Upgrades That Boost Your Home’s Value and Enjoyment

April 17th, 2018

Upgrades That Boost Your Home’s Value and Enjoyment

Upgrades That Boost Your Home’s Value and Enjoyment
(Family Features)–A home is often a family’s single largest asset, so making investments with upgrades and home improvements is almost always a good idea. However, knowing when and where to make those improvements isn’t necessarily a simple decision. Budget and space most often dictate the direction, but keeping function and your lifestyle needs in mind can help create a space that makes for an all-around smart investment.

Add technology in unexpected places. With the surge in smart devices, it’s becoming increasingly common to add technology throughout the house, and the bathroom is no exception. From heated floors to mirrors with embedded TV screens, the options are plentiful. A bathroom outfitted with the latest technology can bring function and a whole new level of style and elegance to your home.

Go green for the earth and savings. Appliances and climate control systems are often the first features homeowners consider when it comes to environmentally friendly upgrades, but windows and window treatments are another way to make a big impact. In a similar vein, skylights are a surprisingly affordable upgrade for the functionality and aesthetic benefits they provide, especially in the bathroom and kitchen where ventilation is as important as ample lighting. You can give your lighting and home value a boost with an Energy Star-qualified option.

Bathroom Upgrades That Boost Your Home’s Value and Enjoyment

(*)When making plans for redoing the bathroom. Changing location of major components can be costly, because of plumbing, electrical and permits. But changing toilet seats, towel racks, shower doors, vanity, flooring, light fixtures and painting can make you love your bathroom all over again.

(*)Create outdoor living space for all year long.  You may be able to create additional living space in an area you already have – outdoors. Even small patio spaces can become cozy gathering spots with the right furnishings and decor. For a larger yard, create destinations that make it comfy to congregate, such as a fire pit or grouping of chairs with overstuffed cushions.

This is another area where climate will play an important role in your plans; adding an enclosure to a patio can make it usable during all but the coldest months, while a pergola can lend necessary relief to an area that bakes in the sun.

Add curb appeal. While you’re considering the upgrade options outdoors, don’t forget to think about your home’s exterior appearance. Reworking landscaping to highlight architectural features and freshening up paint can make a big impact. Adding decorative elements like shutters or new lighting or doors can also update a tired exterior.

(*) Here is South Florida. having a few basic gardening tools to prune yourself once in awhile is a necessity, it can be fun and make your home’s curb appeal more appealing.

Source: Velux
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(*)altered content
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Life at Home: What’s Your Recycling IQ?

February 3rd, 2018

Life at Home: What's Your Recycling IQ?Life at Home: What’s Your Recycling IQ?

You might be patting yourself on the back for how good you’ve become at recycling around the house. But not so fast…there’s a right and wrong way to recycle, and if you’re doing it the wrong way, you may be doing the environment more harm than good.

According to Republic Services, Inc., not following the proper steps when recycling can lead to contamination. A contaminated can or bottle tossed into the recycling bin can come into contact with other recyclables, like paper or cardboard, and potentially contaminate the entire batch. Fortunately, there are three simple steps you can take to recycle safely:

1. Completely empty the container by removing any food or liquid.
2. Clean the container by rinsing it with a small amount of water.
3. Dry the container by shaking out excess water and letting it air-dry before placing it in the recycling container.

In addition to properly prepping your recyclables, here are some other ideas to do more recycling, more efficiently, at home:

  • Think outside the box. Just because something can’t be thrown in the recycling bin, it doesn’t mean it can’t be recycled. Think about reusing items instead of recycling them, and donate gently used books to libraries and schools, clothing to Goodwill, toys and DVDs to hospitals.
  • Check out local networks like Facebook Marketplace, town tag sales or Freecycle for getting rid of larger items, like furniture and tools.
  • Encourage recycling around your home by placing bins and containers in strategic areas, i.e., a large box in the laundry room for clothes that no longer fit, a collection bin for paper in your home office, and a plastic container on your patio or deck for bottles and cans during an outdoor gathering.
  • Be sure to check with your town regarding what can and cannot be recycled, like bottle caps. In some cases, the caps contain different chemicals, which your local program may not be able to recycle.

