There’s no place like home.
A home inspection will help to inform you about the current condition of the property. An objective inspection provides a buyer with a clearer understanding of the home’s condition and true value. It may also give sellers a checklist of things important to buyers to fix before the sale.
Whether buying or selling, a Tierra Bella Home Services agent can help you through the home inspection process. Our agents routinely recommend inspections for properties of all types – from older properties to newly built homes.
Expect our agents to …
- Refer you to reliable inspectors to perform a thorough examination of the property.
- Share and analyze all inspection reports with you.
- Advise you regarding the need for an “inspection contingency clause” in your contract, which may help you negotiate needed repairs before a sale is finalized.
Remember, a home inspection is a crucial step toward finalizing your real estate transaction and full comprehension of inspection results is essential. A Tierra Bella Home Services agent will close the gap between a home’s unknowns and it’s proper repairs, speeding you on your way to your purchase or sale.
By Marcy Tolkoff | December 20, 2007
Do your eyes glaze over just reading the word? It may not be the most thrilling subject, but it’s essential for new homebuyers to understand the nuts and bolts of their homeowners insurance. Virtually all mortgage lenders require insurance coverage to protect their investment. If the house you live in is destroyed, the real owners – and in most cases, that’s the bank – would suffer a huge monetary loss.
Tutorial: Introduction To Insurance
You don’t even have to “own” your home to need homeowners insurance; many landlords require their tenants to have coverage. But whether it’s required or not, it’s smart to have this kind of protection anyway. We’ll take it step by step as we walk you through the basics of this type of policy.
What a Homeowners’ Policy Provides
The elements of a standard homeowners’ insurance policy provide that the insurer will cover costs related to:
- Damage to the interior or exterior of your house – In the event of damage due to fire, hurricanes, lightning, vandalism or other covered disasters, your insurer will compensate you so that your house can be repaired or even completely rebuilt. Damage that is the result of floods, earthquakes and poor home maintenance is generally not covered and you may require separate riders if want that type of protection.
- Loss or damage to your personal belongings – Clothing, furniture, appliances and most of the other contents of your home are covered if they’re destroyed in an insured disaster. You can even get “off-premises” coverage, so you could file a claim for lost jewelry, for example – no matter where in the world you lost it. There may be a limit on the amount your insurer will reimburse you. Even if your Rolex or mink coat is damaged at home, there will be a limit on the coverage for that, too – unless you purchase a separate “floater” policy that insures the item for its full appraised value.According to the Insurance Information Institute, most insurance companies will provide coverage for 50-70% of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of your home. If your house is insured for $200,000, there would be up to about $140,000 worth of coverage for your possessions – would this be enough for you? In order to answer this question, you would need to have a list of all your possessions and their value, also called a “home inventory”.
- Personal liability for damage or injuries caused by you or your family – This clause even includes your pets! So, if frisky Fido bites your neighbor Doris, no matter where the bite happens to occur, your insurer will pay her medical bills. Or, if Junior breaks her Oriental vase, you can file a claim to reimburse her. And if Doris slips on the broken vase pieces and successfully sues for pain and suffering or lost wages? You’ll be covered for that, too, just as if someone had been injured on the premises of your home or property. While policies start in the range of $100,000 coverage, experts recommend having at least $300,000 worth of coverage according to the Insurance Information Institute. For extra protection, a few hundred dollars more in premium may buy you an extra $1 million or more through “umbrella coverage”.
- Hotel or house rental while your home is being rebuilt or repaired – It’s unlikely you’ll ever need this protection, but if you do find yourself in this situation, it will undoubtedly be the best coverage you ever purchased. If your house has been completely destroyed or is so damaged that it’s uninhabitable, you may need to rent another house or live in a hotel until it’s repaired or rebuilt. This portion of homeowners’ coverage would reimburse you for the cost of rent, hotel, restaurant meals and other incidental costs because you were unable to live in your house. Before you book a suite at the Ritz-Carlton and order caviar from room service, however, keep in mind that policies impose strict daily and total limits – but, of course, you can expand those daily limits if you’re willing to pay more in coverage.
Different Types of Coverage
All insurance is definitely not created equal. The least costly homeowners insurance will likely give you the least amount of coverage, and vice versa.
There are essentially three levels of coverage:
- Actual cash value – This value covers the house plus the value of your belongings after deducting depreciation (i.e., how much the items are currently worth, not how much you paid for them).
- Replacement cost – This is the actual cash value without the deduction for depreciation, so you would be able to repair or rebuild your home up to the original value.
- Guaranteed (or extended) replacement cost – The most comprehensive, this inflation-buffer pays for whatever it costs to repair or build your home – even if it’s more than your policy limit! Certain insurers offer extended replacement, meaning it offers more coverage than you purchased, but there is a ceiling; typically, it is 20-25% higher than the limit.
How Much Does It Cost?
The average yearly premium cost for U.S. homeowners insurance in 2008 (as of 2010, the latest year for which data is available) was $791, according the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, but premiums vary widely and depend on multiple factors. First, of course, price will be determined by how much coverage you buy, a decision you can only make after evaluating the market value of your house, completing a household inventory, and deciding how much liability protection you want.
