August 31, 2016

12 Ways to Lower Energy Bills AND be More Eco-friendly!

Saving energy doesn’t always mean getting new appliances, installing insulation, or replacing windows. Even if you live in a brand new, super efficient home, there are plenty of ways to lower your energy bills and protect the environment.

1.     Use your laundry machines wisely. Cutting costs on laundry is easy… Simply stop using heat whenever possible, pack the right amount of clothing into the machines, and do laundry at night.

2.     Use the dishwasher wisely. Utilize the same tactics as the laundry machines. Primarily, reduce the amount of heat you use, and load the machine as efficiently as possible.

3.     Replace air filters monthly. Dirty filters restrict airflow, causing the HVAC system to run longer and use more energy. And check your vents. If they’re closed, open them! Closing vents will actually raise your energy costs.

4.     Actually program the programmable thermostat! A lot of energy costs come from heating and cooling empty (or unused) spaces. Program the thermostat to warm or cool your home when you’re actually there, and to switch off when you’re away or asleep.

5.     Close the door. Close attic, basement, garage and exterior doors to prevent drafts and keep in heat or A/C.

6.     Unplug electronics.  Any electronic gizmo that stays plugged in when not in use is sucking up your money. Do a nightly sweep to make sure all your electric devices are turned off before you go to bed. It may be a pain, but the savings from simply turning everything off can add up quickly. 

7.     Consider your light bulbs. Turn off lights you aren’t using. Replace 60-watt light bulbs with compact fluorescents or LEDs.

8.     Set the water heater at 120 degrees. Not only does heating your water too hot create the danger of scalding, it costs you cash. The EPA estimates that a heater set at 140 degrees or higher can waste $36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses to keep water at that temperature, and more than $400 to bring fresh water up to that temperature.

9.     Take a shower instead of a bath. And install a low-flow aerator or flow restrictor on an existing showerhead.  By doing both, you’ll use less water.

10. Think before you cook. The stove or oven may not always be the best choice. Crockpots or a microwave oven may be more energy efficient.

11. Help your refrigerator/freezer work more efficiently. Leave room in front of a refrigerator/freezer to allow cold air to circulate better. Since frozen food stays cold longer than air, it’s good to keep the freezer full, but not packed.

12. Soften those rays. Closing the curtains and lowering the blinds on the sunny side of your house will help keep you cooler on hot days.

August 29, 2016

So it's Time to Make the Big Move!

The thought of owning your own home may have always seemed like something for the distant future. As one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, it’s easy to find reasons why the timing just isn’t quite right.  Despite the hesitation you may have, owning your own home can add incredible value not only in the future, but right now too! Here’s why it’s time to make the big move.

First Off, You CAN Afford It. In all but two of the top 100 biggest US housing markets was it cheaper to buy than rent a home. In fact, buying a home is currently about 23% cheaper for millennials than renting one.  Interest rates are nearing record lows, and homes are more affordable than ever. You may have felt like renting is a safer bet, but really, you’re getting a lot more mileage for your dollar when you buy. How?

You Build Equity. In a sense, paying your mortgage is a form of savings.  With each payment, a portion goes toward reducing the amount you owe, increasing your equity as a result.  It also increases as your home appreciates over time.  With sound equity, you can qualify for home equity loans, which can be used to help pay off medical, educational and other expenses you may have.

You Enjoy Added Tax Deductions. Unlike renting where your hard earned dollar simply disappears into your landlord’s pocket, your home expenses can actually reduce the amount you pay in income taxes.  Mortgage interest, property taxes and even certain closing costs may all be tax deductible, and in the first couple of years when interests are a big part of your mortgage payments, this could mean a lot more money back in your wallet.

You Can Build Strong Credit.  As long as you’re paying your monthly loan payments on time, you’re proving to other lenders that you’re low risk.  In the future, when other large purchases or expenses arise, you’ll have a better case for getting that loan.  It’s important to plan for the future, but remember you can’t predict everything…

Don’t Try and Time it Perfectly.  Waiting for the “right” season or timing isn’t a guarantee.  For starters, despite there typically being more homes on the market in the spring, competition can be lower in the fall and winter months. If you’re building a home, starting the process now can get you a nice spring time move in.  A fall start can also be an advantage because builders can work through cold and snow, while heavy rain is a different story. 
In terms of value, you can’t predict where the market will be in a couple of years, but you can do the research and ask the right questions to make a smart decision now.  And when you do, you’ll enjoy the greatest benefit of all…

Creating the Perfect Home for YOU. Say no more to staring at that horrible floral wallpaper or bright pink bathroom tile your landlord couldn’t care less about.  But more importantly, owning a home means you can create a place that reflects your own unique personality and needs.  By taking advantage of all the freedom homeownership offers, it’s not just an investment, but also something much more meaningful.

