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Energy & Home Maintenance Savings: Part 2

In the conclusion of our two-part series on how to save money on energy and maintenance costs, we're back with the final eight tips.

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Welcome back to our two-part series about increasing your home's efficiency and saving money on your energy bills. In Part One, we discussed the first nine things in our list of 17 things you can do to reduce your energy and maintenance costs. Today, we'll go over the final items in the list.

10. Install LED or CFL bulbs that are cheaper and last longer than incandescent bulbs. CFL bulbs are cheaper than LED bulbs if you're concerned about price.
11. Choose energy-efficient appliances, even if you have to pay a little more up front.
12. Set up your home electronics on one or multiple smart strips. When you set up your TV, video game systems, or cable box, make sure you have surge protectors. Also consider a smart strip, which allows you to unplug devices that aren't in use. Many of these devices eat up a lot of electricity when they're just sitting there plugged in or in standby mode.
13. Plant shade trees near your home. You won't see an immediate return on these trees, but if you plant trees on the east and west sides of your house, it will significantly lower cooling bills during the hot Texas summers.

These tips will save you a bucket of money in maintenance and energy costs.

14. Change the locks and make spare keys. Most only cost about $25 to $60 and it's easy to do yourself. It's better to not risk having old locks with copies of your keys floating around.  Remember to make an extra copy and hide it somewhere or give it to someone important so you don't have to pay a locksmith if you get locked out.
15. Air seal your home. In older homes especially, you need to be mindful of air leaks around doors, windows, and electrical outlets. These aren't just air leaks, they're money leaks. Use weather stripping or caulking to fix leaks.
16. Take advantage of tax incentives for things like solar power. There are many tax benefits available at the federal, state, and local levels right now. You can get up to 30% tax credits for solar power, which can be a great option if you plan to live in your house for nine years or more, because that's the average payoff period for solar panels.
17. Develop a home maintenance checklist and run through it. This should include monthly, quarterly, and annual checkup items like checking your AC filters and checking your vents. Make it a habit to run through these items regularly.
By taking advantage of these tips, you'll save buckets of money on energy and home maintenance costs. If you have any questions about these points or you're thinking of buying or selling a home in the San Antonio market, give me a call or send me an email. I'd love to help you out.

Energy and Maintenance Savings: Part 1

In the first installment of our two-part series, we’re discussing nine things you can do to immediately save energy and maintenance costs.

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Today I wanted to share with you the first nine of 17 things you can do to immediately reduce your home’s energy and maintenance costs as the first installment of a two-part series.

1. Check the insulation in your attic. Most homes have between six and nine inches of attic insulation, but here in South Texas, you should have 12 to 14 inches for the temperatures we have.

2. Lower the water temperature to 120 degrees on your water heater. This will save energy and prevent anyone from getting scalded or burned accidentally.

3. Put a water heater blanket on the water heater to keep the heat in. These blankets are cheap but effective in keeping the heater two to three degrees warmer.

4. Install ceiling fans in most rooms. This is especially important during the summer to keep air circulating through your house. This will actually keep the house one to two degrees cooler without turning down the thermostat.

5. Wrap any water pipes with insulation. We find that a lot of water pipes—exterior pipes included—are exposed since we don’t have as many freezing issues like they do up north, but occasionally, it does freeze. This will prevent freezing issues and keep hot water insulated.

These things will save you maintenance and energy costs.

6. Install a programmable thermostat and learn how to use it. People have reported average savings of 20% to 30% on heating and cooling costs. Nest and Honeywell both make good programmable thermostats.

7. Replace your air filters. This is especially important in Texas because we use our air conditioning so much. Look on the side of the filter for the dimension and go buy several at a time. Depending on the thickness, you can go 30 days to six months between replacements.

8. Make sure all vents are clean and clear of dust and obstructions. None of your vents should be covered, because if they’re blocked, your A/C and heater will have to work overtime to heat and cool the rooms. Dust them off at least once every other month to get rid of allergens and increase airflow.

9. Check all toilets for constant running and check sinks and plumbing for leaks. A toilet running constantly will cost you money in the long term, and you should also look under the basin of all homes for leaks. Dripping sinks can cause mold and other issues.

All these measures will help save you time and money when it comes to maintenance and energy costs. If you have questions about this topic, feel free to give me a call or send me an email. Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll discuss the rest of the items on this list.

3 Questions Every Buyer Should Ask Themselves

Are you in the process of buying a home? There are three important questions you should be asking yourself right about now.

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There are three questions every buyer should ask themselves:

1. Why am I buying a home in the first place? This is truly the most important question to ask. Forget about the finances for a minute and focus on the reason you’re considering purchasing a home. For most, the reason has nothing to do with money. A recent survey revealed that 75% of parents said that they were looking for a home because their child’s education is important and they wanted to find a place that supported that primary need. What does owning a home mean to you? What non-financial benefits will you gain from owning a home? The answer to these questions should be the biggest reason that determines whether you should buy a home or not.

A buyer should be concerned with more than just price.

2. Where are home values headed? According to the latest home price index, home values are projected to increase by about 5.3% over the next 12 months. Simply put, if you’re planning to purchase a home that costs around $250,000, that same home will cost an additional $13,250 if you wait until next year. Your down payment will have to be higher as well to account for that higher home price.

