Jim Sheridan | Burlington Real Estate, Billerica Real Estate, Reading Real Estate


Generally speaking, taking a family vacation can "recharge your battery," give you a new lease on life, and enable you to get back to work with a renewed sense of purpose. That's the ideal scenario when everything falls into place. However, if you're one of those families that are always looking for a new place to explore every year, then your vacation experiences may become more hit or miss.

While a little research can often go a long way, online brochures and articles tend to put a positive spin on what may or may not be an ideal vacation destination. Even customer reviews can give you a false impression of the desirability of a tourism spot. Just because a couple people had an especially good or bad experience in a particular tourist town, does not mean you're going to encounter similar types of service, weather, prices, crowds, or ambiance.

Online reviews, tourism information, and vacation blogs can provide you with helpful insights into the desirability of a vacation spot, but every time you try a new resort, vacation rental, or tourist attraction, you're gambling on whether or not you and your family will like it.

Since time away from work and vacation budgets are usually limited, it makes sense to do everything possible to increase the odds of planning and having a great vacation! Visiting the places you're considering staying at before you make reservations there is one method of choosing a location you'll probably love. Sometimes recommendations from close friends or relatives can provide you with some solid vacation ideas. While anonymous online reviews and blog posts can lead you down the wrong path, recommendations from a trusted friend or family member have much more credibility.

One method of ensuring a higher level of quality control over your accommodations, amenities, and -- to some degree -- your meals is to buy a vacation home. If you can find an affordable cabin, beach house, or ski chalet in a location you like, then you'll always know what you're getting in terms of living space, ambiance, environment, and local attractions. You can prepare a certain percentage of your meals at your vacation home, which can control your food expenses and make going out to dinner more special.

Another advantage of returning to the same vacation spot (and home), year after year, is that you become familiar with the best places and times to enjoy restaurants, golf courses, beaches, ski slopes, hiking trails, nightclubs, or whatever you enjoy doing on vacation. When you find the ideal "home away from home" to spend weekends, vacations from work, and school breaks, you'll always know exactly what you're getting and will have a higher degree of control over your environment and your overall vacation experience. One final advantage of owning a vacation home is that you can defray your mortgage payments and maintenance costs by generating rental income during the times you're not using the house.


Adding a residence to the real estate market can be stressful, particularly for a first-time home seller. Fortunately, we're here to help you maintain a positive outlook as you await offers on your house.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help a first-time home seller remain calm, cool and collected after he or she lists a residence.

1. Set Realistic Expectations

Although a first-time home seller might expect dozens of offers in the days following a house's addition to the real estate market, it may take some time to stir up interest in a residence. However, a home seller who establishes realistic expectations from the get-go will know how to stay the course throughout the property selling journey.

A first-time home seller should understand both the best- and worst-case scenarios. That way, a home seller will know how to respond to any potential pitfalls that may arise.

Furthermore, a first-time home seller should have a plan in place for what will happen after a home offer is accepted. This will ensure a home seller is fully prepared to vacate a house as quickly as possible.

2. Learn About the Housing Market

The housing market is exceedingly complex, especially for those who are selling homes for the first time. Conversely, a first-time home seller who takes a diligent approach can gain the real estate market insights to make confident decisions.

For example, a first-time home seller should analyze the competition closely. By looking at the prices of similar houses that are available, this home seller can establish a competitive price for a house and increase his or her chances of a quick home sale.

A first-time home seller also should check out the prices of recently sold houses in his or her city or town. By doing so, this home seller can find out whether he or she is entering a buyer's or seller's market and plan accordingly.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

Selling a home may seem like a simple process on paper, but challenges can quickly arise that prevent a first-time property seller from achieving his or her desired results. But with support from a real estate agent, a first-time home seller can get the assistance that he or she needs to remain confident at each stage of the property selling journey.

A real estate agent understands the challenges associated with selling a house and will help a property seller avoid such problems. In fact, a real estate agent is happy to provide expert guidance to help a first-time home seller operate like a home selling professional.

Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent will respond to a first-time home seller's concerns and queries. This guarantees a home seller can obtain unparalleled insights into how to set a competitive price for a residence, how to bolster a house's interior and exterior and much more.

Want to keep things positive as you proceed along the home selling journey for the first time? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can maintain a positive outlook as you navigate the home selling cycle.


We all know that buying a home is expensive. For first-time buyers who don’t have the luxury of equity for a down payment, it can be difficult to find a way to finance your home without taking on a huge interest rate and mortgage insurance.

Fortunately, loan programs like those offered by the U.S. Veterans Affairs can be a godsend. However, there is a great deal of confusion around who is eligible for VA loans and how to acquire them.

So, in today’s post, we’re going to cover some of the frequently asked questions of VA loans. That way, you can feel confident in knowing whether or not it’s a good financing option for you and your family.

VA Loans FAQ

Who is eligible for a VA Loan?

