Considering a Vacation Home? Six Tips for Buying a House or Condo for Relaxation and Vacation Use

Considering a Vacation Home? Six Tips for Buying a House or Condo for Relaxation and Vacation UseIf you’ve just returned from the vacation of a lifetime, you probably wish that wonderful time never had to end. When you buy a vacation home or condo, you can guarantee that you have an escape that will provide you with years of enjoyment. Before you take the plunge, though, take advantage of these six helpful tips about buying a vacation home.

Choose Someplace Versatile

When buying a vacation home, it’s all about getting the most out of your investment. Consider choosing a place that you can enjoy throughout the year. Your ideal vacation home will be a haven in the summer, a beauty in the fall, a refresher during the spring, and the perfect place to celebrate the winter holidays.

Think About Convenience

When you choose your vacation home, you will want to find a relaxing getaway that fits your lifestyle. If you love to have easy access to the grocery store and other amenities, don’t buy in a remote location. If instead you’d prefer something secluded, opt for a home that is hidden far from civilization.

Consider Your Neighbors

Depending on where you choose to buy a vacation home, you’re likely to be surrounded by others who love the area as much as you do. You need to decide if you want to have many others who are in close proximity or if you prefer having your space to yourself.

Find Out About Taxes

If you are opting for an extremely popular location, beware of high taxes. You want to go into your purchase with your eyes wide open. If you choose a home that is off the beaten path, you could have a more favorable tax rate.

Learn About Restrictions

You may have restrictions to deal with when you buy a vacation home. From a Home Owner’s Association that stipulates regulations about the care of property to restrictions in paint schemes, you may not have complete freedom with your property.

Look For Excellent Deals

Whether it is due to the strained economy or someone who has to make a property move quickly, you could find a phenomenal deal. Don’t rush into any sale until you’ve reviewed all of your options. Buying a home that is in a community neighboring a hot spot (instead of in the hot spot itself) could make for better prices as well.

A vacation home is a great real estate investment that can make vacation planning much easier. With these tips in hand, you’ll be well equipped to find the perfect vacation home for your budget. If you’re ready to start the search for your dream vacation home, contact a local real estate agent today.

The 5-Minute Guide To Flood Insurance: What It Is, How It Works, And Whether You Need It

The 5-Minute Guide to Flood Insurance: What It Is, How It Works, and Whether You Need ItYou’ve got house insurance, and assume your property is covered for any type of detrimental occurrence that can possibly take place.

However, not all homeowners are aware that home insurance policies don’t necessarily cover damage related to a flood, as the risks are too great. As a result, homeowners must purchase flood insurance through a private company.

Floods are one of the most common hazards in the US, costing billions of dollars in damage to properties every year.

Since this is a common issue lately, the federal government updating these policies currently so please talk with your real estate professional or local insurance company for the most up to date information.

What Is Flood Insurance?

Flood insurance policies are typically made available to homeowners in flood-prone areas. The majority of insurance policies cover some form of water damage, from things like leaking faucets to bursting plumbing pipes.

However, such policies don’t cover water damage as a result of flooding of rivers or sewers that cause water to ruin a home.

Specific flood protection is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Standard flood insurance policies cover “direct physical damage” to a property resulting from floods.

A separate policy must be purchased to protect the belongings inside the home or building. Homeowners can buy up to $250,000 in coverage for the home, and up to $100,000 in coverage for possessions. Even renters are permitted to purchase flood insurance to cover their possessions.

How Does Flood Insurance Work?

Flood insurance isn’t sold by FEMA directly, but rather is sold to customers through private insurance agencies. Premium rates are determined by the government, and they remain consistent from one insurer to the next.

How much a homeowner pays for their own specific flood insurance depends on a number of factors, including how prone the neighborhood is to floods and how much coverage a homeowner wants. The average annual premium is approximately $520 for $100,000 worth of coverage for a property with no basement, and approximately $615 annually for a property with a basement.

