Understanding Property Taxes

When buying a home, most of us know to expect costs associated with homeownership such as closing fees and utility payments, but what about property taxes? Property taxes are an unavoidable aspect of owning a home. Read on to learn more about property taxes and how it’s decided how much you have to pay.

What Are Property Taxes?

Property owners will have to pay property taxes. Like other taxes, they are used by the government to cover the costs of infrastructure and services in a community. Property taxes are placed on the value of your home, land, or business property. They are sometimes referred to as an ad valorem tax, which is a tax type where how much you pay is based on something’s value—in this case, the value of your real estate. Property taxes are only collected by local governments such as cities, counties, and states; the federal government does not levy any property taxes. The rate of property taxes widely varies from place to place.

How Are Property Taxes Determined?

Basically, the formula for figuring out how much you will have to pay is Property Tax x Assessed Value of a Property = Property Tax Owed. The first step in determining how much you owe in property taxes is establishing the value of your property including both the land you own and any buildings on it. This is called the assessed value. Assessors hired by your local tax authority are tasked with establishing your property’s worth when it comes to taxing. Your property’s assessed value is not necessarily the same as your home’s market or actual value. Some jurisdictions use an assessment ratio for tax assessments which is when only a fraction of your home’s actual value is ultimately taxed. For example, if your home is found to have a value of $350,000 and your city, county, or state uses an assessment ratio of 60%, your home’s assessed value would be $210,000 ($350,000 x 60%). Therefore, you would apply the tax rate to $210,000 instead of $350,000. How often your property is assessed depends on where you live. In one place, it might be yearly, while somewhere else, it may be every 3 years.

Once your assessed value has been decided, it’s time to apply the tax rate. Property tax rates are often expressed as millage or mill rates. One mill is equivalent to one-tenth of one cent; in other words, one mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of home value. For example, let’s say your local jurisdiction has a millage rate of 10. You would divide that by 1,000 which equals $0.01. That means you pay $0.01 for every $1,000 of property value. So if your assessed value is $210,000, you would multiply that by $0.01 to get a total property tax payment of $2,100.

Are you thinking about buying a home? Consult one of our experienced Loan Officers today to explore your home loan options!

How to Stage Your Home for Sale

When selling your home, you want it to look its best for potential buyers. Staging is a great way to accomplish this. Staging your home is the process of preparing a property for sale. In doing so, you want to show off the home’s best features and entice buyers to ensure a quick sale. Read on for some home staging tips!

Depersonalize and Declutter

When selling your home, you want prospective buyers to see it as a clean slate where they can imagine themselves and turn the house into a home. The less personalized décor you have, the better. It is harder for a buyer to connect with a property when there are lots of reminders that someone else currently calls it home. Avoid family photos and monograms as much as possible. Similarly, you should aim to minimize clutter as it can distract buyers from the main fixtures and character of your home and can even make it appear smaller. Get rid of things you don’t need (which can help you get a leg up on downsizing and packing when the time comes for you to move) and store away anything else taking up unnecessary space. When storing those additional items, try not to stuff your closet as many buyers like to look at a home’s storage space.

Make Updates

Whether you’ve lived in your home for 5 years or 35 years, odds are it could use some sprucing up to make it more desirable to potential buyers. Take this opportunity to make some updates. It could be as simple as moving around the placement of your furniture or adding some new décor. A few new coats of paint can work wonders in refreshing a space. You may even want to consider replacing outdated appliances and fixtures. For example, upgrading to stainless steel kitchen appliances and installing granite countertops can really increase the value of your home in the eyes of house-hunters.

Don’t Forget About Outside

The outside of your home is the first thing potential buyers see, so you want to make a good first impression. Make sure your yard and landscaping have been tended to and are not overgrown. Think about power washing your siding and maybe even updating your shutters or front door. Make sure your windows are clean and if you have a garage, declutter that, too.

Consider Consulting a Professional

If you are busy and feel overwhelmed by the staging process, it may be in your best interest to hire a professional stager. Professional stagers have experience staging homes and know what works and what doesn’t. With an eye for detail, they may pick up on things that would have otherwise been overlooked if you were taking a fully DIY approach. The cost of professional staging depends on what services you want and how in depth they go, but the money you spend could be worth it in the time and stress it saves you.

