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Tuscan Decor

In a recent survey, the most popular decorating trend for homes in Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, is Tuscan decor. The rustic, Italian look and Old World style can add a lot of charm to a space. If you've just bought a new home and are looking for a decor style that will make it seem homey and welcoming, Tuscan is a great option. Here are some Tuscan design elements you can incorporate into your space.

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Masiello Closing Tips

Closing on your home is exciting but also can be overwhelming, especially if you don't know what to expect. While we usually think of "closing" as being the day you sign all the paperwork, the closing process actually begins the minute the home goes under contract and only ends the day ownership is officially transferred. There's a lot that still has to be done during that time! Here is everything our real estate agents want you to know about closing, from beginning to end.

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Work From Home

If you're one of the millions of employees working from home, it's important to create a dedicated space for your work activities. A dedicated workspace helps you increase your productivity and creates a distinction between your home and work life. Our real estate agents suggest adding these features to make working from home even easier. 

  • An Ergonomic Chair
    Many workers experience back and neck pain related to poor posture during their workday. Keeping your body in a neutral position (feet on the floor, arms relaxed by your body, back straight, and head centered above your shoulders) reduces the amount of strain that sitting has on your body. An ergonomic chair encourages your body to maintain a neutral position, allowing you to be more comfortable, focused, and productive. Look for a chair with customizable features and a sufficient lumbar cushion to ensure your body has the support it needs. 
  • A WiFi Booster
    Few things are more frustrating than sitting down to begin your day, only to discover that your WiFi is running at a snail's pace or even refusing to connect entirely. A WiFi booster eliminates connectivity deserts in your home and makes it possible for multiple devices to use your WiFi with minimal buffering. 
  • A Task Light
    A home office needs multiple levels of lighting to ensure that you have proper illumination to reduce eye strain. In addition to an overhead light, you should invest in a task light. A task light makes it easy to adjust the placement of the light so that it's suited to your work activity. Look for a task light with an adjustable arm and multiple dimming levels so you can customize the type and placement of the lighting. 
  • A Desk That You Love
    Your desk is one of the most important elements of your home office space. Since you'll be spending a lot of time at your desk, you must select a design and style that fits your stylistic preferences and work habits. For example, if you need a space for using a computer and completing paperwork, a desk with an L-shape may be a good fit for your needs. Or, if you know that you like to stand for a portion of your workday, a desk that allows you to sit or stand while you work is a smart investment. 
  • A Bin or Basket to Store Your Work Supplies
    When you're through working, you need a spot to stow your work supplies. This will keep your office space uncluttered and tidy, and it ensures that you always know where all your necessities are. A large woven basket is one stylish alternative, or you can invest in a utility cart to quickly stash your work essentials. If you ever need to relocate for part of your workday, having everything in a single location makes it quick and convenient for you to do so. 
  • A Houseplant
    Your workspace should be a spot that you find inviting and welcoming; adding plants to your office instantly makes the area feel brighter and more appealing. Houseplants also purify the air inside of your home, removing odors and potentially harmful chemicals. As you select your houseplant, make sure its lighting needs are compatible with the light in your home office. 
  • A Camera Cover
    A camera cover is a convenient addition to your computer or mobile device that prevents your camera from catching portions of your day that you don't want to share with clients or other coworkers. Camera covers attach to your device or computer and slide as needed to conceal your camera. 
  • A Charging Station
    If you depend on a lot of devices during your workday, it needs to be easy to keep your devices charged. A charging station lets you charge multiple devices and accessories using a single unit; you can even customize the charging cords so that you have the best combo for your work devices. 
  • A Planner
    Whether you prefer an old-fashioned paper planner or like to utilize a digital alternative, a planner is valuable for organizing your workday, keeping track of deadlines, and monitoring your to-do list. If you decide to use a paper planner, make sure that you have a stash of ink pens or pencils readily available for quick schedule changes. 
  • Noise-Canceling Headphones
    When you're on a work call or just need to drown out background noise, noise-canceling headphones are a must-have item. Look for a fast-charging pair with a long battery life. 
  • A Larger Monitor (or a Second Monitor)
    Increasing the size of your computer screen is an effective way to boost your productivity. Or, depending on your job, you may prefer to add a second monitor so that you have a dedicated screen for certain tasks. If you conduct your work business from a laptop, there are also dual monitor options that are laptop compatible. 

Need a home with more space for your remote work days? Contact us to start your search!


new england home decor

Are you looking for a new decor style to use in your home? If you're like many people, you know what you like - and don't like - when you see it, but you may have struggled to tie your home decor into an appealing style. Without a general direction, you can end up with a collection of elements gathered over the years that don't seem to complement each other or create a cohesive look. Whether that's the case or you'd simply like a change from your current style, it may be time for a refreshed look.

Our real estate agents suggest the following tips to help you find the best decor style for your home:

  • Look Inside Your Closet
    Check your closet and identify your favorite clothing items and accessories. What do you like to wear when you want to brighten your mood or when you have a special occasion to dress for? Look for some common elements - such as colors, fabrics, and patterns - that you normally find attractive. And take a look at items you avoid wearing and try to figure out why. Consider your general style. Do you prefer bold, flashy looks or more neutral colors and classic styles? Even the types of fabrics you like can serve as inspiration for items like pillows and draperies.

  • Create a Vision Board
    Look through a variety of magazines without limiting yourself to home decor publications. Check out photos of all types, including those representing nature, fashion, jewelry, and more. Use them in a vision board and consider what appeals to you about each image. For example, if you have a photo of leaves, does their color appeal to you? What about their shape or texture? Do they have curved lines or straight lines? Each photo can give you cues about what design elements you find most appealing.

  • Take a Few Online Quizzes
    There's an online quiz on just about every topic, so it should come as no surprise that a large number of websites have quizzes that will help you determine what home decor style you prefer. If you Google "interior design quizzes," you'll find lots of ones to try. Not only are these types of quizzes fun, but they also may surprise you and give you insights into your style preferences that you may not have expected. In addition, you'll be able to get some home design buzzwords - such as "industrial" or "boho" - that you can further research to find specific looks and pieces.

  • Weigh in on the Home Decor Items You Already Have
    Look at your current home decor items with a critical eye. Are there things that you love? Think about what it is about them that appeals to you. On the other hand, identify items that you just don't like. What is it that you find unappealing about them? As an added bonus, this step lets you eliminate some of your home decor items that just aren't working for you since you can sell or donate those things that you dislike. This also gives you the space to bring in more elements that suit your new style.

  • Consider Your Home's Current Atmosphere
    How does your home's current atmosphere feel? Is it warm and homey? Or maybe you have a modern, minimalist vibe going? Are there areas of your home that make you happy and others that make you feel bored or stressed out? Whatever you have, determine the mood it projects and figure out if that's still what you're going for, but with new decor items. Or you may decide you want to change the mood of your space entirely.

  • Give Your Style a Name
    Many, if not most, people have an ideal style that encapsulates elements of several different styles. This often works best since, although specific styles can provide inspiration, you may not like every element of any single style. Fortunately, there's no need to lock yourself into one look and follow its recommendations to the letter. Look at the information you've gathered and any patterns you can identify and come up with a fun description of your style. That way, as you consider different elements to bring into your home, you can ask yourself if they fit in well with your self-named style.

  • Start Small
    Decorating an entire home or even a room can seem overwhelming. Start with a small space in your home, such as a shelf or end table, and gather and arrange some objects that reflect your newly defined style. Live with them for a week or two, and if they're still appealing to you, start spreading the style throughout your room and home. If you find the style less attractive than you'd hoped, redo some of the previous steps to help further define your home decor style.

Contact us if you'd like to see homes for sale so you can have a fresh start in discovering the best decor style. Whether you're looking for a home to buy, are ready to sell your home, or both, we're ready to help! 


Selling Your Home? These Simple Upgrades Can Increase Your Home's Value

Thanks to the pandemic, our lives have changed in the last couple of years. How and where we work, shop, and live in our homes have been centers of significant change and re-evaluation. Whether you're considering selling your home or just looking to improve your quality of life, it's more important to know what upgrades have the best return on investment and adds value to your home.

For example, a dedicated home office and outdoor entertainment and living spaces are coveted by buyers in a house for sale. This blog post will look at trending home improvements that can add value to a house for sale in 2022.

An Overview of 2022 Home Renovation Trends

We used surveys from real estate agents, expert data from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and other industry experts to determine what home buyers are looking for in a house for sale in 2022.

Researchers estimate that total spending on remodeling projects in the U.S. could reach $430 billion by the second half of 2022. Growth is expected to taper in the third quarter due to rising costs of materials, labor, construction, and interest rates. A 7% annual inflation rate, the highest since 1982, is making everything cost more, including putting in new floors or refreshing a dated kitchen or bathroom.

According to a Remodeling magazine survey of real estate professionals, the average recoupment of 22 popular projects came in at about 60% nationally in 2021. That's down from 63.7% in 2020 and 66.1% in 2019. Some upgrades can add perceived and actual value to a house for sale if you're considering selling, making it stand out to buyers and offer a good return on your investment.

Home Improvement Projects That Add Value

The way we live in our homes has changed since the pandemic. Homebuyers are looking for specific features when touring a house for sale.

Buyers always appreciate space. However, over the past year, they want even more. The NAHB report What Home Buyers Really Want – 2021 Edition found that buyers wanted a median of 2022 square feet, about 8% more than they currently have. Specifically, 46% were looking for three bedrooms, 37% wanted two bathrooms, and 42% preferred a two-car garage. A 2020 survey of real estate agents found that 44% of buyers said the need for more space was their number one motivator. Another 31% cited the desire for more private outdoor space as a top motivation.

Here are some upgrades that will make your home stand out to buyers.

Major Upgrades

These can be pricey upgrades but make your home more appealing to buyers. If you're not ready to sell, these upgrades can improve your quality of life while adding to your home's resale value when it comes time to sell!

Build or Covert A Space into a Dedicated Home Office

The trend for remote work was growing before the pandemic. The need for home office space exploded as we were forced into working from home in the early days of the pandemic. Even as we slowly return to the office today, remote work is here to stay.

A 2021 survey by Home Light found that 60% of top agents cited a home office as a top priority. Today, buyers care about a home office more than whether a home is move-in ready. Some buyers are looking for multiple home offices.

Creating a new room or dedicating existing space for a home office is a good investment if your buyers telecommute. Home Light data from mid-2020 indicates that a home office adds over $10,000 in resale value. Today, that number might be even higher as the hybrid work model takes hold.

Options include converting a walk-in closet or building an accessory dwelling unit. The estimated value that an ADU adds has gone from $47,600 to $66,000 since pre-pandemic times.

Finish Your Basement or Attic

If you have an unfinished basement or attic, you have potential livable space future buyers can enjoy. Whether as a home office, a home theater, an extra bedroom, or an in-law apartment. according to HomeAdvisor, a finished basement between 400 and 1500 square feet has a potential ROI of 75%

Adding heated square footage bumps your house value to another level. Today, an unfinished basement adds $15,000 to $20,000 in value. A finished basement can add $40,000 to $50,000 to your asking price.

Open Your Floorplan

Buyers today love an open concept floorplan. People need a dedicated space to work, but they still want to entertain and enjoy time with family and friends. NAHB's survey found that 85% of buyers want an open floorplan between the kitchen and dining room. 79% prefer an open arrangement between the kitchen and family room.

While an open layout is great for adding natural light, you should speak with a contractor before knocking down any walls!

Exterior Upgrades

Simple exterior upgrades to your home's curb appeal can add significant value to your home. These affordable upgrades can grab a buyer's attention before opening the door!

Up Your Home's Curb Appeal

Curb appeal impresses buyers before they enter your home. Attractive landscaping implies you maintain your home. In fact, buyers will pay a 7% premium for a house with stunning curb appeal. The highest ROI for curb appeal is in the Northeast, where an investment of about $3600 for curb appeal upgrades can yield a $14,800 bump in resale value for a 309% ROI!

Basic lawn care like cutting the grass, fertilizing, and controlling weeds costs around $340 but offers a 539% ROI!

Update Your Garage Door

Is your garage door looking worse for wear? Is it a dated design compared to your neighbors? A new garage door is another inexpensive way to add value. According to Home Light, a new garage door costs around $1200 but can add an average of $2797 in resale value for a 133% ROI.

Add A Parking Spot

If you live in a city, or town where street parking is at a premium, consider adding a concrete parking pad. It costs around $1200 and is a considerable upgrade in the city. It's affordable and can add significant value and up your asking price!

Outdoor Living Upgrades

We've embraced the physical and mental benefits of being outdoors in the past few years. Today, outdoor living ranks third on the list of homebuyers' priorities, behind only a home office and excellent schools. Here are a couple of outdoor upgrades that can add resale value.

Add a Patio or Deck

A deck or patio is the centerpiece of an outdoor living space. It's a place to eat dinner, entertain, have a drink, or work outdoors on a beautiful day. A deck can add over $7000 in resale value. You can build a deck for around $4380 to $10,000, so you'll likely break even or see a positive ROI for this upgrade.

Put in a Fire Feature

54% of agents surveyed by Home Light said that 54% of their buyers cited having a fire feature, like a fire pit or outdoor fireplace, as a top priority. It's a great place to spend time with family and friends. An outdoor fireplace adds an average of $5700 in value.

Cook Al Fresco

Once reserved for luxury homes, today, everybody wants an outdoor kitchen! Along with a built-in grill, outdoor kitchens can include cabinetry, a bar, sink, and standard kitchen appliances. They can even include an outdoor flatscreen. The value of outdoor kitchens has increased since the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, an outdoor kitchen added $6100. An outdoor kitchen adds about $9800 in value in today's market.

Adding Value in a House For Sale

These are just a few upgrades and projects that can add significant value to a house for sale. If you're considering selling your home, simple improvements can add interest to buyers and drive up your asking price.

As you look around your home and consider which upgrades are worth the investment, first consider your quality of life. If you're planning on selling in the future large projects like adding square footage can enhance your current enjoyment of your home, but when you decide to sell, they can add resale value.

If you're planning on putting your house for sale, look at any upgrades from a potential buyer's perspective. Does your home lack the modern features and amenities that a remote professional needs to balance family, work, and relaxation? Maybe it's time to add a dedicated home office or outdoor kitchen. If you're not sure, speak with a local Realtor®. They can tell you what buyers in your area value most.


The Rental Market is on Fire. Is It Time To Buy?

The housing market has certainly been interesting in the past few years. The past year has seen limited supply and growing demand for the rental market and home sales. In fact, despite historically low-interest rates, the industry had an extraordinary booming year. 2021 showed the most significant annual gains in single-family house values and rental prices, low foreclosure rates, and the highest number of home sales in 15 years.

