How Inflation Affects Mortgages

Although it’s impossible to predict the housing economy, we can take some cues from what’s been happening and make an educated guess that points to the strong possibility of inflation.

So how does this affect your next home purchase? If you’ve been shopping you will have seen that there is low inventory across the market. Combined with mortgage rates remaining historically low, prices begin to rise. Buyers can afford to pay more because they’re saving so much on the low rates.

But what happens when rates begin to go up as well? With rates on the rise and mortgage payments increasing, your money is stretched to the point where you may need to settle for a less expensive home because the affordability has been affected. Your purchasing power decreases as rates rise,

I’ll ask the question I’ve asked in previous newsletters: What are you waiting for? Even if you thought a few months ago there was a shot that rates might drop even further, you were taking a risk. Now, it seems like waiting might lead you to regretting not striking while the iron was hot.

With the economy moving, unemployment dropping, and vaccines leading us into a hopeful post-pandemic world, there are good things to look forward to, even if we face inflation and a decreasing dollar.

If you’d like to chat about your options, please call me at 617-965-1236. If you’re going to buy this year, we should talk soon.

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.

Fenway Safety Guidelines

Tomorrow is Opening Day at Fenway and while fans will be back in the stands for the first time since 2019, Fenway Park will be operating at just 12% capacity to keep within Massachusetts’ COVID safety guidelines.

This means each game you attend will include about 4500 fans seated throughout the park.

There are some safety requirements as well:

  • Download the MLB Ballpark app which will include a health screen survey.
  • Masks are required for all attendees age 2 and above.
  • Tickets are sold in physically distanced “pods” comprised of 2 or 4 seats that allow safe distance between groups.
  • Tickets will be delivered via the MLB Ballpark app.
  • Fans will be directed to enter the gates closest to their seats, as labeled on their digital ticket on the app.
  • All fans must follow the guidelines for proper social distancing while in the ballpark.


March Home Improver: Washi Tape for Easter Eggs

Tired of dyeing Easter eggs in the same old colors you used when you were a kid? Here’s a new way to decorate eggs while keeping dye and vinegar off your kids’ clothes. It’s fast and fun and it’s called Washi tape.

Washi tape is decorative, textured paper tape. It feels similar to masking tape. You can find it at Target, Michaels, or Amazon. It is based on traditional Japanese Washi paper, which has been around for 1,300 years.

Getting crafty with your Washi tape means you can cut it into patterns and mix-and-match designs to create truly unique Easter eggs. It’s easy for any kid to try. Make a mistake? Just peel it off and apply new tape!

To those celebrating, we wish you a Happy Easter! Thanks for reading this month’s newsletter!

Is the Wait Worth the Risk?

Have you been closely watching how mortgage rates have been trending? Are you hoping for rates to drop even more before refinancing? Does it feel like now that they’ve been at historic lows, they’re bound to go down even further?

It’s possible. But it’s also possible the opposite is true and for all we know we’re at the low-point and rates could begin to creep up in the coming months.

There are those who are waiting patiently for a magical 2.5% rate. That number is firmly in their minds as the time to refinance, and even 2.51 is not enough for them to act.

There’s only one question you can ask yourself: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk? (Sorry, got carried away. That’s my Clint Eastwood impression. It’s much better when you can hear it. But I digress…).

You may feel lucky but the real question to ask is this: “Is gambling on your biggest investment worth the risk over something as low as an eighth of a percentage point?”

Here are more questions to consider:

  1. How much am I really saving by waiting and continuing to pay my current mortgage at the higher rate?
  2. How would I feel if I pressed my luck by waiting and rates started rising again?
  3. Is the investment in your home really the place to speculate when you’ve got an insanely low rate available right now?

Only you can answer these questions. Think about them carefully and if you’d like to chat about your options, 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.

National Corn Chip Day

Is it January 29th already? That can only mean one thing: It’s National Corn Chip Day!

To start your weekend off  with a crunch, we thought we’d share a great recipe for fresh guacamole. It’s great to dip your corn chips into and it’s very healthy. Avocados are a superfood you should integrate into your regular weekly produce shopping.

