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Determining your insurance needs

Fire, flood, and pets are just some of the considerations

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insurance, gay news, Washington Blade
Home insurance covers damage from weather and water, theft of belongings, vandalism, fire, and personal injury lawsuits.

When you’re applying for a mortgage loan, you’re going to need homeowner’s insurance. Your lender will need the name and contact information of your insurance carrier before completing your loan.

Home insurance covers damage from weather and water, theft of belongings, vandalism, fire, and personal injury lawsuits. You can also add insurance for floods or earthquakes if applicable to your area, at additional cost. There is also insurance for specific items such as jewelry, art, and computers.

There are several companies we see frequently in the D.C. metropolitan area. One has a gecco for a spokesperson, another features J.K. Simmons, and a third introduces you at the local diner to a guy named Safe Drivers Save 40 percent. Don’t forget the idiot with the emu, the retired football player who claims to be on your side, and Jake who wears khakis.

Those who have a military connection can enroll in USAA and some credit unions also have insurance programs. There’s even a website called lemonade.com, which acts as a clearinghouse to shop your insurance with at least half a dozen companies.

The point is that you may choose your own insurer. Prices will vary depending on your deductible amount and the size, age and condition of the property, so get a couple of estimates just to be sure you’re getting value for your money.

Some people think that the Master Insurance policy in a condo or coop takes care of your insurance needs; it does not. If you’re buying a condo or a coop, you will need what’s called an HO-6 policy. This protects you, your contents, and things from the outer walls in. The same insurers should offer this type of policy.

Sadly, there are several types of dogs that some insurance companies won’t cover. Among them are Pit Bulls (also illegal to own in Prince Georges County), Great Danes, Alaskan Malamutes, German Shepherds, Akitas, Chow Chows, Siberian Huskies, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and the Perro de Presa Canario. Be sure to check with your insurer to see whether your dog might be excluded from coverage.

If you have a conventional loan with a down payment of less than 20%, Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) will insure the lender for the difference from your down payment and 20% of the home’s value so that if you default on your payments, the lender is protected.

PMI costs will vary based on the amount of your down payment, your credit score, and the length of your loan, so be sure to check with your loan officer for the most up to date information. Once you pay down to 78% of the home’s value, the required payment ceases.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) also has a Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP). It is similar to PMI in that it protects the lender and costs vary based on your loan. Since June 3, 2013, MIP can only be terminated if the mortgage is paid in full before the maturity date.

There is no mortgage insurance for Veteran’s Administration (VA) loans, but there is a funding fee that must be paid but can be added to the loan amount. There are exemptions from paying the funding fee, most having to do with disability or receipt of a Purple Heart from actions while on active duty.

Sometimes people get home insurance confused with home warranties. In general, home warranties cover heating, central air conditioning, plumbing, electricity, and appliances. Some offer roof coverage. With these, you contact your warranty provider, outline the problem, pay a service fee and, if the problem is covered by the warranty, a repair person is assigned to fix or replace the item.

Mortgage Protection Insurance (MPI) functions as a life insurance policy: you pay premiums to the insurance company to purchase a specific amount of mortgage protection coverage. Those premiums are based on your attained age and your health, as well as the value of your home and the payoff amount. A term life insurance policy may have more flexibility so check with a life insurance company before you buy to see what is best for you.

Finally, make sure you have a system for keeping track of your insured contents in case you need to make a claim. Our phones make it easy; simply make a panoramic video of everything in each room. Take pictures and keep receipts for expensive or one-of-a-kind items, then upload them to the cloud, where things never catch fire or flood. I’ve been there and it’s not pretty.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia and Director of Education & Mentorship at RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Real Estate

Tips to properly prep your home to sell for the most

Paint, wallpaper, lighting, and more will set the tone

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Be sure to paint your interior walls before selling a home and even consider adding wallpaper with an adhesive back that is easy for buyers to remove.

So you’ve lived in your home for a few years now and while you were able to turn a blind eye to those little items that need some TLC they now need your immediate attention. Fido gnawed on the baseboards instead of the $200 worth of dog toys you’ve purchased for him. Or maybe that one time your friend Tim wore heels — and didn’t wear them well, which resulted in several scuffs on the once beautiful white-oak wide plank flooring you have. 

These items are things that you will surely already have on your “pre-market” list of things to do, but what else can you do to maximize your presence in the market while not breaking the bank?

