The Commonwealth Blog

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

What Should You Take with You While Moving?

Are you unsure of what items to leave behind during a move? If you have a myriad of hefty household objects, furniture, and equipment on your property, you may wonder what’s worth keeping and what you should leave for the newcomers.

Your convenience isn’t the only factor. Buyers expect to own certain items on the property when they write the offer letter, unless negotiated otherwise. Luckily, there are some rules of thumb you can follow when deciding what to leave and what to take. 

To Pack or Not to Pack

To ensure a smooth and lawsuit-free move, most real estate agents recommend their clients stick to certain guidelines regarding what stays and goes. Here’s how each of these household items fits into the de facto code of conduct.

Built-In Fixtures

It’s common knowledge that a house’s fixtures (its built-in elements) should stay put. If something is nailed down, bolted, or mounted, it likely stays with the home. These items include lighting fixtures, built-in air conditioners, and other immovable items like hardwired alarms that connect to the electrical system.

If you’re not sure if an item is considered an immovable fixture, document your decision to keep it or leave it in your lease. Mounting devices for big-screen TVs, for example, are technically mounted into the wall but are part of a movable item. Let buyers know up-front if you’ll be taking items like these to avoid conflict down the road.

Appliances

The refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, and washer and dryer aren’t considered fixtures because they’re not permanently mounted to anything. While you may want to take these items with you, consider negotiating them into the sale. Many homeowners (especially new ones) want the convenience of purchasing a home with appliances already included.

Outdoor Items

Sheds, basketball hoops, and anything else anchored to the ground should stay, but freestanding objects like lawn chairs and umbrellas can go. If you’re no longer attached to these items, consider including them in your sale to help make your newcomers feel more welcome. Basketball hoops in the front yard encourage kids to play outside and meet their neighbors, while backyard sheds provide more room for gardening enthusiasts to store tools, potting soil, and more.

Tip: You can’t just dig up your plants and take them with you. Landscaping, unless specified in your lease, is considered an outdoor fixture!

Window Treatments

While curtains are considered personal property, curtain rods, fixtures, and blinds fall under the immovable fixtures category. If you’re confused about what you’re allowed to take, just remember the “built-in” rule. Is the object mounted to the wall, or is it easily removable without the use of hardware? 

you’re no longer in love with your curtains (and you don’t have blinds), leave them behind for the new owner. Even if they don’t keep them long-term, they’ll appreciate having privacy before unpacking their own window coverings.

Negotiate Wisely

Now that you have a better idea of what you can and cannot take with you when you move, think about whether or not the items you’ll leave behind merit a higher asking price. A professional real estate agent can help you decide on a price that’s fair for both you and your buyers. If you’re not attached to that washing machine, let it stay with the house—it might just get you more bang for your buck.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Sustainability Efforts in Wellesley

Wellesley, Massachusetts is a nationwide leader in sustainability among American communities. In 2008, a group of volunteers founded a grassroots organization called Sustainable Wellesley to encourage actions that lead to sustainability in Wellesley and the surrounding area. 

Making Wellesley Sustainable

Sustainable Wellesley is driven to improve sustainability in three key areas:

Improving Efficiency

Improved efficiency means both using and generating power wisely. In 2012, The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources awarded Wellesley the title of Green Power Community, reflecting their commitment to sustainable energy. 

Promoting Recycling

Recycling waste is a good first step, but communities can do more. In Wellesley, the municipal leadership also promotes reducing waste and reusing trash.

Reducing Waste

City living produces a great deal of pollution. Wellesley is committed to green energy, which has led to a 20% reduction in their carbon footprint.

Protecting Natural Resources

Nature has blessed Wellesley with an abundance of natural resources, of which green spaces are arguably the most important yet underappreciated. Many studies have shown that people are happier and healthier when they have access to open space. In Wellesley, the city council has mandated that all subdivisions with five or more lots must dedicate at least 50% of their acreage to open space. 

The city government does not leave the space empty, however. They encourage people to use and enjoy it by adding community gardens and other features. There is also an expansive trail network, featuring 26 miles of trails that connect open spaces throughout the community.

