Milton Real Estate News

"Do sellers have to warn potential buyers if they think their house is haunted? Do you have to disclose if someone died in the house?"

I’ve been asked these questions often enough over the years.  The short answer is NO…not according to Massachusetts Disclosure Laws.  

Section 114: Real estate transactions; disclosure; psychologically impacted property

Section 114. The fact or suspicion that real property may be or is psychologically impacted shall not be deemed to be a material fact required to be disclosed in a real estate transaction. ''Psychologically impacted'' shall mean an impact being the result of facts or suspicions including, but not limited to, the following: 

(a) that an occupant of real property is now or has been suspected to be infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or any other disease which reasonable medical evidence suggests to be highly unlikely to be transmitted through the occupying of a dwelling; 

(b) that the real property was the site of a felony, suicide or homicide; and 

(c) that the real property has been the site of an alleged parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon. 

No cause of action shall arise or be maintained against a seller or lessor of real property or a real estate broker or salesman, by statute or at common law, for failure to disclose to a buyer or tenant that the real property is or was psychologically impacted. 

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the provisions of this section shall not authorize a seller, lessor or real estate broker or salesman to make a misrepresentation of fact or false statement.

 

The bottom line is that sellers aren’t obligated to disclose hauntings or deaths in the property unless directly asked.  But c'mon people..sellers and agents are required to be truthful!  So ask the right questions.  If ghosts or deaths in the house is a concern for you when purchasing a property ...then be sure to ASK!  

Posted in:General
Posted by Kathy McDevitt on October 26th, 2017 8:49 AM
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Posted in:General
Posted by Kathy McDevitt on June 29th, 2017 11:25 AM

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Posted in:General
Posted by Kathy McDevitt on January 11th, 2017 1:45 PM

1. A home is worth what a buyer is willing to pay.

You may think all the time and effort you have put into your home before listing it, even what you paid for it previously, makes it worth a certain price. Even an appraiser may come in before you list and say it’s worth close to a price you like. But at the end of the day, it is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it. They may think your upgrades don’t match up with the asking price. It may be that the home does need renovations and the asking price is too much to justify buying it and immediately pouring more money into it. A buyer would rather purchase a home at $125k, put $25k into it, and have it be worth $180k instead of buying a home at $180k that needs the same work of the $125k home.

2. Upgrades may not increase the value, but they’ll increase the chances of getting it sold.

It’s normal to think or hope that you’ll get back every penny spent on a home renovation. Unfortunately, in most cases you really only receive back a percentage of what you spent (or sometimes no hike in value at all). Different home improvements generally offer different returns, and that amount can vary depending on the area that you live in. Other factors include quality of craftsmanship and the personal taste of buyers.

3. Cleanliness is godliness.

No house is ever going to be perfect, especially with a dog in the summer, but it is important to make an effort to keep your home as clean as possible during listing photos and showings. You want potential buyers to remember what they love about the home after they leave, not talking about how much of a mess your home was instead.

4. Curb appeal is the first (and strongest) impression.

We all know what they say about first impressions. It’s hard for someone to change their mind after a bad first impression. Take a look at the front of your home. As a stranger, would you buy it? Just in case you’re biased, look next door. What about your neighbor’s home? Would you buy theirs? If no, imagine if they made it more presentable. Then would you buy it? Yes? Remove the kids’ toys from the front yard. Hide the trash cans and recycling bin. Mow the lawn and trim the bushes, especially before your professional pictures are taken! But continue to maintain the lawn for showings, and for the chance that someone might just drive by and notice the for sale sign in your yard. If you have shutters, make sure they’re all still attached and if needed, slap a fresh coat of paint on them. And don’t forget to pressure wash!

5. Pet odor and clutter leave the longest lasting impressions.

Just because we love our furry friends, doesn’t mean that everyone does. It’s hard to erase every piece of evidence that they exist in your home. No matter how many times you vacuum, there will be pet hair that you miss. Just make an effort. And if you can, hide their bedding and food bowls. Pet odor is extremely hard to hide, especially if you have a puppy learning how to be potty trained or a senile dog with a bladder problem. It might be worth your while to replace your flooring, or offer a flooring allowance in the deal. For now, stick a few air wicks in each room.

