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8 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Hurricane Season

8 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Hurricane Season

As of June 1st, hurricane season has officially begun in Florida and along the eastern seaboard. While these wild forces of nature are massively destructive and potentially deadly, there is one good thing to be said about them: you usually have a few days warning before they hit. During this time—and hopefully well before—preparations can be made to protect yourself and your home. So whether you decide to vamoose to areas calling for less wind and flooding or hunker down and weather the storm with the help of your carefully-crafted emergency kit, here are 8 ways to prepare your home for hurricane season.

1) Double Check Your Homeowner’s Insurance

Check with your insurance agency to make sure you have the coverage you need should the hurricane cause damage to your home. Flood damage is often the most tricky kind to receive compensation for, so make sure you fully understand your policy and fill in any gaps in your coverage.

2) Inspect Your Roof

We’ve all seen the aftermath of hurricanes where neighborhoods are dotted with roofs covered in bright blue tarps for months on end. To better your chances of avoiding this fate, inspect your roof for loose shingles/tiles or any other kind of damage, and make the appropriate fixes well before any hurricanes can form. For extra protection, you can purchase hurricane straps for your roof.

3) Trim Your Trees

Loose branches can quickly become projectiles when the winds pick up, so do yourself a favor and disarm your trees before they become the reason you need to make an insurance claim. Heavy boughs that hang over your roof should also be trimmed back so they don’t come crashing through at an inopportune time.

4) Clean Out Your Gutters

This may sound like nothing more than a menial weekend chore, but when the rain comes pouring down in tandem with howling winds, you’ll want your gutters to be clear of debris so they can do their job of diverting water away from your home and keeping it from splashing up under your roof covering.

5) Install Storm Shutters / Board Up Your Windows

Once you know for sure that a hurricane is coming to your area, it’s time to “batten down the hatches” and make sure your windows are secure. Installing storm shutters is ideal, but if they’re a bit out of your price range then boarding your windows with thick plywood is a sound backup plan. It’s a good idea to purchase plywood and cut it to size well before anything can brew in the ocean—that way you’ll only need to screw them in place once you know a hurricane is impending.

6) Brace Your Garage Door

If you have a garage, it can actually serve as the achilles heel to your otherwise well-fortified fortress. You can purchase a kit for bracing your garage door from the inside or even find DIY instructions if you are so inclined.

7) Secure Your Outdoor Items

Any loose items you have outside, like your grill, lawn chairs, trash cans, etc. can be blown away and potentially become airborne projectiles that will do damage to your house or your neighbor’s. Bring these items inside or strap them down securely to keep them from flying.

8) Use Sandbags for Flooding

While sandbags don’t offer a complete seal against water, they can be used to divert the flow away from your home. If you don’t have access to enough sandbags to encircle your entire house, focus on the doorways. Laying a plastic sheet between a doorway and the sandbags offers a better buffer between the water outside and the inside of your home.

Take advantage of the fact that hurricanes give you time to make preparations and a plan. And above all, be safe! Do whatever you think will best protect your family, and don’t forget the furry members of your household!


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: The Value of the Notary Public to a Title Company

The Value of the Notary Public to a Title Company

The Value of the Notary Public to a Title Company

In order for a property to close successfully, a number of things must happen. First, the buyer and seller must come to an agreement on price and financing must be secured. After that, the title company gets involved and starts the behind-the-scenes work to have the property ownership transferred from the seller to buyer, which includes having a notary public to act as a witness.

Title Company Capabilities

The title company plays a critical role in the transaction: it is the responsibility of the title company to ensure the closing happens. Title companies handle all aspects of real estate closings. At Title Junction, for example, our full-service title insurance agency can serve as an escrow agent, witness courtesy closings and provide notary services in addition to providing real estate title insurance. Title companies research the title to ensure there are no liens against the property or other holds on the title. We also order the survey and prepare the deed for ownership transfer.

The title company coordinates closing instructions between the buyer and seller’s representatives, and the lender. A title insurance agency does not work on behalf of any one party over the other. Rather, the company’s role is to remain completely neutral in the transaction. We are only interested in making everything occur that is needed for the closing to happen.

The Role of the Notary

Title companies also often provide notary services. This is due to the sheer number of mortgage and closing documents that require a notary signature or seal in every transaction. It is not unusual for a notary at a title company to be referred to as a notary-signing agent. This simply means that the notary has had specialized training and experience in signing and acting as a witness to escrow and mortgage documents. In fact, you should feel good about having a notary-signing agent working at your closing because it means they have extensive experience handling real estate property ownership transfers.

Our notary’s role as an impartial witness to the signing plays an important role at closing too. One of the core services provided by a notary is his or her ability to prevent fraud. A notary does this by verifying that the signers are who they say they are, understand what they are signing and are doing so of their own free will.

It is for these reasons that Title Junction employs notaries in our office in Fort Myers. Notary publics on staff means our company can provide a convenient service for customers and facilitate a great number of closings at our office.


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 Responsibilities Do I Have During the Lending Process?

What Responsibilities Do I Have During the Lending Process?

 

There are many steps to applying for a loan, and quite a few of them serve the purpose of ensuring that you won’t fall victim to loan fraud or be disqualified due to inaccuracies. Here we provide a helpful list of dos and don’ts during the lending process—be sure to follow all of these steps as you apply for a loan:

The Dos

  • Be sure to read and understand everything before you sign.
  • Refuse to sign any blank documents.
  • Accurately report your debts.
  • Tell the whole truth about gifts.
  • Be truthful about your credit problems, past and present.
  • Be honest about your intention to occupy the house.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t buy property for someone else.
  • Don’t overstate your income.
  • Don’t overstate how long you have been employed.
  • Don’t overstate your assets.
  • Don’t change your income tax returns for any reason.
  • Don’t list fake co-borrowers on your loan application.
  • Don’t provide false supporting documents.

By following these steps, the likelihood of your loan process going smoothly and safely increases dramatically.


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: Avoid These 7 Expensive Mistakes When Buying or Selling A Home

Avoid These 7 Expensive Mistakes When Buying or Selling A Home

Avoid These 7 Expensive Mistakes When Buying or Selling A Home

When it comes to buying or selling a home, what you don’t know can cost you. Literally. Whether it’s not doing your research or getting too emotionally involved, making the wrong choices can cost you thousands of dollars. Here are 7 expensive mistakes that could cost you the big bucks.

Selling Mistakes

Setting the price too high: What your home is worth to you and what it’s worth on the current market can be very different. Take a good look at what is or has sold in your area and make sure you’re being realistic about your home’s value.

Hanging out during an open house: Prospective buyers do not want the current homeowner hovering over them as they tour the house — it’s a lot of added pressure and can prevent them from giving the honest feedback that could ultimately help you sell your home. Go out and let your real estate agent handle it.

Not keeping resale in mind when renovating: The changes that make your house work better for you may not work better for potential buyers. Not everyone loves that bright pink paint color — no matter how much you adore it. Make sure any big changes you make will increase, rather than decrease, your home’s value.

Buying Mistakes

Not researching the neighborhood: Is this a place you really want to live? What amenities are nearby? How is the school district? What does the traffic and street activity look like when you drive by the neighborhood at different times of day, like Monday evening rush hour and Sunday morning? Although these may not seem like questions you really need to think about – you’ll kick yourself later for not giving them any thought!

Buying (or not buying) based on the decor: Paint colors can be changed. Tiles and cabinets can be replaced. What you want to look at are the bones of the house. Will it meet your needs? Does it flow well? Does it have enough space? Know what your criteria are and stick to them.

Not getting an inspection: This is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, and you’ll be living with it for years to come. Don’t pinch pennies — shell out the money for an inspection. Make sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for. Inspections are the tell-all if this is the choice to make or not.

Being unrealistic about your DIY abilities: Will you really want to tear down that wall to make a master suite or gut the entire kitchen to make it work for you? Don’t let too much HGTV and delusions of reality TV get you to buy into an ongoing project you’ll regret taking on.


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: Comparing Home Loans Between Different Lenders

Comparing Home Loans Between Different Lenders

 

Shopping for a home loan can seem overwhelming, but by properly organizing the information you gather during your research, you can make the task of comparing home loans from different lenders easier to tackle.

First, devise a checklist for the information from each lending institution. You should include:

  • The company’s name and basic information
  • The type of mortgage
  • Minimum down payment required
  • Interest rate and points
  • Closing costs
  • Loan processing time
  • Whether prepayment is allowed

Now it’s time to shop. Speak with companies by phone or in person to gather the details needed to fill out your list. Be sure to call every lender on the list on the same day as interest rates can fluctuate daily.

