The 6 worst mortgage mistakes you can make

loansThis is an article written for MoneyTalks News by Maryalene Laponsie. It has some excellent advice about the process of getting a home mortgage. It has been slightly edited. To see the original article, go here.

Is your house your castle? Or a monkey on your back?

Your answer might depend a lot on your mortgage. Getting an affordable property at a great rate can make you feel as if life couldn’t be any sweeter.

But ask anyone who bought a house with a mortgage they didn’t understand and couldn’t afford, and they will likely tell you their house has brought them nothing but frustration and tears.

If you’ll be in the market for a new place soon, make sure you avoid the following six mortgage mistakes.

1. Not reviewing your credit first

At least six months before you go to your first open house, you need to go to That’s the official site to get free credit reports issued by the big three reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You’re entitled to one free credit report from each agency annually.

In addition to your credit reports, it’s also critical to see your credit score. Some banks and credit cards now offer the most widely used credit score, the FICO score, as a monthly perk for their customers.

You’ll need your credit score to be in great shape if you want the best rates. A 2013 study by the Federal Trade Commission found 5 percent of consumers had errors on their report that could result in less favorable loan terms. Bottom line: You want to identify and correct any errors before you apply for a mortgage.

2. Failing to get preapproved

The next mistake you can make when applying for a mortgage is failing to get preapproved.

Getting preapproved by a bank is one way to avoid the heartbreak that comes from falling in love with a house you can never buy. It may also give you an edge if yours is not the only offer for the same property. A seller will feel more confident selecting a bid from someone with a mortgage preapproval rather than a person who hasn’t even begun the process.

However, don’t get carried away by whatever preapproval amount you receive from the bank. Remember, what the bank thinks you can afford and what you can actually afford may be two different things. A lot of people lost their homes in the Great Recession because they were given loans they couldn’t pay back. Don’t make the same mistake.

3. Not shopping around for the best rate

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says nearly half of mortgage borrowers don’t shop around, and that’s a big mistake. Seasoned shoppers search for the best deals on soap, furniture and cars, but some fail to look for a better mortgage rate.

It may be convenient to use your primary bank for a mortgage, but that could also be expensive if its rates aren’t competitive. According to Bank of America, for every 0.25 percent you can reduce your interest rate on a $200,000 mortgage, you’ll save $30.55 per month. Over a 30-year period that can add up to a lot of extra cash.

4. Ignoring mortgage fees

While you’re investigating rates, don’t forget the fees. Many mortgages come packed with fees of all kinds. Some — such as your county recording fee — are likely fixed, but others are negotiable.

Before your closing, you should be provided with a good faith estimate of the fees. Ask your lender to review what they are for and then see if you can negotiate a lower price. These are a few of the fees likely to have the most wiggle room:

  • Loan origination fee
  • Application fee
  • Broker Fee
  • Underwriter fee

5. Not having cash for a down payment

Not having a down payment stashed away can sink your prospects of getting a mortgage. After being bitten by the housing market crash, traditional lenders shy away from giving mortgages to those bringing nothing to the table.

Experts say you generally need to have a down payment of between 5 and 20 percent to qualify for a conventional loan. And if you put down less than 20 percent, be prepared to pay mortgage insurance.

6. Not understanding your mortgage terms

Underwater mortgages weren’t the only problem homeowners faced during the Great Recession. An untold number of people also lost their houses simply because they signed on the dotted line without understanding what the heck their mortgage entailed.

For example, people thought they’d hit the jackpot with adjustable-rate mortgages, known as ARMs. Homeowners were fine for the first few years while their mortgage rate was fixed and low. But when it reset to the current market rate, that affordable monthly payment suddenly wasn’t so affordable.

A 2008 report from the Federal Reserve Board found that more than 75 percent of the subprime loans issued from 2003-2007 before the housing market crash were “short-term hybrids” that worked like ARMs. By 2008, more than 21 percent of these subprime loans were seriously delinquent.

