Common Home-Buying Mistakes You Should Avoid

Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we have a lot of clients that are looking to buy home insurance for a new house. Since we see a lot of folks that are going through the home insurance process, we want to share just a few of the more common mistakes that you should aim to avoid when you purchase a Massachusetts home:

Not making a “Wish List”

When you’re looking to buy a home in Boston, you will probably look at many different options. After a while, they will begin to blend together, so it is up to you to stay organized. Sit down with everyone that is involved in making the home-buying decision and make a “Wish List” for what you would ideally want in your new home. Take a copy of your list to each home you tour, and mark off the items on your list, taking notes as you go. This will make it much easier to decide on a home in the end.

Forgetting to budget for closing costs

Many home buyers (especially first-time buyers) are so focused on saving up the money for a down payment on a home that they forget that they will also likely be responsible for the cost to close, which can be significant. Instead of struggling to deal with these costs at the last minute, remember to include them when creating your budget as you prepare to search for your new home.

Not saving to cover move-in expenses

Unfortunately, closing costs aren’t the only bill that home-buyers forget to account for. After you pay your closing costs and get the keys to your new home, you will probably need to spend some money to get your home ready for occupation. This could mean making a few repairs or improvements, or simply buying some additional furniture to fit the new space. Budgeting for these costs ahead of buying your home – your wallet will thank you later!

Not doing your homework about an inspection

An inspection is a home buyer’s best friend. That being said, though, every inspection has its limitations. It’s important to know what your home inspection isn’t testing for. Ask your inspector if he or she will be looking for mold, pests, and radon, and anything else you should be on the lookout for that won’t be covered in the inspection.

You should also make sure to attend the full inspection and take your own notes. You can learn a lot about the house you are buying from the inspector, and they are often happy to answer all your questions, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Buying a home for the present

A home is a long-term investment, so it is important to consider your future before you choose a property. If you’re planning to expand your family, you may want to look for a home you can grow into. If you have kids leaving the nest soon, you may want to get a slightly smaller home knowing that their room will become the guest room when they leave.

Failing to negotiate

If you’re not negotiating when you buy your home, you may be missing out on major savings. There are many different things that you can use in a negotiation. The first thing that many people think of is the price of the home, and this is often where negotiations start. In addition, consider negotiating with the homeowner to have them cover repairs that need to be done, or ask them to include an allowance for you to upgrade the home (new carpeting, for example). You can also ask for the seller to pay all or part of the closing costs.

While you may not have much opportunity to negotiate on hot properties where there is a bidding war happening, these strategies will often pay off on homes that have been on the market for a while, where the seller is starting to feel the pressure to sell quickly.

Not buying enough home insurance

At Vargas and Vargas Insurance, we always aim to make sure that our clients have the perfect amount of Boston home insurance. After all, having too little insurance can be a financial disaster if you are ever involved in a major incident, whether it’s damage to your home or a liability issue.

To find out if your current home insurance policy has enough coverage, or to get a quote on a Massachusetts home insurance policy for your new home, call our agency at 617-298-0655. One of our agents can help you with all your home insurance needs. And if you need a referral to a Massachusetts real estate agent, just let us know! We have a vast network of local professionals and can connect you with someone to help you find the perfect home for you and your future.

Recap: RE Agents Good Appearances

“People sometimes talk about the power of first impressions, and believe me, there is truth to it.” – Ann Brashares

When a client starts the search for a real estate agent to help buy or sell a Massachusetts home, it is known that they will make their decision at least partially based on intuitions and gut feelings. Because of this, it is critical that you do everything in your power to ensure that you make a good first impression on your potential clients. Think about what kind of impact you are making with the following:

  • Your ‘first point of contact’ with the client, often an advertisement or your website.
  • Your office location and décor.
  • Your personal wardrobe and presentation.
  • Your attitude and interactions when you first meet someone.
  • Your vehicle, especially if you are using it to transport buyers.

Take a minute to ask yourself, “What could I be doing to make a better first impression on my potential clients?” If you need help, ask a friend to give their unbiased opinion on how they feel about any and all of the items in the above list, and where they see the most room for improvement.

To continue improving your relationship with your clients, refer them to a great home insurance agent! Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency will take care of all of your client’s home insurance needs, and we will keep you informed of every step along the way as you’re working toward closing day. To find out more about how we can help your clients, call us at 617-298-0655 and ask about why you should refer your clients to our agency.

