When it comes to purchasing a house, most people are not alone: 60% of homebuyers in the U.S. are married couples, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Still, the share of unmarried people, from romantic partners to housemates, who are buying a place together has risen to 9%, the real estate association found.

The incentive to buy a residential property grows as mortgage interest rates are low and home prices continue to climb. For some, marriage is put on hold, said Andrea Collins, a home insights expert with Hippo insurance.

Collins compares the $30,000 spent on the average pre-pandemic wedding to half the recommended 20% down payment on a $300,000 dwelling.

Maybe there's something to buying a tiny home after all.

In addition to romantic couples, home shoppers are also co-signing a deed with friends and family before they are priced out of the market.

“Waiting just a few more years to buy a home can turn the American dream into a far-off fantasy for most couples,” said Collins, citing that prices for residential properties in the U.S. have skyrocketed 113% over the last decade.

Unmarried couples who buy a house or condo without first tying the knot should agree on whose name will be on the mortgage and who can claim the tax deduction, said Collins.

Partners should also know how they can protect their investment, she added.

A recent study by Hippo found that 20% of respondents purchased a first-time home with a partner since March 2020. Most — 82% — reported making financial sacrifices to afford their new home.

They repaired their credit, reduced their spending, canceled vacations and moved in with someone to save on rent. They also may have relocated and found a new or second job to make more money.

And yet, one in three unmarried co-buyers said they were less prepared for homeownership than they expected to be.

Know before you sign

To be better prepared, Hippo offers five questions unmarried home shoppers should think about before taking the real estate plunge:

Will both names be on the mortgage? When applying for a mortgage, your income, credit score, work history, debt-to-income ratio and other financial factors will be considered to determine how much you’re able to borrow and your interest rate.

If one of your co-borrowers has student loans and other debt or a low credit score, you may want to leave him or her off the mortgage application.

This means there’s no getting around it: You and your partner will need to have a chat about finances before you begin house hunting.

If you both have similar financial backgrounds, applying as co-borrowers can be beneficial as both your incomes will be taken into account. Since a higher income level allows lenders to feel more protected, they’ll often offer a lower interest rate or higher borrowing limit to co-borrowers with steady incomes.

Who will hold the title? The title may not seem like a big deal compared to the mortgage, but given that it dictates how much of the asset everyone owns, it’s important to get right. Co-buyers can choose to have one person own the property outright or it can be split in any way. Often, the percentage of ownership reflects how much money each person is putting into the property.

In Oregon, two or more people can acquire title with or without “right of survivorship,” which means ownership passes to surviving joint owners in the event of a death rather than the heirs of the deceased.

Understanding these terms is key, as it determines how ownership of the home is delegated in the event one of the co-borrowers passes away.

Do we need a property agreement? A property agreement is a legally binding document that dictates the share of finances when it comes to paying the mortgage, utilities and other household expenses.

Most property agreements, especially those with couples who aren’t married, will include information on who will own the property in the event of a breakup. It’s also a good idea to include information on how the profits will be split when it comes time to sell.

A lawyer or mediator can help draft your property agreement. Hiring someone familiar with your situation will be helpful later if you need to make updates to the agreement after a breakup, wedding or the birth of a child.

Will we be living in the property full time? If you and your partner invest in property to lease to tenants or use as a second home, you are considered non-occupants. Non-occupant mortgages will likely require you to have a better credit score, put down a larger down payment and pay a higher interest rate due to the extra risk your lender is taking on.

Who will get the tax deduction? When itemizing deductions on tax forms, you can count the interest you’ve paid on your primary residence’s mortgage against your income, reducing the amount of tax.

Married couples likely file taxes jointly. But when you file separately from your co-buyer, only one of you will receive a 1098 mortgage interest statement from the lender. To also claim the deduction, you must have a legal ownership in the property, be listed on the mortgage and be paying the lending institution.

Hippo experts say it’s a good idea to consider which partner makes the most money, whose name is on the mortgage payments and who shoulders most of the financial burden when making this decision to see who benefits the most from this tax break.

