Thursday, October 19, 2017

6 Reasons why buying your dream home is less expensive than you think

How much does it cost to buy your dream house? A lot less than you may think.

Whether we’re dreaming of purchasing our first home or selling and moving up to our dream home, studies show that most people would love to get the keys to a new home. However, many people are scared away from even looking into buying because they fear that it will be too expensive.

I’m not minimizing that it can be intimidating to sign on the dotted line when a lot of zeros are involved. However, I think that you’ll find that buying your dream house is a lot less costly than you anticipate – especially when we factor in the time value of money and the opportunity cost of not buying your dream home now.

Here are six good reasons to back up that assertion:

1. People grossly overestimate the down payment needed to buy.
Of course, for most people, the biggest impediment to buying their dream home is coming up with the down payment needed. However, there’s a clear discrepancy between what most people think they need to put down for a home purchase, and what is actually required.

Perhaps that perception stems from the fact that in decades past, buying a home meant coming up with at least 20% of the purchase price. But these days, most buyers don't stick to those rules, committing only the minimum that their particular loan requires in most cases. In fact, the average down payment on a single-family home purchase is now only 14.8% - and that number is skewed higher by all-cash buyers.

Speaking of loans, many of our home buyer clients are benefiting from mortgage loans that allow them to put less than 20% down, often 10% or even 5%. Likewise, a significant portion of home buyers – particularly first-time buyers or those with marginal credit – may be able to put even less down with FHA loans.

Of course, I’m not a lender, so consult your mortgage broker or ask us for a referral if you’d like more information.

2. Down payment assistance may help lower the cost of buying.

Gone are the pre-real estate crash days when 100% financing was so easily available, and down payment assistance thrived and often made up the difference. But most people don’t realize that there are still great programs, grants, and funds available to assist qualified applicants with their down payment. In fact, there are about 78 million single-family homes and condominiums in the U.S., and 87% of them (68 million homes) could potentially qualify for some sort of down payment assistance program, grant, or other down payment help.

Reportedly, there are more than 2,400 grants, funds, and assistance programs across the country, and 85% of them have funds available for homebuyers at any given time.

Sure, they usually aim to help first-time buyers, lower-income buyers, or folks purchasing modest homes – not exactly your dream mansion. But about 14% of down payment assistance programs are earmarked for individuals that play important roles in our communities, like educators, public servants, healthcare workers, and military veterans.

Down payment assistance programs aren’t just for first-time homebuyers, as 37% of these programs do not require a borrower to be a first-time buyer.

Why not at least ask your mortgage broker about down payment assistance programs since less than 10% of home buyers even apply for a down payment assistance program?

3. Buying is cheaper than the alternative of renting.
Rental demand is hotter than ever in the greater Sacramento area, with little new construction going up for affordable rental units. With a shortage of rental units as well as record-low housing inventory for sale, we’ve seen extreme upward pressure on rental prices. Therefore, waiting to buy your dream house may cost you more if you DON’T purchase now but wait. That logic is sound whether you want to keep renting a house or if you already own a home and are thinking of waiting to sell down the road.

In fact, when we track the monthly allocation of income toward mortgage vs. rent across the country, renting is now twice as expensive as owning a home. (That also means that it’s about half as expensive to be a homeowner than it is to rent.)

And if you think that renting is expensive now in California, economists expect it to keep skyrocketing – particularly in Sacramento, where at least half of all renters pay more than 30% of their income toward rent.

4. Stability saves you money
Some pennywise financial bloggers will tell you to spend within your means when it comes to buying a new house, but what they forge to factor in is the future cost of stability. Consider that every time you move, you have to put your house on the market and sell (paying about 6% to us pesky Realtors), as thousands in other affiliated closing costs; then pay for a moving truck, new furniture, fixing up the new place, etc. By buying the house you truly love and want to be in for the long haul (aka your dream home), you'll avoid paying those selling and moving costs two or three times over the next decades.