Rental prices kept pace with housing. Rental prices for single-family homes increased 7.8% in 2021, an all-time high according to CoreLogic. The rental market exploded as remote workers and young families fleeing the cities spurred double-digit increases in rental costs and squeezed supply.

With rental prices, home prices at all-time highs, and a tight housing supply, is it time to think about buying a home in 2022 instead of renting?

Some Housing Statistics to Think About

While the market in recent weeks has begun to cool a bit, it's still competitive. Since a home is likely one of the biggest purchases you'll make, it's essential to take some time and make an informed decision.

According to Redfin, as of June 30, 2021, the median sales price of a home in the U.S. was $386,888, a 24.8% year-over-year increase. The massive spike in demand in many markets has allowed for higher sale prices. This can often make it hard to decide whether to continue renting or purchase a home because you don't want to overpay.

Rental prices have also increased by double digits in most markets. According to Redfin, rents jumped more than 14% in December 2021, the most considerable rise in more than two years. However, in many major metropolitan markets, rents have skyrocketed. In Austin, Texas, New York City, Boston, several areas in Florida, and other cities throughout the country, rents have jumped by 35 to 40% year over year.

Add to this the fact that there is less housing available for sale or rent than in the past 30 years. With supply shortages worsening and growing inflation contributing to rising rental costs, it becomes difficult deciding whether to rent or buy.

While rental prices in the U.S. initially dropped when COVID-19 hit, prices rebounded strongly in 2021 and quickly outpaced pre-pandemic trends. As a result, rental prices have far outpaced wage increases.

The Housing Market in 2022 and Beyond

Housing market predictions are about as reliable as the five-day weather forecast. The truth is that no one can predict what will happen with 100% accuracy.

However, many industry experts predict continued strong price appreciation, scarce inventory, and high demand. Overall, the housing market is doing well and will most likely not crash in 2022. The trends and forecasts for the next 12-24 months show that the market will most likely stay strong, with many of the factors that drove prices to new highs in 2021 remaining firmly in place. Last year, homeowners saw a market where properties sold quickly and often above asking, as numerous buyers fought for limited inventory.

Last year prices increased by an unsustainable 18.8%. The market is even tighter than it was before the spring 2021 frenzy. Experts like Zillow increased their bullishness in January, predicting growth of up to 16.4% in 2022. They recently adjusted anticipated price growth to reach 22% by mid-year. However, price growth is expected to slow through February of 2023.

Fannie Mae is predicting that by mid-2023, price appreciation will return to the pre-pandemic rate of 5% annually. They also expect that mortgage rates will rise modestly, providing some relief to buyers as prices climb. Slowing price appreciation and potentially increased inventory could help avoid a crash in 2023. The main downside risk continues to be increasing inflation. As mortgage rates increase, refinancing activity will soften as rates gradually rise and the Fed works to tame inflation.

So Should Your Continue To Rent or Consider Buying a Home?

There is no single answer to this question, as there are both pros and cons to both options. However, there are a couple of factors to consider in your decision-making process. First are your finances. In a typical market renting is often the more affordable option. That being said, this is not a typical housing market. Rents have increased to the point where even as mortgage interest rates rise, buying a home might be a better option.

Ultimately, your choice depends on several considerations. One major factor is your personal finances.

In terms of lifestyle considerations, consider what is important to you. Are you seeking the flexibility to move if your career requires it, or are you looking for stability to put down roots in a place you can call your own? Here are five considerations to explore before you make a final decision on whether to rent or buy.

How Long Do You Plan to Live in the Same Place?

Are you planning on putting down roots in the community? If you're planning or have a family, are you happy with the schools? If you're sure you'll stay in the same place for at least five years, buying can make sense. It can be a good fit both personally and financially.

However, if you don't have kids or get that big promotion but it's halfway across the country, the smarter choice might be to rent. While you can buy a home and sell it in a few years if your situation changes, the costs like moving, closing costs, and repairs may not be worth it.

Look at the Cost of Renting VS Buying a Home

In the past, renting was almost always cheaper than buying a home because of the upfront costs involved, like the down payment, closing costs, moving expenses, and renovations. In today's market, rental prices have risen to the point where it may cost you more each month to rent than a mortgage payment. However, there are other ownership costs to consider, like property taxes, homeowners insurance, and HOA fees in some instances.

However, even in a traditional market, buying a home is almost always cheaper over the long term. According to the National Association of Realtors, a homeowner's mortgage payment is lower than that of a renter after six years. This assumes that the rent increases at 5% annually and the homeowner is paying a fixed monthly mortgage.

Mobility or Putting Down Roots

Things change. It can be hard to predict where life's road will take you. If you intend to stay in one place, close to family, or planning on raising a family, and you have the means, buying a home makes the most sense. Examine your current situation and whether it could change in the next few years. For example, if you're moving up in your career and an opportunity for a promotion comes up, but it is on the other side of the country, renting is probably the best choice. Think about your current lifestyle and where it will be before buying a home.

Finally, Assess Your Current Financial Situation

You need to be realistic about your financial situation when deciding between renting and buying. Once you analyze the costs involved, be honest about whether you can afford to own a home's upfront and ongoing expenses. The worst situation to be in is where you have a home but are cash poor and unable to enjoy life!

The Bottom Line On Buying A Home In Today's Market

Consider all the factors when deciding on buying a home or continuing to rent. Renting and buying both offer pros and cons. In reality, your lifestyle, future plans, and financial situation will be the primary factors to consider when making a decision. Speak with a Realtor® or your financial advisor if you need additional information or are unsure which choice is right for you.


Housewarming Gifts

If you have a friend or family member who has recently bought a home, giving them a gift is a lovely tradition that helps them celebrate their new residence. 

Our real estate agents suggest choosing from the following housewarming gift ideas that are sure to please new homeowners:

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The past several years has seen one of the hottest housing markets in recent memory. Sellers are enjoying high prices while buyers face bidding wars for limited stock. These market conditions have resulted in buyers employing several creative tactics to give them the edge in a competitive market. Many homeowners are skipping the building inspection as one tactic to make their offer stand out.

While this tactic can help a buyer stand out and be the determining factor in closing a deal, it is not without serious risk.

A standard home building inspection can increase your confidence about a home before closing a deal. Having a professional home inspection can work as a negotiating tool if issues are found during the process. It also gives a buyer cause to walk away from a deal.

Why Buyers Are Waiving A Building Inspection

With just 1.04 million homes for sale by the end of 2020, home inventory supplies in the U.S. were at the lowest level since the National Association of Realtors began collecting data in 1982.

In this climate, with multiple buyers competing, the pressure to make an offer that stands out is intense. The National Association of Home Builders Trends Report found that in the 4th quarter of 2020, buyers' most common reason for not purchasing a home was being outbid.

In a hot market, it's not unsurprising that desperate buyers are amenable to waving the building inspection. For the seller, this makes an offer look more appealing. This can often be the deciding factor that can close a deal. However, most professionals suggest that waiving the inspection is a bad idea.

When Skipping the Inspection Can Make Sense

There are few benefits to skipping an inspection, but there are scenarios where it can make sense and be beneficial.

  • If the real estate is new construction and includes a builder warranty, it might make sense to skip the building inspection.
  • If a buyer has been renting and living in the home for some time, chances are, they are familiar with the house and are aware of any problems.
  • Finally, an experienced flipper or real estate investor might feel comfortable skipping a building inspection because they plan extensive renovations.

Besides these specific scenarios, there are a few advantages to skipping the inspection process. Waiving the building inspection means less hassle for the seller and can result in increased interest in an offer; however, buyers are putting themselves at significant risk by skipping this step.

Why Skipping the Building Inspection is a Bad Idea

The building inspection is intended to provide the buyer with accurate information on a building's current condition and alert a buyer to significant problems in the home. This information is crucial for both buyers and sellers.

A thorough home inspection will examine the following:

  • Foundation
  • Basement, attic, crawlspace
  • Property drainage
  • Exterior materials
  • Interior ceilings, walls and floors, windows, and doors
  • The electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems
  • Furnace and hot water heater
  • Attached structures like the porch, garage, etc.

Problems in any of these areas could result in costly repairs. Armed with this information, a buyer can negotiate with the seller to make certain repairs or may choose to offer a lower price or walk away from a deal to avoid costly projects.

Alternatives For Crafting A Strong Offer Without Skipping the Inspection

Buying a home is probably the most significant investment you will make in your lifetime. The building inspection process is the best way to know what you are getting yourself into. After the close, it becomes your problem. A missed problem can potentially cost you thousands of dollars in repairs.

Waiving the inspection is one way to get your offer considered. These are a few other tactics you can take to make your offer more appealing to the seller.

Have your finances in order – Get a preapproval letter from a lender. A mortgage preapproval in hand shows a seller you are serious and have the financing to close the deal.

Ask for an "informational inspection" rather than a contingency. This language lets the seller know that you will be getting the home inspected. Still, it is for informational purposes only, so the seller will not be responsible for any issues you uncover.

Make a larger down payment – More cash upfront is another way to show a seller you are serious. A larger down payment puts more money in the seller's pocket right away and signals that your financing is solid, and the deal will close.

Include an Escalation Clause – Sellers like this because it eliminates back-and-forth negotiations between buyers. For example, an escalation clause will automatically bid $1000 over any offer up to $250,000 on a property listed at $200,000.

With a careful offer in a hot market, you still might not close the deal. But remember, a home is a significant investment, and going in without a building inspection can lead to serious financial ramifications down the road.


Buying a home is an exciting adventure! According to NerdWallet's 2020 Home Buyer Report, about 99.3 million Americans plan to purchase a home in the next few years. Today, as we begin to return to normal, the Federal Reserve is signaling that interest rates are on the way up.

If you're one of the 99.3 million, or if you already have a home with a variable rate loan, you need to take steps today to secure the best mortgage rate possible. Here are some steps to take to help you prepare to apply for a mortgage.

Preparation is the Key

Taking simple steps before applying for financing can help you get the best mortgage interest rate. It can save you real money over the long term. Here are some tips that can help whether you're buying a home or refinancing a variable-rate mortgage.

  • Check Your Credit Scores and Reports

Any effort to secure the best interest rate possible begins with your credit. Start by checking your scores and reports with Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Check for any inaccuracies in your credit report that may be dragging down your score.

  • Work on Your Score

If your credit score is below 760, it's worth taking the time to improve your score. Take steps to pay down balances and clean up any inaccuracies on your credit report. Having excellent credit will make you eligible for the lowest mortgage rate.

  • Save For a Bigger Down Payment

Lenders look favorably on buyers who put down a larger down payment. With a lower down payment, your lender may require private mortgage insurance. Typically, this is the case if you put down less than 20%. However, a larger down payment can help you to avoid PMI costs. Plus, a larger down payment can also get you a lower interest rate.

  • Consider a Shorter Loan Term

The interest rate on a 15-year loan is lower than a 30-year loan. A shorter-term loan can save you tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments over the curse of the loan.

  • Decrease Debt

Decreasing your debt can improve your debt-to-income ratio. Banks measure this important ratio when issuing a mortgage. Combining paying down debt with increasing income can significantly affect your credit score.

  • Apply with at Least Three Lenders

There are literally thousands of mortgage lenders competing for your business. Another way to assure the lowest rate is to apply with at least three lenders and see which offers you the lowest rate.

Five Questions To Consider Before You Choose A Lender

The first step is to figure out what you can afford. Then you need to begin the search for a lender offering a great rate.

Understanding what you can afford when buying a home is a critical first step.

Answering the following questions can help you to define your needs.

• Fixed or Adjustable-Rate Mortgage?

Mortgages either have a fixed interest rate or an adjustable rate.

A fixed-rate loan locks you into a consistent interest rate for the entire term of the loan. The portion of your payment that goes toward principal plus interest remains constant. However, insurance, property taxes, and other costs can vary.

The interest on an adjustable-rate loan can change over time. Most ARMs begin with an introductory period of 10, 7, 5, or 3 years, during which your rate remains stable. After that, your rate may change periodically.

• Should You Pay Points?

Discount points are fees borrowers pay to reduce the interest rate on their mortgage. One point is equal to 1% of the loan. Each point reduces the mortgage rate by .25%. However, the rate can vary. When you pay points, you are paying thousands of dollars upfront to save a few dollars each month. It takes several years for the monthly saving to add up to where they exceed the initial amount paid upfront.

• What are Closing Costs

Closing costs are charged by the lender and other parties. They do not affect the mortgage rate (unless you're paying points). But they do impact your expenses. Closing costs are typically around 3% of the purchase price of your home and are paid at the time you close.

• What About First-Time Home Buyer Programs?

Before choosing a mortgage, find out if any special programs can make homebuying less costly. Each state offers its own mix of programs, for example, first-time buyer programs or professionals like teachers, first responders, or veterans.

• How Much Will You Put Down?

Some groups like Veterans may qualify for 100% financing. Other mortgages only require a down payment as low as 3% or 3.5%.

VA Loans – If you or a spouse are active military or a veteran you may qualify for a no down payment VA loan.

USDA Loans – If you live in a rural area, the Department of Agriculture might guarantee a low or no-down-payment loan, and even help cover closing costs.

FHA Loans – Mortgages insured by the FHA allow down payments as low as 3.5% and are more forgiving of low credit scores, but you will pay more in insurance over the life of the loan.

Comparing Loan Offers

Applying with multiple lenders means you'll need to compare loan offers. Here are a few tips for comparing offers.

  • Lenders offer Different Mortgage Rates

by applying with multiple lenders, you'll receive different rates. The more you shop, the more you might be able to save. Apply with different types of lenders, such as a bank, a credit union, and an online lender so you can compare offers.

  • Shop for Loans Within a Set Time Frame

The big three credit bureaus encourage you to shop for the best rate. You typically have 14 to 45 days, depending on the scoring model, to apply for as many mortgages as you want with the same effect on your score as applying for a single loan.

  • Compare Closing Costs

Each lender is required to provide a loan estimate form that details the terms and fees of the loan. The loan estimate is designed to simplify comparing mortgages.

Taking the time to prepare and get your financial information in order by paying down debt, checking your credit scores and reports with the big three, and saving a bigger down payment can help you to get the best possible mortgage rate. Speak with your accountant and your realtor to learn about all of your options.

Getting a lower mortgage rate can save you thousands of dollars throughout your loan term. It's worth taking the time and effort to educate yourself and get your financial house in order before you begin applying for a loan.


Adopting a DogIf you've decided to adopt a dog, congratulations! You're about to embark on an exciting journey with your new best friend, who will shower you with unconditional love and affection.

A new pet often feels scared, anxious, excited, and inquisitive about a strange environment, so you need to prepare your home for your pet's arrival. To help your dog adjust, our real estate agents suggest that you pet-proof your home before your dog arrives. Here are eight tips to welcome your new fur baby to a safe, comfortable, happy home.

