Do You Need a Special Insurance For Your Vacation Home?

Owning a second home or vacation rental property is an extension of the American dream. But just as your primary home has costs, upkeep and liability concerns, the same goes for your vacation rental property. Do these second or seasonal homes need special or heightened types of insurance protection?

According to the Selective Insurance Group, there are a few things to take into consideration to properly protect your vacation home.

Property crime – If your vacation property is only used during certain parts of the year, and you don’t rent it out, periods when it is unoccupied leave it susceptible to break-ins. Although property crime—including burglary—fell between 2016 to 2017, it’s still cause for concern. Burglary still accounted for almost two of every 10 of the estimated 7.9 million property crimes in 2016.

Single-family or condo? If you own a condominium versus a single-family residence, your condo association may already have coverage—but does the association insurance only protect the physical structure of the condo, not your belongings? Selective advises condo owners to look into this with their insurance agent.

What about flood insurance? Flooding can happen in a wide range of regions, no matter the time of year or local weather patterns. While some areas are more likely to see flooding than others, many regions can experience devastating flooding. Are you as protected as you should be?

Amenities – With various amenities from swimming pools or hot tubs to trampolines, accidents are possible, so consider reviewing the liability portion of your insurance policy and your liability limit to ensure assets are adequately protected in the event someone is injured on your property and files a lawsuit.

Value it right – Property insurance premiums are determined by how much it would cost to rebuild your residence from scratch should it be destroyed. Your independent agent and insurance carrier can work with you to determine the appropriate amount of coverage you might need for a vacation home.

If you want to protect yourself and your home away from home, consult with a certified insurance professional before another vacation season exposes you to an unnecessary loss.




How to Remake Your Garage

Is your garage a one-trick pony or cluttered with miscellaneous items? Then it’s time to streamline the space to increase the efficiency of your garage. Besides adding shelves to the garage, painting and cleaning the garage, you can re-design and add more functionality to your garage with the following gear:

Purchase a Workbench

A garage is incomplete without a proper workbench. A sturdy workbench will not only store tools, but also create space to complete those do-it-yourself projects. Most come with built-in-drawers and are equipped with a light to tackle projects after the kids have gone to bed. There are many options available, ranging from the sophisticated to simple.

Install Lighting

To take full advantage of your space, your garage must come equipped with plenty of lighting in order to allow you to work at convenient times in your busy schedule. Poor lighting hurts the quality of the work you are trying to accomplish and if a project requires small parts you don’t want to spend your time searching for tiny items on your hands and knees. If you prefer not to install a mounted light on your ceiling, invest in a portable light, a less-expensive option to create the lighting you need.

Buy a Tool Chest

A garage with tools on the floor and scattered across different surfaces isn’t the best for productivity. This haphazard approach leads to buying multiples of the same tool because you keep losing them in the clutter. A tool chest will keep items organized and save time whether you are working on a small repair or a long-term DIY project.

Purchase Spare Tires

How many times have you realized you have a flat tire and need an immediate replacement? For convenience, always keep a set of spare tires in your garage. Order a reliable tire brand from Tire Buyer to ensure your backup set of tires is of the highest quality. With a little preparation, a flat tire will no longer have to be a major setback in your day.

Add Garage Storage

Is your rake and broom in one corner and your bike on the ground? A functional garage needs proper storage options, like a peg board affixed to the wall. This storage option will accommodate your small tools, larger items and any miscellaneous tools unable to fit in drawers. If you prefer not to splurge on this expense, at least add sturdy hooks on the wall to store a garden hose, lawn equipment or other tools. With items hung up out of the way, your garage will appear clean and neat.

Invest in Proper Safety Gear

If you like home improvement projects, keep appropriate safety gear in your garage. Invest in protective goggles, gloves and masks to protect your face. Keep a small first aid kit handy for minor emergencies.

Upgrade Your Flooring

To give your garage a polished looked, consider adding an upgraded finish to your floors. Coat the cement with epoxy or tile – this will give your garage an instant face-lift and make it look more appealing.




