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COVID-19 South Florida Resources

Quick Facts

If you live in Broward County, you can call this hotline to have your questions answered: 954-357-9500.

If you live in Palm Beach County, you can call this information line with your questions: 561-712-6400.

The Sun Sentinel posted drive-through testing sites in South Florida here.

Please be aware of financial scams. You can learn more and report them here.

Tele-Health

Medicare: Medicare has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services to respond to the current Public Health Emergency. Learn more here.

Florida Blue: Florida Blue’s network of primary care doctors and specialists will be able to treat patients virtually at their normal office visit rates. Visit the Florida Blue website, the Florida Blue app, the Teladoc app, or by calling Teladoc directly at 800-835-2362.

Baptist Health: Baptist Health is offering telehealth services through its Care on Demand platform. If you or someone you know has cold or flu-like symptoms, visit here using code CARE19.

Cleveland Clinic: Cleveland Clinic Florida is encouraging the use of its Express Care Online Virtual Care services as much as possible during the outbreak. Click here for more information.

Cigna: Cigna is offering COVID-19 specific resources for enrollees. Click here for more.

Humana: Humana has agreed to waive telemedicine costs for all urgent care needs for the next 90 days. This will apply to Humana’s Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and commercial employer-sponsored plans and is limited to in-network providers delivering synchronous virtual care. More information here.

COVID-19 Public Website and Call Center

Please visit the Florida Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage for information and guidance regarding COVID-19 in Florida.

For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the DOH’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-(866) 779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours a day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.

County Health Departments

If you’re concerned that you may have contracted the coronavirus, please contact your healthcare professional or county health department:

Broward County: 954-467-4700
Palm Beach County: 561-840-4500 
Miami-Dade County
: 305-324-2400

Additional Resources 

Bank Regulators have also instructed banks and servicers to be proactive in extending help to homeowners:

Banks have posted their own policies and ways for consumers to contact them for assistance:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

Protect Your Credit: The CFPB is urging consumers to protect their credit(link is external) during this pandemic.
Protect Yourself Financially: The CFPB has a number of resources(link is external) focused on financial protection, both short and long term, such as paying bills, income loss, and scam targeting.  Resources include contacts for housing and credit counselors, debt collectors, and state unemployment services.

Department of Labor (DOL)

DOL has provided resources for employers and workers(link is external) in responding to COVID-19 and including the impact on wages and hours worked and protected leave (these resources are primarily for businesses and employers).

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Americans can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual. EPA has provided important information about COVID-19(link is external) as it relates to drinking water and wastewater to provide clarity to the public. The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking-water supplies. Based on current evidence, the risk to water supplies is low.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)

Immediate Foreclosure and Evictions Relief for Homeowners for the Next 60 Days

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has authorized the FHA to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium(link is external) for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for the next 60 days. Read the full press release(link is external).

FHA Q&A Form

FHA continues to run single family business operations. FHA has created a Q&A form available on their website to keep interested parties updated on their procedures during the COVID-19 crisis. Please refer to https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/sfh(link is external)  for the most current information.

Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)

FHFA has instructed Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and their servicers to be proactive in providing assistance to homeowners including forbearance. In addition, FHFA imposed a moratorium on eviction and foreclosures on mortgages backed by the GSEs:

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have issued similar guidance:

  • Homeowners who are adversely impacted by this national emergency may request mortgage assistance by contacting their mortgage servicer
  • Foreclosure sales and evictions of borrowers are suspended for 60 days
  • Homeowners impacted by this national emergency are eligible for a forbearance plan to reduce or suspend their mortgage payments for up to 12 months
  • Credit bureau reporting of past due payments of borrowers in a forbearance plan as a result of hardships attributable to this national emergency is suspended
  • Homeowners in a forbearance plan will not incur late fees
  • After forbearance, a servicer must work with the borrower on a permanent plan to help maintain or reduce monthly payment amounts as necessary, including a loan modification

Fannie and Freddie have also created pages with additional information:

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The IRS has also created a Coronavirus Tax Relief section(link is external) on their website with updated information for taxpayers and businesses (these resources are for businesses and not specifically for consumers).

Virtual Home Buying Made Easy!

