The Howell Realty Group Real Estate News and Information

 

Feb. 4, 2020

Standing Under an Umbrella Policy

 

Insurance is important, especially for homeowners. There are a lot of things that can go wrong around the house, and having a good insurance policy helps to guard against unexpected problems or accidents that can occur. What happens when your homeowner’s policy isn’t enough, though? There are some instances where you may find yourself in need of a bit more coverage than your current policies offer. This is where an umbrella policy comes in.

 

Umbrella insurance policies provide you with additional liability protection on top of your existing insurance coverage. If you’re like a lot of homeowners, though, you might not be sure whether you need an umbrella policy and may not even know exactly what coverage it provides. If that’s the case, here is some information to help you decide whether you need an umbrella over your head.

 

What is an Umbrella Policy?

 

Umbrella coverage is known by a few different names: personal umbrella policies, umbrella insurance and even umbrella liability insurance. Regardless of what it’s called, though, the coverage is designed to protect individuals from large liability claims and judgments. These policies cover some of the biggest causes of liability claims including bodily injury, property damage, landlord liability and similar situations. As the name implies, they are intended for personal claims and won’t cover liability due to contracts (beyond property rental agreements in the case of landlords) or business losses.

 

 

How Umbrella Policy Works?

 

An umbrella policy acts as additional insurance coverage once the primary insurance liability limit is reached. For homeowners, this means that if someone is injured on your property or you face some other significant liability, the liability coverage in your homeowner’s insurance or other policy will be used to cover the cost first. If the liability is substantial and requires a larger payout than what your policy limit covers, the umbrella policy will take over to cover the additional amount.

It’s worth noting that umbrella policies aren’t just for homeowners. They can provide coverage over other types of insurance as well. Many homeowners also use umbrella coverage to protect against automobile accident liability as well, since a car accident could easily cause property damage or injury that exceeds the liability coverage offered by a lot of car insurance policies.

 

 

Why get an Umbrella Policy?

 

Having the extra liability coverage provided by an umbrella policy is a good way to put your mind at ease. Not only does it ensure that medical and other costs that can result from accidents will be taken care of, but it also provides additional protection against lawsuits that might arise from those same accidents. This becomes particularly important if you own a fixer-upper or are in the process of slowly remodeling your home, since the little imperfections and other problems that you hope to eventually fix can increase the likelihood of accidents or other damage. While it’s possible that your existing insurance will cover your liabilities, the umbrella coverage gives you an extra layer of protection.

 

 

Is an Umbrella Policy right for you?

 

Whether you need an umbrella policy depends on your current lifestyle, the home you live in, its state of repair and even the coverage limits of your existing insurance. In most cases you won’t be required to have umbrella coverage, unlike a homeowner’s policy or mortgage insurance often required by lenders. You should take the time to consider your situation, shop around for umbrella policy quotes and think about whether an umbrella policy will give you a little more security.

 

 

Finding Your Perfect Policy?

 

If you decide that you need umbrella coverage, the next thing you need to do is make sure that you aren’t paying too much for the coverage that you get. HomeKeepr can help. Sign up for a free account today so you can find an insurance agent who has the perfect umbrella policy for your needs without you getting left out in the rain.

Posted in For Buyers
Feb. 3, 2020

Maintain Your Home’s Style in Style

 

Home remodels offer an opportunity to change the look and feel of your home. This can be great if you live in an older home with outdated fixtures and other hardware. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t take the time to match their remodel to their house and end up with a look that’s a bit less than optimal. The remodel won’t necessarily look bad, but it may be unsatisfactory because it doesn’t quite match the architecture and style of the house itself.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to redo everything in its original style when remodeling your home. That would all be rather boring, wouldn’t it? You simply need to make sure that you fully take your home into account when designing your remodel. This is easier than you might think, once you know what to plan for.

 

What is the style of your home?

