How to Help a First-Time Home Buyer Know What to Expect

by c21commonweath_ldowling 11. July 2016 15:32

As a realtor, you will work with clients who fall on a wide spectrum of experience with home buying and real estate. It is very important to be prepared for each situation and to educate your clients about the housing market and home buying process based off of what they know walking into your office.  It’s especially important to answer questions and help educate your clients if they are going to be buying a house for the first time. Establishing clear communication and realistic expectations prior to house hunting will help create a positive experience for both you and the buyer.

Here are a few tips for how to help a first time home buyer know what to expect.

Determine a Realistic Budget

First and foremost, make sure your client has a clear understanding of what they can and cannot afford. Encourage them to create a budget that reflects two numbers: their target goal (i.e. the price that they feel comfortable spending) and the absolute maximum amount they can afford to spend on a home. Encouraging them to create a realistic budget will put you in a more desirable position as a realtor. It will allow you to focus your attention, as well as theirs, on homes and properties they can actually afford.

Establish Location Requirements

Along with a budget, have your clients make a list of the location-based perks and amenities that they want, such as access to a good school district or nearby hiking trails. This conversation will also give you the opportunity to sit them down and explain plausible options for their budget. First-time buyers are less likely to understand just how much factors such as location can raise the price in a home, so it’s really important to help align their dream home to the one you are helping them find and buy.

Plan for the Future

Next, encourage your clients to think long-term when it comes to buying a home. Do their jobs force them to relocate often? Can they honestly make that hour commute to work everyday for the next 4 or 5 years? Do they plan on having children, and will this house be a good fit for that future plan? The main objective here is to make sure your clients are happy with their purchase once the sale goes through and they are settled in. All too often people get caught in the hype of the sale and forget to consider some of the initial red flags that conflict with what they have planned for the future.   

Establish Must-Haves

Another step to help prevent this from happening is to have your first-time buyers come up with a checklist prior to viewing homes. This exercise will force your clients to think about the things that matter to them in what they need in a home as well as help prevent them from getting persuaded into buying a house solely based on staging and appealing language in the listing. Creating a checklist for viewing properties will also make it easier for your clients to sit down and compare and contrast properties when it is time to make a final decision.

Discuss the Contract

Last but not least, remind your clients to read the house purchase contract before signing it. This will be one of the bigger, if not biggest, purchases of their life, and they need to know the ins and outs of what they are signing up for. Since they are first-time buyers, it is very likely that they will rely heavily on you to help explain the contract, so make sure you are familiar with the agreement as well.

First-time buyers are usually new to the game and are going to need you to coach them through the process. Remain confident in your expertise and experience and use that to help you succeed and provide your clients with a good experience in buying their first home.


Home Buyers: Who to Have on Your Real Estate Team

by c21commonweath_ldowling 11. July 2016 14:44

If you’ve decided to buy a home, you shouldn’t go it alone. There are a lot of people behind the scenes that help make your purchase possible. Below are some of the important people you need on your side to have a positive home buying experience. 

Real Estate Agent

Looking for a real estate agent can be just as tricky as finding the perfect home for you and your family. You want an agent who is well-versed with the local housing market. An agent who has a lot of experience and/or covers a large geographic area will be able to provide you with a versatile portfolio of prospective properties. You also want an agent who has your best interest at heart and is willing to go to bat for you.  Because buying a home is such a huge decision, you’ll need an agent who is willing to keep in constant communication with you and walk you through the process so that you always know what to expect. 

Mortgage Broker

Your mortgage broker serves as the liaison between you and the bank. Their job is to create a loan plan that fits both parties’ needs. Although it’s possible to buy a home without a mortgage broker, it’s best to have someone on your team who can set you up for success, especially when it comes to determining how you are going to pay for the home. Whatever loan you decide to take will have a huge impact on your life after the sale, so you want to make sure it is a loan contract that is fair and one you can afford long-term. 

