Easy Home Improvements For Winter

Easy Home Improvements

The winter months can get long and sometimes you probably get bored, so why not spice things up with some easy home improvements? There are all sorts of projects to take on in the winter. Here are a few easy ones that will get you off the couch and into motion.


The winter is a great time to paint a room or two.  It’s fairly inexpensive and you can complete a painting job in a day or two.

Put in a programmable thermostat

If you still have the old fashioned thermostats, go get yourself a programmable one and install it. This way you can set the thermostat during the winter for your time schedule. When you go to sleep at night or leave for work, program it a couple degrees lower so that you are optimizing your energy usage. Programmable thermostats are inexpensive and not difficult to install.

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Why You Should Decline Mortgage Life Insurance

Many times when you purchase a home and put down less than 20 percent for a down payment, you’ll be required to purchase a mortgage life insurance product. If it is a requirement, there’s little you can do to get around it. It isn’t the end of the world since it does pay off the home mortgage note if you die before payoff. If you have a choice in whether to purchase the product or not, you should decline. In most cases it ends up being an unnecessary expense that decreases in value over the years.

Don’t get mortgage life insurance confused with private mortgage insurance because they are different.  Mortgage life insurance will cover the remainder of your mortgage incase of death before you are paid in full.

Most Policies are Expensive

Mortgage life insurance is expensive. The reason is because you typically get it at the start of your loan. The insurance company is taking a gamble as to whether you will die within the first few years, which leaves them having to pay a large amount of money to clear the note. They also typically cover anyone, regardless of health conditions. In other words, everyone bears the weight of covering those with bad health. Regular life insurance policies can be much more selective on who they cover and the rates they charge each individual.

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What Is A Home Construction Loan?

If you have been thinking about building a home instead of purchasing a pre-made one, building can be a wonderful experience. You get to design the home as you wish and feel like you are a part of the process.  Building your own home takes a great deal of time and it takes money. Most people do not have all of the money up front to build a home, so they have to take out a construction loan.

What is a home construction loan?

A construction loan is a short loan that you take out from the bank to pay for your new home construction. What typically happens is that you take out a short-term loan for the amount of time it takes you to build your home, usually about one year. When the new home is completed, it is then that you will have to get a new loan to pay for the rest of the construction loan. Sometimes this is called the “end loan”.  The end loan will typically be a new loan that is more conventional when it comes to financing a home, such as a fixed-rate 15 year mortgage.

How to qualify for a construction loan

Banks are typically a bit more cautious when it comes to lending money for a construction loan because the building process doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes builders don’t do the kind of job they were supposed to do or the house isn’t worth what it was supposed to be worth.  Sometimes construction stops for one reason or another.

Because of this, banks usually have strict requirements for construction loans.  Here are several:

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How to Calculate Construction Costs of Building a New Home

If you want to build your new home, even if you hire out the project to a general contractor, there is one key responsibility you should not pass to a contractor.  You should take the responsibility to calculate construction costs of building a new home.

Since we are likely discussing the largest singular financial transaction you will have, your hands on the purse strings cannot be overstated or overlooked.  If you do not make these calculations and conclude with a total cost, even an estimate, how will you know if and when you exceed your budget?

What should be included in the calculation?

It is more easily said than done.  The short answer is: everything.  The long answer is: be reasonable because details like how many electric light and outlet fixtures you should have is likely to change as the design matures, but these minute details are not usually budget breakers.

There is an easy formula with detailed elements that will confuse matters if they are not accounted for completely and accurately, such as the number and type of doors and windows.  What follows will describe some of the details:  Construction costs of building a new home equals the cost of the property, plus the building cost per square footage in your locale times the square footage of your home, plus building fees.  Built into the square footage cost should be the materials, labor and contractor profit margin.

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How to Get Financing For a Rental Property

Financing for a rental property

So you’re ready to invest in your first rental property, but you don’t have all the cash lined up that you need. This is where financing can come in handy, but it might not be as easy as you think to get your hands on the money. It can be an overwhelming situation, and not one that you should tackle lightly, but if you take the right steps, it can be a very lucrative decision that could pay off big time. If you’re  ready to get financing for a rental property, there are some tips to keep in mind that can help make your dream happen.

Decide what you’re going to do with the property

There are several types of rental properties you can buy, including an already existing house or one that’s pre-construction, the latter of which means you could be involved in the design of the home. You should also decide if you want to buy a fixer-upper or a home that’s already in  good condition. The former will require more of a time and money investment up front, but it could be worth it in the long run.

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Home Improvement Scams to Watch Out For

Our homes typically represent the largest investment most of us will engage in our lifetime.  Home improvement may potentially reach the cost of a new car, typically our second largest single lifetime investment.  Usually, such an endeavor is met with satisfaction once completed, but it can have ups and down during the process and can be challenging in the planning stages.

However, no one, in planning a home improvement project, plans to be taken by a scam.  Or do we, even unwittingly?  They say that a failure to plan is a plan to fail.  With regard to the potential to be scammed in home improvement, planning for it is the best defense against it.  If we know what home improvement scams to watch for, we should then be able to plan for them and prevent them from spoiling our satisfaction.

