Is It Time to Buy a Second Home?

If you have been dreaming of owning a vacation home now may be the time to buy. Home prices and mortgage rates continue to fall and there are some great deals for buyers looking for a second home.

Here are five things you need to know before taking the leap.

1. Prices are at all-time lows
In many second-home hot spots, prices are still close to their five-year lows. When the real-estate bubble burst, some of the hardest-hit markets were vacation destinations. Many vacation home areas experienced overgrowth and may now be suffering from foreclosures.

2. Think ROI
Consider the possible return on your investment. Whether or not you decide to rent the home out, you will want to consider buying a place that has good rent potential. That’s because a home’s rent ability can affect its resale value. Before you bid on a house, make sure the homeowners association or township allows short-term rentals.

3. Don’t count on rental income
If you are planning on counting on rental income to cover the costs beware. According to HomeAway.com, a typical second home property rents out just 17 weeks a year. Make sure to account for the weeks the home won’t rent. Plus, you’ll need to pay for cleaning, maintenance, insurance, and maybe management fees. Make sure to plan on the maintenance costs of the property being at least 15% of the income.

4. Your mortgage rate depends on how you use the home
How you use the home depends on the mortgage rate you will receive. If you plan to use the property primarily as a second home and you’ll pay about the same mortgage rate as you would on a primary residence. If your plans are to use the home for rental income and need that income to qualify for the loan, you’ll need to have as much as 25% for the down payment and pay up to one percentage point more in interest.

5. Take advantage of tax benefits
Talk to your tax guy before you buy. If you rent the home out for two weeks or less you won’t have to report a cent of income to the IRS. The good news here, you can still deduct property taxes and mortgage interest. On the flipside, if you stay there for less than two weeks or 10% of rental days, you can deduct operating costs in addition to interest and property tax.

But where should you buy? According to CNBC here are the top places to buy a second home. If you are thinking about buying a second home I can help you find a professional agent in that area.

Houseplants You Can’t Kill & Where to Buy Plants

Plants bring life to all living spaces, indoors and out. If you don’t have a green thumb you may have had bad luck with a plant or two. Here are some healthy, hard-to-kill, houseplants that thrive in spite of you:

Sempervivum: This succulent known as Hen & Chicks loves a sunny window, but requires little attention. They need to be watered regularly during the spring and summer, but only once a month the rest of the year.

Dracaena marginata: Commonly known as Dragon Tree, requires watering before the soil dries out completely,however, avoid the pot sitting in excess water. Ideally, this plant thrives in relatively bright light.

Sansevieria: This plant, also known as Mother-in-Law’s tongue is an indestructible houseplant. It enjoys bright light and prefers the soil to dry out before watering.

Ficus: The tree variety is also known as Rubber Plant, and the trailing variety is commonly called Creeping Fig. These plants like humidity and bright light. Water and mist regularly throughout the summer, reduce water during the winter. Ficus appreciate being move outside during the summer, be sure to avoid direct sunlight.

Chamaedorea: Known as Parlor Palm, has been used as an indoor plant successfully for years because of it tolerance of lower light levels and drier air. This palm prefers bright, filtered sunlight, with a northern exposure. Even moisture is ideal, however err on the side of slightly too dry rather than over watering.

Personally, I am a fan of the everlasting Spider Plant.  They are fun and easy to grow in any environment.

Always check with your pediatrician and veterinarian before introducing a new plant into your home as many can be toxic to pets or humans.

If you are looking to shop locally for plants I suggest a visit to River’s Edge Greenhouse at 12 Auburn St. Ext. in Framingham.  You too will appreciate the helpful and knowledgeable staff.

 

 

Moving Can Cost You More Than You Think

If you are planning a move you are probably busy thinking about the new costs of living, how much the rental truck will cost, packing and how you will get there. What you may not be considering is the hidden costs of moving.

Here just a few of the surprise costs of moving and some ideas on how to avoid them:

Late Fees

When you are moving things get lost in the mail or are slow to be forwarded to your new address. If you miss paying your bills on it can add up in unnecessary late fees. Switch all of your bills to online billing that way you are sure not to miss a payment that is lost in the mail.

Overdraft Fees

Don’t close that bank account just yet. You may have checks or bills still being drawn on that bank account. Leave your bank account open for approximately three months to allow all checks to clear. Doing this will help you avoid any overdraft fees.

Contract penalties

All of those contracts you have signed may come back to haunt you. Memberships at the gym, country club, day care facility, community association, etc. can cost you. Typically there is some type of annual or monthly contract associated with membership and cancelling early will usually cost you.  Some of these contracts will have an exception for a move so read the terms and conditions before you pay a hefty cancellation fee.

Auto insurance

Part of the cost of your auto insurance is determined by your address. For example, moving from an area with less population, to a more highly populated area will cost you more in auto insurance. Different states also have different laws regarding insurance coverage. States have different minimum liability requirements so in some states you will need to purchase personal injury protection and uninsured motorist coverage and in others you will not.

Health insurance

Health insurance can also change when you switch states. Just like auto insurance, health insurance mandates vary among states, too.  Some states require some types of medical procedures are covered while another has not mandated coverage.  Be sure to comparison-shop for your health insurance.

While adding up the normal costs of moving expenses like boxes and storage also be sure to check for these hidden costs and try to avoid losing money in your next move.

