The 5-Minute Guide To Flood Insurance: What It Is, How It Works, And Whether You Need It

The 5-Minute Guide to Flood Insurance: What It Is, How It Works, and Whether You Need ItYou’ve got house insurance, and assume your property is covered for any type of detrimental occurrence that can possibly take place.

However, not all homeowners are aware that home insurance policies don’t necessarily cover damage related to a flood, as the risks are too great. As a result, homeowners must purchase flood insurance through a private company.

Floods are one of the most common hazards in the US, costing billions of dollars in damage to properties every year.

What Is Flood Insurance?

Flood insurance policies are typically made available to homeowners in flood-prone areas. The majority of insurance policies cover some form of water damage, from things like leaking faucets to bursting plumbing pipes.

However, such policies don’t cover water damage as a result of flooding of rivers or sewers that cause water to ruin a home.

Specific flood protection is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Standard flood insurance policies cover “direct physical damage” to a property resulting from floods.

A separate policy must be purchased to protect the belongings inside the home or building. Homeowners can buy up to $250,000 in coverage for the home, and up to $100,000 in coverage for possessions. Even renters are permitted to purchase flood insurance to cover their possessions.

How Does Flood Insurance Work?

Flood insurance isn’t sold by FEMA directly, but rather is sold to customers through private insurance agencies. Premium rates are determined by the government, and they remain consistent from one insurer to the next.

How much a homeowner pays for their own specific flood insurance depends on a number of factors, including how prone the neighborhood is to floods and how much coverage a homeowner wants. The average annual premium is approximately $520 for $100,000 worth of coverage for a property with no basement, and approximately $615 annually for a property with a basement.

Filing A Flood Insurance Claim

The claims process is like any other insurance claim. Once the claim is filed, the damage will be analyzed by an adjustor assigned by the insurance company. A “proof of loss” form will need to filled out and submitted to the insurer within 60 days of the flood occurrence.

Do You Need Flood Insurance?

It’s necessary to find out if you are eligible for flood insurance before buying it. For residents of a community to be eligible, the community needs to enforce floodplain statutes to lessen the chances of flood damage, after which FEMA ensures that such regulations are followed.

Only those who reside in a community that participates in NFIP can buy insurance – today, about 20,000 communities across the country participate in this program.

FEMA offers maps that outline what areas are at high risk for floods, and those that are at moderate-to-low risk. The law requires homeowners to have flood insurance if the properties are located in a high-risk zone and have a federally-backed mortgage. This is because properties located in these high-risk areas have a 26 percent chance of suffering flood damage during the 30 years that it would take to pay off a mortgage.

Homeowners are not required to buy flood insurance if they reside in a moderate-to-low-risk zone, though it may be a good idea to purchase it anyway. Properties outside the high-risk areas make up over 20 percent of NFIP claims. Homeowners in these areas can purchase up to $200,000 in flood insurance.

The bottom line is, even if you don’t necessarily live in a high-risk zone, this doesn’t mean your home won’t ever get flooded. Many conditions can result in flood damage, including clogged drain systems, flash rainstorms, and damaged levees.

FOMC Statement: Asset Purchases to end in October, Labor Market Stronger

FOMC Statement Asset Purchases to end in October Labor Market StrongerThe Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released its customary statement at the conclusion of its meeting on Wednesday. FOMC members oversee the Fed’s monetary policy. In recent months, investors and economists have speculated on whether or not the Fed would continue tapering its asset purchases under its latest quantitative easing (QE) program, and whether the Fed would raise its target federal funds rate of 0.00 to 0.250 percent.

According to its statement, FOMC members plan to continue tapering monthly asset purchases of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities until asset purchases under the QE program conclude in October. FOMC statements have repeatedly indicated that members do not foresee raising the target federal funds rate for a “considerable period” after the QE asset purchases cease. Wednesday’s FOMC statement reasserted this position, and said that the committee may keep the current target federal funds rate at its current level for “some time” after employment levels and inflation reach normal levels.

