South Florida Real Estate Blog by Shari Orland, Realtor

For Boca Raton Homeowners, Clarifying PMI-MPI Confusion

Checking out an online piece dealing with some technical adjustments having to do with mortgage insurance the other day, I came across an indisputable statement:


“Many homeowners are confused about the difference between PMI (private mortgage insurance) and mortgage protection insurance (MPI).”

 

That, if anything, is a considerable understatement—especially because Boca Raton homeowners can sometimes find “mortgage protection insurance” abbreviated as well. If your professional duties include distinguishing the finer points of Boca Raton mortgages for your clients, you are unlikely to confuse “PMI” with “MPI.” But for the rest of humanity, that’s not necessarily the case. Since the difference is substantive, here’s a 30-second primer:

PMI is Private Mortgage Insurance. It’s designed to protect the lender rather than the homeowner. If Boca Raton homeowners run into trouble—for instance, if they were to lose their job—the PMI coverage will reimburse the lender for any shortfalls. PMI coverage is usually required when Boca Raton homeowners pay less than 20% of a property’s sale price as the down payment. When the loan-to-value of the mortgage reaches 78%, these policies can usually be canceled (sometimes that’s done automatically).

MPI is Mortgage Protection Insurance—a very different animal. This protects the Boca Raton homeowners, covering missed mortgage payments for designated periods of time under specific circumstances. Unlike PMI, this insurance is strictly voluntary on the homeowner’s part. MPI policies may pay off the entire mortgage if the homeowner dies—but those who have adequate...

For Delray Beach Real Estate, Friday’s Quadrupled-Barreled News

Last week ended with a quadruple-barreled blast of good news that bolstered prospects for Delray Beach real estate—an effect magnified by how unexpected all had been.

When times are good, Delray Beach real estate can’t help but benefit. That may seem to be so obvious that it doesn’t even need to be said, but a close cousin is arguably even more important: When people feel times are good, Delray Beach real estate benefits.

Friday’s positives were magnified by the contrast with what had been reported in earlier days. Although the holiday-shortened week had seen evidence of strong holiday sales, that was dampened by a grab-bag of alarming developments: government shutdown; China trade standoff; Apple sales losses... This meant that Friday’s raft of unexpected good news made for commentators who were, by day’s end, all but giddy.

First came reports of shockingly good U.S. economic performance. Wages in December “surged” (the Wall Street Journal). The annual wage gain of 3.2% “matched the fastest pace since 2009” (Bloomberg)—a trend that was accelerating (3.5% in December).

That wasn’t all. Not only were wages rising—jobs were, too. Employers had “shattered forecasts” (MarketWatch) by adding 140,000 more jobs than had been predicted. It “underlined that the American economy remains strong despite market turbulence” (CNN Business). Even an incremental rise in the jobless rate was greeted as welcome news—it meant that more workers were actively seeking work. Discouraged by bleak prospects, they’d been sitting on the sidelines for years.

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Homeowners Insurance Defensive Role in Nov. Firestorms

Last fall’s devastating California firestorms gripped the nation’s attention as flames engulfed whole communities, North and South. For Boynton Beach residents, the loss of life and wholesale destruction that played across our TV and laptop screens seemed otherworldly—almost unbelievable. Hundreds of thousands of residents displaced. Thousands of homes destroyed. In a year that brought an ample share of natural disasters (including Hurricanes Michael and Florence), to many Boynton Beach homeowners, this one was particularly distressing. It’s hard not to relate to our own homes and their irreplaceable contents—and to wonder if there isn’t anything wildfire-aware homeowners could have done to prevent such devastating losses.

In fact, at year’s end, The Wall Street Journal posted a video that explored a little-known service that exists to address that concern: private firefighters.

It turns out that some homeowners insurance companies who cover the mansions most exposed to wildfires contract with private companies to protect their investment. One such company is Capstone Fire & Safety Management. The Journal sent a reporter to ride along with a Capstone private firefighting unit as they visited Ventura County properties threatened in last November’s maelstrom. For the “pricey mansions” covered by their risk mitigation service, they assessed the oncoming danger and responded accordingly. That meant anything from simply checking in with homeowners to moving flammable objects away from structures. In extreme situations, they were prepared to spray fire-retardant foam on exposed areas.

In action, the service is limited...

One Word Keeps Cropping Up about Selling Delray Beach Homes

The word is “clutter.” It keeps cropping up whenever a Realtor is asked for advice about selling Delray Beach homes.

