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Serving South Florida

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For over 35 years

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2022 Hurricane Preparedness Guide

2022 Hurricane Season
2022 Hurricane Preparedness Guide
Look carefully at the safety actions associated with each type of hurricane hazard and prepare your family disaster plan accordingly. But remember this is only a guide. The first and most important thing anyone should do when facing a hurricane threat is to use common sense.
Know Hurricane Terms:
Hurricane Watch – A hurricane is possible within thirty-six hours. Stay tuned for additional information.
Hurricane Warning – A hurricane is expected within twenty-four hours. You may be advised to evacuate. If so, evacuate immediately.
Storm Surge – Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can increase the mean water level 15 feet or more.
Ask your local emergency preparedness office about evacuation plans. Learn evacuation routes.
  • Plan a place to meet your family in case you are separated from one another in the hurricane.
  • Assemble a disaster supplies kit ( See information below)
  • Board up windows. Permanent storm shutters and impact glass offer the best protection. Also, you can use 5/8″ marine plywood. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Know how to shut off utilities.
  • Make a record of your personal property (take digital photos or video tape the contents of your home and/or business and keep in a waterproof container with you along with your homeowners insurance policy or better yet, upload everything to the Cloud)
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Reduce the water level in your pool by about 1 foot. DO NOT drain your pool.
  • Charge cell phones and back up batteries
  • Get extra cash since ATMs will be inoperative if power is lost.
  • Consider flood insurance and purchase it well in advance.
Have a Place To Go:
Develop a family hurricane preparedness plan before an actual storm threatens your area. If your family hurricane preparedness plan includes evacuation to a safer location for any of the reasons specified with in this web site, then it is important to consider the following points:
If ordered to evacuate, do not wait or delay your departure.
If possible, leave before local officials issue an evacuation order for your area. Even a slight delay in starting your evacuation will result in significantly longer travel times as traffic congestion and weather deteriorates worsens.
Select an evacuation destination that is nearest to your home, preferably in the same county, or at least minimize the distance over which you must travel in order to reach your intended shelter location. In choosing your destination, keep in mind that the hotels and other sheltering options in most inland metropolitan areas are likely to be filled very quickly in a large, multi-county hurricane evacuation event.
If you decide to evacuate to another county or region, be prepared to wait in traffic.
The large number of people in this state who must evacuate during a hurricane will probably cause massive delays and major congestion along most designated evacuation routes; the larger the storm, the greater the probability of traffic jams and extended travel times.
If possible, make arrangements to stay with the friend or relative who resides closest to your home and who will not have to evacuate. Discuss with your intended host the details of your family evacuation plan well before the beginning of the hurricane season.
If a hotel or motel is your final intended destination during an evacuation, make reservations before you leave. Most hotel and motels will fill quickly once evacuations begin. The longer you wait to make reservations, even if an official evacuation order has not been issued for your area or county, the less likely you are to find hotel/motel room vacancies, especially along interstate highways and in major metropolitan areas.
If you are unable to stay with friends or family and no hotels/motels rooms are available, then as a last resort go to a shelter. Remember, shelters are not designed for comfort and do not usually accept pets. Bring your disaster supply kit with you to the shelter. Find Pet-Friendly hotels and motels.
Make sure that you fill up your car with gas, before you leave.
Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies Makes Sense.
Get Ready Now.
If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your household. The likelihood that you and your animals will survive an emergency such as a fire or flood, tornado or hurricane depends largely on emergency planning done today. Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling an animal emergency supply kit and developing a pet care buddy system, are the same for any emergency. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what’s best for you is typically what’s best for your animals.
If you must evacuate, take your pets with you if possible. However, if you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets.
Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.
Disaster Supply Kit
I personally prepare a hurricane closet in May with all the needed supplies and materials so that there is never a last minute rush to the store when the shelves have been cleaned out.
Water :
  • Plan on one gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days, for drinking, washing, cooking, and sanitation. Extra water for pets
  • Store as much as possible in plastic containers such as soft drink bottles.
  • Avoid using breakable containers, such as glass bottles or mason jars.
  • Fill bathtubs with water for bathing and washing dishes
Food :
  • Store at least a three day supply of non perishable food.
  • Choose foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking.
  • Choose foods that are healthy and high nutrition type.  (Canned meats, fruits and vegetables, protein or fruit bars, dry cereal or granola, peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts, crackers, canned juices, non-perishable pasteurized milk, high enery foods, vitamins, food for infants and pets, comfort/stress foods)
Supplies and Equipment:
  • A battery operated radio with extra batteries
  • NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries
  • A flashlight with extra batteries
  • Blankets or sleeping bags ( store in trash bags to keep dry)
  • Paper plates and utensils, including a non electric can opener
  • Candles and matches in a waterproof container
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, moist towelettes, and other personal grooming items
  • Paper towels and toilet paper
  • First aid kit and medicines ( ask your pharmacist or drug supply company for a one month hurricane supply and store in water proof container)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Cell phone and plug in battery operated charger
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Books, games and toys to keep kids occupied ( remember those batteries)
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records, COVID Vaccine Passport, in a waterproof, portable container
  • Complete change of clothing including long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes
  • Insect repellent and sun-screen
  • Paper and pencil
  • Local Maps
  • Make sure to keep all of your medications filled.
Business Preparedness
* Have an emergency communication plan in place before the storm hits. How will co-workers stay in contact if the physical location of a business is damaged?
* Turn off all non-critical work devices before the storm hits.
* Alert a third party about business evacuation plans in case a storm makes it impossible to get to your place of business.
* Protect important business documents that you may need quickly, such as property insurance policies.
* Have cash on hand to pay employees or contractors after the storm.
* Know which employees are certified in CPR, EMT, etc.
* If possible, disconnect a building’s main electrical feeds.
* Have a plan to notify all employees, post-storm, about damage and how you’ll move forward.
* Review contracts that are date sensitive and have a backup plan in place to handle potential problems.
* Assess all functions that could be impacted by a lapse in business – cash flow, bills, budgets and any upcoming events.