Decide on a home

Once all the legal and financial questions have been answered, you can talk about the size, features and location of your future home. You might want to ask your partner:

  • What kind of neighborhood do you want to live in?
  • What sort of entertainment options, amenities or businesses do you want nearby?
  • Do you want to bring pets or kids into the home?
  • Are there any upgrades you would like to add?
  • What are your home buying deal breakers?
  • How many homes do you want to look at before making an offer?
  • How much savings should we have in case of emergencies?
  • Will we repair the home ourselves or hire professionals?
  • How long do you see us staying in this home before selling?
  • How will we split the profits when selling?

Continue the conversation once you’ve settled in. Understand who will be handling home maintenance, chores and lawn care.


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In a heat wave—when temperatures spike and utility bills go berserk—you’ll want to know how to keep your house cool. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, climate control uses more energy and costs more money than any system in your home, accounting for up to 48% of your monthly bill. And no doubt, the percentage climbs when you’re running the AC nonstop.

How to keep your house cool

Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can keep your electricity bill from climbing in lockstep with the mercury. Check out these no-sweat tips for keeping your house cool this summer.

How to Keep Your House Cool: The Lazy Homeowner’s Guide

Create a natural wind tunnel

Opening your windows for a cross-breeze might seem like a no-brainer, but there’s a bit more strategy to it.

“Hot air rises—so if you have a two-story house, you can create a natural draft by opening downstairs windows on the shady side of the house, and upstairs windows on the hot side of the house,” says Myria Allen, professor of sustainability communication at the University of Arkansas. “Or if there is any natural breeze, open downstairs windows on the side of the house the wind is hitting, and upstairs windows on the side of the house away from the wind. This will pull hot air out of your home.”

Install a retractable clothesline

Using the clothes dryer can raise the temperature of your home 3 to 4 degrees, says Allen. While that may be nice in the winter, Allen suggests that in the summer, people should use dryers only in the early morning, or consider air-drying their laundry.

“Second only to refrigerators, clothes dryers are the main energy users in the home,” she says. “The average dryer uses 3.3 kilowatt-hours of energy and costs about $0.36. At my house we’ve installed a retractable clothesline on our screened-in back porch, and I can hang two loads out at once, saving $0.72 per day.” A cooler house and fresh clothes for the energy win!

Prevent air leaks

In a typical home, about 20% to 30% of the air that moves through a house is lost due to leaks.

“Check for signs of air leaks, including drafts, visible gaps, noticeable dust accumulation, and evidence of peeling paint around the windows and frames,” says Connie Rankin, president and CEO of CRES + Associates, a commercial real estate firm with a focus on sustainability. Repairing such leaks by weatherstripping doors and caulking windows can lead to a much cooler home (for insulation instructions, the Energy Star site is a good place to start).

Roll up area rugs

Walking around on naked floors will actually make you feel cooler at home, so remove carpets where possible during heat waves.

“Carpet is a poor conductor of heat, so when your feet touch the rug, it can’t remove heat from your feet easily,” Allen says. Wood and tile, however, are great conductors of heat, so strip off those socks and roll back those carpets to reap the benefits!

Clean your filters

To ensure your air conditioner runs efficiently, it’s important to perform regular maintenance of the system; this includes replacing or cleaning the filters.

“Regularly changing clogged, dirty filters improves efficiency drastically by providing savings in energy consumption of up to 15%,” says Rankin. Energy Star guidelines suggest changing filters at least every three months; during high usage times like summer, your home may be kept cooler by cleaning or swapping your filter monthly.

Decrease your AC run time

“If possible, remove lamps or TV sets located near the air-conditioning thermostat,” says Rankin. “The relocation prevents the thermostat from sensing heat from these appliances, reducing the air conditioner from running longer than required.”

Throw some serious shade

The U.S. Department of Energy has found planting trees or shrubs to shade your air conditioner reduces air temperatures directly under trees as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows the AC units to work more efficiently to conserve energy and reduce energy bills by as much as 10%.

However, remember that placement is everything. Make sure to leave 2 to 3 feet of open space all around the unit so as not to obstruct the airflow or impede access for repairs. Also space trees far enough from your home so that once they mature, the root systems will not damage the foundation or the branches damage the roof.

