10 Tips for Finding Great Real Estate for Sale

Finding your dream home can feel stressful, but there’s plenty of great real estate for sale to suit nearly every buyer. Breaking down the process of buying a new home into steps isn’t only helpful, but it will help it feel manageable. Below are 10 great tips to help you go from dreaming of owning a new home to actually holding the keys.

Make a wish list and prioritize your needs

Now is the time to think about what your perfect home looks like. Unless you have a bottomless bank account, you probably won’t be able to get everything you want. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of having a fireplace, but when it comes down to it, what you really need is a home located near good schools.Taking time to make a wish list will help you prioritize needs over wants.

Set a realistic budget

Perhaps the most stressful part of buying a home is setting a budget, yet this doesn’t need to be a daunting task. Figure out how much house you can afford by examining your current salary and debts. A mortgage payment should never be more than a third of your income, while your debt should be less than 40 percent of your income.

Hire a great real estate agent

Unless you’re an orthodontist, you probably wouldn’t attempt to fit someone with a pair of braces, right? The same theory holds true for buying real estate. Great REALTORS® will demystify the process of finding your dream home, from working within your budget to putting in a bid. In addition, it’s their job to know the market and they can help you find your perfect home, even when there’s competition from other buyers in your area.

Make a checklist

You’ve prioritized your wish list, set a realistic budget, and hired a real estate agent. Time to sit back and relax, right? Wrong! Now’s the time to make a checklist of all the things you need to consider when finding your dream house. Your list should include the priorities from your wish list. For example, how close is the house to schools and grocery stores? Does the home have a fireplace? How much does the current owner pay annually in taxes? Preparing a list of questions before you purchase your new home will make sure you don’t have questions later.

Location, location, location!

Although it might seem obvious to carefully choose where you buy a home, you’d be surprised how many people cut corners. Is it a priority for you to find real estate close to schools? Or perhaps it’s a priority to be located off a busy street to avoid noise pollution. In short, a dream home isn’t ideal at all if it’s not located in the perfect place.

Think about how you use space

A parlor is lovely, but if it’s only used a couple times a year during holidays, perhaps you’d get more bang for your buck by focusing on a home with well-used rooms. For example, if you spend a lot of time cooking, then it makes sense to buy a house with a large, well-equipped kitchen. Likewise, if you’re a freelancer, then it might behoove you look into a home that has an extra bedroom that could be converted into an office.

Would you like to renovate?

Do you take pleasure in making home repairs or would you prefer to move into a home that requires very little work to move in? Renovating a home can be a tremendous amount of fun, but it can also get expensive. Be realistic about what repairs will cost and whether you have the time and energy to get the work accomplished.

Make an offer

Making an offer on your dream house is one of the most exciting days of your life. It’s also one of the most nerve-wracking. Although the current owners could say “yes,” there is a possibility that they might decline your offer. To make your offer attractive, avoid pushing out the current owners too quickly by asking for a fast closing date. Also, don’t lowball them by offering far less than the listing price. Your real estate agent should be able to give you advice about what will make an attractive offer.

Don’t neglect the home inspection

Once your reoffer has been accepted, it’s time for a home inspection before you finalize the contract. This is the time to look deep and have a professional home inspector look at the foundation, roof, electrical wiring, heating systems, insulation and other items that are generally hidden from view. While it might be tempting to seal the deal as quickly as possible, having a home inspection can save you from expensive problems down the line.


The entire process, from browsing the real estate for sale in your area to moving into your dream home can be daunting. Once you have the keys to your new home in hand, make sure to celebrate with your loved ones for a job well done!

You’ll be moving in the right direction with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team.

Traits of the 2018 Home Buyer

Every year the National Association of Realtors conducts a survey of recent home buyers and sellers.  Below are some highlights on the nature of buyers from the 2018 survey.

