What your Buyer’s Agent Can Do for YOU

Home For Sale Sign in Front of Beautiful New Home

If you are thinking that NOW is the time to start looking for a new home, you are probably right!  There are many reasons for this quick answer, but some of them are: low interest rates, supply, and the availability of your buyers agent’s time.

If you are in hopes of moving this spring or summer, it probably is the right time to start, but how should you start?  Step one is to starting working with one of our agents, by sitting down with him or her and discussing your situation, wants, and needs.  This should be done as a face-to-face meeting and will require about 45 minutes to an hour of your time, but will be time well-spent.  The agents at the Coup Agency are very experienced and have the expertise to work with new home buyers as well as seasoned buyers.

The purchase of a home is a process and many steps need to be followed.  We can help you navigate through those steps and can assist in assuring that the steps are followed in the right order to make the most efficient use of your time.  Doing the steps out of order can actually delay the purchase of your dream home and disappoint you in the process.  Many want to start looking at homes immediately and when they find something they like, then get started with the “details” of house hunting.  Our experienced agents will let you know why that is not the best way to get started and what the pitfalls of such an actions might be.

If after sitting down with an agent and listening to the benefits, you may decided to “hire” that agent to represent you through the entire process.  That is done with some forms that will be thoroughly reviewed with you, so you know what you are signing.  If you do “hire” the agent, please know that they are then bound to have YOUR best interest at heart throughout the entire process.

Here is a list of just some of the tasks and events that a buyer’s agent can do for you:

Help arrange financing.

  1. Assist in locating sources of mortgage loans.
  2. Help you examine how much you can afford but how much you may want to spend.
  3. Assist in comparing different financing options.
  4. Provide information on purchasing incentives that may be available.
  5. Educate and discuss the differences, between being pre-qualified and pre-approved for a mortgage.

Assist in finding the right property.

  1. Identify your needs and wants in a property.
  2. Find appropriate available properties.
  3. Be able to discuss a property and how it may or may not qualify for the type of financing that you are approved for.
  4. Set up an automated email alert system that immediately notifies you of properties that fit your requirements, thus saving you the time to constantly search for new listings.  Our website will also assist you to search for homes.
  5. Sort through inaccurate information about homes in the area.
  6. Provide ready access to all MLS-listed properties.
  7. Preview properties prior to showing.
  8. Help select for viewing only those homes that fit  your needs.
  9. Aid in narrowing your search until you have identified your top choices.
  10. Assist in analyzing the pros and cons of each property.
  11. Disclose all known latent material defects and assist in securing experts that can provide answers to those defects.
  12. Assist you in evaluating properties for suitability, affordability, and resale value.
  13. Assist with the many aspects of negotiating the terms of purchase for your new home.  (It’s more than just price!)

Educate you on market conditions.

  1. Educate you on whether it is a buyers’ market or a sellers’ market.
  2. Show statistics on what percent of list price the sellers are currently receiving.
  3. Show trends, current average days on market, current absorption rate, and/or current months of inventory.

Useful Information

In light of all the recent summer storms that have effected many with downed power lines and outages at residences and businesses, we thought we would bring you this useful website of PPL Electric.

If you are a customer of PPL Electric, you may not be aware that you can sign up for free alerts that the power is out at your residence.  This is really a nice feature if you are on vacation or away from your home for the day.  It is also great as you get to choose how to be notified (text, email, or phone).  You can also choose up to three different people who can be notified of the “event”.

Here are all the alerts that you can “sign up” for:

  • Outage: Receive updates on the cause of your power outage, repair crew status and estimated restoration times.
  • Price to Compare: Get a heads up when PPL Electric Utilities’ new price per kilowatt-hour for generation and transmission is about to take effect.
  • Bill Alert: Set up your own warning system. Select a dollar amount and when your monthly bill exceeds it, we’ll send you a notification.
  • Abnormal Usage: We’ll let you know if your electricity use is unusually high — specifically 50 percent higher than your 30 day average for three consecutive days.
  • Bill Due Reminder: Set up a reminder – from 1 to 14 days – prior to your bill due date.

