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.

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.

Remodeling 101: How to Create a Proper Budget for Any Renovation

Remodeling 101: How to Create a Proper Budget for Any Renovation, Large or SmallWhether you’re readying to put your home on the market or you haven’t updated your space in a while and want to modernize, approaching renovations can be a struggle. With so many things to fix up, both large and small, it can seem overwhelming to prioritize, set the money aside and get to work. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to begin with budget, here are some tips for how to properly prioritize so you can maximize your renovation expenditures.

Determine What Is Most Important

Whether it’s the tile floor in your bathroom or the outdated kitchen sink, if the need for an upgrade in a certain part of your home has been staring you in the face for a while, you’ll want to begin there. By determining your first priority and the no-frills cost assessment of completing it, you can arrive at the cost of what renovating the item will mean. Once you’re in the ballpark, you can then move on to any additional features or accessories that may perk up your basic renovation.

Add A Little Extra To The Budget

The downside of any budget is that unexpected costs will always come along with it, and they can entirely break the bank and your original projections. Instead of hoping for the best, add some extra money to the outline of total expenses for your renovation so you can be prepared for some of the hiccups that will come along. This will ensure that you have the financial wherewithal to complete the renovation and won’t be disappointed in the final outcome for your finances.

Consider Where You Can Cutback

Whether you’ve been dreaming of a new living room set for a while or replacing the flooring in the kitchen, you can update the area of your choice while still economizing in other ways. For example, if you’re going for modern eclectic in your living room, you may want to splurge on an updated couch, but you may be able to save by purchasing a retro coffee table online or a unique side chair that’s secondhand to go along with it. This may provide a unique upgrade, without all the expense of in-store purchases.

It can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to revamping your house, but it’s important to start with what you really can’t live without and move outward from there. If you’re curious about home renovations and how they can improve the market value of your home, you may want to contact your trusted mortgage professional for refinancing options that will work for your situation.

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Family Matters: How to Choose the Perfect Home for a Large or Growing Family

Family Matters: How to Choose the Perfect Home for a Large or Growing Family Selecting the right home to purchase for your family is a monumental task, and this process can seem even more challenging for those with a large or growing family. A common goal may be to give everyone ample space to stretch out and feel relaxed, but some home buyers may also be focused on other factors like location, cost and even the general style of the home. While choosing the perfect home for a large or growing family is not easy, the process can be simplified by focusing on a few points.

Focus On Storage Space

There are few things that can make home life more miserable in the coming years than a lack of storage space. When a large family does not have adequate storage space in closets, the attic, the garage and your cabinets, their items will likely find a home on the counters, on the floor and in other undesirable locations. Home buyers can consider looking for a home that has more storage space than is needed right now to ensure that the new home can accommodate growing needs over the years.

Think About Function Over Size

Many people who are looking a new home will focus on finding a home that has a specific minimum square footage or a minimum number of bedrooms, but function is generally more important. For example, if a home has bar-style seating at the kitchen counter, the family may not need a bigger breakfast room to accommodate its needs. The family may also get more use out of a home that has a second living area, such as a game room, rather than a formal dining room that may rarely be used.

Choose The Right Floor Plan

In addition, consider reviewing the floor plan of the home carefully. Many prefer to have the kids’ rooms away from the master room, a study placed away from the kids’ game room or an open area where the kitchen and family room are connected so that a parent can oversee the kids while making meals. Home buyers should consider how they live and their likes and dislikes about their current space to determine which floor plan is best for them.

Deciding which home to purchase is rarely easy to do, but be sure to keep these tips in mind when making your decision.

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First-Time Mortgage Borrowers: Avoid These “Rookie Mistakes”

First-time Mortgage Borrowers: Avoid These Many home buyers who are applying for their first mortgage will go to great lengths to research the options, learn more about loan terms and generally educate themselves about a process that they are unfamiliar with. Despite these common steps that rookie mortgage applicants make, they often make similar mistakes when applying for their first mortgage. By learning about these common mistakes, you can take steps to prevent making them yourself.

Not Focusing on All Costs of Home Ownership

Many first-time home buyers are overwhelmingly focused on setting up a mortgage payment that is affordable for their budget. While this is important, the mortgage payment is not the only expense associated with home ownership. For example, there are property taxes, insurance, repair and maintenance expenses, homeowners’ association dues and more. All of these expenses should be reviewed when you consider what mortgage payment is affordable for your budget.

