Seven Mistakes That Cost Homeowners BIG Money During Cold Weather

Avoid winter’s nastiest tricks.

Wintry weather is great at turning up problems you didn’t even know you had. Like that first snowy night in front of your fireplace that you thought was pure bliss — until you noticed a leak in the ceiling corner, which apparently was caused by a lack of insulation. How were you supposed to know that?

Many homeowners don’t realize they’re making critical missteps that can cost a ton when winter sets in. Here are seven wintertime mistakes homeowners often make (and what they could cost you!):

1. Not Buying a $2 Protector for Your Outdoor Faucet

What It’ll Cost You:Up to $15,000 and a whole lot of grief

It’s amazing what a little frozen water can do damage-wise. An inch of water in your basement can cost up to $15,000 to pump out and dry out. And, yet, it’s so easy to prevent, especially with outdoor faucets, which are the most susceptible to freezing temps.

The simplest thing to do is to remove your garden hose from your outdoor faucet and drain it. Then add a faucet protector to keep cold air from getting into your pipes. They’re really cheap (some are under $2; the more expensive ones are still less than $10). “Get these now,” says Danny Lipford, home improvement expert and host of the “Today’s Homeowner” television and radio shows. “When the weatherman says we’ve got cold coming, they’ll sell out in minutes.”

While you’re at it, make sure any exposed pipes in an unheated basement or garage are insulated, too, or you’ll face the same pricey problem.

Wrap pipes with foam plumbing insulation — before the weather drops. It’s cheap, too, just like the faucet cover (only $1 for six feet of polyethylene insulation). And it’s an easy DIY project, as long as you can reach the pipes.

2. Instagramming Your Icicles Instead of Preventing Them

What It’ll Cost You:$500 — if you’re lucky; a lot more if you’re not

Those icicles make your home look so picturesque, you just gotta take a few pics. But you better make them quick. Those icicles can literally be a dam problem. (Yes, dam — not the curse word that sounds the same. )

Icicles are a clear sign that you’ve got an ice dam, which is exactly what it sounds like: a buildup of ice on your gutter or roof that prevents melting snow and ice from flowing through your gutters. That’s really bad news because these icy blocks can lead to expensive roofing repairs.

Depending on where you live, expect to pay at least $500 for each ice dam to be steamed off. Leave the ice and you risk long-term damage, which could ultimately cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to your roof, depending on what type of shingles you have and the size of the damaged area.

How to prevent them? Insulation. “Ice dams, icicles, and ice buildup on the gutters is a symptom of not enough insulation in the attic,” says Chris Johnson, owner of Navarre True Value and several other stores in the Twin Cities area.

And “you need to have at least 14 inches of insulation in your attic, no matter where you live,” says Lipford. If you live in a colder climate, you’ll need more.

If you don’t have the cash to insulate, heated gutter cables, which run between $50 and $150 each, can be a less expensive alternative when temporarily affixed to areas prone to ice damming, Johnson suggests.

3. Going Lazy on Your Gutters

What It’ll Cost You:You really don’t want to be in a position to find out

It can be so tempting to skip gutter cleanups as winter nears. It seems like as soon as you clear your gutters, they clog right back up again. So what’s the point?

Well, if it looks like you’re living inside a waterfall when it rains, water is missing your gutter system completely. It’s being directed to your foundation instead. And a water-damaged foundation is never, ever cheap to fix.

A contractor can plug foundation cracks for $1,500 to $3,000, says David Verbofsky, director of training for exterior home products manufacturer Ply Gem. But a worse problem, one that requires a foundation excavation or rebuild, can set you back (gulp) $30,000 or more.

Suddenly, cleaning your gutters a few times each fall doesn’t seem so bad. A pro can do the work for anywhere between $70 and $250, depending on the size of your gutter system.

4. Giving Cold Air a Chance to Sneak In

What It’ll Cost You:Nights where you never feel warm, despite sky-high heating bills

“If it were possible to take every crack on the outside of a typical home and drag them together, you’d have the equivalent of a three-by-three window open all the time,” says Lipford. Yikes.

