Hello and Welcome to Baker's Blog! 

Here you can find answers to your real estate questions. Perhaps even real estate questions you didn't know you had. You'll also find thoughts, observations, and commentary on real estate and real estate related issues. Have a question or a suggestion for a post? Message me or give me a call. I'm always happy to answer questions and share information with others. And don't forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

Aug. 30, 2017

SHOULD YOU HAVE FLOOD INSURANCE? ARE YOU CERTAIN?

By now everyone has seen the images of the devastating flooding from of Hurricane Harvey's path. While our thoughts are with the victims for their safety, one cannot help but wonder what the future holds for these people, and how we would deal with such loss. (If you're looking to help with the current efforts for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, here's a link to npr.org's "Here's How You Can Help People Affected By Harvey").

Under current flood insurance rules, most homeowners with mortgages that live in high-risk areas for flooding, called Special Flood Hazard Zones, must buy flood insurance. Unfortunately, most of the Houston area falls outside areas where flood insurance is required and according to a recent AP story it is estimated that fewer than 20% of homeowners with flood damage in Houston's Harris County have flood insurance. Those without coverage will be left applying for federal disaster relief benefits in the form of low-interest loans, paying for repairs on their own, or simply not be able to rebuild.

So what if you aren't in a Special Flood Hazard Zone, or you don't have a mortgage on your home? If it isn't required, should you still purchase flood insurance? Is flood insurance available for renters, too?

Does everyone need flood insurance? The answer is most likely 'no'. But don't make the assumption that you don't, without talking to a qualified individual. You can start with asking your insurance agent and checking out the NFIP website. Review your current policies and ask questions about different scenarios. Am I at risk for flooding from excessive runoff from higher elevations or overflow from rivers, canals, or laterals? Does my current policy cover my belongings if flooding is caused by a city water line break or a sewer back up?

Adding an endorsement to your existing policy will go into effect immediately. But should you decide to add a separate flood insurance policy, there is a 30-day waiting period from the date of purchase until your policy goes into effect, with few exceptions. The time to ask is now.

Feb. 13, 2017

HOME INSPECTION FOR A NEW HOME? YES!

New Home Under Construction

Most everyone knows to get a home inspection when purchasing an existing home. But did you know you can also have home inspections done when building a new home, too?  Not only is it a good idea to have a home inspector present at your final walk-through before closing, but some new construction contracts also allow for progress inspections (foundation, framing, etc.) that can be completed by a home inspector, as well. 

Already in your new home but still in your warranty period?  Great!  If you’re still in your warranty period (typically the first twelve months after construction), it’s a good idea to have a home inspector complete an inspection on your home a couple of weeks before your warranty expires.  Your builder will give you a final opportunity to submit warranty items for repair just before the end of your warranty period.  A home inspection report can give you a comprehensive list of items to submit, from an experienced, professional perspective.

Dec. 4, 2016

IS MY MORTGAGE A VA, FHA OR CONVENTIONAL LOAN AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

 

Loan Application

 

The type of loan you are using to purchase a home can make a big difference in your search, especially if you're looking to remodel or renovate after closing. But why?

VA and FHA loans are guaranteed by the government, and the government insures these loans in the event of a default by the borrower.  Homes being purchased by a VA or FHA loan must meet minimum requirements as per the VA or FHA inspection, which are similar. The scope of these inspections ranges from examining the walls, ceilings and roof for conditions that could affect the integrity of the foundation or framing, to verifying the operation of the electrical, HVAC, and plumbing systems, to checking for cracked or peeling paint on the exterior of the home.  Safety issues are also addressed, such as a working stove, no missing doors or missing stairs (or missing handrails on stairs) and no broken windows.  If a home fails inspection, the home is eligible for re-inspection and subsequent approval once the repairs have been completed.

So if you're purchasing a home with a VA or FHA loan, you'll need to make sure your search is limited to homes that currently meet VA/FHA standards, or are being sold by Sellers who are willing to bring the home up to these standards.  VA and FHA purchase eligibility will be noted in the listing, and your Realtor can customize your home search to filter out homes that are not eligible for purchase with your VA or FHA loan.

But what's the difference between a VA and an FHA loan?  

VA loans are only available to eligible military service members and surviving spouses.  VA loans require no PMI (private mortgage insurance) and no down payment.

FHA loans are available to anyone.  FHA loans do not require PMI (private mortgage insurance) if the Buyer is making a down payment of at least 20% of the purchase price.  FHA loans with less than 20% down require PMI, but Buyers can be approved for an FHA loan with as little as 3.5% down.

Conventional loans are not insured or guaranteed by the government in any way.  They require a minimum of 20% down and are approved solely on the value of the property.  That's not to say repairs may not be required, but that situation occurs when the value of the property would be dependent upon the completion of those repairs.

In addition to these programs, the USDA offers mortgages for rural areas, and FHA offers a 203K loan specifically for purchasing a home requiring renovation and repairs.  Each of these programs also has eligibility requirements for the Buyer and the property.

Is the type of loan you're using to make a purchase important? Absolutely. But often folks will qualify for more than one type of loan.  That's why communicating your needs and desires with your Lender, and your Realtor is key.  Communication can help simplify and streamline your search for the type of home you want and the best way to buy it. And that's what's truly important!

 

Nov. 16, 2016

WHY DO WE NEVER STOP MOVING?

Lighted Highway

Right now a lot of Buyers and Sellers are waiting until after the year's end to look for or list their home.  It's certainly understandable.  There are Holiday plans, shopping, guests, decorating. So much to do.  Perhaps you're busier at work, too, as your business prepares for year-end. 

But the truth is, people never stop moving.  Maybe someone is being transferred with their employment. Or wanting to get settled before the new semester starts in January.  There are myriad reasons people move during this time of year.

It's true there are fewer Buyers looking right now, but it's also true those Buyers are serious. Sellers who list their home now are competing against fewer listings than in the months after year's end.  If you're concerned about packing up your Holidays, often closing dates can be negotiated as part of the contract.  

Relocation happens.  And it happens regardless of the season.  So if you need to buy, know there are homes out there waiting for you.  And if you want to sell, there's no time like the present.  

Why? Because we never stop moving. 

May 27, 2016

URBAN FARMING AND RESIDENTIAL IRRIGATION

Flood Irrigation

Are you an urban farmer or looking to become one?  Did you know homes with residential flood irrigation make excellent urban farms? Flood irrigation is the most cost-effective way to deep water your property, flooding yards with 2-3 inches of water each delivery cycle, which penetrates the ground within about three hours.  

You've likely driven through neighborhoods in the valley and seen front yards flooded with water.  That's flood irrigation at work and while not every neighborhood has it, many do. Flood irrigation neighborhoods can be expansive, or consist of only one street.  Most flood irrigation neighborhoods do not have a Home Owner's Association (HOA), and that can be a desirable feature to many home buyers as well.

So when you're relocating, know that flood irrigation can be a great feature to look for in your next home.  And before you find yourself adrift in a flood of listings, give me a call and I'll help you navigate.