September’s Home Value Improver
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.
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.
At a social gathering last month, I met a young couple who, when they found out what I do, told me with glum faces that they were still renting. They were sure they would qualify for a mortgage, but instead they were turned down by their bank. After speaking with them the following week and assessing their ability to qualify for a mortgage, I was able to give them good news. I had found the right financial institution that would accommodate them.
It is typical for first-time homebuyers to think they’ll need to rent for several more years based on one response from one bank. After all, that kind of news can be devastating, and few if any banks will encourage them to look elsewhere.
When I tell my prospective clients never to take “no” for an answer, they immediately perk up. “You mean we still have a chance at owning a home?”
Of course they do, and here’s why: certain banks have very strict guidelines and lack the flexibility that is sometimes needed to get a mortgage approved. Just because they turned you down, it doesn’t mean you can’t secure a loan with someone else. All you need to do is call me to find out.
Some lenders have less flexibility when it comes to debt-to-income ratios and credit scores. Others factor in certain income calculation rates differently.
A bank may require 30% down, based on their assessment of your credit and ability to pay your mortgage. While that may be their standard, I may find a boutique lender that may require only 20% down. Because I work with multiple resources, I don’t have to accept the restrictions that certain banks are bound by–and that allows me to find the mortgage that is right for you.
This is why I ask anyone considering a new home buy to contact me rather than heading over to the bank. However, if you’ve already been turned down by a bank, give me a call at 617-965-1236. I’m in the business of saying “yes.”
|August’s Home Value Improver|
The Truth About Earwigs
There’s a long-standing urban legend that talks about the earwig, a devilish bug that crawls into your ear while you sleep and lays its eggs in your brain. Once the eggs hatch, the young earwigs feast on your grey matter.
Gross! But, thankfully, untrue. There have been no documented cases of young earwigs feasting on an unsuspecting person’s brain.
The earwig, however, can cause trouble, but nothing related to your brain or other body parts.
Earwigs are nocturnal bugs that eat other insects and lots of plants. Reddish-brown in color, they have a pair of pincers jutting out the back of their abdomen. They prefer cool, damp hiding places. Ever lift up a flower pot and see one of those ugly things scurry away? They’re probably resting after eating a leaf or two of your favorite plant.
How do you control your earwig population? You can find most of them outdoors or in your basement, near the coolest, dampest things in the area. Outside, leave it to the birds to dine on these scavengers. In your home, it’s best to eliminate moisture, particularly in the basement and around crawlspaces, leaky pipes and the foundation.
In the unlikely event that your basement is overrun by earwigs, your local pest control agent should be able to take care of it with one visit.
Now that you know more about earwigs and aren’t afraid of them eating your brain, you should check for insects living in your basement and decide if an exterminator is needed to keep your home free of pests.
|You may have read an article in The Wall Street Journal or watched Diane Sawyer on ABC talking about housing market trends and alerting you of the best times to buy or sell your home. While the trends may be accurate on a national level, they may be entirely different when you consider them from a local — or even regional — perspective.
There are a few factors that cause these incongruities between national and regional trends. This past winter was so oppressively cold that only a few brave souls were diligently working on buying or selling their homes. This left the northeast region behind some other regions in home sales. Now that the weather has improved, we’re seeing a market correction, of sorts. More people are aggressively vying to buy in a market with limited inventory.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, the Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) for a given area is defined as “the share of homes sold in that area that would have been affordable to a family earning the local median income, based on standard mortgage underwriting criteria.”
HOI is a good indicator of determining trends because it takes both median income and affordability into consideration. Statistics show that Boston’s HOI has been in decline since 2012, largely due to a decrease in median household income combined with an increase in the median price for home sales. Nationally, the average percentage of affordable homes is 66%. Locally, the percentage is just 51%, a full 15% lower than the national numbers.
We can conclude from this that national numbers can’t be assumed to coincide with the local Massachusetts housing market. So when Diane Sawyer tells you to buy, sell or hold tight, it’s best to contact me for advice that comes from a locally informed source. I will gladly discuss all the concerns you have about timing your new home purchase and give you the best advice for your individual needs.
|July’s Home Value Improver|
Garden Pest Terminator: The Ladybug
Are you fighting a losing battle in your garden? Are the bugs eating your vegetables before you get a chance to enjoy them?
It’s no wonder farmers turn to pesticides to eradicate those flying and crawling garden pests. But half the fun of raising your fruits and vegetables yourself is to enjoy your own completely organic, toxin-free foods. So what’s an enterprising gardener to do? The solution: Ditch the pesticides and order up a big batch of ladybugs.
