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5 Reasons Your Home is Overflowing

Clearing out clutter is key to staging a home for sale, and it’s the best way to make a room look more organized and spacious. Bottles, cans and other items that pile up can make a cabinet or shelf look crowded. Getting rid of some of these items can be a small step toward a more appealing home. Here are some items you can cut down on:

1. Cleaning Supplies
The cabinet under the sink is a gathering space for polishes, waxes, cleaners and tools that are collecting dust. Get rid of anything you don’t use, and be sure to dispose of chemical-based cleaners safely. You know that dusting tool you bought because an infomercial made it seem like a miracle cleaning product? If it’s in the back of your cabinet, forgotten and neglected, toss it. After you’ve thrown out the excess items, clean out the cabinet itself and organize the remaining contents.

2. Grooming Products
How many lotions and gels does one household need? All bathrooms seem to have dozens of bottles that haven’t been opened in years. Go through everything and throw out what you don’t use on a regular basis. Also, throw out old makeup and bottles that are nearly empty. Clean the items you are keeping and place them neatly in your medicine cabinet.

3. Medicines
This is actually important for reasons other than staging a home. Unneeded prescriptions can be dangerous, and out of date medications often lose their effectiveness. Disposing of medications safely is of vital importance. Many towns have “take-back” programs that collect unused medicines. If that’s not an option, the FDA recommends mixing medicines with dirt, kitty litter or coffee grounds and placing the mixture in a sealed plastic bag before throwing it in the garbage. Also, scratch out personal information on bottle labels.

4. Mugs
All those coffee and tea mugs you’ve collected over the years can make your kitchen cabinets seem messy. Get rid of the mugs you don’t need—have a yard sale or donate them to a thrift store or local senior center.

5. Magazines
Let’s face it, you’re never going to read those 10-year-old copies of National Geographic or Sports Illustrated. A few magazines that are well displayed on a coffee table can be a nice touch, but if you have back issues of your favorite periodicals piled up, it’s time to get rid of them. The news in them is old anyway.

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How Homeowners Insurance Covers Your Roof

A home’s roof is its most important feature, and for good reason. If the roof leaks or is damaged in some way, it can lead to a host of problems — and insurance claims.

Many home insurance companies limit how they insure roofs, so it’s worthwhile before buying home insurance to know how your roof will be covered. Here are some of the ways a roof can be covered by insurance:

Old roof may need to be replaced

Some insurers won’t renew an existing policy or issue a new one on a home with a roof that’s 20 years old or older unless it passes an inspection.

Even if they do, they may only pay actual cash value for the older roof if it’s damaged, meaning they’ll only pay for what the roof is worth at the time of the claim and not for the cost to fully replace it.

Are leaks and damage covered?

Some types of roof damage are covered by most home insurance policies: fire, vandalism, hurricanes and tornadoes. Others, such as wind, rain or hail may only be covered based on the age of the roof, or not at all.

For example, a leak on a roof that’s 10 years old may be fully covered. But a roof that’s 20 years old may only be covered for a leak for the value of the roof after 20 years of wear and tear.

If proper maintenance wasn’t done to stop a leaky roof, then only partial reimbursement or none at all may be provided.

Coverage limitations

Other than an old roof, insurers may also limit coverage for such things as having a wood shake roof. A wood shake roof or wood shingle roof may require adding an endorsement to the policy, which is a written document attached to an insurance policy that excludes or restricts coverage of those wood features. Only the actual cash value of a wood shake roof, for example, might be covered.

Insurers may also want proof that there wasn’t pre-existing damage before insurance coverage begins.

This can be assessed by a roof inspector who can give you a written report on the condition of the roof. It can include a cost estimate of repairs.

Cosmetic roof exclusions may also be included in an insurance policy. For example, a metal roof that’s damaged by hail that causes dings in the roof may not be covered because it’s considered cosmetic and doesn’t harm the durability of the roof.

For more real estate information, feel free to contact me.

