Buyers: Window of Opportunity Still Open

  

opportunity windowThe Fed recently announced they would continue their current pace of purchasing bonds until the economy was stronger. This bond purchasing program is the reason that mortgage interest rates are at historic lows. Rates began to increase over the last several months just on the anticipation that the Fed would announce that they would be reducing the level of bond purchases last month. When that didn’t happen, rates actually decreased (4.50 to 4.37).

That was great news for any buyer in the process of purchasing a home. However, this window of opportunity is expected to close in the very near future as most experts expect the Fed to taper the bond purchasers in December. Even Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Fed, suggested that the Fed could still scale back the stimulus this year. He stated:

"If the data confirms our basic outlook, then we could move later this year.”

Where will mortgage rates head in 2014?

The Mortgage Bankers AssociationFannie MaeFreddie Mac and the National Association of Realtors have each projected that the 30 year fixed rate mortgage will have interest rates in excess of 5% by this time next year. The average of their four projections is 5.3%. The table below shows the impact this will have on the monthly principal and interest payment on a $250,000 mortgage:

Payment A buyer should take advantage of the current window of opportunity before it is too late.


Posted on September 30, 2013 at 11:08 pm
Debi Bloomquist | Posted in Economics, Homeowner News, Real Estate |

Why It’s Wise to Reduce Debts Before Applying for Mortgage

 

car and  house made of dollars
Shutterstock

By Credit.com   | posted Sep 11th 2013 12:41PM

Updated Sep 12th 2013 1:07PM



By Scott Sheldon



Trying to secure a mortgage right now? From higher mortgage rates, to rising home prices to the contraction in buying power — securing financing, for some, can be no easy endeavor. As prices, and rates rise simultaneously, lenders will still place the weighted emphasis on "real income," or, the amount of monthly payment you can afford — as that's what the loan is truly made against. Unfortunately, the amount of debt you have effectively chips away at your "real income." So before you try to get a mortgage, you might want to pay down your debt. Just make sure you do it the right way.



Before I delve into the specifics, here are some quick terms you need to know:

• Debt to income ratio, or DTI: Represents the total amount of monthly debt payment (including the house payment) divided into monthly income. Whenever this number exceeds 45 percent of the gross monthly income, things get tricky.

• Real Income: Also known as "qualifiable income," the net income considered for the housing payment after present liabilities are factored in. If you have $5,000 in monthly income × 0.45, that gives you $2,250 as a total debt allowance. If your other debts total $250 per month, that means your real income is $2,000 per month. Real income is also equivalent to a proposed housing payment.

• Debt: Refers specifically to the minimum payment obligations the consumer is responsible for. This has nothing to do with the total amount of debt, but what the monthly payments are. Lenders are looking for cash flow, how much or how little of it there is. Tip: Debt erodes income (ability to borrow money) at a ratio of 2 to 1; it takes $2 of income to offset $1 of debt.



Now, the strategy for paying off debt to qualify differs when buying a house from refinancing. Let's look at the differences:



Paying Off Debt When Buying a Home: When buying a home, and prior to attaining an accepted purchase offer, paying off debt to qualify is simply a function of learning how much more buying power is achievable by eliminating debt like credit cards, student loans or car loans. A qualified mortgage lender can run "what if" possibilities, which could become crucial in your endeavor to purchase not only the right home, but ultimately the home you can afford.



Let's say there's $5,000 left on your car loan, you have the cash in the bank and the car loan payment is $600 per month. $600 per month on a car loan reduces your ability to purchase to the tune of more than $100,000 in loan amount. Consider this: A $100,000 mortgage loan at 4.5 percent on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage translates to $506 per month, $94 per month less than if you didn't have the debt. If you pay off the debt in full, your DTI is reduced, improving your ability to qualify and increasing your real income.




How to Pay Off the Debt and Still Meet the Lending Credit Standard: If you're paying it off pre-contract, simply inform your mortgage company and they can do a third-party validation and the debt can be omitted. When paying off during the escrow process, monies will have to be sourced and paper trailed, which is a little more technical, but still achievable. The same goes for credit cards and other payment obligations.



