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An annual check-up on your homeowners insurance can result in a healthier policy and a healthier pocketbook.

What type of coverage do I have?

The most effective type of coverage is known as “replacement cost,” which covers, up to your policy limits, what it would take today to rebuild your house and restore your belongings, says Jerry Oshinsky, a partner at Jenner & Block in Los Angeles who has represented homeowners in litigation against insurers.

Extended” replacement cost coverage provides protection to your policy limit, say $500,000, and then perhaps another 20% of the cost after that. Percentages vary, but in this example you could recoup up to $600,000 on a $500,000 policy, assuming your losses reach that high. Extended coverage can compensate for any unanticipated expenses like spikes in construction costs between policy renewals. Now harder to find due to the industry shift toward extended replacement coverage, “full” or “guaranteed” replacement coverage covers an entire claim regardless of policy limits.

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A less attractive alternative is “actual cash value” coverage that usually takes into account depreciation, the decrease in value due to age and wear. With this type of policy, the $2,000 flat-screen TV you bought two years ago will be worth hundreds of dollars less today in the eyes of your claims adjuster. Kevin Foley, an independent insurance broker in Milltown, N.J., favors replacement cost coverage unless you can save at least 25% on the premium for going with actual cash value coverage instead.

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Even if you have replacement cost protection for your dwelling and personal property, don’t assume everything is covered. Structures other than your home on your property—such as a detached garage or swimming pool—require separate coverage. So too do luxury items like jewelry, watches, and furs if you want full replacement cost because reimbursement for those items is typically capped.

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How much coverage do I really need?

OK, now that you’re clear on what type of policy you have, you need to figure out how much policy you truly require in dollar terms. Let’s say you purchased your home five years ago and insured it for $200,000. Today, it’s worth $225,000. Simply increasing your coverage to $225,000 may nonetheless leave you underinsured. Here’s why.

The key to determining how much dwelling coverage you need isn’t the value of your home but the money you’d have to pay to rebuild it from scratch, says Carlos Aguirre, an agent for Liberty Mutual Insurance in Arlington, Texas. Call your local contractors’ or homebuilders’ association and inquire about the average per-square-foot construction cost in your area. If it’s $150 and your home is 2,000 square feet, then you should be insured for $300,000.

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There’s no rule of thumb for how much your homeowners insurance should cost. Insurers use numerous factors—age, education level, creditworthiness—to determine pricing, so the same policy could run you more than your neighbor. In recent years the average annual premium was $804. Oshinsky advises against scrimping on insurance because big increases in coverage probably cost less than you’d think. He recently purchased a liability policy that cost $250 for the first $1 million in coverage. Adding another $1 million increased his premiums only $12.50 more.

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How can I lower my premiums?

The higher your deductible, the amount you pay out of pocket before coverage kicks in, the lower your premium. Landing on the appropriate deductible level requires remembering that insurance should cover major calamities, not minor incidents, says Foley, the independent insurance broker. Most homeowners should be able to absorb modest losses like a broken window pane or a hole in the drywall without filing claims. If you can, then you’re wasting money with a $250 deductible.

Foley’s rule: If you’re a first-time homeowner and don’t have a lot of savings, moving up to a $500 deductible will probably stretch your budget. However, if you live in a ritzy home and drive an expensive car, then you should be able to afford a $1,000 deductible. In Milltown, N.J., for example, the premium for a $200,000 home with a $500 deductible would be $736, according to Foley; moving up to a $1,000 deductible drops the annual premium to $672. That’s $64 in savings.

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Every major insurer offers discounts to various groups, such as university employees or firefighters. Figure about 5%. Ask which affiliations would entitle you to a discount and how much. If an AARP membership would result in a $50 savings, pay the $16 dues and pocket the $36 difference. Many insurers also offer discounts ranging from 1% to 10% or more for installing protective devices like alarms and deadbolt locks, for going claim-free for an extended period, or for insuring both your car and your home with the same carrier.