To sign up for this program, go to PPL’s website and sign up for the free  alerts.  From experience, it’s handy!

PPL has a very user-friendly site and many useful tools to assist you in analyzing your energy needs and usage.  If you haven’t visited it, you may check it out at pplelectric.com.

Sometimes Humor Brings the Point Across

Flood Insurance Cartoon - Bill Raup #2

Local Artist Bill Raup  posted these two cartoons in his building on Broadway regarding the

Flood Insurance Cartoon

plight of many property owners in Milton and surrounding river towns with regard to Flood Insurance.  Maybe humor will get the attention of our legislators!

Please take the time to communicate your concerns to your legislators.  It’s the only way things are going to change for many river town communities as well as other areas subject to flooding.

New Phone Dialing Procedures Effective Sept. 21st

If you have not heard yet, there will be new dialing procedures for people living in the 570 area code.

Effective September 21, 2013, callers in the 570 area code will need to dial all 10 digits of the phone number, even for “local” 570 area calls.

The new way of dialing is necessary to prepare the region’s telephone customers for mandatory 10-digit dialing, starting in September.  The change paves the way for the October introduction of northeastern Pennsylvania’s newest area code – 272.  Called an “overlay,” the new code will serve the same geographic boundary as the current 570 area code.  The overlay will eliminate the need to split the existing area code into smaller areas.

“An overlay minimizes disruption for our customers because their telephone numbers, including their current area code, will not change,” said Carl E. Erhart, Verizon area vice president.  “But it’s important for customers to get into the habit of always dialing the 10-digit number when they make calls within the 570 area code.”

Starting Sept. 21, ten-digit dialing will be required for all telephone calls made in the 570 area code.  If callers forget to dial 10 digits, they will hear a message instructing them to dial both the area code and seven-digit telephone number.

Even with the dialing change, local calls will still remain local calls.  However, customers will need to reprogram any automatic dialing equipment or services that are programmed to dial a seven-digit number.  This includes life safety systems, fax machines, Internet dial-up modems, alarm and security systems, gates, speed dialers, call forwarding settings and voice mail services.

Business customers should check with their telecommunications vendors to ensure their telephone systems are reprogrammed to handle 10-digit dialing and also to ensure that business stationery or advertising materials include the area code.

On Oct. 21, customers who request new service, an additional line or, in some cases, move their service to another address, may be assigned a number in the new area code, depending upon availability of numbers in the 570 area code.  The addition of the 272 area code will not change local calling areas for customers, dialing 911, or telephone rates.

For additional information, visit Verizon’s FAQ regarding the 570 area code overlay.

Will Flood Insurance Reform Effect Real Estate?

If you live in a special flood hazard area, the short answer is YES.  Please read our previous blog article about the drastic changes to flood insurance to get a background.

As flood insurance rates rise almost 10-fold, many river communities such as Milton, Bloomsburg, Hughesville, Muncy, Jersey Shore and even Harrisburg are going to feel the effects of these new flood insurance reform.

By law, anyone who purchases a property in a special flood hazard zone and will be taking a mortgage on that home (or business), is required to purchase flood insurance on it.  Since 70% of the homes and businesses in the country finance the purchase of real estate, most will be effected by this reform.

When the full increase goes into effect, the cost of the flood insurance will be higher than most people’s principal and interest payments, making the purchase of a property in a special flood hazard area nearly impossible.  Unfortunately, these higher rates go into effect immediately for any new policies, thus if the buyer of real estate purchases a home or business in the flood area after October 1, 2013, they will pay the 10-fold increase immediately; there will be no phase-in period.  With this significant cost burden, buyers will choose not to look  at any property in the special flood hazard area, thus 70% of the potential buyers for these properties will no longer be potential purchasers of their homes or businesses.  With that said, real estate market values for homes or businesses in the special flood hazard area will drop significantly.  This will have a very dramatic effect starting October 1st of this year.

