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.

The Best Tips for Moving with Kids in Boston

Moving is stressful for everyone. Even the most organized people can become overwhelmed at the thought of the necessary logistics to relocate. This stress increases by orders of magnitude when children are involved. If you are planning to move within the Boston area with your children, consider the following tips to make the transition easier for everyone involved:

Telling Your Kids About the Move

Kids – especially younger ones – are creatures of habit. This means that uprooting them from the home that they know and love is probably going to be a big deal. Help them get used to the upcoming change by telling them about it well in advance, and make sure that you have a positive attitude when talking about the impending relocation. Prepare them by telling them what will be different but also tell them what will stay the same so that they can retain a sense of normalcy.

To help younger children prepare for what will happen when you move, consider getting a book on moving. There are several available that will help little ones understand that the process doesn’t have to be scary. You can also share the story of the first time you moved with your kids to help them understand that moving is a normal part of life.

Choosing a New Home with Your Kids

If your kids are old enough, you might want to let them get in on some of the house hunting fun. Ask what they would want in your next home – maybe a bedroom that they don’t have to share, or a big backyard, or a bonus room that could be used just for hanging out? When choosing a home, make sure to research which schools the house is assigned to, don’t just assume it is the closest one!

Once you choose a home, let your child help decorate their room. Give small children a few choices on colors to paint the walls or rugs to put next to their bed. Teenagers can be given additional freedom to make their own choices (within reason, as always – no one wants to paint bedroom walls black!)

Tips for Packing Your Home

Your child probably won’t adjust well to having all their favorite things in boxes, so plan on packing their room as late as possible. Let younger kids feel like they can contribute and have some control over the move by placing them in charge of packing a box or two – preferably something that can’t break like stuffed animals. If your move will take more than a day, allow your child to keep a small bin of their most favorite toys with them during travel to ease separation anxiety.

As you know, moving is also the perfect excuse to get rid of old stuff that you don’t use any more. Encourage your child to choose some of their older toys to be sold at a moving sale or to be donated to a local organization for underprivileged kids.

Moving Day is Here!

Only you know what is best for your child, so only you will be able to decide what the best course of action is on days when packers and movers will be at your home. Some families know that their little one will need to be out of the house and opt for daycare or having a friend or family member watch their child. Other children would rather be involved and see the move happen – just ensure that they will be able to stay out of the way and out of trouble for the duration of the process.

Unpacking Made Easy

Make your child’s room one of the first things you unpack when you arrive at your new home. (If anything is broken during the move, find out if your Boston home insurance policy will cover the damage.) As you unpack, take your child with you to meet your new neighbors – especially if they have kids around the same age.

Settling in to Your New Place

Once you’re unpacked, you will have the opportunity to explore your new community with your kids. If they have changed schools, it may help them to see their new school before their first day. If it would help, ask your school for a list of children in your child’s class so that you can arrange playdates ahead of time. Having friends on the first day will make the transition a lot easier for most kids. A scoop of local ice cream never hurts either! There are tons of fun activities in Boston that you can do with your kids to show them how great their new home is.

As you continue to plan for a Boston move with your family, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655 for help getting the right insurance protection for your new home. We will make sure that you and your family are ready to handle anything that comes your way.

Have You Done These Fall Home Maintenance Tasks?

Summer is waning, and the leaves will soon be falling. As Boston prepares for the first snowfall of the season, we want to make sure that our clients are getting their homes ready. Remember – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! In this case, that means that a little bit of maintenance work on your home could help to prevent a potential winter catastrophe.

Here are just a few of the areas of focus recommended by the Massachusetts insurance professionals at the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency office:

Trees and Shrubs

Fall is the perfect time to do yardwork! Now that the weather is starting to cool down, make sure that none of your home’s foliage is going to cause you problems in the winter. Primarily, this means getting rid of anything that could cause damage to your home when blanketed with heavy ice and snows. If you need help identifying potential issues, hire a professional. They will be able to tell you which trees could potentially pose a threat to your home.

