Larry Costa REALTOR®
CENTURY 21 Classic Gold | 508-272-8028 | larry@larrycosta.com


Posted by Larry Costa REALTOR® on 9/14/2018

Many of us work long hours all week so that we can afford the luxuries of a nice home. Unfortunately, keeping your home clean and updated requires even more time that you don’t have.

The good news is that there are a growing number of ways to make your home less high maintenance. Things like automation, decluttering techniques, and cleaning hacks have made it easier than ever for us to take care of our homes while still having time to enjoy them.

Home automation

Tony Stark’s skyrise in Iron Man, the Jetson family’s house, and Nathan’s lab in Ex Machina all have one thing in common: robots that help make our home lives easier. What was once reserved for sci-fi, however, is beginning to be introduced at affordable prices in the real world.

There are many different types of home automation devices available on today’s market. One of the simplest time-saving devices is Amazon’s dash button. You can buy a button for several different household items. You keep the buttons in your cabinet or pantry and when you run out of, say, laundry detergent you can simply press the button and Amazon will automatically order and ship more.

For something more advanced, home assistants are gaining in popularity. Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home, and others are currently gaining traction. They typically look like a normal small speaker. But with them you can order items online, set alarms and reminders for things like cleaning or car maintenance, control your lights and thermostat, and more.

Cleaning robots

You’ve probably seen the Roomba before--the small robot that vacuums your house for you by learning the floor layout. If you haven’t, now’s the time to look into them. The market is diversifying and the technology is improving, making them even more helpful to have around the house.

Robots aren’t just for the indoors. You can now purchase a robot that mows your lawn for you. It learns the parameters of your yard, how to avoid obstacles, and soon it’s cutting the grass while you sit back in a lounge chair.

Smart weatherproofing

While we’re on the topic of your home’s exterior, let’s discuss some ways to make the outside of your home low maintenance. Gutter guards and leaf filters are a great way to make sure your gutters don’t get clogged, protecting your gutters and in turn your foundation.  

When it comes to roofing, there are now several alternatives that will outshine and outlast traditional shingles. Metal roofs are growing in popularity as they now come in several aesthetically appealing forms.

Cleaning hacks

The best cleaning hacks are the ones that save you time and reduce the number of times you have to clean something. For the shower doors in your bathroom, cleaning them with Rain-X glass cleaner (built for car windshields) will keep them clear and shining longer.

Dusting a home takes a lot of time. Most people see dusting as an inevitable weekly task. However, there is a way to reduce the dust that gets kicked up in your home. The amount of dust that builds up on the surfaces of your home is largely due to air conditions. An air purifier and a humidifier can both help to reduce that amount of dust in your home.




Tags: Maintenance   Automation   home  
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Posted by Larry Costa REALTOR® on 7/20/2018

Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life, financially and otherwise. When you buy a home you're deciding on the region you want to live in, where you might want to raise children, and the people you'll live around for likely many years. You're also signing up for all of the responsibilities that come with a home: utility bills, issues and repairs, cleaning the house, maintaining the yard... the list goes on. So, before plunging into a mortgage, check off all the items on this checklist to determine if you're ready for home ownership.

The First Time Home Buyer's Checklist:

  1. I know where I want to live. Determining the location of your home is one of the most important factors that goes into home buying. Most decisions are influenced by your job/career, but things like family, friends and weather are all important things to consider. Aside from knowing where you want to live, you'll also need to know how long you want to stay. As a general rule, if you don't plan on staying in your home for at least 5-8 years it could be cheaper and easier to rent until you find somewhere you'd like to settle in.
  2. I have my finances under control. You don't need to be wealthy to buy a home, but you do need to have a strong understanding of your personal finances. In a spreadsheet, write down your total savings, monthly income and monthly expenses (including groceries, transportation, bills, and loans). Find out what type of mortgage and downpayment you can afford at your income level.
  3. My income is dependable. When you apply for a home loan the bank will look into this for you. But you should also want to make sure you can continue to afford your mortgage payments. How dependable is your job? Are there a lot of job opportunities in your field and in your area? These are all questions that help you determine the stability of your income.
  4. I have a good credit score. Your credit will be a big factor in getting approved for a home loan. Building credit seems complicated but it's based on four main things: paying bills on time, keeping balances relatively low, having a long record of repayment, and not opening several new cards or taking on multiple loans in a short period of time.
  5. I'm pre-approved for a loan. Getting pre-approved isn't mandatory, but it offers many benefits. First, it shows lenders that you are a safe person to loan money to. Second, it will give you insight into what banks think of your finances and will give you an idea of what price range you can safely buy in.
  6. I'm prepared for the responsibilities of owning a home and willing to learn. If you're handy around the house and can fix anything, that's great. What's more important, however, is that you have the time and willingness to learn new skills that will help you become a good homeowner.





