Congratulations! You’ve just purchased your first home. There’s no denying that this is a very exciting time in your life. Becoming a homeowner will bring many new opportunities your way, the first one being a chance to go shopping! As a first-time homebuyer, there are some things you need for your home that you may not have needed previously. So grab a piece of paper and pen because it’s time to create the ultimate first-home shopping list.
1. Lawn Equipment
One amazing thing about owning a home is that you own the lawn, the grass, the flower beds, and everything else that comes with the property. However, this also means you have to take care of what you own, and unless you’re hiring a landscaping company, you will need to purchase some lawn equipment. Here are a few useful tools to help with lawn maintenance and get you started in your outdoor maintenance:
- Lawn mower
- Weed whacker
- Weed puller
- Water hose and sprinkler
2. Household Tools
Even if your home is newly built, maintenance will be required. Whether it’s a leaky faucet, squeaky hinges, or more elaborate home repairs that crop up, you’ll need some tools of your own. The upfront cost of purchasing tools can be significant, but they can save you an abundance of money in future home repairs. After all, if you let problems persist, they will only get worse—and much more expensive. In addition, you may wish to do some simple home renovations yourself, such as hanging a TV on the wall or changing out the house’s original hardware. As a rule of thumb, grab these tools to ensure regular maintenance and quick home repairs:
- Screwdriver set
- Pliers set
- Tape measure
3. Gardening Gear
Gardening gear is different than lawn equipment; while you have to maintain your lawn, you aren’t required to plant beautiful, vibrant flowers to enhance the landscaping of your home. However, planting some fresh flowers and/or a vegetable garden can bring an abundance of enjoyment to your experience as a first-time homebuyer. It will also enhance the exterior appearance of your home, and may even provide you with a new hobby to enjoy for years to come. Some items to get you started on the path to creating a captivating landscape include:
- New plants, such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, bushes, etc.
- Soil, fertilizer, and mulch
- Gardening gloves
- Gardening tools, such as cultivator, trowel, and fork
4. Outdoor Patio Furniture
As a new homeowner, you may not have had the benefit of an outdoor living space previously. However, now that you have purchased your first home, if you do have this benefit, you can style your backyard to your liking. Whether you have a condo balcony, small yard, or acres to enjoy, you’ll need some outdoor patio furniture. Create the ultimate outdoor living space with the following items:
- Patio chairs and table
- Outdoor lights
- Outdoor plates, bowls, and cutlery
Buying a home is a huge investment. It’s the first major purchase you make towards building a better future. Preparing yourself with a list of must-have purchases you need as a first-time homebuyer will help decrease the stress of the move and responsibility, and bring much enjoyment in the long run.
Reprinted from BHGRE.com
- You do a walk-through the day before or morning of the closing to ensure the house is in the same general condition as when the offer was made and things are left that were supposed to be there (e.g. appliances).
- Your lender hires a closing agent to create a statement outlining the loan amount, loan costs, recording fees, title insurance premiums, escrows for insurance & taxes, state transfer tax, tax prorations, and the deposit. This shows how much money you bring to close.
- You are charged for any oil/propane/cordwood left. This may be put on the closing statement or paid by personal check to sellers at closing.
- Be prepared to sign lots of paperwork at the actual closing! The money you bring to closing should be on a bank check or previously wired to the closing agent.
Your agent will help you through this process, but knowing what to expect can alleviate many concerns. Give me a call if you want an experienced REALTOR® helping you! 603-526-4116, Donna@DonnaForest.com, www.DonnaForest.com
- Get you finances in order before even going to look at homes. Make sure you have anough for a down payment and closing costs.
- Talk to a lender and get pre-qualified for a loan.
- Decide when you can actually move. When is your lease up?
- Realize there is no perfect home. There will be trade-offs to every property.
- Don't be tempted to spend more than you can afford. Remember, there will be recurring costs like insurance, taxes, utilities and maintenance.
- Understand the fine print and ask questions. It's important to understand what you are signing to avoid problems down the road.
- Hire a REALTOR® to be your Buyer's Agent. They can guide you through the whole process and provide invaluable advice.
Buying your first home is an exciting experience and should be fun. Give me a call if you are looking for an experienced REALTOR® and Accredited Buyers' Representative to help you through the process. 603-526-4116, Donna@DonnaForest.com, www.DonnaForest.com
Don’t think of your microscopic yard as a curse. So what if it’s technically a small concrete slab that baaarely accommodates a half-sized Weber grill? Or if your flagstone patio is just big enough for you, a lounge chair, and a good book? Your tiny outdoor spot is actually an opportunity to get creative.
