Lorrie Parajeckas | Winchester Real Estate, Lexington Real Estate, Arlington Real Estate

Everyone does it. Everyone develops one or more of these bad household habits that ultimately end up costing time and money. Here’s a list of the top nine, why they’re bad, and what to do instead:

  • Setting the wash temperature to "hot"—most clothes do not need washing in hot water. Hot temperatures may result in shrinkage, discoloration, or cause clothes to become misshapen. Cool and warm temperatures clean most items, and modern high-efficiency soaps dissolve just as well in cold water as in hot. So save money on your utility bill and on having to buy new clothes by using the setting listed on the clothing tag.
  • Forgetting to clean the dryer lint filter between loads—lint builds up in the dryer filter in EVERY load. The dryer uses the vent to expel extra hot air and moisture. When the lint screen is clogged, the air and moisture can't escape. Not only does this cost extra energy because your clothes don't dry, but it can also cause a house fire. Clean the lint screen between each load.
  • Neglecting the HVAC filter—similarly, your HVAC filter needs changing regularly. Depending on the dust, dander, and animal hair in your home, some systems may need new filters as often as monthly, while others can handle a quarterly change. If your family suffers from allergies, however, frequent changes to the filter during winter and summer, when the system runs hardest, improves air quality.
  • Pulling plugs out by the cord—whether it's the iron, vacuum cleaner, curling wand, shaver, or blender, pulling plugs out of the outlet by the cord may damage both the wire and the outlet. Grasp the plug by the end and gently extract it from the outlet. If it sticks, do not yank the cord. Instead, carefully wiggle the plug in the socket until it releases.
  • Over-stuffing the refrigerator—it's easy to do when you're planning a party, or if you shop just once a week or less, but filling your refrigerator too full can result in frozen food, or over-working your compressor. When food is pushed too far to the back or sides, it can freeze. Refrigeration relies on air movement inside the case to move cold air around, so when something blocks it, that one item gets all the cold. Brrrrrrrr!
  • Wearing shoes inside the house—even new shoes, when worn outside for a day, track in dirt, dust, bacteria, and fungi. Leave shoes at the door or in the mud room and slide on some cozy slippers (but don’t wear those slippers outside, even to get the newspaper, or you negate their value).
  • Overloading closet rods—whether wooden dowels or wire rack rods, the place you hang your clothes can easily become over-burdened. If you’re stuffing hangers in to place, or the rod is swaying, you're in danger of it breaking. You can easily replace a broken dowel, but a metal rod is useless once bent, and overloading a wire rack can pull the anchors out of the wall, leaving you with damaged drywall and costly repairs.
  • Storing items in the oven—baking pans or cast iron, okay … you won't really damage those by turning on the oven to bake, although high heat from the broiler can cause problems, but those stacks of pans are heavy and can bend the oven racks (resulting in lopsided cakes and other oven mishaps). And NEVER store plastic in the oven. Melted plastic can damage the inside of the oven and release toxic fumes into your home. Store extra pans or plastic ware in a closet or even on top of the refrigerator.
  • Hanging jackets on the doorknob—tiny set screw holds most of the pieces of the doorknob in place. A heavy coat, purse, or another object can bend the metal, even slightly, resulting in the set screw misaligning and your knob becoming loose.

Good home habits result in savings of time and money since your home and appliances last longer and use less energy. If you need help finding other ways to save on utility bills, contact your local utility provider for a free energy assessment.

When you own a home, you take over the landlord responsibilities of maintaining the property. That means you change out the lightbulbs and call the plumber when the drain plugs. Twice a year you faithfully check the smoke detectors and replace their batteries. You even take care of the lawn or hire a professional landscaping service to do it for you. But a few areas need regular attention of which you may be unaware. These sneaky tasks, when left undone, can end up costing a wad of cash down the line.

