Energy-Efficient Home Hacks to Complete Before End of Summer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at

Soaring temperatures comes with sky-high energy bills. If you’re looking to improve your home’s energy efficiency as your HVAC kicks into overdrive, consider adding these energy-efficient home hacks to your weekend warrior to-do list.

Increase Insulation
Air leakages can occur anywhere in your home, resulting in your AC unit having to work that much harder to keep your home comfortable. Adding a new layer of insulation is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more energy-efficient. Best of all, you can do this easy hack yourself! Before laying any new insulation, be sure to plug up any large openings and seal off small cracks, especially around attic hatches, window frames, and electrical outlets.

Smart Home Automation
It seems like almost every electronic device now has a smart alternative on the market. Though it’s easy to write off this technology as a luxury, most of these devices can actually go a long way in helping to reduce your energy usage each month. Whether it’s a thermostat that learns your family’s habits or a dishwasher that only runs during off-peak energy hours, smart home appliances and devices can go a long way in helping curb your family’s energy demands.

Close Your Blinds
Sometimes the best hacks are also the easiest—and cheapest! By simply closing your blinds, especially for south- and west-facing windows, you have the potential to save upwards of 7 percent off your energy bill, as well as lowering the ambient temperature by up to 20 degrees. Considering that almost 30 percent of unwanted humid summer heat comes in from your windows, it makes sense to drop the shades on the afternoon sun. Better yet, if it’s in your budget, replace those worn-out windows altogether. ENERGY STAR has found that most homeowners can expect to see an average 12 percent drop in their home’s energy consumption after replacing single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR-qualified alternatives.

Landscape to Lower Energy
Think of landscaping as your exterior blinds, and plant a few trees along the south side of your home to help block direct sunlight from ever making it to your windows. Ensure that any tree you plant is a leafy variety, rather than an evergreen, so that you can get exceptional shade in the summer and plenty of warming sun in the leafless winter months. Similarly, plant evergreen shrubs around your home’s foundation to add year-round insulation.

Cooking Counts
Summer is virtually synonymous with grilling, but did you ever consider just how much energy you can save by sparking up some charcoal instead of your oven? Not only will you be sparing yourself any operating costs, but you’ll also prevent your HVAC from having to combat the added heat your culinary masterpiece is likely to create.

The best way to make your home as energy-efficient as possible is to have a professional perform an energy audit. The typical audit usually only takes a couple hours of your time, but it has the potential to save you thousands of dollars in reduced energy expenses year-round. With a little planning ahead and a few upgrades, you’ll be saving energy daily!

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$140,000 :: 13257 DIENA DR, Warren MI, 48088

Property Photo

3 beds, 1 bath
Home size: 1,075 sq ft
Lot Size: 7,405 sq ft
Added: 07/14/17, Last Updated: 08/29/17
Property Type: Single Family
MLS Number: 21321248
Community: Warren (50023)
Status: Sold

Located in a quiet neighborhood, with friendly neighbors, this 3 bed, 1 full bath ranch will be your forever home! The spacious family room is the perfect place to unwind, and opens to the eat-in kitchen, that has been updated with new counters, stone backsplash, disposal, and cabinets for tons of storage. There are 3 great sized bedrooms and full bath, with large vanity, and tub. Head down to the partially finished basement where theres tons or room for storage, and ready for you to put your finishing touches on. This summer will be one for the books! Enjoy soaking up the sun in your 18×33 heated pool, or just relax on the deck surrounding. *Seller to provide 1 year home warranty!

Listed with RealTeam Real Estate

Brought to you by Janet Hull and Thomas Bush, Real Estate One, Inc.. Call me today at 1-855-Janet-Tom, or visit my website at!

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$141,900 :: 26540 CRYSTAL, Warren MI, 48091

Property Photo

3 beds, 2 baths
Home size: 1,198 sq ft
Lot Size: 9,147 sq ft
Added: 07/28/17, Last Updated: 08/28/17
Property Type: Single Family
MLS Number: 21348311
Community: Warren (50023)
Status: Sold

Immediate possession on this clean well cared for ranch with a finished basement on fenced yard in a great area. Oak wood flooring under all carpeted rooms. Newer 2 1/2 garage w/electric and man door. All closets have sliding doors. Built in china cabinet, pull down attic stairs, New furnace, wood fireplace w/blower.This is a home to see!

