You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!
If you are on the market for homeowners insurance, you are probably wondering what questions you need to be asking - especially if this is your first time buying a home. You may not know what constitutes the right type or amount of coverage you need for your home - and that’s okay. Experts in the field are there to help you, and these are some of the basic questions you should ask them.
1. How much would it cost to rebuild my home in its current location in the event of a total loss?
Your homeowners insurance policy should cover the cost of building a new home completely from scratch. Your agent will have knowledge to accurately calculate this cost. Generally, homeowners policies cover partial or total damages caused by fire, hurricane, hail, lightning or any other disaster listed in your policy. Keep in mind that flood and earthquake-related losses must be insured separately, since both are excluded in standard homeowners insurance policies.
2. How much is the personal property in my home worth in the event of a total loss?
Your homeowners insurance policy should also cover the cost of replacing all personal property should it be stolen or destroyed by fire, hurricane or another disaster covered by your insurance. Typically, personal property coverage is equal to about 50-70% of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of your dwelling. So if you have $100,000 worth of dwelling protection, most insurers would recommend $50,000 to $70,000 worth of personal property coverage. The best way to determine if this recommendation is appropriate for your specific situation is to conduct a home inventory. To make creating your inventory as easy as possible The software includes secure online storage so you can access your inventory anywhere, anytime. If you have an iPhone, you can also download the new Know
3. How much liability protection do I need?
Liability covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you, or your family members, cause to other people. It also pays for damage caused by your pets. The liability portion of your policy pays for both the cost of defending you in court and any court awards—up to the limit of your policy. You are also covered not just in your home, but anywhere in the world. Liability limits generally start at about $100,000. Most insurance agents and company representatives recommend that you purchase at least $300,000 worth of liability protection. If you have significant assets and need more liability protection than is offered under the standard homeowners policy limits, ask your agent about umbrella liability.
4. What level of additional living expense coverage do I need?
The Additional Living Expenses (ALE) provision is found in standard homeowners insurance policies. It pays for the costs of living away from home if you cannot reside there due to damage from an insured disaster. ALE covers hotel bills, meals and other expenses over and above your customary living expenses. ALE coverage differs from company to company. Many policies provide coverage equal to about 20 percent of your dwelling protection. For example, if the structure of your home is insured for $100,000, you would have $20,000 of ALE coverage. Some companies impose a time limitation, such as 12 to 24 months.
5. Should I buy a separate flood and/or earthquake insurance policy?
There were numerous flooding events and earthquakes in the U.S. in 2011 but relatively few Americans had coverage for either type of natural disaster because these perils are excluded from standard homeowners insurance policies. Check with your insurance agent or insurance company representative to see whether you might need specialized coverage beyond your standard homeowners insurance policy. Flood coverage for homeowners is available from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers. Earthquake coverage is usually available in the form of a supplemental policy from your insurance company, or, in California, from the California Earthquake Authority. Fire and water damage due to burst gas and water pipes following an earthquake is covered under standard homeowners policies in most states.
6. Do I qualify for any discounts?
If you have smoke detectors, burglar alarms and/or dead-bolt locks in your home, you can often get a premium rate discount. Sophisticated sprinkler systems and alarms that ring at monitoring stations often reduce your homeowners insurance premium, too. Ask your agent or company representative about discounts available to you. If you are at least 55 years old and retired, for instance, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10 percent at some companies. If you have completely modernized your plumbing or electrical system recently, a few companies may provide a price break.
If you’ve started researching the home buying process, or you’ve already purchased a home in the past, you probably know one of the first things you need to consider is the size of the downpayment you are going to need to cover on the home you discover. While that down payment can vary depending on what type of financing you qualify for, it is never a bad idea to start saving as much possible, as soon as possible.
If you qualified for any of the stimulus payments and have been keeping that money, or tax refund money, tucked away into savings - this would be the perfect opportunity to use that cash. With the average refund for this year around $3000, there is a good chance your tax refund, potentially paired with a stimulus, can put a major dent in your down payment.
With a competitive market that doesn’t seem to be cooling off anytime soon, now is the time to buy. Ensuring you have the proper funds to cover that downpayment once you find ‘the one’ can save you heartache in the future. Give me a call today and we can get you set up with a lender so you can get pre-approved and find out just how much you need to have saved!
Buying new construction is a different process than buying your typical pre-built home. What’s included, what’s not, and what’s hidden in that massive contract depends on the builder that you use. As with any situation where you’re moving or about to spend a lot of hard earned money, it’s important to go in prepared – and that means asking the right questions.
The first interaction you’ll have with the builder – and in fact, the first several, at least – will be with the builder’s sales representative. These early meetings are your chance to ask all of the questions you might have regarding costs, labor, and other essentials that you need to know about before jumping in. Write your questions down before you go in so that you can be sure not to forget anything important, and don’t be shy about getting the answers that you need. This is a major purchase, and you don’t want any surprises later.
Not sure exactly what you need to be asking about? These 10 questions to ask when buying a new construction home will help get you started.
Is the lot cost included?
When you’re exploring new construction options, you’ll see that each plan comes with a base cost. This is the cost of the structure itself, as well as base interior and exterior features (we’ll get into those in a little bit). What may not be included is the cost of the land, so be sure to ask if the lot cost is figured into the base.
