6 Easy Tips to Cut Back on Utility Costs

With rising utility costs and overall living expenses, people everywhere are looking for creative ideas on how to reduce spending. One of these major areas that can have a significant impact on your bottom line long-term is with heating, cooling and electric bills.
Therefore, it is important to take strides whenever possible to help alleviate this financial burden. We have devised a checklist of 6 items for you to review and determine where you can start cutting back expenses and improving efficiency in your home:
1. Maintain your furnace and air conditioning units: This is one area that homeowners can tend to disregard. Yet, just like conducting routine repairs on your automobiles; likewise, it is just important to keep up with these items as well. And it’s only necessary once per year!
In fact, the amount of money you can save in the long run by avoiding more significant maintenance hassles or losing a unit well before it’s time makes this step well worth it. Additionally, you will maintain a higher efficiency and experience cleaner air too.
2. Standby power: Did you know that many items around your house such as your TV, entertainment system, Wii, computer, microwave, etc. are constantly drawing electricity even when they are not powered on?
In fact, items throughout your house such as these typically can account for approximately 10% of your total energy consumption! Simply by having certain items plugged into a power cord that can be switched off when not in use may have a significant impact.
3. Consider investing in a programmable thermostat: Installing one of these can be fairly inexpensive and is extremely useful for families that are always on the go! Simply set the meter to fluctuate a few degrees during key timeframes, and the savings will really start to add up.

4. Decrease your water heater’s temperature: By switching the temperature down to the lowest setting can impact your energy bills from 5-10%. You will still have plenty of hot water and can enjoy some extra cost savings as well.

5. Change you appliance settings: Many dishwashers, washers, and dryers have advanced settings that could also be increasing your utility bills. Consider turning off those extra bells and whistles such as the heated dry, automatic sensor settings, or wrinkle shield. Also, you can wash with cold water and only do larger loads when necessary.

6. Dimmer switches and motion detectors: Another tip is to replace your current fixtures or switches with these energy efficient alternatives. You will be able to consume far less energy and your family will only use light when necessary. Even if you do not install these items, get in the habit of shutting off the lights in any room that is not occupied.
By following these 6 simple steps, you will begin to save more money and consume fewer resources. There are so many other ways that you can improve energy efficiency as well, so we encourage you to take the time to research what may be beneficial for you. Be sure to bookmark our page for regular updates and other free real estate related tips. Also, please don’t hesitate to refer us to a friend or family member! Thanks for stopping by.

6 Ways to Improve Your Home’s Value

When you’re getting ready to sell your property, you want to be able to get the best price possible for your home. However, depending on how long you have lived at your current residence may require for you to invest some time and money into improvements.
Many sellers may become wary of taking the necessary time to help spruce up their home’s appearance due to the cost associated with upgrades. Yet, simple improvements to a property can make a big difference and won’t always cost thousands upon thousands of dollars to accomplish. Therefore, let’s some great ways to increase value and make the most impact:

  • Improve curb appeal: You can achieve this in various ways. First, you can simply fill in empty spaces and add some drought resistant plants or shrubs to your landscaping. Additionally, some flowers or potted plants near the front entrance can make a great first impression. Adding a tree for additional shade and patching up a worn out lawn can work miracles to draw buyers in.
  • Space & Cleanliness: There is nothing worse to a buyer than a cluttered or unclean home. Take the time to remove unnecessary items from your closets, clean out the garage or carport, remove clutter or toys from the living areas, and make your floors shine! Your home needs to be staged in such a way that your buyers can visualize themselves living there. The way that you decorate your walls and ceilings will also affect how your buyers perceive open space.
  • Aim for an earthy appearance: Many buyers appreciate materials and paint colors that tend to have more of an earthy appeal. Each room will be different, so be sure to choose wisely. Also, consider using ceramic tiles or wood flooring instead of carpets or linoleum. Tiles in both the bathroom and/or kitchen could also make a huge difference
  • Change outdate items: This can be as simple as replacing some old light and sink fixtures, doors, handles, or even windows. These items can greatly impact the price of a home and don’t always require huge amounts of investment. Additionally, maybe a new coat of paint or trim is all you need to fix up an otherwise “old” appearance.
  • Ask an expert: Whether you need advice on decorating, how to improve energy efficiency, or would like to find some items that could use a little “TLC”, it could be worth a small one time investment to get another opinion. This is a way to proactively make changes before you even consider listing your home. And you may be able to even avoid bigger problems that could arise down the road.
  • Bathrooms & kitchen: Finally, if you are able to make the extra investment, two areas that have the biggest impact on price are your bathrooms and kitchen. Whether this requires replacing the floors, sinks, tubs, fixtures or appliances, there are many ways that you can astronomically boost your home’s appeal by making improvements to these two key areas.