The clutter factor might not seem to be so overpoweringly important. After all, a housekeeping crew can scour and shine most homes in a day or two–and that would seem to outrank the clutter component by a mile. So why all the fuss about clutter?

I believe the reasons are many. Of course, selling any Delray Beach home requires it to be at least freshly cleaned (best if immaculately so)—but everyone accepts that without a second thought. Clutter is another matter. It goes to what’s meant by the term.

After a home has been prepared in every other way, de-cluttering action means ruthlessly removing just about everything that tends to attract attention, fill the space, or otherwise distract the eye of the beholder.

In the living room, that means gathering up all the books and newspapers and removing them from the scene. It means doing away with the ashtrays, paperweights, and coasters. It means losing the magazine rack by the fireplace and pruning the number of throw pillows that usually populate the big sofa. It means dispensing with unnecessary throw rugs and any hall wall hangings that make narrow hallways more claustrophobic. Importantly, it means removing all the photos and memorabilia that make your house a home—because they make it your home when you want it to become their home. 

The same goes for the kitchen, where it means gathering up all the paraphernalia that’s needed to fix a breakfast or throw lunch together. Salt and...

Will Tomorrow’s Boca Raton Real Estate Be Much Like Today’s?

No one needs convincing to agree how much buying and selling Boca Raton real estate has changed since we entered the 21st century. Not only can you review homes for sale whenever you wish but you can also use Boca Raton real estate sites like this one to compare properties by all sorts of metrics.

This consumer-friendly advance was actually foreseeable in 1999. It was the subject of plenty of forward-looking commentaries. So it’s not hard to imagine that the glimpses into real estate’s future that Forbes’ panel of experts came up with last week could actually come to pass. The published piece promised “Six Ways Tech Could Change the Real Estate Process,” but the six panelists saw similar advances. The progress came in three areas:

  1. Artificial Intelligence will help agents instantaneously adjust documentation to conform to legal requirements. Florida and Boca Raton laws are in fact subject to change—so I am definitely in favor of this one!
  2. Remote Transactions will become even more thoroughly supported so that searching, viewing, purchasing and even closings will be able to be conducted remotely. A second expert described essentially the same advance as “Time and Distance Removal.”
  3. Disintermediation. This six-dollar word entered the vocabulary when people started talking about the “Bitcoin” and “blockchain” phenomena. The word means dispensing with unnecessary processes in a transaction—and in Boca Raton real estate, that could apply to aspects of title insurance and home loan generation....

What One Boynton Beach Listing Detail Has to do with Hong Kong

Our Boynton Beach listings contain one figure that’s quite useful for apples-to-apples comparisons of the properties being offered. This one is quietly tucked away beneath the more prominent pieces of information. It doesn’t usually draw much attention, although it probably deserves more. And last week, it also happened to prove how fortunate home shoppers in Boynton Beach really are—especially compared to what their counterparts have to contend with in places like Hong Kong.

That point was evident in a feature on the CBS Overnight News TV show. It dealt with current real estate reality in the Chinese enclave of Hong Kong. The details were truly gasp-worthy—especially the one we were describing earlier. That one—the figure that doesn’t get much attention—is the cost per square foot. Most house hunters have in mind a price limit they will be willing to spend as well as a general idea of the amount of space they need—a square footage number. Those two factors help them zero in on the homes they’ll be interested in exploring further; it’s why those figures are up near the top of the listing.

But also useful is the cost per square foot. It can help online house hunters get a relative idea of how a slightly smaller home might stack up, price-wise, against a slightly larger one. If you also compare it with another figure, the average sale price per square foot in the surrounding community or zip code, you get another view of the offering. If the listed price per square foot is starkly higher than comparable properties, it might signal a home of much higher quality—or sellers who have an unrealistic idea of what their home is worth. Likewise, a considerably lower...

Now is Perfect Time for Which Home Improvement Projects?

 U.S. News and World Report may not be the primary source most homeowners turn to for Delray Beach real estate news flashes, but this month they have brought up some relevant insights regarding home improvement projects.

A week or so before Thanksgiving Day, they published an opinion piece urging homeowners to get off the sofa and “set yourself up for success” for coming home improvement initiatives. They pointed out that timing those projects can be tricky—not just because of weather considerations, but also because hiring professionals can be more difficult during certain times of the year.

