Choosing a Real Estate Agent to Sell Your Home

Whether you’re moving across the country or across the street, selling your home can be a stressful process. You want to make sure that you get top dollar for it, while also working on picking out a new place to live that’s (as Goldilocks would say) just right for your family.

Thankfully, you have lots of options when you choose someone to help you sell your home. If you’re looking for advice on how to choose a Massachusetts real estate agent, look no further. Here are a few tips from our Boston home insurance professionals.

Who Should You Trust to Sell Your Home?

When you’re looking to put your home on the market, you have several options of how to list it. Let’s break them down:

You could sell “By Owner,” but this is often a huge mistake. Selling a home is a complicated process, and it’s not worth it just to save a little bit of money on a real estate agent’s commission. In fact, you may even lose money by not getting the best possible sale price.

In the worst-case scenario, you could potentially end up in a legal battle because of your lack of knowledge and expertise. Just like you probably wouldn’t consider representing yourself in court, don’t sell a home without a qualified and knowledgeable professional guiding you. This is where a Realtor comes in.

The Signs of a Great Real Estate Agent

When you’re scouting out real estate agents to meet with, make sure that you find out if your candidates are full-time agents. You want to make sure that you work with someone that is knowledgeable about your neighborhood and knows what they are doing, so try to avoid those ‘part time’ agents who consider real estate a ‘side job.’

It’s important for your Realtor to know about the process of buying and selling a home, but make sure that you choose one that is also knowledgeable about houses themselves. Your real estate agent should be able to walk through your home and point out things that buyers will like, and things that you should consider changing to make the property more attractive.

In addition to being knowledgeable about how to stage your home, your agent should also have marketing expertise. The real estate marketing game has changed a lot in recent years, so you need to make sure that you hire an agent that is going to leverage the most current techniques to get the word out about your house. Ask agents about their typical marketing plan, specifically the digital channels they will use to make sure that potential buyers see your home.

You will need to talk to your real estate agent a lot throughout the process of selling your home, so make sure that you talk to candidates about their communication. Don’t settle for someone that is going to agree to sell your home and then move on to another client – find a Realtor that is going to keep you informed about what they’re doing to sell your home, preferably someone who will proactively communicate so that you never feel like you’re always the one asking for updates and details.

Last (but certainly not least), make sure that you find a real estate agent that truly cares about you and your home. Your real estate agent should be focused on getting to know you and helping set you up for success in selling your home – not solely on increasing their commission. While you’re interviewing potential real estate agents as you prepare to list your home, make sure that you never feel like the means to a bottom line.

When choosing an agent, you need to also do your homework. Instead of relying solely on interviews with the agents themselves, ask for a list of each agent’s recent clients. Call a few and ask about the experience they had with the agent. Also check the agents license to ensure that it is current and that no formal complaints or disciplinary actions have been filed against the agent.

All of this can be a little overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re having trouble finding the right Massachusetts real estate agent to sell your home, call us! As an insurance agency, we have worked with many Realtors in the area, and we would love to give you a referral for an agent that will meet all of the qualifications outlined above.

When you’ve sold your home and are ready to move into a new place, make sure that you make the call to 617-298-0655 to talk to a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent. We can set you up with a new home insurance policy in no time! We will evaluate your needs and risk tolerance along with the details surrounding your new home to craft a policy that fits your needs.

The Most Common Threats for Business Owners

It could drive a person crazy to think about the many things that might potentially go wrong over the course of any given day. And yet, sometimes failing to acknowledge what’s out there can lead to an avoidable situation. If you’re thinking about upgrading or buying commercial insurance for your new business in Dorchester, MA, it’s worth noting the following facts from your friends at Vargas & Vargas Insurance. We provide commercial insurance for hard-working business owners around the state of Massachusetts. Here are a few reasons to get protection.

