First-Time Homeowners: Everything You Need to Know About Homeowners Insurance

Oh my…this is a MUST READ for First Time Home buyers!  Don’t leave home without it!

What exactly is home insurance and do I really need it?

Ready to buy your first home? Before you dot the I’s and cross the T’s on your mortgage, it is important to understand the ins and outs of homeowners insurance.

Without homeowners insurance, a property buyer is unlikely to secure a house. Homeowners insurance protects a residence and the items stored in a residence against disasters. Therefore, if your home is suddenly destroyed in a hurricane, tornado or other natural disaster, homeowners insurance guarantees you are fully protected.

Homeowners insurance should be simple, but there are many factors to consider as you evaluate all of the coverage options at your disposal.

Now, let’s take a look at five common questions about homeowners insurance.

  1. Why Do I Need It?

There are two reasons why homebuyers must purchase homeowners insurance:

  • It enables you to protect your assets. Homeowners insurance safeguards the structure of your home and your personal property. It also protects you against liability for injuries to others or their property while they are on your property.
  • Your mortgage lender probably requires you to have it. Most lenders will require you to maintain homeowners insurance for the duration of your mortgage. A lender usually will require you to list the company as a mortgagee on your homeowners policy. Moreover, if you let your homeowners coverage lapse, your mortgage lender likely will have your home insured at a much higher premium and with less coverage that what you had in the past.

Homeowners insurance is a must-have for homeowners, without exception. If you allocate the time and resources to find the right homeowners coverage, you should have no trouble protecting your house and personal belongings for years to come.

  1. How Does It Work?

Generally, homeowners insurance is considered a package policy because it includes a combination of coverages. The package policy focuses on the following areas:

  • Dwelling: Covers the costs associated with damage to your home and structures attached to it, including any damage to electrical wiring, heating systems or plumbing.
  • Other Structures: Ensures you’re protected against damage to fences, garages and other structures that are on your property but not attached to your house.
  • Personal Property: Guarantees you’re covered for the value of possessions like appliances, clothing and electronics if they are lost or damaged. This coverage applies even when your personal property is stored off-site, like in a storage unit or college dorm room.
  • Loss of Use: Provides financial assistance to help you cover some of your living expenses if you need to temporarily vacate your house while it is being repaired.
  • Personal Liability: Offers protection against financial loss if you are sued and found legally responsible for injuries or damages to someone else.
  • Medical Payments: Covers the medical expenses for people who were hurt on your property or by your pets.

Clearly, there’s a lot to consider as you evaluate a homeowners policy. Review your coverage options closely, and you may be better equipped than other homeowners to secure your house and personal belongings effectively.

  1. Are There Homeowners Coverage Limits?

You should get homeowners insurance that covers the full replacement cost of your home, not just the market value of your residence.

The replacement cost and market value of a residence may seem identical at first. But upon closer examination, it becomes easy to understand why you’ll want to purchase a homeowners policy that offers protection for the full replacement cost of your house.

For homeowners, the replacement cost refers to the total amount it would cost to rebuild or replace your home if it was completely destroyed. This cost may vary based on your home insurance provider and usually accounts for the plans and permits, fees and taxes and labor and materials that you would need to replace your house. However, the replacement cost does not account for the value of the land associated with your home.

On the other hand, the market value reflects what your home is worth today. It fluctuates based on the current condition of your house, the real estate market and various economic factors.

The market value of your home commonly proves to be great indicator of what your house may be worth if you intend to sell it in the near future. Conversely, when it comes to homeowners insurance, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If you calculate the full replacement cost of your home, you can insure your residence appropriately.

  1. Are There Optional Homeowners Insurance Coverages?

Believe it or not, a standard homeowners policy won’t cover everything. As such, you may want to consider adding some of the following optional coverages to supplement your homeowners policy:

  • Flood Insurance: Floods rank among the top natural disasters in the United States, and even an inch of water can cause severe property damage in a short period of time. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers flood insurance coverage that will protect your home for up to $250,000 and your personal property for up to $100,000. Keep in mind that there often is a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy goes into effect. This means if you want to buy flood insurance in the days leading up to a hurricane, you may be out of luck.
  • Earthquake Insurance: Many Western states are prone to earthquakes. In California, Oregon and Washington, earthquake coverage is available from multiple insurance providers. Or, if you live outside these states and still want to purchase earthquake coverage, your state’s Department of Insurance can help you find licensed earthquake insurers.
  • Daycare Coverage: If you take care of a friend’s children and are unpaid, your homeowners insurance offers limited liability coverage. Comparatively, if you provide daycare in your house, you will need to purchase insurance to cover the related liability.
  • Additional Liability: You can purchase additional liability coverage any time you choose. These add-ons may require a nominal premium but sometimes makes a world of difference for homeowners.

Of course, if you’re unsure about which coverages you need, it always helps to consult with an insurance agent. This insurance professional will be able to respond to your homeowners insurance concerns and queries and help you get the coverages you need, any time you need them.

 How Much Will It Cost?

 There are several factors that will affect your homeowners insurance premium, including:

  • Attractive Nuisances: If you have an attractive nuisance like a swimming pool or trampoline, you may have to pay more for homeowners insurance than other property owners.
  • Coverage Options: Adding flood insurance, earthquake insurance and other coverages may cause your homeowners insurance premium to rise.
  • Home Protection System: If you have a home burglar alarm, security devices for windows or deadbolts on doors, you may be able to lower your insurance premium.
  • Pets: Some insurance providers won’t offer homeowners coverage if you own certain types of pets.
  • The Home Itself: Your house’s age, condition, construction and distance from a fire department and water source may impact your homeowners insurance premium.

