Randy Ledbetter's Bloomingdale Real Estate Blog

Sept. 13, 2018

Homeowner’s Insurance Guide

 

Are You Covered? A Homeowner’s Insurance Guide

 

No one likes to think about disasters. Severe weather, fire, theft—or even a seemingly small issue like a broken pipe—can wreak havoc on your home and result in thousands of dollars in damages. Fortunately, a good homeowners insurance policy can offer you peace of mind that you and your family will be financially protected if disaster strikes.

 

A homeowners insurance policy covers your home—as well as the belongings in it—in case of theft, accidental damage, or certain natural disasters. In fact, most financial institutions require that you purchase homeowners insurance before they issue a mortgage. While coverage varies, most policies also help to protect you from liability should someone outside your household become injured on your property. And that liability coverage is often extended to include damage you (or anyone living in your household) may do to someone else’s property.1

 

With all the protection offered, it’s equally important to understand what a home insurance policy does NOT cover. For example, homeowners insurance won’t pay to repair malfunctioning systems and appliances within your home. And terms vary, but standard policies typically exclude coverage related to floods, earthquakes, slow leaks, power failure, neglect, aging, faulty repairs or construction materials, and acts of war.2

 

Homeowners Insurance Covers Things Like:

      Structure

      Roof

      Windows

      Furniture/Personal Belongings

      Liability for Non-Residents Injured on Property

      Liability for Damage or Injury Caused by You or Your Pets

Most Standard Policies DON’T Cover:

      Malfunctioning Systems & Appliances

      Floods

      Earthquakes

      Slow Leaks

      Power Failures

      Neglect or Aging

      Faulty Repairs

      Acts of War

 

 

NARROWING THE COVERAGE GAP

 

So how do you minimize your risk when so many potential issues are excluded from a standard homeowners policy? Many insurers offer supplemental coverage options that can be tacked on to a basic policy. We explore this further in the section below on “7 Tips for Purchasing Homeowners Insurance.”

 

Some homeowners also choose to purchase a home warranty, which covers many of the systems and appliances in your home that are NOT covered by homeowners insurance. Home warranties are separate from homeowners insurance, so if interested you’ll need to seek out a policy through a dedicated provider.

 

While terms vary, a home warranty will often pay to repair or replace components of your HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and some appliances that fail due to age or typical wear and tear. Unlike homeowners insurance, home warranties aren’t required by mortgage companies. But many homeowners like the added financial protection and peace of mind that home warranties provide.3

 

Keep in mind; if you do purchase a home warranty, you will still be responsible for paying a service fee, or deductible, every time you use it. And you will be limited to using service providers who are contracted through your home warranty company.

 

 

7 TIPS FOR PURCHASING HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

 

Whether you’re shopping for a new policy on your first home or you’re considering switching providers on an existing policy, it’s important to do your research beforehand. Not all insurance policies—or providers—are created equal. A little due diligence can save you time, money, and hassle in the long run.

 

  1. Prioritize Service and Value

 

When choosing an insurance provider, ask around for recommendations. Check with neighbors, friends, and family members, particularly those who have filed an insurance claim in the past. Find out if they had a positive or negative experience. Read online reviews. Ask your real estate agent for a referral to a reputable insurance broker who can help you compare your options.

 

Don’t just choose the cheapest policy. Instead, search for one that offers excellent client service and provides the best coverage for the cost.

 

  1. Choose the Right Level of Coverage

 

Your policy limits should be high enough to cover the cost of rebuilding your home. Don’t make the common mistake of insuring your home for the price you paid for it. The cost to rebuild could be higher or lower, depending on the value of your land, your home’s unique features, market factors, new building codes, and local construction costs.4

 

Also, consider whether you need a higher level of liability insurance to protect your assets. If your investments and savings exceed the liability limits in your policy, you may need to purchase an excess liability or umbrella policy.

 

Ultimately, you should make sure your coverage is adequate to mitigate your losses—but don’t pay for excess insurance you don’t need.

 

  1. Inquire About Additional Coverage

 

Ask your insurance agent about additional coverage options that can help close any gaps you have in your policy.

 

For example, if you’re in a flood or earthquake-prone area, experts strongly recommend that you add those coverages to your policy. Flooding is the most frequently occurring natural hazard, and a significant percentage of insurance payouts are for homes outside “flood zones,” or areas known to be at risk of flooding. So even if your home is not technically located in a flood zone, you may want to add flood coverage to your policy, just in case.5

 

Expensive jewelry, furs, collectibles, or artwork may not be fully insured by a standard policy. Ask about raising your limits for any items of particular value, or check with a specialty insurer about a separate policy for such items.

 

  1. Decide on “Replacement Cost” or “Actual Cash Value”

 

Insurers can use a variety of methods to determine how much they will pay to reimburse you for a loss, but the two most common are “replacement cost” or “actual cash value.”

 

If your seven-year-old sofa is damaged in a fire, replacement cost coverage will pay you the cost to purchase a new, comparable sofa at today’s prices. Actual cash value coverage will pay you for the depreciated value of the sofa you lost—so what you would pay to buy a seven-year-old sofa rather than a new one.6

 

While a replacement cost coverage policy will result in a bigger payoff if you suffer a loss, it will probably require a larger annual premium. Compare both options to find out which is the better fit for you.

 

  1. Consider a Higher Deductible

 

A deductible is the amount of money you are responsible for paying on a loss before your insurance company will pay a claim. Opting for a higher deductible can reduce your premiums.

 

Note that in some cases, your insurance policy may have a separate or higher deductible for certain kinds of claims, such as those caused by floods, windstorms, hail, or earthquakes.

 

While a higher deductible can save you money on your premiums, opt for one that is still affordable given your current financial situation.

