Sue Palomba | Saugus Real Estate, Everett Real Estate, Peabody Real Estate, Revere Real Estate


For first-time homebuyers, going from property buyer to property owner may seem virtually impossible. Lucky for you, we're here to help you take the guesswork out of buying a home.

Now, let's take a look at three questions that every first-time homebuyer needs to consider:

1. What is my "dream" residence?

One first-time homebuyer's definition of a "dream" residence may differ from another's. As such, you should consider what you'd like to find in a dream house before you begin your real estate search.

Creating a checklist of "must-haves" and "wants" in your house often serves as a great starting point for first-time homebuyers. This checklist will enable homebuyers to consider what they'd like to find in a dream home and plan accordingly.

Also, it is important to establish realistic expectations before you kick off a home search.

Many terrific houses are available in cities and towns nationwide, but no home is likely to have every feature that you desire in a dream residence.

Therefore, if you establish realistic expectations for your home search, you can avoid potential let-downs as you explore a broad array of high-quality houses.

2. How will I pay for a home?

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is vital for a first-time homebuyer, and for good reason. With pre-approval for a mortgage, you'll know what you can afford to spend on a home before you enter the real estate market.

Many banks and credit unions are happy to meet with you to discuss your mortgage options. These lenders can outline the differences between adjustable- and fixed-rate mortgages, help you assess your credit score and ensure you can make an informed mortgage decision.

Furthermore, lenders can answer any mortgage questions that you may have. They can help you evaluate your current financial situation and enable you to obtain a mortgage that won't force you to revamp your day-to-day budget.

3. How do I begin searching for a house?

Beginning a home search is easy, particularly for first-time homebuyers who work with expert real estate agents.

An expert real estate agent understands what it takes to find a wonderful house at a budget-friendly price. In fact, he or she will do everything possible to help you navigate the housing market quickly and effortlessly.

Typically, an expert real estate agent will keep you up to date about new homes as they become available, set up home showings and submit home offers on your behalf. This housing market professional also will offer honest, unbiased recommendations throughout the homebuying journey to help you select a house that matches or exceeds your expectations.

When it comes to exploring the housing market, there is no need to work alone. Fortunately, you can hire an expert real estate agent who can help you get the best results possible during the homebuying journey.

Want to acquire your first home? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can move one step closer to owning a top-notch house.


Buying your dream home should be simple. Unfortunately, challenges may arise during the homebuying journey, particularly for those who fail to budget accordingly.

Establishing a budget before you begin your home search is paramount. With a budget in place, you can explore houses that fall within your price range and move closer to finding a great residence that you can enjoy for years to come.

Ultimately, creating a homebuying budget can be easy – here are three tips to help homebuyers establish budgets.

1. Consider your utility costs.

Although you may be able to get pre-approved for a mortgage and determine exactly how much you'll need to pay for a house, you'll still need to account for utility expenses month after month.

Electricity, heat and other utility costs can add up quickly. However, a diligent homebuyer should have no trouble estimating his or her monthly utility fees.

Examining your current utility expenses can help you understand how much you may wind up paying in utility charges at your new address. Also, don't forget to consult with your real estate agent, as this professional may be able to provide details about the average utility costs associated with a particular residence.

2. Manage your debt.

If you decide to purchase a "fixer-upper," i.e. a home that requires extensive home repairs, you'll likely need to commit substantial time and resources to complete home renovation projects. Thus, you'll want to consider any home repair tasks that you may need to complete at a new address and budget for them before you make an offer on a house.

In addition, knowing your credit score can help you understand your debt. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), and each report will provide information about any outstanding debt. That way, you can learn about your debt and find ways to minimize it prior to purchasing a residence.

3. Account for closing costs and miscellaneous expenses.

Home closing costs will include your loan origination, title insurance and appraisal fees and often range between 3 percent and 7 percent of your total loan amount. You'll want to account for these expenses as you establish a homebuying budget to ensure you can secure your dream house without delay.

Spend some time learning about all of the expenses that may impact your monthly home expenses too. For example, if you purchase a condo, you may face monthly homeowners association fees in addition to your mortgage costs. Or, if you plan to have a baby in the near future, you'll want to consider how the costs of raising a child may impact your ability to cover your mortgage expenses.

If you ever have concerns or questions about establishing a homebuying budget, be sure to consult with your real estate agent. Remember, your real estate agent is available to help you in any way possible and will do what it takes to ensure you can establish the right homebuying budget.


Purchasing a property in a planned development, gated community or a place with leased land can seem confusing due to regulations. The biggest difference in buying one of these properties instead of a single family home comes with one main difference: additional fees. HOA stands for Home Owner’s Association, which is what you’re obligated to join when you purchase a home within a community. You’ll pay the association monthly or annual fees for the upkeep of community centers and buildings within the complex. Before you decide to buy, it’s a good idea to know how these fees work and how to get the most for your money when purchasing a home with HOA fees.


HOA Fees 101


HOA fees range from about $200-$400 a month. If you’re looking to move into a more upscale community or are looking for a lot of amenities, expect to pay more for your fee. The association may charge an extra assessment if additional funds are needed for projects such as a new roof or a new pool.


Equal Responsibility


All residents in condos or town homes are equally responsible for the common maintenance such as landscaping, garages, fitness rooms, pools, clubhouses and sidewalks. HOA fees are said to help homeowners maintain a certain quality of life within their community and keep the properties safe and pleasant for all residents. 