To live large with a small footprint, try these functional tweaks to make your minuscule outdoor space feel like a palatial retreat.
1. Divide the Space
Wait, what? That’s right. Even if your square footage is relatively small, dividing your outdoor space into two areas can actually make it seem bigger.
“Creating a space within a space makes it seem larger because it gives you a separate experience,” says Joy Diaz, chief marketing officer at Land Care Inc.
Diaz recommends a small wood pergola, which you can purchase at home improvement stores or even build yourself without too much effort. You can also use walls to divide the space. We’re not talking about bulky concrete barriers here — try using short trellises, arbors, or vine-covered wooden fences to separate your loungers from your patio table.
“It says, ‘I’m in one place, that’s another place, and if there’s room for two places it must be big,’” says J. Scott Williams, a landscape architect at YardApes in New Milford, Conn.
As an added bonus, walls prevent visitors from walking in a straight line from one end of the patio to another, instead creating a winding path that makes your small space feel expansive.
2. Plant a Privacy Screen
A peaceful space always feels roomier than one crowded with noise and other distractions — like the pressure to strike up an awkward conversation every time you lock eyes with the nice lady next door. Keep your evening soirées and morning coffee blissfully secluded with a few cleverly positioned plants.
There are a few ways to achieve this goal. Along the very edges of your space, plant a tall, wide bush, like the purple smoke bush, a fantastic, easy-to-care-for container plant that can grow six or seven feet every year. Just be sure to keep on top of trimmings to keep it from overgrowing your patio — you want it growing up, not out — but as long as you do so, it makes an excellent privacy screen.
“A larger plant in a small space is dramatic,” says Williams.
You can also privatize your patio without sacrificing any square footage with the oldest trick in the book: Install some climbing vines on a trellis to clearly tell your neighbors, “This is my special space.”
3. Add a Water Feature
A dramatic focal point can really add some intrigue to a mini yard. And a water feature, like a bubbling birdbath or wall fountain, can do just the trick.
Williams suggests choosing an element with a black bottom, which will create a darker surface that reflects sky and trees, making your outdoor space feel bigger. Just make sure your water feature doesn’t overwhelm your porch — you can skip the long, vanishing edge-style pool.
“I wouldn’t put a longer element in a small space, which might make it look smaller,” Williams said. “Add a smaller water element into a small space, and make it seem larger.”
4. Use Vertical Space
Distract from your lack of horizontal yardage by really maximizing your outdoor space’s most abundant dimension: vertical space.
Use your walls, fence, or railings as extra space by adding vines or a living wall filled with flowers, herbs, and other eye-catching greenery. For a simple change, prop an attractive ladder — think barnyard chic, maybe? — against the wall and use its rungs as shelving for plants or other decor. The internet is bursting with other vertical planter and shelving ideas, too, using everything from pallets to chicken wire.
“It draws the eye up and outwards, and gives it a green and completely different look,” says Diaz. “It can change the atmosphere of the area. You’ve walked into a different experience from your home — it’s a psychological and emotional change.”
5. Expand Space with a Mirror
“Mirrors really make space feel more expansive,” Williams says. On a small porch, place a tall mirror on the ground behind a portico or a patch of greenway, which “makes it look like a doorway into another garden.”
You don’t need to go huge on the mirror to have a huge impact. Even hanging a normal-sized mirror, like one you might find over a dresser, can make a tiny space feel much larger. But whichever you choose, make sure to weatherproof your mirror first using a mirror edge sealer (you’ll also want to add sealant to the frame, especially if it’s made from wood) to prevent moisture damage — unless you like the weathered look, that is.
Small spaces don’t have to be limiting. With a little bit of creativity — and perhaps a reflective surface or two — there’s no reason you can’t feel like you’re living in your very own Versailles.
By: is a writer and editor with a focus on home improvement and design. Previously, she worked as a web editor for "House Beautiful," "ELLE Decor," and "Veranda."
Visit Houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from Houselogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
There are certain unwritten rules of etiquette buyers should follow when they are out looking at homes. Most are common sense and just plain ole being courteous! Below are some tips for being a courteous buyer.
- Take shoes off. Mud, snow, rain - you may be out looking in all types of weather so don't tramp through a house with your wet/dirty shoes on. Take them off and go in your socks or bring clean shoes to wear. Extra tip - check your socks for holes before heading out!
- Control your kids. They shouldn't play with the toys they found or run unattended through the home.
- Be on time. When showings are set up, the seller leaves the house, a listing agent meets you there along with your buyer's agent. Being late impacts many people, not to mention it may put the whole showing schedule behind. Unavoidably detained? Then call your agent for a heads up.
- Don't spend an hour viewing a home you already decided you dislike. It's okay to do a quick look and say it's not to your liking.
If you are looking for a buyer's agent to help navigate successful home buying, then contact me and follow me on Facebook! 603-526-4116; Donna@DonnaForest.com; www.DonnaForest.com
By: Dona DeZube
From mortgage interest to property tax deductions, here are the tax tips you need to get a jump on your returns.
- If you’re the only one using your vacation home (you don’t rent it out for more than 14 days a year), you deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on Schedule A.
- Rent your vacation home out for more than 14 days and use it yourself fewer than 15 days (or 10% of total rental days, whichever is greater), and it’s treated like a rental property. Your expenses are deducted on Schedule E.
- Rent your home for part of the year and use it yourself for more than the greater of 14 days or 10% of the days you rent it and you have to keep track of income, expenses, and allocate them based on how often you used and how often you rented the house.
House hunting is an emotional experience. There is no “perfect” house and you need to keep in mind it’s a decision-making process that involves trade-offs between each property. Here are some key concepts to remember:
- Get pre-qualified before going out to look at homes. This way you won’t fall in love with a house you can’t afford.
- Think about not only how the house will meet your present needs but how it will work for you in the future as well.
- Consider all the pluses and minuses of the location and how it fits into your lifestyle, including travel time to work, schools, etc.
- Set priorities. Put more emphasis on your needs vs. wants.
- Ignore bad décor. Be prepared to look at potential; cosmetics are easily changed.
- Don’t forget resale. Choose a home that not only appeals to you but also is likely to appeal to others down the road.
It is important to work with a good REALTOR® who knows the neighborhoods and local information. If you are planning to buy a home, contact me and put my 21 years of experience to work for you as your Buyer’s Agent. Donna Forest 603-526-4116; Donna@DonnaForest.com; www.DonnaForest.com
As we near the end of 2015, I thought it would be helpful to know how our local market has fared. Looking at the past 11 months, we continue to move in a positive direction. In the 10 area towns, the total number of sales are up 14% from last year. Prices are about the same with the average price of all home sales only being down by 1%. These figures vary from town to town, but the combined data shows forward momentum. For example, in home sales under $1 million - Newbury sales are up 41% from 2014 with the average selling price about equal. Sunapee sales are 3 ahead of last year with the average sales price down 13%. New London’s volume is down 34% but prices are up almost 7%.
Nationally, home sales are up 3.9% through October compared to the same time period in 2014. Lawrence Yun, National Association of REALTORS® Chief Economist stated, “As long as solid job creation continues, a gradual easing of credit standards even with moderately higher mortgage rates should support steady demand and sales continuing to rise above a year ago." What does all this mean? Properly priced and prepared homes will continue to sell and waiting to buy will only cost you more money. Contact me if you would like to know the specific sales data for your town! 603-526-4116, www.DonnaForest.com, Donna@donnaforest.com
Figures are based on information from the Northern New England Real Estate Network, Inc. for the period 1/1/15 through 11/30/15 and 1/1/14 through 11/30/14.
A new rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau went into effect Oct. 3 requiring lenders to give consumers more time to review their loan documents. Mortgagors must give borrowers the terms of their loan and final charges & fees at least 3 days before the closing (7 days if sent by mail). It is designed to protect you from surprises at the closing table. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well the reality is, it is a massive change in the way lenders do business from new forms to new timetables. The 3 day period is mandatory and this waiting period can start over again if one of 3 changes occur: 1) The annual percentage rate increased more than 1/8th; 2) The loan product changes like switching from a fixed rate to an adjustable; or 3) A pre-payment penalty is added. Other alterations don’t require a new 3-day review like revisions to taxes, utility prorations, etc.
Until lenders have some time under their belt in dealing with these new regulations, buyers & sellers need to be prepared. 60 day closings may be the normal, last minute changes most likely will not be authorized, required paperwork will need to be completed earlier, and buyers & sellers should have a backup plan in the event something triggers a new 3-7 day waiting period and you can’t close as scheduled. Contact me if you are looking to work with a knowledgeable REALTOR® who can help you successfully navigate the buying or selling process! Donna Forest, Broker Associate, 603-526-4116, www.DonnaForest.com, email@example.com.
In the life of every home, repairs happen. Here are the top 10 most common repairs that, sooner or later, your house will require.