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


Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

We all know how hard the beginning of the month can be; it seems like there are a million bills due all at the same time, and one of those bills is usually the most expensive among them all—your mortgage. After you budget for all of your expenses, that gigantic payment can really make a big impact on your bank account. That's just one reason why some homeowners choose to pay their mortgage in halves twice a month, rather than monthly as a whole.

Paying Your Mortgage Differently Than Traditional Monthly Payments

You might be able to choose to pay your mortgage bi-weekly or semi-monthly. Generally speaking, these are the same thing. However, a few days' difference here and there actually means that you would make 26 payments throughout the year if you paid bi-weekly, which is the same as 13 months' worth of payments. Semi-monthly payments would be paid twice a month, which comes out to 12 months' payments at the end of the year. Both are beneficial for several reasons, but obviously, you'll be paying a whole extra month if you pay bi-weekly, which can really cause the savings to add up over the life of a loan.

The difference comes in the timing in which your payments would be due. If you're paid on the 15th and last day of the month, bi-weekly payments can be tricky because there will be two times a year in which your payment will be due before your paycheck arrives. However, you can still opt for semi-monthly payments that get paid in accordance with your pay schedule.

The Benefits of Paying Your Mortgage Twice a Month

Let's start with the obvious benefit: you'll spread one amount of money across two payments. That means you'll have more money leftover during the initial payment date than usual and you can put that extra cash toward principle or put it in a savings account until the next payment's due so it can collect a little interest. Not only that, but because there's less time between payments, there will be less interest since interest is calculated at a daily rate. Since each payment will push a little more money toward principle, you'll actually end up paying your mortgage off faster than you would if you paid monthly in most cases. Be sure to check your loan documents to verify that you don't have a pre-payment penalty before you put this plan into place!

Before you commit to (or keep going with) monthly payments on your mortgage, stop and think about the benefits you could gain from splitting your payments in half. This is a great way to spread out the cost of one of your biggest expenses while simultaneously ensuring you're chipping away at your principle. 


Shopping for a home is an exciting time for any hopeful homeowner. After weeks of scouring listings looking for the perfect home in the ideal location for you and your family, it can seem like you’ve found the needle in the haystack.

When it’s time to go visit that home, it’s easy to put on rose-colored lenses and overlook issues that should, at the very least, be taken into consideration when it comes to deciding whether or not you should make a bid on the home and how much you should offer.

Today’s post is all about preparing you for that first viewing. We’ll give you tips on what to look out for and how to factor these things into your equation when it comes to making an offer.

Check the listing for omissions

Even if a home looks perfect on paper (or on its website listing), it’s still quite likely that there are things you’ll want to know about before considering an offer. A home listing should attempt to address several questions you might have. But ultimately, it’s main goal is to attract interest in the home.

So, what type of things should be in the listing that the seller might leave out?

  • Poor street conditions, heavy traffic, and blind driveways are all things that will factor into your decision but most likely won’t be mentioned in a listing

  • Odors of any kind can be off-putting and difficult to remove. Some homeowners may not even know that their home has an offensive odor if they’ve become used to it.

  • Room omissions. If the home is listed as having two bathrooms but there are only photos of one, this could be a sign that there are problems with the second bathroom that the seller doesn’t want you to see quite yet.

Top dollar home repairs

A professional home inspection will be able to give you an idea of the kind of money you’ll need to spend on renovations in the coming years. But why wait? When touring a home, ask questions about the last time important renovations and repairs were made.

Roofs, septic systems, and electrical work are just a few of the things that are expensive to repair or replace. If the previous homeowner has a small family or lives alone and you plan on moving in with a houseful of kids, you might find that your impact on the septic and electrical systems of the home are too much for the house to handle. You’ll want to take this into account before considering a bid on the home.

Utility costs

The cost of heating a home in the winter and keeping it cool in the summer can be hefty if the home isn’t properly sealed and weatherproofed. Ask the current homeowner what they spend per month on utilities to get an idea of what you might be spending.

Then, take a look at the windows and doors. Cracks, malfunctioning locks, and worn weatherstripping are all signs that the home will need some work to be energy-efficient.

Don’t ignore the little things

Small fixes may not seem like a big deal when viewing a home. They can even deceive you into thinking that you’re getting a good deal by buying a fixer-upper for a price that’s lower than the market average.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that small fixes around the house are a sign that bigger problems are also being neglected. Don’t be too quick to assume the house will be a good deal before getting it professionally inspected.


Image by pascalhelmer from Pixabay

You’ve spent months scouring home listings and viewing houses. Once you found your dream home, you signed the contracts and successfully closed. Congratulations! It’s time to get started on this next exciting chapter of your life.

While you’re probably eager to move your belongings into your new home, it’s a good idea to pause for a moment and plan to give your new house a deep cleaning. Here are five areas you’ll want to focus on before you start hauling in your possessions.

1. Bathrooms

Bathrooms are a priority because you’ll want to eliminate any potential germs lurking about. Even if everything looks clean, you can’t know for sure if it’s only been surface-cleaned, so you’ll want to give it your own deep cleaning. This way you can ensure any bacteria or other icky germs aren’t lingering. Focus on the toilet, sink, and tub. Don’t forget the toilet seat—ideally, install a new one.

Tip: Change the shower curtain and liner or, if you’re keeping the existing curtain because it matches the décor, give it a good machine wash.