Real Estate Agent Advice: Making First Impressions

As you have heard “There’s no second chance at a first impression.” But did you know that a large percent of home buyers and home sellers choose their real estate agent based on first impressions and gut feelings? If this is the case, then a savvy Realtor knows that making a good first impression on potential clients is one of their keys to success! Here are a few tips for how to make sure that your potential clients are impressed with you and your business from the very beginning:

First Point of Contact

How do your clients find you? You need to make sure that all of the first points of contact are going to put you and your business in the best possible light. This means making sure that all of your advertisements are of good quality, and that your website is attractive and easy to navigate. It also means making sure that a friendly voice always answers your office phone.

In addition, one of the best forms of marketing for real estate agents is word-of-mouth. This means that it’s your job to make sure that your past clients have only good things to say about you and your services. If someone hears from a friend or relative that they know of a great Boston Realtor, you’re already off to a great start!

Location, Location, Location

After a potential client finds you and schedules a meeting, the next first impression you control is when they step into your office. Make sure that your reception area is neat and welcoming, with comfortable furniture and inviting décor.

Also ensure that the conference room or office where you chat is going to make a good impression on your client. Remember – it only takes one slip-up for someone to get a ‘bad feeling’ and move on to someone else!

Dress for Success

When it comes to making a good first impression, dressing for success is the first thing on most people’s minds. It’s important to note, however, that dressing the part doesn’t necessarily mean dressing to the nines. You want to look neat and presentable, but you don’t want to be too over-the-top dressy and make clients uncomfortable. The trick is finding a wardrobe that makes you look professional but still casual and comfortable. And, as any seasoned real estate agent will tell you, find a pair (or several) of good shoes! There isn’t much worse than being stuck with bad shoes during a day of showings and open houses.

Be Welcoming

As a real estate agent, you know that clients are looking for someone that they like and trust to help them buy or sell their home. This means that when you meet a new client, you need to put on your most friendly face and be a good host. If the client comes to your office, offer them a refreshment and ask them if they were able to find your office without any trouble. If you visit them for your first meeting, offer to take off your shoes when you enter their home, and tell them that the neighborhood is lovely.

Wheels in Motion

Nothing makes an impression on a client quite like the car you drive. It’s something that both buyers and sellers will notice, so you want to make sure that you invest in a reliable car that will make heads turn. Choose something roomy for any time that you are driving around buyers, and make sure to invest in some of the trim upgrades. Bonus points will be handed out if you can get a car with heated seats and a refreshment cooler!

If you need help with a top of the line Massachusetts auto insurance policy for your mobile office, have a chat with the agents here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. We can create a policy that’s sure to impress!

Continuing the Practice

Once you resolve to start making sure that you make a good first impression on your clients, you need to treat it like you would a New Year’s Resolution. Making the decision to focus on impressing with your appearance is a great start, following through shows your commitment to your profession, but the real magic happens when it becomes a habit. When you are making good impressions on those around you without even having to work on it, you will be well on the way to success as a Boston real estate agent.

At Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we are always looking to make a good impression on new clients, and this will always be the case with the people that you refer to us! We promise to give your clients a great home insurance experience, and to keep you in the loop at every step of the process. To talk more about why our agency should be your go-to home insurance referral, call us at 617-298-0655, and let us know if we make a good first impression!

Recap: Choosing a Real Estate Agent

“I still think buying a home is the best investment any individual can make.” – John Paulson

Looking to sell your Massachusetts home? There are lots of great real estate agents here in the Boston area that can help you through the process. If you’re trying to find the right Realtor for the job, look for these qualifications when interviewing potential candidates:

  • Full time agent – Make sure that your agent is committed to the local real estate market, and sees their job selling your house as more than just a ‘side gig.’
  • Expert on homes – Some Realtors focus their time on signing as many clients as they can, where they should be focused on helping you do everything you can to get top dollar for your home.
  • Proactive communication – There isn’t much more frustrating in the home selling process than feeling like you’re constantly in the dark about what’s going on with your home. Find an agent that will communicate early and often about the home selling process.

And remember, if you’re moving within Massachusetts, talk to Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency about how to insure your new home. As always, we will make sure to get you a home insurance policy that protects you and your loved ones without causing undue stress on your wallet. Our award-winning insurance agency is only a phone call away – just dial 617-298-0655 to speak to an agent!

