Homeowner

5 Ways You Can Ace Moving To A New Home When You Have Kids

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), home buyers and sellers with children face a unique set of difficulties and stressors during the moving process. If you are a parent anticipating a move, it’s likely you have a ton of things on your mind. Maybe you need to sell your old house, contact the movers, pack your belongings, and prepare all the things needed in your new home. Then add the kids to the situation and you’re probably facing a whole different level of chaos and anxiety.

If you’re already feeling nervous and worried about your upcoming move just imagine how difficult it can be for your kids. Whether you have a toddler or a teen, the idea of getting ready to start somewhere new can be very scary. However, there are things you can do to get the youngest family members prepared and even excited about this new chapter and to help the family’s moving process go smoothly.

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1. Keep them informed.

The best way you can prepare your kids for your expected move is to talk to them about it. Keep them informed and tell them what they can expect. Even if they won’t be thrilled by the news, especially the teens, help them deal with their feelings. Explain to them why the family needs to do it — whether it’s for your new job or because they will need bigger rooms — and address any concerns they share with you. The sooner you can explain it to them, the more time they will have to cope with the news in their own way. Lastly, reassure them that not everything will be changing once you move into your new home.

 

2. Get them involved.

While moving and packing when you have kids can be more stressful, there are ways to cope with it. If your children are old enough to help, get them involved by allowing them to pack their own things and personalize their boxes. This will help keep them busy and will also help you identify their belongings when it’s time for you to unpack. Help them decide on what things they want to keep, especially their toys and clothes, and what can be sold or donated to a charity. But be ready because they might get upset when they have to let go of some things.

When you arrive at the new house, tour them around and let them contribute to little things like choosing the wall colors or the furniture arrangement of their new room. Make sure they’ll get to unload their belongings first so they will see familiar objects as soon as possible, particularly those things they are attached to.

 

3. Let them have proper goodbyes.

Material things aside, the biggest problem your kids might have emotionally is whether they will make friends and become accepted in your new area. “Will I be able to find a new best friend?”, “Is my new teacher as kind as Miss Lily?”, “Can I continue playing baseball or football?” Even if you aren’t sure about these circumstances continue to talk with them to ease their fears.

Throw a farewell party so they can say proper goodbyes to their close friends. You can also encourage them to stay connected through writing and mailing letters (let them know how exciting it is to have a penpal!). In today’s age there are also plenty of ways to connect through social media. These little things can help them keep their old friends, while at the same time you can encourage them that they can build new and better relationships in your new place.

 

4. Turn the move into an adventure.

Ah, moving, it’s one of a kind exhilarating experience. Or is it? Don’t let all the packing and unpacking become the only thing that your child will remember about this journey. They may not love all the hustle and bustle that comes with moving, but they will surely love any adventure you add to it. Especially when you’re moving far away, have a road trip so they can discover new places.

Show them around interesting landmarks, museums, and other kid-friendly attractions along the route. The distraction will relieve any anxiety the children have and it could help them think that moving is really fun. If you’re traveling from one state to another, don’t forget to collect souvenirs from the places you visit. Arranging these alternative activities can also help you relax, be happy, and bond with the kids.

 

5. Help them focus on new beginnings, but stick to family routines.

Always remind your children that not everything is changing. Sure, you’ve got a new house in a new neighborhood, but help them understand that it is only really the location. It’s important to keep their routines as much as possible throughout the moving process. Stick to your schedule like afternoon naps, family rituals, bonding activities, study sessions, etc. Keeping these little things consistent will reassure the children that the family is keeping life as normal as possible.

Finally, help them focus on the bigger and more exciting things they can look forward to. Is there a bigger park near your place? Are they now allowed to have pets now that your family has a bigger space? Also make sure to sign them up for sports, participate in hobbies, or any other activities that can help them feel more comfortable and will help them make new friends.

 

Bottom Line

We understand that with kids everything is easier said than done, but the best any parent can do is to try not to add to the stress and anxiety that children are having about relocating. The most important way to relieve that stress, however far or near your family is moving, is to stay positive. Keep in mind that kids are like little sponges and they will always take after their parents. If you stay positive, your kids will stay positive. With a little patience—well, probably a lot of patience— flexibility, and creativity, you’ll create new memories in your new place in no time.

Millennials and Young Homeowners: Here’s Your Guide To Building Home Equity

Owning a house and having good credit at the same time? In this economy?

What if we tell you it’s possible? It’s common for young people—those who are below 35 years old (also known as millennials)—to complain about not having money. And typically, they attribute their woes to a poor economy.

What people don’t know is that they can actually create wealth through homeownership! How? It isn’t exactly free money, but it’s almost just as easy. You’ll just have to build your home equity.

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Home Equi-what?

