Gregory Shugal | Brookline Real Estate, Boston Real Estate, Cambridge Real Estate

As a homeowner, you're constantly faced with a variety of spending decisions, many of which could improve the quality of your life or just put a strain on your budget. The challenge is to monitor your cash flow, anticipate your family's needs, and avoid spending more than you can afford. There's a goal that's much easier said than done! Although managing one's budget is based on personal priorities and financial resources, it's often useful to consider feedback and perspectives from other homeowners. The following thoughts are based on the experiences of one such homeowner.
  • Tool sheds are not an absolute necessity for most people, but they can be extremely helpful in protecting your yard equipment and keeping your property looking neat. If you own a riding mower, for example, there may not be space in your garage to store it. For those who own a backyard swimming pool, a shed can be very useful for storing pool chemicals, maintenance equipment, and pool toys. While a tool shed can set you back a few hundred dollars or more, getting one on your property will make your yard look nicer and keep your tools, chemicals, and machinery in a safer, more secure place.
  • Many people are aware that a basement dehumidifier can remove excess moisture and help prevent the growth of mold. This is especially important if you're storing anything of value in your basement, such as old books, important documents, clothing, framed art, or collectables. Since basement humidifiers vary in price from a couple hundred dollars to well over $1,000, some homeowners postpone buying them. However, when you factor in the potential cost of mold remediation and having to throw away belongings that get damaged by moisture and mold, the cost is much more justifiable. If you're fortunate enough to have a dry basement with a humidity level of less than 50%, then a dehumidifier may be an unnecessary purchase. If you want to be sure, though, you can buy a cheap humidity gauge for $10 or $20 -- either online or at a local hardware store.
  • A ceiling fan may seem like a frivolous expense for a screened in porch, but you'll be mighty glad you have one on hot, humid days! You might think that large window screens would provide ample circulation for an outdoor porch, but unless there's a breeze -- either natural or man made -- then that hot air will often just sit there and linger, much like a guest who has overstayed their welcome! A ceiling fan can pull that uncomfortable air away from you and stir up some much-needed circulation. Ceiling fans, which typically cost between $100 and $200 (plus installation) -- create both the look and feel of a cool, breezy environment. They also help reduce air conditioning costs inside your home.
Since everyone's personal needs, budgets, and lifestyles are different, there are a lot of factors that come into play when deciding whether to purchase (or postpone) any of these three items. Hopefully, this blog post has provided you with some helpful insights on making those decisions!

When you put your home up for sale, it can be an emotional time. You need to say goodbye to a place where you have lived for at least a small portion of your life. You created memories in that home, and now, it’s the job of a new family to make new memories. 

Once the home is well on its way to being sold, there will be an appraisal of the property. It’s scary as a seller to think that the appraisal has the ability to actually halt the entire sale of the home. It can be a confusing process, to say the least, to have your home appraised. You have determined your listing price and received an offer on the home already. It seems like backtracking to value the home after this part of the sale process is complete. 

The Appraisal Removes The Tension

The appraisal is one of the factors that bridges the worlds of the buyer and the seller. As a seller, the things that you think add value to your home may not be all you have hoped them to be. As a buyer, you want to be sure that you’re paying a fair price for the home. Below, you’ll find some common myths about home appraisals and the truth about them. 

The Appraisal Is Not The Same As An Inspection

The home inspection is used as a tool to protect the buyer. Although the appraisal is used as a protection for the buyer, the two are separate entities. The inspector looks at everything in the home that can be a problem including leaks, cracks, and faulty electrical systems. The home appraiser is simply meant to find the objective market and the estimated value of the home in that market.

The Appraisal Isn’t How Much The Buyer Will Pay

While the appraisal gives a good estimate of the value of a home, it doesn’t take every single factor into account. It’s one version of how much the home should be priced at. What the appraisal does affect is the contract on the home. 

If the appraisal doesn’t match the contract price, let’s say that the home is appraised lower than what you’re paying for it, the lender will not make up the difference. It can become a discussion between the buyer and the seller to see who will pay for the additional uncovered cost of the home. The buyer can pay the difference themselves. The seller may decide to cover the difference themselves. Either way, this is where the home buying process can get kind of messy.

Bigger Homes Don’t Necessarily Appraise For More Money

Just because a home is bigger, doesn’t mean that it’s worth more than the smaller home next door. A larger home could have issues with age such as an older roof, or less complex fixtures. If a smaller home is more updated, it very well could appraise for more. Don’t count on the square footage to dictate the appraisal price of a home.

There are several compelling reasons to have a dog as a family pet. They give their owners unconditional love, their protective instinct helps keep your family and home safe, and they're great walking or jogging companions. If you love dogs, then your home probably does not feel complete without one. However, dog ownership is not for everyone, and careful thought should be given to the pros and cons of bringing a dog into the family. Here's an overview of some of the issues to weigh when your kids are begging you to buy them a puppy.
  • Is your family's lifestyle compatible with dog ownership? Dogs are very social animals, so if everyone is too busy to train, walk, and play with a new pet, then your pooch might not receive the attention they need to thrive and be happy. Dogs that are frequently bored or lonely tend to acquire some undesirable habits, such as chewing on furniture or barking incessantly. Dogs also need to be groomed regularly, taken to the vet's for periodic shots and checkups, and given preventative medicine for ticks, fleas, and other parasites. Some dog breeds are considered to be higher maintenance than others, so it pays to do your research before deciding whether to take on the responsibility of dog ownership.
  • Does anyone in your family have allergies to dogs or cats? Roughly one in ten people in the U.S. do have pet allergies, so it could be a potential problem. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, dogs produce allergens that are found in their hair, dander, saliva, and urine. Symptoms of a dog or cat allergy can include sneezing, running nose, coughing, wheezing, hives, rashes, or watery, itchy, red eyes. If might be impractical to have a dog living in your house if a member of your family has a pet allergy. The good news is that there are some dogs that are less likely to cause allergic reactions than others, including the following breeds: Bichon Frise, Maltese, Poodle, Schnauzer, Irish Water Spaniel, Portuguese Water Dog, Afghan Hound, several types of terriers, and a handful of other family-friendly dogs. The American Kennel Club is a good source of information on dogs, including ones that have non-shedding coats and produce less dander.
  • Dogs that were bred in less-than-humane conditions and were removed from their mother prematurely may be fearful, neurotic, and have behavioral problems. Buying puppies through reputable, local breeders rather than pet stores that may be associated with large-scale "puppy mills" is usually a wiser approach to adopting a dog. There are plenty of pet stores that sell healthy, well adjusted puppies, but it's always good to shop around and make informed decisions.
  • Large, rambunctious dogs can be playful and friendly, but aren't aware of the effect they can have on their human friends. If you have very young children or elderly relatives in the house, an overly exuberant, large dog might not be the best match for your family. If you do have a big dog, one of the first orders of business would be to teach them not to jump on people.
While dogs can be a wonderful addition to the family, dog ownership is a commitment that has one thing in common with marriage: It shouldn't be entered into lightly!

After a home seller accepts your offer on a home, the next step usually involves a home inspection.

At this point, you'll hire a home inspector who will walk through the home you'd like to buy and offer expert insights into the residence's strengths and weaknesses. Then, you'll be able to assess potential issues with a home and determine whether to move forward with a home purchase.

A home inspection can be stressful, particularly for a first-time homebuyer. Lucky for you, we're here to help you take the guesswork out of home inspections.

Ultimately, there are many questions to consider after a home inspection is completed, including:

1. What did the home inspection reveal?

A home inspection offers unparalleled insights into a residence. It enables you to look beyond a house's surface and find out whether major repairs will be required both now and in the future.

Hiring an experienced home inspector is paramount for homebuyers. With an experienced home inspector at your disposal, you'll be better equipped than others to identify "hidden" problems within a house.

Also, don't forget to review a home inspection report closely. With this information at your disposal, you'll be able to understand whether a residence meets your expectations.

Be sure to consider the long-term value of a property as well. Remember, a home that you plan to purchase should be able to serve you well for years to come. But if you encounter myriad home issues during a property inspection, you may want to consider rescinding your offer on a residence and restarting your search for the ideal house.

2. Are there major home issues?

As a homebuyer, it is important to be able to identify the differences between major and minor home issues.

For example, if there are tiny cracks and chips in the paint on a kitchen's walls, these issues are minor. In fact, you may be able to repair such issues quickly and effortlessly.

On the other hand, an old, inefficient furnace can cause major headaches. Without a properly functioning furnace, you may struggle to heat your home in winter. Meanwhile, it may cost several thousand dollars to replace this furnace.

If you encounter problems with a residence during a home inspection, consider the costs associated with these issues. By doing so, you'll be able to determine how much you may need to spend to correct such problems and can proceed with a home purchase accordingly.

3. What should I do next?

An informed homebuyer will be equipped with the knowledge and insights needed to make a great decision.

Consider the problems that were discovered during a home inspection. If you can fix home issues without having to commit substantial time and resources to complete various home maintenance projects, you may want to consider moving forward with a home purchase.

If you encounter major home issues, you can always ask a home seller to perform home repairs. Or, you may want to remove your offer on a home altogether.

Working with a real estate agent is ideal, especially for homebuyers who want help with home seller negotiations. With assistance from a real estate agent, you should have no trouble determining how to proceed after a home inspection.

Sure, it's possible to find a home with a fully equipped exercise gym, an Olympic size swimming pool, or a couple tennis courts on the premises, but who wants to spend that kind of money! Fortunately, there are house features you can look for that will help you stay in shape without having to win the lottery first! Here are a few ideas to consider when searching for the ideal home:

  • Proximity to a park: Whether you're looking for a home in the city or nearby suburbia, most communities have bike paths or public parks where you can walk, jog, inline skate, bicycle, take your dog for a stroll, or play tennis. Parks with playgrounds are also a great resource for keeping your kids entertained, physically active, and engaged. Having a park or walking trail located within a mile of your house is ideal because if it's convenient, you'll be more inclined to go there frequently. While it may not be at the top of your house-hunting "wish list," proximity to a park, nature preserve, or walking trail can be instrumental in helping you and your family stay healthier and more energetic. Doctor-approved, regular exercise is also a proven way to counteract the effects of stress, elevate your mood, and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods: One of the advantages of buying a home in a quiet neighborhood is that it offers a safe and relaxing environment for taking daily walks. Going for walks near your house can also be a good way to get to know your neighbors and check out the latest yard sales. Although sidewalks can be a nice feature for homeowners who enjoy neighborhood walks, quiet streets with mostly local traffic is all you really need for favorable walking conditions.
  • A finished basement or extra room: The problem with putting an exercise machine in your bedroom or even the family room is that, sooner or later, you're going to get sick of looking at it! Until somebody creates a treadmill, exercise bicycle, or elliptical machine that has aesthetic appeal as well as functionality, it's never going to complement your decor! More often than not, exercise machines are an eyesore and a source of clutter. The solution is to create a dedicated exercise space in either a finished basement, a rec room, or a spare bedroom. Half of a two-car garage can sometimes provide a good area for weights and exercise machines, too, but that's only if you're willing to park your second car in the driveway.
Three factors that facilitate staying fit and healthy are convenience, proximity, and access to resources. When parks, exercise areas, and equipment are just "a stone's throw away," the likelihood of you starting and staying with a fitness program is much greater.