Are you a new homeowner? If so, congratulations! Welcome to the wonderful world of homeownership. There is also a lot of responsibility that comes with owning a home, as you are likely figuring out right now. Once of the most important things you can do is make sure you are properly insured to protect this valuable asset. Take a look at some key things you need to know about home insurance.
Know the exact value of your home
To start, it’s very important to know the exact value of your home. Underestimating your home’s value could result in not enough coverage and overestimating the value could result in paying too much for insurance you don’t really need. Work with both your insurance agent and a real estate professional to fully assess the value of your home.
Decide how much coverage you need
Based upon the value of your home, and the assets within in, your insurance agent will work with you to determine the right amount of coverage you need. There’s a lot more to consider than just insuring your physical dwelling. You will also want to consider personal property, other structures on your property, liability protection, guest medical protection and more.
Make an inventory list
Once settled in your new home, you will want to make a comprehensive inventory list that accounts for your home and the property in your home, assigning a value to each item. Keep this list in a fireproof safe or somewhere other than your home so it’s available to you even if your house should sustain severe damage. This will be a great help to you when it comes time to work with your insurance company to replace your belongings.
Understand replacement cost vs. actual cash value
Your insurance policy will want you to select whether you want replacement cost or actual cash value. Most simply put, actual cash value (ACV) is equal to replacement cost, minus any depreciation. The right choice for you will depend upon a couple of variables and so you’ll want to talk with your insurance agent to fully understand what makes most sense for your particular situation.
Utilize things that can lower your premium
Make sure you are aware of all the ways you can save money by making your home safer. Adding things like a security system, shatter-proof glass or updating your roof may help save you money on your insurance because your home is likely to better withstand a disaster.
Review your policy often!
Finally and most importantly, meet with your insurance agent annually or upon making any major change to your home to ensure your policy is still offering you the most appropriate coverage. As your home ages or you make upgrades, you may need to change certain aspects of your policy. It’s better to do this early and often than be left underinsured and experience a disaster.
What other questions do you have about home insurance? Leave a comment or contact me directly and I’d be happy to offer some insight.
4 Signs You Need to Break Up with Your Insurance Agent
February is a month to focus on love. However, it’s likely there are some things you may not “love” about your current insurance agent right now. If a lack of customer service, rising prices or poor communication have you feeling frustrated, it just might be time to break up the bad relationship. Here are 4 tell-tale signs that you and your current insurance agent need to “start seeing other people.”
They are unresponsive.
You call and email but never seem to get a timely response to your questions. This is a big problem! In case of an emergency, you may need information quickly. If you can’t count on your insurance agent to respond to your questions in a reasonable amount of time, this isn’t a sustainable relationship. Your insurance agent should be easy to reach and quick to reply. A good agency will have customer service line that you can reach outside of business hours, should disaster strike late at night or on the weekend.
Prices continually increase, but quality service declines.
Have you found that the price of your premiums increase with every passing year for the exact same coverage? Sure, increases may be needed to adjust to inflation & increased claim costs, however this shouldn’t be the case every renewal. Customer service is really important when it comes to your policy as agents can’t always control costs, but they can offer you any available discounts & make sure your policies still match what your family needs. If you find that you’re paying more for worsening customer service and coverage, it’s time to get out there and shop around!
They don’t follow through.
When your insurance agent says they are going to do something, you want to be able to trust that they will follow through. In any business, you are only as good as your word. When it comes to insurance, it can be a major problem if your agent fails to make sure your paperwork is properly submitted and your billing is up to date. Should their forgetfulness cause you to lose coverage, this is more than just a headache, it could be a big financial problem for you, too.
You are not their priority.
If you get a sense that you are anything but top priority for your current insurance agent, it’s time to starting looking for an agent who will put you first. The safety and security of your family and assets should be their foremost concern, not just making money off of your business!
What other reasons have you found to be a sign to “break up” with your insurance agent? Share your experience by commenting below!
6 Things You Probably Didn’t Know Could Be Covered by Insurance
When you purchase insurance for your home, automobile, life or anything else, you likely have a good understanding of the most obvious things you expect the policy to cover. But did you know that there are a ton of other scenarios that may also be included under your insurance plans?
It’s important to keep in mind that each insurance company and each policy they offer vary, so check with your insurance agent or policy to verify your coverage!
In case life should throw you a curve ball, there’s a lot of value in being informed of your insurance policies so you can fully utilize your coverage. Here’s a look at six things you probably didn’t know could be covered by insurance.
Food spoilage in freezers and refrigerators due to loss of power
If your home should lose power for a prolonged period of time, causing your freezer or refrigerator to turn off and get warm, you will likely have to toss the food you had stored in there. Depending upon your homeowner insurance policy, you could be eligible for a reimbursement to cover this loss. This could be especially important for homeowners who have a freezer chest or spare refrigerator in which they store steaks or bulk food.