Equity, specifically home equity, pertains to how much of the property you actually own. This is usually expressed in percentages, and is basically how much of the property’s selling price you’ve already paid for.

If you just bought a home, for example, you’ve probably made a down payment. If this down payment is 5% of the seller’s price, your current home equity automatically becomes 5%.

If you’ve owned the property for a while, you may calculate home equity by subtracting any outstanding home loans you have from the property’s current market value.

So where’s the additional wealth? After paying your down payment, you still have to pay off the property’s outstanding balance. This means that you have time to increase the value of your property, and even improve your credit while doing so.

 

How to Grow Equity

Unlike debt and other expenses, as a homeowner, an increase in home equity is a good thing. Why? Because you are improving your credit through the home’s market value, your diligence is paying for your mortgage, and you’re gaining true ownership of your home.

Here are some ways that home ownership can create wealth for you:

1. Appreciate Your Home

And we’re not just talking about your sentiments towards your home. This refers to ways you can increase your property’s worth.

Like they say, buying a home is an investment in itself.

a.   Rising Home Prices

Before you even buy a home, check the surroundings. Is it accessible? Are there upcoming developments in the area? Is the market doing well? These factors can increase your home’s market value effortlessly, consequently affecting your home equity.

b.    Home Improvements

If you can, try upgrading areas of your property! Consider adding a shower in the downstairs bathroom, installing a newer stove and fridge, or maybe even planting some trees on your property line.

While these improvements may cost you some, they benefit you by increasing your home’s property value.

c.     Home Maintenance

This simply means preserving the home’s livable condition, as you normally would.

A few tips include having regular repair checks on the house and around your property, and preserving unique features, like outdoor decks.

 

2. Mortgage Payments

Mortgage payments are no fun, but this expense can ultimately help you create wealth.

For starters, it is important to know that the larger your outstanding loan balance is, the greater amount of interest you pay on it. However, don’t worry; we’ve listed a few ways you can avoid this.

a. Make a Larger Down Payment

Even before you can call a property yours, you can start creating wealth by preparing a bigger down payment.

Home property down payments can be as low as 3%. But as previously mentioned, a higher loan balance means more money paid towards interest in the end. It’s also important to note that once you hold 20% equity in your home, you start saving on the cost of private mortgage insurance.

This can be an attainable goal for you, but you don’t have to pay for the whole 20% right away. Just consider a slightly higher down payment.

For example, saving for a 5% down payment instead of a 3% one gets you that much closer to that 20% home equity target.

b. Shorter Mortgage Terms

This is tricky because this requires higher payments compared to a long-term mortgage. But if you budget wisely, this is a sure way to build home equity quickly.

c. Bi-weekly Payments

If the above is too taxing, look into making mortgage payments every two weeks, rather than once a month.

The difference? This can result in your 30-year mortgage transforming into a 25-year mortgage. This is because your 12 monthly payments paid annually turns into 13 monthly payments per annum.

d. Regular Payments

If your budget won’t allow for this, then simply make sure to pay your mortgage on time. This will keep your credit positive, and you’ll gain equity in your home with every payment.

 

In fulfilling these kinds of commitments, it is up to you to strike a balance between your monthly budget and savings. See what works best for you, so that you can create wealth as a homeowner, by making the most of your home equity.

Notice Of Intent to Foreclose: Know Your Options

As a homeowner, there’s an f-word that is avoided as much as possible. Even though we don’t want to say it we have to talk about it. Why? Because like most problems, that’s how it’s handled. So say it with us, foreclosure.

Most of the time, when people find out that their dream house is facing foreclosure, their world stops. No one buys a house and puts in all the effort into making it a home only to one day realize that it will be taken away from them. Getting a Notice of Foreclosure is something that people dread, and even ignore in the hopes that the problem will go away.

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Ignoring Your Foreclosure Notice

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What happens if you don’t respond to the notice of intent for foreclosure?

When you receive a notice of foreclosure, the best thing to do is take charge. Getting a notice of foreclosure doesn’t mean that the world has stopped because there are many options for you!

Even when you get the notice, you can still avoid having foreclosure and bankruptcy on your record. So, to answer the question, ignoring your foreclosure notice will only limit your options and ultimately lead to losing your home.

If you’re reading this, and you still haven’t received a notice of foreclosure—in which case you’re at the stage of dreading it—what can you do?

 

Foreclosure Avoidance Plan

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Banks offer Foreclosure Avoidance Plans for those who want to be extra-sure about their home loans.

Always consult with your lender about this first. It will seem like a fair deal, but don’t forget that this is actually an additional loan. So now, you’re paying for your mortgage and an additional foreclosure plan.

If this is something you can handle, then by all means, go for it!  If you’d rather work on your primary loan before adding another one into the equation, it’s also okay not to enter into a foreclosure plan.

