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Guidance in Positioning Your Assets to Develop an Overall Strategy

by Andy Block - Mortgage Advisor

As you know, Opes Advisors provides integrated personal finance advice that encompasses stocks, bonds, real estate and real estate financing. Our unique expertise enables us to provide our clients with guidance in positioning all of their assets to develop an overall strategy that is most effective in turning out their financial future.

With our expertise and our proprietary software, Opes Advantage™, we can actively and objectively evaluate the tradeoffs within life and shows the financial impact those "what ifs" and associated decisions can have on specific goals for your future.

This active – and interactive – program allows our advisors to immediately modify criteria and assumptions to reflect the changes and opportunities that regularly occur in people’s lives. And, it can be instantly modified as often as needed to consider additional scenarios.

For example, our clients (a 40 year old couple with three young children) were considering moving up to a bigger home. They have about $500,000 in equity in their current home and were considering buying a home for $1,200,000. Their annual income is $225,000 and they wanted to put 30% down on their purchase.

The detailed analysis of their situation revealed that if this couple followed the above approach, they will deplete their invested assets by age 75.

We proposed a number of various “what ifs” for them to consider.
What if they. . . .

•    Put 20% down on the house instead and fully fund a 529 Plan with the difference?
•    Maximize contributions to their 401k and receive some matching from their employers?
•    Reduce their household expenses by $500 a month?
•    Retire at age 65 instead of age 63?

With the immediate and client specific results our software provides, we can determine which variables can be adjusted to create the most significant impact on my clients' financial futures. In fact, we determined that by making some relatively minor changes in their actions, their assets should never run out. You can click here to view the impact of the various "what ifs" we explored with them.

In experiencing the power of these results, our clients were relieved of the insecurity of wondering how their decision would impact them and were able to move forward with confidence.

As always, please call me to discuss specific situations or to schedule time to review the various “what ifs” in life.

Andy Block - Mortgage Advisor & Financial Advisor
Opes Advisors

Email Me

Direct: 650.931.0605
Fax: 650.931.0601

License #01096311
400 S. El Camino Real
Suite 250
San Mateo, CA 94402
Fax 650.931.0601


Opes Advisors is licensed as a registered investment advisor with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and is licensed as a Residential Mortgage Lender by the CA Dept of Real Estate.

Author and Business are endorsed by Samia Realty Group
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Schlage LiNK™

by Samia S. Morgan

The latest technology offered from Schlage gives homeowners the ability to monitor and control their home from anywhere. Schlage LiNK™ lets you remotely control and monitor access to your home 24/7 from any Internet enabled computer and most web enabled cell phones.  This new remote home management offers many benefits, below are some of the things you can do.

•Check the status of your lock and set temporary codes to your home from your Internet enabled computer or cell phone
•Change, add, or delete access codes to your lock remotely
•Access a 90 day history of who has accessed your lock

Some of the benefits:

•No key to hide, lose, carry, or forget
•Ready to use out of the box. Installs quickly, usually in less than 30 minutes
•Powered by a 9-volt battery. If the Internet goes down or the power goes out, the lock still provides you secure access to your home
•Use the keys provided with the lock as a standard door lock
•Ability to program up to 19 unique user codes
•Add, change, or delete user codes in seconds

The system can be accessed via computer or cell phone and you can send a command to your home using the password-protected Schlage LiNK online interface on your cell phone or computer. The command travels to your home via the Internet, using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption technology, the same security used for online banking

Many cell phones support the Schlage LiNK application. Currently, Blackberry and Windows Mobile phones are supported with the Schlage LiNK phone application on Verizon. A Schlage LiNK application compatible with other Verizon phones is undergoing testing and should be available by the end of 2009. To see if your phone is supports this system, text “phone” to 695465 (MYLINK) on your cell phone to see if it’s compatible.

Home Warranties

by Samia S. Morgan

When your purchase a new home, the expenses can add up and the last thing you need to worry about an unexpected expense. If you are concerned about potential repairs or appliance malfunctions in your new home, you might want to consider purchasing a home warranty. A home warranty is a service contract which helps protect home owners against the cost of unexpected covered repairs or replacement on their major systems and appliances that break down due to normal wear and tear. A home warranty is a good idea for first-time home buyers with no experience maintaining a home.

The cost for these warranties are fairly inexpensive, typically ranging from $250 to $600, depending on coverage. The policies are usually prepaid for a year in advance, at which time they expire or can be renewed. There are many different plans with different requirements, most tend to operate the same way. If an  appliance or item covered breaks or stops working, the home owner calls the home warranty company. The home warranty company calls a provider with which it has an arrangement and they contact the homeowner to come out to fix the problem.  Typically if the problem can be fixed per the contract coverage than the warranty company pays the contractor directly.

Below are some of the items typiclaly covered by these types of warranties. Each company is different so always obtain a list of items covreed before purchasing a policy.

