Law Takes Aim at Emotional Support Animal Certificate Abuse

By Tom Butler

The new law, SB 1084, was a session priority for Florida Realtors as the continued abuse of online “ESA certificates” created major problems for property managers.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1084 into law this week, which seeks to curb growing abuses of emotional support animal (ESA) certificates.

The new law was a major session priority of Florida Realtors as the continued abuse of online “ESA certificates” presented significant problems for many Realtors who are also property managers. The law establishes what can be considered reliable information for an ESA.

One of the main components of the law, which is based on new federal guidelines, is that patients must establish the need for an ESA through a licensed medical practitioner with whom they have an established professional relationship. Additionally, the law creates a civil penalty for the falsification of documentation used to support the need for an ESA.

Other changes in the law of interest to Realtors include the need for separate supporting documentation for each emotional support animal in a household, liability for any damages done to a person or property where an ESA resides, and a housing provider’s ability to ask for supporting documentation if the disability is not readily apparent.

Finally, the law allows a housing provider to deny an ESA if they believe the animal will cause harm to people or the property of others. The bill does not address restaurants, airplanes or other public places. The effective date is July 1, 2020.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

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YOUR GUIDE TO HOME APPRAISAL

Your Guide to the Home Appraisal

You’ve found your dream home and now it’s time to cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s before it’s all your own. And one of the first items on your closing checklist the home appraisal. So, what exactly is that?

The home appraisal is essentially a value assessment of the home and property. It is conducted by a certified third party and is used to determine whether the home is priced appropriately.

During a home appraisal, the appraiser conducts a complete visual inspection of the interior and exterior of the home. He or she factors in a variety of things, including the home’s floor plan functionality, condition, location, school district, fixtures, lot size, and more. An upward adjustment is generally made if the home has a deck, a view, or a large yard. The appraiser will also compare the home to several similar homes that were sold within the last six months in the area.

The final report must include a street map showing the property and the ones’ compared, photographs of the interior and exterior, an explanation on how the square footage was calculated, market sales data, public land records, and more.

After it is complete, the lender uses the information found to ensure that the property is worth the amount they are investing. This is a safe-guard for the lender as the home acts as collateral for the mortgage. If the buyer defaults on the mortgage and goes into foreclosure, the lender generally sells the home to recover the money borrowed.

ACHIEVE MORNING PERSON STATUS

Ever wish you could become one of those rare morning people? The ones that wake with a start, feeling refreshed and energized. The ones that get in that morning workout or wrap up some work before many of us even hit the snooze button for the first time. Here are five tips to help you achieve that early bird status!

  1. Create a morning schedule. Physically write down the things you’d like to complete in the morning and set a time for each. Then stick with it. Once you force yourself out of bed early one or two weeks consistently, you’ll find it gets easier and easier to do.
  2. Let the light in. Whether natural or artificial, light tells your brain its time to get up and get going. If your room lacks large windows where you can open the blinds up, consider investing in a timed lamp or alarm clock with a light.
  3. Prep and eat breakfast. Although there are many of us who chose the skip breakfast, it is key to perking up your energy in the morning. Try prepping protein-focused meals the night before or grab a yogurt or fruit and try to consume it right after you wake.
  4. Get your body moving. Whether it’s a short walk around your neighborhood or a rigorous 5:30 am spin class, getting your blood pumping will help wake up your body and has a ton of other benefits, like stress and anxiety reduction.
  5. Feed your mind. Stimulate your brain and do something you enjoy first thing in the morning. Try reading a favorite book, catching up on the news, doing daily meditation, or setting intentions.

Create an Evacuation Plan for Your Pets

An evacuation plan is a necessity for every home, especially if you live in an area where fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters are a possibility. Many homeowners create evacuation plans for their homes and practice them with their kids, but far fewer have considered one for their pets. Take these steps to add your pets to your evacuation plan.

Assign pet evacuation to an adult. Everyone should know how to act during an evacuation, and that includes assigning one parent or adult to the pets. This allows the other parent and the children to focus on their part of the evacuation plan, so there’s no confusion during a high-stress moment when time is of the essence.

