Flood insurance checkup

flood insurance
National Flood Insurance Program (fema.gov)

Hurricane Florence is not your average storm.  As it will undoubtedly devastate the area where it makes landfall, it will also wreak havoc along the east coast.  Some are already calling it a historic storm.  Flooding is expected not just along the coast, but also well into the mainland due to heavy rains.  Even my local county (Montgomery County) is bracing for persistent heavy rain even though we are in central MD. In its aftermath, hurricane Florence will be another reminder for Congress to act on a long-term reform of the National Flood Insurance Program.

The National Flood Insurance Program was created 1968 as a result of the aftermath of hurricane Betsy.    After the 1965 hurricane ravaged the gulf coast, Congress realized that flood insurance should be affordable and widely available to home owners, tenants, and businesses.  The National Flood Insurance Program provides coverage associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, and heavy rains.  Like other Federal programs, Congress funds the program.  However, in recent years, Congress has appropriated short term extensions for the program.  The current extension provides funding through November.

National Association of Realtors President Elizabeth Mendenhall, issued a statement regarding the impending storm and a plea to Congress to act on reforming the National Flood Insurance Plan.  Mendenhall stated in the September 11th press release that there are an estimated 750,000 homes at risk from a coastal storm surge.  Furthermore, there is the potential of an estimated $170 billion of property damage just in the Carolinas and Virginia (nar.realtor).

Representing the National Association of Realtors, Mendenhall urges Congress to pass a long-term National Flood Insurance Plan by pointing out that “Flooding is the most common disaster in the United States, one that affects Americans in communities both coastal and inland every year.” She is correct to say, “In these times, we are reminded of the importance of peace of mind for property owners with access to quality and affordable flood insurance.

FEMA’s Flood Smart (floodsmart.gov) portal is where you can find more information about flood insurance and protecting your home before and after a flood.  Before a storm like Florence, you can reduce your risk by preparing.  FEMA offers suggestions for flood prepping, which includes (but not limited to): elevating critical utilities; ensuring your sump pump is working and has a battery back-up; install a water alarm in your basement; clear debris from gutters and down spouts; store irreplaceable documents (such as birth certificates, passports, etc.) in a safe, dry place; and of course, build an emergency supply kit that is ready to go when you are.  Your emergency kit should minimally include non-perishable food, bottled water, first aid, medicines and a battery-operated radio.  Ready.gov has checklists and additional preparedness information, including building your emergency supply kit.

It’s also recommended to make an inventory of your valuables so as to make filing insurance claims easier.  Additionally, know your flood risk level by checking FEMA’s interactive flood map (msc.fema.gov/portal/search).

FEMA warns home owners that regardless of your risk zone, flood insurance may be a necessary add-on to your homeowners’ insurance policy.  Even if you live in low or moderate flood risk area, you are five times more likely to experience a flood in your home than a fire.  Don’t assume your homeowners’ insurance policy covers flood damage.  Even if you have a flood rider, your coverage may be limited.  Review your policy with your insurance agent to determine if you have flood coverage as well as its limitations.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/09/12/flood-insurance-checkup/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorDisclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

National Preparedness Month

National Preparedness Month
National Preparedness Month (from Ready.Gov)

September is National Preparedness Month!  Being prepared is not just having a “bugout” bag at the ready.  Preparedness is about taking stock to ensure safety for yourself and family in various conditions.  When you hear “preparedness,” you may automatically think of disaster or national emergency.  But it’s also about coping with various local emergencies including: weather, active shooter, hazardous materials, chemical, cybersecurity, and power outages.

FEMA encourages Americans to be prepared to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.  National Preparedness Month is FEMA’s focused outreach effort to educate and empower everyone through local and online events (https://www.ready.gov/september).  National Preparedness Month activities are occurring throughout the country.  In Montgomery County MD, local National Preparedness Month activities are coordinated through the County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Preparedness in your home starts with maintenance.  Proper home maintenance can not only help mitigate a disaster, but also prevent one as well.  Regular maintenance of the home’s systems is obviously suggested.  However, there are specific emergency related recommendations to help you in your home, which include: testing smoke alarms monthly, replacing smoke alarms every ten years, and knowing how to shut off your home’s utilities.  Additionally, to prevent a chimney fire, you should have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a qualified and reputable professional.