Homeowners insurance premiums will vary from person to person. But those who take an informed, diligent approach to homeowners insurance can boost their chances of getting the best homeowners policy at the lowest rate.

Homeowners Insurance Tips

Let’s face it, homeowners insurance can be confusing, particularly for those who are searching for coverage for the first time. Lucky for you, we’re here to help you discover the right homeowners policy.

Here are five tips to help you secure homeowners insurance that meets or exceeds your expectations:

  • Shop around. Meet with various homeowners insurance providers and learn about different types of coverages so you can make an informed homeowners insurance decision.
  • Bundle your homeowners and car insurance policies. In some instances, you may be able to save between 5 and 15 percent if you purchase your homeowners and car insurance from the same insurance company.
  • Minimize risk across your house. Homeowners insurance offers immense protection, but you also can install storm shutters, enhance your heating system and perform assorted home upgrades to reduce risk across your home.
  • Look at your credit score. With a good credit score, you may be able to lower your homeowners insurance premium. If you don’t know your credit score, you can request a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Keep in mind that only some carriers use credit scoring.
  • Stay with an insurer. If you find an insurance company that you like, stay with this company for several years, and you may be able to reduce your homeowners insurance premium over time.

There is no need to settle for inferior homeowners coverage. If you use the aforementioned tips, you can purchase homeowners insurance that guarantees your home and personal belongings are fully protected both now and in the future.

Source:  CB Blue Matter

Posted on May 30, 2017 at 7:49 pm
Kappel Gateway Realty | Category: buying, Dogs, first time buyers, Homeowners, insurance, Pools, real estate, security, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Does It Really Matter What Your Neighbor’s Home Sold For?

Interesting food for thought. Depending on the dynamics of the other homes in the neighborhood, fair market values can vary.

Whether you’re buying or selling, remember that your neighbor’s sale price is just one piece of the puzzle. Whether you’re buying or selling, make sure you look beyond the data to get the big picture on home values.

After researching the sale prices of his neighbors recent home sales, Steve Rennie thought he knew exactly what his Kansas City, MO, house was worth. But when the Rennies decided to sell and started interviewing real estate professionals, they discovered they needed more and more relevant information. While the sale price of homes on your street can provide important insight into the price of a home you’re selling or buying, here are some of the other factors you should consider to make your best deal.

Unique or unusual home? Comparable sales may not exist

The Rennies quickly realized that recent sales near them wouldn’t be the perfect way to gauge their home’s value. We had interviewed several agents, and most came back with prices for homes that were not truly comparable to ours, because we had a unique older home in an area of newer ones, recalls Rennie. Eventually, the couple called real estate agent Dan Vick, vice president of RE/MAX Results in Kansas City, who offered a different perspective.

Since I didn’t have comps in their exact neighborhood, I went a half-mile away to find homes of similar age and style, says Vick. They’d said they wouldn’t list their home for one penny under $180,000, but based on my comps, I asked: Would you mind if I listed it for more? The house sold the first day it was on the market for $189,500. The Rennies were thrilled.

While comps give sellers a point of reference and an understanding of how strong the real estate market is, Vick suggests calling a professional familiar with your neighborhood to interpret comps properly and gauge what your home is worth. In newer subdivisions, especially if one or two builders have built the majority of the homes there, you can look at similar floor plans. But in older areas, that rule doesn’t apply, because you don’t have the same house four doors down the street.

Stick to the facts and expert advice when pricing a home

Even when you’ve studied comps and have noted relevant details about recent nearby home sales, it’s often easy for sellers to overlook important information when setting a price, says Michael Kelczewski, a real estate agent with Sotheby’s International Realty in Centerville, DE. I continuously encounter sellers who value their home above fair market price, he says. Cosmetically upgrading a kitchen or bathroom won’t usually generate a 100% ROI, so I’m tactful when explaining the reality of property valuations or asset depreciation.

Pricing your property appropriately, regardless of what your neighbor sold for, is key in today’s market, adds Matt Laricy, managing partner with Americorp Real Estate in Chicago, IL. A couple of years back, people would price a home high, get lowball offers, and be willing to negotiate, he says. Nowadays, with low inventory, many sellers are too aggressive: Their neighbor’s house sold in one day, so they think, I’ll overprice my place because I know I’m the only one on the block. But buyers are smart; they may not even look at it until the price comes down.

Bottom line? Don’t be greedy, Laricy says. If you price your home realistically, you’ll likely get more than one offer and net more money in the long run.

Understanding how agents set prices can help buyers score the perfect home

Buyers can benefit tremendously from checking what homes in their chosen neighborhood have sold for, says Laricy. In Chicago, we don’t do price per square foot, so knowing what a neighbors house sells for is huge, he says. If it sold really low, that’s good news for you as a buyer.

However, buyers sometimes overlook other crucial details in their quest to zero in on the best price, he adds. That can lead to a harder sale or lower profit in the future. In big markets like New York, Chicago, Miami, and LA, where people are coming and going all the time, you’re buying an investment, he explains. Buyers usually don’t think about value: why certain buildings trade at different rates now, which ones will trade higher than others in the future, and which neighborhoods are worth more. These are things you need an expert eye for.

He notes that younger buyers tend to neglect that all-important real estate factor: location. They chase kitchens and bathrooms, he says. They’ll buy in a less desirable location to get a nicer kitchen. You can always change a kitchen, but you can’t pick up a property and move it.

Yet even as buyers and their agents leverage comps to make a good buy, sometimes the heart wants what it wants, says Vick. I think you can get too caught up in the comparable data. If your buyers have looked at 15 homes, and this is the one they’ve fallen in love with, it really doesn’t matter what the comps are; you’d better go after it with a strong offer, he suggests. A note of caution to buyers: be careful not to overestimate a home’s appraisal value, since an offer that’s much higher than appraisal value could put your purchase at risk.

Buyers should bring their best offers from the start!

Especially in red-hot real estate markets, Laricy advises buyers to bid smart the first time or risk losing out to another buyer. Usually, buyers who lowball are the ones who end up missing out on two or three properties before actually getting something, says Laricy. Be realistic by putting in a strong offer upfront.

First-time homebuyer Corinne Hangacsi followed that advice before purchasing her two-bedroom townhouse in Wilmington, DE, this spring. We did our research through Trulia. Our real estate agent definitely clued us in to what was happening in the area, but we also looked at other comparable properties ourselves, she says. That in-person research helped Hangacsi feel comfortable making a strong initial offer. My biggest piece of advice for first-time homebuyers is to be patient and do your homework. Go with your gut; when you find the right place, you’ll know.

Source:  Trulia Blog

Posted on May 30, 2017 at 6:58 pm
Kappel Gateway Realty | Category: appraisal, buying, first time buyers, Homeowners, market trends, neighborhood, neighbors, Offers, real estate, research, Uncategorized, value | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are You Forgetting This Crucial Aspect Of Your House Hunt?

Lucky for you, Coldwell Banker Kappel Gateway property search function has a drive time filter! A very important consideration you should be aware of if you are a commuter.

If you had to choose, would you pick the dream house or the dream commute?

Anyone stuck in traffic can tell you just how important commute time is.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 11 million of us drive an hour or more to work each way. In addition, Trulia’s Best and Worst Cities for Commuting, an analysis of American Community Survey data, and a 2015 online survey of more than 2,000 American homeowners, shows that commute times in the 50 biggest U.S. cities have steadily increased since 2009.

This could encourage some homebuyers to consider swapping larger houses and longer commutes for more modest properties closer to work. Others refuse to give up on square footage, a big backyard, and other suburban amenities. But no matter what you’re looking for, your future drive time to work is an important part of the house-hunting puzzle.

How to evaluate your commute before you buy a new house

  1. 1. Map out the route from home to work

    How your commute will affect your day-to-day life is important to know before buying a home. Start by clicking on the commute tab in Trulia Maps to calculate the distance between home and work. Then do a dry run, says Danielle Schlesier, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Brookline, MA. Get in the car, hop a bus, or take the train and do the commute both in the morning and the evening, she suggests. Picture yourself commuting every day, and if the answer is Yes, I can manage this, then go for it. If the answer is no, keep looking for a home closer to your office. Use Trulia’s analysis of commuting methods to figure out how your city gets to work.

  2. 2. Evaluate your work-life balance

    Adding a commute can be a big lifestyle change, so consider all the pros and cons involved in that decision, says Jen Birmingham, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Petaluma, CA. Think about how you feel when you’re on the road. Would a longer commute put you in a gloomy mood that could outweigh the perk of having a spare bedroom or space for a pool? Ask yourself: How will the added drive time impact your personal life and family time? How do these concessions balance out with the benefits of the move?

    And consider alternatives, Birmingham advises. Does your employer offer flexibility in the commute hours? A commute schedule outside of usual high-traffic times can make a huge difference in the hours spent on the road, she says.

  3. 3. Consider your life stage

    Are you single, newly married, raising a growing family, or downsizing? Commuting may not be a deal breaker if you have other priorities. Buyers with families often opt for a larger home in a desirable neighborhood that comes with a longer commute, notes Luisa Mauro, broker/owner at Marathon Real Estate in Austin, TX. Clients with children may live further from their office to be in a specific school district. Typically, the further a house is from the central business district, prices are less for additional square footage, which is desirable for growing families.

    Buyers may also want to evaluate how long they plan to stay in their current job versus how long they intend to live in their new home, adds Schlesier. You may change jobs, so you better really love where you live, she says.

  4. 4. Add up all the costs, not just the financial ones

    Buyers may underestimate the true cost of a lengthy commute, notes Jon Jachimowicz, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia Business School who studies the daily effects of commuting on workers. Longer commutes make people more emotionally exhausted, explains Jachimowicz. If you have to drive into work 300 times per year, versus the 15 barbecues you’re going to have in your yard each year, people overweigh how much joy they’re going to get from those 15 barbecues versus the negative experiences from 300 days of commuting.

    While you should definitely figure in commuting costs such as gas, tolls, parking, train tickets (and even things like extra hours of childcare), think about the psychological costs of commuting as well, adds Schlesier. No matter how much you love a house, it may not matter if you don’t have enough free time to enjoy it.

  5. 5. Seek out alternative routes and travel times

    Experiment with different routes and schedules when weighing a new commute, suggests Mauro. Our clients will work out or shop during traffic hours to maximize the time they have between work and driving home, she says. They’re able to get home more quickly by starting their drive home later.

    Easy highway access also makes commuting more manageable, adds Birmingham. In a community like Petaluma, living 1 or 2 miles from the freeway can make a 20- to 30-minute difference in a driver’s day, so living near an entrance and exit of a major commuter thoroughfare makes life feel a lot easier, she says.

  6. 6. Embrace the upside of a longer commute

    Commuting can be a positive experience, says Jachimowicz, especially if you use that time effectively. His research shows that even small tweaks in your routine can make you more productive. For example, plan out your workday or practice for a performance review or a challenging conversation with your boss. One interesting thing about commuting is, you’re moving both physically and psychologically from one role to the next, says Jachimowicz. People who transition into their work roles as they’re commuting experience fewer negative consequences.

