Things to Keep in Mind Around Your Home as You Clean Up from the Winter Storm


Things to Keep in Mind Around Your Home as You Clean Up from the Winter Storm

Eco-friendly ideas for cleaning up mother nature’s winter wrath

As I’ve been watching the coverage of the most recent winter storm, I’ve been wondering about the environmental impact these storms have regarding the materials used for clean-up. The biggest factor is the salt and its impact to the eco-system. Since there is nothing we can do about how our local governments treat the roadways, except voice our concerns about clean-up methods, there is action we can take when it comes to how we deal with the snow around our homes.

Going Green During Your Winter Clean-up Around the House

Of course the best green advice is a back-breaker: shovel. And then shovel more, and you know the rest of the story. But an alternative might be to locate and hire an eco-friendly snow removal company like Eco Snow Removal to help you in the process.

If you want to get high-tech in your snow removal method, you might want to consider having a professional install a Sno*Melter on your roof, driveway or sidewalks. How jealous is this going to make your neighbors?

But if you don’t have the budget for a Sno*Melter anytime soon, then the most common de-icer method ends up being salt. There are all types of products on the market, so make sure to choose wisely because some products can wreak havoc on the environment (and your pets). The least toxic solution is calcium chloride or calcium magnesium acetate (CMA). Be sure to check the labels of the products you are bringing home to ensure you’re not introducing harmful agents around your home. Here is a great reference chart to help you in your next purchase.

Have another green snow or ice removal solution? Share with everyone so we all can get in on the snow day fun.

Photo credit via Flicker user Justin Wolfe

Cure Those Winter Blues At Home With These Bright Ideas

Cure Those Winter Blues At Home With These Bright Ideas

The winter blues tend to hit shortly after the holidays, but these fun ideas will help bring the sunshine into your home – and happiness into your life!

The holidays have come and gone. The warmer weather just feels so. Far. Away. If you’re like me and sadly don’t have a tropical getaway in your immediate future, you may be feeling a case of the winter blues. Fortunately, this is not a serious condition and can be cured with the following fun ideas in your home:

1. Have a BBQ
Yes, barbecues are usually reserved for the spring and summer months, but who’s stopping you from having one in January? Grab some hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken and fire up that grill! Make sure to check out our tips for grilling in the chilly weather!


2. Brighten up your space
The winter months can feel like they drag on since the sun sets early and the days are much shorter. While the sun may not be shining outside, you can bring some of those warm, sunny hues into your home by incorporating them into your decor. Throw a bright throw over your favorite chair, blow up your favorite family beach photo on canvas and hang it in your living room, or even switch out a plain white lampshade for a bold color. You’ll be surprised how much these small changes can really affect your mood!


3. Infuse your home with a summer scent
Scent is one of the most powerful triggers which can immediately bring us back to a specific place or time. Coconut, tangerine, and florals immediately remind me of a warm summer’s day. Light a candle in your favorite summer scent to be transported to your happy (summer) place!


4. Buy some fresh flowers
Your backyard garden may look a little “blah” this time of year, but you can always bring the garden indoors by purchasing a fresh bouquet of flowers in your favorite hue. If taken care of properly, your fresh flowers may even last a week or more!


What you need to know about the December Housing Numbers

What you need to know about the December Housing Numbers

As you settle into 2015, take a look back to see how real estate rounded out the year in 2014. Today the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released its December existing-home sales report, revealing positive trends for 2015. Total existing-home sales totaled 5.04 million in December 2014, above last year’s December number by 3.5 percent. […]

As you settle into 2015, take a look back to see how real estate rounded out the year in 2014. Today the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released its December existing-home sales report, revealing positive trends for 2015. Total existing-home sales totaled 5.04 million in December 2014, above last year’s December number by 3.5 percent.

In 2014 total sales reached 4.93 million, a 3.1 percent decline from 2013 (5.09 million), but the median existing-home price for December was $209,500 which marked the 334th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains!

December’s percent share of first-time buyers was 29 percent, up from a year ago (27 percent). For the second straight year, first-time buyers represented an average of 29 percent. Additionally, December’s report revealed that thirty-one percent of homes were on the market for less than a month!

