January 2008 Vol.3 No.1

 Start the Year with a Look at Your House Budget  January's Home Value Improver  About Us


Start the Year with a Look at Your House Budget

The holidays are over, you've made all your returns and even redeemed your gift cards, it's time to sit back and relax, right? Sorry, but there's one more important activity this season requires - getting your financial house in order. Uncle Sam is just around the corner waiting for his share of your 2007. It's time to gather up all your important financial documents necessary to file your taxes. (Don't mistakenly recycle your W-2 like one of my clients did.)

Don't Miss Out on Any Deductions When you're filling out your taxes, make sure that you don't forget any of those ever-important deductions. Just some of the deductions include:

  • Mortgage and home equity interest
  • Energy efficient windows
  • Home office

Look Closely at Your Mortgage

Now that you have all your financial documents together, do yourself a favor and review your household budget and your mortgage program. Take a good look at your mortgage and ask yourself some important questions:

  • Is your rate fixed or adjustable? Is it time to refinance?
  • Are you paying interest only and making no progress on your principle?
  • Do you have more than one mortgage? If so, should you consider consolidating them?

Many people don't realize that a homeowners' insurance rate increase will make your monthly mortgage payment higher, if the two are rolled in together. People think that a 30-year fixed rate mortgage means that their payments will never change. Sometimes, they do. While you're looking at your payments, it's a good idea to review other household expenses as well.

Household Expenses

If you're suffering from the increase in oil prices, you're in good company. The cost of filling up your gas tank has doubled in the past year or so, as has filling the heating oil tank. For many people, that means bidding a sad farewell to their disposable income. Still to others, it means cutting something else out of the budget. Review your house budget:

  • Can you get a timer for your thermostat to cut down on heating expenses? How about cranking it down even lower at night?
  • Revisit your cable, telephone, and Internet charges. The new combination packages just may save you enough money to offset some of those gasoline price increases.
  • How low can you go on your grocery bill? There are lots of websites that help you plan out meals for the week and shop accordingly.

January's Home Value Improver

Spruce Up Your Kitchen on a Budget

You probably have an idea of what you would do to your kitchen if you had a spare $80,000. Chances are, you don't have that money lying around, but you'd still like to spruce up the room in which you spend much of your time. The kitchen is one area in which small changes can be very gratifying in their level of changes. Consider the following areas:

1.     Cabinets. Your cabinets take up the lion's share of the real estate in your kitchen. Brighten up a kitchen by painting cabinet doors. I had a client who even stenciled tasteful sailboats on the cabinets of her home on Cape Cod, and it looked fantastic. If that sounds too time consuming, you could also replace a wooden panel in a pair of cabinet doors with glass for an open look.


2.     Countertops. It used to be that formica and Corian were your only choices. In the past decade or so, granite has hit the kitchen scene as strongly as stainless. The granite trend has given rise to even more types of countertops. Some formica bears a striking resemblance to granite, but the prices don't resemble each other at all. Surfaces such as Silestone offer all the benefits of granite, and are actually made of granite, but they don't stain and offer an even wider variety of colors.


3.     Drawers and Baskets. If you want to add a more open look, remove a few drawers and replace them with pretty wire or rattan baskets.


4.     Windows. Of course, new curtains or blinds can add the finishing touch that a kitchen may be lacking. With a few extra dollars, you can even install one of those bowed-out plant windows.


5.     New Hardware. Changing up the hardware in your sink can add a sleeker look as well as practicality. A pull-out faucet looks nice, and makes cleaning much easier. New hardware on the cabinets can make a big difference, too.


6.     Backsplash. Sure, it seems like wasted space, but bead board along your backsplash can give the area a more finished look. It's also a good place to hang pretty saucers. (Be sure to get some inexpensive plate hangers to do it, though.)


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If you are trying to follow all the news and changes happening in the mortgage industry, you have probably realized how overwhelming it can be. As the government, businesses and consumers try to make sense of the tumultuous times, it's challenging to figure out what, if anything, to do.

Like you, I am attempting to stay abreast of it all. And since it's my day job, I'm able to devote more time to it. Additionally, my experience of riding out the highs and lows of this business have given me valuable insights, which I am always happy to share.

Please feel free to call or email anytime for more information on any mortgage topic!

Best regards,
Debbie Siegel
Westchester Mortgage

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Click here to read my Mortgage Minute in ForeclosuresMass.com's monthly newsletter. This month's topic: Can you really afford that mortgage payment?

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