If you're a homeowner you probably already have Scottsdale home insurance. You likely also know that your policy covers your home and its contents from loss or damage in a fire, peril or theft. Some homeowners, however, are surprised to find out there are a number of things not covered by their insurance policy. This article will look at ten items of interest that may not be covered. Be aware of them before you file a claim. And, if you want your home covered against these events, see your Scottsdale home insurance agent to find out what coverage is available and what it costs.

Your homeowners insurance coverage may not include:

•  Flooding

Scottsdale home insurance normally does not cover flooding.

Flood damage is typically not covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. Chances are if you live in an area of the country prone to flooding and flood-related damage, you may already have purchased a separate flood insurance policy for protection against loss. As a result of recent storm activity throughout the nation, however, many people who’ve never experienced floods are discovering Mother Nature can always wreak havoc – even when we least expect it. Visit the National Flood Insurance website online to learn more about flood insurance and what it covers.

•  Earthquakes
If you have a standard homeowners insurance policy, you may not be covered against earthquakes. If you are, the deductible is probably pretty high. As is the case with flood insurance, in most cases, you’ll need to purchase a separate policy for earthquake damage coverage. Discuss an earthquake policy with your Scottsdale home insurance agent and get his thoughts and recommendations.

•  Pet Bites
If you own pets, it’s probably a good idea to check your policy to see if you’re covered in the event Fido – or any other pet or animal residing on your property – bites a visitor. Dog bites can be painful and dangerous, and the last thing you want to have happen is for one of your house guests to sue you for medical bills related to a bite or injury caused by your pet.

•  Sewer Problems
A standard homeowners policy probably won’t cover you for damage caused by a sewer system backup that affects your home. For newer or newly-built homes this is probably a non-tissue, but for older homes with septic tanks it can be a common problem and an expensive one to correct.

•  Sinkholes
It seems that the news reports contain more and more stories about sinkholes appearing from nowhere and creating damage to property and homes. While you’re more at risk in certain parts of the United States than others, it’s worth meeting with your insurance agent and discussing riders you can add to your existing policy to cover damages and loss from sinkholes.

•  Termites
In most instances, damage caused by termites is not covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. What’s worse is the damage can often be extensive and expensive to repair. Some pest control companies offer insurance against termites, so check around and see what's available.

•  Simultaneous events
Picture this: An unusually windy and rainy storm occurs and causes your home to flood. You’d be covered, right? Probably not, because flooding isn’t covered as part of your standard Scottsdale home insurance policy. The insurance companies refer to this occurrence as “anti-concurrent causation.” Simply put, when two events occur at the same time, one of them may not be covered under your normal policy.

•  Burst water pipes
Sometimes a water pipe that bursts is covered by your standard policy. However, sometimes it isn’t. If the pipe bursts as a result of negligence on the part of the homeowners – like not draining a pipe or protecting it from a freeze warning – the resulting damage may not be covered. Always take the necessary steps to protect pipes from bursting in severe winter weather – and plan to discuss your coverage with your insurance agent to make sure you understand it fully.

•  Mold
Chances are, mold damage and its results are not covered. It could be, but the best thing to do is check with your Scottsdale home insurance agent to make sure. Remember, if you ever have any type of water damage to your home, correct and repair it as soon as you can to stop mold spores from growing.

•  Identity theft
While identity theft seems like an odd occurrence to be included in a homeowners insurance policy, because it’s an issue that has run rampant in recent years many insurance companies offer such coverage. Again, to make doubly sure, contact your insurance agent and find out exactly what’s covered and what’s not – and what the coverage limits are. Some insurers offer options to your homeowners insurance policy to cover items such as repairing your credit in the case of compromised accounts or false reporting.

Scottsdale home insurance can give you the peace of mind every homeowner wants and needs by knowing they’re protected against most perils. However, you’ve just learned of ten such occurrences which may not be covered. Make sure you invest the time to meet with your insurance company and read your policy and its many clauses. Knowing what is and isn’t covered will guard against what could be expensive and frustrating surprises – especially if you find out after the fact that a rider or additional policy could have been bought for a small additional cost.

While some of the items mentioned may never apply to you, your property or the area of the United States in which you live, that’s the whole reason insurance exists – to protect you from events or occurrences you never expect will happen. Again, for the nominal additional cost of coverage for some of them, it may indeed be better to be safe than sorry.

Explore your options with your existing insurance company and be prepared to shop around to price coverage with other companies. You may find that by bundling these and other coverages with your homeowners policy you can save even more money while gaining additional coverage and greater peace of mind.

