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Posts Tagged ‘homeowner advice’

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.

Emergency Supplies for Quarantine or Hurricane

Emergency Supplies

Emergency Supplies

Emergency Supplies that you can buy now and be prepared for any emergency in the next few months.  COVID-19 cases are increasing and there may be a need for you to self-quarantine for a period of weeks. We are also in the summer months frequently occurring natural disasters—a flood, hurricane, tornado, fires, and more—and they often come with little or no warning.  There are already known shortages of items in the stores and with the onset of a hurricane warming the shelves will soon be bare. Stocking up now on the right non-perishable food items will help you weather the storm (or global pandemic) with less stress knowing that you have these emergency supplies on hand for now or later.

What to Always Keep in Your Pantry

These non-perishable food items (or close to it) have lengthy expiration dates, so you can stash them away for long periods of time, even if it’s not hurricane season or tornado season. Make a list of everything in your stockpile and check expiration dates every 6 to 12 months to keep things fresh. And don’t forget to have a MANUAL can opener on hand at all times—all that food won’t be of any use if you can’t open it.

Peanut butter: A great source of energy, peanut butter is chock-full of healthful fats and protein. Unless the jar indicates otherwise, you don’t have to refrigerate after opening.

Whole-wheat crackers: Crackers are a good replacement for bread and make a fine substitute when making sandwiches.

Nuts and trail mixes; Stock up on these high-energy foods—they’re healthful and convenient for snacking during a hurricane, tornado, or other emergency.

Cereal;Choose multigrain cereals that are individually packaged so they don’t become stale after opening.

Granola bars and power bars;Healthy and filling, these portable snacks usually stay fresh for at least six months.

Dried fruits, such as apricots and raisins;In the absence of fresh fruit, these healthy snacks offer potassium and dietary fiber.

Canned tuna, salmon, chicken, or turkey;Generally lasting at least two years in the pantry, canned meats provide essential protein. Vacuum-packed pouches have a shorter shelf life but will last at least six months.

Canned vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, and peas;When the real deal isn’t an option, canned varieties can provide you with essential nutrients, making these a great hurricane food or natural disaster

Canned soups and chili; Soups and chili can be eaten straight out of the can and provide a variety of nutrients. Look for low-sodium options.

Dry pasta and pasta sauces; It might be a carb-heavy, gluten-full food, but pasta is filling, and dry pasta and jarred sauce can last on pantry shelves for months

Bottled water; You need at least one gallon per person per day. “A normally active person should drink at least a half gallon of water each day,” Andress says. “The other half gallon is for adding to food and washing.”

Sports drinks;The electrolytes and carbohydrates in these drinks will help you rehydrate and replenish fluid when water is scarce. Just make sure your sports drink of choice doesn’t come with too many additives, such as sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Powdered milk or Boxed milk; Almost all dairy products require refrigeration, so stock this substitute for an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D when fresh milk isn’t an option.

Sugar, salt, and pepper;If you have access to a propane or charcoal stove, you may be doing some cooking. A basic supply of seasonings and sweeteners will improve the flavor of your food, both fresh and packaged.

Multivitamins;Supplements will help replace the nutrients you would have consumed on a normal diet.

 

What to Buy Right Before an Emergency

If you’ve been given ample warning that a storm is coming, there’s still time to run to the market and pick up more hurricane food: fresh produce and other items that have shorter shelf lives. Most of these foods will last at least a week after they’ve been purchased and will give you a fresh alternative to all that packaged food..

Apples;Apples last up to three months when stored in a cool, dry area away from more perishable fruits (like bananas), which could cause them to ripen more quickly.

Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits;Because of their high acid content and sturdy skins, citrus fruits can last for up to two weeks without refrigeration

Avocados;If you buy an unripe, firm avocado, it will last outside the refrigerator for at least a week.

Tomatoes;If you buy them unripe, tomatoes will last several days at room temperature.

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams;If you have access to a working stove, these root vegetables are good keepers and make tasty side dishes. Stored in a cool, dark area, potatoes will last about a month.

Cucumbers and summer squash;These vegetables will last a few days outside of refrigeration and can be eaten raw.

Winter squash:While most are inedible uncooked, winter squashes, such as acorn squash, will keep for a few months. If you’ll be able to cook during the emergency, stockpile a bunch.

