Aaron Wluka's Blog
Tackling projects around the house allows you to boost your skills, saves you money and ensures your home stays in peak condition -- usually. While DIY projects can be safe, successful and rewarding, there are some instances where you're better off leaving the work to a pro. From jobs that are dangerous to those that require specialty tools for success, the following projects can turn your DIY dreams into nightmares:
Don't DIY these Home Projects:
Roof Repairs and Heavy Tree Work
Both of these tasks take place off the ground and pose a significant risk of injury, even to those who have experience and are working with full teams. Taking down a large tree puts you and your home in jeopardy, while roof work is one of the leading causes of injuries for construction workers. Avoid these high-risk jobs and hire a pro with the equipment to work safely and well, even off the ground.
Big Electric Projects
Most of us can swap out a light bulb or the fixture it belongs in, but more extensive and complicated repairs and upgrades require a pro. In some larger projects, you'll need to have the work approved and ensure that it is up to code (particularly true if you are repairing or readying a rental property). In others, the risk of injuring yourself is just too great. Even if you avoid injury, a single mistake in your work can lead to a fire hazard and put your home and family at risk. If you need specialized tools, have a job that requires a full inspection or that could result in a fire hazard, leave the work to a professional.
Hazardous Material Mitigation
You may be able to scrape away that mold, remove smoke odors or strip the lead paint in your home, but it is generally a bad idea. Any project that exposes you or your home to environmental hazards needs to be done by a pro. You could injure yourself during the process -- and even if you escape injury, you could end up missing part of the pieces you intend to remove. In this case, you'll actually increase your family's exposure to dangerous mold, lead or asbestos. Leave these hazards to a pro for your own safety and well-being.
Skip these projects and use your time, talent and tools to tackle just about anything else around the house -- you'll stay safe, save money and get the results you want. too.
Most homeowners would love to be able to pay off their mortgage early. However, few see it as a possibility when they take into account their earnings and other bills.
There are, however, a few ways to pay down your mortgage earlier than planned. But first, let’s talk about when it makes sense to try and pay off your mortgage.
When to consider paying off your mortgage early
If you recently got a promotion, have someone move in with you who contributes to paying the bills, or recently got a secondary form of income, you might want to consider making extra payments on your mortgage.
However, having extra money doesn’t always mean you should spend it immediately on your home loan.
First, consider if you have a large enough emergency savings fund. It might be tempting to try and throw any extra money at your mortgage as soon as possible, but there are other financial commitments you should plan for as well.
If you have kids who will be applying to college soon, remember that student aid takes into account their parents’ finances. If your children plan on applying to institutions with high tuition, then your equity will be counted against you.
Refinancing to pay your mortgage early
Refinancing your home loan is one option if you’re considering increasing the payments on your mortgage. If you can refinance a 30-year loan to a 15-year loan with a lower interest rate, you’ll save money in two ways--your lower interest rate and the fact that you’ll be accruing interest for less time.
There is a downside to refinancing. Once you refinance, you’re locked into your new payment amount. So, if your higher income isn’t dependable, it might not make sense to commit to a higher monthly payment that you aren’t sure you’re going to be able to keep paying.
There’s also the matter of refinancing costs. Just like the costs associated with signing on your mortgage, you’ll have to pay closing costs on refinancing. You’ll need to weigh the cost of refinancing against the amount you’ll save on interest over the term of your mortgage to see if it truly makes sense to go through the refinancing process.
Paying more on your current loan
Even if you aren’t sure that refinancing is the best option, there are other ways you can make payments on your mortgage to pay it off years sooner than your term length.
One of the common methods is to simply make thirteen payments each year instead of twelve. To do this, homeowners often use their tax returns or savings to make the thirteenth payment. Over a thirty year mortgage, this could save you over full two years of added interest.
A second option is to make two bi-weekly payments rather than one monthly payment. By making biweekly payments you have the ability to make 26 payments in a year. If you were to just make two payments per month then you would make 24 total payments. Over time, those two extra payments per year add up.
Whether to protect your belongings when you’re not home or to protect your loved ones when they are, you might consider a security system. Burglars are getting smarter, and your home should follow suit. One way to improve your home’s security is by installing a smart lock.
Replacement or Add-On
In general, there are two categories of smart locks: (1) those that replace your traditional bolt lock entirely, and (2) those that install over the top of your existing door lock system. When you replace your current lock with a completely new locking mechanism, the device changes the appearance of your door handle on both front and back. When you use a retrofitting lock, it typically keeps the appearance of your traditional door handle. This distinction is crucial if you have a specific aesthetic you need to follow.
What Features to Look for in a Smart Lock
The idea of electronic, wireless entry with remote identification is excellent. However, technological advancement does have its issues. For example, if your Bluetooth or wireless connection is blocked, your lock could end up keeping both you and intruders out of your home. Insist on a system that offers an alternative to wireless entry such as a key fob, keypad, fingerprint reader or self-powered touchscreen.
Here is an abbreviated list of other features to look for in a smart lock system for your home:
- Auto-lock and unlock – some systems detect when the person with a key fob or smartphone app, for instance, is near to the door and will instantly unlock for them. This is useful when your arms are full of groceries or luggage. The detection distance (geofencing) is typically set by the user.
- Voice activation – Many new locks offer control through a household or smartphone operating system such as Siri, Echo or Alexa. Typically, these require voice recognition or a PIN code to enable the "unlock" command.
- Power systems – Many smart locks operate on batteries that alert you when they’re low on power and need replacing or recharging. LED indicators also inform you when you need to change the batteries. Depending on the functions your lock performs and the type of battery it has, battery life can be from three months to a year.
- Assigned PINs or keys – Many smart locks, including retrofit models, allow the user to assign separate keys or PINs to those approved for entry. Temporary PINs could let in a delivery person or cleaner, while permanent PINs monitor when family, housemates or clients (such as for short-term rentals) enter and leave.
- Compatibility with other smart home systems means integration into your home’s other routines such as dimming the lights or controlling the temperature. Make sure your smart lock integrates with the system you have.
- Finally, determine how weatherproof your system needs to be. Locks rated as having IP water/dust-proof protection from solids and liquids means your lock will operate through most wear and tear and outdoor conditions. Look for the IP ratings for the inside electronic works as well as the exterior parts.
If you’ve retrofitted your home’s lock, let your agent know to promote your home’s smart features when you sell it.
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There are many reasons people choose to rent. There are fewer responsibilities, it doesn't take saving up a large down payment, maintenance is likely taken care of and there are no real estate taxes and no homeowners' insurance to pay. That doesn't mean, however, you shouldn't carry insurance. If you rent a home, apartment or condo, there are five fundamental reasons you should carry renters' insurance.
You Are Not Covered By Your Landlord's Insurance
Some tenants make the mistake of thinking in case of a hurricane, flood, storm or even theft, they will be covered by their landlord's insurance. While it is true your landlord probably carries insurance, it likely only covers the structure and their property and losses, not yours.
It Protects Your Personal Property
Renters often feel like they have fewer personal possessions than homeowners. This may be true in that renters often don't need to buy major appliances, lawn care equipment, and other items. When tenants begin to take inventory, however, many are surprised at how expensive it would be to replace what they do own. Replacing furniture, beds and bedding, kitchenware, clothing, and electronics will likely run into the thousands of dollars or more. Renters insurance can help you get a fresh start following a covered calamity.
Renters Insurance Covers You Against Liability Claims
Renters may not be aware that they can be held liable should a friend, family member or even a delivery person should get injured while on or in their rented space. This can be financially devastating, especially when we are having more products delivered to our homes than ever, including food. Renters insurance can cover you against financial claims against you, including settlements and legal fees.
It May Cover Your Possessions When Traveling
An unexpected benefit of renters insurance is, depending on the specifics of the policy, your personal property can be covered while traveling. This may include in your car, while in your luggage or a hotel room. When one considers the expensive electronics many of us travel with these days, this can be an extremely valuable feature.
Renters Insurance is Generally Inexpensive
The cost of a renters' insurance policy may be as little as 10% of that of a traditional homeowners' insurance policy. Renters insurance can be so inexpensive and provide so much peace of mind it should absolutely be considered by those choosing to rent.
Renting instead of buying does not necessarily relieve you of all the responsibilities of homeownership. You are still responsible for your personal possessions and can be held liable in case of an on-site injury.