5. You’ll probably pay a lot less for taxes.
Owning a home is still one of the best tax breaks you´ll ever find. The government doesn't want to be in the business of housing 300 million+ Americans, so it long ago decided to offer huge tax advantages to promote home ownership and investment. In fact, you can deduct the interest on up to $1.1 million in mortgage indebtedness on your primary home; write-off a lot of repairs and upgrades you make; and sell your primary home for tax free profits up to $250,000 for singles (or $500,000 for married couples) if you’ve lived in the home two of a five years.

Consult your CPA or tax professional for specifics, but he or she will most certainly reinforce that buying your dream home now is a great financial move!

6. Buying now can help fund your savings, net worth, and retirement.
It may feel like purchasing your dream house now is expensive, but two years, five years, and twenty years down the road, you’ll be ecstatic that you made the move. Part of the reason for that future optimism is that statistically, owning a home is the best path to wealth in America.

First off, a study by the Federal Reserve found that median home equity in the U.S. for all homeowners is about $80,000. That means they have a “savings plan” of $80,000 on average (although home values can go up and down and are not liquid - or easy to access). Just as important, the average homeowner keeps $7,300 in liquid cash savings, compared to extremely low savings levels for renters that keep them living month-to-month.

Likewise, statistics show that the average homeowner’s net worth is 34 times that of a renter, and 77% of homeowners say owning real estate helped them achieve their long-term financial goals.

It’s no wonder that 94% of millionaires attribute real estate ownership as a significant part of how they obtained and held their wealth.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

10 All-time great real estate quotes (in images).

What do some of America’s most famous billionaires, business people, and investors think about real estate? We researched high and low to find their best advice about buying and investing in real estate, right from their own mouths.

There is no greater means to secure a bright financial future than real estate ownership. In fact, it's been the American Dream to own a home throughout our nation's existence. But don't just take our word for it. From Robert Kiyosaki to John D. Rockefeller; Barbara Corcoran to Warren Buffet, we’ve captured the thoughts and words of these iconic Americans when it comes to real estate.

We’ll be sure to bring you ten more quotes like this soon, and feel free to share these images or use them for your own blog, website, or social media pages!


“The major fortunes in America have been made in land.”
-John D. Rockefeller

“Real estate investing, even on a very small scale, remains a tried and true means of building an individual's cash flow and wealth.”
-Robert Kiyosaki

“Ninety percent of all millionaires become so through owning real estate. More money has been made in real estate than in all industrial investments combined. The wise young man or wage earner of today invests his money in real estate.”
-Andrew Carnegie

“Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy; profit from folly rather than participate in it.”
-Warren Buffet

“Owning a home is a keystone of wealth… both financial affluence and emotional security”.
-Suze Orman

“Real estate cannot be lost or stolen, nor can it be carried away. Purchased with common sense, paid for in full, and managed with reasonable care, it is about the safest investment in the world.”
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

“This is a real-estate-driven economy from top to bottom.”
-Christopher Thornberg

“If you don’t own a home, buy one. If you own a home, buy another one. If you own two homes, buy a third. And, lend your relatives the money to buy a home.”
-John Paulson

“Real estate is an imperishable asset, ever increasing in value. It is the most solid security that human ingenuity has devised. It is the basis of all security and about the only indestructible security.”
-Russell Sage

“There have been few things in my life which have had a more genial effect on my mind than the possession of a piece of land.”
-Harriet Martineau

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Your Sacramento real estate market report

It's hard to believe that 2017 is nearing an end, but here I am with Sacramento home sale data for the third quarter on my desk. Always committed to bringing you the most up to date information to drive your real estate decisions, I wanted to share this August real estate market report.

(This data covers single-family homes as well as condominiums in Sacramento County as well as West Sacramento. Please contact me for most recent data on Placer County or other areas.)

Highlights of August home sale report:

Sacramento’s median home sale price dropped for the first time this year (although just marginally).

  • Sales volume jumped in August, but it’s still down from one year ago.
  • Active inventory increased significantly from July to August, the 7th straight month of increase.
  • Equity sales also reached a high water mark. 