Paint colors are vital to first impressions. Paint colors evoke so many sensory feels and emotions. It is important to pick a color that is neutral enough but does not cast a hue on the surrounding areas. For example, grey. Who didn’t know I was going there? It’s GREY. Not Blue. Not green. Be sure to pick a pure grey color to neutralize the space and add in other sensory cues. For example, if you select a grey leaning toward a blue hue you might get prospective buyers to question the brightness of a space as blue tones are often found to be “cold” or barren. This is the foundation for a buyer. Do not skip the fresh coat of paint. It will cover up all the imperfections and make a buyer feel welcomed and like your property is truly move-in ready.

Light fixtures are another thing that can easily, and inexpensively, change the feel of a property. Go with what is trendy these days. Don’t worry if it’s something that you feel might be too taste specific, as most buyers understand that light fixtures can easily be changed out and if not then it’s their real estate agent’s job to let them know. 

When I walk through a property with clients who are selling their home, I always recommend paying close attention to light fixtures in the entryway, dining room, pendant lighting in the kitchen, and bathrooms. Again, first impressions are important and everyone judges. Ensure that the foyer light fixture is trendy and takes your breath away. Like the paint color, it will set the tone for the rest of the property. Be sure to pay attention to the lumens or wattage of a light fixture – no dimly lit spaces here.

Wallpaper is another great option to make a space pop. I would urge one considering this to use wallpaper that has a removable adhesive backing and not traditional wallpaper. Ensure it’s something that is not permanent as everything is taste specific. Be sure to mention to your real estate agent that you have placed REMOVABLE wallpaper so that they can inform buyers that it will not be a painstaking process to remove. Go crazy. Use a statement large print wallpaper to attract attention and if you use a neutral color paint you can really go in any direction as far as pattern. One more tip: wallpaper isn’t just for the wall anymore. Think bigger, like the ceiling of an office or powder room, perhaps the inside of a coffered ceiling or a wall above a fireplace. 

Keeping with the “judge a book by its cover” theme here — and ensuring that you set the right tone for your home — one of your largest investments is the curb appeal. This is not only important to homes, so if you have a condo you aren’t getting away that easily. Think of things like a doormat, perhaps door decor, etc. Just make sure that your HOA/condo association does not have any issues with these items. Be sure to plant seasonal plants and potted plants that speak to the season in which your home will be on the market. If you have overgrown trees or shrubs be sure to trim those so that everyone can see your home. Be sure to power wash a driveway or walkway leading to the front door so that everything on the outside looks as great as that freshly painted, wallpapered and well-lit home.

I hope that these simple and rather inexpensive suggestions help you ensure that your property looks its best. If you are interested in ensuring that your home is marketed the best, please feel free to reach out.

Justin Noble is a licensed Realtor in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware. Reach him at 202-503-4243 or [email protected].

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Real Estate

Can you buy a home with Bitcoin?

Buyer, seller must agree to terms before using cryptocurrency

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Bitcoin. Most of us have heard of it. Increasingly, many are looking to invest in it. For many, cryptocurrency has now gone beyond being somewhat of an exclusive province for the more adventurous and risk inclined investors and is becoming far more mainstream, as more than 100,000 vendors worldwide accept it as a valid currency. All of this leads to an important question – can you purchase a home with Bitcoin?

For those hoping to do so, the good news is that it is a possibility. In fact, it is a possibility that may not be as distinct or far-fetched as many might have expected. First and foremost, both buyer and seller must agree on the exchange of Bitcoin for the property. As opposed to situations where more traditional forms of payment are utilized, a Bitcoin transaction requires the agreement of all parties up front.

Although you can buy a home with Bitcoin, this doesn’t mean that most buyers are in a place yet where they actually do. Certainly, using virtual currency to purchase real estate is still a very new and novel idea, so of course, there is still some hesitation in certain sectors of the market. Often, these concerns center around a lack of regulation and understanding of cryptocurrency. Others have concerns about how Bitcoin transactions will be taxed. All of these questions and concerns are understandable, and it is expected that as cryptocurrency continues to become more mainstream these concerns will lessen, and purchasing a home in this manner may be an option for an increasing number of buyers.

There are also definite pros and cons to a bitcoin home sale. One of the advantages, for many, is that the transaction can be completed very quickly. Often, after everything is signed, the transaction can be completed in as little as 10 minutes, depending on network congestion. On the other side of the coin, however, it’s important to be sure that you trust the other party if you’re making a real estate purchase. Bitcoin transactions are often not reversible, so it’s important to be certain about your choices ahead of time.

Ultimately, while there are many ways to finance the purchase of a home, there’s only one way to ensure that you have a smooth and successful real estate experience – and that’s by getting connected with the Realtor who knows and loves the community that you’re interested in.