For those homeowners who currently own their home in the flood area, they will be unable to pay the increased cost of the flood insurance in a few years (25% increase each year) plus their principal and interest payments and will begin to walk away from their homes and let the banks repossess them, thus increasing the number of properties on the market and driving the real estate market down even lower.

Because the market values will have dropped significantly, a homeowner will be applying to their county’s assessment office for a re-assessment of their property.  All the government taxing bodies shall see a significant drop in their taxable values.  It is a total snowball effect that this act has on any property owners in the special flood hazard area.

We don’t profess to have the answers, but can only predict that this act will be the total demise of river towns such as Milton and any other communities that have significant flood plains.

We do know that after a flood, real estate market values do drop somewhat for several years after and people start to “forget” about the river and flooding.  That will no longer be the case — market values are about to drop significantly and for most homeowners (and business owners) their home/building is one of their largest assets.  Not any more.

Our US Senators Casey and Toomey need to hear from you and hear your concern on this issue as well as our local House of Representative Tom Marino.  It is important that you contact all of them, not just one, so they all hear your concerns.  Here are they links to their websites:

Senator Pat Toomey:  http://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=contact   Phone: 717-782-3951

Senator Bob Casey:   http://www.casey.senate.gov/contact/         Phone: 202-224-6324

House Representative Tom Marino: https://marino.house.gov/contact-me/email-me                Phone: 570-374-9469

Drastic Change to Flood Insurance

The Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, unless changed, will bring an end to all our lovely riverside communities that are subject to flooding.  In the past several years the climate has changed, flooding has become more wide spread and hurricanes Katrina and Sandy have combined to leave the National Flood Insurance Program Billions in debt.   Last year Congress, knowing that the red ink had to stop, passed the Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act.  What they told us sounded reasonable, flood insurance rates would have to go up and the government would no longer help pay the rates for second homes.  Now FEMA has released the regulations and insurance rates that will go into effect on October 1, 2013.

For existing flood insurance clients in special hazard zones (Zones that start with an “A”) the rates for owner-occupied homes will increase about 10% per year and all other policies will increase 25% per year until they hit the new actual rates.  To determine the new actual rates policyholders will have to pay to have an Elevation Certificate done by a licensed surveyor or engineer.  It will be this Elevation Certificate that will show where the first floor (the basement) sits in relation to the Base Flood Elevation.  In our town of Milton, the Base Flood Elevation is the same as the 1972 flood level.

For every new policy after 10/1/13 (or a late payment and lapsed policy rewrite) policyholders will have to have to pay for an elevation certificate (normally in the $300-$700 range depending on how close a benchmark is) and the new actual rates.  Also, anyone who started a new policy after 7/6/12 will have to get an elevation certificate and pay the new rates when their policy renews the first time.

For policyholders that are in flood zones B, C or X (low hazard areas) they will see small and reasonable increases in their premiums and in most cases will still qualify for a “Preferred Risk Policy”.

But policyholders in the A Zones, the high risk areas where the homes and building often have basements that are 15 or more feet below the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) will see large rate increases until they get a flood elevation certificate and lock in the following new rates:

Each of these quotes are for $100,000 coverage on the building/house and $20,000 on the contents with a $2,000 deductible which applies separately to the building and contents:

1 Family Dwelling:

With current subsidized rates:  $1,063.

New rates with an elevation certificate showing the basement at 15 feet below the 100 year flood level BFE:  $12,936!

Non-Residential Building:

With current subsidized rates: $1,123.

New rates with an elevation certificate showing the basement at 15 feet below the 100 year flood level BFE: 17,782!

Tenants in these buildings have to pay rates on their contents based on the basement floor too even if they only rent the 2nd floor of the building!

