Skip to content

Homeowners Insurance: Is Mold Covered?

September 1, 2016





Mold strikes fear into the hearts of those who’ve heard horror stories about toxic mold, expensive mold remediation, and denied home owners insurance claims. Yet mold can be found anywhere, including in most homes. It’s usually harmless.
Mold needs moisture to thrive. Problems can arise for home owners when the presence of persistent moisture goes undetected or unresolved, leading to widespread mold growth. Moisture can result from high indoor humidity, flooding, or a leaky roof or dishwasher.

Whether mold damage is covered by home owners insurance often comes down to the source of that moisture. Take an hour or two to review the language of your policy, especially as it pertains to water damage. Look for mold exclusions or limitations.

Mold and home owners insurance
Most basic home owners insurance policies exclude coverage of damage caused by mold, fungi, and bacteria, says Mark Ferguson, property claim specialist with General Casualty Insurance in Sun Prairie, Wis. Yet that doesn’t mean a mold claim will be denied automatically.

In most cases, if mold results from a sudden and accidental covered peril, such as a pipe bursting, the cost of remediation should be covered, says Ferguson. That’s because technically the pipe burst is the reason for the claim, not the mold itself. Claims are more likely to be rejected if mold is caused by neglected home maintenance: long-term exposure to humidity, or repeated water leaks and seepage.

It’s hard to put a precise dollar figure on mold damage because most insurers don’t separate mold claims from water-damage claims, says Claire Wilkinson of the Insurance Information Institute. About 22% of all home owners insurance claims result from “water damage and freezing,” a category that includes mold remediation, according to the III. A 2003 white paper on mold from the III put the cost of the average mold claim between $15,000 and $30,000, at least five times the average non-mold home owners claim at that time.

After a rush of mold claims in the early 2000s, most states adopted limitations on mold coverage. Amounts vary, but a typical home owners policy might cover between $1,000 and $10,000 in mold remediation and repair, says Celia Santana of Personal Risk Management Solutions in New York. Most policies won’t cover mold related to flood damage. For that, home owners need separate flood insurance, which averages $540 per year through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Is extra mold coverage necessary?
It might be possible to purchase a mold rider as an add-on to your existing home owners policy. Ask your agent. A rider will offer additional mold coverage. Cost and your personal risk-tolerance are the driving factors behind a decision.

Premiums will vary based on where you live and the value of your house. You could pay from $500 to $1,500 a year for a rider on an existing policy. Prices tend to climb in humid southern climates, and in Texas and California, where there have been high-profile mold cases.

In general, older homes in humid climates where mold thrives will be more costly to insure than newer constructions in a dry climate. In particular, homes built within the past five years are likely constructed with mold-resistant wood, drywall, and paints, says Santana. Newer homes are also less susceptible to water infiltration.

If your insurance carrier isn’t willing to provide a rider because the risk is too great, specialty companies such as Unitrin might sell you a standalone mold policy. Brace yourself for a hefty price tag. Annual premiums for a standalone mold policy might range from $5,000 to $25,000. Weigh the cost against risk factors including the age and value of your home, its construction, and the prevalence of mold issues in your area.

Moisture prevention is the key
The surest way to avoid having a claim denied is keeping mold at bay in the first place. Preventing mold and eliminating mold when it does occur are critical to protecting the value of your home.

To help prevent mold growth in your home, the III suggests taking the following steps:

  1. Lower indoor humidity with air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and exhaust fans.
  2. Inspect hoses and fittings on appliances, sinks, and toilets.
  3. Use household cleaners with mold-killing ingredients like bleach.
  4. Opt for paints and primers that contain mold inhibitors.
  5. Clean gutters to avoid overflow and check roof for leaks.
  6. Avoid carpet in wet areas like basements and bathrooms.
  7. Remove and dry carpet, padding, and upholstery within 48 hours of flooding.


Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117. 


A Bucket of Information on Graywater

August 25, 2016




What is Graywater?

Graywater is untreated wastewater that does not include any toilet discharge, unhealthy bodily wastes, or manufacturing wastes. It is wastewater from bathtubs, showers, bathroom washbasins, and clothes washing machines. Wastewater from kitchen sinks, dishwashers, and laundry of soiled diapers is not included.

How can I use Graywater?

Graywater can be used to irrigate landscaping and plants but not on root crops or edible parts of food crops. Irrigation lines can be either drip or leach systems and the discharge point must be covered by at least two (2) inches of mulch, rock, soil, or a solid shield to minimize the possibility of contact with humans and domestic pets. Be aware that some soaps and detergents can contain a variety of chemicals to aid in cleaning that may be harmful to your plants. Avoid soaps with chlorine or bleach, peroxygen, sodium perborate, sodium trypochorite, boron, borax, petroleum distillate, alkylbenze, “whiteners”, “softeners”, and enzymatic components. Please contact a reputable landscape specialist for more information.

What regulations should I know about?

On January 27, 2010, the State of California finalized the graywater regula ons for Chapter 16A “Nonpotable Water Reuse Systems” into the 2007 California Plumbing Code (CPC). The emergency graywater regulations were enacted to help residents of California conserve water by facilitating greater reuse of laundry, shower water, and similar sources for irrigation. In addition, by making legal compliance easy, the State hopes to reduce the number of non-compliant graywater systems. Your graywater system must comply with the 2007 CPC and other codes enacted by your local municipality or water purveyor.

All other gray water systems require a permit. A permit must be obtained from the building department of your local municipality. If you live in an unincorporated area of San Diego County, you must obtain your permit from the County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health (DEH) …read more.

Do I need a permit?

Not all graywater systems require a permit. Generally, clothes washer systems designed and operated to meet the following criteria do not require a permit, but you may need to notify the local jurisdiction on and/or your local water supplier. The following are system design requirements:

  1. Design will permit diversion of graywater to an alternative sewage disposal system.
  2. There are to be no connections between the graywater and potable water systems, and no pumping of the graywater will be permitted.
  3. The graywater will be contained on site, with no ponding or runoff.
  4. The graywater will be released under at least two (2) inches of mulch, rock, or soil, or a solid shield.
  5. Water used to wash diapers or infectious garments will be diverted to sewage disposal system.
  6. Graywater will not contain hazardous chemicals.
  7. The design will be consistent with the plumbing code.
  8. An operation and maintenance manual will be provided to the owner and all subsequent owners/tenants.
  9. All other gray water systems require a permit. A permit must be obtained from the building department of your local
    municipality. If you live in an unincorporated area of San Diego County, you must obtain your permit from the County of San
    Diego Department of Environmental Health (DEH).

Follow this link to get more information from the Graywater Fact Sheet by the San Diego County Water Authority


Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117. 

Community Matters When Buying A Home

August 18, 2016

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117. 



Community Matters When Buying a Home

Kitchen Remodeling Decisions You’ll Never Regret

August 11, 2016

kitchen remodeling



From: ClientDirect

We see lots of kitchen trends, so we know it’s easy to get swept along with what’s in vogue, only to get bummed out by your faddish design choices a few years later.

But chances are you’re only going to remodel your current kitchen once. After all, a complete kitchen renovation has a national median cost of $60,000, according to the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. With that much on the line, you want to make all the right moves. If you do, you could recover about 67% of your investment if you sell.

So we’re here to future-proof you from angst by naming the seven definitive kitchen features that will retain their beauty, marketability, and value — all while giving you lasting enjoyment.

#1: White is the Dominant Color
Bottom line: White is the most marketable color. You’ll always find it atop the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s annual survey of most popular kitchen colors. It simply doesn’t go out of style.

Throughout history, it’s been associated with happiness, purity (think Snow White), and new beginnings.
It’s a bright color that reflects light and makes even small kitchens feel larger.
It’s a neatnik’s dream — dirt has no place to hide.
Even better, it’s uber-tolerant of both your budget and taste: A standard color for any manufacturer, you’ll find white cabinets, tile, counters, faucets, sinks, and appliances at any price point.

And with a white backdrop, you can be as conservative or expressive as you want. After all, it’s about your enjoyment, not just dollars and cents. For example:

Add your personal touch with colored glass knobs and pulls.
Show off antique Fiesta ware on open shelves or in upper cabinets with glass fronts.
Paint walls the color du jour — even off-white!
Heck, with a white palette, you can change your mind about paint color on a whim. Those all-white basics will make any hue you choose look fresh and contemporary.

#2: Hardwood for Flooring
It’s been our love for years. That’s especially true ever since hardwood flooring was mass-produced during the Industrial Revolution, making beautiful flooring readily available at a reasonable cost.

Today, more than half of home buyers who purchased a home without hardwood floors say they would have paid an extra $2,080 for them, according to the “2013 Home Features Survey” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. And among buyers of any age, upwards of 80% say hardwood floors are “somewhat” or “very important.”

“It’s the one feature men and women agree on,” says Debe Robinson, NKBA treasurer and owner of Kitchen Expressions Inc. in Sheffield, Ala., who’s also worked in the flooring industry.

