Category Archives: Real Estate

RNR’s Rock Star of the Month: Jen Kilzer

It’s no coincidence that RNR also stands for “Rock ‘N Roll” … because we think all of our agents are rock stars! Each month we will feature one of our team members to find out more about them and why they joined the biz. First up is Jen Kilzer, a rookie agent who is more than ready to help you achieve your home buying and selling dreams!


Jen

Q: How long have you been in the business?

A: I am new to the business; I entered into the real estate world in 2016.

Q: What’s your specialization?

A: I work with residential home buyers, especially people trying to establish themselves a bit later in life or re-establish themselves after life changing events, such as divorce.

Q: Where is your hometown?

A: I grew up in Richfield and returned there as an adult for 10 years. I currently reside in South Minneapolis.

Q: Why did you decide to become a real estate agent?

A: I have always had a passion for real estate and I’ve spent many years stalking homes on the internet, so I thought it was a good idea to take my passion for helping people and combine that with my love of housing and turn it into my second career.

Q: What is your dream home or favorite house style?

A: I really like townhouse living – I enjoy having more free-time by not having to do yard work and snow removal. As far as my dream home, I would choose a home with a view, preferably of a body of water. I like wide-open concepts and great views.

Q: What is your number one real estate tip?

A: I think the advice I give most frequently is that you don’t have to keep up with the Joneses – the Joneses may not be that happy. We need to find a home that best fits your family and your lifestyle. We want it to be nice but we also want it to fit your budget, so that you can be happy every day that you are in this home.

Q: What is your favorite thing about living in the Twin Cities?

A: There are so many things I love about the Twin Cities. Our schools are great. It’s a wonderful place to raise a family, and there are also great neighborhoods for young adults with no children. We have a lot of variety here, from things to do to the drastic season changes. I love it all!

Q: What would you say is the Twin Cities’ best kept secret?

A: I think the best kept secret would be the local theater/art talent that we have here. We also have a ton of amazing neighborhood restaurants that you might not expect to find in their locations, and then to top it off the food is fabulous.

Q: What is your favorite travel destination?

A: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Q: What is your favorite sports team?

A: My favorite sport is basketball and our MN Lynx are pretty amazing!

Q: What is your favorite quote?

A: “A house is made of bricks and beams; a home is made of hope and dreams.”

If you want Jen to be a part of your Rock Star Home Buying or Home Selling team, contact her at jen.k@rnrrealty.com!

6 Ways Real Estate Agents Add Value in a Home Sale

Just because you can buy and sell property on your own, it doesn’t mean you should. Real estate agents remain essential when making these pivotal financial transactions.

There are many ways agents add value during the purchase or sale of a home:

  • Handle the technical nuances — Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, a home sale includes a dizzying amount of paperwork. Skilled agents know how to fill out what documents and when, saving you time and helping you avoid mistakes.
  • Speak the lingo — The industry uses an astonishing number of acronyms. Working with a real estate agent gives you the opportunity to better understand the conversation.
  • Can negotiate without emotion — It’s easy to get triggered when a potential buyer picks apart your home. Let the agent handle criticisms or requests that could set you off or scare away an interested party.
  • Help you look beyond the property’s walls — Agents have expertise beyond the sale, including insight on everything from utilities to neighborhoods to quality schools.
  • Are well connected — It takes a village to complete a home sale. Whether you need a trustworthy home inspector, an efficient mortgage broker or a creative interior designer, turn to your agent for credible recommendations.
  • Keep up with the most recent laws and regulations — You may only complete a few real estate deals in your lifetime, whereas an agent often signs off on several each year. Experienced real estate agents know as soon as something in the industry changes and can save you from a liability headache.

Whether your aim is to net money from the sale of your home or spend wisely on a new one, a real estate agent has your best interests in mind and can make the process as seamless as possible.


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Credit Score: What It Means and How to Improve It

Are you considering making a major purchase, like buying a home, this year? If so, your credit score will likely come into play. An understanding of the basics can help you effectively monitor and manage it.

Credit Score 101
Your credit score will usually range from 300 to 850. It’s derived from an algorithm that takes into account several factors, including payment history, the total debt owed and length of credit history.

Lenders use this three-digit number to predict risk and the likelihood that you’ll repay your debt on time. The higher your credit score, the less risk you are and the lower your loan terms will be. For example, a person with a “good” credit score of 700 may have a lower interest rate and smaller required down payment than someone with a “poor” credit score of 400.