We hope that these tips prove to be helpful when the time comes for you to sell your home. If you would like to receive an expert opinion from an experienced Realtor on how you can command top dollar for your property, be sure to contact us today. Simply use our information provided above to schedule an in home consultation today!

Read This Before Buying Homeowner’s Insurance

In order to guard yourself from risk and liability, it is essential to invest in a homeowner’s insurance policy that will give you the protection you need. Although such policies are not a requirement by law, any mortgage company will require this as a stipulation to receiving your next home loan.

Types of Policies

Several types of plans are available that include various optional riders dependent on your particular needs. There are specific policies for old homes, mobile homes, condos, and anything from basic protection to high liability coverage. However, a majority of owners will invest in something know as an HO-3 policy, because it offers protection for both the dwelling as well as your contents that are available in your home.
For example, the HO-3 policy will guard the outside of your property from any of the open perils (i.e. threats or dangers) to your home and also named perils for your contents. However, there will be a list of specific issues that the policy will not protect you from (such as earthquakes or water damage). Uncovered perils may be added at an additional cost.
On the other hand, others may be interested in reviewing the options available with the newer HO-5 policy. This coverage takes the HO-3 a step further by providing open peril policies for both the home and also contents. So essentially you would be protected for more items within your house, without having to prove that damage occurred under one of the named perils.

Other Important Factors

Next, there are liability limits. In the event that damage would occur, this amount would provide the coverage necessary to help restore your home. However, please keep in mind that this is not the same thing as the home’s actual value. There are other things that you need to consider such as the land, possessions, living expenses (if you need to rebuild), or other structures that are located on your property.
Therefore, take the time to assess what type of limit you would need to help cover the total loss in the event of a major catastrophe. Also, be sure to revisit your policy from time to time as the property appreciates, and/or you consider making changes and additions to the property.
Finally, it’s important to review the differences between actual cash value and replacement costs. For those who have a lot of contents that hold a high value, it may be better to consider replacement cost coverage, which could be worth the added price. This will provide a brand new replacement for all covered contents.
On the other hand, for people who are less concerned with replacing everything at market value with comparable items, may want to consider actual cash value protection for household items which will take into account depreciation.
Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg when considering a homeowner’s policy. Other things that can be considered include:

  • Jewelry Coverage
  • Personal Articles Coverage
  • Umbrella Coverage
  • or Liability Claims Protection

Therefore, take the time to schedule an appointment with a qualified agent to discuss your needs and review what else may be available. Please contact us now for referrals and to obtain more information on how you can get started.

Get The Best Price On Your Next Home Purchase!

One of the most important aspects to buying a home is to ensure that you purchase for a fair price. Since there are certain key steps that you must follow in order to make a sound decision, it pays to have a knowledgeable Realtor on your side who will be able to help obtain the best and most realistic asking price for a property.

Determining Market Comparables

For example, one of the first ways that your agent will discover the price of a home is by researching local market comparables. In most cases, they will be able to bring up a list of properties sold over the last 6 months within a 1 mile radius. Properties should also not be bigger than 20% of the subject size.
Additional features to consider would be the neighborhood each home resides in, structural differences, bedrooms and bathrooms, overall condition and other amenities such as a pool, a/c, or garage. Other factors, such as if a particular home sold for much lower due to foreclosure is something your agent can uncover as well.

Houses That Have Not Sold

Next, many homes could be on the MLS for 6 months or longer without ever selling. Others that are comparable could have been taken off the market after not getting enough offers or being listed for too high. This is valuable information, because you may be able to get a particular property for a substantial discount or it may not even be worth pursuing.