Temporary repairs to your home
If your home should get hit by a storm or sustain some other type of damage, such as a tree falling on your roof, you will likely need to make immediate, temporary repairs to avoid further damage to your home. Most property insurance policies provide a reimbursement of a certain
amount to put towards temporary repairs to protect property from further loss, such as tarping the roof or parts of your home. When in doubt, protect your home, but don’t take risks to yourself in the process, hire a contractor to do the work that’s dangerous or specialized.
Identity theft expenses
We live in a day and age where identify theft is a daily threat to our finances, credit and private information. Many people are unaware that some insurance companies offer Identity Theft Expense Coverage, which for about $30/year, covers expenses related to identity theft, such as taking time off work, attorney’s fees and credit repair and monitoring services.
Loss of wages after an auto accident
If injuries from a car accident cause you to miss work, your car insurance may be able to help get back some or all of the lost wages. This benefit is part of personal injury protection, which covers injuries for you and your passengers regardless of who caused the crash. Note, personal injury protection is only required in 12 states, so make sure you check with your insurance agent!
If your dog bites someone and causes injury, your homeowner policy may cover that person’s medical expenses (even if the bite didn’t happen on your property). A lot of policies will also pay for legal expenses, if that injury results in a lawsuit.
Personal vehicle rental
Most national auto insurance companies extend your coverage on your best covered vehicle to any personal vehicle you rent for personal use in the US, at no extra cost. (Note: Smaller local or regional insurance companies don’t offer this outside of the state(s) they work in.) Credit card companies may also offer some coverage if using their card for the rental. Keep in mind that insurance companies are strict about personal vehicles for personal use. So if you are renting a car for commercial use, or if you are renting a U-Haul or dump truck, your personal auto policy most likely won’t extend coverage to it.
Again, we must emphasize that each insurance company and each policy they offer vary, so check with your insurance agent or policy to verify your coverage!
What insurance benefit did you find most surprising? Share your thoughts or ask a question by commenting below!
When the Weather Changes – Clean, Inspect, and Be Safe!
The weather is changing fast! The three main things you and your clients need to remember is to clean, inspect, and follow these basic common-sense safety precautions. These will help ensure that your home is warm and cozy for the chilly nights coming up! These tips will help make your home safer and more energy-efficient, as well as help prevent mold and water damage during the cold weather months coming up!
A very easy first step to getting ready for the cold seasons is to clean all of your household humidifiers and dehumidifiers. These are easily cleaned with vinegar and water. Be sure to replace or wash the filters as well. As the air inside and outside your home gets colder and dryer, you may want to put a humidifier in. The down side of using a humidifier is the possibility of too much humidity. This may cause mold growth. To avoid this possibility, the humidity in your home should not exceed more than 45%. On the opposite end of the spectrum are dehumidifiers. As this time of the year is also hurrricane season, your basement may become cold and damp. A good way to stop or slow mold growth is to have a dehumidifier drying out those damp areas.
When was the last time you cleaned your furnace? Check with your local HVAC company for cleaning guidelines. If you don’t, you could get a buildup of dust or sediment (depending on if your basement is finished or not) and it could become a fire hazard! It’s a good idea to change the furnace filter at this time of the year also. Be sure to stock up on filters so that you can change them as necessary! When considering cleaning your heating system, don’t forget the ductwork. When was the last time your ductwork was cleaned? Think of all the dust and debris that has built up in you ductwork. Once the heat goes on, that dust and debris begins to circulate as well. If you have pets, it is recommended that you have your ducts cleaned at least one every 4-5 years.
Doors & Windows: While some items may require professionals, there are many things homeowners can do to ready themselves to get ready for the winter. The first such is to inspect your property’s doors and windows. They are a homeowner’s first line of defense against the cold and elements. Check for any drafts. Caulk inside and out, where necessary, to keep heat from escaping. Inspect all weather stripping around windows and doorframes for leaks. Replace weather stripping, if necessary. Further, examine wooden window frames for signs of rot or decay. Repair or replace framing to maintain structural integrity as needed. A little maintenance now can help save on big repairs later! In older hoomes, with single pane windows, hang insulated curtains or seal the windows with 6 millimeter plastic. Installing storm windows on the outside gives homeowners a more permanent fix. All of these suggestions could help with savings to your cold-weather heating costs.
Heating Systems: Some inspections should be handled by professionals only. The fall is the time when it is a good idea to have your furnace inspected by a qualified HVAC company. It is always a good idea to make sure it is in good running order for the cold weather ahead. Hire an HVAC professional to test for leaks, check heating efficiency, and change the filter. They can also do a carbon monoxide check to ensure air safety.
Hot Water Heater: Hot water heaters require maintenance too. This is the time of the year when homeowners should flush hot water heater tanks to remove sediment. Check the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s in proper working order. Consider an insulated blanket for your hot water heater. Insulated hot water heaters are more energy efficient! If you hot water heater is part of your heating system, this is the time of year to bleed valves on the radiators to increase heating efficiency by releasing air that may be trapped inside from the months of non-use.
