5 Tips for Buying a Homes

Buying a home is one of the largest investments you will make.  Here are some tips to help you prepare:

  1. Don’t do it alone.  Use an experienced agent who can provide you with invaluable advice through the process.
  2. Get pre-qualified with a lender before going out to look.
  3. Don’t overbuy.  Look at all the expenses including heating costs, utilities, insurance, needed home repairs, etc.
  4. Check out the neighborhood at different times of the day and week before committing to buying.  Get information on the town and the schools.
  5. Think re-sale.  A house in a bad school district or on a busy street will impact the future value and limit your target audience.

 While buying a home is an emotional experience, it is a business transaction as well.  Preparing yourself in advance will help avoid costly mistakes.  Call me if you are looking for an Accredited Buyers’ Representative to help find your new home. 603-526-4116; www.DonnaForest.com; Donna@DonnaForest.com

Real estate markets are local, and we have the real scoop on ours.  Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team

Discover the Perfect Time for Buying a Vacation Home

If you’re lucky enough to have reached the time in your life when you can seriously contemplate buying a vacation home, there’s much to be excited about.  According to the National Association of Realtors, one in eight homeowners are thinking of buying a second home. While summer may be the time of year you start to think longingly about sun, sea and sand, it may not be the best time to buy a cottage.

Here are some things to consider when you’re buying a vacationhome.

Peak of season is seldom a good idea

Avoiding peak seasons makes sense in supply and demand terms. Peak season, whether you have your eye on a Vail ski chalet or a Cape Cod sea shanty, is when the area in which you’re looking is at its finest. Since vacation homes can be sentimental investments, many who’ve inherited them rent them out as additional sources of income so they can hang onto a property. They may be sharing it with siblings or have had to buy them out. They also may be part-time vacation home investment owners who got in early on a new resort but need to ensure 100 percent occupancy during peak season to make their investment pay off.

Aim for the final weeks of the high season to make your offer or hold off until just after peak season ends. If you’re looking for a summer vacation home, the time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving is the perfect window of opportunity.You’ll still take possession early enough in the year to be able to get a glimpse of what future summers can hold, and you’ll also have a chance to do any needed repairs before winter sets in. Then you can spend the winter planning what you need to do to make the place your own the following summer.

If you’re looking at a winter vacation home, spring is the best time to make an offer. While diehards may still be renting or occupying their vacation homes, hoping to get one or two more days of spring skiing or boarding in, most will have placed their properties on the market. Just be careful not to leave your offer for too late in the year if the area you’re interested in is remote. Some owners board up their properties for the off season, making it harder to get viewings. Also, don’t forget the power of spring mud. Properties accessible through three seasons may become harder to access during spring thawing and flooding.

Be sure the time is right

Before buying a vacation home, you need to think long and hard about a whole host of considerations. First and foremost is whether you will be able to use it enough to make it worthwhile for you financially. Even if you buy a vacation home and plan to rent it out to defray expenses, that means your time there will be limited. While you may love a cottage on a lake in fall, not everyone else does. If you can’t afford to spend the 4th of July at your own cottage, this may not be the time to buy.

Second, have you considered all the duplicate expenses involved? Whether you want your vacation home to mirror your principal residence in all ways, you can’t escape the fact that you’re going to need two of everything now. Unless, that is, you want to treat every weekend you spend at your vacation home like a camping trip (which may well be the case). You’re not going to want to haul lawn mowers and leaf blowers to the cottage every summer weekend. That goes double for appliances, linens and furniture. You’ll also have a second set of bills for property taxes, insurance, yard maintenance, internet and cleaning costs. In addition, there may be HOA fees, too.

Third, what are your vacation goals? If you want to visit every continent and are running out of time to tackle Asia and Africa, does a vacation property make sense? If you find you’re drawn to experiential vacations like hiking the Appalachian Trail, swimming with the dolphins or building someone else a home with Habitat for Humanity, a vacation home may be an anchor you don’t need.

On the other hand, if you know you can afford to invest in a second property and have a long-term plan to use it as a home base while you globe trot in retirement, or if you want your family to have the freedom of the great outdoors while they’re growing up, it might just be time to seize the day.

