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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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

Selling A House With Solar Panels

Solar panels are something many buyers are looking for and appraisers make note of when assessing your property, but can add a bit of complexity in the sale of the house depending on local ordinances and whether they panels are owned or leased. Make sure to have your agent mention solar panels in your listing and discuss them in your negotiations with potential buyers. Generally, a house with a solar panel lease can be sold or bought in the following ways: Continue reading

Posted on August 12, 2019 at 1:48 pm
Jim Smoak | Posted in General Real Estate |

Some Home Renovations Can Actually Harm Resale Value

Sometimes home improvements are necessary due to major issues; however, the worst thing a seller can do is make renovations that aren’t supported by the local market.  Here are a few good examples that this article points out.

Over-the-top kitchen remodels costing more than 25% of the home’s value do not generate much of a return when selling your home. If you’re going to add an addition to your home, it is wise to seek professional help with the layout and design to avoid destroying the floorplan/function. Continue reading

Posted on August 12, 2019 at 1:36 pm
Jim Smoak | Posted in General Real Estate |

What is a home warranty and do you need one?

I’m usually skeptical when it comes to 3rd party warranties, such as extended warranties sold by retailers of consumer electronics. Sometimes they make sense to purchase, but in my estimation, most do not.

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Posted on July 27, 2019 at 12:44 pm
Jim Smoak | Posted in Maintenance |

How to stage your home to sell, even with kids and clutter underfoot

There are many articles providing tips on staging and decluttering.  Most do a good job on outlining the statistical benefits of good staging and giving good practical how-to’s, as does this one.  But this one is especially good because of it’s focus on families with kids. 


The author roles up her sleeves and talks about the reality of a family living in a home vs. selling a home.  “… decluttering isn’t so easy when you have enough Legos to build an empire along with miniature cars and trucks to fill it.” says it all. 
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Posted on July 27, 2019 at 12:20 pm
Jim Smoak | Posted in Prep To Sell |

Construct your dream property or renovate an existing one?

With the aging inventory of homes in the US, this decision is becoming more and more common. Should you build a new home or renovate an existing one? There are many considerations and this article lists 11 questions to get answers to which will help you qualify the best decision for your situation. All 11 questions are good, but here are some of my favs.

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Posted on July 27, 2019 at 12:07 pm
Jim Smoak | Posted in General Real Estate |

Doing this one thing can help sell it faster

Let me cut to the point of the article; this is about doing a pre-inspection. I fall in the 80/20 camp on this. I think it’s a good idea 80% of the time, but there is always 20% of the situations where it may not be a great idea (ok, maybe 90/10, but you get my drift). The article gives good detail, but here are a few of the reasons to do so:

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Posted on July 27, 2019 at 9:04 am
Jim Smoak | Posted in Prep To Sell |