10 Essential (and Easy to Forget) Home Maintenance Tasks

Owning a home is the “Great American Dream,” but sometimes homeowners get a little tired of all of the maintenance that comes with the territory of ownership. There is a lot to remember… since a home has so many parts, it’s hard to keep them all running simultaneously!

You’re juggling a lot, so here are a few reminders of items that may need a little bit of TLC. They are easy to forget but shouldn’t be neglected. Make sure these all get added to your DIY maintenance schedule, or call a Massachusetts professional in order to remove them from your ‘honey-do’ list:

  1. Refrigerator: There’s more to cleaning your refrigerator than throwing out spoiled food. Occasionally, you will need to clean the coils – these are what helps keep the refrigerator cold and having them covered in dust will make your appliance less efficient. Also clean out the drip pan, which is often on the bottom of the unit.
  2. Water Heater: As you use your water heater, sediment will sometimes flow into the tank. This sediment reduces the heater’s efficiency and shortens its lifespan. To get the sediment out, you will need to empty the tank, which is a job that needs to be done with extreme care in order to avoid contact with scalding hot water. Most people opt to let a professional handle this annual task.
  3. Kitchen and Bathroom Grout: Most people have grout somewhere in their kitchen or bathroom. Did you know, though, that this grout needs to be resealed occasionally? Most recommend an annual reseal in order to make sure that grout stays waterproof.
  4. Clothes Dryer: Everyone that uses a clothes dryer knows that you have to remove the lint from the lint trap after every load. It is also important to know that you need to give the lint screen a thorough cleaning once in a while – otherwise residue from fabric softener and dryer sheets will cause airflow to be blocked within the unit. You can use any dish soap meant to remove grease, and make sure that the screen dries thoroughly before replacing it.
  5. Chimney: Here in Massachusetts, many homes come with a fireplace and chimney. If this describes your home, make sure that you have your chimney professionally cleaned every year, especially if you use it. This will help you avoid the threat of a chimney fire.
  6. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: This home maintenance tip is one that we echo often here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year. It is critical to know that they will work as intended if there is ever a problem and can give your family critical moments to evacuate the property if there is a fire or gas leak.
  7. Garage Door: To extend the life of your automatic garage door opener, you should plan to lubricate it annually. This includes the chain and overhead springs. Cracked or warped weather stripping on the bottom of the door should be replaced, as should cracked or warped roller wheels.
  8. Air Conditioner and Heaters: It is critical that your heater and air conditioner get regular maintenance visits from an HVAC specialist. They will check the system to ensure that it is running efficiently and that there are no major issues looming. You should also make sure that the filter on these units is changed according to the specialist’s instructions (often quarterly) or more often if you suffer from seasonal allergies.
  9. Gutters: It’s a dirty job, but someone has got to do it! Gutters should be cleaned twice a year (in the spring and fall, typically) to ensure that debris doesn’t collect. If you let leaves, pine cones, etc. clog your gutters, they can get wet and very heavy. This would mean gutters could tear away from your home and/or cause damage to your exterior walls. Overflowing gutters also don’t drain properly, which can cause water to seep into your home or damage your foundation.
  10. Front and Back Yard: Occasionally, you will need to give your greenery some “TLC” – ensure that all trees are looked at by a professional. They will be able to tell you if any branches (or entire trees) pose a falling threat. Have those potential problems dealt with quickly, since they could otherwise break and damage something (or hurt someone) in the next major storm to roll through.

While these tasks are easy to overlook, some of them are critical in order to assure that your home is as safe as possible for yourself and your loved ones. You may choose to do them yourself, but more complicated tasks may require the aid of a professional. For a referral to complete any of these jobs, simply call your favorite local independent insurance agency – we will be happy to point you in the direction of a knowledgeable and courteous workman.

If you do ever have a problem in your home, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency – we can help you file a claim on your Massachusetts home insurance and get you back to normal as soon as possible.

Is It Time for a Home Insurance Review​?

Spring is a time for new projects. It’s also an excellent time to review your current home insurance policies to make sure they are working for you. If you live in the Dorchester, MA area, Vargas & Vargas Insurance is here to help you every step of the way. 

Home Insurance is Often a Requirement

If you are like many homeowners, you know that you need insurance to protect your home. Almost all financial institutions require that a homeowner have such insurance if they issue a mortgage on your home. However, even if your home is entirely paid off or the financial institution that you deal with does not require you to have insurance on your home, it is still a good idea to do so.

Why is it a Good Idea to Have Home Insurance? 

Your home is probably going to be the largest purchase you ever make in your life. It makes sense that you should protect it to the best of your ability. Having it insured protects your financial situation if something catastrophic should happen. If you are like most people, you don’t have several hundred thousand dollars sitting around that you can tap into should you have to replace your home unexpectedly. That’s what home insurance is for. 

Home Insurance Review

It’s a good idea to undertake a review of your home insurance at least once a year with a representative from Vargas & Vargas Insurance. With a variety of ways to contact us via text, phone call, and email, you can also head to our office at 1133 Washington Street in Dorchester, MA. There, the friendly and knowledgeable staff will carefully go over your current home insurance policy with you to determine if your needs are being met. If they are not, you’ll learn about the many different options that can be added to your policy to offer you the coverage you need.

Recap: Boston Spring Events

Last week was the official beginning of Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere. As we prepare to feel the higher temperatures (not to mention firing up the grill and preparing to dive in to a swimming pool) we are marking our calendars for some of the great events going on in Boston over the next few months. Are you attending any of these?

  • Easter EggStravaganza! on March 31
  • Taste of Dorchester on April 26
  • Neponset River Cleanup on April 28
  • The Sound of Music from May 1-13
  • Dorchester Day on June 3

These are just a few of the events we covered in our full blog last week. Go to that post for the full details, as well as links to the events.

As the weather improves, we are starting that time of year when we leave our homes more and enjoy all that our wonderful city has to offer. Whether you’re taking a vacation or a day trip, make sure that you brush up on the following safety tips.

When you go out, make sure that someone knows where you are and has a way to contact you. If you’re taking children out with you, make sure they know what to do if they get lost, including how to contact a responsible adult.

So what types of events are you looking forward to attending this Spring? If we missed one, let us know on Facebook. And remember – Vargas and Vargas Insurance is here to help with all of your Massachusetts insurance needs!

Need a Contractor for Your Home Remodel?

If you need some work done on your Massachusetts home, you will need to hire a reputable contractor to oversee the project. A general contractor is the person who will provide labor, equipment, and materials for your project, and will be responsible for hiring subcontractors for the specialized parts of the job. The general contractor will often be the key piece when a home is being remodeled or gaining an addition.

When you’ve never hired a contractor, though, the thought of choosing the right one can be daunting. The types of projects that require a contractor are often large jobs, and you want to make sure that you have the right person in charge. Here are a few tips that can help to ensure that you find the right contractor for your needs:

  • Communication is Key: You want to be updated on the status of your project often, so make sure that you hire a contractor that will communicate with you. You may wish to schedule a recurring weekly meeting with the foreman so that you can get updates and ask questions to your heart’s content.
  • The Lowest Bid Isn’t Always the Best Bid: When it comes to contractors, be wary of accepting the lowest bid on your project. With such an involved task, it’s important to get it done right the first time. And, after all, the saying “You get what you pay for” exists for a reason – you don’t want to hire a contractor that is going to cut corners.
  • Ask for Credentials: It is essential to make sure that your contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured. A contractor should carry up-to-date personal liability insurance, worker’s comp, and property damage coverage. Also check to see if they are a part of any trade organizations like the AGCMA or ABC. And did you know that you can check a construction supervisor license on Mass.gov? You may also want to ask for a list of the contractor’s previous clients that had similar work done, and make sure that you check other reviews.
  • Get a Written Contract: When you think you’ve found the right contractor, make sure that you go over the proposed contract with a fine-tooth comb. The final document should include detailed time-frames and costs, as well as how payment will be handled. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarifications or changes – after all, it’s your home that’s being worked on, and you should be satisfied with what is done.

Once you’ve chosen a contractor and you’re ready for work to begin, it’s important to consider just a few more tips from your favorite Massachusetts insurance agency:

  • Avoid Potential Loss and Damage: Remove breakables and valuables in any area where workers will be.
  • Make Space: It may be helpful for you to make some room for workers to store their tools on-site. Work may be completed faster and more efficiently if workers are able to be organized.
  • Have Answers: At some point, you will likely need to make choices. This could be picking a paint color or flooring, etc. Make your decision in plenty of time so that you don’t inhibit the productivity of the crew.
  • Keep Detailed Records: It never hurts to be thorough, especially when dealing with such a complicated matter. Have a record of all contracts, correspondence, and payment receipts for the job. This will come in handy if there is ever a discrepancy, and at tax time. Also make sure that you get all the warranties for materials and workmanship on the project.
  • Respect Your Neighbors: Make sure that workers know where your property lines are so that they don’t accidentally park vehicles or store items on your neighbor’s territory. It may also be nice to let neighbors know the timeline of your remodel so that they are prepared for how long the construction will last. A baked good or bottle of wine for putting up with the disturbance is also never a bad idea.
  • Focus on the Finish: Often, large and complicated projects like a home remodel can be stressful. It’s important to remember that all of the stress will be worth it in the end.

As a Boston insurance agency, Vargas and Vargas Insurance works with several contractors in the local area, and we would be happy to give you a referral! Call 617-298-0655 and tell us about the project in question, and we can give you the contact information of a contractor in the area that we think will be a great fit for you. You can also request a referral via our Email an Agent page on the website.

While you speak to a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about hiring a contractor, ask about a quick and no-cost review of your home insurance policy. We can ensure that your coverage is ready for the remodel or addition that you are planning, and make sure that you are protected against any liability risks presented by workers on your property.

Happy Spring! Do You Keep Waiting For Flowers To Bloom?

I hope that you are as excited as I am about today, today is the first day of Spring!

With all of this winters storms, this day is so much more special.

I know that it is just a date on the calendar, but it gives us reason to hope that the weather will be changing really soon.

I like to start my week with some words of wisdom,

“You’re frustrated because you keep waiting for the blooming of flowers of which you have yet to sow the seeds.” -Steve Maraboli

Do you have a stack of “stuff” that you intend to let go or get to, but never do?
 
I swear that my wife Kathy is the master of getting things done. She hates to see “stuff” stacked up anywhere. It’s a mindset. I have said before, she is super organized, she has a plan and is amazingly detailed on what she wants and does not want. It’s an addiction for her. Our son Matthew is just like Kathy, Jonathan and I are the exact opposites.
 
Stop Letting Things Pile Up
I have a silent little secret. It’s books, specifically the buying of books. I have decided that I am not going to buy any more books until I read (or given away) the ones that I have piled up. I’ve purchased many books thinking that they would be great reads, or that I would get some great ideas from them, but some have not even been looked at.
 
I have started taking notes on all the ideas that I think are useful and want to incorporate into my business and personal life from the books that I am reading. I am using Evernote to keep track of these ideas.  I will work on implementing these new ideas as hard as I work to read the book.
 
I want you to do the same. I bet you’re subscribed to too many newsletters. Unsubscribe from the ones that are not serving you. And I mean MY Monday Morning Message and our connection, too. If you do not find my writing interesting, or useful, click Unsubscribe at the bottom of the email, or unfollow me on Linkedin. It won’t hurt my feelings at all.
 
You see, I am a believer in the philosophy of “out of everyone you meet, 25% will automatically take a liking to you, 25% will automatically hate you and the other 50% is undecided.” I write these messages for the 25% that like me and the 50% that are still undecided.
 
Stop Adding “Stuff” to Your Life
Are you one of those people who has a plan, not really following it, and so you start looking for a new plan? You may be thinking that you’re not the problem in this equation. You are. And I am too, sometimes.
 
Work on ONE plan. Give it all your effort. Execute that plan. THEN, if it’s not working you can abandon it and try another. You are better off having learned from this failure rather than never having tried it.
 
But neither you nor I have permission to think, “Hmm, I’m not actually doing this anyway, so I’ll go find something else to not do.” Give it your 100% or abandon it completely: half-hearted efforts are a total waste of your time. You won’t be helped by doing this… that’s last year’s mentality.
 
One at a Time
Setting habits is like farming – you need to plant the right seed, tend to it, water it, and with the right amount of sun, air, and fertilizer, you will soon be harvesting the benefits of your hard work. You can’t just throw your seeds into the fertile soil of your business and expect them all to sprout. They’ll choke each other out, be encroached on by weeds or be eaten by the birds (your competitors). It’s a waste of time, effort, and treasure!
 
Plant one seed variety at a time. Nurture it. See the results. And then grow.
 
Spring is here
Start cleaning now. Clean out the sources of information you’re no longer using. Clean out the abundance of half-started plans in your world. And work on what resonates with the one goal you need to work on FIRST.
 
It’s time to shut off the spigot of knowledge and ideas and drink what we have poured. Get into a more measured approach. Choose a path and let that guide you forward.
 
If you need some help elevating your business to the next level, I may be able to help. I have worked with some amazing people who needed help, and I have room to coach a couple of local business people. Just reply to this message and we can set up a time to meet so I can learn about you and your business and see if we are a good fit!
 
Have a great week!

Carlos

PS If you or a client, coworker, family member or a friend who would benefit from our high level of attention to service and competitive rates we provided, I would sincerely appreciate your recommendations.Please text our agency at 617-409-0329 or Click here

PPS What I learned today, “What was Leonardo Da Vinci’s real name” Click here to read more.

Recap: Update Your Insurance After These Life Events

There are many family, friends, and loved ones that you would call after a major life event. Have you ever considered adding your insurance agent to that list? It may seem silly at first, but it turns out that you should talk to your insurance agent about many types of life events, including:

  • Buying a Home or Renting an Apartment
  • Getting Married or Divorced
  • Having Your Home Renovated
  • Acquiring New Valuables like Furniture, Antiques, and Electronics
  • Having or Adopting a Child
  • Letting Your Child Get Their Driver’s License
  • Achieving Retirement

Wondering why some of these may require a chat with your favorite independent insurance agent? It turns out that these events may cause a change in your insurance needs. Check out our full blog post from last week to see why you may need to update your home, auto, and life insurance policies!

If any of these have happened to you recently (or even if it has just been a while since you last called) talk to your insurance agent today! One quick call to 617-298-0655 can update all of your policies in order to make sure that you are fully covered by your insurance policies.

Spring Has Sprung! Boston Events Calendar

It may not feel like it based on the weather we’ve been having recently, but tomorrow, March 20, is the first official day of Spring. That means the cold weather will soon be a thing of the past (the employees here at the Vargas and Vargas Insurance offices are thrilled about that, to be sure) and you can look forward to taking place in many springtime activities here in the Greater Boston Area.

Take the time to add a few events and holidays to your calendar now! Here are just a few of the ones happening around town. Click on the name of the event for more helpful information.

  • NCAA March Madness East Regional Games – TD Garden – March 23 and 25
    Love College Basketball? Don’t miss the opportunity to see your favorite teams play right here in Boston! The East region this year includes teams like (1) Villanova, (2) Purdue, (3) Texas Tech, and (4) Wichita State.
  • 8th Annual Easter EggStravaganza! – Riverside Press Park, Cambridge – March 31, 10 am
    In addition to an Easter Egg Hunt, activities include face painting, raffles, carnival games, and more! This event is sure to be fun for all ages.
  • Trailblazers: Women Who Challenged the Status Quo – Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain – April 8, 2 pm
    Join local history enthusiasts to learn about the trailblazing women of the area. Guest lecturer is author and historian Dee Morris.
  • Taste of Dorchester – 25 Local Restaurants, Dorchester – April 26, 6 pm
    It’s the Taste of Dorchester 10th anniversary, and we’re in for a treat! Sponsored in part by Vargas and Vargas Insurance, this event will highlight dozens of our favorite local restaurants.
  • Neponset River Cleanup – Quincy, Milton & Dorchester – April 28, 9 am
    Keep our community beautiful with the Neponset River Watershed Association and the Department of Conservation and Recreation. There are many locations that need volunteers, so register today!
  • The Sound of Music – Wang Theater, Boston – May 1-13
    A classic musical that is suitable for all ages. Follow the von Trapp family as they thrill Boston audiences in the first two weeks of May.
  • Dorchester Day – Dorchester – June 3, 12 pm
    It’s almost here! Dorchester Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in June each year, and wouldn’t be complete without lots of festivities, including the famous Parade!
  • Take a Tour of the City – Several Locations – Offered Daily
    Often, it’s the residents of a city that have seen the fewest tourist attractions and hotspots. We live in a city with lots of history and culture, so be a tourist for a day! Explore on your own or book a guided tour. There are many tours available depending on your interests, including historical walking tours, movie tours, and even chocolate tours! If you’re a history buff, don’t miss the Freedom Trail – it’s a favorite among the Vargas Insurance staff.

So, which of these festivities will you and your family be taking part in? Wherever you go, keep an eye out for members of the Vargas and Vargas staff. We’re always out and about, and we would love to say hello!

Remember to be safe when you go out, even if it’s just for an afternoon. Make sure that someone knows where you are going, and has a way to contact you. You should make sure to have a fully charged cell phone, and a back-up ride home (even if it’s a ride from Lyft or Uber). If you plan to drink, make sure that you do so responsibly, and that you have a designated driver.

If you’re taking children out for a day trip, there are several safety tips you should know, including:

  • Make sure that your child knows their Name, Address, and an adult’s Phone Number. It is also important to make sure that they know who to share this information with (security guards, police officers, teachers, etc).
  • Children should know how important it is to stay within eyesight when out and about. They should never walk off on their own.
  • If a child does get lost, they should find an appropriate person nearby to help. They should never leave the area or the building.
  • Before eating anything, your child should get your permission. As soon as they are old enough, teach them not to accept food from strangers. Food is an especially significant problem for children with severe allergies, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Our friendly and knowledgeable insurance agents are also available to help with all of your insurance needs this Spring. If you need to clean up your insurance portfolio, make a call to Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655. We are happy to help you check this ‘to-do’ off your list, and maybe even save you some money on your insurance policies in the process! Also stay tuned to our insurance blog this Spring for more helpful tips about insurance, safety tips, and much more.

Recap: Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time started on Sunday, Match 11. Did you turn back your clocks? Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we have been enjoying the start of Summer Time, and look forward to having daylight further into the evening (and the temperature rise that will accompany it).

Did you take our suggestion to perform any home maintenance tasks while you were updating your clocks? If you need a quick reminder, here are some of the bi-annual tasks that we suggested:

  • Change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Test your home’s security system.
  • Clean carpets and rugs, shower curtains, and your pantry and fridge.
  • Flip the mattresses in your home.
  • Restock your home’s emergency kit according to the recommendations on Ready.gov.

And make sure that you check out the original Daylight Saving Time blog post for additional history and fun facts about DST that you can share with your family and friends.

We would love to heat about which of these chores you got checked off your list! And remember, Vargas and Vargas Insurance agents are always available to help with all of your insurance needs, whether it’s Standard Time or Saving Time – just call our office at 617-298-0655 to speak with a Massachusetts insurance expert.

Recap: Bicycle Safety

Did you see our post from last week about how bicycles are an increasingly popular form of transportation here in Massachusetts? As Spring arrives and you brush the snow off of your bike, make sure to consider these tips from your favorite local insurance agency:

  • Ensure that you are visible when you ride, especially at night.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, don’t wear headphones while cycling.
  • Know the rules of the road before you take your bike out for a spin.
  • Secure your bike when you’re not riding it – always have it locked in a garage or with a U-lock.
  • Avoid being targeted by thieves; vary the location where you lock up your bike.
  • List your bike and its accessories on your home inventory for insurance purposes.
  • Sign up for the National Bike Registry.

Not sure if biking is right for you? Boston has a bike rental program called Hubway where you can rent a bike for a day or get an annual pass for unlimited rentals.

If you have any questions or concerns about insuring your bicycle or its accessories, just talk to a Massachusetts insurance expert at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. We are available from Monday-Friday 8:30am – 5:30pm by phone at 617-298-0655 or come visit us in person at our office in Dorchester or Stoughton.

Consider a Strategic Business Alliance to Expand Client Base

 

A business alliance with a company that provides products or services that complement those of your company may help you grow your business.

One reason to consider a business alliance is that it does not have to be a legal partnership requiring contracts and lawyers. You may team up in an informal arrangement with another business, to share customer contacts and marketing strategies. This type of group effort may save both businesses money.

When pooling your resources with that of another company, this may enable both of you to diversify your product and service offerings. This may have the potential of expanding your clientele considerably. You may pool your resources with advertising, internet marketing, participating in local festivals or trade shows, and effectively cut back on expenses.

Before you make a decision on a business alliance, you should do some research on how much business you potential business partner does, what kind of market presence they have. After all, you do not want to partner up with a business that is only waiting for you to send them business and not be reciprocating.

Should you not want to have such a structured framework for your business alliance, you may consider an arrangement in which your company and another company simply refer each other to customers for certain kinds of jobs. Any business expansion may bring with it a need for additional Massachusetts business insurance coverage. You may want to contact your agent to determine any extra policies you may need.*

If you have decided to start such an alliance, it’s important to move slowly and see if in fact you and your partner are really compatible in the “real world”. And many such alliances may make both partners look better.

When you experience business growth, you may want to consider reviewing your Massachusetts business insurance policies in case you need additional financial protection.

Should you have additional questions or wish to learn more about setting up an alliance, please call me at 617-298-0655 ext 101 or leave a message below.

Carlos