Why a 3% Downpayment is a Terrible Offer For Some Buyers

One of the pitfalls of buying a new home is paying too little for your downpayment. Making the right decision involves an analysis of the costs related to your debt and your income.

When banks offer low downpayment programs in the 3% to 5% range, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should jump at the chance. When you put down a small amount to buy your home, you’re mortgaging a higher loan amount. This can be a costly mistake.

I have recently advised a divorced mom with three kids to put down more than half the cost of her home from a recent inheritance. While this was more than she had expected to put down, she realized that this initial payment would be the best solution and would help her comfortably handle her monthly expenses.

To make the mortgage work, we needed to assess her debt-to-income ratio (DTI). When we talk about debt, we mean more than just the monthly bills. We also factor in costs like the principle, property taxes, condo fees and insurance premiums.

By putting down a big chunk of her inheritance, it created a DTI that was under 45% of her gross income. Hitting this number is critical for certain types of mortgages and banks are far more likely to be as comfortable lending you the money as you would be paying it back.

I help my clients review programs that allow those 3%-5% downpayments, but I also advise them on the risk vs. reward when taking an offer that seems like a blessing but could turn out to be a financial curse you’ll have to live with for many years to come.

There’s no reason to buy a home without talking to a professional first. Get in touch if you or someone you love is in the early stages of buying a home.

August’s Home Improver

Fall Home Prep Checklist

The transition from summer to fall is drastic, particularly for families with children. As the kids get ready to return to school, you may find yourself getting your home ready for the autumn weather and a more regimented family schedule. Here’s a checklist of suggestions to get your home ready for the fall.

1. Close Your Pool. But wait until the weather dips below 90º. You may still need it for another few weeks.
2. Clean Your Gutters. If your gutters are slightly clogged now, they won’t stand a chance once the leaves start to fall.
3. Clean Out The Garage. Move the summer stuff to the back and keep your rake and shovel up front. If it’s cluttered, empty it out so you can fit your car in there when the weather changes.
4. Take Out Air Conditioners. You may also want to purchase covers if you choose to leave them in.
5. Fall Cleaning. This is just like Spring Cleaning, but in September.
6. Change the Decor. Buy a new welcome mat, change your sofa pillows, consider bath towels in fall colors, buy candles that match the feeling of the season.
7. Clean Up Your Mudroom. Move out the flip-flops and summer hats to make room for boots, coats, scarves and everything else the fall weather requires.
8. Change Your Artwork. Move hanging art to other rooms to switch it up. From pictures of your summer vacation.
9. Get Your Pets Ready, Too! New dog and cat beds make your home look neater and your pets feel more comfortable. And don’t forget a raincoat for Rex. Speaking of which…
10. Break Out Your Umbrellas. Buy an elegant umbrella stand for your nice clean mudroom. Add new umbrellas that open when you click the button on the first try — and haven’t been blown inside out a few times over the years.

Ice Cream and Mortgage Options

While on our summer vacation, my husband, daughters and I stopped for some ice cream to cool off after enjoying a wonderful day in the hot sun.

“Would you like chocolate or rainbow sprinkles?” My daughter pondered the question for a moment, then asked, “Why can’t I have both — half chocolate and half rainbow?”

Great idea, I thought. Why not have a taste of both options? It costs the same and the server was happy to indulge us. This got me thinking about options and how easy it is to recommend me over the big banks when it comes to financing the home you’ve always wanted but never thought you could afford.

When you go to a bank, their goal is to get you a mortgage. What I have discovered in talking to clients is that they were, in fact, given some options and they did answer some questions. But the options offered by the bank employees are generally pretty basic: 15-year or 30-year mortgage? Adjustable or fixed rate?

When I talk about options, there’s more involved than simply choosing the length and type of mortgage. I get as creative as possible while considering your whole financial picture — past, present and future.

Last year I spoke with a newly divorced mother of three who was interested in buying a summer place. We discussed the option of a cash-out refinance. This is when you take the equity out of your current home to use it for another property-related transaction. It differs from a home equity loan, which is another loan on top of your existing mortgage.

This is an option my client never knew existed and it’s not something typically offered by the big banks. With the cash-out refinance, she was able to buy her summer home.