The ladybug is a natural, cost-effective eliminator of common garden pests. They especially love aphids, but will consume other bugs, worms and mites. They may come in a cute package, but they are a generalist predator and will keep your unwanted bug population under control.
You can pick up your ladybugs at some garden centers or you can simply order them online from Amazon (yes, they really have everything at Amazon, including boxes of 1500 live ladybugs, costing under $20).
Once your ladybugs arrive, wait until evening. Watering your plants before releasing them is a good idea, as the ladybugs may feel dehydrated from being in captivity. Doing this at night gives your ladybugs the best chance to remain in your garden as they acclimate themselves quietly overnight.
Will your ladybugs fly away? Yes, many will. However, the ones that stay will almost immediately start laying eggs, keeping your ladybug population flourishing. If you happen to notice a small black and red insect that looks like a spiny little alligator, that’s a ladybug larva. They may start off homely, but they hatch ready to eat your unwanted bugs.
Put those ladybugs to work and enjoy the harvest of your own organic garden.
|Why Choose Debbie?|
|One of the questions that comes up with new clients is: Why should I choose Westchester Mortgage over a big bank? It’s a fair question. Your mortgage is a huge investment and you should carefully choose the person you want to work with for the best possible outcome.
I asked a client to discuss why they chose to work with me for both a refinance and a purchase transaction Here are the reasons and their responses for choosing me:
Big bank vs. small business: “Ultimately, we wanted to work with a person, not a company.”
Responsiveness: “Debbie was terrific. Every time we needed her she was there with a prompt response and good information. One day we called her in a panic because we wanted to make an offer that included a quick closing date, and needed to know how quickly we could move to get our offer in motion. My husband left her a message and within 30 minutes, she called us back — from the Bahamas! We were so impressed!”
Industry knowledge: “After the searching was over and we had an offer accepted, Debbie continued guide us through the next steps. She was able to clearly explain all of the mortgage numbers and other costs; everything was transparent and even though some of this financial jargon sounded like a foreign language at first, Debbie communicated and translated it all in a way that we easily understood.”
Honesty: “Debbie is very direct and not afraid to ask questions. Her responses are clear and matter-of-fact; She always kept the process moving, yet we never felt rushed.”
Confidence and Trust: “You hear nightmare stories about people trying to secure financing or having mortgages fall through the day of closing, but we had no fear at all because of the confidence we had in Debbie Siegel. We would highly recommend her to anyone purchasing a new home or refinancing!”
|June’s Home Value Improver|
Fun with Filters!
Summer is here and so is the heat! Before you think you can cool off by flicking a switch on your air conditioner, you should clean out the filters first. The EPA has identified indoor air pollution as one of the top five urgent environmental risks to public health. By not changing your filters, you could be breathing in all sorts of pollutants like smoke, pollen, pet dander, rodent droppings and mold. This collection of nearly undetectable (and entirely gross) pollutants, can lead to severe respiratory illnesses. Filters in window air conditioners are inexpensive and easy to replace. You may need to call a professional if you have central air. By the way, clogged air filters make your air conditioner work up to five times harder to push out cool air, which dramatically raises your energy costs. So now you’re paying extra money to breathe in toxic air. Change those filters today!
All this filter research got me thinking about the other filters in the house. Make a point to change your:
Dryer filters. Did you know that one of the most common causes of house fires are blocked lint filters? It is important to clean these out regularly, but also to check for lint buildup behind, under and in the vents. Keep everything clear.
Water filters. Clean drinking water is important for everyone. If you use a filtration system like Brita, for example, make sure you regularly install a new cartridge. Also, check the filters on your sink faucets and pay special attention to the filter on the water dispenser on your refrigerator. Toxins can easily build over time and pollute what you may believe to be clean drinking water.
Dehumidifier filters. You may rely on a dehumidifier to regulate the amount of humidity in your home, but like any other air-processing device in your home, your dehumidifier requires a clean filter to work efficiently and keep you healthy.
Aquarium filters. Hey, pets are people, too. Well, no they’re not. But they deserve a healthy living space, just like you. Fish get their fresh air from clean water. Neglecting to clean the filter on your tank will make it harder for your fish to breathe. Toxins can lead to awfu-soundingl fish diseases like fin rot and pop-eye. And no one wants to look at a fish with rotting fins and exploding eyes. Give your fish — and yourself — a clean environment by changing your filters!
|Post-Divorce Mortgages: Know the Facts|
|No one is ever fully prepared for divorce. It’s a difficult situation that becomes even sadder when children are involved. Unfortunately it’s a common occurrence and the couple must make financial arrangements that can be agreed upon by both parties.
When it comes to divorce, however, many people are unaware of the requirements involved with securing a mortgage using income from both alimony child support payments.
According to Fannie Mae guidelines, there are certain documents you must present if you plan to use alimony or child support payments to qualify for your mortgage. Here is the documentation you will need.
1. A copy of the divorce decree that indicates payment of alimony or child support, including the amount of the award and period of time over which it will be received. If the divorce is not yet final, a separation agreement may be used. However, the separation agreement must include the amount of money awarded to the spouse for alimony and/or child support.
2. Documentation that verifies any applicable state law that mandates alimony, child support, or separate maintenance payments, which must specify the conditions under which the payments must be made.
3. All documentation is to be reviewed for limitations, meaning that, for example, child support will end when a child turns a pre-determined age.
4. The following documentation is required to verify receipt of full payment: deposit slips, court records, copies of signed and filed income tax forms, bank statements and a review of payment history to determine if the income is stable and qualifying for the loan. (To that last item, the borrower must have received a minimum of six months of payments to qualify.)
Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be. If you know someone who is divorced or is considering options after marriage, please have them call me at 617-965-1236. I will tactfully and carefully answer their questions so they can successfully begin the next phase of their lives.
|May’s Home Value Improver|
Planting Perfect Tomatoes
Have you ever planted tomatoes and instead of big, bright red and juicy, you wind up with a yield that is small, green and never ripens? If so, you’re doing it wrong! Here are some tips for growing delicious tomatoes that would impress both amateur and professional tomato growers.
1. Purchase plants rather than growing from seeds. It’s not cheating; there’s still plenty of work ahead. Buying the plants allows you to avoid figuring out a date to determine when 6 weeks before the final frost is, which you’ll need to know if you’re starting with a pack of seeds.
2. Acclimate your plants. Weather fluctuations can upset the plants and talking to them won’t help. Keep them outside during the day and inside at night until the nighttime temperature is consistently above 50º. We’re just about at that point now, with occasional lows still in the mid-40s.
3. Location, location, location. Here’s a tip: tomatoes need lots of sun, so be sure to plant them in a place that will get optimal sunlight. Also, they’ll need to be spaced about 3-4 feet apart so they have plenty of room to grow.
4. Test your soil. This is the best-kept secret among successful tomato-growers. The soil should have a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. You can have your soil tested professionally and get help with supplementation to get your soil just right for your tomatoes.
5. Provide support for your plants. Use ties and support cages or trellises to help your plants grow tall and strong. Also, buy or create collars to place at the base of the plants to fend off any pesky worms.
6. Water consistently. Don’t let your soil dry out before you water it. Keeping your plants moist is particularly important as the days get hotter.
|Should I Waive My Mortgage Contingency?|
|Given the limited inventory of available houses in today’s market and the large number of eager buyers in Massachusetts, sellers may face as many as 10-15 offers, with each getting more competitive. Often the person who gets the home is the one who waives certain terms and contingencies in the offer, while going dollar-for-dollar with the highest bidder.Is waiving a contingency a mistake or is it a smart way to stay ahead of your competition? Like any action involving a risk, there are pros and cons to consider.
Waiving the Home Inspection. A seller may jump at the chance to accept an offer that has no inspection contingency. Although this practice is becoming more common in this seller’s market, there are far too many risks that would be revealed with a professional home inspection. Once it is waived, it essentially ends the negotiation with the seller and all you can do is keep your fingers crossed that the house is in as good condition as it looks. Of course, you could pay $400 – $700 for an inspection prior to purchase, but be warned: you may not win the bid and you’ll have paid to inspect someone else’s new home.
Waiving the Mortgage Contingency. Here’s one to avoid. You want this. A mortgage contingency protects your deposit in cases where you are no longer eligible for a mortgage (lost your job, change in finances, etc.). Another reason is tied to the bidding wars that occur due to lower inventory. Inflated bids move prices beyond the bank’s appraisal, which may force buyers to opt out of the deal. With the mortgage contingency waived, the buyer can lose the deposit.
The financials related to home-buying can be complex and confusing without an experienced mortgage professional. Call me at Westchester Mortgage today at 617-965-1236 to answer any questions you may have.
|April’s Home Value Improver|
What Exactly is Spring Cleaning?
It happens every year. The weather warms up and suddenly you notice the neighbors are on ladders cleaning gutters, washing windows and painting doors while others are inside cleaning out closets, dusting old bookshelves and scrubbing the floors on their hands and knees. What is it about spring cleaning that gets the job done better than any other time of year?