Source: Realty Times

Signs of Mold in House?

Mold: four letters, one syllable, a world of anxiety and stress. It’s such a simple word with the potential to cause so many problems. Why is mold so troubling and what should you do if you find mold in your house or discover it while you’re house hunting?

There are five facts that you should know about mold:

Mold grows quickly: It only takes 24 to 48 hours for mold to grow and spread in wet, warm conditions.

Mold is undetectable: Excessive moisture behind walls, under floors or in cabinets or closets are perfect breeding grounds for mold. This is mold that you often can’t see or smell but it can make you and your family very sick.

Mold issues are expensive: Mold damage can cost as much as $10,000, and most insurance carriers will not cover the cost of mold removal.

Know the symptoms of mold exposure: They include severe body aches, joint pain, nausea and chronic, sometimes serious respiratory issues. These symptoms can develop quickly or over time.

Know the people at risk: The very young, the very old and people with compromised immune systems are most likely to be affected by mold. Mold can even be deadly among these groups of people.

How do you know if mold is present in your home? Mold usually has a green or black color and it smells musty or earthy. While you might be able to fix small mold spots, it is best to have mold remediated by a professional.  When you come across mold in a home, it should be understood that you have a moisture issue first and a mold issue second. You need to address the problem and not just a symptom of the problem. Scrubbing surface mold with mold killer will not be effective if you do not address the moisture issue.

Mold can be tricky and dangerous. More often than not, the mold is either from a small plumbing leak or from a roof leak, so that issue needs to be fixed first. If the mold is located under a bathroom or kitchen sink where there could be a plumbing leak, call a plumber to investigate. Similarly, have a roofer inspect and seal any gaps in the roof if you see that’s the cause of the mold. Even if there has been no water damage to a property, mold can come from something as simple as a leaky window because moisture and mold go hand-in-hand.

If you are planning to go house hunting, you should know where to look for mold. Check dark, damp places for mold, like under cabinets and in basements, crawl spaces and attics. If you didn’t find mold, but your home inspector sees that mold is present during your inspection contingency period, this issue should be addressed prior to closing. If mold is discovered within this time period, mold removal can either be negotiated or you can cancel the contract and walk away from the home.







How Much Does it Cost to Hire an Interior Designer?

Home décor is a top priority for many new homeowners. Most newly married couples want the interior style of their home to closely match their personalities. Most interior decorators evaluate their clients’ needs and expectations, and set their prices to cover the expected costs to purchase the materials and complete the job.

Interior Decorator vs. Designer

Do you need an interior decorator or an interior designer? They may seem like interchangeable terms, but they actually describe two different professions. Before you start shopping for quotes, you need to know your project requirements and what services you actually need. Understanding the different skill sets decorators and designers bring to a project makes it easier to make the best choice for your needs.

Decorators don’t design or build spaces, but they dress them stylishly, introducing new color schemes and decorative elements. Interior designers are qualified professionals who become involved with projects at the construction stage. They often work with architects, using their skills and knowledge to create functional, quality interiors that match a homeowner’s requirements. Designers have knowledge of building codes and regulations. Their level of training and their ability to help plan, schedule, and execute a project make their services more expensive than those of a decorator.

How Much Does an Interior Designer Charge?

Designers may have just one method of charging for their services (such as an hourly rate), but more often they’ll have multiple ways they bill. When you’re considering a few different professionals to work with, be sure you understand the details so you can make an apples-to-apples comparison of their fees. Generally, designers use one of four ways to charge for their services: cost plus, fixed rate, hourly rate, or square foot. There may also be additional charges, such as retainers (usually a percentage of the project cost) or consultation fees (a flat fee for the designer to visit the property ranging from approximately $200 to $300).

Cost Plus

Designers using the cost plus method purchase necessary products and then bill you for the total, including a markup you agree to when drawing up the contracts. The markup is usually around 20 percent and pays for the designer’s services. So, if the work costs $10,000, the designer bills for $12,000.

Fixed Rate

A fixed rate, or flat rate, is a single price that covers all of the work, materials, and other expenses. This is the simplest way to cost up larger jobs, and it’s helpful for you as the customer because you know exactly what you need to pay.

Hourly Rate

Some designers charge by the hour, with rates ranging from $50 to $200. Because the total fee depends on the amount of time the project takes to complete, designers often reserve this method for small projects where there is less risk of complications and spiraling costs.

By the Square Foot

Commercial designers often charge by the square foot. This is effectively a flat rate based on the size of the property. Some designers implement a minimum charge to cover the amount of work involved for a small room, so you pay the minimum fee, or the fee based on the actual room size (whichever is greater).

No matter how great the person you are hiring is, remember to stay in charge: Designers are trained professionals with a keen eye for detail, but only you know what you love. If a designer is coming up with suggestions that don’t match your tastes, say something. It’s a good idea to express any strong opinions you have on sustainable and organic materials, animal skins, “Made in America” products, upcycling, and child safety features.




Top Five Upcoming Fall Activities around Arizona

For many people, autumn is the best season of the year. With cooler temperatures, the changing of the leaves and plenty of occasions to celebrate, fall is one of the best times to get out and spend time with both family and friends. 

In a place such as Arizona, fall is especially enjoyable. Both residents and visitors alike are offered a reprieve from the long hot days and are afforded the chance to get outside without feeling the intense heat of the desert sun. The state has a plethora of activities to choose from, ranging from adventurous trips to the mountains or desert, golfing at one of the state’s many courses, or enjoying a collegiate or professional sporting event. If you are looking for something to do, check out these suggested top five upcoming fall activities around the state.

Fall is Football Season!

As the home of a number of collegiate teams and the National Football League’s Arizona Cardinals, Arizona offers football fans plenty of opportunities to spend an afternoon cheering on your favorite teams and players. Both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University field very competitive teams within the Pac-12 conference and are sure to put on a show. If the pros are more your style, the Cardinal’s University of Phoenix Stadium is an excellent sporting venue to visit. With plenty of choices of food and drink and some of the most affordable ticket prices in the NFL, a Cardinals game is a great fall activity.

Leave town and watch the leaves change!

Flagstaff, Arizona is located at just under 7,000 feet at the base of the San Francisco Peaks and is a great place to view one of the best parts of fall. The changing leaves on the numerous Aspen trees are a sight to see and very worth the easy drive from the Phoenix metro area. While in Flagstaff, Snowbowl Resort offers recreation opportunities such as sight seeing, hiking, and biking. Flagstaff is the perfect weekend trip for those looking for fun and adventure.

Release stress and relax in Sedona

Tucked away in a desert canyon is the city of Sedona, which offers visitors a true southwestern experience. Sedona is home to some of the best mountain biking in the nation, so renting a bike from a local shop and experiencing the area via bike is well worth it.  

Sedona is known for its spiritual and wellness offerings as well. The city is home to a number of resorts and retreats that are designed to keep you healthy both mentally and physically. Sedona is a great destination for a stress free and relaxing weekend. According to many locals, a visit to one of the nearby “energy vortexes” will leave you feeling inspired, recharged or uplifted.

Get scared!

Halloween, one of the best holidays of the year in the eyes of people everywhere, can be celebrated throughout the fall season with a visit to one of the many ghost towns in the state of Arizona. Located throughout the state, many of the towns were founded during the mining booms of the late 1800s and early 1900s, but are now shells of their former selves. Though some, such as Clifton, Arizona, are still home to thousands of residents, others are far less inhabited. The town of Oatman, Arizona is known for its four-legged inhabitants more so than the people that remain. Burros that were abandoned following the mining crash and ensuing desertion of the region have since taken over the town and outnumber it’s human residents!

Autumn is Pumpkin season!

Pumpkins are a crucial part of any fall experience. The large, orange vegetables are used in food, drinks and celebrations throughout the season and can offer a variety of associated activities. A visit to your local pumpkin patch is a great way to spend an afternoon. Enjoying a wagon ride, trying your hand at a corn maze, then heading home to carve jack-o-lanterns with friends and family is a classic fall tradition for many. Be sure to scope out discounted tickets online to bring the kids and their friends.

For those who are of age, a brewery tour followed by a pumpkin flavored beer tasting is a great way to get out and enjoy the season. That Brewery, with locations in both Pine and Cottonwood, Arizona, features their Skellington Pumpkin Ale, which is a local favorite! 

Fall is a wonderful time of year and should be fully taken advantage of. Cooler temperatures allow plenty of chances to get outside and enjoy a variety of activities throughout the state. Arizona has a wide variety of things to do, especially during autumn. The activities mentioned throughout this article are a great starting point to help you plan the perfect fall weekend. Whether you are hoping to get out and enjoy a relaxing weekend in the high desert or cheering on your favorite team, Arizona has plenty of upcoming activities to choose from!


By: Jeremy Alderman, ZOG Digital



5 Tips for Buying a Starter Home

First-time homebuyers might well wonder: Where are all the starter houses? With housing inventory low and soaring home price, starter homes are becoming increasingly scarce in many housing markets. What’s a first-time buyer to do?

Here are five tips for finding a starter home:

1. Be realistic about today’s market

Sellers clearly have an advantage in the current market. Inventory is low, which keeps pushing home prices to record levels. Buyer competition is fierce, as homes in the lower price ranges fly off the market. Unfortunately, that leaves many first-time buyers (especially those with tight budgets) on the sidelines. If you’re searching for your first home, be realistic about what you can afford and what amenities come with that budget. Don’t get carried away by amenities you see in more expensive homes — those things are probably not as expensive to put in as you might think. A starter home isn’t necessarily your forever home. Be prepared to make some compromises to get your foot in the homeownership door.

2. Adjust your wish list

Buyers shopping for their first home need to be open-minded about the location, size and condition of the home they want to buy. For many buyers, a classic starter home, which traditionally doesn’t have many amenities, is more achievable. Look for an older home in a well-established neighborhood. Older homes typically need more maintenance and repairs, which offset some of the savings; however, buyers who choose a used home might be able to do repairs and renovations over time, pacing themselves to make the cost manageable.

3. Rethink location

If you’re thinking about starting a family in the future, don’t focus too much on your home’s location, size and school district just yet. If you sacrifice location for affordability you might find yourself in a neighborhood far from major job centers with a long daily commute and expensive transportation costs. Sometimes that trade-off makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t. Look at how much you make and how much you can afford to spend for gas. You might actually be better off buying a house that’s closer to town so you have more cash flow for property taxes, insurance and living expenses.

4.Make a strong offer

When a well-priced starter house comes on the market, you want to make a strong offer. One way to strengthen an offer is to present a loan pre-approval that includes everything but a title search, appraisal and hazard insurance, offer above asking price (if you can afford to), keep repair requests to a minimum, make a larger down payment or give them more time to move after closing.

5. Hire the right real estate agent

When you’re up against stiff competition, working with an experienced real estate agent who knows the local market is key. Look for an agent who specializes in the neighborhoods you’re interested in. Savvy agents should be able to answer your questions about neighborhood amenities, local schools and nearby home values. Ask friends and relatives to recommend agents they have used and were happy with. Also, interview two or three different agents. Find out how they prefer to communicate with clients and how often you’ll get updates. Finally, research the agents you’re considering online to see what past clients have said about their work.

When you are ready to buy your starter home, we would love to talk to you about how we can help you find the right home and what strategies we would use to win in a competitive market.



Source: RisMedia

What’s the Deal with Seller’s Disclosures?

State and federal laws are strict in requiring sellers to tell what they know about the condition of their homes that isn’t obvious or discernable to potential buyers. Buyers can’t see behind walls or under houses, so they rely on truthful information from the seller about the operations, appliances and systems of the home.

When you sell your home, your real estate agent will present you with a disclosure form called a ‘Residential Seller’s Property Real Disclosure Statement’. It’s important to answer every question as truthfully as you can. You must answer the questions yourself – your real estate professional can not fill out the disclosure for you, but he or she can help you understand what’s being asked of you. If you’re in doubt about what to disclose, such as a repair, it’s best to err on the side of too much information than not enough. If you answer that you don’t know the condition of an appliance you use daily, such as a sink or bathtub, you might raise suspicions in the buyer.
Even if the seller has never occupied the property he or she can certainly complete the property address, and several other items on the SPDS, such as information about ownership and utilities. It is also very likely that when they purchased the property they had inspections done or received SPDS themselves. Whatever they found out at that time still needs to be disclosed.

When you disclose a problem to the buyer that has previously been fixed, be sure to provide a copy of work orders, receipts and invoices. If the problem hasn’t been fixed, expect the buyer to either ask you to fix it, or to offer a little less for the home. Remember, the more that’s left unrepaired, the more the buyer will discount the offer, if he makes one at all. Homes in the best condition sell the best.

The seller’s disclosure is designed to do one thing — hold you and your real estate agent harmless if you’ve disclosed the truth about your property. You don’t want to give the buyer any room for complaint or litigation after the closing. Don’t be afraid of the seller’s disclosure. It’s not meant to be a deal-killer, but a deal-maker. Many agents provide a copy of the disclosure to interested buyers, so they can get an idea of the home’s condition before they make an offer or have an inspection.


Source: Realty Times

4 Viable Alternatives to IKEA for Stylish, Inexpensive Furniture

We all want to save money on home furnishings, but there are limited options out there to choose from. That’s why Ikea has been a staple for most people; however, it’s not the only source anymore. Read on for 4 great alternatives for affordable furniture.

If you’ve recently moved into a new home or apartment, you know how daunting the task of furnishing it can be. All of a sudden you have empty rooms that need filling — but your wallet is only so big! You could go the Ikea route, but everyone you know has at least one item from Ikea. Instead, check out these other great options for affordable furniture.


HomeGoods is a part of the same corporation as TJMaxx and Marshalls. It offers a huge selection of home essentials, such as furniture, décor, dinnerware, cleaning supplies and more. HomeGoods stores can be found throughout the country and offer household items at steep discounts. You can find a selection of goods from various designers such as Nicole Miller Home, Le Creuset, Ralph Lauren Home and more. Their stock can be somewhat unpredictable, but you are always guaranteed a bargain. Larger pieces of furniture, such as sofas, aren’t as easy to find as accent chairs, stools and side tables, but they do make an appearance every so often. You’ll also be impressed by the store’s wide variety of area rugs. For truly great savings on all home-related items, check out HomeGoods.


Target is known for a lot of things, including an extensive health and beauty department, great clothes at a great price, and even a grocery department. However, not many people tap into its furniture department, which has awesome designs at affordable prices. Lots of people are aware of Target’s housewares, but since its furniture stock is on the smaller side, it often gets overlooked. Although the variety isn’t anything compared to Ikea or Bloomingdale’s furniture department, Target has some modern pieces that fit nicely in just about any home. You can find desks, floor lamps, accent chairs, ottomans, benches and more. It’s recommended to check out their stock online because they don’t always have the full range of products in the store. You can order what you want online and have it delivered to your local Target for pickup or right to your door.

Urban Outfitters Apartment

Furniture isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Urban Outfitters. It’s usually associated with teens and tweens and on-trend fashion. However, Urban Outfitters has had an extensive homeware and furniture line for many years now. Prices aren’t quite as low as they are at Ikea, but they’re much cheaper than Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel. You can purchase a full-size sofa for less than $1,000. Also, Urban Outfitters has a great range of unique textiles found on their upholstered furniture as well as in their bed linens, rugs and curtains. If you’re a fan of the bohemian trend, you are guaranteed to find just what you’re looking for at Urban Outfitters.