 

Filing for Bankruptcy

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What if you just totally forget the foreclosure of your house, and file for bankruptcy instead?

The good news is, yes, you can do that. Your foreclosure will be curbed if you do this. What happens when you file for bankruptcy is that your lender will not be able to collect the debt from you. The bad news is, courts cannot discharge secured debts that include mortgage payments.

What happens here is that since you are filing for bankruptcy, you don’t have to pay for your mortgages yet.  However, as soon as your bankruptcy process is complete, your lenders will definitely be back for your debt.

In cases like this, homeowners usually struggle with paying for their mortgages after filing in the courts. The worst part is that, most times, these homeowners end up with not just a bankruptcy but also a foreclosure on their record.

 

Your Financial Status

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Let’s say you don’t go with bankruptcy and are looking at simply foreclosing your home. How does this affect your financial status?

Your foreclosure report will be on your record for seven years.  Not only that, after those seven years, you may also have to write a report to three major credit agencies to have the foreclosure removed from your record.

Although lenders have been more lenient over recent years, those who are approved for new loans, and even credit lines, have to pay higher interest rates. You can’t really blame them, though. They see those who have a record of foreclosure, with or without bankruptcy, as more of a liability than those who have a clean record.

 

You’re Not Alone

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Yes, getting a Foreclosure Notice is something you might have never thought would happen to you. It has been found that this has actually become more common recently.

A 2013 study found that over 4.1 million foreclosures were completed in the United States during September 2008-December 2012. This is quite a big number and does not even include those who avoided foreclosure through some of the methods mentioned above, those who opted to sell their homes, or those who found ways to work things out with their lenders.

Tips On Setting A Home Renovation Budget

When a homeowner starts to consider a home renovation, it’s easy to grow overwhelmed, because it seems like such a monumental task. Perhaps this comes from the notion that all makeovers have to big, bold, and new. Think shows like “Extreme Makeover” and “House Flippers”. Most think the only allowable ending to a renovation is that you walk into your new living room and start sobbing with joy beholding your stunning, beautiful new life.

Does it really have to be that grand, though? You want to do a good job, sure-- but is it really necessary to spend obscene amounts of money?

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Let’s put a realistic budget on your needed and/or wanted home renovation. Whether it’s simply a kitchen revamp, a bathroom remodel, or a complete overhaul of your property, we have the perfect tips to keep you from breaking the bank.

 

1. Estimate Scientifically.

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Even in home renovations, there’s a rule of thumb—don’t spend more on the area you’re renovating than its ultimate potential value.

An area in your home accounts for a certain percentage of your entire property. A kitchen, for example, may be considered 10-15% the house’s market value.

Make sure to compute for this first, and try to calibrate it with your budget.

 

2. Reality, not Fantasy.

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One of the most common mistakes homeowners make while budgeting for a renovation is underestimating the amount of money needed to finish the job. Ideally, you want to renovate your property at the lowest cost possible, but will that budget fit your list of needs and wants?

Make realistic estimates (which often means purposely adding a bit of a buffer on every expense) to avoid under-budgeting.

 

3. Get Quotes from Contractors.

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Talk to contractors. They do this for a living. Even if you don’t intend to actually use one.

Contractors will quote you based on your ideal plan, and how they would make it a reality—from manpower to materials needed. Tell them you’re expected budget and see if they can work with it.

 

4. Be Specific!

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As you gather quotes from contractors, make sure you communicate exactly what you want done. Contractors should know exactly what they’re doing, but if the homeowner doesn’t really know what is to be done on the property, your quote will be vague and likely include many purposeful upsells.

 

5. Stick to the Plan.

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To stick to the budget! Make it your priority to stick to your financial plan—your realistic, scientifically estimated, and specific dollar amount. Changing plans mid-renovation has ‘eventually, horribly over-budget’ written all over it!

Resist any urge to add a little side project along the way. If there’s a little extra money left over, then do that desired side-project after the initially planned renovation is completed.

 

6. Start Planning Early On.

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As mentioned, any mid-work alteration in the plan inevitably means an instant budget change. Don’t leave anything until the last-minute! If you can, plan even the smallest detail with your contractor early in the process.

You can also start lurking through the aisles of hardware stores paying particular mind to the prices of items relevant to your renovation. If you’re renovating your bathroom, for example, you might want to check out new sinks. Mark down some prices. Get a sense of cost. Make a spreadsheet and keep track of everything you find.

 

7. Plan for the Unexpected.

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Account for hidden costs! Make sure you have some wiggle room.  If a maintenance issue is uncovered, construction takes a turn because of the weather, or if your vision changes midway, you will avoid undue stress by budgeting flexibly.

Allot a buffer of around 15-20% on top of your budget for emergency circumstances.

 

8. Consider Home Remodeling Options.

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You may be able to get a loan to finally make that dream renovation happen!

