Cynthia Owens - Five College REALTORS ®



Posted by Cynthia Owens on 1/9/2020

As you go on the house hunt, you’re likely to attend many different open houses. After awhile you can get confused as to what you have seen and where you saw it. Each open house or home showing is only a short window of time. As a buyer, you’re trying to get the feel for a house. Being an observant home shopper can help you to avoid a lot of problems down the road. Check out some of the biggest red flags that you need to look out for when you attend an open house.


The Candles Are Burning Bright


You walk into an open house and see a lovely candle lit on the kitchen table. While it may make you feel all warm and fuzzy, it’s not always a good sign. Candles are a great way to mask odors. There could possibly be a musty odor coming from the sink, the basement, or another part of the house. This spells hidden damage and possible danger for you as a homebuyer. While the home inspection should pick up on things like this, you don’t necessarily want to get that far in the process. The art of masking odors could be a sign that the sellers are trying to hide something.


Be Your Own Inspector


As you walk through the home do you notice squeaky floor boards, cracks in the walls, cracks in the ceilings, or a drippy faucet? Maybe you see some patches on the walls or mirrors and paintings that seem out of place? These are all issues that could be signs of a greater problem. Keep in mind that no house is perfect, but you should do a little investigating on your own while walking through the house at showings.


The Home Doesn’t Appear Cared For


Curb appeal is one thing, but a home that looks unkept is a sign of a larger problem for you. Has the lawn been mowed? Is the fence in disrepair? How does the home appear from the outside at first glance? There are plenty of ways that you can fix up a home to make it your own once you buy it, but the question is just how much of a challenge are you up for? There is always a chance that you’ll have large maintenance costs when a home hasn’t been properly maintained by the previous owners.


Searching for homes and going to open houses can be fun. It can also be an educational experience to help you narrow down what you’re looking for and what you can handle as a homeowner.            






Posted by Cynthia Owens on 12/12/2019

Buying a house is a life-changing decision. As such, you should perform extensive home evaluations before you make your final purchase decision.

There are many questions to consider as you review houses, and these questions include:

1. Does a home match my expectations?

Entering the housing market with homebuying criteria usually is a good idea. If you know what you want to find in your dream house, you can tailor your home search accordingly. As a result, you can speed up the homebuying journey.

When it comes to establishing homebuying criteria, it helps to consider your short- and long-term goals. For example, if you want a house that is close to your current office in the city, you can search for residences in towns and cities near your workplace. Or, if you are willing to upgrade a house on your own, you may want to focus on "fixer-upper" properties.

2. Can I afford a house?

Home prices vary based on many factors. Fortunately, if you create a homebuying budget, you can narrow your house search and review properties that fall within your price range.

Oftentimes, it helps to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Banks and credit unions are happy to provide you with a wide assortment of mortgage options. Once you assess the different types of mortgages, you can choose one that will ensure you can acquire your dream home in no time at all.

3. Will a home require in-depth repairs in the near future?

How a home looks today may not match how this residence looks in the years to come. As you evaluate residences, it may be beneficial to consider potential repairs.

For instance, if a house likely will require a new roof in the next few years, you may need to budget for this expense. Conversely, if a home is brand new or recently has been upgraded, you may be able to avoid costly, time-consuming repairs in the foreseeable future.

If you want to streamline your home search, you can hire a real estate agent too. In fact, if you employ a real estate agent, you can receive comprehensive support throughout the homebuying journey.

A real estate agent has a simple goal: to help you find a great house at a budget-friendly price. To accomplish this goal, a real estate agent will learn about you and your homebuying criteria and craft a personalized homebuying strategy. Plus, a real estate agent will set up home showings, offer expert homebuying recommendations and help you submit an offer to purchase your dream residence. And if you have homebuying concerns or questions, a real estate agent is available to respond to them at your convenience.

Lastly, be careful as you evaluate available homes in your preferred cities and towns. Keep in mind that no house is perfect, and any residence you buy may increase or decrease in value over time. And if you find a home that you want to buy, prepare a competitive offer, and you can boost the likelihood of receiving an instant "Yes" from a property seller.




Categories: Buying a Home   buying tips  


Posted by Cynthia Owens on 12/5/2019

Buying a home is a lengthy process that requires months or even years of planning. The end result, however, is to have a home you can truly call your own and to own equity that you can then use later down the road.

Figuring out the right time to buy a home can be difficult for prospective homeowners. You’ll need to have a firm grasp on your finances and personal goals for what you want your life to look like for the next 5 or more years.

Buying a home in more than just a financial commitment. It also means you take on all of the responsibilities of owning that home. Maintenance, both inside and out, can take up a significant amount of your time.

Furthermore, owning a home ties you down to one area. You’ll need to determine if you’re ready and able to settle in one area for the next 5-7 years. This has implications for careers and for family life. Will your job bring you elsewhere? If you change jobs, are there ample opportunities where you live? These are just a couple of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself before deciding whether you’re ready to buy a home.

To simplify the process, I’ve created a checklist for some of the things you’ll need before you’re ready to buy a home. While this list does cover the basics, there may be other factors unique to your circumstances that you’ll have to take into consideration.

So, if you’re thinking about buying a home sometime in the near future, read on for the checklist. And, keep in mind that these are not necessarily mandatory before buying a home. But they will give you the best chance of making a solid investment and securing financial stability.

The home buyer’s preparedness checklist

  • Raise your credit score to 750 or more. A score in the “excellent” range will help you get the lowest possible interest rate on your mortgage. It’s possible to get approved for a mortgage with a score that is much lower, but a high score is ideal and can help you avoid PMI and a high interest rate.

  • Have an emergency fund saved. You don’t want to buy a house and then suddenly find yourself needing money for an emergency. Save a month’s worth of expenses before your down payment.

