Real Estate

Having a Plan for Major Home Repairs

Having a Plan for Major Home Repairs

Most homeowners are familiar with down payments, mortgages, and insurance premiums. What surprises a lot of homeowners, however, are the costs that come with unforeseen major home repairs. Whether it’s a leaky roof, bursting pipes or any other kind of major repair, fixing these problems can put a significant dent in your finances. That’s why it’s important to have some kind of plan in place for when the inevitable happens. If you’re a homeowner, the need for major home repairs will arise, and this article will help you prepare for when they do.

Repairs You Can Expect

The first part of preparing for the unexpected is knowing what to prepare for. Here are a few of the most typical major home repairs that homeowners face:

Roofing. Your home’s roof is essential to its structure, and it protects your household from the elements. Inspect your roof once a year, and if you see signs of water leakage, loose or curling shingles, or it just looks like it has seen better days, you may need to have it repaired or replaced. It’s important to find a top-rated roofing company that has a good reputation in your community. That way, you can protect yourself from a scam, and ensure that your roofers will be responsive and helpful through the process. While a full-on roof replacement can cost anywhere from $260-$700 per square foot, the average cost for a repair is $813.

Windows. Especially for those with older homes, installing new windows is common. A lot of energy can be wasted when you have drafty windows, so investing in more efficient ones can save you money on heating and cooling, as well as help keep pests from entering the home. It’s important to be careful when installing windows, however, because they can cost about $500 each (without framing). Check out this article for tips on reducing the costs.

Kitchen remodeling. Another one of the most common home repair projects is remodeling the kitchen. There are two primary reasons for this. First, acceptable styles will change frequently over the course of your homeownership. Second, the kitchen is among the most important rooms in your home if you ever want to sell it. There are ways to keep your kitchen updated for less money (e.g., refacing cabinets, replacing knobs/handles on appliances, painting, etc.). If you choose to do a complete remodel, it can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $50,000, depending on the size of the kitchen, materials used and work involved.

Creating a Rainy-Day Repair Fund

Along with knowing what types of major repairs you can expect, you need to know how you will pay for them. Making an emergency repair fund will allow you to cover much, if not all, of the expenses when an urgent issue arises. If you’re not sure where to start with your fund, plan to save about 10% of your monthly mortgage payment each month. That is, if your mortgage is $1,250, you would contribute $125 per month to your emergency fund. You may be surprised how quickly it can build up if you are consistent in saving. This emergency fund calculator can help you decide on a goal amount to build toward.

Choosing the Right Contractor

It’s also essential that you hire good contractors for any job you have done. Get recommendations from people you trust, and interview three or four candidates. Once you’ve checked each candidate’s licensing, get an estimate so that you can compare prices and see what works with your budget. When it comes to contractors, a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean that the candidate is more qualified. A better method is to get referrals and check out past work and experience before deciding. This will also help prevent you from getting scammed.

Preparing for the inevitable is critical for homeowners. Do your research to learn about typical major home repairs and how you can maintain your home. Start building your emergency repair fund, and be picky about the contractors you hire. Having a plan for the big repairs will make homeownership feel more manageable and less stressful.

Julian Lane

Photo Credit: Pxhere


Simple Ways to Save When Hosting a Memorial Day Celebration


Nothing says summer like a big backyard Memorial Day bash. But if you are working on a tight budget, you may be worried about being able to really wow your guests without blowing all of your summer savings. Thankfully, kicking off summer with a backyard party does not have to cost you a fortune. Here are some tips to keep those party expenses down.

Beat the Heat and Impress Guests With Grilled Dishes

If you want to avoid the stress of cooking for a backyard full of people, think about breaking out your grill. Preparing foods on a grill can be an easy and healthy way to feed your hungry guests, so long as you follow some basic grill safety. If it’s been a while since you’ve used your grill, check it over for signs of wear or damage to fuel lines. You should also be sure that gas or charcoal grills are operated in well-ventilated areas outside, to avoid hazardous fumes or smoke. From pork chops to potatoes, there are so many grilled party food options that will keep you within your budget, and keep your guests happy. If you need to buy a new grill, you can score a quality gas grill for less than $200. Some are even portable, so you can take your new grilled recipes on those summer road trips and camping adventures.

