- Create a background by placing a white bed sheet over a table and then placing the object on it
- Fill the camera's viewfinder or LCD display with your subject
- Shoot at your camera's closest focusing distance
- Use the macro setting if you camera has it
- Be sure there are no shadows on the object or the photo
- For decorative items, such as china, take a close-up of the pattern or trademark
Should you pay off your mortgage early? While this is always a personal decision based on your individual needs, wants and beliefs, here are some general pros and cons of paying the loan off early.
Factor #1: Your Mortgage Rate
If you have a 30-year mortgage with a low fixed rate, financial advisers usually say it's best to stretch out your payments for as long as possible. With this kind of mortgage, you shouldn't even consider prepaying unless all your other debts are paid off and you have enough money to put in other investments as well.
Factor #2: Credit Card Debt
If you are carrying any credit card debt, the thought of prepaying your mortgage shouldn't even cross your mind. Because credit card debt typically carries a high interest rate, pay it off before anything else.
Factor #3: Investments
When your employer matches your 401(k) retirement contributions, that's like getting a 100 percent return (doubling) your money right now. Plus, that doubled money continues to grow (you hope) until you retire. Compare that to what you'll save with your early payments on your mortgage.
Factor #4: Savings
Having enough savings to pay your household bills for six months or more makes it easier for you to survive a financial crisis. It’s better to put your extra cash into savings instead of prepaying your mortgage until you have that financial cushion built.
As usual, there's a lot going on this weekend throughout the region! Check out my picks below.
We are looking forward to Andover Days and seeing you there. Visit our Booth to enter a raffle for Fitbit or Fall "Home" Basket full of goodies, and meet the top agents in town!
Northeast Youth Music Festival at Northern Essex Community College. Saturday 12-6 come join the fun at the festival, featuring over 125 musical performances along with artists and filmmakers and more!
The new Mann’s Orchard is opening its first corn maze this weekend! Head over to the Riverside Farm on Merrimack Street in Methuen and see what the buzz is all about! http://www.mannorchards.com/riverside-farm
There's fun day or night at Wamesit Lanes in Tewksbury! Glow bowling? Golf simulator? Arcade? Food? And fun? Definitely fun, for the whole family. http://wamesitlanes.com/
Nashoba Valley has more than just a ski slope - check out Nashoba Valley Winery! Guests 21 and over can tour the winery and see how award winning wines, brandies and distillates. Whether you take the tour or not, you can enjoy a tasting of several varieties of wines made at Nashoba. Make it a total experience by booking dinner in the onsite restaurant, J's at the Winery, where you will experience a delightful dining experience made even better with locally sourced ingredients served in a romantic farmhouse setting. https://nashobawinery.com/
Looking for a fun bar with live music? Look no further than Howl at the Moon Dueling Piano Bar in Boston! Dance the night away or just enjoy the music and show (and the antics of those bachelorette party revelers) while having dinner or sipping on your favorite beverage. As an added bonus, you can book a table online! https://www.howlatthemoon.com/boston/
Barnes & Noble is fine, but for real book lovers (or history buffs) you must make a trip to the Brattle Book Shop in downtown Boston. This famous and popular desitnation is one of the oldest and largest used book stores in the country, dating to 1825. The Brattle features two floors of general used books, a third floor of rare & antiquarian books and an outside sale lot. Yu just may find a copy of that book you loved as a kid! http://www.brattlebookshop.com/
Finished at the Brattle? Head over to Faneuil Hall, where something is always going on! Whether you're looking for a bite to eat, a souvenir, some "street" food or performances, or fresh produce and bread to bring home, you'll find it at the marketplace.
Closer to home, you can celebrate the cultural diversity of Peabody at the International Festival and Kids Day in Peabody Square on Saturday from 12-6. Sample foreign cuisine while enjoying live entertainment, games and more.
Don't forget to fullfill you dream of moving to a new home by checking out our Open House event, this weekend all are in Andover, including our newest listing at 97 Tewksbury Street. Others are 16 W. Knoll Road, 125 Rattlesnake Hill Road, 5 Deca Circle and 167 Highland Road. Something for everyone! Or head to our website www.andover-topbroker.com to search for other properties that might pique yuor interest!
