Controlling Energy Costs to Protect Home

This is a particularly appropriate time to take strategic steps to save energy costs in homes. Real estate brokers and mortgage lenders should advise clients on ways they can help control those cost.

Energy sources are rising in cost dramatically in most areas this winter, and to maintain a family’s financial ability to keep making mortgage payments and handling other costs related to homeownership it’s vitally important to keep energy costs down to a reasonable level.

A group of professional home inspectors recently came up with a list of most effective things you can do to reduce energy consumption and costs. And at the same time these steps can extend the life of a home’s mechanical and electrical systems. Here are a few key examples:

Change the furnace filter more frequently. Filters clogged with pollen, dust, pet hair and other debris can interfere with the free flow of air in the heater leading to higher fuel costs, overheating and eventual shutdown, the inspectors said.

Check and replace weather-stripping around doors when needed. When weather-stripping has been in place for years, it becomes hard and loses flexibility, thus its effectiveness. Also, when people move into a home, they are typically unaware when weather-stripping was installed and can easily overlook it.

Check the water heater settings. Hotter is not necessarily better. Resist setting the temperature too high during the winter. Most people set their water heaters at medium-to-high all year round. Low-to-medium is adequate, the inspectors said.

Be sure your water pipes are properly insulated. Pipes should be covered with some form of insulation. “A lot of people don’t like the appearance of pipe insulation, bit it’s foolhardy to ignore this problem,” one inspector stated.

Be sure electrical boxes that are exposed to the elements are watertight. Rain can arc out main service panels, causing homeowners to lose all service.

These suggestions were provided by the Home Warranty Association of California. “With an ever-increasing number of warranty contracts being sold, our industry reminds consumers and real estate professionals that home warranties are available to existing home owners as well as to new homebuyers,” said Dan Langston, HWAC president.

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Even with a tightening economy, home values increased during the past year by 7 percent (national average), according to a report from the National Association of Realtors. And those values are continuing to increase as we launch into a new year, primarily due to modest and still lowering mortgage interest rates.

Increasing home sales prices mean increasing broker commissions. And that’s motivating more homeowners to try their hand at selling their property themselves.

During the past year, about 16 percent of home sales were handled by homeowners, without the use of a real estate brokerage firm. That’s an estimate from the National Association of Realtors.

There are many good reasons for turning the marketing of a home over to a professional. The downside, of course, is payment of a commission. But in many cases it’s more than worth it. And keep in mind the commission is usually split several ways, between the listing firm, its sales associates, and other participating brokers.

For owners who are determined to attempt selling their home yourselves, here are a few suggestions offered in a feature article carried in Modern Maturity magazine.

Set a realistic asking price. Make the price consistent with other comparable homes in the area that have recently sold.

Get the house ready before placing it on the market and inviting prospective buyers to inspect it. Spruce it up. Repair things that need repairing.

Spread the word about the availability of your home, via ads in your local newspaper, notices on supermarket bulletin boards, etc.

Put on a good marketing show, including an open house on weekends. Do things a good broker might do to attract interested prospects.

If all your best efforts produce nothing, find a good broker.

Jim Woodard writes a nationally syndicated newspaper column on real estate news and trends. It’s titled “Open House” in most newspapers, and carries his byline as James M. Woodard. He is also a professional storyteller with a Web site at:

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