Home for the Holidays

There really is no place like home for the holidays. For more than 40 years, I had the pleasure of returning to my childhood home to celebrate the holidays with my family. That house felt more like home to me than any other place ever will.

It was comforting to see that same structure each year, but even more so to know that it was central to bringing our family together, year after year. Owning a home brings families a sense of consistency and stability, and one of the many rewarding things about working at Stewart is helping ensure homes like this are properly protected.

Most people equate home protection with homeowners insurance and home warranties. As someone who lost an air conditioner just a week after I bought my home several years ago, I felt extremely fortunate to have a home warranty in place. It sure beat paying for a new A/C unit out of my own pocket. Similarly, homeowners insurance can protect you from unpredictable disasters, such as fires or floods. Stewart’s policies and warranties are designed to protect one of the biggest investments most consumers will ever make.

But some of the things we protect homeowners from are less obvious. Liens and easements, such as driveway encroachment issues, can pose a threat to your home. Title insurance can protect you from those claims, as well as from the fraud that has escalated in recent years. In some cases, houses have been sold by complete strangers who have no claim to the property, making title insurance critical in identifying proper owners and ensuring homebuyers that the house they’re purchasing is in fact theirs, clean and clear.

For those who are heading into the holidays without their own home, the holidays are actually a great time to get into the market. Particularly now. With rates still exceptionally low, conditions for homebuyers are great. And for those with children, the holiday break is one of the best times of the year to transition to a new school district.

It’s also a great time to refinance. If you have a high interest rate on your mortgage, refinancing during the holidays this year may help you keep a little extra money in your pocket. While we’re optimistic that real estate markets will continue to improve and we’ll continue to see increased consumer confidence in trading up, each new year brings with it a certain degree of uncertainty. Rates may go up, tax laws may change and the market could do better, worse or remain the same. Anything can happen.

In the meanwhile, we should enjoy a little rest and relaxation in preparation for what I am optimistic will be a great year ahead. So as we wrap up 2012, I hope everyone finds their way home for the holidays. Whether it’s to a place of your own or to that of a far-away friend or relative, I wish you the all the warmth and stability homeownership can bring, and the peace of mind of knowing that it’ll be your family’s gathering place for a long time to come.

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