Virtual Homebuying

Virtual Homebuying

Gov. Ron DeSantis enacted stay-at-home orders for Florida effective April 3, but the order considers real estate an “essential service,” so Realtors may continue to operate under limits set by CDC guidelines.
Under the issued Homeland Security guidance, “residential and commercial real services” are included on a 15-page list of essential services. These cover settlement services and government offices that conduct title searches, notaries, and mortgage and recording services, as well as construction. The advisory letter was created by the Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.
Optima Properties is able to continue to service your needs as a Buyer.
Showings:
  • In-person showings are considered a health risk. We can
Zoom, Facetime, or Skype showings
  • Online Video Tours are available on active listings currently and more are being developed every day.
Contracts:
  • Digital Signing of all Contract Documents
  • Zoom, Facetime or Skype Contract Review
Deposits:
  • Wired Earnest Money Deposits
  • Following Wire Fraud Protection ( Voice to Voice Confirmation)
Property Inspections:
  • Electronic Delivery of Inspection Reports
  • Zoom, Facetime or Skype Inspection Review
Mobile Notary:
  • Mobile Notary and Virtual Closings Now Available
House Key Delivery:
  • Non Contract Key Delivery Service Post Closing
Please contact me for all your Real Estate Related Needs.
Stay Home and Stay Safe!

How To Set Up A Home Office

Home Office

Home Office

I’ve spent more than three decades with a home office. When you work at home, even part time, you discover that a makeshift desk area on a kitchen counter or the dining table isn’t the best setup. Having a dedicated home office, even if it’s compact, makes a big difference in comfort and productivity. Having a dedicated space also serves as an important signal to those who live with you that you’re ‘at work’. Create boundaries within your home that your family members understand.
Stake Out Your Spot 
You need to pick a spot in your home with the fewest distractions, and where all the essentials (like electrical outlets and your modem) are close by. Modern WiFi is a wonderful thing but understand it can still be inconsistent in even the most tech-friendly neighborhoods. I anticipate that our connectivity speed will be further degraded by all the streaming and game-playing that is happening now, in addition to everyone trying to work from home as well……be patient and see if you can upgrade to a higher speed with your home Internet provider.
Also, try to find a spot near a window with some natural light so you don’t feel completely tucked away from the world. Think about storage and try to keep work-only items grouped together. Think outside the file box to find an organizational system that works for you; see what you can use around your home. It’s more important to give everything that has been sitting out in piles a permanent home than it is to buy new containers. Here are a few ideas for organizing your home office:
·     A grid of clipboards on the wall can make for a handy place to keep papers organized.
·     Wall-mounted cups keep frequently used supplies neat and within reach.
·     Cups and bowls borrowed from the kitchen make great desktop and drawer organizers.
·     Labeled, open-top baskets on shelves are great for people who like piles
·     Traditional files are still useful for important documents.
Set Ground Rules with the People in Your Space
Set ground rules with other people in your home or who share your space for when you work. I say “morning,” but not everyone who works from home follows a nine-to-five schedule. Yours might be a “getting started” routine at another time of day. I want my elderly parents to be able to call me anytime, but have reminded them that “after 6” is the best time to get my undivided attention. I ask other family members and friends to respect my work hours and stick with the less obtrusive email or text for non-emergencies.
Act as if you are “going to work”. Whatever your routine was when you were going to the office, try and maintain it now that you are working from home. Exercise, shower, get dressed (not pajamas), and then “go to work”. I try and avoid eating at my desk and taking a coffee break, lunch break, etc.  Use these times to reconnect with other household members and address their needs and concerns.
Think About Your Back, Feet and Shoulders 
Pick a back-friendly, ergonomic chair if at all possible and always make time for exercise (don’t forget to stretch!). I prefer to stand or walk around while I am on the phone but now that my husband is working from home as well, we find that this is distracting to one another. Go outside and get some fresh air while on that call.
Although you can easily work on a laptop from anywhere, an entire day, week, or even a month spent looking down at a screen is not going to do your neck muscles any favors. If you have the space and the budget, think about upgrading to a decent-sized computer monitor to plug your laptop into. I use two monitors so that I can multitask between emails, software applications required for my work, calendars, and more.
Most desks, chairs and monitors and still designed for the average sized man. I have made adjustments by ensuring that my monitors are at eye level. You can use boxes, books, magazines or anything you have around the house to easily accomplish this…no need to be purchasing special desks, risers, etc. If your chair is not adjustable, use pillows, etc. to ensure that you are sitting at the right height to keep your back straight. I have purchased an ergonomic cushion that provides comfort and support for my spine as well as adds two includes to my seat height.
Make Friends with Your Postal Worker or Delivery Person 
Thank goodness for USPS, UPS and FedEx!!! These people get bonuses at Christmas for their daily deliveries to my door. I have always been an online shopper for convenience and time-saving and now that I am getting deliveries for food, office supplies and more the visits to my front door have increased ( still can’t find toilet paper however).
Take the time to let your local postal worker or delivery person in your neighborhood know you’re now working from home if your work involves a lot of envelopes and packages. I have made a point in the past to have a few daily words with the drivers that frequent my home. It helps when my local delivery person knows I’m working at home and sending and receiving envelopes and packages on a regular basis.  In today’s world something as simple as leaving a note on your door explaining your situation will work and be appreciated.  My UPS driver told me a couple of days ago that I can leave the package outside my front door with a note to pick it up or if I see him in the neighborhood to just hand him the box…..no need to go out to the UPS store!!!
Pump the Brakes with Social Media
Social media can be absolute poison if you don’t limit yourself. It’s definitely good to stay on top of the news during these uneasy times, but if you allow yourself to be sucked into endless posts, you might look up at the clock and discover you lost three or four hours of your day.
I enjoy social media and participate for both personal and work reasons, but I have learned to use it wisely.  I check it before I head to my office with my morning coffee and then again at the end of the day. That doesn’t mean you can’t laugh at someone’s funny online story, or post about your favorite sports team or TV show. Just try to limit the damage during work hours.
Freshen up.
Give yourself a big pat on the back, because the hardest work is now behind you! Today is all about making your home workspace fresh and clean, so it will be a healthier, more pleasant place to spend time in.
·     Vacuum your home office from top to bottom. Use an attachment to clean window treatments, high corners and fabric lamp shades.
·     Wipe down shelves and surfaces with a damp microfiber cloth.
·     Use monitor wipes to clean your screens.
·     Use a keyboard cleaner to blow dust from between the keys or gently clean them with cotton swabs.
·     Bring in some fresh plants to help clean the air.
Straighten up your home office before you are done working each day. Bring the coffee cups back to the kitchen and completely clear your desktop.
We are all anxious and a routine will help keep our life as “normal” as possible in these difficult times. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are not as productive as when in the office. Working from home is a mindset and a discipline and cannot replace a normal work environment. It takes time, discipline and commitment to find the right balance for your personal and family needs.