6. Neutral paint and decor will always appeal to the masses.

Get rid of those dark colors and bright purple accent walls now! That will stick out like a sore thumb in your listing photos before a potential buyer even schedules a showing of your home. The first thought going through their mind is, “How many coats of paint is it going to take to cover up that hideous color?!” Neutral is in. Neutral is always in. As for decor, minimal is best. Go ahead and pack any extra decor that is unnecessary while you’re trying to sell.

7. Cheap fixes or updates will result in cheap (low) offers.

If you can’t afford to update the whole house, don’t. Trying to cover everything will result in cheap updates that the potential buyer will most likely want to have redone. If nothing else, as stated above, at least paint. A fresh coat of paint in the whole house, as long it’s a natural color, is never wasted money.

8. Everything is negotiable.

Seriously. Everything is negotiable. While the refrigerator seems to be the biggest thing that buyers want or sellers note that it can convey with an acceptable offer, many other items have been negotiated. Blinds, curtain rods, curtains, furniture, even tractors. However, it is very important to make sure negotiations are done right and documented correctly in the contract.

9. Time is of the essence.

Because we’re in a seller’s market, it is the perfect time for you to list your home if you’ve been considering it. Homes can barely be put on the market before there is a contract put on them. This being said, time is of the essence for buyers. If you fall in love with a house, you need to put an offer in now, and a good one at that. There’s no time to waste going home and talking about it or sleeping on it. That home might not still be on the market tomorrow.

10. Location! Location! Location!

Why does location matter so much? For starters, you can’t move a home — at least not easily or inexpensively. When you buy a home in a good location, it’s usually a solid long-term investment. It’s often wise to buy the worst house — a property that could use some TLC — on the best block. Why? Because fixing up a home in a great neighborhood will give you the best return on your investment. Quite simply, it will be easier to sell later on. Conversely, you can buy a beautiful home that doesn’t need any work. But if the block is sketchy or just plain bad, you could have a hard time selling the property at a decent price.

11. Buyers notice things they want to change before noticing any updates.

Like previously said, it’s hard to please everyone. Even though you just spent $30,000 on an upgraded kitchen and $10,000 on a remodeled master bathroom, a buyer may be groaning because they’re not looking forward to having the carpets ripped up and hardwoods laid. Or, they just might not like the choices you made during the renovation process. One fail-safe move you can make is to allow a flooring allowance or paint allowance, therefore you’re not wasting the money while getting the home ready to sell and they can pick out the details they like.

12. When priced right, it will sell.

Even if you’re in a hurry to sell and price isn’t your main concern, you still need a baseline to start marketing your home. One thing’s for certain: Pricing is one of the biggest decisions in the selling process. Set too high a price and you run the risk of turning off potential buyers. It also means your house will not compare favorably with other similarly priced homes. Even worse, buyers may not even see your listing when they search online since they will be using lower price points.

Source: Lighter Side of Real Estate


Posted in:General
Posted by Kathy McDevitt on August 5th, 2016 8:57 AM

Summer is just around the corner, so the time is ripe for thinking about some home improvements that can help you enjoy the longer, warmer days to their fullest.

Here are nine things you can do now that won’t break your bank account (or housing budget) and will ensure you get your summer off to a great start.

1. Buy some plants you won’t kill

Plants can add a ton of beauty to your yard, patio, or porch, but they can also be expensive, especially if they die because you don’t have the right soil or you put them in too much or too little sun.

If you don’t know a lot about what kinds of plants do well in your region or those that are easiest to care for, reach out to your local county Cooperative Extension Agent, a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It offers free services and seminars, soil sample testing, advice on plants that do well in your area, and even Master Gardener certification.

2. Get your grill in tiptop shape

Nothing ruins a good barbecue faster than a dirty or broken grill, so before you head to the grocery store for provisions, do a thorough clean and check of your grill. If it’s a gas grill, it’s a good idea to check the burners to ensure they haven’t corroded. They should light quickly and burn evenly. If they don’t, it might be time to buy replacement burners. Same goes for your ignition switch.

If your grill looks a bit worse for the wear, you might also want to consider sprucing it up with a fresh coat of high-temperature grill paint.

3. Repair patio or lawn furniture

If you store your furniture, now’s the time to dig it out and give it a good scrub. You’ll also want to make sure it’s still sturdy enough for a full summer of use. Are the frames rusting or broken? Are the joints fast? Are there any rips in the fabric and can it be replaced? How about your seat cushions? Check it all out so you’re not having to apologize to guests later.

