The Commonwealth Blog

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Financing Your Home

Most people don’t purchase a home with extra cash they have lying around. Instead, they rely on loans to make their mortgage payments—this is especially true for first-time buyers. In order to qualify for a loan, you’ll need to let lenders review your financial history so they can make sure you’ll pay off your mortgage.

Lenders will check your credit score to determine the amount of money they’re willing to loan you. After you know your loan amount, you’ll have a better idea of how much money you can put toward your down payment, which in turn gives you a realistic idea of what homes are in your price range. 

Qualifying for a Home Loan or Loan Preapproval

Approach your house hunt with a good sense of your own purchasing power. After all, you don’t want to tour a home you can’t afford. Before setting foot onto a property, make sure you possess the financial backing needed to submit an offer. Opt for mortgage prequalification or loan preapproval to get an idea of your ideal price range.

  • Mortgage Prequalification: During the prequalification phase, a lender will evaluate your financial trustworthiness (your creditworthiness) to determine if you’re eligible for a loan. Prequalifications are an approximation based on the financial information you provide—they don’t guarantee you’ll receive a loan. Prequalifications are best used during the window shopping phase, before you’ve decided you’ll purchase a home in the immediate future.
  • Loan Preapproval: During this phase of the home buying process, lenders investigate your financial history to offer a specific loan amount. To determine a loan number, lenders will ask for your income, credit score, credit history, and the amount of money you have in savings. This process gives you a realistic idea of the homes you can afford within a specific price range. 

Rely on a Loan Officer for Help

No matter your financial state, a loan officer is there to assist you. If you’re not in the best financial position to purchase a home, your loan officer can recommend ways to improve your credit score and trustworthiness. Alternatively, if you’ve got the go-ahead, a loan officer can prepare you for purchase by letting you know which loan programs you qualify for, what your purchase price limit is, what your monthly payment might look like, and how much money you need for your down payment, closing costs, and reserves.

Don’t Skip These Important Steps

Don’t jump into the game without the skills you need to win! Before you get too excited about a potential new home, first go through your finances to see what you can realistically afford. This allows you to put your best foot forward while placing an offer on your dream home.

 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Close a Deal Faster with Special Offers or Terms

Keeping your home on the market can cost you money. As long as you still own it, you’re responsible for maintenance, property taxes, and utilities. Depending on your situation, a house that doesn't sell quickly can be a weight around your neck. You may find yourself forced to pay two house payments or even unable to accept a new job, start a family, or take the trip you’ve been dreaming of for your whole life.

Are you stuck in a home that seems like it will be on the market forever? There are a few things you can do to encourage buyers to close a deal and sell your home faster.

Pay the Closing Costs

Offering to pay the closing costs is a common strategy for sellers who want to speed things along. Selling a home involves several costs and fees, including things like real estate agent and lender fees and charges for title insurance and home appraisals. When you total everything up, it may run from 2-5% of your home’s value. Many buyers have difficulty saving for a 3% down payment, let alone any additional costs. Offering to pay closing costs can encourage an otherwise reluctant buyer to pull the trigger.

Pay for Necessary Repairs

Did the home inspection uncover a leaking roof, bad wiring, or termite damage? You typically have two options: reduce your price to cover the cost or pay for the repairs yourself. The second option is better from the buyer’s perspective—he or she can be confident they’re moving into a home, not a money pit 

Consider Seller Financing

If you live in an especially depressed market, buyers may have trouble getting a loan. In extreme cases like this, some sellers work the purchase out directly with the buyer. No bank or other lender needs to be involved in this arrangement—the buyer and seller handle it all on their own. You have a right to determine the interest rate, payment schedule, and any penalties that may apply if the buyer defaults. While this allows you, the seller, to offer whatever terms you like to get your home off the market more quickly, it also means you’ll take on all the risks of a lender yourself. Depending on your financial position, this may or may not work for you.

No matter what the terms are, it’s a good idea to have an attorney review the contract before you sign.

Do you need to sell your home off of the market quickly? While it may cost you in the short term, making special offers can help you seal the deal and move on.

Monday, September 23, 2019

When Is It Worth It to Hire a Home Inspector?

Buying a home is a major commitment, and many people worry they’re making the wrong choice. How can you make sure the home you’re considering doesn’t turn into a money pit after you buy it? Hiring a home inspector can help you spot trouble before it hits your wallet where it hurts. While you may not need to have an inspection, it is one of the most valuable home buying tools you can use.