Homeowners will have to consider moving all their utilities, heat & water systems to their 2nd floors and literally fill in their basements so that their main floor becomes their “first” floor.  If by doing that the first floor is only 6 feet below the BFE the new rates will be $2,675 –  still a lot more than they are paying now but at least something reasonable.

Our only hope is to convince Congress to amend the Act to allow for some sort of long-term subsidized rates for homes and buildings built before the days of flood insurance.  If we can’t, things are going to get ugly fast in “River Towns USA”.

We urge everyone with a property in a Special Flood Hazard Area to call your flood insurance agent to discuss your options.

House Cleaning Tip

We were recently asked about how to clean the ceramic tile in the bathroom.  Here is a tip for any room in the house.

There are also companies that will professional clean the tile and then seal the grout so that dirt and stains don’t get trapped.

We hope this helps!  Happy Cleaning!

7 cups water, 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup vinegar – throw in a spray bottle and spray your floor, let it sit for a minute or two… then scrub.

What is a Buyer’s Agent and What do they Do?

Many times we assume that people know what we do and how we work, but in reality we find people who really don’t know what we do or how real estate transactions actually work.

Once a buyer starts thinking about the purchase of a new home, a buyer’s agent can be of assistance.  Over 90% of buyers start their “shopping” online.  Many of these buyers say “I’ll know the one I want when I see it”.  The best time to involve a Realtor in the home-buying process is right at the beginning.

Many buyers don’t want to “waste a Realtor’s time” until they find exactly what they are looking for, but the simple truth is that the Realtor can save you much time, effort and frustration in the home buying process.  Whether you are a “seasoned pro” or this will be your first home purchase, the real estate agent knows what questions to ask to help you with the process:

  1. What type of home are you looking for?
  2. Where would you like it located (school district, community, etc.)?
  3. Are you looking for in-town or out of town living?
  4. What amenities are a must have in the new home and which ones are “we would like to have”?
  5. How soon do you want to move?
  6. Are there physical concerns that need to be addressed?
  7. Are you handy and can do some work to the property or do you want it in very good condition?
  8. Will you look at properties in a flood area?

These would be a few of the questions that a Realtor would need to know to get you started with the home buying “process”.

With these (and maybe some other) questions asked, we are now ready to find the house, right?

Although many buyers think so, there is a major step that has to be taken first.  With the help of your professional, they can assist you in obtaining a pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender.  Almost every buyer wants to put this much farther down on the list, as it is not the fun part of buying a home.  The question needs to be asked, “How much can I afford?”, thus making this high on the list.  Besides knowing how much you can afford, it also indicates to your buyer’s agent the type of financing.

Not all homes qualify for all types of financing, thus it is another major reason why  you and your real estate professional need to know this information right up front.  In most cases, before an offer can be presented to the sellers, this pre-approval letter must be submitted so that the sellers know that you are a qualified buyer.  You should start this process at the beginning so you are ready to make the offer on the home as soon as you find it.

Many times your Realtor will be able to recommend some lenders that they have worked with before, whom they trust and know will treat you fairly and professionally.  Not all lenders are the same and beware of just picking one off the Internet!  More buyers have had bad experiences by not listening to their real estate professionals and looking on their own for a lender.  Remember, it is Realtors’ reputation that is also on the line when they recommend someone to you, so they will not recommend someone who is not trustworthy or professional.

After the pre-qualification letter is issued (be sure to have one sent to your Realtor) it’s time to go shopping, as you know your spending limit.

By actually engaging the services of a Realtor, they will explain their role in the process and also ask you to sign a Buyer’s Agency contract.  Everything will be spelled out in this contract, but generally the Realtor will be paid by the seller’s agent.  If that is not the case, this will be discussed in the contract.

