Tips for Home Safety
The comfort of your home brings a sense of security, a feeling of safety and warmth. No one wants to think about or believe anything bad will happen there. The truth is most of the accidents that do occur are preventable with a few necessary precautions.
As with many things, home safety begins with awareness. These tips will help you assess the opportunities to correct possible dangerous situations.
Air Quality Monitors
Two of the top things you should have, and keep monitoring, are your air quality alarms. Also, know how to get out of the home quickly and efficiently if these alarms go off.
Carbon Monoxide Detector – carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be deadly in large amounts. The CO detector will measure the amount of CO in the air. Contrary to the belief that only homes with fuel-burning appliances need this detector, CO can be present in various situations.
Fire Alarm/Smoke Detector – fire and smoke detectors can range from the simple, battery-operated units fixed to the wall to high-tech installs with an intercom system to wake up the heavy sleepers. For more information on fire safety, precautions you can take, and how to make a good escape plan, read more about fire preparedness in your home.
The NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code has required as a minimum that smoke alarms be “installed inside every sleep room in addition to requiring them outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. (Additional smoke alarms are required for larger homes.)” For best protection, the basement and garage are great additions. Avoid humid rooms like the bathroom, direct sunlight and keep 10 feet away from your cooking appliances.
Home security alarms alert homeowners to potential intruders, burglars and other emergencies. They vary from DIY systems to professional monitoring. These days one of the easiest solutions is to install a door alarm that rings to your phone and has a video for you to see. For additional, affordable security, consider adding motion detector lights and cameras.
Regardless if you decide to go low tech or high tech, you should always follow these general safety tips:
Have an emergency action plan, such as having an escape route, exit plan and emergency meeting place. Be sure to go over the plan with everyone in the home and practice so the kids feel comfortable on where to go and what to do.
Only share home codes and keys with those who you really trust.
When going away for vacation or long periods of time, don’t share on social media and consider setting a light timer that mimics your normal activity.
Emergency Supply Kit
Be prepared for the unexpected and have necessary supplies unique for your home stored in a central, easy to access location. An emergency kit can range from simple first aid items to inhalers or particular medicine for certain family members. You might want to include an emergency contact list, extra clothes, water, etc. If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, your kit might be more extensive, so take inventory of what is especially important for your specific needs.
Maintaining essential safety habits can go a long way. Teaching your children and everyone in the house some of these precautions will potentially decrease any accidents that may occur. Some of these include:
Emergency numbers by the telephone or programmed into cell phones, for contacts, doctors, hospitals and more.
Location/address of hospitals, doctors, neighbors and trusted family members in a convenient place.
Emergency plan in place and practiced by everyone in the family.
Hide spare keys in clever and secure places.
Keep the garage door closed when not in use.
Let your children know that a window, peephole, or doorbell camera are safe ways to see who's there before opening the front door.
Secure the sliding door with wooden or metal poles.
House plants are a natural way to filter the air in your home and are aesthetically pleasing. Be sure to check to see what ones are safe to have around kids and pets. Some can be poisonous, so eliminate them or keep them far out of reach from wandering hands and paws.
Young children, babies, and pets have their own set of tips, including, but not limited to: locking medicine cabinets, keeping cleaning agents and chemicals out of reach, installing gates for staircases and door handle covers, tying up blind cords and anchoring heavy furniture.
Have a monthly/seasonal/yearly plan to check batteries, locks, windows, emergency kit, emergency plans, etc.
Identifying and preventing dangerous situations is an excellent start to keeping you, your family and your home safe. Keeping these tips and suggestions in mind will help you avoid common household dangers. You have worked hard to have a home you are proud of; stay alert, predict what you can and be prepared for the rest.
We have more exciting news to share about our remarkable 2020. In the process of setting a new company total sales loan volume record of $8.5 billion (while working from home, in the midst of a pandemic) – our RMS Team, once again, earned industry leading Customer Satisfaction Ratings! MortgageSAT just released its 2020 year-end results and, amongst all Lenders participating in this national customer satisfaction research, RMS set the industry standard in three categories:
- #1 Rated Large Independent Lender
- Best in Class Loan Officers Customer Satisfaction Rating
- Best-in-Class Likelihood to Use Again Customer Rating
This is an outstanding accomplishment, and we thank each of our employees for their contributions towards earning these industry leading Customer Satisfaction Ratings and continuing to Guide Our Customers Home!
