Why you should get earthquake insurance


The 1994 Northridge earthquake rocked California with a moment magnitude of 6.7. The quake was the most expensive in U.S. history, causing $42 billion in damage.
It also prompted changes and improvements in earthquake insurance policies.
In 1995, the California legislature addressed the aftershock on residential and insurance policies caused by the quake through the mandatory offer law. It became compulsory for insurance companies to offer earthquake insurance every time they sold a homeowner’s policy.
Shortly after, the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) was born to oversee the policies.This publicly managed, privately funded organization is one of the leaders in providing residential earthquake insurance in California and all over the world.

Why get earthquake insurance?

According to recent reports, however, a growing number of people are choosing to forego earthquake insurance.
They cite its high premiums and impractical nature. Instead, residents are betting on federal assistance in the event of disasters.
While that may sound sensible at first, earthquake insurance is still the better option.
Here’s why:

  • An average of 3 to 4 moderate quakes hit California every year. A 5.5 temblor is enough to cause intense ground shaking, causing panic, minor accidents, and slight damage to buildings.
  • Disaster grants do not sufficiently cover repair costs.Grants are limited and need to be repaid, and you won’t receive enough funding to actually rebuild or replace your property.
  • You still can’t predict quakes but California is such a high-risk statethat insurance, though pricey, is necessary.

What does earthquake insurance cover?

The simplest type of earthquake insurance you can acquire has 3 parts: the dwelling coverage, personal property coverage, and additional living expenses (ALE) or loss of use.

  • Thedwelling coverageis the part of your homeowner’s insurance policy that helps you pay for the damage caused by certain listed incidents. Not included in this provision are ruined landscaping, pools, patios, and fences, among others. Condo owners have a different type of insurance with a different set of policies.
  • The personal property coverage includes things inside your home like electronics and appliances. It usually does not include items made of china, porcelain, or crystal.
  • ALE or additional living expenses covers your temporary costof living to where you’ve relocated while your quake-damaged home is being repaired.

Do renters or mobile homeowners need earthquake insurance?
Their coverage includes personal possessions and ALE.

If an earthquake triggers a landslide and a home is destroyed, will insurers pay out?

Inclusions vary, but typically, insurers cover property damage caused by landslides, settlements, mudflows, and the rising, sinking and contracting of the earth following an earthquake.
Excluded arefloods, tidal waves, or tsunamis, even if they result from an earthquake.
Double-check your policy to determine your coverage.

What factors affect the rate of premiums?

The age and location of your home are qualifying factors, including the kind of soilfound in your neighborhood, the building materials you used, and the number of stories of your home.

How to bag the best home rentals

Looking for a place to rent is an experience all of us will get to at one point of our lives. Whether you’re from a small town about to strike out on your own, or an urbanite used to seeing flashing “For Rent” signs, the experience is universal.
Everyone knows someone with an apartment- or house-hunting horror story—or you may have one yourself. Finding something that ticks many of the boxes in your wish list is a victory well worth recounting, too.
Because a place that won’t eat up your salary, require multiple deadbolts, or leave you ragged from the drive or commute deserves a fist bump, if not an affordable glass of bubbly.
There are always good deals out there, however. Here’s how to unearth them.

1. Timing is key.
A number of factors can affect the price of rental homes. Beach houses are an obvious example, with rates at their peak during the summer months, before dropping off significantly during the off season. The reverse is true when it comes to housing near universities: rates down during the summer, and up again when the school year opens.

If you can time your hunt around the drop months, you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.

2. Swoop in on homes that don’t sell.
Not all properties sell as fast as their owners would want them to. Homes that have been on the market for some time are turned into rentals at rates substantially lower than what’sout there. Renting out homes that remain unsold relieves some of the stress a homeowner faces, but it nets you a pretty sweet deal, too.

3. Settle for second best.
We know. We all want that house that is close to everything and sits in a wonderful neighborhood. Unless you can afford an arm and a leg for the rental’s “location, location, location,” you might want to scale down your expectations. One way to do this is by scouting for homes in the outskirts of your desired neighborhood. You may find a similar rental but at lower rates.

4. Work the magic of the internet.
Use the internet to your advantage but don’t just search for “House for Rent.” Specify your preferred location, size, amenities. Check out the rental website that can best help you out. And remember that new listings are being put up every few minutes. Persistence is key.

5. Seal the deal.
During an open house, show up early to get a head start on other applicants.
Dress to impress your future landlord.
Charm or otherwise engage them in non-real estate-related conversation.
Show up with pertinent documents and a rental resume.

If you’re busy, hire a rental scout who will check out properties for you based on your requirements

A guide to owning real estate in a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone

Los Angeles may be one of the most urbanized cities in the world, but some of its residential areas are historic.
From the distinctive architecture of the houses to landmarks found within the community, thereare quite a few vestiges of the city’s pastthat remain and some are protected under the Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) program.
The first historic preservation zone was Angelino Heights in 1983. Today, these zones number 28 and are found from Van Nuys to Garvanzain northeast L.A.

The halo effect

HPOZ not only protects homes built from a specific era, it also makes surrounding neighborhoods more investment worthy.
Historic zones are generally attractive and well maintained, creating a spill-over benefit for everyone in the area.
And now, 11 more zones are undergoing construction.

Benefits and guidelines

Owning a house in a historic preservation overlay zone carries a lot of benefits for its owners. Residents in these zones in Los Angeles can enjoy:

  • Reduced property tax rate
  • More flexible regulations under the California Historical Building Code, which can be used to obtain building permits
  • Technical tools to help maintain the house under specific guidelines

If you’ve decided you want to live in a historic home, remember to:

  • Always seek permission. Anything that will alter the facadeof the property in a major way needs a special permit called the Certificate of Appropriateness (COA). This requires you to submit a detailed plan of your activities which will then be screened by the HPOZ Board.
  • Simple paint jobs and minor repairs or alterations fall under the “Conforming Work”category and does NOT require a permit.

  • Get a guide. The Planning Department can help you maintain your historic home. From tips on how to take care of wood sidings, how to clean the shingled rooftop, or a general reminder not to paint your home a bright shade of pink, the guide is a cohesive and brief set of guidelines. It is available for download through the Preservation Board’s website atwww. preservation.lacity.org.
  • ID the type of home you own.Houses in the historical preservation overlay zone are classified into 2:
  • o Non-contributing houses that have been changed significantly from its original design
    o Contributing houses that have retained their original design
    It is important that you know the type of home you own so you can secure the necessary permit when the time comes.

  • Hire a professional.Considering the significance of your home, eschew DIY work and hire a professional when it comes to repair work—even if the touch-ups are simple like clearing the roof or slapping on a little paint. This is to ensure that you don’t damage any of the design details or architectural fillips that give your home its historical value.
  • Read up resources. Do a little research on your home. Or read up on architectural styles to get an overview of the kinds of homes in your historic neighborhood.

Finding the right real estate agent in Westside L.A.

For anyone looking for a new home, or a property to invest in or toto sell, good real estate agents are a godsend.

A good real estate agent can help you:

  • Find that dream house in the perfect neighborhood with a park and a great school
  • Possibly purchase the home at well below the asking price
  • Decide if that highrise in the quiet section of the city is worth renovating
  • Sell your property at a good deal, thanks to their connections
  • Make a tidy little profit

Though somepeople like to buy or sell a home on their own, the assistance of a reputable real estate agent can make a big difference in the end.

How do you pick/find the right real estate agent?

In cities like Los Angeles, where the real estate industryhas saturated the market witha plethora of advertising and marketing, this can be difficult. Sloshing through commercials and banners all proclaiming this or that real estate company to be the “best” is tedious at best.
However, there are ways to cut to the chase:

    1. The internet is your friend. Because self promotion is easy, the internet can help you fact-check claims. You can employ plenty of resources, from a simple Google search, to checking out their website or the agency that they belong to.

    2. Look up their license. All real estate agents need a license to operate. Check with your local licensing board if the real estate agent you are eyeing is indeed licensed.

    3. Hire a know-it-all. In the real estate market, knowledge is power. Good real estate agents should know everything about the area they operate in—in this instance, the current value of the property you’re interested in, how it’s going to change in the next few years, the nearest schools in the area, or a nearby park. Even when it comes to the smaller picture, good agents will share that tidbit of information that’s going to be useful to you.