With Super Bowl LV a week away, here’s a great snack to serve as you wonder why the Patriots can’t sign great quarterbacks like Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Anyway, here’s the recipe from Chef Alton Brown, starting with ingredients:

3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced


In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados have been coated. Using a potato masher add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash. Then, fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.

Go Pats! I mean Bucs!

January Home Improver: Fix Your Sagging Doors and Dirty Knobs

Sometimes the thing that’s nearly imperceptible to others is the only thing you see and it drives you nuts. You know what we’re talking about: that one slightly sagging cabinet door that is destroying your entire kitchen aesthetic. Your solution? It’s time for all new cabinets!

That’s one way to go. But why spend thousands when you can easily fix and restore your cabinet doors to their original look – and even dress them up a bit for a whole new look?

First, let’s look at that saggy door. The culprit is typically a loose screw that may just need to be tightened. But after a few days you may see the door sag again. That’s because the screw has damaged the wood slightly. A quick fix that might solve your problem is to buy a bottle of wood glue. Squeeze glue into the hole and then reinsert the screw. Close the door completely then reopen to wipe off any excess glue. Then close the door and stick a “Do Not Open for 24 Hours” note on it. Your cabinets should be aligned without sagging. In the event the glue isn’t getting it done because the old screw caused too much damage, try a thicker, threaded screw and repeat the wood glue method.

Now, what about those grimy old knobs? If you love them, it’s worth the effort. Remove the knobs and handles. Fill a bucket or small container with equal parts water and vinegar. Soak in the solution overnight. Then scrub and rinse before reattaching.

Bored of your knobs and in need of a fresh new look? You’d be surprised the difference it makes by switching out your cabinet hardware.


Top 3 Mortgage Predictions for 2021

I think we’ll all remember 2020 as one of those years where everything was pretty terrible: COVID-19, racial unrest, massive layoffs and furloughs, Kobe Bryant’s death, and a drawn-out, contentious election. By the way, whatever happened to those murder hornets?

On the positive side, there were stimulus checks and the lowest mortgage rates we may ever see. So what’s on the horizon in 2021? Here are the Top 3 mortgage-related events you can expect:

  1. Expect a bustling housing market next year. Demand will be high while inventory will remain low, unless a higher-than-predicted number of sellers put their homes on the market, which is entirely possible.
  2. Expect a small uptick in mortgage loan rates. With higher demand this is inevitable, but no one expects it to be very much of a bump. 2021 will still be a great time to buy and refinance. Right now, mortgage rates are at an all-time historic low.
  3. Expect the FHFA to increase its baseline loan limit in 2021 to $548,250. That’s up from $510,400. The high cost limit also jumps, from $765,600 to $822,375.

Given all the activity we expect in the coming months, now would be a great time for you to reach out and have a call with me to look at your options and set you up for a purchase or refinance.

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.

What Do You Know About Snow?

Looks like we’re in for a snowy holiday season! Here are a few things about snow you may not know about.

  1. It’s a myth that no two snowflakes are alike. in 1988, a Wisconsin scientist identified two identical flakes from a winter storm.
  2. In a snowstorm at Fort Keogh in Montana, the largest snowflake ever recorded was 15 inches wide.
  3. Each winter in the US, at least one septillion ice crystals fall from the sky. 1 septillion has 24 zeroes. That’s a lot of snow!
  4. The most snow in a 24-hour period happened in Colorado in 1921, when they saw over six feet of the white stuff in a day.

December Home Improver: Keep Your Home Free of Pet Odors

But one thing we don’t love is the lingering wet dog smell that remains long after your pet warms up in your home. Cats present their own indoor odors, especially around litter boxes. We wanted to share our best tips to reduce unwanted pet odors in your home.

  1. To reduce odors from rugs and carpets, be sure to sprinkle some baking soda before vacuuming. This will neutralize the odors and leave your room fresher.
  2. Clean your pet’s ears. If you are experienced at this, the effort is worth it. If not, set up an appointment to have your pet’s ears cleaned, which will remove unwanted scents from dog and cat beds, your sofa and carpets.
  3. If you clean your litter box regularly but the smell is still noticeable, try moving it to another room either upstairs or in the basement. Another tip: keep it in a well-ventilated room.
  4. Try an unscented cat litter with baking soda. Sometimes the fragrance of the odor-masking litter is just as offensive as the used litter itself.