7 Steps to Take Before Buying A Home
Are you considering buying a home? Whether you're raising a family and need more space or you're an "empty nester" and aiming to downsize, there comes a time in everyone's life when they're ready to begin the next chapter.
Before you begin that process, there are a few things that you need to take care of to ensure your homebuying journey goes as smoothly as possible.
1. Do your research
No matter your reason for purchasing, the process can be daunting for anyone, even if it is not your first time around. The best first step is to find your preferred style (e.g., colonial, ranch, split level, modern, etc.) or whether it should be a single-family home versus a condominium. Each option has its share of advantages and disadvantages. The best way to determine which one is right for you is simply by looking around. Whether your first move involves downloading real estate mobile apps like Trulia or Zillow or perusing the National Association of Realtors' website, the information you glean from these resources will help you make a more informed decision about what's best for you. There's no right or wrong answer, but the quality of research you perform now will pay off later on.
2. Determine your budget
Depending on whether you're a first-time homeowner or repeat buyer, the home you buy will likely be the single biggest purchase you'll ever make. It's important to ensure that you have the means to do so. While your lender will evaluate your financial capability, it's best to know before you connect with a mortgage provider, so you know what you're getting into. The easiest way to do this is simply by sitting down and running through all your ongoing expenses and calculating if the monthly payment for a house is something you can reasonably afford. There are online tools that have mortgage and affordability calculators that should make this process fairly straightforward. When deciding how much of a home you can afford, don't forget to factor in the extra expenses of homeownership that extend beyond your monthly mortgage payment, taxes, insurance and utilities.
3. Monitor your credit score
Your credit score provides insight to lenders about your financial situation, such as if you pay your bills on time and what debts you have. Your overall credit history is analyzed to compute your credit score. The type of loans that factor into your credit score include student loans, credit cards, car loans, along with past and present mortgages. The credit report also provides information on how long you had debt, the amount borrowed, the monthly payment, and your payment history. You should be aware that any negative information on a credit report, like bankruptcies, foreclosures, or judgements, are also factored into the credit score. Therefore it is always a good idea to monitor your credit so you can stay aware of your financial standings, remind yourself to be smart with your money, and be prepared when the time comes to apply for a loan. You can do so by going to www.annualcreditreport.com to obtain your free copy.
4. Get Pre-Approved
While doing your research, it is also a good time to get pre-approved. A pre-approval saves everyone involved time and money. It is a review of your financial situation and of available loan programs in order to arrive at preliminary determination that you qualify for a loan under the specified criteria. A pre-approval will give you many benefits:
You will learn how much you can confidently offer when you find the right home.
You’ll be considered a more serious homebuyer by sellers’ agents.
You can prepare how much you’ll need for down payment and closing costs.
Discover any credit issues to clear up before you become formally involved in the loan process.
Keep in mind, however, that a pre-approval letter is non-binding. In other words, you will still need to go through a more formalized loan approval process once you settle on the home you'd like to make an offer on.
5. Get in touch with a real estate agent you trust
After the pre-approval, you are ready to meet with a real estate agent to help you find that dream home! Without realizing it, there are likely several people you know who either are real estate agents or know somebody who is one. Real estate agents are a font of information. They can provide you with excellent guidance on what types of properties are available in each region, state, county, or city. Connecting with a buyer's agent should be at the top of your priority list, and they can supply you with loads of resources you can use to further your research.
6. Weigh the pros and cons of condo ownership
If you've contemplated buying a condo, this alternative to a single-family home can make a lot of sense, depending on your needs. In some ways, it combines some of the conveniences of renting (e.g., snow removal, trash pick-up, landscaping) along with the freedom and flexibility of homeownership. However, there are likely homeowner’s association (HOA) fees you'll be required to pay for these amenities. You also may not be allowed to own a pet or have more than one. In short, be sure you’ve considered the full spectrum of advantages and potential disadvantages of condo ownership before making a final decision.
7. Consider a home inspection
An inspection isn't the first thing people think of when they buy a home — or second or third, for that matter. While the inspection tends to be optional, an inspector’s findings may impact what you ultimately spend when you finalize a home purchase. For example, if your home inspector discovers needed repairs that were not disclosed in the original listing, the seller may be required to take care of those issues for the deal to proceed.
Among the more important aspects the inspector will examine are the sewer and septic systems, the electric panels, wiring and if there are any signs of termite damage. Termites target wood and are responsible for billions of dollars in property damage every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It's not always easy to identify when termite damage exists but your inspector knows what to look for and if the damage is so extensive as to compromise the house's physical structure. They may also be able to point you to an exterminator. Who pays for the extermination — the buyer or seller — may be determined at closing.
If you don't personally know a qualified home inspector, your trusted lender or real estate agent undoubtedly does. Alternatively, you can go to the American Society of Home Inspections' website and find a licensed inspector in your area. When you get in touch with that person, you may want to ask about their certifications, licensing or areas of specialty. These questions can help you further verify that they are reliable and have the background and experience to perform an unbiased home inspection.
Buying a home is a big decision, but it doesn't have to be a complicated one. Residential Mortgage Services, Inc. can help ensure that it's as seamless as can be. Contact us today to learn more about the mortgage that is best suited for you, and how one of our experience Loan Officers can help Guide You Home!
Heart Healthy Tips
February is American Heart Month, so it’s time to kick those unhealthy quarantine habits to the curb and focus on keeping your heart strong and happy. Because heart disease and high blood pressure affect so many Americans, we’ve outlined some helpful heart healthy tips for you to consider adding to your daily routine.
Simple Ways to Exercise at Home
This past year going to the gym has become somewhat of a safety hazard because of COVID-19. So since this month is American Heart month, we wanted to do our part by sharing some ideas about staying active and fit, even while spending more time than ever at home. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes (30 minutes for 5 days) of moderate to vigorous exercise a week in order to improve cardiovascular health. A great way to utilize your stay-at-home time is taking part in exercises you can do with the everyday objects in your home.
Here are some ways to get you moving without leaving home:
Outdoor tasks like shoveling snow, raking leaves, mowing the lawn, weeding and mulching
Exercise by doing housework like sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, or even getting a head start on your spring cleaning
Use common household items as substitutes for gym equipment: use canned goods as hand weights, do wall-sits to work your quads and glutes, walk or run up the stairs to get some cardio, and do push-ups on your countertop
Going for a walk around your neighborhood at a brisk pace for 150 minutes per week can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. According the American Heart Association, for every hour of brisk walking, life expectancy for some people may increase by two hours.
Heart Conscious Eating
Exercise isn’t the only way to keep your heart healthy, it is important to monitor your day-to-day eating habits as well. Keeping track of the nutrition facts in every little thing you eat can definitely seem daunting and tedious, so below are some basic rules to implement in your daily diet.
Portion Control: Try using smaller plates/bowls when you eat to better control your portion sizes.
Prioritize Fruits and Vegetables: Eat 5 servings per day of fresh or frozen fruits or vegetables, or even low-sodium canned veggies. Avoid fried or breaded vegetables in creamy sauces and canned fruit packaged in thick syrup. You can also try leaving out a bowl of grapes on your counter to remind you to snack on something healthy throughout the day.
Choose Whole Grain Options: Substitute your white bread, rice, pasta and flour with less processed, healthier whole grain alternatives.
Do your best to limit grains like muffins, donuts, cakes, and high-fat snack crackers. Try snacking on oatmeal with cinnamon or fruit mixed in.
Choose Low-fat Options: Saturated fat shouldn’t account for more than 5-6% of your daily calories. Substituting butter for margarine is an easy and healthy switch. Avoid foods high in trans fats, like creamy sauces and consider eating more nuts and avocados.