Hard, packaged sausages, such as sopressata and pepperoni; You can’t eat canned tuna and chicken forever. Try stocking up on a few packages of dry-cured salamis such as sopressata, a southern Italian specialty available at most grocery stores. Unopened, they will keep for up to six weeks in the pantry.

 

Non-grocery Items:

Within the two-week limit, make sure you have enough toothpaste, floss, face wash, moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, razors, shaving cream and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. It’s also good to have extra laundry detergent and hand soap at home. Stock up on face masks, hand sanitizers, toilet paper

 

More Food Advice for an Emergency:

  • If the electricity goes out, how do you know what is and isn’t safe to eat from the refrigerator? If your food has spent more than four hours over 40º Fahrenheit, don’t eat it.
  • If you don’t have electricity, you may still be able to cook or heat your food. If you have outdoor access, a charcoal grill or propane stove is a viable option
  • If your family has special needs—for example, you take medication regularly or you have a small child—remember to stock up on those essential items, too. Keep an extra stash of baby formula and jars of baby food or a backup supply of your medications.
  • If you live in an area at high risk for flooding, consider buying all your pantry items in cans, as they are less likely to be contaminated by flood waters than jars.

 

 

 

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 Arrange Furniture- 10 Basic Rules

Furniture Arranging
Furniture Arranging
Planning the arrangement of furniture is hard enough when you are buying new furniture to fill a house for the first time. It becomes even more challenging when you are moving a houseful of furniture from an existing home into a new space. It may take a while to get a feel for the new space and figure out how to make the rooms both comfortable and functional. And you need to be ready to rearrange, get rid of pieces that don’t fit, and perhaps purchase new items that might work a little better than your old pieces.
If possible, give careful consideration to the arrangement of furniture in the new space well before you move. This advance planning can make the arrangement go much smoother when moving day comes, and it might even prevent you from moving furniture that is not going to work in the new space, anyway. If a couch is destined to be given or thrown away, why go through the labor and expense of moving it from the old house to the new?
Over the years, interior designers have recognized a number of simple, easy-to-apply principles that work. Just follow these common sense rules and you’ll find that arranging furniture isn’t so scary after all.
1. Think About How the Room Will Function
Consider how the room is used and how many people will use it. That will dictate the type of  furnishings you will need and the amount of seating required.
2. Decide on a Focal Point
Identify the room’s focal point — a fireplace, view, television — and orient the furniture accordingly. If you plan to watch television in the room, the ideal distance between the set and the seating is three times the size of the screen (measured diagonally). Therefore, if you’ve got a 40-inch set, your chair should be 120 inches away.
3. Start With Priority Pieces
Place the largest pieces of furniture first, such as the sofa in the living room or the bed in the bedroom. In most cases this piece should face the room’s focal point. Chairs should be no more than 8 feet apart to facilitate conversation. Unless your room is especially small, avoid pushing all the furniture against the walls.
4. Consider Symmetry 
Symmetrical arrangements work best for formal rooms. Asymmetrical arrangements make a room feel more casual.
5. Create a Traffic Flow
Think about the flow of traffic through the room — generally the path between doorways. Don’t block that path with any large pieces of furniture if you can avoid it. Allow 30 to 48 inches of width for major traffic routes and a minimum of 24 inches of width for minor ones.
Try to direct traffic around a seating group, not through the middle of it. If traffic cuts through the middle of the room, consider creating two small seating areas instead of one large one.
6. Aim for Variety
Vary the size of furniture pieces throughout the room, so your eyes move up and down as you scan the space. Balance a large or tall item by placing another piece of similar height across the room from it (or use art to replicate the scale). Avoid putting two tall pieces next to each other.
7. Build in Contrast
Combine straight and curved lines for contrast. If the furniture is modern and linear, throw in a round table for contrast. If the furniture is curvy, mix in an angular piece. Similarly, pair solids with voids: Combine a leggy chair with a solid side table, and a solid chair with a leggy table.
8. Design for Ease of Use
Place a table within easy reach of every seat, being sure to combine pieces of similar scale, and make sure every reading chair has an accompanying lamp. Coffee tables should be located 14 to 18 inches from a sofa to provide sufficient legroom.
9. Allow for Circulation
In a dining room, make sure there’s at least 48 inches between each edge of the table and the nearest wall or piece of furniture. If traffic doesn’t pass behind the chairs on one side of the table, 36 inches should suffice.
In bedrooms, allow at least 24 inches between the side of the bed and a wall, and at least 36 inches between the bed and a swinging door.
10. Do Your Planning 
Give your back a break. Before you move any furniture, test your design on paper. Measure the room’s dimensions, noting the location of windows, doors, heat registers and electrical outlets, then draw up a floor plan on graph paper using cutouts to represent the furnishings. Or, better yet, use a digital room planner to draw the space and test various furniture configurations. It’s less work and a lot more fun.