Gutters and Drain Spouts

Watching the leaves change color in the Fall is one of the most beautiful phenomena that you can witness here in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, after they change color, the leaves fall off their trees and can wreak havoc in a home’s gutter.

Because of this, it is crucial that you clean out your home’s gutters sometime between when the leaves fall and when snow starts to stick. Otherwise the leaves could block the drainage of melting snow, causing runoff to puddle up and freeze – not pretty. As you rake and dispose of leaves, you should also know that now is the perfect time to aerate your lawn.

Exterior Repairs

Is there something about the exterior of your home that needs attention or repairs? Check to see what you need to do to perfect the outside of your home and take care of those tasks now, before the snow and ice make it nearly impossible to deal with.

Check for certain issues such as roof damage, or problems with the foundation. There will also be a lot of critters looking for shelter soon – make sure they don’t find a new home in your home by sealing any gaps where critters could enter. Pay special attention to the attic, since that is where many critters seek out the warm air that rises from the home. Also make sure that you remember to shut off your exterior faucets and drain and store hoses before they freeze with residual water still inside them.

Now is also a good time to fix potential issues with your driveway, sidewalks, exterior stairs, and railings. These walkways will be hard enough to navigate when covered with snow and ice, so correct any cracks or other issues that could cause a tripping hazard.

Safety Alarms

As always, we recommend checking your home’s alarms often to make sure that they are working properly. The best course of action is to replace the batteries in your smoke alarms when you change your clocks to accommodate for daylight saving time. Also check your home’s Carbon Monoxide detector – especially for homes with oil or gas-burning appliances.

Check the Heater and/or Chimney

Soon, you will be turning on your homes heating system or firing up your chimney. Before that time comes, make sure that these items are ready to be used. Hire a professional to clean the chimney if needed, and/or perform maintenance to ensure that the heat will be ready for use as soon as the weather turns.

To make sure that the heat in your home doesn’t leak, now is the perfect time to check the seals around your doors and windows. If needed, re-caulk windows and replace weather stripping so that you have a good seal to keep the warm air in your home and the cold air outside.

Purchase Winter Gear

The last thing you want is to be without something you need for the winter. Now is the perfect time to check on your wintertime supplies to make sure that you have everything you need. For example, do you need to replace your shovel? Do you have enough salt for your driveway and walkways? Is it time to finally upgrade your car’s ice scraper?

Think through all the items that you use regularly throughout the winter and make arrangements to replace items or acquire new items sooner rather than later so that you don’t get stuck without the necessary tools once the cold and snow arrive.

As always, Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency is here for all your insurance needs this Fall! Call 617-298-0655 if you have any questions about your current policies. We can also review your Boston home insurance coverage to make sure that potential wintertime claims will be covered.

Recap: Apps for Homeowners

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

Do you ever wish that you had more help looking after your home? Look no further than your smartphone! There are many apps available that will help you with many aspects of home ownership. Here are just a few examples from last week’s full article on the Vargas Insurance Blog:

  • Bubble Level – A level for your DIY projects, as well as an AR ruler and wire-finder.
  • Centriq – Keep your owners manuals in one place and get notifications of recalls and more.
  • Planner 5D – For all your home décor needs, including using VR to envision new furniture and paint colors.
  • HomeSavvy – A home maintenance task organizer that will also show you DIY videos or recommend local professionals.
  • ChorePad – Chores run smoothly with this app that let your kids earn rewards for doing their chores.

Need a little additional help protecting your home? If you have a question about your home insurance (or if you want a quote for a new MA home insurance policy) help is just a phone call away. Dial 617-298-0655 and talk to a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about your needs. Because – while technology is great – sometimes it just can’t replace a little human help.

The Best Apps for Homeowners

Owning a home is the American Dream – but just like anything in life that is rewarding, it comes with its fair share of challenges. Thankfully, in this day and age… “There’s an app for that!” Or several, as the case may be.

Many of our clients are on the lookout for ways that technology can improve their everyday lives. Did you know that there are several apps available for your smart-devices that can make owning a home easier? We have collected just a few examples of these apps for our customers that are looking to bring home ownership into the digital age. So, which of the following apps will you download first?

LetGo

Have you ever felt that you have too much junk in your home? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Thankfully, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Find someone that will pay for the stuff you no longer want with the LetGo app on Android or iPhone.

Bubble Level

How many times as a homeowner have you wished that you could have a level without needing to make a trip to your toolbox? Did you know that your phone can be used as a level? With the Bubble Level app, you never need to say that a picture looks ‘good enough’ when you hang it – just pull out your phone and get the job done perfectly every time! The app can also be used as an AR ruler and can find wires inside your walls!

Google Maps

Want an idea for something to do, or maybe you feel like trying out a new restaurant? There is no resource for finding places in your area quite like Google Maps. Just search for what you’re looking for, and it will give you several options, along with reviews and directions. Download it on the Google Play store or the Apple App Store if you don’t already have it!

Centriq

Homeownership in the past meant having a drawer full of user manuals for every appliance you had ever owned. Now, though, you can use the Centriq app to keep everything in one (digital!) place. Add your appliances by taking a photo of their nameplate and the app will catalogue the item, as well as its user manual. It will alert you to any product recalls, and even help you find replacement parts and will show you troubleshooting videos if you have an issue with your items.

Planner 5D

Thinking about redecorating? Did you know that you can use your phone’s Virtual Reality capabilities to help you picture what the rooms in your home could look like with some new furniture or a fresh coat of paint? Download Planner 5D on your Android Phone and start making virtual changes. See what works in your space before you spend any money!

HomeSavvy

Android and Apple users will have an organized home maintenance schedule if they download and use the HomeSavvy app. Just answer a few questions about your home (like “Do you have a pool?”) and HomeSavvy will create a home maintenance schedule for you to follow. You can even schedule reminders and get tips on how to best complete your tasks, or even get recommendations for local professionals that you can hire!

Chore Pad

Chore wheels and charts are a thing of the past thanks to Chore Pad. Your kids will love getting to check off their chores on their favorite device, and you can even set rewards for kids as they earn stars. According to their website, “Chore Pad helps you teach your child responsibility in a way that is fun and engaging.” Just be aware that this app isn’t free – but it could be well worth the price if it gets your kids to do their chores!

Remember the Milk

When you own a home in Massachusetts, there is a lot on your mind. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have an app that could help you remember all the things that you need to do? That’s where this “Smart to-do App” comes in! As the name implies, it is the perfect place to create a grocery list! It is also good for personal and professional use. Remind yourself to make an important phone call, pick up your kids from practice, or write a performance review for work. The app syncs among many platforms, and can even be shared between connected users, making it a great place for your ‘honey-do’ list.

And there’s one more thing that your phone can do – help you get an insurance policy for your home! Instead of downloading an app, open your dialer and type in 617-298-0655 – the phone number for Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. We can give you a little bit of human help to ensure that your home is fully protected, and that your insurance rates aren’t through the roof.

Recap: Update Your Home Insurance

“He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

You have a home insurance policy to make sure that your home and your possessions are protected, but an insurance policy isn’t a passive investment! There are times when you need to call your Massachusetts insurance agent to update your insurance policy. Make sure to read the full post to find out more about when to talk to your agent, for example:

  • If you make changes or updates to your property, like putting on an addition, adding a pool, or doing any other type of construction.
  • If the housing market adjusts and the value of your home changes.
  • If you purchase something of value and want to ensure that it is covered by your insurance policy.
  • If you decide to rent out a room, whether on a short-term or long-term basis.
  • If you adopt a pet.
  • If you add an alarm or monitoring system to your home.

Do you think it may be time to talk to your insurance agent about updating your Boston home insurance policy? Don’t hesitate to call your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent at 617-298-0655. They can review your current policy to see if you have the right amount of coverage and will also make sure that you are getting all the discounts for which you qualify.

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.