What does a home inspector do? Put simply, they search for problems that can cost you money. Even a house that looks good on the outside may be hiding many costly and potentially dangerous problems.

The price for a home inspection can vary from one market to another, but it’s typically less than $500. Considering the potential price of home repairs, the cost of a home inspection is money well spent.

What Does a Home Inspector Look for?

A home inspector can search for many issues. Here are just four of the potential problems they can alert you to:

  • Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew can not only leave ugly marks on your walls and floor but may also be toxic to your family or pets. Once mold and mildew set in, they can be very costly and difficult to remove.

  • Leaky Roof

Very few things are more frustrating than buying a house on a beautiful summer day only to discover that the roof leaks during the first rainstorm. Replacing the roof could cost you thousands of dollars, and it's something that can make a big difference in the price you pay for a home.

  • Plumbing Issues

The pipes that carry water to and from your fixtures live inside the walls and under the floor. When everything works on the surface, it’s easy to forget about what’s happening out of sight.

  • Old Wiring

An older house may have been built with outdated wiring technology that is no longer considered safe, while a newer home could have an issue with shoddy workmanship. In either case, you’re better off knowing ahead of time whether the electrical system has potential problems.

This Isn't the Time to Do It Yourself

You may think you have the skills to spot any potential issues with your new home, but unless you have significant experience in the home construction and repair industry, this job is better left to the professionals—it’s just too difficult to be objective.

How to Find a Good Home Inspector

Most times, your real estate agent or your lender can recommend a home inspector. If you would rather find your own, ask around. You probably know someone who has bought or sold a house recently, so they can be a good source of information.

Some states have certification and licensing requirements for home inspectors.earn about Massachusetts home inspection requirements here.

While hiring a home inspector is your choice, the few hundred dollars you spend on an inspection can save you thousands. It’s a price that is well worth paying.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Interest Rates' Effect on Property Values

Interest rates, especially the rates on interbank exchanges and Treasury bills, have a profound effect on the value of real estate and many other investments. Because their influence on home values is so visible, many people incorrectly assume interest rates are the biggest driving force in real estate valuation—this leads to poor decisions. As of this writing, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages have a 3.6% interest rate, and the rate is trending down. Many homeowners are waiting for interest rates to decline, hoping to get a better price when they sell. Buyers may hope to purchase a house quickly before prices go up—however, interest rates are only one factor influencing property values.

Interest rates have a significant impact on the economy, influencing property values in various ways. When interest rates are low, buyers may be willing to spend a little more on a home, while higher interest rates can make buyers reluctant.

Supply and Demand Make a Difference

When the market for homes is down, builders can make more money on high-end homes. This can lead to more competition for entry-level homes and drive prices up. When you combine lower interest rates and the higher prices they generate with a short supply of homes, you are looking at a sellers’ market.

Interest Rates Affect Home Values Indirectly

Interest rates don’t affect home prices directly, but their impact is clear. Rising interest rates over a longer period may lead to weaker demand, especially in the lower end of the market. Falling interest rates can lead to greater demand.

It's a Personal Decision

Interest rates can have a powerful impact on home prices, but they are not the only factor (or even the most important one). The current interest rate is under 5%, which is remarkably low historically. If you’re considering purchasing a home, your income, family situation, and plans for the future should influence your decision much more than interest rates do.

Play the Long Game

The current interest rate matters in real estate valuation. Rising interest rates drive prices down and falling interest rates drive prices up, but in either case, it's a long-term proposition.

Interest rates are easy to track and tempting to focus on, but they’re only one of the many factors that influence property values. Do you think the time is right for you to buy or sell your home? Your best move is to speak with a real estate professional first.

Monday, September 16, 2019

How to Choose the Best Offer

Sellers should consider more than timing and price when choosing between multiple offers on their home. While it’s commonly said the first offer is the best offer, you should also think about a buyer’s financial ability to close the deal, contingencies, and closing costs. With these things in mind, you’re more likely to secure an offer with favorable terms.

Finances

The amount of money a buyer is willing to put down on a deposit is your first clue into an offer’s potential. Serious buyers put down more money up-front when they want to see the deal through. If another buyer isn’t as committed, they may put down a smaller deposit so they can walk away without major financial repercussions.

Also consider whether the buyer is paying with cash or through financed loans. If they’re paying with cash, make sure they possess documentation showing they have the money. Buyers paying with financed loans should be preapproved and meet the lender criteria for getting a mortgage.

