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Homeowners Insurance: Things to Consider

by Bill Nelson - Broker

Anyone who owns a home knows that homeowners insurance is essential. It’s coverage you need to have in the event your home suffers significant damage. But understanding just what your insurance covers is not as simple as it sounds, and reviewing your coverage regularly is a prudent idea.

Are you covered for floods? Fires? Earthquakes? All three? Does your policy provide guaranteed replacement cost—which, for obvious reasons, since houses appreciate in value, may be almost prohibitively expensive? And what about exclusions? Many homeowners aren’t sure exactly what their coverage will pay for.

Financial advisors at consumer resource The Motley Fool suggest asking yourself three pointed questions when purchasing or renewing homeowners insurance:

  1. What does it cost to build in your area? There’s no way to price disaster insurance effectively without knowing what it would cost to rebuild your home. You need to know the per-square-foot average construction cost for your zip code—a number you should be able to get from a reputable insurance agent—then multiply that by the total area of your home to get the replacement cost. Insure for that amount, and then recheck the pricing regularly.
  2. What risks does your home face? Exclusions and riders are common for homeowners insurance. In Colorado, for example, policies frequently exclude damage from mold, since mold doesn’t thrive in the state’s dry climate. Other common exclusions apply to older homes, where outdated plumbing or fixtures may lead to greater risks. Be sure you understand exactly what risks your insurer will be covering.
  3. What’s my back-up fund like? The best way to save money on a homeowners policy is by taking on a higher deductible. But the higher your deductible, the less likely you will be to put in a claim for any lesser damages that may occur. You will need to have an emergency fund large enough to cover the gap in the event you ever need to.

Interested in housing and real estate tips? Feel free to contact me directly.

What Agents Must Share from Real Estate Disclosures

by Bill Nelson- Past President NCAOR®

There’s a memorable phrase in the real estate profession of “Disclose, disclose, disclose. Those who don’t, don’t close, don’t close, don’t close.”

It’s a smart rule to follow, and not just to make a sale. The National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics goes into some detail about what agents should disclose to clients, though there isn’t much about rules for real estate disclosures about a property’s condition.

An agent’s role in conveying the seller’s disclosure is pretty straightforward: Tell everything required by law, which vary by state and can go down to the city and county level.

The one area that federal law requires disclosure of is lead paint. If a home was built before 1978, it may contain lead paint and must be checked for it, and a disclosure form must be completed.

The state and federal regulations are meant to disclose known facts about a property’s condition, including problems that could discourage potential buyers. These include leaking windows, being in a flood zone and if a murder happened on the site.

While a home inspection should turn up most issues and could turn up new issues that no one knew about, it’s legally up to the seller to tell buyers about problems they already know about a home.

Most states require real estate agents and brokers to sign a disclosure form listing everything material about the deal, under penalty of perjury.

A real estate agent representing the buyer has a duty to disclose information that would allow the buyer to complete the sale at the lowest price and at the most favorable terms for the buyer, and these can include home defects that need to be fixed.

 Some issues may not meet current building codes but are working fine for the current owner, who isn’t obligated to disclose them, Wolfs says. These can include older windows, railings that are low, a driveway needing repair and improper grading.

Sellers and their agents may not have to disclose such issues, but revealing as much as they can in a disclosure statement is only in their best interest in the long run if they don’t want to be sued afterward for not alerting a buyer to something they knew about.

“Disclose, disclose, disclose.” Follow that mantra and you should be safe.

I hope you found this real estate information helpful. Please contact me for all your real estate needs today!

8 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Value

by Bill Nelson- Past President NCAOR®

Improving the look and functionality of your home goes a long way toward boosting its value. But what types of renovation are today’s buyers looking for?

If you are thinking of remodeling, a national survey by Consumer Reports reveals the most sought-after amenities:

  • Kitchens top the list – Buyers want a clean, updated and well-organized kitchen. A new coat of paint or modernized lighting can be inexpensive starts. Increasing the value exponentially are quartz counters, attractive cabinetry, and stainless steel appliances.
  • Workable floor plans – Regardless of the size of your home, strategically increasing the living space is sure to boost its value. A more open floor plan, a finished basement, or a dedicated playroom or office space appeals to the needs of young families.
  • Energy efficiency – Buyers are interested in energy costs and efficiency. Energy Star appliances, high-efficiency windows, and LED lighting help to lower the cost and increase your home’s ‘green’ appeal.
  • Updated systems and surfaces – Central air conditioning and updated mechanical systems, including water heaters and gas heat, can increase a home’s value by 3 to 5 percent.  A newer roof and hardwood flooring are also much in demand.
  • Allowance for aging in place – As people are living longer and the number of senior citizens continues to increase, buyers see the long-term value of walk-in showers, comfort-height toilets, and master bedrooms on the main floor.
  • Color and light matter – Fresh paint, natural color schemes, and window treatments that let in the light will improve the look as well as the value of your home.
  • The great outdoors – Up your home’s curb appeal by keeping lawns and shrubbery neatly trimmed. Also high on buyers’ wish-lists are a water-smart yard, a deck or patio, and a built-in grill.
  • Smart technology – Some high-tech features may lose value as technology continues to evolve. But security systems, whole house generators, and programmable thermostats controllable by smart phones will add value for their efficiency and convenience.

