5 Tips If A Storm Damages Your Home

We can all agree 2017 has been a year of intense storms and natural disasters across our country.  For us living in Florida we are no stranger to storms.  Although we hope you never have to deal with damages resulting from a storm we thought it would be helpful to share some tips in case you ever find yourself in this situation.

Below are 5 tips to keep in mind in the event your home is ever damaged by a storm:

1) Document the Damage

The more comprehensive your documentation the better. Video has become a favored medium for recording damage, however, insurance companies and government agencies aren’t always able to receive or process video files.  In addition to video, make sure you have still photos and plenty of notes to clarify what the photos represent. If available, before and after photos can be helpful in demonstrating the extent of the damage.

This can be a traumatic and overwhelming task, so try not to do this alone.  Take a relative or friend that you can trust to be emotionally supportive and also helpful in identifying and documenting damage.  Avoid lingering in unsafe conditions.  However, if the area is safe, then take your time and document carefully.  If you are taking video, slowly narrate what you are seeing and explain the damage you see, for example:  “White door with broken window laying in about 4 inches of water in the backyard is the backdoor to the house.  It is now about 25 feet away from the house, all hinges are broken, and the doorway is completely exposed”

Inside the home, check for evidence of flooding and roof leaks. Be methodical, yet avoid any areas that seem unsafe.  Never enter a flooded basement or climb unto a potentially unstable roof.  If you are not certain if your roof has been damaged, speak to your insurance company about an assessment by an approved roofing company.

2) Secure the Area

Again, safety is key here.  Even small pieces of debris can feature sharp edges, so be abundantly careful if you must clear an area.  For large jobs including removing trees or sizable debris such as cars, boats, parts of homes, etc. contact your insurance company to get access to their preferred provider list.  Beware of post-storm opportunist who canvas neighborhoods asking for exorbitant prices for debris removal.

Your insurance company will likely have approved resources listed for water remediation as well as companies that will cover damaged roofs and broken windows to prevent further water damage.  These resource are often available on the website so you don’t have to spend time holding to get information. Providers vetted by your insurance company will often not ask for money upfront, instead, they will help you file a claim to cover the costs of damages.

It can be confusing to know what is covered by the insurance company and what falls under your responsibility.  Your best option is to gather information directly from your insurance company and your local municipality.  Often, local sanitation departments will help with debris removal, but it can take time for them to get to your home.

3) File a Claim

After a storm, be prepared for possible long hold times when calling your insurance companies.  Use a landline or make sure your mobile phone is sufficiently charged.  Especially if you need to contact multiple insurance companies such as your home insurance company, auto insurer, flood insurer, and/or wind insurer.

When calling insurance companies, it is typically better to stay on hold rather than hanging up and calling back.  Have your policy information handy (if possible), be prepared to calmly describe the damage sustained to your home, and have photo and video files ready to transmit once you have instructions from your insurance providers.

It’s a good idea to have pen and paper ready to take notes.  Also, if you are leaving the area or do not have access to mail service, provide your insurance companies with a forwarding address where they can mail important documents.  The same applies if you have a new or temporary phone number.

4) Tap Into Government Resources

Stay abreast of communications emerging from local, state, and federal agencies.  They will have critical information on resources available to help with damage control and debris removal.  Depending on the nature of the storm and the total impact to your community, your region may be declared a disaster area in which case different types of financial assistance and services may be available to you.  There are many misconceptions about payouts from FEMA and other agencies, so please make sure you conduct careful research and speak to qualified personnel.  Try not to rely on rumors or unofficial social media posts.

5) Watch for Deadlines

Insurance claims and applications for financial assistance all come with important deadlines.  In the aftermath of the storms, days can be lost while you struggle to clean up and get life back to normal.  Set reminders for yourself and make sure you have access to phone and internet service when needed to submit applications or substantiating documentation.   Put your claim or case number on all correspondence and keep careful documentation of all submissions, conversations, and contacts.

Helpful Links

Always start with local and state websites for information relevant to your immediate community.  If weather is still a factor, tune into www.weather.com or any reliable weather channel in your area.  If there is a risk of inclement weather during clean up, it is important to have a working cell phone or battery operated radio with you and audible at all times.  Knowing about tornados or flash floods even minutes in advance can be life-saving.

If your community is declared a disaster area, visit www.FEMA.org to learn about resources and aid available to your area.  Agencies such as www.redcross.org and https://www.disasterassistance.gov may also be helpful in accessing needed resources and support.