Contingencies

Contingencies protect buyers from unforeseen changes, allowing them to back out of a deal if they no longer want to buy the house. If multiple buyers are bidding on your property, compare their contingency offers to avoid any messy situations down the road.

Home Sale Contingency

This is a common contingency clause that says the buyer’s purchase is contingent upon the sale of their own home—they’ll only go through with the deal when their current home sells. Check the length of a prospective buyer’s home sale contingency clause to avoid stalling your own sale. If another buyer doesn’t offer a home sale contingency clause or they include one with a shorter waiting time, choose their offer instead.

Inspection Contingency

Most buyers require you to make certain repairs before they agree to purchase your house. You’ll likely go through another round of negotiations after their inspection. Think about whether the cost of repairs is worthwhile or whether you should wait for a buyer who thinks your home is move-in-ready as is. 

Financing Appraisal Contingency

Loan institutions hire appraisers to make sure a house is worth what a buyer may pay for it. If the appraiser’s price comes in low (which is common during a bidding war), you’ll have to lower your sales price, contest the appraisal, or move forward with another deal.

Closing Costs

Sellers must pay real estate commissions and a plethora of closing costs associated with their sale. Sometimes, a buyer will negotiate paying for a portion of your closing costs if they’re set on purchasing your home. This can go the other way too—a buyer may ask you to pay some of their closing fees. Whatever scenario you find yourself in, make sure you factor in all closing fees before accepting an offer.

Rely on a Professional Real Estate Agent

If you’re not sure how to proceed after receiving your first few offers, get advice from a licensed real estate agent. They can help you compare your offers and negotiate terms so you make the smartest decision.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Extraordinary Homes Spotlight

Commonwealth Real Estate works with homeowners in these neighborhoods and beyond to sell their breathtakingly beautiful properties. Take a glimpse into some of our most luxurious and attractive properties located in and around Boston and along the Cape.

55 Love Lane, Weston ($10,000,000)

This magnificent seven-acre compound, close to horse and walking trails, would make a great home for nature lovers. A tree-lined driveway leads to the main house, guest and carriage house, and pool. Upon entering the primary house, you’ll see large dining rooms and living rooms surrounded by French doors, along with windows overlooking the grounds. There are three-season porches on multiple sides of the house, so you’ll always be able to enjoy a lazy day (or night) outside. The master wing is located on the second floor, with two baths and a sleeping porch, alongside three additional en suite bedrooms. You’ll find a billiard room, balcony, office, and two additional bedrooms and baths on the third floor.

200 -202 Beacon 1 & 3, Boston ($9,995,000)

Architect Guy Grassi and interior designer Bunny Williams designed this beautiful maisonette apartment for homeowners who love to entertain. A 40-foot-wide living room with an attractive fireplace and views of the Charles River will encourage guests to stay a while longer, as will the formal dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows that sits adjacent to an eat-in kitchen and a beautiful library. The master bedroom level has a private home office with a large master bath, fireplace, jacuzzi, and walk-in closet. Best of all, there’s a stone patio on the roof for parties that cater to 100-plus people!

55 Leicester Street, Brookline ($9,995,000)

With high ceilings and a floating main staircase, this architecturally stunning home is a piece of art. Its dining room seats over 20 guests, and the master bedroom includes 20-foot windows, a balcony, a large en suite bath, its own loft, and a private office. This seven-bedroom masterpiece is perfect for both formal parties and secluded nights in.

558 Fox Hill Road, Chatham ($9,995,000)

Escape to the Cape at this spectacular waterfront property with views of Crows Pond. The home includes five bedroom suites over three levels, with a built-in elevator to take you to each floor. The main level includes a custom kitchen, dining room, study, and master suite and laundry, while the lower level includes a sauna, stone wine cellar, entertainment and exercise room, and changing room with a custom kitchen.

Search for Properties

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth Real Estate is proud to showcase beautiful homes, condos, and apartments of all sizes and price ranges in Boston and beyond. Whether you’re in the market for a new home or just want to see what’s available, check out our property search to peruse our listings.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Best Greater Boston Neighborhoods for Raising Kids

Boston’s city center is ideal for work and play, but it may not be the best place to raise a family. The crowded streets and rising housing prices have encouraged many families to move to the city’s surrounding suburbs. If you want to find a new place to live away from the hustle and bustle, check out this list of calm and convenient residential neighborhoods in the Greater Boston area.

