Brenda Cahoon - Burlington Ma Real Estate, Billerica MA Real Estate, Woburn MA Real Estate


In real estate terminology, you may hear about various ratios and where you need to fall within the ratio to qualify for the home you want. A ratio simply expresses a relationship between two values: they compare two things, so a student/teacher ratio might be shown as 18:1, or one teacher for every 18 students. Different ratios apply to residential home buyers, investors, sellers, and lenders, but here are a few that might apply to you.

Loan-to-value or LTV

A comparison between the amount of a mortgage loan and either the home’s purchase price (for new buyers) or its appraised value (in a refinance) is its loan-to-value ratio. Lower LTVs typically qualify a buyer or homeowner a lower interest rate because there is less risk of default to the lender. So, a conforming mortgage with 20 percent down often garners a lower rate than an FHA loan with only five percent down.

Higher LTVs place more risk on the lender so if the market drops, the home could be “upside-down” or worth less than the amount of the mortgage.

Debt-to-income ratio or DTI

More important to home buyers is the debt-to-income ratio. Also called a debt-service ratio, it expresses how much money the borrower makes monthly compared to the monthly ongoing debt payments and obligations. A lender uses this figure to determine how high a mortgage payment you can handle. The first number is your income (gross) from your job, plus any other income that can be counted such as child support or a trust disbursement that you can use to make your mortgage payment plus taxes and insurance, and if applicable, association dues.

The second number uses the same calculation as the first plus any long-term debt such as a vehicle or school loan and consumer debt. This amount is the percentage of your income used to pay housing and long-term debt. So, a ratio of 30:37 (also written 30/37) means you spend 30 percent of all your income on housing with no more than seven percent obligated to debt service. That leaves you with 63 percent of your income for food, auto insurance, medical bills, clothing, and other expenses. Qualifying ratios adjust over time, but the Federal Housing Administration lists the qualifying ratio and the formula to determine it to qualify for an FHA loan.

Price-to-income ratio

Your DTI comes from your personal debts and income, and the LTV comes from a specific home's value, but the price-to-income ratio expresses the affordability of housing in a given locale. Most often, it is the ratio of the median home price to the median household disposable income. This ratio helps you determine if the home you want to buy is overpriced (it will be hard to sell) or under-priced (super good deal) for its geographical location. Lenders use this ratio as one additional factor in determining risk for that specific home.

To learn where your ratios fall and to determine if an area is right for your household budget, let your local real estate professional guide you.


With rent prices soaring in many areas of the U.S., renters are starting to consider whether now is the right time to start saving for a down payment on a home.

Depending on where you live and what your timeline is for buying a house, you might be wondering the same thing.

So, in today’s post, we’re going to talk about how to break down your rental costs to determine whether it makes more sense to buy a home rather than continue renting.

Add up your rental costs

There are any number of costs associated with renting depending on your lease agreement. Some renters are required to pay their own heating and utilities, while others have several bonuses thrown into the cost of their rent, such as internet, gym memberships and more.

So, take a minute to write down each of your rental expenses. To get you started, here’s a list of some of the most common costs for renters:

  • Monthly rent

  • Electric bills

  • Heating bills

  • Trash removal

  • Renter’s insurance

  • Parking fees

Now that you know how much you put toward renting each month, it’s time to take a look at what it could cost you to own a home.

Homeowner expenses

The key thing to remember about buying a home is that your costs can vary widely based on the size of your home, where it’s located, and a number of other factors. However, you can often find area averages online.

If you’re considering a starter home (which you should!), then you’ll want to look at houses in your area that are on the lower end of the market.

To get an idea of what your mortgage payments and monthly interest will be, you can use a free tool like Bankrate.

Now, let’s make a list of your homeowner expenses:

  • Mortgage payment

  • Home insurance

  • Trash removal

  • Utilities

  • Heating and AC costs (plan for higher costs than renting due to more space)

  • Electricity

  • Property taxes (divided by 12)

  • Mortgage insurance (if you don’t have a 20% down payment saved)

Cost-benefit analysis of owning a home vs renting

Now that you know the general costs, you’re getting close to knowing whether it would be cheaper or more expensive to buy a home than rent.

However, that isn’t the full picture. When you own a home, you’re responsible for maintenance and upkeep. That means you should budget around $250 per month toward maintenance. Even if you don’t use that amount each month, there’s a good chance you’ll have to make a repair or upgrade, or even hire a professional to come and fix something on your home.

The final piece of the picture involves home equity. When you own a home, most of the money you pay each month to your lender will come back to you in the form of equity. As a renter, your money goes to your landlord and will never be seen or heard from again.

So, if you’ve added up your lists, accounted for maintenance costs, and still have enough left over to live comfortably each month by buying a home, you can most likely bet on buying as being a better option.

If not, it might pay off to rent for another year or two while you save up for a down payment so you can get the lowest interest rate and avoid PMI.


Moving is a big deal. You spend money to have people take your stuff from one place to another. You pay more to get the supplies into which you pack your belongings. Then don't forget you spend the time to put all of your possessions into the hands of said people to move your items. Man, that is a lot of spending! If you are hoping for some creative ways to spend a little less read on for some ideas.

Boxes 

If you have ever gone into your local store at odd hours, you have no doubt come across somebody stocking shelves. Stores go through many, many boxes while trying to keep their products stocked. If you go to your local stores, varying stores will mean different kinds of boxes, and ask them to set boxes aside for you. Most stores will do this if you come to get them within specified time frames. Another source of boxes nowadays are friends who purchase items online. Let store managers know that you are moving and in need of boxes so that when they receive a product through shipping, they can save the boxes for you. Again make sure to pick them up quickly so that it does not become a burden to them or they may not offer next time.