Yet cracks can be easily and inexpensively sealed with a simple tube of caulk, and it’s available in hundreds of colors to match your window panes, outside siding, and even brick. Not sure where to caulk? Look for visible cracks around:

  • Window sills
  • Baseboards
  • Fireplace or dryer vents
  • Anywhere something inside pokes a hole to the outside

5. Not Getting Personal with Your Thermostat

What It’ll Cost You:Money you could spend on something else besides heating

We all know we should, but we seem to have some mental block when it comes to programming our thermostats to align with our schedules. It’s not that hard, and sometimes all it takes is buying a new one that suits you. (Like maybe a Wi-Fi one that’ll give you a little money-saving thrill each time you swipe your app.)

“From a cost-savings perspective, a programmable thermostat is a great investment,” Lipford says — as much as 10% off your energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

6. Skipping Furnace Tune-Ups

What It’ll Cost You:A furnace that’ll die years before it should — and higher energy bills

“Forget to service your furnace and you could easily cut five years off the life of your system,” says Lipford, who added that five years is a full third of the typical unit’s life span. New units can cost around $4,000 installed, making the $125 annual maintenance charge a no-brainer.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to replace the furnace filter, which cleans the air in your home, and also keeps your furnace coils cleaner, which can shave up to 15% off your energy bill. Johnson suggests at least every three months, but possibly as often as monthly if you have allergies, pets, or smoke cigarettes at home.

7. Foregoing a Fireplace Inspection

What It’ll Cost You:Possibly your life — and your home

“A cozy fire is great, but if you don’t maintain your chimney, a fire can cost you thousands of dollars,” says Johnson, not to mention the risk to you and your family.

Schedule your maintenance appointment as early as you can.”If you wait until the busy season, you’ll have a hard time getting them out there, you’ll pay more, and you’ll get a lower quality job,” says Lipford.

By: Alaina Tweddale

Homeowners save money with these quick and fun tips

Homeowners save money with some quick and fun tips. Like stuffing your fridge (really!)

Your grandma and her ma before her knew how to pinch pennies. Bet they knew where every dime of their household income went. Do you? Don’t kick yourself if you don’t. It’s tough in this day and age of automatic billing and apps that tap your debit card.

But we all could still learn a thing or two from grandma. Here are a few money-saving and money-making habits that your grandparents cultivated — some with a few modern twists that your grandparents wish they’d had back in their day.

#1 Rent Your Rooms — and More

Your four-bedroom Cape Cod was ready for your future rugrats the day you moved in. But you? Not quite so ready. Your grandparents knew that extra space was a goldmine, and would rent it out. You’ve got it even better today with Airbnb or HomeAway (just make sure to check city regulations first).

Or commit to sharing space long-term: Finding a roommate makes you an honest-to-god landlord (and could score you a new bestie!), complete with tax deductions and blessed additional income.

There are other ways to leverage extra space that are easier today than in your grandparents’ day because it’s so easy to use the internet to advertise. If you’re lucky enough to live near a concert venue or ballpark, let attendees park in your driveway or parking space for some extra cash.

Have a rooftop patio perfect for parties? Check out Splacer, a new online marketplace for event planners, which can turn your home into a money-making event venue.

#2 Revisit Your Insurance

The coverage you needed when purchasing the home might not be the coverage you need forever. Perhaps you sold your grandmother’s antique diamond ring, added a security system, or finally ditched the trampoline. Any of those things could actually make your rate go down. Give your agent a call to make sure you’re not over-covered.

You might even find savings on things you didn’t realize come built into your insurance.

“A lot of times, you find you have double insurance,” says Stephan Ferreira, a REALTOR® in Dallas, Texas. When a breach compromised a friend’s personal information, he set out to buy identity protection — only to find it was included in his homeowner’s policy.

“He would have paid for double coverage,” he says. “He didn’t know that until he asked.”

#3 Research the Problem Before You Pay Someone

Your grandparents would have raged about paying someone for something they could do (or learn to do) themselves. Google DIY options before calling a pro — you might find your irritating issue super easy to fix on your own (and way, way cheaper).

Hiring a plumber to fix your leaky fill valve might cost $45 per hour (or much more). Handy homeowners might spend $25 or less on materials, saving you enough cash for a decent bottle of wine. And don’t bring out the handyman to fix cracking caulk — a $4 tube from the hardware store will do the job nicely.

#4 Stock Up That Fridge

File this under strange-but-true: A full fridge regulates temperature better than an empty one. Open space in your refrigerator fills with warm air whenever you peek inside, making your poor appliance work overtime. Your grandparents’ fridges were smaller and easier to fill, so it wasn’t an issue for them. But today’s larger fridge/freezers can waste significant energy.

So go ahead, stock up on veggies, meat, and milk — just don’t let your grocery costs run amuck in the process. If you can’t fill it with usable food, place pitchers of water in your fridge to take up the space. And set your fridge between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit for max efficiency.

#5 Get FREE Stuff From Your Utility Company

Now this is a new one on your grandparents. Energy efficiency wasn’t quite the thing that is today. So, believe it or not, unlike a couple of decades ago, your utility company is working to save you money. Their methods might even be a little Oprah-inspired:

  • You get a free LED bulb!
  • You get a free energy audit!
  • You get an HVAC coil cleaning!

That’s right. Some utilities give away free stuff, like usage assessments, efficient bulbs, water-saving shower heads, faucet aerators, and more. And they may offer rebates for upgraded appliances. Bet your grandparents would have snapped those up if they had the chance.

“There are tons of ways to save,” says Steven Hughes, founder of Know Money, a financial literacy advocacy organization. “Some [utilities] are even sending out solar-powered panels to different houses, depending on the neighborhood, for no cost.”

#6 Watch Your PMI

What’s PMI? Private mortgage insurance. If you put less than 20% down on your home, you’re probably paying for PMI, which protects your lender if you default on the loan. But once your loan-to-value ratio hits that blessed 20% mark, call your lender to cancel it.

Lenders aren’t required to remove it until you’re at 22% — meaning an eagle eye can save you a good bit of cash. You’ll save between $600 and $1,200 for each year’s worth of premiums you can avoid (for a typical homeowner).

You might reach the goal post earlier than you think.

“PMI usually ends seven or eight years down the road, but if you’ve made big changes to the home, you might reach that 20% value much quicker,” Tomaro says. Most lenders will require an appraisal to determine if you’ve passed the magic number.

Related: Here’s What to Do to Cancel Your PMI

#7 Resist the Urge to File an Insurance Claim

Your homeowner’s insurance company doesn’t need to know about every bump, scrape, and petty theft. Think about how much you’re willing to pay out-of-pocket before an incident occurs. Frequent claims can increase your insurance score. That’s right, your insurance company gives you a score, which can affect your premium, so carefully assess your budget and deductible before filing.

{{ quote 10 }}

“Have a conversation with all the decision-makers,” Tomaro says. You might decide you’ll skip any claim that would cost less than $1,000 to fix. In that situation, increasing your deductible might make sense — and it will save you on your monthly premiums.

#8 Negotiate for the Best Price (You Can Do It!)

Accepting the first price you see can cost you — even when it comes to things like insurance premiums and handyman quotes. And you can put those haggling anxieties to rest: You don’t need to be a hard-nosed negotiator to save money on your monthly payments.

Often, asking politely for another rate is enough. Some home insurance companies offer discounts or extended coverage for teachers, long-term customers, and other groups. And when it comes to your cable bill, mentioning you need to check out a competitor before committing might net you another year’s worth of free HBO.