Why should you commit to one Realtor?  The advantages are many for you:

  1. Through a client relationship, you can share confidential information with your agent which can not be disclosed to anyone else.  This may include your urgency to purchase, pending change in marital status, large financial debt, bankruptcy, new job status, or many other things that may effect your ability to purchase/finance a home.
  2. You will have to make only one call to an agent that you know and have worked with for any home that is on the market.  The buyer’s agent will then call to schedule appointments for you to see the homes and find out any other information that may not be published online.  Your agent may be familiar with the home and since they know your likes and dislikes, know whether it is worth your time to go see it.  All you have to do is show up!
  3. As you start to work with your agent, they will encourage you to talk about your likes and dislikes about the home during the showing.  With this information, they can better “fine tune” properties that may be of interest to you that are currently on the market or as they come new to the market.
  4. By making a commitment to a Realtor (signing the Buyer’s Agent contract), they will also commit to you.  If you are calling every agent in the book or say that you will work with the agent that has it listed, there is little incentive for an agent to do the best job for you, because you may be working with another agent tomorrow.  Agents get paid by a commission, solely and only when they sell a home.  You will get the best efforts of that agent, knowing they will get paid, if they do a good job.
  5. A Buyer’s Agent will look out for your best interest when you have made that commitment because you are their client.  They will be more apt to point out problems they see or areas that you may want to get inspected by a qualified professional in that field to make sure there is no problem.  You may be looking at the great view or wonderful kitchen, but your agent is looking at all aspects of the home.  Although they may have a working knowledge of many things with the home, they are not experts.  They can recommend experts who can review the home for problems by naming home, termite, chimney, lead based paint, radon, water and septic inspectors who may need to evaluate the home.
  6. Once you have found a home, the buyer’s agent will write up the agreement to purchase the home.  They will already have your information on file and there will be no need to give that to anyone else.  They will have what they need to start the purchase offer and consult you on the many options that will need to be included in this offer to the seller.  And of course, they will have your pre-approval financing letter that you obtained at the beginning of the purchase process!

As you can see, hiring your own Buyer’s Agent may be one of the best moves you make.  Not only will they save you time, but they will hopefully guide you through the process and make it as easy as they can, steering you around the many “pitfalls” that can come up along the way.  You have one source for information on real estate, what is on the market, and their guidance through the entire process.

In short, hire a Buyer’s Agent to work for you!

Give one of our agents a call and let us start working for YOU!

Spring Has Sprung!

But spring and mother nature often conspire to bring flooding rains and fast melting snow packs.  Our area knows all too well the loss and destruction caused when our beautiful river and its tributaries flood.

We want to help you understand flood insurance with some questions and answers about flood insurance.  We hope this information is useful in helping you better understand this type of insurance – when it is needed and what it covers.

FAQ—FLOOD INSURANCE AND WATER/SEWER BACKUP COVERAGE

Imagine you’re home relaxing, when you hear the local weatherman advise that your town is under a severe thunderstorm and flash flood warning — again!  You pause and wonder “Will my home and business be covered if I have flood damage?”

Q: Will my standard homeowners’ or business policy provide coverage for flood damage?    

A: NO! Neither the standard homeowners’, nor commercial, nor renters’ nor condominium policy provides coverage for water damage due to flood, for either the building or personal property.

Q: What is flood insurance?

A: In simple terms, flood insurance covers direct physical losses caused by floods, flood-related erosion, severe rainstorms, flash floods, hurricanes and snow melt. Flood insurance is offered under a Federal government program know as the National Flood Insurance Program.

Q: If flood insurance is offered under a Federal program, can I still purchase it using my own insurance agent?

A: Yes. You can purchase flood insurance directly through your agent, the very same way you purchase your home, life and car insurance.

Q: What coverages are included under a standard flood insurance policy?