    If you take public transit, adds Schlesier, catch up on work or clear out your overflowing inbox or voicemail. Commuting can also be beneficial if you reclaim it as me time, notes Mauro. Decompress from the workday and separate your professional and personal lives, she says. Listen to podcasts, books on tape, or learn another language.

While these strategies won’t magically cut your travel time in half, they will help you focus on the big picture. Having the opportunity to escape a bustling city and enjoy a more laid-back lifestyle can add a huge quality-of-life boost when somebody becomes a commuter, says Birmingham.

Source: Trulia Blog

 

 

Posted on May 30, 2017 at 6:08 pm
Kappel Gateway Realty | Category: buying, Carpool, commute, Drive Time, family, first time buyers, Homeowners, moving, real estate, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are You Making These 5 Lawn Watering Mistakes?

Ahhhh, the sweet smell of cut grass in the air…a true harbinger of summertime. Keeping that lawn green can be tricky without these great tips on watering!

Proper watering nourishes lawns, just as proper hydration nourishes our bodies. Yet too many of us are failing at both. We’re not going to lecture you about drinking more water, well leave that to your doctor or significant other. But we are going to give you a lesson about correctly watering your lawn.

Here are five lawn-watering mistakes that you’re likely making right now and ways you can fix those mistakes.

1. You’re over-watering your lawn.

Many homeowners drench their lawns with water. However, that’s not a wise move. Over-watering can leave your lawn susceptible to fungus and other diseases. It also can cause your lawn to grow too quickly and can wash away costly fertilizers, according to PlantCareToday.com. In addition, drowning your lawn wastes water.

To avoid excessive watering, PlantCareToday.com recommends buying a soil moisture meter. These meters are very simple and valuable tools that you can pick up for $10 or so at any garden center or home store, the website says.

Lawn care experts say most lawns need one inch of water per week. However, that’s merely a rule of (green) thumb, as watering requirements vary according to grass type, climate and seasonal changes. The amount of water required for an established lawn will be determined by its overall health, beauty, and ability to withstand use and drought, says Turfgrass Producers International, a trade group for sod growers.

Related: Spring Lawn Care Tips You Can Do Now

2. You’re under-watering your new lawn.

While your existing lawn may be getting too much water, your newly planted lawn may not be getting enough. Bayer Advanced, a maker of lawn and garden chemicals, says a new lawn is in a critical stage during its first year. Don’t rely solely on rainfall to establish a healthy, deep root system provide supplemental irrigation during the first year of growth, Bayer Advanced suggests.

How much irrigation you do depends on factors such as the type of grass and the climate.

3. You’re not monitoring your irrigation system.

If you’ve set up an automatically timed irrigation system to water your lawn, don’t put it on autopilot.

Irrigation timers are not set it and forget it devices, says Lee Miller, a turf pathologist at University of Missouri Extension. You’re not cooking turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Sprinklers should be adjusted according to precipitation events.

For instance, if it’s been steadily raining the past two days, your sprinkler system should be off for a while afterward. The San Diego County Water Authority recommends turning off the sprinklers for two weeks after significant rainfall. After a storm, do not begin watering again until the top 1 to 2 inches of soil are dry. Lawns that lose their lush green luster will rejuvenate with the next rain, says Jeff Stephenson, principal water resources specialist at the San Diego Water Authority.

Researchers at Kansas State University found that 65 – 83 percent of homeowners surveyed in three Kansas cities didn’t know how much water their lawn irrigation systems had applied.

In reality, deep and infrequent irrigation makes for deeper root systems, UM’s Miller says.

4. You’re watering your lawn at the wrong time.

The worst time to water your lawn is when you’re probably sound asleep. Watering after dark soaks the lawn overnight; a soggy lawn invites fungus and other diseases to invade your grass.

When’s the best time to water your lawn? Experts says it’s around 4-8 a.m., before many of us have sipped our first cup of coffee.

Watering the lawn early in the morning gives it a good supply of water to survive the heat of the day, according to University of Illinois Extension. Early morning also tends to be when wind speeds are lower and, therefore, when water evaporation is less likely to occur.

5. You’re assuming that you’ve got to water brown grass.

When your lawn is brown, you might think it’s parched. However, it may simply have gone dormant during hot weather or drought conditions. Dormancy is simply a state of reduced water usage where the turfgrass … focuses resources on the roots, the Lawn Institute says. Dormant turfgrass will turn brown and is often considered unsightly, but it will recover when conditions improve.

In other words, brown grass doesn’t necessarily equal dying grass.

The institute says summer dormancy is a normal response to heat and drought, and most lawns can stay dormant for at least three to four weeks without dying.

During the summer, the worst that will happen if lawns are not watered is that weaker parts of the lawn or areas in hot spots will die, according to the Oregon State University Extension Service. When fall returns, lawns can be reseeded and will recover just fine over the winter.

Source: RisMedia’s Housecall

Posted on May 30, 2017 at 5:47 pm
Kappel Gateway Realty | Category: backyard, landscaping, lawn, maintenance, real estate, summer, Uncategorized, watering | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Get a Better Deal on TV Service Without Cutting the Cord

Like it or not, television access can be expensive. Especially with the limited time only offers once they adjust upward (why do they never adjust downward??)  Take a look:

Although the idea of cutting the cord on expensive cable or satellite TV costs sounds amazingly liberating, the unfortunate truth is that this would mean losing access to some of your favorite shows and channels. Even if you could find most of your shows on Netflix, could you really stand to wait several additional months to find out what’s happening on Jane the Virgin or New Girl? If not, there’s still a way to cut the cost of your current TV service without cutting the cord.

Here are five simple steps you can take to negotiate with your current TV service provider for a lower monthly payment.

