Jacqueline Ducharme's Blog
If this is your first time owning a home, your mind is likely consumed with plans to replace the carpet or upgrade the appliances. You want to get the best deals and save money where you can. One area not to skimp, though, is in your homeowner's insurance. The last thing you want is to install the perfect spa bath only to have the sewer back up, and you find out your policy doesn't cover sewerage.
How can that be, you ask? Surprisingly, homeowner’s insurance does not cover everything. In fact, there are lots of things you may believe it covers that are nowhere to be found in the policy. While some of these things might be small annoyances, others can devastate your carefully laid plans for the perfect house.
Here are some big-ticket items that your insurance may not cover:
Floods: Water overflowing your property or home comes from many sources: heavy rain, tropical storms, groundwater rising, seepage, sewer backup, or water pressure from saturated soil (called hydrostatic pressure). The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) generally does not cover leakage, seepage, sewer backup, or hydrostatic pressure unless a federally defined flood caused it.
Sewer back: While not covered by NFIP, you may request an added endorsement to cover aging sewer systems and backed-up storm drains. Otherwise, you’re on your own for the cleanup and damages this causes in your home.
Mold: While posing significant home damage and health risks, mold can hide behind cabinets, in walls, under the floor, and in the insulation. With thousands of varieties, mold policies only cover infestations from specific species. These policies often have low upper limits, too, so the cost to remove it and repair the damage may fall to you.
Sinkholes, earthquakes, and shifting ground: Most policies exclude earth movement without specific riders. Your house may be located in an area that is prone to earthquake, mudslide, or sinkhole damage, so ask your insurance agent to provide the appropriate additions to your policy.
Termites: These wood and fiber-eating pests can destroy walls, floors, support beams, and other untreated wood in your home. Nationally termite damage repair is a multi-billion dollar business. Rarely do homeowner’s insurance policies cover termites. Your home inspection should reveal the presence of termites, so negotiate with the seller for termite remediation before completing your purchase.
Other items your policy may not cover are bites from pets, especially exotic animals or certain dog breeds, and accidents from high-risk toys such as trampolines and pools. You might be surprised to realize that most policies also exclude acts of war and nuclear power plant accidents.
Before you close on your home, discuss all your insurance needs with your insurance agent. If you need guidance, your real estate professional can offer advice.
A homebuying plan is a must-have, particularly for those who want to enjoy a successful property buying experience. Lucky for you, there are many things you can do to execute a homebuying plan to perfection.
Now, let's take a look at three tips to help you put your homebuying plan into action and achieve the best-possible results during the property buying journey.
1. Establish Realistic Homebuying Goals
As you craft your homebuying plan, it generally is a good idea to establish milestones. That way, you can take a step-by-step approach to go from homebuyer to homeowner.
Of course, it is paramount to set realistic homebuying goals. Think about why you are pursuing a home in the first place, and you can map out your homebuying plan accordingly.
It may be beneficial to hone your home search as well. If you narrow your house search to a select group of cities and towns, you may be better equipped than ever before to streamline the homebuying journey.
2. Maintain Flexibility
Although you may devote many hours to craft an effective homebuying strategy, it is important to remember that problems may arise as you search for your dream residence. Fortunately, if you maintain flexibility, you will be ready to adjust your homebuying plan as needed.
If you have to modify your homebuying strategy, there is no need to worry. Instead, adjust your plan and continue your pursuit of your ideal residence. Because if you are flexible as you search for your dream home, you can minimize stress and boost the likelihood of discovering a residence that may serve you well for an extended period of time.
3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent
When it comes to developing and executing a homebuying plan, you do not have to work alone. In fact, you can hire a real estate agent who is happy to help you find and purchase a terrific residence at an affordable price.
By consulting with a real estate agent, you can receive expert homebuying support. A real estate agent knows what it takes to acquire a first-rate home at a budget-friendly price, and as such, will work with you to ensure your homeownership dream can come true.
If you are unsure about where to search for homes, for example, a real estate agent can help you determine where to pursue residences. He or she also can help you get in touch with banks and credit unions so you can obtain home financing. Plus, a real estate agent is ready to help you submit an offer to purchase your dream residence. And if you have concerns or questions during the homebuying journey, a real estate agent is prepared to respond to them too.
For those who want to seamlessly navigate the homebuying journey, you may want to craft a property buying plan. Thanks to the aforementioned tips, you can get the most out of a homebuying strategy and ensure you can quickly find your dream residence.
When you go to sell your home, your real estate agent will take care of playing host for interested buyers. This is part of the service that you get when you hire a real estate agent. The agent will not only handle setting up the showing appointments; they will also meet the prospective buyers at your home, walk them through the house and point out attractive features. While this is happening, you and your family can relax elsewhere. When the showing is over, the agent will contact you and let you know the coast is clear for you to return home.
1. Your Presence Will Distract Buyers
Your agent needs prospective buyers to focus on the house. If you’re there, the buyers’ attention will be torn between you and the house. Since showings only last a limited time, that will be valuable time lost for the agent to point out reasons why the house is a great fit.
2. Buyers Won’t Feel Free to Browse
Buyers need to be able to feel free to open cabinet and closet doors and look closely at details around your home. This is what will help make them feel comfortable about making an offer on the property. If the owner is present, buyers won’t feel able to look around. They may constantly turn to you to ask permission. This detracts from their ability to imagine the home as being their own.
3. You Could be Asked Difficult Questions
Buyers may take advantage of your presence to ask challenging questions. They may ask things like if the basement ever floods, if there are leaks in the roof or why there appears to be a crack in the basement wall. Your agent will know exactly how to field these questions and allay fears.
You hired a great real estate agent for a reason, so the best thing you can do is follow advice during showings and the rest of the homebuying/home selling process. By trusting your agent, the process will move smoother and assure you get the most bang for your buck.
If you anticipate that you will inherit an estate at some point or if you plan to leave your estate to an heir, it is important to plan for the potential tax implications of that transfer. The federal estate tax is one aspect to consider. Depending on the value of the estate, some beneficiaries may not have to pay taxes however, those with higher value estates might end up paying a significant sum. It is crucial to plan ahead when it comes to inherited real estate.
What is the Estate Tax?
Estate Tax is assessed based on the current market value of the estate as a whole and is then paid by the estate itself. The tax is collected when assets are transferred to named beneficiaries after a person is deceased. The tax is based on the current market value of the assets being transferred after other debts have been settled or charitable contributions have been made. This tax only applies to estates worth more than $11.58 million based on the current limit established by the federal government in 2020. Estates valued over 11.58 million are subject to a 40% tax. Some states have their own estate tax requirements so there could be additional considerations based on where you live.
The first step to determine how an estate tax might be assessed is to calculate the market value of the estate. In general, this should include financial assets as well as property. For example, if someone receives $8 million in financial assets and an additional $2 million in real estate, the total value is $10 million. The value of the real estate is taken at the current fair market value, not the price at which it was originally purchased. If there is a mortgage or other outstanding debt, those are paid by the estate before the final value of the estate is calculated.
Each estate is entitled to a lifetime financial exemption, in 2020 the exemption is $11.58 million. This means that all estates up to $11.58 million will not receive a federal estate tax bill. For couples, this number is doubled up to $23.16 million. Once the asset value exceeds the established limits, every dollar is subject to the 40% estate tax which can add up quickly.
It's a good idea to work closely with a professional financial advisor when making plans for the future of your estate as there are many details to consider depending on where you live and the particulars of your situation. Ask your real estate agent for local recommendations to get you started.
As a homebuyer, entering the real estate market with insights into what it takes to find the perfect house is essential.
Becoming an expert homebuyer, however, may seem impossible at times. Lucky for you, we're here to help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to make your homeownership dreams come true.
What does it take to become an expert homebuyer? Here are three tips to help you do just that.
1. Look at Real Estate Market Trends
The housing market ebbs and flows. Therefore, a seller's market today may transform into a buyer's market tomorrow.
Ultimately, the real estate market fluctuates constantly, and you'll want to learn as much as possible about the housing sector to ensure you can map out your homebuying journey accordingly.
In a buyer's market, there are usually more home sellers than buyers. This means homebuyers may be better equipped than ever before to secure a top-notch house at a budget-friendly price.
On the other hand, a seller's market features an abundance of homebuyers and a shortage of sellers. For homebuyers who operate in a seller's market, they may be forced to submit competitive offers on homes quickly, or risk missing out on a dream residence to a rival.
When you study the housing market, don't forget to check out the prices of residences that recently sold. By doing so, you can gain a better understanding of how much you'll likely need to pay to acquire a first-rate house based on the current state of the housing market.
2. Learn How a Mortgage Works
What differentiates a fixed-rate mortgage from an adjustable-rate option? An expert homebuyer will know the ins and outs of assorted mortgage options and select one that corresponds to his or her finances.
To learn about mortgages and how they work, you'll want to meet with credit unions and banks. These lenders can describe the different types of mortgages and the pros and cons associated with them.
Also, an expert homebuyer will get pre-approved for a mortgage. With a mortgage in hand, this homebuyer will be able to stick to a price range as he or she searches for the ideal home.
3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent
Let's face it – no homebuyer can afford to make mistakes. Fortunately, you can work with a real estate agent to receive expert guidance as you navigate the homebuying journey.
A real estate agent boasts the skills and know-how needed to streamline the homebuying process. He or she may have many years of housing market experience and is happy to teach you about the opportunities and challenges associated with buying a house.
Furthermore, a real estate agent will help you accelerate the homebuying cycle. He or she can set up home showings, negotiate with home sellers on your behalf and much more. That way, you can focus on what's important – finding a terrific house at an affordable price.
Take advantage of the aforementioned tips, and you can become an expert homebuyer.