How to Get the Best Deal (and the Fewest Headaches) on Homeowners Insurance

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Realtor.com| March 17, 2015| Angela Coley|

Homeowners insurance is a necessity. If you have a mortgage, your lender will require coverage—and if your home is mortgage-free, then you should have coverage anyway.

But not all insurance coverage is alike. Policies and protections differ, and so do costs. Your goal is to find the right amount of protection for the least amount of money.

3 types of homeowners insurance

Homeowners insurance generally comes in three standardized packages:

  1. HO-1: Basic package offers protection against such perils as fire, theft, and certain types of liability.
  2. HO-2: More comprehensive package protects against damage from broken pipes, the weight of ice and snow, and broken water heaters.
  3. HO-3: The highest level of coverage, it generally includes just about everything and excludes only earth-shaking events such as earthquakes and floods.

Determine which policy will work best for you

To determine which policy is best for you, make a list of valued possessions and the types of coverage you’d generally like to have. Then, sit down with an insurance broker to review what’s included (and excluded) from each policy form and the other forms of coverage that may be available. You may find all the coverage you want in a general form, or you may determine you need special coverage at extra cost.

Ask the right questions

To get the most from your policy, it helps to create a list of questions to ask your insurance broker beforehand. Some examples:

  1. What works best in your situation?
  2. What is included—and excluded—for each option?
  3. What coverage will you need for antiques, jewelry, and other high-ticket items?
  4. How much personal liability protection will the policy provide? What is the cost of additional coverage? What about an “umbrella” policy?
  5. If you have a loss, will coverage be for actual cash value or replacement cost? Ask your insurance broker to explain the difference.
  6. What is the policy deductible? (Generally lower deductibles mean higher premiums, higher deductibles result in lower premiums.)
  7. How can you reduce policy costs? For instance, if you buy auto and home insurance from the same source, will your combined expenses decline?
  8. What home improvements can you make that would result in lower premiums?
  9. How are claims handled if you have a loss?

Find the best price

Finding the best price on homeowners insurance can be tricky. You don’t want to simply sign up for whatever policy is the cheapest and end up underinsured, but you also don’t want to pay more than you have to.

To make sure you’re getting the best deal, ask your insurance broker for a list of comparable plans from about three other providers. The price for similar coverage can vary from provider to provider. Finally, don’t forget to factor in your own circumstances. The location of your home, the size of your home, and even your credit score can affect your insurance costs.

 

 

The Most Common and Costly Mistakes Made by New Homeowners

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December 8, 2014| RISMedia| Nik Caruso| Link

A new home is one of the biggest purchases homeowners will make in their lifetimes. Regrettably, sometimes costly mistakes are made by various parties of the transaction – builders, remodeling contractors, or even the new homeowners, themselves. Knowing a few of the common mistakes homeowners make can prevent future snafus from happening and save you lots of time, headaches and most importantly, money.

From David MacLellan, George Wolfson, and Douglas Hansen, authors of The Home Book, here are some of the most common costly mistakes made by new homeowners.

Storing Household Goods on Garage and Attic Trusses. Garage and attic trusses are designed to support the weight of the roof and ceiling and not the weight of anything else. Unfortunately, many homeowners view the space in the attic and above the garage ceiling as a great place for additional storage. Storing household goods in these areas can result in sagging and even a possible collapse of the roof structure. If a homeowner wishes to use this space for storage, a structural engineer should be consulted to determine if additional reinforcement is necessary. 

Altering Finished Grades.  Most single family residences are delivered with a driveway, but without the walkways, patios, landscaping, and drainage systems. Building codes usually require that that the surrounding bare lot slopes away from the home so rainwater flows away from the home. Unfortunately, the homeowner or an aftermarket contractor will often pour the sidewalks and patios directly on top of the finished grade which allows water to flow between the walkway and the home.  Swimming pool contractors have been known to set their decks and coping too high, causing water to flow back toward the home.  Water that flows and seeps under the foundation and can cause the foundation to shift.  If the soils have high clay content the water may not drain readily and the soil can then swell to up to 30 percent of its dry volume, and the foundation can move upward causing extensive interior and exterior damage.

The bottom line: Alteration of finished grades results in some of the most costly claims made in construction defect disputes.

Improperly attaching a Deck Trellis, Sunscreen, or Lanai Structure to the Home. There are many proper ways to create a watertight connection between the home and a deck trellis or lanai structure. Unfortunately, these “add on structures” are often just nailed or bolted directly to the outside wall of the home. Inevitably, rainwater finds its way into the penetrations and the dry rot process begins. It is critical that the deck ledger (the board that is placed up against the side of the home) be flashed with metal flashing in an industry-approved manner.  If bolts are used to attach the ledger board to the home, the bolt holes should be filled with caulk. Local government agencies often require a building permit to construct a trellis or lanai attached to a home because they are considered a structure that could fall and cause injury. Decks which are attached to the homes or which are larger than 200 square feet, or which are over 30 inches above the adjacent grade within three feet, often require a building permit. Patio covers may also require a building permit. Check with the local building department before starting work.