Family-Friendly Boston Suburbs

HomeSnacks looked at 69 places in Massachusetts to find out which Boston neighborhoods are the most fitting for families. They took data like crime rates and school quality into consideration while building their list, making sure each neighborhood offers a quiet and safe place for kids to learn and grow.

Wellesley

Wellesley is an academic town, home to Wellesley College, Babson College, and parts of Massachusetts Bay Community College. At 17 miles from Boston, it’s still close enough for parents to commute to the city for work and return to a peaceful neighborhood at the end of the day.

Milton

Located in Norfolk County and just 10 miles from Boston, Milton continues to be one of the “best places to live” according to Money Magazine. Its quaint downtown and old country homes make a picturesque setting for new family memories.

Needham

Many restaurants, coffee shops, and parks are sprinkled throughout this Boston suburb, providing plenty of casual entertainment for its residents. Needham is also home to many highly rated public schools.

Winchester

Located a little less than nine miles from Boston, this bedroom community is the wealthiest municipality in Massachusetts, making it a comfortable place to raise kids.

Arlington

A suburb of Cambridge, Arlington boasts an excellent public school system. Its downtown restaurant scene offers a variety of cuisine, and active families can kayak, fish, or paddleboard in the local pond.

Newton

This city is a patchwork collection of 13 villages located in Middlesex County. Newton was one of the first suburbs to be established outside of Boston in 1688 and is home to the famous Boston College.

Explore Boston’s Best Neighborhoods

When it comes to living in family-friendly neighborhoods with great school systems, native and future Bostonians are quite lucky. This list doesn’t cover all the beautiful towns surrounding Boston, it’s a good place to start while looking for your new family home.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Where to View the Fall Foliage

In late September through November, Boston transforms into a beautiful splash of red, orange, and yellow—it’s why fall is one of our favorite times of the year in Beantown. Whether they’re new to the city or they’ve lived here for many years, residents always get a kick out of watching the leaves turn into a colorful collage. Here’s where to get a glimpse of some of the city’s most beautiful fall landscapes.

Public Garden

Head to Boston’s Public Garden to witness the first round of changing leaves. The small, ornamental Japanese maple trees are some of the first to turn each season, showing splashes of bright red hues. The garden contains clusters of trees and shrubs from around the world that change color at slightly different times, so onlookers can see a varied display. Look for the brass labels with botanical names to identify the trees you’re looking at.

Boston Common

Did you know Boston Common is spotted with 700 oak, beech, chestnut, maple, and elm trees? Some of them change color later in the season, allowing visitors to enjoy a range of colors all through November—sometimes December. Spanning 44 acres, this historic park is a great place to spend a day strolling with coffee or cider in hand.

Harvard Yard

You can do much more than leaf peeping here. Amble through the commons to see the John Harvard Statue, take a Harvard walking tour, and check out the Harvard Museum of Natural History to get the full college experience—taking in the school’s surrounding beauty is a plus!

The Esplanade

We love exploring the beautiful fall foliage at the Esplanade on foot or by bike. The park and pathways run along the Charles River from Beacon Hill to Back Bay and beyond, so you’ve got plenty of territory to cover if you want to make a day of leaf peeping.ou’ll also have the pleasure of seeing the trees’ images reflected in the water.

Go on a Duck Tour

Take a 70-minute excursion around the Charles River Basin on one of Boston’s famous Duck Tours. The leaves reflect off the Charles River to give viewers a breathtaking view of the river and city at large.

Enjoy a Cozy Fall Season

Autumn is a highly anticipated season for those who love to watch the leaves change color. Whether you’re visiting from another part of the country or you call Boston home, we hope you enjoy the beginning of fall.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

What to Do Before an Agent Lists Your Home

Listing agents prefer doing business with proactive sellers who have clean, organized homes. If they personally like you and your property, they’ll be more excited to share your house with prospective buyers. Here are some ways you can make a great first impression on your listing agent, increasing the chances they’ll sell your home quickly and for a great price.

Preparing Your Home’s Interior

First thing’s first: You need to clean your home to make it presentable for your agent and anyone they may show it to. Wipe down your kitchen countertops, vacuum and sweep the floors, and scour your bathrooms. Take care of these basic cleaning tasks so your listing agent doesn’t have to—you want them to be in a great mood when they show off the place!

In the same vein, everything should be nice and tidy so buyers believe you’ve taken good care of your place. They’re sure to look inside cabinets and closets, so take the time to organize all items inside.

