Real Estate and Homeowner News and Knowledge

Count on it – energy “vampires” cost you money

With energy prices soaring in recent months, so called “energy vampires” are drawing new attention. Vampires can be found in almost every household appliance including televisions, telephones, fax machines, washers, and dryers.

These power devices keep electronics and appliances on “standby” for immediate use and maintain memory functions in devices like video recorders and alarm clocks. Vampires draw energy even when the device is not in use.

Some vampires, such as cell phone chargers, draw energy whenever they are plugged in, even when they are not connected to a phone. According to the United States Government, the largest single user of energy in America, approximately 26 power plants around the nation are needed just to power these energy vampires. In addition to taking steps to conserve energy, the US Government is urging all Americans as individuals to help conserve by shopping for the most energy efficient appliances in the marketplace.

Vampires typically consume anywhere from four to seven watts per hour. “Vampire Slayers” are more efficient devices that use less than one watt per hour. If more devices used vampire slayers, we could save billions of kilowatt-hours per year. If the nation as a whole moved to one-watt standby power devices, it’s estimated we would need 20 fewer power plants and American households could save between $1 billion and $2 billion on energy bills.

Good reasons to tap that home equity

One benefit of rising real estate prices is that, if you’ve been in your home for a while, you’ve probably accumulated a good deal of equity. Equity is that portion of your home that you truly own, beyond any amounts owed in mortgages, liens or other claims on the property. But should you tap that equity? It depends on individual circumstances, but here are some guidelines to tell when a home equity loan equals a good investment:

Are you borrowing money to save money? For example, a good reason to refinance may be to replace adjustable rate mortgages with fixed rate loans to guard against rising rates – especially now while rates are fairly low by historical standards.

Borrowing for remodeling or improvements that increase your home’s current value could make that debt you’re taking on a good investment. Kitchen and bathroom improvements are consistently high-return improvements at resale time.

Debt consolidation is sometimes a sound reason to borrow. It may be a good idea to consolidate your debt to lower interest rates on credit card debt or auto loans, especially if the interest is tax-deductible.

One of the main factors lenders consider is your loan-to-value ratio, the ratio between what you owe on your house and what its worth. Typically, lenders are cautious of loans that exceed 80 percent of a home’s value. Also, lower loan-to-value ratios typically mean you can expect lower interest rates.

Did You Know

Real estate vocabulary builder – a CMA, or comparative market analysis, shows recent sale prices, current asking prices, and asking prices for expired listings of nearby comparable homes.


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