1. Get to know your current contract.
Whether we choose to admit it or not, most of us don’t fully understand the ins and outs of the contracts we sign with service providers. Ignorance might seem like bliss for a while, but when the price starts to go up after a certain period of time, you might wish you would have read the contract with your TV service provider before signing.

If you didn’t understand your contract before you signed up for service, it’s not too late to change the price! Dig into your contract and figure out what it entails. Be sure to read each detail so you won’t be surprised when the company representative you speak to brings up each stipulation. Knowing exactly what your current contract entails will help you build a stronger argument for negotiating a lower price and different terms later on.

2. Search for better deals.
The next step is to find out what kind of deals are out there that you’re not taking advantage of. All providers will run special pricing on certain packages from time to time. Finding out what deals your provider is running can help you identify a number you should negotiate for and provide proof for your negotiation.

You can use deal sites for specific providers or online coupon code aggregators to find the lowest prices offered for packages from your provider. Do a little digging on sites like these to find the lowest prices and make note of them. Be sure to save the exact URL for where you found the deals so that you can pull up all of the information you might need later on when you are speaking with your cable or satellite company.

3. Know your stuff.
Customer service representatives are more likely to win a negotiation with consumers who haven’t done their research. This is because they usually have counter arguments in their back pocket that help them get a leg up on callers.

Understand prices for specific channels and add-ons. If you have internet service through your TV service provider, brush up on average costs for the speed you’re currently paying for, and maybe even run a speed test to find out if you are actually getting the speed you’ve been promised.

Knowing enough about your TV and internet service to have an informed conversation with your provider will help you come in with a stronger argument for a lower rate—not to mention, you might find out that you’re actually overpaying for a specific package or speed you’re currently getting, which will give you another bargaining chip.

4. Pick up the phone.
This tip is simple, but also arguably one of the most important parts of negotiating for a lower monthly bill: pick up the phone. It might be easier and perhaps more efficient to send an email or engage in an online chat with a representative, but your negotiation will be far stronger over the phone.

During your call, make it clear that the possibility of cancelling your account is on the table and be persistent in your request for the lowest advertised rate. Explain your situation and let the representative know that you will need a bill reduction in order to keep your account open. They will likely try to offer you some freebies like free HBO for a few months or a year of the NFL Sunday Ticket, but don’t let up. Keep your eye on the prize of negotiating for a lower monthly bill, as this will be more valuable to you in the long run.

5. Solidify your agreement.
Once you’ve come to an agreement with your TV service provider, don’t just assume that your next bill will reflect the changes you’ve requested. Ask for a specific date for when this will go into effect and review the terms you’ve agreed upon one more time. Be sure to write these terms down so that you have a crystal-clear understanding of what your contract entails before you hang up.

To be extra sure your lower rate has been settled, financial pros recommend calling back to speak with a different representative to make sure they also see the changes that have been made to your account.

Few things are more frustrating than paying large bills at the end of the month. Although the hefty cable or satellite bill you’re currently getting at the end of the month might make cutting the cord seem more appealing, you don’t have to cut ties with your favorite programming to lower the bill. Hopefully this five-step process can help you pick up the negotiating skills you need to see a nice reduction on your next cable bill.

Source: RisMedia

Posted on May 30, 2017 at 5:27 pm
Kappel Gateway Realty | Category: Bills, cable, Entertainment, Family Fun, real estate, satellite, television, Uncategorized, Utilities | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I Can’t Get a Traditional Mortgage… What Are My Alternatives?

 

Quandry: You are faced with circumstances that may prevent you from obtaining a traditional mortgage. Don’t panic…you have alternatives!

You want to buy a house, but your credit history isn’t in tip top shape, or you cannot show a consistent cash flow even though you have a lot of money saved in the bank making you an undesirable candidate to borrow in the eyes of the lenders.

What are your options? When it comes to real estate, here are some of the most common alternatives to a traditional mortgage for you to take into consideration:

Borrow from a Self-Directed Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Self-Directed IRAs are different from Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs. A Self-Directed IRA gives you the freedom to invest in many nontraditional assets, such as mortgages, real estate, promissory notes, tax liens, precious metals, private businesses, etc. With a Self-Directed IRA you get asset protection and tax advantages as they are government-sponsored retirement plans. Due to the self dealing rule, the IRS does not allow you to borrow against your own self-directed IRA, or those of your lineal relatives and business partners. This means that you would need to know someone who has a Self-Directed IRA to borrow from, or a third party financial company that facilitates those types of transactions. For more information on how to get private lending with a Self-directed IRA, read more on Self-directed IRA Lending.

Borrow from your Whole Life Insurance policy. Whole Life Insurance is a basic cash-value life insurance. When you pay the regular premium on a Whole Life Insurance policy, you are essentially accumulating wealth through the equity growth that you are contributing which goes into a savings account. If there are dividends or interest in this account, it is tax-deferred. Don’t mistake Whole Life Insurance for Term Life insurance. Whole Life Insurance protects you for your entire life, and allows you to borrow against the cash-value of your policy. A pro tip to borrowing against your Whole Life Insurance is that it increases your borrowing potential however, should you not pay back the loan the face value of your policy reduces. If this is the strategy you choose to implement to buy your dream home, be sure to thoroughly research this option. Ask yourself and your insurance company the following:

1. What would the Pros and Cons be to borrowing against Whole Life Insurance?
2. How long will it take to repay the loan and what would be the interest rate?
3. What would happen if you pass away before the loan is payed off?
4. What are the consequences to dependents who are beneficiaries?
5. How does it affect the annual dividends?
6. Are withdrawals of the Whole Life Insurance taxable or deferred?
7. In what scenarios would the Whole Life Insurance policy lapse if you barrow from it?

There are many things to consider when borrowing against your Whole Life Insurance policy, so be sure that your decision to buy your home outweighs some of the drawbacks of borrowing against your life insurance.

See if you can get Seller Financing. Seller Financing is a great way to skip the whole mortgage approval process. However, it is quite difficult to get for the following reasons:
(1) The seller does not own the house outright, and for the seller to give you a financing option, the seller must have paid off his/her mortgage in full.
(2) Most sellers do not want the hassle and additional risks of being a lender even though they could profit more by being the financier. With that being said, sellers don’t necessarily have to be a lender. The seller can arrange to resell the promissory note to an investor.

Buy a rent-to-own home. Rent-to-own, lease-to-own, or lease-to-buy are all the same. Often times, homeowners who want to sell off their homes but can not, those home owners may list their homes as a rent-to-own. If you and the seller sign a lease contract and you pay the Option Consideration section of the lease contract, the seller is agreeing to rent his/her home to you for a specific amount of time. Once that time ends and you have been paying the rent on the lease agreement in a timely manner and building equity towards the purchase of the home; you will have the option of going through with the purchase or not. For more details about renting-to-own a home, read Pros and Cons of Renting to Own a Home.

Source:  Dream Casa

 

 

 

Posted on May 23, 2017 at 12:33 pm
Kappel Gateway Realty | Category: buying, credit score, debt, financing, first time buyers, real estate, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

What Will Give Your Home the Most Curb Appeal?

 

The Jury is IN!  You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Curl Appeal is one of the single most important details you need to address when putting your home on the market!  If your home looks amazing on the outside, Buyers will naturally assume that it looks equally as awesome on the inside. Here’s how:

How attractive your property looks when viewed by passer-byers can make all the difference in today’s market. To make sure potential homebuyers get a great first impression, consider improving your place by doing the following:

1. Revamp the front door.

Never underestimate the impact the main entrance of your house has on its curb appeal. Make sure it looks great by giving it a new coat of paint that stands out but still fits in with the rest of the home’s color scheme. Unless it’s worth replacing, in which case we recommend a custom wood door, be sure to give the door a good cleaning and polish before painting it.

2. Include nice porch furniture

If you have a porch that’s visible from the street, you can make your place look more inviting and homelike by adding some furniture. Things like nice wooden benches and a wicker patio set can make your curb appeal skyrocket. If you have the money, swap out your ruined rockers and other old porch furniture in favor of something new gliders with matching ottomans, for example.

3. Redo the house numbers

There’s just something about neat, eye-catching house numbers that leaves a good impression, especially to people on the hunt for a new house. If you don’t believe us, walk around your current neighborhood and you’ll see the difference big, bold house numbers make. It also helps to make them stand out by using aged copper, hand-painted tiles, or something unique when compared to other nearby houses.

4. Light up the place

Making sure the front of your place has great landscape lighting can improve your home’s curb appeal while making it a safer place. Switch out old lamps, pendant lights, and wall sconces with new ones that look better and offer more lighting. Pathway lights, especially solar-powered, that illuminate the walking path in your home will make the property appear better and more secure.

5. Spruce up the verdure

While there are exceptions, most people find a house with no plants outside boring-looking. If your front yard is lacking in the foliage department, invest in some new plants to give your home some vibrancy. Plant flowers, add potted plants, replace ugly weeds with a fresh lawn whatever it takes to make the area look lively and attractive.

6. Tap into your artistic side

Add a touch of style and class to your front yard by including outdoor artwork. We’re talking about things like birdbaths, fountains, and sculptures that leave a lasting impression on passer-byers. If you’re on a budget, even a few wind chimes or home-made wheel planter can do their part to improve your house’s curb appeal.

7. Doll up your windows

Unless your windows are already gorgeous and just need a good cleaning, consider investing in attractive shutters made of materials that complement the rest of your house These days exterior shutters can be made of anything from vinyl and wood to aluminum, fiberglass, and wood. You’d be surprised by how much your home’s curb appeal goes up thanks to beautiful windows.

8. Replace (or touch up) anything else that looks old

At the end of the day, it may just be an old gutter system or exterior walls in serious need of repainting that’s dragging down your property’s curb appeal. Cracked walkways, time-worn fences, and even a rusty door knocker are all things you should look out for. Instead of adding to the front of your porch, sometimes all it takes is revamping the old to significantly improve your home’s look.

Source:  Dream Casa

 

Posted on May 23, 2017 at 12:20 pm
Kappel Gateway Realty | Category: curb appeal, decorating, remodeling, selling, staging, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

9 Questions To Ask When Searching For A Family Home

These are serious questions you need to ask when purchasing a home, especially if you are a first time homebuyer!

Here’s how to find a house your growing family will love for years to come.

Unless you’re planning on doing your own version of Fixer Upper, the general home-buying rule of thumb is to look for a place you’ll be able to live in for five years or more. So if you have kids (or are about to), you’ll need to look not just at the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, but also consider how a house will work for a crawling baby, curious toddler, rambunctious preschooler and beyond not to mention multiple children, if that’s your plan. Talk to your Coldwell Banker Real Estate professional about your needs and ask these nine questions to help you narrow in on the perfect home for your growing family.

1. Are the neighbors close in age? One of the greatest benefits of buying a home is getting to know your neighbors and having a true sense of community. But while neighbors of any age may be lovely people, having other young families on the block will go a long way toward creating a kid-friendly environment. (Think: company at the future bus stop, community activities like organized trick-or-treating and safety features like a slower speed limit.)