How To Save On Homeowner’s Insurance

Homeowner's Insurance
Homeowner’s insurance costs are increasing nationwide and is becoming a larger expenditure in the homeowner’s budget.
Florida homeowners insurance costs vary depending on where you live, the age of your home, your home’s characteristics, and other factors. In addition to the cost of the home, the on-going expense of insuring a property should be a consideration when selecting the home you want to purchase. It may prove beneficial to purchase, for a little more money, a new home with impact glass, a new roof, updated plumbing and electrical and one that is not frame construction.
Several factors affect how much homeowner insurance costs and you can make informed decisions in advance of purchasing a home to minimize the cost of insurance.
Location:  
The closer you are to the ocean or Intracoastal waterway or if you are in a flood zone will certainly increase the risk of water damage and insuring a home.
The amount of coverage and replacement cost:
What you paid for your home has no impact on what you need to insure your home for. The sales price of your home includes land and land cannot be insured for fire, wind, theft, etc.
Furthermore, the market value can be based upon location, age and how strong or weak the market is. That is why it is very important that you insure your home for the replacement cost value of your home or what it would cost to rebuild your home brand-new with current building codes and materials.
Your home’s age and condition:
Your insurance premium may be higher if you have a home that was built before 2000 and the advent of stricter building codes. One reason is that older homes often have features or construction materials that not as weather resistant as newer construction. Another reason is that older homes may have outdated plumbing or electrical systems that insurers view as higher risk. The home’s condition is also important, even if it’s newer. Insurers often pay special attention to the roof, roof configuration, roof systems, etc. because leaks due to a worn-out roof can cause expensive damage inside your home.
Home Design and Upgrades:
Features of the home you are buying, such as impact glass or storm shutters, reinforced roofing and updated utilities can decrease insurance costs. If you already own a home, these types of improvements can help decrease the risk for fire and water damage.
In addition, given that Florida is a hurricane prone state, Florida requires companies to offer discounts through wind-mitigation improvements.
Discounts are available for the following safety features:
  • Roof Shape
  • Roof Bracing of Gable End Roof Deck Attachment
  • Roof Covering
  • Roof-to-Wall Connections
  • Secondary Water Resistance
  • Doors
  • Protection of Openings (windows and other openings)
The initial costs for adding a few of these features can be high, but the long-term financial investment can decrease your Florida homeowner’s insurance coverage costs and make your home safer.
If your house presently has any of these features, you may want to have a home wind-mitigation examination completed to submit to your insurance agent or company to add the additional discounts.
Home security and safety features:
Some companies will offer discounts for having a smoke alarm, alarm system or dead-bolt locks, however a number of companies provide additional discounts if you install a home home generator and/ or a fire and burglar alarm that rings at a monitoring station. These systems can be costly and not every system qualifies for a discount rate. Before you decide to buy such a system, discover what kind your insurer suggests, how much the device will cost and how much you will save on your premiums.
Your credit history:
Establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance coverage costs. Many customers do not recognize that credit is a factor in how insurance providers evaluate you. Many people do not understand the impact credit plays in insurance coverage and well as mortgage costs, but Insurers have found that policyholders with poor credit tend to make more claims and spend less to maintain their properties.
Due to this finding, most insurance companies reward a favorable credit history with extra discounts, once again lowering your homeowner’s insurance premium.
Your deductible:
Increasing your deductibles will help lower your premium.    Insurance is to cover you for large catastrophic events; by increasing your deductible you will be saving every year. Just make sure you’ve set aside enough money to cover a larger deductible if you need to file a claim—and to cover more minor repairs on your own.
Additional Discounts:
Insurance Companies might offer additional internal discounts. Not every company offers the exact same discounts, and these types of discounts will vary by company if available.
These discounts might include:
·      Discounts for seniors or retirees
·      Gated Community Discounts
·      Accredited Builder Discounts
·      Newer Roof Discounts
·      Companion Policy Discounts
·      Electronic Policy Distribution Discounts
·      Bundling with auto insurance
Your local agent will usually review these with you, but it is also a good idea to evaluate your quote and ask if any extra discounts might be available.
Shop around:
If you’re buying homeowners insurance for the first time, comparing options among several providers is essential. However, don’t focus exclusively on price. It’s also vital to research claims satisfaction among policyholders and exactly what the limits for your coverages are (mold, sinkhole, sewage back-up, et. al.)
Also, when you inquire about a homeowner’s policy, consider your customer experience. Is the agent willing to answer all your questions, discuss your options, and help you decide on a policy that suits your needs?

Florida Closing Cost Primer for Buyers

Florida Closing Costs

Closing costs are inevitable when you’re buying or selling a property. While they vary from state to state, the amount you’ll pay in Florida depends on both the property and the county it sits in. As a buyer, you’ll have to cover most of the fees and taxes.  In Florida, you’ll also have to post a fee for documentary stamps (or doc stamps), which is a percentage of the sales price. Then there are the taxes. You’ll likely be subject to property and transfer taxes.

Neither party is responsible for 100% of the closing costs in Florida, which includes fees, taxes, insurance costs and more. The buyer typically pays between 3% to 4% of the home loan’s value and is responsible for the bulk of the fees and taxes. The seller usually pays between 5% to 10% of the home’s sale price. Closing costs also vary among counties.

