A Guide to Giving Holiday Gifts to Your Roommates

shutterstock_165571040It’s gifting season again! You’ve got your family and close friends covered, but what about your roommates? When you share an apartment with someone, does it mean that you need to give a gift to show some holiday love? And how should you do it? These situations can become fraught with peril if improperly managed, but they can be rewarding bonding experiences if done with finesse, following a few ground rules:

Talk about exchanging gifts with your roommates

The first question is whether you’re going to give your roommates a gift at all. Sometimes there’s just not the synergy between you and the people you share a home with; in such a case, it may be better to sit it out. Or, you and your roommates may be so busy this holiday season it would be a relief for everyone not to have another holiday event to worry about. Or, you may all feel it’s a worthwhile endeavor – gift exchanges can be a lot of fun.

Regardless of your feelings beforehand, the first thing to do is talk about it. There’s nothing worse than one roommate giving a present, and the other being totally unprepared. Bring up the topic casually and gauge the reaction. If it turns out that you and your roommates are interested, then go for it.

Set up the gifting ground rules

Are you going to do an exchange or direct gifts? If four or more people share your living space, a fun gift exchange is a good idea. It’ll save everyone time and money, but you’ll still have a roommate-centered holiday event.  In any case, whether you decide to do a direct gift exchange or a gift exchange, be sure to discuss an expected price range. You don’t want to spend $ 50 on a nice sweater for your roommate, only to receive a $ 10 gift card in return.

Make gifting into a little event

Remember that exchanging gifts with your roommates is about more than a simple transaction. Make an event out of it. After all, you’re giving gifts to celebrate the connection you have with the people you live with. If you’re doing a gift exchange or Secret Santa, make a little party of it. After gifts are swapped, open a bottle of wine, or pop some popcorn and watch a movie together. Or, better yet, set aside an evening where you and your roommates go out to dinner to celebrate, and exchange the gifts during dinner. This will make for a memorable, fun exchange that will strengthen the bonds you share with your roommates.

Chip in and make an apartment holiday gift

An alternative to roommate gifts is to gift something to the apartment. Maybe you’d all love to have a fast hot water kettle in your kitchen or a fancy coffee maker to save on your latte habits.

Just keep in mind that the holidays should be fun and relaxing, and sharing them with your roommates should be no different.

> Find Rentals on Zillow

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MyFirstApartment.com helps novice renters successfully navigate the first year of living on their own. The blog shares proven tips and tricks for everything from finding the perfect rental or roommate, to furnishing on a small budget or no budget, to dealing with landlords or roommate’s girlfriends.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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A Guide to Giving Holiday Gifts to Your Roommates was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

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Thanks to More Data and Great Minds, Zestimate Accuracy Is Improving

For many Americans, their home is one of their largest financial assets. The typical homeowner has a little over half of their wealth tied up in their home, according to a Zillow analysis of the Federal Reserve Board, Survey of Consumer Finances.

That’s why the Zestimate® home value – and improving its accuracy – is so essential. While it’s not an appraisal, the Zestimate, based on a complex mathematical equation, gives a homeowner a starting point for tracking their home’s worth.

A home’s value is ultimately determined by what someone else is willing to pay for. An algorithm can’t really take into account the perfect paint color, the way light filters through a window or that feeling of “home” when a buyer walks in the door.

Instead, the Zestimate algorithm pulls a host of publicly available records from county assessors: past sales, square footage and past valuations. On top of that, public records like road networks and neighborhood surroundings (views, parks and other amenities) round out the millions of data points that go into Zestimates.

Zillow is constantly working to improve the Zestimate. When Zillow launched 11 years ago, the Zestimate had a median absolute error rate of 14 percent. Today, the algorithm’s accuracy is within 4.3 percent nationwide, meaning half of Zestimates nationwide were within 4.3 percent of the final selling price, and half are off by more than 4.3 percent.

