Blog Archives: Getting your Fireplace or Wood Stove Ready

When there’s a chill in the air, is there anyone who doesn’t enjoy a blazing and crackling fire to warm their home? Whether it’s a fireplace, wood stove, or pellet stove, there’s something cozy and inviting about a fire.

However, to ensure a safe experience it’s important to have your chimney inspected and cleaned on an annual basis or after burning a cord of wood, whichever comes first. 

Fires leave a gummy residue, called creosote, which can stick to the lining of your chimney. Creosote is a byproduct of burning wood, pellets, or coal and is created by soot, smoke, gases and other particles.

When you burn wood to produce heat, gasses are produced that do not efficiently burn away. These gases now condense into liquid form. The liquid sticks to the inside of your chimney walls and/or liner. Over time it dries in the form of creosote.

Insidiously, it continues to build up, layering on like a stalagmite, on the surface of your chimney liner or your flue tile every single time you and your family enjoy a fire.

This is a highly flammable substance that can quickly erupt into a blazing chimney fire if subjected to a high enough temperature. That is why it must be removed periodically.

Hiring a chimney sweep is the traditional way to clean the inner surface and restore safety to the home. Chimney sweeps are trained to determine whether chimneys are structurally sound and whether they need to be cleaned. They will make sure the chimney is up to code, especially important in older houses, and make sure there are any birds or animals in the chimney, or anything that would block the flow of smoke. They also check that there’s no water coming into your home. 

How Do I Prevent Creosote Build-up?

There are steps you can take at home to reduce creosote buildup and the risk of a chimney fire.  Foremost is picking dry wood to burn. Dry wood will appear gray on the surface and have cracks on the end.

Don’t throw pizza boxes or other trash in the fireplace because it causes a thicker smoke, which lowers the temperature in the chimney. While many people use a newspaper to start a fire, it is recommended that a fire log or fire starter should be used instead. This reduces the risk of sparks flying out of the fireplace. Use a screen and stay in the room while the fire is burning. 

Don’t forget to check your existing smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers to ensure all are in working order. If your home does not have the prevention devices, please install immediately.

Chimney maintenance is a priority for your property since harmful gases can build up inside the flue. Lethal carbon monoxide also builds up inside the flue, and if there’s damage to the inside of your chimney, this can seep in to your home. Have you chimney checked by a qualified tradesman regularly to ensure your family’s safety.

For information on ensuring your home is covered in case of a chimney fire, contact Vargas & Vargas at 877.550.0025

Fire Hazards in Your House

Fire hazards are everywhere. Yet, we often ignore the danger, or, worse, we’re completely unaware of the lurking, imminent threat of fire breaking out.  Fire is a devastating event, inflicting tremendous damage, sever injury and death!  Fire can wreak havoc in a fierce, fast, moment.

Smoke detectors are your primary line of defense to protect your life when a fire breaks out.

But you should take the time to carefully inspect your home for hazards that could easily become a threatening event.

Extension Cords 
Overloaded electrical extension cords cause fire by overheating and exploding in flame. Additionally, they are often near to furniture or draperies that burn rapidly. 

Take time to unburden your electrical outlets from overloaded extension cords.  If you absolutely must increase utilization of a particular outlet in your house, consider hiring an electrician to upgrade the wiring and quality of that outlet. Install of an outlet with a “Ground Fault Interrupt” (GFI) breaker that shuts the outlet off in the event of overloading.  

Consider purchasing a high-quality surge protection power strip with built-in circuit breaker.

Coffee Machines
Does your coffee maker have an “Auto-Off” feature?  We forget to turn off coffee machines; they continue warming the near-empty carafe, ultimately burning off any remaining liquid, thus creating a fire hazard while you’re away from home.

Circuit Breaker Panel Upgrade 
When is the last time you asked a Licensed Electrician to inspect the circuit breaker panel in your house to determine its viability for your current needs?  A simple inspection and potential upgrade of worn or insufficient breakers can go a long way to presenting a first line of defense against fire hazards.

Lightning
Do you have a lightning rod installed on your home?   The lightning rod is a simple metal bar that captures a lightning strike and sends the resulting electrical burst harmlessly away from your roof.

Inspect all electrical outlets
Be sure there’s no furniture, clothing, newspapers or other flammable objects too close to, or obstructing the electrical outlets around your home.  A flimsy fabric accidentally falling on the electrical cord to a lamp can potentially overheat and create an immediate fire situation.

You can find more excellent advice on inspecting and protecting your home at the National Safety Council website.

Call us so we can help you with other claim prevention tips. You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Walk Through Your House Like a Claims Adjustor

Hopefully you will never need this advice to come to fruition. 
Hopefully you’ll never have a claim. 

But this is what insurance is all about: preparation.  When you prepare for a catastrophe, an accident, a fire or a theft when you buy the right insurance coverage, you’re creating an opportunity to recover.  The money your insurance pays out in the event of a claim is paramount to that recovery. 

There’s one other step to take in your preparation. When you make a claim, often the insurance company sends out a representative to review the damage or the loss and to assess the amount of coverage that should be paid out.  This person is the claims adjustor. 

Never assume the adjustor is looking to provide you with an equitable settlement on your loss or damage.  The best way to get the best financial recovery is to prepare in advance. 

Let’s look at your homeowner’s insurance to prepare for a claim that, hopefully, will never happen.  Walk through your house like a Claims Adjustor would.  Pretend you’re the claims adjuster but with the interest in protecting YOU, the homeowner.

In the event of a theft, you want to show the adjustor the precautions you’ve taken to prevent break-ins to your home.  Is your alarm system properly installed?  Does it have independent power backup?  Are all locks, including those on windows, secure and adequate? 

For the lost valuables, did you prepare with a high-quality inventory of your precious items?  Of all your items that would need to be replaced in the event of a fire?

Do you have photographic evidence to show to a Claims Adjustor?  For very valuable items, did you get a professional appraisal and is that appraisal recent and current?

For damage to the home due to weather including flood*, can you clearly demonstrate that you, the homeowner, took all necessary precautions to protect your home? 

For example, have you diligently cleared large trees or tree limbs that could easily fall on your home?  Have you created storage solutions in the basement of your home to minimize damage to belongings in the event of a water-intrusion event?

Take an hour and do a complete walk-through of your home.  If you ever have to file a claim, you’ll dramatically improve your payout.  That will go a long way to the peace of mind you need to recover.

Call us today to learn about your homeowners insurance and how to protect yourself in the event of an unforeseen claim. Now is the time: before you need your policy to go to work for you.

Your health and financial health depend on it. Call us at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review.
Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

*Flood insurance is always specifically excluded from homeowners. Please consult with your agent if you are interested in flood insurance.

Home Inspection for Your Condominium Purchase

Condominium Buyers often ask:

Should I have an inspection done by a Certified Home Inspection service? 

The answer is a definitive YES!

While a Condominium (Condo) typically features construction and/or maintenance features addressed by Condominium Management, the Buyer should conduct an inspection for two main reasons.

First, the interior of the Condo. This area is not the responsibility of Condo Management. A Buyer needs to be aware of concerns such as deferred maintenance for appliances, windows, bathroom fixtures and interior plumbing.  You want to avoid a costly repair in the first 3-5 years after your purchase.  Likewise, the Condo Buyer needs to be aware of potentially catastrophic issues that could cause reconsideration of the purchase.  Lastly, the inspection may reveal items that are of immediate concern, leading to a request for a repair or pricing credit from the Seller.

The second reason you want to complete an inspection is to determine the overall “physical health” of the Condo.  A roof in need of a future repair is as much of a concern to a Condominium Buyer as to a Home Buyer.  Any repairs to the common areas of a Condominium are paid for from the “Capital Expense Reserve” fund.  Should there be a major repair on the near horizon, such as a roof replacement, the Condo Buyer wants to determine there are sufficient funds in the Reserve Fund to cover the cost of repair.  Otherwise that Buyer, once they are an Owner, could be subject to an assessment or multiple assessments as well as an increase in the maintenance fee, resulting in an increase in their monthly payment.

The bottom line answer to the question posed by Condominium Buyers is a resounding yes when it comes to obtaining an inspection by a Certified Home Inspection service as part of the purchasing process.

Review your current insurance policy now to be 100% sure you have all the appropriate coverages before it’s too late. The review is free of charge. Call us now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Common Home-Buying Mistakes You Should Avoid

Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we have a lot of clients that are looking to buy home insurance for a new house. Since we see a lot of folks that are going through the home insurance process, we want to share just a few of the more common mistakes that you should aim to avoid when you purchase a Massachusetts home:

Not making a “Wish List”

When you’re looking to buy a home in Boston, you will probably look at many different options. After a while, they will begin to blend together, so it is up to you to stay organized. Sit down with everyone that is involved in making the home-buying decision and make a “Wish List” for what you would ideally want in your new home. Take a copy of your list to each home you tour, and mark off the items on your list, taking notes as you go. This will make it much easier to decide on a home in the end.

Forgetting to budget for closing costs

Many home buyers (especially first-time buyers) are so focused on saving up the money for a down payment on a home that they forget that they will also likely be responsible for the cost to close, which can be significant. Instead of struggling to deal with these costs at the last minute, remember to include them when creating your budget as you prepare to search for your new home.

Not saving to cover move-in expenses

Unfortunately, closing costs aren’t the only bill that home-buyers forget to account for. After you pay your closing costs and get the keys to your new home, you will probably need to spend some money to get your home ready for occupation. This could mean making a few repairs or improvements, or simply buying some additional furniture to fit the new space. Budgeting for these costs ahead of buying your home – your wallet will thank you later!

Not doing your homework about an inspection

An inspection is a home buyer’s best friend. That being said, though, every inspection has its limitations. It’s important to know what your home inspection isn’t testing for. Ask your inspector if he or she will be looking for mold, pests, and radon, and anything else you should be on the lookout for that won’t be covered in the inspection.

You should also make sure to attend the full inspection and take your own notes. You can learn a lot about the house you are buying from the inspector, and they are often happy to answer all your questions, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Buying a home for the present

A home is a long-term investment, so it is important to consider your future before you choose a property. If you’re planning to expand your family, you may want to look for a home you can grow into. If you have kids leaving the nest soon, you may want to get a slightly smaller home knowing that their room will become the guest room when they leave.

Failing to negotiate

If you’re not negotiating when you buy your home, you may be missing out on major savings. There are many different things that you can use in a negotiation. The first thing that many people think of is the price of the home, and this is often where negotiations start. In addition, consider negotiating with the homeowner to have them cover repairs that need to be done, or ask them to include an allowance for you to upgrade the home (new carpeting, for example). You can also ask for the seller to pay all or part of the closing costs.

While you may not have much opportunity to negotiate on hot properties where there is a bidding war happening, these strategies will often pay off on homes that have been on the market for a while, where the seller is starting to feel the pressure to sell quickly.

Not buying enough home insurance

At Vargas and Vargas Insurance, we always aim to make sure that our clients have the perfect amount of Boston home insurance. After all, having too little insurance can be a financial disaster if you are ever involved in a major incident, whether it’s damage to your home or a liability issue.

To find out if your current home insurance policy has enough coverage, or to get a quote on a Massachusetts home insurance policy for your new home, call our agency at 617-298-0655. One of our agents can help you with all your home insurance needs. And if you need a referral to a Massachusetts real estate agent, just let us know! We have a vast network of local professionals and can connect you with someone to help you find the perfect home for you and your future.

“Change is hard, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”

“Change is hard, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”
-Robin Sharma

Change is hard. I know this for a fact, as I’m experiencing it right now!

Picture this…I’m sitting in my house right now instead of sitting in traffic like I’ve done for 37 years.

As you probably know from my online posts, Kathy and I moved from our Stoughton home of 33 years to Dorchester Lower Mills, just around the corner from the Vargas and Vargas office. Believe me, this change has not been easy all the time, but change never is – even when we know it is the right thing to do.

One of the upsides of our move has been that we now spend less time in traffic, and have more time together, more time to get regular exercise, and more time in the wonderful community of Dorchester.

Recently, Vargas and Vargas has also made some changes. We have updated our client management system and our website (you can now send us a TEXT to our agency 617-213-2820 and much more to come, stay tuned) to help customers and friends like you contact our trusted referral partners!

We’ve always had a partners page on our site, but we hope that this will be a resource for you and anyone you know that is looking for any of the following professionals:

  • Accountant
  • Attorney
  • Contractor
  • Electrician
  • Estate Planner
  • Financial Advisor
  • Home Inspector
  • Loan Officer
  • Plumber
  • Realtor®
  • And More!

(Send me a message and I can let you know how you be on our partner’s list)

And while you are visiting our new website, don’t forget to check out our blog. It is always being updated with insurance tips, helpful advice, and much more.

How to Start Recycling – We Can Help!
Auto Insurance Q&A: Borrowing the Car
Best and Worst Places to Store Your Wedding Rings
Building Permits for Residential Renovations

So what does our change of address have to do with making you more money?

Many professionals start their businesses filled with excitement and passion for their new venture, but quickly realize that building a brand is hard work! Once that realization sets in and business problems begin to surface, it is very easy to get disgruntled and lose your motivation for what you originally set out to accomplish.

In the beginning, your passion creates energy that keeps you moving forward, builds excitement for the next project, and helps overcome fears and obstacles. However, maintaining that passion can be difficult as time goes on, and you might find yourself in a “rut,” or longing to reconnect with the spark that once drove your business. Whether this longing resonates with you currently or you’re teetering back and forth on the fence of business growth, it’s imperative to implement 6 practices into your business to regain focus and reignite your flame! We’ll cover the first 3 this week, so stay tuned for next week’s insider to tie all 6 together!

1. Stay focused on your core business – There are a million money making ideas out there that can distract you from what your core business is all about. If you can’t draw a direct connection from a new loan or listing to your new venture, scrap it! It will only distract you from making money and growing your business.

2. Take inspiration from SUCCESSFUL professionals – Surround yourself with positive individuals who have achieved success and are passionate about what they do. They’ll motivate, excite and remind you of why you’re in business. The right individuals will build you up with a “can do” attitude, and offer you proven methods of achieving your goals.

3. Manage your time effectively – Unfortunately, if you don’t set aside time to do important tasks like following up with new clients and building referral relationships (making FROG calls), phone calls and emails can keep you busy all day long! Make sure that you schedule time in your day that’s committed to taking care of the fundamentals of business development which make you money and keep you excited! If you need assistance with time blocking, I can help!

And know that you are LOVED!

Carlos