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The Safety and Security of Your Home

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A quick once-over of the items on this list may improve the safety and security of your home and could protect your family and friends. It is important to periodically pay attention to these things because things change over time.

Security

  • Does each exterior door have a deadbolt?
  • Does the lock on each window work?
  • Have you added pins or clips to your windows for additional security?
  • Do you have dowels or broom sticks in the track of windows and sliding glass doors?
  • Do you have security company labels or signs displayed prominently?
  • Do you have an alarm system? Is the system monitored?
  • Do you have a dog that barks when strangers approach the home?
  • Are emergency numbers posted near the telephones?

Fire

  • Do you have smoke detectors near all sleeping areas?
  • Do you check the batteries monthly and change them annually?
  • Do you have two carbon monoxide detectors?
  • Do you have an escape ladder for upper floors?
  • Do you have fire extinguishers near exits and in the kitchen?
  • Do you have an emergency escape plan and is the family familiar with it?
  • Are any outlets or switches warm to the touch?
  • Are kitchen ventilation systems working properly?
  • Is the dryer ventilated to the outside and is the exhaust free of lint?
  • Is the furnace cleaned and serviced yearly?
  • Is the space around the hot water heater clear of combustible materials?

Falls

  • Are all electrical and phone cords out of the flow of traffic?
  • Are rugs and runners slip resistant?
  • Is your step-stool sturdy and in good condition?
  • Are stairs clear of objects that could cause a fall?
  • Are all entrance ways, exits, halls and walks well lighted?
  • Do bath tubs and showers have non-skid strips or suction mats in them?

Other

  • Do you keep drugs and medicines out of reach and sight of small children?
  • Are interior doors designed so small children cannot lock themselves in rooms?
  • Are pool and play areas fenced to keep small children in and uninvited guests out?
  • Are firearms kept out of reach and sight of children?
  • Is a well-stocked first aid kit available for emergencies?
  • Is there one member of your family trained in first aid, CPR and the Heimlich maneuver?

Home Loan Pre-Approval Benefits

ImageProxy.mvcThe benefits of buyer’s loan pre-approval are without question.  Pre-approval is good for the buyers, the sellers and the agents. It saves time, money and removes the uncertainty of knowing whether the buyer is qualified. The direct benefits include:

  • Amount the buyer can borrow decreases as interest rates rise
  • Looking at “Right” homes – price, size, amenities, location
  • Find the best loan – rate, term, type
  • Uncover credit issues early – time to cure possible problems
  • Bargaining power – price, terms, & timing
  • Close faster – verifications have been made

There a big difference in sitting down with a trusted mortgage professional compared to going through calculators on a website. The cost of being pre-approved is a bargain and generally, limited to the cost of the credit report.

Even if you have been pre-approved for a home loan, it might be a good idea to get a second opinion from a different lender. It will either verify that you have a good deal or you’ll discover that you can improve it. Either way, it works to your advantage. Contact me if you’d like a recommendation.

Keep Your Home Safe

Home is a place you should feel safe and secure. Sometimes, we take it for granted and unfortunately, we do need to remain vigilant about things we do that could compromise our well-being. Here are a few tips you might want to consider.

  1. Everyone loves an inviting home – including burglars. Make sure it looks occupied and is difficult to break in.
    • Always lock outside doors and windows even if you’re gone only a short time.
    • Leave lights on when you leave. Consider timers to automatically control the lights.
    • Keep your garage door closed even when you’re home; don’t tempt thieves with what you have in your garage.
    • Suspend your mail and newspaper delivery when you’re out of town or get a neighbor to pick it up for you.
  2. Posting that you’re out of town or away from home on social networks is like advertising your home is unprotected.
  3. Equally dangerous could be allowing certain social network sites to track your location.
  4. Don’t leave keys under doormats, in flowerpots or the plastic rocks; thieves know about those hiding places and even more than you can think.
  5. Trim the shrubs from around your home; don’t give criminals a place to hide.

Have You Backed Up Your Home?

Personal computers have been around long enough that everyone has experienced or knows someone who has lost their data due to a hard drive crash, accident or burglary. If they had a backup, the loss was inconvenient but not critical.

Do you have a backup for your personal belongings? Not that you need duplicates of all the items but do you have a journal listing of all the items with a description and their approximate values? That record becomes the backup that supports the claim for your insurance.

If a building sustains a total loss, the insurance company will usually pay the face amount of the policy. When it comes to personal property which might be 40% to 50% of the insured value of the dwelling, the insurance company is going to expect an accounting with receipts or at least, a relatively recent inventory.

The better your inventory, the less likely you’ll have difficulty with the claim. Almost everyone has a digital camera that can take stills and probably even videos. The combination of the images as well as a written description will help you replace the belongings and serve as proof to the insurance company.

Once you’ve made the inventory, store it off site for safe keeping. Online storage in the “cloud” might be the best place to insure you’ll always know where it is. Contact me for a free Home Inventory form; it’s my way of helping you be a better homeowner.

15 Year vs. 30 Year Mortgage

Whether you’re refinancing your current home or buying a new one, something worth considering is a 15 year loan rather than a 30 year term. The payments will be a little higher but you’ll get a lower interest rate and you’ll build equity much faster.

Let’s look at an example of a $200,000 mortgage with the choice of a 30 year term with a 3.75% rate compared to a 15 year term with a 2.875% rate. The payments would be $442.94 higher on the shorter term but the equity would be considerably higher even after you adjust for the higher payments.

Another benefit is that the shorter term loan creates a forced savings situation where the savings on a longer term loan might end up being spent rather than being saved and invested. Contact me if you’d like a recommendation of a trusted lender.

Buyers Must Act Fast to Get Their Dream Home

Denver Housing Market Second in Nation for Quick Sales

By Steve Raabe The Denver Post The Denver Post

Posted: Denver Post.com

April 19, 2012

New advice from the trenches on buying a home: Look early. Think fast. Hone your quick-draw skills with the checkbook.

Metro Denver’s real estate market, not long ago a buyer’s domain, suddenly has shifted to a seller’s paradise, at least in some neighborhoods and price ranges.

Realtors’ offices are rife with fresh anecdotes of sellers happily cherry-picking from multiple offers — some of them above the asking price.

How fast is the market moving? A new report shows that Denver is No. 2 in the nation for the shortest length of time that a home is listed before being sold — 33 days — far below the national median of 89 days.

Until recently, prospective buyer Patty Kupfer had viewed shopping for a home as a weekend diversion. You know, tell your broker that you’re available, say, from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Hah.

“There’s no such thing anymore as a weekend home tour,” Kupfer said this week. “Because if you wait till the weekend, nothing’s going to be there. If you’re just looking casually, you’re not really in the market.”

Kupfer, managing director of a non-profit immigration-reform organization, said she has adjusted her approach in the face of vigorous competition from other buyers. “Every house I’ve looked at has gone under contract within 48 hours,” she said. “This has forced me to be more serious about it. The very next house that seems like a good fit, we’re going to visit it that very day (it’s first listed).”

In recent months, buyer demand has surged and the number of homes for sale in metro Denver has dropped sharply.  Unsold homes on the market totaled 10,325 at the end of March, a 42 percent drop from March 2011.  The result is that for some neighborhoods and some price ranges, homes are in short supply and selling fast. In particularly high demand are homes priced from $250,000 to $400,000 and in central Denver neighborhoods such as Park Hill, Congress Park, Curtis Park, Mayfair and the Highlands, said Michelle Ackerman, Denver-area manager and broker for Redfin.

Even though metro Denver homes have shown only marginal price appreciation so far this year, realty analysts say strong demand and multiple offers could soon push values higher in lower to moderate price ranges.

One factor that makes price predictions difficult is foreclosures. Lenders hold an estimated 1,650 foreclosed properties in metro Denver that haven’t been put on the market, according to data compiled by Redfin.  As the market strengthens, more foreclosures will be listed for sale, which in turn could slow down price appreciation.

Sellers of homes listed for more than $500,000 generally aren’t enjoying the market heat.  “Once you move above $500K, inventory widens dramatically and prices are still down, and arguably falling,” Ackerman said.  Elsewhere, inventories are low and urgency among buyers is high.

Joshua Kurdys and Ileana Sadin, recent arrivals to Denver from State College, Pa., found the Denver market to be an exercise in frustration.  “You’d go out and see five or 10 houses, and the one house that was decent would be snatched up immediately” by other buyers, Kurdys said.  After several failed offers in central Denver neighborhoods, the couple decided to expand their geographic parameters, accelerate their pace and be willing to bid higher.  “It was very apparent that if we didn’t make an offer at very close to asking price, we weren’t going to get it,” Kurdys said.  The strategy worked. They recently targeted a newly listed home in Curtis Park, made a 9 a.m. appointment to see it and submitted an almost full-price offer the same day. They now have it under contract.

What can be a frustrating endeavor for buyers is a pleasant relief for sellers. Connie Ulrich was anticipating the worst in attempting to sell her three-bedroom home in the Northbrook subdivision of Thornton.  But within a month of listing the home, she’d had 34 showings. “We had so many showings, it was just insane,” she said. “I never expected it to be so busy.” Listed at $254,000, the home now is under contract for $256,000.

“There is a shortage of good product,” said broker Rhonda Knop of Distinctive Properties. “If it’s priced right and shows well, it is selling.”

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948 or sraabe@denverpost.com

Mortgage Interest Deduction

A recent U.S. Tax Court ruling clarified the IRS position that the $1.1 million limit for mortgage interest deduction applies per residence and not per taxpayer as some high-priced homeowners were hoping.

A married homeowner filing jointly can have fullly deductible interest on a mortgage of up to $1,000,000 of acquisition debt and up to an additional $100,000 of home equity debt. If the married couple files separately, each party is limited to deducting the interest on half of those maximum amounts.

The court case came about when two unmarried individuals who owned a home together as joint tenants felt that they were entitled to deduct the interest on $1.1 million of debt each. IRS did not agree with their understanding and neither did the Tax Court. The Court ruled that the limits apply per residence, not per taxpayer even if a home is co-owned by unmarried taxpayers.

The result for the taxpayers in this case was that their deduction was cut in half resulting in much more income tax due. While this situation only affects a few taxpayers, homeowners in this position should have a discussion with their tax professional.

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