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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Money Saving Tips for Heating Your Home During the Winter

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

Money-Saving Tips for Heating Your Home

Space heating accounts for more than 40 percent of annual energy use in a typical home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. By taking action before and during the heating season, you can reduce your heating costs and make your home more comfortable during those cold winter months.

Get your home ready for winter

•Have a qualified technician inspect and clean your heating system before the start of cold weather to ensure your system is running efficiently.

•Inspect the ductwork in exposed areas such as the basement or attic, and repair any leaks or disconnections.

•Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows to prevent heat loss.

•Make sure your home is insulated to levels recommended for your climate zone.

•Seal gaps and air leaks in your chimney, plumbing access and other often-overlooked areas of the home. For more information, see Hidden Sources of Home Heat Loss.

•If your heating system is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with a newer, more efficient unit. If you install a new system, make sure it is ENERGY STAR qualified. ENERGY STAR, which is a joint program of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, tests and certifies products for energy efficient performance.

Saving energy during the heating season

•Change the air filter on your furnace once per month during the heating season. A dirty filter restricts air flow and causes the system to run less efficiently.

•Save energy by setting your thermostat at the lowest comfortable temperature. Optimize savings by lowering your thermostat setting when you are sleeping or away from home. Afraid you might forget? A programmable thermostat can make the adjustments for you.

•Reverse the airflow direction of ceiling fans, forcing warm air to bounce off the ceiling down into the living space where you need it.

•Open window treatments on south- and east-facing walls during the day to let in warming sunshine. At night, close them to keep cold air out and maintain the heat inside your home.

For Market Information in your Neck Of The Woods, visit: http://www.mynolahomes.com/mimarket

If you or anybody you know needs assistance with real estate, please call me at (504)382-3724. Thanks, Alicia

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Five Great Things about Homeownership

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde Craig

If you've been on the fence about homeownership, now is the time to take a leap! Don't let the negative press deter you from one of life's greatest joys.

Take a look at five short and sweet reasons that homeownership is great!

1. Equity: When you pay rent, you never see that money again. It is lining the landlord's pocket. Yes, buying a home may come with some hefty initial costs (downpayment, closing costs, inspections), but you will make that money back over time in equity built in the home. Historically, homes appreciate by about 4 to 6 percent a year. Some areas are still experiencing normal appreciation rates. For the areas that have seen harder times since the recession, experts feel that the housing market will recover. Homeownership is about building long-term wealth. A home bought for $10,000 in 1960 is most likely worth 10 times that in today's market.

2. Relationships: Renters tend to see their neighbors come and go quickly. Some people sign year leases while others are in the community for much shorter terms. Apartment complexes also tend to have less common shared space for people to meet, greet, and socialize. Homeowners, however, have yards, walking trails, or community pools and clubhouses where they can get to know each other. Neighbors stay put much longer (at least three to five years if they hope to recoup their closing costs). This means more time to develop relationships. Research has shown that people with healthy relationships have more happiness and less stress.

3. Predictability: Well, as long as you have a fixed-rate term on your mortgage it's predictable. Most people buying homes today know that a fixed-rate is the way to go. This means your payment amount is fixed for the life of the term. If your mortgage payment is $500 today, then it will still be $500 a month in 10 years. This allows for people to budget and make solid financial plans. The sub-prime crisis meant many homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages saw their monthly payments rise and then rise some more. Homeownership, though, generally comes with a predictable table of expenditures. Even the big purchases are predictable. You know most roofs last just 15 years (or so). You know that each year you'll need to pay for the gutters to be cleaned, and so on.

4. Ownership: Okay, this is a given. Homeownership means you "own" your home. That comes with some incredible perks, though! You can renovate, update, paint, and decorate to your heart's desire. You can plant trees, install a pool, expand the patio, or do holiday decorating that would rival the Kranks (if the HOA allows!). The bottom line is this is your home and you can personalize it to your taste. Most renters are stuck with the same beige walls and beige carpet that has been standard apartment decor for 20 years. Now is your chance to let your home speak!

5. Great Deals: It's a great time to buy. Interest rates are at historic lows. We're talking 3.25 percent instead of 6.0 or higher. This means BIG savings for today's buyers. Home prices have also taken a dip since the recession, which means homes are more affordable than ever. If you have steady income and cash for a downpayment, then be sure to talk to your local real estate agent about what homes in your area could be a fit for you.

Homeownership is a real joy. It's time to get off the fence and into a home that is right for you!

For Market Information in your Neck Of The Woods, visit: http://www.mynolahomes.com/mimarket

If you or anybody you know needs assistance with real estate, please call me at (504)382-3724. Thanks, Alicia