New year, new you, new home. The calendar change always invites all sorts of resolutions, some of them attainable, many of them impractical and stress-inducing. But changes needn’t be big or difficult to be life-altering. Here are some simple real-estate–related New Year’s resolutions you can make for 2016 that will pay big dividends with minimal effort.
Start making extra mortgage payments
It’s the financial reality you hate to face: the amount of money youactually end up paying for your house over the length of a 30-year mortgage. So what do the interest savings look like if you make one extra mortgage payment over a 12-month span? In short, pretty good — if you keep it up for the duration of your loan, you’re likely to save tens of thousands of dollars. It’s especially worth considering in the first five years of a mortgage, when the majority of your monthly installment goes to interest payments rather than the principal.
The only thing to keep in mind is that once you start making the extra payment, that extra money is locked up in your home equity (and not sitting in your bank account as an emergency fund).
Get new homeowners’ insurance quotes
You probably don’t think about this too often because your insurance automatically renews every year. But as it happens, you may now be eligible for some discounts that weren’t available when you first applied — and your existing insurance company isn’t obligated to check in every year and see if you now qualify. Call your agent and see if you can knock down your yearly installment; if they won’t budge, then start shopping around for a better rate.
Have your home reassessed for tax purposes
Did you know that your house gets reassessed by your county only every few years? Which means your assessed property value might be higher than your current market value, which means you might be paying too much in taxes and not even know it. In most states, you can simply go online and request a reassessment for free. A note of caution: Be wary of outside companies offering to get your home reassessed for you for a small fee — it could be a scam.
Get an energy assessment
Yep, those gas and electric bills can get out of control in the winter months, but they don’t always have to be static. Some states have nonprofits that will come to your home and offer an energy assessment free of charge, but otherwise you can hire a professional energy auditor. That person will then make a series of suggestions both small (LED light bulbs) and large (solar panels) so that you can stretch your energy dollar. Even tiny lifestyle changes, such as unplugging unused devices or programming your thermostat on a schedule, can make a difference.
Happy New, New, New Year and here's to a great 2016!