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Don’t Fall Short! 6 Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Tackle This Autumn!

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

Autumn brings pumpkins and—love 'em or hate 'em—pumpkin spice lattes, sweater weather, and spooky skeletons. But most importantly, fall brings an end to a summer of outdoor adventures—and tedious yard tasks like weeding, mowing, and watering the lawn.

But just because the weather's cooling off doesn't mean your to-do list will, too. Before busting out the cinnamon spice and mulled wine, take on a few home maintenance tasks that will put you in good standing once temperatures dip.

"It's easier to prepare for a winter emergency in the fall," says Jericho McClellan, who works in construction management.

But fear not: We've got you covered with our checklist of home maintenance chores to tackle this season. Read on for details about where to start, and whom to call if you need backup.

1. Properly store your yard equipment

One of the best parts about fall: You can usually put your lawn mower into hibernation mode until spring.

But before you forget about that pesky piece of machinery entirely, remember this: Spring will suck if you don't prep your equipment this fall. That's because gasoline reacts with the air in the tank if left long enough, causing oxidation, which creates small deposits that can affect the performance of your mower.

And it's not just gas-powered equipment that needs a fall refresh.

Lester Poole, Lowe's live-nursery specialist, recommends running pressurized air through your pressure washers to remove any remaining water in the system, which will prevent freeze damage to the pumping mechanisms.

If your winter is particularly snowy and gritty, you'll be glad to have your pressure washer on high alert.

DIY: This project is easy to do yourself—just get rid of any spare gasoline. Many cities and counties have hazardous-waste programs, or your local auto parts store might take the old gas for you, too.

2. Protect your pipes

When temps dip below freezing, unprotected pipes can burst from exposure. Guard against burst pipes by wrapping them in foam insulation, closing foundation vents (more on that below), and opening cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to flow around supply lines. And make sure to keep your thermostat at 60 degrees or higher overnight.

If you haven't tracked down your home's water shut-offs yet, now's the time. They might be located outside your house or in your crawl space. Once you've found them, give them a test.

"The winter is not a fun time to try to figure that out, especially should a pipe burst," McClellan says. (More on that, too, in a minute.)

Now's also a good time to drain all of your exterior water hoses to prevent an icy emergency.

DIY: If your pipes do freeze, leave the affected faucets on and turn off your water supply, says Jenny Popis, a Lowe's Home Improvement spokeswoman. Then locate the freeze point by feeling the length of frozen pipes to determine which area is coldest. You can attempt to thaw it by wrapping the frozen section in washcloths soaked in hot water—then thaw until you have full water pressure.

Call in the pros: If you can't locate the freeze point or your pipes have burst, call in a licensed plumber, which will run $150 to $600 on average (depending on the severity of the leak).

3. Clear out your crawl space

While you're winterizing your pipes, peek around your crawl space. Is your HVAC system blocked by boxes of 50-year-old Mason jars? Can you get to any leaking pipes quickly?

DIY: While it's still warm, clear out any debris from your crawl space to ensure clear passage when winter's worst happens.

Call in the pros: Creeped out by the idea of crawling around under your house? Professional crawl space cleaners charge about $500 to $4,500, depending on the size of your house and the state of the space.

4. Close your crawl space vents

During your crawl space expedition, this is a must-do: Close the vents that circle your home's perimeter.

"The vents were placed there for a functional reason, not just aesthetics," says real estate agent, broker, and construction expert Ron Humes. "The problem is that most homeowners have no idea why they are there."

Here's why: In warm, wet seasons, crawl space vents allow airflow, which prevents moisture buildup. But if you leave them open during cold, dry weather, that chilly air will cool down your floorboards—making mornings uncomfortable.

DIY: "When the temperatures drop, slide those crawl space vents closed," Humes says. "Just remember to open them again in the spring."

If one of your vents is broken, replacements range from $20 to $50.

Call in the pros: If your crawl space stays damp through the fall and winter, you might want to consider waterproofing, dehumidifying, and sealing off your crawl space to prevent wet air. This can cost $1,500 to $15,000.

