Happy New Year — Now What?
2015 was a great year to become a homeowner. Think about it: home prices were affordable but on the upswing, interest rates were at all-time lows, and the economy was making a serious comeback. If you bought a home during 2015, congratulations, and welcome to the world of homeownership. If not, no worries! We want to talk to you, too.
Which resolutions did you make this year, and how are you doing with keeping them so far? Are any of them home related? Let’s talk about the sort of New Year’s resolutions that make a house a home, and how to keep them.
First, Resolve to Buy a Home
That’s right, we said it: it’s still a great time to buy a home. If you’re not a member of the homeownership club yet, then you may want to change that. Now, we’re not suggesting that you run out and buy a home if you’re truly not in a position to do so at this point in your life, but if you’ve been waiting for the right moment to strike, well, what are you waiting for?
Interest rates are still ridiculously attractive, but they won’t stay that way forever. The Federal Reserve recently took action to raise short-term interest rates, and mortgage interest rates responded in kind. We just may have a year of slowly, but inexorably rising mortgage rates to look forward to, so you might as well get while the getting is good.
Curb Your Energy Use
Did you know that residential real estate accounts for 19% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States? It’s true. Not only that, but paying the bills on an inefficient home can really put a strain on your finances. Make this the year that you finally improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Start with your HVAC system. Make sure the ducts are tightly sealed, and have your furnace and AC units checked for optimal functionality. If you live in an older house and your units have been around for some time, then it may be time to replace them with newer, more efficient models.
The same goes for that buzzy old refrigerator. The fridge accounts for a startling portion of most homes’ energy bills, and outdated models are the worst energy hogs around.
Make the switch to LED bulbs. They’re a lot more efficient, and they’ll save you money in the long run.
And hey – if you really want to make your home more environmentally friendly, consider going solar. Solar leasing programs can put solar panels on your roof with as little as $0 down, and you’ll start saving money immediately.
Start Budgeting for Improvements
If you’ve been a homeowner for a while now, then you know that unexpected expenses can and do arise, and there’s no landlord to call when they do. If you haven’t yet, be sure to create a budget item to set aside 1-3% of your home’s value each year for repairs. If you have extra cash at the end of the year, put it in an investment account – you never know when it will come in handy.
Learn Some Basic Home Maintenance Skills
Not everybody was interested in taking shop classes in high school. Some of you were off practicing scenery-chewing monologs in theater class, or brushing up on your Sicilian Dragon defense in chess club. Good for you!
But hey – if you’re going to own your own home, then you should probably brush up on some basic handyman (or handylady) skills. Why pay an electrician to swap out a broken light switch (don’t forget the breaker!) when you can do it yourself? Why should you foot the bill for a plumber when all you need to do is fix a leaky toilet?
Get to know your home’s hidden recesses, and when a project comes up that doesn’t seem too complex, give it the old college try. With some simple tools and a few YouTube searches, you might be surprised what you can get done, even if you’ve never fixed anything in your life.
If you’re a newly minted homeowner, then this might not apply to you. After all, you probably streamlined your operation when you made the move. But if you’ve been living in your home for a few years, chances are good that there are some cluttered corners in need of attention.
Bust that clutter! If you’re not sure where to start, remember: even an elephant is eaten one bite at a time. Break down the project into bite-sized tasks, and stay focused. Pretty soon, you’ll have a nicely organized house that will be a pleasure to call home. And don’t eat elephants!
Have a Happy New Year!
Whether you’re new to homeownership or an old pro at it, we hope 2016 will be your best year yet. Don’t put off these New Year’s resolutions. You’ll thank yourself later!