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12 Ways to Lower Your Monthly Utility Bills

12 Ways to Lower Your Monthly Utility BillsAccording to the US Department of Energy, the average American household paid $111.67 each month for utilities in 2017. With some research and a few DIY projects, property owners can reduce those energy costs without sacrificing comfort or convenience.

Establish Energy Friendly Habits

Reduce energy waste to see an immediate change in your utility payments.

  • Before bed, walk around your home. Make sure you turn off all lights, televisions, computers, and other plugged-in devices.
  • In the colder months, close the doors to unused spaces to save big on heating bills.
  • Dial down the heat before bed. Invest in extra blankets and cozy pajamas to keep warm without blasting the furnace.

Small habits can add up to big savings.

Incorporate DIY Solutions

These easy projects improve insulation so your interior stays comfortable without HVAC overuse.

  • Use weather stripping to seal off drafty windows.
  • Install door sweeps on all exterior doors to prevent outdoor air from compromising your indoor temperature.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. Many models allow you to automatically adjust temperatures throughout the day.

It doesn’t take a large investment of time or money to positively impact your utility bills.

Install Energy Efficient Appliances

Upgrading your appliances is a simple way to reduce energy waste.

  • Install a solar-powered water heater to eliminate the cost of hot water.
  • Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED versions.
  • Invest in an Energy Star rated washer and dryer to save money on your electric and water bills.

As a bonus, your new appliances improve the look and feel of your space.

Attend To Administrative Tasks

Pay attention to what you’re paying for. Small details can cost you big dollars.

  • Review your billing statements at least once every 3 months. Notice any changes in usage, rate, and fees.
  • Talk to your utility company about average payments. This option allows you to pay a flat rate rather than fluctuating per-use charges.
  • Install a Smart Meter to ensure accurate usage reporting.

Practice due diligence to protect your wallet from unnecessary charges.

You don’t have to make drastic changes to your lifestyle to control utility costs. Incorporate these easy fixes to bring down your monthly obligations without emptying your wallet.

If you are in the market for an energy efficient home, be sure to tell your trusted real estate professional who is ready to assist you with your search.

Real Estate Investing 101: Identify Your Investing Style

Real Estate Investing 101 Identify Your Investing StyleAre you just starting on your real estate investing journey? Many newcomers are surprised to learn that there’s more to making money on the real estate market than buying and selling. These are some of the most popular strategies real estate investors use to create profits. Which one is right for you?

Buy And Hold

Buy and hold investors play the market like stocks. They buy properties when prices are low, then hold them until values are high. During the holding period, some investors choose to offer their properties as rentals. Apartment buildings are also a popular option for buy and hold investors, as these properties are always in demand.

Buy and hold investors might run into problems with out-of-control cash flows. Make sure you have plenty of backup cash to keep you afloat until the next sale.

Short Term Rentals

Sharing apps like Airbnb are changing the way short term rentals are done. Instead of pumping money into sterile timeshare properties, travelers are choosing a more home-like environment during their vacations. Many real estates investors concentrate on maintaining homes in various locations and offering them as an alternative to more traditional temporary accommodations.

Vacation renters can be particularly hard on properties. Check your insurance coverage to make sure you have access to enough cash to repair or replace any damages your visitors leave behind.

Fix And Flip

Made popular by a plethora of cable television reality shows, fix and flippers purchase distressed properties at low costs. They then spend some time correcting cosmetic defects, sprucing up any signs of disrepair, and making the property ready for new residents.

A quick sale ensures maximum profit. However, those can be hard to find. If the market suddenly changes, you could find yourself stuck with mortgage payments you weren’t prepared to meet. Always have a backup plan to protect your personal assets.

Commercial Leasing

From the corner drug store to a multi-unit strip mall, commercial property presents a unique opportunity for more advanced real estate investors. It takes a lot of buying power to acquire commercial property. However, commercial leasers usually last much longer than their residential counterparts, which means a more secure and longer-lasting income stream.