5. Kick-start your composting efforts                

Now's the perfect time, with all those leaves and dead plants, to start a compost pile. You don't even need a fancy compost spinner; sectioning off a corner of your yard is enough.

"Put yard waste to work by piling green leaves and clippings into a pile near your garden," Poole says. Next, layer with brown materials such as soil, dead leaves, and coffee grounds. Next up: kitchen scraps.

"Through the season, turn your mound using a pitchfork to expose oxygen to all ingredients and use it in the spring for fertilizer," Poole says.

Next year's tomatoes will thank you.

DIY: If your yard lacks space for a compost corner—or you have no interest in regular pitchforking—consider a tumbling composter. This well-reviewed model from Amazon costs about $100.

6. Protect your trees

Not all species of trees are winter-hardy—especially thin-barked ones like beech, aspens, or cherry trees. For these varietals, "sun-warmed sap quickly freezes at night and causes bark to split," Poole says.

He recommends wrapping your tree trunks with paper tree wrap, covering the entire bark from an inch above the soil to the lowest branches. Adhere the wrapping to the tree using duct tape to keep your trees in tiptop condition.

DIY: You can find 150 feet of paper tree wrap on Amazon for $18, although you may need a few rolls depending on how many trees need winter protection.

Call in the pros: Are your trees already looking the worse for wear? A tree service can help you sort out what's wrong. Pruning costs anywhere from $75 to $1,000.

 

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash.com

3 Top Return-On-Investment Projects

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

You’d be surprised at what your home insurance policy doesn’t cover. Here’s what is and isn’t covered by your insurance.

What does your homeowners insurance cover? The short answer is: “A basic homeowners insurance policy (called HO-1 in insurance lingo) covers your home and possessions if they’re damaged or destroyed by these things:

    Fire
    Lightning
    Windstorm (unless you live in a hurricane zone)
    Hail (not available everywhere)
    Explosion
    Riots
    Civil commotion
    Aircraft  (and things falling from aircraft)
    Vehicles (and things thrown from vehicles)
    Smoke
    Vandalism (although some policies exclude this)
    Malicious mischief
    Theft
    Volcanic eruption

But many states don’t allow this basic policy to be sold. Instead, you have to buy an upgraded policy that Upgraded Homeowners Insurance

That upgraded policy (called HO-2) adds protection to your home and possessions from even more perils. You get protection from everything on the HO-1 list (above) plus: covers more perils.

    Falling objects
    The weight of ice, snow, or sleet
    Flooding from your appliances, plumbing, HVAC, or fire-protection sprinkler system
    Damage to electrical parts caused by artificially generated electrical currents (such as a power surge not caused by lightning). But damaged electronics such as computers aren't covered.
    Glass breakage
    Abrupt collapse (say from termite damage)

That same list applies to the homeowners insurance you buy for a condominium or co-op (except then it’s called HO-6 instead of HO-2).

With HO-1, HO-2, and HO-6, what you see is what you get. So if zombies attacked your home, your HO-1 or HO-2 wouldn’t cover the damage because zombies aren’t on the list of specific things those policies cover.

The Most Complete Homeowners Insurance

The most complete and protective form of homeowners insurance (called HO-3) covers you for all perils except some specific ones like:

    Floods
    Earthquakes
    Wars
    Nuclear accidents
    Landslides
    Mudslides
    Sinkholes

With this policy, if zombies attacked, you’d be covered because zombies weren’t specifically excluded by your HO-3 policy.

What Homeowners Insurance Doesn’t Cover

No matter which basic policy you get, it’s not going to cover everything than can damage or destroy your home. Typical homeowners policies don’t cover:

    Bad things that happen because you failed to maintain your home (like mold)
    Hurricanes
    Floods
    Earthquakes
    Mudslides
    Landslides
    Sinkholes
    War
    Nuclear accidents
    Sewer backups
    Sump pump failure
    Ground movement and holes caused by mining (known as mine subsidence insurance)
    Pollution

You can buy additional policies to cover some but not all of those perils (a quick Google search didn’t turn up any nuclear accident coverage).

