How Do Late Payments Impact My Credit Reports?

Since the middle of March, more than 57 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits. Even with those benefits, millions are falling behind on their debt payments.

Greg Iacurci at CNBC.com, citing a “new study,” claims that the late-July expiration of the additional $600 a week unemployment subsidy “… puts 6 million people at risk of not being able to pay their bills this month.”

For most of them, their credit reports aren’t top-of-mind right now. But if you are among the group, it’s important to at least consider how your unemployment is impacting your credit score.

First, evaluate where you stand

The credit bureaus often make errors in their reporting, so it’s a good idea to check your reports from “the big 3” to ensure there are no errors (such as late payments not dropping off after the time limit and others).

Americans are entitled to one free credit report from Experian, Trans Union and Equifax, every 12 months.

“However, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, all three nationwide credit bureaus … are offering free weekly online credit reports via annualcreditreport.com (the only source authorized by Federal law) through April 2021,” according to Beverly Anderson, president of Global Consumer Solutions at Equifax.

This is such an amazing offer that there is simply no reason to not be keeping an eye on your credit score.

About those late payments

Seven years from the date of the missed payment is the length of time a late payment will remain on your credit report. This applies even if you pay the bill in full, Anderson claims.

If the reason for the late payments involves a Covid-19-related job loss, you may want to consider adding a consumer statement to your credit reports.

Anderson suggests that you keep the statement to 100 words or less and “… clarify why you were late making your payment.”

She includes a sample of what to say in a statement:

“Be advised that the negative accounts on my credit report are related to a temporary reduction in income due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I intend to make these up as soon as I can.”

Of course, the statement won’t hide any negative information, but lenders can view it and learn of the mitigating circumstances. All three bureaus accept these statements in their dispute departments.

To add a statement to your Equifax credit report, visit my.equifax.com.

The folks at Trans Union offer options as well. On their site, “… you can easily choose from pre-worded options like, ‘I am unable to make timely payments due to the impact on my job/wages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,’ or you can write your own.” The “Disputes” section of their website is where to get started. Visit transunion.com/disputes.

Experian also directs those who wish to file a personal statement to their dispute area, which you will find at Experian.com.

When things get better for you

Sometime down the line your situation will change. It’s important not to forget those statements you sent to the credit bureaus.

Remember, the negative entries have a life of seven years. Once that time limit occurs, the information will drop from your reports and you should then remove your statement as well.

Why?

“Once the negative information is removed, the statement may unnecessarily notify lenders that you had a payment issue in the past,” warns Jennifer White, consumer education specialist with Experian.

In the meantime, prioritize your bill payments

The top priorities, after paying your living expenses include those related to your ability to get to work. If you need your car to get to work, car payments and auto insurance come right after basic living expenses.

Next, because failure to pay may lead to a driver’s license suspension or arrest, take care of child support and alimony payments. If you are on good terms with your former spouse, the pros at Equifax suggest speaking with him or her about your situation. Try to come to an agreement on when you can make up the missed payments.

Or, contact the Division of Child Support services. “In some cases, you might be able to change your monthly payments to something more affordable,” according to Experian.

If anything is left after paying these bills, pay the following three before anything else:

  • Student loans
  • Personal loans
  • Tax debt

Chin up! There is a light at the end of this tunnel.

Easy tips to secure your home in one weekend

When moving into a new home, securing it is typically on the “to-do” list. After you’ve lived in a home for a length of time, however, security becomes an after-thought, which puts yourself and your family in danger.

FBI data claims that “In 2018, there were an estimated 1,230,149 burglaries.” Nearly 60% of these were classified as “forceable entry” burglaries.

We don’t want you to be among the victims, so let’s get started on at least the basics of securing your home against intruders.

Start with the doors

It’s easy to overlook the unsecured window or other access points when you go about daily life. So, take a tour of the entire home, with an eye toward security.

Examine all doors that lead to the exterior of the home first. They should have deadbolt locks, yes. But, if the home is old, the door may be feeble and easy to knock in. You may need to replace the door with something sturdier.

Security experts recommend metal or solid wood doors. They also suggest that you place the hinges on the interior of the home. Finally, don’t forget the deadbolt lock with a minimum 1-inch bolt length.

You might also consider adding an additional lock. “You should have a minimum of two locks at main entryways,” cautions Manasa Reddigari at BobVila.com.

Many Americans have sliding glass doors to the backyard and these, experts claim, are the ones burglars like the best. Why?