In addition to doing your own research, your real estate agent may have access to a database of lender and mortgage options or suggest a variety of different lender options, so it never hurts to ask for recommendations.


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: 3 Perks of Homeownership

3 Perks of Homeownership

3 Perks of Homeownership

Homeownership is often seen as part of the “American Dream,” and rightly so. Owning a home has many advantages compared to renting and paying someone else to live somewhere. Here are just a few of the perks that come with owning your own home:

The Entertainment Factor – Whenever you rent from someone or live in an apartment complex, there are always rules you have to follow or you’ll be thrown out. Like you can only use the pool during certain hours, or you have to reserve the right to use the grill and picnic area. But if you have your own home, you can jump in your pool anytime you wish (provided you have one), and if you have a grill you don’t have to reserve it or share it with anyone else.

Building Equity for Yourself – When you rent, you are paying someone else and helping them build equity on their property. However, if you own the home and make your mortgage payments, or when home values go up in your neighborhood, your equity goes up. Having equity in your home can be very beneficial and can be used to fund other things.

Tax Benefits – There are numerous tax advantages to owning your home. For example, you can deduct any interest you paid toward your mortgage for the year as well as property taxes. You can even get tax deductions for making improvements around your home, like making it more energy efficient. There are so many things you deduct on your taxes from owning your home that you’ll want to ask a tax professional to make sure you are deducting everything you can.


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: Loan Disclosure: What Do Lenders Have to Tell You?

Loan Disclosure: What Do Lenders Have to Tell You?

 

Federal loan disclosure forms define the information that creditor businesses MUST provide to consumers applying for real estate loans. Lenders have to provide you with two disclosure forms for the most common kinds of real estate loans.

First, there’s the loan estimate, which covers key features such as the estimated estimated interest rate, monthly payment, and risks of a mortgage loan. It also gives info about the estimated costs of insurance and taxes. For an approved loan, this three-page form form must be returned to you within three business days of loan application.

If the loan goes forward, the closing disclosure form—which covers key transaction costs—must be delivered at least three business days before loan consummation. This five-page form covers key transactions costs, such as projected monthly payments and closing costs, along with the loan terms. The three day window gives you time to compare the costs listed in the closing disclosure to those presented in the loan estimate.


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: 4 Important Tips to Assist Buyers in Multiple Offer Situations

4 Important Tips to Assist Buyers in Multiple Offer Situations

4 Important Tips to Assist Buyers in Multiple Offer Situations

Low interest rates coupled with lower-than-usual home inventory has created a market where newly listed homes are selling like hotcakes. Consequently, these newly listed homes often receive multiple purchase offers, which is excellent news for sellers. But for buyers, having multiple offers is not excellent news. If you’re getting involved in a situation where your offer may be one of many, it’s vital to have a great real estate agent representing you who has experience with multiple offer situations. Here we share four important tips to assist buyers in multiple offer situations.

Make a Strong Offer

In a multiple offer situation, don’t low ball! Yes, it’s frustrating to lose out on a home, but expecting a low ball offer to be accepted is just wishful thinking. If you’re in love with a home and there are multiple offers, you need to know that you’ll only have one chance at scoring the house.

If you require seller contributions, you need to be aware that it’s a “give-and-take” situation. If you need $5,000 in seller contributions, don’t expect to offer $5,000 below the listing price and also get the contribution from the seller, especially in a multiple offer situation! If you absolutely need seller contributions, consider offering above the asking price, keeping in mind the home needs to appraise for the purchase price.

Have Fewer Contingencies

You have the option to make a purchase offer contingent on several different items, and some are more common than others. In a multiple offer situation, not having as many contingencies can make one offer more desirable to sellers than the next. While it’s not recommended to waive the opportunity to perform a home inspection, some sellers will just eat that up. The purpose of a home inspection is to ensure the home’s current state for the buyer. By waiving a home inspection, the seller is now “off the hook” for any repairs that would be requested after an inspection of the home. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a home inspection completed—you just don’t have to leave the seller on the hook for repairs.

