5 Simple Ways to Save Money by Winter-Proofing Your Home

It’s winter in Florida so you may think winter-proofing your home is not necessary in our warmer climate. Not so fast! Taking the time to assess your home to be sure it’s ready for the colder weather can keep more of your dollars in your pocket.

5 Easy Ways to Save Money by Winter-Proofing Your Home

Sure, we’re not as cold for as long as our neighbors to the north, but we still need to be ready. Even if it is only for a couple of months. Here are 5 really easy ways to save money by winter-proofing your home.

Money Saver #1: Find the Drafty Holes

On a breezy day, walk around holding a lit incense stick or even a candle and hold it up to windows, outlets, recessed lighting, and door jams. If the smoke or flame starts moving, you know you have a leak.

Patching up your leaks by using door sweeps, caulk, and outlet gaskets will keep cold from creeping into your home. It’ll also help keep out the Florida bugs in the summer. And who doesn’t want that!

Money Saver #2: Check your Insulation Levels

The industry standard is having at least 12 inches of insulation in your attic. Don’t worry about measuring your insulation to check. Just look in your attic and if you see your ceiling joists, you don’t have enough. Ceiling joists are typically at most 10-11 inches. If you do decide to add more insulation, be sure to add the kind that doesn’t have the paper backing which will act as a moisture barrier. This can cause future moisture problems within the existing insulation.

Money Saver#3: Reverse Your Ceiling Fans

This is a tip that’s easily forgotten. When you turn your fan’s switch to the winter function it works to push warm air back down and keep it circulating. This saves on your heating bill. It’s ready for winter when it turns clockwise.

Money Saver#4: Wrap Any Exposed Pipes

A burst pipe is a huge and costly problem. To prevent this, see if you have any pipes that flow through garages, crawlspaces, or basements. If so, wrap them with foam or rubber sleeves to keep them protected. We don’t have too many freezing nights in Florida, but when they do show up – you want to be ready.

Money Saver #5: Check Your Alarms

This may not seem like a winter-proofing item, but with so many fires happening when homes are trying to stay warm on cold nights; it’s essential to be sure that your smoke detectors are working properly in case of an emergency.

These items may or may not cost you any money upfront, but they most certainly will save you money by keeping your heater from running continuously or simply by preventing a devastating and costly disaster from happening in the future.

If you have any winter-proofing tips, leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear what you do!

The Secret to Looking at Homes Like a Pro!

When you’re pre-approved by a lender and ready to start your home search, you want to be smart and prepared. That’s because searching for homes can be exhausting and overwhelming. And all the properties you look at can begin to meld together in your mind.

How to Look for New Homes

When looking at homes for sales, there is a right way and a wrong way. Yep, I said it. Let me show you the right way to look at homes so you can be sure you’re buying the right house for you and your family.

Act Like you Own the Place

When most people go on their home search, they go in home after home walking around like they’re a guest. That’s because they are. But unfortunately, what happens is they never focused on what it’s like to really live in that place.

For example, how’s the water pressure in that beautiful custom waterfall shower? The only way to find out is to turn it on. This may seem a little unorthodox but most home owners don’t mind this kind of hands on approach. As long as it doesn’t involve rummaging in their stuff. That’s because they put that gorgeous shower head in their bathroom and certainly want you, the potential buyer, to appreciate it, too.

This also goes for lighting. Turn on every light in the house to see if there are any dark spots in the house you just can’t live with.  And when it comes to the plumbing, don’t stop with the showers. Make sure the hot water comes on quickly and the pressure is good in the kitchen and other sinks, too.

Open windows and see how well they open and close. There’s nothing worse than a sticky window. Also in the winter months, you can feel for drafts in the windows.

Put on Your Listening Ears

During your search you want to slow down long enough to listen for sounds – in the house and outside. Is there a noisy dog who hasn’t stopped barking yet? Are you in a condo where you can hear the pitter-patter of adult feet? Or is the guy across the street blasting his music while he’s cleaning the garage. All these can be indicators of an annoying problem if you buy that house.

Get Outside

After you preview the inside, and you still love the house – it’s time to take the show on the road. Start by driving around the neighborhood. Then get out and park so you can take a stroll through your prospective neighborhood.

See if the neighbors are friendly or drive too fast through the streets. Are there lots of kids or a bunch of young professional types? And if after all that, you still love the neighborhood – come back later. Drive through again on a Saturday or an evening after work. This can tell you a lot about a neighborhood.

One final thing to look at if you want to go through the trouble, is drive back to that home during rush hour. Or better yet, drive there straight home from work and see if that drive home is something you can live with.