“Sliding glass doors use latches, not locks,” according to Bobby McAfee with Crime Prevention Security Systems. “Even inexperienced burglars can quickly overcome most factory-installed latches,” he continues. Or they might simply lift the door off its track and out of the way, which usually doesn’t even require tools.”

There are a number of options a homeowner can use to secure these doors:

  • Install a security pin (sold on Amazon.com and at large home improvement stores)
  • Install shatterproof film – while it won’t keep a window from breaking, it will slow the process
  • Install a home security system with glass-break sensors

While you’re assessing the doors to the exterior of the home, take a look at what’s outside the doors. Is the area well-lit? Are there shrubs or trees that can hide a burglar who is trying to break into your home?

Clear away any overgrowth and use a porch light with a strong bulb.

Secure the home’s windows

Go through the home again, this time paying close attention to windows, especially those that are accessible at ground level.

Check the locks on each window first to ensure they’re engaged and, second that they are actually securing the window.

For extra security for ground-floor windows, consider installing inexpensive window alarms. You’ll find them for sale online at Amazon.com, Home Depot and Lowe’s.

We hope you’ll take the time to tour your home to determine how to beef up security.

 

 

 

 

How to Cover a Hole Left By Removing Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting is a popular lighting method in new residential construction. Lying flush to the ceiling, it provides a sleek modern accent to kitchens and baths.

Although attractive, recessed lightings are not energy efficient. They require higher wattage bulbs and, if not sealed properly, the hole allows cold air to enter the house.

For this reason, many homeowners are choosing to remove recessed lights. Once the canister is removed from the ceiling, though, you have a gaping hole to contend with.

Commercial blanks are available, in various sizes, that use a spring to hold the blank flush with the ceiling, or you can make your own patch.

Here’s what you’ll need for the project:

  • Pencil
  • Drywall saw
  • Utility knife
  • Rag
  • 1 x 4 pine
  • Saw
  • Construction adhesive
  • C-clamps
  • Measuring tape
  • Drywall
  • 1 ¼ inch drywall screws
  • Mesh drywall tape
  • Drywall joint compound
  • Drywall knife
  • Medium or coarse sandpaper

Use a pencil to draw a square around the hole, centering it on an adjacent stud.2.

Follow the penciled outline with the drywall saw, cutting off all sides of the square, except the one on the stud.

Use a utility knife to cut that side.Use a moist rag to dust off the edges of the hole to remove drywall dust and flakes.

Measure the height of the square hole and use the saw to cut the 1×4 6 inches longer than the square’s height.

Apply the construction adhesive to the top and bottom of the board in a 4-inch wide band, insert the board into the hole and press it to the inside wall, on the side adjacent to the stud.

Apply C-clamps to the top and bottom of the board to hold it in place against the wall. Allow the adhesive to dry completely and remove the clamps.

Measure the square and cut a piece of drywall to fit. Use the screws to fasten the drywall piece over the hole, screwing two into the stud, at the top and bottom of the square and two into the 1×4, at the top and bottom.

Cut the mesh tape into strips that are 2 inches longer than the square’s height and apply them to the wall, overlapping one another.

Apply the drywall compound with the drywall knife by spreading it over the mesh. Don’t apply too much – you should just barely see the mesh beneath the layer of compound. Feather the edges to the wall. Allow the compound to dry overnight.

Sand the area thoroughly to smooth it and remove rough edges.

Apply a second coat of drywall compound, spreading it an additional 4 inches on all sides, beyond the first application. Feather the edges so that they blend in with the surrounding wall.

Allow the compound to dry thoroughly and apply another coat. When this coat dries, sand again.

Tips for National Preparedness Month

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Each September, National Preparedness Month encourages and reminds Americans to be prepared for disasters or emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities.”

Nothing could have prepared us for the COVID19 pandemic. Basic disaster preparedness, however, would’ve kept Americans out of the lines at the grocery store, facing bare shelves.

While California burns and two tropical storms threaten the Gulf Coast, it’s a good time to remind homeowners that preparation is the key to meeting your most critical needs during an emergency.

Make a plan

Preparing your home and family for emergencies requires planning. The first step is to make a list of what you’ll need, such as food, medical supplies and lots of water.

