Captive Versus Independent Insurance Agents For Your Automobile and Home Insurance; An Honest Comparison

When you’re shopping for insurance, knowing the different types of insurance agents is important as part of understanding whom you should work with.
 
There are two kinds of insurance agents — captive (who represents one insurance company) and independent (also known as an insurance broker).
 
Many online insurance companies, like State Farm, Allstate, and Liberty Mutual depend exclusively on captive agents, but some like GEICO and Progressive rely on a mixture of captives and independents.
 
Both types of agents can provide the kind of quality expertise you need to make one of life’s important financial decisions. But there are some big differences between the two.
 
Captive agents
 
Captive agents work directly for a single insurance provider and are limited to the products of that company. For example, if you call a captive agent who works for State Farm, he or she will market and try to sell you only State Farm products. How they get paid is set by their insurance company, and they are paid by that one company.
 
On the plus side, these agents are experts in what their insurance companies have to offer. But they cannot help a client who doesn’t need or qualify for their company’s products. And captive agents usually have quotas to hit to keep their job and earn bonuses. Although that’s not terribly different from independent agents, you might feel a bit more pressure to buy car insurance from a captive agent when all you really want is term life.
 
Independent agents 
 
Independent agents, meanwhile, work for themselves and not any one insurance company. They sell policies from a variety of insurance companies, not just one, there is no increase in the premium to work with an independent insurance agent, and make most of their money through sales commissions and bonuses from the carriers.
 
Independent agents can save you some time by getting insurance quotes from a few different insurers, we have 11 insurance carriers that we can provide you with an insurance quote.
 
Which is best?
 
The type of insurance coverage you choose depends on your needs and your budget.
 
If you’re looking for multiple quotes from different companies, an independent insurance agent probably is the way to go. Vargas & Vargas Insurance can save you time and money, reach our agents at 617-298-0655.

Spring Cleaning & Maintenance Checklist to Prevent Home Insurance Claims

Want to maximize your spring cleaning schedule to include maintenance items that can help prevent home insurance claims? Read on for some helpful tips!

Organize and declutter

Go through each room in your home and remove any objects that are not useful or needed anymore. Organize your storage space so that useful items are contained neatly. By preventing clutter from accumulating, you are reducing your fire hazards.

Store chemicals and other dangerous items out of the reach of children and pets

While you are going through your home, keep an eye out for any items that could be a potential source of danger for your children or pets. Look for medicine or cleaning chemicals that need to be stored in safe places. Consider adding child locks to certain cabinets to minimize the danger for children. 

Create a Maintenance Schedule

Come up with a plan to help you prepare your home for general maintenance to help prevent serious issues down the road. Having a maintenance schedule helps you feel less overwhelmed by scheduling different services throughout the year, while also giving you peace of mind that your home will be up to date and as safe as possible.

Some must-include items for your maintenance schedule

  1. Check your carbon monoxide and fire alarms. According to staysafe.org, carbon monoxide poisoning and fires are two of the leading safety hazards for homeowners. Make sure your alarms have fresh batteries and are in working order.
  2. Change the air conditioning filter. Air conditioning filters are meant to sort out harmful particles such as dust and mold. By preventing the spread of mold you are keeping your house safer and your family healthier!
  3. Inspect your roof. Check for missing shingles and clogged gutters. This helps prevent water damage to your home and its foundation.
  4. Check Your Oil Tank. Unwanted oil tank leaks can cause a huge headache, especially because oil tank leaks are rarely covered with home insurance plans

Stay one step ahead of your maintenance needs!

By keeping your house clean and up-to-date on maintenance, you minimize your risks of safety hazards and damages in the future. It’s worth it! Click here to read one of our earlier posts on Spring cleaning.

When you finish cleaning your house, give Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency a call and we’ll help you clean up your insurance portfolio! One of our friendly and knowledgeable agents can review your home insurance, auto insurance, health insurance, and other insurance policies to make sure that you have all the coverage that you need, and at the right price. Don’t hesitate, call now – 617-298-0655.

What A Home Insurance Policy Doesn’t Cover

Is your home insurance policy covering you when you need it most? If you’re like most people on a “standard” home insurance plan, there are several things that aren’t actually covered with your policy!

Don’t worry – you’re about to find out what a home insurance policy doesn’t cover, and how you can quickly make a few updates to your plan to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need.

Before we get into that, take a quick inventory of what you’re hoping is covered in the case an unfortunate event presents itself to you. As we take a deeper dive into what isn’t covered, you’ll be able to quickly identify whether you’ll need extra coverage or if you’re in the clear!

What Doesn’t A Home Insurance Policy Cover?

Most home insurance policies don’t cover the following:

  • In-Home Businesses
  • Floods
  • Earthquakes
  • Vehicles used for business
  • High-value Jewelry.

Take a quick look at each in more detail, and how you can protect yourself.

In-Home Businesses Are Not Covered By Your Homeowners Insurance

Did you join the recent surge of people deciding to jump into at-home work, including freelancing, or even starting a business that’s based in their home? Whether you’ve just started or you’ve been at it for years, many people are unprepared for a sudden loss to their business equipment.

Don’t let that be you!

There are several ways to get your business property covered if you’ve got a home-based business.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), you can:

  1. Add a Policy Endorsement to your existing homeowners insurance. This simple endorsement is a simple way to increase your coverage to include business property. If your policy has minimal coverage for business property already (as some policies do), this can be a low-cost way to get the coverage you need.
  2. Add an In-Home Business Policy. This policy is for you if you need more comprehensive coverage for business equipment and have a need for liability coverage for your business. It can be a life-saver if you need to recoup costs beyond simple business property, such as loss of important papers, records, income, etc.
  3. Add a Businessowners Policy (BOP). If you’re a small/mid sized business that operates out of more than one location (including your home), you’ll want to consider the broader coverage offered by a BOP. 

Be Careful: Floods Are Not Covered In Most Home Insurance Policies

This one is slightly tricky, as most people don’t think they live in an area susceptible to flooding.

However, “flooding” can mean many things in your insurance policy. For example, a failed sump pump or water damage due to a clogged drain are generally not covered in a standard home insurance policy.

Many people have been saved by adding a separate flood insurance policy, as there is some gray area in standard policies, and they chose to be safe rather than sorry!

Earthquakes Aren’t Covered

Earthquakes are on the rise, according to data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration branch of the US Government (and shown in this chart). Despite this, earthquakes are not covered by most home insurance policies.

If the thought of an earthquake hitting your area makes you tremble a little, you may want to consider specific earthquake coverage to be on the safe side.

Vehicles used for business

Not surprisingly, vehicles used for business are not covered in a homeowners policy, even if the damage to the vehicle happens on your property.

High-Value Jewelry

Jewelry-lovers take note! If you’ve got jewelry valued at over $2,000, there’s a good chance your homeowners insurance will not cover these pieces.

To make sure you’re covered, you can easily add on additional coverage into your policy to account for the loss if something should happen to your valuables. 

We’d recommend learning about coverage for commercial auto insurance if you own vehicles used for business, or check with your employer to ensure they have the correct coverage.

We’re Here To Help Find The Right Coverage For Your Situation

Don’t be alarmed if you’re in any of the categories above. Everyone’s situation is unique, and you deserve to be informed about what is – and what isn’t – included in your coverage. 

Let’s talk over your current policy and make sure you’ve got everything you need for your situation. 
Contact us today to get a customized plan, or to just get the peace of mind that you desire!

Homeowners Insurance Facts

If you own and home or condominium with an outstanding mortgage, you are required to carry homeowner insurance.  But, if you are thinking of purchasing one, you should know what insurance policies cover and don’t cover you for.

Some Loses are not a Part of Home Insurance

If you plan to purchase home insurance, you need to know that standard policies don’t cover earthquakes or floods. In these cases, you may need to add the coverage to your home or condominium policy or purchase separate policies that offer you coverage for these perils.

Some Dog breeds can make it Challenging to Purchase Comprehensive Insurance

All homeowner’s policies give you coverage if your dog bites someone. This way, the liability portion of your insurance saves you from financial ruin. But some insurance providers refuse to offer coverage to homeowners who have dogs with different breeds like Rottweiler and bulls. Therefore, you may have to dig a bit deeper to find the right insurance policy that will also cover you for dog bites.

Polices Can Cover Plane Crashes

Of course, there are chances of a plane falling from the sky onto your house, but some insurance companies still offer you coverage for this. They even offer you a plan for several things that can fall from the sky, including the tree.

Food Spoilage Coverage

A power outage can occur due to several problems. When your fridge is not working, your stored food may get spoiled in a few hours. Some insurance policies offer food spoilage coverage, this kind of coverage will pay you for your spoiled food.

Volcano Damage Plans

It might surprise you, but there are home insurances that cover volcanic damage. If you live near volcanic mountains, this plan is beneficial for you. Even if the volcanoes have been dormant for centuries, it still has some risks. Well, it’s better to save yourself than feel sorry.

Birds Damages and Vermin

Any damages caused by birds, Racoons, or squirrels making their way into your attic are not part of standard homeowner’s insurance plans. Whether wild birds have made a nest on your roof or have damaged your windows, you have to make repairs and replacements all by yourself. The best way to prevent further damage is to call animals experts like Clancy Bros Pest Control who can help you get rid of these creatures.

The Bottom Line

These homeowners insurance facts may have encouraged you to read the policies and plans carefully to get the coverage you are looking for. You can also read our blog on Home insurance terms you need to know..

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.

How Inflation Affects the Cost of Replacing Your Home

couple standing outside of their home

The country’s economy depends on various variables, which include inflation. Inflation has a negative or positive impact on the local industries. Among the sectors affected by the fluctuation of prices is the construction industry. The following is an overview of how inflation affects the cost of replacing your home and how this impacts your home insurance premium.

How Does Inflation Affect the Construction of a House?

As a result of inflation, the building material rates, machinery rates, and labor wages increase annually. The prices of most house equipment also rise due to inflation. When replacing a home, the changes in rates cause a deviation between the initial project budget and the final budget.

The high cost incurred during house construction results in an increase in the insurance premium. The insurance companies raise their premiums to cover and keep up with the increasing repair cost caused by inflation or annual property tax increase. Homeowners should have their property valuated regularly. The new data can be used in the settlement process if the house is damaged.

Home Replacement and Its Effect on Insurance Premium

While determining the initial home insurance premiums, insurance companies consider factors such as the square footage, the year it was built, the number of stories, the number of kitchens or bathrooms, flooring, and roof covering.

During property replacement, the insurance company will replace the lost asset with a similar replacement of the same value and functionality as the original one. However, quality items and luxury add-ons such as swimming pools are expensive to fix or replace if damaged.

The increase in the new items’ prices and the risk of maintaining them force the insurers to increase their premiums.

Vargas and Vargas Insurance is one of the premier local independent insurance agencies. We work for our clients and not the insurance company. We will customize your insurance coverage to your specific needs at the right price. Also, we are here to answer all of your insurance questions. Contact us today.

Here’s What Happens When You Make a House Insurance Claim

Homeowners going through the house insurance claim process

Having your house insured can save you a lot of trouble. House insurance usually covers your house and its contents. However, policies vary, and some may cover the structure alone. In case a risk materializes, you should put in a house insurance claim for compensation from your insurer. Settlement can take days, months, or even a year, depending on the damage.  

Making a house insurance claim can be very complicated. Most insurance companies expect you to fill a claim form, giving a detailed description of the incident. You may also have to attach proof of purchase to have damaged items replaced or repaired (depending on your policy). Here’s what happens when you put in a claim on your house insurance. 

1. Determination of the House Insurance Claim

Once you put in a claim on your house insurance, your insurer is expected to respond within two weeks. The insurer may contact you for more information within this period. In extreme situations, the company can hire a loss adjuster to investigate the incident. The adjuster will examine the property and ask you questions about its state, before and after damage. The adjuster’s report will then guide the insurer’s decision to accept or deny the claim. 

If your claim is denied, your insurance company should send you a detailed report clearly explaining the reasons for the denial.

2.  Compensation for Property Damage

Based on the information provided, your insurer makes compensation arrangements. This decision is based on the loss adjuster’s report and your past adherence to the insurer’s policies. The insurer determines the amount of compensation based on the degree of damage and the pre-established policy amount. 

The insurer can decide to pay through a bank deposit or by cheque, depending on the claim. However, if you acquired your house through a mortgage, your insurer will wire a payment check directly to the mortgage company. Therefore, you should inform the company of the insurance claim early in the process.   

3. Urgent Financial Need and Preventive Repairs

In the event of peril, you may have financial hardship due to the damage to your property. Your insurer should make advanced payments to help you overcome such difficulties. Additionally, any costs you have from making emergency repairs to prevent further damage should be reimbursed by your insurer. 

Getting compensated for damage to your home can be quite a headache. Working with a local independent insurance agency can help you avoid this headache. An independent insurance agent represents you and does not work for any insurance company.

