Important Questions You Need to Ask About Your Home Insurance Policy

Home insurance plays a massive role in protecting your home and your family from possible financial distress caused by disasters or other unexpected events. Thus, having the right type and amount of coverage is essential.

Whether it’s your fifth or first time to buy a home property insurance, discussing these questions with your insurance agent will help ensure that you end up with a policy that offers you the value and protection you need, maybe even more.

1. What is homeowners’ insurance?

Homeowners purchase a home insurance policy to protect their homes from damage and disasters. What many don’t know is that there’s so much more to it than coverage for the physical and structural integrity of their home.

If it’s your first time to buy home insurance, don’t be embarrassed to ask your agent more information about your policy and what it can do for you. Standard homeowners’ policies do not only protect your home and your belongings; they will protect you and your families against certain liabilities as well.

2. What are the monthly premiums?

In insurance, “premiums” refer to the amount you’ll pay for your policy on a monthly or yearly basis. Upon meeting with an insurance agent, one of the first questions you need to ask is the price of their premiums and what they cover. Most insurance providers offer their clients several premium tiers to choose from.

One mistake that homeowners often make – especially first-time homebuyers – is that they go for the first insurance company they find. If you want to get excellent value for the money you pay on premiums, always shop around. Doing so will allow you to compare quotes from different insurers and help you find the best deal out there.

3. Does my insurance cover all types of disasters?

Many people assume that home insurance will protect them from every type of risk or disaster that could happen to their homes. Sadly, that is not the case. Your insurance will only cover specific types of perils, and only up to the amount indicated in your policy. Basic home insurance coverage typically includes loss and damages due to fire, explosion, smoke, hail, lightning, theft, and vandalism.

Aside from the dwelling coverage, insurance policies also include:

Personal property coverage to protect your personal belongings in case of loss, theft, or vandalism

Liability coverage to protect you and your family from lawsuits and medical liabilities in case of 3rd-party physical injury or property damage

Additional living expenses coverage to cover your temporary living expenses in case your home becomes unlivable due to severe damage caused by a covered peril

You may opt to increase your premiums or purchase endorsements to increase your coverage. Ask your agent about these options.

4. What kind of risks are not covered?

While you can rely on your home insurance to protect you from most common risks and perils, it has its limitations. Depending on the provider, policies may slightly differ in price and scope, but they generally exclude natural flooding and earthquake disasters. Those who live in a flood-prone or earthquake-prone area may purchase endorsements or a separate policy for these risks.

Also, the policy will not cover damages from war, nuclear explosion, or power failure. The same goes for intentional damage or those caused by neglect.

5. Is this amount of coverage enough to rebuild my home from the ground up?

Your homeowner’s policy should cover the expenses of a total rebuild, just in case your home is brutally hit by a disaster. After all, this is the whole point of having home insurance. To get a more accurate estimate of the possible reconstruction cost of your home, consider working with local agents, as they’re more familiar with the construction landscape in the area.

Also, make sure to find out whether your policy covers actual cash value (ACV) or replacement cost value (RCV). When you make a claim, an ACV policy will deduct the depreciation cost into the payout, while an RCV policy will not. It’s recommended to have your home and belongings insured at replacement cost value.

6. Is there a way to reduce my monthly premium? Am I eligible for any discounts?

One of the easiest ways to reduce your monthly premium is by increasing your deductible. You may also end-up receiving special credits from companies if your home is equipped with alarms and other safety installations.

If you’re a senior, a student, or a retiree, don’t forget to ask your agent if you’re qualified for any discounts. Many insurance companies offer discounts to specific demographics, but since they don’t usually advertise these, you have to make it a point to ask.

About the Author

Rachael Harper is the Content Marketing Strategist of Bennett & Porter, a wealth management and insurance firm based in Scottsdale, Arizona. When not writing, she makes use of her time reading books and playing bowling with her family and friends.

A Guide to Buying a California Vacation Rental

By Henry Moore

California is the third largest of the United States and offers a diversity of attractions, from the glitz and glamor of Hollywood to the serene redwood forests. Given the variety of sightseeing options, it’s no wonder that the state is a hot spot for tourists: Tourism brought in $140 billion in 2018 alone. Thanks to its popularity, California is an ideal choice if you want to buy a property that you can rent out as a vacation home. To make a profit, however, you need to choose your real estate wisely. Find out how to set up a profitable property with these tips:


Target a popular tourist area


California is vast. Before you buy, narrow down your search area based on popular tourist sites. There’s no point buying a bargain piece of property if it’s located in the middle of nowhere and won’t attract traffic. Possibilities include Los Angeles, where you can go shopping on Rodeo Drive or visit the homes of Hollywood stars. Or you could look in San Francisco for access to all the Bay Area has to offer. Another area to explore is San Diego.  La Jolla has stunning cliff views and is ideal for seal and sea lion watching, and a home in the Gaslamp Quarter will put you near the world-famous San Diego Zoo.


Compare location prices


With your geographic area narrowed down, you can start to compare real estate prices to ensure you find something within your budget. Some neighborhoods will be more affordable than others. Using a real estate search tool allows you to get an overview of the average costs of different districts. For instance, Redfin notes that homes in San Diego sold for an average of $632,000 over the last month. Compare this to San Francisco, notorious for its expensive homes, where the average price is a whopping $1.2 million.


