Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps

Save Money on Your Home Energy Costs This Winter in Just Three Easy Steps It doesn’t matter if you heat your home with electricity, natural gas or some other energy source; prices continue to rise and that means increased heating costs for most of us.

In today’s blog post we’ll share three easy ways that you can save money on your home energy costs this winter.

Install and Use Programmable Thermostats

Now that Nest and other companies have brought Wi-Fi enabled, programmable thermostats on the market there’s very few excuses to avoid using them. At bare minimum you’ll want a digital thermostat that can be programmed to turn on and off at certain hours of the day.

For example, you can shut your heat off after leaving for work and have it turn back on again a half-hour or so before you get home. You can do the same at night when you’re fast asleep under warm blankets. If possible, try to get a thermostat for each room so that rooms can be heated individually as needed.

Switch Up Your Ceiling Fans

If you have ceiling fans you may not know that by reversing their direction you can keep your rooms feeling much warmer. In the winter you’ll want your fans spinning in a clockwise direction, which will push warm air downward into the room where you’ll be able to feel it. In the summer you’ll want to switch the fans back to counter-clockwise as this will help move warm air towards the ceiling.

Check Your Insulation, Furnace and Ducts Now

Finally, you’ll want to check that your home heating system is operating at peak efficiency. If you can access your attic, check to ensure that your insulation is tightly packed and that it’s still in good condition. Clean or replace the air filter on your furnace, and check your ducts for any leaks that need to be repaired. If it has been a few years, consider having a professional furnace and duct cleaning to get all of the dust and debris out of the ductwork.

As you can see, a little time spent on home maintenance can end up saving quite a bit in energy costs when the temperatures drop. When you’re ready to look at buying a newer, more energy-efficient home, contact your local real estate agent and book a consultation where you can share your needs and price range.

The Basic Home Security Checklist Every Home Needs

The Basic Home Security Checklist Every Home NeedsDid you realize that only around 17 percent of the homes in the United States have a security system? Leaving your residence unprotected can come back to haunt you in the future.

The longer you wait to find and fix security problems, the harder you will find it to keep your family safe. Taking the time to inspect your home is a great way to see where security problems exist. With the help of the checklist in this article, you can secure your home and keep burglars at bay.

Check Your Existing Security Alarm

If your home does have a security alarm, you need to make sure it has all of the latest features and updates. Some homeowners think that a security alarm is something they can set and forget.

One of the main things you need to make sure your alarm has is monitoring. With monitoring, you will be able to get the authorities to your home in a hurry in the event of a burglary.

The key to getting the right monitoring is working with the right security company. Before using a particular company, find out more about how they will monitor your home. Paying a bit more for high-quality monitoring will be worth it considering the safety it will add to your residence.

Check Your Windows and Doors

As you inspect your home, be sure to pay close attention to your doors and windows. Usually, these are the areas that a burglar will target when trying to break into a home. If the windows or doors are old and not working properly, it can put you and your family in a lot of danger.

This is why replacing damaged doors and windows is so important. You may also want to think about adding window alarms to your home. With these alarms in place, burglars will not stand a chance when trying to gain access to your residence. An experienced security company will have no problem installing these window alarms for an affordable price.

New Outdoor Lighting is a Good Idea

Another factor you should pay attention to when inspecting your home is the condition of the exterior lighting. If there is limited illumination on the outside of your home, you need to fix this immediately. Leaving the outside of a home dimly lit is like sending an invitation to burglars. This is why investing in high-quality landscape lighting is a good idea.

Things like motion-sensor lights can help you keep burglars away. Instead of trying to find and install these lights on your own, you need to hire professionals. They will be able to get the new lights in place in a hurry.

They can also help you choose the right places to put these lights.

A Great Investment

Instead of looking at additional home security as something you have to do, you need to view it as something you want to do. The money you invest in better home security will be worth it in the long run.

Home Maintenance Tips: How to Organize Your Garage

Home Maintenance Tips How to Organize Your Garage

Perhaps you plan to sell your home in the next few months or years. Keeping your garage organized can save time and ensure that you have storage space when you need it most.

Get Your Purge On!

Clear out the garage and separate items into categories: keep, trash, donate and recycle. If you get rid of 50 percent of your stuff, you’re doing great. The more you can get rid of up front, the less you have to organize! And if you haven’t used it in years, why would you need to keep it around?

Create Zones

Map out space with masking tape, starting with where your vehicles go. Mask out where you can put heavy-duty shelves for tools, sports equipment and other stored items. Also, you can maximize storage by building cabinets or shelving from floor to ceiling.

Buying clear bins in various sizes and interlocking shapes helps you stay organized. When you store like items together, it’s much easier to find them, especially if everything is properly labeled.

