The Commonwealth Blog

Monday, April 6, 2020

Low-Cost Kitchen Remodel Ideas

Kitchen remodels are some of the most popular home renovation projects in America. However, the cost for the average kitchen renovation may go over $25,000—a budget that’s out of reach for many families. The good news is there are many ways to improve your kitchen’s look without spending thousands of dollars. Here are four things you can do to upgrade your kitchen without breaking the bank.

Update Your Lighting

Thirty years ago, recessed lighting was all the rage in kitchens, but it looks dated today. An LED lighting kit may be all it takes to refresh the lighting in your kitchen. LED lighting is bright white, mimicking the look of natural daylight. The best part is that LED lighting conversion kits are inexpensive and easy to install, even for people with limited DIY skills. With an investment of $15-$20 and about 15 minutes of your time per installation, updating your lighting is a great first step toward improving your kitchen’s aesthetic.

Paint Your Floor

Consider refinishing or painting wood floors, whether the whole floor is hardwood or you have a plywood subfloor underneath vinyl flooring. Painting your floor delivers a dramatic new look for a relatively small investment. Hiring a professional to refinish your wood floor may cost over $2,000, but you can probably purchase enough paint to do it yourself for about $40. It’s a time-consuming job, but not a difficult one, and the great results for such a low price will be well worth your efforts.

An Island on Wheels

Kitchen islands are very popular additions in remodels. However, a fully functional kitchen island can easily add $10,000 to your budget. If that kind of investment is beyond your capabilities, you can still get much of the functionality for a fraction of the cost with a wheeled kitchen cart. Kitchen carts come in a range of sizes and are available in nearly every style you can imagine. If you're into DIY, it's easy to customize a kitchen cart with some paint or a stain. They’re available at any home center, but if you're good with tools, you could build your own.

New Cabinet Doors

New cabinets may be 30% of the cost of your kitchen remodel. Unless you're changing the floor plan of your kitchen completely, you probably don't need entirely new cabinets. You can still change their appearance and save thousands of dollars by replacing the doors of your existing cabinets. If purchasing new doors is still too expensive or impractical, you could stain or repaint them, or even remove them entirely for a modern, open-shelf look.

Full remodels are expensive, but there are tons of simple and effective ways to improve the look, style, and functionality of your kitchen without spending thousands of dollars. Try some of these smart, low-cost renovations yourself.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Can You Still Afford a Home?

So far, 2020 has been a big year for residential real estate. The statistics show an increase of over 7% in existing home sales. According to Zillow, the median home value in the United States is growing. With this in mind, is right now a good time to buy a house?

Why Buy a House?

For most households, most of the time, buying a home is a smart move. If you want to see some reasons why, check out our article “6 Benefits of Owning a Home.” Although it’s generally understood that owning a home is a good thing, many people believe the goal is out of reach for them, especially as real estate prices continue to rise.

Price Isn't the Only Concern

If you're thinking of buying a home right now, price increases aren’t good news. However, there are other factors that determine your buying power. A real estate professional would caution you that the price of a home is less important than your overall cost. Factors such as the interest rate and terms of your loan may have a significant impact on your monthly payment.

How Much Should You Spend?

How much can you afford to spend on a new property? There is no simple answer to the question, especially because it differs based on each individual’s situation. For instance, do you have kids? How stable is your employment? The conventional wisdom states that you should spend no more than 30% of your take-home pay on housing.

Even if home prices keep rising, the low interest rates we’re seeing today mean that most working households can still buy a home. If your income is stable, you plan to stay in one place for at least a few years, and you can afford the monthly payment, buying a home is probably a smart move for you.

Get Professional Advice From a Realtor

The best move you can make to figure out exactly which houses you can afford is to speak with a real estate professional. The experts understand the local market better than anyone. Contact a realtor today and see if buying a home makes sense for you.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Is Now the Right Time to Refinance?

Interest rates are reaching historic lows. As of February 2020, the interest rate for a 15-year fixed rate loan is 2.97%. Rates this low are prompting many homeowners to consider refinancing, but is it the right decision for you? Let's think it through. There are many reasons you might choose to refinance. Here are three of the most common:

1. Lower Interest Rate and Payment

If you're paying an interest rate significantly higher than the current rate, it could make financial sense to refinance. You’ll probably get a better interest rate and a lower payment.

2. Switch to a Shorter-Term Loan

Many financial experts recommend that individuals do not sign up for a 30-year mortgage when buying a home. If you did, you may want to refinance and choose a shorter-term loan.