Labor Day Weekend - the official end of summer if you're a student. Make the most of it with some of these fun things to do!
It wouldn't be Labor Day Weekend without heading to the Feast of the Three Saints in Lawrence! Beginning at 6 pm on Friday and continuing throughout Saturday and Sunday, the annual event draws people from far and wide to enjoy the live music, cannoli eating contest, Procession of the Statues of the Saints, fireworks, comraderie and of course, the FOOD! http://www.threesaintsinc.org/
Another Merrimack Valley tradition is going to the Bread and Roses Heritage Festival in Lawrence. It takes place on Monday from 11:30-6:00 and offers a full day's worth of free historical walking and trolley tours, live music and dance performances, puppet, juggler and magician's shows for the kids and a chance to learn about the famous Bread and Roses strike. http://breadandrosesheritage.org/index.html
Help the town of Atkinson, NH celebrate it's 250th Anniversary all weekend long! Events beging Thursday at 5:45 pm with a Fun Run. Events galore include karate and police K-9 demonstrations, battle of the bands, pancake breakfasat, vintage market, hot air balloon rides (tethered), antique car show and soooooo much more. Come see what life in a small town is still all about! http://www.atkinsonnh250th.com/
16th Annual Newburyport Riverfront Music Festival, Saturday from noon to 6:30. Bring your chairs or blankets to Waterfront Park and enjoy mucis from a variety of genres with the beauty of the harbor in the background. Bring your own food, but there will also be food and drink for sale. http://theriverboston.com/attend/riverfront-music-festival/
Want to check out a different harbor? Head to America's oldest seaport for for the 33rd Annual Schooner Festival in Gloucester. The festival begins on Friday at 6:00 pm with the Block Party on Main Street. Saturday's events include a clam bake, concerts, lighted boat parade and fireworks. The Parade of Sail takes place on Sunday morning, prior to the Mayor's Race. If you're a sailboat lover, this is a must for your weekend! http://gloucesterschoonerfestival.net/
Calling all golfers and golf wannabees! The Dell Technologies Championship at the TPC Boston in Norton, MA on Friday through Monday. Come see your favorites play this beautiful course, right here in Massachusetts. Take a break from the competition by visiting the 17th Fairway Fan Zone, taking your young golfers to the Kids Village, collecting a few autographs and partaking from the many food and drink options at the food trucks. http://www.pgatour.com/tournaments/dell-technologies-championship/course.html
Opening weekend for the King Richard's Faire in Carver, MA, the largest Renaissance fair in New England. Open Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 10:30-6:00. This annual fair provides delights for all ages, with acrobats, minstrels, jugglers, artisans, knights on horseback, food and more. https://kingrichardsfaire.net/
Visit Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA before the Fall River Carousel closes on Sunday for the season! The Maritime Museum was founded in 1968 and houses permanent and visiting exhibits as well as PT Boats, The USS Joseph P. Kennedy Destroyer, the USS Massachusetts Battleship and other vessels that serve to educate and preserve history. http://battleshipcove.org/
There have been lots of whale sightings this year - have you seen any? If not, head to Rye, NH for a whale Watching Trip, where the water and scenery are beautiful and the whales and dolphins have been playing all summer. http://www.granitestatewhalewatch.com/
Open Houses. No open houses planned for this weekend, but feel free to check out properties on my website andover-topbroker.com!
Spend your long weekend with family and friends - enjoy and stay safe!
Credit reports and credit scores are a fact of life. Lenders use your scores to decide whether you’ll likely be able and willing to pay back a mortgage, whether to give you a credit card and how much you’ll pay in interest for most forms of credit. Many credit card and car loan companies are now providing free monthly credit scores to borrowers. These scores don't tell the whole credit story, but they can give you an idea of how strong your credit is before you apply for a mortgage. To get a real look at your credit worthiness, a lender will obtain a credit report, which will go back many years, depending on your age and how long you've had any credit lines.