There are a few options you can consider—refinancing, cash-out refinance, HELOC (home equity line of credit), and a home equity loan. Make sure to study all your options before you finally take the plunge.

Just be sure to keep your long-term financial health in mind. You don’t want to sacrifice your future at the expense of the present.

The Annual Home Maintenance Checklist: A Guide For New Homeowners

Keeping up with home maintenance tasks can be daunting, especially for new homeowners. It may be hard to accept the fact that sometimes you have to cancel a weekend brunch so you can clean out the gutters and mow the lawn.

While these responsibilities could be frustrating, it’s what you have to do to protect your biggest investment. Staying on top of these tasks can save you from costly repairs later, and can keep your house running as good as new.

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While there are many tasks that homeowners should complete each season, this list outlines the chores you should take care of once a year. If you’re a homeowner who is or will be celebrating the anniversary of your home purchase, it’s a good idea to start off with this to-do list and give your home the TLC it deserves.

 

1. Check and update your smoke alarms, alert systems, and carbon monoxide detectors.

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Alarm systems and smoke detectors are crucial to minimizing damage and saving lives in the event of a fire. Change the batteries of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and ensure that the systems are in working condition.

Now is also a good time to check your fire extinguishers. Make sure you have at least one fire extinguisher and see if it is still within the expiration date.

 

2. Pressure wash.

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One of the best ways to make your home’s exterior look clean is through power washing. Doing so will also minimize the risk of mold growth and infestation, particularly if you do it once a year. Give your house a good scrub by using a garden hose, renting a power washer or hiring a professional cleaner to do the job. Don’t miss out on cleaning the siding, windows, and patio as well to get rid of any grit. For heavily soiled areas, spot-clean them using cleaning materials that won’t harm your plants.

 

3. See if your house needs a freshening up with paint.

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To check if your house’s exterior needs a fresh coat of color, look for signs of chipping paint. New paint will not only give your home a new look, but it will also protect it from water damage and rot. This job is best started in the spring.

 

4. Check your home’s humidity levels.

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The humidity level in your home should be kept at average levels: between 30% and 50% humidity. High humidity is dangerous because it can cause mildew and black mold, while low levels can cause damage such as chipping paint. Low humidity can also make you and your family uncomfortable, causing itchiness and even sore throats! Check your property’s humidity using a hygrometer at least once a year.

 

5. Clean your air filters and air ducts.

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You should clean your air conditioner parts at least once a year to ensure clean air is circulating in your home. You can clean the air filters and air ducts by yourself or hire a maintenance technician to do the job.

 

6. Check for termites and pests.

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For many homeowners, just the thought of having termites in their home can make them cringe, but facing reality is another thing. You should include a termite inspection, which costs no more than $100, in your annual checklist to make sure these pests are not taking over your property.

Likewise, don’t forget to book an appointment with a pest control service once a year. Unless you want your home to be infested with bugs and other critters, you have to include it on your cleaning schedule.

 

7. Clean your tile and grout.

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Cleaning the tile and sealing the grout lines need to be done at least once a year. Not only will it make your home look clean but will help prevent mold growth. While there are many firms that offer professional tile and grout cleaning, you can also do it yourself. You just have to carefully choose the products or materials you’ll use so you won’t damage your tile or prevent further damage.

 

8. Sort out your things and declutter.

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After spending a year or more living in your home, it might surprise you to realizehow much “stuff” has piled up, taking over your storage space. It’s a good thing to sort through your belongings and declutter unnecessary items after you’re finished doing the essential maintenance chores.

The 7-Step Decluttering Guide to Organizing Your Home this New Year

We often talk about starting a home improvement project, like a bathroom or kitchen remodel, because we’re dissatisfied with the house and are looking for ways to make it even better. But what if the first thing that’s hindering us from appreciating our biggest investment is the enormous amount of clutter that we’ve accumulated over the years?

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Decluttering is a difficult thing to do, especially for those who have been planning to downsize or simply move out of their current home. Deciding which items to keep, which to give up, donate, or throw out will never be easy. But too much clutter in our home can lead to chaos that can cost us money, time, and even limit our productivity and concentration.

According to the Ikea Life at Home 2017 survey Beating The Battles, having “too much stuff” was the single biggest cause of stress in the home. And the simple act of choosing which items to keep and which to discard can ultimately free people from guilt and worry and allow them to focus on what really matters most in their lives, even if taking that step is difficult.

New Year is a good time to have a fresh start, so right now is a great time to achieve a more peaceful home by decluttering and organizing your stuff. Here we’ve gathered some of the best techniques and principles to help you declutter so you can appreciate your home more.

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Before starting anything, think about what your goals are and your reasons for decluttering. If you don’t have a clear goal in mind, you’ll start enthusiastically after sorting through a few items, then find yourself losing momentum because you haven’t started with the right mindset. Experts suggest you create your vision first and think things through before you start organizing.

Don’t just say to yourself that you’re going to organize your closet or sort through your cupboard. Instead, think about how you want to maximize your storage space, how you want to store your clothes, or how you can easily get to your preferred herbs and spices when you’re cooking your meals. Take the time to assess your space and understand how you want to organize a particular area in your home.

 
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If you’re still having a hard time deciding where to start, begin with something easy. Get rid of any broken or expired items, especially hair, makeup, and other cosmetic products, old prescriptions, and medicines. The same goes for any food or canned goods in your pantry that are already past their expiration date.

 
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Make it easier for you to focus on your goals by organizing one room or area at a time. Break the job into smaller parts so you won’t get overwhelmed with the task at hand. Try choosing a space that makes you feel uncomfortable — whether it’s your makeup and beauty products taking over your vanity drawer, the shelves crammed with books you don’t have time to read, the pile of messy clothes in your dresser, or the unruly cords and cables in your home office. Taking it item by item will help you get things done in a short amount of time.

 
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Things like gifts, souvenirs, and inherited items can be the hardest things to part with. Putting a great deal of sentimental value on every item we’ve ever received as a gift or every item we’ve ever purchased on a vacation is a trap that we all fall into, and it can be impossible for you to get rid of unnecessary clutter if you don’t learn to let go. Even though these things can be connected to a specific memory in our lives, the fact remains that these are still objects, and while some may be worth keeping forever, it’s worthwhile to examine whether all of those items are still creating a positive effect on your life, or if they’re contributing to your stress.

It’s important to remember that you are not required to keep all the gifts you’ve received in your lifetime. When evaluating an item, determine whether it is really worth keeping. If you can retain the precious memory without keeping the physical object, then it might be wise to let go. You can check these tips by The Spruce to help you get rid of sentimental clutter without feeling guilty.

 
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As you set out to declutter a space in your home, adapt the four-box technique suggested by Becker in BecomingMinimalist.com to help you with this process. Prepare four boxes that will be titled trash, give away, keep, and relocate. As you consider and evaluate each item, try to place them into one of these four categories so it will be easier for you to sort things out later on.

After you’ve finished, you can return and double check all the items in the boxes and then put them back in their proper locations, or think of ways to discard them. You can always donate them, pass them on, give them away to friends and relatives, or sell them for some extra cash.

 
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The biggest pitfalls when organizing are the unending distractions and diversions that will come your way. When you start the task, do your best to ignore any texts, email alerts, or notifications from your social media accounts. Also, avoid the temptation to finish that book you found in a drawer you were cleaning, or review the full menu of a restaurant in that flyer you were supposed to throw out. These little distractions could send you down another path and make you lose focus on your goal. So outsmart these temptations at all costs and remember the tips given above to achieve an organized home.

 
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Many of us just don’t have the time to focus on getting rid of unnecessary items, but we can still manage the issue if we acquire less stuff to begin with. Before bringing a new item into your home, take a hard look at the things you already own. Disorganization could cost you money when you bring home a new item only to realize you already own something similar. When there’s less clutter, you’ll spend less time trying to find things, less time wondering if you already have something, and less money overall when you’re able to find things quickly and know you don’t need a duplicate.


After you’re finished, take a step back and look around. Have you missed any area that still needs attention? Once you’re happy with what you’ve accomplished in your newly organized home, it’s now easier for you to dream of your next home improvement project.

Understanding Your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy in Case of a Wildfire

The recent catastrophic wildfires in California have been beyond devastating. These violent infernos destroyed thousands of properties and structures and displaced hundreds of thousands of people living in the affected areas.

But if there’s one takeaway from this widespread fire damage, it’s that homeowners and renters alike should be sure their insurance policies are up to date, and that they can get enough coverage to rebuild their home after a catastrophe.

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So whether you live in the Golden State, on the West Coast, or anywhere else in the country, here are some key points about your policy in case you need to make an insurance claim after wildfire damage:

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Your standard homeowner’s insurance policy will cover damages to your home from a wildfire, especially those caused by fire and smoke. It may also include the repair and cleaning of smoke-damaged furniture, water damage from firefighting efforts, as well as debris removal.

Depending on the kind of policy you have and whether you live in a high-risk zone or not, you may have coverage for:

  • Dwelling or main property

  • Detached structures like garage and fence

  • Landscaping and other backyard items

  • Personal property

  • Debris removal, and;

  • Living expenses

Keep in mind that for personal belongings like jewelry, you may need to purchase additional coverage to protect them since your standard policy may offer lower coverage limits. If your car has also been damaged or destroyed by wildfire, it is typically covered under the optional “comprehensive” portion of your automobile insurance policy.

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Based on your insurance policy, your house and its contents may be insured for either their cash value or their replacement value. The actual cash value is the depreciated value of your possessions at the time of the loss. In this settlement, your items will be replaced by their current, depreciated value.

On the other hand, replacement value will provide you with enough money to replace your lost items. And although you will pay more in premiums, it’s often worth it because it can help you go back on the same position you were before the loss.

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Remember that you shouldn’t only focus on the replacement costs of your home and its contents. You should also check your homeowner’s policy for your Loss of Use coverage limits. Loss of Use coverage provides living expenses if your home is deemed uninhabitable as the result of a disaster such as fire or water.

Because it will take time to rebuild or repair your home, loss of use covers expenses for temporary residence, moving costs, transportation, and commuting expenses, among others. This key provision is sometimes called Coverage D and in most policies or insurers, it is usually limited to a certain amount and for a specific time period.

In case of disasters such as a wildfire, homeowners need to be sure that their policies have strong loss of use provisions. It’s a common mistake for many because they purchase their coverage based on cost and not the actual coverage. So once a disaster strikes, they’re surprised to find out that their temporary living costs are only partially covered. Experts suggest that homeowners review their Loss of Use coverage limits before they suffer a loss so they can be comfortable while they’re on their way to recovery.

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The Loss of Use provision is only limited to a specific time period, which can pose a new challenge for affected homeowners since it takes time to rebuild. The length of coverage also varies by state. In California, the current law allows for 24 months of loss of use. The good news is that it will increase to 36 months starting January 2019. Some other states, however, limit the loss of use to only 12 months.

For many displaced homeowners, the 24 months of coverage may not be enough to cover the actual time needed to rebuild. Most insurance policies also do not consider outside influences that can make it difficult for these homeowners to be efficient with rebuilding.

 
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Here are some of the things you can do to make sure your property is protected:

1. Double-check your insurance policy and be sure you have adequate coverage. Homeowners and renters alike, especially those who live in areas at risk of wildfires, should make sure their coverage is adequate and up to date. Review the fine print of your insurance policy and make sure  nothing sneaky has made its way into your policy.

You can also purchase additional coverage for code upgrades, which will help cover the cost of bringing your new home up to the latest building standards. This will protect you in case rules have changed for electrical systems or insulation since the year your house was built.

2. Document your home and keep an inventory of your belongings. Take pictures and videos of your home and your possessions through your smartphone, then keep them on a cloud-based storage platform so you can access them anywhere. In case your possessions were ruined by fire, you can use the images as evidence if your insurer disputes something in your claim.

In case your area has been affected by wildfires and you have to evacuate, save receipts from hotel rooms, food, or rentals. These additional living expenses could be covered by your insurance policy.

3. Work with the right insurance agent or broker. Working with the right professionals can make a big difference even before a disaster strikes. They can walk you through the provisions of your insurance policy and explain why you may need to pay additional premiums, especially if you’re living in a high-risk area.

Why You Must Have Flood Insurance Even If You Don’t Live In A Flood Zone

This year, Hurricane Florence brought tragic damage to the Carolinas and the Eastern Seaboard. And like recent major storms such as Harvey and Irma, Florence has caused massive flooding throughout the region.

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According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), no home is completely safe from potential flooding. And without flood insurance, homeowners have to pay out of pocket or take out loans to repair their home and replace its contents. Flood insurance can mean the difference between recovering and being financially devastated. So why risk it when your largest financial investment is at stake? It can take you less than a month to make an offer and close on your dream home, but rebuilding it after flood damage could take months or even years.

Here are five crucial reasons why homeowners should carefully consider getting flood insurance:

1. Your standard homeowner's insurance policy does not typically cover flood damage.

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Many American homeowners are unaware that flooding is one type of natural disaster that isn’t covered by their standard home insurance policies. In fact, at least 43% of homeowners incorrectly believe the damage from heavy rain flooding is covered under their standard insurance, according to the 2016 Consumer Insurance Survey by the Insurance Information Institute.

Most homes in the counties that were hardest hit by Hurricane Florence in September 2018 were underprepared for the aftermath of the storm. A Washington Post analysis revealed only one in 10 homes has flood insurance.

Since your regular home insurance doesn’t typically cover flood damage, you will need a policy offered through the government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The average annual premium for a policy through the NFIP was $866, although it is expected to rise about 8% this year. The program's maximum coverage is $250,000 for your home and $100,000 for its contents.

 

2. Your home can be miles away from a floodplain or any bodies of water and you can still be a victim of flooding.

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It takes just one inch of water to cause $25,000 of damage to your home, as reported by FEMA. You can live miles away from water and your area may be low-risk, but it doesn’t mean there’s no risk involved. Surprisingly, over 20% of flood insurance claims come from properties outside high-risk flood zones.

While homeowners in high-risk areas are likely required by lenders to get flood insurance, it’s also recommended that those who live in low- to medium-risk areas also consider buying a policy.

 

3. Flood maps can change!

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Here’s a sad truth: floods can happen anywhere. Floodplains and floodplain maps change and evolve. When you bought your home, you may have thought, “There’s no need for a flood insurance policy because I don’t live on a floodplain.” But that doesn’t mean your area will always be low risk.

You can check the site FloodSmart.gov to learn more about the flood risks in your area. It’s also a good tool if you want to get more information about the risks, premiums, and agents near you. Your insurance agent can also be your go-to person during your research.

 

4. Floods are the most common weather emergency.

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Anywhere it rains, there’s the possibility of flooding. And according to FEMA, flooding can occur from hurricanes, tropical storms, cyclones, plain old heavy rains, winter storms, spring thaws, overburdened or clogged drainage systems, or occasionally from nearby construction. It doesn’t even have to be caused by a major weather emergency for your property to be affected.

Likewise, flood insurance can pay whether or not there is a Presidential Disaster Declaration.

 

5. There is a 30-day wait period before the policy goes into effect.

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You can’t wait until a hurricane is bearing down on your area for you to get flood insurance. Most policies have a 30-day waiting period between when you buy the coverage and when the coverage takes effect. So you need to purchase a flood insurance policy at least a month in advance to be eligible for reimbursement.

The only exception to this is when the policy you got was required upon closing on a new home purchase. When an extreme storm hits your area within the 30-day period, you’ll have peace of mind that your new home and its contents are insured.

 

Bottom Line

Flood insurance premiums vary depending on the home’s elevation, the date of construction, and the relative risk of the area. And while the NFIP program has a maximum of $350,000 in coverage for your home and its contents, you may opt to buy excess flood insurance through a private carrier that would cover an amount above the national program’s limits.

It may be expensive, but don’t skimp on a flood policy and protect your largest financial investment. If you’ve been a victim of flood damage and your home is uninsured, you may get a grant from FEMA or a loan from the Small Business Administration. However, the money you’ll get may not be enough to cover the damage. According to this Realtor.com article, those federal grants are not designed to bring homeowners back to a pre-disaster condition. Insurance can help you get to where you were before the disaster occurred.

Here’s What Life Is Like After Paying Off Your Mortgage

How great does a mortgage payoff sound? After making your final payment, there’s nothing sweeter than seeing in your account that you are already “PAID IN FULL” after a substantial period of 15 or 30 years. Congratulations! Paying off your mortgage is a huge and remarkable milestone—you now own your home free and clear. However, there are still a few things you need to do to ensure that you have a clear ownership of your property. Here are some of those extra steps:

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Expect to receive some important documents

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When your mortgage is paid in full, your lender should return the mortgage promissory note you signed when you first took out the loan. The canceled promissory note proves you have fulfilled the terms of the loan and that you no longer owe the lender any money. If you don’t receive yours back, the lender should at least send you a payoff notice to show you now have a zero balance on your home.

The lender may also send you the canceled trust deed, which secured your loan with title to your house and which conveys the home to a lender if the borrower defaults. You also need to check your credit report to make sure your mortgage account now shows a zero balance. It may take a few weeks to receive your paperwork, which should include a Satisfaction of Mortgage statement—a document stating that you’ve paid off your home. If you received nothing after a couple of weeks of making your last payment, call your lender to check on your paperwork and make sure it will soon be on its way.

 

Release of lien

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Once you’ve paid off your loan in full, your lender will send a document to the county or city registry office notifying them that your title is now clean. That means the lien the lender attached to the property when you got your mortgage is no longer valid. He/she will prepare a Release of Deed of Trust or Satisfaction of Mortgage that will discharge your property from any claim. When there is no longer a lien on your property, it means all the equity is now yours especially if you decide to sell your home.

 

Cancel your automatic mortgage payments

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If you’re like most homeowners who’ve set up automatic payments through their banks, you now need to contact your bank and tell them to turn off the automatic deduction for your mortgage payments.

 

Update your payment for property taxes and homeowner’s insurance

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For most homeowners, their property taxes and homeowner’s insurance were likely escrowed by their lender and rolled into their monthly mortgage payments. Once you’ve paid off your loan, you’re now in charge of making those payments. For property taxes, contact your local taxing authorities to make sure you’ll receive the bills and avoid a hefty fine if you were late with your payments.

Likewise, for your homeowner’s insurance, contact your insurance company or insurance carrier to have the lender removed from the policy. The lender will no longer have any claim to your house, so they should not have the legal right to any insurance payout in the case of fire and other damage. If your house suffered significant damage and your lender’s name remains in the homeowner’s policy, it can make filing and collecting of an insurance claim more complicated because you’d have to deal with the lender first before you could even get your insurance check.

Now that you’re taking over those payments, you must set aside enough cash to pay for both. Experts highly recommend homeowners to create their own escrow account or open a bank account where they can deposit the funds needed to cover those each month. The good news is that your lender is likely to have kept extra funds above and beyond what you actually owed in taxes (when your payments were held in escrow). You should get that reserved collection a couple of weeks after making your final payment in the form of a check from your lender. You can put that into your account and you can also deposit the same amount as your mortgage each month until you have enough to cover your property taxes and homeowner’s insurance premium.

 

Keep your documents in a safe place

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Well, you’re not exactly at risk of losing your house if you lose your deed. But it can be quite a hassle to replace it. If you do lose it, you can claim a new deed in the county that your house is in by paying a small fee. It’s an important document that signifies your ownership of your home, so better keep it in an actual safe or even in a safety deposit box. It’s also for security reasons just in case things go badly down the road, such as if someone questions your ownership of the property (it isn’t impossible!), or if someone comes claiming you didn’t pay the loan off in full.


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Because a mortgage can be your largest financial commitment in life, it’s the last thing you need to pay off before you can consider yourself debt-free. You can finally kiss that debt goodbye for good after making that last payment and allocate the money you were using to pay it down each month towards other financial goals.

You now have some serious cash you can spend whenever you want. But on the wiser side, it’s important to not feel overwhelmed by all these extra cash and miss the opportunities to achieve other concrete goals you are looking forward to, such as a car, a vacation home, and other big purchases. You can also keep part of that money in your bank account or in your retirement fund. If perhaps there are renovations you’ve been dying to do in your home, you can now achieve them and boost its resale value. Or you can make modifications to help you age in place and enjoy the latter years of your life in your beloved home.

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Allocating your monthly mortgage payments elsewhere after making your final payment can give you more financial freedom to invest in your home and in yourself. You no longer have to worry that you owe anyone any money. For retirees or those who are nearing their retirement years, it can be one of the best feelings in the world.

 

Now that the hardest part is over, go treat yourself. You deserve it more than anything. That house is now yours—free and clear of any liens and issues about ownership. It’s an outstanding achievement worthy of a big celebration. In Scotland for an instance, homeowners paint their front door red to signify that they have paid off their mortgage. Go on, paint your door red if you like to. It’s worth proclaiming that you’re now mortgage-free after all these years!

The Things You’ll Love and Hate About Living in an HOA Community

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Love: Offers a range of amenities and recreational areas

You can have access to a range of amenities being offered by the HOA, such as swimming pools, gym or workout stations, and tennis court. There are also recreational areas for residents, like walking trails, jogging paths, playing fields, and community center.

Hate: Restrictive rules and covenants

While they differ from community to community, each HOA has its own declaration of “covenants, conditions, and restrictions” or CC&Rs. These are the rules that residents have to follow while living in the community. The goals of these rules are not to meddle but to maintain the attractiveness of the neighborhood and the value of the properties. However, some homeowners may find the covenants to be too restrictive or unreasonable since it prevents them from enjoying the freedom they want to have over their home.

Love: Less work and maintenance

Living in an HOA community could mean less work for you as a homeowner. HOAs handle services such as exterior home repairs, lawn care, snow removal, and pest control. They are also responsible for the upkeep of common areas, buildings, and shared amenities.

Hate: You can’t paint, decorate, or renovate your home in the way you like it

Those CC&Rs mean the modifications you can do to your home is limited. Before you can push through with painting your home in your chosen colors, installing a play area or swing set, decorating for the holidays, or adding a new room, you may need to first seek approval from the HOA. If you don’t like someone telling you what to do with your beloved home, an HOA may not be right for you.

Love: The community’s uniform look helps keep home values

The appearance of homes within an HOA must meet the association’s standards, which helps maintain the neighborhood aesthetic and higher home prices. Those desirable amenities can also help increase your home’s value.

Hate: All those associated and mandatory fees

HOAs charge a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee that primarily goes to the maintenance and handling of the common areas and buildings. The fees vary depending on the neighborhood’s location and the amenities being offered.

Love: Handles disputes between neighbors

Rather than getting into a nasty confrontation with your neighbors about their unkempt lawn, noisy dogs or loud parties, you can ask the HOA to handle the dispute on your behalf. The HOA can send them a notice or a warning for any activity that well violates the rules and regulations.

Hate: The threat of foreclosure after missed payments

While laws vary by state, an HOA can move to foreclose on your property if you fail to pay the monthly dues or have delinquent assessments by placing a lien on your property. So make sure your budget can handle those fees so you won’t fall behind on payments and risk losing your home.

Love: The community newsletters

The regular news, tips, and reminders can keep homeowners updated and equipped with valuable information.