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Archive for January 20th, 2008

Jan-20-2008

Fees And Closing Costs Explained

FEES AND CLOSING COSTSThere are a number of costs associated with buying a house in the Halifax area. Here is a summary of most of them:Legal fees– You will need a lawyer to complete the purchase of your home. Legal fees vary from lawyer to lawyer but on average it is safe to allow $650 – $800 for legal fees and another $300- $400 for disbursements such as registering the deed etc. The legal fees for a purchase of a $100,000 home would be about $650 for the lawyer and $350 for disbursements for a total of $1000.Deed Transfer tax– The municipality the home is located in will charge a fee to transfer the deed into your name. In most of the metro area this fee is 1 1/2% of the purchase price of the home. For example in a $100,000 purchase you would pay $1,500 deed transfer tax. This tax is paid on closing to your lawyer who then pays the municipality.

Mortgage application fees– There are sometimes fees for applying for a mortgage and an appraisal of the property you want to purchase.If you are borrowing more than 75% of the value of the property there will be fees for sure. These fees vary but count on about $300 – $400. This is paid to the lender at time of mortgage application.

Moving costs– There will be some cost to move to your new home. If you are moving a long distance get a number of estimates before deciding on the moving company. Even a local move will cost you.

Building Inspection Fee– It is a must to have the property you are buying inspected by a professional inspector. They will check out the home for structural soundness. The cost for this service for Amerispec for example as of Jan 2008 is about $399 incl tax but varies from inspector to inspector.

Power and telephone hook ups– Allow for the cost to reconnect your telephone and power. Allow $75 each for these.

Tax adjustment– The owners of the home you are buying have paid yearly taxes the municipality. You will be required on closing to reimburse them for the taxes they have prepaid for the year. For example if they had paid $2,000 for the whole year and you were closing June 30th you would be required to pay the owner half of the taxes prepaid or $1,000. Count on 1/2 a year’s taxes and you will be more than safe.

Fuel adjustment -If the home you are buying has oil heating or has a propane fireplace you will be required to pay the owner for a full tank of fuel on closing. The owner will fill the tank(s) the day before closing. You will pay this at your lawyer’s office on the closing date. The cost for this will vary. As of Jan. 2008 a full tank of oil would be about $900 and a full tank of propane is about $400.

Fire/Homeowner’s Insurance– You will be required to have fire insurance on your home on the day of closing. The mortgage company requires the lawyer to have proof of this on closing. This can often be arranged in monthly or other installments. $700-$900

Water quality and quantity tests
– If the property you are buying is on a well the mortgage company will require that you obtain a water test for quality. The water is tested for bacteria, arsenic and uranium. The cost to have this test completed if you do it yourself, which is the most common, is about $100. You should also consider having a ” Flow Rate” test completed also. This test will determine the amount of water the well is currently producing. The cost to have a professional do this is between $200 and $400. This is an optional test but one I would strongly recommend.

Septic field test
– If the property you are buying has a septic field is it advisable to have it tested for leaks etc. This costs about $300 to complete.

New Appliances, curtains etc..- You will need appliances for your new home as well as curtains and other necessary items. Allow enough for these items in your closing cost calculations.

Posted under Closing
Jan-20-2008

Lawyer Fees In Ontario – Random Prices

Home or Condominium Sale (up to $300,000)

  • $399.00 – Plus GST & Disbursements
    OR
  • $699.00 – All Inclusive Package (plus GST)
The all inclusive package includes legal fees and the following disbursements:
  •  
    • Arrangement of one mortgage discharge
    • One mortgage discharge registration
    • Miscellaneous disbursements (including Law Society Levy)

Home or Condominium Purchase (up to $300,000)

  • $899.00 – Plus GST & Disbursements
    OR
  • $1399.00 – All inclusive package for home or condo purchase including one mortgage (plus GST & Government charges)
The all inclusive package includes legal fees and the following disbursements:
  •  
    • Review of the Condominium Status Certificate
    • All title searches
    • All municipal searches
    • Title Insurance arrangement from First Canadian Title

New Home or Condominium Purchase (up to $300,000)

  • $899.00 – Plus GST & Disbursements
    OR
  • $1399.00 – All inclusive package (plus GST & Government charges)

Mortgage Refinancing transaction (up to $300,000)

  • $399.00 – Plus GST & Disbursements
    OR
  • $699.00 – All inclusive package (plus GST & Government charges)
The all inclusive package includes legal fees and the following disbursements:
  •  
    • Title searches
    • Title Insurance

Transfer of Title

  • $399.00 – Plus GST & Disbursements
    OR
  • $549.00 – All inclusive package (plus GST & Government charges)
The all inclusive package includes legal fees and Title Searches.
**Does not include Assumption of any mortgages

Existing Homeowner Title Insurance

  • $350.00 – Home Policy (plus GST, disbursements & policy premium)
  • $250.00 – Condominium Policy (plus GST, disbursements & policy premium)

Agreement Review

  • $150.00 – Plus GST

Commercial Real Estate

Review of Retail Lease Agreements For Small Businesses is available for $750.00 (plus GST)

  • For this fee, one of our real estate lawyers will review your lease and you will be provided with advice as to the terms of the agreement and we will answer any questions that you might have. If requested, we will negotiate changes with the landlord and such assistance will be provided at our hourly rates.
Posted under Legal Discussion
Jan-20-2008

What fees are involved in the closing costs?

