5 Ways to Prepare for Winter Storms

The New Year has come, which means it’s that time of year again; time to bring out the shovels and snow boots. Although in many places the snow has already fallen many times, here in Virginia Beach we just got our first taste of the year. It is not too late to take action to protect your most valuable possession; your home. Snow storms can be very damaging to not only your home, but for you too! So here are our 5 ways to stay safe through these next few wintery months.

1. Have Backup

The power going out is always a concern. If you can, get a backup generator so you can stay warm. If a backup generator is not an option, stock up on batteries and invest in some battery powered heaters and lamps. Battery powered heated blankets are always an option, but not an essential. At the bare minimum, you will want to stay warm and be able to see. Always have extra canned goods or unperishable foods. Any food that you already have that does not need to be heated up is always an asset.

2. Prepare Your Walkways

If there is anything that you could do to make shoveling less of a hassle, DO IT. Put down some rock salt on your drive way, or at least the path from the front door to the car. This could save you a lot of time when trying to dig your way to your car. Doing this could not only prevent less work for shoveling, but make it safer for you and your family. Ice isn’t always easy to see, but it is always easy to feel! This could also prevent your car from getting stuck at the inevitable snow pile at the bottom of your driveway.

3. Winterize Your Car

Your car is basically your second home on wheels. Making sure your car is prepared is just as important as your home. Otherwise, this could mean missing days at work or not being able to go fill up on groceries. The first thing you want to do is check your tires. Check the tread on them by doing the “Penny Test”. It’s pretty simple, just put a penny in the tread of the tires, and if you can still see Lincoln’s head, its gtime to get new tires. If your tread is looking good, check the air pressure. Low pressure could be potentially dangerous, and is often more common in colder weather. Go to your mechanic or your local gas station to make sure your tire pressure is at the right pressure. Also, don’t forget to lift your windshield wipers so they don’t get stuck frozen to the windshield!

4. Prevent Roof and Gutter Damage

Be aware of “ice dams”, which occur when the heat from your home melts the snow on the roof, but then refreezes at the point where your roof is 32 degrees or under. This could cause the water to seep through cracks in your roof or become so heavy that it caves in. The water can also make its way to the gutter and the leaves and debris can trap the ice, causing them to collapse as well. To prevent this, try to clean out your gutters before a snow storm. Also, make sure your attic is properly insulated, so that it lets as little heat out as possible. Another way is to remove the snow/ice on the roof, we suggest paying a professional to do so.

5. Plan Ahead by Stocking Up

Try to get a refill on any prescription medications that you require. Many doctors will give you a refill earlier than you need to if you explain that you are worried about running out before you are able to make it to the pharmacy. In many cases, it is too dangerous to drive to the pharmacy, or it may even be closed when you get there. If you have kids, grab extra diapers and formula so they won’t run out. Try to fill up containers of water in case running water is not available. This could serve as drinking water or cleansing water. Invest in a first aid kit, just the essentials like bandages, disinfectant, antibiotics, and painkillers. You do not want to be stuck in a situation without being prepared.

By doing these 5 things, you will be ready to take on the snow. It is often a lot of work to make sure you are prepared for a storm, but it is also often worth it. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Hopefully these things help you make it out on top through the last few cold fronts, if there is anything we left out, leave a comment of what you do to prepare for winter storms!

Pay off high interest rate credit cards and personal loans into one lower rate using your mortgage. Here are a few ways refinancing your mortgage can benefit you.

Lowering your rate– This is the best option if you are trying to consolidate your debt. When you refinance to a lower rate, you’re monthly payments get smaller. The money that you would be putting towards your mortgage can now be put towards your high interest debt, such as credit cards or personal loans, or it can be put towards anything you need it to!

Shortening the term of your loan- Another great reason to refinance is to lower the length of you loan. Most loans have a lifetime of 30 years. If you have extra money or have an increase in income, it would be a great option to try to pay off your mortgage quicker. Switching to a shorter term loan typically makes the rate go up, so the best time to refinance for this reason  is when rates are lower, so your rate won’t change too drastically.

Get Cash- There is a Cash-Out refinance option, which means taking out a loan bigger than the one you currently own, and keeping the difference. This extra money can be used to pay off higher interest debt, or put back into the home in the form of renovations. It can also be used to invest in another home, or for your children’s education. Although you will be taking out a loan larger than your current one, many people justify it by saying the rate is smaller than a personal loan would be, and that the interest rate is a tax deductible.

Converting between Adjustable Rates and Fixed Rates- If you find yourself in a risky loan, such as an adjustable rate loan, refinancing could get you out of that situation. Adjustable rate mortgages are inconsistent, and can cause you to be paying higher monthly payments than you budgeted for. Refinancing to switch to a fixed rate can give you more security with your mortgage, eliminating the rate hikes. However, if you are in a Fixed Rate mortgage, and do not plan on staying in the house long, an Adjustable Rate may be more for you. These loans start out at a lower rate, then fluctuate throughout the life of the loan. So you can get the lower rate for the time you plan on living in the home. 

Eliminate Private Mortgage Insurance- Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is added to loans when the loan amount is more than 80% of the value of the home. Over time, you build up equity in your home, and once it passes the 20%, you can refinance to get rid of that PMI. The average Private Mortgage Insurance is $100 a month, that means $100 more in your pocket each month. 

There are many reasons to refinance, but in some situations it is not for everyone. Contact us today at 833 START VA for a free consultation with one of our mortgage experts to see if refinancing is the right option for you. Or, Apply Online and we will contact you shortly with your options!