Home Title and Concealed Carry Insurance… Huh?…

When you finance the purchase of a home, the lender will require you to purchase a title insurance policy.  So, what is it, and who’s it for?  Title insurance covers the insured against any home title claims that come up on your home after the loan is issued.  Claims could be from a contractor’s or tax lien, or active ownership that wasn’t tracked by the county.  The who is the most important part here.  The policy that you purchase covers the lender, not you, which means that if a claim is made, you’re exposed.  So, what can you do?  When the lender orders the title policy, the insurance company will usually offer to cover the buyer at a substantially reduced rate for a one-time payment at closing because they’ve already done all the title search.  Doing so is profitable for them, and a good deal for you.  The moral of this story is to ask your lender about ensuring a title policy is offered to you.

In the same vein, this takes us to the personal safety topic of the week, which is about concealed carry liability insurance.  If you are licensed to carry a firearm, are faced with a situation where you have to discharge you weapon in self-defense, and did so legally, does that mean you’re off the hook?  Unfortunately, the answer is an emphatic no.  You can still be arrested and charged criminally and the legal costs to prove your innocence can be devastating.  Even if you are cleared of all criminal responsibility, you may still face a civil suit that can be equally expensive.  So if you have a permit and carry, you should consider this type of liability coverage.  Some homeowners policies provide coverage in this situation, so check there before making a decision.

There is a good article on title insurance and one on carry insurance below, so check them out.  If you’ve gone through a home sale or a self-defense situation, drop a comment below to share your voice of experience! 

Click Here For A Comprehensive Title Insurance Article

Click Here For A Comprehensive Concealed Carry Insurance Article

Posted on October 4, 2019 at 3:21 pm
Jim Smoak | Posted in Insurance |

Costs to expect when selling your home

Often, when you think about what you’ll make from selling your home, you think mortgage payoff subtracted from the sale price.  However, there are other expenses you will need to consider when selling your home. Here is a brief list of the primary expenses that you need to be aware of.

  • Home Prep:  Prior to putting your home up for sale, you’ll want to be sure it looks its best.  That may mean some landscaping, repairs, and/or face lift efforts like painting or new carpet.  Some of this you can do (depending on your handyman skills), and some you’ll need to hire contractors for.  Either way, this will cost money, but done properly, will equate to you getting more for your home.
  • Services and Fees:  After you’ve finished getting your home ready to list, you then need to consider the fees of marketing and selling.  Depending on who you use as your real estate agent will depend on what you will need to spend on marketing. You’ll want professional pictures and videos taken, and you’ll want your home marketed online on sites beyond the typical real estate sites (i.e., Zillow, brokerage sites, etc.).  I pay for and facilitate those services for my clients, but not all agents do. Once you accept an offer, you need to anticipate your estimated closing costs. The type of costs that are included in this bucket called “closing costs” vary, but they usually include the commission paid to your brokerage (they pay the buyer’s agent out of their commission), and sale prep fees such as deed stamp and administrative fees.
  • Post Sale Costs:  After the sale, you need to also anticipate the costs of getting you to your next home.  Are you moving out of state? Then you’ll need to calculate the costs of all the logistics of getting you there, such as packing, moving and temporary lodging.

Selling a home (and buying a new one), is a project, and a good real estate agent (… ahem…) will also wear the hat of a good project manager for you.  This is something to ask about when talking to prospective agents. The link below is a good article that goes into a bit more detail. Have you had any experience selling a home where you had unanticipated costs?  Chime in below and share your voice of experience!

Click Below For Full Article

Posted on October 1, 2019 at 9:16 am
Jim Smoak | Posted in General Real Estate, Prep To Sell |

Smart kitchen remodeling

A complete kitchen renovation can recover approximately 62% of the remodeling costs when your home is sold.  To help ensure a good return on your kitchen remodel, planning is key. According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, allotting six months for planning and not allowing yourself to reduce it is important.  Cutting corners on planning time will often lead to cutting corners on the plan, and that means a direct impact on your remodel. Here are some other guidelines when it comes to the details of the plan.

