Richard Parke
Richard Parke

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Buying a Home for the First Time? What You Should Know About Warranties

July 11, 2016 1:25 am


Home service contracts, or home warranties, are an important consideration in the home-buying process, especially for new homeowners.

“Homes are a major financial investment, and repairs and replacements on appliances and major systems can cost anywhere from $700 to more than $3,500,” explains Tim Meenan, CEO and executive director of the Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC). “While new homeowners face numerous expenses, a home service contract can guard against these unexpected pricey repairs and replacements.”

Generally, a home service contract covers repair or replacement costs of major systems or appliances that fail within the contract period—often one year. This may include coverage of the home’s electrical system, HVAC unit and plumbing system. Typically, the contract can be renewed annually. Most contracts come with a nominal service fee, paid at the time of the incident.

Aside from monetary coverage, the home service contract provider will refer the buyer to a vetted contractor who can perform repair or replacement work—a boon to buyers new to an area.

Most homeowners with home service contracts call upon the contract provider two times or more each year.

The SCIC strongly recommends first-time homebuyers negotiate a home service contract before committing to a home. If you’re new to home-buying, discuss your options with your real estate professional—he or she can offer counsel for your circumstances.

The peace of mind, Meenan says, is worth it.

Source: Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Out There: Rent…or Live on a Cruise Ship?

July 8, 2016 1:19 am


Rents in the U.S. are on the rise, limiting housing options for many. While the industry is working to address affordability concerns, one search engine has developed an alternative solution.

According to a report by CruiseWatch, a cruise search engine, renters in some cities are better off cruising on a ship continuously for a year than paying rent for the same period.

“To go on non-stop cruises and save some money is an impressive proposition,” said Britta Bernhard, co-founder of CruiseWatch, in a statement.

We’ll let that, ahem, sink in.

Using Census Bureau data and their own cruise statistics, the search engine compared cost-of-living expenses to cruise prices.

The average rental household in New York City, for instance, spends approximately $637 a week on living expenses, compared to the $313.25 per-week average for a cruise—a savings of over $16,500 a year.

The average household in Honolulu, on the other hand, would save over $7,500 a year cruising instead of renting. Those in Los Angeles would save $2,058 a year; those in San Francisco would save $7,154 a year; those in Stamford, Conn. would save $3,878 a year.

Cruisers can expect the most savings starting their year-long cruise in winter, when prices are at their lowest, according to the report.

Cruising for an entire year is enticing. Would you pay for a cruise instead of paying for rent?

Source: CruiseWatch
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Aging-in-Place Primer: Lots of Risks Lurking

July 8, 2016 1:19 am


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) 2013 report, “Consumer Product-Related Injuries to Persons 65 Years of Age and Older,” shed light on the aging-in-place risks facing those who remain in their homes as they age. The report, which assessed the products most associated with injuries and fatalities, revealed most incidents involved falls.

The CPSC recently developed a companion report evaluating incidents unrelated to falls. According to the report, nearly 30 percent of product-related fatalities reported to the CPSC were not as a result of a fall. The most fatal non-fall hazards include:

• ‘Swimming Activity, Pools, Equipment’ (379 incidents)
• ‘Clothing, All’ (Fire-Related) (293 incidents)
• ‘Bathtub and Shower Structures’ (253 incidents)
• ‘Cigarettes, etc., Lighters, Fuel’ (252 incidents)
• ‘Home Fires/CO/Gas Vapors with Unknown Product’ (244 incidents)
• ‘ATVs, Mopeds, Minibikes, etc.’ (174 incidents)
• ‘Cooking Ranges, Ovens, etc.’ (165 incidents)

Non-fall fatalities were reported more by adults age 65 to 69 than those older, the report found. (In contrast, fall-related fatalities peak between the ages of 84 and 89.)

With the life expectancy of the average American rising from 70.8 years in 1970 to close to 80 today, it is important for homeowners aging-in-place to understand the risks associated with products in their homes.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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America's Best Bargain Beach Towns

July 8, 2016 1:19 am


Looking to settle seaside? Beachfront property can be a sound investment for vacation- and profit-seekers, but it comes at a premium in most coastal markets.

All is not lost! Some beach towns are within reach—if you know where to look. Housing data source RealtyTrac® recently ranked the best bargain beach towns in the country, based on factors such as median home price and average summer temperature. The top 15 are:

1. Keansburg, N.J.
2. Mastic Beach, N.Y.
3. Crisfield, Md.
4. Riverside, R.I.
5. Palm Beach, Fla.
6. Emerald Isle, N.C.
7. Dauphin Island, Ala.
8. Madison, Conn.
9. Florence, Ore.
10. Bethany Beach, Del.
11. Fort Bragg, Calif.
12. Vashon, Wash.
13. Kihei, Hawaii
14. Pawleys Island, S.C.
15. Port Aransas, Texas

“Buying a second home or investment property in a beach town can help families save on summer vacations for years to come and also potentially generate vacation rental income,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, in a statement. “While real estate close to the ocean tends to be pricier, bargains are still available, particularly in smaller towns off the beaten path where home prices have been slower to bounce back from the housing downturn.”

