With the temperature outside dropping it’s time to start worrying about chimney safety. Dangerous chimney fires tend to happen in early fall and winter when colder weather has homeowners firing up their fireplace or wood stove. Chimney fires are easy to avoid with proper care and attention.

Here are some helpful hints to keep your home safe from a chimney fire:

Get your chimney inspected annually by a certified, professional chimney sweep. The sweep will check for safety problems like blockages in the pipe or flue, problems with the spark arrestor, and holes or other damage to the lining. Your chimney sweep will also be able to determine if your chimney needs to be cleaned.

Get a stove thermometer that will allow you to monitor the temperature of the stove. Consistent high temperatures could lead to a fire and damage your chimney.

Keep the area clear and make sure you have tile or a fire resistant floor covering at least one foot around your stove or fireplace. This will prevent errant sparks from causing a fire. Make sure to keep this area clear of furniture and other objects as well. Even if sparks don’t hit them, high heat can still be a problem and cause a fire.

Have the proper safety equipment such as working fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire alarms nearby. Make sure they are all in working order. If they use batteries, make sure to change the batteries twice a year.

For more information about chimney safety your can visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s website.

Whether you buy your first home later in life, or directly from college, buying your first home is a major milestone in your life.  For that reason, there are things you need to be knowledgeable about before your purchase is complete. You will want to safeguard yourself so you know that you are getting a home and a loan that you can afford. Here are a few tips from mortgage and real estate pros to help prepare you for the biggest purchase of your life.

Using an Agent

If you are a buyer, then there is no reason not to use a real estate professional. It does not cost you any more money to hire an agent. That agent will do more than find you that perfect house. You will discover that after you find a house is when you will need that agent the most.  The agent will use their expertise to present your offer to the seller and then address issues that may arise between contract and closing.

House Hunting

Remember, location, location, location. This is very important when buying a house.  Location plays a big part in determining the market value of the home. Before you start the house hunting process, make sure you know what neighborhood is a good location for you. Also, it would be good to have an idea of what style home you are looking for. Real estate moves quickly, so if you see a property that you love, you should move on it before someone else does.

Find a Loan that Works for Your

It sure can be tricky business trying decide what kind of loan is right for you.  There are many different types of loans that you should be aware of.  There is an Adjustable rate mortgage which has an interest rate that is linked to an economic index. So as the index changes your interest rate and payments may go up or down. There is also a 30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage as well as a 15-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage. Some state and county maximum loan amount restrictions may apply.

Home Buyer Alternatives for First Timer

Saving for a first home can sometime seem like it’s a hill that too steep, but don’t worry there are assistance programs that can help. The Federal Housing Administration offers loans to people with a credit score as low as 640, low down payments and down payment assistance. There are also VA and USDA loans: Certain active members of the military and veterans as well as qualifying residents of designated rural areas can qualify for a 0% down-payment housing loans that are free of mortgage insurance fees.

How Much Do You Have to Put Down?

It really depends on what type of loan you have. If you have a conventional loan then you may have to put as much as 20% down. It is possible to put 5% down on a conventional loan if you don’t mind paying mortgage insurance.  If you go with the FHA loan you will need at least 3.5 % down.  For people who are relying on others to help with down payments, an FHA loan may be a good option. First time home buyers need to look around and know that there are a multitude of down payment assistance offers by state or local governments.

Closing cost:

There can be a lot of hidden fees in closing costs; first time home buyers should be aware of these costs.  These fees are typically included in the closing costs, including fees for commissions, appraisals, inspections, certifications and surveying.  There will also be fees for government record changes, tax and title services and transfer taxes.

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