Monday, October 1, 2018

Do You Need a Public Adjuster for Your Insurance Claim?

After a major storm or a freak accident that ends in massive amounts of property damage, you're probably going to feel two things essentially at once: you're going to be overwhelmed with the amount of damage that was caused and you're going to wonder how you're going to get the mess cleaned up.

A call to your insurance company will summon an insurance adjuster to help estimate the extent of the damage, but you have no say at all in who assesses the extent of the damage to your property or how much your policy should pay to help you rebuild.

Hire Your Own Adjuster — Problem Solved

If you've filed a claim before for a car accident, you've met an insurance adjuster employed by the insurance company that you're filing on. This isn't the guy you need when things get really hairy. Although he's not out to get you, he's working for the insurance company and trying to minimize their pay-out. That's his job.

However, you can hire your own guy, known as a public adjuster, to help you navigate the complicated situation that comes around when a bicycle is flung through your garage door and then breaks out the back window of your car during a bad storm. Public adjusters receive the same training as those working for the insurance company, but instead of walking between two parties, the public adjuster you choose is working on your behalf exclusively.

Who Pays the Public Adjuster?

Many homeowners are hesitant to call a public adjuster because they think the fees will be significant. Of course the public adjuster needs to get paid, but many will take a percentage of your settlement rather than demand fee after fee. Anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the final settlement is typical for the market.

It can be a lot of money, there's no joke about it, but the difference between the insurance adjuster's figures and your public adjuster's figures can more than cover their costs. According to Bankrate's research, a study of one Florida insurance company showed that the homeowners who used a public adjuster's typical settlement was $22,266 where those who let the insurance company take the wheel only got $18,659.

To put those numbers into perspective, let's assume the public adjuster had a 15 percent fee. On $22,266, the fee would be $3,339.90. Even once that fee is taken out, you're ahead of the insurance adjuster's payment of $18,659 by $267.10. If the public adjuster only has a 10 percent fee, that number gets even bigger — a whopping $1,380.40 in money you might have left on the table.

Working With a Public Adjuster: Best Practices

Just like working with any professional, there are better and worse ways to go about it. Unlike most other professions, most people know nothing about public adjusters, leaving them ill-prepared for how one works. Let's talk about the claim cycle and how your contributions can speed up the insurance claim process.

* The Loss. Your house has the roof taken to Oz, a big tree in your yard crushes your car, a dirigible crashes into your picture windows — whatever happens, this has to happen first. If you call a public adjuster before you have a loss, it's going to look mighty suspicious..
* First Contact. Who you contact at this stage is vital. You definitely need to let your insurance company know there's an issue, but this is also the best time to get a public adjuster into the mix. If they begin at the beginning of your claim, they don't have to hold up the show trying to get up to speed.
* Checking Your Docs. Find all your insurance papers and have them ready for your public adjuster. Your insurance documents double as a contract between you and the insurance company, it's a really good idea to know what they say before you go into battle. Your public adjuster will be doing more in-depth research while you're finding your papers.
* Documenting Your Claim. For personal property, this is generally most easily done with a video camera, but you'll also need estimates for rebuilding your home. This is one of the many things a public adjuster can do for you if you don't have the time or energy to line up the necessary talent.
* Submitting Your Bundle. Once everything's put together, all your damages documented and the cost to get your life back together put down in writing, your public adjuster will give the packet to the insurance company for their consideration.
* Negotiating a Settlement. Finally, your public adjuster will stand in your corner and defend your claim with all they have. If there's room for negotiation and you've given them permission to do so, the public adjuster may counter a lower offer from the insurance company on your behalf.

Since public adjusters get paid a percentage based on the amount your insurance company settles for, it's in their best interest to get as much money as they can. They're on your side, but they're kind of on their own side, too.

Looking for a Public Adjuster, Insurance Agent, Contractor, Roofer or Other Home Pro?

In the moments after a massive hit to your property, you won't be able to see beyond what's in front of you, but when your head clears, you'll need to figure out who you need to help you build your insurance claim. Luckily, your HomeKeepr family can set you up with all the home pros you need. Adjusters, contractors and so many more have already been recommended for you, just pop in and say hello to the people your Realtor trusts most.

