Bruce Linnehan | Worcester MA Real Estate Real Estate, Shrewsbury MA Real Estate Real Estate


The concept of a starter home is an American tradition that has existed for decades. Buying a starter home makes it possible to achieve homeownership, financial independence, and to build equity and credit while you transition to a larger home.

However, your first home doesn’t need to be a tiny, one-bedroom house with none of the amenities that you want.

In today’s post, we’re going to look at some of the things that are desirable in a first home or starter home, so that you can make the best financial decision now that will help you save more in the long run.

Top things to look for in your first home

1. Resale value

Perhaps the most important thing to think about when buying your first home is the day that you eventually decide to sell it and upgrade. There’s a lot that goes into the purchase value of a home. But, if you maintain the home or even make some upgrades, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to sell it for more than you paid.

Other factors that affect resale value are the location and real estate market trends. While you may not be able to change the economy, you can choose to buy a home that is in a location others will find desirable in the coming years.

2. Size

The cost of your first home will be determined by its location, as mentioned before, but another huge factor will be the size or square-footage of the home and yard.

If you don’t plan on having children in the next few years and don’t currently have kids at home, having several bedrooms and a large backyard probably aren’t huge priorities. This means you’ll be able to save by buying a small home on a small property.

Similarly, if it’s just you and a significant other living in the home, you may be comfortable with just one bathroom for the next few years. These omissions can save you a ton of money on your first starter home.

3. Transportation and proximity

Typically, when people buy their first home they are just getting settled into their career and may still change jobs a few times. Most workers in today’s economy change jobs between 10 and 15 times throughout their career and do so more often toward the beginning.

This means it will make sense for you to buy your first home within commuting distances to companies in your industry.

4. DIY and fixer-uppers

Homes that are in need of repairs or renovations can be a great way to save money and see a return on your investment when you decide to sell. Of course, there are limits to how many repairs are reasonable while still getting your money’s worth from a home.

You’ll know from your home inspection or by doing a walk-through with professional contractors how much work is required to bring the home up to standards. Use those resources to ensure that you’re making a sound financial decision for your first home.


Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash

Building a storage shed for wood can be advantageous for several reasons: it allows you to store your firewood properly.  When firewood is dry, your fire will be warmer, smoke far less, and you'll burn less wood at a time -- and a shed with good airflow that is slightly elevated will ensure your firewood stays dry.  Not to mention that a storage shed will ensure your woodpile is neat and tidy!

This set of instructions will produce a woodshed capable of holding about one cord of wood.

Materials

Lumber

  • Three 4" x 4" x 12' 
  • Two 2" x 6" x 8'
  • Eight 2" x 4" x 8'
  • Thirteen 1" x 4" x 8'
  • One 4' x 8' x 19/32" plywood (OSB or CDX; see notes below) 
  • Hardware

  • Twelve 1/4" x 5" hex lag screws
  • One, 1-lb. box of 1 1/2" T25 deck screws
  • One, 1-lb box of 3" T25 deck screws
  • Other

  • One 5-Gal. bucket of rubber roof
  • Six 12" x 8" x 12" deck blocks
  • Directions

    If you have the opportunity to get your wood cut at the hardware store, this is a great time-saver.  If not, start by measuring out and cutting your wood down to what is described in the sections below.

    Make the floor frame

  • The 2" x 6" by 8' lumber will form the front and back of your woodshed; the 2" x 4" x 45" will form the sides.  Attach these together with the 3" deck screws, using two screws at each join.
  • Next, take five pieces of 2" x 4" x 4' lumber and place these equidistant atop the frame to make the joists.  Be sure to line up your first and last joists so that they are flush with the front and back of the frame.  Fix these in place using two, 3" deck screws on both sides of every joist, for a total of 20 deck screws on the five joists.  Set the remaining three joists aside.
  • Set the floor frame up off the ground either using the deck blocks or two pieces of lumber.  This will ensure you can attach your 4 x 4 posts extending slightly below your frame.
  • The posts at the back of your shed should measure 4' x 4' x 5' 6", and your front-facing posts should measure 4' x 4' x 6'.  There should be six posts total, three for each side.  Attach your posts to the inside corners of your frame and one additional post at the midpoint of your two longest sides.  Use 3" screws to hold your posts in place while you work on the rest of the shed.  Be sure that your posts extend 3 1/2" below your frame.
  • Add your remaining joists snug around your posts, such that there is a joist on either side.  Secure with 3" deck screws as you did in #2.
  • Fix your posts into place permanently into the 2" x 6" x 8' floor frame using 1/4" x 5" lag screws, two facing outward, two facing inward.  You should use four lag screws on each post.
  • Take your 1" x 4" x 8' lumber and orient it at right angles to your joists.  Fix in place using two, 1 1/2" deck screws at each end of every floor joist wherever they touch.
  • Make the walls