The RealtyTrac analysis examined more than 1,000 cities in coastal counties across the nation, compiling the ranking based on the top 15 states that met “bargain” criteria.

Source: RealtyTrac®
 

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Is It Time to Evaluate Your Trees? Pt. 2

July 7, 2016 1:16 am


In our last segment (Is It Time to Evaluate Your Trees? Pt.1), we introduced risk assessment measures homeowners might consider taking for the trees on their property. In this segment, we’ll dig into the methods and qualifications needed to carry out an assessment.

An arborist certified by the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) (TreeCareTips.org) can be beneficial when determining the safety of the trees on your property. The arborist, guided by ANSI A300 standards, will systematically evaluate your trees for risk in three levels.

Level 1: The arborist will view the tree(s) in question, whether in person or through photographs.

Level 2: The arborist will complete a 360-degree, ground-level observation of the tree or trees in question, examining the roots, trunk and crown for structural defects.

Level 3: The arborist will perform advanced diagnostic procedures, which may include extracting samples for lab analysis.

The arborist’s risk assessment method may vary between the following:

1. International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Tree Hazard Evaluation Method
2. ISA Tree Risk Assessment Best Management Practice (BMP) Method
3. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service Community Tree Risk Evaluation Method

The first method is impractical when assessing one or a few trees on a residential property—in a recent study, it was determined the method “runs the risk of being misused by commercial or consulting arborists who inspect individual trees in a residential setting.”

The same study revealed the third method, though adequate, may sacrifice detail, especially with regard to the tree’s condition and site history.

The second method, according to the study, is most appropriate for residential properties. It develops a list of multiple targets for a single tree, generating a “flexible, yet standardized means of coping with multifaceted assessment scenarios.” The disadvantage to this method, however, is the time needed to complete the assessment, the study found.

Consult with your arborist to determine which method will be suitable to assess the trees on your property. He or she may combine facets of two or three to carry out a comprehensive evaluation.
 

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The Top 20 Cities for Retirees

July 7, 2016 1:16 am


Many homeowners are planning to relocate as they transition to retirement—for some, those plans involve moving to a new city, or even a new state.

Bankrate.com recently ranked the top cities for retirees, based on factors ranging from cost of living and walkability.

“We found that smaller cities and suburbs fared the best,” said Bankrate.com Analyst Jill Cornfield in a statement. “Most seniors prefer to live in these types of communities because they offer access to big-city amenities without as much hustle, bustle and crime.”

The top 20 cities in the ranking:

1. Arlington, Va.
2. Alexandria, Va.
3. Franklin, Tenn.
4. Silver Spring, Md.
5. West Des Moines, Iowa
6. Nashville, Tenn.
7. Sarasota, Fla.
8. Rockville, Md.
9. Des Moines, Iowa
10. Murfreesboro, Tenn.
11. Scottsdale, Ariz.
12. Round Rock, Texas
13. Mesa, Ariz.
14. Bradenton, Fla.
15. Glendale, Calif.
16. Austin, Texas
17. Phoenix, Ariz.
18. Cape Coral, Fla.
19. North Port, Fla.
20. Charleston, S.C.

Bankrate.com’s ranking encompasses 196 cities in total. To see if your city made the cut, visit www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/ranking-best-worst-cities-to-retire-1.aspx.

Source: Bankrate.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Does Your HOA Have a Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan?

July 7, 2016 1:16 am


Wildfires can ignite anywhere, even beyond areas with drier climates. As a homeowner, understanding your risk is important.

Wildfire has become a topic of concern in homeowner community associations, a trend recently explored in the article “Where There’s Smoke” by the Community Associations Institute (CAI). In the article, CAI cites a record statistic: over 10 million acres were impacted by wildfire last year—more land than Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island combined.

What’s more, the article states over 3,000 homes in the wildland-urban interface—zones adjacent to unoccupied land and therefore at risk for wildfire—have been destroyed each year since 2000. Several factors are fanning the flames, including climate change and development.

To stave off the threat, community associations are leveraging risk mitigation programs. Your association may be following guidelines set forth by the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Firewise Communities program, which reduces undergrowth and tinder—fuel sources for wildfire—in residential developments. According to the article, mitigation steps may include:

• Clearing storm debris;
• Inhibiting landscape overgrowth; and
• Maintaining a fire break between residences and “native areas.”