If you need advice on creative ways to buy either a first or second home — or if you just can’t decide on which toppings you should choose for your ice cream — please get in touch. I look forward to working with you.

July’s Home Improver

An Expert’s Advice on Watering Your Lawn 

Ask anyone when the best time to water the lawn is and you’re likely to get several very different responses. Some say watering during the morning hours is best, while others insist that an evening spritz is ideal. So who’s right? We did a little research and we also reached out to a local expert for help in figuring out when and how often we should turn on the hose or sprinklers.

According to Kyle McNerney of Smart Water Management, the best thing you can do for your lawn is water the soil deeply and at the frequency required. You’ll need to factor in weather, plant types, sun, shade and the depth of the roots of a particular plant. For example, shrubs need more water than grass, and should be watered 2-to-3 times a week. While lawns don’t need as deep a watering as shrubs, Kyle believes they should be watered every other day. Daily watering may be required on days of intense sun and heat.

So when is the best time of day to water your lawn? According to Popular Mechanics, the morning is the ideal time of day. The weather is usually cooler and there’s less wind, which allows for a more even distribution of the water. During the day, water can evaporate too quickly, even before it is absorbed into the soil. Evenings, once thought to be the perfect time, are actually the worst. Water clinging too long to the grass can promote fungus and cause your grass to die off prematurely. Turn on your sprinklers before you head to work and your lawn will have the best chance to thrive throughout the summer and fall.

Reality Check: Longer-term Mortgages Make Sense

I have a friend who hates bills. Hates ’em! She can’t pay them fast enough so she doesn’t have to look at them. Hating bills isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In my friend’s case, her quick payments have yielded a stellar credit rating.
Imagine her surprise when I suggested that she opt for a 30-year mortgage rather than the 15 she was considering.
My friend has good job. She’s recently divorced and has two young children to support. A one-income homeowner with two dependents needs all the financial flexibility she can allow herself. While her income and excellent credit is enough to qualify her for a 15-year mortgage, it may tighten her budget enough to restrict her from paying for unexpected home repairs, a new car and even a much-needed vacation–for 15 years!
The fact is, we’re always paying for something when it comes to our homes. While it may seem like paying the mortgage quickly is a great goal, all we’re really doing is moving our money around differently. It’s easy enough to get the idea in your head that paying off the mortgage leaves you with nothing left to pay. Unfortunately, my bill-hating friend will never be free from paying property taxes, homeowners insurance, repairs and renovations.
A 30-year mortgage isn’t always right for everyone, but in many cases it makes the most sense. Focusing on paying more in a shorter period could make you put off paying for a roof leak that has, over the years, turned into a roof replacement.
There’s also your quality of life to consider. That trip to Europe you’ve always wanted to take. That car with the heated leather seats you dream about every winter. The opportunity for your children to attend the best schools. All of these things are compromised when your mortgage payment doesn’t leave you the financial flexibility to spend your money on the things that are most important to you. It’s great to own a home that you love, but your unnecessarily high mortgage payment should never prevent you or your children from living a fulfilling life.
Do you have a friend or relative in need of mortgage advice? Please contact me. I will be happy to help.
June’s Home Improver
Avoiding a Summer of Mosquito Bites
Question: What is the deadliest insect in the world? Most people think about swarms of killer bees or those horrible fire ants they always show on the National Geographic channel–so called because it feels like your skin is on fire after you’re bitten. Scary!
The deadliest insect, however, is the mosquito. While many of us see the mosquito as a nuisance more than anything else, these flying pests are notorious carriers of awful diseases, including West Nile Virus, dengue fever and malaria.
To avoid the stinging and scratching, remove any standing water around your home. Mosquitoes breed in water, so keeping things dry will force them to seek out breeding grounds elsewhere.
1. After it rains, dump out water that may have filled flower pots and watering cans. When possible, store them upside down when not in use to avoid water accumulation.
2. Keep gutters clear so that water can move through them. A clogged gutter is a common breeding place for mosquitoes.
3. Clean your birdbath. Regularly changing the water in your birdbath will wipe out any mosquito larvae before they hatch.
4. Folds in tarps and pool covers can create pockets of water that mosquitos love. Clean them out weekly and keep your tarp folded flat when not in use.
Remember to use insect repellent to keep yourself safe from mosquito bites. According to the Centers for Disease Control, you should choose a big repellent with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or, for those seeking a natural remedy, the plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Co-Signing a Mortgage: Is It Worth The Risk?