A: There are two separate aspects/types of flood insurance coverage:

1) building property and (2) personal property, each of which is purchased separately (you are encouraged to purchase both types of coverage).  Building property coverage protects the structure, and generally covers:

  • The insured building and its foundation
  • The electrical and plumbing systems
  • Central air conditioning equipment, furnaces and water heaters
  • Refrigerators, cooking stoves and built-in appliances, such as dishwashers
  • Permanently installed carpeting over an unfinished floor
  • Permanently installed paneling, wallboard, bookcases and cabinets
  • Detached garages (up to 10 percent of building property coverage).  Detached buildings (other than garages) require a separate building property policy
  • Debris removal Personal property coverage generally covers:
  • Curtains
  • Personal belongings, including clothing, furniture and electrical equipment
  •  Portable and window air conditioners
  • Carpets not included in building property coverage
  • Washers and dryers
  • Food freezers and their contents
  • Certain valuable items such as original artwork and furs

Q: I’ve heard the price of flood insurance can vary widely. Is this true?

A: No. Flood insurance rates are determined and set by the Federal Government, so price shopping and price comparison are unnecessary.

Q: My home isn’t located in a high risk flood zone. Why would I need flood insurance?

A: Flooding can affect you even if you don’t live near water. Approximately 25 percent of all claims are from what are considered low-to-moderate risk areas. If your home is located in a low-to-moderate risk area, you may be eligible for a lower cost Preferred Risk Policy.

Q: Can I purchase flood insurance immediately before a flood occurs, or when it is occurring?

A: Normally, there is a 30 day waiting period before a flood policy become effective, but there are exceptions, which your independent agent can explain.

Q: Is flood insurance only available to homeowners?

A: No. Flood insurance is also available to renters, and condominium and business owners.

Q: Will my standard homeowners’ or business policy provide coverage from a sewer or drain backup, or sump pump failure?

A: NO! Neither the standard homeowners’, nor commercial, nor renters’ nor condominium policy provides this type of coverage. However, at the time of initial application, and at each policy renewal, insurers in Maryland are required to offer this optional coverage as an “add-on” to their standard policy, for a nominal price, which can cover the cost of damages and clean-up associated with this type of event.

Q: How do I know what I should do? A: Making such a decision about your options is yours — and yours alone under the law. As your independent insurance agent, I can help explain these options. Our agency’s job is to help provide you with information, so you can make informed decisions.

Don’t Be Scammed!

Every once in awhile, we hear of people receiving a letter or email stating that a company will help the homeowner obtain a copy of their deed for a fee.  The cost for this “service” is in the neighborhood of $80.  This “help” may be a welcome offer, but the price for the “help” is way too high for the service that is provided.

Considering that any homeowner can get a copy of their deed for a few dollars on their own, beware of such scams.  The exact cost of obtaining a copy of your deed depends on what online access is available for the county in which the property is located.  If there is no online help, a quick call to that county’s Register and Recorder’s office and they will probably mail you a copy of your deed and send you a bill for several dollars.  This is assuming that the deed was recorded at the time of settlement, as almost every deed is.

Some homeowners assume that their deed is being held by the bank/mortgage company, similar to a car title, which is incorrect.  Normally after a closing, the deed is put “on record” at the Register and Recorder’s office in the county where the property was located.  After the deed is recorded, it is normally sent out to be duplicated.  After a few weeks (it is usually duplicated in some electronic form, such as microfilm or digitized), it is then returned to the Register and Recorder’s office and they send it out to the new buyer of the property.  Typically the closing agent will ask to what address the recorded deed should be sent.

Another misconception is that you will need a copy of your deed to sell your property, again similar to a car title.  A new deed will be prepared when you sell the property into the new buyer’s name(s).  Your attorney or real estate agent is very well adept at obtaining a copy of your current deed for this process.  Your real estate professional may want a copy of the deed when the property is listed to obtain the lot size, any deed restrictions and other information that can be obtained on deed.  They can obtain a copy of the deed to obtain this information very quickly by themselves.

So, if you can’t find your deed, check with the Register and Recorder’s office.  If that doesn’t work, check with your closing agent or attorney and ask if they can help or have a copy, or check with the real estate professional that sold you the property.  Each should be able to help.