4. Lighten up

How’s the lighting in your outdoor living space? Replace any old melted candles with new ones, and check strings of lights for any broken or burned-out bulbs. If you don’t have any outdoor lighting besides your porch light, consider adding some. Uplighting under trees can be a lovely accent.

5. Don’t bug out

Along with the longer, warmer days come mosquitos, flies, and other critters that can make being outdoors less than enjoyable. And who wants to coat themselves in stinky bug spray every 10 minutes? Consider some citronella candles, bug zappers, or, if you have the budget, a mosquito trap.

6. Get your AC serviced

To avoid having your air conditioning go out on the hottest day of the year, consider spending some money now on a service call to have a technician come out and check your unit, especially if it’s older and out of warranty.

Spending some money now on preventive maintenance can save you the hassle and possibly bigger expense later on. (High credit card balances related to home repairs or otherwise could hurt your credit. You can see where you currently stand by viewing your two free credit scores, updated each month, on Credit.com.)

7. Check your insulation

How old is the insulation in your house? It’s just as important in the summer months as it is in winter when it comes to keeping your monthly utility bills in check, so if you didn’t take a look last fall, you might want to do so now.

                      

If you know what you’re doing, take a crawl through the attic and check the depth of your insulation. Energy.gov has some tips for how much you need when it comes to different types of insulation.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, or if crawling around the attic sounds like your own personal horror movie, hire someone to come check it out for you.

8. Check watering hoses & sprinkler systems

If you store your watering hoses for winter, it’s a good time to check them for leaks and to see if any of the fittings or washers need replacing. It’s also a great time to have your sprinkler system inspected for leaks, broken heads, and other issues.

9. Service yard tools

If you mow your own yard, now’s a great time to get a tuneup on the lawn mower and have the blade sharpened. While you’re at it, you can also have the weed wacker, chainsaw, and leaf blower tuned up as well so they’re running smoothly all season long.

Posted in:General
Posted by Kathy McDevitt on May 31st, 2016 12:55 PM

There’s something frustrating about hanging art on your home’s walls. You have to buy those special picture-hanging hooks, measure six ways till Sunday, punch a hole or two in a pristine wall, and then, after all that, the frame always seems to end up crooked. And no matter what political party you identify with, be it Democratic, Republican, or Pirate (yep, that’s a real thing), everyone can agree on one issue: Wall art should be perfectly straight. And it shouldn’t immediately go off-kilter when you barely brush past.

But don’t be cowed by a fear of crookedness—wall art adds visual punch to any home.We’ll clue you in to the secrets of hanging your frames as straight as an arrow—and getting them to stay that way.

Step 1: Measure for measure

First things first, if you want your art smack dab in the middle of a wall, you’ll need to measure the wall’s height and width to find the center. From there, figure out how high you want the art to hang—your eye should fall in the middle of the piece—and lightly mark where the center top of the frame lands on the wall.

Step 2: Double up on hooks

When you hang art on one measly hook, it acts like a fulcrum, on which your picture will seesaw every time a door slams. But if you double down on hooks, your art will be less likely to slip and slide. Make sure you have the right type, too.

"Wall fasteners are available in both lightweight and heavyweight options to prevent the need for drywall repair in the future,” says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman. “If you think your frame may be too heavy for the wall, use a stud finder to locate a supporting beam.”

To figure out where to make your holes, first look at the back of the frame and pull the wire straight up at two points about 8 inches apart, says Tessa Wolf, creative director of Framebridge, an on-demand online custom framing company.

“Measure the distance between the top of the wire at each point to the top of the frame. Then measure and mark two spots on the wall that are the same distance below top of the frame and exactly 8 inches apart. Hammer the hooks into the wall so the bottom is directly on top of your marks.”

Step 3: All about that tape

If you have a picture with two hooks on the back as opposed to a wire, “place a piece of painter’s tape on the back of the frame right under the hooks and mark a dot on the tape where the nails need to go,” says Sassano. “Then place the tape on the wall where you’d like to hang your photo. Use a level to ensure the tape is straight and hammer the nails in where the dots are marked.” Remove the tape, and you’re good to go.

Step 4: Helping hacks

Hanging art can be a two-person job—one to adjust the picture, while the other person takes forever to decide whether the angle is right. But if you prefer to work on your collection solo, check out the Hang and Level ($15). This nifty tool helps you position art with a built-in hook that allows you to mark the wall when you find your perfect placement.

You can also make a DIY approximation by driving a nail through the bottom of a paint stir stick. Simply hang your art on the nail, get it in position on the wall and tap the nail to mark the spot.

