Category : Financial Tips

Real Estate Investment: Top 3 Perks

Imagine this scenario: the bills are paid, the groceries are safely tucked away in the fridge, the car is in good order, and you find yourself with a tidy sum that you’d like to save for a rainy day. But rather than place that money in a typical 401k contribution or deposit in a savings account, why not put your money into something real? Enter real estate investment, a surprisingly-profitable method of securing your funds for the future that’s both efficient and fun! Whether you’re a long-time investor or just getting started, let the experts at RE/MAX Plus use our decades of experience to show you why real estate investment is right for you!

  • Cash flow

 Perhaps THE biggest perk to real estate investment is the steady stream of income that comes from renting out your property. Savvy real estate owners reap a monthly profit even after any maintenance and mortgage fees are paid. The income itself is often much more stable and predictable than playing with personal portfolios and the constant rise-and-fall of the stock market. With the profit received from real estate, many property owners reinvest into making improvements and repairs to their own home or use that income to further their private investments elsewhere. Bottom line: it’s your money, you decide!

  • Tangible Assets

Whether short or long-term investment is your goal, owning real estate gets its best value from being a tangible asset. This means that unlike stocks, CD’s, and other investment opportunities, your actions as the owner can have a direct influence on just how much your property is worth. Putting a new roof on a home or upgrading a kitchen/bathroom can add thousands of dollars to the property value. Re-tenanting a building or adding a secondary service such as in-house laundry hookups can justify an increase in rental charges and improve income performance. Compared to other investments, you have a greater degree of control over performance and value than any other type of investment.


  • Taxes, Inflation Hedges, and Equity

Besides the income and control gained as a real estate investor, the perks of tax breaks, inflation hedging, and general equity are extremely valuable. The cash flow you receive from rental charges is not subject to a self-employment tax, mortgage interest, or property taxes; investment properties are all considered write-offs. Plus, with a fixed-rate mortgage, monthly payments remain the same even as inflation increases, protecting your investment’s value. Finally, as the mortgage is paid off, equity is created, which can be used as collateral to fund your retirement, buy another property or even pay for college tuition! The benefits are endless!

As a first-time real estate buyer, you probably have no idea how the overall purchasing process works or how to make sure you’re making a smart decision to purchase. And you’ll probably be very surprised to learn how much work it really is just to buy a home. To get you started in the right direction, and this is just a start, here are a few tips that you should consider.

Get lender-qualified and find a good real estate agent

To start off, you should get qualified by a lender to see what price range you can realistically afford and interview some real estate agents to find the right person to represent you in your transaction.

Once you’re qualified and have your price range estimate in hand, you’ll be able to spend your time shopping in neighborhoods that you can afford. But remember: Just because the bank says you can qualify for a certain amount, that doesn’t mean you should spend that amount. Make sure you can actually afford the monthly payment, along with all your other bills.

For real estate sales professionals, you should get referrals for a full-time agent or broker who sells at least five or more properties per year and is well-educated on the process and location where you plan to live. You should call references, check that the agent’s state sales license is up to date and interview them to make sure you’ll be comfortable working with them.

Make sure you plan to be a long-term owner

Once you know your price range and have looked at some properties, it’s time to make sure that you believe you can find a property that you will own for a minimum of five years. If your price range doesn’t match where you want to live, you’d be better off staying a renter and saving some additional money until you can afford where you want to live. This is because an owner really doesn’t earn any equity, on average, in a property for at least five years. That’s the general breakeven point, and you really need to shoot for longer than that as an ownership strategy. The truth is, long-term real estate ownership can be a great way to earn wealth, but short-term ownership usually will diminish your wealth.

Educate yourself

Buying property is probably the most complex, riskiest and expensive thing you will ever do. Do your homework: Talk to real estate owners, go to first-time buyer seminars, check out online material and read some books to learn what to avoid in the buying process. The more you educate yourself, the better the chances that when things go wrong — and they will go wrong — they will only be minor issues, not major headaches.

Find a nice affordable property

The real gems in real estate are the nice, decent shape, moderately priced, boring houses, town homes and condominiums that are within your budget. Most buyers stretch to purchase the most expensive property they can afford. What if you lose your job? How about saving some of your money for retirement? You want your home to be an asset you can afford, not a liability that leaves you with no additional funds over the cost of homeownership. Also, skip the fixers, prize properties or anything that sounds too good to be true: Those always end up having issues, and owners realize, after the fact, that the deal they thought they were getting really was just too good to be true!

