Already the weather forecasters are predicting another harsh winter, and many homeowners are wondering, “Will my house be able to weather another New England winter?”

To answer that question, you need to take a thorough look at the type of improvements that will make a difference to you and your family — then analyze the options. Start the process with a list of ways to begin winterizing with smaller tasks first; clear your gutters, block those leaks, clean the chimney, wrap the hot water heater, all of these things will help you get started. But when all is said and done, maybe you are realizing that you need to consider some major home improvements to really be secure this winter.

Prioritizing which projects will help keep you safe and warm and eventually even reward you with some payback on your investment is a great place to start. Is it a new roof or replacing the 15 year old furnace? Maybe you are thinking of insulation and new windows which can be an excellent choice when winterizing your home and providing you with some financial return when you are ready to sell.

Is the timing right? Is now the best time to make an investment in your home? In most cases, fixing up typically costs less than trading up. Right now funding is less expensive — home loans are still at historic lows. Contractors are eager for work so negotiating a fair price may be an option. In some cases, building materials have come down in price and there are many new products that will improve and cut energy costs within your home saving you money every month.

Other considerations that may help you make the decision depend on where you see yourself in the next five years; are you happy with the things you can’t change — the neighborhood; the school district; the proximity to things you like to do? If so, making an investment now can benefit you for years to come and let you begin enjoying the benefits today.

Invariably the thoughts that follow lead to affordability. Depending on your decision to go big or to limit your projects to less costly items; your financial options may be plentiful. If you have decided on a larger project and you have equity in your home, then a home equity loan or line or credit may be the best solution. For others, refinancing to a lower rate mortgage can help reduce your monthly payments putting more cash in your pocket each month. Or, if you decide now is not the time to take on a significant project but still need to protect your home with a few less costly items; a personal loan may a better alternative. The important point is that there are a myriad of options to consider; therefore, selecting the right financial institution is equally as important as selecting which improvements to make.

Taking the time to meet with an expert in the mortgage industry and understanding what solutions are available, will inevitably help you make the best choice for you and your family. Be certain to select a strong, safe and secure financial institution — one that you can trust — one with no surprises after you have completed your application.

If you are a homeowner, your house is one of the largest purchases and wisest investments that you will ever make. Taking the time to maintain and improve your home will not only retain it’s value but in most cases, increase it.

Even though you may be focused on making home improvements, it is important to remember that home equity loans can also be used for so much more. Perhaps your child’s second semester college tuition payment will be due after the holidays? Whatever the reason, a home equity loan can assist you in having the liquidity you need to get these jobs done.

This article was provided by Mutual Security Credit Union. For more information, visit www.mscu.net to complete a Home Solutions Form, or contact its mortgage/loan department by calling 1-800-761-2400, option three. Mutual Security is an Equal Housing Lender and is insured by the NCUA.