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Spring Can Bring Increased Risk of Flooding

April 5, 2013 3:44 am

This spring, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH®) encourages families to prepare for flood dangers prevalent from now through hurricane season. Spring is a timely reminder of the dangers associated with flooding and the steps residents and community leaders can take to protect against flood damage.

Floods are the most common and costly weather disaster in the United States. While we enjoy spring’s warmer weather, the season also brings conditions that can increase flooding, especially in many areas of the Midwest. An early spring thaw can produce large quantities of runoff in a short period. Frozen land prevents melting snow or rainfall from seeping into the ground, causing water to run off the surface and flow into lakes, streams and rivers, causing excess water to spill over their banks. Add seasonal storms to the mix, and severe spring flooding can result.

”While residents in the Midwest are at particular risk for flooding during the spring months, flooding can occur in all regions of the country at any time of the year,” said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, FLASH President and CEO. “For that reason, FLASH also encourages residents to look ahead and prepare for hurricane season, which officially beings June 1 and is quickly approaching.”

Fortunately, there are some easy steps families can take to protect themselves against flood risks. First, they should visit www.flash.org to find ways to strengthen their homes and safeguard them from flood damage. Families also should put together an emergency supply kit, keep important papers and valuables in a safe and flood-proof place, and create a family emergency plan that considers insurance coverage, especially flood insurance. Everyone should visit Floodsmart.gov to learn about their flood risk and how to financially protect themselves by purchasing flood insurance.

Many people incorrectly think that their homeowners insurance covers flood damage. Typically, only flood insurance covers flood damage, which is why it is essential. It only takes a few inches of water to cause tens of thousands of dollars of damage. Between 2008 and 2012, the average flood claim was more than $34,000. Because there typically is a 30-day wait before a policy takes effect, waiting until flooding is forecast is too late. The time to act is now.

Source: Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH®)

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Warranties 101: What You Need to Know Before Choosing a Policy

April 4, 2013 5:28 pm

Whether you’re in the process of buying or selling a home, you’ve most likely heard the term ‘home warranty’ thrown around on more than one occasion. Designed to protect against expensive, unforeseen repair bills and provide peace of mind for homeowners across the board, it’s important that you do your research ahead of time so that you pick the product that’s right for you.

In its simplest terms, a home warranty is a contract between a homeowner and a home warranty company that provides for discounted repair and replacement service on a home’s major components. This includes the furnace, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical system. Other things typically covered in a home warranty include ductwork, ceiling fans, telephone wiring, the water heater and even a pool. A home warranty may also cover major appliances.

Let’s say during the first year of living in a new home your dishwasher breaks. If you have a home warranty, you would simply file a claim with your home warranty service and they would be responsible for finding a provider they work with to fix the problem. If the item can’t be repaired and there were no care issues on the part of the new homeowner, the warranty company would be obligated to replace it.

According to real estate insiders, for newer homes, a home warranty is often unnecessary, as components covered by the warranty will last longer than five years. For homes that are between five and 15 years old, a warranty may be more beneficial.

When it comes to purchasing a home warranty, the good news is that they aren’t too costly. In fact, they generally run less than $750 with small deductibles. Many home warranty companies run special sales and either discount policy prices or offer additional coverage.

All policies are for a one-year period and can be renewed at the end of each year.

Home warranties also make sense for people who aren’t too handy or for those who don’t want to worry about tracking down a contractor when they have a problem. Warranties can also make sense for people with expensive taste in appliances.

In order to get the most from the policy, a homeowner must make sure they have properly maintained the item or system in question. There have been cases in which claims have been denied because of the “improper maintenance” clause, so make sure you do your homework and thoroughly check out any home warranty companies before deciding which one to go with.

This could also become problematic if the previous owner didn’t maintain the equipment. Regardless of how well the new owner cares for it, this will affect whether you get to claim it with your home warranty company.

Choosing a home warranty is a decision every buyer will have to make. Just like making a decision on an insurance policy, it’s important to evaluate the pros and cons before making a decision.

For more information about home warranties, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Open Houses Continue to Play Integral Role in Home Search Process

April 4, 2013 5:28 pm

When it comes to finding the home of their dreams, potential homebuyers continue to rely on open houses throughout the process. In fact, according to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), in 2012, 45 percent of all buyers used an open house as a source in their home search process.

As open houses continue to play an integral role in the home search process, NAR is holding a national open house day during the weekend of April 20-21. Not only will this give sellers a chance to have a new crop of buyers check out their homes, it’ll also allow prospective buyers the opportunity to see a number of houses on the same day.

“REALTOR® Nationwide Open House is a fantastic opportunity for those interested in homeownership to connect with a REALTOR® who can offer expert guidance and advice on the home-buying process,” says National Association of REALTORS® president Moe Veissi. “During the weekend, REALTORS® will be on hand to answer questions about the local housing market and provide insights into the social and financial benefits of homeownership. Open houses are also a great way for potential buyers to get a feel for what is available in their local market.”

For those unsure about the reasons to have an open house, their benefits are myriad. The most important aspect is that it creates buzz and positive word of mouth—think of it as free advertising. An open house allows your neighbors to know that your house is for sale, and gives them a chance to take a look. They in turn may tell their friends and the news will spread quickly.

Agents use open houses as a chance to meet with other local homeowners and establish contacts for when they may be selling a home for one of their clients. It also helps them get a feel for the neighborhood.

A great idea for the owner is to create a brochure or take-away packet that highlights the key attributes of the home and the neighborhood. If there are great schools, parks or restaurants nearby, make it known.

You should also provide your agent with answers to any obvious questions that may pop up such as the age of appliances, any renovation work that has been done and even distances to the closest commuter lines.

Most real estate agents will advise you to stay away from your own open house, but if you decide to stay and interact with potential buyers, be smart when it comes to what you say. Don’t mention that you’re looking to sell quickly or that you bought the house yourself for a steal. And stay away from talking about the strange neighbor down the block.

While it’s true that open house visitors don’t normally leave ready to make an offer, there are some house hunters who will be intrigued enough to take another look and maybe add your home to the list of houses they’re considering.

To learn more about open houses, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Exterior Projects Sellers Can't Afford to Overlook

April 4, 2013 5:28 pm

If you’re looking to get your home sold quickly and for the best price possible, making a good first impression is crucial. While getting your home’s interior in tip top shape is an important piece of the puzzle, the exterior of your home can’t be overlooked.

Here are five exterior projects that all home sellers should deal with before putting their house on the market.

1. Landscaping. Look around your neighborhood and see if your yard stands out among the others. If not, there are plenty of easy fixes that aren’t too costly. Start by planting some shrubs and flowers. Choose a colorful palate for the flowers and choose those that are easy to care for. In addition, make sure your lawn is mowed and remove any leaves and debris from the yard. Be sure to mulch if needed. You want potential buyers to see a beautifully manicured lawn that ultimately sets the mood for the rest of the house.

2. Painting. Since exterior paint jobs require more time and effort than painting the interior of your home, it’s normally a good idea to go with professionals. While you won’t need to drop a lot of money to paint your home, real estate experts believe that it’s an easy return on investment. If the color on your house is fading, you should consider sprucing it up with paint. Be sure to choose a color that works well in your neighborhood and check with your agent for suggestions as to what colors sell best (right now yellow seems to be hot!).

3. The Backyard. One of the biggest wish-list items for buyers is a big backyard for kids or dogs to run around in. Make sure to clean your yard and keep it maintained so that prospective buyers can envision using the space. It’s important to make the yard look as spacious as possible, so you may want to consider getting rid of that old tree house or swing set. For those with pools, make sure they are clean and the water is blue.

4. Roof Work. Roofs aren’t always something homeowners think about because they typically last for a long time, but every prospective buyer will eventually ask how old the roof is. This doesn’t mean you need to add a whole new roof, but if you have broken shingles or a leak, fix them. Things like this will come out during the inspection anyway, so if you take care of problems ahead of time, it could save you from having to come down in price. Also, if you have skylights, take the time to clean them while you’re concentrating on the roof.

5. The Front Door. You don’t need to get a new door, but make sure the one you have is clean and painted if needed. Fix any springs that may make the door close quickly and make sure screen doors aren’t ripped. Also, check to make sure house numbers aren’t falling off and that the doorbell works. Add a new welcome mat and your entrance way is set.

For more information about exterior projects that shouldn’t be overlooked, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Low Credit Scores and Mortgages - How One Affects the Other

April 4, 2013 5:28 pm

When it comes to obtaining the mortgage that’s right for you, a low credit score can cause more harm than good. In fact, a low credit score can cost you tens of thousands of dollars, or worse, it can keep you from getting a loan at all.

Your credit score is an indicator that lenders use to establish how much of a risk you are when evaluating how likely you are to repay the loan. The higher your score, the less risk you are and the better rate you will get.

