It is me, or does it seem like utility bills are getting higher and higher? Couple that with the gasoline bill and increasing trash service costs and it seems like a cheaper option for housing would be moving to Tahiti.
While that’s not true – I hear Tahiti is actually pretty pricey – it does make you wonder how to find ways to cut costs, and especially when it comes to household expenses.
How to Cut Monthly Household Utility Bills
As a realtor in the Kansas City area, and a homeowner myself, I’ve found some tricks that help cut utility bills, or at least keep them lower this time of year. Especially in the Midwest, utility costs can be brutal. One day you need your air conditioner on, and literally two days later, you’re temped to turn on the heat.
If you’re a home owner looking for ways to cut costs, or even a home buyer trying to figure out how to save money for your down payment, here are some tricks that I’ve learned on saving money:
Save Money Through Your Blinds
That may sound silly, but you can cut utility costs by using your blinds and window coverings the right way. On warm days, keep your blinds pulled during the day to keep heat out of the house. In cooler months, it’s the opposite. Open blinds and shades to let natural warmth of the sun heat your rooms.
Save Money With a Ceiling Fan on Hot Days
Ceiling fans are a great way to keep air stirring around the house on warmer days. If the air continues to circulate, it won’t warm up as fast.
Change Your Air Filter
On your heating/cooling unit (typically in your basement), there is an air filter that you’ll need to keep an eye on and change at least every three months. Especially if it’s windy, or if your unit has been running a lot, change your air filter more frequently. The more dirt that’s in your filter, the harder your unit has to work, and the more it will run. (Thus, the more it costs you.) Make sure when you’re replacing your filter to buy the right size… check what number of filter you have first before heading to the store.
Care for your Air … Conditioner
Another hot weather tip – be realistic about what your air conditioner can do. Realistically, you can expect your air conditioner unit to create a 20-25 degree difference in temperature. (If it’s 100 degrees, 75-80 degrees may be the best it can do.) This means don’t set it so low so that it will run constantly, with no hope of reaching your desired temperature. This will wear out your unit, and possibly cause it to freeze up.
Another tip on avoiding air conditioner freeze ups is to keep your outside coils clean. On the outside unit are very tender coils that can get dirty easily. Take a sprayer and try to remove any dirt or grass clippings and leaves. As fall approaches, make sure to rake the leaves around the unit, and after you’ve turned off your A/C for the season, consider a protective cover so that your unit stays clean and free of debris.
Keep Your Windows Shut & Locked
As the cooler breezes make their way into Kansas City, check each of your windows to make sure storm windows are down, and windows are locked. By locking your windows, you’ll better insulate the windows, stopping air leakage. Double-check the caulk around the windows right now, when it’s nice outside, and add caulk to better insulate if yours need assistance. I recommend doing this now before it’s too cold and you can barely stand to put your hand on the freezing metal latter.
Insulate Your House
Last tip on cutting costs in cold weather – insulate your house, specifically your attic. Most of the heat leaks out the top of your attic. Make sure that you add insulation to your attic, and around your doors and windows. This will reduce the amount of warm air leaking out of your house, and save you money. As our dad used to say, “don’t heat the outdoors!”AKA “Don’t waste my money!” Funny how all the sudden as a homeowner myself now, I get it.
Hopefully these few tips will help you save money on utility bills. They’ve helped me cut my costs around home, hopefully they can help you, too!
If you’re on the hunt to find a good real estate agent, there are several things to look for before signing the dotted line. Real estate agents can assist you in buying a home, as well as listing your home. I recommend looking for five important traits in a Realtor.
1. Your Real Estate Agent Must Be a Good Communicator
Real estate works like a marriage in the sense that communication is key. Especially when you’re selling your home, find an agent who communicates well. You will want your Realtor to communicate with you as the sellers. Plus, it’s important for your agent to communicate with other agents, too, to get feedback on what interested buyers do and don’t like about your house.
Kansas City Real Estate Agent David Wiesemann‘s Monday Morning Listing Updates
One way that I communicate with my sellers is through a weekly email. Every Monday morning, I email a report to each seller who’s Kansas City home for sale I have listed with weekly updates. I let them know how many people have searched my website for their listing, saved their listing and favored their home listing. I’ll also inform my sellers on what has happened within one mile of their property over the past week (neighbor’s house sold, dropped in price, etc.). My sellers and I review this information weekly. It allows us to stay in contact with one another.
2. A Good Real Estate Agent Knows the Market
When selling your home, it’s critical to get your price right. A good real estate agent does his/her homework and knows the market. You will find the quickest success when your real estate agent has researched comps in the neighborhood, understands values in the community, and accurately suggests a competitive selling price. In addition, if you’re looking into a short sale, it’s imperative that your real estate agent has experience and knowledge of the short sale process.
3. A Good Real Estate Agent Refers Professionals
A good real estate agent doesn’t try to give advice on areas that are outside of his/her expertise. Many Realtors involved in the real estate community will have a wide network of service providers who can answer questions and get answers for clients. From recommendations on which banks to use, how to get good rates, home inspectors, appraisers and even legal advisors – ask your real estate agent for a professional they trust to get the right advice.
Wiesemann’s Kansas City Referral Network
As an experienced Kansas City realtor, I have a wide network of trusted professionals. If you’re looking for a recommendation on any real estate-related service from inspections to insurance to mortgage brokers, call me at (816) 309-9445 and I’ll put you directly in contact with them.
