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Homeowners Insurance: The In’s & Out’s of Your Policy’s Coverage


Homeowners Insurance: The In’s & Out’s of Your Policy’s Coverage

By Devin Valdez

Over the past few weeks our world has encountered hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes. Cities and countries have been ripped to pieces, as we watch helplessly. Millions of people have lost loved ones, homes and personal belongings to circumstances that were unforeseeable and unanticipated.

Now, more than ever, we need to be prepared for the unexpected. Besides protecting ourselves and families, homeowners need to be aware of how to protect their homes, in case of catastrophic emergencies.

Hurricane and winter seasons are nearing, and the weather is likely to be even more unpredictable. To be safe rather than sorry, it is highly suggested that all homeowners begin to investigate more into their homeowner’s insurance policies and coverages.

Hurricane Irma left behind close to $50 billion worth of damage, with over half of the damage caused by flooding- which is typically uninsured.

What’s Typically Covered:

Homeowners insurance usually covers damages due to wind storms, hail, fire, vandalism and lightning, but it more than likely DOES NOT cover damage caused by earthquakes or floods.

Typical types of insurance within your policy include:

  1. Dwelling Coverage: Coverage that will pay to rebuild or fix any damage that is covered by cause of loss.
  2. Other Structures Coverage: Pays for damages to detached buildings on your property such as sheds, a garage, fence, etc.
  3. Personal Property Coverage: Pays for items in your home that may be damaged or destroyed by a covered cause of loss. Items may include furniture, clothes, electronics, etc.
  4. Loss of Use Coverage: Will pay for expenses that can accrue if you need to leave your home while it is being restored. Expenses like food and lodge are included.

How to Check Your Policies Coverage:

Data shows that 2 out of 3 homes in America are underinsured. To avoid your home from falling into that category, make sure you contact your insurance agent and report any upgrades or specifics about your home you think they should know, to help generate a more accurate policy and coverage.

United Policyholders lists these 5 ways to doublecheck your coverage on your homeowner’s insurance policy.

  1. Take the time to explain your property…details, unusual features, collections, etc.
  1. Follow reasonable recommendations to increase limits
  2. Buy the biggest extended replacement cost endorsement you can afford. Extended replacement cost coverage, will pay up to 25 percent above your limits.
  3. Arrange for a professional home replacement cost estimator or building contractor to come to your house and provide an estimate of the cost to rebuild. Many insurers offer this service at no charge.

Extra Coverages to add to your Insurance:

Below is a list of items that usually ARE NOT covered by your homeowners insurance, but may be a good idea to buy the extra coverage.

  1. Mold Coverage
  2. Sewer Backup
  3. Sinkholes
  4. Earthquake Insurance
  5. Flood insurance
  6. Termite Infestations
  7. Jewelry/Fine Art/ Expensive Valuables
  8. Pool accidents: You may have your pool covered in your policy, however what may not be covered is if there is a drowning in your pool. It may be wise to purchase additional liability insurance.

The main point of this article is to not find yourself at a loss should tragedy strike. Your home is a big investment, so it may be wise to fork out a few extras dollars, to obtain the right coverage for your home.

Should you have any more questions regarding your homeowner’s insurance policies, give your agent a call today!






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By Devin Valdez

It’s no secret that rents are on the rise and home values are skyrocketing. The ability to be able to afford to live on your own, whether renting or owning, is becoming un-affordable for many people.

It isn’t uncommon to hear that nowadays people are having to work 2 jobs to make ends meet, and to be able to afford their cities’ cost of living.

Longtime residents among cities in California, such as Oakland, San Francisco (and really majority of the Bay Area) and Stockton are being hit the hardest with rising rents and increases in home values. And as the prices rise more people are putting the blame toward gentrification.

By definition “gentrification,” is the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.

Moreover, gentrification is being portrayed as a negative- as it pushes out the local, low-income individuals, and pulls in wealthier, new outsiders.

However, the displacement of low income residents, due to gentrification is one of the biggest myths that is told.

Lance Freeman of the New York Times, found that “longtime residents aren’t more likely to move when their neighborhood gentrifies; sometimes they’re actually less likely to leave (in part because of the improvements gentrification can bring).”

Although, seeing anyone lose their home is a tough pill to swallow, especially when it’s because they can no longer afford rising costs of living, gentrification can be beneficial to not just newcomers, but to the local communities and neighborhoods, as well.