Condos are regulated by the Florida Condominium Act. The legislation lays out your rights to the property and gives you an “undivided interest” in all the common areas of the building. You’ll have to pay a monthly maintenance fee or a yearly homeowners association fee to cover the servicing of those areas that fall under the “undivided interest.” The fee isn’t tax-deductible.

If you are getting a mortgage The fees shown on the Good Faith Estimate can be difficult to understand but can be broken down into five sections.

One-time fees

  • Appraisal fee
  • Reinspection fee
  • Credit application, credit report and credit supplement fees
  • Mortgage origination fee
  • Lender’s title insurance policy (optional owner’s title insurance)
  • Escrow fee
  • Home inspection fee (optional)
  • Closing attorney fee
  • Courier fee
  • Bank processing fee
  • Recording fee
  • Notary fee
  • Loan discount points

Recurring fees

  • Homeowners insurance
  • Property taxes and tax servicing fees
  • Mortgage insurance premiums
  • Flood certification fee (in some areas)

Appraisal fees

Lenders typically require an appraisal as part of the underwriting process, before financing a home purchase. Appraisals will vary in price depending on the location and size of the property. The lender hires an appraiser to provide the fair market value of the home, and the buyer pays the lender.

Mortgage origination fee

Every lender will charge a mortgage origination fee, which covers their service and administrative costs. The average loan origination fee is 1% of the total loan amount. Buyers should shop for lenders with both experience and low origination fees.

Title insurance policy fees

Lenders typically require borrowers to purchase insurance to protect the financial institution from future title claims. This policy is called lender’s title insurance and the cost depends on the location and size of the property.

Owners title insurance protects the Buyer from future claims against the title.  The customary party that pays for the Owners Title Policy varies by County in Florida.  In Sarasota,Collier, Miami-Dade and Broward County, the Buyer pays for title insurance and chooses the title company.  In all other counties, it is the Seller’s responsibility.

Escrow fees

During the purchase and sale transaction, your funds will enter a holding account managed by a third party — an escrow company. When the transaction is complete, the escrow representative will disperse your down payment, fees, and loan proceeds to the appropriate individuals.

Home inspection fee

A home inspection is a common contingency for a home purchase. As the buyer, you can hire an inspector to evaluate the condition of the home and its systems prior to purchase. Home inspection costs vary depending on the size and age of the property. You will pay the inspector for their service out-of-pocket, and this amount is separate from the purchase and sale transaction.

Attorney Fees

Florida is a Title Theory state and does not require that an attorney be used to close a real estate transaction.  Private real estate attorneys, or borrower’s attorneys, are an additional and optional cost for buyers who want a specialist to assist them with contract-related issues or professional advice beyond the scope of their agent’s abilities. Private real estate attorneys charge by the hour or charged a fixed rate for the transaction and rates vary based on their level of expertise and services provided.

Documentation fees

During a financed home purchase, several institutions need to process information and create official records.

  • The courier fee allows lenders to send your documents to necessary parties
  • The bank processing fee pays the bank for handling the necessary loan documentation.
  • The lender uses the recording fee to pay the county to file a public record of the transaction.

Loan discount point fees

When locking your interest rate with your lender, you’re allowed to buy down the rate. To do this, you pay “points” — essentially, paying interest in advance. One point is equal to 1% of the loan; but that does not translate to a 1% drop in interest rate. Not all buyers choose to buy down their interest rate, but when they do, the rates vary by lender.

Homeowners’ insurance

As a stipulation of your financing, you will be required to purchase homeowners’ insurance. You will continue to pay the insurance premium on a yearly or twice-yearly basis directly to your insurer, or monthly via an escrow payment that is part of your monthly mortgage payment to your loan servicer. Homeowners insurance policy fees range based on the amount of coverage and the size of the property.

Property taxes

Your property taxes will be prorated based on your closing date. Some buyers pay their taxes in lump sums annually or biannually. If you don’t pay this way, you might escrow the taxes, which means they would be included as an escrow line item in your monthly mortgage payment to your loan servicer. Property taxes are paid in arrears in Florida.

 

Mortgage insurance premiums

If your loan amount is more than 20% of the value of the home, you are typically required to pay insurance to protect your lender’s investment. Mortgage insurance is generally escrowed but may vary from lender to lender. Some lenders will also charge a one-time application fee for mortgage insurance.

Flood insurance

Depending on the location of your property, you may also be obligated to purchase flood insurance to help protect your lender’s investment. Flood insurance policies range by risk level, based on location and are a Federal Program and the pricing cannot be competitively shopped for.

What are the closing costs for cash buyers?

Cash buyers are still required to pay for things like notary fees, property taxes, recording fees, and other local, county and state fees. Unlike a buyer who is using financing, cash buyers won’t have to pay any mortgage-related fees. But most cash buyers still opt to pay for things like appraisals, inspections, and owner’s title insurance.

Closing costs can vary depending on where you live in Florida, the type of property you buy and how much it sells for. While the seller forks over some money, the buyer pays for the bulk of the fees and taxes, which typically add up to 2.5% of the average sale price depending on the time of year you close ( proration sensitive).

“Buyer Beware” of Newly Renovated Homes

Fix and Flip
‘Renovate’, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary means “ renew, restore, refresh, and rejuvenate all mean to make like new.”  When the phrase “completely remodeled or renovated” is used in the description of a listing, many homebuyers expect the entire house to be completely updated. But in residential real estate, a house advertised as “completely remodeled” may have several big-ticket items, such as the roof, HVAC system, appliances, pool, and windows that are either original or close end of their useful life.
This is particularly true with investor “Fix and Flips”. Buyers may find a newly flipped home more appealing because much of it feels new – but not all flips are the same. In any given price range, every property you’re going to look at will have its pros and cons. You certainly don’t need to avoid properties that are being flipped, but there are some things to watch out for if you’re looking at one.
You can easily tell if the home is a flip by looking at the property records. If the home is back on the market just a few months after being purchased by a new owner, odds are it’s a flip. Flipped houses may seem up-to-date on the surface, but shiny new finishes can sometimes mask shoddy work. If you’re looking at a property that is being flipped, you’ll want to be sure to get it thoroughly inspected before you close and set aside money for any problems that may crop up because of renovations that were done on a tight budget and by an unlicensed contractor.
“Let the buyer beware” or “Caveat Emptor” exists for a reason. Home inspections do not necessary note the useful life left on roof, appliances and ACs since they are only checking to ensure that they are in “working order and free of defects”.  With that in mind, here’s what to look for when a home is described as “completely remodeled” or represented as “new”.
Electrical:
The standard for household power used to be 60 amps. Today modern homes need as much as 200 amps to run all the electrical needs. High-definition televisions, computers, air conditioners, generators, and home automation devices require lots of power to run. Have a home inspector check the entry cable coming into the house and the electrical panel. If the house has original or outdated wiring, consider upgrading for safety and function purposes.
Electrical outlets all under the electrical upgrade category but it’s important to pay close attention to the electrical outlets in a home. We still see the old-fashioned 2 prong outlets in older homes. These older outlets do not have the ground wires to protect people and electrical devices in case of a fault. Today’s modern houses should have the 3 prong outlets for safety and function purposes. In kitchen, bathrooms, and exterior locations, look for GFCI outlets. These outlets protect against electrical shock. They have a test and reset button. GFCI’s are now code in all new construction.
Roof:
Depending on the size of a house and the style of shingles, a new roof can cost between $50-$100 per square foot of roof or more. The age of a roof is a very important consideration when buying a house.  Your Exclusive Buyer Agent will find out from the Seller the age of the roof or will run a permit search in advance of writing an offer. If you move ahead with the purchase of the home, make sure your home inspector gives you an estimate on the remaining life of the roof not just how old it is.
. GFCI’s are now code in all new construction.
Water Heater & HVAC:
Most water heaters and AC units have an 8- to 12-year lifespan. If the heater is a high-quality water heater, it may last longer. Take a picture of the HVAC label and Google it to determine the age. If the unit has been well maintained, there will be a label from an HVAC company with service dates. Again, this can be done when you are touring a home. If you decide to purchase a house and schedule a home inspection, the inspector will confirm the age and condition of the HVAC unit and water heater.
Plumbing:
Plumbing problems can be very expensive. When you are touring a house that you like, turn on the faucets to check pressure. Look under sinks for signs of water issues. Look up at the ceiling to see if there are any stains. You can’t always see a plumbing problem but it’s a good idea to ask the seller if they have a record of plumbing maintenance, past leaks or insurance claims.
Foundation:
Look at the house exterior for signs of moisture or cracks. Examine the landscaping to see how well the yard is graded. Water should be moving away from the house, not toward the foundation. Again, this advice is for homebuyers as they tour a property of interest. Does the home have gutters directing the water way from the property?
General Warning Signs:
  • Seller has a spotty memory ….
  • Or says things like, “I haven’t lived here long.”
  • Offers no real estate disclosure form
  • New paint, tile, or flooring here and there
Landlords, flippers, and rehabbers often claim they don’t know a property well because they haven’t lived there — but all of them know a building’s ins and outs better than the buyer, especially if they have done work to the property.
Almost all states have a disclosure form where sellers address a property’s age and condition; its water source; the nature of its sanitary sewer system; and any structural defects, as well as matters such as lead paint or termites.
Florida, has a “Caveat Emptor” or “Buyer Beware” rule, which still requires the seller or seller’s agent to disclose anything that impacts the buyer’s health or safety but only if asked.  In the case of a transactional agent, only if they have asked the Seller to tell them. There is no legal obligation to fill out a Sellers Disclosure Form and many Transactional Brokerages have a policy to NOT provide one.
What To Do:
  • Read the home inspector’s report carefully, including between the lines when the inspector uses phrases like, “a lot of issues” or “a major issue.” Ask your exclusive buyer agent to prod the sellers for more details. If the inspector couldn’t access certain places, ask why.
  • Ask for a disclosure form. Push for more answers to your questions. When a listing agent refuses to provide the standard disclosure form, I put all the questions in the form on an email and make it an Exhibit to the contract. The Seller has a legal obligation to answer questions asked directly.
Warning Sign #1: Cosmetic Cover-ups:
Fresh paint is a wonderful way to mask deficiencies. Paint can cover cracks in the walls or ceilings, mold, and water stains. New bathroom and kitchen tile hides cracks and structural damage. New carpeting is a recommended fix to cover floor tiles containing asbestos, poor sub-floors or previous leaks, but buyers likely still want to know what’s underneath.
         What To Do:
         Ask for receipts, permits, warranties  and other documentation, such as photos taken during the renovations to authenticate that the work        was done properly.
Warning Sign #2: Downplaying Problems:
Some sellers opt to move once a house reaches a certain age and requires major investment in maintenance and replacements.
  • Phrases like, “It’s always been that way,” “That’s not a big deal,” or “Show me a house that doesn’t have a problem.” ” It was that way when we bought it”
While these statements might be true, they can be indicators of large problems.
        What To Do:
  • Look for signs of irregular maintenance, such as dusty air vents, old filters in the AC system, clogged gutters, and dying grass, just to name a few. Politely but firmly ask for more details, receipts, and documentation about anything the homeowner waves away.
Warning Sign #3: Camouflaging Decor
Some buyers will try to disguise things they can’t fix with whatever’s at hand. Large area rugs hide defects in flooring. Artwork hangs over wall cracks and holes, and strategically placed landscaping hides exterior foundation cracks. Acid washing a pool will delay determining the age and condition of the finish. Candles and air-fresheners can mask odors of nicotine, mold, pets, and other musty smells that a homebuyer might not detect until they move into the home. Having the music playing inside or outside the home can mask road or airport noise.
These items may be discovered at walk-through but by that time you have a loan in place and have lost weeks and waived your contingencies. It will then be a fight to secure credits at closing or close in escrow.
       What To Do:
  • Ask to turn off the music or remove the scents and return at a later date during the inspection period.
  • Request that items be cleared from walls and garage to accommodate the inspector.
  • Don’t be rushed though the final walk-through. Is there anything that has deteriorated since the inspection? Anything that was hidden or unobservable?
Fix It, or Forget It?
It if the inspection uncovers things the seller didn’t originally disclose or explain in detail, you legally have the right to cancel the contract during the Contractual Inspection Period…..never waive this contingency. You and your agent also can negotiate for the seller to do the repairs or reduce the price so you can handle them yourself.