**My recycling thing: Plastic Water Bottles are a big waste. I rarely buy new bottles. When I do, I buy the ones with the good quality and durable plastic and I refill them with my refrigerator filtered water. I also have a small water dispenser -also with a replaceable filter- to use as well. I keep around 10 bottles in play. Periodically I rinse them with hot water and just keep use them**

For more real estate information, feel free to contact me.

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Nine Finance Resolutions for the New Year

January 24th, 2018

Nine Finance Resolutions for the New Year

Nine Finance Resolutions for the New Year
As the new year approaches, many are creating a list of resolutions. For those of us looking to grow our savings in the next 12 months, Pennsylvania Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann is offering resolutions to help.

“Financial capability is essential for Pennsylvanians to secure their financial futures and make well-informed decisions about their money,” says Secretary Wiessmann. “These resolutions offer straightforward, practical ways to approach saving, investing, and guarding one’s finances as steps to establishing a solid financial foundation heading into the New Year.”

Take time to change or reset all your passwords. Changing your passwords will help prevent hackers from accessing your accounts to steal your financial and personal information.

Pay cash for your big expenses this year, such as vacation or Christmas shopping. Avoid taking on debt from big purchases. Banks and credit unions can offer a safe place to deposit your money for these short-term goals, and some even offer special savings accounts, such as Holiday or Vacation Club accounts.

Start saving for your future. No matter how much or how little, getting started now ensures that time is on your side through the power of compounding interest.

Pull each of your credit reports this year. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – each year. Rather than checking them all at the same time, you can instead check one every four months to monitor your credit throughout the year.

Create a realistic spending plan. Department of Banking and Securities staff travel across Pennsylvania to present a variety of programs – including “Spending Plans” – at community groups.

Learn to protect yourself from financial fraud and scams. Scams and schemes may take different forms, but the underlying method usually preys on your emotions, circumstances, or your lack of knowledge. Take time to become well-informed about prevalent scams designed to rob you.

Learn more about how the Equifax breach, or any data breach, could affect you. The Equifax data breach will affect people for months and even years. You can take steps to control your personal data.

Check on the senior citizens in your life and report any signs of elder financial abuse. This type of abuse often goes unreported. Our neighbors, friends, and family members are all susceptible to this crime and deserve our assistance.

Protect yourself from ID theft. While technology has made some tasks easier, it has also made it easier for scammers to steal your personal information and financial security.

**Start saving now. The smallest amount you can handle but be discipline about it. Once you get used to a preset automatic amount a month, then add a little more**

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities

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Know Your Easement Rights

January 17th, 2018

Know Your Easement RightsKnow Your Easement Rights

Is your property subject to have any easements? Chances are it is. An easement is the right of another person or entity, such as a public utility or government agency, to use part of your property for a limited purpose that is usually beneficial to you; for example, utility easements over or under your property to serve the property and neighboring properties.

“Appurtenant Easements” Benefit a Neighbor’s Property

If your property has an “Appurtenant Easement” over an adjacent parcel, then that parcel is said to be burdened by your easement. Such easements are created for specific purposes, the most common of which is ingress and egress. In order for your title company to insure such easements, they must be recorded in the office of the County Recorder where the property is located.

“Easements in Gross” Are Usually for Utilities

If your property has overhead or underground utility lines that also serve your neighbors, you’re probably subject to an “easement in gross.” Your property (known as the “servient tenement”) is burdened by the public utility easement.

Many properties have electric, phone, water, sewer, and cable TV easements along the back or side of the parcels. Most public utility easements are created at the time the parcels are subdivided and are recorded against the title to each benefited property.

If the easement in gross was properly recorded, the property owner has no recourse and must tolerate it. However, if the homeowner’s title insurance policy did not disclose an underground easement in gross, then the title insurer could be liable for either (a) the diminished value of the property (if any) with the undisclosed easement, or (b) the cost of relocating the easement.