Go Virtual

These days, most buyers’ first look at a home online before they do in person. This is even more true now in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. You want to make sure photos taken of your home are crisp and clear with proper lighting and do not mislead the buyer with added filters. You should be thorough and include images of all spaces in and around your home from varying angles. Beyond typical online listings, you can even do 360 virtual walkthroughs.

Are you considering selling your home and buying a new home? Contact one of our Loan Officers today to explore your home loan options!

What to Know About Paying Off Your Mortgage Early

A mortgage is a large, long-term expense and the prospect of taking on that kind of debt for years to come can be daunting. Just because you start out with a set repayment term for your loan doesn’t mean you can’t pay it off ahead of schedule. It is possible to pay off your mortgage early, but whether it’s the right decision for you depends on a variety of factors. Read on to learn more about paying off your mortgage early.

Pros

The obvious pro of paying off your mortgage early is that you will eliminate that outstanding debt. You can say goodbye to monthly payments. Paying off your loan ahead of schedule saves you money on interest as well; the faster you pay it off, the less interest you will have to pay on top of the principal. Once your mortgage is paid off, you own your home outright and do not have to worry about foreclosure. By no longer needing to pay for your home, you can allocate that money elsewhere and do things like saving for retirement, starting or adding to a college fund, bulking up your emergency savings, invest, or simply enjoying the new disposable income you have each month without a mortgage payment.

Cons

There are some potential downsides to paying off your home loan early. Once your mortgage is paid off, you are no longer able to claim the mortgage interest tax deduction which uses the amount you pay in interest to reduce your taxable income. Some lenders charge a prepayment fee if you refinance, sell your home, or pay off your mortgage within a certain period of time following closing. You should check to see if your lender does charge this kind of fee and, if so, determine whether the cost incurred is worth it versus waiting to pay off your loan until the stated time range has passed. Something to bear in mind when paying off any kind of loan is that it can actually hurt your credit score. This is mostly important to think about if you are trying to secure some other kind of loan at the time you are thinking about paying off your mortgage. However, your credit score can always be improved upon, so this should not necessarily deter you from paying off the loan if it is beneficial to you in other ways.

Things to Consider

In some cases, pursuing other investments can bring in more money than paying off your mortgage early. It may be worth looking into alternative investment opportunities that you can put the money towards rather than paying your mortgage off ahead of schedule. This is more likely to be the case when you have a lower interest rate and therefore are not accruing as much interest on top of your principal. This is a nuanced issue, and one worth discussing with a financial professional or your lender. When it comes to debt, you should generally focus on paying off higher-interest debt ahead of lower-interest debt, so if you have loans with an interest rate higher than that of your mortgage, you may want to prioritize that. You also want to make sure that paying your mortgage off early doesn’t deplete your cash reserves or savings. Paying off your loan early may be beneficial in some ways, but if it leaves you without any money for paying bills or emergency expenses that come up, it can cause more problems than it solves.

How to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

Arguably the most common way to pay off your mortgage early is to make extra payments, usually by going from monthly to biweekly payments or making an extra monthly payment. Biweekly payments break up your monthly mortgage in half and result in you making what equates to 13 months of payments in a given year rather than 12. An extra monthly payment is when you pay more each month. When you do this, it is important that you specify that the payment go towards principal, not interest. Alternatively, you can refinance your mortgage to secure a lower rate which may enable you to make additional payments by spending less on interest. You can also refinance to a shorter term (e.g. from 30-year to 15-year), thereby setting you up to pay off your mortgage earlier. If you find yourself with extra money to spend at once, you could also contribute lump-sum payments outside of your monthly payments in order to chip away at the principal. There are a variety of options for paying off your loan early, and you should consult your lender to determine the best course of action for your unique situation.

Are you thinking about paying off your mortgage or buying a new home? Contact one of our skilled Loan Officers today to learn more about your options!

What Are Construction and Renovation Loans?