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is a premier local independent insurance agency that solely serves your interests and not those of your insurers.  At Vargas & Vargas, you will get custom and affordable insurance coverage for your specific needs and have all of your insurance questions answered. Contact us today to get started.

What Is Personal Property Insurance?

Personal property insurance is part of a home insurance policy. It provides coverage for the items in your home that are damaged or lost due to events, called named perils, such as fire, lightning, smoke, theft, and vandalism. In this article, we’ll discuss what types of coverage you can have and what you need to know as you shop for a policy.

couple playing on an insured piano in their home

Personal Property Types of Coverages

There are two types of personal property coverage:

  1. Actual Cash Value (ACV)
  2. Replacement cost value

An actual cash value policy is where an agreed-upon amount is decided upon when drafting your policy, which is the replacement value of the item minus depreciation. This amount is what you will be paid if the property is damaged or stolen. The insurance company will reimburse the agreed upon actual cash value in qualifying circumstances. 

Replacement value is the second type of coverage. This coverage allows you to replace the item with another item of “replacement value.” In other words, it covers the cost of replacing the item with another similar item — a TV for another TV, for example. To get reimbursed by your insurance company with this method, you must generally buy a replacement item and submit your receipts to the insurance company for payment.

Personal Property When You Have a Home, Condo or Renter Insurance Policy

Personal property is covered differently depending upon whether you have traditional home insurance or condo or renter’s insurance. Home insurance will usually cover your personal property for an aggregate amount of up to 50% of the dwelling amount, or the amount your home is insured for. So if your home is insured for $240,000, your personal property will be insured for $120,000. If you’d like to have more insurance for your personal property, you may have the option to choose more than 50%, but with a higher premium. 

Renter’s or condo insurance provides coverage amounts a bit differently. You will be able to pick the amount of insurance you want based on your estimate of coverage needed. This amount will depend upon what you own and how much it is worth. The coverage amounts vary by the insurance provider and by the specific type of policy offered.

More Valuable or Expensive Personal Property

If you own items that are more valuable, such as antiques or collectibles, you might invest in additional insurance for this coverage. You may hear terms such as floater, endorsement, or scheduled personal property. These actually refer to additional coverage that you may purchase to cover valuable items that might not be covered specifically under your home owner’s insurance coverage limits.  

Contact us and let us help you with your personal property insurance needs. Vargas & Vargas Insurance provides friendly assistance with all of your coverage needs.

Understanding Homeowners Insurance: What Is Loss of Use Coverage?

happy couple planning home repairs

As Massachusetts insurance agents, the best part of our day is helping first-time homebuyers get a home insurance policy. It’s an exciting and stressful time for young families, and Vargas & Vargas Insurance is here to help.

If this is your first time shopping for home insurance (or if you’ve been a homeowner for years but haven’t read your policy), then it might seem a little overwhelming. We’re here to explain some important points about your policy, and why it’s crucial to have a strong insurance policy in place. In this article, we’ll discuss Coverage D, Loss of Use.

What Is Loss of Use Coverage/Living Expense Coverage/Coverage D?

A strong home insurance policy will protect your investment from a covered loss, like fire. 

Imagine your home was to burn down to the ground. If it’s a smoking pile of debris now, then you’ll need to rebuild your home from the ground up. Coverage D is there to pay for your living expenses elsewhere while you rebuild. It will cover things like:

  • Meals at restaurants
  • Hotel stays
  • Renting an apartment

All you need to do is let your claims adjuster know that you’re staying elsewhere and keep copies of all your receipts. 

Loss of use coverage will also protect you if you suffer a partial loss. Examples would include:

  • The city’s sewer system overflows while you’re gone on a business trip overnight. You come home to a basement full of raw sewage. So you can’t stay in the home — it’s a health risk. Coverage D will pay for your hotel stay and meals. 
  • Your neighbor’s house burns down completely, and one wall of your home is burnt and damaged. If you can’t stay in the home while a wall is replaced, then your coverage will pay for your living expenses somewhere else.

How Much Loss of Use Coverage Do I Have?

Loss of use coverage is based on a percentage of replacement cost (Coverage A). Most basic policies start at 10%. For example, a home valued at $200,000 replacement cost may have $20,000 coverage for loss of use. But every policy is unique, so talk with a licensed insurance agent to understand yours.

As a homeowner, you must understand which coverage you have and what each element does. Read your declarations page carefully, and give us a call at 617-409-0329 if you need a homeowners insurance quote today.

