JoAnn Asselin | Westfield Real Estate, Agawam Real Estate, West Springfield Real Estate


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Buying your first home is exciting! And scary! But you don’t have to fear the process if you take the time to become fully prepared for homeownership. Below are the seven primary keys to preparing yourself and smoothing the process.

How to Know You’re Ready

  • Determine how much you can afford. The first step to homeownership is figuring out what fits your current budget. Note that although your income may go up over time, buying a home, speculating that you’ll make more money and can afford a bigger payment is a recipe for disaster. In general, you don’t want your housing costs (mortgage payment, insurance, property taxes, HOA) to be more than 25% of your take-home pay.
  • Research which mortgages can save you the most money. A conventional loan, with at least 20% for a down payment, lets you avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI). That’s an extra reduction in monthly outgo, so strive to hit that mark. If you can’t afford twenty percent, put at least ten percent down. Less than that means your monthly outflow is higher in both the mortgage payment and the PMI. You’ll also pay more interest over time. You’ll save the most by putting more down and reducing the life of the loan to 15 years or fewer even though your monthly payment is higher. Remember that closing costs and moving take a chunk out of your saved-up cash, too.
  • Get pre-approved. Any lender can “pre-qualify” you for a loan, but those aren’t guaranteed. They’re just an estimate based on your self-reported income and assets. Pre-approval takes more effort, but the numbers accurately reflect the size of the mortgage you qualify for and what you can pay for a house. Find a great real estate agent. Once you’ve set your maximum budget and have a pre-qualification letter, your real estate agent can work with those numbers to find you the perfect home. Make sure you choose a qualified buyer’s agent that represents you, not the seller. You also want someone experienced in helping first-time buyers. Typically, the seller covers all the agent’s commissions, so you’re getting their expertise for free!
  • Discover the right neighborhood for you. Buying the right house in the wrong neighborhood leads to buyer’s remorse and dissatisfaction. You need to decide what you want in the neighborhood, not just the house. Do you need playgrounds? A school your child can walk to? Other families nearby? Culs-de-sac instead of through-streets? All of these are important to consider before making a decision.
  • Lock down the house. When you know where you want to live and find a house there, don’t fudge when making an offer. With the guidance of your agent, submit a solid offer that the seller respects and will consider, but leave room to negotiate. When you receive a counteroffer, consider it carefully and request concessions such as asking the seller to leave the appliances or furnishings. Your offer is legally binding, so you want to take care with what you include.
  • Know what to expect once you get the keys. In addition to your monthly payments of principal and interest, property taxes, insurance, and HOA dues, owning a home brings other costs. These include ongoing maintenance, repairs, lawn care and landscaping. If your new home is considerably larger than where you currently live, you’ll also have increased utility costs to factor into the mix.

If you’ve worked your way through the first items on the list and you’re ready to find the right real estate agent, reach out today.



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The care and keeping of house plants can be intimidating. However, the fear of failure shouldn’t keep you from trying. There are plenty of houseplants that are easy to maintain no matter your level of experience, climate or space in your home. There is a perfect plant for you, and it might be easier to find than you think.

Here are the three most popular types of houseplants for beginners:

Spider Plants

Spider Plants are extremely hardy and adaptable. They frequently top lists of plants that are “hard to kill” because of their ability to thrive in a variety of climates and levels of maintenance. The only requirements for a spider plant to live well are to plant it in well-draining soil and to place it somewhere with lots of indirect light. Spider plants do not need to be watered often—in fact, over-watering is a much more common problem than under-watering. Allowing the soil to dry completely in between waterings will help keep the plant healthy. If the tips of the leaves become brown, it doesn’t mean the plant is dried out or dying. Usually this is just a sign of mineral buildup in the soil from the fluoride content in your water. If you want to prevent brown tips, try watering with filtered water or rain water instead of from the tap.

Pothos

Pothos is another popular and beautiful beginner-friendly houseplant. It can grow potted in soil or in vases of water and can thrive in low light and indirect light. Pothos do not require any special soil and will continue to grow with vines that can reach lengths up to 30 feet if left untrimmed. Though they look like ivy, they do not cling to walls or trellises. However, since the vines are hardy and lightweight, it’s easy to support them with wall hooks or to train them around window frames. Similar to spider plants, pothos do well if left without water for a while. It’s perfectly fine to let the soil dry out completely in between waterings and only give it a drink when it looks droopy.

Succulents

Succulents are an excellent plant option for beginners with limited space. Succulents come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and can live happily in even tiny pots. The two most popular varieties are aloe and echeveria. The former grows long pointy leaves while the latter grows in a rosette shape. While echeveria love sunny window sills, aloe can burn easily in direct sunlight, so place them in your home accordingly. All succulents share the beginner-friendly trait of being able to go long periods of time without watering. In terms of maintenance, all that most succulents require is removal of any dead leaves from the underside of the plant and making sure the soil drains completely after watering. While they love warmth, they can get root rot if exposed to too much humidity, so try a pothos instead if you’re looking for a bathroom plant.

These are just a few of the many low-maintenance houseplants beginners should try. As long as you know the specific preferences of the plant, caring for them is easy and rewarding.


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It’s always a quandary: can I buy my new home and sell my old house so that the timing of both matches? Well, yes! There are several ways to do this. Here’s a breakdown of how it can work.

Buy a Home on a Contingency.

Just what is a contingency? It’s an agreement you make with the seller that your purchase of their home is “contingent” on — or based on the successful completion of — the sale of your current home. That way, if your house doesn’t sell, you aren’t required to buy the new one.

The distinct advantage is that you get what you want, a well-timed move. But if your house doesn't sell within the given time frame, you could lose out and the house you’re looking to buy goes back on the market.

The clear disadvantage is that it's a less than stellar offer to the seller. Given two proposals to consider, the seller's urgency — not your need, determines if they accept your offer or not. Look at it from their vantage point. They know nothing about the house you're attempting to sell.

Extend the Closing — On Your Offer.

A second option is to make the offer without a contingency but ask for a longer-than-normal time to close. That allows you to sell your current house during the closing period. You'll need to rely on your agent to properly market your home and price it to sell within the time allotted. This type of option works if you don't need the funds from the sale to make the purchase or to qualify for the loan.

Extend the Closing — On Your Sale.

Another way to do this is to extend the closing on the home you’re selling. To do this, you sell your home first with an extended closing; then you find a home to buy, make an offer, and time that closing to match.

In this case, you may risk not being able to close on the new home on time, but the overlap might be small enough that you could bunk with a family member or friend.

Each of these scenarios requires careful timing with your real estate agent, mortgage brokers and the market. Before embarking on any of these plans, thoroughly discuss how it needs to work with your agent but build in some leeway in case you have a few days of uncertainty.


Applying for a mortgage is one of the biggest decision that an individual can make in his or her lifetime. As such, it is important for a first-time homebuyer to dedicate the necessary time and resources to employ the best mortgage lender – without exception.

So what does it take to hire the ideal mortgage lender? Here are three tips to help a first-time homebuyer quickly and effortlessly choose the right mortgage lender.

1. Consider a Variety of Lenders

There is no shortage of top-notch lenders in cities and towns across the United States. Thus, a first-time homebuyer can meet with a variety of credit unions and banks to explore all of the mortgage options at his or her disposal.

Spend some time learning about lenders in your area. Look at each lender's experience and reputation, and you may be better equipped than other homebuyers to select the ideal lender based on your individual needs.

Furthermore, conduct face-to-face meetings with lenders. These meetings will allow you to learn about a wide range of mortgage options and will make it easy for you to make an informed decision.

2. Ask Plenty of Questions

When it comes to getting a mortgage for the first time, there is no need to leave anything to chance. Instead, ask plenty of questions as you consult with assorted lenders, and you can gain the insights you need to pick a lender that matches or exceeds your expectations.

Remember, there is no such thing as a "bad" question, particularly when it comes to mortgages. If you meet with various lenders, you can get all of your mortgage concerns and queries addressed without delay.

A first-time homebuyer who asks lots of questions may be able to avoid potential financial pitfalls down the line too. In fact, this homebuyer should have no trouble selecting a great lender who can fulfill his or her mortgage needs for years to come.

3. Consult with a Real Estate Agent

Let's face it – selecting a lender may prove to be exceedingly difficult. Fortunately, a real estate agent is happy to provide honest, unbiased advice to help you find the right lender in no time at all.

A real estate agent understands the challenges of obtaining a terrific mortgage, and as a result, will do everything possible to help a homebuyer discover a lender that can provide outstanding support day after day. Plus, a real estate agent can even help a homebuyer alleviate stress as he or she searches for the right lender.

Let's not forget about the support that a real estate agent can provide throughout the entire homebuying journey, either. Typically, a real estate agent can keep a homebuyer informed about new residences as they become available, set up home showings, negotiate with a home seller on buyer's behalf and much more.

Get the right mortgage any time you choose – use the aforementioned tips, and a first-time homebuyer can streamline the process of selecting the ideal lender.


After you complete a home showing, you may face a dilemma. If you like a house following a showing, you may want to set up a follow-up showing or submit an offer to purchase. Or, if you are dissatisfied with the results of a home showing, you may want to continue your house search.

It helps to know what to expect after you attend a house showing. Because if you know what to do following a showing, you may be able to speed up the process of going from homebuyer to homeowner.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you make the best-possible decision about a house following a showing.

1. Assess the Pros and Cons of a House

Performing a comprehensive home analysis is a must after a showing. That way, you can weigh the pros and cons of a residence and decide whether a house is right for you.

Think about how you felt as you walked through each room of a house. If you can envision yourself as the owner of a home, you may want to move sooner rather than later to submit an offer to purchase.

Conversely, if you find a house is in need of major repairs or simply does not suit your lifestyle, you should not hesitate to continue your house search. With a diligent approach to home evaluations, you should have no trouble discovering your dream residence in the foreseeable future.

2. Consider the Next Step in Your Homebuying Journey

When it comes to finding the perfect residence, it helps to plan ahead as much as possible. And if you have a plan in place for what to do after a home showing, you'll be better equipped than ever before to prepare for the worst-case scenarios.

For example, a home seller could accept a rival buyer's offer to purchase before you have time to consider your options following a showing. But if you have a backup plan in place, you can move quickly to continue your homebuying journey, regardless of how a showing pans out.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

If you are unsure about the best course of action at a home showing's conclusion, you may want to consult with a real estate agent. This will enable you to gain expert insights into the housing market and make an informed decision about how to proceed with a particular residence.

A real estate agent is happy to teach you about all aspects of the housing market. Following a home showing, a real estate agent can meet with you and help you review all of the options at your disposal. And if you decide to submit an offer to purchase a house, a real estate agent will make it easy to put together a competitive homebuying proposal.

There is no need to worry about what to do after a house showing. Use the aforementioned tips, and you can boost the likelihood of making the best-possible decision following a home showing.