When most people think about mortgage loans, they think of the standard, long-term financial commitment to purchase a home. But did you know there are mortgages available specifically for building or renovating a home too? Keep reading to learn exactly how you can benefit from a construction or renovation loan.

Construction Loans

Construction loans are short-term loans used to finance the building of a new home. Once the home is built, the borrower must refinance into a permanent home loan. Construction loans often have a term of one year. They are used to cover the costs associated with building a custom home, such as building materials, land, labor, permits, and even sometimes permanent fixtures like landscaping and appliances (though home furnishings are generally not covered).

Renovation Loans

Renovation loans are used to finance home renovations, repairs, and remodels. Renovation loans are a good option if you want to renovate your current home or want to purchase a home that needs significant remodels. There are several options for renovation loans; two of the most common are FHA 203(k) loans and FNMA Homestyle loans. FHA 203(k) loans are offered by the Federal Housing Administration. They fund repairs in one mortgage on a primary residence and have a minimum down payment of 3.5%. There are two types of 203(k) loans: Standard FHA 203(K) loans which allow borrowers to finance rehabilitation costs starting at $5,000 and have no maximum. Streamline FHA 203(k) loans provide renovation and repair financing for up to $35,000. Alternatively, there are FNMA Homestyle loans which are offered by Fannie Mae and allow you to purchase and renovate a second home, primary home, or investment property with a minimum down payment of 3% in one mortgage up to the lending limit.

Is a Construction or Renovation Loan Right for You?

Whether a construction loan or renovation loan is right for you is dependent on your unique situation. There are some questions you should ask yourself. If you’re considering renovations, is it the right time? Are the renovations going to significantly increase your quality of life and the value of your home? Can you afford a renovation? If you’re considering building a home, do you know what your needs versus wants are? Does your current financial situation allow you to move forward with building rather than buying? What kind of timeline do you have for getting into a new home? It’s best to discuss your finances and goals with a First Home Mortgage Loan Officer in order to determine the best option for you.

How to Get a Construction or Renovation Loan

Once you’ve decided you want to take out a construction loan or renovation loan, it’s important to take a look at your current financial standing. Do you have a good credit score? If not, you may have to wait until your score improves; credit score requirements vary based on specific loan type, but the higher yours is, the better off you’ll be. Do you have enough money for a down payment? Like credit scores, the amount you are required to put down is dependent on the loan product you use. You’ll want to make sure you have enough money to put down. How is your debt-to-income ratio? Ideally, it should be below 36%. If you want a construction loan, you should find a licensed builder to work with first. Your lender is going to want to know that you are working with a qualified, experienced builder who will be able to complete the construction of your home successfully and properly. Whether it is a construction loan or renovation loan, you’ll want to get pre-qualified. Pre-qualification gives you a solid estimate of how much you can afford to borrow and can help you temper your expectations and begin planning with a concrete budget in mind.

Are you thinking about building your dream home or renovating your current residence? Learn more about our construction and renovation loan options and talk to a First Home Mortgage Loan Officer about which loan makes the most sense for you.

Using a Mortgage Calculator to Understand Your Home Loan Options

When considering buying a home or refinancing your current mortgage, it can be hard to know where to start and how to tell what the right decision is. While talking to a mortgage lender is always going to be your best bet for truly figuring out how much your home loan may be or if it is the right time to refinance, mortgage calculators can provide insight into what your options are before consulting a professional.

What is a Mortgage Calculator?

Mortgage calculators are online tools that help you get a better sense of what you can afford, how a mortgage would impact your overall finances, and how refinancing your existing mortgage could save you money. By entering some information about your unique financial situation and mortgage specifics, you can see totals and projections that can help answer your questions. The goal of a mortgage calculator is to provide you with hypothetical scenarios that will help you make smart, informed decisions about buying a home or refinancing.

How Can a Mortgage Calculator Help?

Mortgage calculators provide you with potential outcomes based on the fields you input and can give you details on loan amounts, interest rates, mortgage terms, down payments. homeowner’s insurance, your income and expenses, etc. Mortgage calculators allow you to create different situations like what the difference would be if you went with a 15-year mortgage versus a 30-year mortgage? Or what if you wanted to purchase a $350,000 home compared to a home that is $250,000? By using a mortgage calculator, you can see the impact these different decisions would have on you financially.