Promoting Involvement

Sustainable Wellesley regularly hosts events designed to educate and inform the public about sustainability. Topics range from mundane subjects such as composting to offering advice for locals who want to run for office and make changes at the governmental level. 

If we want to achieve sustainability in our country, we must all take action at the local level. Sustainable Wellesley is leading the charge. Superior environmental health is just one of many reasons why Wellesley and other Boston-area communities offer their residents an excellent quality of life.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Must-See Museums and Libraries in Watertown

Watertown Museums and Libraries

English Puritans founded Watertown, Massachusetts in 1630. For nearly 400 years, the city has been in the thick of American history. During the Revolutionary War, the Watertown Minutemen stopped the advance of the British Redcoats on their march to Concord. During the industrial age, researcher Frederick Taylor pioneered the field of scientific management in Watertown.

This history is still reflected in the town’s character today. It's no surprise that there's plenty to do and see in Watertown. Here’s a list of six cultural touchstones that help make Watertown a rewarding place to live.

Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library

The Perkins School for the Blind is the oldest institution of its type in the United States. This school was founded in 1829 with the goal of educating blind students, who had few opportunities in those times. The Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library celebrates this institution’s rich history. Whether or not you or your family members have a visual impairment, this library is something everyone should experience.

The Dorothy and Charles Mosesian Center for the Arts

The history, scenery, and architecture of Watertown make it a natural destination for artists. This community arts center hosts art events for people of all ages. If you’re passionate about admiring or creating art, this place is for you.

Gore Place

Gore Place served as the summerhouse of the lawyer and politician Christopher Gore beginning in 1806. In its heyday, the country hose hosted 19th-century celebrities like the Marquis de Lafayette, James Monroe, and Daniel Webster, among others. Today, this 45-acre property is open to the public. Admission to the grounds is free, and tours of the house are available for a small charge.

Armenian Library and Museum of America

The Armenian Museum houses the largest collection of Armenian cultural exhibits in the United States, including a collection of audio recordings made by survivors of the Armenian genocide. This exhibit honors the tragedy with a grim but unforgettable look at a dark moment in human history.

Edmund Fowle House and Museum

The Edmund Fowle House, built in 1772, was a meeting place for the Massachusetts Provincial Congress during the Revolutionary War. This is a fantastic place to learn about Watertown’s role in our nation’s battle for independence.

The Plumbing Museum

This museum is dedicated to the underappreciated field of plumbing. Most of us only think about plumbing when we have a problem, but without the experts in the field, our lives would be much less pleasant and convenient.

Watertown, Massachusetts has witnessed many of the most interesting events in American history. The six places mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Buying a Home in a Seller's Market

Buying a Home in a Seller's Market

Imagine that you’ve already decided to move to a new city. You're ready to buy a home, but there's a problem: The city you're moving to is a hot market for real estate. You need a place to live, but is buying in a seller's market really a good idea?

 
In a seller's market, there aren't enough homes available for everyone looking to buy. Competition drives prices up and can lead to bidding wars. Fortunately, if you want to buy a house in a seller's market, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of a favorable outcome.
 

Get Started Right Away

When you're buying a home in a seller's market, there's a lot of competition. If you hesitate, there's a good chance someone else will close on the home you are thinking about. Be smart about things—still do your research and talk to a realtor, but remember that if you wait too long, you could miss out.
 

Include a Personal Letter

Sellers in a hot market are likely to get quite a few offers on their homes. As a buyer, making your offer stand out from the competition could make the difference between moving in and moving on.

 

One thing you can do to set yourself apart is write a personal letter to the seller. It doesn't have to be fancy or formal. You just want to express to the seller why you would be the perfect buyer for their home.

 

Start with a Strong Offer

When you're in a seller's market, it's not the time to make a lowball offer and negotiate to a final price. This is a near-certain way of losing a home to another buyer. A local realtor is your best friend in this situation. They’ll know the market and can help you decide on the right price.

 

Get Preapproved

Before you make an offer, make sure you're ready to follow through. Some buyers have the cash on hand to buy a home, but most of them need financing. If you'll need a loan, getting preapproved is an essential step. You’ll learn exactly how much you can spend and let sellers know that you’re serious.
 

