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.

Don’t Take No for An Answer

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.


Why National Mortgage Trends Are Irrelevant

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?

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

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?

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!