Property Insurance Check-Up

After Monday’s hailstorm did extensive damage across Metro Denver, damaging shops and homes, and causing car accidents, many people are making calls to their insurance providers. If a disaster happened to your home, do you know, for sure, that you’re adequately covered?

Here’s a rundown of Property Insurance Basics you need to know:

  1. You don’t have to own your home to need insurance. Many landlords require renters insurance, and a minimal investment in rental coverage can offer a lot of coverage, in case an incident occurs. If your apartment building burns down with all your stuff inside, renters insurance can help you replace your property, as an example.
  2. Standard home owner’s insurance policies cover the following: Interior or Exterior Damage due to weather, fire, vandalism or other covered disasters. You’ll be compensated so your home can be repaired or, if necessary, rebuilt. Flood and earthquake insurance require additional, specialty coverage. Garages, sheds or any structures not directly connected to your home, will require an addendum in order to be covered.                                                                              Loss or damage to your personal property, including clothing, furniture, appliances and most of the other contents of your home, assuming the damage occurs as part of a covered disaster. 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 you own high value jewelry, antiques or electronics, you will want to provide documentation of these items to your insurance company prior to the need for a claim.

    Personal liability for damage or injuries caused by you or your family. Liability coverage protects you from lawsuits filed by others, including pet issues. Insurance experts recommend having at least $300k worth of coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

    Hotel or house rental while your home is repaired. This type of insurance coverage is known as additional living expenses (ALE). ALE reimburses you for rent, hotel room, restaurant meals and other costs you incur while waiting for your home to become habitable again.

  3. Different types of coverage include: Actual Cash Coverage (the current value of your home and its contents, minus depreciation); Replacement Coverage (actual cash value without subtracting depreciation); Guaranteed Replacement Cost (comprehensive coverage for the actual replacement cost of your home and personal property – including inflation).
  4. What ISN’T included? Natural disasters, acts of God, acts of war
  5. How much does it cost? The average yearly premium cost for U.S. homeowners insurance in 2013 (the latest year for which data is available) was $1,096, according to a 2016 report by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, but premiums vary widely and depend on multiple factors, including your state. Price will of course 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 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.

    Shop around and do your research when it comes to homeowner’s insurance coverage. Ask questions like, “If a sprinkler head breaks in the yard and my basement floods, will I be covered?” You might be surprised by the answer, and you don’t want to be caught off guard. This exact scenario happened to a friend of mine, and the insurance company denied the claim because the sprinkler head was outside the home, and not, in their view, technically attached to the property.

Stay tuned for a discussion of ways to save on your insurance coverage!

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com 
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

If You Had a Do-Over…

If you’re like a lot of people, you learn by doing. When it comes to buying a home for the first time, a lot of learning takes place in the form of mistakes. Purchasing a home is a major investment, and first time buyers are more educated than ever thanks to the internet and other technology. Still, you don’t know what you don’t know, and first time buyers don’t always know the right questions to ask, sometimes causing home buying newbies to miss out on useful information. Here are a few tips from first time buyers who will do things differently next time.

First Time Buyers

Talk to a mortgage broker long before you are ready to buy. 

If you make great money, have cash in the bank and an excellent credit score, you are probably well on your way to buying that first home. If you aren’t sure of your credit score, whether you have enough credit, or whether your household income is sufficient to help you qualify for the type of home you’d really like to live in, talk to a mortgage pro now, before you need them. If buying a home is out of your grasp for any reason, a qualified, experienced mortgage professional can guide your next steps and help you gear up to qualify for a home loan; this beats finding out by surprise that you can’t buy a home 3 months down the road, even though your lease will be up and you’d really like to buy at that time.

Talking to a mortgage broker will help clarify items like:

  • How much money should you have in the bank?
  • Are your student loans in good standing?
  • Is your debt to income ratio acceptable? If not, how can you fix it?
  • Is your income adequate?
  • Do you have enough/too many lines of credit open?

If you’re on the fence, buy sooner – not later. 

In many cases, renting your home is akin to throwing money away; you are basically paying your landlord’s mortgage, and not getting anything more than shelter out of the deal. If you can buy, do it. Invest wisely, but don’t wait to buy if you know you’ll be in a particular area for 3-5 years or more. Many first time buyers wish they’d pulled the trigger sooner.

Get prequalified for a loan before you shop. 

Even if you are starting your home search online, as many buyers do, you’ll want to be prequalified before you begin searching in earnest for your first home. It is heartbreaking to find the perfect $350,000 home only to learn you qualify for a maximum loan of $275k. A realistic home search is the right home search for you, and you’ll enjoy the process more (and waste less time) when you know you are looking at homes in your price range. The key term is PREQUALIFIED, not preapproved. A preapproval letter is informal and doesn’t offer the official status of prequalification, which means you are qualified by a bank or other lending institution to borrow up to a certain amount.