Cut Down Costs for Additional Appetizers and Side Dishes

Once you have your main course figured out, you will want to come up with a few appetizers and side dishes, too. Try to plan your menu out well ahead of time and then hop online to search for grocery store offers and coupons that can help you trim your party budget. Most stores have apps where you can find digital coupons, but you can snag offers directly from vendor websites, too. Another fun way to curb the costs of your Memorial Day meal is to ask guests to bring dishes or ingredients for a potluck. Typically, hosts provide a meat or main dish, and guests provide the rest. You can get even craftier too and ask your friends to bring fixings for a smores bar or another fun dinner idea.

Keep Drinks Simple With a Signature Cocktail and Beverages

Nothing drives the costs of entertaining up like a fully stocked bar. So, instead of offering multiple choices, keep things cheap and easy with a fun summer punch. You can jazz up your drink menu by whipping up a big batch of Moscow mules or keep things more traditional with a sherbert-infused punch. Offering a single cocktail or punch allows you to easily pick up enough budget-friendly mixers and alcohol to keep the drinks flowing for your guests. It’s also a good idea to offer non-alcoholic options. So use the coupons you snagged earlier to stock up on bottled water and consider making some fun non-boozy summer drinks. Tropical-themed drinks like pineapple ginger sparklers and starfruit sangria will impress your guests and keep them refreshed, too.

 Make Sure You Have Enough Seating and Some Spots to Eat

Now that you have all those delicious summer foods and drinks planned out, your guests will need some areas to relax and enjoy them. If your backyard is lacking the necessary patio furniture, don’t sweat it! There are tons of places to find killer deals on outdoor chairs, tables, and lounge sets to deck out your patio and yard. You can usually score budget-friendly finds at stores like Target or Costco, or you can even make some custom pieces of your own. If you’re comfortable with a set of tools, and can find free or inexpensive pallets, you can easily create DIY outdoor furniture, including posh daybeds and cozy coffee tables. For an even cheaper way to offer additional seating, ask your guests to bring their own folding or lawn chairs.

Don’t let a limited budget limit your fun this Memorial Day! By being savvy when planning your menu and looking for simple ways to save on your furniture and decor, you can throw a budget-friendly summer BBQ your friends and family are sure to remember!

Carrie Spencer

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Helpful Savings Tips for Homebuyers

Helpful Savings Tips for Homebuyers

If you are in the market for a home as a first-time buyer, you may not be aware of various ways to maximize your housing dollar. From loan programs and down payment assistance to research tips and negotiation tactics, there is a world of real estate bargain hunting at your fingertips. Here are some of the best ways to save money and find the perfect home.

Sources of real estate purchase funds
Some of the best sources for down payment assistance include local municipalities. Many cities, towns and counties have home ownership support offices that coordinate grants and small second-mortgage loans to encourage investment in particular areas. For many reasons, these are some of the best places for new homeowners to shop. Often, these homes are priced lower. These low prices present an investment opportunity for long-term planning purposes. This long-term view of real estate investment is crucial with these programs since grants and other assistance likely will be accompanied with restrictions on resale for a period of time, such as five years. In general, five years is the time period required to recoup real estate closing costs anyway, so holding on the real estate is a good idea. For those who are just looking for a house to live in for many years, then these programs can help you get into a home and may even be forgiven over an extended period of time, such as ten years.

Low-cost and low down payment mortgage programs
Also, there are several ways to minimize the amount of cash required for a home purchase. In Billerica, MA, home transactions have an average down payment of almost 20 percent. Some programs allow this figure to be smaller. Government loans, such as those backed by FHA or VA, can significantly reduce the barriers to home ownership. Often, there is a minimum cash requirement as very few loan programs allow a buyer to acquire a home with zero investment. For example, you may be required to pay a portion of your closing costs, which can equal four to seven percent of the purchase price, depending on your state.

Negotiating tips for extra savings
Beyond grants and special mortgage programs, your best avenue for savings is to find the right properties and buy below market value. These deals exist in many markets because a seller may be motivated to close quickly, or may not want to invest in needed repairs. A fixer-upper home can be a way for homeowners to trade sweat equity for home equity. Older homes may need non-structural repairs, such as new flooring or modernized bathrooms or kitchens. Take on this work yourself to save considerably.

The key in fixer-upper deals is to communicate and not be afraid to make offers. Explain the work that is required, and detail the expense of the repairs and how your offer takes those figures into consideration. Just lobbing a low-ball offer at a seller may come off as an insult or waster of their time, but explaining your reasoning opens the negotiation.

If downpayment is a concern, speak to your real estate agent or attorney about offering a purchase price that incorporates seller-paid closing costs. In such a transaction, some lending programs, such as an FHA mortgage, will allow the seller to pay a portion of your closing costs, which reduces the cash you need at closing. For example, if you wanted to offer $100,000, you might offer $105,000 with the seller paying $5,000 towards your costs.

By researching deals and down payment assistance programs, first-time home buyers can save considerably. Get to know your market, speak to local assistance organizations, and find the right home and mortgage for your needs.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

4 Things That Can Help Prevent Common Doggie Disasters at Home

4 Things That Can Help Prevent Common Doggie Disasters at Home

If you’re a dog owner, you undoubtedly know the reward of the special bond that comes with it. Dogs serve as a great example of loyalty and unconditional love, and most of the time they bring us nothing but joy. However, what about when we come home to a big potty accident in the doorway or a chewed-up couch cushion? These are moments that all canine lovers would rather not experience. While there’s no way to guarantee that your pooch will never cause another mess, there are four things you can do that will help prevent and lessen the frequency of the most common doggie disasters at home.

Exercise Them

All dogs need some level of exercise. Depending on the breed and age, that could mean anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half each day. Dogs have energy that needs to be let out, and if that doesn’t happen outside, it will eventually be released through destructive measures in your home. To prevent such disasters, take your dog for a walk at least once a day. If you have the room in your backyard, letting them run around and playing games with them (i.e. fetch, flyball, soccer, frisbee, etc.) can also help burn energy.

Engage Them

Along with giving your dog physical exercise, it’s important that they have ways to engage their mind as well. Make time to play and interact with your pooch at home, and purchase some puzzle toys for when you’re gone. Having such toys around the house will lower the risk of your dog becoming bored and finding something else to get their paws on. If you try this and the problem persists, look into doggie daycare, as it’s a safe and supervised environment where your dog can stimulate his or her mind and play with other dogs. 

Train Them

Training is another vital part of preventing doggie disasters in your home. Even when it seems like your dog has chewed up your phone charger or pooped on the rug to get back at you for feeding them late, it could just be that they don’t know any better or have forgotten. Especially if your dog is young or has switched homes, training is essential. New environments often cause dogs to lose any housebreaking they once had (even if they move to a different home with the same family). Sometimes, it’s only for a short stint before they get back to their normal behavior, but you may have to potty train them again. If you have a puppy, consider taking them to a doggie training class. The trainers can usually tailor their strategies to your dog’s unique breed and personality, and it’s a good chance for your pup to socialize with other dogs.

Dog-Proof Your Home 

You can also make it more difficult for your dog to make a mess when they’re by themselves. Not only will dog-proofing help avoid messes, but it will also keep your dog safe. Be sure to keep all electrical cords and choking hazards off of the floor and other places your dog could get to. Store all foods up high or in the pantry, and keep all cleaning chemicals and medicines out of reach. Other ways to dog-proof your home include installing baby gates on your stairs, closing the doors to rooms you don’t want them to be in, and keeping dirty laundry off the floor. 

Messes will happen from time to time; that’s just a part of owning a dog. But you can take steps to prevent them and make them occur less often. Providing ways for your dogs to burn their energy and exercise their minds will help them fight off boredom. Ensuring that they have proper training and dog-proofing your home will help you avoid messes and keep your dog safe from harm while you’re gone.

Written by:
Cindy Aldridge

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Update: February 12, 2020 - New Article

We just published an updated, comprehensive guide on ways to keep your dog entertained when home alone on our sister site, Your Dog Advisor. It is completely free and you can find it here:



Safe and Secure: Important Tips for Dog Owners Moving Into a New Home

Tips for Dog Owners Moving Into a New Home Image courtesy of Pixabay

Moving into a new place can be a tricky transition for dogs and their owners.  Take steps to ease your furry friend’s stress during the adjustment and to keep him safe.  Here are some terrific tips that will help you both manage the move smoothly.

Preparations.  Change is stressful, and your dog won’t understand the changes that are coming with moving to a new home.  Depending on the circumstances, adjusting a dog to a new home can take anywhere from a couple days to several months.  To help your dog, establish a routine well before the move and maintain it throughout the process.  Dogs thrive on a predictable schedule, and providing that structure will help your pooch.  Also, pack quietly and gradually, ideally over several weeks.  Don’t make a big deal out of it, and try to keep boxes out of the way from areas where your dog spends a lot of time.  Pack your dog’s items last and unpack them first when you move.  

Fencing.  One of the best things you can do is install fencing before moving into your new home.  Since many dogs spend a great deal of time outdoors, an appropriate fence will provide secure boundaries to your pooch and prevent him from wandering.  Good fencing also keeps other animals from venturing into your yard.  A fence can even keep your dog from being hit by a car and can prevent people from stealing your furry friend.  HomeAdvisor notes it costs an average of $2,670 to install or build a fence.

Landscaping.  Inspect the landscaping at your new property before your dog is allowed access to it.  You’ll want to remove any toxic plants or choking hazards, such as fruit pits, rocks, or sticks.  If your new property comes with fencing already installed, check it over for any gaps and address them. 

Moving.  Once your home is ready to move into, you’ll have the chaos of the move to manage.  This will be a stressful time for your pooch.  Keep your dog’s routine and provide a secure place for your dog throughout the event.  IHeartDogs recommends reducing your dog’s stress by keeping him with you.  Remember to have updated identification tags on your dog’s collar.  Sometimes in the comings and goings, dogs slip out, and without proper information, it can be especially difficult to reconnect you with your furry friend.

Introductions.  Unpack your dog’s belongings first at the new home, and when you introduce your dog to the house, show him his things right away.  Allow him to smell those familiar items so he can take comfort in the scents.  Give your dog a tour of the new place, allowing him to absorb the surroundings.  Provide direction if he makes a mistake, like chewing something he shouldn’t or trying to mark in a naughty place, but let him take his time getting to know the property.  When you show your dog the yard, one idea is to present him with a favorite toy to enjoy.  This will help your dog adjust to the yard, associating the area with happy things and feeling more at home.

Interior.  Embrace a mindset of pet-proofing your new home, remembering as you’re unpacking to be conscious of what is within your dog’s realm.  Dogs can get into things like medicines, cleaning supplies, and garbage, so opt to keep hazardous items in rooms that are off-limits to your dog.  Many owners employ child gates to keep dogs out of harm’s way, or you may need to crate your dog during some periods of unpacking. 

Right at home!  With basic preparations, you can ease your dog’s transition into a new home.  Take steps to ensure his safety throughout the process and in the new place.  You and your pup will feel right at home in no time!

Written by:
Cindy Aldridge

A good home buyer’s agent can make your home search fun!

Are you running from open house to open house, not really getting to see the details of the home because you are trying to squeeze so many into the tiny time frame that seems to be “open house time”? Although open houses can be a great way to see what is out there you are probably missing a lot of houses and you aren’t really getting to see everything the house has to offer. A 5 minute run through is just not enough!

Having a buyer’s agent represent you will not only help you to see the houses you’re interested in at a much more relaxed pace. You will also now have professional guidance helping you to see important details that you might not know to look for. You will have someone that is also searching for your perfect dream home and letting you know when that home might be on the market. You will have someone to walk you through all of the steps of home buying and get you through all of the intimidating paperwork. You will also have access to some great tools to do your own searches!

Many buyers try to bypass having representation because they assume that will add to the cost of their home. But, did you know that it very rarely costs you anything to have your representative by your side? Almost always, the buyer’s agent is paid by the seller’s agent, they are paying a portion of the seller’s agent commission to the buyer’s agent. Even with FSBO’s (For Sale By Owner) the seller is almost always willing to pay the buyer’s agent commission. The only time you would have to pay is if we found a house that you loved that did not pay that commission, again very rare. If that were to happen, your agent would make you aware of that before seeing the house so that you would go to the showing with that knowledge.

A good buyer’s agent does much more than just show you houses. We help you research the property and guide you on your own research helping you with useful links that can get you important information. We help you to decide on your offer amount based on Comprehensive Market Analysis we create to help be sure you do not over pay. We walk you through all of the paperwork and we help to keep track of important dates so you don’t miss any steps through the process.

Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases of your life. Having a buyer’s agent represent you can help to make this process fun and exciting instead of stressful and overwhelming.

Call me today if you would like to set up a free consultation and start searching for your dream home now! 978-590-6611

Winning the bidding war in a Seller’s Market

It can be like living in the wild west when you are trying to buy a home in a seller’s market. But many people do not actually know what that means.

The way we measure the market in real estate is inventory (homes for sale) vs sales (buyers actually buying a home). If there are 10 homes purchased in a given area in 1 month and there are 30 homes for sale in that same area, that would mean we have a 3 month supply of homes in that area. 10 sales per month for 3 months. In the real estate industry we would call that a 3, which is a seller’s market. Anywhere between a 5 – 7 is considered a neutral market, meaning we have a 5 – 7 month supply of homes for sale based on the amount of buyers buying in a month.

In Billerica, MA we have had a crazy market lately with a very large demand and a very low supply. On average we have been a 1.3… this is a very competitive seller’s market. Many homes are selling above the value of the home because buyers are becoming desperate to get their offer accepted. I have seen many situations where my buyers are competing against 20 or more other offers.

So, in a Market this competitive, how do you get your offer on the top?

Try to look at your offer from the seller’s perspective. What would they want? So many buyers will always try to get “a deal” they will offer $30,000 below the ask price, even in this crazy market. If it were a buyer’s market or the home was simply over priced, that might be possible but usually the price is very close to what it will sell for. In a competitive market, this may kill your offer before you begin. Almost always, a seller thinks their home is worth more than it is. A buyer thinks the home is worth less than it is.

Terms! There is more to an offer than just the price. Terms are also very important. When a seller accepts an offer that is filled with contingencies, that seller is risking the possibility of the offer falling apart, this would mean that after removing their home from the market for possibly several weeks, their home will have to go back on the market, now tainted with every buyer wondering what was wrong with the house?, why did it go back on the market? Sometimes a seller will accept a slightly lower offer that has better terms. Maybe a quicker closing, a larger down payment, waiving the inspection, or in this market when many homes are selling for more than their value, waiving the appraisal contingency.

Tap into emotions. Both selling and buying is a very personal and emotional part of someone’s life. Often, this house you are buying was the seller’s home for many years and they have a lot of special memories in that home. If you are impressed by the way they have cared for the home or special touches they have added, take the time to write a nice letter to the seller saying so. Tap in to their emotions. A person selling the home they have loved for many years might be happier handing over the keys to someone they think will love and appreciate their home just as much as they do.

Here are some housing stats in Billerica, MA as of today (October 12, 2016)

Call, text or email me today to set up a meeting to create your home buying strategy! I look forward to hearing from you!

Anna Shelbaer, Realtor