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June
22

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.

June
15

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.

May
2

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:

Click Here to Read More...

May
25

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.

May
4

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.

February
7

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.

    November
    29

    Mason Jar Home Decor

    You've just moved into your new home. Now you need to decorate it and make it your own. You don't need a lot of fancy trinkets and expensive doodads. All you really need to make your house a home is a few mason jars. With National Mason Jar Day coming up on November 30th, let's look at some of the many fun things you can do with these durable, beautiful, and versatile jars.

    Click Here to Read More...

    November
    1

    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.

    Click Here to Read More...

    November
    10

    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. 

    October
    20

    Learn the Pros and Cons of a Rent-Back Agreement When Selling or Buying a New Home

    If you're buying a new home while selling your current one, it's a good idea to get familiar with something called a rent-back agreement. Timing-wise it can require some good luck to get it right if your home sells before you've closed on your new one or even found a place. Without a rent-back agreement, your choices are couch-surfing or paying to stay in a hotel. Either way, you'll have to move twice... and no one wants to do that!

    A rent-back agreement gives you, as the seller, a third choice. With a signed rent-back agreement, you will have extra time to live in the home after closing. It essentially gives you the right to become the new buyer's temporary tenants. Most don't last long – there are typically time limits built into the agreement – but it gives sellers a chance to close on their new home, pack up, and arrange for the big move.

    For the buyer, offering a rent-back agreement can also provide a couple of serious benefits. For example, in a competitive market, an offer that's flexible on move-out dates can give you, as the buyer, an edge. Plus, the rent the seller will pay can help you recoup those hefty closing costs. 

    When it's done right, a rent-back agreement can be a win-win for everyone.That being said, there are a few considerations before you jump in the pool!

    What Exactly is a Rent-Back Agreement?

    A rent-back agreement is a legally binding agreement made in writing between the seller and the buyer with terms much like a leasing agreement between a landlord and a tenant. However, some issues can get a little tricky, so it's crucial to understand how one works.

    Essentially, the seller becomes a tenant in their old home, and the buyer becomes a landlord for the home they are about to possess, possibly with no experience.

    The typical rent-back agreement covers the basics in a few areas:

    • Terms and Possession

    Before closing, all of the details of a rent-back agreement need to be worked out, including how the rent will be paid, what it will cost, and when the seller/tenant will move out. As a buyer, you just can't assume that the seller will agree to anything or behave as you expect just because you bought their home. The rent-back agreement needs to be written up with the same care as the purchase contract. While it is not common, you should make sure you understand the eviction laws where you purchased, just in case the seller decides they're going to stay as long as they can.

    • Rent, Security Deposit, and Late Fees

    Like any rental agreement, the buyer/landlord can collect a refundable security deposit. Both buyer and seller need to agree to fair market rent. At closing, the buyer pays closing costs, and the seller pays a security deposit and upfront rent. After the close, the buyer gets the keys, and the seller stays in the home. 

    • Utilities

    The agreement needs to specify which party is responsible for utilities. Usually, sellers will have the utilities switched to the new buyer at the close. However, in a rent-back agreement, it may be in the buyer's best interest to have the seller keep the utilities in their name and continue to pay them.

    • Entry Rights

    Make sure to cover the right to enter is in the rent-back agreement. If the buyer wants to begin painting or making any changes to the home while the seller is still living there, they will need to give proper notice, typically 24-hours, before entering the home.

    • Maintenance

    The agreement should also cove who is responsible for maintaining the interior and exterior of the home. Maybe the seller will continue doing the yard work, but if the stove or refrigerator stops working, the seller will call the landlord to get a new one. Specify maintenance to make sure there is an understanding for handling any unforeseen circumstances.

    • Insurance

    The new owner will have to have insurance coverage as per the lender's requirement – and because they are the new owner. However, the owner's insurance won't cover the tenant's possessions, so your agreement will need to include terms for the tenant to carry renter's insurance. As the buyer, include the right to ask for proof of insurance.

    • Inspections

    The new owner should walk through the property before the close to note its condition. Take photos to document. Do another walk-through upon taking possession at the end of the seller's rental term to determine any damages that may require compensation which can be taken from the security deposit.

    The Pros and Cons of a Rent-Back Agreement

    There are positives and negatives both for the buyer and the seller with a rent-back agreement. Here are a few to consider:

    For the Seller:

    A seller might want to consider a rent-back agreement if there is a significant gap between closing on the sale of their home and the purchase of their new home. In a tight market, getting some additional time to find your dream home can be a lifesaver. While a rent-back agreement is typically short-term – 30 to 60 days, that extra time can often make a big difference. On the downside, while you're still in the property, you need to remember that it isn't yours anymore. Technically, you now have a landlord. That means if you cause any damages, are late with the rent, or vacating the property, you may be liable and held financially responsible. 