Recap: What to Do After Closing on a Home

“The American dream is still to own your home.” – Barry Sternlicht

Congratulations! You’ve just closed on a home in the Boston area, and are wondering what to do next. Thankfully, the Boston home insurance experts here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency are here to help you. After closing is complete, your ‘to-do’ list should include the following tasks:

  • Change the locks around the house – this should be your first priority since you never know how many copies of the old key are floating around with the old owner’s family and friends.
  • Usually, the seller will clean the home to a reasonable degree before moving out, but this is your chance to do a deep clean without any furniture in the home. You can take on the task of doing it yourself or hire a professional cleaning crew for a one-time job.
  • Again, since there’s no furniture or boxes in the house yet, now is the perfect time to take on projects like painting or resurfacing floors.

And to make sure that your new home is fully insured, place a call to Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655. We will review your needs and match you with a home insurance policy that fits the needs of you and your family. Our agents are always happy to answer questions and provide free home insurance quotes, so don’t hesitate to call when you’re on the road to homeownership.

Choosing a Real Estate Agent to Sell Your Home

Whether you’re moving across the country or across the street, selling your home can be a stressful process. You want to make sure that you get top dollar for it, while also working on picking out a new place to live that’s (as Goldilocks would say) just right for your family.

Thankfully, you have lots of options when you choose someone to help you sell your home. If you’re looking for advice on how to choose a Massachusetts real estate agent, look no further. Here are a few tips from our Boston home insurance professionals.

Who Should You Trust to Sell Your Home?

When you’re looking to put your home on the market, you have several options of how to list it. Let’s break them down:

You could sell “By Owner,” but this is often a huge mistake. Selling a home is a complicated process, and it’s not worth it just to save a little bit of money on a real estate agent’s commission. In fact, you may even lose money by not getting the best possible sale price.

In the worst-case scenario, you could potentially end up in a legal battle because of your lack of knowledge and expertise. Just like you probably wouldn’t consider representing yourself in court, don’t sell a home without a qualified and knowledgeable professional guiding you. This is where a Realtor comes in.

The Signs of a Great Real Estate Agent

When you’re scouting out real estate agents to meet with, make sure that you find out if your candidates are full-time agents. You want to make sure that you work with someone that is knowledgeable about your neighborhood and knows what they are doing, so try to avoid those ‘part time’ agents who consider real estate a ‘side job.’

It’s important for your Realtor to know about the process of buying and selling a home, but make sure that you choose one that is also knowledgeable about houses themselves. Your real estate agent should be able to walk through your home and point out things that buyers will like, and things that you should consider changing to make the property more attractive.

In addition to being knowledgeable about how to stage your home, your agent should also have marketing expertise. The real estate marketing game has changed a lot in recent years, so you need to make sure that you hire an agent that is going to leverage the most current techniques to get the word out about your house. Ask agents about their typical marketing plan, specifically the digital channels they will use to make sure that potential buyers see your home.

You will need to talk to your real estate agent a lot throughout the process of selling your home, so make sure that you talk to candidates about their communication. Don’t settle for someone that is going to agree to sell your home and then move on to another client – find a Realtor that is going to keep you informed about what they’re doing to sell your home, preferably someone who will proactively communicate so that you never feel like you’re always the one asking for updates and details.

Last (but certainly not least), make sure that you find a real estate agent that truly cares about you and your home. Your real estate agent should be focused on getting to know you and helping set you up for success in selling your home – not solely on increasing their commission. While you’re interviewing potential real estate agents as you prepare to list your home, make sure that you never feel like the means to a bottom line.

When choosing an agent, you need to also do your homework. Instead of relying solely on interviews with the agents themselves, ask for a list of each agent’s recent clients. Call a few and ask about the experience they had with the agent. Also check the agents license to ensure that it is current and that no formal complaints or disciplinary actions have been filed against the agent.

All of this can be a little overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re having trouble finding the right Massachusetts real estate agent to sell your home, call us! As an insurance agency, we have worked with many Realtors in the area, and we would love to give you a referral for an agent that will meet all of the qualifications outlined above.

When you’ve sold your home and are ready to move into a new place, make sure that you make the call to 617-298-0655 to talk to a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent. We can set you up with a new home insurance policy in no time! We will evaluate your needs and risk tolerance along with the details surrounding your new home to craft a policy that fits your needs.