  • Use 1" x 4" x 89" lumber to form the back slats of the storage shed.  Attach these equidistant along the outside of the back wall using two, 1 1/2" deck screws wherever the slats touch the frame.
  • Use 1" x 4" x 45" lumber to form the side slats of the storage shed.  Attach as you did the back slats in #1.
  • Set your frame on the deck blocks, concrete blocks or stones you have set aside for this purpose and adjust the shed to sit in its final, desired position.
  • Make the roof

  • Attach 2" x 4" x 4' lumber to both sides of the tops of your posts using two, 3" deck screws everywhere your lumber touches a post.  Your rafters should slant at approximately a 25-degree angle when you align your lumber with your taller and shorter posts.
  • Place the 4' x 8' x 1/2" plywood atop the roof joists.  Secure with 1 1/2" deck screws every half-foot everywhere your roof touches a rafter.  Note: CDX plywood may produce a longer-lasting roof that is less likely to bow, while OSB is fine for flooring. 
  • Apply rubber roof, following the manufacturer's instructions closely.  If desired, add roofing material to extend the life of your woodshed.

  • This entire woodshed costs less than $250 to build and will take one afternoon's work for two people, whereas a pre-made woodshed can cost $1,000 or more.  If you can use leftovers from other projects, it can cost even less!  Ensure yourself a cozy winter with this one-weekend DIY.



     Photo by James DeMers via Pixabay

    If you're hoping to make some major changes to your home, you're likely interested in the types (and terms) of financing available to you. The 203k loan was designed to give homeowners an attractive interest rate, so they'd be more likely to upgrade and modernize their homes. However, it's not available to everyone. Find out more about how the loan works and who qualifies. 

    The Gist 

    A 203k loan is granted by the FHA, though it's not the same as an FHA loan. You can apply for this loan at the time of purchase or after you've already owned the home for a while. Typically, these loans are granted to people who want to transform properties that have seen better days. So if you're buying a major fixer-upper in an abandoned part of town, you're more likely to qualify. Just as with any lender, you'll want to approach several before finding one for you. 

    The Terms 

    The interest rate that each homeowner qualifies for will depend on everything from the going rates to the homeowner's credit score. However, it tends to be around 1% more than a conventional home loan. A regular FHA loan has a minimum credit score of 580 but 203k loans typically require at least 640. You'll also need 3.5% of the total cost of the loan in order to qualify. (So if the repairs cost $10,000, you'll need at least $350 to get started.)

    How Repairs Work 

    These loans are only given to primary homeowners, as opposed to second, vacation or flipped homes, and you're typically not allowed to do the repairs yourself. These loans require you to have serious work completed by an approved contractor, despite the individual zoning laws of your neighborhood. Owners must include an itemized list of upgrades to lenders before being approved. If you aren't able to live on the property during the time of repairs, you can borrow up to six months of mortgage payments to counter the financial burden. 

    Types of Loans 

    You can either take out a streamline or standard loan. A streamlined loan is typically for those who need to make less than $350,000 in repairs, while a standard has no monetary limits. You can use a standard loan to essentially build an entire property, it only requires a small part of the foundation to exist before qualifying. As you might imagine, standard loans require a more intensive underwriting process. 

    The 203k loan can be a great way for homeowners to get the home they want and take a big step toward revitalizing a neighborhood. And while not everyone qualifies, the terms of the loan are typically far more reasonable than conventional lenders. 


    If you recently sold your house, you will need to move quickly to pack up your belongings and relocate to a new address. In addition, you probably will want to clean your house as much as possible prior to a homebuyer's final walk-through.

