By Julian Lane, The Fix It Champ
When you buy a house, it’s easy to forget that the costs of home ownership go beyond
mortgage payments. Houses can be fragile things, especially in the face of harsh, unpredictable
weather, so you will inevitably have to spend some money on maintenance and repairs. These
costs can seem hugely intimidating, but there are ways to keep them under control.
Knowing When to Call in a Pro
Some repairs are obvious; it’s easy to know if your HVAC is broken or if a faucet is leaking.
However, some signs of damage are a bit more subtle, so it’s up to you as an owner to check
whether everything in your home is in working order.
For example, you should know the potential signs of roof damage, such as water stains on the
ceiling and curling, cracked, damaged, or fallen shingles. Similarly, the signs of a foundation
problem are not necessarily obvious, including jamming doors and sticking windows. Inform
yourself on what to look out for and you will minimize big, expensive repairs.
Budgeting for Emergency Repairs
There is nothing worse than a sudden emergency repair bill, especially since these tend to
come up at the most inconvenient times. When it comes to financing these repairs, there are
smart ways and not-so-smart ways to proceed.
Avoid spending money you need for other things, such as rent or bills, and resist the temptation
to pull out your credit card. Above all, don’t go to a last-resort money lender, as this almost
never proves to be a smart financial decision.
Ideally, you should have a fund for this type of emergency; the experts at Gen X Finance
recommend setting aside 10 percent of your mortgage payment every month. If you don’t have
one and need the money now, consider a personal loan or a home equity line of credit, both of
which are better than credit card debt.
Home repair insurance is another option since it covers many of the wear-and-tear damage that
homeowners insurance does not. This can be expensive, but it can be a good choice if many of
your appliances are nearing the end of their life expectancy.
Finding Good Contractors
Don’t just go with the cheapest option when it comes to contractors. It’s almost always worth
paying a bit more for a reliable contractor with plenty of good reviews. This ensures that you
won’t end up with a bigger, more stressful bill when something goes wrong down the line. There
are many ways to ensure you are hiring a true professional, from getting recommendations to
carrying out interviews and setting out everything in writing.
Of course, you won’t always require a contractor. Some home repairs, such as patching drywall
or unclogging a faucet, can be done by anyone — even those folks with minimal DIY skills.
However, most major repairs, as well as anything involving electrical, roofing, or advanced
plumbing, should always be left to the professionals.
Basic Home Maintenance
One of the easiest ways to keep repair costs down is to simply prevent the damage in the first
place. Regular home maintenance can help keep your house in good health, minimize wear and
tear, and identify small issues before they become big ones.
Better Homes and Gardens has an excellent and comprehensive home maintenance checklist,
including tasks you should carry out monthly and seasonally. This is especially important in a
climate like Boston, where dramatic winter weather can easily take a toll on your home.
Your home is probably the biggest investment you’ll ever make, so it makes sense to keep it in
great condition. Regular maintenance combined with fast response in case of an emergency
should be enough to keep your house healthy and safe. In the meantime, brush up on your
basic DIY, inform yourself on warning signs, and know how you plan to tackle a big repair bill.
1. No one is representing YOU.
By going directly to a seller's agent, you are forgoing the opportunity to have someone advocating for you, negotiating on your behalf, researching the property and neighborhood, etc. Your buyer's agent has no reason to sell you on a certain house so they will be an impartial voice of reason throughout the search. The best part is that as a buyer, you pay nothing for this!
2. You may overpay for the home.
Some people think they'll get a better deal by submitting an offer directly through the seller's agent because they assume the seller will save on commission. Usually the seller pays their agent the same amount whether it is split with a buyers' agent or not. Because a seller's agent must act in the best interest of their client, not only must they present all offers and help their client select the highest and best, but their duty is to negotiate a deal that is best for the seller, NOT for the buyer. Further, a good buyer's agent knows which properties in the area may have room for negotiation and which ones will take a competitive offer to be the one accepted.
3. Losing out on off-market and coming soon properties.
Sure, consumers can access "coming soon" properties by combing through many websites but once they're listed there they're already pretty much public knowledge. A well connected Realtor is dialed in to what else is in the pipeline and has access to industry-only databases of properties that are about to hit the market.
4. Missteps in the process that can derail your purchase.
A home purchase is a very complex transaction and one mistake like opening a new credit card account just before closing can mean you don't get to move into your new home. A buyer's agent will help ensure that the transaction goes smoothly by being a resource for negotiating the offer and contingencies, home inspection repairs, referring professionals like contractors, attorneys and lenders, making sure the financing process moves along the way it should, and assisting all the way through the final walk-through, closing and beyond.
We love questions, so if you're at all curious about how to benefit from personalized, expert buyers' agents in MA we're happy to talk!
We have LOTS of older Cape style homes in Massachusetts and many homeowners are looking for ways to increase their living space. With sloped second floor ceilings limiting square footage, adding dormers to a Cape can be a relatively inexpensive way to gain space.
Gabled window dormers can add curb appeal and are less costly to build, while a full shed dormer, usually done in the back of the house, can allow for the addition of a bathroom.
Just a shed dormer itself may start around $20,000 but expect plenty of variation in cost depending on the size, materials used, and whether the new space will be used for a bathroom (i.e. added plumbing and electrical costs) or bedroom.
Often one project means others as well, so consider whether the dormer will mean replacing an entire roof, all the siding, or other windows in the house to match.
As with any renovation, it's a good idea to start with plans and choose a few different contractors to price the project, making sure to check references before moving forward with anyone. A dormer can grow to be a large project but can be kept simple and mean better curb appeal, increased living space, and higher resale value.
With so little housing inventory, it's hard enough to find the right home without trying to stay in a certain school district. This often prompts families to wonder if kids can stay in their schools or districts after moving elsewhere. The short answer is, it depends.
With enrollment changes and space constraints, district boundaries within a town tend to fluctuate. In some towns, many buyers successfully request that their children remain in a certain elementary or middle school after a move within the town. In lots of these cases, buses are not available.
Some towns offer school choice (Framingham, Holliston and Boston for example, all have different structures of school choice available) within the city or town that can make it easier for students to remain at their school after an in-town move.
Moving out of town can make it more difficult to stay in a certain school district but it's not impossible. Massachusetts school districts can participate in a school choice program allowing students from other towns to attend a school in a different town than their own. There are usually a limited number of spots available for this in a given district, and often a certain school within that district is assigned (so may not be an option for someone who is looking to be in a specific elementary school, for example).
When attending school out of district or out of town or attending a charter school in Massachusetts, parents are usually responsible for transportation. Another consideration is that many town activities like youth sports don't usually offer the same choice, so it's important to consider all of the pros and cons to attending school out of district.
Knowing that these options are available can sometimes open up more possibilities in a home search but it's important to consider what works best for the family and confirm any plans with local school districts before submitting an offer on a home.
For further information on school choice in Massachusetts, visit The Department of Education
For buyers with and without children, one of the most important considerations in selecting a city, town or neighborhood, is the school system. For those with kids, educational opportunities have obvious importance, and for others school rankings are an essential factor when it later comes time to resell. What makes a school district one of the best is far more subjective than rankings can demonstrate, so it's always important to get local opinions from parents, teachers, or town officials, but the top 25 list below provided by Niche, is a starting point. In Massachusetts as a whole we are fortunate to have some of the highest ranked school systems in the country.
Details on the 2019 Best School District Ranking from Niche