What is An Appraisal Gap and Appraisal Gap Coverage Clause?

An appraisal gap is the difference between the fair market value determined by the appraiser and the amount you agreed to pay for the home.
An abnormally high number of homes across the United States are being appraised below their agreed-upon sales prices, causing some deals to implode.With home prices soaring in recent months, buyers often pay above asking price to win bidding wars. As a result, CoreLogic estimated that about 13% of appraisals came in below the contract price in August.
A home appraisal is an evaluation and report performed by a licensed appraiser to determine a home’s fair market value. Lenders require a home appraisal to ensure the amount you agreed to pay for the home is equal to or less than the appraised value. To create a home appraisal, appraisers normally rely on factors like data from recent closed and pending sales. But since sales usually close a month or two after going under contract, rapidly increasing home values can sometimes skew appraisals that rely on home values recorded months earlier.
In today’s hot market, many prospective buyers will get into bidding wars and possibly waive the appraisal contingency or offer an appraisal guarantee up to a certain amount. In both cases, the buyer would have to come up with the difference in cash between the appraisal and the sale price, or their appraisal guarantee and the sale price.
The disparity underscores the risks buyers face in the current market, especially those stretching their dollars to win a bidding war. Mortgage lenders will typically offer only enough to cover the appraised value of a home, forcing buyers to either provide the balance, renegotiate, or terminate the deal if an appraisal comes in below the contract price.
Using An Appraisal Gap Coverage Clause:
If you want your bid to outshine the others, an appraisal gap coverage clause may be necessary. An “appraisal gap clause” is used in a sales contract to guarantee that the home buyer will cover the monetary gap between the appraisal and the sales contract if an appraisal gap becomes an issue.
The clause states how much of an appraisal gap you’re willing to cover. Since there’s no guarantee an appraisal will match the agreed-upon sales price, it’s often something sellers look for to know the offer will still stand even if the appraisal comes in a little low.
The main thing that needs to be noted is the monetary value of your appraisal gap guarantee. It’s not wise to state that you will cover an unlimited amount between the sales price and the appraised value. I recommend always putting in the maximum amount that you are willing to cover.
What Should You Do When The Appraisal Is Less Than The Offer?
You have several options when the appraisal is less than the offer including walking away from the sale, but that doesn’t work in every situation.
Here’s what to consider:
Pay The Difference
If the seller won’t negotiate to lower the purchase price, you’ll be on the hook to pay the difference unless you have an appraisal contingency in your contract. The appraisal contingency gives you a way out of the contract without losing your deposit. Without it, you must buy the home or risk losing your the money you have already put down into escrow.
Without a lower sales price, you’ll have to pay more for the home. Since lenders base your loan amount on the appraised value, you’ll need your agreed-upon down payment plus the difference between the sales price and appraised value.
What if you don’t have the cash?
Ask for gift letters from family members or leverage your investments. You may be able to use some retirement funds without paying a penalty. Talk to your 401(k) administrator or tax advisor to see what options you have. If you own other real estate, consider tapping into the equity and using the funds to cover the appraisal gap.
Renegotiate The Offer     
If you have an appraisal contingency on your sales contract, you may be able to work with the seller. Start by requesting the seller to lower the price to the appraised value. This would eliminate the appraisal gap and your financial issues in buying the home.
Asking the seller to renegotiate can be risky in a seller’s market, so be careful. If the seller has a kick out clause, they could accept another offer that comes through. They still must give you the time to remove your appraisal contingency and seal the deal, but they can choose the other offer if you don’t.
Dispute The Appraisal
You can dispute the appraisal, asking for a reconsideration of value. However, this is not easy to do as you’ll need plenty of evidence to prove the appraisal is inaccurate.
You must prove one of the following:
  • The appraiser didn’t use appropriate comparable sales, and you have proof of more accurate options
  • The appraiser missed features or upgrades in the subject property
  • You found mistakes in the report
  • The appraiser only conducted a drive-by or exterior appraisal
Walk Away from the Sale
It’s not the most pleasant choice, but if you’re worried about paying more than a property is worth, sometimes walking away from the sale is the best option. If you’ve unsuccessfully renegotiated with the seller and disputed the appraisal to no avail, it may be best to look for another property.
Before you do this, talk to your attorney. If you didn’t include an appraisal contingency in your contract, you might risk your deposit. Sometimes other contingencies still help, though, especially a mortgage financing contingency.

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Condominium in South Florida

Condos for Sale

The Florida Realtors Association asked construction specialists and attorneys about the questions we should all be asking about the condition of our living spaces and what kinds of updates they need as they deteriorate from heat, humidity, hurricanes and climate change.

What kinds of questions should condo owners, likely with little knowledge of building construction, be asking now?