Home Insurance FAQ: Purchase Price vs. Replacement Cost

couple looking up home insurance information in their kitchen

Here at Vargas & Vargas Insurance, our goal as licensed insurance agents is to provide competitive homeowners insurance policies to Massachusetts families. Part of our job is educating first-time homebuyers and investors about how homeowners insurance works. 

This article is going to address a home’s purchase price versus replacement cost as it pertains to insurance. We’re also going to answer two specific questions we get all the time:

  1. Why am I insuring a home for replacement cost instead of the purchase price?
  2. What is “dwelling replacement cost,” and how does it work?

Why Am I Insuring a Home for the Replacement Cost, Not the Purchase Price?

Homeowners insurance is designed to help you replace a home and its contents from the ground up in the event of a loss.

Imagine your home burns down to the ground. Homeowners insurance is there to rebuild that home completely and replace your belongings. Replacement cost is our best estimate of what it will take to rebuild that home, in your neighborhood, per square foot.

However, it’s important to know that the purchase price of a home is not equal to replacement cost. Purchase price includes the land the dwelling is sitting on, for example, which doesn’t need to be replaced after a fire.

What Is Dwelling Replacement Cost, and How Does It Work?

We figure every dwelling’s replacement cost individually with a formula: square footage by replacement price (sqft x rp). Replacement price depends on factors like:

  • Your location
  • Current labor costs
  • The expense of materials like wood, brick, carpet, and roofing

As a result, dwelling replacement cost changes from time to time. We also consider:

  • Special enhancements like moldings, architectural finishes, columns and more
  • Fireplaces and stonework
  • Systems like central heat and air, central vacuuming, and sprinkler systems
  • Anything else special or unique about your home

In many cases (but not all), a home’s replacement cost is higher than the purchase price. This is good news for you as a buyer. If there is a total loss, you will come out financially ahead if you have a mortgage.

If you’re buying a home for the first time, congratulations! It’s a tremendous accomplishment. The staff at Vargas & Vargas Insurance is ready to help you get the homeowner’s insurance you need. Reach out to us today at 617-409-0329 for a homeowner’s insurance quote, and check out our blog for more great Massachusetts insurance topics.

What’s the Difference Between Condo Insurance and Home Insurance?

Insurance is vital, regardless of whether you own a home or a condo. It can help offset damages to your property, so you don’t have to worry about paying for those damages out of your pocket.

happy young couple buying a condo and talking to the property manager
Protect your new condo by learning how condo insurance is different from home insurance.

However, the type of insurance you choose will dictate how any damages to your property will be handled. While both home and condo insurance might cover your property, there are some subtle differences between the two. Here is how home and condo insurance differ:

Condo Insurance

Condo insurance covers any non-communal property that you use as a property owner. Ideally, it should cover certain ‘walls-in’ losses, replacements, and repairs, as well as your personal property. For any damages that happen outside your unit walls, the condo association’s master insurance policy should offset them. But you should always verify the details before you purchase a condo or change your insurance policy.

Condo insurance also comes with loss assessment coverage. In situations where the condo association levies condo damage fees on all unit owners, this will cover the ad hoc fees. Condo associations will typically do this if the cost of offsetting damages to the communal assets is more than what their master insurance policy covers.

Home Insurance

Traditional home insurance tends to be for single-family dwellings, and it can be as simple or complex as mortgage lenders allow it to be. It should cover your entire home structure, including construction materials and other permanent elements. Most insurance policies also cover any personal property that is valued at 50% or greater of the insured home itself. The insurance can also cover other structures within the vicinity, such as detached garages and sheds.

Filing Claims

Filing claims is typically easy for home insurance, as it can be made directly with the insurers. On the flip side, there are some complexities in filing claims through condo insurance, and the specifics will depend on the situation.

For instance, the condo association insurance should take care of water damages as long as they are as a result of burst pipes outside your condo walls. Your condo insurance will, however, take care of damages arising from burst kitchen sink pipes, as they are within the unit’s walls.

Insurance policies tend to have rules that property owners have to adhere to for an easy claiming process. Regardless of the insurance policy you have, it pays to follow these rules. Be sure to read through the fine print of your insurance policy documents to choose the right coverage. If you have any questions about condo insurance or you’re looking for a new policy, we’re here to help. Contact us online or at 617-298-0655 to talk to our team.