Calculate potential profits


Figure out your operating costs. There isn’t just electricity and water to consider, but also cleaning fees, property taxes, your mortgage, and insurance. Then there are advertising prices—you have to find your guests, after all. Next, calculate your expected monthly income based on how much you are charging per night and how many nights you expect to rent out the property. Compare the two figures to make sure you will turn a profit. If not, see if you can reasonably increase the price on the property. Otherwise, you might want to keep looking for a more cost-effective option.


Set up your vacation home for business


You can’t just put a vacation home up for rent as is. People want to feel like they are getting a “home away from home,” and it’s your job to deliver this experience. Stock the place with everyday amenities like kitchen tools, toilet paper, WiFi, and linens and towels. Homeaway’s checklist includes lots of small but important items you might not otherwise think of, from garbage bags to a hairdryer (which Amazon sells for under $10). If you really want to make the rental attractive and justify a higher price, install “luxury” perks like barbecue, jacuzzi, or fireplace.


Start advertising


There are many online vacation rental platforms available to choose from when listing your rental. Business Insider provides several options, from Airbnb to OneFineStay. Airbnb alone has over one million properties listed worldwide, so with this wealth of resources at your fingertips, you should have no problems finding guests.


Use the above list to ensure your vacation home is marketable in terms of location, area, and amenities, and you’re sure to get business. While it will initially require an extra investment of money, time, and effort, once your California property rental is up and running, you will enjoy a wonderful source of primarily passive income. Plus, for those times when it isn’t in use, you can use it for your own enjoyment!


Photo Credit:

Home Seller Tips: Ask Yourself, Why Are You Selling?


If you know exactly why you are selling then it is easier for you to follow the right plan of action for getting what you want.

If you are a seller who needs to close a sale as quickly as possible, then you should know that getting the highest price possible is not one of your priorities. It does not mean that you won’t or cannot get the highest price, but it means that the price is not the deciding factor. A buyer who can give you a quick closing time will appeal much more to you than a buyer who can offer you more money but the negotiation and closing time drag on.

Image result for home offersIt’s always good to know how low you will go in terms of selling price. This will help to eliminate some of the offers that you find simply offensive or ridiculous. Even though you should consider all offers seriously and take into consideration the terms of each offer, sometimes, if you know the bottom line and are strict about it, you can save yourself time.

Once you know what your limits and reasons are, discuss them with your agent so that they can help you set your goals realistically. If you decide to list your home on your own, make sure you do research on the current market, and you get the proper advice you need in terms of legal issues, etc. The key is to be realistic and know what your goals are so they can be met.

San Diego Neighborhood Highlight: Vista

If you’re looking for living that feels like the countryside but still has a lot of amenities, look no further than Vista. Far from the packed-in urban areas of central San Diego, Vista has fewer than 100,000 people. It’s got excellent schools, gourmet restaurants, and tons of community events, making it a perfect place to raise a family or simply enjoy a quieter pace.

Commute Times

Vista is north of the city of San Marcos, on the very outskirts of inland San Diego County, so you’ll want to consider your commute time. The 78 freeway makes it an easy jaunt to the northern coastal communities. It’s only about 15 minutes to Carlsbad, for example. But if you work in downtown San Diego, expect it to take an hour or more to get there by car. Another option is the train, which leaves from coastal San Diego stops.


Vista Homes
Vista Homes

It’s easier to find a home with some land here than it is in most other areas of San Diego County. That said, there are homes to fit a variety of budgets. You can still score a condo here for less than $300K, with the average price of all homes at $522K. This area is very family-friendly. The housing market remains hot, with homes typically selling within 10 days of going on the market. Set up the perfect home for your family, filled with baskets of toys, a large green yard and everything in between.


There are a number of both public and private schools in Vista, all with an average ranking grade of B+. Several schools have a ranking of A+, though, like Mission Vista High, which is #102 in the state. Check with the school district to find out if the home you’re interested in is within the boundaries of a school you like.

Private schools in Vista are predominantly church-affiliated. Most of these schools are highly rated, with admission requirements.


Though it’s a relatively smaller city by Southern California standards, Vista’s got a vibrant foodie scene.  Mikko Sushi opened a Vista sister location to its beachside Carlsbad joint, serving up a variety of modern Japanese seafood dishes and noodles for a moderate price.

Mikko Sushi in Vista
Mikko Sushi in Vista

If you’re in the mood for authentic Italian, check out Ciao Ristorante, which has a full pasta and pizza menu, as well as many other items. Curbside Cafe on Main Street in downtown Vista is a neighborhood favorite for breakfast and lunch, with items costing around $10, and boasts Vista’s best cinnamon roll.

Things to Do

One of the things residents like the best about Vista is its historic, quaint downtown, known as Vista Village. Currently undergoing redevelopment, the area has a number of shops and restaurants perfect for strolling.

Farmer's Market
Farmer’s Market

Held every Saturday at the courthouse downtown from 8 am to 1 pm, the Vista Farmer’s Market is San Diego County’s oldest. Here local farmers bring fresh produce to sell. But you can also buy everything from microgreens to oil and vinegar. Locals love to meander the aisles, sipping coffee and eating from the many vendors selling specialty items.

Vista also has many annual events. The yearly Rhythm and Brews Festival is a fundraiser for two food banks. Held downtown every spring, it features more than 100 craft breweries and live music stages.

The Vista Strawberry Festival is a family-friendly event that usually takes place on Memorial Day weekend that hearkens back to the days when Vista was the largest producer of strawberries. The area still grows quite a few of these fruits, which are also sold at this event. Because it’s a strawberry festival, it features events like the Little Miss Strawberry Shortcake pageant, strawberry jam making, and strawberry costume contests. It’s also got a bunch of carnival rides for the kiddos and a beer garden for the grown-ups.

Legoland San Diego is also very close, and a great place if your kids are 10 and under. Many families get annual passes. There’s also a water park here, perfect for hot days. The Moonlight Amphitheatre is a Vista treasure, with open-air plays during the warmer months. They feature Broadway shows, concerts, and outdoor movie screenings. Age ranges for the shows do vary, so check out those guidelines before buying tickets.

Outdoor Activities

Vista is really close to the Cleveland National Forest and Palomar Mountain.

Cleveland National Forest
Cleveland National Forest

It’s just an hour’s drive up the slopes if you feel like seeing snow during the winter. There’s also a ton of hiking and camping to be had. The area has a couple dozen mountain biking trails, for all skill levels.

If you’re looking for rock climbing, northern San Diego has many different places to try it out. For fishing, kayaking, and other boating, check out Lake San Marcos, located just south of Vista. Or you can head west for about 10 miles and go to the beaches in Carlsbad or Oceanside.

For more organized sports, the Vista Valley Country Club offers golf along with spa services and fitness. The Tennis Club of Vista has teams for people of all skill levels.

Whether you’re looking for a single-bedroom condo or a large home on multiple acres, if you want a country kind of life that’s still very active, Vista could be the right area for you. Contact our local experts to find your dream home today!

San Diego Neighborhood Highlight: Cardiff by the Sea

Cardiff-by-the-Sea is a charming seaside community in northern San Diego County. Tight-knit and walkable, Cardiff (as the locals call it) is the kind of place where neighbors talk to each other as they stroll down to the eateries with their dogs.

Cardiff Homes

Spanish styles homes for sale in San Diego
Spanish styles homes for sale in San Diego

One of the main reasons people tend to be attracted to living in Cardiff is because the homes are not cookie-cutter. Here you’ll see Spanish style homes with tiled roofs, Cape Cod styles with siding, and Craftsman with wraparound porches.

Because it’s right above the Pacific, Cardiff single family homes start at around $1.5 million. However, there are some condos to be had for just under $600K. Its competitive market means that there are often multiple offers on homes. This also makes Cardiff a good investment- prices have risen by 2% last year, and low inventory plus its location makes it unlikely for housing prices to dramatically fall. In fact, San Diego in general continues to have rising home prices, with prices up 4.5% over 2018.


Cardiff’s home to two elementary schools. Cardiff Elementary, which is ranked number 777 in all of the thousands of California elementary schools. Ada W. Harris Elementary is likewise highly ranked. There are also a number of private schools in the area, such as Bishop’s and La Jolla Country Day. Both of these are in La Jolla, but only a 20 minute or so drive away through morning traffic.


Speaking of driving, Cardiff is in the northern part of San Diego County. Commuting should be a factor in deciding where to buy a home. It’s a good choice to live here if you work around University City (UTC), La Jolla, or places to the north like Carlsbad. Commute times to these places are usually about a half hour, even with traffic. If you work downtown, there’s also the option of taking the commuter train for a quicker route.


Pizza in Cardiff by the Sea
Pizza in Cardiff by the Sea

Cardiff is home to many great eateries, most concentrated along South Coast Highway 101. Pacific Coast Grill features a patio right on the sand. Its menu is mostly seafood, but also includes some other proteins like ribs. They also have vegetarian and gluten-free menus if you ask. Ki’s Restaurant is nearby and has a locally sourced, casual dining menu that includes a variety of dishes, including sushi.

If you’re more in the mood for pizza and beer, check out the aptly named Best Pizza and Brew on Aberdeen (also within walking distance). Their “two slices of pizza plus a beer” is one of the best values in town. They also serve up buffalo wings and salad and have gluten-free and vegetarian options. If want to venture out a little further, Chiko, a Chinese-Korean fusion place that’s a short drive up Highway 101 to Encinitas, offers inspired Asian dishes.


Cardiff is known as “the Riviera of the West” for a reason, and that reason is Cardiff State Beach. With surfing, swimming, or just beach lounging available, it’s a popular spot for locals and their dogs, as long as the dogs are leashed. If you’re parking there, you’ll need to purchase a pass by the hour, or a year pass that’s good at all state parks. Pipes Beach is most popular with surfers and tends to be less populated; it is, however, known for having a host of squirrels and seagulls who will take your food, so use caution. People also like to frequent San Elijo State Beach, which has campsites for tents and RVs that can be reserved in advance. Another popular surfing spot is Cardiff Reef, on the south end of this beach right where the cliffs stop.


Cardiff by the Sea, despite its high home prices, is a laid-back coastal community. There are plenty of activities and attractions year-round. The town prides itself on their annual event, the Cardiff Kook Run, which is so named after a statue of a man surfing. Popularly called the Kook, the statue regularly gets dressed up in various outfits by locals. The Kook Run is a 5K or 10K that’s held every February; there’s also a kid’s option.

The local Patagonia store is the hub of the Cardiff community. The store sells surf and swim equipment and attire, along with other exercise gear and clothing. It also hosts or lists a number of local events, such as a monthly Board Swap, where people can sell or buy surfboards; film screenings; yoga classes; and even book signings.

No matter what kind of home you choose, as long as you’re surfer-friendly and like the beach, you’ll enjoy living in Cardiff by the Sea.

Closing Costs: Buying or Refinancing a Home

Image result for closing costs

This is a detailed summary of costs you may have to pay when you buy or refinance your home. They are listed in the order that they should appear on a Good Faith Estimate you obtain from a mortgage lender. There are two broad categories of closing costs. Non-recurring closing costs are items that are paid once and you never pay again. Recurring closing costs are items you pay time and again over the course of home ownership, such as property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Some of the items that appear here do not traditionally appear on a lender’s Good Faith Estimate and lenders are not required to show all of these items.

Non-Recurring Closing Costs Associated with the Lender.

Loan Origination Fee – The loan origination fee is often referred to as points. One point is equal to one percent of the mortgage loan. As a rule, if you are willing to pay more in points, you will get a lower interest rate. On a VA or FHA loan, the loan origination fee is one point. Any additional points are called discount points.

Loan Discount – On a government loan, the loan origination fee is normally listed as one point or one percent of the loan. Any points in addition to the loan origination fee are called discount points. On a conventional loan, discount points are usually lumped in with the loan origination fee.

Appraisal Fee – Since your property serves as collateral for the mortgage, lenders want to be reasonably certain of the value and they require an appraisal. The appraisal looks to determine if the price you are paying for the home is justified by recent sales of comparable properties. The appraisal fee varies, depending on the value of the home and the difficulty involved in justifying value. Unique and more expensive homes usually have a higher appraisal fee. Appraisal fees on VA loans are higher than on conventional loans.

Credit Report – As part of the underwriting review, your mortgage lender will want to review your credit history. The cost of running the credit report can vary and is included in closing costs.

Lender’s Inspection Fee – You normally find this fee on new construction and is associated with what is called a 442 Inspection. Since the property is not finished when the initial appraisal is done, the 442 Inspection is done when the building is completed and verifies that construction is complete with carpeting and flooring installed.

Mortgage Broker Fee – About seventy percent of loans are originated through mortgage brokers and they will sometimes list your points in this area instead of the Loan Origination Fee category. They may also add any broker processing fees in this area so you clearly understand how much is being charged by the wholesale lender and how much is being charged by the broker. Wholesale lenders offer lower costs/rates to mortgage brokers than you can obtain directly, so you are not paying extra by going through a mortgage broker.

Tax Service Fee – During the life of your loan you will be making property tax payments, either on your own or through your impound account with the lender. Since property tax liens can sometimes take precedence over a first mortgage, it is in your lender’s interest to pay an independent service to monitor property tax payments.

Flood Certification Fee – Your lender must determine whether or not your property is located in a federally designated flood zone. This is a fee usually charged by an independent service to make that determination.

Flood Monitoring – From time to time flood zones are re-mapped. Some lenders charge this fee to maintain monitoring on whether this re-mapping affects your property.

Other Lender Fees

We put these in a separate category because they vary so much from lender to lender and cannot be associated directly with a cost of the loan. These fees generate income for the lenders and are used to offset the fixed costs of loan origination. The Processing Fee mentioned above can also fall into this category, but since it is listed higher on the Good Faith Estimate Form we did not also include it here. You will normally find some combination of these fees on your Good Faith Estimate.

Document Preparation – Before computers made it fairly easy for lenders to draw their own loan documents, they used to hire specialized document preparation firms for this function. This was the fee charged by those companies. Nowadays, lenders draw their own documents but this fee is charged on almost all loans.

Underwriting Fee – Once again, it is difficult to determine the exact cost of underwriting a loan since the underwriter is usually a paid staff member.

Administration Fee – If an Administration Fee is charged, you will probably find there is no Underwriting Fee. This is not always the case.

Appraisal Review Fee – Even though you will probably not see this fee on your Good Faith Estimate, it is charged occasionally. Some lenders routinely review appraisals as a quality control procedure, especially on higher valued properties.

Warehousing Fee – This is rarely charged and begins to border on the ridiculous. However, some lenders have a warehouse line of credit and add this as a charge to the borrower.

Items Required to be Paid in Advance

Pre-paid Interest – Mortgage loans are usually due on the first of each month. Since loans can close on any day, a certain amount of interest must be paid at closing to get the interest paid up to the first. For example, if you close on the twentieth, you will pay ten days of pre-paid interest.

Homeowner’s Insurance – This is the insurance you pay to cover possible damages to your home and other items. If you buy a home, you will normally pay the first year’s insurance when you close the transaction. If you are buying a condominium, your Homeowners’ Association Fees normally cover this insurance.

VA Funding Fee – On VA loans, the Veterans Administration charges a fee for guaranteeing your loan. The fee will be a percentage of the loan balance but the exact percentage will vary depending on whether you have used your VA eligibility in the past. Instead of actually paying this as an out-of-pocket expense, most veterans choose to finance it, so it gets added to the loan balance. This is why the loan balance on VA loans can be higher than the actual purchase amount.

Up Front Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP) – This is charged on FHA purchases of single-family residences (SFR’s) or Planned Unit Developments (PUDs). Like the VA Funding Fee it is normally added to the balance of the loan. Unlike a VA loan, the homebuyer must also pay a monthly mortgage insurance fee, too. This is why many lenders do not recommend FHA loans if the homebuyer can qualify for a conventional loan. Condominium purchases do not require the UFMIP.

Mortgage Insurance – Though it is rare nowadays, some first-time homebuyer programs still require the first year mortgage insurance premium to be paid in advance. Most mortgage insurance (when required) is simply paid monthly along with your mortgage payment. Mortgage insurance covers the lender and covers a portion of the losses in those cases where borrowers default on their loans.

Reserves Deposited with Lender

If you make a minimum down payment, you may be required to deposit funds into an impound account. Funds in this account are your funds, and the lender uses them to make the payments on your homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and mortgage insurance (whichever is applicable). Each month, in addition to your mortgage payment, you provide additional funds which are deposited into your impound account.

The lender’s goal is to always have sufficient funds to pay your bills as they come due. Sometimes impound accounts are not required, but borrowers request one voluntarily. A few lenders even offer to reduce your loan origination fee if you obtain an impound account. However, if you are disciplined about paying your bills and an impound account is not required, you can probably earn a better rate of return by putting the funds into a savings account. Impound accounts are sometimes referred to as escrow accounts.

Homeowners Insurance Impounds – your lender will divide your annual premium by twelve to come up with an estimated monthly amount for you to pay into your impound account. Since a lender is allowed to keep two months of reserves in your account, you will have to deposit two months into the impound account to start it up.

Property Tax Impounds – How much you will have to deposit towards taxes to start up your impound account varies according to when you close your real estate transaction. For example, you may close in November and property taxes are due in December. Your deposit would be higher than for someone closing in May.

Mortgage Insurance Impounds – When required, most lenders allow this to simply be paid monthly. However, you may be required to put two months’ worth of mortgage insurance as an initial deposit into your impound account.

Non-Recurring Closing Costs not associated with the Lender

Closing/Escrow/Settlement Fee – Methods of closing a real estate transaction vary from state to state, as do the fees.

Title Insurance – Title Insurance assures the homeowner that they have clear title to the property. The lender also requires it to insure that their new mortgage loan will be in first position. The costs vary depending on whether you are purchasing a home or refinancing.

Notary Fees – Most sets of loan documents have two or three forms that must be notarized. Usually your settlement or escrow agent will arrange for you to sign these forms at their office and will charge a notary fee.

Recording Fees – Certain documents get recorded with your local county recorder. Fees vary regionally.

Pest Inspection – This is also referred to as a Termite Inspection. This inspection tests not only for pest infestations, but also other items such as wood rot and water damage. If repairs are required, the amount to cover those repairs can vary. The seller will usually pay for the most serious repairs, but this is a negotiable item. Usually (not always) the pest inspection fee is paid by the seller of the home and is not normally reflected on the Good Faith Estimate.

Home Inspection – Since it is the homebuyer’s choice to obtain a home inspection or not, this cost is not usually reflected on a Good Faith Estimate. However, it is recommended. Keep in mind that the home inspector has a certain set of standards he uses when inspecting a home, and those standards may be higher than required by local building codes. An example is that an inspector may note there is no spark arrestor on a chimney but the local building code may not require it. This sometimes leads to conflicts between buyer and seller.

Home Warranty – This is also an optional item and not normally included on the Good Faith Estimate. A Home Warranty usually covers such items as the major appliances, should they break down within a specific time. Often this is paid by the seller.

Refinancing Associated Costs (but not charged by the new Lender)

Interest – When you close the transaction on your refinance, there will most likely be some outstanding interest due on the old loan. For example, if you close on August twentieth (and you made your last payment), you will have twenty days interest due on the old loan and ten days prepaid interest on the new loan. Your first payment on the new loan would not be until October 1st since you have already paid all of August’s interest when you closed the refinance transaction (since interest is paid in arrears, a September payment would have paid August’s interest, which has already been paid in closing).

Reconveyance Fee – This fee is charged by your existing lender when they “reconvey” their collateral interest in your property back to you through recording of a Reconveyance.

Demand Fee – Your existing lender may charge a fee for calculating payoff figures.

Sub-Escrow fee – Though it sounds like an escrow fee, this fee is actually charged by the Title Company. Assume it is an income-generating fee similar to some of the lender fees mentioned above.

Loan Tie-in Fee – Though it sounds like a lender fee, this cost is actually charged by the Escrow Company.

Homeowner’s Association Transfer Fee – If you are buying a condominium or a home with a Homeowner’s Association, the association often charges a fee to transfer all of their ownership documents to you.

Asking the Seller to Pay Closing Costs – Rules and Advice.

It has become common to ask the seller to pay some or all of the closing costs when you purchase a home. Essentially, this is financing your closing costs since you will probably pay a little bit more for the property than you would if you were paying your own costs.

Keep in mind a few simple rules. On conventional loans you can only ask the seller to pay non-recurring costs, not prepaid fees or items to be paid in advance. If you are putting ten percent down or more, the most the seller can contribute is six percent of the purchase price. If you are putting less down, the most the seller can contribute is three percent.

On VA loans, you can ask the seller to pay everything. This is called a “VA No-No”, meaning the buyer is making no down payment and paying no closing costs.

On FHA loans, the seller can pay almost any cost, but the buyer has to have a minimum three percent investment in the home/closing costs.

Most refinances include the closing costs and prepaids in the new loan amount, requiring little or no out-of-pocket expenses to close the deal.

If you didn’t get bored as you read through this, now you know everything (almost) about closing costs.

San Diego Neighborhood Highlight: Encinitas

Encinitas is a beachside town in northern San Diego County, about 40-60 minutes north of downtown San Diego. It’s known for quaint shops, world-class beaches, and access to many work areas. Right on the ocean, Encinitas still has a small community feeling with a historic downtown and events like the annual holiday parade. 

Encinitas Housing Market

Because of all that it has to offer, Niche rates Encinitas as #2 in the Best Suburbs of San Diego. Therefore the real estate in the area remains competitive.

Here, the average home price is around $862K. You can find beach-view mansions for millions of dollars, or condos under a thousand square feet for around $400K. Homes maintain their value because many people want to live by the water and it’s a bit less expensive than the other beach areas further south, like Del Mar and La Jolla. You’re likely to find newly renovated homes fit with new upgrades, fresh paint jobs, and beautiful landscaping.

The good news for home buyers is that Encinitas real estate, due to the scarcity of housing and prime location, continues to increase in value. Over the past year, the median sales price has risen by 35% while the number of sales has also increased.

Living in Encinitas


Encinitas is an easy commute to many workplaces in the northern coastal region of San Diego County. If you work in Carlsbad, just north of Encinitas, it’s about 10 miles. Many high tech and financial firms are located in Del Mar, La Jolla, and what’s known in San Diego as the Golden Triangle, which is an area where the 805 and 5 meet,. This includes University City, Sorrento Valley, and Carmel Valley and is about 13 miles.


Most schools in Encinitas are highly ranked. You can choose to send your child to a neighborhood school or a private school; both are available.


There’s a reason that Encinitas was named one of the World’s 20 Best Surf Towns by National Geographic. With miles of beaches and surfing, in public or state parks, there’s something for everyone.

One reason the Encinitas coastline is still so pristine is that many of its beaches are state beaches, well-maintained by the fees visitors pay. You’ll need to pay a visitor fee or grab an annual pass. Also keep in mind that most beaches do not allow dogs—you’ll have to travel a little bit further to take your dog to the water.

The most famous of Encinitas beaches is Swami’s.  This world-class surfing area is also a Marine Protected Area with 12 habitats that provide homes for lobsters, halibut, and more. At low tide, walk the beach south all the way to San Elijo State Beach and go on a nature hunt for these critters (always look but don’t touch). Speaking of San Elijo, this site offers campgrounds and RV spaces, too.

If you walk north from Swami’s, you’ll get to a beach called Boneyard, named for its expanse of dry sand and location beneath a steep cliff. It’s a clothing-optional beach, though, so be forewarned.

Moonlight State Beach is Encinitas’ prime central beach area. Despite it being a state beach, it’s actually run by the city of Encinitas and therefore is the only area beach that does not accept the state pass.

Stone Steps Beach is a locals’  beach (not a state beach)that you access at South Portal Street. Look for the sign that says “Stonesteps Beach Access” and descends concrete stairs to the water.

Things to Do

Legoland is close to Encinitas and a perfect family attraction. Buy an annual pass that includes parking for the best value.

The San Diego Botanic Garden is a 37-acre outdoor space with 29 themed gardens including the Bird and Butterfly Garden, a Bamboo Garden, a Children’s Garden, an Olive Tree Garden, and many more.

One hidden gem is the Self-Realization Fellowship Center. It does offer religious ceremonies on a regular basis, but it also has Meditation Gardens overlooking the sea with koi ponds that are open to the public. Locals enjoy this spot as a quiet place to get away, reflect, and even take a laptop and get some work or reading done.

Restaurants and Shopping

Downtown Encinitas has a charming historical section with street fairs, car cruise nights, and more.

It’s home to a variety of restaurants, including these local favorites:

  • Breweries: Encinitas has at least a dozen—  such as Culture Brewing, which offers IPAs and more traditional wheat beers and stouts.
  • Eat food straight from the ocean at The Fish Shop.
  • Handel’s Ice Cream with more than 50 flavors of ice cream and frozen yogurt and has been in business since 1945.
  • Café and coffee hounds will find many places to grab a cup of joe and perhaps a meal.
  • Fish tacos are a California favorite.  Kotija Jr is ranked as best, but you can try them all to see if you agree.

Before or after eating, stroll through the many shops. On weekends, there’s a Seaside Bazaar from 9 to 5with local artisans, vendors, and entertainers. On Wednesdays (4 to 7 pm in the winter and 4 to 8 from May until September) there’s a Farmer’s Market on Vulcan and E Streets.

The Lumberyard on South Coast Highway is a two-story brick complex with a wide array of businesses and restaurants, including a Vietnamese place, a wine bar, and a tavern.

As far as entertainment, La Paloma Theatre  has been open since 1928 and was one of the first places to show “talkies.” With its beautiful Spanish architecture and high ceilings, it’s a true throwback to the golden age of film. Now it shows one movie at a time and is a treasured part of Encinitas culture.

Whether you like beaches, shopping, or dining out, Encinitas is a great place to live for families and those who work in the northwest area of San Diego. If you’re looking to relocate to this area, it should definitely be a top contender on your list.

How to Be a Smart San Diego Tourist

No one wants to be that clueless San Diego visitor who spends too much on their hotel, misses out on fun things to do, or ends up eating bad food in crowded places. These San Diego travel tips will help you be the savvy visitors instead.

To help you be a smarter San Diego tourist, enjoy your trip more and spend less of your hard-earned money doing it, these San Diego tourist tips may help you:

Sail Boats in San Diego

5 Ways to be a Smart San Diego Tourist

Know the Weather: San Diego’s climate is quite moderate, but it can rain at times, and Santa Ana winds can turn winter into summer. To be better prepared, check the weather forecast ahead of time.

Pick the Right Hotel for Your Trip: The best area for tourists to stay in San Diego depends on what they’re going to do. Most people stay downtown or in the “Hotel Circle” area, but if you pick the wrong area, you’ll end up stuck in traffic unnecessarily.

Take the Trolley: At rush hour, Interstate Highway 5 can feel more like a parking lot than a freeway. You may not want to drive to the border near Tijuana either, risking a break-in or getting on the wrong road and stuck at the border crossing. Learn how to take the trolley during your San Diego vacation, and you can relax and let someone else do the driving.

Make Reservations: The San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park offer tours that require reservations, such as their photo safari. You won’t need reservations to visit Sea World, but you will if you want to take a behind the scenes tour or dine with Shamu.

Life’s Too Short to Eat Bad Food: Don’t be a typical San Diego tourist suffering through bad service, high prices, and mediocre food in Old Town or the Gaslamp Quarter. Instead, head to one of San Diego’s hip neighborhoods like Hillcrest, North Park or Kensington, where you’ll find lots of good restaurants, at much more reasonable price.


A Few Useful Facts About San Diego

Coronado Island and beach at sunset San Diego, California

  • San Diego is one of the largest cities in the United States, with a population density of about four people per square mile. Compared to most of Los Angeles and all of San Francisco, that makes it a much less crowded to get around.
  • San Diego is edged with seventy miles of beaches. .
  • The Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island is the largest wooden structure in the United States. And it’s a pretty place to visit, too.
  • The San Diego Zoo is home to a pair of giant pandas. When Hua Mei was born here, she was the first baby panda born in the Western Hemisphere since 1990 (she is now in China).
  • San Diego is not only California’s oldest city, but it was also the first European settlement on the West Coast.
  • The legal drinking age in San Diego is 21. Across the border in Tijuana, it’s 18.
  • San Diego Hotel tax is 10.5% (12.5% for hotels with more than 70 rooms).
  • Sales tax is slightly less than 8% (A helpful hint: To easily calculate a 15% restaurant tip, simply double the tax).


Tips for a Weekend Trip to San Diego

San Diego is a laid-back California city with easy access to the beach, a thriving nightlife scene and plenty of tasty food options. This city is a perfect place to visit for a short trip, but there are also endless reasons to make San Diego your home. If you’re planning a weekend trip to the city, read our guide for where to stay and what to do!

About San Diego

This city was long occupied by the native Kumeyaay people before it was claimed for Spain in 1542 and later became part of the United States in the 1850s. Today, it has an estimated population of 1.4 million people and it is the eighth-largest city in the U.S.

If you want fair weather year-round, San Diego is the place to be. Temperatures hover around 75 degrees, with little to no humidity. It can be cloudy in the early spring during a weather phenomenon the locals call “May gray” or “June gloom.” Visitors don’t have to worry about snow because the city has seen snowfall only five times in recorded history.

It is easy to get to the city by plane. San Diego International Airport is about three miles from downtown, but people who land in Los Angeles can take a bus or a train to the city as well. Getting to the city by car involves taking Interstate 5, 8 or 15. Traffic can be heavy during the rush hours of 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m., so it’s best to steer clear of the heavily trafficked areas then.

Where to stay in San Diego

Popular areas to stay in this city include downtown San Diego, La Jolla, and Coronado. Downtown is located along San Diego Bay, and it has a lot of the city’s nightlife and parks. If you’ve never been to San Diego and will only be in town for a weekend, it’s highly recommended to stay downtown. While many downtown resorts charge higher resort fees, the views and location are definitely worth the price.

If you’re on the hunt for a more low-key, unique San Diego vacation consider expanding your horizons to nearby San Diego Neighborhoods:

Hotel Del Coronado
Hotel Del Coronado

Coronado is just south of downtown on a separate peninsula. It is home to the grand Victorian Hotel del Coronado and many shops and restaurants. It’s a great place to vacation with family, as the environment is a bit slower than the fast-paced downtown area.

La Jolla is a beach community known as the “jewel of southern California.” This place has many areas to dine and shop, and it offers chances to view the local wildlife. For a coastal experience with easy access around the city, consider staying in the La Jolla neighborhood.

For the best deals, skip the summer and visit San Diego in the fall or winter. Not only will the temperatures still be warm, but many places offer discounts in October for a promotion known as “Kids Free.”

What to do in San Diego

Whether you enjoy the outdoors, arts scene or enjoy restaurant hopping, there are plenty of activities in San Diego to suit your interests.

To start, this city is known for its craft beer scene. There are multiple breweries that call San Diego home, including Mission Brewery, 10 Barrel Brewing, and Border X Brewing.

Coffee enthusiasts should skip the chain stores and visit one of the city’s local shops such as Cafe Virtuoso, Krakatoa or Dark Horse Coffee Roasters.

Families don’t need to shell out money for expensive theme parks such as SeaWorld or Legoland. Instead, check out whales in the wild as they pass by the Point Loma Lighthouse, also known as the Cabrillo National Monument. The best time to catch the whales is mid-January, but they remain in the area from December through March.

Balboa Park
Balboa Park

Another fun spot to take the kids is Balboa Park. This park is spread over 1,000 acres and is home to the famous San Diego Zoo, the city’s Natural History Museum, and Museum of Art. People who want to visit multiple places should consider getting the Balboa Park Explorer Pass for a discount on museum entry fees.

If you’ve dreamed of learning how to “hang 10,” then head to La Jolla for a surfing lesson. This beach has waves for surfers of all levels. You can either book a group lesson or schedule one-on-one time with an instructor. After the lesson, rent a kayak or go snorkeling in one of the nearby caves. Rumor has it that pirates once used these caves to hide treasure and some have fossils imprinted in the walls.

San Diego’s food scene is heavily influenced by its proximity to Mexico, making its south-of-the-border cuisine a must-try. The city also gets some of the freshest seafood, which you can sample in dishes such as fish tacos, sushi, and poke. Get a taste of the city’s local flavors at Liberty Public Market, where more than 30 chefs and artisans put their goods on display.

While you’re in the city, give yourself time to relax and enjoy the serene coastal environment. San Diego is home to world-class spas; some are even conveniently located in the resorts in downtown, on Coronado and even in La Jolla! Try the Spa at Estancia La Jolla, the Spa at the Del, or get your nails done at one of the many nail salons in the area.

Insider tips for San Diego

Like most of southern California, traffic in San Diego can slow tremendously during rush hour. Instead, consider taking the trolley, renting a bike or using a lime scooter. If you must drive, then plan your parking ahead of time with the help of apps such as Parking Panda or SpotHero.

California banned stores from providing plastic bags to help reduce pollution. As a result, it is recommended you bring your own bag or pay $.10 for recycled bags or reusable bags in San Diego. This city also limits vendors from selling plastic water bottles, so help save the environment by using a responsible trash removal service and bringing your own reusable bottle.

San Diego is such a unique city that it’s hard to pack everything into one weekend. Between the great dining spots, outdoor adventures and museums to explore you are guaranteed to find something do to any time of the day.

The Ultimate San Diego Bucket List | Restaurants, Attractions, Landmarks and More!

San Diego is home to a variety of cultural attractions, fabulous restaurants and bars, a staggering number of breweries, fantastic museums, and a vibrant arts scene. The list of things to explore in San Diego goes on and on. The weather is positively blissful year-round and the beaches are obscenely beautiful. What’s not to love? It’s tough to narrow down our San Diego bucket list, but these places definitely make the cut:

Stroll around Balboa Park

The beating heart of San Diego, Balboa Park is chock-full of local cultural attractions, charming boutique shops, and world-class museums. Covering over 1,000 acres of lush greenery, the park is the epicenter of the city’s culture and home to some absolute must-visit attractions.

It’s here that you’ll find the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center, and the San Diego Museum of Art. You could wander around for hours here and never grow bored. In the city where you can spend hours sitting in traffic, it’s nice to get out of your vehicle and stretch your legs.

Pro-tip: Consider buying the Balboa Park Explorer Pass if you want to visit multiple museums. It saves money and time.

Hike in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

If you love being outdoors – hiking and relaxing at the beach – a trip to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is in order. Spend the day climbing up challenging cliffs, gazing out at the sparkling blue water, or walking along leisurely seafront walking paths.

Torrey Pines is a slice of pure paradise. As you hike, you’ll notice tons of cool rock formations and patches of pine forest, in addition to unbeatable panoramic views. Just be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and water!

Try to surf

You can’t go to San Diego, Surf Capital USA, without trying your hand at riding the waves. That would be like going to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower or exploring Barcelona and never seeing the Sagrada Familia.

Book a lesson with a reputable surf school in advance—like Pacific Surf School or Mission Beach Surfing School—and get ready to hang ten with the best of them. Even if you can’t get up on your board, you’ll have a whole lot of fun trying.

Check out the nightlife in the Gaslamp Quarter

Thanks to the clusters of historic Victorian-era buildings in the Gaslamp Quarter, this area is as pretty as a postcard, and there’s so much to do that you’ll likely need at least a full day or two to experience everything. You’ll find every type of cuisine imaginable here, in addition to dozens of unique shops. The top restaurants on the Gaslamp Quarter should definitely be on your bucket list.

The Gaslamp Quarter is always buzzing on the weekends, and it’s the best place to be if you’re a nightlife-lover: Have a blast dancing at one of the many trendy clubs that line the streets, enjoy craft cocktails under the moonlight, or check out live music in one of any number of bars. Keep in mind that if you’re dining out in the Gaslamp Quarter, you’ll need to make a reservation well in advance—this is a very popular destination for fine dining.

Explore La Jolla Cove

Located just a quick 20 minutes from downtown San Diego, La Jolla Cove is simply gorgeous. Wander through Prospect Street to look at shops (don’t miss Warwick’s, which is the country’s oldest family-run bookstore!), pack a picnic and watch the sunset at Ellen Browning Scripps Park, and be sure to keep an eye out for the adorable La Jolla sea lions. For the adventurous souls out there, La Jolla is also one of the best places in the area for sea kayaking and snorkeling; La Jolla Kayak offers great guided experiences.

Watch a baseball game at Petco Park

One of the only stadiums in the States with a water view, Petco Park is the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon. Home to the San Diego Padres, this beloved ballpark also has fantastic food and craft brews (there are more than 40 types of local beer offered here alone!)—think hometown faves like Lucha Libre, Cardiff Market, and AleSmith—so be sure to come hungry and thirsty.

Enjoy a romantic evening at Sunset Cliffs

Perhaps the most aptly named cliffs ever, the Sunset Cliffs area is the place to be if you want to enjoy a truly romantic view when the sun goes down. This is easily one of the prettiest spots in the city, so we recommend packing the car snacks and drinks and coming here to catch a magnificent sunset with your sweetheart.

While decidedly not as popular as some other major cities in California, San Diego is just as charming—if not more so—than places like L.A. or San Francisco. In fact, we’d venture to say that, because it’s more of an off-the-beaten-path destination, San Diego has a distinctive charm and loveliness all its own.

Are you on the fence about making San Diego your next home? There are endless reasons to buy a home in San Diego. Contact our experts today to learn more about San Diego real estate!