Real Estate Attorney

A real estate attorney will ensure that your rights are protected throughout your home buying experience. They will also be in charge of processing all legal documents necessary for the purchase. Having someone who understands the legal ins and outs of real estate will be an additional layer of protection as the homebuyer. Your real estate attorney will help you be fully aware of what you are signing up for and can also give you advice on things to add/ask for from the seller. 

Financial Advisor

The financial advisor’s role on the team is to help you understand and create a budget when home buying. It is their job to evaluate your current financial health and communicate to you your best options when buying a home. They can also help you apply for loans so that you get the best loan for your financial situation. Last but not least, your financial advisor can help you make future plans to increase the value of your home after you’ve moved in, such as making renovations or leasing the home later on. 

Title Agency

The title agency comes at the end of the buying process. It is their job to make sure that the seller has the legal right to sell the property you are buying. They make sure that the property is truly available and that the seller has no outstanding loans, mortgages, or leases for the property that needs to be handled prior to the sale and title transfer. This is just another precautionary measure that protects you as a buyer. 

The one thing that each of the members on your team have in common is the ability to make sure that you as a buyer are both informed and protected when buying a home. Remember: this is one of the largest purchases you will probably make in your lifetime, so it’s essential to set yourself up for success. 


7 Tips for Selling a Home When You Have Pets

by c21commonweath_ldowling 5. July 2016 12:24

You love your pets and couldn’t imagine a home without them—but that doesn’t mean the people touring your home feel the same way.

If you’re a pet owner who is planning on listing your property, there are a few things you should keep in mind when preparing your house for showings. While some of the prospective buyers who visit your house might be animal lovers, others might be nervous around pets or could simply be put off by the presence of a litter box or dog pen in your laundry room. Follow these tips to make sure your pet-friendly home makes the right first impression on all buyers.

Make Sure the Yard is Spotless

The last thing you want is for a visitor to step in a mess left by your pet while walking around your yard. If you have a dog who spends time outdoors, make sure you’re consistently picking up after him or her. Keeping your grass short will make it easier to maintain a clean yard—and will improve the appearance of your property in general.

Put Away Pet Items That Create Clutter

Stow food and water bowls, pet toys, pet carriers, and other accessories in a cabinet or other out-of-sight storage space while buyers tour your home. If you have a litter box, make sure it is clean and stored somewhere inconspicuous.

Showcase Attractive Pet Accessories

While you don’t want your pet’s personal items littering the floor during showings, it is okay to highlight certain pet accessories—especially if some of your potential buyers may have their own pets. If you have a dog, recommends hanging a clean, attractive leash in the entryway so potential buyers can imagine heading out the front door to walk their own dog. Cat or dog owners could also place pet treats in an attractive container on the kitchen counter, set out stainless steel water and food bowls (somewhere they won’t be stepped on), or place a clean pet bed at the foot of their own bed.

Vacuum Regularly

Unless you own a hairless cat or a breed of dog that doesn’t shed, you’re no doubt well familiar with how quickly pet hair can collect on every surface in your house. Make sure you’re vacuuming every day while showing your home—and get the furniture as well as the floor.

Check for Stains

Do a walkthrough of your house to make sure there aren’t any pet-related stains that you may have messed. If your pet has made their mark on your carpet or furniture, call in professional stain cleaners.

Perform a Smell Test

You’re probably used to the smell of your home because you’re there every day, but when a prospective buyer walks into your home for the first time, it can quickly become obvious that you have a pet. Try using an enzyme cleaner to eliminate potentially offensive pet odors, and when you’re done cleaning, have a friend or neighbor stop by your house to make sure it smells fine to them.

Arrange a Pet Sitter


If possible, have a friend or family member pet sit your cat or dog in their own house when you know you have prospective buyers coming. Your pet may be incredibly well-behaved around you, but you can’t necessarily predict how they will act when a new person comes into the house. It’s also possible that a home buyer could misinterpret playful behavior—such as a dog bouncing up and down—as a sign of aggression. Don’t risk a bad first impression—if you don’t have someone to pet sit for you, consider keeping your pet in a comfortable crate that they’re already familiar with during home tours. Make sure your pet gets the exercise she needs between home tours so that she is relaxed when you have visitors.


Will Micro-Apartments Catch on in Boston?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 5. July 2016 12:14

Micro-apartments—small units that are usually between 250 and 350 square feet—are already catching on in several densely populated cities, including New York and Hong Kong. But are they a good solution to Boston’s shortage of affordable housing stock?

As of November 2015, there were 148 apartments considered micro-units in Boston, and another 205 had been approved or were already under construction. Clearly, the micro-apartment revolution is still relatively small scale (pun intended) in our city, but it may become more prominent as the demand for central housing in popular neighborhoods increases.

The Pros and Cons of Micro-Apartments

Because they’re smaller and cheaper to build, micro-apartments typically come with lower rents than standard loft or studio apartments. This may make them appealing to young professionals or even retired seniors who want to live in central, walkable neighborhoods but have a limited budget for their monthly rent. A micro-unit may also be a good option for anyone who is trying to decrease their current housing expenses in order to save up enough to make a down payment on their first home.

Because Boston only started adding micro-apartments to its housing stock relatively recently, these units have a very modern feel and often include desirable features like hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, storage lofts, high ceilings, and large windows. Many may also offer communal spaces, such as a pool, gym, or large patio for grilling, allowing residents to socialize and expand their living areas.

Of course, micro-apartments may not be the right option for everyone. While ideally suited to young singles, micro-units might feel too cramped for couples or families with children. People who regularly cook at home might find that counter and storage space is lacking, and professionals who work from home might begin to feel cooped up after sitting in a 300 square foot apartment all day. Furthermore, while micro-units can be more affordable than other apartment types, they can still be relatively costly when you look at the price per square foot.


These are all things you’ll need to consider if you’re looking at a micro-apartment for your next home. If you spend a lot of time away from home and like keeping your living space relatively minimal, a micro-unit might be the perfect option. If you feel like you need more space but still want to experience city life, it may be worth looking for housing in Boston’s close-in suburbs.


Spotlight on Newton: One of the Hottest Boston Suburbs for Housing

by c21commonweath_ldowling 27. June 2016 13:10

Newton, Massachusetts is an up-and-coming town that was ranked by the website Livability as one of the top three suburbs for families in the US. With great schools, amazing homes for reasonable prices, and convenient location, it is no surprise that this Boston suburb has been receiving so much attention and praise. Listed below are just a few reasons why Newton may be the suburb for you.

Proximity to Boston

Although Newton is considered a suburb, it resides only seven miles outside of Boston. The close proximity to such a major city allows homeowners in this area to get the best of both worlds. Buyers are able to get spacious homes, quiet neighborhoods, and amazing schools while also being only a few minutes’ drive from the city. There are also plenty of things to do in Newton itself, including visiting history museums, going to the library, and taking in a symphony orchestra concert. Newton is the perfect location for buyers who love both the city and the country.

Lots of Green Space

Speaking of the country, this suburb’s open landscape is home to some of the most amazing hiking trails and lakes in the northeast. Residents are able to enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities, including swimming, canoeing, and kayaking on the waters of Crystal Lake.

Outstanding Education

In addition to location and public perks that are hard to come by, Newton also provides awe-inspiring education for children in that area. Both high schools in this town are ranked within the top 40 public high schools of the country. This high quality of education is also reflected in the fact that 77 percent of residents in Newton have a bachelor’s degree or higher, a statistic that greatly affects the quality of life in this area.

Low Crime Rates

As with many other suburbs, Newton provides a safe environment for residents and families, with record low reports of crime activity and crime alerts. This is a pretty remarkable feat considering that Newton is the 11th largest city in Massachusetts.

The versatility of Newton has made it a hotspot for suburban realty. It is the perfect place for the modern suburbanite, a person who loves the suburbs but one who also can’t cut ties with the city. Its size combined with its close-knit community and other amenities provides the perfect balance for homeowners.


How to Boost Curb Appeal in a Region with Four Seasons

by c21commonweath_ldowling 27. June 2016 12:49

Whatever the season, when selling a home, it is important to conscientiously present the outside of your home in a manner that will appeal to potential buyers. Your home’s curb appeal has the ability to lure buyers from near and far but also the power to repel and prevent people from taking one step through that front door. The outside of your home is like the cover of a book, an essential element to successfully selling a listing that is often judged on first impressions. Listed below are a few tips to improve your home’s outward appearance and give it a look that will last throughout the seasons.

See through the Buyer’s Eyes

The first step in improving your home’s curb appeal is to take on the role of the buyer. Walk around your home and document the things you see that might turn off a potential buyer, such as trash in the rain pipes or autumn leaves completely covering the grass. Make sure to tidy up your front and side lawns. For instance, if you have children, put away toys and bikes that have been left out. You want to present your home as a clean and stylish blank slate. Taking care of these small problems can make a big difference and can be just what it takes to persuade buyers into buying your home.

Check the Roof

The next home feature to focus on is your rooftop. Although many forget to check this before selling a home, a durable and clean roof elevates your house’s appeal tremendously. Especially when selling in a place like Boston, an area that experiences all four seasons, a sturdy, clean, and durable roof is a perk that no buyer can resist. If your roof needs repairs—even if it’s something minor like replacing a few shingles—make sure to get it done before listing your home.

Check the Driveway

After addressing the roof, take your eyes away from the sky and focus them on the ground, literally. Check the condition of your driveway, walkway/stairs, and sidewalks around your house. If there are any uneven areas or cracks, it is important to get these repaired. An even ground and walkway is much appreciated during the winter when there is snow and ice, and also gives a home a clean polished look in all seasons. If there are weeds creeping through, pluck them out, and if there are stains on your sidewalk or driveway have them pressure washed away; these are all quick and easy fixes that will boost your homes curb appeal exponentially.

Think about the Little Details

Last but not least, an easy way to help improve your home’s curbside appearance is to accessorize. Change out the doorknobs, house numbers, and mail box to something new and complimentary to your house’s outside design. For instance, metal house numbers are nice shiny addition to a home that are just as, if not more, durable than numbers that are painted on. Lining your walkway with solar-paneled lights is a design that not only heightens the appeal of the house, but is an accessory that is appreciated throughout all times of the year. A few new accessories laced throughout the landscape of your home can easily elevate your home’s selling potential with little effort and cost to you.


8 Skills You Develop as a Real Estate Agent

by c21commonweath_ldowling 20. June 2016 13:26

Sure, you may have started your career as a real estate agent with certain skills—such as negotiation and attention to detail—that have helped you succeed. However, there are also plenty of opportunities to learn on the job, and any good real estate agent will continue developing their skills in order to stay at the top of their game.

Below are 8 skills that are essential to develop when you work in real estate.

Time Management

One of the benefits of working as a real estate agent is that you get to set your own schedule, but this also means you have to hone your time management skills. You’ll need to pay close attention to all your clients, regardless of where they are in the leasing, buying, or selling process, and make sure that you don’t overbook yourself. However, you’ll also need to maximize your work day, making time for existing clients while also working to make sure you have a full pipeline of leads.

Active Listening

When you pay close attention to what a client is saying (along with their non-verbal cues), you’ll better understand their needs and be that much closer to closing a deal. And by providing cues to show that you are listening, such as nodding and rephrasing to verify your understanding, you can build greater trust with your clients, making them more likely to recommend you in the future.


Along with being a good listener, you should be able to clearly communicate with your clients and all other parties involved in the transaction, answering their questions and further educating them, whether they are a first-time home buyer or seasoned real estate investor.


As a real estate agent, your business depends on having a steady stream of leads, which means that if you’re not a fan of networking, you’ll have to learn to love it. The best agents connect with new leads through multiple channels (e.g. online, over the phone, in person) and have a prospective buyers list ready whenever they come to a new home. They also know other real estate agents and are willing to work with them when that means closing a deal faster.


Networking isn’t the only skill you’ll need to work on in order to get more leads; you’ll also need to get comfortable following up with all leads until you close a deal with them (or it becomes clear that they are no longer a qualified lead). This also means you have to be extremely organized, keeping all your lead contact information in one place and tracking your follow-up efforts.


Not only do you need to be able to market your properties, you need to be able to market yourself as a real estate agent. You should be able to clearly communicate why a prospective client should work with you instead of another agent in your area.

Tech Savvy

Since 90% of home buyers now search online during the home buying process, you’ll need to be familiar with the sites and tools they use in order to better communicate with them. In addition to building an understanding of online marketing and mobile technology that clients are using, you should also familiarize yourself with any ‘smart’ tech features in the homes you are showing so that you can highlight them in home tours.

Research Skills


As a real estate agent, your education is ongoing. Not only do you need to stay up-to-date on the latest real estate trends, you also need to have a deep understanding of the local housing market so that you can best advise your clients and close more deals.


Tips to Save for Your First Down Payment

by c21commonweath_ldowling 20. June 2016 13:16

One of the biggest steps in life is deciding to become a homeowner. We all reach a point where we are ready to break free from the bounds of our landlords, actually hang things with nails, and paint the walls whatever color we please, without the fear of losing our security deposit. So where to start? First and foremost, you’ll need to have a down payment.

What Does a Down Payment Look Like?

Typically, a down payment is about 20% of the total cost of a home. For instance, if you are purchasing a $200,000 home, your down payment would be around $40,000. For the average first-time home buyer, that’s a lot of money to save up. However, with a few lifestyle changes, you can make it happen.

Step One: Develop Your Savings

This kind of savings strategy is a little bit more than just your average rainy day fund. If your savings account isn’t exactly flourishing, the first thing you need to do is give it some substance. What’s a great way to do that? Sell your stuff. That old car in your garage that you’ve been “working on” for 10 years may be the perfect place to start. Or how about those antiques you inherited from your Great-Aunt Ruth? Either way, you can scrounge your house and find a few things to put on Craigslist that may give your savings account the jump start it needs.

Step Two: Cut Back

Cutting back means more than just quitting your daily Starbucks trip and bringing lunch from home (although these can be good places to start). Do you need cable if you only watch Netflix and Hulu? Do you have to work out at Gold’s Gym, or can you start jogging in your neighborhood? Is it absolutely necessary that you have unlimited data on your cell phone? All of these are areas that most of us spend hundreds of dollars on a month and that we could easily live without.

Step Three: Set Up Fixed Savings

Once you have cut out several unnecessary monthly expenses, your income will feel much larger. To keep from blowing that income on more unnecessary things, consider  setting up a fixed amount to come out of your paycheck every month and go directly to your savings. You’ll be surprised to see how quickly your savings will grow with scheduled amounts being deposited.

Step Four: Invest

On average, the money you keep in a savings account is earning you less than one percent in interest. Once you have developed your savings, put it to work. See if your savings can make you more money in a high yield savings account or even in money market accounts. If you don’t have years and years to save for that first home purchase, this is a great way to maximize your income and quickly move towards making that down payment.

It’s a Lot of Work, But It’s Worth It

Yes, there are ways to get home loans without $40,000 in your pocket, but consider this: with 20% down you are much more likely to be approved for a loan, and you can avoid paying for Private Mortgage Insurance. PMI will cost you hundreds of dollars a month, and it can easily be avoided with a larger down payment. Buying your first home should be exciting, so make the process easier on yourself. Follow these few simple steps, and save up for your down payment.


Marketing Homes with Smart Features

by c21commonweath_ldowling 13. June 2016 11:34

Our homes have become the new technological platform for the latest widgets and gadgets, creating an environment where houses can learn and make accommodations specific to the people living in them. With “smart” technology features becoming increasingly sought-after amenities, it’s important for real estate agents to know how to market these features to interested buyers. Below are some tips to sell a “smart” home to potential buyers by marketing the benefits of these technologies in a user-friendly manner.

Look at Ways that Smart Tech Makes Lives Easier

Depending on the house that you are selling, the corresponding smart technologies will vary. However, no matter the home or the amenities that it comes with, it is important for you to remember two things, especially when it comes to selling a smart home: 1. People want apps and systems to be fast. 2. People want things to be easy.

It is important to present the system with as few steps as possible.  A system or technology that requires great effort by the homeowner quickly diminishes the benefits of that system. If you are able to market a house and its features with this in mind, you will have no problems closing.

Consider How Smart Tech Can Appeal to Different Buyers

Since the development of the smart home is still up and coming, buying or investing in a smart home can be intimidating for potential buyers. There may also be resistance from those that don’t feel technologically savvy or people that want a more traditional home setting. However, don’t let this pushback push you into a niche where you are only selling to high-tech modern buyers; remember that the smart home is a home everyone can enjoy.

Provide a Tutorial

People will be living in these homes and interacting with these technologies every day, and buyers do not want to have to commit to a laborious task every time they would like to use or enjoy the smart home amenity. Giving them a quick and easy tutorial will make buyers more comfortable committing to and appreciating the smart feature.

Familiarize Yourself with Smart Features

Before putting a home on the market, make sure you understand the smart features of the home. For instance, if the home is equipped with a smart security system, learn both the basics and the extras of the system, and choose aspects of the technology that will speak to the buyers you are selling to. In the case of the smart security system, if you are selling to married couples with kids, it may be important to highlight the features of the app that allow you to view what is going on in every room with just with a quick click of the remote.

It is important to tailor the application or specific technology to your buyers’ needs so that the buyers can have a better understanding of how they will be able to benefit from the technological advancement.

Understanding both the home and your potential buyer will create the perfect situation for you to sell a smart home in a way that caters to next homeowner. 


Boston Home Buyers Seek Out Private Patios and Rooftop Terraces

by c21commonweath_ldowling 13. June 2016 11:13

As high-rise and condominium homes become more and more popular in Boston real estate, demand for private patios and rooftop terraces has skyrocketed. High–rise living comes with great views and city living, but sacrifices the space of a back or front yard. However, patios and rooftop terraces solve this issue by providing buyers with their own personal space where they too can enjoy the outdoors.

Private outdoor spaces come in various sizes and conditions but can be found accompanying many Boston condos in various price ranges. Listed below are a few of the different types of outdoor spaces and areas in Boston where you can find the patio that was made just for you.

Outdoor Entertaining Spaces

In neighborhoods like South End, there are some condominiums with private patios the size of an additional room.  A large patio allows for another space to entertain family and guests, or an opportunity to decorate a serene setting where you can go and enjoy a space in peace and quiet. A large patio can further enhance the open-space concept integrated within a modern condo, allowing for a smooth transition from the inside of the home to the outside space.

Cozy Retreats

Some other condos provide buyers with one or two private decks. Although significantly smaller in size when compared to the large patio style previously mentioned, these spaces are still big enough to enjoy. Whether the deck is decorated with a small table to enjoy your morning coffee and breakfast or comfortable chairs to enjoy your night read, decks give you a private area that is nice and cozy.

Private Decks with a Bird’s Eye View

In affluent areas like Beacon Hill, you can find homes that come with private roof decks. These spaces provide endless opportunities for personalization: for example, one rooftop deck is decorated with its own personal fireplace and built-in shelves. With a space this large, one can divide it into multiple rooms with different uses, creating both a space to entertain guests, a play area for kids, or a quiet romantic getaway.

Whether it is a large open patio or a small private deck, an outdoor space is the perfect amenity for the Boston condominium.