Mortgage Rates Falling, So Where Are Home Buyers?

Mortgage rates have fallen close to their lowest levels in nearly a year, but housing demand hasn’t budged much yet.

Freddie Mac FMCC -1.36% reported Thursday that the average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.14% this week, up from 4.12% last week but down from 4.4% just two months ago. This puts rates at roughly the same level seen in late October 2013 and again last June, when rates were zipping up as investors braced for an end to the Federal Reserve’s bond-buying programs.

But even with low rates, mortgage applications have been soft, according to a separate report from the Mortgage Bankers Association, a sign of still muted demand for home loans.

What’s going on?

First, a longer view helps. True, mortgage rates are low—as low as they’ve been in almost 12 months. But in the same way that shoppers may not be lured by “low prices” at a department store that is always advertising a sale, mortgage rates at 4.1% may not be seen as a steal by buyers who lived with rates that were even lower for all of 2012 and the first half of 2013—especially considering that prices have moved higher.

Put differently, which change is more dramatic—a decline in interest rates from 5% to 3.5% over the two years beginning in February 2011 or the decline from 4.5% in January to 4.1% in May?

Given the time it takes for home purchases to come together and the fact that the decision to purchase a home isn’t purely rate-driven—buyers also must weigh what’s for sale, their family and job situation, etc.—it could take a while to see what effect, if any, the recent drop in interest rates has had on demand.

So do rates really matter? At the margins, yes. They’re a key component of a borrower’s monthly payment. And often the first conversation between a real-estate agent and a potential buyer—”How much are you willing to spend?”—can be influenced quite a bit by mortgage rates, provided the buyer isn’t paying entirely in cash.

What does this payment picture look like right now? The monthly payment on the median-priced U.S. home fell from $673 in February 2011 to $552 in September 2012 as interest rates fell. Interest rates stayed low through May 2013, but the average payment rose to $586 as home prices ticked up. (These calculations assume a 20% down payment on the national median home value as calculated by Zillow).

After interest rates jumped last summer, that average payment bounced to $674 in September 2013. Rising prices and, especially, higher rates eroded the affordability gains of the previous 2½ years in a matter of months. Payments haven’t budged much since then. Modest declines in interest rates have offset modest gains in home prices.

Some look at this and say: wait a minute, a 4.5% mortgage is still an insanely good deal. Why would a rise in rates to levels that are still quite low hurt housing demand? One possible explanation: the overall level of rate matters over the long run, but the speed with which rates rose last year could have dented demand in the short run.

Several economists have argued recently that mortgage rates increases played an important role in last year’s sales slowdown. In part, that’s because activity received a larger boost when mortgage rates were falling from 2011 to 2013 than previously anticipated, wrote Goldman Sachs economists Sven Jari Stehn and David Mericle in a recent report.

The Goldman analysis suggests that the slide in mortgage rates between 2011 and 2013 increased residential investment—the primary measure of housing’s contribution to GDP—by 5 percentage points. “As this tailwind dissipates going forward, the trend in housing activity might be somewhat lower than previously assumed,” they write.

Last year’s mortgage rate increase accounts for nearly half of the difference in expected housing growth and the lower, actual growth, according to a separate analysis published last week by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

This isn’t to say that the cold winter and the rate jump are the only reasons housing has slowed down. Low rates and prices may have spurred the release of pent-up demand throughout 2012, as home prices began to rise. This one-time benefit, together with aggressive home purchase by investors (also a temporary phenomenon), could have given false signals about the true health of the demand side of the market in 2012 and 2013.

Moreover, incomes have showed little growth, meaning that it will be harder for more buyers to buy homes if prices continue to rise absent some gains in wages or even bigger declines in financing costs. Sales are also being restrained by low levels of homes for sale, which is pushing prices higher. Some would-be buyers don’t have enough equity to sell their current home, while others have high levels of student debt.

WSJ by Nick Timiraos

O.C. home sales decelerate in January

ranchograndeopenhouse
BY JEFF COLLINS / STAFF WRITER
Published: Feb. 12, 2014
Updated: Feb. 13, 2014 7:08 a.m.

Orange County home sales continued to swoon last month in the face of elevated prices and higher interest rates.

Housing market tracker DataQuick Information Systems reported Wednesday that sales closed on 2,205 houses, condos and newly built homes in January, down 9.3 percent year-over-year to the lowest number in almost two years.

But the median price – or price at the midpoint of all sales – hovered at $550,000, due in part to an increase in sales of larger and more expensive homes, market observers said.

Last month’s median home price was the third highest for a January in records dating back to 1988, DataQuick figures show.

“We have slowed down a little in the number of sales we’re seeing, (but) not necessarily in prices,” said Kim Rossi of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Monarch Beach.

“Last year, the market was unbelievable,” added Keller Williams Realty agent Reza Shirangi of Mission Viejo. “Then as interest rates rose from 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent (last summer), literally for three to four weeks, the market just stopped.”

Regionwide, median home prices increased 18.4 percent last month, to $380,000 in six Southern California counties, DataQuick reported. Southern California home sales dropped 9.9 percent, to 16,058 deals.

“Southland home sales have fallen on a year-over-year basis for four consecutive months now and remain well below average,” said DataQuick President John Walsh. “We’re still putting a lot of the blame on the low inventory. But mortgage availability, the rise in interest rates and higher home prices matter, too.”

Although home prices remain 15 percent below the all-time high of $645,000 reached in June 2007, Orange County’s housing market has recovered 65 percent of the ground lost in the housing crash.

January tends to be the slowest month of the year, reflecting deals signed during the slow Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday season.

Orange County had 5,087 homes for sale on Jan. 30, less than half the multiple listing service average, according to Steve Thomas of ReportsOnHousing.com.

That compares with 3,276 homes for sale the same time last year – an inventory shortage that created “a flash market” in the first six months of 2013, said Mac Mackenzie, a Coldwell Banker agent in Irvine.

“It was a false market set up for success,” Mackenzie said. “It’s now a whole new ballgame. … We’re seeing a solid market, but nowhere near where it was last year.”

Price reductions began to appear in late summer, Mackenzie said, and homes priced overzealously have sat on the market without a buyer. For example, Mackenzie said he sold a home in Irvine’s Turtle Rock area in January 2013 for $1.45 million. Six months later, an identical home on a larger lot sold for $1.25 million.

A change in the mix of home sales has kept the median price artificially high, said Chris Pollinger, senior vice president of sales for Irvine-based First Team Real Estate.

DataQuick figures show, for example, that sales for $500,000 or less fell 32 percent in January. Sales for $700,000 and above rose 28 percent.

“The cheap seats are all taken,” Pollinger said. “We’re seeing a little bit more action at the high end. That’s why your prices are up a bit more.”

Sales drops also reflect decreased demand for existing homes, while new home sales have doubled in the past year.

Berkshire Hathaway’s Rossi noted that there are about 50 new home projects actively selling in Orange County, including the 2,380-home Baker Ranch development in Lake Forest. A spokeswoman for the developer said 9,000 to 10,000 home shoppers turned out for Baker Ranch’s grand opening last weekend.

“We need to educate our sellers who they are competing with,” she said. “They’re not just competing with the neighbor down the street. Now is the time to spruce up.”

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New FHA guidelines coming: Purchase 1 year after “Economic Event”

HUD headerRead the full article HERE

The financial crisis took its toll on Wall Street and Main Street alike.  Mistakes were made and bills went unpaid on both sides of the fence, but Main Street sees Wall Street bailouts and asks “where’s my bailout?”  Specifically with respect to the housing market, borrowers who have had bankruptcies, foreclosures, deeds-in-lieu, short-sales, or other adverse credit have heretofore been unable to quickly reestablish themselves as worthy borrowers.  That’s changing.

Late last week, The Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday unveiled a new set of guidelines under the FHA program specifically geared toward homeowners and prospective homeowners adversely impacted by the Great Recession.  The “Back to Work” program, as it’s called, doesn’t constitute a free pass for those who would otherwise be unable to qualify for financing, but it does reopen the housing market to a great many borrowers who would otherwise have been waiting for 3-7 years to tick off the clock–depending on their initial credit issue–before being able to qualify for a mortgage.  In FHA’s words:

“As a result of the recent recession many borrowers who experienced unemployment or other severe reductions in income, were unable to make their monthly mortgage payments, and ultimately lost their homes to a pre-foreclosure sale, deed-in-lieu, or foreclosure. Some borrowers were forced to file for bankruptcy to discharge or restructure their debts. Because of these recent recession-related periods of financial difficulty, borrowers’ credit has been negatively affected. FHA recognizes the hardships faced by these borrowers, and realizes that their credit histories may not fully reflect their true ability or propensity to repay a mortgage.”

The program will require prospective borrowers to thoroughly document the nature of the “Economic Event,” that it resulted in derogatory credit, and that there has been a satisfactory recovery from the Event per the new guidelines.

Lenders will consider the Economic Event to have caused the derogatory credit if:

  • The prospective borrowers had satisfactory credit prior to the event onset
  • The prospective borrowers’ derogatory credit occurred after the onset of the event
  • The prospective borrowers have reestablished satisfactory credit for at least 12 months since the the end of the event

Lenders will consider borrowers to have reestablished satisfactory credit if:

  • The borrower has no late housing or installment debt payments for the past 12 months
  • Open mortgage accounts are current and have been paid on time for the past 12 months
  • Borrowers have adhered to the agreement of any open modification plan for the past 12 months
  • Complete a course of Housing Counseling in person, via telephone, via internet, or other methods approved by HUD (who provides a list of Counseling agencies).

For the purposes of this program, an “Economic Event” is defined as “any occurrence beyond the borrower’s control that results in loss of employment, loss of income, or a combination of both, which causes a reduction in the borrower’s household income of twenty (20) percent or more for a period of at least six (6) months.  The Onset of an Economic Event is the month of loss of employment/income.”  Lenders will verify the reduction in income or loss of employment with at least one of the following:

  • A written termination notice
  • Other publicly available documentation of the business closure
  • Documentation of the receipt of Unemployment Income

Additionally, lenders have to verify a 20 percent loss of income due to the Economic Event by documenting borrowers’ income prior to the event.  This requirement can be satisfied either with a written “Verification of Employment” form with income details provided by the employer or signed tax returns (or W-2s).

Roy Hernandez header

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Banks offering mortgages with only 5% down payments

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Good news for homebuyers who don’t have a lot of cash on hand: Banks are offering loans with down payments of just 5%.

After the housing bubble burst, buyers needed to come to the table with as much as 20% down or they had to turn to the Federal Housing Administration for a low down-payment loan.

But now banks like TD Bank, Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), and Wells Fargo (WFC, Fortune 500) are loosening the purse strings, offering loans with down payments that are as low as 5%.

TD Bank’s “Right Step” mortgage, for example, allows borrowers to secure a loan with a 5% down payment. It also allows them to receive as much as 2% of the sale price as a gift from a relative or other third party, so they would really only need 3% down.

Why the change of heart? Market opportunity for one thing.

FHA dominated the market for low down payment loans during the housing bust. Taking on all those risky loans, however, depleted the agency’s reserves and has forced it to increase costs.

Related: Money 101 Tips for buying a home

Over the past couple of years, the FHA has been raising premiums. And this year, it started requiring borrowers to buy private mortgage insurance for the life of the loan — an expensive proposition that has sent many prospective borrowers looking elsewhere.

While the loans were far too risky for private lenders to take on before, rising home prices have made them less of a gamble. Plus, the banks think they can offer a better deal than FHA.

“As the FHA selectively reduced market share by increasing premiums, we introduced a substitute for FHA loans,” said Malcom Hollensteiner, the director of retail lending sales for TD Bank.

While the private lenders that are offering the 5%-down loans are also requiring borrowers to buy private mortgage insurance, they are only requiring them to do so until they build up 20% equity in the home.

Related: What will your monthly mortgage payment be?

The difference can really add up. Paying an insurance premium over the life of a $200,000, 30-year fixed-rate loan from FHA that carries an effective mortgage rate of 4.4% (5.75% when you tack on the insurance premium), can add up to nearly $60,000 over the life of the loan.

Of course, homeowners can always refinance to end their FHA insurance, but rates are so low that by the time an FHA borrower is able to refinance to a lower rate, it may not be worth it.

4 Ways to Know Whether to Sell or Stay Put

Sell or stayEvery real estate market creates its own buyer and seller personas, or profiles. When the market is slow and prices are low, it brings out ‘the wheeler-dealer’ and ‘the lowballer,’ as well as the ‘paralyzed panicker’ in some buyers.

But sellers aren’t immune.

And in a warm or hot market climate, the rise in home prices makes some sellers wonder whether they should exercise the freedom of finally having some home equity and make a move, or if it’s a better idea to stay put in hopes they can sell for more, next year or later.

Truth is, whether any given person should sell their home or stay put at any given time is a highly personal decision. Market dynamics should come into play, but that should be considered in the context of your personal life, career, family and financial plans.

Trying to figure out whether to sell or stay put? Here are four ways to know which decision is right for you.

1.  Sign You Should Sell: You frequently crave a neighborhood upgrade. I have known people who have liveed in “up and coming neighborhoods” for 20 years, and are still waiting for it to up-and-come. Others own homes on streets or in subdivisions they used to love that have changed dramatically because the city has been built up in a different direction, the area was rezoned, or because a school, freeway, commercial development, airport or train station was brought in. And still other home owners fall out of love with their neighborhoods because their job has moved, making their commute a pain.

In any event, if your home’s location is seriously misaligned with your life or your tastes, that fact is one you face all day, every day, for the duration of the time you live in the property. It can become a serious source of life dissatisfaction and resentment that rears its ugly head every time you make your monthly mortgage payment. As I see it, dissatisfaction with your neighborhood or a serious neighborhood-life disconnect can be a strong reason to sell and move, assuming you can make a move to a neighborhood that would better serve your life in a financially responsible way.

2.  Sign You Should Stay:  You can totally afford a new house – if you sell a kidney. A few years back, a friend of mine wrote a book called Life Would be Perfect if I Lived in That House (Vintage 2011). In it, she told how her mother was so addicted to the grass-is-greener promise of moving to a new home that she would actually take her family Open House hunting, even when they were visiting towns they had no interest in moving to! She went on to relate her inherited real estate addiction to the national trend of “moving on up,” so to speak, with financial recklessness – the trend that many believe led to the Great Recession.

There’s nothing wrong with being a real estate aficionado, but it’s important to watch to make sure grass-is-greener-at-that-house syndrome isn’t motivating you to make a financially unwise decision to sell and move.

If you are considering selling your home and moving up, do your own financial home work. Run your own budgets, income and expense reports and other financials to understand what level of increased financial obligation, if any, your household finances can afford to take. Consider whether you might want to set up some savings, investing or debt elimination targets before making a move. Work with your financial planner, tax professional and your real estate and mortgage pros to fully understand all the financial implications, short- and long-term, of selling and moving before you put the sign up in the yard.

3.  Sign You Should Sell: Space-wise, your family is too close for comfort. (And things will get worse before they get better.) I marvel at how much stuff the smallest infant seems to need.  I once went to a baby shower that generated so many strollers, packable playpens and sheer gear that it took 2 SUVs and a station wagon to cart it all home – for a kid that ultimately weighed in at 6 pounds and some-odd ounces.

If you have very young children and you’re already tripping over each other, chances are good that their space needs will grow as they do, even after all the baby gear is gone. School-aged kids and teenagers develop their own hobbies and need space for studies and sports – and on top of that, many parents of young children can realistically anticipate moving their own parents in at some point in time.

If you’re struggling to find a space for everything (and everyone), project your space needs out five years into the future. If you think you’ll need less space in five years (e.g., because your kids will likely move out in that time frame), it might not make sense to buy a bigger home now. But if it looks like you’ll need more space before you need less, that can be a sound rationale for making a financially rational move.

4.  Sign You Should Stay:  You could fix what ails your home with relatively modest remodeling projects.  If your home is bothersome primarily because things don’t function very well or its aesthetics are out of whack with your style, you might be tempted to sell and move.  Here’s a tip-off: your “dream home” is the Open House one block over that is nearly identical to your home in location, size, architecture, bedrooms and baths, but is impeccably decorated and updated. If you find yourself in this situation, you might very well be able to resolve your issues by investing less than you would spend on the transactional costs of selling and buying another home into some small-to-medium-scale remodeling projects on your current home.

On a budget, painting, landscaping, replacing exterior trims and interior hardware and updating your kitchen appliances will likely give you the biggest boost in home love for your buck. Similarly, you can get a major enjoyment boost out of your home for very little money by bringing a handyperson in to fix all those niggling little items that make a home seem worn out, including:

  • drawers that stick
  • handles you have to jiggle
  • drafts that need stopping up, and
  • scrapes and scuffs that make a place look rundown.

That said, when you consider what you would spend on commissions and closing costs to sell one home and buy a nearly-identical new one, you might be able to justify a larger updating/upgrading budget. If you have a little more dough to spend, consider a kitchen or bath remodel, having some custom organizers built in, or putting in the wood floors or deck you’ve always wished for. You might be surprised how fast home hate can turn to love when you start pampering your property.

Sellers: What factors influenced your decision to sell?

O.C. house prices up 19.7%, Realtors report

OC houses for saleThe median price of an existing Orange County house increased 19.7 percent in September year over year, but house sales declined slightly over the same period last year, the California Association of Realtors reported Thursday.

The Realtors report mirrors the trends DataQuick reported for county house sales on Wednesday.

The CAR report covers only existing single-family home sales. Specifically, the Realtor association said:

  • The median price of an existing Orange County house was $672,680 in September, up by nearly $111,000 from September 2012 levels. DataQuick, by comparison, reported that the median price (or price at the midpoint of all sales) was $612,000 for single-family homes.
  • House sales in Orange County decreased 1.6 percent from September 2012. DataQuick figures – based on county deed filings rather than Realtor-maintained multiple listing databases – showed a 0.5 percent drop in sales of existing houses, but reported an increase overall when including existing condos and new homes of all types.
  • It would take 3.8 months to sell all the houses on the Orange County market at September’s sales pace, compared to 2.8 months in March, an indication that the supply of homes for sale is rising.
  • Statewide, median house prices increased 24.4 percent last month from September 2012 levels, rising to $428,810. Condo and townhome prices increased 30 percent to a median price of $344,210.
  • House sales decreased 2.6 percent statewide to an annualized rate of 412,880. Condo and townhome sales increased 13.4 percent year over year.
  • Elsewhere in Southern California, house prices increased 23.1 percent to $459,020 in Los Angeles County; 28.2 percent to $293.560 in Riverside County; 23.8 percent to $185,860 in San Bernardino County; and 21.1 percent to $490,130 in San Diego County.

Top schools equal higher home prices

Any good parent wants their child to attend the best school possible, but when it comes to finding a home in a top school district, how much more are buyers willing to pay? A recent study performed by Redfin suggests that many parents are willing to shell out even more than you might think. If you’re trying to sell a home and want to get the most for it, you might want to consider “selling” the school first.

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Schools have always played an important role in the buying and selling of real estate. More recently though, premiums for homes served by top-ranked schools have been going up, indicating that buyers place remarkable importance on the quality of schools when buying a house.

An analysis by Redfin illustrates the steep price premiums that homeowners are willing to pay for homes served by top-ranked schools, offering the latest concrete evidence that buyers place remarkable importance on the quality of schools.

The sky-high premiums help explain the ongoing race among listing sites to provide razor-sharp school information.

They could also add fuel to a debate over whether buyers and the real estate agents representing them give too much weight to rankings, which school officials say don’t always provide a complete picture of the differences in the quality of education provided.

Redfin’s study found that buyers pay an average of $50 more per square foot for homes served by top-ranked schools than for those served by average-ranked schools. It also found found that, even within the same neighborhoods, buyers will pay substantially more for homes served by top-ranked schools than they do for comparable homes served by average-ranked schools.

“Homes just a short distance apart with nearly identical attributes are selling for drastically different prices,” the report said. “We’ve looked across the country at homes that have sold in the last three months and found five examples where the prices vary on identical homes by as much as $130,000.”

Not accounting for home size, San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Calif., carry the highest price premiums for top-ranked schools while Queens, N.Y., Raleigh, N.C., and Eugene, Ore., carry the lowest of all the metros that Redfin analyzed.

redfind-school-study

The report adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests that many homebuyers are ready to shell out substantial cash for access to top-notch schools.

Three out of 5 homebuyers who responded to a recent realtor.com survey said that school attendance boundaries would be a factor in choosing a home, and most of that group said they’d be willing to go above budget or give up amenities to have their children go to their school of choice.

The online survey, conducted this summer, found that of those who said school attendance boundaries were important:

  • 23.6 percent would pay 1 to 5 percent above budget.
  • 20.7 percent would pay 6 to 10 percent above budget.
  • 9 percent would pay 11 to 20 percent above budget.
  • 40.3 percent would not go above budget.

school kids      Some school officials have questioned whether buyers and their agents are relying too heavily on test scores and school ranking sites when pricing listings.

      The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that buyers in San Mateo County, Calif., are willing to pay premiums of $200,000 or more for homes served by schools that score only slightly better than other schools in the same school district. School district officials told the newspaper that homebuyers and their agents may read too much into simplified school rankings offered on real estate sites, and are working with Realtors in the hopes of helping them gain a better understanding of what qualities make for a good school.

     A Canadian real estate agent who’s branded herself as her community’s “#1 schools advisor” has rankled school district officials and parents by posting not only standardized test scores on her website, but devising her own system for ranking them. The ranking system penalizes schools with lower household income and parental education levels, or a higher prevalence of single-parent households and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students.

The increasingly evident focus among buyers on school quality has helped spur a push by listing services to offer deeper school-centric features and data.

Zillow rolled out a school search boundary tool earlier this month that lets users filter home searches for public, private and charter school attendance boundaries by their ratings from a national school rating site.

A handful of other sites, including realtor.com, Trulia and Century 21 Real Estate, offer school-based search tools.

For its study, Redfin analyzed listings on multiple listing services that sold between May 1 and July 31; school zone boundaries provided by Maponics; and additional school data provided by Onboard Informatics and GreatSchools.

Forecast: Calif. home prices to rise 6% in 2014

California home prices and sales are projected to continue rising next year, but price gains will be much more modest than seen in the past year, according to the California Association of Realtors’ 2014 housing forecast.

The 2014 median house price house is projected to rise to $432,800 statewide, up 6 percent from this year’s projected all-year median of $408,600.

The median price of an existing single-family home was up 28.4 percent in the year ended in August and is projected to end the year up 28 percent from 2012 levels. But prices climbed dramatically this year due to a tight supply of homes for sale just as demand came roaring back and interest rates remained at historic lows.

The gains meant that more homeowners who owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth were freed up to sell their homes.

“As the market continues to improve, more previously underwater homeowners will look toward selling, making housing inventory less scarce in 2014,” said association Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. “As a result of these factors, we’ll see home price increases moderate from the double-digit increases we saw for much of this year to mid-single digits in most of the state.”

Realtor economists also project that home sales will rise 3.2 percent in 2014 to an annual total of 444,000 sales, the most sold in eight years. The 2013 sales tally is projected to fall about 2 percent short of 2012 levels.

Also on the increase: mortgage rates. The association predicted that interest on the traditional 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage will rise to 5.3 percent next year, up from an average of 4.1 percent in 2013.

For a median-priced home with a 20 percent down payment, that 1.2 percentage point gain amounts to a $236 increase in a monthly mortgage payment, or nearly $85,000 in increased interest over the life of the loan.

“The housing market has improved over the past year, and we expect this trend to continue into 2014,” said association President Don Faught. “As the economy enters the fourth year of a modest recovery, we expect to see a strong demand for homeownership, as buyers who may have been competing with investors and facing an extreme shortage of available housing return from the sidelines.”

Article courtesy of OC Register.

Homeowners Insurance: What’s Covered and What’s Not

homeumbrella-300x300 Homeowners Insurance can be a life saver in many instances and obviously it is a must have, but not many homeowners think twice about theinsurance that protects their investment. What does the standard homeowners insurance policy really cover? While policies may vary, it’s important to know what is covered and what’s not.

HO3 – Special Form Homeowner Policy is the typical, most comprehensive form used for single-family homes. The policy provides “all risk” coverage on the home with some perils excluded. Contents are covered on a named peril basis. (Note: “All Risk” is poorly termed as it is essentially named exclusions (i.e., if it is not specifically excluded, it is covered)) – Source: Wikipedia

What’s Covered:

Insurance covers both structural and personal property after the following circumstances of damage or theft and this can include anything from structural repairs, plumbing and wiring to personal items such as your computer, TV and even clothes.

  • Fire and/or lightning damage
  • Windstorms including hurricanes, tornadoes and hail damage
  • Damage from vehicles or flying objects
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
What’s Not:

There are many natural disasters and unfortunate circumstances that can happen that are ironically not covered. In these circumstances, it’s generally something that is widespread across the U.S. with higher risks. There are supplemental insurance policies that will cover some of these incidents, but generally, they are not covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy.

  • Earthquakes, sinkholes and other earth movement
  • Flooding
  • Pest Damage: Termites and insect damage, rodent damage and overall wear and tear.
  • High Valued Personal Property: Standard policies generally have a cap on the amount they will pay for personal property, more high dollar items such as jewelry, firearms and silverware may need to be covered separately.
  • War: Nuclear war, civil war or any war in general

All the above information is based on the HO-3 “Standard” Homeowners Insurance policy as defined by Insurance Service Office. Policies may vary from location to location, and it is best to consult with your local insurance professional about what is and is not covered in your area.

Why Do People Actually Buy a Home?

It seems that every time we talk about real estate today the conversation immediately goes to the financial aspects of buying a home. Where are prices headed? Where are interest rates headed? Should I wait to try and get a ‘better buy’? Should I wait until I can get a ‘steal’?

The odd thing about all these questions is that survey after survey keeps telling us that price is not the reason families actually buy a home. When money is considered at all, it is in light of not paying rent to a landlord. Let’s look at two recent surveys as examples:

National Housing Survey

The top five reasons given in the survey for buying a home, in order, are:

1.) It means having a good place to raise children and provide them with a good education
2). You have a physical structure where you and your family feel safe
3). It allows you to have more space for your family
4). It gives you control of what you do with your living space (renovations and updates)
5). Paying rent is not a good investment

The Myers Research and Strategic Services Survey
The top five reasons given in the survey for buying a home, in order, are:

1). Home ownership provides a stable and safe environment for children and other family members
2). Home ownership means the money you spend on housing goes towards building equity, rather than to a landlord
3). Home ownership creates the opportunity to pay off a mortgage and own your home by the time you retire
4). Home ownership creates the opportunity to live in a neighborhood that you enjoy
5). Home ownership allows you the right to decorate, modify and renovate your home as you see fit

Bottom Line

Price dominates conversation when we talk about buying a home. However, when it comes down to it, we actually buy for the same reasons our parents and grandparents did – we want a better lifestyle for ourselves and our families.