Janet Laughead BHHS Commonwealth Wellesley MA





 Photo by Andrew Martin via Pixabay

It’s not uncommon for homebuyers to discover that the land they purchased may not be entirely their own. Another party may have gained a legal right to use or traverse your property. Easements and right-of-ways can be established by a number of mechanisms and go unnoticed, particularly in undeveloped parcels or when the previous owners were absent.

When homeowners discover someone else holds sway over part of your property, the first-blush reaction is often about loss of value. You paid for full ownership and the easement will likely diminish your resale value. But homebuyers would be wise to proceed with caution because the cost of defending against a claim or creating hostilities with a neighbor could prove emotionally taxing.

What is an Easement or Right-of-Way?

The common law practice of easements has its roots in the free flow of water and the ability to cross a community member’s land in olden times. This practice accounted for the lack of roadways and the need to traverse tracts of land. Although this is a somewhat outdated concept, long-standing easements exist. If you are considering purchasing a property that involves an easement, it’s important to understand that you still own the pathway to the other parcel. But you may never be able to utilize it actively.

For all practical purposes, a right-of-way is a type of easement that has been formalized. Landowners generally agree to record the easement in a deed or other legally-binding agreement. Thoroughly researched land records are likely to uncover these easements. This is why having a property deed vetted before purchasing a property remains standard practice. But a worrisome mechanism known as “adverse possession” may put new homeowners in a legal bind because the existence of an easement may go unknown.

What Homebuyers Need to Know About Adverse Possession

Adverse possession is often associated with the term “squatters rights.” That colloquial term came out of people living on unused land and gaining ownership by establishing their presence over time. Today, people more often gain adverse possession rights by using part of a property for access or travel.

If, for instance, a neighbor routinely drives over an undeveloped part of your property to get to theirs, they could be gaining a right to that portion. On undeveloped land, hunters, hikers, and other outdoors enthusiasts may walk a path across your land. Over time, they can establish a right that prevents you from enclosing the land or developing that section. While defending against an adverse possession lawsuit can be emotionally draining, there may be a silver lining. The courts usually apply a rigorous four-part standard that few squatters meet. These include the following.

  • Hostile: This involves issues such as the user not knowing the land was owned by another or using it due to a mistake about where the property lines were located.
  • Actual Possession: The claimant must have been physically present on the land.
  • Open and Notorious: This standard looks at whether the trespasser used the land in a fashion that was obvious to the owner.
  • Exclusive and Continuous: This tends to be the standard that upends claims. The trespasser must have physically used the land without interruption.

Hiring an attorney and mounting a defense of your property can be an exhausting ordeal. It’s one of the last things any homeowner wants to go through. That’s why conducting your due diligence about easements and right-of-ways remains as crucial as taking out title insurance when you buy a home.



 Photo by Solomon Rodgers via Pixabay

When you've been in the same home for a while, it is common to get an itch to switch things up a little bit. For many homeowners, this means renovating the kitchen. Renovation is a great way to not only add a little bit of style but also increase the value of the home at the same time. There are a few great ideas to think about when it comes to kitchen renovations.

Add a Backsplash

One of the most popular kitchen renovations is to install a backsplash. This is a great way to upgrade and personalize the food prep area. Furthermore, a backsplash is easy to clean, functional and durable. There are plenty of ideas that people can use to make their kitchen backsplash unique. Consider neutral stone tile with colored or patterned pieces randomly interspersed, a pressed metal design or colorful glass tiles.

Open Up The Area

Consider opening up additional space in and around your kitchen. This can be accomplished with the removal of upper cabinets, introducing a window or skylight or, for a larger-scale project, removing walls to connect with other rooms. If you can't change the floorplan of your room, swapping in glass-front cabinets or open shelving for your upper cabinets can create more visual space.

Add Flair to the Counters

Counters are a common target for kitchen renovations. Styles change and, over the years, you may find the need for additional space. One solution is to add a kitchen island. This adds both storage space and workspace for your kitchen. Don't be afraid to go with unique countertop materials like concrete or wood.

Upgrade the Appliances

Finally, consider upgrading appliances to incorporate new technology and conveniences. Newer appliances not only come with new features like convertible compartments and touch screens but are also more energy-efficient than older models. This means you might also be able to save additional money over time with this investment.


When it comes to home buying a home, there’s a ton of different information available out there. A lot of what has been presented as “fact” actually is quite false. These misconceptions could keep you away from achieving the very real dream of home ownership. Below, you’ll find some of the most common myths that you’ll find about home buying.


If Your Credit Score Isn’t Up To Par, You Can’t Buy


To get good mortgage rates, having a good credit score doesn’t hurt. You can still buy a home if you don’t have amazing credit. A low credit score means that your mortgage rates will be higher than the average. There are loans like FHA loans, that allow for you to get a loan with a credit score as low as 580. Don’t let a lower credit score discourage you from buying a home. If your credit score is low, there are plenty of things that you can do to help you fix the score in a short period of time.  