Get Pre-Approved, Not Pre-Qualified

There is a major difference between being pre-approved and pre-qualified! Understanding the difference is extremely important.

pre-qualification is when a lender looks at your financial picture based on what you tell them. In most cases they will look at your credit information to make sure your credit scores are in line with the current mortgage guidelines. The lender will then issue a“Pre-Qualification” letter, subject to verification of information once you apply for a mortgage.

A pre-approval is a little more involved but is much more desirable when it comes time to negotiate on a home. Getting a pre-approval includes a lender pulling your credit report, collecting pay stubs, bank statements, W-2′s, etc. and actually confirming your employment status. Most pre-approvals are as good as a mortgage commitment, and are generally only subject to an appraisal being done on the property.

Make a Large Down Payment/Escrow Deposit

Putting a large percentage down towards a home can give you a distinct advantage. Although the amount of the deposit can vary, a larger deposit can indicate your serious intent to purchase the home to a seller and can also indicate your strength.


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’s a Credit Score?

What’s a Credit Score?

 

A credit bureau score, or “credit score” is a number based upon your credit history that represents the possibility that you will be unable to repay a loan. Lenders use it to determine your ability to qualify for a mortgage loan, since they’re not really in a position get to know you to judge your character.

A few tips for raising your credit score:

  1. Pay your bills on time.
  2. Pay off debt on credit cards and keep your balances low
  3. Don’t apply for a ton of new credit accounts, since that creates hard inquiries

Hard inquires occur when a lender reviews your credit score, and can potentially have a negative effect on it. Soft inquires, on the other hand, occur when you check your own credit score and don’t have a negative effect.

In a nutshell, the better your score is, the better your chances are of getting a favorable loan, since lenders will take that to mean you have a pretty good track record of repaying your debts. Make sure you know your score and ensure that lenders have current information about 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: Your Guide to the Closing Process

Your Guide to the Closing Process

Your Guide to the Closing Process

The closing process of a Cape Coral or Fort Myers real estate transaction is complex, requiring the cooperation and coordination of all parties involved. At Title Junction, we have the experience and know-how needed to make sure the you get from contract to closing table in an efficient and timely manner.

Receive Contract

The process begins when we received the sales contract or title order. This is when the count-down to closing starts. From this point, timelines and document preparation become a key component to closing the transaction.

Conduct Search

The next step is to conduct a detailed search of county, state and federal records. After we review the search, we prepare a title commitment that is sent out to buyers, sellers, realtors and lenders. Communication is a vital part to closing any transaction.

Obtain Documents

Next, our staff obtains all the necessary documents and information to get to the closing table. There is crucial information that must be obtained from the buyer, seller, real estate agents, lenders and any other professionals involved in the transaction. Examples of this would be obtaining mortgage payoffs, current taxes, homeowner association fees and any other lien or assessments.

Distribute Information

We work closely with the buyer, seller, realtors, and the bank to make sure that all parties involved receive all of the information they need in a timely manner. We communicate with each party involved in the transaction to make sure that everything comes together seamlessly, and nothing falls through the cracks.

Order Additional Services

We also order additional services if they are required or requested such as inspections, appraisals or surveys. For instance, most lenders will require that a survey be done. However, if there is no lender, a survey is not required but the buyer could still request to have one done.

Prepare Settlement Statement

As soon as all the necessary information and numbers from the lender are collected, we prepare the Settlement Statement showing the breakdown of fees, costs, charges and credits. We provide this to all parties as early as we can so they may have a chance to review the Settlement Statement so there are no surprises at the closing table. You may also hear the terms; HUD, CD or Closing Disclosure.

Update and Final Review

Before closing, we update the title work and we check for any information that may need to be updated or is required to be updated. Then, a final review is conducted by one of our settlement agents and once they are satisfied that all documents are in order, the date and time is scheduled and confirmed with all parties.

Closing

Now it is finally time to close your real estate title. At closing, we explain all the documents, including everything on the Settlement Statement. We also answer any questions and get any additional information that may have been requested by any of the parties.

Final Paperwork

Immediately following the closing, we have all the necessary documents recorded in the county clerk’s office. When the documents are returned to us, we issue the owner’s policy and send it, and the original deed, to the owner. We also send the lender’s policy and the original mortgage to the lender.


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: Everything That Makes Up Closing Costs

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