You’ll find an extensive list of emergency supplies at Ready.gov. Some of the most important, aside from the aforementioned, include:

  • Batteries
  • Books, puzzles, games for the kids
  • Cash
  • Cell phone chargers and a back-up battery
  • Change of clothing (including shoes) for the entire family
  • Contact lens solution and an extra set of prescription glasses
  • Feminine supplies
  • Fire extinguisher
  • First Aid kit
  • Flashlights
  • Important documents such as copies of insurance policies, birth certificates, bank account numbers
  • Infant formula, bottles and other supplies
  • Manual can opener
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Moist toilettes
  • Non-prescription medications
  • Paper and pencil
  • Paper plates and cups and plastic utensils
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person

If money is tight right now, as it is for many Americans, take the accumulation of supplies at a slower pace. Purchase an extra can of food when grocery shopping, or stock up on water first.

Store your supplies

You’ll want to keep your kit in a cool, dry place that is easily accessible in an emergency. Ensure that every member of the family can access it safely.

Many preppers suggest keeping the emergency supplies in backpacks in case you need to leave the home quickly. Even a child can carry some supplies in a lightweight backpack.

You aren’t finished yet

To be fully prepared, you’ll need a smaller version of the home kit for your car and one for your office.

For the latter, pare it down to at least 24 hours’ worth of food and water, but also include any medications you use daily, walking shoes or boots and a jacket.

Your car kit can, and should, contain much of what you are storing at home, plus the addition of the following:

  • Blankets
  • Car cell phone charger
  • Cat litter or sand (for better tire traction)
  • Extra change of clothing, including sturdy walking shoes
  • Flares
  • Ice scraper
  • Jumper cables
  • Map

Learn more about how to prepare the car for emergencies at Ready.gov.

On a final note, keep those important documents in a secure container where they will remain dry. Consider investing in a metal lock box, such as this one sold at Amazon.com

You must contact your homeowners’ insurance company immediately after the disaster to be eligible for FEMA assistance, so keep that policy safe.

Hate your home? Check out 5 inexpensive ways to cure that

Who knew that it would take a pandemic and being forced to remain in your home all of the time to turn it from something you love to something you despise?

It’s interesting how we learn to live with a home’s flaws, be it decorating that needs updating to that way-too-small kitchen. But living with these flaws 24/7, especially with children underfoot, while trying to remain productive, isn’t easy.

If you’re still reeling from the remnants of cabin fever and you don’t plan on selling the home for something comfier, how about giving it a bit of sprucing up? You’d be surprised at how easy and inexpensive it is to make your home easier to live in.

Get rid of the stale and boring

Too often we learn to live with something, never considering how it makes us feel. This includes home décor items.

Go through the home with the aim of looking at every piece of art, all the throw rugs and curtains, every hanging mirror, every accessory on shelves and tabletop – every object of décor in the home, top to bottom.

Those items that no longer appeal to you, or that you find stale and boring, need to go. Sell them on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp or even Ebay. Or, have a garage sale. Use the money you make to buy items that better appeal to you.

Stock up on live plants

What goes around comes around and that couldn’t be truer in 2020. In the 1970s, houseplants were all the rage. Americans created urban jungles in the apartments and homes with hanging plants, tall trees and even food crops.

It’s back. Today, it’s primarily millennials catching the houseplant fever, but others are enjoying the trend as well.

Indoor plants can add color and interest in the home and they don’t necessarily require a lot of care. From the Chinese evergreen to the peace lily and ponytail palm, there are a variety of low-maintenance houseplants from which to choose (you’ll find a list of 10 of them here).

If you have children and/or pets, you’ll want to ensure the plants you choose aren’t toxic. The ASPCA online offers a database of thousands of plants and rates their toxicity when it comes to pets. Type the name of the plant into the box labeled “Enhanced by Google” to learn all about pet-safe plants.

For information on which plants to avoid if you have children, visit Poison.org or check out the list at BHG.com.

By the way, plants don’t clean the air in homes. Surprised? Learn how the NASA study was misunderstood and manipulated when presented to the public and how the media and the landscaping industry’s claims have been debunked.

Spend a lot of time in the kitchen?

It’s easy and inexpensive to help your kitchen get over the blahs. Start with the cabinets and install new hardware.

Be aware, however, that the array of choices is dizzying. Take a look at decorating websites for kitchens that appeal to you. Do you like knobs or handles, contemporary or country or antique? Which finishes appeal to you?

Then head to the hardware store or shop online at HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com, Wayfair.com, Signature Hardware or Amazon.com.

Light it up

We get it – some people feel perfectly comfortable in the dark. But when it comes to the interior of a home, a dark atmosphere is dreary. It’s also unhealthy.

A National Institutes of Health study found that “… inadequate light in housing is independently associated with depression and falls,” in those older than 18 years of age.

