Things You Should Do Immediately When You Move into a New Home

Shaking Hands

You have a new home. Here are some great tips for things to do when you first move in to start saving money. Once the boxes are unpacked, tackle these tasks next.

Check the insulation in your attic. You should have about six inches of insulation throughout the attic. If you need more, get more! Click here for a guide from the Department of Energy on proper attic insulation.

Make sure the vents in all rooms are clear of dust and obstructions. Covering vents with anything makes your heating and cooling system work harder. And a quick dusting will help you remove dust and dust bunnies to keep these cleaner. If you need to, have a professional come out and clean all of your duct work.

Mark cracks in the basement with masking tape. It’s not unusual for basements to settle and for the floor to crack. But if you do have a problem with settling and cracking, you’ll want to take care of that sooner rather than later. Cover up the ends of cracks with masking tape. In a few months, if the cracks have grown outside of the original tape, call a professional for some repair work before the problem grows.

Plant some shade trees near your home. Get a natural cooling system working for you. Plant some trees near your house to add shade. Lowering the external temperature of your home can save you from running the air conditioning hard and all the time, when the sun is shining in the summer heat. The sooner you plant them, the sooner they can grow and help cool your home.

If you have to buy new appliances, buy energy efficient. You’ll likely pay more up front for these, but you’ll save money in the end. For example, a refrigerator that uses little energy and lasts 20 years is much less costly over time.

Check your toilets and under-sink plumbing. You don’t want these pipes leaking or discover you have a toilet that is constantly running. A dripping pipe may seem harmless enough, but the cost adds up in water and you may end up creating a mold problem.

Create a home maintenance checklist and run through it for the first time. And then run through it every month. Include things you want to check monthly or quarterly. Check plumbing, vents, outlets, paint, windows, etc. And while you’re at it, include a checklist for changing batteries in smoke detectors, something you should do at least once a year.

These are just a handful of tips to save money. Want more?
Read 18 Things a New Homeowner Should Do Immediately to Save Money.

Your Attic May Be the Storage Solution You Are Looking For

 

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Your attic may be the solution to your storage problems. But not all attics are the same, so before you begin using the space above your house, make sure you do some careful planning. Here are some tips to get you started.

Assess your space. If you have never used your attic for storage before you’ll want to really take a good look at the space you have. How much room is usable? Is it structurally sound for storage? How much weight can it hold? Storing a few holiday decorations is very different from storing furniture. This may be a good time to contact a contractor for some professional advice.

Test the weight it can hold. Some attics have solid, structurally sound floors. Others may require some good reinforcement. If you are able to walk in your attic, do so carefully. The supports may not be as good as your regular floors. Try to walk where you know there are beams.

Check for needed repairs. This space is often forgotten by homeowners, but not by squirrels and mice. Check for signs of rodents, including rodent droppings. And check all electrical wiring. Rodents often chew wires so be extra cautious.

Buy plastic storage bins. Use plastic bins rather than boxes to keep rodents away. They also will provide better protection if your roof leaks.

Hang hooks and shelves. This should be an easy task because the walls are usually unfinished so you can see exactly where to hang these.

Check out the nooks and crannies. You can usually push storage crates into some unusual areas.

Plan carefully for what to store in an attic. This space can be a great hiding place for items you don’t use often. It’s not a good space for candles, photos, paintings or other items that can be damaged by fluctuating temperatures and changes in humidity. Although it may be tempting to store family heirlooms in the attic, you may want to consider places that have more consistent temperatures and humidity levels for preservation.

Whether you use your attic space for storage or not, make sure you check the space out periodically. You don’t want to be surprised by squirrels making their home or leaks you didn’t know about. A good once-over every few months will keep this space ready for you when you need it. 

Look No Further for the Perfect Gift for the New Home Owner

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Are you looking for the perfect gift for friends or family who have just purchased a first home or are moving to a new home? Welcome them to their new neighborhood with one of these gift suggestions for new home owners.

Welcome Mat: Help them welcome guests and give them a place to wipe their feet before coming inside with a new welcome mat. You can find these at any home goods store or have a special mat customized with their name or initials. In either case, you’ll be welcome to their home any time.

Tool Gift Basket or Toolbox: Who isn’t looking for the right sized screw or nail when the move into a new home? And who really remembers where they put the picture hooks? Help the new homeowner get started on some household chores with a hammer, screw driver set, nails, screws, picture hanging kits, painters tape and other odds and ends. And if you know it’s a person’s first home, a new toolbox with the basic tools is even better.

Video Doorbell: If your budget is a bit bigger, new homeowners may like an extra layer of home protection with a video doorbell. These gadgets often have several options with different add-ons and price points.

Home Repair Book: Of course YouTube is filled with how-to videos for home repairs. But how are you supposed to remember exactly what to do when you’re under the kitchen sink? A book of basic how-to fixes is perfect for the new home owner to make quick references.

A Day of Childcare: How much can parents get done in a home when their kids are being entertained by a friend? How about taking the kids out for a day of play at the zoo, museum or park, so Mom and Dad can use the day to the fullest.

Houseplants: A houseplant brightens any room and breathes a little life into a new space. Even if your gift recipient doesn’t have a green thumb, there are some plants that are easy-to-grow with little maintenance. If your homeowner has pets, make sure you pick out a plant that is safe if ingested.

Room Humidifier: A lot of homes don’t come with built-in humidifiers and in dryer climates and in the winter when the heat is running, it’s nice to have the option to pump in a little humidity.

Gift Certificates: A gift certificate to a home improvement store is always welcome by any home owner whether this is their first home or their fifth home. Gift certificates for a restaurant or grocery store make great gifts, too, as they look for a night of relaxation or start stocking the refrigerator.

No matter your budget, big or small, there’s always a little room for a housewarming gift. 

 

 

Inexpensive Holiday Gift Guide

Funny pancakes for Christmas

Looking for the perfect holiday gift but don’t have a lot of money to spend? Here are some great gifts for anyone on your list that won’t blow your bank account!

A potted plant

Some indoor plant life can bring some much needed green into the long, dark January and February months. A potted plant is a great gift for anyone who has recently purchased a home or has lived in their home for years or even decades and needs a change. You can think big or small, depending on the size of their home. But if they have pets, make sure you pick a plant that is non-poisonous to animals.

Kitchen gadgets

It takes a long time to stock your first kitchen, especially with stuff that’s going to last. For that friend who needs basics, think a can opener, potato peeler or corkscrew. If you want to get fancier, you could go for a garlic press, a potato masher or a pastry cutter. Maybe throw in a pretty tea towel or place mats for a splash of color.

Small gardening tools

These are great for new homeowners suddenly faced with caring and tending to their own garden. Think some basic pruning shears or some tools for planting fresh flowers. Want to make the gift even more fun? Put these items in a flower pot and get them started on decorating their deck when spring comes.

A cookbook

A great way to save money is to make meals at home, but there are a lot of cookbooks out there. Choose something simple with a lot of basic recipes that can be adapted or modified. Or choose a cookbook that has an online blog associated with it. Then they will have a built-in community, where they can seek out further recipes as well as tips and tricks.

A few months of Netflix (or the recipient’s channel of choice) and some popcorn.

Cable TV is expensive, and a lot of people are looking for ways to cut their bills. A gift fo a few months of Netflix or Hulu is great for someone who wants to try something new but doesn’t know where to start.

Pancake mix and maple syrup

Pancakes are a favorite weekend treat, light and fluffy and a warm reminder that you have nowhere to be on a cold snowy morning. But making homemade pancakes isn’t always a top priority. A special pancake mix from a specialty food store can make this the perfect gift. Top it off with some maple syrup or homemade fruit compote. If they are new to the kitchen, you may even throw in a small griddle and a spatula!

A deck of cards

A deck or two of playing cards and you can create your own family fun and holiday memories. Old Maid and Go Fish for the kids, Gin Rummy, Poker and Black Jack for the adults. Get a classic deck or go for the recipient’s favorite theme. Whatever you decide you’re sure to bring family fun to your family’s holiday.

Board games

Go old school and get family games like Parcheesi, Monopoly, Trouble, Sorry or Yahtzee. Those games are around today still because of the fun they bring for the whole family. Or you can go with strategy games like Settlers of Catan or Risk. Those will bring a challenge, for sure. Friends like word games? How about Scrabble or Boggle? A walk down the game aisle of any toy store wil spur more fun board game ideas. Check out puzzles while you are in this aisle. Some of the best conversations and comfortable silences happen over the bonding of puzzle building.

Winter skin care kit

Frigid temperatures, bitter winds and dry, radiator air will give anyone’s skin a scare. But you can take the bite out of this pain with some nice lip balm, a good hand lotion, some cuticle oil and maybe a facial moisturizer or shaving lotion.

For pet lovers: A box of pet treats and a pet toy

Pamper your friends by pampering their pets. Get some squeaky toys and some treats. Or maybe Fido moved to a new home but his favorite bed didn’t make the trip. Check out all the options for pets online or in your local pet store. After all, nothing says you like your friend than loving their pet!

Whatever gift you give, at Universal Lending we want to wish you a  warm and happy winter holiday season and a happy new year!

Your Offer Can Beat a Cash Offer!

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The word on the street is that the sellers’ market is slowing down. But that doesn’t mean cash offers are a thing of the past. For a seller, cash offers may mean a faster closing, but they also may mean a lower offer and extra demands in the deal. Here are some ways you can still “win the deal,” even if you’re not paying cash.

1. Prove you are ready to buy: Get a Performance Guarantee with Universal Lending. Our Performance Guarantee is a conditional loan commitment that guarantees your earnest money up to $10,000. Essentially, you’re putting in an offer that has already gone through underwriting. Other homebuyers may offer a pre-approval letter, but a Performance Guarantee is even better.

2. If you don’t have a Performance Guarantee, get a pre-approval letter. Your pre-approval letter says that you are qualified to buy a home. Other buyers will have this letter, so if you don’t, you are at a disadvantage.