 

  1. Try Bundling Your Coverage

 

Combining your home, automobile, and other policies under one insurer can often result in a significant discount. And some insurers offer additional benefits, such as a single deductible if property insured by multiple policies is damaged. For instance, if a fire destroys your home and your car, you may only have to pay the higher of the two deductibles. Bundling can also make payment and renewal of your policies more convenient.7


However, bundling isn't always the best or least expensive option. In some cases, you may find better coverage options, service, and/or pricing if you split your policies between multiple insurers. So be sure to consider all of your options before making a final decision.

 

  1. Reassess Your Policy Each Year

 

Even if you’ve done all your due diligence before purchasing a homeowners insurance policy, don’t set your annual renewal on autopilot. Instead, when it comes time to renew, take some time to consider factors that have changed over the past year.

 

For example, have you made any home improvements that would require you to raise your coverage limits? Have you made any security or safety improvements that qualify you for a discount on your premiums?8

 

Has there been a shift in market conditions that would make it more or less expensive to rebuild your home now? If so, you may need to adjust your coverage levels accordingly.

 

If you’ve made any changes to how you use your home, you may need to adjust your policy, as well. For example, if you’ve started a home-based business or occasionally rent out your home on a home-sharing site, you may not be fully covered by your existing policy.9

 

Finally, consider any changes to your financial situation that may require increased liability coverage limits. If you’ve grown your investments or inherited property, it may be time to purchase additional coverage to protect your expanding asset base.

 

 

MINIMIZE RISK, MAXIMIZE VALUE

 

Now that you understand the basics of homeowners insurance, you should be ready to start shopping for a policy that best fits your needs and budget. Your goal should be to minimize your risk while maximizing the value your policy provides.

 

While you never want to leave yourself without a safety net should disaster strike, you also don’t want to overpay for insurance you don’t need (and will hopefully rarely use). Aim to strike a balance that will provide you with adequate protection at an affordable price.

 

 

NEED MORE GUIDANCE? WE CAN HELP

 

If you’re in the market to purchase homeowners insurance or a home warranty, give us a call! We get a lot of feedback from clients on the best (and worst) providers and are happy to share what we know.

 

We can also put you in touch with a trusted insurance professional who can answer your questions and help you find the best policy to meet your needs.

 

 

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial or insurance advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs.

 

Sources:

1.     Insurance Information Institute -
https://www.iii.org/article/what-covered-standard-homeowners-policy

2.     Insure.com -
https://www.insure.com/home-insurance/exclusions.html

3.     American Home Shield -
https://www.ahs.com/home-matters/cost-savers/whats-the-difference-homeowners-insurance-vs-home-warranty

4.     Insurance Information Institute -
https://www.iii.org/article/how-much-homeowners-insurance-do-you-need

5.     Realtor.com -
https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/buying-home-insurance

6.     Texas Department of Insurance -
http://www.helpinsure.com/home/documents/acvvsreplace.pdf

7.     Insure.com -
https://www.insure.com/home-insurance-faq/bundle-insurance-policies.html

8.     National Association of Insurance Commissioners -
https://www.insureuonline.org/consumer_homeowners_ten_tips.htm

9.     HomeAway -
https://help.homeaway.com/articles/Do-I-need-a-special-vacation-rental-insurance-policy-for-my-property

Aug. 9, 2018

Renters for a Weekend or a While: What’s the Best Use of Your Investment Property?

 

The residential rental market is now the fastest-growing segment of the housing market. In the United States, the demand for single-family rentals, defined as either detached homes or townhouses, has risen 30 percent in the past three years.1 And in Canada, rental units now account for nearly one-third of the country’s homes, with particular demand for multi-family units, including apartments and condominiums.2

 

At the same time, the short-term, or vacation, the rental market is also booming. The popularity of online marketplaces like Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO has helped the short-term rental market become one of the fastest-growing segments in the travel industry.3

 

Now, more than ever, there is an abundance of opportunity for real estate investors. But which path is best: leasing your property to a long-term tenant, or renting your property to travelers on a short-term basis?

 

In this post, we examine the differences between the two investment strategies and the benefits and limitations of each category.

 

 

WHY INVEST IN A RENTAL PROPERTY? The Top 5 Reasons

 

Before we delve into the differences between long-term and short-term rentals, let’s answer the question: “Why invest in a rental property at all?”

 

There are five key reasons investors choose to real estate over other investment vehicles:

 

  1. Appreciation

 

Appreciation is the increase in your property’s value over time. And history has proven that over an extended period, the cost of real estate continues to rise. Recessions may still occur, but in the vast majority of markets, the value of real estate does grow over the long term.

 

  1. Cash Flow

 

One of the key benefits of investing in real estate is the ability to generate steady cash flow. Rental income can be used to pay the mortgage and taxes on your investment property, as well as regular maintenance and repairs. If appropriately priced in a robust rental market, there may even be little extra cash each month to help with your living expenses or to grow your savings.

 

Even if you only take in enough rent to cover your expenses, a rental property purchase will pay for itself over time. As you pay down the mortgage every month with your rental income, your equity will continue to increase until you own the property free and clear, leaving you with extra cash flow for years to come.

 

  1. Hedge Against Inflation

 

Inflation is the rate at which the general cost of goods and services rises. That means as inflation rises, the money you have sitting in a savings account will buy less tomorrow than it will today. On the other hand, the price of real estate typically matches (or often exceeds) the rate of inflation. To hedge or guard yourself against inflation, real estate can be a smart investment choice.

 

  1. Leverage

    Leverage is the use of borrowed capital to increase the potential return of an investment. You can put a relatively small amount down on a property, finance the rest of the investment with a mortgage, and then profit on the entire combined value.

