October 13, 2016 in Real Estate

These 5 report cards say a lot about what your home is worth

When it comes to your home, someone’s always keeping score.

Like your own personal credit history, your home has a number of scores and reports of its own. From the insurance claims its racked up to how walkable your neighborhood is, your home is being graded.

Smart homeowners need to understand how their biggest investment ranks. Read on to learn about 5 home scores and reports you should know about.

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Ever have a water leak? Break in? That will be in your home’s CLUE report.

Officially known as the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE, report, this is a record of every insurance claim filed on your home for the last 7 years.

“It’s important data for someone who’s buying or selling a house,” says Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president of public affairs for the Insurance Information Institute.

Several companies have their own versions of loss or underwriting reports, she says.

But CLUE is probably the best known one, compiled by LexisNexis, a consumer-reporting agency. You’re entitled to a free copy of your own home’s report each year by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. To get it, go to LexisNexis Personal Reports or call (866) 312-8076.

If you’re interested in buying a home, you’ll need to get the report through the home’s current owner. And since they can get it free and download it electronically, it’s easy for them to do.

The report can tip you off to past or potential problems and help you know what questions to ask, says Salvatore.

Want to drive less and walk more? Turns out there’s a home score for that.

It’s called the Walk Score, and it measures how walkable your neighborhood is by assigning your home a score from 1 (the worst) to 100 (the best), based on the walking distance and convenience to shops, parks, food stores, restaurants, bars and schools.

Anything above 70 is considered “walkable,” meaning you could walk to just about everything, says Nela Richardson, chief economist at Redfin, a national real estate brokerage that acquired the Walk Score in 2014.

The score also accounts for safety, looking at physical barriers and crime stats; there’s more to walkability than just distance.

And if you want to know how your home — or prospective home — ranks, just go to WalkScore.com and put in the address.

“There’s a big demand from millennials and boomers for living in walkable communities,” says Richardson.

While 46% of active baby boomers prefer a walkable neighborhood, that number goes up to 56% with millennials, she says, citing a recent report by the American Planning Association.

And that demand has a dollar value, too. Based on Redfin’s analysis, Richardson says it seems that every additional walkability point can increase your home’s value by $3,250.

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When you’re shopping for a home, chances are you’ll hear chatter about “great schools,” “good schools,” or — more ominously — nothing at all.

School quality is no small matter. For many buyers, “finding a home in a top school district is a high priority,” says Richardson.

In fact, school quality comes in fourth place — just behind square footage, price, and home quality/design — and ahead of priorities like the yard and the commute, according to a recent study by Redfin.

If you have kids or are concerned about resale value, you have to do your own in-depth research. Parents need to see what the local schools are like and if they’ll meet their children’s needs and priorities.

Parents with teens may worry most about high schools, graduation rates and SAT scores, while those with young tots may wonder about the quality of pre-K and elementary schools.

Richardson points to a useful tool at GreatSchools.org. You can search by home address. Each school gets a rating from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best.

This is one score every homeowner needs to know. It will impact the cost of your insurance — and whether you can even get insurance or a mortgage.

You don’t have to be on the coast or even near a river to be concerned about flooding, says Ron Phipps, principal broker with Phipps Realty and past president of the National Association of Realtors.

Interestingly, even if your address stays the same, the flood rating on your home can change. That’s because the flood maps are constantly being updated. So this is one you want to check regularly — once every 2 years, he says.

You can check online by home address with the National Flood Insurance Program at: FloodSmart.gov, and you can see the Federal Emergency Management Agency assessment by address at FEMA.gov.

“It will absolutely impact the cost of ownership and the cost to sell if it changes in a really bad way,” says Phipps. “And there are things you can do to reduce a house’s exposure.”

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Unlike other home scores that are available for almost every home, you won’t have a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certificate unless you, a former owner or your home’s builder, asked that the home (or the building it’s located in) be LEED certified.

The certification means the home meets strict criteria for indoor air quality, as well as energy and water efficiency, says Asa Foss, residential technical solutions director for the U.S. Green Building Council, which administers LEED certification.

If structures make the grade, they are ranked from LEED certified (the minimum), to silver, gold and platinum, he says.

Initially, only homes or buildings that were newly built or had had major renovations could qualify for LEED certification. Recently, the U.S. Green Building Council announced that existing multifamily buildings could also apply for certification, Foss says. But the designation is still most common in new and newly renovated multifamily and commercial buildings.

Want to see if your home — or a home you’re considering buying — is LEED certified? Check the address at the Green Building Information Gateway.