It depends which side of the table you’re sitting on. If you’re a buyer, you’ll get a list of your expected closing costs when you first sign up for your mortgage as part of what’s called your “good faith estimate.” But you won’t really be able to know the exact dollar amounts until the end of the process because many of the costs are based on percentages. Additionally, some things on the list won’t apply to your purchase because of your state or your type of property. In general, though, you can expect your total closing costs to add up to about 1 to 4 percent of the purchase price, and that’s above the down payment.

The major players your dollars are going toward are your lawyer, the bank, the title company, and the government. Your lawyer will likely charge you a flat fee but may itemize for document production, couriers, and postage. The bank will include its mortgage application fee and appraisal charge, which you probably paid well before the closing, and also fees for documents, underwriting, and all the costs associated with the mortgage. The title company will have a hefty insurance fee. And the government will put in for recording fees and other taxes.

If you’re a seller, your major cost will be paid to your real estate broker, who will likely get 3 to 6 percent as a fee. Your next biggest check will go to the government, which will want a transfer tax of 1 to 2 percent, depending on the state. Then you’ll have lawyer fees, miscellaneous bank fees, and document processing fees. Altogether, these charges could add up to anther 2 to 7 percent. So when you calculate the profit you’re going to make, be sure to subtract at least 10 percent for the cost of doing business.

And if you’re buying a new home at the same time you’re selling the old one, prepare yourself for a double whammy. There’s nothing you can do to help being charged on both ends of the equation. But hey, look at it this way: You’re unloading your old digs to transition into your dream house, which is worth every penny.

Posted under Closing
Jan-20-2008

Should I Hire a Real Estate Agent or Lawyer to Buy a House?

It’s no secret that real estate agents earn high commissions. Although the commission is usually paid by the seller, the cost may be indirectly passed on to you. And real estate lawyers charge exorbitant hourly rates. This raises the question — do you need a real estate agent or attorney to help you buy a home?

What the Law Says

Every state has its own set of real estate laws. For the most part, a real estate agent’s help is not legally required, though agents can help you with tasks that border on legal ones, such as preparing a home purchase contract. In some states, however, only a lawyer is allowed to prepare the home purchase documents, perform a title search, and close the deal.

Reasons to Hire an Agent

The process of buying a house is complex, and most people find it’s easiest to get through with an agent by their side. Paperwork will be flying around like a small tornado, and it can be helpful to have someone familiar with the process to deal with it. Other parts of the transaction will be happening quickly too — hiring inspectors, negotiating over who pays for needed repairs, and more — all of which is second nature to an experienced agent. What’s more, experienced real estate agents usually have contacts with good inspectors, mortgage loan brokers, and others who can make your buying process easier.

Don’t Use the Seller’s Agent

One of the best reasons to hire a real estate agent is that the sellers are likely to use their own agent — and you want to keep that agent from taking over the process. In fact, the seller’s agent may pressure you to let him or her represent both of you, in a “dual agency” relationship that primarily benefits the seller. (The less scrupulous sellers’ agents don’t make it clear that they’re working for both people, but if only one agent is involved in your transaction, it’s fair to assume that the agent’s loyalties are with the seller.) It’s better to have your own agent than settle for dual agency.

How Attorneys Are Paid

Attorneys normally charge by the hour, at rates ranging from $150 to $350. You may also find attorneys who charge flat fees for specific services, such as preparing real estate closing documents. Although attorneys prefer to handle your entire case with a “blank check” from you regarding hours to be spent and tasks to be accomplished, you’re hiring the attorney, and you can call the shots. If you prefer to hire an attorney for only a limited number of hours, or for specific tasks, such as answering a legal question or reviewing a document, you can negotiate this (and you should record your agreement in writing).

Posted under Legal Discussion
Jan-20-2008

Real Estate During the Holidays – It is Not Dead

For those folks thinking of selling their home and waiting for spring, here are eight good reasons to list your home for sale during the holidays:

  1. Less Competition
  2. Serious Buyers Shop During the Holidays
  3. The Best Agents Continue to Work During the Holidays
  4. Relocation Buyers Move This Time of Year
  5. If it Does Not Sell During the Holidays, You are Ahead of the Others
  6. Not Lost in The Spring Shuffle
  7. Your Home Looks Great This Time of Year
  8. Buyers are More Sensitive to Scheduling Appointments
Posted under Seller
Jan-20-2008

For Sale By Owner Issues

1. IF I AM SELLING MY HOUSE WITHOUT A REAL ESTATE AGENT AND THE BUYER IS REPRESENTED BY A REAL ESTATE AGENT, DO I HAVE TO PAY A COMMISSION TO THE AGENT?

No. You have to pay a commission to the buyer’s agent only if you agree to do so. The amount of the commission is whatever you and the agent agree upon. Before agreeing to pay a this fee, you should consult with a lawyer about other necessary terms.

