Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Your Prequalification Letter

If you're serious about purchasing a Lexington  home, obtain a prequalification letter before you begin shopping. If you don't, you may have a hard time getting the attention of home sellers or real estate agents. Prequalification involves choosing a mortgage lender and a loan program and providing some information.

Some lenders' prequalification process is pretty basic –they'll ask you about your income, debts and assets, and they'll calculate a maximum loan amount and purchase price based on that information. Loan officers may not verify your information or check your credit rating. Other lenders will be much more thorough – there is no industry standard for prequalification.

Basic Prequalification Letter
Once the lender has completed its prequalification process (extensive or basic), it can issue you a prequalification letter. This is what you'll give your real estate agent (if you have one) or the seller's agent (if you're shopping on your own). The basic prequalification letter says something like this:

To whom it may concern:
Ron and Cecilia Jones have been pre-qualified for a residential mortgage of up to $300,000 at an interest rate of up to 5.5 percent. This pre-qualification letter does not constitute loan approval or commitment to rate, fees, or term. Any misrepresentation in the loan application or adverse change in the applicants' financial position may void this pre-qualification letter, as would a poor credit history by accepted standards.

A completed loan file with an acceptable appraisal must be provided for underwriting review before a loan decision can be made.

If you have any questions or would like additional information, you can reach us by phone at 888-888-8888 or via email at

Notice that there is nothing in this letter to indicate that the would-be buyers are capable of being approved for a mortgage. It does, however, indicate that they're not just looking on impulse; they have at least approached a mortgage lender about financing.

Detailed Prequalification Letter
The more detailed prequalification letter is almost a preapproval. The lender may have some actual proof of income and assets from you, and it may have checked your credit. In that case, your letter will look more like this one:

XYZ Mortgage Company
Ronand Cecilia Jones is pre-qualified for a residential loan in the amount of $300,000 to purchase property to be determined. This qualification is based on a 30 year conventional mortgage at 6.5% interest with total property taxes not to exceed $6,500.

Based upon information received at application, along with credit and income verification received and reviewed by XYZ Mortgage Company, the applicants meet the requirements for a conventional loan at the above-listed terms.

We have also reviewed cash assets and reserves of the applicants, and determined that they have sufficient funds to complete the transaction. This pre-qualification letter does not constitute loan approval or commitment to rate, fees, or term. Any misrepresentation in the loan application or adverse change in the applicants' financial position may void this pre-qualification letter, as would a poor credit history by accepted standards.

If you have any questions or would like additional information, you can reach us by phone at 888-888-8888 or via email at

This pre-qualification letter is not intended to confer any rights or privileges upon third parties including, but not limited to, seller of real property. A completed loan file with an acceptable appraisal must be provided for underwriting review before a loan decision can be made.
You can see that in this case, the lender has checked credit and reviewed supporting documentation. A letter like this would inspire more confidence in both buyers and sellers.

Important Stuff!

Note: when you're negotiating to purchase a house, you might not want the seller to know how much you're prequalified to borrow. If, for example, you're offering $275,000 with a $240,000 mortgage for a house listed at $300,000, you probably don't want the sellers to see a letter prequalifying you for a $325,000 purchase with a $300,000 mortgage. Ask your lender to give you several letters with different amounts, or simply request a letter that conforms to the offer you plan to make.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

52 Life Hacks Every Lexington Home Owner Should Know

Are you somebody that hates when tacos or ice cream cones break and get messy? What about when paint brushes splatter all over the place when painting?
For those pesky, brittle tacos and cones, line a large lettuce leaf inside the taco shell to prevent the contents from spilling when the taco breaks, or put a marshmallow on the bottom of that ice cream cone to help prevent the ice cream from spilling out, (while adding an extra sweet treat.)
Are you an avocado lover? Did you know that they can be cut in half, pitted, and frozen with saran wrap? Or it can replace the butter in your cookie recipes?
Find these tips and much, much more!

