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


House hunting can be time-consuming. With so many houses currently on the market and so little time to spend visiting homes, it’s important to narrow down your search as much as possible before attending a showing.

Fortunately, in today’s digital world, it’s possible to learn a great deal of important information right from your phone or computer.

In today’s post, I’m going to give you some advice on researching the homes you’re thinking about making an offer on. We’ll talk about researching the neighborhood, and--of course--the house itself.

Putting together all the stats on the home

Let’s start with, arguably, the most important thing to research: the house itself. When you want to learn about a home, the best place to look is usually the real estate listing. Since most of us discover homes through listings, odds are you’re already on this page. However, there’s a lot of information in a listing, so take the time to go through it and gleam whatever you can from the home’s description.

Next, Google the house address and click on listings from other real estate sites. Oftentimes, a house that has been sold before will have multiple listings across the internet with different data.

Once you’ve scoured the listings, head over to the county assessor’s website to look at records of the home’s ownership. This will tell you who bought and sold the home and when. There’s much you can learn from this data, especially if a home is being sold frequently. You can also use this information to contact previous owners to ask them questions about the home that the current owner might not know the answer to.

Snooping around the neighborhood

If the house is nearby, simply driving through the neighborhood can tell you a lot. You can visit the neighborhood during rush hour to see what the traffic is like, for example.

However, it isn’t always practical to take the time to visit a house that you aren’t sure you’re interested in. So, what’s the next best thing? Google Maps.

Visit the neighborhood on Google Maps to see what’s in the area. Are there a lot of closed businesses? That could be a sign of a neighborhood in decline. Check for nearby things like parks, grocery stores, and other amenities that could influence your buying decision.

Next, use Google’s “street view” feature and explore the neighborhood. You can see what kind of shape the other homes are in, and find out the condition of infrastructure like roads and sidewalks.

Note addresses of comparable homes in the neighborhood and look up their purchase prices. This will give you an idea of whether the home is being priced appropriately.

If you’re having trouble finding information on a home, such as sale records, try contacting the local assessor. They should be able to point you to a database that will help you in your search.


You may be someone that just loves planning, shopping, and cooking for your family. You have the tried and true recipes that dazzle your family all tucked up in your head. When you enter the grocery store, you have a regular route as you gather all the ingredients needed to create your family's favorite meals. You can stealthily take advantage of the weekly sales and layer on the coupons for incredible discounts. However, if you struggle with cooking meals that your family considers edible, then maybe you will appreciate a little direction.

What is on the Menu?

Most people shop for groceries right around their payday. So you arrive at a well-stocked store, since the grocer knows your shopping habits, now what? Where to start? Honestly, you need to rewind a bit and start about a day or two in the past. Schedule yourself a planning time either by yourself or with the whole family. You can take this time to decide what dishes you and everyone else would like to have served. Like most families, you will have your tried-and-true meals that have a heavier rotation on a meal plan schedule. Once you have a list of meals for a predetermined time-frame, you can now build a grocery list. Before you hop in the car and zoom off to conquer that list, you may want to check your current supply. Have your family help with this. You can make it into a sort of scavenger hunt. Once you have taken a quick inventory, you can clearly see what you need to purchase.

Search for the Sales

Now, if you have a favorite grocery store and there is nowhere else you would shop, then go for it. However, if you don't mind making a few stops, you can peruse the weekly circulars and see which grocers have competitive prices on the items you need to buy. Here is where you can spot any huge money-saving deals and perhaps adjust a meal or two to take advantage of a reduced price. Alternatively, if you have a freezer large enough to hold some extra items or a deep freezer you can easily stock up when the sales are on. Now you are ready to fill up that cart with what you need to make those completed meals without all the anxiety.

Try making a list of five to eight of your family's favorite meals, including all the ingredients for each and keep this list as your starting point for future meal planning sessions.


You may have a rough idea of what your home is worth. Maybe you have recently been given an assessed value on the home, or have peeked on an online search as to what comes up for your home. Do you really understand all of the things that affect the value of your home? There are many things that may not be obvious but are important to the number that you’ll come to when you decide to sell your home. 


The Number Of Your House


Do you live at 13 Elm Street or 7 Winner’s Way? Buyers have superstitions that surround numbers and street names. Don’t be surprised if the number of your house or even the name of your street brings buyers in or sends them running. There’s not much you can do to change the house number or street name, but it’s something to keep in mind. Sometimes the reason that certain buyers are turned off from your house is truly out of your control. If you do live on a desirable street, that can help bring up the value of your home due to the demand in the area. Remember that what some consider “unlucky” others consider a blessing (like the number 13!) 


The Neighborhood


While your home may be perfectly pristine, you don’t have much control over what your neighbors do. If there are neighbors nearby that have strange items in their yards, strange colored homes, or other eccentric tastes, buyers may be turned off from your home. This could actually cause the price of your home to drop slightly. You should be prepared for this to affect the sale of your home, but don’t be discouraged. If buyers enjoy your home enough, they’ll be able to turn off that all too bright paint color next door.