Have you been pre-approved to buy your home yet? If not, find out how much you are pre-approved to buy by filled out our simple pre-approval form HERE.

Is It Must or Lust? 3 Ways to Win in Your Home Search

When you get the green light by your lender to start searching for properties, the excitement can quickly become all-consuming. Your heart is filled with all the dreams in the world.

It’s really easy to get caught up in the “I have to have ___________,  so I’ll cut back somewhere else ” game, even when you don’t actually know where that somewhere else is or if you can realistically cut back there.

How to Narrow Your Property Search

Understanding how to know the difference between a must-have or a lust-have will be the key to winning in your home search and finding the house of your dreams AND reality.

Make Your List of Lusts

Start by getting everyone in the family together on the couch and have each person make a list of everything they want in your house. This ‘il be fun! 😉

Think of the things you lust after on your Instagram feed. If you love it, jot it down. 

Once you and your partner (and the kids) have everything down, make a new list starting in order from things you want most to least. Do you need more space? Do you need a big yard? A walk-in closet? You get the point. 

Narrow your list down to your top 10, and then compare your list to your partner’s top 10. What things appear on both lists? Those items should carry more weight because you both want them in your home.

Now Highlight Your Musts

This is the part where you decide those things you strongly consider as “non-negotiable.”

  • For example, if your family must live in a particular school district, location will become a Must for you.
  • If you have a large family or run a home-based business, a certain number of rooms could be a Must for your family.
  • Your Non-negotiable list should be fairly short to give you enough variety in your home search. With home inventories being so low, compromise will often be needed.

Bring Your List When You Look at a Home

As you’re out looking at houses, keep your list handy. Maybe you’re not willing to give up hardwood floors for a jetted tub, but would you be willing to compromise for a jetted tub and extra square footage? Refer back to your must-haves list often. It’s easy to get distracted.

Here’s a quick checklist that I use when searching for a home. If you answer “yes” to all of these, then a “Lust” may be worth the splurge — that is, if you can be sure that you’ll be able to afford the feature (in terms of your monthly mortgage payments and living expenses).

  • Is it on both of your lists?
  • Is it something that’ll be extremely expensive and difficult to change or add?
  • Would you be willing to sacrifice something else to have it?
  • Would you feel like your house would be incomplete without it?

Searching for homes doesn’t have to be overwhelming or complicated. Using this simple process will keep you and your family on track to what you really want and will hopefully reduce conflict along the way. And we could all use some of that, right?

What are some of your MUSTS or LUSTS? Share them in the comments below and have a little fun!

Why Your House Won’t Sell Itself – Even in a Seller’s Market

Don’t assume that because we’re right in the middle of a seller’s market; your home will simply sell itself. Buyers are smarter today, have more tools to work with, and they’re not going to settle. They’ll happily move on to the next house knocking the dust off their feet along the way! But you have the power to display your home like the showcase it is.

How to ensure your home sells quickly

Here are some simple things you can do right now to put your beautiful home at center stage!

List Your Home at the Right Price

Buyers aren’t very forgiving when it comes to homes that are grossly over-priced. Like I said, they’ll laugh and keep it moving. You need to price your home according to the market in your immediate neighborhood.

That means, pricing based on what has already sold recently in your neighborhood. If your home is listed 15k higher than any other home in your neighborhood; then there better be a reason that’s worth 15k more! And in almost every case, there isn’t. If your home does fall into that rare category; we always recommend getting an appraisal done on the front end. This way you can confidently show prospective buyers what your home is worth.

Make Sure Your Home Has Curb Appeal – Not Curb Repel

Just like we appreciate a beautiful presentation on our dinner plate, making us want to dive in fork first – the outside of a home is no different. Good curb appeal draws a potential buyer inside. Overgrown shrubs, dead grass, dull exterior paint on the walls and/or your front door, and a cracked or fading driveway are all indications to buyers that the inside might be worse.

Continue The Appeal Throughout Your Home

Now that you’ve set the bar high with your stellar curb appeal, don’t let your buyers down with the interior. Making simple updates to the interior of your home doesn’t have to be overwhelming or break the bank. Here are 3 simple ways to impress buyers to make an offer:

  1. Make small but impactful updates like refreshing the interior paint and changing any outdated fixtures. These easy changes make a big difference to buyers. Remember, any sign of wear or neglect will give the impression to buyers that there may be more they can’t see.
  2. De-clutter by removing any unnecessary or over-sized pieces of furniture that may hinder the flow of traffic in your home. Also, remove your family’s personal clutter such as mail and paper-work by placing out of sight. Get a jump start on your moving by packing away all unnecessary items (especially up high and down below) in all closets to allow buyers to see there’s more than enough room for all their stuff. And finally, pack away family photos and other memorabilia that keep buyers from seeing themselves in your home.
  3. Stage each room carefully to show buyers how to use each room. For example, if you have an odd room that doesn’t flow with the rest of the house; stage it to visually tell buyers why that room is a great feature to the house. Also, if you currently use a room for an unusual purpose, you may want to stage that room to show the most common use.

Be Flexible with Showings

When you are selling your home, it increases your chances of getting a contract when you are open to showings as they are requested. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a life while you’re selling your home, but being open to last minute showings whenever possible prevents you from missing out on a possible offer.

To keep the stress down with showings, it helps to keep mess and clutter under control on a daily basis. Keeping mess hidden in nice, covered baskets such as a hamper for dirty clothes keeps the mess in the room but out of sight. This prevents the last minute clean up before showings.

If you’re ready to sell your home, there’s no greater time than a seller’s market! To get more information on how to sell your home and get the listing process started click here.





5 Signs You’re Ready to Hold the Keys to Your First Home

Becoming a first time home buyer and walking in the doors of your very own home has always been the American dream. It confirms inside yourself that you’ve reached a level of success in your life. You finally have the keys to open the door to your very first home!

5 Signs You're Ready to Becoming a First Time Home BuyerBut how do you know if you’re really ready to take the big step to become a first time home buyer There’s no need to worry. It’s pretty simple to tell if a person is ready to buy a home – or not ready for that matter.

Several years back during the housing crisis, many homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure. In the wake of that horrible season, we all learned some valuable lessons. One of which was that many of those who did lose their homes, simply weren’t ready to be homeowners in the first place. Sad but true.

Let’s learn from those mistakes and decide today to make better choices. And part of making better choices is self-evaluation. In order to get where you want to go; you need to first know where you are.

If you’re looking at a road map or even getting directions from your phone; you need to have a starting location or else you can’t possibly know which way to go.

Use the following signs as a means to find your starting location. These points will help you see if you’re in a good place for buying a home and certainly give you your starting point.

Find Your Starting Location

Sign #1: You have steady income and employment

In order to be ready for your monthly mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, and other expenses; you must have steady and reliable income. A lender will not have confidence in a person’s ability to pay back their loan if they aren’t able to show they’re responsible to get and keep a job for a significant length of time.

Sign #2: You will be living in your current city for the next few years

If you work in a profession that constantly requires you to be relocated to another city or state; home ownership may not be the best option for you until your living situation becomes more permanent.

Sign #3: You have an established and favorable credit record

Gone are the days of the low document home loans that don’t require extensive proof of income and credit documents. You must show that you are a reliable consumer who pays his bills every month and on time. If your credit is or has been an issue for you; it’s not too late to save it.

You need to start by pulling your credit report from all three bureaus. You can order one free tri-bureau report a year through annualcreditreport.com. Once you have your credit report in hand, you can see a true picture of not only your scores but the actual credit items on your report. You can begin making a plan to dispute any false or duplicate charges, and pay off those legitimate ones. It’s never too late to bring your credit back to life. Little by little, it will make a tremendous difference.

Sign #4: You have at least 3 months of income saved for the unexpected

Savings is essential for keeping a successful home. Dave Ramsey with Financial Peace University calls savings Murphy Repellent. When you have money ready for the unexpected; it seems like the unexpected rarely comes. Not only that, but when trouble or annoying issues do show up; you can take a loan from your own savings instead of a bank. Getting loans from the Bank of You is great because you always get approved and all loans are interest free! Just be sure to act with integrity by paying yourself back just like you would with a bank.

Sign #5: You live a budgeted life

You don’t need to live off an extremely restrictive budget, but you must have a clear understanding of where your money is going each and every month and are sure you always have enough in store. Having a plan for your money (a budget) means all your money has a place. It’s just like in your home. If everything has a place and it all goes to its place on a fairly regular basis; your home will flow and be more organized – instead of overrun by clutter. Budgeting keeps the clutter out of your finances and keeps things flowing.

Now, that you know where you are; you can make a wiser decision on where you need to go next.

If you are reading this and feel confident that you are in a good place to become a first time home buyer; contact us today! We are dedicated to helping first time home buyers get qualified to make home ownership a reality.

How to Prepare for the Hidden Costs of Being a Home Owner

How do you avoid being surprised by unexpected costs once you become a homeowner? The answer is easy – by being prepared. And the only way to be prepared is to know what’s coming.

How to Prepare for the Hidden Costs of Homeownership

This is the key to living as a stress-free as a new homeowner. Knowing how much money to have tucked away is the key to your success. There are many situations that can arise as a homeowner that can cost you money unexpectedly. Here are a few key ways you can protect yourself and your savings!

Getting a Home Inspection

Once you put in an offer on the home you love, one of the most important tasks you must do is order a home inspection. The home inspection will confirm for you whether this house is a solid investment or a money pit. Your home inspector will inspect every part of your new home from the roof down to the foundation or crawl space and everywhere in between.

They will let you and the seller know anything that is or could potentially be a problem in the future. And knowing this will allow you to decide if you still want to go through with your purchase and allow you to get estimates for items that show up as problems.

If the hot water heater is showing signs of wearing out but still has a year’s time left; knowing this helps you to put money aside for when it does need to be replaced.

Lose The Renter Mentality

Many renters simply aren’t prepared to pay for the increase in costs with living in a new home. For example, many renters don’t pay for water, or garbage pickup. Living in smaller apartments and transitioning to a single family home can also bring with it a much larger utility bill.

There are also association dues and CDD fees that many newer communities require monthly, quarterly, or annually. This amount should be considered on top of your mortgage payment to be sure you have sufficient cushion.

Make Sure You’re Covered

It costs a lot more to insure a home, than say, a one-bedroom apartment. So even if you’re used to paying renters’ insurance, you’re going to have to increase the budget for insuring your new home. And, there are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to insurance.

Thought you saved more by buying an older house? Well, guess what: It’s going to cost more to insure it because the electrical, heating and plumbing are older and more prone to disaster. Wait, did you fall behind on credit-card payments but thought you were in the clear because you always paid your mortgage? Insurance companies can periodically check your credit score and raise your rates based on their assessment of your “risk” level.

Understanding exactly what to prepare for keeps those hidden costs out in the open. That way when you do have a surprise cost show up, it won’t be overwhelming!

To find out how close you are to homeownership, download our FREE guide with 7 Signs that You’re Closer to Homeownership than you think!

To get YOUR homebuying process started today, simplly click HERE to fill out our easy application!


5 Musts of Becoming Debt Free

Becoming debt-free is probably one of the top desires of most people; especially first time home buyers. That’s because having too much debt can be a real obstacle for first time buyers. But notice I said top desire not top priority.

That’s because a desire is something that a person wants strongly. However, this differs dramatically from a priority; which is something that’s given special and deliberate attention above other things.

5 Simple Ways for Homeowners to Become Debt FreeWe all have lots of desires – a nicer house, a promotion, to take a vacation, or even to reconnect with a loved one. However, we tend to have very limited priorities.

In regards to becoming debt-free, many people desire to live a debt-free life but very few are willing to take the steps to turn that desire into an actual priority. Thus, getting results.

And if you desire to become a first time home buyer – then you must make lowering or eliminating your debt a real priority.

Turning any desire into a priority requires disciplined action. In order to turn the desire of becoming debt-free into a priority one MUST do 5 specific actions.

You Must Track Your Expenses

Tracking what you spend in detail over a set period of time, say two months, will give you a clear picture of where your money is going each month. We all think we know what we spend money on until we analyze our bank statements.

“Wow! I didn’t know I ate out that much!” That’s the revelation I got when looking at my statements one month. Prior to that day, I wouldn’t have considered myself one who spent too much money eating out.

We all tend to see ourselves in good light, but that perspective isn’t always helpful in making positive progress toward change. So, look at everything you spend money on and let that be your guide in finding any “money leaks” in your budget. If you do find a leak, for instance eating out too much, make a plan to bring a lunch to work and cook dinner at home for a season.

You Must Pay Yourself First

A person without any savings is like a boater going out to sea without a life-jacket. Your savings is your help in times of need. And not having any is not a good idea. Not to mention that having to borrow money from a bank, your credit card, or even friends and family has a price – even if it’s not money.

Start small by making consistent payments each month even if it’s just $25-$50. Any little bit will add up over time.

In addition, if you found any money leaks in your monthly spending; find out the average amount spent each month and apply that amount or a portion of it toward starting your savings fund.

You Must Make Tough Decisions

In order to make progress in any area; tough decisions must be made. It’s all apart of life and it’s no different with getting out of debt. Once you patch up any money leaks and start building your savings; you need to be prepared to go deeper and reach a little further to reach your goal.

Maybe you’re a single person who’s living on your own and feel the pinch at the first of every month. Have you ever thought about getting a roommate? Or what about cutting the cable? Or even getting a part-time job to bring in some extra debt paying money? Some of these decisions are tougher than others, but whatever sacrifices you come up with will be worth it in the end.

You Must Know Your Credit Report

In order to effectively pay off your debt; you have to know what needs to be paid off. All your outstanding credit should be filed with the credit bureau. Therefore, your credit report will let you know where you stand. Understanding your credit and how the credit system works will put you above the vast majority of Americans, and will get you started with a focused plan of action. You can get a free credit report annually at www.annualcreditreport.com.

You Must Pay Off the Small Debts First

Once you have your credit report and you know all your outstanding debt, you need to decide which debts to pay off first. Dave Ramsey of Financial Peace University recommends to pay off your smallest debts first. He calls this the Debt Snowball. It works rather well by creating momentum and excitement after the small debts are paid off more easily. Once you pay off the smallest one first, you then take that money and apply it toward the next one on the list. So on and so forth. Thus, creating a snowball effect.

When you make becoming debt free a priority and follow the above MUST’s; you’re sure to see positive results very soon. And it will surely open the door to your homeownership dream!

How did you pay off your debts? Let us know how you did it. What worked? And what didn’t?


Leave a comment below!

Summer Is Here! Is Your Patio Ready for the Outdoor Fun?

Here in Florida, summer’s what we live for! The beaches, warm breezes, pool parties, and entertaining outdoors is what we wait all year to enjoy.

It doesn’t really matter where you live, or how long or short your summer is. All that matters is we get one. Happy Dance!! And the perfect way to enjoy this season is to spend time outside. But is your outdoor space ready for the fun?

How to Make Your Patio Ready for the Summer

Do sweat the small stuff

Since most Floridians leave their patio furniture out year round, those tables and chairs will most likely need some TLC before sending out invites to your next backyard party.

A buildup of dirt and debris dulls the finish and shortens the life of patio furniture. Use a damp cloth to wipe off “the gunk.” If the accumulation requires more work, use a few drops of dish soap in a bucket of water, and a scrub brush. Depending on how long it’s been between cleanings, you may need to blast the furniture with a power washer. If so, we feel your pain.

Anything that appears unsafe or broken should get tossed in the trash. Then, check the bolts and screws and tighten any that need it. For moving parts and hinges, a couple of squirts of a lubricant, such as WD-40 or an all-purpose oil will quiet any squeals.

Check Your Cushions

To avoid embarrassing situations like your mother-in-law getting up from her chair to at the barbecue with dirt stains on her hiney, you’ll better pay attention to those nasty patio furniture cushions.

Remove the cushion covers and launder them. The cushions should be attended to with a vacuum, according to Bob Vila of This Old House fame. After you suck out the debris, scrub them clean with a solution of 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid in a gallon of warm water.

Got mildew? Vila suggests adding one-quarter cup of borax (an all-natural mineral powdered product) to the solution and allow the cushions to soak for 15 minutes. You can even use the borax for mildew stains on the covers, depending on the material (check the labels).

Then, run the hose over the cushions to rinse off the solution and allow them to air-dry. Don’t rush to put the covers on until the cushions are completely dry, or you’ll end up creating more mildew.

Check for Damage Like Rust

Humidity is great for our skin but takes a toll on our metal patio furniture. The Family Handyman has several suggestions for how to rid the furniture of the red/brown stuff:

Rust Remover

Ah, rust remover products. With ingredients such as hydrochloric or phosphoric acid, how can we go wrong?

Well, when the instructions caution you to wear goggles, a respirator mask and gloves, you know this stuff isn’t to be taken lightly.

If  you’re ok with chemicals, head to the paint department of your favorite home improvement store and buy rust remover, such as Rust-Oleum® Rust Reformer, Krud Kutter or one of the “4 Best Liquid Rust Removers” recommended by Popular Mechanics.

And, do follow every word of the instructions on the label to avoid any accidents, injuries, or further damage to the furniture.

By the way, our friend, handyman.com says that there are “newer nontoxic and acid-free soaking solutions, such as Evapo-Rust” (which he got at an auto parts store).

Rust converter

Of all the terms homeowners learn; “rust converter” is probably the most unfamiliar. Rust converter can be either an aerosol spray or a liquid that you brush on, like paint.

“It kills the rust, prevents its spread and dries into a ready-to-paint primer,” according to the Handyman. Prep the surfaces by rubbing with a wire brush and then spray or brush on the product. When it dries, you can either paint the surface or, as the handy guy recommends, apply another primer and then paint.

Cleaning patio furniture is a lot of work, but well worth it when your summer soirees are the talk of the town . . . or at least the neighborhood.