Are you ready to save more of your hard-earned cash in 2010? If so, here are 10 tips that can help you cut your homeownership and home maintenance costs in 2010.

1. See if you qualify for a reduction in property taxes
Has your property’s value declined from last year? If so, you may be eligible for a reduction in your property taxes. You could check with a local real estate professional to determine what your current property value is based on recent sales of comparable properties.

And you should review the guidelines for obtaining a property tax reduction. Typically there is a challenge process offered by local governments if you dispute the assessed value of your property.

Are you ready to save more of your hard-earned cash in 2010? If so, here are 10 tips that can help you cut your homeownership and home maintenance costs in 2010.

1. See if you qualify for a reduction in property taxes
Has your property’s value declined from last year? If so, you may be eligible for a reduction in your property taxes. You could check with a local real estate professional to determine what your current property value is based on recent sales of comparable properties.

And you should review the guidelines for obtaining a property tax reduction. Typically there is a challenge process offered by local governments if you dispute the assessed value of your property.

2. Claim all of your real estate deductions
If you are itemizing deductions, be sure to claim all deductions to which you are entitled. For example, if your state has a homestead exemption for property taxes, have you claimed it? Did you refinance or purchase your primary residence in the last year? If so, you are probably eligible to deduct the points you paid to obtain the loan.

If you remodeled your property, the remodel will generally change your cost basis. It’s important to track this since it will influence how much you can keep from any profits if you elect to sell. Some remodeling projects that improve the energy-efficiency of your home can also qualify for a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of the project, up to $1,500. See your tax professional to see which of these deductions may apply in your case.

3. Get rid of energy-guzzling, old appliances
Do you have that 15-year-old refrigerator in the garage? Are you using an old top-loading washer that uses 60 gallons of water per load as opposed to 17 gallons per load like the new, more efficient, front-loading machines? While it may not be in your budget to replace these items right now, if they do go out in 2010, visit the Energy Star Web site to locate the most efficient appliances and discover which ones actually qualify for a rebate.

4. Consider purchasing a home warranty policy
Like any insurance policy, it pays off only if there is a problem with one of the systems in your home. If your appliances and the major systems in your home are more than five years old, this may be a smart investment, especially if one of those systems goes out. A typical policy is less than $500 per year. On the other hand, the cost of replacing a water heater can run close to $1,000. Replacing a heating or cooling system can run into the thousands.

5. Install insulation and/or a radiant roof barrier
Generally this type of improvement qualifies for an energy rebate. In our previous home, we did not have a radiant barrier in our attic. The temperature was a good 30 to 40 degrees warmer than the inside of the house. In contrast, our new home has the radiant barrier and the attic temperatures are significantly cooler. This results in lower cooling bills. …CONTINUED

In addition, it’s also smart to check for air leaks around windows and doors. If you’re not handy with a caulk gun, it’s generally well worth it to hire a handyperson to seal any windows or doors where air is leaking in. Even a small opening can add a considerable amount to your overall heating bill.

6. Run your ceiling fans whenever you run your heating and/or air conditioning
In contrast to your heating and air conditioning system, ceiling fans require very little electricity. We saw a significant reduction in our electric bill when we started running our ceiling fans in conjunction with our central air conditioning. We also saw a similar reduction in our gas bill when we ran our ceiling fans during the winter.

We have a forced-air system, so our vents are located just below the ceiling level. The result is the warm air stays near the ceiling. The ceiling fans force the warm air downward and heat the room more quickly. If you have one or more rooms that are not in regular use, close the vents when you are not using the room. Also, be sure to put on a sweater before reaching for the thermostat.

7. Avoid wasteful watering
If you have an automatic sprinkler system, consider installing a rain gauge that automatically turns off your watering system when you have had a recent rain. Also, as you plan for your spring garden or if you are planning to redo your lawn, search for native plants that tolerate your climate with the least amount of care and water.

8. Turn off outlets
When I was in Australia and New Zealand, all of the outlets required you to push a button to turn on the outlet. While it may be impractical to go around plugging and unplugging household appliances, at least turn off your computer, printer and whatever you are not using. That also includes turning off the lights when you leave the room.

9. Keep your systems in top operating condition
The leaky faucet or the toilet that runs can end up costing you hundreds of extra dollars, especially if you’re in an area where water rationing may be an issue. That little bit of dry rot on a door or window can result in a major repair if it’s not handled when the issue is first spotted. Be proactive about treating small issues before they become expensive problems.

10. If you are going out of town, use "vacation mode"
Many new refrigerators have a "vacation mode" setting. This setting allows the refrigerator to use less energy when the door is not being opened and closed throughout the day. When we go out of town, we also turn down the settings on our water heaters, unplug our big-screen television (to avoid lightning damage while we’re away), and turn off the water softener until we return.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com and find her on Twitter: @bross.

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