Home Insurance Terms You Need to Know, Part Two: Homeowners Coverage Terms

homeowner reviewing homeowners coverage terms as she renews her policy

The only thing worse than having a homeowners insurance claim is having a claim and realizing you didn’t understand the home coverage terms in your insurance policy. Now you don’t have the coverage you thought you had. Vargas & Vargas Insurance wants you to have the knowledge you need to make the right decisions about your insurance. Arming yourself with the knowledge of homeowners coverage terms is crucial in preventing unwelcome surprises when a claim occurs. 

Homeowners Coverage Terms

Dwelling Coverage

A dwelling is the building in which you live. In home insurance terms, your home is your dwelling. It is insured for the perils in your policy up to the policy dwelling coverage limit. But this is for the main structure only and does not include the contents. Contents have their own coverage area in a home insurance policy. 

Additional Structures Coverage

Any structures on the premises not attached to the main dwelling are other structures or additional structures. This includes a workshop or shed, for example. An amount equal to 10% of the dwelling coverage is usually also allotted toward additional structures as part of your basic coverage. However, you may want to purchase additional coverage, if needed. This coverage does not apply to the contents of the additional structure. Those are covered with your personal property coverage.

Personal Property Coverage

This is for all of your personal belongings, such as clothing, furniture, electronics, household tools, etc. It’s important to speak with your agent about items you think may fall into this coverage area but actually may not. Examples might be golf carts and four-wheelers. Keeping an inventory of your personal property is important, as you will need to itemize them in the event of a loss. 

Liability Coverage

Homeowners can be held liable for a wide variety of events occurring on their property. Liability coverage provides legal protection for the majority of these, up to your policy limit. Also, most policies come with a basic amount that you can increase for a minimal additional premium. 

Additional Living Expense/Loss of Use

When a claim occurs, your home may not be inhabitable for a time. This is why Additional Living Expense coverage, also known as Loss of Use coverage, is so important. This coverage will help with the cost of displacement up to the time period specified in the policy. 

Endorsement

An endorsement is an addition to your homeowners policy. You may need more coverage than allotted in your basic policy in a particular coverage area. Endorsements allow you to add that coverage. A common example is for jewelry. Most policies provide a limited amount of jewelry coverage but allow more coverage through endorsements. 

Exclusion

An exclusion is a coverage area that insurers specifically do not include in your policy. Your policy will have a list of exclusions. It’s imperative to review these exclusions, as there are often options to provide coverage for the excluded perils separately. One example is flood coverage. Floods are usually an excluded peril, but flood insurance is available as a stand-alone policy. 

Inflation Protection 

The cost to repair or replace your home and belongings does not stay static. Most homeowners policies include inflation protection, which raises your coverage in small increments each renewal, as needed, to keep pace with inflation. 

Risk/Peril

A risk is the possibility of something unexpected happening. A peril is the cause of something unexpected happening. The peril of a wind storm increases the risk of damage to your roof. Knowing what perils are covered under your policy is imperative for you to have proper protection from the risks you face as a homeowner.

For more homeowners coverage terms, see the first installment of Home Insurance Terms You Need to Know. Homeowners coverage terms can be intimidating while also being vitally important. That’s why Vargas & Vargas, a premier local independent insurance agency, is here to help. We will customize your insurance coverage to your specific needs at the right price and are here to answer all of your insurance questions. So contact us today.

Facts You Need to Know About Life Insurance

Do you have life insurance? If not, what’s stopping you from having this policy?

If you’ve family members who depend on you for their daily bread, then you need to think again. Consider the state you’d leave them in if you were to die today. The funeral costs alone are too high. Consider any mortgage or student loans you’d been paying. Clearly, these are not debts you want to pass on to your loved ones.

You need to save your loved ones from such problems by purchasing a life insurance policy. If you’re not sure why you need one, our team at Vargas & Vargas Insurance has compiled this guide for residents of Dorchester, MA. 

You Need Term Life Insurance

There are different types of life insurance, and term life is one of them. If you’re like 90 percent of people with life insurance, you’ll choose to go with a term life insurance policy. 

As the name suggests, term life insurance covers a specific period. In most cases, it is 20-30 years. The aim is to ensure that your loved ones are protected if you die during this period, mostly your working years. It has no cash value until you die, and the premiums you pay are smaller than for whole life insurance.

Insurance is Not an Investment

Since some life insurance policies have cash value, you might think that this is a form of investing in the future. However, this should not be the case. If your goal is to grow your capital over time, you’re better off trying something else.