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I have sold a property at D 6615 Santa Isabel St in Carlsbad

I have sold a property at D 6615 Santa Isabel St in Carlsbad. See details here

Experience this remodeled townhome located in the heart of La Costa! Features include dual master suites with a fireplace in the main bedroom, walk-in closet and master bath with large glass shower enclosure. Living room with fireplace connects with the dining area to give that generous great-room feel. Gorgeous concrete kitchen counter tops and stainless appliances. The first level bedroom would make a great home office with direct access to a private, spacious patio. All this in an amazing location close to epic shopping, restaurants, golf and beaches.

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Affordable Upgrades for Your Starter Home

You’ve just moved into your starter home—congratulations! But spare cash is limited, and you are eager to show your new home off.

Start with a few cosmetic changes, advise the money editors at Bankrate.com, who offer five easy upgrade projects that can help spruce up a tired living space for a few hundred dollars or less:

  1. Start with a power wash. It won’t cost much, but having your home’s exterior professionally power-washed will give it a fresh, bright look—and since curb appeal counts, make sure the lawn is edged, hedges are trimmed and weeds are pulled.
  2. Freshen the front door. A new fiberglass door can cost $1,000 or morebut you can get a snazzy new look by simply painting the old door and/or replacing any worn-looking hardware. (While you’re at it, you might replace a tired-looking mailbox.)
  3. Paint the interior. For a minimal investment, fresh paint makes any room look cleaner and brighter. It’s your space now, so cover those interior walls with the neutral shades or bolder colors that appeal to you.
  4. Improve the lighting. Replace old ceiling fixtures with inexpensive new designs from the home store that may cost less than you imagined. While you’re there, check out modestly priced DIY track lighting, spotlights and accent lights that can brighten and modernize any room.
  5. Spruce up the kitchen. Short of replacing cabinets or countertops, you can give your kitchen a new look on a limited budget by painting the existing woodwork and/or changing outdated door and drawer pulls. If your kitchen appliances don’t match, check with the manufacturer about ordering new doors or face panels.
  6. Buff up the bath. Adding a pedestal sink can radically and economically change the look of an older bathroom. While you’re thinking economically, you can install a new toilet for less than $200. It will not only look good, but today’s low-flush models will save you money on the water bill.
  7. Expand your storage space. Older homes are notoriously short on closet space. A quick trip to the home store can net you a variety of inexpensive closet organizers that may not add much to the look of your home, but will save you from crying over too-cramped closets.
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How to Choose the Right Mortgage Lender

Taking out a mortgage to buy a house is a huge step. The amount and terms of the loan will have a major impact on your financial picture for decades. That’s why you should choose a lender carefully.

What to Do Before You Apply

In order to qualify for an attractive interest rate, you need to prove to lenders that you are a good risk. That means you need to get your financial house in order before you start applying for a mortgage. The first step is to get copies of your credit reports and have any errors corrected. If you have a lot of credit card debt, work to pay down the balances and lower your debt-to-income ratio.

Take a hard look at your budget and figure out how much you can afford in monthly mortgage payments. A lender may approve you for a bigger loan than you can realistically handle. Write down all of your monthly expenses, look at your monthly income after taxes and figure out how much you can afford for a mortgage without stretching yourself too thin.

Applying for a Mortgage

Gather all of the information you’ll for lenders to process your application. This will include pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, a list of all financial accounts, a list of all your monthly debt payments, proof of employment and income, and information on any accounts in collection, lawsuits or bankruptcies. Lenders may have different requirements on how far back they want the records to go.

Lenders offer a wide range of interest rates, fees, points and other terms based on each applicant’s specific circumstances. Some people get the best deal from a traditional mortgage lender, while others are offered better terms by a credit union, retail lender, correspondent lender or wholesale lender. The lender that offered your friend a great rate might not offer the same rate to you, but you could get a good deal somewhere else.

If you don’t shop around, you could spend thousands of dollars more than you have to over the life of the loan. If you don’t have the time to contact multiple lenders yourself, a mortgage broker can get quotes from several lenders in exchange for a fee. Then you can compare them to make a decision.