Step 5: Call in backup

Keep your pictures straight by installing self-adhesive cabinet plastic bumpers on the bottom inner corners of your frame. These will prevent slipping and general crookedness by creating traction between the frame and the wall. A-types out there can go withVelcro, though it may damage walls when removed, and those with a sense of humor can even use Silly Putty.

Step 6: Level it off

Use an actual level to get your frames perfect, or go to your smartphone’s app store and download one of the countless level apps. Stick either version on top of the frame until the bubble is perfectly centered, and voilà, you have a straight picture! Push your frame with bumpers, Velcro, or Silly Putty against the wall to keep it that way.

Step 7: Mask any mistakes

To avoid damaging drywall, Sassano recommends selecting the lightest frame possible prior to hanging. If you do mess up and need to fix a nail hole, no biggie. Check out this Dunn-Edwards Paints short hack video on how to master a quick patch.

?Source: Realtor.com
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Posted in:General
Posted by Kathy McDevitt on May 2nd, 2016 5:50 PM

Boston Area Housing Market Sees Steady Gains In Sales, Prices In February

In February, high buyer demand,low mortgage rates and a strong job market continued to spur housing market activity in Greater Boston.

Last month, sales of detached single-family homes improved on an annual basis for the ninth consecutive month and increased 10.3 percent on the February 2015 total of 535 homes sold to 590.This represents the highest total of closed sales in Greater Boston since the 665 homes sold in 2007. Condo sales experienced a modest increase of 2.9 percent in 2016, increasing from 451 to 464 sold condos. This is also the highest condo sales total since 2007, when there were 642 closed sales. Both closed sales numbers represented the fourth highest totals since 2003.

“The combination of low mortgage rates, rising home values and a lack of snow this winter have led to above normal demand over the first few months of the year,” said GBAR President Andrew Sarno, Broker Associate with RE/MAX Andrew Realty Services in Medford.“As busy as we’ve been so far this year, sales could have been even stronger had there been a larger inventory of homes to sell.”

In addition to rising sales, the median sales prices also increased in both markets.  The single-family median sales price rose from $470,000 in February 2015 to $520,000 last month, indicating a 10.6 percent increase and setting a new record high price for the month in Greater Boston. This also represents the seventeenth consecutive month that the single-family median sales price has improved on a year-to-year basis. The condo market median sales price increased 6.4 percent, as it rose from $420,000 last year to $447,000 in 2016, which is also a new high sales price for February.

“With home prices continuing to climb steadily and the inventory of homes for sale at a twelve-year low, it’s a great time to put your home on the market,” said Sarno. However, sellers can expect the competition to heat up this spring, he noted, as the second quarter is traditionally the most active for selling homes.

Indeed, many in the Greater Boston area are beginning to list their homes, as represented by the significant increase in pending sales in both markets last month. Single-family detached home market pending sales numbers increased 50.2 percent from 637 in February last year to 957 in 2016. Similarly, pending condo sales jumped 54.3 percent last month, and increased from 567 in 2015 to 875 last month.

“There was a significant increase in pending sales in both markets, which can be attributed in part to our mostly snow-free winter, buy nonetheless suggests a large, highly-motivated home buyer population and a very active spring market throughout the region,” added Sarno.“Those looking to sell their homes should take advantage of this opportunity as we approach the spring and early summer market when activity is at its peak and buyers will likely have more options.”

In addition to the rise in pending sales, new listings in both markets experienced sharp increases last month. In the single-family market, there were 1,129 new listings in February 2016, a 75.3 percent increase from the 644 a year ago. The condo market also experienced a spike in new listings, with a 49.6 percent increase from 629 in 2015 to 941 last month.

Posted in:General
Posted by Kathy McDevitt on April 5th, 2016 2:30 PM

Click on photo for details.
Posted in:General
Posted by Kathy McDevitt on February 12th, 2016 11:33 AM

Every homeowner has a to-do list, from the have-tos (leaky roof) to the hope-tos (new kitchen). And when your house is an old one — in Boston, it usually is — that list grows quickly. But while you can probably name 10 things you want to fix or update around your house, it’s less likely you know what any of them should cost or which should come first.

Short of soliciting bids from multiple contractors — a waste of everyone’s time if you’re simply batting around ideas — a simple ballpark estimate of a given project’s cost can be tough to find. So we set out to solve the mystery: What should you expect to pay for your next remodel? And which projects will bring the best return on your investment when it’s time to sell?