In fact, those participants who claimed to have inadequate light in their homes were nearly 1.5 times more likely to be depressed than those with adequate lighting. The rate for falls was 2 times that of folks with good lighting in the home.

If you lack lots of windows through which natural light can stream, consider either brighter bulbs in the lighting you do have or adding additional lighting.

Start with the room you feel the least comfortable in and change the ceiling fixture. Or, purchase some table lamps. We’re betting that these small fixes will change the entire atmosphere in that room you previously couldn’t stand.

New paint can make you fall in love with your home all over again

Paint is the wonder drug for what ails a house. Not only does it change the appearance of a room, but it makes it feel fresh and new.

Consider wallpaper if paint isn’t your thing. If you haven’t purchased paint before, be aware that the color choices now are just about endless.

Other easy ways to make your home more fun to be in include rearranging the furniture, recovering the sofa or using slip covers. Buy new window coverings or flooring.

You don’t have to live in a home that no longer appeals to you. We’d be happy to help you sell it and find one that makes you happy. Or, do an inexpensive makeover, one weekend at a time.

How to avoid foreclosure: 2 popular alternatives

A recent Google Trends announcement included a graph of a “breakout trend” for two search terms: Eviction and Foreclosure.

 With unemployment rates at record highs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent business closures, renters and homeowners are still scrambling to make their rent and mortgage payments.

Back in April, “New mortgage delinquencies hit a record, … well above anything seen during the Great Recession,” according to Andrew Van Dam at WashingtonPost.com.

Some of these homeowners are taking advantage of forbearance offered by their lenders, others, because their loans aren’t backed by the Federal Government, are sadly at risk of losing their homes and investment properties.

In fact, when those with deferrals are removed from the equation, “… about 8.4 million households missed a mortgage payment” as of the end of June, according to Van Dam.

If you are among them, read on to learn about how you can avoid foreclosure and the devastation it brings to your credit rating.

The ramifications of foreclosure

There are several tough consequences when a homeowner allows the home to go into foreclosure:

  • You will lose your home.
  • You will lose any equity in the home.
  • There is a waiting period before you can purchase another home. For a conventional loan, you’ll need to wait seven years. If you can prove extenuating circumstances (which you most likely have, given the pandemic), the waiting period is three years.
  • Your credit will need to be repaired before considering another home purchase. “… if your credit score is 680, a foreclosure will drop your credit score on average by 85 to 105 points,” according to FinancialSamurai.com, citing the experts at FICO.
  • The damage to your credit score may affect how much you pay for insurance, whether or not you’ll qualify for a job and even your ability to rent a home.

Alternative number 1: Sell the home

Selling the home is the most obvious choice for the distressed homeowner. Yes, your lender will get paid from the proceeds of the sale and you may not end up with as much money as you’d hoped.

The advantage to this solution, however, is that your credit score won’t be impacted as hard as it will if you allow the home to be taken by the lender.

“If your credit score is excellent at 780, a foreclosure will drop your score by 140 to 160 points. In other words, the higher your credit score the more it will get smashed!”

If you sell the home, however, the late payments or even missed payments won’t be as tough on your credit.

Plus, you may be able to qualify to purchase another home right away.

If your loan is delinquent and you’re considering selling, the longer you wait, the less money you’ll end up with at closing. Reach out to us and we’ll show you how we can sell your home quickly and for the most money the market will allow.

2. Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure

A deed-in-lieu of foreclosure agreement is one in which the lien holder agrees to take the deed back in satisfaction or partial satisfaction of your obligation, in lieu of foreclosure.

Government entities, such as the FHA and the Veteran’s Administration, have their own deed-in-lieu programs with various requirements. Typically, these programs and lenders in general require that the property be lien-free before they’ll accept it back.

Why would a lender agree to enter into this type of an agreement? Since this arrangement is quicker and less expensive than foreclosure, according to Gary Neustadter, Santa Clara Law professor, a lender is more likely to be amenable to the deed-in-lieu agreement if it believes that the home is worth close to market value or to the amount of your debt.

There are tax ramifications to this alternative, so consult with your financial adviser before proceeding.

Flood insurance: What you absolutely need to know

While water is a critical part of life on earth, it can also be deadly. From hurricanes to flash floods, we’re often faced with water-caused disasters.

The number one disaster in the U.S. is flood and it rings up about $2 billion dollars in insurance claims annually.

We are heading into what the experts call “peak flood season,” which occurs between late spring through summer. “This is due to a combination of factors, including a slower jet stream and more humid air,” according to the Weather Channel’s Jonathan Erdman.

