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Monday, July 17, 2017

Selling This Fall? 5 Home Improvement Projects To Do Over the Summer

Planning to put your home on the market this fall? There’s no time like the present to start working on home improvement projects that will make your home more appealing to buyers. Here are five projects you should consider doing over the summer:

Inspect Your Roof

You should inspect your roof on a yearly basis to head off any serious damage (especially damage that could lead to leaks). If you haven’t inspected your roof yet this year, now is the time to do it. You can climb a ladder to get a better look at your roof, but if you’re uncomfortable with heights, you can also perform an inspection from the ground using binoculars. Check for things like damaged or warped shingles, noticeable leaks, rust spots, and masses of moss. If you discover any issues, bring in a professional roofer.

Repave or Reseal Your Driveway

If your asphalt driveway is starting to crack, pit, or erode, it could be an eyesore for potential home buyers. Fortunately, summer is a great time to repave your driveway because the heat helps with the asphalt’s adherence. If you have a few minor cosmetic problems that don’t require a complete repaving, you could also patch up the problem areas over the summer.

Repaint Your House

If your house’s siding, trim, or front door are looking a little weather-worn, give them a fresh coat of paint over the summer. However, try to avoid painting if it’s any hotter than 90 degrees—not only will a high temperature make for unpleasant working conditions, it will also cause the paint to dry too quickly, which can affect the adhesion.

Keep Your Yard Healthy

To keep your grass green all summer and into the fall, set your lawn mower blades slightly higher than you do the rest of the year. Leaving the grass a little longer will provide shade for the soil, which will reduce water evaporation. Get the recommended lawn watering schedule from your local water authority, and turn on your sprinklers early in the day if possible. Lawn maintenance isn’t the only thing you can do to help out your curb appeal over the summer. Make time to remove any dead plants or tree branches, trim back overgrown bushes, and pull weeds.

Install Energy-Efficient Windows

Consider replacing older windows with ENERGY STAR-rated windows this summer. Energy-efficient features can be a major selling point for home buyers, and in the meantime, your new windows will help you reduce your cooling costs!

Don’t forget: if you’re thinking of selling your house this fall, it’s not too early to meet with a CENTURY 21 Commonwealth Realtor. Your Realtor can help you determine the value of your house and even recommend home improvement projects that will give you a return on your investment.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Should You Make a Backup Offer on a Home?

You’ve found your dream home: you love its architectural style, it’s close to where you work, and it’s in your price range. There’s just one problem—another buyer has gotten there first.

However, all is not necessarily lost, even if the home seller has already accepted another buyer’s offer. Although it’s a long shot, you may be able to get the home by making a backup offer.

What Is a Backup Offer?

A backup offer is something that you, as a home buyer, can make when a home seller is already under contract with another buyer. The home seller may accept a backup offer so that they’ll have another buyer lined up if the first one falls through. You’ll make an offer and negotiate with the home seller the same way you would if you had been the first buyer, and if the initial home sale falls through for any reason, you’ll be next in line to buy the house.

In most cases, the initial buyer will end up closing on the house (knowing that there’s a backup offer may even pressure them to close sooner than they would have otherwise). However, there are plenty of reasons the initial home sale might fall through. For example, the initial buyer might get cold feet or find another property they like better and back out of the sale. The sale might also fall through if the buyer uncovers something they don’t like during the home inspection or if a contingency in their contract isn’t met. In very rare cases, a buyer may fail to secure financing and be forced to back out of the sale.

It can be a gamble, but if the initial home sale does fall through, your backup offer can pay off in a big way. And if you’re trying to buy a home in a competitive market with limited housing stock (like Boston), it may be worth taking a risk and making a backup offer. Just make sure you’re prepared to continue your home search if the backup offer doesn’t pan out.

