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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

2022 Mortgage Loan Limits to Skyrocket

If you sold your home this year, you probably got more than you expected for it. In Massachusetts, homes sold at a rate that was 16.5% higher than the first 10 months of 2020, according to the Mass. Association of Realtors.

The median single-family home sold for $520,000. Given the low inventory of available houses and the high demand, it’s no surprise that sellers made it to closing in almost half the time of the typical sales cycle.

There is some good news for buyers trying to stay competitive. Loan limits are about to take a record-setting jump. The FHFA has announced that for most of the US, mortgage loan limits are increasing by 18% in 2022, from $548,000 to $647,200.

With rates still very low, now is the time to buy. There’s no reason to wait out the market. In fact, there is a chance that increased loan limits could ultimately drive up the price of homes once again.

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

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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.

2022: Let’s Celebrate

We’re just over a week away from welcoming in 2022, and if you thought I was going to talk about resolutions, you’d be incorrect.
This month, let’s focus on a myth we often choose as a New Year’s goal: work-life balance.

We all want it, and if it seems impossible to achieve, it’s because it pretty much is impossible. Family, work, kids, finances, vacations, physical and mental health can’t be balanced evenly. Instead, try to shoot for work-life harmony.

When we think of “balance,” we tend to think of time and how we manage it. We certainly can’t balance it. But when we think of “harmony,” we focus not on time but on energy. Balance is more about the “who, what, and when” while harmony focuses on the all-important “why.”

To learn more, read this article.

Home Improver: Moth Myths: Do They Really Eat Sweaters?

If you’ve been carefully storing your best sweaters in fear of having moths eat holes in them, we’re here to tell you that moths are not the enemy. This is a moth myth.

The fact is, adult moths don’t eat clothing. I know, we’re shocked! How can this myth have survived for generations and, more to the point, what exactly is eating holes in your beautiful cashmere (or wool) sweaters?

The answer is… moths. It’s kind of a trick question, so let’s explain. Adult moths don’t have the mouth structure to chew holes. The real culprit is moth larvae. Kids gotta eat! Just like caterpillars that chew on leaves before they become butterflies, moth larvae need to chew, too — and their preference is natural fibers, like your delicious wool sweaters.

So what can you do to avoid baby moths-in-the-making from eating your sweaters? Keep them clean and stored away. Hanging them in a closet is like hanging a salami in an Italian deli. It will attract the hungry. Instead, store them in plastic bins with airtight lids or in compression storage bags.

The Big Difference Between Market Analysis and Home Appraisal

Last month we talked about how recent bidding wars have driven up the cost of homes. This month we wanted to explain the important difference between a market analysis and an appraisal to help you understand why those two values may be very different.

Let’s start with market analysis, also known as as comparative market analysis or CMA. This is the process real estate agents use to determine the optimal price range for a house before it goes on the market.

Data from recently sold, similar properties in a given area, known as comparables or “comps,” are used by the real estate agent to determine a competitive price for your property. By focusing on sales from the last three to six months, the agent is determining a fair market value, based on future trending prices. They set their market value based on the speculation of what could be the best case scenario.

Now let’s see how home appraisals are different. First, it should be noted that appraisals happen after an offer is accepted.

A licensed, third-party appraiser with no vested interest in the sale of the property, provides an unbiased opinion of the value of the property based on historical sales data for the area.

Here’s the interesting part: both the real estate agent and the appraiser use largely the same sources for data. However, real estate agents project value towards the future, whereas appraisers focus on past history. You can see how it’s more likely for the market value to be set higher than the appraised value, though not in all cases.

The purpose of the lender ordering an appraisal is to ensure that the amount of money they are lending does not exceed the property’s value.

Because of this, the buyer would be responsible for paying out of pocket for costs beyond the appraisal. We have seen this often in recent months because of the shortage of inventory and the eagerness of buyers to take advantage of historically low rates for their mortgages.

Should you jump into buying (and possibly over-bidding) on a new home? It may depend on what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you can afford to pay.

Talking to a mortgage professional is recommended now more than ever. Let’s look at your options and determine a plan that makes sense for you and your financial situation.

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.

4th of July

Sunday is July 4th and with that comes a long weekend of family gatherings, cookouts, and fireworks.

Most businesses are closed Monday, July 5th, in observance of the holiday, because the 4th is on a Sunday. Had it been on a Saturday, your business more likely would have closed Friday instead.