Types of Mortgage Calculators

First Home Mortgage offers a number of different mortgage calculators that can help you make sound financial decisions including:

  • Calculate a Mortgage Payment
    • This is arguably the most common mortgage calculator. This calculator is used to show you how much you could expect to pay based on the specifics of a loan including purchase price, down payment, annual property tax, loan term, interest rate, and more.
  • Rent or Buy?
    • This calculator shows you the advantage of buying a home over renting or renting a home over buying depending on how much you pay in rent and renter’s insurance and how much you would pay with a mortgage over a certain term.
  • Proceeds from Sale of a Home
    • This calculator shows you how much you can expect to profit from your home sale. It factors in things like your mortgage balance, property taxes, and realtor’s commission.
  • Home Affordability
    • The home affordability calculator generates three key ratios: loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, housing ratio, and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Lenders look at these three ratios when determining whether you qualify for a home loan. LTV is the ratio of the loan amount to the home value, the housing ratio represents the percentage of your income that goes towards housing expenses, and DTI expresses your total debts and housing expenses as a percentage of your total income.
  • Compare Two Mortgage Loans
    • This calculator allows you to look at the estimated closing costs, home loan amount, and monthly payments for two loans side by side. This gives you an idea of which loan will cost more in the long run.
  • Adjustable Rate Mortgage Analyzer
    • This adjustable-rate mortgage loan analyzer helps you understand the long-term effects of choosing an adjustable rate and how much you can expect to pay as your rate changes over the term of your home loan.
  • Time to Refinance?
    • Deciding whether to refinance isn’t always a clear-cut decision. This calculator helps you see the total cost over the life of your current loan versus a new loan by seeing the loan amount and monthly payments based on factors including interest rate, closing costs, and term.
  • Compare a Bi-Weekly Mortgage to a Monthly Mortgage
    • This mortgage calculator shows you the payment, total interest, and total number of months it would take to pay off a mortgage loan with monthly payments versus bi-weekly payments so you can decide which option makes the most sense for you.
  • Debt-to-Income Calculator
    • As mentioned, debt-to-income ratio is an important factor that lenders look at when determining your loan eligibility. This calculator generates your DTI and says whether it is at a manageable level or needs to be improved.

Are you interested in crunching some numbers to see what life would be like with a new or improved mortgage loan? Check out First Home Mortgage’s range of mortgage calculators and contact one of our Loan Officers when you are ready to learn more and discuss your options based on your findings from these loan calculators.

Tips for Relocating

Whether you’re relocating to a new city or a different state, moving somewhere new can be a big adjustment. While it can be exciting, it can feel a bit daunting. Here are some things you can do to make the transition easier and put your best foot forward in a new place.

Research the Area

Whether you are moving somewhere you are already familiar with or somewhere brand new, you’ll want to do your due diligence in learning more about the area. Research things like the population, climate, crime statistics, culture, schools, and history of the new place you will be living. The more you know, the less drastic the adjustment will feel.

Budget for the Move

There are quite a few costs associated with relocating, especially if you are moving somewhere far from where you currently live. Be aware of potential expenses that may come up, such as hiring movers, lease termination fees if you are breaking your lease, utility closure and set up fees, and moving supplies. You’ll also want to consider any cost-of-living changes. Understand that if you are moving from a small town to a big city, goods and services may be more expensive. Be prepared for costs to be different when living somewhere new.

Get Help as Needed

Don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own (though you certainly can if you want to take a DIY approach). The extra cost of hiring cleaners, packers, or movers can be well worth it in the time and stress it can save you.

Make Arrangements and Adjustments

Don’t wait until you’ve actually moved to start updating your accounts. Set up a change of address with the post office so any mail sent to your old address gets forwarded to your new one. Update your shipping address in any of your online shopping accounts. If you take any prescriptions, make sure they are forwarded to a new pharmacy in your new city or town. And start researching new doctors and other healthcare practices if it is too far away to continue to see your current providers. The more prepared you are, the smoother the transition will be once you’re settling in somewhere new.

