Archives

It’s Time To Get That Home Inventory Completed

Waking up to discover your finished basement is knee-high with water or returning home to find that a thunderstorm “installed” a new window in your living room is every homeowner’s fear. But we purchase home insurance, and those of us in towns with less than reliable water infrastructures add “sewer backup insurance”, and we carry on hoping that’s enough.

Still, even with good coverage, the disruption and stress that home damage brings is significant. This is especially true for homeowners who have had to put their home back together after a natural disaster – when the damage and loss of personal possessions can be devastating.

Jack Buoscio, owner of a State Farm agency in Palos Heights, IL urges his clients to take the time to inventory their possessions proactively. “Making a list of your possessions, and their worth before you have to contend with cleanup, gives you an extra piece of mind. And honestly, it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task if you tackle it efficiently.”

1. Find out exactly what you need to inventory.

A quick call to your insurance agent before you start taking stock of your home can save you quite a bit of work. He or she can tell you what kind of items you should be documenting and which ones are worth taking time to photograph and obtain serial numbers for.

2. Channel your inner Marie Kondo.

The KonMari Method of organization encourages people to take stock of their possessions, letting go of the items that don’t bring purpose or personal joy. The book, The Magic of Tidying Up and Netflix show, Tidying up with Marie Kondo has homeowners around the world upending drawers and emptying closets.

Merging this popular, personal organization method with your initiative to take a thorough home inventory is a great way to gain both serenity and security.

3. Automate the process.

Most insurance agencies have downloadable checklists or apps that can save you quite a bit of time. In Laura Daily’s Washington Post article, “Don’t wait for a disaster to take inventory of your belongings” she asks certified organizer Susan Kousek which independent home inventory apps she recommends as well. Kousek advises clients to look for apps that “allow you to list each item and attach a photo and supporting documentation such as receipts”. Her top picks include; HomeZada, Sortly, Memento Database and Nest Egg.

4. Make your own documentary.

Ideally, you’re working towards an inventoried list that includes pictures, receipts and serial codes. But a great “in time meantime” or “please, do I look like have that kind of time?” solution is to create a video inventory.

Daily suggests that you, “Stand in the center of a room and narrate as you record. Film the entire space, including every wall, the ceiling and floor. Describe every item and feature, such as hardwood flooring or that pricey light fixture, to the best of your ability. Some detail is better than nothing.”

Your home inventory should be an ongoing task on your todo list. When you upgrade appliances, or purchase new home furnishings it’s important to add those to your list. Keeping that list safe is key as well. Home inventory apps have the advantage of putting your hard work into the cloud, but if you are opting to use a personal spreadsheet be sure to give a relative or friend a flash drive copy.

3 Ways To Help Your Child Buy A Home While On A Budget

It’s not unusual for adult children to look to their parents for help when purchasing their first home. In fact, the 2018 NAR Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report shared that 23% of home buyers, 37 years and younger, who purchased their home with a down payment, used money they received from family or friends.

However, not every parent is in a position to write a big check, however much they might want to. Cheryl Milan, a Wisconsin homeowner, shares her situation. “I see some of my friends prepared to gift a significant part of the down payment, or even fully pay, for their children’s house. I can’t match that, but I still very much want to help my daughter buy her first home.”

Foremost, how do you determine if you can offer monetary assistance to your fledgling property owner? Above all, it has to make good financial sense for you. The goal is to help your child, while still protecting your own financial future. If gifting all or part of a down payment damages your personal retirement plan, or takes too much out of your your 401K –  then it might not be the best choice. But fear not, there are plenty of alternative ways to support their dream of homeownership.

1. Help Them Find Resources

The good news is that most states offer first time-homebuyer programs that can help your child realize their dream of homeownership – programs that many fledgling homebuyers are often not aware of. Doing the research and then sitting down with your son or daughter to go over what your state offers can be an enormous help to an overwhelmed, first-time buyer. Nerd Wallet has a great breakdown of state-by-state, first-time homebuyer assistance.

2. Save For A Downpayment Together

Over the last few years, quite a few states have been rolling out First-Time Homebuyer programs (FTHB). For example, in Minnesota, First-time homebuyers, or buyers re-entering the market after renting, can save up to $150,000 towards a new home while accruing dividends and interest. A parent, or even a grandparent, can open and make deposits to FTHB accounts for their children and grandchildren. By setting up a home buying savings plan with your child, you can avoid the financial hit of writing a big check and contribute to their dream over time.

Currently, the following states below offer FTHB plans. Each state has unique guidelines, so be sure to investigate what your particular state offers before sitting down with your child to make a plan.