Criminal Activity  

Criminal activity today doesn’t just mean a person breaking the door to your stockroom and stealing all of your available inventory. It can also mean someone breaking into your computer systems and stealing customer data or holding your files hostage for ransom. It can even be a person assaulting an employee at the end of their shift. It can also mean a group of kids just looking to cause a little mischief on a weekend night. Wherever the criminal element may come from, it’s the owner’s responsibility to take care of any physical or emotional damages that may result. 

Lawsuits, Weather, and More 

From an employee suing the company for wrongful discrimination to an odd blizzard in Dorchester, MA, there are plenty of reasons why a business owner should worry about the state of their business. It only takes a few broken windows to wipe out several days worth of income, which is just one reason why an owner could use a good backup plan.

For a better chance at handling everything that may come your way, it helps to have a commercial insurance policy that works for you. Giving Vargas & Vargas Insurance a call today can make it easier for business owners to handle it all. Reach out to our agents to discuss a policy and have your questions answered.

Recap: Earth Day Celebrations

“Earth Day should encourage us to reflect on what we are doing to make our planet a more sustainable and livable place.” – Scott Peters

We celebrated Earth Day on Sunday, April 22. what did you do to make the world a better place? If you haven’t yet had a chance to make an impact on the environment, here is a recap of a few of the suggestions that we gave.

First, everyone should take the opportunity to learn more about the planet, and how we can help it. There are many debates going on in today’s world about what’s harming the Earth, but regardless of your beliefs, there is still an upside to many of the suggestions we have! In addition, you can:

  • Plant a tree to promote clean air or a small garden to provide yourself with food. Planting flowers could aid your local bee population.
  • Cook a meal that is Earth-friendly using local foods from small farms and favoring vegetables over meat.
  • Reduce the waste you produce or recycle more. Start by donating or selling items that you don’t need instead of throwing them out.
  • Use less water and energy in your daily routine. Have you installed a low flow faucet, toilet, or shower head?

If you want to keep the Earth Day celebrations going, try incorporating one (or several) of these into your routine. You could even go one step further and make a bigger impact by starting a campaign at your workplace to recycle or reduce energy usage.

It’s Time to Improve Your Backyard for the Summer!

Summer will be in full swing before you know it – is your backyard ready? As we prepare to enjoy the warm weather here in the Greater Boston area, we have some great ideas for ways that you can improve your home’s backyard so that you can make the summer of 2018 the best one yet!

The Grill is Paramount

Grilling is one of the most anticipated events of any summer. We can’t wait to get outside and make our first hamburger. Remember this when you’re making improvements to your backyard – find a place for your grill (away from low hanging tree branches and a safe distance from your home) and make it a great place to hang out. Also make sure that your grill rests on a solid foundation so that it won’t tip over. And when the hot dogs and hamburgers are tucked away, grill up some fruit or s’mores for dessert!

Prepare the Pool

Do you have a pool? If so, it’s time to get it ready for summertime with the necessary treatments. It’s also important to review the ‘pool rules’ with children. If you don’t have a pool, don’t stress – there are plenty of other options for cooling off without spending a fortune. An above-ground pool has many of the benefits without the expense of an in-ground pool. If you just want to relax to the sound of running water, consider adding a water feature to your landscaping.

Relaxation Zones

Many people will choose to take a good book out into their backyard to enjoy the weather. Is there a space in your backyard that calls to you? If not, maybe it’s time to make one! A hammock is always a welcome addition, but any comfortable chair will do! A side table is also essential – after all, you will need a place to set your cold drink!

Cookout Inspiration

Throwing a cookout? To make it stand out, take inspiration from a tailgate. There doesn’t have to be a game afterwards – what’s important is that a tailgate is a great place for food and fun, which is exactly what you want at a backyard party. They cornerstone to a good tailgate (and cookout) is, of course, the food. Have a variety of main fare and snacks available, along with plenty of beverages. If you are serving alcohol, do so conscientiously, and make sure there are plenty of nonalcoholic options as well.