  • First time home buyers made up 1/3 of all buyers.
  • The typical home purchased was built in 1991, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and 1900 square feet.
  • Buyers usually searched for 10 weeks and looked at a median of 10 properties.
  • 87% of buyers used a real estate agent to purchase their home. 
  • The top 3 factors influencing what buyers chose were (1) quality of neighborhood, (2) convenience to job, and (3) overall affordability.
  • The breakdown of age of homes purchased by buyers in the Northeast:  11% were 1913 or older, 30% were 1914-1961, 25% were 1962-1987, 18% were 1988-2002, and 17% were 2003+. 

 While interesting data, sellers should be aware of how these buying characteristics might impact selling their home.  For example, if you are selling an antique, you need to know you are targeting only 11% of all buyers.  Contact me if you’d like to know how these factors might impact you.  603-526-4116, Donna@DonnaForest.com, www.DonnaForest.com

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Home Inspection 101: This is What You Need to Know (Plus a Checklist)

Before you purchase a home, hire an inspector to make sure the structure is sound and there aren’t any defects.

An inspection helps buyers identify serious issues with a house, condo, townhouse or other type of home. Some lenders require home inspections before they’ll approve closing on a mortgage loan. Professional home inspections aren’t always a required part of a purchase contract; they’re a smart part of buying a home and a property investment.

Whether or not a loan officer insists on an inspection, getting a home inspected is to your advantage. No one wants to find out there’s something wrong with a property after they’ve signed the papers.

Here’s what you need to know about home inspection, followed by a handy home inspection checklist:

Not all home inspections cover the same points

There will likely be numerous home inspection companies and professionals to choose from when you’re buying a home. As you look for an inspector or consider inspection company referrals, keep in mind that not all inspections cover the same points.

When inquiring or interviewing inspectors, make sure those you’re thinking of hiring will inspect the inside and outside of the property. Inside, an inspector should look for leaks, fire hazards, the health of the house systems and the life of the water tank. Plumbing and wiring inspection are essential to make sure these systems are up to code. Inspectors should look at a home’s ventilation systems and smoke detectors. If the home has appliances, they should be tested.

Outside, inspectors should check for cracks in walls and the foundation. Missing siding, damage to the roof and cracked woodwork are all issues that may point to structural problems with a home.

Most general home inspectors won’t check septic systems or insect damage. These are points that you should hire specialists to address.

Buyers should choose their own home inspector

As a buyer, you can certainly negotiate who pays for a home inspection. However, consider that sellers paying for an inspection may want to choose the company themselves.

It’s in your best interest to choose your own inspector when purchasing a home. This may mean that you’ll have to pay out of pocket for the inspection. This service is not usually included in the fees a lender will roll into a loan.

The cost for a home inspection is typically a few hundred dollars. If you need in-depth inspection of a property, such as a review by a structural engineer, prepare to pay much more.

In some states, a home inspector must have a license. If you aren’t sure where to look for a licensed home inspector, your real estate agent should be able to offer a referral. It’s a good idea to verify any inspector’s license to make sure you’re hiring someone qualified.

Home inspections can offer a way out of a purchase contract

Every purchase contract is different. Buyers should refer to their binding agreement with questions about getting out of a sale due to issues that come up during a home inspection.

It’s wise to write a purchase offer that lets you out back out of a sale if an inspection reveals issues with which you don’t want to deal. Sometimes, buyers are willing to spend the extra time and money to fix problems. Often, it’s just not a good idea. If your agent or you have written a good purchase offer, you’ll be allowed out of the contract should the home inspection uncover problems.

If a home inspection uncovers damage to a property, buyers can ask the seller to pay for repairs as part of the contract. Buyers and their agents may want to submit a Request for Repairs that negotiates part or all of the cost of repairs, or asks for repair work to be completed prior to close of escrow. In lieu of money for repairs, you can request a cash credit (reduced price) for the home.

Refer to the home inspection checklist

It’s always smart to be present when an inspector is checking out your potential home. If you’re working with an agent, your agent should also be there at the inspection. Some of the specific points you’ll want to make sure your inspector looks at include:

  • foundation
  • lot
  • roof
  • chimney
  • exterior
  • attic
  • interior leaks
  • basement
  • electrical
  • plumbing
  • appliances
  • heating/cooling system
  • odors
  • mold and mildew (consider a specialist in this field)

An inspection is a crucial step in the home purchase process. Remember,  it’s there to help you, not discourage you. Many home inspections reveal minor issues that buyers can live with. There aren’t many houses that are completely free of defects.