Take your time

Realistically it should take you six months or longer to buy a nice quality property that will add to your long-term wealth. Make sure you have a full understanding of what the marketplace has to offer in your price range and that you know what you’re doing.

Those are a few tips to get you started in the right direction. Real estate is buyer beware, so try to make sure you’re one of the buyers who is “aware” of how to make quality wealth-building real estate decisions. Down the road you’ll pat yourself on the back when things work out well.


Leonard Baron is America’s Real Estate Professor®. His unbiased, neutral and inexpensive “Real Estate Ownership, Investment and Due Diligence 101” textbook teaches potential real estate buyers how to make smart and safe purchase decisions. He is a San Diego State University Lecturer, blogs at and loves kicking the tires of a good piece of dirt! More at

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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( Roughly 2.3 million homes are in the shadow market, according to a report by data and analytics firm CoreLogic, which marks a considerable drop from where the inventory of these properties stood a year earlier.

The current supply of pending foreclosures equates to a roughly six-month supply, the report indicates. The level of these properties in July 2011 was 2.6 million units.

One million of the 2.3 million shadow inventory units are seriously delinquent, according to the report. Additionally, roughly 900,000 of the homes are in some stage of foreclosure, while the remaining 345,000 are real estate-owned.

“Broadly speaking, the shadow inventory continued to shrink in July,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “The reduction is being driven by a variety of resolution approaches. This is yet another hopeful sign that the housing market is slowly healing.”

CoreLogic chief economist Mark Fleming noted that the dip in shadow inventory is just another factor that shows the country’s housing crisis is improving, though he stated some areas of the United States are still dealing with foreclosure-related issues.

“The decline in shadow inventory has recently moderated reflecting the lower outflow of distressed sales over the past year,” said Fleming. “While a lower outflow of distressed sales helps alleviate downward home price pressure, long foreclosure timelines in some parts of the country causes these pools of shadow inventory to remain in limbo for an extended period of time.”

In the three-month period from April to July, the report shows that certain states – mostly those located in the northeast – saw the biggest decreases in seriously delinquent mortgages. These included Arizona, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maine.

Meanwhile, the states with the highest number of distressed properties included some states that have been at the forefront of the foreclosure crisis, including California, Florida and New Jersey.

Real estate experts may find this data to be indication that borrowers nationwide are better handling their home loans this year. A number of homeowners have taken part in government-sponsored programs, including the Home Affordable Refinance Program, to reduce monthly payments or terms of their loans.

This post originally appeared on

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

Your credit report represents how well you manage your financial responsibilities. The good news is that your negative information drops off over time but the positive information remains. Building a strong and consistent history of responsibly using credit is the foundation to building a great credit profile. Although it’s relatively easy to gain access to new credit such as credit cards, there are many best practices to use and common traps to avoid. Here are a few easy tips for effectively building your credit history.

Applying for new credit

  • Don’t apply every time you see an offer. Getting too much credit too quickly can hurt your credit profile.
  • Don’t build your credit profile through trial and error. Consult an expert such as a credit coach to develop a plan based on your short- and long-term needs.
  • Print clearly when applying for credit. If your application information is entered inaccurately it can create variations of reported information on your credit report.
  • Consistently use your complete name without any variations. Providing complete, accurate and consistent identification on your credit applications helps set up your credit history correctly from the beginning. It also minimizes the chance that your credit file will be incomplete or mixed with another consumer’s file.
Once you have credit
  • Pay your bills on time. Most lenders look at the most recent information on a report. So if you’ve paid your accounts on time for the last two to three years, the lender may weigh that more heavily than a series of late payments from five years ago.
  • Set up a budget, and follow it. This is so much easier said than done! A credit coach can help provide you guidance on creating and managing a budget based on current income and debt as well as your short- and long-term credit needs. In the age of self-help and empowerment, managing your finances should top your list. The key is not to over-extend yourself.
  • Develop and follow a plan for the type of credit you have, how you use it, and the type of credit you may need in the near future.
  • Review your credit report periodically throughout each year.
    • At least 60 to 90 days before making a major purchase (such as a home, car or large household goods) you should prepare by reviewing your credit profile to help ensure it is optimized.
    • Continual evaluation of your credit profile is necessary to ensure you are not paying unnecessary interest expenses (i.e., you could qualify for lower rates and better terms). The average homeowners spend an estimated $300,000 in their lifetimes on unnecessary interest expenses.
    • Ensure no fraudulent or erroneous activity has occurred related to credit profile. An estimated one in eleven families was a victim of identity theft last year.
Getting help

A personal credit coach can be incredibly valuable whether you understand credit or not. Having a credit coach is similar to an asset manager except it’s for your liabilities. A coach will work closely with you to explain your credit profile, provide you guidance with ways you can more effectively manage it, and can help you evaluate it on an ongoing basis. Changes continually occur for all of us. Jobs change, unforeseen expenses happen and so on. If you begin to fall behind on your payments.