8 Tips for Adding a New Pet to Your Home

  1. Purchase Essential Pet Supplies
    Make a trip to the local pet store to gather essential supplies including dog food; tasty treats; food and water bowls; a dog collar and a leash; a comfortable dog bed; and a few toys. Dogs love to chew, so buy some milk bones, rawhide chews, and chew toys. If this is your first dog, talk to someone at the pet store or animal shelter about the best supplies for your dog's breed, size, and weight. You may need to make some adjustments in food and treats after you get to know your dog, but make sure you have the essentials ready for the new arrival.

  2. Find a Local Veterinarian
    Becoming a pet parent comes with responsibilities like regular visits to a veterinarian for health exams, vaccines and shots, dental cleanings, and medications. You need to find a veterinarian and a 24-hour emergency animal hospital that's in your area. Schedule an appointment for a checkup with the vet and keep the emergency numbers handy. If you adopt your dog from an animal shelter or rescue organization, try to get records of any shots and treatments the dog had while in their care. If the dog is not spayed, neutered, or micro-chipped, have those procedures done when you take your dog to the vet.

  3. Create a Space Specifically for Them
    To help your dog feel safe and comfortable in a new home, create a comfortable space where the dog can relax and sleep. Consider investing in a dog crate with a cozy bed inside where your dog can retreat when feeling anxious or fearful. Crate training provides a secure place for your dog when you're not at home. If you don't want a crate, set up a quiet space in the house with a dog bed, blankets, and a few familiar toys.

  4. Prepare for House Training
    While an older dog who lived with another family is likely house-trained, you will need to house-train a new puppy. Typically, puppies can control their bladder for one hour for every month of age. If your puppy is three months old, don't wait more than 3 hours between bathroom breaks outside and invest in puppy training pads for indoors.

  5. Plan for Walks and Exercise
    All dogs, big and small, love to go on long walks to see the sights, greet other dogs, and smell other scents around the neighborhood. If you're adopting a dog, it's important to make time for daily walks and regular exercise to keep your dog active, healthy, and fit. Larger, active breeds like border collies, huskies, labs, and German shepherds need to run and exercise, while small breeds like chihuahuas and terriers may be happy with a quick walk around the block.

  6. Secure Your Home and Yard
    Before you bring your dog home, secure your home and yard to minimize the chance of your dog getting injured or lost. You can also install a pet door that allows your dog to go outside when you're not at home. Keep in mind that some breeds like huskies are notorious escape artists, so your fence will need to be solid and at least 8 feet high.

  7. Make Family Ground Rules
    Before bringing your dog home, it's a good idea to make some family ground rules to ensure everyone is on the same page. Set rules about where the dog is and is not allowed to go if the dog's allowed on the furniture, and where the dog should sleep. Developing a chore list for family members makes everyone responsible for the dog's daily care and activities. Taking the dog for walks is a great task for older kids because it teaches them pet responsibilities.

  8. Establish a Routine
    Pets function best on a routine schedule for meals, walks, playtime, and sleep. Determine your dog care regimen with family members as soon as you bring the dog home. Most dogs are fed twice a day at regular times, so make sure someone is responsible for daily feedings. Establish routines for daily walks, trips to the dog park, playtime, doggie daycare, and sleep schedules. A routine will make your dog feel more secure and less anxious.

Adding a pet to your household is one of the many perks of homeownership. If you're considering buying a home that is more pet-friendly, contact us for information and prices on available properties that meet your needs.


    Real Estate Myths

    If you're planning to buy or sell a home, then you should be prepared to receive loads of advice from family, friends, and neighbors. When it comes to real estate transactions, everyone has their own unique perspective. While advice can be helpful and well-intentioned, it's important to weigh the advice based on experience. The average person is involved in a real estate transaction once every 5 to 7 years while the average Masiello agent manages 11 transactions every year. These uneven experiences have given rise to numerous industry myths.

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    What Is A Section 1031 Exchange, And How Does It Affect Tax Liabilities

    Real estate has always been a great way to build wealth. When you buy a property by putting a relatively small amount of money down and obtaining a mortgage, you're leveraging your investment; in other words, you're getting an asset worth significantly more than the money you've invested as a down payment. 

    If your home increases in value, you build equity based on the total price of the asset. Another significant benefit of real estate is the tax breaks. When you live in the home, the interest you pay on your mortgage is tax-deductible if you itemize your return. Thanks to the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, another tax break comes in reduced capital gains taxes. For example, when you sell your home, the first $250,000 gains are free from capital gains taxes ($500,000 for married couples). These tax advantages make owning a home a wise investment for many of us and allow us to build wealth relatively tax-free when investing in a residence.

    If you're a commercial real estate investor, there is another rule you can also use to defer capital gains on your investment property to build wealth. It's called the 1031 Exchange Rule, and it has many moving parts. Real estate investors must understand the law before attempting to use it, and it can be complicated to follow. An exchange can only be made with like-kind properties. In addition, there are tax implications and time frames that must be strictly followed, or it may be problematic. 

    If you're considering using a 1031 Exchange or want to learn more, we're going to help you gain an understanding of this investment benefit in this post.

    What Exactly is a Section 1031 Exchange

    In simple terms, a 1031 exchange (also known as a like-kind exchange) is a swap of one investment property for another. Although most swaps are taxable as sales, if you meet the requirements of 1031, you'll pay no tax or a limited tax due at the time of the exchange.

    In effect, you are changing the "form" of your investment in the eyes of the IRS without cashing out or recognizing a capital gain. This allows you to grow your investment tax-deferred. Because there are no limits as to how many times or how frequently you can use 1031, you can continue to roll your capital gains from one investment property to another, and another, and another.

    Even though you may be profiting from each swap, you avoid paying any taxes until you finally cash out many years (or even decades) later. If it works as planned, you'll pay a single tax at the current long-term capital gains rate (currently 15 or 20% depending on your income).

    Most exchanges must meet the criteria known as "like-kind." However, this phrase doesn't necessarily mean what the name implies. For example, you can exchange an apartment building for raw land or a ranch for a strip mall. The rules are surprisingly liberal. You can also exchange one business for another. However, there are "traps" of which you need to be aware.

    The 1031 rules are for investment and business property, although they can apply for a former primary residence under certain conditions. It's also possible to use the 1031 Exchange for swapping a vacation home, but this loophole has been made much narrower in recent years.

    When You Might Want a 1031 Exchange

    As a real estate investor, there are several reasons that you may consider using a 1031 exchange. These include:

    • You're looking for a property with better prospects for an ROI, or you might want to diversify your assets.
    • If you own investment real estate, you might be looking for a managed property rather than managing it yourself.
    • You may want to consolidate your holding for estate planning purposes, for example, dividing a single property into several assets.
    • To reset the depreciation clock (more below.)

    The main benefit of a 1031 exchange over simply selling one property and buying another is the tax deferral. By deferring capital gains taxes using a 1031 exchange, you're freeing more capital for investment in a replacement property.

    Bear in mind that 1031 might require a higher minimum investment and a longer holding time. 1031exchange transactions can be complex and should be handled by professionals.

    Understanding Depreciation and Why It's Important

    It's essential to understand the concept of depreciation to gain a proper understanding of the benefits of a 1031 exchange.

    Depreciation is the percentage of the cost of an investment property written off every year, recognizing the effects of wear and tear. When you sell a property, capital gains taxes are calculated based on the property's net-adjusted basis, which combines the property's original purchase price plus capital improvements, minus depreciation. 

    If your property sells for more than its depreciated value, you may need to "recapture" the depreciation. That means the amount of depreciation is included as taxable income when you sell.

    Since the size of depreciation increases with time, you might want to consider a 1031 exchange to avoid the significant increase in taxable income that recapture would cause. Depreciation recapture is a factor to account for when considering a 1031 exchange.

    The Replacement Property: Timing and Rules

    The classic exchange involves a simple swap of one property for another between two people. However, it's long odds to find someone with the exact property you want, who wants the exact property you have. As a result, the majority of exchanges are delayed, three-party exchanges.

    In a delayed exchange, you need a qualified intermediary or middleman. He or she will hold the cash after you sell your property and then uses it to purchase the replacement property for you. This is a three-party exchange that is classified and treated as a swap. Here are two essential timing rules you need to follow in a delayed exchange.

    The 45-day Rule

    This rule relates to the designation of a replacement property. Once a sale occurs, the intermediary receives the cash. Within 45 days of the sale, you must designate the replacement property in writing to the intermediary, specifying the property you wish to acquire. The IRS rule states that you can select three properties as long as you eventually close on one of them. 

    The 180-day Rule

    The second timing rule you need to be aware of in a delayed exchange relates to closing the replacement property. You must close on the new property within 180 days of the sale of your original property.

    One crucial fact to be aware of is that these periods run concurrently. That means the clock starts when you close on the sale of your original property. For example, if you designate a replacement property exactly 45 days after you close, you'll have just 135 days left to close on the replacement.

    Tax Implications

    While there are plenty of benefits to 1031 exchanges, it's essential to understand potential pitfalls if the transaction isn't handled correctly. For example, you may have cash left over after your intermediary acquires the replacement property. If so, they will pay it to you at the end of the 180 days. This cash is known as "boot," will be taxed as the partial sales proceeds from the sale of your property, typically as a capital gain. 

    One way people can get into trouble with this type of transaction is by failing to consider loans. You must consider any mortgage loans or other debts on the replacement property. If you don't receive cash back, but your liability is reduced, that is treated as income to you – just like cash. 

    For example, if you were carrying a mortgage of $1 million on your old property, but the mortgage on the replacement property you receive in the exchange is only $900,000, you will have a $100,000 gain. This is classified as "boot," and it will be taxed.

    The Bottom Line...

    While we've just touched on the highlights of 1031 exchanges, the fact is, 1031 is an intelligent tax-deferral strategy that real estate investors can use to build real wealth. The bottom line is that while using a 1031exchange strategy is a savvy business move, there are many complex moving parts that not only require you to understand the rules. It is important to enlist professional help, even if you're a seasoned real estate investor. 


    Moving Tips

    It's no secret that moving can be stressful! When you're packing up your entire life and relocating across the country, it's important to make sure you're prepared. Spending some time planning your move will help ensure everything goes off without a hitch. 

    Not sure where to start? You're in luck! Our real estate agents often work with clients from out of state and have created a helpful guide to help with planning cross-country moves. Here are a few of the most important tips. 

    Cross-Country Moving Tips

    • Start by Decluttering
      There's no sense paying someone to move stuff you don't really want or need. You'll save yourself money if you declutter before you move. Even better, you may be able to make some extra money by having a yard sale, working with a consignment store, or selling items online. You can also donate gently-used items to local nonprofits.
    • Ask for Help
      There's nothing worse than trying to handle a cross-country move by yourself. Don't hesitate to ask for help with certain tasks. Even school-age kids can pack up boxes of non-essentials if they're shown the proper way to do it. There's also nothing wrong with asking family and friends to come over and lend you a hand. 
    • Book Travel Arrangements Early
      You don't want to scramble to figure out your travel arrangements at the last minute. Having the right airline and hotel reservations can make or break your move, so make sure you spend some time doing your research and start booking your reservations at least a month in advance. 
    • Get Quotes from Multiple Movers
      A cross-country move can be expensive, so it pays to get estimates from at least three or four different moving companies before making your final decision. Make sure each company you're considering is licensed and insured. Be careful not to make your decision solely on price. It's also important to consider their anticipated delivery time, the services included, and whether you feel comfortable with the company's reputation. Many of the best moving companies book up quickly, so it's important to get started on this as soon as possible. 
    • Take Photos or Videos of Your Items
      When packing up valuable items, it's a great idea to take photos or videos to document their condition. This way, if they arrive damaged, you'll be able to easily show proof to the moving company. 
    • Get the Driver's Contact Number
      When you're moving cross-country, you can sometimes wait a week or longer for your items to arrive. Getting a contact number for the driver can help give you some extra peace of mind. 
    • Consider Moving Insurance
      Most moving companies offer a free moving policy, but these typically only cover the bare minimum. When booking your move, consider whether you need Full Value Protection. This will hold the mover accountable for covering the actual cash value of your items. You'll also have to weigh the pros and cons of choosing a policy from your mover versus getting one from a third-party insurance company. 
    • Bring Valuables and Important Paperwork
      Make sure to protect your valuables and important paperwork by keeping them with you instead of sending them with the movers. Some of the items you'll want to keep with you include jewelry, heirlooms, your birth certificate, and your marriage license. 
    • Pack a Bag of Essentials
      As you're packing up your belongings, make sure to keep a separate bag or a suitcase for your essentials. This should include everything you need for moving day and the first few days after you arrive. Make sure you have at least a few changes of clothing, all your necessary toiletries, medications, and items like towels, toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags, pet food, child necessities. 
    • Examine Your Items Carefully
      When the movers arrive with your items, make sure you inspect them thoroughly. This is particularly important for large items, like furniture and anything valuable. If you notice any damage, take photos and contact the movers right away. 
    • Update Your Information
      Thanks to modern technology, it's now super easy to change your address. You can just visit and select the date you want the post office to start forwarding your mail. You'll also need to change your address with your bank and credit card companies and change over your new utilities. 
    • Get a New Driver's License
      If you're living in a new state, you'll need to get a new driver's license. To do this, make an appointment at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and bring all the necessary paperwork so they can issue you a new license. 
    • Explore Your Neighborhood
      Now that all the hard stuff is done, it's time to settle into your new home and get comfortable in your new neighborhood. This means getting outside and saying hello to your new neighbors. This is also a good time to start exploring local parks, restaurants, and retail shops. You may also want to check out your local group. 

    Are you planning to relocate soon? Our agents would love to help you find your dream home! Contact us today. 


    Considering Aging in Place? Look for Communities that offer Amenities to Make it Easier!

    Baby boomers have always been an independent, active generation. As they begin to enter retirement, many are planning on aging in place. Aging in place is a growing trend. The phrase refers to people living in their current home as they age and continuing to live there until they are no longer able.

    It is basically the opposite of moving to a retirement community.

    The main prerequisite for aging in place is retrofitting your home to make it more amenable and easier to live in as you age. If you are planning on staying in your home as you age, you will need to make accommodations for future issues that may arise, like arthritis, knee problems, or the need to use a walker or wheelchair to get around.

    But it also helps if the community you live in offers accomodating amenities and services geared toward older residents. Some cities are better than others. Many are not as accommodating as they would like to be given the increasing numbers of boomers reaching retirement age. 

    The good news is that developers are building planned communities that feature amenities accomodating to older homeowners. In addition, many cities are taking stock of what their communities have to offer senior residents. They are making adjustments to accommodate older citizens, as they begin to realize that boomers are making decisions about where to spend their post-retirement years.

