Western Massachusetts Real Estate and Community News

Nov. 16, 2018

Taking Fear Out Of The Mortgage Process

Taking Fear Out of the Mortgage Process

A considerable number of potential buyers shy away from jumping into the real estate market due to their uncertainties about the buying process. A specific cause for concern tends to be mortgage qualification.

For many, the mortgage process can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be!

In order to qualify in today’s market, you’ll need a down payment (the average down payment on all loans last year was 5%, with many buyers putting down 3% or less), a stable income, and good credit history.

Throughout the entire home buying process, you will interact with many different professionals who will all perform necessary roles. These professionals are also valuable resources for you.

Once you’re ready to apply, here are 5 easy steps that Freddie Mac suggests to follow:

  1. Find out your current credit history & score – even if you don’t have perfect credit, you may already qualify for a loan. The average FICO Score® of all closed loans in September was 731, according to Ellie Mae.
  2. Start gathering all of your documentation – income verification (such as W-2 forms or tax returns), credit history, and assets (such as bank statements to verify your savings).
  3. Contact a professional – your real estate agent will be able to recommend a loan officer who can help you develop a spending plan, as well as help you determine how much home you can afford.
  4. Consult with your lender – he or she will review your income, expenses, and financial goals in order to determine the type and amount of mortgage you qualify for.
  5. Talk to your lender about pre-approval – a pre-approval letter provides an estimate of what you might be able to borrow (provided your financial status doesn’t change) and demonstrates to home sellers that you are serious about buying!

Bottom Line

Do your research, reach out to professionals, stick to your budget, and be sure that you are ready to take on the financial responsibilities of becoming a homeowner.

Nov. 14, 2018

2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers

2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers

Urban Institute recently released a report entitled, “Barriers to Accessing Homeownership: Down Payment, Credit, and Affordability,” which revealed that,

“Consumers often think they need to put more money down to purchase a home than is actually required. In a 2017 survey, 68% of renters cited saving for a down payment as an obstacle to homeownership. Thirty-nine percent of renters believe that more than 20% is needed for a down payment and many renters are unaware of low–down payment programs.”

Myth #1: “I Need a 20% Down Payment”

Buyers often overestimate the down payment funds needed to qualify for a home loan. According to the same report:

“Most potential homebuyers are largely unaware that there are low-down payment and no-down payment assistance programs available at the local, state, and federal levels to help eligible borrowers secure an affordable down payment.”  

These numbers do not differ much between non-owners and homeowners. For example, “30% of homeowners and 39% of renters believe that you need more than 20 percent for a down payment.”

While many believe that they need at least 20% down to buy their dream homes, they do not realize that there are programs available which allow them to put down as little as 3%. Many renters may actually be able to enter the housing market sooner than they ever imagined with programs that have emerged allowing less cash out of pocket.

Myth #2: “I Need a 780 FICO® Score or Higher to Buy”

Similar to the down payment, many either don’t know or are misinformed about what FICO® score is necessary to qualify.

Many Americans believe a ‘good’ credit score is 780 or higher.

To help debunk this myth, let’s take a look at Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insight Report, which focuses on recently closed (approved) loans.

2 Myths Holding Back Home Buyers | Keeping Current Matters

As you can see in the chart above, 51.7% of approved mortgages had a credit score of 600-749.

Bottom Line

Whether buying your first home or moving up to your dream home, knowing your options will make the mortgage process easier. Your dream home may already be within your reach.

Nov. 12, 2018

Outdoor Lighting Ideas for Illuminating Your Porch, Backyard, or Driveway


Looking for outdoor lighting ideas that can inspire you to illuminate your front porch, driveway, or backyard? Aside from making it easier to see in the dark, outdoor lights can enhance the design of your yard. The type of lights you choose is a matter of preference, but there are pragmatic aspects to the decision as well as stylistic ones. What kind of lighting works best for walkways? Is it better to go with simple sconces to flank your front door or dramatic spotlights to highlight a stand of oak trees?

Our experts are here to explain the different types of outdoor lights, and how to select the ones that are best suited to your house.