  • Contact your lenders. Ignoring the situation will only add to your problems. Many lenders will work with you to set up a different payment schedule or interest rate. It never hurts to ask.
  • Pay your bills when they’re due. If you have an overdue bill, unpaid debt, tax lien or judgment, pay it off. You may find it easier to pay one affordable consolidation loan rather than several separate accounts. Your credit coach can help identify what options may be available to you.
  • Stop using credit, if possible, until your finances are under control. Consider going to cash purchases only based on your budget. This will STOP the financial bleeding while you pull your credit management plan back into place.
  • Look to professionals like the ApprovalGUARD Service. Your credit coach is experienced in explaining your credit and indentifying ways to optimize and manage debt.
  • AVOID credit repair agencies. “If it’s too good to be true then it often is!” Most credit repair agencies typically charge you high prices to artificially “fix” your credit. This unfortunately often amounts to “band aid” work that manipulates loopholes in the system and often results in the credit issue returning to your credit report within months after it was supposedly fixed. If you have inaccurate information on your report, your ApprovalGUARD credit coach can help you identify it and specifically provide you with the proper methods for getting it addressed.

It’s important to note that The Credit Repair Organization Act is a federal law that prohibits credit repair clinics from taking a consumer’s money until they have fully completed the services they promised. It also requires such firms to provide consumers with a written contract stating all the services to be provided and the terms and conditions of payment. Consumers also have three days to withdraw from the contract.

The ApprovalGUARD Service – Is the first and only service of its kind. Each ApprovalGUARD customer is assigned a personal credit coach to help them understand, evaluate and optimize their credit and debt profiles. The ApprovalGUARD Service additionally provides each Full Service customer with credit reports, credit scores, continual informative credit tips and education, and tools to more effectively manage and analyze their credit and debt profiles. Go to and use the promotion code: REMAX1 for your free 30 day, no obligation trial.

Buying your first home with your partner/spouse.

Consider these tips when buying your first home together:

1. Browse together and often.
When buying your first home, it’s almost impossible to spend too much time browsing together. Visit as many open houses and home tours as possible. Pore over listings on the internet. Figure out what each of you can and can’t live without in your next home.

It’s vital to discuss your preferences often. Try this exercise: Pick a room in your future home and separately make a list of your “must-haves” for that room. Compare your lists and talk about the similarities and differences. Figure out what compromises can be made so that you’ll both be satisfied homebuyers.

Most importantly: Be honest. Don’t hide your true feelings and preferences. If you’ve changed your mind about wanting a huge backyard, say so. Most homebuyers these days stay in their homes for nine years. You want those nine years to be comfortable and enjoyable, right?

2. Consider credit issues for BOTH of you.
Your bills are always paid on time. Your credit score soars in the upper echelon. How did you fall in love with someone with bad credit?

All VA loan borrowers and co-borrowers will be under close credit scrutiny by a lender. Credit scores for both borrowers have to measure up to the 620 minimum. Income, employment and debts for all borrowers will be analyzed.

If your spouse lags far behind you in creditworthiness, you might consider obtaining a loan in your name alone. This action involves some legal consequences that vary from state to state, so make sure to get a real estate attorney’s advice before proceeding.

3. Don’t overspend.
Buying your first home with your partner/spouse can be the most thrilling time of your life. You picture dogs rambling in your first backyard and kids pedaling bikes down the driveway.

Somewhere along the line, budgeting tumbles to the bottom of the priority list.

Don’t let a home bankrupt your family. Determine the mortgage payment that you can comfortably make each month and stick to that figure. Keep in mind that as a homeowner, you’re responsible for repairs and maintenance, which can also be costly. Maintain a reserve fund for repairs and keep a few months of mortgage payments stashed away in case of emergency.

4. Have fun!
If you and your spouse are not shopaholics by nature, you may need a little motivation to get your house hunt started. Pack a picnic basket full of goodies to enjoy during a day of house tours. Splurge on a dark chocolate mocha for your next meeting with your agent. Post pictures of your home tours online and ask your friends and family for feedback. Enjoying your time together is key to both a successful relationship and a successful house hunt!