Listed with RE/MAX Partners, Inc

Brought to you by Janet Hull and Thomas Bush, Real Estate One, Inc.. Call me today at 1-855-Janet-Tom, or visit my website at!

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You Don’t Have to Make a Down Payment on a VA Loan—Should You Anyway?

(TNS)Many VA borrowers know that the VA home loan doesn’t require a down payment.

Indeed, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which guarantees this type of mortgage, is practically famous for its zero-down option, which opens the doors of homeownership to veterans, active duty service members, surviving spouses and other VA-eligible buyers. Many VA borrowers have little or no cash to purchase their first home.

VA loans also don’t require mortgage insurance, which is usually the case when you don’t put down 20 percent.

Though a down payment isn’t required for a VA loan, borrowers can still make one. Should they? Or is the no-money-down strategy so attractive that a down payment never makes sense?

The answer depends on the borrower’s type of military service, homeownership experience, cash position and other factors.

Down Payment Lowers Funding Fee
The main benefit of making a down payment is paying a lower funding fee.

The funding fee supports the loan guaranty, which encourages lenders to offer VA loans at lower rates and with easier qualifying guidelines.

Borrowers typically finance their funding fee as part of their loan amount, rather than pay it upfront at closing.

VA borrowers in the Reserves or National Guard pay a slightly higher funding fee with or without a down payment.

Borrowers who have a service-connected disability are generally exempt from funding fees.

First-Use Funding Fees Lower With Down Payment
The funding fee for eligible first-time homebuyers is 2.15 percent of the loan amount with no down payment.

With a 5 percent down payment, the fee is reduced to 1.5 percent. With 10 percent or more down, it drops to 1.25 percent.

Subsequent Funding Fees Higher
The funding fee is 3.3 percent for VA buyers who use the program to buy their next home if they don’t make a down payment.

With a down payment, the funding fee for subsequent-use again drops to 1.5 percent with 5 percent down, and 1.25 percent with 10 percent down.

For example, the monthly principal and interest payment for a $200,000 home loan with no down payment, a 3.5 percent interest rate and 30-year term is $898.

Financing the 3.3 percent funding fee adds $6,600 to the loan amount and raises the payment by $30 to $928.

A 5 percent down payment reduces the fee to $3,000 and the payment to $912.

That means the borrower would save about $16 each month.

Down Payment Lowers Monthly Payment
Don’t forget that a down payment also lowers the borrower’s base loan amount and monthly mortgage payment.

“The 5 percent down payment factors in (to the savings) as well because you’re financing 5 percent less,” says Mike Dill, corporate trainer at Guaranteed Rate.

For borrowers who need to “target their payment within a certain range,” to use Dill’s characterization, a down payment could mean the difference between qualifying for the loan and not qualifying.

Down Payment Finances Future Closing Costs
A down payment could make it easier to sell a home if the buyers want to move before they build equity through monthly payments or appreciation and without paying closing costs out of pocket.

Closing costs to sell can be 6 percent or more of the home’s value.

“If you didn’t have any equity, potentially you’d have to write a check for that amount,” says Michael Frueh, director of Loan Guaranty Service at the VA in Washington, D.C.

The alternative could be a default or even foreclosure.

Other Uses for Your Cash
Despite these advantages, only 22 percent of VA buyers made a down payment in 2015, according to Frueh. The other 78 percent bought with no money down. The VA doesn’t track how many subsequent-use borrowers rolled over equity from a prior home they sold toward a down payment.

Frueh says the average VA borrower has only about $10,000 at closing.

That cash might be better used for home-related purchases, repairs or other purposes. As Dill says, “The advantages of putting money down are so slim compared with keeping that money in case you have repairs or as a safety net.”

Consider Return on Investment
Borrowers could invest the money they didn’t use for a down payment in other assets or use it to pay off consumer debt, such as an auto loan, credit card or student loans.

A borrower who purchased a $200,000 home and later sold it for $300,000 could net $80,000, use $30,000 to make a 5 percent down payment for a new $600,000 home and keep $50,000 in cash, tax-free.

