2016 is coming to a close, and with the new year just around the corner, people across the world are gearing up to set their intentions for the upcoming year in the form of New Year's Resolutions. And while you're bound to make at least one standard resolution (like "finally get in shape" or "eat more vegetables"), as a homeowner, there are some home-specific resolutions you'll want to think about to get the most out of your property and the experience of owning a home this upcoming year. Here are 5 New Year's Resolutions every homeowner should make for 2017:
1. Bump Up Your Mortgage Payments
If you have any sort of expendable income in 2017, you might want to think about putting it towards your mortgage. Making extra payments on your mortgage can have a huge impact on the total you end up paying out over the course of the loan. It can also shorten the amount of time you'll be saddled with payments and can have you owning your house free and clear sooner than you expected. The more you can contribute, the better. But even if you can only make a few extra payments per year - do it. Those extra dollars will add up and end up saving you serious dollars in interest over the course of your mortgage. Create a 2017 budget and look for any areas where you can shave a few dollars, like your daily trip to the coffeehouse or an expensive gym membership. Then, re-purpose that cash and put it towards paying down your mortgage faster.
2. Explore Refinancing
2016 saw near record low interest rates on mortgages, and while they've slowly crept up towards the end of the year (current rates are around 4%), they're still HALF of the average interest rates over the past 40 years (which averaged at 8.45%). If you haven't refinanced your mortgage recently, now is the time to do it. With a new president taking office, the economy may shift, and interest rates may rise. Talk to your loan officer about refinancing and getting a lower interest rate. And if you're in a variable rate mortgage, shift over to a fixed rate mortgage and lock in the low interest rates while you can.
3. Review and Renew Your Homeowners Insurance
A lot of homeowners roll over their insurance year to year, but if you haven't reviewed your policy in a while, you might be missing out on some money-saving opportunities. Shop around and get quotes to see what rates are competitive in the current market and if you're paying more, see if your current company will match the lowest quote. If you have a stand-alone policy, think about bundling your auto and homeowners insurance with one company. Insurance companies will often offer discounts for customers who hold multiple policies. If you've made any major improvements to your home that could impact the insurability of your house (like clearing trees, installing a high tech security system or adding storm reinforcements), let your agent know. Improvements can often lower your premiums.
4. Declutter, Declutter, Declutter
While spring is traditionally the time for organizing (in the form of "spring cleaning"), there's no better time for a fresh start - and a more organized home - than the New Year. Cleaning out closets, getting rid of things you no longer want or need and taking a more minimalist approach to life can have huge benefits. Not only will your home look better, but you'll also FEEL better as a result. Messy, cluttered homes can cause increased stress and anxiety, making it much harder to relax and enjoy your space. Clutter has also been shown to decrease creativity, productivity and focus, so if you want to have a happy and productive 2017, it's time for the stuff to go. Plan a day to go through all of your closets, cabinets and storage space. If you're not actively using something, get rid of it. The benefits you'll reap from decluttering will far outweigh the value of the things you get rid of.
5. Get Up To Speed On Safety
The new year is the perfect time to review the current state of your property and take any precautions necessary to ensure that you're safe in the upcoming year. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace them if necessary. Check your house for radon, a common, carcinogenic gas that can increase your chance of lung cancer (you can pick up a radon testing kit at the hardware store for less than $10). Meet with your family to review emergency evacuation plans in case of a fire, flood or other emergencies. With these 5 resolutions, you'll get the most out of your property - and of owning your home - in 2017 and beyond.