The best low-fat proteins include eggs, fish and soy products.
Reduce your Sodium Intake: Sodium is a major contributor to high blood pressure, so try not to eat more than 2,300 mg (teaspoon of salt) of sodium per day.
Planning your meals and snacks ahead of time can be a great strategy to keep yourself eating healthy on a regular basis. Emphasize fruits, veggies and whole grains in your plans, while limiting foods high in sodium and fats. The more you can get in the habit of staying heart conscious with your eating, the sooner it will become natural for you in your daily life.
Whether you’re stuck in traffic or have a hundred things on your to-do list, managing your stress levels is crucial to your overall health. Although it is not yet proven that stress directly causes heart disease and high blood pressure, the indirect results of stress definitely can. People with high levels of stress often resort to eating junk food, drinking too much alcohol, and don’t exercise, which is a combination that is highly detrimental to your heart health. Here are some ideas on how to alleviate your stress:
Keep a Positive Attitude: Staying in touch with the people and things you love can keep you happy. Research shows that people who laugh often and have a positive attitude report lower stress levels and are less likely to die from an existing heart disease.
Calming Relaxation: Meditation and yoga are great ways to de-stress by calming your mind and body. Take a break from thinking and focus on your breathing in a quiet room to relax after a long day or even during a lunch break. Keeping up with this habit can help to ultimately reduce high blood pressure.
Exercise Regularly: Exercising can keep your mind off all the stress in your life for a bit while also lowering blood pressure levels and keeping your heart strong.
Staying conscious of your exercise patterns, daily diet, and stress levels is the first major step to a heart healthy lifestyle. Implementing and maintaining healthy habits into your day-to-day life can be a challenge, but one well worth it. We hope these tips help your heart beat strong and happy!
Before you start speaking directly with your loan officer about which loan options might suit you best, for anyone interested in doing so, our mortgage calculators make it easy to explore options and get a preliminary sense of the numbers you’ll be dealing with. Our mortgage calculators are a powerful resource that will give you a ballpark range for monthly payments while also providing information to help you make important financial decisions about your mortgage.
Rent vs Buy Calculator
If you are considering making the switch from renting to purchasing, the Rent vs. Buy Calculator can help compare all the numbers. Some key variables this calculator factors into the equation include: the price of the home, the current rent payments vs proposed mortgage payments, the annual cost of the new home, and applicable insurance and tax expenses. In some situations, the tax benefits and the appreciation of the proposed home could, over time, prove to be financially beneficial when purchasing a home, so this might be worth looking into if you are on the fence about the benefits of homeownership.
Before you start your search for a new home, you should have a general idea of how much you can afford to pay each month. You can calculate this number by entering your monthly household income, any monthly debts, and other regular monthly payments into the Affordability Calculator. You may also need to think about down payment funds, the interest rate, the potential length of the loan you would be looking for, and tax and insurance expenses.
At this point you should also calculate your front and back ratios, which compare your housing expenses with your additional spending habits for daily living. Your “front ratio” is the percentage comparing your gross monthly income to your housing costs, whereas your “back ratio” is the percentage of your gross monthly income used for both housing payments and other regular monthly expenses. Understanding your affordability before embarking on your home search can save you lots of time when narrowing down homes that could be right for you.
When you’re at the home shopping stage of your mortgage process you should not only be weighing the pros and cons of the home itself, but also considering the monthly payments each option would require. Determining what your monthly payment will be depends on a few central factors, including: how much you will be borrowing, the interest rate, and the term of your loan. Taxes, various insurance costs, and of course the total value of your home will come into play as well, so expect those to also be a part of the equation. If you want to start taking a look at the payments associated with different scenarios, use the Payment Calculator for help.
Remember the actual rates, payments and costs could be higher or lower than what is reflected by the calculators. Always request an official loan estimate before choosing a final program. While these calculators can help educate you about the costs and expenses associated with home financing, you should still utilize the expertise of a licensed loan officer. So, collect all your financing information and start playing around with calculators. Even if the numbers seem confusing to you at first, you will at least be able to pick up on some points to ask your loan officer about later.