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How to Prepare Your Home for a Hurricane

Your home is one of your most important investments so protecting it from natural disasters should be a top priority. The Atlantic storm season is heating up with more storms expected in the wake of Harvey and Irma. If you’re in harm’s way, either now, or in the coming weeks, then you should take all the necessary precautions.

Not all these improvements will require a serious investment but if you have the budget it’s well worth retrofitting your home as much as you can. Other things are just a matter of simple preparation which is within anyone means. Read on to discover what you can do for your home and family.

Stormproof your home

There are numerous steps you can take to storm-proof your home. Some will call for more of an investment but others not so much.

  • Secure your roof – you can reduce roof damage by installing hurricane straps and clips to secure the roof to your house’s frame. This, along with other methods will give you the best protection.
  • Buy or purchase storm windows – you can purchase commercially made storm windows, or make your own for each window and door. Use exterior grade or marine plywood that’s at least five-eighths of an inch thick and cut them to fit each window. Use more heavily reinforced plywood to cover large pieces of glass like sliding doors.
  • Secure porches and carports – if you have a porch or carport attached to your home this could cause severe damage in heavy winds. Make sure the posts supporting your porch are securely attached to the ground.
  • Install head and foot bolts on each door – protect doors against heavy winds by installing bolts at the top and bottom. This is both affordable and easy to do yourself.
  • Caulk around doors and windows – to protect your home from moisture damage apply caulk around the edges of your doors and windows. Make sure you do it right.
  • Test sump pumps and drains – test your sump pumps and drains to ensure that they’re working correctly. Also, keep an extra set of fresh batteries on hand.
  • Clear your lawn – don’t leave anything around your lawn that could act as a flying missile. Secure and store any garden furniture, flower pots and other items

Review your insurance policies

Home insurance policies can vary a lot by region. check that you’re adequately covered and if not take out extra insurance. Standard home insurance does not cover flood insurance so consider taking out some extra coverage. Your insurance agent can help with all this. If there’s an imminent storm on the way it may be too late for this. If however, you’re in a safe zone then now is the time to do this.

Take an inventory of your property

Lastly, take a survey of your home and possessions each year. This way you’ll know exactly what you have and what it’s worth. This will make dealing with the aftermath much easier as you’ll know exactly where you stand.

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3 Things to Avoid When Buying a New Home

Avoid these three things when buying a home

While buying a new home can be an exciting time in your life there are a few pitfalls to avoid if you want things to go smoothly. Many home buyers make the mistake of thinking everything will work fine if it’s a new home. Fact is, there’s no such thing as a perfect home.

Despite a builder hitting everything on their checklist, problems will always crop up. Problems can also arise from the buyer failing to ask the right questions. For instance, maybe you’re planning to have a child soon but only find out later that the water tank isn’t large enough to handle an extra person. Problems like these can be avoided if you approach things with the right mindset. In today’s article, we’re covering just that and what you should avoid when buying a new home.

Don’t buy if you expect to move again in the next few years

Everyone loves to feel like a homeowner but too often people let that desire dictate their purchase decisions. You may not like having to write your landlord a check every month while paying down zero equity. If though you expect you’ll be moving again in a few years it makes no sense to buy now.

If you’re unsure how long you’ll be in a location then it’s probably better to rent, equity or no equity. There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to sell or rent it in the future and with closing costs, property taxes, and a potentially depreciating asset you may end up paying more than the equity you’ve put down. Check your finances and take a while to decide before ever buying a property.

Not having an inspection done

You wouldn’t buy a car without first looking at the engine, likewise, you shouldn’t buy a house without taking a closer look at it. Things might seem fine to you but a professional inspector can spot hidden costs you can’t. Before deciding on anything, hire an independent housing inspector to do a review of the home and what potential costs could await in the future. They’ll have a better eye then you for spotting potential problems like water damage or termite infestations.

If a price seems too good to be true then that’s a sure sign that there are a few hidden costs involved. Renovations can run into the thousands of dollars and take years to finish so don’t skimp on hiring an independent inspector. They find problems most of the time and only cost, on average, about $300.

Not being open to negotiations

Purchasing a new home will be one of the most important decisions of your life but surprisingly many people are often averse to negotiating. They don’t like being confrontational or disagreeable and feel the price should be the price. However, negotiations don’t have to be hostel and failure to be open to them could mean losing out on a better deal.

When done professionally negotiations most always work in the buyer’s favour. Lenders and builders will expect some negotiating, it’s how the game works. If you walk in knowing what your budget and credit limit is you can position yourself better in negotiations, making the time spent preparing for negotiations worth every penny.

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Foreclosures down for 7th straight month

Foreclosures slowing down for 7 months

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The number of foreclosure filings issued in April plunged 34% from a year ago — the seventh straight month of declines.Foreclosures slowing down for 7 months

And there were just 69,532 homes repossessed last month, a 32% fall from the peak last September just before the eruption of the “robo-signing” scandal, in which banks were found to be mishandling the foreclosure process.

Will the seeming good news continue? No way, said Rick Sharga of RealtyTrac, which issued the latest monthly figures on Thursday.

Even with the drop, there were nearly 220,000 foreclosure filings during the month, including notices of default, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.