Things to Improve Your Time Stuck at Home!

I have put together a few resources to “get us out in the world again” albeit visually,broaden our perspectives, hone our skills and otherwise improve our mental and physical health.
Art and Theater:
There are so many resources available on our devises and TVs for streaming and watching including UTube, PBS, and more. Here are some opportunities to bring art back into your life.
Education:
Thought of auditing a class at a local university? These Ivy Leagues have 450 Classes you can take for free.
Improved Business Skills:
Remember thinking, “I wish I had the time to?” Invest, at no charge, in improving your business skills, planning, and preparing for the future.
Get Domestic:
Stuck in the house? Make the most of it.
For Your Kids:
There is no lack on resources available online to assist families with continuing their children’s education and keeping them creatively occupied while being isolated and out of school. The following is just a few resources of the thousands that can be explored.
For Your Physical and Mental Health:
Let’s get in shape physically and mentally!
For Your Pets:
Keep yourself and your pet occupied with a little behavior training

How to Keep Your Home Virus-Free

Coronavirus Safety

Coronavirus Safety

For many people, staying safe from the new coronavirus means staying home. But infectious germs can live in your house, too.

Although the CDC has not found evidence of surface-to-person transmission to date (which is good news!), the virus may live on surfaces for hours to days, making regular cleaning and disinfecting a wise practice during this time.

To minimize the risk of getting sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend taking action to disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as countertops, doorknobs, cellphones and toilet flush handles, since some pathogens can live on surfaces for several hours.

Here are some other tips for staying safe at home:

The CDC recommends washing hands vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. As a backup, use hand sanitizers that are at least 60% alcohol.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a list of approved disinfectants to kill coronavirus. For surface cleaning, look for products such as wipes, sprays and concentrates that say “disinfectant” on the label and include an EPA registration number. These are required to meet government specifications for safety and effectiveness.  For a homemade disinfectant, the CDC recommends mixing a quarter-cup of household chlorine bleach with one gallon of cool water.

After disinfecting food-prep surfaces such as cutting boards and countertops, rinse them with water before use.

For laundry, use detergent and bleach (for white loads) or peroxide or color-safe bleach (for colors) to kill germs. (Be sure to read clothing labels to avoid damaging garments.) To boost the effect, some washing machines have sanitize or steam settings that kill germs. Drying laundry on the dryer’s hot cycle for 45 minutes also is effective.

If possible, operate dishwashers on the sanitizing cycle. Machines certified by NSF International, formerly known as the National Sanitation Foundation, must reach a final rinse temperature of 150 degrees and achieve a minimum 99.999% reduction of bacteria when operated on that cycle.

Household air purifiers and filters that advertise the ability to kill or capture viruses can be useful but shouldn’t be a substitute for cleaning. Some purifiers use ultraviolet light, which has been shown to have germicidal effects, but their overall effectiveness can vary depending on their design, according to a 2018 technical summary of residential air cleaners by the EPA. While some filters advertise the ability to capture things like viruses, smoke and common allergens, they don’t necessarily kill microorganisms

Upgrade Hand-Washing Stations

Stock up every sink in the house to make hand-washing easier and more sanitary with:

  • A bottle of liquid hand soap (anti-bacterial soap not needed)
  • Stacks of fresh hand towels and a hamper for dirty towels, or a roll of paper towels and a wastebasket
  • A container of sanitizing wipes for daily cleaning of faucets and counters

Use the Right Products — and Follow Instructions

When it comes to cleaning, regular soap and water is all you need. But for the second step of disinfecting, it’s important to be sure you’re using the right product. Already have rubbing alcohol or bleach in your cupboards? Either one will fight the COVID-19 virus. (A word of caution on using bleach to clean surfaces: It can discolor laminate and may damage the seal on granite and other stone countertops over time.)

  • If surfaces are dirty, remember to clean with soap and water first.
  • To prepare a bleach solution, mix 5 tablespoons (⅓ cup) bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleaners.
  • If using rubbing alcohol,choose an alcohol solution containing at least 70% alcohol.
  • Check expiration dates. Do not use expired products, as they may not be effective against the COVID-19 virus.
  • Follow label instructions. Clorox has issued specific recommendations for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, including leaving bleach solution on surfaces for five minutes.

Focus on High-Touch Surfaces

Cleaning and sanitizing the entire house would be overwhelming — and probably excessive. Instead, focus on the surfaces that get lots of contact throughout the day. These areas include doorknobs, light switches, tables, remote controls, handles, desks, toilets and sinks. And if you have kids or housemates who play video games, include those video game controllers.

Start a Just-Got-Home Routine

Put your belongings down in one spot, paying attention to what you carried with you throughout the day — likely suspects include your phone, key ring and sunglasses. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, then wipe personal items with an EPA-registered disinfecting wipe and leave to dry. When cleaning electronics, keep liquids away from openings, never submerge devices, and be especially gentle with touchscreens.

Help Kids Follow the Recommendations

If you have kids at home — especially if they’re not so keen on frequent hand-washing — consider one or more of these to make the ritual more fun:

  • Let your child pick out a fragrant hand soap or put hand soap in a colorful container.
  • Tape the verse of a silly song to the mirror so they can sing for the recommended 20 seconds.
  • For younger children, cue up a song to sing along to on your phone.
  • Be sure a sturdy stool is positioned by every sink in the house to make the soap and water accessible.

Do the Laundry, Wash Your Hands

If you have a cloth laundry hamper liner, toss it in the wash when you do the laundry. Wash laundry on the warmest setting your clothes and linens can handle, and avoid shaking dirty laundry, which can spread virus through the air. And when you’re done handling dirty clothes and towels, be sure to wash your hands.

 

Tips for Buying a Fixer-Upper

Fixer-uppers have long had their fans. Some investors love the idea of making major repairs that increase a home’s value and then reselling the property for profit. Others want a low-priced starter home and don’t mind making gradual improvements over time.
Buyers must do their due diligence so that they understand their total investment in the property and the cash requirements; since most repairs cannot be financed. An Exclusive Buyer Agent’s goal is to help buyers avoid making expensive mistakes.
While repair issues, un-permitted work, or liens might not derail a sale on its own, they warrant a call to an expert who can assess the problem, offer solutions or give repair estimates.
Warning Signs Before Purchasing a Fixer-Upper:
  1. Consider the amount of time and the amount of cash you have to address obvious deficiencies with the property.
  2. Does the property smell damp? From mold to warping, moisture can cause considerable damage to homes, even making them uninhabitable. The first clue is that moisture smells. Besides damage to the house, moisture can adversely affect a homeowner or tenant’s health.
  3. Stuck windows and doors. These can also be a sign of moisture or that a house is settling due to age or structural shifting. Both are problematic.
  4. Sloping or sagging floors. Both indicate structural problems beyond just aging. Buyers should find out if framing, joists or sub-flooring need replacement.
  5. Foundation problems. One small crack can be just the beginning of many cracks and can signal that a house could eventually crumble.
  6. Inward grading, poor drainage and short downspouts. Improperly installed or clogged gutters and downspouts all may cause water to enter a house.
  7. Bad roof. An old roof may leak but it’s not always the shingles or tiles that are the culprit. Sometimes, it’s what’s underneath – sheathing, trusses, beams and rafters. The sellers should disclose when the roof was installed.
  8. Outdated wiring and fuses. Because homeowners rely on so much technology today, outdated wiring may, in worst cases, start a fire. Often, dated electric boxes make the home un-insurable.
  9. Outdated plumbing. Toilets that don’t flush properly, sinks and showers that lack adequate pressure or have leaks, and water heaters that don’t provide enough hot water signal a need for attention. Not to mention the condition of the pipes from the home to the street.
  10. Termite damage and wood rot. Buyers may spot blisters in wood flooring, hollow sections of wood, and even the bugs themselves. An exterminator can determine the extent of the damage and estimate repair costs.
  11. High energy bills. This should alert buyers to the cost of cooling the home. Due diligence can tell them whether their Ac handlers, insulation, or doors and windows are inefficient and need to be sealed, repaired or replaced.
  12. Historic home designation and zoning rules. Municipal guidelines may restrict buyers from making certain improvements to their home and property.

Top 10 Reasons to Use an Exclusive Buyers Agent

Exclusive Buyer Agent
Exclusive Buyer Agent

Exclusive Buyer Agent

Why Use an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent When Purchasing a House?
Buying a house is one of the most significant undertakings you’ll make in your entire life. It’s not simply about finding the right home for you and your family; more than anything, buying a house is about making the right financial investment on a long-term basis.
Before you even put down your earnest money deposit, an exceptional buyer’s agent will have been doing several things for you, including searching for the right property and starting the due diligence process when you do. There are a plethora of reasons you should turn to a buyer’s agent when you start the house-buying process. The most important of which is that an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent owes you a fiduciary and never lists properties. There is no conflict of interest.
Below are some of the most essential reasons to hire a buyer’s agent when purchasing your next house:
1. It’s Free
One of the first things you need to know about hiring a buyer’s agent is that it’s not going to cost you anything. That’s right; 99 percent of the time it won’t cost you a dime!
A buyer’s agent will be paid by the home seller once the home is sold. Not only is it free, but a buyer’s rep will be saving you both time and money. As always, it’s essential to have a good working relationship with an agent. In other words, make sure you find one that you feel comfortable working with.
2. Going to the Listing Agent Isn’t Smart
For some reason, lots of buyers think they’ll get a better deal if they go to the seller’s agent. This is one of the biggest myths in real estate and could cost you considerable money in the long run. Quite often, buyers think if they go to the seller’s agent, they’ll give them back some of the commission. While this may be true, the agent works in the best interests of the seller, or in the case of Florida where they are transactional agents…themselves! Not you!
Saving a couple thousand dollars in commission but overpaying on a home by $10,000 works out to a net loss of $8,000! In addition, the agent is going to be doing everything in their power to close the sale, not what’s best for you. Avoiding dual agency is something every smart buyer does. Always have your own designated buyer’s agent.
3. Professional Experience
A buyer’s agent should have the right kind of professional experience in finding the right home for you. Finding the right property is a time-consuming process, and it’s easy to find yourself spending hours viewing properties that are not right for you.  It’s crucial to have a bit of help, especially if you’re a first time home buyer or a very busy person. Having an agent screening the properties for you can save you lots of time. Not only that, but they’ll also view properties to make sure they’re in good order.
A buyer’s agent who has been in the business for a long time will pick up on common problems, and can advise you before you even get in the car about the neighborhood, what the location issues may be with the home and the general condition of the property.
4. How Well Do You Know the Area?
Having a buyer’s agent on board when you move to a new town or part of the country is especially vital. After all, you may not know the area that well. Having someone with local knowledge means that you’re much more likely to end up investing in a property in the “right” part of town. An exceptional agent that services primarily buyers will know their way around the local area well. They’ll know the popular neighborhoods that are appealing to most buyers and those that aren’t.
Also, an agent will make sure the amenities that are important to you are close by. Schools and leisure facilities are often on the top of most homebuyers’ agenda.
5. Valuation and Finance
Valuing a property is not easy when you don’t have a lot of experience. When you’re buying your first or second home, you’ll need all of the help that you can get. Nothing beats turning to a professional to help you purchase a property at fair market value, or less, if you’re lucky. One of the best skills of a buyer’s agent is to be able to evaluate the right purchase price for the home.
Financing can be a nightmare, as well. Sure, you may have your mortgage pre-approval, but when it comes to buying a home and financing it, there’s often a mountain of paperwork to work through. A buyer’s agent will help you to do so, and make sure the process stays on track. They explain fundamental real estate terms you might not be familiar with. For example, a significant percentage of buyers don’t know the difference between earnest money and a down payment. Understanding the function of each of these things is crucial for a buyer to understand. There are a myriad of others, such as insurance, HOA approvals, inspections, and more.
6. How Much Time Do You Have for Your Showings?
Not having a buyer’s agent can mean you end up at a lot of showings or viewings that aren’t right for you. When you contract in a buyer’s agent at the start of the process, they’ll make sure that they schedule everything for you. It’s like having your own personal assistant. Tell them when you’re free, and they’ll do most of the work for you.A listing agent will take you to their listings first, regardless of whether or not they are suited for you…..they need to make sure their Sellers feel like their homes are getting shown.
7. The Value of Contracts
Never underestimate the value of contracts when it comes to buying a home. Arrangements are not only about money; timelines are established in the purchase contract, as well. A buyer’s agent will make sure you follow through with any necessary responses required under the terms of the contract. This is critical because not doing so could put your escrow funds at risk of loss.
An excellent agent will keep you informed and on track so that you don’t lose any of your escrow funds. There’s also an abundance of smaller details you need to deal with before you sign on the dotted line. Many of them form part of modern-day contract law. Changing regulations are something else a buyer’s agent will help you with.
8. Professional Contacts
Once you’ve bought your first home, you’ll appreciate how many people form part of the buying process. It’s not just you and your bank manager. You’ll also need the help of other professionals, such as a home inspector. What if the home inspector picks up a problem during the inspection, and you need an estimate for work? A buyer’s agent is likely to have the right contacts at their fingertips, and will also be familiar with the process.
9. A Buyer’s Agent: Your Negotiator
Many of us don’t like to negotiate, and we’re not always that good at it. You may like the seller and don’t want to upset them. After all, we’re only human. It’s hard to say “no,” or ask someone you like to drop the price or negotiate a needed repair.
Let’s go back to that home inspection that picked up a slight problem. Ask yourself if you have the skill, and confidence, to renegotiate the price of the property. It takes both to close a deal. Once again, this is something that your buyer’s agent can do for you.
10. Let’s Stay on Schedule
Staying on schedule is an important part of the process of buying a home. You may need to get out of your old house on a specific date, or you may have a starting date for a new job. Trying to pack up your old home and keeping the ball rolling is not easy.
Many buyers don’t realize that a buyer’s agent will keep things going while you focus on moving out of your property or drive across the country to take up that promotion you’re getting.
An exclusive buyer agent will have your back at all times. That is perhaps the best way to look at the relationship. They’re your fiduciary in the strongest sense of the word. Once it’s all over, you’ll be glad that you decided to ask for the help of a buyer’s agent instead of going through the buying process on your own!

What Is Not Covered Under Standard Homeowners Insurance?