Keep evacuation maps and pet carriers readily accessible. If you need to evacuate, you should know exactly where every important item is. If you pets require carriers, keep them in a place that you can access easily.

Practice your plan. Include your pets in your home evacuation drills. It’ll help you see how they will respond and make changes to your plan if necessary. Getting your dog out of a window may not be as simple as you think!

Be prepared in case you get separated from your pets. No matter how much you drill your evacuation plan, it’s possible that a dog or cat will run off while you’re focusing on keeping your family safe. A microchip or a GPS-compatible tag can help you find your pets once it’s safe to return to the area.

Responsible buyers with low credit get new options

Source: Responsible buyers with low credit get new options

BOSTON – April 8, 2019 – Here’s some good news for anyone whose credit scores aren’t quite as high as they’d like them to be: Three new financial tools have come to market – or soon will be available – that could give your scores a shot of adrenaline when you need it most.

All three tools come from well-established players: FICO, developer of the ubiquitous FICO score; Experian, one of the national credit bureaus; and CreditXpert, a financial technology company whose products are used extensively in the mortgage arena.

FICO’s Ultra score is expected to be widely available from lenders this summer. It raises scores by importing data from your checking, banking, savings and money-market accounts into your credit report when calculating your score. If you have some savings, maintain your bank accounts over time and avoid negative balances, you’ll likely get a higher score.

Seven out of 10 consumers who exhibit good banking and savings behavior should see increased scores using Ultra, according to FICO.

Experian’s new Boost option, introduced in March and now becoming available nationwide, offers another score-enhancement approach. It imports your on-time utilities and telecom payments and includes positive data into your score calculations, raising scores in the majority of cases.

According to Experian, three-quarters of consumers with scores below 680 saw an increase in their scores from Boost.

The new Wayfinder, from CreditXpert, is different. Working with their loan officer, borrowers select a target credit score they’d like to achieve to qualify for a loan or get the best interest rate and terms possible. The Wayfinder software then runs dozens of scenarios to get the borrower that score within a designated time period by taking steps to modify accounts in their credit reports.

Say you have a 640 score but need at least a 680 to get a lower interest rate. Your loan officer plugs your 680 target into the software, and the program delivers specific steps you can take to achieve that score within days or weeks. Plans might call for a partial paydown of one or more accounts that are needlessly depressing your current score.

But since you may not want to spend the money, Wayfinder offers alternatives that won’t cost as much but might take a month or more to complete. Score improvements average around 27 to 30 points but have ranged as high as 179 points, according to CreditXpert.

All three of these tools could be practical if you find yourself in a score pinch. You simply need to ask your loan officer about them.

But Fico’s Ultra and Experian’s Boost come with a crucial handicap for anyone seeking a home mortgage: Under current regulatory restrictions, the two biggest sources of mortgage money cannot accept the FICO scores they produce.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both confirmed to me that at least for the time being, their underwriting systems don’t permit either UltraFICO or Boost. Both can be used for most other credit purposes using Experian credit reports, such as applying for credit cards or auto loans – but not for mortgages destined for purchase by Fannie or Freddie.

Wayfinder, by contrast, is designed for the mortgage market. The higher scores it leads to are acceptable because they reflect credit report changes that can be incorporated into scoring models that Fannie and Freddie have used for years. So if you’re seeking a mortgage and need a higher score, Wayfinder is worth mentioning to your loan officer.

Another key fact you should know about Wayfinder: It’s not free. It costs about $15 to $18 if you want to run it on your files at each of the big three credit bureaus. Plus, it typically involves “rapid rescoring” of your credit reports by a vendor working with your loan officer, and that can cost an additional $75 to $150.

But if the process lands you a loan that costs thousands less over the years, the small upfront expense should be worth it.

Copyright © 2019, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond, VA, Kenneth R. Harney. Kenneth R. Harney heads his own consulting firm in Chevy Chase, Md.

