Before you insure your new Orlando home… Remember Hurricane Harvey

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With the Hurricane Harvey aftermath, you may think about your insurance and revisit your policy if you already own a home. Most homeowners affected by Harvey were not in the flood zone and therefore had no flood insurance. If not in a flood zone the lender will not require flood insurance,

If you’re buying a new home in Orlando, you’ll need homeowner’s insurance. Your lender will demand it, but even if you’re paying cash, it’s unwise to assume possession without it.  With that in mind, it’s also unwise to choose a policy without carefully reading its provisions – and noting what is or is not covered.

It’s sad but true – insurers don’t really want to take on a lot of risk, so a few critical elements could be missing from the coverage you’re offered. These cost a bit more, but if you need them, you’ll know that the money was very well spent.

Standard policies don’t necessarily cover the following:

Flood insurance. If your home is in the flood plain, it will be expensive and the bank will require it. But if not, you might want to consider it anyway. Water can show up in some surprising places, as has been documented on the news lately.

Sewer backups. It’s a pretty sure bet that the city isn’t going to pay if the sewer backs up and destroys your basement or first floor. Especially not if it looks like the blockage might have occurred on your side of the property line.

Mold. Moisture sometimes gets in where there is no ventilation, offering the perfect climate for mold to grow. While much of it is harmless, some can cause dread diseases, so it should be removed as soon as it’s discovered. Mold remediation is not inexpensive.

Relocation Expenses. If your home is damaged you may need to move out while it is being repaired. Will your insurance cover the cost? While required in some areas, it’s not considered necessary in others. But as recent events have shown, earthquakes can happen anywhere.

Attractive Hazards. If you have a pool or a trampoline on your property, you’ll need additional liability coverage. You should also take precautions to fence the pool and erect a safety net around the trampoline. According to a report on Trulia, trampoline injuries caused 104,691 visits to emergency rooms in 2014 alone and have maintained over 100,000 visits per year.

You may or may not want to add those coverages to your new Orlando home. However, you should consider them, price them, and make your own decision before assuming a standard policy is “good enough.”

Housing 4 All

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Joe LaRosa, La Rosa Realty, LLC 

One of Four 2016 ORRA Good Neighbor Award Recipients
Organization: Housing 4 All

Joe is a staunch supporter of Housing 4 All, an organization that seeks to bridge homeless veterans, families, and individuals into affordable housing and to provide the supportive services that help with integration back into a stable working environment. There is an emphasis on homeownership and self-sufficiency, and Hope 4 All also helps with down payment assistance programs and debt management.

Joe’s personal volunteer efforts span across all of the organization’s initiatives, whether it be event planning or fundraising. For example, in 2015 Joe lent his brokerage building and parking lot to host a “Basket Brigade,” an event that resulted in the Thanksgiving-time donation of 500 baskets filled with donated food and gift cards. He also encourages real estate agents, including those on the other side of his transactions, to donate a portion of their commissions to Housing 4 All. Joe even provides the Housing 4 All website!

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Visit http://housing4allinc.org/ to learn more about the program and to donate.

 

Searching for a Orlando/Central Florida home? Play the game of nines.

Home Puzzle

When you’re searching for a new home here in Orlando/Central Florida you have a fair idea of what you want and don’t want, so take the time to really nail it down. Sit down with those who will share your new home and come up with three lists of nine.

Home Puzzle

  • The first list is things you either must have or “really, really want” in your new home.
  • The second list is for things you’d like, but they aren’t truly necessary.
  • The third list is things you don’t want at all.

For instance, you may absolutely need an extra room to use as a home office. You might also need an oversized garage to house toys or an antique car. Perhaps you’re an avid gardener and “must have” sunny space in the yard for a garden.

Put those at the top of the first list, right along with the number of bedrooms and baths you must have. And do think that over carefully – if you have 5 children, do they really need separate bedrooms or could you substitute 2 or 3 large bedrooms? And what about you – do you really need a separate bathroom all your own – or space for an easy chair and table in the corner of your bedroom? Or can those features go at the bottom of the list?

The second list might contain things like a bay window, storage under the stairs, or a skylight.

Then, the things you absolutely don’t want. For instance, you might not want a location in the flight path of the local airport or within smelling distance of a feedlot. I met a man once who absolutely didn’t want an extra bedroom, because he didn’t want to make it convenient for guests to spend the night.

Perhaps you won’t be able to list 9 items on each list. If that’s the case, finding your new Orlando/Central Florida home will be much easier.

Before you begin viewing homes, make several copies of your lists and take them along when you tour. Make notes as you view each home. This will help you avoid confusion as you compare one house to another and try to remember the various features and benefits of each.

Do be sure to give your agent a copy of your lists ahead of time.

Because we know the area and because we’re out showing homes every day, we know the inventory and will be able to save you time by eliminating homes that are missing things on your “Must have” list or that contain things on your “absolutely don’t want” list.