Filing A Flood Insurance Claim

The claims process is like any other insurance claim. Once the claim is filed, the damage will be analyzed by an adjustor assigned by the insurance company. A “proof of loss” form will need to filled out and submitted to the insurer within 60 days of the flood occurrence.

Do You Need Flood Insurance?

It’s necessary to find out if you are eligible for flood insurance before buying it. For residents of a community to be eligible, the community needs to enforce floodplain statutes to lessen the chances of flood damage, after which FEMA ensures that such regulations are followed.

Only those who reside in a community that participates in NFIP can buy insurance – today, about 20,000 communities across the country participate in this program.

FEMA offers maps that outline what areas are at high risk for floods, and those that are at moderate-to-low risk. The law requires homeowners to have flood insurance if the properties are located in a high-risk zone and have a federally-backed mortgage. This is because properties located in these high-risk areas have a 26 percent chance of suffering flood damage during the 30 years that it would take to pay off a mortgage.

Homeowners are not required to buy flood insurance if they reside in a moderate-to-low-risk zone, though it may be a good idea to purchase it anyway. Properties outside the high-risk areas make up over 20 percent of NFIP claims. Homeowners in these areas can purchase up to $200,000 in flood insurance.

The bottom line is, even if you don’t necessarily live in a high-risk zone, this doesn’t mean your home won’t ever get flooded. Many conditions can result in flood damage, including clogged drain systems, flash rainstorms, and damaged levees.

Getting Past No: What To Do If You’re Turned Down For A Mortgage Or Other Home Financing

Getting Past No: What to Do If You're Turned Down for a Mortgage or Other Home FinancingGetting pre-approved for a mortgage loan is an integral part of having the ability to purchase a home in today’s society.

With most home prices well above what the majority of us have in the bank, getting approved for a mortgage can be the deal maker or breaker when it comes to purchasing a piece of property. Therefore, getting rejected for a mortgage can feel like a huge loss.

The first thing to realize, however, is that there are action steps you can take to get to “yes.” Here’s what to do if you’re turned down for a mortgage or other home financing.

Shop Around: Don’t Take “No” The First Time

If you get a “no” from your bank the first time around, don’t be fooled into thinking that everyone will give you the same answer.

Instead, be sure to shop around your mortgage with different banks, and opt to speak to a mortgage broker to leverage all of your options.

When looking at several different lenders, you’ll have a much higher chance of getting a yes since every lender adheres to different rules and restrictions. Though you may end up with a mortgage with a slightly higher interest rate, you’re likely to get approved for a mortgage or other home financing.

Ask Friends: Get A Co-Signer

If your “no” was the result of bad credit history or a low credit score, perhaps you should consider asking for the help of friends and family. Sometimes bringing a co-signer in on the deal who has better credit history and a higher credit score will change the response of your bank or lender significantly, and suddenly you’ll find yourself hearing the sought-after “y” word.

Ask Questions: Fix The Problem

If you’ve sought out several different banks and lenders, and still find yourself with rejected mortgage applications, be sure to understand why the “no” came in the first place. If it’s an issue of your credit history, which can’t be appeased with a co-signor, you may need to put in the time in order to correct some of your credit issues.

Other common reasons why people are rejected for a mortgage include unrealistic borrowing expectations, i.e. applying for a mortgage that is too high for you to satisfy, as well as an unreliable employment history or a general lack of credit history. Speak with your mortgage professional to determine the reason, and if shopping around or bringing in a co-signor doesn’t transform the “no” to a “yes,” seek to fix the problem instead.

Though it can be a daunting task to apply for a mortgage after you’ve been rejected, ensuring that you arrive at that ultimate “yes” is something you need to undertake in order to purchase a home and reach that next milestone in your life.

Having trusted professionals on your side is something that will surely ease the tension on all things involved in purchasing a home, including getting approved for a mortgage. For more information on how to get past “no” when searching for a home, call your trusted real estate professional today.

