What Costs Are Part of Your Monthly House Payment?

If you’ve been looking at houses, you’ve probably seen real estate websites where the estimated monthly payment is shown. This is a great feature for breaking down the cost of a home that you will pay off in 15 or 30 years, and it can help you stay within your budget.

Woman smiling as she reviews her house payment at home
Monthly house payments include your mortgage payment, a portion of your property taxes, and your homeowners insurance premium.

However, it doesn’t always show the whole picture. The estimated payment only factors in the cost of the loan for a traditional 30-year mortgage at the current interest rate. It does not include the other costs that are factored into a standard monthly house payment. Two additional costs include:

  1. Property taxes
  2. Homeowners insurance

Property Taxes

Just like everything else in life, having property is also taxed. When you take out a mortgage loan, the property taxes are calculated into your monthly loan payment and put into an escrow account. When your taxes become due, your mortgage company makes the payment for you.

The percentage of taxes you owe depends on where your property is located, and this can be checked prior to purchasing a home. 

Although it may seem like a negative, having your taxes included in your monthly payment is actually a great way to stay organized. It takes away the burden of paying property taxes in one lump sum. Also, you don’t have to worry about whether you made the payment or not. (And if you love your home, you definitely don’t want to forget paying your property taxes!)

Homeowners Insurance

The other cost that goes into your monthly mortgage payment is homeowners insurance. It is standard for the insurance cost to be part of your mortgage payments, and mortgage lenders will often not loan you money if you do not have it. If anything should happen to your property, the lenders want to make sure that they can recover their costs. However, having the right home insurance policy isn’t just for them — it’s for you. You’ll want to be protected in case your home is damaged, and the right homeowners insurance policy can give you peace of mind.

You get to pick out the home insurance policy that works for you, and you should have it ready at the time of your closing. Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance, we can guide you through the process. Contact us today for more information.

How Much is Your Property Worth?

Some possessions in your home are more valuable than others.  These items can be a curated collection, such as fine porcelain figurines, baseball cards or comic books.  Other valuable items can be heirloom jewelry or fine art pieces, including paintings, sketches, and sculptures.

The value of these special items is not defined only by a monetary figure.  There is also the intrinsic value, the emotional value to you.  There is a fond family memory surrounding a particular heirloom object. What about the satisfaction of assembling learning about a particular collection of items, such as sculpted glass paperweights or famous autographs. This can be appraised but cannot be monetized due to the emotional value they hold.

Your homeowners insurance likely only covers a minimal amount of these valuable items, not necessarily covering the true market value in the event of a calamity that damages or destroys these valuable possessions. 

These special items need to be appraised by a professional to create a monetary record of their worth.  The expense of such an appraisal is well worth the cost in the event of a claim against your Homeowners Insurance and your desire to obtain the proper recompense for the damage or loss to these valuables.

There are two avenues to obtain an appraisal of your valuable items.  The first, and possibly less-costly, is to obtain an appraisal through a recognized expert.  For example, a jeweler can complete an appraisal of your heirloom jewelry items.  Likewise, an expert in art, or objets d’ art can be consulted to provide an appraisal opinion for other items you may own.  

The second method is to engage a Certified and Licensed Appraiser.  Typically we think of appraisers as professionals in the real estate trade, to appraise homes.  But Appraisers are trained in specific valuation methodologies.  There is a regimen that Appraisers follow to assemble a high-grade valuation of your personal property.  This regimen is based on professionally-accepted standards necessary for an appraisal to be certified.

While the cost of the latter valuation method may be higher than that of an expert opinion, you may want to incur the higher cost to provide your insurance carrier with the best possible valuation.   If you are using an expert opinion, be sure the documentation they use is acceptable to your insurance carrier.  You don’t want to find out that your carrier will not accept valuation documents when filing a claim.

Call us today to discuss how to appraise the true value of your treasured possessions and how to understand your coverage. That’s what happens when you work with an Independent Insurance Agent! Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Agency vs. Online

“You get what you pay for.”  

Everyone loves to shop for a bargain, a discount, a reduced price, more features for less money.  One might also say, “You don’t get what you don’t pay for.”

When you’re buying insurance, the “don’t get” part and the “don’t pay for” part can lead to you paying a lot more money than you bargained for later on when you need the insurance the most. 

Your insurance is supposed to be there to anticipate risks to your life, your livelihood, your wealth and your health.  If you pay for less coverage because you need to get that bargain price, you’re putting all of the above at serious risk.

Time is money.  Spend your time with an independent insurance agent.  The independent agent is working for your best interest, both in today’s premium pricing and in tomorrows unforeseen costs. 

For me, it’s difficult to be objective on this topic. I’m an independent agent in business for several decades. I can’t be objective when it comes to protecting my clients and providing them with the best insurance their money can buy.  

If your sole objective is the lowest premium price, we can certainly help you with that goal. If your objective is the best premium price with comprehensive coverage that prepares you for worst case scenarios, we can help you with that as well.

If your objective is all of the above with the added value of a trusted, local, experienced insurance professional, the one who thinks of you as a real person and not an unknown internet shopper, then the Independent Insurance Agent is the only way to go.

So, what is your objective: solely price, or price combined with quality service, local experience and good old-fashioned “looking out for my reputation by looking out for the customer” business sense?

That’s not to say you can’t get lucky and find a direct connection online with an Insurance Carrier who can provide such experience, accessibility, superior service and price.  It’s easy enough to spend your time searching. 

In our experience as Independent Agents, we’ve heard the stories, lots and lots and lots of stories about consumer experiences when working with online quotes and purchasing from an unknown representative on the internet.  Pretty much every time, these horror stories result because the consumer focused solely on lowest price.

Too often the lowest price online quote comes with no explanation of what exactly it is the consumer is buying.  The coverage can be horribly mismatched with the customer’s needs. Many times, the online quote fails to consider local conditions that must definitely be taken into account to provide an accurate insurance policy for real risks unique to a locality.

Your local Independent Agent knows about those risks that may be unique to where you live.  And your Independent Agent wants to work for your best interest, not the interests of the quick “low-price” sale.

Compare next time you need to purchase or renew insurance.  Consider the time spent by your Independent Agent just on the initial interview questions.  Those questions, and your answers to them, affect the advice you’ll receive on the best coverage for your unique situation.  

Now match that to the experience of filling in some boxes on a webpage and receiving the instant gratification of the lowest premium price in seconds!  Price: great!  Coverage: unknown because it relies on the consumer knowing, in advance, the eventualities that come into play when assessing your needs of future risks.

We’d love to be on one side of your comparison shopping! 

Call us today to experience the true value of your money when you work with an Independent Insurance Agent! Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

The Two Most Effective Steps When You File A Claim

Your Insurance is in place to protect you from risks that may affect your wealth and your health.  When an incident occurs, you’ll want to file your claim in order to receive payment for your loss as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Luckily, there are two easy steps to ensure a smooth claim process.  Best news of all, you can manage these two easy suggestions in a short time, maybe even while you’re binge watching whatever is the latest and greatest on Netflix. 

#1: Paperwork

Gather your insurance policies to an easy-to-find (and easy to remember) location.  You might want to consider scanning your policies to PDFs and saving those on your Smartphone, home computer, or Cloud Storage. 

If you’re saving paper or scanning to PDF, be mindful with how you label each document.  Using the Insurance Carrier’s name along with the purpose of the policy is helpful.  For example, “ABC INSURANCE Homeowners Policy.” 

Use different color post-it notes strategically placed on each paper document to easily flip through multiple policies. If you’re storing PDFs on a computer or Cloud drive, create different folders for each policy and be sure to “rename” each PDF for easy search.  In a pinch you’ll want to quickly locate “XYZ MUTUAL INSURANCE 2017 PONTIAC.”

#2: Photos

Smartphones make it easy to snap photos of your belongings around your home or to grab a quick photo of damage to your vehicle after an incident. Be sure to have the date stamp feature enabled.

In your home, while running your vacuum around or changing the bed linens, snap photos in each room where you have valuable belongings.  Take a photo of the entire room, too, with different angles. Capture clear, up close photos of individual valuables. 

Upload your photos and save to your home computer or Cloud Storage. Or both.

We’d be honored to spend a few minutes with you to discuss how to organize your files, review to see if your valuables are insured properly or to prepare the step-by-step of the “what to do” and “what not to do” after a claim.

When you’re organized in advance, your claim can be processed efficiently. This gets you paid faster in order to begin the repairs.

You can call us now for a free educational moment or to review your existing insurance policies to be sure you’re covered for every eventuality. Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Recap: Free Family Fun in Boston

“I think togetherness is a very important ingredient to family life.” – Barbara Bush

It’s summertime, and that means you’re probably on the lookout for free family fun here in the Boston area. Thankfully, Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency has got you covered! In our previous blog post, we covered several ideas that will give your family hours upon hours of entertainment without burdening your bank account. Here are just a few of the suggestions:

  • Visit a local park or playground. Kids will have fun for hours – especially if they help pack a healthy picnic lunch to enjoy in the lovely weather!
  • Summer is a great time to take advantage of the many water-based activities in the area. See if there is a local pool that you can visit, or just let kids play in the sprinklers for the afternoon.
  • Volunteering is a great way to introduce children to the idea of giving back to their community. Here are some ideas of volunteer opportunities for children and families.

For more summertime tips, stay tuned to the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Blog! We love to post safety tips, insurance advice, seasonal updates, and much more! And if you ever need insurance help, call our office at 617-298-0655. We offer free advice and Massachusetts insurance quotes that will help you make sure your family is protected.

Fun and Free Family Entertainment in Boston

Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we are experts on insuring homes, cars, businesses, and more in the Boston area. After having lived and worked in the Boston area for so long, we also know a few thigs about finding great entertainment in the city. If you’re looking for fun and free entertainment in the Boston area this summer, here are just a few ideas for you and your loved ones:

Playgrounds and Parks

A favorite pastime in the summer is visiting local parks and playgrounds with the family. Young children love to play, and even older children who refuse to set down their cell phones and tablets can benefit from a little bit of fresh air every so often. For more time together, bring a few toys or pack a picnic lunch to share. And remember, sun safety is very important when spending time outdoors!

Looking for something unique and goal-driven to do in your time outdoors? Try Geocaching! Deemed the “World’s Largest Treasure Hunt,” it’s an activity that the whole family will love. It’s free (all you need is a smart phone and good walking shoes) and there are tons of caches in our area that you can find.

Water Activities

Want to make even more of your family time? Boston has many opportunities for water fun. If you don’t have a free community pool, there are plenty of free public pools in the city. In addition to being a ton of fun, playing in the pool can keep the heat at bay, as well as being great cardiovascular exercise for adults and children alike. And we all know that tired kids are happy kids!

And if you don’t feel like leaving the house, a hose or sprinkler can also provide hours of fun for the family. For added fun, get some water guns or reusable water bombs and let loose! First, though, make sure to set rules and boundaries for your games so that no one gets hurt during the fun.

Check Out Your Local Library

Have you been to your local library? In addition to housing more free books than you and your family could read in a lifetime, they also probably offer audiobooks and movies that you can check out. One additional huge perk of a library membership is their activity offerings. Many host reading sessions, craft days, and more. Some even offer free passes to local attractions!


For those looking to get their family out of the house without breaking the bank, volunteering is a wonderful option. Giving back to the community is a great thing to do and can help children learn many important life skills (not to mention that a history of volunteer work looks great on college and job applications).

There are many volunteer opportunities here in the Greater Boston area, including helping the elderly and the homeless, working on conservation efforts, helping others maintain health and wellness, and much more. To find the opportunity that is right for you and your family, visit the website for Boston Cares – the largest volunteer agency in New England.

Boston Tourist Activities

When was the last time that you played the part of a tourist here in your own hometown? Boston is home to many historical landmarks and other attractions that the whole family can enjoy. Here are the details for just a few of the possibilities:

  • The Freedom Trail: Pick up a free map at the Visitor’s Center on Boston Common and it will help you navigate the 2.5-mile trail through 16 historical sites, including Paul Revere’s House, The Massachusetts State House, the Old North Church, the USS Constitution, and more.
  • If you have children, it’s never too early to start talking about their future. One great place to get them thinking about their impending coming-of-age is at a college campus. Thankfully, there are several top-notch colleges here in Boston! Most offer free tours or other public events that would be perfect for your family.
  • Want to go to a museum? Most of the time there is an admission fee, but if you know some of the secrets of Boston, you know when to go for free admission! Many museums in the area offer free admission at some point during the week – an online search will lead you in the right direction.

What is your favorite free family activity here in the Boston area? Is there anything that we should try that isn’t on our list? Let us know! We always love to hear from our clients.

And while you’re telling us about all the fun local entertainment options in the area, ask your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about whether it’s time to review your insurance policies. We recommend annual reviews for all personal and commercial insurance policies. The process is simple and free and could save you a lot of money and hassle in the long run.

Were You Affected by the Equifax Breach?

By now, I’m sure that you have heard about the data breach that happened at Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the US. It turns out that my wife Kathy and I were affected, and I have since signed up for the free credit monitoring offered by Equifax. This got me thinking about what other precautions I should be taking to protect my identity. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Shred everything that has personal information on it. Get a cross-cutting shredder and put it in a central location in your home – it will easily pay for itself in peace of mind.
  • When paying for something, try to always use either cash or a credit card. Debit cards don’t offer liability protection, and checks are easy to duplicate.
  • Consider hiring a service to monitor your credit. There are plenty out there, both paid and free – just make sure that you are familiar with the level of service offered before you pick one.

If you were affected, it’s important to remember that the hackers are likely to keep your information for several years before they attempt to use it, so it’s crucial that you stay diligent and always be on the lookout for suspicious activity in your financial accounts as well as on your credit reports.

Now there are rumors that Equifax may have been hacked a second time. This just goes to show how important it is to protect your personal information in this digital age. Make sure that you stay safe, and that you take your safety seriously. Call Vargas and Vargas Insurance if you have any questions that we can answer for you. Our office number is 617-298-0655.

Prepare for Fall and Winter Storms

In the Fall and Winter, New England can get hit with some nasty hurricanes and blizzards. Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your family – do a little bit of prep now and you will be ready when a storm threatens the area. Here is a list of some of the things that you should have to get you started:

  • Food and Water – You should always have enough nonperishable foods and water for each member of your household to last one week or more. This typically means one gallon of water per day, plus foods like canned goods, and dry foods like cereal, nuts, crackers, and protein bars. And don’t forget to keep an emergency food supply for pets also!
  • Clothing – Each person in your household should have access to plenty of warm clothing, including hats and gloves.
  • General Supplies – If a storm is coming your way, make sure you have essential supplies handy. These will include flashlights and extra batteries, a first aid kit, paper dishware and plastic cutlery, paper towels, toilet paper, medications, and more.
  • Tools – You will need a few tools to weather a storm. Scissors and a manual can opener are a must. In addition, it would help if you had access to a pocket knife, multi-function tool, and a fire extinguisher.

While you’re preparing for potential storms, you should gather digital items as well as physical. There are certain phone numbers you should have stored in your cell phone. These include your local fire and police lines, the power company, the nearest hospital, and your insurance providers. To find out if your insurance is ready for a fall or winter storm, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655.

Four Tips for a Healthier Autumn

Temperatures are slowly dropping here in Massachusetts. As you prepare for the leaves to change (and eagerly await your first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the year) make sure that your focus stays on being at your best. One of the most important ways to stay at your peak is to stay healthy. Here are some tips on how to stay healthy in the Fall months:

  1. Don’t Skip the Flu Shot: No one wants to get the flu, so prevent it with a flu shot (if you are eligible). Also do your best to avoid getting a cold by keeping your hands clean, among other preventative techniques.
  2. Embrace a Pumpkin Diet: In addition to being a great decorating item, pumpkins are a great food! They are high in vitamins A and C, and the seeds are a great healthy snack when roasted.
  3. Enjoy the Weather: Fall is the perfect time to get outside and exercise. Winter’s harsh cold will be here before you know it, so don’t squander this perfectly crisp and cool weather.
  4. Plan Ahead for Holidays: It’s never too early to start making plans for Thanksgiving. If you’re hosting friends and family, make sure that there are plenty of healthy options on the table.

For more great tips on how to be at your best, stay tuned to the Vargas and Vargas Insurance blog. And remember, our agents are here to help with all of your Massachusetts insurance needs – just call 617-298-0655 with your insurance questions, and let us know if you would like a quote!