And even if insurance is available for the most common natural disaster in your area, you may not be able to buy it if your home has features that make it vulnerable. For example, a home with unrated wood shake roof shingles may be tough to insure in an area where wildfires are common.

Other Things Homeowners Insurance Covers

In addition to covering your home, homeowners insurance also covers four more things:

1. Your outbuildings, landscaping, and hardscaping. If you have outbuildings (like a barn), landscaping, or hardscaping (like fences), your homeowners policy most likely covers those for up to 10% of your policy amount (5% for plants).

For example, if you have $100,000 in homeowners insurance and someone drives into your fence, the policy would cover 10%, or $10,000 in repairs.

Sometimes policies exclude damage to outbuildings, landscaping, or hardscaping caused by a particular peril (like wind).

2. Damage or loss of your personal belongings. Your homeowners policy covers your family’s belongings, even when you take them out of the house. If your child heads to college with a laptop and it’s stolen, that’s probably covered by your homeowners insurance policy.

A home insurance policy covers a lot of your personal belongings, but not necessarily everything.

You’ll need additional insurance if you have many expensive items like jewelry, furs, or antiques.

Policies will either state that your personal belongings are insured for replacement cost or cash value.

Replacement cost means that the insurance company will pay the full cost of replacing an item (such as the laptop mentioned above, or a sofa damaged in a fire) once you show a receipt. Cash value means the insurance company will issue you a check for the amount that the laptop or sofa would have been worth when it was stolen or destroyed.

3. Temporary living expenses if your home is so damaged you can’t live in it. When you can’t live in your home, your homeowners insurance covers your living expenses, including hotel bills and meals. But, you can’t live in the hotel forever and eat lobster every night on the insurance company’s tab. Your policy will have limits on how long you stay and how much you can spend.

4. Injuries or accidents at your house. Homeowners insurance coverage includes liability – meaning it covers you when you or your family members cause injuries or damage. This coverage also pays when your dog bites someone (medical payments) or someone falls and injures themselves.

Add an umbrella policy to boost your liability coverage into the millions.

Homeowners Insurance for Older Homes

There’s another kind of homeowners insurance (HO-8) used when your home is so old it would be impossible to replace. It couldn't be built like the original -- that is, new electrical code wouldn't permit the same electrical, etc.

An HO-8 policy covers the same perils as the basic HO-1, but will only pay you the repair cost or market value instead of the replacement value.

If your home is old, but not so old that it’s historic, you might want another homeowners insurance coverage. A “law and ordinance” policy covers the cost of rebuilding using today’s building codes. It’s good to have if the building codes have changed a lot (for example, in Florida) since your home was built.

No Place Like Home

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

12 Questions You’ll Wish You Asked Before You Moved In

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team
If you bought a house with no maintenance issues big or small, let us know. That would be one for the record books. In reality, most homeowners find a problem, quirk, shortcoming, whatever, within the first couple of months.

To actively ferret out your home’s trouble spots and head off headaches, know the right questions to ask before you buy. That doesn't mean potential problems go away, but you'll have eyes wide open and can adjust your budget accordingly.

And if you've already settled in, getting answers to these key questions will help you get to work putting the shine on your castle. Ask the previous owner, your agent, and your new neighbors for helpful answers.

#1 Has There Ever Been a Busted Pipe?

A broken pipe isn't rare; in fact, water damage caused by a frozen or burst pipe is a leading cause of homeowners insurance claims, at around 22% of all home insurance losses, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

What bursts? Typically exposed water pipes in unheated basements and crawl spaces, along with exterior faucets.

Another prime suspect of water damage: old washing machine hoses.

