6 Ways Downsizing Saves You Money

older couple unpacking in front of their new home while downsizing

A big house is not always the best, particularly if you want to make your life simpler and save on expenses. Most people often desire to downsize their homes and streamline their lifestyles as they age. The decision to downsize your house is motivated by several reasons, including fewer expenses, starting a new adventure, and minimizing the upkeep and effort of maintenance. If you want to know if downsizing saves you money, it is vital to consider all the different areas of savings. Below are the expenses that you can save on when you downsize your house.

1. Cost of Purchase

A smaller house comes at a cheaper cost, which is subject to less capital gains tax on profits. Therefore, you save on the cost and on capital gains tax.

2. Property Taxes

When you downsize your house, you save on property taxes. There is a big difference in property taxes between different neighborhoods based on the availability of amenities and access to roads.

3. Maintenance

Moving to a smaller house helps in reducing the amount spent on maintenance and sustenance. This relieves you from the maintenance cost of a large house that can, at times, weigh you down.

4. Mortgage

Downsizing to a smaller house ensures you fully utilize the space in your house, and you save on your mortgage payment.

5. Utilities

A smaller house means you are spending less every month to cool and heat the space. This is good for your wallet and the environment because you are consuming less energy.

6. Healthcare

In most cases, a big house is packed with clutter and stuff, and this adversely affects the quality of air. Cluttered homes are dustier and dirtier than small houses that are less cluttered. Also, the air quality in small houses is good, and this reduces your chances of falling sick. Cleaning a smaller house is less complicated and does not consume much time. There is little stress in cleaning your small house, and this does not adversely affect your health.

Vargas & Vargas Insurance can help you when you are buying or downsizing to a small place. We will customize your insurance coverage to your specific needs at the right price. We are here to answer all of your questions, so contact us today.

Insurance To-Dos After Your Child Moves Out

So your child is moving out. They are either going to college and getting an off-campus apartment, going out on their own for a job, or starting some other adventure. This brings with it a whole string of emotions from happy to sad and anxious to ecstatic. After the tears, it’s time to think about some next steps for when you are starting to downsize your life. 

Adult Son Moving Out Of Parent's Home

Home Insurance

On your checklist of to-dos, you will want to check on your home policy after your child has moved. There are a few different things to check. For example, you will want to see if you can change your own policy to be lower now that there are not as many belongings in the home. You may also want to see if your homeowner’s policy will cover your child if they are still in college (which may be the case if they are in the dorms). Alternatively, you may be able to get a discount by getting a renter’s policy through the same company. 

In any case, now may be a good time to let your child know that a renter’s policy will help them with liability concerns. It will also protect the belongings that are inside their apartment.  

Car Insurance

The other thing that your child will need to take charge of will be their own car insurance policy. This is especially nice as newer drivers tend to require more expensive policies. If they are moving far away without a car, you may be able to put the car they used in your own name without listing them as a driver on the policy any longer. Alternatively, if they are moving and taking their car, they can go ahead and get their own policy. You will no longer need to be responsible for it and can see about downsizing your coverage.  

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is the premier local independent insurance agency — we work for our clients and not the insurance company. We will customize your insurance coverage to your specific needs at the right price as you downsize. Contact us today for answers to all of your insurance questions.

When Is the Right Time to Reassess Your Home’s Value?

There are times when you think about your home’s value and wonder whether you have the right home insurance coverage. It’s an important thing to consider, and there are definitely times when it is important to reassess your home’s value. This ensures you have the coverage that matches your home and belongings, just in case something happens. 

Young man and woman finishing their kitchen renovation

If you were to look at the market right now and think that maybe your coverage is not enough, that isn’t the whole story. Insurance companies use replacement value, not market value, to make assessments of your home’s worth. 

What Is Replacement Value?

Replacement value is the cost of replacing the home and all the belongings inside it. This does not take into account the age of the home or any depreciation that has occurred over time. This value is challenging to quantify. 

How Often You Should Reassess Your Home’s Value

It would be best if you had your insurance policy reassessed whenever you have made improvements to your home. Also, as the market changes, you will want to have the policy assessed. Why is this important? You don’t want to have something happen, only to find out that you only have half of your home’s worth covered in your insurance plan. It is best to get a new appraisal every couple of years, and a new insurance assessment annually.

In the end, it is better to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to your home insurance policy. Proactive steps now give you the comfort that, if something happens, you have the coverage that you need so that you can focus on rebuilding. 

Vargas & 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 home insurance coverage to your specific needs at the right price, and we’re here to answer all of your insurance questions. Contact us today to get started.

How Often Should You Reassess Your Home’s Value?

There are different types of home valuations that you can choose from. The value of your home depends on your chosen type of valuation. There are different ways and reasons why homes are valued. The different types of home valuations differ based on the reason, who carries out the process, and the effect on the rates and coverage of your home insurance.

home inspector assessing a house's value

Some home valuations affect home insurance directly. It is important to critically appraise your home insurance policy if you realize there is a decrease or increase in its apparent value. Also, it is important to have enough home-dwelling insurance coverage in the event of a disaster. It is devastating to lose your house to a disaster and realize it was insured for less than its value.

Several factors affect the value of a home. They include size, age, location, condition, and building materials. You might need different types of valuations for different reasons. Therefore, home valuations fluctuate based on the situation.

Reassessing Your Home’s Value for Insurance Coverage

It would help if you had your home reassessed to ensure your coverage is a good fit. It would also help if you reassessed the value of your home every year. This will help you decide on the best coverage. This helps in avoiding payment of high premiums. It also ensures that any possibility of loss is satisfactorily covered.

Reassessing the value of your home every year helps in incorporating any recent improvements to your house into your insurance coverage. Even if there are no improvements, reassessment ensures that you have adequate coverage limits to cover the entire cost of rebuilding.

In reassessing the value of your home, you need to measure how much coverage you need. Also, inspect for perils not included in the coverage, and recheck your deductible. You need to compare your current premium to the premium you paid the previous year. Be sure you store all your documents safely.

Vargas & Vargas is one of the premier local independent insurance agencies. We work for you by customizing your insurance coverage consistent with your specific needs at the right price. Contact us today for expert responses to all your insurance questions. 

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.

Protecting Your Most Prized Possessions: How to Insure Your Engagement Ring

The question has been popped, and now you’re sporting a shiny new rock on your left hand. Congratulations! Before you start hearing church bells and say, “I do,” it’s important that you take the time to protect your valuable new asset with the proper insurance policy. While ring insurance may not be the most romantic thing you’ve ever thought of, protecting your beloved piece can give you peace of mind. You’ll know you’re covered in the event of an unfortunate situation. Here’s what you need to know about getting your engagement ring insured.

man proposing to a woman while holding an engagement ring

1. Don’t Wait to Insure Your Ring

As soon as the ring is purchased, you or your fiancé can have it insured. The sooner you choose to do so, the sooner you’ll be protected. 

2. Understand How the Insurance Works

When it comes to finding an insurance company to insure a piece of jewelry, you have two options: adding it to your homeowners or renters policy, or finding an independent company that specializes in jewelry. The cost of the insurance will depend on if your insurance company requires a deductible and where you live. For policies with no deductible, you will likely pay more in monthly premiums. On average, you can expect to pay $1 to $2 for every $100 your ring is worth.

3. Ask the Right Questions

Before you commit to a policy, be sure to ask your provider these questions:

  • Are you covered for damages, loss, and theft?
  • How do you prove that the ring disappeared?
  • What circumstances aren’t covered?
  • Can you choose who does repairs on the ring?
  • If a replacement is covered, where are you allowed to buy a new ring?

4. Get It Appraised 

Choose an appraiser who has the proper credentials to give you an accurate value of the ring. Be sure to keep a copy of the documentation that proves your ring’s condition and worth, so that you can not only have it replaced if something happens, but also so that you pay the appropriate premium on your investment.

While some appraisal services may try to exaggerate the value of your ring, getting the actual value of the ring is critical to keep you from paying higher monthly premiums unnecessarily. It’s also worth noting that most insurance companies will choose to replace a missing ring rather than write a check to the consumer to replace it. Many already have relationships with jewelry wholesalers and will never pay the retail price or pay for an inflated appraisal value.

Vargas & Vargas Insurance can help you enjoy your engagement ring for years to come without worrying about it getting lost or damaged. Contact us today to learn more about our competitive insurance services and how we can protect your most prized possession.

What Can I Do About Forced Place Insurance?

man researching a home insurance policy to replace his forced place insurance

Forced place insurance is only applied after a homeowner has failed to meet insurance requirements as detailed in their mortgage. So the first step in avoiding the additional cost of this type of insurance is staying on top of your insurance obligations. Know exactly what type of insurance coverage your lender requires before purchasing a home, and do your research to find a cost-effective policy that meets your needs. Justly as importantly, keep up with your payments to prevent your coverage from expiring. 

If you do find yourself unexpectedly billed for forced place insurance, there are steps that you can take to have the policy removed. First, you will need to pay the premium as soon as possible in order to prevent your lender from taking further action, such as seeking foreclosure. This buys you a limited amount of time to correct the issue in order to prevent it from becoming a larger problem. 

Once you have taken care of this crucial step, search for a new insurance policy to replace the forced place insurance. You will either need to restart your expired policy or purchase a new one that meets your lender’s requirements. 

Then, once you have purchased a replacement insurance policy, provide your lender with a written request to remove the forced place insuranceand proof that your new policy fulfills the requirements. Be sure to stay informed about any changes to your lender’s requirements in order to avoid future insurance problems.  

Removing Forced Place Insurance Is Simple with the Right Insurance Service

Although forced place insurance is expensive and inconvenient for homeowners, it is an issue that is relatively easy to resolve. By providing your lender with proof that you have corrected your error, most homeowners can quickly return to their chosen homeowners insurance policy instead of paying far more for forced place insurance.

 At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we are experts at getting you the right coverage at the right price. Call us at 617-298-0655 today to learn more about our services!

What You Need to Know About Forced Place Insurance

young couple in their living room

Unexpectedly finding yourself paying for forced place insurance can create a significant dent in your monthly budget. This type of insurance is a lender’s response to expired or insufficient insurance, and it costs significantly more than your own policy. It sometimes as much as four times the cost of your own policy. Fortunately, there are steps homeowners can take to resolve their current insurance deficiencies and request that their lenders remove the forced place insurance policy. 

What Is Forced Place Insurance? 

Forced place insurance is an insurance policy that your mortgage company purchases to cover their interest in your home if:

  • You let your home insurance policy expire, or
  • Your policy does not meet their coverage requirements.

Forced place insurance generally only covers the cost of your mortgage. While other insurance policies cover your possessions and the full cost of replacing your home, as well as protect you in the event of a lawsuit, forced place insurance does not protect the homeowner and only replaces the cost that protects your bank or mortgage company. 

Why Is Forced Place Insurance So Expensive?

Forced place insurance is generally more expensive than regular homeowners insurance. That’s because it is an extra step that your lender needs to take if they determine that you have not met the insurance requirements specified in your mortgage. Because your property must be insured in order to protect your lender, allowing your homeowners insurance to expire — or purchasing a policy that does not meet the needs of your area — gives your lender the right to purchase any policy they choose for your property.

In many circumstances, the cost of forced place insurance can cost multiple times the amount of a typical homeowners insurance policy. Because the cost of this policy becomes the homeowner’s responsibility, most lenders will not shop around for an affordable option.

If you want to know more about forced place insurance and how to get a more favorable policy, we can help. Contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance today.

What You Need to Know About Personal Property Insurance (for Your Home)

family in their home

Homeowners insurance in Massachusetts is complicated. That’s why the staff at Vargas & Vargas is creating blogs. We want to help our customers understand the most important insurance topics as they relate to YOU. With this article, we’ll explain personal property insurance, also known as contents coverage.

As always, feel free to reach out to us directly to speak to a licensed agent if you have questions beyond the scope of this article.

What Is Personal Property Insurance?

Personal property coverage, or contents coverage, is a protection built into your homeowner’s policy for the contents of your home. It covers your belongings, like:

  • Furniture
  • Clothing
  • Carpeting
  • Dishes and cookware
  • Almost everything else you own (with a few exceptions)

Take a look around your home. What would it cost to replace everything if the home was to burn down? It would probably cost quite a bit. So most homeowner’s policies will start their basic guess of your personal property’s value at 50% of your home’s reconstruction value. In other words, if we believe your home would cost $300,000 to rebuild, we can guess that your belongings are worth about $150,000. 

To get more refined valuations, keep receipts for the more expensive purchases in your home. They can be very helpful after a loss. Also, every homeowner’s insurance policy is unique. Some programs provide more contents coverage than others. So talk to a licensed agent if you feel your contents coverage isn’t enough. We can always provide more!

What Isn’t Covered?

Certain items aren’t protected by personal property coverage. The list includes things like:

  • Luxury jewelry
  • Fine art
  • Expensive furs
  • Heirloom antiques and collectibles of high value

If you own valuables like a $70,000 painting or a $20,000 Gibson guitar signed by John Lennon, then talk to your agent to get it endorsed on your homeowners policy.

But if you own a $13,000 diamond ring, you’ll need special insurance for it. This type of coverage is called a Personal Article Floater (PAF) — or simply a “floater” — in the industry. Just provide us with certified appraisals, and we’ll do the rest!

Need to talk about personal property insurance? Vargas & Vargas Insurance has service centers all around Massachusetts, and we’re happy to help. Email us today or call 617-298-0655 to speak with a licensed agent.

All About the Circuit Breaker Income Tax Credit for Massachusetts Homeowners and Renters Age 65+

older couple organizing their tax information to get the Circuit Breaker Income Tax Credit

It’s tax time! At Vargas & Vargas, we’re Massachusetts licensed insurance agents and tax professionals, and we’re ready to help. We want our customers to be aware of the Massachusetts “Circuit Breaker” tax credit for folks who are age 65 and up. We know that every cent counts at income tax time. This income tax credit can be valuable for seniors, whether they own a home or rent.

Seniors Might Get a Cash Refund From Massachusetts — Even If You Don’t Pay State Taxes 

According to this Massachusetts Association of Councils on the Aging (MCOA) fact sheet, the “‘Circuit Breaker” tax credit program is a program for individuals aged 65 and older, whose property taxes and half of the water and sewer bills are more than 10% of their annual gross income. Renters can qualify for the credit, too, if your rent is more than 25% of your income and you meet a few other criteria.

Seniors can get this refundable income tax credit even if they owe no income taxes! 

A Few Basic Criteria

This tax credit is based on property taxes you’ve paid (or that your landlord paid) in 2019, plus your sewer and water bills. Keep these requirements in mind:

  • You must be 65 or older this year to qualify.
  • Your primary residence, whether you own or rent, must be here in Massachusetts. 
  • Your earnings must be less than $60,000 for a single individual, $75,000 for a head of household, or $90,000 for married couples who file jointly.

For instance, let’s assume you’re single and earned $40,000 in 2019. You paid $3,000 in property taxes and $4,000 in water and sewer bills. Since your total eligible payments of $5,000 are greater than 10% of your earnings, you’ll qualify for the tax credit!

How Much Is the “Circuit Breaker” Tax Credit Worth?

According to the official Massachusetts state website, the maximum credit value is $1,130. Talk to a tax advisor about the exact credit amount for your unique situation.

Vargas & Vargas is a local, family-owned insurance agency. We provide competitive insurance products and tax services across Massachusetts. Reach out to us today if you’d like to learn more about our tax services or if you need a quote for homeowners or renters insurance.