2. IF I SELL “FOR SALE BY OWNER” WILL THE TITLE COMPANY PREPARE MY CLOSING DOCUMENTS?

Generally, the seller needs to provide the buyer with a deed, a standard Affidavit of Seller, a bill of sale for the transfer of personal property, a certificate of real estate value (often referred to as a “CRV”) and a well certificate, if applicable. A title company can prepare those documents for you, for a fee, but it is often less expensive to have your lawyer prepare these documents on your behalf instead of paying the title company to prepare them and then hiring your lawyer to review the title company’s work. Remember again that title companies cannot provide legal advice and may not draft documents that fully protect your rights.

Posted under Seller
Jan-20-2008

More Common Definitions

Abstract of Title: A condensed historical summary of the ownership of a piece of property showing all recorded documents that affect the land including transfers of ownership and any right that persons other than the owner might have in the land.
Abstract Property: All property which has not been brought into the registered (Torrens) land system, and of which evidence of ownership is determined by examining an Abstract of Title. Evidence of ownership of this type of property is maintained in the office of the County Recorder for the county where the property is located.
Addenda: Separate writings that become part of the purchase agreement.
Appraisal: The estimate of value made by an impartial expert.
Arbitration: The process in which a dispute is decided by an arbitrator, whose decision is binding.
Assessment: Costs charged against property for public improvements that benefit the property.
Assumable: A mortgage the responsibility of payment for which can be taken on by a buyer.
Bill of Sale: A written agreement by which one person transfers his or her personal property to another person.
Broker: A person or entity licensed to represent buyers or sellers in the purchase or sale of real estate.
Cancellation of Purchase Agreement: Can be accomplished by a written agreement between all parties to the purchase agreement, or by following the requirements of Minnesota Statute Section 559.21 when the buyer has breached the terms of the purchase agreement.
Certificate of Title: A certificate maintained by a county Registrar of Titles that shows ownership of non-abstract real property.
Closing: The meeting for the sale of property at which the transfer is finalized.
Closing statement: An accounting of funds to the buyer and the seller at closing. (Also called a settlement statement or “HUD-1”).
Conciliation Court: Small claims court where parties can have claims valued at $7,500 or less decided quickly and inexpensively.
Condominium: Individual ownership of separate parts of a building plus joint ownership of the common elements.
Construction loan: A loan where money is advanced as construction takes place.
Contingency: A future event or action which must occur before the purchase agreement is valid.
Contract: A legally enforceable agreement to do or not to do a certain thing.
Contract for Deed: A contract that allows a buyer to take possession of property in exchange for monthly payments until the balance is paid off. The seller keeps legal title to the property until the final payment is made, at which time the seller conveys the land to the buyer.
Conventional loan: Real estate loans that are not insured by the FHA or guaranteed by the VA.
Counter offer: An offer made in response to an offer.
Deferred Special Assessment: Special assessment which has been levied but collection of which has been delayed.
District Court: The court of general jurisdiction in Minnesota.
Dual Agency: Representation of two or more parties in a transaction by the same real estate agent or broker.
Earnest Money: Money paid by a buyer to show the buyer’s good faith in making an offer to purchase property.
FSBO: For sale by owner (pronounced “fizbo”).
Homestead Tax: Property taxes paid by property owners who live on the property.
Levied Special Assessments: Assessments charged against the property following a hearing by the assessing authority and a determination of the dollar amount to be charged each property.
Listing Agreement: A written agreement allowing a real estate agent to sell a homeowner’s property.
Litigation: A lawsuit.
Loan Origination Fee: The fee a lender charges for processing a mortgage application.
Maintenance Fees: Fees paid by a property owner to the owner’s association for upkeep of the common elements.
Mortgage: The pledge of real estate as collateral in exchange for a loan.
Mortgage Discount Points: Prepaid interest on a loan; one mortgage discount point equals 1% of the total mortgage loan.
Note: A written promise to repay a debt.
Owner’s Duplicate Certificate of Title: A duplicate copy of the original Certificate of Title issued by the County Registrar of Titles to the owner of property under the Torrens System.
Pending Special Assessment: An assessment existing after an assessing authority’s order for an improvement to be made; the exact amount of this assessment is unknown (“pending”).
Purchase Agreement: A contract for the purchase and sale of real estate.
Quit Claim Deed: A deed that transfers to the buyer the rights of the seller in the land without promising that the seller has full title or that there are no liens against the land.
Special Assessment: Costs charged against property for public improvements that benefit the property.
Survey: A mapping of land boundaries and improvements and easements on real property.
Title Insurance: An insurance policy purchased for protection against most title defects.
Title Opinion: A lawyer’s written statement of the current condition of title for a parcel of land.
Torrens System: A state-sponsored method of registering and maintaining land titles. Record of ownership of this type of property is maintained in the office of the Registrar of Titles for the county where the property is located.
Warranty Deed: A deed in which the seller promises that the title to the land is good and complete.
Posted under Real Estate Terms
Jan-20-2008

8 Step Buying Real Estate Explained

Step 1: Credit Check

There is no point in buying real estate if you don’t have the capital now, or in the foreseeable future.  That is why the first errand you should run is to check your credit.  This is important because you’re not likely to pay for the piece of property in cash money.  The vast majority of homeowners purchase their home with some type of home loan or mortgage.  The kind of home loan or mortgage you get is heavily dependent on your credit history since all prospective lenders will have a look at your credit report before offering you any home loans or mortgages. 

