A Massachusetts Smart Home Guide

Have you noticed that everything nowadays is connected to the internet? Once ‘smartphones’ caught on (to the point that it seems like everyone has one) it seems like everything need to be ‘smart.’ Have you adopted any smart devices in your home, or are you thinking of adding any to your repertoire? Whether you’re deep into the Internet of Things lifestyle or you’re thinking of dipping your toe in the waters of smart home devices, this guide is for you!

Thermostats

One of the first innovations in the smart home space was the smart thermostat. As with the majority of smart devices (as you will see as we go through each of the following categories) this product allows you to connect a household object to the internet and therefore control it from the comfort of your phone.

This means adjusting the temperature of your home without leaving the couch, or even being able to do it while you’re away from home! Imagine being able to go on a vacation in the summer and turning your air conditioning off to save money. This used to mean coming home to a stifling house! Now, however, you can use your phone and smart thermostat to turn on the air a few hours prior to arriving home – allowing you to benefit from the savings of turning off your thermostat without the hassle of waiting for the house to cool down when you arrive home.

Light Bulbs

How often do you wake up before dawn and have to avoid tripping over things to turn on the light? Or get ready to watch a movie only to have to get up to dim the lights? These annoyances are no more when you install smart lights in your home. Not only can you turn the bulbs on and off from your Wi-Fi enabled devices, most bulbs are able to dim, and some are even able to broadcast colored lights!

Security Cameras

Home security cameras used to be a passive possession. You would turn the camera on and forget about it unless something happened – then you could pull the tapes and hope that there was something useful recorded.

Now, having a security camera is much more useful. When positioned correctly, you can use a security camera to watch people enter and exit your property in real time, including delivery workers and even your children getting home from school in the afternoons. Some of these devices are connected to smart doorbells, which will send you a notification if they are rung, and sometimes even allow you to communicate with your visitors from afar.

Indoor security cameras can monitor older children that are home alone, as well as any elderly residents of the home and mischievous pets that should be checked on occasionally throughout the day. This monitoring for the indoor and outdoor cameras can be done via the internet from anywhere that you have a device with access to your camera system.

Switches and Outlets

Have another object that you wish could be powered on and off with your phone? Just plug it in through a smart outlet or hook it up to a smart switch. This works on many things, including fans, holiday lights and trees, coffee makers, and much more.

Speakers

Another great innovation in the smart home space is the smart speaker. Most smart speakers have the ability to connect to and control many of your other smart devices through voice commands. So most of the devices above that you can control with a phone can also be controlled with your voice and a smart speaker. This means that futuristic commands like “turn on the lights,” “turn down the temperature,” and “turn on the ceiling fan” are now possible to execute!

Smart speakers are also able to access a vast wealth of knowledge from the internet. Have a question? Try asking your virtual assistant! You won’t need to pull out your device – the speaker will often answer basic questions in seconds.

This list of devices may seem long, but it barely scratches the surface of what’s available to homeowners, and new smart devices are coming out all the time!

Does all of this talk about technology and smart homes have you considering upgrading your home with these devices? If you do decide to make a change, remember to call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency and talk to your Boston home insurance agent. Let them know what changes you have made to see if it affects your insurance rates. You may need extra coverage to protect your new device, or your insurance rates could lower because of added security features in your home!

There is only one way to know for sure what the impact on your Massachusetts home insurance policy will be – call 617-298-0655 and talk to your agent now!

Make Sure Your Valuables are Covered by Your Home Insurance

Natural disasters can put your home in Dorchester, MA, and all your personal belongings at risk of damage or total loss. Home insurance can help mitigate that loss. Standard homeowners insurance, however, comes with limits on how much protection you receive for personal belongings. This protection may not be enough to replace valuable goods if they are stolen or damaged. How, then, can you make sure your valuables are covered under your home insurance policy? 

Purchase an Endorsement

An endorsement is additional insurance you can obtain to fully protect valuable items. The first step towards getting this coverage is to have your valuables appraised to determine their worth. You’ll then have a better idea of the kind of protection you need.  

There are two kinds of endorsements you can obtain for your valuable items: blanket coverage or individual floater. Blanket coverage enables you to protect entire collections of goods such as jewelry, stamp collection, coin collection, fine art, wine collections, etc. Floaters or riders cover specific items such as one painting or piece of furniture. At Vargas & Vargas Insurance, we can help you select the best option for your valuables so you can get the insurance protection you need.

Benefits of Endorsements

There are numerous benefits to obtaining an endorsement for your valuables. Endorsements give you greater control over insurance protection for valuable goods, up to the replacement cost of your valuables. They also protect you against more perils than standard policies to include pet damage, accidents, and mysterious disappearance. Under many policies, floaters have no deductibles, saving you from having to pay anything out of pocket when making a claim.

If you’re looking for additional protection for your valuable goods, contact us at Vargas & Vargas Insurance in Dorchester, MA. 

Recap: Monthly Maintenance

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.”

– Margaret Thatcher

Taking care of your home can seem like a colossal task – but just like any big job, it is much easier to handle when broken into more manageable pieces. Consider, for example, the post on our blog from last week about a few simple monthly home maintenance tasks that you should have set on your schedule to keep your home running smoothly.

  • Check your HVAC filters and determine if they need to be replaced.
  • Clean your dish disposal in the kitchen by grinding a few vinegar ice cubes.
  • Use a combination of degreaser and hot water to soak your range hood’s filter.
  • Ensure that your fire extinguisher has adequate pressure and is accessible.
  • Clean your sink aerators and shower heads with vinegar

If you ever need help with a home maintenance task, call a Boston professional! Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we know many qualified professionals in the area, and would be happy to provide you with a referral.

And to ensure that you will have a smooth recovery in case anything ever happens to your home, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655 to talk about your home insurance policy. Having a great home insurance policy is crucial, and to make sure that your home insurance policy is up to date, you should talk to your insurance agent yearly to update it based on your changing needs.

Recap: What Does Home Insurance Cover?

“The best we can do is size up the chances, calculate the risks involved, estimate our ability to deal with them, and then make our plans with confidence.”

– Henry Ford

To protect your home, you have a home insurance policy – but do you know exactly what coverage is a part of your policy and what risks you may be more susceptible to? Every insurance policy is different, but there are a few basic coverages that you can expect.

Your home insurance will likely cover:

  • Damage done to your home or property due to perils stated in the policy.
  • The possessions of you and your family, including those not kept at your home.
  • Liability issues arising from injuries taking place at your property.

On the other hand, coverage for the following probably won’t be included:

  • Flooding caused by excessive rainfall or other natural disasters.
  • Earthquakes – some experts say that Boston could be hit by another significant one in the future!
  • High value items including fine jewelry, antiques, and collections.
  • High-risk items like trampolines or pools, or liability issues due to dog breeds deemed ‘high-risk’ by insurance providers.

The only way to find out exactly what your policy includes or doesn’t include is to talk to your Boston insurance agent at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency by calling 617-298-0655. We can comb through your policy and let you know if you have the right amount of coverage and recommend any additional protections that you may need.

What Your Home Insurance Does (and Doesn’t) Cover

Everyone knows that when you own a home, it needs to be insured with a great home insurance policy. But what does that mean? What types of protection does a typical Massachusetts home insurance policy cover? While each policy will be slightly different based on the home and the needs of the homeowner, there are certain things that you can safely bet that any home insurance policy will (and won’t) include.

What Is Covered

Your Property

When you purchase home insurance, the most basic type of coverage included in your policy is coverage for the property itself. This should include your walls, windows, floors, roof, and all the basic structural elements of your home. Just be aware that damage due to specific causes or events may not be covered, as noted below.

Personal Property

In addition to covering the structure of your home, most home insurance policies will also cover your personal possessions, up to a stated limit. Thankfully, you can talk to your local insurance agent to adjust this limit to fit your needs and the needs of your family. It is also worth noting that your belongings don’t necessarily need to be in your home in order to be covered – ask your agent whether your coverage includes protection for items stolen out of your car, or a child’s belongings while they are away at college, for example.

Personal Liability

The final type of protection often included in a standard home insurance policy is personal liability protection. This coverage will help to ensure that you are financially protected if you are involved in a lawsuit because, for example, a guest trips and injures themselves on your property and sues you for medial expenses and lost wages. You never know what the future will bring, so while you never expect to be involved in a lawsuit, this insurance coverage is a good safety net to have just in case.

What May Not Be Covered

Flood

Your basic home insurance policy will cover several perils, but flood damage isn’t one of them. To learn more about flood insurance, read our FAQ blog here. One of the most important things to know is that to be a flood, waters must cover at least two square acres of normally dry land and/or affect at least two properties. If you want coverage for flood damage, ask your insurance agent about getting a flood insurance policy to add to your insurance portfolio.

Earthquake

Like floods, earthquake coverage is contained in a separate insurance policy and won’t be included with your home insurance. New England regularly gets hit by smaller magnitude earthquakes, but there is always a chance that a big one will hit. The most famous earthquake to ever hit our area was the 1755 Cape Ann earthquake – at over a 6.0 on the Richter scale, it damaged hundreds of buildings and could be felt all the way from Nova Scotia to South Carolina!

Collectibles and High Value Items

Your home insurance will probably include coverage for your possessions, but you may want to offer special consideration for your high value items. As stated above, policies have limits on the amount of coverage they offer, so adding extra protection for some of your items may be recommended. This is especially true for fine jewelry, antiques, collections, etc. Talk to your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about any items that you fear may not be covered under a standard home insurance policy – they will be able to tell you whether you need additional insurance protection for these items as a floater on your home insurance or as a separate policy.

High Risk Items and Situations

Here is another reason that you may want some expert help in reading the small print of your home insurance policy: some high-risk situations and items may not be covered! Every insurance provider is different, but some may not cover, for example, trampolines or offer liability protection for certain breeds of dog. If you have any special needs when it comes to having a high-risk situation like these, an insurance agent can help you select a policy that will offer coverage for you. The most common of these is pool accidents – and even if your policy offers coverage for incidents pertaining to your pool, you may want to consider some extra liability insurance to offset the additional risks associated with it, especially if you will have children or young adults swimming often.

As we mentioned earlier, this blog should not serve as a definitive guide for every home insurance policy. To find out what your unique home insurance policy covers, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655. Want to find out what types of coverage we recommend for your Boston home? Call or click for a free home insurance quote from our coverage experts, and have us craft a unique policy tailored to your needs.

Recap: Surviving Winter for Bostonians

“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” – Aristotle

There are only a few weeks left in the year, and as snowfall becomes a more regular occurrence here in Massachusetts, we want to make sure that our clients stay warm, healthy, and happy throughout the cold winter months. Here is a quick recap of our full blog post with ideas on how to make this winter the best one yet:

  • Be Warm – Keep the freezing temperatures outside of your home by making sure that your windows and doors aren’t drafty. Set your thermostat to 68 degrees for optimal heating and energy consumption, according to ready.gov.
  • Be Healthy – Colds and flus run rampant in the winter, so get a flu shot and wash your hands often. Exercise at your local gym or try a winter sport to stay in shape.
  • Be Happy – Don’t let the cold get you down – there are plenty of wintertime activities in the Boston area! Or, if you would rather stay inside, now is the perfect time to binge watch a new show, read a book, have a family game night, or try a new recipe that you’ve been craving!

When was the last time you reviewed your insurance policies with a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent? Call 617-298-0655 and we can chat about your home, renters, or condo insurance policy to make sure that it is providing full coverage for you and your loved ones.

Surviving Winter in Your Boston Home or Condominium

Winter is in full swing once again here in the Boston area. What are your favorite winter activities? We want to share some tips for staying warm, healthy and happy this winter in your home, apartment or condo. Choose one or try them all! Hopefully they can make your winter a little more joyous.

How to Stay Warm

The average low temperature in Boston for winter months is easily below freezing, so staying warm can be a challenge. Before you crank up the heat, check to ensure that the cold air is staying outside where it should be. This is best done with energy efficient (and non-draft-prone) windows and doors. See about refitting your home’s windows and doors if you are falling victim to drafts – these will cost you money year-round, cooling your home in the winter and heating it in the summer.

Do you have a programmable thermostat? Setting it to 68 degrees will heat your home while also conserving energy, according to ready.gov. Make sure to lower it by 10 or more degrees at night, though, to save approximately 10% on your heating bill. Also see if you can close the heat vent and shut the door to any unused rooms in your home or condo to cut your heating costs even further. It is also prudent to ensure that you have a back-up heat source in case of a power loss.

How to Stay Healthy

During the winter, more people stay indoors, and this means an increased number of germs in your home, apartment, or condo. Stay healthy by getting a flu shot if you can, and by washing your hands often. Also, regularly disinfect the surfaces of your home that are touched often. Just in case someone in your household falls ill, have the necessary medical supplies on hand so that you don’t have to make a rushed trip to the pharmacy.

Staying healthy in the winter also means finding the opportunity to exercise. Not many people want to go for an outdoor jog in the middle of winter in Boston, but there are plenty of alternatives that will keep you fit until the warm weather returns. Many people will choose to exercise at their local gym, where cardio and weight equipment are available year-round. Some gyms in the area also offer indoor pools and/or fitness classes that can keep your exercise routine fresh and new. There are also plenty of options available for people that would rather exercise at home, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on expensive equipment.

If you would rather continue to get your exercise out in the fresh air, choose an appropriate wintertime activity. Ice skating can be a great cardio workout, you can also try something more off-the-wall, like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Just make sure that you are dressed appropriately, and that you take plenty of breaks from the cold and that you stay hydrated as you work out outside.

How to Stay Happy

As we mentioned, the cold weather of the winter often means spending more time indoors. For some people this can lead to wintertime blues and boredom. Instead of being unhappy that you must spend so much time inside, try to be thankful for the extra time in your cozy home. Get your family together to play a board game, binge watch a tv show that looks interesting, cook up a new recipe, or check something off your reading list.

Need to get out of the house? You’re in luck! There are lots of activities in the Boston area in the winter, so you don’t need to feel like you’re cooped up – even when the city is blanketed in snow! Family activities are especially popular this time of year, including the Holiday Bricktacular at Legoland Discovery Center, Santa Saturdays at the Franklin Park Zoo, and Snowmazing! at the Boston Children’s Museum, among many others.

A few more favorites from the agents here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency include seeing The Nutcracker at the Boston Ballet, catching a Holiday Pops performance at the Boston Symphony Hall, and seeing the Christmas trees at Faneuil Hall and the Boston Common. There are plenty of events happening in the area, so bundle up and have some fun out in the city to ward off the boredom often brought by the cold weather.

We also want to make sure that you know that Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency is here for all your home, renters, and condo insurance needs this winter (and all year-round). If you want to have a chat about your current insurance policies, or if you have an insurance question, all you have to do is call us at 617-298-0655. One of our friendly and knowledgeable agents will be happy to take care of you!

Recap: Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner

“Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving.” – Amy Grant

Are you going to be hosting your family’s Thanksgiving this year? It’s never too early to start preparations, so here are a few things you can start to consider. Just think of them as advice from your favorite Massachusetts insurance agents!

  • Start working on your guest list and planning what dishes will be a part of your meal.
  • Account for any guests with food allergies or special dietary needs.
  • Review food safety tips to avoid food borne illnesses.
  • Make sure that your frozen turkey has enough time to thaw in the fridge or a cold-water bath.
  • Prepare some foods ahead of time to relieve some Thanksgiving Day stress.
  • Ensure that your home is free of tripping hazards to prevent a home insurance claim.
  • Have entertainment ready, including festive music, football, and Thanksgiving activities and games.
  • Make cleanup a breeze by soaking dishes as you perform other tasks.

In the end, remember that Thanksgiving is a holiday about togetherness and being grateful for what you have. If at the end of the day you have to order a pizza, it’s not the end of the world… it will be a great story for years to come!

If you need help with an insurance claim during the Thanksgiving holiday, call the Vargas and Vargas Insurance 24/7 emergency line at 617-322-5289. And, as always, you can call us at 617-298-0655 during regular business hours with your insurance questions or to get a free insurance quote.

Hosting the Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a time for celebration. No two families Thanksgiving festivities are the same, but most consist of some combination of good food and the joy of togetherness. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for your family (whether that means two or two hundred people) you want it to be perfect. Here are some tips from the Vargas and Vargas Insurance staff on some of the best ways to make Thanksgiving 2018 the best one yet.

Start Preparations Now

Thanksgiving may be more than two weeks away, but that is no excuse for not preparing as much as you can in advance! The most important thing you need to do is make two lists: your guest list and your shopping list.

Choosing your guests can mean the difference between an intimate affair and a huge gathering. When you invite everyone, let them know when you would like to know whether they will commit to coming for dinner – after all, you will need to know how much food to have on hand!

When you choose the dishes you will make, you will need to consider a few things, including what you will ask your guests to bring (if anything) and whether there will be anyone with dietary restrictions or severe food allergies present. Otherwise, you will need to ensure that you have a wide variety of dishes that will please all palates. Many people choose to do a variety of plates with a mix of both traditional dishes and new additions to the Thanksgiving table.

Review Food Safety Tips

Before you even think about dealing with food this Thanksgiving, consider reviewing the basics of food safety – after all, you will be responsible for the continued health of all the people that you host, and the last thing you want is for your guests to get food poisoning!

Thaw the Turkey!

Don’t forget that if you purchase a frozen turkey, you will need to let it thaw fully prior to cooking. According to Butterball’s website, there are two ways to do this. The first is by submerging the wrapped turkey in cold water for 30 minutes per pound of weight. The second is to put the turkey into the fridge ahead of Thanksgiving Day, allowing 1 day of thawing for every 4 pounds of weight.

“Make and Freeze” Foods

Once you have all your recipes picked out and the shopping is done, it’s time to figure out how much of the Thanksgiving meal that you can make ahead of time. You might be surprised at how many things can be made a day or more ahead and then frozen. And they taste just the same when reheated as they did when they were fresh.

Foods that can be made ahead include rolls and even mashed potatoes and gravy. While you’re at it, remember that many ingredients can be chopped and measured ahead of time (think the celery for your stuffing) or made the day before and left on the counter overnight (pumpkin pie).

Before Guests Arrive

When the big day arrives, you’ve undoubtedly got a lot to do. Enlist some help if you can to check the following non-cooking activities off your list. First, make sure that your home (including the walkways outside) are well-lit and free of tripping hazards. You should also make sure that anything fragile is put out of sight, especially if you will have young kids around.

During the Gathering

Oftentimes, hosting Thanksgiving means much more than just serving a meal. People tend to come and hang out for most of the day, so you will need to provide them with entertainment. In addition to putting on some festive music and/or turning on the obligatory football game (the Patriots don’t play until Sunday, but the three Thursday games won’t disappoint), you can also break out family-friendly Thanksgiving-themed games and activities.

After-Party Cleanup

All your guests may have left, but the party isn’t over! You probably still have some cleaning up to do – after all, Thanksgiving tends to be a very messy holiday, especially in the kitchen. Instead of using excessive elbow grease, let tough dishes soak while you do other tasks like taking out the garbage and wiping down the table.

Do you have any more Thanksgiving tips that we missed? Leave a comment and tell us – we would love to hear your cheats, hacks, and secrets for hosting. And, as always, remember that Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency has all the secrets for the best home insurance in Boston. Call 617-298-0655 before Thanksgiving to make sure that your Massachusetts home insurance policy is ready to protect you and all your guests this holiday season.

Take the time now to do one more thing in preparation for the holidays: program the Vargas and Vargas Insurance 24/7 emergency line into your phone. It is 617-322-5289, and it is the best way to begin an insurance claim outside of our office hours.

Recap: Moving for Families

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

Moving is stressful for everyone, but most of all for those people with children. If you’re moving in Boston with your family, we posted a blog last week with some tips on how to make the move as stress-free as possible:

  • Tell your family as soon as you can about your move so that kids have time to adjust to the idea of moving.
  • Keep a positive attitude about the move – kids will be upset if they can tell that you are uneasy about the upcoming change.
  • Let your kids help with the move. Depending on their age and maturity, they could tour new homes with you and help pick things out to decorate their new space.
  • Pack your child’s room last and let them pack unbreakable things to contribute. Keep a small box of favorite toys that will stay with you throughout the move.
  • Help your child feel comfortable in their new neighborhood by meeting local kids and classmates before they start school.

Once you’re set to move into your new home, talk to Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency about getting a great home insurance policy for your new place. We will make sure that you and your family are protected. Also ask about how we can protect your car, business, and more.