Myrietta Leach Headshot

Myrietta Leach
Keller Williams



Monday, September 24, 2018

How to Clean Gutters

The gutters and downspouts on your home are intended to channel rainwater away from your home and its foundation.  When they're blocked and not functioning properly they can lead to the gutters coming loose, wood rot and mildew, staining of painted surfaces, and even worse, foundation issues or water penetration into the interior of the home.

Most experts recommend cleaning the gutters at least once a year.  More often might be necessary depending on the proximity of leaves and other debris that could collect.

If this is a task that you feel comfortable about tackling yourself, there are few things to consider.  If the debris is dry, it will be easier to clean the gutters.  Safety is important, and precautions should be taken such as using a sturdy ladder and possibly, having someone hold it while you're on the ladder. 

Other useful tools will be a five-gallon plastic bucket to hook on the ladder to hold the debris; work gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges of the gutters; a trowel or scoop and a garden hose with a nozzle.

?         Start by placing the ladder near a downspout for the section of gutter to be cleaned. 

?         Remove large debris and put it into the empty bucket. Work away from the downspout toward the other end.

?         When you're at the end of the gutter, using the water hose and nozzle, spray out the gutter so it will drain to the downspout.

?         If the water doesn't drain easily, the downspout could be blocked.  Accessing the spout from the bottom with either the hose with nozzle or a plumber's snake, try to dislodge the blockage.

?         Reattach or tighten any pieces that were removed or loosened while working on the downspout.

?         Flush the gutters a final time, working from the opposite end, as before, toward the downspout.

There are specialized tools at the home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot that can make this job easier.  Check out their websites and search for "gutter cleaning".



Monday, September 17, 2018

Consumer Protection from Irresponsible Mortgage Practices

Congress enacted the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010 in response to the mortgage crisis that led to America's Great Recession.  The two parts that apply closely to homebuyers are the Ability-to-Repay (ATR) and Qualified Mortgages (QM).

A Qualified Mortgage is a category of loans that have certain, more stable features that help make it more likely that borrowers will be able to afford their loan.  These loans do not allow certain risky features like an interest-only period when no money is applied to reduce the principal; negative amortization that would allow the mortgage balance to increase; and, "balloon payments" at the end of the loan that are larger than the normal periodic payments.

A debt-to-income ratio of less than or equal to 43% has been established to provide a limit on how much of a borrower's income can go toward total debt including the mortgage and all other monthly debt payments.  However, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau believes these loans should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and in some cases, can exceed 43%.

There is a limit for up-front points and fees the lender can charge.

By showing that the lender made an effort to be certain that the borrower has the ability to repay the loan, the lender in turn, receives certain legal protections.  Underwriting factors considered by the lender include:

  1. current or reasonably expected income or assets 
  2. current employment status
  3. the monthly payment on the covered transaction 
  4. the monthly payment on any simultaneous loan 
  5. the monthly payment for mortgage-related obligations
  6. current debt obligations, alimony, and child support
  7. the monthly debt-to-income ratio or residual income 
  8. credit history

For more information, see the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fact sheet ... protecting consumers from irresponsible mortgage lending.



Monday, September 3, 2018

Act Decisively

Whether it is hesitation or procrastination due to uncertainty, it can cost buyers by having to pay more for both the house and the financing.  This is one of those markets where most of the experts expect interest rates and prices will continue to rise through 2019.

The National Association of REALTORS? reports there is currently a 4.2-month supply of homes for sale which is close to the same as last year's inventory.  Normal inventory is considered to be a 6-month supply.

If during the period you're waiting to buy, the price of the home goes up by 5% and the mortgage rate increases by 1%, the payment on a $275,000 home with a 95% mortgage could be $233.80 more each and every month.  Over a seven-year period, the delay to purchase would total close to $20,000.

To act decisively, you need good information; a confused mind will not generally make a decision.  In today's market, you need to know exactly what price home you can qualify for and you need to know what kind of home you can expect for that price.  

You'll want a housing and a mortgage professional you can trust to give you the information you need to make good decisions for yourself and your family.  We'd like to be your real estate professional and can recommend a trusted mortgage professional.

To get a better idea about what it may cost you for a home in your price range, use the Cost of Waiting to Buycalculator.  If you have any questions, call me at (785) 650-4370.



Monday, August 20, 2018

Moisture & Mold

Moisture is mold's best friend and it thrives between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit which is why it is commonly found in homes.  Mold spores float in the air and can grow on virtually any substance with moisture including tile, wood, drywall, paper, carpet, and food.

Moisture control and eliminating water problems are key to preventing mold. Common sources of moisture can be roof leaks, indoor plumbing leaks, outdoor drainage problems, damp basements or crawl spaces, steam from bathrooms or kitchen, condensation on cool surfaces, humidifiers, wet clothes drying inside, or improper ventilation of heating and cooking appliances. 

  • Control the moisture problem
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces using soap and water or other cleanser; dry completely
  • Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces
  • Discard porous materials with extensive mold growth
  • Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold
  • Periodically, inspect the area for signs of moisture and new mold growth

The EPA suggests that if the moldy area is less than ten square feet, you can probably handle the cleanup yourself.  If the affected area is larger than that, find a contractor or professional service provider.  

Increasing ventilation in a bathroom by running a fan for at least 30 minutes or opening a window can help remove moisture and control mold growth.  After showering, squeegee the walls and doors. Wipe wet areas with dry towels.  Cleaning more frequently will also prevent mold from recurring or keep it to a minimum.

A simple solution to clean most mold is a 1:8 bleach/water mixture.  Since homes have thermostatically controlled temperatures and water is used all day long in the kitchen and bathrooms, the environment is conducive to mold.  

See Ten things you should know about mold written by the EPA.



Monday, August 13, 2018

What to Avoid Before Closing Your New Home

It's understandable; you're excited; you've found the right home, negotiated a contract, made a loan application and inspections.  Closing is not that far away, and you are making plans to move and put personal touches on your new home.

Even if you have an initial approval on your mortgage, little things can derail the process which isn't over until the papers are signed at settlement and funds distributed to the seller.  The verifications are usually done again just prior to the closing to determine if there have been any material changes to the borrower's credit or income that might disqualify them.

Most lending and real estate professionals recommend NOT to:

  • Make any new major purchases that could affect your debt-to-income ratio
  • Buy things for your new home until after you close
  • Apply, co-sign or add any new credit
  • Close or consolidate credit card accounts without advice from your lender
  • Quit your job or change jobs
  • Change banks
  • Talk to the seller without your agent

Your real estate professional and lender are working together to get you into your new home.  It's understandable to be excited and feel you need to be getting ready for the move.

Planning is fine but don't do anything that would affect your credit or income while you're waiting to sign the final papers at settlement.



Monday, July 2, 2018

Don't Let a Killer In

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer you don't want in your home but because it is colorless and odorless; you may not even be aware the deadly condition exists. The Center for Disease Control says more than 400 people in the U.S. die annually from carbon monoxide poisoning and over 10,000 require medical treatment each year.


Unmaintained furnaces, water heaters and appliances can produce the deadly gas. In addition, other sources could be leaking chimneys, unvented kerosene or gas space heaters or exhaust from cars or trucks operating in an attached garage.

The Environmental Protection Agency suggests the following to reduce exposure in the home:

  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted
  • Install and use an exhaust fan vented to the outdoors over gas stoves
  • Open flues when fireplaces are in use
  • Do not idle car inside garage
  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up central heating systems annually

Headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and feelings of weakness or fatigue are a few of the most common symptoms. Lower levels of exposure to carbon monoxide may be mistaken for the flu.

Carbon monoxide alarms should be on every level of a home and especially, in sleeping areas. The alarms can be purchased for as little as $25 and plugged into the wall like a night light.

Regardless of the government requirements, no one would want to put their family, guests or themselves at risk for something so deadly.