“Prescriptive Easements” Can Be Troublesome

A “prescriptive easement” can arise when someone, usually a neighbor, uses part of the property without the owner’s approval or consent.

Generally speaking, for a Prescriptive Easement right to arise in California:
The use of another’s land must be open and “notorious” (obvious);
The use must continue uninterrupted for a period of at least five years (occasional use could establish the prescriptive use right for the same frequency, e.g., on weekends);
The use must be “hostile” (i.e., not consented to), and characterized by an adverse claim of right.Prescriptive easements, after the required number of years of open, notorious, hostile and continuous use, can be perfected in a quiet-title lawsuit against the property owner.

The best way to prevent prescriptive easements from arising is to periodically inspect property boundaries to be certain a neighbor is not using part of the property without permission. If the non-permissive use is temporarily or permanently terminated, the use is no longer continuous. Or, if permission is granted, that will usually defeat a claim to the prescriptive easement because the hostility element is then lacking.

Reprinted with permission from Robert J. Bruss, Los Angeles Times.

This material is not intended to be relied upon as a statement of the law, and is not to be construed as legal, tax or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult your legal, tax or investment professional for specific advice. The material is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, no representation is made as to its accuracy.

**This latest one is the one called sometimes “by use”.** 

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7 Steps for a Healthier Home

November 22nd, 2017

7 Steps for a Healthier Home

7 Steps for a Healthier Home

(Family Features)–As homeowners become increasingly aware of the impact their homes can have on the environment – and on their health – making eco-conscious choices is as important as ever. From controlling the types of materials used within your home to keeping an eye on indoor air quality, these tips can help you create a healthier, more earth-friendly indoor environment.

Use a water filter. Depending on where you live, different contaminants could reside in your tap water. Rather than risk consuming these contaminants or drinking bottled water, which can generate significant waste, consider purchasing a refrigerator with a filtered water option, attaching a water filtration device to your faucet or using a filtered water pitcher.

Ditch plastic food containers. Some plastics are not as high quality as many think and may contain toxic materials, making them potentially harmful – especially when used for storing food. Instead, opt for glass, silicone, cloth or stainless steel storage containers, which are friendlier to the environment and pose fewer toxicity risks. Plus, many of these containers can be placed directly in an oven or microwave to safely reheat food.

Install eco-friendly insulation. Certain materials in your home, such as insulation, can be replaced with sustainable options that also improve indoor air quality. Consider replacing your existing attic insulation with sheep’s wool insulation, such as all-natural options from Havelock Wool. This renewable, high-performing and safe-to-handle material excels at managing moisture while improving indoor air quality through the absorption of formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide and other harmful substances. Learn more at havelockwool.com.

Clean “green.” Cleaning products can be made with ingredients that are harmful to the environment, as well as your family’s health. Make sure you know what is in your household cleaners before using them and, whenever possible, look for cleaners that have been certified as green.

Deal with dust. Even if you don’t struggle with allergies or asthma, over time, dust particles can be unhealthy for you and your family. Vacuum frequently and use a wet mop on floors without carpet to limit the formation of dust bunnies throughout your home. Clean and replace your vacuum’s filter frequently to ensure you’re trapping maximum dust. Also regularly wash towels, linens and other textiles, including window treatments.

Replace air filters. Older, dirty air filters can circulate dust, pollen and other particles throughout your home. They can also cause your air conditioner and heater to run less efficiently, which can result in higher energy consumption. Rather than pushing potentially harmful dust particles into your house and causing your systems to work overtime, inspect your air filter often and change it regularly. You might also want to consider installing a whole-home air purifier or placing portable air purifiers in frequently used rooms.

Reduce energy and natural resource usage. Try installing timers on your lights so they turn on only at specified times. To take it a step further, consider installing lighting with vacancy sensors that automatically shut off the lights when a room isn’t being used. Choose energy-efficient appliances, low-flow toilets and consider adding a rain barrel outside to collect rainwater, which can be used for chores such as watering plants, irrigating the lawn or washing your car.

Although it may not be practical to implement all of these ideas at once, little by little you can make small changes that add up to a big difference.

Source: Havelock Wool

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How to Prepare Your Home for the Worst

October 16th, 2017

How to Prepare Your Home for the Worst

How to Prepare Your Home for the Worst

No one likes to think of disaster striking their home; however, preparing for an emergency—be it a flood or an earthquake—can be the make-or-break factor for protecting your property should disaster hit. A storm can cause electrical outages, flooding, and water damage to your home itself, as well as your systems and belongings. To help, Gold Medal Service offers homeowners several ways to be prepared to weather a storm or severe weather conditions:

Waterproofing – Being below ground level, basements are most susceptible to water issues. Pump systems, waterproof sprays and interior drainage systems are all examples of ways to help you prepare for the next emergency.

Generator installation and inspection – Power outages are more than an inconvenience—they represent a real safety issue for your family. A backup generator can provide power for the home in case disaster strikes. Professional installation and periodic inspections will ensure that your home has power even when the lights go out.

Heating and vent inspection – Make sure the flues and vents throughout your heating systems are clean and clear of debris. Blocked vents can cause a dangerous carbon monoxide build-up in your home. If you are unsure how to check these, a professional inspection is quick and inexpensive, and will eliminate concern.

Alarm installation and inspection – Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms are a must—they save lives. It is always critical to ensure the alarms in your home are properly installed, inspected, and have fresh batteries in order to provide the required protection.

Being prepared goes beyond having your home’s systems ready. Some emergency preparedness tips for the family are:

·       Have a plan in place to ensure your family has water, flashlights, extra food, and a few other necessities.

·       Something as simple as a solar charger for a cell phone can be a lifesaver, allowing you to receive much needed information.

·       A battery-powered radio is also a good backup way to stay informed.

·       Know your city’s emergency shelters.

·       Review your insurance policies for adequate coverage.

·       Practice what your family will do in the event of an emergency.
Source: Gold Medal Service

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6 Tips for Filing an Insurance Claim After a Storm

October 10th, 2017

6 Tips for Filing an Insurance Claim After a Storm6 Tips for Filing an Insurance Claim After a Storm

Whether reporting storm damage to your property over the phone or through your mobile device, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) offers the following tips on how to file an insurance claim:

  1. Contact your insurer as soon as possible to begin the process. Provide your insurer with your policy number and the best phone number and email address at which to reach you. After a major storm, insurers visit those with the most severe damage first. Be prepared to provide an accurate description of the extent of the property damage. Explain any special needs of your family, particularly if personal circumstances require that you get priority. Ask your insurer when you can expect to be contacted by an insurance adjuster so you’re ready for the visit. Since adjusters may be in areas in which cellphone towers are damaged, it’s also a good idea to get the phone number of your adjuster’s supervisor so you have an additional contact. If you have a flood insurance claim, contact the agent or broker who sold you the policy to start the claims filing process.
  2. Document your loss. The insurance adjuster will most likely inspect the damage to your home, auto and possessions in order to write a check to help you replace, repair and rebuild. It’s a good idea to take photographs and document the details of damaged items, including the date of purchase and approximate value—and collect receipts, if you have them. Many companies will ask you to submit an inventory of the items.
  3. Check with your insurer before discarding damaged items and materials. You will generally need to show storm damaged items to your adjuster. If, however, you’re required by your local municipality to discard them for safety reasons, take photographs to help with the claims process.
  4. Sign up for SMS/text alerts. Many insurance companies use SMS/text message alerts that will notify you of the status of your claim. You will receive text messages on your phone when you first report your claim, when your estimate is available, and when a payment has been sent.
  5. Know what emergency services are available. In the event you need emergency services, such as removing water from your home, covering your roof, or boarding up windows or doors, many companies will dispatch an approved emergency services company to protect your home from further damage. If your home has sustained severe damage, making it unlivable, your homeowners insurer will provide you with a check for additional living expenses.
  6. Keep a claim diary. Good record-keeping is important when filing a claim. Make a list of everyone you speak to about your claim. Note their name, title and contact information. Also, keep track of the date, time and issues discussed. The more organized you are, the simpler and easier the claims process will be.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

**If your loss is in a Condominium, have the By Laws ready in digital format to send to your adjuster or insurance company. They may need to see what falls under the complex coverage and what does not.  If you’d like more homeowner information, please contact me at 954-914-8056.

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5 Steps to a Healthier Kitchen

October 5th, 2017

5 Steps to 5 Steps to a Healthier Kitchena Healthier Kitchen
Trying to lose a few pounds or simply boost your nutritional intake? Well, what you eat and how you eat all starts with how you stock and organize your kitchen. These foundation steps will put you on the path to a cleaner diet and an all-around healthier lifestyle.

1. Lose the preservatives. The reason that loaf of bread and box of crackers in the cabinet lasts so long is because they’re loaded with preservatives. But all those ingredients you can’t pronounce on the nutrition label are really bad for you. Opt for organic breads or buy them fresh from the bakery, then freeze them. Sliced options let you conveniently grab just the servings you need at any given time.

2. Buy then eat. Do you often encounter a rotten tomato or two at the bottom of your vegetable bin? To avoid the common problem of being unable to consume fruits and veggies before they go bad, get into the habit of swinging by the grocery store or produce stand on the way home from work and buy just what you need for that evening and lunch the next day. Not only will this prevent food waste, it will ensure you’re consuming these nutrient-rich foods in their freshest possible state.

3. Store properly. Fruits and vegetables should be removed from those plastic grocery bags before being stored in your fridge. Remember to store fruits and vegetables separately, on different shelves or in different bins.

4. Grow your own. You don’t need to have a green thumb to grow a few of your own cooking ingredients, such as herbs. A sunny window can provide all the tools you need to grow basics such as basil, oregano and rosemary.

5. Keep food organized and accessible. It’s one thing to buy the right foods, but if they get lost in the recesses of your fridge, what’s the point? Wash and chop fruits and vegetables and place them in clear plastic containers at eye level. Buy healthy snacks like yogurt, hummus and nut butters in grab-and-go friendly sizes.

With these few small adjustments you’ll be on your way to a healthier way of life in no time!

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

… but of course, portion control, matters!

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Tips for Millennials Buying Homes

October 3rd, 2017

Tips for Millennials Buying HomesTips for Millennials Buying Homes

Are you, or someone you know, a millennial currently dreaming about your first home? Is something holding you back?According to a survey conducted by loanDepot, 52 percent of Millennials  cite no longer wanting to pay rent and being ready to start a family as two top drivers motivating them to start looking into home ownership. However, according to the survey, half of those are anxious about the expense of real estate and mortgage payments, with only 18 percent saying they think a home purchase is affordable for them.

“It’s clear from the survey results that Millennials have a lot of anxiety built up about the home-buying process,” says David Norris, loanDepot’s Head of Retail Lending. “There is good news, however, as there’s more flexibility than most Millennials think regarding how to qualify for a loan and what’s needed for a down payment.”
Top tips for Millennials from loanDepot lending professionals around the country include:

Know how much is needed for down payment

According to survey results, Millennials are unsure how much down payment they need to put down, with the average coming out to 32 percent. And while the industry standard is typically 20 percent down payment, there are other options.

John Pearson, a loanDepot licensed lending officer based in Hoboken, N.J., says there are many programs for first time homebuyers (FTHB) that allow them to finance a property with 10 percent, 5 percent, or even 3 percent down. There are also loan assistance programs offered by FHA that many don’t realize their can qualify for.

“The best advice I have for young buyers is to not believe everything you read on the Internet,” Pearson says. “When talking with a professional, you can discuss your specific financial situation and the lending officer can help you determine how much down you’ll need and what a monthly mortgage payment will look like. You’ll probably discover you don’t have to wait until you reach the point of a 20 percent down payment.”

Don’t be surprised by closing costs

According to Marc Bui, retail lending manager for loanDepot in Newport Beach, Calif., many Millennials he works with don’t realize there are costs beyond the down payment required to close.