3. Free Up Extra Cash

Some people refinance for an amount greater than the remaining balance of their loan. If you need cash to invest in a business, another property, or furthering your education, refinancing is a way to get the cash you need.

If you think refinancing might be a good idea, the most important question to ask is “How much will it cost?” Refinancing usually reduces your monthly mortgage payments, but you will have to pay fees and closing costs. Sometimes, the cost of refinancing is more than the amount you will save. In this case, refinancing makes little sense, unless you need the money for some other purpose. Some lenders offer no-cost refinance loans, but these often come loaded with fees, restrictions, and higher interest rates.

Is It Worth It?

It takes more than just math to answer this question. There are other factors to consider: How long will it take to break even? How long do you plan to be in your current home? What will happen if you move? Only you can answer these questions for yourself.

The Bottom Line

Refinancing can be complicated. The best way to navigate the process is with some trusted advice. Speaking with a real estate professional is the best way to learn more about what goes into refinancing and decide whether it's right for you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Message from BHHS Commonwealth Real Estate

At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth Real Estate, we are guided by the principles of trust, integrity, stability, and longevity. We will rely on these principles during these unprecedented, trying times as we continue to experience the global impact of COVID-19. As a company, we consistently monitor state and federal guidelines to ensure the health and safety of our clients, sales associates, and employees.

While this is our top priority, we are also working to ensure that our clients’ needs are met with little or no disruption. Our sales associates are readily available to help clients with their ongoing real estate needs. They are ready to do what they do best: provide real estate expertise and guidance for our clients.

We are all adapting to the rapidly changing world around us. We are practicing social distancing and doing our part to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. We continue to leverage our top-notch technology platforms backed by the power of the Berkshire Hathaway brand. Our sales associates are equipped with the best tools in the industry. They can provide you with exceptional service from the privacy of your own home, mobile optimization, virtual tours, and digital marketing, electronic marketing proposals, and cloud-based transaction management systems.

However, our greatest real estate technology is our people, who are here to assist you with all your real estate needs. As always, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Commonwealth Real Estate professionals are the true local-market experts who will help you make the most informed real estate decisions.

Please know that our brokerage and our Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand, operating under the core values of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. itself, will be here for you through these challenging times and far beyond.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Selling Your Home Step By Step

If you’re thinking of selling your home, and you’ve never sold property before, the process may seem overwhelming. Selling property is a long journey with many legs, but it's easier to handle when you take it one step at a time. Here are eight major steps you should take when selling your home:

Get Good Advice

It isn’t always a good time to sell property—in some markets, waiting a few months could get you a better price. How do you know if it's the right time for you to sell? Talk to an expert. Meeting with a real estate professional won't cost you anything, but the advice you get could be invaluable.

Pick Your Price

There are dozens of websites that will tell you what your home is worth, but in reality, it’s worth whatever a buyer will pay for it. Real estate agents can give you a good idea of a reasonable asking price by comparing your home to recently sold properties, also known as comps, in your area.

Prepare for Inspection

Next, you have to get your house ready for potential buyers to see. It's difficult to look at your own home with a critical eye, but every buyer will be poring over it for any potential problems. Make sure your house is clean, and address any glaring maintenance issues.

Place Your Listing

Listing a home for sale means much more than just putting a sign in the front yard. Real estate professionals have access to a nationwide database of homes on the market. Put some effort into creating a listing that catches the eye and casts your property in the best light—you could get attention from buyers all over the country.

Negotiate and Renegotiate

If you are in a hot real estate market, you could get a full price offer, or even one that’s higher than your asking price. Most times, however, the buyer will offer less. If this happens to you, you're free to accept the offer or counter with a new one of your own.

Sign the Contract

Once you're done negotiating and you settle on the price and any other terms, you're ready to sign the contract. The selling process is almost done—however, there's still a chance for either you or the buyer to back out at this stage.

Final Inspection

As the seller, you want your money already, but the buyer wants to know they're getting the house they're expecting. At this point in the game, they may ask for a home inspection to make sure there are no hidden problems. If the inspection uncovers anything, they’ll probably ask you to repair the problem or reduce the price to compensate them.

Closing Time

The process is finally ending. You'll get your money, then you'll say goodbye to your old house. Maybe it's been a long road, but you’ve made it through.

Selling a home isn't difficult, but it is time-consuming and involves a lot of moving parts. Now that you understand the process a little better, we hope your sale won’t be so intimidating.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

6 Benefits of Owning a Home

Owning a home is part of the proverbial “American Dream” we’ve been talking about for decades, but society has changed a lot since the ‘50s. If you’re in a position to seriously consider homeownership for the first time, you might not be as certain it’s the right thing to do as our grandparents were.