National surveys try to nail down these numbers, but their figures can vary dramatically. In a 2015 report, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) estimated the cost of a new roof to be $7,600 based on a nationwide survey of its members. Meanwhile, theRemodeling 2016 Cost vs. Value Report for Boston, which uses contractor bidding software to gauge the expense, pegged the price at $26,182 — nearly four times as much for the same job.

So beyond those surveys, we talked to local contractors and analyzed price data from hundreds of Boston-area Angie’s List reviews to find out what you should really expect to pay for an update such as a new roof or kitchen renovation. Then we spoke to a local realtor with decades of experience to learn which projects pay for themselves when it comes time to sell — and which ones could be a bust.

We’ll start in the hub of the home. Everyone we spoke to agreed that remodeling a tired kitchen is almost always a good idea, if an expensive one: It could run you anywhere from $20,000 to $80,000.

“Kitchen and bathroom projects are always the most popular,” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, a subscription website and online marketplace where members review and hire local contractors and businesses. Boston-area Angie’s List members reported paying an average of $25,000 to $40,000 for a kitchen remodel over the past two years; the national average on the site was $31,545 in 2014.


Bill Farnsworth of Custom Contracting in Arlington agreed that kitchens are a popular project, and for good reason. “Kitchens and bathrooms bring the best return on investment,” he says. Farnsworth, who works in some of Boston’s more expensive suburbs, says his kitchen remodels “range from $35,000 to $80,000.”

The price of a new kitchen will vary depending on the quality of the appliances, the countertops, the cabinet finishes, and whether any structural work is involved, says Jeff Veglia, owner of Veglia Remodeling in Lynnfield. “A rule of thumb is that the more you pay for the material, the more you’ll pay for labor, because it’s a little more difficult to install,” Veglia says. “But in general 

our average kitchen today is about $70,000, soup to nuts.”

Scaling back on finishes can make a big difference, though. Homeowners who go with in-stock cabinets, as opposed to custom-built ones, “should be able to get a full kitchen renovation for $20,000-$25,000,” says Martin Egan, owner of Breffni Construction in Quincy.

And kitchen upgrades, particularly with lower-priced homes, can yield the best payoff when it comes time to sell. “If you put in a buck, you’re going to get $2.50 back with the right improvements,” says Jim McGue, co-owner and a broker with Granite Group Realtors in Quincy. Just be careful not to overdo it, he says. “If you get crazy with a wild-color counter or backsplash, you’ll kill a kitchen.”

renovations are another perennially popular and pricey project. “For a bathroom with everything included, you’re around the $22,000-$24,000 range” for an average bathroom with average-quality materials, Veglia says. Egan placed the cost at between $15,000 and $20,000, while local Angie’s List users reported paying an average of $13,500 to $15,000 over the past two years.

Updating an old bathroom offers about a dollar-for-dollar increase in your home’s value, McGue says — meaning a $15,000 renovation should lift your home’s resale value by roughly the same amount. “The ancillary value to that is the house is going to sell quicker,” he added. “One of the things that people don’t like dealing with when they buy a house is someone else’s bathroom.”

Another good investment, McGue says, one that can boost a home’s value by about $1.50 per dollar spent, are well-installed replacement windows — meaning the contractor used care to preserve the trim work. “Good ones, though,” he says. “People like the Andersen 400s; they like Marvins. Harvey is a good window.”

Jim Shields, owner of Northshore Window & Siding in Somerville, favors Harvey windows and says he charges $390 to $420 each for a standard installation. Still, Shields noted, “larger or custom windows can cost more,” and prices “up to $1,500 per window aren’t uncommon.”

Luckily for those of us with dozens of windows, it’s something you can chip away at by replacing a handful at a time. Unlike, say, a roof — which cost Boston-area Angie’s List users an average of $9,000 to $12,000. Egan and Farnsworth say they charge roughly $4.00 to $6.50 per square foot (or $8,000 to $13,000 for a 2,000-square-foot roof), depending on the pitch, the number of dormers, and other factors.

A new roof may not be glamorous, but neither is water damage — and a failing roof can be a deal breaker for prospective buyers. McGue estimates that a new one adds as much value to a home as it costs.