    For the Buyer:

    If you're not in a hurry to move in, a rent-back agreement can be a factor in landing you your dream home. It is a way to make your offer stronger and stand out to the seller. However, there are some factors to consider since you are now technically a landlord. This means that you may be responsible for any repairs, for example, replacing a broken water heater or fixing a broken stove. And you may need to make the repairs immediately. You also need to be concerned that the sellers will move out on time. They rarely drag their feet, but it does happen. If it does, you may need to go through the legal process of having them evicted.

    The Bottom Line...

    All that being said, when properly and thoughtfully executed, a rent-back agreement can be a win-win situation for both the buyer and seller. Your REALTOR® and attorney can help guide you to create a proper rent-back agreement that is fair and beneficial to both parties. Just make cover all the bases and make sure that the terms of the agreement are very specifically spelled out. 

    If you treat this situation like you would any other business relationship you should be ok. Buyers should never let sellers retain possession of the home without a formal occupancy agreement. A well-written agreement will protect both the buyer and the seller. 

    September
    20

    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 USPS.com 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 Nextdoor.com group. 

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

    October
    6

    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.

    September
    15

    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. 

    August
    2

    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.

    Click Here to Read More...

    June
    30

    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. Realtor.com 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: https://www.masiello.com/news-and-updates/2021/06/16/the-logistics-of-a-seller-backing-out-of-a-purchase-and-sale

    June
    29

    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.

    Click Here to Read More...

    June
    9

    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. 

    April
    5

    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.

    Click Here to Read More...

    March
    15

    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.

    Click Here to Read More...

    February
    15

    Home Organization Apps

    Staying organized has never been easy. And after a year when many of us have spent more time living and working at home than ever before, it's understandable if home organization has gotten a little lax. 

    Our real estate agents understand the struggle. Luckily, we also have a few suggestions for getting your home organization back on track. We can't promise you won't have to do any actual cleaning, but we can say with confidence that these home organization apps will help!

    Click Here to Read More...

    February
    8

    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!

    October
    5

    Move to New England

    Buying a home is quite an undertaking, even when you're just moving across the neighborhood. Relocating to a different state presents even more challenges. With so many individuals moving to a different climate, relocating for work, or simply packing up and heading to a city that suits their evolving lifestyle, buying a home in a different state is becoming increasingly common.

    Zoom Towns are also driving out of state relocation. Zoom Towns are towns that are seeing an increase in residents, specifically professionals who desire a remote workplace in an area that offers more space and solitude than larger urban settings. For instance, the Zoom Towns are popping up throughout New England as professionals from the greater NYC and Boston areas seek out work-from-home opportunities.

    If you're considering buying a home in a different state, here are a few things that you should know.

    1. Do Plenty of Research
      If you think you've done enough research on your desired location, do some more! There are many aspects of your new area that will impact your life, such as new residential or commercial developments, new roadway construction, and school rezoning. Learn as much as possible about the area you desire so you can feel fully informed when you arrive.

    2. Create a Moving Checklist
      While a moving checklist is helpful for all moves, it's especially vital when relocating to a new state. For instance, many homeowners forget to change their address for delivery services such as Amazon. By creating a to-do list that addresses all aspects of your previous home life, you can ensure that you have everything transitioned to your new home as smoothly as possible.

    3. Try to Visit the Area 
      It may be difficult to travel to another state every weekend, but you should try to visit the area a few times before your move. Spend a night or two near where your new home is and live life like a local. Go for a drive during peak traffic hours. Discover where your favorite stores are located. Find a few hidden gems. The more frequently you visit, the more like home it will feel.

    4. Understand the Other Costs of Living 
      Unfortunately, home values are not the same across the country. Not only do you need to understand how much home you can afford via the mortgage, but you also much take note of the cost of living in your new area. For instance, you may not pay a state income tax in Florida, but you will in Pennsylvania. Also, moving from Florida to Pennsylvania may decrease your air conditioning usage, but your electric bill may still rise as you use your furnace more often. Make a spreadsheet of your current yearly living expenses and try to find data from your new location to help you compare costs.

    5. Ask "Stupid" Questions
      Buying a home is one of the largest financial purchases you'll ever make, so you should ask as many questions as you have. When it comes to real estate transactions, there are no stupid questions. Your agent will be happy to answer and address every concern you have, so you feel comfortable and confident in your purchase.

    Moving to a new state doesn't need to be overly complicated. Whether you're headed to a Zoom Town for work or relocating for family, following these tips will help make the process as swift, smooth, and stress-free as possible. And you don't have to go through this process alone! Our expert agents and our extended network of real estate professionals across the country are here to assist. Contact us today to get started. 