Getting preapproved for a mortgage can help in the home-buying process because it demonstrates that you’re in good shape financially and able to move forward quickly. Once you get preapproved, you still need to carefully manage your finances. The lender may review your income, assets and debts again before finalizing the mortgage.

Choose Carefully

Obtaining a mortgage is a significant step that will impact your finances for many years to come. You should not rush it or take it lightly. Do what you can to improve your current financial situation, be realistic about what you can afford and shop around to find the most favorable terms.

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Baby-Proofing a New Home

Anytime you move into a new home, one of the most important things to consider is the safety of your little ones. Baby-proofing your home may sound like a daunting task, but spending a little time when you first move in kid-proofing the house will save you much worry as you get the rest of your house ready.

The kitchen is possibly one of the most hazardous rooms for a young child. With all the cooking utilities and electrical appliances, this room is one of the most important rooms to have childproofed.

Oven knobs are an appealing gadget for children to play with, so make sure that they are off and protected with stove knob covers. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand in the kitchen and keep it out of reach on a high pantry shelf, mounted on the wall or in a childproof cabinet.

Bathrooms can be one of the trickiest places when baby proofing your home. Implementing safeguards is imperative for your child’s safety. In order to safeguard from slips, use non-slip mats for in and out of the tub, as well as any hard-surface floors that are near the bathroom. The chances of chasing a wet toddler around the house at some point is high, so adding these non-slip mats will aid in preventing any scrapes or bruises.

It is also important to install a toilet lock so any curious little fingers don’t get caught and smashed by accident. This will also prevent the little ones from any exposure to anything unsanitary. It’s also useful to cover the tub spout in order to protect his or her head from any danger in case they fall.

In the nursery, make sure that your crib slats are 2 3/8 inches or less apart. For those with real little ones, you may want to remove all the bumpers, blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals from the baby’s crib, as some reports have indicated that children could suffocate on them. This also includes mobiles with small hanging parts.

Rather than using the plastic outlet covers we all grew up with, consider using the new innovative sliding covers instead. This prevents children from choking on the little plastic covers if they manage to get them out.

When you think, “childproofing,” a baby monitor is a must-have. Although, you want to ensure that the cords are wound tightly and are always away from the crib. There is also the option of a cordless monitor as well.

Additionally, if you have pets, be aware that pet food is a choking hazard and should not be left unattended. Either keep the pet in a room where your child can’t get to, or remove the food bowl as soon as your pet is done eating.

Interested in more real estate tips? Feel free to contact me directly!

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Financial Help for First-Time Homebuyers

Many people dream of owning a home, but it can be difficult to save enough money for a down payment and closing costs. Fortunately, federal, state and local governments offer a variety of programs to help people purchase their first home.

Federal Programs
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers insured loans, which means that the lender will not lose money if the borrower defaults on the loan. FHA loans offer smaller down payments and lower closing costs than other types of loans and have competitive interest rates. Down payment requirements depend on the borrower’s credit score.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsors the Good Neighbor Next Door program, which helps police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and teachers buy homes. In regions designated as “revitalization areas,” buyers can receive a significant discount on the purchase price, as long as they agree to live in the house for at least three years.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also offers assistance to homebuyers. The USDA guarantees loans for homes in rural areas. The properties do not need to be used as farms. Income limits and down payment requirements vary.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are entities sponsored by the federal government that offer loans to people with low- and moderate-incomes through local lenders. The loans are offered with low down payments and competitive interest rates.

Assistance for Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers home-buying assistance for active-duty members of the military, veterans and surviving spouses. The VA partially guarantees the loans and offers them with no down payment, no minimum credit score, no private mortgage insurance and competitive interest rates.

The VA also offers the Native American Veteran Direct Loan. The program helps Native American veterans and their spouses purchase houses located on federal trust lands. These loans do not require down payments or private mortgage insurance and come with low closing costs and fixed rates for 30 years.

Help With Home Improvements
Many people would like to make their homes more energy efficient to reduce their long-term energy costs. The Energy-Efficient Mortgage program allows buyers to make upgrades to improve energy efficiency without raising their down payments. The loans are insured through the FHA or VA.

Some first-time homebuyers look for inexpensive fixer-uppers. The Section 203(k) rehabilitation program, which is backed by the FHA, allows buyers to borrow money to make improvements and includes the costs in the total value of the mortgage.

Other Programs
Many states and cities also offer programs designed to help first-time homebuyers. You can learn about these programs by visiting your state or local government’s website or talking to a local real estate agent or a HUD-approved housing counseling agency.

Research Available Options
Buying a first home can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Several programs are available to help first-time buyers in a variety of circumstances. Explore your options to get help so you can be on the road to buying the home of your dreams.

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Financing Your Tiny Home Loan

Tiny homes don’t cost much, but they can require a tiny mortgage.

Unless you have $30,000 in cash to buy the average tiny home of 200 square feet, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get a mortgage on a tiny home. A mortgage requires that a home be placed on a permanent foundation, not a trailer with wheels, as many small homes are.

Most mortgage lenders have minimum loan amounts that are much higher than a tiny home budget. The typical size of a small home seldom exceeds 500 square feet. The average cost is $30,000, though it can range from $10,000 for a build-it-yourself tiny home to $100,000 or more for one from a professional builder. Such small loans may not be worth the risk to lenders.

The good news is that there are other ways to finance a tiny home:

RV Loan
If a tiny home meets the manufacturing and safety requirements to be certified roadworthy by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, it may qualify for an RV loan from a bank. The main requirement is that the home be on wheels.

Personal Loan
If a tiny home isn’t certified as an RV, or it’s not on wheels and is on a foundation, then an unsecured personal loan may work best.

This way, the borrower, not the home, is being underwritten through the loan. The tiny home isn’t used as collateral, as with a mortgage. A customer’s credit history and ability to repay will be the basis for loan approval, and they won’t have to justify how the money will be used.

However, personal loan rates can be twice as high as 30-year mortgages, though at much shorter terms of up to seven years. That can be good for a tiny-homebuyer, giving them a small loan that they can pay off within several years to then save money for other things down the road.

Traditional Mortgage
If your tiny home is going to be on a permanent foundation, that may be enough to get you in the door at a bank offering a traditional mortgage, despite the small loan amount. Even for a small loan, a bank may consider you if you have good credit and your tiny home meets the local zoning codes and licensing rules. Like an RV loan, the mortgage will be secured by the home, which is key to being able to deduct interest.

With tiny homes becoming more popular, look for more lenders to enter the market. When a need for loans is created in the marketplace, banks often find ways adapt.

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Homeowners Insurance: Things to Consider

Anyone who owns a home knows that homeowners insurance is essential. It’s coverage you need to have in the event your home suffers significant damage. But understanding just what your insurance covers is not as simple as it sounds, and reviewing your coverage regularly is a prudent idea.

Are you covered for floods? Fires? Earthquakes? All three? Does your policy provide guaranteed replacement cost—which, for obvious reasons, since houses appreciate in value, may be almost prohibitively expensive? And what about exclusions? Many homeowners aren’t sure exactly what their coverage will pay for.

Financial advisors at consumer resource The Motley Fool suggest asking yourself three pointed questions when purchasing or renewing homeowners insurance:

  1. What does it cost to build in your area? There’s no way to price disaster insurance effectively without knowing what it would cost to rebuild your home. You need to know the per-square-foot average construction cost for your zip code—a number you should be able to get from a reputable insurance agent—then multiply that by the total area of your home to get the replacement cost. Insure for that amount, and then recheck the pricing regularly.
  2. What risks does your home face? Exclusions and riders are common for homeowners insurance. In Colorado, for example, policies frequently exclude damage from mold, since mold doesn’t thrive in the state’s dry climate. Other common exclusions apply to older homes, where outdated plumbing or fixtures may lead to greater risks. Be sure you understand exactly what risks your insurer will be covering.
  3. What’s my back-up fund like? The best way to save money on a homeowners policy is by taking on a higher deductible. But the higher your deductible, the less likely you will be to put in a claim for any lesser damages that may occur. You will need to have an emergency fund large enough to cover the gap in the event you ever need to.

