Is it Time to Review Your Homeowners’ Insurance Policy?

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Your home may be your biggest investment. Don’t let an unexpected surprise take it away. If there is one thing we have learned over time it is this. No matter where you live, you can expect the unexpected. Fires, floods, earthquakes, storms — we can’t stop them, but we can protect ourselves from financial devastation should the unthinkable happen.

Review your homeowner’s policy to make sure you know what is covered and what you may want to add to the policy in addition to what is already covered.

Things to consider:

Flood insurance and earthquake insurance typically need to be purchased separately from the homeowner’s policy or as additional endorsements.

Your policy may cover hail damage, but what if your roof is destroyed in a hail storm? Will you be able to get a new roof? Does your insurance cover full replacement value of your roof?

Your insurance may cover fire damage, but how do you ensure that all of the contents of your home are protected?

Do you need to consider an umbrella policy, just in case?

There may be ways you can save money and insure your home and its contents even better. An insurance professional will help you review your insurance coverage and make sure you and your family have the coverage you need.

Learn more with this Homeowner’s Guide to Natural Disasters from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc., and the The Actuarial Foundation, or contact your insurance agent today.

This year, don’t just renew your homeowner’s insurance policy — review and revise before you renew.

Things to Do with Your Family before Summer Ends

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Back-to-School time is coming soon. Don’t let summer slip by without taking part in a few summertime favorites with your kids. Some of these may even harken back to your own summer memories. Share those memories with your kids, while creating new ones.

Spend the day at a sandy beach near you. You don’t have to take a trip to Florida to get the most out of sun and sand. There are a lot of state parks, national parks and local parks that have fun beaches. Grab a pail, a shovel, some chairs, your sunscreen and a picnic lunch and make memories by the water for one last summer splash.

Play mini golf. This is the perfect after-supper activity. It’s relaxing and challenging at the same time. Kids and adults alike have fun trying to get past the windmill, down the right slope and into a hole in one!

Be a tourist for the day. Let’s face it, there are towns and historical sites that we never go to and hikes we never take because they are for the tourists. But these places provide a lot of new information about your local community and your state. And there’s a reason tourists go there – they are fun to visit. Don’t miss out on the reasons out-of-towners hit the towns!

Find a festival. Summer is about festivals and there’s a festival for everyone. Whether your family is into art, culture or funnel cakes, there’s a festival somewhere. Grab the kids, head to the Ferris wheel with cotton candy and just have some summer fun.

Camp in the backyard. Set up the tent, grill hot dogs and make s’mores – all without leaving home. There are memories to be made in your own backyard. Telling ghost stories and giggling past dark is a part of many family traditions. It could be a part of yours!

Get ice cream from the ice cream truck. Few things sound like summer as much as the songs from the ice cream truck. Don’t let it pass by this summer without stopping for a rocket pop!

Whatever you do, make the last breath of summer a memorable one for you and your family.

Home Buying Secrets for Any Market

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There are some good things to do before buying a home, even if you think you are “just contemplating buying.” Especially in a market as tight as the one we are in today, you want to be ready when you find your dream home or you realize you’re ready to make an offer. Here are some home buying secrets to keep in mind. But don’t go it alone. 

1. Don’t go it alone. You’ll want a good team on your side when you make a purchase as big as this. Work with a mortgage loan officer and real estate agent to make sure you’re educated along the way. You want to make decisions thoughtfully and efficiently every step of the way.

2. Keep your money where it is. Don’t make any big purchases or move your money within three to six months of buying your home. This means, even if you’re just thinking about buying, leave your money in the bank. It’s easy to get a good loan and have the necessary paper trail if you don’t make any big financial moves.

3. Get pre-approved. This means a lender has looked at your financial information and has let you know how much you can afford and how much they will lend you. Now is the time to really sit down and go over all fees, interest rates, types of loans, etc. Do this before you start shopping for a home. Make sure you are pre-approved. It is different than pre-qualified.