2014 was a good year. And here’s to hoping that 2015 is even better. As you sip your hot chocolate, dream of warm weather and start planning your dream house, take a look at these listings in the median sales prices across the country.

Northeast median sales price: $246,600

Midwest median sales price: $159,100

South median sales price: 184,100

West median sales price: $299,600

8 Energy Saving Tips to Cut Your Gas Bill

8 Energy Saving Tips to Cut Your Gas Bill

Energy Saving Tips

As temperatures fall, you’ll seek a heat system in your home to keep you cozy and warm.

Yet no one wants toasty temperatures indoors if it means your utility costs will rise to unreasonable levels.

Consider these eight energy saving tips below, so you aren’t sweating when your winter gas bills come, and as the weather warms, evaluate your winterizing measures to see which ones make sense to maintain through the spring and summer months.

1. Program Your Thermostat

Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter. For each degree you raise your thermostat setting, your fuel bill climbs 3%.

Consider slipping into a sweater before you crank up the temperature. Don’t forget to program the thermostat to a lower temperature during the hours you are away from home, either.

If your thermostat allows you to program different temperature zones, turn the heat down or off in rooms that aren’t being used.

2. Maintain Filters and Heating System Equipment

Regularly clean or replace the filters for your furnace and central heating system. Likewise, make sure to clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators—ensuring that they are clean and not blocked by debris or trapped air.

If you’re not sure how to bleed trapped air from a hot-water heat radiator or flush the water heater, call a professional. They also can perform a routine check of your central heating/cooling duct system for leaks.

A simple task like cleaning equipment and making sure it’s not leaking or obstructed by furniture, carpet or drapes can improve your system’s energy efficiency by 10% while extending the life of your equipment.

3. Install Radiator Reflectors

If you use radiators to heat your home, placing heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators will help prevent you from heating walls unnecessarily and can reduce heat loss.

4. Add Insulation

Wrapping insulation around pipes and your water heater can help minimize heat loss as water runs from the water heater to your faucets.

By adding insulation, you won’t have to wait as long for hot water, you will conserve water, and you can save up to 10% of your total energy costs.

Just be sure to leave the air intake vent uncovered on the water heater.

5. Seal Openings

It’s foolish to spend money heating your home if the warm air can escape. Caulk and weather-strip around exterior seams, cracks and openings. Pay extra attention around windows and at points where various exterior materials like wood, brick and vinyl siding meet.

On the inside, caulking and weather-stripping around windows and door frames will cut down on drafts. A draft guard along the bottom of an exterior door also can help prevent heat from escaping.

If you’re not using your chimney, close the damper. Additionally, air sealing and properly insulating the attics, walls, floors over crawl spaces and accessible basement rim joists can save up to 10% of total energy costs.

6. Replace Windows

Consider replacing old windows with high-efficiency Energy Star double-pane windows with protective coatings that reflect heat back into your home during winter. This can reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to 15%.

If such a retrofit is not in your budget, cover your windows with clear plastic film. At a typical cost of $4 to $6 per window, the film creates an insulating air pocket between the plastic and the window, reducing heat loss through windows by between 25% and 50%.

7. Use Fans Wisely

It may sound simple, but using fans judiciously can save energy, too. In just one hour, kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans can pull out a houseful of warm air. So turn ventilation fans off as soon as they have done the job.

Aim keep the humidity level between 30% and 60%. In rooms where you have a ceiling fan, reverse the direction so that they move in a clockwise direction and push hot air near the ceiling toward the floor.

8. Adjust Drapes

When it’s cold outside, keep drapes and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow sunlight to enter your home, and then you can close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.

This article is updated from a previous version on®.

What Is An Upside-Down Mortgage?

What Is an Upside-Down Mortgage?


When you buy a home, you hope the value will appreciate over time so you’ll be able to build equity. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Home values in neighborhoods can rise sharply for relatively simple reasons such as a major improvement in public transportation. Home values can also plummet.