Skip the Contingencies

If you're in a buyer's market, you have some power over the seller. Asking them to do a little extra to close the deal is reasonable. If you're in a seller's market, however, including contingencies will probably send your offer straight to the wastebasket.

 
When you're buying a home in a seller's market, you might feel like you're at a disadvantage. The good news is that sellers want to sell. With some preparation, good advice, and a little luck, you can get into the home you've been dreaming about.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Buying an Investment Property

Are you thinking of buying a house as an investment? While most experts will tell you that buying a home you plan to live in probably isn't the best investment idea, buying separate investment properties makes sense for many people.


Whether you're buying a house to keep as a rental or you're just planning for a quick flip, there are a few things to consider before making the purchase. Here are our top four tips for finding the right investment property:

Location, Location, Location

It’s one of the oldest clichés in real estate, but no attribute matters more than location. It's the one thing about the property you can't change. If your investment property is in a bad location, no amount of renovations, upgrades, or improvements can fix the area—in fact, having the best house in the neighborhood can hurt you in the long run. Consider the location and be smart about your purchase.
 

The Cost of Maintenance

Every home needs regular maintenance, and maintenance costs money. If you're able to do the repairs yourself, you can save some cash, but be realistic about your abilities. If the projected cost of maintaining your property substantially lowers your expected ROI, the best move is to walk away.
 

Condition of the Property

If a property is in poor condition, it doesn't necessarily mean you should pass on it. A house in poor condition could go for an especially low price. A smart buyer can even use the home’s condition as leverage in their negotiation. For some buyers, especially those looking to flip houses, buying a fixer-upper is the most intelligent choice.

 

Estimated Return on Investment

Before you make any investment, whether you're buying real estate, stocks, or even a set of collectible Red Sox plates, it's important to consider the expected return. If you're buying a rental, you must compare the income you receive in rent to the cost of maintenance, property tax, and other expenses. For a flip house, you’ll estimate the cost of repairs, upgrades, and selling the home and weigh it against your expected profit.

 
Whether you're looking for a rental or you want to get into house flipping, buying investment property has proven successful for many—however, it can be risky. Before you sign that contract, make sure the property is right for you.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Things to Consider When Selling a Rental Property

Do you own a rental property? You probably considered the investment potential when you bought it, but what if it doesn't pay off as much as you hoped it would?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, individual investors own nearly 75% of rental properties. Most real estate investors recommend holding onto properties for the long term, but that doesn't make the strategy right for everyone.

When Should I Sell?

Most real estate investors keep their eye on market trends and let the conditions govern their investment strategy. However, when you own a rental property, there are other factors to consider, such as your financial position and maintenance needs. Only you can know if it’s time to sell your rental property, but there are some signs that could drive your decision. Here are five indicators that it may be time to sell:

You've Built Significant Equity

If you've owned your property for a long time or your property has appreciated significantly since you purchased it, you could cash out and pocket your profits. This especially makes sense when you're expecting a downturn in the market.

There Are Other Demands on Your Time

All of us are busy. Whether you have a new job, you're caring for an elderly family member, or you just want to take a long vacation, you may not want to take the time to manage your rental property any longer. Your time is yours, so you should spend it in a way that makes sense for you.

You'd Rather Invest Your Money Somewhere Else

Investing in real estate isn't right for everyone. If you'd rather invest in the stock market, precious metals, or a new business, selling your rental property could free up your capital.

Your Property Needs Extra Maintenance

Depending on your market, managing a rental property can have thin margins. If the time and money you spend on maintenance are becoming too great, it might make sense to sell your property and move on.

Buyer Demand is High

Real estate demand is flexible. If your area is experiencing a boom, selling now could be a great financial move. Like the proverb says, it's best to strike while the iron is hot.

Rental properties can be a lucrative investment, but they may require time and resources you’d rather invest somewhere else. If any of these scenarios seem familiar to you, it may be the right time to sell.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Negotiation Process Made Simple

Selling a home is exciting, but it can also be a bit intimidating. Every seller hopes to receive multiple offers, spark a bidding war, and settle on a price far above asking, but this doesn’t represent reality for many of us.

In the real world, most houses go for less than the asking price—about 80% of them, according to Zillow.

