10 Ways to Save on Your Heating Bills

I found this article and thought I would share it with you!

Now that summer is gone, cool weather is upon us.  Depending on where you live, fall and winter mark the expensive home-heating season, so it’s important to make the most of your energy dollar.  If you’re looking for tips to save on your home-heating costs, you’ve come to the right place.  Here are some recommendations you can use to save more than a few dollars this season.  Just follow these simple guidelines from the Department of Energy and enjoy lower heating bills.

Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter.  For each degree you raise your thermostat setting, your fuel bill climbs 3 percent.  So dress accordingly.  Consider slipping into a sweater before you crank up the temperature.

Check the temperature setting of your water heater.  In very few circumstances should it be set at 120 degrees or higher.  Also, check the location of the water heater.  If it is stored in a cold space, such as the garage or basement, purchase an insulation blanket and wrap it around the heater.  This step will help reduce heat loss and save you money.

Inspect the quality of your home’s insulation and immediately replace old or worn material; and place insulation in areas that aren’t covered but should be.  Replacing and adding insulation is an excellent way to reduce home-heating costs.

Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month — or as needed.  A simple task like this and those in No. 3 could improve your systems’ energy efficiency by 10 percent.

Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure they’re not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.

Bleed trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season; if in doubt about how to perform this task, call a professional.

One of life’s little pleasures is camping out under a hot shower on a cold day.  Resisting this temptation and reducing shower time will, of course, lower costs.  In fact, cutting shower time in half can save up to 30 percent on your water heating bill!

Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.

Use kitchen, bath, and other ventilating fans wisely; in just 1 hour, these fans can pull out a houseful of warmed air.  Turn fans off as soon as they have done the job.  Try to keep the humidity level between 30 percent and 60 percent.

During the heating season, keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.  During the cooling season, keep the window coverings closed during the day to prevent solar gain.

Close an unoccupied room that is isolated from the rest of the house, such as in a corner, and turn down the thermostat or turn off the heating for that room or zone.  Some programmable thermostats now come with temperature zoning options.  However, do not turn the heating off if it adversely affects the rest of your system.  For example, if you heat your house with a heat pump, do not close the vents; doing so could harm the heat pump.  And always make sure that there is sufficient heat to prevent the freezing of water pipes.

Consider installing double-pane windows with protective coating that reflects heat back into your home during winter.  If such a retrofit is not in your budget, cover your windows with clear plastic film.  At a typical cost of $4 to $6 per window, the film creates an insulating air pocket between the plastic and the window, reducing heat loss through windows by between 25 percent and 50 percent.

Caulk and weather strip around exterior seams, cracks and openings.  Pay extra attention around windows and at points where various exterior materials like wood, brick and vinyl siding meet.  And on the inside, caulking and weather-stripping around windows and door frames will cut down on drafts.

By: http://www.move.com

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New Products for Veterans

flag1While many loan programs and products are shrinking on a daily basis and becoming more restrictive, the Federal Government is committed to helping our Veterans.

On October 10, 2008, President Bush signed into law, the Veterans’ Improvement Act of 2008.  With the passage of the bill, Veteran’s can now refinance their current mortgage’s and take cashout up to 100% of their homes’ value. Previously, they were limited to 90%.  This bill also increases the maximum loan amount in some areas.  The last thing that this bill does is extend the offering of the adjustable rate mortgage option for Veteran’s.  These adjustable rate programs are less risky since they have lower caps on the annual and lifetime adjustments of the loan.

A veterans’ existing loan does not have to be a VA loan to take advantage of this program.  If you purchased your home with a conventional or subprime loan, this is another option for veterans that need to refinance.

If you have any questions, please email me at karen@landmarkmortgage.com or call at 503 585 1105.

New FHA Loan Limits for 2009

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Loan limits for Marion & Polk County were increased as part of the stimulas package earlier this year. These higher loan limits helped many borrowers refinance their homes and get into a good, conservative, fixed rate loan.

 FHA has just announced limits for 2009, unfortunately, these limits for Marion and Polk Counties are decreasing.  Until Dec 31, 2008 loan limits are 295,000 after January 1st, those limits will decrease to 271,050.    If you or someone you know were waiting to purchase or refinance hoping that FHA limits would rise in Marion or Polk County, there is still time to take advantage of the 295,000 loan amount if you act before Dec 31, 2008. 