A good inspector usually can tell if water damage has occurred, and any damage should be disclosed by the previous owner at the time of sale. Nevertheless, you should:

 

  • Make sure exposed pipes in unheated areas are protected with pipe insulation.
  • Install frost-proof spigots on all exterior faucets. The spigots let you put a shutoff valve inside your home so freezing isn’t likely.
  • Check that washing machine hoses are in good condition and replace, if necessary, with braided steel hoses with brass fittings ($11 to $18 for a 5-foot hose). They’re much stronger and longer lasting than rubber hoses.
The big fallout from water damage is moisture problems you won't see -- behind drywall and trim -- which can lead to mold. If you know there’s been a major leak, a mold remediation pro ($200 to $600) will tell you if mold is present and the steps required to remove it.

#2 How Old is the Roof?

Knowing the approximate age will give you a good idea of how soon you’ll face -- and need to budget for -- repairs or replacement. A new roof is no small matter: The "Remodeling Impact Report" from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® pegs the median national cost of an asphalt roofing replacement at $7,500.

The most common type of roofing -- regular asphalt shingles -- needs to be replaced after 15 to 20 years. Here are estimated average life spans for other types of roofing materials:

 

  • Top-of-the-line (architectural) asphalt shingles: 24 to 30 years
  • Metal (galvalume): 30 to 45 years
  • Concrete tile: 35 to 50 years
  • Wood shakes: 20 to 40 years
If you don't know the age of your asphalt roofing, use these general guidelines to determine if new shingles are in order:

1. Sand-like roofing granules accumulate in the bottoms of gutters and flow out through downspouts, but otherwise the roofing looks in good shape. Inspect for deterioration in spring and fall.

2. Bare spots begin to appear where patches of protective granules have worn away, and the edges of shingles start to curl -- a strong signal that you need new roofing.

3. Shingles become brittle and begin to crack and break. You might be able to replace a few. But if roofing nail heads become exposed (that is, they’re no longer hidden by the overlapping shingles), an expensive roof leak is likely.

Tip: Know how many layers of roofing your house has. Most building codes allow two layers (because of weight concerns): the original roofing, and one re-roofing layer over that.

#3 Any Infestations of Termites, Carpenter Ants, or Other Pests?

This should be disclosed by the previous owner at time of sale. But even if the owner dealt with a past infestation -- and can offer proof, such as a receipt for pest control -- that doesn't mean the little buggers have been totally eliminated.

Whatever conditions made your house ripe for infestation in the first place -- a slow leak under the house, soft rotting wood that attracts insects -- may still be present. Plus, many infestations aren't confined to one house. It may be a neighborhood-wide problem.

Be proactive, because the average cost of a termite extermination treatment around the perimeter of a 2,500-square-foot house is $1,700 to $3,200. Repairs to wooden framing, sheathing, and siding can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

You should:

 

  • Ask neighbors about any problems they've had with pests.
  • Seal cracks and holes around your house.
  • Keep attics, basements, and crawl spaces dry and well-ventilated.
  • Make sure gutters and downspouts are in good repair, and that the soil around your foundation slopes away from your house at least 6 inches over a 10-foot distance.
  • Repair or replace any rotted wood.
  • Keep firewood and lumber piles at least 20 feet from your home.
#4 Any Pets Buried in the Backyard?

For a grieving homeowner, it can make sense to bury Bosco in his favorite spot under the old oak tree.

On one hand, we sympathize; on the other, it's kinda creepy. If you didn't know, you might go out to with a shovel to plant a bunch of hostas. Surprise! You've unearthed Bosco.

If you ask this question and the answer is yes, you can:

 

  • Ask where the animal is buried and simply avoid gardening in that spot.
  • Ask the previous owner to remove the remains.
  • Remove the remains yourself.
If the previous owner refuses your request, you're not exactly on firm legal ground. Disclosure laws are hazy on this point. Check your state’s disclosure laws.