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Source:  www.bhgre.com/bhgrelife

Six Tips for Winning a Bidding War

Given the lack of homes for sale, we often see multiple offer situations.  It pays for buyers to be prepared should they find themselves in a bidding war.  Here are some tips to help put your offer in the best position.

  • Keep contingencies to a minimum.  Decide what inspections you can live without and don’t add in extra clauses.
  • Find out the seller’s ideal closing date and use it for your closing date.
  • Keep all  contractual due dates in as short of time frame as possible. 
  • Be prepared to offer over the asking price.  Money talks and usually the higher price wins.
  • Cash offers beat offers with loan conditions.   (Unless the offered price is significantly higher than the cash offer).  Present a pre-approval letter with your offer if it is based on a loan.
  • Even though you may be getting financing, you can write the offer as a cash sale with no loan contingencies.  You must be confident you will get the loan with no issues.
  • Include a letter to the sellers explaining why you love their house. 

Bidding wars are emotionally tough as someone always loses out.  Give your best and final offer so you  have no regrets if you don’t get the home.  Contact me if you want to work with an accredited buyer’s agent to help you navigate the challenges of buying a home.  www.DonnaForest.com; Donna@DonnaForest.com; 603-526-4116

Real estate markets are local, and we have the real scoop on ours.  Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team

The Housing Market is Blooming!

It is spring in the Granite State and the housing market is in full bloom.  While we are still experiencing low inventory, buyers are out buying and multiple offers are not uncommon.  Like last year, the lack of homes to sell is impacting prices.  Statewide in the 1st quarter, the median sales price grew from $260,000 in 2018 to $280,000 in 2019, up 7.7%.   The average days on market was 80 days.  Sales statewide are down by 2.8%; again due to low inventory. 

In the combined towns of Newbury, New London, and Sunapee, 1st quarter sales are about the same.  26 homes sold in 2019; 25 sold in 2018.  The average days on market dropped to 145 days vs. 201 days in 2018.  The median sales price was $350,250 in 2019 compared to $392,000 in 2018.  The higher median sales price in 2018 can be attributed to having 3 sales over $1 million close in the 1st quarter vs. the highest sales price this year was $750,000.

The good news for home buyers is no further rate hikes are expected and the 30 yr. fixed rate mortgage is under 4.5%.  Additionally it is still a tight job market which is pushing up income.  Bottom line, it’s still a good time to be a buyer or seller so contact me to get your jump on the spring market!  603-526-4116, www.DonnaForest.com, donna@donnaforest.com

Figures are based on information from the Northern New England Real Estate Network, Inc. for the period 1/1/18 – 3/31/18 and 1/1/19 – 3/31/19.

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Read the Property Disclosure Before Making an Offer!

If you are considering the purchase of a specific house, it’s best to review the seller’s property disclosure before making an offer.  While some disclosures may not be a wealth of information, usually disclosures provide pertinent facts that could impact what you are willing to spend on buying a home.  For example, if the water heater is 18 years old, you need to be aware that it will need to be replaced in the near future.  Looking at the age of the systems and the roof will help determine if you will be facing costly replacements sooner rather than later.   Check when the septic tank was last pumped.  If it hasn’t been pumped within the last 3-5 years, it could be a red flag.  Is the property located in a flood zone?  Flood insurance will be an additional expense to factor in your payments.  Reading carefully through the disclosure could provide valuable insight into future costs.  Ask questions and get clarification if something doesn’t look quite right.  Obviously a home inspection will be the best tool for gauging the condition of a home.  However, thoroughly reading the disclosure ahead of time could prevent unwelcome surprises.  Contact me to work with a buyer’s agent who will help you make the right buying decisions.  603-526-4116, www.DonnaForest.com, Donna@DonnaForest.com

Real estate markets are local, and we have the real scoop on ours.  Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team

Best Ways to Store More in Your Kitchen

No one wants their kitchen prep surfaces overtaken by clutter—but no one wants to live without their favorite kitchen appliances, either. Here’s how to have both.

Maximize under-sink storage.

Conquer your under-sink space with an simple, on-a-dime solution. Keep your most frequently used items (dish soap, dishwasher detergent, sponges and scrubbers) on a turntable for quick access.

Streamline the coffee station.

