Energy Conservation And Sustainability Tips For Homeowners

Below are the top 10 tips homeowners can do to make their homes more energy efficient and sustainable. We spend so much money every month on utility bills it makes sense to learn how to adopt more sustainable and energy efficient behavior and technology to reduce those costs. Plus it can help the environment and conserve precious resources. These tips are easy to adopt and could help you save up to 50% on your total utility bill. Share them with your friends and your families so we can all save money and live more sustainable lives. If you would like REACH to host a workshop for homeowners contact REACH.

A PDF version of these energy conservation and sustainability tips for homeowners is available.

Top 10 Energy Conservation And Sustainability Tips For Homes
1. Thermostat: The rule of thumb is to set your thermostat to 78 in the summer months and 68 in the winter months. However, every climate and every comfort level is different. So set your thermostat as low as comfortable in the winter and as high as is comfortable in the summer. This will conserve energy and save you money. Also, make sure you don’t have any hot electronics or lights next to your thermostat. It tricks it into thinking it is hotter in the home than it actually is.

2. Windows: If you want to keep your house cool, shade your windows in the summer months to block the heat of the sun. If you want to keep warm in the winter, keep your windows unshaded so your home can absorb the heat of the sun. Also, make sure your windows make a tight seal when they close and there are no leaks around the frame. If there are leaks, the heat or AC you are pumping throughout the house will go right side. Which is the same as watching your money fly right out the window. No good. Of course an easy way to cost effectively manage your climate in the home is, if you are feeling hot, open your windows if it is hotter in your house than it is outside or, if you are feeling cold, open your windows if it is colder in your house than it is outside.

3. Seal your home: It is important to make sure your home is sealed properly from the outside air when you are trying to cool your home or keep it warm. Which is why sealing windows is important for conserving energy in a home. You can seal the windows with calking. Also make sure doors to the outside make a tight seal and have weather stripping at the bottom. Sometimes there can be cracks in the ceiling and floors that lead to the attic, garage or basement. Make sure these are sealed too. You can have one of REACH’s green contractor partners to perform a blower door test to find out where your leaks are so you can seal your home tightly. The energy you will save will more than pay for the cost of the contractor.

4. Hot water heater: Hot water heaters are usually stored in the garage, or in a closet. Make sure to insulate your hot water heater to prevent the outside temperature from cooling the water in the heater. It takes a lot more energy to heat up a water heater that is not insulated from cooler, outside air. Also make sure that your hot water heater is not set on the highest level (usually 140). This not only wastes energy, but also can scald you. Switch it to 120. If 120 is not a problem for you, see if you can switch it to 110. See how low you can go without sacrificing your quality of life. For each 10 degrees you decrease you can save 3-5% in energy savings.

5. Electronics and Appliances: Anything that is plugged into the wall consumes electricity. Sometimes these electronics and appliances consume energy even if they are not in use. To reduce your energy consumption, try and buy electronics and appliances Energy_Star_logothat are ENERGY STAR compliant, which means they meat the EPA’s guidelines for energy efficiency. Look for the little blue ENERGY STAR label. Also make sure to turn off all your electronics when you are not using them. This includes your computers and your entertainment systems when you go to bed. Keeping your computer and your entertainment systems on all month can cost you $20.

6. Lighting: Turn lights off when you don’t need them. Swap out all your lighting with energy efficient LED lighting. LED’s can save you up to 85% on your energy costs when compared to older incandescent technology. Contact REACH Alliance member Elemental LED to see about upgrading your home with LED lighting.

7. Water: Water is a valuable resource and it is up to us to conserve it. Install aerators for your faucets and low flow showerheads for your showers. They make showerheads that are low flow and have decent pressure these days. Also consult your local water utility because they often give away aerators and showerheads for free. Install low flow toilets to save water. Once again, these days there is enough pressure in the low flow toilets to wash all the waste down. Lastly, use less water. Instead of cranking the faucet on high to wash dishes, your hands, or teeth, turn the faucet on just enough to accomplish the task at hand. You can also take shorter showers.

8. Recycle: Most San Francisco Bay Area communities have recycling as part of their waste management services. Composting too (the green bin). It is important to know what you can and cannot recycle. Because you would be surprised what you should and should not put in the bin. For instance, did you know you can’t recycle shredded paper, pizza boxes or plastic bags in the blue bin? Take a look at REACH’s San Francisco Bay Area Recycling Guide for more information.