How to Improve Your Score
If you don’t have much credit history or you have a few negatives on your report, consider these strategies to increase your score.

  • Pay all of your bills on time. Late payments can negatively impact your score.
  • Pay off debt where you can. The less debt you have, the lower your debt-to-income ratio.
  • Keep your credit card balances as low as possible, aiming to use no more than 30 percent of your available credit. And pay off as much as you can each month since higher balances can sink your score.
  • Review your credit report at least annually, and keep an eye out for mistakes and identity theft.

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Featured Image Credit: “Excellent Credit Score” by CafeCredit.com © 2016 (CC BY 2.0)

4 Tips to Determine How Much Mortgage You Can Afford

By: G. M. Filisko

Published: August 20, 2014

Homeownership should make you feel safe and secure, and that includes financially. Be sure you can afford your home by calculating how much of a mortgage you can safely fit into your budget.

Why not just take out the biggest mortgage a lender says you can have? Because your lender bases that number on a formula that doesn’t consider your current and future financial and personal goals.

Think ahead to major life events and consider how those might influence your budget. Do you want to return to school for an advanced degree? Will a new child add day care to your monthly expenses? Does a relative plan to eventually live with you and contribute to the mortgage?

Consider those lifestyle issues as you check out these four methods for estimating the amount of mortgage you can afford.

1.  Prepare a detailed budget.

The oldest rule of thumb says you can typically afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. So, if you earn $100,000, you can typically afford a home between $200,000 and $300,000.

But that’s not the best method because it doesn’t take into account your monthly expenses and debts. Those costs greatly influence how much you can afford. Let’s say you earn $100,000 a year but have $1,000 in monthly payments for student debt, car loans, and credit card minimum payments. You don’t have as much money to pay your mortgage as someone earning the same income with no debts.

Better option: Prepare a family budget that tallies your ongoing monthly bills for everything — credit cards, car and student loans, lunch at work, day care, date night, vacations, and savings.

See what’s left over to spend on homeownership costs, like your mortgage, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable.

2.  Factor in your downpayment.

How much money do you have for a downpayment? The higher your downpayment, the lower your monthly payments will be. If you put down at least 20% of the home’s cost, you may not have to get private mortgage insurance, which protects the lender if you default and costs hundreds each month. That leaves more money for your mortgage payment.

The lower your downpayment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for and the higher your monthly mortgage payment.

But, if interest rates and/or home prices are rising and you wait to buy until you accumulate a bigger downpayment, you may end up paying more for your home.

3.  Consider your overall debt.

Lenders generally follow the 43% rule. Your monthly mortgage payments covering your home loan principal, interest, taxes and insurance, plus all your other bills, like car loans, utilities, and credit cards, shouldn’t exceed 43% of your gross annual income.

Here’s an example of how the 43% calculation works for a homebuyer making $100,000 a year before taxes:

1.    Your gross annual income is $100,000.

2.    Multiply $100,000 by 43% to get $43,000 in annual income.

3.    Divide $43,000 by 12 months to convert the annual 43% limit into a monthly upper limit of $3,583.

4.    All your monthly bills including your potential mortgage can’t go above $3,583 per month.

You might find a lender willing to give you a mortgage with a payment that goes above the 43% line, but consider carefully before you take it. Evidence from studies of mortgage loans suggest that borrowers who go over the limit are more likely to run into trouble making monthly payments, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warns.

4.  Use your rent as a mortgage guide.

The tax benefits of homeownership generally allow you to afford a mortgage payment — including taxes and insurance — of about one-third more than your current rent payment without changing your lifestyle. So you can multiply your current rent by 1.33 to arrive at a rough estimate of a mortgage payment.

Here’s an example: If you currently pay $1,500 per month in rent, you should be able to comfortably afford a $2,000 monthly mortgage payment after factoring in the tax benefits of homeownership.

However, if you’re struggling to keep up with your rent, buy a home that will give you the same payment rather than going up to a higher monthly payment. You’ll have additional costs for homeownership that your landlord now covers, like property taxes and repairs. If there’s no room in your budget for those extras, you could become financially stressed.

Also consider whether or not you’ll itemize your deductions. If you take the standard deduction, you can’t also deduct mortgage interest payments. Talking to a tax adviser, or using a tax software program to do a “what if” tax return, can help you see your tax situation more clearly.

