Top Tips to Ensure a Stress Free Holiday

The holiday season is always hectic, and for many weary “rat racers” that means just one thing: getting out town and heading somewhere sunny and exotic! Forget the snowshoes and thermal underwear – bikinis and suntan lotion are far more popular as our own winter months draw in. The last thing you want when planning a holiday is to encounter more stress, but, fortunately, with a little planning and foresight, including purchasing the right family holiday insurance, you can avoid that.

Listed below are two tips to ensure maximum enjoyment and minimal stress during your next family trip.

Plan For Every Eventuality…

‘Be prepared’ should always be the mantra when going on a holiday, and it’s definitely the best strategy for a family break too. Travelling somewhere new is exciting but it can also be a little daunting, so learning all you can about your destination can help you prepare and enjoy your trip to the fullest. Knowing some insider tips about where you are going will not only help you craft an itinerary that makes full use of the time you have, but it will also give you an idea about what to expect once you get there. This prior insight, as well as your knowledge of your family’s health and needs will also help facilitate what family holiday insurance policy you will need. Another important aspect is your packing – knowing exactly what you will need, including the proper clothes, footwear, medicines, toiletries, and other necessities. But while you need to take certain items, you should also know what to leave out – you’ll want to leave as much room as you can for all the souvenirs you’re going to bring back!

Making sure your travel papers and related documents (such as passports, visas, reservation vouchers, and a copy of your family holiday insurance policy) are complete and readily accessible can also greatly minimise stress.

… Even Those You Can’t Plan For

Heading into the unknown is often part of what makes a new experience so exciting – unfortunately this sometimes means events that no one, not even the most conscientious parents in the world, can plan for. This is where family holiday insurance comes in; reimbursement for lost or stolen luggage (which can be comedic in movies but quite stressful in real life) is just one of the protections provided by a good travel policy. Flights can be cancelled, hotels can go out of business and a country can even suffer political unrest; fortunately, with appropriate cover you are not only covered against financial loss in the event you are forced to cancel or shorten your trip, you are also afforded protections such as evacuation in extreme situations or treatment in the event of medical emergencies or accidents.

A holiday trip, just like life itself, is an adventure – but with a little preparation, you can let yourself relax and enjoy it to the fullest.

Wow – Which are the Most Over-Assessed Houses in Zip Code 77571?

Since the property taxes are paid by the mortgage company for most home owners, the pain point for the home owner is about one year too late. When they receive the notice their monthly payment is increasing by $100 or $200 or more per month, the appeal deadline has likely passed. The property tax appeal deadline in Texas is May 31, or the following workday if May 31 is on a weekend.

The mortgage payment will not likely be increased until after the current year taxes are paid. For example, if your home is grossly over-assessed in 2014, the monthly payment will likely be adjusted in the Spring of 2015. But the deadline to protest your 2014 property taxes is May 31 (actually June 2 since May 31 is on a weekend).

There is really no meaningful relationship between the methodical work done by an independent fee appraiser and an appraisal district appraiser. The fee appraiser typically inspects and measures the subject property, so he has accurate data. He also personally visits each of the comparable sales to see if they are really comparable.

For homes build before 1980, an appraisal district appraiser has almost never seen the inside of the house. They just guess at the quality of construction and condition. For homes built after 1980, the appraisers attempt to measure them. However, they are often not completed when the appraisers measure them, leading to errors including size (by double counting vaulted ceilings), and level of finish. Curiously, appraisers at Harris County Appraisal District give equal credence to their data on homes built before and after 1980.

The appraisal districts errors regarding your property are compounded by errors in their information regarding comparable sales. The appraisal districts commit several errors systematically that tend to cause them to over-tax home owners. First, properties that sell are typically prepared for sale by putting them in prime condition. Properties that sell have often been recently painted have new flooring, a new roof, a new HVAC and other similar items. If a buyer was considering buying a typical house not prepared for sale and one that had been prepared as advised by the Realtor, the buyer would certainly pay more for the latter. HCAD terms the cost of preparing a home for sale “maintenance” and does not recognize any difference in condition between a recently sold house and a livable house. Harris County Appraisal District also does not recognize seller concessions, which reduce the true sales price.

