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For over 35 years

Posts Tagged ‘home buying’

Apps To Facilitate Your Move

Buying a home and moving is stressful on many levels.  Here are some Apps to make the moving an easier endeavor. Like other productivity apps that can be downloaded on your smartphone, move-planning apps will help you keep everything organized.

Dolly: So you’ve arrived at your new home and realized you don’t have the person-power to haul that bedroom furniture upstairs? No problem! Dolly (free, iOS, Android) connects you with helpful delivery people looking to make a few bucks. These strong-backed guys and gals have no qualms about carrying your furniture to its new resting place in your new home and there’s never any haggling over price.

Flying Ruler:  Flying Ruler will help you measure anything in your home. Not sure if that sofa will fit in your new living room? Is it too large to come through the front door? Flying Ruler can help you be sure. This app is a tape measure, ruler, protractor, and a goniometer.

Google Keep: Google Keep (free, iOS, Android) is the ultimate sharable note application. When you’re planning a move you will quickly find yourself making lists … and then making lists of those lists. That’s where Google Keep’s shareable, synced lists and notes come in so incredibly handy. When things get really hectic you can even record voice memos and Google Keep will actually transcribe them into readable text for you to browse later.

Handy: With Handy you can schedule a move-out or move-in cleaning by a vetted and background-checked professional. You can also book handyman services like furniture assembly, TV mounting or picture hanging to help you settle into your new home. Moving assistance is available, too! You’ll leave with your home in better condition than you found it in, and your new place feeling like home right away.

Magicplan:  Floor plans are a crucial tool for envisioning your new living space and deciding where to place furniture and home goods. Use Magicplan on your phone or tablet to scan and measure rooms, then compile them using their drag-and-drop interface to create a complete floor plan.

MakeSpace: If you’re downsizing or moving to a home short on storage space, MakeSpace will come in handy. Just book an appointment, and its team of professional movers will come to pick up your stuff and haul it off to storage. When you want your items back, schedule a delivery, and the team will return your goods. MakeSpace will bring complimentary supplies, like bubble wrap and free MakeSpace bins.

Meta ( Facebook) Marketplace:  If you’ve ever moved you already know that you eventually get to a point where you’ve packed up all the important stuff and would rather just throw everything else in the garbage than wrap it, box it and haul it. That’s no longer necessary because there are people all over your town who will buy your old stuff and they’re on Facebook Marketplace (free, iOS, Android).

MoveAdvisor: MoveAdvisor is another comprehensive moving app allowing you to take inventory, find movers and establish a moving timeline all in one place. The app itself is free of charge to download and use, but you’ll have to pay for any services you book.

Moved:  Designed to be your personal moving concierge, Moved manages the entire moving process for you. The app is a one-stop shop for your move. It will organize your move every step of the way, from finding movers, hiring packers and selling unwanted items, to updating your address and even hiring cleaners and painters. The service also helps you find moving professionals, affordable packing materials, and storage facilities

OfferUp:  OfferUp is the largest mobile marketplace in the United States to buy and sell goods locally, and you can do so straight from your phone! Just take photos of the items you’re selling, describe the items and set a price. Buyers can message you through the app and make an offer, then arrange to meet you and retrieve the item.

RideShipper: You’ve got a car, bike, boat, or something else you need shipped?  With RideShipper you fill in the free vehicle shipping quote and you get almost instantly up to 4 estimates from reputable shipping companies.

Sortly:  Sortly is an inventory app built with small businesses in mind, but also great at cataloging all your beloved items and ensuring that they make it to your new home in one piece. Use your smartphone camera to snap images of items and Sortly automatically catalogs them for you. You can add barcode info for additional details and check off items as you’re unpacking.

TaskRabbit:  Need someone to help you move, pack, unpack or help with almost any moving-related task you may need? With Taskrabbit you’re able to state the task you need done and get matched with a freelancer (referred to as “Taskers” on the platform) who can do it for you.