Work with an experienced Realtor. 

An experienced Realtor will provide helpful tips on the search process, aides in negotiating the deal, and handles all the details of your transaction. Especially in a fast-moving marketplace, it is vital to have a professional representing your interests in the transaction. Even if you are planning a purchase a year or two from now, it doesn’t hurt to interview Realtors in your area to find the right professional to assist in your home search. Most Realtors can keep an eye out for homes that match your specifications and email you property matches on a regular basis so you can keep an eye on the marketplace as you prepare for your future purchase.

Conduct a home inspection – and ask a lot of questions. 

The home inspection is a chance to test drive your future home. Bring a notebook and a pen and don’t be afraid to ask the inspector questions or clarify anything he/she says during your inspection. Before the inspection, confirm whether the inspector will get up on the roof or go into the attic. Hire an experienced inspector, not a newbie and not the cheapest guy you can find. Home inspection is imperative for first time or 10th time buyers. Even if the seller is unlikely to make repairs, I wouldn’t recommend any buyer purchase a home (even new construction) without a detailed home inspection. Make notes about items you need to learn more about and improvements or repairs the inspector recommends, then follow through. You should receive a detailed report afterward; ask the inspector to include notes about recommendations he/she has made about systems within the home, landscaping concerns (such as improper soil grade away from the home for drainage), condition of electrical or plumbing, etc.

Purchasing a home is the most significant investment most people will make in a lifetime, and buying your first home is sure to be a meaningful transaction. Prepare thoughtfully for success and your diligence will pay off.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com 
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

Choosing the Best Agent in a Fast Paced Marketplace

Denver is in a snooze-you-lose real estate situation, with homes selling sometimes in hours instead of days and weeks. A fast paced market like this requires an experienced Realtor up to the task of helping you move at lightning speed to snag the right home for you. When seeking the right agent for your home search, look for the following qualifications:

race car

Speedy

When interviewing agents, pay attention to how quickly he/she responds to your questions. Ask, “How long do you spend searching with a typical buyer? How many homes do most of your buyers see before making an offer? What kinds of stumbling blocks do you see for buyer clients, and how are you working through them?”

Tech Savvy

Technology has changed how business is done in the world of real estate, and you need an agent comfortable and confident with the latest technology including eContracts, mobile search and client communication on the fly. Lightning speed real estate requires more than a laptop. Ask potential agents what types of technology they use in their business. A part time or hobby agent may not have the tech experience you need to succeed.

Available

Don’t be afraid to get very specific about your potential agent’s availability. You will need a focused search experience, and you’ll need someone who can help you pre-search well so the on-the-ground home search process is maximized. Since homes are moving quickly, you need to be prepared to see only the best-fit homes and to move quickly when a home matching your specs enters the market. If your agent is not available on the fly, they may not be the agent for you.

Responsive

Ask a potential agent, “How long does it take you to respond to email? Do you respond to email on evenings and weekends? Does a text receive the fastest response?” If a home meeting your must-have list pops up, you need to know your agent will help you get in the door and answer your calls or emails quickly.

Knowledgeable

How long has your potential agent worked in this area? Which suburbs does he consider himself an expert in? Does he have a wide network of experienced pros in areas like inspection, mortgage, landscaping or other contracting? Ask, “How many of your deals fell through over the past year?” If the answer is, “None,” run the other direction. Active, knowledgeable agents in this market have deals falling apart now and then due to the speed and competition of the Denver market; an agent in the mix will have several failed deals to tell you about, and they can also share what happened next and how they helped their client find the next great house after losing a deal.

I have over 21 years of experience in the Metro Denver real estate market and it would be my pleasure to help you navigate this fast paced, sometimes tricky marketplace. Get in touch to let me know what I can do to support your success across this beautiful city, or to help you find a qualified professional to meet your needs across Colorado or out of state.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com 
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

The 5 Year Plan

When shopping for your next home, it’s important to know what really matters to you and to look beyond the surface of a listing. As a seller, your home will appeal to more buyers and likely net a higher price now (or for a down-the-road listing under different market conditions) if you know how to best highlight the features that make your home shine. Whether you are buying or selling, think beyond square footage and the number of bedrooms in a home. Here is a list of features to point out to buyers if your home is for sale, and this is a great start on your “shopping list” as a buyer.

