Call in a pro to help cut your energy bills
For a rigorous evaluation of your home’s energy use and specific recommendations for improving its efficiency, call an energy auditor. You can cut your energy use by as much as half and reap federal tax credits and state rebates for qualified home improvements.
• Internet access.
• 12 months of utility bills or a summary of your usage.
• To find an auditor, visit EnergyStar.gov’s Home Performance with Energy Star section, or visit the Residential Energy Services Network’s site to find a certified rater.
An audit typically takes three to four hours and costs $250 to $600.
Total time: 15 minutes for gathering the bills, consulting websites and making a call.

Equip you home with new safety devices
Guard against accidents, and keep your family safe.
• Smoke detector.
• Fire extinguisher.
• Carbon monoxide detector.
• Head to a big-box store, where you’ll usually find the three essential pieces of hardware in the same aisle. Expect to pay about $15 for a smoke alarm, $40 for a heavy-duty fire extinguisher and $30 for a carbon-monoxide detector. For $20 more, you can get a CO detector that also detects explosive gases, which is not a bad idea if you heat or cook with natural gas.
• Detectors should be placed near bedrooms (because fires and CO accidents occur most often when residents are asleep) and near an attached garage.
Total time: 13 minutes, not including travel time to a store.

Is it time to refinance your mortgage?

With the Federal Reserve out of the mortgage market and the economy gaining strength, some economists are warning that mortgage rates, still near historic lows, will soon start rising.
That presents a tough choice for borrowers with adjustable-rate mortgages or home-equity lines of credit: Should they trade their low-rate loans for more-expensive fixed-rate loans? Or should they stick with a cheap rate and gamble that it won’t adjust sharply higher?
The answer depends on how long borrowers plan to live in their homes and how much interest rates are going to rise. Those who plan to move in a few years probably don’t need to lock in a fixed rate unless they think rates are bound to jump.
Mortgage rates ticked up in the days after the Fed ended its purchases of mortgage-backed securities, at the end of April. But several big banks cut residential mortgage rates as coverage of the Greek debt crisis intensified and investors moved money into Treasuries and other safe havens. The Mortgage Bankers Association recently forecast that rates would rise to 5.8% by the end of the year, a level unseen since November 2008.
Adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, have been hovering around 4% or lower. Many offer fixed rates for an initial three-, five-, or seven-year period before resetting annually. ARMs are tied to short-term interest rates, and rise when the Fed increases the federal-funds rate. The financial markets are betting on the Fed to start raising rates by the end of this year. The question is how high those rates will go. No one knows.

Four Factors Seniors Should Keep In Mind Before Applying For A Reverse Mortgage

A reverse mortgage is a loan offered to elderly homeowners who are in need of extra cash. This allows an older homeowner to take out a new loan based off the amount of equity they have acquired in their home. In this article we will explain a few crucial factors senior homeowners should keep in mind before obtaining this new mortgage.

1. Why are you interested in this type of loan and is it truly necessary you obtain one? Are the high costs of this loan worth it? What would you do with the funds if approved for this loan? If you are looking to obtain a reverse mortgage to pay for the vacation of your dreams, this loan is probably not the best idea and will be a very costly way to pay for it.
Many mortgage professionals also advise that investing the funds you receive from this loan may put you in a worse predicament later down the line. If someone is trying to sell you something and suggests that you take out a reverse mortgage to cover the costs, be very wary to do so. Remember that this is not free money.

Reverse mortgage use the amount of equity one has obtained to secure this loan, much like that of a home equity line of credit. Most people spend many years of their life building equity in their property so it is important to use these funds when the time is right. If you have an unexpected serious emergency that comes up or you need the funds to pay off other debts then a reverse mortgage may be they key.

2. Can you afford to take on a reverse mortgage? Generally, these mortgage are quite expensive and the amount owed only grows as time goes on. The younger a person is when they take on this loan, the more they will owe as time goes on and interest starts compiling up. This is especially true for homeowners who decide to sell their home just after a few years of obtaining this loan. Its said that the older the borrower is, the better terms and better chance they will have to repay the debt.

3. Do you really want to use up your equity now? Once you secure a reverse mortgage you will typically use up a significant amount of the equity you have obtained. This means that if later down the line an emergency arrives you cannot turn to your equity to pay for the event. Emergencies come up all the time, especially with elderly homeowners. These may include such factors as medical bills, health care, other debts, and everyday living expenses. If you do not need the extra funds now it would be wise to wait until you absolutely need this assistance.

4. Are there any less costly options other than a reverse mortgage? Are there any other financial resources you may have to secure extra funds besides taking out a new loan? For those of you that do not have any other way to secure funds and have the means to make monthly payments on a new loan you may want to consider a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). These alternatives are typically much cheaper than that of a reverse mortgage.

Always do intense research to ensure you are getting the best deal available for your situation. Even though there may be some disadvantages to this loan there are also some great benefits as well. This loan is generally very easy to obtain because there is no income or credit requirements involved. Reverse mortgage can benefit older folks who are in desperate need of extra funds, but always make sure you have the means to afford this new debt.