And while it can be tempting to ignore boring-but-expensive maintenance upgrades such as a roof in favor of more exciting projects, that’s a mistake, says Hicks. When prioritizing your home improvement budget, “fix the fundamentals first,” she says. “If it’s a choice between adding a new deck and fixing the leaky roof, go with the roof.”

Not that the deck is a bad idea. McGue says adding a good-sized deck in the right spot can mean a $1.50 return for every $1 invested in terms of resale value. The Remodeling 2016 Cost vs. Value Report estimated a new wood deck would recoup 72 percent of its cost at resale.

Boston-area Angie’s List members reported paying about $10,000 to $12,000 for a new deck in the past two years, an average that includes both pressure-treated wood and composite. Egan says he charges about $12,000 to $15,000 for a new wood deck, while Farnsworth says he does mostly composite decking now, in the range of $15,000 to $25,000.

There are other, smaller ways to improve a home’s value and make it more attractive to future buyers, too. “If you can locate a full-size washer/dryer on the first floor, if there’s a way you can open up a closet for that, then I think that’s a slam-dunk,” McGue says. “It’s an atypical feature in the vintage houses we have.”

McGue also recommended refinishing or adding hardwood floors and looking for low-impact ways to expand your living area. “Finishing a three-season porch, that to me is huge,” he says. “It’s square footage you didn’t buy.” Is that renovation really worth it?

However, while finishing a basement is another easy way to add space and value, McGue says it doesn’t recoup the full cost of the work in most cases. Farnsworth echoed that caution. “You really need to be sure about creating a finished space in the basement,” he says, warning that water can easily spoil the space if it’s not done right.

Ready to get started? Before you call a contractor, Hicks says, “know what you want and how much you can afford.” Reading Angie’s List reviews of similar projects in your area, she says, can help you set your expectations on the price and process. “It’s a great way to find out what other homeowners with houses similar to yours are paying for home improvement,” she says.

“You don’t want to waste time on a project, so you want to have all your choices made before you start,” Veglia added. “Otherwise what happens is the job starts dragging out.”

Then, when you’re ready to go forward with a project, get at least three bids, Hicks says, and don’t be surprised if they’re all over the map. Every home, homeowner, and project is different. In addition to the cost of materials, labor, and subcontractors (e.g., plumbers or electricians), Egan says he considers a range of other factors when pricing a job, such as parking limitations and whether he can use a Dumpster on the site.

“Don’t go into this thinking you want the lowest bid,” Hicks says. “You want the best bid, which could be the lowest, but may not be.”

Veglia shared that sentiment. “Don’t cheapen your job just to afford it,” he says, noting that homeowners who cut corners often end up spending twice as much because they don’t like the results. “If it’s something you really want, save up the money until you can afford it.”

By Jon Gorey GLOBE CORRESPONDENT


Posted in:General
Posted by Kathy McDevitt on February 8th, 2016 9:53 AM
Houzz - Allison Hodgson

You may be surprised to know that losing all of my earthly possessions was the easy part of having an arsonist set my house on fire. The hard part was wrangling with the insurance company while trying to build a new house.

Have you seen those insurance commercials where a kindly insurance adjuster is at the scene of a disaster, immediately cutting a generous check to the devastated homeowner? If you have, and that's what you think happens, I'm sorry to tell you it's not quite like that. 

Imagine you've been hit by a car. You miraculously survive and desperately need medical attention. The paramedics arrive — O happy day! After a brief examination, they inform you they really want to help — and they absolutely will ... as soon as you complete a tiny little 5K. (Full disclosure: It's going to turn into an Ironman triathlon.) On your mark, get set, go! You find yourself jogging. "Don't worry," they assure you. "We'll be right beside you every step of the way." And they will ... thwacking you in the head with a 2-by-4. 


"I'm sorry," you may be thinking, "but that's not how it will be for me, because I'm insured for a zillion dollars."

We too had great coverage and ended up with a very good settlement — ours is actually a success story. And here's the thing: Take a look at your policy. Right before the dollar amount of your coverage, there are two very important words: "up to." As in "up to a zillion dollars." The difference between that and an actual zillion dollars is profound. (See Ironman and 2-by-4 thwackings above.)

How an Inventory Can Help You

I hope anyone reading this never has to face a house fire, but statistically speaking some of you will, and I'd love to make a terrible experience a little easier. 

Here's the secret: Before your house burns down, you need to make an inventory. That is, you need to make a list of every single item in your home. Bonus secret: After your house burns down — and I hope it never does — hire a a public adjuster. 

Just reading that may have caused your eyes to roll back into your head, and I'm sorry, but the only way to avoid needing to make an inventory is by avoiding a house fire, an earthquake, a flood, a hurricane or a tornado. I'm here to tell you that's not always possible, and creating an inventory before your house burns down (is shaken apart, floods, blows away etc.) is soooo much easier than doing so after. 

The Organized Person's Way to Make an Inventory

First we're going to look at the Naturally Organized way to create an inventory.

My friend Jane is one of the most organized people in the world and an insurance adjuster's worst nightmare. First of all she actually has an inventory, and then it's broken down into mind-bogglingly detailed categories. Here they are:

"Appliances (mostly major, but including air conditioners), artwork, brewery, china (and all butler's-pantry-type serveware), clothes, electronics, furniture, jewelry, kitchen (small appliances go here), linens, lamps and clocks, miscellaneous (bookends, wastebaskets, Christmas decor), rugs, sporting goods, tools, utility (ironing board, scale, telephones, lawnmower)."

Jane runs a bed-and-breakfast out of her hundred-year-old home, and she acknowledges this affects the complexity of her inventory. "Clearly, there's more here than most places. We've got lots of categories because it's easier to find things and update. Some categories overlap a bit, like miscellaneous and utilities."

And that's not all. She also keeps separate inventories for books, videos and music as well as separate lists for electrical panel, major repair, redecorating, gardening and major medical expenses plus lending. 

All of this is in searchable Excel documents, and each item has columns for category, room, item, brand, model, serial, price or value, and date acquired. The only addition I would suggest is one more column to indicate whether the item was a gift or purchased, because the insurance company will want to know.

Jane assures me it's an easy 15-minute update every year; she likes to do it first thing after the holidays, when she naturally acquires new things.

When I asked her how she backs up the info, she said, "It's a computer document, butusually there's a recent downloaded copy that we store in our safe. Sometimes we get sloppy, but it's never very far outdated." I can only imagine what "sloppy" looks like to Jane. A box of cotton swabs omitted? I can't even hazard a guess.

Inventorying for the Not Naturally Organized
Naturally Organized readers, you may be clucking your tongues and noting a couple of categories you've neglected in your own inventories. You're welcome.

And now I have something special for my Not Naturally Organized friends. We all know you are never, ever going to write down and categorize everything you own. And that's OK. 

Here's what I want you to do: Grab a smart phone or a camera, turn on the video and take a slow tour of your entire home, inside and out. Email yourself the results. In a matter of minutes you will have put yourself a thousand times ahead of the game.

It doesn't take much more effort to do a really thorough job. Take a little time. Walk slowly through the house, room by room. Do close-ups of items of particular value. Turn things over to show labels or marks. Slowly pan your bookshelves. Even if you don't get every title, this will give you an idea of the number of hardcovers versus paperbacks, not to mention any other items. 

Open drawers and closet doors and lift up bedskirts. Don't forget the basement and the garage or attic as well as any outbuildings. It doesn't matter if the areas are a mess. Odds are, you'll never, ever need to look at this again, but a few of you will, and I guarantee that you will be unutterably glad to have this. Don't forget to film your landscaping. Our claim for my gardens and yards was thousands and thousands of dollars.

Special note: If you rent rather than own your home, make sure to purchase renter's insurance. It is very reasonable, and you can get it through almost any insurance agent. And then make sure to do an inventory!

Here's the alternative: Shut your eyes. OK, now open them. Where's your stuff? All gone! You want it back? Alrighty! Actually, that's not going to happen, but write down whatever you want to replace. What's that? Some things can never be replaced. Sorry! But tick-tock — we don't have all day. Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! 

And that's a picture of a good settlement.
Years ago I read an article in a magazine telling what to do before your house burns down; it was by a writer who had been through a fire. He had not been adequately insured; he learned too late and he didn't have an inventory, either. He broke down the differences in insurance and actually recommended taking a video and storing it at a friends' house or in a safety deposit box.

That night I talked to my husband about our homeowners' insurance. I wanted to make sure we were properly covered. I didn't give the inventory another thought. 

This was years and years ago, before digital cameras, back in the olden days when you needed a separate video camera, and ours had recently broken. I wasn't really worried about it. I mean, it's one thing to make sure you're adequately insured, but why go overboard? I couldn't believe my house would ever burn down. Who could?


Posted in:General
Posted by Kathy McDevitt on January 20th, 2016 4:44 PM