Some of the improvements are purely technical. For example, Zillow recently transitioned all data to the cloud so the team can compute the Zestimate in nearly real time. Zillow can process three times as much data, which means homeowner updates are processed faster, and the team of data scientists can iterate improvements more quickly.

And now Zillow has offered the $ 1 million Zillow Prize, inspiring the brightest scientific minds to improve the Zestimate. The competition, launched in May, has attracted more than 15,500 individuals who have downloaded the competition dataset. More than 2,500 data scientists, engineers and visionaries from 76 countries have submitted an average of 350 entries a day.

That’s a lot of great minds working to improve Zillow’s automated home valuations of 100 million homes across the country.

Learn more about Zillow Prize.

 

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Thanks to More Data and Great Minds, Zestimate Accuracy Is Improving was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Best Fall Buys: Big Ticket Items

Have you been noticing some good prices on big-ticket items lately? Now’s a great time to save on these higher-priced purchases.

Travel

It’s not only smart to lock in your holiday airfare, but since it’s “shoulder season” – the time of year when crowds disperse and prices to popular destinations drop from their summertime highs – it’s an excellent time to actually travel.

Interested in setting sail? You can save several hundred dollars on cruises this time of year.

Is Europe on your bucket list? Pack your bags! The conditions are perfect: airfares are reasonable, hotels in traditionally expensive cities are much more affordable than they were during peak season, and the U.S. dollar continues to be strong against the Euro and other European currencies. To maximize savings, consider booking a package that combines hotel and airfare.

shutterstock_279340874

Cars

When the new 2016 models hit the lots in early fall (i.e., now), dealers roll out all sorts of incentives on older models, such as cashback incentives and low- or no-interest financing. If the newer models are significantly more appealing because of new features or styling changes, the savings is more significant.

shutterstock_256872961

Just make sure you do your research before setting foot inside the dealership, as the more prepared you are, the better-positioned you will be to negotiate.

Popular car-buying sites, such as Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds can help you come up with a target price on a new car based on where you live and which features you’re interested in.

Grills and patio furniture

After Labor Day, prices on grills get slashed by up to 50 percent. And that’s significant, considering that top-of-the-line models can easily exceed $ 1,000. In October, the discounts get even steeper (think 70 percent or more), although the selection is more limited.

As for patio furniture, expect discounts on any remaining summer inventory of up to 85 percent in October and into November.

patio furn

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Household appliances

Historically, fall is the best time to buy most major household appliances, with the exception of refrigerators (wait until May). After all, this is when older models need to be cleared out to make room for the new.

Dishwashers, stoves and washer/dryer sets are usually marked down by about 20 percent. Prices may be slashed by as much as 90 percent on clearance items.

appliances

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Zillow Blog – Real Estate Market Stats, Celebrity Real Estate, and Zillow News » Tips & Advice

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Best Fall Buys: Big Ticket Items was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

6 Electronics You Should (and Shouldn’t) Unplug

Kitchen Appliances

Take a look around your house. Is every outlet being used — or almost? In the kitchen, you have a coffee maker, microwave, the fridge, a TV. In your bedroom, an alarm clock, phone charger, another TV.

Did you know that those gadgets — the ones that are always plugged in — are constantly adding to your electric bill? It’s called phantom power use: Even when not turned on, these devices are using power just by being plugged in.

It’s estimated that households on average have 40 appliances that are constantly using power, contributing to 10% of household energy use. That adds up to about $ 100 a year.

So do yourself a favor and unplug those devices you aren’t using all the time. Here’s a short list of which ones you definitely should unplug, and those you can afford to leave plugged in.

Unplug it!

1. Small kitchen appliances

Obviously there are some kitchen appliances that would be unwise, and almost impossible, to unplug: think your dishwasher, oven, and refrigerator. But others are worth the extra effort. Coffee makers, food processors, microwaves, and the like are easy to unplug but not so easy on the power grid. See the digital clock on your coffee maker and microwave? That clock means it’s using energy. So if you don’t need to know the time at opposite ends of the counter, go ahead and unplug.