    Here are seven aging-in-place features to look out for in any prospective community to make your post-retirement more enjoyable.

    1. Accessible, Visitable, and Affordable Housing

    A feature homeowners seeking to age in place are looking for is one-floor living. The best aging in place communities have plenty of one-floor living housing options. These communities also have good local remodelers who know how to adapt existing housing stock to make it more livable for older residents. 

    To attract seniors, communities are changing their zoning laws to allow for rental units or affordable housing. Some have instituted tax breaks available for residents over 65 based on income.

    2. Readily Available Safe Transportation Options 

    Communities that offer reliable mass transit and senior transport programs are also high on many senior's wish lists. Walkable neighborhoods that are safe for pedestrians and adequately lighted are also essential. It is also crucial that roads are as safe as possible, with clear visible signage, making it easy for older drivers to navigate. 

    3. Safe Neighborhoods

    Along with traditional methods for crime control, successful aging in place communities also incorporates "friendly call" programs geared toward older residents who live alone. People volunteer to call older residents every morning at a pre-arranged time.

    4. Quality, Accessible Health Care

    Communities that have adequate numbers of primary care physicians, specialists, and hospital facilities get high marks with older residents. A retiree-friendly community will also offer preventable health care activities at local senior centers, along with exercise programs for older residents.

    5. Access to Support Services

    Home and community-based caregiving support services become very important to seniors, whether it's the availability of home health care, adult daycare, or meals on wheels. For example, one such program is called the Caring Collaborative and has chapters in New York, Long Island, and San Francisco. These are essentially chapters that connect people in need with those who can help. 

    6. Walkability and Access to Nearby Goods, Services, and Amenities

    High marks in this category mean that a community has retail outlets, restaurants, and grocery stores offering healthy foods within walking distance. Policies that support local farms, and farmer's markets are also a big plus.

    Having these types of amenities woven into a community is extremely attractive to older residents. Mixed-use downtown areas appeal to older residents and are luring some affluent retirees to give up homes in the suburbs for apartments or condos in central business districts.

    7. Opportunities to Socialize

    Staying social is crucial to good mental and physical health as we age. Communities that offer places of worship, libraries, museums, universities, and colleges provide outlets for residents to stay social. But they need to be easily accessible as well. 

    Opportunities to volunteer as we age are also important. As you get older and work responsibilities diminish, many seniors find happiness in helping others and giving back.

    Adapting Your Home For Aging in Place is Only One Element!

    Having wider doorways, threshold-free showers and one-story living are all important elements if you are considering aging in place. Preparing your home for safely aging in place can start well before retirement age. As you remodel and renovate, work with your contractor to incorporate universal design elements into your home renovations. Even if you choose to move, having a home that is ready for older homebuyers can add value and increase demand.

    Today, seniors are more active than previous generations and looking for more from their communities. If you are planning on aging in place, look around your community for these seven features. As more people reach retirement age, many cities and towns are beginning to adapt to this growing demographic.

    If you're in the market for an aging-in-place, forever home, begin by identifying your needs now and into the future. Then explore your community to see what it offers aging residents.


    Winning a Bidding War and Buying A Home

    Before the pandemic, the population growth of many cities in the U.S. with over 1 million people was stagnant or declining. As the pandemic peaked, smaller communities began to experience a growth surge as people, newly working from home, realized that they could live anywhere and chose to relocate away from cities.

    As urban populations disperse, smaller metropolitan areas, suburban counties, and rural areas have experienced unprecedented demand for housing. This has caused many markets to heat up and become hyper-competitive. 

    In a market where supply is low, and demand is high, it's not uncommon to find yourself in a bidding war as multiple offers push prices higher and higher. Add low mortgage rates to the mix, and you may find yourself edged out of the running several times when trying to buy a home!

    While no single strategy can guarantee that you'll win a bidding war, there are several steps you can take to make your offer stronger when buying a home and put you in the best position to compete and prevail!

    Prepare For War!

    When you're competing in a hot housing market like we're experiencing today, most agents agree that it's best to push aside your emotions, regardless of how difficult that might be. After all, much of the home buying process relies on making an emotional connection with a home. However, to succeed in a bidding war, you need to begin your home search with a fully stocked arsenal!

    That means, having your finances in order, thoroughly researching potential target neighborhoods, and building a team of trusted experienced professionals well before you need to move a deal along. This team should include everyone from your banker, to your broker, lawyer, and engineer, as well as a contractor.

    Getting your finances in order means deciding the maximum comfortable number you're willing to pay for a home, which doesn't necessarily mean what the bank will approve you for.

    Along with all of this, you also need to bring a willingness to compromise to the bargaining table. Right now, it's a strong seller's market. Sellers have the option of asking for the world, and more often than not, they're getting whatever they ask for!

    Here are some tips for coming out ahead when buying a home in a bidding war.

    • Get A Pre-approval Letter

    This is one of the first and most important steps of the entire process! A mortgage pre-approval letter shows a seller that you've done your homework, and you're not only a serious buyer, you're also a qualified one. This is an especially effective tactic should you enter a bidding war.

    It's important to understand that a pre-approval letter is different than a mortgage prequalification. To get a preapproval letter, your lender evaluates every financial detail, including your credit score and report, then decides whether they will loan you the money to buy a house, and the amount they will loan. Pre-approval is based on documentation which includes W-2 tax forms and bank statements.

    • Make an All Cash Offer, or A Larger Downpayment

    Sometimes the highest bid does not win. Sometimes money talks when bidding on a house. Paying cash is often much more appealing to a seller because it virtually eliminates the possibility that financing will fall through before closing. Cash deals also typically close faster. Offering a substantial down payment or making a cash offer often go right to the front of the line in a bidding war. 

    Can't pay cash? Your earnest money deposit can show a seller that you are a serious buyer. The typical earnest money deposit is 1 to 2% of the purchase price, but this varies by location. A higher earnest money deposit can catch a seller's attention and signal that you're serious, especially in a hot housing market.

    • Include an Escalation Clause in Your Offer

    Including an escalation clause can work to strengthen your offer. if other offers come in that match or beat your initial bid, an escalation clause states that you are willing to incrementally increase your offer up to a fixed limit 

    For example, say the asking price is $200,000. Your REALTOR® would prepare your office to state:

    My initial bid is $200,000 with an escalation of $2000 over any and all competing offers with a cap at $210,000. However, if another bidder offers more than $210,000 you'd be out of the running.

    • Limit Contingencies

    Contingencies allow buyers to walk away from a deal without losing their earnest money if certain conditions are not met. In a bidding war, you want to carefully choose them. 

    Try to submit a clean offer without too many contingencies. To be competitive today, you need to do your homework. Know you can obtain financing so you can eliminate a credit review contingency. Understand what to look for when walking through the home before submitting an offer to forego the inspection. Agree to pay a certain amount over the list price, and know you can afford that over the appraised value.

    • Be Flexible on the Closing Date

    This can be an effective tactic in a couple of ways. For example, let's say you get outbid by a few thousand dollars, but you're willing to give the seller more time to move out. That flexibility can often make you the frontrunner in a bidding war. 

    Extra closing time might be attractive to a seller who might otherwise have to spend more on moving or storage. Especially if they're crunched for time to find another home in a tight market. Sometimes you can win the bidding war by extending the closing date. For example, if the sellers are in a crunch, offer to rent the home back to them cheaply, for a fixed period. If the home is already vacant, you can sometimes win by offering to close quicker, reducing the seller's expenses of carrying two mortgages. 

    Even If You Lose the Battle, You Still Could Win The Bidding War!

    One final thing to keep in mind...

    Just because another buyer was chosen over you doesn't necessarily mean you've lost the war. When buying a home, transactions can often fall through for any number of reasons. If you make a well-thought-out offer, a strong enough bid, and are ready to act quickly, you might be next on the seller's list!

    If you're serious about winning a bidding war, work with a seasoned real estate professional with experience in this type of market. A real estate agent or REALTOR® will have the skills to help you prevail in a bidding war. They will also have extensive market knowledge, which is critical for determining the fair market value of any home you're interested in. 



    If You're Buying a House, The New England Market is Red Hot Right Now. Learn How to Navigate the Process

    The housing market is on fire right now, and the New England region is the hottest of the hot! According to a National Association of Realtors study, because of pent-up post-pandemic demand for homes and a short supply of inventory, the median sales price of single-family homes is up 16.2% year-over-year in the first quarter. Along with high demand and low supply, other factors helping to move the market include historically low interest rates and a large market of first-time homebuyers.

    New England is home to the top two real state markets in the country – Manchester and Concord, New Hampshire. Manchester is New Hampshire's largest city and no stranger to the hottest market list, while Concord leaped up 22 spots from last year to end up at number two.

    According to Joelle Sturms, a realtor with the Masiello Group in Concord, New Hampshire office:

    "It is pure madness! We are seeing multiple offers all over the place and homes selling for tens of thousands of dollars over the asking price. It is mostly buyers from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York with plenty of cash. They almost do not care what prices are. I feel bad for our local buyers because first-time homebuyers are getting priced out of the market."

    So how can you win a bidding war when buying a house in the blazing New England Market?

    Read on to learn more.

    If You Are A Buyer in a Hot Market, Be Prepared to Wait

    If you are buying a house, you might consider waiting until supply picks up; in fact, you might not have a choice. Here are three stats to help illustrate why waiting might be your best tactic.

    • 64% of Active buyers in the first quarter of 2021 searched for their home for more than 90 days.
    • In a typical market, the average time it took to find a home was 56 days.
    • 45% of those buyers said that being outbid kept them from buying.

    As a buyer, the worst thing you can do is rush into a hot seller's market needing to make a purchase. For example, if you are selling your home while looking for a new one, you might want to have a backup plan for where you will live if the process takes longer than expected. One tactic to consider is to negotiate a lease-back clause in your purchase and sales agreement. If you can eliminate the burden of time constraints and wait it out, saying "no, for now" might help you land a better deal!

    Things to Do While Waiting...

    In a market like New Hampshire today, even if you decide to wait before buying a house, you can prepare to move quickly when the market opens up. Here are some steps to take so you can move quickly when the time comes.

    Get Pre-Approved

    Obtaining a mortgage pre-approval letter shows sellers you are a serious buyer ready to make a deal. When you are pre-approved, it means that a lender has verified your financials and agreed to make a loan. Lining up financing takes time. Doing so ahead of time shows you are serious and can give you an edge over other buyers. 

    The process also gives you a better idea of what your homebuying budget looks like. You can then set realistic limits before you get into a bidding war.

    Find Yourself A Good REALTOR®

    Your REALTOR® is one of the most important members of your team. Find one who is an experienced negotiator but is also patient, objective, and resourceful. A good realtor can explain your local housing market using comps of similar properties that have recently sold, ideally in the neighborhood of your prospective home. 

    A well-placed nudge from your realtor is sometimes needed if you have unrealistic expectations. But you should never feel that they are trying to sway you or rush a decision. 

    Search for Homes Below Your Limit

    Just because you are approved for a certain amount of financing does not mean you should only look at homes at the top of your budget. When buying a home in a hot market, expect to get outbid on many homes, especially in a seller's market. Instead, consider expanding your search and making concessions on the type of home you would like to own. 

    List your needs and wants for a home early in the process. It can help you to make better compromises later. For example, looking at homes in a different neighborhood, homes with fewer amenities, or needing some updates. In the end, any compromises will feel minor when you compare the monthly savings on your mortgage payments!

    Keep the Inspection Process Simple

    While it's never a good idea to waive a home inspection, as you may end up vulnerable if the home has undetected structural issues that can be expensive to repair. Instead, offer an "informational" inspection, which means you will not use the inspection as a negotiating tool for price concessions. 

    This offers the seller a good-faith gesture that you are interested in buying a house and not wasting their time. However, it also means, you can still walk away from any deal based on what the inspector finds.

    In a Super Hot Market, Consider Deal-Sweeteners

    Sometimes when buying a house, you need to look past the sticker price and see what is a priority to the seller. Maybe they are taking advantage of a hot market to increase their ROI but really don't want to move. Include a rent-back agreement with your bid allowing the homeowner to stay in the property for a few extra months. Or maybe the seller has to move in a hurry for their new job. You can offer to buy some of their big bulky furniture as part of the deal.

    When buying a house, your job is to make the sale as painless as possible for the seller. If you look at the deal from both sides, you can often come up with ways to do that. The lack of inventory across the country has caused headaches for buyers finding themselves in a bidding war. If you think outside the box and make the transaction as painless as possible, then you can have a great chance of buying your dream home in a hot market like New Hampshire!


    New England Vacation Home

    If you love to travel, you've probably vacationed in some spectacular places that hold special memories. Perhaps the ocean views, exotic cuisine, relaxing atmosphere, or abundance of nature make you want to return again and again to this special place.

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    Seven Reasons The Highest Offer Doesn't Get You The Home

    Part Three of Our Three-Part Series On Making an Offer When Buying A Home

    The real estate market in many locations has simply been on fire! Today, here in New England and many other areas, homes that typically attract little interest are garnering multiple offers, and bidding wars are common. 

    Conventional wisdom says that when it comes to real estate, the highest offer gets the house. But the truth is, this is not always the case. Sure, a solid offer is the first thing that every seller wants to see, but an astute real estate agent or REALTOR® will advise a seller that each offer is more than just a number it is actually the sum of all its parts.

    Here are seven reasons why your artfully crafted lower real estate offer might just help you beat the higher bidder after all!

    1. When it Comes to Real Estate, Cash is King!

    If you can afford to pay cash, you just might beat a higher bidder. It might sound impossible to pay cash for your home, but many people do it. According to the National Association of Realtors, 12% of all houses sold in 2019 were all-cash deals. 

    An all-cash offer is attractive to a seller of real estate for several reasons. First, there are no mortgages or lenders involved, no appraisal to worry about, and escrow can close faster. 

    2. Don't Have 100% Cash? A Preapproval Letter is the Next Best Thing

    Pre-approval is much different than pre-qualification. A pre-approval letter is a confirmation from a lender that confirms you are ready to buy in a set price range and you have been pre-approved for the loan.

    In essence, the real estate pre-approval lender turns you into a virtual cash buyer. Other buyers could offer more, but if they are not pre-approved, the deal could fall through. As a result, a pre-approval letter gives you a leg up, even with a lower offer.

    3. Your Timeline is Flexible

    Typically, the closing period can last anywhere from 30 to 90 days. Offering to customize closing to meet the seller's needs can sometimes seal the deal over a higher bidder. Sellers almost always want a fast close. If you have all your paperwork together you might be able to get it done! Be flexible! Sometimes the seller might need more time, for example, if the house they are moving into will not be ready for 60 days. Find out what works for the seller and accommodate their needs. Sometimes the lower offer does win.

