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Buying a home is one of the largest commitments you will make in your life. It's also one of the best. Being a homeowner comes with a sense of independence that renting simply can't match. You can do with your home whatever you like, making it the place you love to go home to at the end of the day. Knowing when you're ready to buy a home is a complicated issue. But it's also a learning process that everyone is new to at some time in their lives. Sure, buying a home can be anxiety-inducing. But you don't need to add any more nerves to the process because you feel uninformed. In this article, we'll lay out a basic checklist that will help you determine when and whether you're ready to buy a home so that you can worry less about your credentials and focus more on finding the right home.

The checklist

  • Finances. We hate to put it first, but the reality is your finances are one of the main things that determines your preparedness for becoming a homeowner. Unlike renting, there's a lot more that goes into the home financing process than just your income. Banks will want to see your credit score to ensure you have a history of paying your bills on time. They'll also use your credit information to see how much debt you have and if you'll be able to take on homeowner's expenses on top of that. Another financial impact for buying a house is to determine if you can afford a downpayment. It's one thing to see that you can cover your bills with your income, but unless you have enough money saved for the downpayment (and any emergency expenses that may come up) you should wait a while and save before hopping into the market.
  • What are your longterm plans? Many people are excited at the thought of home ownership to the extent that they forget their life circumstances. If you have a job that might cause you to relocate in the next 5-7 years you might want to consider renting rather than buying. Depending on factors like the price of the home, cost of living in your area, and how long you plan on living in your new home, it may be cheaper to buy or rent in the long run. There are calculators available online that will tell you which option is probably more cost-effective for you. As a general rule, however, if you plan on living in a new home for under 5-7 years, it might be cheaper to rent.
  • Do you have the time and patience to be a homeowner? Owning a home means you can't call on the landlord to fix your leaks anymore. Similarly, you probably won't be able to depend on someone else to shovel snow or mow the lawn for you. It takes work to be a homeowner, and if your job has you away from home for long periods of time or working very long hours, renting might not be appropriate at this time.
  • Plan for new expenses. If you can comfortably pay rent and you find out your home loan payments will be comparable, you should know that there will likely be new expenses to consider as well. Home insurance, property taxes, and expenses for things like sewer, plumbing and electrical repairs all should be taken into consideration. Additionally, you will likely have new utility bills, including electricity, water, oil, cable, and others depending on the home.

Many times, it’s the quick projects around your home that make the biggest difference. Lighting is one of the most important aspects of your home. Without the right lighting, the entire mood of a room can be offset by the poor ambient quality. Lights are practical and help work on our emotions in the most subtle ways. Here, we’ll show you some of the updates that you can make to the lighting in your home that you may have never thought of. Kitchen Many kitchens have only one source of lighting. If the kitchen is short on windows that bring in outside light, this single-source lighting can be an even bigger problem. Try under cabinet lighting to illuminate countertops and preparation areas. This is great for not only safety, but to bring more light into the room in a unique way. Bathroom There's nothing creepier in the bathroom than strange shadows. That’s where recessed lighting comes in. You also don’t need to apply makeup in the wrong way due to poor lighting. Having lights available in several areas of the bathroom will make getting ready in the morning easier. Proper lighting will also make showering safer and less like a horror film! Bedroom The bedroom is perhaps the simplest room of the house to light. You’ll need lights by the bed for reading and other tasks. Usually wall mount fixtures work best for these purposes. They make great task lights and also look fantastic on the wall as part of your bedroom’s decor. As a bonus, lights on the wall will create less clutter in the home. Dining Area Look for task lights and lamps for your buffet to brighten your dining room. Try adding lighting fixtures in places where you’ll be doing a lot of task-focused activities. Aim for more recessed lighting over the dining table so guests won’t feel that they have the spotlight on them. Living Spaces In shared environments, lamps that are easily made portable can work best. This is simply because people tend to forget a lamp that’s tucked in the corner somewhere. It’s also a plus to put your lamps on timers. If you know that you get home at 7 PM every evening, set the timer so that you walk into a bight, inviting home and not a dark one. Highlight Things In The Room It’s always a great way to light a darker corner by placing lights over a plant or a painting. This helps to highlight the decorative aspects of the room even in the dark.