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Oregon
  • Virginia

3. Consider Co-Ownership

The trend of multigenerational homebuyers continues to rise for a reason. The New York Times article, “What to Know Before Buying a Home With Your Parents” stated that “a record 64 million Americans now live in a multigenerational home, according to a Pew Research Center report, up from 32.2 million in 1950.”

While not for everyone, many find that the benefits of sharing a home with their parents outnumber the negatives. These include; sharing mortgage expenses, providing social engagement for older parents and offering live in childcare. The article interviewed Diana Limongi, a nonprofit business consultant and multigenerational homeowner, who said, “I hear my mom talking to my daughter and cracking up. It’s just pure joy, and it’s a beautiful sound. They’re really enjoying each others’ company.”

If this route sounds like it may have potential, be sure to sit down with your REALTOR® to make sure that the properties you are looking at are zoned for multi-family usage.

Maine’s Fast Growing Housing Concerns

The senior population in Maine is among the fastest growing in the United States. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Senior Health and Housing Task Force reported that after Florida, Maine is home to the highest percentage of residents over age 65. This number will soon rise, since the average age of a Maine resident is currently 43.5.

Columnist George Mitchell, of CentralMaine.com, explains how the increasing senior population is translating into a housing issue for the state. “While most older adults in the state own their homes, incomes decline significantly as people age, a situation that will affect the thousands of seniors who still hold mortgages and pay property taxes.”

Mitchell shares that a recent AARP survey found that “an overwhelming majority of older adults will seek to “age in place” in their own homes and communities. Yet most homes lack the design features like “no-step” entrances, extra-wide hallways and doors and accessible switches and outlets that can help ensure safe and independent living by seniors.”

The Maine Association of REALTORS® (MAR) and its members often work with senior clients, and are aware of the housing challenges Mitchell wrote about in his article. Suzanne Guild, MAR’s CEO, said, “As REALTORS®, as neighbors, we want to make sure that the seniors in our state have safe, affordable housing. As an emerging policy issue, it’s important that we begin partnering with housing and service providers to have a seat at the table for the development of solutions.”

MAR joined forces with the Maine Council on Aging and the State Housing Authority to host a conference called “Housing Solutions for Maine’s New Age” in May of 2018. The event provided an opportunity to identify solutions and greater housing opportunities for Maine seniors. The conference attendees came prepared to create an actionable, long-range plan that would address the changing housing needs of aging Mainers.

Discussions centered around solutions that would honor the wishes of seniors who wanted to remain in their homes as they aged. These included finding ways to provide repairs and modifications as well as developing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Emerging design trends like tiny homes and the development of “scattered site” development of affordable housing were also brought to light.

“The conference brought together the knowledge of more than 100 housing professionals. We were able to identify immediate and long term solutions that will help our senior population continue to enjoy the benefits of home ownership.”

New Jersey Community Rallies Around Local Family

Every year the Passaic County Board of REALTORS® (PCBOR) hosts REALTORS® Care Day, a statewide initiative organized in conjunction with the New Jersey Association of REALTORS®. The event strives to make life a little better for local homeowners who are in need of a helping hand. PCBOR members come together to put in a day’s work making home improvements like gutter replacements, landscaping and painting.

“REALTORS® Care Day, is a great opportunity for us, as REALTORS®, to show our communities that we are here not only to sell or purchase homes for them but to show that we are dedicated to improving our local neighborhoods as well,” Passaic County Board of Realtors® President Judy Mizzone said. “Not only is it a great cause but fixing our homes, parks and school grounds raises the value of properties, which is beneficial for everyone.”

This year, The Valerie Fund, an organization that has supported children with cancer and and blood disorders since 1976, reached out to nominate The Alamancar Family for this years REALTORS® Care Day. PCBOR frequently partners with The Valerie Fund and was immediately on board with the their suggestion.

“Seeing the smiles on their faces really did make all the hard work and labor worth it.”

The Alamancar family had been having a particularly tough time since their two year old daughter Carly began fighting cancer. Carly was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma in February and went through her second bone marrow transplant this past August. The family needed help with general property cleanup, landscaping, painting and repairs to their foundation and retaining wall.

PCBOR volunteers spent the day checking off tasks from the Alamanacar’s to-do list. They worked hard to deliver on every request the family had made. “My favorite part of the day was when the father came home and called his wife and daughter to show them the transformation of the front of house and the yard,” Mizzone said. “Seeing the smiles on their faces really did make all the hard work and labor worth it.”