     4. The "We Love Your House, Please Let Us Buy It" Letter

     It might seem cheesy, but much of the home buying process is emotionally based. Sometimes sending the seller a heartfelt letter letting them know you   love their house and hope to raise your family in the home can sometimes make the difference!

     5. Keep the Contingencies and Concessions to a Minimum

     Contingencies are typically negotiating tools that allow you to walk away from a deal without consequences. The three most common are inspection,   financing, and appraisal contingencies. Every contingency you add can make your offer appear weaker because each can make the deal more difficult to   close. Make sure you really need each contingency before building them into your offer. 

    6. Be Careful About Asking for "Extras"

    Be careful what you ask for! If you ask for the custom drapes, the appliances, and the chandelier that was a wedding gift from the inlaws, (and was excluded in the listing) you risk offending the seller and having them walk away. Even if yours is the highest bid!

    7. Include an Escalation Clause

    An escalation clause is an excellent way to make your offer stand out. An escalation clause states that you will pay a pre-determined amount over the highest bona fide offer that does not contain a home sale contingency. While not all agents use this tactic, it's a great way to stand out in a competitive situation. 

    For example, once all of the offers are reviewed, the seller's agent will contact the buyer's agent and forward them the highest offer. The buyer then has a fixed amount of time, for example, 30 minutes, to accept or reject the highest bid and include their escalation amount. So if the offer is $525,000 and the escalation amount is $5000, the buyer must agree to $530,000.

    Putting Together Your Real Estate Strategy in a Competitive Market

    Sometimes the biggest wallet does not close the real estate deal. These tactics can help you develop a strategy to help make a lower bid more attractive to a seller. The best solution is to work with an experienced real estate agent or REALTOR®. They understand the local market and can help you develop a strategy to compete in a tight marketplace that goes beyond simply making the higher offer.

    Remember, every term in a deal is negotiable. In today's market, the seller is in the driver's seat. However, if you understand their needs you can craft a strategy that offers benefits beyond the highest offer. A good seller's agent will compare and leverage all offers to achieve the homeowner's desired pricing and terms. A good buyer's agent will help you craft an offer that benefits you and meets all of the seller's needs.

    If you missed part one of this three part series on Making an Offer when Buying a Home, here is the link to part one & two:

    Part One

    Part Two


    Are There Advantages To An All Cash Offer When Buying or Selling Real Estate?

    Part Two of our Three-Part Series On Making an Offer When Buying A Home

    When it comes to buying a home, an all-cash offer can be a pretty powerful tactic, especially if there are multiple bids on a piece of property. However, making (or accepting) an all-cash offer is not always a no-brainer, either for the buyer... or the seller.

    One big difference between an all-cash offer and a financed offer is that the cash offer can close quicker. As a general rule, while an all-cash offer might seem suspicious, if it's from a valid buyer, it is usually easier, with a lot less red tape.

    In this post, we'll look at the pros and cons of the all-cash offer from the perspective of the buyer and the seller.

    Defining the All Cash Offer

    Recent data from the National Association of Realtors for 2019 found that 12% of all buyers purchased their homes with cash. As the name implies, an all-cash offer means that you have the ability and liquid cash available to purchase the house outright. You don't literally pay with a briefcase full of hundreds, but you'll need access to all of the funds in a liquid account that allows immediate withdrawals or transfers. For most people, that means a checking, savings, or money market account.

    An all-cash offer means that you will not be getting a mortgage loan for any portion of the sale. This is important to the seller because it eliminates the financing contingency of the purchase agreement. A seller makes their decisions based on the terms of your offer, including contingencies. An all-cash offer also makes several other contingencies optional. That can be a powerful tool when engaged in a bidding war with multiple buyers. These can include:

    • The Appraisal Contingency

    Lenders require an appraisal, cash buyers do not. If you're confident you're getting a good price, you can waive the appraisal contingency. 

    • The Inspection Contingency

    As a cash buyer, an inspection contingency is also optional. However, this is one contingency you might want to keep in your agreement.

    • The Sales Contingency

    A sales contingency means that your current house must sell before you close on the new property. This is pretty much the opposite of liquidity. While you can include this contingency, it diminishes the attractiveness of an all-cash offer.

    The bottom line? An all-cash offer means you have liquid funds available, so you will not need a mortgage loan. You may also waive certain contingencies to make your offer even more attractive to the seller.

    The Pros and Cons of an All Cash Offer: For The Buyer

    An all-cash offer offers homebuyers some significant advantages. Here are some of the pros and cons of an all-cash offer:

    The Pros: 

    • Limited Contingences

    As previously mentioned, one key benefit of making an all-cash offer is the ability to pick and choose which contingencies to include. Not only will this save money, but in a competitive market, this is very desirable to most sellers.

    • Less Hassle, Lower Fees

    All cash offers are also good for the homebuyer because you do not have the hassle of dealing with a lender. That means no need to gather paperwork like tax returns, income statements, proof of employment, credit scores, or asset lists. You will also save on closing costs associated with getting a mortgage loan.

    • Streamlined Closing

    As a buyer, an all-cash offer gives you more control over the closing timeline. This means you can close faster because you are not waiting for bank approvals. This can be significant for sellers who need to move quickly.

    • Possible Pricing Benefits

    As mentioned, sellers are often attracted to an all-cash offer because of fewer contingencies, fewer hassles, and a faster timeline. As a result, you may be able to make a lower offer and have it accepted, even in a multi-offer situation. An all-cash offer can give you leverage to negotiate a better price that can mean savings and increased equity right from closing!

    The Cons:

    There are some drawbacks to making an all-cash offer. You need to consider all of the positives and negatives before you commit to any deal. Here are some negatives to be aware of.

    • Loss of Liquidity

    This should be a top consideration before making an all-cash offer. Real estate is a non-liquid asset which means it can be challenging to get cash out when you need it. 

    • Loss of Diversification

    If you place much of your liquidity into a home purchase, you may lose out on potentially larger gains that could be realized elsewhere. Real estate typically earns around 2 or 3% annually. 

    • Tax Implications

    If you itemize deductions, mortgage loan interest is tax-deductible on your federal income taxes. Without a mortgage loan, you lose that deduction.

    • Less Free Cash for Homeownership

    Owning a home requires more money than the purchase price. You still need to budget for closing costs, any renovations, and general maintenance and upkeep. Make sure you have enough money to cover taxes, repairs, and other items.

    The Pros and Cons of an All Cash Offer: The Seller

    As with buyers, there are pros and cons for sellers when an all-cash offer is made for your property. Several situations encourage an all-cash offer. In recent years a new phenomenon has emerged: direct homebuying online. Companies like Open Door, Redfin, and most recently Zillow are buying homes directly from sellers.

    Let's take a look at the pros and cons of an all-cash offer as the seller.

    The Pros:

    • It's FAST

    The traditional route of using an agent and listing on the MLS, or going "FSBO" offers no guarantee your home will sell. Assuming you've priced it right, it should sell, but it can take months to get the deal you're looking for. data suggests that it takes about 65 days to sell (which can vary widely by location). Once under contract, escrow can last 30 to 60 days, or longer. That being said, if you need money fast, going the traditional route has drawbacks. Online direct homebuying, for example, can get you an offer in a fraction of the time.

    • No Repairs

    If you're in a hurry or don't have cash on hand, the idea of repairs that might be needed to maximize your home's value may not be doable. Cash sales are typical "as-is." You'll still need to disclose defects, but if your home needs repairs, and you're not in a position to do them, an all-cash offer may be the way to go.

    • Fewer Contingencies

    This was also a pro for the buyer. A traditional sale often comes with a list of contingencies. If it's a buyer's market (not applicable right now!) your buyer might even request a home sale contingency which can drag out your sale for months.

    The Cons:

    While it seems like there are a few great benefits of receiving and accepting an all-cash offer, there are a couple of drawbacks to be aware of:

    • Less Money / Lower Offers

    This is the big one! If you're looking for top dollar for your home, then an all-cash offer will often disappoint. In a seller's market, like today, an all-cash offer is a good tactic for a buyer to win a bidding war if you're selling to an individual who is looking to live in the home. However, investors are buying homes to resell them. They will offer less if they are coming to you with an all-cash offer. If you're selling to a company like Zillow they may offer less and give you great terms like a 10-day close and no contingencies. It depends on your situation as to whether it's a good deal.

    • Make Sure The Money is "Real"

    If you're dealing with a reputable company like Zillow or Redfin, or a REALTOR® or agent who has vetted their client this isn't a concern. However, if you received a "We Pay Cash" postcard in the mail, make sure they have the cash they're offering. Ask to see a bank statement or "proof of funds" letter. In these types of deals, since all-cash offers often have a short escrow (sometimes as short as 7 to 10 days) you may want to negotiate a lease-back so you don't have to rush into a move. This is a smart tactic. In the event the deal falls apart, you'll have fewer worries.

    The Bottom Line On An All Cash Offer

    The all-cash offer brings with it both benefits and drawbacks for both buyers making the offer and sellers who accept it. The bottom line is that for buyers, the all-cash offer is an interesting tactic in a hot market that can help make them stand out from among the crowd in the event of multiple offers on a property. There are some considerations including contingencies and closing dates you'll need to think through.

    For the seller, the all-cash offer can mean a quick close and fewer hassles, but unless it's a seller's market, it's likely to be below the market value of your home. But it is fast and convenient. In the end, whether you're the buyer or the seller, you need to consider all of your options including which factors are most important to you in your unique situation.

    If you missed part one of this three part series on Making an Offer when Buying a Home, here is the link to part one:


    Build or Buy a Home

    To build or to buy? It's one of the first and most important questions that you'll need to answer when considering your next home. The right answer for your family depends on a variety of factors, including your budget, where you would like to live, your preferences for the home, and your future plans. Our real estate agents are here to help you make an informed decision, with a closer look at whether building or buying a home might be the right choice for your family.

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    The Pros & Cons Of Waving A Residential Home Inspection

    The real estate market is on fire right now! If you're a seller, the good news is houses are coming on the market and receiving multiple cash offers within days of listing. If you're a buyer, chances are you're going to be vying with several other buyers for any home you are interested in.

    After months of house hunting, you might not want to let this one getaway. You need an edge. One way to sweeten your offer is to waive the home inspection to expedite the buying process and stand out from the competition. While this tactic could end up with you winning the home, it could also end up costing you big time down the road!

    A home is probably the biggest and most important investment you'll make in your lifetime. So it's absolutely crucial to your sanity and your bank account that you do your due diligence and have all of the facts and figures in place before you commit and sign a purchase agreement. Otherwise, instead of your dream home, you could be investing in a money pit!

    Of course, some homeowners are ok with taking the risk to get the house they want. In this post, we will take a closer look at what a home inspection is and offer the pros and cons of waiving a home inspection.

    What is a Home Inspection?

    If you've ever gone through the home buying process, you're probably familiar with a home inspection. Typically, once you've signed a purchase agreement and the home is under contract, you bring in professional, certified home inspectors to perform a visual, in-person inspection. 

    This process is done to protect the buyer from any hidden problems. The inspector will walk through the home, inside and outside, and check its condition, the issue a report outlining what they have found. Inspection reports typically include any roof and termite damage, as well as structural issues and systems checks, including electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. In addition, the inspector will also document the home's general interior and exterior features and condition, appliances, sprinkler system, pool, windows, doors, etc.

    When the inspection is complete, the inspector sends his findings to the buyer. The buyer uses this information to first decide how to proceed. Depending on the information in the report, the buyer may use it as a negotiating tool to request that the seller pays for certain repairs before closing or reduce the sale price. If the damage is extensive, it provides a legal way to back out of the deal.

    For this reason, sellers want the inspection to go as smoothly as possible. If they want to sell quickly, they are often willing to negotiate to make it happen.

    Why Buyers Are Willing to Waive the Home Inspection

    Right now in New England, we're in the hottest real estate market in DECADES! According to NerdWallet's 2021 Home Buyer Report, nationally, an estimated 28 million Americans are planning on buying a home in the coming year. At the end of 2020, the supply of homes available in the US was just 1.04 million units. According to the National Association of Realtors, this is the lowest number of available units since data collection began in 1982!

    With multiple buyers vying for properties and bidding wars becoming the norm, waiving the home inspection can become a compelling offer for a seller. The National Association of Home Builders Housing Trend Report found that being outbid was the most common reason buyers cited for not yet purchasing a home. So it makes sense that an eager buyer would be willing to waive the home inspection contingency.

    rusty water heater

    The Risks of Waiving a Home Inspection

    A home inspection is an important element of the home buying process for protecting a buyer's financial interests. For example, learning that a home you're interested in may need a new septic system costing $10,000 can change your mind about buying it or the amount you're willing to spend. Without a home inspection, you might not find out about the problem until after you take possession, and you will lose any negotiating leverage you might have.

    Another consideration is the health and safety of your family. Home inspections can uncover potential hazards in a home, like bad wiring, unsafe heating, or asbestos that the average person would not find during a pre-closing walkthrough.

    So Should You Waive The Inspection?

    As a general rule, the answer is no unless you're willing and financially able to assume all potential risks. Waiving the inspection is especially problematic in an older house. That being said, there are a couple of instances when waiving the inspection is more of a calculated risk.

    If, for instance, you are buying new construction and the home is under the builder warranty, or if the seller of a home or condo has had existing conditional reports compiled within the past year, it is "potentially" ok to waive the right to an inspection, IF it's the only way to ensure your offer is accepted.

    Again, it all comes down to the amount of risk you're willing to take. Remember, even new construction can have problems that an inspection could uncover. The bottom line, spending a few hundred dollars on an inspection is almost always a good investment. However, in a market that is hot, taking a calculated risk may be necessary to ensure your bid is accepted. 

    Making A Strong Offer Without Waiving the Inspection 

    While any seller will prefer receiving an offer that waives the home inspection, there are ways and tactics allowing you to present a strong offer that will appeal to a seller and keep the inspection on the table. 

    • Be fully preapproved!

    Having a preapproval letter from a lender in hand when presenting your offer carries weight. It not only shows the seller you're serious but that you have financing available to close the deal.

    • Ask for an "informational inspection" contingency.

    This language tells the seller that you will be getting a full, professional inspection but only for informational purposes. Any information it uncovers will be for you. You won't be asking them to pay for any issues it uncovers.

    • Make a larger downpayment.

    It might mean saving for a little longer, but seeing more upfront cash might tempt a seller. It feels like more money in their pockets right away. This can signal that your financing is solid and the deal will close. 

    • Add an Escalation Clause.

