Embracing Eco-Friendly Living in Your Home

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By Brentnie Daggett

Climate change and environmental issues aren’t going away anytime soon, so many of us are considering how we can contribute to positive change. Living an environmentally-conscious lifestyle will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but can save you money in the long run.

Here are five easy steps you can take to embrace eco-friendly living in your home:

1. Go Paperless
This is one of the easiest, quickest steps you can take that’ll have an impact on environmental sustainability. If you don’t already have paperless billing options set up across the board, now is the time to do so. One study shows that if one in five households in the U.S. committed to online bill pay and enrolled in paperless billing and banking, the collective environmental impact would result in nearly 2 million trees preserved each year.

Almost every service provider offers the option for paperless billing—you might just have to ask to make sure you’re enrolled. Some services will still send you paper statements for online transactions unless you specify you would like to be electronic only, so double-check on exactly what you’re signed up for. Research discontinuing other paper services you might take part in from month to month, such as magazine subscriptions you no longer read, mailing lists you don’t need to be on or similar extraneous paper deliveries and uses.

2. Recycle
Recycling as another easy, inexpensive way to move your household toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Implement a reduce-reuse-recycle mindset at home and prevent unnecessary waste by opting to reuse items that you might be planning on throwing away. Create a system that works best for you and your family to establish a recycling program that’ll last.

Depending on where you live, you may already have a curbside recycling service in place. If you don’t, research your local options and educate yourself on the proper guidelines for recycling. Reach out to your local waste management service to learn what can be recycled and how it needs to be sorted. Don’t forget about commonly trashed items that are usually recyclable, like wrapping paper, envelopes, birthday cards, phone books and used toilet paper rolls.

3. Increase Energy Efficiency
Energy efficient light bulbs, like LEDs, have been around for some time, but many households still haven’t made the switch despite major energy savings. Data shows that LED light bulbs use between 75-80 percent less energy than traditional light bulbs, which can save you as much as $75 per month on energy expenses. Taking advantage of simple swaps like this throughout your home can result in lower utility costs and reduced energy consumption.

As you update different areas of your home over time, consider making the switch to energy efficient appliances like dishwashers, washing machines and refrigerators. These types of appliances are becoming increasingly available at more affordable price points.

4. Insulate Properly
Investing in efficient insulation is a great way to reduce energy consumption and improve your home’s eco-friendliness. Warm and cool air can easily escape a home that’s not properly insulated, which means you’ll spend more money on heating and cooling. Weatherstripping doors and windows is an easy and cost-effective way to keep the heat inside where it belongs. Unless your home was specifically constructed with energy efficiency in mind, you probably have room for improvement when it comes to insulation and reducing your energy bills.

5. Go Local
The farther an item has to travel to get to your front door, the less eco-friendly it is. Within your lifestyle and budget, try to support local artisans, businesses and farmers whenever possible. Not only will you attain fresh food and unique products, but you’ll also help to stimulate your local economy and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.

Implementing more eco-friendly practices in your home doesn’t need to be a daunting task. Look for simple, cost-effective changes you can make to reduce your energy expenses and carbon footprint. There are, of course, many other ways to decrease the impact your home has on the environment. If you’ve already taken all of the above steps, research other options like solar panels, composting, green building materials and/or connecting with a sustainability consultant!

Brentnie Daggett is a writer and infographic master for the rental and property management industry. She loves to share tips and tricks to assist landlords and renters alike. To learn more about Daggett, and to discover more great tips for renters, visit www.rentecdirect.com.

A Guide to Interior Design

Tackling That Big, Empty Wall

6 Steps to a Tidy Home

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If you’re familiar with popular lifestyle personality Marie Kondo, then you know that a truly tidy home can be life-changing. And according to Kondo, effectively decluttering and streamlining your space requires a very specific strategy—the KonMari Method to be exact. To get started, here are her six overarching rules of tidying:

1. Get committed. Tidying your home is no small task—it takes dedication and enthusiasm (not to mention time) to do it properly. Your first step is to commit to embarking on this project.

2. Visualize what you want. Before you dive in, take some time to imagine the lifestyle you’d like to lead. Sketch it out on drawing paper, journal about it or clip photos and create a collage. According to Kondo, when you take the time to envision your ideal lifestyle, you’ll gain clarity on why you want to tidy up and how you can start living your best life.