July 4th Facts:

  • 12 of 13 states voted in favor of independence on July 2, not July 4, when the declaration was actually adopted.
  • New York didn’t vote until July 9th. Many patriots didn’t sign their names to it until August 2, 1776.
  • The Fourth of July wasn’t designated a federal holiday until 1870 and wasn’t a paid holiday until 1941.
  • The two founding fathers and political rivals — John Adams and  Thomas Jefferson — both died on July 4, 1826, which was our nation’s 50th anniversary.
  • Finally, ever wonder why we have fireworks? At the first official 4th of July celebration in Philadelphia in 1777, a cannon was fired 13 times, once for each colony. That night, 13 fireworks were fired off from the city’s commons. And the tradition grew from there to cities and towns across the nation.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Thank you for your friendship and your business!

Home Improver: Gather Safely This Summer

We are all pretty much done with lockdowns and social distancing. Most families are ready for a return to normalcy. In the summer, that means more backyard barbecues, beaches and vacation time with friends and loved ones.

With 70% of the state of Massachusetts having had at least one COVID-19 vaccination, we are one of the highest vaccinated states in the country. That’s good news for gatherings. But if like most families hosting events, you’re probably not going to ask for proof of vaccinations as you welcome them into your home. So be safe, but have fun.

Plan an outdoor event. Keep your guest list as small as possible. Arrange seating at a reasonable social distance. Unvaccinated guests should be wearing masks, especially around the elderly or unwell. The CDC has guidelines for unvaccinated people, but it doesn’t preclude them from participating in fun events — if they wear a mask. Here’s what they say.

Summer is in full effect. Enjoy your home and get back to seeing people in person. Need a quick tutorial on prepping your backyard for a party? Click here.

The Effect of Coronavirus On Mortgages

There is no question the coronavrius pandemic has had a severe impact on our daily lives. Financially, it’s brought a very strong economy into a recession almost overnight. In the past three weeks more than 17 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment after a staggering number of layoffs.

Real estate sales slowed during stay-at-home orders and as of April 5, new home listings were down 27% nationally year-over-year.

You may have heard talk of the Fed cutting rates to 0%. Let’s be clear, though, that mortgage rates and the Fed’s rates are two different things. But there is some good news for buyers. Two weeks ago, the rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 3.29%, hitting an all-time low. This week, they rose to 3.33%, but that’s still significantly lower than the very reasonable 4.12% from a year ago.

While a low rate may make purchasing a new home or refinancing your existing one a desirable option, there are things you should consider. Is your job and income secure? (That may be difficult to answer given the uncertainty of what’s to come.) Do you have assets and savings along with good credit? This is particularly important now because banks may be more stringent than ever in approving mortgage applications.

This is where I can help. I know how to navigate towards a mortgage approval in difficult times. I have experience and success working with clients in the post-9/11 economy as well as during the recession in 2009. This is a similar situation and together we can figure out if buying now is right for you, your family, or friends.

We’ll get through this as we have in the past. We have learned hard lessons and that makes us more equipped to take on challenges as we adjust to the new economy.

I wish you all good health and if I can be of any help to you myself or through my trusted network, please call me at 617-965-1236.

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.

Tips for Making Staying Home More Interesting

If you are a non-essential worker and you find yourself housebound during the coronavirus, you may find yourself getting restless. If you live alone, you may feel isolated and if you have a family, you may feel like there’s no escape from the kids running around and looking for something to do. After all, how much Tiger King can you take?

Here are some ideas to make your 24/7 stay-at-home life a little more interesting.

  1. Learn something new. Watch a TED Talk every day.
  2. Start a blog on Medium and get paid for if it takes off. Or just read the thousands of articles published daily.
  3. Update your résumé and use free Canva templates to get creative with it.
  4. Self-publish that book that’s been sitting on your computer for free with Kindle Direct Publishing.
  5. Have fun with leftovers and miscellaneous food items and stage a “Chopped” competition with your family.
  6. Try 63 science experiments with the kids using stuff from around the house.
  7. Do the Getty Museum challenge. It’s becoming very popular! Use household items to recreate famous works of art.
  8. Have Virtual Happy Hour with friends (for adults) and Virtual play dates (for the kids) with Zoom or Google Hangouts.
  9. Plan a scavenger hunt in your house by hiding items in different rooms and have the kids hunt them down.
  10. Try a free 30-day yoga challenge.

