Why More Homeowners are Opting for a Home Equity Line of Credit

The housing market has experienced dramatic changes over the past decade, with mortgage rates fluctuating to historic lows. As a homeowner with a low mortgage rate, you may be wondering how to take advantage of your home’s increased value and unlock its potential. A home equity line of credit (HELOC) could be the answer you’re looking for. Let’s explore the reasons why choosing a HELOC may make the most sense for you.

1. Preserve Your Low Mortgage Rate
If you’re fortunate enough to have locked in a low mortgage rate, a HELOC allows you to maintain it while accessing the equity in your home. This is because a HELOC operates as a separate loan, independent of your primary mortgage. You can tap into your home’s equity without refinancing your current mortgage or affecting your interest rate. With mortgage rates currently on the rise, preserving your low rate is an essential consideration.

2. Flexible Access to Funds
A HELOC provides a level of flexibility that other loan options may not. Rather than receiving a lump sum of cash, as with a home equity loan or a cash-out refinance, a HELOC allows you to draw from a predetermined credit limit as you need it. This means that you only pay interest on the amount you actually use, and you can access the funds multiple times without reapplying for a new loan.

3. Lower Interest Rates than Other Loans
HELOCs generally come with lower interest rates compared to other types of loans, such as personal loans or credit cards. Since your home is used as collateral for the loan, lenders are more willing to offer competitive rates. This can save you money over the life of the loan, especially if you’re using the funds for purposes like home improvements or consolidating high-interest debt.

4. Use the Funds for a Variety of Purposes
A HELOC offers versatility in how you use the funds. You can put the money towards home improvements, consolidate high-interest debt, pay for education expenses, or even use it as an emergency fund. The flexibility of a HELOC allows you to address your financial needs as they arise without the need for multiple loans.

5. Build a Stronger Financial Future
When used responsibly, a HELOC can help you achieve your financial goals and build a stronger financial future. By leveraging your home’s equity, you can invest in projects that increase your property value or pay off high-interest debt to improve your overall financial health.

Remember, as with any financial decision, it’s crucial to carefully evaluate your personal circumstances and consult with a financial professional before moving forward. By doing so, you’ll ensure that you’re making the best decision for your unique financial situation. I can help. Email or call me at 617-965-1236 to have a look at your options and to see if a HELOC is right for you. I look forward to our chat!

* * * * *

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.

April Is Financial Literacy Month

It’s almost April and apart from Opening Day at Fenway, April is also known as Financial Literacy Month. Let’s have a look at a few ideas to help you better understand your finances and make informed decisions.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). These agencies provide resources and tools, from understanding credit scores to avoiding scams.

There are also many non-profit organizations dedicated to promoting financial literacy.

And, of course, you always have your favorite mortgage broker to help you get financially savvy about buying your first (or next) home, figuring out what you can afford, and making intelligent long-term decisions about your financial investments, options, and obligations.

Home Improver: Wallpaper’s Big Comeback in 2023

A few months ago we wrote about how the 1980s fashions were popular again. One of the big interior design trends in 2023 has been the resurgence of wallpaper adding a fresh, nostalgic twist to modern homes. With the ’80s aesthetic making a strong comeback, wallpapers are no longer confined to the walls of grandma’s house. Here are some of the most popular wallpaper trends from the ’80s that have made a resurgence—as well as the new trends popular with home decorators this year.

Bold Geometric Patterns
The ’80s style was known for a love of geometric shapes, and this passion has made a strong comeback in 2023. Large-scale patterns with bold, striking colors are a popular choice for feature walls, bringing a sense of depth and dimension to any room. Whether you opt for classic chevrons, hexagons, or interlocking triangles, these dynamic designs add energy and character to your interior design.

Pastel Palettes
Pastels were a staple of ’80s interior design, and they have returned with the vengeance of Crockett & Tubbs. Soft pinks, blues, and mint greens are making their way back into wallpaper designs, creating a soothing and inviting ambiance.

Tropical Prints
Bringing the outdoors in is a trend that has only grown in popularity, and with the ’80s resurgence, tropical prints are back in full force. Palm leaves, exotic birds, and bold florals add a touch of adventure and playfulness to your space, while also providing a natural, relaxing atmosphere. Remind you of a particular TV sitcom home in Miami?

