Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Selling a home during the holidays

The holidays are in full swing. People are busy planning parties, shopping, trying to reach goals for the year, making travel plans. Probably not the best time to sell your home, right?

Not necessarily.

This could be an opportune time to sell your home. Of course, there are some cons to trying to sell at this time of year, but selling now offers you some distinct advantages over waiting until after the first of the year.

  1. People looking for a home over the holidays are more likely going to be serious buyers.

  2. A lot of sellers take their homes off the market, which means serious buyers have fewer homes to choose from

  3. Less competition right now means more money for you.

  4. The number of homes on the market will drastically increase after the first of the year. Less demand means less money.

  5. Houses show better when they’re decorated over the holidays.

  6. Buyers are more emotional during the holidays and tend to spend more money, which means you can get closer to your asking price.

  7. Because they are likely to be on vacation, buyers have more time to look at new homes over the holidays and are more likely to come on weekdays.

  8. The tax break they receive is a motivating factor for many buyers.

  9. Companies traditionally use January to relocate employees who can't wait until there are more homes available in the spring.

It should be noted that there are some drawbacks to selling your home during the holidays. You may prefer not to schedule showings and closings at this time. You may not want to move during this time – not only are schedules hectic, the weather is not always cooperative. Speaking of the weather, if you live in a colder climate, snow and ice cuts down on foot traffic.

If you’re considering selling your home, it could be the best time of year to sell. Talk to your REALTOR® to discuss your options.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why flood insurance rates are rising

As a homeowner, you may have noticed two developments concerning flood insurance recently:

  1. You now have to buy flood insurance

  2. It's really expensive

This is not due to your insurance company raising rates because they are paying for damages caused by Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, or Midwest flooding in 2012. It is due to the Biggert-Waters Insurance Reform Act of 2012. The Act made sweeping changes to the National Flood Insurance Program and they just kicked in last month. At the point that Congress passed the new law, NFIP was $18 billion in debt.

How does it affect homeowners?

Biggert-Waters phases out flood insurance subsidies on hundreds of thousands of older homes. This means that premiums will necessarily skyrocket. Homes sold after Biggert-Waters passed in July, 2012, or those whose policies lapse, will see their premiums immediately go up to the non-subsidized actuarial rate.

Part of the Act raised what's known as the base flood elevation (BFE) for certain areas, which means that some homeowners who never had to carry flood insurance now have to. If your home is now in a high risk zone, you may have to raise your home by putting it on pylons, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars, but will not significantly increase the value of the home.

Homeowners who have properties in the new FEMA flood zones could experience flood insurance premium increases of 500-1000%. Mortgage payments in effect double when seeing that kind of increase. This means that property values go down. Owning a home along the nation's coasts and river valleys becomes less attractive. Building a new home in these areas becomes almost impossible.

Reaction to Biggert-Waters is gaining momentum as homeowners realize exactly how it affects their homes’ value and premiums. If you find that your premiums have risen, talk to your insurance representative.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Moving truck driving tips

Many people choose to rent a moving truck rather than hiring professional movers in order to save money when they move. Make sure to review all safety information with the rental business before driving the truck.

Here are some guidelines for safe truck driving.

Drive defensively

Practice these basic driving habits so others know your intentions and to help prevent accidents.

  • Check the mirrors for other vehicles frequently.

  • Never tailgate. Trucks require more time and room to stop.

  • Never use the passing lane on the interstate.

  • Allow more room and more time for lane changes.

  • Watch sharp turns. Trucks are longer and wider than cars, so they need more turning area.

  • Always use your turn signal to let other drivers know your intentions.

  • And, of course, always wear a seatbelt!

Vehicle safety

  • Make sure to familiarize yourself with the truck before hitting the road.

  • Never drive if you are over-tired.

  • Avoid medication and never drive under the influence of alcohol.

  • Bring a friend or family member to help with the driving.

  • Stop every two hours or so to prevent fatigue.

  • Stop regularly for coffee or soda and a snack, or just to stretch your legs.

Backing up

  • Avoid backing up if you can. If you must back up, have someone direct you from the side at the rear.

  • If you're towing anything, it's best to NEVER back up.

Save money on fuel

  • Obey the speed limits.

  • Gradually build to the desired speed.

  • On the highway, keep a consistent speed and don't attempt to pass.


  • Set the emergency brake every time you park.

  • Turn the wheels away from the curb with the truck faced uphill; toward the curb when facing downhill.

  • Look for "drive-through" parking spaces to avoid backing.

  • If you're stopping at a hotel, always park in well-lit areas. Lock all doors and padlock the safety chains if you're towing anything.

  • At road stops and restaurants, park where you can see the vehicle.


  • Allow at least five vehicle lengths between you and the vehicle ahead of you.

  • Brake earlier than you think you need to.

  • Ease off the accelerator when stopping to avoid shifting cargo.

Avoid height-related accidents

  • Know the height of the vehicle you're driving.

  • Be aware of low canopies, overpasses, bridges, tree branches, parking garages and signs prohibiting truck traffic.

  • Don't use the drive-through at a restaurant. Park the truck and walk in.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Does checking your credit hurt your score?

One of the myths surrounding personal credit scores is that checking your own credit reports and scores will make your score go down. That myth has been around for nearly as long as credit reporting agencies.

This myth hurts home buyers because it discourages them from checking their credit report in order to know what’s in it. If your report has erroneous information, at worst it could result in you being turned down for a loan. At best, it could cost you thousands of dollars by paying a higher interest rate than you should.

The simple fact is that checking your own scores does not affect them in any way. It’s what’s known in the industry as a “soft” inquiry. When you make the request, it will show up in your report, but it does not affect your score.

A “hard” inquiry from any potential creditor can adversely affect your credit score because it represents potential new debt that doesn’t yet appear in your credit report as an account. One piece of advice: If you have a friend who works at a bank or car dealership, don’t have them pull a credit report just so you can see it. If you don’t have a long credit history, this hard inquiry could affect your score enough to cause a problem.

Requesting a copy of your own credit report will not affect your credit scores. An inquiry will be added to your report as a record that you requested it. This type of inquiry is sometimes called a “soft” inquiry because it is shown only to you. Therefore, you can check your own credit report as often as you like with no effect on your credit scores.

You can request your own scores from any number of sites for a minimal cost. Ask your REALTOR® to recommend where you should make a request.