  1. Use flower pots to keep bugs and dirt off of your food during an outdoor BBQ. Tie a loop in a length of rope and slip it through the hole in the bottom for a simple handle.
  2. Waste less water. The water you use to boil vegetables, eggs, and pasta is full of nutrients that your plants will love. (Be sure to let the water cool before watering your plants.) You can also water your plants with the water from your fish tank after you clean it.
  3. Soaking your popcorn kernels in water for a few minutes will help the corn pop quicker and result in few unpopped kernels.
  4. When preparing tacos, line your taco shell with a large lettuce leaf. If the shell breaks (like most of them do) the lettuce leaf will hold the rest of the contents together.
  5. A simple way to hang a heavy item on the wall. Cut a length of wood in half at a 45 degree angle. Attach one piece to the wall and the other to the back of the object you are hanging.
  6. If you accidentally burn your gravy just transfer it to another pan and continue cooking it. Slowly add sugar (tasting as you go to avoid adding too much). The sugar will cancel out any of the burnt taste.
  7. It's always a good idea to wear gloves while chopping chili peppers. However, if you don't have any gloves on hand, try rubbing cooking oil on your hand before you begin cutting. The cooking oil will keep the your skin from absorbing the oil on the peppers.
  8. Place a marshmallow in the bottom of your cone before filling it with ice cream. This will stop any ice cream from dripping out the bottom of the cone and minimize messes. 
  9. To soften butter quickly, place it between two sheets of wax paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out the butter until it is about 1/4 inch thick.
  10. When you freeze a block of bacon, you have to thaw out the entire block at once. So what do you do if you only want to that out a few pieces? Before freezing, lay out a long sheet of wax paper. Starting a couple inches from the end of the paper, lay each individual strip of bacon vertically across the wax paper leaving an inch gap between each strip. Once your paper is full, start at one end and begin rolling up your paper and bacon. Place the entire thing in the freezer. When you need bacon, unroll your wrap, take out as much bacon as you need then place the rest back in the freezer. 
  11. If you are heading to the beach, place your phone inside a small Ziploc bag. The bag will keep your phone dry and you can still use it through the plastic.
  12. Recycle a soda box to organize cans in your pantry!
  13. Add grommets around the edge of a vinyl tablecloth. After placing your tablecloth over your outdoor table, Stretch bungee cords under the table slipping each end into a grommet on the table cloth. This will keep your tablecloth (and everything on it) from blowing away if it gets windy.
  14. A simple way to squeeze lemons is by placing them between a pair of tongs.
  15. Glue a magnet to the side of a paintbrush. When you need a break from painting, stick the paintbrush to the inside edge of your paint can. Any drips will drip back into the paint can and stay off of the floor.
  16. Ever try to fill a frosting bag and end up with more frosting on the counter than in the bag? Place the bag inside a tall glass then fold the open end over the outside of the glass. This will hold the bag in place while you fill it and eliminate the mess. 
  17. Use a light bulb carton to protect photos when sending them through the mail.
  18. For perfect French tips, wrap a rubber band around your nail and stretch it tight. While you are painting the tip of your nail the rubber band will keep the polish where you want it and form a nice even line.
  19. Try this super simple trick to peel an entire head of garlic in a cinch.Place your head of garlic on a hard surface such as a table or counter. Using a cutting board, your hand, or other solid object, push down on the top of the garlic until it smashes and separates the cloves. Now place the cloves inside a food storage container and violently shake the container for about 15 seconds. That's it! The shaking will separate the peels from the cloves and you just saved yourself a several minutes of peeling garlic.
  20. Screw a hook into the underside of your kitchen cabinets or a shelf in your pantry. Use an S hook to hang your bananas and keep them off the counter.
  21. Use Drain cleaner to remove stains from concrete. Pour the drain cleaner on the stain, wait a couple minutes, then wash it off. 
  22. Use a Lazy Susan in your fridge to organize your condiments. This will keep things from getting lost in the back of your fridge. 
  23. Slip a bungee cord around your existing curtain rod to hang a second panel. Hang blackout curtains or sheer panels behind your existing curtains.  
  24. Use a paper clip to put on a bracelet.
  25. Clean the top of your ceiling fans with a paint roller and extension handle. Wrap a dryer sheet around a clean paint roller and secure with rubber bands. Attach your extension handle and swipe the roller across the top and bottom of each fan blade.
  26. When pouring liquids from a large container hold a straw across the top of the opening. The liquid will run down the straw and you will avoid any drips down the side of the container. 
  27. Cut a slit in a plastic lid and slide it over your paintbrush to control paint splatter.
  28. Remove scuff marks from your floor by rubbing over them with a dry tennis ball.
  29. When ironing your shirts, use a hair straightener to iron those hard to reach areas in between buttons and around the collar.
  30. Replace the plastic tube in a spray bottle with a more flexible one (found in hardware stores), then glue a couple nuts around the end of the tube. The nuts will act as a weight, keeping the end of the tube in the solution, allowing your to spay even when the bottle is turned upside down. 
  31. Use a paper clip holder for you bobby pins.
  32. Use a paper towel holder to organize ribbons and rolls of tape.
  33. Covered in sand after a day at the beach? Dump a small amount of baby powder onto your hands and rub over your arms, and legs to remove the sand.
  34. A toothbrush holder is the perfect size for holding straws. Keep them in your purse in case you ever need them. Great for traveling or going to restaurants with toddlers.  
  35. Do your kids make a mess with the toothpaste? Squeeze the toothpaste into a clean soap dispenser.  This will eliminate the mess while providing just the right amount of toothpaste for your kiddos. You could also wrap a hairband around the neck of the dispenser to keep it from squirting out too much toothpaste.
  36. To wash tennis shoes in the washing machine, tie a large knot in the shoelaces. Place the shoes in the washer with the laces laying across the top of the door. Close the door making sure the knot is on the outside of the washer. This will hold the shoes against the door while washing and keep the noise level down.
  37. If you want to listen to music on your phone but don't have any speakers, try placing your phone inside a glass. The music will echo and fill the room. 
  38. Save your child's birthday cards. Punch holes in them and store them in a binder then give it to them as a gift when they are older. 
  39. Fold a 'pocket' into your wrapping paper to hold cards and gift tags.
  40. Dry your clothes faster and save money on your electric bill by tossing a clean dry towel in with your wet clothes.
  41. Using pine cones as mulch will keep dogs and other critters out of your flower and veggie garden. 
  42. Use an arts & crafts organizer to corral food while traveling in the car.
  43. If you have some old wooden drawers that are hard to open try rubbing a candle stick on the tracks. The wax will help the drawers open and close smoothly without sticking.
  44. Apply a cotton ball soaked in vinegar to fresh bruises. The vinegar will help reduce any darkness and cause the bruise to disappear faster. 
  45. Thaw out meat quickly. Heat some water in a pan until it reaches 140* then turn your burner off. Place your meat inside a food storage bag and place into the hot water. Chicken will take about 10 minutes to thaw and other cuts will take around 12 minutes. This method will not cook the meat and most importantly, bacteria will not develop.
  46. To tell if an avocado is ripe or not just pop off the stem. If the skin under the stem is dark the fruit is too ripe. If the skin under the stem is light in color then it is just right. 
  47. Speaking of avocados, did you know that you can freeze them? Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Wrap each half individually in saran wrap and place inside a freezer safe bag. When you need to use one just place it in the fridge the night before to thaw out.  
  48. And one more avocado tip. Did you know that you can replace the butter in your cookie recipes with mashed avocado? You won't be able to taste the avocado in the cookies but it will cut down the fat content as well as the number of calories.
  49. Build a trellis to shade plants such as lettuce that require less sun.
  50. Pour cupcake batter without the mess. Clean out used condiment containers such as ketchup and mustard bottles. Pour in your batter then squeeze into the cupcake pan.
  51. Add a tablespoon of vanilla extract to your paint (1 tablespoon per gallon) before you begin painting your home. This will not affect the paint color, however, it will mask paint fumes and your entire home will smell like vanilla.
  52. Clean your fireplace glass using a wet paper towel dipped in ashes. The ashes will scrub off any dirt and charcoal.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mortgage Options When Purchasing a Lexington Home

Weighing Your Choices When Choosing a Mortgage
Lexington, MA Real Estate

With so many different types of mortgages available when purchasing a Lexington, MA home, it can be difficult to know where to start. How do you know which one is right for you and your personal situation? Over my years as a Lexington Area Realtor, I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with clients that have opted for all different types of loans.  These are the most common mortgage types that buyers have to chose from today:

Fixed-Rate: This is the most common and standard type of mortgage loan. The terms range from 5 to 50 years, but most often a fixed-rate loan is a 30 year term. When you have a fixed rate mortgage, your interest is completely amortized over the term of the loan. Right now, fixed-rate interest rates are particularly low. As of last week, a 30-year fixed loan rate was as low of 4.19%. The beauty of a fixed-rate payment is that it will remain the same for the entire term of the loan.

Interest-Only: This type of loan is not actually “interest-only”. It just allows for the buyer to make payments in the amount of only the monthly interest for a certain period of time. Typically this type of loan will only allow the borrow to opt to make an interest payment for the first 5 to ten years of the loan, the the full payment including principal must be made for the remainder to the term of the loan. This type of loan can be helpful to first time buyers, as it does allow for a lower payment if one chooses to make an interest-only payment.

FHA: The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is a devision of the government that insures this type of home loan. By having this government insurance, the lender can require less than a $20% downpayment. Between that and the fact that the credit guidelines are not quite as stringent as a conventional loan, this can be a great option for first time buyers.