Folks living in flood-prone areas who lack flood insurance can be on the hook for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

The National Flood Insurance Program says that the average claim is $46,000 and that only 15 percent of American homeowners carry the policy.

Unless you have a lot of cash stashed away, why wouldn’t you carry flood insurance? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons the experts hear.

I can’t afford flood insurance. I’ll buy it when the time comes

This is a bit like saying that you can’t afford auto insurance and you’ll wait until you’re involved in an accident to buy it.

It just doesn’t work that way.

Besides, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says that there is a waiting period (typically 30 days) after payment of the first premium before the policy kicks in.

There are exceptions to this and you can find out more at FEMA.gov.

Affordability shouldn’t be an issue – at least not when you compare the monthly cost of a policy (about $54 on average) to the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars you’ll spend to repair or rebuild your home.

I’m pretty sure flood damage is covered by my homeowners insurance

According to the Insurance Information Institute, “Standard homeowners and renter’s insurance does not cover flood damage.” If you purchased a separate policy, then you’re covered. But, as mentioned earlier, most homeowners don’t purchase it.

I don’t live in a flood plain

One-fifth of insurance claims for flood damage are from homeowners who live in low-to-moderate risk areas, according to FEMA.

Lenders typically don’t demand flood coverage to folks buying homes in these risk corridors so it’s up to the homebuyer to be proactive.

If you have flood insurance

Just as you should do with your homeowners policy, you should review your flood coverage at least annually.

The National Flood Insurance Program offers up to $250,000 in coverage for the home and $100,000 in coverage for your personal property.

Often, people will buy expensive items and neglect to obtain additional coverage to protect their loss.

Be proactive – it may save you from the devastation of losing your home. The FEMA website offers more information.

Moving? How to make it stress-free for your pets

Nearly 70% of U.S. households include a pet. That’s 85 million families with a finned or four-legged family member, according to the American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owner’s Survey.

We all know that moving from one home to another can be stressful on children but it can be equally challenging for our pets.

We’ve rounded up some tips from the pros on how to make the transition easier for your pets.

Visit your pet’s veterinarian

Sure, your schedule is packed in the weeks before moving, but a quick visit to your pet’s veterinarian is important.

If your pet is on medication, ask for refills for the prescription. As well, if your pet is prone to anxiety, ask the vet for medications to help during the move.

Most important of all, though is to ensure your pet is microchipped.

If your pet should get out of the new house before he or she becomes acclimated to the area, there’s a good chance it will become disoriented and find itself utterly lost.

With a chip in place, whomever finds the pet will be able to contact you.

It’s also a good idea to ensure that the pet is wearing a collar with identification tags as a backup.

Which leads us to the second part of the microchip issue. If your pet is already chipped, ask your vet how you can update your contact information to include your new address and phone number (if that will be changing).

Finally, ask for a copy of your pet’s records, including all visits and vaccination records, and a referral to a veterinarian in your new town.

Tips for a long-distance move with a pet

The American Humane Society (AHS) recommends transporting your pet by car, if at all possible.

Before making the trip make reservations at pet-friendly hotels along the route. You can find some at PetsWelcome.com or Pet-Friendly-Hotels.net.

AHS also recommend that you transport your pet in a “… secure, well-ventilated pet carrier.” Also ensure that you have an escape-proof collar, leash, water and food bowls, pet food and bottles of water for those potty/rest stops you’ll need to make.

On moving day, keep the pet in a room with a closed door or in a crate in a quiet area of the home. The last thing you need when you’re on a tight moving schedule is for your pet to attempt a great escape.

Pet-proof the new home

Upon arrival at the new home, secure the pet in a bedroom along with its bed, crate and favorite toy or a piece of your clothing with your scent on it.

Then, head outdoors and check the fence, from top to bottom, for holes or gaps that the pet can fit through. Naturally, if your pet is a cat, he or she can just go over the fence, so this tip is primarily for dog owners.

If there’s a lawn, check it for signs of being recently fertilized (pellets, etc.). Don’t allow the pet into the backyard until you’ve thoroughly washed away any fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides.

Run a quick check of the plants in the backyard to ensure they’re pet-friendly. Check the database at ASPCA.org.

Take your dog on a tour of the neighborhood

Over the course of the first week or so in the new home, make it a point to walk your dog around the new neighborhood. Very soon, he or she will be acclimated to the new surroundings.

If the dog should get out of the house, the neighborhood will be familiar and, hopefully, your dog will be able to find the new home.