  • Have an active budget plan for saving up your down payment. Creating a dedicated savings account that you automatically have a portion of your pay deposited into is a good way to ensure that you meet your savings goals.

  • Bolster the case for your financial stability. Lenders will want to see that your income is predictable and regular. Keep records of your income, tax returns, and anything else that can help show that you’re making more than enough money to safely lend to.

  • Have open conversations with your family. If you’ll be buying a home with a spouse and/or children, discuss what you’re looking for in a home. This can include location, size, etc. It’s a good idea for everyone to be on the same page before you ever start shopping for a home.

  • Get preapproved. Getting preapproved for a home loan will make you a better prospective buyer in the eyes of sellers.

  • Run the numbers again. Aside from your mortgage payments, you’ll also have to pay utilities, trash removal, property taxes, and any other expenses related to the home. Make sure you can comfortably afford these while still contributing to savings.




Tags: Buying a home   checklist  
Categories: Buying a Home   checklist  


Posted by Cynthia Owens on 9/26/2019

Buying a new home can be an exciting but anxiety-inducing experience. With so many things to consider, it can be difficult to keep track of the things that matter most to you.

This process is complicated further when you discover a second or third home that you like as much as the first and you’re trying to decide which one to make an offer on.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about how you can effectively compare houses to ensure that you’re making the most sensible, long-term decision for you and your family.

It’s all about the spreadsheet

Today, our method isn’t going to rely on any fancy new apps or paid tools. Everything you need to accomplish your spreadsheet is a tool like Google Sheets (it’s like a free version of Excel) or a simple pencil and notebook.

The columns of your spreadsheet will be made up of the factors that will influence your decision. This will include the obvious details like the cost and square footage of the home, but also finer details like its proximity to key places in your life.

The rows of your spreadsheet will be the properties you’re comparing. Now, it may be tempting to start listing every house on your radar in the columns of your spreadsheet. However, I think it’s more time-effective to only include the homes that you’re likely to make an offer on. This means doing some hard thinking and having a conversation with your family about your realistic goals for buying a home.

What is most important to you in a home and neighborhood?

Let’s turn our attention back to the top row of your spreadsheet. We want to fill that section with around 10 factors that are most important to you in a home and the location the home will be in.

In this section, you can include the estimated cost of the home and the estimated monthly expenses for owning that home (utilities, taxes, etc.).

Here’s the secret weapon of our spreadsheet, however. Rather than listing the actual cost of the home in this row, we’re going to give it a rank of 1 to 5. A score of 1 means the house is a lot more expensive than you want. A score of 5 means the house is the ideal cost. A 3 would be somewhere in the middle.

We’re going to use this 1 to 5 ranking system for all other factors on our spreadsheet as well.

Next to these costs, you’ll want to add other important factors to your home buying decision. Does it have the number of rooms you’re looking for? If a backyard is important to you, does it provide for that need?

In terms of upgrades, how much work will you have to do on the home to make it something you’re satisfied with? For DIY-minded people with time to spare, home improvement might be a welcome concept. For others, it simply would take too much time to accomplish everything you want. So, when you fill out the “Upgrades” column of your spreadsheet, make sure you determine a system for ranking the homes that suits your needs.

House location shouldn’t be overlooked

It’s a sad truth, but in today’s busy world, the average homeowner spends most of their time away from home, whether they’re at work, commuting, or bring their kids to and from after school activities.

You’ll want at least one column on your spreadsheet to be devoted to location. When ranking the location of a home, consider things like commuting time, distance to schools, hospitals, parks, and grocery stores. All of these things will have a larger impact on your day-to-day life than small details of the house itself.

Ranking the homes

Now that you have the first row and column of your spreadsheet built, it’s time to fill in the details and tally up the totals. These numbers will help inform your decision as to which house is really right for you.




Categories: Buying a Home   compare homes  


Posted by Cynthia Owens on 7/18/2019

Nothing can quite compare to the emotional cocktail of excitement, fear, and anxiety of being a first-time home buyer. Being a homeowner is made out to be a huge milestone in life, and rightly so. Have you ever signed your name 37 times in a row? It's enough to intimidate anyone. By the end of the entire homebuying ordeal, you will have signed your name so many times that you'll feel like you should have just made yourself a signature stamp. You're in for quite the bumpy road being a first-time home buyer, some highs, some lows and everything in between. 

The lows? 

Oh boy, where to start? Did you know your credit score before you started looking for a home? Sure, maybe you have a credit card you keep some line of credit in your name. However, a house? It’s a whole different ball game! What is a good credit score? They did not teach us this in high school, but thank goodness we all know the order of math operations as P.E.M.D.A.S. (parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction) right? What’s an escrow? What if the inspector missed something? When is my first mortgage payment due? You’ll have so many questions about being a first-time homebuyer, so do yourself a favor and get a realtor who can adequately answer all those questions! A great realtor can make the entire process feel like a cool Island breeze.

The highs? 

House shopping honestly is so much fun! Getting to figure out your unique taste in the architecture of your home is a fantastic experience. Sure, there are things that you must specifically look for to fit your needs, after all, you'll be spending the next 20-30 years of your life in this house if you do it right. The day you close on your home is exciting as well, disregarding the whole signing your name a thousand times. The moment comes with a sense of pride and accomplishment that you'll feel on closing day. Looking for your first home can be a long process, and sometimes can take months to years depending on the market. So, when it finally happens, and all the stars line up you can't help but feel a great sense of accomplishment. High five yourself on that day, cause all the stress and worries that you had in buying your first home are finally coming to a close. Now you can focus attention on the fun part: home improvement! 

 Being a homeowner can be such a fun-filled adventure, but hold on, because it will be a bumpy ride. Let your professional realtor navigate those bumps for you.