Best Practices for Backup Offers

If you decide to make a backup offer, keep these tips in mind:

  • Get it in writing. If you and the home seller sign a formal backup contract, that contract will become effective immediately if the first buyer backs out. You may need to include a deposit when you sign the contract, but you’ll get this deposit back if the first buyer closes.
  • Get your own home inspection. You should always get a home inspection before buying a house, but this step is especially important if the original buyer backs out due to something they uncovered in their home inspection. You’ll need to hire a home inspector to evaluate the property so that you can decide if you’re willing to take on any existing problems.
  • Use your Realtor as a resource. Have your Realtor check in with the listing agent frequently to see what progress the initial home buyer is making towards closing the sale. Before making a backup offer, you should also have your Realtor find out if there are any other backup offers on the house—your chances of getting the property decrease significantly if there are multiple buyers in line ahead of you.

Do your due diligence when making a backup offer, and this competitive strategy may just pay off.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Massachusetts Ranked One of the Safest Places to Live

Massachusetts residents have long thought of their state as one of the safest places in the U.S. to live, but with WalletHub’s latest findings, we know it to be true. WalletHub’s analysis compared all 50 states across 37 key safety indicators, which were grouped into five categories, and Massachusetts ranked third overall.

WalletHub ranked numerous factors, ranging from assaults per capita to unemployment rate to items like low bullying rates, low damage from climate disasters, and more. The five categories are “Personal and Residential Safety,” “Financial Safety,” “Road Safety,” “Workplace Safety,” and “Emergency Preparedness.”

What Makes Massachusetts So Safe?

As one of the states with the lowest bullying-incidence rates (#5), Massachusetts is a wonderful place to raise your family. Alongside great school systems and family-friendly activities, Massachusetts is a haven for families and individuals alike.

It’s a safe place to buy a home as well due to its low incidence of damage from climate disasters (#5), leading to a lower risk of damage from flooding, earthquakes, tornadoes, and more. You can feel at ease purchasing a home in Massachusetts, knowing your investment will last for many years. There’s a long history of homes dating back to the 17th century in Massachusetts, all the way from the first Colonists.

Massachusetts is also a safe place to work, with a ranking of the fewest occupational injuries per total workers (it tied for third with Washington state). If you’re seeking work in Massachusetts, know the state stands behind you staying safe while you’re working.

Perhaps one of the best qualities of Massachusetts is its universal healthcare, leading to its #1 ranking in the lowest share of the population lacking health insurance. Going well above and beyond the Affordable Care Act, Massachusetts provides its residents with healthcare for all. You can feel safe knowing you’ll have the doctors and care you need for years to come.

Choose Massachusetts for a Safe Life

If you’re looking to live in a safe state, Massachusetts is a sound choice. With WalletHub’s latest analysis, it’s more evident than ever that Massachusetts is a great place for families to settle. Enjoy the benefits of universal healthcare, a safe workplace, low bullying incidence, and a lack of natural disasters. Massachusetts is your haven.

Monday, July 10, 2017

4 Reasons Why Realtors Should Make Time to Volunteer

As a Realtor, volunteering should be an important part of your monthly schedule. While you’re likely inundated with tasks for clients and have a busy work schedule and home life, making time for volunteering has many benefits. Besides helping people and organizations that need it, there are auxiliary benefits, including networking opportunities, building friendships, and increasing your self-esteem.

It might be easy to say you don’t have any extra time or energy to put into volunteering efforts in your community, but consider how much your time and efforts will help. The extra benefits to your Realtor career can only be positive, boosting your reputation, building connections, and giving you the chance to see what you take for granted every day.

Here are four reasons you should volunteer in your community:

It Helps You Appreciate What You Have

So often, when you’re struggling to make a sale or have a slow season of closings, you can start to think you have it bad. However, when you volunteer to help underserved members of your community, you can gain a new perspective and appreciate how much happiness you have in your life.

Your Health and Wellbeing Will Improve

Realtors often work long hours, including weekends, which can lead to stress. Volunteering can improve your quality of life. Besides the good you’re doing for those you’re helping, you’re also helping yourself.

Several studies point to the concept of the “helper’s high,” a phenomenon of exhilaration and energy from volunteering. Service work can improve longevity, lower depression rates, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Volunteering can make you healthier and happier, making it an easy decision for any Realtor.

