STEPHANIE RIO MACFARLAND | Reading Real Estate, North Reading Real Estate, Wakefield Real Estate


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Water efficiency is good for both the environment and your wallet. Changing habits, such as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth saves about 3,000 gallons a year. This is great, but if you want to take it a step further to conserve water, here are four DIY ways to bring better water efficiency to your bathroom.

Replace Your Old Toilet with a New One

Many homes still have outdated bathrooms, including toilets. Even if in good condition, these toilets are definitely not water efficient. Experts suggest they use 4X more water than modern toilets do. Considering toilets account for about 30% of overall household water use, this is substantial. Replacing a toilet is a great way to reduce use. When purchasing a model, be sure to look for the WaterSense label because toilets with this certification use far less water than other models. Low-flow models use about 1.6 gallons as opposed to 4 to 6 gallons—a significant difference.

Upgrade Your Old Toilet

If you aren’t ready to invest and/or install a new toilet, but want to scale back on your water use, you can upgrade your old one. A few modifications can do the trick.

  • Install an adjustable flapper and save up to three gallons per flush.
  • Hang a tank bag in your tank so it can displace water. It’s less water savings than replacing a toilet, but every bit helps. (Sometimes people place bricks in their tanks, but these deteriorate and can create clogs, so it’s not recommended.)
  • Install a fill cycle diverter to eliminate excess water going down the trail and save about a half-gallon of water per fill.

Every bit of water saved puts money back in your pocket and helps with conservation of this precious natural resource.

Faucets & Shower Heads

Faucets account for over 15% of indoor water use in a household. If you don’t currently have faucets and showerheads with the WaterSense label, consider replacing them. According to the EPA, consumers can reduce water flow by as much as 30% by making this change.

Fix Leaks

Identifying any leaks in your bathroom can save about 10% on a water bill every month.

  • Inspect the toilet flapper and valve seal. (Consumer Reports suggests pouring food coloring into the toilet tank and seeing if it appears in the bowl 15 minutes later to help determine leaks.)
  • Check to see if faucet washers and gaskets are intact, if they are compromised, they’ll need replacing to stop leaks.
  • Look at showerheads to see if they are dripping water—if there is a gap in the connection, they may need to be taped up or replaced.

Many homeowners can DIY leaks, but keep in mind sometimes attempting to fix pipes or tackle any of the more complicated aspects of plumbing can open up a can of worms and lead to further problems. In these instances, it might be time to call a plumber for inspection and/or to get an estimate.

Homeowners making an effort to conserve water can also potentially improve their resale value if they eventually decide to sell. Many of today’s buyers actively seek out homes containing green or efficient features. Conserving water is a great place to start!


No one should be forced to break the bank to secure a terrific house. However, a first-time homebuyer may be more likely than others to overspend on a residence, particularly if he or she fails to understand the ins and outs of the housing market.

Lucky for you, we're here to teach you what it takes to browse the real estate market effectively so you can find a house that matches your budget.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help a first-time homebuyer purchase an affordable residence.

1. Examine the Housing Market Closely

Many great houses are available, and a first-time homebuyer should review a broad range of residences closely. By doing so, this homebuyer can establish a price range for his or her home search.

Evaluate the prices of residences that are currently available in your city or town. That way, you can find out what it costs to afford a home that may serve you well both now and in the future.

Also, assess the prices of recently sold residences in your area. With this housing market data in hand, you can find out whether you're about to enter a buyer's market or seller's market and plan accordingly.

2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Pre-approval for a mortgage can help you map out a homebuying budget before you enter the real estate market. Thus, getting pre-approved for a mortgage can make a world of difference for any first-time homebuyer, at any time.

To get pre-approved for a mortgage, you'll want to meet with several banks and credit unions in your area. These lenders can teach you about different mortgage options and help you select one that corresponds with your budget.

In addition, be sure to ask plenty of questions about potential mortgage options before you make your final mortgage decision. This will allow you to understand the differences between fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages and choose a mortgage that can help you avoid the temptation to overspend on a residence.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

When it comes to pursuing a house for the first time, don't leave anything to chance. Instead, collaborate with a real estate agent, and you can streamline the process of purchasing an affordable residence.

A real estate agent helps take the guesswork out of looking for residences. He or she will keep you up to date about new houses as they become available and set up home showings on your behalf. Plus, this housing market professional will do whatever it takes to guarantee you can obtain an affordable house that surpasses your expectations.

Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent will help you alleviate stress throughout the homebuying journey. And if you encounter challenging negotiations with a home seller, a real estate agent will step in and help you get the best price for a residence – without exception.

Ready to purchase a house for the first time? Use these tips, and you can acquire an affordable residence that you can enjoy for years to come.


Purchasing a house on a budget can be difficult for even the most diligent property buyer. Lucky for you, we're here to help you create an effective homebuying budget and reduce the temptation to spend beyond your means to acquire your ideal residence.

Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you craft a property buying budget.

1. Examine Your Finances Closely

Your income, everyday expenses and other financial factors may impact your ability to buy a house. Therefore, you should analyze your finances closely to determine how much you can spend on a residence.

Once you evaluate your finances, you can establish a price range for your home search. Next, you can kick off a house search and move one step closer to acquiring your dream house.

2. Get Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a three-digit number based on your outstanding debt, length of credit history and other factors. It may have a major impact on your ability to secure home financing and establish a successful homebuying budget. As such, you should review your credit score and work to improve it before you enter the housing market.

To obtain your credit score, you can request a copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). You are eligible to receive a free copy of your credit report annually from each credit reporting bureau. Thus, you should take advantage of this complimentary perk and obtain your credit report as soon as you can.

If you identify outstanding debt on your credit report, you should work to pay this off. Or, if you find errors on your credit report, you should contact the bureau that provided the report to fix these mistakes.

3. Meet with Lenders

Banks and credit unions are happy to meet with you to discuss various home financing options. If you consult with these lenders, you may be better equipped than ever before to create a successful homebuying budget before you launch a house search.

Ultimately, lenders can help you get pre-approved for a mortgage. If you get a mortgage prior to searching for a house, you'll know exactly how much you can spend on a residence. Then, you can speed up your home search and discover your dream house faster than ever before.

As you get ready to begin your quest for your ideal residence, you may want to hire a real estate agent too. This housing market professional can put you in touch with top lenders in your area and help you secure home financing. Furthermore, a real estate agent can tailor a home search to your property buying budget. Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent will help you negotiate with a seller's agent to ensure you can get the best price on any home, at any time.

Create an effective homebuying budget – use the aforementioned tips, and you can establish a property buying budget and use it to streamline your home search.


There are so many factors that go into buying a home. How much money do you have saved up? What is your debt amount? Hw much money do you make each month? Can you afford the neighborhood that you’d like to live in? All of these questions are swirling around the minds of all first-time homebuyers. Did you know that how long you have been at a job is just as important as your income as a factor in getting approved for a mortgage? 


Your ability to repay is why the lender is looking at so many different numbers and factors about your financial situation. Employment overall plays a large stake in the mortgage application. Lenders will look at your past employment history along with the job that your currently have. They are also concerned with your future employment status. Your lender will get an idea of your overall plan for your career and employment through looking at your history. 


As a first-time homebuyer, you most likely don’t have the employment history of more seasoned homebuyers. Generally, most people who are buying a home for the first time are pretty young in their careers. As a rule of thumb, lenders will look at your employment history over the past two years. The lender wants to see your industry focus. Maybe you have stuck with one career direction, or maybe you have hopped around a bunch. As a hint, jumping around from job to job and field to field doesn’t look very good to mortgage lenders. Job floaters tend to appear as if they have no plans for the future. 


Good Career Moves


Staying a software engineer, but moving from the medical industry to the financial industry is an acceptable and smart move in the eyes of lenders. Yet, leaving your stable job in accounting to pursue a career in acting would not be looked upon favorably in the eyes of a mortgage lender.


It doesn’t matter how much money you have saved up, often, without employment history, a lender may not consider you as a dependable buyer. Your lender wants to see that your income is stable for a period of at least three year’s time.


Income Matters 


You won’t have the same work history as a first time homebuyer as you would if you were a bit more seasoned. When lenders look at your income history, not having a lot of work history can be a detriment to many factors. If your income is an annual salary, for example, your lender will divide that salary by 12 in order to get a monthly income. If you haven’t been at the job for a full year or took a pay cut during times of training, those numbers will be affected.


For hourly employees, overtime may be a problem as it may not be factored in with the equation if there isn’t a history of at least two years on the job. 


While it isn’t impossible to buy a home with a short employment history, it’s advisable to wait until you have some significant time under your belt before you dive into the home buying process.


When it comes to making a good impression on prospective home buyers, small details can make a big difference! Not only do you want prospects to see your home as being clean, neat, and well organized, but it should also leave them with a good overall feeling.

Even though it can be a bit of a hassle to continually prepare your bathrooms for house showings, there's no bigger turnoff to prospective buyers than a grungy bathroom! Generally speaking, if people cringe at any aspect of your home (especially the bathrooms or kitchen), then they're probably not going to make an offer on your property.

In addition to making all fixtures and surfaces sparklingly clean, winning over potential buyers also involves making your home look inviting.

One thing many home sellers overlook is the condition of their bathroom towels and washcloths. If they're wet, bedraggled, or ragged looking, then that's going to send the wrong message to buyers. There are a variety of ways to overcome that, including putting out brand new, colorful towels that have never been used before (Just make sure to take off the store tags before putting them on display!).

If they're neatly folded and strategically placed, then they'll convey an impression of freshness, cleanliness, and neatness. Those are among the key qualities people want to see when they're considering buying your home. By making sure your house is well organized, uncluttered, and tastefully decorated, you're also giving the impression that you and your family take pride in the appearance and upkeep of your home. This is sure to score many Brownie points with potential buyers!

Besides ragged-looking towels, another subtle, but powerful turnoff for buyers is old-looking curtains. Although you may be so accustomed to your old curtains that you don't even notice or see them any more, there's a good chance they'll stand out like a sore thumb to other people! If the appearance of your curtains degrade the rest of the room, then that one aspect could literally be a deal killer. As the expression goes, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link." People may not know exactly why they weren't favorably impressed with your home -- even though it met all their basic requirements --but it could be something as simple as grungy, faded, tattered-looking curtains, rugs, or towels. It's often an easy, relatively inexpensive fix, but you have to be aware of the problem before you can take corrective action.

Working with a real estate agent to help you present your home in its best light can make the process go much more smoothly and result in a faster sale. Experienced agents will also provide you with valuable advice, guidance, and marketing assistance that can favorably affect the actual selling price and the length of time your home remains on the market.




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