Storm Safety: How You Can Prep for a Hurricane in Fort Lauderdale

June 17th, 2018

Storm Safety: How You Can Prep for a Hurricane in Fort Lauderdale

Storm Safety: How You Can Prep for a Hurricane in Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Storm Safety: How You Can Prep for a Hurricane in Fort Lauderdale? The season is on the way, and as a homeowner, there are many steps you can take to prepare. Generac recommends taking the following steps to make your home storm ready:

Fuel: Don’t Stay Home Without It: When the power is out, chances are, gas pumps will not be working. Your car needs fuel, and if you have a portable generator, that will require fuel, as well. Gasoline and diesel fuel become precious commodities in the wake of storms, so keep a fresh or stabilized supply handy in approved containers, away from any sources of heat or combustion. When it comes to refueling a portable generator, make sure you allow the unit to cool before adding additional fuel.

Weather-proof Your Home and Property: It’s wind speed that separates a tropical storm from a hurricane and also determines a hurricane’s severity on the Saffir-Simpson scale. That’s why you should ensure your roof is in good repair, windows and doors are sealed against driving rain and trees are trimmed to minimize damage from flying branches.

Assemble Your Emergency Preparedness Kit: Every emergency preparedness kit should contain food and water to last for several days. Make it easily accessible from the ground level of your home or business. The kit should also include a flashlight, first aid kit, battery-powered radio, a whistle to signal for help, a portable cell phone charger and an assortment of hand tools. Medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, should also be part of your kit, so that you and your family can ride out the storm. Finally, don’t forget pets. Make sure your kit contains food, water and medication for them, as well.

Stay Safe: If you choose a portable generator to back-up your home, make sure you always operate it outdoors, far away from windows, doors or other openings that could allow carbon monoxide from the engine exhaust to enter your home. You should also consider a model with a carbon monoxide (CO)-detecting feature,  which automatically monitors the area for carbon monoxide and shuts down the generator when CO levels become unsafe or rapidly increase. Also, always use extension cords that are in good repair and rated for outdoor use.

**I will ad a box of heavy duty contractor type trash bags and a good pair of utility gloves in case you need to removed debris out of your property or whatever.

Source: Generac

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2018. All rights reserved.

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How to Save Big on Mortgage Costs

June 9th, 2018

How to Save Big on Mortgage Costs

How to Save Big on Mortgage Costs

While a myriad of expenses go into buying and owning a home, the biggest nut for most is the mortgage payment. Here are five great tips from Bankrate for reducing mortgage costs—both before and after you purchase a home.

  1. First, get pre-approved for your mortgage, not just pre-qualified. Preapproval involves the lender doing their due diligence by pulling your credit report, verifying your income and taking other steps to determine your maximum loan amount. For a preapproval, the lender also commits to making the loan if you buy the home within a set amount of time. The lender doesn’t review your information for a prequalification and, therefore, there’s no guarantee the loan will be approved.
  2. If you’re looking to buy a newly built home, ask about builder incentives, such as discounted upgrades or reduced closing costs when you use an affiliated lender. According to Bankrate, instead of cutting the price of a new home, the homebuilder will sometimes offer thousands of dollars in discounts as an incentive to use the builder’s preferred lender and settlement company.
  3. Use the Loan Estimate, a three-page document you get after you apply for a mortgage, to compare loan offers. Specific information you should look for includes: estimated monthly payment; interest rate; estimated closing costs; how much you’ll need at closing.
  4. Pay discount points to buy down the rate if you have cash available and want to lower your monthly payments. In exchange for more money upfront, lenders are often willing to reduce the interest rate, thereby reducing your monthly mortgage payment. According to Bankrate, a payment of 1 percent of the loan amount is called 1 point—and will usually decrease the mortgage rate by a quarter of a percentage point.
  5. Negotiate fees to reduce closing costs. While some fees are charged by third parties, such as title companies, some lenders may be willing to negotiate their origination fees. Applying with competing lenders will give you some negotiating power, as well as the ability to do some comparison shopping with third-party fees. Be sure to shop around on home inspections and home insurance, too.

Source: Bankrate.com

If you need more real estate information n Fort Lauderdale or any area in Broward County, feel free to contact me at 954-924-8056.

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Hiring a Contractor? Do This First

May 27th, 2018

Hiring a Contractor? Do This First

Hiring a Contractor? Do This First

Nothing is more exciting than embarking on a home renovation project! Hire the wrong contractor, however, and your dream remodel can quickly turn into a nightmare.