    4. Credentials matter. It is easy to claim to be the best; proving it can be a little harder. Check on the agent’s credentials – how many years have they been in the business? Been given awards by their peers? Picked up any of the following designations?

    • Certified Residential Specialist (CRS)
    A designation that means that the real estate agent has had additional training in buying and selling residential properties.

  • Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR)
    Like the CRS, the ABR has completed a course that levels up the skills of agents so that they can represent their buyers in an actual transaction.
  • REALTOR ® (R)
    Real estate agents who use the “R” when they represent themselves are members of the National Association of Realtors. You will be assured of honest and ethical transactions with them.

Finding the right real estate agent to represent you, or help you locate the right property can be daunting.
But with some of the tips above, and with a little time and effort, your effort will pay off.
Not only will you bag the house that you want or get the best price possible, you’ll also gain a trusted ally you can rely on to guide you in future real estate ventures.

Getting pre-approved for a homebuyingloan

Applying for a mortgage can be stressful. This is true especially for first-time applicants.
The groundwork required—fromchecking credit scores, income flow, and debt history—can seem a little overwhelming to the uninitiated.
When the dream of owning that 2-bedroom bedroom house by the corner with the mature landscaping and a porch swing is dependent on a single word from your lender, it’s not surprising why you might be a little anxious.
So, the importance of preparation is crucial. In fact, it’s best to get pre-approved for a loan first before you even start shopping for a home.

Pre-approval 101

Pre-approval for a mortgage loan is not a total guarantee that you will get a mortgage. However, when you do get one it means that:

  • Your financial standing is good
  • You can actually afford a mortgage
  • Your chance of getting a mortgage with good rates increases significantly

Think of it as your clean bill of health signifying your good standing and capability.
With it, finalizing your financial paperwork later on will be less daunting since you’ve already gotten started.

It also means your debt-to-income ratio is balanced, and fits the standards set by banks.
You also get a good picture of what you are truly capable of buying, setting a clearer expectation of your own purchasing power.
This is a very good thing for prospective buyers so that you’ll know early on if the house you want is within your reach.

Where to get pre-approval

Pre-approval for mortgage can be sought from one of the following:

  • Online prequalification – You can get prequalified online with the help of banks or lenders that offer this service on their websites. Note that this is just the first step, however. A pre-qualification does not equal pre-approval.
  • Banks and lenders – Visit a bank or a lender to ask for a pre – approval assessment.

How to get pre-approved

The process for pre-approval is the same as applying for actual loan itself:

  • Prepare the documentation all lenders require.This includes bank account statements, tax returns, payment stubs, W-2 forms from the last two years. You will probably also be required to show documents that show other means of income.
  • Check your credit report. Make sure no errors have been made and that it presents an accurate picture of your credit standing.
  • Prepare documentation on your personal info—birth certificate, identification cards, passports. These things will be expected from you.
  • Once you have submitted the paperwork, the lender will confirm if you are indeed a good candidate for a loan. If you have a hard time getting pre-approved then you may want to fix your finances first.

If you do get pre-approved for mortgage then you deserve hearty congratulations.
The trip to your dream home is still far from over, but with a pre-approval. a few things will be a lot easier than before.
For more information on the financing process and to find out what properties are available in the area, browse the site get in touch with the team at Hartman Cole anytime.

A complete guide to researching any house in L.A

So you’ve reached that stage in your life where everything just seems like a bag of stale cereal. The comfortable routine you’ve built for yourself feels torturous and the only one happy about it is your house plant. At least it knows that come Sunday morning, it’ll get watered.
You, on the other hand, have now realized that you are jealous of migrating birds and that random high school classmate who keeps up an amazing feed of photos and posts on social media. She apparently is living it up in the big city.

Maybe I should up and move somewhere, you catch yourself thinking.
Somewhere exciting.

Then it hits you.
I should move to Los Angeles.

Welcome to Los Angeles…sort of

Los Angeles is an exciting city to move into as the possibilities it offers are endless. It is a melting pot of lifestyles and cultures that mix and match in unexpected ways.
This can be the place where you might make your fortune, find your way, and give your ”blahs” the boot. It can be the jolt of red to your otherwise monochrome life.
But before you pack up your beloved house plant and declare a new zip code, fire up your laptop or scroll through your smartphone first. As with ambitious ventures, research is key in making sure you end up grounded in the City of Angels.

History 101

LA. needs no introduction, being one of the most well-documented cities in the world.
However, you will need an introduction to the city’s many neighborhoods and residential areas.
People tend to zone in on the house, and skim over the location of the house itself. From key issues such as accessibility to safety, it is important that you get a grasp of the history of your future address.
The following websites are a big help:

  • neighborhoodscout.com http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/ – This online resource lists a variety of data on your future neighborhood—including school ratings, crime scores, and where the nearest coffee place is. Find out everything in a few keystrokes.
  • homefair.com http://www.homefair.com – Allows visitors to look up data taken from the U.S. Census Bureau such as real estate prices, community information, and crime rates in any area. It is updated yearly.
  • rentjungle.com https://www.rentjungle.com/ – What makes this site stand out is its very specific filtering system. You can look for properties based only on the amenities you indicate. If you want hardwood floors instead of laminated ones, or any other preference, this site can help you out.

A little legwork
The internet can show you a boatload of information, but a personal tour can provide insight that Google can’t.
An online ad that claims to be a “cozy 20th century ranch house with patio and shade trees in NoHo” might sound like a dream come true on paper, but the reality may be more concrete box than house, and the trees more sapling than shade.
So don’t rely on online info alone. Take a trip around the neighborhood you’ve set your eyes on. Ask: do the things you read up online live up to the reality? Talk to the locals and listen to their opinions. Ask: what do they think of their own neighborhood?

You can also drive around the area to get the vibe of the place and find out how accessible your preferred conveniences are.

Hit up the public library or museum to learn more about local history and culture.In Los Angeles, your best bets are the Los Angeles Historical Society and the Associated Historical Societies of Los Angeles County (AHSLAC).
Spending time at the local museum or public library is an especially useful exercise if you plan to move into an older neighborhood or property. You may uncover the history of your home or find out just how much it’s really worth.

The endless debate—renting vs. buying

One of the major life decisions people eventually face is whether they want to own or simply rent a place. There are many factors to consider in making this critical decision.
Below are a few considerations that may help you figure out which option best suits your current situation.

The business of buying

People often buy property because of the sense of security it brings. Ownership also suggests maturity since it takes a high level of commitment to be able to own a house. However, like all commitments, house ownership entails gains and losses.

  • Financial obligations and rewards – Buyers are obligated to pay fees and taxes that come with ownership. Property taxes and mortgages need to be attended to, but the interests on those payments are eventually deducted from income taxes.
  • Home value – The National Association of Realtors says that from 1993 to 2013, the median sales price of existing single-family homes rose steadily by 81%. That’s not to say that home prices won’t dip, however.
  • Maintenance costs – Aside from taxes and fees, homeowners need to spend their own money on upgrades and repairs.
    No more calling the landlord to take care of things. Your monthly spending may end up higher than when you were renting—but buying a home is as fulfilling as it is challenging.

Renting risks and rewards
Based on a study by Deutsche Bank reported on the Wall Street Journalin May 2014, “the monthly cost of renting was lower than buying in 20 large metropolitan areas.”
These costs can even be lower for houses of the same size or bought in the same community.

  • Expenses and benefits – Renters don’t have to pay property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and maintenance costs. They don’t have to shoulder repairs either. Unlike homeowners, however, renters don’t get the tax benefits from mortgage interest payments.
  • Flexibility – Renting is good for people who move or travel a lot. When it comes to looking or relocating for work, renters can up and go at a moment’s notice.
  • Investment issues – Some people would rather invest their money elsewhere and use the gains to add to their down payment fund. A larger down payment means you can hold out for a better home. This strategy, however, can be a bit risky especially if the investment fails to deliver.

The 3 L’s to consider

  • Location – Are you moving to a suburb, town or city? Is it cheaper to rent or buy property in the area?
  • Length of stay – How long are you planning to live there?
  • Lifestyle – Can you afford the lifestyle (or the cost of living) in the area you’re interested in?