You can find more articles pertaining to Scottsdale home insurance in the Scottsdale Insurance section of our site below Scottsdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember, we post tips daily on Twitter and Facebook, many of these relate to insurance as it pertains to homes and homeowner's insurance. Check us out there..

Scottsdale tax preparation time may seem a long way from now, but with 2016 rapidly coming to a close it’s never too early to begin thinking about your 2016 taxes. According to the U.S. government, it is estimated that approximately 60% of individual taxpayers use paid tax preparers to fill out, calculate and complete their income tax returns. If you’re included in that 60% it’s probably a good idea to at least be thinking about your plans – it could mean the difference between having a good experience and a bad one.

Some tax preparers choose to meet with you directly to get the information they need, while others will have you fill out a questionnaire. This article will focus on ten steps you can take regarding your Scottsdale tax preparation and planning with only a few weeks left in the year.

Your Scottsdale Tax Preparation To-do-List

Scottsdale tax preparation deadlines are still a ways off, but you should use this time to get ready for the inevitable.

Select a preparer
If you’re contemplating using an accounting professional to handle your Scottsdale tax preparation, it’s a good time to start looking for one. One of the best sources for referrals of good tax preparers is to ask friends, business associates, your lawyer or your banker. During the consideration process, make sure the candidate you’re thinking of retaining has a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) confirming that he or she is qualified. The PTIN is proof that person is authorized to prepare federal income tax returns. The next step in choosing a preparer is to ask questions about the preparation fees. Nobody likes surprises – especially at tax time – so understand what the charges will be ahead of time. Most preparation fees depend on the complexity of your return and the time it takes to complete the various information requirements, but most tax preparers can give you a price range so you’ll know what to expect. A word of advice: Don’t do business with a tax preparer that will charge you a percentage of your refund.

Set up an appointment
Because experienced tax preparers are very busy during the peak “tax season,” its best to schedule an appointment in advance – even if it’s for late January or early February – just to make sure you can get on their appointment calendar. Of course, if you’re expecting a refund, the sooner you can get your information together and meet with your tax preparer, the sooner you can file and receive your refund.

Gather your information
Under normal circumstances by the end of January you will likely receive a number of pieces of information you’ll need to give your tax preparer to complete your returns. Here are some of the most common forms:

•  Form W-2 if you were employed
•  Form SSA-1099 if you received Social Security benefits
•  1099s to report various additional sources of income (especially if you were an independent contractor)
•  Form 1095-A to report information from the federal government marketplace from where you bought your health insurance coverage
•  1098s reporting mortgage interest paid, student loan interest paid, or college tuition payments
•  Form W-2Gs to report gambling winnings
•  Schedule K-1s to report income or loss from business entities in which you have an ownership interest

Collect your receipts
If you choose to itemize personal deductions rather than claiming a standard deduction, you’ll need a greater degree of verification and proof in the form of receipts. If you’re itemizing, collect the receipts (or cancelled checks) you have for such things as medical costs not covered by or reimbursed by health insurance, property taxes and employment-related expenses.

Assemble your charitable contribution records
If you choose to itemize deductions, you’ll need to have detailed records to legally claim any tax write-off. Charitable contributions of $250 or more require a written confirmation from the charity verifying the contribution and stating that it was a qualifying donation.

Be prepared for tax law changes
Your Scottsdale tax preparation expert should be able to help you be aware of any new tax rules and regulations so you can avoid any unpleasant surprises. The individual healthcare mandate (the Affordable Healthcare Act) created a myriad of changes, as many will remember. We recommend asking your tax preparer what changes, if any, may affect you this year or you can go online to www.irs.gov.

Provide a list of personal info
Give your tax preparer information such as your Social Security number and those for each dependent you claim on your returns. In addition, list the addresses of real estate you own, including a second home or rental property, if applicable. Your tax preparer may ask for additional information on these properties, as well.

Will you file for an extension?
If you know now that you’ll need additional time to complete your tax returns prior to the April 17th deadline (normally the 15th, but the 15th is on Saturday in 2017 so you'll have two extra days), alert your tax preparer. More often than not, items like Schedule K-1s can cause taxpayers to file for an automatic 6-month extension.

Decide what to do with you refund
If you’re entitled to a tax refund, there are several options as to the instructions you can give to the IRS (the federal government) to do.

  • Have some or all of it applied to your income tax bill on your next return.
  • Have them send you a check or use direct deposit into a designated account.
  • Contribute some or all of the refund to certain types of accounts for the expressed purpose of purchasing U.S. Savings Bonds through Treasury Direct.