The moral of the story is to always understand what you’re signing up for. It’s not enough to know what your monthly payment is today. You also need to ask if the interest rate can change and if so, when and by how much will it increase.

If you’re not comfortable with the loan terms or don’t understand them, it’s better to walk away than to make an expensive and potentially life-altering mistake.

If you’re in the market for a new home, call me today at 918-809-5199. I can help you get started with a list of mortgage specialists you can contact for more information.


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New vs. Used – what’s the difference?

If you’ve been searching for a new place to live for a while you’ve probably asked yourself that question. In the sense that both choices provide you with shelter for your family there isn’t any difference. Each one is still a house, after all. Whether you buy new or used is mostly a matter of personal priorities. Here are the basic differences you’ll find when you compare new homes to pre-owned.

1.       Price: new home prices start in the $140’s. If this is your first home purchase you may find that a bit steep.

2.       Size: like everything else, it costs more to build a new house today than it did just last year. If you’re shopping with a budget you’ll find older homes will be larger.

3.       Amenities: new homes have the advantage of offering all the newest technologies and extras.

4.       Condition: older homes will have some “wear and tear”. As long as it’s not excessive and the current owners have kept up the maintenance, this isn’t really an issue.

You get the idea. It’s important to sit down and determine what is more important to you. New will be smaller, old will be larger. The best idea is to ask your agent to help you look at both. As you do your research you’ll begin to see the differences for yourself.

An important thing to remember is that your Real Estate agent is able to show you any property you want to see, whether it is new or used. New home builders have the same arrangement with agents that individual owners/sellers have. Chances are good that your agent already has professional experience with the builder you are researching. You can take advantage of that relationship to learn things about the builder’s reputation that you won’t find on Yelp.

And best of all, it doesn’t cost you anything. The seller, whether it’s an individual or a builder, will pay your agent’s commission. If you are ready to start your home search call me at 918-809-5199 and let’s get started!

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5 Things Renters Should Know About Owning

DSC03025For renters who aspire to be home owners, transitioning from an apartment to a house requires a shift in their thinking. The financial changes that come with owning, the need to consider planting longer-term roots in a neighborhood, and new neighborhood rules are things renters need to prepare for. Moving can already be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life, but it may be doubly so for a new home owner. As your Real Estate agent and a home owner myself, I can help you learn about the life-changing event of buying a home.

Understand how your financial investment is changing. As a renter you may see an increase in your monthly rent every lease term, but you don’t see exactly where it goes — toward property taxes and insurance, even “luxuries” such as trash pickup. As a home owner you don’t have a landlord who handles all those details, so you need to be ready to juggle the financial responsibilities of home ownership. It’s not rocket science, but knowing what to expect and maintaining a budget can make the step into home ownership much smoother.

You are in your new location for the long-term. As a renter, you can bounce around from home to home every year if you want. But when you own a home, you have to stay put — unless you plan on renting it out, which most home owners don’t. Location is going to play a much more significant role in your future, so evaluate school districts, access to amenities, and commute time as you search for your new home.

You may be abiding by a new set of rules. As a renter you don’t think about possible homeowner association rules you might be governed by, such as trash pickup rules or any curfews or rules pertaining to animals. Make sure to get all the information on neighborhood rules and associations that govern the area where you might be wanting to live.

You’ll have a new mindset: Home owner. Life as you know it is about to change. Once you purchase a new home, you will no longer have a landlord to tend to things including lawn care and plumbing. Ask me for contact information. I know people.

Neighbors can affect your home’s value. Renters don’t care who their neighbors are as long as they’re quiet (enough). But you’re now going to want to know whether your new neighbors are renters or home owners. This can help you gauge current and future home value in the neighborhood. If the neighborhood consists mostly of rental properties, it is likely a home owner will lose money on their house in the future. Renters do not always feel responsible for maintaining their properties the way home owners do. Property value comes down to curb appeal. Less-appealing neighborhoods often have more-appealing prices, which is not always good for buyers and home owners.

These ideas aren’t meant to scare you away from owning your own home. You’ll find the perks far outweigh any downside when compared to compartment living in your standard three story apartment complex. It’s simply a paradigm shift to a new way of thinking about how you and your family live. If you have questions, call me at 918-809-5199 and we’ll talk about possibilities!

This article is a revised version of an article originally written by Rob Rimeris, owner of EverSafe Moving Co. in Philadelphia. EverSafe is a five-star, full-service company that offers affordable moving and storage services.

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Improving curb appeal: 7 low-cost outdoor projects with instant results.

2The home selling season started early this year in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Traffic is brisk and the good ones aren’t lasting very long. If you’re ready to sell you want buyers to see your house as one of the “good ones”. Before you put your house on the market make sure that it will make a great first impression when the prospective new family pulls up to take a look. Here are some quick, easy, and inexpensive ways to make a great first impression, suggested by Trulia’s Brie Dyas.

Every little thing counts when you’re hoping to get the best price for your home — especially in a crowded real estate market. “Buyers are looking at 12 to 17 homes before they write an offer,” says Jeff Lowen, who specializes in Washington, DC, real estate. While most sellers make sure their home’s interior is spotless, staged, and even smelling of cookies, ignoring the exterior could keep a potential buyer from even stopping the car to take a closer look. Although it’s likely you’ve addressed the bigger issues (paint and pressure washing, keeping the lawn manicured, etc.), those small details can make a huge impact when it comes to that first impression.

Here are seven landscape design projects to tackle before you even consider listing your home for sale.

Address to impress

Out with the old, in with the new. A fresh set of house numbers can enhance the overall style of your home. Choosing a material that matches other exterior features creates a cohesive look, but don’t underestimate the impact of a bold design choice with finish, font, or size. There’s a range of styles and prices to choose from — you can find numbers priced at a few dollars at big-box home improvement stores to more than $20 each at specialty shops.

Nail the mailbox

Think of your front door as the ambassador to your home; it’s often the first thing a buyer sees when viewing your home from a distance. Patrick Parker, broker and owner of Patrick Parker Realty in Bradley Beach, NJ, suggests painting the mailbox to give it a face-lift. Don’t be shy about replacing the post or the mailbox itself. Classic options start around $50.

Repaint the front door

“The exterior painting litmus test is this: no peeling paint or exposed untreated wood should ever be present,” says Sara Benson, real estate agent and broker-in-charge at Benson Stanley Realty in Chicago, IL. This rings true for the front door too, which is subject to significant use that can impact the finish. Freshen it up with a new coat of your current color or enliven the entire exterior by painting the door a brighter hue. A gallon of quality, semi gloss exterior paint won’t set you back more than $50. (For an extra-fresh look, repaint the trim around windows and other features while you’re at it.)

Wash up

You can rent pressure washers at your local home improvement or hardware store for less than $100 a day. A good (gentle) scrub will take off the grime that can make siding look dingy and dull. Don’t forget to take it to your deck too, where the scourge of all homeowners sometimes lurks: mold. “Wood decks are perceived to be a great deal of work, so treating it for mold now is a huge plus,” says John Mangas, broker and co-owner, RE/MAX Preferred Associates in Toledo, OH.

Light it up

“Outdoor lighting, especially landscape lighting, can generate ambiance and drama,” Benson says. “After the initial daytime viewing, buyers often drive by the ‘home of their dreams’ at night. A well-lit residence can act as a magnet that increases desire.” Put a spotlight on a lovely landscape detail and line the walkways. And don’t forget to turn on your porch light. You’ll want buyers to notice that freshly painted door, even when it’s dark outside. Basic LED landscape lights can be found for as little as $50 at most big-box home improvement stores.

Clear out the gutters

Gutters overflowing with dead leaves? It’s not a great look, and Jennifer Kjellgren, owner of Atlanta, GA, boutique real estate agency InTown Expert, names it one of the top turnoffs for potential buyers. Spring is the perfect time to tackle this chore, but it can be a messy task. If you’d rather hire a pro instead of buying a ladder and some sturdy gloves, expect to pay $125 to $175 minimum for a professional’s help.

Let it “grow”

If you don’t have a green thumb, you can fake it with a few key purchases. Patrick Parker recommends mulching flower beds and planting bright-colored flowers. Parker also advises spending a little time tidying up the hedges with a trim. The total cost for this mini-makeover: under $200, based on how many flats of blooms and how much mulch you need.

If you’re ready to sell, give me a call 918-809-5199. We can talk about how to make it happen.

This article was edited for clarity and brevity. To see the original article go here.


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Buyer Cheat Sheet for a Seller’s Market

CheatingThe home buying market started to heat up in February this year and it’s only gotten busier. The number of available houses for sale is roughly 9% lower than last year at this time and that number was lower than the year before. If you’re house hunting, here are some good tips to get you ready for what you’ll find out there. Competition can be stiff for some properties. One of my clients lost the opportunity to buy a home by only $100.00! Here are some thoughts from some other professionals about today’s housing market.

In a seller’s market, home buyers need to be willing and able to act fast to snag the home they want. This spring, areas across the country are facing a limited number of homes for sale.® offers up a cheat sheet for surviving a seller’s market.

Be on call. “If you’re only looking now and then when it’s convenient, you’re probably wasting your time,” says James Malmberg, a real estate professional in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He suggests treating house hunting like job hunting. If someone calls with a lead, follow up promptly to gauge whether it could be a good fit and don’t linger.

Bring the paperwork. To be taken seriously, buyers would be wise to get a mortgage pre-approval letter as well as a “proof of funds” form from their bank to show they have enough to cover a down payment. They’ll be able to act quicker when they do find the right house.

Limit the contingencies. In a seller’s market, buyers may need to drop some of the contingencies to score the house. Sellers prefer the fewest number of hurdles to closing as possible. If your buyers come in with several contingencies — such as “if” they secure financing — the sellers are more inclined to bypass their offer and take another with less hassle. Also, “don’t waste your time lowballing a seller,” advises Sean Kelley, a real estate professional with Howard Hannah in Pittsburgh, Pa. “Always put in an aggressive offer.”

Cast a wide net. Search for homes outside prime locations if faced with limited or high-priced choices. Buyers need to carefully consider what they’re willing to compromise on. “Sometimes properties sit, even in a seller’s market, because of a problem that is scaring other buyers away,” such as some renovation work that may need to be done, Malmberg says. Those “flaws,” however, might not be a big deal to your buyers. “Finding a house this way can also cut down on the amount of competition you will face,” Malmberg adds.

Source: “Surviving a Seller’s Market: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet,”® (April 7, 2016)

If you’re in the market to buy or sell, give me a call at  and we’ll look at your situation to see what makes the most sense for you and your family.

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What to expect if you’re buying a house this Spring

DSC03046This March, 2016, article by Housingwire’s Brena Swanson gives good advise.

While spring home buying started early this year, as famous Punxsutawney Phil confirmed without a shadow of a doubt at the beginning of February, this doesn’t mean you’re quite ready to add the title of homeowner to your name. It’s likely to be the biggest financial decision you will ever make, and one that does not need to be decided on the premise that everyone else is doing it.

To help in your deliberation, HousingWire talked to Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist with Trulia, to compile a list of five factors that define this year’s housing market.

  1. Selling your home will be easier, but buying your next one may be more difficult.

McLaughlin explained that inventory of all homes for sale is down over 35% over the last four years.

“We are in a time of short supply, which is great news for sellers because they will likely be faced with multiple offers due to the little inventory out there,” he said.

But on the flipside, he noted that it’s not so great for people looking to buy a home. “They will be up against a lot of other people and against a short supply of existing homes,” McLaughlin said.

Interestingly enough, he said that the inventory of starter homes, or the homes that are in the least expensive, are probably at the lowest supply they have been in four years.

The February S&P/Case-Shiller report echoed similar inventory concerns, with Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell commenting on it saying, “There are a lot of economic forces at work behind the scenes that will have a big impact on housing as we enter the busy home-shopping season. Low inventory is a factor in almost every market, so buyers should be prepared for a limited selection in the months to come.”

  1. It’s finding a home that’s tough to come by.

McLaughlin advised that shoppers should consider buying a new home or a new home off a plan.

Rather than deal with bidding wars, he said you should turn to new inventory, specifically homes off a plan.

In the most recent new home sales report, McLaughlin explained that the share of new home sales not started, in other words homes purchased off a plan, hovered near a 10-year high.

“Why? The inventory of existing homes continues to fall. Low existing inventory likely pushes prospective buyers away from existing homes towards new homes, and as new home sales rise, this allows builders to sell more new homes off plan,” McLaughlin said.

  1. It’s still cheaper to buy than rent.

Even though inventory is down and buying a home is more difficult and stressful, in most parts of the country, it is still cheaper to buy a home than rent over a 5-year period. And it gets cheaper after that, McLaughlin explained.

Most notably, it’s especially true for younger homebuyers that put less than 10% down. He cautioned buyers to remain patient because over a 5-year period it will be in your financial best interest.

  1. Don’t panic over possible interest rate increases.

“A lot of people ask me this. Should I be concerned? Will it make a difference? The short answer is no,” he said.

As it stands, he said that interest rates are nothing to worry about because what the Fed does is only loosely tied to mortgage rates.

Even if mortgage rates do go up, which they will do in the medium to long run, in places like California and Honolulu, rates would have rise to 4.5% to 5% to roughly equate the cost of renting.

And in the rest of the country, McLaughlin said, “Rates would have to reach 6% to 7%, and we are a long way off from interest rates at that level. Keep an eye on it but don’t fret.”

This article was edited for the Tulsa market. To see the entire article, go here.

If you are thinking about buying or selling a home, give me a call at 918-809-5199 for a free consultation.

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So you’re tired of carpet? Try a hard floor!

HardWoodfloorLet’s face it. Carpet is everywhere in your home because it’s relatively easy to maintain and it’s the least expensive way to cover your floor. But if you’re looking for a way to renew an old living space, hardwoods could be an option. All the basics are right here in this article called, “Flooring 101 – The Basics from Hardwoods to Laminates” by Jacklyn Renz.

There may be nothing in our home that takes more of a beating on a daily basis than our underfoot friend, the floor. Spilled drinks, pet stains, mud tracks, and dust bunnies all seem to make their frequent appearances. Carpets absorb odors, can stain easily, are a magnet for allergens, and can be costly to replace at the recommended average of every 10 years. If you are thinking about moving from carpeting to hard floorings, then we’ve got the low-down on those down low choices that await you.


One of the lower cost materials in the world of hard floorings is laminates. These floors are great for the do-it-yourselfer because they are often easy to install and “float” above the existing flooring, meaning there is no tear out necessary. A laminate floor can come in a variety of colors and textures. These are made of pressed plywood or compressed fibers with a top layer, the piece that we see, made of plastic. The top layer is made of a clear plastic literally overlaying a picture of wood, thus the ability to offer variety at a relatively low cost.

Engineered Woods

The next level up from laminates, as far as pricing is concerned, is engineered woods. The top piece of the plank is made of real wood. The subsequent layers are made of woods such as recycled wood fibers or plywood. Engineered wood can be installed in a variety of ways, the more popular of options being the clickable versions where each plank quite literally, not to mention easily, clicks into place. This may be another option for a DIY project. The price on engineered wood varies, with some varieties comparable to real hardwoods.


The flooring that we most think of when it comes to wood flooring may very well be the real deal. Real hardwoods are just as the name says: made of real wood. Hardwoods come in as many varieties as there are trees that they are made from. Some species that we find readily available in the US are oak, maple, pine or black walnut. Exotic species and types are also available, but the price will rise depending on just how exotic the wood is. Hardwoods are not a project to take on alone because of the fact that each piece must be nailed to the floor beneath it. Real wood can be finished and refinished over and over again, which truly adds a natural beauty to the home.

Bamboos and Cork

Two honorable mentions that must be included in the wood flooring categories are actually not woods at all. The first is bamboo. Bamboo is visually similar to hardwoods, laminates, and engineered woods, but is actually a type of grass. Stranded bamboo is especially durable and all bamboo floorings come in a variety of colors and textures. The second is cork. Cork is made from the bark of a tree instead of the tree itself. The tree is left intact while the bark is harvested every few years. Cork has a protective layering over its top to protect from wear and stains that must be resealed every few years. Both of these are considered more sustainable and more eco-friendly choices when compared to hardwoods.

Whichever flooring type you choose, any of these will be sure to add to the unique look of a room. These floors will show well, they wear well, and they will hold their value over the years.

For more, go here:,

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“Improvements” that could devalue your home

If you’ve lived in your home for awhile you may have gotten the DIY bug. Maybe you’re thinking about some changes or upgrades. Generally, renewing areas of your home can give you a brand new feel and can also enhance the value of your home. But some ideas could hurt your ability to sell it if you decide to move. This article from MoneyTalksNews has some examples.

Are you considering converting your home’s garage into a man cave? Before you permanently ditch parking and storage space in exchange for a testosterone-friendly getaway, you may want to consider this: your garage man cave project could hurt your home’s value and make it harder to sell. Turning your garage into a living space is one of four home improvement projects that could end up sucking the value out of your home. Homeowners need to think carefully before they get rid of their garage and turn it into a man cave, family room or extra bedroom, because it could make their home less attractive to many people, according to New York real estate agent Brendon DeSimone, author of the book “Next Generation Real Estate”. A recent survey by real estate investment and operating firm Crescent Communities found that 74 percent of homebuyers said having a garage is extremely or very important. If you still want to proceed with your garage project, consider leaving the garage doors on the outside so if you do sell your house, a buyer has the option to easily turn the space back into a garage, according to Michele Silverman Bedell, of New York-based Silversons Realty. Here are three other home renovation projects that could dent the value of your home:

Removing one bedroom to make another bedroom (or room) bigger: Reducing the number of bedrooms in your house is a big no-no from a real estate standpoint. “When you start eliminating bedroom space, you’ve completely changed the comparable value of your home in the neighborhood,” David Pekel, president of Pekel Construction and Remodeling, in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, says. By reducing the number of bedrooms in your house, you’ve also reduced the number of potential homebuyers who would be interested in your home, despite how big another bedroom or living space is.

Removing closets: People want, and typically need, closets. Bedell said she had a client who removed the closet from their master bedroom and built a big master bath in the space. The result? The home was much harder to sell.

Wallpaper: Sure, wallpaper can really spruce up a room, but many people don’t like it. Plus removing it can be difficult. I can attest to that. Every single room in my house had wallpaper circa 1979 – think orange and avocado green flowers, silver trees and flocked brown and gold geometric patterns. My husband and I made the mistake of thinking it would be easy to remove. Every room we worked on was awful and time-consuming, and I will never purchase another house with wallpaper. Bedell said overdoing wallpaper or any other finish can deter potential homebuyers and hurt your home’s resale value.

Of course, you shouldn’t shy away from a home renovation project you really want just because it may hurt your home’s value if you sell it. It’s just something to be aware of. If you do decide to move forward with a potentially home-devaluing home improvement project, DeSimone recommends that you “do it in a way that you can put it back when you go to sell.”

These are all good points, especially the last one. You buy your home to live in. You should make it your castle but if you can, do it in a way that is reversible. That way you can enjoy it now and sell it later.

To see the original article from MoneyTalksNews by Krystal Steinmetz, go here.

If you are thinking about buying or selling a home, give me a call at 918-809-5199 for a free consultation.

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You Light Up My Life


Incandescent Light Bulb

So, are you still using incandescent light bulbs in your home? You might think about moving up to the newest technologies. Not necessarily because they’re environmentally friendly but because they will save you real money. Here’s a brief history of the light bulb.

 The traditional light bulb we have used all of our lives was first unveiled in 1878. They haven’t changed much in over 100 years. And why should they? You screw them in, flip the switch, and “let there be light.” The basic weakness of the design, however, is that the bulb throws off more heat than it does light. Some studies put the heat-to-light ratio at 90%/10%. That means that when electricity is applied to an incandescent bulb, 90% of the radiation produced is in the form of heat. Only 10% of the radiation produced is light we can actually see. But when you pay your electric bill each month you pay for both the light and the heat each incandescent bulb in your house produced. In the summertime, you then pay to have your air conditioner remove the heat from your home produced by those bulbs. As we all know, electric energy costs keep climbing. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could figure out a way to make that bulb produce less heat and more light? That’s where all of the new technologies come in.

For us consumers there are three newer technologies that have become popular and a fourth exciting discovery that could change the entire game.

 First, there are halogen bulbs. For example, think of those floor lamps that use the long thin bulbs that you can’t touch when you replace. They get very hot and the light they emit is measured in high wattages, up to 1000 watts. Like incandescent bulbs they are dimmable. They’ve been around for quite a while and their efficiency is better. They use 40% less energy than incandescent bulbs. So that means, where it takes 60 watts to produce the average 800 lumens of light for an incandescent bulb, a halogen can produce with only 36 watts of power. That’s a big improvement but technology is doing better.

 Next there are CFL bulbs, the “curly-cue” bulbs that screw into standard sockets used by incandescent bulbs. They use even less energy, up to 75% less. To produce 800 lumens of light they only use 15 watts of power. They cost more but they also last up to ten times longer than incandescent bulbs. My personal experience with them has been spotty on this point. Some last longer than others. Sometimes they die right away. And there are other drawbacks to them. In the beginning they took a moment to actually turn on, they had to completely warm up to fully illuminate, and they had mercury inside them. If you accidentally broke one you almost had to call hazmat to clean up the breakage. The newer versions use much less mercury but it’s still in there. And these bulbs are not dimmable.

 Finally, there are LED bulbs. LEDs use only 10 watts to produce 800 lumens of light. That’s one-sixth the amount of power of an incandescent bulb. When they first came out they were prohibitively expensive. Even though a bulb is expected to last twenty years, at $20.00 each it would take a long time to get a return on your investment. But prices have fallen through the floor on these bulbs. Today you can buy a pair of LED bulbs that look just like the original incandescent bulbs for $3.98 at a box store. That’s less than $2.00 each. Dimmable LED bulbs cost a bit more. At that price it doesn’t take long for the bulb to pay for itself. Some people complain that the light they give off is a bit harsh. I really haven’t noticed any difference myself.

 One of the reasons people are spending so much time lately talking about light bulbs is because the Federal government banned the production of the original incandescent bulbs. While they’re still available for the time being, once the stock of them is sold there will be no more of them. That is, unless a new discovery at MIT changes all that. Here’s how they explain what they’ve achieved with the ordinary light bulb to the MIT newspaper. “Their new light bulb encases a traditional light-emitting filament in a photonic crystal that reflects the escaping thermal energy back toward the filament where it is reabsorbed and converted to light. The crystal is made of thin layers of Earth-abundant elements, stacked and deposited on a substrate. The crystal works to reflect a variety of wavelengths, arriving at an array of angles, but allows the necessary wavelengths of warm incandescent light to pass through.”