Proper Use of Interrobangs and Mortgage Brokers

Have you ever written a question in a text or email with such excitement you weren’t sure if you should punctuate it with a question mark or an exclamation point?

For example: Did you see the World Series last night?!
Did you hear who’s running for governor?!
Can you believe he baked that cake by himself?!

The combined use of question mark and exclamation point is seen frequently. But did you know that in 1962, American ad man, Martin Spekter, created a hybrid of those two marks and called it the interrobang? It looks like this:

Wouldn’t it be useful to have this punctuation mark at your disposal? And now that you know how to properly use it, your life just got a little easier, didn’t it?

Mortgage brokers are a lot like interrobangs. Most people don’t always see the benefit and some have no idea of how they work. Also, mortgage brokers work in two capacities. First, we act like a financial coach, understanding the macro view of your finances. Next we act like detectives, drilling down to a micro view that finds you a mortgage that makes the most sense, saves you money or creates a better cash flow.

The dedication of a highly qualified mortgage professional can be the difference between buying a home you can afford and taking on too much debt. Using a mortgage broker for the first time will open your eyes to all the options, suggestions, and caveats that come with the largest asset you may ever own. Can you imagine how much money and stress you’d save?!

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 Halloween, friends!

It may be snowing, and we may have had the strangest year ever, but before the major holidays we pay tribute all things spooky.

Here are some Halloween trivia tidbits to talk about while you’re eating candy corn and sitting six feet apart.

  1. Not only is Halloween happening on a Saturday, but it’s also a full moon.
  2. In fact, it’s a blue moon, which means it’s the second full moon of the month, which only occurs once every 2.7 years (aka “once in a blue moon”).
  3. Which country had the first Halloween? Ireland.
  4. The word “bonfire” combines which two words? “Bone” and “Fire.” Spoooooky!
  5. Before pumpkins became the standard, the original jack-o-lanterns were made from which vegetable? Turnips.
  6. From which region of the world did pumpkins originate? Central America.

Halloween Home Improver: White Vinegar: Let’s Make Some Slime for Halloween!

Oh, boy. You did it again, didn’t you? You planned the perfect kids’ Halloween party and you forgot to buy the slime. And now it’s too late to hit up Party City because they’ve sold all their slime for the season.

No worries, we’ve got your back with a homemade slime recipe that’s easy and fun. Perfect ghoulish fun for the kiddos.
You’ll need:

  • 1 6-oz bottle of white liquid all-purpose glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ tablespoon buffered or multipurpose contact lens solution
  • A few drops of liquid food coloring to give your slime color
  • 2 tbsp up to 1/2 cup warm water to make your slime stretchier and oozier.

Pour the glue into a bowl. In a separate small bowl or measuring cup, add the baking soda, contact lens solution and food coloring, if you are using it. Combine the baking soda solution with the glue and mix with a spoon or with your hands. The slime will feel sticky at first, but will get less so with additional kneading. Adjust the texture to your preference by adding a pinch more baking soda for firmer slime and a bit more water for oozier slime – we suggest oozier slime. It’s Halloween after all! (Recipe Source: Arm & Hammer)


Thinking of Refinancing? Do It Now to Avoid Fees

As the U.S. slowly returns to work, analysts are warning of another possible wave of layoffs as businesses restructure in a post-coronavirus economy. You may find yourself or a loved one in financial difficulty — even if it’s a temporary situation.

In this case, when household budgets are stretched to the maximum, you have the option of requesting forbearance which can temporarily postpone your mortgage payments and those will be tacked on to the end of your mortgage term. Don’t mistake forbearance for debt

If you’ve been patiently waiting to refinance at the lowest possible rate, you should do it right now before they go up in December.

The government has taken a major COVID hit and it intends to recoup any lost funds by imposing a 0.5% new mortgage refinancing fee on December 1. If half a percent doesn’t seem like much, let’s put it in perspective: the average U.S. homeowner will pay, on average, $1400 for that bump.