Neighborhood Reputation & Appreciation

When it comes to buying a house, this is one of the most important reasons to work with a Realtor. Since your agent will have a familiarity with various local market trends and statistics, you will be able to learn what makes a particular neighborhood desirable and also which areas to avoid.
A lot of things can affect a home’s value such as the school district, crime levels, or even other properties located nearby (such as those burnt in a fire or properties that were a bank sale). In fact, sometimes these factors can even differ from block to block!
Your agent will also help you to assess the appreciation rates for various neighborhoods and future development plans that could affect home prices, so that you can get a decent indication of what to expect down the road. This can be extremely valuable information dependent on how long you plan to live at the said property and the length of time the home may need to sit on the market.

Appraisals & Inspections

After you place an offer on a property, you will have the opportunity to get an appraisal and home inspection as further due diligence. Even with an agent, there are sometimes issues that may arise with a property that could affect the home’s value that you were not even aware of.
Some of these problems could include structural issues, plumbing or electrical, termites or insects, mold or even water damage to name a few. Obviously many of these things could impact the price significantly and would either have to be fixed by the seller or renegotiated to get a fair price.
In conclusion, there are a lot of areas to consider when choosing a home and getting a fair price on a property. Since this is one of the biggest purchases you will ever make, it is crucial that you protect your interests and ensure that you are getting the best deal possible.
In order to get started researching homes in our local area, contact us right away using the information located above. We look forward to serving you as you search for your next future home!

3 Things To Consider Before Listing As FSBO

If you’re looking to sell your home in the near future, you may feel inclined to list it as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) before working with a Realtor. For many, this is considered one good way to cut back on costs and possibly earn a little more profit on the sale.
However, there are certain aspects you may want to consider before going down this path. Statistically, over 80% of FSBO’s end up being listed with a Realtor at some point. Therefore, it pays to take the time to fully assess whether or not this is the right plan of action for you.

Properly Marketing Your Property

First of all, listing a home for sale can be a very time consuming and difficult process. Unfortunately, this typically is not as easy as posting a sign in the yard and setting up a classified ad in the local newspaper. There is certainly a lot more than meets the eye.
For instance, many FSBO websites will tout that you can obtain a wide exposure to buyers nationally, but this pales in comparison to the results that you can expect from big named sites like Realtor.com, which only agents can post to.
Next, your agent will have a lot of expertise with implementing online real estate marketing strategies that will gain you a ton of locally targeted searches. And in fact, nearly 90% of all searches for real estate related inquiries start online.
Realtors will also have a strong network of both agents and buyers that they work with on a regular basis. This is a business where it pays to network. More contacts equals greater exposure.

Asking Price & Showings

For starters, a lot of FSBO’s will start at the wrong asking price. This is by far one of the most important factors that goes into marketing your home, so you want to do this properly off the bat. But, without being fully invested in your local market and understanding the current trends, it can be difficult to price the home accurately.
As alluded to in section one, selling a home can be a lot of work. Most individuals these days have to juggle a full time job, family obligations, recreational activities, household chores, etc. Where do you find the time for fully investing into the sale as well?
When the opportunity would arise for interested parties to view your property, you would need to schedule individual showings, open houses, inspectors, appraisers, etc., while also trying to stage and maintain your property’s appearance. Miss out on a good opportunity for matching schedules and you can quickly lose interest.

Negotiations & Contracts

If you get to the point where you negotiate with a buyer, it is much more difficult to handle this aspect without a qualified agent. Selling your home can be a very emotional undertaking, so it is easier to set unrealistic expectations, or to even concede on more than necessary when you don’t have a 3rd party buffer.
During most real estate transactions, both the buyer and seller will typically have a set of concessions and contingencies. For a majority of buyers, they will expect to have some type of a financing, inspection and/or termite contingency.
This is set up for their protection, in order to complete their due diligence on the home before moving forward to closing. If other issues are found, this may even been grounds for further negotiation or eventually walking away from the deal.
Or you will be expected to lower the price, fix the issue or offer a concession on something else in order to alleviate the problem. Likewise, you want to ensure that the buyer is not overstepping their boundaries or that you are pressured into giving away more than is reasonable.
In summary, it’s worth taking the time to carefully consider these 3 areas before making any final decisions. If you still decide to take the FSBO route, we sincerely wish you great success. Also, please feel free to share our information with a friend and to bookmark our page for future reference as well!

Investing in Real Estate vs. Stocks

When it comes to investing in land/real estate or stocks, there is no one size fits all. Although both vehicles have proven over the long run to provide excellent returns when handled properly, each person will have their own unique goals, risk tolerance, and capital that they are willing to spend.
Additionally, this is where a financial planning specialist may offer useful insights as well. You may have heard the advice to not put your eggs all in one basket. Therefore, it may even be beneficial to consider pursuing both forms of investments to better leverage your profits.
So our goal is to offer an overview of both sides of the coin in order for you to start forming your own opinion. All in all, it is most important that you proactively take your financial future into your own hands and only pursue the path that you feel will be the best for you and your family.

Benefits of Investing in Land or Real Estate

Many very successful people started out their investing careers in real estate. Plus regardless of what happens in the economy, it is factual that people will always need a place to live. Homes very rarely decrease in value when they are well maintained and purchased correctly.
In addition, land can be an extremely lucrative investment since the world’s population continues to increase, and as a result the demand for land used by residential, commercial and retail entities is always on the rise as well.
With real estate you are offered something that is tangible and can be easier to calculate your due diligence. In other words, after reviewing the property specs with appraisers and inspectors, you have a fairly good idea of what you are getting into.

Downside of Real Estate Investments

First of all, there is typically a lot more time and energy invested in managing your investments. Whether you are renting your property out to tenants or keeping your lots clean and free of debris and coding violations, this is something you will be much more actively involved in.
Next, real estate always has some sort of cost involved. Regardless of what you decide to do with your properties, you will still be responsible for taxes, insurance, utilities, repairs/maintenance and possible a host of other expenses. Plus you can end up overspending and losing your shirt.
Finally, you have to have the proper investment strategy in place. Although real estate has historically been a strong hedge against inflation, you always need to consider your own local trends so you can properly leverage your investments to realize a strong ROI.

Benefits of Investing in Stocks

Unlike real estate, this is an investment that can be essentially placed on autopilot. Aside from keeping an eye on your portfolio for rises and dips, you can leave the management and operation of each entity up to the professional staff. You own a piece of each company without having to work for it.
Even with the Great Depression and other scares that we have witnessed over the last century, stocks have historically proven to be the best return on investment for those who hold on through the tough times and invest their returns properly.
Additionally, it typically doesn’t take a huge upfront investment to get involved in the market, and this is very beneficial for those who don’t have a lot of cash on hand. As long as you choose the right companies, earnings will continue to increase. Selling your stocks is also infinitely easier than listing a property or land for sale as well.

Downside of Stocks

On the other hand, the greatest benefits of stocks can sometimes be the most detrimental weaknesses. For example, though you do not need to actively invest sweat into each company, you are also leaving your finances in the hands of a management team that dictates how things operate.
Therefore, if business takes a nosedive so do your stocks. Some will recover while others may crash and burn. Also, this can be a very emotional game. Especially for those who are getting closer to retirement, the couple scares that we have witnessed in the last decade caused many people to pull out at huge losses.
Finally, stocks can be a lot more unpredictable, especially if you are jumping on the bandwagon of rising trends or promising starter companies. Though some may end up being a homerun, you are always listening to the speculations of gurus or your own gut feeling. Alternatively, real estate can typically be more accurately measured.
In conclusion, it important that you take the time to assess the investment opportunities that are available to you before making any decisions. It is important to look out for your financial future and well being, and we’re here to support you along the way.
If you need more information about how you can get started investing in real estate or land, and want to discover the options available in our local area, take the time to contact us today. We look forward to doing business with you!

Make A Wise Real Estate Purchase

In this video we explore some tips for making a wise real estate purchase.

  • Save For A Big Down Payment
  • Don’t Overextend Yourself
  • Consider the Work Involved
  • Really Shop Around

4 Keys To Saving For Your Future Home

In this video, we will explore some things to consider when you’re getting ready to save for your next home purchase.

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