So which is better—buying or renting?
Buying a home is great for individuals who plan to stay in a particular area for at least 5 years, and can commit to its maintenance.
Renting is perfect for the itinerantand those who are still building their careers. At the end of the day, however, this is a very individual decision. Weigh the pros and cons of each and consult with professionals who can help you make the best decision.

What’s new in the Westside?

The Westside is a collection ofaround two dozen urban areas in L.A. composed of districts, cities, and unincorporated neighborhoods. It’s a region with no official designation as the cluster of adjacent neighborhoods was given its name by the L.A. Times as part of its neighborhood mapping project.
The 101-square mile area is home to some of the most affluent areas in the U.S. including Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, and Brentwood. It’s also known for its shopping (Rodeo Drive), culture (Getty Center, Museum Row), food (from fine dining to the best cheap eats), and developments.
Here’s what’s now rising in this coveted region:

Elite Real Estate is about to bring more class and luxury to Brentwood with its new residential buildings.
Located at 11965 Montana Avenue, this half-acre piece of property is the site of a new 5-story development, featuring:

  • 49 residential units each measuring 1,600 square feet
  • Your choice of 2- or 3-bedroom units
  • A pool
  • Rooftop deck

This mid-block development is located between Bundy Drive and San Vicente Boulevard.

Sepulveda Boulevard is bound to get busier once CIM Group completes its low-rise apartment complex. The timeline may still be unclear but people are already looking forward to this luxurious 5-story residence.
It promises:

  • 137 units
  • More than 200 parking spaces
  • Nearly15,000 square feet of open space

How grand is that?
As one of the most creative real estate firms in SoCal, CIM will create nothing but the best out of this one-acre property at 8740 La Tijera Boulevard.

Playa Vista
Non-profit real estate group Los Angeles Jewish Home is now in Playa Vistawith a luxury development many have been waiting for.
Fountainview at Gonda Westside is a $100 million senior housingproject featuring:

  • A series of low-rise structures
  • All the best amenities and the most comfortable abodes for seniors
  • 175 independent-living units
  • 24 assisted-living/memory-care suites
  • Gorgeous landscaping
  • A beautiful courtyard
  • Fitness center
  • Library
  • Café
  • Screening room
  • Swimming pool and spa

Many of the amenities were integrated with the outdoors to make residents feel freer and more relaxed.
Gensler, a renowned architectural firm, patterned the 6-story building’s style after other prominent Westside structures characterized by sloping rooflines and wood paneling.
The firm also designed IMAX Corporation’s West Coast Headquarters located in the Lower Westside.
This huge project is scheduled for completion in 2016.

Say goodbye to YMCA and say hello to CA Landmark Group (CLG)!
1947 Sawtelle Boulevard in the Westside neighborhood of SawtelleJapantownis about to get a makeover as a residential-commercial development is set to begin in mid-2016.
The new 5-story complex was masterfully designed by Rios Clementiand features:

  • 73 residential units
  • A 7,700 square-foot ground floor

The project is envisioned to bring new and affordable homes to the people of Westside LA.
The Sawtelle5-story complex is just the first in a series of residential developments. “The building’s height profile will gradually pare down to a series of two-story townhomes as it approaches the adjacent single-family zone to the west,” Urbanize.LA reports.
Once an enclave for Japanese Americans, Sawtelle Japan town is now a magnet for millennials of diverse ethnicities who are slowly turning it into a hip and happening neighborhood.

Top 25 Home Seller Tips

Before you put your home up for sale, check out a few smart and practical recommendations for making your property sell as quickly as possible.

Prepping your home

    1. Make your house look neutralyetstylish.
    2. Brighten the home with well-placed mirrors that reflect natural light or enlarge rooms.
    3. Find out which changes will give you the best returns before you update or upgrade anything in your house.
    4. Make improvements based on what turns off home buyers, including outdated textured walls and ceiling, bad carpeting, grimy grout on tiled countertops, and, in fact, tiled countertops, to name a few.
    5. Depersonalize the house by removing items like family portraits, religious items, or pet accessories. Buyers need to picture themselves belonging in the space.
    6. Organize the house so that you can show buyers the purpose of each room—and allow them to imagine other possibilities for it.
    7. Make sure fixtures, appliances, doors, and windows are in good condition.
    8. Home features should comply with current building codes.
    9. Don’t neglect your lawn and exteriors. A fresh coat of paint outside the house and a well-groomed lawn are things that set the buyer’s expectations.
    10. Hire a home stager if you feel like your property needs help from a professional.
    11. Expect prospective buyers to drop in any time of the day.
    12. Keep the house in the best possible condition at all times.