2. Is there ample outdoor space? It’s easy to overlook the yard if you’re childless or baby is still in diapers, but having an outdoor area that’s safe for supervised play is a major win. It’s important to consider the flip side, though at the time and cost of maintaining and make sure you’re up for the task. If not, look for a home with less outdoor space, like a condominium or townhouse, that’s within walking distance of a playground or park. (Not sure what the difference is between a condo and townhouse? Coldwell Banker Real Estate explains that here.) A house with a smaller yard on a quiet street or cul-de-sac could also be a good choice, since you might be able to use the street as an extension of your front yard.

3. How are the schools? Your first instinct may be to look into the quality of the public school district and you definitely should! but if your kids are preschool age or younger, don’t forget to research nanny and day care options in the area. Once you’ve checked those boxes, find out about school transportation (not all homes qualify for bus service), including where the bus stop is, or what the walking path and/or driving route will be.

4. Is it equipped with Smart Home technology? It wasn’t long ago that having network-connected products to control entertainment, security, temperature, lighting and safety seemed out of reach, except for in the most high-end houses. But these  smart home features have quickly gone mainstream as they’ve become more affordable and easy to set up in existing houses. They’re particularly great for families with young children having the ability to control night-lights, lighting and window treatments from your phone can help make naptime easier, for example. Consider which features are most important to you, and search for Coldwell Banker Real Estate listings that are classified as smart homes.

5. Is the kitchen large enough to accommodate the entire family? It’s often said the kitchen is the heart of the home, and for good reason. After all, you’ll be spending countless hours there over the years, whether you’re cooking and baking together, grabbing quick bowls of cereal in the morning, or working on school projects. A kitchen with an eat-in dining area, an island/peninsula for bar stools, or even a desk area for homework time will give you plenty of room to do all of the above (sometimes simultaneously).

6. Is there a separate room for playtime? Yes, an open floor plan makes it easier to keep an eye on kids while you’re in the kitchen, but a designated playroom off the living room or a finished basement can be a sanity-saver. You’ll still probably end up stepping on Legos, but having a dedicated room to store all those toys can help you keep the mess under control (or at least hide it).

7. Is there a convenient entrance with storage? Kids of every age come with a whole lot of gear from strollers and diaper bags during the baby stage to sports equipment when they get a little older. That’s why a mudroom or a large laundry room is ideal bonus points if it has its own outside entrance so older kids can drop off their stuff on the way in. If not, a foyer with storage space is a good alternative.

8. How’s the commute to work? Even the most perfect house isn’t perfect if you spend so much time getting to and from work you can’t help your kids get ready for school or see them before bedtime. Do a test run from any potential house to your workplace during rush hour, whether you plan to drive, bike, or take public transportation.

9. Are there shops nearby? No matter how good you are at stocking your pantry and medicine cabinet, it’s inevitable that at some point, you’ll run out of diapers at the worst possible time or need to pick up medicine if baby spikes a fever. Having a grocery store or pharmacy a short drive or walk away will save you time and stress especially if it’s open late.

Source: CB Blue Matter / The Bump

Posted on May 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Kappel Gateway Realty | Category: babies, backyard, buying, commute, first time buyers, kitchens, neighbors, parent, real estate, schools, shopping, Smart Homes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Ways to Save on Utility Bills This Summer

 

Oh Summer Sweet Summer!  Along with the break from cold weather comes increased utility bills in the form of air conditioning and fans, especially. Here are some handy tips to keep those costs down!

Now that the weather is beginning to warm up, it’s time to start thinking about ways to save on utility bills and energy costs before you’re shocked by your first big bill this summer. Luckily, there are many steps you can take to prepare your home (and your wallet) for the summer heat without sacrificing comfort. So, before you crank up the AC, take a look at our top ways to save on utility bills this summer. Your budget will thank you!

1. Get Your HVAC System Ready
Is there anything worse than a broken HVAC system in the summer? The good news is you can avoid this nightmare by taking precautions and getting your HVAC ready for summer. First, you’ll want to clean or change the air filters, as dirty or clogged filters force your air conditioning system to work much harder, which in turn causes more wear and tear in the long run. You’ll also want to inspect your outdoor unit for any visible signs of damage such as warped panels, torn insulation or rust. In the colder months, small animals may nest inside the insulation so you’ll want to inspect the inside, as well. Taking these steps to ensure your AC unit is working efficiently will help keep your energy bills low this summer.

2. Clean Air Filters and Vents
Many homeowners make the mistake of closing off vents in rooms that are not being used, but closing vents causes more pressure in the ducts causing your air conditioner to work much harder. Before you turn the AC on this summer, open all the vents and give them a nice cleaning.

3. Keep Blinds Closed
Did you know that keeping your blinds closed during the day can drastically reduce the heat in your home? Keeping them open causes a greenhouse like effect sunlight and heat pour in all day and can’t get out, making your home much warmer and causing your air conditioning to work overtime, which, in turn, will spike up your power bill.

4. Lower Your Utility Rates
Do you live in a deregulated energy region? If so, you have the power to choose your energy provider and can shop around for the lowest energy rates. If you haven’t researched your options in a while, summer is the perfect time to reevaluate your current energy provider and find out if there is a cheaper rate out there. Many deregulated energy providers offer special promotions in the summer, like “free nights,” so you should definitely check out what else is out there. To see if you live in a deregulated area, just enter your address here.

5. Time Your Thermostat
If you want to be cost-conscious this summer, you shouldn’t blast your air conditioning at all hours of the day. A lower temperature setting at night and a higher setting during the day is recommended for optimal cost savings. If you’re forgetful or aren’t always around to change it, we recommend installing a programmable thermostat that allows you to schedule your temperature changes even when you aren’t home.