Situations vary from person to person and year to year, but generally, owning a home is still a net positive and a goal worth striving for. Here are six benefits that come with owning a home:

Building Equity

When you rent, all the money you pay goes to your landlord. When you own a home, even if you're paying a mortgage, a portion of your payment goes toward the principal of your loan and into your pocket. Eventually, if you decide to sell, all of this money will come back to you with interest.

Tax Benefits

The government is on homeowners’ side, at least as far as the tax code goes. Homeowners are eligible for many tax benefits—for example, you can usually deduct the cost of interest on your mortgage and many other home-related expenses.

Greater Satisfaction

If you rent a house or apartment, you must be satisfied with whatever the landlord provides for you. If you'd rather have a different countertop, upgraded appliances, or a renovated bathroom, and your landlord isn’t willing to pay for it, you can move or just give up on the idea. When you own your home, you're free to make whatever renovations and upgrades you like.

Putting Down Roots

When you own your home, you're much more likely to stay there for the long term. This increases your chances of building long-term relationships with your neighbors and your community. The legacy of you build may have a lasting impact on your children, grandchildren, and neighborhood for years to come.

Better Educational Outcomes

While the experts disagree on the reasons why, studies have shown that children of homeowners do better in school. They get higher test scores and are more likely to graduate from high school. If you have kids, owning a home can give them stability and other advantages that will carry them far in life.

Your Investment Appreciates

Property values tend to go up over time. If you take good care of your home and sell at the right time, it's likely that you will net a tidy profit.

Owning a home is a big responsibility, and it's not right for everyone. You must decide for yourself if the benefits are worth the responsibility that comes with them. If you think that buying a home is right for you, speaking with a real estate professional is the best way forward.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Getting to Know Hopkinton, MA

Hopkinton, named after 17th century benefactor Edward Hopkins, started out as a simple farming community established with property purchases by Harvard University. Hundreds of years later, the town isn’t quite as simple, but it’s still peaceful, full of friendly people, and conducive to a healthy, prosperous life. If you’re considering a move to the Greater Boston area, Hopkinton is an excellent choice. Here are some things you can do to get to know the city.

Visit Town Forest

This island of green comprises 84 acres of the natural beauty Massachusetts is known for. When you visit, see if you and your kids can find the locally famous fossilized dinosaur footprints. The old cart road is perfect for biking, hiking, horseback riding, or in the winter, snowmobiling.

Enjoy the Parks

Whatever you like to do at the park, you can do it in Hopkinton. If you want to explore, check out Berry Acres, a 30-acre hiking area with plenty of trails. If fishing is more to your liking, spend your time at Aikens Street, where you can angle from the shores of the Sudbury River. If you’d rather just sit and relax while the kids play, there are plenty of places to do that too.

Catch a Summer Concert

Summer is the right season to be in Hopkinton. This town is practically overflowing with community spirit, and it really shows during the warmer months. Don’t miss the summer concert series, which features a series of local acts. If you get hungry, there are food trucks on site. Summer concerts are suitable for the whole family, so bring the kids and get ready for a night of great music under the open sky.

Celebrate Your Independence

Just like many other New England towns, the Fourth of July is a huge deal in Hopkinton, but the locals have a unique way of celebrating. At the annual Hopkinton Horribles Parade, you’ll see citizens in funny costumes and goofy floats parodying politics and spraying each other with squirt guns. Come ready to get wet and have fun—you can dry off at the bonfire at the end of the night.

Hopkinton is one of the best places to live and play in New England, and these are just a few of the reasons why. You’ll have such a good time during your visit you may want to be here forever.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Places to Visit in East Greenwich, Rhode Island

East Greenwich is the eighth oldest town in Rhode Island. It’s been through a lot, but there’s still no shortage of interesting new experiences to be had here. Whether you’re visiting for a weekend getaway or looking for a place to settle down, this small town has a lot to offer. Here are six can’t-miss places to visit in East Greenwich:

Briggs Boesch Farm

This farm is one of the original lots carved out in East Greenwich by settlers, dating back to 1672. Today, the Boesch family bases the farm operations on sustainable agricultural practices. This site is also a southern anchor of the East Greenwich Greenway system, which provides public access to many of the fields and forests surrounding the town.