Rates haven’t been this low since the 1970s (yes, 50 years ago). While no one can predict the future, it’s not a bad bet that today’s rates through November 30th could be the lowest you’ll see for a very long time.

Yes, it’s a short window, but it could be worse. The Adverse Market Refinance Fee was slated to begin in September, but industry pushback forced the FHFA to hold off until December. Consider this your window of opportunity.

Here are the rates right now (source: Freddie Mac)

If you’ve been waiting for the right time, the time is now. Get in touch and let’s look at your options. If you hadn’t considered a refinance but would like to discuss the possibility, please call me at 617-965-1236. I have been very busy helping homeowners save money and I’d love to do the same for 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.

Website Refresh!

One thing we’ve learned during the pandemic is to take a closer look at our marketing.

If it’s been a few years since you’ve updated your website you may find that it looks and feels dated. There may be some broken links, an outdated logo, and a need to add or delete services.

I love the new and improved Westchester Mortgage. It fits with my style and looks like the kinds of clients I love to help.

Have a look and let me know what you think! I value your opinion.

By the way, if you’d like a referral to my trusted marketing team, send an email and I’ll put you in touch with the best people I know to help you market your business.

September’s Home Improver: White Vinegar: The All-Purpose Cleaning Solution

Having company this weekend and need to clean in a hurry? No time to shop for products? Grab some white vinegar and get cleaning!

As a non-toxic, natural cleaning agent, white vinegar is great for little jobs where either commercial cleaning products don’t exist, or they contain chemicals that may be less eco-friendly or less healthy for a house with small children and pets. Always remember, as with any cleaning agent, do a spot test on fabrics.

1. Kitchen. Using equal parts water and vinegar, clean the inside of your refrigerator. You can even leave a bottle of solution in the door when you’re done. To clean your microwave, place a half cup each of water and vinegar in a glass bowl and run the microwave for 3 minutes. Then simply wipe away and greasy buildup with ease.

2. Bathroom. When paired with baking soda, you can remove all the nasty stains and odors from around the toilet and tub. It won’t have a negative effect on tiles, grout, and metals the way bleach does.

3. Bedroom. Mix white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and some tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Lightly spritz on your mattress to help combat dust mites, mildew, and general odors. For a deeper clean, follow with a dusting of baking soda. Let dry, then vacuum the mattress.


Is Forbearance a Good Option or a Re-fi Trap?

As the U.S. slowly returns to work, analysts are warning of another possible wave of layoffs as businesses restructure in a post-coronavirus economy. You may find yourself or a loved one in financial difficulty — even if it’s a temporary situation.

In this case, when household budgets are stretched to the maximum, you have the option of requesting forbearance which can temporarily postpone your mortgage payments and those will be tacked on to the end of your mortgage term. Don’t mistake forbearance for debt forgiveness.

This may seem like a godsend in difficult times – and it can be – but read on to learn about how being granted forbearance can work against you.

As of this past Monday, nearly 4.3 million homeowners were in forbearance plans.

The Massachusetts Division of Banks, in a memo sent in late March, said that “institutions will implement all reasonable and necessary change to provide relief to those adversely impacted borrowers during this state of emergency, and continuing thereafter, as necessary.”

This relief package includes:

  • Forbearing mortgage payments for 60 or more days from their due dates
  • Waiving late payment fees and any online payment fees for a period of 60 days
  • Postponing foreclosures for 60 days
  • Offering borrowers an additional 60-day grace period to complete trial loan modifications, and ensuring that late payments during the COVID-19 pandemic do not affect their ability to obtain permanent loan modifications

While an approved forbearance request can be a much-needed relief in difficult times, it is part of your mortgage history and will remain on your record, though not necessarily in a punitive way.

For more information on COVID-19 assistance, visit the CARES Act government website.

If you are planning to take advantage of a lower rate through a refinance, you should be aware that you may have to get caught up in full before your new loan is approved. So if your three-month forbearance was tacked to the end of your mortgage, you would essentially be undoing the forbearance and paying the months you had skipped in order for your refinance to go through.