Don’t Be Too Personal

Agents need to sell the idea that your house is somewhere other people will be comfortable living, which means removing your personality from the atmosphere as much as possible. Put away clippings, trophies, and knick-knacks, and take family photos off the walls and refrigerator so browsers can imagine their own loved ones in their place.

Houses also show better with minimal furniture, allowing for more open space encouraging buyers’ imagination. Move half of your furniture into storage or into a designated room in the house where it won’t be visible in listing photos. Buyers are better able to envision their life in your home when your furniture and personal items aren’t in every room.

Creating Curb Appeal

Before guests see the inside of your house, they’ll be looking at your landscape, so design one that makes them feel welcome. Trim trees and bushes in front of windows, weed, rake, and mulch your garden beds, sweep sidewalks and the driveway, put trash cans out of the way, and get rid of cobwebs. You can even set up a few flowerpots near your entryway to add more natural charm.

If you clean up your front yard, your agent will see that you put effort into getting ready for their visit, making them feel better about working with you in your house. Prospective buyers are also more attracted to homes with well-kept lawns and thoughtful landscaping.

Be Prepared

You don’t just need a real estate agent to sell your home—you need them to want to sell your home! Check these items off your to-do list to make your agent excited about working with you in your beautiful house.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Fall Home Improvement Projects

Now that summer’s coming to an end, you can start planning the home improvement projects you want to tackle in the fall. Cooler temperatures make fall the perfect season for all those chores around the house you didn’t quite finish (or even start!) because of the summer heat. Take advantage of the nice fall weather to work on indoor and outdoor home improvement projects before winter starts.

Indoor Home Improvement Projects

Building materials are at their best when installed in moderate temperatures: Too much heat cause building materials like wood to expand, leading to misaligned joins during construction, while cold and wet weather causes materials to rust and corrode. Plan your construction work during the fall season to make sure all building materials stay sturdy and strong.  

Now that it’s neither too hot nor too cold to open your windows, the extra ventilation also makes cleaning with harsh chemicals safer, and you won’t have to sweat through the following tasks when you start them in tolerable temps.

Clean the Carpets

all your windows to make the chemicals in carpet cleaners clear out faster. The cool air will help dry your carpets, too.

Replace Windows

Prepare for the cold Boston winter by installing energy-efficient windows that keep chilly drafts from entering your home. Glass with multiple panes, spacers, or filler gasses will prevent frost from gathering on your windows, keeping your interior warm in freezing temperatures.

Add Insulation

Like ineffective windowpanes, thin insulation lets more cool air inside your house than you want. Add insulation to the attic (aim for a depth of 10 to 14 inches) to make sure your home keeps warm air in and cold air out. A home energy audit can show you where you need to add caulking and weather stripping too.

Check Your Furnace

Effective furnaces prevent pipes from freezing or bursting in extremely cold weather. Check your furnace to make sure it’s in good working condition.

Fireplace Repair

Hire an experienced chimney sweep to check your hearth for creosote and chimney blockages so you can safely huddle around the fire this winter.

Outdoor Home Improvement Projects

Outdoor improvement projects are just as important as the indoor ones! Take advantage of the crisp fall air and complete the following projects before heavy rain and snow make working outside nearly impossible.

Power Washing

Power wash the outside of your house before moving on to painting or any other exterior repairs. You’ll prevent mold and make your home look extra sharp—you might not even need to paint the exterior after giving it a good wash.

Exterior Paint

If you do decide to apply a new coat of paint, you’ll not only polish your house but protect its siding and trim too. Put a fresh coat of paint over areas that will be covered in snow to prevent water from seeping through.

Roof Repair

Investigate your roof to make sure small leaks don’t turn into big ones come winter. Experienced roof crews can assess leaks and fix them properly so everything inside of your house stays dry.

Check Up on Gutters, Driveways, and Sprinklers

Heavy rain and snow can negatively impact your gutters, driveways, and sprinklers if they’re not in good shape. Take a good look at your gutters to make sure they’re not clogged with debris—you can install mesh guards over them to keep water from overflowing. You should also fix cracks in your driveway and sidewalk so they don’t expand in freezing temperatures. Lastly, hire a plumber to winterize your sprinkler systems to prevent freezing and bursting.

Tackling Fall Home Improvement Projects

Fall is the perfect time to get your house in great shape before long winter months get in the way. Roll up your sleeves, bust out the toolbox, and finish all those chores you put off during the fun summer season. With a little bit of hard work, and maybe some help from professionals, your home will look great and stay comfortable in harsh winter weather.

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