Monthly Archives: August 2016

6 Ways to Lower Your Energy Bills This Summer


piggy bank surrounded by dollar bills used to pay energy billsIt seems like the temperatures aren’t the only thing that goes up over the summer; home energy bills also seem to skyrocket—and it’s normal to feel like there’s not a thing you can do about your rising bills.  The truth couldn’t be any more different; while you can can’t control the hot summer weather, there are steps you can take to lower your home energy bills this summer.

Use your ceiling fans.

Ceiling fans use less energy than your AC, so make sure you use them.  Set your fans to a counter-clockwise direction for maximum cooling; the cool air is directed down on you so you can cool down efficiently.

Install a thermostat.

Experts estimate that a programmable thermostat can lower your bills by more than 5% annually.  How does it do that?  A programmable thermostat allows you to raise the temperature when you are away and cools home when you are home.

Avoid the greenhouse effect.

Know the direction of your windows and use that knowledge to lower your bills.  Close your curtains and blinds during the day to keep your home from baking in the hot sun and trapping the heat in your home.

Inspect & improve the efficiency of your home.

If you own your home, make sure you have efficient windows that keep the cool in during the summer and the heat in during the winter.  When looking for a new home, ask your real estate agent questions about the major systems that impact your energy bills, such as about the age of the HVAC system and windows.  If you have any concerns about the energy efficiency of a property, talk to your real estate agent to find out their recommendations BEFORE you buy the property.

Enjoy your lower level.

Heat rises, but that doesn’t mean your energy bills have to.  Take advantage of the cooler lower levels of your home, such as your basement or first floor.  If you don’t want to turn on your AC or raise your energy bills, set up a sleeping area in the coolest areas of your home.

Tour homes with coolness in mind.

If you are looking for a new home, look for (or hire a real estate with the experience to look for) homes with newer windows and HVAC systems, homes that are designed to take advantage of cool breezes, and/or homes with cool lower levels that you can use to keep your temperature—and your energy bills—low.

6 Questions to Ask When Buying Your Fixer Upper


color swatches and plans for fixer upperNo one wants to buy a money pit; you know the home that looks like it needs a few cosmetic updates but actually needs one repair after another.  Or the home that you know needs major updates—so many updates that you won’t get a return on your investment no matter how long you live there.  To increase your chances of avoiding both of these scenarios, ask yourself these questions before you purchase your perfect “fixer upper.”

Can I qualify for a loan to purchase a fixer upper?

Not all real estate loans can help you purchase your fixer upper—and give you the cash for repairs and renovations.  Likewise, not all lenders offer loan products ideal for owners facing a list of projects; use these tips to find the lender perfect for your home purchase.

Is the location ideal?

Walls can be taken down.  Counter tops can be changed.  Flooring can be ripped up and replaced.  A home’s location is forever.  If you are buying your fixer upper as a long-term primary residence, look for a home in your preferred location.  If you think you might be selling the home within the next few years, search for a home in most buyers’ preferred location.  To do so, make sure you choose a real estate agent knowledgeable in the area you are searching in and inform them of your short-term or long-term intentions.  They can recommend locations that fit your short-term and long-term goals.

Do I have any homeowner association or historic requirements that could impact my plans?

Go into your fixer upper purchase with eyes wide open, as the saying goes.  Find out if renovation plans for your fixer upper need to be guided by any historic or homeowner association requirements.  Check with your real estate agent (that’s why it pays to hire an experienced agent) for these important details before you sign the dotted line—and before you find out your renovations are going to cost more or need to be redone to meet association guidelines.

Are there any major structural or system issues?

A major drain to any renovation budget is a surprise significant structural or system problem, such as a leaking roof or furnace that needs to be replaced.  To avoid those unpleasant surprises, hire a home inspector (or your contractor who is doing the work) to closely inspect your home and give you a report on the condition on major home systems like the HVAC, roof, foundation, structure, and plumbing.

What is the TOTAL cost to repair the home?

Even if the home only needs cosmetics (light fixtures, flooring, etc.), the costs can add up.  To make sure you make a good investment, know the budget needed for repairs and renovations.  As confident as you may be about that number, include a contingency fund beyond the estimate your contractor gives you.  Your contingency fund can cover any unexpected costs that may arise during construction.

What are the comparables (after the renovations)?

Comparables are properties that are similar to yours—with similar lot sizes, number of bedrooms, square footage, etc.  If you want to ensure that you don’t “overinvest” in a home for the neighborhood, look at the comparables to ensure that your total investment is in line with local sale prices.  A real estate agent knowledgeable in your area can assist you with comparables so you can make a sound investment—so you can avoid buying a “fixer upper” money pit.