Kate Hogan -Amherst, MA real estate, Hadley, MA real estate, Northampton, MA real estate
Kate Hogan - Amherst & Pioneer Valley Realtor


Finding the ideal home for your family's needs is no easy task, but if you stay organized and focused, the right property is sure to come along!

One of your most valuable resources in your search for a new home is an experienced real estate agent -- someone you trust and feel comfortable working with.

They'll not only set up appointments for you to visit homes in your desired price range and school district, but they'll also help keep you motivated, informed, and on track. Once you know and have shared your requirements (and "wish list") with them, your agent will be able to guide you on a path to finding the home that will best serve your needs -- both short- and longer term.

In addition to proximity to jobs, good schools, and childcare, you'll probably want to pick a location that's close to supermarkets, recreation areas, and major highways. If you have friends or family in the area, then that would also be a key consideration.

While your immediate needs are a good starting point for creating a checklist of requirements, it's also a good idea to give some thought to what you may need in the future. Plans to expand your family, possibly take care of aging parents, or adopt pets are all factors to consider when looking at prospective homes to buy.

If you have college-age children or recent graduates in the family, you might have to save room for them in your new house. Many grads need a couple more years of financial and moral support from their parents (not to mention home-cooked meals) before they're ready to venture out on their own. Houses with a finished basement, a separate in-law apartment, or even a guest cottage on the property are often well-suited for multigenerational households.

In many cases, people tend to buy a home based on their emotional reaction to it, and then justify the purchase with facts. For example, if the price was right and a particular house reminded you of your childhood home, then that combination of elements could prompt you to make an offer on the house -- assuming those childhood memories were happy!

Sometimes prospective buyers might simply love the look and feel of a neighborhood or the fact that there's a spacious, fenced-in back yard in which they can envision their children or dogs happily (and safely) playing.

According to recent surveys, today's buyers are attracted to homes that have energy efficient features, separate laundry rooms, and low-maintenance floors, counter tops, and backyard decks. Gourmet kitchens, stainless steel appliances, a farmhouse sink, a home office area, and outdoor living spaces are also popular features. Although your tastes may differ, many house hunters also like design elements such as subway tiles, hardwood floors, shaker cabinets, pendant lights, and exposed brick.

When it comes to choosing the home that you and your family will live in for the next few years, your top priorities will probably include a sufficient amount of space, plenty of convenience, and a comfortable environment in which you and your loved ones can feel safe, secure, and happy for the foreseeable future!


Photo by Paul Velgos via Shutterstock

If you’ve never sold a home, you might not understand the complexities of what your agent provides for you. You could be tempted to sell your home on your own. After all, with the availability of the Internet, how hard could it be?

According to most research, FSBO (For Sale by Owner) nets a lower selling price than selling through a professional marketing agent. Even accounting for the commission paid to the agent, the profit to the homeowner is higher.

Marketing

Some sellers believe that all an agent does it show the home a few times a week. Anyone can do that, right? But a great agent provides much more. Top agents offer a marketing strategy, professional staging, excellent photography, listing on the MLS and access to their network of buyer's agents.

When you interview your agent, ask them what their plan is. How do they specifically intend to market your property? Who will they invite to the open house? Will they offer a unique open house just for their network of seller's agents?

Pricing

The greatest challenge to FSBO is how to price your home effectively. Yes, you can see what’s out there on Zillow and Trulia, but your agent has been in dozens of homes. They've spoken to hundreds of buyers. The single most damage you can do to a home sale is to price it wrong for the market and then have it languishing, unsold, for months.

Paperwork

Unless you've sold a home recently, you may not know all the paperwork involved in making the sale. You have the offer, counteroffers and the acceptance letter. Then there's the negotiation over items that come up in the inspection. If the buyer wants a warranty, do you know where to go for that? What if the buyer wants a contingency? Do you know how to write that up so that you're not left holding the bag? Do you have a relationship with a title office or escrow officer? Your agents' broker does.

When you add up all the work they do, and the expertise they offer, you'll see that your agent is worth the commission. If you follow their advice, you can be off on your next venture, and they'll take care of the sale for you.


Although you might already own a house, now may prove to be a good time to pursue a second residence. For example, if you have always wanted to own a home in the mountains, you can purchase a second residence to make your dream come true. On the other hand, if you want to own a vacation residence on or near the beach, you could enter the housing market to find a beachfront house that suits you perfectly.

Like any home search, finding a second house that matches your expectations may be difficult. Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to streamline your quest to find a second home, such as:

1. Evaluate Your Finances

Your finances will play a significant role in your ability to purchase any house, at any time. As you get set to pursue a second home, examine your finances closely. Then, you can map out your home search accordingly.

Generally, it helps to consult with banks and credit unions before you launch the search. If you meet with these institutions, you can gain financial insights that you can use to make an informed purchase.

2. Establish Home Buying Criteria

Think about the features you want to find in a second residence. Next, you can craft home buying criteria.

Once you have home buying criteria in hand, you can narrow your house search, too. By honing your home search to residences in specific cities and towns, you can speed up your quest to find the right home at the right price.

It often helps to maintain flexibility as you conduct a search for a second home as well. If necessary, you can modify your home buying criteria throughout the home buying journey.

3. Hire a Real Estate Agent

There is no reason to enter the housing market on your own. Thankfully, real estate agents are available in cities and towns nationwide, and these housing market experts can help you quickly and effortlessly acquire a second residence.

A real estate agent understands what it takes to navigate the home buying journey. This housing market professional first will learn about you and your home buying goals. He or she next will craft a custom home buying strategy based on your individual needs. Finally, a real estate agent will put this strategy into action and ensure you can discover a terrific home at an affordable price.

Furthermore, a real estate agent takes the guesswork out of buying a second home. If you are unsure about whether to submit an offer to purchase a particular residence, a real estate agent can offer a data-driven recommendation. Or, if you have concerns or questions at any point during the home buying journey, a real estate agent is prepared to respond to them.

If you want to pursue a second house, it helps to plan ahead for the home buying journey. By using these tips, you should have no trouble finding a second home that you can enjoy for years to come.


Image by Milada Vigerova from Pixabay

Caring for indoor succulents is not as intimidating as it may seem. Even though growing them can be a challenge, there are lots of care tips that could make things easier. Succulents are not the ideal plants to grow indoors but that should not stop you from growing them. With the right care, they can flourish to their full potential. Keep reading to learn about a few ways to care for your indoor succulents.

1. Choose the Right Succulents

Even though succulents are cute, they may not all be appropriate to grow indoors. Go for succulents that can grow well in the absence of full sunlight. Indoor succulents that thrive are suited to shady areas. Avoid brightly colored succulents thrive in direct sun which may be difficult to attain indoors. Some of the best options include Gasteria and Haworthia.

2. Water More but Less Often

Watering is one of the biggest challenges when growing succulents indoors. They require lots of water to grow but you should not water them as often as other indoor plants. They thrive when you use the ‘soak and dry’ method.

3. Pick the Right Container

When repotting your succulents, use a container with a drainage hole. It should be one to two inches bigger than your nursery container. Do not use glass containers as they could cause root rot over time. Go for containers that allow the roots to breathe.

4. Pay Attention to Lighting

Succulents naturally need lots of light, a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight every day. When growing them indoors, place them close to windows in the brightest parts of your home. If you notice that your succulents are stretching, they may require more light. Move them to a brighter area.

5. Fertilize Them

Fertilize your indoor succulents at least once annually. The best time to fertilize them is in the spring. You may fertilize them again towards the end of summer. Since they are dormant in winter, you don’t have to fertilize them during that period.

6. Water Correctly

The correct way to water your succulents is directly into the soil. Use enough water to soak the dirt. Avoid watering succulents with spray bottles as it could cause moldy leaves.

7. Eliminate Bugs

Indoor succulents rarely attract bugs. However, they may be a problem in rare circumstances. Gnats are the most common bugs that may affect succulents especially if the soil is too heavy. One of the simplest ways to fix it is by having a proper drainage system.

Indoor succulents add color and texture to your home. They have minimal requirements and they can improve the energy in any room. Have fun with the process of growing them and do not put too much pressure on yourself. After all, succulent gardening should be a relaxing and fun process


You’ve been thinking it for a while: “I really should start putting some money aside for a down payment.” But, you just can’t seem to find any wiggle room in your budget.

You’re not alone. Saving for a down payment isn’t easy. Especially if you’ve got rent, car payments, student loans, and are trying to put money aside for retirement.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about how to make a game plan for your down payment. This way, you can start saving immediately, bringing you closer to your goal of homeownership each day.

Step 1: Give each dollar a job

The first rule of budgeting is that you need to know where each dollar you earn ends up. From there, you can start re-allocating funds to the things you want to save for.

There are many apps and tools available to help you out with this process, including YNAB (You Need A Budget) and Mint. If apps aren’t your thing, you can always use a simple spreadsheet.

First, account for all of your income. This could include your salary, rental income, or other forms of money that you have coming in.

Next, detail each of your weekly and monthly expenses. Everything from groceries to the internet bill and retirement contributions.

Step 2: Reassess your expenses

Now it’s time to make some tough decisions. Are there ways you can cut down on your weekly or monthly expenses? Maybe you aren’t using that Amazon Prime membership as much as you thought you would. Or, maybe you’ve decided you don’t really watch anything on cable but the news. There are a number of ways one might cut back on their monthly bills.

Get creative with family plans, bulk shopping for food, or cooking budget-friendly meals. All of these savings will add up quickly.

Step 3: Pay off small debts with high interest

Let’s face it, if you have thousands of dollars in student loans, you might not be able to aggressively pay them down by the time you want to move out of your apartment.

But, for small debts (under $1,000 credit card debt, for example), you could save more in the long run by paying them off and avoiding interest payments.

Step 4: Be smart about your savings

With the right savings account and credit card, you can earn money through savings interest and through cashback rewards on credit cards.

First, find a savings account with the highest possible interest rate. These can often be found from choosing an online bank who doesn’t have the overhead of running branches.

Next, direct deposit a set amount of your paycheck each week into that savings account. This way, you can be sure that you won’t dip into your down payment savings.

To generate additional income, you can use cash back rewards from credit cards for things like groceries and gas. Choose a credit card that offers the best cash back rewards for things like groceries and gas purchases. The key here is to only use your credit card on necessities and to always pay off the card in full at the end of each month.

If you follow these four steps, you should be able to streamline your down payment savings process and start saving right now.




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