Murals and Panoramic Wallpapers
Another exciting trend in 2023 is the use of murals and panoramic wallpapers. These designs transform entire walls into works of art, showcasing stunning landscapes, city skylines, or abstract compositions.

Eco-friendly and Sustainable Options
As environmental concerns continue to shape consumer choices, eco-friendly and sustainable wallpapers have become increasingly popular. These wallpapers are made from responsibly sourced materials and often use water-based inks and recyclable packaging.

Is Your Mortgage a Mole or Melanoma?

Millennials (and now GenZ) homebuyers often make decisions about their finances through online research, even when it comes to buying a home. But relying solely on online research to educate yourself about mortgages can be risky. It’s like using WebMD to diagnose yourself without seeing your doctor.

Online research can be overwhelming and often confusing. There is a lot of conflicting information available, and it can be difficult to separate the credible sources from the unreliable ones. You may think you’re qualified by your own research and calculations, but you still may have your application rejected due to some detail you overlooked. Also, it’s very easy to overestimate your income and not properly factor in your debt-to-income ratio, even when using a mortgage calculator. So many things can go wrong in this process, especially if you’ve never been through it before. Think about it: this is going to be the biggest purchase you’ve ever made in your life, along with the longest financial commitment. Does that sound like something you can easily accomplish on your phone?

Here are a few more things to keep in mind:

Online calculators and mortgage rate comparisons can only provide an estimate and do not take into account the unique financial situation of each individual. This can lead to a situation where you might think you have found the perfect mortgage option, only to find out later that it’s not the best fit for you. Sometimes it can be so stressful and overwhelming — especially for first-time homebuyers — that they just go with whatever their bank has to offer. Don’t fall into that trap!

Additionally, online research cannot replace the expertise and experience of a mortgage professional —someone with the knowledge and experience to guide you through the process and can answer specific questions, advise on the best options, and help you find the best mortgage rates.

Going back to our WebMD analogy, a rash on the skin might not be the deadly illness you thought it was, but your doctor will be able to tell the difference between a simple rash and a serious disease (you know we always assume the worst with WebMD). Similarly, a mortgage professional will be able to tell the difference between a good deal and a mistake. I help clients avoid the pitfalls of predatory lending and steer you clear of options that might seem too good to be true.

Some big banks may push you towards products and options that are more profitable for them, rather than what’s best for you. As an independent mortgage broker I always put your needs and interests first. I am never beholden to any one lender and can provide you with a range of options that are in line with your specific needs.

Don’t take the risk of self-diagnosing your mortgage needs. It’ll make you sick. Let’s set up a meeting to get you the mortgage that works best for you.

* * * * *

If you’d like to chat about mortgage options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re planning to buy this year, let’s talk soon. I look forward to speaking with you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.

February Facts

February is a month known for its icy weather, Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day. But did you know these fantastic February facts?

  1. The name “February” comes from the Latin word “februarius” which means “to purify.”
  2. February is the only month in the year that can pass without a full moon.
  3. The birthstone for February is amethyst, a violet variety of quartz often used in jewelry.
  4. February is Black History Month, celebrating the contributions of Black Americans to our nation’s history.
  5. February is also National Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about heart disease and promote healthy habits.
  6. The first Groundhog Day was celebrated on February 2nd, 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
  7. The first National Flag Day was celebrated on February 15th, 1894.
  8. Super Bowl LVII takes place on Sunday, February 12 this year at State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals.

Home Improver: Benefits of a Heated Driveway

Heated driveways may seem like a luxury item, but more and more families have these helpful snow and ice melters installed as a safety measure — not just for slip-and-falls but for the stress on the cardio-vascular system from shoveling heavy snow. Here are more benefits of this time-saving system.

  1. Convenience: during colder months: No more shoveling or snow blowing to clear a path to your garage or front door. The heat from the driveway melts snow and ice as soon as it falls, keeping your driveway clear and safe to walk on.
  2. Increased property value: A heated driveway is a luxury feature that can set your home apart from others on the market, making it more attractive to potential buyers. It also increases the overall curb appeal of your home.
  3. Energy efficiency: Electric heated driveways are typically more energy-efficient than gas-powered systems and can be controlled by a thermostat, allowing you to set the temperature to your desired level.
  4. Low maintenance: The heating elements are buried beneath the surface and do not require any regular maintenance. Additionally, the heating elements are protected from the elements and are not affected by snow and ice, ensuring a long lifespan.
  5. Environmentally friendly: By reducing the need for snow removal, a heated driveway can help to reduce the amount of pollutants and emissions caused by gas-powered snow removal equipment.

