Concentrate on the Positives

Posted by at 8:51 am

As America heads into the big spring selling season, all signs point to a robust housing market in 2018. Demand is high and homebuilders are upbeat. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) confidence gauge is at its highest level in 18 years. Record numbers of home shoppers are packing sales centers and open houses. The pace of annual construction spending soared to a record $1.257 trillion in November, and starts of single-family homes and building applications are the strongest in a decade. But will vigorous construction be enough to offset exceptionally weak inventory? With new and existing home sales skyrocketing, the national inventory is pegged at just 3.4 months, the shortest timeframe since 1999, and far short of the 6-month supply considered necessary for a healthy housing balance. Home builders say they’ll concentrate more on affordable housing in 2018, but...
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Disaster preparedness part of homeownership

Posted by at 8:22 am

Talking points for a year-end wrap-up have to include the string of natural disasters that descended on the U.S.(and the Caribbean) in 2017. Whether hurricane, fires, tornadoes or even earthquakes, disaster can strike anytime, anyplace – and during any season. Every homeowner needs to be prepared. Mother Nature’s fury is exceedingly random. Not only will most of us weather the disaster’s initial mayhem, we must also be ready for the immediate aftermath. There could be countless folks in need of help, and rescue personnel may not arrive to help for some time. Roads could be damaged or inaccessible, making it difficult to get necessities. Prepare a 72-hour disaster kit. Make sure it contains enough food, water, batteries, clothing, essentials (medications, diapers) and warm blankets to last you and your family for at least three days. Include basic first aid supplies...
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Homeownership’s value overrides divisiveness

Posted by at 1:06 pm

With some pretty big issues on the table for Congress in 2018, America may seem more politically divided than ever these days. But one shared value stretches across the nation—homeownership. There may be difference of opinion on things like healthcare, immigration and tax reform, but a strong majority of Americans agree home ownership is a financially sound decision –  an instrument for gaining long-term wealth while raising a family and making ties within the community. According to real estate website Zillow, 68.7 percent of Republicans and 65.1 percent of Democrats see homeownership as a crucial part of living the American Dream. Homeownership builds equity over time, providing financial security for families and individuals. With stable monthly payments, it’s easier for cash-conscious consumers to plan and budget. Potential tax savings can also offset homeownership costs. But the real “value” comes in...
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Seniors no longer a niche market

Posted by at 1:17 pm

Fueled by the baby-boomer generation, the population of Americans 65 and older is growing exponentially, and will become a major part of the housing and mortgage industries over the next several decades. According to the latest report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, one out of three U.S. households in 2035 will be headed by someone over 65. That’s an estimated 79 million people! Real estate agents and mortgage lenders who plan sales strategies with an eye on the aging will doubtlessly see more success. One unexpected backlash of the exodus to the suburbs over the last 40 years is the growing number of retirees realizing their neighborhoods no longer fit their needs. In a recent survey from Freddie Mac, seniors said they need major renovations in order to stay in their current homes as they age –...
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A flood of insurance

Posted by at 10:28 am

Following the record damages from hurricanes Irma and Harvey, insurers are sounding the alarm bells – development across the country has turned many areas into potential flood zones.   It’s not entirely surprising. While areas like Coastal Florida require all homeowners to have flood insurance because of the high risk, most U.S. homeowners don’t live in areas prone to heavy flooding – or so they thought. Residential development eats up absorbent grasslands in and around cities, and also leads to the addition of more non-porous structures like roads and foundations, which can block the natural flow of stormwater runoff. Unless you live on a hilltop, insurers recommend at least some flood insurance. Administered by the federal National Flood Insurance Program and available through many insurances agencies, a flood policy costs about $500 a year for $250,000 of coverage. For a lot of families, an extra $500...
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Exploding home values mean refis, remodels

Posted by at 11:25 am

The low supply of houses on the market in the home stretch of 2017 continues to ramp up demand, jolting home prices “through the roof.” Most current homeowners can count on rising values for the foreseeable future! Cash-out refinances and other home equity loans are ways to pay for repairs or remodels that can push home values even higher. Updates and improvements can be used to enhance personal comfort, maintain property value – or even increase the chance of getting top dollar when an owner does decide to sell! Many of today’s first-time home buyers go smaller or older by necessity – just to get a foot in the door. They can build their dreams with the help of home equity! For homes built before 1940, updates to roofing, gutters and HVAC trend high on the list, along with abatement of toxic...
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Home insurers can “non-renew” for too many claims

Posted by at 8:44 am

If you have a home mortgage loan, then your lender is going to require you to carry homeowner’s insurance. It may be the biggest purchase you’ve ever made, but the lender has a lot invested in that home too – and wants its investment protected. But be warned. Insurance is not a maintenance plan – home insurance coverage is designed for sudden and unexpected large losses. Homeowners who file more than one claim unrelated to weather in less than three years can expect to be “non-renewed.” Non-renewal is not cancellation. Insurance companies cannot cancel a policy that has been in force for more than 60 days except for failure to pay the premium, fraud, or serious misrepresentation in the application. But like any business, an insurer “reserves the right to refuse service to anyone,” so long as they provide you with...
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Homeownership: A savings lifeline

Posted by at 12:30 pm

With home prices rising to all-time highs, many potential buyers may imagine drowning in a sea of monthly payments stretching across many years. Naysayers bob to the surface with harrowing tales of home-buying gone wrong. If the down payment doesn’t get you – well the property taxes, maintenance and insurance surely will! These so-called “savvy” investors say renters who dutifully put all money not spent on housing into stable investments – like mutual funds – may get a greater rate of return. Criticism of homeownership as an instrument of wealth-building has understandably become louder in the last decade, after a Housing Bust that put more than 10 million homeowners upside-down, and 4 million more into foreclosure. Though most underwater homeowners have swum back into positive equity, and many of those foreclosures are mortgage-eligible again, the math geeks remain in a...
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Unmarried couples sign cohabitation agreements

Posted by at 2:36 pm

Many couples aren’t waiting for the bonds of matrimony before entering another partnership with similar monumental responsibilities – buying a home. According to research from real estate website Zillow, 15 percent of unmarried couples between the ages of 24 and 35 are making the move to purchase a home together, up from 11 percent in 2005. Generally armed with lots of debt, but two solid incomes, the idea is to get into the housing market as soon as possible. To be sure, co-ownership can soften the financial blow. But a whole new set of problems can arise when and if couples break up. Many do. One or both parties will still be liable for the monthly mortgage payments. Unlike marriage and divorce, there is no legal process for dividing shared assets. A solution is the “cohabitation agreement,” which like a marriage “pre-nup,” protects a person’s...
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Know your fire insurance

Posted by at 3:58 pm

Despite constant public education, accidents – preventable or not – will happen. And thousands of American homeowners will eventually make claims on their home insurance. While claims related to weather are the most frequent, it’s home fires that do the most damage. “Partial losses,” where the home is not destroyed, are common. Damages can be difficult to assess. Make you know your policy well, and know how to handle a claim. Call the insurance company right away, and make an appointment for their investigator/adjuster to visit as soon as possible. The adjuster is legally bound to assess any “hidden damages,” including smoke, ash and air quality. If the fire required action by fire fighters, make sure foam and water damage is assessed, as well. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about things you don’t understand. Terms like “recoverable depreciation,” or...
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