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More about Homeowners Hazard Insurance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_insurance

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SOURCE: HouseLogic, REALTOR Magazine

Real Estate and Homes For Sale in Northern Virginia, Fairfax County VA, Loudoun County VA, Prince William County VA, Northern Virginia Realtors real estate agents, REALTOR Vivianne Rutkowski

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Homeowner hazard home insurance policies can vary greatly, and if home owners aren’t careful, they may find their claims denied when disaster strikes, according to a study to be published early in 2012 by the University of Chicago Law Review.

While home insurers once used standard policy forms by the Insurance Services Office, now some are coming up with their own policies and a few tweaks in the wording can mean trouble for some home owners, according to the study.

Home owners should read the fine-print and carefully review their policies to examine what’s covered and what’s not, the study notes. For example, some policies provide $1,000 per item damaged by a sudden electrical current, and others pay an aggregate of $1,000; some policies include mold and lead coverage; other policies do not.

According to United Policyholders, here are a few questions home owners can ask insurance agents when shopping around for a home owner’s insurance policy

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demand that the insurance agent highlights those coverage areas on the copy of the insurance policy provided to the homeowner – some insurance agents do NOT know their company policies in detail or may confuse the policies; therefore, merely oral statement by the insurance agent is NOT sufficient.

The questions to ask are:

  • What is the coverage for water damage from sewer or pipe problems?
  • What is the coverage for any damage to the foundation — is it completely covered, limited, or excluded completely?
  • Will items be paid at “replacement value” or “actual cash value”?

Study author Daniel Schwarcz, a University of Minnesota Law School associate professor, told The Wall Street Journal that he is urging state insurance departments to post their insurance policies online so they can be reviewed closer by consumer groups and home owners. In October, Nevada began posting policy forms for its largest home and auto insurers, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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Read more: A Home-Insurance Trap?

To read another blog on deceitful Insurance coverage: https://viviannerutkowski.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/state-farm-auto-insurance-eye-opener-welcome-to-the-insurance-world/

For other Insurance related posts visit Property Insurance: https://viviannerutkowski.wordpress.com/category/2-home-buyer-resources/property-insurance/

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SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal

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Arlington County VA homes for sale and homeowners hazard property insurance, Fairfax County VA homes for sale and homeowners hazard property insurance, Loudoun County VA homes for sale and homeowners hazard property insurance, Prince William County VA homes for sale and homeowners hazard property insurance.  

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Overall, home buyers today tend to be fairly sophisticated and knowledgeable about the real estate market, but there are still a few points of confusion in the process, a new survey by Zillow of 1,000 potential home buyers found.

Here are the five main areas of confusion the survey revealed:

  • Appreciation: About 42% of home buyers believe home values will appreciate by 7% a year. Reality: Historically, home values in a normal market appreciate by 2% to 5% in a year.
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  • Mortgage insurance: 41% of buyers think they will have to purchase private mortgage insurance, regardless of the amount of their downpayment. Reality: Buyers only need to purchase PMI if their downpayment is less than 20% of the home’s purchase price.
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  • Appraisals: 56% of the buyers said the purpose of the appraisal was to determine if a home was in good condition. Reality: That’s the purpose of a home inspection; an appraisal estimates fair market value.
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  • Home owner’s insurance: 37% of home buyers said that buying home owner’s insurance is optional. Reality: Lenders require homebuyers to purchase homeowner’s insurance.
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  • Ownership: 47% of home buyers said a prospective buyer owns a home after the purchase contract is signed. Reality: The purchase and sales agreement is the beginning of the closing phase, but it can be a long process until they finally take ownership.

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NOTE from Vivianne: Clarification, I believe that Zillow was NOT clear in the survey regarding Home Owner’s Insurance.

There are THREE types of insurances involved in the real estate transaction: Property and Casualty Insurance (Hazard Insurance), Home Owner’s TITLE Insurance, and LENDER’s TITLE Insurance. Of these three insurances, Home Owner’s TITLE Insurance is OPTIONAL, not mandatory or required by law; however it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED in today’s real estate environment of short sales and foreclosures.