Keep in mind that empty commercial buildings take longer to fill. Check your resources to ensure you can survive a long period at less-than-optimal occupancy.

Real estate investing is a diverse discipline. Choose the strategy that works best for you to enjoy a long and happy career.

If you are in the market for a new investment property, sure to contact your trusted real estate professional.

NAHB: Housing Market Index Flat in March

NAHB Housing Market Index Flat in MarchBuilder sentiment held steady in March as headwinds in housing markets affected homebuilder confidence, but National Association of Home Builders Chairman Greg Ugalde said that builders were looking forward to a “solid spring home-buying season.” Builder sentiment mirrored February’s index reading of 62; analysts expected an uptick to 63.

Any Housing Market Index reading over 50 indicates that more builders than fewer have a positive outlook on housing market conditions. The average reading for 2018 was 67, which indicated that builders were less confident current market conditions for new homes than in 2018.

HMI Component Readings Mixed in March

Three sub-readings used to calculate the monthly Housing Market Index reading showed builder confidence in current market conditions rose two points to 68; Builder confidence in market conditions over the next six months rose three points to 71 and homebuilder confidence in buyer traffic dipped four points to 44. Readings for buyer traffic seldom exceed the benchmark reading of 50.

The National Association of Home Builders said in a statement that housing markets are “stabilizing,” but did not say that housing markets were growing. Economists and housing market analysts rely on the Housing Market Index for clues about future housing production. Demand for new homes has been strong for years, but headwinds including tariffs on building materials and labor shortages continued to impact construction rates. More new homes on the market could ease pent-up demand for homes, but rapidly rising home prices are making home ownership less feasible for first-time and moderate-income home-buyers.

Imbalance Between New Homes Built and Consumer Needs

Analysts called out a problematic trend in meeting demands for new homes. Price points are frequently beyond affordable for most buyers, and new housing developments often trend toward larger homes with higher prices. Analysts said that from 2010 to 2017, the average size of new homes increased by 300 square feet while household size decreased over the same period. Lower mortgage rates benefit homebuyers concerned over affordable house payments, but strict mortgage qualification requirements limit the number of potential home buyers that can qualify for mortgage amounts needed to buy homes.

If you are in the market for a new home or interested in selling your current property, be sure to contact your trusted real estate professional.

5 Key Tips To Prepare For A Quick Mortgage Approval

5 Key Tips To Prepare For A Quick Mortgage ApprovalWhether you’re finally prepared to get into the real estate market or you want to know how you can make a deal quick, there are a few necessary documents you’ll need to prove your reliability to a mortgage lender.

Here are the documents you’ll want to have on hand when the time comes.

Previous Tax Returns

In order to ensure the earnings information you’ve provided to the lender, you’ll need to have your tax returns for the two years prior to your mortgage application. In addition, you may also be required to provide your W-2s as backup documentation.

Bank Statements

To make sure you’re a solid bet who will be able to make your down payment, you’ll need to present bank statements to ensure you have a cushion in the case that interest rates increase. If you do get money gifted to you for your down payment, you’ll need a letter to prove you’re not indebted to the provider.

Recent Pay Stubs

It can be much more difficult to get approved for a mortgage if you have a patchy work history or happen to be self-employed, so you’ll need 2 months of recent pay stubs to prove consistent employment. The pay stubs provided should also be an accurate reflection of the salary you’ve provided on your application to ensure no discrepancies.

Investment Statements

It’s certainly a good sign to the lender if you have a healthy balance in your checking and savings accounts, but you’ll also need to provide any statements for mutual funds and other investments. While they may not be necessary to prove financial soundness, they will help with approval if you have a lot of money squirreled away.

A Listing Of Debts

While it may be the least popular of the pile, a lender will also want to know about any outstanding debts like auto loans, credit card payments or student loans. It may be tempting to forego these documents, but it will give the lender a good sense of your honesty and your ability to manage your mortgage.

Mortgage approval may seem like a time-consuming process with no certain end, but by having the appropriate documentation and being upfront about your debts, you may be able to speed up the time frame.

If you’re interested in buying a new home, remember to rely on two of your best assets – your trusted real estate agent and your home mortgage professional. 

Down Payment Money Saving Mistakes

Down Payment Money Saving MistakesAre you saving up money for a down payment? Saving money to put down on a home is always a smart idea, but there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. Understanding how to best save for a down payment will go a long way toward ensuring you’re ready when you finally find the house of your dreams.

Here are four down payment money saving mistakes to avoid.

1. Not Saving Enough

It’s very admirable to have a goal of saving exactly 20% for a down payment. However, this is a common mistake new home buyers make. First of all, consider loan programs that allow for a lower down payment.

In addition, there are lots of other costs associated with buying a home that you must also plan and save for, including:

  • Closing Costs
  • Title Fees
  • Miscellaneous Fees
  • Time Off Work

2. Not Keeping Track Of The Source Of The Money

Many lenders have strict rules about where the money comes from for a down payment. Pay careful attention to the source of your down payment money, and keep accurate records. You may be asked to present these financial records to prove the source of funds as part of the mortgage review process.

3. Borrowing The Money

In addition, many lenders may allow only a certain percentage of the down payment to come from a family member. They want to know that you have the resources to come up with the down payment yourself without relying on favors from family members. Don’t make the mistake of borrowing excessively for the down payment, even if it’s from a third party lender.

4. Not Keeping Money In Reserve

It’s essential to keep some money in your savings account that isn’t earmarked for the down payment. You’ll need to disclose how much you have in savings and it will factor in where you get approved or not. Lenders want to see a history of consistent saving. This shows that you’re a financially responsible person with cash reserves in the event of an emergency.

The sooner you can start saving money for a down payment, the better. As you save, keep these four down payment money saving mistakes in mind so you have the best possible chances for being financially ready to act when you do find the house you want to purchase.

If you are considering a new home purchase, please contact a trusted real estate professional to assist you with this valued investment.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with These DIY Home Projects

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with These DIY Home ProjectsYour carbon footprint is the measure of your impact on the earth’s natural resources. This number describes the amount of fossil fuel it takes to support your lifestyle. In the United States, each person produces an average of 19.78 tons of carbon dioxide every year. A high carbon footprint means your daily habits are a quickening drain on our finite resources. 

Homeowners can use these DIY projects to reduce the effect of their lifestyle on the environment.

Try Solar Solutions

A residential solar system gathers photo-voltaic energy from the sun and converts it into usable electrical current. Once installed, any energy your system produces is essentially free. However, the initial investment for a residential solar system to power your entire home can be prohibitively high. There are some ways to use solar power without a large upfront investment.

  • Take advantage of state and federal incentives to lower your out-of-pocket costs.
  • Opt for individual appliances like solar water heaters or solar lighting.
  • Talk to your utility provider about existing programs that allow you to sell back your excess power for bill credits.

You could also get your neighbor involved and build a neighborhood solar bank for charging batteries and electric vehicles.

Plant A Vegetable And Herb Garden

Food transportation is one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gases. Reduce your impact even further by growing some of your own food. Use containers, shelves, or construct a hanging wall garden to keep your home supplied with salad greens, tomatoes, and herbs of all kinds. Having a garden means fewer trips to the grocery store, which saves our supplies of natural gas.

Install A Clothesline

Skip the gas-powered appliances and hang your freshly washed laundry out on a clothesline to dry. When the weather is nice, your clothes will come back in with a sweet scent you can’t get anywhere else. And instead of spending the time staring at a spinning machine, you get the added benefit of fitting a little extra exercise into your day. You don’t have to completely ditch your dryer. Save it for rainy days or other unfriendly weather conditions.

Lowering your carbon footprint doesn’t have to be a big life change. Start with small steps and slowly build your property in an earth-friendly fortress.

If you are interested in greener living, be sure to tell your trusted real estate professional that finding an environmentally friendly property is a top priority.