Steps to Take After Closing on a Boston Home

Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or you’ve been through the home buying process before, you may ask yourself: “Ok, closing is over… now what?” The truth is that once all the paperwork is signed, you’ve got your work cut out for you! Here are a few things to add to your “Post Closing To-Do List.”

Store Your Important Documents

When you close on a home, you will be entrusted with many papers regarding your home. When in doubt, don’t throw it out! Keep these papers in a safe place in case you need them in the future. One of the best things that you can do is scan these papers and store them in the cloud, keeping the originals in a safe deposit box.

Put Safety First

Without question, one of the first things you should do when you get the keys to your new place is to change the locks. You never know who holds a copy of the existing locks, so it’s best to start fresh. The cost that you incur will be well worth the peace of mind that it brings to know that copies of your homes keys are floating around the neighborhood, especially given the possibility that previous homeowners could have given out copies to maintenance workers or others. Also make sure that you update the pin number on the existing security system, if you choose to renew the service.

Clean to Your Own Standards

The home is empty, so this may be your only opportunity to do a deep cleaning without having furniture in the way. If you are particular about how things are done you may opt to do the initial cleaning yourself. Otherwise, there are many home cleaning services in the Boston area that would be happy to do a one-time job that will get into every nook and cranny so that you can start with a (literal) clean slate.

Now is also a great time to have a pest control service come to treat your property. Some mortgage lenders will require this as a part of their contract, but it is probably a good idea regardless.

Make Improvements

After everything has been cleaned, you may choose to make some improvements to your new home. The complexity of the improvements that you choose is up to you! You could decide that your home is perfect as-is, or that it simply needs a new coat of paint. Painting is an easy way to give a home a fresh feeling, and to make it feel more like your own space.

There are also more involved projects that you may want to take on, like remodeling the kitchen or adding a pool. It’s your home – the sky is the limit!

Familiarize Yourself with Necessities

When you own a home, there are a few things that you need to be able to locate in a jiffy. One is the water system shutoff. If a pipe ever bursts, you don’t want to have to wonder where to go to stop the water. Also check the breaker box and make sure that everything is well labeled, and that there is a battery-operated light nearby so that you’re ready for a power outage.

Before you move in, have a professional check and perform maintenance on your home’s cooling and heating systems, as well as the electrical outlets and plumbing. You probably already had a professional inspection, but it never hurts to have the first maintenance out of the way so that you can establish a routine.

Now is also a great time to ensure that the home’s smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Add a recurring reminder to your calendar to check these detectors twice a year – typically it is recommended that this be done during the Daylight Saving Time clock changes.

Move In!

Once you have done the things outlined above, it’s time to start moving in! This is pretty self-explanatory, just make sure that you’re careful if you or any loved ones does any of the heavy lifting – the last thing you need when trying to set up a new home is an injury. If you’re hiring professional movers, check to make sure that they have the right insurance coverage so that you can’t be held liable if any of their workers are injured on the job. Last but not least, ask your Massachusetts insurance agent about how your possessions will be covered during your move, and how you should file a claim if anything is damaged or broken.

Ensure That You’re Prepared

You never know when trouble will strike, so make sure that you’re ready for anything. Create or practice your family emergency plan. Make sure that all members of your household know where the emergency kit is kept, and how to use everything in it. Also keep a list of emergency contacts where everyone can access it, including the phone number for your favorite local insurance agency.

As a new homeowner, you need to make sure that you have the right insurance protection. This means buying the right amount of coverage, not just the minimum amount required by your lender. To find out what types of coverage you should have for your Boston home, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655.

Recap: Credit Score

“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.” – Andrew Carnegie

Every person has a few numbers that define them. One of the most important financial numbers in your life is your credit score. This number affects your life in many ways, including whether you will be eligible for car loans and mortgages, and the interest you pay on these loans.

But don’t believe everything that you hear about your credit score. There are many myths floating around, including:

  • Your credit score measures how rich or poor you are
  • It doesn’t matter how much of your available credit that you use
  • Only one person in a relationship has to have good credit
  • You have to carry a balance to have a good score

For more information about what a credit score determines, and how you can raise yours, check out our full blog post from last week. We even gave some tips on how to establish credit for the first time and a few ways that you can improve your credit score.

And remember, at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency we can help you with your home insurance once your great credit helps you get approved for a mortgage, or your car insurance if you’re in the market for a new vehicle. Call 617-298-0655 for a free car or home insurance quote.