4 Tips To Lower Homeowners Insurance For Your Home

4 Tips To Lower Homeowners Insurance For Your HomeWith the prices for everything skyrocketing these days, every penny counts. This includes your homeowner’s insurance costs. If you’re thinking of buying a home and need homeowner’s insurance, here are a few tips on getting quality insurance for a fair price:

Tip #1: Shop Around

Ask family and friends about their homeowner’s insurance. Check the Yellow Pages, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and the state insurance department. 

Other places to shop for insurance include consumer guides, insurance agents and online insurance quote services. Don’t just look for lower prices, however. You need a fair price for the services you need.

Tip #2: Raise Your Deductible

The deductible is how much you have to pay before the insurance company starts to pay a claim on your home. The higher the deductible, the lower the premiums. If you live in a disaster-prone area, your policy may have a separate deductible for specific types of damages. 

Make sure, when reading the policy, you carefully go over damage-specific information.

Tip #3: Use The Same Insurer

Some companies will take five to fifteen percent off your premium if you buy more than one policy from them. If the insurer offers homeowner’s, auto and liability coverage, you stand a chance of having a lower premium than if they only offer one or the other. 

The key is to make sure that the combined price is lower than the price would be if you had purchased them separately.

Tip #4: Improve Home Security

By installing a sophisticated fire sprinkler system and a fire/burglar alarm that rings the monitoring stations, some companies will cut your premium as much as fifteen or twenty percent. 

For a smoke detector, burglar alarm or deadbolt locks, you can usually get at least a five percent discount. Check with your insurer to make sure that the system you’re installing will lower your premiums, though; the systems aren’t cheap and not all of them qualify for a discount.

Read everything carefully before you sign, to make sure the policy covers your insurance needs without adding on hidden fees. Even a little money saved can go a long way toward making it easier to live within your budget. 

Ready to buy a home? Let me help you find the perfect home and get it at the best terms and price. Call or email your trusted real estate professional.

Wrought Iron, A Simple, Strong, And Beautiful Addition To Any Modern Home

Wrought Iron: A Simple, Strong, and Beautiful Addition to Any Modern HomeWrought iron is a classic accent that has been used to beautify homes for centuries. Its strong and simple elegance is a wonderful addition to any modern home and can be incorporated into home design in many different ways.

A Masculine Addition To Any Design

Wrought iron is considered to be masculine from a design standpoint. It is a great way to add depth and balance to a home.

It works well with both light and dark palettes, and can be incorporated into most modern home designs.

Because it is fabricated by welding, wrought iron has a strength beyond that of most construction materials. It also adds a dramatic finish to exposed beams and ceilings.

Wrought Iron Railings Are Strong And Supportive

These railings are durable and can be fabricated in many beautiful designs. They have been a popular choice in home design not only for aesthetic reasons, but also because of their strength.

Railings of all kinds can be done in wrought iron. Staircases, landings, and decks are just some of the places we are seeing more wrought iron in modern homes. Entry gates in wrought iron make a rich and dramatic statement. They are impressive, add great appeal, and are quality security features.

Showcase Natural Woods And Make Them Stand Out

There is something so striking about the combination of wood and iron. Accenting a wooden gate with large wrought iron hinges and handles gives the gate new depth and beauty.

Staircases are also an excellent place where wrought iron and wood can be combined to create eye-grabbing features in modern architecture.

Wrought iron décor items make the richness of wood stand out beautifully. A couple of small sculptural pieces on a wooden mantle or floor will bring attention to the natural beauty of the grain.

Furniture For Both Outside And Inside Of The Home

Wrought iron furniture finds a fitting home in modern architecture. It has always been a popular choice for exterior design, but is being incorporated more into interior design as well.

Wrought iron patio furniture and trellises are used as focal points in outdoor landscaping, and the same can be done inside. Wrought iron in a modern kitchen or any room is quite striking. Tables, chairs, and beds can all be found in unique wrought iron designs.

Find Functionality With Wrought Iron Fixtures

Wrought iron lighting fixtures are dramatic and beautiful. From sconces to chandeliers, lighting fixtures are a functional way to bring wrought iron into a home.

