Susan Brown & Stephanie Smith - Century 21 North Shore / Cape Cod



Posted by Susan Brown & Stephanie Smith on 12/7/2017

Renting is a great short-term housing solution for millions of Americans each year. And, for those who don’t want the responsibilities of homeownership, it can also serve as a longterm lifestyle for those uninterested in equity. However, if you do hope to someday purchase a home, there are several reasons it is one of the best financial decisions in the long run.

Finding out when is the right time to buy a home is a difficult question to ask yourself. You’ll have to consider your current budget and future financial goals, your employment situation, and personal lifestyle preferences.

In today’s post, I’m going to discuss several of these considerations to help you determine if now is the time to buy a home or if you should continue renting for the time being.

Mortgage rates through history

One of the features of homebuying that is largely out of your control is the historical average mortgage interest rates.


While your specific rate will be based on things like your income and credit score, as well as the type of mortgage you choose, real estate trends will also have an impact on the rate that lenders use.

Rates are, on average, lower in the last five years than they were throughout the 80s, 90s, and 00s. With rates under 4%, these levels are unprecedented in the last 3 decades. However, last year did see a slight increase to 4.1%.

What are your long and short-term plans?

Many people who are considering buying their first homes are more concerned with whether it’s  financially feasible than if it fits into their life and career goals.

Before you start shopping for houses and contacting lenders, it’s a good idea to sit down with your family or significant other and start thinking about a timeline.

First, are you prepared to live in your next home for 5-7 years? This a good baseline for the amount of time you need to stay in a home to make it worth the costs.

Next, would you have better career or education prospects if you were to move elsewhere in a few years?


Of course, these questions are not objective--you may never know for sure which is the best decision. However, having the conversation is vital to moving forward.

Are you prepared for the extra workload?

Homeownership is work. Aside from just having to mow the lawn and take out the garbage, you’ll also be responsible for repairs and maintenance that previously your landlord was required to do.

The good news is you can learn most things on YouTube. However, some repairs can be costly and require calling in a professional. Just like owning a car, homeownership has it’s associated upkeep expenses.

However, with that added responsibility comes independence. You can paint and change your home how you see fit without worrying about losing a security deposit.


Start considering these questions now and in due time you’ll have a better understanding of your current and future goals. This way, you’ll be able to choose the best possible time to buy a home.




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Posted by Susan Brown & Stephanie Smith on 11/9/2017

Buying your dream home should be simple. Unfortunately, challenges may arise during the homebuying journey, particularly for those who fail to budget accordingly.

Establishing a budget before you begin your home search is paramount. With a budget in place, you can explore houses that fall within your price range and move closer to finding a great residence that you can enjoy for years to come.

Ultimately, creating a homebuying budget can be easy – here are three tips to help homebuyers establish budgets.

1. Consider your utility costs.

Although you may be able to get pre-approved for a mortgage and determine exactly how much you'll need to pay for a house, you'll still need to account for utility expenses month after month.

Electricity, heat and other utility costs can add up quickly. However, a diligent homebuyer should have no trouble estimating his or her monthly utility fees.

Examining your current utility expenses can help you understand how much you may wind up paying in utility charges at your new address. Also, don't forget to consult with your real estate agent, as this professional may be able to provide details about the average utility costs associated with a particular residence.

2. Manage your debt.

If you decide to purchase a "fixer-upper," i.e. a home that requires extensive home repairs, you'll likely need to commit substantial time and resources to complete home renovation projects. Thus, you'll want to consider any home repair tasks that you may need to complete at a new address and budget for them before you make an offer on a house.

In addition, knowing your credit score can help you understand your debt. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), and each report will provide information about any outstanding debt. That way, you can learn about your debt and find ways to minimize it prior to purchasing a residence.

3. Account for closing costs and miscellaneous expenses.

Home closing costs will include your loan origination, title insurance and appraisal fees and often range between 3 percent and 7 percent of your total loan amount. You'll want to account for these expenses as you establish a homebuying budget to ensure you can secure your dream house without delay.

Spend some time learning about all of the expenses that may impact your monthly home expenses too. For example, if you purchase a condo, you may face monthly homeowners association fees in addition to your mortgage costs. Or, if you plan to have a baby in the near future, you'll want to consider how the costs of raising a child may impact your ability to cover your mortgage expenses.

If you ever have concerns or questions about establishing a homebuying budget, be sure to consult with your real estate agent. Remember, your real estate agent is available to help you in any way possible and will do what it takes to ensure you can establish the right homebuying budget.




Tags: Buying a home   budgeting  
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Posted by Susan Brown & Stephanie Smith on 9/7/2017

If you want to buy a home in the near future, you’re going to need to really focus on the goal. Buying your first home is no small feat. There are a few habits that you’ll want to start right away once you decide that you’re ready to take the plunge into homeownership. 


Make Savings Automatic


If you’re going to start saving for all of the expenses that buying a home brings, the best thing that you can do is automate your savings. The down payment is usually more money than most people can even plan for. If you have a small amount of each paycheck go into a dedicated account for the house fund, you’ll be in better shape financially. You can never start saving too early or too much. The goal is to save as much as you possibly can. Put the money in a place where you won’t have easy access to it. If you don’t see it, you won’t spend it! 


Check Your Credit Score


Your credit report is one of those things that can’t be magically fixed. It takes some time and a little work to keep your credit score up. You’ll need to make sure that you make on-time payments each and every month. If there are any glaring mistakes on the report, you’ll need to fix them, as it could take some time for any changes to show up. The most important thing is to keep your credit record clean by making on-time payments, refraining form opening too many new accounts, and paying down any outstanding debt. Once you check your credit score and see what you have to work with, you’ll be in good standing in no time. 