Pets have different personalities and some will sail right through a move to a new area while others may become nervous and stressed. Don’t be surprised if your pet begins behaving differently. It’s all a part of becoming comfortable and acclimated with the new surroundings.

Welcome home!

 

Here’s who to notify when you move

One of the lengthiest “to-do” lists is the one you’ll make when it’s time to move. From gathering moving materials to hiring movers and trying to time everything around a closing date – there’s a lot to do.

One very important chore that often falls through the cracks until it’s found again at the last minute is notifying people of your new address.

Here are the most critical moving notifications you’ll need to attend to.

U.S. Postal Service

This is the most critical notification you’ll make and, thankfully, they’ve made it easy for you to do. You can even specify the date on which you want to start receiving mail at the new address.

Navigate to USPS.com and fill out the form or pick up a change-of-address card at the local post office.

Utility companies

You’ll need to leave the home’s utilities on during the escrow period so that the buyer can conduct inspections. Once your moving date is firm, however, contact all utility companies with a shut-off date.

You’ll also want to determine a date for the utilities to be turned on at the new home and make a request from each company.

Add the ones that fit your situation to your list:

  • Electric
  • Gas
  • Water
  • Trash
  • Sewer
  • Propane delivery
  • Internet service provider
  • Landline phone company
  • Mobile phone provider

Notify those who provide ongoing services

This list includes:

  • Gardener
  • Pool service
  • Pet waste pickup
  • Housekeeper
  • Dog walker

Your pet’s microchip company

Sadly, failing to keep a pet’s microchip information updated is common. Pets in unfamiliar surroundings often get loose, become disoriented and, without a way to find you, the pet usually ends up at the pound.

If you remember which company your pet’s microchip is with, go to the company’s website and file a change of address and phone number (if it will be changing).

Otherwise, take the time to visit your pet’s veterinarian. They’ll typically scan the pet for free. Then you can notify the company of your new details.

Voter registration, Social Security and government benefits offices

Learn how to change your voter registration at USA.gov.

Social Security benefit recipients can change their address online as well. If you don’t have an account at the Social Security website, you’ll need to create one first (it’s free). You can do that at SSA.gov.

Collecting unemployment insurance benefits or public assistance? Call the offices to determine how they prefer you to file a change-of-address.

Your bank

Yes, the USPS will forward your mail, but banking information is just too important to trust anyone else with it.

Take the time to notify your bank, retirement fund companies and credit card companies of your new address.

Driver’s license and registration

DMV.org offers a handy tool for people in all 50 states to determine what is required to change their address with the DMV.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it does list some of the most important notifications you’ll need to make when you move.

3 Tips for buying a new toilet

Your bathroom is the workhorse of your home. It’s designed to be useful and durable. But, at some point, fixtures will need to be replaced.

Thankfully, when you replace an old toilet, the chances are quite good that you’ll be choosing a more efficient model which will pay for itself over time. This is especially true if the current toilet was manufactured before 1980, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Those toilets use up to six gallons of water during each flush. In fact, toilets are the water hogs of the entire home, “… accounting for nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption,” according to the experts at EPA.gov.

When you replace the old model with a new, more efficient one, you’ll save water and money. Go for a WaterSense-labeled toilet and you can save “… more than $110 per year in water costs, and $2,200 over the lifetime of the toilet,” according to the EPA.

The sheer volume of different brands and models of toilets you’ll find at the local home improvement store can make shopping for one a bit challenging. We’ve rounded up some tips that will help.

One piece or two?

Depending on model, a toilet can be one piece or constructed of two pieces (the more traditional design).

A one-piece toilet, because it lacks gaps between the tank and the bowl, is easier to keep clean and recommended for families with children.

The two-piece, or traditional-style toilet may cost less and it is easier to install, especially if you’ll be doing the install solo.

Get the right size

The hole over which the toilet will be mounted and the distance from the wall to the center of the hole is called the “rough-in.” This distance is 10, 12 or 14 inches.

Take the rough-in measurement before you head out to buy a new toilet to ensure it will fit.

How much water does it use?

Different toilet models come with different flush options. All modern toilets (those manufactured since the mid-1990s) use a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush. That’s the standard toilet.

Low flush toilets, on the other hand, may use as little as 1.28 gallons. “While low-flow toilets are often more expensive to install and maintain than traditional toilet fixtures, they can also save you a significant amount of money over time,” according to the experts at home warranty company, American Home Shield.

Since the bathroom is the most-frequently used room in the home, and the toilet the biggest water user, choosing a new toilet with care will pay off in the long run.