A little research shows that spring cleaning goes back for centuries and is often tied to religious holidays and celebrations.
In the Jewish faith, people would rid their kitchens and pantries of leavened bread and any ingredients that were not allowed during Passover. Even crumbs were forbidden, which led to a thorough cleaning of the home.
The Persian New Year, called Nowruz, involves a cleaning tradition called “khooneh tekouni” which means “shaking the tree” wherein the entire house is cleaned from top to bottom.
Christians, during Lent, clean their homes in anticipation of welcoming friends and relatives for their Easter celebration.
Finally, in the days before heating systems, people living in apartments waited until it was warm enough to open windows to wash them, along with beating the dust out of rugs and pouring old mop water out the window.
Whether your motivation is spiritual or simply practical, cleaning your house thoroughly will leave you appreciating your beautiful home even more, while giving you a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. Now break out the vacuum and get to work!
|March Madness and Common Sense|
Have you heard about the “Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge?” It’s a legitimate contest offered by Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans. The winner will receive 40 installments of $25 million or can take a lump sum of $500 million. The catch? Well, there is no catch, other than it’s virtually impossible to win.
To be precise, the chance of filling out a perfect bracket is 1 in 9.2 quintillion, or 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to 1. The odds were figured by a math professor from DePaul University. Still feeling lucky?
So just how long are those odds? Let’s just say Mr. Buffett can sleep well knowing that his money is pretty safe. Here are some long odds that are more likely to happen than choosing a perfect bracket:
A meteor crashing through your roof: 182,138,880,000,000 to 1
Winning the Powerball Jackpot: 140,000,000 to 1
Shark Attack! 1 in 300,000,000
Mountain lion attack! 1 in 32,000,000
Struck by Lightning: 280,000 to 1
Finding a four-leaf clover on first try: 10,000 to 1
Pro golfer gets a hole-in-one: 3,000 to 1
If you entered this contest because you thought it was a good investment, good luck! You’ll need it. When it comes to finding the best mortgage for your individual needs, I can guarantee excellent odds when you work with me. So why gamble? Call Westchester Mortgage today at 617-965-1236. It’s a slam dunk!
|March’s Home Value Improver|
Dealing with Ice Dams
Ice Dams form on roofs due to a cycle of melting and refreezing of snow. With extremely cold winters like this one, snow hasn’t always had the chance to melt and flow down gutters to the ground.
When a warm attic melts some of the snow but the cold outside won’t melt everything, a dam of ice forms at the edge of the roof and blocks the built up water that has managed to melt.
When the water rises to a certain level, it seeps in though the roof shingles and into your home. This is more common in houses with a low or flat pitch, but can happen on any roof.
When ice dams leak into your home, the water can cause damage to your walls, floors and ceiling. Unchecked water within your walls can lead to mold. It is important to have a professional check your home for water damage if your roof has leakage from an ice dam. Mold can cause severe respiratory infections and lingering effects on your health.
If your home has been effected by ice dam leakage, it is best to call a remediation specialist who can find water and mold inside walls and ceilings and remove it safely with professional equipment.
|5 Ways to Get Out of the Rent Rut|
Renting an apartment isn’t always a bad idea, given your financial situation, but sometimes we find ourselves stuck in place without the proper information to get out of the rent rut. Many first-time home buyers have no idea they can qualify for an affordable mortgage. So how does one get out of the rent rut? Here are five ways to get on the path to buying a home of your own.
1. Check your credit score. Your credit rating has a direct effect on your interest rate. Work on improving your credit by paying down credit card debt and making timely payments on your bills.
2. Make a list of your assets. Sometimes people don’t realize they have more than they think. Apart from money in the bank, you can also count as assets items like your 401(k), mutual funds, profit sharing and other financial means.
3. Length of lease. Work backwards from the end of your lease. You may find that you can pre-qualify for a mortgage long before your lease is up. That means you should start this process as soon as possible. If your lease is up soon, you may convince your landlord to go month-to-month or offer a six-month lease to make it easy for you to move when the time is right, without getting locked into another long-term obligation.
4. Measure income vs. expenses. If you make a good salary but have a significant amount of debt that accrues monthly, you’ll need to see how much you’re left with after making your payments. Having a positive cash flow after the bills are paid each month is critical.
5. Ability to raise funds. Do you have the resources to raise funds for your downpayment if necessary? You may have good credit and some money in the bank, but you’ll need to be able to show your ability to pay over time. Barely squeaking by won’t fill the bank with confidence that you can comfortably make your loan payment each month. Look to family for financial support. If that’s not an option, consider borrowing against your 401(k). You’ll want to see what the penalty is for it, but sometimes it’s well worth borrowing against the future to build wealth today. Remember that apart from living in the home you thought you would never own, you’re also making a solid financial investment that could pay huge dividends when you sell it years from now,
Getting out of the ren rut is not always easy, but it absolutely can be done. If you are a first-time homebuyer or know someone who may be ready to buy without even knowing it, please get in touch or ask them to call me at 617-965-1236. I would be happy to answer any questions and give sound advice on how to secure a mortgage without breaking the bank.
|February’s Home Value Improver|
Home Improvement Do’s and Don’ts
When it comes to increasing your home’s value, certain projects will instantly do the trick while others are risky and can have an adverse effect on buyers. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts for home improvement.
Do Remodel Your Kitchen The kichen is one of the first rooms that buyers look at when making a decision on buying, According to HGTV, you can expect to recoup 60%-120% of your investment on a kitchen remodel.
Don’t Go Too Far with Your Kitchen Remodel If you go way over-the-top and your kitchen doesn’t fit with the rest of the house, this can make the other rooms look less impressive.
Do Improve Your Back Yard. Curb appeal from all angles of the house is a huge plus when it comes to selling your home faster. A manicured lawn, proper fencing for pets, and a fresh coat of paint on the garage goes a long way.
Don’t Install an In-ground Swimming Pool Have you looked outside? This isn’t Miami. A new pool can cost as much as $75,000 to install and would be used for only a fraction of the year. Don’t forget about maintenance costs: you’ll need to spend at least $1000 in insurance, not to mention maintenance costs to keep the pool clean and safe for swimming.
Do Install Energy-efficient Windows Energy Star claims that adding Energy Star-rated windows can save you up to $500 a year in heating and cooling costs. This is a big factor to home buyers given the high expense of keeping out drafts in the winter and keeping your home cool in the summer.
|A young client called, frustrated that she hasn’t found a home that meets her needs. Her name is Julie and she is a newlywed, married this past June. She had hoped to be living in her new home by the fall. Now that the holidays have come and gone, she and her husband are starting the new year disappointed to continue living in her cramped apartment.
When looking for your ideal home, how long should you expect to wait? By “ideal,” we’re talking about location, price range, school system, and, of course, the house itself: design, number of rooms, amount of work to be put into it, etc.
One thing we’re finding is certain communities have limited inventory these days. One house may attract a very high number of buyers, and those on a tight budget are often priced out. This can extend the timeline.
Choosing the right home for you takes patience, depending on your list of non-negotiables. If you’re willing to settle for something less than what you wanted, you could probably move in within six months. However, buying a home is not the kind of thing you just settle for. It may well be the biggest investment you’ll ever make.
It took nearly two years for me to find my home and I’m so glad I waited. It has everything I need in a location I love and it’s a wonderful place for my husband and me to raise our children. I wonder what sacrifices I would have made if I had settled for something that was available but below my expectations. This is the same advice I gave to Julie. Wait. Be patient. It may take more time, but when you see the home you’ve always wanted, you’ll know it–and you won’t regret having waited.
Do you know any first-time homebuyers who need help with some of the tough questions related to buying a home or securing an affordable mortgage? Ask them to call me at 617-965-1236. I look forward to answering their questions!
|January’s Home Value Improver|
Four Options for Siding Your Home
When it comes to making the exterior of your home more attractive, you have several options. The most common ways are to shingle, paint and side. In this month’s home improver, we’ll look at four types of siding for you to choose based on look, durability and price.
1. Wood siding. Wood has a natural, traditional look to it. Best of all, it can be painted any color of your choosing. Another type of wood is cedar shingles, which can also be painted or stained.
2. Vinyl siding. Vinyl is great for homeowners on a budget. Presents a clean, fresh look without spending more than you can afford. Other options in this category are insulated vinyl and shingle vinyl siding.
3. Fiber cement siding. This is in a higher price range and it shows. The texture and look are exceptional. Durability and stability issues are negligible. Options here include vertical siding and trim boards.
4. Composite siding. Ideal for New England homes due to the fact that it is composed of 60% stone and has no wood fibers. This eliminates damage from harsh weather, water and insects. Composite siding is colored, so there’s never a need to paint. People often mistake the embossed woodgrain as actual wood clap board.
When it comes to choosing the type of siding for our home, I recommend working with a licensed and experienced home improvement company.
321 Walnut Street #412
Newtonville, MA 02460-1927
Mortgage Broker MB #272780
Deborah Siegel NMLS MLO #13417