Visit our website to start your home search today: 

What did you neglect to do for your real estate in 2011? What will that cost you in 2012?

As 2011 draws to a close, what opportunities to accelerate appreciation have you overlooked?

  • Which simple value preservers have you ignored?
  • How many costs of ownership have you missed opportunities to reduce?
  • Which value builders have you ignored?
  • Which advantages of ownership have you neglected?

Is your home a “thing” to look after, or a financial partner in your future? Either way there is maintenance and property management to be done on many levels every season, every year. Why not make sure your care-taking activities consciously also build value?

How many of the following value-making strategies did you apply to your real estate this year to achieve cost saving and equity building?

  • The last leaves have fallen…probably into your eaves troughs. Did you have them cleaned out once the trees were barer? Depending on how many trees surround your home, you may need to clean the eaves troughs two or three times a year to keep rain water and melting snow flowing off your roof and away from outer walls and the basement of your home. Reduce the labour and cost of cleaning by installing screens across gutters that block debris accumulation. Failure to act will cause damage to the gutters, roof damage, damaging interior leaks, and a wet basement. Rotting leaf litter can also attract animals and end up smelling bad. The unsightly damage down-values curb appeal, too. What will all that cost in 2012, or later, just because eaves troughs are ignored now?
  • Snow is part of winter…causing ice dams on your roof which damage the roof and inside, too. If there is not sufficient insulation and ventilation in the attic to keep the attic and roof cold, escaping warm air will start a chain reaction that means unnecessary expense and a prematurely-aged roof. Interior heat loss (which is also financial loss) melts snow on the roof and the melt water runs down to re-freeze when it hits snow or ice in the gutters. This repeated action causes a dam of ice which pools water, so it seeps up under shingles and into the home to damage ceilings, walls, and furnishings. Eventually, rot sets in and you’ve got structural problems. Are you sure you have enough insulation in the attic and great ventilation? If insulation’s been there a while, it may have been damaged by contractors or animals. Have roof vents and exhaust vents from fans been properly installed, or are they piping warm moist air into the attic to grow mould? Government energy grants may shoulder some of the cost, but what will it cost if you ignore the threat? For more on ice dams, causes, and solutions: Click Here
  • Winter is garden planning time…How did you improve curb appeal this summer? Many homes don’t sell because buyers are not won at the street. If they won’t go in, they won’t buy. Create the most interesting, low-maintenance garden on the block and you’ll have a house that wins attention even before you decide to sell. Make that a “green” low-water landscape and you’ll save time and money in the process.
  • Spring is property tax time…Did you contest your assessment and have the assessed value of your property lowered? Keep pushing that value down and you’ll keep property taxes in check as much as possible. The more loonies you keep in your pocket, the richer you are.
  • Summer is sale time…furnace sales, that is. Make major purchases in the off season and you’ll get a great price and the full attention of the best installers. In peak months, you’re overpaying for overworked contractors who are too rushed to do a thorough job, just show up. Government grants and manufacturer specials for replacement of furnaces and heat/cooling systems are common, particularly at the beginning and end of season. Updating systems adds resale value and saves on monthly costs.
  • Holiday season is payback time…Shop locally and you enhance the value of your neighbourhood, and stave off big-box and chain stores which homogenize areas. Buy your gifts from local artist studios and shops and you’ll have unique presents that keep value in the neighbourhood. Too often the very shops and small food stores that first draw home buyers to an area are ignored once they’re residents in favour of cheap, high-volume national and international chains. Shop in 2011 and start 2012 by revisiting local shops and businesses so their year starts strong, and you’ll keep future home buyers envious of those who live in your neighborhood.
  • Action beats “if only I’d”…If you believe 2012 will bring a slow down or stall to your neighbourhood real estate market, did you seriously consider the advantage of selling in the stronger 2011 market? You could rent for a while and then buy in the softer real estate market. Your home is only worth what someone will pay for it, not should pay in your opinion. Owners who list with prices from the last strong market, lose valuable credibility with buyers and, therefore, may net less in a sale. Investing time to crunch numbers and seriously consider all your options each year, is the best way to be sure you’re making the most of your equity. Aim to never put yourself in an “if only I’d” situation, and you’ll know real estate is your financial partner in building the future of your choice.Many real estate owners count on passive appreciation and expect their real estate to automatically increase in value. Waves of real estate booms driven by boomers moving from first house to megahome to recreational property to deluxe condo, through various stages of life, have driven real estate values to dizzying heights and made significant annual price increases seem the norm. What will drive value increases in the future? How much can owners count on passive appreciation to build future value?

    Real estate will increase in value under some circumstances, but not automatic, not for every property. Sometimes values decline. In strong real estate markets and preferred locations, property values can steadily increase, but not equally for all properties in every neighbourhood. When markets slow, only preferred locations may keep increasing in value, or at least hold their own. Unless owners step in and deliberately preserve equity, maintain equity, and build value by treating their real estate as a financial partner in their future, many owners may not see as dramatic appreciation in the future as they have experienced in past decades.

    The future starts now for real estate. By the time future patterns become present realities, it is too late to make the most of those real esate opportunities. Look ahead with your real estate. Build value as you go to retain the flexibility to be ready to act on opportunity. Take full advantage of the investment you love to live in. Make 2012 the year you moved beyond being a caretaker.

Published: December 27, 2011

Use of this article without permission is a violation of federal copyright laws.

Decorating on a Dime

A tight budget doesn’t have to mean a lack of style! Your home can still be an up-to-date showpiece. You just have to know where to shop!

The first trick is to shop the sales! Retailers are fighting hard these days to gain your business. They have one-day sales, weekly clearance, and lots of coupons offered online.

Be sure to do a little research before heading out to the stores. You may find that certain retailers have coupons or better deals. Why pay more for the same thing?

Decorating on a budget can mean being willing to compromise slightly on what items you buy. You may love the upholstery fabric you saw in Traditional Home magazine, but at $200 a yard it is out of reach of many homeowners.

Instead, try your local fabric hubs, such as Hobby Lobby. You may not find the exact same pattern, but chances are you’ll find a print that is similar and will give the same feel to your room.

Garage, yard, and estate sales are also prime decorator finding grounds. You never know what treasures will pop up! From antiques and handmade pieces to up-to-date styles, these sales are a smorgasbord of decor.

The main issue, however, is to be selective. It is easy to become sidetracked and buy items that don’t really work for what your overall design is. Then you end up with more junk to store at your own house.

If your purse strings are pulled even tighter, then it’s time to go to Plan B. There are a few options. Some of your other friends may be ready for a change. They may have curtains, candle holders, framed art, or throw pillows they’d love to trade for something new. Set up a swap meet for friends and share your stuff!

Another free option is reusing. What is reusing? You probably have curtains and decorative items all around your home. You might even have items you’ve put into storage. Now is a great time to pull items from the various rooms you want to decorate and see if any of the pieces you already possess could make a new statement in a new place.

Finally, don’t be afraid to do-it-yourself. Many local home home improvement stores offer classes and brochures on how to tile, texture paint, and upgrade other areas of your home. You can find tutorials in books and online for how to build simple pieces of furniture, like window seats and built-in shelving.

The same goes for homemade curtains, roman shades, throw pillows, and cushions. You can do it! Have confidence in your abilities. These do-it-yourself projects can be real money savers.

Shopping on a budget doesn’t have to be boring. You can make your home just as beautiful and cozy as the next person. Have fun with it!

While the Federal Reserve has promised to keep rates “low” until 2013, it is clear to many experts that the current historical lows we are experiencing will not last.

According to the latest projections from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), interest rates should gradually rise out of historic lows as we move through 2012.

This isn’t the most welcome news for a housing market that has continued to falter and a credit market that already has tightened lending standards

The NAR reports that current surveys reflect the tight credit conditions. They report that recent buyers are staying well within their means, with higher incomes and higher downpayments.

Richard Peach, Senior Vice President at the Federal Reserve Board of New York, who said the economy is under-performing, reports, “Nearly two-and-a-half years since the end of ‘the great recession,’ the economy continues to operate well below its potential. Among the significant structural impediments are the legacy of the housing boom and bust, and fiscal contrition at the state and local level.”

Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors®, said home sales should be stronger. “Tight mortgage credit conditions have been holding back home buyers all year, and consumer confidence has been shaky recently,” he said. “Nonetheless, there is a sizable pent-up demand based on population growth, employment levels and a doubling-up phenomenon that can’t continue indefinitely. This demand could quickly stimulate the market when conditions improve.”

It is this improving jobs markets that many analysts are waiting for. Yun projects the GDP will grow 1.8 percent this year and 2.2 percent in 2012. The unemployment rate should decline, albeit modestly, to around 8.7 percent by the end of 2012.

Around this same time, experts expect that “mortgage interest rates should gradually rise from recent record lows and reach 4.5 percent by the middle of 2012.”