REALTORS® Care Day is just one of the many events that PCBOR does to give back to the community. This past June they hosted a charity golf outing at the Black Bear Golf Course with proceeds of more than $10,000 going to The Valerie Fund.

Fair Housing Continues To Be An Important Issue For Northern Virginians

Virginia’s Regional Fair Housing Symposium

The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors® (NVAR) sponsored an important regional event this past April, Virginia’s Regional Fair Housing Symposium, “Fair Housing Act at 50: The State of Fair Housing in the District”. The event was spearheaded by the Fairfax County Office of Human Rights and Equity Programs and attended by both REALTORS® and community members.

NVAR Chairman of the Board Lorraine Arora shared that despite the bill’s passage in 1968, the Fair Housing Act compliance is still an issue for Northern Virginia today. “As REALTORS® we often hear firsthand how homeowners are experiencing discrimination during their housing search,” she said. “NVAR has made a priority to make sure our REALTORS® understand why this issue is so important, and how they can advocate for all homeowners during the home buying process.”

Senator Tim Kaine

During the symposium, keynote speaker Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) explained how homeownership defines us, “Physical things are not important. But a house is an extension of who you are as a person; it is an extension of your personality.” He went on to talk about how providing a stable home can meet emotional needs and have a lasting psychological impact on families, underscoring how important it was that everyone be given the opportunity for homeownership.

As a young lawyer in Richmond, Kaine’s first case was a housing discrimination complaint. Kaine’s client, an African-American named Lorraine, had a difficult experience during her home search. “Lorraine inquired about a listing she liked, and was invited to view the property,” Kaine said. “When she arrived, she was informed that the place was ‘already taken.’ Suspicious, she asked her colleague to ask about availability, and he was invited to come the next day.”

Fair Housing Art and Literary Contest

NVAR knows that cases such as Lorraine’s are not just a thing of the past. Because of this, the association remains actively involved with fair housing, and hosts the Fairfax County Fair Housing Task Force for its quarterly meetings. In addition to sponsoring the symposium, NVAR provides cash prizes for the annual Fair Housing Art and Literary Contest hosted by The Fairfax County Student Human Rights Commission.

The contest was created to raise awareness among Fairfax County high school students about fair housing issues and laws. Promoting the importance of providing equal housing opportunities for all. This year’s theme was, Fair Housing: 50 Years and Building More.

Christina Choi of Centreville High School won for art and Kaycee Hubbard of Chantilly High School won for literature. Each student received a $300 prize.

Arora shared, “Our association will continue to seek out opportunities to educate homeowners and REALTORS® regarding fair housing compliance.”

Fair Housing Still A Hot Topic for Eastern Connecticut

Photo

Even though the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968, the issues it was created to solve still remain relevant to many homeowners today. In an open meeting with local REALTORS® and community members, Connecticut Fair Housing Center Director Erin Kemple shared a story that demonstrated just how important staying vigilant about fair housing is.

Kemple explained that their organization regularly tests REALTORS® across Connecticut to make sure that they are complying with fair housing laws. In a three-year Fair Housing Initiative Program that ended in 2015 the center sent 17 African-Americans, all of whom were pre-qualified with good credit, into a Connecticut real estate agency to pose as potential homeowners.

Despite their good standing, the African-Americans were all steered away from nice, predominantly white neighborhoods. However, when 20 Caucasian people with poor credit went in they were directed towards the same homes the agency evaded showing to the African-American group.

Kemple commented, “It’s not about money, it’s not about credit scores, it’s about the color of their skin.”

The meeting where Kemple shared her story was hosted by The Eastern Connecticut Association of REALTORS® (ECAR). Also in attendance as speakers were, Norwich NAACP President Dianne Daniels, Norwich Economic Development Supervisor Kathy Crees, Real Estate Eviction Attorney Yona Gregory, and Connecticut Property Owners Alliance President Bob DeCosmo. All of whom, the ECAR felt could help local REALTORS® and community members understand why this issue remains important today.

In addition to sharing the controversial test case, the panel of speakers talked about other ways REALTORS® and homeowners could be on the lookout for discriminatory practices.

ECAR is committed to maintaining an ongoing, proactive relationship with the NAACP, Connecticut Fair Housing Center and other organizations who partner on the issue of fair housing. Mat Lisee, ECAR President and broker/owner of Capital Property Management hopes that this meeting has helped to start a dialogue in the community and plans to host more gatherings in the future. “It’s important that Connecticut REALTORS® continue to advocate for homeownership and fair housing by offering equal professional service to all in their search for real property.”