6. Switch to LED Bulbs
While incandescent light bulbs are cheap, they use more energy and produce quite a bit of heat compared to LED bulbs. LED bulbs tend to be a little more expensive than incandescent lights, but they last longer, produce less heat and create great energy savings in the long run. So, consider making the switch the LED lights, at least in the rooms you use most, to help lower your utility bills this summer.

7. Buy a Water Cistern
If you don’t know, a water cistern is a device that captures rain water and stores it for you to use to water your garden or lawn, to wash your car, etc. Your water bill can get out of hand in the summer as you spend more time outdoors, so a water cistern is a great investment if you want to keep your garden and lawn green all summer long without paying for extra water use.

8. Use Your Ceiling Fan
In the warmer months, you should run your ceiling fans counter-clockwise. Since heat rises, the counter-clockwise motion will help pull the cold air up toward the ceiling. Running your ceiling fan efficiently will help cool your rooms, allowing you to set your thermostat to a higher temperature, ultimately reducing your power bill.

9. Invest in Smart Power Strips
Connecting multiple appliances to a smart power strip that can be turned off with only one flip of a switch at night when the devices aren’t being used is a quick and easy way to help reduce energy waste. When you don’t have to unplug all your devices individually, saving energy suddenly becomes much easier!

10. Don’t Use an Irrigation Schedule
Irrigation schedules, or timers that you can set to schedule when your garden or lawn will be watered, sound nice in theory, but they actually produce quite a bit of water waste. You can’t control when it rains, and you may not be home to stop your irrigation system from going off when it does. Watering manually may seem like a chore, but when you think about all the money you can save from reducing water waste, manual watering becomes more appealing.

Don’t let the first utility bills of summer sneak up on you. Be proactive and implement our tips. We promise they’ll help you save big on your utility bills this summer!

Source: RisMedia

 

 

Posted on May 23, 2017 at 11:13 am
Kappel Gateway Realty | Category: Bills, Spring, summer, Utilities | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Be a Detective: Google the Address When House Hunting

Here are some GREAT tips to get the skinny on houses that have made it to your hot list. Fire up your Google!

Search-engine sleuthing is worth the effort to unearth the niceties — and perhaps negatives — when searching for your new home.

There’s probably not a day that goes by that you don’t Google something — the weather, a foreign phrase, directions, or news, just to name a few. With all the information Google can provide through its bird’s eye view, not Googling your address is practically a crime — especially when you’re searching for a new home (whether you’re house-hunting for a waterfront home in Benicia, or looking for a ranch house in Vacaville). Here’s what you could find.

  1.  Get a sense of the neighborhood using Google’s Street View

    We can’t transport ourselves Star Trek–style to other places … yet, so the next best experience may be Google’s Street View, sort of a pre-virtual-reality experience. Simply type in an address, and if there’s an image of the property in the results, click on it. Other factors to note while on your Google stroll?  Scope out yard size, proximity to neighbors, how many trees are on the property and the privacy provided by them, a view of the front of the home, a view of the neighbors’ homes (such as any nearby eyesores or hoarders), and the size of nearby roads. Don’t forget to use the aerial view while you’re at it, because it might let you know the condition of the roof (but keep in mind the image could be old.)

    A caveat: Google Street View can be outdated, so it’s possible you could be looking at old news. The house you’re interested in might have been newly renovated, but you wouldn’t know that if the remodel happened after Google was there.

    2. Map the proximity of the house to potential health hazards

    The last thing anyone wants is to find out their dream home is located near a former meth lab or directly under a busy flight path. These aren’t just concerns for comfort; in unfortunate (and rare) cases, homes can be health hazards. When house hunting, be sure to search for whether or not that Los Angeles home for sale is in a safe area. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration maintains a database of homes that have been identified as drug labs, and some of these properties require intensive, expensive cleanup before they can be healthfully inhabited. Radon and industrial and airport zones are also pretty easily discoverable with a Google search and, in most states, via disclosures that most sellers will provide. (Some people find living near an airport or other noisy zone impacts their sleep, even if there is no chemical concern.)

    3. Imagine your life in this home and its neighborhood

    One of the deciding factors for saying “yes” to a house is if you can imagine yourself living there. Seeing listing photos and stats can let you know whether the house meets your specifications, but sometimes — especially with a long-distance home search — but to really imagine yourself living in that neighborhood could be difficult. Googling can help).

    Kids can scope out their potential new school and spot signs of other kids living nearby, you might map your drive to the office, learn whether there’s a local farmer’s market nearby, or look to see whether the house is in a danger zone.

    4. Get valuable details about the HOA

    When you buy a home that is part of a homeowners’ association (HOA), you should receive the bylaws in advance of your purchase. But if you dig a little deeper by Googling the association’s name, you could find out that your new HOA is one of a surprisingly large number of HOAs that have been reviewed online. Grab your popcorn, because you’ll most likely find a variety of rants (and raves) about the subdivision, complex managers, neighbors, and amenities.

    5. Scope out the neighborhood’s potential growth

    Will you jump for joy to learn that Whole Foods is coming to town? Or is that just the sort of growth you’re trying to escape? Google your potential new neighborhood’s nearest major street or intersection for permit applications that have been filed recently. You might get lucky. If not, try searching the city or county planning departments. This can help you discover community plans for expansion in that area. Reading the online applications — and any notes from city council meetings discussing the permits — might help you understand the landscape of community-development issues at hand.

What surprising information has Google revealed during your house hunt?

Source: Trulia Blog

 

Posted on May 16, 2017 at 4:03 pm
Kappel Gateway Realty | Category: buying, first time buyers, Google, HOA, neighborhood, Privacy, real estate, research, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,