Save energy at home to leave more green in your pocket!

Realtor View by Chaille Ralph Many consumers are mindful of the environment when making purchases these days. Look at the popularity of hybrid vehicles, alternative fuels, locally grown produce and a host of other products designed to use fewer resources and reduce pollution and waste. Housing definitely is on that list. You don’t think of houses being responsible for carbon emissions, but they are – to a significant degree. The energy used for heating, cooling, appliances and lighting most likely comes from a source that produces carbon emissions. Other factors, such as water use and building materials used to construct or remodel a home, can affect the environment significantly. You might think the best way to “go green” in housing is to start from scratch. And it’s true. If you’re building a new, custom home, you can make decisions that will increase energy and water efficiency greatly. You can select the most environmentally friendly building materials and construction methods. But if you’re not building a new home, there’s no need to throw up your hands. There’s still plenty you can do to make a difference. When looking to purchase an existing house, it’s possible to assess some aspects of its energy use. How old is the air conditioning unit? Does the landscaping consist of native plants? You might be able to secure energy bills from the current owner to review electricity and water usage (keep in mind your usage may vary considerably). You can hire a professional to determine how energy efficient or inefficient a home may be. Whether purchasing a home or wanting to make the best of the house you own, there are many steps you can take to improve energy efficiency. Here are some examples: Install rain barrels to collect roof runoff and use that water for irrigation. Replace water-thirsty plants with landscaping that requires little additional irrigation. Replace old windows with energy-efficient windows. Seal air leaks around windows, doors and other areas that may have gaps. Seal air ducts. Install additional installation. Replace appliances with newer models that have earned EPA‘s Energy Star designation. Replace heating and cooling units. Replace the water heater with a more efficient model. Change out incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. You probably know efforts such as these offer benefits beyond helping the environment. They also save money. Yes, you pay more on the front end to make improvements such as those listed, but each one of them reduces your expenses – often paying for itself in short order. As energy costs continue to rise, the more you can do to cut consumption, the more it pays off. Be informed You can find information online about how to lower your energy consumption...

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Overwhelmed by the Loan Process? You’re not alone!

by Chris Gash Plenty of mortgage websites define “balloon payments” and “debt-to-income ratio,” but borrowers are still struggling to get answers to the most important question: What will I owe? “Regardless of whether you’re an experienced or inexperienced home buyer, there’s a lot of information out there, and it’s difficult to discern what’s important,” says Cameron Findlay, chief economist at Discover Home Loans, which conducted the survey of 1,037 respondents nationwide and released the results in July. Of these, 59% have previously owned a home. 63% Percentage of survey respondents who say they are overwhelmed with information available on home financingSource: Discover Home Loans The study focused on buyers seeking homes at prices that don’t rise to jumbo levels—over $417,000 in most places and $625,500 in some high-price areas. While jumbo borrowers may be more financially savvy, Mr. Findlay adds, many of them may be buying a home for the first time since new rules went into effect that tightened lending standards. Discover, best known for its consumer credit cards, started offering home loans in mid-2012. The survey uncovered other mortgage misunderstandings. While 87% of the respondents had identified the type of property they could afford, only 52% actually had calculated their projected monthly payment, 41% hadn’t figured out their down payment, and almost half (48%) had no idea how much a more or less expensive home would raise or lower their mortgage payments. Home buyers sought multiple sources for help understanding the mortgage process: 59% of home buyers turned to mortgage bankers, 42% asked real-estate agents, 38% asked a financial adviser and 37% went to family or friends. A smaller percentage used online financial tools or calculators (30%). Plenty of mortgage-education websites include a general discussion about income and down-payment requirements, but don’t drill down to the specific questions of what documentation is needed so borrowers can plan ahead, says Tom Wind, executive vice president of home lending at Jacksonville, Fla.-based EverBank. EVER -0.06%What distinguishes the jumbo from the general borrower is they may have plenty of income to qualify, but it may come from diverse sources such as self-employment income or investments, he adds. “There’s a frustration about why you are asking them to provide all this information because they earn a lot more money and have a lot of assets,” says Mathew Carson, a mortgage broker at San Francisco-based First Capital Group. He recently had a client who received three stocks in 1987 as a gift that he had never touched and now were worth $20,000. But the $625,000 loan was delayed because two months of statements were required, and the management company had never issued statements. Another area of confusion is rates. A variety of websites offer mortgage...

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