If the purchase of the property is financed with lender financing, mortgage loan, the lender requires the borrower to purchase LENDER’s TITLE INSURANCE and the PROPERTY and CASUALTY (HAZARD) INSURANCE.  Therefore, LEGALLY only two of those insurances are required, however HOME OWNER’s TITLE INSURANCE should be purchased to protect the homeowner’s title to the property – especially if the property is conveyed with Special Warranty Deed, as is often the case with foreclosures.

Contact me directly if you have questions regarding Appraisal, Home Owner’s Insurance, Lender’s Insurance, Property Insurance, or Purchasing a Home in Northern Virginia, Fairfax County VA, Loudoun County VA, Prince Williams County VA

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http://zillow.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=159&item=240

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SOURCE: Zillow Inc.

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NOTE: Advertisement Ads which appear in most posts on this Blog are run by WordPress and do NOT necessarily represent the views of Vivianne Rutkowski or Keller Williams Realty. Visitors to this blog are NOT obligated to click the ads to visit this blog.

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Here is an interesting article from NASDAQ.com about basics of purchasing a home insurance.

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QUESTION: We are about to settle on our first home, and we don’t know the first thing about buying homeowners insurance. How do we get started, and what do we need to know?

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ANSWER: Congratulations on buying your first home! Start by getting a price quote from the company that handles your auto insurance — you generally get a  discount on your auto and home insurance if you have both policies with the same company. If you have an auto insurance agent, find out whether he or she works for one company or is an independent agent who works with several companies. An independent agent can give you price quotes from several insurers. You may also want to contact a few big insurers separately, such as Allstate, Liberty Mutual, State Farm and others. And if you have any military connection in your family, it’s worthwhile to contact USAA, too (see USAA’s page for a list of who is eligible ). If you don’t have an independent agent, you can find one in your area through the Independent Agents and Brokers of America agent search.

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But before you start comparing quotes, you’ll need to decide how much coverage to get. A home’s insurance value is based on the cost to rebuild the house, not the market value. And even though market values are still down in many areas, rebuilding costs are on the rise. You can get an estimate of the home’s rebuilding cost at AccuCoverage.com , which asks a lot of questions about the size of the house and the building materials and details, then uses the same building-cost database that insurers use. Or you can work with the agent or the insurer to come up with an estimate.

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Homeowners insurance automatically provides coverage for your possessions based on a certain percentage of your home’s insurance value — 75% is typical. So if your home is insured for $200,000, you’ll also have up to $150,000 of coverage for your possessions. But homeowners insurance policies usually have lower limits for certain kinds of items — such as $2,000 or $3,000 for all of your jewelry, for example. If you have any particularly valuable possessions — such as jewelry, artwork or special collections — you may want to get extra coverage for those items. See What Does Homeowners Insurance Really Cover? for more  information about special coverage for valuables.

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You’ll also need to choose the deductible amount. One good way to lower premium costs is to choose a deductible of at least $1,000. That will reduce your premium and discourage you from filing small claims that could get you dropped by the insurer or cost you a claims-free discount. Then be sure to keep enough money in your emergency fund to cover the deductible, in case you need to file a claim.

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Before you settle on an insurance company, check out the insurer’s complaint record through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Consumer Information Source . Saving a few dollars in premiums can backfire if your insurer ends up hassling you about claims.

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If you’re concerned about flooding, which isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, go to www.floodsmart.gov to see the home’s risk of flooding and get prices for flood coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program. You can buy flood insurance through most homeowners insurance agents. Your mortgage company may require flood coverage if you live in a high-risk area, but it can be worthwhile to get the coverage even if it’s not required. See Protect Your Home and Finances Against Floods for more information.

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When you move into your new home, it’s the perfect time to conduct an inventory, which will streamline the claims process if you have to file a claim in the future. Take photos or a video of every room, keep receipts for valuable items, and keep a copy of the file somewhere away from home so it’s easy to access if needed. See How to Prepare for an Emergency for details.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

Read more: http://community.nasdaq.com/News/2011-07/the-basics-of-buying-homeowners-insurance.aspx?storyid=83694#ixzz1SIQDvJ6B

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SOURCE: The NASDAQ, KIPLINGER

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NOTE from Vivianne: Most insurance companies have their own policies as to coverage for water damage: they might cover a water damage caused by rain, but not water damage caused by ground water.  Now what IF the rain was the source of the ground water that caused the damage ….. Talk to your insurer about it and, most of all, hire a buyer agent who understands those issues and helps you purchase a property that is not located in the area prone to ground water damage.