There are several circumstances that require co-signing for a mortgage. The most common scenario involves a married couple. The two incomes combine to sufficiently cover the cost of the monthly mortgage payment. Other cases include parents co-signing for their child’s first home; adult children co-signing for their aging parents whose income has diminished at retirement; siblings or friends helping each other out. The fact is, most people with good credit and assets can co-sign for someone else. Whether the co-signer feels a familial obligation or they just want to help someone, the question remains: Is the risk worth the reward?

Let’s look at that married couple. What happens if they divorce in a few years and the wife remains in the home? While she has now taken over paying the mortgage, her ex-husband’s credit is still at risk, even though he is not making the payments. If she is late with her payment or defaults on it, they will equally share in the liability. There is an option to refinance, but what happens if the ex-wife does not qualify on her own? The ex-husband may choose to keep his name on the mortgage, especially when children are involved.

In the case of friends or family co-signing, it is important to understand that what began as an act of kindness can quickly turn into a regrettable decision. When it comes to your hard-earned credit, you must consider the history as well as the potential of the person you’re signing for: Why is their credit low? Do they have a stable job history? Will their income increase over time? Do you trust that this person with poor credit and/or limited assets will take on and consistently pay a monthly loan over 15 or 30 years?

Worst case scenario: As the co-signer, you are responsible for the loan if the homeowner defaults on the payment. If you already have a mortgage of your own to pay, you now have two. In addition, because the homeowner defaulted on the payment, your credit has taken a hit in the process.

None of this is meant to say that all co-signed mortgages are a mistake. Many of them work out perfectly with no issues. The point here is understand your responsibilities as a co-signer and if you choose to proceed, be ready to take on the full responsibility of the mortgage.

If you are recently divorced and need information about refinancing or if you have further questions about co-signing for a mortgage, please contact me at 617-965-1236 or email me.

April’s Home Library Improver

Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth About The World’s Most Popular Weed by Kevin P. Hill, M.D.

Typically, this space is reserved for home improvement or gardening tips — although I suppose this could fall under “gardening.” My husband, Dr. Kevin P. Hill, had his book published recently and I am excited to tell everyone about it! 
Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth About the World’s Most Popular Weed, by Kevin P. Hill, M.D., explores the history and debunks the myths about this controversial plant’s colorful 2000-year history.
null
From the publisher: “Whether you’re a parent concerned about your child’s use, someone with an illness considering medical marijuana as a treatment option, a user who has questions about its effect on your health, or if you’re just trying to make up your mind about legalization, this book will give you the most current and unbiased information you need to make informed decisions about marijuana.”
The book is available in paperback and as an e-book. You can buy it at the following retailers:

The Harsh Truth About Women and Finance

One of the more memorable acceptance speeches delivered at this year’s Academy Awards was from Best Supporting Actress, Patricia Arquette. Her remarks about gender equality and the pay gap between men and women struck a chord that lasted beyond the show, and she recently spoke at an event sponsored by the United Nations on the same topic.

In 2015, it is shocking — though not surprising to some — that women would be paid less for doing the same job as men. Yes, times are changing but perhaps not fast enough in this case. Ms. Arquette made the comment that change starts with women.

I mention this because of a Boston Globe article written recently about how women lag behind men in financial literacy. This is another example where there should be gender equality. The gist of the article says that women scored lower than men in answering questions related to money and finances.

It also goes on to say that the women who were polled were more financially vulnerable than their male counterparts.

Whether or not a gender pay gap is a factor, the truth is that women today need to understand their finances as well as men for a number of reasons.

In the case of a divorce, a woman who may have relied on her husband now bears the full responsibility for her financial well-being.

Among married couples, we know that women tend to outlive their husbands and at some point they need to have a solid grasp of their financial situation.

Obviously there are many exceptions to the rule and plenty of women are both the breadwinner and the decision-maker of the family when it comes to finances. However, it is important that all women (and men, too!) learn and understand how their finances work so that they can make informed decisions at critical moments in their lives.

