Feb. 14, 2019

A Bargain Hunter's Guide to Buying

If you are a bargain-hunter who believes only chumps pay full price, the thought of purchasing ABOVE asking price (something that happens quite frequently here in the Greater Boston area) can be painful. You're used to shopping around and making a slow and thoughtful decision about what to buy and for how much—why would a home purchase be any different? There are certainly ways to bring fiscal savvy to the process of buying a home without just submitting a lowball offer. I’ve pulled together four legitimate strategies you can use to get that bargain you’re hunting for:

 

1. Put down at least 20%

It's not exactly groundbreaking news, but it’s hard to beat the benefits of offering a substantial down payment (or being a cash buyer). By putting at least 20% down, you can avoid having to pay additional mortgage insurance on your loan. This will also help you stand out against other buyers offering a higher purchase price but who have a shakier pre-approval or mortgage contingency.

 

2. Find the seller's motivation

Let’s be clear: price is king in this market, but if you can try to understand the sellers' specific needs and situation you can hedge your bets a bit. Do they need to relocate for a new job immediately? Move up your P&S and closing dates. Do they want to stay put through the school year for their kids? Let them stay in the home after the sale—in exchange, of course, for a reduction in price. Always have your agent to speak with the listing agent to find out what terms might make the sellers find the silver lining in a lower offer price.

 

3. Find a lackluster kitchen

An outdated or ugly kitchen can drive buyers away, causing a home to sit on the market for months and sell for less than it’s worth. Think about the size and layout, and whether or not there are things you can work with—then consider the things you can easily fix.  For example:  you can repaint wood cabinets, replace the faucet, add distinctive cabinet pulls, and redo the floors and counters for a relatively small investment.

 

4. Look out for price reductions

If a listing has been sitting on the market without interest, the sellers might be itching to get it under agreement, especially if the price has already been reduced. Your agent should be able to help you identify these opportunities, and once a price reduction has occurred, the listing will likely fetch even less than the reduced price.

 

 

What other approaches have helped you seal the seal under market price?

Jan. 31, 2019

4 Steps to Take Before Buying a Home

Are you thinking of buying your first home? It’s a great time to get started with your search, as a relatively mild winter up until this point has jump-started the spring market and sellers are already listing their homes.  While it’s exciting to shop around for a place to call your own, buying a house is a big deal! In Massachusetts, the median home price in 2018 was $344,900 at 99 percent of the asking price. Before making the biggest investment of your life, learn more about how to prepare to buy your first home.

 

Step 1: Start saving money. Good savers set aside 10-20% of every paycheck, regardless of future plans and impending purchases, but this gets kicked into overdrive when thinking of making a home purchase. While you don’t technically have to have a hefty downpayment to buy or to get a mortgage, the reality in the Greater Boston area is that you will likely not be competitive if there are a lot of other buyers in the mix and you have less than 10% saved for a downpayment.  You also want to be able to cover other expenses such as home inspections and closing costs which is typically about 1-3% of the cost of the house. And don’t forget that you’ll want to save money consistently after purchase to deal with any maintenance needed.

 

Step 2: Get your finances in check. Lenders will be reviewing your income, debt, and credit utilization. Avoid red flags on your credit report by keeping your debt-to-income ratio low and your available credit high. Also avoid any new credit applications at least for 3-6 months prior to applying for a home loan and any large purchases or income changes up until closing.

 

Step 3: Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Getting pre-approved for a home loan gives you perspective on how much home you can afford and keeps you from wasting your time looking at homes that are out of your range.  Make sure that you work with a local lender who has good relationships and answers calls and emails on the weekends.

 

Step 4: Find a great realtor. Ask friends and family for realtor recommendations and look those people up online! This person is going to be vital to making the home buying process straightforward and efficient so do not be shy when it comes to interviewing a few people until you find the one who makes you feel like you're in safe hands. Avoid saying yes to the first realtor you meet (until after you've spoken to a few).

 

I wish you luck on your home-buying journey and hope you consider working with me!

 

Jan. 24, 2019

Featured Listing: 3 Tannery Brook Row, Unit 4

Living Room_3 TBR

Chic Davis Square Loft with Off-Street Parking

Rarely available to the open market and highly sought-after, this 2BR/2BA condo at Tannery Brook Row redefines the industrial loft concept by marrying strong details of exposed brick and beam with soft traditional touches in the kitchen and bathrooms. Drenched in sunlight with two exposures, this condominium boasts a generous footprint with a flexible open-concept living/dining/office and kitchen--all complemented with oversized windows and beautiful wood flooring.  The high-end kitchen features shaker-style white cabinetry, a Viking range with vented hood, dishwasher, and ample counter space including an overly generous island with storage.  The master bedroom plays host to a large double closet with washer & dryer, a second walk-in closet, and a magnificent en-suite bathroom. The second bedroom is well-sized and features two double closets. Located in the heart of Davis Square, this association is nestled in a wooded enclave directly off of the Somerville Community Bike Path yet minutes from diverse dining options, music and theatre venues, and the Red line MBTA. Other highlights include central air and off-street parking for one car.
If you think this could be the right fit for you, call Krystyn today at 843-209-5044 or visit:

3tannerybrook.com

Open Houses will be hosted this weekend on Saturday and Sunday from 11:00am to 1:00pm.

