What home documents you need to scan now in case your property is destroyed in the future3 min read
I guess what I’m asking is this: Is there such a thing as a real estate “go” bag?
A: Twenty years ago, we might have answered this question by suggesting that our correspondent copy all relevant documents and put them into a lock box in a bank. The idea being those documents would be safe and secure there.
Today, it’s a lot easier to simply scan your important papers (not to mention photographs) and create a cloud-based storage system. You can duplicate those scanned documents and keep copies in other places in the cloud as well, creating a backup system in case one cloud goes down or is otherwise destroyed.
What should you scan? Start with the executed copies of everything your attorney or title company gives you at the closing: Your mortgage documents, closing statement and other paperwork you signed. If you’re given warranties for a new home or appliances, you can scan those in as well (or, at least the page that has the numbers on it).
Keeping these documents well-organized in the cloud will serve you well over time. You can start a house file and keep these, plus scanned copies of your tax return and other important documents, safe. Just make sure you use an extremely strong password that contains a lot of letters, numbers and symbols.
You should also have a scanned copy of a recent mortgage statement so that you have your current loan balance, lender phone number and loan account number. It won’t hurt to have a copy of your homeowners insurance policy along with photographs or video of your home’s exterior and photos and videos of the interior of your home. Should your home be a total loss due to a tornado, hurricane or flood, you’ll want ample evidence of what your home looked like and all of the personal property you owned that was in the home.
Best of all, the cloud makes this information accessible wherever you are, from a variety of devices.
COMMENT: I very much appreciated your article discussing special assessment insurance coverage. I am a Realtor. I always encourage buyers to add a term to the contract requesting meeting minutes from at least the past six months. Super important. Also, I never knew about being able to insure against some special assessments. Thanks for keeping readers well-informed.
ILYCE AND SAM RESPOND: There is a lot of innovation going on in the real estate space, but some things are constant: Always look at condo or co-op financials (and at least a year’s worth of meeting minutes) before you buy the property. You will find out a lot about what priorities the building board has and how decisions are made. Glad you found that helpful.
But remember that the special assessment insurance coverage is only for items covered under the terms of that policy, and it won’t cover you for maintenance, improvements and other common special assessments. Only perils that were not covered under the association’s insurance coverage may be permitted. For more details read our recent column.
COMMENT: A water heater is not called a hot water heater because it heats cold water, obviously not hot water.
ILYCE AND SAM RESPOND: Thanks for your comment. You are correct. We checked a local home improvement store’s website and found the following options: commercial water heaters, tank water heaters, electric tank water heaters, gas tank water heaters, commercial tank water heaters, hybrid water heaters, and more water heaters in tankless varieties.
To your point, there were no hot water heaters for sale.
Ilyce Glink is the author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask” (Fourth Edition). She is also the chief executive of Best Money Moves, an app that employers provide to employees to measure and dial down financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact them through the website, BestMoneyMoves.com.