Consider Tax Implications

Moving can impact your taxes in several ways. Odds are many of the taxes you can expect to pay—such as property taxes, sales tax, income tax, etc.—will change after a move, especially if you are moving to a new state. Be aware of these new tax rates so you are prepared when it’s time to pay them, particularly if they are higher than what you are used to. Additionally, if you are moving to a new state, unless it is a state without income tax (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming), you will have to file state tax returns in both your new and old state for the tax year you are moving.

Find Ways to Get Involved

Moving to a new place can be scary, especially when it is far from your friends and family or you do not know anyone else living there. Look into ways you can get involved in your community, whether it’s through sports, social groups, or volunteering. This will help you meet people and get to know the area better. Before you know it, you’ll be able to hold your own among locals!

Are you considering making a move? Contact one of our experienced Loan Officers at First Home Mortgage to learn more about buying your dream home in a new area!

Protecting Your Home While Out of Town

Whether it is for business or pleasure, we all have to go out of town sometimes. As a homeowner, it is important that you take steps to safeguard your home and possessions while you are away. Doing what you can to protect your home before you leave and during the time you are gone will give you the peace of mind you need to focus on your trip. Here are some tips for keeping your home safe when you travel.

Remember the Basics

Lock all doors and windows. Make sure you have turned off or unplugged any non-essential electronics, especially anything that could be a fire hazard. Keep your valuables locked away or at least in a secured place. If you have a garage and are leaving a vehicle behind, park the car in the garage (which should also be locked). Make sure all smoke detectors and other alarms have fresh batteries.

Utilize a Security System

Using a security system is a great way to protect your home and family both when home and away. With so many advances in technology in the past decade, you don’t necessarily have to have a professionally installed and monitored system; many people utilize cameras and security systems that they can install and monitor themselves. If you do use a monitoring company, let them know you are going to be away. If you use a camera or system you control and monitor yourself, such as a Ring or SimpliSafe system, be sure to check in on things while you’re away. In either case, ensure you have properly set the alarm before you leave.

Take Advantage of Smart Home Technology

As previously mentioned, there are many options for cameras and security systems that you can check while on the go. Beyond that, there are other smart home devices that can come in handy when you are away. Set lighting timers to turn some lights on in the evenings so it appears someone is home. Control your thermostat while you are away; you generally want to keep your thermostat a bit warmer in the summer or cooler in the winter when you are away, but be mindful of any pets or house sitters still in the house so it isn’t too uncomfortable.

Have Someone You Trust Stop By

When you are going to be out of town, you should either get a house sitter or have someone you can trust drop in and check on your home. This is especially important if you have pets you are leaving behind, but should be done regardless to ensure your home is still secure and no issues need to be addressed. You should have someone bring in your mail so it doesn’t build up in your mailbox which can not only inconvenience your mail carrier but can also signal to people that no one is home. If you do not feel it is necessary to have someone check in, you may want to at least tell a neighbor you trust that you are going to be away so they know to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.

Take Care of the Outside

Make sure your lawn is mowed and there are not excessive weeds. If you are going to be away for an extended period of time, you should consider having someone mow your lawn while you are away. If your yard appears overgrown and unkempt, it can look as though no one has been living in your home. Do not leave any spare keys around your home. If you are going to have someone drop in, either give them the key directly beforehand or keep it in a secure lockbox which they can access. If you have outdoor lights, try using timers for them as well to keep the area well-lit as though you were home.

Reconsider Sharing on Social Media

As tempting as it can be, you might want to think twice before posting that you are away from home on social media during your trip, especially if your profiles are public. Showing that you are out of town can entice those with bad intentions to vandalize or break into your home because they know there is a good chance no one is home.

If you are interested in refinancing your home or buying a new home, contact one of our Loan Officers today to learn more about the mortgage process!

5 Common Home Buying Mistakes

Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or seasoned house hunter, there are some commonly made mistakes you should know to avoid.

