Date Archives: January 2017

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January
27

It's no secret that being a homeowner is a financial commitment. However, there may be places in your home that are secretly upping your expenses. Read on for a rundown of those secret money leaks, courtesy of Gentec Services. Air leaks. One of the biggest energy drains on a home is air leakage, which means the conditioned air in your home exits through cracks and leaks and is replaced by unconditioned air from the outside. While windows are the top culprit, air can come in anywhere your heating and cooling system runs or any place that the exterior structure of the home has been joined together. Leaks can be sealed with caulk, weather stripping or spray foam insulation. Insulation. Pay special attention to the attic, basement or crawlspace, and all exterior walls. Since heating and cooling are responsible for upwards of 40 percent of all energy expenditures in the average home, keeping your house well insulated can significantly lower energy costs. Power strips. Electronics can drain electricity even when they're turned off. Putting them on a power strip is an excellent way to stop the draw when electronics are in a standby mode, while at the same time protecting them from power surges. You probably have 30 or more electronic devices in your home, so the drain can be substantial. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that some homes carry phantom loads that raise the monthly electric bill by as much as 10 percent. Water fixtures. If your toilet was installed in 1992 or earlier, it probably uses between four and five gallons of water per flush. Older ones could use up to nine gallons. Buying low flow toilets can cut this water use in half. Updating shower heads and faucets means even more savings. Your heating and cooling system. Things like soot build-up on gas furnace burners or dust and debris on air conditioner condenser coils can hurt the efficiency of your system. Getting the system cleaned and professionally maintained could mean a 10 percent efficiency improvement. Light fixtures. The major trend has been toward compact fluorescent bulbs, but these aren't the best choice because they contain mercury, and they also lose lifespan when they are constantly turned off and on. LEDs, although more expensive up front, last much longer and use half the energy of compact fluorescents. Source: www.gentecservices.com

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

January
20

While spring and early summer rein as peek home-shopping seasons, there's no good reason why you can't find that perfect house in the middle of winter, too. In fact, you might even get a good deal from homeowners who are anxious to sell as soon as possible and don't want to wait for the spring thaw. Looking at homes in winter, however, requires a different strategy, so consider the following before you start your search: - Winter weather may prevent you from getting a good sense of a home's yard, particularly, if it's covered in snow. Make sure you're informed as to the exact size of the plot, patios and decks, and ask your agent to show you pictures of the yard and home's exterior in the spring and summer, if there aren't any posted online. - Ditto for the landscaping. If gardens are a high priority for you, find out which perennials, bulbs, shrubs and flowering trees are planted on the property, and whether or not the owner maintained a vegetable garden. This will give you a sense of what will emerge come spring and what your options are for further gardening endeavors. - While you can experience the quality of the home's insulation and heating system first-hand in the winter, you won't be able to get a feel for the central air. Find out how old the system is, when it was last maintained and make sure the inspector takes an especially close look. - The natural lighting in a home can be drastically different in winter compared to summer. Take time to notice the number of leafy trees on the property to get an idea of how much shade cover there will be when summer arrives. This will also give you a sense of the leaf clean-up job on deck for fall. - In cold or inclement winter months, when people tend to hibernate indoors, you may not get a full sense of the neighborhood. Ask the agent about the number of and age range of children in the neighborhood, how active the community is, common traffic patterns and noise level. The good thing about buying a home in winter is that you'll be all moved in and ready to enjoy the warm weather when it rolls around. So throw on an extra layer and start your search! Published with permission from RISMedia.
January
12

Mortgage rates again sunk this week after topping out at the end of 2016, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaging 4.12 percent with an average 0.5 point, according to Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®). The trend, now in its second week, marks a new normal for rates, which rose above 4 percent in a nine-week streak following the election. "After absorbing a mixed December jobs report, the 10-year Treasury yield fell eight basis points," says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac chief economist. "The 30-year mortgage rate moved in tandem with Treasury yields falling eight basis points to 4.12 percent, the second decline since the presidential election. The December jobs report showed 156,000 jobs added, barely meeting many experts' expectations, while wage growth was at the high end of expectations at 0.4 percent. If strong wage gains persist, they may push inflation and interest rates higher." The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage is averaging 3.37 percent with an average 0.5 point, also down, while the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage is averaging 3.23 percent with an average 0.5 point, according to the Survey. For more information, please visit www.freddiemac.com Published with permission from RISMedia.com  
January
5

Improving your credit score can sometimes be a lengthy project. But, consumer advisor Brian Acton tells Yahoo Finance, if you are planning to apply for a mortgage or other major loan, there are five strategies you can use that can help bump up your credit score in as little as 30 days: Become an authorized user – You can piggyback off someone else's good credit by having them add you as an authorized user to an account they've had for some time. As an authorized user, you can benefit from this responsibly managed account once it is added to your credit profile. (Understand, however, that if you use the account irresponsibly, both your credit scores will suffer.) Request a credit limit increase – If you have a timely payment history with your credit card issuer, the issuer will likely grant you a limit increase if you ask for it. Since your credit utilization rate figures heavily in your credit score, an increase in the limit can help your score –so long as you resist increasing your spending. Pay down your cards – Because, as indicated above, a lower balance positively affects your credit utilization rate, make the effort to curb your current spending and use any extra funds you can muster to pay down existing debts. Check for credit report errors – An error on your report can weigh down your score, while removing one can result in great improvement. Since most credit reporting errors are resolved in about 30 days, pull your report from AnnualCreditReport.com and go over it with a fine tooth comb. If something seems amiss – such as an unreported debt payoff – disputing it right away can make a big difference in your credit score. Published with permission from RISMedia.
January
1

After Christmas has passed and the presents have been opened, many wonder what to do with their holiday tree. Luckily, many counties have services to dispose of or recycle your old tree. Below is a breakdown. Curbside pick-up. Many cities and counties schedule a curb-side tree pickup around two weeks after christmas. Typically these trees are then turned into mulch, but feel free to call your city planning office and inquire. Before you drag your tree to the curb, be sure to remove any and all decorations. Non-profits. There may be non-profits in your area that will pick up your old tree for a small fee. Call around to find the best option. Drop off. Many stores and centers take old trees at no charge. Many Home Depot locations take drop offs. Call around to find the best fit. Whether you're dropping off or having your tree scooped up, there are some thing you must do to prep. 1. Remove all decorations. This means ornaments, tinsel, lights, and tree stands. 2. Trim it down. Many pick-up services require trees cut into four feet lengths. Call your service in advance to find out. 3. Make sure it's out of the way. If you're having a curb-side pickup, make sure your tree is out of the way of the road and sidewalk. Published with permission from RISMedia.

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