New Year's resolutions for homeowners

As 2013 winds down, millions of Americans are making New Year's resolutions. Most people who vow to make a New Year's resolution focus on bettering themselves - from losing weight and eating healthier, to exercising more and promising to drink more water. Another popular resolution is to spend more time with loved ones. However, only 8 percent will achieve their resolution, according to a study by the University of Scranton, and forget to focus on other important aspects of their lives, including the home.

With New Year's Eve quickly approaching, here are a few resolutions for homeowners that are easy to keep and can have big payoffs:

Check your homeowners insurance
If you've already invested in homeowners insurance, you understand the value it can have when it comes to repairs to your home from weather, burglary or fire. However, it is important to review your insurance policy from time to time to make sure you are still getting adequate coverage. If you have changed things in your home or purchased more items, you may need to expand your policy.

Be sure to check that your coverage also extends to other things on your property like a detached garage, fence or pool. A lot of homeowners don't realize that these areas often need to be added to a policy separately. Taking time to go over your insurance policy is easy and can end up saving you money in the long run.

Review your mortgage payment method
Depending on your financial situation, you could adjust your mortgage payments to pay off your loan faster. Homeowners choose this method of prepaying in order to pay less interest on their home loan over time. Many homeowners have been able to take advantage of low-rate mortgages over the last few years and have enjoyed lower monthly payments as a result. If it is affordable to make higher payments, it is possible to shave a couple years off your loan.

Conversely, you could consider a refinance if your mortgage payments are too high and interest rates are at appealing levels. If current rates are much lower than your loan terms, you may be able to lower your monthly mortgage payments by refinancing. However, refinancing does come with its own costs that can run thousands of dollars. Depending on how big the difference in interest rates and how many years you have left on your loan, refinancing may not make financial sense for everyone.

Maintenance and repairs
Like our bodies, homes need maintenance too. If you are planning on making a resolution to exercise more and eat healthier, consider making the same effort on your home. If there are repairs you have been putting off, be sure to get to them right away. When it comes to home maintenance, starting outside can be easiest. Trim the trees, mow the lawn, rake up leaves - do whatever needs to be done to maintain your home and make it look great. Some of these activities can even count as exercise and help you with other personal resolutions. Indoors, you should check the batteries in your smoke alarm, update your alarm system and test your sump pump to be sure it is in working order. Doing a few small maintenance checks can end up reducing the risk of major repairs later on.

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