A second serious problem is that appraisal districts tend to use sales that have been remodeled to value houses that have not been remodeled. Incredibly, the insular culture at some appraisal districts, including Harris County Appraisal District, is they require you to prove your house has not been remodeled. This is simply a red herring to cover up the extensive errors in their evidence regarding comparable sales. There is no requirement that the property owner prove the appraisal districts records are correct. If anything, the appraisal district doubting the accuracy of their evidence about your house should undermine their credibility on other issues. If the appraisal district is saying their evidence about your house may not be accurate, why should we give much consideration to any of their other evidence?

In addition to errors regarding the information about your house and the errors regarding the comparable sales, the model used by the appraisal district is imperfect. There is no model that can consistently value houses with precision. A computer model simply generates an estimate of value, based on the data provided.

Texas law requires property owners to file a property tax protest to be able to obtain the evidence regarding their house. Protest both market value and unequal appraisal and include a note asking the appraisal district to make their evidence available two weeks prior to the hearing. The protest form is available at http://www.poconnor.com/pdf_forms/41-44.pdf

In many cases, given the large number of substantial errors in valuing houses, the appraisal district’s evidence will clearly show the property is over-assessed. It is critical that you protest prior to May 31, or you will not be able to get the information and determine if you are taxed fairly. Since over 200,000 houses in Harris County are over-taxed by at least 10%, encourage your family and friends to protest, so they at least get to see the appraisal districts evidence.

After you protest and obtain the appraisal district’s information, one of the first priorities is to see if their evidence is accurate for your house. Then check to see if the sales data is accurate. The Houston Realtors make the photos of properties sold are on-line after the sale. For Harris County Appraisal District, you can access these at har.com.

The data used for analysis was all sales of houses in Harris County that occurred during October 1 2013 to March 31 2014, for which we had a purchase price and a 2014 HCAD market value. The only records that were eliminated were those where there was a major discrepancy between the Realtor MLS data and the HCAD tax roll regarding the size of the land and / or building. Stated differently, this analysis includes all sales except those for which complete information was not available.

Most Important Family Holiday Insurance Questions Answered

When you are spending money on a family holiday insurance policy, everything needs to be crystal clear, including the limits and the coverage, the terms and conditions, and the fine print that goes along with the policy. All of these aspects need to be fully understood by you, so that when the time comes that you may need to make a claim, it will be an easy and hassle-free process.

While questions that you have may vary depending on the type of policy that you are considering, these following questions are the most important and need to be answered as a priority.

Can My Pre-existing Medical Condition Be Covered?

When choosing family holiday insurance where you are all covered under one policy, individual needs must still be met, and this may include specific medical conditions. The rules regarding pre-existing medical conditions may vary from provider to provider so it’s best to not assume anything. When it comes to pregnancy, however, naturally there are exclusions. For instance, expectant women are only covered up to a certain period during their pregnancy, which usually cuts off a few weeks before their due date.

Does Our Policy Cover Holidays to Multiple Destinations?

Normally, you can select between single-trip and multi-trip policies – there are easy enough options to choose from when looking for a family holiday insurance policy. But when you are planning on a single trip but with multiple destinations, you need to be clear with your inquiry so you can find out what option will best provide you with the appropriate cover. If your family goes on vacations multiple times a year anyway, then it would be best to choose a multi-trip policy and then specify the destinations that you want to be covered. (It will be cheaper in the long run, and you only have to do it once.) But if you want a single-trip policy, there are also options on what destinations you want to be covered, depending on the provider. Either way, you need to clear this up very early on in the process.

Are Cruises Covered?

Not all insurers will provide coverage for a cruise, but there are those that include a cruise holiday as part of their basic coverage. The only way to really be sure is to ask. Another important point to consider when going on a cruise is whether the policy will be able to cover all the countries you intend to visit during the cruise.

The basic rule of thumb when choosing family holiday insurance is that it’s better to be detail-oriented to the point of being neurotic than to be dismissive about your family’s safety and your expenses.