Here’s the link to the quiz to test your financial capability.

March’s Home Improver
Crocus Focus

There are a few sure signs of spring. First is the end of snow (which may or may not be the case after this record-setting year). Next, there are the clocks “springing ahead” to Daylight Saving Time. Finally, there is the emergence of the beautiful crocus plant.

The crocus is a perennial bulb that is a member of the iris family. It blooms in several colors, including purple, white and saffron. In fact, the spice saffron is made from crocus flowers.

Why does the crocus tend to bloom before other plants? One thing we know is that the crocus will bloom at the first reasonably warm day and will remain unharmed even with a few remaining snowstorms left in the season.

The crocus is also resistant to insects, though a hungry squirrel may have its way with it. Its hardy nature makes it a plant you can expect to see growing in your yard for many years to come.

If you plan to plant crocus bulbs, the best time to do it is in the fall. The bulbs settle in for a long winter’s nap before poking up through the soil at the first sign of spring. Some varieties of crocus actually bloom in the fall and should be planted in late summer. Clearly, this plant enjoys a change in seasons.

The crocus looks best when it grows under trees and in large flower beds. Your blooming crocus will display its stunning colors as its delicate leaves sway in the breeze. Following a brutal winter, this amazing flower offers hope for a warm and beautiful spring.

This Home’s Just Not That Into You

Shopping for a new home is like starting a new relationship. At first, you’re attracted to the neighborhood, then you become infatuated by the beautiful bathroom and the extra closet space. You love that it’s near the local market and the dry cleaner. At first glance it’s so perfect, you forget to factor in any of the cons while going all-in on the pros.

Oops, it’s a pretty long commute to work. That’s OK, you tell yourself. It’s still worth it. Oh, and there’s only a tiny backyard. Well, you can always buy your produce at the market rather than starting that garden you’d always dreamed of — and forget about parking your new car in the garage that doesn’t exist. No worries, you think, at least I have that whirlpool bath. While soaking in the tub you realize that you’re not in the best school district and the mortgage payment doesn’t leave much room to make improvements.

Regret starts to creep in. Why did I dive head-first into this relationship? Why did I choose a home that didn’t meet all of my needs? Why didn’t I make a list of non-negotiables? Noisy traffic on busy streets, parking on an icy hill during winter — or trying to find a place to park anywhere in Boston, for that matter. If it was a nuisance in small doses, it could drive you crazy on a daily basis.

This is, sadly, a common situation for first-time homebuyers. It’s the one of the primary reasons why people rarely, if ever, stay in the first home they buy. A good home relationship starts when you temper the emotion of owning a new home with the practicality and long-term usefulness of it. So what should you look for in a rock-solid relationship with your home? Here are a few tips.

1. Shop Around. There’s no need to choose a home under pressure. It’s a rash decision that you may regret for years. Better to take your time with your decision, even if it means renting or living at home a little longer.

2. Never Settle. This is a tricky one. Depending on your financial situation, you may not be able to afford the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood with the perfect school system. That does not mean you should be happy with the first couple of homes you check out. Making a compromise should only happen after you feel you’ve seen the best of what is offered and you are comfortable accepting the terms of your mortgage. It is not uncommon for buyers to spend a year or more searching for the home that they can love for the next 30 years.

3. Work At It. People change. Lives change. Your home shouldn’t be a museum showing how you lived 20 years ago. Expect to improve your kitchen and bath, expand a room, or add an addition. These are financial considerations to make before the baby comes or your mother-in-law moves in or the kids go off to college.

4. Leave When It’s Time. Empty nest. Divorce. Aging. These are just three reasons to consider leaving your home and finding one that works for the person you are today. It can be a difficult situation, but too many people stay in home relationships that have soured — and that only leaves them bitter. Better to accept that it’s time to move on and remember what it was like when you fell in love with your first home.

The best place to start the process is with a mortgage professional who can answer all your questions. Call me today at 617-965-1236.