Negotiation Is Key

When you're selling a home, you go in understanding that you may not receive your asking price. However, that doesn't mean you have to accept whatever offer you receive. Negotiation is the key to unlocking the potential profit in your property.

It may seem like the buyer has all the power in real estate deals, but this isn't actually the case. As a seller, you have a product the buyer wants. Negotiation is all about using your power wisely. Here are five tips that can help:

Know the Market

Every good salesperson understands their product and the market. The first step in successful negotiation is putting yourself at a good starting point. If you set your starting price too high, you can put off potential buyers. Set the price too low, and you might settle for less than you want.

Home Inspections Let You Hold the Cards

Smart buyers ask for home inspections before making an offer. If the inspection turns up any problems, the buyer gains leverage in the negotiation. If you have the home inspection done ahead of time, you will know of potential problems before the buyer does. You can address the issues or adjust your price accordingly.

Create Competition

Some buyers want to come in and make an offer as soon as a house is on the market. As a seller, you can refuse any offer until after you have an open house. Even if you receive only one offer, you can put pressure on the buyer by making them think there were multiple offers on the table.

Your Offers Have Expiration Dates

Some buyers try to turn negotiation into a series of multiple offers and counteroffers. When you make a counteroffer, consider putting an expiration date on it. This puts pressure on the buyer to wrap up the deal quickly, and if they don’t accept, you’ll be free to take any better offers that may come along later.

Don't Be Afraid to Walk Away

As either a buyer or a seller, your willingness to walk away from a deal is your most powerful weapon. Turning down an offer sends the message that you’re confident in your position. However, don’t close the door completely. Tell potential buyers they are free to make a new offer if they’re interested.

Conventional wisdom says the buyer has all the power in a negotiation, but sellers have more power than they think. Use it to your advantage with shrewd negotiation.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Create the Perfect Fall Kitchen

On Thanksgiving itself and the days leading up to it, many homeowners spend more time in the kitchen cooking for friends and family. If you’re hosting any dinners or get-togethers this November, why not decorate your kitchen to help set the mood? Here’s how to create a cozy, autumnal kitchen you and your guests will love.  

Squash, Gourds, and Pumpkins

Fall is harvesting season for pumpkins, squash, and gourds, all of which you can use in your fall décor. They all come from the same genetic family, but some are better for eating while others are better for carving and decorating. We recommend using pumpkins and gourds as centerpieces instead of squashes, which have meatier interiors and rot more quickly—eat the squash instead! 

To create the perfect centerpieces, arrange your pumpkins and gourds in large bowls with seasonal foliage and fruit, or place them on top of your kitchen counters and bars or next to candle displays. If you want to get even more creative, put your pumpkins and gourds inside of cabinets with glass paneling or on top of the fireplace mantle for more subtle fall flavor.

If you don’t want to overwhelm the space with bright colors, decorate your kitchen with white pumpkins. They’re a sophisticated choice, and they’ll complement other decorative items in the home. If you’re going for a more colorful display, combine orange, yellow, and green pumpkins with fall foliage to make your arrangements pop.

Add Autumn Colors

Weave dark textiles into your design for a cozy effect. Dark, natural linens and window coverings will complement softer textures, like pumpkins, fall flowers, and fruit. To add pops of color, use a couple of colorful hand towels or a table runner with bright colors to liven up the space.

If you’re feeling really ambitious with your decorating, you can always paint a wall or two in fall colors. Deep red, warm orange, or olive brown paints will make your space feel cozy and welcoming. If you don’t want to paint an entire wall, purchase a few colorful decorative items to hang up around your dining room table.

Get Crafty

Another fun (and affordable) option is making your own fall decorations. Paint mason jars in fall-friendly colors and fill them with utensils or flowers to organize and prettify the space. One of our favorite tricks is painting pumpkins with glue and sprinkling glitter on top to create flashy pumpkin centerpieces. Click here for a list of craft ideas that will inspire your next decorating project.

Get the Most Out of Your Space

Now that you’ve put the time into decorating your kitchen for fall, we hope you get to enjoy it! Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner or a neighborhood potluck, make sure you allow yourself some quality time to enjoy your cozy fall kitchen.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Determining an Offer Price

You need to submit a competitive offer to successfully purchase a home, striking the right balance between impressing the seller and protecting your assets. While you want to get the most bang for your buck, you also want to put yourself in a position to seal the deal before another buyer offers something more lucrative. Here are several important things to consider before submitting your final offer to the seller.