VA loans aren’t just for veterans. Most members of the military, including Reserve and National Guard members can apply. Additionally, spouses of service members who died from a service-related disability and those who died on active duty can apply as well.

How long do you have to service to be eligible?

The VA defines eligibility as having served no less than 90 days of service during wartime and 181 days of continuous service during peacetime.

Who are VA Loans offered by?

Like any other loan, VA loans are offered by private lenders. The difference is that VA loans are guaranteed by the government. That means that the federal government takes on some of the risk of lending to you, therefore making it possible to secure a loan with little or no down payment.

Should I make a down payment on a VA loan?

If you have the means, making a down payment will almost certainly save you money in the long run. If you can put down 10% of your total mortgage amount, you can also significantly reduce the VA Funding Fee.

Will I have to pay private mortgage insurance?

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is something that borrowers pay on top of their mortgage payments and interest. This additional insurance helps borrowers buy a home with a small down payment. VA loans allow you to secure a mortgage without PMI.

Are VA loans different for active duty, National Guard, and Army Reserve members?

Each type of service member is eligible for a VA loan. However, there are some minor differences regarding the VA Funding Fee. With no down payment, an active duty member would pay 2.15% of the loan amount in fees. National Guard and Army Reserve members pay around 2.40% with no down payment.

What does my credit score need to be to get a VA loan?

The VA doesn’t have a set minimum credit score. However, the private lenders that offer the loan do. On average, the lowest credit score that you can secure a VA loan with is around 620. That being said, a higher score will secure you a lower interest rate, saving you money over the lifetime of your loan.


Photo by Avi Waxman on Unsplash

Many people view purchasing property as a long-term goal, some see it as a rite of passage. Either way, buying a home for the first time can be an incredibly stressful experience. Those who are going through this process for the first time might be worried about making mistakes that may leave them with the wrong house or a high-interest rate. There are a few common mistakes that first-time homebuyers make that everyone should know.

Not Applying for a Mortgage First

You may want to get out there and find the home of your dreams right away but it is important to apply for a mortgage first. First, it shows any potential seller that the person they are working with is serious about buying a home. This is key because it will convince the seller to negotiate in good faith. Furthermore, when you apply for a mortgage, the lender will provide a maximum loan amount. This gives the borrower a budget with which to work.

Talking to Only One Lender

Be sure to speak with more than one mortgage lender. One lender might offer a certain interest rate to the borrower, another lender might be willing to offer a lower interest rate on the same loan. Other lenders might be willing to wave origination fees or points. Having multiple offers increases your leverage during the negotiation process.

Buying a Home that is Too Big

Be sure to focus on more than just the price tag. While this is a key expense, it is not the only one. Potential homeowners should also consider home insurance, real estate taxes and home maintenance costs. These additional costs may result in the purchase of a home that is too large for their budget. Be sure to take every cost into account when looking for a home to avoid financial stress.

If you are looking to buy a home, consult with a real estate professional to help you secure the right deal on the home of your dreams.


The homebuying journey is exciting, particularly for an individual who is pursuing a residence for the first time. Ultimately, there are many questions that a buyer should consider before he or she searches for a house for the first time, and these include:

1. What is my "dream" home?

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the homebuying journey involves defining your dream residence. Because once you define your dream residence, you'll be able to narrow your house search and move closer to purchasing your first home.

Think about what you absolutely require in a new home. For example, if you want to own a house in a region where the weather is hot and humid year-round, you may require a central air conditioning system. Or, if you want to enjoy a fast, easy commute to work, you may want to pursue residences close to your office.

2. How much can I afford to spend on a house?

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is essential. Because if you have a mortgage in hand when you begin your house search, you may be able to gain a competitive advantage over rival homebuyers.

To obtain a mortgage, you should meet with a variety of banks and credit unions. These financial institutions can teach you everything you need to know about fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages.

In addition, don't hesitate to get expert insights into assorted mortgage options. The longer you wait to get pre-approved for a mortgage, the longer you may need to wait to kick off your home search. Thus, you risk missing out on a potential dream house if you fail to get your home financing in order.

3. Do I need to hire a real estate agent?

Hiring a real estate agent is a must, especially if you plan to embark on the homebuying journey for the first time. In fact, a real estate agent can help you quickly and effortlessly navigate the housing market and discover your ideal residence in no time at all.

Typically, a real estate agent will offer comprehensive assistance at each stage of the homebuying journey. He or she first will meet with you, learn about your homebuying goals and help you craft a homebuying strategy. A real estate agent then will keep you up to date about houses that match your criteria and set up home showings. And when you find a home that you want to buy, a real estate agent will help you submit a competitive offer and negotiate with a seller's agent on your behalf.

Let's not forget about the advice that a real estate agent will provide, either. A real estate agent is unafraid to be honest with you and will provide feedback throughout the homebuying journey. Also, if you ever have homebuying concerns or questions, a real estate agent is ready to respond to them.

Take the guesswork out of finding and acquiring your first house – employ a real estate agent, and you can receive plenty of support as you move along the homebuying journey.




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