Paying Off Debt When Refinancing: When you're refinancing, the lender's going to require that your credit obligations — such as a car loan or credit card — are paid off in full and closed to prevent the possibility of your accumulating further debt, thus potentially affecting your ability to repay in the future. Moreover, the lender would call for an escrow account to pay off the debt through the loan closing. When it comes to paying off debt to qualify in refinancing, different lenders will vary on their specific approaches. Generally, though, the accounts will have to be closed as well. That won't prevent you from reapplying for credit after the mortgage has closed, however.



How to Pay Off the Debt and Still Meet the Lending Credit Standard: The monies you use to pay off your debt, similar to a purchase transaction, will have to be sourced — and you'll have to have proof that the obligation has been closed. If possible, pay the credit card in full, learn the date the creditor reports to the bureaus, then apply for the mortgage after the creditor has reported it to the bureaus. Doing this will show the updated balance on the credit report, which will improve real income (revealing less debt), making the process more streamlined.



If you have debt that otherwise could be eliminated and have the means to pay off the debt, strongly consider doing so, as higher credit risk mortgages tend to be more pricey overall — compared to those for borrowers with lower debt-to-income ratios and better credit scores.



As you get ready to buy a house or refinance your mortgage, it's important to pull your credit reports and credit scores to see where you stand. You can get your credit reports for free once a year from each of the three credit reporting agencies, and you can monitor your credit score using a free tool like Credit.com's Credit Report Card.

 


Posted on September 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm
Debi Bloomquist | Posted in Economics, Home Finances, Homeowner News |

How to Investigate a Potential Neighborhood

You’ve gone to the open house. You’ve had a private showing. You’ve read the disclosures. You’ve decided this is the house for you, and you’re ready to make an offer.

Before you take that step, though, you should fully check out the neighborhood. After all, this is where you’re going to live for years. Is there something you don’t know about that could negatively affect the resale value later? Is there a neighbor who comes roaring home late at night on a muffler-free motorcycle? Is the next-door neighbor operating a day care for pre-schoolers?

Given the high stakes of homeownership, it pays to do your homework before making an offer. For example, a potential buyer was ready to sign on the dotted line for a home in San Francisco, a city famous for its microclimates. The buyer had only been to the home during the day, when it was sunny and warm. On his real estate agent’s advice, the buyer returned at night — to find the house blanketed by cold, windy fog. He continued his home search elsewhere, relieved he hadn’t unknowingly bought into the city’s “fog and wind belt.”

Here are five ways to investigate a neighborhood before you buy.

1. Talk to the neighbors

Without being intrusive, look for an opportunity to chat with your potential neighbors. What’s their opinion of the block and the neighborhood? Do they know of any problem neighbors? Are they aware of any recent car or home break-ins? Is anyone planning a big remodel that could impact other homes or their values? Do they know of someone on the block who might be getting ready to sell? An even more desirable home could be coming on the market.

2. Visit day and night, weekday and weekend

As the San Francisco example shows, don’t just visit the house during the day. Check it out at night to get a sense of what’s going on in the neighborhood after hours. Is it noisy or calm? Visit on the weekend and early morning, too. The more times of day you go, the more chances you’ll have to get the feel for the neighborhood.

3. Check out the local newspaper and the neighborhood blog

Some neighborhoods still have their own newspapers. If there’s one published for the neighborhood you’re considering, check it out for local stories. Pay particular attention to the “police blotter,” which typically lists crimes reported in the area. Also, some neighborhoods have blogs where locals ask for tips and advice, or post issues or concerns affecting the neighborhood. A Google search should help you find out whether there’s a blog for the neighborhood you’re considering.

4. Get an app

Some smartphone apps, such as CrimeReports for iPhone, provide information about crime based on your location or address. Among the problems you may see displayed on a map are noise nuisances, sex offenders and vehicle break-ins. The CrimeReports app gives you some specifics, such as when and where each incident occurred.

Zillow’s real estate apps allow you to see estimates of properties on the block. They also allow you to search recent sales or see rentals, a good indication of whether your neighbors are renters or homeowners.

5. Google the street address

If you Google the home’s street address, you might be amazed at what you find. You might, for instance, discover a nearby home-based business with employees (which could reduce street parking spaces). Using Google’s Street View, where photos can be months if not years old, you might discover that the ground-floor bedroom window once had bars on it.

Be a sleuth before the sale

The Internet is an amazing resource of information. Too often, though, potential home buyers don’t fully use it to find out everything they can before entering into a contract on a home. As soon as you’ve identified a home you want to buy, get online and do your homework. You might be pleasantly — or unpleasantly — surprised by what you learn.


