5 Tips For A Lower Heating Bill

Keeping a home warm during the colder months of the year can prove to be expensive. With energy costs on the rise, many households are facing higher energy bills each year.

1. Find unorthodox heat sources. More efficient sources of heat are available, particularly if the home is in a milder climate or if the home can be broken into zones.

If you’re currently using electricity to heat your home a heat pump can help lower your electric bills by 50 percent. Heat pumps cost about $7,500, but will pay for themselves with reduced energy costs. A geothermal heat pump is the best and qualifies for tax credits. They should and can be paired with things like radiant heat flooring in specific areas of the home, as they are more effective at using energy than either baseboards or radiators and can help supplement the heat in smaller spaces.

Radiant heat costs between $6,000 and $14,000 if covering your whole home, but you can often install it in a single room for around $700. Paired with a heat pump, this will keep your home warm while significantly lowering your energy bills.

2. Add extra insulation. The amount of insulation that your home needs is directly tied to the type of heat source you have. In my past experiences I’ve seen many homes actually under-insulated for their climate and their heat source, resulting in their furnaces or radiators having to work harder than they need to and causing a spike in energy bills.

Insulating even a single room in your home can dramatically increase comfort and help you lower your thermostat, resulting in smaller bills. Adding insulation to your attic can also “hold the heat in” your home a lot longer.

3. Take care of your furnace. Furnaces are one of the most commonly used ways to heat large homes. I find that most home owners don’t maintain their furnace enough. Cleaning or changing filters is a must.  If you don’t feel comfortable with furnace or AC maintenance you should contact a professional tradesman.

If your furnace is older than 10 years, replacing it can dramatically increase its efficiency. Older furnaces only run at around 50 percent efficiency, while newer models can reach rates of 90 percent, making them a much better choice for keeping monthly bills down. A new furnace costs around $3,000 to $5,000, but will pay for itself in lowered bills over time.

4. Make the switch to gas. If you’re currently heating your home with electricity or oil, you’re likely spending more each month than you would if you switched to natural gas. Gas furnaces are much more efficient than oil or electric heaters, which can save as much as 30 percent on energy bills each month.

5. Complete an energy audit. Your home may be losing a great deal of the energy you use to heat it, without you even realizing it. An energy audit—or a comprehensive look at how your home uses and loses energy—will help you find ways to make your home more efficient overall.

It takes some of money to make these changes. But studies demonstrates  spending that money will save you big money down the road.


4 Reasons December Is Favorable for Buyers

Many home shoppers don’t think about purchasing a house during the holiday months—many even put their home search on hold. I however see it as a opportunistic time for a Buyer to take advantage of a window of opportunity.

Less Competition, Better Prices.

Let your clients know that the holiday months work in their favor. Instead of competing with hungry buyers, eager to move in before the school year begins, the dip in demand actually drives prices down, and can create a mini buyers’ market.  Buyers often fare better in the negotiation process during the winter months.

More Time to (Home) Shop.

Time off around the holidays gives many buyers the opportunity to do some careful house hunting. Instead of giving up an entire weekend to open houses and showings, buyers can more leisurely tour homes during the week.

Tax Benefits.

We still don’t know how the Senate and House tax reform bills will shake out in conference committee; however, if your clients purchase in 2017, they can still deduct property taxes, loan interest, and other costs. Looking like it’s going to pass. Not good for middle class America.

Move-In Ready

For a large part of the country, winter is a favorable season to move. Lifting heavy items and improvement projects are easier to perform without the heat of the summer months.

There are numerous benefits and added perks to buying a house during the holiday season making December arguably the best time to buy.


9 Cleaning Myths That Could Be Wrecking Your House

 The following article addresses home cleaning myths that have done more harm than good. I must admit I am guilty of implementing the wrong procedures, unknowingly of course. Great info and tips on the proper way to maintain your home. Put aside the bleach. Step away from the coffee grounds. And read on to uncover some of the biggest cleaning myths that could be doing more harm than good in your house.

1. Bleach is the best cleaner for your bathroom

“Bleach does not clean anything,” says Leslie Reichert, cleaning coach and author of “The Joy of Green Cleaning.” 

“It does disinfect, but before you can disinfect a surface, you have to clean it with something that will lift off the dirt,” she advises. (Imagine trying to clean muddy feet with hand sanitizer, and you get the idea.)

Wipe down your with your choice of household cleaner, then you can disinfect with a diluted bleach solution.