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.

Electrical Safety Tips During the Holidays

Xmas tree lights

Decorating your home is one of the most enjoyable parts of the holiday season. Because electricity is involved with so many holiday decorations, it’s important you follow a few simple tips to keep your home and family safe.

Checking your decorations and electrical equipment for damage is one of the most important things you can do to stay safe this holiday season. Before plugging anything in, inspect electrical outlets to ensure they aren’t loose, damaged, or cracked. You should also look for damage to your decorations themselves, like cracked bulbs and frayed electrical cords, and refrain from using decorations with these problems.

Avoid overloading your electrical outlets. If you’re using incandescent light strings to decorate your home or your tree, never plug more than one of these strings into a single outlet. Also, don’t plug multiple high-wattage decorations into one outlet. Either of these decorating missteps can easily overload the outlet and increase your risk for a house fire.

Buy the right decorations. When you’re shopping for your indoor and outdoor decorations, look for items that have been certified by an independent testing laboratory. This means a decoration has been successfully safety-tested.

Lastly, make sure you unplug your electrical decorations whenever you leave your house and when you go to sleep at night. Many electrical fires occur when homeowners are asleep or out of the home, so taking this extra precaution is an important safety tip.

If you want to enjoy a safe holiday season, follow each of these electrical safety tips. Using electrical decorations responsibly can help protect your family from harm while you also transform your home for the holidays.

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.

 

Flood insurance: Facts and Fiction

If a flood swamps your home, will insurance cover the damage? That depends on the value of your home, the amount of water damage and whether you have a flood insurance policy.

Let’s look at some persistent myths about flood insurance.

Myth: You must live in a flood plain to get coverage.

If you live in a flood plain, your mortgage company will likely require you to buy flood insurance. But you can purchase it even if you don’t live within a flood zone. “Almost anybody can get flood insurance who wants flood insurance,” says Chris Hackett, director of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. The price through the federal flood insurance program is based on standardized rates and depends on the home’s value and whether or not it’s in a flood plain.

Myth: Flood insurance covers everything.

When it comes to the physical structure of your house, federal flood insurance policies top out at $250,000. If you have a $300,000 house that’s a total loss because of a flood, the most you can recoup through the program is $250,000 to cover the structure itself. For your personal possessions, the cap is $100,000 under the federal program.

 

Myth: My homeowners policy covers floods.

“Unfortunately, a lot of folks may be under the impression that their standard homeowners policy might cover flood damage,” Hackett says. But the standard policy does not! The typical home insurance policy doesn’t cover earthquakes or floods. So a homeowner wanting coverage for either of those disasters will need to pick up separate, specific coverage against those types of disasters.

 

Myth: Water damage is water damage. When it comes to your insurance, not all water damage is the same.

If there’s a storm and your “roof comes off and water comes through, that would be covered under your homeowners policy,” Hackett says. “Versus a flood situation where the water is rising from an over flowing riverbank overflows or an unnatural amount of rain that is rising from the street.

Myth: Flood maps don’t change.

Flood plains (and flood plain maps) change and evolve. Just because you weren’t in a flood plain when you bought your home a few years ago doesn’t mean you’re not in one now.

For more information, visit FloodSmart.gov.

 

Tips for Investors New to Flipping

Flipping is when real estate investors buy real estate and then resells them at a profit months down the road. Can you make money doing this? Yes.

Can you make a lot of money doing this? Yes.

But you can also lose everything you own if you make a bad decision….Absolutely!

