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.


10 Tips for Staging a Master Bedroom

by c21commonweath_ldowling 7. June 2016 17:54

Most healthcare professionals recommend that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, and if we stick to those recommendations, it means we’re spending about a third of every day in our bedroom. It’s no wonder, then, that home buyers pay close attention to the master bedroom when touring a house or apartment.

If you’re getting ready to sell your home, it may be time to spruce up your bedroom. While you may not be selling your furniture with your house, including certain items in your bedroom can help potential buyers imagine themselves relaxing and drifting off to sleep in this space.

Below, we’ve included 10 tips to help you stage your master bedroom so that it appeals to home buyers.

Add window treatments to keep out light and provide privacy. Great natural light is a plus in any bedroom, but most home buyers will want some kind of window treatment that will provide privacy and keep light out when the sun rises before they do. Let natural light in when home buyers are touring the house, but consider updating your shades or blinds if they’re worn or impractical.

Use lamps to create a cozy environment. Speaking of light, adding lamps to bedside tables will make the bedroom feel cozier—and allow book-loving home buyers to picture themselves comfortably reading in bed.

Add a headboard. If your bed doesn’t already have a headboard, add one to give the room a sense of elegance.

Keep electronics out. While some home buyers might ultimately decide to put a TV in the bedroom, it’s a good idea to leave electronics (and other non-essential items such as exercise equipment) out of the bedroom for staging. This way, potential home buyers will see the room as a sleep sanctuary, rather than a space full of distractions.

Minimize closet clutter. Storage space is important to home buyers, so make your closet look as spacious as possible by removing any items from the floor and clearing out clothes so that the rack is only about one third to one half full. Consider grouping hanging clothes by color and garment type.

Remove personal items. If you have family photos or other personal items in your bedroom, remove them for staging. If you’re suddenly faced with lots of bare wall space, add one or two art pieces.

Add furniture in a spacious bedroom. If you’re in the enviable position of having a particularly large master bedroom, add furniture combinations such as two chairs and a coffee table, or a chair and an ottoman, so that the space doesn’t appear too empty. However, don’t get too carried away adding furniture—you don’t want the room to feel crowded.

Go with a neutral wall color. Avoid dark or bold wall colors; instead, opt for a more neutral shade such as beige, white, gray, or pale blue. Consider painting your walls with an eggshell finish so that the room picks up more natural light.

Choose bedding that complements the room’s color. If your pillowcases or comforter are looking threadbare or out-of-date, it may be worth upgrading your bedding. Opt for throw pillows, sheets, and a comforter that complement the wall colors.

Add a splash of color. Liven up your bedroom with a potted plant, flowers in a vase, or a piece of abstract art—while it’s good to have an overall neutral color scheme, a splash of color will make the bedroom stand out.


If you’re looking for more ways to stage your bedroom—and the rest of your house—talk to a CENTURY 21 Commonwealth selling agent. 


Condo vs. Townhouse: What's the Difference?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 6. June 2016 13:29

Because Boston is such a densely populated city, construction of space-saving condominiums and townhouses is becoming more common than construction of single-family homes, and many buyers are turning to these home types for their relative affordability and lower maintenance requirements. Of course, condos and townhomes in Boston are relatively similar, and some buyers who have just started their housing search may wonder what differentiates the two housing types. Below, we look at some of the key differences to help you make an informed buying decision.

What’s a Condominium?

Condominiums are defined by their ownership structure rather than architectural style, which means one can look very different from the next. Some condos may be detached buildings, others may look like apartment units in multistory buildings, and others may even look like a multistory townhouse.

Someone who owns a condo owns an individual unit within a larger community of properties and will pay homeowners’ association (HOA) fees to help maintain communal spaces.

What’s a Townhouse?

Townhouses are defined by their construction type. They are built at ground level, are often multistory, and share at least one wall with a neighboring townhome. Someone who owns a townhouse owns both the interior and the surrounding land (including the lawn and driveway), but may also share certain communal spaces with their neighbors. The upkeep of these communal spaces is typically covered by HOA fees.

Differences in Amenities, Ownership, and Cost

Condos typically have a communal atmosphere and may offer shared amenities such as pools, fitness centers, clubhouses, and covered parking areas. These shared areas, as well as ongoing landscaping outside of each individual unit, are typically paid for through HOA fees, which all residents pay on a monthly basis.

Townhouse owners may also have certain shared amenities and will pay HOA fees for the upkeep of communal areas, but their monthly fees are usually lower because they are responsible for handling the exterior upkeep on the land they own.

While condo owners usually pay higher HOA fees, they may have lower home insurance rates because they only own the interior of their unit and do not have to cover the cost of damage to the roof or surrounding land.


If you’ve decided to look at both townhouses and condos, it’s important to factor HOA fees, additional maintenance fees, and home insurance costs into your decision. An experienced CENTURY 21 Commonwealth realtor can help you better understand your options and the associated costs so that you can find the ideal home for your lifestyle and budget.