How big of a glow do you want? Task vs. ambient light

Outdoor lighting ideas
Outdoor lighting ideas

Photo by Landscape Illumination Inc.

Before you choose any type of light, consider the size of the glow you'd like. If you're hoping to illuminate the front stoop, garage door, or another spot that's not too large but well-traveled, bright task lights like sconces or wall lanterns with integrated LEDs are a great option.

"These bulbs last pretty much forever and cast a clean, crisp light," explains Justin Riordan, founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency.

Ambient lighting like spotlights can be equally bright, but are also made to highlight a certain design feature like a pathway, pool, or a group of trees.

For more on each category, here's a rundown of the best lights for your home's exterior so you can show guests the way—and avoid tripping when you're out after dark.

Wall lanterns

Outdoor lighting ideas
Outdoor lighting ideas

Photo by Webb Builders LLC 

Lanterns can work with a number of design styles, but Riordan says they most commonly give off a rustic vibe. If you want outdoor lights that make a statement, stick with lanterns.

These lights look great when placed in pairs near the front door, on patio walls, or along an outdoor kitchen periphery.


Outdoor lighting ideas
Outdoor lighting ideas

Photo by John Davies Landscape 

Spotlights are used to accentuate shrubs, flowering trees, flagpoles, wild grass, and garden sculptures. You could also install them at the base of porch columns, says Riordan.

One of the more practical uses for spotlights is to frame your front door, especially the house number, lest the pizza delivery person brings your pie to the wrong address!

A word of caution: Position spotlights with care so they don't shine directly into your neighbors' windows.


Outdoor lighting ideas
Outdoor lighting ideas

Photo by BEGA North America 

Floodlights are true to their name, flooding a particular area with light and offering a sense of security. To use floods, determine how wide a swath you'd like to achieve by comparing each fixture's beam spread, or the amount of space a light covers from different distances.

Floodlights can also be attached to timers so they'll turn on at dusk, and they're especially useful when installed with motion sensors to light up the yard when someone passes by.

"If you want the whole house and yard lit up, I would recommend double floods or pole lights," says Jeremy Halady, owner of Mr. Electric in Columbia, SC.

The main difference between floods and spots is the size of the area they light up, says Hunter McFarlane, an outdoor expert from Lowe's.

"A spotlight projects a bright, round beam that captures the attention of an outdoor accent, while a floodlight is more powerful and commonly used for security and safety in large spaces like backyards and driveways," he explains.

Path lights

Outdoor lighting ideas
Outdoor lighting ideas

Photo by Shades Of Green Landscape Architecture 

These outdoor fixtures light the way along the path in your yard. Designwise, they run the gamut from stick-in-the-ground lamps to lights embedded in the risers of your stairs.

If you can, try to spring for higher-quality path lights, rather than cheaper solar ones from the big-box stores, which tend to not provide ample light and are "a total waste of money," Riordan says.

Instead, Halady recommends low-volt LED brass path lighting.


Photo by Hall Architects

Slot this type of outdoor light in the ambient category; it'll throw some light but is generally installed for the purpose of charm. A lamppost light will cast a glow on your walkway and should coordinate with your home's style, if possible. Typical lamppost materials include wrought iron, wood, aluminum, and copper.

Jennifer Kelly Geddes creates content for Chewy.com, the National Sleep Foundation, Fisher-Price, and Mastercard.
The realtor.com® editorial team highlights a curated selection of product recommendations for your consideration; clicking a link to the retailer that sells the product may earn us a commission.
Nov. 10, 2018

BCA Top Listing Team for October

We couldn’t be happier to be named Top Listing Team for the month of October! A huge thank you to our clients for your trust and business! We would love the opportunity to assist you in the sale of your largest investment!

Don’t hesitate to call us today!