Some designers like to showcase the entry of a home with an impressive chandelier. The theme is easily carried through a home by using these lighting fixtures in the dining room, hallways, and kitchen. Impressive outdoor fixtures and light posts can light the way for visitors to your doorstep.

Wrought iron is a simple, strong, and beautiful addition to a modern home. It is a great way to add appeal and value to your house and property.

Three Mobile Apps That Make Home Automation Tasks Quick And Easy

Three IPhone Apps That Make Home Automation Tasks Quick and EasyThese days, efficiency and productivity are the keys to life, which is why it’s no surprise that home automation is a bigger topic than ever before.

As more and more people become tech savvy and get used to working with handheld devices, home automation becomes a natural fit for your smartphone or other handheld device.

After all, it’s a true pleasure to be able to control nearly everything in your home from just one device! You have so many things to do each and every day that it could be too much of a hassle to do everything separately and to control everything independently.

Home automation solves that problem for you. Here are the three iPhone apps that will make home automation tasks much quicker and easier.

The Haiku Home Automation App For HAI

Sure, this app will cost you $50, but it’s well worth it in order to have everything controlled at the tips of your fingers. You can use this app from anywhere on the planet or simply while you’re plopped down on the couch… your choice entirely!

It incorporates HAI’s solid home automation controls with an amazing user interface experience to deliver convenience and efficiency to users. So far the app has received excellent ratings from users. Out of 112 ratings, it’s averaged a 4.5 out of 5 score on iTunes.

Try The Revolv Smart Home Automation Solution

This iOS app from Revolv Inc. allows you to unify and centrally control a slew of various, connected home devices. Examples include locks, smart lights, outlets, sensors, thermostats and even wireless music systems, just to name a few possibilities. The app taps into the iOS system to empower you to seamlessly and effortlessly complete a bunch of automated tasks.

This app lets you create several automated directives from geo-location, time and on-demand triggers and sensors. Such convenience and control is both practical and highly rewarding.

Finally: The Loxone App

The Loxone app allows you to control your residence from your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. The possibilities are endless because, with this app, you can regulate everything from your home’s blinds and heating to the music that’s playing in any given room. All you have to do is make a few taps on your iPhone’s screen, and you’re done!

This makes the Loxone app one of the most ideal and efficient home automation apps out there. It’s definitely a good idea to install this app on your iPhone today. You won’t regret it, and running the devices inside of your own home will be something you’ll look forward to, rather than something you dread.

Thanks to these home automation apps, you’re in good shape to feel in control of all of the devices in your home. Whether it’s the blinds, the heating or an entertainment device like your stereo, these apps have you covered so that you can proceed efficiently and productively.

The Green Thumb: Four Easy Ways To Get More From Your Home Garden

The Green Thumb: Four Easy Ways to Get More From Your Home GardenGrowing a home garden creates beauty, oxygen and even food for our families to enjoy. If you’re looking to get more from your home garden, here are four easy ways to improve a green thumb.

A Good Foundation For Your Garden

Good soil is the foundation of a healthy garden. By using quality soil, you can give your garden the best start possible. Adding a variety of organic matter to soil will give plants a happy home to grow in.

Add two to three inches of organic matter to your garden bed at the beginning of each season. Compost, dried leaves, grass clipping and dry manure are all good organic materials to use in your garden.

Manures provides nitrogen, which is a great contributor to soil aeration and composting efforts. Being so far along in the decomposing process, the nutrients in manure are readily available for plants.

Fresh manure, however, is more likely to leach out of the soil into groundwater and streams (where the nutrients it provides can become pollutants).

Design Fundamentals To Achieve Harmony And Flow

Although landscaping your home garden is a matter of personal taste and preference, there are some fundamental principles for creating a good garden.

Balance and proportion establish the basic structure of a garden. Order is obtained through symmetry, repetition of plants, and colors or thoughtful contrast. This will create a garden space that is both balanced and proportioned.

Harmony and unity is achieved when different aspects of your garden work together as a whole. Strong focal points and a limited color palette can help with the overall look of your garden.

Prevent the eye from making sudden stops with good flow and transition in your garden. Gradual changes in height and color create the illusion of a larger space, and will make for a full and finished look in your garden.

Variety Is Important And Maintenance A Must

Have a good combination in your garden of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and food producing plants. Plants that require little maintenance and come back each year will take some of the pressure off when it comes to seasonal changes and garden preparation.

With more time to focus on bedding plants and vegetable gardens, you’ll yield a bigger reward for your gardening efforts. Water features and other structural focal points work in much the same way; they provide your outdoor space with added beauty and appeal that is easy to maintain throughout the year.

Don’t Be Bothered By Pests And Bugs

Although people have differing opinions on pests, at home a greener garden is always a healthier garden. Harsh pest control products can hurt wildlife and pollute groundwater.

You may be solving one problem, but using chemical pesticides contributes to another. There are many ways keep pests under control without chemical products.

With so many easy to make homemade pesticides to discover, gardeners can ditch the chemical alternative without sacrificing quality. There are also plants such as marigolds that can be incorporated into your garden that deter pests.

A garden is a labor of love that creates a welcoming outdoor space that your family can enjoy. Call your local real estate professional for more information on creating or finding your perfect home garden.

3 Signs It’s Time To Lower The Price On Your Real Estate

3 Signs It’s Time To Lower The Price On Your Real EstateSelling your home or property in a slow real estate market isn’t easy, but it can be done. Pricing your property right is the key to selling it within a reasonable amount of time.

Sometimes this means lowering your price while it’s on the market. Of course, you want to get as much money as possible, so how do you know when it’s time to lower your asking price?

No One Is Looking At Your Home

If you expect your home to sell, you need to have people look inside it. Most buyers search for homes within a certain price range. If you aren’t getting any showings, chances are it’s because your home is overpriced compared to other homes in the area. In this case, you may need to lower your price so buyers will look at your home.

Comparable Homes Are Selling For Less

Your home will sell for whatever a buyer is willing to pay for it. If the homes around you are selling for less than your asking price, it may be time to lower it. No one is going to pay more for your home when they can get the same thing for less.

Pay attention to what homes are selling for in your community and adjust your price accordingly.

You Are Getting A Lot Of Negative Feedback

Buyers are a great source of information about other homes in your price range. After all, they’re spending their free time looking at countless homes similar to yours.

Your real estate agent can find out exactly what buyers think of your home. Perhaps homes comparable to yours have updated kitchens or more attractive landscaping. With this knowledge, you can choose to either remodel or lower your price.

Call or email me if you have any questions. I can help you sell your home or property in any real estate market.

Six Easy Ways To Protect Your Home Against Burglars And Thieves

Six Easy Ways to Protect Your Home Against Burglars and ThievesBurglaries are a concern for many North Americans. Although some communities report more break ins than others, everyone should be aware of their home’s safety and security. Protecting yourself and your home from thieves can contribute to a better quality of life.

Know And Connect With Your Neighbors

There is much to be said about knowing your neighbors. By establishing connections with the residents around you, you’ll be better equipped to spot suspicious people. When neighbors look out for other members the community, they give thieves less opportunity to case homes unnoticed.

You may consider getting your neighbors together to exchange contact information, or even form a community watch program.

Protect Your Privacy By Locking Up

Thieves often gain entry to homes through an unlocked door or garage. Make sure that when you leave your home you lock up behind you. Give yourself an extra moment or two to walk through the house and make sure that everything is properly shut and locked.

You may also consider reinforcing ground level windows and doors with additional safety locks. Wrought iron bars can mean better security for ground level windows out of street view, as they are popular targets for burglars and thieves.

Always Know Who’s Knocking

Installing a peephole on the front door works wonders for a person’s peace of mind. It’s important to know who is at your doorstep so you don’t open your door to an intruder. Burglars have been known to knock on a target’s door to see if they’re home. This also gives thieves important information, such as whether you have pets, deadbolts or security systems.

Be wary of suspicious visitors that come knocking at your door, and write down their description in case you end up needing it later.

Security Systems To Protect Your Home

Monitored security systems are a great way to feel good about your home security. There are many products available at a variety of different price points. These systems are easily installed by a professional, and are monitored by a security company. The monthly cost of the service will be offset by savings on your home insurance, and is well worth the protection the systems provide.

Stop Break Ins While You’re On Vacation

If you’re planning on going out of town, keep your plans on a need to know basis. Don’t let people know you’re away on your answering machine greeting or with auto respond email. These may be suitable for the workplace, but they are not safe for your personal messaging systems.

Have a neighbor gather your mail and take out your garbage to keep your home looking lived in while you’re away. You may also consider lighting and electronic timers to give the illusion that someone is home.

Spare Yourself From Burglaries

Spare keys can save the day, but can also tempt thieves. If you have a spare key hidden, make sure it’s hidden well in the back of the house. If you do use it, don’t return it to its hiding spot right away, and change its place from time to time. A better idea may be to leave a spare key with a neighbor or with a friend.

Security is an important component to a good quality of life. By taking simple steps to improve the security of your home, you can feel safe knowing that your house is protected from thieves.

Call your trusted local real estate agent to learn more about home security, or to find the safest neighborhoods in your area.

How To Build The Ultimate Tree House For Your Children In Just Seven Steps

How to Build the Ultimate Tree House for Your Children in Just Seven StepsBuilding a tree house is a time honored tradition for many families. One of the benefits of having a yard is the ability to build a tree fort for your children.

If you’re planning to build a fun fort for your kids, here are seven steps to help you create the ultimate tree house.

The Ultimate Plan For The Perfect Playhouse

The best projects are often the most thought out. Sit down with your children and lay the plans for their tree house. Let them contribute their thoughts and ideas so they feel a part of the planning process.

Although you won’t need an engineering degree to build a quality tree fort, it’s important to calculate all the measurements and specifications of the build.

A Solid Foundation For Your Tree House

Prepare the location for your future tree house by trimming away any precarious branches or boughs on the tree you plan to build on. Ensure that your tree house will be well supported, and reinforce any questionable spots.

If your tree fort is being built from the ground up, make sure you’re working with a level foundation.

Have The Right Tools For The Job

Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to construct your tree house. Power tools and construction equipment can be borrowed from friends and neighbors or rented from your local hardware store.

When the time comes to gather your building supplies, be creative and consider re-purposed supplies. These materials are less expensive and add character and charm. You can find recycled and salvaged items at various recycled construction supply companies and through online classifieds like Craigslist.

Construct Your Tree House With Confidence

When you’re constructing your tree house, make sure it’s structurally sound. Watch tutorials online – you’d be amazed at the things you can learn from watching YouTube videos!

Make sure to measure twice and cut once. Using the proper cutting tool for each cut will help you achieve cleaner, more precise cuts. Also make sure to obtain any permits that may be required for the project.

A Personalized Theme Encourages Creativity

Choose a theme that relates to your child. If they love fairies, use that as the inspiration for your design. Pirate forts and superhero lairs are perfect places to spark imaginative play and creativity.

Incorporate cannons, cupboards and ropes with pulleys to create a unique and fun space for your children to play.

A Colorful Paint Job Brightens The House

When the walls are up and the building is done, it will be time to choose paint colors. Bright colors are a great way to brighten and liven up an outdoor space.

You could even consider creating a mural. Choose something in fitting with the theme. This is something that you and your child can do together, or that you can do on your own as an added surprise.

Perfecting Your Child’s Play Space

Once your tree house is built, it’s time to get it ready for play. Decorate the space with fun decor, and functional items. Throw pillows and rugs can add color and personality to a child’s play space. Window coverings can be made from scrap fabric or flat bed sheets.

Creating a tree fort for your child is a memorable experience and a labor or love. A unique space that sparks imagination and nurtures creativity is a wonderful gift to give a child.

Call your trusted local real estate agent today to find the perfect yard for your ultimate tree house.