Visit Bankrate online at

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$158,000 :: 13316 WALTER AVE, Warren MI, 48088

3 beds, 2 baths
Home size: 1,215 sq ft
Lot Size: 8,276 sq ft
Added: 08/26/17, Last Updated: 08/26/17
Property Type: Single Family
MLS Number: 21361512
Community: Warren (50023)
Status: Active

Welcome Home! Charming brick ranch offers 2+ attached car garage with roomy driveway located on a curved lot in a desirable neighborhood….. 3 bedrooms, 1 and a half baths, living room and gorgeous family room with door wall to deck and brick paver patio. This home has wood floors, plenty of storage, partially finished basement and inviting back yard, plus the appliances are included. Move right in and start entertaining! OPEN HOUSE SUNDAY 8/27/17 2-5

Listed with Real Estate One-Royal Oak

Brought to you by Janet Hull and Thomas Bush, Real Estate One, Inc.. Call me today at 1-855-Janet-Tom, or visit my website at!

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The Renter Budget: Most and Least Costly Cities

Renters’ budgets are being stretched in many cities—but some more than others, according to a new study by GOBankingRates. The most costly:

  1. San Francisco, Calif.
    Median Rent (One-Bedroom Apartment): $3,395
  1. San Jose, Calif.
    Median Rent (One-Bedroom Apartment): $2,505
  1. New York
    Median Rent (One-Bedroom Apartment): $2,395
  1. Washington, D.C.
    Median Rent (One-Bedroom Apartment): $2,271
  1. Jersey City, N.J.
    Median Rent (One-Bedroom Apartment): $2,200

The least costly:

  1. El Paso, Texas
    Median Rent (One-Bedroom Apartment): $555
  1. Detroit, Mich.
    Median Rent (One-Bedroom Apartment): $600
  1. Wichita, Kan.
    Median Rent (One-Bedroom Apartment): $625
  1. Tucson, Ariz.
    Median Rent (One-Bedroom Apartment): $628
  1. Fresno, Calif.
    Median Rent (One-Bedroom Apartment): $650

Source: GOBankingRates

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$134,900 :: 24440 PATRICIA AVE, Warren MI, 48091

3 beds, 1 bath
Home size: 1,274 sq ft
Lot Size: 7,405 sq ft
Added: 08/24/17, Last Updated: 08/24/17
Property Type: Single Family
MLS Number: 21360802
Community: Warren (50023)
Status: Active

Great find in Warren. All-brick 3 bedroom ranch with upgraded features added to the original build. Extra spacious 1275 sqft, taller basement ceiling, and fully-bricked 2-1/2 car garage. Recent upgrades to the kitchen include custom cabinets, countertops, sink, can lighting, cooktop stove, and built-in convection oven. All appliances stay including washer and dryer. Nice view of your landscaped backyard and patio from the sunny Florida room. All bedrooms have hardwood floors and large closets with sliding doors. Bone dry basement features one finished room, full bathroom with walk-in shower, cold room, lots of storage space, and block windows. High-efficiency furnace. Central air. Newer hot water. Newer driveway. Centerline Schools. Owners have lived here for forty years and house is very well maintained with lots of custom features. Truly move-in ready.

Listed with Big D Realty LLC

Brought to you by Janet Hull and Thomas Bush, Real Estate One, Inc.. Call me today at 1-855-Janet-Tom, or visit my website at!

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$94,900 :: 28308 UNIVERSAL Drive, Warren MI, 48092

Property Photo

3 beds, 2 baths
Home size: 1,326 sq ft
Lot Size: 0 sq ft
Added: 06/23/17, Last Updated: 08/23/17
Property Type: Condo/Townhouse/Co-Op
MLS Number: 217054198
Community: Warren
Status: Sold


Listed with National Realty Centers-Northville

Brought to you by Janet Hull and Thomas Bush, Real Estate One, Inc.. Call me today at 1-855-Janet-Tom, or visit my website at!

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Save Money by Converting From Oil to Gas Heating: Here’s How

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at

If you have an aging, oil-fired heating system and are dreading the day you’ll need to replace or service your heating system, you may want to explore converting from oil to gas. Heating your home with a cleaner, more fuel-efficient system will shrink your energy bill in the process.

Converting from oil to gas is an increasingly common move. Here are some of the many factors to consider when deciding which heating source is best for your home:

Converting From Oil to Gas Heat Saves Money
The numbers don’t lie: Heating your home with natural gas is cheaper than heating with oil. Comparing the current market price for the various fuel sources won’t tell the whole story; after all, oil and propane are measured in gallons and gas is measured in therms.

To accurately examine the cost of fuels based on the heat content they generate, the U.S. Energy Information Administration recommends using this formula: cost per million British thermal units (BTU).

Estimated Average Residential Winter Heating Bills for 2016-17
Natural Gas – $728
Fuel Oil – $2,171
Propane – $2,176

Homeowners who heat with gas are also less vulnerable to price swings. This is at least partly because a greater percentage of natural gas used in the U.S. is produced domestically, while we remain much more dependent on petroleum-producing nations for our oil supply.

Switching from oil to gas can also produce savings because gas furnace systems generally cost less than their oil-burning counterparts. Because oil burns hotter, the furnace must be built from more robust materials to withstand the heat.

Heating With Gas Is Cleaner Than Heating With Oil
Taking steps to reduce your impact on the environment is an increasingly important consideration for many people. There are also financial savings to be realized by converting to a cleaner-burning system.

For example, because heating with oil produces more carbon build-up than gas, having the system regularly cleaned is essential for safety, as well as efficiency. Studies have shown that a build-up of 1/16 of an inch of soot can decrease overall system efficiency by 7 to 8 percent.

The need to regularly replace oil filters also adds to annual maintenance costs, which can be as much as two to three times higher than for gas heating systems.

Does Your Home Have Access to Natural Gas?
To reap the potential benefits of switching from oil to natural gas heat, you’ll need to have access to the supply. Is there a nearby gas main? If not, are there plans to expand into your area?

If you do have access, you’ll need to contact your natural gas distributor to discuss running a line from the nearest gas main to your home and installing a meter to measure your usage for billing purposes. If not, contacting your area’s natural gas provider will help you determine if there are plans to expand access to your location.

The expenses involved in getting your home connected can vary. The utility may perform this function at little or no cost for homes that are relatively close to the nearest pipeline (after all, they want your business); however, if you live at the end of a long driveway or in an area that might present excavation challenges, the charge to get you hooked up can be fairly significant.

For homes that do not currently have access to natural gas, propane can be another option that burns cleaner than oil; however, because it is a more expensive fuel source (cost per million BTU) than both gas and oil, saving money on your energy bill is not generally a motivation for making the switch to propane.

One More Good Reason for Converting to Natural Gas
One additional quality of life consideration is that heating with oil requires you to have one or more unwieldy oil tanks, usually located in your basement. These tanks deteriorate over time, potentially causing a safety hazard. Plus, they produce odor and grime.

Many homeowners find that getting rid of those bulky fuel tanks creates an opportunity to make better use of your basement space for tool shops, laundry areas or family playrooms.

When you’re considering making the switch from heating with oil to heating with gas, start by getting some expert advice from a trusted home heating contractor who can conduct a thorough analysis of your home’s existing system and thermal design, and then have an in-depth conversation about your objectives and options.

Heritage PHCE is a New Hampshire- and Massachusetts-based home heating contractor with 30 years of experience installing, repairing and maintaining both oil and gas heating systems.

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Nevada’s Creepy Clown Motel Is Now for Sale


Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at

Located in the old gold and silver mining town of Tonopah, Nev., this Clown Motel is most certainly not the place for people suffering from coulrophobia (a.k.a., the fear of clowns). Not only is the lobby filled with hundreds of assorted clowns, from figurines and wall art to assorted trinkets, but each and every room is clown themed, as well.

Freaky enough for ya? It gets worse.

The motel shares a lot with a cemetery full of gold miners who died from a plague. The cemetery is literally right next door. It’s like a real-life horror film. Picture this: It’s after midnight and you’ve just checked into your clown-infested room when you realize: you left your phone charger in the car! No big deal—you’ll just have to leave your room, alone, at night, to run to your car that is more or less sitting in a probably-haunted cemetery full of things that go bump in the night. Not panic-inducing at all! It’s like House of 1,000 Corpses meets Stephen King’s It meets From Dusk Till Dawn. (Is it Halloween yet?)

Image Credit: Travel Nevada

The motel’s owner, Bob Perchetti, is ready to retire and move on from the creepy clown shrine he opened 20 years ago. We can only guess what kind of buyer is going to chomp at this bit—actually, we shudder to think.

The motel is for sale for $900,000, but one condition: the motel must keep its heritage.

Take a further look inside The Clown Motel in this video from Las Vegas Now.

Nick Caruso is RISMedia’s senior editor. Email him your real estate news ideas at

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