NOTE from Vivianne: Shop for a home insurance the same way you would shop for mortgage loan, a car, etc. by contacting many providers, asking detailed questions, and reading the fine print. Here is an eye opener about State Farm auto insurance that nevertheless applies to home insurance as well:  https://viviannerutkowski.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/state-farm-auto-insurance-eye-opener-welcome-to-the-insurance-world/

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Auto insurance, home insurance, homeowners insurance in Arlington County Virginia, Fairfax County Virginia, Fauquier County Virginia, Loudoun County Virginia, and Prince William County Virginia.

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Purchasing Home Owner’s Title Insurance always was and still is OPTIONAL. There is no law that requires homebuyer to purchase a Title Insurance – although the same homebuyer MUST purchase Lender’s Title Insurance that protects the lender’s investment in the property and is required by all lenders.

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However, in the post 2005 years that brought the flood of short sales and foreclosures, purchasing a Homeowner’s Title Insurance is a wise decision – not purchasing the insurance may prove to be a costly mistake.

Homeowner’s Title Insurance is a one-time payment on the Settlement day.

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Merely purchasing the Title Insurance is NOT sufficient. Homeowners need to store the copy of the Insurance in a very safe place where they can find it easily when the need arises. Unfortunately, the Title Company insuring the title will require the policy number and the date the title was purchased before they will pay for any damages caused by the clouded title.

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Clouds in title can be caused by unrecorded deeds, liens, illegal passing of title, defects in foreclosure proceedings, etc.

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Typically, title companies conduct a 60 year back title search to verify the chain of ownership. However, occasionally errors do happen and can lead to costly problems for homeowners.

Just like the Auto Insurance follows the car and not the person driving the car, the Homeowner’s Title Insurance follows the house, not the person who clouded the title.

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In the current environment of short sales and foreclosures, declining to purchase the Homeowner’s Title Insurance is simply too risky.  If you love your home and want to keep it, protect your investment with home owner’s TITLE Insurance – it is one time payment on the settlement day.  Chances are you will be glad you did.

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Homeowners insurance is a very important part of the contract to purchase a home, or other real estate, for that matter.

Lenders require the borrower to acquire the fire hazard insurance before taking the title to the property as a protection against damages caused by a fire, severe storms, or other natural hazards.

It is very important for home buyers to shop for a homeowners insurance with the same diligence as when shopping for a mortgage and carefully compare the coverage, deductibles, and exclusions.

I wanted to share with you two quotes for auto insurance for one and the same car prepared for one and the same person that was issued by State Farm Insurance.  The quotes truly are an eye opener and raise many questions.  By the legal standards in this country those quotes cannot be called a fraud as every business is entitled to have a “freedom” to develope their own business strategy as they see it fit.  See below and judge for yourself.

I erased the name to protect the identity of the person involved.

Note that both quotes are for 1975 Volkswagen Beetle 2DR. Both quotes have $100, $500, and $200 deductibles.

However when you look closely at the LIMITS you can notice that one quote offers 250/500/100 Limits at a 6 months premium of $74.89 or $12.48 per month.

The second quote offers only 100/300/100 Limits at a 6 months premium of $73.42 or $12.24 per month.

This is ONLY $0.24  (24 cents) difference in pricing despite the huge difference in coverage due to lower limits.  

250/500/100 LIMITS   $12.48 per month

StateFarmFraud 0.24

100/300/100 LIMITS    $12.24 per month

StateFarmFraud NameErased

It is extremely important to understand here that the federal law does NOT put the same burden of disclosure on insurance agents the way it puts on real estate agents.  REALTORS are obligated by law to disclose virtually everything to their clients as well as obey Fair Housing Laws.

Because of Agency laws, REALTORS owe fiduciary duty to their clients, sellers and buyers – however insurance agents represent the insurance company and have the duty to protect the best interests of the insurance company, NOT the interests of a person who purchases the insurance.