Interested in housing and real estate tips? Feel free to contact me directly.

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Top 3 Reasons to Buy a Condo

Those considering purchasing a new home may want to consider becoming a condo owner. Popular with every homeowner—from first-time buyers to retirees—condos offer many advantages over a traditional stand-alone property. Below are the top three.

Affordability: If you’re looking for a newly built home, a condo is likely to be less expensive than a stand-alone property. Why? Condos are often smaller in size than homes containing comparable numbers of bedrooms and baths. In addition, condos often share many building elements such as walls and roofing, so the cost of construction is often lower, resulting in lower pricing.

Low Maintenance: Condo life is a low maintenance life, as living in a condo means you’re likely paying Property Owners Association dues (POA), which cover many maintenance items such as landscaping, pest services, roofing, painting, and driveway repairs. Having so many services covered is appealing to busy professionals, parents of young children and retirees who may not feel up to mowing and raking. POA fees are typically relatively inexpensive, and for those too busy or tired to take on tasks alone, they are well worth the cost.

Amenities: Condos are all about top-notch amenities. From swimming pools and restaurants to golf courses and clubhouses with workout centers, many of today’s condo developments are filled with fantastic features. Expenses for building and maintaining these amenities are typically shared among condo owners, so you can enjoy these lux amenities at a very minimal cost.

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New property listed in Coastal North, Carlsbad

I have listed a new property at D 6615 Santa Isabel St in Carlsbad. See details here

Experience this remodeled townhome located in the heart of La Costa! Features include dual master suites with a fireplace in the main bedroom, walk-in closet and master bath with large glass shower enclosure. Living room with fireplace connects with the dining area to give that generous great-room feel. Gorgeous concrete kitchen counter tops and stainless appliances. The first level bedroom would make a great home office with direct access to a private, spacious patio. All this in an amazing location close to epic shopping, restaurants, golf and beaches.

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What You Need to Know About Flood Insurance

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the latest storms to devastate thousands of American homes, homeowners may find themselves wondering whether to consider flood insurance.

For those in areas perceived as vulnerable, it’s no decision since it’s required as a condition of their home loan. For others, it raises the same questions as other types of insurance; namely, when does the premium outweigh the actual risk? A $650 annual premium, the amount the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) cites as average, seems like a lot to pay if you never use the coverage.

Since flood damage is not covered under the average homeowner policy, Nerdwallet, a consumer advisor website, tells USA Today what factors to consider in deciding whether to purchase flood insurance:

Even a minimum amount of flooding can have disastrous financial results. According to the NFIP, one foot of water could cause $27,150 of damage to a 1,000-square-foot home. That said, if you live in a low-risk zone that has never sustained serious flood damage, weigh the coverage cost against the likelihood of filing a claim. A reasonable option might be to set aside money in a repair fund—a good idea for homeowners in any case.

Consider having the amount you’d pay in premiums automatically deposited each month into a high-yield checking or money market account, which nets better returns than simply saving cash. And check with a financial advisor because some states allow customers to place emergency funds in Catastrophe Savings Accounts exempt from state income tax. (Federal taxes still apply, and disbursements are taxed as normal if withdrawn for purposes other than flood repairs.)

Where to Buy, How to Save

Available national (NFIP) or state programs may be best, but some private insurers offer flood insurance with lower premiums, so get quotes. You can save a little by choosing a higher deductible or less coverage. Just be sure you can come through with any needed cash.

The Bottom Line

If you live in a moderate to low-risk area, check with your financial advisor or real estate agent. A flood policy in such an area could cost less than your monthly cell phone bill, and could save you money if your home sustains flood damage.

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