TurboScan:  One thing you don’t need to haul along to your new home is piles and piles of papers you’ve let stack up over years of home office neglect. You could scan them with your printer, but that would take forever, so download the TurboScan app (free, iOS, Android) and capture perfect scans of every document in mere seconds.

Unpakt:  Moving companies are everywhere, but which one will give you the best rate? Get rid of the stress of searching for the best deal and let Unpakt find it for you. Compare prices between a variety of local and reputable moving companies and even contact the mover of your choice right from the app. Unpakt offers a price guarantee that only changes if you add or remove an item or service.

How To Win A Bidding War!

A bidding war is when at least two prospective buyers have made legitimate offers for a home that are similar and the Seller wants to select the best offer and terms for themselves. Bidding wars are common—in most of 2020, over half of home offers presented have faced competitive bids, according to Redfin’s study. Although historically low interest rates have sparked buying activity recently, some neighborhoods are always sought-after and attract multiple offers whenever a home comes up for sale.  Exclusive Buyer Agents are experts in winning bidding wars and getting credits during the due diligence period.

Expect to be in a bidding war In a hot housing market, it’s often not enough to quickly make an offer on a house but to have the highest price and best terms.

Here are a dozen ways you can get an edge on the competition.

  1. Offer to Pay in Cash

If you have the ability to offer an all-cash bid, you gain a distinct advantage because you eliminate the possibility of a mortgage falling through before closing. Buying with cash will make the process go quicker because you won’t need to go through the approval process with a lender, who would also request an appraisal. If you can’t cover the entire purchase price in cash, you could agree to a larger down payment on the house, which increases your approval odds and might make your bid more attractive.

  1. Get Pre-Approved

Pre-approval is a step most buyers will take anyway, but it’s absolutely essential for anyone in a competitive bidding situation. Pre-qualification is not enough, as it doesn’t show that the lender conducted the same amount of due diligence—such as checking your earnings and doing a hard credit check—that a pre-approval would require.

  1. Know Your Financial Limits

When you’re preparing for a bidding war, think of it like an auction—you need to know how much house you can afford before you actually bid. Once you know the maximum amount you’re willing to bid, you can include an escalation clause in your purchase offer to ensure you can instantly counteract any other bid. An escalation clause lets you increase your bid to avoid being outbid by another buyer up to a specified amount.

  1. Provide More Earnest Money

Buyers typically provide 1% to 5% of the purchase price as earnest money—a form of a security deposit—in a purchase contract, which gives sellers the assurance that you will follow through with the purchase. If you bail out on the contract without citing a contingency, you will likely lose the earnest money. If you put down more than the typical earnest money amount, it will tell the seller that you’re determined to follow through to the closing.

  1.  Be open to making offers sight-unseen

Speed is key in a seller’s market as competitive as this one. If you’re interested in a home but live far away or just haven’t been able to tour it, you can still throw your hat in the ring. Video tours and 3D walk-throughs have made sight-unseen offers much more feasible. Almost two-thirds (63%) of people who bought a home last year made an offer on a property that they hadn’t seen in person.

  1.  Remove Some or All Contingencies

When you make an offer to purchase a house, you know the deal could fall through for numerous reasons, and you don’t want to lose your earnest money because of it. That’s why you include contingencies in the purchase contract; if the home inspection uncovers major problems or you can’t sell your current home in time to close on the new one, you can get out of the contract without penalty. Almost no offers contingent on the sale of a home will win a bidding war. Sell your home, rent and then start trying to get a home under contract. Simultaneous closings are so 1990’s.

If you can’t waive contingencies, sweeten them for the seller. Opt to expedite the contingency timeline.

  1. Be Flexible on the Move-in Date

First-time home buyers and those who have already sold their previous home might be in a position to be flexible with the sellers on their move-in date. A seller might ask for more time if they have concerns about potential delays for a new home build. In this case, they could go through the closing and then rent the home back from you for a few weeks or a month. This flexibility could be as valuable—if not more valuable—than a higher bid on the house.

  1.  Start low, bid high

A lot of successful buyers today win by making an offer that exceeds the asking price…in fact it is expected. This also means that a lot of buyers end up exceeding their budgets. To prevent this, only search for homes that are listed 10-15% below what you can afford, so that you can make an over list price offer.

  1.  Offer to pay some of the seller’s costs

Home buyers can make their offers more competitive by offering to pay for expenses that are typically covered at least partially by the seller.

  1. Write a Personal Note

Home sellers, especially ones who have lived in a home for a long period of time, can sometimes be swayed by a personal note that explains why you believe this is the home of your dreams. For example, you might know that the current owner raised a family in the home, and you can discuss how you hope to do the same. It might seem a bit over the top, but it’s certainly worth a try when not much separates your offer from others. And yes—sometimes it works.  Avoid putting any personal information in the letter that may expose the Seller of real estate agents from violating Fair Housing laws.

  1.  Prepare to lose before you win 

With more than half of offers facing competition these days, it’s more likely than not that you’ll get into a bidding war if you’re in the market for a home. It’s also wise to know when to walk away. It’s OK to put your search on hold if you reach the point where you’re not comfortable making the aggressive offers that are often necessary to win in today’s market. You don’t want to end up with buyer’s remorse, after all.

  1.  Use an experienced Exclusive Buyer Agent that has been successful with winning bidding wars and speak with their references. Be prepared to ask to be in a Back Up position if you lose the bid. The market is too competitive and offers move too fast for novices to be effective at winning bidding wars in a multiple offer situation.

Tips for Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market

Seller's market
Seller's market

Buying a home in a Seller’s market always has its challenges. But when you’re trying to do it in a seller’s market, the difficulty can reach a new level. When the market favors the seller, time is of the essence. Multiple offers happen with more regularity in a seller’s market than a buyer’s market, because a seller’s market is defined in part by low inventory and a surplus of home buyers. A beautiful home that is priced well can attract more than one offer.

In a seller’s market, you should always assume you’re competing against several other offers. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a new home in a seller’s market, when there are more buyers than homes, and sellers can afford to hold out for higher offers. You just need to make sure you do it right and arm yourself with the right information:

Here are a few things to consider as you prepare your offer when buying in a seller’s market:

Choose an Experienced REALTOR: In sports and in business, it’s important to have the best players on your team when facing fierce competition. In a seller’s market, that means choosing a real estate agent who not only has proven expertise in the neighborhoods you’re interested in but is also highly responsive and efficient. Make sure to use an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent that owes you a fiduciary and works in your best interest.

Demonstrate Credit Worthiness: You should get Pre-Approved for a home mortgage with a local lender before touring homes if you need to get financing. By obtaining a pre-approval for a mortgage before you start home shopping, you’ll know how much buying power you have. Your offer may have far more credibility than competing ones where buyers didn’t take this step.

Lower Your Expectations: When the inventory of homes is limited, you probably can’t afford to wait for the perfect house to hit the market. Prepare yourself to adjust your expectations. It makes the most sense to make exceptions to your criteria for things that can be changed. For example, you can renovate or add a bathroom someday, but you can’t change the home’s location or lot size.

Make your Best Offer first, be Ready to Bid: Make your best offer but be prepared for it not to be your final offer. High home prices can lead to home appraisals that don’t climb as fast, leaving lenders to not fund the loan. Home buyers should have money set aside the pay the difference between a contracted purchase price and the appraisal.

By Prepared to Make Concessions: Your relative lack of power in a seller’s market doesn’t just affect the question of price. It carries over to every other aspect of the deal, too. Shorten the inspection period, be flexible on closing dates; you should be prepared to accommodate the seller’s needs even if it is an inconvenience to you.

Don’t be that buyer who wants to wait until the weekend to view a home in a seller’s market. By the weekend, that home could be sold. Try to be one of the first showings. Sellers usually don’t enjoy having buyers come through their homes at all hours of the day, so most would like to see their home sold quickly. If you write a good, fast, and clean offer, your chances of acceptance are far better than those of a buyer who is unprepared or is unrealistic on price.