 OK, I didn’t understand it either but the end result is what’s important. It could make the plain old ordinary light bulb we’ve all been accustomed to since we were kids twice as efficient as today’s LED bulbs. That is a game changer.

 Of course it will be years before we see this technology on the shelf at Home Depot. In the meantime we have LED light bulbs. I consider them to be the best buy right now for my money. And if I do have to replace one someday I can just throw the old one in the trash. I removed all of the incandescent bulbs from my house three years ago. Believe this or not, I experienced a 15% reduction on my electric bill shortly thereafter. It was a pleasant surprise.

 If you are looking for an effective way to reduce your electricity bill, think about replacing your light bulbs. If you’re looking to replace your entire house with another one, call me at 918-809-5199. I can help.

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I want to buy a “fixer upper”.

assorted_toolsEveryone is looking for a deal these days. When you work as hard as most people do, you want your money to go as far as it can. One of the ways people try to do this is by purchasing a property that needs a little work. Maybe it needs paint or carpet or wallpaper removal, but the thought is that if you can get the house at a good price you can put a little “sweat equity” into it to improve the value without having to pay as much for the house. Sounds like a good plan. Here are some thoughts to consider if you are thinking about doing this.

First of all, unless you’re looking at new construction you probably won’t find a house that doesn’t need at least a little something done to it after you buy it. Maybe it’s the hot pink walls in the bedroom or the lime green kitchen appliances. Every house has something. Most likely this isn’t really going to change the overall value of the home on the open market. Personal preferences are just that: personal. After you get through “improving” the look of your new house you have something you love but maybe others aren’t impressed by. You’ll find that out when you try to sell it yourself. Because of this, don’t expect small things like this to affect the overall price that much. You’re buying the house because it fits your family and your lifestyle. The little things are secondary. Once you walk into the house that just shouts at you that it’s “the one”, you won’t really care that the faucets in the master bath are gold.

Then there’s the second group of houses: those that are not move in ready. These properties have bigger issues. The carpet may be filthy or there may be holes in the walls. Possibly the HVAC system is questionable or appliances may not work or are gone completely. In these cases the properties are priced accordingly and seem like a good deal. I’ve been with many a client who has walked through a house such as this and made statements like, “oh, I can deal with that if the sale price is right.” And maybe they can. But if you’re one of these types of clients you’ll need to take into consideration two things.

If you need a loan to buy a house remember the bank will be your partner in the purchase. If the house is in too bad a condition the lender will not approve the loan. When they send their appraiser out to the address he will make notations about the poor condition of the dwelling. Since the bank is holding the property as collateral against your promise to pay the note, if they don’t feel the house is a good risk you will be denied.

Assuming the house is in good enough shape for the lender the next thing to consider will be the expense of the repairs for you. You may be saving several thousand dollars on the purchase of the house but then you’ll need to spend the money you saved to make the repairs so you can move in. Recarpeting a whole house, replacing an HVAC system, buying new appliances, and wall repair can cost a lot of money. You’ll need to either pull that out of savings or use credit to purchase them. In the latter case you still have payments but now they’re at a much higher interest rate than your mortgage. In the former case, you could have taken that same amount of money from savings and lowered the initial amount you were borrowing from the lender to buy a house that is move in ready without the repair headaches.

Home loan interest rates have been inching slowly upward but they are still at historic lows we may never see again in our lifetimes. If you buy a home and get one of these low interest rates you’ve already won big time. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer and you love the challenge by all means go for it. But if you’re someone who’s just trying to find a way to save a few extra bucks, simply buying right now is a win for you. You’ll probably never be able to buy as much house for your mortgage dollar than right now.

If you’re thinking about buying a home, I can help you. Call me today at 918-809-5199 and we’ll get started!

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