In this blog, we’ll track eight key indicators of our real estate market:

1. Median home sale prices,
2. Sales volume,
3. Listing inventory,
4. Months of inventory,
5. Days on Market (DOM),
6. Price per Square Foot,
7. Types of financing for sales, and
8. Distressed sales

Median home sale prices

As of August 31, 2017, the median price for residential property is currently $349,000 in Sacramento County.

But the mean (average) home sale price in Sacramento County is much higher, now sitting at $379,790.

That represents a -1.6% increase from just last month, but a 7.7% increase compared to this same time last year.

Sales volume

In August 2017, there were 1,734 closed residential property sales in Sacramento Country (and West Sacramento).

That's up 6.1% from the previous month when 1,634 sales closed.

It’s also a significant increase in sales volume from April 2017, when there were only 1,512 sales.

But it's still down -3.6% from sales volume this time last year when 1,799 escrows closed in August.

How do those numbers hold up historically? The highest number of sales every recorded in one month was 1,816 in June of 2012.

In August, there were $658,554,997 in closed sales. That’s up 4.9% from July’s $627,917,877, and a total dollar volume increase of 3.3% from this month last year, when $637,779,736 worth of residential single family homes sold.

Listing inventory 

Sacramento County now has an active inventory of 2,593  homes and residential properties for sale.

That's a significant increase of 8.3% over just last month when there were 2,395 active listings.

In our market stricken with lack of inventory woes, an 8.3% increase in listings is great news.

While that may sound like a lot of homes and properties for sale, that’s still down a double-digit -11.3% from the number of active listings (2,923) this time last year.

Months of inventory

Currently, our supply of available homes for sale, represented as Months of Inventory, sits at only 1.5 months. That’s the same number from the pervious month but up significantly from April (1.2 months) and May (1.1 months) of this year.

This time last year, we had 1.6 months of active inventory available, so we can be cautiously optimistic that we’re only off that pace about 6.3% and trending in the right direction.

Days on Market

In August 2017, the average Days-on-Market for sold single-family homes was 22 days. That means it took an average of only 22 days before listings first went Active and then went Pending when an offer was accepted.

But last month, the average home sold after only 18 days on the market.

The median Days On Market is even strikingly lower; currently at 11 DOM and up from 9 DOM last month!

In fact, 84% of all homes (one house on lot or condos) sold in 0-30 days or less, and only 1% took four to six months. None went longer!

All of this means that were at the lowest average Days-on-Market ever recorded in Sacramento!

Price per Square Foot

The average price per square foot for sold properties in Sacramento County was $229.50 as of August 2017. That’s an increase of just under 1% from last month and more than 10% from May 2016, when the price per square foot was $205.

How far have our priced jumped? Only four years ago – in April 2013, the average price per square foot in Sacramento County was only $145!

Types of financing for sales

All-cash sales made up 12.4% of all home sales in August, down from 13.8% in July.

For those home purchases that required a mortgage:
Conventional financing was utilized for 55.5% of all purchases,
FHA (Federal Housing Authority) loans made up 22.3% of all purchases (up 2.1% from just one month earlier!),
VA (Veterans Affairs) loans accounted for 5.4% of all home purchases.
And other types of financing were used in 4.5% of home sales.

Distressed sales

In fact, equity sales (homes that sold with enough equity or break even or profit) accounted for 97.5% of the sales in August, up from 92.5% equity sales this time last year.

REO/bank-owned homes sales fell below 1% (0.9%), with only 16 such closed escrows – which is 70% less than August of 2016! Likewise, Short Sales made up only 1.6% of all sales and are down nearly 435 from last year.

What’s next for the Sacramento region?

Look for our Sacramento economic report and housing market for 2018 and beyond coming soon!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Three Sacramento area cities named top-10 places to raise a family

If you live in or around the greater Sacramento area, then you already probably know that it's a great place for families, with plenty of towns, neighborhoods, and communities that are perfect for raising children. The Sacramento area's family-friendly nature has now also gained national prominence thanks to a poll by In a poll about the quality of life for families on that site, several Northern California cities ranked in the top ten for best cities to raise a family in California, including some of Sacramento’s closest neighbors: Folsom, Roseville, and Davis.

NerdWallet ranked every major city and community across the country based on these three main factors:

Of course, we’d all love to live in San Francisco, Venice or Santa Cruz – if we were multi-millionaires. But for most, the cost of living and raising a family is too prohibitive. So in their survey, NerdWallet recognized that affordability is a huge factor for families who want a great quality of life. Other critical factors in determining affordability for families include:

median home values in each city along with average mortgage payments,
real estate taxes,
monthly home expenses,
utilities, fuel, insurance, and other typical costs.

In determining ranking, the more overall affordability a city was for a young family, the higher its number in the rankings.

Growth and prosperity
NerdWallet also carefully gauged each city’s economy and potential for growth. To make sure that future development looked promising, they tracked factors like the average household income and income growth over the last decade. Cities that earned a ten offered the best chance for new residents to land good-paying jobs, prosper financially, and provide for their families.

Quality schools and public education
Of course, one of the biggest factors for families is living in an area where their children can attend great schools/ So NerdWallet rated each city’s public school systems using academic performance rankings from GreatSchools, a nonprofit that that compares a school’s standardized test scores with the state average. This system rates schools 1-10, with 10 being the best possible score for a public school system.

Based on the compilation of those rankings, here are the cities in the greater Sacramento area that ranked in the top ten:

#2 Folsom, California
For those of us who already live, work, or play in Folsom, we don't need to be reminded that it's one of the best communities in California to raise a family. Only 20 miles east of Sacramento, Folsom has just about everything you would want in a neighborhood for your family, from fantastic schools, vibrant economy bolstered by tech firms like Intel, Verizon and Jadoo Power, and a median household income just above $100,000.

Folsom is also a haven for families because of its natural beauty, parks and recreation facilities, and outdoor lifestyle. Folsom offers endless miles of hiking trails, cycling and running paths that extend all the way to downtown Sacramento and beyond. Lake Folsom is ideal for swimming, boating, and waterskiing, and it’s an hour drive up the mountain to Lake Tahoe. Historic Old Folsom is lively on the weekends, jumping with music, street fairs, and a great art and restaurant scene.

No one ever accused Folsom of being inexpensive, but it’s still reasonably affordable for a new family, with a vibrant local economy and real estate market that always is healthy. With all the great things going for Folsom, the only thing we wonder is why it’s not #1 on the list!?

#8 Roseville, California
Sitting only a few spots back of Folsom on NerdWallet’s best places for families to live sits Roseville. It’s not surprising that Roseville is so highly-valued on the list considering that the Sacramento suburb city has a little bit of everything for young families, including a healthy supply of good-paying jobs and an economy invigorated by local employers Kaiser Permanente and Hewlett-Packard.

Just as important, Roseville is home to some of the best public schools in the state, year after year. Although it’s the largest city in Placer County (population 128,000), it’s also one of the safest communities in California. Residents enjoy the mature trees, 41,000 acres of beautiful parks, 31 miles of recreational trails, a revitalized downtown, and a little Gold Rush history thrown in.

This isn’t the only time that Roseville has been recognized as a great place to live, as CNN recently ranked it as one of America’s Top 100 Small Cities.

#9 Davis, California
The agricultural and educational haven of Davis, California lies directly west of Sacramento, and yet it feels like it’s hundreds of miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Davis is a down-to-earth, throwback academic community centered around the prestigious University of California at Davis. Often called “Berkeley North,” it’s rich with arts and culture, yet still keeping its agricultural roots - one of the University’s strengths.

Just a short 15 minutes across the causeway from downtown Sacramento, Davis is also only about an hour commuting distance to San Francisco. The public schools are fantastic, it has one of the lowest crime rates in California, and Davis has healthy job market.

As a small city of fewer than 70,000 people, Davis prides itself on being one of the most bike and pedestrian friendly cities in the entire country. It’s also one of the greenest cities in the country, and between walking trails, locally owned businesses and the Robert Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, there is always something fun to do.

Surely Davis would rank higher on the list if it weren’t for the cost of living, with a median home value of $632,000 – a stretch to afford for many first-time buyers.

Are you interested in moving your family to one of these communities, the cost of homes in these areas, or just getting more information about the greater Sacramento real estate market? I’d love to be of assistance so please contact me anytime.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ticketed! 25 Facts about the big business of parking tickets - including in Sacramento

It's happened to all of us – that little unassuming envelope is sitting on our windshield when we come back to our car. Paying parking tickets is a reality for motorists in any major city – including Sacramento more and more. But the revenue generated from parking tickets and citations is also big business.

Most cities don’t even make the data public when it comes to the parking citations they issue and fines they receive. There is little or no regulation in the industry, and the only information we have is from several independent surveys, and a few scattered journalism exposes.

Here are 25 parking ticket facts:

1. Every year, the average American spends 17 hours driving around and looking for a parking space.

2. Studies estimate that the combined cost of that wasted time, fuel, emissions, etc. adds up to a startling $73 billion every year!

3. While we’re not exactly certain how much revenue Sacramento generates from parking tickets, we can see an example in the city of Los Angeles, which brings in at least $160 million spread out over 2.65 million parking tickets in each fiscal year. (About 56,000 tickets are disputed and overturned in LA every year, negating the revenue.)

4. The motivations behind issuing parking tickets aren’t always lawful. For instance, in New York City, a study found that hundreds of drivers were issued tickets adding up to more than $2 million – even though they hadn’t parked illegally.

5. According to estimates, 99% percent of car trips in the U.S. begin and end in a free parking space – including our own driveways, garages, free lots at work, school or shopping, as well as free street parking.

6. The average automobile is in use only 5% of the time and parked the remaining 95%.

7. The availability of lots, free parking, or accessible street parking are a big boon for retailers, too. In fact, curbside parking meters were first used by an Oklahoma City department store owner 1935, as he wanted to insure turnover so his customers would always be able to find a space.

8. Parking policy experts suggest that store owners and developers add enough spaces to handle car traffic for the 30th busiest shopping hour for the entire year – the weekend before Christmas.

9. When it comes to free street parking, 40-60% of all parkers overstay the posted time limits.

Forget about Los Angeles, New York City, and Oklahoma – tell us about parking tickets in Sacramento!

10. Well, like many municipalities, Sacramento doesn’t make their data on parking tickets and fines readily available. But we do know that one of the advantages to Sacramento (you could find street parking in downtown and midtown A LOT easier than in other cities like San Francisco) took a turn for the worse with the new arena deal.

11. In fact, when the Sacramento City Council voted to approve the downtown arena deal, the city factored in raising their net parking revenues by as much as 50% over the next 7 years.

12. Part of the plan to pay for the arena financing deal (35-50% of the revenue for bond repayments) is through a steady increase in both meter and garage parking rates over the next several years.

13. This increase is expected to raise the cost for metered parking to $3 over the next four years and the cost of garage parking to $5.

14. That net increase should top out with an additional $7.5 million in revenues in 2021 alone!

15. Before the arena went up and widespread downtown redevelopment, Sacramento had about 4,300 parking meters. But they plan on adding new meters in midtown and downtown over the next few years until they have about 6,000 meters.

16. To gain additional parking (and parking citation) revenue, Sacramento is also extending regular meter hours past 6 p.m., taking advantage of people going out to dinner, ball games, concerts, and events downtown.

17. The city has also started to introduce 6,000 smart meters, which take credit cards as well as coins. These meters reset to zero time once the car pulls away, eliminating the opportunity for someone else to park there for free for the remaining time.

18. Sacramento even rolled out 11 new code enforcement vehicles that can you’re your vehicle digitally instead of having to manually chalk your tire. The parking vehicles are equipped with cameras, sensors, and on-board computers that can survey and mark cars on either side of the street simultaneously. The computer will even register if you have an outstanding warrant or tickets, making it easier to boot your car!

19. But not every dollar from your parking tickets has gone to the City of Sacramento. In 2010, the State of California added a $12.50 mandatory surcharge to each parking ticket on the state as part of the California State Budget Act.

20. But the City of Sacramento is just one of several entities that control and make money from parking. In fact, the city has rights to only 24% of all parking spots within a half-mile of the new arena.