Your entire credit history will calculate to an overall credit score, which ranges from 340 to 820, with 340 being the worse and 820 being the best score.  Where you are on the spectrum will determine what kinds of offers you’ll get.  If you have poor credit standing, you should expect few or less-than-stellar home loans or mortgage offers.  Conversely, if you have excellent credit standing, you will receive very good offers.  Be sure to get a copy of your credit report and check it out before they do.  You want to scan for errors and report them if they are evident – you’d be surprised at how common mistakes are.

Step 2: Get your Mortgage Pre-Approved

Many people often bypass this step and opt to go search out real estate before getting a mortgage pre-approved.  This is perfectly fine for the buyer who is just scouting out the real estate buyer, but if you’re seriously interested in buying relatively soon, then we can’t emphasize how important getting your mortgage pre-approved is.  Imagine that you’re selling a home and you receive two offers.  One person quotes you a lovely number.  The other person quotes you a similar number and hands you a piece of paper from a lender, guaranteeing that this person actually has access to the money he or she is promising.  Who will you sell your house to?  Chances are, you’ll trust the written word over the spoken word.  You’d be surprise how often this occurs particularly in competitive real estate markets.  That’s why it’s important to get pre-approved for a mortgage.

We recommend that you investigate potential lenders after you have your credit check.  The lender (banks, brokers, wholesale lenders) can check out your credit history, and give you an official letter stating how much of a mortgage you qualify for.  Having this number in writing will make you more attractive to sellers since it shows that you’re serious.  Also, this is a necessary procedure, so why not find out how much of a loan or mortgage you qualify for, which will undoubtedly influence the type of real estate you can afford.  More discussion on home financing and mortgages will be found under “Real Estate Financing” and “Mortgages”. 

Step 3: Identify What You’re Looking For

You already have some idea of what kind of real estate you’re interested in, but it is often a very useful and enlightening exercise to actually list down on paper what you actually want in your property.  Real estate experts suggest breaking down your list into: (1) “Must-have features” – this may include the size of property you want, number of rooms, location, etc.  Be as broad as possible – the point is to identify what must be on that property in order for you to be interested.  (2) “Absolutely Not” – this is the opposite of your “must-have features”, and represents features that you will not tolerate.  This may include blacklisting any “fixer-uppers”, some location no-no’s, etc.      

Knowing what you want and what you don’t want can greatly narrow down your search when the time comes to actually go out and hunt out some real estate.  Think about the property’s desirable features, and weigh it against its undesirable features.  Another important consideration is resale potential, especially if you buying real estate strictly for investment purposes.  But we will dive deeper into this topic in “Improving Resale Value”.   

Step 4: Finding a Realtor or Real Estate Agent

Now that you’ve done your credit check, have a pre-approved mortgage, and identified what you want in your property, the next logical step is to go on the search.  Although this is not always the case, the vast majority of people utilize the services of a realtor or real estate agent in their quest to buy real estate.  These professionals are trained to help you with your search and have insider access to real estate listings within your price range.  More importantly, they are intimately familiar with the whole real estate buying process and can advise you through the various steps.     

Finding the right real estate agent or realtor can make the buying real estate easier that your thought.  To do this, you should interview several agents, ask about their experience, and check out their references before making a decision.  Rely on your gut instinct in your evaluation of agents – it is imperative that you can trust your agent, and at the same time, feel that the agent is honest, loyal, and have your best interests in mind.  This will be discussed in further detail in “Finding a Real Estate Agent”. 

Step 5: The Hunt Is On!

This is usually the most exciting time – when you actually get to go out on your quest for the property you desire.  Maybe you’re determined to live in a particular neighborhood; maybe you’re looking for a particular type of home, and are flexible about the location as long as it has all the features you want.  In any case, the best source to find leads about the property you want include the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), Internet sites, and newspaper classifieds.  Another way that has been extremely fruitful to many people is to go out and explore neighborhoods, and be on the lookout for any For Sale signs.   

It is important and perhaps informative to research real estate buying processes in your area of interest.  If you’re from Wisconsin and you want to buy a house in California, you may find that real estate laws in the two states may differ, which will inevitably affect the buying process.  Get as local as possible when researching real estate customs – this is where the services of a local real estate agent can become critical!  Finding properties will be discussed in further detail in “Real Estate Listings”. 

Step 6: Making An Offer

After viewing many properties, you have hopefully found something that you would like to consider more seriously.  Before you make an offer, be sure to be critical of the property – its structure, features, contract contingency basis, deed restrictions, how much renovations may be needed – everything!  The input of your real estate agent is paramount here, as they possess the know-how and experience to properly advise you with your best interests in mind.  When you both feel that this is the piece of real estate you want to pursue, then you can make an offer.