Another important thing you should consider for your cookout is the entertainment that you find at a tailgate. Sure, some simple setups include a radio, but your cookout guests will love to have some yard games set up. Cornhole, Horseshoes, and Bocce are classic, but there are many other options available nowadays, including games like Lawn Jenga – doesn’t that sound like fun?

Tackle a Big Project

If you have some time and money to invest in your yard, consider taking on a bigger improvement project. There are plenty of ways to upgrade… here are just a few examples:

  • As we mentioned earlier, an above-ground pool is a great way to incorporate swimming in your backyard without as much construction (or cost) as an in-ground pool. You might also want to consider a hot tub if you want to extend your backyard time to include the Spring and Fall.
  • Adding a fire pit is a fun project to add some flair to your yard. Perfect for chilly Summer and Fall nights, a fire pit is a great place to gather as a family without electronics and spend quality time – especially if there is food involved! Check out these great fire pit recipes for inspiration.
  • For those that spend a lot of time tending their garden, a tool shed might be a welcome addition to your backyard. If you haven’t tried gardening yet, consider it as a new hobby – creating something beautiful or even edible from a seed can be gratifying.
  • If you’re up for a bit more of a challenge, consider adding a deck or porch to your home. They’re the perfect place to enjoy the weather without being exposed to the outside completely. Something covered and screened in will even keep the sun off your back and will keep the majority of the bugs away, which is always a plus.

As always, make sure that you consult a professional and have the proper paperwork completed before you start a big project on your property. If you need a referral for a professional to help with a project you’re considering, ask us! At Vargas and Vargas Insurance, we work with many Massachusetts professionals, and we would be happy to give you a referral!

Update Your Home Insurance

Last, but certainly not least, take this opportunity to have a Massachusetts home insurance professional review and update your home insurance policy. Some of these improvements (like the patio and pool) will add value to your home, so your insurance will need to be updated to reflect that. A review doesn’t take long – just call 617-298-0655 to speak to a Vargas and Vargas Insurance representative.

Recap: Spending Your Tax Refund

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin

Tax Day for this year has officially come and gone – are you waiting on a refund? It is estimated that 80% of people receive refunds on their income taxes, so let us ask you this – What are you going to spend your refund money on? If you want your windfall to go to work for you, here are a few ideas on how to spend it:

  • Pay off your existing debts, like your mortgage, car loan, student loans, or credit card balances. Most financial planning experts recommend paying off the one with the highest interest rate first.
  • Make improvements to your Boston area home, whether it’s to put off the cost of routine maintenance, improve your energy efficiency, or starting that DIY project you’ve been eyeing.
  • Invest the money in an emergency fund or a retirement account.
  • Take a vacation with your family to relax or make fun memories.

You could also use your 2018 tax refund to prepare for the unexpected with a Massachusetts life insurance policy. For more information, call our five-star insurance agency at 617-298-0655. We can explain to you the difference between whole and term life insurance, and help you decide which policy is right for you with a free quote. Don’t wait any longer, call now!

Steps to Take After Closing on a Boston Home

Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or you’ve been through the home buying process before, you may ask yourself: “Ok, closing is over… now what?” The truth is that once all the paperwork is signed, you’ve got your work cut out for you! Here are a few things to add to your “Post Closing To-Do List.”

Store Your Important Documents

When you close on a home, you will be entrusted with many papers regarding your home. When in doubt, don’t throw it out! Keep these papers in a safe place in case you need them in the future. One of the best things that you can do is scan these papers and store them in the cloud, keeping the originals in a safe deposit box.

Put Safety First

Without question, one of the first things you should do when you get the keys to your new place is to change the locks. You never know who holds a copy of the existing locks, so it’s best to start fresh. The cost that you incur will be well worth the peace of mind that it brings to know that copies of your homes keys are floating around the neighborhood, especially given the possibility that previous homeowners could have given out copies to maintenance workers or others. Also make sure that you update the pin number on the existing security system, if you choose to renew the service.

Clean to Your Own Standards

The home is empty, so this may be your only opportunity to do a deep cleaning without having furniture in the way. If you are particular about how things are done you may opt to do the initial cleaning yourself. Otherwise, there are many home cleaning services in the Boston area that would be happy to do a one-time job that will get into every nook and cranny so that you can start with a (literal) clean slate.

Now is also a great time to have a pest control service come to treat your property. Some mortgage lenders will require this as a part of their contract, but it is probably a good idea regardless.

Make Improvements

After everything has been cleaned, you may choose to make some improvements to your new home. The complexity of the improvements that you choose is up to you! You could decide that your home is perfect as-is, or that it simply needs a new coat of paint. Painting is an easy way to give a home a fresh feeling, and to make it feel more like your own space.

There are also more involved projects that you may want to take on, like remodeling the kitchen or adding a pool. It’s your home – the sky is the limit!

Familiarize Yourself with Necessities

When you own a home, there are a few things that you need to be able to locate in a jiffy. One is the water system shutoff. If a pipe ever bursts, you don’t want to have to wonder where to go to stop the water. Also check the breaker box and make sure that everything is well labeled, and that there is a battery-operated light nearby so that you’re ready for a power outage.

Before you move in, have a professional check and perform maintenance on your home’s cooling and heating systems, as well as the electrical outlets and plumbing. You probably already had a professional inspection, but it never hurts to have the first maintenance out of the way so that you can establish a routine.

Now is also a great time to ensure that the home’s smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Add a recurring reminder to your calendar to check these detectors twice a year – typically it is recommended that this be done during the Daylight Saving Time clock changes.

Move In!

Once you have done the things outlined above, it’s time to start moving in! This is pretty self-explanatory, just make sure that you’re careful if you or any loved ones does any of the heavy lifting – the last thing you need when trying to set up a new home is an injury. If you’re hiring professional movers, check to make sure that they have the right insurance coverage so that you can’t be held liable if any of their workers are injured on the job. Last but not least, ask your Massachusetts insurance agent about how your possessions will be covered during your move, and how you should file a claim if anything is damaged or broken.

Ensure That You’re Prepared

You never know when trouble will strike, so make sure that you’re ready for anything. Create or practice your family emergency plan. Make sure that all members of your household know where the emergency kit is kept, and how to use everything in it. Also keep a list of emergency contacts where everyone can access it, including the phone number for your favorite local insurance agency.

As a new homeowner, you need to make sure that you have the right insurance protection. This means buying the right amount of coverage, not just the minimum amount required by your lender. To find out what types of coverage you should have for your Boston home, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655.

Recap: Credit Score

“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.” – Andrew Carnegie

Every person has a few numbers that define them. One of the most important financial numbers in your life is your credit score. This number affects your life in many ways, including whether you will be eligible for car loans and mortgages, and the interest you pay on these loans.

But don’t believe everything that you hear about your credit score. There are many myths floating around, including:

  • Your credit score measures how rich or poor you are
  • It doesn’t matter how much of your available credit that you use
  • Only one person in a relationship has to have good credit
  • You have to carry a balance to have a good score

For more information about what a credit score determines, and how you can raise yours, check out our full blog post from last week. We even gave some tips on how to establish credit for the first time and a few ways that you can improve your credit score.

And remember, at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency we can help you with your home insurance once your great credit helps you get approved for a mortgage, or your car insurance if you’re in the market for a new vehicle. Call 617-298-0655 for a free car or home insurance quote.

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day?

Earth Day is celebrated across the globe on April 22 of every year. It’s a simple reminder of how important it is to treat this planet that we all call home with respect. Take a minute of your time to read a few suggestions on actions you can take to make our world a better place. After all, if every person aimed to leave the world in a better state each day, we would be in great position to thrive!

Why Do We Celebrate Earth Day?

Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 in the midst of outcry for environmental reform. Most events happened on college campuses, with other schools also participating. Since then, it has become a global holiday, with many countries choosing to extend the holiday by recognizing an “Earth Week.” Participation has also expanded significantly, with companies also choosing to celebrate and become more environmentally conscious.

This Earth Day, how will you choose to do your part for the environment. Here are just a few suggestions on things that you can do!

Learn More About Helping the Planet

There are tons of resources available today to learn more about ways that the planet needs help. The city of Boston has a Greenovate initiative, where they are “working to get all Bostonians involved in reducing the pollution that causes global climate change.” That is a great place to start, where you can learn about the city’s Climate Action Plan and find sustainability events on their community calendar.

Plant Something

Expanding civilization unfortunately often means removing local plants. Make up for a little bit of what’s been lost by planting something new:

  • Trees will help to clean the air and will eventually provide lovely shady spots. Make sure that you plant it far enough away from structures so that the roots won’t eventually cause an issue.
  • Flowers will sometimes attract butterflies and provide pollen for bees. Depending on what you want, check to see what flowers are local to the area. There are plenty of benefits to having flowers in your home!
  • This time in April is the perfect time to plant a garden! Choose some easy-to-grow vegetables if it’s your first time planting, and you will soon be reaping the rewards with your own locally-grown produce.

Eat Earth-Friendly Food

Even if you don’t want to go to the effort of planting your own garden, you can still help the earth by eating locally grown food. This local food hasn’t travelled that far to get to you, so there is very little energy wasted in transportation.

Find some local fruits, vegetables, and more at the many farmers markets that are in this area during the Spring and Summer months or choose to patronize a local restaurant with a focus on farm to table cuisine.

Reduce Your Waste

In school, many of us were taught to “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” but do you still follow those practices? You could probably reduce the amount of waste you create with a few very simple actions, like using reusable grocery bags when you shop, or using a metal or glass bottle or a mug instead of plastic bottles or Styrofoam cups. For the waste that is inevitable, make sure that you recycle the things that are eligible through Boston’s recycling program. For other items, consider donation instead of throwing things away.

Save Water and Energy

Many places in the Greater Boston Area are very walkable and bike-able. Save a little bit of fuel and get some exercise on your next trip out instead of taking the car. You can also save energy by using less air conditioning, or by switching to energy-saving light bulbs in your home.

Water is also important to conserve. Do so by shortening your shower and turning off the tap when it’s not directly in use. You can also install a low-flow shower head and aerator in your bathroom to save water well into the future.

Extend the Celebrations

Taking one day to recognize our inherent commitment to the Earth is great, but what about the other 364 days of the year? Treat Earth Day like you would New Year’s Day – make a resolution to form or change a habit for the future! Even better, encourage others to do so as well. This could make a huge difference for the planet!

Don’t forget – many insurance providers will offer a discount for going paperless! This means you could help the environment by reducing waste and save yourself money at the same time! To see if you qualify for this discount, call your Massachusetts insurance agent at 617-298-0655.

We could use some suggestions for how we should celebrate at the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency office. If you have an idea for something we can do to make Massachusetts a more beautiful place, send us an email, or send us a message on Facebook.

Recap: Insurance Mistakes

“Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing patience and being persistent.” – Billy Graham

As the saying goes, “To err is human.” That doesn’t mean, however, that you should be ok with making easily avoidable mistakes. This includes the insurance mistakes that we detailed in our blog post last week! At Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, our experienced Massachusetts insurance agents will give you advice and review your insurance policies to ensure that you don’t make common insurance mistakes like these:

  • Insuring your home for its market value instead of the cost to rebuild.
  • Not having a home inventory in the event that you suffer a major loss.
  • Skipping out on policies like flood insurance and umbrella insurance.
  • Buying only the minimum amount of liability insurance with your auto policy.
  • Forgetting to weigh in on the premium vs. deductible trade-off.
  • Paying for unnecessary business insurance policies.
  • Failing to update your insurance policies regularly.

Want a free and no-obligation insurance review? Just call our agency at 617-298-0655 to talk to a great Boston insurance agent about whether your policies will provide the necessary amount of coverage if you make a claim. Also take a minute to subscribe to our blog so that you don’t miss any of our great upcoming content, including insurance tips and tricks, summertime topics, life in Boston, and much more.

How to Spend Your Tax Refund

Tax Day is almost here! Have you submitted your Federal and Massachusetts income taxes yet? If you have, you may have received a tax refund! Whether you receive any money (and, if so, how much you receive) is different for every person, but one thing is always the same: the need to put that refund money to good use.

Sure, some people will look at their tax refund as an unexpected windfall and use it to purchase a luxury item or put it toward a vacation, but it’s just as easy to make that money work for you! Here are just a few ideas on how to use your payout wisely.

Pay off debt. It may seem like a boring way to spend your refund, but paying off debts now will mean spending less in interest in the future. Can’t decide what to pay off? Personal finance professionals recommend focusing on ‘expensive’ debt – that means paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first.

Start an emergency fund. If your debt is already under control, maybe you should put the money into a savings account. It is often recommended that everyone has at least three months’ worth of living expenses put aside for emergencies. It may seem like a lot, but you will be glad to have that money ready to go if you lose your job, have to pay for an expensive car repair, or make a trip to the emergency room. Remember – that’s three (or more) months’ worth of your typical expenses, not income.

Plan for your child’s future. If you have a family, you know how expensive it can be to raise children. You feel like you’re spending a fortune on diapers when they’re infants, and it only gets worse from there. If you have decided to help with your kid’s secondary education (or if you want to buy them a car or contribute to their wedding) you should start saving sooner rather than later. For education savings, look into the benefits of a 529 plan over a traditional savings account.

Protect your family. It’s impossible to know what the future holds for each of us – that’s why it is so important to have the right insurance protection. If you were to unexpectedly pass away, what expenses would you leave for your family? A life insurance policy would help with funeral expenses and other burdens, so talk to your Massachusetts insurance agent about how you can use your tax refund money to set up this policy and protect your loves ones.

Invest in your future. Are you putting money into your retirement accounts? Most people are, but very few people know when they will be able to retire based on their savings projections. One thing is for certain – money put into a savings account early will grow much more than money saved at the last minute. Consider using some of your tax refund to give your retirement accounts a much-deserved boost.

Improve your home. You spend a lot of time in your home, so maybe you should spend some of your tax refund making improvements. There are lots of DIY projects that you can take on in a weekend that will make a huge difference in your home, like planting a garden, installing crown molding, or making an art project to fill a blank space on a wall. You could even just save a portion of your refund for the inevitable repairs and maintenance that comes as a part of homeownership.

It’s also important to remember that your Massachusetts home insurance policy could cover you for certain repairs. If you have any questions about whether your situation is covered, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency!

Pay it forward. Donating a part of your tax refund not only feels great, but if you save your receipt and it could reduce your tax bill for next year! There are even several health benefits associated with donating to charity.

And, there is one more thing that you could use your tax refund for – At the end of the day, if you want to use your tax refund to make memories with your loved ones, that is great too! Where will your next vacation take you? Many young families save for a trip to Disney World, but if you prefer to stay local, there are lots of vacation spots here in the state of Massachusetts, from the Berkshires all the way to Cape Cod!

So, will you follow this advice and put your tax refund money toward one (or more) of these goals? If you want to learn more about the benefits of having a life insurance policy, call 617-298-0655 and speak to a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent. We can tell you all the ways that this policy will help protect your loved ones, and whether a term or a whole life insurance policy is right for you. We can even give you a free quote, making sure that you get the maximum discounts on your new protection.