Home is where the heart is. It’s also where a big chunk of your financial responsibility lies. Home ownership is a pillar of the American dream, and while many of those in younger generations either can’t afford to or actively choose not to pursue it, those who buy in to the housing market often see major financial benefits.
There is no doubt that becoming a homeowner is one of the biggest financial decisions you will make in your entire life. It’s also undeniable that simply getting to that point requires a certain degree of financial success. You need to come up with a down payment and closing costs (generally about 3 percent to 4 percent of the total home purchase price for buyers) before you can even turn the key in the door. But among those who take on the big task of home ownership, many see financial benefits that far outweigh their initial investment, especially during tax season. Here are 5 of them.
1. Build up a stronger financial future
The recent recession threw a wrench into the idea that home ownership always builds wealth over time. But the fact remains that owning a home is one of the fundamental means of accumulating wealth as we age. The caveat: you have to buy a house that you can actually afford.
Asset-wealth is a much more secure predictor of future financial stability than income, which can—and often does, in today’s evolving economy—change from year to year. In a strong economy, home values generally increase by 3 percent to 4 percent every year, thanks to inflation and natural population growth. From 2011 to 2016, as the housing market has recovered from the bubble that contributed to the recession, home values have been increasing even higher at an average rate of 6.3 percent a year. Putting money into home ownership versus a rental is akin to the difference between putting money into an investment account versus a no-interest checking account, with the latter being only as valuable as it is in the moment while the former increases over time.
2. Home ownership tax deductions
You get a number of tax breaks for owning a home, most notably a deduction for the interest and property tax portion of your mortgage. This deduction is particularly useful for off-setting the initial financial blow that comes with purchasing your property, since in the first years of owning your home you’re mostly just paying off the interest on your mortgage, as opposed to the principal. The first year you buy your home you are also able to write off any mortgage points on your loan, which can lead to pretty considerable savings depending on how many points you claimed. And if you ever decide to refinance your home after building sufficient equity in it, you also have the option of taking out a home equity line of credit, which is itself tax deductible.
Do keep in mind: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed in 2017, limits mortgage interest deductions to $750,000 of your total mortgage debt, including any home equity credit you take out. Previously, the limit was $1,000,000 in mortgage interest deductions plus a $100,000 for home equity credit. Read up on the new rules here.
3. Amass equity
Every single month that you pay your mortgage you own just a bit more of your home. This is a big benefit over renting, where you’re paying comparable monthly fees without any comparable stakes. The equity in your home builds in two ways and often concurrently: (1) equity builds as the value of your home increases, and (2) equity builds as you pay off more of your loan. These two factors mean that after the first couple of years (when, again, you’re mostly just paying mortgage interest), every month you pay money toward your loan you are building up your financial resources for the future. It’s why some people refer to mortgage payments as “forced savings.”
Want to build equity even faster? Take steps to pay off your debt quicker (like financing with a shorter term loan or paying more than you owe every month) or increase your property value (think home improvements and a focus on routine maintenance).
4. More control over day-to-day housing-related costs
Unless you change the terms of your mortgage, you know the base cost that you’re going to be spending to live in your home every month, both now and in the future. This affords more stability than rent, which is variable and can (and often does) change over time. And control over costs goes even further than that. As a renter, you don’t have a say over whether your landlord supplies you with energy-efficient appliances that can save you hundreds of dollars every year, but you do have to pay the utility bill either way. As a homeowner, you can make better short and long-term financial decisions that are geared specifically toward your own financial goals and abilities. While this isn’t likely going to help you save for your future in the same way building equity does, it should bring you peace of mind to know that you’re saving money everywhere that you can.
5. Positive perks
Home ownership has other financial benefits that may come in handy for you someday. For example, a mortgage is considered “good debt,” and as such, it is likely to increase your credit score, provided you always make your payments on time. It also proves your credit-worthiness for other things you may want to consider, like a business loan or a new line of credit. It can even lower your monthly car insurance payments. While perks like these should certainly not be deciding factors when determining whether or not you should purchase a home, they do add up as additional benefits if you choose to opt in to the housing market.
But what about the financial risks?
Owning a home isn’t all equity building and cost cutting. Aside from the significant payments that have to be made in order to own a home in the first place, there are also some financial risks that all potential and current homeowners need to keep in mind when trying to balance their budgets.
The biggest financial risks for homeowners are in terms of maintenance costs. There’s no landlord to put the responsibility on if the roof starts leaking or the heating system goes out in the middle of winter. While you’re unlikely to face major repairs like this all of the time, they do occasionally come up and it’s important for all homeowners to have savings set aside to deal with them when they happen.
Then there’s the risk of home depreciation. Ultimately, it’s your home’s land that appreciates in value over time, barring any major negative changes in your area like a natural disaster or a school or major business closing. The structure of your home, however, tends to depreciate in value as things get worn out and lived in. While you don’t have a lot of control over what goes on in your neighborhood that may negatively impact the price of your land, you do, fortunately, have some control over maintaining and increasing value on your home’s structure by keeping up with maintenance and putting in certain home improvements. Don’t let your home’s value be something that you just tacitly accept—work toward making sure your home, and not just the land it sits on, is appreciating as the years go on.
As you make your way through your spring cleaning checklist, don’t forget to dig out your insurance policies and look them over. Below are some of the reviewable elements of your home, life and auto insurance policies.
1. Make sure you’re not overpaying for insufficient coverage
Experts say the top insurance mistake is being underinsured, which happens when you fail to update your coverage as your property, lifestyle or needs change.
Take the time to assess those changes and determine where you need to adjust your insurance coverage. For example, if you like to entertain at home, consider increasing your liability coverage and purchasing a separate umbrella policy.
Umbrella liability policies typically offer a minimum of $1 million of additional liability protection and cost just a few hundred dollars a year.
2. Pay attention to increased rates
Insurance companies don’t always tell you how much your rates increased on renewals. While doing your spring cleaning, grab last year’s documents and compare the rates for yourself. If your rates rose by five percent or more, call your insurance agent and ask them to explain the increase.
Knowing whether the increase resulted from changes in your risk profile or from general increases in the marketplace can help you negotiate and shop for comparisons.
3. Learn how to lower your premium
You may be eligible for discounts that can lower your homeowners insurance premium. Our golden rule is to ask! You may miss out out savings if you don’t ask what is available.
4. Make sure you have enough personal property insurance
Most people do not take the time to inventory their personal possessions, and often do not have enough personal property insurance as a result. Homeowners should be careful not to overlook their belongings as a way to keep insurance costs down.
It is very likely that you have added new belongings to your home over the last year. If so, now is the time to inventory those belongings and ensure you have the right type of coverage for the actual value of your property.
Most consumers automatically accept the amount of contents coverage named in their policy. Instead, read the policies carefully to make sure there are no gaps in coverage, and check the dollar limits and excluded causes for personal property.
It is in your best interest to raise the dollar limit if necessary, as it will help you better replace or recover the value of your possessions if disaster strikes.
Having an updated list and video footage of your belongings could help you recover the true worth of your belongings.
If you have a life insurance policy, you should make sure to review its principal points at least once a year, including beneficiary, benefit amount, term, loans and cash value.
1. Update your beneficiaries
Many of us forget to update our policies when circumstances change. Life events such as marriage, getting divorced or having children should prompt you to update your beneficiaries. The beneficiary designations on your life insurance policy will trump any other documents you’ve created outlining your beneficiaries, so ensure that they match!
2. Review the term of your policy
If you have term life insurance, it’s important to know when the term ends. An annual review will prevent a term policy expiration from sneaking up on you. If you are caught unaware, you may face a major premium hike.
Some term policies may be convertible to permanent insurance on their anniversary, which others may be convertible at the end of their term.
3. Assess the amount of your policy
Make sure the amount of your life insurance policy is still appropriate for its intentions and for your financial situation.
Take time to evaluate what you intend for the benefits to cover. Are you hoping to fund your burial expenses, or provide college tuition for your children? Does your policy provide sufficient coverage for these needs? If not, it may be time to look into additional coverage.
If your personal wealth has increased significantly in the last year, you may consider more life insurance in order to protect your family from estate taxes.
1. Reassess your comprehensive/collision coverage
If you have collision and comprehensive coverage, take time to make sure the limits are adequate, or whether you still need it. If you don’t have the coverage, consider whether it’s time to add it.
If you’re driving an older car worth less than $1,000 – or less than 10 times the insurance premium – having comprehensive or collision coverage may no longer make sense. Dropping either the comprehensive or collision coverage may reduce your premium.
2. Ask about any new discounts.
Ask about any discounts that you may qualify for, such as:
For questions about your insurance or to get a quote, contact us today!
It’s that time of year again! As snow freezes and thaws, you may experience ice dams building up in your gutters or on low-sloping roof areas. Unfortunately, this means that a blockage has been created and the water from the melting snow on your roof cannot flow from the gutters to the downspouts. This can potentially cause the water to back up under your shingles.