    This is another tactic that is attractive to sellers. An escalation clause eliminates the need for a back-and-forth negotiation between two buyers. For example, say you're interested in a home that is listed for $175,000. You can offer to automatically bid $1000 over any other offer with a cap of $200,000.

    While these tactics can help you look more attractive to a seller and leave the home inspection clause intact, you might still lose out to a buyer willing to take the risk and waive the inspection, especially in a tough market like today. Regardless, if you lose out, brush yourself off, and keep looking! Eventually, you'll find your home and do it in a way that is comfortable for you!

    Can a Home Warranty Help?

    Ultimately, if you opt to waive the home inspection, consider purchasing a home warranty. Whichever path you choose, a home warranty provides you with a safety net should unexpected expenses present themselves. Click here to learn more about Home Warranty programs, benefits, and pricing. 


    Sustainable Kitchen Products

    Sustainable kitchen products are those that use eco-friendly materials, last longer, and are more easily recycled than traditional items. Buying these products has become more popular in recent years as more consumers consider the impact on the environment when they're making purchases.

    Benefits of Choosing Sustainable Products

    Our real estate agents know that there are many reasons why homeowners opt for sustainable kitchen products. Some of the top benefits include:

    • Can be reused
    • Can be recycled more easily
    • Decomposes more quickly
    • Longer-lasting
    • Lower costs over time
    • Lowers exposure to toxic substances

    Sustainable Kitchen Products for Your Kitchen

    Thinking of how to make your kitchen more eco-friendly? Opt for some of these products in your home.

    • Metal Straws
      Plastic straws aren't recyclable, and paper straws – in addition to often disintegrating as you're trying to sip your beverage – are still a single-use item. Metal straws are environmentally friendly as well as being easier to drink through. Buy several different sizes along with a tiny brush for cleaning to stash in your kitchen and in your purse.
    • Cloth Paper Towels 
      Instead of going through seemingly endless rolls of paper towels, buy a roll of durable, washable cloth towels. They come in an easy-to-use roll of perforated sheets just like paper towels, but they're lint-free and tear-resistant. You'll be able to make a roll of 75 sheets last for about 4 to 6 months.
    • Reusable Produce Bags
      Plastic produce bags are made from fossil fuels, are only used once, and may never fully decompose. Make a sustainable choice by purchasing a set of mesh produce bags, taking them to the grocery store with you, and washing them when needed.
    • Reusable Sandwich Wraps
      Skip buying single-use plastic and snack bags as you pack your lunch for work or your kids' school lunches. Buy natural beeswax wraps, which are more versatile since can be folded into various sizes of packets or baggies and reused.
    • Stainless Steel or Cast Iron Pans
      Teflon pans are popular because of their non-stick properties, but they can easily become damaged and need to be replaced. They also release toxic chemicals when they become scratched. Skip the Teflon and instead choose long-lasting, healthier alternatives such as pots and pans made of heavy-duty stainless steel or cast iron.
    • Soda and Seltzer Machine
      Instead of buying soda or sparkling water in cans or plastic bottles, invest in a soda and seltzer machine to satisfy your love of carbonation. This eliminates your need for single-use plastic bottles and aluminum cans since you reuse the carbonating bottle over and over again.
    • Reusable Dish Brush  
      Skip buying disposable sponges, which don't last long and often come packaged in single-use plastic. Substitute a reusable dish brush, which lasts much longer and works just as well. Some have biodegradable heads that you can replace when they're worn out, so you won't have to buy a whole new brush.
    • Glass Storage Containers 
      Chances are good that you have a variety of plastic containers in your kitchen cabinets. When it comes time to buy new ones, choose glass containers with bamboo lids. They're more durable, environmentally friendly, and won't get stained when you heat up spaghetti sauce or similar foods.

    • Wooden Cutting Board
      Plastic cutting boards scratch easily, harboring bacteria within the cuts. Depending on how much you use your plastic cutting board, you could end up replacing it every few months. Maple or beech wood boards made out of a single block of wood are a much better choice. They can be easily cleaned with warm, soapy water and sanitized with a product like Simple Green. If your wooden board develops cuts over time, sand it down with fine-grit sandpaper before washing and drying it. Finally, rub it down with a bit of mineral oil, and you'll have a cutting board that looks like new.
    • Reusable Oil Spray Bottle
      If you buy your cooking oil in an aerosol sprayer, switch to a reusable oil spray and mister bottle. You can use it with oils, vinegars, or similar substances, and since it's refillable, you won't be buying cans that will end up in landfills. In addition, since they're non-aerosol sprayers, these reusable bottles don't use chemical propellants.
    • Wooden Cooking Utensils
      Swap your plastic cooking utensils like spatulas, spoons, and ladles for ones made of bamboo, wood, or stainless steel. You may wonder if you can put bamboo or wood utensils in the dishwasher, and the answer is yes, for many versions.
    • Natural Air Fresheners
      Your kitchen can sometimes have lingering odors from cooking or trash. Instead of using chemical air fresheners, make your kitchen smell nice in a healthier, more sustainable way by simmering spices or aromatic plant oils on the stove. Grinding up a slice of lemon in your garbage disposal can also help keep your disposal and kitchen smelling fresh and clean.  

    Looking for a brand new kitchen to enjoy for years to come? Contact us today if you're interested in buying or selling a home in New England.


    Masiello Home Improvement

    Home improvement shows can be pretty intriguing. With the exquisite finishes, the grand reveals, the hugs, and the grateful smiles, it's easy to get sucked into a five-hour marathon session of entertaining reality TV. Unfortunately, these shows can be misleading. They give viewers unrealistic expectations of what can be accomplished when it comes to remodeling, flipping, buying, and selling a home. Our real estate agents reveal 5 things that home makeover shows never tell you.

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    Gallery Wall Masiello

    A good way to create a focal point in your living room is to craft a gallery wall. One that is well done makes a home look inviting and helps tie the room together. This creative collage does require a bit of planning! The following guide will help you to create a stunning gallery wall you'll love to look at in your home.

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    Buying Land

    Know that you want to buy a new home, but haven't found a property that meets your needs? Consider buying land and building your own home. When you purchase land, you control the size and location of your home's lot. Here are some things to keep in mind if you're buying land this year. 

    1. It's Essential to Scout Out and Research Surrounding Land Plots
      Our real estate agents know that clients purchasing land may find plots in a variety of environments. The plots might be surrounded by land that has already been developed or is currently under construction. If so, you'll want to know if these plots will be used for residential homes or commercial businesses. Or, you may find the land plot surrounded by seemingly undeveloped land. Do your research to understand who owns the land. Are there any zoning restrictions? Are there farms nearby? Is there any history of criminal activity on the surrounding land plots? Check that you're comfortable with the neighboring land's current and potential usage. Investigate any restrictions that apply to your plot. It's not uncommon for local laws and ordinances to provide guidance on dwelling sizes or how many buildings may be placed on a piece of land. Don't assume that ordinances or restrictions can be appealed. Even if an ordinance is repealed, this is a lengthy process that may take years. 
    1. Financing Looks Different
      It's harder to finance the purchase of land than it is to take out a mortgage. When you use a mortgage to buy a home, the home acts as collateral for the lender if you default on the loan, permitting the lender to offer attractive lending terms. With land loans, the terms aren't nearly as favorable. Undeveloped land isn't as in demand as land with a home, so it's riskier for the bank to finance. You'll pay a higher interest rate, and you'll likely only be able to borrow a portion of the value of the land. It's not uncommon for lenders to require a downpayment of 50 percent for a land loan. You'll need accessible liquid savings to cover the difference. Some affordable land loans are available through the USDA for individuals purchasing land in qualified rural areas. 
    1. See What Utilities and Access Rights the Land Has
      A gorgeous plot of land is of little use if you can't access it. Confirm that the plot comes with access rights or an easement. Any easements concerning the land's access should be in writing. Depending on the location of the plot, you may need to add a private road to safely access your new residence. Make sure you consider this expense, as the cost of clearing and paving land quickly adds up. If the land isn't currently outfitted with utilities (like water, electricity, and internet), all of these items will need to be added. Check with your local utility companies that it's possible to run service to the land plot, and inquire about the cost. Some companies may run service to the land for free, while others will charge for their services. 
    1. A Land Survey is a Necessity
      You should hire a land surveyor to determine the exact boundaries of the land. Not only will this give you a better understanding of the plot's limits, but you can confirm that neighbors aren't intentionally or accidentally using the land. 

    Ready to start searching for land for your home? Contact us today to get started!


    With all of the economic chaos that is 2020, real estate has remained a bright spot.

    There are 4 major economic factors affecting home prices:

    • Unusually high buyer demand

    • Historically low interest rates

    • Near-historic low inventory

    • Extra high buyer demand due to a major resettlement to northern New England of work-from-home buyers looking to move out of the major urban centers like Boston, New York City, metropolitan Connecticut & New Jersey.

    As a home seller, you can take advantage of the market and, essentially, get a premium price for your home.

    But here's the catch: you then have to become a buyer in the same market of low inventory & high demand.

    This is the exact reason to engage a Better Homes & Gardens, The Masiello Group REALTOR. We recommend consulting with a Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate The Masiello Group REALTOR to determine these 3 parameters to help hand-craft a solution for you:

    1. The current market value expectation for your home in today's market.

    2. Your ideal next home, moving time frame and other unique conditions that may exist in your world (think: specific home needs, locations, retirement schedule, children's school schedules to name a few)

    3. Your purchasing power in the market based on the current low rates. (Your Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate The Masiello Group REALTOR can connect you with our Great East Mortgage Partner to confidentially determine your new home price range).

    Next, your Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate The Masiello Group REALTOR can approach other home owners with properties like the ones that best fit your ideal new one. These will likely be other owners who, like you, are not currently on the market but would move if they could find a home. See how the chain can work?

    At BHGRE The Masiello Group, our agents have 2 important tools in our internal website to make this work for you:

    • The "Haves & Wants" function

    • Our Reverse Prospecting tool

    The Haves & Wants System is like a bulletin board for our agents to share info on people, like you, that are looking for something that is not yet on the market as well as sellers who would sell if they could buy.

    Our Reverse Prospecting Tool matches information about registered users on our website to each other. For example, a potential seller in Portsmouth, NH looking to buy in York, ME gets matched to a buyer in Portsmouth, NH.

    While technology provides many answers, only an experienced Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate The Masiello Group REALTOR can apply their market knowledge, street wisdom and technology to your unique situation.


    Reach out today and let's explore what this market could do for you & your family.

    Click here to contact our expert agents.


    Closing Process

    You've found a home that you love, and the seller has accepted your offer. However, it isn't a done deal until you sign the closing documents. 

    In the meantime, here are a few things that our real estate agents recommend that you avoid during the closing process. While some of these don'ts may result in a higher interest rate, others can potentially sabotage the purchase of your new home.

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    New Neighborhood

    When it's time to move to a new home, not only do you need to ensure that the home meets your needs, but you should check that the neighborhood is right for your household. Find the right neighborhood for you and your family by keeping the following 5 things in mind during your search. 

    1. Your Image of a Perfect Neighborhood
      Before you can pick a home in a new neighborhood, you need to determine what constitutes the perfect neighborhood in your eyes. Are you searching for a close-knit community where neighbors are quick to help out? Or do you prefer a neighborhood with large lots and lots of privacy? Make a list of the traits you value, and keep these details in mind when working with our real estate agents
    1. The Neighborhood's Transportation Options
      Another detail to keep in mind is what kind of transportation alternatives you prefer in your new neighborhood. If you want to minimize your use of a car, you might prefer a neighborhood in the city where you can walk to shops, restaurants, and other locales. Or, a neighborhood close to a local bus stop may be a good fit for your transportation needs. Maybe you don't mind a long commute and don't expect to walk or bike on a daily basis. In this case, you can expand your search. 
    1. Whether the Neighborhood has a Home Owner's Association
      When browsing prospective homes, ask if the neighborhood has an HOA. It's a matter of preference as to whether you want an HOA-governed property. Some individuals like the presence of an HOA and the standards that they set for homeowners. An HOA can strongly encourage homeowners to tend to overgrown lawns and gardens and tackle overdue home repairs. Others feel like HOAs are intrusive. They don't like to have any governing body restricting their activities.
    1. The Neighborhood's Noise Levels
      As you check out the exterior of a potential home, take a few minutes to listen to the neighborhood's sounds. If you're sensitive to noise, you'll want to make sure that any sounds you hear are sounds you'll be comfortable living with. Homes in a bustling area of your city may have a lot of noise at night from crowds, nearby music venues, and traffic. Properties in family-friendly neighborhoods may have the sounds of children and families enjoying a beautiful day outside. When possible, try to visit the property when noise levels are at their highest. This will give you a better idea of how effective the property is at blocking out potential noise pollution. 
    1. Whether There's a Potential for Further Neighborhood Development
      If the neighborhood is relatively young, it's possible that it might undergo further development in the coming years. New homes might be built, or new businesses may arise if the land is zoned for business usage. Additional construction isn't a bad thing (and often indicates that the neighborhood is located in an in-demand area likely to increase in value), but it can be a deterrent for some residents. After all, you might not want to live with the construction sounds! 

    Ready to begin the search for your new neighborhood? Contact us today!


    Think This Is a Housing Crisis? Think Again. | MyKCM

    With all of the unanswered questions caused by COVID-19 and the economic slowdown we're experiencing across the country today, many are asking if the housing market is in trouble. For those who remember 2008, it's logical to ask that question.

    Many of us experienced financial hardships, lost homes, and were out of work during the Great Recession – the recession that started with a housing and mortgage crisis. Today, we face a very different challenge: an external health crisis that has caused a pause in much of the economy and a major shutdown of many parts of the country.

    Let's look at five things we know about today's housing market that were different in 2008.