LineSider Brewing Company

The local pub has been an important part of American culture since the prerevolutionary days, and now craft breweries are carrying on the proud tradition. LineSider, a relatively new brewery with an excellent tap room, serves a great selection of IPAs, porters, stouts, and seasonal ales.

New England Wireless & Steam Museum

The phrase “Yankee ingenuity” refers to the historical tendency of New Englanders to get things done. You will find incredible examples of Yankee ingenuity at the New England Wireless & Steam Museum. Their exhibits represent almost the entire history of American industry, from the earliest steam engines to modern electronics and computer technology.

Varnum Armory Museum

Our Founding Fathers believed a strong military is a central to defending freedom, and their philosophy has encouraged us to push the limits of military armament for centuries. The Varnum Armory Museum offers a fascinating look at weapon technology through the ages.

Windmill Cottage

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalized the windmill that once stood at this location in his poem, “The Windmill.” He loved this house so much he eventually bought it and gave it to his friend George Washington Greene. Today, you can visit this idyllic location and find your own inspiration.

East Greenwich may not be very big, but its capacity for fun is enormous. Next time you visit the town, take a look at these places.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Springtime in Boston

In the middle of a New England winter, you may feel like you'll never be warm again, but even the harshest winters eventually give way to spring. New England is arguably the best place on Earth to enjoy springtime, and lucky for us, it’s only a week away. The only problem is, how do you make the most of the season? With so much to do, it's hard to choose just one activity when the weather’s nice. Here are five great ways to spend a spring day in Boston:

Lose Yourself in Boston Common

This 50-acre park is crisscrossed by dozens of walking paths, all near something interesting to do or see. You’ll gain a greater understanding of New England history when you visit the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, and your kids won’t want to miss the Boston Common Carousel. If you’re feeling whimsical, cross the street and take a ride on the Swan Boats in the Boston Public Garden.

Shopping on Newbury Street

When it comes to outdoor shopping, you can’t beat Newbury Street. You’ll find a wide variety of shops featuring everything from high-end luxury items to consignments. If you get tired from all the browsing, take a break in one of the many cafés.

Spend a Day on the Charles River

Even a city you know well may look different when you see it from the water. Rent a canoe or kayak and paddle around the river, take a sailing class, or just go for a swim.

Take a Trolley Tour

Trolley tours may have a reputation as a tourist-only activity, but they're actually a great way to get to know your own city better. Spring is without a doubt the best time to trolley around Boston. There are several different tours available, but be sure to go for the hop-on, hop-off option so you can be free to explore the city at your own pace.

Watch a Baseball Game at Fenway Park

In America, it's hard to think of spring without thinking of baseball. In Boston, baseball means the Red Sox and Fenway Park. For over 100 years, Fenway Park has played host to one of the greatest teams in baseball. Watching a game at Fenway makes you part of an American tradition.

These suggestions are only a handful of the Greater Boston sights and activities worth spending a spring day on. Start here and see what else you come up with!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Choosing the Right Realtor

Whether you’re buying a property or selling one, finding the right realtor is a big part of making your experience the best it can be. With all the different realtors out there, however, how can you be sure you're finding the best one for you and your market? Finding a great realtor is much like finding any other professional. You need someone with the right skills, experience, and personality. Fortunately, finding your ideal realtor isn't too difficult. As you speak with different candidates, keep the following five principles in mind:

1. Check The Track Record

When you’re hiring a professional, whether it’s a plumber or an architect, you need someone with the appropriate experience. Look for a realtor with a proven track record of success with helping their clients close favorable deals. While past results are not a guarantee of future performance, they’re still a good place to start.

2. Ask for Referrals

Do you know anyone who’s bought or sold a house recently? Ask them what their experience was like. Anyone with a good realtor will be happy to show them off. If they had a bad experience, you’ll know to cross their realtor off of your list.

3. Core Values Are Key

Everyone has their own set of core values that govern what they do. For example, are you a stickler for the rules, or do you believe results matter more than methods? When it comes to a realtor, look for someone with values similar to your own. A good relationship begins with having a platform of strong, core values in common.

4. Experience Is Second to Personality

While experience is important, it’s not the only thing to look for. A competent realtor with the right attitude could be a better choice than a more experienced realtor you can’t get along with.

5. Find a Lender First

If you’re planning to buy a home, you probably think choosing a realtor is a smart first step, but this isn’t necessarily true. Even the best realtor can’t help you find the perfect home without knowing your budget, and for most people, that means finding the right lender first.

Finding the best real estate agent is arguably the most important step toward a great home buying experience. If you’re in the market, use these tips to find the ideal realtor for you.

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