Think strategically. If your garage doubles as a workshop, include space for a workbench. If you bike every day, hang your wheels on the wall near the garage door. Additionally, remember to include garbage and recycling bins near the door for easy access.

Organizational Supplies
With the zones mapped, it’s time to get organized. For example, store shovels, rakes and brooms in a large trashcan. Meanwhile, sporting equipment such as bats, balls, skateboards and protective pads can go into larger bins, on shelves or inside lockers. Pegboards provide a versatile way to hang tools you use the most.

A cabinet that locks protects children and pets from hazardous materials like chemicals, paint and cleaning supplies. Meanwhile, constructing long open shelves of wood or metal gives you plenty of support for heavy storage bins, while a rolling cabinet lets you move craft supplies or gardening implements.

Storing Small Stuff

What can you do with screws, nails, hooks, nuts and myriad small items on a limited budget? Repurposed glass containers or mason jars let you see contents clearly while recycling. Use tin cans for screwdrivers and paint brushes.

Once your garage is neat and clean, you may find yourself spending more time there. You might even have enough room for a home office or craft corner. A well-planned organizational strategy helps you keep it that way.

If you are interested in buying a new property or refinancing your current property, be sure to contact your trusted home mortgage professional.

The Humble Vegetable Garden: A Fun, Health-conscious Home Project for the Entire Family

The Humble Vegetable Garden: A Fun, Health-conscious Home Project for the Entire FamilyWhether you are hunting for a project that will pry the kids away from their phones or you just want a head start on the spring, few home projects are as rewarding as a vegetable garden.

Invest a few hours in planting today, some maintenance throughout the year and soon you’ll be enjoying some delicious, home-grown veggies. Ready? Let’s get started!

Selecting The Right Spot For Your Garden

The first decision you will need to make is where your garden will live. If you are new to gardening, you can start with a small patch of land in the corner of your backyard. The area needs to have full exposure to sunlight at least six to eight hours each day. Your plants will also need watering, so ensure that your hose can reach the plot or that you have another water source nearby.

Having good soil is necessary but not critical as you can buy a load of topsoil from a local nursery. You may want to invest in a composter as well so that you can make efficient use of food waste.

Choosing Which Vegetables To Grow

Next, you will need to choose what you want to grow in your garden. As mentioned above, if you are new to gardening you can start small with a few simple vegetables. Tomatoes are an excellent choice as they continue to produce throughout the year and can be used in so many different types of food. Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes are also a great choice. If you like fresh herbs, consider setting aside a part of your garden for basil, thyme and other herbs.

Materials You’ll Need To Get Started

As you might imagine, you do not need very much to start a garden. Some soil, gloves, a few hand tools and seeds or starter plants are enough to get going. Take the family out for a trip to a local nursery and ask about the best plants to start in the spring. From there, a trip to one of the large home supply stores will provide you with the rest.

Make What You Can, Buy What You Can’t

Finally, don’t forget that this is supposed to be a fun project! If you decide you need planter boxes, try to build them instead of buying them. Figure out what you can recycle or upcycle from around your home to use in the garden. Try to avoid buying over building unless you’re stuck.

Follow the steps above and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor. If you decide you need a more substantial yard, contact our offices today!

Driverless Cars: Will They Reshape How We Design and Use Our Homes?

3 Key Ways That Driverless Cars Are Going to Reshape How We Design and Use Our HomesAre you ready for the coming shift to driverless cars? While it might seem like some sort of futuristic vision, the truth is that driverless vehicles will be on the road within a few short years. Let’s explore three key ways that driverless cars are going to help to shape how we think about our homes in the very near future.

#1: Goodbye, Garages

It might seem a bit strange to think about now, but many people are likely to get rid of their cars entirely. Car ownership is expected to shift to entrepreneurs and services who offer vehicles for on-demand use. We are already starting to see this transition take place, especially with city dwellers who are becoming familiar with Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services. So, if you do not own a car, having a garage attached to your house does not make much sense.

Consider the many uses that a family can get from the space currently occupied by a garage full of cars. Your house footprint can be that much bigger, or you can convert that area into more yard space.

#2: Get Used To Smaller Streets And More Efficient Land Use

The second significant change you are going to see is a complete re-imagining of how we design and use our streets. Fewer people will own cars that need to be parked along the side of the street. Also, self-driving cars can move elsewhere for storage when they’re not needed. This combination will allow city planners to thin streets, freeing up land use for bike lanes, boulevards or larger yard areas. If you are the type that enjoys having a beautiful big front lawn, the coming shift to driverless cars will benefit you.

#3: More Space Means More Green Space

Finally, expect to see a lot more green space around your house in the future. You will have more space for landscaping, flower beds, gardens, trees and other yard fixtures. Even if you do end up owning a driverless car in the future, it’s likely to be electric. The most substantial commitment you will need to make is either a charging plug and wall fixture or a large ground pad that the car sits on when it needs to top off the batteries.