    September
    21

    Zoom Town Trend

    With this year's pandemic accelerating the shift towards remote work, living near the office is quickly becoming a thing of the past. With so many people working from home, many are taking advantage of the opportunity to reconsider their home's location. Not only is this spurring a quick recovery for the housing market, but it's also leading to an exciting new trend that's popping-up here in 2020: the rise of the Zoom Town.

    So what exactly is a Zoom Town? It's often a beach town, lake town, or even just a peaceful secluded area of the country. More importantly, it's far away from the normal bustling cities that have traditionally served as the heart of the business world. Zoom Towns are seeing rapid growth this year, as many people are choosing to work where they vacation and vacation where they work.

    Click Here to Read More...

    September
    9

    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.

    September
    8

    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.

    Click Here to Read More...

    March
    31

    The Economic Impact of Buying a Home

    The Economic Impact of Buying a Home | MyKCM

    We're in a changing real estate market, and life, in general, is changing too – from how we grocery shop and meal prep to the ways we can interact with our friends and neighbors. Even practices for engaging with agents, lenders, and all of the players involved in a real estate transaction are changing to a virtual format. What isn't changing, however, is one key thing that can drive the local economy: buying a home.

    We're all being impacted in different ways by the effects of the coronavirus. If you're in a position to buy a home today, know that you're a major economic force in your neighborhood. And while we all wait patiently for the current pandemic to pass, there are a lot of things you can do in the meantime to keep your home search on track.

    Every year the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shares a report that notes the full economic impact of home sales. This report summarizes:

    "The total economic impact of real estate related industries on the state economy, as well as the expenditures that result from a single home sale, including aspects like home construction costs, real estate brokerage, mortgage lending and title insurance."

    Here's the breakdown of how the average home sale boosts the economy:The Economic Impact of Buying a Home | MyKCMWhen you buy a home, you're making an impact. You're fulfilling your need for shelter and a place to live, and you're also generating jobs and income for the appraiser, the loan officer, the title company, the real estate agent, and many more contributors to the process. For every person or business that you work with throughout the transaction, there's also likely a team behind the scenes making it all happen, so the effort multiplies substantially. As noted above in the circle on the right, the impact is almost double when you purchase new construction, given the extra labor it requires to build the home.

    The report also breaks down the average economic impact by state:The Economic Impact of Buying a Home | MyKCMAs a buyer, you have an essential need for a home – and you can make an essential impact with homeownership, too. That need for shelter, comfort, and a safe place to live will always be alive and well. And whenever you're able to act on that need, whether now or later, you'll truly be creating gains for you, your family, local business professionals, and the overall economy.

    Bottom Line

    Whenever you purchase a home, you're an economic driver. Even if you're not ready or able to make a move now, there are things you can do to keep your own process moving forward so you're set when the time is right for you. Let's connect to keep your home search – and your local contributions – on track.

     

    Contact our expert agents today

    January
    20

    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.

      Click Here to Read More...

    November
    21

    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!

    November
    14

    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.

    July
    15

    Buy a Home with Student Debt
    With the total amount of student loan debt in the United States topping out at over $1.53 trillion, it's no surprise that many college graduates are concerned with how their debts will impact their ability to achieve their other financial goals. 

    After finishing college and landing a great job, purchasing a home of your own is often the next logical step, but will you be able to do it if you're debt-strapped?

    The answer is yes! Our real estate agents help new college graduates find their dream homes all the time. It will take some planning and preparation, but it's entirely possible. Start by following these five tips. 

    1. Evaluate Your Current Financial Situation
      Before you consider committing to a mortgage, it's essential to take an honest look at your current finances. Do you have enough cash set aside to cover emergency expenses?

      Do you have enough consistent, reliable income to pay your monthly bills and cover your mortgage, taxes, homeowners insurance, and other expenses related to owning a home? Once you can confidently answer "yes" to these questions, you're ready to start getting serious about buying a home.

      Click Here to Read More...

    May
    28

    Newlyweds Guide Home Buying
    Congratulations on your marriage! Now that the honeymoon is over, it's time to walk hand-in-hand into the next chapter of your lives! If you're ready to buy a house together, our real estate agents know exactly how excited you are to start picking out your dream home. While we are here to help you through the home buying process from viewing through closing, we also want to help you responsibly prepare for this purchase. We've put together this handy homebuying guide for newlyweds to follow.

    1. Don't rush!
      Buying a house is a significant accomplishment, and although you may be ready to start this new chapter together in a new home, this is another major life decision that you don't want to rush. Remember that buying a home is not like planning a wedding — there is no exact date that you need to have everything ready. Take your time and responsibly prepare so that you can make your home buying goals a reality.

      Click Here to Read More...

    July
    30

    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!

    https://www.masiello.com/mortgage-services

    Click here to find your next home!

     

    https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0411/5-things-you-need-to-be-pre-approved-for-a-mortgage.aspx

    July
    9

    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.

    July
    12

    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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