A renovation can be an overwhelming experience with high stakes. Investors must create an overall vision for the project, gauge its financial feasibility, build a reliable team that includes a Realtor, contractors, lender, accountant, insurance agent, designer or architect, and attorney or Title Company, be highly capitalized, and hope that their assessment of the market is accurate and that the property sells quickly. The longer your cash is tied up and you are paying expenses the less profitable your investment.

Thanks to tighter lending standards you will need plenty of cash, and nerves of steel, to get into flipping. So what do you need to get started?

  • First, you need an excellent credit score. Lenders have tightened their requirements for home loans, especially if you want a loan for a high-risk house flip.
  • You need CASH! Use the cash for a down payment, so you don’t have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) on your second mortgage. You could also take out a home equity line of credit (HELOC), if you qualify. If you have enough in savings, and you manage to find a bargain-priced property, you can buy the property for cash, and take out a small loan or line of credit to pay for the renovations, Realtor fees, and closing costs.
  • A great way to get started flipping houses – especially if you have little money – is to form a joint venture with a partner who has money. If you don’t have the money, the joint venture partner will fund the deal while you do all the work. Although you may not get rich on your first deal, you’ll gain something even more valuable – experience.

What Makes a Good Real Estate Investment?

Finding an undervalued property in this market can be a challenge. With foreclosure rates down and bank owned property inventory drying up, there is a shortage of inventory compared to just a year ago.  Utilizing real estate professionals will greatly assist you in finding suitable properties.

 

  • Location. Expert flippers can’t stress this enough. Find a home in a desirable neighborhood, or in a city where people want to live. Start by researching local cities and neighborhoods. Look for areas with rising real estate sales, employment growth, and good schools.
  • Sound Condition. You don’t want to tear the house down, and start rebuilding it from scratch. Look for structurally sound homes. You may not have the opportunity to have a home inspected, especially if you buy the home at a real estate auction. You need to learn what to look for, or bring someone knowledgeable about building, electric, and plumbing with you to look at the home, to determine if the home is structurally sound.
  • The Right Fixes. A home with old carpet and wallpaper may be easy, and cheap, to update. Other home repairs to tackle might include, replacing outdated kitchen and bathrooms, and replacing windows and doors. A house that has mold, needs a roof replacement, or needs rewiring, requires some serious time and cash to update and sell. Make sure you know which updates and repairs you can afford to fix, which repairs you can’t afford, and which home improvements will increase the selling price of the house. When you estimate the cost of any job, experts advise that you add 20% to the final estimate. Why? It’s always going to cost more than you think it will.
  • Value. Make sure the price of the home is below its value in the local market. Otherwise, you will not make money. The worst house in a great neighborhood has nowhere to go but up in value, due to the value of the other homes in the area. Know which home improvements increase the home’s value. Focus on these projects first. Home improvements that increase the value of a home might include upgrading kitchen appliances, repainting the home’s exteriors, installing additional closet storage space, upgrading the deck, replacing windows and doors.
  • Before you make an offer, make sure you know the uppermost price you can pay for a house, and still make a profit. This includes your estimate for repairs, interest, and taxes. Remember to pad your estimate by 20%. If the homeowner or bank won’t sell to you for this price, walk away. It’s better to keep looking, than to risk going broke from a bad investment.

 

Now Get Working

  • Make sure you know which home improvement projects you can complete quickly and successfully, and which projects will need contractors.
  • You need permits before you start remodeling. Not having the right permits, or not correctly displaying permits, can cause serious delays, and fines, from city inspectors. Make sure to apply for permits as soon as the sale is final. It’s also helpful to make a timeline for projects, with associated deadlines, and the budget listed for each project. This helps you, and your contractors, get renovations done quickly, and within budget.

 

Relist and Sell

  • Many flippers end up listing their homes with a Realtor. Realtors eat and sleep real estate, have access to buyers, and can list your house in the MLS database. They also know the current market fluctuations, and have the skills and network to get you the best price quickly.

 

Final Word

  • Without a doubt, flipping homes offer great risks, and great rewards. A house flipper must be prepared for the possibility that the home won’t sell right away. House flippers also have to make tough decisions, like whether to accept an offer that is less than they wanted, but still for a profit. If you can handle all of the ups and downs, and you have the time and enthusiasm for fixing up and selling homes, then house flipping might be right for you.