Become A DIYer


When you move into a home, there’s a lot that may need to be done. If you can do some of the work yourself, instead of hiring contractors and other people, you may be able to save some money. This wouldn’t include anything dangerous like electrical work or complicated plumbing issues. There are plenty of projects that you can safely take on in a home that will save money and keep your home in great shape. 


Learn To Budget


Owning a home can actually be cheaper than renting in some cases. If you learn to budget, factoring in things like food, utilities, and how much you spend on entertainment, you’ll see how much you have to work with. See how much you’re spending and then decide where you can cut down costs from there. You’ll find more money that you can be saving towards a home. The best part about buying a home is that you own it! There is no middle man telling you what you can and cannot do in a space.




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Posted by Susan Brown & Stephanie Smith on 8/31/2017

a tiny houseThe latest trend in minimalist and frugal living is owning a tiny house. If you haven't yet seen them on your newsfeed, tiny houses are loosely defined as homes that are 400 square ft. or less. As you'd expect, there are many challenges to living in a space so small; challenges both spacial and legal. Ask yourself these questions before making the move to a tiny home.

Do I really need all this stuff?

Part of the American Dream has always been to someday own your own home. Over the years, those homes have grown ever larger, even while family sizes are decreasing. Many of us have tried to make our lives more minimal in one way or another, whether its shrinking our wardrobes or cleaning out the attic. If you want to live in a tiny home you'll have to totally rethink what you consider to be the necessities of life. You'll have to prioritize and choose between things like having a television or having a bookshelf. Furthermore, you'll need to have items that serve dual purposes. Your dinner table, for instance, will also serve as a desk or working surface, namely because it will most likely be the only surface large enough in your home to do these things on.

Where will you park your home?

Finding a place to put a tiny house is one of the most difficult challenges tiny-home owners face. Almost all tiny houses are built on wheels. This is due to various state laws and zoning permits. You may also face difficulties gaining access to water and electricity. For this reason, many tiny house owners park their home on someone else's property and hook up to their utilities. Part of the reason many people want a tiny house is to be more independent, so this is obviously a huge barrier to achieving that goal.

Are you bashful about the bathroom?

There's hardly a thing that we take more for granted than bathrooms. If you're going to live in a tiny house you should be prepared to rough it when it comes to doing your business. There are some instances when you can hook your tiny house up to a sewage system. But in most cases, tiny houses rely on RV toilets or composting toilets. The benefits of disconnected toilets are that you can travel in your home and not have to worry too much about finding a bathroom. The disadvantages, however, will require some grit on your part. No sewage connection means you'll have to empty your tank or your composting toilet. This creates another obstacle to tiny living, as you don't want to be dumping refuse anywhere near your home. And if you live in a residential area there are state laws which regulate the use of composting toilets.

Is there another option?

Tiny living isn't for everyone. Whether you have a family or hobbies that require space, or just because you would feel claustrophobic living in a space this small, buying a tiny house maybe isn't for you. But there are other options. Perhaps you don't need a tiny home but rather a small and cozy one. Or you could try being more minimal in other ways like clearing out unnecessary items from your home and having a yard sale. Regardless of what you do, being minimal is a mindset, and having the intention of simplifying is already half the battle.





Posted by Susan Brown & Stephanie Smith on 7/27/2017

Investing in a starter home is a great way to become a first time homeowner. Although starter homes generally don’t have as many amenities as more traditional homes,they give you the chance to learn what’s involved in owning a house. You’ll experience the house shopping as well as the closing and financing process firsthand without taking on too much debt.

Amenities you get with starter homes

With a starter home, you’ll also understand the types of repairs that are needed to maintain a house. Rather than guessing at how much you need to budget for house repairs and general maintenance, you’ll see those numbers firsthand. This gives you the knowledge to know if you truly are ready to take on a bigger house investment several years from now.

Amenities and features that generally are built into starter homes offer convenience. Modern starter homes are designed with open floor plans. You’ll have the option to choose hard wood or carpeted flooring. Vaulted ceilings can help your house appear larger. So too can kitchens that have long counters along one side of the kitchen.

Through homeowners associations, you can have someone else mow your lawn, shovel snow and cut away dead trees. You won’t have to clean the community pool or worry about calling to have your garbage removed. Fees that you pay your homeowners association will cover these services. Depending on where you buy your starter home, you may have to share a back yard with a neighbor.

Older homes as starter homes

Older homes that work well as starter homes are built with two to three bedrooms, an unattached garage, basement and a dining room. Bathrooms in these starter homes may be small. Additionally, older starter homes can yield costs savings upfront but require a larger maintenance investment.

Think about your personal needs and wants before you buy a starter home. Avoid buying a starter home because a lender tells you that a down payment is not needed. This step will get you a higher monthly mortgage. Approach buying a starter home similar to how you start out in secondary school before heading straight to college.

Look at the investment as a learning opportunity. You can get the skills to negotiate a great deal on an upscale house down the road. You can also learn what to look for in a neighborhood and community without signing a pricey mortgage.

As a new home buyer, it may make sense to begin with a starter home. If you fall in love with the house, you can invest in upgrades and renovations when your budget allows. Choose a starter home that’s centrally located and you could take shorten your commute to work or even take public transportation. Starter homes are also located near major shopping, business and entertainment hubs. It’s a reason why starter homes are a great way to transition from apartment living to home ownership.




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