As an LGBTQ home buyer or seller, you want someone who values you for who you are, who understands your needs and real estate goals, and who will be committed to helping you achieve them. At GayRealEstate.com, that’s where we come in. It is our passion and our purpose to connect LGBTQ homebuyers and sellers, with agents across the country who have the talent, experience, and dedication necessary to make your real estate experience the best it can be. You deserve nothing less. We would be honored to help you get started on your next real estate journey today. Contact us anytime.

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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Real Estate

The trendiest paint colors of 2021

Ultimate Gray, Illuminating, Urbane Bronze among year’s hues.

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Pantone’s two colors of the year are Ultimate Gray and Illuminating. (Image courtesy of Pantone)

Last year, I decided to forego writing about the paint colors of the year, since many people in our vibrant community were out of work. Buying Farrow and Ball paint for $125 a gallon, it would seem, was not the first thing on their to-do lists.

So here we are in 2021 where the Pantone color of the year is…wait for it…Ultimate Gray. 

Aren’t we tired of gray yet? Sure, Pantone pairs it with an outrageously bright yellow called Illuminating, which I would have guessed was a blue-toned white had I not seen it online. The combination of gray and yellow has been used in linens and fabrics for several years, albeit in softer hues, so while the stronger hues have been updated for 2021, I don’t find them fresh or exciting anymore.

There is an array of colors in the lineup this year that are reminiscent of dirt. Dulux has Brave Ground, a neutral earth tone that “creates a feeling of stability, growth and potential, and provides a firm foundation for change and creativity.” That sounds like a color I need to have in my paint collection just to write articles, negotiate real estate contracts, and watch the news.

Sherwin Williams brings us Urbane Bronze, which they describe as “sophisticated” and “rooted in nature.” Harvard naturalist Dr. Edward Wilson would have likened it to biophilia, a term he coined for humankind’s desire to search for “a connection to nature and other forms of life.” I think it would accent cicadas nicely.

Contemplative, the 2021 choice from Pratt and Lambert paints, is a color to think about. It’s a deep moss like that found in the rainforest or on the front of my house. I guess it’s time for a power-wash. 

Teal has been around for decades, but it became so over-used that 20 years ago, Crayola removed Teal Blue from its crayon collection. Now it’s back in Benjamin Moore’s Aegean Teal, a deep, muted blue-green-gray combination, the ocean’s equivalent of mossy Contemplative.

Southwestern dirt is represented by Behr’s Canyon Dusk, which looks a little like a New Mexico landscape on a hot, dry day, without the cacti interspersed or the mountains on the horizon. Or try it on the exterior of your organic adobe home.

Glidden suggests using its 2021 choice, Aqua Fiesta, a softer, muted turquoise-aqua blend that won’t overpower your bedroom, bathroom and kitchen walls, and will promote a feeling of calm where used.

Dutch Boy has selected Earth’s Harmony for 2021. While the name implies a brown tone, this color is actually a cheerful blue that takes you to the moon and back. (Well, to the sky anyway.) Check out how it looks on kitchen cabinets on Dutch Boy’s website. Forget the gray-on-the-bottom and white-on-the-top cabinet theme and liven up your kitchen with this vibrant color.

Now, if you’re not already on overload, Valspar gives us 12 new colors to select from. Many are neutral and all are muted. 

The brown and tan tones include Maple Leaf (think Vermont maple syrup candy), Unforgettable (a perfectly forgettable beige), Arizona Dust (refer to Behr’s Canyon Dusk above), and Gallery Gray (gray is possibly a misnomer – it looks tan to me). 

The blues and greens are Lucy Blue (teal by another name), Blissful Blue (a mid-toned blue gray), Granite Dust (a very light blend of green and gray), Garden Flower (a happy green with only a touch of gray), and Academy Gray (more akin to teal than gray and the darkest of their 2021 choices).

In addition, Valspar gives us Soft Candlelight (a not-too-bright yellow), Cherry Taupe (a neutral with slightly pink tones), and my favorite, Dusty Lavender (true to its name, although anything called Dusty makes me want to go and take a shower).

Clark and Kensington paint combines its colors into three collections of six colors each: Understated Impact, Mindful Living, and Creative Escape, which sound like things to ruminate about while doing goat yoga. 

Each collection features hues that are like the blues, greens, tans, and grays created by every other paint company. The one exception is Red Tulip, found in the Understated Impact collection. It’s more of a ruby or garnet than a true red, but it’s nice to see someone paint outside the box. 

This month, I hope to see more decorating in gem colors: Garnet, Amber, Citrine, Emerald, Sapphire, and Amethyst, with accents of Smoky Quartz and Tiger Eye, and a smattering of Sky-Blue Topaz, Rose Quartz, and Pearls. 

Now, wouldn’t that make a nice flag?  Stay colorful, my friends.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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