There are a few major types of scams we should be wise to recognize and avoid:

  • Grammar scams
  • Here today, gone tomorrow scams
  • Workmanship scams

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So You’re Retired and You Want to Refinancing Your Mortgage

You’ve reached the point of retirement, and you’re considering refinancing your mortgage in favor of different terms. While there’s no problem with that, banks are getting extremely strict about who they choose to help. Nowadays, you can have a considerable amount of assets, but if you don’t meet their criteria in two particular areas – credit score and income – you could find yourself facing a roadblock. So what are five things you need to do before and during the process of refinancing your mortgage.

Check your credit score

As mentioned above, your credit score plays a huge part in the process of refinancing your mortgage. If it’s not where you would prefer it to be, then you may be better off waiting until you can clean it up a bit and raise it to the point where a loan officer would consider it excellent, especially if you don’t have a substantial amount of income coming in. 

Determine your total amount of income per month

In addition to your credit score, your income is the other main half of the equation when it comes to refinancing your mortgage. What you may consider a good amount of income may not be deemed enough by the bank. It’s better if you have a two-income household; the chances are higher that you’re going to be considered a risk if your income is only from one person. Pull together the paperwork from your social security and any other type of income so you can show it to the lender and can see where you stand. 

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Green Energy Tax Credits

Green Energy Tax Credits

There is an umbrella of green energy tax credits available to protect our dream of home ownership from the growing costs of energy consumption that are also beneficial to the energy industry in its operations to provide that energy continuously, effectively and efficiently.

Many of the building code changes we have experienced in the last decade are as a result of efforts by government agencies, in cooperation with the home-building trades, to provide the means not only to save on energy costs, but to have that energy delivered to our homes with an eye to energy conservation.

These efforts were passed by Congress in 2005 with the Energy Policy Act with later enhancements provided in the 2008 Energy Improvement and Extension Act.

The legislation of these two acts provide tax credits that apply in direct effect to decrease our adjusted gross income on our federal and state income tax calculations, thus reducing our tax bill.  In some respects, because these credits are part of the building code, they are automatically engaged in the construction of new homes, but we also have the ability to retrofit and upgrade older homes to meet new recommendations of energy-saving techniques.

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Home Ownership vs Renting – How Do I Decide?

If you’re at a point where you’re debating between home ownership vs renting, you’re not alone. It’s a big decision to make, especially considering the monetary investment that’s required. The best way to figure out what to do is to weigh the options side-by-side and consider what’s best for your particular situation. So how exactly do you go about making such a huge decision?

Consider how long you’re staying in one place

If you’re planning on living in one place for a short period of time, or you’re not sure how long you’re going to stay, buying a house may not be in your best interest. It’s not always the easiest process to buy a house, and it would be a shame to go through the entire process only to have to sell it in the near future. Renting gives you the opportunity to leave at any time without the huge hassle. 

Think about the initial cost you can afford

With a house, you have to put down at least 10% of the cost, which typically totals up to around $15,000 or more. When you rent, it’s usually a month and a half worth of rent plus any additional deposit such as one for a pet. If you can’t afford to put down a huge chunk of change, you’re better off renting. 

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What Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover? How Much Do You Need?

If you are a homeowner or if you are looking to purchase a home, it is important to get familiar with the ins and outs of homeowner’s insurance.  Do you know what such insurance covers? Do you have any idea how much you need?  Read on to learn what you need to know before purchasing homeowner’s insurance for your home.

What types of coverage are there?

Standard homeowner’s insurance

This type of insurance helps you out when you have a mortgage to pay back and something happens to your home. If you have a fire, you are covered.

Flood insurance

Floods are not covered under standard homeowner’s insurance, but you can purchase flood insurance separately to protect your home. The National Flood Insurance Program will protect a home up to $250,000 for the structure and $100,000 for the furnishings. Should you have a home that is more expensive, there is excess flood insurance that you can purchase.

Earthquake insurance

If you live in an area that is prone to earthquakes, you can purchase earthquake insurance separately.

Not that many homeowners get additional disaster coverage for one reason or another. Even those in areas that are prone to floods shy away from purchasing flood insurance. In fact, statistics indicate that only about 12 percent of homeowners in flood-prone and earthquake areas actually purchase such insurance policies to protect them. Basically, they are hoping that such a natural disaster won’t happen to them, but hope doesn’t always do the trick.

Assess your needs

Most people understand that there is a chance their home could burn down, so they realize the significance of insurance for such, but many do not think other natural disasters can affect them. If you do happen to live in an area that has floods or earthquakes, you really ought to consider purchasing such insurance to cover your home in the case of a disaster. There are plenty of homeowners who thought they were exempt from a flood or earthquake or mistakenly thought their standard homeowners insurance covered for such and it didn’t. Asses your needs wisely and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call an insurance agent for clarification.

What does home owner’s insurance cover?

The majority of standard homeowner’s insurance policies cover your possessions, including things like art, jewelry, and collections.  For example, if you have a policy that provides $200,000 coverage, most likely your policy will cover up to 75% of that, so you’d have about $150,000 coverage for your possessions. Beware though that some policies will only cover the depreciated value of your possessions, so that nice big screen television that you got five years ago for $2,000 may only be worth half that price now.

Most items are covered under fire or theft under a standard policy, but beware that some items may not be covered if broken or if they simply disappear from the home or the auto. If you have items that are particularly valuable, you can purchase special coverage for such items.