Nov. 1, 2018

Natural Air Fresheners to Use at Home

Coming up on the holiday season, your home is bound to be filled with the smells of cooking, old food, or trash. But before reaching for an air freshener that may contain potentially harmful ingredients consider using a do-it-yourself, green alternative. Commercial air fresheners mask smells and coat nasal passages to diminish the sense of smell. They can often irritate your airways, and can be problematic if not stored safely around children.  Here are a few ideas to keep your kitchen smelling fresh without harsh chemicals:

  • Prevent cooking odors by simmering vinegar (1 tbsp in 1 cup water) on the stove while cooking. To get such smells as fish and onion off utensils and cutting boards, wipe them with vinegar and wash in soapy water.
  • Keep fresh coffee grounds on the counter.
  • Grind up a slice of lemon in the garbage disposal.
  • Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on stove.
  • Leave baking soda or vinegar with lemon juice in small dishes absorbs odors around the house.
  • Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in room.
  • Have house plants to reduce odors in the home by purifying the air.

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Have any other fresh tips? Post them in the comments below!

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This will be my last blog until mid-December. Catch you on the flip-side!

Sept. 27, 2018

Featured Listing: 18 Hale Street

Living Room_18HaleSt

Spacious Upper Falls Condo with Off-Street Parking & In-Unit Laundry

If you're one of the many buyers looking for a turn-key property in Boston, you have surely seen the lack of inventory.  With this listing returning to market, brought to you exclusively by Krystyn Elek & Chris Masterman of Unlimited Sotheby's International Realty in Newton Centre, at least one new buyer will find that home they have been looking for.

This beautifully-updated 3 bedroom plus office sits on the top two floors of a two-family condominium building in the Historic Newton Upper Falls neighborhood. During the day, the unit is flooded with sunlight, showcasing its gracious open floor plan, shining wood floors, and large kitchen with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and lovely shaker-style maple cabinets. The living room and dining room flow nicely from the kitchen, making the home perfect for entertaining. Rounding out the first floor are two sizable bedrooms and a full bathroom. Upstairs, you will find an oversized master bedroom with plenty of space for an additional seating area, and a spacious home office or media room.

The home also plays host to ample basement storage and two-car tandem parking. Enjoy time on the Charles River, shopping, and a burgeoning local restaurant scene, or spend some quality time relaxing on your lovely front porch. With easy access to the MBTA, the express bus, Route 9, I-95, and I-90, this is a commuter’s dream.

If you think this could be the right fit for you, call Krystyn today at 843-209-5044 or visit:

18hale.com

Open Houses will be hosted this weekend on Saturday and Sunday from 11:00am to 12:30pm.

Sept. 20, 2018

Issues to Consider when Buying an Older Home

Buying a single family home in Boston, Newton, or Brookline can seem like an enormous task. In general, the home-buying process can be arduous, confusing, and anxiety-provoking, but when you add into the equation the fact that many of the homes built in this area are of the 1900-era, you have another level of worry for most buyers. You do need to pay special attention if you plan to buy an older home, as they can come with some unanticipated surprises.  To avoid any headaches down the road, learn about the following issues before offering on a home if you have the chance.

Hazardous Materials

When looking at older houses, ask about the construction date of the homes. If the homes you are considering date to years before the 1980s, they may contain materials such as lead paint and asbestos. When ingested, lead paint can cause developmental issues.  Asbestos has been linked to cancer if it is disturbed and becomes airborne and is inhaled.

Electric Wiring

Knob-and-tube wiring is an early standardized method of electrical wiring in buildings, in common use in North America from about 1880 to the 1930s. Modern home buyers often find that existing K&T systems lack the capacity for today's levels of power use. First-generation wiring systems became susceptible to abuse by homeowners who would replace blown fuses with fuses rated for higher current. This subjects wiring to higher levels of current and risks heat damage or fire. As existing K&T wiring gets older, insurance companies may deny coverage due to a perception of increased risk.

Insulation Quality

Proper insulation can help you keep your home cool and warm. You’ll want to check to make sure the house you plan to buy has proper insulation. Otherwise, you could spend a small fortune to insulate it, heat, or cool it every year.

