How to save money on your housing costs

SAN RAFAEL, CA - MAY 17: Real estate agents arrive at a brokers tour showing a house for sale with a list price of $1.3 million May 17, 2007 in San Rafael, California. The San Francisco Bay Area has seen the median price for existing single family homes surge 6.6% to $720,000 while the national median home price dropped 0.9% to $215,300 in March. Marin County led the Bay Area surge with the median home price reaching a record high of $1,010,000, the first county in the state of California to surpass the million dollar mark. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Owning a home can sometimes be more cost effective than renting in the long term, but millions of Americans still struggle with their housing costs from mortgage payments to property taxes.

If you’re having a hard time keeping up, PEMCO Insurance has some tips to squeeze out some savings.

  • Look into refinancing.

Refinancing is the process of trading in one home loan for a new one.

You could be eligible for a rate that’s considerably lower than your current one. For example, if your credit score has improved since you first signed your mortgage, you could get a better rate that lowers your monthly payments.

“Did you know that you can talk to your county tax assessor`s office and ask them to recalculate your taxes,” said Derek Wing, the Communications Manager at PEMCO Insurance. “Now we recommend if you do that make sure you have a pretty strong case because it does cost money and it does take time to do that.”

  • You can also try appealing your property taxes.

Property taxes are based on an annual assessment which determines how much your house is worth.

According to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, up to 60 percent of properties in the U.S. are over-assessed.

Do some research and check around your neighborhood to see what similar homes in your area sold for recently to see if your property is being assessed higher and appeal if that's the case.

Keep in mind, filing an appeal costs money and can take up a lot of time.

  • Stay on top of your homeowner's insurance

It's estimated about 40 percent of homeowners don't know how much they're paying for insurance, especially because that number is rolled into your monthly mortgage payment.

It pays to know, so you can shop around for a better policy or know if your insurance company added any fees over the years.

Also, be sure to keep your insurance company up to date on changes or improvements you make to your home that could lower your bill like installing certain security devices like a video doorbell.

  • Consider renting out a spare room through a service like Airbnb.

"It`s a great way to make a little bit of money if you are willing to potentially have someone living in your home with you and in some cases it can mean the difference between staying in your home and having to sell your home," said Wing.

Just remember to check with your homeowners association or city to see if there are any short-term rental restrictions.

Also, be sure to talk with your insurance company to make sure you're covered.