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.

Make More Room in Your Kitchen

Family Life in the Kitchen

There are some ways to make even the smallest kitchen seem bigger and gain some awesome storage space you weren’t expecting. Try these tips as you start thinking about ways to make the kitchen you have the dream kitchen you want.

Before doing anything else….PURGE!

Grab a garbage bag and start throwing things away. Clean out your pantry, cabinets, freezer and refrigerator. Anything outdated including cereals, spices, canned goods and more can go. Old sponges, storage containers with no lids, expired meats, freezer burned soups and vegetables, and old leftovers all can be discarded. You’ll feel good about starting from scratch, and you will know what you have and what you need when you go to the store.

When you do go to the store, only buy what you need. If you’re a bulk shopper, store extra items in the garage or basement, but keep them out of the kitchen.

Hide your chairs. If you have an island or counter seating in your kitchen, buy a couple of low stools that you can push underneath and out of the way.

Put small appliances away. Toasters, mixers and other kitchen appliances are tools, not decorations. Put them in one of the larger cabinets until they are used again for meal prep.

Buy some cabinet shelving and dividers. You can purchase some inexpensive cabinet shelving for stackable pots and pans, serving dishes, vases and pitchers. It’s an easy fix to get some quick storage space back.

Get a smaller table. If you have a small dining nook, then you need a small table. You may even find one with folding parts so you can make it larger and smaller as needed.

Attach a sanitation rack to cabinet below the sink. These are inexpensive and easy to affix to the wall of the cabinet. Put your dish soap, sponges, and other frequently used cleaning products in it. They are easy to get to and off the sink.

Hang your plants. Get your houseplants off the counter by hanging them up or putting them on upper shelves.

A lot of families spend more time in their kitchens than any other rooms in their home. Make it a room you want to be in!

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!

Avoid Plumbing Problems at the Holidays and All Year Long!

DIY plumber

The day after Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days for plumbers. Why? We put a lot more down our kitchen sink… That, coupled with holiday guests who flush, bathe and do laundry, adds extra stress to the usually quiet plumbing. Here are tips to keep your home’s drain clog free.

Do a drain check before the holidays. Houses often have partially clogged drains that you may have ignored because they are no big deal. But when a house full of guests becomes part of the picture, partially clogged turn into fully clogged quickly. Unclog all drains ahead of time.


And then, after every drain is free of debris, follow some simple tips to keep them that way throughout the season.

In the Kitchen

Don’t pour fats or cooking oil down the drain. They can solidify even if you are running water and the disposal. Save a can and pour grease, fat, oil in the can and then let it harden in the refrigerator before you throw it away.

Watch out for items that should not go in the disposal at any time of the year, but especially when it’s extra busy. Stringy and fibrous items do more harm than good. Turkey or chicken skin, celery, and fruit and potato peels are examples of items that cannot be broken down well and are no match for the garbage disposal.

Make sure you have the disposal running when you add food. Don’t wait until it is full to turn it on.

In the Bathroom

Unless it’s septic system safe toilet paper or a spider, it has no business being flushed down the toilet. Don’t put cotton, tissues, hair, makeup remover pads or anything else down the toilet. They will not dissolve and they will cause problems.

Let a few minutes pass between showers so drains can drain. This may also give the hot water heater a chance to heat up.

Before the Holidays

Fix any problems you know you have bubbling up before the holidays, if you can. If you’re hot water heater isn’t doing its job the way it should, you’d rather be safe than sorry. But if you do get in hot water with a plumbing issue, find out BEFORE you hire a plumber what their holiday fees are. There are plumbers who don’t charge extra but you will have to do some research.

There’s enough going on that the holidays; plumbing problems don’t need to be a part of the activity! With a few precautions, you won’t have to worry about draining your bank account! 

 

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.

Why Winter May Be the Right Time to Buy Your New Home

Daughter and Father near the Fireplace

It may be turning cold outside but fall and winter just may be the best time for you to get a hot deal on a new home. Don’t let the blues of shorter days keep you from house hunting in the fall winter. There are some good reasons that now may be the best time to buy your new home.

Fewer buyers are house hunting.
Most home buyers shop in the spring and summer, when homes pop up for sale like tulips. Because there are so many fewer buyers, winter home buyers are more likely to get a good deal on the house they want.

Lower prices.
With fewer buyers in the market, home sellers often lower prices to attract the buyers who are out there.

Sellers are motivated.
Motivated sellers may be a great thing for home buyers, as they are more willing to negotiate. When you find the house you are looking for, you may be able to negotiate on price, closing costs, repairs, and even items such as appliances or other items you want included in the sale.

Inspections may turn up more or different items in the different seasons.
You will have the opportunity to see the house at work in the winter. Gutters, windows, heating systems, etc. get put to test during the colder months. You may miss some of the curb appeal of the manicured lawn when shopping in the winter, but you’ll know if the plumbing is working at full capacity and able to handle extremes.

Don’t miss out on buying your dream home because it’s cold outside. Seize the opportunity to put the season to work for you.

You Budgeted to Buy a House – Now Budget as a New Homeowner

Save money for home cost

Most of us budget when we want to buy a house, but budgeting after we are homeowners, that’s another story. After you’ve signed the papers and the movers have unpacked your last box, you still need to have a budget for “what’s next.” Without this, you may find yourself with some unexpected needs and no way to pay for them. Here are a few pointers. 

Account for new regular expenses
Even as a renter, you probably had some bills you’ll continue to cover as a homeowner – electricity, water, gas, internet, etc. But when you buy a home, there are new expenses to add to this list.

  • Real estate taxes and homeowners insurance: These often are included in your monthly mortgage payment. If any of these change, even if you have a fixed-interest mortgage, your payment can fluctuate from year to year because of changes in taxes and homeowners insurance premiums.
  • Homeowners association: We see a lot of HOAs in today’s home market. These fees can be as high as several hundreds dollars a month. HOA dues may be payable monthly or annually. If you pay these annually, be sure to budget for them so you have the money to cover the costs when it’s time.
  • Home maintenance and upkeep: As a homeowner, you’ll want to stay on top of maintenance. One rule of thumb is to set aside 1% – 2% of your income to cover these costs. If your home is older, you may need to plan even a little more.
  • High cost repairs: If you have high cost or high value repairs, you’ll need to have budgeted even more. A new roof, deck replacement, or other big projects like finishing a basement or covering plumbing emergencies may cost more. Plan ahead.
  • Finally, make sure you continue to build your emergency fund. Three to six months of living expenses is what most financial planners recommend you always have in a ready-to-use savings plan. This is only for emergencies, but building it up should be part of your budgeting plan.

Being a homeowner is a great thing, and with all great things comes great responsibility! Be ready for anything, homeowner!