21. Private companies, the state, other parking facilities, and even the Kings own the rest of the parking spots downtown. As part of the arena deal, the city had to turn over 3,900 of its downtown parking spots to the Kings, who demolished about 25% of them to make room for the arena.

22. Some would argue that parking regulations and citations are purposely complex to maximize profit from unsuspecting motorists.

23. Those allegations aside, you can find all of Sacramento’s parking enforcement stipulations under Title 10 and Title 12 of Sacramento City Code.

24. A new parking app is helping Sacramento residents cope with all of this parking ticket madness. was launched by the city and helps people view available spaces and even reserve them before they arrive.

25. So if you’re thinking of taking your car out for a spin in Sacramento now and stopping at your favorite restaurant or store, here are just some of the more than 40 parking fines and citations that might snag you:

Posted No Parking
$ 40.00

No Parking Certain Hours
$ 40.00

Over Time (Posted time limits)
$ 35.00

Red Curb or Bus Zone
$ 40.00

Yellow Zone
$ 40.00

Passenger Loading Zone (White)
$ 40.00

Green Zone - 15 Min Maximum
$ 35.00

Blue Zone - Disabled Parking Only
$ 445.00

Temporary Construction Zones (Portable Signs)
$ 35.00

Taxi Stand
$ 35.00

Police Vehicles Only
$ 35.00

Parking in Alleys
$ 40.00

Over Lines in Parking Space
$ 35.00

Angle Parking, Marked Space
$ 35.00

Failure to Turn Handle
$ 25.00

Meter Expired
$ 30.00

Parking on Private Property Without Consent
$ 50.00

Parking on Vacant Property with For Sale Sign
$ 50.00

Parking on City Property
$ 35.00

Displaying Permit on Vehicle Other than Assigned
$ 250.00

Use of Visitor Permit for Commuter Parking
$ 250.00

Damage to Mall Surface (No Drip Pan)
$ 50.00

Displaying a Vehicle for Sale, Rent or Lease on Street
$ 50.00

Be careful where you park in Sacramento, folks! 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

25 Facts that may convince you to get flood insurance

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston and Hurricane Irma in Florida, we’ve seen damage to homes, businesses, and property on an epic scale – a large portion of it from flooding.

These natural disasters were so colossal that the fallout is expected to affect every person in the U.S. in some way, directly or indirectly, over the next year or two. In fact, even the real estate and mortgage industries are expecting a blow, as countless flood damaged and hurricane ravaged homes will go into default for one reason: the homeowners weren’t properly insured.

Here in Sacramento, we have our own ongoing flirtation with possible flooding, as we sit in a valley in the crux of two rivers with only a levee system to protect thousands of homes in some places.

Here are 25 facts and stats about flood insurance to convince you to call your insurance agent today:

The prevalence of flood insurance and claims:

According to the Insurance Information Institute, only 18% of Americans have flood insurance on their current property.

Even more alarming is that 1 in 5 homeowners don’t even realize that their normal home insurance doesn’t cover flood damage!

In fact, insurance claims for flood damage totaled about $3.5 billion in 2016, with the average claim reaching $66,295.

Every year, there are approximately 5.3 million flood insurance policies in the U.S.

If we take any home over a 30-year period (the time it takes to pay off the home with a 30-year loan), it has a 300% higher chance to get hit by a flood than a fire.

Where does flooding occur?

What's the number one natural disaster in the United States? Believe it or not, it's not fires, hurricanes, or earthquakes that cause the most damage every year, but flooding.

You may think that flooding is resigned to high-risk states like Texas, Florida, Louisiana, etc., but there have been floods in every state over just the last 5 years,

In fact, 25% - 30% of all insurance claims for residential flood damage are filed in moderate or low-risk areas.

That’s why flood insurance policies are spread out among 22,00 neighborhoods and communities across the country.

Does it take a major storm to cause dangerous flooding?

It doesn’t take a historic hurricane like Harvey or massive levee failures like what happened after Katrina to cause catastrophic flooding.

Even a few inches of water that enters homes or communities can cause millions of dollars of damage. In fact, a home can be rendered unlivable in just a matter of minutes when flooding occurs.