Insurance agent is obligated and limited only by the business policy of the insurance company that he/she represents.

In other words, if State Farm has no requirement that obligates its agents to DISCLOSE various insurance options and  the pricing, then all patrons who purchase an insurance from State Farm are at the mercy and good will of the agent…. If the agent chooses not to disclose that for $0.24 (24 cents) more the patron can double the coverage, that patron will never know….. AND if State Farm does have such a policy,  why, in the spirit of fairness, not charge more equitable premiums?

Does it smell of open discrimination in a broad daylight? You bet.  Does it provide an opportunity to discriminate?  YES, again. Discrimination that is legalized under a business umbrella.

I am certain the same applies to the homeowners insurance.

Defence: due diligence.  Shop and compare.

NOTE:  The above comment represents the views and opinion of the owner of this blog, Vivianne Rutkowski, and is not a reflection of views of  Keller Williams Realty. Each Keller Williams Realty office is independently owned and operated.

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NOTE: Advertisement Ads which appear in most posts on this Blog are run by WordPress and do NOT necessarily represent the views of Vivianne Rutkowski or Keller Williams Realty. Visitors to this blog are NOT obligated to click the ads to visit this blog.

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Since the slowdown of the real estate market in 2006, many homebuyers and investors are taking advantage of the buyers’ market and purchase at a lower price. It is not uncommon for unmarried couple, or two roommates, or a group of friends to invest in a real property.

While the idea may seem on the surface like a good opportunity for renters who wish to become homeowners or investors looking for ways to capitalize on the current housing downturn, however there are many LEGAL problems and potential risks for unmarried/unrelated persons purchasing real estate together.

Most (not all) married couples purchase real estate either as Tenants by the Entirety ( in the states where it is allowed) or as Joint Tenants with the Right of the Survivorship – either way the surviving spouse is protected and the property is shared equally. The exception is the Tenancy in Common which does NOT automatically offer protection to the surviving spouse and owners can own unequal shares.

The mortgage obligations and the way title is taken can punish the participants to the transaction for years to come. This is especially true if all co-owners are on the title, but only some sign the mortgage – in case of default all co-owners who are on the title are responsible for the mortgage, however those who did sign the loan stand to loose more in terms of their credit rating.

This is why it is of utmost importance to have a well written, detailed legal agreement prepared BEFORE the property is purchased by a knowledgeable real estate attorney that clearly spells out all the terms of the agreement to co-own:

  •  how title to the property will be held
  • who owns how much of the property
  • what amounts were contributed
  • who is responsible for mortgage
  • what happens if the partnership dissolves
  • future repair and maintenance costs
  • HOA fees
  • utility costs and other expenses
  • who pays all the property taxes, unless the lender pays via escrow
  • how the tax deduction for the mortgage interest will be split
  • what happens if one or more of the co-owners abandons the property
  • what happens if one of the co-owners decides to sell or transfer his share
  • how the ownership arrangement will be dissolved
  • how the proceeds of the sale will be distributed

Choosing the way unmarried co-owners take the Title to the property depends greatly on the relationship of the co-owners:

  • Joint Tenancy with the right of survivorship
  • Tenancy in Common
  • Limited Liability Company

To read about various ways that Title to real estate property can be taken, visit May 2009 blog:

https://viviannerutkowski.wordpress.com/2009/05/04/title-to-real-property-protecting-ownership-rights/

While there are many benefits to co-ownership, there are certainly risks as well. Married people have comprehensive divorce laws that offer legal guidelines in the event of split – those who purchase real property with non-spouse do not have that legal benefit and protection.

All the more reason to consult a real estate attorney and tax accountant BEFORE purchasing a property with siblings, friends, or other investors to protect interests of everyone involved. A well written, detailed agreement can save a lot of headache and legal fees in the future.

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NOTE: Advertisement Ads which appear in most posts on this Blog are run by WordPress and do NOT necessarily represent the views of Vivianne Rutkowski or Keller Williams Realty. Visitors to this blog are NOT obligated to click the ads to visit this blog.

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