Posted by Marie Presti on 6/17/2018

If you’re finding that your finances are a bit tighter these days, you might need to adjust your budget a bit. Have you ever thought about alternatives in helping you to pay your mortgage? There’s a few things that you might be able to do in your home to save a few bucks and be more comfortable with your budget and finances. 


Share The Space


This might sound crazy, but it works for many people. If you’re willing to share your living space with others, it could help you to make a dent in your mortgage. This works especially well if you have a home with a separate entrance like an in-law apartment or something similar. 


Make Adjustments To Your Expenses


There are many different costs that come along with owning a home. If you reduce some of these expenses, you’ll be able to cut your overall spending. You don’t need to completely adjust your entire way of living to do this. Some ideas:


  • Cut the cord on cable and install streaming devices
  • Go on a family cell phone plan
  • Skip the gym membership
  • Use public transportation
  • Cook at home instead of eating out
  • Use coupons


Put Tax Refunds To Good Use


If you normally get a tax refund, you can apply that money to your mortgage instead of using it to buy something else. You could also adjust your withholdings. This would allow you to get a bit more money in your paycheck each week. You’ll get less of a refund during tax time, but the extra money may help you to pay down bills throughout the year. 


Pay More Towards The Principal 


To make the most of your hard-earned savings, use your money wisely and pay down the mortgage faster. Just be sure that there’s no penalty for a prepayment of the loan. You can either make an extra loan payment each month or you can pay a bit over what you owe on the mortgage each month. If you pay the mortgage faster, you’ll save potentially thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan. You’ll need to check with your mortgage company to see what their process is for paying more towards the principal of the loan. Keep in mind that the first few years‘ worth of your mortgage payments will be going towards interest unless you specify extra payments to go elsewhere.


Whether you’d like a little more of a financial cushion or are just looking to get rid of all those pesky monthly bills, it’s never a bad idea to focus on paying your mortgage down as quickly as possible.




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Posted by Marie Presti on 6/10/2018

What do buying a house, opening a credit card, and getting approved for an auto loan have in common? They all depend on your credit score.

Building credit is a multifaceted undertaking. In a way, this is a good thing--you wouldn’t want lenders to base their opinions solely on one aspect of your financial history. The downside is that understanding just what makes up your credit score can be difficult.

To complicate matters further, there isn’t one standard method for scoring your credit, and different credit bureaus each use their own criteria.

In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the factors the major credit bureaus use to calculate your credit, and give you some ways you can boost your credit.

But first, let’s talk about some of the implications of having a good credit score.

Why credit matters

Typical credit scores range anywhere from 250 to 850. The three main reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). Most lenders use a combination of those scores that is reported by FICO.

Most credit reports will rank your category from “bad” to “excellent.” Here’s an example of what a credit ranking might look like:

  • Excellent: 750+

  • Good: 700 - 749

  • Fair: 650 - 659

  • Poor: 550 - 649

  • Bad: -550

U.S. legislation makes it possible for Americans to receive a free report of their credit score and to challenge and correct the score if it contains inaccuracies.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, opening a new line of credit, or taking out a loan of some kind, then the provider will likely run your credit score. Those providers are going to want to see a return on their investment, so they’ll charge interest.

If you have a high credit score, it tells the lenders that you are a low-risk investment, and therefore they can offer you a lower interest rate, saving you money in the long run.

Components of a credit score

There are five main factors that credit bureaus take into consideration when formulating your credit score. Not all of the factors are treated equally. Your ability to pay your bills on time, for example, is considered to be more important than the types of bills you have. Here’s a breakdown of the five components that make up a credit score:

  • 35% - Bill and loan payments

  • 30% - Current total amount of debt

  • 15% - Amount of time you’ve had credit (since you took out your first loan or opened your first credit card)

  • 10% - Types of credit (cards, loans, etc.)

  • 10 % - New credit inquiries

Quick tips for building credit

It takes time to build credit and improve your score. So, if you’re hoping to buy a home within the next few years, now is the time to start working on your credit. Here are some best practices for building credit:

  • Set up autopay for your bills to avoid late payments. Even if the service doesn’t offer autopay, you can likely set up recurring payments through your bank.

  • Settle outstanding debt. Avoiding debt that you can’t pay off will only hurt you more in the long run. Call your creditor and see if they offer debt relief programs. More likely than not they’d rather work with you to ensure they receive some repayment rather than none at all.

  • Start budgeting the right way. New budgeting software like Mint and “You Need a Budget” are easy to use and link up with your accounts. They’ll help you monitor your spending and start paying off debt.

  • Don’t open new lines of credit close to when you want to take out a loan. New credit inquiries can briefly lower your credit, especially if you make more than one. Viewing your free credit reports doesn’t count as an inquiry, so feel free to do that as often as needed to check your progress.

  • Get credit for bills you’re already paying. You can report your monthly rent payments, switch bills into your name that you contribute to, or take out a credit builder loan. All three will help you build rent without changing your spending habits.





Posted by Marie Presti on 6/4/2018

Even in expensive, upscale communities like Newton, Mass., an eyesore next door can plague homeowners. A home that isn't being maintained like others in the neighborhood can negatively affect your visual sense and in some extreme cases, impact property values. It might be an overgrown yard, a fence in need of repair, excessive noise, unruly pets, paint peeling on the home or even a car or boat parked in front of the home that hasn't moved in weeks.