What about those combo bottles of household cleaner + bleach? They’re OK, but less efficient.

“An item with bleach in it will probably kill some of the germs but will actually be diluted with the cleaning agent, so my personal opinion is that it’s not going to do a quality job,” she says.

“Remember, the bleach has to stay on the surface for 10 minutes to kill germs, so washing with a cleaner that has bleach in it is like trying to add hair color to your shampoo.”

2. Washing machines clean themselves

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it just isn’t so.

“This is a common misconception, because the purpose of a washing machine is to clean things, but they do need to be cleaned too, says Debra Johnson home cleaning expert at Merry Maids.

“Many people leave their clothes in the washing machine long after the cycle’s done running, which can cause a musty smell that’s then transferred to your clothes,” she explains.

Even if you’re not guilty of that, you should still run a cleaning cycle every month to maintain your washer’s functionality and keep it smelling fresh. If your machine doesn’t have a special cycle, add a half-cup to 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup baking soda to the detergent dispenser and run a normal small cycle with hot water.

3. Polish is the best way to care for wood

Commercial polishes contain a host of different ingredients, from the recognizable (beeswax) to the huh-what’s-that (polydimethylsiloxane). The good news: They shine up your wood. The bad: They can also leave a waxy buildup. So it’s lucky that you don’t really need polish.

Most wood furniture has a finish that seals the wood, and really just needs to be kept clean and free from dust and dirt.

All you need is a damp microfiber cloth. Its tightly woven fibers trap dirt without the need for an additional cleaner.

4. Too much vacuuming ruins your carpets

This myth was likely started by someone looking for a way to get out of . But the truth is, dust and dirt that gets down into the base of a carpet can do more damage than a vacuum.

Of course, you will need to use care when vacuuming delicate floor coverings such as Oriental rugs and handmade carpets. And you should never leave your vacuum  in one spot too long.

The constant beating can heat up the fibers, cause them to melt, and leave a burn mark.

5. Coffee grounds are a great way to clean your garbage disposal

Legend has it that coffee grounds can deodorize and clean unidentified gunk off the blades of your garbage disposal. Alas, you’re better off using it as compost in your garden.

“The grounds often clog up the drains and pipes Johnson warns.

A better way to clean that’s still natural: Place two to three small lemon, lime, or grapefruit slices in the garbage disposal, then turn it on and rinse with warm water, she advises. (Don’t use the full fruit—just the peels.)

Fresh out of citrus? Run warm water in your sink while pouring a half-cup baking soda down the drain.

6. Mopping just pushes dirt around

Reichert admits she’s not a fan of brooms, but don’t dis mops—so long as you invest in one made of high-quality microfiber.

“It picks up the dirt and holds onto it,” she explains. “There’s no cross-contamination because once the mop head’s dirty, you remove it and put on a clean one.”

Compare that to a traditional mop, where you’re basically “mopping up dirt, rinsing it in dirty water, then spreading that water all over the floor,” Reichert adds.

7. Hand-washing dishes is more effective than a dishwasher

Sorry to burst your soap bubble, but no matter how much time you spend scrubbing dishes, you’re still no match for a dishwasher. Its water temperature is much hotter, the dishes are exposed to soap longer, “and if you use a ‘drying cycle,’ you’re also sanitizing your dishes,” Reichert points out.

8. You need specialized cleaning products for every job

While the shelves of cleaning supplies at your grocery store certainly make it seem that way, you don’t really need an army of bottles under your kitchen sink.

“I’ve found that I just need an all-purpose cleaner for tough jobs and a few high-quality microfiber cloths, Reichert says. These cloths get high marks because they contain millions of tiny, plastic fibers which easily trap dirt and even bacteria.

9. Washing clothes in cold water doesn’t get them clean

Busted! Why is this myth, well, a myth? For starters, the detergent, not the water, has the biggest effect on how clean your laundry comes out, Johnson says.

And, in fact, cold water is typically better for washing clothes than hot.

“Cold water preserves clothes both in quality and color better than hot water, which can also cause certain types of stains to set in the fabric,” she says. And to top it off, using cold water saves you energy, so it’s a win all around!

What great advice these experts shared with you. Are you asking yourself the question “am I doing this right”? Better yet will you give these tips a try for yourself and see a difference. Happy cleaning days ahead.