Flash flooding from heavy rain, runoff, or distressed dams and levees can create a wall of water as high as 10 to 15 feet high alarmingly fast.

Even a flood only two feet deep can quickly carry away motor vehicles – and anyone in them.

What causes flooding?

We often take notice of flooding when catastrophic weather events like Hurricane Harvey strike. But flooding is also caused by common storms, heavy rainfall, seasonal snowmelt, malfunctioning dams and levees, and also from man-made conditions.

In fact, development and housing construction can cause flooding because it disrupts or alters the natural path for water runoff and drainage.

How can flood insurance help?

People commonly are required to get flood insurance when they bur or refinance a house and the lender mandates it. They would do so for two reasons why a mortgage lender will require a borrower to have flood insurance:

          The home or property is located in a designated high-risk flood zone or,
          The mortgage loan came from a federally regulated or insured lender (like FHA, VA, etc.)

What are flood zones and a flood zone map?

FEMA, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with the help of the Army Corp. of Engineers and local flood control authorities, designates where low, moderate, and high-risk flooding areas exist.

FEMA uses their data to maintain special Flood Insurance Rate Maps for every city, rural area, and community across the U.S.

FEMA pinpoints each home to be within a high, moderate, or low-risk zone for flooding.

How does flood insurance help homeowners?

It’s wise to get a flood insurance policy even if your lender doesn’t require it since the average flood insurance policy costs only $700 per year nationally. But that includes high-risk areas, so if your home is located in an area not commonly subject to floods, you may qualify for lower rates.

Check with your insurance agent for details, but the typical flood insurance policy will cover:

·      Structural property damage
·      Carpet repair or replacement
·      Wood flooring removal and replacement Damage to heating and air conditioning systems
·      Damage to electrical and plumbing systems
·      Drywall and framing water damage
·      Damage from mold or mildew growth
·      Removal of debris and trash

How about flooding in the Sacramento area?

Consistent with national data, significant 20% -25% of all flood insurance claims in Sacramento County are filed in low-risk areas.

Even if your lender doesn’t specifically require you to carry flood insurance, the City of Sacramento, Sacramento County, and FEMA suggest that Sacramento property owners who live near levees or in low areas to consider coverage.

Sacramento has done a lot to improve its flood management protection and lower our risk level recently. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by FEMA who upgraded Sacramento County to a “3” rating (the second highest for any California community and among the top 1% in the nation) as of May 2013.

Due to this focus on flood management infrastructure and planning, Sacramento County residents may be able to get up to 35% off their flood insurance premiums.

How do you get more information on flooding in Sacramento County, as well as flood insurance?

If your property is located within the City limits, please contact the City of Sacramento’s Floodplain Information line at (916) 808-5061. 

If your property is located in the unincorporated area of Sacramento County, please contact the County’s Flood Zone Information Hotline at (916) 874-7517.

If you have questions about levees or general questions about flood insurance, please contact Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency at (916) 874-7606.

Check out the National Flood Insurance Program’s website at

Or contact your insurance agent for specifics.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

25 Little-Known Facts About ZIP Codes

You see it every single day on the mail and packages you receive, and you even write it every time you send a letter or a bill, but you probably have never thought twice about ZIP codes. Today, we’re going to delve into the world of U.S. Postal ZIP codes with these 25 facts:

1. The "ZIP" in Zip Code is an acronym which stands for "Zone Improvement Plan."

2. How many zip codes are there? If someone offered you $1,000,000 if you got even within 50%, could you guess accurately? Me neither, as I had no idea before researching for this blog.

3. In fact, there are now about 42,000 ZIP codes in the United States! That may seem like a huge number, but consider that Canada has 861,094 postal codes (their version of zip codes!).

4. I say “about” that many because the number of ZIP codes we have changes each year – often dramatically. In fact, there are about 5,000 changes to ZIP codes every year, including getting rid of old ones and creating new ones.

5. Each ZIP code now has an average population of about 7,631 men, women, and children.

6. Before 1963, zip codes didn’t exist in their present form, and mailing addresses just consisted of your home number, street, city, and state.