    • Look at your existing kitchen for what works, what doesn’t, what’s required and what’s desired.  You don’t want a great plan where you forgot the refrigerator because you were too focused on getting the island added!  
  • Take a look at the traffic pattern of your kitchen so you don’t create cramped spaces, which is one of the primary things we look to get rid of in a remodel.
  • Make sure erogonomics are a planning component.  You don’t want to find that the island stops you from opening your fridge door all the way (I’ve seen that, by the way)
  • Choose everything before starting.  You don’t want to find out that your assumptions about cabinet hardware ends up not working, or that your vented hood can’t be vented.

There are other great tips in this article, so check it out.  If you’ve gone through a sizable kitchen remodel, drop a comment below to share your voice of experience!

Click Here For Full Article

Posted on September 23, 2019 at 8:30 am
Jim Smoak | Posted in General Real Estate, Maintenance |

Fall decor tips when selling your home

Step back and ask yourself if fall decor (pumpkins, scarecrows, and other seasonal ornamentation) will make it harder to sell your home?  Most staging experts agree that staging your listing with fall decor is valuable as long as you do so judiciously. However, not all holidays are exciting to everyone.  The point of staging is to make your home feel warm and welcoming not cluttered and overwhelming. Don’t let your autumn decorations be the focus. Instead, accentuate your spaces to help potential buyers see your home’s possibility.  “Less is more” is usually the right way to go as you decorate for the season.

Additional tips for staging your home in the Fall:  

  • Think about a fresh coat of paint; never anything too garish.  Neutral colors is recommended to accentuate rich and bright accent pieces.
  • Get the lighting right – in the fall, the days are shorter.  Open your blinds and curtains, letting in as much light as possible.
  • Create a cozy and welcoming atmosphere – that can be as easy as using lots of pillows and throw blankets in your decor.  Also, light decorative candles to add cozy ambiance.
  • If you have a fireplace, make it the focal point of your decor.  Surround your clean fireplace and mantel with tasteful seasonal decor.
  • Don’t forget to add seasonal scents by putting apple cider on to warm or burning a cinnamon candle.
  • The outside of your home can benefit from a seasonal touch-up too.  Remove dead plants and debris and keep your lawn edged and watered. Highlight your front stoop with a harvest-themed wreath or a pumpkin or two.
  • Remember, the goal is to accentuate your spaces to help buyers imagine themselves living there.  Aim for cozy without going too far.

Let me know what you’ve done in the past to decorate for fall by dropping a comment below!

Click Here For Full Article

Posted on September 16, 2019 at 10:21 am
Jim Smoak | Posted in Prep To Sell |

Should you remodel before selling your home?

Some homeowners are hesitant to update/remodel before selling, which is understandable, but there are a few things you should consider before making a decision. Here are some myths about remodeling to sell that homeowners should debunk before deciding.

  • MYTH #1: Homeowners want to remodel AFTER they purchase the home – Typically, buyers can’t visualize the end result from remodeling. In most cases, buyers want to purchase a fixer upper AND pay fixer upper prices or buy a house they can move into immediately that doesn’t require work.


  • MYTH #2: Remodeling takes too much time – Experienced contractors can make remodels an efficient/fast process. Remodeling can also save a seller time as homes that are freshly remodeled/updated will sell much faster than those that are outdated or need repairs.


  • MYTH #3: Remodeling won’t pay off – Strategic remodeling of your home, the right areas such as the kitchen or bathrooms, CAN payoff. Small upgrades like replacing faucets and light fixtures or adding a fresh coat of paint can have a huge impact on the appearance of your home. If your budget is tight, spend on updates that will make your entire house feel new and updated, such as paint or flooring.


The MLS is the top resource for flippers to find homes. They find those with outdated kitchens and bathrooms, remodel them and resell for top dollar, but they purchase them for bottom dollar. Why not do the updates yourself and sell your home for top dollar? 