That’s why it’s essential to do your due diligence when hiring a contractor, such as getting multiple estimates before signing a contract.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), when you get multiple bids, you can learn a great deal about the proposed project, such as what type of work is needed, the quality of the building materials, how long the job may take and the total cost.

The BBB offers these other tips to help find the best, most ethical contractor to work with and ensure a successful home renovation:

– First, check bbb.org – BBB’s business profiles can tell you how long the contractor has been in business, as well as provide contact information, verified customer reviews, complaint details and how the business responded.

– Be wary of ‘today-only’ sales pitches – This is a sales tactic designed to get you to sign a contract or put down a deposit, without giving you the opportunity to do your research. Watch out for these and other ‘bargains’ that rush you into a deal.

– Get references from recent customers – Speak with other property owners who had work done recently, and ask what they did or did not like about a particular contractor. A reputable contractor will be happy to provide client references.

– Get everything in writing – Make sure all verbal promises end up in the written contract as well as a detailed description of the work, the cost of materials and start and completion dates. Contracts also should include specifics about the deposit and payment schedule and guarantees for the quality of work and materials.

– The contract should specify required permits – Renovation work often requires permits from the town or municipality. If you’re contractor suggests going without permits, it might be a sign they have a poor reputation at city hall.

– Compare apples to apples – Choosing a prospective contractor is simpler if you ask for quotes based on the number of hours needed and the same quality of materials.

– Avoid putting down a large deposit – A typical payment schedule should follow the “rule of thirds.” The first payment is given when signing the contract and helps pay for materials, the second payment when work begins, and the final payment when the job is finished and you are satisfied with the quality of work.

Ask the builder to walk you through the work to explain what has been done.

By sticking to the above steps, you’ll head into your renovation with peace of mind, knowing you’ve done your homework and taken the necessary steps to select the best possible contractor.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2018. All rights reserved.

**Doesn’t matter how much homework you do, it almost always ends up with things that were unexpected. In South Florida, we have to be extra careful -specially in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. May contractors here come and go and they to tend spend “your deposit” ins  someone’s materials.

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Getting a Bump From the Tax Change? Put the Money to Good Use

May 22nd, 2018

Getting a Bump From the Tax Change? Put the Money to Good Use

Getting a Bump From the Tax Change? Put the Money to Good Use

Earlier this year, the IRS released guidelines requiring employers across the country to apply new federal tax withholding tables to paychecks by February 15th. The U.S. Treasury estimates 90 percent of all payroll employees will experience higher take-home pay as a result. The monthly increase for a single person earning $50,000 is expected to be about $200.

This increase is good news for those seeking to get ahead of debt, however, financial counselors at Money Management International (MMI) say consumers must put a plan in place. Credit card, student loan, and auto lending have reached all-time national highs, while personal savings is just shy of its all-time low, according to the Federal Reserve. A survey conducted by Pollfish suggests many consumers intend to use the extra money to pay down debt, but the tax break may also compel them to spend more.

Experts warn that financial inertia and projected interest-rate hikes could impede borrowers’ progress. Rising rates will increase minimum payments and the total cost of carrying debt, while curbing promotional-rate balance transfer offers. MMI notes the tax break is not permanent and encourages employees to view the tax break as an opportunity to formulate – and fund – an achievable plan to improve their financial health.

Now is a good time to learn what your best options are for effectively reducing debt, so consult a financial advisor to find out what will work best for you. While it may be tempting to spend the increased income you may receive, assess your financial picture to see if those funds are better spent by paying down debt.

Source: Money Management International

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An Inside Look at Judgments and Title (And How They Impact Closing)

May 17th, 2018

An Inside Look at Judgments and Title (And How They Impact Closing)

An Inside Look at Judgments and Title (And How They Impact Closing)

By Barbara Pronin

The sellers have made the recommended repairs. The buyers have secured their loan. Your latest transaction appears to be on track for a smooth and timely closing. But like an athlete treading water in a calm sea, there is a lot going on beneath the surface. Is the property title free of ‘clouds’ or ‘defects’ (judgments, liens or bankruptcies)? Is there anything else that would prevent the sellers from transferring ‘clear’ or ‘marketable’ title?

Your buyers may be discussing paint colors and imagining their furniture in their new home. But like that athlete treading water, there is still a lot going on behind the scenes. Your title partner is thoroughly searching public records on the property – back to the date the lot was created, or if necessary, as far back as 1850 when California became a state – to discover any past deeds, bankruptcy filings, court judgments, or other issues that could delay or impede closing. Any such issues will need to be resolved before clear title can be given to the buyers.

Perhaps a mechanics lien has been placed against the property for work completed but never paid for – or maybe the bill was paid, but the busy contractor failed to remove his lien against the property. We might discover a tax lien, or an unpaid special assessment, or a child support judgment.

Let’s say, for example, that a divorced spouse either forgets or doesn’t remove a lien for child support, even though the debt may have been resolved years ago. The child inherits his father’s house and decides to sell the property. But a lien placed by his mother years ago, and since resolved, could show up in the title search and prevent the sale. The heir would need to have the surviving parent to sign a “release of judgment” that states the debt was paid in full in order to have clear title.

In all, there are more than 70 title issues that could delay or prevent a closing. Often, the sellers are not aware that a lien or encumbrance exists – but much of the work done by the title company involves verifying and, wherever possible, clearing any such defects.

It might take days or weeks to resolve any issues. Only once the work is done, and the preliminary title report has been cleaned up satisfactorily, can the buyers, sellers, real estate agents, lenders, and everyone involved be certain that the closing will be timely.

It’s also the reason why a title insurance policy is the best protection against title problems that may become known after the transaction is closed. The cost is a one-time only fee, and the policy remains in effect for as long as the buyers or their heirs have an interest in the property.

Barbara Pronin is an award-winning writer based in Orange County, Calif. A former news editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism and corporate communications, she has specialized in real estate topics for over a decade.

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.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2018. All rights reserved.

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A Let-Up for Prices? Housing Trends to Watch

May 13th, 2018

Total Home Sales in ThousandsA Let-Up for Prices? Housing Trends to Watch

By Suzanne De Vita

The housing market is on the up-and-up, but at a lesser pace than in prior years. According to new research, buzzier markets are now stabilizing.

Appreciation is projected to slow in 41 of the top 100 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) this year, according to HouseCanary, which recently released its “5 Housing Trends That Are Changing the Market Today.” HouseCanary assessed the country’s 381 MSAs for affordability and appreciation. The areas with marked softening:

1. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.
2. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.
3. Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.
4. Cape Coral-Ft. Myers, Fla.
5. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Fla.
6. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.
7. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla.
8. Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Fla.
9. Urban Honolulu, Hawaii
10. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.
A Let-Up for Prices? Housing Trends to Watch

“Although the housing market is still strong, with home prices still increasing in many markets, there is clear evidence of a considerable deceleration in the pace of those price increases,” says Alex Villacorta, executive vice president of Analytics for HouseCanary. “The rapid price growth in high-end and luxury markets seems to have stagnated as affordability continues to put downward pressure on home price appreciation.”

Sold Homes Near Fort Lauderdale

What factors are fueling the trend? The demand/supply dynamic, for one, Villacorta says. Buyers are out in droves, but inventory is lacking. The imbalance is pressuring prices—and affordability is suffering, in turn. Households in 30 of the top 100 MSAs are allocating more than 30 percent of their income to their mortgage, HouseCanary’s research shows. (Thirty percent is considered, generally, the ideal share.) Five of the top 100 MSAs are allocating more than 50 percent of their income.

Affordability is also impacted by mortgage rates, which Villacorta anticipates will land in the neighborhood of 4.75 percent by this time next year—a change that could deter homeowners with lower rates from selling, exacerbating inventory issues. The average 30-year, fixed mortgage rate has been on an uptick since the start of 2018.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could have an effect on housing, as well, though how it could help or hurt the market is unclear. With change comes indecision, and Villacorta believes homebuyers and sellers could hold off on their plans until they know how the bill will impact them personally.

 Are You Prepared for the Unexpected? 

“Clearly there are many challenges to stabilizing the housing market,” Villacorta says. “There is still a supply-and-demand problem, mortgage rates are still on the rise, affordability remains an issue in many major markets, and the wider-ranging effects of the new tax plan are still unknown—so it’s unclear whether this slowed growth will lead to housing market price plateaus or declines, but the conditions are certainly in place for that potential outcome.”

For more information, please visit www.housecanary.com. 

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2018. All rights reserved.

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Room-by-Room Renovations

May 11th, 2018

Room-by-Room Renovations

Room-by-Room Renovations

(Family Features)–If your favorite room is outdated and dingy, a renovation may be all you need to make the old feel new and to fall in love with your home all over again.

Upgrading your home can be a big job, and unless it’s part of a pre move-in plan, few homeowners find it practical (or even possible, from a budget standpoint) to execute a large-scale project. However, tackling the updates one room at a time and focusing on small changes that bring big returns can put those overdue enhancements well within reach.