Not Determining How Much House You Can Afford

You should know how much your budget is before you start looking for houses. This will help you avoid wasting time looking at homes outside your price range and spare you the heartache that comes with getting attached to a home you can’t afford. An excellent way to determine your true budget is to talk with a lender and get prequalified. Prequalification is a review of your credit, income, and expenses and helps you nail down how much you can afford to spend.

Looking for a Home Before a Mortgage

It’s important to talk to a mortgage broker and get pre-qualified prior to searching for a home. Not only will prequalification tell you how much you can really afford so you don’t waste time seeking homes outside your price range, but it could be what stands between you getting into the home of your dreams or losing out on it. In competitive markets, you could lose out on a property if you aren’t already prequalified and someone else who wants it is. Prequalification shows the seller you are serious about buying and have your finances in order.

Using All Your Savings for a Down Payment

While spending your full savings to come up with enough for a sizable down payment may sound like a good idea in theory, it is not in practice. Many people try to pay the standard 20% down in order to avoid paying private mortgage insurance, or PMI, and will sometimes devote all of their savings to doing so. This is a risky and often unwise move as it leaves you without funds for any potential emergencies or unforeseen expenses that may come up. If you’re set on putting down a certain amount, you should try to wait until your savings exceed that amount so you aren’t left with nothing following your down payment.

Not Looking into Special Programs

When most of us think of mortgages, we think of the traditional 30-year conventional mortgage. While that is a great option for many, there are lots of loan options and programs available that may better suit you and your needs. For example, there are government loan programs you may qualify for depending on your circumstances. Many states also offer programs for first time homebuyers and other qualified individuals looking for homes that may help you attain homeownership easier. It’s important to talk to a mortgage professional about your background, finances, and goals in order to determine if you qualify for any special programs. If you don’t, you may be cheating yourself out of a mortgage or assistance program that would better benefit you.

Relying on Emotion Over Reason

There are times where going with your gut and following your heart are in your best interest, but when it comes to the home buying process, it’s important you not let emotion completely take over your decision making. Try not to become overly attached to a home you see; it’s a competitive market, and you don’t want to be left crushed if you’re unable to close on the home. Additionally, it’s essential that you keep your finances and goals in mind when choosing a home. You may fall in love with a home out of your budget, but it’s important to consider what spending more money might mean in the long run. Is it really worth buying that particular “dream” home if it means you’re barely getting by each month after your mortgage payment? Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases and decisions you’ll ever make, and it’s not one to be made in haste or based solely on feelings.

When you seek out the guidance of a seasoned Loan Officer, they can help you navigate the home buying process and avoid common missteps. Contact one of our experienced Loan Officers today to get started on the path towards homeownership.

What Is Mortgage Insurance?

Mortgage insurance protects the lender in the event the borrower defaults on the loan. Defaults include failure to make payments because of death, medical bills and job loss. Mortgage insurance can be provided by a private mortgage insurance company (PMI) or by a government agency such as FHA or VA.

How can I benefit from mortgage insurance on government-backed loans?

The FHA provides borrowers with the opportunity to purchase their home with a smaller down payment and/or lower credit score (compared to conventional loans) in return for the borrower paying mortgage insurance.

How do I pay for private mortgage insurance? Can this be added into my mortgage payment?

Yes! There are different types of mortgage insurance that allow you to pay in different ways.

Monthly

  • No upfront premium
  • Versatile and maximum flexibility
  • May be canceled
  • Paid with monthly mortgage payment

Single

  • Premium paid upfront
  • Refundable and nonrefundable options
  • Paid by borrower, seller, builder or 3rd party
  • May be financed into loan amount
  • Portion may be refundable when cancelled

Split

  • Upfront premium combined with lower monthly renewal
  • Upfront premium may be paid by borrower, 3rd party or financed
  • May be cancelled

Lender-Paid

  • Paid by lender or 3rd party
  • Cost paid via higher interest rate and/or fees

I see that a few of these private mortgage insurance options offer the opportunity to cancel.  How and when can I cancel?

You may ask your servicer to cancel the private mortgage insurance (PMI) once you have paid down the mortgage balance to 80% of the home’s original appraised value.  When the balance drops to 78%, the mortgage servicer is required to eliminate the PMI.