  • Air conditioner system/ Furnace / heating
  • Dishwashers
  • Doorbells
  • Water heater
  • Garbage disposal
  • Inside plumbing stoppages
  • Ceiling fans
  • Electrical systems
  • Range and oven

Typically outdoor items such as sprinklers, or pool filters/spa systems are not covered unless specific coverage requested

Moving into a new home is expensive and having an unexpected repair can easily drain a budget. While part of home ownership requires dealing with unexpected breakdowns and repairs, having a home warranty can help to covered repairs or replacement easier and less costly.

First Time Homeseller Tips

by Samia S. Morgan

Buying a home for the first time can be a stressful experience but the same is true if you are selling your home for the first time. Homeowners who are selling for the first time will have many questions. Will my home sell? How should I price it? What do I need to do to prepare to sell my home?  Below are some tips and answers to these common questions.  

Hire An Experienced Agent.  When selling your home for the first time it is a good idea to have someone on your side who can answer your questions and provide you with the guidance you need. Selling your home on your own, especially for the first time can be a very difficult process.  By using an experienced real estate agent that you feel comfortable with, you can set a fair and competitive selling price for your home that will increase your odds of a quick sale. Another benefit in working with an agent is that they will work with potential buyers so you don't have to. Agents will also have more experience negotiating home sales.

Prepare Your Home Properly. It is vital to prepare your home for sale and to show your home at it's best. A clean, uncluttered house is the first place to start, Also all repairs need to be addressed, from major to minor. It is not wise to try to hide any problems as they will be found when the potential buyer does the home inspection. Failing to do these things will not only reduce your sale price, but may also prevent you from getting a sale at all.


Be Flexible On The Asking Price. It is important to prepare yourself that you probably wont get the asking price. Most all buyers will negotiate to get the best price, especially in a buyers market. And if you want to sell your home you will have to work with them, especially in a soft market where competition is stiff. It is important to list your home at a price that will attract buyers but you will need to leave some breathing room for negotiations. A successful sale is one where the buyer feels like they aer getting a good deal and the seller feels that they received an amount that they needed as well. 


Because this is a buyers market and competition is tough, it is a good possibility that your home may not sell quickly and may sit on the market for far longer than you expect. Do your research and work with an experienced agent who can help you avoid costly mistakes and help you to achieve a seamless, lucrative sale every home seller hopes for!

Saving On Homeowners Insurance

by Samia S. Morgan

There are many costs involved when you own a home. From repairs, upkeep and insurance it all adds up. Homeowners insurance can be a big part of your budget but the price you pay for your homeowners insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending on the insurance company you buy your policy from. Here are some things to consider when buying homeowners insurance.

1. Do your homework and shop around

Check with several different companies for the best rates and what type of service they offer. You can look online for different companies and their rates quickly to compare. Check with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (www.naic.org) for information to help you choose an insurer in your state, including complaints. States often make information available on typical rates charged by major insurers and many states provide the frequency of consumer complaints by company.

Also check consumer guides, insurance agents, companies and online insurance quote services. This will give you an idea of price ranges and tell you which companies have the lowest prices. But don't consider price alone. The insurer you select should offer a fair price and deliver the quality service you would expect if you needed assistance in filing a claim. So in assessing service quality, use the complaint information cited above and talk to a number of insurers to get a feeling for the type of service they give. Ask them what they would do to lower your costs.

2. Raise Your Deductible

Deductibles are the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company starts to pay a claim, according to the terms of your policy. The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on your premiums. Nowadays, most insurance companies recommend a deductible of at least $500. If you can afford to raise your deductible to $1,000, you may save as much as 25 percent. Remember, if you live in a disaster-prone area, your insurance policy may have a separate deductible for certain kinds of damage. If you live near the coast in the East, you may have a separate windstorm deductible; if you live in a state vulnerable to hail storms, you may have a separate deductible for hail; and if you live in an earthquake-prone area, your earthquake policy has a deductible.

3. Make payments electronically.

Many companies now charge up to $5 for mailed or phone payments, so have your payments automatically deducted to shave that cost. Sometimes the deductions can come from your credit card, so you don't have to worry if the money is in your bank account when payment time comes.

4. Buy your home and auto policies from the same insurer

Some companies that sell homeowners, auto and liability coverage will take 5 to 15 percent off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them. But make certain this combined price is lower than buying the different coverages from different companies.

5. Make your home more disaster resistant

Find out from your insurance agent or company representative what steps you can take to make your home more resistant to windstorms and other natural disasters. You may be able to save on your premiums by adding storm shutters, reinforcing your roof or buying stronger roofing materials. Older homes can be retrofitted to make them better able to withstand earthquakes. In addition, consider modernizing your heating, plumbing and electrical systems to reduce the risk of fire and water damage.