When you’re ready to find a home in Orlando/Central Florida, call me. I’ll be happy to work with your needs, wants, and “don’t wants” to find you the perfect home.

What Orlando Home Buyers Should Consider First

When you want to buy a home in Orlando you have quite a few things to consider, but two things should be primary:

  •  The Price
  •  The Location

First, the price. It can be oh-so-tempting to spend all your lender says you can afford. But should you do it?

The lender doesn’t know anything about your life and what you like to do with your money. He or she doesn’t know that you love to go to concerts or attend sporting events. He doesn’t know that you’re taking piano lessons or that your daughter is in a pricey private school. She doesn’t know that the week at the beach or the ski mountain each year is vital to your well-being.

Take what the lender tells you and then scale it back to leave room for the other things that are important in your life. If the lender says you can spend $X and your payment will be $Y – ask what you can spend when your payment is $Y minus the dollars you want to keep for enjoying life.

And then the location. Location is vital to quality of life for a couple of reasons.

First, you want to be able to enjoy your home. Part of that is enjoying the neighborhood, and the neighbors.  By law, your agent is not allowed to steer you toward a neighborhood with people who share your interests, values, family make-up, etc. But you can do some driving around and look for yourself. You can even stop and talk to some people and ask about the neighborhood.

Second, you want to be able to spend time in your home rather than on the road.  Look for a location with a fast commute to school, work, or the recreational pursuits you enjoy. The dollars you might save in choosing a home 30 miles out will be more than used up in the gasoline you’ll buy over the years – to say nothing of the hours of “home time” you’ll miss.

When you’re ready to find your new Orlando home, get in touch. I’ll be pleased to help you find a home that fits the budget that you determine, in a location that suits your lifestyle.

Sell your home faster with great curb appeal

When your Orlando home is for sale, its curb appeal will have a tremendous impact on your success for two reasons:
  1. If prospects don’t like the looks of the exterior, they might decide not to come in at all. (Yes, I’ve had that happen.)
  2. If the yard and the exterior of the house look neglected and they decide to come in anyway, they’ll automatically be looking for proof that the interior of the house hasn’t been well maintained. Conversely, if the outside says “WOW,” they’ll expect to see the same inside. And strangely enough, we humans to see what we expect to see.
If your home is on the market, use this checklist to make sure your prospective buyers enter your front door expecting to see a well-maintained, attractive home – one that says “Wow!”
Curb Appeal Checklist:
The house itself:
  1.  Power wash and repaint if necessary.
  2. Scrape and re-paint any and all peeling trim
  3. Check the front door for scuffs and scratches – repaint with an appealing color or even replace it with a nicer looking door. Check the back door and repaint if necessary. If you have pets be sure to check for and remove muddy prints from the doors every day.
  4. Screen doors – make sure all screens are in good repair, hinges are tight, and the handle/ latch works properly.
  5. Window screens – wash, then repair any torn screens.
  6. Replace cracked windows.
  7. Clean the gutters.
  8. Check all window frames and door frames for spider webs. Those critters work fast, so if your family usually uses the back door, check the front door daily.
  9. Check your porch lights for unsightly bugs and burned-out bulbs.
The yard:
  1. Keep the grass watered, mowed, and edged.
  2. Trim or remove overgrown plantings – let people see the house!
  3. Add color with flower beds or potted plants on porch or steps.
  4. Add fresh mulch to the flower beds and around the shrubs and ornamental bushes.
  5. Check the fence and gate for sags. If it needs new paint, paint it.
  6. Add an attractive doormat.
  7. Pick up and put away/dispose of everything that doesn’t belong – check for and remove kids’ toys, flyers, candy wrappers, hoses, gardening tools, etc. every day.
  8. Power wash and remove oil stains from the driveway.

Need to sell your Orlando home before you can buy? Avoid this mistake

Do you need to sell your home in Orlando before you can buy?

If so, you naturally need to know what a new home will cost and whether you’ll qualify for the payments. You don’t want to let go of your present home only find that you can’t purchase a new one! That said, you should do a little looking on line and speak with a mortgage lender before going any further.  Looking on line will give you a good idea of pricing on homes of the size you need in the neighborhoods you want. You’ll likely see a wide range, because some of those homes will be in top condition and some won’t. Assume that the home you’ll choose will be at the high end of the range.

 

Speaking with a lender will tell you whether you’ll qualify for a purchase at that price.  BUT – Don’t make the mistake of shopping for that new home just yet! Wait until you’ve listed your present Orlando home and have accepted an offer from a qualified buyer.  Shopping for a new home before you have the ability to make a purchase can cost you money and lead to disappointment.  Very few sellers will accept an offer contingent on the sale of a house that is not yet under contract. It just doesn’t make sense for them to take their house off the market on the chance that your house will sell and you’ll be able to close. Of course, a few will do it if you’re willing to put down a sizeable non-refundable earnest money deposit.  Even if you do already have an offer on your current home, sellers are wise to be cautious and will perhaps counter with a “bump clause” allowing them to accept a different offer if you can’t close within the specified time frame.  If by chance the seller does accept your offer, you’ll have put yourself in another difficult situation – that of needing to sell your present house quickly. That, in turn, means you’ll be more likely to accept a low offer just to get it done.  The need to hurry could cost you thousands of dollars.