Locate a copy of last year’s tax return
If you choose a new Scottsdale tax preparation professional you’ve not worked with before, it will be helpful for him or her to have access to information on the previous year’s return. For example, payers of interest and dividends, and information on your favorite charities would be important reminders as they rarely change from one year to the next.

You can find more articles pertaining to Scottsdale tax preparation in the Taxes section of our site below Scottsdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

We also post tips daily on Twitter and Facebook and would love for you to follow us there as well.

You took out your Scottsdale mortgage loan a few years back when both you and your spouse were working and things were going pretty well financially. In fact, that’s the reason you bought your first home. Since then, the economy has slowed considerably and your employer has downsized. Over time – which was an almost guaranteed addition to your budget for a few years – is now a thing of the past thanks to the company’s new management. While your income has dropped considerably, your obligations continued – especially those to your Scottsdale mortgage loan institution. So, what do you do? What can you do? Let’s take a look at how an honest, proactive and direct approach with your creditors can work to your benefit when times get tough.

Worried about your Scottsdale mortgage loan?

Be honest.
Most credit counselors, financial experts and creditors say the best possible thing you can do is to contact them in writing as soon as you experience a hardship affecting your ability to pay your mortgage. You may not want to divulge your entire situation to the mortgage company – they may not want to hear that you will never be able to make another payment, for example – but in all seriousness, be open and honest about your current status.

Don’t procrastinate.
The best course of action is to take charge and let your creditors know immediately, or at least sooner rather than later. The longer you hold off doing so the worse your situation will likely become. If you procrastinate too long, the outcome can be removed from the hands of people that may be able to help and transferred to the proverbial “home office” or some other nebulous entity who thrives on red tape and double-speak. Remember this: Don’t make the erroneous assumption that you are out of options and your creditors won’t work with you. Most will, but you’ll never know until you ask them.

Do your homework.
If you’re a homeowner and have already missed a payment on your Scottsdale mortgage loan, seek assistance from your lender as soon as possible. There are laws now called the “rules restricting dual tracking.” Dual tracking is the process whereby a mortgage loan servicer (the arm of the mortgage company who’s responsible for collecting your payment and accounting for it each month) forecloses on a home while simultaneously entertaining a mortgage loan modification by the borrower. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wrote the law in 2013 to prohibit lenders from dual tracking within a 120-day period after a mortgage loan default. The rule allows greater protection for borrowers going into, or already in, the throes of foreclosure proceedings. Plus, the law has teeth – violators are subject to damages, and that may give borrowers necessary leverage for favorable consideration in a foreclosure lawsuit – if and when it that time comes.

Explore all available options.
Scottsdale mortgage loan experts say there may be programs available in some states that will make mortgage payments for homeowners. In 2010, the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) was designed to assist borrowers struggling to make their monthly payments. The assistance was created in an effort to stave off foreclosure and return economic stability into some neighborhoods. While not available in every state, the states that do provide the HHF assistance concentrate their efforts on two groups of homeowners: Those who are unemployed and are looking for a new job, and borrowers who are “underwater” on their mortgage. These homeowners owe more on their mortgage loan than their home is worth.

Be realistic in your expectations.
As mentioned above, most creditors will try to work with you in times of hardship. However, they don’t have to. Just because you've called your mortgage lender and have been honest about your financial situation, they aren't required to provide you leniency – especially if there are extenuating circumstances such as chronic or recurring delinquencies, or other strikes against your credit report. Just remember that all you can do is ask for assistance – what the lender may or may not do is up to them. You signed a note and mortgage promising the lending institution you’d repay them each month, every month and on time.

Take the bull by the horns.
Be proactive with your financial problems – even if you think they are just temporary. By not doing anything or ignoring your situation with a creditor – especially a Scottsdale mortgage loan company – the lender may assume you don’t care about your financial responsibility or your promise to repay the money they loaned you. We’re talking about your home, here, so the last thing you want your mortgage company to think is that you don’t care about losing your home.

Since the housing crash of less than a decade ago, mortgage lenders have become more willing and able to work with borrowers who become delinquent, but it’s also a proverbial “two-way street.” The lenders should know if you need and want help, and if they aren't aware of that, they naturally assume the worst and take the necessary steps allowed them by law to recover their collateral.

The worst thing you can do.