Most states allow pets to be buried in a yard as long as they’re a prescribed distance from waterways, water sources, and nearby residences (usually 100 to 200 feet); the animal is buried 6 inches to 2 feet in depth; and there’s some sort of precaution (a kitty coffin or a covering of stones would do the trick) so the carcass can’t be dug up by animals. Major cities may not allow any type of pet burial. Ask your county’s board of health and animal control agency for local regulations.

If you find out there’s a buried pet and want it removed, write a letter to the previous owner requesting removal -- and keep a copy. If you decide to go to court, you'll want a document that proves you made the request.

Better yet, hire an attorney to draft a letter. A letter from a lawyer commands attention.

The bottom line: If you drag this all the way to court, it's probably not worth the aggravation and bad blood. A better solution: Hire someone to dig out the remains and take them away, or do it yourself. Then plant those hostas.

#5 Any Paranormal or Nefarious Activity?

Maybe for the sake of party conversation, you're hoping the answer is yes. Regardless, ask.

Haunted houses fall into the category of what real estate pros call "stigmatized houses" -- homes that have been the site of happenings like:

  • Ghost sightings and other paranormal activity
  • A murder or suicide
  • A death due to an accident or unusual disease
  • A meth lab
Again, real estate disclosures aren't consistent. About half of all states have disclosure requirements for stigmatized houses, although most don't include ghosts.

If the seller reveals the house to be stigmatized, you'll have negotiating power. A stigmatized house generally sells for 10% to 25% below market value.

A meth lab carries the risk of residual toxic chemicals. If you suspect that kind of sordid history but it's not being disclosed, you can check old news accounts or ask the local police for records of arrest.

You'll want to ask the seller and your real estate agent directly if you're concerned about ghosts and ghouls, and check your local real estate laws to get the local lowdown on disclosing paranormal activity.

#6 What are Monthly Utility Costs?

You can't get away from paying utilities, so know what your monthly budget is up against. Be sure to get an average cost -- not the lowest monthly bill -- and ask when peak months are.

While you're at it, ask what kind of energy sources your house appliances use -- gas, electric, propane, or a combination. That'll help you understand where you might upgrade to energy-efficient appliances to save energy costs.

Remember that energy savings starts with the simplest of tasks, like sealing air leaks.

#7 Has the Sewer Ever Backed Up?

As properties age and trees and other plants get bigger, roots find their way into sewer lines between a house and the street, causing clogs. It's a mess for sure, and most homeowner insurance policies don't cover damage from backed-up sewers.

Plan to have the sewer line cleared (about $150) every other year.

For $40 to $50 per year, you can add an endorsement to your insurance policy to cover damage from a backed-up sewer.

#8 Is There Documentation on Warranties?

If the previous owners were conscientious enough to stash warranties and appliance manuals, be sure to get them.

If you get the paperwork, look for purchase dates on major appliances, so you'll know how old they are and when they might decide to poop out. If you're ready to upgrade, you can I.D. which appliances are least energy efficient and target those first.

Tip: Keep all warranty cards and product manuals yourself. If you decide to sell, those records show you care about your house and become a marketing asset.

#9 How Much Insulation Is in the Attic?

After sealing air leaks and weatherstripping around doors and windows, adding insulation is one of the best ways to gain efficiency and keep your house cozy.

Knowing how much insulation you have lets you decide if an investment in more insulation is worth the cost. In colder regions, for example, a $1,500 attic insulation upgrade from R-11 to R-49 saves about $600 per year in energy costs, and you'll see a payback in about three years.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends adding more insulation if the thickness of your attic insulation is less than 11 inches (R-30).

Is the previous owner unsure? Peek in the attic. If the attic floor is insulated and you can see the tops of the ceiling joists, you should budget an insulation upgrade. If insulation was installed between the roof rafters -- and you can see the edges of the rafters -- you can beef up the insulation by covering over the rafters with rigid insulating foam board.

#10 How Big is the Water Heater?

To avoid a family rebellion, make sure your water heater is big enough to cover the needs of your household.

Most water heaters have a life expectancy of about 13 years. A new high-efficiency water heater costs $900 to $2,000, depending on the size and model you choose.