Schedule service for these items into your life:

  • Gutters and downspouts: Because you can't see into them, you tend to forget that a gutter is just a long trough. In the Fall it fills with leaves and debris that need clearing out so that it can do its job—moving water off your roof and away from your foundation. When the gutters become blocked, water piles up endangering your roof and eaves with water damage. If the water freezes, it may cause an ice dam that will further damage your roof. Debris left in the gutter clogs the drains too, so water can't drain away from the roof. If it overflows and falls near the foundation, the extra water and potential ice can wreak havoc with your home's support structure.
  • Roofs after a storm: If you live in an area prone to thunderstorms or tornados, the resultant hail and wind can damage your roof even if you can't see it. Hail hits the composite shingles causing divots not visible from the ground. If the divots are deep, or if an area gets hit more than once, your roof develops holes that cause leaks. The wind lifts the shingles away from the roof deck. If the shingle bends, it becomes weak and eventually breaks off. At least once a year, and particularly after a major storm, have your roof inspected. Any certified roofer can do this for you, but if you see granules from your roofing tile on the ground, call your insurance adjuster to see if you need a new roof.
  • Water heater: In addition to periodically checking water lines and the thermostat, your water heater needs the sediment drained from the bottom of the tank. Simple to do for standard water heaters, connect a hose to the fixture at the bottom of the tank and drain out some of the water—perhaps five gallons. The sediment resting at the bottom will flow out with the water, and your tank will be more efficient for the next year.
  • Air conditioning condensers: If your A/C is outside, weeds and vines may grow into the fins, blocking the airflow and causing the unit to overhead. Keep all plants and debris away from the unit. Protect if from animals too as shedding animal hairs can clog the grate. On the inside, change the filter monthly for best results and to keep your ducts free from dust and lint.

Owning a home is a wonderful responsibility to take seriously so that your forever home lasts you forever. If you are not able to carry out these inspections yourself, seek the assistance of certified contractors to help you.

There are important points that first time homeowners should consider. These points can help homeowners avoid future head and wallet aches. Other advantages embedded in these important points include better understanding of homeowners association rules, house inspection preparation and mortgage repayment expectations.

Don't let homeowner excitement force you into a bad house buying deal

You'd be hard pressed to find an experience that is more exciting or stressful as buying a house. First time homeowners are people who are generally hopeful and ready to go after their dreams. Their backgrounds are broad, diverse. Hopefulness aside, buying a home is a large step. It's the largest purchase that many people make.

If house shoppers aren't careful, they could sign a lousy mortgage contract. The below points are great to consider before buying a house:

  • Credit history - Access your credit history.Check your credit report with all three major credit agencies. The major agencies are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Don't stop there. Consider how ready you are to take on more debt.
  • Check the neighborhood - Visit the neighborhood during the day and night. Pay attention to the condition of painting and siding on houses, sidewalks, driveways, community facilities, schools and lawns.
  • Speak with neighbors - While you're walking around the neighborhood, introduce yourself to neighbors. Ask them what they like best and least about the neighborhood.
  • Think about how long you plan on living in your new home - Because lenders build mortgages that require you to pay most of the interest during the early part of your home loan, you could save if you stay at your new home longer than five years. Otherwise, it might be more cost efficient to rent.
  • Familiarize yourself with homeowners association(HOA) fees - Ask your real estate agent what the monthly homeowners association fees are. Go with a HOA that is well funded. Also, choose a home that is managed by a HOA that invests part of fees it receives toward savings.

More ways that first time homeowners can get ahead during the house buying process

  • Understand HOA rules - Some states set HOA rules. Other states do not. Check with your state to see if they have regulations that HOAs must abide by. If the state doesn't have HOA regulations,get a copy of the HOA rules. Take your time reviewing the rules. If you are adamantly against a HOA rule, buying a home in a different neighborhood might be the right decision.
  • Calculate your monthly mortgage payments - Do this before you agree to move forward with buying a home. Don't just factor in the principal. Factor in interest, closing costs and inspection fees.
  • Shop for a fixer upper - Compare the costs of buying a fixer upper versus buying a key-ready house. If you buy a fixer upper,make sure that you can afford to cover repairs. Should you or someone you know be a handy person, buying a fixer upper as first time homeowners could prove smart.
  • Consider other expenses - As first time homeowners, you may need to buy furniture. Think about these costs before you become first time homeowners.
  • Buy a large enough house - Get a house that's large enough to accommodate your family, now and several years into the future.

Could one of these fears be stopping you from creating new, rewarding memories in a home you can truly call your own? If so, you might be forfeiting more than you think.

Home is an incubator of great memories

Memories color your life with emotion. Memories serve as signposts to your most endearing and life changing experiences. They get you through the toughest times. When you recall your sweetest memories, you might discover that many of them were created inside a home.

Picture it;hot apple cider, festive music and gifts beneath the Christmas tree as you and your family dine and laugh at your grandparents' house during winter. Summer barbecues shared with 30 of your closest relatives and friends at your parents', the house spacious enough to easily accommodate all guests.

Fears that hold you back

You appreciate having a place to create loving memories year after year. Over the last several years, you've been thinking about buying a house of your own. But, you keep putting buying a house off. Despite your desire to own your own place, these fears could halt your progress.

Lack of finances - Do you keep telling yourself that you don't have enough money to buy a house? Do you imagine yourself getting laid off and being unable to keep up your mortgage payments, all this before you buy even a small, affordable house? See if you also worry that you won't be able to afford a new car, to start a business, invest in an improved wardrobe or move into a better apartment. If so, you could be afraid that you'll never have enough money to do what you really want to do. 

Weak DIY skills - Maintenance skills aren't required to own a home. Lenders don't ask borrowers if they have plumbing, electrical, roofing or construction experience. But, that doesn't stop you from trying to figure out what could go wrong with any house that you want. Every time you think about it, you imagine something breaking at the house that you can't afford to fix.

Security guarantee - Living in a house alone scares you. It's reached the point where sundown triggers fears of being victim of a home invasion. There aren't enough locks and alarms in the world to pacify your fears. You demand a written guarantee from the universe that affirms that your house will never, ever get robbed.

Unknown future - Change, including the birth of more children, a breakup or a new job, scare you. You need to know that you'll be prepared to meet any impending change without having to move again. For you, a starter home won't do. You're seeking permanence.

You're right. Owning a home is about more than finding a house that meets your family's dwelling needs. Owning a home is about more than paying a mortgage. There are maintenance and repairs to be made. If your family expands, you may have to add on a room. There will be a lot of changes from the moment you move in.

Many of these changes will involve family and friends, people who you'll create endearing memories with. When that happens, your home will be more than a residence. It will be a centerpiece of some of your life's greatest memories. If you truly want to own a home, don't let fears block you from enjoying these experiences.

Homeowners have become increasingly aware of the dangers that face them and their homes. More Americans than ever lock their doors at night and own home security systems to protect themselves and their homes from intruders.

However, one danger that many homeowners aren’t prepared for is posed by scammers. These scammers are innovative and use tools like the internet and the semblance of authority to their advantage. What’s more, the nature of their scams is always evolving.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common scams affecting homeowners. We’ll talk about how to protect yourself from these scams and recognize them so that you and your home can avoid potential disaster.

Foreclosure scams

There are few things more concerning to a homeowner than the thought of losing their home. Scammers take advantage of these fears by promoting “relief programs” that promise to reduce your monthly payments or otherwise protect you from being foreclosed on.

The scam here is that these companies might not help you at all but will still charge for their services. They’ll often browse public foreclosure notices or post ads online. When they reach out to a homeowner they’ll do so via a letter that seems personal and professional. They could also call your phone or send you an email offer.

By U.S. law, such companies cannot charge you for any services unless they successfully help you gain relief from your lender, and even then you must still accept the offer before the relief company can ever charge you.

Home maintenance and repair

One of the more dangerous scams on our list involves something seemingly innocent--a knock on your door to let you know your roof needs repair. While some startup companies may go door-to-door offering their services, most of the time this should send up a red flag. There are a few potential scams that come in the form of a person in work uniform knocking on your door.

First, a company might be selling real services, but they could be services you don’t need. Make sure you understand facts about your home, such as the last time your roof was repaired. This will help you avoid making a bad deal to replace something that doesn’t need replacing.

Also be sure to never let someone into your home, regardless of their uniform, if you are alone or it’s late at night. Someone may be dressed like a salesperson or utility worker, but they could in reality be doing research on your home and your valuables. Would-be burglars can often spot your valuables, and see how secure your home is before coming back when no one is home.

Protect your identity

The issue of identity theft has been in the public eye with the rise of online communications. However, one of the easiest ways to steal your valuable information could be sitting right in your mailbox or in your garbage can.

Always be sure to shred papers that have personal information on them. And, if you go away on vacation, ask a neighbor or relative to bring in your mail for you. Not only will this help keep your identity safe, but it will make it look like someone is at home by keeping the pile of mail and newspapers outside low.