The very worst thing you can do is to do none of the suggestions mentioned above. One of more of them can hamper or eventually cripple your chances for a successful outcome if you fall behind in your payments. By law, mortgage companies can’t and don’t wait “forever” before they begin certain procedures designed to protect the lending institution from their borrowers defaulting on their mortgage loans. Remember, most all mortgage lenders are regulated and overseen by the federal government. As such, banks and other lending institutions have policies and practices that are nearly always uniformly followed – if that bank or lending institution wants to remain in compliance with the federal guidelines. Most do, of course, because failure to do so will result in fines, penalties and – in severe cases – shutdowns or forced acquisitions. No lending institution's board of directors wants that to occur.

You can find more articles pertaining to Scottsdale mortgage loans in the Scottsdale Mortgage Info section of our site below Scottsdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

We also post daily tips, many of them related to Scottsdale mortgages, on Facebook and Twitter and would love for you to follow us there, too.

A large number of homes for sale offer open houses as a popular way to attract buyers. A Scottsdale open house can be an excellent tool to put your home on display for prospective buyers to get a closer look. Before you hold your own open house, we think it’s a good idea to visit a few others and learn from them – both the good and the bad. Once you decide to list your home and have an open house it will help you make yours as successful as possible.

Attending a Scottsdale open house (or two, or three) are great idea generators. Let’s take a look at a few areas in which you can gain valuable insight that will prepare you for a successful Scottsdale open house.

Here are some tips for a successful Scottsdale open house.

Go to school on other listing agents

Use the time you’re investing by visiting other open houses to compare the prices of comparable homes and learn more about the market. Meet the listing agent and ask questions to get their opinion about current trends in your market area. Because they’re in the business, real estate professionals are usually in the know about changes in the local markets well ahead of the news media or other informational sources.

Pay attention to current home design trends

Since most sellers make every effort to show their home in the best possible light for an open house, pay close attention to what has been done to the home. Many sellers may make cosmetic improvements in preparation for listing and showing their properties.  Often their real estate agent can suggest the most popular designs and newest trends in the market. If your home needs a few updates to improve its appeal to prospective buyers, seeing what other sellers have done may assist you in selecting paint colors, kitchen or bath fixtures and countertops. This is especially true if you attend several open houses and begin to see improvements that are consistent with each other.

Obtain referrals for home improvement contractors

If you’re considering having updates done to your home before putting it on the market, what better way to get a good referral than to ask the listing agent or seller of one of the homes you liked for the contractor’s name. Being able to see the results of what a few remodeling upgrades can do for home will give you some interesting ideas for your own home.

Now that you’ve seen what others are doing with open houses, let’s shift gears and begin planning for your very own. Here are a few tips on what you should do to make your Scottsdale open house as painless and seamless as it can be.

Keep a stiff upper lip

Conducting a Scottsdale open house can be an emotionally conflicting process. Inviting people you don’t know into your house to mill around and look in every nook and cranny can be a little overwhelming. Don’t allow it to be. Remember, it may mean the difference between selling your home quickly or not at all. Think of each person that comes through your doors as a potential buyer – chances are pretty good that one of them will be. And while an open house can be somewhat intrusive and emotionally draining, treat your home as an asset that you want to sell both quickly and at an attractive price. That motivation may give you a different perspective on the value of a Scottsdale open house.

Depersonalize your home

As you probably know by now, most home-staging and open house experts recommend “depersonalizing” your home by removing personal items like collectibles, family photos or other memorabilia. A prospective purchaser wants to feel as if he’s walking into a neutral zone, giving him the ability to see the various rooms of the home decorated with his furnishings and possessions – not somebody else. Psychologists say this is very important to what motivates buyers to buy certain homes. You may also consider this idea:  Sellers who have the greatest success with open houses have reported they’ve actually moved out of the home. If you’re able to do so, this may be an excellent way to ensure you’ve broken the emotional bond you have with your home and have given all prospects the opportunity to envision their family in what could be their new home.

Be smart, be safe

If you elect to stay in the home while you’re conducting your Scottsdale open house and don’t have the luxury of moving out until you sell it, be smart with your possessions. While we’d like to think homebuyers viewing homes for sale are trustworthy, the truth is, some aren’t. As a precaution, therefore, be sure to remove any smaller valuables from public view and access. Hide expensive jewelry, watches, smartphones and tablets deep in closets or in a home safe if you have one. Remember, people attending open houses may feel free to open drawers or closets, so make sure there aren't any valuables readily available for them to take. Lastly, secure any handguns or other firearms in gun safes or, preferably, out of sight altogether. Many homeowners have reported guns were among the primary possessions stolen in burglaries or home invasions – and many times, experts say, it’s because the thieves knew the guns were in the house. Keeping them locked away during a Scottsdale open house can be one way you could deter potential burglars from “casing the joint” as they plan for a future theft.