couple home shops

Floor Plan

Savvy homeowners know a thoughtful floor plan can easily trump square footage. An open floor plan offering 1800 square feet lives larger than a 2200 square foot home with a choppy floor plan. A home’s specs on paper do not always play out the way you expect in reality. Resist the urge to buy the most square footage and shop for a home with the best square footage instead. 

open floor plan

Master Suite

Depending on your family portrait and how often you host visitors, you may want to look beyond the total number of bedrooms to consider whether homes on your list have a master suite. A master suite is a bedroom with a bathroom attached; not just “a bathroom nearby and down the hall,” but a bathroom en suite as part of the master bedroom. This level of privacy is a luxury for many, and in a seller’s market you may have to forego this option in favor of getting the location or number of bedrooms you require. If you can snag a home with a master suite, do it; you’ll enjoy the benefits of higher resale value and you’ll love having a bathroom you don’t have to share with company. 

Master Bath

Landscaped Yard

For gardening hobbyists, a yard that is a blank slate offers fun future projects. If, however, you have a brown thumb or lack the time or know-how to create a beautiful outdoor space, it is worth spending a little more on a house with professional landscaping in place. When you choose a home with curb appeal, you will be thrilled with your choice every time you pull into the driveway. 

Home Landscaping

Updated/Upgraded Appliances

If you are selling a home with dated or dingy appliances in a seller’s market, the buyer will simply have to live with these castoffs. In a buyer’s market, new or upgraded appliances can help any home shine. As a buyer, you don’t want to be stuck in a house with a fridge that goes south 3 months in, or an oven circa 1973 that kicks kicks in on alternate Thursdays. If you are maxing out your finances to purchase a home, make sure you are investing in a home with appliances that will last and are in good working order. 

Upgraded Appliances

Spacious Garage

Consider your long term parking and storage needs when purchasing a home. Many newer homes feature two or even three car garages, but older homes may have a single car, a carport or no covered vehicle storage to speak of. If you actively anticipate needing a garage or additional storage in the next 3-5 years, hold out for a home with this amenity in place. 

Car in Garage

“What will we need in our home in the next 3-5 years?” is a great question to ask before and during your house hunt. Most people won’t live in the same home for a lifetime; you may move for a relationship, a job, for more space or for fun. It is wise, though, to invest in a home likely to suit your needs for more than a year or two. Other features to consider in your 3-5 year home needs plan are: home office, storage space, finished basement, flooring (floors can be replaced, but if you loathe carpet or have kids or pets, replacing flooring in an entirely carpeted home can be costly), location, proximity to good schools.

If you need an expert guide to help you buy or sell your home in Metro Denver, drop me a line. I’ve been working with individuals and families across Denver for 22 years, and I’d be happy to help you with all your residential real estate needs.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

 

Loving thy Neighbor

There is an old adage you’ve probably heard:

Grumpy Cat Fence

Great fences make for great neighbors. 

Until you run into a less-than-pleasant situation with one of your own neighbor’s, you may not really know what that means. You can scrapbook and Pinterest and cruise around town for months searching for your dream home – even have a home built from scratch to your exact specifications – and still end up feeling like you lost the neighbor lottery. That’s the thing about people – we are an unpredictable lot, and when you put all kinds of us in a blender and pour us out into a neighborhood, a few of the personalities in the mix may not work well together.

So what do you do when you run up against a neighbor who eyeballs you daily from across the street or next door, but you just can’t see eye-to-eye with them? Here are a few tips on how to make a peace treaty (even if you are the only one who knows about it) with the curmudgeons or party animals down the block, across the street or on the other side of the wall.

  1. Before taking action of any kind, embrace the Golden Rule. Consider how you might feel, and how you would want to be approached, if you were the perpetrator of a neighborhood annoyance. (And consider as well that many “annoying neighbors” have no idea they are offending the rest of us.) If your barking dog woke up your neighbor’s newborn at midnight, would you want a visit from your neighbor with a polite request to control your pup overnight, or a visit from the police? Neither answer is the right choice – but proceed with the choice you’d most appreciate if the shoe was on the other foot.
  2. Kill ’em with kindness. This is good advice from the moment you move into a neighborhood or any living situation. Before anything unpleasant can mar your neighborly relationship, be the neighbor who stops by to introduce yourself and offer a plate of cookies, or at least your contact information. Invite new neighbors over for coffee or lemonade. If you have pets or children, share about them. If you are established and welcoming a newcomer, let them know what you love best about the neighborhood. Having an established relationship – even a very casual one – can help smooth out wrinkles that pop up later on.
  3. Communicate often; seek first to understand. If your dog bit a neighbor’s child or you heard through the grapevine that so-and-so was annoyed with the noisy late-night barbecue you hosted last weekend, don’t wait for your neighbor to complain. Address the issue with them as soon as you are aware there is a problem, be open and honest and resist the urge to go on the defensive. This will send a clear message that you are aware of your neighbor’s grievance, and are willing to address the situation.
  4. Take notes. If you do run into an ongoing situation with your neighbors – whether they have instigated a problem or they see you as the nuisance – record the dates and details of your discussions. Chances are you’ll be able to work out your differences amicably, but if there is a legal complaint filed against you, you’ll want to have a running tally of the incident(s) that have taken place. *Note that I am not a lawyer. If you are in need of legal advice, consult an attorney.
  5. If necessary, bring in a third party. Contact your Home Owner’s Association (HOA), condo board or a professional mediator if need be. Some issues, like property lines, are straightforward and defined by legal documents such as property surveys. Sometimes the lines surrounding neighborly issues can be blurred, though, and it is wise to mediate an issue through an objective source.