Learn more about heated driveways here.

Fed Up with the Fed? Here’s My Advice.

For the seventh time this year, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates, this time by half a percentage point on Dec. 14, to a range of 4.25 to 4.5%. The primary reason for the rate hikes is to combat inflation, but what does it mean for home buyers?

One thing history tells us is that if you’re looking to purchase a home, any attempt to time the market may not work out in your favor. As inflation continues to increase and rates steadily trend up, higher interest rates and mortgage payments may be the result. You may have better luck locking in a lower mortgage interest rate now rather than gambling on an uncertain future.

Timing Is Always a Gamble

Timing the market isn’t always the best way to figure out when to buy a home. People who wait for the right time, hoping to squeeze a few percentage points off their mortgage rate, often find themselves waiting too long and wind up with higher monthly mortgage payments than expected. And those continuing to wait for some sort of market correction may find themselves on the sidelines as rates climb steadily higher. That’s not conjecture, it’s history.

Keep in mind that you’re not just timing the US market, you’re factoring in the global market. Inflation is a result of many factors including the war in Ukraine and the ongoing pandemic issues. The UK is at a 40-year high at 10% and Germany is in the same range. Think our 7% is bad enough? Inflation in Turkey and Argentina is up over 80%.

Think Micro, Not Macro

Rather than timing the global market, try working within your own schedule and plan. Think micro! Look at your personal economic situation first and foremost. Consider working with a financial planner to see if it makes sense to buy your home now rather than waiting on rumors and predictions for next year. Remember: you buy the house and date the rate. You can always refinance down the road.

If you are ready now, this may be the best time to purchase for a while. Let’s talk about your options before the Fed gets too aggressive and potentially creates a new financial challenge in an effort to solve another.

* * * * *

If you’d like to chat about mortgage options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re planning to buy this year, let’s talk soon. I look forward to speaking with you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.

The Holidays Are Here

Happy Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year!

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas you’re probably familiar with the song “The 12 Days of Christmas.” It’s the one three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree. Weird gifts to be sure.

Each day brings the previous gifts, so by the end of the song, the gifter’s “true love” receives about 184 total birds between the partridges, doves, hens, calling birds (aka colly birds), swans and geese. Others argue the total is 224 birds because the “five gold rings” are not jewelry but refer to a ring-necked pheasant. That’s a lot of birds, not to mention the dozen pear trees!

What’s the Time Limit for Displaying Holiday Decorations?

Have you ever driven down a street on a warm spring day and noticed plastic reindeer and Christmas lights on someone’s roof? It’s a pet peeve for many. Holiday decorations have a specific time and place. So what is the etiquette?

We consulted several etiquette sources like Emily Post and online sites like Fatherly.com and Better Homes & Gardens. The consensus, while not 100% in agreement, leaned strongly towards removing your menorah the day after Hanukkah ends and your Christmas tree and decorations 12 days after Christmas.

But there were other opinions. Some felt that you should keep them up longer if family is visiting for a few extra days. No one said anything about rooftop reindeer in spring, so don’t do that.

Some suggested that businesses should keep the menorah as long as the Christmas decorations to show others the importance of both holidays. In the interest of diversity and inclusion, it is recommended in office settings to include a Kwanzaa kinara (candle holder) and then removing all decorations after the last holiday ends (or after New Year’s Day).

The ’80s Are Back — But Comparatively, Mortgage Rates Are Still Totally Rad!

Have you noticed the fashion trends of the 1980s are finding their way back to department store racks and online shopping sites? ’80s fashion has seen a recent resurgence, perhaps due to current pop culture hits like Stranger Things and retro fashion videos on TikTok.

You may be hoping that mortgage rates won’t see the absurd highs of the ’80s. Although the average for that decade was 12.7%, rates in the ’80s topped out at 18.45%. Yikes!

One thing to note is that although the 18% rate is unthinkable now, home prices were considerably lower back then. With today’s rates higher than recent years, we’re also seeing lower asking prices by sellers. Gone are the insane bidding wars that raised prices by tens of thousands during the pandemic. The market tends to self-correct whenever possible.