6. Improve your home security

You can usually get discounts of at least 5 percent for a smoke detector, burglar alarm or dead-bolt locks. Some companies offer to cut your premium by as much as 15 or 20 percent if you install a sophisticated sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police, fire or other monitoring stations. These systems aren't cheap and not every system qualifies for a discount. Before you buy such a system, find out what kind your insurer recommends, how much the device would cost and how much you'd save on premiums.

7. Seek out other discounts

Companies offer several types of discounts, like senior discounts. Insurance companies have found that retired people stay at home more and spot fires sooner than working people. Older people also have more time for maintaining their homes. If you're at least 55 years old and retired, you might qualify for a discount of as much as 10%. Some employers and professional associations administer group insurance programs that may offer a better deal than you can get elsewhere.

8. Maintain a good credit record

Establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance costs. Insurers are increasingly using credit information to price homeowners insurance policies. In most states, your insurer must advise you of any adverse action, such as a higher rate, at which time you should verify the accuracy of the information on which the insurer relied. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don't obtain more credit than you need and keep your credit balances as low as possible. Check your credit record on a regular basis and have any errors corrected promptly so that your record remains accurate.

9. Stay with the same insurer

If you've kept your coverage with a company for several years, you may receive a special discount for being a long-term policyholder. Some insurers will reduce their premiums by 5 percent if you stay with them for three to five years and by 10 percent if you remain a policyholder for six years or more. But make certain to periodically compare this price with that of other policies.

10. Review the limits in your policy and the value of your possessions at least once a year

You want your policy to cover any major purchases or additions to your home. But you don't want to spend money for coverage you don't need. If your five-year-old fur coat is no longer worth the $5,000 you paid for it, you'll want to reduce or cancel your floater (extra insurance for items whose full value is not covered by standard homeowners policies such as expensive jewelry, high-end computers and valuable art work) and pocket the difference.

Protecting Yourself From Carbon Monoxide

by Samia S. Morgan

With the official arrival of winter last week, the cooler temps in the area have homeowners using more fuel-burning appliances being in the home. Such appliances include ovens, space heaters, generators, and fireplaces. These appliances can also cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) to build up in the home. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. With these factors it is a good idea to install  carbon monoxide detectors to safeguard your family.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, invisible gas. It results from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, such as wood, kerosene, gasoline, charcoal, propane, natural gas, and oil. This gas can form in the home from incomplete combustion from any flame-fueled (i.e., not electric) device, and open flames, such as from ovens and ranges, are the most common source of carbon monoxide.

If you are considering purchasing a Carbon monoxide detector, they work by triggering an alarm based on an accumulation of carbon monoxide over time. Carbon monoxide can be dangerous if you are exposed to high levels in a short period of time, or to lower levels of carbon monoxide over a long period of time. Carbon monoxide detectors range in price from $30 to $150 and are most effective models are those that offer that offer back-up battery power.

Proper placement of a carbon monoxide detector is important. If you are installing only one carbon monoxide detector, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends it be located near the sleeping area, where it can wake you if you are asleep. Additional detectors on every level and in every bedroom of a home provides extra protection against carbon monoxide poisoning.

Homeowners should remember not to install carbon monoxide detectors directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances, as appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon start-up. A detector should not be placed within fifteen feet of heating or cooking appliances or in or near very humid areas such as bathrooms.

 

 

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Making The Decision To Rent Or Buy

by Samia S. Morgan

Even in a buyers market, a common question I often am asked from potential homebuyers is whether or not they should continue to rent or make the plunge and purchase a home. And my answer usually comes down to this: It depends on you--your situation and your goals for the future.

Some questions I ask are: Do you think you’re ready to move into the world of homeownership? Does your job require you to relocate frequently? Are you ready to “settle down” and raise a family? Not sure what you want to do yet?

As a real estate professional, I do know that buying a home has real advantages in today’s market: Realtor.com reports that housing affordability is the best it’s been in nearly 30 years. Right now buyers can cash in on hefty price drops and rock-bottom mortgage interest rates--and many people don’t realize just how great the market is!

So should you rent or should you buy? The Our Family Place Home Buyer’s Information Center lists some of the pros and cons noted below, and I’ve added some of my own:

Buying Advantages:

* You gain equity in your home through mortgage payments.
* Your home could be one of the best long-term investments you will ever make.
* You can decorate and remodel the way you want.
* You get homeowner tax breaks.
* You build your credit standing.
* You can improve your property using home equity loans.
* You gain independence and pride as a homeowner.
* You can transfer your property through your will.

Buying Disadvantages:

* Your costs are variable.
* Your equity may change due to market conditions.
* You usually must sell your home to move.
* You handle maintenance and upkeep.
* You usually need more cash to get in.

Renting Advantages:

* Your costs are fixed for the term of your rental.
* You don’t lose equity.
* You can move at the end of your lease term.
* You have fewer maintenance worries.
* You need less cash to get in.

Renting Disadvantages:

* You never get equity.
* You can’t always decorate or remodel the way you want.
* You don’t get any tax breaks.
* Your lease is for a limited time period determined by your landlord.
* Your rent may go up at the end of your lease and other terms may change.
* Your landlord may not fix problems or invest in routine property maintenance.
* You normally can’t transfer your lease without the landlord’s OK.
* You may face eviction if you and your landlord have a dispute.

There are many of variables to consider, and you’ll need to do your homework to decide what’s right for you. Please be in touch if you have any questions. I am always available to assist potential buyers debating the “rent v. buy” decision.

Is an FHA-Insured Mortgage Right for You?

by Samia S. Morgan

The days of putting little money down to buy a home aren’t over.

After years of risky mortgages backed up by small down payments, most lenders aren’t underwriting mortgages without a significant sum up front and a high credit score. But a decades-old loophole can still put home buyers in a house for next to nothing. Mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) allow borrowers to get approved with a down payment as small as 3.5% of the agreed selling price of the house and don’t require a high credit score.

As millions of Americans have come to realize, getting into a house for little money down has its disadvantages. Borrowers who’ve pumped little equity into their home are often more willing to walk away from it during lean times that keep them from making payments; this risk is further elevated when home values are in decline and troubled borrowers are unable to refinance or sell the home at a price that covers their losses.

Still, FHA-insured mortgages are far less risky than the subprime mortgages that lenders originated before the housing bust. FHA-insured mortgages require documentation and verifiable proof that the borrower is capable of making their monthly payments. (Most subprime mortgages didn’t require such proof.)

The looser terms of FHA-insured mortgages have helped make them more popular. Today, FHA-insured mortgages make up about 25% of the mortgage market, up from 3% in 2006, FHA commissioner David Stevens said in a speech earlier this month. In June, the FHA insured 194,000 loans – the highest monthly total in the agency’s history, according to Stevens. For fiscal year 2009, the dollar amount of FHA-insured mortgages is likely to reach 30% of mortgage originations, up from around 4% in 2005 and 2006, says Stu Feldstein, the president of SMR Research, a mortgage-data tracking firm.

“FHA-insured mortgages are one of the only games in town, especially if you can’t qualify for a traditional mortgage,” says Gibran Nicholas, the chairman of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based CMPS Institute, which trains and certifies mortgage lenders and brokers. “Now that the subprime market is gone, FHA is filling the gap.”

Renovating Before Selling. Renovations That Sell.

by Samia S. Morgan
It is no secret that the current buyers market that we are in has left home sellers wondering what it will take to get the best possible price for their home and as quickly as possible.

Many homeowners are turning to renovating their homes in an attempt to set themselves apart from other homes for sale in the community, but what renovations can be done to get the largest rate of return?

First and foremost it is important to keep in mind, whether you are selling now or in the future, general maintenance and upkeep of your home is a logical investment. Homebuyers are drawn to “move-in-ready” homes so they are not burdened with having to tend to basic repairs after moving in.

With that said, there has been a lot of discussion, articles written and blog posts made that outline the types of renovations, beyond general maintenance, that are commonly taken on, resulting in a reasonable return on your investment when selling your home. These renovations include:

•    The Kitchen
•    Bathrooms
•    Floors and Wall Finishes
•    New Siding
•    Extra Living Space
•    Windows
•    Decks
•    Energy Efficient Improvements

Before you decide to jump into any major renovations before selling, it is always a good idea to consult with your Realtor® to evaluate the market values in your community.  Ideally you want the renovations you decide to spend your time, effort and money on, to get you the best possible price for your home (within a reasonable neighborhood price point) and the largest return on your investment.

Major renovations before selling can be pricey, time consuming and a great investment, but shouldn’t be entered into lightly. Depending on your time frame and when you need/want to be out of your home, all renovations should be carefully planned and reviewed with your agent.

How to Prepare Your Home For a Showing

by Samia S. Morgan

You only have one chance to make a first impression with potential buyers so it is important that your home is in tip top shape and ready for showing.

Here are a few things that you can do to help your agent.

1.       Tidy Your Home

 

2.       Unclutter cupboards and closets

 

3.       Make any minor repairs

4.       Cut lawn in the summer and shovel walks in the winter

5.       Put away all valuables

6.       Lock up pets or take them with you

7.       Open all drapes and blinds

8.       Make beds

9.       Turn on all the lights

10.    Leave the house

 

Helping your agent with these few things will help in creating a great first impression for each prospective buyer.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 13

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Photo of Samia S. Morgan, Inc. Real Estate
Samia S. Morgan, Inc.
dba Samia Realty Group
BRE# 00967165
San Mateo CA 94403
650-678-3633