Committee member and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President and CEO Charles I. Plosser objected to use of the term “considerable period” as being “…time dependent and not reflecting economic progress made toward the committee’s goals.”

The committee’s comments about asset purchases and the target federal funds rate included the usual reminder that asset purchases and determination of the target federal funds rate are not on a predetermined course and are subject to adjustment should economic conditions merit changes in FOMC monetary policy.

FOMC Concerned with Housing Markets, Unemployment

The committee’s statement said that while FOMC members noted improvements in labor markets, but the unemployment rate remains elevated. The FOMC statement noted that “a range of labor market indicators suggest that there remains significant underutilization of labor resources.”

In spite of encouraging labor market reports, FOMC members remain concerned about overall labor market conditions, and are not relying on the national unemployment rate alone as an accurate measure of labor market health.

Home prices continue to rise, but at a slower pace in many areas. On a positive note, the statement indicated that FOMC members found that the likelihood of inflation running consistently below the committee’s target rate of 2.00 percent was “diminished somewhat.”

While Wednesday’s FOMC statement reflected signs of an ongoing economic recovery, it’s evident that FOMC members plant to keep a close eye on factors that impact their expectations for the economy.

S P Case-Shiller Home Price Index: May Home Prices Rise

S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index: May Home Prices RiseMay home prices rose in all 20 cities tracked by the S&P Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index. This was the second consecutive month in which all cities posted gains.

On average, national home prices rose by 1.10 percent in May as compared to April’s reading. Year-over-year, home prices rose, but at a slower rate of 9.39 percent in May as compared to 10.80 percent year-over-year for April.

Nevada, Florida and California Cities Post Highest Gains 

Cities posting the highest year-over-year price gains in May included Las Vegas, Nevada at 16.90 percent, San Francisco, California at 15.40 percent, Miami, Florida at 13.20 percent. San Diego and Los Angeles, California reported home price growth rates at 12.40 and 12.29 percent respectively.

According to the 20-City Index, home prices are 18 percent below their peak reached in mid-2006, but are 27 percent higher as compared to March 2012 lows.

Pending Home Sales Decline in June

More evidence of sluggish home sales was reported for June. The National Association of REALTORS® reported that pending home sales dropped by 1.10 percent in June. This was a surprise as compared to May’s month-to-month gain of 6.00 percent for pending sales.

Several factors were cited as contributing to slower home sales; higher home prices, stagnant wage growth, higher mortgage rates and stringent loan requirements were seen as obstacles for home buyers. Pending home sales are an indicator of future closings and mortgage activity. Approximately 80 percent of purchase contracts signed sales completed within 60 days.

FHFA House Price Index: Home Price Growth Slips in May

FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reported that home prices grew by 0.40 percent in May to a seasonally-adjusted year-over-year rate of 5.50 percent as compared to April’s year-over-year reading of 5.90 percent. FHFA’s House Price Index is based on sales of homes connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages. 

On a positive note, the reading for the Consumer Confidence Index jumped from 85.20 in June to 90.90 in July. Expanding consumer confidence suggests that more families may decide to transition from renting to owning their homes, and that homeowners may feel confident enough to move up to larger homes.

 

Sellers, Beware: Five Reasons You Might Not Get Top Dollar when You Sell Your Home (And How to Avoid Them)

Sellers, Beware: Five Reasons You Might Not Get Top Dollar when You Sell Your Home (And How to Avoid Them)For most people, their home is their largest asset, so they want to maximize that asset by getting top dollar when they sell. Here are a few reasons you might not get top dollar when you sell – and how to avoid them!

Selling At The Wrong Time

From early spring to late summer is home-buying season for most people, especially those with children. Putting your house on the market during this period is when you are likely to get top dollar for it. Early fall is also a good time to list your home. Winter – especially December – is the worst time to list. If you list your home outside of prime selling season, you are likely to get less for it than you could have otherwise.

Not Staging Your Home Properly

Many people think of staging as simply rearranging the furniture or changing curtains, but there is so much more to it, and not doing it properly can mean less money for your home. To stage your home properly, you must declutter, putting knick-knacks and family pictures away. You also want to make sure your home is as clean as possible and that you correct any defects such as holes in the wall or cracked window panes. Another thing you should do as part of your staging routine is to paint your walls in neutral colors and update cabinet hardware and light fixtures that are out of date. These little changes can make a big difference. 

Not Paying Attention To Curb Appeal

You can spend all the time and money necessary to spruce up the inside of your home, but if your lawn is a patch of dirt and your gutters are falling down, all that work and money can go for naught. To get top dollar for your home, you need to improve your curb appeal. This includes seeding or sodding bare spots in your lawn, trimming trees and shrubbery and fixing up home-related items such as broken concrete and sagging gutters.

Not Getting The Price Right

You might think that to get the highest price out of your house, you have to price it high. However, that’s not necessarily always the case. If you price your house too high, it can make other similar houses that are priced lower look like better deals. You should make sure to pay close attention to what comparable homes are selling for in the area and price your home accordingly.

Not Working With A Real Estate Agent

Many people think they can save a bundle selling their home by not working with a real estate agent. While you do save on the real estate commission, you can lose more than that amount by making mistakes in pricing and marketing. A real estate agent will have access to resources you don’t, such as information on buyers looking in your neighborhood. An agent will market your home, make sure it is priced accordingly and set up showings. It is worth your time and money to call an agent experienced in selling homes in your neighborhood who can give you a market evaluation.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 28, 2014

Home cooling costsLast week’s economic news brought several housing-related reports, which indicated varying results in terms of gauging the economic recovery. FHFA reported slower growth of home prices associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages, but sales of existing homes as reported by the National Association of REALTORS® surpassed expectations and May’s reading. Sales of new homes slumped to their lowest level in three months. Weekly jobless claims were lower than expected and also lower than for the prior week.

FHFA Home Prices Grow at Slower Rate, Existing Home Sales Higher than Expected 

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) reported that the average sale price of homes associated with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac grew by.40 percent in May with year-over year growth of 5.90 percent. While national home price readings continue to rise, they are doing so at a slower pace since 2013′s rapid appreciation of average home prices.

Sales of previously owned homes reached their highest level in eight months in June. Existing home sales surpassed expectations and May’s reading in June, with sales of pre-owned homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million units. Analysts forecasted sales of existing homes at 5.00 million against May’s reading of 4.91 million existing homes sold.

New Home Sales Fall Short in June

New home sales did not achieve the expected volume for June. The reading of 406,000 new homes sold was less than the expected reading of 475,000 new homes sold. Projections were based on the original May reading of 504,000 new homes sold, but this was downwardly revised to 442,000 new homes sold in May. Builders were said to be cautious about over-extending themselves are focused on new home construction in high-demand areas where home prices are higher. Homes are less affordable in such areas, which impacts lower sales volume.

Freddie Mac: Mortgage Rates Steady for 30-year FRM

The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged at 4.13 percent with average discount points also unchanged at 0.60 percent according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of mortgage rates. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.26 percent with discount points higher at 0.60 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 2.99 percent with discount points ten basis points higher at 0.50 percent.

Weekly Jobless Claims Lowest since 2006

A major consideration for home buyers is stable employment. Recent reports suggest that the labor market is expanding; the Weekly Jobless Claims report continued this trend with a lower than expected reading of 284,000 new jobless claims filed against expectations of 310,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 303,000 new jobless claims. Analysts found the declining number of new jobless claims consistent with lower unemployment rates, but cautioned that sustained weekly jobless claims readings lower than 300,000 are more consistent with a national unemployment rate of 5.00 percent or less.

What’s Ahead

This week’s scheduled economic news will add further insight to housing market trends with the release of Pending Home Sales for June and the Case-Shiller Home Price Index report for May. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will also release July’s Non-Farm Payrolls report and National Unemployment report. The Federal Reserve is set to release its customary statement in the aftermath of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting that concludes on Wednesday.

The 7 Most Unaffordable Cities for Real Estate in the USA (And 3 Affordable Gems!)

The 7 Most Unaffordable Cities for Real Estate in the USA (And 3 Affordable Gems!)As prices continue to rise across the board with everything from food to gas, it’s no wonder that real estate prices are high in many cities across the USA. While this is the case for a large number of cities, there are also certain areas in which prices are decidedly low. Here’s a small look at the most affordable and unaffordable cities within America.

The Seven Most Unaffordable Cities

Oakland, CA – Though Los Angeles and San Francisco are 2 California cities that may first come to mind, Oakland is also highly expensive when it comes to real estate, with a median home value of nearly $450,000, which is over 100 percent more than the national average.

Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles is another city in California that is particularly unaffordable. With a median household income of just under $50,000, the exceedingly high median home value of nearly $470,000 is largely galling in its expensiveness.

Boston, MA – The Boston real estate market becomes more unaffordable with each passing year. The median home value within the city is set at well over $350,000. This, combined with the relatively high cost of living, can make for a bleak outlook.

New York City, NY – As one of, if not the most, unaffordable cities in America, NYC is also the most populous city in the country. While the borough of Manhattan is the most expensive for real estate prices, Brooklyn and Queens aren’t much better, while the median home value of the entire city is just over $500,000.

Washington, D.C. – Though the median household income within the city of Washington D.C. is higher than the national average, the median home value sits at a substantial $443,000, with a cost of living over 40 percent above the national average.

San Francisco, CA – Living in San Francisco is extremely unaffordable, though mitigated a bit by higher household incomes. The median home value is likely the highest in the nation, at just over $750,000.

Honolulu, HI – As the capital city of Hawaii, Honolulu is much higher than the national average in everything from utilities to transportation, with the median home value sitting at $547,000.

Three Affordable Alternatives

Cleveland, OH – Though there are a surprising amount of affordable cities in Ohio, Cleveland has a median home value of just over $75,000, well below the state average of $129,000.

Knoxville, TN – Knoxville is a city in Tennessee that combines a generally low median home value of $140,000 with a median household income of just over $60,000, which is much higher than the national average.

Syracuse, NY – If you want to live in New York, but can’t afford the high real estate prices of NYC, the city of Syracuse has a low median home value of just under $80,000.

Can One Missed Mortgage Payment Affect Your Credit Rating? Yes! Here’s What to Do if You Miss One

Can One Missed Mortgage Payment Affect Your Credit Rating? Yes! Here's What to Do if You Miss OneMost people don’t know whether or not a single missed mortgage payment can have serious consequences for their credit score.

The good news is that there are things that can be done to mitigate the damage and help anyone who has missed a payment repair their credit. What are some options to help homeowners get back in the good graces of their creditors?

Own Up To The Mistake

The best thing to do is to admit that the payment was missed and immediately make amends for it. For the most part, mortgage lenders are sympathetic to the fact that people miss payments for reasons that may be beyond their control.

By calling the lender as soon as it appears that a payment may be late or not forthcoming at all, it is easier to make arrangements to roll that payment back into the mortgage or take other steps to decrease the odds of a negative remark being made on a credit report.

Don’t Let A Single Missed Payment Turn Into Multiple Missed Payments

While a single missed payment can hurt a credit score, it is important to not compound the mistake by missing more payments. In some cases, someone may decide to make up for the late payment before making any further payments.

However, that only makes the mistake worse because a borrower will be considered late on all subsequent payments. It is better to make the most current payment on time and make the late payment the secondary priority.

Hire A Third-Party If Necessary To Negotiate A Loan Modification

It is important to not let emotion get in the way of negotiating a modification to a mortgage. When a borrower hires a credit counselor or a bankruptcy attorney to talk his or her creditors, the negotiations can stay professional and on topic.

In most cases, a lender will be willing to make modifications for those who need them because it is better to get the money from the borrower willingly instead of having to go through a foreclosure proceeding.

While a missed mortgage payment can be bad news for a credit score, it is possible to make amends for the missed payment while minimizing long-term damage to a borrower’s credit score. By owning the mistake, staying current on all future payments and working with a third-party, it may be possible for a lender to forget that the missed payment ever happened.

National Association of REALTORS Existing Home Sales Exceed Projections

National Association of REALTORSAccording to the National Association of REALTORS®, existing home sales surpassed both May sales and expectations for June. Sales of previously owned homes increased by 2.60 percent in June and reached a seasonally adjusted annual level of 5.04 million sales. June’s reading was the third consecutive monthly increase in sales of existing homes and was the highest reading for existing home sales in eight months. Existing home sales remain 2.30 percent below the June 2013 reading of 5.16 million sales of existing homes.

Analysts projected sales of 5 million existing homes for June against May’s initial reading of 4.89 million sales of previously owned homes; the May reading was later revised to 4.91 million sales. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS® said that market conditions are becoming “more balanced,” and noted that inventories of existing homes are at their highest level in over a year and that price gains have slowed to much more welcoming levels in many parts of the country.

Housing Market Headwinds Declining

After a particularly harsh winter and lagging labor reports, analysts forecasted lower annual sales of existing homes for 2014 than for 2013. Labor markets are stronger according to recent labor market reports and a declining national unemployment rate. Steady work is an important factor for families considering a home purchase; as labor markets improve, more would-be homeowners are expected to become active buyers.

Housing markets are not without challenges. In recent unrelated reports, the Federal Reserve has noted higher than anticipated inflation may cause the Fed to raise its target Federal Funds rate in the next several months. Gas and food prices, important components of consumers’ household budgets continue to rise and could slow save toward a home for some families. Steve Brown, president of the National Association of REALTORS®, said that first-time and moderate income buyers continue to deal with affordability due to increased FHA costs and tight mortgage credit. Relief may be in sight as a slower pace of home price growth suggests that more buyers may be able to afford homes.

FHFA House Price Index Reports Gain in May Home Sales

FHFA released its May index of home sales connected with mortgages owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The index posted a month-to-month gain of 0.40 percent in May and a year-over-year gain of 5.90 percent year-over-year. FHFA said that increased sales were driven by a 9/60 percent increase in sales in the Pacific region and that average home prices remain 6.50 percent below April 2007.

Is Now the Time to Consider a 15-Year Mortgage? Five Reasons to Give the 15Y Another Look

Is Now the Time to Consider a 15-Year Mortgage? Five Reasons to Give the 15Y Another LookA 15-year fixed mortgage is, as its name suggests, a mortgage that’s paid off after 15 years. Since it amortizes fully, after that amount of time you won’t have to pay anything else. This type of mortgage has a lot of benefits, and below we’ll share just a few of them.

1) No Need For Payments After Retirement

Here it highly depends on when in life you choose to take on the mortgage. However, most people decide to take on a mortgage at around 30 years of age.

If this is the case for you, then it means you’ll be 45 years old when your mortgage will be fully paid. There will be no need to worry about having to use Social Security or pension checks to pay it off.

Another consideration is the fact that the older you are, the more your health costs will go up. Having costs like that pile up while having to make mortgage payments can be a huge problem. For that reason, not having to pay off your mortgage after retirement is a tremendous bonus.

2) Your Home Will Be Yours Sooner

You might think your house is yours the minute you step into it. However, in reality, it’s only yours after you have fully paid your mortgage off. Until then, it can be repossessed if you fail to make payments.

With a 15-year mortgage, your home will become yours in the blink of an eye. Then, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy other things in life, knowing you already own your home.

3) You’ll Pay Less Interest

If you were to pick, say, a 30-year mortgage, there will be twice as many years in which interest will add up. This will more than double the amount you end up having to pay, as mortgage interest compounds over time.

As such, getting a 15-year mortgage will not only reduce the time you’ll pay it off; it will also reduce the amount you pay back. Saving both time and money is an amazing deal.

4) Get Lower Rates

On most 15-year mortgages, the amount you have to pay in terms of rates is usually lower than for 30-year ones. As such, you’ll be saving money in two ways. First, you’ll save by reducing the time, then, by reducing the actual rate.

5) Learn To Push Yourself

Some people fear getting a 15-year mortgage. The reason is that they think the payments will be too expensive. They think that getting a 30-year mortgage is likely a better idea.

If you can’t afford to make the payments of a 15-year mortgage, you might want to reconsider. However, if you can afford it, but you’re afraid, don’t be. Pushing yourself to achieve something you truly want is a good thing. You’ll become a stronger person, and you’ll have more reason to be proud of your achievement.

A 15-year mortgage has many benefits. The main one is simply that you’ll be able to pay it faster, which means that you won’t worry about it for long. This, in addition to the fact that you’ll be paying less are very convincing factors.

If you’d like to learn more about 15-year mortgage plans, contact your mortgage professional for more information.

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – July 21, 2014

Mythbusters: 5 Reasons Why Diet Sodas Might Not Be as Healthy as You ThinkLast week’s economic news offered a variety of indications that the economic recovery continues, but some readings missed their expected levels. The Philadelphia and New York branches of the Federal Reserve Bank reported higher than anticipated manufacturing for their respective regions and new jobless claims were lower than expected.

Fed Chair’s Senate Testimony Hints at Coming Interest Rate Hike

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testified that the Fed might have to raise interest rates sooner than expected if the economy continues to outperform the Fed’s projections. Ms. Yellen said that the central bank presently estimates that the first rate increases will take place approximately one year from now.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Fed has repeatedly stated that members will continue to review data and economic conditions changing monetary policy. Ms. Yellen said in last week’s remarks that this holds true whether economic conditions improve or decline.

In other Fed-related news, the Philadelphia Fed released its manufacturing index for July with higher than expected results. The Philly Fed’s reading for July was 23.90 as compared to expectations of 16.50 and June’s reading of 17.80.

The New York Fed reported a similar trend for July with a reading of 25.60 as compared to an estimated reading of 17.50 and June’s reading of 19.30. This is good news after the Northeast’s economy was slammed by severe weather last winter. Weather conditions stalled area housing and labor markets.

Weekly jobless claims were lower at 303,000 than expectations of 310,000 new jobless claims and the prior week’s reading of 305,000 new jobless claims.

Home Builders Post Positive Confidence Reading for July

The National Association of Home Builders posted its highest builder confidence reading in six months for July with a reading of 53 against the expected reading of 50 and June’s reading of 49. Numbers above 50 indicate that more builders surveyed have a positive outlook than not.

Housing Starts for June were reported lower than expected at an annual level of 893,000 against an expected reading of 1.02 million and May’s reading of 985,000 housing starts.

Mortgage Rates Lower

According to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, average mortgage rates were slightly lower last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell by two basis points to 4.13 percent. Discount points were 0.60 as compared to the prior week’s reading of 0.70 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.23 percent as compared to the previous reading of 3.24 percent.

Discount points for a 15-year mortgage averaged 0.50 percent against the prior week’s reading of 0.50 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage dropped by two basis points to 2.87 percent with discount points unchanged at 0.40 percent.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index for July fell just short of expectations at 81.3. Analysts expected a reading of 83.0, based on June’s reading of 82.50. Analysts said that although labor markets are improving, consumers continue to face rising costs for gasoline and food, which likely explained the dip in confidence for July.

What’s Ahead

This week’s economic news releases include Existing Home sales from the National Association of REALTORS®, New Home Sales from the Department of Commerce and the FHFA House Price Index. The Chicago Fed is set to release its National Activity Index. Freddie Mac mortgage rates and New Jobless Claims will be released Thursday as usual.