Having a real estate professional by your side is important during the home inspection process. If the inspection report brings up any issues that you don’t understand, or aren’t comfortable making a decision about right away, your agent can help you navigate the situation wisely and within the time frame indicated in your contract.

You’ll be moving in the right direction with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team.

Source:  www.bhgrelife.com

Housing Outlook for 2019

I recently attended the National Association of Realtors (NAR) conference in Boston.  Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, presented his 2019 housing forecast at this convention.  Below are some of the key points.

  • 2017 had the highest home sales activity in 10 years.  While many realtors feel they are currently experiencing a “slow down”, the reality is total sales in 2018 are only down 1.5% YTD compared to 2017. 
  • Typically, rising interest rates would impact home sales, however, as we are in a period of job growth and low unemployment, this cancels out the impact of higher rates.  2019 is predicted to be similar to 2018, with sales forecasted for a 1% increase.
  • The national median home price is expected to rise 3.1% to $266,800 in 2019.
  • Low supply could continue to suppress sales, especially for first time buyers.
  • The US is experiencing historically normal levels of affordability but buyers may be staying out of the market because of perceived problems with affordability. 

 Bottom line, Dr. Yun forecasts 2019 home sales to be stable and similar to 2018, with continued growth in sales prices.  Contact me if you want to work with a realtor who stays on top of trends and issues facing buyer and sellers today!  603-526-4116, Donna@DonnaForest.com, www.DonnaForest.com

“Word of Mouth” is the best advertisement, and we love it when you refer your friends and family to Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team.

Who Gets the Money?

In a contract, deposits are required to show the sincerity and strength of the buyer's intent to purchase as well as to potentially provide liquidated damages to sellers in case of default.  Sellers sometimes eye these funds as money in their pocket and assume that the deposit will just be handed over to them if the buyer defaults or cancels the contract.  In reality, there are many legal ways for a buyer to cancel a contract, so odds are slim to see an actual default.  Also, a release form has to be signed by both seller AND buyer.  This release allows the money to be withdrawn from the escrow account and distributed appropriately.  The chances of the buyer just signing over thousands of dollars without an argument are slight.  If both parties won't agree to sign, the process could end up in mediation or court.  To avoid this situation, it's always best to find compromises that help resolve disputes as amicably as possible.  

Give me a call if you are looking for an experienced REALTOR that will help your sale move forward and avoid costly litigation.  603-526-4116, www.DonnaForest.com, donna@donnaforest.com

Real estate markets are local, and we have the real scoop on ours.  Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team

6 Tips on Home Buying

  1. Don’t try to second-guess interest rates or the market by waiting for the “right time”.  If you find a home you like, buy it.
  2. Accept the fact that no house is perfect.  Concentrate on the items important to you and let the minor flaws go.
  3. Get approved for a mortgage first before even looking.  This will set your price range and also enhance your offer.
  4. Don’t look at every house on the market just because they are there.  Be picky and look at the most appealing.  Then add to the list if nothing fits.
  5. Don’t worry if you feel buyer’s remorse after making an offer.  It is common and will pass.  Buying a home is a big decision but the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
  6. Work with an experienced local agent.  Buying can be emotional so pick someone you’re comfortable with and respect.

 Contact me if you are looking for an accredited buyer’s agent with over 24 yrs. of experience to make your buying experience a success!  603-526-4116, www.DonnaForest.com, Donna@DonnaForest.com

“Word of Mouth” is the best advertisement, and we love it when you refer your friends and family to Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team.

5 Tips to Succeed in a Sellers’ Market

With rising prices and low inventory, it’s challenging to buy your dream home.  Below are some tips to help position yourself for success.