Your home is likely to be your greatest investment, so making steps to boost its value will pay off in the long run.

How Commission Distribution Works

by Bill Nelson - Broker with Realty One Inc

Once your home is listed in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), the listing broker discloses the terms of the commissions to other competing brokers so they will bring their buyers to the listing. When the buyer's broker presents a contract to the seller, it will include a provision to collect their share of the sales commission, as offered by the listing agent in the MLS.

A Simple Way to Stop Using Your Credit Card So Much

by Bill Nelson

If you’ve got a problem with credit card debt, there might be a simple solution that’s already sitting in your wallet or purse — a $20 bill.

Having cash in your pocket may seem counterintuitive. If you’ve heard the phrase “burning a hole in my pocket,” then you know how enticing it can be to spend money you’re carrying around.

But having cash on hand can cause you to spend less money than you would with a credit card — at least for small purchases — researchers have found.

A study by the Urban Institute found that using cash when a purchase is under $20 left the consumer with $104 less in revolving debt, on average. That dropped their credit card balances 2 percent below their baseline average.

For young people, the $20 cash rule led to more savings. People under 40 who were reminded “don’t swipe the small stuff” and to use cash on purchases for less than $20 had $173 less in revolving debt.

Credit keeps charging
The group also sent reminders to credit union members that “credit keeps charging” and that using a credit card adds about 20 percent to the total cost of something.

People who received that reminder didn’t significantly change the amount of their credit card debt, the survey found, but younger people did charge less. People under 40 who received the reminder about the cost going up by 20 percent with a credit card had $160 less in credit card debt.

A swipe is easy
Swiping a credit card can seem a lot easier and cheaper than using cash because you’re not parting with anything tangible. Seeing a $20 bill leave your wallet feels more like spending money than using a plastic card to buy something. After all, a $6 drink doesn’t look too bad when compared to a $5,000 spending limit on your credit card.

Having cash on hand helps you refrain from making small impulse purchases, which quickly add up. Check your credit card statement – seeing is believing.

I hope you found this information helpful. Please contact me for all your real estate needs today! 

Bill Nelson - Broker

Realty One Inc.

805.610.8552

Small Reminders Can Reduce Credit Card Debt

by Bill Nelson

No one wants to be reminded by their bank that using a credit card too much is a bad idea. It’s a rule of thumb that everyone knows, but often avoids because a credit card is a major convenience. After all, who wants to always carry cash for everyday purchases?

However, it turns out that “revolvers” — people who carry a balance on their credit card each month with revolving credit — can save some money by being reminded every once in a while by their bank about the downsides of using credit cards.

Researchers at the Urban Institute found that email reminders from your bank or a banner ad on its website can become big enough annoyances to get credit card users to cut spending by 2 percent.

One message reminded credit card holders to use cash for a purchase of less than $20. A second message highlighted the fact that credit cards add 20 percent to the cost of something with revolving credit.

The first message led to an average savings of $104, and up to $173 for revolvers under age 40. The second message had less of an impact, saving people under 40 an average of $160.

There are other small ways consumers can remind themselves to use their credit card less. Budgeting apps or reminders set up on your phone can help you automate savings, for example, by automatically moving money into a savings or retirement account.

Your banks app or website may also allow you to set text or email alerts when your account balance is low. Your credit card may be able to do the same thing, sending you an email when you’ve spent over a certain amount on a purchase, or letting you know when you’re near your credit limit.

The America Saves program sends periodic text messages to participants with savings tips and words of encouragement. Apps such as Hiatus and Trim help consumers stop automatic renewals on their credit cards that they may have forgotten about.

If you carry a revolving balance on your credit card, you’re not alone.

Data from TransUnion, a consumer credit reporting agency, shows that about 133 million people have at least one credit card with a balance. The average credit card debt rose to $5,247 in the second quarter of this year, up from $5,197 in the first quarter.

To start lowering your credit card debt, make more than the minimum payment each month. Until you start using only cash for purchases of $20 or less, that’s one of the best ways to tackle credit card debt.

I hope you found this information helpful. Please contact me at (805) 610-8552 for all your real estate needs today!

Expert Insights: How Does Refinancing Work?

by Bill Nelson

With a refinancing, you pay off an old loan on your home and take out a new one, usually at a lower mortgage interest rate. To refinance, you will generally need to have equity in your home, a good credit rating, and steady income. You can borrow a percentage of the equity to cover remodeling costs, debt consolidate, and college tuition.