These fluctuations can have serious financial repercussions—if you purchase before a drop, you could find yourself upside down on your mortgage.


An upside-down mortgage is simply a mortgage in which the owner owes more than the house is worth. If you can afford the monthly mortgage payments and don’t want to move, being upside down may not have an immediate effect. However, it will take longer to build equity in your home, which will affect your ability to refinance or sell your home and make a profit.

Fluctuation in home values

Volatility in neighborhood home values is the biggest cause of upside-down mortgage situations. Sometimes this instability benefits home buyers. When the housing market is strong, buyers can get a home at a relatively low price and sell it a few years later and make thousands of dollars in profit. The opposite is also true. A buyer who purchases a house at peak value stands to lose money when its value falls.

Nontraditional mortgages

Nontraditional mortgages—also called exotic or high-risk mortgages—can lead a homeowner into an upside-down mortgage situation or make it worse. Some mortgages allow interest-only payments for the first few years, which keeps payments low but doesn’t make a dent in the principal or build equity. Monthly payments on negative amortization mortgages don’t even cover the full interest costs. Instead, the interest payment is deferred and added to the principal. On these mortgages, a home buyer ends up owing more than the original loan. Homeowners in the first few years of these mortgages have little equity in their home.

Selling your home

Selling when you have an upside-down mortgage can be tricky. Buying or selling a home involves additional expenses such as closing costs, lawyer fees, and real estate agent fees. Some mortgages have prepayment penalties that actually charge the mortgage holder for paying off the mortgage before it comes to term. These fees and penalties add to the cost of selling a house, and increase the amount of money that you’ll owe when leaving your home.

If selling on your own isn’t an option and you’re falling behind on payments, some lenders will accept a short sale and forgive the difference between the amount of the sale and the total mortgage loan. However, this will damage your credit and may hurt your chances of qualifying for another home in the future.

The simplest solution for homeowners with upside-down mortgages is to continue making mortgage payments, if possible, and wait for home prices to rise again before selling their homes.

Updated from an earlier version by Dini Harris

How to Choose the Most Important Features in a Home

How to Choose the Most Important Features in a Home

January 15, 2015

Buying a home is a long process. Approaching it correctly from the beginning can save a great deal of time and effort later and help improve your chances of finding the right home for you.

Make a List of the Most Important Aspects You Want in a Home

Determining exactly what to look for is often the most difficult part of the home search. Homes come in varying shapes and sizes, with different colors and characteristics. Paying attention to all of these details can become problematic, causing you to lose focus.

The best way to avoid this is to sit down ahead of time and make a list of the most important aspects of the home you want to buy. For example, you likely have a certain number of bedrooms in mind. Maybe you want to be in a certain school district, or perhaps you want a larger kitchen.

Some experts recommend making a secondary list of desirable characteristics that you can do without, but would prefer to have, if possible. This list can be longer and used to narrow down choices or decide between homes if more than one is appealing.

#1 Reason to Sell Now

#1 Reason to Sell Now


#1 Reason to Sell Now | Keeping Current Matters

If you are one of the many homeowners out there who are debating putting their home on the market in 2015, don’t miss out on the opportunity that currently exists. There will be significantly less competition in the winter months than in the spring.

According to the National Housing Survey released by Fannie Mae, 45% of homeowners “say mortgage rates will go up in the next 12 months.”

What Does This Mean?

Homeowners are unaware that interest rates are projected to go up by all four major reporting institutions – This is big news for move-up buyers reflecting the overall amount of housing inventory that will be on the market.

If existing homeowners believe that mortgage interest rates are not going to increase, then they won’t be inclined to make a move by putting their home up for sale, meaning less competition for sellers who list now.

Don’t Wait!

The study also revealed that:

“Those who say it is a good time to buy a house rose to 68%” & “the share of respondents who think it would be difficult to get a home mortgage today decreased by 3 percentage points.”

As Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae explains:

“We expect consumer attitudes toward housing to improve as the pickup in the overall economy lifts employment and income prospects.“

Bottom Line

There are buyers out there who are ready to make a move. If your goal this year is to move up to your dream home, what are you waiting for?