Coming up with three three months of mortgage payments may be insurmountable at this time, especially when you opted for forbearance in the first place. In addition, you may need to show where the funds came from to cover the months of forbearance. Whether you borrowed the money or if it was gifted to you, the banks may choose to decline the refinance if they conclude that you’re still too deep in financial difficulty or uncertainty.

If you would like to discuss financial options, 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.

Happy Juneteenth!

Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated annually in almost every state on June 19 and often through the weekend. Its name is a portmanteau (combination) of the date.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed enslaved people almost two-and-a-half years earlier, Texas was the most remote of the slave-states, with a low presence of Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent. It finally came on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.

In 1980, Texas became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday. In 2020, all but three states observe it as a state holiday.

In 2007, Massachusetts was the 25th state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday and as recognition of this event gains momentum, it is possible that Juneteenth could become a federal holiday in a few years.

June’s Home Improver: The Best Toilet Paper for Septic Systems

We are in our third month of COVID-19 and even though many are returning to regular day-to-day activities, one thing remains constant: toilet paper is still hard to find and many continue to hoard it. Because of the scarcity you may have gladly accepted whatever was on the supermarket’s shelves, but that could be an issue if your home has a septic system.

Not all toilet paper is the same, and those differences could create issues with your septic system. Your best bets are products that are biodegradable, made from recycled paper, and, of course, septic-safe. Here are the brands offering the best results for problem-free flushing. You may be surprised (and relieved) to see some familiar brands.

  1. Scott – Rapid Dissolving Toilet Paper
  2. Angel Soft
  3. Quilted Northern Regular or Ultra Plush
  4. Cottonelle Ultra Comfort Care
  5. Amazon Brand – Presto! Ultra Soft
  6. Firebelly Outfitters Brand – RV Toilet Paper
  7. Whole Foods Brand – Seventh Generation Toilet Paper

These papers are fast-dissolving and that includes multi-ply and quilted. Other bands may seem thinner, but that does not guarantee their ability to dissolve quickly. If your store is out of your favorite brand, consider one of the above to keep your septic system safe.


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.

Case Study: Help with Refinancing

The Situation:

Julie is a divorced mom with a teenager at home. Her finances were perilously low, and she needed help. A friend of hers who had worked with me previously asked Julie to call me to explore her options.

The Challenges:

Julie felt she didn’t have the credit history or sufficient income to refinance and was hesitant to even start. She assumed her application to refinance her home would not be approved.

The Actions:

We had an initial conversation and I gave her suggestions on how to increase her credit scores. (Julie jokingly said “OK, Mom,” when I gave her the list of suggestions.) By her own admission, she was dragging her feet during the process and I encouraged her to continue. She felt completely overwhelmed and frozen from taking action. I helped organize her finances and get her paperwork in order to put the plan in motion. She needed a Marie Kondo of mortgages to “tidy up” her financials and I acted as her coach. From there, good things started to happen. She got a promotion, she updated and completed her paperwork, and I submitted the mortgage application and documentation.

The Results:

Four months and lots of encouragement later, her new mortgage was approved, closed and funded! Julie said, “Debbie is a life-saver. I could not have done this without her help and guidance. My life continues to improve as my credit score is steadily rising and new opportunities are presenting themselves.

“Thank you, Debbie, for helping me get back on my feet. I appreciate the care you took with me that went beyond anything I had ever expected. You kept me on track and accountable through this whole process. I would recommend Westchester Mortgage to anyone concerned about qualifying for a mortgage or refinance, especially those who need some extra hand-holding during a challenging process.”

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 Leap Year Day!

Just when you thought winter couldn’t possibly drag on further, we’ve got an extra day of February this year.

Here are some Leap Year facts you may not know

  1. Julius Caesar added the first Leap Year Day to his Julian Calendar in 45 BCE. The date was February 24 and in his calendar, February was the last month of the year.
  2. Babies born on Leap Year Day are called “leaplings” and there are approximately 4 million leaplings out in the world.
  3. Famous “leaplings” include Dinah Shore, Dennis Farina, Tony Robbins and Pope Paul III.
  4. The odds of being born on February 29 are just 1 in 1,461.
  5. Leap years are also Summer Olympics years as well as US Presidential election years.

