KW #1

Effective 1/1/19 all non resident sellers will need to pay Delaware tax at settlement. It is important that sellers work with their tax preparer to prepare tjhis form in advance. Watch this video for more information.

You may be able to draw on your home's equity to get cash ... but should you?

Homeowners are always thrilled when their home’s value goes up, and many take this growth opportunity as a chance to take out a second mortgage.

A second mortgage — often called a home equity loan — is an additional mortgage that you have on your home. This additional mortgage essentially allows you to have access to the equity of your property, and, just like your mortgage, your home is used as collateral.

Since property values are on the rise, these mortgages might be something to consider, but how do you know if it’s the right move for you and your family? Here are some pros and cons of taking out a second mortgage.


  • Quick access to cash with favorable interest rates. The biggest pro to taking out a second mortgage is the ability to access cash at a great rate (especially in comparison to most credit cards). Taking out a second mortgage could help you with a variety of expenses, such as small business startup costs or tuition for your college-bound kid. This can be a great option for those who have a smaller savings account, or for those who don’t want to dip too much into savings for large purchases.
  • Ability to take on home improvement projects. Whether the renovation bug has bitten you, or your home is in dire need of some updating, a second mortgage is a great way to get money to quickly tackle a bunch of renovations all at once. Not only will you get your projects done fast, but you’ll also further increase the equity of your home. So go ahead and pick out those subway tiles and the perfect quartz countertops.


  • Fees associated with taking out a second mortgage. While you may be getting a large amount of money with your second mortgage, this does not come without a cost. Appraisal fees, application costs and closing costsassociated with a second mortgage can get hefty, which is something to think over if you are considering taking one out. An alternative to a home equity loan is a home equity line of credit, or HELOC. Just like a home equity loan, your home is used as collateral for a HELOC. But you’ll get a credit line, similar to a credit card, rather than the lump sum payment you’d get with a home equity loan. The interest rates are typically higher with a HELOC, but it does not require closing costs.
  • Risking your home. Though interest rates on second mortgages are typically lower than credit cards, those lower rates come with a higher risk. When you take out a second mortgage you are risking your home, which means that if you can’t pay the loan back, then your lender can foreclose. To mitigate the risk of losing such an important asset, be sure to really analyze how much money you have available to you each month before you take out a second mortgage.
  • Frivolous spending can lead to more debt. When you take out a second mortgage, there are few restrictions on what you can spend the money on. While this money can be extremely helpful in many ways, it can also be harmful if you choose to spend money on nonessentials, because it leads to more debt. Before you take out the loan, thoroughly consider what exactly you need the money for, and if the purchases are worth the risk. In other words, buying a closet filled with designer shoes may not be the best use of a second mortgage.

Second mortgages can come with potential risk, but if you make sure that you’re using the funds appropriately, they can be a great way to put your equity to good use. Always be sure to consult with a financial adviser to see if a second mortgage is appropriate for you.


About the author

Jamie Birdwell-Branson

Jamie Birdwell-Branson is a freelance writer based in the Midwest. Her work has appeared on Elle Decor,, InStyle and The Billfold, among others. She lives in a 1940s Colonial-style home with her spouse and her dog named Pizza. You can connect with Jamie on Twitter at @jbirdwell or her website.

You've made your summer travel plans, but what about Fido and Fluffy?

While the leisure industry may put out the welcome mat for pets across America, it’s not always possible to take them with you when you travel. The biggest dilemma is finding someone responsible and caring to pet sit in your absence.

These days, with companies such as DogVacay, CatVacay, and, it’s easier than ever to find a professional caregiver in your neighborhood.

Like Airbnb — for pets

If you’ve ever picked up your dog from a kennel after your vacation and received a massive bill and a very unhappy dog, you’ll immediately understand the value of startups like DogVacay and Rover.

