Winter is Coming... Again
As Ben Franklin once said: “In this world, nothing is certain but death and cleaning your gutters before winter to prevent ice dams”. With that, here are five fall home maintenance activities to start thinking about in the coming weeks.
Check your chimney
Make sure everything is in order before the first fire of the season.
"Creosote buildup causes chimney fires," says Family Handyman. "You should have your chimney professionally inspected or cleaned after every 70 fires. Don't remember the last time you had it cleaned by a pro? A quick way to tell if your chimney needs cleaning is to run the point of your fireplace poker along the inside of your chimney liner. If you find a 1/8” layer (or more) of buildup, call a chimney sweep."
Check your roof
Storms, wind, and other weather conditions over the past year could have done damage that you're not aware of. Don’t wait until the first heavy snow to find out you have a leak. If you're not comfortable on a ladder or just want a professional eye, a pro roofer will typically charge you less than $100 to check it out.
Seal it up
There are three important reasons to make sure your home is air tight: 1) Keeping moisture out; 2) Keeping critters out; 3) Keeping warm air in. Fall is when pests begin to look for places to ride out the winter, so make sure your exterior is free of gaps and holes that will allow for unwanted houseguests.
Sealing up holes and cracks can also make your home more efficient—saving you money and keeping you warm and cozy. In most cases all you need is weather stripping and caulk.
Disconnect garden hoses from faucets
As soon as the weather dips, it's time to disconnect and drain hoses. This simple task can potentially save you a lot of heartache later. “Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the pipes just inside your exterior walls,” says HouseLogic. “If freezing temps hit, that water can freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or pipes.”
Also, make sure to drain your hoses before storing them to prevent cracking during the cold winter months.
And, of course, clean your gutters
Depending on your climate and the surrounding foliage, you may need to clean your gutters more than once throughout the fall. Your gutters are your best ally when it comes to moving moisture away from your home, so it’s critical to keep them free of obstruction.
30 or 15-Year Mortgage? Those aren’t your only choices.
If you're brand new to the wonderful world of home loans, you might be a bit overwhelmed by how many different types of financing options are really out there. Both primary loan types (fixed-rate and adjustable-rate) have many variations, so how do you know which one is best for you?
Let’s start with Fixed-Rate Mortages. The most popular loan in today's marketplace is the 30-year fixed. This is a loan paid over the course of 30 years, with a fixed interest rate, meaning you’ll pay the same interest rate in year one as you will in year 30 of your mortgage. Your payment may change due to insurance or taxes, but generally a 30-year loan is seen as a practical option due its stability, simplicity, and month-to-month affordability.
So, what's the attraction of the 15-year-fixed? A 15-year loan will have slightly lower interest rates compared to a similarly priced 30-year loan, but since the term is so much shorter, you’ll pay much less in interest over the life of the loan. The tradeoff is that the monthly payments will be much higher because the term isn’t stretched out over 30 years. If a buyer’s goal is to save as much as possible over the long term, and they can afford the steeper monthly payment, a 15-year is a good choice.
If you’re interested in a 15-year term but the high monthly payments make you wary, consider a 20-year or a 25-year term. These two choices provide a "middle of the road" option when it comes to balancing monthly payment and long-term savings.
The other primary loan type is the Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM). With an ARM, your interest rate will change annually (or sometimes semi-annually) based on the market rates and your loan agreement.
Today, most ARM loans for property buyers are really Hybrid ARMs. These types of ARM loans feature a fixed initial period where the interest rate is locked, with rates adjusting on a regular basis after that. For example, a 5/1 ARM has an initial fixed rate period of 5 years, with the rate adjusting annually (the “1” in 5/1) after that. 3/1, 7/1, and 10/1 are other common hybrid ARMs.
With an ARM, the interest rate during the initial period will be much lower than that of fixed rate loans. The downside is that after the initial period, the rate will adjust based on the index the loan is tied to and most often this means an increased payment over time. ARMs can be a really good choice for a handful of prospective borrowers:
Borrowers who are confident in future earnings: If you’ve recently graduated from medical school (congrats!) or you’re the beneficiary of a trust that’s not paying out yet (also, congrats), a hybrid loan will allow you to qualify for a larger loan despite your current financial status, as you’ll be able to afford the rising rates later on.
Here for a good-time not for a long-time” homeowners: If you’re confident you’ll be in the home for a very short period of time (say, less than 5 or 10 years), you can enjoy a super-affordable interest rate and sell the home before the end of the initial fixed rate period.
You plan to pay off the loan fast: Let’s say you’re downsizing to a smaller home but haven’t received funds from the sale of your previous home. An ARM will allow you to enjoy a low payment until your cash is disbursed, at which time you can pay off your ARM before the end of the initial fixed-rate period.