If you are looking to buy or sell your home Jennifer is just a phone call away. Call today to get started.
Jennifer Bailey, REALTOR®, e-PRO®
Dale Sorensen Real Estate
Locally known….Globally Connected…

772-559-5524 • jbailey@sorensenrealestate.com • veroluxuryhomes.com

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TOP TIPS FOR STAGING YOUR HOME

A recent survey from the National Association of Realtors® revealed that 77 percent of buyers’ agents said staging a home makes it easier for potential buyers to visual it as their own. That’s why here at Breakthrough Broker, we believe staging is not to be overlooked! Here are our top tips.

  1. Dress up your yard. First impressions count, and the first one your home gives comes from the exterior. Mow the lawn, clean up shrubbery, rake any leaves, clean the walkway and driveway, plant in-season flowers, and pull up any unsightly weeds.
  2. Reduce personal items. Make it easier for buyers to imagine themselves making your house their home by removing personal photos and knick-knacks from shelves, walls, and counters. Instead replace them with clean, simple décor, such as abstract paintings, nature images, vases, plants, and more.
  3. Organize your storage areas. Storage is a huge selling point. Tidy up and clear out the accessible closets and cupboards in the home and make sure to point them out during an open house or showing.
  4. Appeal to the senses. Consider ways you can appeal to potential homebuyers’ other senses. During a viewing or open house, bake some fresh cookies or burn delicious smelling candles and play light, relaxing music in the background.
  5. Consider turning to an expert. With their knowledge of current trends and great eye for design, professionally certified stagers can transform a home in a variety of ways and have a keen sense of what homebuyers want and expect in a home. Investing in hiring a pro may pay off in dividends.

Locally Known… Globally Connected!
Jennifer Bailey, REALTOR® e-PRO®
Dale Sorensen Real Estate
772-559-5524 • veroluxuryhomes.comsearchinvero.com

House Hunting and Renovation TV Shows – Fun Facts and Dirty Little Secrets

Photo licensed under Creative Commons

Television channels like HGTV and DIY have truly changed residential real estate for the better. Thanks to these channels, buyers and sellers today are more educated about their homes’ structures, décor, and remodeling costs. Everybody’s expectations are higher and most buyers and sellers’ creativity is too. Have you wondered about how these shows are made? What is real and what is not? Here are some fun facts.

First, for the remodeling or fix and flip shows, the remodeling budget is truly the homeowners’ remodeling budget. If the homeowners have wanted more than their budget will allow, the producers usually bring the buyers back to reality long before the remodel is started. If there is some unforeseen cost, other changes are omitted or downscaled.

The inspections are real inspections, too. When you see a show host presiding over a sewer inspection (yuk!), they are really checking it out.

The programs need true action in addition to just on-camera interviews. (Ever notice how each of these shows has at least one homeowner hitting a wall with a sledge hammer?) When you see a show host or a new owner actually doing work, they are not faking it – they are really doing the work that you are seeing. Those are real nails in those nail guns. All of the show hosts and all of the buyers get involved in at least some portion of the decorating or remodel.

Now for the dirty little secrets. Here is the big one for the house hunter shows. Although it is really fun to try and guess which house a buyer will pick, these programs are shot in reverse. That means the show is filmed after the buyers buy – and close on – their home. The other homes are “decoys” that are filmed after the transaction concludes and were never seen by the buyers during the actual search.

Ever notice how much the buyer or house remodeler couples argue and disagree? A lot of the drama on the shows is fake. Conflict, like action, makes a more interesting television show. The producers will encourage the magnification of buyers’ and sellers’ fears and dilemmas because it is believed – correctly or incorrectly – that it makes for better ratings.

And even though the host and home owners get involved in some of the work, most of the work is done off-camera by professional contractors and (sometimes) large crews. The projects can take much longer than they usually would as well; the contractor’s schedules and stages have to work with the production crew’s schedules and availability.

Nevertheless, these shows are really fun to watch, and offer lots of general education about homes and house hunting.