 

So what else will happen if you shop too soon?  The worst case: You’ll find “the perfect house” and you won’t be able to buy it. And after that, no other house will measure up. Even if you find a different home that in reality is a better fit for you and yours, you’ll always think the other one would have been better.  

 

My advice: Exercise patience. First, list your home at its current market value. Then do all you can to make it attractive, appealing, and accessible to qualified buyers and their agents. Then negotiate reasonably and get that home under contract.  Once your house is under contract with a solid buyer, start shopping for your new Orlando home.

Cheaper to buy a home than rent!

One more reason to buy a home… Cheaper to buy a home than rent! When the real estate bubble burst, millions of Americans, many right here in Central Florida, found themselves out of their homes, but still needing a roof over their heads.  They became renters.  And then, in perfect accord with the laws of supply and demand, rents began to rise.  Now as many as 3 million former homeowners are expected to rebound and become homeowners again within the next five years.  In the meantime, investment property owners in many areas can almost name their rental rates – so they do.

Right now, studies are showing that it’s 35% cheaper to buy than to rent, and that’s not apt to change soon. If you’re renting, you should expect to pay more next year than this year – and even more the next year and the next. Meanwhile, if you purchase a home with a fixed rate of interest, the only parts of your monthly payment that could go up are the taxes and insurance. As your income rises, your base housing expense will not.
In the panic immediately following the housing crash, banks tightened their policies and most loans required 20% down. But that’s changed. If you haven’t checked into home ownership lately, you may not be aware that there are once again loan programs offering down payments as low as 3% – and zero percent for veterans. You do still need to have a steady income, a good credit rating, and a minimum of debt – but that protects you as much as it protects the bank.  If you want to own a home, visit a local mortgage broker and find out where you stand.
Do you need a few more reasons to consider owning your own Central Florida home soon? Here are a few:
  • Right now, you are buying a house – but it’s for your landlord.
  • You’re not building any equity.
  • You’re not getting any Federal income tax deductions for your housing expense.
  • You’re not putting down any roots.
  • Your landlord could decide not to renew your lease at any time.
  • Your landlord could fail to make his or her payments – and “your” house or apartment could be foreclosed upon.
  • You need permission to paint a room or hang a picture. In fact, you can’t do much of anything to personalize your space.
  • You need permission to own a dog or a cat – or to plant a garden.
  • Every year you wait rents will go up and home prices will go up. And one of these days – interest rates will go up.
Are you ready? So call. I’ll be happy to put you in touch with a couple of lenders I trust so you can get pre-approved. Then I’d love to take you shopping.

“For Sale by Owner” Homes Sell for 13% Less – Why?

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You may have heard that homes offered “For sale by owner” sell for 13% less than homes listed with a real estate brokerage. For years we’ve heard that it was simply a difference in the value of the homes. The feeling was that people with lower priced homes were more likely to want to save the cost of the commission.

Recent research from the National Association of Realtors suggests different reasons. First and probably most significant is that homes listed with agents get extensive Internet coverage while “for sale by owner” homes get little to none. With 92% of home buyers now searching on line, those homes are simply “not seen” by the majority of home buyers and are not given the benefit of marketplace competition. Research shows that 44% of homes sold by owner are sold to people already acquainted with the seller. Does that make the seller less likely to press for market value? Or is it because those sellers don’t have access to the latest sales figures and thus don’t KNOW the market value?

The unfortunate thing about this kind of research is that it doesn’t answer all of the questions. Only about 15% are sold to people who approached the seller directly. The rest went to buyers who were represented by an agent – very likely an agent who is well-practiced and skilled in negotiating with sellers. That may be another reason why unrepresented homeowners sell for less. The real estate commission on a sale of a home is usually between 5% and 7%. The average “loss” to a homeowner for selling without an agent is 13%. Of course averages are just averages. Some homeowners do save some or all of that 5 to 7%. Others lose far more than the 6 to 8% difference between the commission and the reduction in price.

Of course, the ultimate selling price is only part of what homeowners need to consider before making the decision to hire an agent or go it alone. The other factor is the work involved. Without an agent, sellers have to do their part in keeping the house ready to show; then they have to do the agent’s part in showing, advertising, negotiating, and monitoring the details of a transaction.

Which path is right for you as you ponder the sale of your Central Florida home? It’s a question that deserves careful consideration.

View my profile & recommendations on Zillow & Trulia.