7. In 1943 during World War II, most able bodied young mailmen and postal employees had to go serve overseas, so a two-digit coding system for each major city was introduced to help the new, inexperienced replacement workers.

8. But our modern ZIP code system is attributed to a postal inspector named Robert Moon, who developed the concept in 1963 to ease the flow of mail and improve organization in his Philadelphia mail center.

9. Moon's ZIP code system first had only three digits, which identified the region and even city where the mail was going making it far faster for postal workers to sort, and it was officially adopted by the USPS.

10. The ZIP code acronym and system were soon trademarked by the United States Postal Service. Interestingly, that trademark has now expired and they chose not to renew it, meaning that anyone can use "ZIP" without conflict.

So what do the numbers in your Zip Code represent?

11. The first digit of any ZIP code represents a state or group of states. For instance, “1” is for Deleware, New York, and Pennsylvania. As you go from the eastern states west, the codes for those states go up.

12. The first three numbers of any Zip Code earmark the code for that particular post office sectional center facility (called an SCF). 

13. The last two digits reference the location, usually zooming in on the particular area. But they can also be a holdover from the system of two-digit zip codes that each big city had before 1943.  For example, the 2-digit code for Minneapolis used to be 16, so the city’s modern zip code is 554-16.

14. You’ve probably also noticed a four-digit code that follows the regular 5-digit ZIP code. Added in 1983, the additional four-digit ZIP code is primarily used by businesses who ship high volumes. These businesses get a discount on the cost of mailing if they include the last four digits because it helps facilitate a faster and more efficient mail flow.

15. Most people also have no idea that ZIP codes do more than just help us sort the mail. In fact, the codes are also used by bankers and lenders in issuing credit card authorizations, as well as factoring heavily into assigning insurance ratings.

16. But all ZIP codes are not created equally; there are actually four classifications of ZIPs. These include ‘Unique’ codes (for high volume addresses), ‘PO Boxes’, ‘Military’ & ‘Standard’.

17. But once introduced, everyone didn’t take an instant shine to ZIP codes, and it took a while for them to become commonly used. In fact, The U.S. Post Office even promoted the use of their new codes in the 1960s and 70s by unveiling their own mascot, Mr. ZIP, also known as Zippy.

18. Even the National Forest Service’s Smokey Bear chipped into to promote the ZIP code system. In 1964, the character responsible for making "Only you can prevent forest fires" a household mantra got his own ZIP code, 20252.

19. In a strange partnership, Hollywood helped to promote the use of ZIP codes when TV icon Ethel Merman recorded a song to the melody of "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” for the post office.

20. The White House has not only one, but two of its own ZIP codes; one for the POTUS and one for his family to receive personal mail (20500).

21. Here are some other areas with their own special postal codes:

The World Trade Center also had its own ZIP code before September 11,
The Empire State Building,
Saks Fifth Avenue in New York,
Dodgertown in California
Wal-Mart headquarters
General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y. (12345)
For two weeks every summer during the Burning Man Festival, the city of Black Rock City, NV, receives its own ZIP code (89412)

22. The most famous ZIP is 90210 in Beverly Hills, known worldwide thanks to the 90’s TV show.

23. But that’s not the wealthiest ZIP code in the U.S. That designation belongs to both 07620 - Alpine, N.J. - and 33109 - Fisher Island, Fla.

24. Other notable ZIP codes include:

32976 A mobile home park in Barefoot Bay, Florida is large enough to have its own code.
91210 As is the shopping mall in Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California.
17927 This ZIP code was assigned to a mine in Centralia, Pennsylvania. But since an underground fire has burned inside the mine for over 40 years, the USPS revoked their ZIP code in 1992.
77230 Was assigned to Hurricane Katrina victims taking shelter in the Houston Astrodome in 2005 and is still in service today as a P.O. box code.

25. Here are a few other fun ZIP codes:

10001 New York, NY (aka Empire State, NY)
90909 Not real, but featured on TV’s Veronica Mars
31415(Pi) Savannah, GA. Brilliant!
55555 Young America, MN

22222 Arlington, VA including Arlington Cemetery for U.S. veterans