Pest Infestations

If you see any signs of infestation when you’re looking at an older house, take the problem seriously. Dealing with unwanted animals, such as mice, termites, powder post beetles, or carpenter ants can be a hassle--and an extra cost.

Plumbing and Leaks

Many older houses still have original cast-iron pipes. Over time, these pipes tend to corrode, which results in leaks and low water pressure. If the leaking is severe, you could also have a moisture problem, which can cause wall paint to peel and stain and contribute to mold growth. Wet areas can also be a safe-haven for some rodents. Or, your home may have lead water lines, which can present contamination issues.

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At the end of the day, older houses can be stylish and cozy. However, getting these features sometimes comes with a price.  In an area such as ourts, you may offer on a home that has a number of these issues, and at the end of the day most of them are not deal-breakers, but you always want to be educated going into the process of buying so you are not caught off guard with a costly repair down the line.

 

Sept. 13, 2018

Featured Listing: 73 Beecher Place

Spacious Newton Centre Condo with 2 Off-Street Parking & Laundry

If you're one of the many buyers looking for a turn-key property in Newton, you have surely seen the lack of inventory.  With this listing coming to market, brought to you exclusively by Krystyn Elek & Chris Masterman of Unlimited Sotheby's International Realty in Newton Centre, at least one new buyer will find that home they have been looking for. This pristine townhome boasts nearly 1700 square feet across three levels of living, and a charming wrap-around porch. Nestled on a cul-de-sac next to The Cohen Conservation Area in Newton Centre, this 4-Bed/2.5-Bath strikes a perfect balance of size and location, just minutes to Bowen Elementary, Newton Centre, The Chestnut Hill Mall, Wegman’s, and local bus routes. The first floor features a half-bath, and an open-concept kitchen & living room with breakfast bar and dining nook, which leads directly to the back deck. The kitchen itself plays host to modern finishes of granite and stainless steel, with traditional shaker-style cabinets. On the second floor, you will find three generously-sized bedrooms and a full bathroom. The third level of living was converted into a spacious master suite with en-suite bathroom and large closets. Finally, two off-street parking spaces are located behind the home with direct access to the large, unfinished basement. 

If you think this could be the right fit for you, call Krystyn today at 843-209-5044 or visit:

73beecherplace.com

Open Houses will be hosted this weekend on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30am to 1:00pm.

Sept. 6, 2018

6 Recipes for Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

Last week, I alluded to cleaning products in my post on eco-friendly kitchens. How can you clean with natural, non-toxic products and save money? Make your own. It is easy and straightforward. As a bonus, you will also recycle fewer bottles and jars as you won’t be buying as much packaging. You can use an old plastic spray bottle from a cleaning product, and mix your new home-made recipes right into it!

I'll give you a quick run-down of recipes that work for our most commonly-used products, and how to use them effectively:

DISINFECTANT SPRAY

  • 2 cups Water
  • ¼ cup White Vinegar
  • ¼ tsp. Tea Tree Oil
  • ¼ tsp. Lavender Oil

Directions: Combine and store in a spray bottle. Shake occasionally. Use where ever a disinfectant spray is needed.

WINDOW CLEANING SPRAY

  • ¼ tbs. Castile Soap
  • 3 tbs. White Vinegar
  • 2 cups Water

Directions: Combine and store in a spray bottle. Shake before use. Use a cotton cloth to clean. Do not clean windows if the sun is shining directly on them as this will cause streaks to show upon drying.

ALL-PURPOSE SPRAY CLEANER

  • 2 cups Hot Water
  • 2 tbs. White Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Borax
  • ½ tsp. Washing Soda
  • ½ tsp. Castile Soap

Directions: Combine the borax, washing soda, vinegar, and liquid castile soap in a spray bottle. Add very hot tap water, shaking the bottle gently until the minerals have dissolved. Spray on to the area to be cleaned and wipe with a sponge, rag, or cellulose sponge cloth.

STOVE & OVEN CLEANER

  • Water
  • 1-2 cups Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Castile Soap

Directions: Sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, then cover the grime with enough baking soda that the surface is totally white. Sprinkle some more water over the top. Let the mixture sit overnight. You can easily wipe up the grease the next morning because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid castile soap on a sponge and wash the remaining residue from the oven.

RUST REMOVER

  • Salt
  • Lime Juice

Directions: Sprinkle a little salt on the rust, squeeze a lime over the salt until it is well soaked. Leave the mixture on for 2-3 hours. Use leftover lime rind to scrub away residue.

LAUNDRY DETERGENT

  • 1 cup Dr. Bronner's Castile Bar Soap
  • ½ cup Washing Soda
  • ½ cup Borax

Directions: Use a cheese grater to grate the soap. Mix with other ingredients in a large container. Use 1 tbsp of mixture for light loads; 2 tbsp for heavy loads.

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Once you have a system in place for cleaning with your own natural ingredients you’ll realize how easy and economic it is; you can get the job done and know that what is going down your drain won’t have a negative impact on our bodies and on our environment!

Aug. 30, 2018

Bring your Kitchen up to speed with eco-friendly choices

If you are bored by the current state of your kitchen and about to remodel, make sure you move forward with eco-friendly choices in mind. Sure, going green might seem somewhat expensive now, but it’s worth it in the long-run.  Making the right choices now is good for the planet, which is ultimately good for you. There are five main considerations to keep in mind as you move forward with a renovation:

  1. Paint - The paint you choose for your kitchen should be durable to accommodate different temperature changes, but pick a paint that’s low-VOC. Some manufacturers make products which contain 50 grams of VOC per liter which is well under the cap set by the EPA, so those products will be perfect for an area like a kitchen.
  2. LightingMost kitchens get plenty of light during the day thanks to their big windows. If you have a kitchen like that, try putting some light-colored cabinets to maximize the effect. This way, you’ll avoid turning the lights on during the day, and you’ll save energy and money by doing that. If your budget allows, replace all old incandescent bulbs with LED lighting. These have numerous benefits including lower electricity bills and lower emission of greenhouse gasses.
  3. Flooring - Putting eco-friendly flooring in your kitchen is probably the most important step in making your home “green” if your considering a larger-scale renovation.  Flooring options such as cork, bamboo, or reclaimed hardwood have made it easier to be stylish and environmentally-responsible. But don't make this change unless you were going to rethink your floors to begin with. The most "green" material is the one you already have installed.
  4. Appliances - Buy appliances with high energy-efficiency ratings. In a normal use situation, your automatic dishwasher is likely to be more efficient than washing dishes by hand. With your stove, make sure it's working properly and always have a professional service it.
  5. Cleaning Products - A growing number of manufacturers offer plant-based and non-toxic products for cleaning, but why not go one step further and make them yourself? Combining basic products and creating inexpensive and chemical-free alternatives is a breeze. Try making your own cleaning solution with vinegar, water, and a few drops of dish soap to start!

It's as simple as that! You can do more, or less, to bring your space up to standards. Just do what you can! Every little bit helps.

Aug. 23, 2018

8 Surprising Facts about Boston

Do you think you know the significant historic moments in Beantown history?  These might surprise you:

  1. The first subway in the United States was built in Boston. The Tremont Street Subway in Boston's MBTA Subway system is the oldest subway tunnel in North America and the third oldest worldwide to exclusively use electric traction (after the City and South London Railway in 1890, and the Budapest Metro's Line 1 in 1896), opening on September 1, 1897.
  2. A deadly wave of molasses once flooded the North End.The Great Molasses Flood occurred on January 15, 1919 in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. At about 12:30 in the afternoon a molasses tank 50 ft tall, 90 ft in diameter collapsed. Witnesses variously reported that as it collapsed they felt the ground shake and heard a roar, a long rumble similar to the passing of an elevated train, a tremendous crashing, and a deep growling and as the rivets shot out of the tank, a machine gun-like sound.
  3. Boston was home to the first chocolate factory in the United States. The Baker Chocolate Company is the oldest producer of chocolate in the United States. The company was established when a physician named Dr. James Baker met John Hannon on the banks of the Neponset River. Hannon was penniless but was a skilled chocolatier, a craft which he had learned in England and which was, until now, exclusive to Europe. With the help of Baker, Hannon was able to set up a business where he produced Hannon's Best Chocolate for 15 years.
  4. Greater Boston is home to the first public beach in the United States. The United States’ first public beach was Revere Beach, just 5 milesnorth of the city. Thea beach stretches 3 miles long.
  5. Christmas was once banned in Boston. The Puritans of New England then passed a series of laws making any observance of Christmas illegal, thus banning Christmas celebrations from 1659-1681. Offenders were punished with a hefty five shilling fine. Puritans believed it to be a corrupted holiday.
  6. The Boston University Bridge is one-of-a-kind. The Boston University Bridge’s claim to fame is that it’s the only place anywhere in the world where a boat can sail under a train going under a vehicle driving under an airplane.
  7. The first American lighthouse was built in the Boston harbor.Little Brewster Island is home to Boston Light, the oldest continually used light station in the U.S.—first lit on September 14th, 1716.  It’s part of the Brewsters, a group of the outermost islands in the park. It’s also an active U.S. Coast Guard navigational aid facility which beams light 27 miles out into the Atlantic.
  8. Candlepin bowling was invented just outside of Boston! Candlepin bowling was developed in 1880 in Worcester, Massachusetts, by Justin White, a local bowling center owner.

What are your favorite fun facts about Boston?