This is still an incredibly low rate and many experts feel that housing market, while still struggling, will improve throughout next year and after. In fact, the NAR expects new home sales to reach 372,000 next year. Existing home sales could fare just as well, rising 4 to 5 percent in 2012.

“Housing affordability conditions, based on the relationship between median home prices, mortgage interest rates, and median family income, have been at a record high this year,” Yun said. “Very favorable affordability conditions will dominate next year as well, which will probably be the second best year on record dating back to 1970. Our hope is that credit restrictions will ease and allow more home buyers to take advantage of current opportunities.”

The bottom line is that the housing market should improve over the next year and along with that improvement will come higher interest rates. Buyers interested in making a move should take heed of today’s historically low rates and high levels of affordability.

Written by Carla Hill

What with the millions of former homeowners sitting around twiddling their thumbs following foreclosure or a short sale, many of them might be wondering how soon they will be able to get back into the real estate business.

One article that recently caught our attention in the New York Times attempted to answer that question, coming to the conclusion that there are all kinds of conditions to consider following what it terms a “significant derogatory event”, i.e. foreclosure.

Wondering if you’ll ever be able to buy again? Courtesy of Opinion Maker

One thing that the New York Times noted was that those whose homes were foreclosed will most likely face a much more substantial wait than those who got out early with a short sale.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stipulate that persons who had their homes foreclosed must wait a minimum of three years before being able to apply for credit with them again, while those who went for a short sale only need to wait two years. There can be extenuating circumstances however, and if borrowers are able to show how they were extremely unfortunate, and if they had a good financial track record in the past, they may be able to shorten the time they have to wait.

On the flip side however, those who cannot prove any misfortune may well face an even longer wait than the minimum three years – with some being forced to wait as many as seven years, or four years if they went bankrupt.

Those who take out a loan that is covered by the Federal Housing Administration, and have a perfect credit record after borrowing the money, will also be eligible to buy again three years after a foreclosure, or just two years following a declaration of bankruptcy.

Avoid foreclosure through a short sale and you can get back on the property ladder more quickly, say Fannie Mae.

For those previous homeowners who were forced into a short sale, they will be able to secure a new FHA loan after three years, in most cases. As always, there are exceptions to this rule. The three year stipulation is supposed to be for borrowers who were defaulting on their homes at the time they initiated a short sale. For those borrowers who always managed to stay above water, that is, keep up with their payments, one year before they decided to short sale, they may actually be able to take out a new FHA loan right away.

The trick it seems, if you want to get back on the property ladder as soon as you can, is to steer clear of foreclosing, says Fannie Mae’s Andrew Wilson. “Avoiding foreclosure means you become eligible again in a much shorter time,” he told the New York Times.

If you would like to speak to a real estate professional regarding your current housing situation, please call us at (585) 279-8200.

Keeping Warm this Winter

Heating expenses have skyrocketed in the past few years and many homeowners are finding it hard to make ends meet while keeping toasty. Here are some simple tips you can try in order to keep warm and on budget.

First, consider your options when it comes to what method of heating you use. Gas, both natural and propane, can easily break the bank when temperatures dip.

Many homeowners are switching to energy efficient infrared heaters that can be moved from room to room as needed. These homeowners swear by these small units and note that their heating bills dropped dramatically after starting their use.

If there are multiple electric companies offering services to your area be sure to check and see who has the cheapest rates. You’d be surprised how much their charges can vary!

Next, do you have the option to burn wood? Many homes come equipped with wood-burning fireplaces and wood stoves. With the proper fans or duct-work you can heat an entire home.

If you live in a rural area and have access to trees, you may have free firewood at your disposal (after putting in a little sweat and time). Otherwise, most cities have local businesses that sell wood by the bundle or rick.

It’s not all about what heaters you use, though. Sometimes it’s about keeping cold air out and warm air in. First, check around all your windows and doors for places that need recaulked. Be sure all windows are firmly closed and if you have a drafty door, consider installing an outside storm door.

The same maintenance check goes for older homes’ insulation. Insulation can be insufficient or entirely lacking. Take a good look at your attic and decide if you need to install do a little upgrading.

There are multiple options, including those large fluffy rolls (in varying grades for varying temperatures), spray insulation, and even thin sheets that can reflect cold air out.

Insulated curtains can also be a beautiful way of keeping warm air inside your home. Some claim to reduce energy loss by as much as 40 percent.

These are just a few tips! Keeping warm can be difficult in the coldest of days this season. Take a few precautions and do research on the latest energy prices and you’re sure to stay on budget.