Catherine Albiani - Sales Associate - CENTURY 21 Commonwealth | Winchester, MA


The amount of money you will need to ensure you can purchase a house varies based on a number of factors. For example, if you want to purchase a house in a big city, you may need to save more money than you likely would require to buy a residence in a small town. Meanwhile, your decision to choose a fixed-rate mortgage over an adjustable-rate mortgage – or vice-versa – can impact your monthly housing costs. And let's not forget about the costs of home utilities like electricity and water, either.

Ultimately, it helps to put together a homebuying budget before you embark on a house search. Because if you know how much money you have at your disposal, you can map out your house search accordingly. And as a result, you can minimize the risk of spending too much to acquire your dream residence.

Let's now take a look at three tips to help you craft an effective homebuying budget.

1. Evaluate Your Current Expenses

An in-depth assessment of your current monthly expenses is key. If you conduct an expense evaluation, you can find out how much you spend on various must-haves and wants. You then can take steps to reduce your monthly expenses and increase your savings for a new home.

It also never hurts to consult with a financial planner. If you have a financial planner at your side, you can gain expert insights to help you evaluate your current expenses. Plus, you can work with a financial planner to determine the best course of action so you can eventually buy your dream residence.

2. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Meet with a variety of banks and credit unions and explore your mortgage options – you will be happy you did. If you assess your mortgage options closely, you can find one that complements your finances. And once you get pre-approved for a mortgage, you will know how much you can spend on a house.

Generally, it is beneficial to meet with as many banks and credit unions as you can. If you consult with myriad lenders, you can receive extensive insights into many mortgage options. Best of all, you will be better equipped than ever before to find the lowest-possible interest rate on a mortgage.

3. Consider Your Down Payment Options

The down payment required for a home purchase varies, but it commonly ranges between 5 percent and 20 percent of a house's total price. If you account for a down payment as you craft a homebuying budget, you can use this total to plan ahead for the property buying journey.

Lastly, you may want to collaborate with a real estate agent as you prepare to launch a home search. In addition to helping you find your dream residence, a real estate agent can put you in touch with potential lenders and offer plenty of guidance throughout the property buying journey.

Ready to pursue a home? Use the aforementioned tips, and you create a successful homebuying budget.


Your xeriscape plan now includes ornamental grasses for volume, flowering plants for color through the seasons and succulents for intense greenery, texture and ground-coverage. What about height? And shade! Shade trees are typically not tolerant of drought conditions, but there are a few different options, depending on your climate. So, what trees can you plant in your yard to continue your eco-conscious gardening quest? Here are a few ideas to add shade and stature to your yard. 

Oak — There are many varieties of oak trees. Most are drought tolerant, enjoy full sun and provide great shade for your yard. The oak that's best for you depends mostly on your climate zone and size of the yard. The following are three beautiful oak trees to consider. 

Live Oak — Enjoy a sizeable shade-heavy tree with this oak species native to America. Live Oak grows to about sixty feet, and its branches can expand up to 120 feet in width. Give your oak care while it establishes itself. Help it develop a branch structure with pruning during its first three years and enjoy your tree through mature growth and beyond. Establish this tree in your garden now and share with those who come after you for centuries.

Bur Oak — The Bur Oak can withstand extreme heat and drought and still grows up to eighty feet tall, and eighty feet wide. This oak does have a slow growth rate, increasing in size just up to twelve inches each year. The shade created by Bur Oak is dense, and its bark adds unique texture to your yard.

Red Oak — An incredibly stately tree, the Northern Red Oak is a fantastic choice for your yard. Growing slightly shorter in stature to the Live and Bur Oak, the Red Oak fits a smaller yard size with just a sixty to a seventy-foot height at maturity and a forty-foot width. Red oaks are particularly useful if you want fast growth in your yard. This tree gains up to two feet each year. 

Hackberry — Known by experts as one of the most robust trees capable of surviving in a variety of soils and conditions, the Hackberry should be on your list as a possible addition to your xeriscape. The Hackberry grows at a medium pace, around twelve to twenty-four inches per year and up to sixty feet tall and wide at maturity. Beautiful leaves and red berry-like fruit make this tree great for shade coverage and color. 