Adjustable-Rate: There are many varieties of adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs). Depending on the type, your rate can change monthly, semi-annually, or annual. Some of these loans are fixed for a specific period of time, commonly 2-5 years, and then adjust for the remaining years of the term.

Combo/Piggyback: Having a combo loan basically means that you have a first and second mortgage. This loan is appealing because it can allow for a smaller downpayment and eliminates the need for private mortgage insurance (PMI). Some of these loans will require 5-10% down, while others will require nothing down.

It’s wise to spend some time doing a bit of research on your mortgage options if you’re considering a home purchase in the Lexington, MA area. Determining which mortgage type is right for you will really depend on your credit and personal needs. If you would like more guidance through the home purchasing process, please contact me. I would love to use my experience in the real estate industry and the Lexington local market to ease your home buying experience.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

5 Best Ways to Research Your Lexington Property History

Property history research gives you a picture of how the history of your property developed through the years. The history may purely serve to staunch your curiosity. But you may also learn why some things were built as they were and—potentially—learn more information to help you fix or update your Lexington home. This is especially important as Lexington has such historical areas and some homes are quite old.

If you’re embarking on a remodel, for example, you’ll need to understand the genesis of your home, how it was built and possibly added on to, and what might lie behind the walls or under the carpeting.
Plus, sometimes it’s just fun to know the provenance of your abode.

Property History Research Methods
Ask your inspector: If you’re buying an older home, check with the expert you’re paying to look at all the nooks and crannies—and about the history of those nooks and crannies. For example, an inspector might note a beautiful hardwood floor beneath modern carpeting or know where to look for a historic foundation stone in the basement.

Talk to your neighbors: Maybe also talk to the previous owner and others who used to live in the area—and their relatives. Many will be happy to share memories. Once land records are accessed, your property history search will yield valuable historical information about the house and its original owners, including when it was sold and to whom.

Visit the library: Old newspapers or local history publications may offer insight into events at your address or give you a sense of the neighborhood and town at the time the home was built. Try to go during a slower time of day—not, say, a raining weekend afternoon—and a librarian may have more time to assist you with this research.

Check the deed: You need to know the legal description of the property, the official address and the subdivision lot number. The legal description also includes the section number, portion of the section, township and range of the property.

Deed transactions are also recorded at local county courthouses in the Register of Deeds. These records may be on microfilm, computerized records or other physical publications. Most staff who work with deeds can help you find what you’re looking for off the address.

When you start your search, begin with the most recent deed transactions and work backward to earlier records.

Scour The online clearance center for home projects, design ideas and contractors also encourages owners and others to note a home’s history. You can check out past work permits, local stats, and who’s done what work on the house.

Other resources: The patent records of the Bureau of Land Management’s General Land office will show you when the federal government first sold the land parcel to a private owner and who that owner was.
You can find other documents online or in local archives or libraries. They include census data records, marriage and death records and insurance maps which show how a property changed over time.

There are commercial sites to help you locate and search online databases to get this information. Genealogical research databases can also give you valuable information to help you uncover your property history.

Happy digging!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Your Back to School Game Plan

Are you the parent of Lexington school-age children? If you are, I would like to talk to you about the start of the new school year. Start this school year out right.

You may not remember last May. You probably blocked it out, and I certainly don’t blame you, but let’s look back. Did you stagger through the gauntlet of spring concerts, parties, field trips and teacher appreciation week only to find yourself coughed up on the shores of June exhausted and twitching? With your last breath did you swear, “Next year we are going to be more organized”?

Well "next year" is here already.  I know there are some of you who can’t wait to get back on a schedule and get everything organized, but for many of us, organizing anything is … Hey, put down that bottle! I’m here to help. We can do this.

If you are struggling to establish order in your entire home, you may have a to-do list so long, it makes your head spin. Yes, organizing in other areas of the home builds the overall effect, but for now let’s focus on the task at hand and keep it as simple as possible. What are we looking at? 

  • Coats, backpacks and lunch bags
  • Shoes or boots, mittens and hats (for those in cold parts of the country)
  • Papers
  • A place for kids to do their homework

It may seem like a lot, but if you break it down, you really only need to get a few systems in place to have your children coming and going with ease.

Whatever space you have to work with, the most important thing is to help your kids learn to:

  • Hang up their coat and backpack
  • Empty their lunch bags
  • Put away their shoes and papers
  • Do their homework as soon as possible

Your job is find places for all those things. You may need to think outside the box, but you can do it.

A place right by the back door is ideal, but that may not work in your house. Look around and be creative.