4. Don’t try to time the market. You’ll never be able to figure out the perfect time to buy a home if you’re trying to time the housing market. The best time to buy is when you find the right home and you can afford it. Like all investment markets, real estate is cyclical.

5. Don’t buy the biggest house. Buy the best! You want a home that is appealing to you and to others when you go to re-sell. Your home only goes up in value as much as the homes around you. You don’t necessarily want to have the most expensive house on the block.

6. Factor in all costs. Don’t forget to include your utilities, taxes, maintenance, homeowners association fees, insurance and all other costs that go into homeownership when you are budgeting for your house. It’s important to be able to pay for all costs, not only the mortgage.

7. Get a home inspection done. OF COURSE, you’ll want to have an unbiased home inspector check out your home. An inspection can save you thousands of dollars, provide you with negotiation options and even help you decide a particular house is not for you. Click here to read more about hiring a home inspector.

8. Bid right. You should base your opening bid on a couple of factors – what you can afford and what the property is worth. Be fair and reasonable. Check to see what other homes in the area are going for, what the square footage is worth, and what could add to the value of the home or take away from the value of a home. Be specific about your number so the seller takes your seriously.

For most people a home is the biggest purchase they will ever make. Make sure you make the right move by being ready when the time is right. If you have questions one of our loan officers would be happy to discuss your questions, concerns and options. 

Meet Troy and Twilia – Our Foundation’s Most Recent Mortgage Bridge Program Recipients

Whether it’s an accident or an illness, few people are expecting their lives to change in the moment from a Traumatic Brain Injury. Troy and Twilia are no different. Troy exercised regularly and was by all accounts a healthy man. Yet one afternoon at work, he found himself choking on his lunch and having a life-changing stroke.

We are proud that the Universal Lending Foundation stepped in and helped them work on healing and recovery by paying their mortgage through our Mortgage Bridge Program. The program is designed to make up to three months of mortgage and HOA payments to patients or caregivers of patients at Craig Hospital, so they can find ways to heal and work toward physical, mental and emotional wellness.

It is our privilege to provide support to during this time of need, and we appreciate all of our customers who help make this possible.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor

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You’re in your new home or you suddenly find you have a DIY project you can’t do. In any case, there’s work to be done. Choosing the right contractor is not easy. Asking your neighbors for recommendations may be one place to start. Looking online is another. You definitely want to make sure you have the right person for the job. Taking a little time up front can save you time, money and aggravation in the end.

Tips for hiring a contractor:

Make sure the contractor is licensed to work in your area and bonded and insured. The licenses show that the contractors have taken the necessary exams and know the building codes and processes. The insurance protects you against liability, should an injury occur to a worker while in your home.

Pick a contractor who specializes in the type of project you are doing. Many projects are code-specific and you want someone who knows the details of what needs to be done, and gets the project done right, the first time.

Look at work samples. This lets you see a contractor’s handiwork and may spark ideas for your project. Samples may be more important than references – what was perfect for your neighbor may not be perfect for you. Looking at a contractor’s past projects also lets you see the variety of work the company has performed – contemporary, modern, historical.

Give the contractors guidelines for working around your home. What’s the earliest the contractors can get there? What time do they need to be gone? Do you have specific start and finish dates in mind? Be clear about these at the onset of the project. Your limitations may affect their ability to do the job.

Know what your responsibilities are. Do you need to move furniture out of a room? Do you need to find alternate accommodations for your dog for a day or two, or do you need to move your cats to the laundry room? Find out ahead of time and be ready when the contractors get to your home.

Understand how a contractor puts together a bid and what it means to you. There are two basic bid types:

Time and Materials: Contractor provides receipts for materials and number of hours at a certain rate. It is your right to get a copy of receipts and give feedback as to where materials are purchased and at what cost.

Fixed Amount Bid: This provides you the amount it will cost for a contractor to complete your job. You must nail down a quantity of materials, but you will not receive a copy of the cost of materials. By signing this bid, you are agreeing that the job is to be completed at the quoted price.

There are a lot of things you can do to make sure that you and your contractor have a good working relationship. You do your part and they’ll do theirs!