The start of a new year is a great time to make changes in your finances and the way you maintain your home.

If saving money is one of your New Year’s resolutions, I’ve got four smart ways for you to do just that:


If you haven’t yet refinanced your mortgage or home equity loan to take advantage of today’s low interest rates, there’s still time to lock in a great deal. Jay Brinkmann, chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, expects mortgage rates to rise above 5 percent in 2014 and to 5.5 percent by the end of 2015.

If your current mortgages exceed your home’s value, you may still be able to refinance using one of the federal government’s Home Affordable Refinance Program.

Change Your Furnace Filters

New Year’s resolutions don’t get much easier than vowing to change your HVAC filter once a month in 2014 to increase your furnace’s life span.

To make this task easy, buy 12 filters and store them in the furnace room so they’re at hand when you need them. Put a reminder on your calendar or tie this chore to another monthly chore, like paying your household bills, so you remember to do it each month.

Seal The Air Leaks In Your Home

Sealing the air leaks in your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to cut your utility bills. Check to make sure your winders are caulked around the outside of the trim on the inside and outside of your home. Use foam to fill large gaps where the plumbing, electric or cable comes in the house.

Shop Your Insurance Policies

Yes, it’s a bother to shop for insurance, but if you haven’t checked what’s out there lately, you may be overpaying. The easiest way to get this chore done is to delegate.

Copy the declarations pages from your current home, auto, life and umbrella policies and ask an independent insurance agent to look for a better overall deal for you. You can also visit your current agent or call your insurance company and ask for an annual review to make sure you’ve got the right coverage and are getting all the discounts for which you qualify.


All I Want For Christmas is a Higher Interest Rate

December2013-23-175x131 (Taper)So, it would appear that the honeymoon is over.

The government program that was stimulating our economy by keeping interest rates at or slightly above historic lows for the past 18 months or so could not last forever.  We knew this day would be coming.  Many believed that it would not come until Early 2014, but it seems that there was no time like the present.

“Tapering” has begun.December2013-27-175x131 (Rate Projections)

Over the next few days, weeks and months, we can expect interest rates to rise now that the U.S. government will be cutting back on their bond-purchasing program.  To the right are predictions on where interest rates can be expected to go by this time next year.  The consensus is, that by the end of 2014, interest rates will have risen by just about 1 point, which is an increase of nearly 20% from where we are now and almost 2 points higher than this past Spring.

There is no reason to panic over this.  It wasn’t so long ago that interest rates were well above 7%.  If you are thinking of selling your home, there is good news.  There is no evidence that the rise in interest rates will have a downward effect on the price gains we have enjoyed over the past 18 months throughout most of the Delaware Valley.  In fact, this information may be a boon for those considering putting their home on the market in the coming months.

WDecember2013-281-175x131 (Cost of Waiting)e can expect an influx in potential buyers in the first few months of 2014.  You see, by the end of next year, that home you were looking at may become more expensive, even if the price has not changed.  On a $250,000 home (about average for around Montgomery County) a one point change in interest rates can mean a difference of over $150/month.  Over the life of a 30-year loan, that is a difference of over $50,000 out of pocket.  I can think of a few things that I could do with that money, personally.

The Bottom Line

We all knew that there would come a day when interest rates would once again rise above where they were.  Everything, including real estate, is cyclical by nature.  If you were thinking of buying a home in the coming year, earlier will be better than later.  Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines, waiting for rates to dip back down.  While that may happen in the short-term, playing chicken with interest rates can end up costing you in the long run.

If you have been contemplating selling your home, now is the perfect time.  As of today, we are experiencing a primarily balanced market.  Home inventories are down (there are still not enough quality homes for sale to satisfy the demand) but the number of buyers has dwindled as well.  This is a seasonal shift, nothing more.  There will be an influx of buyers who don’t want to be left behind by interest rate hikes that may price them out of the perfect home for them.  Your home.  Because, the buyers will be out there.  If your home is not there for them to choose from, they will buy your neighbor’s house instead.

If you fall into either category, give me a call today to review your options and what the governmental taper will mean for you.


Home Maintenance Checklist for the First Year

Keeping folks informed about the home buying process start to finish is very important to me.  Whenever I find a story that may be of interest to you or improve your lives in any way, I will gladly repost it.  Some solid tips and advice!
 After buyers move in to their new home, they should be prepared for some home fixes to present themselves each season, says Rich Escallier, a handyman in Chicago. “If you can go six months without finding something that raises your blood pressure, you’re lucky,” Escallier says.

CBS MoneyWatch recently released a checklist of routine maintenance and small home repairs that home buyers should expect to do their first year to help avoid more costly problems from surfacing later on:

During move-in week: Turn on all major appliances and run them for a complete cycle. Even if the buyer already completed a home inspection, they should test again, experts say. After all, “if you have a minor leak under the dishwasher, that water leaks into the subfloor and you can’t see it,” says Daniel Cipriani with Kade Homes & Renovations in the Atlanta area. “But you’ll start to notice the hardwood floor buckling.”

45 days after move-in: Change the HVAC system filter and vacuum out the air intake vents. “Capturing dirt and dust with the right filter can go a long way toward preserving the new home appeal for a few years,” CBC MoneyWatch notes.

Six months after move-in: Inspect the exterior of your home in both the summer and fall to ensure rainwater is draining away from the home properly. Also, clean out clogged gutters and downspouts. “Landscaping should be negatively graded away from the house,” Cipriani says. “People don’t think it’s a big problem, but otherwise water pools against the foundation and doesn’t have anywhere to go.”

Every year: Inspect the home’s roof for any missing shingles and gaps around the chimneys. Also, check the ceilings inside the home for any water spots and indications of potential leaks.

Experts also note that every two years, home owners would be wise to hire a professional HVAC contractor to inspect their furnace, air conditioner, and hot water heater. A ruptured reservoir could potentially spill 40 gallons of water in a mere few hours so experts recommend home owners install a water alarm with sensors in the collection pan underneath the hot water heater. The sensors cost about $25 and can help save home owners from costly water damage.

Source: “Repairs Every New Homebuyer Should Make,” CBS MoneyWatch (Aug. 26, 2013) via http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2013/10/07/home-maintenance-checklist-for-first-year

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