    1. Appreciation

    When we look at appreciation in the visual below, there's a big difference between the 6 years prior to the housing crash and the most recent 6-year period of time. Leading up to the crash, we had much higher appreciation in this country than we see today. In fact, the highest level of appreciation most recently is below the lowest level we saw leading up to the crash. Prices have been rising lately, but not at the rate they were climbing back when we had runaway appreciation.Think This Is a Housing Crisis? Think Again. | MyKCM

    2. Mortgage Credit

    The Mortgage Credit Availability Index is a monthly measure by the Mortgage Bankers Association that gauges the level of difficulty to secure a loan. The higher the index, the easier it is to get a loan; the lower the index, the harder. Today we're nowhere near the levels seen before the housing crash when it was very easy to get approved for a mortgage. After the crash, however, lending standards tightened and have remained that way leading up to today.Think This Is a Housing Crisis? Think Again. | MyKCM

    3. Number of Homes for Sale

    One of the causes of the housing crash in 2008 was an oversupply of homes for sale. Today, as shown in the next image, we see a much different picture. We don't have enough homes on the market for the number of people who want to buy them. Across the country, we have less than 6 months of inventory, an undersupply of homes available for interested buyers.Think This Is a Housing Crisis? Think Again. | MyKCM

    4. Use of Home Equity

    The chart below shows the difference in how people are accessing the equity in their homes today as compared to 2008. In 2008, consumers were harvesting equity from their homes (through cash-out refinances) and using it to finance their lifestyles. Today, consumers are treating the equity in their homes much more cautiously.Think This Is a Housing Crisis? Think Again. | MyKCM

    5. Home Equity Today

    Today, 53.8% of homes across the country have at least 50% equity. In 2008, homeowners walked away when they owed more than what their homes were worth. With the equity homeowners have now, they're much less likely to walk away from their homes.Think This Is a Housing Crisis? Think Again. | MyKCM

    Bottom Line

    The COVID-19 crisis is causing different challenges across the country than the ones we faced in 2008. Back then, we had a housing crisis; today, we face a health crisis. What we know now is that housing is in a much stronger position today than it was in 2008. It is no longer the center of the economic slowdown. Rather, it could be just what helps pull us out of the downturn.


    We encourage you to reach out to our expert agents to discuss your unique buying or selling situation. We're here for you!


    Multigenerational Living

    Before 1940, it wasn't uncommon to find three or more generations living in one home. After WWII and the suburban boom, families increasingly became smaller, with just parents and their minor children living together. In recent years, our real estate agents have noticed that multigenerational living is becoming more and more popular. In 2016, nearly 20 percent of the US population's living situation involved multiple generations living under one roof, according to the Pew Research Center. There are several benefits families enjoy when living under one roof. If these benefits speak to your situation, a multigenerational might be a good investment opportunity for your family. 

    Why Is Multigenerational Living Making A Comeback?

    Many families are still getting on their feet after the Great Recession and the rising cost of living. For them, living with multiple generations in one home may make financial sense. Baby Boomers are now growing older and need help. Moving in with their children helps them get the care they need and can save everyone on housing and other costs. Child care is also a factor—many people are now opting to have grandparents take care of their children instead of spending a good chunk of their income paying for outside child care. Also, more adult children are moving back in with their parents after college to pay off debt and get some financial ground under their feet before venturing out on their own.

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    VA Loan 2020

    If you are planning on using a VA loan to purchase a home this year there are several changes you should know about. 

    Following the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, veterans and military service members will enjoy more borrowing power but pay slightly higher fees when applying for VA home loans. The Act was signed into law in June 2019 but took effect Jan 1, 2020.

    Navigate these changes to VA loans with a little help from our team. Our REALTORS® highlight everything you need to know about using VA loans in 2020!

    No VA Home Loan Limits in 2020

    The VA loan limit is the maximum loan amount the Department of Veterans Affairs can guarantee a veteran or military service officer without making a down payment. The loan limit adjustment is a big win for veterans across the nation, especially for those buying in pricier markets. Extending the zero-down purchasing power will save many veterans a lot of cash and help them remain competitive.

    However, the elimination of loan limits doesn't signify unlimited borrowing power with no down payment. Veterans will still need to have adequate income and meet their lender's credit demands to qualify for the VA loan amount. And if you still have impending VA loans or have defaulted on a previous loan, the loan limits will still be applicable throughout 2020.

    Before this act went into effect, VA loan limits equaled the limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency on complying loans. In 2019, the limits were set to $484,350 in a typical US county and slightly higher in high-cost counties.

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    Home Purchase Questions

    Our REALTORS® are there to guide you every step of the way when it's time to buy a home. Still, it's important to understand what you're getting into – and how to advocate for your interests.

    Buying a home can include twists and turns, even when everyone has the best intentions. Knowing which questions to ask will help you get the information you need to make an informed decision about your real estate options.

    Don't forget these vital questions when you're getting ready to buy a home:

    1. Why is the Seller Leaving?
      Understanding the seller's motivations will put you in a position to get a better deal. You don't have to offer more money to make a seller's day: For example, if there's a tight timeline for moving, you may be able to get price concessions in return for making a prompt commitment.
    2. How Long Has the House Been for Sale?
      The longer a house is on the market, the more negotiating power a prospective buyer has. Houses can end up lingering on the market when the original asking price is too high. If more than 30 days go by, it means a more motivated seller. More than 60 is "red alert" for most sellers.
    3. What Are the Neighbors Like?
      You might not see them every day, but next-door neighbors can be a blessing or a curse. Inconsiderate or loud neighbors can leave you dealing with a whole host of worries, from midnight noise issues to lawn debris ending up on your side of the fence. Meeting the neighbors in person is often a good idea!

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    Starter Home Tips

    Every first-time homebuyer is quickly faced with the same question: to build a budget for a forever home, or shop for a starter home that suits your current needs? A starter home can be an excellent option for a first-time buyer, allowing you to get used to the homeowner's lifestyle, build equity in the home over time, plan for the future, and eventually move on to a forever home. Our real estate agents know exactly what it takes to find the right home for any buyer, and we've put together a guide for what you should look for in a starter home.

    • Neighborhood and Location
      The neighborhood that you choose plays an important role in both the price of the property and how much you'll enjoy living there. To start, decide whether you want to live in an urban, suburban, or rural location. Then look at specific neighborhoods to find a spot with the right mix of attractions, services, and commute times for your needs. The most popular neighborhoods tend to be more expensive, but most neighborhoods have affordable starter options if you're willing to search.

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    New Home in 2020

    If you've been dreaming of buying your first home or selling your current house, New Year's is the time to resolve to make it happen.

    Our REALTORS® suggest the following five ways to make a New Year's resolution of a new home a reality in 2020.

    1. Check and Fix Your Credit
      Your credit will affect whether you can qualify for a mortgage loan and the interest rate you'll pay. Start by checking your credit report with the three main reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – by requesting it for free at, a site recommended by the Federal Trade Commission. If you see any errors, request a dispute form from the reporting agency. And if your credit is poor, start working to pay down your debt.

    2. Save for a Down Payment
      Most mortgage loans require a down payment, so you may want to trim your budget to help bolster your down payment fund. Tax refunds can also be an excellent way to jumpstart your savings.

      If you can afford to pay 20% down, you'll avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). This is an extra monthly payment that helps protect the lender in case you default on your loan. The higher your down payment, the lower your monthly payment will be, and you're likely to be offered a lower mortgage rate.

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    Clear out clutter for GOOD

    If you're anything like the typical couple or family getting ready to sell your home, hiding clutter is your idea of cleaning before a home showing. We know – throwing some clutter in a few bins and storage solutions is a go-to quick fix for emergencies (see our first post in this Clean Up series), but cleaning up and getting rid of the stuff you are just shuffling from spot to spot is key – especially if you're getting ready to move!   

    • Marie Kondo your home. Yep, I said it. Does it bring you joy? Nope? Say goodbye. There is no need to keep items that are just taking up space. Having trouble parting with items? Decide where you can donate them. A children's home? Homeless shelter? Local school/community center? Donating items will help you part with them a little easier.

    • And just like our friend Marie Kondo would say…tidying starts with your closets! Empty each closet out and create piles to "Keep", "Donate", "Throw Away".

    "My rule on clothes? If you haven't wore it in a year, get rid of it!" says Erika Gaudreau, Real Estate Agent/Interior Designer.

    • Don't forget the coat closet! How many coats do you actually wear? Lots of Coat Drives take place before winter weather sets in. Donate your unused winter coats to someone who needs it.

    • Set aside items that are in re-sellable shape in a bin or portable closet. Price these items as you go through them. Host a yard sale and make some extra cash to use towards something you need in your new house!

    • Do you hoard cleaning rags, drop cloths or towels? As you fold your laundry, have a trash basket nearby, anything in less than great shape – toss! Including most of your cleaning rags. Less to pack up! Plus, you may want new towels to match the new décor in your new home! How many times can we say "new"?

    • Remember to clear out the pantry too!

    "That panini grill you got as a wedding gift that's still in the box? Toss it. No one will know" Gaudreau continues, "unused items just take up usable space."

    Discard any small appliances collecting dust, outdated food items, opened spices, sauces, flour, etc. that have been sitting on the shelves longer than you can remember!  Plus, home buyers will want to SEE your pantry, so, be sure it is organized and not stuffed to the brim.

    So, how do you KEEP it all CLEAN for GOOD?

    Part of the stress of selling a home is keeping the home you're living in clean – consistently.

    • Set a timer for 10 minutes and spend that amount of time picking up/cleaning one room. It can be one room a day, or 10 minutes per each room a day.

    • Sort mail and paperwork the second it gets in your pretty little hands. Stand by the recycle bin and toss junk mail and unwanted papers before you even enter your home. Pay and file away bills/invoices and other important paperwork in labeled file folders. Store folders in a file cabinet or drawer for safekeeping that's out of sight.

    • Have designated spaces for everything, and make sure that place makes sense. Coffee mugs should be in a cabinet or shelf by the coffee maker, chargers should have a home at a charging station on your desk. Important paperwork should be kept in labeled folders in a file cabinet. Cooking utensils, pot holders and recipes should be near the oven and easy to grab, quickly. Toys and children's books should be all in the playroom or a designated play space. See where we are going with this?

    Cleaning is CONSTANT.

    As you may have guessed, decluttering is more than a one-time deal. It's something you have to keep up with in order to keep things in order. When the entire family is home, set aside time to all focus on cleaning up. Give each person a specific job before they enjoy free time…grown-ups included! Albert Einstein once said; "Out of clutter, find simplicity." 
    Decluttering will give you the peace of mind you never knew you needed. So, as you prepare to pack and move into a new space, really dig in and dig out of the mess that may be holding you back! Moving won't seem like a huge hurdle when you have fewer things to pack - and unpack!


    ultimate challenge

    You've Cleared all the Clutter... now All Hands-on Deck! Parents, get kids in on the clean up before moving out!

    Promise, they can help (after they have a meltdown because you asked them to do something other than play Minecraft)! Getting kids involved in your family's home-selling plan gives them some control and makes them feel they are part of the process. It is important to keep rooms, especially bedrooms, picked up before you have an Open House or home showing because we all know; less clutter shows off your space and most buyers are looking for bigger and better! If potential new homeowners see objects scattered around, taking up desks, counters, etc. they will assume the home is too small or it doesn't offer enough storage options. Not to mention, they can't visualize their family's stuff in the home either! So, get your cleaning crew (this is your family, by the way) ready! Here are 5 tips to get your kids to help clean up – quickly!  

    1. Everything's a game! Have them tackle the' playroom (or wherever toys are hanging out). Ask those angels to clean up the red toys first, then blue, etc. Another way to make clean up less overwhelming is to separate toys by type too – blocks, vehicles, balls, the list goes on! Have them pick up one grouping at a time.

    2. Music Maestro! Put on their favorite tunes and tell them the person who picks up the most toys by the end of the song, WINS! Or – just enjoy a dance party while picking up! Music makes every chore fly by.

    3. Everything has a home…Ask them to put scrap paper, markers, dolls all in designated bins and place books back in the bookshelf. Use pictures to show what belongs in each bin or bag so small children can easily help put them away. If you have specific spots for everything, clean-up is easier – and faster!

    4. Are kids hesitant to help? Tell them anything left on the floor after the 10-minute timer blares will be whisked away and donated to a child who will take better care of their toys. Having a big ol' trash bag in your hands really helps get the point across!

    5. Say "Goodbye"! Next time the kids clean up, ask them to set aside toys they feel they have outgrown or they don't play with anymore. Have the kids decide where they would like to donate their toys and have them tag along with you to help bring the bags of goodies to a children's home or shelter. Some fire stations accept gently used stuffed animals to help comfort kids in crisis too! Getting rid of the extra toys and unused games now before you start packing, will make your move a lot easier!

    In general, after playing with toys or games, always clean up before moving on to the next activity. Practice this every time they play so the expectation of picking up is always there. This will become a habit and not a chore…and it will be super helpful when it comes to keeping your new home tidy!

    Now that the kids are on board, check out the next post in our cleaning series, Clearing out Clutter for GOOD.


    Saving for Down Payment

    Is the anticipation of needing to make a sizeable down payment discouraging you from homeownership? According to data from a U.S. Census housing survey, nearly 50 percent of current homeowners made down payments of 10 percent or less. 

    Don't let the need to make a down payment discourage you from purchasing your first home. 

    Our REALTORS® have put together a list of useful tips to save for a down payment.

    1. What Is Your Goal?
      Start with the end in mind. Figure out a realistic price range of homes you can afford, how much of a down payment you'll need and your time range. Getting prequalified is a helpful exercise to get some substantial numbers.

    2. Create a Budget 
      You already know a vague intention of putting money away "when you can" isn't going to work. Whether you use a spreadsheet or paper and pencil, write down every penny that comes in and goes out each month, so you know where you stand.

    3. Set a Monthly Savings Amount
      Once you have an amount in mind, you can determine how much money to save each month to make it happen. If you don't have enough disposable income for your goal, there are two options: reduce the amount of money spent or increase earnings.

    4. Cut Back on Spending
      When is the last time you examined your spending patterns? Certain expenses are fixed, but you can almost always find things large (vacations) and small (daily lattes) to forgo.

    5. Boost Your Income
      Gone are the days when traditional full-time jobs are the only way to make money. With options like selling on eBay, driving for Uber or freelance writing, the possibilities are endless. As a bonus, you work when you want instead of on someone else's schedule.

    6. Pay Off Debt
      Putting money aside while you're paying out on credit card interest is taking one step forward and two steps back. Pay off any outstanding credit card balances, prioritizing ones with the highest interest rates.

    7. There's an App for That
      Automate savings with an app like Digit, which analyzes your spending patterns and finds opportunities to put money away painlessly. You can also use direct deposit to funnel money into savings before it gets into your hands.

    8. Ask for Cash
      Let family and friends know about your plans and ask them to give cash for birthdays, holidays, or any other gift-giving occasion.

    9. Say Goodbye to Splurges
      Do you generally treat yourself to extravagant purchases when you receive bonuses, tax refunds, or other "found" money? Adding those funds to your down payment savings will eventually pay off.

    10. Look into Assistance Programs
      Many state and local governments have down payment programs offering assistance through grants, interest-free loans, or traditional loans. Also, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans allow borrowers to put down as little as 3.5 percent depending on your credit score.

    11. Tap Retirement Accounts
      If you have a 401(k) or individual retirement account (IRA), check the rules regarding withdrawals or loans for down payments. While penalties may be waived, you will still have to pay taxes, so be sure to consult with a financial advisor.

    We have years of experience helping people of all ages and financial situations reach their dream of homeownership. Contact us to learn more about what we can do for you.