    Fortunately, there are many quick, easy ways to clean a home before you move, including:

    1. Straighten Up Your Home While You Pack

    Home cleaning can be a long, arduous process, particularly for those who wait until the last minute to perform various home cleaning tasks. If you clean up after yourself while you prepare for your upcoming move, you can avoid the stress of completing extensive home cleaning right before moving day.

    Wiping down home countertops, walls and ceilings usually is a great idea. By doing so, you can keep these spots clean while you plan for your move.

    Also, don't forget to empty the attic and basement and remove dirt, dust and debris from these areas. This will ensure you can clean these areas once and for all before moving day arrives.

    2. Remove All Clutter from Your Home

    There is no reason to let clutter slow you down as you prepare for an upcoming move. Instead, clear out clutter immediately, and you can clean your home and reduce the number of items that you'll need to move to your new address.

    Today, there are several ways to get rid of clutter. In many instances, you can sell excess items as part of a yard sale or online. Or, you can always donate these items to local charities or give them to friends or family members.

    Regardless of what you decide to do with clutter, it is essential to remove clutter from your house as soon as you can. That way, you can cut down on clutter and increase the likelihood of a quick, seamless moving day experience.

    3. Hire a Cleaning Company

    Cleaning a home from top to bottom can be a lot of work. Plus, if you're already allocating significant amounts of time to packing for an upcoming move, you may lack the necessary time and energy to improve your house's interior and exterior.

    Many home cleaning companies are available in cities and towns nationwide. These businesses employ friendly, highly trained professionals who are happy to help you clean your residence prior to moving day.

    If you plan to hire a home cleaning company, don't wait to contact this business. Because the longer you wait to book a home cleaning company, the more likely it becomes that this business won't be able to accommodate your cleaning needs before you move.

    Lastly, if you need help finding a cleaning company in your area, you can always consult with a real estate agent. This housing market professional can help you sell a home, as well as connect you with first-rate cleaning companies in any area, at any time.

    Use the aforementioned tips, and you should have no trouble cleaning your house in the days leading up to your move.


    Photo by 3D Animation Production Company via Pixabay

    If you’re retired, own your own home and have trouble making ends meet, a reverse mortgage may seem like the answer to prayers. You get to stay in your house and you’ll have some extra cash to see you through. Before you run to the nearest lender, however, consider the downside as well as upside to these instruments.

    What is a reverse mortgage?

    A financial institution lends you money, either a lump sum, a stream of payments or a line of credit, against the equity in your home. Unlike most loans, however, you’re not required to pay it back on a regular basis. You can let the loan ride until you die, move or sell the home, at which your home is sold and the proceeds pay off the loan.

    While there are several flavors of reverse mortgage, most are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) under a program called the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM).

    Am I eligible for a reverse mortgage?

    Everyone on the title must be 62 or older. The home must be your primary residence, and your equity needs to be at least around 50 percent. Also, you have to attend consumer counseling before signing up.

    What are the pros of a reverse mortgage?

    • You stay in your home. You keep the title until you sell, move or die.

    • There are no required monthly payments. Any previous home loans are paid before you receive your proceeds.

    • If you choose to make payments, there’s no prepayment penalty.

    • The money you receive is not taxable, nor does it affect your Social Security or Medicare eligibility.

    • The loan is non-recourse. Regardless of your loan balance, you'll never have to pay back more than the house is worth.

    What are the cons of a reverse mortgage?

    • Unless you make payments, the loan amount will continue to increase. It’s unlikely you’ll pass the home on to your heirs.

    • You must continue to pay taxes, insurance and necessary maintenance and repairs. Failure to do so can lead to foreclosure.

    • There are upfront and ongoing mortgage insurance premiums as well as a loan origination fee. These (and interest rates) trend higher than for other mortgage loans.

    • Your favorite bank may not offer reverse mortgages. Most issuers are small banks, credit unions and online lenders. Some lenders have made misleading claims that understate the risk.

    • If you go into a nursing home you will have to sell the home and pay off the loan.

    • While Social Security and Medicare are not an issue, reverse mortgage income can affect your eligibility for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income.

    Should I apply for a reverse mortgage?

    If you plan to stay in your home well into retirement and are having trouble with ongoing expenses, it may be right for you. However, if you aren’t cautious about what you’re getting into, or if you’ll have trouble paying taxes, insurance and upkeep even with the extra money, it isn’t a wise choice.




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