DogVacay, for instance, is kind of like Airbnb for dogs, connecting dog owners to 25,000 screened and trained dog sitters around the country. Hosts set their prices, usually about half as much as a kennel. The idea is that dogs staying in a sitter’s home will get better care, one-on-one attention, and a chance to take walks or frolic in the park. And dog sitters usually send vacationing pet owners photos or videos as proof that their furry companion is having fun.

As for concerns about the safety of dogs, CEO Aaron Hirschhorn says the company addresses that in several ways: “We provide all the quality control; we have a five-step vetting process, comprehensive insurance, and 24-hour customer support.”

“You can even do a no-obligation meet-and-greet,” he adds, “so you can visit the host family and see how they interact with your dogs.”

Vet before you commit

Taking your dog or cat to stay in the home of someone who is essentially a complete stranger (despite their detailed online profile) is a relatively new concept compared to having someone move into your home, or having someone check in daily on your pets in their home environment.

And while it’s easy to research and book a sitter online, the onus is still on pet parents to personally vet the sitter. The person you are considering should be both willing and able to answer all your questions before you commit to anything.

Set up a meet-and-greet so that you’re absolutely sure you have found the right person for your pet’s needs and personality. And if the sitter doesn’t answer questions to your satisfaction, or are “too busy” for a meeting, consider it a red flag and find someone else.

Go to the pros

If you’re uncomfortable finding a pet sitter through an online service, talk to your vet’s office. They often have staff members who are licensed and bonded pet sitters.

Finding a sitter this way has huge advantages. First, they have access to your pet’s medical history. Also, if you have pets that require daily medication or the administration of subcutaneous fluids, these sitters are trained to provide such services.

If you’re “old-fashioned” and like real personal recommendations (as opposed to online reviews), the veterinarian’s office probably also has sitters on file they are comfortable recommending.

Don’t wing it

It’s never a good idea to casually ask a neighbor to pop in to keep an eye on your furry companions. There has to be a firm commitment.

Also, think twice about having your neighbor’s teenager do the job. While many teenagers are very responsible, some don’t take the commitment of looking after a pet seriously enough.

Finally, it’s never advisable to leave pets alone with lots of food and water — even overnight— because things do happen in the home. A sudden invasion of ants taking over the food bowl will leave your pal without food, or raucous play could result in the water bowl tipping over and your pets going thirsty.

Considerations for at-home sitters

If you choose to have a pet sitter stay at your home or check in on pets there, it’s important to provide plenty of information about both your home and the pets you are planning to leave in their care.

Here are some topics to cover:

  • Other services, such as bringing in the mail and putting out the garbage, the sitter is prepared to do.
  • If it’s a live-in arrangement, specify the time(s) you want them to be with your pet.
  • If it’s not a live-in arrangement, make sure the pet sitter knows where to switch on the lights when they’re checking in on your pet in the evenings.
  • Find out if the pet sitter is associated with a particular veterinary office or is willing to take your pet to your veterinarian.
  • Make sure you point out salient features of your home, such as an alarm system and where you keep the remote control for the garage door.
  • Before you leave, make sure you’ve written out all instructions regarding your pet’s food, medication and general routine. Remember to provide your contact information and give the pet sitter at least one neighbor’s name and phone number.
  • Make sure they have access to a spare key in case they get locked out.
  • These days it’s common for pet sitters to text you and send photographs. Ask if they are prepared to do this.
  • If you have a pet video cam set up, be sure to inform your sitter. It’s a common courtesy.
  • Also make sure that your pet is micro-chipped and wearing a sturdy collar with proper identification. After all, if something goes awry and your pet goes missing, proper ID will be your pal’s ticket home.

Taking your pet with you on vacation instead? Watch Sandy’s travel tips!


Don’t miss out on the next Zillow video! Subscribe today to see the latest. 


About the author

Sandy Robins

Sandy Robins is an award-winning multimedia pet lifestyle expert, author and pet industry personality. She documents the wonderful relationship we have with our pets, highlighting trends and innovative ideas to improve their general health and well-being, and enhance our human-animal bond.

Know what the job entails before you dive in head first.

By Leigh Raper

Tired of feeling like you have no say in the decisions about the common areas or rules and regulations of your neighborhood or condominium development? Thinking of serving as president of your homeowners’ association?

Before you take the big leap, it pays to know what you’re getting into.

What exactly is a homeowners’ association?

A homeowners’ association (HOA) is a legal entity set up at the time of a shared community’s development for the benefit of the entire community. The HOA is responsible for enforcement of the covenants, conditions, and restrictions(CC&Rs) that apply to the development, as well as the community bylaws, and all other applicable rules and regulations.

The board of directors of the HOA, or a designated management company, oversees the day-to-day maintenance and operation of common areas, develops a budget, and collects assessments from member homeowners.

The law of the state in which the community is located has jurisdiction over HOAs. Each state has particular laws with regard to the filing of CC&R documents, fiduciary duties and requirements, and other specific regulations regarding the operation of the HOA.

Responsibilities of the board and president

Before running for your HOA’s board of directors, you should have a clear understanding of what the board does. One of its core responsibilities is enforcing the CC&Rs, bylaws, and individual community’s rules and regulations.

Board members, especially the president, must read and understand all the legal documents, in depth. This could mean poring over pages and pages of legal language. The community members rely on the board to know the documents, rules and regulations backward and forward.

The board and HOA president are often called on to make decisions and enter into legal agreements on behalf of the association. This might involve selecting a management company to handle the day-to-day operations of the community, such as maintaining the common areas and collecting assessments.

The board might also be responsible for retaining legal counsel for the HOA and purchasing insurance for the community. Again, these decisions require time and research.

What happens if a disaster strikes? Say, for example, that a hurricane or tornado, or other natural disaster, causes catastrophic damage to the community.

The president and HOA board of directors would be the ones called upon to coordinate with emergency services. Someone would need to be onsite to meet with inspectors and insurance adjusters.

Often, this duty falls on the president. Even if the president isn’t there in person, he or she is still the one responsible for making decisions, paying contractors, and ensuring that repairs happen.

Above all, the president and other board members have a fiduciary responsibility to the community members. This means they must legally act solely in the best interests of their fellow homeowners.

Can the president be held legally responsible?

A big question is whether or not the president (and other board members) can be held personally liable for actions taken in their official capacity. As in many cases where legal regulations and documents are involved, it depends on the situation.

Generally, board members acting in their official capacity and in the best interests of the community (i.e., acting responsibly and in “good faith“) aren’t held personally liable.

In California, this issue is well-settled. In 1986, the California Supreme Court put it succinctly in Frances T. v. Village Green Owners’ Association, absolving board members acting in good faith “even if the ultimate action or decision of the director or board of directors is incorrect.”

But every state has its own detailed rules and precedents on the subject; would-be board presidents are encouraged to do a little research on the subject.

Obviously, the court’s decision is predicated on the fact that the director or the board upheld their fiduciary duty. There is precedent for holding directors personally responsible for breach of this duty, particularly in egregious cases. Needless to say, board members can be held liable for criminal conduct, such as embezzling association funds.

Many associations allow directors to purchase errors and omissions insurance that indemnifies the HOA and its individual directors in the event of a lawsuit. This should definitely be on the checklist for any would-be HOA president.

Serving on the board, in any capacity, is a volunteer position. Volunteers need to have a clear understanding of what will be expected in terms of time, effort, and potential liability. Helping make your community a well-maintained, tightly run place is laudable, but be sure you understand all it will entail.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Leigh Raper has a degree in English literature from the University of Miami, a MFA in creative writing and writing for the performing arts from the UCR-Palm Desert, and a JD from Pepperdine University School of Law. She writes about labor and employment law, and fiction and blogs about pop culture. Leigh also writes for AvvoStories.

About the author


Avvo helps people find and connect with the right lawyer through industry leading content, tools and services. A free Q&A forum with more than 9 million questions and answers, along with on-demand legal services that provide professional counsel for a fixed cost, make legal faster and easier.