Not Thinking About Short and Long-Term Plans

You should also think about short and long-term plans for your home ownership experience. Some will choose a long term or an adjustable rate to keep the payments low. However, they will not consider the fact that the payment will be in place until the home is sold or the loan is refinanced. It is not certain what mortgage rates will be in the future or if you may qualify for a great rate on a refinance loan in the future, so you should always ensure that you can maintain the payment structure for as long as needed.

Not Getting Pre-Qualified

It can be intimidating to get pre-qualified for a home mortgage. Some may fear rejection or denial altogether, and some may estimate an amount they may qualify for without actually getting pre-qualified. This can backfire for you. The pre-qualification process helps you to learn the maximum loan amount you may qualify for and the payment for that amount. This is valuable information that can help you to make a more informed decision when selecting your home.

As a first-time home buyer, you may be stressed about finding the right home to buy and researching the neighborhoods and schools. While these are all factors to pay attention to, you also need to focus heavily on your mortgage. Through these efforts, you can set up an affordable home loan that is comfortable for you to manage on your budget.

Call us today and let us get you closer to your first dream home.

Real Estate Roundup: The Top 5 Apps to Use When Buying or Selling a Home

Real Estate Roundup: The Top 5 Apps to Use When Buying or Selling a HomeWhether you are buying property, selling property or both, the process can be challenging, stressful and even overwhelming at times. Just as you may use various mobile apps to streamline and simplify other aspects of your life, you can also use some well-designed apps to improve your overall experience when you are buying or selling property. These are some of the best apps for you to use as you move forward with your real estate plans.

iBank

This app is not free for you to download, but the small fee that you pay to use iBank may be well worth paying for. This is an app that you can use to track your bank account balances and living expenses. Financial strain is one of the most significant sources of stress for those who are moving, and this is an app that you can use to ease your money management challenges.

PowerOne FinancePro Calculator

The property that you choose to purchase will impact your budget in a number of ways. The most obvious difference will be a change in your mortgage payment, but there are other expenses that will change as well. For example, there will be changes to your property insurance, property taxes, homeowners insurance and more. This is an app that will help you to better estimate your total housing expenses.

GoodReader

You can accumulate a mountain of paperwork when buying or selling property, and GoodReader is an affordable app that will help you keep track of the paperwork. You can scan the items into the system and keep them stored for easy access and portability.

Home Scouting

Do you know about the Home Scouting app? This is a property search app that buyers can use to get details about property listings while on the go. It can also be used to help you learn more about other listings and their prices that your own home may be competing with when you list a property for sale. Find it in the App Store on any iPhone or Android device. It’s free and easy to use. Use “homesweethome” when it asks for an activation code.

Although property search apps like Home Scouting are a good resource for general information, working with your trusted, local real estate agent is always a better option when you are seriously considering a property purchase. Your agent may also offer a local app that you can download to access the most current, relevant property search data.

ScannerPro

When you need to scan documents to send digital copies of them, ScannerPro is a great app to use. This is an affordable app that works with your iPhone or iPad. Essentially, it creates a photo image of your documents, and you can then transmit them or store them as desired.

Buying real estate can be cumbersome and complicated, but it does not have to be. Working with a trusted mortgage professional is always the first step to buying a home.

Three Essential Habits For Successful Home Buying

The Three Essential Habits That Successful Home Buyers Must EmbraceWhether you are preparing to purchase your first home or it has been many years since you last walked through the home buying process, you may be starting to feel overwhelmed at the thought of all of the work that lies in front of you. From concerns about finding the right home to the physical act of relocating all of your belongings after the closing, there is certainly a lot to think about.

While each home buying transaction is unique, the most successful home buyers have typically adopted a few behaviors. You may keep these in mind to help you navigate through the process with success.

Keep An Eye On Your Budget

Financial stress when buying a home is common. You may have saved for years to afford your down payment, but there are various expenses that some may have not calculated or planned for.

It is important to leave extra funds available for unexpected expenses, such as paying for the appraisal up-front on the home you have fallen in love with. Likewise, keep a close eye on your budget so that you are aware of your financial situation at all times.

An important strategy to stay on budget is to sit down with your trusted mortgage expert to determine what you can afford before you go look at homes. This may save you from falling in love with a property that is well outside your budget.