Do you fully understand the VALUE of the Owner’s Title Insurance Policy? Overall Title Insurance protects the interests of property owners and lenders against legitimate or false claims made by previous owners or lien holders. In effect, it insures the investment unlocking its potential as a financial asset for the current owners. Just a few reasons that it is so  important to maintain your Owners Title Insurance with a Title Company.

  1. Dollar-for-dollar, Title Insurance may be the best investment a property owner can make to protect their interest.
  2. According to ALTA, title problems are discovered in more than 1/3 or residential real estate transactions. These “defects” must be resolved prior to Closing. The most common problems are existing liens, unpaid mortgages, and recording errors of names, addresses or legal descriptions.
  3. An  Owner’s Title Policy protects the owner for as long as he or she has an interest in the property; and the premium is paid only once, at Closing.
  4. Title Insurance is different from other forms of insurance because it insures against events in the future, as health, property or life insurance do. Title Insurance is loss prevention insurance.
  5. Title Insurance Companies rely on a search of existing records to identify possible defects in order to resolve them prior to issuing a policy. The Companies perform intensive and expensive work up-front to minimize claims. The better they perform, the lower the number of claims.
  6. Research titles may be extremely labor-intensive since only about 15% of public records are digitized. The industry invests a substantial amount of time and expense to collect and evaluate title records. As a result, the industry’s claim are low compared to other liens of insurance.
  7. Title Companies access, assemble and analyze title information, in addition to handling Escrow and Closing process so that they are able to provide customers with the most comprehensive service.

All Title Companies are held to a higher standard of business practices. They must be accountable for all the research and implementing all the guidelines required by law. The duty of the real estate agent is to connect his or her clients to a Title Company they are comfortable with. Although many selling agents will work with one they often find themselves working with other Companies when they are the listing agent. Communication between the realtors and Title Company is paramount. Everybody must be on the same page to avoid delaying the Closing.



Senate Takes a Stab at Tax Reform

I’m not trying to make a political statement or weigh in on this article. Politics and religion should be discussed at a political forum or among friends in agreement. I don’t agree with the following Tax Plan because of it’s immediate and long range negative effects it has on real estate and home ownership. Any plan that effects home ownership and the “American Dream” negatively is hard to comprehend. Read this eye opening article below and see where you stand. I know you can’t make every American happy. But when you hurt the large majority it only makes life more difficult and our Country less likeable.

Earlier this week the Senate jumped into the fray, releasing its own proposal for tax reform. The Senate’s proposal  creates significant headwinds for homeowners and homebuyers, while providing only a temporary cut for middle class homeowners.

What Stays the Same?

Like the House bill, the Senate chose to change the definition for capital gains so that a home seller must have lived in their home for at least five of the prior 8 years. This change would affect 12% to 22% of home sellers, locking in some inventory and potentially changing the trade-up purchase process.

The Senate also proposed to eliminate personal exemptions as the House did, but they chose to increase the child credit to $2000 per child. This latter change is more generous than the House’s $1,600 credit per child and $300 for each parent.

Pouring SALT in the Wound

Unlike the House bill, the Senate chose to eliminate all state and local taxes (SALT) including state and local income and sales taxes as well as state and local real estate taxes. This change will make it more difficult for homeowners to itemize their mortgage interest and when they do, they will face a much lower benefit from home ownership. In a perverse way, only those who can afford very expensive homes will be able to benefit from the real estate provisions of the tax code.

Tax Reform - Standard Deduction vs Itemize on a Home Purchase in Illinois

The generous $24,000 standard deduction for couples who are renter or owners provides little support for renters who move to ownership nor does it guarantee that tax cuts today will be utilized to boost housing affordability in the future. Worse, when this provision expires in 8 years, both groups will be worse off.

Time Does Not Heal All Wounds

Most forecasts are for home prices and mortgage rates to rise in the coming years. The chart below shows how the proposals from the House and Senate compare with current law. The orange bars depict the difference between the Senate proposal and current law. A home buying family of four with an income of $100,000 or less would see a gain, while upper-middle income buyers would face a tax hike. However, in 5 years1 that tax cut would disappear for nearly all middle-income home buyers as mortgage rates and prices rise (red bars). Finally, after 8 years, the tax cuts and enhanced standard deduction both expire letting virtually no buyers benefit under the plan (dark blue bars).

Chart Comparing Tax Plans for a Family of Four Over Time: Current vs Proposed

The Senate’s proposal reflects many new changes, but retains many facets of the House proposal. While some changes help middle class homeowners today, it appears that the changes quickly wear out and are worse in the future.