August 12, 2016

How to Prepare Your Home To Sell

You've decided. You're moving into a new Elite Built Home! Through all of the excitement, you've started to become concerned about selling your own home? Not to worry! Here a couple of tricks of the trade to stage your home to get ready for selling! 

Make it welcoming.  With all the times you’ve used your entrance, you may have gone blind to the wear it’s accumulated over the years.  See what can be touched up with new paint or scrubbed with some cleaner, then replace house numbers, porch light and a nice welcome mat.

Mind the details. Small details you may not even notice can depreciate your home in the eyes of buyers. Freshen up with new switch plates and outlet covers if yours are grubby or yellowed. Polish handles and hardware, and scrub away minor spots and scuffs on walls.

Eliminate bad odors.  Buyers will quickly run away if something doesn’t smell quite right.  Buy air neutralizer to remove bad odors, or even better, bake a fresh batch of cookies or add scented candles to create a homey feel.

Make your space look bigger. Hang floor-length curtains above the windows to give the illusion of higher ceilings. Lay down a striped rug to make the floor seem more expansive. Use a clear shower curtain to open up a small bathroom.

Prepare for snoopers. Buyers will open your fridge, peek in your medicine cabinet, and check under your sinks.  Tidy up these spaces that tend to be messy, and hide anything valuable.

And then there’s the basics:

De-personalize.  Too many personal touches distract the buyer from envisioning their own future in your home. Rent a storage unit to store excess furniture, family photos, etc.

De-clutter. It’s true furniture helps make a room look bigger, but too much “stuff” just makes it cluttered and takes away from your home’s appeal.

Don’t wait to start packing. Chances are you’ve accumulated a lot of belongings over the years. Get a jump start on removing anything extra

Remove everything you’re keeping.  Any window coverings, appliances or lighting fixtures you want should be removed before showings. If the buyer doesn’t see it, he can’t want it.   

And maybe the most challenging, but important of all…

Look to the future. Once you decide to put your home on the market, it’s no longer yours. Try to remove yourself from the strong emotional ties, and focus on what’s next for you in your new home!

August 5, 2016

Making the Most out of a Neutral Room

Solid, continuous wall colors can make a room seem larger, but too much of the same muted tone can make your d├ęcor fall flat. Neutral shades will give you a lot of flexibility as you choose how to decorate the room, but too much of it can make the space feel cold and uninspiring.  The beauty of neutral colors is your ability to mix and match any style, so here are some ways to ensure you’ll never hear the word “boring” describe your home!

Try Layering.  You can still create a peaceful ambiance without using all the same color.  Utilize different tones of beige, cream or grey, for walls, drapery and furniture to create more depth and versatility.  Likewise, choosing all the same fabrics will make the room fall flat, while drapes on a wall of the same color will stand out much more if that wall is paneled or textured.

Emphasize Architectural Details.  The architecture of you home could present a lot of character and individuality on its own. Highlight rustic exposed wood framing or painted wood walls & ceilings. Allow unique molding and built-in shelves and cabinetry to become focal points of the room.

Play with Accent Colors. Whether it’s one or two furniture pieces that make a bold statement, or little pops of color throughout small, personal touches, these additions can make all the difference! Just remember that the vibrancy of color is amplified against a neutral background, so choose wisely.

Define with Accessories.  When going for an earthy feel, a shiny metal side table or wood-framed chairs are nice touches, while faux fur rugs or cow-hide throws can accomplish a totally different look.  Or simply mix prints and patterns in pillows or wall hangings for a more subtle, but unique touch. The possibilities are endless.

Let Nature In. If tranquility if what you’re aiming for with your neutral room, plants are the perfect way to achieve just that while adding interest and color to your overall scheme.  Small houseplants are great, but large planters with jungle-like greens and twigs improve the mood and purity of the whole room.