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who’s owned her own home for more than 20 years. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.


Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Landscaping Tips for Added Security

In 2014, just over 1.7 million individuals fell victim to burglary according to the FBI. Sometimes deadbolts and alarm systems just aren’t enough to deter thieves. But there are outdoor security measures you can take to prevent property loss at the hands of a burglar. Here are 10 ways you can help protect your home with a well-planned landscape design:

  1. Use plant deterrents. Thorny shrubs and bushes like holly or roses help thwart would-be burglars.
  2. Prune vegetation regularly. Unkempt hedges provide hiding spots where perpetrators can lurk.
  3. Trim the trees. Leave sufficient distance between tree branches and the roof or second-story windows to limit intruder access.
  4. Leave a clear line of sight to windows or doors. Blocking these views leaves your home more vulnerable to break-ins.
  5. Invest in accent lights. Illuminate your yard to eliminate potential hiding spots.
  6. Install additional lighting. Don’t just rely on the porch light. Consider adding motion-sensitive lighting to help ward off possible intruders.
  7. Put gravel beneath ground-floor windows. Burglars rely on silence; stepping on gravel can be a startling repellent.
  8. Protect the back door. Many thieves try this less obvious point of entry first.
  9. Replace solid privacy fences. Solid fencing helps intruders go undetected. Partial privacy fencing is a more secure option.
  10. Lock all gates. It seems obvious, but it’s still worth a mention. Keep front and back gates locked at all times.

While pleasing to look at, landscaping does more than enhance your home’s outdoor aesthetic. Consider whether your current setup promotes security or makes your home appealing to thieves. Use these landscaping security tips to help prevent your home from becoming the target of a burglary.


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Photo Source: “Ashburn | Sherwood Real Estate” by Sherwood CC © 2010 (CC BY 2.0)

Fixer-upper or move-in ready home?

Shows like HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” have popularized the idea of buying and renovating the worst house on the best block. Homes that need major remodeling, however, aren’t for everyone. Sometimes a move-in ready house is a better option. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned investor, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each.

Pros of Fixer-Uppers

  • Lower price — Homes that require some updating tend to be priced lower, and many renovations can quickly add value to your home.
  • Creative control — When you’re the one in charge of updating your home, you can customize it however you choose.

Cons of Fixer-Uppers

  • Delayed move-in — The planning and work involved to fix it up can significantly delay your move-in date.
  • Unexpected costs — No matter how well you plan, major renovations are always subject to unforeseen expenses.

Pros of Move-In Ready

  • Quick move-in — Can’t wait to begin nesting? With a finished home, you can start moving in as soon as you get your keys.
  • Energy-efficient technology — New and renovated homes are often outfitted with the latest energy-efficient options when it comes to kitchen appliances and heating and cooling systems, which can save you money over time.

Cons of Move-In Ready

  • More expensive — To recoup the costs of updating, sellers often price move-in ready homes much higher. These homes also don’t allow for easy customization.
  • Questionable quality — When you’re not there to oversee the update process, you’re unable to ensure that high-quality work and materials are used for your home.

Still not sure which approach is right for you? Take this quiz to help you decide if you’re ready for a fixer upper.

Have you bought a fixer-upper? What was the process like? Share in the comments!

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Photo Credits: “house updates” by mazaletel © 2011 (CC BY 2.0) | “Dining Room with Recycled Wood Ceiling” by Jeremy Levine © 2009 (CC BY 2.0)

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Find a Lake Home Bargain in One of These Six Minnesota Towns

While the Twin Cities metro area’s real estate market is hot, hot, hot (and only getting hotter this summer), the same can’t be said for some of Minnesota’s waterfront cities. Slower to recover than much of the state, lake homes are remaining on the market longer and selling for less than the original list price (whereas it’s a general trend that homes are going for more than asking in the Twin Cities). With that in mind, if you’re on the hunt for a vacation home on one of Minnesota’s more than 10,000 lakes, you can’t go wrong looking in one of the six cities on this list. These cities currently have more inventory of single-family seasonal homes (everything from mobile homes to luxurious log cabins), which are selling for around 90% of the original asking price. Check them out, and let us know if you’re interested in more information.

1. Aitkin (Aitkin Co.)

#  of active homes*: 17 | Price Range: $75,000 – $414,000 | Median Sale Price: $209,000 |Median DOM: 217

Aitkin is a historic Mississippi Riverboat Town, about two hours from Minneapolis, known for hunting, fishing, and their annual Riverboat Scramble. While the largest local lake is Mille Lacs Lake, there are plenty of smaller bodies of water (365, in fact) nearby that would make for the perfect summer getaway retreat.

2. McGregor (Aitkin Co.)

#  of active homes: 12 | Price Range: $84,000 – $229,900 | Median Sale Price: $209,000 |Median DOM: 217

A city with less than 400 full-time residents, McGregor is great for vacations and visitors – it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise! Most of the current seasonal inventory in McGregor can be found by the Big Sandy Lake Reservoir or on Lake Minnewawa. This city is also home to the Minnesota National Golf Course.

3. Crosslake (Crow Wing Co.)

#  of active homes: 12 | Price Range: $47,000 – $535,000 | Median Sale Price: $385,000 |Median DOM: 253

Crosslake has the highest median sale price for vacation homes on this list for a reason. Spacious log cabins and other seasonal homes with majestic waterfront views dot the city’s more than 121 miles of shoreline. Permanent and seasonal residents enjoy the wonderful small town charm while maintaining convenient access to the Lakes Area amenities.

4. Longville (Cass Co.)

#  of active homes: 12 | Price Range: $79,900 – $377,900 | Median Sale Price: $234,250 |Median DOM: 242

Home to no more than 200 full-time residents at the moment, you’ll certainly get to know your neighbors in Longville. From charming cottages to dockside dream homes, there’s a summer house to fit any of your needs. While you’re in town for the summer, you might also want to check out one of the city’s iconic Turtle Races.

5. Hackensack (Cass Co.)

#  of active homes: 11 | Price Range: $99,900 – $359,000 | Median Sale Price: $232,000 |Median DOM: 183

Less than an hour north of Brainerd, Hackensack is a small town known for one big resident (the statue of Paul Bunyan’s girlfriend, Lucette, to be exact). With inventory ranging from mobile homes to cabins on notable lakes including Big Deep Lake, Ten Mile Lake, and Kid Lake, it’s not too hard to find your ideal family vacation spot.

6. Park Rapids (Hubbard Co.)

#  of active homes: 11 | Price Range: $87,500 – $399,900 | Median Sale Price: $287,250 |Median DOM: 247

One of the larger city’s on this list, Park Rapids has a population of almost 4,000. Many of the vacation homes currently for sale can be found along the shores of Potato Lake. Probably most famous for being home to the Mississippi River Headwaters, residents choose to call this city home for many other reasons too, such as quality fishing, water sports, and a scenic downtown area. Whether you’re looking for a cozy cabin in the woods or new construction, you can probably find it in Park Rapids.

*All data sourced from NorthstarMLS on 6/14/16.

Photo Source: “Cabin in the Trees, Lake Tahoe, CA 8-10” by Don Graham © 2010 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

6 Tips for Choosing the Best Offer for Your Home

By: G. M. Filisko

Have a plan for reviewing purchase offers so you don’t let the best slip through your fingers.

You’ve worked hard to get your home ready for sale and to price it properly. With any luck, offers will come quickly. You’ll need to review each carefully to determine its strengths and drawbacks and pick one to accept. Here’s a plan for evaluating offers.

1. Understand the process.

All offers are negotiable, as your agent will tell you. When you receive an offer, you can accept it, reject it, or respond by asking that terms be modified, which is called making a counteroffer.

2. Set baselines.

Decide in advance what terms are most important to you. For instance, if price is most important, you may need to be flexible on your closing date. Or if you want certainty that the transaction won’t fall apart because the buyer can’t get a mortgage, require a prequalified or cash buyer.

3. Create an offer review process.

If you think your home will receive multiple offers, work with your agent to establish a time frame during which buyers must submit offers. That gives your agent time to market your home to as many potential buyers as possible, and you time to review all the offers you receive.

4. Don’t take offers personally.

Selling your home can be emotional. But it’s simply a business transaction, and you should treat it that way. If your agent tells you a buyer complained that your kitchen is horribly outdated, justifying a lowball offer, don’t be offended. Consider it a sign the buyer is interested and understand that those comments are a negotiating tactic. Negotiate in kind.