Homeowners Insurance Coverage
Until it happens, most homeowners think of disasters as something that won’t happen to them. Disasters can be as minor as a tree branch falling and breaking a few windows, or as concentrated as a pinhole roof leak slowly dripping water into a residence—causing mold or other ripple effects. Sadly, too many people who experience disaster on a large or small scale may find the trauma continues when it’s time to file an insurance claim.
You need to be knowledgeable about what your Homeowner’s Insurance does and does not cover. These common held assumptions about insurance are items that are NOT covered and may require additional insurance or riders.
Wear and Tear Is Covered-Myth
Fact: Coverage typically includes damage from fire, weather and theft, not damage due to general wear and tear or neglect. As a policyholder it’s up to you to maintain your home, including making routine repairs and protecting your home from pests. If you neglect to take care of your property ( a leaky roof) you may not be covered.
You’re Insured in Case of Flood Damage, Earthquakes, Tornadoes and Hurricanes-Myth
Fact: Although some weather-related damage is generally covered, such as from hail, other storm related damage from wind or water may not be.
Floods require specific flood insurance from the Federal Government. Earthquakes might be covered, but sometimes they require additional insurance. Hurricane and tornado damage requires a separate windstorm policy. Sinkholes, mudslides and other earth movement (except in CA) requires a separate endorsement.
All Personal Belongings Are Fully Covered-Myth
Fact: Homeowners insurance typically covers furniture, clothing and other personal items, but more valuable items like jewelry and artwork may require an add-on policy. Homeowners should routinely inventory belongings to determine if policy limits meet their coverage needs.
You Have Protection Against Any Injuries That Happen at Home
-Myth
Fact: Your policy’s liability coverage protects you if a guest is hurt in your home, but if a family member is injured at home, it’s normally covered by health insurance.
Home Businesses Are Part of the Package
-Myth
Fact: A home business requires business insurance to cover property damage and liability; homeowners should consult with their insurance carrier or agent to be sure they’re fully covered from disasters large or small
You Can Rebuild For The Amount Of The Insurance Coverage-Myth
Fact: Unless you insured for “replacement value” you may be under insured to rebuild your home. “Ordinance of Law” exclusions may not cover to the changes to building codes and the additional costs of bringing the property up to code if damaged.
Overflows of back-ups from your sump pump, sewer or drain are covered-Myth
Fact: A standard policy does not include coverage for these issues and require a separate endorsement.
It may not seem like particularly interesting reading material, but it’s better to take the time to thoroughly understand what your insurance policy covers than to be stuck in a situation where you’re not sure when you really need it.

FIRPTA Withholding – Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act

Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act

FIRPTA (Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act) Withholding is the Withholding of Tax on Dispositions of United States Real Property Interests

The disposition of a U.S. real property interest by a foreign person (the transferor) is subject to the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act of 1980 (FIRPTA) income tax withholding.

FIRPTA authorized the United States to tax foreign persons on dispositions of U.S. real property interests.

Persons purchasing U.S. real property interests (“transferee”) from foreign persons, certain purchasers’ agents, and settlement officers are required to withhold 15% of the amount realized.

Withholding is intended to ensure U.S. taxation of gains realized on disposition of such interests. The transferee/buyer is the withholding agent. If you are the transferee/buyer you must find out if the transferor is a foreign person. If the transferor is a foreign person and you fail to withhold, you may be held liable for the tax.

One of the most common exceptions to FIRPTA withholding is that the transferee (purchaser/buyer) is not required to withhold tax in a situation in which the purchaser/buyer purchases real estate for use as his home and the purchase price is not more than $300,000.  However, buyers should be aware that while they may meet the withholding exemption they are still responsible for the seller’s tax liability, interest and penalties should the seller not file a US income tax return to report the sale and pay any relevant taxes.

Note to Non-Resident Buyers – If you purchase property from a non-resident seller and an exception to FIRPTA withholding does not apply then you must ensure that FIRPTA is satisfied as part of the closing.  Check your settlement statement prior to closing where you should see 15% of the sales price withheld on the seller’s side of the settlement statement.  Request a copy of the withholding certificate from the closing agent and, if withholding was calculated, request a copy of forms 8288, 8288-A and front and back of cancelled check.  Retain these documents in a safe place along with your settlement statement and other closing documents.

Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) Withholding

U.S. Tax law requires that a non-resident alien who sells an interest in U.S. real property is subject to withholding, for tax purposes, of 15% of the gross sales price (i.e. $45,000 on a property with a sales price of $300,000). The withheld amount is required to be forwarded to the IRS, by the Closing Agent, within 20 days of the date of closing. These funds are held until the IRS is satisfied that all taxes due by the non-resident are paid. In order to apply for a refund you can either:-

File U.S. tax returns for each year that rental income was received, reporting all income and expenses; file a final U.S. tax return in the year following the year of sale, to report the sale and recover the balance of cleared funds. This process can take up to eighteen months depending on when, during the tax year, the property is sold.

File prior year tax returns (where required) plus an application for early release of cleared withholding on or before the date of closing. By making this submission, the 10% withholding remains with the Closing Agent whilst the IRS processes the Withholding Application and issues a Withholding Certificate for the cleared funds – usually around 90 days.

Please note that applying for and receiving a Withholding Certificate does not eliminate your requirement to file a final U.S. income tax return to report the sale transaction. In fact, when your final tax return is filed you may receive a further tax refund depending on the number of owners and length of time that the property was held.

In order to ensure a timely release of your funds it is extremely important that the following is obtained PRIOR to closing:-

Buyer’s names, address and SSNs – if U.S. Citizens

Buyer’s names, address and ITINs – if non residents

Or, if the buyers are non residents and do not have ITINs, the buyer’s completed Form W-7 (one per buyer) and authenticated copy of the picture page of their passport(s)

Without this information the Application for a Withholding Certificate and early refund will be rejected. We suggest that you request your Realtor prepare your sales contract contingent upon the buyers providing the above information.

Who’s responsible for FIRPTA withholding on the sale of U.S. property?

Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) was established in 1980 to ensure the withholding of estimated amount of taxes which may be due on the gain from the disposition or transfer of a U.S. real property interest from a foreign person.

If you purchase U.S. real property from a foreign individual or corporation then you are required to make sure that the seller pays any taxes due on the property.  The buyer must execute or have executed the correct forms including the sellers name, address and social security number or individual taxpayer identification number.  15% of the gross sales price must be withheld and submitted to IRS or held in escrow whilst an application for reduced FIRPTA withholding is timely filed and processed.

If the buyer does not take care of the withholding and the seller is a foreign entity who leaves without paying their tax then 15% will be taken from the buyer.

Most buyers are unaware that it is their responsibility to determine if the transferor/seller is a foreign person and subject to FIRPTA withholding.  In reality, the settlement agent (Title Company or Attorney) may be instructed to deduct the 15% and submit to IRS or hold in escrow whilst an application for reduced FIRPTA withholding is submitted to IRS for processing.

Types of Movers for Home Buyers

relocation

 

relocation

Moving to a new house, city or state is one of the most stressful things a person can go through. Even when everything goes smoothly, you’ll likely be exhausted when all is said and done. Whether it’s down the street or across the country, moving is a major task that requires much effort and coordination. For this reason, many people choose to hire a moving company, but knowing who to entrust your belongings can be a daunting task.

While you do have the option of going the DIY route when moving, things will be so much easier and more convenient for you if you hire professional movers instead. You’ll incur certain costs by doing so, but the help they can provide is worth it.

It’s also a common mistake to hire the first moving company you lay your eyes on in an ad. There are so many moving companies out there, but not all are created equal. The movers you should hire are legitimate ones with licenses, insurance and other vital considerations. You should also get quotes from at least three movers to determine the best deal. Ask for references and verifying credentials. And remember to never pre-pay for a move!

Local Movers

There are many kinds of moving companies depending on the type of move you’re looking to make. Some companies specialize in local moves and will have limitations on the distance they’re willing to travel. Local movers are great for small cross-town moves since they typically charge by the hour.

Long-Distance

If you’re moving across the country, you’ll want to find a long-distance mover. These movers have special licensing that allows them to operate across state lines and they typically charge a bulk rate based on how quickly you need to be moved and how many items you’ll be moving. In some circumstances, you may even need to move out of the country. International movers will help you pack and get your items overseas. These moving companies are usually prepared for immigration and customs issues.

Full-Service

If you want a completely stress-free move, you should consider a full-service moving company. These companies take all the hassle out of your move by disassembling and packing up your old house and then unpacking and reassembling everything in your new place. Additionally, they provide all of the materials so you don’t have to worry about how much tape you’ll need or what size boxes to get.