Greenery


Trees and greenery increase the value of a home. Don’t think of cutting down those trees on your property unless you have to! Trees that have grown up on your property will add a lot of value to the home in the future. If you’ve been living at your residence for 20 years or so, think of the value that those first seeds and bushes you planted have added! 


Interests Are Not Universal


If you have displays, shrines, or rooms dedicated to a certain hobby, it could either be beneficial or detrimental to your home sale. This all depends on who comes walking through the door for a home showing. If you’re a Veteran and have some Marine Corps things around the houses, it could attract the attention of other Vets. However, that strange Marilyn Monroe room you have might actually deter from the pool of people available to buy your home. Buyers like to be able to see themselves living in the home. Some circumstances make it easier than others for buyers to have a vision for themselves in your home.    



If you are in hot pursuit of your dream home, it is important to do everything you can to gain a leg up on the competition. That way, you can acquire your ideal residence as quickly as possible.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you gain a competitive advantage over your homebuying rivals.

1. Keep Track of the Local Housing Market

The top houses sell immediately, and as such, you may need to act fast to find and purchase your dream residence. If you keep track of the local housing market, however, you will be better equipped than other buyers to instantly acquire a house that suits you perfectly.

Monitor the housing market in cities and towns where you want to reside. Then, if you find a house you may want to buy, don't hesitate to set up a showing. And if you like what you see, you should submit a competitive offer to purchase this residence.

2. Get Your Finances in Order

Entering the housing market with pre-approval for a mortgage usually is a good idea. Because if you know how much you can spend on a residence, you can tailor your house search accordingly.

To get pre-approved for a mortgage, you should meet with a variety of banks and credit unions. Find out what mortgage options are available, and learn how different types of home financing work. Next, you can select a mortgage that enables you to begin your house search with a budget in hand.

Of course, if you have any concerns or questions about home financing, you should address them right away. If you speak with mortgage specialists at a bank or credit union, you can get the insights you need to make an informed mortgage selection.

3. Employ a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is a difference-maker, particularly for a homebuyer who is shopping for a residence in a fierce housing market. Typically, a real estate agent will work with a buyer to craft an in-depth property buying strategy. A real estate agent and homebuyer then will work together to put this plan into action and streamline the property buying journey.

In addition, a real estate agent offers guidance at each stage of the homebuying cycle. He or she first will help you hone your home search to a select group of cities and towns. A real estate agent next will keep you informed about houses that become available that match your homebuying criteria. If you find a house you want to purchase, a real estate agent will help you submit an aggressive property buying proposal. And if your offer to buy a home is accepted, a real estate agent will make it simple for you to finalize your house purchase.

As you get ready to pursue your dream residence, you should devote plenty of time and resources to prepare. Thanks to the aforementioned tips, you can prep for the homebuying journey, gain a competitive advantage over rival buyers and accelerate your house search.


When you settle in your home and time passes, you may not notice your surroundings in detail anymore like you did when you first purchased your house. Alternatively, you may think to yourself, "This place could use an update or some pizzazz." There are many things that help reinvent a space or even the entire house on your own. The best part about these ideas is you can complete each of the following on a budget and over your timeline. That way, you can do your research and wait for sales to get the items to add that bit of glamour or elegance. 

Details Win the Day

Beautiful tiles in the kitchen will grab the spotlight when you walk into the space. A backsplash with a punch of fun color or an elegant finish that adds glamour is a simple change that is visually creative. The trim work is not an exciting thing to shop for but, can create a rich luxury feeling throughout a home. Your handrails and railing can look like every other home or, you can invest in upgrading to get a wow factor. Consider metal spindles instead of plain wood ones. Mixing together dark wood with metals or light woods can enhance a stairway. Updating the window blinds to the type without drawstrings and a remote for easy adjustment is a bonus.

The Little Extras that Bring the WOW!

Beautiful lighting that reflects your style can enhance whatever room it illuminates. Try a small chandelier in the half bath. Or a sleek modern designed light fixture in the family eating area above the kitchen table. Remember you can easily update outside lighting too. Outdoor lighting located near your garage door is part of the curb appeal and first expressions of your property. A unique item to include in an upgrade is a standalone ice maker that makes the small easy-to-crunch bits of ice. If you drink or collect wine, an inset wine rack near the kitchen complete with back-lighting can add drama. In the bathrooms, you can install a towel warmer to keep you warm after your shower or bath. Installing a shower head system with many different options such as rainfall, waterfall, or body jets can feel like a four-star hotel experience. Let your imagination run and make your favorite place to hang out your home.

Contact your local agent for the open houses in your area to visit this week to gather upgrade ideas.