5. Review every term.

Carefully evaluate all the terms of each offer. Price is important, but so are other terms. Is the buyer asking for property or fixtures – such as appliances, furniture, or window treatments – to be included in the sale that you plan to take with you?

Is the amount of earnest money the buyer proposes to deposit toward the down payment sufficient? The lower the earnest money, the less painful it will be for the buyer to forfeit those funds by walking away from the purchase if problems arise.

Have the buyers attached a prequalification or pre-approval letter, which means they’ve already been approved for financing? Or does the offer include a financing or other contingency? If so, the buyers can walk away from the deal if they can’t get a mortgage, and they’ll take their earnest money back, too. Are you comfortable with that uncertainty?

Is the buyer asking you to make concessions, like covering some closing costs? Are you willing, and can you afford to do that? Does the buyer’s proposed closing date mesh with your timeline?

With each factor, ask yourself: Is this a deal breaker, or can I compromise to achieve my ultimate goal of closing the sale?

6. Be creative.

If you’ve received an unacceptable offer through your agent, ask questions to determine what’s most important to the buyer and see if you can meet that need. You may learn the buyer has to move quickly. That may allow you to stand firm on price but offer to close quickly. The key to successfully negotiating the sale is to remain flexible.


G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has survived several closings. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Source: HouseLogic (Published: February 10, 2010) Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Here’s Why You Should Totally Snoop When House Hunting

This house-hunting checklist gives you carte blanche (well, almost) when viewing potential homes.

By: Jamie Wiebe

Ah, house hunting. It may technically be shopping, but it can feel more like breaking and entering. Even though you know the seller wants you there, does anyone really want you traipsing through their bedroom? Or looking through their closet? Or digging around in their basement? Awwwwkward.

But here’s something that should feel weirder: buying a home without knowing absolutely everything you can about it. The only way to avoid the second awkwardness is to face the first head on. When you’re house hunting, don’t think of poking around in someone else’s home as nosiness. It’s a smart, must-do investigation.

Here are six things you should absolutely do when viewing a home — no matter how awkward it feels.

1.  Soak in the Bathroom
Home buyers tend to peer into the bathroom for as long as they’d want a stranger to examine theirs: not long at all. But this isn’t the time to be quick. Josh Myler, a REALTOR® with The Agency in Los Angeles, encourages buyers to take a long, close perusal of the water closet.
Flush the toilet to find any backups in the system, and turn on the faucets to check the water pressure. Besides being annoying during showers, low pressure can indicate problems with the plumbing. “Water pressure can really cause headaches down the line if you don’t dig in before you make an offer,” says Myler. But always, always check with your agent first. In some markets, or with some sellers, it’s considered impolite to actually use the toilet. Or, if the owners already have moved, the water may be turned off. And that could be, ummm, awkward.

2.  Dig Around in the Closets
OK, don’t actually go through the owner’s stuff, but take a close look to assess how much storage space there is, and decide if it’ll meet your needs. “People don’t like to open closets because they think it’s rude, but if you’re buying the house, it’s one of the biggest investments,” says Myler. “You want to make sure there’s enough room for everything you need.” Before you step foot in a single house, take inventory of your current storage space, and know how much you’d like your next home to have.

3.  Poke Around the Attic and Basement
Don’t just stick your head inside and call it good. Give the basement and attic a thorough investigation. If there are belongings piled against the wall, request they be moved before a second viewing. “I get very nervous when I see a packed basement and stuff against the wall,” says Kyle Alfriend, lead agent of The Alfriend Group in Dublin, Ohio.
That’s because hidden walls and ceilings can conceal water damage, including peeling or discolored paint, rotting wooden accents, or a white, chalky substance on the wall, which indicates water intrusion. As for the attic, a quick glance should tell you what you need to know. Are there rat droppings? Molding wood? Or is it generally clean, even if dusty? BYO flashlight for an enlightened examination.

4.  Meet the Neighbors
Sorry, introverts. There’s no better way to get a read on the neighborhood than by directly asking the actual neighbors. Pop by their home and strike up a chat. It’s a twofer: Not only might you get valuable information about the area — from the noisy bar on the street behind you to eager babysitters on the block — but paying attention to their attitude speaks volumes about your potential relationship with your maybe-neighbors. Do they seem excited to meet you? Or are they standoffish? “It’s not what they answer, but how they answer that will be very illuminating,” says Myler.

5.  Be an Amateur Investigator
Anything seem fishy? Take your suspicions to city hall. If there are additions, pull the permits or get help from your buyer’s agent. You certainly don’t want to be responsible for tearing out that beautiful porch because the previous owners didn’t comply with the law. Also, check the certificate of occupancy and any easements — especially if you’re hoping to make any major changes. Both are public record. An easement simply gives someone the right to use property they don’t own. Often that other someone is your local government that needs it for public services, such as water. Myler remembers a friend who purchased a home with the goal of building a pool, only to find out an easement for the sewer line cut directly through the middle of the yard. Another common use is a shared driveway, such as when one homeowner has to pass through another homeowner’s property to reach their home.

6.  Ask Questions
If your sleuthing finds something concerning, don’t panic.
“Many times, there’s stuff that, at first glance, is real scary,” says Alfriend. “Often people will write off a house without digging into it, but there’s usually a perfectly logical, understandable reason, and it’s not a problem.”
Say you find a gaping hole in the drywall. It might be a huge red flag — or they might have rambunctious kids they absolutely plan to clean up after. “Boys can wrestle and put a foot through the thing, and it’s 30 minutes before a showing,” Alfriend says. There’s not much the sellers can do at that point.

With any problem, your first step is simple: Ask.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

Compile a Home Inventory with the Right Tools

By: Gwen Moran

Creating a home inventory for insurance doesn’t need to be complicated. All you really need is a pencil and paper. The key is to have a record of your possessions in the event you experience a theft or casualty loss from flood, fire, or other disaster.

But the more thorough the documentation of your belongings, the less likely you are to run into problems when you file an insurance claim. That’s why you should consider using a digital camera, fireproof safes, and other equipment to create and store your home inventory. Devote a full day to the task.

Take pictures of your belongings

Photos of your belongings go a long way toward demonstrating ownership and value. Digital photos are preferred, since they’re easier to print and store. A decent digital camera costs less than $100. Be sure to get full-room shots, as well as close-ups of items. Don’t neglect to photograph possessions inside drawers, cabinets, and closets.

Video is even more convenient and effective, especially since you can record audio along with the images. Describe items and any identifying details as you film your home room by room. Digital camcorders are available for less than $150. It’s a good idea to keep backup copies of digital files and hard-copy printouts in a safe place. (More on storage options below.)

Prepare a written home inventory

Images alone aren’t enough. You should also prepare a written home inventory. Your insurance company will likely ask for one if you ever file a claim. Include as much identifying detail as possible, such as serial numbers, brand names, purchase dates, and estimated costs. Keep a copy off-site, perhaps with a friend or in a bank safe-deposit box, in case your home is damaged or destroyed. Download our free home inventory worksheet to get started.

Home inventory software is also available. Enter information on your possessions, attach digital images, and store the data electronically. The Insurance Information Institute has a free program called Know Your Stuff, or there are a number of programs available for purchase.

Be sure to attach receipts to your home inventory list. If you’re storing your records electronically, you’ll want to scan receipts at a copy and print shop or purchase a scanner. Pick one up for as little as $50 at an office supply store. Digital copies of receipts come in handy if originals are damaged or lost.

Safe ways to store your records

When backing up digital files, a USB drive—sometimes called a “thumb” drive, due to its small size—can be useful. Buy one for as little as $5. Simply copy the files onto the drive and keep it somewhere safe, preferably away from your home.

You can also stash a drive in a pre-packed emergency “go” bag, which should be accessible in case you need to evacuate quickly. An external hard drive can perform the same function, though it’s less portable.

You can use a bank safe-deposit box to store paper records, drives, and other valuables off-premises. Rent may range from about $25 per year for a small box to more than $100 for a larger box.

If you like to keep important documents closer at hand, consider a fireproof safe, which is usually waterproof as well. You can find small safes for as little as $50, but a more representative range for good residential fireproof safes is $150 to $300. Larger, high-end safes can cost more than $1,000.

When your home inventory files are electronic, it’s relatively easy to use online backup systems to keep digital copies outside of your home. That’s a big plus if your computer is stolen or destroyed. Some backup services like Mozy offer limited storage space for free, while others like Carbonite charge $5 or more per month. Choose a backup service whose features fit your needs.

Source: HouseLogic “Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”
Flickr Creative Commons: andrewarchy (CC BY 2.0)
All photos used under this license.