Before you can plan out a remodel based on the style of your home, you need to figure out exactly what that style is. There are a lot of possibilities out there, ranging from Victorian and Colonial designs to Craftsman homes, Ranch homes and other more modern styles. You may already know which architecture style your house was built in, either from existing architecture knowledge or discussions with your Realtor before buying the property. If you aren’t sure, though, there are a number of resources that can help you find out. You can research home styles online, talk to fans of different architectural styles or even look at the original listing for your home if you have a copy. Regardless of how you find out, learning about your home’s architectural style is the first step to accenting it with your remodel.

Learning Your Style

Once you know your home’s style, take the time to learn a bit about it. Learn the key points of the architecture, distinguishing features and everything else that makes it stand out from similar home designs. If there are fixtures, doors, windows or other home features that are commonly associated with your home style, you should learn what those are as well. This may seem like a lot of work, but the details about your home style that you learn now will go a long way toward helping you design a remodel plan that really accentuates the best things about your home.

Adapting Your Style

Once you have a good idea of what works with your home’s architectural style, it’s time to start planning your remodel to work with that idea. You can look for fixtures that are similar to more traditional offerings but that better match your personal taste, or for example select a traditional door but opt to paint it in a color that will go better with your new siding choices. Your goal should be to find a balance between more traditional offerings for your home style and your personal decorating preferences. That way, the choices you make will fit in beautifully with the overall design of your home and its existing accents.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean everything has to match perfectly, either. There is a lot of room for you to express yourself through choices that might otherwise clash with your home style, using that disparity to draw attention either to your choice or to the design of the home itself. There are many options available to you, and because you know what’s expected for homes like yours you are free to go with the traditional or to shake things up as you see fit.

 

Perfecting your style?

If you want to find a style that’s a perfect match for your home but aren’t quite sure what works best, it may be time to call in a pro. Whether you need a contractor to bring it all together or a designer or decorator to make sure everything works with your architecture, HomeKeepr can connect you with the right pro for the job. Sign up for a free account today and see just how much of a difference HomeKeepr can make with your remodel dreams.

Posted in For Buyers
Jan. 29, 2020

Should I Sell My House This Year?

Should I Sell My House This Year? | MyKCM

If one of the questions you’re asking yourself today is, “Should I sell my house this year?” the current Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) Survey from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) should boost your confidence as it relates to the current selling sentiment in the housing market. Even with all the information overload in the media circling around talk of a possible recession, the upcoming 2020 election, and more, Americans feel good about selling a house now. That’s some news to get excited about!

As the graph below shows, as of Q4 2019, 75% of people surveyed indicate they believe now is a good time to sell a home:Should I Sell My House This Year? | MyKCMIn the case of those with a yearly salary of $100,000 or more, the results jumped even higher, coming in at an 82% positive sentiment.

When the study divided the outcomes by region, the results still consistently showed Americans feeling good about selling:

  • Northeast: 71% positive
  • Midwest: 76% positive
  • South: 72% positive
  • West: 81% positive

In addition to looking at income and region, the report also divided the results by generation, as shown in the graph below:Should I Sell My House This Year? | MyKCMAs you can see, many believe that, despite everything going on in the world, it is still a good time to sell a home.

According to NAR, the unsold inventory available today “sits at a 3.0-month supply at the current sales pace,” which is down from a 3.7-month supply in November. The current inventory is half of what we need for a normal or neutral housing market, which should have a 6.0-month supply of unsold inventory. This is good news for sellers, as Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR, says:

“Home sellers are positioned well, but prospective buyers aren’t as fortunate. Low inventory remains a problem, with first-time buyers affected the most.”

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to list your home, you can feel good about the current sentiment in the market. Let’s get together today to determine the best next step when it comes to selling your house this year.

Posted in For Sellers
Jan. 27, 2020

First-Time Buyers Are Searching for Existing Homes This Year

First-Time Buyers Are Searching for Existing Homes This Year | MyKCM

In the latest Housing Trends Report, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) measured the share of adults planning to buy a home over the next 12 months. The report indicates the percentage of all buyers that will be first-time buyers looking to purchase a home grew from 58% in Q4 2018 to 63% in Q4 2019.

The results revealed,

“Millennials are the most likely generation to be making plans to purchase a home within a year (19%), followed by Gen Z (13%) and Gen X (12%)…Prospective buyers in the youngest two generations are primarily first-time buyers:  88% of Gen Z buyers and 78% of Millennial buyers are reaching out to homeownership for the first time in their lives.”

With a high demand from first-time homebuyers and a shortage of inventory in the current market, selling your existing home this year might be your best move. Why? Because when homebuyers begin their search, they’re not all looking for new construction. Many are eager to find a little charm and character in a place to call home – possibly yours.

In fact, according to the same study, there is a significant demand for existing homes:

“In terms of the type of home these prospective home buyers are interested in, 40% are looking to buy an existing home and 19% a newly-built home. The remaining 41% would buy either a new or existing home.”

With showing activity up among buyers and more new construction coming to market, as a homeowner, you have the opportunity to sell your existing house now and move up into a new one, or downsize into a home that better fits your current and ever-changing needs.

Bottom Line

Not all buyers are looking for a newly built house. If you’re ready to take advantage of low mortgage rates and a high demand for your existing home, let’s get together to determine how we will market the charming details of your current house to potential buyers.

Posted in For Sellers
Jan. 23, 2020

How Buyers Can Win By Downsizing in 2020

How Buyers Can Win By Downsizing in 2020 | MyKCM

Home values have been increasing for 93 consecutive months, according to the National Association of Realtors. If you’re a homeowner, particularly one looking to downsize your living space, that’s great news, as you’ve likely built significant equity in your home.

Here’s some more good news: mortgage rates are expected to remain low throughout 2020 at an average of 3.8% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan.

The combination of leveraging your growing equity and capitalizing on low rates could make a big difference in your housing plans this year.

How to Use Your Home Equity

For move-up buyers, the typical pattern for building financial stability and wealth through homeownership works this way: you buy a house and gain equity over several years of mortgage payments and price appreciation. You then take that equity from the sale of your house to make a down payment on your next home and repeat the process.

For homeowners ready to downsize, home equity can work in a slightly different way. What you choose to do depends in part upon your goals.

According to HousingWire.com, for some, the desire to downsize may be related to retirement plans or children aging out of the home. Others may be choosing to live in a smaller home to save money or simplify their lifestyle in a space that’s easier to clean and declutter. The reasons can vary greatly and by generation.

Those who choose to put their equity toward a new home have the opportunity to make a substantial down payment or maybe even to buy their next home in cash. This is incredibly valuable if your goal is to have a minimal mortgage payment or none at all.

A local real estate professional can help you evaluate your equity and how to use it wisely. If you’re planning to downsize, keep in mind that home prices are anticipated to continue rising in 2020, which could influence your choices.

The Impact of Low Mortgage Rates

Low mortgage rates can offset price hikes, so locking in while rates are low will be key. For many downsizing homeowners, a loan with a shorter term is ideal, so the balance can be reduced more quickly.

Interest rates on 10, 15, and 20-year loans are lower than the rates on a 30-year fixed-rate loan. If you’re downsizing your housing costs, you may prefer a shorter-term loan to pay off your home faster. This way, you can save thousands in interest payments over time.

Bottom Line

If you’re planning a transition into a smaller home, the twin trends of low mortgage rates and rising home equity can kickstart or boost your plans, especially if you’re anticipating retirement soon or just want to live in a smaller home that’s easier to maintain. Let’s get together today to explore your options.

Posted in For Buyers
Jan. 20, 2020

Make the Dream of Homeownership a Reality in 2020

Make the Dream of Homeownership a Reality in 2020 | MyKCM

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. led and inspired a powerful movement with his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Through his passion and determination, he sparked interest, ambition, and courage in his audience. Today, reflecting on his message encourages many of us to think about our own dreams, goals, beliefs, and aspirations. For many Americans, one of those common goals is owning a home: a piece of land, a roof over our heads, and a place where our families can grow and flourish.

If you’re dreaming of buying a home this year, the best way to start the process is to connect with a Real Estate professional to understand what goes into buying a home. Once you have that covered, then you can answer the questions below to make the best decision for you and your family.

