As a homeowner, security and privacy can be an important priority. Learn about how to secure your home without always keeping a watchful eye.
Guest post by Eric Murrell
It’s never been easier to secure your home, thanks to an abundance of new gadgets on the market. Setups that once required professional installation and thousands of dollars in highly technical equipment are now easy to put together with off-the-shelf products and a few inexpensive apps. It’s a great time to be a consumer, and frankly, a bad time to be a criminal.
All of these new gadgets and services are great, but what if you’re worried about your privacy? Hacks and security breaches in the news—or simply the fear of loss of privacy between family members—have made some people uncomfortable with a camera-based security system inside their home. Thankfully, you can still make high-tech upgrades to your home to keep you safe without always keeping a watchful eye.
The first option to consider is a modern twist on a classic home security setup: motion sensors. Whether it’s a motion-sensitive light on your front porch or a few sensors placed around the home, motion-activated lights and alarms can be a surprisingly effective deterrent to the average thief.
Using today’s smart home technology, it’s easier than ever to add battery-operated sensors to strategic spots around your home. Both inexpensive and easy-to-install, these new sensors can trip lights and alarms like the old ones, but can also pair with a smart home hub to send instant alerts to your smartphone the moment an intruder is detected. Take a close look at your new thermostat or other smart devices; many include motion sensors that are already built-in.
To add an additional layer of security, purchase smart door and window sensors that serve as a first line of defense from the outside world. Like the motion sensors, inexpensive models are available that integrate with most smart home platforms. It’s simple to configure open and closed alerts, but you might find it even more helpful as a passive form of home security. Worried that you forgot to close the garage door after letting the dog out? By taking a quick glance at an app while you work, you can know for sure.
Even if you rule out in-home smart cameras, do consider having smart cameras outside your home so you can see if packages are delivered and if there are any trespassers in your yard. The most well-regarded systems now include location-based privacy features that use your smartphone to automatically adjust their settings, offering an unprecedented combination of privacy and security. Using the GPS signal from your phone, it’s easy to activate your full security network when you leave the house, and have the cameras automatically turn a blind eye the second you pull in the garage.
Security is personal for every family. Explore your device options, and even ask your internet service provider if they offer a home security solution, as bundling services often results in additional savings. Likewise, your ISP may offer the ability to control all of your existing home security gadgets from a centralized app. Whether you install array of sneaky sensors or smart locks, there are a wealth of connected home devices that can help keep your family safe without betraying their privacy. A good night’s sleep is only an app away.
Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter Blog
“Eh, we’ll just knock it out this weekend, not going to worry about the permit”… not so fast there partner. No shooting from the hip here! You can not only get into trouble with your insurance company and the local building department, but when it comes time for you to sell? You better have that permit in hand for these DYI improvements.
You might roll your eyes at having to get a permit before doing a DIY project around the house, but permits serve a purpose.
Permit requirements are just ways for the city to nickel-and-dime you to death, right? Is your city invading your privacy by caring whether you want to replace your overhead light fixture with a ceiling fan?
Before you get too worked up, realize that cities have their reasons for requiring permits. “Obtaining a permit means that someone knowledgeable will review your plans and help spot mistakes before you begin the work,” says Rick Goldstein, an architect and co-owner of MOSAIC Group in Atlanta, GA. If you make improvements without a permit, you might receive a big, fat denial letter from your insurance company when something goes wrong and you want to cash in.
You know the phrase “You don’t know what you don’t know”? Well, that’s the way it is with permits. That ceiling fan might be too heavy to hang from a box designed for a simple light fixture, especially when it’s going full blast and vibrating. You don’t want the fan falling on you while you sleep!
You might know some projects that require a permit, but you might be surprised by these eight DIY projects that typically require a permit too.
Installing a gas stove
Many people are making the switch from an electric to a gas stove. Depending on where you live, gas could be much cheaper, and if you’re a foodie, food just tastes better cooked over fire. But if installed incorrectly and the gas leaks, it could be extremely harmful. Get a permit and make sure someone is checking behind you to catch any mistakes.
Replacing windows or doors
If you think this project seems pretty straightforward, think again. For windows, you need a permit to ensure emergency egress requirements are met in case first responders need to get in. If windows and doors aren’t properly installed, water could get into the house. No one wants a side of mold with their renovations.
Building a deck
When dreams of outdoor living beckon, first call the permit office. If your deck isn’t structurally sound, or if you used untreated lumber that decays, your deck could collapse, and that could really interfere with your meditation mantra. And don’t even try to guess how to meet building codes for railings. Be safe and get that permit.
Putting up a fence
“Building a fence requires a survey and a permit,” Goldstein says. The reason for this is usually to ensure you aren’t violating city ordinances by building a fence too high in your residential subdivision or choosing one with barbed wire in the middle of the city. If you build a fence without a permit, you might receive a stop-work order.
Installing a storm shelter or safe room
If you want protection from tornadoes (and hurricanes), you might consider installing a shelter. But unless you design and construct this room to FEMA specs, you might not be so safe after all. A huge benefit of a prebuilding permit is that you can register it. “If there is a tornado in your area, first responders will know who has storm shelters and where they need to look for you in case you get trapped inside,” says Blake Lee of F5 Storm Shelters in Tulsa, OK.
Remodeling a kitchen or bathroom
Picking out the perfect granite for your countertops and finding just the right fixtures and cabinetry aren’t the only things on your checklist. If you neglect to get a permit for major remodeling work, you might not be able to easily sell your home in the future.
“If an inspector catches this kind of thing, or if a bank wants to make sure it’s covered against all liability and demands to see the permit before funding a mortgage, this can potentially be a major time and money sink to rectify,” says Kimberly Wingfield, a Philadelphia, PA, real estate agent and DIY fanatic.
Installing new electrical wiring
Your house in the historic district simply isn’t wired for all your gadgets — but an amateur electrical wiring job could cause a fire. This project definitely needs a permit.
Replacing a gas water heater
Surely you can replace your old water heater without a permit, right? Nope. Although many DIY enthusiasts do it all the time, if it’s done wrong, a fire or flood could ensue, or if gas escapes …kaboom. These risks leave a huge potential for serious injury. A permit also means that an inspector looks over your completed job to ensure it was done properly. This is a huge confidence boost in the knowledge that your work is up to code — and minimizes the potential for home-sale complications down the road.
Source: Trullia Blog
If you live in a designated flood zone that requires flood insurance, then you need to understand your policy. What is covered and (more importantly!) what is NOT!
If a flood swamps your home, will insurance cover the damage?
That depends on the value of your home, the amount of water damage and whether you have a flood insurance policy.
Regular home insurance doesn’t cover flooding. You’ll need a policy offered through the government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)—but note that those top out at $350,000 in coverage for your home and its contents. For higher amounts, you may need supplemental coverage to protect your savings from taking a hit.
People tend to associate floods with a total loss, but the average flood claim for U.S. homeowners is about $39,000, according to the NFIP.
Here are six other persistent myths about flood insurance—and the truths you need to know.
To Get a Policy, You Must Live in a Flood Plain
Not true. If you live in a flood plain, your mortgage company will likely require you to buy flood insurance, but you can purchase it even if you don’t live within a flood zone.
“Almost anybody can get flood insurance who wants flood insurance,” says Chris Hackett, director of Personal Lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
The price through the federal flood insurance program is based on standardized rates and depends on the home’s value and whether or not it’s in a flood plain, says Don Griffin, vice president of Personal Lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
The average price for flood insurance is about $660 annually. Your agent can help you buy a policy and may accept payment by credit card.
According to Griffin, one in four flood claims is for a home not in a flood plain.
Flood Insurance Is Just for High-Risk Areas
Merle Scheiber’s dream home wasn’t in a flood plain, and he didn’t have flood insurance.
Just after completing a three-year renovation project for his 1,800-square-foot, cabin-style home, flooding put it underwater for almost four months.
Scheiber, who happened to be South Dakota’s director of Insurance at the time, says he had to tear the home apart and put it back together all over again.
He urges that all homeowners—even those who do not live in designated flood plains—weigh the dangers and their options and seriously consider buying flood insurance.
Flood Insurance Covers Everything
Not necessarily. When it comes to the physical structure of your house, federal flood insurance policies top out at $250,000. If you have a $300,000 house that’s a total loss because of a flood, the most you can recoup through the program is $250,000 to cover the structure itself.
For your personal possessions, the cap is $100,000 under the federal program.
If you already have insurance through the federal program, then you can buy “excess flood insurance” through a private carrier that would cover claims above the national limits. In essence, it’s a flood policy with a $250,000 deductible, Griffin says.
Note that flood insurance doesn’t cover living expenses if you have to relocate while your home is being repaired.
My Homeowners Policy Covers Floods
“Unfortunately, a lot of folks may be under the impression that their standard homeowners policy might cover flood damage,” Hackett says. But the standard policy doesn’t.
The typical home insurance policy doesn’t cover earthquakes or floods, so a homeowner wanting coverage for either of those disasters will need to pick up separate, specific coverage against those types of disasters.
If you want flood insurance, it pays to think ahead. There is a 30-day waiting period between when you buy the coverage and when it kicks in. When a hurricane is bearing down on your area, it’s too late to get a flood policy.
Water Damage Is Water Damage
When it comes to your insurance, not all water damage is the same.
If there’s a storm and your “roof comes off and water comes through, that would be covered under your homeowners policy,” Hackett says, “versus a flood situation where the riverbank overflows and you look out of the front of your house and you need a boat to get from point A to point B.”
Most consumers “have a pretty good understanding” of how to draw the line between storm damage and flood damage, he says.
Some homeowners policies offer an optional “water-backup endorsement” that covers damage from water backing up into your home from causes such as a broken sump pump.
Flood Maps Don’t Change
Flood plains (and flood plain maps) change and evolve. Just because you weren’t in a flood plain when you bought your home a few years ago doesn’t mean you’re not in one now.
There are a couple of ways you can find out about your flood risks.
- FloodSmart.gov: This site will allow you to put in your address and see if it’s in a flood plain, and give you information on risks, premiums and agents. But use it as one tool, not the final word on whether your home is in a flood plain.
- Your insurance agent: When it comes to researching whether your home is in a flood plain, you definitely want someone knowledgeable to research the question for you—and, you might want to get a second opinion from a different agent.
“Agents have different levels of sophistication with regard to this product,” says Griffin. “You get a different answer sometimes. So you make a couple of checks to make sure you’re protecting yourself.”
There are several factors that weigh on home value, including condition, location, and—in areas where they are most pronounced—environmental hazards such as poor air quality.
According to the ATTOM Data Solutions recent Environmental Hazards Housing Risk Index, 17.3 million single-family homes and condominiums have a high risk of an environmental hazard, with Denver, Colo., San Bernardino, Calif., and Curtis Bay, Md., facing the highest risk. Environmental hazards include brownfields, or property contaminated (or potentially contaminated) by a hazardous substance, polluters, poor air quality and superfunds.
“Home values are higher and long-term home price appreciation is stronger in zip codes without a high risk for any of the four environmental hazards analyzed,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. “Corresponding to that is a higher share of homes still seriously underwater in the zip codes with a high risk of at least one environmental hazard, indicating those areas have not regained as much of the home value lost during the downturn.
“Conversely, home price appreciation over the past five years was actually stronger in the higher-risk zip codes, which could reflect the strong influence of investors during this recent housing recovery,” Blomquist says. “Environmental hazards likely impact owner-occupants more directly than investors, making the latter more willing to purchase in higher-risk areas. The higher share of cash sales we’re seeing in high-risk zip codes for environmental hazards also suggests that this is the case.”
In areas with a “very high” brownfield risk, 17.2 percent of properties are “seriously underwater,” according to the Index; in areas with a “very low” brownfield risk, 8.9 percent of properties are seriously underwater. Median home prices in very high brownfield risk areas are 2.8 percent below 10 years prior, while median home prices in very low brownfield risk areas are 2.8 percent above 10 years prior. Home sellers in very high brownfield risk areas gained 25.3 percent on average at sale, while sellers in very low brownfield risk areas gained 18.9 percent.
In areas with a very high polluter risk, 12.7 percent of properties are seriously underwater, compared to 9.2 percent of properties seriously underwater in very low polluter risk areas. Home sellers in very high polluter risk areas gained 16.6 percent on average at sale, while sellers in very low polluter risk areas gained 27.7 percent.
For areas with a “low” or “moderate” risk of poor air quality, home sales volume has increased 26 percent in the past five years, according to the report; for areas with a “high” risk of poor air quality, home sales volume has increased 16.5 percent in the past five years, while in areas with a very high risk of poor air quality, home sales volume has increased 3.3 percent over the past five years.
Median home prices in very high superfund risk areas are 1.5 percent below 10 years prior. Home sellers in high superfund risk areas gained 19.6 percent on average at sale, while sellers in very low superfund risk areas gained 24.4 percent.