Posted by Larry Costa REALTOR® on 4/21/2017

Buying a new home comes with a lot of new responsibilities that may have been previously taken care of by your landlords or parents. When you're out shopping for things like tools and cleaning supplies for your new home it's mostly guesswork as to which items you really need. Couple that with the fact that department stores are now filled with endless selections and it becomes almost impossible not to waste money or miss an important item for your home. Users on the popular online forum Reddit were recently asked what the most useful item for their house turned out to be that they didn't think of beforehand. Their answers, which we'll go through below, serve as great advice. If you're a new homeowner or will be soon, read on for these important household buys:

  • A step stool and a ladder You'll use both of these quite often, especially when you're moving. In my house there are a few top kitchen cabinets that are just out of reach, so I'm constantly pulling out the step stool. However, they're also useful around the house like in closets or reaching high spots while cleaning and painting. Equally important is a ladder. You won't want to mess around climbing on unsteady chairs for changing lightbulbs or smoke detector batteries. Plus you'll need one for access to the roof of your shed or house.
  • A whole-house fan or air conditioner When you move into a house, especially in the summer months, you're going to want to stay cool while setting up and cleaning your new home. A great way to bring lots of fresh air into the house is to use a whole house fan which draws air into the attic and therefore causing air from outside to flow into your open windows. Window fans are a suitable substitute, so long as they have an exchange mode to bring air in and out.
  • A bucket and a wheel barrow Both of these items are easily overlooked but will be invaluable when it comes to cleaning your house and maintaining your yard. Reddit user shuggins points out some of the myriad uses for a bucket: mopping the floor, pulling weeds, watering plants, washing the car, washing the dog, and even turn it upside down for a stool when you need a break from all those chores. And in the unfortunate event that someone is sick and queasy, a bucket can be a lifesaver.
  • Drain stops and screens It won't take long for your drain pipes to get clogged up with food in the kitchen and hair in the bathroom without drain screens. Plus, having a drain stop for your sink will turn it into--you guessed it--a bucket! Buckets are the best.
  • New locks  Who knows who has copies of the keys in and around your home. It's important to change all the locks, including padlocks to your shed. There are many horror stories of new homeowners getting all settled in only to be burgled soon after.
  • Batteries all sizes Reddit user typhoidmarry accurately describes the necessity for extra batteries when they write, "Your smoke detectors battery WILL die at 2am. It will." Play it safe and get extra batteries for your all of your electronics to avoid frustration and rage when you can't watch Netflix because your remote battery died.




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Posted by Larry Costa REALTOR® on 12/23/2016

Being self-employed comes with a lot of perks. Self-employed workers often have the freedom to set their own schedule, work from home, and take breaks whenever they feel like it. They also have the ability to write things off as business expenses on their taxes. When it comes to buying a home, this last perk can become a huge problem. If you own your own business or work as a freelancer, odds are you'll be deducting things from your taxes that the average employee doesn't: travel expenses, advertising, licensing, equipment, repairs, or even rent for your office. When tax season rolls around, all of these deductions feel like a godsend. But if you plan on buying a home, all of these costs will appear as negative income. For people who spend a lot of money on their business or freelancing, it could do a lot of damage to your apparent income when lenders take a look at your finances. However, you do have options when it comes to getting approved for a mortgage that is to your liking. In this article, we'll cover some tips on how to apply for a mortgage when you're self employed to give yourself the best chance of approval.

Carefully document your income

When you sit down with a lender and hand them your proof if income, you want to make it as obvious as possible that you're earning money in a reliable and predictable way. Lenders will want to see multiple documents that can help paint a better picture of your income and finances, including:
  • Bank statements
  • Schedule C tax forms
  • Profit and loss tax forms
  • Completed tax returns
  • Credit score (they will run a credit check)

Separate your business and personal finances

If you own your own business, you likely have business banking accounts you use for expenses and invoices. But freelancers and contract workers often simplify things by just using their personal checking and savings accounts for income. To make things clear for lenders, you should put your income and business expenses into a separate business account. Not only will this make it easier for lenders to quantify your income, but they can also use this information to see that your expenses are for helping your business rather than personal spending.

Timing is everything

There are a number of factors that go into choosing the right time to apply for a mortgage. Being self-employed only complicates the matter since your income might not be as steady as your average wage worker. You'll want to commit to a mortgage at a time when you've had at least two consecutive years of good, reliable income. You'll need to prove this with the aforementioned documents (bank statements, tax forms, etc.). Part of this planning could be to avoid large business expenses in the two years leading up to your mortgage application. This isn't always possible, of course, but it could be enough to boost your apparent income to get you approved for a better loan.

Seek specialized lenders

Some lenders are aware that there is a large portion of the country made up of self-employed workers and small business owners. They go out of their way to work with people who are self-employed so they can give them fair deals on their mortgages. To find specialized lenders, you'll have to do some research online, but it could make all the difference when it comes to getting approved for the loan you're looking for.




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Posted by Larry Costa REALTOR® on 10/14/2016

Gold in the BankOur homes contain almost everything of value to us. In a way, your home is like a giant safe that you want to protect from break-ins, floods and fires. Unfortunately, you can't always be one-hundred percent sure that everything in your home is protected from these hazards. For an added layer of security for your most important belongings, buying a home safe is an excellent option. However, there are many different types of safes across a large price range. Knowing which one fits your needs but also your budget can be complicated. What's more, deciding what items you own should be kept in a safe is a process all of its own. But we've got you covered. In this article, we'll talk about the types of safes and some items you should keep inside of them.

Safe Categories

Not all safes are created with the same purpose. Some may be designed for you to be able to open from your smart phone, whereas others are created from an everyday object, such as a book, to be hidden in plain sight. Others might be small and fireproof but not very effective against burglars who can easily carry them out of your home. When shopping a safe and thinking about size, remember that you should probably buy a safe that is a bit larger than your current needs since you will probably someday add items to your safe.   Here are the main types of safe to help you choose which one is right for you:
  • Water-tight and fire resistant. If you have important documents, jewelry, or electronics that you want to keep secure, a weatherproof safe is the way to go. For added security against floods, keep the safe away from areas that are prone to water damage like basements. These are the most common safes and are a great choice.
  • Diversion. Diversion safes often only have minimal security measures (locks), if any at all. Their main strength is that they can be hidden in plain sight, such as being a book inside a bookshelf.
  • Wall-installed. You've probably seen this type in the movies. They are installed into a wall and can be hidden behind objects. These have the advantage of being hidden like a diversion safe, but also use thick metal and complex locking mechanisms. But be prepared to pay a hefty price for all those features.
  • Anti-burglary. These safes are very difficult to break open. They have complex locks and thick metal with few vulnerabilities.
  • Object-specific safe. Some safes are designed just for weapons, others designed just for jewelry.

What to keep safe

Generally speaking, anything of value to you that isn't easy to replace can be kept in a safe. Depending on how easy it is to access your safe and how often you use the item, you may decide it's simpler to leave the item out of the safe. However, you can always use the safe to secure backups of documents and files. Here are some ideas for items to keep in your safe:
  • Passports
  • Birth Certificates
  • Social security card
  • Spare keys
  •  Wills
  • Flash drive containing important photos and documents
  • Important passwords
  • Jewelry
  • Family heirlooms
  • Weapons and other dangerous objects
 




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