And there are 3.7 million borrowers at least 90 days late on payments. Normally a large percentage of them would already be in foreclosure. They are not — for two reasons.

One is that ongoing regulatory issues. Banks want to make sure their procedures are all in place.

Second, the banks have already saturated many markets with repossessions they’ve put back on the market.(“Best shrinking places to live”)

“Banks can’t move inventory fast enough, at prices high enough, that they’re excited about foreclosing on any more homes,” said Sharga.

On the other hand, there are a couple of reasons to believe the conditions may be improving. Hiring has picked up, enabling some borrowers to resume paying their bills.

Banks are also doing more to keep borrowers in their homes. In March, banks completed 77,000 mortgage modifications without government assistance, according to Hope Now, a coalition of mortgage servicers, investors and private counselors. That was 26% more than in February.

“What’s important,” said Faith Schwartz, the head of Hope Now, “is that these modifications are much more affordable. They should perform much better.”

Home prices, however, continue to erode. That’s a problem because it pushes more borrowers “underwater,” with home loans worth more than the value of their homes. (“6 cities with falling home prices”)

That removes an important financial cushion should the borrower run into financial problems. And it given incentive to “strategically default,” or walk away from their homes and mortgage payments.

The percentage of underwater owners of single-family homes has now reached 28.4%, according to real estate web site Zillow. That will worsen if home prices fall further.

“Home value declines are currently equal to those we experienced during the darkest days of the housing recession,” said Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries. “That’s going to put more homeowners in default.”

Home prices have fallen so fast lately that Humphries changed his 2011 outlook, forecasting a 7% to 9% price drop for the year, up from 5% to 7%.

Just as falling home prices result in more foreclosures, rising foreclosures hurt home prices by swamping housing markets with repossessed homes.

Bottom line is that the crisis could last for years, according to Sharga. It could be 2014 before the housing market returns to a more normal condition. To top of page

 

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Buy vs. rent: These days, buying wins

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — For the first time in years, buying a home may beat renting.

Two factors are at play, according to researchers who recently crunched the numbers, Ken Johnson of Florida International University and Eli Beracha of East Carolina University for a paper to be published in Real Estate Economics.

First, rents, though mostly stagnant the past few years, are expected to head higher as more people bitten by the housing bust turn to renting. Rents could rise 7% in each of the next two years, according to Peggy Alford, president of Rent.com.

Second, home prices have finally dropped enough to create a buying opportunity. Nationally, prices are down 32% from their peak, set in 2006.

The net result is that home price gains would need to average only 3.25% annually to beat renting, according to Beracha and Johnson. To make the math work, you have to stay in the home for at least eight years. (Buy or rent? 10 cities rated)

Beracha and Johnson compared the cost of owning with the cost of renting.

Renting has usually come out ahead, they say. Buying typically leads to higher monthly and annual bills once all costs are factored in — mortgage payments, property taxes, maintenance and transactional costs.

Those higher costs can be offset if the home gains in value. But renters — the researchers assume — can invest the savings. And that is a big part of why the professors say renting has typically been the better deal. “I was shocked at how often renters won,” said Johnson.

Another reason had been the push to homeownership, which resulted in a premium on home values. “My dad always told me not to ‘throw my money away on rent,'” said Johnson. “This mania toward homeownership tends to drive prices up.”

But that’s changing: Homeownership has dropped to 66.4% from a peak of 69.1% in 2005, according to the Census Bureau. (See “Home prices in ‘Double-Dip'”)

How much better buying will be depends on location. Of the 23 cities Beracha and Johnson looked at, Seattle is the best place to buy right now. When renters invest in portfolios that include stocks, the appreciation rate required over the next eight years there is 4.84% and the area’s historical average is 6.06%.

For several cities, including New York, Boston and Dallas, renting is still preferable. In New York, for example, homeowners would need a 7% annual rise in home values to beat renters. (See “Fastest growing cities in the South“)

Buyers should beware the assumption that home prices will rebound, even from these depressed levels, said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Hiring has been slow and there are tons of potential foreclosures that could flood the market with distressed homes, depressing prices.

Even in cities where people are, theoretically, better off renting, they may not be in reality. Paying off a mortgage is a forced savings plan, said Baker. The mortgage bill comes in every month, the homeowner pays it and the mortgage balance goes down.

Renters, meanwhile, are just as likely to spend their savings. They’ll wind up with less money than homeowners, which is kind of what your dad was saying all along. To top of page

 

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Housing and Economic Forecast Points to Rising Activity

Home sales are expected to stay on an uptrend through 2012, although the performance will be uneven with mortgage constraints weighing on the market, according to experts at a residential real estate forum today at the REALTORS® Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo here.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said existing-home sales have been underperforming by historical standards and will rise gradually but unevenly. “If we just hold at the first-quarter sales pace of 5.1 million, sales this year would rise 4 percent, but the remainder of the year looks better,” Yun said. “We expect 5.3 million existing-home sales this year, up from 4.9 million in 2010, with additional gains in 2012 to about 5.6 million — that’s a sustainable level given the size of our population.”
Mortgage interest rates should rise gradually to 5.5 percent by the end of the year and average 6.0 percent in 2012 — still relatively affordable by historic standards.

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