Posted on September 23, 2013 at 9:47 pm
Debi Bloomquist | Posted in Home Finances, Homeowner News |

Stop stressing about your mortgage with these money-saving tips

 

Are your mortgage payments stressing you out? Beat payments at their own game with these four tips.

If your blood pressure instantly skyrockets every time you open your mortgage bill, it's time to think about how you might start to combat that monthly stress.

Kelley Long, a personal finance expert in Chicago and spokesperson for the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, says, "We have enough stress in our daily lives from things like work, family, and our go-go-go society. Opening your mail – and your mortgage bill – should not add to it. If you take the time to explore your options, you'll find a few really easy ways to reduce that burden for both the short and long-term."

Ready to learn about how you can take the stress out of paying your mortgage? Keep reading for four easy tips.

Tip #1: Refinance Through HARP

If you're stressing out because you can't refinance your underwater mortgage, stop panicking.

While you're in a difficult situation, you do have options: If your loan was originated before May 2009 and owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you could be eligible to refinance through HARP – the Home Affordable Refinance Program.

Paula Pant, founder of AffordAnything.com, a money management website that serves over 15,000 readers a month, says HARP is a loan program designed by the Departments of the Treasury & Housing and Urban Development for people who are underwater on their mortgage and thus, unable to qualify for a traditional refinance.

"If you find out you're eligible, the purpose of HARP is to help you snag a lower interest rate, thus translating into a lower monthly payment – and less money paid in interest over the remaining life of the loan," says Pant. And a lower monthly payment equals less stress!

Tip #2: Negotiate Your Property Tax Rate

We know what you're thinking – how can you negotiate your property taxes? We'll explain in a minute, but before we jump right in, let's take a little detour to understand how mortgage payments are constructed. Pant says that your mortgage consists of four different portions: principal, interest, taxes, and insurance, collectively known as PITI.

"Taxes and insurance are 'escrowed' monthly," she says. "For example, if you owe $2,400 in property taxes each year, you'll pay $200 per month within your monthly mortgage payment towards taxes. Those taxes are based on your county's assessment of your home value."

But here's the problem. Many counties assessed home value when the housing market was at its peak just a few years ago, and haven't re-adjusted it to reflect current, lower home prices. So there's a chance you might be paying too much for your taxes.

Pant says you don't need an appraisal, just an assessment by the county. And you can get the process started by calling your local county line and voicing your intentions.

But how much can you expect to save? Pant gives an example:

"If you can get your annual tax rate to drop from $2,400 per year to $1,800 per year, you can get your monthly tax payment to drop from $200 per month to $150 per month. That's $50 less you'll need to worry about coming up with every month."

Tip #3: Switch to a Higher-Deductible Homeowner's Insurance Policy

Your homeowner's insurance costs are often lumped in with your mortgage payment, so if you can lower your homeowner's insurance premium, you'll lower your overall mortgage payment.

One way to do this is to switch your homeowner's insurance to one with a higher deductible – but a lower monthly payment. And this may be smart way to reduce mortgage costs since only about 3 percent of people file an insurance claim over the course of their homeownership, says home insurance agent, Vicki Tu'ua. That means there's a 97 percent chance you won't have to pay the high deductible.

The savings from the higher-deductible route was a path that intrigued Pant.

"We had homeowner's insurance with a $1,000 deductible," Pant explains. "We called our agent and got a quote on insurance with a $5,000 deductible. Our agent told us we'd save about $600 a year ($50 per month!) on this new plan, so we switched to insurance with the higher deductible and instantly lowered our monthly mortgage payment," she says.

If you're thinking about taking this route to decrease your monthly payments, Pant also advises creating a "home emergency fund" that could cover the higher deductible – just in case you do need to use it.

Tip #4: Reduce Your Interest Rate by Setting Up Automatic Payments

Out of sight, out of mind…that's the theme of this last tip.

Here's what we're talking about: Long suggests setting up a separate bank account for your mortgage, in which funds are transferred via direct deposits from your paycheck. Then you can arrange for your mortgage company to automatically withdraw your payment from that account. And depending on your bank, you could get a nice interest rate reduction by partaking in this service.

"Some banks will give you a small interest rate discount if you set your payment up for auto-pay through them, which saves you more money as well," says Long.

But how will this help relieve your stress?