We certainly hope you never need to use this information and that you and your family are always safe and sound.  However, should there be an incident in your area, we hope that the information and resources provided give you peace of mind and helpful guidance during a difficult time.

At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: What Is An Escrow Account And Do I Need One?

What Is An Escrow Account? Do I Need One?

 

Shopping lenders for your Cape Coral or Fort Myers new home purchase? Have you come across the term “Escrow Account” and wondered what it means or if you even need one?

As we show you in this video, an escrow account is an account, established by your lender, to set aside a portion of your monthly mortgage payment to cover annual charges for homeowner’s insurance mortgage insurance (if applicable), and property taxes.

Escrow accounts are a good idea because they assure money will always be available for these payments.

If you use an escrow account to pay property tax or homeowner’s insurance make sure you are not penalized for late payments since it is the lender’s responsibility to make those payments.

At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: What Should I Know Before Investing In Real Estate?

What Should I Know Before Investing In Real Estate?

Are you thinking of investing in real estate in the Fort Myers or Cape Coral areas?

While you can’t control everything, it helps to know what you are getting yourself into and actively prepare yourself to execute a sound investment.  If you are new to real estate investing, here are ten nuggets of wisdom that can help you prepare for success.

10 Things to Know Before You Invest In Real Estate

  1. Understand Your Risk Tolerance – As the famous Greek adage says “First Know Thyself”. If the idea of losing money gives you a migraine, then you need to direct yourself to lower risk investments. Outline how much money, time, and effort you can realistically and willingly dedicate to investing, then respect your own thresholds.
  2. Pick Partners Carefully – The number one destroyer of marriages, family relationships, friendships, and partnerships is money. Make sure you have a clear agreement on acceptable risk and losses with people involved in your investment.  Choose people you can stand to work with even in stressful times and that you can trust implicitly in prosperous times.
  3. Assemble A Team – Even if you are venturing out as a solopreneur, you really cannot do it all on your own. Before you get started, build a solid team including a Lender, Contractor or Handy Man, Tax Professional, Attorney and a Realtor.  If possible, find a mentor who has experience in the type of investing you want to do.
  4. Write Out A Plan – Avoid making it up as you go along. Decide what type of investment you want, how the numbers work, and who will be on your team.  Map out the investment like a project and carefully track time and expenses.  Always be realistic about the amount of time and funds you can sink into an investment.  Finally, be sure to have an exit plan.
  5. Taxes Make A Difference – An investment can seem profitable until tax seasons comes around and you are paying thousands in capital gains and other tax obligations. Keep in touch with the tax professional on your team and make sure you know the tax outcome of every potential investment you consider.
  6. Always Run The Numbers – Buying a home to live in is usually an emotional purchase. Investing in real estate is a decision based on numbers.  Carefully examine expenses, investment capital, tax burden, and even the cost of failure associated with the property before fronting your money. If the numbers don’t work, walk away.
  7. Keep A Tight Schedule – Time really is money in most real estate investments. In many types of investing, such as flipping a home, the longer you hold a property, the higher your expenses.  Conversely, in some cases holding properties long-term allow is better.  In addition, there are deadlines for inspections, payments to lenders, etc. that need to be carefully managed.
  8. Find Your People – Many cities have a Real Estate Investors Association. This is a great place to meet mentors, take workshops, meet qualified service providers, and even build partnerships.  Use Google to find associations in your area or try finding a group on Meet-Up.  These groups are also a great way to get plugged into local trends.
  9. Be Aware That Markets Have Cycles – Tune in to the local real estate market where you intend to invest. Many people made lots of money investing between 2003 and 2005.  By 2007, there was no more easy money and many “late-to-game” investors lost their money, their good credit, and in some cases even their own homes. Pay attention to the market.
  10. Know When to Fold – Just as our own homes can become money pits, so can a real estate investment. When a loss is becoming overwhelming, sometimes the right answer is to walk away. The same applies when you are making a lot of money.  Avoid getting complacent, taking on too much risk, or failing to enjoy the wealth you are accumulating because you are working too hard.

Real Estate is considered one of the most reliable paths to building wealth.  If you decide to venture into this diverse and exciting world, be sure to follow these 10 guidelines.  Remember, make a plan, not a bet!

At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: What Is The Debt-To-Income Ratio (DTI)?

What Is The Debt-To-Income Ratio (DTI)?

 

Starting the home buying process in the Fort Myers or Cape Coral areas? One term you may hear your lender use is “DTI” or Debt-To-Income Ratio.

Measuring your existing debts against your existing income is one part of a lender’s required assessment of your ability to repay a loan.

Like the video says:  debts are existing financial commitments like a car payment for example, whereas a grocery bill is not.

To calculate your debt-to-income ratio add up your monthly debt payments and divide them by your GROSS monthly income. (Gross income is generally the amount of money you earn BEFORE taxes and other deductions.)

The Federally-established debt-to-income target is a maximum of 43% for Qualified Mortgages.

If your ratio is higher there may be other loans available  – however, there may also be additional questions to establish your ability to repay, and the rates may be different than those available for Qualified Mortgages.

Studies suggest that a high debt-to-income ratio puts a homeowner at greater risk of challenges making monthly payments. So consider your situation and risks carefully before exceeding that suggested ratio.

At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: Should I Sell My Home?

Should I Sell My Home?

Are you currently living in the Fort Myers or Cape Coral areas and wondering if you should sell your home right now?

It seems like a simple question, yet ask 10 people and you will likely get 10 different answers. Within real estate markets there always seems to be so much conflicting information. Plus, everyone thinks they are an expert! Even people who have never owned a home suddenly have profound real estate insights to share. With all the confusion, how do you decide if selling your home is the right move?

Let’s be clear on a fundamental truth, the decision to sell your home is a deeply personal decision. Naturally, factors such as market conditions, equity in the home, and your financial situation are factors to be carefully weighed. Ultimately, you need to do what feels right for you and your family even if the market stars are not aligning perfectly. There are always great reasons to sell your home and we are going to share three of them with you.

You Need More Space

This is one of the most common reasons for selling a home. Single individuals and young families often buy a “starter home”. These tend to be affordable, small homes that fit a first time home buyer budget. Over time, there is a need for more space. A single adult may have more furniture, want room for guests, adopt pets, or get engaged. Young families may need more room for kids that are older and need their own space, to accommodate more children, or to make space for a beloved elderly relative.

“Moving Up” to a bigger house can be exciting. Imagine not having to share a bathroom with the kids or with guests? A bigger home can provide a lot more than more bedrooms and bathrooms. You may gain a garage, a bigger backyard, a finished basement, larger entertainment areas, and…a full sized kitchen with a pantry. Divine, right?

Beyond the changes in daily living, a more spacious home can offer a delightful change of lifestyle. Your new, larger home will likely accommodate guests more comfortably, especially for extended family visits. Instead of cramped dinner parties, you may host events that flow between spacious rooms and outdoor areas. Your new home may even become the family favorite for celebrating holidays!

If the thought of dozens of people walking around your house gives you anxiety, remember, you don’t have to host guests! Whether you invite people into your space or not, a bigger home gives you a lot more space to enjoy. If you are not into having guests, that spare bedroom can become an office or a beautifully appointed library. Your days can be filled with light, air, and silence – all in a spacious home that is all yours.

You Need Less Space

Oh, we can wax poetic about the joys of a dedicated laundry room, but we recognize that not everyone is looking for more space. The opposite may very well be true. You may find yourself at the stage in your life when the big house is more hassle than comfort.

“Downsizing” can be equally as exciting as “upsizing”. There are so many options ahead! Whether it’s a cottage on the beach, a high-rise condo in an urban area, or even a well-appointed apartment in a retirement center, shopping for a smaller home can be an adventure.

If you are truly adventurous, you may even decide to try a Tiny House. These small, portable homes are typically hand-built and can be “parked” on designated lots, backyards, tiny home communities, and more. Providing between 100 to 500 square feet of living space, these homes comes with a crash course in economy of space.

Yet tiny homeowners love it. They can build their house to their own specifications with many features of the home serving double duty. Everything has its spot and there is a designated spot for everything! It’s not for everyone, but those who have adopted the lifestyle often talk about the incredible feeling of freedom that comes with living in a tiny house.

Sea-side living, urban dwelling, senior communities, and tiny homes are all great options for enjoyable housing solutions once you sell your home. Many individuals who downsize report a feeling of “lightness” once they let go of all their “stuff”. Regardless of where you downsize to, take the time to evaluate what needs to go and what keepsakes need to adorn your new, streamlined world.

You Need a Change of Venue

Sometimes it’s not about more space or less space, it’s about different space. If you have spent all your life in quiet country living, maybe you are craving the faster heartbeat of city life. Or conversely, maybe urban life has worn you down and small town life is calling. You need a change and the one thing you can’t take with you is your home (well, unless you own a tiny house!).

Renting your home to tenants may be a reasonable solution, but often a permanent change of venue requires selling your home. The proceeds of the sale may support your move and fund a whole new life. In some circumstances, the financials are a not a factor and selling the home is more a symbolic “letting go” that allows you to fully embrace your new adventure.

Make sure you are prepared for the logistics involved in selling your home to move away. You will need to decide whether to stay in the home until it’s sold or to go ahead with the move and leave the home vacant to sell. Both are viable options that require planning and patience.

If you stay in the home, you will likely need to stage it for sale. Be prepared to have buyers viewing the home and to accommodate open house events. If you move, you need to ensure you can financially maintain two residences and that you have excellent communication with your real estate team. Either way, remember the sales process is only temporary and eventually you will be fully rooted in your new home.

Embrace the Sale

Regardless of your reasons for selling your home, relocating can be immensely exciting. Not only do you gain a new place to live, you will likely have a new job, meet new neighbors, and build new friendships. New places can bring wonderful new experiences and introduce you to exciting new cultural vibes – enjoy it!

At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: What Is A Mortgage?

What Is A Mortgage?

 

Are you looking for a mortgage to buy a home in the Fort Myers or Cape Coral area?

The original phrase “mort gage” translates as “death pledge”! But as this video explains, a mortgage is a loan obtained to purchase real estate.

The “mortgage” itself is a lien – a legal claim on the home or property that secures the promise to pay the debt.

All mortgages have two features in common: principal and interest.

The principal is the amount you are borrowing which is “secured” by the lender’s claim on the property.

The interest, usually stated as the percentage rate is the additional amount paid for borrowing. Mortgage interest is ‘compounded’ – interest on interest, over time.

At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: What Is A Counter Offer?

What Is A Counter-Offer?

 

Have you ever wondered about what an “offer” or “counter offer” means when buying or selling a home in the Fort Myers or Cape Coral area?

The video puts this in more visual terms, but basically, a seller can respond to a buyer’s offer with changes – a “counter” – that improves the terms.

You need to put yourself in their shoes and construct a modified offer that you think they might take that meets more of your needs. Then it’s their turn – accept, reject, or construct yet another counter.

It’s an efficient market process, but beware: clauses and costs matter. Your broker should be closely involved in constructing a counter. Successful bargaining is best done with a win/win approach where each side is meeting their biggest needs and compromising others to reach an agreement.

Remember that outside conditions like interest rates, and supply and demand, will keep evolving so you’ll need to be patient but decisive to craft an counter-offer that works for both sides.

At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: What Are Commissions?

What Are Real Estate Commissions?

 

Curious about real estate commissions in Cape Coral and Fort Myers Florida?

Like the video says – real estate agents aren’t paid by the hour! They’re paid a percentage of the purchase price in a successful real estate transaction.

When one agent represents the sellers and another represents the buyers the commission is typically split between them.
In the US, real estate commissions are commonly 6% of the transaction usually 3%/3% when split.

No government or industry body sets commission rates.  Legally, commission rates ARE negotiable.  However, remember that agents only earn their commission on successful sales.

Consider the work you want them to do for you to evaluate the value you should put on the commission they earn.

At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: How Large A Down Payment Do I Need?

How Large A Down Payment Do I Need?

 

In the process of looking for a home in the Fort Myers or Cape Coral areas and wondering how large a down payment you may need?

There are mortgage options now available that only require a down payment of 5% or less of the purchase price. You’ll see some pictures in this video to help you remember later – the larger the down payment, the less you have to borrow and the more equity you’ll have.

Mortgages with less than a 20% down payment generally require a mortgage insurance policy to secure the loan.

When considering the size of your down payment consider that you’ll also need money for closing costs moving expenses, and – possibly – repairs and decorating.

At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: What Is Loan To Value (LTV) And How Does It Affect The Size Of My Loan?

What Is Loan To Value (LTV) And How Does It Affect The Size Of My Loan?

 

Are you purchasing a home in Fort Myers or Cape Coral? Have you heard of the term “LTV” and wonder what it means?

While this video simplifies things to help you remember, the loan to value ratio or “LTV” is the amount of money you borrow compared with the price or appraised value of the home you are purchasing.

Each loan has a specific LTV limit. For example: With a 75% LTV loan on a home priced at $100,000 you could borrow up to $75,000 (75% of $100,000) and would have to pay $25000 as a down payment.

The LTV ratio reflects the amount of equity borrowers have in their homes. The higher the LTV the less cash homebuyers are required to pay out of their own funds.

So, to protect lenders against potential loss in case of default, higher LTV loans (80% or more) usually require mortgage insurance policies.

At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.

In case you missed it, check out our last Title Junction post: How Does Purchasing A Home Compare With Renting?