World Market

Word Market is a great place to find one-of-a-kind furniture and homeware. They carry amazing textiles inspired by different cultures and parts of the world. Furniture such as sofas are reasonably priced in the $500 to $800 range, but World Market has lots of sales so that you can save even more. They also have a great line of wall art for under $100!

Easements 101

Real estate has many intricate ins and outs, and understanding easements is no exception. When an easement is requested by a neighbor or neighboring developer, or when a homeowner needs to obtain an easement from a neighbor or a municipality where they live, it helps to understand the particulars.

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), an easement is an interest in land which is owned by a person who is not the owner of the whole parcel. An easement can provide someone the right to use or control a portion of a parcel, or an area above or below it, for a specific limited purpose such as to cross it for access to a public road, to share a common drive with a neighboring property, or to install and maintain utility wires or lines.

Unlike a lease or license, the ABA says an easement may last forever, but it usually doesn’t give the holder the right to exclusively possess, take from, improve, or sell the land. And the owner whose property is impacted by an easement is normally free to use their property as he or she chooses, provided that use doesn’t impair the rights of the holder of the easement.

So, what happens when someone else has a properly recorded easement over property you’re interested in buying? The ABA says if the survey of the property reflects a path labeled “easement” but no document is of record creating the easement, you will want to inquire as to where the surveyor obtained the information about this easement.

If the unrecorded easement is shown on the survey, the ABA says the title company will likely list this unrecorded easement on your title policy as an exception to coverage. That means that if someone were to claim the right to use this easement, your title insurance would not pay to resolve this issue.

The best person to advise you regarding obtaining an easement—or a property upon which an easement exists—is a reputable real estate attorney.



Source: John Voket/RisMedia

4 Survival Tips for Your Family Vacation Road Trip

You can probably hear it already: the kids fighting over the radio and asking “Are we there yet?” Sometimes a picnic is no picnic. If you’re planning a family road trip this summer, you must plan ahead to ensure you have a smooth ride. Although this can be a daunting task, there are strategies you can put in place so that you’ll have the best trip possible. Just follow these five tips for surviving the summer road trip.

1. Pack Light

This is the worst part. We know. We don’t like it either. But try not to stress too much. Remember, you can almost certainly buy anything on the road. Know the weather of the destination you are visiting, which helps reduce over-packing. Keep in mind the activities you will be doing so you can pack appropriately. The types of accommodation will also determine which clothes or equipment you might need. Pack your bags and then reduce by a third. Then do it again. You will always pack more than you need. Do it! Do it!

2. Food and Drinks

A hungry kid – or husband –  is a grumpy kid! We don’t know about you, but as soon as we are hitting the road, all of the sudden you’re getting hungry (let’s be honest, you just want to snack). So remember to bring healthy snacks and water! Great snacks to bring are fruit (nature’s fast food!), nuts or seeds, veggies or crackers (with or without hummus), trail mix (make your own, way cheaper and healthier) and sandwiches to your liking.

3. Entertainment

How long will your drive take? Two hours? Ten hours? Thank heavens for modern technology (and Google Maps)! Even if you don’t have a drop-down screen in your car, just bring your tablet or smartphone and log in to your Hulu or Netflix account to keep the kids occupied. Try to pick a movie or show they want to see but haven’t yet seen so they pay attention. Blast your favorite music (show your kids “what real music is”) or start listen to an audiobook. There are even great children audiobooks out there. Speaking of books: don’t forget reading books, either in physical or electronic form! Coloring books are also a great way of staying busy and calming you down (kids or mum).

4. Stop Early, Stop Often!

One way to keep the kids from getting too antsy is to take frequent rest stops. Great places to stretch are public parks, playgrounds or picnic spots. If there’s a beach nearby: jackpot! Leave yourself more time for the trip than you think so you don’t feel rushed and can schedule in time for sights along the way. A good rule of thumb is to split drive time and doing stuff 50/50. If you want to know family-friendly activities along your route, check out the app Roadtrippers.  Sometimes we are so focused on the final destination that we blaze right by. Having said that, road trips can be exhausting, so slow down and enjoy the journey!