#sellinghomeslikeaboss #toplistingteam #wilbraham #theateam#brendacuocoandassociates

Nov. 1, 2018


We are THRILLED to announce that we put 15 homes Under Agreement in the month of October! 💥
Are you or anyone you know looking to Buy or Sell Real Estate?🏚️🏡 Don't hesitate! Call Brenda Cuoco & Associates today! (413)333-7776 🗝️
#SellingHomesLikeABoss #Pending #TheATeam #BrendaCuocoAndAssociates #Realtor
Oct. 28, 2018

Housing Is Still Affordable In The United States!

Lately, there have been many headlines circulating about whether or not there is an “affordability issue forming in the housing market.”

If you are considering selling your current house and moving up to the home of your dreams, but are unsure whether or not to believe what you’re seeing in the news, let’s look at the results of the latest Housing Affordability Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

According to NAR:

“A value of 100 means that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. An index above 100 signifies that a family earning the median income has more than enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment.”

  • The national index results for August came in at 141.2.
  • This is up from 138.9 in July, but down 8.3% from last August’s value of 153.9.

One big factor in determining affordability each month is the interest rate available at the time of calculation. In August 2017, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage interest rate was 4.19%. This August, the rate rose to 4.78%!

With an index reading of 141.2, housing remains affordable in the U.S.

Regionally, affordability is up in three out of four regions. The Northeast had the biggest gain at 6.2%. The South had an increase of 2.4% followed by the West with a slight increase of 0.1%. The Midwest had the only dip in affordability at 4.8%.

Despite month-over-month changes, the most affordable region remains the Midwest, with an index value of 175.7. The West remains the least affordable region at 101.2. For comparison, the index was 146.7 in the South, and 151.2 in the Northeast.

Oct. 27, 2018

SOLD! 23 Seminole Street

Brenda Cuoco & Associates DID IT AGAIN!💥

Another home has SOLD! If you’re looking to Buy or Sell, don’t hesitate to give us a call! We have the fierce negotiating skills & market knowledge you deserve! (413)333-7776

#SellingHomesLikeABoss #TheATeam #Sold #BrendaCuocoAndAssociates #JustSold #Springfield

Oct. 26, 2018

Will Home Prices Continue To Increase?

There are many unsubstantiated theories about what is happening with home prices. From those who are worried that prices are falling (data shows this is untrue), to those who are concerned that prices are again approaching boom peaks because of “irrational exuberance” (this is also untrue as prices are not at peak levels when they are adjusted for inflation), there seems to be no shortage of opinion.

However, the increase in prices is easily explained by the theory of supply & demand. Whenever there is a limited supply of an item that is in high demand, prices increase. It is that simple. In real estate, it takes a six-month supply of existing salable inventory to maintain pricing stability. In most housing markets, anything less than six months will cause home values to appreciate and anything greater than seven months will cause prices to depreciate (see chart below).

Will Home Prices Continue to Increase? | Keeping Current Matters

According to the Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the monthly inventory of homes for sale has been below six months for the last five years (see chart below).

Will Home Prices Continue to Increase? | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

If buyer demand continues to outpace the current supply of existing homes for sale, prices will continue to appreciate. Nothing nefarious is taking place. It is simply the theory of supply & demand working as it should.

Oct. 26, 2018

SOLD! 56 & 0 Paulding Rd Ludlow

Brenda Cuoco & Associates DID IT AGAIN!💥

We are excited to announce that this Lovely Ludlow Cape is SOLD! Are you or anyone you know looking to Buy or Sell Real Estate? Give us a call today! (413)333-7776


#JustSold #SellingHomesLikeABoss #TheATeam #Sold #Ludlow#BrendaCuocoAndAssociates





Oct. 24, 2018

ACCEPTED OFFER! 3 Hillside Drive

WOW! Brenda Cuoco & Associates DID IT AGAIN! So excited to announce that we have an Accepted Offer on this Beautiful 3 bedroom Classic Cape!
Looking to Buy or Sell? We have the expertise to get your home SEEN & SOLD!💥
We Referrals!
Call Brenda Cuoco & Associates today! (413)333-7776🗝
#SellingHomesLikeABoss #AcceptedOffer #Ware #BrendaCuocoAndAssociates #SalePending #TheATeam