in real estate, just as seeing ants in a home will turn off a buyer, so will experiencing a home that smells of cat urine or cigarette smoke.

So how do you make a home smell like somewhere buyers would want to live?

Neutral smells sell

Providing a neutral canvas allows buyers to imagine their life in the home. A strong odor in a home that doesn’t fit their lifestyle can ruin the entire scene. The best smell for a quick-selling home is no discernible smell at all.

How to create an odorless home

When exposed to an odor for a lengthy period of time, what once may have registered as an obtrusive scent turns into one that no longer registers as offensive.

This phenomenon, known as “nose-blindness,” is a real thing and much more than just a gimmick to sell more air freshener to those that are stinky-scent paranoid. So as a home owner, you may have become nose-blind to your home's odors. 

Odor control may be one of those uncomfortable conversations that needs to be had between an agent and seller before the home listing becomes active.

According to a survey done by the housekeeping channel, the top five worst odors in a home include (in order) the smell of rotting garbage, pet smells, mold, body odor and tobacco. Luckily, some of these odoriferous issues have an easy fix.

Garbage

Smelly garbage can? Take out the trash and scrub the container thoroughly with a strong cleaner. A simple (and obvious) action that usually resolves the problem. While the house is on the market, make sure trash gets taken out more frequently to prevent this unwanted smell.

Body odor

A bedroom that smells like a post-game locker room for the New England Patriots is not going to help a house sell. Thorough cleaning, swift removal of dirty laundry and a set of charcoal odor absorbers for each pair of often-worn shoes will help avoid this offensive smell.

Mold

Moisture-induced problems are often more difficult, as they cannot be combated without determining and remediating the source of the moisture -- which may not only be time consuming, but also a expensive.

Often mold remediation companies, structural engineers and home inspectors can be great resources for determining the cause and the appropriate treatment, depending on the scope of the problem and the types of mold and other potentially aggravating allergens.

What all odors have in common is you must remove the source of the stench first; otherwise any other steps are a waste of time, money and energy.

Pets

These issues can be tough, because when it comes to our pets, most pet owners are not willing or financially able to board their four-legged family members while their house is on the market.

What to do? Be more diligent about grooming Fido, brushing Fifi and scooping out Frisky’s litter box. Consider washing "well loved" dog toys and beds also, as they may be adding to the odor problem. 

For odors that permeate carpet and upholstery, a sprinkle of baking soda can be very effective. Let it sit and then vacuum with a HEPA filtered vacuum. This solution can work wonders. However, if the carpets have pet damage, both the carpet and pad may need to be replaced. In addition, the subfloor may need to be treated or even removed.

The nose knows. The moral of the story is to figure out what's causing any odors in your home and resolve the issue;  don’t try to mask odors with scented candles or freshly baked cookies. 

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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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