Insuring Your College Student

When your child leaves for college, it is a big event. One thing that you should think about is your insurance coverage and how it could change with your son or daughter away at school.

Protecting Your Student’s Belongings

Many homeowners policies consider a dorm room as an extension of your home, so items your child keeps there may be covered to some extent. However, if your child has expensive electronic equipment or furniture, you may want to consider purchasing additional coverage.

If your child lives off campus, his or her possessions may not be covered by your homeowners policy. In that case, you may want to consider renter’s insurance, which typically costs as little as a few dollars per month. Renter’s insurance will cover possessions in your child’s off-campus apartment or house as well as provide liability coverage if anyone is injured in the residence.

Changing Auto Coverage

If your son or daughter moves more than 100 miles away from home to attend school and does not keep a vehicle there, your car insurance premiums could decrease by as much as 30 percent.

Keeping Your Child Healthy While on Campus

Since 2014, children up to age 26 can stay on their parent’s employer plan even if they have another offer of coverage through an employer. This rule applies to all plans in the individual market and to new employer plans. It also applies to existing employer plans unless the adult child has another offer of employer-based coverage.

If you find your child does not have adequate coverage under your plan, you have a few options. Most universities have their own health plans, but some policies have low deductibles and low coverage maximums. It may be better to consider an individual policy for your student depending on his or her needs.

Count on Us

If you are sending a child off to college and haven’t looked at adjusting your coverage, contact us today to learn more. You could save money on your policies and protect your child from expensive incidents while away from home.


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Boat Insurance for Smooth Sailing

You can insure just about any kind of vessel, whether you have a yacht, speed boat or personal watercraft like a JetSki. Every type of boat has the potential to be stolen or damaged, and can be involved in an incident that results in harm to another person or their property. Even if your boat is docked or stored in your garage, it can potentially be vandalized, damaged in a fire or storm, or stolen.

Many owners of small watercraft such as canoes, rafts and kayaks assume they will be covered under a homeowners or renters policy. This may be the case, up to a specified limit in your home policy. However, when it’s time to make a claim, you don’t want to be surprised to find out that this limit is not adequate to cover the value of your investment.

Be sure to consider the amount of coverage you would need to repair or replace each of your boats and recreational vehicles if damaged or stolen and ask your agent to help you get the right coverage for those items.

What Does Boat Insurance Cover?

The exact boat coverage you need depends on multiple factors. Small boat insurance is very different from yacht insurance, for example. However, for most types of boats, the three kinds of coverage in a basic boat insurance policy include:

  • Bodily injury liability for expenses related to the injury of another person
  • Property damage liability for expenses related to harming another person’s property
  • Physical damage for damage to your own property, including your boat and trailer.

You also may want to add additional types of coverage to your boat insurance policy in order to fully protect yourself and your property. Here are some examples of additional coverage:

  • Property coverage for equipment such as tools, life preservers, anchors and oars
  • Insurance for fishing equipment like your rods, lures, nets and tackle
  • Towing coverage when your boat becomes disabled and needs servicing
  • Medical payments coverage for hospital and funeral expenses for you or your passengers
  • Uninsured/underinsured boaters coverage if you have an accident with another boater whose insurance is not sufficient to cover damages

As with all insurance, the amount of benefit or reimbursement you have in the event of an incident is set at the time you buy your policy.


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Grilling Safety Reminders For Your Summer BBQ

Though grilling is an extremely popular way to prepare food in the summer, it can also be dangerous. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, gas and charcoal grills account for an average of 10 deaths and 100 injuries annually. Additionally, the National Fire Protection Association reports that an average of 8,900 home fires are caused by grilling each year.

This year, keep the following safety suggestions in mind when you go to fire up your grill:

  • Make sure your grill is at least 3 feet away from other objects including your house, trees and outdoor seating.
  • Remember that starter fluid should only be used with charcoal grills and never with gas grills.
  • If you suspect that your gas grill is leaking, turn off the gas and get the unit fixed before lighting.
  • Do not bring your grill into an unventilated or enclosed space such as the garage or inside of your home.
  • Do not let children and pets play near the grilling area when cooking until the grill is completely cool.
  • Allow time for your grill to completely cool down before storing or covering it after grilling.

Grill Your Food Thoroughly

Prevent food-borne illnesses by grilling your meat to the proper internal temperatures.

  • Steaks, Roasts and Chops – 145°F
  • Poultry – 165°F
  • Groud Poultry – 165°F
  • Ground Meats – 160°F

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Summer Water Safety Refresher

Summer Water Safety Refresher

  • Teach children water safety and swimming skills as early as possible.
  • Always brief babysitters on water safety, emphasizing the need for constant supervision.
  • Appoint a “designated watcher” to monitor children during social gatherings at or near pools.
  • Equip doors and windows that exit to a pool area with alarms.
  • Install a poolside phone, preferably a cordless model, with emergency numbers programmed into speed-dial.
  • Post CPR instructions and learn the procedures.
  • Keep rescue equipment poolside. Don’t wait for the paramedics to arrive because you will lose valuable life-saving seconds. Four to six minutes without oxygen can cause permanent brain damage or death.
  • Keep a first aid kit at poolside.
  • Install four-sided isolation fencing, at least five feet high, equipped with self-closing and self-latching gates, that completely surrounds the pool and prevents direct access from the house and yard.
  • Maintain constant visual contact with children in a pool or pool area. If a child is missing, check the pool first; seconds count in preventing death or disability.
  • Don’t use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision. Never allow a young child in a pool without an adult.
  • Don’t leave objects such as toys that might attract a child in the pool and pool area.
  • Never prop the gate to a pool area open.
  • Don’t rely on swimming lessons, life preservers, or other equipment to make a child “water safe.”
  • Never assume someone else is watching a child in a pool area.
  • Don’t leave chairs or other items of furniture where a child could use them to climb into a fenced pool area.
  • Don’t think you’ll hear a child who’s in trouble in the water; child drowning is a silent death, with no splashing to alert anyone that the child is in trouble

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Facts About Flash Floods

Flash floods occur as a result of heavy rainfall, rapid snow thaw, city drains overflowing or dam/levee failures. They occur quickly and unexpectedly, within 6 hours of the events that caused them. Here are more facts to give you an idea of how dangerous flash floods can be:

  • Every region in the United States can be affected by flash floods, especially low-lying areas: near river beds and coastlines.
  • Cities are more likely to be affected by flash floods due to the predominant impermeable surfaces, such as asphalt, and the lack of natural drainage systems.
  • The water from flash floods can reach a height of 20 feet, which can severely damage anything in its path.
  • Just 2 feet of floodwater moving at 9 feet per second (standard speed of flash floods) is enough to sweep vehicles away, move 100 pound rocks, uproot trees or level buildings.
  • Just 6 inches of rapidly moving floodwater can sweep someone off their feet.
  • Between 2004 and 2013, an average of 75 people have died from flash floods in the United States per year.
  • Nearly all who perished during flash floods tried to outrun the waters rather than going to a higher area.
  • Two thirds of the deaths claimed by flash floods occur in vehicles, when the drivers try to pass through the floodwater.
  • Flash floods can cause extensive structural damage: 12” of floodwater on a 2,000 square foot building can cause $50,000 worth of damage or more.
  • Flash flood warnings are issued by the National Weather Service when a flash flood is imminent.

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It’s Tax Season. It’s Also IRS Phone Scam Season.

Prepare Yourself for IRS Phone Scams

Your phone rings. When you check, the caller ID shows it’s the IRS calling. (Three letters that can give you a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.) But you think to yourself: I don’t believe I owe any taxes. And I haven’t even submitted this year’s return. Why are they calling me? But it says it’s the IRS, so it must be them… right?

WRONG.

For a number of years scammers have been calling people across the country, spoofing the caller ID, claiming to be IRS officials, and demanding immediate payment of fines or back taxes. Their goal is to trick you into giving them personal information and/or get you to send cash.

So the REAL IRS has assembled a number of tips to help you understand what the criminals are doing and how to avoid becoming a victim of one of their scams:

  • Scammers try to scare you. Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully you into paying a bogus tax bill, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may even threaten to arrest, deport, or revoke your license if they don’t get the money. (If they don’t get through to you, they may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,” or via phishing email.)
  • Scams use caller ID spoofing. Scammers often alter caller ID to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use your name, address and other personal information (even your Social Security Number) to make the call sound official.
  • Cons try new tricks all the time. Some schemes provide an actual IRS address where they tell you to mail a receipt for the payment you make. Others use emails that contain a fake IRS document with a phone number or an email address for a reply. These scams often use official-looking IRS letterhead in emails or regular mail that they send you. They try these ploys to make the ruse look official.
  • Scams cost victims over $23 million. You probably think “I’ve heard this before; they won’t fool me.” But the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received reports of about 736,000 scam contacts between October 2013 and November 2015. Nearly 4,550 victims have collectively paid over $23 million as a result of the scam. The crooks get more sophisticated every year. The communications look and sound more real all the time too. And we’ll bet that a certain number of those 4,550 victims thought they wouldn’t be scammed either.

So to protect yourself, remember the following:

  • The IRS will NOT call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call you if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.
  • The IRS will NOT demand that you pay taxes and not allow you to question or appeal the amount you owe.
  • The IRS will NOT require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For instance, require that you pay with a prepaid debit card.
  • The IRS will NOT ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • The IRS will NOT threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.

Phone scams first tried to sting older people, new immigrants to the U.S. and those who speak English as a second language. But it has become such a profitable enterprise, the crooks now try to swindle just about anyone. And they’ve ripped-off people in every state in the nation. Stay alert. Don’t let the next victim be you!


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Have New Jewelry in the House? Protect it!

The Holiday’s may be over and Valentine’s Day is approaching, and while it may be cold outside love is still in the air. Well, love and a few other things perhaps, such as new jewelry.

It’s exciting to receive jewelry from a loved one – or to give it as a gift. Not to mention it’s romantic. But if you’re lucky enough to have some new jewelry in your home, you should take a few minutes to think about something you probably don’t find exciting or romantic: Insurance.

Don’t know where to turn? Don’t worry. We think it is exciting to help our customers protect what’s most important to them – so we’re ready to help and can answer all of your questions.

Things to consider when insuring jewelry:

  • The first thing to consider is that you may need to purchase additional coverage. Your homeowners policy covers valuable items such as jewelry but only up to set amounts as stated in the policy. If the cost of replacing your jewelry exceeds that limit, you will want to purchase scheduled personal property coverage. You can simply check your policy or give us a call.
  • You might want to reconsider your deductible amounts. As always, this impacts your policy premium. It’s a good idea to take a look at your deductibles whenever you make a change to your policy.
  • Do you need an appraisal? You may need to have an independent appraisal if the insurance company requires it or if you don’t know the value of your jewelry. Each item should be listed with a description and value on paper.
  • What kind of coverage is offered? You’ll want to determine if items are covered no matter where they are, like here at home, or on an international trip, and if the policy offers full replacement cost. You also should ask if you will be required to replace your jewelry if lost or stolen, or if you can simply keep the cash settlement.
  • Pictures can be helpful. Lost or stolen pieces of jewelry sometimes can be recreated if the jeweler has a good photograph to work from.
  • Should I go with a company that specializes in jewelry insurance? There are companies that specialize in jewelry insurance. Whether you choose one of these, or a company that we represent, you’ll want to know they are reputable and stable.
  • Is the value of your jewelry mainly sentimental? Is an item irreplaceable? If the answer to either of these questions is “yes,” you might consider foregoing insurance. But please, talk to us at before making that decision. That’s what we’re here for.
  • Of course, it’s important to store your jewelry securely when it’s not in use; a safe in your home or a safe-deposit box is best. We want your jewelry to be replaced if it’s lost or stolen, but we’d rather your sentimental and valuable pieces stay with you and your family for years to come.

    Here’s hoping your special days are full of fun and romance. And if there’s no jewelry involved, well, there’s always next year!


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    Personal Umbrella – The Ultimate Armor for Today’s World

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    A personal umbrella policy is sometimes misunderstood. That’s unfortunate because the personal umbrella is an insurance “best buy”. It is inexpensive and does its job well. Let’s take a look at just what this policy does, determine if you need one, and decide if it’s worth it to purchase a policy for yourself. We’ll look at factors that set the cost of a personal umbrella. And finally, give you a few tips to keep in mind when personal umbrella shopping.

    What is a Personal Liability Umbrella Policy?

    The personal umbrella is a form of liability insurance. A great deal of confusion is eliminated if the word “liability” is inserted between the words “personal” and “umbrella”. That means it protects you from bodily injury and property damage for which you are legally liable.

    I will use the term personal umbrella. But just remember it is a form of liability insurance. Some consumers believe it is a catch all policy that insures property. Not so!

    A personal umbrella “floats” over your other liability policies. For example, let’s suppose your automobile insurance limits are $300,000 per person/ $300,000 per accident /$300,000 property damage. If you invest in $1,000,000 personal umbrella policy you will have increased your auto liability protection by $1,000,000. So now you have auto liability protection of $1,300,000.

    A key benefit is it gives you an extra layer of protection over all your policies with liability coverage. Your homeowners, renters, auto, boats, motorcycles, second home, etc. will now have an extra layer of suit protection. That is why it is called an “umbrella” policy.

    The most common personal umbrella limit is $1,000,000. However, more families are deciding that a $1,000,000 limit is not enough protection in today’s litigious society. So consumers are buying personal umbrella policies with higher limits. Limits up to $10,000,000 are available.

    Do I need an umbrella policy?

    When I hear that question from clients, my answer is, “Probably”. You can determine if you need an umbrella policy by answering three questions:

    • Do you earn a pay check?
    • Do you own anything?
    • Do you want to keep what you own and your full pay check?

    These questions may sound a bit silly, but I am being very frank. You see, when an attorney is seeking damages, he will take what he can get for his client. That means your personal assets and your future earnings are on the line when you are sued. If you have no assets, once an attorney gets a judgment, he will use a garnishment to get to your future earnings.

    So the question you must decide is can I get rid of this risk? A personal umbrella is a giant step in eliminating the risk of attorney fees and a large judgment against you.

    Is an umbrella policy worth it?

    Your appetite for risk will determine if a personal umbrella is worth the peace of mind it provides. Let’s explore this question a little more. A journalist, who claims to be a financial planner, recently wrote that since only a small percentage of lawsuits were over a $1,000,000 dollars she did not think it was necessary for the average family to consider an umbrella liability policy.

    It is true that most lawsuits are under $1,000,000. However, the number of large lawsuits is growing. And if you happen to be the unfortunate one to be sued for a large amount, the financial and emotional impact is devastating. Think of it this way… the number of policemen shot on duty is small, but does that justify a policeman not wearing their bullet proof vest?

    The other issue is attorney fees. Recently, a client suffered a judgment of $500,000 but the attorney’s fees were $300,000. Excessive? Not when you consider the client was sued for $3,000,000 and the defense was complicated and involved numerous specialists. A personal umbrella will pay the judgment and attorney costs.

    Most professional financial planners advise you to pass the risk of a large personal loss to an insurance company. So they recommend purchasing a personal liability umbrella. They say it’s worth it.

    The personal liability umbrella is a good risk management technique for most of my clients. Personal umbrellas provide high limits of protection for an inexpensive price.

    How much does it cost?

    Cost is an important consideration when shopping for a personal umbrella policy. The price varies depending on the exposure to risks. For example, if you have a home with a pool, two cars, young drivers, a boat, a motorcycle and vacation home, you have more exposure to lawsuits than a family with a home, and two cars. So the family with more toys will pay more for a personal liability umbrella policy. It is really that simple.

    Prices for a personal umbrella insurance policy are amazingly affordable. The family with two cars and a home will likely pay between $200 and $300 a year for a $1,000,000 policy.

    What else do I need to know when shopping for a Personal Liability Umbrella policy?

    • You cannot pick and choose what exposures you want covered. For example, if you own a boat you cannot exclude it from coverage under a personal umbrella policy.
    • The company issuing your personal umbrella policy may require you to raise the underlying liability limits on some of your policies, if those limits are too low.
    • Some companies will write a personal umbrella policy even if they do not write your underlying policies.
    • Most personal umbrellas do not cover business risks of any kind.

    The personal umbrella policy is widely available and is an inexpensive risk management tool. It allows you to manage your risk in our changing world.


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    Protect Your Family From the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

    With winter weather affecting us all in our attempts to remain comfortable, it’s also the time of year which presents the greatest risk for an invisible threat. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, invisible gas that results when certain fuels do not burn completely. And it can be deadly. That’s why it’s important to know how to prevent it, detect it, and protect yourself and your family from its effects. In the home, carbon monoxide is most commonly formed by flames and heaters, as well as vehicles or generators that are running in an attached garage. As temperatures drop and more people are cranking the heat and hovering over the stove inside and warming up the car’s engine before hitting the road, it’s especially critical to ensure your family’s safety against this lethal gas. Since carbon monoxide cannot be detected without a carbon monoxide detection device, it is essential to install and maintain one or more detectors in your home.

    Detector Tips For Safeguarding Your Household

    • The International Association of Fire Chiefs recommends a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home, including the basement. A detector should be located within 10 feet of each bedroom door, and there should be one near or over any attached garage.
    • Each detector should be replaced every five to six years.
    • Battery-only carbon monoxide detectors tend to go through batteries more frequently than expected. Plug-in detectors with a battery backup (for use if power is interrupted) provide less battery-changing maintenance.
    • Thoroughly read the installation manual that comes with the individual detector you purchase. Manufacturers’ recommendations differ to a certain degree based on research conducted with detectors for specific brands.
    • Remember that carbon monoxide detectors do not serve as smoke detectors and vice versa. You can, however, purchase a dual smoke/carbon monoxide detector that can perform both functions.
    • Do not install carbon monoxide detectors next to fuel-burning appliances, as these appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon startup.

    In Case Of Exposure We hope you never have to use the following tips from the Mayo Clinic, but please read on for good information that could help save a life. If you suspect that you or someone you know has been exposed to carbon monoxide, check for the following symptoms:

    • Dull Headache
    • Weakness
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Shortness of Breath
    • confusion
    • Loss of Consciousness

    If any of the symptoms exist, move the individual into fresh air and seek emergency medical care immediately.


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    Teens, Social Media and a Parent’s Liability

    For many the high school experience comes with social pressures and obligations to fit in and belong, and sadly this can lead to exclusion and isolation of some students. At some point everyone probably said something in their teen years in the heat of the moment that they now wish could be taken back, but today’s teens face the added burden that if they convey those statements on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, their words could be around for a lot longer than just the heat of the moment.

    In addition to hurt feelings, cyber bullying could potentially damage someone’s reputation. With college admissions offices and employers beginning to look up applicants on social networking sites, rumors and gossip have the very serious potential to damage someone’s ability to get into the college of their choice, or find a job. For parents, this could create a potentially serious exposure to a lawsuit if their children engage in cyber bullying.

    Aren’t my kids covered under my insurance?

    Generally speaking, any coverage a parent has through their homeowners or renters insurance policy also provides coverage to other residents of the household, including teenage children. Standard homeowners and renters policies include liability protection for bodily injury or property damage, which would pay for the costs to cover medical bills or repair/replacement costs if a child injured a friend in a pick-up basketball game or if they were at a friend’s house and accidentally spilled soda on a $13,000 oriental rug, subject to the policy’s deductible.

    But what if a child were to post rumors about other teens online that implied negative information that could damage that person’s reputation? Interestingly, a standard homeowners or renters policy would not cover these instances.

    What can be done?

    In order to cover claims from that kind of situation, homeowners and renters policies must have what is called an endorsement- extra language that is inserted into the policy to expand coverage- in order to have liability protection extended to cover “personal injury”.

    As insurance professionals we will be able to tell you if your current insurance policy already has this personal injury endorsement by reviewing it, and if it doesn’t, we would be able to help you get one. You may be surprised to find that this expanded coverage may not cost you much in additional premium. A personal injury endorsement will pay the costs up to the limits of your policy to defend you, pay a judgment or settle a case when legal action is brought against you or your children for defamation.

    Make sure that if you’re a parent, you talk to your children about social media, how they use it and what’s expected of them regarding personal responsibility. It’s critical that they understand how their use of social media not only has the potential to hurt others, but that it could impact your family as well.

    Some parents choose to actively monitor their children’s use of social media, and there are various software programs available to assist those who want to closely monitor what their children do in social spaces for parents who want access to their children’s profiles. No matter what you choose to do, begin with treating others with respect as the best way to avoid this type of risk.

    Be Aware of What Your Kids Are Doing Online

    • Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities. Ask where they’re going, what they’re doing, and who they’re doing it with.
    • Tell your kids that as a responsible parent you may review their online communications if you think there is reason for concern. Installing parental control filtering software or monitoring programs are one option for monitoring your child’s online behavior, but do not rely solely on these tools.
    • Have a sense of what they do online and in texts. Learn about the sites they like. Try out the devices they use.
    • Ask for their passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in case of emergency.
    • Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites or ask another trusted adult to do so.
    • Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they, or someone they know, are being cyber bullied. Explain that you will not take away their computers or cell phones if they confide in you about a problem they are having.


    Sources: stopbullying.gov | trustedchoice.com


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    Don’t Be Fooled: Auto Insurance State Minimums Probably Aren’t Enough

    There are a wide variety of silly and somewhat funny things we can do from time to time, like telling people that dihydrogen monoxide is coming out of the sink (dihydrogen monoxide is the chemical name for water), but one thing you should avoid falling for as a consumer is being told that carrying only the state mandated minimum coverage is adequate auto insurance protection.

    In an auto accident, drivers can be legally liable for their passengers’ injuries. While most states have mandatory minimum limits of liability required of all drivers, many of these requirements may not be sufficient in covering injuries sustained in an auto accident. In some states, this required amount may be as little as $25,000 per person and $50,000 total for all injuries in an accident – which may not be enough when you consider the severity of certain injuries and the number of passengers that could be involved. Remember that this limit also applies for all injuries caused by an accident for which you are liable, including passengers of other cars.

    So what are the right limits? Like many answers… It depends. Everyone’s situation is different, but as an independent insurance agency we can help you understand what issues you should consider when evaluating what liability limits to purchase.

    For Instance:

    1. How much would it take to compensate a victim? If you were to cause a severe, life altering injury to someone, consider how much money it would cost over time to compensate them. It’s likely higher than $25,000.
    2. What assets do you have and what is your net worth? Think about your home, your car, savings, investments, etc. Having adequate insurance to protect these assets is something you should consider.

    Naturally you might wonder if increasing your liability limits will increase the price of your insurance premiums. While you’ll pay more for the additional coverage, it’s likely that it won’t be very much to raise your liability limits, and in the long run it offers you more financial protection. You may be able to offset some of those expenses by raising your deductible or through other discounts. This is where we can help identify the different options available to you.

    There is no definitive rule of thumb for making sure you have “enough” insurance but it’s important that you feel comfortable with the amount you have, because nobody likes to be made a fool of when it comes to an insurance claim.



    Source: trustedchoice.com


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    Was Your Home Loan Sold? Quick, Call Your Insurance Agent!

    Do you have a mortgage? Yes? Then at some point in your home-owning life, you have received a letter telling you that your mortgage has been sold to another lender. There’s certainly nothing unusual about it when this happens, as home loans are sold every day in the United States. It is a very common practice. Typically, the letter tells you that nothing will change for you and – "you do not need to do anything."

    WRONG!!! – You should contact the insurance agent that handles your home insurance.

    Here’s Why: If your home insurance is part of your escrow then your agent needs to know and needs to change the Mortgagee endorsement on your policy.

    Every year your insurance company sends a bill to the company that owns your loan. Your lender sends a check from your escrow account to pay for your Homeowner’s insurance for the next year. If your insurance company does not have the correct lender information the bill will be sent to the wrong company and the bill will not be paid. Believe it or not – that is not the big problem.

    Here is the BIG PROBLEM. Your new lender wants to know you have insurance that will pay to replace your home in case of a total loss – they want to know they will get their money! If your new lender does not get a bill or see some form of proof that you have insurance – then the lender will put insurance in place for you. And guess what? The insurance the bank puts in place can cost up to THREE TIMES MORE than what you are paying now and that is just for your house and wouldn’t include insurance for all your belongings inside your home.

    If this occurs the lender is simply going to pass the high-cost of this other insurance along to the home owner in the form of a much higher mortgage payment on your next statement, which can cause unnecessary panic and confusion.

    The lesson – keep your Insurance Agent updated on any change regarding not only your home, but your lender as well. Your agent wants to be up to date and will appreciate the call and it’s a simple change that only requires a few moments to complete.


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    Home Inspections Before Winter Weather Comes

    This time of year can be just great here in Virginia. However, you won’t get much fireside snuggling done if your chimney clogs or your roof springs a leak. And while prepping your home for winter weather isn’t much fun, once you do it, your peace of mind can last all season long.

    Here’s a handy checklist to make sure the weather stays outside where it ought to be.

    Furnace Follies
    If you have a forced-air furnace, visually inspect the outside of your system, the ducts, and other points attached to the unit. Repairing potential air leaks is easy to do with a little duct tape. It’s also a great time to clean or replace the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you can reach them, vacuum off the blower blades while you’re in there.

    Winter Weather Stripping
    A common source of heat loss and drafty spaces is faulty door or window weather-stripping. Check for drafts by holding a lit candle a couple of inches from the seam. If the flame moves (and you’re sure it’s not the dog breathing over your shoulder) you could have a leak. Typically these are easier to replace entirely than “spot repairing” and kits for doing so may be found at any hardware store.

    Chim Chim Cher-ee
    Creosote is the black, scaly deposit left behind in wood-burning chimneys. It slows airflow and is an enormous fire hazard. While the chimney is cool, take a flashlight and look for build-up past the damper (at the mouth of the flue near the base of the chimney). If you burn a lot of wood during the season–or very resinous wood like pine–cleaning the chimney is an annual must-do. This is one repair where hiring qualified professionals is best because they have the proper tools and experience to make sure it’s done right.

    Stormin’ the Doors
    Operational storm doors and windows prevent additional drafts and save energy costs. Make sure the hinges are lubricated and adjusted so they close properly. If you have interchangeable glass panels, make sure to install them instead of leaving the screens over winter.

    Rain Gutter Braining
    Clean gutters help prevent many cold weather problems from arising, such as basement flooding, siding damage, and door and window leaks. Clean gutters also help keep your foundation dry and repair-free. Plus, if your gutters are holding too much water they can pull free of eaves and fall off at any time, posing a hazard to your noggin.

    Show Your Best Siding
    In some cases you’ll need to hire a professional to make siding (or paint) repairs, but you can easily inspect for cracks and separations, peeling paint, or other damage that’s not difficult to repair yourself. Usually, a little caulk and some paint do the trick. But don’t leave it to chance–or leave it too long–because when water gets behind siding it’s expensive to repair as well as a health hazard.

    Put a Lid On It
    If possible, check your roof close up. You can use binoculars to inspect safely from the ground. Look for missing tiles, cracked shingles, and “bald spots”. If you have a composition roof past its warranty, make sure to check for brittleness, a sure sign it needs replacing. Also, if you notice lots of asphalt granules in your newly spotless rain gutters, it’s a sign your roof is eroding and needs replacing soon. Lastly, make sure to check the flashing around the edges of the roof for damage.

    Taking just a few minutes this time of year to inspect your home for these common cold weather entry points and it will prevent more costly repairs, reward you with a lower energy bill, and help you have a relaxing holiday season.


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    5 Big Insurance Mistakes

    TRYING TO SAVE MONEY? AVOID THE FIVE BIGGEST INSURANCE MISTAKES.

    With far too many Americans out of work, and others forced to make ends meet with less money, many people are looking for ways to cut costs. There are smart ways to save on home and auto insurance; however, there are also mistakes that can result in being significantly underinsured.

    When money is tight, it is extremely important to be financially protected against a catastrophe with the right amount and type of insurance by taking a few simple steps, it is possible to cut costs and still be protected should disaster strike.

    Following are five of the biggest insurance mistakes that consumers should look out for:

    Insuring a home for its real estate value rather than for the cost of rebuilding. When real estate prices go down, some homeowners may think they can reduce the amount of insurance on their home. But insurance is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding, not the sales price of the home. You should make sure that you have enough coverage to completely rebuild your home and replace your belongings.

    A better way to save: Raise your deductible. An increase from $500 to $1,000 could save up to 25 percent on your premium payments.

    Selecting an insurance company by price alone. It is important to choose a company with competitive prices, but also one that is financially sound and provides good customer service.

    A better way to save: Check the financial health of a company with independent rating agencies and ask friends and family for recommendations. You should select an insurance company that will respond to your needs and handle claims fairly and efficiently.

    Dropping flood insurance. Damage from flooding is not covered under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. Coverage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as well as from some private insurance companies. Many homeowners are unaware they are at risk for flooding, but in fact 25 percent of all flood losses occur in low risk areas.

    A better way to save: Before purchasing a home, check with the NFIP to check whether it is in a flood zone; if so, consider a less risky area. If you are already living in a flood zone area, look at mitigation efforts that can reduce your risk of flood damage and consider purchasing flood insurance.

    Only purchasing the legally required amount of liability for your car. In today’s litigious society, buying only the minimum amount of liability means you are likely to pay more out-of-pocket—and those costs may be steep

    A better way to save: Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverage on older cars worth less than $1,000. The insurance industry and consumer groups generally recommend a minimum of $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident.

    If you don’t own your home, neglecting to buy renters insurance. A renters policy covers your possessions and additional living expenses if you have to move out due to a disaster. Equally important, it provides liability protection in the event someone is injured in your home and decides to sue.

    A better way to save: Look into multi-policy discounts. Buying several policies with the same insurer will generally provide surmountable savings.


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    Scheduling Under Homeowners

    SCHEDULING ITEMS UNDER YOUR HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

    Perhaps it’s the latest electronic gadget or large screen hi-def television, or new sporting goods gear or maybe a piece of sparkling jewelry. If you happen to receive or purchase a particularly expensive item, you may consider purchasing extra protection, just in case.

    Why would I need to schedule valuable items?

    The protection provided for personal property under the typical homeowners, condo or renters policy is very broad, and includes coverage for your furniture, clothing, and appliances. It only provides limited coverage for valuable items such as jewelry, silverware, furs, and art. It may not cover some types of loss that may be important to you, such as the stone falling out of your diamond ring, your china being accidentally broken or your rare coins being stolen.

    What types of property can be covered?

    Here’s a quick listing of some of the items typically covered:

    cameras (video or still) and related equipment
    china and crystal
    coins (rare and current)
    firearms
    furs
    golfer’s equipment
    jewelry
    musical instruments
    personal computers
    stamps (rare and current)
    silverware
    works of fine art, including paintings, etchings, pictures and other bona fide works of art (such as oriental rugs, statuary, rare books, manuscripts and bric-a-brac) of rarity, historical value or artistic merit.

    If you own something of value that is not listed above, it may still be eligible for coverage.

    How to Schedule Personal Property

    The process for scheduling valuable personal property differs from one insurance company to another. The insurance company keeps copies of appraisals or recent receipts for the items on file. The dollar amount of the value of the items added determines the price of scheduled property insurance.

    Scheduling items allows you to purchase better protection for your special property than would be available under the typical homeowners policy. In addition to being able to purchase higher limits of coverage, more perils are covered.


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