    Commute Time for New Home

    Commute time is an important factor you should consider when buying a new home. While a long commute may not bother you at first, it may affect your lifestyle and ability to enjoy your new home. For many, finding the perfect home means balancing price, location, community amenities, and distance to the office. With a little planning, it is not hard to find a balance between time in the car and time spent in the home of your dreams. 

    The Peace and Quiet of the Countryside

    Many people choose to commute do so because they find a little slice of heaven far away from city centers and nosy neighbors. Maine is filled with beautiful properties hidden in the hills or nestled along the coast. These charming properties are the perfect place to rest and recharge after a long day at work. If you want to purchase these relaxing retreats, it may mean a commute of 15, 30, 45 minutes, or more to your office. Nationwide, the average commute is 26 minutes. If you are looking at a longer commute, it means you will have that much less time each day to enjoy your home.

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    First Right of Refusal

    Our real estate agents understand there are many reasons you may not be able to purchase the home you want right away. The most common reason is that you want to wait until your home has sold. The fact is most buyers don't want to close on a new property until they have completed the sale of their current home. When a seller accepts your contingent offer, you will have first-right-of-refusal to either purchase or pass on the property.

    Contingent Sale Offers

    There are many types of contingent sale offers, including appraisal contingencies, mortgage approval contingencies, and inspection contingencies. The most common are sale and settlement contingencies, which are used when a prospective buyer's home is on the market, but an offer has not been received. The second most common is a settlement contingency which is for buyers whose home is under contract but has not closed.

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    First-time Buyer Info
    If you're a first-time homebuyer, chances are you're getting ready to enter into one of the biggest transactions of your life. Along the way, you'll experience peaks of extreme excitement and valleys of anxiety and uncertainty.

    Our REALTORS® work with first-time homebuyers all the time. To help ensure your transaction goes smoothly, they've created this list of nine things all first-time homebuyers need to know. 

    1. Start Saving for Your Down Payment Today
      While putting 20 percent down used to be the common practice, some lenders now allow you to put down as little as 3 percent of the purchase price. However, taking this option will increase your monthly payment and the amount you pay over the lifetime of the loan.  No matter what amount you've decided to put down, it will take some time to save up what you need. If you're going to put down 5 percent on a $200,000 home, that still means you'll need to come to the table with at least $10,000.

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    Buying a Pet-Friendly Home
    Congratulations on taking the first steps in finding a new home for your family. Of course, your family may include furry friends and it's important that they feel at home just the same. As you tour homes for sale around town, our real estate agents have these points to keep in mind as you search for a pet-friendly home.

    • Start with the inside.
      Before you start hunting for the best backyard space, remember that your dog or cat may spend most of their time indoors. There are certain features or floor plans that will facilitate pets. Mudrooms or outdoor decks are great places to give dirty dogs baths. Ceramic flooring is durable and easy to clean. Low windows and loft spaces give cats great places to sit while single-story homes give older animals the opportunity to explore the house without contending with stairs. Inspect that layout and features of the home from the perspective of your pet the same way you would if you had children or older adults moving in with you.

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    Get To Know Your Neighborhood
    Welcome to your new neighborhood! Every move is the start of a new adventure and our real estate agents want to help you take the first step on your next journey. We've gathered the following six tips to help you get acquainted with your new neighborhood.

    1. Accept Invitations
      Right when you move in, don't be surprised if your new neighbors stop over and introduce themselves. They may even invite you over for dinner or out for a cup of coffee. Say yes to these kind requests and get to know those who surround your home. This is a great opportunity to make new family friends, learn about community resources and get honest opinions on everything from schools and shopping to the restaurants and recreational parks.

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    Buying a Home - Multigenerational Living
    Multigenerational living is a term used to describe households in which there are at least two adult generations in residence.  The number of these households in the U.S. is on the rise. Two types of multigenerational living are becoming more common in recent years; two-generation households, where adult children live with parents, and three-generation homes, where there are adult children, parents, and grandparents living under the same roof. Our real estate agents are here to explore some of the pros and cons of multigenerational households with you.

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    Buy House Hot Neighborhood
    Do you dream of moving into an up and coming neighborhood? Our real estate agents are here to help you identify the areas around your town that will soon explode onto the real estate scene.

    1. Area Improvements
      Keep your eyes open for areas of town that are undergoing massive improvements, both within the infrastructure and commercial contexts. Local governments and private corporations will begin noticeably investing in the renovation of these areas. New transit lines, which includes roadway improvements, will make the area more accessible for the many residents, visitors and commuter employees that are soon to follow. Old buildings will get a new facelift as businesses move in and turn neglect into opportunity. Keep in mind that the presence of any major corporations and retailers is a great sign as well. These companies spend millions of dollars on market analysis and wouldn't invest in an area that wasn't growing positively.

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    Pay Off Mortgage
    Should you pay off your mortgage early?

    That's a question that many people struggle with, whether they are already paying on a mortgage or are working with our real estate agents to find a home to buy.

    The answer to that question isn't the same for everyone since it depends largely upon each person's financial situation, as well as their long-term goals and preferences. Here are three things to consider as you determine whether or not paying off your home early makes sense for you.

    1. Do you have other debt?
      Given today's low-interest rates for traditional, fixed-rate home loans, chances are good that any other debt you are carrying, be it credit card debt, student loans or auto loans is more expensive than your mortgage. If you are carrying debts with higher interest rates, it makes good financial sense to channel any extra funds you have into paying these off before you worry about making extra payments on your mortgage.

    2. Will paying off your home early leave you cash-strapped?
      There is no harm in doing without a few luxuries to pay off your home more quickly, but you'll want to evaluate your budget carefully to be sure that making extra mortgage payments doesn't leave you on shaky financial ground.

      Leaving yourself cash-strapped to get it done can be risky business if the unexpected happens, like a job loss, for instance, or health problems. It can also cause you financial problems later in life if you're scrimping on retirement savings to prepay your mortgage.

      Before you commit a more substantial chunk of your budget to pay down your home loan more quickly, put some money away for a rainy day. You should save enough to cover your ordinary expenses for at least six months, but preferably a year. Also, be sure that money goes into your retirement fund every month before you send that extra payment on your home loan.

    3. Will your mortgage term stretch into your retirement years?
      Most of us will see a significant decrease in income once we retire. If your loan, should you pay just as scheduled, will still be around when you retire, it may make sense for you to get your home paid off early. Owning your home free and clear by retirement age will pay off by reducing your monthly expenses significantly, right when you likely have less income to meet them.

    The bottom line is that, if you can comfortably afford to pay off your home early, it makes sense to do so. You'll save money over the long-term by paying less interest, and you'll also have the peace of mind that comes with having clear title to your home. However, if paying more towards your mortgage will cause undue financial strain, it probably makes better sense to keep up with those agreed-upon monthly payments.

    If you have more questions about the pros and cons of paying your home off early, please feel free to contact us. We're always happy to put our expertise and experience on all things related to home ownership to work for the benefit of New England homeowners and home buyers.


    When starting your home search and looking for an agent, the first question a real estate professional will usually ask is "Have you been pre-approved?"

    What is a mortgage pre-approval?

    A mortgage pre-approval from a lender means they have verified and pre-approved the borrower to borrow a specific loan amount and possibly a specific mortgage type. It is the initial process of qualifying for a mortgage loan. The borrower has submitted the required financial information. This process usually requires pay stubs, bank statements, w-2's, social security number and an inquiry on the borrower's credit.

    Why is pre-approval Important when home shopping?

    • It can help you find a reputable and experienced REALTOR®. Many seasoned agents only want to work with buyers who have already been mortgage pre-approved before shopping for a home.
    • Getting pre-approved by a lender at the start of your home shopping process will save you, and your agent, valuable time. Knowing how much you can afford helps narrow down your home search. You can avoid disappointment by shopping too far above your price range. This also helps you avoid settling on a home that may be under your budget that you're not 100% in love with. Your REALTOR® can now find the perfect dream home within your price range.
    • Home sellers will take you more seriously. Having a mortgage pre-approval letter from your lender can give you an advantage when making an offer, especially if there happens to be multiple bids on a property. A seller may be more apt to accept the offer with the pre-approval backing it over an offer from a buyer without. The seller knows that your offer is less likely to fall through, and fewer issues to arise, knowing your lender has already gone through a screening process.
    • It can help in negotiating a price if the seller is eager to sell.
    • A pre-approval helps speed up the process when you are ready to purchase and your offer is accepted. You have already done part of the leg-work and there will be fewer hurdles to jump through.
    • It holds more value than being pre-qualified. Receiving a pre-qualification from a lender only shows that you meet certain criteria to apply for a home loan. This usually only requires a few basic questions. It is not a great indicator of your ability to actually purchase or receive funding.

    If you are accepted for a mortgage pre-approval:

    1. Keep your finances operating as-usual.
    2. Don't open any new lines of credit.
    3. Don't fall behind on current payments.
    4. Your pre-approval is usually valid for 60-90 days

    How to become pre-approved

    Requirements for Mortgage Pre-Approval

    1. Proof of Assets
    2. Good Credit
    3. Proof of Income
    4. Employment Verification
    5. Any other two types of documentation: usually a driver's license or Social Security number

    According to Investopedia, Consulting with a lender before the homebuying process can save a lot of heartache later. Gather paperwork before the pre-approval appointment, and definitely before you go house hunting.

    Are you ready to get started? Click here to learn about our reliable mortgage partners!

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    How to Get Your Dream Home

    So you have done the rounds shopping for just the right New England dream home for you. You're finally in the home stretch, having found your dream home. However, there is a problem. Other buyers have decided it is their dream home too, and you've found yourself having to compete for your new home. So what do you need to know about duking it out with competing home buyers to increase your odds of coming out on top?Our real estate agents have some tips and tricks that can help you get to your dream home fast and easy.

    Step One

    Use a buyer's agent

    Having an agent that works directly for you is a big advantage when buying a home. A good buyer's agent will have extensive experience in the market you're shopping. They will also have access to more information about listed homes, and will be looking out for your best interests, rather than those of the seller. Having an expert in your corner to guide you can make a big difference when it comes to competing with other buyers to purchase the home you have your heart set on. According to the National Association of Realtors, 88% of buyers purchased their dream home through a real estate agent or broker—a share that has steadily increased from 69% in 2001.

    Step Two

    Get pre-approved for a home loan

    It is always best to get a mortgage pre-approval before you begin shopping for a new home. It is essential to do so if you're planning to submit an offer on a house where there are likely to be competing offers from other buyers. You want to be able to show that you can afford the home in question to ensure that the seller takes your offer seriously. Also, if any of your competing buyers have not yet made this step, you'll increase your odds of being seen as the more prepared and serious buyer. Take a look at our blog on the importance ofmortgage pre-approval to learn more.

    Step Three

    Limit contingencies

    If more than one buyer is bidding on your dream home, presenting a clean offer, with as few contingencies and demands as possible, can increase the odds that the seller will look upon your offer more favorably than those of more demanding buyers.

    Step Four

    Make a large earnest money deposit on your Dream Home

    Putting a larger than average chunk of cash down for earnest money can sway sellers. This will make it known that you are committed and ready to buy. Putting down a large earnest money deposit will also ensure added insurance on the transaction for both the buyer and the seller. 

    Step Five

    Go face to face the listing agent

    The personal approach when you deliver your offer can go a long way towards swaying the competition for a home in your favor. Most buyers send offers via email these days, a rather impersonal approach, so presenting yours face-to-face can certainly make you, and your offer, stand out from the crowd.

    The Bottom Line on How to Get your Dream Home

    These five tips will greatly increase your chances of nailing down your dream home. If you could use a few more great tips on coming out the winner when you're buying a home, please feel free tocontact us. You can also check out The Ultimate Home Buyers Guide to learn more about all the steps it takes to buy a home. We're always happy to put our knowledge and experience to work for the benefit of New England home buyers.


    Do You Need a Home Warranty

    Our real estate agents at the Masiello Group are always happy to assist current and future New England homeowners in getting the most value from their property.

    That often involves pointing out resources buyers and sellers aren't aware of yet.

    A prime example is National Home Warranty Day, celebrated on February 10.  Yes, National Home Warranty Day is really a thing – and so are home warranties.

    Just about everybody has heard of homeowners insurance. After all, it's required in many cases. The home warranty, on the other hand, is not well known. That's unfortunate since a home warranty can save you hundreds of dollars in an average year.

    Let's take a closer look at the two and how they differ.

    Click Here to


    New England Home Buying Winter
    People often ask our real estate agents if they should wait until springtime to start looking for a new home. After all, the cold weather, blustery winds, and short days don't exactly create a welcoming environment for home shopping.

    While the thought of trudging through the snow to go to open houses may not be appealing, there are several compelling reasons why winter is the absolute best time to find your dream home. Consider these points, and you just may decide that you're ready to start looking today.

    Click Here to


    Maintenance Costs

    When you buy a home, you are taking on the responsibility of maintenance costs. They're inevitable for all homeowners, but they can be significant depending on the specific property. Before buying a home, maintenance costs and unexpected repairs must be considered. It's recommended to hold back 1% of the home's value annually for maintenance and appliance replacement, but that does not cover unexpected repairs.

    Property Taxes

    Property taxes can be a significant expense. The actual amount can fluctuate, and this must be considered before buying a home. There are a variety of factors to determine the amount of property taxes, such as the area, state, and local budget cuts, renovations, as well as many other things.

    House Insurance

    Many mortgage loan lenders require homeowners to have house insurance. Unlike rental insurance, which covers possessions, homeowners' insurance covers both possessions and the cost of the property. Although it's an extra expense, it's beneficial to have even if it is not required. As for the cost of home insurance, it depends on the specifics, but you can get an estimate by dividing the home's value by 1000, and then multiplying that by 3.5 (HomeGuides).

    Tax Deductibility

    A benefit that comes when you buy a home is the tax deductibility of mortgage interest. This number is hard to estimate from a general standpoint because it greatly depends on your specific financial situation. However, owning a home can provide you more savings than if you were to rent, simply because of the tax deductible.

    Home's Value Appreciating

    The appreciation of a home's value is generally high. However, this can change rather quickly depending on the housing market, as well as many other factors. ABC News estimates home prices will appreciate around 3%, according to the historical average. The thing that many people forget is that as a home's value increases, the cost of maintenance and insurance does as well, due to inflation.


    In terms of liquid money, home ownership won't bring you much of that. However, buying a home does have the potential to bring you a high return on investment. More importantly, your monthly bills go towards something you own. When renting, you're essentially paying someone else's mortgage without receiving any ownership. Many additional factors also need to be considered when determining if buying a home is worth it, such as whether you want to buy a home as an investment property, plan on flipping the house, or want to retire in it. The first step is to answer the inevitable question, "Can I afford a home?" and these general guidelines can help you determine that.

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