Why? The love of wood is in our genes. Our nesting instincts know that hardwood has warmth, personality, and makes our homes cozy and inviting. That’s why this clever chameleon pairs well with any kitchen style.

More reasons why wood flooring is the goof-proof option:

Perfect for open floor plans. It flows beautifully from the kitchen into adjoining rooms.
It’s tough. Hardwoods such as oak, ash, and maple will shrug off your kitchen’s high-traffic punishment for years. Solid hardwood flooring can be refinished 10 to 12 times during it’s typical 100-year lifespan. It’s eco-friendly. Hardwood is considered a green building material when it’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and comes from sustainably managed forests.

#3: Shaker Style for Cabinets
Thank heaven for the Shakers. While they were busy reducing life to its essentials, they made cabinets with clean, simple lines that will forever be in style.

Shaker cabinets are an enduring legacy of American style and, like wood flooring, have the knack for looking good in any setting. Their simple frame-and-panel design helps reduce the amount of busyness in a kitchen, making it a soothing, friendly place to be.

“In a kitchen with a timeless look, you want the cabinets to be part of the backdrop,” says Alan Zielinski, a former president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. “You don’t want to be overpowered. You’re looking for plain, simple, clean lines.”

Those plain, simple, clean lines are a perfect fit for transitional style — a beautiful combo of traditional and contemporary styles. In fact, the National Kitchen and Bath Association says that after creeping up on traditional for years, transitional is now the most popular kitchen style.

As our families grow more diverse, transitional style will only get more popular. It lets us personalize and blend cultural influences — Latin, Asian, Mideastern — into our homes; it’s the perfect balance of old and new, just like Shaker-style cabinets.

#4: Carrara Marble for Countertops
Carrara marble is a timeless classic that’s been used in homes for thousands of years. (Michelangelo’s “David” was carved from Carrara.) It’ll look as good in the next millennium as it does now.

Here’s why:

Carrara’s lacy graining and subtle white colors look terrific in a white kitchen (or any kitchen, for that matter).
It has a whiteness you won’t find in other natural stones. It’s readily available, making it less expensive than other high-end choices, such as quartz. It’ll last for generations. If you Google it, you’ll find a lot of debate about it (and marble in general) because it stains easily. But if you want something truly timeless, Carrara is the answer. And with today’s sealants, the problem of staining is almost moot if you reseal once or twice a year.

Still not sold? Or don’t have the budget? Laminate countertops are relatively inexpensive and can be upgraded to stone when you do have the budget.

#5: Subway Tile for the Backsplash
Subway tile goes back to the early 1900s, when it was used to line New York’s first subway tunnels. Classic subway tiles are white, 3-inch-by-6-inch rectangles — a look that became popular in American kitchens and baths, and has stuck around ever since. Now it’s an iconic part of the American design vernacular, destined never to go out of style.

In the kitchen, ceramic tile excels as a backsplash, where it guards against moisture, is a snap to clean, lasts forever, and always looks classy.

Sure, a backsplash can be an opportunity for a blast of color and pattern, but neutrals will always be current and blend with any look. Plus, a subway tile backsplash and a marble countertop make a dashing couple that will stand the test of time.

To make it even more enduring, keep it achromatic and camouflage dirt with gray or beige grout.

#6: Ergonomic Design
Adaptability and universal design features mean easy living at any age. A recent survey on kitchens from the American Institute of Architects points to the growing popularity of smart ergonomic design, a sign that kitchen adaptability will stay in vogue.

Smart ergonomics simply mean convenience — for young or old, party people or homebodies — a key factor when remodeling a kitchen that will function well, retain its value, and always feel right.

No matter you or your buyer’s current or future needs, everyone wins with these approaches:

Create different countertop heights. Standard height is 36 inches, but you can raise or lower sections of cabinets by altering the height of the base. Add color-match shim strips to the bases of countertops that don’t include sinks or appliances. You (or a new owner) can easily remove them or add to them to adjust the height. Swap a standard range for a wall oven and a cooktop. Ranges have fixed heights. There’s no getting around the fact you have to bend to access the oven. But a wall oven conveniently installs about waist-high. Add pull-out shelves to base cabinets. Lower cabinets with doors mean having to twist like a pretzel to see what’s inside. Pull-out shelves put everything at your fingertips. Keep wide clearances. Kitchens attract people, and with open floor plans, you’re apt to have folks hunting for snacks, helping you cook, or just hanging out while you prep meals. Keep traffic flowing with a minimum of 42 inches between counters and islands.

Today’s families store about 47% of their kitchen stuff outside the kitchen — in laundry rooms, basements, even sheds — according to data released at the 2013 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show.

We blame it on the fact that kitchens have evolved from a tucked-away place at the back of the house into a multiple-chef, multi-tasking space that’s the hub of family life. Plus, our love of open kitchens and stocking up at warehouse stores means less wall space and more stuff, kitchen design expert Robinson says.

The solution: smart storage. Cabinet manufacturers have you covered with nearly unlimited storage options — shelves and compartments that unfold, turn, extend, and slide.

But it’s not just about having storage, it’s about designing it smartly. Follow these guidelines to make your storage timeless:

Create a primary storage zone. This is an area 30 to 60 inches high and within two feet on either side of your body. Store your most-used items here — your favorite work knives, measuring cups, salt and pepper for cooking, your trusty pots and pans. With one easy motion, you can grab what you use all the time.

Plan for the unknown. A truly timeless kitchen anticipates and adapts to future needs, such as:

A space that can easily convert to an office, wine storage, or a closet. Lower cabinet spaces that can accommodate a wine cooler, under-counter refrigerator, a second dishwasher, or new must-have kitchen appliances on the horizon. (Remember when microwaves didn’t exist?) An open space that fits a freestanding desk or favorite antique that can personalize the kitchen — no matter who owns the home.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117. 

4 Drawbacks of Home Equity Loans

August 4, 2016
home equity loans
Article from ClientDirect

When you need a quick source of funds, a home equity loan can be tempting. Done wisely, you can use the lower-interest debt secured by your house to pay off debts with high interest rates, like credit cards. It’s also a good choice if you know exactly how much you need to borrow for a big expenditure like a new kitchen.

Home equity loans aren’t always the best choice for accessing cash. The best use for home equity is to buy things that will contribute to your home’s value, like a needed remodel, or your family’s future income, like a college education. Consider carefully before you cash in home equity to spend on consumer goods like clothing, furniture, or vacations.

The fact that you’re staking your home against your ability to pay off the debt is just the beginning of the potential drawbacks.

Drawback #1: Money Doesn’t Come Cheap
A home equity loan is a second mortgage on your house. Interest rates are usually much lower for a home equity loan than for unsecured debt like personal loans and credit cards. But transaction and closing costs, similar to those for primary mortgages, make home equity loans a pricey — and imprudent — way to finance something you may want but don’t absolutely need, like a fur coat, exotic vacation, or Ferrari.

The average closing costs on a $200,000 mortgage are $4,070. To compare offers on competing home equity loans, use a calculator that compares fees, interest rates, and how long you’ll take to pay back the loan. Ask your current mortgage lender if it offers any discounts if you get a second mortgage from the same company.

Drawback #2: Early Payoff Can Be Costly
Home equity loans almost always have fixed interest rates, so you know your monthly payment won’t rise. Do check to see if there’s a pre-payment penalty — a fee the lender will charge if you pay back the loan early because you sell your house, or you just want to get rid of the monthly payment.

Such early-termination fees are typically a percentage of the outstanding balance, such as 2%, or a certain number of months’ worth of interest, such as six months. They’re triggered if you pay off part or all of a loan within a certain time frame, typically three years. Despite the penalty, it may be worthwhile to refinance if you can lower interest rates sufficiently.

If you want to be able to borrow money periodically, it may make sense to go for a home equity line of credit instead of a lump-sum second mortgage. Although more lenders are charging stiff prepayment penalties for HELOCs too, these are triggered when the line is closed within a certain period, such as three years, not when the balance is paid off. Bear in mind that interest rates on most HELOCs are variable.

The big advantage to a credit line is that you can borrow whatever amount you need as you need money. The big drawback is that the lender can shut off the line of credit if the value of your home falls, your credit goes south, or just because it no longer wants to offer you credit.

Drawback #3: Beware Predatory Lenders
Some lenders don’t act in your best interest. Theoretically, lenders are supposed to follow underwriting guidelines on appropriate debt and income levels to keep you from spending more than you can afford on a loan. But in practice, some unscrupulous lenders bend or ignore these rules.

Always shop for the best deal, rather than accepting the recommendation of a home-improvement contractor. Some will try to pressure you into taking their loans at above-market rates — and jack up the price if you don’t. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, you should avoid anyone who insists on only working with one lender or who encourages you to do things like overstate your income.

Drawback #4: Your House Is at Stake
A home equity loan is a lien on your house that usually takes second place to the primary mortgage. As such, home equity lenders can be left with nothing if a house sells for less than what’s owed on the first mortgage. To recoup losses, second-mortgage lenders will sometimes refuse to sign off on short sales unless they’re paid all or part of what they’re owed.