The other concern is for sellers and real estate agents to be realistic about their pricing. We recently saw a home sale where they needed to adjust down considerably either due to poor market research or homeowners trying to bring in maximum dollars. Case in point, a home that recently sold:

  • Oct 1: listed at $1.2 Million
  • October 20: dropped to $999K
  • November 1: dropped again to $950K
  • November 15: accepted offer of $850K

Real estate agents have a responsibility to educate their buyers and sellers on how to set proper pricing. Most are educated and aware of up-to-the-minute changes. The example above shows a home that was not correctly priced and it may have cost the seller several thousand dollars because of it.

Remember to choose wisely when selecting your real estate agent. If you need a recommendation, just ask!

* * * * *

If you’d like to chat about mortgage options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re planning to buy this year, let’s talk soon. I look forward to speaking with you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.

Top Selling Songs and Top Grossing Movies of the 1980s By Year

Song: Call Me by Blondie
Movie: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Song: Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes
Movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Song: Physical by Olivia Newton-John
Movie: E.T.

Song: Every Breath You Take by the Police
Movie: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

Song: When Doves Cry by Prince
Movie: Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom

Song: Careless Whisper by Wham! featuring George Michael
Movie: Back to the Future

Song: That’s What Friends Are For by Dionne & Friends
Movie: Top Gun

Song: Walk Like an Egyptian by The Bangles
Movie: Fatal Attraction

Song: Faith by George Michael
Movie: Rain Man

Song: Look Away by Chicago
Movie: Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade

Top Album: Thriller by Michael Jackson
Bestselling novel: Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy
Top TV Show: Dallas

Home Improver: ’80s Decor Is Trending

Floral wallpaper, pastel sofas, lucite chairs and more are back in style as 1980s home decor trends have returned. Call it Miami Vice Revisited or Golden Girls Chic, these ’80s decor trends are making a big comeback to homes across the US.

  1. Return of Pastels. We’re seeing more of this trend on sofas than anywhere else in the home. Light blue or green sofas with pink or blue solid, patterned or striped accent pillows.
  2. Chintz and Floral Patterns. French-inspired decor and aesthetics are trending on social media. Chintz is a delicate, floral-printed cotton that is primarily used for curtains and upholstery. Wallpaper with big earthy, leafy prints is also on the rise.
  3. Brass is Back. Some would argue that brass never went out of style, but most bathrooms since the ’90s have favored brushed chrome or darker colors.
  4. Lucite Accents. Remember lucite? it’s a thick, clear plastic used in furniture and accessories. It adds a clean, modern look to rooms and is commonly found on barstool seats, lamps, and shelving units.
  5. Wicker Lives! Most of us got rid of all traces of wicker by the ’90s. But wicker is the oldest furniture making method in history, so you had to expect it to make a comeback.

Second Mortgage vs. HELOC: What’s the Difference?

When choosing the loan that’s right for you, it’s important to understand the differences between a second mortgage and a home equity line of credit (HELOC).

But before we jump into differences, let’s look at what each option has in common:

HELOCs are often thought of as a type of second mortgage because both borrow from the equity you’ve built in your home. Both loans come from the bank that provides your original mortgage and both use your existing home as collateral.

OK, now for the differences:

The most obvious “pro” in favor of a second mortgage is a fixed rate that is locked in for the life of the loan. With this comes the peace of mind knowing years in advance how much you’ll be paying monthly. Conversely, HELOCs come with variable rates which can prove costly, even if you are approved for the HELOC at a low rate. Your rate may increase because of decisions made by the Federal Reserve. It could go down as well, though this has not been the case this past year — along with the fact that rates are still historically low.

So why would I want a home equity line of credit? The main benefit is that you can use the funds as you need them. A second mortgage loan is paid to you in a lump sum at the start of the loan. A HELOC can make money available to you only when you need it. If you need less than you thought, your monthly payment will be smaller.

Just be careful: you could easily make impulse-buy decisions over the years on home improvement projects that, little-by-little, could max out the full amount of the line of credit.

Typically, a second mortgage is used to purchase a second home or to make large-scale home improvements on the original home. In addition, second mortgages can help the homeowner with debt consolidation from high interest auto loans, credit cards, life events and medical bills.

* * * * *

If you’d like to chat about mortgage options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re planning to buy this year, let’s talk soon. I look forward to speaking with you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.

National Peach Month

We know Justin Bieber gets his peaches out in Georgia, but did you know that August is National Peach Month?

In 1982, Ronald Reagan choose the peach to represent adding more nutritious fruits into the American diet. Because peaches are a summer fruit, he chose August as the month to celebrate them.

So what are the nutritional benefits of peaches?

  1. They’re packed with nutrients and antioxidants.
  2. They help contribute to healthy digestion.
  3. They contain compounds that help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  4. Peach skin and flesh are rich in carotenoids and caffeic acid — two types of antioxidants with anti-cancer properties.
  5. They may reduce allergy symptoms. In addition to eating peaches, Test-tube studies report that peach extracts may be effective as well and limit the inflammation commonly seen in allergic reactions.

Home Improver: Do Air Purifiers Really Work?

Let’s face it: there’s a lot of dust, odors, and toxins that we breathe in throughout the various rooms in our homes. What’s the easiest way to minimize the negative effects in the air we breathe? Get an air purifier.

These room refreshers have come a long way in recent years and they are reasonably priced for what they do. When used properly they can reduce household odors as well as common allergens that make you sick.

If you suffer from allergies, an air purifier can help mitigate symptoms, but don’t expect 100% relief. For those concerned about Covid-19, the CDC says: “Ventilation systems can be supplemented with portable high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners to reduce the number of infectious particles in the air and provide enhanced protection from transmission between persons.”

One of the most popular and highly rated air purifiers is this one from Conway, (shown above) for just $200. One thing to remember before you buy: Will the air purifier you choose cover the size of your large room?

Mortgage Rates on the Rise: Don’t Hit the Panic Button

We thought it was important to address the elephant in the room: Mortgage rates have surged and may continue to increase. Having this happen during a time of the highest rate of inflation since 1982 may make you think buying a new home is impossible. But there are a few things to consider before hitting the panic button.
  1. Mortgage rates are still historically low. They were just under 7% for a 30-year fixed loan before the recession in 2018. In 2000, they were at 8.62% and in 1981 they topped out at 16.63%. Yikes!
  2. A market correction could happen sooner than we think. Experts believe that rising rates may bring the housing market back down. With the mortgage frenzy of the past few years slowing, home prices should become more affordable, especially if it reduces the number of bidding wars that have put some homes out of reach for buyers on a budget.
  3. Common sense from Jim Gaines, research economist at Texas A&M’s Real Estate Center. Jim says, “the Fed and the government historically want to encourage homeownership. They really don’t want the mortgage rate to get that high that it will be a detriment to the market.”
Keep in mind that everything is relative. You sell high to buy high and you sell low to buy low. The market dictates that. All we can do as buyers and/or sellers, is to make smart fiscal decisions with the data points we have. If this is all too confusing and causing you anxiety, get in touch and we’ll discuss your options for buying or refinancing your next home.

* * * * *

If you’d like to chat about mortgage options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re planning to buy this year, let’s talk soon. I look forward to speaking with you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

It’s supposed to be hot and mostly sunny on Sunday and Monday, so grab your sunscreen and have some outdoor fun as we celebrate our nation’s 246th birthday. Here’s some trivia about July 4th that you can share to amaze your friends and family.

July 4th or July 2nd?
Although the Declaration of Independence was dated July 4, congress voted for independence from Great Britain two days prior on July 2, 1776. It apparently wasn’t signed by everyone until a month later on August 2, 1776.

Population in 1776.
While the current US population is more than 330 million, the population in 1776 was just 2.5 million. That’s just 0.75% of the current number of US residents.

Hot Dog!
Americans consume a staggering 150 million hot dogs every Independence Day. That’s about 800 dogs per second. Pass the mustard, please!

A New Constitution?
Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison that he believed a new Constitution should be written for each generation. Read this.

Home Improver: Do-It-Yourself Carpet Cleaning

What’s the best way to clean your carpets? Everyone has an opinion: steam, shampoo, cold water, hot water, etc. But other variables exist as well: call in a professional, rent a machine, hands-and-knees scrub, and more. The fact is, any of these methods will leave your carpets cleaner, but what are the risks involved?

Are liquid carpet cleaners toxic? Most are safe for the general public, but at any given point, you and your family could be exposed to:

  • Perchloroethylene, a popular dry cleaning chemical known to cause nausea, dizziness and fatigue.
  • Naphthalene, a popular cleaning solution that helps dissolve dirt. Naphthalene is derived from coal tar and is commonly used as a pesticide to kills moths and other small insects.
  • Butyloxy Ethanol, which can enter your body by both breathing it in and by coming in direct contact with your skin.

(Source: Chem-Dry)

How Much Can I Deduct? Mortgage Interest & Tax Deductions

You may be just a few weeks removed from filing your 2021 income taxes, but did you understand the numbers related to your mortgage interest deductions? Like many Americans, you probably put your trust in a seasoned tax preparer and hoped for the best. Let’s clear up the mystery and confusion around mortgage interest deductions.

What is it? Mortgage interest deduction allows you to lower your taxable income by the amount of interest paid on your mortgage. This law has been in effect since the 2018 tax year. The IRS allows the deduction of interest on your mortgage loan when it is used to purchase, construct, or make substantial improvements to a primary or secondary residence.

How much is the deduction? You may deduct the interest on up to $750,000 of qualified residence loans. If you’re married and filing separately, you can deduct interest on up to $375,000 of qualified debt. Note: The amount decreased from $1 million ($500,000 for married filing separately) under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. If your loan was approved before Dec. 15, 2017, you can deduct the previous limit of $1 million (or half that amount if filing separately from your spouse).

Let’s see an example. In January of 2021, you were approved for a $350,000 loan to purchase a $400,000 home. You used the home as collateral to secure the loan. Later in 2021, you borrowed $150,000 for repairs on your summer residence, valued at $200,000. You used the summer home to secure that loan.

Your total in loans on both homes is now $500K, which falls below the $750,000 limit. Because you’re using the money specifically to buy and make improvements to your primary and secondary homes, you may deduct the interest you pay for these loans from your taxable income. It can be a considerable deduction.

Can I deduct from a home equity loan? Yes, but only if under the right conditions. Similar to your mortgage, a home equity loan is considered a qualified residence loan by the IRS. You’re OK to deduct if, like the example above, you’re using the money for home-related improvements. You may not deduct interest if the money is used to pay for personal debt reduction or other expenses like student loans.

What if I’m paying my son’s mortgage? You may deduct the interest, but only if you are listed as the legal owner of the home. If not, your parental generosity will not be rewarded by the IRS.

More details, please click here for Publication 936: Home Mortgage Interest Deduction.

* * * * *

If you’d like to chat about mortgage options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re planning to buy this year, let’s talk soon. I look forward to speaking with you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.

Sauce It Up

With Memorial Day weekend signaling the unofficial start of summer, we know lots of grills and “Kiss the Cook” aprons will be brought back into action. Just one thing: you may know how to barbecue like a grill master, but how well do you know your barbecue sauces? Get to know them and you’ll have friends and neighbors in your yard all summer long.

  • St. Louis Style. This is a must for those baby-back ribs you’re defrosting. St. Louis blends many ingredients from other regions for a tangy deliciousness.
  • Memphis Style. You may think this is a trick question, because most barbecue joints in Memphis serve their meats without sauce. But that doesn’t stop our friends from Tennessee. Memphis sauce complements the dry-rubbed pork, and is often served as a side condiment.
  • Texas Style. Perhaps the most savory of the sauces, beef bouillon is the secret ingredient for peak sauciness.
  • Kansas City Style. This is probably the style you’re most familiar with, because this sauce goes with all meats. Tangy and sweet with a touch of molasses, Kansas City’s barbecue sauce is legendary.

Too much meat? Here are some recipes to grill for your vegetarian and vegan friends and family.

Home Improver: Stop Ants with Home Remedies

If you’re like a growing segment of America, you’re noticing you’ve got too many toxic sprays in your home. But how else do you get rid of ants without a toxic spray?

Try a home remedy: DIY ant repellent. There are several natural ingredients to keep the little food-seeking armies away from your home.

  1. Vinegar. Fill a spray bottle with a 50-50 mix of vinegar and water. Spay directly on ants. Wipe them up and dispose of the dead insects.
  2. Mint. We may find it a refreshing scent, but ants can’t stand mint. Wipe down ant entryways with a few drops of peppermint essential oil and ants will head to the neighbor’s house instead.
  3. Cayenne or Black Pepper. If you spot an ant entryway (typically cracks or openings in windows, doors and floors), create a little wall of pepper to keep ants out. Use the 50-50 water/cayenne method (see “vinegar” above) to chase ants away. If you feel bad for the little critters and just want to stun them so they run away, this method should get the job done.