Make mornings easier with an all-in-one coffee station. Dedicate a pullout drawer next to your coffeemaker to holding filters, coffee beans and travel mugs, so brewing a fresh pot is a one-step task.

Have freezer smarts.

Stock your freezer with storage-smart ideas to make use of every inch of shelf space. Use plastic baskets (an affordable organization tool) to store foods by type, and put a labeled tag on each. Keep small adhesive labels and a permanent marker on hand to label individual containers.

Add a command center.

Built-in bins, a bulletin board and a clock turn one side of a fridge cabinet into a household command center. This simple DIY project creates instant organization and utilizes small spaces that are otherwise wasted.

Store stuff on the doors.

Attach racks to the inside of cabinet doors to boost storage options. Be sure to allow enough clearance within your cabinets to allow the door to close completely. A narrow rack is ideal for keeping small jars in order.

Fake a pantry.

Using substantial-size drawers is a smart alternative to a full-size pantry when kitchen space is limited. These drawers keep boxes and bags upright, organized and accessible.

Keep towels close.

Keep dish towels in a cabinet close to the cleanup zone. Use a pullout towel rack with more than one bar to air-dry and store towels.

Add open shelves.

Add open shelving for cookbooks, displays of attractive serving bowls and dishes, stemware, vases or baskets. Here, grouping and stacking pieces on the open shelves keeps items neat and easy to find.

Put walls to work.

Install a wire wall grid to keep kitchen tools handy. Turn a bare section of wall into a hook-and-hang center. For more storage, add accessories such as spice racks and cookbook holders.

Properly store spices.

Store spice bottles on their sides with labels visible; lay them in shallow drawers instead of stacking them. The best location for spice storage is below a cooktop or to the side of a range. The flavor of spices stored above a cooking surface might be adversely affected by the heat.

Neatly stow linens.

Run out of drawer space for towels and cloth napkins? Reach for a basket to neatly stack linens, and tuck the basket onto a shelf or inside a cabinet. A basket will help keep linen sets together and make them easy to find when you want to use them.

Divide your drawer space.

Adjustable inserts help organize flatware and other items inside your drawers. When designing custom drawer space, specify shallow drawers to store utensils one deep for easy viewing.

Try upright storage.

Store shallow items, such as cutting boards and platters, upright. Even narrow spaces next to your range or your sink can be used in this manner. Use dividers to separate items for easier retrieval.

Stow pots and pans.

Fill in the space under a cooktop with a tilt-out tray for spices and rollout trays for pots and pans. Or, slide in a movable cart with shelves to accommodate cooking equipment.

Combine storage.

Combine open and closed storage for visual interest and accessibility. An arrangement of cabinets and cubbies makes use of typically wasted space around a refrigerator.

Bring the pantry closer to you.

A pullout pantry system has wire shelf sides that prevent items from falling out and allow easy viewing of the contents. Pullout pantry systems, especially those that extend into toe-kick space near the floor, must be installed perfectly level and plumb to operate smoothly.

Customize your shelves.

If you’re installing open shelving, strategize your plan to accommodate what you’ll be storing. Professional organizers recommend measuring your stacked dishes to determine the shelf height your dishware requires.

You’ll be moving in the right direction with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team.

Source:  www.bhgrelife.com

Did You Know?

  • The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS® (NAR) was formed in 1908 in response to the misuse and disorder of the real estate industry at that time.
  • The NAR adopted a Code of Ethics in 1913 to establish professional standards of conduct.
  • The Code ensures that consumers are served by requiring REALTORS® to cooperate with each other in furthering clients’ best interests.
  • REALTORS® are subject to disciplinary action and sanctions if they violate the Code of Ethics.
  • REALTORS® are required to complete ethics training every 2 years.

What does this mean to you?  When you work with a REALTOR®, you are working with someone who abides by a written Code of Ethics, based on professionalism and protection of the public.  Contact me to see why it pays to work with a REALTOR®!  603-526-4116, www.DonnaForest.com, Donna@DonnaForest.com

You’ll be moving in the right direction with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team.

10 Tips for Finding Great Real Estate for Sale

Finding your dream home can feel stressful, but there’s plenty of great real estate for sale to suit nearly every buyer. Breaking down the process of buying a new home into steps isn’t only helpful, but it will help it feel manageable. Below are 10 great tips to help you go from dreaming of owning a new home to actually holding the keys.