“Keep in mind that shade trees planted on the south and west help cool homes, but those planted on the north and east increase your utility bills,” says Allen. Also, while it may take a long time to grow a big shade tree, in a single season you can grow annual vines on trellises to shade walls or even roofs, which can reduce an unshaded home’s summer air-conditioning costs by 15% to 50%.


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Here’s an understatement for you: Buying a home today is not the same as it used to be. In fact, it’s a whole new ballgame.

The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, is largely to blame—throwing the economy for a loop, interrupting supply chains that feed home construction efforts, and forcing many of us to reassess just how much space we truly need. As a result, record numbers of people picked up and moved, sparking a full-boil housing market rife with bidding wars. And now, with interest rates on home loans climbing, things may get even more intense, fueling a sense of “It’s now or never!”

With all of these forces swirling, you need to hit refresh on your mindset and the toolkit you bring to the home-shopping challenge. To help you along, we’re sharing five new rules of homebuying in 2022.

1. Old rule: Find your dream home, then finalize your mortgage paperwork

In the past, getting pre-approved for a loan was something you could think about after you’d found a house you wanted to buy. Today, though, this approach can stall your momentum straight out of the gate. In today’s fast-paced market, it’s essential to have your ducks in a row and finish your mortgage pre-approval before you make an offer.

“You should be pre-approved by a lender and knowledgeable about your finances before you even begin your home search,” says Beverly Burris, an agent with William Means Real Estate in Charleston, SC. “With houses going under contract as quickly as they are right now, often within days or sometimes hours of going to market, there is no sense in going to see a property before speaking to a lender and learning what you can afford.”

Putting off the pre-approval process could lead to your dream home passing you by, she warns.

“If you wait until after you see a home you like, you won’t have time to speak with a lender or submit your mortgage application before the offer deadline,” she adds.

Many homes today will have offer deadlines that will be impossible to meet if you’re muddling through mortgage paperwork.

Furthermore, having a mortgage pre-approval letter in hand when you make your offer will show sellers you’re serious and can follow through with your purchase. This, in turn, will give you the edge over any competing buyers who haven’t completed this crucial step.

The New Rules of Homebuying Today: 5 Secrets To Succeed in a Red-Hot Market

2. Old rule: Shop for homes you can afford

New rule: Shop for homes priced below what you can afford

Traditionally, once you had a pre-approval in hand, that’s the amount that you’d use to set your budget when shopping for homes. After all, a pre-approval tells you (and the seller) how much the mortgage company is willing to give you as a loan.

In today’s market, you may want to structure your budget a little differently.

Lori Ozley, a manager with Birmingham HomeBuyers in Birmingham, AL, advises buyers to look at homes with list prices that fall below the top of their price range.

“These days, houses are selling for more than their list price and, as a buyer, you’re more than likely going to end up in a bidding war,” she explains. “If you look at properties that are under your budget, you’ll have room to submit a competitive offer that goes above the asking price.”

Let’s say your budget is $375,000 and you are touring homes that cost that much. Chances are, the homes that list for $375,000 will sell for a chunk more than that. Your mortgage pre-approval won’t cover the overage, and you will be an unqualified bidder. To avoid falling into this trap, shop below your means so you have room to go up.


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Oregon’s first-in-the-nation ban on cover letters from prospective homebuyers is too broad, per last week’s ruling.

A federal judge has overturned Oregon’s ban on prospective homebuyer “love letters”  — written materials attached to a homebuyer’s offer explaining why the seller should select them.

In 2021, Oregon became the first state in the union to ban the controversial letters by passing House Bill 2550The bill banned the use of love letters to “help a seller avoid selecting a buyer based on the buyer’s race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or familial status as prohibited by the Fair Housing Act.”

Rep. Mark Meek (D-Clackamas) told a state Senate committee in May that the practice may seem harmless, but too often results in sellers “making decisions based on the perception of who will ‘fit in’ to their neighborhood better.”

Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill into law into June.

But in November — a little than a month before the bill was to take effect — the state faced a legal challenge from the Pacific Legal Foundation, suing on behalf of the Bend-based Total Real Estate Group.

The firm claims 75% of its offers use some form of cover letter.