If you find your score is low due to an error, it’s not always an easy fix. Disputing a negative inaccuracy involves hours of phone calls, tracking down documents and convincing the proper people to help.

If buying a home is on the horizon, it’s a good idea to check your credit score sooner rather than later. By starting the process early, you’ll have time to fix any problems that may arise along the way. Begin by pulling your credit report and your credit score to see where you stand. If your score is above 760 you should be fine. If not, you could be in for some trouble as you make your way through the home-buying process.

For those with a low credit score, the first thing you want to do is look for errors in the report. This can include late payments that were actually paid on time, debts you paid off that are shown as outstanding or even old debts that shouldn’t be reported still (negatives are supposed to be deleted after seven years).

Once you find the problem, you can do something called rapid rescoring, which can help increase your score within a few days by correcting errors or paying off account balances. This type of fix can only be done with a lender who is a customer of a rapid rescoring service. If you’re eligible to take advantage of rapid rescoring, updated information can be posted to your credit report in just a few days. While it’ll cost you anywhere from $100-$300, it’s worth it in the long run as it could save you thousands on your loan.

Another way to improve your credit score, if you have time, is to pay down your balances on credit cards. If you do this for a few months, it can help substantially. If you’re trying to improve your credit score, one thing you should never do is close unused accounts. Doing so will actually hurt you as it changes your utilization ratio, which is the amount of your total debt divided by your total available credit.

Also, make sure not to pay any bills late. Even if you’ve done so in the past, make it your mission to never do it again and keep your payments timely and your balances low.

To learn more about boosting your credit score, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Spruce Up Your Home with a Fresh Coat of Paint

April 4, 2013 5:28 pm

A fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to add value to your home prior to a sale. In fact, REALTORS® and home stagers agree that sprucing up your home with a fresh coat of paint will not only make your home look better, it can also affect the emotions of a potential buyer.

If you decide to paint—and unless your home is in pristine condition, you really should—one of the biggest advantages is the fact that you can do the job yourself. However, if you decide to bring in a professional painter, you can still get away with a good paint job without spending a lot of money.

When it comes to choosing paint, it’s important to think about what color will appeal to the widest range of buyers. This means staying away from bright reds and blues that you might think make your house stand out, but may in fact send potential buyers running.

Looking past the exterior of the home, it’s always a good idea to incorporate neutral colors into the entryway so that potential buyers aren’t distracted. Instead, you want them to envision the walls as a blank canvas where they can create their own preferences and style.

If you’re having trouble choosing a color, most real estate experts believe that off-white is a great choice as it will make any room appear bright and spacious. The same holds true for ceilings. White or light colors will make ceilings seem larger and taller than they actually are. This is particularly important in homes where the ceiling is eight feet or lower.

Not everything has to be white either. By featuring colors in particular rooms or even incorporating a featured color accent wall, you can easily add a dramatic look. However, keep in mind that the color you pick may go great with your furniture but may not match the decor of the buyer.

If you really want to enhance the buyer’s experience, stick to subtle color. Just be sure to keep a consistent flow throughout the property.

Warm tones like beige, light browns or sage greens have mass appeal and can make rooms feel larger and more airy. Neutral colors like this are easy to repaint and will match almost any color scheme.

The trim—baseboards, door casings and window frames—get more wear and tear than your walls, so a fresh coat of paint on these areas can do wonders. Just be sure the finish is smooth and even.

If you plan on adding a fresh coat of paint to your to-do list before putting your home on the market, make sure you do it with enough time to spare. The last thing you want is for your home to smell like fresh paint when prospective buyers walk in.

For more information about preparing your home for sale, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Home Warranties

April 4, 2013 5:28 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines how a fresh coat of paint offers an easy and affordable way to add value to your home prior to a sale. Other topics covered this month include the top 5 exterior projects home sellers can’t afford to overlook and why open houses continue to play an important role in the home search process. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Energy Tax Credits Provide Homeowners Relief as April 15 Tax Deadline Nears

April 4, 2013 3:42 am

While the 2012 tax season deadline may be looming large for consumers, there is a way for homeowners to save on their 2012 or 2013 federal taxes by making energy efficient upgrades to their homes. Windows and doors meeting ENERGY STAR® requirements, qualify for federal tax credits for homeowners in 2012 and 2013.

With the approval on January 1, 2013 of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, homeowners who made energy efficient upgrades to their homes in 2012 or plan to make such changes in 2013 may receive a federal tax credit of 10 percent of the cost of the installed product, up to $500 for doors and $200 for windows.

"The tax credits now in play for energy efficient window and door purchases are an attractive incentive for consumers to purchase replacement windows and doors," says Gary Pember, vice president of marketing at Simonton Windows. "The new tax credit stipulates that the entire home does not have to have all of its windows and/or doors replaced. The tax credit can apply to having just a few products replaced in the home to make it more energy efficient.

"In addition, the tax credit can be issued for both replacement windows and doors; and for installation of a 'new location' energy efficient window or door in an area of the home where there previously wasn't an opening (such as in a home addition or renovation of existing home space). Homeowners should always consult their tax advisor to determine if they qualify for any tax credit."

The tax credit is retroactive to purchases made starting January 1, 2012 and expires on December 31, 2013. Installation of the product(s) must take place in the homeowner's principle residence and the credit does not include installation costs. Products must be ENERGY STAR qualified for the region they are installed.

"Fiberglass doors are some of the most energy-efficient doors available in the marketplace today," says Derek Fielding, senior product manager for Therma-Tru Corp. "Compared to a solid wood door, a fiberglass door has four times more energy efficient value. Homeowners nationwide find that the benefits of fiberglass doors are plentiful. Along with their energy efficiency, they add tremendously to the curb appeal and aesthetics of a home. Installation of a new entry door also helps enhance the overall value of the home."

Full details on the federal tax credits can be found at the ENERGY STAR web site at http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index.

Source: Therma-Tru, Simonton

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for National Window Safety Week

April 4, 2013 3:42 am

April 7-13 is National Window Safety Week and Andersen Corporation is encouraging homeowners to familiarize themselves with ways to help prevent window-related accidents. As part of its LookOut For Kids® window safety program, Andersen is providing materials and tips to help educate consumers and caregivers.

“Windows and doors do more than provide views, sunlight and breezes. They can provide an important path to escaping a fire or emergency, yet left open, they can be a potential fall hazard,” said Andersen Corporation Director Mark Mikkelson. As we open our windows to the fresh air, here are some safety tips.

DO:
-Close and lock windows and doors.
-Position beds and other furniture away from windows.
-Consider installing window opening control devices or window guards.

DON’T:
-Leave young children unsupervised.
-Depend on insect screens to keep children from falling out of windows.
-Paint, nail or seal windows shut.
-Forget about window and door safety when making repairs to your home.

Source: Andersen Corporation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Making Your Neighborhood Safer

April 4, 2013 3:42 am

(Family Features) How safe do you feel in your neighborhood? Unfortunately, residential crime happens more often than you might think, which leaves many homeowners feeling uneasy. But there are steps you can take to protect your home and your neighborhood. One of the best preventive measures you can take is to simply get to know your neighbors.

A national poll by Nextdoor.com, a free and private social network for neighborhoods, found that 67 percent of homeowners feel safer in their home and neighborhood because they know their neighbors. In addition, 76 percent said they thought their neighborhood would be safer if they communicated more with neighbors.

“The single most important thing you can do to create a safe neighborhood is to get to know your neighbors,” said Matt Peskin, director of the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), a nonprofit dedicated to community crime and drug prevention. “People who know each other look out for one another. And now with online tools making it easier, there’s no excuse not to connect and communicate with those who live around you.”

Nextdoor has partnered with NATW to expand its efforts around community-based crime prevention. Here are their tips for creating a safer neighborhood:

Create a neighborhood watch online and off. Host an in-person meeting to discuss how to communicate with neighbors in emergency situations or organize foot patrols.

Keep the neighborhood clean. A clean neighborhood is a deterrent for criminal activity. Organize volunteers to pick up litter, cut grass and hedges, and make property repairs. Make efforts to beautify vacant lots with a community garden or flowers.

Turn the lights on. Keep a dim porch light on all night to discourage crime. Encourage others to do the same. Consider also leaving an interior light on when gone for the evening or longer.

Update your home security. Ensure all exterior doors have deadbolt locks. Lock all windows and connect them to your home alarm system. Shut and lock gates and garages to reduce hiding places. And keep ladders in a locked garage or shed.

Get to know the police. Make an effort to meet your neighborhood officers. Report questionable behavior or activity in your area. Attend or help organize an event, like National Night Out, that strengthens ties between police and residents.

Source: Nextdoor.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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