What you need to put in mind is that you’re protecting your loved ones. If they don’t need any protection, you don’t need this policy. 

Are You Considering Buying Life Insurance in Dorchester, MA?

If you’re shopping for life insurance, this is part of the information you should know. There’s still much more you need to know about life insurance. That’s why you need to reach out to our Vargas & Vargas Insurance experts for more information. 

Home Insurance Terms You Need to Know, Part One

couple researching home insurance terms in their kitchen

When it comes to your home, proper home insurance coverage is vitally important. However, insurance terminology can make reading a quote or policy feel like reading a foreign language. Without understanding home insurance terms, you could find yourself with far less coverage or far different coverage than you thought. Vargas & Vargas Insurance is committed to making sure you have the knowledge you need to make the right insurance decisions regarding your home insurance. 

General Home Insurance Terms

Declarations (Declarations Page)

This refers to the page of your policy that gives your basic information, including the name and address of the insurance company, coverage to and from dates, basic coverages, deductible, premium, and any additional interests. It’s an overview of your policy and is often what your mortgage company will ask for to show proof of coverage. 

Insured/Insurer

The insured is the person that coverage is being provided for—generally, the owner of the home. The insurer is the insurance company providing the coverage for your home. 

Additional Insured

The declarations page will list the additional insured, along with the insured. The additional insured is anyone else, other than the homeowner, who has a legal interest in the home. The most common additional insured for a homeowners policy is the mortgage company. An additional insured will be notified of the policy renewal and if the policy is in danger of cancellation. They may also be payees on larger claims checks. 

Policy Period

This is the time period your home is currently insured for, which is usually one year. Most homeowners insurance policies renew automatically, assuming the premium is paid. 

Premium

The annual amount you pay for your homeowners insurance is the insurance premium. This premium can come in convenient payments of monthly, quarterly, or semiannual installments. Typically, homeowners pay it directly to the insurance company through a mortgage escrow account. 

Deductible

The deductible is the amount the insured (homeowner) is responsible for in the event of a claim. If a claim is less than the deductible amount, the insurance company bears no responsibility for payment of the claim. If the claim is more than the deductible, the deductible will be subtracted from the claim’s total amount before the insurer pays out. The deductible is not paid to the insurance company. 

All-Risk/Named-Peril

An all-risk insurance policy covers all potential causes of loss other than the ones specifically excluded in the policy. A named-peril policy covers the causes of loss specifically listed in the policy and no others. While an all-risk policy can be more inclusive, it is generally much more expensive and not as common. Most insurers choose to cover the most common risks, providing a broad scope of protection while keeping premiums affordable. 

Replacement Cost Value (RCV)/Actual Cash Value (ACV)

When you purchase your home, the sales price is based on the market value of your home. The price depends on the desirability of the location and many other factors. When you have a loss, however, the location’s desirability has no bearing on the cost to rebuild your home or replace your roof. That’s why it is important to understand the difference in replacement cost and actual cash value.

The replacement cost value is the cost to replace a damaged item or item, whether it be your TV or your roof. The actual cash value takes into account the depreciated value of the item. If your roof is ten years old, you got ten years’ worth of value from your roof, so a deduction is taken from the amount paid for your claim to account for the age of the roof. Knowing which type of coverage you have before a claim can prevent many misunderstandings during the claims process.

General home insurance terms are important to know, but there are many more terms that can make all the difference in understanding your home insurance. For more insurance terms, see the second part of our series on Home Insurance Terms You Need to Know. 

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is a premier local independent insurance agency. We work for our clients, not the insurance company. We will customize your insurance coverage to your specific needs at the right price and are here to answer all of your insurance questions. Contact us today.

5 Home Improvements for Lower Insurance Costs

couple setting their home's security system

Home improvements breathe new life and style into your home. They can also bring a decrease in your homeowners insurance premiums. Both can be exciting. Which home improvements not only bring new form and function to your home but also can decrease your homeowners insurance?

1. New Roof

Roof insurance claims compose a large portion of total homeowners insurance claims. Newer roofs are typically better able to handle wind and hail storms. Perhaps when you first purchased your home, you didn’t qualify for a preferred policy due to your roof’s age. But because of the new roof, you may now qualify. Your new roof’s material can also impact your homeowners insurance rates. More importantly, by keeping your roof maintained, you may be able to avoid claims. This will have a positive impact on your insurance through claim-free discounts. 

2. Security System

An alarm system monitored by a central station is another way to avoid potential claims by discouraging burglaries and quickly notifying emergency services in the event of smoke or fire. This helps you retain your claim-free discount and prevent damage to your home and loss of property. Your insurance company rewards these efforts in the form of a discount. 

