When you’re a new homeowner in a new community, you don’t always know how to handle unforeseen emergencies. Before that day arrives, take the time to learn your community so that a minor issue doesn’t become a major catastrophe.
Handling Household Emergencies
Whether it’s a burst pipe or a broken window, household emergencies always seem to happen after hours or on weekends when service providers and insurance agents aren’t always available. When your roof leaks during that Sunday morning rainstorm or you find puddles in front of the dishwasher, you’ll wish you already had a relationship with a plumber or a roofer.
Often, emergency repair crews charge extra for weekend or evening callouts. They also might offer a temporary repair to get you through the weekend, but you’ll still need to have a regular service provider come in to complete the work during the week.
Find a Source & Have a Backup
The service provider you choose for regular projects and new installation may not be the only number you need. Ask them if they provide emergency services. If not, who do they recommend? Here’s a brief list of on-call experts you need the names and numbers of to get you through the off hour challenges.
Emergency Roofers: These folks don’t reroof your home, necessarily. Their expertise is in finding the source of a leak — or potential leak in the case of storm damage — and placing a protective cover over it until inclement weather passes. Once the weather improves, they usually offer to inspect the roof for damages and refer you to a crew that performs insurance repairs.
Electrical Issues: Start with your local utility. They often offer emergency services and procedures to prevent a crisis. Once the critical time passes though, you’ll need to involve certified electricians to repair or rewire your home.
Natural Gas or Propane Emergencies: Likewise, should prompt you to call your provider. This is particularly true if you smell gas and cannot identify or turn off the source when checking for extinguished pilot lights on stoves, furnaces, water heaters and fireplaces. Call the gas company emergency line immediately. But do not use your cell phone inside or leave family members or pets in the house. Go outside or to a neighbor’s house to call. They’ll mitigate any urgent issue and propose what needs repairing, but don’t usually repair those issues themselves. Instead, they’ll direct you to licensed contractors experienced in residential gas-line installation and repair.
Weather-Related Emergencies and Natural Disasters: They can happen any time, no matter where you live in the country. Be proactive in learning where the nearest shelters are for tornadoes and hurricanes. Learn the evacuation route and drive it several times if you live in a flood-prone, tsunami or water-surge area. Contact your local emergency services or the American Red Cross to learn disaster preparedness techniques and to find local information.
Would you like to invest in real estate? To buy thousands of income-producing properties, from apartments to office buildings to industrial parks, all over the country or the world? It you’re wealthy, you might dispatch someone to travel far and wide and do just that, but even if you’re not rich you can participate. The tool that enables this is a Real Estate Investment Trust, or REIT.
What is a REIT?
A REIT uses its investors’ money to buy or finance real estate that produces income. It’s an investment in property rather than stocks or bonds. The profit it earns from leases and rents is distributed to investors. By law REITs must pay out 90 percent of this income to the shareholders, but 100 percent is more common.
Most REITS are Equity REITs, which directly own property. Mortgage REITs are indirect, investing in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. Most REITs are publicly traded and listed on national exchanges. Some are private; these generally require a larger minimum investment.
REIT holdings include residential buildings, office space, industrial facilities, shopping centers, hotels, storage facilities and even data centers. A REIT may invest in one of these asset types or a mix of many.
There are also mutual funds that invest in REITs. Some are actively managed and others are Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) that buy all REITs, or all REITs in specific categories, without trying to pick winners.
Are REITs a good investment?
REITs offer the benefits of owning rental property without the headaches, homework and personal risk. If you want to buy, say, an apartment building, you must evaluate the property, arrange financing, find renters, deal with tenants and building maintenance on a day-to-day basis and handle the accounting and taxes. If your investment turns sour you’re in for a big loss. With REITs, professionals do that work, and if one property loses money it’s offset by those that do well. Also, you can put as much or as little at risk as you want in a REIT. You can buy a small number of shares for a few thousand or even a few hundred dollars.
Historically, REITs have outperformed most other investments long-term. Average returns for the last 10, 20, 30 and 40 years have been comfortably over 10%. However, REITs are subject to the ups and downs of real estate and can be a loser in the short run. Generally the best time to buy a REIT is when the real estate market is at the bottom as opposed to when it’s nearing a crest. Of course, it’s difficult to know exactly when that is, so dollar cost averaging, i.e., buying regularly over time, is a good strategy.
REITs tend not to move up and down in lockstep with stocks and bonds, so they can have a balancing effect in a portfolio. Few would recommend making REITs the major part of your holdings, but they can be an important component of your investment strategy.
1 Frankfort St, Fitchburg, MA 01420
1 Frankfort St, Fitchburg, MA 01420
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