Know More about Your Credit Score

The credit score – a seemingly ‘all-knowing’ number that will determine your eligibility to get a mortgage or rent an apartment, buy a car, start a business, and more. This little number is a huge part of your life, so you need to do what you can to get it as high as possible. But, you may say, “it seems so arbitrary! What can I do to raise it?”

Never fear, dear reader! The professionals here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency are here to demystify the credit score. Here are the details on many of the most-asked credit score issues:

What is a Credit Score?

When making a decision about whether you’re a good candidate for a loan, institutions want some credit history. Rather than sift through your entire history, though, they quantify your past spending. Credit bureaus take many factors and turn it into a number between (generally) 300 and 850. They pass this number on to the institution you’re looking to borrow from so that a decision can be reached.

What affects Your Credit?

The three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) take many things into account when determining your credit score. Each is slightly different and has differing weights, but generally the things that will affect you the most are:

  • Whether you pay your bills on time
  • How much of your available credit is being used.
  • The types of credit you carry.
  • The number of active credit accounts you have open.

Establishing Credit

For young people and those that have not previously taken out a loan or owned a credit card, the question of how to establish credit can feel like a Catch-22. Most places want you to have a credit history before they will extend you any additional credit, so starting out is tricky.

Thankfully, there are a few products available to new borrowers. One is a secured credit card – you may open this line of credit by providing a deposit to back the card, and you can reclaim the deposit when the card is closed. You can also open a traditional credit card with a co-signer that has an established credit history.

Another way that many people establish their credit is with a student loan. There are many types of student loans available, so if this is the route you wish to take, do your homework to find the product that best suits your needs.

Improving Your Credit Score

If you’re looking to buy a car or apply for a mortgage, you may want to improve your credit score. There are several ways to raise your credit score. The quickest is to check all three of your credit reports to ensure that there are no mistakes.

Once you have made sure that your credit reports reflect your financial standing, you can move on to other methods of raising your score. Be warned, though, that it will take some time before you see an improvement. To see your credit score increase, you will need a history of on-time payments with a variety of lines of credit that you have carried for a long time.

Remember also that your credit score will take a small hit when you apply for a new line of credit, so if you want to apply for a mortgage in the near future, ask a financial planner whether you should wait to open a new credit account or purchase a new car.

Myths About Credit Scores

Don’t listen to everything you hear when it comes to your credit score. There are lots of myths floating around that aren’t true! Like these:

  • Your credit score measures how rich or poor you are – People with less income that have established credit and pay their bills on time can have a better score than higher income people with little to no credit and a history of late payments.
  • It doesn’t matter how much of your available credit that you use – Credit utilization is a key factor when determining your score. Often, people with better credit use far less of their available credit than people with low credit.
  • Only one person in a relationship has to have good credit – When you apply for a loan or mortgage with your partner, both of your scores will be analyzed.
  • You have to carry a balance to have a good score – In fact, you can pay off your card(s) in full each month and still have a great score. Paying in full also means that you won’t have to pay any interest!

Does that answer all of your questions about credit scores and how they affect you? If you have more, reach out to us – we can direct you to a professional with the answers.

And if your credit score recently helped you get approved for a home, car, or business loan, call us! We can get you set up with the right insurance policy to protect you. Our quotes and insurance reviews are always free, so you have nothing to lose.

Saving for a Home Down Payment

Home ownership is the American dream. Many people know that they want to own a home one day, but don’t have a concrete strategy to one day become a homeowner. If you’re one of those people with a goal of buying a home, here are a few tips that you can use to turn your lofty goal into a reality:

  • Determine Your Needs: Calculate your savings goal by finding out the average cost of a home similar to one you would like to buy and figuring a down payment of 15-20%.
  • Consider Investing: If it’s going to be a while before you need your down payment, grow the money you have saved by investing it in a diversified portfolio.
  • Make Budgeting Decisions: The less you spend, the more you can save. Make some sacrifices now in order to put more into your down payment fund – all those little savings will add up!
  • Consider Using Your IRA: For any other expense, tapping into your traditional or Roth IRA is a no-no, but you may be able to take money out of these accounts tax-free for use as a down payment.
  • Put “Found Money” to Work: Whenever extra money comes your way (whether it’s from a weekend job or a birthday gift) put some or all of it toward your future home.

And when it’s finally time to use your down payment and buy your home, remember that Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency is here to help you with your homeowner’s insurance policy. Just call 617-298-0655 for a free, no-obligation quote.