Making an offer involves a lot of strategy.  You don’t want to turn of the seller by low-balling him, and at the same time you don’t want to pay too much for the property.  Your real estate agent should be involved in brokering the offer, as they can advise you on a realistic offer that maximizes your chances of buying that property.  The seller will most likely have their own real estate agent, and they will want to maximize the sale price.  So don’t get into any negotiations with that agent without the presence of your own agent.  More comprehensive information on this delicate subject matter can be ascertained in “Making An Offer”.      

Step 7: Real Estate Inspection

This step pertains mainly to houses, townhouses, condominiums, and cottages.  In some states, real estate inspections are accomplished before the final purchase contract is signed.  In other states, inspections take place after an offer is finalized.  No matter when you do them, this is a critical step to more comprehensively know what status your property is in.

You’ve made the offer or the offer has been accepted, now you must confer with your real estate agent or other advisors to find out when inspections should be handled and if additional types of testing are important for your specific area.  It is usually the seller’s responsibility to conduct this home inspection, and to carry out and fund any possible work orders that result from a less than satisfactory inspection.  You should not close the deal until all home inspection has been completed.  More detailed information can be found in “Property and Home Inspection”.

Every home inspection should include a checkup of the following:

· Foundations

· Roof

· Heating and air conditioning systems

· Ventilation

· Common areas (for condominiums)

· Septic tanks, wells or sewer lines*

· Insulation

· Plumbing and electrical systems

· Ceiling, walls and floors

· Doors

· Hazardous materials concerns

Step 8: Closing the Deal

Once you and the seller have agreed to the deal, then there will be plenty of administrative tasks (paperwork) to be done in order to finalize the deal.  Although this may be tedious, you should be very detailed-oriented in this task to avoid any mistakes that could prolong the process.  It is absolutely important not to irritate you lenders, they hold amazing sway at this time since you are dependant on them to operate in an expedient manner.  DO NOT make affect your mortgage payments by making any other major purposes and don’t switch jobs.  This is just added hassle that will prolong the process.  Also be sure to obtain hazard insurance, and switch utility providers, and don’t forget to cancel any services in your name at your old home!

Posted under Buyer
Jan-20-2008

Cleaning tips for a new home

One of the worst feelings when first walking into your new home is the feeling of disgust. The floors are dusty, the walls are black, the bathroom is grimy and filled with hair from the previous tenant, the kitchen has dried up food stuck to the floor, and your head is spinning from that noxious odor. Don’t panic. There are several things you can do to turn this current mess into a home where you can feel comfortable and relax.

1. Preparation: Before you do any cleaning, you have to be physically and mentally prepared.

Physical preparation includes:

  • Put on some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and smelly.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Have cleaning materials ready.
    • Spray cleaners
    • Rags
    • Paper towels
    • A dull knife
    • Broom/Dust pan
    • Mop/Bucket
    • A large trash bag

Mental preparation includes:

  • Telling yourself that cleaning now will give you the home you want.

Once you do these things, you will be ready to start cleaning your new home.

2. Clearing the space: Before you get down and dirty, you have to get rid of the garbage that’ll get in your way of cleaning the messier and dirtier areas. Stuff like old newspapers that were left behind, a toothbrush found under the bathroom sink, or a broken clock left on the wall, all must go immediately. With the removal of these wayward items, access to the rest of house will be made easier.

3. Sweep, sweep, then sweep some more: If you couldn’t guess, it’s time to sweep. Often, used homes acquire an abundance of dust. This dust should be swept away immediately. If you go directly to the spray cleaner stage, you will end up with clumps of wet dust sprawled all over your floor. By sweeping at least two times, you can make spraying a lot easier.

4. Spray, wipe, spray, wipe: When using spray, make sure you have one window cleaner and one all-purpose cleaner. With the window cleaner you can clean windows and glass to ensure that they’ll shine. With the all-purpose cleaner you can scrub everything else. Make sure you spray and wipe multiple times. This will ensure you really get rid of the slime and grime.

5. Using your hands: You can surely use a mop to wet the floor or disperse cleaning liquids, but this doesn’t mean you can get out of getting on your hands and knees. By using paper towels or rags you can really scrub the floors and walls much better than with a mop. But using you hands does not end here. With a dull knife you can scrape away all the dried food and gum wads left behind by the previous tenant.

6. Garbage: Take your large trash bag and use it for all the scraps, dust, used paper towels, grime, food, and everything else you need to throw away.

7. Look it over: Once you do all of these things, look over what you’ve cleaned. You may see that it needs to be cleaned more and have to take back out some towels and cleaners. But when you’re finally happy with what you’ve done, just sit back, relax, and enjoy your new home.

Posted under Moving
Jan-20-2008

Types of moving insurance

Have you reached that point in your life where it’s just time to move? Do you need to relocate for a new job? Are you deciding you want to live closer to your parents? What ever the reasons are that you have to move, either way, you’re in for a certain amount of stress. While moving is a burden, you can alleviate some of the hardship by having your belongings covered by insurance. Having insurance during your move is not only a smart idea, but an absolute must. You never know if your mover will accidentally break your TV, or even “accidentally” break your TV. Movers may not always be the most reliable bunch of people, but sometimes you desperately need their services. So make sure for your next move you’re things are properly insured so your moving stress can immensely be reduced.