3. Where are mortgage interest rates headed? A buyer must be concerned about more than just price. The long-term cost of a home can be dramatically impacted by even the smallest increase in mortgage rates. With rates being historically low right now, it’s a great time to buy and lock in a low rate on a 30-year mortgage so that you’re protected by the lowest possible rate that you can get.

If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, call or email us today and we’ll get right back to you for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Your San Antonio Listing Expired. Now What?

If you have your home listed on the market and the listing expires, what do you do?

You really have three options; re-list right away, re-list in a few months, or give up and decide not to sell. Some people will hire the same agent they've used in the past when their listing expired, and some will find a new agent. Regardless of your situation, it's important to know that your home will fall into one of those three categories.
Expired listings almost always fall into one of three categories.
We always recommend that home sellers interview two or three different agents before making another decision. This will help them realize what went wrong in the first place. If you give an agent six months to sell your property and they can't sell it, you're probably going to get the same results if you hire them again.

Then again, it could indicate that you either aren't priced right or your house needs some updates to make it more marketable. You want to choose an agent based on their strategy, marketing plan, and confidence level.

If you're thinking of buying or selling a home, or you've tried to sell and your listing expired, feel free to give us a call for a free consultation. We'd be happy to help you.

What to Consider When Shifting from Renting to Buying

If you’re currently renting a property and thinking about making the shift toward owning a home, there are a few things you should consider.

When you’re looking to get out of your lease and take advantage of the market, it’s best to start early. Talk to a lender and get that pre-approval process started as soon as possible. You want to find out exactly what your budget is going to be so that you know what you’ll be able to afford and what you will be comfortable spending. The key in any transaction is knowing your buying power.

If your lease is up in 30 days, you certainly can buy a property, but that is going to be a very challenging transaction on short notice, unless you’re paying cash. Get pre-approved early so that if you have any problems with your credit, you can get them fixed before you buy.

You may also need more time to save for a down payment. It’s best to start looking for homes at least 90 days prior to the end of your lease in order to allow yourself time to find and close on a home. Remember, a lot of things can come up during the buying process. Inventory in San Antonio is very low right now, so finding that perfect place may take longer than expected. Starting everything ahead of time will never hurt your transaction; it can only help.

Starting ahead of time can only help your transaction.

You may be wondering when you should talk to your landlord about your decision to end your lease. Some landlords may allow you to break your lease early, while others may not be so generous. With rental rates increasing in the San Antonio market, it’s okay to move out – especially if you’ve been in the area a long time. We recommend talking with your landlord and checking your lease terms early. You’ll want to determine whether there is an early termination fee or if you’ll have to give notice within a certain timeframe. An open conversation with your landlord will really help the transaction go smoothly.

Finally, it’s never too early to talk to an agent about what the home buying process looks like. Your agent will help you figure out what your upfront costs, like your down payment, inspection and appraisal costs, are going to be. You should also discuss your timeframe. If you’re making this decision with someone else, it is important to have this discussion early on so that everybody involved in the transaction is on the same page.

If you have any questions regarding this or anything else, please give us a call or send us an email. We’d love to help you out!

Why You Should Make a Home Needs List Today

Today I’d like to discuss the difference between buying what you need and buying what you want in a home.

The easiest way to determine your home needs is to take a quick assessment of the space you’re already living in. This will help you realize what you’ve been missing, and what you may need in your next home. Make a list of your needs and ask your agent to begin shopping based on those needs.

Today we’re living in our homes for longer than we used to.

On average, Americans live in a house for about nine years. Interestingly, that number has increased by three years from just a decade ago when the average time was six years. This means that we’re staying in our homes for just a bit longer than we used to.

Remember, you can always trade up a few times before you find the ultimate home, but you don’t want to end up “house poor” either. Be sure that you don’t overextend yourself.

If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, call or email us today for a free real estate consultation. We’d be happy to help you.

Should You Work with a Real Estate Team or Individual Agent?

If you are planning on buying or selling a home, should you work with a solo agent or a real estate team?

Working with a team is very important because it gives you the best shot at reaching your real estate goals. If you’re a buyer, a buyer’s agent with a team behind them has the time and energy to focus on finding your perfect home. Every morning, our buyer’s agent scours the MLS for properties that match your preferences and sets appointments on your behalf.

Individual agents will be busy taking listings and doing paperwork for other clients. As a result, they will not be as attentive to the MLS and might miss your perfect home. Sometimes solo agents can get so overwhelmed that you will be lucky to find anything you like on the MLS.

Real estate teams are made up of specialists to guide you through the transaction.

When you’re selling, work with a listing agent who has a team behind them. These listing agents are able to work solely on your behalf. They won’t be distracted by representing buyers and finishing tedious paperwork like an individual agent would be.

Teams are also made up of specialists who work to ensure that each part of the transaction is handled well and in a timely matter. For instance, our team has a marketing specialist whose only job is to maximize your listing’s online presence and get your home in front of as many buyers as possible. Our team also has a dedicated transaction coordinator to handle all of that tedious paperwork.

There is a lot to the home selling and buying process. Many new individual agents get buried in paperwork and other behind-the-scenes tasks, which makes them unable to fully service their clients. Today’s market is awfully complex, which makes it all the more crucial that you hire a specialized team to handle your real estate needs.

If you have any questions, give us a call or send us an email. My team and I would be happy to help you!