You’ll Boost Your Visibility

While it might sound a little gauche, volunteering can benefit your Realtor business. It certainly shouldn’t be the primary reason you volunteer, but it’s a nice side benefit. It’s a no-cost marketing tool. As a Realtor, you look good volunteering in the community and may even make connections leading to new listings in the process. Wear a business name tag and answer any questions when asked about real estate and you’ll see your connections grow.

You Can Make Community and Business Connections

You never know who you’ll meet volunteering. From local politicians to business people to nonprofit group representatives, you’ll introduce yourself to people from all walks of life when you volunteer. You can build meaningful relationships with new friends from your volunteering experiences. These friendships can lead to new business opportunities you wouldn’t have found any other way.

Volunteering is a fantastic way for Realtors to take a break from the everyday hubbub of the real estate business. Do some good for your community, improve your health, and make some valuable business connections in the process. Make service work an important part of your Realtor work.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Should You Renovate Now or Wait Until You're Ready to Sell?

You know you’re going to sell your house in the future and want to improve the value at closing time. Should you start the renovation process now or wait until it comes closer to when you’re putting your home on the market? There are pros and cons to each decision. It always seems like there’s a “better time” to renovate, but there’s more to renovation than just return on investment (ROI).

If you’re looking to enjoy your home more, increase your final sales price, and make buyers love your property, talk to a Realtor about which improvements will lead to the greatest ROI and help sell your home. The most important places in the home are the kitchen, bathrooms, and master bedroom. Focusing on these core areas will help you get the most out of your home—whether you renovate now or later.

Why Should I Renovate Now?

Renovating now has many perks as a homeowner. Whether you plan on selling in one year or five years, your styles will still likely be in fashion, and you get to enjoy the benefits after your renovation. In a kitchen, you may get brand-new cabinets, new countertops, and even re-envision the setup entirely. The added functionality can make cooking fun again and add much needed additional storage. In your bathrooms, a renovation can add needed sinks, a larger tub, and help you relax after a long day of work. However, you’ll have to live through the pains of renovation, including not being able to use the spaces for months and loud noises, dust, and more.

Before starting on any renovation project with the intent to sell, consult with your Realtor. A licensed Realtor can advise you on the renovations that will yield the best ROI and help sell your home in the future. While you should always choose finishes that match your style, remember that you want to sell the house and stay somewhat neutral.

Why Should I Wait to Renovate?

Waiting to renovate before selling your home also has its benefits. Renovations can take a long time, and they often take much longer than the initial estimate. If your renovation is estimated to take 12 weeks, it may take up to six months due to complications. If you’re already in the process of moving and staging, dealing with renovations can be easier. You can remove your possessions from your property and allow the renovations to progress while you live in a rental property or with family members. When the renovation is complete, you can stage and sell your home.

Setting up the renovation this way can remove much of the stress from the process and allows you to choose smart, buyer-friendly finishes that will maximize your ROI. Make sure to meet with your Realtor to find out what’s popular in your market right now. The con to this decision is you don’t get to enjoy any of the benefits of the renovation; it’s purely a business decision.

You also have to find another place to live, or you have to live through the renovation while finding another home.

Whether you renovate now or wait until right before you sell, consult a licensed Realtor to make sure you get the best value for your home. Renovating the right way can help you uncover and fix any problems before inspection, get your house sold faster, and get more money for your investment.

Monday, July 3, 2017

How to Improve Your Credit Score Before Buying a Home

If you’re getting ready to buy a home, it’s vital to have a good credit score. Especially after the subprime mortgage lending crisis in 2008, lending institutions require excellent credit from borrowers to qualify for a loan.

If you need to take steps to boost your credit score, you can’t make it happen overnight. Your credit score takes into account variables from years of past financial behavior, not just current patterns. If you plan far enough in advance and utilize these tips, you can begin repairing your score and position yourself to get a mortgage at the best possible rate.

Watch Your Credit Balances

There are many major factors that go into calculating your credit score, including how much revolving credit you have versus how much you’re using—this is known as credit utilization. The lower this percentage is, the better. It’s best to have 30% or lower credit utilization. If you have $10,000 in available credit, try using $3000 or less. If you’re not paying off all your statements in full each month, consider consolidating multiple credit card balances into a low-interest personal loan.

