Post from Allstate Insurance
Given how unpredictable nature can be, it’s a good idea to take measures to reduce your risks, protect your home and keep your family safe.
There are parts of the country where natural disasters are just part of life. The West Coast has earthquakes, the East and Gulf coasts have hurricanes, and then, right in the heartland, there’s Tornado Alley!
But these and other severe weather events (think floods, hail, winter storms) can happen anywhere. Given how unpredictable nature can be, it’s a good idea to take measures to reduce your risks, protect your home and keep your family safe. Here are specific steps to get started:
Identify your risks
Knowing the most common hazards in your area — particularly if you’re new to the region — can help you focus your preparation plans. Take action against the event that has the highest odds of occurring and work your way down from there. The nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes has a natural-disaster risk map that can help you identify the perils in your region. This is also a good time to check your insurance policies and confirm your coverage against various events.
Address your home’s vulnerabilities
Homeowners often feel helpless against destructive weather. But there are storm-specific home improvement strategies that can lower the risk of your home being damaged. In the case of hurricanes, for instance, you can mount storm shutters, build a safe room or install hurricane straps to help keep your roof in place when fierce winds blow. In many instances, preparing against one threat can protect you from others as well.
Create an emergency kit
Don’t wait until the last minute to make sure you have emergency supplies. According to Ready.gov, a basic emergency kit could include:
- Water — one gallon per person per day, for at least three days.
- Food — a three-day supply of non-perishables (and a can opener).
- Battery-powered (or hand-crank) radio, with extra batteries.
- Flashlight, with extra batteries.
- First aid kit.
- Whistle, to signal for help.
- Cellphone, with chargers (or a solar charger).
- Cash, or traveler’s checks, and change.
Once this basic kit is in place, you should supplement your supplies with items that address any special needs, such as children, pets or any medical concerns. You should also consider stocking an emergency “go bag” that you can quickly grab in the event of an evacuation.
Cataloging your personal property with a home inventory might sound tedious, but how easy would it be for you to recall all the contents of your home if you lost everything to a disaster? Taking a home inventory can help ensure fair insurance reimbursement, simplify the recovery process and even make it easier to apply for federal disaster aid.
Create — and practice — an emergency plan
Your emergency plan should be robust, addressing things like family communications (Where will you meet? How will you communicate?); escape route planning (an alternate way out from each room in your home); and guidance on shutting off utilities such as water, electricity and natural gas (which is frequently responsible for fires following a disaster). You should also practice the plan so that you can identify any weak spots.
While preparedness doesn’t happen overnight, taking concrete steps now can lessen your risk and offer you some peace of mind.
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- Are You Properly Insured for Your Real Estate?
- The Ins and Outs of Homeowner’s Insurance
This guest post comes from the editors of the Allstate Blog, which helps people prepare for the unpredictability of life.
People love to give advice when it comes to fixing up real estate to put on the market. However, a lot of those suggestions can include expensive upgrades, costly renovations or pricy professional opinions that you usually don’t want to invest in a home you’re about to leave.
Don’t get frustrated! You can sell your home fast without all the fancy fixer-uppers. With the help of your Realtor® and a little hard work, the tips below will increase your home’s appeal to a wide variety of buyers without breaking the bank.
- Improve the curb appeal. You not only need to stage the inside of [city] real estate, but also the outside. Trim hedges, maintain the lawn, power wash the walls and try to inject some color with a simple holiday wreath or festive greenery. If buyers don’t like the look of the yard, then they might not even step foot inside.
- Lighten up the place. Open all the windows, replace any burnt-out bulbs and consider adding outdoor lighting to your landscaping. Extra sunlight provides an airy feeling while interior lights provide a cozy glow. Also, keep the home lit until you go to bed in case potential buyers drive by in the evening; it’ll look cheery instead of dark and gloomy.
- Store any unnecessary furniture and personal objects. Less is more when it comes to showing your home — less to distract buyers and to keep clean. Pack up nick knacks, stacks of books and your children’s fridge-covering artwork and put them in storage. Be sure not to throw it all in closets because you’ll want those clutter-free as well.
- Paint a pretty home. A new coat of paint will freshen up any room, but be sure and stick to neutrals like warm grays and tans. Also consider repainting any rooms in which you used bright, fun colors. You don’t want buyers to get diverted from the potential of the home by focusing on things they’ll want to immediately change.
If you’d like more inexpensive staging tips to sell your home fast, please call me at 661-979-9000 or email me at Sonja@sonjabush.com.
There are times when it pays (literally) to refinance a mortgage. Refinancing a mortgage means paying off the existing loan and replacing it with a new one. There are many reasons why homeowners refinance, from obtaining a lower interest rate, to shortening the term of the loan, to switching types of mortgage loan, to tapping into equity. Below are some of the reasons to consider refinancing:
- One of the best reasons to refinance is to lower the interest rate on your existing loan. The rule of thumb is if you can reduce your current interest rate by 2%, then it is a no-brainer.
- If refinancing will shorten the length of your loan from a 30-year mortgage to a 20 or even 15-year mortgage, and you plan to keep the home, this makes sense.
- Those who want more stability in their loans, and who are looking at increasing mortgage payments from an ARM, may want to look into a fixed-rate loan while interest rates are this low.
- If you have high credit card or other debt and have equity built up in the home, refinancing to tap into the equity to pay off those debts, send a child to college, or make improvements to the home, makes sense for some homeowners.
- If the homeowner is able to make higher monthly payments due to a new job or salary increase, switching from a 30-year mortgage to a 15 or 20-year mortgage to pay off the home faster and build equity makes sense.
Before refinancing your current mortgage, you must have a clear understanding of all financial objectives. Refinancing normally costs between 3 and 6% of the loan’s principal and it can take years to recoup that cost with any savings generated by a lower interest rate or shorter-term loan. A refinanced loan can go a long way to improving your financial situation, however if you are not planning on staying in the home or keeping it long term, then refinancing might not make sense. Be sure to talk to your investment manager and do what is right for your particular situation. Be sure to call Sonja at 661-979-9000 or email her at Sonja@sonjabush.com to discuss your refinancing options also.
Short sales have become more and more popular since the housing market began its struggle during the recession. Though the term is thrown around more loosely now, there are still a great deal of people who do not understand exactly what a short sale is.
What is a short sale?
A short sale is a carefully agreed upon sale of a property for less than the amount of the mortgage balance, executed as a means for both a homeowner and a mortgage lender to essentially cut their losses.
Typically, short sales are for extreme cases when the bank or lender decides that it is in their best interest to take an early loss instead of enduring costly foreclosure proceedings.
If you have missed multiple mortgage payments and are facing foreclosure, the bank or lender won’t automatically offer a short sale. You need to prove that your situation merits a short sale, which typically involves providing documentation that proves you are indeed in a crisis with no other viable options.
Submitting a letter of hardship.
To prove your case, you’ll need to spend some time on a cover letter explaining your hardship and provide full financial disclosure; the original purchase contract; a balance sheet of your income and expenses; asset statements, proof of income; bank statements; two years of tax returns; and a professional who knows the ropes.
Simply stating, ‘My house is worth less than the loan and I don’t want to pay any more,’ will not be acceptable.
Along with the required documentation, you stand the best chance of getting through the two- to seven-month short sale ordeal if:
- The home is marketable
- The second mortgage holder (if there is one) gets a cut or otherwise goes along with the deal
- The same lender holds all mortgages
- There is enough time before foreclosure (at least about 4 months).
Lenders prefer handwritten letters and are more apt to agree to a short sale for those who lost jobs or encountered significant medical bills, as opposed to careless spending.
Your best approach to a short sale is by contracting with a real estate professional familiar with the transaction. If your home’s value is significantly less than debt tied to the property, you are a candidate for a short sale. You are not selling a home on the open market so much as you are selling your case to the lender. Call Sonja today at 661-979-9000 or email her at Sonja@sonjabush.com to discuss this in more detail.
Letter of hardship
There are rumors that many owners do not have enough insurance to cover damages their properties may incur due to a natural disaster. Unfortunately, this is a scary fact that many homeowners are at fault of and most do not even know it. Many people just do not think about checking up on their policies until disaster strikes their Mammoth Lakes home — and then it is too late.
Purchasing the appropriate insurance is not a hard task. Just consult with your real estate agent about what disasters you should prepare for and then call a reputable insurance agent. If you have one, it might be time to revisit your policy, which can sometimes look confusing, so below are a few key words to look for in order to get you on track to having all your bases covered.
- Dwelling or Building Coverage – Look for the amount listed under this title and divide it by the square footage of your Mammoth Lakes home. Talk to your insurance agent, your real estate agent and maybe even your contractor to determine if your current amount is enough. You will want to take into account lot size and building materials.
- Liability Protection – This amount goes toward covering you if someone is injured on your property and decides to sue. Whether your dog bit someone’s hand or a guest slipped around your pool, lawsuits are expensive and most liability policies start at $100,000.
- Valuable Add-Ons – Many policies do not cover valuables, such as art, jewelry, antiques, gold, or wine collections in the basic plan. However, you can usually add them for a small annual fee. So talk to your insurance agent to ensure your precious items are covered.
- Condominium Stipulations – Condominium coverage is different from housing coverage in that it normally only includes the items within the walls of your unit. Just to be sure, take your homeowners’ association policy to your insurance agent for confirmation.
A little coverage goes a long way when it comes to unforeseen disasters. Be sure to give your insurance agent all the information you have. If something looks misleading, then your claim could be rejected. Please call me at 661-979-9000 or email me at Sonja@sonjabush.com for more information about insuring your home.