Fireplaces & Chimneys: Check your chimney and fireplace before you burn anything in it. It’s been ashile since it has been used, so make sur they are safe to use this season. If you are doing it yourself, you’ll need to inspect the firebox and flue system to ensure that they’re clean of any soot or creosote and that there aren’t any cracks or voids that could cause a fir hazard. Check your firplace for drafts. It it’s cold despite the damper being closed, the damper itself may be warped, worn, or rusted. Consider installing a Chimney Balloon into the flue to air seal the area tightly (for your safety, consult a professional before you undertake this option!). Clean out any ash or soot in your fireplace. If you aren’t comfortable doing this yourself, hire a professional. They will be able to inspect and clean it the right way!
Outside Faucets: A big thing that many people forget about is their outside hoses. Be sure to turn off any spigots and remove any hoses from outside your home. Interior pipes close to your outisde walls can burst and then your basement can fill with water. Some older homes even have a shut off valve in the basement that will turn off all your outside water. Depending on your climate, you irrigation system may need to be drained and checked as well. Have a professional perform any necessary repairs and mark sprinkler heads near snow removal areas.
Programmable thermostats: If you have one, program it to make your home more efficient by automatically raising and lowering the temperature as your schedule allows. You can even program it for vacations to be at a low temperature that is still high enough that none of your pipes or windows freeze while you are gone, but return to a warm home.
Ceiling Fans: Make sure fans are switch to the reverse or clockwise position, which will blow warm air down to the floor for enhanced energy efficiency and comfort. During cold spells, keep cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around pipes, particularly those in the kitchen and bathroom.
Make sure you also test all your home safety devices! Test all your smoke detectors, fire alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors. These are a homeowner’s first line of defense against potentially life-threatening situations! Since you will be spending much more time in the house, you will need to make sure these are all in excellent working order.
Always have a fully-stocked emergency kit at hand. Include batteries, a flashlight, candles, matches, and a lighter; warm clothes and blankets; a battery-powered radio; non-perishable food items and water (two liters per adult per day); a first-aid kit and specialty products like medicine, baby formula and pet food (if necessary.) Try to store at least three days worth of supplies for everyone in your household.
These tips with provided by Major Restoration. If you need any assistance with the inspecting or cleaning items listed above, give them a call.
In Central Pennsylvania, we are entering the dog days of summer. Yes, that means those seemingly endless forecasts calling for hot, hazy & humid weather that makes going outside — even briefly — an uncomfortable experience.
Our natural reation is to turn down the temperature in our homes, which often results in high energy usage and the shocking energy bill. Worse yet, it can even cause your air conditioning unit to crash during its fight against some of the hottest days of the year.
Keep Your Home Sealed Up
When the termperature inside your home begins to rise, you may want to throw open all of your windows. This is a fine strategy for the cooler, nighttime hours, but during the heat of the day, you want to keep your home as tightly sealed as possible to keep in the cool air you already have. Go ahead & open your windows during the evening and at night, but seal them up and draw your curtains in the morning to keep the sun — and the heat — out during the day.
Embrace the Shade
Try to keep off as many lights in your home as possible during the day. The sun will provide more than ample lighting and you will offset a little of the added energy costs you’re putting toward running your AC. Additionally, drawing your curtains will keep the blazing sun from roasting your home during the day. Working in the shade will also help you to feel cooler than sitting in a brightly lit space combined with the outside heat of the sun.
Get Outside to Do Your Cooking
This may sound strange since you are probably trying to avoid the heat as much as possible, but using your stove & oven can really increase the heat in your home. So take the time to fire up the grill or opt for “cool” meals like salad. If you want to use your stove & oven, pick one night a week to bake off all your dinners at one time.
Keep Your Bedroom Cool
If there is one room in the house you should prioritize for keeping cool, it’s your bedroom. We all sleep better in a comfortably cool environment, as opposed to a hot & sticky one. Naturally lower the temperature in your bedroom by opening the windows overnight, running a fan, and switching your sheets to a summer fabric. Those flannel sheets may be coxy in the winter, but they will quickly become a nuisance in the hot summer months!
Keep Air Moving
When using ceiling fans in the summer, make sure to have them set to run counter clockwise at the highest speed. This seeting promotes the coolest breeze, maximizing its effectiveness in a room. In addition to stationary fans and ceiling fans, be sure to run those bathroom and HVAC fans as these also help to pull out hot air and ciculate cool air. When air is moving, you immediately feel cooler & refreshed!
How else have you learned to effectively keep your home cool in the summer while conserving energy?
The Cumberland County Housing & Redevelopment Authorities in partnership with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency are hosting a free six hour First Time Homebuyer’s Workshop on November 3rd and 10th at 6-9pm.
Workshop topics include:
Planning for Homeownership
Budgeting & Managing your Money
Understanding Credit & How to get a Mortgage
Down Payments, Closing Assistance & Special Financing Programs
Shopping for a Home
Home Maintenance & Repairs
Saving Energy & Home Safety
Explanation of the Closing Process
The November workshop is hosted at 251 Lambs Gap Road in Mechanicsburg, PA in the Shepherd’s Crossing Community Room. Classes are free of charge, but registration is required to attend. To register, please contact the Cumberland County Redevelopment Authority: