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Eager Buyers Are Skipping Home Inspections. Is It Too Risky?

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Shopping for their first home in New Jersey, Alyse Storzieri and her boyfriend Robert Engel faced a tough market. So when they found a house they loved last June, the couple followed their real estate agent’s advice to make their offer stand out. They went over the asking price, tripled their down payment amount and agreed to waive the home inspection.
Faced with bidding wars for limited housing stock, a growing number of home buyers are opting to forgo home inspections in order to make their offers appear hassle-free.
The tactic helped Storzieri and Engel beat 12 other offers, but left them worried there could be issues with the nearly 50-year-old home.
The couple planned to have Engel’s uncle, a professional contractor, look at the house while it was in escrow. But this backfired when the sellers refused to let them in for another look. Ultimately, the deal fell through when the sellers couldn’t find a place to move, a common contingency in home sale contracts.
“After going through the stress of all that, I would say don’t waive your inspections,” says Storzieri, who’s now a real estate agent with Century 21 Mack-Morris in central New Jersey. “Even though it helped us get the bid, I wouldn’t suggest it.”
A standard home inspection can increase your confidence about a property’s condition before signing on the dotted line. Getting a professional opinion also allows you to negotiate repairs with the seller or back away entirely from buying a property with major issues.
If you’re planning to buy a home this year, here’s what you should know before agreeing to waive an inspection.

Why are buyers willing to waive?

An estimated 28 million Americans plan on buying a home in the coming year, according to NerdWallet’s 2021 Home Buyer Report. But at the end of 2020, the supply of available homes in the U.S. was just 1.04 million units, according to data from the National Association of Realtors — the lowest number since the NAR began collecting data in 1982.
With multiple buyers vying for listings, the pressure to craft a compelling offer can be intense. In the fourth quarter of 2020, the National Association of Home Builders Housing Trends Report found that being outbid was the most common reason buyers cited for not yet purchasing a home.
So it’s unsurprising that eager buyers are amenable to waiving the home inspection. Real estate brokerage Redfin found that in December 2020, the home inspection was waived in more than 30% of successful offers put in by its agents. Though that data covers offers in four areas — Boston; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C., and the state of New Jersey — it’s more than double the number that Redfin says waived inspection in December 2019.
Kish Munjal, an agent with Century 21 All Homes & Properties near Orlando, Florida, says she also sees many buyers who want to skip the inspection simply to save on closing costs. Regardless of the reason, Munjal isn’t comfortable waiving home inspections.
“You’re buying the largest-priced anything of your lifetime when you’re buying a house,” she says. “We always advise them [to] make sure you do a home inspection.”

How home inspectors are adapting

Nick Gromicko, founder of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, acknowledges that many of today’s buyers see this crucial step in the homebuying process as an obstacle.
“If you’re in a hot market and you put an inspection rider on your contract, that makes your offer worth less in many sellers’ eyes,” he says. But at the same time, Gromicko notes, a home inspection’s purpose is to help buyers avoid purchasing a home that could turn out to be a “financial disaster.”
For buyers who are feeling pressured, Gromicko suggests bridging this gap with a “walk-through inspection.” In this scenario, buyers would bring a home inspector with them to the home to do a visual assessment during the initial walk-through, rather than having a full inspection at a later time.
Gromicko came up with this solution, and a basic contract inspectors can use to define the scope of a walk-through inspection for clients, out of necessity.
“It’s not in my industry’s best interest to have [buyers] do something less than a full home inspection,” Gromicko says of the walk-through inspection. “The client doesn’t really have a full home inspection to rely upon, and the home inspector doesn’t have a full three hours and all his tools and meters to rely on. But it’s better than nothing.”

How to make a strong offer without waiving the inspection

If you aren’t comfortable cutting corners on the home inspection, know that there are other tactics you can use to make your offer more appealing to a seller.
  • Be fully preapproved. Having a mortgage preapproval letter from a lender in hand demonstrates not only that you’re serious, but that you’ll be able to get the financing to close the deal.
  • Ask for an “informational inspection” rather than an “inspection contingency” in your offer. This language lets the seller know you’ll be getting a full professional inspection, but that it’s for your information only: you won’t be asking them to pay for issues it may uncover.
  • Make a larger down payment. Yes, this may mean saving up longer before trying to buy a home but seeing more cash upfront can be alluring to sellers. It’s more money in their pockets right away and signals that your financing is solid and the deal will close. You don’t have to put down the full 20%, but an offer with a 3% down payment may not stand up against bids with 10% down.
  • Add an escalation clause. Sellers like this clause because it eliminates the need for back-and-forth negotiation between competing buyers. For example, Munjal had a client who offered to automatically bid $1,000 over any other offer up to $200,000 on a property that was listed at $189,900. The client’s offer was successful, getting the home for $201,000.
Even with a carefully constructed offer, you may still face rejection in this tough market. Brush yourself off and try again, and you’ll eventually find your happily-ever-after home.
Storzieri and Engel had another offer accepted last fall, and this time they opted for a full inspection. It turned up a few issues, most dramatically a leaky shower on the second story that sent water pouring through a kitchen light fixture. But they were able to negotiate with the seller for a credit to make the necessary repairs — yes, even in this market.

Biden Vows Enough COVID-19 Vaccine for Every Adult in May

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March 2, 2021 — President Joe Biden on Tuesday said the United States will have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate every American adult by May.

In an afternoon address, Biden also said:

  • That pharma giant Merck will begin producing Johnson & Johnson’s recently authorized vaccine 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, a significant step to ramp up vaccine production.
  • Every teacher, school employee, and child care worker will be able to get at least the first vaccine shot this month.

“With this increased production of three safe and effective vaccines, we have the opportunity to address the national need more quickly and get our schools open safely,” Biden said.

He said while the number of vaccine doses is increasingly rapidly — he had earlier promised to have enough supply to vaccinate American adults by July — the country still needs people to “put the shots in the arms of millions of Americans.”

The president has already met with retired health care workers and asked that they join the effort and Tuesday said he would mobilize other resources including the National Guard.

As for educators, Biden said it was time they were treated like essential workers and given early access to the vaccines.

“We can reopen schools if the right steps are taken even before employees are vaccinated,” he said. “But time and again we have heard form educators and parents about anxiety about that. Let’s treat in-person learning like the essential service it is and that means … get them vaccinated immediately.”

While this represents “a huge step in our effort to beat the pandemic,” Biden also warned that “this fight is far from over. Things may get worse again as new variants spread and as we face setbacks.”

Biden’s push to advance the vaccination effort includes the unique Merck-Johnson & Johnson partnership. The FDA granted authorization for the J&J vaccine to be used this past weekend. And while the approval of a third vaccine in the U.S. was welcome, the announcement was tempered by the fact the company said it could only ship 3.9 million doses immediately.

The Washington Post said Merck will dedicate two U.S. facilities toward the J&J vaccine. One facility will make the vaccine and the other will provide “fill-finish” services, in which the vaccine is placed in vials and packaged for distribution.

The J&J vaccine has the advantage of only requiring one shot, plus the vaccine does not need to be stored in extremely cold temperatures, as the two-shot Pfizer and Modera vaccines do.

Merck was trying to come up with its own coronavirus vaccine but discontinued work on Jan. 25, the company said in a news release.

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said the company planned to immediately ship 3.9 million doses. The company is scheduled to deliver 16 million doses by the end of March and 100 million doses by July 1.

The CDC says 96.4 million doses of vaccine have been shipped and 76.8 million doses have been administered. About 25.4 million people have received two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

WebMD Health News

Sources

SOURCES:

The Washington Post: “Biden to announce ‘historic partnership’: Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, officials say.”

Merck: “Merck Discontinues Development of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates; Continues Development of Two Investigational Therapeutic Candidates.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

What Free College Might Actually Look Like

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President Joe Biden proposed multiple “free college” measures while on the campaign trail. Do any of them have a real shot? Some experts think so.
“The issue is bipartisan in its appeal, economically effective and supported by the leadership in today’s Congress and administration — that’s (a) pretty good triple play,” says Morley Winograd, president of The Campaign for Free College Tuition.
Others are skeptical now is the time to move forward on free college.
“I have a really hard time seeing any sort of four-year free college program passing at this point,” says Douglas Webber, associate professor of economics at Temple University.
The first glimpse of a formal proposal will most likely be in Biden’s upcoming budget, experts say. Here’s what to look for.

Tuition-free community college is most likely

“Free college” really means free tuition. Students would still have to pay for room and board, along with other costs of attendance such as transportation, books and supplies. The average cost for room and board is $11,386 at a four-year school and $7,636 at a two-year school, according to federal data.
President Biden’s free college proposals include:
  • Four years tuition-free at public colleges for those whose family income is under $125,000.
  • Two years of free tuition for low- and middle-income students attending minority-serving institutions.
  • Tuition-free public community colleges.
  • That last one is the easiest sell, experts say.
We’ve seen how much free community college has become more popular,” says Wesley Whistle, senior advisor for policy and strategy with the Education Policy program at New America, a public policy think tank. “It became a drum and you hear it and that helps it pick up over time.”
The primary blocker for any tuition-free program is the cost, experts say, as any such program would likely be funded through a federal-state partnership.
Community college is the cheaper bill to foot: The cost to fund tuition at public two-year schools is around $8.8 billion compared with about $72.5 billion at four-year public schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

How ‘free’ college might work

There’s already a blueprint for tuition-free programs: Currently 15 states have a program in place, while several others have extensive scholarship programs. Some cities do, too.
Most state programs, such as Tennessee Promise and the Excelsior Scholarship in New York, which both offer four years of tuition-free public college, are last-dollar. That means students must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and accept all need-based federal and state aid before the tuition-free benefit kicks in.
Most experts say a federally enacted program would likely be first-dollar, covering tuition costs before any other aid is applied.
That could increase the per-student impact of scholarships and state funding, says Edward Conroy, associate director of institutional transformation for the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.
“If we get a federal program that says we’re going to make tuition-free and you can still receive any state or federal grants on top of that, that would be a robust program,” Conroy says. In that case, additional aid could go toward paying for additional expenses.

Pell Grant expansion may be easier

There’s another path toward tuition-free college, though it doesn’t have “free” in the name: the Pell Grant.
The Pell Grant program provides students who have demonstrated need with free aid; for 2021-22, it’s up to $6,495. Though the Pell was meant to cover most college costs, it hasn’t kept up — the average tuition and fees at four-year public schools is $9,212, according to the most recent federal data.
Most experts say doubling the maximum Pell Grant would effectively create free tuition and in some cases cover additional expenses. Biden has called for this, along with expanding eligibility to cover more middle-income students.
Robert Kelchen, associate professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, says expanded Pell would be easier to pass than tuition-free college since the grant program already exists.
Free college proposals are simultaneously blasted for not being generous enough and being too generous to students without demonstrated need, experts say. These criticisms make it more difficult to attain approval among both lawmakers and the public.
Expanding the existing Pell Grant program could work to provide free tuition, but it lacks the appeal of a new and “free” program.
“From a messaging perspective, saying the Pell (Grant amount) is going up by, say, $2,000 might not have the same impact on students as ‘Your tuition is covered,’” Kelchen says.

How student can cut costs

Tuition-free college policy could take a long time to pass through Congress — if it can at all — so students and parents may not see this benefit for many months or years. But there are a few existing strategies for getting a degree at a lower cost:
  • Find out if your state already has a tuition-free program.
  • Consider a public college unless a private school offers you more aid.
  • Attend a two-year school, then make a plan to transfer credits and complete a four-year degree.
  • Compare college cost, graduation rates and typical student loan payments using the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard.
  • Submit the FAFSA and accept all need-based federal and state aid.
  •  If your family’s finances have changed, request a professional judgment to appeal your aid award.
This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

WebMD Survey: Many Parents Back Kid, Teacher COVID Shots

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March 2, 2021 — A majority of parents of teens and preteens say they plan to vaccinate their kids against COVID-19 within a year of the shots being authorized for use in children. But parents of younger age groups were less certain about their vaccination plans.

Parents also expressed overwhelming support for vaccinating teachers. Seventy-seven percent said teachers should be eligible for COVID vaccines right away.

Those findings come from a new survey of more than 1,000 U.S. WebMD readers who have children under the age of 16 living at home.

Among parents with children between the ages of 12 and 16:

  • 53% said they would have their children vaccinated within a year of a shot being approved.
  • 24% said they didn’t know what they would do.
  • 18% said they definitely wouldn’t get their teens inoculated against COVID.

Those percentages shifted slightly among parents of younger children.

Among parents with children between the ages of 5 and 12:

  • 47% said they’d have their children vaccinated against COVID within a year.
  • 26% said they didn’t know what they would do.
  • 22% said they wouldn’t consider it for their kids.

Among parents with children under the age of 5:

  • Just 41% said they’d have their kids vaccinated against COVID within a year.
  • 27% were undecided.
  • 22% said they wouldn’t get their young children vaccinated.

Among those who said they wouldn’t get their children vaccinated, nearly three-quarters said the studies are being rushed, and nearly 60% said they were concerned about safety and side effects of the vaccines in children.

There’s “not enough long term information about this new type of vaccine,” one reader responded. “I don’t trust it,” said another. Others cited personal beliefs and religious reasons.

Vaccines are normally tested in healthy adults first. After proving safe for this population, tests are expanded to more vulnerable groups, like children and pregnant women. Studies testing the COVID vaccines in children are now underway. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said that if the vaccines prove to be safe and effective, children might be eligible for vaccination as early as September.

Though children don’t seem to be the main drivers of COVID spread, contact tracing studies show they can and do infect others.

A small percentage of children, especially those with health conditions, can become very ill with COVID. Even those with mild infections are at risk for a serious post-viral complication called MIS-C, for multisystem inflammatory syndrome-children.

“Even though kids rarely become seriously ill with COVID, they still need to be part of a vaccination strategy,” says John Whyte, MD, chief medical officer of WebMD.

More than 60% of parents who haven’t been vaccinated said they’d get the vaccine for themselves within a year of becoming eligible for it. About 20% said they wouldn’t get the vaccine, while 10% said they felt unsure about it.

Experts believe that vaccinating a high percentage of our population, somewhere between 66% and 80%, will keep the virus from spreading so easily from person to person, effectively ending the pandemic. That high level of immunity is referred to as community protection or herd immunity.

A survey done in October and November of 2020 from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, of 18,000 mothers and pregnant women around the world, found that most would vaccinate their children. Overall, 52% of pregnant women and 73% of non-pregnant women said they would receive such a vaccine, and 69% of all women surveyed said they would vaccinate their children. Those numbers varied considerably by country. Vaccine acceptance by mothers for themselves and their children was highest in India, the Philippines, and Latin America; it was lowest in the U.S. and Russia.

Survey Methodology

WebMD’s survey was completed by 1,048 people who have children younger than 16 living at least part-time at home. Data was collected Feb. 18-23, 2021, onsite via an intercept survey. The weighting scheme was developed to represent the WebMD online population based on age, gender, race, and ethnicity, according to Comscore data. The margin of error was +/- 3.03% for 50% statistics at the 95% confidence level for the entire sample. Statistics for subgroups of the sample have larger margins of error.

WebMD Health News

Sources

European Journal of Epidemiology: “COVID-19 vaccine acceptance among pregnant women and mothers of young children: results of a survey in 16 countries.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Could ADHD Raise Odds for More Psychiatric Illnesses?

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By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, March 2, 2021 (HealthDay News) — As if attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) isn’t already tough on a child, new research suggests the condition might also raise the odds for a psychotic disorder later in life.

But parents should not panic.

“I would say that this finding should not be an alarm for parents and people who have ADHD, because the absolute risk for psychotic disorders remains low,” said psychiatry professor Dr. Gabrielle Shapiro. She is chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Children, Adolescents and Their Families.

That point was echoed by Dr. Victor Fornari, vice chair of child and adolescent psychiatry with Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y. “What’s clear is that the vast majority of youth with ADHD do not go on to develop psychosis,” he said.

The new analysis looked at 12 prior studies that included a total of more than 1.8 million participants, of whom just over 124,000 had been diagnosed with ADHD before the age of 18. Roughly 1% to 12.5% of those patients went on to develop a psychotic disorder.

Continued

But no more than 4% of those without ADHD met the same fate, with some of the studies citing essentially zero risk. Collectively that translated into a five-times higher psychotic disorder risk among those with a history of ADHD, regardless of gender.

So how much concern should this raise? Both Shapiro and Fornari, who were not involved in the review, suggested that the findings need to be kept in context. They said the far more pressing issue is making sure that children with ADHD get the care they need in the first place.

“Parents should know that they should seek early treatment for their child with ADHD,” Fornari said, “because children who are treated do much better than children who are not treated. And getting them in treatment is the best way to prevent the development of more serious problems.”

And, Shapiro added, that means “making sure that we do everything we can to destigmatize mental illness so that parents don’t hesitate to seek out care for their children with ADHD.”

Continued

The new review, led by Dr. Mikaïl Nourredine, of the Service Hospital and University of Pharmacotoxicology of Lyon, France, was published online recently in JAMA Psychiatry.

When looking at a potential connection between ADHD and psychotic disorder risk, Nourredine and colleagues included a wide array of diagnoses, including schizophrenia and delusional disorder. Mood disorders that can give rise to psychotic symptoms — such as depression or bipolar disorder — were not included.

In the end, both Shapiro and Fornari noted that what the research team found was an association between ADHD and elevated risk for future mental illness, rather than definitive proof of a direct cause and effect.

Still, the French investigators offered a number of theories that could explain the link. For example, they suggested that both ADHD and psychotic disorders may source back to similar genetic predispositions. It could also be that they share the same environmental triggers, or that they unfold along similar developmental pathways.

According to Shapiro, “The message of this study is that, as scientists, we must continue to look for correlations to prevent long-term mental illness among our ADHD patients, because the propensity for a child with ADHD to have some sort of other psychiatric diagnosis in the future is definitely real. We know, for example, that kids with ADHD who go untreated have higher instances of depression, anxiety and substance use.”

Continued

Fornari said that means that “children being treated for ADHD should certainly be monitored for other mental health symptoms. That kind of tracking should already be part of the treatment plan.”

The best treatment plans, Shapiro said, “look at the entire holistic person. Because that’s the way to try and prevent co-morbid diagnoses down the road. And the good news is that I do see that kids with ADHD who are treated properly do have a lower incidence for additional disorders in the future.”

More information

There’s more about ADHD at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Gabrielle Shapiro, MD, chair, Council on Children, Adolescents and Their Families, American Psychiatric Association, and clinical professor, psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City; Victor Fornari, MD, MS, vice chair, child and adolescent psychiatry, Zucker Hillside Hospital, Glen Oaks, N.Y.; JAMA Psychiatry, Feb. 24, 2021, online

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