April’s Home Improver: Spring Cleaning & Donating

Since most non-essential workers are spending more time at home than they have in years, we’re hearing of a lot of small home improvement projects. But most of all, people are keeping busy with spring cleaning. You may notice you have quite a few things in your home that you no longer use or need. Donating to charities can give your possessions a second life while decluttering your home. Here are a few ideas of places to donate.

  1. Non-perishable foods. Local food pantries are always in need of non-perishable items. If you have canned goods you’ll probably never use as you clean out the cupboard, you can always donate them to a food pantry in your neighborhood.
  2. Old books. For those who prefer paper books to Kindle or Apple e-books, you may have accumulated a stockpile of novels you no longer need. Why not donate them to the military? Check out Operation Paperback and send some books to our troops!
  3. Old clothes. If you have gone through your closets and realized you’ve got clothes in good shape that you and your family will probably never wear again, you can always make a donation to a charity that will gladly accept them along with other household items you may want to donate. Here is a list of charities you can help.

Solutions for Separations

Divorces and separations can be very stressful and complex situations to resolve. They are especially difficult when homes and children are involved.

How do you work out a fair arrangement? Can child support be extended? How do figure out what to do when one partner leaves and the other stays?

This is another reason why working with professionals and asking the right questions can reduce the anxiety and help you financially. We all know that attorneys will be involved, but sometimes asking your mortgage broker for advice can be a big help. I’m happy to partner with attorneys and mediators to be a sounding board for things like debt-to-income ratio calculations, housing budgets, realistic mortgage payment options, and income sources. I do not give legal advice but I understand what attorneys look for and provide them with helpful information.

Over the years, I have worked with clients in these situations and offered advice that has made a difference in their lives. Recently I worked with a couple to arrange a buyout when one partner stayed in the home while the other bought a condo nearby and needed a new mortgage. This involved a re-finance on the home which resulted in a lower rate, and the mortgage on the condo.

Recently, I helped a divorcing woman buy her husband out of the family home. She needed the child support to count as part of her income. The underwriter looked at the children’s ages (18+) and initially declined it. But I knew the kids were still living at home with their mom when not in school. With the help of a family law attorney who provided Massachusetts-specific statutes around this issue, I was able to ultimately get it approved when it would otherwise have been declined.

If you or someone you know is thinking of separating or is in the process of divorcing, it’s worth your time to discuss your options with me. Give me a call at 617-965-1236.

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.

Autum Musings

The fall season is here and it’s starting to feel like it outside. Mornings are darker and chillier. Leaves are changing color. Pumpkin spice is everywhere. Here are a few things you may not know about the fall.

  1. Leaves don’t actually change color. Well, they do, but they’ve had those colors all along.
    Those stunning red, orange, and yellow pigments are actually present all year; they’re hiding under the surface. When sunlight diminishes in fall, chlorophyll breaks down, letting the plant’s hidden red, yellow, and orange hues shine.
  2. Squirrels get smarter in the fall. When they bury nuts and seeds in hundreds of scattered hiding places that serve as emergency winter reserves, a typical squirrel shows a 15 percent increase in the size of its hippocampus –the memory and emotion center of the brain –compared to the rest of the year.
  3. In foliage-blessed states like ours, “leaf peeping” is a $3 billion dollar business in New England, where millions of out-of-state visitors flock to take in the changing colors.
  4. In Massachusetts, the most popular Halloween candy is Butterfinger. Here’s a map with the most popular Halloween candy by state.

October’s Home Improver: Using the Whole Pumpkin

OK, so for years you’ve mastered the art of pumpkin carving. Your jack-o-lanterns are the envy of the neighborhood. But what have you done with the inside of the pumpkin? Did you just scoop it out and toss it in the trash? If you did, you’ve missed out on the benefits of this versatile member of the squash family.

  1. Pumpkin Stew. It may sound weird, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Pumpkin in stew adds texture and flavor that will make you want to use it for every stew you cook this fall. It’s also delicious (and full of nutrients) in your Chili.
  2. Pumpkin Pie. Where do you get your pumpkin pie? At the store? Come on now! You just pulled the main ingredient out of your Halloween pumpkin. Make a pie out of it!
  3. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. After you’ve taken the time to carefully pick out the, I don’t know, million or so pumpkin seeds, don’t toss them! Roast them.
  4. Make a Cocktail. This Pumpkin Spice cocktail is described as “interesting” by the author, but hey, it’ll be a big hit with the adults at your Halloween party!
  5. Feed the Animals. If you are allowed to feed wildlife that may be passing by your home, consider carving up your pumpkin into chunks after Halloween and leaving it out for deer and other animals who might enjoy it.

Finding the Money for Your Downpayment

In an ideal world you’ll have saved enough money for the downpayment on your home and you’ll be easily approved for your new mortgage. Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world and certain circumstances can make you feel like you’ve got no choice but to find a way to raise the funds necessary for your downpayment. Some of these scenarios include:

  • Divorce, especially when children are involved
  • Moving out of parents’ home in an uncomfortable situation
  • Skyrocketing rents that are higher than mortgage payments

Reasons like these and others may inspire you to get creative in finding the money you need to buy your home. The one thing you should never do is take out a big loan. Even if your intentions are honorable, your debt-to-income ratio can be skewed to the point where you’ll be instantly turned down. Here are some other ideas:

  1. Borrow from a family member. Yes, this can be dangerous if you’re concerned about paying it back quickly, but if you have the ability to repay the loan, you’ll probably get it at a very low rate of interest or possibly without interest at all. Some families who have money saved may even gift it to you so you won’t have to pay it back unless you want to.
  2. Cash in your 401(k). Be careful here. Severe penalties and taxes could diminish the total. You may have $30,000 saved, but with penalties and tax payments, it could drop that amount to somewhere around $14,000. Still, dire circumstances call for big sacrifices. This is a personal decision that only you can make.
  3. Take a second job. If you can handle it, the extra money should go straight to your downpayment fund. It’s not easy, but millions of Americans hold down multiple jobs and deposit their paychecks directly into a bank account for their downpayment.
  4. Government programs. Veterans can apply for assistance through VA loans. In some cases you won’t need a downpayment for your mortgage and the rate is usually lower than what is offered by commercial lenders.

Making these hard decisions can require some help. I provide my clients the most sensible options for their unique situations and act like a sounding board to help them make the best decisions.

Buying a home takes time, care and analysis on my part to help you find the best path to secure and pay off your mortgage. Call me at 617-965-1236 to discuss how I can help.

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.


Today is National Meditation Day, so let’s take a moment to focus on the benefits of this ancient practice.
Did you know that more than 380 peer-reviewed research studies on transcendental meditation have been published in over 160 scientific journals?
The research shows that meditating regularly has some very specific health benefits.
  1. Reduced cortisol. This is a stress hormone. Meditating can reduce the release of it. The studies found a noticeable reduction of stroke and heart attack in those with coronary diseases compared with people who did not meditate.
  2. Reduced anxiety and depression.
  3. Improved memory and brain function.
  4. Reduced insomnia.
  5. Greater inner calm.
  6. Normalized blood pressure.
To learn more about different types and techniques of meditation, check out this article from the Mayo clinic.

May’s Home Improver: Know Your Ants!

There are many types of ants crawling in yards, trees and homes around the world. Some are harmless and others, like the notorious bulldog ant of Australia, will bite and sting you until you’re dead.

In Massachusetts, we mostly have kindler, gentler ants, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be aggressive and hazardous to your health.

Let’s start with the common little black ant. What’s he doing in your house and why is he traveling with so many friends? He’s probably foraging for food. If you’ve ever seen a long trail of ants heading for your trash bin or trudging towards an errant fruit loop, it’s because they’re hungry. They won’t bite you but they have a sweet tooth, so be careful what you leave around the house.

Next, we have the flying ant, also called the swarmer. Mostly harmless, but menacing. I hate these things! Who thought it was a cool idea to give ants wings? I suppose its better than a flying rat, but aren’t those just bats?

OK, time for some next-level ant toughness. The carpenter ant. Now don’t expect them to make you a bookshelf. Their name implies that they’re workers, but they can be quite destructive. Carpenter ants
enjoy infesting wood that’s been weakened by moisture. Some people mistake their them for termites when they gather during mating season. But carpenter ants don’t actually eat wood like termites. Instead, they destroy wood by burrowing down into it and building nests. Fun!

Finally we have the fire ant. Stay away from these freaks! The good news is they’ll probably avoid coming into your home. But if their nest is upset in the yard, they get mean. They have no problem racing after you and stinging you (yes, they both bite and sting). The stings are very painful and can be dangerous for people and pets with certain allergies. Lucky for us, these fire ants aren’t the same as the venomous South American fire ant, which has made its way to Australia and causes millions of dollars in damage every year.