10 tips that may save money for homeowners this year

The beginning of a new year is when many Americans take stock of their lives. And with this being a housing column, I offer 10 New Year's tips for homeowners, in no particular order:

1. If you have been stressing out about being "underwater" on your mortgage, now may be a good time to discuss your options (short sale, deed in lieu of foreclosure, walking away, staying put) so that you can make a final decision and be at peace with that decision.

2. If you're struggling to make your mortgage payments, call your lender and see if a loan modification may be available to you. Banks are still difficult to deal with, but the process is getting a little easier.

3. Check with your county property appraiser to make sure that you are getting all of the property tax exemptions and discounts you're entitled to. Besides discounts on your primary residence, you may be eligible for discounts based on disability, spouse's death, low-income senior, disabled veteran or active-duty military. While you're at it, make sure that the appraised value of your property is on target.

4. If you have not done so already, get a windstorm mitigation inspection done. It can save you significant money. But be informed about the process.

5. Make sure that your homeowner's insurance coverage is correct. With declining home values, many people are now over-insured and paying for coverage they no longer need.

6. Check to see if you still need to maintain flood insurance because the flood zone maps may have changed since the last time you checked.

7. Make sure that the title to your home is vested to save money and troubles for your loved ones when you pass away. A properly drafted deed can save thousands of dollars in probate expenses after you're gone.

8. Have your will checked if it is more than five years old. If anything has changed, have a new will drafted or your existing one amended. If you don't have a will, get one. It isn't as expensive as you might think — less than $500, in some cases.

9. Take a walk around your house with a pad and pen. Make a list of all of those small repairs that you have been meaning to do and then do them. It is much easier to accomplish chores if they're written down, and making small repairs now is much less expensive than making large repairs later.

10. Consider renovating your bathroom or kitchen. Home renovations cost a lot less now than just a few years ago. It may be a good alternative to moving.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as a real estate law expert by the Florida Bar.

Share This Story