#9 Reap the Power of Rags

Although paper towels did exist back in your grandparents day, they didn’t spend money on them when an old rag would do. Disposable to them meant throwing money away. Follow their lead, and skip the one-use roll for washable rags, available in cheap multipacks. Or use the rags you already have: old T-shirts, cut-up beach towels — even socks work.

Even if you calculate the energy cost to run a load of laundry just for rags, you’ll still come out ahead by replacing your paper towels, unless you’re tossing your rags in the wash after every tiny wipe.

By: Jamie Wiebe

What Not to Do as a New Homeowner

Avoid these easy-to-prevent mistakes that could cost you big time.

You’ve finally settled into your new home.

You’re hanging pictures and pinning ideas for your favorite bath.

But in all your excitement, are you missing something? Now that you’re a bonafide homeowner are there things you should know that you don’t?

Probably so. Here are six mistakes new homeowners often make, and why they’re critically important to avoid.

#1 Not Knowing Where the Main Water Shutoff Valve Is

Water from a burst or broken plumbing pipe can spew dozens of gallons into your home’s interior in a matter of minutes, soaking everything in sight — including drywall, flooring, and valuables. In fact, water damage is one of the most common of all household insurance claims.

Quick-twitch reaction is needed to stave off a major bummer. Before disaster hits, find your water shutoff valve, which will be located where a water main enters your house. Make sure everyone knows where it’s located and how to close the valve. A little penetrating oil on the valve stem makes sure it’ll work when you need it to.

#2 Not Calling 811 Before Digging a Hole

Ah, spring! You’re so ready to dig into your new yard and plant bushes and build that fence. But don’t — not until you’ve dialed 811, the national dig-safely hotline. The hotline will contact all your local utilities who will then come to your property — often within a day — to mark the location of underground pipes, cables, and wires.

This free service keeps you safe and helps avoid costly repairs. In many states, calling 811 is the law, so you’ll also avoid fines.

#3 Not Checking the Slope of Foundation Soil

The ground around your foundation should slope away from your house at least 6 inches over 10 feet. Why? To make sure that water from rain and melting snow doesn’t soak the soil around your foundation walls, building up pressure that can cause leaks and crack your foundation, leading to mega-expensive repairs.

This kind of water damage doesn’t happen overnight — it’s accumulative — so the sooner you get after it, the better (and smarter) you’ll be. While you’re at it, make sure downspouts extend at least 5 feet away from your house.

#4 Not Knowing the Depth of Attic Insulation

This goes hand-in-hand with not knowing where your attic access is located, so let’s start there. Find the ceiling hatch, typically a square area framed with molding in a hallway or closet ceiling. Push the hatch cover straight up. Get a ladder and check out the depth of the insulation. If you can see the tops of joists, you definitely don’t have enough.

The recommended insulation for most attics is about R-38 or 10 to 14 inches deep, depending on the type of insulation you choose. BTW, is your hatch insulated, too? Use 4-inch-thick foam board glued to the top.

#5 Carelessly Drilling into Walls

Hanging shelves, closet systems, and artwork means drilling into your walls — but do you know what’s back there? Hidden inside your walls are plumbing pipes, ductwork, wires, and cables.

You can check for some stuff with a stud sensor — a $25 battery-operated tool that detects changes in density to sniff out studs, cables, and ducts.

But stud sensors aren’t foolproof. Protect yourself by drilling only 1¼ inches deep max — enough to clear drywall and plaster but not deep enough to reach most wires and pipes.

Household wiring runs horizontally from outlet to outlet about 8 inches to 2 feet from the floor, so that’s a no-drill zone. Stay clear of vertical locations above and below wall switches — wiring runs along studs to reach switches.

#6 Cutting Down a Tree

The risk isn’t worth it. Even small trees can fall awkwardly, damaging your house, property, or your neighbor’s property. In some locales, you have to obtain a permit first. Cutting down a tree is an art that’s best left to a professional tree service.

Plus, trees help preserve property values and provide shade that cuts energy bills. So think twice before going all Paul Bunyan.

By: John Riha


 Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.

Copyright 2017 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®