February’s Home Improver
Ice Dam Damage

Ice dams form on snow-covered roofs. The snow that melts first is the layer closest to the roof, due to the rising heat in your home. As the snow melts it runs down the side of your roof and freezes again, forming those scary-looking icicles and creating a frozen dam that prevents water from running into your gutters. The water prevented from the dams can find its way in through small holes in your roof, which can lead to damage of your walls, ceilings and basements.

Preventing ice dams starts with removing snow from the roof. Use of a roof rake is the best method. Shovels can damage tiles and create water seepage sites. Keeping gutters clear is also important, and removing dangerous icicles is necessary. If you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable on a ladder or on a roof, contact a professional. Too many falls and injuries have occurred this winter by non-professionals who thought they could handle the job.

In the spring — in advance of next year’s winter weather — consider a new roof or fixing the existing roof. Heating coils may also be installed on the roof to prevent ice dams from forming.

Stay safe and warm. Spring is just around the corner!

Age and Term-Related Mortgage Myths

When it comes to selecting the length of your mortgage, certain factors apply. There are some misconceptions about length due to age and income that don’t necessarily apply. Let’s bust some myths about mortgage term lengths.

Myth No. 1: A 15-year mortgage is always better than a 30-year mortgage. False. When you’re younger, you should expect your income to increase over time. If you have kids and enough money to afford paying down your principle quickly, then take on that 15-year mortgage — especially if you plan to tackle another major financial obligation: your children’s college tuition. On the other hand, as you move closer to retirement age, your income will probably level off or decline. In this case, playing it safe makes the most sense. Go with a 30-year mortgage with payments that you can make comfortably over time.

Myth No. 2: People over age 60 will not be approved for 30-year mortgages based on the fact that they could die before the mortgage is paid off. Yikes! Not true. A borrower’s age is never a consideration, thanks to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. This is a protected category and is not to be considered during the application process. Your loan is determined by your income, savings, assets and credit history.

Myth No. 3: A 15-year mortgage will lower your monthly payment. Complete myth. While you will pay less interest over time, your monthly payment will be higher due to the fact that more of it goes to the principle reduction. If you are newly divorced or single, you’re working with only one income. A 30-year mortgage may work better for you in the long run.

Making these decisions can be difficult. There are so many factors to consider. The best thing you can do before making such a significant financial commitment is to call me at 617-965-1236. We’ll discuss all of your options so that you can make an informed decision that makes sense for you. I look forward to your call.

DIY Winterizing Tips

Stay warm and safe with these do-it-yourself fixes.

Although winter doesn’t officially arrive until next week, freezing cold temperatures have been invading New England for weeks. If you’re feeling a chilly draft or just want to prepare for when it gets reallycold in the next month or so, follow these easy, inexpensive ideas to keep the cold outside and the warmth inside.

1. Buy or make a door snake. Remember when you were a kid and your parents had a stuffed snake that you couldn’t play with because it was keeping the cold out? You can still find them. If you know how to crochet or know someone who does, a door snake will block out drafts for the price of a skein of yarn.

2. Switch the direction of your ceiling fans. Ever wonder why your ceiling fan moves in either direction? It’s not a lefty-righty thing. Because hot air rises, the ceiling fan should run in reverse (clockwise) at a low speed during the winter. This will cycle the warm air back down from the ceiling to where you are.

3. Seal gaps in windows. If you have old drafty windows, you should expect a big heating bill if you do nothing about it. Finding and caulking the gaps will accomplish two things: It prevents cold air from seeping in, but it also avoids wood rot by keeping moisture out. Here’s a tutorial.

4. Buy, test or replace your detectors. Your home needs both smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to keep you safe this winter. Replacing batteries may not be enough, as typical detectors have a reliably functioning lifespan of only 6-8 years. If you’re buying a new detector, write the date on the inside of it so you’ll know when to purchase a new one. If you suspect your detectors are older than what is recommended, you owe it to yourself and your family’s well-being to replace them immediately.

What Is a PLA and How Can It Be Used for a Downpayment?