There are ways to improve your credit score, some easier than others. Speak with a mortgage or credit specialist who can provide you with information on various ways to improve your credit, both in the long and the short term. If you want to correct an error on your credit report, you can do that at no cost. You'll need to contact the credit bureau(s) directly and provide the information they request in order to fix the error. There are three major credit bureaus, each of which may have a slightly different credit score, but in general, the scores should be within a few points of each other. The credit bureaus are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
Here's a look at some myths and facts regarding your credit score.
Myth: If you experience credit problems, your credit score will not improve for seven years.
Fact: You can make a significant difference in your credit score by changing your ways and paying bills on time. That's because lenders place more significance on the most recent entries on your credit report rather than the old ones.
Myth: If you pay off your debts, the record of your bad debt will disappear.
Fact: Bad debts, charge-offs and late payments can remain on your credit report for up to seven years. That's why if there were extenuating circumstances to explain your trouble paying on time, you should send the credit bureaus a letter about your situation.
Myth: If you catch up on your late payments, they’ll be wiped off your credit report.
Fact: Your credit report must reflect that you caught up, but it will also show that you were late.
Myth: If you have a high credit score, one late payment won't hurt.
Fact: Unfortunately, this is a case of one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch. The first time you are delinquent, you can lower your score by as much as 100 points. The later the payment, the more it will hurt your score.
Myth: If you check your credit report too many times, you'll be penalized.
Fact: People can check their credit report as many times as they want without hurting their credit rating. In fact, credit bureaus encourage you to keep a watchful eye on your credit report so you can spot any mistakes.
Myth: If you close as many credit cards as possible before applying for a loan, you stand a better chance of being accepted.
Fact: Having open credit cards doesn't hurt your credit score. If they are in good standing, they may even help your case. A credit card only hurts your chances when it's maxed out. Try to keep your use to no more than 25 percent to 30 percent of your total credit line.
Keep in mind that there are several companies that will periodically provide free or low cost credit reports. With so much information available online, it is a good idea to keep a close eye on your credit report. If you see anything that looks suspicious, contact the credit bureaus immediately to get to the root of the errors and have them corrected as soon as possible.
Summer is winding down. Make the most of it!
Ramblewild in Lanesborough is an action packed, tree-to-tree adventure for the whole family. The 8 aerial obstacle courses include elements like zip lines, balancing logs, suspension bridges and more. There are also guided hiking trails where you can learn about the history of the land and the area, as well as identify trees and plants. More info at ramblewild.com
The Mount and Ventford Hall Mansion in Lenox. Tour Edith Wharton's 1902 home and gardens and the 1893 Jacobian Revival style mansion of JP Morgan's sister, Sarah Morgan.
Bash Bish Falls State Park in Mount Washington (MA). View the highest single drop waterfall in Massachusetts as it cascades through a series of gorges to end in a sparkling pool. Take a hike, picnic and camp - and check out the view of three states from the top of Mount Everett.
The Amazing World of Dr. Suess Museum in Springfield. Pretend you're Thing 1 and Thing 2 as you play in the interactive exhibits, invent stories and experiment with new sounds. Then head into the recreation of Theodor Geisel's living room and studio, and see a collection of art and personal effects of the real "Dr. Suess."
The Ecotarium in Worcester has all sorts of fun, interactive science and nature exhibits including the Flying Monsters planetarium show, "Did Dinosaurs Poop?" and live animal habitats to explore. While you're in Worcester, check out The Worcester Art Museum. There are more than 37,000 pieces of art spanning 51 centuries, along with fun hands' on activities for kids and parents. Finish your visit to Worcester with a trip to George's Coney Island Hot Dog Shop, an institution since 1929.
1634 Meadery in Ipswich and Gentile Brewing Company in Beverly. Looking for something different in a beverage? How about an artisan style honey-wine, otherwise known as the ancient style mead? The meadery has a fun and interesting tasting room. Or are you looking for a nanocraft brew? Check out this small husband and wife brewery in downtown Beverly that uses English-style brewing methods. Then head to the North Shore Music Theatre and prepare to belly laugh at their production of "Young Frankenstein".
Head to Rockport! Did you know you can go to Thacher Island? Just a mile off the coast, you can get there by boat (very limited public docking), launch or (rental only, not personal) kayak. Bring your lunch, climb the lighthouse tower, hike 3 miles of groomed trails, camp overnight and take in the views at this 50 acre historic island with twin operating lighthouses. Want more to do in Rockport? Stroll along Bearskin Neck and sample the local crafts, candy, jewelry and food. And don't forget to take a picture at the famous Motif No 1! Or head to Halibut Point State Park to take in the gorgeous coastal view, where you can see all the way to the Isles of Shoals in New Hampshire and Mount Agamenticus in Maine! You can also tour the Babson Farm granite quarry, take part in a wildflower walk or a tide pool program.
Tales & Tombstones, Salem (MA). It's not Halloween yet, but that doesn't stop the spooky stories and errie happenings! Sign up for this 1 hour evening (7:00 pm) trolley tour and be prepared to visit sites of murders and executions, learn about forgotten underground tunnels and haunted houses and hotels, and hear legends of lost sea captains and ghost ships. Revive yourself and unwind after the tour by jumping onto the Toast of the Sound Cocktail Cruise that leaves the wharf at 9:00 and offers music, calm waters and lovely views of Salem.
Enjoy your weekend, whatever you do!
What is PMI?
PMI, or Private Mortgage Insurance, is required by private lenders as well as government backed loans, when borrowers put down less than 20% of the purchase price when buying a home. It basically protects the lender if a borrower stops making payments on the mortgage loan.
How is PMI Calculated?
Good question. PMI calculations can be very confusing! It is also important to know how much it will cost to add the PMI before you make an offer on a home. The PMI can make the difference between being able to afford a home or not. PMI is calculated per a table that assigns a PMI factor and depends on several factors, including:
- Term of mortgage—The length of mortgage terms, which could be anywhere from 10 to 40 years
- Financial status—Credit worthiness/Credit score
- Down payment—The amount of money put down during the closing of a loan
For instance, for a $300,000 purchase with a 5% down payment (loan amount of $285,000) and assuming a 740 credit score for the purchase on a primary residence single family home, the PMI factor would be 0.62%.
Calculation: $285,000 x 0.62% = $1,767 annual cost / 12 = $147.25 monthly premium
To see how rates are assigned, see the rate chart PMI Rate Chart bit.ly
- A monthly premium is the most common form of PMI payment offered by lenders. This option takes the PMI payment and adds it to a borrower’s monthly mortgage payment. Your mortgage payment amount is the same each month and includes the PMI as part of the payment.
- An upfront premium is a one-time premium paid at closing. This payment option is most common for conventional financing options (5% to 19% down payment).
- An upfront and monthly premium is a combination of both types of payment options. This type of payment option is typically required of borrowers using a government insured mortgage product, like the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
There are only three ways to avoid PMI:
- Make a down payment of 20% or more
- Apply for a VA loan (if eligible). A VA loan however only avoids the monthly mortgage insurance payment. Unless the borrower is a disabled veteran, he still has to pay the upfront premium. But the burden of the monthly PMI premium is removed.
- Lender paid PMI. The lender charges a higher interest rate, but pays the PMI upfront for the borrower.
How to Remove PMI
Getting rid of PMI is pretty simple, but you need to take care of it yourself and not rely on the lender to do it for you. You need to pay down the loan’s principal balance to 80% (or less) of the home’s original appraised value, or to 80% of the home’s current market value. All this means is that a borrower must show they have at least 20% equity in the property. Once you do this you need to contact your borrower and ask to have the PMI canceled. You will need to provide documentation that the loan is paid up to date and ask for (and pay for) and updated appraisal. Although lenders are genearally required to eliminate the PMI when your mortgage balance drops below 78% of the homes original appraised value, make sure you stay on top of the situation! Using the example above, once you have paid your mortgage down to $240,000 you are eligible to have the PMI removed and save $147.25 per month!