Here are the different types of insurances you can get for your upcoming move:

  1. Full Value: This, like its name implies, will cover your entire shipment. This is the most comprehensive and expensive plan, but it puts more pressure on the movers to be careful with your things. Under this plan, if anything is lost, damaged, or destroyed, the movers can either offer to repair the item, reimburse you with cash, or replace it with a similar item. Some movers may limit their liability for expensive items (>$100), so make sure to ask them about their policy regarding this. The price for this protection plan varies and is subject to different deductible levels.
  2. Released Value: This is the most affordable option, but it leaves you the most vulnerable. Under a released value plan, movers are only responsible for 60 cents per pound per article (intrastate moves may differ). So let’s say you packed your new ipod that weighs 5 ounces, if it breaks during transport, the mover is only liable to reimburse you approximately 20 cents. So you see that this type of insurance does not really do much in your benefit. The only plus side is that it comes at no additional cost to you. But be wary; if you do not say you want released value insurance, the mover will automatically give you full value.
  3. Third-Party: If you choose released insurance, some movers may allow you to obtain third party insurance. This is an additional cost that must be purchased separately by you. With this coverage the mover will be liable for the 60 cents per pound per item. The additional losses can be recovered from the third party company that you purchased the insurance from. If this insurance is purchased through the mover, they are liable to present you with a written record of this purchase. If you use an outside company, check to make sure that your homeowner’s insurance doesn’t already cover you.

Keep in mind that there are some actions that may limit the mover’s liability of your things. These include:

  • Packing hazardous or perishable items without informing the mover.
  • Packing your own boxes.
  • Choosing Released insured.
  • Failure to notify the mover about expensive items (>$100).
  • Language in your contract that relinquishes the mover from any liability.
  • If you wait over 9 months to issue a written claim of your losses.
Posted under Moving
Jan-20-2008

Simplify the new home buying process

1. Get your financial house in order

  • Your credit score plays a key role in the mortgage-approval process. It pays to take a good look at your credit reports and correct any errors before you begin searching for a new home. A clean financial record and a high score will help ensure you get the best possible interest rate and loan terms.
  • Pay down debt and don’t incur any new debt before you shop for a home as mortgage terms are based on debt-to-income ratios.
  • Create a household budget and include categories such as repairs and maintenance and decorating for your new situation.

2. Get pre-qualified When you get pre-qualified, you don’t have to guess how much house you can afford. You can hone in on the details of finding your dream home. You also boost your bargaining power considerably. Whom do you think the seller is going to favor, the buyer who says he has the money or the one who can prove it?
3. Enjoy the buyer’s agent advantage A traditional real estate agent looks out for the seller, not the home buyer. A Buyer’s Agent works for you, and only you. He has no vested interest. You can lean on your Buyer’s Agent when you have any questions about the home-buying process. They can help you find a lender, answer questions about neighborhoods and school systems, and take you all the way through the new home buying process from presenting floor plans to sitting next to you at closing to joining you at your final walkthrough and beyond. You’ll never have to question your Buyer’s Agent’s loyalty.

Posted under Buyer
Jan-20-2008

How to Get the Right Insurance for Your Residential Move

Whether you hire a mover or move it yourself, it is impossible to guarantee that all of your property will arrive at its final destination in the same condition it started out. Damage to your property can occur in transit (on the moving truck), in storage, and when it is being carried in or out of the moving truck. Things can be accidentally dropped, dented, or broken by moving men. Most insurance coverage that can be obtained through a mover limits the mover’s liability and will not completely cover the value of your property if lost or damaged. It is extremely important to make sure that your possessions are adequately insured before you move.

When Selecting a Moving Company
Thoroughly review the moving company’s terms for insurance coverage.

  • Determine the extent of liability coverage for property loss or damage your mover will provide.

  • Closely examine the contract and find a section for you to establish the estimated value of your possessions.

  • Determine the maximum liability dollar value of the insurance provided by the mover and the process involved in case you need to place a claim. However, this does not guarantee that in case of a claim you are entitled to the maximum liability damage coverage. Factors such as government regulations, taxes, and laws limit the actual the amount you may be entitled to in case of a claim.

  • Realize that the insurance provided by most moving companies only covers a portion of the total value of your possessions and you will have to get additional insurance to be fully covered.

Insurance Available Through Your Mover
Insurance available through your mover is based on valuation. Basically, valuation is the method of determining liability – by you and your mover. There are three types of valuation:

  • Declared value: The value of the things you move is based on the total weight of the shipment multiplied by a specific amount per pound (example; $1.25 per pound). For instance, if your possessions weigh 10,000 pounds the mover would be liable for up to $12,500. Claim settlement is then based on the depreciated value of the item(s) damaged.

  • Lump sum value: If you need insurance that is based more on value than on weight you can get insurance for a specific amount (the amount is variable dependant on the insurance provider) per $1,000 of value. You must know the value of what you are shipping and make a declaration in writing on the bill of lading.

  • Full value protection: This type of coverage includes lost, damaged, and destroyed property. The coverage will pay for the repair or replacement of the item(s). Usually there is a minimum coverage amount and applicable deductibles.

Calculate the amount of insurance you require
Calculating the amount of insurance you require begins with taking into consideration the total weight of what you are moving, the number of rooms you are moving, and the contents of your move.