Ask about the age of your building, when the last inspection was and what kinds of repair work are planned in the near future, said Boca Raton, Fla., attorney Peter Sachs, who is certified in condominium and planned development law. You will also want to know how much money is in the building’s reserve fund and if and when an extra financial assessment is coming, he said.

You have the right to inspect your building’s records, which would include finances and repair work. Florida law requires that condos maintain their official records for seven years.

Who’s at fault when there’s a serious structural problem in a building? Is it the architects, the builders, the engineers, the inspectors or city officials? Or all of the above?

The architect, builder and engineer are all potentially culpable, as is the condo board if they do not act to fix the problem.

The architect would be responsible if there is a serious design flaw, and the engineer if the calculations, supervision or drawings are deficient. The builder would be to blame if corners were cut on materials or if construction failed to comply with the building code. The builder may also be liable for the failings of the architect or engineer.

The board, too, has obligations to residents. “The board has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the unit owners. If the board is negligent and fails to act, or unduly delays, it may be held liable,”.

How often should structural engineers inspect high-rise buildings?

Miami-Dade and Broward counties require inspections when a building turns 40, but there’s no similar mandate in the rest of the state. The boards that supervise the buildings should take the initiative and conduct a thorough inspection at least every 10 years, and more often is better, said Yaniv Levi, president of Coast-to-Coast General Contractors in Hollywood, Fla. “It would behoove the association to do it yearly or bi-yearly,” he said. And he recommends the building get a new coat of paint, which also serves to weatherproof it, every seven to 10 years.

How quickly should buildings fix leaks and other water intrusions?

Immediately, Levi said. “As soon as the leak is identified, they should find the source of the intrusion,” he said. “If you catch it early, it won’t develop into something major.”

How can I find out if my building was constructed under the highest safety codes?

If it was built in 2002 or later, you should have the best building codes or close to it. If your building was constructed before 2002, it likely does not meet the highest standards unless it was damaged by a storm and had to be upgraded.

After Hurricane Andrew in 1992 mowed down entire blocks of cheaply built houses, Florida adopted a statewide building code that has become a national model. When Hurricane Wilma struck Fort Lauderdale 13 years later, new downtown buildings, such as the 42-story Las Olas River House, held up well. Older buildings constructed before the building code sustained severe damage.

What should owners do if they believe their board is ignoring a safety issue?

You should ask to have the issue brought up at the next board meeting, said Hallandale Beach, Fla., attorney Larry Tolchinsky. “Get it on the record that the board is ignoring the issue,” he said. “Thereafter, file a lawsuit against the board.” Call the local building or code enforcement department to report your concern and put it in writing; if you can afford it, you may want to hire your own engineer.

It is imperative that condo owners exercise their rights and responsibilities. They should attend meetings, they should ask questions of their board, they should be prepared if reports have been issued. If you feel the board is not doing enough, you can ask for a special meeting to be called, board members to be removed, or go to court and seek an injunction to require the board to take certain actions.

If you believe a code violation isn’t being addressed, let your city or township know. It can issue citations to press for the work to get done.

Should condos have rainy-day accounts to pay for property improvements?

There’s often resistance from condo owners when a board of directors wants to add to the monthly maintenance fees, said West Palm Beach, Fla., attorney Michael Gelfand, who is certified in condominium, planned development and real estate law. Condo associations are required by law to budget for reserve accounts for repairs of significant components, such as painting/waterproofing, roofs and paving, but frequently owners vote down these budgets as well as expensive structural work.

These repairs are often expensive. In emails released by the town of Surfside, an engineer said Champlain Towers South, the collapsed building, needed to spend about $16 million to repair cracked columns and crumbling concrete.

Beyond the legally required reserve accounts, boards of directors take an assortment of approaches. Some have no reserves at all, while others have accounts dedicated to repairs needed every five to 10 years, said Mike Ryan, a Fort Lauderdale attorney and mayor of Sunrise.“ Some condos cater to people with fixed incomes. It’s difficult for them to suddenly get hit with an assessment,” Ryan said. “It’s up to the board how they want to handle this. It’s wise for them to put aside money. If you defer too long, it becomes too costly.”  The best strategy for the condo board is often to take the monthly maintenance fees and set aside some of that money for a rainy day fund, he said. This will lessen the financial impact on individual owners when a sudden major repair is needed, and the board must ask each homeowner for money.

What if an owner can’t afford the assessment?

“It’s like a lifeboat,” Gelfand said. “If you can’t pull your weight, you’re off.” The association may foreclose on your unit. Otherwise, their accounts will run a deficit and they won’t be able to pay the bills. Sometimes the association will borrow money from a bank to pay for these large expenditures, Tolchinsky said. “For those unit owners that can’t afford to pay, the association will likely spread the payments over time,” he said. “Up to 10 years in some cases.”

In terms of safety, is it better to live on a high floor or a low floor?

“In my personal opinion there are risks in both cases,” Tolchinsky said. “Living on the ground floor can have flooding issues. Perhaps issues with crime. Higher floors take longer to escape from the building and they have wind issues.”

Is it going to be harder to find concrete repair firms now that everyone is thinking about these questions?

“Perhaps, but my belief is the collapse was more complicated than just issues related to concrete repair,” Tolchinsky said. “Certainly, the cost of having a firm perform these repairs is going to skyrocket. This is based on the level of data and certifications that will likely be needed to be provided to boards and governmental agencies to perform this work. Also, the high demand for building materials and the lack of skilled workers given the tight labor market will make it harder to find concrete repair firms.”

An Exclusive Buyer Agent has a fiduciary duty to the Buyer who is their CLIENT and not their customer as with transactional agent.  They will work for you to get all the answers you need to make a valid and informed purchase decision.