If you have an FHA loan you may be required to refinance into a conventional loan in order to remove the PMI. Always check with your lender to be sure you have the correct rates and information before making an offer on a property!
Looking for something different to do this weekend? Check out the list below with something for everyone to enjoy.
Animal Adventures, Bolton, MA
Open Daily. Family Zoo & Rescue Center with some animals you don’t normally find in local zoos, including Mountain Coati, African Serval and Eurasian Eagle Owls.
Blues N Brews, Nashoba Valley Ski Area, Westford, MA
Saturday and Sunday, August 19 & 20. The Westford Rotary Club’s annual 2-day festival of music, food, shopping and of course, beer! Proceeds go to the Rotary club’s local and national charities.
The Marshfield Fair, Marshfield, MA
Through August 27th. A traditional small town agricultural and horticultural fair, held every summer for the last 150 years. Enjoy exhibits, games, model railroad displays, interactive events and more!
Hampton Beach Children’s Fest, Hampton, NH
Through Friday, August 18th. Costume parade, performers and fun on the beach.
Restaurant Week Boston, Boston and Surrounding cities & towns
Through Friday, August 18th. Check out some of the restaurants you’ve been dying to try and save a bundle while doing so!
Charles River Architecture Cruise, Cambridge
Saturday & Sunday through September 4th. Take a 90 minute narrated riverboat cruise along the Charles and the Harbor. See Boston from a different side!
Greeley Park Art Show & Competition, Nashua, NA
Saturday and Sunday. An annual event showcasing the work of artists from all over New England. Two painting competitions, one for adults and one for kids, as well as art for sale and artists actively painting.
Farmer’s Markets, of course!
Don’t forget your weekly opportunity to pick up fresh, locally grown and made products in Andover and North Andover on Saturday and Sunday!
Staying cool can be difficult during uncomfortable summer spikes in temperature and days-long heatwaves. Does keeping the A/C fan set to ON all the time save more energy than keeping the A/C fan set to AUTO? That's a question that is debated in many households!
The on/auto fan switch on your A/C thermostat will affect the price you pay to cool your home. That’s because the A/C fan circulates the cool or warm air throughout your home. Switching the fan to “on” will make the A/C fan run continuously – all day long. If you choose the “auto” setting, this will allow the fan to shut off with the rest of the cooling system as soon as your desired indoor temperature is reached.
Fan “on” costs more
Unless you have a variable speed motor, that small fan in your furnace can cost a lot to run 24/7. Let’s assume your air conditioner normally cycles off 30 percent of the time. In this example, turning the fan switch to “on” will make the fan run over 200 extra hours a month. For a typical size central air conditioner, that could cost you about $8 more each month. Some people prefer the feel or sound of the fan running all the time. If that’s you, at least now you know how much that choice will cost you. Keep in mind, a fan that runs all the time may wear out sooner. So that $8 a month can turn into a lot more in the long run.
Another reason to keep it on “auto”
The primary advantage of the “auto” setting is that it uses less energy because it keeps the fan running the least amount of time. Setting your A/C fan to “auto” also helps provide better dehumidification. Have you noticed how moisture from the air condenses on the outside of a cold drink on a humid day? Your A/C unit captures moisture the same way, helping your home feel more comfortable. When the fan cycles off using the “auto” mode, moisture has a chance to drip from the cold cooling coils into the condensation pan and then drain outside. However, when the fan runs all the time in the “on” setting, less moisture has a chance to drip and drain outside.
Tips for Keeping Cool
According to fan manufacturer Lasko, an average homeowner spends nearly $2,000 annually on energy bills, with 25 percent of that consumed by air conditioning. By simply turning the A/C thermostat up, and adding fans to any space, you can still stay comfortably cool while saving money.
You can keep cool air moving by strategically placing a fan with a head that tilts fully back—like an 18-inch pedestal or “tornado” model—to create ongoing airflow throughout multiple rooms. Also consider ceiling fans to keep air circulating in your home.
Turning the thermostat up by a few degrees and add one or more fans for up to 10 percent home energy savings without sacrificing comfort. Consider a portable, lightweight fan that can go from room to the room with ease. Can't bear the thought of raising the temp in your house? Try inching it up just one or two degrees a day. And if you're away from home for hours every day, consider a programmable thermostat or one that you can control from your phone or computer. That way you can lower the temperature on your way home without wasting energy to cool the house while you're away.
If you work out at home, save more with a small fan in your workout area to keep your body temp in check. An oscillating high-velocity fan is a perfect workout partner. You can even get one with a remote, so you don't have to interrupt your workout routine to adjust the fan speed!
Finally, check with your utility provider. Some offer a discount or rebate if you use less energy, especially during peak hours.
Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Take your pick!
The Crane Estate's Clam-o-rama, a do-it-yourself New England clambake, on Friday, Aug. 11, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., at 290 Argilla Road, Ipswich. Instead of using store-bought clams, attendees will have to dig their own clams from the shores of Fox Creek, where they will be cooked and served for dinner. Not a fan of seafood? You can bring your own meal. Admission is $35 per person. Register in advance at www.thetrustees.org/castlehill.
Summer Owl Prowl Camp-Out on Saturday, Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. to Sunday, Aug. 13 at 9 a.m. Try roughing it with the family at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary's , at 87 Perkins Row, Topsfield. Enjoy a full day of watching owls, dissecting pellets, and owl storytelling with s'mores around the campfire. A light breakfast will be served Sunday morning. Advance registration is $31 for adults and $28 for children at www.massaudubon.org/ipswichriver.
Historic New England's 16th annual Car Meet on Sunday, Aug. 13, from noon to 3 p.m., at the Phillips House, 34 Chestnut St., Salem. Members of the North Shore Old Car Club will be showcasing a plethora of pristinely kept antique automobiles. See old-school Pierce-Arrows, a Model A Ford, and even carriages owned by the Phillips family. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.historicnewengland.org.
The Greenway 5k (GW5K) on Sunday, August 13th. Registration begins at 7:30 am. Hosted by Groundwork Lawrence to promote health, fitness and open spaces. This event aims to support members of the community in their efforts to lead healthier lifestyles and encourage walking and running on our 3.5 mile Spicket River Greenway. The GW5K course provides runners with an opportunity to take in some of the most breathtaking views the City of Lawrence has to offer. The course begins at Manchester Street Park (75 Manchester Street, Lawrence) and ends at Ferrous Park (0 Island Street, Lawrence). Free trolley rides are available from finish to start line after the 5K. For more information, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boston GreenFest on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A ZERO WASTE event with three live stages of dance and music along with a showcase of innovation, fashion, vendors, forums, films, cars, fitness classes, art, EcoKids Center, robots, Wine & Beer Garden, Casa Latina, and more! http://www.bostongreenfest.org/
The Mill Yard in Lowell on Friday from 5-9 pm. Meet and greet the Founders Brewing Co. crew, sample with full pints of their great brews on sale, along with food trucks, live music, local art and artisan vendors, the craft beer garden and fun! Admission is free, food and beverages available for purchase.
Lowell Summer Music Series continues on Saturday at 7:30 pm with four-time Grammy Award winners Lyle Lovett and His Large Band will be at Boarding House Park
Salisbury Beach Fireworks and Concert on Saturday August 12th. Enjoy live music under the stars starting at 7:00 pm, capped off by a fireworks display over the water at 10:15. And take a stroll on the new boardwalk.
Spike U: The New England High School & College Volleyball Championships at Hampton Beach on Saturday from 9 am - 7 pm. Watch the action, take a dip in the ocean and fill up on pizza and sno cones!
Open Houses on Sunday. Got the itch to move? Check out the open houses scheduled for this weekend or just take a look at the houses for sale on www.andover-topbroker.com
Farmer's Markets in Andover on Saturday and North Andover on Sunday. Always an abundance of delicious and fresh local products and a wonderful way to support our local businesses.