Refacing Kitchen Cabinets – The Forgotten Update Option

One thing I hear a lot from my clients when walking through “updated” older homes is the remark that while granite countertops are nice, installing them on dated, older cabinets really is not appealing.  In my experience, a kitchen remodel needs to be an “all-or-nothing” kind of job.  The doesn’t mean you have to replace EVERYTHING, but each element of the kitchen should at least be touched or freshened up in some way.  And while everyone can’t afford all new custom cabinetry, refacing kitchen cabinets can certainly bring your kitchen forward and look exceptional.

Below is an article from HouseLogic about the basics of this job.  When done correctly, they can look just as good as a brand new set of cabinets, and at probably half of the cost!

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.

Copyright 2014 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

David R. Madaffari, Realtor
Keller Williams Realty – First Choice
Office: 225.744.0044
Cell: 225.772.3283 (DAVE)
37325 Market Place Dr. Ste D
Prairieville, LA 70769
www.DavidMadaffari.com
Each office independently owned and operated

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Private Market Flood Insurance – Game Changer

Recently, an agent in my office turned us on to a carrier in St. Amant that was writing flood insurance policies outside of FEMA’s guidelines, or private market flood insurance.   For a little higher deductible, they can offer flood insurance for significantly less rates than the new FEMA and NFIP proposed rate hikes.  In my opinion, this could be a game changing product not just for this company but others that are willing to offer the same policies.

The company is:
Acosta Insurance Agency
P.O. Box 280

St. Amant, LA 70774
(225)
 644-4334 – be sure to ask for Tammie!

While Congress seems to be sorting out how to delay these rate changes, buyers and sellers are still in a cloud of uncertainty as to the long-term policy.  To give an example of this company’s amazing product, one of my listings that currently pays $1200/yr for flood insurance would have a rate hike to $7,800/yr for any new buyer under the new FEMA guidelines.  But under Acosta’s fixed rate plan, the new buyer’s premium would only be $1622/yr with a $5000 deductible.  While it is still higher than the current rate, it is much more manageable and is not subject to the constant FEMA rules being changed.

All policies are underwritten Lloyd’s.  Because these are flat rat premiums, you can actually see what your new flood rate would be RIGHT NOW if you already believe your rate will skyrocket on your renewal.  You can go to www.PrivateMarketFlood.com for a full chart of rates, but below is the chart that most everyone here will be most interested in – the Inland Residential Dwelling Chart.

You will notice that you can add coverage for Contents so you can customize your policy as well.

This is a GREAT idea, and I am surprised not many more people are aware of this option.  I guess you should never underestimate the private sector when it comes to doing things smarter, better and cheaper than a government program like FEMA.  Ultimately, products like these will be the ones that reduce the government’s role in subsidizing flood insurance.

Call Tammie at Acosta for your new flood policy!

David R. Madaffari, Realtor
Keller Williams Realty – First Choice
Office: 225.744.0044
Cell: 225.772.3283 (DAVE)
37325 Market Place Dr. Ste D
Prairieville, LA 70769
www.DavidMadaffari.com
Each office independently owned and operated

Open Kitchen Fatigue?

I saw this article on Yahoo, and it sparked some thoughts that I have from time to time, especially when walking through new construction homes.  It’s a fact that the trend towards opening all the walls and having a completely open space for living, dining and cooking is very popular.  But this article raises some interesting questions that there may be a slight backlash against the open kitchen design.   It also has links to other similar articles about the same topic.

Is a Backlash Developing Against Open Kitchens?

I’ll admit that while walking through these foreclosed homes everyday, I find myself saying, “If we just knock out this wall here and that wall there, you could really open this up.”  Open kitchens can instantly modernize and older home like those found in Shenandoah Estates.   But the points the article raises come down to personal preference.  Do you prefer the open kitchen concept or rather the separated floor plan?

David R. Madaffari, Realtor
Keller Williams Realty – First Choice
Office: 225.744.0044
Cell: 225.772.3283 (DAVE)
37325 Market Place Dr. Ste D
Prairieville, LA 70769
www.DavidMadaffari.com
Each office independently owned and operated

House Passes Minor Flood Insurance Relief

Today the House took a first step toward alleviating flood insurance rate hikes in the most prone areas.  This relief only lasts until September 30th, and the whole spending bill must be passed by the Senate and signed into lay to take effect.

House passes spending bill with some flood insurance relief | NOLA.com.

Personally, I think this exacerbates the problem because it creates a lingering uncertainty in the real estate market here at home about what will happen after September 30th.  A more potent bill being presented by our Senators is the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act.   This will delay all rate hikes and eliminate the “grandfathering” clause that has helped many areas stay viable, such as Old Jefferson Subdivision.  

As more news about these key votes comes out I will have special blog posts aside from my usual Monday and Thursday updates.

Sincerely,

David R. Madaffari, Realtor
Keller Williams Realty – First Choice
Office: 225.744.0044
Cell: 225.772.3283 (DAVE)
37325 Market Place Dr. Ste D
Prairieville, LA 70769
www.DavidMadaffari.com
Each office independently owned and operated

A Guide to Flood Elevation Certificates, Part 2

In my last article on Thursday, I went over the basics of how to read flood elevation certificates and used a recent real-life example of a listing on piers.  At the end of the article, it seemed as if the home was unable to financed with a 100% RD loan because the “first floor”, i.e. the crawlspace was below the BFE.  Today, I will describe the importance of two other parts of the certificate – the building diagram and the net area of flood openings.  In our example we were able to work these numbers to get the home approved for financing and more importantly, a lower flood insurance rate for the buyer.  Truly a win-win for everyone!

Flood Elevation Cert Example, part 2

  1. Section A7 – The Building Diagram.  The first thing a surveyor does is determine which type of building their assessments will be based on.  FEMA has created rules for different types of buildings and this first step goes a long way to determine a home’s loan eligibility and insurance rate.  You can see the different building diagrams here.  In the example, this home was described as building diagram 8 – a home with a crawlspace and flood openings.
  2. Section A8.a and A8.b – This home had 1,500 sqft of crawlspace underneath it and has 9 flood openings.  These openings were rectangular holes cut into the concreted enclosure to allow water to flow freely beneath the home.  This is important when combined with the below item.
  3. Section A8.c – For a home with a crawlspace, FEMA recommends in most cases there should be at LEAST 1″ of flood opening per 1 sqft of crawlspace in Section A8.a. In Here, there is only 1,200 sq inches of openings for 1,500 sq ft.
So let’s review for a moment: we have a home on piers in flood zone AE, FEMA determines the crawlspace to be the true first floor of the home, it sits 1.3′ below the BFE, and there are not enough square inches of openings in the crawlspace.  This sounds like a stacked deck against this home, but there are things we can do to change it!
Based on FEMA’s rules, if a home has enough net square inches of flood openings (Section A8.c) then the home’s actual first floor (Section C2.b) can be used to calculate the real flood elevation.  We already know we are 300″ to meet the minimum of 1,500″.
The solution: cut more openings in the concrete crawlspace.
Yes, by physically altering the property’s crawlspace we were able to add additional net square inches of flood openings to meet FEMA’s requirements.  In fact, my client added an extra 384″ for a total of 1,584″ of flood openings, 84″ more than the recommended “1 inch -per-1 foot” of crawlspace.

The end result:  When we had the flood elevation certificate re-done, the extra crawlspace openings were reflected in Section A8.c.  This in turn overrode the height of the crawlspace in Section C2.a, thus allowing the REAL calculation of the home’s flood risk to be accurate using Section C2.b.  With the BFE being 92.6′, and Section C2.b being at 93.6′ the home was now calculated as being 1′ above the BFE.  This allowed the RD loan to be approved and the buyer received a preferable flood insurance rate for a home in flood Zone AE!

In conclusion,  I hope you now have a basic understanding of how to read Flood Elevation Certificates.   I hope my experience and truly “on-the-job” training will give you the impression that there may be ways to alter a property to gain beneficial insurance rates or approve a buyer for a loan.  I always approach things with the idea that, more times than not, there are ways to work things out and in this case FEMA actually did have rules in place to help us do that.  FEMA’s full documentation on flood risk and determination are massive, but this is a good place to start learning about flood elevations and how they can affect you, your home and your money.

If you need help finding a licensed surveyor to get a flood certification for your home, please call me at my number below and I’d be glad to help.

Sincerely,

David R. Madaffari, Realtor
Keller Williams Realty – First Choice
Office: 225.744.0044
Cell: 225.772.3283 (DAVE)
37325 Market Place Dr. Ste D
Prairieville, LA 70769
www.DavidMadaffari.com
Each office independently owned and operated

A Guide to Flood Elevation Certificates, Part 1

In my last article, we learned how to read the LSU AgCenter’s FEMA Flood Maps to determine with some accuracy our flood risk.  The Base Flood Elevation and the Ground Elevation numbers were key components in that analysis. Today I am presenting a guide to Flood Elevation Certificates that will go over how to read a certificate and provide an overview of the different elements described in it.

I chose the example below from a previous listing that was on piers, i.e. it had a crawlspace.  The buyer was using a 100% RD loan in which case the home has to be at or above the BFE to qualify for the loan. This will be important in my next article about how building diagrams affect the final outcome of deals, but for now we will stick to the basics.   I will explain each numbered item below.

Flood Elevation Certificate Example (click to open in a new window)

  1. Section B6 – This date says which Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) was used for this certificate.  Not all areas get new maps at the same time.  This is how seemingly close areas move in and out of flood zones or are rated differently depending on the age of the map and any changes among them.
  2. Section B8 – the all-important Flood Zone Classification.
  3. Section B9 – This is the Base Flood Elevation. In this example it is at 92.6′.  Remember this for later.
  4. Section B10 – This is where they got the BFE from, in this case a FIRM.
  5. Section C2.a – Remember the ground elevation number from my previous article? For homes on a slab, this number should be very close to it, as it it is the elevation of the first floor of the home at 91.3′.  You would compare this number , i.e. the height of the first floor, to the BFE to find out the difference above or below the BFE the home is.  This combined with the Flood Zone Classification will determine your flood rate/mortgage eligibility 90% of the time. This example though has a crawlspace underneath the home, so this number is not the first floor of the home (see below).
  6. Section C2.b – For homes on piers or are elevated otherwise, this number represents the true first floor of the home – homes on a slab would just say “N/A” in this box.  In our example here, it is at 93.6′
  7. Section C2.e – This is the height of outdoor home equipment like A/C compressors, water heaters that may be in garages, etc.  The A/C compressor here is at 92.0′

If this home were on a slab, it would not qualify for a RD loan because it is 1.3′ below the BFE and the insurance rate would be higher.  But since it is on piers you would think, “The first floor at 93.6′ is 1 foot above the BFE of 92.6′ so the home should qualify for the buyer’s RD loan.” Wrong.   Elevated homes have other factors to determine eligibility that lenders and insurance raters look at  – namely the type of building diagram, and the number and total area of flood openings under the home.

On Monday I will explain these two other important factors.  I will also show how we took this seemingly dead deal and were able to manipulate it into a closed sale fully financed with RD and a ~$400/yr flood insurance rate for the new buyer!

David R. Madaffari, Realtor
Keller Williams Realty – First Choice
Office: 225.744.0044
Cell: 225.772.3283 (DAVE)
37325 Market Place Dr. Ste D
Prairieville, LA 70769
www.DavidMadaffari.com
Each office independently owned and operated

How to Read FEMA Flood Maps

Lately, the focus of flood insurance rating sits squarely on a document called the Flood Elevation Certificate.  This certificate determines a home’s elevation relative to a base number, known as the Base Flood Elevation or BFE.  Luckily for us, the LSU AgCenter has an up-to-date tool to help us not only see if a property is in a flood zone, but also determine with reasonable accuracy what a survey/certificate might reveal.  My goal here is to help homeowners, buyers and Realtors gain a pretty solid understanding of how to read FEAMA flood maps with confidence.  By knowing how to do this, you can figure out your risk and how your premiums could be affected in the future.  You may be able to use this information to get rough estimates on flood coverage or accurately price your home for sale.

Once you get to the site, search for an address in the box provided.

Once the map focuses in on the property, you will see an information box pop up.  Remember, flood risk is based mostly on the home’s ground elevation compared to FEMA’s determined BFE.  You’ll notice in this box that they give you the ground elevation.

I have found this ground elevation to be pretty accurate.  When I have certificates done for clients, this number is usually within a foot or less of what the surveyor determines.   With this ground elevation number, we have half of the equation.  Now we need to find out the Base Flood Elevation to which we need to compare.

If you zoom out from your property, you will start to see squiggly black lines with numbers in them.  These numbers represent BFEs!

So for this property, we can be reasonably certain that the BFE is around 8′, and the elevation of the home is around 6.3′.  The difference is 1.7′, or more accurately stated “the property sits 1.7′ BELOW the Base Flood Elevation.”   This information is very handy in several ways:

  • Some loans will not be given on homes below the BFE so our example here would not qualify.  This can narrow down properties for buyers and Realtors to focus on.  There are other factors in a flood certificate that can help qualify a home that may be close, however.  I will go over these other factors in my next article.
  • Sellers in a flood zone should know this number to determine how to handle pricing. A home that is several feet below the BFE will have a hefty insurance premium and must be considered going forward.
  • When comparing properties, doing this exercise is a much less expensive option than having certificates done on each one.
The example here is a real example from a buyer client of mine.  When I received the official flood elevation certificate, the home was actually 1.2′ below the BFE.  So the accuracy of this exercise was less than .5′!
In Thursday’s article I will explain the flood elevation certificate, what all the numbers mean, and how yes – it can be manipulated based on the type of home you are buying/selling.
Please reply if you found this article useful!

David R. Madaffari, Realtor
Keller Williams Realty – First Choice
Office: 225.744.0044
Cell: 225.772.3283 (DAVE)
37325 Market Place Dr. Ste D
Prairieville, LA 70769
www.DavidMadaffari.com
Each office independently owned and operated