Allowing Irrigation Sprinkler Heads to Spray Against the Home. Irrigation sprinkler heads that spray against the panel or lap siding, masonry, or stucco walls of a home can lead to rotted walls and leaching of color from the siding, masonry or stucco and even movement of the foundation.  It is important that all irrigation spray be directed away from the home rather than towards the home. Spray heads should be checked regularly during the irrigation season to make sure that they have not turned and point toward the home. Posts supporting overhead decks that have shrubbery growing closely around them are particularly vulnerable to irrigation spray.

Disconnecting or Not Using Bathroom and Laundry Vent Fans. Bathrooms and laundries are areas of high humidity. Bathroom and laundry fans should never be disconnected (even though the noise may bother the occupant). The fan should always be turned on during use of the room. Failure to use the vent fans can result in water vapor getting into the drywall, electrical outlets and even the framing members. Over time, mold, mildew and fungi may grow in these areas. Water vapor that condenses on walls and windows can eventually find its way into the walls of the home and weaken the structure through dry rot. Rooms where humidifiers are used should also be well ventilated.

Walking on the Roof.  Walking on the roof is dangerous. Slips and falls can cause serious injuries. Untrained persons are likely to break or scuff the roof covering and cause roof leaks.  Cleaning gutters should be done from a ladder and not by standing on the roof. If an object is thrown on the roof, such as a child’s toy, it should be retrieved using a ladder and a telescoping pole rather than by walking on the roof. Most residential warranties exclude damage resulting from unauthorized persons walking on roofs.

Overloading Upper Cabinets. While lower cabinets rest on the floor, upper cabinets are hung from a wall using screws or nails. By stacking heavy dishes and glassware in an upper cabinet, a homeowner can load the cabinet beyond its capacity. This can result in sagging shelves, or worse yet, detachment of the cabinet from the wall. Heavy china and cookware should always be placed in the lower cabinets. Do not overload cabinet drawers with heavy items and take care to not pull drawers out too far. This action results in the plastic guide being snapped off at the back of the cabinet drawer.

Tinting Dual Pane Windows. Many new homes are constructed with dual pane windows (also known as double-glazed windows or insulating windows). The two panes of glass are separated by a spacer up to 5/8 inch in thickness. The air space between the dual panes is “dead air.” This area is so tightly sealed that air can neither enter nor leave the space. By placing a tinting film on the inside of the window, the sun’s rays are reflected back into the dead air space. The temperature in this space can become so hot that it may cause the elastic seal to rupture, causing the insulating value of the window to be lost.  Windows with broken or ruptured seals are easy to identify: they have moisture between the panes of glass. Homeowners should never tint a dual pane window on the inside unless it is specifically approved by the window manufacturer.

Incorrectly Installing a Security Alarm / Penetration of Windows and Walls. If an after-market alarm is installed by the homeowner or by a contractor who has not been hired by the builder, great care should be taken to seal all penetrations through windows and walls to avoid future dry rot. Never drill into the bottom track of a window or door to install an alarm contact.

Don’t Make These First-Time Home Buyer Mistakes

5 Mistakes First-Time Home Buyers Make

National Association of Realtors| July 21, 2014| Daily Real Estate News| Link

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First-timers can be eager to jump into home ownership. But real estate experts say they see them committing the same mistakes, time and time again. Here are some of the most common ones, as identified by experts in a recent CNBC article:

1. They’re unprepared to compete against all-cash offers. Buyers need to be ready to make a quick decision if they’re housing market is heating up. Buying a home is “really like finding a job – it’s going to take a lot of time to prepare,” says Cara Pierce, a certified housing counselor with ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions. “That way, when the deal comes along, you’re ready to pounce on it.” Housing experts say buyers should have already saved as much as possible for a downpayment, repaired any credit report blemishes, and gotten preapproved for a loan as they start their house hunt to put them in a better position to compete.

2. They place a car ahead of the home. Lenders are going to scrutinize applicants’ debt-to-income ratio when assessing how well they can afford a mortgage payment. Consumers’ debt has gone on average from $40,000 in 2010 to $51,000 today, according to David Norris, president and COO of loanDepot, a non-bank mortgage lender. “It would be much easier to own a home if you can show a history of saving and not have gotten yourself into too much debt,” Norris told CNBC.

See Complete List

Avoid Buyer’s Remorse

Survey Reveals First-Time Homebuyers’ Biggest Regrets

Emily Heffter| June 9, 2014| Zillow| Link

 

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Almost half of first-time homebuyers in a recent poll said that they wish they had done things differently.
By Emily Heffter

Virginia real estate agent Bic DeCaro has a psychology degree that comes in handy when she’s showing homes, especially to first-time homebuyers. They get emotional. They fall in love. They get caught up in bidding wars they can’t afford. They make mistakes.

“The big thing is buying for the moment and not looking down the road,” she said.

That sums up the regrets of many first-time homebuyers. Zillow surveyed them after their boxes were unpacked and their infatuation had faded. Almost half of them said that they would do things differently if they had it to do over.