Lakeland Community Helps Kids Get A Great Start

The Lakeland REALTORS® Association has made community building one of its top priorities. These local REALTORS® know that helping Lakeland neighborhoods, and the people who live in them, is a win-win. One of the ways area REALTORS® offer support is by partnering with organizations like the Boys & Girls Club.

Members of the Lakeland REALTORS® Association work with clubs in both Lakeland & Mulberry, and tailor their support to fit the individual needs of each location. Recently, the Lakeland REALTORS® Young Professionals Network (YPN) was serving up ice cream at the James L. Musso club. Games, treats and fun were on hand for the 75 children who attended.  “We have really enjoyed visiting the kids and doing activities with them this year,” says YPN Co-Chair, Jana Lutz. “They especially love when we bring them treats…who doesn’t love ice cream?!”

A New Hangout Spot

The association also renovated a room at this location so that local teens could have a new hangout spot. REALTOR® Shannon Cornell was visiting the facility and saw the room set aside for the kids. She shared with the association that the room was so in need of attention that no one wanted to be in it.  President Kyle Vreeland recalled going to this exact club in his early childhood years and agreed that, “Not much has changed since I was here.”

After raising funds from more than 1100 REALTORS®, the room was freshly painted and had new flooring, lighting and ceilings installed. The updated room was stocked with bean bag chairs and a life sized Jenga set for the kids. The club also got a serious electronic upgrade as the new hangout was stocked with a Playstation 4, a new smart TV, and tablets.

Boys & Girls Club Bedroom Makeovers

Vreeland attended the room’s reveal to the kids this past May. “They were so excited, I am very proud of our Community Service Committee for doing such a great job,” says Vreeland. Vreeland shared that this room was the first the organization had done on-site but that REALTORS® had been giving the Lakeland & Mulberry Boys & Girls club members bedroom makeovers for years.

Boys & Girls club leaders nominate the child they think would benefit most from the boost of a bedroom makeover. The Lakeland REALTORS® Association then gets to work raising funds, collecting supplies and organizing volunteers for the makeover. In the end, the child is given a reveal of their new, organized bedroom. A space of their own to relax, be social and in which they can do their schoolwork. “Room Makeover Reveal Day is our favorite day of the year,” said Lakeland REALTORS® Community Service Chair Marie Hanna.

Lakeland REALTORS® Are Building A Safe Community for All

Every year the Lakeland REALTORS® association hosts an Annual Charity Golf Tournament at the Cleveland Heights Golf Course in Lakeland, Florida. Funds raised at the tournament go towards improving the community of Lakeland.

For the past two years, the funds raised by the benefit have been used to purchase a furry new addition to the Lakeland Police Department K9 Unit. K9 dogs are no small investment either, with many costing upwards of $10,000. The association was able to raise $11,300, covering the cost of the new dog entirely. Lars II is the name of the most recent police dog who will grow into his role as a top narcotics officer and K9 team member.

Lars II of the Lakeland Police Department K9 Unit.

Melissa Sanchez, the association’s Communications & Community Outreach Director, explained why the organization felt it was important to fund the purchase of a K9 dog. “Safe communities are happy communities. And we believe that police dogs bring a higher level of safety to Lakeland. They are able to identify potentially harmful materials, detect evidence such as drugs and protect their handlers in dangerous situations.”

This year’s Annual Charity Golf Tournament will be on Friday, September 28, 2018 and benefits the Lakeland Habitat for Humanity “Tiny Homes for Heroes” initiative. Habitat for Humanity will be building a Veterans Community of Tiny Houses.

Kyle Vreeland, Lakeland REALTORS® President, shares that “Many of the veterans who will move into these new homes are currently living in deplorable conditions and are hanging onto their pride by a thread. We want them to be able to live out the rest of their lives having a wonderful time in a safe, clean, affordable and fun community.”

REALTOR® and Events Committee Chair Susan Conner said, “I am proud and honored to be involved in raising funds for the Tiny Homes for Heroes. This all Veteran community will serve a huge need in our area and will be a small way to say “thank you” to the men and women who so bravely served our Country.”

Fair Housing in Lakeland, Florida

Lakeland REALTORS®, an association dedicated to helping Florida homeowners, was proud to join forces with the National Association of REALTORS® in order to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. The act was first passed in 1968 and later amended in order to prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status and national origin.

In an interview with the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, association President J. Kyle Vreeland shared why marking the act’s anniversary was important, “REALTORS® continue to recognize the significance of this important act and reconfirm our commitment to upholding fair housing law.”

Vreeland also shared that, “Fair housing protects the American Dream of homeownership for all citizens, and Lakeland REALTORS® looks forward to commemorating the anniversary and supporting the development of healthy and diverse communities.”

