by Nancy Osborne, COO of ERATE®
Refinance Your Mortgage - This may seem obvious, but if you haven't checked your existing rate against current market rates lately, do so now. If you are carrying higher interest rate debt on a second mortgage or equity line of credit, you may want to consider refinancing to consolidate either of these loans as well as reducing the rate. If refinancing now means extending the term of your loan far beyond where it's currently at, then use the savings in your payment to contribute more to retirement savings accounts or to help pay down your mortgage faster. Making needed home improvements or addressing any deferred maintenance on your home would also be a good place to apply the savings in rate and payment.
Reduce Your Utility Expenses – One of the best ways to improve your utility expenses is to check the condition of your windows. If your windows are in serious need of replacement then start there. Also check insulation and weather stripping around doors and windows. Next take a look at your refrigerator and if it is over a decade in age, it may be time for an energy saving replacement. You could also install low flow toilets and shower heads. And be sensible when landscaping your home, select plants that are compatible with your geographic area to conserve water use.
Consider Renting Out a Room – If you find yourself temporarily over-extended in a house you love and know you can eventually afford again on your own, then take in a room renter until you are back on your feet. If you have adult, gainfully employed children living in your home rent free, change that immediately by asking them to either pay rent or to contribute to household expenses in a meaningful way.
Set Realistic Limits – Hopefully you have purchased a home you can afford in the first place, if not your dream house could quickly become a financial money pit. Always consider all your existing living expenses when setting out to purchase a new home. Make sure you are able to cover all your supplemental, yet necessary expenses before determining what an affordable mortgage payment for you might be. You want to have some discretionary dollars to spend outside of your home to enjoy life and not live in a too tight-fisted style.
Challenge Your Property Tax Assessment - If you feel strongly that your property has been over-assessed, you can do something about it rather than simply accepting it as part of the downside of property ownership. It is possible to put together a winning case for a tax appeal. Each state and county has its own process for calculating and determining property taxes. The process for appeals also varies by state and county so you need to familiarize yourself with the procedures within your state as well as the specifics of your county before initiating any appeals strategy.
Nancy Osborne has had experience in the mortgage business for over 20 years and is a founder of both ERATE, where she is currently the COO and Progressive Capital Funding, where she served as President. She has held real estate licenses in several states and has received both the national Certified Mortgage Consultant and Certified Residential Mortgage Specialist designations. Ms. Osborne is also a primary contributing writer and content developer for ERATE.
"I am addicted to Bloomberg TV" says Nancy.