Below is an article on Forbes that this info was pulled from; check it out as it’s a decent read.  If you’re approaching this situation, or have been involved in this process before, drop a comment below and let me know your thoughts!


Click Here for Full Article

Posted on September 11, 2019 at 10:39 am
Jim Smoak | Posted in Prep To Sell |

The hurricane is gone; now what?

With Hurricane Dorian effects on the east coast of the United States, there are a number of things homeowners need to consider when it’s time to assess material damage in the wake of a major hurricane.  Here are some great tips from an article I just read.

Your home has sustained damage, now what? Document the damage by taking photos/videos and save all receipts for supplies for repairs. It’s a good idea to make temporary repairs to prevent further damage. This can be as simple as covering a hole on the roof or window with a tarp or plywood. Also, contact your insurance company as quickly as possible to get the claims process started.

What’s covered by my insurance policy? Property damage from wind is usually covered under your standard policy. However, flood damage is not. This coverage is normally purchased separately through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program or a private insurer. Renters’ policies only cover the renters’ belongings, whereas the structure is insured by the landlord. Damage to your vehicle from wind and flooding is covered under your auto insurance policy’s optional comprehensive coverage.

What else is covered? Ask your insurance agent, but most insurance policies help cover some costs beyond structural damage or belongings such as the cost to evacuate, temporary housing if your home is uninhabitable from damage sustained during the storm. Also, talk to your employer about lost wages because of missed days of work – many businesses have insurance policies that allow them to pay employees for a set number of missed work days due to mandatory evacuation.

Can FEMA help me? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides assistance once a disaster is declared a federal disaster. To find out if you qualify, visit http://www.disasterassistance.gov and enter your address. The site also has information on FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers.

How do I avoid being scammed on repairs to my home/property? Beware of door-to-door solicitors. Contact your insurance company before signing contracts for repairs. Only work with licensed and insured contractors and obtain more than one estimate. Get everything in writing, including material and labor costs and a schedule of work to include a completion date. Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until all work is completed. Contact your state’s department of insurance if you think you’re being scammed or to report suspected fraud.

I hope this article helps!  Let me know if you have any comments or questions.

Click Here For Full Article

Posted on September 6, 2019 at 12:09 pm
Jim Smoak | Posted in General Real Estate, Insurance, Maintenance |

Is Title Insurance Worth It?

Previous homeowner’s unpaid taxes can come back to haunt current homeowner. If that happens, what do you do? Without an owner’s title insurance policy, unpaid real estate taxes could come back to bite you. The key words here are OWNER’S POLICY.

When you buy a home, your mortgage company will probably require you to purchase a policy, but this is to protect them. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking down on that. It’s simply a good business practice by them. However, it doesn’t protect you.

You should purchase a title insurance policy as well. They are usually offered as a one-time payment during closing, and if chosen during closing can be really inexpensive. Title insurance protects you against claims and issues (taxes and liens) that existed before the date you purchased the home and that become known after closing.

If you didn’t purchase a title insurance policy when you purchased the home, you could have to pay any tax bill that surfaces or risk losing your property. To avoid paying it without title insurance, you will need to thoroughly investigate and make sure the bill is legitimate and not duplicative or in error, which costs time and money.

In some states, there are attorneys or services that help homeowners contest real estate taxes; you may want to reach out to them to help you navigate the process if you find yourself in this mess. Even then, if the tax bill is correct, you could end up paying more than the amount of the taxes owed in legal fees. Protecting yourself with title insurance is a simple but sound practice.

Check out the rest of the article and drop a comment to let me know your thoughts!

Click Here For The Full Article

Posted on August 23, 2019 at 9:41 am
Jim Smoak | Posted in Insurance |

Home Warranty Facts

What is a home warranty and how does it work? A home warranty extends coverage for a specified contract term; after that, the homeowner can renew or cancel the contract. How do you know if you need a home warranty? Can you afford to buy one? Your home is one of the largest purchases you’ll ever make, so any extra precautions you can take to save your investment is beneficial. If a plan fits into your budget, it may be worthwhile to avoid massive hassles later.