 Additional requirements to cancel mortgage insurance:

  • The borrower submits a written cancellation request
  • The borrower has a good payment history
  • The borrower is current with payments
  • The borrower satisfies any requirement of the mortgage holder, such as:
    • Evidence that the value of the property has not declined below the original value
    • Certification that the borrower’s equity in the property is not subject to a subordinate lien

If you like to learn more about Mortgage Insurance or how to cancel, contact one of our Loan Officers today!

Home Maintenance Tasks for the Summer

While there are things you can—and should—do to maintain your home year-round, summer can be a great time to tackle some outstanding tasks around the house. Here are some things you can do to maintain the upkeep of your home during summertime.

Replace Air Filters

How often you should clean or change your air filters depends on what kind of filter you have and the specifics of your household (how large, do you have pets, does anyone have allergies, etc.) but in most cases, you should be changing it out during the summer. Ideally you should replace it at the start of the season before the hottest weather kicks in, but you may even want to monitor it throughout the summer as your air conditioning usage is likely at its highest. Changing the filter helps you get the best possible air flow, the cleanest air, and can extend the life of your unit in the long run.

Clean Your Grill

Nothing says summer quite like grilling, but it is important your grill is clean and properly maintained. If you have a gas grill, shut the lid, crank the heat, and leave it on for a bit—at least a half hour. Let it cool down before scrubbing it with a grill brush. Clean out the drip trays to prevent fires and wipe down the outside of the grill itself. If you have a charcoal grill, empty it out and wipe down both the inside and outside before letting it dry and re-adding charcoal. Try cleaning your grill after each use to keep it in tip top shape throughout the summer. If you store it outdoors, be sure to cover it to protect from the elements.

Tend to Your Garden

Properly maintaining your garden not only makes it nicer to look at but can improve the life of your plants and ward off unwanted pests. Trim back bushes and plants. Add a new layer of mulch to minimize weeds and retain moisture. It’s not too late to do some planting. Marigolds, asters, black-eyed Susans, hibiscus, and zinnias are just a few of the flowers that do well when planted during the summer. If you have a veggie garden, consider planting cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, and peppers which also thrive in the summertime.

Monitor Humidity

Things tend to get rather humid during the summer, especially in certain parts of the country. Make sure you are monitoring the humidity inside your home. Excess humidity and moisture can cause hardwood damage and lead to mold growth. Consider using a dehumidifier to combat humidity indoors; if you already have one, make sure it is clean and functioning properly.

Pressure Wash

Pressure washing is a great way to combat dirt and tough stains around the outside of your home. Some areas you may want to wash include your home’s siding, sidewalk, porch, and deck. Inspect these areas prior to power washing to ensure there isn’t any mold, cracks, or weeds and if there are, tend to these issues before hitting the area with the power washer. If you have a deck, you may want to reseal it following power washing to extend its life and appearance.

Check Your Ceiling Fans

Many of us get the most use out of our ceiling fans during the summertime. Make sure they are properly aligned and clear any dust from the blades which can actually cause them to be unbalanced. If you switched the rotation of your fan during the colder months, be sure to switch it to spin counterclockwise which pushes the air down and keeps you cool.

Have Your HVAC System Serviced

Even if your heating and air conditioning units seem to be functioning properly, they should be regularly serviced to ensure they are operating correctly and efficiently. A technician may be able to spot a potential problem before it happens which can save you money, time, and stress down the line. On top of verifying that you A/C is working as it should, which is so important during the dog days of summer, they can also take a preemptive look at your heating so you are prepared for colder weather just a few months away.

Clean and Inspect Your Windows

With longer days and more sunlight, you are more likely to notice issues with your windows. Take this opportunity to thoroughly clean all windows inside and out to remove any dirt or streaks. Inspect all screens and repair or replace any that have rips or other damages. While you are looking at your windows and screens, make sure they are properly sealed; this helps regulate the temperature inside your home, improves energy efficiency, and can even help reduce your utility bills.

Looking to find a home to call your own or refinance your current home? Contact one of our experienced Loan Officers today to learn more about your home financing options!

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