I might add that planning in advance gives our local tradespeople the kind of notice they greatly appreciate. U.S.News listed their ideas on the best time of year for a dozen home improvement projects—and these four called for winter starts:  

  1. Interior paint: Winter (low humidity helps paint dry evenly, so Delray Beach’s drier winter air is a plus).
  2. Electrical updates: Winter (avoid the crush of competing Delray Beach homeowners).
  3. Building a deck: Winter (!!) (deck builders say pressure-treated wood stabilizes best when humidity is low—and cloudier winter skies help avoid early cracking that blistering direct sunshine can cause).
  4. Full-room remodel: Winter (since updating any room can take place at any time of the year, avoiding jam-packed summer months can mean avoiding higher labor costs).

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Unexpected Boca Raton Home Repairs? Expect ‘Em!

As Thanksgiving rolls around again and our Boca Raton houses fill with visiting relatives and friends, it’s hard to repress an occasional thought like, “Gee, I hope the water heater holds up” or “Boy, this would NOT be the time for the range to give out!” But it’s true that if there’s one thing first time homeowners can learn from their more experienced Boca Raton neighbors, it’s to expect the unexpected—at least when it comes to home repairs. That isn’t to say that some wallet-draining breakdown is certain to happen a month or two after moving in—but the odds are close to 50-50 that something could need attention within the first year or so.

That was just one of the major takeaways for Boca Raton readers of last week’s NerdWallet 2018 Home Improvement Report. Among Americans who have ever purchased a home, a whopping 44% say they experienced some unexpected home repair within the first year of ownership. And 48% reported having experienced at least some level of anxiety due to unexpected home repair costs.

Fortunately, Realtor Magazine issued some follow-up research that should quell at least some of that anxiety over unexpected Boca Raton home repairs. Among 113,000,000 “high-dollar” projects, the average cost was only $1,350. The NerdWallet report furnished an explanation for this less-than-budget-breaking bottom line: the growing popularity of do-it-yourself solutions. They ascribed the phenomenon to the growing popularity of DIY TV programs coupled with the ready availability of online “how-to”...

News for Boynton Beach House Hunters: Blessedly Calm

Last week ended with such horrendous news in California that it was a blessed relief how in at least one narrow slice of the news—one of interest to Boynton Beach house hunters, among others—there was blessedly very little worrisome to report. Against the grim reality of how November 2018 was beginning in other areas of the news, Boynton Beach house hunters could relax for a moment.

This quiet corner of the public space was in what for house-hunters is an area of key concern—the slice of the financial sector focused on home loan originators and the residential mortgage market. The news from that quarter was, in brief, not much news.

The Tuesday election had held a high likelihood of affecting credit markets, and thus, mortgage interest rates. It’s usually true, and The Mortgage News Daily thought that the quiet on Monday “suggests traders are waiting to see if other traders care about the election results.” As it turned out, at least by Wednesday, they didn’t.

The MND predicted “Probably One More Day of Waiting for any Election Impact,” but it turned out to be a longer wait than that. On Wednesday a Federal Reserve Board Statement was scheduled for release. Days like that are known in the industry as “Fed Days”—they usually move rates. But what resulted, according to Mortgage News, was only “movement…that looked small if viewed by anything less powerful than a microscope.”

And so it went. Boynton Beach mortgage rates remained in historically lower-than-average territory when you take...

Unusual Lottery Story has a Real Estate Theme

A $180 Million Lotto Winner’s Massive Mountain Estate” was the headline in the Wall Street Journal’s “Real Estate” section. The photo above the headline really did look to be many millions of dollars’ worth of breathtaking. The panorama behind the stone-and-brick estate, perched on a California mountainside, provided an unobstructed 180-degree view of the valley far below. The lush landscaping around the mansion’s acreage was the very definition of “pristine” (literally, since the forest of trees was definitely newly-planted, lottery-winner style).

The surprise for Delray Beach readers is that the article was not another expected retelling about a big lottery winner who lost it all. The former roofing company employee and Mega Millions winner was not, in fact, wallowing in debt and crushed relationships. In fact, the story was about accomplishing the kind of real estate coup that usually plays out only in daydreams.  

Rick Knudsen used to look up from the front porch of his 4-bedroom home to view the progress of an enormous house being constructed on the side of distant Little San Gorgonio mountain. Then he bought the lottery ticket, won, retired, and plunked down $5.5 million for the not-yet-completed mansion. Then, “just bam bam bam…within three months, I owned it all,” he says, recounting how he added an adjoining 155-acre buffalo ranch and its accompanying steakhouse and saloon; then (why not?) another 640-acre parcel. And a home for each of his 5 kids.

The best part of this lottery/real estate story lies not with the details of the...