  2. Tax Benefits

    Don’t overlook the tax benefits that can come with a real estate investment, as well. From deductions to depreciation to exemptions, there are many ways a real estate investment can save you money on taxes. Consult a tax professional to discuss your particular circumstances.

 

These are just a few of the many perks of investing in real estate. But what’s the best strategy to maximize returns on your investment property? In the next section, we explore the differences between long-term and short-term rentals.



LONG-TERM (TRADITIONAL) RENTAL MARKET

 

When most people think of owning a rental property, they imagine buying a home and renting it out to tenants to use as their primary residence. Traditionally, investors would use their rental property to generate an additional stream of income while benefiting from the property’s long-term appreciation in value.

 

In fact, that steady and predictable monthly cash flow is one of the key advantages of owning a long-term rental. And as an owner, you don’t usually have to worry about paying the utility bills or furnishing the property—both of which are typically covered by the tenant. Add to this the fact that traditional tenants translate into less time and effort spent on day-to-day property management, and long-term rentals are an attractive option for many investors.

 

However, there are also limitations to long-term rentals, which often come down to your ability to control the property. Perhaps the most obvious one is that you do not get to use the home or closely monitor its upkeep (this is different from a short-term rental, which we’ll share in the next section).

 

Also, while you can usually generate a steady, predictable income stream with a long-term rental, you are limited in your ability to adjust rent prices based on increasing or seasonal demand. Therefore, you may end up with a lower overall return on your investment. In fact, according to data from Mashvisor, in the ten hottest real estate markets, short-term rentals produced “significantly higher rental income” than long-term leases .4

 

 

SHORT-TERM (VACATION) RENTAL MARKET

 

Short-term rentals are often referred to as vacation rentals, as more and more travelers enjoy the benefits of staying in a home while on vacation. In fact, according to Wells Fargo, vacation rentals are steadily growing and predicted to account for 21% of the worldwide accommodations market by 2020.5

 

Investing in a short-term rental or funding your second-home purchase by renting it out can offer many benefits. If you purchase an investment property in a top travel destination or vacation spot, you can expect steady demand from travelers while taking advantage of any non-rented periods to enjoy the home yourself. In addition to greater control over how your property is used, you can also adjust your rental price around peak travel demand to maximize your returns.

 

But short-term rentals also have risks and drawbacks that may dissuade some investors. They require greater day-to-day property management, and owners are typically responsible for furnishing the property, upkeep, and utilities.

 

And while rental revenue can be higher, it can also be less predictable based on seasonal or consumer travel trends. For example, a lack of snowfall during ski season could mean fewer bookings and lower rental revenue that year.

 

Also, laws and limitations on short-term rentals can vary by region. And in some areas, the regulations are in flux as residents and government officials adapt to a new surge in short-term rentals. So make sure you understand any existing or proposed restrictions on apartments in the area where you want to invest.

Urban centers or suburban communities may be more resistant to short-term renters, thus more likely to pass future limitations on use. To lower your risk, you may want to consider properties in resort communities that are accustomed to travelers. We can help you assess the current regulations on short-term rentals in our area. Or if you’re interested in investing in another market, we can refer you to a local agent who can help.

 

 

WHICH INVESTMENT STRATEGY IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

 

Now that you understand these two real estate investment options, how do you pick the right one for you? It’s helpful to start by clarifying your investment goals.

 

If your goal is to generate steady, predictable income with less time and effort spent on property management, then a long-term rental may be your best option. Also, if you prefer a less-risky investment with more reliable (but possibly lower) returns, then you may be more comfortable with a long-term rental.

 

On the other hand, if your goal is to purchase a vacation or second home that you’ll use, and you want to defray some (or all) of the expense, then a short-term rental may be a good option for you. Similarly, if you’re open to taking on more risk and revenue volatility for the possibility of greater investment returns, then a short-term rental may better suit your spirit as an investor.

 

But sometimes the decision isn’t always so clear-cut. If your goal is to purchase a future retirement home now to hedge against inflation, rising real estate prices, and interest rates, then both long- and short-term rentals could be suitable options. In this case, you’ll want to consider other factors like location, market demand, property type, and your risk tolerance.

 

 

HERE OR ELSEWHERE … WE CAN HELP

 

If you’re looking to make a real estate investment—whether it’s a primary residence, investment property, vacation home, or future retirement home—give us a call. We’ll help you determine the best course of action and share insights and resources to help you make an informed decision. And if your plans include buying outside of our area, we can refer you to a local agent who can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation!

 

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for information regarding your individual needs.

  

Sources:

1.     USA Today –
https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/real-estate/2017/11/11/renting-homes-overtaking-housing-market-heres-why/845474001/

2.     The Globe and Mail –
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/the-market/article-demand-for-rental-housing-in-canada-now-outpacing-home-ownership/

3.     Phocuswright –
https://www.phocuswright.com/Travel-Research/Research-Updates/2017/US-Private-Accommodation-Market-to-Reach-36B-by-2018

4.     Rented.com –
https://www.rented.com/vacation-rental-best-practices-blog/do-long-term-rentals-or-short-term-rentals-provide-better-investment-returns/

5.     Turnkey Vacation Rentals –
https://blog.turnkeyvr.com/short-term-vs-long-term-vacation-rental-properties/

 

 

 

 

 

July 2, 2018

How to Avoid the Top 8 Home Inspection Mistakes

 

 

 

How to Avoid the Top 8 Home Inspection Mistakes

 

It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of buying a home. Once you’ve had an offer accepted on your dream house, you’ll probably be anxious to move in. However, before you make a significant financial commitment, it’s best to know exactly what you’re buying.

 

When you hire a home inspector, you get a professional, in-depth examination of the property’s structures and systems. It’s a worthwhile investment that can save you money in the long run, either by warning you away from a bad purchase or by providing a list of deficiencies you can use to negotiate with the sellers.

 

The inspector’s report will also list minor repairs that, if made, will help to maintain your home over the long term. Additionally, a good inspector can often predict the standard life expectancy of your roof, HVAC, and other big-ticket items so you can start planning for their eventual replacement.

 

However, many buyers make mistakes during the inspection process that cost them time and money and lead to unnecessary stress. Avoid these eight common buyer blunders to minimize your risk, protect your investment, and give yourself peace of mind and confidence in your new home purchase.

 

 

MISTAKE 1: Skip Your Own Inspection

 

Many buyers rely on their home inspector to point out issues with the property. However, by conducting your own visual assessment before you submit an offer, you can factor expected expenses into the offer price. Or, if you suspect major problems, you may choose to move on to a different property altogether.

 

Examine the walls and ceilings. Are there suspicious cracks, which could point to a foundation issue? Any discoloration? Yellow spots can indicate water damage, while black spots are typically mold. If there’s a basement, look for powdery white deposits along the walls and slab, which can result from water seepage.1

 

To assess the plumbing, start by turning on a bathroom sink or tub, then flushing the toilet. Check for a drop in water pressure or a gurgling sound coming from the pipes. You can also try running the water in sinks and tubs for several minutes to test for drainage issues. Peak underneath sinks to spot signs of leaks or drain pipes that go into the floor instead of the wall.1

 

Look for fogged or drafty windows, which may need replacing. Examine the roof for signs of cupped, curled, or cracked shingles. Check siding, decks, and other wooden structures for evidence of rot.

 

Overall, does the home appear to be well maintained? Unless it’s a highly-competitive seller’s market, consider the overall condition of the property BEFORE you submit an offer. Work with your real estate agent to factor in repairs and updates you know you’ll need to make when you determine your offer price.

 

MISTAKE 2: Hire the Cheapest Inspector

 

We all love to save money, but not all inspectors are created equal. Before you hire one, do a little research.2 You may even want to start shopping for an inspector before you complete your home search. Inspection periods are typically short, so it never hurts to be prepared.

 

You can start by asking around for recommendations. Check with friends and family members, as well as your real estate agent. Then contact at least two or three inspectors so you can compare not only price but also levels of experience and service.

 

Ask about their background, years of experience, and the number of inspections they have completed. Verify their certifications and credentials, and make sure they carry the proper insurance.

 

Find out what is (and what isn’t) covered in the inspection and if they utilize the latest technology. Ask to see a sample report so you can compare the style and level of detail provided. Finally, make sure you feel confident in the inspector’s abilities and comfortable asking him/her questions.

 

 

MISTAKE 3: Miss Attending the Inspection

 

Make every effort to be on-site during the inspection. Buyers who aren’t present during their inspection miss out on a great opportunity to gather valuable information about their new home.

 

If can attend the inspection, don’t spend all your time picking out paint colors or chatting with your new neighbors. Instead, use your time there to shadow the inspector. It’s the perfect chance to find out where everything is located, ask questions, and see first-hand what repairs and updates may be needed.3

 

Of course, if you do choose to tag along with your inspector, exercise good judgment. Don’t get in the way, become a distraction, or do anything to jeopardize your (or the inspector’s) safety.

 

If you can’t make it to the inspection, ask if you can schedule a time to meet in person or speak by phone to go over the report in detail. It will give you an opportunity to ask questions or request clarification about issues in the report you don’t fully understand.

 

 

MISTAKE 4: Skim Over the Report

 

Inspection reports can be long and tedious, and it can be tempting to skim over them. However, buyers who do this risk missing crucial information.

 

Instead, you should read over the report carefully, so you don’t miss anything significant. Now is the time to address any areas of concern. You have a limited window of time to request repairs or negotiate the selling price, so don’t squander it.

 

Your inspector may also flag some minor items that you wouldn’t typically expect a seller to fix. However, ignoring these small issues can sometimes lead to bigger problems down the road. Make sure you read everything in the report so you can take future action if needed.

 

 

MISTAKE 5: Avoid Asking Questions

 

Some buyers are too embarrassed to ask questions when there’s something in the inspection report they don’t understand. Afraid they might look foolish, they avoid asking questions and end up uninformed about important issues that could impact their home purchase.

 

The reality is, questions are expected. You hired your inspector for their professional expertise, so don’t be shy about tapping into it. For example, you might ask:

 

?      Would you get this issue fixed in your own home?

?      How urgent is it?

?      What could happen if I don’t fix it?

?      Is this a simple issue I could fix myself?

?      What type of professional should I call?

?      Can you estimate how much it would cost to make this repair?

?      How much longer would you expect this system/structure/appliance to last?

?      What maintenance steps would you recommend?

 

Don’t bother asking your inspector if you should buy the property, because he/she won’t be able to answer that question for you. Instead, use the information provided to make an informed decision. A skilled real estate agent can help you determine the best path.

 

 

MISTAKE 6: Expect a Perfect Report

 

Some buyers get scared off by a lengthy inspection report. But with around 1600 items on an inspector’s checklist, you shouldn’t be surprised if yours uncover a large number of deficiencies.4 The key is to understand which problems require simple fixes, and which ones will require extensive (and costly) repairs.

 

Your real estate agent can help you decide if and how to approach the sellers about making repairs or reducing the price. Whatever you do, try to focus on the major issues identified in the inspector’s report, and don’t expect the sellers to address every minor item on the list. They will be more receptive if they perceive your requests to be reasonable.

 

 

MISTAKE 7: Forgo Additional Testing

 

There are times when an agent or inspector will recommend bringing in a specialist to evaluate a potential issue.5 For example, they may suggest testing for mold or consulting with a roofing expert.

 

Some buyers get spooked by the possibility of a “red flag” and decide to jump ship. Or, in their haste to close or desire to save money, they choose to ignore the recommendation for additional testing altogether.

 

Don’t make these potentially costly mistakes. In some cases, the specialist will offer a free evaluation that takes minimal time to schedule. And if not, the small investment you make could provide you with peace of mind or save you a fortune in future repairs.

 

 

MISTAKE 8: Skip Re-inspection of Repairs

 

Most buyers request receipts to prove that repairs have been correctly completed. However, it’s always prudent to go a step further and have negotiated repairs re-evaluated by your inspector or another qualified professional, even if there’s an additional charge.6

 

While the majority of sellers are forthcoming, some will try to save money by cutting corners, hiring unlicensed technicians, or doing the work themselves. A re-inspection will help ensure the repairs are completed properly now, so you aren’t paying to redo them later.

 

To avoid having to go back to the sellers, be specific when requesting repairs. Identify the problem, how repairs should be completed, who should complete the work, and how the repairs will be verified.7

 

Some buyers prefer to avoid this step altogether by completing the work themselves. They either request that the seller fund the repairs or reduce the selling price accordingly. Whichever path you choose, protect yourself and your investment by ensuring the work is done properly.

 

 

WE CAN HELP

 

A home inspection can reduce your risk and save you money over the long-term. But to maximize its effectiveness, it must be done properly. Avoid these eight common home inspection mistakes to safeguard your investment.

 

While these are some of the most common missteps, there are countless others that can trip up home buyers, cost them time and money, and cause undue stress. Fortunately, we have the skills and experience to help you avoid the potential pitfalls.

 

If you’re in the market to buy a home, we can help you navigate the inspection and all the other steps in the buying process … typically at no cost to you! Tap into our expertise to make the right decisions for your real estate purchase. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!

 

 

Sources:

1.     Family Handyman -
https://www.familyhandyman.com/tools/diy-home-inspection-tools/view-all/

2.     HGTV -
https://www.hgtv.com/design/real-estate/finding-the-right-home-inspector

3.     The New York Times -
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/23/realestate/home-inspection.html

4.     Realtor.com -
https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/what-does-a-home-inspector-look-for/

5.     Realty Times -
https://realtytimes.com/advicefromagents/item/37369-top-5-biggest-home-inspection-mistakes

6.     Realtor.com -
https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/home-inspection-mistakes-buyers-should-avoid/

7.     Star Tribune -
http://www.startribune.com/who-verifies-repairs-after-the-home-inspection/132844523/

Posted in Selling
June 14, 2018

7 Steps to a Seamless Move

Real Estate Relocation Guide: 7 Steps to a Seamless Move

If you’re moving across across town or across the country, you’ll be changing more than your address. Besides a new house, you may also be searching for new jobs, schools, doctors, restaurants, stores, service providers and more. Of course you’ll need to pack, make moving arrangements, and possibly sell your old home.  With so much to do, you may be wondering: Where do I start? In this guide, we outline seven steps to help you get prepared, get organized, and get settled in your new community. Our hope is to alleviate the hassle of relocating—so you can focus on the exciting adventure ahead!

1. Gather Information

If you’re unfamiliar with your new area, start by doing some research.1 Look for data on average housing prices, demographics, school rankings and crime statistics. Search for maps that illustrate local geography, landmarks, public transportation routes and major interstates. If you’re moving across the country, research climate and seasonal weather patterns. Check out local newspapers and blogs for information on political issues and developments that could impact your new community. You may also want to search for online forums and Facebook Groups relevant to your new area. These can be a great place to find information, ask questions and just observe local attitudes and outlooks. If you’re relocating for a job, find out if your new employer offers any relocation assistance. Many large corporations have a designated human resources professional to assist employees with relocation efforts, while others may contract this service out to a third party. Some employers will also cover all or a portion of your relocation and moving costs. By gathering this information up front, you’ll be better prepared to make informed decisions down the road. Let us know if you’d like assistance with your information gathering process. We have a wealth of knowledge about this area, and we keep a number of reports and statistics on file in our office. We would be happy to share information and answer any questions you may have.

2. Identify Your Ideal Neighborhoods

Once you’ve sufficiently researched your new area, you can start to identify your ideal neighborhoods. The first step is to prioritize your “needs” and “wants.” Consider factors such as budget; commute time; quality of schools; crime rate; walkability; access to public transportation; proximity to restaurants, shopping, and place of worship; and neighborhood vibe. If possible, visit the area in person to get a feel for the community. If you’re comfortable, strike up conversations with local residents and ask about their experiences living in the area. Still not sure which neighborhood is the best fit for you and your family? Contact a local real estate agent for expert assistance. It’s usually the most efficient and effective way to narrow down your options. We provide neighborhood assessments and advice as a free service if you’re relocating to our area. Or, if you’re moving out of town, we can refer you to a local agent who can help.

3. Find Your New Home (and Sell Your Old One)

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of preferred neighborhoods, it’s time to start looking for a home. If you haven’t already contacted a real estate agent, now is the time. They can search for current property listings that meet your needs, typically at no cost to you. Create another list of “needs” and “wants,” but this time for your new home. Include your basic requirements for square footage, bedrooms and bathrooms, but also think about what other factors are important to you and your family. An updated kitchen? A large backyard? Double sinks in the master bathroom? Narrow your list down to your top 10 and prioritize them in order of importance. This will give you a good starting point to begin your home search. Unless you have an unlimited budget, don’t expect to find a home with everything on your list. But having a prioritized list can help you (and your agent) understand which home features are the most important, and which ones you may be willing to sacrifice. If you already own a home, you’ll also need to start the process of selling it or renting it out. A real estate agent can help you evaluate your options based on current market conditions. He or she can also give you an idea of how much equity you have in your current home so you know how much you can afford to spend on your new one. Your agent can also advise you on how to time your sale and purchase. While some buyers are able to qualify for and cover the costs of two concurrent mortgages, many are not. There are a number of options available, and a skilled agent can help you determine the best course given your circumstances. We would love to assist you if you have plans to buy or sell a home in our area. Please contact us to schedule a free consultation so we can discuss your unique needs and devise a custom plan to make your relocation as seamless as possible. If you’re relocating outside of our area, we can help you find a trusted agent in your new city.

4. Prepare for Your Departure

While everyone considers packing a fundamental part of moving, we often overlook the emotional preparation that needs to take place. If you have children, this can be especially important. Communicate the move in an age-appropriate way, and if possible take them on a tour of your new home and neighborhood. This can alleviate some of the mystery and apprehension around the move. Allow yourself plenty of time to pack up your belongings. Before you start, gather supplies, including boxes, tape, tissue paper and bubble wrap. Begin with non-essentials—such as off-season clothes or holiday decorations—and sort items into four categories: take, trash, sell and donate/give away. To make the unpacking process easier, be sure to label the top and sides of boxes with helpful information, including contents, room, and any special instructions. Keep a master inventory list so you can refer back to it if something goes missing. If you will be using a moving company, start researching and pricing your options. To ensure an accurate estimate of your final cost, it’s best to have them conduct an in-person walkthrough. Make sure you’re working with a reputable company, and avoid paying a large deposit before your belongings are delivered. If you plan to drive to your new home, map out the route. And, if necessary, make arrangements for overnight accommodations along the way. If driving is not a good option, you may need to have your vehicles transported and make travel arrangements for you, your family and your pets. Lastly, if you will be leaving friends or family behind, schedule final get-togethers before your departure. The last days before moving can be incredibly hectic, so make sure you block off some time in advance for proper goodbyes. Looking for a reputable moving company? We are happy to provide referrals, as well as recommendations on where to procure packing supplies in our area.

5. Prepare for Your Arrival

To make your transition go smoothly, prepare for your arrival well before moving day. Depending on how long your belongings will take to arrive, you may need to arrange for temporary hotel accommodations. If you plan to move in directly, pack an “essentials box” with everything you’ll need for the first couple of nights in your new home, such as toiletries, toilet paper, towels, linens, pajamas, cell phone chargers, snacks, pet food and a change of clothes. This will keep you from searching through boxes after an exhausting day of moving. Arrange in advance for your utilities to be turned on, especially essentials like water, electricity and gas. (And while you’re at it, schedule a shut-off date for your current utilities.) Update your address on all accounts and subscriptions and arrange to have your mail forwarded through the postal service. If you have children, register them for their new school or daycare and arrange for the transfer of any necessary records. You may want to have the house professionally cleaned before moving in. And if you plan to remodel, paint or install new flooring, it’s easier to have it done before you bring in all of your belongings.8 However, it’s not always feasible without someone you trust locally who can supervise. Another option is to keep a portion of your things in storage while you complete some of these projects. If there are no window treatments, you may need to install some (or at least put up temporary privacy film), especially in bedrooms and bathrooms. And if appliances are missing, consider purchasing them ahead of time and arranging for delivery and installation shortly after you arrive. Just be sure to check measurements and installation instructions carefully so you aren’t stuck with an appliance that doesn’t fit or that requires costly modifications to your new home. If you own a car, check the requirements for a driver’s license and vehicle registration in your new area and contact your insurance company to update your policy. If you will rely on public transportation, research options and schedules. If you’re relocating to our area, we can help! We offer “VIP Relocation Assistance” to all of our buyer clients. Contact us for a list of preferred hotels, utility providers, housekeepers, contractors and more!

6. Get Settled In Your New Home

While staring at an endless pile of boxes can feel daunting, you should take advantage of this opportunity to make a fresh start. By creating a plan ahead of time, you can ensure your new house is thoughtfully laid out and well organized. If you followed our suggestion to pack an “essentials box” (see Step 5), you should have easy access to everything you’ll need to get you through the first couple of nights in your new home. This will allow you some breathing room to unpack your remaining items in a deliberate manner, instead of rushing through the process. If you have young children, consider unpacking their rooms first. Seeing their familiar items can help them establish a sense of comfort and normalcy during a confusing time. Then move on to any items you use on a daily basis. Pets can also get overwhelmed by a new, unfamiliar space. Let them adjust to a single room first, which should include their favorite toys, treats, food and water bowl, and a litter box for cats. Once they seem comfortable, you can gradually introduce them to other rooms in the home. As you unpack, make a list of items that need to be purchased so you’re not making multiple trips to the store. Also, start a list of needed repairs and installations. If you have a home warranty, find out what’s covered and the process for filing a service order. Although you may be eager to get everything unpacked, it’s important to take occasional breaks. Have some fun, relax and explore your new hometown! Need help with unpacking, organizing or decorating your new home? Contact us for a list of recommended professionals in our area. And when you’re ready to start exploring local “hot spots,” we’d love to fill you in on our favorite restaurants, stores, parks and other attractions!

7. Get Involved In Your New Community

Studies show that moving can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. People who have recently moved tend to be isolated socially, more stressed, and less likely to participate in exercise and hobbies. However, there are ways to combat these negative effects. First, get out and explore. In a 2016 study, recent movers were shown to spend less time on physical activities and more time on their computers, which has been proven to lead to feelings of depression and loneliness. Instead, get out of your house and investigate your new area. And if you travel by foot, you’ll gain the advantages of fresh air and exercise. Combat feelings of isolation by making an effort to meet people in your new community. Find a local interest group, take a class, join a place of worship or volunteer for a cause. Don’t wait for friends to come knocking on your door. Instead, go out and find them. Finally, be a good neighbor. Make an effort to introduce yourself to your new neighbors, invite them over for coffee or dinner, and offer assistance when they need it. Once you’ve developed friendships and a support system within your new neighborhood, it will truly start to feel like home. Want more ideas on how to get involved in your community? Contact us for a free copy of our report, “Welcome Home: 10 Tips to Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Hometown Haven.”

LET’S GET MOVING

While moving is never easy, these seven steps offer an action plan to get you started on your new adventure. To avoid getting overwhelmed, focus on one step at a time. And don’t hesitate to ask for help! In a 2015 study, 61 percent of participants ranked moving at the top of their stress list, above divorce and starting a new job. But with a little preparation—and the right team of professionals to assist you—it is possible to have a positive relocation experience. We specialize in assisting home buyers and sellers with a seamless and “less-stress” relocation. Along with our referral network of movers, handymen, housekeepers, decorators, contractors and other service providers, we can help take the hassle and headache out of your upcoming move. Give us a call or message us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation!


Sources:

1. You Move Me - ?https://www.youmoveme.com/us/blog/105-tips-for-a-successful-relocation

2. HouseLogic.com - ?https://www.houselogic.com/buy/house-hunting/must-have-items/

3. Livestrong - ?https://www.livestrong.com/article/436651-the-effects-of-sunlight-fresh-air-on-the-body/

4. Parents Magazine - ?https://www.parents.com/parenting/money/buy-a-house/make-moving-easier-on-you-and-your-kids/

5. The Spruce - ?https://www.thespruce.com/starting-to-pack-for-your-move-2436470

6. Moving.com -?https://www.moving.com/tips/hiring-quality-movers/

7. The Spruce - ?https://www.thespruce.com/unpack-your-entire-home-2435815

8. HouseLogic.com -?https://www.houselogic.com/buy/moving-in/before-you-move/

9. HGTV - ?https://www.hgtv.com/design/real-estate/moving-checklist

10. Moving.com - ?https://www.moving.com/tips/how-to-unpack-and-organize-your-house/

11. ASPCA - ?https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/moving-your-pet

12. Psychology Today - ?https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/is-where-you-belong/201607/why-youre-miserable-after-move

13. The Daily Express - ?https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/574171/Divorce-stressful-moving-home

 

Posted in Buying, Selling
Sept. 11, 2017

Make The Most Of The Morning in Lombard

Start the morning off right. The Corner House Cafe offers fresh roasted coffee and other eye opening drinks. Coffee brewed here is directly sourced and roasted locally in limited supply in neighboring Addison, Illinois.

Doors open at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. on Saturdays. Enjoy new drinks and classic favorites: coffee, espresso, flavored mochas, capuccinos, lattes, teas, and smoothies.

 

Posted in News
Sept. 11, 2017

Embrace Your Wild Side in Wheaton

Explore the wild side of Wheaton at the Cosley Zoo. Located at 1356 North Gary Avenue, it is home to domestic animals and critters native to the Illinois area.

Discovery Centers are strategically placed and include animal encounters, presentations and training sessions. Cosley Zoo is open year round with seasonal hours.

 

Posted in News
Sept. 11, 2017

It’s Time To Play In Bloomingdale

At Challenge Accepted at 314 Stratford Square in Bloomingdale, experience the newest concept in entertainment: real life escape challenges.  Players come together to face dire circumstances with the goal of escaping rooms. Rooms are designed with 60 and 20 minute scenarios. The longer the playing time, the more difficult the challenge. Investigators as young as six are welcome to play with adult supervision.

 

Posted in News
June 6, 2017

How to Increase Your Home's Value

How to Increase Your Home's Value

Before you begin any value-increasing projects, remember not to raise the value of your property too far above others in the neighborhood. People who want expensive homes shop exclusively in pricier neighborhoods. A good rule of thumb: keep the value of your property within 15 to 20 percent of your neighbors’.

Project (average cost recouped, national) according to Realtor Magazine:

  • Minor kitchen remodel (88%)
  • Bathroom remodel (85%)
  • Major kitchen remodel (81%)
  • Family room addition (80%)
  • Deck addition (77%)
  • Master suite (75%)
  • Attic bedroom (74%)
  • Siding replacement (73%)
  • Window replacement (69%)
  • Home office (55%)

Upgrades that may increase your home’s value include: Jacuzzi (4 jets or more); permanent hot tub; in-ground pool with nice deck area; security system; sprinkler system; substantial out buildings such as a two-car garage or finished workshop; and vaulted or trey ceilings. Think twice about the following projects however, as they may not add value to your house: above-ground pool; ceiling fans; garden pond; and light fixtures.

Some tips when attempting value-increasing remodeling:

  • Remodel with mass appeal in mind. Potential buyers are usually attracted more to neutral, mainstream design.
  • Don’t go cheap when it comes to construction. Use durable, quality materials. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, honestly evaluate your ability to do it right.
  • Don’t remodel in a different style from the rest of the house. Additions and improvements that look “tacked on” may detract from a home’s appeal.
  • Turning a bedroom into a bathroom may be a mistake – it reduces the number of bedrooms, a chief selling point.
  • Reconsider a $30,000 kitchen remodel in a $100,000 house – unless you plan to continue living there. It may not be worth the money.

Make sure the outside of your home is spic-and-span. Clean out the gutters. Wash the windows and remove cobwebs and bugs. Trim the hedges, cut and edge the lawn, sweep the sidewalks and driveway. Plant some colorful flowers out front.