A sense of community is a valuable, fun aspect of owning a home – whether that home is a condo, townhome, or single family home. Practicing the art of neighboring can help ensure you are happy in your new digs for a long time. And when it comes time to borrow an egg, a cup of sugar, or a babysitter for your cat – you’ll be glad you’ve invested in developing these bonds.

Are you searching for the ideal neighborhood to call home? I’m a Colorado native with over 21 years of experience in the Real Estate industry, and I’d love to help.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

Simple Pre-Sale Steps for Your Home

So you’re thinking of selling a house. Whether you want to sell within a few weeks, or sometime next year, it pays (literally – you’ll make more money if your home is well prepped for a sale) to plan ahead and put your home through a minor workout. Staging is just part of the plan. Read on for tips to help you prepare for selling success before the sign goes up in the yard…

HomeForSaleSign

1. Scale back on furniture because square footage = $$$. If your modest 1400 square foot home is packed to the gills with overscale furniture, your home will feel cramped and buyers will be less willing to pay what you are asking for the home. Keep what you need and what makes sense, sell or store what you no longer need or can live without during a sale.

2. Take yard work seriously to boost curb appeal. If your flowerbeds are hosting weeds and the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence, invest now in professional yard maintenance. If you have the time and knowledge to bring your yard up to snuff, go for it. If you are planning a spring sale, now is the time to take care of your lawn so it will pay dividends on a home sale next year. Curb appeal matters to buyers, and a schlumpy lawn could mean a lower sale price.

3. Ask a forthcoming friend to complete a walk through of your home. This is not the same as working with a professional home stager, but hearing an honest opinion from a friend or neighbor about the state of clutter or sale-readiness can be a good first step. Take notes, and ask your pal to be brutal. You won’t get every ounce of feedback from buyers who see your home, and hearing an outsider’s opinion before you go on the market can be invaluable.

4. Clean areas you might normally ignore. Martha Stewart may not be viewing your home, but most buyers are more stringent in their critique of a home for sale then they are of their own cleaning standards. Clean door knobs. Clean the doors themselves, including the top of doors and door frames where dust may collect. Clean baseboards. Clean light switches and switch plates. Clean the microwave & oven. Clean the fridge – like it or not, they’ll look in there. If your home is not spic-n-span clean, buyers may wonder what other dingy surprises are waiting for them.

5. Have your windows professionally cleaned. Many people never hire a professional window cleaner while they are living in a home, but you are remiss in denying yourself the brightness and clarity of sparkling clean windows. A professional will remove the screens to clean the windows inside and out, and also clean the tracks. If your home will be on the market soon, you may consider leaving the screens off the windows after cleaning, at least on the main level. Shiny windows with no screens let in even more light and enhance the view, and this can really help your house look alive for showings.

6. Tackle the garage now, while there’s still time. Not every buyer cares whether you could eat off the garage floor in a prospective home, but you will potentially sway a buyer on the fence if your garage is as move-in-ready as the rest of the house. Clean and declutter this space as ruthlessly as you do the rest of your home, and consider moving longer term storage out of the garage and into a rented storage unit while your home is on the market to give the garage a more spacious feel. Add wall and ceiling mounted storage to take bikes and yard tools off the floor, and if possible, leave the garage empty during showings. The fact that you can just barely squeeze a suburban into your single car garage won’t impress buyers, it will just make them wonder whether their own SUV will fit in the space.

Whether you want to sell your property as soon as possible or you’re considering a move down the road, it pays to plan ahead. Call me or drop a line – I’m happy to help you plan for the future – whether that’s next month or next year.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com 
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate