Fire Emergency Tips: What to do if Your House Burns Down

Besides normal fire prevention precautions, additional considerations ought to be taken into account.

Before a House Fire

Choose your fire insurance company carefully. Get testimonials from other customers if you can. Find out how individual companies handle claims.

Do not underinsure your home. You may be accused of purposely underinsuring to keep your premium payments low. This can seriously delay or even prevent a full settlement.

Read and be familiar with your insurance policy. What is the responsibility of the insurer and what is the responsibility of the homeowner? Make sure you understand all the clauses referring to both your home and the contents in your home. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. You may need to insure jewelry, art and antiques separately.

Take pictures of your home and its contents. Make two copies and keep one copy elsewhere, in a safety deposit box or at a friend’s house.

Find out if your community offers emergency social services for fire victims. If you suffer a total loss you may leave your home with only the clothes on your back. These services generally provide a place to stay for 72 hours plus meal and clothing allowances.

During a House Fire

If you are in the house get out immediately and do not go back inside. The impulse to rescue your possessions will be very strong. Even if you don’t see flames, smoke inhalation can be fatal.

Annual fire deaths in the US average 2,740.

Use your cell phone to call 911 from outside your home. If the phone is still in your house, leave it and phone from a neighbor’s.

Tell firemen about anything that may explode and become a dangerous projectile, such as a barbecue propane tank.

After a House Fire

 

Report the fire to your insurance agent as soon as possible so they can begin processing your claim. Ask for a copy of your insurance policy. You will consult it often in the coming days and weeks and your copy may have been lost in the fire.

Report the fire to your mortgage company and ask them for a copy of any appraisal of your home they may have on file. The appraisal with its accompanying house diagram and square footage information will be a starting point in determining the value of your loss.

Begin compiling a list of the contents in your home. Refer to saved pictures and add any purchases made after the photos were taken. You cannot claim for replacement of any itmes you do not remember so it is important to start your list as soon as possible.

A house fire is devastating but you will feel more in control if you are prepared.

Selling a Vacant Home a Challenge: Vacancy News Another Sign that Housing Market’s Woes are Deep

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one out of every nine housing units in the United States is now vacant. That comes out to more than 14 million empty homes.

This isn’t good news for anybody. An empty home often develops into a neighborhood eyesore. They often become “attractive nuisances,” seeming to attract trouble.

The Empty Home Challenge

For sellers, an empty home is an even bigger challenge. In today’s slumping housing market — home sales dropped 5.9 percent in the fourth quarter of this year from the same period one year earlier, according to the National Association of REALTORS — it’s difficult to sell any home. But an empty home, one that sellers often view as cold and impersonal because of its lack of furnishings or artwork, is an especially tough sell.

Unfortunately, homeowners often have no other choice but to sell a vacant home. A job may have sent the family to another part of the country. Perhaps the family found the perfect new home, but wasn’t able to unload its current home before closing date.
Whatever the reason, homeowners can take some steps to make selling a vacant home at least a little easier.

Get it Staged

Real estate agents often recommend that their clients hire a home stager to give an empty home some personality. Stagers, usually for a flat fee paid by the homeowner, will fill a home with furniture and art, and will do so in a way that maximizes a home’s positive features and obscures its negative ones.

Many stagers use homeowners’ existing furniture, but others will bring in their own sofas, beds, props and artwork. This is especially important for homeowners who have already moved on from a home. It’s rare that these owners will have two complete sets of furniture.

Homeowners not willing to commit to a home stager can take less costly steps to make their vacant homes look warmer. One way is to spend the time and energy to give living room, bedroom and kitchen walls fresh coats of paint. When a home is empty, there is no furniture to distract from faded, chipped or dirty paint. Fresh paint can instantly rejuvenate a gloomy home.

Curb Appeal is Key

Homeowners should also pay special attention to an empty home’s outside. They should make sure lawns are kept neat and gardens are weeded. Trees should be trimmed, and sidewalks and driveways should be kept free of trash and litter. When a vacant house has an unkempt exterior, it instantly makes a bad impression on potential buyers.

Selling a vacant home will almost always take time and energy. But homeowners who do the little things to make an empty home feel warm and inviting will be rewarded with a quicker sale.