"You'll never even have to worry about making your payment, taking all the stress away," says Long. "The reason I suggest a separate account is so that you're never tempted to spend the money designated to pay your mortgage, so you never have to stress about the money being there in the first place."


Posted on September 20, 2013 at 11:52 pm
Debi Bloomquist | Posted in Home Finances, Homeowner News |

Do you really need to spend a lot on home insurance?

By Andrea Duchon | Yahoo! HomesWed, Sep 11, 2013 1:53 PM EDT

Want to make sure your home and family are adequately protected? Here are five questions to help you figure out how much insurance you actually need on your home.

When you buy a new house, it seems like there are a million moving pieces and thousands of documents that need your signature. But how closely did you pay attention when you chose your home insurance policy?

Paula Pant, founder of AffordAnything.com, a money management website, says that most people gloss over their policy and either end up paying more than they need or simply not enough.

"That's a lose-lose situation," she says. "You need the Goldilocks policy: not too much and not too little."

To make sure you're adequately covered, here are a few questions to ask to help you figure out how much home insurance you need…

How Much Will it Cost to Rebuild Your Home?

When determining how much home insurance you need, understanding the cost of rebuilding your home is crucial.

"You need enough insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs," according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). It also warns against confusing rebuilding costs with the price you initially paid for the home, as the current value and reconstruction costs could vary greatly.

Below is a list of some factors that will decide the cost of rebuilding your home, notes the III:

  • Local construction costs
  • The square footage of the structure
  • The type of exterior wall construction – frame, masonry (brick or stone) or veneer
  • The style of the house (ranch, colonial)
  • The number of bathrooms and other rooms
  • The type of roof and materials used
  • Other structures on the premises such as garages, sheds

To gauge how much insurance you'll need to reconstruct your home, the III suggests multiplying the total square footage of your home by local building costs per square foot. You can figure out "local" costs by getting rates from contractors and talking to local real estate agent and builders.

And because there's so much to consider in determining reconstruction costs, Pant suggests walking through your home and taking pictures of everything from your countertops and cabinets to your tile and hardwood floors.

"When you submit a claim to your insurance company to justify the cost of rebuilding your home," she says, "these pictures of the components of your home will be immensely helpful in getting back the value of everything inside."

How Much are the Items in Your Home Worth?

It can be hard to know how much insurance to buy if you don't know what all of your assets are worth, says Pant.

"Many people underestimate the value of their assets because they don't conceptualize them as being worth cash," she adds.

However, Pant says it's important to have a good handle of the monetary value of your possessions as it will put you in a better position to recoup your costs should disaster strike.

To do this, Pant recommends having photographic evidence of your possessions.

"Walk around your house with the video camera, even if it's just the camera on your phone, gathering video evidence of what the interior of your home looks like. Couple that with any receipts or invoices from contractors that you've saved."

The III offers similar advice, noting that homeowners should take an inventory of their personal possessions: "You need to conduct a home inventory. This is a detailed list of everything you own and information related to the cost to replace these items if they were stolen or destroyed by a disaster such as a fire."

What's Your Likelihood of Getting Sued?

Do you have a dog? Swimming pool? Trampoline?

If you said yes to any of the above, you'll want to make sure you have strong liability coverage in the event that someone is injured by your pet or while they're on your property. Being covered is good risk management – just ask Mitchell D. Weiss, an adjunct professor of finance and member of the board of the University of Hartford's Barney School of Business.

"There are three good steps to good risk management," advises Weiss. "You want to identify the risks that concern you, estimate the likelihood of their coming to pass, and determine the cost you'd incur should that thing occur."

Once you take a look at those things, Pant says it's a good idea to carry an umbrella insurance policy to protect you in case someone sues.

"These umbrella policies are generally cheap – less than $100 a year can provide coverage for up to $1 million or more dollars for lawsuits and liabilities. If someone slips on ice in your front yard and sues you, it's good to have the peace of mind that you have additional protection."

Are Earthquakes and Floods Common in Your Area?

"If you're particularly prone to hurricanes, floods, or other natural disasters, make sure you buy added insurance specifically for that. Many standard plans won't cover natural disasters that your neighborhood is most likely to experience," says Pant.

In fact, the III says that floods, earthquakes, maintenance damage (like mold, for example), and sewer backup, are a few disasters that are not covered in a standard insurance policy.