4. A Good Real Estate Agent Returns Phone Calls
It may sound simple, but find a real estate agent who returns phone calls. Realtors must have great communication with their sellers, buyers and other agents. If they promptly return your calls, it’s likely that they’ll also return calls of agents and buyers interested in purchasing your home.
5. A Good Real Estate Agent Markets Your Property
Many real estate agents will take a listing and never do any marketing to promote the home. In the day of social media and online marketing, there are several traditional and new ways to market homes. Find a real estate agent who’s not only going to put their sign in your yard, but go the extra mile to make sure people know it’s for sale.
Wiesemann’s Marketing Homes Strategy
When I list a home, I take an approach that combines traditional advertising with new tools such as online listings. I use my own personal website, as well as other home buyers sites like broker.com and homefinder.com to market each of my listings. To not neglect the traditional methods, I also may list the homes through a newspaper ad, host open houses and send direct mail. I come up with a personalized marketing plan for each of my listings, depending on how to best showcase the property.
Finding a realtor who you feel comfortable with is key when buying or selling your home. For more information about listing your home with a Kansas City real estate agent, call (816) 309-9445 or visit my website to view featured Kansas City homes for sale.
This is post 3 of 4 in our Short Sale blog series.
Short Sales Step 1 – Find a Realtor with CDPE Certification (Certified Distressed Property Expert)
The critical thing to know about short sales is they are a very complicated process. While not impossible to do, they require the expertise of a realtor who has experience in short sales. Special certification is given to realtors who go through classes to know all of the in” and out’s of short selling homes. Especially if you’re looking for a listing agent to short sell your home, find a real estate agent with CDPE certification.
Short Sales Step 2 – Determine if you Qualify for a Short Sale
A certified realtor will help you determine if you qualify for a short sale. The realtor works on your behalf with the bank, and explains your situation to the bank. A short sale is not for everyone, and sometimes there are other options a homeowner can take to prevent foreclosure. But, if all other options have been exhausted, a short sale may be possible.
When to Request a Short Sale
Timing is everything in the real estate market, and short selling your home is no different. If you’re having trouble making your mortgage payments, find a short sale realtor immediately to go over your foreclosure solutions. It’s ideal that you begin the short sale process 3-4 months before your home would be foreclosed upon. If you’ve already received a notice of foreclosure and have a court date set, it’s most likely too late to go through the short sale process.
Qualifying for a Short Sale
To qualify for a short sale, you must be able to present financial hardship and the inability to pay the mortgage. This can be as a result of job loss, reduced hours, death in the family, divorce, or even struggles with an ARM mortgage that became to expensive. A short sale realtor will work with you to determine if you are eligible for a short sale, and guide you through the steps for proving to the bank you should be approved for this process.
Short Sales Step 3 – Getting your Home Ready for a Short Sale
If you’ve been approved to go through the short sale process, get your home ready for the sale. It is required that each realtor notify buyers that the home is a short sale on the listing. Interested buyers will know the home is a short sale, but be impressed if the home is cared-for and marketed well. Clean out the home, de-clutter and care for the lawn as if you were selling your home on a standard listing. Stage your home by removing personal photos and artifacts and creating a space that prospective buyers can imagine themselves in.
Short Sales Step 4 – Have Patience
Short sales can be a very lengthy process. An experienced realtor will help guide you and make the process go as fast as possible, but it’s important to know that it can take several months.
Stay tuned for our last post about buying a short sale.
This is post 2 of 4 in our Short Sale blog series.
We’ve covered the basics of a short sale, but we wanted to explain more advantages of short selling your home to prevent foreclosure.
Short Sales Avoid Foreclosure
In the credit world, bankruptcy and foreclosure should be avoided at all costs. Both of these processes not only hurt your credit, but make it difficult to “bounce back” within several years. Foreclosures will prevent your family from getting into another purchased home for at least five years, and make it difficult to find financing. A foreclosure is also noted on your public record, unlike a short sale.
Short Sales Help your Credit
On every application at the bank, you will be asked to indicate if you’ve had a foreclosure. A short sale allows you to avoid checking that box and maintain some credit. Although a short sale will have an impact on your credit, it doesn’t hurt it as much, nor will it be part of your credit score for as long. If you pay your bills on time, a short sale will not impact you and your credit applications for as long as a foreclosure will.
If you missed payments leading up to your short sale, this is the only item that will show up on your credit score. Once you sell your mortgage through a short sale and pay off your mortgage, your credit score will show that your mortgage has been paid off as agreed upon. A short sale also will not show up on your credit history. Your credit report will show that your mortgage was “paid as agreed, paid as negotiated, or settled.” This is not the case in a foreclosure; it will hurt your credit and show on your reports for many years.
Short Sales Don’t Impact Employment
Every employer has the right to pull a credit report for current and prospective employees. A credit report can be damaged by a foreclosure situation and cause for termination of employment, or loss of job opportunity. Because a short sale is not reported on a credit report, it does not threaten employment.
Short Sales Keep Your Integrity
In addition to the financial and credit advantages, a short sale allows you to keep your integrity as a home owner. Foreclosed houses can be run down and are known to have items stolen out of them. A home that is on a short sale typically has homeowners who still care for the home, yet cannot afford the payments any longer. A short sale will show buyers that you still care for your home, but you must find a way out from it.
Stay tuned for our next post about preparing for a short sale.