The new year may mark the start of a better workout routine, a healthier diet or practicing daily acts of gratitude. But for some, it’s also a time to take a close look at your home and resolve to fix issues you’ve let slide or make long-postponed changes. From re-evaluating your homeowner’s insurance policy to deciding what to upgrade and whether to refinance, the beginning of the year presents an opportunity to examine your current situation and plan a strategy for the coming year.
In the meantime, here are some resolutions you might consider:
- Scrutinize your insurance policy and utility bills. The start of the year is a good time to take a closer look at your homeowners insurance policy and decide whether there are any unmet needs or whether you’re still getting a fair deal. Even if your policy doesn’t expire until later in the year, you can get refunded for any money you paid in advance. Shop around and confirm whether your policy makes sense, and factor in any changes, such as home improvements. Do the same for utility providers. In some cases, by seeing what the competition has to offer, you might be able to shave some money off your monthly bill. But always go back to your original utility provider to see if they will match competitors’ rates. Most of the time, they will. This may also be an ideal time to consider energy-saving options such as solar, new appliances or a more efficient hot-water heater.
- Give your home a thorough maintenance check. Evaluate whether there are any areas of your home that need some sprucing up – whether that’s a heating system, a landscaping touch-up or even a new roof. Then, determine what to prioritize. Hint: anything that can cause damage to your home if it’s not attended to soon should be top of mind. Then seek referrals for contractors from trusted sources and shop around for the best deal.
- Decide what to upgrade. Besides maintenance upkeep, is there anything else you’ve been wanting to upgrade on your home? The winter months could be time to take action, since contractors typically are more willing to negotiate rates in the slower months. Think about property value when weighing upgrades. For example, while a new pool might not add a lot of value to your home (not everyone wants one), updating your kitchen with modern appliances and an open floor plan could.
- Consider refinancing. Homeowners refinance their mortgage for several different reasons. One is a rate-and-term refinance to essentially save money. They refinance their remaining balance for a lower interest rate and a reasonable term, which is the amount of years that it will take to pay off the loan. Others choose to refinance to take advantage of cash-out refinancing. In this case, they take out a new mortgage for more than they owed and then use the difference for cash or to pay off existing debt. Additional reasons: to replace an adjustable-rate mortgage with a fixed-rate loan or to eliminate private mortgage insurance (PMI). You can ask a lender to cancel PMI when you have paid down the mortgage balance to 80 percent of the home’s original appraised value.
- Decide whether it’s time to make a move. A new year is also a good time to think carefully about a move you might be contemplating. If you plan to put your house on the market, begin to think about little updates that will be inexpensive but will go a long way for appeal. For example, consider repainting the interior of your home with neutral colors and removing your home of any clutter. If you’re looking to buy a home, go through your finances to determine the right budget and what features, such as location, square footage or a town with a good school system, is most important for you.
While these resolutions might not be at the top of everyone’s list, they are all steps – in one way or another – that help to ensure that your humble abode is working in your financial favor.
Published Dec. 27, 2017
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