Click on the ad above to see a larger version.

The association read a proclamation at a City Commission meeting in April that announced their support of the act, and reaffirmed their commitment to raising awareness around the act’s continued importance. Additionally, they purchased ad space in local print and social media to ensure that Lakeland residents would be reminded of the importance of the Fair Housing Act. Lastly, the Lakeland team came together to make video that showed REALTORS® announcing that, “Fair Housing Makes Us Stronger” in different languages.

Vreeland shares that, “REALTORS® work hard to build strong communities and neighborhoods where all people can live and prosper.” Melissa Sanchez, the association’s Communications & Community Outreach Director, echos Vreeland’s statement and said that the association will continue to be on the lookout for more opportunities to talk about the Fair Housing Act.

The Fight For Fair Housing In Illinois Continues Today

fair housing illinois

When the Fair Housing Act was first brought to the public’s attention, many homeowners and REALTORS® viewed it as an infringement on their property rights. Newspaper articles and pamphlets opposing the bill featured headlines claiming, “This Is Forced Occupancy Legislation”.

Matt Diffanis, President of the Illinois REALTORS® Association explains, “Fair housing was equated with ‘forced housing’ for many homeowners and REALTORS® during this period of history.” In fact, The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), known at that time as National Association of Real Estate Board’s (NAREB), stated their position in a trade newspaper with the headline, “NAREB fights ‘civil rights’ Bill: Trend is Against Forced Housing.”

Diffanis, an energetic and driven fair housing advocate, is quick to point out that NAR was on the wrong side of history for a time. “A large part of moving forward is being transparent and honest about where we’ve been as an organization.” Diffanis shares that the Illinois REALTORS® Association of today works hand-in-hand with minoreity trade groups like the Chicago’s Dearborn Realtist Board, an African American run trade association that was founded in order to offer support and leadership during a time when black Real Estate Brokers were not allowed to join existing trade organizations.

Courtney Q. Jones, President of the REALTIST board was recently part of a mini-documentary the Illinois association produced titled, Fair Housing Makes Us Stronger. Jones said, “This video was badly needed in order to bring awareness about how policy plays a huge role in Illinois’s housing market, in our black housing market especially.”

Jones says that evidence of fair housing issues today can be seen in the disparate ratio of black to white homeowners. He also points to a recent report published by UIC’s Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy that was titled “A Tale of Three Cities: The State of Racial Justice in Chicago” because “Racial and ethnic inequality in Chicago is so ‘pervasive, persistent, and consequential’ that the investigators describe life for white, black and Latino residents in Chicago today as a ‘tale of three cities.’ ”

The report found that prospective, minority homeowners (with credit scores comparable to their white counterparts) were still being offered high interest mortgages, balloon payment schedules and closing contracts full of additional fees. These offers either prohibited homeownership, or set minority homeowners up for potential foreclosures.

Jones stresses that it is important we see reports like this as more than just evidence of existing fair housing inequalities. “We as a city, as a state, need to see this underserved, undervalued, overcharged market as an opportunity for positive, financial growth.” Jones believes that an increase in black homeownership, ownership with fair and equitable home loans, will pave the way for black entrepreneurs. “Improving economic outlook for African Americans means a healthier economy and a solid housing market for all Illinois homeowners. White and black.”

When Jones is asked what national organizations like NAR and can do to continue to support fair housing he has a clear list of things to share. “Number one, we need to continue to educate homeowners and REALTORS® about the reality of our history. Let’s be brutally honest about our past so we can be fiercely inspired to change our future.”

“Secondly, local, minority trade organizations need to continue to work with larger, national organizations like NAR. Our collective voice needs to be clearly heard so that fair housing issues can’t get shoved into a dark corner.”

It is vital that we help current and hopeful homeowners to understand which public policies are standing in the way of a healthy housing market for Illinois.Click To Tweet

“Lastly, it is vital that we help current and hopeful homeowners to understand which public policies are standing in the way of a healthy housing market for Illinois.”

Jones goes on to say that he hopes the future holds even more collaborations with NAR. “I would love to see NAR work hand-in-hand with NAREB to champion legislation like the upcoming H.R. 4211, the Credit Score Competition Act.”

NAREB, or the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, and it’s local chapters like Chicago’s Dearborn Realtist Board, have been raising awareness about the act for the past three years. Once passed, this act will enable lenders like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to look at additional ways in which potential homeowners demonstrate their creditworthiness. Jones says, “This act has the potential to significantly and positively impact Illinois’s housing market.”