The Downside of Down Payment Assistance

In this time of skyrocketing inflation, buyers are looking for any help they can find — and there is help out there. Sort of. Let me explain.

You may have seen ads or read articles on Down Payment Assistance (DPA). These programs are designed to provide loans or grants to buyers struggling with coming up with a typical 20% down payment.

While this sounds like a great opportunity, many DPA programs just don’t work. Often there are restrictions related to location, credit, and income.

Here’s the problem: Let’s say houses in your area average $400K. In order to qualify, your income will need to be low enough for the application to be approved. But the income restriction can be so low that you can only afford a $300K home and that means you’ve been priced out of your area before you even start to look.

Even if you did qualify to buy a home in your area, you may not stand a chance with a DPA loan when your competition is ready to put down 20% cash down (or more).

Sometimes the answer is simply to wait until you’ve saved your 20% down payment. But variables exist and there are sometimes ways to get you into a new home faster. That’s how I help. Contact me to review your credit and finances, and I’ll give you an honest opinion on your best path to a new home.

* * * * *

If you’d like to chat about mortgage options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re planning to buy this year, let’s talk soon. I look forward to speaking with you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.

Celebrating May

Suddenly, it’s almost May. How did that happen? May starts on Sunday and we thought it would be fun to take a look at some very random events that occurred on May 1 through the years.

  • 1931: The Empire State Building opens in Manhattan.
  • 1941: Citizen Kane, considered by many to be the greatest film ever made, premieres.
  • 1956: Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine is made available to the public.
  • 1961: Harper Lee wins the Pulitzer Prize for To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • 1971: Amtrak begins railway operations.
  • 1991: Rickey Henderson steals the 939th base of his career, surpassing Lou Brock’s MLB record.

Home Improver: Let It Go: Declutter Your Home

Take Elsa’s advice and Let it Go. It’s time to declutter your home. As shown in the photo above, there are several things you can do with unwanted items: keep, donate, trash, sell, recycle. Let’s focus today on donating and selling.

Donate items to Ukrainian refugees. Many people fled their homes and came here with little money and only the clothes on their backs. Be careful of scammers, and seek out reputable nonprofits willing to accept your donations.

Sell online. Want to make a few bucks on that iPad you used for a month or those boots you forgot to return? You have several options:

  1. eBay. The most popular online marketplace for used items. If you own it, someone on eBay is probably willing to buy it.
  2. Let Go/Offer Up. These companies merged midway through the pandemic. Think eBay, but local. That means in addition to shippable items, you can list your old snowblower or that exercise bike you never use, and your buyer can come pick them up.
  3. Savers. Feeling overwhelmed and just want everything out of the house? Box it up and drive it to the nearest Savers. They may not take everything, but they’ll take most of your stuff to resell.
  4. PangoBooks. Have unwanted stacks of books? Set up a PangoBooks account and sell your books online. It only takes a few minutes to set up and start adding books to your online store.

Playing it Smart in a Volatile Market

Last month we talked about inflation and its impact on the housing market. That trend continues and Russia’s war with Ukraine is directly affecting the world economy. Gas prices around the globe have surged, and even though they’re coming down a bit, an average of $4.24 per gallon is still much higher than anyone wants to pay.

Food costs continue to rise as well, in addition to new car sales and other big-ticket items. So where’s the good news?

COVID-19 rates are inching upward with the latest strains, but severe illness is at a pandemic low, thanks to vaccinations and a steadily weakening virus.

Mortgage rates are up, too. Your best course of action here is to control what you can. With an uncertain future it makes sense to lock in a fixed rate to avoid any spikes that could cost you thousands of dollars with a variable rate mortgage. Protecting your largest asset is a priority in a volatile market. Refinancing is always an option if you’re concerned about future rate hikes.

Even if you’re only exploring possibilities related to your mortgage and finances, contact me for some helpful advice to figure out your next steps.

* * * * *

If you’d like to chat about mortgage options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re planning to buy this year, let’s talk soon. I look forward to speaking with you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.

April Fools’ Day

Everyone knows that on April 1, it’s become customary to play funny but harmless practical jokes on our friends, family and colleagues. But did you know that April Fools’ Day dates back centuries?