Please call or email if you need the loan limits on other Oregon or Washington Counties.   karen@landmarkmortgage.com

Help for Struggling Homeowners

Freddie & Fannie’s regulator unveiled a plan that could cut payments for hundreds of thousands of struggling homeowners to help reverse defaults. Homeowners facing foreclosure who are spending more than 38 percent of their income on mortgage payments could have monthly payments reduced by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in an effort to keep their homes. Since it is generally believed that mortgage defaults are at the root of the global credit crisis and the recession here in the US , steps like this are important to “put a floor under the housing market” and are a prerequisite to recovery. Companies like Indymac, Chase and BofA have halted foreclosures, but since Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own or insure 31 million mortgages (58% of SFH’s), this is big news. Eligible homeowners must first be contacted (I don’t know all the exact criteria, although one is that borrowers need to be delinquent 90 days or more to qualify) and could see their mortgage rates cut, the life of their loans extended, or their principal reduced in an effort to ease payments.

The plan does not apply to private-label mortgage securities, which typically have a much greater proportion of underwater borrowers. It will instruct servicers to change the terms of the loan so that the monthly payment (including principal, interest, taxes and insurance) would be lowered to 38% of the borrower’s income (income must be documented). This would be done in up to three steps: 1) the term of the loan would be stretched to 40 years. If the monthly payment is still too high relative to income, then 2) the interest rate would be reduced to as low as 3%.  Finally, if the implied monthly payment were still greater than 38% of the borrower’s income, 3) forbearance could be provided on loan principal down to the current appraised value of the property.  (However, the reduced principal would not be written off entirely, but instead would be payable as a balloon payment at sale or maturity of the loan.)

Be wary of solicitors calling and offering to do these modifications for you, they will charge you a fee to do exactly what you can do on your own by calling your lender directly.  Also, please be cautious and always read the fine print.  Since these programs are new, we are not sure yet what all the fine print is and how a principal reduction, forebearance or lengthening of your term will reflect on your credit in the future.  One would hope it would reflect better than a foreclosure or continuing late payments and carry a lesser time requirement to prove you are re-established in your credit.

If you have any questions or are struggling please don’t hesitate to call me or your lender directly. The best part of these programs is that communication is open!

What Would You do With a Second Stimulus Check?

Fed Chairman Sparks Talks Of Another Stimulus Bill:  While testifying on Capitol Hill recently, Bernanke endorsed the idea that another round of stimulus checks may be needed to help jolt the economy.  The talk surrounding the idea is being embraced by Congress and the President.  This second bill may in fact be larger than the $168 Billion package approved in February, which included $600 tax rebates for most individuals and tax breaks for businesses.

The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is pushing talks around the proposed bill that could resurrect a few items that were pulled out of the first stimulus bill such as: $37 Billion in public works spending, $6 Billion to extend jobless benefits, $15 Billion to help states pay their Medicaid bills and $3 Billion in food stamp assistance for the poor.

What would you do with a second stimulus check?  In these trying times, would you go out and spend it, payoff a bill or save it? 

Credit Tips

In today’s lending environment, your credit is more important than ever. Your interest rates are directly related to your credit score. Any credit score under a 720 has a cost now associated with it.

The first thing I suggest if you are looking to purchase or refinance a home is to review your credit report. You may obtain a free credit report at Freecreditreport.com.  I am happy to review it with you and offer suggestions for improving your scores.

While we don’t know the exact formulas used to create your score, we do know the things that will affect your score.

35% of your score is derived from how you pay your bills. 30% is how much you owe. 15% is how long you have had the accounts. 10% is the type of accounts you have and the last 10% is new credit. 

Payment history is key. Paying bills on their due date or before is best, but as long as they are paid before they are 30 days late, it will not affect your score.  If you do happen to have a late payment, the older it is, the less it will hurt your score.

One of the other factors that affects your score is the amount of outstanding credit that you have. If you have too much debt that is negative, even if it’s all paid as agreed.  The balances to the limit is also a negative.  For example, if you have one credit card that is at its max limit, that is worse than having the balances spread over two or three cards. The score card likes to see less than 30% of your limit on your card.

A recent late will hurt your score drastically. It will take a good 6-12 mos to recover from a late payment, the type of account that is late will tell how long the time is.   A card over the limit will also hurt your score. Bringing the amount owed down will generally recover your score in 2-3 mos time.

The duration of your accounts plays a part in scoring, the longer the better. Several new accounts can have an adverse affect on your score. 

The types of accounts you have is a balancing act. Typically a mortgage, car loan and a few credit cards would be a good mix as long as those accounts aren’t close to their limits, are paid as agreed and have been in use for a period of time. Try and avoid the finance companies if you can.

We should all pull our credit reports at least once a year to routinely check how our credit is and to make sure that no fraudulent activity has occurred.  If you need any help reviewing that report, I would be happy to do that with you.