1. How Can I Better Understand the Process, and How Much Can I Afford?

The process of buying a home is not one to enter into lightly. You need to decide on key things like how long you plan on living in an area, school districts you prefer, what kind of commute works for you, and how much you can afford to spend.

Keep in mind, before you start the process to purchase a home, you’ll also need to apply for a mortgage. Lenders will evaluate several factors connected to your financial track record, one of which is your credit history. They’ll want to see how well you’ve been able to minimize past debts, so make sure you’ve been paying your student loans, credit cards, and car loans on time. Most agents have loan officers they trust that they can refer you to.

According to ConsumerReports.org,

Financial planners recommend limiting the amount you spend on housing to 25 percent of your monthly budget.”

2. How Much Do I Need for a Down Payment?

In addition to knowing how much you can afford on a monthly mortgage payment, understanding how much you’ll need for a down payment is another critical step. Thankfully, there are many different options and resources in the market to potentially reduce the amount you may think you need to put down up front.

If you’re concerned about saving for a down payment, start small and be consistent. A little bit each month goes a long way. Jumpstart your savings by automatically adding a portion of your monthly paycheck into a separate savings account or house fund. AmericaSaves.org says,

“Over time, these automatic deposits add up. For example, $50 a month accumulates to $600 a year and $3,000 after five years, plus interest that has compounded.”

Before you know it, you’ll have enough for a down payment if you’re disciplined and thoughtful about your process.

3. Saving Takes Time: Practice Living on a Budget

As tempting as it is to settle in each morning with a fancy cup of coffee from your favorite local shop, putting that daily spend toward your down payment will help accelerate your path to homeownership. It’s the little things that count, so start trying to live on a slightly tighter budget if you aren’t doing so already. A budget will allow you to save more for your down payment and help you pay down other debts to improve your credit score. A survey of Millennial spending shows,

“70 percent of would-be first-time homebuyers will cut spending on spa days, shopping and going to the movies in exchange for purchasing a home within the next year.”

While you don’t need to cut all of the fun out of your current lifestyle, making smarter choices and limiting your spending in areas where you can slim down will make a big difference.

Bottom Line

If homeownership is on your dream list this year, take a good look at what you can prioritize to help you get there. Let’s get together today to discuss the best steps you can take to start the process.

Posted in For Buyers
Jan. 17, 2020

Housing Inventory Vanishing: What Is the Impact on You?

 

Housing Inventory Vanishing: What Is the Impact on You? | MyKCM

The real estate market is expected to do very well this year as mortgage rates remain at historic lows. One challenge to the housing industry is the lack of homes available for sale. Last week, move.com released a report showing that 2020 is beginning with the lowest available housing inventory in two years. The report explains:

“Last month saw the largest year-over-year decline of housing inventory in almost three years with a dramatic 12 percent decline, pushing the number of homes for sale in the U.S. to the lowest level since January 2018.”

The report also revealed that the decline in inventory stretches across all price points, as shown in the following graph:Housing Inventory Vanishing: What Is the Impact on You? | MyKCMGeorge Ratiu, Senior Economist at realtor.com, explains how this drop in available homes for sale comes at a time when more buyers are expected to enter the market:

“The market is struggling with a large housing undersupply just as 4.8 million millennials are reaching 30-years of age in 2020, a prime age for many to purchase their first home. The significant inventory drop…is a harbinger of the continuing imbalance expected to plague this year’s markets, as the number of homes for sale are poised to reach historically low levels.”

The question is: What does this mean to you?

If You’re a Buyer…

Be patient during your home search. It may take time to find a home you love. Once you do, however, be ready to move forward quickly. Get pre-approved for a mortgage, be ready to make a competitive offer from the start, and understand that a shortage in inventory could lead to the resurgence of bidding wars. Calculate just how far you’re willing to go to secure a home, if you truly love it.

If You’re a Seller…

Realize that, in some ways, you’re in the driver’s seat. When there is a shortage of an item at the same time there is a strong demand for that item, the seller of that item is in a good position to negotiate. Whether it is price, moving date, possible repairs, or anything else, you’ll be able to demand more from a potential purchaser at a time like this – especially if you have multiple interested buyers. Don’t be unreasonable, but understand you probably have the upper hand.

Bottom Line

The housing market will remain strong throughout 2020. Understand what that means to you, whether you’re buying, selling, or doing both.

Posted in For Sellers
Jan. 15, 2020

Insulation 101

 

Insulation is an essential part of your home. Not only does it help keep the home warm during the winter, but it also plays an important part in keeping you cool during the summer. Once you start looking at the different insulation options that are available, though, the whole thing can get a bit confusing. To help you make sense of it all, here are some of the basics you need to know about home insulation.

 

How Insulation Works

 

Insulation works by providing a physical barrier to the transfer of heat through parts of the home such as the walls, ceiling and roof. Depending on the type of insulating material used, it may simply provide a barrier to heat transfer, or it could actually reflect some of the heat back in the direction it came from. In the summer, this means that heat is prevented from entering from outside; in the winter, the insulation stops heat from moving out of the house.

 

Understanding R-values

 

Insulation effectiveness is measured by R-Value. The higher a material’s R-Value is, the more resistant it is to heat penetration. Insulations that have a higher R-Value tend to be thicker or made of denser materials able to resist greater amounts of heat transfer than thinner insulations. Some forms of insulation may have a lower R-Value but are still effective; an example is aerosol can spray foam, which can’t be placed very thick, but seals out air. So keep in mind that R-Value isn’t the only measure of how effective insulation is.

 

 

Types of Insulation

 

Insulation isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all product. There are different types of insulation available to meet different needs. Though the specifics of different insulation types may vary, these are the most common types of insulation you’ll see:

 

  • Batt Insulation – This is what most people think of when they picture insulation. Batt insulation comes in rolls of material such as fiberglass or cotton that is applied in walls, floors, ceilings or other areas where large amounts of insulation is needed.
  •  
  • Spray Foam – As the name implies, this insulation comes in the form of a liquid foam that is sprayed onto the surface where insulation is needed. The foam expands and hardens, providing a layer of insulation that can fill gaps, cracks and other areas that other insulation types often miss.
  •  
  • Blown-In Insulation – Similar to spray foam insulation, blown-in insulation is applied by a blower instead of coming in rolls. Instead of originating as a liquid, however, this insulation is made of small bits of fiberglass or cellulose and fills in the area where it is blown. It provides excellent heat retention and creates a sound barrier where applied as well.
  •  
  • Radiant Barriers – A specialty insulation generally made of layers of perforated aluminum, this insulation is applied in the attic walls and rafters in areas with warm climates. The insulation reflects radiant energy from the sun, reducing attic temperatures and making heating and air conditioning more efficient.
  •  
  • Window Insulation – This can come in the form of films applied to the window surface, plastic sheeting applied over the windows or even insulation built into the windows themselves.
  •  

You may encounter other types of insulation as well, though they are typically intended for more specialty uses than those listed here.

 

Air Sealing

 

Even high-quality insulation can’t do much if there are cracks and gaps in your walls or foundation that let air flow in and out freely. Finding and filling cracks with a sealant is an important part of insulating your home. There are different sealants available for this purpose, though spray foam insulation works as both an insulator and an air sealant.

 

 

Insulation Installation

 

Making sense of different types of insulation and figuring out which is best for your needs isn’t always easy. Fortunately, HomeKeepr can help you find a professional installer who will match you to the best insulation for your home and seal up any air leaks as well. Sign up today for a free account so you can get to work on insulating your home.

Posted in For Buyers
Jan. 13, 2020

Buying a Home Early Can Significantly Increase Future Wealth

 

Buying a Home Early Can Significantly Increase Future Wealth | MyKCM

According to an Urban Institute study, homeowners who purchase a house before age 35 are better prepared for retirement at age 60.

The good news is, our younger generations are strong believers in homeownership.

According to a Freddie Mac survey,

“The dream of homeownership is alive and well within “Generation Z,” the demographic cohort following Millennials.

Our survey…finds that Gen Z views homeownership as an important goal. They estimate that they will attain this goal by the time they turn 30 years old, three years younger than the current median homebuying age (33).”

Buying a Home Early Can Significantly Increase Future Wealth | MyKCMIf these aspiring homeowners purchase at an early age, the Urban Institute study shows the impact it can have.

Based on this data, those who purchased their first homes when they were younger than 25 had an average of $10,000 left on their mortgage at age 60. The 50% of buyers who purchased in their mid-20s and early-30s had close to $50,000 left, but traditionally purchased more expensive homes.Buying a Home Early Can Significantly Increase Future Wealth | MyKCMAlthough the vast majority of Gen Zers want to own a home and are somewhat confident in their future, “In terms of financial awareness, 65% of Gen Z respondents report that they are not confident in their knowledge of the mortgage process.”

Bottom Line

As the numbers show, you’re not alone. If you want to buy this year but you’re not sure where to start the process, let’s get together to help you understand the best steps to take from here.

Posted in For Buyers
Jan. 10, 2020

Are Smart Homes Here to Stay?

There’s been quite a bit of hype about smart homes in recent years. These aren’t the top-to-bottom smart homes that were envisioned by science fiction for years, of course. Those were houses that had a central artificial intelligence that controlled everything and inevitably went rogue at some point. Instead, modern smart homes are usually traditional homes just like the one that you live in. They’ve simply been enhanced with sensors and devices and the occasional digital assistant.

Some people are thrilled with how technology is changing the way we interact with our home environment. Others aren’t quite so happy with the direction that this trend is heading. Love them or hate them, though – there’s one thing that you need to accept: The smart home isn’t going away.

 

What makes a Smart Home?

A smart home is one that has a variety of sensors and controls within it that give you additional information or functionality when it comes to your home. This can range from information like whether you left the front door unlocked or what the temperature is in your living room to functions such as controlling your lights with your voice. Some smart homes use a central hub or device to control everything, while others use components that connect via wifi and are controlled by your phone. Some smart homes feature appliances or other major fixtures that have “smart” capabilities while others just use devices or sensors to make day-to-day life more convenient. Because of the device-based nature of modern smart homes, homeowners can choose exactly the components they want to help make the smart home installation meet their specific needs.

Smart Home Devices

There are a wide range of smart home devices available for homeowners. Some of these are fairly well known, such as smart thermostats that feature programmable temperature controls that “learn” how best to keep you comfortable. Others are less common but very handy, such as leak sensors that alert you when your pipes leak or window sensors that let you check to see whether your windows or locked or unlocked. You can get smart lighting that can be controlled remotely and can even change colors, smart locks that you can lock and unlock with your phone or a key fob, smart smoke and CO2 detectors, motion sensors that activate security cameras but that are able to ignore pets and small animals… the list is quite extensive. Most of these devices are programmable so you can automate specific tasks, or can at least be paired with things such as a digital assistant (like Amazon Echo devices or Google Home) to schedule automation and even voice control.

 

Safety and Privacy?

There are a number of advantages to using smart devices, including saving money and increasing convenience in your daily life. However, some people have security and privacy concerns as well. Some smart devices have been exploited in the past, allowing hackers to listen in or speak through the devices to people in a smart home. Some devices featuring video also raise security concerns as people worry that others will be able to record them going throughout their day. While these are valid concerns, security breaches and flaws are taken seriously by manufacturers. The majority of cases where unwanted access has occurred were either due to flaws that have since been patched or due to someone gaining access to the password that secures the devices. This is why it’s important for those who buy smart devices to use strong passwords on their accounts and to make sure that their devices have up-to-date software, as these two actions will mitigate the majority of security concerns.

 

Get Smart?

Whether you already have smart home devices installed or you’re just curious, there are installers and consultants who can help you determine exactly how your home could be a little smarter. If you’re interested, HomeKeepr can help you connect with a consultant in your area that can help you along your way. Sign up now for your free account and get ready for your home to be that much smarter.