3. Choose a lender that can get deals done quickly. Universal Lending is known as a quick-closing lender and our loan officers would like to help your offer beat a cash offer.

4. Make a higher offer. Even if your buyers are eager to sell, more money may sweeten the deal. Cash buyers often offer less for the home, in exchange for the fast closing, but at the end of the day, they are still hoping to get as much money as they can. You may be surprised that you don’t have to offer thousands of dollars to beat the cash offer; a higher offer of just $1,000 may be enough of an incentive.

5. Offer a bigger down payment or more earnest money. The more you put down, the more serious you seem about your offer.

6. Make your best offer your first offer. Assume that there will be little or no negotiation on your offer and make your best offer right off the bat.

7. Learn what the seller’s terms are. A good real estate agent will find out what the seller is looking for. Does the seller need to stay in the home until they find a place to move? Are they looking to sell quickly and move out right away? Knowing this information ahead of time will help you make an offer that has a better chance of getting accepted.

8. Be flexible. Can you be accommodating on a closing date? Can you ask for fewer repairs? A little flexibility may go a long way.

9. Get another vote of confidence from your lender. An updated pre-approval letter is a great start. A phone call or video email from your loan officer is even better. One final push saying how strong of a buyer you are may be the key that helps you close the deal. A confident lender will instill confidence in the sellers.

When you’ve found your dream home, you want your dream home! Make sure you give it your best shot when you make your offer. Happy homeownership!

Cold Weather Hacks to Stay Warm Inside All Winter Long

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When it’s cold outside, you want to stay warm inside. Here are a few hacks to make your home warmer and cozier as we settle into whatever winter brings.

Add a rug or two. Got cold hard floors? A rug will provide some warming insulation. Even better, layering several will create a cozy barrier to keep your feet warm. Put a plush rug on a tile floor, and you’ll gladly stand up for winter.

Make your sofa snuggle-worthy. Put pillows and throw blankets on your sofa to make it a place you’re happy to snuggle on and snuggle into. Then burrow in with some tea and a good book or a good movie.

Reverse the direction of your ceiling fan blades. When you do this, the fan blades will push the hot air downwards (instead of drawing air upwards) and help keep the heat lower. This is especially important in rooms with high ceilings. How do you know your fan is spinning in reverse? When you look up your blades should be moving in a clockwise fashion.

Block a drafty window with a towel. Roll up a towel and place along the bottom of a door to stop drafts and heat leaks. Feeling crafty? Make some homemade door snakes.

Let the light shine in when it’s sunny. Open the curtains on sunny days; close them in the evenings. You want the sun to heat your home but you don’t want the cold nights to make your home drafty.

Warm your bed. Use flannel sheets and a warm down comforter to stay warm on frosty nights.

Wear your favorite warm clothes – the oversized sweater, the loose lounge pants – and don’t forget your socks. According to the Univesity of San Diego if your feet are cold, you’ll be cold. And wear slippers – in addition to wearing warm socks, keep your feet extra toasty when doing chores by wearing slippers.

Keep your oven door open after baking. Let the warm air circulate in your kitchen. This works especially well in a smaller home or kitchen, but it’s good to try no matter what size your home is.

Home alone? Keep your bathroom door open when you shower. The warm, humid air will seep out into your home.

Finally, close off rooms you’re not using. If you have an empty guest room or storage space, close the door and seal it with a draftstopper. You won’t waste money heating a room you don’t use.

Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling

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The good news about shoveling snow is that you can burn some calories, about 250 in 30 minutes for a 170-pound person. And that may be all of the good news. As winter weather inevitably moves in, it’s good to keep in mind a few snow shoveling tips.

Prepare for shoveling.

  • Get ready before you get started.
  • Put on layers of clothing.
  • Stretch.
  • Wax your shovel blades by spraying them with cooking spray. By spraying your shovel blade with cooking spray, you make it slippery and make it easier for snow to slide off.

Once you head outside, maintain good physical health by doing the following:

  • Lift with your legs.
  • Push the snow across the walkway rather than lifting and carrying it. If you do lift, move your arms down close to the blade keep the blade close to you.
  • If the snow fall is deep, skim a layer off the top and make two passes in one area, so you aren’t pushing or lifting too much.
  • Take breaks and rest, and drink a lot of water. Shoveling snow is intense, and you need to treat the activity like you would any physical exercise, which means resting and drinking water.

Pay attention to paths.

  • Make sure you aren’t blocking any pathways or doorways with piles of snow. And push the snow far enough off the driveway or walkway that it doesn’t fall back to where you previously shoveled. By leaving room, you also are ensuring that you have room to shovel more snow if it continues to snow or snows again soon.

Care for your tree limbs.

  • If too much snow sticks to the trees, it can cause branches and limbs to break. Remember to knock snow off of branches, especially if it is heavy and wet snow. This will protect your trees and anything that is below.

Make your car safe to drive.

  • Knock all of the snow off your car’s windshield, roof, hood and trunk before driving anywhere. You need to be able to see and you don’t want it blowing back at you or blowing onto the cars in traffic.

Winter can be a snap (or a little easier, anyway) if you are careful in the snow.