We don’t know exactly when and why this “holiday” came to exist, but we have discovered a few theories.

Theory 1: In 1582, France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, moving the first day of the new year from April 1 to January 1. News didn’t travel that quickly in those days, so those who were still celebrating the new year at the spring equinox were thought to be April fools.

Theory 2: In Scotland, during the 1700s, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “Hunting the Gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (“Gowk” is another word for “Cuckoo”) and it was followed by Tailie Day. Pranks played on people’s behinds, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them became a regular tradition.

Home Improver: 3 Uses for Fabric Softener Sheets

Those dryer sheets you’ve been using to remove static and soften your clothes and towels have alternative uses. Here are three of our favorites.

  1. Freshen Up Your Gym Bag. A good workout can lead to unwanted odors that get trapped inside your gym bag, only to burst forth the next time you open it. Even the cleanest bag can get a little funky, so drop a few dryer sheets in it to neutralize odors. Pro tip: stick them in your sneakers to minimize foot odor.
  2. Soap Scum. A few drops of water applied to your favorite fabric softener sheet will remove soapy buildup from your shower tiles. It’s like magic! Give it a try!
  3. Remove Pet Hair. A dryer sheet can combat pet hair on your furniture. Wipe down shelves, tables, counters, and furniture with a dryer sheet and you’ll forget you have pets in the house. Works great on clothing too, so check your sweaters before leaving the house. You’ll want to remove dog or cat hair that may have latched onto your sleeve. Grab a sheet and wipe it right off!

The One Thing You Can Do To Avoid Inflation Risks

With inflation rising faster than it has in 40 years, it’s time to look at your current debt and make some adjustments before it costs you more than you could have imagined.

Have you noticed how much more expensive groceries have become? According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, meat and dairy are the most affected. Here’s how much these staples have gone up from just one year ago:

  • Beef +16%
  • Milk +14%
  • Eggs +13.1%
  • Seafood +12.7%
  • Chicken +10.3%

Groceries are always a good measure of inflation. It’s a relatable concept that’s easy to grasp. On a larger scale, inflation has also affected big-ticket items like auto sales, renovations, and new home sales. So what’s the one thing you can do to stop past purchases from rising inflation costs? Assess your current debt.

Is any of your debt tied to variable rates? Look at car loans, credit cards, and your mortgage. The one thing you can do to avoid paying top dollar on your rising debt is to fix your rates. Lock in what you can. Refinance your car loan and mortgage.

Look at the soaring grocery rates above and expand that out to what you’re paying on larger variable rate purchases. It is well worth the effort to stave off any increased debt.

If you’ve been thinking about a purchase but you’re concerned about inflation, fluctuations in the market, or any other obstacles, give me a call. We’ll talk through your concerns and help you make the decision that makes the most sense financially.

* * * * *

If you’d like to chat about mortgage options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re planning to buy this year, let’s talk soon. I look forward to speaking with you.

Ready to buy a new home or refinance the one you own? Please get in touch and I’ll be happy to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. I look forward to speaking with you.

Snow Day Activities

Just when we thought an early spring was on its way, Mother Nature decided we need more snow in our lives. What can you do at home with the kids when there’s a winter storm approaching? Get crafty!

For more crafty ideas, click here.

Home Improver: Change Your Curtains Seasonally

It’s been an odd February with temperatures close to zero some days, 65 this week, and another snowstorm heading to us tomorrow. This made us think about curtains and their function. Why? Read on.

  1. Function. Heavier curtains in fall and winter insulate your home from drafts. During spring and summer months, lighter curtains filter sunlight and provide an airier feel. There are some who believe in heavy curtains year-round because they tend to keep both winter cold and blazing summer heat from invading your home. That’s fine, but make sure you clean and rotate them out regularly because…
  2. Hygiene. Curtains are magnets for dust, pet hair, germs and grime. I know, it’s gross when you think about it, but not when you seasonally clean and change them. If you have allergies, they may be exacerbated by your curtains. If can’t seem to get the mildewy smell out of your carpet, it may not be the carpet. Check the drapes!
  3. Fashion. One easy way to freshen the look of your home is to switch out your window coverings. You can create the look of a fresh makeover just by adding new curtains this spring.

Want some inspiration? Click here for 55 curtain designs.