Federal Judge Overturns Oregon Ban on Homebuyer 'Love Letters'

“Ultimately we believe love letters give an advantage to buyers and can be done without violating fair housing laws,” Chris Ambrose, general counsel and principal broker at Total Real Estate Group, tells Oregon Business.  “Love letters include things like first time home buyers, whether or not it’s a corporate entity, how close someone needs to live to a hospital, a desire to live permanently in the area, all things that don’t dwell on fair housing issues.” 

In last week’s decision on Total Real Estate Group v. StrodeChief U.S. District Judge Marco Hernández wrote the goal of HB 2550 was “laudable” but the total ban on cover letters was too broad and “unquestionably interferes with speech.” He recommended other legislation which could achieve similar outcomes, such as requiring real estate agents to redact information that could result in discrimination, like family photos.

Ambrose said fair housing laws and the protection of protected classes are “always on our minds” when engaging in transactions, but he was unsure whether or not Total Real Estate would support a ban on family photos.

The Oregon Association of Realtors issued a press release after HB 2500 passed in June, noting that the National Association of Realtors began recommending against the use of love letters since late 2020.

“Oregon is a national leader in Fair Housing and Oregon REALTORS® is proud of our work to end housing discrimination,” Jenny Pakula, CEO of the Oregon Association of Realtors told Oregon Business in a statement Tuesday. Pakula added that her organization will “continue working to advance Fair Housing.”

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You know it’s coming, that sweltering beast we all call summer. The blistering weather brings more than just lethargy and unsightly sweat stains—it can also lead to sky-high electric bills as you crank up the AC. But if your energy expenses are making you feel faint, don’t fear: Just like prepping your home for winter, you can “summarize” your place to save money. Here’s how to stay cool and save money.

How to Lower Your Electric Bill This Summer: 10 Easy Tips

Tip No. 1: Avoid running appliances during the day

David Quant, vice president of field operations for American Home Shield, suggests using heat-emitting appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers at night, when the heat they generate won’t bother you so much.

“Also, check with your utility company to see if there are off-peak times when using appliances can earn you discounts on your electric bill,” he adds.

Tip No. 2: Get your ceiling fan moving in the right direction

Ceiling fans can help keep cool air circulating through your home. Just make sure they’re turning counterclockwise. Most ceiling fans allow you to do this with the flip of a switch; or else you might have to turn the blades.

Tip No. 3: Cool your lights

Green Cleaning Coach Leslie Reichert suggests swapping out your heat-emitting incandescent lightbulbs with cooler compact fluorescent lights.

Tip No. 4: Lower your water heater temperature to 120 degrees

A heater set to 140 degrees or higher can waste anywhere from $36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses and more than $400 in demand losses, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Quant agrees lowering that temperature is a smart and painless tweak to make. “We bet you won’t even notice the change in temperature.”

Tip No. 5: Clean up your AC

If you have central air, start by clearing out the dead leaves and trimming back encroaching shrubs around your condenser unit. Shut off the power, hose down the coils, vacuum out the vents, and make sure none of them are blocked. If you use window units, dust your unit inside and out. If it’s over a decade old, replace it with an Energy Star unit.

Tip No. 6: Replace your filters

While the standard recommendation is to replace AC filters every three months, Quant recommends switching them out every month.

“This will ensure that your air conditioner isn’t slowed down by inefficiency. Want to save even more? Invest in a reusable filter.”

Tip No. 7: Seal the cool air in

Whatever your type of air conditioner, make sure any vents or seals are tight. Then inspect the insulation in your basement and/or attic for gaps, especially around ductwork. Also check those windows and doors to see if you need to recaulk or seal anywhere to stem any leaks of cold air.

Tip No. 8: Cover your windows with solar shades or curtains

These help keep the sun from heating up your home. You can buy them at a hardware store. Or, make Tree Hugger’s heat-blocking curtains for $6 using emergency survival blankets. Keep these window treatments closed during the day as much as possible; at the very least, keep them closed during the hours when the sun shines through your windows.

Tip No. 9: Close vents and doors inside, too

Don’t waste energy cooling rooms that don’t get used, Quant says. Instead, close the vents there and keep the doors closed so you can direct more of that cool air in the rooms you do use.

Tip No. 10: Get a smart thermostat

Don’t have a programmable thermostat? Installing one not only lowers your energy bill, it can also reduce wear and tear on your AC system. Reichert recommends programming your thermostat to a slightly warmer temperature during hours when everyone is out of the home.