When you refinance, you will incur all the closing costs that go along with getting a new mortgage. So unless you’re doing extensive renovations and can get a mortgage interest rate at least two points below your current loan rate, you may want to select another financing option.

You may have heard about “accident forgiveness” insurance from some of the TV commercials lately. This is an insurance add-on that the major insurance companies offer to their best customers that’s usually only used once. One accident is covered and forgiven, meaning your insurance rates won’t rise that one time.

This extra insurance can cost a little more, but can be cheaper than the increased premium would be after an accident. It can be a smart buy for parents with teen drivers. Some insurers may offer the extra coverage for free.

Adult drivers with good driving records, however, may not want to buy it because they’d essentially be paying for something they’re unlikely to use because they’re good drivers.

Being at-fault in an auto accident can cause insurance rates to rise 30 percent or more.

Some insurers provide accident forgiveness immediately to customers who buy it, while others may require up to five years of not having an accident under the policy before they’ll forgive one.

How often an insurer forgives also varies. Most forgive just the first at-fault accident, though some will start the forgiveness clock again in three to six years. Some may also require a driver not to have any moving violations for three years.

Safe drivers with clean driving records may not benefit by buying accident forgiveness because they should already have low rates, or at least have standard policies.

But it could still be worthwhile if you want to cover the chance that you may cause an accident someday, despite never causing one so far in your driving life.

Having teenage drivers may already result in higher insurance rates from the increased risk. Buying accident forgiveness insurance could help ease the pain of rates going up after a child’s first accident, no matter how small.

To help determine if the cost is worthwhile, ask your insurer how much your rates would rise if you caused an accident. This information should be available in a surcharge schedule that outlines percentage increases from specific infractions. If the potential rate hike is less than the cost of the added insurance, then it probably isn’t worth getting.

I hope you found this information helpful. Please contact me for all your real estate information needs today!

What's in your Autoresponder?

by Bill Nelson

The automatic email response – aka, the autoresponder - has become a ubiquitous part of our tech-driven society. When we’re away or tied up in meetings, having the ability to instantly let people know we’re not available allows us to feel that we’re being attentive and responsible. However, not all autoresponders are created equal. If yours doesn’t have the following components, it may be doing more harm than good:

A pleasant greeting. Your autoresponder should be pleasant and reflect your personality. Thank people for writing and assure them they will be taken care of in your absence.

An indication of why you’re unavailable. If you’re on vacation, let people know – they’ll be more likely to respect your away time. If you’re at an important conference or industry event, consider mentioning that as well. Business associates may be at the same event and can seek you out while there.

A clear explanation of your availability. There’s a big difference between checking email a few times a day and not checking email at all – so let people know exactly if and when they can expect to hear from you.

An alternative. Give clear direction as to who people can contact in your absence. Be sure to provide a colleague’s email and phone number – don’t forget the extension.

A solution for urgent matters. Consider leaving your mobile number for those who need to reach you in an emergency.

A date when you’ll be back in action. Let people know the date or time when you’ll be back and able to manage your email again.  

When executed properly, autoresponders can be a great way to reflect your professionalism and commitment to those you deal with. Spend a little time and put some polish on your next one—and don’t forget to turn it off as soon as you’ve returned.

Finance Tips for Young Parents

by Bill Nelson - Broker

As a young parent, you may just be learning about all the responsibilities parenthood requires. When it comes to financial planning, setting your sight on the future can help immensely.

Demolish debt. Slaying your own debt will positively impact your family's financial future. While it may take years to pay off those student loans or credit card debt, creating a plan can help. Tackle your lowest balance first to gain momentum then take on the next smallest. Additionally, pay attention to higher interest rates that are costing you a lot of money.

Build a budget. Creating a budget doesn't have to be hard. There are many budgeting apps available on the market to help you track your expenses, or you can try the trusty envelope system with monthly allowances for groceries, entertainment, utilities, etc.

Build an emergency fund. Setting a fund for potential emergencies will never backfire. Aim for a small, achievable goal as low as $500 then set the bar higher. Participate in your employer-sponsored savings program to boost retirement savings, especially if there is a match. Make it an automatic payroll deduction and increase it when your paycheck goes up. As far as your child's college savings, save what you can, when you can. Every little bit will help when education bills come due.

Child care. Consider establishing a flexible spending account if one is offered by your employer. Parents can use pretax dollars to pay up to $5,000 in child care expenses in most states.

Review insurance and important paperwork. Create a will either by using an online program or hiring a professional to name your child's guardian, and designate at what age any payouts, savings or investments will be distributed. With health insurance, notify your employer within 30 days of the birth to ensure that the child is eligible for any dependent benefits. Purchase appropriate health care coverage to protect your family. Review your employer's life insurance plan and determine if it is adequate for your needs. If not, consider purchasing additional life insurance.

Source: SmartAboutMoney.org.

 

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Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 11