3. Discard first. Many of us make the mistake of tidying a little at a time, but according to Kondo, it’s essential to discard everything you want to get rid of first. It’s important to take the time to decide what you want to part with, and only after you’ve completed that process will you have a clear idea of how much you need to store—and the spaces in which you can store it.

4. Organize by category, not space. Don’t fall victim to tidying a closet here, a shelf there. Instead, tidy by category, no matter where those items happen to be stored in the house. This will allow you to fully grasp how much of one item you have (i.e., sweaters, books, pens) so that you know what to get rid of. Store the remaining items in the category together in a logical spot as opposed to having them spread all over the house.

5. Follow in order. After working with many clients, Kondo learned that there is actually an ideal order in which to tidy. Start with your clothing before moving onto books, papers and sentimental items. This will allow you to perfect your decision-making skills so that by the time you get to the tough stuff, such as keepsakes and photos, you’ll be able to discard more easily.

6. Decide if it ‘sparks joy.’ The hallmark of the KonMari Method is looking at an item, whether it be a pair of shoes or an afghan, and deciding whether or not it sparks joy. This is your inner guidance for keeping or discarding something. According to Kondo, we should only keep the belongings that truly spark joy in our lives. Sound impossible? Try it and you’ll see what she means!

Pros and Cons of Prepaying Your Mortgage

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Paying off your mortgage early could lead to a sense of financial freedom, but it’s not the right move for everyone. Consider your complete financial picture and check your lender’s policies before deciding whether to prepay your mortgage.

Reasons to Make Extra Loan Payments
Prepaying your mortgage would reduce the total amount you would spend on interest. The amount you pay in interest each month is based on the outstanding principal. Reducing the principal would lower your interest charges and could save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

Paying more than required could help you pay off your mortgage sooner. If you have a specific goal in mind—such as paying off your home before you retire or before your children start attending college—making extra mortgage payments now could mean greater financial security and flexibility later.

Equity is the difference between a house’s current value and the amount owed on the mortgage. Prepaying your mortgage could help you build equity faster. If necessary, you could access that money through a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit. Getting your equity up to 20 percent could also allow you to eliminate private mortgage insurance and save money each month.

Reducing your mortgage balance could improve your credit score, which is based, in large, on your total debt-to-income ratio. If you applied for a credit card, car loan or personal loan, a good credit score could help you get a low interest rate.

When Prepaying Your Mortgage Might Not Be the Best Move
If you started saving for retirement or for your children’s college education late, it might make more sense to put extra money toward those goals than to make extra mortgage payments. Money that you invested in stocks, bonds or mutual funds could substantially increase in value and help you meet your more immediate financial goals.

If you have high-interest debt, such as credit card balances, you would probably be better off focusing on those than prepaying your mortgage. Interest rates on credit cards are typically much higher than interest rates for mortgages. Eliminating your credit card debt as quickly as possible would likely save you a lot more in the long run than you would save by making extra mortgage payments.

If you don’t have an emergency fund with enough money to cover at least 3 – 6 months’ worth of expenses, focus on that first. If you lost your job or couldn’t work for medical reasons, it would be easier to withdraw money from a savings account than to borrow against your home equity.

Communicate With Your Lender
Some mortgage lenders charge a prepayment penalty. Before you make extra loan payments, contact your lender to find out if you would be charged a penalty. If you decide to make extra payments, clearly inform the lender that you want the extra funds to be applied to the principal, not to interest or escrow.

Why You Should Say No to Retail Store Credit Cards


By Maryann Komes of Pilmer Real Estate, Inc.

It’s tempting.  I know.  You’re in the checkout line at your favorite store.  You have $200 in items and the checkout person says “I can save you 25% off your purchase if you apply for our credit card.”  Saving $50?  Heck yeah!  But wait…does it really save you?  Maybe you’re thinking I’ll just open the account, pay off the balance and then close it.  Either way, it’ll cost you more in the long run than the $50 you’ll be saving that day.

Every time you open a credit card, your credit score takes a hit.  Every time you close an account, your credit score takes a hit.  Eventually, this could potentially affect your ability to get a good interest rate on a car loan or a mortgage.  You would be paying far more in interest than the $50 you’d save that day.  On a $200,000 mortgage, the difference of just 1/4% on the interest rate could cost you almost $10,000 in interest over the life of a 30 year mortgage!  TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!

The next time you’re faced with the option of “saving” by opening a credit account in the checkout line of a retailer, think twice.  It may cost you far more in the long run.

🎃 Pumpkin Festival 🎃

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Happy Fall Y’all! Please join us as we celebrate the season. Bring your family and friends!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

10 am – 12 pm

Pilmer Real Estate, Inc.

1002 Prairie Street, Aurora, IL 60506

(Between Spartan House & Luigi’s Pizza and Fun Center)

*1 pumpkin per person

Improve Your Credit Score Before You Start House Hunting

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If you want to buy a house and you’ll need to take out a mortgage, getting your credit score as high as possible should be a top priority before you begin searching for a home. Your credit score will be used to set your interest rate, so be sure to stay on top of it.

Check Your Credit Reports for Errors
Start by requesting copies of your credit reports from the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Check them for inaccurate information and dispute any errors. It’s important to check all three credit reports since the bureaus may have different information.

Pay Down Debt
Your credit utilization ratio is calculated by dividing the sum of your credit card balances by the sum of your credit limits to arrive at a percentage. A lower utilization ratio will translate into a higher credit score.

If you’re using a lot of your available credit, work on paying down your debt. You can do that by cutting expenses, looking for a second job or side gig, applying gifts or income tax refunds to your credit card bills, selling some of your belongings or consolidating high-interest credit card balances into one loan with a lower interest rate.

Pay Bills on Time
Your payment history is another important piece of your credit score. Late payments, accounts in collection, bankruptcies and other derogatory marks can stay on your credit report and affect your score for different periods of time. Pay your bills on time each month. If you have any past-due bills, pay them off or contact the companies and work out repayment plans.

Keep Old Accounts Open
Credit bureaus consider the length of your credit history when calculating your score. If you have old credit cards that you don’t use often, don’t close the accounts. That would shorten the length of your credit history and would also reduce your available credit and increase your credit utilization ratio. Keep old accounts in good standing by making occasional purchases.

Be Careful With New Credit
Applying for a new credit card could be helpful, especially if it would allow you to transfer high-interest balances to take advantage of a lower rate. Just don’t apply for too many new accounts in a short period of time. That could hurt your credit score since lenders might think you were struggling financially or couldn’t handle credit responsibly.

Give Yourself Time to Work on Your Credit
The length of time it will take to raise your credit score and how much you will be able to increase it will depend on your current score, your payment history, your debt level, your income and how much you can afford to apply toward existing debts each month. Think of boosting your credit score as a medium- to long-term endeavor. Create a plan to address any problems so you can achieve your goal of owning a home.

Did you know!? We can show you any property…not just our listings.

Your Best Strategy for Curb Appeal? Your Yard.

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Obviously, when buyers are searching for a home, the house itself is top priority. But when it comes to choosing among similar houses, your yard can help make your home stand out over others. Here are some tips for creating a yard that boosts curb appeal and lets your home shine.

Take your house into consideration. Create gardens based on the style and architecture of your home. Have a contemporary home? Go with a minimalist landscape or a Japanese garden design. Have a farmhouse? Choose a cottage garden with an informal design, and traditional and dense plantings.

Keep things in proportion. If your home is large, small, dainty flowers won’t showcase it properly. Instead, use plants in a repetitive fashion, such as rows of shrubs. Conversely, if you have a smaller home, make sure it’s not overwhelmed by large shrubs and overgrown plantings. Make sure your garden complements the shape and size of the house.

Pay attention to hardscaping. While your lawn and plantings understandably take center stage in your landscape, your hardscaping can make all the difference. Take the time to clean or update walkways, front steps, gravel paths, slate patios, garden borders, etc. Then consider adding elements like a bird bath, garden bench or stone fire pit. Attention to detail when it comes to your yard’s hard surfaces can make or break your lawn, trees and garden beds.

Make your front door the star. Nothing says curb appeal better than a welcoming, attractive passage to your front door. Make the path natural and intuitive so guests easily know how to get to your front door. Accentuate the door or key points along the path with plantings and lighting.

Don’t forget about the seasons. Your landscaping may look great in summer, but how does it fare in winter? Make sure your yard is adorned with trees, shrubs and evergreen selections that add structural interest and a healthy dose of green even on the dreariest winter day.