GREENING YOUR HOME
If you're on a tight budget, greening your house can be beneficial because sustainability strategies translate to more dollars in your wallet. Just using an ENERGY STAR-qualified compact fluorescent light bulb saves about $30 over its lifetime and pays for itself in about 6 months. It uses 75% less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.
By using programmable thermostats, you can slash heating and cooling bills by $180 per year. Cut phantom power consumption--home electronics that keep using power even in standby mode, for instance--and save $100 per year.
HOME SECURITY TIPS
TIPS FROM BETTER HOMES & GARDENS TO SAFEGUARD YOUR HOME WHILE AWAY!
KEEP QUIET: Don't discuss travel plans in public. Also, do not post pictures or comment about your vacation on social media until you return.
MAIL ARRANGEMENTS: A full mailbox can tip off criminals to an empty home. Contact the U.S. Postal Service to hold your mail and contact your newspaper to suspend delivery or ask a neighbor to collect the papers.
NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH: Ask a neighbor, friend or family member to keep an eye on your home while you are away and make sure they have a reliable contact number for you in case of emergency.
LIGHT UP: Set your timer for lights and television to turn on/off at night. This gives the impression that someone is home and deters any intruders.
LOCK UP: Take one last tour of the house to make sure all windows are locked and the alarm system is correctly armed. Then, lock the doors and be on your way with peace of mind!
10 Ways to Prepare for Homeownership:
1. Decide what you can afford. Generally, you can afford a home equal in value to between two and three times your gross income.
2. Develop your home wish list. Then, prioritize the features on your list.
3. Select where you want to live. Compile a list of three or four neighborhoods you’d like to live in, taking into account items such as schools, recreational facilities, area expansion plans, and safety.
4. Start saving. Do you have enough money saved to qualify for a mortgage and cover your down payment? Ideally, you should have 20 percent of the purchase price saved as a down payment. Also, don’t forget to factor in closing costs. Closing costs — including taxes, attorney’s fee, and transfer fees — average between 2 and 7 percent of the home price.
5. Get your credit in order. Obtain a copy of your credit report to make sure it is accurate and to correct any errors immediately. A credit report provides a history of your credit, bad debts, and any late payments.
6. Determine your mortgage qualifications. How large of mortgage do you qualify for? Also, explore different loan options — such as 30-year or 15-year fixed mortgages or ARMs — and decide what’s best for you.
7. Get preapproved. Organize all the documentation a lender will need to preapprove you for a loan. You might need W-2 forms, copies of at least one pay stub, account numbers, and copies of two to four months of bank or credit union statements.
8. Weigh other sources of help with a down payment. Do you qualify for any special mortgage or down payment assistance programs? Check with your state and local government on down payment assistance programs for first-time buyers. Or, if you have an IRA account, you can use the money you’ve saved to buy your fist home without paying a penalty for early withdrawal.
9. Calculate the costs of homeownership. This should include property taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities, and association fees, if applicable.
10. Contact a REALTOR®. Find an experienced REALTOR® who can help guide you through the process. (Realtor.com)