February’s Home Improver: Cleaning a Sewage Spill

Sewage can flood your basement when pipes break or when drains are backed up. Raw sewage can damage your basement and cause severe health problems. If your flooding is significant, please call a professional. For smaller leaks you feel confident in handling yourself, here are a few tips:

  1. Dress appropriately. Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, boots or waders and rubber gloves. No exceptions!
  2. Turn off gas or water lines and keep a window open when possible. This will keep fresh air coming in and air circulating.
  3. Use a hose to rinse the floor and direct water towards the basement drain.
  4. Fill a bucket with a gallon of water and a cup of bleach. Swirl a stiff-bristled brush broom into the mixture. Scrub the walls of the basement and move down toward the floor. Continue saturating the brush broom and scrubbing the basement.
  5. Hose everything down again. Very important to keep going. Rinse off your brush, too.
  6. Repeat step 4. Yes, you have to do it twice! This is non-negotiable, even for minor seepage.
  7. Hose a third and final time. Then turn on fans and use a dehumidifer to help rid the basement of water.

Why Holiday House Hunting Makes Sense

Yeah, we get it. The weather outside is frightful. You haven’t even started holiday shopping. Family is expected any minute. Why in the world would you start looking for a home now — or worse, or in the dead of winter?

Most families wait for the spring market to rev up. More houses are available and that means it’s easier to find a great deal, right? Not necessarily. Here’s why.

The winter can be a great time to purchase a home, especially for buyers without kids or with grown children. No worries about changing schools or making sure they get enrolled for the fall.

There is also a lot less competition. Last year’s peak market had buyers waiving home inspections and increasing down payments — doing whatever they could to get a leg up on other eager buyers while making purchases nearly impossible for those on a tight budget. Because of this, waiting for the spring market can be a mistake. Winter can be a very good time to buy.

So yes, the spring has more inventory, but that brings more buyers. When you look for homes at this time of year, you’ll have a better chance at avoiding aggressive bidding wars. Sellers who list during this time are typically ready to move as soon as possible due to job changes, relocating, downsizing or retiring. They tend to be less ambitious in their asking price. And although it’s never a guarantee, interest rates tend to be lower in a softer market.

If your Thanksgiving dinner conversation includes a friend or family member talking about buying a home — or if you’re considering it yourself — please 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.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude for all of you — friends, family, colleagues and clients.

You have supported me and made Westchester Mortgage successful for many years. I am so grateful for the friendships, connections, and long-lasting, meaningful relationships I’ve built with so many of you over the years. It means so much to me!

My favorite part of my work is helping those who needed guidance in getting approved for a mortgage. People who had no idea that together we could figure out how to come up with a down payment, or navigate through all the variables related to their homes and finances following a divorce or breakup. These are the times I feel like I’m making a difference in peoples’ lives. It means everything to me. I am truly thankful.

So whether you’re celebrating with family and friends or going it solo this year, I wanted to wish you all a wonderful, healthy and happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Home Improver: The Great Cranberry Sauce Debate

It’s that time of year again. Forget about turkey, football, and family — and avoid talk of politics entirely if possible. Instead, focus on that other hot topic that’s become a Thanksgiving tradition: canned or fresh? Yes, it’s time for the Umpteenth Annual Great Cranberry Sauce Debate.

Let’s not kid ourselves here. Fresh cranberry sauce is the only choice for foodies with sophisticated palates. It has the consistency of jam and let’s be honest–it’s far more of an actual sauce than the tart, jellied blob that comes a-slidin’ out of the can. When it comes to pure fruit flavor, there is no debate: fresh cranberry wins in a landslide.

But there’s another side of the argument. For many generations, canned cranberry sauce is both a tradition and a guilty pleasure. Just look at it. It retains the shape of the can, including those lines which canned purists feel adds some extra texture and mouth feel that takes them back to the happy and carefree days of their youth.

Here’s our take: Yeah, we get it. Fresh cranberry sauce tastes great. However, Thanksgiving comes but once a year, and it’s a holiday of family and traditions. That’s enough for us. Slide out that bouncy jellied blob, slice it up and serve it next to the turkey and stuffing!

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.