4 Tips for Selling a Home in Today’s Real Estate Market

4 Tips for Selling a Home in Today’s Real Estate Market

January 13, 2015

Selling a home in today’s real estate market can seem overwhelming, but with a seasoned real estate agent, you will be well equipped when navigating the home selling process. Try implementing these tips below and consult your agent to make your selling process as effective as possible.

  1. Avoid Clutter When Staging a Home

    Make sure that you remove any clutter in your home.

    You may want to move some items of furniture or other large objects into a garage or basement, or place them in storage. At the same time, do not completely empty out the house as it may leave a potential home buyer with the impression of a sterile and uninviting environment. Some ways you can improve your home aesthetically include planting flowers, painting your home a neutral color and removing personal items such as picture frames and mail.

  2. Offer Incentives

    One effective way to distinguish your home for sale from others is to offer special incentives. For example, you can offer gifts to home buyers or can let them keep some of the existing appliances in the home such as a washer and dryer set.

  3. Increase Marketing

    A real estate agent is a great resource who can help market and spread the word about your home for sale. However, be sure to utilize all other resources available as well. Many younger, first-time home buyers use social media websites to locate homes for sale. You may want to sign up for these sites and include detailed information and professional-looking photos to help attract prospective home buyers.

  4. Price Aggressively

    While putting your home up for sale with a low price tag may not be ideal, by pricing competitively, you may be able to attract more attention to your property than if you try selling it at market value.

Plan for Home-Buying Success, Not Paralysis

Plan for Home-Buying Success, Not Paralysis


It’s hard to balance your needs, wants and finances—almost every aspect of your life—when buying a new home. The sheer range of choices and decisions can lead to “paralysis by analysis” for prospective home buyers.

Overanalyzing when buying a home is perfectly understandable, but the crucial question is: How can you get past it?

Stay organized

List what you’re looking for in a home, then divide the items into “wants” and “needs.”

These items should include your preferred location, home style, size and features, or proximity to friends, work and shopping. Keep this list handy when looking at homes.

Create a list for each aspect of the buying process, and then break out your options and what you hope to get out of each stage. For example, consider the professionals (e.g., REALTORS®, lawyers, mortgage brokers and engineers) you will need to consult. Jot down thoughts on the help you’ll require from each of the experts, and then update your notes with the advice they give you.

If you’re debating on where to compromise on your home—and if the property is worth it—the experts can help you decide.

Taking some time to think through your concerns and needs, and how to get answers to your questions, can help give your search direction—and ensure you don’t forget anything important.

Balance sheet

The financial aspects of buying a home can be daunting, particularly as you try to figure out what kind of house you can afford.

Start by examining your current income, assets and liabilities, and then consider your needs in the immediate and near future. Will you need to pay for preschool, college or retirement?

Consider future sources of income, including any expected promotions or other salary increases.

Weigh the costs involved in purchasing and maintaining your new home, including tax and insurance.

Apply the 20/28/36 rule: Aim for a 20% down payment, then assume a mortgage not more than 2% of your gross monthly income and monthly expenses that hover around 36% of your gross monthly income.

These are guidelines, not rules—there may be valid reasons why your percentages vary—but these simple ratios can guide your decision.

Fear of the future

Finding reasons to worry is easy.

It’s natural to fret over making your mortgage payments, whether the place you buy will meet your needs in five years or 10, or whether your investment will increase in value.

Some fears are easier to deal with, such as managing your money well so you can afford to pay off your mortgage. Seeking professional financial advice may help put your mind at rest in this regard.

Interest rates and property prices are beyond your control. However, your best hedge against the future is to keep your home in good condition for when you decide to sell it. Quite often, a well-maintained home will attract a buyer.

As for the difficulty in predicting what your personal situation will be—whether you will have a partner, children or parents to care for—this is where you need to just close your eyes and leap.

Trust that all of your preparation and homework have led you to make the best possible decision you can. That’s the best anyone can do.

And it often works out just fine.

Based on an original article by Ben Apple