Make a wish list and prioritize your needs

Now is the time to think about what your perfect home looks like. Unless you have a bottomless bank account, you probably won’t be able to get everything you want. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of having a fireplace, but when it comes down to it, what you really need is a home located near good schools.Taking time to make a wish list will help you prioritize needs over wants.

Set a realistic budget

Perhaps the most stressful part of buying a home is setting a budget, yet this doesn’t need to be a daunting task. Figure out how much house you can afford by examining your current salary and debts. A mortgage payment should never be more than a third of your income, while your debt should be less than 40 percent of your income.

Hire a great real estate agent

Unless you’re an orthodontist, you probably wouldn’t attempt to fit someone with a pair of braces, right? The same theory holds true for buying real estate. Great REALTORS® will demystify the process of finding your dream home, from working within your budget to putting in a bid. In addition, it’s their job to know the market and they can help you find your perfect home, even when there’s competition from other buyers in your area.

Make a checklist

You’ve prioritized your wish list, set a realistic budget, and hired a real estate agent. Time to sit back and relax, right? Wrong! Now’s the time to make a checklist of all the things you need to consider when finding your dream house. Your list should include the priorities from your wish list. For example, how close is the house to schools and grocery stores? Does the home have a fireplace? How much does the current owner pay annually in taxes? Preparing a list of questions before you purchase your new home will make sure you don’t have questions later.

Location, location, location!

Although it might seem obvious to carefully choose where you buy a home, you’d be surprised how many people cut corners. Is it a priority for you to find real estate close to schools? Or perhaps it’s a priority to be located off a busy street to avoid noise pollution. In short, a dream home isn’t ideal at all if it’s not located in the perfect place.

Think about how you use space

A parlor is lovely, but if it’s only used a couple times a year during holidays, perhaps you’d get more bang for your buck by focusing on a home with well-used rooms. For example, if you spend a lot of time cooking, then it makes sense to buy a house with a large, well-equipped kitchen. Likewise, if you’re a freelancer, then it might behoove you look into a home that has an extra bedroom that could be converted into an office.

Would you like to renovate?

Do you take pleasure in making home repairs or would you prefer to move into a home that requires very little work to move in? Renovating a home can be a tremendous amount of fun, but it can also get expensive. Be realistic about what repairs will cost and whether you have the time and energy to get the work accomplished.

Make an offer

Making an offer on your dream house is one of the most exciting days of your life. It’s also one of the most nerve-wracking. Although the current owners could say “yes,” there is a possibility that they might decline your offer. To make your offer attractive, avoid pushing out the current owners too quickly by asking for a fast closing date. Also, don’t lowball them by offering far less than the listing price. Your real estate agent should be able to give you advice about what will make an attractive offer.

Don’t neglect the home inspection

Once your reoffer has been accepted, it’s time for a home inspection before you finalize the contract. This is the time to look deep and have a professional home inspector look at the foundation, roof, electrical wiring, heating systems, insulation and other items that are generally hidden from view. While it might be tempting to seal the deal as quickly as possible, having a home inspection can save you from expensive problems down the line.


The entire process, from browsing the real estate for sale in your area to moving into your dream home can be daunting. Once you have the keys to your new home in hand, make sure to celebrate with your loved ones for a job well done!

You’ll be moving in the right direction with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team.

Traits of the 2018 Home Buyer

Every year the National Association of Realtors conducts a survey of recent home buyers and sellers.  Below are some highlights on the nature of buyers from the 2018 survey.

  • First time home buyers made up 1/3 of all buyers.
  • The typical home purchased was built in 1991, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and 1900 square feet.
  • Buyers usually searched for 10 weeks and looked at a median of 10 properties.
  • 87% of buyers used a real estate agent to purchase their home. 
  • The top 3 factors influencing what buyers chose were (1) quality of neighborhood, (2) convenience to job, and (3) overall affordability.
  • The breakdown of age of homes purchased by buyers in the Northeast:  11% were 1913 or older, 30% were 1914-1961, 25% were 1962-1987, 18% were 1988-2002, and 17% were 2003+. 

 While interesting data, sellers should be aware of how these buying characteristics might impact selling their home.  For example, if you are selling an antique, you need to know you are targeting only 11% of all buyers.  Contact me if you’d like to know how these factors might impact you.  603-526-4116, Donna@DonnaForest.com, www.DonnaForest.com

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Home Inspection 101: This is What You Need to Know (Plus a Checklist)

Before you purchase a home, hire an inspector to make sure the structure is sound and there aren’t any defects.

An inspection helps buyers identify serious issues with a house, condo, townhouse or other type of home. Some lenders require home inspections before they’ll approve closing on a mortgage loan. Professional home inspections aren’t always a required part of a purchase contract; they’re a smart part of buying a home and a property investment.

Whether or not a loan officer insists on an inspection, getting a home inspected is to your advantage. No one wants to find out there’s something wrong with a property after they’ve signed the papers.

Here’s what you need to know about home inspection, followed by a handy home inspection checklist:

Not all home inspections cover the same points

There will likely be numerous home inspection companies and professionals to choose from when you’re buying a home. As you look for an inspector or consider inspection company referrals, keep in mind that not all inspections cover the same points.

When inquiring or interviewing inspectors, make sure those you’re thinking of hiring will inspect the inside and outside of the property. Inside, an inspector should look for leaks, fire hazards, the health of the house systems and the life of the water tank. Plumbing and wiring inspection are essential to make sure these systems are up to code. Inspectors should look at a home’s ventilation systems and smoke detectors. If the home has appliances, they should be tested.

Outside, inspectors should check for cracks in walls and the foundation. Missing siding, damage to the roof and cracked woodwork are all issues that may point to structural problems with a home.

Most general home inspectors won’t check septic systems or insect damage. These are points that you should hire specialists to address.

Buyers should choose their own home inspector

As a buyer, you can certainly negotiate who pays for a home inspection. However, consider that sellers paying for an inspection may want to choose the company themselves.

It’s in your best interest to choose your own inspector when purchasing a home. This may mean that you’ll have to pay out of pocket for the inspection. This service is not usually included in the fees a lender will roll into a loan.

The cost for a home inspection is typically a few hundred dollars. If you need in-depth inspection of a property, such as a review by a structural engineer, prepare to pay much more.

In some states, a home inspector must have a license. If you aren’t sure where to look for a licensed home inspector, your real estate agent should be able to offer a referral. It’s a good idea to verify any inspector’s license to make sure you’re hiring someone qualified.

Home inspections can offer a way out of a purchase contract

Every purchase contract is different. Buyers should refer to their binding agreement with questions about getting out of a sale due to issues that come up during a home inspection.

It’s wise to write a purchase offer that lets you out back out of a sale if an inspection reveals issues with which you don’t want to deal. Sometimes, buyers are willing to spend the extra time and money to fix problems. Often, it’s just not a good idea. If your agent or you have written a good purchase offer, you’ll be allowed out of the contract should the home inspection uncover problems.

If a home inspection uncovers damage to a property, buyers can ask the seller to pay for repairs as part of the contract. Buyers and their agents may want to submit a Request for Repairs that negotiates part or all of the cost of repairs, or asks for repair work to be completed prior to close of escrow. In lieu of money for repairs, you can request a cash credit (reduced price) for the home.

Refer to the home inspection checklist

It’s always smart to be present when an inspector is checking out your potential home. If you’re working with an agent, your agent should also be there at the inspection. Some of the specific points you’ll want to make sure your inspector looks at include:

  • foundation
  • lot
  • roof
  • chimney
  • exterior
  • attic
  • interior leaks
  • basement
  • electrical
  • plumbing
  • appliances
  • heating/cooling system
  • odors
  • mold and mildew (consider a specialist in this field)

An inspection is a crucial step in the home purchase process. Remember,  it’s there to help you, not discourage you. Many home inspections reveal minor issues that buyers can live with. There aren’t many houses that are completely free of defects.

Having a real estate professional by your side is important during the home inspection process. If the inspection report brings up any issues that you don’t understand, or aren’t comfortable making a decision about right away, your agent can help you navigate the situation wisely and within the time frame indicated in your contract.

You’ll be moving in the right direction with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate - The Milestone Team.

Source:  www.bhgrelife.com