Most insurance companies require that the alarm system automatically notify emergency services. It cannot simply sound an alarm or record video. However, they may offer a partial discount for these options. A central station burglar alarm will save you between 5%-15% on your home insurance if your smoke alarms are connected to the monitored system. 

3. Wiring and Plumbing Updates

Fire from faulty wiring and water damage from plumbing concerns are also common homeowners insurance claims. The age of these systems may have prevented you from receiving a preferred rate initially. Updating these systems could change that. 

While discounts can be available for wiring and plumbing updates, these updates may require the wiring and plumbing to be completed updated by removing and replacing all existing writing and plumbing, rather than a partial update. But any updates to your wiring and plumbing can prevent damage. It can therefore reduce claims and benefit your homeowners insurance over time, even without a specific discount. 

4. Simple Updates: Deadbolt Locks and Fire Extinguishers

Deadbolt locks are a simple update to your home that can provide added protection and a potential discount for your insurance. Fire extinguishers may be another easy addition to your discount portfolio.

5. Pool Fencing

Insurance companies often require fencing around a pool due to the inherent risk of an accessible attractant to a drowning hazard. If you do not have a fence around your pool, adding one will reduce the risk of a tragedy. It could also prevent surcharges on your insurance for this risk.

Home improvements provide value to your home regardless of the potential benefits to your insurance. However, when determining which improvements are suitable for your home and the costs associated with each, possible decreases in your homeowners insurance should be considered. 

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, your premier local independent insurance agency, we work for our clients, not the insurance companies. Contact us for advice on how the home improvement projects on your list can reduce your homeowners insurance premiums. 

2 Ways Home Improvements Change Insurance Premiums (And How to Protect Your Investment)

mom and her daughters in a new pool at home

When deciding the monthly premiums for your home insurance policy, your insurer has to consider multiple factors. However, with time, you may feel the need to improve your home for a better living experience. What most homeowners do not know is that such improvements can expose them to uninsured risks. Here’s how home improvements change your premiums and what you should do after such enhancements to keep things in check

1. Effects of Home Improvements on Insurance Premiums

Once you improve your home, you either increase the property’s value, increase the likelihood of peril, or protect the property from risk. Based on the following three scenarios, your insurer may increase or reduce your monthly premium.  

Home Improvements That Increase Your Premiums

At some point, you may decide to expand the size of your house, upgrade your kitchen space, or even redesign your bathroom. Such improvements increase the value of your property to an amount exceeding the sum insured. Increasing the value of your property means increased your monthly premiums.

You also attract higher monthly premiums on home improvements that your insurer considers risky. For example, you may decide to spice things up with a private pool. While this increases your property’s value, your insurer may increase your monthly premiums to bolster your liability cover.

Home Improvements That Reduce Your Premiums

Depending on the nature of your home improvements, your insurer can also reduce the amount you pay in premiums. You can decide to renovate your roof or install one that is resistant to disaster. You can even choose to have a locking fence around your pool or install a protective cover. Such improvements are likely to reduce your monthly premiums as they reduce the likelihood of peril.  

2. What You Should Do Before Home Improvement Projects to Be Safe

Before starting on any home improvements, you need to contact your insurer. Whether it is a simple addition or a major renovation, your insurer should let you in on its effects on the value of the property. Failing to notify your insurer of improvements may lead to underinsurance.

Almost all home improvements change insurance premiums. Let’s face it; there’s still a chance that you made some home improvements without notifying your insurer. It is not too late. Be sure to contact Vargas & Vargas for guidance on the best way forward. We are a premier local insurance agency that places your interests before those of your insurers. We work for you only and will help you find the best insurance coverage for your needs.

How Inflation Affects the Cost of Replacing Your Home

couple standing outside of their home

The country’s economy depends on various variables, which include inflation. Inflation has a negative or positive impact on the local industries. Among the sectors affected by the fluctuation of prices is the construction industry. The following is an overview of how inflation affects the cost of replacing your home and how this impacts your home insurance premium.

How Does Inflation Affect the Construction of a House?

As a result of inflation, the building material rates, machinery rates, and labor wages increase annually. The prices of most house equipment also rise due to inflation. When replacing a home, the changes in rates cause a deviation between the initial project budget and the final budget.

The high cost incurred during house construction results in an increase in the insurance premium. The insurance companies raise their premiums to cover and keep up with the increasing repair cost caused by inflation or annual property tax increase. Homeowners should have their property valuated regularly. The new data can be used in the settlement process if the house is damaged.

Home Replacement and Its Effect on Insurance Premium

While determining the initial home insurance premiums, insurance companies consider factors such as the square footage, the year it was built, the number of stories, the number of kitchens or bathrooms, flooring, and roof covering.

During property replacement, the insurance company will replace the lost asset with a similar replacement of the same value and functionality as the original one. However, quality items and luxury add-ons such as swimming pools are expensive to fix or replace if damaged.

The increase in the new items’ prices and the risk of maintaining them force the insurers to increase their premiums.

Vargas and Vargas Insurance is one of the premier local independent insurance agencies. We work for our clients and not the insurance company. We will customize your insurance coverage to your specific needs at the right price. Also, we are here to answer all of your insurance questions. Contact us today.

5 Home Improvements That Could Increase Insurance Costs

Home improvements are exciting. Visions of increased functionality, luxury, and property values are almost equal to the initial purchase’s excitement. Home improvement projects are at an all-time high. Families are spending more time at home due to COVID-19 restrictions and fears. As a result, they are making their home as enjoyable as possible. There are many decisions to be made and multiple factors to take into consideration. One of those considerations should be the probability of an increase in your homeowners insurance premiums. Look at what can happen with these five popular home improvements that could increase insurance costs.

1. Increased Square Footage

A home that fits your family’s needs at the time of purchase may no longer do so after a few years. As your family grows, increased square footage is often needed. This could be in the form of an addition to the home, but it can also include finishing existing unfinished spaces, such as a basement or attic. Additions can also mean outdoor space. The addition of a deck, porch, covered patio, or attached garage also necessitates homeowners insurance changes. 

Each of these additions increases the rebuild (replacement) cost of your home. Increased replacement cost directly equates to a needed increase in your dwelling coverage. More space usually means more personal property purchases, as well. This could also mean a need for an increase in personal property coverage. 

2. Kitchen and Bath Upgrades

Kitchen and bath upgrades are some of the most popular home updates. These upgrades can have the greatest return on investment for property values. While your homeowners insurance is based on replacement cost, not appraised value, upgrades to kitchens and baths mean it will cost more to put your kitchen and bath back to their upgraded condition in the event of a loss. It’s essential to make sure you increase your homeowners insurance coverage relative to those increased replacement costs. 

3. Home Office Additions

As more and more individuals work from home, home office additions are becoming more common. A home office may be a modification to an existing space or an addition to the home. It could also mean you need more personal or business property coverage on your homeowners insurance. Your liability exposure is also enhanced, and coverage may need to be increased accordingly. 

4. Pools

In-ground pools are arguably the most fun addition. They are also a costly addition with enhanced liability risk. Your homeowners insurance company may require fencing or other risk reduction measures. Reviewing your increased risk and making any needed changes can make the poolside all the more relaxing. A personal liability umbrella policy can add additional liability protection and peace of mind.

5. Home Business

Brick-and-mortar businesses are rapidly decreasing as companies move to a virtual or home business environment. Business in the home brings about an entirely different set of coverages and risks than a personal home office. Disclosing a business in the home and exploring how this affects your homeowners insurance is crucial to your business’s protection.

There are many home improvements that could increase insurance costs, but home upgrades are an excellent way to extend the functionality and enjoyability of your home. Potential increases to your homeowners insurance would be due to the increased cost to rebuild your home and protect your assets. The value of these upgrades and the knowledge that your home improvements are properly covered far surpasses the cost of potential changes in your homeowners insurance premiums.

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is a local, premier independent insurance agency. We understand your home is important to you. So we will customize your insurance to your specific needs at the right price. We will also carefully evaluate home improvements that could increase insurance costs. Contact us to discuss your home insurance needs. 

Here’s What Happens When You Make a House Insurance Claim

Homeowners going through the house insurance claim process

Having your house insured can save you a lot of trouble. House insurance usually covers your house and its contents. However, policies vary, and some may cover the structure alone. In case a risk materializes, you should put in a house insurance claim for compensation from your insurer. Settlement can take days, months, or even a year, depending on the damage.  

Making a house insurance claim can be very complicated. Most insurance companies expect you to fill a claim form, giving a detailed description of the incident. You may also have to attach proof of purchase to have damaged items replaced or repaired (depending on your policy). Here’s what happens when you put in a claim on your house insurance. 

1. Determination of the House Insurance Claim

Once you put in a claim on your house insurance, your insurer is expected to respond within two weeks. The insurer may contact you for more information within this period. In extreme situations, the company can hire a loss adjuster to investigate the incident. The adjuster will examine the property and ask you questions about its state, before and after damage. The adjuster’s report will then guide the insurer’s decision to accept or deny the claim. 

If your claim is denied, your insurance company should send you a detailed report clearly explaining the reasons for the denial.

2.  Compensation for Property Damage

Based on the information provided, your insurer makes compensation arrangements. This decision is based on the loss adjuster’s report and your past adherence to the insurer’s policies. The insurer determines the amount of compensation based on the degree of damage and the pre-established policy amount. 

The insurer can decide to pay through a bank deposit or by cheque, depending on the claim. However, if you acquired your house through a mortgage, your insurer will wire a payment check directly to the mortgage company. Therefore, you should inform the company of the insurance claim early in the process.   

3. Urgent Financial Need and Preventive Repairs

In the event of peril, you may have financial hardship due to the damage to your property. Your insurer should make advanced payments to help you overcome such difficulties. Additionally, any costs you have from making emergency repairs to prevent further damage should be reimbursed by your insurer. 

Getting compensated for damage to your home can be quite a headache. Working with a local independent insurance agency can help you avoid this headache. An independent insurance agent represents you and does not work for any insurance company.

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is a premier local independent insurance agency that solely serves your interests and not those of your insurers.  At Vargas & Vargas, you will get custom and affordable insurance coverage for your specific needs and have all of your insurance questions answered. Contact us today to get started.

What You Need to Know About Commercial Insurance

As a business owner in Dorchester, MA, you need to have commercial insurance for your business to cover specific liabilities. However, sometimes it is very challenging to understand the entire concept of commercial insurance, especially if this is not your area of specialization. Vargas & Vargas Insurance has realized that many business owners make grave mistakes when it comes to business insurance and offer some basics on this policy. 

Why Commercial Insurance?

So, some business owners do not know why they need commercial insurance, and some of them ignore it entirely, only for them to regret it later after disaster strikes. It is essential to understand that commercial insurance protects your business and the investments you have made against disastrous events. 

Having commercial insurance is necessary because it protects all the assets that your business owns. However, commercial insurance may also help you cover the different types of liabilities your business may cause to suppliers, customers, and other parties. 

How Does It Work?

Generally, commercial insurance is an agreement that lasts for one year and can be renewed by either party. It involves paying an agreed amount of money to an insurance agency that will assume the liabilities and the damages that your business may experience during the year. 

The amount of money paid to the insurance company typically depends on the properties at hand, possible risk exposure, and other possible requirements such as the number of customers and vendors associated with the organization. 

Do You Need Commercial Insurance?

Before you start running your commercial organization in Dorchester, MA, you need to have your commercial insurance in place so that you can be ready from the first day of your operations. Vargas & Vargas Insurance will guide you in the process of getting the best commercial insurance to meet the needs of your business. 

4 Tips on Preparing Your Car for Spring

driver looking at the spring weather in a parked car

Preparing your car for spring helps to ensure it functions properly in the warmer weather. Spring cleaning not only allows you to remove all the dirt and snow debris, but the simple maintenance and checks that you do in the process can save your car from potential damage and save you money through your auto coverage. You can choose to clean your vehicle yourself or take it a professional. Here are tips for preparing your car for spring:

1. Wash Inside and Outside Your Car

Wash your car thoroughly and remove all the salt buildup and snow debris accumulated in the undercarriage. Removing the salt and buildup prevents rust and keeps your vehicle in good condition. Also clean the interior of the car, including the floor and mat.

2. Check Your Wipers

During winter, windshield wipers do a lot of work. Check and see if they are in good condition, then replace the blades if they are worn out. New wiper blades will give you better functionality and improved visibility as spring begins. Good visibility when driving is essential to reduce accidents.

3. Inspect Your Tires

Align and rotate each of your tires. Check the alignment and make sure the car is driving straight. Check the treads, as well. If you changed your tires to winter tires, you should switch back to all-season tires for better functionality in the spring.

4. Confirm Your Insurance 

Check your insurance policy and make sure it sufficiently covers claims that are common in the season. For example, you can look at the comprehensive coverage and familiarize yourself with what it entails.  You can also check with your insurance agent in case of any auto insurance benefits or discounts now available.

Transitioning from winter to spring requires proper preparation to ensure the safety and proper functionality of your vehicle. Whether preparing your car for spring is a DIY project or you choose to seek professional services, these tips will help your vehicle serve you better in spring. Vargas and Vargas is a premier local independent insurance company. We are here to answer all your insurance questions, so contact us today