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Helpful Tips

How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient 

As people become increasingly concerned about the impact of climate change, homeowners are growing interested in how they can renovate their homes and adopt energy efficient habits to help the environment.

In addition to substantially reducing its carbon footprint, energy efficiency in the home provides numerous benefits to the homeowner, including driving down energy costs, increasing the property value and creating a cleaner, healthier living space.

Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of energy efficiency and how you can take steps to decrease the overall energy consumption of each room in your house.

What is energy efficiency and how can it benefit the homeowner?

Energy efficiency refers to a home’s ability to use as little energy as possible. Efficiency is improved by designing, constructing, and even living in the home in a way that reduces the total level of energy consumption.

One of the greatest benefits of energy efficiency is cost savings. Homeowners can drive their monthly and annual energy costs down simply by making a few improvements. More than that, energy-efficient homes also tend to be significantly easier to maintain. That makes them more durable and sustainable over time, which could pay off if you decide to sell in the future.

Energy-efficient homes also use less water. This is especially important for homes located in parts of the country that mandate periodic water bans, particularly during the summer months. Reducing your water consumption can help you manage these bans with as little friction as possible.

Important for you and your family’s day-to-day well-being, energy efficiency can also contribute to a cleaner and safer home, providing a healthier and more comfortable living environment for everyone inside.

If you’re ready to reap all the benefits that come with energy efficiency, let’s begin at the top and explore possible ways to make your home more energy efficient.

 

 

The attic

Many homeowners don’t give their attics the attention they deserve. In terms of energy efficiency, this can be a problem because heat rises, and the attic can become a major cause of wasted energy if not properly managed.

  • Insulation. One easy way to improve energy efficiency in the attic is to add a layer of insulation to attic walls and ceilings. There could be a large upfront cost to undertake this, but it will add a significant boost to your home’s energy efficiency, which will substantially drive down energy costs in the months and years ahead. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates you can save around 15% on heating and cooling costs by adding insulation to your attic, in addition to a few other home improvements.

    • Fiberglass. If you’re ready to take the next step, the material you use can also have an impact on your home’s efficiency. Fiberglass is one of the most commonly used materials for insulation, but builders and homeowners have begun to experiment with a wider selection of materials as well.

    • Eco-friendly insulation. Cellulose insulation material, to use one example, is made primarily from recycled newspaper. Adding extra padding of cellulose insulation not only helps drive down costs directly associated with your energy consumption, but the use of recycled material also helps reduce your overall carbon footprint.

Living rooms and bedrooms

Moving down from the attic to other parts of your home, living rooms and bedrooms get more varied use and will require more sophisticated energy-efficient solutions.

  • Efficient lighting. One of the first steps you can take is equipping all of your rooms with efficient lighting. According to the Department of Energy, LED lights use up to 75% less energy than standard incandescent light bulbs and can last around 25 times as long. Not only do you get the savings associated with less energy consumption, but you also reduce waste by requiring fewer bulb replacements.

  • Windows. You can also manipulate windows to boost energy efficiency. Invest in energy-efficient windowpanes to trap heat in the winter months, reducing overreliance on central heating systems. Windowpanes can also be designed to block out the sun’s heat when it’s warmer, reducing the temperature inside the home and lessening the need for costly air conditioning.

  • Smart thermostats. These systems use artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to learn when different rooms are being occupied, using this information to lower or raise the temperature only when needed. One of the industry’s leading smart thermostat manufacturers estimates that these devices can create annual cost savings of up to $145.

  • Appliances. The TV, DVD player or computer could be unplugged when not in use. They still draw energy, called phantom power. This is an easy step to lower your electric bill!

Bathrooms and laundry rooms

These rooms are a major source of water and energy usage, and you can boost the energy efficiency of your bathrooms and laundry room simply by developing some better habits.

  • Use less water. Turn off the faucet while soaping and scrubbing while showering, and also by keeping yourself to a time-restricted shower. Turning off the water while brushing your teeth represents another important energy savings opportunity.

  • Use cold water whenever possible. Hot water requires energy to bring to the desired temperature, so cold water can help drive down costs. It’s also important to unplug all appliances when you aren’t using them. This includes electric toothbrushes, hairdryers, electric razors and any other electronic device in your bathroom.

  • Air dry when possible. In the laundry room, the clothes dryer is one of the biggest energy consumers among all household appliances, representing more than a third of your home’s energy usage, according to the EPA. Air dry whenever possible and ensure that you’re only drying appropriately sized loads to avoid having to redry clothes.

Kitchens

Many of your home’s appliances reside in the kitchen, so one of the best ways you can improve energy efficiency is to be more mindful of appliance use in the kitchen. Helpful steps you can take include:

  • Shut the stove when cooking. Every time you open your stove, you’re causing heat to escape, forcing the oven to use more energy to return to the set baking temperature.