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Looking for a little remodel cash? Here are some options…

Can’t Afford a Home Repair? 3 Ways to Get Financial Help

Geoff Williams |  U.S. News  | Posted Jan 13th 2014 | link

 

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BadCat13/Flickr

By Geoff Williams

If you had to have your furnace or pipes fixed after that recent cold snap, you aren’t alone. According to a study last year by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, approximately $300 billion is spent on home remodeling and maintenance every year in the United States. That number should be even higher, though. Plenty of repairs go unfixed every year.

According to another 2013 study, this one from the National Center for Healthy Housing, 35 million metropolitan homes in the United States, or 40 percent, contain one or more health and safety hazards. The most common repairs that aren’t fixed? Water leaks from outside, which affect 11 percent of metro-area homes, followed by openings in homes that mice are able to exploit (10 percent) and interior water leaks (9 percent). Meanwhile, 5 percent of homes throughout cities and suburbs have unrepaired roofing problems, damaged interior walls and foundation problems.
So what happens when you have a home issue that needs attention but lack the funds to repair it? You can do nothing, of course, and live with your problem. But there may be more options available than you think.

Apply for a loan. You may scoff at first, especially if your credit is shaky or you’ve already been turned down for a loan by your bank, but there are nonprofits out there that are designed to help low-income and middle-class homeowners, says Douglas Robinson, a spokesperson for NeighborWorks, a nonprofit created by Congress that supports community development in the United States. “There aren’t billions of dollars out there, but there are millions of dollars out there,” Robinson says.

These loans generally fund unglamorous but crucial infrastructure repairs to your home. In other words, you’ll have much more luck finding money to repair your roof, replace your furnace or improve your ventilation than finding funding for a new oven or refrigerator. NeighborWorks itself doesn’t dole out loans, but you can find loans in its network of housing organizations, like Homewise Inc. in Santa Fe, N.M., Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland and 233 other independent nonprofits serving 4,500 communities throughout the United States.

Read more…

“If you can swing a hammer, you can build your own home.” Here’s how…

DIY Houses In The Internet Age: Some Assembly Required

Jon Kalish | NPR |February 17, 2014 | link

Good things come in small packages. Lacy Williams, an architecture student, and her boyfriend, Patrick Beseda, built a WikiHouse to live in during a field project in Utah.

Good things come in small packages. Lacy Williams, an architecture student, and her boyfriend, Patrick Beseda, built a WikiHouse to live in during a field project in Utah.

Patrick Beseda and Lacy Williams

If you can barely swing a hammer, you can still build your own home.

Builders at the Maker Faire in New York City proved this point last fall, with something akin to an old-fashioned barn-raising.

The event celebrates the do-it-yourself aesthetic, particularly when it comes to digital fabrication and open-source construction plans. Using wooden mallets cut from plywood, a crew of eight banged together the slotted frame of a WikiHouse without a single nail.

The result: a livable home.

“No one, I would say, is a professional builder of buildings,” said Nick Ierodiaconou, an architect on the team. “When everyone came together at the beginning of this process, no one knew the system.”

Advances in technology and a bit of architectural activism have led to the WikiHouse project, founded in London by Alastair Parvin two years ago. The project makes digital blueprints available online for free. Amateur builders use computer-cut plywood pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Read more…

Putting your tax refund to work in your home…

Expecting a Tax Refund? Invest It In Your Home

Mary Boone | Zillow Blog | February 27, 2014 | link

Sitting by the mailbox, waiting for your tax refund? Stop waiting and start thinking about the best ways to invest that money in your home.

Your home is likely one of your biggest assets, so it makes good financial sense to take care of it. Keeping your home up to date will contribute to its longevity, heighten your enjoyment and help you sell your home if you ever decide to. So, instead of a fleeting ski weekend, why not consider investing at least a portion of your refund in your home?

Even modest investments can improve your home’s value and make it more livable. Drawing inspiration from Zillow Digs, here are five home improvement projects you may want to consider, all under $3,000:

New front door

TrueHome Design Build brought an urban feel to this farm house with a contemporary front door.

TrueHome Design Build brought an urban feel to this farm house with a contemporary front door.

First impressions mean a lot. A new front door can enhance curb appeal, improve security and lower utility costs. According to Remodeling magazine’s Remodeling 2014 Cost vs. Value Report, a $1,162 steel entry door replacement project returns 96.6 percent of your investment. Fiberglass doors are generally more expensive, but they’re still a smart investment. According to the same report, a $2,822 fiberglass entry door project will yield a return of 70.8 percent.

Garage door replacement

Tuckahoe Creek Construction, Inc. gave this colonial home character with a new garage door.

Read more…

Home Decor – Orange Accents

Orange is a color that doesn’t get much love when it comes to home decor. Some say it’s too bright, too loud. However, orange can add a welcoming splash of color, if used in the right ways.

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Smart Phone, Smart Home

Nest Learning Thermostat

Do you have Nest learning thermostat on your wall? If not, there’s a good chance you’re paying too much for heating and cooling. Not only does Nest boast an intuitive interface and elegant design, it can actually reduce your energy bill.