Be Available And Flexible

It is imperative that you remain available and flexible as much as possible. Your real estate agent may call you at the last minute with a great new listing that has come on the market, and you may need to be flexible with your schedule to see this property before other buyers do. In addition, you may need to be flexible and accommodating with regards to contract negotiations, working with title company requests, and more.

Seek Advice And Knowledge

Buying a home does not have to be stressful, but it also is not something that you do every day. There is a lot for even an experienced home buyer to learn, and you should be prepared to seek advice and to educate yourself along the way. Ask questions as necessary, and use the Internet for additional research.

Home buying is a process, and you may consider taking one day at a time as you proceed through the journey to reach your ultimate goal. A skilled real estate agent parnered with a trusted mortgage advisor can both guide you through the process and help you reach your goal.

Call us today to begin looking for your new home by figuring out what you can afford.

Three Excellent Reasons To Get Out Of The “Renting Rut”

Three Excellent Reasons to Buy a Home So You Can Get out of the Renting a home is a good option for some, but buying a home just might be the best thing for you. When you rent a home, you send money to someone else every month in exchange for knowing that you can call on your landlord when the roof leaks, an appliance stops working or your bathroom faucet breaks.

There are some big advantages to buying a house that will help you get out of your renting rut and focus more on your future.

Build Equity

Did you know that when you rent a home, you help someone else build equity? Any changes that you make with your landlord’s approval puts money back in his or her pocket. Keeping the yard clean and taking care of routine maintenance builds equity in that property. When you buy a home of your own, you have the chance to build equity of your own, which you can use to obtain a loan later.

Save On Your Taxes

When you rent a house, you cannot deduct the money you spend on your taxes. Though some states will let you make a small deduction based on the total amount you spend in rent each month, you cannot make any deductions on your federal taxes. When you buy a home, you can save with a few different types of deductions.

The federal government lets you make a deduction if your home is worth more than what you currently owe on your taxes. If you purchased your first home, you can make a deduction in regards to your property taxes. You can also deduct money that you spend on some renovations and energy saving appliances.

Put Your Personal Touch On Things

As long as you continue renting, you live in a home that belongs to someone else. Your landlord has final say over what you do and do not do. This often means that you cannot make repairs or significant changes without seeking approval first.

Buying a home lets you put your personal touch on things. You can paint the walls any colors you want, rip out the carpet to add hardwood flooring or even make significant changes outside to turn your new home into your dream home.

Now that you know more about the benefits of buying a home and how that purchase can get you out of the rental rut you’re in currently, turn to a mortgage professional for assistance. Call us today

Three Smartphone Apps To Manage Your Mortgage Payments

Three iPhone and Android Apps That Make Managing Your Mortgage Payments Quick and EasyYour mortgage payment may be among the largest payments you make every month. While certainly an important part of your budget, this payment is also critical to helping you build equity in your home because it attributes to mortgage principal reduction. Managing your mortgage payments can be challenging, but there are some incredible apps available for use with Android or iPhone smartphones that can simplify your mortgage management tasks.

Mortgage Mentor

This app is available for both iPhones and Android devices, and is designed to be compatible with all types of mortgages. It can calculate PMI for adjustable rate and variable rate mortgages, and it can help you to determine the true cost of a mortgage. Through the use of this intelligent app, you can track your account information in real-time, or you can manipulate the numbers to help you to make more thoughtful and intelligent decisions about your finances.

Loan Calculator Pro

This app is currently available only on iOS devices, but those with this operating system may want to download it today. It has some of the same capabilities as Mortgage Mentor, but it goes a step above and beyond by providing you with mortgage payment notification reminders. It also has a unique feature that allows you to set a final payoff date for your mortgage, and it will calculate how much money you need to pay per month toward your mortgage to accomplish this goal.

Bill Payment Log

The Bill Payment Log app is a unique program that can entirely replace the outdated manual entry checkbook balancing task. It is suitable for use with iOS, Android and even Windows. You can use it to monitor and track payments for all credit accounts, including mortgages. While it does not have the analytical tools associated with some of the other mortgage apps, if you’re looking for an all-in-one app that facilitates bill payment tasks for all accounts, this may be a great option to consider.

Making your mortgage payments on time is important, but you also may need to know if you need to pay extra each month and what the effects of that will be. You may also be concerned about “what if” scenarios for your adjustable rate mortgage. There are numerous apps available on the market today that can help you to facilitate your efforts, and these are among the leading choices available.

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Three Home Energy Saving Tips For Winter

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.

Here are 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.

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