2. Chargers

We’re probably all guilty of leaving our chargers plugged in. From our phones and laptops to cordless phones and electric toothbrushes, those chargers are adding to your electric bill every minute they’re not actually charging. So once your device is at 100%, unplug it.

3. Entertainment system

One of the worst offenders of wasting power is your entertainment system. Think of all those little LED lights blinking at you from the TV, cable box, and maybe even your stereo system. These are all wasting energy. While unplugging all your devices each time you’ve finished your favorite show just to plug them all in again and wait for them to reboot may not be very practical, unplugging them all when you leave for vacation is a smart idea. Or if you’re really committed to the idea, just unplug them as you leave for work in the morning; at least you’ll be saving eight or so hours of energy.

4. Computers

Screen savers don’t save a thing. And standby or sleep mode isn’t making much of a difference either. Make it a habit to unplug your computer every night. Not only is this a real energy saver, but it also can protect your computer from serious damage. It’s not an old wives’ tale — a power surge caused by lightning can completely fry your computer. To be on the safe side, at least unplug your computer during a storm.

Plug it up!

5. Old, nondigital electronics

While most electronics do use small amounts of power when plugged in to power digital clocks, buttons, and so on, older models usually don’t have all those bells and whistles. For example, state-of-the-art washers and dryers with digital displays will certainly use power when turned off, but older models and less fancy options with manual dials most likely won’t.

6. Power strips

One gadget you can definitely leave plugged in — and should probably have more of — is smart power strips. Let’s say you plug your computer, printer, scanner, etc, into the power strip. If you flip the switch on the power strip, power will be cut off to all your devices. But that also prevents phantom power usage. Easy-peasy!

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6 Electronics You Should (and Shouldn’t) Unplug was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Veterans: Get 100% Financing on Home Loans up to $1 Million

As the financial crisis gets further behind us, mortgage options get more flexible. One loan program that’s often overlooked is a VA loan. If you’ve served in the U.S. military, you can get a loan backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with no down payment.

VA loan features

This may be a surprise: VA loans aren’t actually made by the VA. They are made by mortgage lenders, and the VA backs the loans, which enables lenders to be more flexible when making these loans.

Features of VA mortgages include:

  • Financing for up to 100 percent of a home’s value. The national loan limit is $ 417,000, but can go up to $ 1,000,000 in high-cost areas. VA loan limits for your area are available on the VA site, and a VA lender can also give you local VA loan limits.
  • The ability to finance most of your closing costs, including appraisal, credit report, title insurance, lender origination fee, recording fees, and survey fees. These represent the bulk of the closing costs in most home purchase transactions.
  • No mortgage insurance. This is a material benefit that will save hundreds of dollars per month compared to other government-backed programs like FHA loans, which come with high mortgage insurance fees.
  • No prepayment penalty if you pay off the loan early.
  • Loans for a primary residence only.
  • A wide variety of fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgage loan programs.

Who’s eligible for VA loans?

It’s important to work with a VA loan specialist so they are familiar with the criteria of who exactly qualifies for VA loans. To be eligible for a VA loan, you must be one of the following:

  • Veteran.
  • Active duty service member.
  • Current or former National Guard or Reserve member who has been activated for federal active service.
  • Current National Guard or Reserve member who has never been activated for federal active service.
  • Discharged member of the National Guard or Selected Reserve who has never been activated for federal active service.
  • Surviving spouse receiving Dependency & Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits.
  • Surviving spouse who isn’t receiving DIC benefits.

If you’re in any of these categories, you can search for VA lenders to help you find a loan.

You will, however, need to provide your lender with a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to verify that you’re eligible for a VA loan. The COEs for each category of eligible VA borrower have different requirements.

An expert VA lender can also help you obtain the correct COE based on your circumstances. If you fall into one of the eligible categories but don’t know how to get your COE, ask a lender to help you.

The VA loan approval process

Getting your VA loan approved is mostly the same as getting a non-VA loan approved. A lender will calculate your total proposed monthly housing cost plus all other monthly debt — like payments on credit cards, cars, and student loans — and compare it to your income. They’ll want to see that these total monthly costs don’t exceed 43 percent of your monthly income.

Lenders will also look at your credit scores. Each lender will vary in terms of the credit score they require, but generally a score of 620 or better is required to qualify for a VA loan.

If you’re buying a condo, the VA must approve the condo project. The agency maintains a database of pre-approved condos, and if the condo you want isn’t on this list, you’ll need to work with your lender to get the condo approved.

This can add considerable time to the transaction, so make sure you do this research before writing an offer. And make sure your real estate agent is aware you’re getting a VA loan.

Related:

Zillow Blog – Real Estate Market Stats, Celebrity Real Estate, and Zillow News » Tips & Advice

Veterans: Get 100% Financing on Home Loans up to $1 Million was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

10 Tips to Sell Your Home Fast

Sell your home fast in Atlanta

With the correct approach and a little work, you can sell your home in record time.

Set yourself up for a quick sale.

The peak home buying season may be over, but there are still steps you can take to ensure a speedy sale. Setting the right price and making an excellent first impression are both essential to attracting buyers, but what else can you do to get the offers rolling in? Here are 10 tips to help you sell your home as quickly as possible – even in the off season.

Price it right from the start.

Sellers often think they should start the asking price high and then lower it later if the house fails to sell. But that can result in a slower sale – sometimes even at a lower price. “The first 30 days’ activity of your house being on the market is always the best activity you’re going to see,” says Michael Mahon, general manager of HER Realtors in Columbus, Ohio. If the price is too high, many buyers and their agents will stay away, assuming you’re not serious about selling or you’re unwilling to negotiate.
Enhance your homes curb appeal.

This could mean adding new sod, planting flowers, painting the front door or replacing the mailbox. Prospective buyers form an opinion the moment they spot the home. “Curb appeal is everything,” Mahon says. “Driving into the driveway and walking into that front door sets the expectations.”

Update the interior and exterior.

New fixtures, fresh paint and updated landscaping are all fairly easy and affordable ways to give your home a makeover. “It’s got to look up to the current market conditions and what’s in style,” Mahon says.

Clean, declutter, depersonalize. 

The fewer things there are in the home, the larger it will look, so remove knickknacks and excess furniture. Also take down family photos, religious items and political posters so prospective buyers can envision their family in the house, not yours. Finally, you may want to hire a cleaning service to do a deep cleaning.

Stage the house to show how the rooms are supposed to be used.

If you have odd rooms with no obvious role, give them one. An odd alcove off the kitchen could be staged as an office or a pantry, for example.

Make the property easy to show

The more flexible you are about visits, the more people will be able to see your home. Be ready for prospective visitors early in the morning, at night and on weekends, with little notice. Also, leave when the house is shown so would-be buyers can feel free to move about without feeling like intruders and discuss the home’s pros and cons honestly.

Remove your pets.

Also remove their paraphernalia, such as dog dishes and cat litter boxes (or at least hide them). A prospective buyer shouldn’t even know that a pet lives in the home if you can help it, Mahon says.

Make sure your listing is on all major online portals.

This is usually part of an agent’s service, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check that your listing is on Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. It also helps if your agent showcases the home on social media. “We sell as many homes off Facebook as we do off the [multiple listing service],” Mahon says. Both the agency and the individual agents have Facebook business pages where they share listings.

Ensure the listing has good photos, and lots of them.

Most home buyers start their search online and decide which homes they want to see based on the photos. You probably want something better than snapshots taken quickly with your agent’s phone.

Share information about life in the neighborhood.

The listing should include photos not only of the house, but also of nearby recreation, dining and shopping areas. If the schools are good, make sure that information is in the listing. “You’re not only marketing the home – you’re marketing the lifestyle,” Mahon says.

 

10 Tips to Sell Your Home Fast was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Eco-Friendly Home Updates That Save You Green

Each year, Americans save billions of dollars by employing energy-saving measures and investing in energy-efficient homes. Some upgrades — like Energy Star appliances, new hot water heaters, or geothermal pumps — can be pricey upfront, but there are plenty of small, inexpensive updates that will make a big difference in your budget over time. Here are some places to start.

Go low-flow

Thousands of gallons of water go down the drain every day. Toilet flushing and showering are the two biggest culprits. One solution is to upgrade your home’s plumbing fixtures so you use less water to accomplish the same task.

Low-flow fixtures, which are both inexpensive and easy to install, can reduce your home water consumption by as much as 50 percent, and save you up to $ 145 a year on electricity, according to Energy Star.

Insulate, insulate, insulate

Upgrading your home with energy-efficient insulation is one of the quickest energy payback projects you can undertake. If your house doesn’t have enough insulation (and many homes don’t, especially those built before 1980), bringing it up to current standards will not only make it more comfortable all year long, but you’ll save money — anywhere from 10 to 50 percent on your heating and cooling bills.

Consult the Department of Energy’s ZIP code specific recommendations for the right amount of insulation for your climate.

Use compact fluorescent light bulbs

Yes, fluorescent bulbs are more expensive that regular bulbs, but each bulb can save up to $ 40 over the lifetime of the bulb, and they last 10 times longer than conventional bulbs.

Install a programmable thermostat

Did you know that the average household spends about $ 2,000 annually on energy bills, and that close to half that figure can be attributed to heating and cooling?

Enter the programmable thermostat. When used properly (don’t be intimidated!), this little gadget, which you reset when you’re asleep or away from your home, can pay for itself in a matter of months. Annually, you’re looking at saving up to $ 150 or more.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Zillow Blog – Real Estate Market Stats, Celebrity Real Estate, and Zillow News » Tips & Advice

Eco-Friendly Home Updates That Save You Green was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

3 Extreme Home-Buying Tactics to Get the House You Want

House shaped mailbox or postbox

Send a letter after new owners close?

Today, in many markets, homes move quickly, often with multiple offers. Some homes, called “pocket listings,” sell before even hitting the market. It can be an all-out war for competitive buyers, and some will go to great lengths to win.

Here are three tips for going the extra mile to make sure you come out the winning bidder.

Make your offer a “sharp” offer

If the market is competitive and you really want the home, you need to let the seller know you’ll do whatever it takes to win it. In some cases, buyers will make what we call a “sharp” offer. In this situation, a potential buyer will match the highest and best offer, and raise that offer price by five percent — or sometimes even 10 percent.

Offer to buy out the winning buyer

I’ve seen remorseful buyers, frustrated after losing out in a bidding war, track down the winning buyer and negotiate with them. In this scenario, the losing buyer offers to pay the winning buyer their earnest money deposit (sometimes up to three percent of the purchase price) plus any expenses, in return for letting them take over the purchase.

Write a letter to the new homeowners once they close

If you can’t try to snag the home from the wining bidder, there is one final option. Knock on the door or write a letter to the new owner. Explain that you missed out on the home and that you would like to purchase it directly from them. In this case, you’d have to make them an incredible offer — one that would cover their sales and moving costs, and put money in their pocket. If you hit the right number, you just might motivate them.

When all else fails, it’s time to move on. There will be another house — there always is. Take the loss and chalk it up to experience. When the next great house comes along, be the first to see it, get the first offer in the door and make your offer irresistible.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Zillow Blog – Real Estate Market Stats, Celebrity Real Estate, and Zillow News » Tips & Advice

3 Extreme Home-Buying Tactics to Get the House You Want was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

3 Common Moving Nightmares (and How to Prevent Them)

Editor’s note: For many people, spring kicks off prime moving season. Wherever you’re headed, being well prepared to relocate will help minimize the upheaval and ensure that you can get settled into your new place as painlessly as possible. Every day this week, we’ll be giving you the resources you need to get ready to move.

Nightmares aren’t supposed to take place in broad daylight, but some common life events bring so much tension, uncertainty and anxiety that they can easily rank as “quality nightmares.” Moving house tops the list of stressful experiences that can feel like a bad dream – and it can easily come true unless you take precautionary measures.

Problems can occur at every stage of the relocation process: A violent storm hits just when the moving truck is parking in front of your door. The elevator is out of order when you arrive at your new high-rise building. You lose the keys to your car on the morning of moving day. The list goes on.

However, the most common moving nightmares fall into three main categories. Here’s how they typically play out – and how to avoid them.

Bad movers

Many moving horror stories involve rogue or incompetent movers.

  • The movers are late or don’t show up at all. The agreed-upon time comes and goes, but you see no sign of an approaching moving truck. When you call the moving company to demand an explanation, your relocation nightmare begins. Regardless of the excuses you receive (a traffic jam, a breakdown, a delay on a previous job, a mistaken date, etc.), the inevitable result will be lots of stress and wasted time. Worst of all, you may not be able to reach the moving company at all: fraudulent movers may have taken your deposit money and disappeared with it.
  • The movers are careless or inexperienced. If your movers arrive late, in a smaller moving truck than needed, or lack the required know-how and the proper equipment to handle your items safely and efficiently, your relocation can quickly turn into a nightmarish experience. The amateur movers may drop your plasma TV, break your heirloom china, scratch your antique dresser, dent the floors, or cause other overwhelming emotional and financial damage.
  • The movers are scam artists. In the worst case scenario, you may fall victim to unscrupulous moving scams. Rogue movers will often request much more money than previously negotiated based on some alleged extra services. They may hold your belongings hostage until you pay a considerable extra “fee” as ransom, or steal your more expensive belongings and just discard the rest.

The good news is that there is an easy way to avoid such nightmares. All you need to do is carefully research your movers before hiring them to make sure you are dealing with licensed and experienced professionals you can trust. It’s also a good idea to purchase appropriate insurance for your belongings, just in case.

Traffic problems

Heavy traffic or road accidents can also turn your move into a real nightmare.

  • Traffic jams. The moving truck is delayed and there may not be enough time to proceed with your move as planned. You may have to postpone the relocation to another day, or you may miss your flight.
  • Traffic accidents. if there has been an accident on the road, the moving truck will have to wait until the damaged vehicles are removed and normal traffic is restored. However, the scenario could get much worse: You may lose all your possessions or receive them badly damaged if the moving truck crashes, catches fire, or gets trapped somewhere because of adverse weather conditions like heavy snowfall or torrential rains. It’s even possible that thieves could break into the vehicle and steal your goods.
  • Breakdown. If the moving truck breaks down on the road, you’ll have to wait for the moving company to send another vehicle. What’s more, your items can easily get damaged while being transferred.
  • Parking issues. The moving truck has to circle the neighborhood for hours until an appropriate parking space is vacated, or the movers have to park far away from the entrance to your home. In such cases, you’ll not only lose valuable time, but will also have to pay an extra fee for the delay or an additional long-carry fee.

Of course, there’s nothing you can do to prevent traffic accidents or breakdowns. But you can at least reserve a parking place directly in front of your old and new homes, and choose a moving company that has experienced drivers and several moving vehicles in good condition.

Poor organization

The only way to avoid problems when moving house is to plan each phase of your relocation adventure in meticulous detail and stay one step ahead all the time. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing any of the following all-too-common moving ordeals.

  • Packing chaos. It may turn out that you’ve packed more items than previously discussed with the movers; packed items that can’t be loaded onto the moving truck; haven’t labeled the boxes properly; or forgotten to prepare an “essentials box.” Worst of all, you may not be ready when the movers arrive. All these packing mistakes will result in lost time and money.
  • Furniture troubles. If your large furniture doesn’t fit through the doors, you may be forced to leave some treasured pieces behind, or request hoisting services that will cost you dearly and will delay your move considerably.
  • Paperwork problems. If you forget to transfer the utilities, you won’t have electricity, gas, and water on move-in day. If you forget to change your address, you won’t have your mail delivered to your new home. If you forget to update your driver’s license and car registration in time, you’ll be fined. Not taking proper care of your documents will most certainly get you in trouble.
  • Overspending. If you book your movers at the last moment, require too many extra services, fail to create a realistic moving budget, pack all your items without sorting them out first, or allow any other financial imprudence, you’ll end up paying much more than you expected.
  • Safety issues. Make every effort to prevent injuries and accidents on moving day, as getting hurt is one of the worst things that can happen during your relocation endeavor.

Related:

Originally published April 15, 2016.

Tips & Advice – Zillow Porchlight

Featured East Metro Atlanta Homes

3 Common Moving Nightmares (and How to Prevent Them) was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

How to File a Renters Insurance Claim Without the Headache

renters-insurance-claim

By Shannon Ireland

What would you do if someone broke into your apartment or rental home and stole your belongings? Or if a fire damaged your possessions? If you’re one of the estimate 37 percent of renters with renters insurance, you should be in good shape — if you successfully manage the claims process.

Relax, it’s not that hard. Here’s a look at the process, and tips for getting the most out of your policy so you can file a claim stress-free.

If a break-in has occurred

Contact the police so you can start the process of filing a report. While you’re waiting for officers to arrive at your home, take inventory of the damage and the items that are missing.

Once you’ve filed your police report, contact your renters insurance provider and begin the process of filing a claim. You’ll need the number of the police report, as well as:

  • Your insurance policy. It will contain information about your deductible and coverage.
  • Photos of the damage incurred during the break-in. It’s important that you keep the damaged property rather than disposing of it. The claims adjuster likely will want to see it.
  • Your home inventory. This is a list of the contents of the apartment or rental home, complete with photos and, when available, receipts. You can still file a claim if you don’t have an inventory, but the process could be longer and more cumbersome. If you haven’t done an inventory, complete one before trouble strikes. An inventory checklist can help make this task easier.

Be sure to notify your landlord of the break-in, particularly if there is damage to the structure of the home or apartment. Your landlord’s insurance will be responsible for that.

Other reasons for property loss and damage

If you’re the victim of fire or damage from wind or hail or another covered peril, contact your insurance provider immediately to begin your claim and start assessing the damage to your possessions. Again, that home inventory can really help. Follow these other steps:

  1. As with a break-in, take plenty of photos to document the damage to your possessions. Don’t get rid of the damaged items until a claims adjuster gives you the OK.
  2. Keep a record of receipts for any expenses or repairs associated with the loss. If you must relocate for repairs, your policy could provide for reimbursement for extra expenses.
  3. Let your landlord know about the damage. Temporary repairs to prevent further damage are OK, but ask him or her not to proceed further until the adjuster has investigated the claim.

Once you’ve filed your claim, ask how long it will take to process it so that you can tackle the next steps in a timely fashion.

Get estimates and meet with the claims adjuster

Depending on the specifics of your policy, you could be reimbursed for the replacement value or the actual cash value of your stolen or damaged possessions. Replacement value reimburses you for the full cost of the item, while actual cash value takes depreciation into account. Either way, get replacement and repair cost estimates for your possessions.

Start the final phase of the claim process by meeting with a claims adjuster, who will investigate your claim to ensure its validity, approve or veto the claim, authorize payment action and approve requests for temporary living arrangements.

Settling the claim

Before signing the documents to settle the claim, review it in its entirety. It’s a good idea to have a lawyer look it over.

If you’re not clear on any of the language or information presented in the claim document, ask questions. Now is the time to contest things. Once you’ve signed off on the settlement, keep a copy of the settlement documents for your records.

Filing a claim isn’t difficult, but it’s important to do it correctly. Follow these steps to simplify the process. And be happy that you’re not one of the 63 percent of renters who don’t have insurance.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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How to File a Renters Insurance Claim Without the Headache was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home