Sugar Maple — For an enormous burst of color in the fall add a Sugar Maple to your yard. Leaves change from deep green to red to orange to yellow creating a rainbow of interest. This moderately drought tolerant tree can grow in many climate zones and reaches up to seventy-five feet and fifty feet wide at its mature size. With a medium growth-rate, the Sugar Maple sees twelve to twenty-four inches of grown per year.

Trees are a more expensive part of your landscaping investment so be sure to research and select the best species and variety for your area. With proper selection and careful establishing these additions will provide color and shade to your xeriscape yard. Pair with your ornamental grasses, flowering plants, and succulents for the perfect drought-tolerant yard design.

If a xeriscape home is essential to you, tell your realtor now. They can help you find the yard design you want before you buy the property and save you the cost of an overhaul. Or, they can find a better deal for you on a home lacking in landscaping to keep room in your budget to create your dream xeriscape.


We all know that buying a home is a significant decision that comes with a great deal of financial planning and preparation. However, few of us are taught the ins and outs of actually obtaining a mortgage to make your dream of homeownership come true.

Mortgages are a complicated business that is always changing, both with fluctuations in market rates and with policy decisions.

But, if you’re hoping to buy a home in the near future, it’s important to understand all of your options when it comes to mortgages.

In today’s post, we’re going to address the 20% down payment myth, where that number comes from, and what your options are when it comes to applying for a mortgage.

Where does the 20% down payment number come from?

For most people, 20% of a house is a serious amount of money that would take years to save up. If you’re a first-time homebuyer and don’t have any equity to use from selling another house, 20% may seem like an impossible amount to save within the time you want to buy a home. Fortunately, there are several ways to buy a home without having 20% in cash saved up.

But first, let’s understand where that number comes from.

Most mortgage lenders will want to ensure that lending to you is a safe investment of their money. They want to know that they’ll earn back what they’re spending. To do this, they use several methods.

First, they’ll check your credit history to see how often you pay your bills in time. Then, they’ll want proof if your income and financial stability. Finally, they’ll ask for either a down payment or a guarantee that you will pay them back. Here’s where that 20% comes in.

If you don’t have 20% of the mortgage amount saved for a down payment, you will typically have to pay something called private mortgage insurance. This is an extra monthly fee, on top of your mortgage payments with interest, that you pay to ensure the lender that they’re seeing a return on their investment.

Most homeowners put much less than 20% down

If you’re feeling bad about the amount of money you have saved for a down payment, don’t be! In fact, most first-time homebuyers put, on average, just 6% down on their first home.

Since first-time homeowners don’t have the benefit of equity they’ve accumulated by making payments on their previous mortgage, they often have to come up with down payments out of pocket.

Other options besides a 20% down payment

There are several ways to secure a mortgage without putting 20% down on the home. First, check to see if you are eligible for any loans that are guaranteed by the government. These can come from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), or the USDA single-family home program.

The third option is to take on private mortgage insurance until you’ve paid 20% of your mortgage payment.

Private mortgage insurance can be paid to an insurance company or to the federal government in the case of FHA loans, you can put down as low as 3.5%.


Between these three options, you should be able to find a mortgage that you can afford and one that will give you the best possible financial stability in the long-term.


When you hear about xeriscaping, you might envision a dirt or sand yard with more boulders than actual greenery and color. You now know about a few ornamental kinds of grass you can use to set off your yard and add greenery. Depriving yourself of flowers is not necessary either to create a beautiful, eco-friendly yard. Here are a few fabulous flowering plants to use in your xeriscape.

African Iris — After it reaches stable growth this beautiful perennial plant only requires occasional water. Enjoy white blossoms with hints of yellow and bluish-purple from Spring all the way through the Fall with minimal maintenance. 

Lantana — An evergreen shrub, Lantana is a fast-growing plant that blooms throughout all seasons in most areas. Even if you live in a climate experiencing frost, your Lantana will produce gorgeous orange and red blossoms during the Spring and Summer months. This plant requires little water once it's up and running if you do experience extreme heat in the summertime, up your watering some to keep your blossoms going year-round. 

Marigold — This vibrant flower is a remarkable and affordable annual to add to your drought-tolerant landscape. It grows quickly, has minimal watering needs and thrives in full sun. The plant is tough enough to survive extreme heat, and the bright orange blossoms bring life to your garden through Summer and Fall. Bonus — if you enjoy butterflies this plant is for you. Turn your xeriscape into a butterfly garden by attracting them with marigold blossoms. 

Bougainvillea — This flowering plant comes in many varieties offering different colors and sizes. Bougainvillea plants proliferate and burst with flowers year-round. You can use them in many ways making them a good option for different home types. They are great for ground cover; you can climb them up a trellis or drape them over your roof or balcony. This plant requires little water and will tell you so! If it stops flowering, you're overwatering it — the perfect flowering plant for drought climates.

Lavender — Brought to us from the Mediterranean lavender is a beautiful and sturdy plant that is fairly drought tolerant. Its toughness and varieties make it an excellent option for adding green to your xeriscape year-round and a splash of purple color through your warm summer months. English lavender grows best in colder northern climates, while French and Spanish lavenders grow best in hot southern environments. Lavender loves sunlight and takes at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Soak your lavender plant to establish its roots then manage with moderate watering and enjoy purple blossoms for several years. 

Purple Sage — Desert purple sage is native to western climates and is very well suited to difficult growing areas with high heat and drought. This evergreen shrub blooms abundantly from Spring through Fall. Delight yourself and your garden with these fast-growing bluish-purple flowers with minimal watering once established.

Wildflowers — Wildflowers are a must add for any garden but are especially useful in your xeriscape. Choose wildflowers native to your area. If you select the right seeds, they will grow well in your high heat and drought-prone environment. Before purchasing make sure you research which wildflowers grow best in your area. If you ensure you spread the right seeds, you'll enjoy a beautiful and complex coloring of wildflowers in your garden.

Now your garden is full and blossoming while remaining eco and wallet-friendly. For more texture and unique coloring to pair with your blooms take a look at some tremendous succulent options for your xeriscape.


Whether you’ve just bought a home or you’re hoping to spruce up your current house, redecorating can be a great way to make a home feel new and exciting. However, when it comes to the actual decorating and design, many homeowners are at a loss.

Sure, you could hire an interior decorator to help you out, but oftentimes that expense doesn’t fit into the average homeowner’s budget, especially if you just spend thousands closing on a new home.

Fortunately, there are many free sources of inspiration available that will help you identify the right style for your home at the right price for your budget.

In today’s article, we’re going to give you some tips on where to find interior decor inspiration so you can get started on restyling your home.

Grab an app or two

Searching for redecorating tips doesn’t have to be a full-time job. You can browse ideas when you’re on the train to work, relaxing in bed at night, or waiting for an appointment at the doctor’s office just by downloading a few select apps on your phone.

Two of the most common apps for home decorating are Pinterest and Instagram. However, you’ll need to give those apps some information to make sure you’re getting the right images in your feed.

On Pinterest, add “home decor” “interior design” and “home decor ideas” to your interests so that you’ll see those images and articles first in your feed.

For Instagram, you’ll have to follow accounts that post what you’re looking for, then Instagram will recommend similar accounts.

Here are a few common interior design accounts to get started with:

Take an online course

There’s more to interior decorating than just finding some furniture you like, making sure it will fit in your living room, and buying it. Design principles of color, texture, and form all work together to create the full experience of a home’s interior.

While people study for years to develop techniques of design, you can learn the basics relatively quickly. If you’re interested in learning something new and updating the design of your home, you could take an online course in interior design.

Howcast has a great series of free videos called Interior Design Basics that will provide you with a good overview. Then, if you want to continue learning, check out one of SkillShare’s many interior design courses.

Take a trip to the library

When it comes to seeing the best examples of interior decoration or finding detailed information on design techniques, nothing can beat your local library. Most libraries also have subscriptions to common magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, Elle Decor, and HGTV Magazine.

If your library doesn’t have many options, you can often request items for free through their interlibrary loans system. They’ll send you books and magazines from surrounding towns and give you a notification when they’ve arrived.




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