  • Unplug all appliances. Like the electronic devices you use in the bathroom, your kitchen appliances are using energy even when they are not in use. Unplug them after each use to conserve energy.

  • Air-dry dishes. Air-drying your dishes whenever possible helps cut down on the costs associated with using your dishwasher. You can also make your dishwasher more efficient by only running it when it’s completely full.

  • Keep fridge and freezer doors closed. It can be easy to leave these doors open when you’re going in and out of the refrigerator/freezer. Closing these doors whenever you can helps prevent air conditioning loss.

  • Use the microwave. Microwave ovens use less energy than conventional ovens, so utilizing your microwave more can help conserve energy.

Overall efficiency

There are several steps you can take to boost your home’s overall efficiency.

RMS can be your partner here, as our loan officers can originate renovation loans to help finance the costs of overhauling and remodeling your home to make it more energy efficient.

Trust our team at RMS

RMS is dedicated to consistently providing our customers with a high-quality home financing experience that is both simple and easy to understand. Using the right balance of communication, technology and teamwork, our RMS loan officers will provide a home mortgage experience you can feel confident about.

So, rest assured, next time you or someone you know needs help financing a home, your experienced RMS loan officer is ready to guide you home!

Contact us today to get started.


Helpful Tips

Tips for Home Safety

Oct 8
8:00
AM
Category | Helpful Tips

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 

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.  

Safe Habits 

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.  


Helpful Tips

Fall Checklist and Colder Weather Maintenance

Between apple picking, cheering on your favorite football team and pumpkin carving this Autumn, be sure you take the time to prepare your home for the approaching cold weather season! There are some important home maintenance tasks you should tackle to make sure your home is functioning as it should.

Interior:

  • Change your air filters.

  • Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

  • Schedule a service call to have your furnace checked.

  • Prepare an “emergency” kit in case of power outages from snow and ice storms with some key items: food, important documents, family photos, flashlights and batteries.

Exterior:

  • Inspect your roof for soft spots and damaged shingles.

  • Inspect your siding for any holes (may indicate an insect problem) and mold (may indicate water damage).

  • Clean your gutters after the leaves have fallen.

  • Install storm windows, put winter plastic on inside window or use energy saver curtains on them to prevent heat from escaping.

  • Add weather stripping to doors

  • Check your HVAC system for any smells or sounds that could indicate leaks and wrap pipes in unheated locations.

  • Repair any cracks in your driveway.

  • Trim back any foliage that is around your home units, decks, and windows.

  • Spray your garbage cans and recycling bins with a bleach cleaner and rinse them off with a hose.

  • Sweep your deck, thoroughly clean the boards, and apply a new coat of sealant.

  • Prep your lawn for the Fall months

  • Empty and disconnect your garden hose.

  • Give your fireplace a onceover. Grab a flashlight and look up inside your fireplace flue to make sure the damper opens and closes properly.

Take advantage of the cool weather while you can and work on some simple home projects that will keep your house maintained and efficient! Keeping these tips and suggestions in mind will help you avoid common cold weather problems.


Helpful Tips

Best Time to Buy a House

Sep 10
8:00
AM
Category | Helpful Tips

Best Time to Buy a House

RMS knows that buying a house is one of the most important and exciting decisions you can make. A first step is to determine the best time to start both the home shopping and home financing processes.

The housing market can seem like a daunting space to dive into, especially for first time homebuyers. 2020 and 2021 presented notoriously difficult challenges for homebuyers, but there are some tried and true strategies, and indicators, you can use to help time your home search and home financing efforts.

When Should I Start the Process?

Like many financial topics, the answer to this question is based in large part on your personal objectives and needs. It's important first that you consider what you want to get out of the house-hunting process. Do you have a firm deadline by which you need to find, purchase and move into a new home? In this case you may have less flexibility both with respect to available housing inventory and home financing alternatives. If, on the other hand, you aren’t in any rush that provides the opportunity to take more time to locate your “dream home” and consider a variety of home financing alternatives. This will also allow you to take both your local housing market and national trends into account when looking for a home.

High housing inventory months

House shopping activity, and inventory levels, do vary based on geography. According to Zillow, there is a specific time of year that tends to have the highest number of listed houses. Though you may end up paying more, spring and the early months of summer usually give you the most shopping options. The winter months generally offer fewer homes, as a rule of thumb. Zillow’s data suggests that April may be a prime month to buy if you are looking for the greatest range of inventory.

Timing effect on affordability

Mortgage rates fluctuate any time of year. For the price-conscious, it may be best to avoid shopping in the spring or summer if possible. Because of this, if your circumstance allows it, fall and early winter may be good months to start browsing. In addition, there is traditionally less competition on the market at this time, allowing a potential homebuyer more negotiating power. After analyzing information from 23 million single-family homes and condos sales, ATTOM data solutions concluded that a home buyer willing to close the day after Christmas would likely get a below-market-value price.

Best of both worlds

If you're somebody who is looking for a home price that’s within reach and the option to pick from a larger pool of listings, there is a window of time that could give you the best of both worlds. Data from realtor.com suggests that the average house price in large cities increases 9% from January to June, indicating that house prices rise during the warmer months, along with inventory levels. Again, here is where you should evaluate your personal situation. If you live in a rural area, this data set might not impact you as much as someone who lives in a city like Baltimore, for instance. Traditionally, as the cool weather sets in, housing inventory and demand falls, as do market prices. Buyers will avoid the competition that comes with busy real estate seasons and could even have opportunities to save money if they shop in Autumn.

Real estate market fluctuations

You might already know that the real estate market is going through a tumultuous period due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, 2020 was a sellers’ market, due to the lack of homes on the market. The rising cost of houses did not dissuade people from buying in 2020. This is made clear by the fact that 5.64 million existing homes were sold last year, the highest number since 2006, despite fewer houses on the market than ever. This is what is known as a seller's market.

The new construction housing market remains volatile, as evidenced by the drop in sales of newly built homes. This is the lowest level since April 2020, when the market was booming. The pandemic affected many different supply chains, and consequently the cost of construction supplies skyrocketed. In turn, this impacts the asking price for newly constructed homes.

Recap of evaluation

Spring/Summer: High inventory and possibly at a premium. The most new-home listings are typically in April.

Fall/Winter: Winter is considered an “off-season” for homebuying, so late fall and early winter is good for buyers on a budget.

August is the best of both worlds, still having plentiful inventory and benefiting from late summer price reductions.

Best time for you: When looking to buy a home, keep in mind that international, national and even local events impact your house-buying experience. The earlier you start the process, the more prepared you will be for a changing market. A professional will be able to guide you through the search, so you do not have to tackle this alone. Depending on your location and circumstances, the home financing process will typically take 30 to 60 days, so be sure to factor that into your home shopping timeline.

Finding the right home financing option

It's essential to start preparing to buy a house before you are 100% ready to buy, to help ensure you understand the process and are prepared to move quickly when the time is right. Some of the most important factors to consider are your credit scores, current interest rates and trends, and the size of the loan you will qualify for. An RMS loan officer can help you understand these factors during the pre-approval process, a vital and first step in your home buying journey.

Factors like location, finances, type of house, and local market conditions are all important to consider when deciding the best time to jump into the housing market. In addition to doing your research, having an experienced mortgage professional and a good real estate agent can make a world of difference in your home buying journey. The experienced team at RMS uses the right balance of communication, technology, and teamwork, providing a home mortgage experience you can feel confident about.

Contact us today to get started.

 

 

 


Helpful Tips

Mortgage Misconceptions: 3 Mortgage Myths Debunked

You may have found that everyone seems to have a tidbit of sage wisdom to share when they learn that you're looking for a mortgage, but not all "conventional wisdom" may be up to speed with the times. It's important to have good information. This is a big decision, and not knowing all your options could greatly impact both your buying power and financing for your new home.

Since mortgages are influenced by financial conditions which change often, what once was mortgage wisdom are now myths that seem to have long outlived their usefulness.
 

Credit Rating Misconception:  "You can’t overcome bad credit.”

  • Fact: Your credit score can change from month to month. One late payment can suddenly set you back, but if you get on track and make the rest on time, you can improve your credit. Set good spending habits and don’t get discouraged, even a bankruptcy won’t prevent you from buying a home in the future.

 

Mortgage Cost Misconception: "Lenders will ‘nickel and dime’ you with fees."

  • Fact: A reputable lender should be up front about the fees that are charged, and though the lender is the one to give you the bill, many fees cover third-party costs, like the appraisal, inspection, and credit review. Your loan estimate will break all this down for you, and if anything was overcharged upfront, it will be credited back to you on the settlement sheet.

 

Housing Affordability Misconception: "You need 20% down payment in cash to purchase a home.”

  • Fact: Several loan programs only require 0% - 3.5% down. Most government loans, such as Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) and the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), as well as state sponsored bond programs are a few of the options.

It can all seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Through the years there have been plenty of changes to the offerings and laws surrounding the mortgage industry so an experience that your friend had years back may not apply to what it's like to get a mortgage today.  Start a no-obligation application to see what loan program works best for your financial situation.

 


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