Being a first time home buyer has it's benefits when it comes to financing. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has loans tailored specifically to you! Lower down payments and lower closing costs help newbies make the jump into home ownership. With a FHA first time home buyer loan you can get interest rates as low as 3.5%, which can really save money on the life of your loan and keep your monthly payments lower. Your down payment is also lower than a traditional mortgage; instead of putting 20% down, you can put as low as 3.5% down if you qualify. While a lower down payment will increase your monthly payment (since you are taking a loan out for more money), it will help with the burden of needing a large amount of money up front. With FHA loans you can also include most of the closing costs and fees into the loan, again helping with the money needed at the time of purchase. You can even add in the costs for repairing a home that needs a good deal of fixing up. Regardless, you will need to have enough money for the down payment, some closing costs, and inspection. Since you would be putting less than 20% down, FHA loans require that you also have private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is a percentage of your loan. This will be added to your monthly mortgage payment, and the bank will pay it out of your monthly. Being a first time home buyer probably means you need some help on getting through the process. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has housing counseling agencies that can give you advice on buying a home, avoiding foreclosure, and fixing your credit. You can find your local agency at http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm. Lastly, you can also find local buying programs to help with buying a home, including helping with your down payment at http://www.hud.gov/buying/localbuying.cfm. If you never thought you would be able to afford a house, think again. With programs out there to help you buy your first home, you could be moving into a place before you know it!

Finding a local mechanic after you move might feel like a full time job in addition to unpacking. No worries we have ideas. Most neighborhoods and communities need a mechanic at some time, even if just to blow up your bike tire. To narrow down your search for someone who can take a peek at your 2 door, 4 door, family truck, or traveling office, head to your local coffee shop. Not kidding! Get to know shop folks. What we mean is look around, figure out who the regulars are and ask them who their mechanic is. This networking adventure could be more useful than you think. Not only can you try out a few mechanics, but you will probably learn about other local hot spots. Everyone needs to know the best grocery store, gas station, bank, hair salon or barber, local restaurant and watering hole. You will be glad you took your time to search out the locals in your new community before you are in desperate need of a service, such as a mechanic. Once you are all settled in and can find your way around a little bit, explore and go get yourself a cup of coffee and say hi to the regulars for us.

Feel as though you are losing space with every additional item that enters a room? Knick-knacks, electronics, toys and accessories piling up? Take a look at the tips below to maximize space in living rooms, dens, bedrooms, and extra rooms such as craft and laundry rooms. Built-Ins: Built-ins are a great space saver. They create storage without taking up too much space in a room. They are customizable so you can pick what type of storage will work best for you. Built-ins are especially effective in living rooms and toy rooms. Wall Storage: Wall storage is a great option for saving space in smaller, functional spaces like craft rooms, laundry rooms, and even kids rooms. Entryways will also benefit from wall storage where coats and keys can be hung up instead of flung on the nearest surface. It provides storage without taking up floor space. There are so many options for wall storage that range from shelves, hooks and cabinets of all sizes. Hidden Storage Furniture: Furniture with hidden storage is great way to maximize space. These pieces include ottomans, coffee tables, and end tables. Storage ottomans are great for storing extra blankets and pillows. Storage coffee tables and end tables are perfect for storing books, magazine, extra remotes, DVDs, coasters, and electronic accessories. If these pieces did not have storage then those items would be lingering on the tops of tables or around the house causing clutter and dysfunction. Multifunctional Storage: There are endless options here, some more functional than others. Under the stairs storage or stairs that have drawers and/or shelves, sofas that turn into beds, mirrors with jewelry storage, fold-down tables with storage, food/water bowls for animals incorporated into drawer storage, and litter boxes hidden in coffee tables (although I’m not sure who would want this). The type of home and room will determine whether or not some of these are practical options, but nonetheless, some are pretty unique. Incorporating one or more of the tips above will be determined by the type of room and home. A tip that works for a bedroom may not work for a bathroom and the same for a home compared to an apartment. Be cognizant of this when considering adopting these approaches for functional and spacious rooms. Hope these tips help maximize space in your home!



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