You Need 20 Percent Down To Buy A Home


This is a long-standing myth about home buying. While putting down 20 percent on a home purchase saves you the extra expense of Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), you can still be in the running to buy a home if your down payment is less than 20 percent. There are even some home loan programs that allow buyers to put as little as 0-3 percent down for the purchase of their home.


You Have To Make A Lot Of Money To Buy A Home


Your monthly income is one of many aspects of your financial life that’s considered when you’re buying a home. Home loans can be denied to those who make a large income just as easily as to those who have lower incomes. What matters is the debt-to-income ratio, which tells lenders how much debt a buyer has compared to the amount of income the buyer makes each and every month. Keep your debt down, and you’ll be in good shape to buy a home. 


You Don’t Need To Be Pre-Approved To Get A House


Being pre-approved gives you an upper hand in the home buying process. Being pre-approved allows your lender and you to go through the entire process of getting a mortgage. When you find a home that you love, you’re able to breeze through the process of making an offer if you’re pre-approved. The pre-approval process is one of the most important aspects of buying a home. 


If you’re prepared with knowledge, buying a home isn’t such a daunting process after all. Find a realtor you trust, understand your finances, and the rest will fall into place!


If your budget allows for it, hiring a good housekeeper is well worth the money. If you're like most professional couples, you probably already feel "maxed out" after you've put in 40 to 60 hours at your jobs . When you add parenting responsibilities into the mix, there's not too much time and energy left for cleaning the house! While certain basic house cleaning tasks are unavoidable on a daily basis, it's a relief to know that a paid house cleaner will be coming in to do a thorough job soon.

Finding a reliable housekeeper with whom you feel comfortable can be a bit of a challenge, but if you can get referrals from family, friends, and others you know, then your search should put you on the right track.

The Selection Process

Since the main reason you're hiring a cleaning person is to make your life easier, the last thing you want to deal with is dependability problems or substandard work. That's why it's important to get referrals from people you know and trust. It often pays to interview more than one prospective cleaning person because you want to find someone who is the best match for your budget and needs. When you have two or three prospects to choose from, you'll be in a better position to choose the one with the best attitude, top references, and the most agreeable personality.

Unless a cleaning person was referred to you by someone you know well, it's a good idea to request references and contact a couple of them before making any final decisions. Calling at least two of their current customers (or past bosses) should give you some helpful insights into their work habits, punctuality, and willingness to follow directions.

Although most customers will probably try to be complimentary, if you ask the right questions and look for "red flags" in their answers, you'll be surprised at what you can learn. While it may be too blunt to ask if their cleaning person is honest, a lot can be inferred from their responses to other questions. For example, if a housekeeper has been working for the same customer for several years and cleans their house while the costumer is at their office or other place of employment, then there's a good chance the cleaner does excellent (or at least satisfactory) work and can be trusted. One direct question that generally needs to be asked when talking with references is "Would you personally recommend this person?" Asking how their housekeeper responds to special requests, suggestions, or constructive criticism may also provide revealing answers.

When getting a quote from a cleaning person or house cleaning service, it's useful to get an itemized list of what chores or services would be covered in the price. There are two advantages to this. First of all, you'll be able to compare "apples to apples". Secondly, you'll be able to gauge your expectations to what was initially promised and agreed to. While there may be other issues to consider, like possible background checks and insurance coverages they carry, once you've found a house cleaner you like and trust, you've cleared the biggest hurdle in your search!


Photo by Sarah Biesinger via Shutterstock

You’ve probably heard how important it is to go hands-free in your car, but it can be just as important and useful to be hands-free in the kitchen. If you’re busy washing dishes or prepping for dinner, you can use hands free devices to do everything from answering calls to looking up recipes and preheating the oven. While kitchen appliances haven’t progressed to the point of actually making dinner for you, they can definitely help cut down on the mess. 

Top Hands-Free Choices

  • Touchless Trash Can – while a foot pedal trash can is a bit cheaper and takes care of most of the same issues, germs can still build up on the pedal itself. A true touchless trashcan has a motion sensor and opens when you wave your hand in front of it like a touchless hand dryer. Some are even smart enough to hook up to your tablet or phone with an app that accepts voice commands.
  • Hands-Free Paper Towel Dispenser – Most of the time, when you need a paper towel, your hands are already wet or messy. That means you leave those germs or water on the side of your dispenser each time you grab a paper towel. An easy fix is a hands-free paper towel dispenser that pushes a towel towards you on command. This helps reduce your paper towel waste as well as keeping your kitchen cleaner.
  • Motion Sensor Faucet – You can have a sink faucet in your home with the same technology you find in public bathrooms. That means no chicken goo or frosting gets left on the handles. Wi-Fi Appliances – A wide variety of kitchen appliances such as dishwashers, refrigerators and ovens are now available in versions that connect over Wi-Fi to your other devices. That often means you can now control them with voice commands. Ever been partially through your prep work and realize you forgot to pre-heat the oven? Instead of taking the time and water to wash your hands, turn on the oven, then get back to work, you can just say “preheat oven to 400 degrees” and get on with what you were doing.

Smart appliances are a great selling point for a new home, and the small difference in cost can make a big difference in home value. Talk to your real estate agent today to help figure out what the best options are before you invest in that new smart kitchen.




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