Oftentimes if the melting snow, water and ice cannot move through your gutters unobstructed, it finds a way into your home, causing damage to your walls, ceilings or insulation. Typically there is minimal, if any, damage to the shingles on your roof. However, it may be necessary to pay a professional to remove snow or ice in the affected area to prevent any further damage. As your policy requires you to mitigate damages, a reasonable cost to do so may be covered under your applicable building policy. In the event of a covered loss, be sure to work with your contractor and claim adjuster to determine a reasonable cost for this service, and always obtain an invoice to present for reimbursement (subject to your policy limits and deductible).
You cannot control the weather, but you can take steps to identify ice dams and prevent them from causing damage to your home:
A list of your belongings will make filing an insurance claim much easier!
In the event of a fire or other disaster, would you be able to remember all your possessions? Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance. Here's how to create one.
Start your home inventory now
If you're just setting up a household, starting a home inventory is relatively simple. If you’ve been living in the same house for many years, however, the task of creating a list can seem daunting—but it doesn’t have to be. Get started here.
Use technology to make your home inventory easier
A simple pencil and paper will suffice, but technology can make creating a home inventory much easier.
Keep your home inventory up-to-date and safely stored
Your home inventory is only useful if it's accurate and you can access it to provide information to your insurance company in case of fire, theft or other destructive disaster. Regardless of the medium you've used to create your list, keep it backed up and in a safe place.
Next steps: After you've taken your inventory, learn how much homeowners insurance you need.
Winter has officially arrived, which has been blatantly apparent in our recent freezing temperatures (brrrr)! Check out these tips for added protection.
• Have all furnaces serviced and chimneys inspected and cleaned.
• Check your home’s perimeter and seal any air leaks with caulk and weather-stripping. Add additional insulation in the attic—most homes need at least 12-15 inches. Make sure insulation does not come in contact with recessed lighting that is not approved for insulation contact.
• Insulate pipes that go through exterior walls or colder areas such as garage ceilings or unheated attics.
• Turn water off to exterior hose bibs, and detach garden hoses and empty the hose bibs.
• Locate the water main shutoff valve and keep the access path clear in case a frozen pipe leak or other water issue needs to be stopped.
• If you will be away from home, make sure heating is set no lower than 60 degrees so that even cold spots do not become too cold. Open sink cabinet doors to allow heat in, and let faucets drip slightly to prevent frozen pipes.
• Consider installing an automatic water shutoff valve to prevent extensive water damages.
• In high snowfall areas, make sure no exhaust vents become buried by snow.
• Install adequate attic insulation. This helps keep your roof cold, which prevents ice damming
as a result of snow continuously melting on the roof. When replacing a roof, consider an ice
shield membrane underlayment.
• Identify a local roofer that clears snow from roofs and removes ice dams to prevent roof
collapse or interior water damage. Not all roofers clear roof snow or ice dams.
• Service back-up generators and have adequate fuel supplies on hand. Do not store fuel
inside. Even if the generator is portable, it should never run indoors.
• Have emergency supplies on hand, such as flashlights, batteries and converters to use in the
car to charge devices.
• If a prolonged power outage means having to relocate, consider shutting off the water to the
house and draining the water lines, and follow the steps listed above for being away from
For more information, please contact us or visit www.aig.com/pcg.
Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hundreds of people in the U.S. die from carbon-monoxide (CO) poisoning—and the invisible, odorless gas sickens thousands more.
The numbers seem even more tragic when you consider that most of these deaths and illnesses are preventable. Here are tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to help protect yourself and your loved ones at home and work.
In general, the same precautions for homes apply here, but there are a few additional considerations for the workplace, particularly one where gas-powered machinery is used:
Whether you’re at home or work, always be on the lookout for symptoms of CO exposure: They include dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and nausea. If you suspect an issue, leave the area as soon as possible and call 911—because when it comes to CO, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
From building materials to furnishings, many of the things in your home likely aren’t as flame-resistant as those from yesteryear.
A fire in a modern home is a “perfect storm,” according to safety consulting and certification company UL (Underwriters Laboratories).
Larger homes, more open layouts, new construction materials and other factors mean fires burn more quickly, leaving less time for occupants to escape — and for firefighters to stop the flames. How much less time? About 30 years ago, you had about 17 minutes to get out of the house once it caught fire. Today? Just three or four minutes.
A lot goes into creating that “perfect storm,” experts say. Here are some key factors:
What can you do? Well, unless you’re having a house built or doing an extensive remodel, you can’t really change the materials used to construct your home. However, there are a few things you should do immediately to help keep you and your family safe, no matter where you live:
To learn more about fire safety, check out these tips from the American Red Cross. Because the best fire protection of all is preventing one from starting in the first place!
As a homeowner, one of the most important aspects of your home isn’t something you use daily. And it isn’t something flashy you show off to friends. It’s your homeowners insurance policy, and it protects you in more ways than you may think, helping you rebuild your home or repair damage that results from a covered loss.
But, that’s not all. It can also help cover the costs of a lawsuit, help you pay for somewhere else to live when your home is uninhabitable, and much more.
Home insurance is typically very comprehensive, but all policies have exclusions and coverage limits. It’s vital to know what those are so you know what’s covered and what’s not. Fire damage? Typically covered. Flood damage? Typically not.
With this guide, you can begin to understand what a typical home insurance policy covers. Just keep in mind that coverage varies from carrier to carrier, region to region and even policy to policy. Only your individual home policy can tell you the coverage you have and that which you don’t. For an even better understanding of your home policy coverage, review it with one of our agents.
What Home Insurance Covers The typical homeowners insurance policy has six types of coverage. They are commonly known as:
Remember that, despite having all of these different types of coverage, you’re only covered up to the dollar amounts that you select and only for covered losses, as outlined in your policy. Typically, you can change these policy limits at any time if you’d like to purchase more coverage. This is a good idea if, for example, you’ve recently added on to your home, acquired some pricey personal belongings or made other updates to your property. If needed, you can also reduce your coverage, though always ensure you are adequately protected.
What Home Insurance Doesn’t Cover
It’s just as important to know what your homeowners insurance doesn’t cover as it is to know what your home policy does cover. For starters, your policy does not cover any damage or repairs costing less than your deductible. It also does not cover any costs that exceed the coverage limits outlined in your policy. You are solely responsible for excess costs, unless you have an umbrella policy to provide additional liability coverage for a covered loss.
More than likely, your policy also does not cover routine maintenance and repairs, as well as damage due to animals, termites, floods, earthquakes, sinkholes, sewer backups, and other incidents. These are often considered non-covered losses. If you experience a non-covered loss, as outlined by your policy, you will be responsible for the costs.
What Home Insurance May Cover
Outside of the typical home insurance coverage, optional or separate coverage may be available from your carrier or from a different carrier. For example, you may be able to purchase earthquake or flood coverage separate from your homeowners policy.
Other coverage options are add-ons to your existing homeowners insurance. These can include identity protection and equipment breakdown coverage, which covers the cost to repair or replace a range of appliances and other equipment, such as pool equipment, in your home. If this sounds similar to an extended appliance warranty, it is. The difference is that you can insure an array of appliances at once through this optional coverage rather than purchasing a separate warranty for each one.
This guide is a starting point for understanding your home insurance policy. Your own policy may vary greatly from the descriptions above depending on the state where you live, your carrier, and the coverage you have selected. So take a close look at your policy by reviewing your documents or viewing your coverage online. Or, even better, sit down with one of our insurance agents who can explain your coverage in detail, as well as discuss whether your policy provides adequate protection for your home, property, and belongings.
Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.
“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”
That’s a quote from author Hal Borland — but another favorite saying might be even more appropriate for this time of year: “Be prepared.”
After all, warmer weather brings plenty of risk to go with its beauty. If you aren’t ready, you could find yourself with more spring cleaning than you bargained for after heavy rains, hailstorms, and other hazards.
Here are five things you can do to get yourself and your property all set for the season.
To learn more, check out Safeco Insurance®.
Home improvement: It’s a never-ending process for many people, and for those of us who aren’t necessarily handy, it can be a hassle, too.
But there are plenty of simple maintenance tasks and other improvements you can handle to make your home safer – whether you’re handy or not. And you won’t have to break out the power tools (or any tools at all in some instances) or worry about getting in over your head.
You need running water in your home – but not water running in your home, if you know what we mean. Even minor leaks can cause major problems, from higher water bills to damage requiring costly repairs (maybe even the kind you can’t tackle yourself). Here are some easy ways to make sure your water stays where it should:
Keep Your Family (and Your Guests) On Their Feet
Millions of Americans – many of them older adults – are injured in falls each year. About 2.5 million were hurt in 2013 alone, according to the National Safety Council and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Look around your home. Should you make some of these fixes?
Give Everyone Some Air
Pollution isn’t just an outside thing – the air in your home can be unhealthy, too. But helping people breathe a little easier isn’t hard when you follow these steps:
Home improvement doesn’t have to mean a kitchen remodel or finishing the basement. Making your home safer, in fact, just might be the best improvement of all.
Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.