Fragile items 

No one wants to get to their next house only to find that the fragile items that you packed did not make it in one piece. One way to avoid that without spending much is to use other items in your house. Things such as towels and washcloths or sheets and pillowcases make great buffers and wrapping for dishes, trinkets and the like that you want to protect through the process of moving. The added perk to this is that you don’t have to pack extra boxes for these items. 

Furniture protection 

Likewise, blankets and sheets that are not your best linens are great for protecting your furniture from point A to point B. They ensure that dings and scrapes stay at bay. Items used for this purpose have a chance of being ripped so keep that in mind when choosing to use this option. 

Keeping the cost of moving down is possible with a little ingenuity 

Moving costs enough on its own without the added expense of moving supplies. Although some items are not replaceable, like tape for your boxes and mattress covers, there are ways for you to be able to use other things at your disposal to prevent the cost of moving from exceeding your budget. Make sure to contact a local professional if you need help with your move.


We’ve all seen the way landscaping and decorating trends can sweep through a neighborhood. Some are practical, like planting drought-resistant vegetation. Others are purely aesthetic choices.

In this article, we’re going to break down some of the latest trends in landscaping. Who knows, you might be inspired to get out and revamp your front or backyard with one of these ideas. Read on for some of the latest and greatest landscaping techniques for your home.

Landscaping you can eat

One trend that is making a comeback is growing herbs and vegetables. We’re not talking about a backyard garden in a chicken wire fence (although those are great, too!)--what we’re referring to is planting herbs and colorful lettuces right in your front yard. Well-placed plants look natural and can save you money at the grocery store at the same time. Just make sure they’re planted in soil appropriate for growing vegetables.

Similarly, many people are rediscovering the native fruit trees, bushes, and vines of their area. Adding these items to your yard will give you something sweet to eat and also a sense of pride in your region. So, find out which fruits and vegetables grow well in your area and find some to compliment your yard.

Drought resistance

We’ve all seen the headlines. Climate change is upon us, and water shortage is one of the chief long term concerns. To save water and keep the front yard looking manicured, many people are turning to vegetation that can resist long periods of time without water.

There are drought tolerant plants in almost every family of flora. From flowers to shrubs and even grass. However, many homeowners in areas warm areas prone to drought are opting out of grass completely in favor of stone pathways lined with hardy, yet beautiful, cacti.

Actually comfortable outdoor seating

The days of uncomfortable plastic and metal chairs are numbered. Waterproof outdoor seating has improved immensely in the last few years and a greater number of people taking advantage of it.

Another indoor comfort that is taking root outdoors is the use of varied lighting techniques and colors to create different moods, be it calm or whimsical.

Let it grow

Many homeowners, fed up with having to mow their lawn every weekend instead of spending it relaxing, are opting to let their grass grow out. Planting shade-giving trees, incorporating natural boulders, and creating stone walkways give a wild, but pleasant feeling reminiscent of an English garden.

Where there is grass, it is often left to grow to “meadow” length to complement the natural feeling of the rest of the yard. Planning out such a yard, however, takes time, or you could end up with a backyard that looks like it just hasn’t been taken care of.


What are your favorite backyard landscaping trends?


As a home seller, it is important to do everything possible to transform an ordinary kitchen into a comfortable, attractive setting. With an awe-inspiring kitchen, you may be able to differentiate your house from others that are available in a competitive real estate market. Plus, your house's kitchen might even lead some homebuyers to submit offers immediately following a home showing.

Clearly, a top-notch kitchen can make a world of difference when you sell your house. But how can you determine whether a kitchen overhaul is necessary?

Here are three questions to consider before you embark on a kitchen renovation.

1. When do I plan to sell my house?

If you intend to sell your home quickly, you may have limited time at your disposal. Therefore, a complete kitchen overhaul may not be an option.

On the other hand, if you have several weeks or months to plan ahead, it may be worthwhile to evaluate your kitchen and find ways to improve it.

Consider your home selling timeline closely. That way, you can examine various home improvement projects and determine whether a kitchen renovation is a priority.

2. How much money do I have to complete a kitchen renovation?

A kitchen renovation can include everything from simple upgrades to a massive overhaul. As such, the costs associated with a kitchen renovation may vary.

Assess your home improvement budget and plan accordingly. If you have the funds available, you may be able to revamp your entire kitchen. However, if your financial resources are limited, you may need to consider cost-effective measures to enhance your kitchen.

Remember, there are many quick, easy ways to bolster your kitchen. Wiping down the walls and ceiling can help your kitchen dazzle. Meanwhile, repainting the kitchen walls and mopping the floors also provide simple, effective ways to improve your kitchen's appearance without breaking your budget.

3. Is a kitchen renovation worth my time?

A home appraisal may prove to be exceedingly valuable, particularly for home sellers who are on the fence about completing a kitchen renovation.

During a home appraisal, a property inspector will examine your residence and provide a report that highlights your house's strengths and weaknesses. This report can help you establish a price range for your home. In addition, the report may provide you with insights into whether a kitchen renovation may enable you to boost your home's value.

Lastly, if you're still uncertain about a kitchen renovation after a home appraisal, a real estate agent may be able to provide extra support.

A real estate agent understands the ins and outs of selling a home. Thus, he or she can evaluate your residence and help you decide whether a kitchen renovation is worth your time.

When it comes to a kitchen renovation, it is essential for home sellers to examine all of their options. Consider the aforementioned questions, and you should have no trouble determining if a kitchen renovation is right for you.




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