Create an inventory of all the items you are moving

  • What you are moving (sofa, dining room set, refrigerator, etc.).

  • The weight of each item you are moving (estimate the weight).

  • The replacement value of each article you are moving.

Make sure to have totals that summarize your inventory

  • Total number of items you are moving.

  • Total weight of the items.

  • Establish the total replacement value of all your property.

(Take pictures of what you are moving. This is important in establishing the condition of your possessions and it helps in confirming the inventory list.)

Homeowners Insurance as a Supplement
Most homeowner insurance policies cover about 10 percent of the value of your personal property; including coverage for breakage and theft in transit, minus the usual deductible. This can be a good supplement to the insurance provided by the mover.

Transit Insurance as a Supplement
Transit insurance is another good supplement to the insurance provided by your mover. Read the policy and make sure it covers the gaps in insurance left by other policies. This coverage can save you thousands of dollars and is usually available through the mover, a move-it-your-self company, or through your homeowner’s insurance company.

Some Additional Helpful Tips

  • If you are moving fine art, valuable musical instruments or antiques, you should consider special measures to ensure their safety and protect against their loss or damage. If these items are not covered while in transit by your home policy, you would be advised to purchase additional coverage. Speak to your mover or homeowner insurance representative.

  • In the event that something should happen to your belongings and you have to file a moving claim, you must do so within (9) months of the event. You should also note the problem on the moving van driver’s copy of the bill of lading before signing it. Your mover will then have 30 days to acknowledge receipt of your claim. Within 120 days of receiving your claim, the mover must either deny the claim or make an offer to pay.

Posted under Moving
Jan-20-2008

International Moving Tips

The most important factor to ensure a smooth and successful international relocation is to select the right international movers for the job.
There are different international moving companies for different needs so you should be as familiar with your needs as possible. This will give you some time to narrow your move dates. When searching for a mover, you should interview at least three companies so you can compare prices and services. Remember to check the carriers’ documentation and licensing. Inquire as to their insurance policy (see below).

It is not recommended that you pack you own boxes. Because of the distance and the haul, you should let the professionals handle the wrapping and boxing of your belongings. If your move is temporary, you will have the luxury of storing a great deal of your belongings. Moving storage facilities are both affordable and convenient. Many storage companies will even pick up and deliver your items. However, if storage is not an option, take the time to do some research into what appliances will work in your new home. Since different countries operate on different plug types or voltage, most electrical appliances will require some sort of adapter. You might want to consider selling or donating your current appliances. It will save you the hassle of dealing with tricky adapters and the money you save in not shipping the appliances you can use for new appliances.

Before you move, you should contact the embassy of your new country regarding advice on visas. The embassy may even be able to put you in contact with other expatriate families who can share their experiences and provide you with valuable suggestions.

International moving insurance
Additional insurance on your items is always advised when you are moving internationally. You should perform an itemized inventory of your move, complete with precise valuation of each item. You can even include the cost to you of moving the item. For instance, if you are insuring a large screen television, add the pro-rated cost of moving the item to the full value of replacing the television. Ask your moving company for complete details and as always, get as many opinions as possible before making a decision.

If you are planning to ship your car or truck, you should expect plenty of restrictions. Import restrictions differ from country to country and you should research the allowances of your destination.

Here are some things to keep in mind regarding shipping your automobile:

  • Are you licensed to drive in your new country?
  • Does your vehicle meet the environmental standards required?
  • Is the cost of insurance prohibitive?
  • Is the cost of shipping your vehicle within your budget?
Posted under Moving
Jan-20-2008

Local Moving Tips

A local move  is any move of household items within 100 miles from the origin to the final destination within the same state. Moves over 99 miles within the same state are considered intrastate moves and those traveling across state lines are interstate moves. Local moves are billed at an hourly rate whereas intra- and inter-state moves are billed according to the size and weight of your shipment.

Any of the moving companies you choose to use will send a salesperson (estimator) to your house to provide you with a free moving estimatge. The estimate should include a separate amount for the movers themselves, vans, packing, materials and insurance. It should also include the address you are moving to if possible. If you are not sure of the address you are moving to the day your estimate is made, your guaranteed price will be subject to change based on conditions at your final destination such as the number of stairs, the distance from the truck to the front door, and the accessibility of your destination for a large van. If possible, always have the estimator view your new place of residence before they make their final estimate.

Hire the movers not the company

If you chose a company without knowing any of its movers, ask the estimator to provide you with the name of an experienced foreman and the “helpers” who will be on your move. This is the #1 rule when hiring a moving company: make sure you know who your movers will be on your moving day. Use the names of the movers your friends, neighbors or estimator referred to you. Make these movers part of your contract.

Size is important

The size of your van is very important. Make sure you know what size truck will arrive at your house or apartment on moving day. Make van size part of your contract.

Some local companies charge the same rate whether you arrange for a 50-foot van or a 12-foot van to move your household items. Make sure your estimator has allowed for plenty of empty space in your moving van. Since you are paying by the hour, having to make double trips will add a lot of expense to your move. You may want to contract for two vans to arrive on moving day if the size of your van is limited for some reason, i.e. low hanging trees, narrow street, and steep driveway. An extra van will help to speed your move up and may cost you only a small fee.
Hiring the packers

There are three different ways to pack up your household items. You can do it all yourself, have the local moving company partially pack some of your items, or you can have them pack everything. If you have anyone else other than the local moving company pack your items understand that the local moving company is not liable for any of the damage that occurred inside of the boxes during your move.

If you pack yourself, begin packing many days prior to the move. It will waste the mover’s time and your money if they have to wait for you to finish up your packing the day of the move.

Packing by the hour is a good choice if you have hired experienced, fast packers. You can hire these packers the same way you hired your movers. Make them part of your contract for packing day.

A good way to save money and also have your valuables insured on moving day is to employ the company to partially pack your household items. Make sure your estimate is clear on the items to be packed. The packers can pack all of the breakable items such as china, glass, and ceramics. You may also feel safer having someone with experience packing these items. You will pack the non-breakable items that do not take much experience to pack such as books and clothes.

Choosing when to move

Picking the time of year, month and day of the week can be very crucial in your move. Most people choose to move during the summer months when their kids are out of school or during vacation. Moving companies need to hire seasonal help to meet this increase in moving. This means that inexperienced movers are often hired during these busy months. This problem also exists during the end and beginning of each month when everybody’s lease is up, and on Fridays when people take off work. Also, if your move should only take about half a day, hiring movers for first thing in the morning is recommended.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the middle of the month are the best days to move if you have not planned ahead. By Thursday, the best movers are getting tired from the last three days of tough jobs and on Fridays, all the good movers are usually allocated to the customers that planned ahead.
During a local move, your cost depends on the amount of time moving. Make sure you give your driver the most direct route to your new home. You may want to follow the driver to ensure he doesn’t take the long way. Also, be familiar with how heavy the traffic will be during the days and times of your move.

Few Reminders:

  • Make sure you always have someone watching the movers while they are packing and loading your items.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the neighborhood before the day of the move. You want to make sure there is room for the truck in front of your new home.
  • Make sure you have warned the movers of any stairs they will have to climb, or if there is an available elevator.
  • Let the mover know if there are time restrictions on when you are allowed to move. Many apartment buildings will not allow you to be moving after 5 PM.
  • The building owner may ask the mover to see insurance certificates in case any damage is done to the building. Make sure they have these papers.
  • Make sure you have all supplies that will be needed for the move. If the mover has to go get more, your price will go up and time will be wasted.
  • Make sure all of the packing you are doing yourself is complete prior to the day of the move. You don’t want to have the moving company wait for you to finish.
  • Make sure you have thoroughly planned out the whole move. Have you checked all closets and storage units for items that need to be moved? The less surprises for the mover the better.
Posted under Moving
Jan-20-2008

Changing Your Address

Changing your address isn’t the hardest part of moving (at least compared to lugging your grand piano down three flights of stairs), but making sure everyone who needs your new address has it isn’t as easy as you might think. Unless you fill out an official US Post Office change of address form, your mail won’t follow you to your new address. And unless you remind yourself to mail out change of address cards to all the companies you do business with, your magazine subscriptions will be worthless in a few months.

Of course, that’s all common sense. But did you know you don’t have to go down the post office to get the change of address form? Read over the following tips to make sure that when you move your mail will be moving with you:

  • Before you’ve even begun your relocation, head down the post office and take a minute to fill out the US postal service’s official change of address form (also known as PS form 3575; if you don’t see them out, just ask a clerk).
  • The most important part of filling out the US postal service’s change of address card is including your old address and your new address. However, it’s also vital you remember to include the names of anyone else who is moving with you. If you only include your name, your husband / wife’s mail won’t follow you.
  • If you don’t feel like waiting in line at the post office you can have your mail forwarded from the comfort of your own computer by completing a short form at the US postal service’s address change webpage .
  • Think you’re done? Sorry, nothing involving official government documents is ever that easy. Turning in your change of address form to the post office only means that your mail will be forwarded for a limited time. First class mail – letters and such – are forwarded for one year. Periodicals – newspapers and magazines – are only forwarded for 60 days. After the forwarding period expires, anything that arrives for you will either be sent to the post office’s dead-letter room or stay with whoever’s moved into your old place.
  • If you’re a college student who is moving away from school (either for the summer or for good) check with the campus mail service to see what their mail forwarding policies are. Colleges and universities have their own delivery systems, separate from the post office, and usually their own forwarding policies.
  • To keep receiving your mail after the US postal service stops forwarding it, you need to send out change of address cards to everyone you do business with. These change of address cards are available at the post office for free.
  • Most of the bills you receive – from your utilities, your credit card company, your insurance carrier – have a section where you can update your address information. Take advantage of it and you’ll save yourself a little trouble down the road.
  • Keeping track of who you’ve given your new address to and who still needs it can get pretty confusing pretty quickly. Make a checklist of all the companies that need your address (don’t forget the IRS) and all the friends and relatives you want to keep in touch with before you start mailing anything out. Keep your change of address checklist after you’ve moved into your new home, so if a few months down the road you can’t find your current phone bill, you’ll know exactly why.
Posted under Moving