Monday, October 30, 2017

HOME RENOVATIONS ON THE RISE: WHAT PAYS OFF?

A Harvard housing study* earlier this year predicted significant increases in home remodeling.  This does make a lot of sense for several reasons.  The continuing low inventory levels are limiting buyer choices, and increasing prices, making moving more difficult for younger people who don’t have much equity in their current homes.   It also makes home improvements a good bet if you are planning to sell your home in the next year or so.
            The most important part of the remodeling decision is where to put your investment so that you get the best return.   Not every renovation will pay off and sometimes very stylized types of changes may actually be a negative when a house is for sale.  So think carefully before you renovate, if your plan is long term (over 5 years) and you’ve always wanted that built-in mirrored canopy over your bed, do it! Just understand, it may have to be replaced when it comes time to sell your home.
          
  Here are some of the best investments to consider that will give you a return:

·       Wood floors – they never seem to go out of style. They are warm under foot and can be stained, bleached, or otherwise refinished to suit many different home d├ęcor styles.
·       Updated bathrooms - the average person spends about 45 minutes a day in the bathroom, so a stylish and comfortable environment is always appreciated.  Again, if you’re thinking of selling in the near future,  things like double sinks and handheld showers are wonderful conveniences.
·       Updated kitchens – they always seem to be where people gather in a home.  Probably one of the most important remodels you can do and the most expensive if you don’t shop smartly.  Consider a center island, if your kitchen has the space, where  your family and guests can congregate and where you can entertain while you’re preparing dinner.  Choose your cabinets and appliances with care.  Cabinetry can be unnecessarily costly – look for good quality, it’s not always necessary to have custom made.  Choose upscale appliances that are functional, but economize on extras.  You don’t need every bell and whistle.

           If your home needs updating and it’s in the budget, do it now and enjoy the improvements yourself, while you’re living in the house.  If you’re thinking of selling your home in the next year or so, we would be happy to meet with you to go over remodeling ideas that add to your living enjoyment and your home’s value when it comes time to sell.  Call us at 631 765 5333 or email me at marie@beninatiassociates.com. 

At Beninati Associates, we listen, we really care, and we get results!



* Improving Americas Housing 2017:Demographic Change and the Remodeling Outlook. Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

PROTECT AND CHECK YOUR CREDIT INFORMATION

The recent Equifax data breach was one of the largest hacks on record – about 140 million Americans are potentially affected. Yesterday’s news reported even more consumers may be exposed to identity theft than this original estimate. The implications for buyers applying for mortgages is significant, since the data that was compromised includes social security numbers, addresses and credit card information, etc. There will be an effect on mortgage processing both in terms of slowing down the process -due to more verifying and cross-checking of information by lenders - to out-and-out mortgage fraud. As a consumer, if you have been affected, it will and likely increase your cost of processing.

What should you do to detect if your credit records have been compromised and better yet how can you protect yourself from fraudulent use of your credit identity? Here are three worthwhile recommendations from security experts in the field:

1. Check Your Exposure – see if the Equifax breach affected you. Go to httpps://trustedidpremier.com/eligibility/eligibility.html

2. Freeze Your Accounts - if you have been affected (and even if you have not but wish to better secure your information), contact each of the big credit-reporting companies to freeze your credit, either online or by calling ( TransUnion 888 909 8872, Experian 888 397 3742, Equifax 800 349 9960). By freezing your accounts you will be able to use your credit cards but no one will be able to access your credit scores or get information without your knowledge or permission.

3. Monitor Your Credit – many credit card companies offer a free service where you can check your credit regularly. You can also purchase a monitoring service. It’s far less complex to undo fraudulent activity if you pick it up early, rather than after months of activity.
These suggestions represent an added burden to you, but in this world where consumer credit files are so critical to being able to borrow for a home or auto or large purchases, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cures!”

At Beninati Associates, we’re looking out for you!

Source: “How Equifax Breach Could Hurt Home Sales,” realtor.com (September 18, 2017).

Sunday, October 15, 2017

ARE YOUR SMART DEVICES SPYING ON YOU?

            With the increasing sophistication of smart devices with cameras, microphones, and internet connections, have you ever thought about the possibility that your Apple smartphone, Nest thermostat, robot vac, nanny cam, or your smart refrigerator could be snooping on you?!  Even your beloved ALEXA, high-end Samsung Smart TV or your automobile could be a spy!
            " Anything connected to the internet can be exploited by hackers or by the government, " says Chris Dore, an attorney specializing in these issues. But before you hang a dark curtain over your smart TV and break out the tinfoil hat, there are a few things you can do to protect your privacy.

1. Change your passwords
Changing passwords is your first line of defense. We already know to do  this for our laptops and phones, but many of us don’t think about passwords for smart appliances. If the product  is "password protected,"  go to the manufacturer’s website to learn how to change it.

2. Update your software
Software updates, as annoying as they are, often address newly discovered security weaknesses. Homeowners who don't refresh their software leave themselves vulnerable to attacks. Always download new updates.

3. Cover your cameras and turn off voice automation
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg puts a piece of tape over the camera and microphone jack on his laptop—and you should, too.  This prevents hackers from listening in or watching you remotely.  You can also turn off the voice automation settings on your smart TV, and other devices.

 4. Unplug devices when they're not in use
For the most part, devices can't spy on you if they're not plugged in. So do more than just shut down your smart TV or laptop when you're not around, experts say, disconnect it entirely from its power source.
            These are just a few tips from experts in the field.  Some may seem like overkill, but with the proliferation of devices with cameras, microphones and with the added assistance of the internet, we are more vulnerable than ever.  Take heed, take care!



Source:  “Are Your Smart Home Devices Spying on You? How to Protect Yourself,”  by Clare Trapasso,                            realtor.com (March 8, 2017).

Sunday, October 8, 2017

PROTECT AND CHECK YOUR CREDIT INFORMATION

The recent Equifax data breach was one of the largest hacks on record – about 140 million Americans are potentially affected.  Yesterday’s news reported even more consumers may be exposed to identity theft than this original estimate.  The implications for buyers applying for mortgages is significant, since the data that was compromised includes social security numbers, addresses and credit card information, etc.  There will be an effect on mortgage processing both in terms of slowing down the process -due to more verifying and cross-checking of information by lenders - to out-and-out mortgage fraud.  As a consumer, if you have been affected, it will and likely increase your cost of processing.
            
What should you do to detect if your credit records have been compromised and better yet how can you protect yourself from fraudulent use of your credit identity?  Here are three worthwhile recommendations from security experts in the field:

1. Check Your Exposure – see if the Equifax breach affected you. Go to httpps://trustedidpremier.com/eligibility/eligibility.html

2. Freeze Your Accounts - if you have been affected (and even if you have not but wish to better secure your information), contact each of the big credit-reporting companies to freeze your credit, either online or by calling ( TransUnion 888 909 8872, Experian 888 397 3742, Equifax 800 349 9960).  By freezing your accounts you will be able to use your credit cards but no one will be able to access your credit scores or get information without your knowledge or permission. 

3. Monitor Your Credit – many credit card companies offer a free service where you can check your credit regularly.  You can also purchase a monitoring service.  It’s far less complex to undo fraudulent activity if you pick it up early, rather than after months of activity.
            
These suggestions represent an added burden to you, but in this world where consumer credit files are so critical to being able to borrow for a home or auto or large purchases, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cures!”  At Beninati Associates, we’re looking out for you!


Source: “How Equifax Breach Could Hurt Home Sales,” realtor.com (September 18, 2017).