3 Tips for Writing Real Estate Copy That Connects with Buyers

by c21commonweath_ldowling 28. May 2016 10:37

Great marketing copy for your listings can go a long way in real estate, and being able to effectively communicate the amenities of your property is essential when creating a persuasive ad. Your goal is to make a compelling property listing that sells your properties fast and efficiently, at or above the listing price. Below are quick tips and hints for creating real estate copy that is not just captivating, but an accurate portrayal of the property.

Know Your Market

Before you begin writing, it is important for you to know the ins and outs of your target market. In understanding your potential buyer, make sure to understand the area in which your property is listed and the amenities that area offers. For instance, if you’re in a quiet, residential area near schools and parks, your property listing may be tailored to families or couples looking to start a family. Another easy way to figure out who your target market is is by looking at the residents and buyers of other properties in your area; this will give you a good indication of the type of person that will most likely be interested in the listing.

Write Your Listing with Your Target Buyer in Mind

Once you know who exactly it is that you are selling to, you can begin creating a listing designed specifically for your potential buyer. The goal here is not to exclude anyone from wanting to buy your listing, but to groom your ads for those most likely to buy that property.

Keep It Simple

It is important to remember that you are writing an advertisement for the listing and not a complete welcome guide and pamphlet for the property. Remember to keep it short and sweet. Captivating headers, bullet points, and easy-to-read vocabulary are all ways to set your listing up for success. 

Show the Home’s Unique Side

Last but not least, create a listing that stands out from other real estate copy. You want your ad to scream, “Pick Me!” when it is placed against thousands of other listings. Don’t be afraid to add flair to your ad and make it your own. The more creative and dynamic your ad, the better.


Remember, you know the property well, so be confident when creating your listing. Instead of viewing real estate copy as an obstacle, embrace it as a beneficial platform to the sell of your listing. 


Boston Condo Market Continues to Heat Up

by c21commonweath_ldowling 28. May 2016 10:18

The popularity of condos in the Boston area has grown exponentially in the past several years.  Just last year, the median sale price for condominiums in the state of Massachusetts was $289,000 and has now risen to $320,000 in the past few months. The rise in price reflects the high demand for this style of home, and the short average time on the market for these properties suggests that condos are the real estate to own and sell.

The concentration and limited supply of condos inside of Boston has created a demand that is “hyper-local”. Listings inside Route 128 offer access to great schools, great communities, and relatively affordable prices--three important factors that can make any property sell.

One of the most attractive qualities of a condo, from the point of view of both a home buyer and an investor, is their versatility. Condos are available in a wide range of architectural styles and sizes, and maintenance requirements are typically minimal since Homeowners Association fees help pay for upkeep. Depending on size and location, condos can attract anyone from empty-nest baby boomers to international investors, and areas such as Downtown Boston, Cambridge, and South Boston have become hotspots for this condo phenomenon.

Many homeowners are migrating from single-family suburban homes into the city, leading to new-end developments and helping older city neighborhoods rebuild and prosper. The relatively new demand for condos in the Boston area has also ushered in high-rise condos, which create more housing space in the third densest city in the country.

While the increasing availability of Boston condos is good news for some, the continuous rise in price and the increase of new developments is very concerning for first-time and mid-market buyers. Although relatively reasonable in price now, condos are slowly becoming more and more geared toward affluent residents. Depending on the area, some condominiums are more expensive than single-family homes.


The changing landscape and increase in demand for condos may also reflect a change in the demographics of potential buyers within the upcoming months and years, and real estate agents will need to stay attuned to these dynamic shifts.  


Boomerang Buyers: Ready to Buy After the Recession

by c21commonweath_ldowling 23. May 2016 16:08

The great economic decline of 2008 affected millions of homeowners across the United States. People were forced to abandon homes and mortgages, experiencing foreclosures, short sales, and delinquencies on mortgage loans. This trying time in the American economy ultimately resulted in the housing market crash, creating a deficit in homeowners and potential buyers.

Now that the housing market has recovered significantly, buyers whose homes were foreclosed upon are reemerging back into the market and are ready to give homeownership a second try. The people now reentering the market after the housing crash have been aptly named boomerang buyers. Many of these buyers who lost their homes during the recession have now spent seven years repairing their credit (as required by lenders), and an estimated 2.2 million former homeowners will be eligible for credit in the next five years.

With the consistent improvement of the housing market and enough time for foreclosures and other delinquencies to be ex-sponged from credit reports, boomerang buyers are not only emerging but are playing an influential role in today’s and tomorrow’s real estate.

Experts are expecting boomerang buyers to change the real estate game, projecting an increase of 100,000 people eligible for mortgage loans each year for 2016-2018. In addition to this statistic, mortgage companies have decreased the penalties for those who have experienced foreclosure, creating a market of over 7.3 million boomerang buyers in total.