Moreover, even though the lender loses its secured interest in the house should it go to foreclosure, in some states, it can send debt collectors after you for the balance, and report the loss to credit agencies. This black mark on your credit score can hurt your ability to borrow for years to come.

There are benefits to home equity loans. Often you can write off the interest you pay on the loan. Consult a tax adviser to see if that’s the case for you. And the rates can be lower than what you’d pay for an unsecured, personal loan or if you used a credit card to make your purchase.

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117. 

Who’s Checking Your Credit?

July 28, 2016

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117. 



7 Steps to a Stress-Free Home Closing

July 21, 2016

7 steps to closing home escrow

By: G. M. Filisko, ClientDirect

This cheat sheet helps you do your homework, so you know what you’re signing when you close the sale of your home.

You’ve already cleared several hurdles by finding the right home, negotiating the best price, and getting approved for a mortgage. The last obstacle on your homebuying track is the closing, which can be both tedious and tense. By knowing what to expect and doing some legwork, you can smoothly put your closing behind you. These seven steps will guide you.

1. Set a Closing Date
Ask your title company to set a closing date and time that meshes with the end of your lease or the sale of your existing home. Don’t want to skip work? Ask for an evening or weekend closing. Tight on cash? Schedule your closing for the end of the month. That’s when you’ll pay the least amount of interest at the closing table.

2. Gather Your Funds
Buyers usually have to bring money to the closing. Ask the title company what forms of payment it accepts. Chances are you can’t use a personal check.

If you have to move money into your bank account to pay your closing costs, do so a week ahead to avoid last-minute problems. If the title company requires the funds in the form of a cashier’s check, stop by the bank a few days before closing to pick it up.

3. Purchase Title Insurance
If you’re getting a mortgage, you have to buy a title insurance policy. Think it protects you against problems with the title of your home? Nope, it protects the lender in case the sellers really didn’t own the home or someone else had a claim on it.

To cover yourself, you can buy an owner’s title policy from the same insurance company that sells you the lender’s title policy. Or, shop online at,, or An owner’s title policy insures you against losses from fraudulent claims against your ownership and errors in earlier sales. In some areas, sellers traditionally pay for the buyer’s title policy.

Whether or not you get the owner’s policy, if you buy a title policy from the same company that issued the prior owner’s title insurance, you can ask for a reissue discount or “bring-down” rate. There’s a discount because the title company only has to check the records filed since that prior owner bought the home, not since the dawn of time.

4. Line Up Homeowners Insurance
Get quotes and compare policies to be sure coverage will start by your closing date. An annual policy should run $500 to $1,000, depending on your home’s size, age, and amenities. To get a lower premium, opt for a high deductible or buy your homeowners insurance from the same company that insures your car.

If you live in an area where natural disasters occur, like earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes, you’ll need separate insurance to protect your home from those hazards.

5. Review Your Good Faith Estimate and HUD-1 Settlement Sheet
Your lender already gave you a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) that showed your estimated closing fees. Some of the fees on your GFE can’t change and others can rise by 10%. Before you go to the closing, compare the numbers on your GFE with the numbers on your HUD-1 settlement statement. Question your loan officer about any fees that increased.

6. Do a Walk-Through
Schedule an appointment to walk through the home one last time just before your closing.

Make sure repairs you requested have been made.
Look for major changes since you last viewed the property.
See if the sellers left everything they promised to leave.
Check to see that the sellers took all their personal belongings.
Test electronics and appliances to ensure they’re still working.
Turn on the HVAC and hot water. Are they functioning right?
Walk the yard to be sure no plants or shrubs have been removed.

7. Resolve Issues Identified in Your Walk-Through
If your walk-through uncovers problems:

1. Delay the closing until the seller corrects them (if your state allows it). But that’s often not feasible because your lease is probably over and you’ve already scheduled movers. 2. Negotiate a discount to your sales price to cover the cost of the work needed. If the air conditioning is on the fritz and a contractor says the repair will cost $500, ask that the sales price be reduced by that amount. If you make that request at closing, however, be ready for a delay while the title company redoes the paperwork. 3. Have the title company hold a portion of the seller’s proceeds in escrow until the dispute is resolved. Once that happens, the funds will be released to you or the seller, depending on the outcome.

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has endured several property closings, but the easiest was done through the mail. A frequent contributor to many national publications including, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

COPYRIGHT© 2016 CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® All rights reserved. Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Accessibility

Consider me your resource for all things real estate!  Selling, buying, upsizing, downsizing, relocating, investing, vendor referrals, shoulder to cry on during renovations and more.  Just send me an email or call me at 619-888-2117. 

%d bloggers like this: