Martocchia REALTORS® | Boston Real Estate, Cambridge Real Estate, Newton Real Estate


Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or you’re upgrading to a larger house to fit your family’s needs, it’s vital to understand just how much house you can afford before you start shopping for homes.

When planning for your future home, there are two main things you need to figure out.

  • What is a smart amount to spend on a home for your budget

  • What are the key features in a home that will give you the most benefits for the cost

These two questions may seem simple, but there are quite a few factors that should go into determining each one.

So, in today’s post, I’m going to walk you through the process of determining what kind of house you can afford so you can make the best home buying decision for you and your family.

A smart home buying budget

To create an effective budget, you’ll need to gather some information and possibly create a spreadsheet with Excel (or a free alternative like Google Sheets).

On your spreadsheet, you’ll first want to add up all sources of income that your family has. This is the easy part for most people who only have one or two sources of income based on a salaried job.

Next, is the hard part--expenses. We can’t just use your current expenses to determine the new budget because we have to account for changes in several areas.

If you aren’t sure of the cost of living for the area you hope to move to, try plugging it into this cost of living comparison tool to see get a better idea of the cost of things like transportation, childcare, groceries, and more.

Likewise, it’s also a good idea to assume you’ll be paying more in utilities if you’re hoping to move into a home that is larger than your current home. Keep in mind, however, that different houses have different levels of energy-efficiency, so it’s a good idea to also ask the seller of the homes you’re interested in to determine what your costs might be.

Now, subtract your expenses from your income. The amount remaining should easily cover whatever mortgage payment you receive along with, ideally, 20% of your income going toward savings.

Deciding what you need in a home

The second part of determining how much house you can afford is to find out exactly what you’re looking for in a home. The number of bedrooms, bathrooms, location, the size of the backyard; all of these are questions that have a monetary value.

So, to really answer this question you’ll need a strong understanding of what you and your family’s goals are for at least the next 5-7 years, if not longer.

Once you have your long-term goals and a good understanding of your budget, you can start safely shopping for homes with a clearer idea of the type of home you’re looking for and just how much home you can afford.


From Sabrina to Amélie the French vintage-inspired interiors evoke sensual elegance and comfortable hominess at the same time. Figuring out how to pull it all off, though, takes more than purchasing the right furniture set. That je ne sais quoi (literally “I don’t know what”) that is so French isn’t so much mastered as it is effortlessly felt. Getting that feel in your home might take a more relaxed approach to design than your usual efforts.

Letting it grow

Most French homes appear complete, but typically, individual pieces enter the house over time. Each one carries a memory, event, or other unique and special attachment. Designer Annouchka Engel calls it “undecorating.” The casual collection of elements, less staged and more collected, amass over time. Designer sofas share space with flea market finds and family antiques.

Distinctives of French style

Dusky pastels grace walls and floors while mixtures of woods, patterns, and other bold objects cluster in the space. Objects appear to be “found” rather than developed. The opposite of trendiness, more a counter to modern matchy-matchy design.

Allons-y — Let’s get started

Vintage French apartments are all about the architecture. If your home does not have much in the way of architectural detail, add some. Trim out the windows, add chair-rail and crown molding, change out flat doors for raised panels, or install decorative framing on the walls. Swap out builder-grade light fixtures for small, but elegant chandeliers or pendants.

Now that you have the backdrop live in at for a while with just one or two favorite pieces. As you shop, find vintage and antique pieces that speak to you or evoke a special feeling. Bring them into the space one at a time to let each one settle before adding another.

Touches of gold here and there, and mirrors on walls or setting on mantels, and metallic frames on wall art add a warm under glow. Sheers or lace in the windows allows in soft natural light that glints off each chosen item. Adding to the warmth are glowing wood floors with thick rugs and stacks of books or clusters of stools, side tables, and plants.

To finish off your look, fill your walls with an eclectic collection of street art, vintage framed posters, and pencil drawings gathered from your forages to markets, thrift stores and charity shops, and of course, your grandmother’s attic.

To find a home with terrific bones and architectural details, let your property agent in on your style requirements.


Whenever you move to a new area, water quality might be one of the things you check. Before you bought your home, you got a green light on the inspection, so everything should be perfect. But, now that you're in your new home, you see a strange pinkish-red film forming in the toilet, on the shower walls, around the bathroom fixtures, and even in the dog’s dish. 

You call the water department. They come and test your water, and still, all is well with the tests. What gives? Chances are you have Serratia marcescens. Say what?

Serratia marcescens

At one time considered a harmless little bug, Serratia marcescens bacterium is an opportunistic little pathogen. But it’s not explicitly in your water. It’s in the air in the dust that floats around your home and lands on moist places where it grows. It is in the soil outside your home and may enter into your home by pests, insects, pets, plants, and even your shoes or garden gloves.

Historically, because Serratia marcescens produces a red pigment, ancient actors used it to create fake blood. Since its use throughout history did not connect directly to known illnesses, the saprophyte became a tool used in medical experiments to learn about bacterial infections and even to test potential bioweapons in the 1950-60s.

Unfortunately, a new strain of S. marcescens arrived on the scene after that time that carries pathogenic properties and can cause various illnesses in susceptible populations such as those with compromised immune systems.

To take care of the problem and keep it from building up in your home, clean the wet areas with a chlorine-based compound such as liquid bleach in a ratio of about a quarter cup bleach to a gallon of water. Use it to wipe down bath areas and fixtures. Pour some in the toilet and brush it up around the sides of the bowl to kill as much as possible. Make sure to wash your pet’s dishes frequently. Vacuum and take other steps to mitigate dust as well such as adding HEPA filters to your HVAC system.

The pathogen can grow on window sills that have condensation too, so wipes those down periodically and see about installing higher R-value windows not susceptible to condensation.

If your home is on chlorinated city water, don't worry about it being in your drinking water. The chlorine will kill it. If you have other concerns about your water, or if you are on a well system, contact your community health department to have your water tested.


You’ve closed on your new house, moved all your boxes, and started planning how to arrange your furniture. Your family can’t wait to settle in and regain a sense of normalcy after the chaos of moving. But before you get back to your normal routine be sure to add these tasks for new homeowners to your to do list. Each takes just an hour of your time and will help you to stay on top of maintenance as well as familiarize yourself with your new domain.

Start by finding out where your main water shutoff valve is located. This is not something you want to have to find when you are in an emergency. In colder climates, it’s most likely to be found in your basement and if you are in a warmer climate you should find it outside. If you keep a binder for home updates add a note of the location within.

Make sure your attic insulation is the correct depth. You want at least 6 inches and even more in northern states. Ensuring that your insulation is the correct depth will help you to save money throughout the year on heating and cooling costs. If you’re attic doesn’t have the correct depth or is damaged be sure to have it replaced as soon as possible. Oftentimes you can get incentives for improving your insulation and thus creating a more energy efficient home.

Check the temperature of your hot water heater and be sure it is set at 120 degrees tops. If you have an older model add a hot water heater blanket to help retain heat. If you find that your heater leaks you want to replace it immediately. A small leak can quickly lead to a major one, flood your home and cause serious damage. Again, be sure to keep note of the month and year you replaced your heater or which year your current model is.

Replace air filters right away so that you will know when they’ve last been replaced. Add monthly reminders to your calendar to stay on top of this quick maintenance task. You can make this task even easier by buying them in bulk. If you love to be organized label them for each month so you know exactly when you’ll next need to replace them.

Change all of the locks on your home. This is simple enough to do on your own and is an easy proactive safety measure for your family. While one hopes there are no lingering keys out in the world of your home, you can’t be sure of who may have a spare key.  

Take note of any cracks in your basement. If you find any mark their length with a piece of masking tape and mark with the current date. Watch closely to see if the crack spreads beyond the mark. If you find that the cracks are lengthening be sure to get them taken care of by a professional. This is a serious repair you don’t want to wait on.

Buying a new home is an exciting time. Especially after you’ve closed on the house, can begin to move in and start settling into your routine. Before you get too comfortable be sure to add a few tasks to your to do list. Familiarizing yourself with your new home right away will help you stay on top of maintenance and have peace of mind.


Arranging furniture in your home can be a real puzzle. There’s so many different mistakes that can be made in how you set up the seating, tables, and bedding in your home that you probably don’t even realize it. Below, you’ll find some of the most common furniture arranging mistakes and how to fix them. 


All of Your Furniture Is Against A Wall 


It may seem like a way to make your room feel bigger to push everything against a wall, but this thought process is flawed. You want your rooms to feel cozy, not spaced out. You’ll be surprised what floating furniture can do for a room. 


You Put Too Much Furniture In A Room


Whether you have a small space or a giant room, plan what kind of furniture you put in the room very carefully. Overcrowding a space makes it feel stuffy and claustrophobic. While you hope to have enough seating in a room for everyone, you don’t need to overdo it. Put the furniture in a room that makes sense for you to have. There's also no harm in having big, open spaces in a room. As long as the purpose is served, sometimes an airy space can be quite a stress reliever.


Putting more furniture in a space won’t help a room to magically grow either. Be realistic about how many square feet you have in a room. From there, you can decide what goes where. If you still feel that you have too many pieces of furniture around, it’s time to sell or donate some of the chairs and tables that don’t get as much use. 


You Tend To Block Windows With Furniture


Using your sofa or a bed to place in front of a window may seem like a good idea. Whether your purpose is to block some light, or if it’s your only option for placement, you may need to do some refiguring. One problem is that the light coming in the window will cause some serious fading to any material that’s in the path. If it’s a bed that’s placed across a window, you also face a lack of privacy. 


You can fix any of these issues quite simply with some drapery. Drapery helps to filter the light, reducing the heat in the room. Using curtains will also help you to reduce the incidence of fading on your fabrics. Curtains also help to keep your privacy. While it can be difficult to arrange a small room where a window is your only option for furniture placement, the simple addition of curtains really makes a difference.




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