Luckily, you do have coverage options available.

"Ground water flooding is not covered by most (if not all) homeowner's insurance policies. You'll need flood insurance for that, which the government makes available," says Weiss.

He also suggests looking at wind-damage insurance limitations.

"These are used to describe an issue that's common to beachfront – or near beach – properties. Insurance companies set high deductibles for that, which leaves the homeowner to cover the difference," Weiss explains.

So, if you live in an area that's known to experience natural disasters or just bad weather in general, you'll want to add any coverage necessary to ensure you're protected.

How Much Would it Cost to Live Elsewhere if Your Home is Damaged?

You obviously don't want to think about your home being damaged to the point where it's uninhabitable, but it's an important thing to consider when you're talking insurance.

"Remember: you'll unfortunately have to live somewhere else if your home is destroyed," says Pant. For this reason, she suggests that homeowners "opt for a plan that gives you a payout, or stipend, to cover the cost of renting a home for at least six months while your current home is being fixed."

A basic, bare-bones plan usually won't cover this, but many insurance companies offer riders, or a provision of your insurance policy that is purchased separately from the basic policy, which help pay for this cost.

"Of course, adding these riders to your insurance plan also increase your premium," Pant warns. But, paying a little more a month to ensure you have place to live if disaster strikes is probably worth it.

 


Posted on September 18, 2013 at 3:49 pm
Debi Bloomquist | Posted in Economics, Homeowner News, Real Estate |

Thinking of Selling Your House? 5 Reasons to Do it Now

by The KCM Crew on September 10, 2013 ·in For Sellers, Pricing

Many now realize that it is a great time to buy a home. Today, we want to look at why it might also be an opportune time to sell your house. Here are the Top 5 Reasons we believe now may be a perfect time to put your house on the market.

1.) Demand Is High

The most recent Existing Home Sales Report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) showed a 17.2 percent increase in sales over July 2012; sales have remained above year-ago levels for 25 months. There are buyers out there right now and they are serious about purchasing.

2.) Supply Is Beginning to Increase

Total housing inventory last month rose 5.6% to 2.28 million homes for sale. This represents a 5.1-month supply at the current sales pace, compared with 4.3 months in January. Many expect inventory to continue to rise as 3.2 million homeowners escaped the shackles of negative equity in the last 12 months and an additional 1.9 million are expected to enter positive equity in the next 12 months. Selling now while demand is high and before supply increases may garner you your best price.

3.) New Construction Is Coming Back

Over the last several years, most homeowners selling their home did not have to compete with a new construction project around the block. As the market is recovering, more and more builders are jumping back in. These ‘shiny’ new homes will again become competition as they are an attractive alternative for many purchasers.

4.) Interest Rates Are Rising

According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, interest rates for a 30-year mortgage have shot up to 4.57% which represents a jump of more than a full point since the beginning of the year. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the National Association of Realtors are in unison projecting that rates will continue to climb.

Whether you are moving up or moving down, your housing expense will be more a year from now if a mortgage is necessary to purchase your next home.

5.) It’s Time to Move On with Your Life

Look at the reason you are thinking about selling and decide whether it is worth waiting. Is the possibility of a few extra dollars more important than being with family; more important than your health; more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should?

You already know the answers to the questions we just asked. You have the power to take back control of your situation by putting the house on the market today. The time may have come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire. That is what is truly important.


Posted on September 17, 2013 at 6:45 pm
Debi Bloomquist | Posted in Economics, Everett, Home Improvement, Homeowner News |

Should I Wait for Interest Rates to Come Back Down?

 

by THE KCM CREW on SEPTEMBER 3, 2013 ·in FOR BUYERS

 

 

Above is a graph of the movement of the 30 year fixed mortgage rate since the beginning of 2012.

Some buyers are waiting to see if interest rates will come back down before making a decision about buying a home. Though no one can guarantee where rates will be in a few months, we don’t believe waiting is a good strategy.

Most experts believe rates may actually move higher. The Mortgage Bankers AssociationFannie MaeFreddie Mac and the National Association of Realtors are in unison projecting that rates will continue to climb.

With home prices increasing and interest rates projected to also increase, the cost of buying a house could quickly increase rather dramatically.