#11 When Was the Last Time the Septic Tank Was Pumped?

A typical septic system should be pumped every three to five years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Association. But the number of people in the house can affect that recommendation. We like this chart from septic installer Van Delden in San Antonio, showing about how often (years) you should pump based on capacity. A pumping costs $200 to $300.

#12 Will My SUV Fit in the Garage?

It's a fairly common doh! moment, says Sacramento, Calif., REALTOR® Elizabeth Weintraub. "Many garages are too low to accommodate the height of a big, newer vehicle."

Cabinets and workbenches can shorten overall garage space, too, making length an issue.

With full-size SUVs and trucks nearing 20 feet in length and almost 7 feet tall when equipped with a roof rack, sizing up the garage space is a good idea before you buy.

Worst case: You buy without checking and come sailing happily home for the first time to discover -- too late -- your Chevy Suburban is too tall to fit in the garage.

Knowing everything you can about your home gives you a leg up on surprises, lets you budget smartly, and gives you royal satisfaction with your new castle.

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

How Soon Can You Sell A House After Buying?

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team
By: Larissa Runkle

They don't call it a forever home for nothing. Most of us buy with the intent of staying a long time—sometimes indefinitely. But here's the rub: Things change. Life takes us in a different direction, or the house you fell in love with only a few short months ago somehow becomes your biggest regret. Maybe the neighborhood is changing, or financial difficulties are making it impossible to enjoy your new home.

Whatever the reason, you just might find yourself asking, “How soon can I sell this house?”—mere months after you moved in.

But then there's that pesky five-year rule that everyone cites. Basically, it says you should never even consider selling until you’ve lived in the home for at least five years. And it's not arbitrary—there’s good reason for it.

“Unless it's a superhot market, a seller likely won't even recoup their transaction costs if they sell within a few years of buying,” says James McGrath, real estate broker and co-founder of Yoreevo.

McGrath, like many real estate professionals, even advises clients to avoid buying a house unless they plan on staying for at least five years, which is the typical amount of time it takes to break even on your initial investment.

But rules are meant to be broken as needed, and sometimes your situation actually requires you to break them. Here are three times you should say to heck with it all and get out of that house.

Exception No. 1: Your property value goes way up

Sometimes the market is so white-hot that it seems like property values jump overnight. This would definitely qualify as one of those times you can get away with ignoring the five-year rule and selling your home, even if you haven’t been in it for long.

But a lot depends on where you plan to go next. Moving to a lower-cost metro? You’re golden. Staying in the same area? You might not be able to get into a nicer place, or end up paying more money for a home much like the one you currently own. Look around and run the numbers carefully.

Also, keep in mind this tactic works only if the profit you make from the sale is really significant—otherwise you might see it eaten up by closing costs and a little thing called capital gains tax.

“Selling a home after owning it for less than a year generates a short-term capital gains tax,” says Denver real estate agent Alex Kishinevsky. “In this scenario, any equity you have accumulated from the sale is subject to taxation as ordinary income, according to the IRS.”

Exception No. 2: The neighborhood is going downhill

A bad neighborhood is bad news, and if there's a clear downward trend, you'd best get ahead of it. A declining neighborhood could ruin your chances of a profitable sale in the future.

Neighborhoods can start spiraling downward for a number of reasons, not the least of which is when something new gets built—or destroyed—and disrupts the quality of life. We’re talking about malls, prisons, factories, and more.

“How far away are you from the lights and noise it produces? Are citizens concerned about possible pollutants?" asks Benjamin Ross, a Realtor® with Mission Real Estate Group. "Are town hall meetings getting volatile? If the answers to these questions are yes, it may be smart to sell early and take a small loss, versus stay and lose your shirt.”

Whatever is changing your neighborhood’s landscape, ask yourself if it devalues your home. If the answer is yes, break the five-year rule and get out.