Pay Down Your Credit Balances

Whether you do it by earning extra money and paying them off, consolidating, or opening a new personal loan, paying down your credit balances can boost your credit score. Having a wide range of open balances on many cards (that you’re not paying down) can damage your score. Eliminate small balances, consolidate as much as possible, and start using as few cards as you need.

Always Pay Your Bills on Time

This piece of advice may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re saving for a home, juggling bills can get complicated, and you may miss one or two. Years of on-time payments help your credit score immensely. Make sure all your bills are paid, even ones that don’t normally report to credit bureaus, as unpaid bills can go into collections, which will be reported. Make sure you’re saving for your down payment, just don’t neglect your everyday payments.

Check Rates Over a Brief Period

If you’re constantly looking for the best deal on your rate, whether it’s for your mortgage, car, or student loan, you can damage your credit score with hard hits. Minimize the hits by checking over a shorter period, usually 14 days. Newer algorithms let you compare rates over 45 days, but 14 days is safer. Scoring agencies know you’ll be making inquiries to find the best rate, just don’t go overboard and constantly check or you could hurt your score and get a worse rate in the long run.

Don’t Overdo It

It’s important to make sure your credit score is where you need it to be before applying for a home loan. Make sure you’re paying bills on time and using credit appropriately. However, this process can become stressful if you check too often and obsess about your score.

Use free credit score checking services and get free reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. They’ll give you additional tips to improve your credit and allow you to challenge negative marks that are incorrect on your report.

If you start planning far enough in advance and work toward improving your credit score, you can get the best possible rate for your home loan.

Monday, June 26, 2017

3 Feelings You May Experience When Selling Your Home

Selling your home may make sense from a practical or financial standpoint, but letting go can be difficult emotionally. You’ve made plenty of memories in your home—maybe even raised a family under its roof—and it’s much more than just a piece of property.

Most real estate professionals will advise you to emotionally detach yourself from your home while you’re selling it. While that’s good advice, it’s also important to acknowledge that you may still have some strong emotions-- and to know how to handle those emotions in a way that’s good for you and your home sale. Here are three feelings you may experience as you go through the home selling process:

Cheerful Optimism

Between the financial and emotional investments you’ve made in your home, you’re probably expecting it to be pretty valuable. And while your home may have appreciated in value, it may not have appreciated as much as you think. It’s not unusual to be overly optimistic about the market value of your home, which could lead you to set your initial asking price too high. This is dangerous because it could scare away buyers and cause your home to sit on the market for longer.

To avoid letting your optimism sabotage you, work with an experienced Realtor to set your asking price. Your Realtor will have in-depth information about the local housing market and won’t be biased by an emotional attachment to your house, allowing them to help you price your house right from the start.

Hurt

You’re able to admit that your home isn’t perfect, but your overall perspective is probably still rosy. That narrow staircase? It adds historic character to your home. The pink paint you used in your daughter’s bedroom? It makes the room warm and inviting. However, not everyone is going to share your tastes, and it can be hard not to feel hurt when a professional home stager tells you to repaint the bedrooms in more neutral shades, or when you find out a buyer balked at your landscaping choices.

One of the best ways to avoid hurt feelings when selling your home is to make sure you’re not around when your Realtor shows the home to prospective buyers. We recommend this even if you don’t think you’re emotionally attached to your home: not only will it spare you from hearing the prospective buyers’ comments on your home, it will also make the buyers feel more at ease and better able to picture themselves in the house.

Sadness

Even if you have a good reason to sell your home and are excited about your move, it can still be sad to close this chapter of your life. It’s okay to let yourself feel sad as you get ready to sell your home, but you should try not to dwell on your decision. Instead, try to focus your emotional energy on searching for your new home, or preparing your new home for move-in, if you’ve already purchased it. By directing your attention towards the future, you won’t have as much time to think about the negatives you associate with selling your home.

At the end of the home selling process, we hope you discover that it was a positive experience overall. Remember: CENTURY 21 seller’s agents are always available to help you market your home and ease your transition from old house to new one.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Spotlight on Framingham, MA

If you’re looking for a diverse, affordable Massachusetts town to buy a home, check out Framingham. Located about 23 miles west of Boston, Framingham has the distinction of being Massachusett’s largest town (some residents have been campaigning to change to a city designation). The population at the 2010 U.S. Census was 68,318, and residents of Framingham come from all over the country and the world. In fact, there are 67 different languages spoken by students at Framingham’s public schools.

So what’s the housing market like in Framingham? There’s something for every kind of aspiring home buyer. According to the Boston Globe, the least expensive Framingham home on the market this past February was a $105,000 condo while the most expensive was a 14-room Shingle-style home for $5.9 million. It’s not unusual to find single-family homes around 1,500 to 2,000-square feet on the market for around $300,000 to $400,000. For those who have been paying a premium for space in Boston, Framingham provides a great opportunity to get more elbow room at a reasonable price.

Learn more about what it’s like to live in Framingham below:

Getting Around

Route 9 runs through north Framingham and feeds drivers onto the Massachusetts Turnpike, I-90, I-495, and Route 128. Although Boston is less than 25 miles from Framingham on I-90, traffic can make commuting by car a challenge. Fortunately for Framingham residents who work in Boston, there’s a Framingham/Worcester commuter train that can get to Boston’s South Station in less than an hour.

Outdoor Spaces to Explore

Framingham combines urban and rural environments, and there are plenty of great public outdoor spaces. With 820 acres of land and 7 miles of marked trails, Callahan State Park is a popular destination for horseback riding, hiking, and—in the winter—cross-country skiing. The New England Wild Flower Society’s Garden in the Woods is another popular place to get outside and smell the flowers. The botanical garden has two miles of paths through a wide range of New England flora, including some rare plants.

Dining and Entertainment

It should come as no surprise that a town as diverse as Framingham would have a wide selection of restaurants to choose from. Whether you’re in the mood for Mediterranean, Mexican, Caribbean, Thai, Vietnamese, or Colombian food, you’ll find it in Framingham. With two local breweries, Framingham is also a great place to grab a drink. Stop by Jack’s Abby or Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company for a local craft beer and an excellent environment to catch up with friends.

In addition to offering a wide range of dining options, Framingham also has something for art lovers: the Danforth Museum. The museum features permanent and rotating collections of contemporary visual art, and it also runs art classes and workshops for children and adults throughout the year.

If you’re curious about Framingham and want to learn more about the local housing market, talk to a CENTURY 21 Commonwealth Realtor. We know the area well and will be happy to answer your questions.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Most Popular Interior Door Styles

Are you thinking about replacing some of your interior doors in your home to freshen it up? Whether you’re remodeling your new home or getting it ready to put on the market, these exciting interior door styles can transform a room and make your home welcoming. Choosing a new door can be overwhelming, but we’ve collected some of the most popular design styles of 2017, perfect for your home’s interior.

The Cambridge (Two-Panel) Door

Cambridge-style doors are a classic two-panel door, providing a contemporary look with a larger panel on top and smaller panel on the bottom. The Cambridge’s raised panels are perfect for use in kitchen pantries, mudrooms, or as closet doors. The simple and clean lines in the Cambridge help it fit into many home décor styles unobtrusively. Choose the Cambridge for a stylish, contemporary look that’s not too showy.

The Craftsman III (Three-Panel) Door

If you love the Craftsman look in your home design, this door is a contemporary take on that style. With three panels, a rectangular one on top with two parallel panels below, the Craftsman III is perfect for use in a bathroom or walk-in closet. The Craftsman III is a fitting interior door for use in a Craftsman home or one in which you want to inject some of that classic style.

The Provincial (Four-Panel) Door

For a classy interior door, try the Provincial, with four vertical panels and a cathedral arch split into the top two panels. The arch has an extra dip in the curves, adding more visual interest to the door. With such a stunning design, the Provincial works everywhere you want interior doors. Closets, pantries, master baths—show off this door to guests or keep it for yourself.

The Colonial (Six-Panel) Door

Also called the Bostonian, this door has six raised panels. With classic American architectural inspiration, the Colonial can be the perfect addition to your home. With its grandiose presence, this door is great for leading into large spaces, such as a pantry or master bath. Take advantage of the wide footprint to make a statement of American architecture in your home.

Barn Doors

Perhaps the biggest trend in interior doors right now (largely thanks to HGTV and certain popular celebrity interior designers) sliding barn doors are sweeping America. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, barn doors might not be the best choice if they don’t match your house’s architecture, but if you do have a traditional country home, they can be a great addition.

Whether they’re the entry point to your pantry, master closet, or master bath, a barn door can be a statement piece for your home that’s also functional. Depending on the wood and age, they can vary wildly in price. Find the finish you love and recreate it by painting or finishing the door yourself for maximum savings.

Pocket Doors

When you have tight spaces without enough room for a swinging door, pocket doors are the solution for you. They’re wonderful for closets, bathrooms, and rooms with multiple entries, providing privacy when necessary, but allowing for openness when not.

Glass French Doors

French doors have been in fashion for decades and provide an open space feeling. As interior doors, they’re great for creating separation between your living room and sunroom, or your master bedroom and bath. Take advantage of the inherent increased light of French doors by selecting transparent glass, with or without a grid.

Monday, June 19, 2017

What to Know About Making an Offer on Your First Home

After you’ve gone on countless home tours, had hour-long conversations with your spouse or family, and finally decided to place an offer on your first home, there are some things you need to know. Once you’ve chosen the property you want to buy, you should know that any verbal/oral offer isn’t enforceable in real estate sales. You need a Residential Purchase Agreement or something similar from your Realtor to make the offer official.

Your Realtor will have the experience with the standard forms and know how to modify them correctly to meet your needs. Your offer will need to comply with state and local laws, conforming with any provisions for the area. The agreement will include any discussions you’ve had with the seller, including requirements for closing costs, home inspection, and more. Here are some of the tips and tricks we recommend for making an offer on your first home.

What Should I Include in the Offer?

Your Residential Purchase Agreement, or purchase offer, will become a binding sales contract if the seller accepts. It’s essential that it includes documentation of everything needed for sale in case the seller accepts it as is, including:

  • The correct address of the property, including a legal description
  • The sales price and terms of sale (mortgage, cash, etc.)
  • The seller’s promise to give you the clear title to the home
  • A target date for the closing (i.e. when you can move in)
  • The amount of earnest money (deposit) in the form of a check, cash, or a promissory note that will be returned if the offer is rejected
  • When the offer will expire
  • Utility transfer method
  • Who will pay for inspections, title insurance, closing costs, etc.
  • State and local requirements

You’ll also want to list any contingencies in the offer; explaining that the offer is only valid for certain conditions, such as you obtaining financing or a home inspection that satisfies your requirements.

How Do I Negotiate?

With an experienced Realtor, you’ll get a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) of the home’s value, and you can also check comparable listings on the MLS or online to discover the true value. You can use the results of the home inspections to negotiate a lower price or repair contingencies if the home needs them. If you’re a strong candidate for home ownership and look particularly good to a seller, you may have more leverage to negotiate in certain situations, including if:

  • You’re an all-cash buyer
  • You’ve already been pre-approved for your mortgage
  • You can guarantee a quick closing (if the seller wants that)

Depending on the real estate market in your area, you may have more power to negotiate. Discuss your offer with your Realtor and determine what the best course of action is for you when making an offer on your first home.

What Happens Next?

Once you’ve submitted your offer to the seller through your Realtor, it’s just a matter of waiting for the response. If the seller accepts your offer, you’ve got an agreement, and the gears are in motion for your first home. If the seller rejects your offer outright, you may need to go back to the drawing board or search for a new home. If the seller counteroffers, read through the amended terms and decide whether to accept or send back another counteroffer in response. After several rounds of countering, you may reach an amicable agreement for the sale of the property.

Your Realtor will help walk you through this process, advising you on the market value of the property, answering your questions, determining good negotiation tactics, and making sure your bottom line is intact. Trust your Realtor when making your first home offer, and you’ll be on your way to success.

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