Don’t Get Caught Underwater: Flood Insurance

It’s a nightmare situation, and we’ve all seen it on the news before: Water lapping at people’s roofs, furniture floating in inundated living rooms, and entire livelihoods swept away by floods. Almost any waterway can become a flood threat if the conditions are right. What would you do if you found your home facing a rising water line?

Most people don’t realize that basic homeowners’ insurance policies don’t cover flood damage. Think snow damage or hurricanes are covered by your policy? Check again. Many companies will not pay out for repairs from water events such as these.

Some facts you should know about flood insurance:

  • Premiums for flood insurance will vary based on home construction, year, and estimated risk.
  • There’s a 30-day waiting period before coverage goes into effect. (Don’t get caught shopping for a last-minute policy because you see a big storm coming!)
  • If you buy flood insurance while you’re engaged in the mortgage process, you may waive the 30-day waiting period.
  • The U.S. government will not provide flood assistance unless the area is declared a disaster zone.
  • If you’re selling a home in a flood plain, recognize that the flood insurance requirement may be viewed as a major negative in buyers’ eyes.
  • Flood maps can change, so it’s a good idea to check net for information.
  • Flood insurance doesn’t necessarily cover everything in your home, so be aware of the terms of the policy.

While the decision to purchase flood insurance is ultimately up to you, provided you’re not required by your lender to have it, you should ask yourself if the savings is worth the risk.

Be prepared for floods by reading up on them at the ready.gov website here:

http://www.ready.gov/floods

You can also learn more about flood insurance at FEMA here:

http://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program

Curious who offers flood insurance in your area? Get in touch and I’ll refer you to someone I know and trust: Teresa Butler, Worthington Realty, 614-565-8161, Teresa@TeresaButler.com

 

5 tips to predict home values in any neighborhood

How do you predict the value of a neighborhood? While no one can say for sure how home values in a neighborhood will rise or decline over time, there are big-picture economic factors that you can look for to help get handle on where they may be going.

  1. Major regional employers. If a community depends upon one or two large companies for a high percentage of local employment, you can bet that as the company fares, so will the neighborhoods. While “company towns” are hardly the norm these days, don’t overlook the possibility.
  1. Number of properties currently for sale. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a neighborhood just because the inventory (i.e. number of homes on the market) is high. Other times, something may be amiss. If you’re seeing street-after-street of “FOR SALE” signs, ask questions.
  1. Major construction. Is that a new school they’re building, or is it a supermax prison? Did they clear that land for a new shopping center, or is it a new loop for the interstate? Certain types of construction can improve home values while others can hurt. Getting in touch with the local planning commission as well as the local newspaper’s business section (or website) can help illuminate what’s behind those bulldozers and cement mixers.
  1. Rental density. People who own the homes they live in tend to take better care of them. Also, it’s preferable to have long-term neighbors versus high-turnover tenants. Absentee landlords or seasonally rented properties can also be a drag on a neighborhood. Get a feel for the rental density and the direction it’s heading. Rental density matters.
  1. Environmental conditions. One industrial accident that poisons a water supply is enough to annihilate home values. How susceptible is the region to extreme weather? Don’t rule out environmental liabilities or benefits.

Nobody’s crystal ball is perfect, but to ignore major macroeconomic factors is dangerous. Even if you’re only planning on staying in a location for 5 – 7 years, do yourself a favor and try to position yourself to make, not lose money, on your home with these tips in mind.

Have questions about a neighborhood in Central Ohio? I’m happy to help. Get in touch today:Teresa Butler, 614-565-8161, Teresa@TeresaButler.com

 

What it Means to Sell a House “As Is”

Sometimes people inherit a home they simply need to unload and other times they don’t want to make the effort to make repairs or tune up the home’s curb appeal. For these home owners looking for a quick sale, they often think selling a home “as is” is the way to go. If you’re like most folks, you might think the “as is” sale means “take it or leave it” and “what you see is what you get.”

But an “as is” sale isn’t necessarily a cakewalk. It doesn’t mean you’re completely exonerated from taking some responsibility for the home’s condition. While advertising a home “as is” lets buyers know they’re likely to have to do some work, it also broadcasts that the home is probably going to be a relatively good deal, provided they’re willing to take on repairs.

“As is” doesn’t relieve you from disclosing problems with the home. What you know about, you must disclose by law. Failure to do so could get you into hot water. If you know about a problem but hope it slips by the buyer’s inspector, you’re at risk.

And that’s another thing: “As is” homes still go through the inspection process. While your “as is” sale may indicate your unwillingness to make repairs, it doesn’t mean the buyer won’t ask you for compensation based on condition issues. You may not come out of pocket, but it could come right off the top of your listing price, so keep this in mind. What’s more, once these conditions come to light you generally must disclose them to future prospective buyers if the current one bails.

With any luck, your “as is” buyer will be a cash buyer, but if not, prepare for the appraisal. Banks don’t want to loan money unless they deem the value of the home is acceptable. If the appraisal comes in low, your buyer may find themselves without the funds necessary to meet your price.

Building a new home in Central Ohio?

 

Thinking  of building a new home? Not sure how to start? Put my new home experti

 

se to work for you by allowing me to guide you through the process. I have had vast experience with new home building throughout my 34 years in real estate. Whether custom or production, I can help make the journey easier.

 

Browse communities, floorplans and builders in the Central Ohio area on my new home site. Find out prices, availability, home sites and special deals. Save your favorites. This is your one stop shop for new homes in Central Ohio: http://showingnew.com/teresabutler

How to Buy a Home with Bad Credit

Do you believe your negative credit history disqualifies you from buying a home? That might not be the case. And even if you’re not in the position to buy today, there are some simple, effective actions you can take to boost your future prospects.

If you’re like most people, buying a home means securing a mortgage. To secure that mortgage, you need to convince banks you’re a good bet. Here’s how to start on the path to making your dream home a real home:

 

  1. Work towards a 10% down payment: Down payment assistance is very difficult to get without a credit score north of 640. So if you’re below the line, you’re going to help your odds of pre-approval by proving you have 10% down to put on your home. That 10% is especially helpful if your credit score is sub-550. Above 550 you might be able to land an FHA loan with only 3.5% in equity.

 

  1. Make moves to rebuild your credit: You don’t have to be perfect to improve your access to better mortgage terms. Here’s how to put points back on top: 1) Pay down your highest credit card balances first. 2) Get your credit report and look for errors you can correct or dispute. 3) Identify any outstanding debts or collections which you can manage to get cleared either through full payment or negotiated settlement. If you can push your rating above 620 you’ll not only get closer to better terms, but generally you’ll experience less scrutiny during the approval process.

 

  1. Get a realistic picture of your debt-to-income ratio. Focus on doing what you can to bring your debt-to-income ratio below 45%. Mortgages do exist for people with higher ratios, but generally credit scores are well above 600 for this to become a reality.

 

  1. Understand your “seasoning period.” If you’ve experienced a bankruptcy, foreclosure, or short sale scenario, it may not be possible for you to secure a mortgage for at least three years (and sometimes two, depending on the situation). Use this time to work on the three tips above!

 

If you’d like to begin hunting for your next home, I am happy to help guide you. Or, if you need a referral to a reputable mortgage professional, get in touch! I have a network of trusted folks I work with every year: Teresa Butler, Worthington Realty, 614-565-8161 or Teresa@TeresaButler.com

Home improvements that make your home more valuable

(BPT) – More and more homeowners are embarking upon home improvement projects, spending nearly $200 billion a year on home renovations, according to the National Association of Home Builders. If you’re looking to make some home improvements without breaking the bank, spend smartly and invest time and money now into the projects that will pay back later.

Curb appeal

When it comes to first impressions, house hunters first notice curb appeal, or lack thereof. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors, curb appeal is important to 71 percent of homebuyers. So beautify the outdoor space to attract possible buyers by focusing on small exterior improvements that’ll pay off big like planting seasonal shrubs, painting the front door, refreshing a rusty mailbox or replacing old porch lighting with updated fixtures. These minor details will make a major and lasting statement. At the very least, you should clean the yard of any debris, trim trees and spread mulch in planting beds.

Take outdoor renovations to the next level by transforming the look of your home completely with a fresh coat of paint. Be mindful of your home’s location when selecting paint colors. Bold or bright colors might be the norm in Florida but wouldn’t look right in a region like the Pacific Northwest where neutral earth tones are popular.

You can also increase the value of your home by giving your siding material an overhaul. Remodeling magazine suggests replacing aluminum and vinyl siding with a durable fiber-cement mixture, which will recoup about 88 percent of its cost upon resale. It resists fire, rotting, moisture and termites – all potential hazards that could otherwise end up costing thousands.

“Let your insurance agent know whenever you complete a renovation project to make sure any new upgrades to your home are properly covered under your existing policy. If not, your agent can work with you to make sure you get the coverage you need,” says Erie Insurance Vice President and Product Manager Joe Vahey. “In addition, some home improvement upgrades may entitle you to discounts, especially if renovations make the home safer or more secure.” For example, Erie Insurance offers discounts for installing smoke alarms or a central station alarm. Erie also provides a discount for installing sprinkler systems in your home.

Bed, bath and beyond

As house hunters head indoors, there are a few things that are likely to increase a sale. Most tend to look at kitchens and baths first. Experts recommend timeless fixtures instead of trendy ones since they hold their own over time and appeal to buyers who favor both contemporary and classic looks. Don’t waste your money on fancy fixtures and features – they rarely make or break a sale.

Most people seem to think that a huge kitchen overhaul is necessary to snag interested buyers. However, Remodeling Magazine reports that you’ll actually recoup 8.5 percent more of the costs of a minor kitchen renovation compared to a major kitchen renovation. So instead of redoing the kitchen completely, accomplish a few minor DIY kitchen updates like changing out faucets and lighting fixtures, painting cabinets, adding new hardware to drawers and cabinets, and replacing old appliances with newer (and often more energy-efficient) models.

Experts also say that adding an attic bedroom and finishing the basement are two of the largest renovations that give you the best return on your investment, allowing you to recoup more than 84 percent and nearly 78 percent of the cost, respectively.

Before jumping into complicated or expensive DIY projects, take a moment to assess which ones are worth your time and money. Test your knowledge of which home improvement projects give you the most bang for your buck at www.eriesense.com.

No matter what updates you end up doing, it’s always a good idea to regularly assess the value of your home. This will assure you’re asking for an appropriate return on investment when you finally decide to put it on the market.

5 steps that can improve your credit score in 100 days or less

(BPT) – Low interest rates, a strong economy and the turn of the seasons are all causing the real estate market to heat up. More homes on the market bring more competition to buy the inventory that is out there. And one way to stand apart from other buyers who are vying for their dream home is to take steps to improve your credit score now.

“Preparing your finances is a must before the busy real estate season,” says Barrett Burns, president and CEO of credit score model developer VantageScore Solutions. “Knowing your credit scores and making improvements is essential to getting the best loan at the best rates. This also makes you a more attractive home buyer, especially in a competitive market.”

With limited time, you may think there’s nothing you can do to improve your score. Burns says that’s an incorrect assumption. While you can’t make dramatic jumps in just a couple months, there are several steps you can take that may influence your score to increase enough to get you prequalified for the loan you want.

Keep in mind, lenders will pull your scores from all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), so it’s wise to check your credit report from each of them. You can do so for free once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. For best results, monitor at least one credit score from each of the bureaus. You also can check your credit score for free through a large number of online services, such as CreditKarma.com, NerdWallet.com or Credit.com. Other sites offering free VantageScore credit scores can be found at VantageScore.com/free.

Once you have your reports in hand, you can take steps that may have a positive impact on your scores.

Step 1: Check for errors

A credit report gives a comprehensive list of your lines of credit and payment history. The first step is to review your credit report for errors and take steps to make corrections, including past and present names, loan amounts and credit cards in your name.

When checking your credit score, bear in mind that some differences in credit scores across bureaus is normal. But if one of the three credit scores is an extreme outlier, it could be worth double-checking your credit report from that bureau to make sure it doesn’t reflect any questionable or erroneous activity.

Step 2: Don’t miss a payment

Creditors are interested in seeing how you manage credit, and the consistency of behavior counts. You should always pay at least the minimum amount due on bills on time every month. An easy way to ensure you don’t miss a payment is to sign up for automatic bill pay when available.

Step 3: Lower credit utilization levels

Credit utilization is the ratio of a credit card balance to the credit limit. If your balance is $5,000 and your credit limit is $10,000, then your credit utilization for that credit card is 50 percent. In general, a good credit utilization is less than 30 percent, so if you have a higher ratio, consider using your tax refund to pay down this debt.

Step 4: Don’t close old credit cards

If you have a credit card that is no longer used but was previously paid off on time each month, don’t close the account. Not only is this good for your credit utilization ratio, but it also is another indicator you’re a responsible candidate for a loan.

Step 5: Don’t apply for new credit

Avoid applying for any new credit, such as an auto loan or a new credit card account, between now and the time you will close on a home purchase. Lenders considering your loan application request your credit score from one or more credit bureaus. And these lender “inquiries” are recorded with one or more of the three national credit bureaus, which may lower your credit score by 10 to 20 points. The score decreases typically only last a few months, as long as you continue to make payments on time. But unless they’re absolutely necessary, try to avoid additional inquiries until after you’ve secured your mortgage.

If you follow these five steps, you may see an increase in your score within a few months so you can get a loan and be an attractive buyer when it comes time to put in a bid for your dream home.

Keep in mind, the more you can put toward the down payment, the more instant equity you’ll have, the lower your monthly payment will be, and the better your chances are of not needing private mortgage insurance (PMI), which can add hundreds of dollars to your monthly payment.

Plus, if you’re able to put down more than a lender requires, a mortgage company may be willing to give you a pass on other issues on your application, such as a less-than-stellar credit score.

 

Contact Teresa if you have questions or need more information about credit, 614-565-8161 or Teresa@TeresaButler.com

Are You Really Ready to Sell?

I love to sell homes. It’s a privilege and an honor to be a part of the process. I get great satisfaction from making my living helping people move on to the next phase of their life, whether it’s upsizing, downsizing, or simply relocating to a new neighborhood.

But there is one sort of home seller I can’t really help: The seller who’s not really ready to sell.

If you’re thinking about selling your home, don’t enter into the process lightly. It’s a big deal. There’s some stress and there’s a great opportunity for joy. There’s a big investment at stake. This, along with a lot of other reasons large and small, is why you want to be 100% sure you’re ready to sell your home. If you think you’re ready to sell, but it turns out you’re not, you waste a lot of time and energy (and sometimes money).

So how do you know if you’re really ready to sell your home?

  1. You’re fine with the process. You must have no problem with the idea of a stranger poking around your house, talking about renovating it, or treating it like a used car. If you’ve lived in your house a long time, it’s natural to have emotional attachments. So if the process of selling the house makes you feel protective or defensive, you may not be ready.

 

  1. You are flexible on the right price. Motivated sellers understand selling a home involves negotiation and competitive market pricing. If you have a number “you must get” in order to sell, then you might want to think again. Also, if all of the agents who price your home come back too low for your standards, take a breather and ask yourself if it’s go time or not.

 

  1. You know where you’re going next. Prepared sellers have plans, even if those plans aren’t 100% firm. They’re anticipating the move and they are probably even shopping for houses, if only casually at the moment. If you can’t clearly answer the question, “Where would you like to live after you sell?” then you’re not quite there yet.

If you’re iffy on any of these, take a step back and consider how you feel. While some markets favor sellers more than others, a home can sell in any market for the right price. Don’t jump into something before you’re ready.

However, when you’re ready, I’d be happy to help. Give me a call when the time is right:

Teresa Butler

614-565-8161

Teresa@TeresaButler.com

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