See more articles pertaining to selling Scottsdale homes in the two sections of articles on Scottsdale Home Selling Tips and Scottsdale Homes for Sale just below Scottsdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember, we also post tips daily on Twitter and Facebook. Check us out there, too.

In most parts of the United States, real estate is – over time – a good investment. And while we all know that to be true, often this nagging question remains unanswered: “How do I get started buying Scottsdale investment real estate?” For some millennials and others the answer is, “Just do it.” Let’s look at how you can make a start in building your Scottsdale Investment real estate portfolio.

Financial Considerations

Though it seems somewhat ironic to use millennials as a segment of the population perhaps best suited to start a modest Scottsdale investment real estate portfolio, let’s look at a few salient points. Millennials comprise roughly 50% of all current homebuyers in the marketplace, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report. And given that most millennials buy their first homes or starter homes with the intention of living there fewer than seven years, potential real estate investing could be in their future. Why? Millennials or other first-time homebuyers are in a unique position to buy their second home and maintain their first as a rental property. This can most often be accomplished by leaving the owner-occupied original mortgage intact without selling the property. Hopefully, the mortgage was acquired with a modest down payment and is accompanied by a low interest rate.

For a Scottsdale investment real estate portfolio to be successful two factors need to be considered... 

Obviously, if a borrower is able, it’s much better to keep the first property and rent it rather than trying to purchase a non-owner-occupied rental property. Financing for rental property usually requires a higher down payment – 20%-25% – and will likely have a higher interest rate, as much as .50%-.75% or more. In summary, it will almost surely cost less to arrange for your current house to become a rental property and purchase a second home to use as a primary residence than to buy a second property for use as a rental home.

Quite naturally, in order for this growing Scottsdale investment real estate portfolio to be successful two factors need to be considered:

1 ) You must be able to find a tenant for your first home. This is important not only for the additional rental income to pay for the mortgage, but many millennials or first time homebuyers may find it difficult to qualify for a mortgage on the second home unless they have a tenant under lease.

2) You must be able to come up with the necessary down payment for the second home. With low down payment financing available for as little down as 3% in some cases, this is possible. Most first time homebuyers rely on the equity from the sale of their first home to be able to afford the down payment on their new one.

Tax Advantages

There are certain tax advantages to be enjoyed by renting one of your properties. We recommend discussing them with an accountant in order to make sure you’re up on the latest tax rules regarding Scottsdale investment real estate. As a normal rule, the best tax advantages come in the form of depreciation of the rental property along with being able to deduct both the mortgage interest and the maintenance expenses of the rental property.

Choosing the Best Rental Property

If you’re contemplating turning your first home into a rental property, it’s probably best to consult with a Scottsdale investment real estate professional first to better understand the market and establish a strategy of what you want to accomplish. In addition, there are considerations to discuss regarding whether there is a viable rental market for your home. Experts say homes with one to three bedrooms are likely to rent more easily and more often than larger homes. Lastly, and the real estate rental professionals can better help with this, it’s important to understand who the typical tenants are in your market as well as the type properties they usually rent. That will give you insight as to where to advertise, what rents to charge, what terms to ask for and other decision-making factors.

Assessing Rental Rates

As is the case with rental properties across the country, Scottsdale investment real estate rental rates have been on the rise in the last year or so. In addition, rental rates vary widely in the single-family home and condominium rental market. Most real estate professionals agree that one of the most challenging aspects of renting a home is being able to establish a rental rate low enough to be competitive in the market yet high enough to pay the mortgage and related expenses while making a small profit each month. Again, consult your local Scottsdale investment real estate rental professional for the most current information on what the market will bear and what you can expect to rent your home for.

Final Thoughts

Aside from the financial considerations, one of the most important things to remember about renting out your first home is becoming a landlord. You’ll need to budget both your time and money in order to be able to take care of your tenant’s needs as they arise. Of course, you can hire a property management company to handle the typical chores of a landlord, but there are expenses involved with such an arrangement. Still, it may be worth looking into to see if the rental market will enable you to cover a portion of the rental management fee by raising the rent.

Most experts say when it comes to starting a Scottsdale investment real estate portfolio comprised of rental property, “buy and hold” is usually a good philosophy. However, there are precautions you should take if you’re thinking about making the leap. If you find yourself in a sellers market, just realize that it may be more difficult to buy the second home without getting the needed equity out of the first. However, there are other options such as refinancing.

See more articles pertaining to real estate in the section of articles on Scottsdale Real Estate just below Scottsdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right. And remember, we also post tips daily on Facebook and Twitter. Check us out there, too.