How Flood Insurance Works, How Much Does It Cost, and How It Protects the Homeowner

How Flood Insurance Works and Costs

Many homeowners in Massachusetts don’t know that their standard insurance policies don’t cover flood damage. Flood insurance is a separate policy designed to protect and compensate property owners for physical damage caused to a property’s structure and personal belongings.

In this post, we’ll share how flood insurance works and how it protects the homeowner. Using this information, you can determine if you need flood insurance and learn where to get it.

What Flood Insurance Covers

Depending on your policy, flood insurance coverage can pay up to $250,000 for structural damage and $100,000 for personal possessions. Filing a flood insurance claim is no different from filing a regular claim on your homeowners or car insurance. Following your claim application, an insurance adjuster will survey the damage, after which you’ll have to submit a “proof of loss” form, which contains every damaged item within 60 days.

Here’s a breakdown of the coverage:

Structural Damage

Flood insurance provides replacement cost coverage for primary residence and actual cash value coverage for vacation homes. A standard policy pays for structural damage to a building’s foundation, cracks or bulging in walls and ceilings, damp floors, roof, etc. Some policies can also cover damage caused to plumbing, heating and cooling, and electrical systems.

Personal Property Damage

Apart from structural damage, flood insurance also covers damage to furniture, window treatment (curtains, drapes), electronic appliances, art, and other valuables. However, in this case, coverage is offered on an actual cash value basis only, meaning insurers will take depreciation into account.

What Flood Insurance Doesn’t Cover

The following is a list of items not covered by a flood insurance policy:

  • Mold damage
  • Currency, precious metal, and documents
  • Outdoor property like gardens, decks, patios, sewage systems, pools, etc.
  • Temporary accommodation in extreme flood cases
  • Vehicles

How Much Does Flood Insurance Cost in Massachusetts?

The cost of flood insurance premiums in Massachusetts varies according to your city and your property’s location. The rule of thumb is, the closer your property is to a high-risk flood zone, the higher the premium. On average, residents in the Bay State who are in a preferred flood zone will pay around $550 per year, but someone who is in a federal flood zone will pay an average $1,300 per year for about $250,000 in coverage.

How to Get Flood Insurance

Now that you know how flood insurance works and what it covers, the next step is to purchase a policy. The Federal Government provides flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). However, they do not sell insurance policies directly but through private insurance companies. A local insurance agent or company in Massachusetts can help you purchase a policy from the NFIP. Once approved, it takes around 30 days before the policy goes into effect unless you purchase flood insurance while taking out a mortgage.

Protect Your Property with Vargas & Vargas Insurance

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we offer top-rated insurance services that will help you keep your property safe and protected from a flood. All our clients enjoy customized insurance coverage to match their unique needs, and we offer affordable prices. Contact us today for a free quote.

What Is Umbrella Insurance, and What Does it Cover and Cost?

Understanding Umbrella Insurance and What it Does (& Doesn’t) Cover

Sometimes, a standard homeowners or automobile insurance policy isn’t enough to get you out of financial trouble, especially in the event of a huge and potentially devastating liability claim above the liability limits of your policies. This is where Umbrella insurance coverage comes to the rescue and helps avoid or minimize the financial repercussions of major property damage or extensive bodily injuries caused by you.

In this post, we’ll briefly share what Umbrella insurance is and what an Umbrella insurance policy does (& doesn’t) cover so you can decide whether it’s time for a policy upgrade.

What is Umbrella Insurance?

Think of Umbrella insurance as a fail-safe for your financial assets in the event of a liability lawsuit that extends your homeowners’ and automobile’ policy’s limits. An Umbrella policy can help anyone, especially those found legally responsible for causing extensive property damage and/or injuries to other parties. The following are some incidents that may require an Umbrella policy:

  • Your dog runs out of your apartment or home and viciously attacks a pedestrian or neighbor. They can sue you for medical bills, emotional distress, and lost wages.
  • Your teenage son or daughter throws a party on your property while you’re away. An underage guest gets arrested for driving under the influence, and you get sued for negligence.
  • A potential homebuyer visits your property on a rainy day and slips and falls down the stairs because of a roof leak.
  • You injure someone in an auto mobile accident, and they sue you above the limits that you carry on your automobile insurance policy.

What Umbrella Insurance Covers

Umbrella insurance covers damages beyond standard homeowners and automobile insurance policy limits as well as claims not covered in liability policies. Here’s a breakdown of the coverage:

Bodily Injury

Regardless of the cause, an Umbrella insurance policy will help cover the medical bills and/or lawsuits that exceed your insurance limit.

Property Damage

If you accidentally damage someone’s property or personal belongings with repair costs exceeding your insurance limit, Umbrella insurance can kick in to cover the remaining cost. For instance, if you lose control while driving and crash into your rental home, this additional policy could help cover for restoration.

Legal Costs

In the event of a lawsuit, and Umbrella insurance policy will cover your lawyer fees when you have to defend yourself in court.

What Umbrella Insurance Doesn’t Cover

The following is a list of items not covered by an Umbrella insurance policy:

  • The policy holder’s personal property was damaged in an incident
  • Business losses
  • Criminal or intentional damage-causing actions (arson, theft, physical assault, etc.)
  • Written or oral third-party contracts
  • ▪       Flood and earthquake damage

How Much Does Umbrella Insurance Cost in Massachusetts?

The cost of Umbrella insurance in Massachusetts varies based on two essential factors – Your insurance limit and risk exposure. You can buy Umbrella liability policies in increments of $1 million. The higher the limits, the higher the coverage costs. Similarly, insurance companies evaluate risk exposure based on the number of properties and vehicles/watercraft, driving record, occupation, and age, among other factors. The higher your risks, the higher the coverage costs. On average, Bay Staters can expect a $1 million policy to cost around $160 to $500.

Get More Protection with Vargas & Vargas Insurance

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we offer top-rated  Umbrella insurance policies designed to offer maximum compensation in the event of extensive property damage and bodily injuries. Our clients enjoy customized insurance coverage to match their unique needs at incredibly affordable prices. Contact us today for a free quote.

How a Renters Insurance Policy Protects You

Living uninsured in a rental home can put you at risk of personal liability and property damage. Learn how a renters insurance policy protects the renter
What Renters Insurance Does (& Doesn’t) Cover

Are you planning to rent a residence in Massachusetts? Consider a renters policy to protect yourself against the financial impact of unexpected personal property damage, theft, and legal liability. A renters insurance policy is designed to do just that and help protect tenants, their personal belongings, and the occupied property from the financial aftermath of an unfortunate event or accident.

In this post, we’ll share how a renters insurance policy protects the renter so readers can better understand its importance and where to get the best coverage in Massachusetts.

What Renters Insurance Covers

A renters or tenant insurance policy covers renters from the financial repercussions of unexpected or unpreventable events on their rented homes or apartments. Here’s a breakdown of the coverage:

Personal Property Damage

Standard renters insurance policies cover Personal Property Damage in the event of a fire, smoke, vandalism, explosion, plumbing issue, and other listed disasters. You can opt for one of the two policies – Replacement Cost and Actual Cash Value. Replacement Cost covers the full cost of replacing damaged possessions, whereas Actual Cash Value takes depreciation into account, meaning the compensation will depend on your possessions’ usage and age.

Personal Liability

Personal Liability covers property damage and bodily injuries caused by you, your family, and your pets. In case of a lawsuit, the liability portion of a renters insurance policy can pay for medical bills and repairs, as well as the legal costs for your defense in court. The compensation amount typically starts at $100,000 but can be raised higher depending on your needs.

Additional Living Expenses

Additional Living Expenses (ALE) coverage pays for temporary accommodation and expenses when your rented home or apartment is undergoing restoration or renovation following damage. Typical expenses include restaurant bills, transport, hotel bills, and temporary rentals.

What Renters Insurance Doesn’t Cover

The following is a list of items not covered by a Renters insurance policy:

  • Pest infestation
  • Earthquake and flood damage
  • Vehicle theft or damage (Belongings inside the vehicle are covered)
  • Roommate property and personal belongings

How Much Does Renters Insurance Cost in Massachusetts?

Renters insurance rates vary according to the state and where you’re shopping from. The average cost of renters insurance in Massachusetts is $192, or about $16 per month. Your location in the state also influences your cost. For example, if your residence is a region prone to natural disasters like severe storms, floods, wildfires, landslides, you’ll most likely have to pay more than the average. Similarly, if your neighborhood has a crime rate, this will also affect your overall cost.

How to File a Renters Insurance Claim

The following are the main steps for filing a renters insurance claim. However, keep in mind that your claims process may vary on the type and extent of the damage:

  • Contact your insurance company or agent as soon as you and your family are secure (in case of fire, theft, vandalism, etc.)
  • Seek emergency repairs to secure the property’s structural integrity. Make sure all the damage is documented in writing with photos and video footage for proof of damage.
  • Answer all the questions related to the damage asked by the agent and insurance adjuster
  • Discuss your policy’s coverage with your agent to understand what applies to your situation and the compensation limits

Secure Yourself with Vargas & Vargas Insurance

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we offer top-rated insurance services that will help keep you and your family protected from unexpected events on your rented property. All our clients enjoy customized insurance coverage to match their unique needs, and we offer affordable prices. Contact us today for a free quote.

Factors that Affect the Cost of Home Insurance

Your mortgage company will require home insurance for homeownership today. The insurance policy protects your house and possessions from harm and ensures that you can protect yourself from liability in cases of financial and physical loss.

However, since homeowner insurance rates vary from house to house, residents may like to know just how much they’ll be required to pay towards full insurance. In this article, we look at the factors that affect the total cost of home insurance. Study these factors to get an idea of how your insurance rate will be determined.

Area of Residence

Your area of residence is perhaps the biggest factor impacting the total cost of insurance. Homeowners in the state of Louisiana pay three times as much for home insurance than homeowners in Oregon. Natural disasters, political instability, and crime rates play a significant role in determining rates. Rates can vary from city to city, even within the same state.

Home Price

A home with a higher price often takes more to insure because the cost of rebuilding it will be higher. Coverage is provided with the cost of rebuilding in mind. Hence, insurers would like to know what your home costs right now.

Assets Covered

Your home insurance will cost more if you have collectibles and, like antiques, firearms, gold, and silver etc. have more things covered. Besides repair and rebuilding, you should include personal belongings, living expenses, and liability against lawsuits in your home insurance policy.

Home’s Age

The current age and condition of your home can also impact the total cost of insurance. Older homes often come with premium construction materials that are harder to replace. Older homes sometimes have outdated plumbing and electrical systems are also exposed to greater risk.

While the cost of home insurance can vary based on the factors provided above, it shouldn’t come as a deterrent to purchasing the right home coverage. Regardless of what it costs you to insure your home, your home is most likely your most valuable asset. You should purchase the right insurance from a local independent insurance agent to save yourself from huge losses down the line.

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we offer top-rated insurance services that will help you keep your business safe during the winter season. All our clients enjoy customized insurance coverage to match their unique needs as we offer affordable prices. So contact us today for a free quote.

Should You Insure Your Pricey Gifts?

Couple exchanging pricey gifts that require additional insurance

The hallmark of the holiday season is purchasing and exchanging gifts with your loved ones. It makes the festive season memorable. So before you stroll out of the jewelers with a $10,000 necklace, make sure you insure any pricey gifts.

Gifts like contemporary art, collectibles, and heirlooms also need insurance coverage. For such items, you can include them in your home insurance coverage with a scheduled floater, rider, or endorsement. Your insurance provider will take you through the steps.

Tips to Insure Your Pricey Gifts

The gifts like art and heirlooms that could increase in value, fur, and jewelry usually need receipts or an appraisal letter from certified professionals to get insurance coverage. Below are tips on how to get the right insurance for your expensive gifts:

1. Consider Standalone Policies for Your Expensive Gifts

If the person you’re gifting doesn’t have home or condominium insurance, then you can consider getting a standalone policy for that gift. It may even be beneficial to view a standalone policy. Here’s why:

  • If the gift is for business/work, then a standalone policy would be the best option.
  • If the gift requires a different policy, such as a classic car, a standalone policy also makes sense.

2. Get Special Coverage for Expensive Items That Gain Value

For expensive jewelry and contemporary art that will gain value, you need insurance cover with a rider paying the increased value if the item gets damaged or stolen. You can include such things in a home insurance policy if you live with your loved one.

 A standalone policy may also apply here. To keep the policy in place, you will need to get an annual appraisal for two or three years.

3. Take Careful Consideration for Travel and Shipping

Always use a professional shipper and packer when sending fine art to ensure that it doesn’t get damaged before it arrives. Make sure your shipper has insurance to safeguard against theft or damage. The last thing you want is for your pricey gifts to be stolen or damaged before it reaches your loved one.

If you’re in the Boston, Massachusetts area, then you should check out Vargas & Vargas Insurance for all your insurance needs. We will customize your insurance coverage to meet your needs and price point, so feel free to contact us here.

3 Top Winter Business Insurance Considerations for Your Business Location

business owner with a steady winter business because she prepared for common winter business insurance considerations

As Boston-area business owners are preparing for the winter season, one thing every savvy business owner is looking at is their business insurance. On average, insured losses caused by winter storms are high, with a record of $2.1 billion in 2019 alone. The major factors that affect winter business insurance calculations include snowfall, blizzards, and winter damage.

Every business needs to get insurance against the risks caused by extreme climatic conditions, including theft of closed shops and vandalism. Here are the top insurance considerations for every business owner this holiday.

1. Wind Damages

The exterior of commercial properties may suffer the ravages of blizzards and winds that are a common occurrence in winter. It comes as no surprise that over 25% of homeowners’ claims result from wind damage. But it is even more rampant in commercial areas. So you need a policy that will cover such damage or include add-ons if needed. 

2. Hail and Snow

Snowflakes in winter are a beauty, but they have their fair share of adverse effects on properties. They wreak havoc on pipes, fill up gutters, take down trees, and damage building structures. They can also cause damage to walls and roofs in severe cases. Therefore, having adequate insurance will help to prevent excessive burden and loss on regular business expenses.

3. Damage to the Utility Lines

Issues with water lines resulting in floods can invite a lot of expense that can be costly to your business. Therefore, be sure to reduce such an impact by having the right insurance cover. The best way to cater to such unusual occurrences is to have customized winter business insurance policies that apply to all the potential risks in the location your business is situated.

At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we offer top-rated insurance services that will help you keep your business safe during the winter season. All our clients enjoy customized insurance coverage to match their unique needs and offer affordable prices. So contact us today for a free quote.

How to Keep Your Home Safe While Using Your Fireplace

a couple sitting in front of a fireplace place in a modern-style home

A fire quietly roaring away in your fireplace creates a cozy, romantic, and relaxing atmosphere, especially during winter. Though they are aesthetically pleasing and warm, fireplaces can be dangerous. Unfortunately, accidents have occurred due to negligence and lack of awareness. It is prudent to follow safety measures to protect your home when you’re using your fireplace.

Safety Measures to Follow When Using Your Fireplace

To avoid incidents that may result from fireplace accidents, you should follow the tips below:

Maintain Your Chimney Regularly

Carbon particles can build up on your chimney’s walls over time. Too much buildup of particles in the duct is a fire hazard. It’s because that gunk is highly flammable and can cause a fire in the fireplace. It can also block the chimney and cause smoke to fill up your home. It would be best if you considered hiring a professional chimney sweep to clean and maintain your chimney.

Always Use a Fireplace Screen

A fireplace screen is a crucial component of your fireplace setup. It has two primary purposes:

  1. Keeping the fireplace inaccessible to children and pets.
  2. Preventing embers from tumbling out into your living room. Spitting embers is a significant fire hazard.

Don’t Leave a Fire Unattended 

Despite it being a no-brainer, most people often forget and break this rule. Most fireplaces, even the most well-maintained, can spit out fire embers that can cause a fire. Even a tiny ember can ignite a flammable item like a couch when it lands on it.

Have a Fire Extinguisher in Your Home

If you have a fireplace burning in your home, you need to have a fire extinguisher and/or a fire blanket to help combat a fire outbreak. It would help if you got an ABC-rated fire extinguisher. This will help put out electrical, regular, and gas or liquid fires.

Having a fireplace in your home requires you to follow fire safety tips to avoid incidents. However, accidents can occur sporadically. You need to have measures in place to ensure that you recoup anything you’ll lose.

It would help if you considered getting your home insured through Vargas & Vargas Insurance. We can tailor your insurance coverage to meet your specific needs and price point. Feel free to contact us here.

How to Protect Your Home During Holiday Travel

Family skiing and enjoying holiday travel

With the holidays fast approaching, you might be planning a trip. It might be to visit family members or take a much-deserved vacation. As you’re packing for holiday travel, you need to take a minute to consider ways to protect your home while you’re gone. Here are a few tips. 

1. Tell Your Neighbors

Talk to a neighbor before you leave and let them know you’ll be gone. They can keep an eye on your home and contact authorities more quickly if something goes wrong when they know you’re not home. 

2. Don’t Tell Social Media

Many people enjoy sharing every moment of their trips with social media. However, it’s best to wait until you return home to share those vacation photos. You don’t want to advertise that your home is empty for an extended period of time. 

3. Update Your Alarm System

If you don’t already have an alarm system or your system needs an update, then this is the ideal time for it. A new alarm system or update can even help you secure a discount on your homeowner’s insurance. 

4. Use a Timer to Turn Interior Lights On and Off

A potential burglar will pass home when there are lights on inside. If anyone is watching homes in your neighborhood, they’ll see the lights going on and off at times to give the impression that you’re at home. 

5. Check All Your Doors and Windows

It’s easy to forget to lock a window when you close it in the fall after enjoying a cool breeze. This makes it essential that you check all the windows and doors in your home to make sure they’re locked and secure before leaving home for holiday travel. 

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is a premier local independent insurance agency. Our goal is to ensure that we offer the best insurance products to our customers. You have specific needs, and we strive to customize your insurance policy to meet them at a price point your budget can handle.  Our team is always ready to answer your questions and concerns, so contact us today.

3 Reasons Why You Should Trim Your Trees Before the First Snowfall

homeowner looking at freshly trimmed trees in her yard during winter

Most Boston-area homeowners don’t realize how important it is to trim your trees before the winter season. After all, there is very little information about winterizing the landscape to minimize potential damage. The truth is that nature has its fair share of adverse effects on properties. It would be best for every homeowner to be ready for such seasons and protect their homes.

Trimming trees in winter is one of the best ways to maintain safety and control the size of trees. It can also help to create appealing shapes to make your landscape look organized. Full-swing winter is likely to remove all leaves, and it makes the best time to rethink tree trimming. Here is why.

1. Reduce Tree Exposure to Pests and Diseases

Winter months are prone to various pests and diseases. You can reduce the infection of your trees by pruning as a measure to regulate diseases. There are other reasons why winter is the best time for pruning. For example, you will require pruning of oaks due to oak wilt and beetle infestations.

2. It Preserves the Appearance and Value of Your Property

You can shape your trees to make them look stunning and align with your home landscape. Therefore, pruning allows you to remove branches hanging in the walkways or help to promote growth.

The damage caused by overhanging branches to your house is also significantly reduced to save on your insurance coverage. Insurance agencies will consider all security risks when assessing damage to your home caused by trees during winter.

3. Reduce Stress for Your Trees

Most trees go dormant in winter. Therefore, it is the perfect timing to trim to ensure you preserve the tree’s energy for healing and growth once the season passes.

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is a top-rated local independent insurance agency. We cater to client-specific needs and have customized insurance coverage at competitive prices. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Everything You Need to Know About a Condominium Master Policy

condo owner opening her door and smiling
Shot of a happy female opening front door of her home with a smile

A condominium master policy is an insurance policy that the condominium association purchases, and the unit owners routinely share the cost. It is a policy that protects the ground of a unit, the common areas, and the unit owner’s personal belongings. The policy also offers liability protection in case there is an accident within the unit’s walls. 

A condominium master policy has effects on both the condominium association and the condominium unit owners. The coverage of the condominium master policy, however, is dedicated to the master deed of the association.

Like other insurance policies, policyholders can decide on the three main plans depending on their preferred coverage:

1. Bare Walls-In Coverage

Bare walls-in coverage is the plan with the smallest area of coverage. It covers the physical or actual structure of the condominium. This includes the materials used to construct and erect the building. But bare walls-in coverage does not cover anything inside the unit. So it becomes the responsibility of each unit’s owner to seek additional coverage.

2. Single Entity

This plan covers everything listed on the bare walls-in coverage and some types of built-in property, such as fixtures and finishes. These fixtures and finishes must be original to the unit and not anything that the unit owner added.

3. All-In Coverage

This policy covers all the elements listed above. It also includes all the fixtures and structural elements associated with each unit, including in-built appliances and upgrades by the unit owner.

Advantages of organizing a master condominium plan are that:

  • It makes it easy for the developer to sell or separately finance different portions of the premises.
  • It makes it easier for sub-residential condominium owners to get mortgage financing.
  • Residential condominium developers have control over portions of residential sub-condominiums for longer than the period outlined in the Georgia Condominium Act. The developer will have control over the master condominium association, which maintains all the building structures.

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is one of the premier local independent insurance agencies. We work for our clients and not the insurance company. Our team will customize your insurance coverage to your specific needs at the right price, and we’re also here to answer all your insurance questions. So contact us today.