9. Landscaping: It is important to leverage the power of native plants in your garden, backyard or front yard. Native plants are the plants that are native to California’s climate. The grass and trees in the native landscape don’t need to be watered to thrive. Neither would the native plants in your home. They also have natural resistance toward predators and diseases. If you use native plants in your landscaping, your water bills will go way down since they need very little water and your maintenance costs will go down too.

10. Behavior: Most homes have more than one person living in them. Make sure everyone in the home understands how they can help to reduce energy and resource costs and contribute to being a sustainable member of the local and global community. Sit everyone down and go over these tips together and, as a single unit, try and see how low your utility bills can get. Reward success by putting all your savings into a party fund or something the whole household can enjoy.

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ROI and renovations

You’ve heard all the common wisdom about home renovations: Increased curb appeal attracts more home buyers. Improvements to home systems, such as upgrading the HVAC or replacing doors and windows, make a home more comfortable. Expensive home upgrades increase the value of your home and earn more money when you sell.
Famous Canadian residential home improvement expert and TV show host Mike Holmes advises renovators to understand why they are renovating, and says that doing it for profit may not be the best idea. Focusing on profit over adding true value can lead to superficial repairs and replacements that improve appearance while leaving basics like plumbing, heating and electrical problems unaddressed.
Practical Renovations Vs. Cosmetic Renovations
Holmes counsels homeowners to invest in practical renovations first, and not to focus on cosmetic improvements. He reminds people that they won’t have the same return on investment, but practical renovations will last longer and improve the comfort and safety of a home. He also points out that renovations will earn back more at sale when the work is done well by experienced contractors using quality materials and workmanship. On the other hand, poor quality work may actually cost you money when it comes time to sell.
What the Realtors Say
Homeowners often ask realtors for advice about which renovation projects are the best value. Columbus real-estate agent Joe Jackson says homeowners must be careful not to over-improve for their neighborhoods.
When you price your renovations out of the neighborhood, you won’t get your money back. Re/Max Premier Choice real estate agent Milt Lustnauer says homeowners can avoid over-improving by looking at home sales in the area and noting the price per square foot. If there’s a big range in price per square foot in your area, you may have a better chance at recovering higher costs of renovation than in a neighborhood where sales are relatively close in price.
Cost vs. Value
Although Mike Holmes feels strongly that homeowners should focus on practical renovations over cosmetic renovations, it’s hard to pass on quick and cost-effective improvements that produce a high return. But do you know how much that reno job will really return when you sell?
Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report for 2013 reveals that on a national average, smaller renovations get the best returns. Topping the list is steel entry door replacement, costing less than $1200 and returning 85.6 percent. A wood deck addition that costs just under $10,000 returns 77.3 percent. A close third is a $1496 garage door replacement returning 75.7 percent.
Upscale remodeling projects that return between 70 and 80 percent include fiber-cement siding replacements, fiberglass entrance upgrades and vinyl or wood window replacements. While you may really like the looks of the fiberglass entrance, the steel entry door replacement will probably put more back in your pocket when you sign the closing papers at sale. Replacing windows returns more than almost 10 percent more than a major kitchen remodel. Many companies, like Champion Home Exteriors, offer free in-home consultations so you can see and feel the products before you buy—a smart way to make sure your investment will be beneficial.
Author: Tracey C.

FICO scores, credit reports, and mortgages

When it comes to securing a mortgage it’s important to understand your FICO score, where it comes from and most importantly, what score you need to qualify for a home loan. Here’s a complete breakdown of FICO scores, how they affect your credit report and an exact breakdown of what credit score you need to qualify for a mortgage. To learn more about the application, about the 4 easy steps to getting a mortgage loan.

Your FICO score is a number that represents your reliability and creditworthiness – how likely you are to pay back your debts if you borrow from a lender. The FICO score is a credit score, the most widely used in fact in the U.S.

FICO = Credit Score

Loan officers and real estate financial advisors have access to mortgage underwriting systems. First you will run your credit through 3 credit repositories: Experian, Equifax and Tansunion (you can run these credit reports for free online). If you need to improve your credit score try these 9 simple tips.

Here’s how these respositories come up with your FICO score:

35% – Payment History

The largest portion of your FICO score is determined from whether or not you have “derogatory information” in your credit history. Bankruptcy, late payments, foreclosures, etc. will lower your FICO score.

30% – Debt Burden

This is most commonly known as your debt-to-income ratio. The lender is looking at how much income you bring in and the amount of money you owe on credit accounts currently. There are a lot of other little pieces that play into this part of determine your FICO score however.

Underwritings systems also look at:

Amount owed on your credit cards (current balance).
The type of accounts you have i.e. credit cards and long term loans.
How many accounts have balances. The more you have, the higher the risk for lenders.
How you use your credit accounts – Using a lower ratio of your credit limit is better and showing consistently well-managed payments is a plus.
How much you’ve paid on standing installment loans – Paying down installment loans (like a car payment) is a good sign that you’re financially responsible and able to pay future debts.
15% – Time

The longer your credit history, the better. The underwriting systems look at the average age all accounts as well as the age of the oldest account.

10% – Types of Credit

Diversity is good! Managing several different types of credit like installment, revolving and consumer finance credit can be beneficial to your score.

10% – Recent Searches

Too many recent searches can hurt your credit score, most importantly hard searches done by lenders when you apply for a new credit card or loan. Keep in mind that the FICO score does take into consideration rate shopping so if you check your score several times over a short period of time (14-45 days to be exact),it will only appear on your report as one inquiry.

Once you have your FICO score it’s time to consult with a real estate financial advisor or loan officer. They will run your credit score and full information into underwriting systems to see who will accept you loan and what type of loan and rates you’re eligible for. Only accredited financial professionals have access to these underwriting systems. What credit score you need to qualify for a mortgage depends on whether you choose a Conventional or FHA loan. Haven’t decided yet? Check out our complete price breakdown of FHA vs. Conventional financing.

780 and above– Qualify for the best rate available

700-779 – Qualify for a relatively good rate. It will not be as low as someone with the highest score possible but it will be good.

660-700 – Qualify for an average rate. It won’t be the best rate on the market but you will be able to qualify.

650 and below – May qualify for a higher rate depending on the size of your down payment. Those with a higher down payment are more likely to qualify.

620 and above – Qualify for a mortgage loan with 3.5% down. FHA lending standards not as strict as Conventional loans however lenders are tightening their restrictions.

580-620 – May qualify with a 10% down payment.

Nontraditional Credit – May qualify with 3 valid credit references. If you have limited credit or none at all, FHA will accept 3 positive credit references i.e. consistent utility payments, cell phone bill, gym membership, etc.

Still have questions about your credit score and how to secure a mortgage? Team up with an agent to help you. You can search for a First Team agent on our site or let us connect you with one. Call 888-870-1142 or email us at and we’ll set you on the road to a mortgage loan and homeownership today.

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Real Estate Housing Market Report

June 12, 2014 – The REAL Trends Housing Market Report for May 2014 shows that housing sales declined by 1.8 percent from the same month a year ago, an improvement over the decline of 6.1 percent year over year in April 2014. The annual rate of new and existing home sales for May 2014 was 5.866 million units down from a rate of 5.973 million in May 2013.

Even though home sales decreased on a year over year basis, the average price of homes sold continued to increase with prices up 7.0 percent in May 2014 compared to May 2013, another strong showing.

Housing unit sales for May 2014 increased 1.9 percent in the South, the best performance in all regions. The Midwest saw sales units decrease 2.1 percent, in the Northeast sales declined 5.0 percent and the West region saw a decrease of 5.4 percent.

The average price of homes sold in May 2014 increased 7.0 percent across the country, a strong showing despite the across the board decline in home sales. The West region had the best results with the average price of homes sold increasing 12.6 percent followed by the South region where prices were up 6.9 percent. The Midwest saw an increase of 6.0 percent and the Northeast had the smallest increase at 2.5 percent.

“May 2014 sales of new and existing homes reflected the decline in the affordability rate in most regions, the after effects of the poor showing in the general economy in the first quarter of the year and the lack of inventory”, said Steve Murray, editor of the REAL Trends Housing Market Report. “We appear to have reached a plateau that absent an increase in the market for jobs, income growth or looser underwriting standards, there are no evident drivers of a sustained recovery in housing unit sales. The recent increase in inventory will help, as will the recovery in the general economy. We also believe that given historical norms for home buying as a percent of households we are at or near the expected level of housing sales.”
Author: Travis Saxton