 

Baking Soda as a Cleaner

Let’s face it, the daily traffic that the average carpet in your home endures is unbelievable. Owning a home is work, you must dust, vacuum, wash, launder and start all over again in a few days to keep up with living in your home. Is it just you living there or do you have a family or a dog? Do you have a welcome mat to stop the carpet traffic. If not, you should. Do you have a shoe off policy upon entering your home? Either way, follow this simple trick and you will be on your way to a cleaner smelling home in moments.

One easy step to keeping up with the basic cleaning is vacuuming the carpets and removing any potential odor. Sometimes, the vacuum can’t remove such odors, you may need to go one step further to rid your home of that lingering odor. You need baking soda. Baking soda is one of those things that is over looked and thankfully under priced. Once the carpet has been vacuumed, spread a thin layer of baking soda on the carpet and let stand for 10 minutes. Vacuum again. This should make a big difference in the lingering odors in your home. Baking soda is a simple yet beneficial cleaning tip.

Utility Rates

LED light bulbsIt is probable that electric rates will rise soon, again. Let’s explore some ways to help lower your utility bill.

First, change your light bulbs to LEDs. These bulbs cost a bit more, but in the long run, they will save you money, using less wattage and last a very long time. If you have a lot of lights, you may want to buy these bulbs over time. But read on.

If you have light company, such as National Grid, call them and ask for an energy audit of your home. They will send someone out who will do a walk through to determine how your home can be made more energy efficient. Some states, such as Massachusetts, have companies who will replace all your light bulbs with LEDs for no cost. Also, they may offer you a discounted rate to upgrade the insulation in the attic and other energy-sapping places that will save you money in heating and lighting.

Check these suggestions out—it will be good for your wallet, as well as saving the environment. It’s the responsible thing to do, and will save you money, overall.

Selling Your Home

Sometimes, the unlikely event of selling your home can suddenly occur. You may not have ever considered moving away from your humble abode, but things happen, as they say. In any event, it pays in more ways than one to be ready; you never know when an opportunity may present itself for you to downsize, move to another area, or even to upgrade your living situation.

Stay on top of things: from time to time, take a walk around your house outdoors to check to see if any repairs are needed. Broken lights, chipped or loose caulking, or tears in the screens can and should be fixed quickly to prevent more costly repairs. Other repairs may require a professional, but you will save a lot of money if you attend to them quickly.

When you do put your home up for sale, home inspections can sour a great opportunity, and a bad report can be very costly and aggravating. A deal can fall through just because you failed to notice the small things that could have been fixed beforehand. Be diligent; pay attention to those mostly little repairs to the outside of your home.

Cosmetic changes may be necessary to make your home more attractive to buyers. These can be anything from sprucing up your landscaping, to a simple freshening up of the outside of your home. Pick up trash; keep the weeds at bay. Cut the lawn. Broken or hanging eaves troughs, rippled shingles on the roof give the impression of neglect, making potential buyers shy away from looking further at your place.

Make Your Own Air Freshner

The aroma of your home can change the mood of all shoppers that enter. Are you selling or buying? Either way, stage a home with one of these scents and feel the mood change and see the sales pitch fly.

Scents that conjure up the comforts of home will put a smile on the face of the buyer, the seller, and the shopper. One way to add fragrance to your home is to boil water with cinnamon sticks. Go one step further and add sliced apples and maybe even a few cloves. This smell will flow through your home and allow each person who enters a moment of childhood memories and a reminder of grandma’s apple pie.

If the smell of cinnamon is not appealing to you, try herbs such as rosemary and thyme boiled with water. Citrus has good staying power too. Use the rind of an orange and/or lemon in the boiling water. These scents are fresh and welcoming. If you are in a pinch, go right outside and find pine or cedar needles, add some bay leaves and nutmeg and boil away. These too will leave a refreshing scent in the air.

They say vinegar will remove just about any smell such as fish, lamb or burnt popcorn. If you have an odor to remove in your home, be sure to leave a dish out in your kitchen with a ½ cup of vinegar in it. If left to its own devices all day, the unwanted smells will neutralize on their own.

Whatever scent you chose, each person that enters will enjoy the aroma, remark about the refreshing scents and for a fleeting moment, consider themselves living in your refreshing environment. That’s a sale!

Cleaning Drains The Green Way

How frustrating is it when the drain is clogged? It really doesn’t matter which drain and whether or not it is in the kitchen or bathroom but inevitably there will be a clog. It seems to be at its worst when it is your turn at the sink.

First let’s look in the cabinet and see if you have what we need to remedy the problem. Do you have baking soda? If you do, you are half way to an unclogged drain. Do you have vinegar? If yes, get your gloves, we are off to unclog the drain(s).

First if you want to remove the hardware, that little drain stopper, go ahead. Keep in mind, it might be a yoga position of sorts to get under the sink. Sometimes the piping under a sink is so tight that it isn’t worth the effort, even if you are a yoga instructor. If you do opt to remove the drain plug, do remember to screw the cover back on the hole so that when you start this project, water isn’t pouring out under your sink and soaking your floor. Start with two to three teaspoons of backing soda. Baking soda is a “lifter” and letting is work its magic will begin the unclogging and lifting of all blockages. Once the backing soda is down the hatch, pour the same amount of vinegar, two to three teaspoons, into the drain.

Can you hear the cleaning process, maybe even see the science experiment taking place? Let this home remedy sit for thirty minutes and return with hot water. Boil water in your tea kettle to ensure the proper temperature. You should be ready to put the hardware back under the sink in no time.