The Rules


Homeowner’s Associations have certain rules that all residents must follow. These can include what color your house can be, what type of landscaping you can do, if you can install satellite TV, or where you are able to park your car. These rules are pretty similar to the ones that you would need to follow if you were living in an apartment building. If you’d like to do anything outside of the rules of the HOA, you’ll need to file what’s called a variance with the association in order to get approval. All in all, it’s important to obey the rules when you’re living in a property governed by an HOA, otherwise, hefty consequences can result. 


Tips For Successful Living In A Community Setting


  • Know the rules
  • Make sure that the home you want to buy is in compliance with current HOA standards
  • Be sure your temperament matches with community living


Questions To Ask About HOA Fees


  • How are fee increases set?
  • How often do fee increases occur?
  • What is covered under the HOA fee?
  • What conflicts have occurred in the association and how were they resolved?
  • What kind of insurance is on the building?


Home Owner’s Association Fees are a good thing because they prevent major issues like horrible paint colors and parking issues from ruining a community. However, when purchasing a home in a community setting, you need to be smart about what the fees cover and if living in that community has your best interests in mind.   


While there are plenty of weekend projects to take on that would be more satisfying to complete than “age-proofing” your home taking the time to make these upgrades will make your home more accessible. Both to older family members visiting and even for your future self. These small changes will make a big difference and you might just find them helpful for your life now!   

Replace doorknobs with handles. It’s easy to take what, to us, feels like the simplest of actions for granted. The twisting action of a doorknob can be difficult and even painful for arthritic hands. This is a quick project and one that can add a fresh new look to the doors in your home. IF you’re looking to switch things up or modernize your home opt for a different, more modern finish for your hardware. Bronze and satin finishes are very popular choices.   

Turn a first-floor office into a guest bedroom. And move the office upstairs. Stairs can be an issue for those with limited mobility. Be proactive now by establishing a first-floor bedroom that can be easily accessed by older guests staying the night and by you down the line. Having a bedroom on the first floor can save you the cost of installing a chair lift down the line if stairs become a serious obstacle.

Install a hand held shower head. This is a shower feature that really is useful for the whole household, even the dog. But choosing a model with a sliding tube and optional side mount for the handle makes for an easier experience for those with limited mobility. It allows the ability for the shower head to be reached when sitting and also to be placed within arm's reach without having to stretch overhead.

Railings along stairs, ideally on both sides. When mobility and balance are an issue stairs can become dangerous. If your staircases don’t already have railings installed this is an ideal feature to add. Make note of the dimensions of each of your sets of stairs and research what sort of style would best fit that area of your home. This is a project that adds an element that is seamless to a home and doesn’t stand out. In fact, you may find guests of all ages will appreciate this addition.    

Less furniture in each room. Keeping less furniture in a room makes it easier to navigate a room and ideally fit mobility aids like wheelchairs and walkers. It also can bring new life to a room as well as make it feel more open and spacious. Keep only the most necessary elements to a room and take out shelves or bulky furniture designed to hold and/or hide knick-knacks. Make each element in the room really count. You’ll have a much more chic, magazine-esque room on your hands when you're finished.


Owning a home is expensive. Aside from your mortgage, you also have to pay for insurance, utilities, property taxes... the list goes on.

It may seem like there are few ways to cut back on the expenses of owning a home. However, one of the most effective things you can do to save money as a homeowner is to do your own maintenance. The cost of home repairs can add up, especially if you live in an older home or in an area where services like plumbers and electricians aren’t accessible or affordable.

With a little research and some hard work, however, maintaining your home can be a source of pride and of saving yourself money.

In this article, we’ll cover the basic home maintenance and home improvement knowledge that will save you money, and point you in the direction of some resources that will help you attain those skills.

Maintenance is key

To increase the longevity of appliances like refrigerators, washers and dryers, you’ll need to perform some mundane tasks regularly. That includes cleaning filters, fans, and going online to order new ones when necessary. In the same way that failing to change your oil filter will result in a much more expensive issue, so will failing to properly maintain your appliances.

In a world where companies are making it increasingly difficult for consumers to repair their own devices, it’s more important than ever to learn the basic skills needed to make simple repairs.

What you should do before repairing anything

There are some precautions you should take before repairing or maintaining things like appliances. First, always be sure the item is turned off and unplugged before working with its components.

Next, refer to the manual first, but if that fails, search for tutorials online such as on YouTube for your particular model. Always keep in mind that sometimes warranties are void if you attempt repairs yourself,  so make sure the repair you’re attempting is easy enough so that you don’t risk losing your warranty.

The right tools for the job

It might be tempting to go down to The Home Depot and fill a cart with power tools when you buy your first home. Remember, however, that certain tools are more useful than others. Find out which tools you’ll be using most often. Odds are they’re simple, inexpensive hand tools that will fit in a small toolbox. Some power tools, such as a cordless drill, will probably be worth the investment as long as you take care of the batteries.

Don’t throw out good materials

Ample storage space is a problem many homeowners face. But if you can spare the space, hold onto materials from previous projects that might come in handy. Some examples include:

  • Paint. You don’t want to have to go back to the store and mix a new can of paint just for a touch-up.

  • Nails and screws that come with your purchases. Sometimes the screws are designed specifically for whatever you’re building. Save your backups so you don’t have to buy a new bag if one is lost.

  • Wood. Having extra wood around can come in handy for any number of home improvement projects.




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