I’m always looking for creative solutions to help my clients purchase their homes. One of the most common obstacles, particularly for divorced women, is coming up with the downpayment. I asked my good friend, Jay Gordon, of the Popper-Gordon Group at Morgan Stanley, if he had any ideas to share.
He suggested creating a Portfolio Loan Account (PLA). This can be set up to borrow against most account types at Morgan Stanley, with a few exceptions.
Provided that you maintain a certain level of collateral, a PLA can give you the line of credit you need to cover your downpayment. In most cases, there are minimal or no fees to set up your PLA and it can be established in a week or two, without a lot of paperwork.
If you’re concerned about the plan to repay the loan, there is good news: the repayment structure is flexible, offering variable and fixed rate options. Variable rate PLAs can be paid off in full at any time with no penalty.
Upon approval of your PLA, you will have immediate access to your line of credit by writing a check or wiring funds when needed. You won’t need to reapply each time you borrow against the PLA. There is no obligation or penalty if for any reason you decide not to use your line of credit.
If this option for liquidity makes sense for you, or if you have any questions regarding a portfolio loan account, please contact me at 617-965-1236.

October’s Home Value Improver

Outdoor Lighting for Safety and Curb Appeal

At this time of year, you may find yourself driving to work in the dark and driving home in the dark. This is a good time to view your home when the sun is not shining on it. How is the lighting? Are the walkways safe? Does your home have good curb appeal? Is it lit well enough to keep intruders away? These are important questions to ask, especially for divorced women who are single moms. Good lighting is used for more than beautifying your home. It’s also an important safety measure that all homeowners need to consider.

Here are some creative tips for outdoor lighting:

1. Pathway Lights. If there is a pathway to your front door, be sure to properly light it to avoid tripping on uneven pavement or avoiding ice that can cause slip-and-fall accidents. You don’t need very bright fixtures, but enough light to safely guide people to your door.

2. Patio Lights. Use indirect light for outdoor gatherings. Cool bulbs rather than harsh light make for a more comfortable outdoor event.

3. Doorway Lights. Install two small lanterns on either side of your door frame. For larger entryways, consider this option, but add a hanging lantern, centered above the door.

4. Landscape Lighting. If your home is set back from the street, it is recommended to have landscape lighting. A well-lit home without any landscape lights can look isolated and appear standoffish to your new neighbors. A few simple lanterns emitting soft white light will make a noticeable difference.

If you are looking for an outdoor lighting expert, I am happy to recommend one of my most trusted contacts. Call me at 617-965-1236.

The Diminishing Value of PMI and MI

In the past, many divorced women have paid Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) on FHA loans to secure a mortgage that insures against a default in payment. This is required if your downpayment is less than 20% of the appraised value or sale price. It’s understandable, particularly if owning a home on your own is new for you. Mortgage insurance (MI) is also a requirement for non-FHA loans when your downpayment is under 20%. Keep in mind, that over the length of a mortgage, this insurance can cost you thousands of dollars. You may want to avoid it completely, if possible. Here’s why:
1. You can’t deduct it anymore. In the past, homeowners could deduct PMI from their taxes, but as of 2014, the new tax law no longer allows this deduction. That puts you on the hook for every dollar of PMI you pay.
2. It lessens your ability to get a future loan. PMI built into a mortgage works against the income you have to pay the loan. For example, if you pay $200 monthly for PMI, your income is worth $200 less because it’s tied to PMI rather than free for you to use for paying off other debts.
3. It slows down your payment timeline. Over time, the PMI you pay increases the length of your mortgage because of the monthly charge that’s factored into the payment.
If you pay MI, it can be eliminated. You don’t have to pay MI forever. After you have built a solid amount of equity in your home, you can stop paying your premium. This occurs at 78% loan to value.
Avoid PMI and MI pitfalls by working with me to find the best solutions that work for you. If you currently pay PMI or MI, this may be a good time to look at refinancing. Just because you agreed to your mortgage, it doesn’t mean it can’t be reworked to save you money in the long run. Get in touch at 617-965-1236. I look forward to your call.

The Spooky Truth About Candy Corn

Why is candy corn still available and why do people buy it? No one ever craves candy corn. When you think about it, trick-or-treaters come home with sacks full of various delicious candies, yet no one ever claims dibs on the candy corn. Baby Ruth, Almond Joy, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and other delightful treats are all consumed long before anyone dips a hand in the bowl of candy corn.
Maybe it’s because it looks more like a bowl of rotten teeth than the Indian corn it’s supposed to mimic. Whatever it is, over 25 million pounds of the sugary stuff are sold annually.
Originally known as “Chicken Feed,” when it was first introduced in the 1880s, the product we know today as candy corn made its debut in 1900. The scary thing? The recipe hasn’t changed a bit in over more than a century. Candy corn is made of sugar, water, corn syrup, marshmallow, confectioner’s wax and artificial colors. Very sweet indeed. But at 3.57 per calories per piece, they’re no worse than a bowl of cereal or a peanut butter ann jelly sandwich when it comes to causing cavities. Just remember to brush after eating!

Assembling Your Home Buying Dream Team

It’s no secret that buying a home is usually the biggest investment you’ll ever make. It requires proper planning and exceptional execution from the time you decide to explore the possibility of buying, straight through to the closing.


With a need for financial solvency and advice from professionals who understand the importance of guiding you through this lengthy journey, you’ll want to assemble a dream team of advisors to make your new home purchase a successful one. From start to finish, here are the people you’ll need on your team:
1. Mortgage Broker. (Did you think I’d put myself last on this important list?) Let’s be honest: Before you can even think of how many bedrooms you’d prefer or which school districts are best, you need to focus on your money. Can you afford your dream home? Can you live with the terms of a mortgage that will last for decades? Is your credit good enough to move forward? Do you have all the information you need to make an informed decision about securing your mortgage? I can help answer all these questions and more.
2. Real Estate Agent. Choosing the right agent is critical to your success. You want someone who is experienced and who will always keep your needs in mind. Proven real estate agents move quickly and orchestrate many aspects of the sale. Choose a Realtor® because this designation holds them to a strict code of ethics and standard of practice.
3. Real Estate Attorney. Your mortgage broker or real estate agent should have no trouble finding an excellent attorney for your closing. Efficiency here is important. You also want an experienced attorney who will look over the many documents involved in the transaction and make sure everything is in order before you take the final steps to home ownership.
4. Home Inspector. The best home inspectors take a long hard look at your home to make sure it is structurally sound and free of household pests like termites and other destructive forces. They’ll check everything from potential roof leaks to basement mold. While your home inspector’s recommendations may slow down your purchase, you’ll want the proper repairs completed–or a significant reduction of the final cost of your home–before you sign off on the contracts.
5. Insurance Agent. Your new home must be insured against fire, theft, or other damage. Certain events are not covered, depending on where you live (flood and earthquake). If you live in an area that is determined to be a flood zone, then flood insurance becomes mandatory. Your insurance agent can put together a policy that covers everything you must have, and will suggest other options for you to choose.
There’s your team. Of course, there are others to consider, like an architect, appraiser, contractor, remodeler, painter, etc. If you are in need of any of these services, I am happy to share my own dream team with you. After many years of working with home buyers, I have assembled some of the most accomplished professionals in the business. Get in touch at 617-965-1236. I look forward to your call.

September’s Home Value Improver

The Fungus Among Us

In case you hadn’t noticed, humans are amazing beings. We have immune systems to help us fight off sickness and recover quickly if we do come down with a cold, flu or other illness. Today we’re focusing on fungus, something that is not always detectable in your home, but can lead to a variety of illnesses.

Our first fungus is called aspergillus. This is a common indoor mold that you may notice on the dying leaves of plants and herbs in your home. Left unchecked, this fungus can lead to respiratory ailments, edema, and eye-and-ear infections.


Next up: Cladosporium. This is a nasty fungus that can be found in your heating and air conditioning ducts. Exposure can cause ringworm, thrush, emphysema and bronchiospams.


Your final fungus: Stachybotrys. This one is bad news–not that the others weren’t. This fungus forms in high humidity and when conditions are ideal (or un-ideal, in this case), certain strains of Stachybotrys can be poisonous when inhaled. When humidity is high but the temperature fluctuates, a toxin can be produced that causes sore throats, headache, fatigue and more.


The best advice to combat fungus is to keep your home clean. Wipe down surfaces, check your plants carefully, clean carpets and air ducts and replace filters regularly. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, have them checked out by your doctor if they persist. Your body’s amazing immune system will fight off as much as possible, but a clean home and a visit to your doctor is the best defense from fungus-related sicknesses.