Protect Your Possessions with a Home Inventory

We pay for home insurance to protect our homes and possessions in case of burglary, damage or fire. But if calamity were to strike and you should need to recount what was lost, would you be able to remember everything? To save yourself the worry and the trouble, take time now to create a home inventory. This can help you keep track of everything you own, and it speeds up the insurance claims process.

The best way to create a thorough inventory is to physically walk around your house from room to room and build your list. Take pictures of everything, including serial numbers and receipts where you can. For each item, try to include a description, when it was purchased and an estimated value.

There are a variety of tools available to help you. You can simply write everything down in a notebook, create a spreadsheet (Microsoft Office has templates online), or use one of the new inventory apps on your computer or smartphone. The Insurance Information Institute and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners offer free apps with secure online storage. Many insurance companies have their own apps, as well. The best tool is the one that you will actually use.

Creating an inventory now isn’t difficult, though it can be a little time-consuming. But it is well worth the effort, and if disaster strikes, you’ll be thanking yourself later.

Risks When Buying a Short-Sale Home

If you are looking to buy a home at a significant reduction in price, you might have heard about pursuing a short sale. A short sale can occur when a homeowner can no longer pay the mortgage and wants to sell the property for less than the amount currently owed on the loan. This tactic has the potential to save you money, but it also has its risks. Here are few you should look out for:

Time — The short-sale process generally takes longer than the regular closing process. The seller’s mortgage lender needs to approve the sale, which typically takes about two months. If there are other liens on the house (such as a second mortgage or home-equity line of credit), those lenders must approve it as well. Sometimes final approval can take six months or more.

Deal falls through — Sometimes the lender’s approval might come with conditions that the seller is unable or unwilling to meet, and they will back out of the deal, even after months of time already invested.

Extra costs — Lenders rarely agree to pay for extras that a seller would typically take care of (such as inspections and repairs), so your closing costs could be higher.

Deferred maintenance — Cash-strapped sellers may have let maintenance and repairs go by the wayside, resulting in a lot of fixing-up that the buyer would be responsible for.

6 Keys to Selling your House

Every homeowner’s dream is to sell their property quickly and for the best possible price. The more time a house sits on the market, the more likely it is that the price may have to be lowered in order to attract interested buyers. So your job is to make your home as appealing as possible. It might take a little bit of elbow grease, but it will be worth it when your house sells faster than the ones already on the market.

Here are some areas to focus on so you don’t lengthen your sale by overlooking the basics.

1. Clean. Every corner of your house needs to sparkle. The appearance of a dirty home will turn off most buyers. Hiring a cleaning service to scrub kitchen and bathroom floors, dust and polish all woodwork, and clean carpets is well worth the cost.

2. Odors. You have to eliminate bad smells, not just mask them. Remove the source of the odor if possible (carpets, trash, litter boxes), and use enzyme cleaning products. Pet smells are so pervasive, some sellers even board their pets while their house is for sale.

3. Light. People like light and spacious, not dark and cave-like. Clean your windows and keep them clear of trees or shrubbery. Remove blinds and drapes to clean them thoroughly. Increase bulb wattage in areas where you need more light.

4. Repairs. Prospective buyers like to make sure everything in the house works. They will turn on lights, open drawers and test faucets. Fix or replace broken or missing hardware, grease hinges and joints, repair cracked caulk, and make sure your outlets work.

5. Clutter. Potential buyers don’t want to see your stuff. They want to envision their belongings in your house. Make your decor as impersonal as you can. Bonus: minimal furnishings can make your home appear bigger.

6. Curb Appeal. If you don’t have it, buyers will drive right on by. The National Association of REALTORS® estimates that adding curb appeal can boost your sale price by up to 4 or 5 percent. Keep the lawn and garden neat, add some potted plants, repair cracks in the driveway, use a power washer or even repaint your exterior.