With this in mind, banks have taking the opportunity to provide mortgages for foreclosed homeowners by making traditional and FHA loans available. The emergence of new loan forgiveness programs have also helped boomerang buyers become eligible candidates when buying a home.

Although the entire 7.3 million will not all become potential buyers, it has been estimated that 950,000 boomerang buyers have already returned to the housing market. The consistent increase of these buyers may be the spark to a real estate revival.

In spite of the increase acceptance of boomerang buyers within the housing market, it is still important for rebound buyers to fully understand the process of buying a new home after foreclosure. Many real estate agents and financial advisors highly encourage boomerang buyers to meet with a mortgage lender prior to buying a home, allowing for the buyer to be fully aware of their financial options before going in to the housing market.

The marriage between an educated and responsible buyer and the flexibility of banks and mortgage loaners marks a positive beginning for the millions of boomerang buyers across the country. 


How to Stage Your Home to Make Your Space Look Larger

by c21commonweath_ldowling 23. May 2016 15:53

When selling your home, it’s important to present the space in an appealing manner, creating a persuasive experience for potential buyers. There are design approaches that help highlight the selling points of your home and provide solutions to possible concerns. For those who want to make particular rooms or their entire home seem larger, we’ve compiled a few helpful strategies. 


The main key to a large space is one that is organized, clean and open. Clutter decreases the amount of open space and the overall size of the room. With that being said, small spaces are inherently easy to overcrowd. 

A quick solution to this problem is to add built-in storage areas and multifunctional furniture pieces. An increase in storage space allows the room to remain organized and clean while also keeping desired pieces within that room. Buyers are always looking for storage, and there can never be too much. 

Dual functionality in furniture helps create storage opportunities without adding to the bulk of the room and helps decrease the amount of furniture needed to fulfill the purpose of that room. For instance, an ottoman with built-in storage allows for a place to store books and blankets. 

The goal here is to open up the room without compromising the functionality and stylistic choices of the space. 


Another trick to helping a space appear bigger is to choose a light color scheme. Although warm and cozy, dark colors can also make a space feel smaller. In order to enhance the size of a room, paint with light hues such as white, cream, pale greys and blues. This not only keeps the room light and airy but also presents the room as an open canvas for the next owner.

Painting the room monochromatic also helps create the appearance of a larger space. Monochromatic walls blend borders and lines, allowing for the room to appear as one big open space.


Last but not least, mirrors are the quickest and easiest way to make a room appear larger. Try adding an oversized full-length mirror to help create depth and dimension to the room—and to serve as a great statement piece.

These quick and easy tips are intended to help you increase the space and appeal of your home at a minimal cost to you and for the benefit of your next buyer.


What Home Features Appeal to Young Families?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 16. May 2016 16:36

If you’re selling a home in an area with good schools, walkable neighborhoods, parks, and a highly-engaged community, your listing is likely to attract young couples with kids. However, you can’t just rely on your location to sell your home—if you’re anticipating showing your home to young families, think about the features that are most likely to appeal to this demographic. To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of 6 features that are likely to stand out to young families.

A Move-In Ready Home

Some young homebuyers without kids might like the idea of purchasing a fixer-upper and putting in the work to make it a comfortable home, but most parents are looking for a home that their family can live in immediately without any costly renovations or time-consuming repairs. If there are repair projects that you’ve been putting off, make sure to finish them before you list your house so that you don’t raise any red flags with young parents.

Hardwood Floors

Anyone with children or pets is likely to appreciate hardwood floors, as these will be much easier to clean and lasts longer than carpets.

A Fenced-In Yard

Kids need outdoor play space, so it’s no surprise that a yard is one of the most important home features for young families. If you have a yard but it isn’t currently fenced in, consider adding a privacy fence (after checking your homeowner association rules and utility easements, of course). A fence around your yard will give children and pets a safe place to play and can yield a 50% return on your investment.

Indoor Play Space

As any families who have spent a winter in the northeast know, it’s important to have designated indoor play areas when the weather’s bad. A designated playroom can be appealing to young parents, as it can give their kids a space to spread out their toys without spilling out into the main living area. If your home has a spare bedroom or den, consider staging it as a playroom.

Energy-Efficient Features

If your home has energy-efficient appliances, windows, or other features, highlight them in your listing. The opportunity to save on utilities and live in an environmentally-friendly home is likely to appeal to young homebuyers.

An Open-Plan Kitchen


A kitchen is a home’s hub, and increasingly, families are choosing to eat together in open-plan kitchens with central islands rather than congregating in a formal dining room. A kitchen with an open layout can also make it easier for parents to prep meals and keep an eye on kids in the living room at the same time. If you’ve been planning to renovate your kitchen before listing your home, consider choosing an open floor plan.