The Market

First, determine if you are in a buyer’s or seller’s market. If you’re house hunting in a buyer’s market, in which a larger inventory of available homes drives down the competition, you have more negotiating power. When offers are few and far between, the seller is more likely to settle on a lower amount, and you probably won’t have to submit an offer above the asking price.

A seller’s market is different. Sellers are less willing to negotiate when they have several offers from other interested buyers. Extra competition prompts some buyers to waive the home inspection fee or submit an all-cash offer. If you’re buying in a seller’s market, expect to meet or exceed the seller’s asking price.

Pay attention to the general local market value to see what similar homes are going for in the area. A real estate agent can provide you with a comparative market report, helping you decide on a fair and appropriate offer. 

Timing

The longer the house has been on the market, the better your chances of successfully negotiating with the seller. If they’ve already moved into their new home and they’re paying two mortgages at once, they’re probably eager to sell—even below the asking price. Be prepared to offer more than that asking price if the home has just been listed in a seller’s market, however.

Desire

How badly you want this home compared to others in the neighborhood? If you’re set on this property, communicate your enthusiasm to the seller by offering more than the asking price. This lets them know you’re serious about the sale and possibly gives you an advantage over other buyers. Just don’t forget the additional expenses associated with home inspections, closing costs, and realtor fees.

Let an Agent Help

A local real estate agent can help you decide on an offer price that’s both reasonable and in line with your budget. If you’re unsure of how high an offer to submit, turn to an agent to provide you with important market information and a report of property prices in the area. You’ll gain a clear idea of how much money you need to compete against other buyers, forcing you to consider how much you love this particular home and how much you’re willing to spend.

Monday, October 28, 2019

5 Common Types of Mortgages

When you're getting ready to buy a home, you have a lot of decisions to make. What neighborhood should you move into? How much should you offer? What if you get into a bidding war? One easy question to answer is: Should you have a mortgage? For most Americans, the answer to this question is yes.

Interest rates are low right now, and many Americans are taking out mortgages to buy new homes. At $9.4 trillion, Americans have more mortgage debt than ever before. However, this still leaves the question of what kind of mortgage you should use. When you take out a mortgage, it will be part of your life for the next 15 or 30 years. It's important to pick the right one.

Fortunately, choosing a mortgage isn't too difficult. When you have your budget figured out, and you know how big of a down payment you can afford, it’ll be easy to choose the right mortgage once you know which options are available.

The Five Most Common Types of Mortgages

Finances can be complicated in general, but mortgages are pretty simple. Here are the five most common types of mortgages on the market:

The Conventional Mortgage

A mortgage that isn't insured by the federal government is called a conventional mortgage. If the amount you borrow falls within industry guidelines for your income level, a conventional loan will probably work for you. Because conventional mortgages aren't backed by the federal government, lenders typically require that you carry private mortgage insurance if your down payment is less than 20% of your home’s value.

Fixed-Rate Mortgages

When you have a fixed-rate mortgage, you'll pay the same interest rate for the entire life of your loan. Fixed-rate loans are more popular when interest rates are low. Today, interest rates are less than 4%, so many buyers are currently opting for a fixed rate. 

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

When you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, your interest rate can change. If interest rates go down, you save money, but if interest rates go up, you could end up paying more. Many lenders offer adjustable-rate mortgages with a cap on the maximum interest rate. This can save you if interest rates rise sharply.

Government-Insured Mortgages

The U.S. government doesn't loan money directly to home buyers, but there are three government agencies that back loans: the Department of Agriculture, the Federal Housing Administration, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These agencies help buyers who may not qualify for many loans.

Jumbo Mortgages

If you want to purchase a home that exceeds industry loan guidelines for your income or area, you'll need a jumbo loan. These loans typically require more paperwork so lenders can be confident you won't default on the loan.

A home will probably be the biggest asset you’ll own, while your mortgage will usually be your biggest debt. A mortgage will be part of your life for a long time, so it's important to choose the right one for you.

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