Association policies, such as requiring water hoses or prohibiting charcoal grills, may also be imposed to reduce risk.

Obtaining sufficient insurance coverage—in addition to adhering to association policies—is crucial. The CAI article recommends you keep a digital inventory of your belongings in order to expedite the claims process should wildfire damage or destruction occur.

Seek out your association representative to learn more about your community’s wildfire risk mitigation plan. Discuss evacuation procedures and any other measures that may be enacted in the event of a wildfire.

For more information on wildfires, read the CAI article in full: http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/In_the_Line_of_Fire/2507995/310123/article.html.

Source: Community Associations Institute (CAI)
 

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5 Smart Things to Do with $1,000

July 6, 2016 1:13 am


It’s a great feeling: you received a hard-earned bonus at work, or an unexpected gift from a relative. The impulse to buy something you pine for is strong.

Before you spend that $1,000, think what it can help accomplish if you take one of these five steps, say investment advisors at the Motley Fool:

1. Create an Emergency Fund – Statistics say 62 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings—not nearly enough to pay for emergencies. If you’re one of them, take that $1,000 to the bank and crank up your emergency fund. You’ll feel a lot better when you find your car needs repair and you don’t have to haul out the plastic!

2. Pay Off Debt – Carrying credit card balances wastes money on interest payments, affording you less spend-able cash. Use that $1,000 to pay down debt, which may also improve your credit score—ideal if you need to borrow money or apply for a home loan down the line.

3. Save for Retirement – Add that $1,000 to your 401(k), IRA or savings account. Those in their 30s who invest it in stocks could generate an average annual return of 8 percent—or, if you put it into savings, could grow it to $15,000 by age 65.

4. Invest in Your Child’s Education – While student loans are an option, the less debt your kids take on, the better positioned they’ll be to start adulthood on financially solid ground. If you’re on track for retirement, have adequate emergency savings, and aren’t carrying credit card debt, put that $1,000 in a traditional brokerage account, a 529 or another type of college savings plan.

5. Invest in Yourself – If a degree or certification stands between you and a promotion and a raise—or if you plan to launch a side business or a new career—put that $1,000 windfall into making your dream a reality.
 

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Report: Rents Stabilizing

July 6, 2016 1:13 am


Out-of-this-world rents may soon come back down to Earth.

Nationwide, rents are trending upward, but only steadily so, with the average rent at $1,277, according to a recent report by Axiometrics, provider of comprehensive apartment market intelligence.

“Annual effective rent growth” was 3.7 percent in the second quarter of 2016, down from a rate of 5.1 percent one year ago. This measurement, determined by Axiometrics, was positive in nearly 100 percent of the data provider’s top 50 rental markets.

Still, some rental markets in metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) lie outside of the trend. The top 10 MSAs for annual effective rent growth, according to the report, are:

1. Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, Calif. (10.4 percent)

2. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (7.9 percent)

3. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. (7.6 percent)

4. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash. (7.4 percent)

5. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (7.3 percent)

6. Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas (6.7 percent)

7. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (6.6 percent)

8. (TIE)

• Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn. (6.3 percent)
• Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. (6.3 percent)
• Salt Lake City, Utah (6.3 percent)
• Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev. (6.3 percent)
• San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif. (6.3 percent)

9. (TIE)

• West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, Fla. (5.8 percent)
• Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Ga. (5.8 percent)

10. Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (5.5 percent)

Overall, annual effective rent growth is concentrated in markets in the West and South, which boast encouraging employment prospects. Rents in these markets are expected to grow, and some outside of marginal increases, in the future.

Source: Axiometrics
 

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Buying a Home? Tips to Grow Your Down Payment

July 6, 2016 1:13 am


A down payment is an initial payment made by a homebuyer with financing, generally ranging from 5 to 20 percent of the home’s value, according to the American Bankers Association (ABA) Foundation.

A down payment of 20 percent will save the expense of private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is often imposed on borrowers who finance more than 80 percent of their purchase, and can also result in a lower mortgage interest rate.

To grow your down payment to 20 percent, the ABA Foundation recommends:

Saving – Open a separate savings account strictly for your down payment. Setting these funds aside from other types of savings will reduce the chance you’ll draw from it in times of need.

Budgeting – Your down payment will depend on the amount you plan to spend on a home. Assess your current financial obligations to determine how much you can save each month toward the down payment. Consider that many obligations can be reduced or even eliminated.

Tracking – Keeps tabs on the discretionary income you spend—this can help pinpoint areas where you can spend less and save more.

Researching – You may be able to save more with a down payment assistance or other housing-related program. Discuss the options available in your area with your real estate professional.

Bear in mind a 20-percent down payment is not a necessity, and ultimately, your budget and savings will determine the percentage. Contact a real estate professional for further guidance.

Source: American Bankers Association (ABA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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