Exception No. 3: You really hate living there

Although we keep harping on it, making a profitable sale isn’t the only important thing when it comes to deciding where to live and for how long. Your happiness is also significant. If you really, really hate where you live, then you might just need to get out—regardless of the cost.

Depending on your mortgage and home insurance policy, you might even consider turning the house into an investment property. A lot of homeowners choose to rent out their homes when the market is less than stellar but they want to stop living there.

“Allow someone else to pay your mortgage and grow your net worth,” says Seattle real estate agent Tyler Kirages.

No matter why you’re considering breaking the five-year rule, always keep in mind that listing isn’t the same thing as selling.

"Put it up and see what you can get,” Ross says. “Just because you list doesn't mean you have to sell. Explore your options by finding real values in a possible deal, and do it if it makes sense."

Can You Afford That House?

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

By: Mary Beth Storjohann, Workable Wealth

If you’re considering purchasing a home, you’ve likely already considered how much you have available for a down payment, what an ideal mortgage payment would be, and how much home you can actually afford based on your monthly income. But what about your lifestyle?

Have you considered how much wiggle room you need to leave in your home budget to enjoy life? Here are six life factors to consider when buying a home:

#1 Travel
Travel is an important goal for many people. Think about the travel goals you have for yourself:

  • Where do you want to go?
  • What do you want to see?
  • How long are your ideal trips?
  • How much money would you need on an annual basis to make your travel goals possible?
  • Is this already factored into your budget or will you need to cut back on travel to fund your monthly mortgage payment and home expenses?

There are no right or wrong answers, but it’s important to reflect on your priorities.

#2 Green Thumb?
Do you love gardening, being outside, and all things landscaping? If you purchase a home with a lawn and don’t enjoy the upkeep, you could be looking at an extra $100 or more a month for professional landscape maintenance. Are you willing to skip the lawn in favor of hardscaping to reduce costs?

Bottom line: Factor hobbies and services into your monthly budget to see if the numbers still work out in the black.

#3 Pool Time
How dreamy would it be to buy a home with a pool!? Before the dream becomes reality, add up the costs of pool maintenance and servicing, energy, and insurance (along with liability if you have small children) and you may be better off heading to the neighborhood swimming hole.

Pools can be a lot of fun, but they come with a lot of work. Factor time and money into your future plans when buying a home with this special feature and, once again, ask yourself if the numbers add up to support your other financial goals.

#4 Children
If you’re buying a home and plan to start a family in the next few years, don’t just consider the amount of mortgage you can afford under your current expenses. Factor in daycare costs and then determine what your cash flow will look like. You may have to adjust the amount of home you’re looking to purchase.

#5 Entertainment
Chances are you enjoy dining out, going to concerts and sporting events, and seeing movies. If you need to rein in these activities to make room for your mortgage, home expenses, and savings, aim to strike a balance that won’t leave you feeling restless.

After all, you’re likely choosing a 30-year mortgage, and three decades is a long time to feel deprived. If necessary, reduce the amount of home you purchase so you can enjoy yourself in the ways that are important to you.

#6 Retirement
If you’re in your 20s, you should try to save 10% of your income; in your 30s, you should be saving 15%. If you need to cut back on your retirement savings to make a home purchase work, think hard about when you’ll be able to get back to your ideal contribution levels and how much you may be losing out on during that time.

Although home ownership can help build long-term wealth, it’s important to also maintain retirement savings for future security.

 

Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash.com

Breaking Down The Break In

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

5 Times It Doesn't Pay to File a Homeowners Insurance Claim

by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

Great insurance policies help homeowners sleep better at night. If something bad happens, at least you can call your insurance company, right?

Unfortunately, not being careful with your homeowners insurance claims could turn a real-life disaster into a financial catastrophe. Submit too many claims? Your premiums might rise. Submit the wrong claim? Again, your premiums might rise—and you'll still have to cover the cost of the damage.

Truth be told, homeowners insurance isn't as simple as "Submit claim, get paid." To save money in the long run, you need to think carefully about whether you want to file that claim. Here are five scenarios that might end up costing you.

