Each month, we publish a series of articles of interest to homeowners -- money-saving tips, household safety checklists, home improvement advice, real estate insider secrets, etc. Whether you currently are in the market for a new home, or not, we hope that this information is of value to you. Please feel free to pass these articles on to your family and friends.
Before Disaster Strikes
Fires . . . hurricanes. . . floods . . . earthquakes . . . tornadoes.... Natural or other disasters can strike suddenly, at any time, and anywhere. Your first priority, of course, would be to protect your family and your property. But it's also important to protect against the financial consequences of a disaster. A disaster can damage or destroy your property, force you to temporarily live somewhere else, cut the flow of wages and other income, or ruin valuable financial records.
Listed here are some simple, common sense steps you can take now. Before you take any actions, however, you should be sure you have involved your family or friends whenever possible in decision making and planning. You also may want the assistance of an advisor, such as a Certified Financial Planner, insurance agent, or similar financial professional.
The important thing is to begin planning now, before the unexpected becomes a harsh reality.
Protect your property
One of the first things to do is find out what disasters could strike where you live----fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane, or tornado, for example. The following steps can help you avoid or reduce substantially the potential physical destruction to your property if you were to be hit with a disaster. These steps can reduce your insurance costs, too. For example, you could:
If you're not sure where to start, you could contact your local fire department. Fire departments will often make house calls to evaluate your property and make suggestions on how to improve safety. In earthquake-prone areas, the local utility can be called upon to come to your location and show you how and where to shut off gas lines or how to elevate utilities to get them above a possible flood.
Conduct a household inventory
Inventory your household possessions by making a list of everything you own. If disaster strikes, this list could:
To conduct a thorough home inventory:
Sound like too much work? Computer software programs designed for such purposes can make the task much easier. These programs are readily available in local computer stores.
Most important, once you have completed your inventory, leave a copy with relatives or friends, or in a safe deposit box. Don't leave your only copy at home, where it might be destroyed.
Even with adequate time to prepare for a disaster, you still may suffer significant, unavoidable damage to your property. That's when insurance for renters or homeowners can be a big help. Yet, many people affected by recent disasters have been underinsured-or worse-not insured at all. Homeowners insurance doesn't cover floods and some other major disasters. Make sure you buy the insurance you need to protect against the perils you face.
If you own a home:
If you rent:
If you are moving:
Consider special coverage
Insurance for renters and homeowners won't cover certain types of losses. Ask your insurance agent or financial planner about special or additional coverage for the following:
Where to keep cash
After a disaster, you may need cash for the first few days, or even several weeks. Income may stop if you can't work. To help stay solvent, consider the following:
Use an evacuation box
Buy a lockable, durable "evacuation box" to grab in the event of an emergency. Even a cardboard box would do. Put important papers into the box in sealed, waterproof plastic bags. Store the box in your home where you can get to it easily. Keep this box with you at all times, don't leave it in your unattended car.
The box should be large enough to carry:
Rent a safe deposit box
Safe deposit boxes are invaluable for protecting originals of important papers. If you don't have a safe deposit box, keep copies in your evacuation box or with family or friends. Original documents to store in a safe deposit box include:
Generally, originals of wills should not be kept in a safe deposit box since the box may be sealed temporarily after death. Keep originals of wills with your local registrar of wills or your attorney.
Deciding on a safe and convenient location is an issue. You may want to consider renting a safe deposit box in a bank far enough away from your home so it is not likely to be affected by the same disaster that strikes your home (for instance, bank vaults have been flooded). Keep the key to the safe deposit box in your evacuation box.
Home safes and fire boxes
Safes and fire boxes can be convenient places to store important papers. However, some disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, or tornadoes, could destroy your home. Usually, it's better to store original papers in a safe deposit box or at another location well away from your home.
If you have time...
Some disasters, such as tornadoes or earthquakes, strike with little or no warning. Others, such as floods or hurricanes, may allow some time to prepare. If there is enough time, you could take the following actions:
Whew! These are a lot of ideas. You may not be able to do everything that is suggested---that's OK. Do what you can. Taking even limited action now will go a long way toward preparing you financially before a disaster strikes.
6 Mistakes To Avoid When Trading Up to a Larger Home
".....you have to sell your present home at exactly the right time in order to avoid either the financial burden of owning two homes or, just as bad, the dilemma of having no place to live during the gap between closings...."
Unlike the experience of buying a first home, when youre looking to move-up, and already own a home, there are certain factors that can complicate the situation. Its very important for you to consider these issues before you list your home for sale.
Not only is there the issue of financing to consider, but you also have to sell your present home at exactly the right time in order to avoid either the financial burden of owning two homes or, just as bad, the dilemma of having no place to live during the gap between closings.
In this report, we outline the six most common mistakes homeowners make when moving to a larger home. Knowledge of these six mistakes, and the strategies to overcome them, will help you make informed choices before you put your existing home on the market.
1. Rose-colored glasses
Most of us dream of improving our lifestyle and moving to a larger home. The problem is that there's sometimes a discrepancy between our hearts and our bank accounts. You drive by a home that you fall in love with only to find that it's already sold or that its more than what you are willing to pay. Most homeowners get caught in this hit or miss strategy of house hunting when there's a much easier way of going about the process. For example, find out if your agent offers a Buyer Profile System or House-hunting Service, which takes the guesswork away and helps to put you in the home of your dreams. This type of program will cross match your criteria with ALL available homes on the market and supply you with printed information on an ongoing basis. A program like this helps homeowners take off their rose-colored glasses and, affordably, move into the home of their dreams.
2. Failing to make necessary improvements
If you want to get the best price for the home you're selling, there will certainly be things you can do to enhance it in a prospective buyer's eyes. These fix ups don't necessarily have to be expensive. But even if you do have to make a minor investment, it will often come back to you ten fold in the price you are able to get when you sell. It's very important that these improvements be made before you put your home on the market. If cash is tight, investigate an equity loan that you can repay on closing.
3. Not selling first
You should plan to sell before you buy. This way you will not find yourself at a disadvantage at the negotiating table, feeling pressured to accept an offer that is below market value because you have to meet a purchase deadline. If you've already sold your home, you can buy your next one with no strings attached. If you do get a tempting offer on your home but haven't made significant headway on finding your next home, you might want to put in a contingency clause in the sale contract which gives you a reasonable time to find a home to buy. If the market is slow and you find your home is not selling as quickly as you anticipated, another option could be renting your home and putting it up on the market later - particularly if you are selling a smaller, starter home. You'll have to investigate the tax rules if you choose this latter option. Better still, find a way to eliminate this situation altogether by getting your agent to guarantee the sale of your present home (see point number 5 below).
4. Failing to get a pre-approved mortgage
Pre-approval is a very simple process that many homeowners fail to take advantage of. While it doesn't cost or obligate you to anything, pre-approval gives you a significant advantage when you put an offer on the home you want to purchase because you know exactly how much house you can afford, and you already have the green light from your lending institution. With a pre-approved mortgage, your offer will be viewed far more favorably by a seller - sometimes even if it's a little lower than another offer that's contingent on financing. Don't fail to take this important step.
5. Getting caught in the Real Estate Catch 22
Your biggest dilemma when buying and selling is deciding which to do first. Point number 3 above advises you to sell first. However there are ways to eliminate this dilemma altogether. Some agents offer a Guaranteed Sale Trade-Up Program that actually takes the problem away from you entirely by guaranteeing the sale of your present home before you take possession of your next one. If you find a home you wish to purchase and have not sold your current home yet, they will buy your home from you themselves so you can make your move free of stress and worry.
6. Failing to coordinate closings
With two major transactions to coordinate together with all the people involved such as mortgage experts, appraisers, lawyers, loan officers, title company representatives, home inspectors or pest inspectors the chances of mix ups and miscommunication go up dramatically. To avoid a logistical nightmare ensure you work closely with your agent.
Tips on Selecting a Contractor For Home Improvement
Home repairs can cost thousands of dollars and are the subject of frequent complaints. Here is a list of things to consider when selecting a contractor: