Michelle Buras' Blog
Homeowners typically want to tackle renovation projects that will benefit them in multiple ways. Ideally there should be a healthy mix of aesthetically pleasing upgrades that also help reduce utility costs. The following rank among the energy efficient home renovation projects that can save you money while still improving aesthetic and quality of life.
1: Install Energy Efficient Replacement Windows
Homeowners thinking about energy efficient home improvements may be pleased to know the federal government offers a Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit. The tax credit limit is reportedly set at 10 percent on Energy Star-rated windows. This return on investment can be coupled with estimates that the average home saves between $100 and $600 annually by upgrading to energy efficient windows. Multi-pane windows generally reduce drafts and offer family members improved views. They rank among the top upgrades that deliver both quality of life value and return on investment.
2: Cool Roof Renovations Reduce HVAC Expenses
A typical roof can last approximately 25-30 years. When the time comes to replace an existing roof, homeowners have an increased number of product choices such as asphalt and metal. "Cool roofs" have been trending in recent years which involve certain colors and products reflecting sunlight at a higher rate. Energy Star-certified roofing materials can reduce surface temperatures by upwards of 50 percent. According to EnergyStar.gov, the utility cost savings usually ranges from 7-15 percent and the federal tax credit may allow homeowners to deduct 10 percent of the cost if the roof meets the proper sunlight deflection criteria. Given that only a relatively small number of people enjoy high-level roof renovation expertise, it's important to discuss energy efficient roofing options with an experienced professional who understands the weather in your region.
3: Strategically Install Solar Panels
Considered perhaps the top energy efficient home improvement, the total return on investment for a solar panel installation ranges from 5-12 years depending on sunlight. The federal tax credits are expected to remain at a rate of 26 percent through 2022 and dip to 22 percent in 2023. The policy is on track to end after 2023 unless the federal government renews the tax credit.
One limitation that previously deterred homeowners from installing panels has been solved by innovation. In fact, solar panels are no longer just for your roof. Property owners can now seamlessly position mini solar fields in a sunny area. Some people split the difference by leveraging garage, porch, veranda or pergola roofs to place solar panels. These systems must be fully operational to apply for tax credits, so it's a good idea to consult a professional for help with installation.
Spending money on upgrades and improvements does not necessarily have to be a one-way street. By selecting energy efficient home renovations with proven return on investment, you can recoup upfront costs and increase property values.
There are few things more frustrating than finding out that the plants you’ve been tending to all summer have been overrun with insects and aren’t producing any fruit. Perhaps even worse is when you find a trail leading into your pantry where your food has been compromised by a tiny army of ants.
Keeping the pests out of your home and garden is a difficult task made even harder if you want to do it without using harsh chemicals and pesticides. However, there are ways you can effectively keep your food safe. In this article, we’ll show you how.
Protecting your garden from pests
The most important tool you have at your disposal when it comes to protecting your lawn, flowers, and garden from pests is your own vigilance.
In the garden, take note of the condition of your plants’ leaves. Look on the underside of them for small, yellow or brown dots. These are often insect eggs that will soon hatch and result in your plants being devoured before they can produce crops.
As a last-ditch effort to keep the bugs away, you can try spraying your plants with a homemade insecticidal soap spray. These sprays are usually 95% water and then a small amount of pure castile soap or vinegar. Be sure not to use too much or this can harm your plants or soil.
Whether you live in the city, the suburbs, or in the country, there are likely to be some furry creatures who see your garden as a food source. One way to keep many away is by framing the garden with a simple metal wire fence.
If it’s flowers you’re worried about, try planting them in mulch and keeping the leaves dry when possible. This will avoid excess moisture which can cause plant-killing diseases. Using a watering can rather than a hose will help you target the base of the plant and keep the leaves dry.
Keeping the bugs outside
Regardless out whether your home is old or new, you’ll likely someday find yourself with an insect problem. Some are lured in by warmth in the cold seasons, others are seeking a food source.
Let’s begin on the exterior of your home. Check for cracks in your foundation and along doors and windows and seal these cracks up. Next, if there’s a space under your door, install an aluminum door threshold if there is a gap between your door and the floor. While you’re there, make sure the weather stripping on your door is in good condition.
Next, make sure all of the screens in your doors, windows, and other ventilation areas are in good condition. Even the tiniest tear can be enough to let in flies and other insects.
The final step in keeping the bugs out of your home is to remove what’s luring them there in the first place. Store your food in airtight storage containers within your cabinets. Not only will this keep bugs away, but it can also make organizing food easier, especially things you might not use often, like flour or a large bag of sugar.
If you’ve never sold a home, you might not understand the complexities of what your agent provides for you. You could be tempted to sell your home on your own. After all, with the availability of the Internet, how hard could it be?
According to most research, FSBO (For Sale by Owner) nets a lower selling price than selling through a professional marketing agent. Even accounting for the commission paid to the agent, the profit to the homeowner is higher.
Some sellers believe that all an agent does it show the home a few times a week. Anyone can do that, right? But a great agent provides much more. Top agents offer a marketing strategy, professional staging, excellent photography, listing on the MLS and access to their network of buyer's agents.
When you interview your agent, ask them what their plan is. How do they specifically intend to market your property? Who will they invite to the open house? Will they offer a unique open house just for their network of seller's agents?
The greatest challenge to FSBO is how to price your home effectively. Yes, you can see what’s out there on Zillow and Trulia, but your agent has been in dozens of homes. They've spoken to hundreds of buyers. The single most damage you can do to a home sale is to price it wrong for the market and then have it languishing, unsold, for months.
Unless you've sold a home recently, you may not know all the paperwork involved in making the sale. You have the offer, counteroffers and the acceptance letter. Then there's the negotiation over items that come up in the inspection. If the buyer wants a warranty, do you know where to go for that? What if the buyer wants a contingency? Do you know how to write that up so that you're not left holding the bag? Do you have a relationship with a title office or escrow officer? Your agents' broker does.
When you add up all the work they do, and the expertise they offer, you'll see that your agent is worth the commission. If you follow their advice, you can be off on your next venture, and they'll take care of the sale for you.
A fire pit can elevate your yard into a truly enchanting entertainment area, liven up your space and even help enhance your curb appeal. While some home projects are not ideal for the DIY approach, you can make a striking firepit on your own in about a weekend. You'll need to gather some supplies, determine the size and shape of your fire pit and get ready to work your muscles as you create a new focal point for your yard.
Create a Fast & Easy Firepit
Fire pits are surprisingly fast and easy to create. If you can layer stones and follow basic directions, you can create an enduring accent you'll enjoy for years to come.
A fire pit needs a gravel base and surround, stones or concrete bricks for the sides and firepit stones for the interior. You'll also need some basic tools for leveling the ground and finishing the space, including a shovel, rake and a can of spray paint. While you can head right to the DIY big box store, contact your local landscape supply stores as well. You'll need both stone and gravel in bulk and you'll pay far less for it from a landscape provider.
Choose natural stone if you enjoy working things out and want to take the time to work with raw materials that may differ in size and shape. Opt for uniform pavers, bricks or poured stones if you like an overall look and want the pieces to be easy to stack.
Create a Firepit
- Determine the size and shape pit you want to make -- larger pits make bigger entertainment spaces, but require more rock. You'll need space for the pit and for seating around it, so take these needs into consideration as you determine where the pit should go and how big it should be.
- Use spray paint to mark off a shape for the pit. It can be square, circular or just an appealing organic shape.
- Dig about an inch down, remove all grass and sod and create a level surface on the ground.
- Begin stacking your chosen stones around the edges, within the leveled off area. You will not need to mortar between the stones, but should attempt to stack them evenly, without a lot of gaps. Stack one layer at a time, then move on to the next.
- Fill the base with the amount of fire pit stones recommended by the manufacturer -- this can vary and will be printed on the container.
- Spread gravel around the outside edges of the pit to create a seating area and to prevent grass from returning.
- Light it up and enjoy!
Once complete, a fire pit will be a lasting, low maintenance focal point for your yard for years to come. Use in the summer for grilling and roasting marshmallows, then fire it up for warmth on cooler nights -- either way, you'll love enjoying not only a gorgeous accent, but a piece you've made yourself.
If you’re hoping to buy a house in the near future, you’ll want to focus on saving for a down payment.
Down payments are a way to let a lender know that you are a low-risk investment, and a way to save money on interest over the term of your loan.
If you have your other finances in order--a good credit score and stable income--there’s a good chance that making a 20% or more down payment will land you a low interest rate that can save you thousands while you pay off your loan.
How large should my down payment be?
The larger the down payment you can afford, the more money you’ll likely save in the long run. While there are ways to get a loan with no or very small down payments, these aren’t always ideal.
First, if you put less than 20% down on your home loan, you’ll be required to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI. These are monthly payments that you make in addition to the interest that is accrued on your loan.
So, if you don’t put any money down on your home, you’ll accrue more interest over your term length and you’ll pay PMI on top of that.
What affects your minimum down payment amount?
Lenders take a number of factors into consideration when determining your risk. If you’re eligible for a first-time home owners loan, a veteran’s loan, or a USDA loan, your loan can be guaranteed by the government. This means you can likely pay a lower down payment while still receiving a reasonable interest rate.
When applying for a mortgage, be sure to reach out to multiple lenders and shop around for the rates that work for you. Many lenders use slightly different criteria to determine your eligibility to pay a lower down payment.
Other things that affect your minimum down payment include:
Location of the home you want to buy
Value of the mortgage
Saving for a down payment
You’ll get the most value out of your mortgage if you put more money down. However, if you’re currently living in a high-rent area, it could mean that it’s in your best interest to get out of your apartment and start building equity in the form of homeownership.
If you want to buy a home within the next year or two, there are a few ways you can help increase your savings.
First, determine how much you need to save. Depending on your housing needs and the current market, everyone will have different requirements. Do some home shopping in your area online and look for homes that are within your spending limits. Remember that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your monthly income on housing (mortgage, property taxes, etc.)
Next, find out what a 20% down payment on that home would be, adjusting for inflation.
Once you have the amount you need to save, remember to leave yourself enough of an emergency fund in your savings account to last you a month or two.