Posted on September 10, 2013 at 11:07 pm
Debi Bloomquist | Posted in Economics, Home Finances, Homeowner News, Real Estate |

7 Things New Homeowners Don’t Know They Need to Do

 

Your first year as a homeowner is kind of like the first year of a marriage. There’s the honeymoon phase, where the fact that you never have to pay rent again feels freaking awesome, but there are also a bunch of new responsibilities. You’re building a foundation that will last for decades to come, and small decisions can have large effects on the rest of your life.

People love to give relationship advice, but your friends and family may not be rushing to share tips on being a new homeowner. So, we’re going to help you out. Here are seven things to do during your first year of homeownership:

1. Prepare for breakage. Being your own landlord has a lot of perks (you can kiss that whole “no pets” policy goodbye!). But it’s less exciting when your dishwasher craps out and you have to foot the bill. You can’t stop things from breaking, but you can set some cash aside to pay for unexpected replacements. As a general rule of thumb, you want to save 1-3 percent of your home’s initial price each year so that you can afford unexpected problems.

2. Form an inspection habit. Detecting certain issues early (like a rodent infestation or mold growth) can be the difference between a simple fix and an unaffordable disaster. Take the time to properly inspect your basement, attic, insulation and roof at least once during that first year. Then, make an annual habit of it!

3. Buy a bunch of furnace filters. Changing your furnace filter regularly is one of the easiest ways you can save money (since your furnace will last longer) and improve your health (since the air you breathe will be cleaner). But remembering to pick up a filter from the hardware store every few months isn’t always so easy. Nip that problem in the bud by purchasing in bulk! Take a look at your furnace and write down the filter size, then order enough to last for a few years (the exact number you need will vary depending on the type of furnace you have). Tip: Need help remembering when it’s time to change them? Sign up for BrightNest and we’ll send you regular reminders.

4. Get to know your appliances. Just like cars and televisions, the appliances in your home have different life expectancies. For example, furnaces usually last for 15-20 years, but water heaters tend to start wearing down after 10 years. It’s worth figuring out how old each appliance in your house is because then you can plan ahead for their replacements. A new furnace can cost as much as $5,000, so a little heads up can really help!

5. Take advantage of tax credits. Owning a home opens up a whole new world of tax incentives! For example, you can receive credits for things like installing solar panels or purchasing Energy Star appliances. Do some research early on about the different tax credits that may apply to you, and then reap the benefits when tax time rolls around! Tip: In general, your taxes will be much more complicated now that you own a home. It may be worth hiring a professional accountant (if you haven’t already) to guide you through the process.

6. Start keeping records. Every improvement or repair you make to your home – from adding caulk around your bathtub to installing a new roof – will increase its resale value. Make sure all of your hard work pays off by keeping track right from the start! Tip: If you’re not crazy about creating an enormous filing cabinet of records, BrightNest members can store their home details online (for free!) in the Homefolio.

7. Beef up your insurance. Your new home is probably the most valuable thing you own, and you need to protect that asset! Take a good look at your homeowners insurance policy and look for any relevant gaps (this is a situation where professional advice can be really helpful). Two areas of coverage to consider are flood and fire protection, which aren’t always included in standard policies. Tip: It’s also worth taking another look at your car insurance because you now have a much bigger asset (your home) to lose in the event of a lawsuit.

This list is a great start, but there’s still plenty to do! For more simple, important tasks to tackle during that first year, check out BrightNest’s New Homeowner Guide

 


Posted on September 9, 2013 at 10:40 pm
Debi Bloomquist | Posted in Home Improvement, Homeowner News |

September home-maintenance checklist

 

School is back in session and mornings are crisp, making this a great month for tackling home projects.

By Anne Erickson of MSN Real Estate

Ever wake up in early September and notice that the air smells different? School begins, days get shorter, and a sense of responsibility begins to creep up on most of us. 

We've always wondered why "fall cleaning" isn't as popular as "spring cleaning." The air on brisk September mornings inspires us to dutifully button up the home in preparation for cooler days and longer nights.

Add weatherstripping to doors and windows
Weatherstripping can be plastic, foam, felt or metal; its job is to seal small gaps, keeping moisture and cold air outside where they belong. Look around your doors and windows: Is the weatherstripping torn or missing? This can become expensive if ignored. On doors, make sure the bottom seal is working properly — there are many sweeps, gaskets and thresholds designed to seal this gap. Doors generally need weatherstripping in their jambs as well. Adhesive-backed foam pads are easy to install for this purpose. Newer, energy-efficient windows generally don't require added weatherstripping, but if your windows are older, weatherstripping can keep drafts at bay and energy costs down.

Check storm windows
If you have storm windows that are cracked or dirty, repair and clean them now — prior to autumn installation.

Fight winter with plywood
Find a couple of scrap sheets of plywood and set them aside. When the weatherman predicts a cold snap, set the boards against the exterior basement vents on whichever side of your house bears the brunt of your prevailing weather patterns. This bit of scrappiness could help prevent frozen pipes. Be sure to remove the boards once the weather warms up — those vents are there for a reason.

Insulation speculation
This is a good time to check the condition of insulation and see if you need more, especially if you live in an older home. You can purchase unbacked or loose-fill insulation if you are just beefing up what is already there. If you are adding batted insulation to a spot that has none, remember that the foil-backed side is the vapor barrier, and it must face the heated area.

For example, if you are laying fiberglass insulation in an unfinished attic floor to keep heat in the living room below, you should see pink when you're done — not foil. If your walls lack insulation, consider having a professional install blown-in insulation foam. The energy savings will probably offset the cost of the procedure in a couple of years.

Check gutters
Do a quick visual check to make sure gutters are clear — they'll be performing double duty soon with rainstorms and falling leaves.

Keep mice out
September inspires nesting in mice as well as humans. Mice are looking for a winter home now, and that newly insulated attic would be just the spot. Mice can s

queeze through quarter-inch openings; rats need a half-inch. Make sure all exterior vents are screened, and that there are no gaps underneath garage doors. If you are careless about leaving doors and windows open this time of year, you'll be setting mousetraps later. Pet doors are another favorite access point for rodents.

Caulk exterior
Think of caulk as weatherstripping in a tube. Any gap on the outside of your home can be a candidate for caulking. Look at transition spots: corners, windows, doors, areas where masonry joins siding, or places where vents and other objects protrude from walls. Carefully read manufacturer's directions to make sure the caulk you buy will work where you plan to use it, and don't forget to purchase a caulking gun. Early fall is a good time for this task because caulk becomes difficult to apply when the temperature falls.

Got wood?
If you have a wood stove, it's not too early to lay in a supply of firewood. Though most of us buy whatever's local, bear in mind that soft woods like fir and cedar burn faster and create hazardous creosote in the chimney, thus requiring more system maintenance and more wood. Hardwoods such as oak, hickory and maple are slow, hot, clean burners. Wood piles attract insect and animal pests, so stack wood away from the house. Wood dries best when it's protected from rain and has air circulating around it, so under the roof of a wall-less carport would be an ideal wood storage spot.

Clean dryer vent
This is another one of those tasks that should be on your to-do list every six months. Scoot your clothes dryer away from the wall, unplug it, and vacuum behind it. (If it's a gas dryer, turn off the gas supply to the dryer at the appliance shutoff valve.) Unhook the tube that leads to the vent and clear as much lint from the tube as you can. Grab a shop vacuum, go outside, and tackle the outside dryer vent as well.

Inspect your roof and chimney

If your roof isn't too steep, and isn't covered with slate or tile, you may be able to carefully walk on it on a dry day. Look for broken or missing shingles, missing or damaged flashing and seals around vent pipes and chimneys, and damage to boards along the eaves. Also peer down your chimney with a flashlight to make sure no animals have set up house in it. If you can't get on your roof, perform this inspection with a ladder around the perimeter. Pay close attention to valleys and flashings — many leaks originate in these spots. Some patches and roofing cement now can prevent thousands of dollars of water damage later in the winter.


Posted on September 6, 2013 at 9:48 pm
Debi Bloomquist | Posted in Home Improvement, Homeowner News |

Electronics Recycling Event

Getting your home ready to sell? Have some new electronics and need to throw out the old? We are teaming up with 1 Green Planet to offer FREE recycling to our friends and customers. Saturday, September 7th from 10 am to 2 pm. Windermere Real Estate/M2, LLC parking lot 9502 19th Ave Se, Everett. 

We'll be serving coffee, muffins and snacks and will gladly accept non-perishable food items or cash donations for our annual local Realtor Food Drive.

Hope to see you there!

Debi


Posted on August 29, 2013 at 9:40 pm
Debi Bloomquist | Posted in Homeowner News, News For Seniors |