2021 Hurricane Preparedness Guide

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is predicted to be more active than usual.
A total of 18 named storms, eight hurricanes and three major hurricanes are expected this season.This is above the 30-year average of 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
In order to ensure you are properly prepared this hurricane season, you should consider how you are going to supply your homes given that hurricane season begins June 1st. Don’t be caught unaware, protect yourself.
Hurricane hazards come in many forms, including storm surge, high winds, tornadoes, and flooding. History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.
May 9, 2021 is the first day of National Hurricane Preparedness Week; hope you find this information informative and useful as we approach the beginning of the Hurricane Season.
2021 Hurricane Preparedness Guide
Look carefully at the safety actions associated with each type of hurricane hazard and prepare your family disaster plan accordingly. But remember this is only a guide. The first and most important thing anyone should do when facing a hurricane threat is to use common sense.
Know Hurricane Terms:
Hurricane Watch – A hurricane is possible within thirty-six hours. Stay tuned for additional information.
Hurricane Warning – A hurricane is expected within twenty-four hours. You may be advised to evacuate. If so, evacuate immediately.
Storm Surge – Storm surge is simply water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tides to create the hurricane storm tide, which can increase the mean water level 15 feet or more.
Ask your local emergency preparedness office about evacuation plans. Learn evacuation routes.
  • Plan a place to meet your family in case you are separated from one another in the hurricane.
  • Assemble a disaster supplies kit ( See information below)
  • Board up windows. Permanent storm shutters and impact glass offer the best protection. Also, you can use 5/8″ marine plywood. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Know how to shut off utilities.
  • Make a record of your personal property (take digital photos or video tape the contents of your home and/or business and keep in a waterproof container with you along with your homeowners insurance policy or better yet, upload everything to the Cloud)
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Reduce the water level in your pool by about 1 foot. DO NOT drain your pool.
  • Charge cell phones and back up batteries
  • Get extra cash since ATMs will be inoperative if power is lost.
  • Consider flood insurance and purchase it well in advance.
Have a Place To Go:
Develop a family hurricane preparedness plan before an actual storm threatens your area. If your family hurricane preparedness plan includes evacuation to a safer location for any of the reasons specified with in this web site, then it is important to consider the following points:
If ordered to evacuate, do not wait or delay your departure.
If possible, leave before local officials issue an evacuation order for your area. Even a slight delay in starting your evacuation will result in significantly longer travel times as traffic congestion and weather deteriorates worsens.
Select an evacuation destination that is nearest to your home, preferably in the same county, or at least minimize the distance over which you must travel in order to reach your intended shelter location. In choosing your destination, keep in mind that the hotels and other sheltering options in most inland metropolitan areas are likely to be filled very quickly in a large, multi-county hurricane evacuation event.
If you decide to evacuate to another county or region, be prepared to wait in traffic.
The large number of people in this state who must evacuate during a hurricane will probably cause massive delays and major congestion along most designated evacuation routes; the larger the storm, the greater the probability of traffic jams and extended travel times.
If possible, make arrangements to stay with the friend or relative who resides closest to your home and who will not have to evacuate. Discuss with your intended host the details of your family evacuation plan well before the beginning of the hurricane season.
If a hotel or motel is your final intended destination during an evacuation, make reservations before you leave. Most hotel and motels will fill quickly once evacuations begin. The longer you wait to make reservations, even if an official evacuation order has not been issued for your area or county, the less likely you are to find hotel/motel room vacancies, especially along interstate highways and in major metropolitan areas.
If you are unable to stay with friends or family and no hotels/motels rooms are available, then as a last resort go to a shelter. Remember, shelters are not designed for comfort and do not usually accept pets. Bring your disaster supply kit with you to the shelter. Find Pet-Friendly hotels and motels.
Make sure that you fill up your car with gas, before you leave.
Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies Makes Sense.
Get Ready Now.
If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your household. The likelihood that you and your animals will survive an emergency such as a fire or flood, tornado or hurricane depends largely on emergency planning done today. Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling an animal emergency supply kit and developing a pet care buddy system, are the same for any emergency. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what’s best for you is typically what’s best for your animals.
If you must evacuate, take your pets with you if possible. However, if you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets.
Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can’t care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.
Disaster Supply Kit
I personally prepare a hurricane closet in May with all the needed supplies and materials so that there is never a last minute rush to the store when the shelves have been cleaned out.
Water :
  • Plan on one gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days, for drinking, washing, cooking, and sanitation. Extra water for pets
  • Store as much as possible in plastic containers such as soft drink bottles.
  • Avoid using breakable containers, such as glass bottles or mason jars.
  • Fill bathtubs with water for bathing and washing dishes
Food :
  • Store at least a three day supply of non perishable food.
  • Choose foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking.
  • Choose foods that are healthy and high nutrition type.  (Canned meats, fruits and vegetables, protein or fruit bars, dry cereal or granola, peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts, crackers, canned juices, non-perishable pasteurized milk, high enery foods, vitamins, food for infants and pets, comfort/stress foods)
Supplies and Equipment:
  • A battery operated radio with extra batteries
  • NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries
  • A flashlight with extra batteries
  • Blankets or sleeping bags ( store in trash bags to keep dry)
  • Paper plates and utensils, including a non electric can opener
  • Candles and matches in a waterproof container
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, moist towelettes, and other personal grooming items
  • Paper towels and toilet paper
  • First aid kit and medicines ( ask your pharmacist or drug supply company for a one month hurricane supply and store in water proof container)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Cell phone and plug in battery operated charger
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Books, games and toys to keep kids occupied ( remember those batteries)
  • Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records, COVID Vaccine Passport, in a waterproof, portable container
  • Complete change of clothing including long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes
  • Insect repellent and sun-screen
  • Paper and pencil
  • Local Maps
  • Make sure to keep all of your medications filled.
Business Preparedness
* Have an emergency communication plan in place before the storm hits. How will co-workers stay in contact if the physical location of a business is damaged?
* Turn off all non-critical work devices before the storm hits.
* Alert a third party about business evacuation plans in case a storm makes it impossible to get to your place of business.
* Protect important business documents that you may need quickly, such as property insurance policies.
* Have cash on hand to pay employees or contractors after the storm.
* Know which employees are certified in CPR, EMT, etc.
* If possible, disconnect a building’s main electrical feeds.
* Have a plan to notify all employees, post-storm, about damage and how you’ll move forward.
* Review contracts that are date sensitive and have a backup plan in place to handle potential problems.
* Assess all functions that could be impacted by a lapse in business – cash flow, bills, budgets and any upcoming events.

Lewis Shore Estates

Lewis Shore Estates is a luxury single-family community in the SoSo ( South of Southern) neighborhood in West Palm Beach, Floria.

Lewis Shore Estates defines luxury waterfront living in the SoSo ( South of Southern) neighborhood in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The Southend is the “new” hot neighborhood along West Palm Beach’s waterfront. Lovingly nicknamed “SoSo” (South of Southern), the neighborhood runs from Southern Blvd to the Canal before West Palm Beach becomes Lake Worth, along Flagler Dr west to South Dixie. Lewis Shore Estates has become very popular with many homes being renovated as great restaurants and shops open along the Dixie corridor. Lewis Shore Estates is just a short walk to the Intracoastal has always been a highlight and draw of the neighborhood, as many residents walk and bike  up and down Flagler Drive along the waterway.

As one of the larger and more populous cities in Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach offers a variety of residential real estate choices for almost any preference and budget.

Potential homeowners may select from all sorts of condominiums, town homes and villas, or single-family homes from the different communities in the city. There’s also a wide range of architectural styles available, whether you’re looking for a contemporary, tropical, or more traditionally-styled structure (the latter, especially in the historic districts). Just minutes from the Palm Beach International AirportCity Place and the Kravis Center in West Palm BeachWorth Avenue on the Island of Palm Beach,  Jupiter,  Singer Island and Wellington.

View Homes for Sale  below.  Call Kim Bregman at 561-251-7170 for a private showing.


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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.

 

 

 

COVID-19: Weighing the Risks of Going Out

COVID-19 Risk Chart
COVID-19 Risk Chart

Since COVID-19  lock downs began in the US, most Americans have drastically changed their patterns: following instructions to stay home, limiting almost all contact with others, and venturing out only for essential trips and exercise. Americans are getting tired of staying inside. All states have re-opened at different levels. As states begin to ease social distancing restrictions, people are beginning to have more options. Between those wanting to patronize newly reopened businesses or socialize in person, and more employers calling people back to work.

The safest thing anyone can do in the middle of the Covid-19 outbreak is still the same as it was a few months ago: Stay home as much as possible to avoid catching or spreading the virus until there is a vaccine or effective treatment, or until the pandemic otherwise ends. That especially applies to people who are sick, who should do all they can to avoid exposing others to the coronavirus.

But for many people, it’s really not clear which kinds of gatherings are safe and which aren’t. And that uncertainty can spark anxiety. Fortunately, health experts know more about the COVID-19 than they did when the lock downs began, and they can point us to different levels of risk as we begin to reengage. First and foremost, the advice that has been repeated for much of the past few months remains true: Your home is still the safest place to be during this pandemic. You should continue trying to stay home as much as possible, because the virus is still circulating at a very high rate in many communities. But whether you need to for work or you’re simply tired of looking at your home’s walls, there are ways to mitigate risk when you go out.

if you want to do something outside your home, it’s better to take advantage of the fresh air and do it outdoors rather than indoors when possible. If you want to meet with certain friends or family, consider a pact with them in which you’ll both agree to minimize or eliminate contact with anyone else, to reduce overall exposure for everyone involved.

The most important thing: Avoid indoor spaces that bring you within 6 feet of people from outside your household for long periods. “It is about density. It is about duration of contact,” according to Cyrus Shahpar, a director at Resolve to Save Lives. So if you’re having friends over, consider hanging out outside (and keep it to a small group). If you want to eat at a restaurant, look for outdoor seating. If you’re going for a run, go to the park, beach, or streets instead of the gym.

After some mixed messaging from federal officials early on in the COVID-19 outbreak, there is widespread consensus that people should wear masks when they go out — a surgical or medical mask if they have one, a cloth one if they don’t.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.” But other experts — and, in some cases, government mandates — go further, saying you should wear a mask in just about any setting outside your home as long as the pandemic continues.

The primary reason for a mask is to stop transmission from the wearer to others, particularly from people who are infected but asymptomatic and therefore might not even know they’re infected. If you wear a mask, you’re less likely to spray virus-containing droplets on surfaces or other people when you breathe, talk, sing, laugh, sigh, snort, cough, sneeze, and whatever else you might do with your mouth and nose.

One of the common pieces of advice throughout this pandemic has been to keep 6 feet or more away from people you don’t live with, summarized by the catchy slogan “6 feet distance determines our existence.” The closer you are to someone, the likelier they are to shed their coronavirus all over you, and vice versa.

Whether you’re leaving your home because you have to for food or work, or you’re going out because you can’t stand the sight of your apartment anymore, one way to minimize risk is to space out all your trips.

With every venture outside, you are putting yourself at risk of contracting COVID-19 in a world that’s still engulfed by a pandemic.

ALWAYS wash your hands frequently, and don’t touch your face. If you’re going to frequently venture far outside your home, that advice is especially pertinent. Take hand sanitizer to use religiously and wear gloves whenever possible.

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Home Whenever Possible