A client of mine recently wanted me to list her home, but she had some concerns about her next door neighbor's yard. She said it looked like Miss Havisham's place in "Great Expectations." I explained that in my experience, most people want to be good neighbors and may be willing to correct an issue once it is brought to their attention. A practical but possibly confrontational solution is to contact the neighbor and describe your perception of the issue. (They may not always agree with the same urgency and it might be necessary to seek other remedies.) One way I recommend for getting the problem solved sooner rather than later: I tell homeowner(s) to offer help. They can either physically go over to do some of the cleanup. Or, they can offer to help pay someone to take care of the mess, if it's not too expensive.

In general, an owner-occupant may be more sympathetic to your plight and thankful for your desire to help them out. (Of course others may not be so thrilled, so be prepared.) If you think the home might be a rental property, check with the county tax records to identify the owner. They may be unaware of the situation and welcome the notification to protect their investment.

Another alternative might be to notify the homeowner's association (HOA), if there is one. One of the benefits of a HOA is to enforce community appearance standards as set in the covenants or bylaws that specify how properties must be maintained. This could be a less personal method of reaching a beneficial outcome.

If the source of the problem is a code or housing violation, the city may be the ultimate authority. Most cities have a separate code and neighborhood services division and some cities have 311 for non-emergency assistance. But wherever you live, deal with the situation tactfully. This will ensure neighborly relations stay intact.




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Posted by Marie Presti on 6/3/2018

Buying a home should be a quick, simple process. However, the homebuying cycle sometimes proves to be a hassle, particularly for those who are shopping for a house for the first time.

Lucky for you, there are many quick, easy ways to become a smart homebuyer – here are three tips to ensure you can make informed decisions throughout the homebuying journey.

1. Check Out a Broad Array of Houses

Purchasing a home can be a fun, exciting journey, especially if you explore a wide range of residences.

Remember, the more residences you check out, the more likely it becomes that you'll find one that matches or exceeds your expectations.

When you review houses, be sure to analyze each property's interior and exterior closely. That way, you can identify any problem areas and determine whether these issues are potential deal-breakers.

Also, don't hesitate to check out the same house multiple times. It never hurts to take a second look at a house. And if you find that you enjoy a home after a second walk-through, you may be ready to submit an offer on this residence.

2. Set a Homebuying Budget

Before you make an offer on a house, it is important to consider exactly what you can afford. By doing so, you can avoid the temptation to overspend in the hopes of acquiring your dream house.

Many homebuyers get pre-approved for a mortgage – something that may prove to be exceedingly valuable.

With pre-approval for a mortgage, a homebuyer will know exactly how much money he or she can spend on a home. This will enable a homebuyer to enter the housing market with a budget in hand and map out his or her home search accordingly.

Furthermore, consider your monthly expenses prior to submitting a home offer. Electricity and assorted utility expenses can add up quickly, so you'll want to account for these costs. And if you want cable and internet services at your new home, you'll want to evaluate these potential expenses as well.

3. Consult with a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is a housing market professional, and as such, will help you simplify the process of going from homebuyer to homeowner.

Typically, a real estate agent will meet with you to understand your homebuying needs. He or she then will help you develop a homebuying strategy, one that ensures you can purchase your ideal house at a budget-friendly price.

With a real estate agent at your side, you should have no trouble acquiring a wonderful residence. This housing market professional will set up home showings, keep you up to date about new property listings and negotiate with home sellers on your behalf. As a result, a real estate agent will guarantee you can get the best results possible throughout the home selling journey.

Don't leave anything to chance as you kick off your home search. Instead, use the aforementioned tips, and you can become a smart home shopper in no time at all.




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Posted by Marie Presti on 5/27/2018

All house buyers have different pet peeves when it comes to evaluating homes, but there are a lot of easy fixes you can do to reduce the chances of losing a sale. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Squeaky doors: Lubricating squeaky hinges is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your chances of making a positive impression on prospective home buyers. A seemingly small thing like squeaky door hinges can make your house seem old, poorly maintained, and in disrepair. A squeaky door hinge is probably not going to make or break the sale of your house, but in combination with other little flaws that prospects might notice, it could have a major impact.

Weeds cropping up: Another clear signal to prospects that your property hasn't been properly maintained -- at least in their minds -- is the existence of weeds. Other than an overgrown lawn, nothing detracts from curb appeal more than weeds coming up everywhere, especially in driveway cracks, walkways, and front steps. If your home is on the market or you're considering selling it in the near future, getting rid of noticeable weeds will help improve your property's curb appeal and make a better impression on prospective buyers. If you hate the idea of handling or applying commercial weed killers, non-toxic household items like vinegar or salt have been known to nip the weed problem in the bud. Whether you use store-bought herbicides or natural remedies, make sure you don't damage any nearby plants that you want to protect. In some cases, manually pulling out weeds and carefully digging out the roots is the most risk-free approach, although it's also the most labor intensive!

Dust and cobwebs: No matter how thorough you think you've been in cleaning your house, you're probably going to miss a few spots that prospective buyers will notice. In small amounts, a little dust is not going to make or break your sale, but like squeaky door hinges, small problems add up! Areas that homeowners and house cleaners often overlook include baseboards, ceiling fans, and corners of ceilings.

Unpleasant odors: If your house smells like pets, mold, or mothballs, that sometimes can be a deal breaker. Bad odors are a major sensory turnoff that could easily sour people on the idea of making an offer on your house. Musty odors are often indicative of a larger problem, such as a damp basement, leaky pipes, water damage, or mold infestation. Eliminating odors prior to having your house shown can be as simple as doing a thorough cleaning, or as complex and expensive as hiring a mold remediation service.

The good news about preparing your home for sale is that a seasoned real estate agent can provide you with the advice, guidance, and help you need to maximize your chances for attracting offers and selling your property for its full market value.