  • Get pre-approved for a mortgage before looking.  This is different than getting pre-qualified.  Pre-approval requires documentation and is not based on estimates. 
  • Work with a Realtor who has experience and a proven track record.  They will provide invaluable advice.
  • Be prepared to move quickly.  You don’t have days to think it over.
  • Don’t make lowball offers.  Your offer should be as attractive as possible.  Things to consider – make a larger deposit, offer a flexible closing date, don’t sweat the small stuff, and have as few contingencies as possible.
  • Decide what you are willing to compromise on ahead of time.  Figure out what matters most – is it location?  Size?  Style?

It’s expected to continue as a sellers’ market and you need to be mentally prepared to up your game when it comes to buying.  Contact me if you want expert guidance through every step of your home purchase.  603-526-4116, Donna@DonnaForest.com, www.DonnaForest.com

You’ll be moving in the right direction with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team.

The Process of Home Buying

Buying a home is a multi-step process that can be complicated, particularly for first-time buyers. It is crucial to be aware of each step, as competition can be steep: one misstep and the keys to a dream home could go to another family. Read on to discover the best path to acquire one of the greatest investments to date.

Step No. 1: Decide on a REALTOR®

A real estate agent and a REALTOR® are different.  While both must be licensed to sell real estate, a REALTOR® goes through numerous background checks and must follow a strict code of ethics, which is consistently enforced by local real estate boards. Another distinction between a real estate agent and a REALTOR® is that a REALTOR® is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®. Ask for referrals and read online reviews/testimonials. Interview multiple agents to find the right one. Look for agents who have realistic expectations and are experts in desired neighborhoods.

Step No. 2: Get finances in order

A three-digit credit score and credit report tell financial stories more than bank accounts do. Everyone must carry debt in some form, and the process of paying it can span a lifetime. Paying cash for everything results in a lower score than responsibly carrying debt. A steady job and income can bypass a bad score if prospective clients are willing to put down 10-20 percent. To improve scores, future homeowners should pay all bills on time. A single missed payment can stay on credit reports for seven years, with recent delinquencies impacting scores the most negatively. Additionally, credit limits should not be exceeded, and balances should be kept below 30 percent of the credit limit.

Step No. 3: Apply for pre-approval

A pre-approval letter is a statement from a lender demonstrating that one is a qualified buyer who sellers will take seriously once ready to make an offer. Unless one plans on paying cash, a mortgage pre-approval is a good idea before beginning the home-buying process.

Step No. 4: Know the difference between wants and needs

Real estate agent will not know where to begin if a prospective client does not. Start thinking about must-haves. They can range from location to the number of bedrooms. Wants can include a pool or a guest home. Compromises are the things one is willing to exchange for needs. For example, a great school district can be attainable if the number of bedrooms is reduced.

Step No. 5: Begin the home search

Open houses will become a favorite activity when a real estate agent begins showing homes that fit criteria. This is a fact-finding mission. Take notes and jot down ideas about what is liked and not liked. This will streamline the process and give real estate agents all they need to know to make a happy homeowner.

Step No. 6: Check off mortgage approval

An accepted offer will begin the closing stage of the home-buying process. A lender will give the final approval for the purchase and specify the closing date. This is not the time to celebrate by splurging on big ticket items. Unexpected expenses can show up without warning. Paying property taxes or insurance for the first full year on the closing date might be a noted point.

Step No. 7: Get a home inspection

A good home inspector will audit the house from top to bottom, literally. They will look at the basement and the roof and everything in between, including the heating system, plumbing and windows.  Given that purchasing a home is likely one of the largest investments a person will make, don’t skip this critical step.  If repairs are necessary, this can be negotiated with the seller before the final sale.

Step No. 8: Prepare to close

Once at the final step in the process, one can pat themselves on the back for a job well done. The closing table is the desired location where the deed will be transferred from the seller to the buyer. John Hancocks should be ready because there could be hours of paperwork. An attorney or settlement agent will most likely be present.

May your new home be the happiest one on the block!

Source:  www.bhgrelife.com

Teamwork from the Team that works –Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team

6 Tips to Prepare for Home Inspections

Almost every sale entails having a home inspection.  Sellers can take steps ahead of time to ensure this goes smoothly.  Below are some tips to help prepare for inspection day.

  • Make repairs in advance of the scheduled inspection and don’t try to hide what’s not working.  If something breaks with no time to fix it, leave a note and how it will be corrected.
  • The house should be clean and in showing condition.  The inspector and buyers will be going through it in much more detail. 
  • Provide easy access to the attic, furnace, utilities, and under sinks.  An inspector should not have to spend time moving your belongings to inspect.
  • Replace any burned out light bulbs. 
  • Leave a sketch of the septic system so it can be easily found.
  • Make plans for both you and any pets to be gone from the property for at least 3 hours.

 While it’s a little nerve-racking to have your house so thoroughly examined, taking steps to get ready will help ease the process.  Contact me if you would like more tips on preparing your home for sale!  603-526-4116, Donna@DonnaForest.com, www.DonnaForest.com

Teamwork from the Team that works –Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team

Home Office Storage & Organization Solutions

You can create a home office anywhere—but it helps to have a plan for corralling clutter and organizing your workspace first.

Look beyond the boring cubicle walls and get inspired to create a home office that’s just that: part of your home. You don’t need a whole room reserved for an office (although that would be nice!); a desk, a chair and some good organizational and storage strategies are all it takes to carve a nook out of your home for an office.

Corner office

A fully functional home office doesn’t need to have its own separate room. Tuck it into the corner of a dining room and give plenty of storage and ample work surfaces. Use space wisely by installing shelves above the desk and cabinets below the work surface.

Write away

If your office needs are more sporadic, consider a simple writing desk for the occasional bill-paying sessions or mail sorting. This writing area is stylish but serves the function of an office as needed.

Compact office

A handsome secretary can turn any room into an office. Paint it to match the bedding and draperies and it will blend into a cottage-style bedroom while providing a spot to write and a place to store stationery, books and more.

Color coordinate

Put your walls to work in your home office space. Floating shelves can be stacked with binders, magazine boxes and more. Wall-mounted baskets are an easy way to file mail or to-do tasks.

Perfect office setup

Create a corner office at home by zoning a section of a larger room (such as a living room or family room) as a work zone. For more storage, hang floating shelves along the wall. When planning your home office, make sure there are adequate outlets nearby for computers, printers and task lighting.

Inspiration point

Surround yourself with beauty while you are hard at work. Hang art that you love above your desk, or add a few decorative items to your desktop. Improve function by adding a pretty lamp or wall sconces for better lighting.

Pretty space

Old desks often have plenty of drawers and storage, but might not be up to par in the style game. Paint a secondhand desk a fresh color that suits your room’s style.

Smarter office storage

In a small space, take office storage to the walls to keep work surfaces clutter-free. In this space, cubbies were mounted to the wall and magazine holders were screwed into the bottom of the cubbies for an innovative mail sorter. For an easy and affordable work surface, transform a slab door into a desktop by mounting it to a wall and placing bookcases or file cabinets beneath it for support.

Kitchen office

A small desk tucked into a kitchen is suited for many tasks, such as doing homework or jotting down a grocery list. Incorporate a few drawers and cubbies to maximize the space’s storage capacity.

Office with a view

Bump a desk up against a window with a deep windowsill and use the sill as an improvised shelf for baskets and boxes. Plus, placing a desk near a window provides plenty of natural light.

Cozy work space

Turn an awkward closet into an office with a few quick changes. Remove the closet doors and paint (or wallpaper) the interior. Hang shelves along the wall and tuck in a desk for a quick-fix office that packs efficient function into a small sliver of space.

Build a desk

For a simple, do-it-yourself desk, employ sturdy file cabinets as a base and a large desktop, or painted panel, as the work surface. Position the desktop on the file cabinets and screw into place.

Living-room office

Inconspicuously add an office to a living area with a few simple tricks. Incorporate as much concealed storage as possible without distracting from the rest of the room. Take steps to add in elements to tie the space to the rest of the room. A bamboo chair and burlap-covered bulletin board harmonize with the living room’s natural look and help the office adhere to interior-design principles.

Real estate markets are local, and we have the real scoop on ours.  Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team