You may want to add to or improve your landscaping while you’re at it. According to a study conducted by Money Magazine, landscaping may be the best investment to improve a home's value. The study found that well-planned, attractive landscaping was estimated to have an actual recovery rate 100 to 200 percent higher than a kitchen or bathroom renovation.

Posted in Real Estate
April 19, 2017

3 Tips for a Higher Home Appraisal

It may seem that home buyers and sellers don't agree on much, but they share one important concern: that the transaction is successful. This comaraderie is never more evident than during the appraisal process. It's only natural, since the results of the appraisal can send the deal spiraling out of control.

Appraisers take into account many factors when determining the worth of a home. While some of these, such as location, can't be helped, there are things a homeowner can do to ensure that the home is appraised for maximum value.

1. Information is King
Appraisers don't spend a lot of time in the home. In fact, Brian Coester, Chief Executive of appraisal firm CoesterVMS, tells CNBC that the interior inspection typically takes 30 minutes or less.

"After inspecting thousands of homes, it does become quite easy to quickly assess the amenities in a home," reiterates Ryan Lundquist on Sacramento Appraisal Blog. That isn't much time to make a good first impression, so line up those ducks in advance of the appraiser's visit. The first one should be a packet of information that you can hand the appraiser as he or she speeds out the door after the inspection. This packet should contain not only the basics about your home but anything that will help back up the buyer's offer.

Include a fact sheet about the home with the address, the year the home was built, the square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the size of the lot. Also include a listing of recent sales in the area, especially if you know of any for-sale-by-owner homes that have sold or homes that sold for less than they should have for any reason. For example, a home may have been sold to a relative, or the owners may have sold quickly to take a job out of town. Yes, the appraiser has access to recent home sales, but there's always a chance he or she may miss something.

Create a list of any improvements you've made to the home. List them by date and include contact information for the contractor who did the work.

2. If It's Broken, Fix It
The appraiser will assign the home with what is known in the business as an "effective age."

It's largely based on the condition of the home and how well it has been maintained. This age may be older or younger than its actual age. "Say you have a cracked window, thread-bare carpet, some tiles falling off the shower surround, torn vinyl in the laundry room, and the dog ate the corner of the fireplace hearth; these items could still add up to an overall average condition rating as the home is still habitable. However your effective age will be higher resulting in comparables being utilized that have the same effective age, resulting in a lower value," Doreen Zimmerman, an appraiser in Paradise, California, tells the Wall Street Journal.

Fix anything that will age the home in the eyes of the appraiser.

3. Give the Home a Quick Cleaning
Most appraisers will tell you that it doesn't matter if your home is clean or dirty - it has no bearing on its value. We, on the other hand, know how illusions can sell, and if a clean house gives the illusion that the home has been well-maintained, what harm can it do to clean it before the appraiser's arrival? I don't know about you, but before I trade in a car at the dealership, I give it a good cleaning.

"Things like overgrown landscaping, soiled carpeting, marks on walls - those do affect value and are part of the property's overall condition rating," Dean Zibas, of Zibas Appraisal in San Clemente, California, tells the Wall Street Journal.

While some things impact a home's value more than others, the bottom line is that the process can vary by appraiser. Anything you can do in the three areas listed above has the potential to streamline the appraisal process and increase the value of your home. Plus, going through these steps prior to listing your home will only help increase the number of potential buyers. And ultimately, selling your home is what it's all about.

Posted in Selling
March 20, 2017

5 DIY Improvements to Enhance Your Home's Appeal

Updating your home to enhance its appeal is completely doable on a budget.

If you're looking to add more class to your home, taking on a DIY project can give your house that extra sense of style while saving you money. No need to cringe at those three little words: "do it yourself." There really are fast, easy and affordable projects you can do on your own. Here are five relatively easy ways to enhance your home.

1. Replace Your Light Fixtures
Switching out an old or basic light fixture for a more elegant one is an easy way to shift the ambiance of a room. By adding a sophisticated light fixture, you can control the intensity of the light and character of your room. And you don't need to pay a pretty penny for expensive new fixtures - you can buy used fixtures online.

2. Add Floating Shelves
Installing floating shelves in your home combines the functionality of extra storage space with a bit of style and personal flair. Floating shelves can be mounted on walls in many different patterns, and they come in various materials to give your rooms a unique touch. For a small room choose shallow shelves to display framed photos; for a larger room you can afford to use deeper shelves to hold vases, books and unique trinkets.

3. Paint an Accent Wall
Painting an accent wall can add a pop of color and showcase your personality. Usually a low-risk project, a homeowner of any skill level can tackle this project in a day. You just need some painter's tape, a brush and a color that suits you! Just make sure the color you choose is complementary with the other colors in the room. Stay consistent between warm and cool tones.

4. Install Decorative Molding
Adding decorative molding around your home can add an extra touch of elegance. Install molding to the ceiling by capping walls, columns and cabinets, or add chair molding lower to the ground. With detailed molding you can add character to your rooms while also making them feel taller and more finished.

5. Build a Stone Fire Pit


Take your sophisticated style outside by building a stone fire pit in your backyard. Find uniquely shaped rocks or large stones and put them together to create a functional and stylish fire pit. Before starting the project, be sure to check your local fire codes or homeowners association to ensure fire pits are allowed and will be safe.

Adding appeal to your home doesn't have to break the bank! Just be sure to start with one project at a time, allowing yourself to complete one before starting the next. Otherwise, you'll fall victim to chronic project incompleteness syndrome - not a good look!

Now that you know about these five inexpensive DIY projects, which will you try?

Posted in Home Improvement