Other variables that need to be considered include your zip code. If you live in a high-crime area, for example, insurance premiums will be higher. Companies also take into account the size of your house, how close it is to a fire hydrant, the condition of your plumbing, heating and electrical systems, how many claims were filed against the home you’re seeking to insure, and even details like your credit score that reflect on how responsible a consumer – and, therefore, a homeowner – you are.
No matter what initial price you’re quoted, you’ll want to do a little comparison shopping. And don’t forget there are many other ways to slash costs, such as raising deductible levels, buying multiple policies from the same insurer, getting all available discounts (for security devices, such as burglar alarms, for example), checking for group coverage options through credit or trade unions, employers, or association memberships, and boosting your credit score.
Selecting an Insurance Company
Price is important, but it is not the only or even the most important factor. When it comes to insurance, you want to make sure you are going with a provider that is legitimate and creditworthy. Before you sign on the dotted line, first contact your state’s insurance department to make sure the company is licensed, as all insurers are required to be. Second, check its financial strength by going to websites of the top credit agencies (ex. A.M.Best, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s) and searching their financials. Finally, consider asking relatives, friends and coworkers for referrals. It always makes sense to benefit from the experiences of others, so ask someone you know who has filed a claim about an insurer’s customer service representatives, the speed with which a claim was appraised, processed and paid, in addition to your friend’s general level of satisfaction with the insurer.
As with all insurance policies, they are under-appreciated until they are needed, and then they quickly become a godsend. Getting yourself set up with a comprehensive homeowners policy can go a long way toward making your home truly a place of comfort and security.
A pet makes a wonderful addition to any household. Cats and dogs mean furry snuggles and tons of comic relief; they can also teach us all a few things about unconditional love. Unfortunately, they also bring with them some less desirable traits: sloppy table manners, a propensity to break things, and truckloads of animal hair.
It’s true, pets can be messy. In fact, your beloved animals can actually ding the value of your property if you’re trying to sell by adding scratches to your doors and floors, funky, semipermanent smells, and other flaws that prospective buyers might just catch. However, there are precautions you can take to pet-proof your home so that their negative impact is greatly reduced.
Follow these tips to do dog-and-cat damage control.
Create a separate eating area for them
When Judy Morgan, a veterinarian in Woolwich, NJ, remodeled her kitchen, she took the opportunity to turn a room in her basement into a kitchen that caters specifically to her nine dogs and four cats. The vet took her old cabinets, a small refrigerator, a microwave, and even a Keurig machine downstairs to create an eating space just for the animals.
“They eat down there so they won’t scratch the new kitchen cabinets when they are excited and jumping up to see their food being prepared,” says Morgan. “We keep their food in the downstairs refrigerator and warm it in their own microwave. The Keurig is for making hot water to rehydrate or warm meals.”
Get smart about flooring
Not everyone has room to create a second kitchen for their cats and dogs, so Morgan also recommends bamboo flooring in common areas.
“Bamboo is much harder than most woods so it doesn’t scratch easily,” she says. “It also has no grooves between boards like other hardwood floors. Grooves are a real pain when there is a urine or poo accident.”
Tile is another good option, says Morgan, who used that material in her sunroom because it’s easy to clean. She also recommends recycled tire rubber flooring as a great basement floor covering for people with kids and pets.
“Phenomenal product, comes in large rolls, used in a lot of gyms,” Morgan says of rubber flooring. “Comes in an amazing array of colors and thicknesses.”
As you might have guessed, carpet is not a terrific choice. “We have no carpet, other than on the stairs,” notes Morgan. “Carpet holds hair and odors and is an allergy disaster for people with allergies.”
Decorate your windows wisely
Pet owners should also pay special attention to windows in their home.
“Curtains, for their own sake, should not drag the ground”, says Michelle Newfield, a veterinarian in Slidell, LA. “Exploring kittens love to climb them.”
Newfield suggests thick blinds for window coverings (think wood or even faux wood, material meant to stand the test of claws). “And be sure to secure the cords out of reach,” Newfield says.
Set up some barriers
If you have a beloved vase or rug that you fear could be ruined by your pet, the answer may be as simple as setting up a barrier to keep curious creatures out.
“Most animals explore their environment with their noses and mouths,” explains Patrick Mahaney, a vet based out of Los Angeles. “It’s common for indoor and outdoor items to be sniffed, licked, or chewed upon, so it’s crucial to use physical barriers. Baby gates, doors, screens, and other barriers can do the trick.”
Or, if it’s all but impossible to keep your pets off your gorgeous new couch, try a different type of barrier by covering it in a large throw blanket. That way, they can lounge and shed with abandon; then, when company comes, you can lift it off and see a clean couch!
Keep pet paraphernalia out of sight
There’s nothing like a gnawed-on ham bone in the center of your living room floor to ruin the ambiance. So get a cute basket in which you can stash pet toys and set it off to the side and out of sight. You can also give pets a place to call their own that doesn’t detract from your design. Place a cozy crate or dog bed in a kitchen nook, under a table, or in a corner. We’re not saying pets should neither be seen nor heard, but, well, sometimes that would be nice, wouldn’t it?
By, Brittney Gilbert