Finally, don’t get carried away with the pressure to buy, even in a seller’s market. Remember that a home decision has a long-term impact on your financial future. It may be better to let a house go than make a poor decision that’s expensive to change.

Should You Refinance During The COVID-19 Situation?

Covid-19 and Refi

Covid-19 and Refi

Rates are lower than ever; when a refinancing is done right, it can save you thousands of dollars. But not every potential refi makes the cut. Sometimes the expenses just don’t justify the potential savings.

It is time to refinance your home mortgage if the terms lower your mortgage interest rate, pay off their mortgage years earlier, or saves thousands in interest over the life of the loan. You can save serious money by refinancing your mortgage. But due to refinancing fees and expenses, not every refi makes financial sense.

COVID-19 is creating changes with lenders and how they are doing business. This is resulting in refinancing taking longer and getting stricter than it has been in the past. Although the mortgage process is considered essential as a financial transaction, depending on where you live, there may be changes related to COVID-19  involving your appraisal, rate lock and closing process.

Rates are quite low and because your home is your biggest financial investment, the equity can be very useful as a resource in times of trouble. But if you’re thinking of financing your home loan there are several steps you should take to make sure that it’s the right move for you.

How Long Do You Plan On Being In Your Home?

Being able to answer this question will help you figure out the term length you want on any refinanced mortgage; but there’s another reason asking this question …

If you plan on moving within the next 5 – 10 years, it could be worth your while to look at an adjustable rate mortgage ( ARM).  You get a lower rate initially with an ARM because the rate can adjust after the teaser period. But if you move before the end of the fixed-rate time frame, you don’t have to worry about whether the rate is going up and down in the end. Additionally, your payment will tend to be lower because most adjustable rate mortgages are based on 30-year terms.

Age Of Current Loan

The age of your current loan sometimes plays a role in whether you can refinance. Even if you can refinance, it does not always make sense.  When you refinance you have to pay closing costs.  If you are not planning on staying in the house past the breakeven point when the savings and the additional expenses paid starts to net to overall reduced costs for home ownership, the it is not the time to refinance.  You may want to accelerate buying a new home to realize the saving from lower interest rates.

Plans For Monthly Savings

If you determine that you’re going to save money by refinancing based on the rate and term you can get, make sure that you have a plan for what you’re going to do with the monthly savings in order to put yourself in a better financial position. No one knows exactly when COVID-19 is going to end and how long it will take for the economy to recover. If you can save money now, you can work on establishing the savings need should the vaccine be delayed or we continue with a longer recession

You could use your savings to build up an emergency fund. Maybe you choose to allow yourself to save money in the future by paying off high-interest debt now. You can also use this to catch up on saving for retirement if you stopped contributing temporarily while dealing with the situation caused by the virus.

It’s a very volatile market right now, so we advise all of our clients to rely on the advice of their Home Loan Expert and Financial Advisors at all times.

The Mortgage Refi Process

Approving a mortgage is a complicated process, one that requires a lender to validate a borrower’s income, check the value of the home being used as collateral and scrutinize the title history of the property.

Just as refinancing applications picked up, the coronavirus pandemic dramatically changed the way everyone in the mortgage industry works. Loan officers no longer go to the office. Appraisers stopped walking through houses. And no one gathers around the title company’s closing table. The process is a little slower because everybody’s working from home right now. Things that would take an hour to do are taking a day sometimes.

It is more difficult to verify a borrower’s employment. A task once dispatched with a quick call to the borrower’s human resources department now means leaving a voicemail and waiting a day or two for a response.

Meanwhile, homeowners looking to refinance may have to get in line behind buyers who need a mortgage so they can close on a house which are a priority with lenders.

The mortgage industry already had been digitizing, and lenders quickly adapted to many changes. One stumbling block, though, is that most lenders still require some documents to be signed in the presence of a legal witness and notarized.  Florida allows for mobile notaries and they are busier than ever.

Sometimes, documents are being signed remotely and online and mobile notaries are not allowed yet.  You need to allow time for in person notarization and overnight mailing of documents.  Digital closings may be the way of the future, but we are not there yet.

What You Can Do to Secure a Smooth Refinance

Here are a few ways you can make the refi process as smooth as possible:

— Get your paperwork in order. Don’t let something simple like a missing document delay your refinance. Collect PDFs of financial documents, including pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns and retirement accounts.

— Make sure the lender will honor your rate lock. In normal times, lenders extend rate locks for 30 to 60 days, meaning you won’t have to pay more if rates go up before your loan closes. These aren’t normal times, though, and many refinances aren’t closing within 30 to 60 days, so make sure your lender is willing to extend your rate lock if your deal is delayed.

— Keep your credit score tight. Now isn’t the time to miss a payment, take on new debt or otherwise do anything to lower your credit score. Lenders are being especially strict about borrowers’ credit histories.

 

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.

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.

What Home Buyers Can Learn From a Seller’s Disclosure Statement

Sellers Property Disclosure

Any responsible buyer wants to know everything about the home they’re buying before signing on the dotted line. After all, this is probably the biggest purchase you will ever make, so due diligence is a must. The majority of the real estate agents in Florida are Transactional Agents and do not owe the Buyer a fiduciary duty, An Exclusive Buyer Agent does and will work for the buyer to determine all the information known about the property and advise you on inspections, permit searches, etc. Reviewing the Seller’s Disclosure is the first step in this process.

A Seller’s Disclosure in the State of Florida Is a standard form that is essentially a checklist in which a seller indicates the condition of the different features of a property, any known problems affecting the property, and any pending legal issues. This could include things like knowledge of lead-based paint, water damage, pest damage, past repairs, past insurance claims, any history of property line disputes, etc.

Typically, a seller’s disclosure form is filled out by the seller along with their listing paperwork. When buyer’s agents go into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to look up potential properties for their clients, that disclosure statement should be available or can be requested from the listing agent.

I am increasingly running into situations wheretransactional brokerage firms are taking the position that since a Seller’s Disclosure is NOT required by law that are not asking the sellers of their listings to fill one out. The first line of the SPDR provides “Notice to Licensee and Seller”; the less they know, the easier it is to make a “deal”. They are relying on the fact that other transactional agents working with buyers will feel the same and not ask for a Sellers Disclosure.

Although sellers aren’t required to complete this specific SPDR form, a residential seller does have to comply with the rule established in Johnson v. Davis. In that case, the Florida Supreme Court held that “where the seller of a home knows of facts materially affecting the value of the property which are not readily observable and are not known to the buyer, the seller is under a duty to disclose them to the buyer.” These material facts are sometimes referred to as latent defects. In addition, in Rayner vs. Wise Realty Co. of Tallahassee, the First District Court of Appeal provided that this same disclosure requirement applies to residential properties that are being sold as is.

In cases were the listing agent does not provide a Sellers Disclosure I request that the Seller answer all my questions in writing and provide a comprehensive list of questions that encompasses everything asked on the SPDR and more.

A seller’s disclosure form is NOT a substitute for a home inspection. Remember, sellers are required to disclosure only problems they know about. Most homeowners don’t go in their attic very often, and have probably never been up on their roof, and they aren’t required to do so before filling out the disclosure. While this document can provide a lot of valuable information, the home inspection is another layer of protection for a buyer.

The importance of this disclosure statement is just one of the many reasons why it’s critical for buyers and sellers to use an Exclusive Buyer Agent ( EBA) during any real estate transaction. EBAs are up-to-date on the latest laws and regulations and are very experienced with the complex documents and paperwork. They can help walk buyers through the disclosure so they understand all aspects of the home they’re buying and recommend the appropriate home inspections ( WDO, Radon, Leak Testing, Mold, and more) to ensure that any hidden defects are found in advance of the purchase.

Equifax Breach: What To Do Now?

As data breaches go, this is one of the most extensive.

What steps should you take now in response to the massive Equifax data breach?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sensitive information of almost half of all Americans has been compromised, all because the company safeguarding that information reportedly failed to upgrade and update software despite being warned to do so.

To make it worse, company execs sold millions in stock after the breach, but before they told the public what had happened. The company continued to sell consumers like you pricey identity protection packages, even though they knew they were guilty of exposing that same consumer data to hackers. And it seems they suffered another hack earlier in the year but failed to notify us of the potential damage.

No wonder consumers feel helpless as they try to protect themselves from identity fraud.

Here’s what you should you be doing now in response to the Equifax breach.

Read up

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has put together some very helpful and comprehensive background information on the Equifax breach, chock full of consumer tips. You can read that guidance here.

Do a test

Visit the Equifax website www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to see if your personal data has been exposed.

Here’s the how-to’s from the FTC: “Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.”

Monitor your credit

If you’re affected, sign up for the year of free credit monitoring that Equifax is offering. Even if you are not affected, you should monitor your credit to make sure no one else is taking out loans in your name. (Many big-name credit card companies offer free credit monitoring as a cardholder perk. Use it).

Once a year, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major bureaus (Experian®, Equifax®, TransUnion®) at annualcreditreport.com.

Here’s some additional advice from credit card lender Capital One: “It’s important to review all three reports—some lenders don’t report to every bureau, so they may have different information. Read through each report carefully and make sure you recognize the accounts. If something strange turns up, start by contacting the lender to investigate. For more info, take a look at this article on checking your credit report.”

Practice safe financial habits

Keep a close eye on your finances by reconciling bank accounts and credit card statements monthly, shred financial papers, change passwords often, use different passwords for different financial accounts, be careful what you click on, and practice safe computer habits.

It’s not a bad idea to enroll in purchase notification programs with your bank or credit card providers. They’ll alert you by text or email if there are large or unusual purchases in your accounts. Some even let you lock or unlock your card via mobile app. (I’ve got some funny stories to share about the purchase alerts I’ve gotten for my college age kids. Definitely TMI).

Fraud alerts and freezes

There’s been a lot of talk about fraud alerts and freezes.  Putting afraud alert on your credit reports lets potential lenders know what’s going on, explains Capital One, and alerts them to take extra steps to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.

According to Capital One, “you only need to notify one of the three credit reporting companies to put a fraud alert on your credit report and they’re required to tell the other two companies. Make sure you keep copies of all letters and renew the alert every 90 days until the issue is resolved. You can also check out the Federal Trade Commission’s website for more information.”

A credit freeze provides more protection but is time-consuming. A freeze restricts access to your credit report. Without reviewing that info, few lenders will  open a new account for you. “This makes it harder for potential thieves to apply for credit or open accounts in your name,” says Capital One. However, freezing your accounts may involve service charges, takes time on the phone or online, and can get in your way the day you want to buy a new car or make some other consumer purchase using credit.  To learn more about credit freezes, click here.

7 Legal Tasks to Do When You Move

The Internet is full of checklists and resources to use if you are planning to move. There are packing timelines. There are lists of packing supplies. There are even directions on how to pack boxes.

But moving is much more than purging and organizing your personal affects. There are legal tasks you need to take care of too.

Here are 5 legal tasks to complete when you move:

  1. Read your leases: Review your current lease to make sure you will not get into trouble for leaving. You are responsible for paying rent for the entire lease term, even if you have vacated the premises. If you need to move before the lease term is expired, read the lease to see if you can sublet or assign to a new tenant. Check your new lease for these terms before you sign it. And make sure you complete these tasks to protect your rights as a tenant.
  2. Protect yourself with insurance: Thoroughly read any contract with a moving company before you sign it for delivery times and insurance coverage. Moving companies are required to provide some moving insurance. But you may wish to purchase more. You should also consider renter’s insurance or homeowner’s insurance.
  1. Notify your creditors: Update your address with all of your creditors to ensure you do not miss a payment. And be sure to complete a change of address with the United States Postal Service and request that your mail be forwarded to your new address.
  2. Keep receipts if you are relocating for a job: You may be able to write off your expenses if you are required to relocate more than 50 miles due to a job change. Review the Internal Revenue Service’s requirements to qualify for this tax break.
  3. Update your estate plan: State laws governing wills and estate plans differ. If you move to a different state, update your estate plan.
  4. Register your vehicles:If you’ve moved states, provinces or countries, register your car and get a new driver’s license, tags and/or plates for your vehicles. Check your local DMV for more information.
  5. Register to VoteAgain, if you’ve moved cities, it’s important to make sure you’re on the voter’s registration for your local area. You should also make sure you’ve updated all important files and documents with your new address.

 

Spring Cleaning Guide from Optima Properties

Spring checklist

Now that the clocks have SPRUNG AHEAD it is a good time to think about Spring Home Maintenance.  As current homeowners you need to keep your home systems and property in good condition so that the small maintenance issues do not become major and expensive repair items.

 

Do not read this list and become overwhelmed, it is an extensive list meant to cover basic home maintenance. Not all of these maintenance items will apply to all homes.  This is a comprehensive guideline designed for homes in the South as well as Northern climates.

Spring cleaning is a way to demonstrate pride in ownership (or rentership).  A home and its contents are investments; money spent on something you really love or really need (ideally both).  When you take the time to clean thoroughly and properly, you can maintain and prolong the life of the item or finish for years.  Further, it means you live in a cleaner and healthier home; less dust, dust mites, allergens, odors, and dirt.

Always start from the top and work your way down.  Think about it like this: dust falls down (like rain or snow) so if you start at the top, you’ll never have to re-clean a surface (which is a time waster).  It doesn’t make sense to clean the floors first and then dust the tabletops; you’ll just have to clean the floors again.  Use gravity to your benefit and always work from top to bottom.  It also helps you not miss anything!

General Spring Cleaning Tasks:

These are a list of some of the things that need to be done around the house, and spring is a great time to do them.  So often we don’t remember to do them, so let this be your wake-up call!

 

 

 

 

Tests and replacements:

Test smoke alarm

Test carbon monoxide alarm

Check flashlight batteries

Check fire extinguishers

Change air filters

Check all window screens for tears and repair or replace as required

 

 

 

Overall Spring Cleaning Chores:

Dust crown molding and baseboards and clean scuff marks

Dust ceiling corners

Dust/wash light fixtures and lamps

Dust ceiling fans

Wipe down doors and walls (Swiffer works great for removing all the dust)

Touch up paint

Vacuum or wash/dry clean window curtains and bedding

Wash or dust window blinds

Wash windows and screens inside and out

Dust books and bookcases

Polish wood furniture

Wipe down and vacuum furniture (clean the base and under cushions)

Condition leather furniture

Remove stains from upholstered furniture

Vacuum and wash lampshades

Deep clean hardwood, tile, linoleum, and carpet flooring

Shampoo carpet (DIY or schedule a professional)

Remove area rugs to shake out, then vacuum, then clean under them

Remove fingerprints and dirt from light switches and door handles

Clean air vents

Dust around and BEHIND mirrors, picture frames, and wall hangings

Schedule chimney sweep

Schedule termite or pest control maintenance

Spring Clean Outside:

Sweep, power wash, and/or stain deck

Power spray siding

Touch up paint trim, wood, doors, and shutters

Oil hurricane shutters

Power wash garage door and eaves of house

Clean outside door frames

Wipe away cobwebs

Shake out entry mat

Clean grill

Clean and repair gutters

Replace broken bricks, wood, or stone

Clean outdoor light fixtures

Clean outside patio furniture

Trim trees, bushes and shrubbery

Check and repair sprinklers

Inspect roof shingles

Clean outdoor and indoor trash cans

Clean out garage and sweep