If the lot cost is included, ask if there are premium costs for certain lots. It’s possible that the base cost does include the lot, but the remaining lots in the development all have added costs for certain features that you can’t opt out of, such as look-out windows in the basement or wider yards. If the lot cost is not included, ask what it is (and whether there are additional premium costs) and factor those into the base price for the house.
How long will building take?
It’s important to know what you’re getting into timing-wise with a new construction build, particularly if you have a house to sell first or you’re going to be renting. While the building process is prone to delays and you won’t be able to get a finite schedule for how long the build will take, you’ll be able to get a general idea of what you can expect. Be sure to also ask if the build time includes the time it takes to get the permits, since those will typically take about 30-45 days to obtain.
What warranties are provided with the house?
Just because a home is brand new doesn’t mean that no problems will arise. Fortunately, most new construction homes come with one or more warranties that protect you in the event of a mishap early on, including a short term whole-house warranty and a longer structural warranty. Ask what the warranties include and how long they last. While you can always buy your own home warranty, you should expect that the builder will cover you in some way for at least the first several years.
What are the standard finishes?
Does a base cost look too good to be true? That might be because the builder is expecting you to spend big when it comes to finishes like flooring and countertops. Ask what types of finishes are included, and better yet, go through the model unit with the sales representative and have them point out what’s standard and what is an upgrade. You likely won’t meet with the design center until after you’ve gone under contract, so it’s important to figure out early what sorts of finishes and appliances you can expect to be included in the home’s base price.
Are you allowed to purchase your own appliances or materials?
Had your heart set on butcher block countertops but the builder doesn’t offer them? It’s possible that you may be able to purchase them yourself and then have the builder install them. Alternately, some builders won’t let you purchase your own materials, but they will let you bring in your own appliances, even on items that are included in the sale, like sinks and toilets. Keep in mind that, in terms of appliances, you probably will have to make some purchases on your own, such as washers, dryers, and refrigerators.
If you can bring in your own materials or appliances, will you get credits?
Let’s say the base price of your new construction home includes a kitchen sink worth $200, but you’d like to upgrade and purchase a sink on your own that costs $400. Will you get $200 off the purchase price for not using the sink that’s included in the base? Some builders offer credits for any upgrades or self-purchased materials or appliances, while with others you’ll just have to eat the cost of the originally included item. Credits are a nice touch, but they’re not usually standard, so it’s best not to go in expecting that you’ll get money off the base cost for purchases like these. In general, builders don’t like to lower the base cost, but if they do offer credits, that’s a win for you.
Is landscaping included?
Depending on the size of your yard, landscaping, including sodding and putting in trees and plants, can set you back several thousand dollars or more. Is that a cost you’ll have to factor in on top of the home purchase? Some builders include your basic yard work, while others leave you with unfinished land that becomes your responsibility to landscape (and generally must be completed in a set amount of time, per the contract). Ask whether landscaping is included, and if so, what that entails and if there is any sort of warranty on the materials so that if your newly sodded grass dies right away or some other mishap occurs you’re not responsible for fixing it.
Does the contract include a cost escalation clause?
New builds are notorious for last minute surprises, but you don’t want to be on the hook financially if it happens. A cost escalation clause allows the builder to charge you for any unanticipated costs that arise as a result of necessary labor or materials. So if lumber prices go up before the builder has purchased the materials for your flooring, or an unexpected delay adds a few weeks onto the build, you’re on the line for those costs. If you’d rather not deal with the stress of unanticipated costs, find a builder that doesn’t include a cost escalation clause in the contract.
Are there any homeowners rules or regulations?
Even if there is no homeowners association for the development, the builder may still set some guidelines as far as what’s allowed and what’s not on your property. For example, you may not be able to use a particular type of fencing or install a shed in your backyard. It’s better to ask this question early and know what to expect than to move in and find out that you can’t bring into fruition certain plans you had for the space.
Are there any financial incentives for using the builder’s preferred lender?
Some builders offer discounts on closing costs if you obtain your mortgage through a company that they have a relationship with. Ask if these sorts of financial incentives are offered, but don’t make your final decision about where to get your mortgage based on the discounts alone – you may still be able to find a better deal through other lenders. It’s still good to know however if there are benefits to working with the builder’s preferred mortgage company.
If it’s your dream to build a new construction house, go in to the process with an open mind and a clear idea of what you can expect. The more questions you can ask in the beginning, the less surprises you’ll potentially face in the future.
And as with any home purchase, be sure to have an attorney read over your contract so that you can be sure everything is fair and equitable. Some buyers of new construction prefer to go in to sales meetings with a real estate agent as well, though in my own experience, I didn’t find that to be necessary. Be smart, ask the right questions, and at the end of the day (or fine, year) you’ll end up with a beautiful home built just for you.
Curious about local real estate? So are we! Every month we review trends in our real estate market and consider the number of homes on the market in each price tier, the amount of time particular homes have been listed for sale, specific neighborhood trends, the median price and square footage of each home sold and so much more. We’d love to invite you to do the same!
You can sign up here to receive your own market report, delivered as often as you like! It contains current information on pending, active and just sold properties so you can see actual homes in your neighborhood. You can review your area on a larger scale, as well, by refining your search to include properties across the city or county. As you notice price and size trends, please contact us for clarification or to have any questions answered.
We can definitely fill you in on details that are not listed on the report and help you determine the best home for you. If you are wondering if now is the time to sell, please try out our INSTANT home value tool. You’ll get an estimate on the value of your property in today’s market. Either way, we hope to hear from you soon as you get to know our neighborhoods and local real estate market better.