Kitchen
It’s the heart of the home, and it’s where many homeowners sink big money to make upgrades. Kitchen renovations don’t have to require a second mortgage though. Re-facing rather than replacing cabinetry can bring about a whole new look for a whole lot less money. This is a good option when the existing cabinets are still in good working condition and you’re just looking for an aesthetic change. Other small-scale options, include swapping out the countertop and sink, changing the lighting fixtures and updating tired floors with contemporary wood or tile.

Bathroom
When plumbing is involved, project costs can skyrocket, but there are some relatively simple ways you can give your bathroom a facelift on a modest budget. For starters, swap out all the fixtures from lighting to faucets. A new vanity is another instant upgrade, whether you opt for an updated version of the original or select a whole new style for a completely fresh look.

Also consider upgrades that can increase natural light and fresh air without compromising privacy, such as the addition of skylights to your ceiling, or “fifth wall,” which can completely change the lighting dynamic of the room. In addition to balanced, natural light, skylights can open to help refresh your space and keep it odor- and moisture-free.

For extra style and light control, consider complementing the room’s decor with skylights featuring colored blinds, which are available in more than 100 colors and styles, and also offer remote control operation for convenience in raising and lowering the blinds and opening skylights to let in fresh air.

Living Room
A common space where the family gathers is likely to sustain the greatest wear and tear, and because you spend so much time there, it’s also a room where you’re likely to find a list of things that irk you. Creating a new color scheme is a simple fix that transforms the space, but changing the palette of the walls is just the beginning. Also consider taking your redesign to the ceiling with vibrant colors, creative wallpapers or even exposed beams. Round out the room by swapping out lamp shades, adding vibrant throw pillows, replacing old curtains or blinds, or tying the color scheme together with a new area rug.

Bedroom
In your private sanctuary, all the typical options for updates apply for sure. However, this is a space where the furnishings can be an especially impactful way to influence the ambiance, especially if a construction project in the room where you sleep is impractical. Changing out the style of the bed frame and complementary pieces creates a whole new vibe for the room. Then bring in a new collection of textiles for the bedding and drapery to help round out the pseudo-renovation.

Laundry Room
If you’re looking for modest ways to update your home, be sure to consider spaces like the laundry room. Although you likely use this space less frequently than common spaces like the living room or kitchen, plenty of essential activity happens in the laundry area. Practical features like added storage space, cheerful color on the walls and easy-to-clean flooring can all make this room’s tedious tasks more enjoyable.

Which Skylight is Right?
Skylights can serve multiple functions, both aesthetic and practical. Understanding the different types of skylights can help you choose the right fit for your home.

Fresh Air
Solar-powered skylights rely on the sun’s energy to open and bring both air and natural light into your home. Some models, such as those offered by Velux, feature a rain sensor that automatically closes the skylight at the first sign of precipitation. They’re also easy to operate with a touch-screen remote control.

Electric skylights are wired into your home electrical system and open and close via a radio frequency, touch-screen remote control.

Manual skylights open with a hand lever; a control rod is generally available for out-of-reach installations.

Fixed
An economical choice for visually expanding areas such as hallways, stairwells and other closed-in, dark spaces, these static skylights are intended to fill a room with natural light.

Energy Performance
Adding a solar blind to a skylight results in more savings via potential tax credits as well as reduced energy usage. The blind functions to block heat penetration when closed, but during cooler weather it can stay open to allow warm, sunny rays to supplement the home’s climate control system.

Source: Velux

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5 Steps for Smart Financial Planning

May 9th, 2018

5 Steps for Smart Financial Planning

Smart Financial Planning

Are you hoping to create a smart financial plan this year, but unsure where to start? Being realistic and accurate can ensure those budgets have long-term success, according to Senior CFP Board Ambassador Jill Schlesinger, CFP®.

To help, Schlesinger offered a list of financial goals to help people start creating a financial plan.

– Pay down consumer (credit card balances or auto loans) and student debt

– Establish an emergency reserve fund of six to 12 months of living expenses

– Maximize retirement savings (the 2018 limit for 401(k)s, 403(b)s and 457 plans is $18,500 or $24,500 if you are over age 50; the limit for Traditional or Roth IRAs is $5,500 or $6,500 for those over age 50. If you are self-employed, the limits are higher.)

– Fund a 529-education fund (now expanded via the tax plan, to include private or parochial school for up to $10,000 a year in tuition and other expenses)

– Establish a general investment account to fund anything from a second home to an accelerated path to retirement

Source: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2018. All rights reserved.

*A Roth IRA does not offer a tax deferred benefit, but grows free of taxable income forever. Another thing to ad to these tips is a couple of rental properties for the benefit of deprecation and rental expenses.

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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
Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.
(*)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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