Information is key to getting through an emergency.  If you have a cell phone, you may receive “Wireless Emergency Alerts” through the Integrated Public Alert Warning System, which includes amber alerts, weather alerts, and notifications from the Emergency Alert System.  However, localities also have there own alert systems.  Here in Montgomery County MD, the Montgomery Alert system can inform you of local government and school information, weather alerts, as well as traffic and infrastructure issues (montgomerycountymd.gov/OEMHS/AlertMontgomery).

National Preparedness Month
FEMA Preparedness Checklist (from ready.gov)

Do you have an emergency plan?  You should have a plan in case an emergency occurs in and out of the home.  Take time to update your home fire evacuation plan, and practice it with a family fire drill.  Choose a family rendezvous point in case an emergency occurs during work/school hours and the home is inaccessible.  Because cell phones are not reliable during emergencies, alternate means of communication should be considered.  Create a family communication plan by including: family contact information, family physician, medical facility information, and an out-of-town point of contact.

Is your homeowner’s insurance adequate?  The aftermath of recent hurricanes and floods have demonstrated that home owners with proper insurance coverage recover from those disasters quicker.  Insurance and emergency experts recommend to regularly review your insurance policy with your agent to ensure that the replacement costs of your home and possessions are covered.  Coverage varies depending on the policy.  Experts recommended to discuss flood and disaster insurance with your insurance agent.

As for the “bugout” bag… It’s recommended that you have an emergency kit in the home and in your car.  A basic kit should be able to get you and your family through 72 hours of an emergency.  However, extreme emergencies have revealed that infrastructure can be disrupted for weeks.  Many experts encourage having an expanded home emergency kit to last at least two weeks in case of a prolonged lack of infrastructure.

Learn more about National Preparedness Month at FEMA’s Ready.gov (ready.gov/September).  Ready.gov provides detailed information about preparedness for yourself, your family and your home, including assembling an emergency kit.  Local preparedness information in Montgomery County MD can be obtained from Montgomery County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (montgomerycountymd.gov/oemhs).

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/09/05/national-preparedness-month/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Hire a reputable mover

mover checklist
Moving Checklist (from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration fmcsa.dot.gov)

Moving is stressful enough without having to deal with a rogue mover.  Before your hire a mover, do your research and know your rights.  Your rights may vary depending if your move is intrastate or interstate.  An intrastate move is within the same state, while an interstate move is between states.  Although intrastate movers are not licensed by the state of Maryland, there are a rules and consumer protection laws governing their business.  However, interstate movers must comply with Federal regulations.

Hiring a mover to move within Maryland (intrastate)

The Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Attorney General published The Consumer’s Edge: Hiring a Mover? Protect Yourself!  The publication outlines your rights for a move within the state of Maryland (marylandattorneygeneral.gov). The pamphlet advises that estimates must be written, and must specify if it’s binding or non-binding.  Binding estimates are prohibited to change, while non-binding estimates in Maryland are capped and cannot exceed 25 percent of the original estimate.  Be wary of low-ball estimates, or a mover who does not ask a lot of questions about your possessions.  Don’t sign a blank or incomplete estimate.

Hiring a Mover? Protect Yourself!
Hiring a Mover? Protect Yourself! (from marylandattorneygeneral.gov)

If your move is within Maryland, consult the Maryland Movers Conference.  The MMC is a non-profit organization that is part of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, and works with “governmental authorities and consumer groups to promote the highest standards for the moving industry in Maryland.”  The organization established a Registered Mover Program, where movers abide by a code of ethics and other rules.  You can view valuable consumer info and the MMC’s list of member movers at their website (mdmovers.org).

Hiring an interstate mover

mover pamphlet
FMCSA Ready to Move Brochure
(fmcsa.dot.gov)

If your move is interstate, your mover is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the US Department of Transportation.  The FMCSA website “Protect Your Move” (www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move) provides an abundance of information to help you choose a reputable mover as well as tips and a checklist to help make your move less hectic.  The FMCSA maintains a registry of legitimate interstate movers from which you can search and view licensing, insurance, as well as complaints.

During the planning stage of your interstate move, Federal regulation requires your mover to provide you with a copy of the booklet “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” and a copy of FMCSA’s brochure “Ready to Move.”  These publications (available on the FMCSA website) offer insight to make an informed decision, as well as understand your consumer rights in case something goes awry.


The FMCSA suggests that estimates that sound too good to be true are often a way for scammers to get your business. What are the red flags for which to be on the lookout? Be wary of:

  • Estimates given without onsite inspection of your possessions
  • A demand for cash or a large deposit
  • Blank or incomplete documents
  • Refusal to provide a written estimate
  • Movers who claim to be insured without providing proof
  • A mover who generically answers the phone “movers” instead of using the company’s name
  • No address or insurance info on the company’s website
  • Use of a rental truck instead of a company branded truck.
Moving Rights and Responsibilities
Rights & Responsibilities Booklet (fmcsa.dot.gov)

Movers must deliver your possessions.  Call the police if a mover threatens to not deliver for any reason.  Interstate movers may be in violation of Federal law if they hold your shipment “hostage.”  The FMCSA offers some recourse if you feel victimized by an interstate mover or broker.  The Protect Your Move Website has an online tool to make complaints.  A complaint may trigger a Federal enforcement investigation against the mover.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/08/29/hire-reputable-mover/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorDisclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

 

 

 

 

Online fair housing

online fair housing
Fair Housing (infographic from nationalfairhousing.org)

Facebook has been under scrutiny for a number of issues, including privacy rights and political ads.  In an effort to enforce online fair housing, HUD has made a complaint alleging that the social media platform has violated the Fair Housing Act. Online fair housing is a serious issue. HUD’s enforcement of fair housing extends to online social media and sharing platforms.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development complaint (hud.gov) states that:

Facebook unlawfully discriminates by enabling advertisers to restrict which Facebook users receive housing-related ads based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.  Facebook mines extensive user data and classifies its users based on protected characteristics.  Facebook’s ad targeting tools then invite advertisers to express unlawful preferences by suggesting discriminatory options, and Facebook effectuates the delivery of housing-related ads to certain users and not others based on those users’ actual or imputed protected traits…The alleged policies and practices of Facebook violate the Fair Housing Act based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.

HUD’s August 17th press release that announced the complaint alleges that Facebook

“invites advertisers to express unlawful preferences by offering discriminatory options, allowing them to effectively limit housing options for these protected classes under the guise of ‘targeted advertising.’”

HUD emphasizes that the Fair Housing Act “prohibits discrimination in housing transactions including print and online advertisement on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status.”

HUD’s Secretary-initiated complaint follows the Department’s investigation into Facebook’s advertising platform which includes targeting tools that enable advertisers to filter prospective tenants or home buyers based on these protected classes.

Anna Maria Farias, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity who filed the complaint, stated:

The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination including those who might limit or deny housing options with a click of a mouse…When Facebook uses the vast amount of personal data it collects to help advertisers to discriminate, it’s the same as slamming the door in someone’s face.”

Past online fair housing allegations

Allegations of online fair housing violations are not new for Facebook.  ProPublica alleged in 2016 that Facebook allowed advertisers to purchase discriminatory ads through a targeted advertising platform (Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race; propublica.org; October 28, 2016).  The targeted advertising platform had a “Ethnic Affinity” section (at that time, it was alleged that Facebook assigned “Ethnic Affinity” to subscribers based on posts and “likes”).  Facebook claimed that “Ethnic Affinity” is different than race, and was part of a “multicultural advertising” effort.

Following ProPublica’s investigative reporting, HUD briefly investigated the matter.  Facebook was said to have changed the targeted advertisement platform by moving “Ethnic Affinity.”  Additionally, an anti-discrimination advertising system was to be implemented.  However, a follow up investigation found that the reporters were able to purchase housing advertising that should have been rejected for discriminatory preferences (Facebook (Still) Letting Housing Advertisers Exclude Users by Race; propublica.com; November 21, 2017).

Facebook is not the first website to be accused of online fair housing violations.  In 2006, a civil rights non-profit sued Craigslist for discriminatory housing ads that were posted by users.  At the center of the matter was if Craigslist was considered a publisher.  The case was dismissed based on a Communications Decency Act provision that states, “…[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”  Even though the suit was dismissed, Craigslist worked with HUD and housing advocacy groups to implement technology to prevent discriminatory words and phrases in housing ads (craigslist.org).

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/08/26/online-fair-housing/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorDisclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Fast home sale tips

fast home sale
Average Days on Market (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

Although the volume of home sales is below last year’s figures, most homes are still selling.  Of course, home sellers would prefer to have a fast home sale. When meeting with potential listing agents, home owners are typically overwhelmed by agents promoting their broker’s technology.  But the research is clear that it’s not technology that sells homes, but rather your MLS listing content and the audience that can sell your home fast.

Three years ago, I introduced cutting edge research by Allen, Cadena, Rutherford & Rutherford (Effects of real estate brokers’ marketing strategies: Public open houses, broker open houses, MLS virtual tours, and MLS photographs; The Journal of Real Estate Research; 2015; 37(3), 343-369).  Although the study focused on the listing agent’s motivations about spending money on promoting your home, it did shed light on the effectiveness of marketing staples such as: broker open houses, public open houses, MLS photos, and MLS virtual tours.  Although these tactics may not promote a fast home sale, the study revealed that all four methods used together positively influence the home sale price.

They found that having six or more MLS photos increases the probability of a selling your home, as well as positively influencing the sale price.  Having a virtual tour can decrease the home’s time on market as well as increasing the probability of selling.  Having open houses can help sell your home at a higher price, but can take longer to sell.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, having public open houses can increase your home’s time on market up to twenty-five days, while reducing the chances of it selling by 6.1 percent!  Broker open houses also adds to the time on market, however increases the likelihood of selling your home.  The conclusion was that all four tactics should be considered as a package if your goal is to get top dollar.  However, if your goal is a fast home sale, your focus should be elsewhere.

Do pictures help with a fast home sale? A number of studies found that MLS photos and virtual tours have positive effects to home sale price, but are conflicted with regard to time on market.  However, a study conducted by Benefield, Cain & Johnson (On the Relationship Between Property Price, Time-on-Market, and Photo Depictions in a Multiple Listing Service; The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics; 2011; 43(3), 401–422) indicated that having more photos of the home’s interior can increase the time on market.

A study published this year suggests that getting more real estate agents to view your MLS listing can sell your home faster.  Allen, Dare, & Lingxiao (MLS Information Sharing Intensity and Housing Market Outcomes; The Journal of Real Estate Finance & Economics; 2018; 57(2), 297-313) found that just increasing the MLS listing view by one unit can increase the probability of selling your home by 5.7 percent, increase the sale price by 0.2 percent, and reduce time on market by 1.6 days.

A fast home sale

So, what does all this research mean to you if you’re selling your home?  First, consider that your agent’s marketing strategy will certainly affect your home’s sale price and days on market.  While possibly helping to get a better sale price, the research has demonstrated that having a broad marketing plan could increase your home’s time on market.  To decrease the days on market and increase the probability of a sale, pay attention to the pictures and audience.  Make sure your agent places high-definition photos of your home in the MLS, but limiting shots to the most relevant.  Also, make sure your agent has a plan to get your MLS listing in front of other agents.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/08/16/fast-home-sale-tips/ ‎

Copyright© Dan Krell
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