2. Kitchens

Kitchens are another room where germs tend to linger. To start, clean the interiors of the oven and refrigerator. Next, use disinfectant to wash down the sink, faucet, counters, cabinets and all appliance exteriors. Don’t forget any handles and knobs.

Once you’ve got the kitchen clean, cover the cabinet and pantry shelves with new liner. Not only will it help protect your dishes and other wares, but it’ll give these spaces a fresh clean look and feel when you place your items in it.

3. Floors & Carpets

If you aren’t immediately replacing carpets, give them a deep cleaning with a rug cleaner. If you don’t own or have access to one, you can rent one from a grocery or hardware store. Wash any hardwood floors. To avoid harsh chemicals, you can use water and white vinegar, they’ll eliminate most bacteria and remove most dirt and grime.

Give the bathroom and kitchen floors additional attention by thoroughly washing these floor surfaces with a disinfecting cleaner. Be sure not to miss any nooks and crannies. Clean tile, vinyl or linoleum with a bacteria-killing cleaner and don’t forget any grout—a baking soda paste works nicely.

4. Air Filters

It’s hard to know when air filters were last changed. It’s always a good idea to replace them, just to be on the safe side. Mark the filters with the date, so you know when it’s time to swap them out again.

Tip: Don’t forget the vent filter above the stove if you have one.

5. Door Knobs

Door knobs are easy to overlook but they are a prime area for lingering germs. Go through your home and disinfect doorknobs, cabinet pulls and drawer handles. Don’t forget the handles on sliding glass or shower doors.

Tip: Use disinfectant wipes on doorknobs if you’re short on time

Once you’ve given your house a deep cleaning, you can confidently move your possessions into your home with a fresh, clean start.


The process of buying a home is anything but cut and dry. There will undoubtedly be some twists and turns along the way. First, you need to be pre-approved for a mortgage. Then, you’ll need to find a home that fits both your needs and your budget. Finally, you’ll put in an offer on a place and hope for the best throughout the rest of the process.


There are plenty of things that you can do as a buyer to make buying a home both easier and more streamlined. Below, you’ll find some of the best tips that are specifically for those seeking to buy a home. 


Give Them An Offer They Can’t Refuse


When there is a low quantity of homes and a high number of buyers, competition can get fierce. When the market is like this, you’re not guaranteed to get a property that you put an offer on. It may take making several offers on homes in order for you to finally get the keys to your dream house. 


You never want your offer to be too low. A low offer could be insulting to sellers and instead of being countered, could just be outright refused. Make an offer too high and you still have a problem. A high offer may be accepted, however, it’s not going to be approved by your mortgage company for you to borrow that much for the purchase. If an offer is accepted and a home appraises for less, you may be left with thousands of dollars that you need to pay on the spot in order to secure the home. 


The best way to present an attractive offer is to work with an expert realtor who can do the appropriate research and let you know what a good offer on the home would be.           


Know Your Contingencies


After an offer on a home has been accepted, you need to get to work on the contingencies that you’re going to want on the home. Your realtor will also be a huge advocate in this area. Contingencies will include things like the right to do a home inspection, the appraisal contingency, and the contingency that you’ll only be able to move forward with buying the home if you have appropriate financing. These protect you as a buyer so that if something falls through, you’ll be able to back out of the deal without a penalty.


Don’t Go Credit Happy


Once your offer is accepted and your financing is in place, don’t head out to buy tons of new furniture and appliances for your new home. Your credit matters until you get the keys to the house. Opening new credit cards or adding significant debt can affect your credit score negatively, possibly putting a damper on your home purchase. Hold off on making purchases until after you move into the house.    



Image by edvaldocostacordeiro from Pixabay

Once you have purchased your home, you have made a significant investment. There are some home improvements you can make which can increase the value of your home and make the space you have more livable for you and your family. While many are concerned about “curb appeal” for potential sale in the future, there are other effective methods of improving your home which often offer more value.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

Over the time you own your home, you will pay heating and cooling bills to keep your living spaces comfortable. Consider increasing the value of your home and lowering those expenses through energy efficient updates like upgrading appliances, replacing drafty doors and windows, adding solar panels or energy efficient heating and cooling systems.

In many cases, your electric company will offer you an energy audit which can help you identify ways to lower the cost of heating and cooling bills. Some may even offer special discounts on upgrades as well as provide free or low-cost supplies such as insulation. Taking these steps not only makes your home more comfortable for you and your family, they may also increase the value of your home should you decide to sell later.

Upgrading Interior Space

For those homeowners who have unfinished basements, there is an opportunity to make the space more usable for your family. Finishing the basement allows you numerous opportunities for creativity. You can remodel a basement to use as a home office, a family room, or a game room. Not only does this type of work make the space more usable, but it also can add resale value.

Other interior upgrades to consider include upgrading your kitchen and bath. Replacing old fixtures, customizing your cabinet space, and adding new counter tops can improve the usability of existing rooms and make them more appealing for your family.

Use Caution When Upgrading Exterior of Home

For those who are considering exterior upgrades such as installing a swimming pool, fence, or other addition, keep in mind that some projects could increase your insurance premium as well as your property taxes.

Whether you are considering energy-efficient upgrades for your home to save money, or you are considering another type of home improvement do your research and find out what improvements provide the most value. Speak with your insurance agent to make sure any improvements will be covered by your existing insurance policy as well. In some cases, you may have to increase your coverage.