1. When the cost is within 20% of your deductible

Don't treat your homeowners insurance deductible like your medical insurance deductible. Just because your insurance company will cover part of the cost doesn't mean you want it to do so.

"I would never recommend that one of our customers turn in a claim that, after the deductible, is only going to pay out a couple hundred dollars," says Will Tucker, who owns an independent insurance agency, Tucker Agency. "We advise our customers to pay cash until it becomes painful."

Submitting multiple small claims may ultimately make you "uninsurable," Tucker says. Soon, you'll see higher premiums, and you might even struggle to switch insurance providers.

Financial planner R.J. Weiss advises homeowners to "avoid filing a claim within 20% of your deductible." So if your deductible is $2,000, don't submit anything to your insurance if it costs less than $2,400.

2. When it was avoidable

We're going to use a very, very broad definition of "avoidable," here. Avoidable doesn't mean "your fault," or even anyone's fault, per se. Think about it from the insurer's perspective: Would better locks or a different property location have thwarted the thief who stole your television? Would a newer stove or frequent maintenance have prevented that kitchen fire?

"Not all losses are created equal," Tucker says. Take hail, for instance: There's nothing you can do to keep a freak storm from battering your roof.

"A theft or fire claim is always going to be worse," Tucker continues. That means your post-claim insurance premium increase will be proportionately worse, too.

While this shouldn't keep you from filing a claim if your losses were severe, consider paying cash if you can afford to do so.

3. When you are responsible

If you're filing a claim because of homeowner negligence, consider carefully whether you can afford to fix the problem yourself first.

"If the damage is due to your lack of maintenance, your claim may be denied," says Katie Tu, an insurance specialist with QuoteWizard. Even if your claim is denied, it's still noted on the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange—or CLUE—which means that it can affect your premiums.

If your insurance company believes you're not capable or interested in maintaining a safe home, that can affect your insurance, too. Immediately maintaining or repairing any issues when they show up "can prevent you from filing frivolous claims," Tu says.

4. When your local agent tells you not to file

Having a local insurance agent can be a lifesaver, especially if you're trying to avoid premium increases.

"I take pride in advising my clients and helping them decide the best course of action regarding the claims," says Julian Conner, a private insurer with Mints Insurance Agency. "If you call the carrier directly, they'll often funnel you right to the claims department. Even if you're only looking for the answer to a couple of questions, this often triggers the start of the claims process."

Talking to a local or independent agent first can save you the trouble of filing a claim you really shouldn't have—and which also might increase your premiums.

"Most agents have seen a lot," Weiss says. "In addition, many agents can call your insurance company—without giving your name and policy number—to inquire about the chances of your claim being denied."

5. When there aren't long-term home repercussions

Here's a tricky homeowners insurance claim scenario: water damage. Let's say a pipe burst in your second-floor laundry room, soaking the first floor. Your deductible is $3,000, and repairing the pipes and cleaning the water costs about $3,500. You shouldn't put in an insurance claim ... right?

Maybe you should. If damage might worsen over time, filing a claim now is the right course of action.

"You may be able to dry your floor and call it a day," Conner says. "But did the moisture seep into the subfloor, starting the beginning of a mold problem? If you report this claim right away, the loss will likely be covered. However, if you wait two years until you discover the mold, the carrier will likely deny it."

Figuring out which insurance claims are worth making can be a tricky business. Knowing how best to evaluate a problem—and understanding whom to call if you can't make a decision—will prevent you from paying more in homeowners insurance costs over the long run.

 

Photo by Le Creuset on Unsplash

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by Kathy and Michael Rain - The Rain Team

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Kathy and Michael Rain of Coldwell Banker provides real estate services in the San Mateo County, California area including the surrounding communities: El Granda, Half Moon Bay, Montara, Moss Beach, Pacifica and San Mateo. Search for homes in San Mateo County. We list and sell residential real estate, investment properties, vacant land, lots for sale in the San Mateo County, California area.

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