There are few who doubt that driverless cars are going to cause a major shift in how we live, work and move from place to place. If you’re looking to take advantage of this shift when you buy your next home, contact us. Our team of mortgage professionals will be happy to help you.

5 Key Maintenance Tasks to Prepare Your Home for the Winter

5 Key Maintenance Tasks to Prepare Your Home for the WinterThe days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping and the kids are back in school.  The question is – is your home ready? Break out your checklist and let’s run through five key maintenance tasks that will get your home prepared to face the winter.

Pack Up And Protect Your Outdoor Furniture

Unfortunately, the arrival of winter means that the patio has to be closed up for the season. It’s time to get chairs, tables and other furniture covered up or stored if you have space. The BBQ will also need to be covered or moved off to the shed or another dry area.

Get Your Windows Ready For Cold Weather

Next, take some time to inspect your windows for drafts, leaks and other issues. This can be as easy as shutting them tight on a windy day and using your senses to determine if any air is leaking in. Depending on where you live in the country, you might need to do some additional work on your windows to get them prepared for the cold.

Turn Down Your Garden, Plants And Flower Beds

Unless you have a garden full of robust, cold-loving plants, it’s likely that you will see most of them die off as we move from autumn into winter. Spend some time turning down your gardens and other areas. This can help to move nutrients into the soil where they’ll be ready to nourish new plants in the spring.

Check Your Furnace And Heating Ducts

If you haven’t used it in a few months, now is the time to fire up the furnace and check the home’s heating system. The last thing you want is to discover that your home isn’t heating on the first cold night!

Consider Giving The Roof And Gutters A Quick Inspection

Last but not least, don’t forget to check your roof for any damage or areas that might be prone to leaking. You will also want to check the gutters to ensure they are clear of debris. Keep in mind that this does involve climbing up a ladder and physically inspecting these areas. If you’re not good with heights or don’t own the proper equipment, don’t sweat it. Give a professional roofing team a call and have them handle the inspection instead.

The better your home is prepared for winter, the less likely you are to have a nasty surprise waiting for you in the spring. If you would rather upgrade or check out a newer home than try to winterize yours, contact your local real mortgage professional to get started.

DIY Home Projects: Creating a Study Space That Will Help Your Kids Stay Focused

DIY Home Projects: Creating a Study Space That Will Help Your Children Stay FocusedIf you’re a parent of school-aged children, you’ve likely been concerned with their study habits at some point. Sitting down in front of the television or at the dinner table to crack open the books is going to be less efficient than doing so in a quieter, more productive work space. Let’s explore how to create a study space that will help keep your children focused and on task.

Ask The Kids What They Need To Be Productive

Before you get to work on creating a new studying space, it’s a good idea to have a chat with those will be using it most. Ask the children what kind of surroundings they feel would help to keep them productive. Younger kids may only need a small desk area but would appreciate more space in the room. Conversely, older children who are in high school are likely to need a lot of desk space for laptops, textbooks, and other studying materials. Starting the project out by asking what they need ensures that they get what they need out of the space.

Brighten Up The Room

Focus on how the room is lit. A dark room isn’t likely to be a positive studying environment. If possible, natural light sources should be used as much as possible. Studies indicate that sunlight is better at keeping individuals alert and focused than fluorescent or other types of home lighting. Also, consider adding some plants which can help to keep oxygen levels a bit higher in the room.

Note that you’ll want to avoid making the room so bright that it’s distracting. Plus, the sun can cause quite a bit of glare depending on how much outdoor exposure the room has. If there’s already a lot of natural light, consider a set of curtains that can reduce or block out any glare to allow for a more comfortable learning environment.

Eliminate Any And All Distractions

Distractions – especially those which are useful for procrastinating – are the bane of any productive space. There should be no television, no video games and no other distracting elements in the study area. The only furnishings should be those used for studying.

A study room is an excellent addition to any home with school-aged children. If you’re in the market for a new home – study spaces included – contact your local mortgage professional today.

4 Mistakes Made by First-time Home Sellers And How To Avoid Them

4 Terrible Mistakes Made by First-time Home SellersMany factors go into selling a home for the first time. Some can make it a stressful process, and there are a few things you should avoid for a successful sale. If you’re putting your home on the market and hoping for quick success, here are some common mistakes you’ll want to be sure to bypass.

Pricing Your Home Too High

It’s entirely likely that there’s an amount you have in mind when it comes to selling your home. But it’s important that your asking price is in line with the market conditions and what’s being offered. Instead of winging it, check the local neighborhood listings and see what similar homes are selling for so yours won’t be left to linger.

Forgetting The Small Repairs

After you’ve put your home up for sale and have arranged an open house, one of the first things people will notice is the small repairs like paint chips or loose doorknobs that haven’t yet been fixed. Instead of letting this negatively impact the offers you’ll receive, complete the little fix-ups before you schedule your open house so potential homebuyers are not turned off.

Missing On Marketing

There are so many avenues for selling a home these days that it can be hard to know which way to go. However, it’s best to consider all of your options and utilize social media to widen the audience you’ll attract. Keep in mind that if you’re investing in a website or brochures, it’s important to hire a good photographer to show your home in its best light.

Selling It On Your Own

Hitting the market on your own can be rife with a lot of questions, so as a first-time seller you may want to consider the services of a real estate agent. It’s just important to ensure that the person you choose is qualified and has experience in your community so they can steer you in the right direction and offer helpful advice.

Selling a home for the first time can be a stressful thing.  But by utilizing the right agent and having reasonable expectations, it may be off the market before you know it.

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How to Research Local Schools Before Buying Your Next Home

Making the Grade: How to Research Local Schools Before Buying Your Next HomeThere are so many things involved in moving that it can be easy to forget about the proximity of many nearby amenities. However, if you have children, the local schools available can make-or-break the decision on whether or not to invest in a house. If you’re wondering how you can find out more about the local school, let the following tips be your guide.

Take a Web-Search To SchoolMatch.com

One of the benefits of so many things being online these days is that local schools are no exception. And SchoolMatch.com is a great resource that puts this information at your fingertips. While you’ll have to pay a fee to get the details on many public and private institutions, this resource features ratings on schools throughout the country which can make it worth the price.

Contact The NAEYC

With a wealth of information on preschools, kindergartens and elementary schools located throughout the country, the National Association for the Education of Young Children is another helpful website to visit. While the organization offers informational pamphlets that can help you decide a school’s benefits, you can also call if you want to speak with someone directly about a particular institution.

Make A Visit To The Neighborhood

While it can take a lot of time to visit the schools in the neighborhood you’re considering, this is a great way for you to get a sense of the area you’re moving to. By taking a walk through the hallways to view the building’s upkeep and even visiting the office to talk with the Principal, you’ll be able to decide whether it’s a good fit.

Talk To An Agent

It might seem a bit strange to talk to a realtor about local schools, but real estate agents are responsible for providing a multitude of information to potential homebuyers so they have to be in the know. Whether they’re able to help you with a house or not, it’s certain they’ll have some of the basic details about your neighborhood’s educational offerings, whether it’s good or bad.

There are a variety of amenities that can improve the appeal of a new neighborhood, but good schools are a necessity when it comes to the kids.

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Energy-Saving Tips To Reduce Your Home’s Carbon Footprint

Reduce Your Home's Carbon Footprint With These Energy-Saving TipsDo you believe that humans are changing the climate? As of today, the debate over carbon dioxide and climate change continues to rage. But regardless of your political standpoint, there’s always a case for reducing electricity use. Because who doesn’t like saving money, right?

Let’s explore a few ways that you can save energy while reducing your home’s carbon footprint.

Leverage The Power Of Automation

The technology behind home automation is improving at an amazing rate. Thermostats from companies like Nest make home heating and cooling simple. They learn from your use to automatically set temperatures up and down as needed. Going to be home late from work? No problem — you can use your smartphone to ensure your heat doesn’t come on until later.

Wash Cold, Hang Dry

You might not be aware of this, but cold water washing makes sense. Most washing machines and detergents are just as efficient with cold water as hot. So it makes sense to switch to washing in cold, especially if you have a newer washing machine.

To cut back even more, hang your clothes to dry instead of using the dryer. The technology behind clothes dryers hasn’t improved much over time. They still rely on warm air, forced ventilation and spinning around. All of which use a lot of energy.

Note: if you have to use your dryer, add a clean, dry towel to each load. Adding a towel will help your clothes to dry faster, thus saving you both time and money.

Modernize Your Home Lighting

Have you made the switch to power-efficient LED light bulbs yet? This one change can save an immense amount of electricity depending on the size of your home. And you can take things a step further by automating your home lighting as well. Systems from companies like Philips allow you to turn lights up, down and off as needed. You can also control these from your smartphone.

Kill Off The Vampires

Finally, watch for appliances and accessories that draw power when they’re not in use. ‘Electricity vampires’ like smartphone chargers, laptops and televisions can draw power 24/7. It’s a bit of a pain to have to unplug everything all the time. Instead, consider having these appliances plugged in to power bars. When you’re finished using them, you can switch the power bar off and go on with your day.

The above are just a few ways that you can reduce your home’s carbon footprint. If you’re interested in upgrading to a power-smart home, talk to your trusted mortgage professional to get started today.