    Evaluating the property
    13. Check out the prices on comparable properties you see online andconsult a knowledgeable local real estate agent for sound advice.
    14. Do an informal survey – ask friends or neighbors how much they think your home is worth.
    15. Don’t list your home on the top end of its price range if you don’t want to alienate buyers and real estate agents alike.
    16. Keep your asking price in the range that can easily be found in real estate searches. This way, your house will be seen by a larger set of potential buyers.
    17. Look at the house from the point of view of a buyer. This may help you come up with a fair and reasonable price for your home.

    Making the sale
    18. Put your listing on all the major online real estate portals.
    19. Take plenty of quality photos for your listing.
    20. Remember how important the first 30 days of marketing your house are.
    21. Try to close the deal as soon as you can.If possible, within 30 to 60 days.
    22. Consider offering a transferable home warranty. This usually covers appliances that might malfunction over time.
    23.Always havea contingency plan ready. It’s not unusual for deals to fall apart at the last minute.
    24. Prepare to makecompromises while negotiating. Do not expect everything to go as originally planned.
    25. Make sure you market the lifestyle, not just the home. Potential buyers need to feel like they can be part of a wonderful community if they choose to move in.

Top 25 home buyer tips

Before you buy the home of your dreams, check out the 25 most usefulthingsto keep in mind.
Starting your search

    1. Know how much you can afford.
    2. Do your homework. Make sure you know all your mortgage options and check all your credit score requirements.
    3. Keep your spending in check.
    4. Don’t move money around. Lenders need to see a stable account and require a complete paper trail of your finances.
    5. Purchase a home when you’re sure you’re ready.Don’t base your decision on market “timing.” Real estate is very volatile.
    6. Expenses don’t end with the purchase of the house. If anything, you may need to spend a little more on spit-polishing your new home—including paint jobs, yard work, retrofitting, and so on. Make sure you factor all of these in your home-buying spreadsheet.
    7. Be financially set…times 10. Prepare yourself for the many changesand unexpected expenses that occur when moving to a new house.

    Choosing your home
    8. Figure out what type of house works best for your needs. Do you find a townhouse more practical than a single-detached home? Is the condo you’re eyeing conveniently located?
    9. Determine the features (e.g. pool, garden, fireplace) you want in your house.
    10. Scout out the neighborhood and observe the people who live there. The community is as important as the house itself.
    11. Don’t choose based on size alone.Bigger houses don’t mean better houses.
    12. Be practical but don’t be a cheapskate.
    13. Don’t obsess over a house featureyou adore, like the patio or the kitchen.
    14. Keep in mind the pros and cons of the house you’re eyeing – better yet, list them.
    15. Hire a home inspector. It’s practical and convenient – not to mention something that your lender will require anyway.
    16. Aside from practical considerations, make sure you like the house you’re buying. If you end up simply settling, you may find yourself moving or relocating yet again.
    17. Think permanence. Moving is a pain, especially if you have kids, or if you’ve invested major bucks and a good chunk of time on acquiring a home.

    Handling your finances
    18. Ask for help—whether it’s from a friend who’s had home-buying experience or someone who knows the area you intend to move to.
    19. Beware of sketchy deals. Employ a reputable real estate agent to ensure all negotiations are on the up and up. Or, if you want to do it yourself, make sure you know how to check credentials and determine the authenticity of documents.
    20. Hire a real estate agent. They are experts with a network they can rely on to net you the better deal on the house of your dreams.
    21. Make sure your credit reports reflect updated information, without any old or unsettled debts still on your record.
    22. Find out how much mortgage you can actually get approvedfor as early in the process as possible.
    23. Don’t just get pre-qualified for a loan, get pre-approved. Know the difference between the two.
    24. Acquire down payment assistance, especially if you are a first-time homebuyer.
    25. Check the real estate guidelines of the area you plan on moving to, as rules and requirements can differ from place to place – even within one state.

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