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! 

 

Top Tips for Keeping Produce Fresh Longer

Family Outing to the Grocery Store

No one likes to throw food away. Groceries are expensive and when you can keep your food fresh longer, you can save a lot of cash. Here are some tips for keeping your fresh food fresher longer.

Keep your refrigerator clean. Leftover residue or mold spores can increase the spoilage of all your food in the refrigerator.

Click here for some tips to easily clean your refrigerator and keep it clean longer.

Don’t store fruits and vegetables near a gas stove. Natural gas has been shown to increase ripening. In addition, don’t store fruits or vegetable in areas that have smoke or heat, like the stove or toaster oven. The exhaust and heat from these can increase the amount of Ethylene gas that is produced and speed up the ripening process.

Store produce in special storage bags that you can buy from your grocer.

Don’t cut your fruits and vegetables until you will be using them. Cut fruit will spoil faster.

If you do cut your fruit or veggies sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to keep them fresh and cover them with plastic wrap.

Place fresh herbs and leafy greens in a jar or vase of water, just like you would a bouquet of flowers. They’ll last longer and you’ll have a beautiful, green arrangement.

Store dried green onions or chives after you chop them up in a plastic water bottle in the freezer. When you’re ready to use some, just pull this out and sprinkle.

Store potatoes with apples to keep the potatoes from sprouting, and keep them away from your onions. Onions will make apples go bad faster.

Keep your greens in the refrigerator in a bowl with a paper towel, and cover with plastic wrap. The paper towel will absorb the excess moisture and keep them fresh.

Clean berries, fruits, and greens in a mixture of 10 parts water and 1 part white vinegar. This will remove dirt and even pesticides, and help them last longer by preventing mold.

Bad apple in the bunch? Remove it immediately. The old saying “One bad apple will spoil the bunch,” is true.

Store fruit in the middle of the refrigerator or in the drawers to keep temperatures consistent.

Keep bananas away from your other produce, as they produce some of the highest amounts of Ethylene gas. Place plastic wrap around the crown of your banana bunch to keep them lasting longer. If you want them to ripen super fast, place them in a closed plastic bag. Since they emit so much Ethylene gas, they’ll ripen quickly when the gas is trapped by the bag.

Keep tomatoes at room temperature and away from sunlight. If you grow your own tomatoes, pick them as soon as they are ripe. Do not to store your tomatoes in plastic; this will trap moisture and increase the likelihood of spoilage.

Store nuts in the freezer or in a food safe jar to protect them from moisture and air.

It’s no fun to throw food away, and it’s always fun to eat fresh! Try a few of these tips and see if you’re not saving and using more food than you ever have before! 

Button Up Your House for Early Winter Prep: Cold Weather Hacks

Kids enjoy the snowfall

October is a good time to button up your house for winter. We still have days that are nice enough to get outside and take care of business, but we know that Old Man Winter will be knocking on our doors soon enough. Here are a few hacks to make winter-proofing your house easier. 

Find all the places that cold air can leak in and warm air can leak out.
And then caulk these cracks so no more air can whisper through them. Check baseboards, windows and doors, ceiling light fixtures, electrical outlets… anywhere that the outside can meet the inside. When you block drafts, you have the potential to save between 5 and 30 percent in utility bills, according to the US Department of Energy.

Here’s your hack: At night, have a friend walk outside after you turn off your lights. Have your friend shine a flashlight along doors and windows. The light will illuminate large cracks. Those are your leaks. Here’s another hack, let your neighbors know you are doing this so they don’t call the police.

Check your heating system. You’ll save money on energy bills if your heater is running efficiently. Even if you have to call in a pro on this one, it’s a good idea to have your heater looked at. If you have gas fireplaces, get someone in to check those, too. Better safe than sorry when it comes to potential carbon monoxide leaks or other dangers.

Here’s your hack: Remove all of the vent covers and wash them in sudsy water and dust the heating returns. Let the covers dry all the way before putting them back on. This is one simple way to cut down on dust in your home.

Check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. You and your family are at greater risk when batteries aren’t working in your alarms. You should check these batteries twice a year, so now is a good time.

Here’s your hack: Make it a habit to check your batteries when we move our clocks forward or backward. This weekend’s your big day, and you’ll have time as we fall back on Saturday and gain in hour!

Clean your patio furniture. Rats! It’s that time of the year. You’re not going to be lounging lawn-side for a few months. When it’s clean, find a good place in the garage or basement to store it to keep it clean.

Here’s your hack: You can scrub your plastic furniture to a pristine clean with a Brillo pad and then give it a final rinse. Not up for that? You also can power wash your furniture.

Get your home ready now so you’re not scrambling in the cold to get ready later.

Fed Announces Fed Funds Rate Hike

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After its September 25-26 meeting, the Fed announced an increase to the benchmark Federal Funds Rate by 0.25 percent for the third time this year. The increase, which was expected by investors, brings the new target rate range to between 2 and 2.25 percent.

If you’re wondering what this rate hike means for home loan rates, don’t panic. A rise in home loan rates shouldn’t be expected as a direct result of the Fed’s decision.

This is because the Fed hike is not to all rates but to the Fed Funds Rate, which is the short-term rate at which banks lend money to each other overnight. The Fed Funds Rate is not directly tied to long-term rates on consumer products like purchase or refinance home loans.

In its announcement, the Fed noted that the economy and labor market continue to strengthen and that inflation remains near the Fed’s target of 2 percent. If inflation can stay in check, this could be good news for home loan rates. Inflation reduces the value of fixed investments like Mortgage Bonds, and home loan rates are tied to Mortgage Bonds.

However, continued strong economic news could also benefit Stocks at the expense of Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates if investors move money into Stocks to take advantage of gains. I’ll continue to monitor all these market movements for you.

While home loan rates have ticked higher this year, they remain attractive historically. If you have any questions about whether you can benefit from current home loan rates, please reach out to Universal Lending at anytime.

Protect Yourself from Identity Thieves with Free Credit Freezes

CreditFreeze

In the past, credit freezes have cost $5 to $10 in most states. Starting Friday, September 21, credit freezes are free. Take advantage of protecting your credit and your identity.

After the Equifax credit breach, we heard a lot about freezing credit as a way to protect ourselves from identity theft. By freezing your credit, you stop credit card companies, banks, and other lenders from accessing your credit records. When creditors cannot see a person’s credit report or credit score, they generally will not issue a new credit card.

By preventing creditors from accessing your credit report, you are taking a proactive step to stop identity thieves who apply for new accounts in your name.

However, when you freeze your credit, you also stop yourself out from getting a new credit card or loan, or opening a credit account in your name. In the past, freezing and unfreezing your credit could cost you a fee every time.

Starting September 21, if your credit is frozen, you will be able to unfreeze your credit reports at no charge, and then freeze your accounts again for your own protection.

To freeze your credit for free, contact each of the three major credit bureaus after Friday’s fee change.

Equifax
Experian
TransUnion

Want to take one more step to protect yourself? The Colorado Public Interest Group recommends requesting a freeze with the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange. The NCTUE issues credit reports for people applying for cell phones. This helps prevent a thief from opening a cell phone in your name as well.

Your credit counts whether you’re looking for a home mortgage or making any financial decisions. If you’d like to learn more about this email or mortgage loans, please contact me.