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What You Should Know About Flood Insurance

What You Should Know About Flood Insurance by Anne Sadler If you were among the lucky ones not affected by the recent flooding then you probably can’t understand how devastating the aftermath of a flood can be on your property and your finances. If you were affected and don’t already have flood insurance, you need to know if you can qualify for flood insurance in the future and what it does and doesn’t cover. Did you know that no home is safe from the potential of a flood and that homeowner’s insurance typically doesn’t cover damage from flooding? If your home is located in a flood zone your mortgage holder will probably require you obtain flood insurance as a condition of your loan. If you don’t have a mortgage and you live in a flood zone you should still have flood insurance. You can only purchase flood insurance through an insurance agent, you can’t buy it directly from the government. To find out if you live in a qualifying area you can visit the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) website at: https://msc.fema.gov/portal/search type in your address and choose interactive map. You need to ask your insurance agent what is and is not covered by flood insurance. The contents of your home are not usually covered by flood insurance, you will need a separate policy to cover your belongings. There is also a 30 day waiting period between when you initially buy flood insurance and when it goes into effect. If you live in an area where flooding occurs you may be under the assumption that you can just get...

Things You Shouldn’t Overlook When House Hunting

Looking for a house can be an exciting time full of possibilities. You have your list of needs and wants and you are hoping to find your dream home that checks all the boxes. When you are touring potential options, whether at an open house or at a showing with your Realtor, don’t forget to look past the beautiful décor and focus on some important things that are often overlooked. When a home is on the market, the seller tries to present it in the best possible light. Hopefully, it has been well cleaned and decluttered; sometimes freshly painted and even professionally staged. It is easy to be distracted by the furniture and décor that probably won’t stay with the home anyway and forget to look at the “bones” of the property. If you are having a home inspection, many of these issues will probably be covered during the inspection. If they are visible at the time you make an offer, a home inspection is not the time to negotiate items you could already see were problems. These things should be addressed at the time you make the offer. If you aren’t having a home inspection, then you really need to pay attention to these areas before you make an offer. The first red flag during a home tour is heavy air freshener scent. Some people just like heavily scented home fragrances but it may be covering up an underlying problem. The two biggest offenders are stale cigarette smoke and pet odors. Both of which can be very hard to remove. If the problem is extensive you may have...

Why You Need An Attorney When Buying or Selling A Home

Buying or selling a home can be a complicated venture. Laws and requirements have changed significantly over the last several years and most people can benefit from hiring professionals to help them through the process. Hiring a Realtor will allow you to access local market knowledge that can be invaluable in your buying or selling process. Likewise, hiring a home inspector or radon inspector can give you knowledge about the property condition and peace of mind that comes from professional inspectors. Mortgage lenders and appraisers also lend their expertise to the transaction. Most people never question their need for these professionals when engaging in a real estate transaction, but what about hiring an attorney?   Do you really need an attorney when you have all these professionals involved already? The answer is YES! None of the other professionals we have already discussed can replace the expertise of an attorney. Your attorney is the only person that can give you legal advice. For most people buying or selling a home is the biggest financial transaction of their lives. When the investment in your property is tens of thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars, why would you not have an attorney involved to safeguard your investment? The legal fees involved in most real estate closings are a very small percentage of the overall transaction but can end up saving you a lot of money and headaches in the end. What does a real estate attorney do exactly? Generally, the attorney will review the contracts and disclosures, help negotiate any inspection issues that may arise, check over the title work, mortgage...

What to Expect From a Home Inspection

What to Expect From a Home Inspection by Anne Sadler If you are currently house hunting you will probably be faced with the decision of whether or not to have a home inspection. Before you make that decision, you should know what a home inspection is and what to expect if you have one. First, it is important to know that a home inspector must be licensed by the State of Illinois. They must take 60 hours of pre license education and pass a state test in order to get licensed. The fee for the home inspection can cost around $275 and up depending on the size of the home, the actual type of inspection being done and the inspector you choose. A basic home inspection covers the structure and systems within the home and is what most people opt for when hiring a home inspector. There are also inspections available for lead paint, mold, radon, pests and other environmental hazards. All of these inspections will be an additional fee if you would like them done. It is important that you are there with the inspector during the inspection. One of the things that will happen is the inspector will give you a live “owner’s manual” tour of the home. He will show you things like where to shut off the water and gas, where the electrical panel is and how to shut off the power. He will also give you a maintenance schedule for items like the furnace and air conditioner and give you tips on how to prolong the life of the systems in the home. This...

How to Balance Wants with Needs

When you decide it’s time to go house hunting, you probably imagine finding your perfect house. Let me give you a reality check- there is no such thing as a “perfect” house. The challenge in finding a home is to strike a balance between what you need in a home and what you want in a home at a price you can afford. Before you embark on your home search, you should sit down with your partner and each make a list of the 10 things that are most important to you in a home. Compare lists and see how many of those things you have in common. The items that made both your lists should be a priority when you combine them to make a master list. Next, decide what items are “deal breakers”- things you just can’t live without. If you absolutely will not consider a home that doesn’t have at least 2 bathrooms, then all homes with less than 2 bathrooms should be off your list. Those non-negotiable items should be at the top of your list. Next should be the things that you both agree you would like in your next home and finally the things that would be nice to have but you could live without. When you are editing your needs and wants list it may be difficult to separate the two. You may think you need granite countertops and stainless steel appliances but that shouldn’t take priority over something like your child’s school district. You can always update a kitchen but you can’t change a school district. You need to look at...

Tax Tips for Homeowners

Tax Tips for Homeowners It’s everyone’s favorite time of year again-tax time! This is my annual column about tax deductions for homeowners so if you are a procrastinator and have not yet completed your taxes, here are some deductions you can use. Let me start by saying that you should always check with your accountant or tax preparer to make sure you can use these deductions as everyone’s tax situation is different. I am just giving you the information on what deductions may be available to you. If you have a mortgage on your primary residence you may be able to deduct the interest portion of your mortgage payments. This can amount to a very large deduction for most people and is one of the benefits of being a homeowner. In most cases, you can also deduct your property taxes. Again, if you own a home in Freeport or Stephenson County your property taxes are a significant tax deduction. Both of these deductions are being debated in Washington as part of income tax reform but for this year, you can still deduct them from your taxes. If you purchased a new home in 2016, you may also be able to deduct your origination fee and any discount points you may have paid. Check with your tax preparer to see if you can qualify for these deductions. Also, if you have a home improvement loan or home equity line of credit (also known as HELOC) the interest on those payments may also be tax deductible. Making your home more energy efficient may also provide you with some tax deductions. Installing...

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