“When I’m working with today’s youngest buyers, I help them plan for all final costs, which can include HOA (homeowners’ association) fees, property taxes, private mortgage insurance (PMI) for those putting less than 20 percent down, title, appraisal, etc. It’s important to understand everything that goes into closing so there are no unpleasant surprises,” Bui says.

Include parents but listen to professionals with an open mind

About 54 percent of Millennials say they plan to ask their parents about how to buy a home, with slightly fewer at 52 percent saying they’d first turn to a mortgage broker or company.

“It’s great when young home buyers include their parents in the process,” says Scott Nadler, a top 1 percent licensed lending officer in the U.S. and based in loanDepot’s Manhattan office. “When young couples come to me wanting to buy their first home, many times I’ll suggest a 7- or 10-year adjustable mortgage, which allows them to build equity while having a lower monthly mortgage payment. Many parents are nervous about adjustable mortgages but if someone plans to trade up in a few years, they will be out of the mortgage before the adjustment. My best advice for Millennials is to make sure they feel comfortable with the product they select.”

Student loans may not prohibit a home loan

According to the Urban Institute, student loan debt has increased sharply over the last decade and has surpassed credit card debt. This stressor is a top concern for Millennials who are interested in purchasing a home in the near future.

At the end of April, Fannie Mae announced three policy changes designed to help prospective homeowners struggling with student-loan debt. Two changes help borrowers with high student-loan debt qualify for mortgages while the other policy change helps homeowners refinance their home to pay down their student loans.

Debt paid by others: This change widens borrower eligibility to qualify for a home loan by excluding non-mortgage debt, such as credit cards, auto loans, and student loans, paid by someone else, such as parents.

Student Debt Payment Calculation: This change increases the odds that borrowers with student debt will qualify for a loan by allowing lenders to accept student loan payment information on credit reports.

Student loan cash-out refinance: Fannie now offers homeowners the flexibility to pay off a high-interest rate student loan while potentially refinancing to a lower mortgage rate.

“Some lenders have special programs for borrowers with certain types of student loans,” says Mary Bane, vice president, regional production for loanDepot in the Chicagoland area. “Medical professionals with student loans that have been deferred for 12 months or longer can avoid having that debt repayment counted as part of their debt. The assumption is that their income will increase dramatically so they will pay off the debt quickly as soon as they are fully employed.”

Another potential option is the 40-year mortgage loan program from loanDepot that requires 10 percent down payment and good credit, but has a 10-year interest-only initial repayment period that could help borrowers tackle their student loan debt while they make lower mortgage payments. The following 30 years are fully amortized.

Source: loanDepot

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

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Simple Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

September 2nd, 2017

Simple Tips for First-Time HomebuyersSimple Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Buying a home is always exciting, if a bit overwhelming. But when you’re a first time buyer, the process can seem even more complicated.

“The biggest hurdle for the housing market in the middle of 2017 is low inventory,” Senior CFP Board Ambassador Jill Schlesinger, CFP®. “Housing starts, housing permits, new home construction and pending home sales have all slowed this summer. This all adds up to fewer options for those looking to buy a house, especially for the first time.”

Follow these simple buying tips, from Schlesinger and the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.

Run the numbers. Understand how much home you can afford to buy and whether home ownership might preclude you from addressing other important financial issues in your life, like paying off debt. A financial planner can help you understand how your housing choices can support your overall financial plan.

Start the mortgage process/correct credit report mistakes. If you have not done so in a while, go to AnnualCreditReport.com and request your free copy. It’s important to correct any errors on the report before you start the mortgage process.

Conduct research. Even if you are working with a realtor, check out new listings and spread the word throughout your network. You never know who might be about to list a home. (*)

Keep your emotions in check. Even with limited supply, there are a lot of houses out there. Be careful not to blow through your budget or put yourself in a position where you own two homes.

Source: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

(*) Conducting research could be best accomplished together with your realtor -that’s my 2 cents. If you want me to help you conduct your home search here in Fort Lauderdale, here is my number 954-914-8056

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