Are you a first-time home buyer? Do you own or plan to purchase an older, mobile or tiny home? Do you own a rental property? Do you plan to sell your home? You may not need to purchase a home warranty if you have 1% of the purchase price set aside for repairs (see my post on emergency repair funds).

Here’s what to look for when researching policy options and purchasing a contract. There are three basic kinds of home warranty plans, each escalating in cost and coverage. The first covers one particular appliance. The second covers multiple appliances. The third covers major appliances and systems, such as HVAC and electrical. Even the most expensive home warranty plans might not cover all your home appliances or systems, so you need to educate yourself on the details.

A home warranty is not the same as homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance covers accidental damage to your home or belongings caused by theft or natural disaster. A home warranty helps cover the repair or replacement of an appliance or system component due to wear and tear.  Questions you should ask:

  • Is the home warranty I want redundant?
  • Will I have to complete a home inspection before I buy a policy?
  • How does the claim process work?
  • Will there be a charge for repeat visits if the problem continues?
  • Can I cancel my policy at any time?

Managing Risk – A home warranty can provide a lot of value, especially if you buy an older home. Some buyers may think they’re not needed, especially if they’ve gone without issues for years. The best idea is to get several quotes from providers to compare prices and coverage. Then decide which, if any, is the best home warranty company for you.

To ensure you’re accessing the best home warranty plan, your home warranty should have a clear contract that you can easily read and understand. You should have the option to choose from a variety of plans and find one that fits your specific needs and budget.

The article linked below has many more good points so be sure to check it out. Drop and comment and let me know your thoughts!

Click To Read The Full Article

Posted on August 20, 2019 at 12:16 pm
Jim Smoak | Posted in Maintenance |

Maintenance and Repair Costs Homeowners Should Prepare For

Having an emergency fund is a fairly well known and followed practice. The interruption of income or a family emergency that requires travel and time off from work are common issues where this practice comes in handy. However, it seems to be far less common to have a fund for household maintenance and repairs. I must admit that I don’t have one. That said, after reading this article, it seems to make good sense.

I currently live in a home that was new construction when we purchased it. Although we haven’t had any major issues with the home that we had to come out of pocket for in our first few years of living in it, the author’s point about “builder grade” landscaping has certainly rang true and we’ve had to invest in taking care of unplanned issues in our yard.

Earlier in my marriage, we purchased what seemed to be a fairly well maintained but older home and although the “bones” of the home stood the test of time, appliances started to fail shortly after we moved in.

What has been your experience? Have you owned a home where having a household budget was or would’ve been a beneficial thing to have? Check out the article and drop a comment below and let me know your thoughts!

Click To Read The Full Article

Posted on August 20, 2019 at 11:58 am
Jim Smoak | Posted in Maintenance |

Residential pools increase insurance risk



CDC data states that summer months account for 65% of all drowning incidents. Residential pools present a significant risk to children and the liability ultimately falls on the homeowner. You and your guests should take an active role in preventing drowning related injuries. Here is a list, although not exhaustive, of things you should keep top-of-mind while guests are playing in/around a pool:

  • display rules/safety instructions and enforce them
  • learn basic water rescue skills
  • remove toys when not being used; and
  • keep your pool visible at all times when guests are present.

You also need to be aware of the levels of liability coverage on home insurance. If someone is injured on your property, your home insurance liability covers medical bills and civil settlements. Standard homeowner’s policies come with $100,000 liability, but that may not be enough when it comes to the increased risk a pool statistically presents. Many in the insurance industry recommend increasing liability coverage to $500,000 or more or an umbrella policy. Contact your insurance provider for guidance or let me know if I can help!

Click Here For The Full Article

Posted on August 12, 2019 at 2:11 pm
Jim Smoak | Posted in Insurance |