6 ways to prepare now for hurricanes

Source: 6 ways to prepare now for hurricanes

eye of the storm image from outer space

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

MIAMI – June 8, 2018 – The worst thing that people who live along coastlines can do is not to prepare for tropical storms and hurricanes.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the two key factors contributing to weather safety during hurricanes are preparing in advance for the risks and to act on those preparations when alerted by emergency officials.

The director of the National Hurricane Center, Rick Knabb, and AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski, outlined certain precautionary steps that people in areas impacted by hurricanes and tropical storms should take.

1. Evacuation planning
The main reason people have to evacuate during hurricanes is from a storm surge, which is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm’s winds that can reach heights well over 20 feet and can span hundreds of miles of coastlines, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“Evacuation planning is number one on the list,” Knabb said.

Knabb urged that people find out today if they live in a hurricane evacuation area, which is an area in which residents must leave their homes in the event of a hurricane.

Local governments provide the public with information about evacuation areas and the evacuation plans, and Knabb recommended that people review this information in advance.

“Some people will actually test the evacuation route in good weather,” Kottlowski said. “Waiting until the day of the hurricane isn’t a smart idea since everyone will be in a heightened state of anxiety.”

While people who live in storm surge areas fall within areas that are urged to evacuate during a hurricane, people who live outside of these zones should still look into safety precautions during a hurricane.

Those who live in mobile homes and high rises may also have to evacuate even if they do not live in an evacuation area, Knabb said.

“It’s not just a beach front problem,” he added.

Pet owners should also have an evacuation plan for their pets. Many shelters offer places to keep pets.

2. Buy supplies
The most important thing that both Knabb and Kottlowski stressed was buying supplies well in advance and keeping those supplies on hand should evacuation be required.

“If you wait until the hurricane is on your doorsteps, you are going to be waiting in long lines and they could even be out of the stuff you need,” Knabb said.

Those living in evacuation areas should keep a hurricane kit handy that is stored in a way that is easy to grab and bring to an evacuation shelter.

While evacuation shelters do provide supplies, Kottlowski said, “Shelters can get overrun and may not have enough supplies.”

These kits should include water, food, blankets and clothing, as well as a first aid kit, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight and batteries, whistle to signal for help and local maps.

Kottlowski said he recommends that residents have their kits bagged up in a suitcase or plastic tub.

3. Check insurance coverage
Property owners and renters should be sure to insure their homes against flooding, something that Knabb said many people do not realize is not a part of standard home and renters insurance.

Tenants and home owners can contact their renters or home insurance provider to buy flood insurance, and they should do so even if they do not live right along the coastline.

“People might think that if they don’t live on the coast, then they won’t have a flooding problem,” Knabb said. “But if it can rain, it can flood.”

Car owners should also contact auto insurance companies and move their cars into an off-site location or secured building.

“You won’t be able to take every vehicle you own to the shelter, but if you leave the vehicle outside, it could be seriously damaged,” Kottlowski said.

4. Make copies of important documents
Those living in or near hurricane areas should make copies of proof of ownership documents of any property not limited to their homes, cars and boats. These documents can be stored in the hurricane kit or in any safe location that does not risk being damaged during the hurricane.

“If a hurricane levels your house, you have to prove that it is your house,” Kottlowski said.

5. Protect your home
Residents and tenants should inspect their homes to confirm that there is no damage that a hurricane could increase. Any issues with the overall structure should be repaired, including loose shingles or damaged roofs.

“Any possible compromises to the roof or house will become an open avenue for strong and gusty winds,” Kottlowski said.

Residences with yards should also make a list of anything laying on the ground outside that could get tossed into the air and become debris during high winds.

Kottlowski also said residents should purchase supplies, including plywood to cover windows and extra security to keep doors from blowing open, in advance, to secure their homes from damaging winds.

6. Back up your electronics
Aside from keeping extra batteries and chargers around during a hurricane, people are also encouraged to backup any electronic devices.

Knabb said data should be stored at an off-site location so that data can be recovered if something were to happen to the physical computer or device during a hurricane.

Businesses should take particular caution in backing up information and sending that information to a remote site.

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