“Most people don’t program their thermostats because it can be complicated,” says Quant. “With this one simple step, you can save up to $180 each year on your heating bill.”


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What is a home warranty? In a nutshell, it’s a policy a homeowner pays for that covers the cost of repairing many home appliances if they break down.

After all, lots of things you buy come with a warranty in case they break down, from cars to smartphones. But what about homes? It turns out you can get a home warranty plan, too.

“Home warranties provide financial protection from a service provider for homeowners who might be faced with unexpected problems with their appliances,” explains Shawna Bell of Landmark Home Warranty.

Many people buy a one-year home warranty plan right when they close on a home, since such protections can provide some much-needed peace of mind that you won’t get hit with unexpected, out-of-pocket expenses soon after moving in. Imagine what a bummer it would be, after all, to wake up one morning to a broken boiler, knocking appliances, a leaking water heater, dripping plumbing, or malfunctioning fridge in your new home.

A home warranty plan can lessen those homeowner and appliance worries, which for many is worth every penny.

What Is a Home Warranty? Peace of Mind for Home Buyers

What does a traditional home warranty cover?

Don’t mistake a warranty for homeowners insurance, which covers your home’s structure and belongings in the event of a fire, storm, flood, or other accident. Home warranty companies, in comparison, will cover repairs and replacements on home  systems, including electrical systems, plumbing, water heater, washer, and kitchen appliances due to normal wear and tear—no calamities required.

Home warranty companies, including Choice Home Warranty and Home Service Club, generally set up a service contract to cover the following items (you can read a sample contract to find out):

  • Basic home systems such as plumbing and electrical
  • Heating and cooling systems, including the water heater
  • Appliances such as the washer and dryer
  • Kitchen appliances such as the oven, range, built-in microwave, and garbage disposal

How much do home warranty companies charge?

While homeowners are often required to get homeowners insurance along with their mortgage, home warranties are a fully optional purchase. Basic coverage starts at about $300 and goes up to $600 for more comprehensive plans, says Bell.

A homeowner can include add-ons to a service contract if needed (e.g., coverage for a swimming pool, various appliances, or an external well).

Although many home warranty companies offer plans to homeowners at any point, the best deals can often be snagged if purchased when you become a first-time home owner. You’re eligible for these plans whether you’re buying a condo or single-family home. And some warranty plans are the “build-your-own” type, which means you can customize a basic plan to cover particular systems (like plumbing) and appliances, or you might include optional add-ons like a tuneup for your HVAC.

“The home warranty offered at the time of the real estate transaction typically offers the most comprehensive coverage and price points, so that’s why it’s the ideal time to lock it in,” Bell says.

At the end of the first year, you usually have the option to renew your home warranty or bail with your service provider.

The many benefits of home warranties for home buyers and sellers

A home warranty benefits homeowners by providing reassurance that they can move in without worrying about shelling out even more for add-on or surprise repairs.

A home warranty can also benefit home sellers (if they don’t have it already), since it can cover these elements during the listing period; some home warranty companies even offer free seller’s coverage during this time with the hopes that the buyer will decide to continue the coverage. Often, home sellers will offer to pay for the first year of a buyer’s home warranty to entice buyers to bite.

But not everyone thinks home warranty companies are worth the cost. Typically a warranty isn’t necessary with new homes, since most of the appliances are already covered under manufacturers’ warranties. But in general, the older your home, the greater the odds that something’s bound to break, and the wiser it is to get a home warranty. Best of all? Not all home warranty companies differentiate between newer and older homes in terms of cost, making a warranty an especially cost-effective option if you are purchasing an older home.

Be sure to read the fine print on the contracts from a warranty company such as Home Service Club and Select Home Warranty. And remember, this type of warranty doesn’t usually cover pre-existing conditions and you may have to pay a deductible if something breaks.

What if something breaks under a home warranty

Home repairs are a big headache, so you’re probably wondering if that broken appliance, leaky plumbing, ductwork, or HVAC is a covered item under your home warranty. To find out whether you may have to pay a deductible, call your provider or customer service to connect with a qualified contractor in your area.

One thing to remember is that a home warranty does not mean you’re off scot-free for a certain “covered item.” Typically you’ll have to pay for a service call, service fee, or part of the bill up to your home warranty deductible first.

While not everyone will think a home warranty is worth it, it is a good idea for people who lean toward being better safe than sorry when buying a home. Consider the appliances you own and how reliable your plumbing is. Speak with your real estate agent for advice, and then check out the home warranty companies in your area (try Select Home Warranty and TotalProtect). This way, you can read a few sample contracts and decide for yourself.


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The electricity you use to power your home can cost a pretty penny. The average family spends $1,900 a year on utility bills, according to the government’s Energy Star program.

But did you know that performing simple home maintenance tasks can substantially bring down the cost of your energy bills—and increase your home’s efficiency? Saving green and going green has never been easier! We’ve rounded up the most effective cleaning hacks and straightforward repairs that you can handle on your own. You’ve got this!

1. Dust and clean appliances

Cleaning the debris out of the vents, grates, and coils of your appliances such as the dishwasher, exhaust vent, washing machine, and refrigerator will help their efficiency and performance. In fact, cleaning the coils of a refrigerator can reduce the amount of energy it uses by up to 30%, according to the Consumer Energy Center.

2. Give your dryer a break

Consider drying your laundry outside on a clothesline instead of using the dryer. You also might want to delay using your washer until the evening to avoid generating extra heat in your home during the day.

If you have to use the dryer, reduce the drying time.

“Try to back off five minutes and then another five minutes until you find that right setting for drying your wash,” says Mary Findley, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning.”

She also suggests using “half a cup of distilled white vinegar to your wash rinse water. … It does a great job of softening and pulling the soap out of the clothes, especially if you have skin conditions like eczema.”

7 Home Maintenance Tricks That Will Save Money and Energy

3. Circulate with ceiling fans

Dust off and direct those ceiling fans in a counterclockwise direction. The circulation of the airflow can save you up to $165 in energy costs over the fan’s lifetime, according to EnergyStar.gov. Energy Star ceiling fans, on average, circulate air with 20% more efficiency than noncertified models, so keep that in mind if you’re in the market to buy a new one.

If possible, use a ceiling fan instead of your air conditioning to save on your energy bill. The cost of using an air conditioner averages 36 cents per hour of operation, but a ceiling fan costs roughly a penny per hour of use, according to Angie’s List.

4. Check the air conditioner

Give your air conditioner a maintenance check, and have it serviced before the hot summer months hit. The Department of Energy says replacing a dirty air filter can reduce your air conditioner’s energy consumption by up to 15%. Check and clean your air filters every two months to ensure a clean system with proper airflow, especially during the summer months when your AC gets the most usage.

5. Seal air leaks

Some common places where air can escape from your home are the attic, windows, doors, floors, ducts, and fireplaces, and around plumbing, vents, and electrical outlets. Reducing air leaks can cut about 10% of an average household’s monthly energy bill, saving up to $200 a year in heating and cooling costs, according to Energy Star.

Seal any air leaks around your home with expandable foam. You can buy the foam from your local hardware store or online for a few bucks.

Proper ventilation and airflow also reduce the chance for mold growth “whether it’s from leaky ducts or condensation in your attic and crawl spaces,” says Enoch Lenge, energy efficiency specialist for Eversource Energy in Hartford, CT.

If you’re not familiar with checking air leaks, you can reach out to a professional energy assessor who will run a comprehensive energy audit of your home. The pro will be better able to locate and assess air leaks with tools such as a blower or infrared camera to measure home energy efficiency.

6. Install low-flow nozzles

Save water and lower your bill by installing a low-flow nozzle to your shower head and lawn hose. According to Energy Star, using a 2.5 gallon-per-minute, low-flow shower head during a 10-minute shower will save about 5 gallons of water. You can find various types of low-flow shower heads and nozzles at your local hardware store or online.

7. Adjust your water temperature

Turning down the high setting on your water heater will save you money and extend the life of your heater. Make sure your water heater is set to no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also talk to your hardware store to learn more about water heater adjustment and installation. Getting the help of a professional plumber will cost you anywhere from $45 to $150 per hour depending on the services needed.


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