Below are 4 keys points that illustrate the possible benefits of a gentrified community:

  1. Restoration: New landlords tend to buy the more affordable homes and restore what has been worn down or broker, cleaning up neighborhoods and homes, alike. Old buildings are restored also, as new businesses are built. Places like parks also see renovations to meet their new residences’ likings.
  2. Economic Growth: Gentrified neighborhoods become the new “hot spots” and are places people want to spend time in and be at. This creates a need for new, hip businesses to open and house these people, which then creates more jobs for the locals.
  3. Less Violence: NYU’s Furman Center conducted a study that proved gentrification provides its residences a place to live with less violence.
  4. Better Education: It is also believed that if property taxes rise in the gentrified neighborhoods, more public funding will be generated to public schools, providing our children better education.




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Mortgage Broker VS. Mortgage Bank

By: Devin Valdez

 Obtaining a mortgage loan is one of the first steps you will take when trying to purchase a home. Once you’ve decided to take out a loan, one big decision you may come across, is whether to get help from a mortgage broker or directly from the bank.

Although both outlets are providing the same service in the end- helping you get a loan for your home- your experience and process with each can be polar opposites.

Below is a list of differences when dealing with a bank and a broker.

The Broker

It’s important to know that brokers work as the middleman between you and a potential lender. Brokers DO NOT LEND OUT MONEY DIRECTLY, their job is to access and compare rates and prices between multitudes of lenders, which can usually offer you much more options than a bank will propose. Plus, the wholesale prices that brokers can receive with each lender, have a habit of presenting lower interest rates. And the options do not stop at rates. Brokers are also more flexible in the type of loans they can offer you. They have the ability to shop around multiple lenders to help you find the right loan program for your specific needs.

Moreover, you can say goodbye to piles of paperwork to fill out, because a broker has that handled. Brokers do all the legwork for you, you just have to provide them the information they need. Also, because brokers are working for their commission, they tend to hustle harder to ensure you, the client, are satisfied and your needs are fulfilled.

If you’re the type of person who likes to work closely with someone doing a job for you, a mortgage broker may be your better choice. Brokers are likely to be easier to get in touch with, and more personal. They don’t have the stress of working at a big bank with an overwhelming amount of clients. This advantage gives them a chance to take the time to get to know you.

Lastly, if your loan comes with a few hiccups, brokers may be the better choice due to their knowledge of many lenders and each lenders’ strengths, and their knowledge of the financing game.

The Bank

            The bank is the source that will DIRECTLY LEND YOU THE MONEY for your loan, thus giving them the control in your loan situation. The one who loans the money, is the one with the control. If a mistake is made, it is possible that it can be fixed quicker than with a broker, because the bank is dealing with itself.

Lastly, banks may favor you, if you are a client that they’ve had for years, and already have existing accounts with. They may offer you discounts for your loyalty, and you may find it more appealing to deal with bankers you are already familiar with.

For more information about obtaining a loan, please contact one of our seasoned agents at 510-537-1900.

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co-livingBrian Harkin, New York Times

Co-Living: The Newest, Oldest Housing Fad

By Devin Valdez

There’s a new trend hitting the real estate world by storm. Its core idea is to have strangers move in together, live together in their own rooms and share communal spaces…

Sound familiar? That’s because it is. The idea of “Co-Living,” as the fad has been named, is really nothing new. It’s simply another, fancier, way of saying “living with roommates.” For decades people have been finding roommates to occupy empty rooms in their homes or apartments and to help share with the cost of rent.

This old school concept has become a fad because now apartment developers are running with the idea of “co-living” and building complexes to habitat such social living styles.

How it Works: Living quarters in these complexes will have a communal area for all tenants (usually 3 people in one unit) , and separate bedrooms and bathrooms for each tenant. Instead of leasing an entire apartment or studio, tenants will each lease out a bedroom and bathroom of their own and share communal living spaces, such as the kitchen and living room. Many developers will have the communal areas already fully furnished, and will have cleaning services for these living areas.

Developers in Chicago, New York and Miami have already began building these co-living units in apartment buildings, and have seen a positive desire for the units. Homes or townhouses in San Francisco and Oakland, have taken on the same concept as these apartments, as well.

What’s New: As I continue to say, co-living is an old thought, just with new twists. One of the biggest twist is the emphasis on community. Co-living units will work to put you together with like-minded people, and encourages an atmosphere to hang out, and make new friends. And in the instance that you get paired with someone you can’t get along with, there are ways to move to a different unit in the building.

“People have been renting and living with strangers for a long time. The Craigslist model is established, and it’s something that people, especially younger generation of people are very used to dealing with. I think what we’re trying to do to be effective is to mitigate the negative aspects of that,” explains Noah Gottlieb, principal at Property Markets Group (PMG), an apartment developer company in New York, Miami and Chicago.

Some negatives that are trying to be eliminated are the chores of cleaning and decorating. Communal areas developed by PMG will be fully furnished and will have a cleaning service that takes care of the mess you and your roommates make. This eliminates the fight over whose turn to take out the trash it is. Another negative, and probably one of the best parts of the co-living situation, is that rooms are leased, individually, so no one is responsible for their roommates if one isn’t paying their rent. This eliminates the need for an awkward conversation when one of your roommates is late on their rent money.

The Benefits: One of the biggest and most attractive benefits of co-living is the ability to afford to live on your own, so to speak. Co-living enables you to move out of your parent’s home and into your own place, without having to be literally alone. And on the even brighter side, co-living offers rents per room which are much lower than what you would typically pay for an entire apartment unit.

Co-living has seen the biggest demand in major cities like San Francisco and New York, where rents are on a ridiculous rise.

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Make Your Property More Attractive for Homebuyers

Ensure a Good First Impression

Homebuyers make up their minds about a property in the first few minutes. Make sure your home makes that vital first impression. New paint does wonders. Make sure the front yard is flawless with manicured lawns and attractive foliage. Add a hanging basket or some flower pots at the door. The front door is also critical, make sure the hardware is presentable.

Make them Feel Welcome

Don’t forget buying a home is in many ways an emotional decision, so it’s important to give buyers that warm and fuzzy feeling! Keep the temperature in the home at a comfortable level. Light some candles in the bathrooms and make sure it smells nice and clean. Have fresh flowers around the house.

But don’t make it too personal

Make them feel welcome, but don’t go too far. Too much personality, for example in the form of personal possessions and family photos makes it hard for buyers to visualize living in the space.

Clear out the Clutter

Make sure your property is clutter-free for all your viewings. This will make your home look and feel bigger, and the buyers will be able to imagine how they could make the space their own. Make sure that there is a clean, logical flow through the home by getting rid of all excess furniture. Less is more.

Improve Lighting

This is another way to make your home seem more spacious. Open all your curtains and flood the space with natural light. Make sure the darker rooms are also lit. Invest in some light fixtures and fittings, and place them strategically to illuminate even the gloomiest of areas.

Decorate to Sell That House

Slap on a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color to give it that blank canvas look but do not be too sterile. Have some contrast in the trim as well as the ceiling. Neutral colors make properties appear lighter and brighter, so take advantage of this inexpensive and easy option. You may also add color with decorative window coverings, rugs, and towels.

Clean Up Your Act

Your home should be spotless. Make sure the beds are made and the countertops are free of clutter. The dishes should be put away and nothing should be scattered on the floor. Don’t forget to tidy your garden too: Cut the shrubs back, sweep the patio, and wipe down the backyard furniture.

Those Minor Repairs You Put Off

It is easy to forget things such as broken doorknobs, cracked tiles, holes in walls and damaged but buyers will notice them first thing as they are walking around your home.

Maximize Your Space

The golden rule of selling is to make your space look and feel bigger and better than what your competitors have to offer. We’ve already mentioned that lighting your home, both naturally and artificially, can maximize your assets, but getting rid of bulky furniture can also be a great way of making the most of what you have. Large pieces of furniture make a space feel smaller, so put these items into storage and dress your home with more compact pieces.

Don’t Forget Your Floors

Make the investment of improving and investing in those floors. Worn carpets and damaged vinyl floors need to be replaced, and wooden floors especially should undergo some maintenance. This is not chap by any means, but the prospect of selling your home for the best possible price will likely outweigh the cost.

Remove Pets During Showings

You do not need to remind the potential buyer that the previous owner kept pets.

Try to remove your pets from your home when you are showing the home. Having a pet in the house or yard can create complications for your agent while trying to show the house, and puts your pet at risk of accidentally getting out during the showing. There are also liability issues to deal with as well. They may react differently to stranger and it may cause them stress. All pet-related damage should be repaired prior to showing the home. Make sure to also remove all odors and stains. New visitors will notice smells when they come to view the house. This is not something you want to happen. Have your carpet and floors professionally cleaned or replaced. Pick up any messes in the backyard and have any sod replaced and other damage repaired.

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